Clutter and Cuddling on the Couch!

Nothing is better than cuddling with your daughter on the couch!

This evening, I had the honor of cuddling with my daughter and watching some high quality TV.  What?  Kevin watching TV when he promotes less TV?  What is the world coming to?

OK, high quality TV is a bit of an oxymoron term but we did have a great time watching the TV show called CLEAN HOUSE on the Style network.  We enjoy this show because it motivates our whole family into cleaning, organizing, and recycling (donating) unused items.  Sure, I’m sitting on the couch cuddling (and not cleaning) however we are discussing the nature of clutter and how to combat it.

Do we have problems in our house with clutter?  Yes, we do.  My garage isn’t too clean.  Underneath the stairs is a storage area and I just discovered it is getting full of clutter (some of that stuff is the kids, not mine).  Our bedroom is fairly clean but the closest does need help.  Perhaps I should get rid of that T-Shirt from 1993.

I fully admit that I need to get rid of stuff.  I have the misguided notion that I need to keep things for tax reasons.  So I have a lot of files and folders for my business in my office.  I carry that over into my personal life but I’m not as organized as I’d like to be in my personal life as I should be.  A better filing system would help to decrease the clutter around the house.

Don’t get the impression that we are hoarders and that our house is just crazy dirty and full of clutter.  We aren’t as nearly as bad as the folks featured on CLEAN HOUSE and no where close to the folks on the show HOARDERS.  Our living room, kitchen, and dining areas are fine.  We are able to use our dining room table for every meal.  We throw out old food in our fridge.  Our kitchen counters are 75% clutter free.  One section does have family paperwork (i.e. clutter) that needs help.  The family room downstairs is the kids’ big playroom and the hobby room both need help.  The problem areas tend to be the “dumping ground” from the other areas of the house.  It is kind of like all of the trash from the Seattle area getting sent off to poorer parts of Washington State.  That might be a good reason why the other areas of the house look good.

However, to be honest, the hobby room does have a great deal of stuff we don’t use.  We have a weight set, a train set, a desk, some shelving, and bins full of Halloween and Christmas decorations.  Heck, we have a very nice elliptical trainer in our family room now one uses.  It is time to start working out with this stuff or sell it on Craigslist.

One tip that I heard and should use (but don’t):

Imagine everything is a pint of ice cream.  When you get that new object, pile of mail, etc. think of it has a pint of ice cream and that you need to take care of it before it melts.  Put it away and take care of it before the piles of clutter accumulate.

 At least I use that above tip for my groceries…..

If you’d like more tips, I’d suggest:

 As always, you are more than welcome to leave your comments.

Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

My blog wouldn’t be complete if there was an old ode to Thanksgiving this year.  Trust me, this isn’t some sappy “I’m thankful for….” blog about how much I’m thankful for this and that.  Really?  Everyone (well, the two people that read this blog plus Cyndi my imaginary stalker) know that I am a very thankful person (and sarcastic).  Like most people with half a heart, I enjoy the fact that I actually like and enjoy my family and friends.  Unlike the Dr. Seuss character “The Grinch”, I like Thanksgiving and Christmas and the holiday cheer these holidays bring.

However, due to the weather, this year’s blog comes from our home in Kent versus our usually location of Anderson Island.  With all the snowy weather conditions we have had over the past two days, we made the decision to stay home this year instead of traveling and hosting Thanksgiving at the family cabin on Anderson Island.

This decision comes with mixed feelings.  We enjoy the trek to Anderson Island and the adventure of having Thanksgiving dinner on Anderson Island.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday because it has nothing to do with gift giving and presents.  It is strictly a holiday that you get to see family and friends (that you hopefully enjoy) and enjoy a great meal.  Now, if you don’t enjoy the people you are with during Thanksgiving, then you have to come up with some better excuses for not going to that host’s Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe take a vacation trip to Kauai instead?  (Heck you can stay at

Why waste your time with people that you don’t enjoy?  You distance yourself from negative friends, why not do the same thing with your relatives?  If you don’t like them, why subject yourself to their company?  Why surround yourself with them?  Thanksgiving is like the 4th of July.  It is a holiday that you don’t have to think about, you just have to enjoy it.  Life is too short to waste with stress about family gatherings and conflict.

So this year, hopefully you made the commitment to enjoy your Thanksgiving!  Now, you just have to get through Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

As always, you are more than welcome to leave your comments.

The documentary “MAXED OUT” – a must see!

“A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”
Benjamin Franklin

If you haven’t seen the documentary “Maxed Out”, I highly recommend that you take the time to watch it.  It is about credit, credit card companies, and how American’s love their plastic credit cards.  It is also about how the credit card companies make their money, how universities and colleges around the United States are selling out their students, and how you and I are becoming deeper in debt.

As you know, I always suggest one should take everything with a grain of salt when watching documentaries and mockumentaries, but there is always a lesson to be learned in everything whether you agree with it or not.  You have to have an open mind to actually see what is front of you.  You have common sense, use it!

One could argue that when you have credit you should be responsible with it and spend only what you can afford.  Yet, isn’t it easy to pull out that credit card to pay for a tank of gas?  How about a stop at the grocery store for a gallon of milk, some bread, and something for dinner?  Is your schedule too busy?  Are you too tired to cook?  Let’s go out to dinner.  Hmmm, a little short in the checking account?  Just put it on your credit card.  Everything will be ok…go ahead charge it…pay it off next month.

Do you want to really take control of your spending?  Switch to a debit card (money taken straight out of your checking account) and/or cash basis.  Is your car low on fuel?  Make sure you have enough money in your checking account or cash in your wallet.  All of the sudden, you become vividly aware of how much it really costs to fill up your car.  Want to stop at a fast food restaurant (which is usually unhealthy anyway), make sure you have cash in hand (or your pocketbook).  When you spend actually cash, you quickly become aware of your expenses.

Do you remember the days when you couldn’t use your credit card at McDonald’s or buy groceries with it at Safeway?

Some expenses you can’t get around.  Your children need shoes, you need to buy food, you need that latest Wii game.  Wait.  Do you really need to purchase the latest Wii game?  Maybe you could borrow from a friend…rent it at Redbox?  Recently, my wife rented a Wii game at Redbox.  She was glad she did because she hated it.  A Redbox rental of $2.50 versus a purchase price of $39.99 appeals to me and my pocketbook.

Personal responsibility is important in your finances.  “Maxed Out” touches on it but it really points out the predatory behavior of the credit card companies with low income borrowers.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  Credit card companies do prey on the low income and middle class.  Credit cards are issued to people in which the credit card companies know are a high credit risk.  High Credit Risk = higher interest rate they can charge and higher the late fees they can charge.

I’m no way a financial guru.  However, I do know that credit card debt and consumer debt is growing rapidly in this depression era.  This is a known fact.  Unemployment has been estimated at 17%.  This figure includes the official unemployment rate, discouraged workers (the people that have given up looking for full time employment), and people that have taken part time jobs to make one full time job.

Now is the time to get yourself and your family back on track.  I leave you with a quote that helps to keep us all on track for improving ourselves and our lives.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Benjamin Franklin

Making money online continues

Making Money Online

A few weeks ago, I wrote a half-witted blog about making money online and how I was an anti-social nut job.  Well, that isn’t totally true….what I really wrote about was how I was an introvert in an extrovert’s career.  You can click over and read my original post here:

In a quick summary, I wanted to sit home in my pajamas, make money, and not have to talk to anyone face to face in a job environment.

I mentioned this to my friend Russ and he also wants to start making money online as well.  I’ve discovered that I’m now reading about new business opportunities online and “How to make money online”.  Some of these business opportunities are about how to have an auto-pilot business where the money just rolls in while you sleep or eat your Pop Tarts in the morning.  Others take a more serious approach and tell you about how you need to blog, and post, and blog, and post, etc.  When you write and blog you need to build readership and sell ad space.

 Building a readership is very important as well as building an email newsletter list.  It is also helpful if you are SEO savvy as well.

 One important key most people suggest you do is to write from your heart or write about what you know.  However, how many people want to know about me wasting hours of my time writing witty comments on Facebook?  Of course, I could write a blog about how to invest in real estate and see all your equity disappear in the great real estate meltdown.  Or I could write about how to fight depression through releasing your anger and frustration by blogging about it.  Or how to hide your true feelings through sarcasm?  (Now is Kevin joking or is he serious…..) J

 OK, the truth is I’ll keep researching about making money online and keep you updated on how things go.  In the mean time, I’ll continue to work on my photography and do a few real estate deals here and there.

 As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments!

A Birthday Celebration!

Another year and another birthday!

Now most of you would be thinking that I’d be writing about my own birthday, however, I’m writing about my younger brother Chris’ birthday celebration we had in Burien, Washington.  As most of us agree, time does fly by.  With each passing birthday, it is hard to imagine where the time as gone over the years. The changes in our personal lives continue to amaze me.

Reflecting back on today’s birthday celebration, it was nice to be all together and enjoy each other’s company.  Thanksgiving is only a few days so perhaps that is why I am becoming more aware of the passage of time.  We all get so wrapped up with just living from day to day, hour to hour.  It is extremely hard to get together with everyone’s busy schedule so events like my brother’s birthday mean a lot to me.

Overall, it was a good time had by all.  I was able to see my grandmother, uncle, aunts, cousins, and just relax and enjoy myself.  This morning, my children and I created handmade birthday cards embedded with my own unique sense of humor.  We called them “inappropriate birthday cards”.  My card featured a tale of sadness, death, and despair that it was my brother’s birthday.  My son had people getting killed by street gangs and people being mauled by animals.  My daughter decided to change my brother’s name to “Bob” and warned him to watch out for ninja kittens this evening.  Yes, definitely a bit of humor inserted into your family event makes the party much more exciting.

 The food was delicious, the three cakes were wonderful, and the family being together was a great way to finish the weekend.

Renton Honda, Extended Service Warranty Plans and why they both suck!

Renton Honda sucks!

I would have to admit that this is one of my more passionate blogs because it deals with a very distasteful experience I had with Renton Honda (which sucks).  In fact, after reading about my experience I hope that you’ll become a wiser person from my mistake.  I would put this up as one of my Top Ten Stupid Car Mistakes.  So dear reader, please read, learn, and become a better consumer from the lesson I am about to share with you about Renton Honda (which sucks).

 Our car lease for our 2008 Honda Pilot VP was coming up at the end of February 2011.  My wife and I had discuss about keeping the car but decided against it.  We went out and purchased a used Toyota Highlander with cash and now have no payments.  Since our lease wasn’t due until February, we decided to ask Renton Honda (which sucks) if they’d be willing to take the Pilot back early.

 I met with the Used Sales Manager; he gave me the song and dance about the car being worth this much, etc, etc.  It really didn’t matter to me at this point because I was going to turn it in February anyway.  I was ready for them to jerk me around but if they didn’t and I could turn the Pilot in early, then that would be a good thing.  If I can save four months of lease payments, I’m happy!  If not, I’ll enjoy the car for a few more months.  We decide to take their offer, turn the car in early, and save the four months of lease payments and car insurance.

 Then my wife reminds me that we are going to get the extended warranty plan refunded back to us in full.  Or so we thought.  Yes, dear readers, this is where my Top Ten Stupid Car Mistakes comes in.  Back when we first leased this brand new 2008 Honda Pilot VP model from Renton Honda (which sucks), we were pressured into purchasing the extended service warranty for $1500.00.  What?  Are you crazy, Kevin?  You did what?  Is Kevin losing his ability to sniff out bullshit?  You must be asking yourself these questions, right?  Kevin the Eagle Scout, the University of Washington Business School graduate got sucked into an extended service warranty?  What has the world come to? 

Yes, I was the big sucker that day.  Actually, I did resist the pressure cooker sales tactics for a while.  The finance manager (aka The Closer) pressured us into this extend service warranty contract with the promise that if we never used it, we’d get it all back in full.  I clearly remember stating to him that Hondas are great cars, why would I need this?

 His answer, again, was that if we never used it, we’d get all of our money back at the end of our lease.  Then comes the scare tatics….but what if the transmission goes out or the brakes screw up…you are as the lessee have to cover that.  Hmmmm.  That’s not a bad deal then for the extended warranty now is it?  If I don’t use it, I get all of my $1500.00 back when I return the car after the three year lease is up.  Sure, I’m not earning interest on my $1500.00, however if something does go wrong, I’ll be covered.  It’s my wife’s car for work…I want her and her business clients to be safe…I’ll do it BECAUSE I’ll get all of my money back, right?  Yes, that is correct.  That is what I was told by the Renton Honda’s (which sucks) Finance Manager when I was signing the lease papers for a three year lease from Renton Honda (which sucks).  I was buying peace of mind and security for my family.

Flash forward to present day…we return the Pilot to Renton Honda (which sucks) and discuss with the new finance manager about getting our money back for the extended warranty.  Sure, we’ll get it back AFTER they pro-rate our plan.  Say what?  Excuse me?  You said pro-rate?  Why pro-rate?  Is it because we are turning in the car four months early?  Oh no.  The extended warranty plan is a five year plan and you need to keep the Honda Pilot for five years for you to get all of your money back.  What?  Are you serious? 

Why in the world would I purchase a five year warranty for a car I planned to keep for three years?  Does that make any sense at all?  Do I look like a complete moron and I can’t see that five years is longer than three years?  Is 5 years > 3 years?  Gee, I think it is.  So, three years ago, I was a complete idiot and couldn’t figure that out? 

No, I was lied to and cheated by Renton Honda (which sucks) because they used a classic scam (their extended service warranty plan) and they told me was such a great deal.  If I don’t use it, I’ll get all of my money back.  That is what I was told.  Well, that is not the case, is it?  I’m not getting all of money back, am I?  Nope.  Instead I’m getting cheated out of my full $1500.00 because I was lied to by Renton Honda (which sucks).  They are giving me back $646 because of the mileage on my car (it has 33,873 miles and we were allowed 12,000 miles per year).  We are right on target for the lease agreement so why am I not getting all of my money back? 

I lived up to my end of the agreement.  I fully insured the car, I did the oil changes, I kept the mileage on target for the lease agreement and I’m getting screwed over by Renton Honda (which sucks).

Did I mention that Renton Honda sucks?

Am I upset?  YES!  I’m very upset that I was lied to and taken advantage of.  I was told to my face that if I didn’t use the extended warranty service plan I would get it all back at the end of my lease.  Why would anyone with any decent ethics sell me a service product that had a five year requirement when they fully knew ahead of time I’d be returning the car in three years?  It is because they are dishonest and have no ethics.  Renton Honda (which sucks) is full of liars, cheats, and thieves.  I will never do business with them and hope you learn from my lesson.

Kauai Weddings

It has been a long time since I’ve been back home to visit my parents on Kauai.  They run a small wedding service that specializes with helping you prepare your wedding on Kauai.  Their website is

As you can imagine, the economy on Kauai (and the State of Hawaii) isn’t the best right now.  Tourism is down and the County of Kauai is attempting to put the small Mom and Pop vacation rentals out of business.  They seem to think that all tourists should stay in a large hotel complex.  This is killing the small, independent owner operators that run cute guest cottages and bed and breakfast units.

If you are thinking of a vacation trip to Kauai (or perhaps you are thinking of getting married on Kauai), then take the time to visit

As always….mahalo (thank you) for reading my post!

It’s a flat tire kind of day!

It’s a flat tire kind of day!

 My Ford Ranger truck seems to have a wonderful knack of attracting nails, screws, etc and producing flat tires.  In the six years I’ve own my little red Ford Ranger, I’ve had four flat tires.  Today’s flat tire was particular annoying because I was ahead of schedule!  I was doing great; I wasn’t late at all!  Oh right!  I was ahead of the curve.

I got this last flat tire right after I left Kent Elementary this morning.  I heard a clicking, thumping sound as I turned out of the parking lot.  I pulled over in the Starbucks parking lot and I couldn’t see anything at all.  I drove off again to hear the same sound and pulled over again.  This time I did find the huge screw and washer embedded in my rear tire.  I thought to myself at this point that, heck; I can make it home, not a problem. 

I turned the key in the ignition and off I went on my merry little way.  The clicking and thumping continued….then it was gone.  Uh, oh.  That’s not good.  Since that screw isn’t in the tire, it is out of the tire, therefore leaving a huge hole for the air to escape from.  Oh great.  I have only a few minutes before my tire becomes flat and I can’t go any further. 

I manage to make a left turn and then I heard the familiar thumping sound of a definite flat tire, riding on the rim.  Oh joy.

I pulled into a warehouse parking lot and found a nice level spot.  As I’ve said before this isn’t the first flat tire I’ve had or the first tire I’ve changed in my life.  I’m changed flat tires and I’ve swapped out my regular tires for my snow tires.  I’ve taken my snow tires off and put back on the regular tires.  I’m confident that I can change a tire or two.

Now changing a tire for me would be easy, right?  Not too tough of a job for an Eagle Scout, correct?  Easier than making money on the internet or photographing a bunch of preschool students, right?

 I rummaged around and found my jack and tire iron.  Well, I found my new tire iron but I can’t find the old tire iron.  Uh oh.  How am I supposed to crank the jack and get this tire changed?  Then I think to myself: I have a screwdriver and I can turn the jack screw and get this truck up quite quickly.  I can adapt and overcome.  I shall succeed! 

That was wishful thinking.  I discovered that I couldn’t turn the jack screw with a screw driver if my life depended on it.  That screwdriver wasn’t going to be the solution.

I had to find that old tire iron.  I cursed myself for not putting the tire iron in the same compartment as the jack.  Who does a stupid thing like that?  Obliviously I did.  One of my more brilliant moments (if I do say so myself) because I did find that stupid tire iron in the other compartment, not the one where the jack was, the one on the left side of the truck…the one I know I had looked in before.  If it was with the jack that would make prefect sense and you know I don’t like to make sense. 

Now with the recent discovery of the tire iron, I was positive that I could whip this tire change out in no time.  I stuck the tire iron into the jack and turned the screw.  Man, turning the jack was a lot harder than I remembered.  This was going to take forever.

Then it dawns on me that I’m using the wrong piece of equipment!  Inside my engine compartment, under the hood, is the crank I need to make this tire changing job a lot easier.  I popped the hood, took out the crank, insert it into the tire jack, jack up the truck, and changed the tire in ten minutes. 

What could have made this job worse?  It could have been raining.  It could have been dark out.  It could have been dark and rainy.  Heck, I could have been stuck on the freeway with huge trucks whipping by my head.

 To save yourself the same aggravation I subjected myself to, I recommend you have in your vehicle:

  • Cell phone
  • A pair of gloves
  • Flashlight/lantern
  • Jack and tire iron in the same area
  • Extra Food and Water
  • Warm jacket/warm blanket
  • Rain gear
  • Shovel
  • Tool Kit
  • Jumper cables
  • First Aid Kit

 You can never be too prepared especially with winter on its way!  Now get out there and get that vehicle of yours prepared for the winter season.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I look forward to your comments.

Washington State Unemployment 9%…how to cut costs if it happens to you?

Man, oh man, are we for some rough times in this country of ours.  The Seattle economy is probably doing better than most areas of the United States, however, it is still pretty bad.  According to the United States Department of Labor, Washington State has a 9.0 percent unemployment rate in October, 2010.  The national average is 9.6%.

 How does a 9% unemployment rate translate into everyday life?  Everyone knows someone that is out of work, struggling to make ends meet.  You just need to look at the recent data on the economy and it is enough to make you jump back into bed, pull the covers over your head, and call it a day.  I was getting depressed reading about this stuff.  I’ve put in a few links that I pulled data from several websites about unemployment and the economy.

 Now, being self-employed for close to 18 years, I really don’t know about being unemployed.  Back in the early 1990’s, I did get laid off from AMR (the parent company of American Airlines).  That was the last time I had a “real job”.  I haven’t worked a 9-to-5 job in a very long time (since the AMR job).

Do I miss having a 9-to-5 job?  Yes and No.  Yes, I miss having a company pay my health insurance.  No, I don’t miss the ability to choose my own hours and my vacation time.  Yes, I miss having the chance to leave work and leave my work at the office.  Being self-employed, you always think about work.  You think about stuff you should be doing and thing you ought to do.  You are always thinking about your business.

 However, I’d love to have a business where I don’t have to get dressed up and go to work to make money.  I want the freedom to sit in my office in my pajamas and make money.  Yes, I’m back to my rant about making money online with a killer blog and enhanced website that practically prints money while I sleep.  Hey, who wouldn’t want that?

 How am I weathering this recent economic depression?  I have cut spending in both my personal and business life.  I have looked at all my expenses and cut everything I can. I trimmed my cell phone plan costs down by using a cheaper plan and by cutting off text messaging.  I’ve paid more attention to where we have the thermostat adjusted to as well.  Another simple change we have done is to switch out old light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (and I got those FREE from a friend!).

 While cost cutting is good, other expenses have risen.  Case in point, my health insurance rose $154 a month!  Now, I just received a new notice that my plan is being phased out.  I now have the choice of paying more for a lesser coverage plan.  Lucky me!

1983 Mercedes Benz 380SEL

This past Halloween, I purchased an old 1983 Mercedes Benz 380SEL.  What drove me to do such a thing?

 I wanted a “hobby” car that was large enough for a comfortable drive, yet, wasn’t too expensive where I’d have guilt purchasing it.  I ended up with “Helga”, my 1983 silver gray, 4 door sedan 3.8L V8 (126 body style) with all working power windows, a working sunroof, working heater, and four decent tires (no spare tire).  I’m not sure about the a/c unit yet.  Helga doesn’t have any dents but she does have some issues inside the interior of the car. 

The previous owner was a smoker so I am washing everything in the car to get rid of the smoke smell.  I’ve washed the carpets, the seats, the headrests, and the roof.  I’ve spread baking soda to soak up the smell and did a Google search on how to get rid of the cigarette smell.  Slowly, it has been working.  Honestly, I’ll probably have to get it cleaned at a detail shop.

 The front seats need some TLC.  The driver’s seat is soft in the seat cushion and is torn.  The front passenger seat also has some flaws.  Ideally, I’d like to replace the bottom portion of the seats.  They are gray and I have been looking on the internet for either used seats or a replacement cover.  I suppose I could put some after market seat covers over the existing seats if I needed to.

Helga has 212,000 miles on her.  She reportedly had a different engine (not sure if it was a rebuilt, junkyard used motor, or a new engine) put in about 35,000 miles ago.  Transmission is a bit rough when she shifts.  Her engine is a little slow to response and she idles a little rough when waiting at a red light or when you first start her up.  It takes her a while to warm up and get going.  For a 3.8 L V8 engine, she doesn’t have much pick up and go.  In fact, she reminds me of my 1983 Mercedes Benz 300D Turbo Diesel (123 body style) when it comes to that pick up and go.  While the turbo did help the diesel, it was still a bit sluggish.

How much did I pay for Helga?  $700.00.  How much is Helga worth?  $700 to me.  However, the State of Washington Department of Revenue thinks she is worth $11,500!  I’m now in the processing of printing up For Sale ads from the internet to get them to be reasonable in their taxation of my car.  The insurance NADA book isn’t much help because their value is up there as well.  When you do look on the internet, this car is hard to find and not many for sale to compare it to.  The 420SEL and 560SEL were the larger and more luxurious models that overshadowed this model.

 Since this is a hobby car and not my primary method of transportation, the car insurance is actually reasonable with rate quotes around $161 to $225 per year.  I plan on driving her less than 5000 miles a year.