Yet another journal-type place for Darcy to rant, rave, and/or recuperate from the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ah, refreshing!

Last weekend was pretty normal for a weekend at my parents' house. Dad actually played Halo with us though--that was kinda fun. Anna, Kayla, Jason and I have been playing the same characters all the time, and they're characters from Red vs. Blue, but Dad made up his own character. Anna plays as Tex, Kayla plays as Church, Jason plays as Caboose, and I play as Tucker. Dad's character's name is Chef, and has the same color armor as Church.

We watched The Princess Bride on the projector screen on Sunday night. That was fun.

I also talked to Dad about my financial figurings, and how I might get money for downpayments and such. Not very many options there. I thought about refinancing my car (I found out I'm paying 10.9% APR), but with only 2 years left to pay it off, getting a lower interest rate would actually cost me more per month than I'm paying now.

Dad told me that when he bought that house he didn't have money for a downpayment--he borrowed money from my aunts and uncles, as well as my grandpa.

After that discussion was well and truly dead, he told me about an idea he'd had for a business, which was sparked by my current housing search and the brochures he'd gotten from the Fleetwood dealer (I'll explain later).

Yesterday, I got my allergy shots after work, and I meant to do my laundry while I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I got about six chapters read (and dinner eaten) before I decided to take a nap instead. So I set my alarm for 9pm (or was it 9:30?), which would have given me an hour and a half to sleep, while Bones recorded. The alarm went off; it was on my cell phone, so the ringtone for "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" played instead of a beep. I was still sleepy, so I went back to sleep. I "woke up" sporadically (2:30am, 4-ish, 6:45, maybe other times too), but didn't actually get up until my alarm went off at 7:30 this morning. I feel very refreshed now. Turns out, I needed that, because of all the stress of house-finding I've had lately.

Anyway, here's Dad's idea.

Most builders are caught up in building these houses with costs somewhere in the hundreds of thousands--or even the millions--these days, but that doesn't help people like me who are just starting out on their own, or young families who can't afford much.

So, his idea was to revive Dutch Master Builders--Grandpa's old house-building company--only, he would stick-build small houses which would be sold for about the cost of an equivalent-sized mobile home. And instead of spacing them out like regular houses, he'd get about two acres of land and put 30 of those houses (of different models and sizes) close together in groups. Each group would have space in the center for a playground, a basketball court, a tennis court, a pool, or whatever, and each house would have 5 feet of land on each end and in the back, and twelve feet in the front (for a driveway and some green space), with an unfinished basement underneath. There's definitely a market for cheaper housing that doesn't require monthly lot rentals as well as the cost of the house, so I think the company could really take off.

Considering the trouble I've been having finding somewhere to live on my tight budget, I think it's a great idea. It won't be started up right away (Dad says he could begin in a year or so, after some research and a lot of planning and stuff), but we can start planning for it right now, and I would totally quit my current job to do something with this. We figured out that the largest of the houses we'd build (about the size of a smaller double-wide trailer, with three or four bedrooms and two bathrooms) would fit into 1/30 of an acre, with the extra space around it, and room to spare.

Before the company can get started up, however, we'd have to do a lot of stuff like draw up plans for each of the models we're going to start with, plan out the first two-acre community, find investors to fund the company, get land and permits for building and subdivision, get employees (contractors, accountants, secretaries, etc.), and not to mention find office space.

It's an exciting prospect though, and I'm raring to get started.

Friday, April 25, 2008

House Hunting and Decisions to Make

The last week has been really busy. Saturday, I went to look at apartments in Hagerstown with Kimba and Anna. The first one we looked at was in downtown Hagerstown, and wasn't in all that good of a neighborhood. The other one was in Smithsburg, and would cost way too much, even if I had Stacie living with me--not to mention, I wouldn't be able to save up enough for the security deposit.

On Wednesday, Dad, Anna, Kayla and I went to look at the mobile home that's for sale in the mobile home park down the road from their house. It's kind of small (the second bedroom is tiny--not really bedroom size at all, more like a den), and at first I thought I wouldn't be able to afford it alone, but I've done some figuring. I might be able to afford it after all. There are a few cons, but there are a lot of pros too, which goes for all of the choices I've looked at so far.

For instance, the walls in the house are covered with dark paneling. If I can paint over the paneling, that would be great, and it would make the place look more open. If I couldn't paint over the paneling, I'd just cover the walls with posters or something (I certainly have enough).

After looking at the $8,000 house, we went to Hagerstown to look at a house at the Fleetwood dealership there. We saw one with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for $36,000, plus $12,000 placement. So I'd need to get a mortgage for $48,000. The Fleetwood dealership offers financing, but you have to put 10% down (about $5,000 in this case), and I don't even have $500 to spare, much less the $2,500 I'd have to fork out to get that through with Stacie. I figured out that I could probably afford it if I moved in with Stacie though.

Yesterday, Kimba called me at work to say that one of the people she works with may have a room available in her apartment starting around mid-July or so for $450 a month, plus some utilities (I haven't found out which yet--gotta e-mail the girl after I finish this entry). That's a little late for me, so I'd probably have to store all of my stuff in my parents' basement and sleep on their couch for a month or so. I'm not looking forward to doing that.

I looked online for financing I could get with 0% down, and I found one site. They had a form to fill out for more information, so I filled it out twice--once for the larger house and once for the $8,000 house, so they could let me know if I could possibly qualify for either loan.

I have to say, this living with roommates thing is kind of getting old. I wouldn't mind living in the smaller trailer by myself. I'd have to wait until after I pay off my car in April of 2010 before I could 1) save any significant amount of money per month (though I could possibly still save a little), and 2) repaint the walls (if that's even possible), but that would be okay with me. There should be plenty of room for my furniture, and the site rental plus mortgage payments would only come to $490-500, which should be doable since the power and heating bills will be a lot less there than they are at the townhouse. I don't know if the size of the household has anything to do with my current cable TV and internet bills, but those might be less too, and even if they're not, I have a little of leeway about how much I can afford for those. Also, I might be able to get wireless internet from my parents' house (I'd help pay Dad's internet bill) if I put a high enough mast on the house and Dad got the necessary equipment on his end.

If I live in one of the two trailers, I'd be able to walk to my parents' house and visit whenever I wanted. I could bike too, and that would help me get in shape. But if I lived with Stacie, I might have to sell furniture in order for both of our stuff to fit. The wireless internet mast could also work here, since there's a vacant lot in the mobile home park there.

Apparently, Kimba's friend's apartment is near my work, so I might be able to walk there if I lived in the apartment. But there might not be enough room for all of my furniture in the apartment, and I'm not sure I have enough time to find someone to buy any. I suppose I could just give it away, but if I sold it, then I'd have more money available for a security deposit and such (if Kimba's friend would need a security deposit).

Once I've gotten a reply to my impending e-mail to Kimba's friend, I will adjust my financial figurings to reflect her estimates on utility costs. Since an apartment can't be much bigger (or smaller) than a mobile home, I figure the costs for utilities are at least a little bit comparable, as opposed to the costs for a townhouse that fits five people comfortably.

Also, these financial figurings will only be for the first few days of living wherever I end up living. My 3-year review at work comes up on July 5, so I'll be getting a raise of at least $500 per year (the largest raise I have gotten so far was $1,500 per year). It's not much, but it will help me to afford a little bit more. But first, I have to get whatever housing I can afford right now. That way, when the raise comes, I'll be a little more comfortable than I would be at my current salary.

Tonight is D&D night. We finished our adventure during last week's session, but I've heard that we will have a couple of options to continue with the same characters in different adventures. One option is to join a game in the Greyhawk setting. The other option is to stay in the same setting (Eberron) and make our characters 2-3 levels higher than they ended up. I'd like to stay in Eberron and level my character naturally, since I've never actually played a campaign where my character earned the experience and levelled up without artificialness.

Got this in an e-mail at work today . . .

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Almost the Weekend . . .

This week has gone by so slowly, it's insane.

Monday was boring but busy. Tuesday was okay. Yesterday was slow until work was over, then the Vampire game went by at a reasonable pace. I managed to do a bit more than I did two weeks ago (sit there and look confused), but I'm still not quite up on the taboos and traditions and things.

It's not because I can't play RPGs, I know that. I've played D&D now for a month and a half or so, and I've gotten worlds better at that than I am at Vampire right now. The thing is, I actually understand how to play my D&D characters. Some of the characters I've created before aren't human, but I can at least understand their values and such--that's what the alignment system is for.

With Vampire, they have a Nature (how they really are on the inside) and a Demeanor (what they show to the world about themselves), and they really are monsters--they might want to protect humans and/or use them as tools in their machinations, but all the time there's this beast inside of them saying to hurt them and drink their blood. There really is no difference between player characters and non-player characters except for the fact that the GM runs all of the NPCs. Even another PC from the Camarilla could happily kill your character, to say nothing of the NPCs or the Sabbot (if you're playing as Camarilla).

Nerd-to-Norm Explanation: The Camarilla believe that humans should be protected, and enforce the Masquerade (the tradition among vampires that says humans should not know about vampires). They keep self control on their inner beasts, and act as human as they possibly can, using humans to their advantage--as tools. The Sabbot, on the other hand, believe that humans are food and should be ruled over by the superior vampires, so they do their utmost to reject their humanity and have no interest in the Masquerade. In other words, both groups are bad guys, but the Camarilla are more like corrupt, "good" monsters, while the Sabbot are honest monsters. (Not bad for just having had it explained to me in terms I could understand last night, huh?)

That might be true of some D&D groups if you've got widely different alignments in the same group of PCs, but DMs usually make sure that the characters will at least get along unless the game they're running calls for in-fighting or a diverse range of alignments. With this Vampire game, there's constant backstabbing. It's kind of confusing, and makes me wonder if I chose the right Nature (conniver) for my somewhat new role-playing abilities. Maybe I should have chosen a Nature closer to the Demeanor I chose (bon vivant), but then it would've been kind of silly to add in all of those skills relating to subterfuge, and I'd have to re-write the part of my character's history involving spying for the U.S. government during the Sputnik frenzy in the '50s.

I'm hoping I'll be better able to role-play Vampires after I've had a chance to read through the rulebook thoroughly, instead of just skimming and/or researching specific things when I need to know them right away. There won't be a session next Wednesday, since Carl (the GM) has to work late that night, so I'll have extra time to do my "homework."

Anyway, enough about Vampire. Tonight is class again, and we're actually having a lab for the first time since before mid-terms . . . w00t! The teacher was behind on a couple of lectures, so we'd been skipping labs to catch up, which means we haven't been getting out of class as early as we usually do on Thursdays. That will change tonight.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Weekend, Gone

Saturday, I gave Jason my arrows. He was playing a Nintendo DS game with his friend William at the time, so he didn't say much except, "Thanks."

Then, I talked to Dad about the roommate/place to live situation. For those who don't know, the situation stands thus:

  • Kayla's old room has been vacant since January or February.
  • I have looked in many places, and posted many ads to the effect that the room is available. I've had a few interested parties, but they were either a) not currently in Frederick (I won't offer the room to someone unless I've met them face-to-face, for safety reasons) or b) didn't get back in touch with me after seeing the house.
  • Our lease is up on June 30, 2008, less than three months away.
  • I don't know if Jenn, Amit and Stacie want to renew the lease or not, but
    • If Kayla's old room doesn't get filled, the point is moot anyway and we're all screwed.
    • If they don't, then I'm pretty much screwed unless I find somewhere to live by mid-June (so that I have time to pack up and move out before the end of the lease).
  • I can only afford to pay a total of about $550 per month total for rent, internet, water, power, heat, cable, and phone (if I have a land line).
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Frederick does not go any lower than $750 or so, and if I go to where rent is only $550, I won't be saving any money, because then I'll have to pay even more for gasoline.
  • I can afford to buy a house which costs up to about $60,000 or so, but none of the houses in Frederick cost less than $150,000.
Dad suggested I might be able to live in a mobile home park. There are four or five in the city that we know of. We went to see if there were any vacancies at four of them on Saturday, but the offices were closed for the weekend (where we could find the offices anyway).

The way I figure it, if the site rental, plus the monthly mortgage payment on the mobile home itself (the model I like would be about $24,000 total), and utilities such as I've listed above is less than $550 a month, then I can afford to live there. I could also do without the phone (I have a cell), and even the cable, if my family will TiVo shows for me. Since I mostly watch the shows that Anna watches anyway, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Dad said he would go to the offices today and ask about costs and stuff like that. He also said he would ask if there were any of the mobile homes available for rent, or if I'd have to purchase one myself to put into one of their vacant lots.

After the trips to the mobile home parks (to see if there were any vacant lots and look at the quality of the "neighborhoods"), which was during a grocery trip, Dad made dinner. We didn't do too much after that though, except watch Sydney White and What a Girl Wants on the projector screen.

Yesterday, Anna, Kayla and I woke up, then we played Halo on the projector for a bit. After that, Anna broke out the Clue boardgame I'd gotten her for Christmas but she hadn't opened yet. We played two games (with Jason)--Anna won both times.

Then I setup my old desktop computer for my dad to check out and possibly fix. It wasn't fixable, since it's a Pentium III reporting as a Pentium II. So, we cannibalized it for parts, and I'm going to take the harddrive, the zip drive, the ethernet card and the memory sticks back to my house to see if I can use them there. I might be able to add the first three to Kayla's old computer so that it will run faster, and I might be able to put the ethernet card into my laptop dock. I'll still need to purchase more memory for my laptop though.

After the computer mayhem, Anna, Kayla and I watched the first season (plus some of the second) of Red vs. Blue, which I had never seen before. It's hilarious so far; we got to the part where Lopez and Sheila have decided to make their own army, and the Blues are supposed to be surrenduring both to them and to the Reds at 0600, but by then it was 12:45am, and the second season had been going for about an hour and a half. I thought it would only be an hour, so I asked to watch season two at 11:15. Turns out, it was longer, and since I had to work today, we turned it off before I started to fall asleep. I didn't want to miss any of it, so I was trying to stay awake as long as I could.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fun, Disappointments, and an Accomplishment

Thursday night turned out to be another lecture, because we were a chapter behind on lectures. We're still a chapter behind though, because Tuesday was supposed to be a double-chapter lecture too, and it seems the teacher didn't notice. Before and after class, I worked on a drawing of my D&D character, Laina (see left).

She didn't turn out quite like I pictured her, and I had trouble with a few of the proportions (her boobs look weird, and her hair's too big) but overall, I'm pleased with the drawing. Especially since it's the only full-length drawing I've ever completed--I've only ever drawn from the shoulders up before.

Yesterday was really slow, until work was done. I went to the Haven, showed off my drawing, then after a bit of talking (and after I'd renewed my membership) we had our D&D session. My character got enough experience points at the end to get to third level. Since I'd already done the research on what I wanted to do with that the weekend before, I just went through and changed the character stats accordingly.

After the game, it was pouring! I didn't know it was supposed to rain when I left work, so I didn't bring my umbrella with me. So Bart gave me a ride to my car (thanks, Bart!), then I had to do some grocery shopping.

I woke up this morning, and did some figuring. . . . It turns out that the grocery shopping overdrew me last night. So I can't 1) make a donation to Autism Speaks, or 2) buy some arrows for Jason. I was really hoping to at least be able to do the second one, but it's just not going to work.

Anna called me at 8:15 this morning, which kind of annoyed me since I'd set my cell phone to wake me up at 8:30, but that's beside the point. The reason she called is that none of the three of us (Anna, Kimba or I) got enough donations even to get tee shirts at the Autism Walk today. You have to get $100 in donations for a tee shirt, but I only made $25, and the other two got similarly small donations as well.

Also, Anna has a test today at noon which she was planning on skipping, then making up after the walk, but she wouldn't have gotten to take it with her classmates and it would've been completely short answer, instead of however the test was originally. Anna said it was up to me whether or not we went to the walk today, so I said I didn't mind not going. I mean, I like walking, so it wouldn't have been a problem if we actually went, but since I didn't get to make a donation of my own, we won't be getting tee shirts (they're neat shirts, don't laugh!), and Anna has that test, I figured it would be best not to go. Maybe next year I'll have a little more notice, and Anna won't be having a test and we'll be able to get more donations.

As for the dilemma with Jason's present . . .

Well, I have half-a-dozen arrows that I bought months ago for my own bow. They're custom-cut and made out of either fiber glass or carbon (I can't remember which), and cost me about $60. I've only used these arrows about three times since I bought them, so I'm basically wasting money just having them sit there in the quiver on my wall.

So, I will offer my arrows to Jason, and if they work with his bow (I think he has a recurve), then he can keep them. If they don't work with his bow, then I might just give him mine (a compound) since I have not used it in ages, and have dad loosen it up with his alan wrench drill bit, since I can't do it manually with an actual alan wrench--it's too tight, and the wrench tends to want to bend and break.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not Catching Up

It's been almost a week since my last entry and I'm kinda tired, so I'm not even going to try to catch up on what's been happening since then. I'll just start at yesterday instead.

Yesterday was Jason's 13th birthday. After work, I went to Mom & Dad's house, and Jason, Anna and Kayla were playing Halo on the projector screen (that was awesome--I could actually sort of see the other players against the background, and didn't lose as badly as I usually do) when I got there. I joined in for a little bit, then it was time for Jason to open his presents. I won't have any money until payday (tomorrow) so I just told him what I would be getting him on Saturday evening: new arrows for his bow.

He also got a Nintendo DS with four or five games (Code Lyoko, Pirates of the Caribbean--can't remember which, Lego Star Wars II, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and possibly one other that I can't remember the title of), plus a large Magnetix set, The Waterhorse and Teen Titans seasons 3 and 4.

Next, it was time for dinner, so we went to Ruby Tuesday (Jason's choice, of course). I was so full by the time we left, I thought I'd burst.

We had to go back in two cars, and Kimba ran a few errands with Kayla and Anna while Jason and I went back to the house with Mom & Dad. Jason played a few of his new games on the DS, and I played Super Mario Bros. on the old Gameboy Color I'd given him a few years back. Then, when Anna and Kayla got back, we all played more Halo until it was Jason's bedtime (taken to 10:00, since he's a teenager now, and usually wakes up before his alarm if he goes to bed at 9:30 anyway). At that point, I went home too, and bummed around on the 'net for about four hours.

I started to get ready for bed around 2am, was actually in bed and trying to sleep by 2:30, and the last time I saw the clock, it said 3am.

Oddly enough, I'm not as tired as I was earlier this week when I went to sleep between 11:30 and 1.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yay, Friday!

Last night we ended up having a lecture instead of a lab, but the teacher is going to give us all full credit for the lab anyway. Yay for free grades!

Tonight's D&D again. Just waiting for work to be over so that I can go over to the Haven.

I'm bored.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I wish . . .

. . . there was a bathroom at the Haven.

I went there last night to hang out, and stayed until closing time, playing Vampire: The Masquerade. That was fun, even though I was kind of clueless. The last time (which was also the first time) I'd played was back in high school, when Kelly E. and Chris M. invited me over to Kelly's house to join their game. We got through character creation and half of a session before my dad called and said it was time for me to go home. So I really didn't have much experience with the game last night.

One of the other players has been playing the game for years and years though, so she helped me some by making her character ask my character for help contacting the primogen.

I had "purchased" a snack with my Haven store credit around 7:30 or 8, because I was starting to get a bit woozy. By 8:30, I seriously had to pee. Earlier in the day, I had been talking to one of my co-workers who is also a member at the Haven, and he told me that there was no bathroom, to which I replied that I usually didn't have a problem with that.

It seems I jinxed myself. By closing time (10pm) I could barely hold it. I walked the three blocks back to my car as steadily yet quickly as I dared, drove home as quick as I could safely, then got inside, only to find that the toilet in the half-bath wasn't working properly (the flusher wasn't flushing--I'll have to see if I can fix that when I get home today). So I went up to my bathroom on the third floor.

After that was taken care of, I surfed the 'net for an hour or so, looking for blank character sheets to copy my character information on. I found the first page in a PDF, plus two different character generators for keeping track on a computer while playing. I also looked up the core rulebook online, and found new & used copies at Amazon for $7-10 plus shipping. I might get a copy later, and that will definitely help me be less clueless while playing.

Tonight is lab night for my astronomy class, so I probably will be home by 9pm at the latest--labs are easy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Locked Myself Out

Yesterday after work, I took a shower, collected my trash for trash night, and started my laundry. Then I finished a couple of stories in the book I'm currently reading before I popped in MacGyver for the rest of the night. I watched four episodes (I think) while the laundry got done (I even managed to fold it and put it all away--except the jeans, which I'll have to fold and put away tonight), before I went to sleep.

This morning, I got ready for work, and then I got halfway to the car before I realized I'd forgotten my keys--again. So I walked around the row of townhouses to the front door, hoping Stacie would be there to answer it. I don't know what her car looks like, and I only saw two minivans in front of the house, but I rang the doorbell a few times anyway just in case she was there. Nobody answered (she might have just been asleep and unable to hear the doorbell though), but I forgot to knock as well. Jenn and Amit were gone already.

So, I called Anna and begged her to come unlock the door for me with her key. I sat on the back deck, on the edge of a wet chair, for about an hour. She had to get dressed before she came over, so that's why it took so long. But I got in the house and got my keys at least!

I ended up being about 45 minutes late for work. Man, that sucks.