Category Archives: Living

In Silicon Valley, to buy a home or not to buy a home

As many Americans are currently evaluating decisions they have made. I am currently evaluating a number of decisions that I will make in the future.

Owning a home might be one of those decisions. Right now I am working out the math on the topic. And it seems to me that owning a home allows one who has earned income to potentially do two main things.

  • move retirement income into a hard asset with fewer rules.
  • allow you to take a portion of your income and stash it in a hard asset.

The math is preliminary, but let’s just say that 1 year worth of rent in SF is about


So far is seems like the rent on a mortgage + taxes and stuff for the same type of place would require I buy a $500-650k condo.
The net year cost on that would be

~$30k + possible association fees.

The income tax code says that I can write off the interest on my income, and since it’s a new home most of that mortgage payment can be written off.
Right now the government says that I can write off about $7-11k per year.
This means that my post tax cost for the home is

$20k a year again.

some portion of that $20k that get’s spent is actually principle.

let’s say $5k

As that principle grows, I can use that equity, even though it’s trapped in a home, to take out an SBA Loan with only 25% of the total covered.

So that means with a 5% down ( yes this is still allowed on some homes ), in 5 years turns into

$50k. ($25k down payment + $25k in new equity )

This should allow for an SBA loan of up to $200k that you can use to buy hard assets. Now this does not get you that much if you plan to do software start-ups like i do, but it does provide you leverage on those hard assets. My point being is that just because money is at work in one place, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get leverage other places.

So, there is a case for moderate leverage. But, what about buying pressure?

As people pay off their mortgage, more principal is paid off and less of that payment is interest. Over time they get less and less back from the government. I think this creates a sort of pressure to be on a new mortgage. I wonder if this has anything to do with why people tend to move every 7 years on average. There are also some interesting rules around selling a home and saving on taxes if you have lived in the home for 2 of the last 5 years. I also think that people get board, and want to move for various reasons, more kids, fewer kids, etc…

Heck I’d like a *maker* room for crafts, electronics hacking extra. In fact at maker faire one of the exhibits was for a company called the 100k garage. So yeah, i’d like to *paint* the walls but i’d also like to continue playing the *start-up* game a bit longer and it seems more and more like they are mutually exclusive if I am going to be really good at either one of them.

It seems to me that buying a home is only good if you have earned income, and secondly if you don’t expect to have to move in 3-5 years. Out here if your company get’s acquired by google or facebook, you might have to start driving to a new office 30 miles away. It’s been a pain for some people I know and it’s been part of the reason they shed the golden handcuffs a bit early.

If I bought a home out here, i’d have to make some major decisions about what my life is going to look like for 3-5 years. It would limit my job choices or my time, which can already be a 60+hr work week, before transit. I’d have to decide between living in the city ( san francisco ), on the peninsula near FB and Google ( where prices are 30% higher ), in the north bay ( very pretty and better schools, no public transit to the city ), around berkely/ oakland. Each has their advantages and their disadvantages.

I’m just not sure what needs to happen to maximize all of my options, and secures a future. I’m just not sure earning an extra $5k in home equity a year is worth it.

If not a MacBook Pro, what Laptop should I buy?

I did this research for a friend, so I thought I would share with everyone else.

The HP laptops have the highest performance to cost ratio with that said there are a few sacrifices for each model.

In your shopping you will want an Intel i5, Intel i7 or one of the AMD A6 or A8 processors. Do not get an Intel i3 processor. The Intel i5 or i7 should be fairly no fuss and I have enjoyed them. It’s the same processor found in the new Macs. The A6/A8 processors from AMD are really new and fewer computers have them, however they have a graphics card built right into the processor and in theory offer really low power operation, although this is the more darring choice.

For price performance, i’d probably choose an i5 or the AMD A8.

Here are list of graphics cards and their frame rates.

The HP models found below are really good, but you will need to choose the upgraded graphics processor. These are the fastest graphics processors in a Laptop in your price range. I also have one of these notebooks if you would like to see how it feels. We could even try your software on it to see how it runs.

HP High Performance Laptops

The other option is the Sony S series Viao. While it’s graphics card is not as fast as the HP, and the Sony has a semi-gloss-anti glare screen while the HP can be ordered with a matte screen. The Sony S series also have a really neet battery system and can last up to 15 hours with the extra battery ( *according to the site ), however, it’s probably more like 7 or 8hours with wifi on. The Sony’s should also feel better or feel more like a Mac.

Sony S series, stylish performance

I would also recommend that you upgrade to Windows 7 professional rather than just sticking with the Windows 7 home version. The professional version allows you to run software in a Windows XP mode and is more compatible with older software. I have used this mode on at least 3 different applications to get them to work.

The HP will be the fastest, but the Sony will feel nicer. HP also has a nice warranty program that can be upgraded over time, and they are the largest PC manufacturer. With the HP warranty I bought the 1 year plan and at the end of the year you have the option to extend it. I do have to say that even though the HP is very fast and it was a great bargin, it does feel quite different than working on a Mac, which is what I am used to.

I loaded up my HP and got i7 Quad core with 2GB of Graphics memory and 8GB of system memory, and a bluray drive to watch movies on planes. ( the Sony S, also can play bluray )

If the timing was a bit different, I might want to sell mine and get a Mac Book Pro 15 inch instead.

Let me know what you decide.

Japan: Pay it Forward

I just sent this message to a friend in Japan. My hope is that others will do the same.

I was inspired by a few articles I had read about in the past about pastors giving money to the congregations members to do good in a community. I don’t know how my friend Jon will make use of the money but I trust he will slightly know better than I how to use it.

I figure that this $100 will work in different ways than the other money that I have sent to the relief effort via the Red Cross.

If I get a note back of how the money was used, I will update this post. Please let me know if you choose to do the same. #japan #payitforward

Jon, I am sending $100.00 to you in Japan, if you need the cash please use it. If you know of a way to leverage the money please do that. If you think someone else could make better use, pay it forward. Write back to tell me how you use it.


Cancer Research, Blocking Cancer’s energy source, ATP, Lactic Acid, PEP, Pyruvate

Please take this at face value, and do your own investigation, but this looked like promising research.

If you put together these articles you might draw some
interesting conclusions.

This is what I gleamed from putting together the above sources.
It seems from these articles that cancer uses a cell division
technique that can be interrupted with a build up of lactic acid.
Lactic acid is more easily cleared up or removed which high sugar, or
carbohydrate diets. ( seems like it’s good for runners, but not good
for cancer patients. )

It seems like cancer growth is at it’s worst when Lactic acid has not
built up in a while to inhibit/ reset the rogue energy cycle that

Lactic acid builds up in muscles that are being used, but is
transported through blood flow to the rest of the body.
Blood flow during intense exercise is restricted to non-vital organs,
which would make it hard for lactic acid to reach those organs.
Prolonging Lactic acid in the body might help fight cancer.

From what I have read, this seems to indicated that intense exercise (
causing a warmness or burning in your muscles ) and not carb-loading
before a workout, or immediately afterwards is an ideal strategy. It
may be that the rise in cancer in our society might be related to the
sharp decline in intense exercise.

End of story, no pain no gain, when it comes to exercise.
It looks like they are looking for a pill to replace the simple need
for us to work physically harder in our daily lives.

Dinner Parties – Mad Scientist Edition

If you have ever thrown a dinner party,  you might know how much work they are, but you also know how rewarding they are as a way to share time with friends, and to eat something good.

In San Francisco, I started a new weekly dinner party at my apartment in SoMa, and ever week we try to come up with a theme.  Sometimes that theme is easy to pull off and other times it’s a bit more of a hassle than it’s worth.

This week I have been trying to pull stuff together for a mad scientist theme, and in a town like SF you would think there are ton’s of lab supply stores.  However, google has failed to easily find me any.  Instead every biotech and chemtech startup seems to appear on the list rather than cool stores like ‘American Science and Surplus’ would back in milwaukee and chicago.

So for posterity sake I thought I would pass the ball forwards and document a few sites of interest to help prepare for the next ‘Mad Scientist Themed-Dinner party’.

Links of aspiration and inspiration

Online Stores for beakers, flasks, funnels, petri dishes and test-tubes

Some Geek Chic-ery

Life changes you, things learned.

It’s almost been 2 years since i moved to california and its been a rough adventurous ride, and I don’t regret a moment of it. However, when I look back it’s odd to see just how different I am today.

Since sundays are for reflection, here are a few bullet points.

  • • living in milwaukee i felt very connected to the community, i knew so many people by name that everywhere i went was like an episode of cheers.
  • • i used to drink and eat a lot more, today i eat 2/3rds to 1/2 as much food. it’s so warm in california you really don’t need much.
  • • winter seems like someplace you visit, rather than live through.
  • • i used to feel tech deprived, now it’s easily accessible and to some degree less exotic
  • • i understand better how some ideas are good ones and others are a waste of time
  • • i now know i own too much stuff, too much ownership is a burden; you end up consuming more resources just keeping it and not appreciating it.
  • • women like geeks and entrepreneurs here, i feel sexy here
  • • hackathons used to be parties, now they seem like work
  • • i miss bucketworks, but….. have found noisebridge, and techshop, but don’t go enough.
  • • owning cars seem silly, but i still love my 350z, but now i don’t have a venue to enjoy it. i may just sell it and rent a sports car for a day, even at 500 dollars every few months, it’s cheaper, than paying for insurance and parking.
  • • in milwaukee, geeks were most easily found at goth industrial clubs, but out here, they are everywhere.
  • • you live in a city, not in an apartment, neighborhoods are probably more important than your home.
  • • being able to bike everywhere RULES.
  • • public transit is better than no transit, but it still sucks, its a tragedy of the commons.
  • • some graffiti is good, some is bad.
  • • political parties are not relevant.
  • • some people are so angry about somethings, that they will never listen about other things
  • • what its like to have a lot of friends that are female, what it’s like to have a female room mate; the secret is it’s really not that different, except your guy friends probably are more likely to drink your beer and watch the same tav shows.
  • • on average women think about sex way more than I would have thought 2 years ago.
  • • women may think differently, but they think about the same things. ( ok, maybe not all of the same things, or maybe just not at the same level of detail )
  • • the goal of any good conversation is to derive respect of and for someone regardless of weather you agree, find enjoyment in their fellowship, however not all people are respectable, and so don’t spend your time with them
  • • no matter how much you may want others to be independent and self capable, some people just want to follow, or lead. people may not be built for an egalitarian maximum.
  • • any good piece of art, creates a deeper connection between people. it should make good conversation easy. ( see above )

Open Loft privacy divider design.

I finally have a new place, and it’s an open concept loft in San Francisco’s SOMA district. It’s got everything I have ever wanted in a place, but it’s got one problem, to afford it I had to take on a good friend as a roommate. I love having roommates in a traditional space, but having a roommate in an open concept loft could, well ,,,.. get bothersome in the future.

I am currently exploring and brainstorming concepts to create privacy. However, building a full height wall, although a feasible engineering solution, is not what I am looking for. We are looking for something that keeps the loft as open as possible, while allowing us to define private spaces. We have thought of the following options, but what ideas might you have?

  • using plexiglass panels
  • using triangular plexiglass panels and create an uneven surface
  • using plexiglass with a negative pressure interior ( vacuum )
  • using glass
  • using foam
  • hanging rugs
  • hanging curtains
  • using bloxes
  • using a rubber skin around a substructure/ skeleton
  • creating a plexiglass substructure
  • creating a wooden substructure
  • creating a cardboard substructure
  • sucking out the air from with in the rubber encased structure
  • doing something organic looking
  • doing something modern
  • using small bright light sources like LEDs to trick the eye of an on looker to contract and thus be unable to see passed the array of LEDs, one might call this a ‘light screen’
  • use a light projector to overpower any refracting light in the room, thus creating optical privacy in one direction.
  • using some sort of blinds

I will try to update this post with examples of interesting design at some point.  Maybe you can comment on a few.

Startupweekend Micropost

At LA startupweekend I built with one other team member
a geolinking service that computes a geohash for gps coordinates or a
street address.  The resulting geolink will provide a map, and some
other interesting information when a user clicks the link.

It’s kinda a little cobbled together, but by dec.3rd it should be working well.

What would you want on the landing page?

‘The Calorie-Restriction Experiment’

Read ‘The Calorie-Restriction Experiment’ ( NY-Times )

After reading this article I am convinced that calorie restriction will at least improve the quality of my life, but it may also extend it. New evidence is showing that adding ‘some’ exercise to your life, and reducing calorie intake will reduce your chance for cancer, and or heart disease by more than 50%.

While living in Wisconsin, I used to eat till I was full, and it was leaving me to not feel healthy. This spring I decided to start changing my behavior. I bought a bike, and started biking. At first it was just to and from the beach, or Mitsuwa ( ). Later I moved on to up along the beach towards Topanga Canyon, and before long a 5 mile ride was achievable. The next leap I made, was to start biking to work, an 8 mile ride there, and an 8 mile ride back. The 1st time I did this on a weekend, and I went there and back, the full 16 miles. It took me 2 hours 15 min. I felt tired, and sore, but I felt great. All the while I started having just yogurt for breakfast and bring in Apples and Bananas to work to snack on, and although I was feeling better, I was not loosing weight. I think this was because for lunch and dinner I was still eating out.

Come June, I was laid off at work, and my income drastically changed.  It was a good excuse for me to start changing my habits.  Once nice thing about consulting is how it allows for more time to exercise.

I started dining in, eating when hungry, and watching what I ate.

2 weeks ago, I was able to see that I am making progress.  I am now down to 202 / 4 where as in mid summer I was between 215 / 218.

Now, I try to eat a reasonable amount and try to ride 13 miles a day on my bike in Griffith Park ( but it’s probably more like 4 times a week ).  Out here in California eating till full just was not going to work, 1st, eating that much food causes you to sweat in this weather, so eating less means I have a lower body temp, so I can cope with the weather better.   It’s also the reason I am loosing weight.

It’s not a lot but it’s at a healthy rate. By the new year I hope to be well into 190. In college I was at 174, and I felt really good. I was able to run 5 miles a day, and lift weights for 1 hour a day. Right now I am getting good at biking 13 miles a day, and I may up the load again. I may add a 1 or 2 mile run 3 days a week. I put this out there so that you can spread the word to the people you care about. Eating well, and exercising is more than looking fit, its about quality of life.

;and I feel so much better now.

healthcare reform.

Dear John,

While I do not like government run institutions, there are a few things in life that the government has made our lives better while managing it.

Our government has the right to manage interstate commerce, and as I see it now, our Health System is an Interstate Commerce problem. Not only do companies have employees in several states, but people travel, move and have families dispersed all the time across our great nation. In addition, people who require help in an emergency, or people that have contracted a communicatable disease put a stress on all of us when their health care is not provided for. Either hospitals treat these people without getting paid, or they die, or worse they spread the disease to others.

As our country continues to grow to being more and more urban, we need to deal with problems as a set of communities rather than as a body of individuals.

So, in general I support a number of points of health care reform.

Early In my life I worked at a medical billing company and I know all too well how insurance companies skip out on paying bills, and how doctors inflate bills to get good payers to pick up the slack for other more dishonest insurance companies.

I urge those that are passionate about health care to help us simplify, streamline, and clean out the corruption in the healthcare industry. Our parents, and grand parents are at risk.

I propose several changes to the system.

1. provide leadership and standardize payment processing, require that health insurance companies pay 80-90% of claims. right now they pay less than half of all submitted claims.

2. provide a validation engine for said claims, such a validation engine has been built to determine if an HTML document is valid. I suspect such an engine could be built to validate a medical bill. this would validate the patients identity, the medical practitioners identity, and the payers identity. the system would also validate viable pairings of CPC codes ( medical care line items ). Items that are unusual could flag a review process by a board of medical practitioners.

3. record all bills and assemble a medical care census, and provide the data in aggregate, and autonomously to the public to crunch. with proper statistical records on care patterns people can dig into the information and get a good view on where innovation needs to occur, and where current innovation is not yet being used. right now only health insurance companies have this data, and this should be public data so others can help and map out solutions for our general well being.

4. provide leadership in sourcing funding for problems in the system that are identified through statistical methods. in some cases direct taxes might make sense to provide research funding, and in other contexts, businesses might rally together to provide said funding in a prize economics / ‘netflix prize’ sort of way. using the data from #3 we can very easily identify treatment pairs that are raising in cost and ones that need additional research done to better advance them.

5. require that insurance companies can not deny someone based on pre-existing conditions. this forces insurance companies to have a broad demographic.

6. allow young individuals some sustained benefit for purchasing health insurance at a young age and keeping it up. I think it’s silly to pay $2400 a year and visit the doctor once in 3 years. Paying straight cash for a $500 doctors visit is still cheaper. For people that invest in the system and don’t have health problems, some percentage of their payment should lead to reduced payments later in life. it should kinda be an investment vehicle, and if one pays additional dollars at a young age into the system one should get better care later in life, as health costs should always be more later in life than earlier in life.

7. build an infrastructure so that doctors can virtually review a patient together via video conferencing. reviewing patients with multiple opinions can reduce errors. In the programing space we call it extreme programing, or pair programing, and certain cases might be flagged for care that is prone to error.