Saturday, December 5, 2009

WARNING: Statistic Innacuracies & Potential Downfall

I was hoping to get returns on my investments with at a range of 10% based off their website which states the average return is 9.67%

Upon further review, most of the money coming in is toward new loans which haven't had enough time (120 days) to go into default or to be charged off. This naturally skews the data.

So what I did was that I took the data off their website for loans originating in 2007 and 2008 and the results and returns I see are actually much worse and quite scary.

The reason for this is because most loans end up going into default after about one 6 months to a year. Everyone pays fine for the first couple of months, and then they TANK.

For example, try going to and set the custom dates from June 1, 2007 to December 31, 2008. What you'll see are some pretty sobering statistics.

None of the average returns are above 6% APR. The F class notes are even negative.

Here's a breakdown of each credit grade and the percent that end up getting Charged Off or enter into Default:

Total Loans Charged Off Default % Fail
A 397 5 1 1.51%
B 692 44 15 8.53%
C 722 60 22 11.36%
D 519 64 14 15.03%
E 386 52 8 15.54%
F 163 43 5 29.45%
G 122 24 3 22.13%

According to the default rate you're seeing above is GINORMOUSLY more than what they're supposed to be.

The defaults are CRAZY. I can expect as high as 10%, but I can't believe I'm seeing almost 30% default rates for some credit grades. And these loans are supposed to be only for those with FICO scores above 650. We shouldn't be seeing anything higher than 6.3% default rates.

Perhaps the main saving grace is if you only invest in Grade A loans.

Based off the fact that index funds average 8% and have crazy volatility, I was hoping that was going to offer me a much sweeter alternative. The true data suggests otherwise and I'm hitting my head for not delving into the data while I was initially investing.

Now I'll just be happy to get 6% returns over three years with, but unless my loans end up turning out good, I'll still be relying on the good old index funds to bring in the average 8% over the long run.

And based off the data, I may just invest in Grade A loans for now on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Selling and Buying Used Cars (And how I was reminded about taking advantage of low interest rates)

This post briefly documents my used car selling and buying experience and my thought process.

WHY I SOLD THE 2006 BMW 325i
It started near the beginning of October when Hun from told me how he sold the exact same model car as me for a 2005 Toyota Prius. He cited the maintenance costs and gas mileage as the main reasons. I was surprised by him citing maintenance because when I was doing the initial research for the car, the maintenance fees weren't estimated to be that high according to They ended up revising the figures to be about double what they initially estimated. I had realized I had made an expensive miscalculation if I planned on driving the car until it died.

The 4 years of full maintenance was scheduled to end November 14, and I didn't want to have to deal with the expensive repair bills and maintenance required, especially since BMWs require specialist hourly fees.

Also, my wife doesn't like it when I drive like a mad man in the car, so it was loosing its driving appeal.

I got it for the chicks, and now that I'm married, it no longer has much of a purpose.

On about November 12, 2009, I sold my 2006 BMW 325i for $16,200 through Craigslist. The process was pretty nerve racking as I had to deal with multiple buyers with various offers over a 3 - 4 week period. Plus it was a stick shift, and having to deal with the hassle of test-drives wasn't pleasant. Craigslist has a lot of flakes but in the end it ended up giving me $2,000 more than a local dealership was willing to offer me.

If you considered my BMW to be between a Clean and Average condition, then I ended up selling my car about 92.55% of what listed as a fair market value.

I bought the car originally in November 2005 while stationed in Germany. The original price was $26,840. I didn't have to pay any tax, so that's the total price. When I came to California, I had to pay nominal registration fees (about $250), but still no tax.

Also, through USAA, I got a 2% APR loan for about $25,000 of the loan. The total interest ended up being about $1,263.66 and I'm still maintaining the loan because the interest rates are so low.

My parents had given me some money to pay for the car, so I instead invested the money from May 2005 - October 2008 in stocks. In October 2008, I sold the investments and transferred them to Roth IRAs. I made about $5,968.48 from the original investment. . . of course, it has tanked while in my Roth accounts, but I'm not too concerned about that as I'll be able to pull the money out tax free when I retire where they would've recouped most of the losses.

In the end, here are the calculations of the 4 years of ownership. All maintenance and warranty was covered through BMW for the first 4 years:

2006 BMW 325i
Original Price 26840
Sale Price 16200

From Investments
May 05 - Oct 08 $5968.48

2.0% Interest Loan
Interest Cost to date 20091002 1263.66

Difference $5935.18
Months Owned 48
Cost/Month $123.65

So about $6,000 total cost for 48 months of driving a new 2006 BMW 325i or $123.65/month. Very good :]


It was a no brainer for me to go for either Honda or Toyota.

I had to do some research on the IIHS website. Toyota Camry 2007 was the first year that Side Air bags were standard where it got pretty much "good" on all measurements. Honda Accords have side airbags being standard beginning in 2005. Side impact scores were pretty bad if they didn't have side air bags.

I didn't want to pay for a new car for a long time.

I found out that 2007 Toyota Camrys, being the new model year, were actually having average transmission problems and other issues, so I ended up focusing more toward 2006 Honda Accords as the main interest because they were being rated higher in reliability.

2006 Honda Accord
I bid on a 2007 Toyota Camry with 33,000 miles and lost on Ebay for about $12,400, which ended up being a good thing.

I offered and got accepted for a really bad condition 2006 Honda Accord with 50,000 miles for about $9500. I'm glad I didn't go through with it.

Last Monday morning I was going to close on the 2006 Honda Accord for $9,500, but came to think about all the cosmetic damage and how much it would cost. Plus, I was able to find a certified, used 2006 Honda Accord with about 59,000 miles for $11,888, or $2,000 more. I figured, to get a warranty for 100,000 miles and having a car with near perfect condition was a much better bet.

So I went that route and discovered some extra benefits all in the same, long day.

Honda Accord is doing a special financing program where I was able to finance the entire vehicle, including tax, through their 4.9% APR for 60 months. I have cash to be able to purchase the car outright, but if I invest the money instead, and manage to get a 7% after tax return which I think would be easy to get through &, I'll come out even further out ahead.

The dealer (Honda of Downtown Los Angeles) ended up signing me up for a $550.00 LoJack device at the last second. The value of this is TBD.

I also got to do a down payment of $3,000 through my credit card netting me a $30 cash back and I'm also getting one free oil change ($40 value).


7% Returns:
Cost $13,617.89
$3,000 Cash Back -$30.00
Oil Change -$40.00
$10,617.89 Financed (4.9% APR) $1,316.04
$10,617.89 Invested (7% APR) -$4,274.25

Total $10,589.68

Should I be getting the returns as high as Lending Club is estimating, I think I can get returns in the 12% range after taxes and defaults:

Cost $13,617.89
$3,000 Cash Back -$30.00
Oil Change -$40.00
$10,617.89 Financed (4.9% APR) $1,316.04
$10,617.89 Invested -$8,094.46

Total $6,769.47

Hopefully, I can drive the car until 250,000 (or 16 years!) or when it finally dies. But if I were to sell the car at the depreciation rate that projects after the 5 years (Final sell price of $7,000), then I could theoretically had made $230!

Don't forget to take advantage of super low interest rates WHENEVER possible, especially when you have the means to make higher returns investing that same cash elsewhere!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

American Express Fidelity

I just got the American Express Fidelity card to my credit card arsenal. It's 2% back on points which can be deposited into cash into my Fidelity cash account:

So now I have a general card that I use for everything and get 2% cash back.

In combination with my Chase Visa Signature card (3% back on, 2% Restaurants, plus doubling the warranty up to a year of anything I buy) and American Express True Earnings Card (3% back at restaurants), I'm feeling fairly confident I have the best cards out there for cash back for my typical spending habits.

Here's a nice little grid I worked out:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pay off 2% APR loan or keep it?

I have a 2% APR, unsecured loan in the amount of $5,955.28 through my bank, USAA. The original purpose of the loan was for my 2006 BMW 325i, but they didn't put my car as collateral for some reason.

It'll be paid off on Dec 2, 2010. Monthly payments are $440.37.

I have a savings account through Capital One, and they're giving me 1.64% APR due to an account I have opened up through Costco.

Analysts are predicting that negative job growth will continue until the end of 2010, when it'll bottom and possibly begin recovering. I don't imagine that the Fed will be raising interest rates within the next 12 months.

Would you pay off the 2% APR loan entirely? Or continue and let the money accrue interest and pay the monthly payments as required.

UPDATE (20:07, 20091021):

I did the amortization tables, and realized that the true cost to maintain liquidity is only $13.53. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it too much and keep it in

Monday, September 28, 2009

Keesler Blog Posting

I copied and pasted from here:

I figured it may disappear with time, so I wanted to back it up.

Kessler AFB Shelter Commander Story
333d Training Squadron/CC ^ | post Katrina | Lt Col (USAF) Randy Coats

Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:15:35 by RileyD, nwJ

Command: Category 4
Lt Col Randy Coats, 333d Training Squadron/CC

Command. There's no better job in the world. After seven years in jobs with “command authority” and two squadron commands, I figured I had a good idea what command was all about. I was wrong. What changed my mind? Four words--"Shelter Commander" and "Hurricane Katrina."

From 28 Aug - 2 Sep, I lived with 730 of my "closest friends" in 50-year old Bryan Hall at Keesler AFB, MS. It was my third stint as a shelter commander, but it was unlike anything I had experienced before. As life slowly returns to normal on the Gulf Coast and I reflect on the experience, I've come to appreciate the unpredictability of command and how much an event like Katrina can change people and communities.

First, you have to understand some basics. My shelter is a unique animal on Keesler. Most shelters here are dedicated primarily to one unit. Mine is not. I have all the active duty and family members from a wide variety of units--two training squadrons, CE and Security Forces (and prisoners), 100+ Marines, communications students (NCOs and roughly 60 Lt's), 150 NCO Academy students and their faculty, and 50 international officers and their families. The building is an old nuclear fallout shelter, with no windows and no shower facilities. With that setting in mind, I offer the following memories and thoughts on Hurricane Katrina.

25 Aug (Thu): One of my sharpest young MSgt points out Katrina "may grow into something over the weekend" and suggests we update our shelter/evacuation data sheets. I admire his enthusiasm, tell him “that's not a bad idea", then promptly forget to do anything because Katrina's not headed our way at all and I've got other things to do besides worry about a piddly Category 1 storm.

27 Aug (Sat): Two CAT (Command Action Team) meetings. Katrina has strengthened and is headed our way, due to arrive Monday afternoon. Tentatively plan to open shelters Monday morning. I remember the MSgt's words and begin repeating every officer’s golden rule--"Never ignore a SNCO…Never ignore a SNCO."

28 Aug (Sun): Turn on CNN before heading to 0800 CAT. Radar picture shows Katrina is Category 5, taking up the whole Gulf of Mexico and headed straight for us, due to arrive before dawn Monday. "Never ignore a SNCO…Never ignore a SNCO."
- 1000: Initiate full recall and order all personnel to evacuate or shelter NLT 2100. Many people out of town for the weekend. Accountability is a nightmare.
- 1700: Open the shelter. People/families begin arriving. Have to stop two refrigerators, one 21" TV set, and three mattresses at the door. Students (of all ranks) drafted to help carry bags into the shelter. People told to bring food and water for three days. Most bring food for two days; smokers bring cigarettes for twenty days. Have to break the news--no smoking inside the shelter and once you're checked in you can't go outside (Hotel California rules).
- 2200: Doors locked and boarded up from the outside by CE (one door in an alcove left uncovered).

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: Mississippi
KEYWORDS: airforce; command; humor; katrina; keesler; keeslerafb; leadership; usaf
29 Aug (Mon):
0500: Winds howling; can hear them best through vents in bathrooms at the end of the hallway (It didn’t sound like this during Hurricane Ivan)
0800: Shelterees (hereafter referred to as "the Natives") start moving around 0800. Smokers looking for nicotine fix, but remain calm.
1000: Local news reports indicate rising waters, violent winds. Plywood ripped from external doorways (I start getting uneasy; plywood has never moved in previous storms, much less flown away).
1200: News reports 20+ feet of water in local mall. Natives getting anxious. Smokers getting jittery.
- Power goes out; generators kick in. Not good. CE told us power can only go out if high-tension cables that survived 200-mph winds during Hurricane Camille go down. A/C stops working; ventilation fans stop working. No windows, no open doors, 731 nervous people…in Mississippi…in August. Ask for generator fuel status and burn rate. Have enough fuel for two days.
- Natives who smoke starting to visibly shake; many look physically ill.
- Cable TV goes out. Natives get creative with antennas. Spotted the bottom half of an NCO sticking out from ceiling tiles. Apparently reception is better if you connect a stripped copper comm cable from the TV to pipes in the ceiling. I appoint a safety observer and hope for the best.
- CE reports primary generator has flames coming out of it, so shut it off. Lost internet connectivity. Down to one generator; power only in hallways and a few rooms.
- Water stops running. Toilets overflowing. With medical advice, I brief the Natives on how to use plastic bags for toilet facilities (someone used this method within 10 minutes). Disposal of plastic bags in a sealed building is a concern. Adventurous major goes into the basement and finds 1961-vintage Civil Defense Survival Sanitation Kits. Basically, a 3-foot tall cardboard porta-potty with a hole cut in the top. This does not look fun. However, 44-year old toilet paper (it was dated) is surprisingly soft.
- One hour later: Water comes back thanks to CE heroes going out in the storm to repair pumping station. I hug the first CE troop I can find. Sanitation Kits thankfully not used, but kept on standby.
- CE troops coming off shift report half of flight-line underwater; BX and Commissary 6 feet deep and rising; trees down all over base; CE building collapsed. Natives begin to get the picture--this is worse than Hurricanes Ivan or Dennis.
1800: Winds still dangerous so cannot open doors. It's hot…it's humid…Natives are getting cranky. Smokers showing signs of extreme duress. One is carrying two unlit cigarettes around. I suggest he tear one open and put it behind his lip for a nicotine fix. He informs me he's already eaten an entire pack and it didn't help. Can't think of anything to say in response, so I pat him on the back and wish him luck.
- Babies and young kids getting grumpy; too hot to nap.
- Barely-visible news reports (on very fuzzy TV picture) report massive devastation in the area. Dead silence in hallway as Natives crowd around the lone TV with a discernible picture. Tension rising.
2000: Too hot to breathe. 731 nervous people generate a lot of sweat and a variety of smells. Command Post says stay locked down, don't open doors. Natives make strange noises when I walk by. Not sure the "Shelter Commander" badge is a good thing to be wearing right now. First Sergeant reports Natives consider me the embodiment of evil.
- Cops go on shift. The best NCO in the AF is assigned to patrol base housing; he offers to try to check on my cat during his shift (we left her in the hallway of my house).
2100: Even hotter. Poked my head outside--it's ugly but winds have died down. Command Post says stay buttoned up. Natives mumbling in small groups about how to eliminate a commander. Survival instincts tell me to get some air in here. Posted Marines at every exit and opened all the doors. I'm a hero; Natives love me. Haven't heard "thank you" this much since I put my shirt back on at the squadron pool party.
2200: Smokers running out of cigarettes to eat. Open a side door and rope off a 10' x 10' smoking area. No more than five people at a time; no more than five minutes. Sucking cigarettes look like blow-torches in reverse. Everyone loves me.
- Nobody sleeps much. Tough to sleep in pools of sweat.

30 August (Tuesday):
0145: One of my NCOs wakes me up because "Cops want to talk to you, Sir". SFS NCO is direct. "The good news is your cat is fine." Next question obvious. As he hands back my house key he adds, "The bad news is I didn't need this to get into your house." Doesn't quite register…"How'd you get in?" He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I walked through your back wall." That can't be good at all. Looks like a total loss. My wife was on a cot in the hallway. I woke her up to give her the news. Her response? "I guess it'll be easy to pack when we move next year." (She's getting anything she wants for Christmas, forever). Spend the rest of the night thinking of how to stay focused and project a positive attitude given that all my worldly possessions will probably fit in a gym bag. (note: we were eventually able to save most things above 4 feet)
0700: Bad news spreads like wildfire. Entire shelter knows about my house. Lots of supportive comments as I wander the halls but I see the struggle behind the words--they're sorry for my loss but worry about their own. Their concern for my family despite fears for their own touches me deeply. First time in 19 years I've really had to fight back tears, but I've got to do the commander thing and project a positive attitude. As I walk the hallways I truly feel "the burden of command." My family is safe; I have to push my losses aside for now. These 730 people have no access to information other than what I tell them. I am their link to the outside world. I see them watching me, watching how I react and looking for cues as they try to figure out how they should feel--is the commander scared? Depressed? Worried? Confident? I realize that their mood over the next few days will be a direct reflection of what they perceive as my mood. I've been tested in command before, but never like this.
0800: Drive to CAT meeting across base. Devastation is shocking. Trees down everywhere. Cars trashed everywhere. Windows out. Walls out. Buildings collapsed. Roofs ripped apart.
0930: Mass briefing to the Natives. Most uncomfortable briefing I've ever given. Reports indicate widespread devastation. Death toll probably in the hundreds. Power out for at least three weeks. Must begin water conservation. Minimum three months to resume base mission. Will not leave shelter for at least three days. 730 stunned and scared faces focused on me. All are easy to read. (1) realization of how bad it is, (2) fear of what it did to their homes. Worst possible situation for a commander--troops need reassurance I can't give. Struggle to keep my voice steady. Not sure how well I did.
- Natives' supplies running out. Most critical shortfalls: food, diapers, baby food, and feminine hygiene products. Issue MREs for adults. Assign "Baby POC" to track baby supplies. Develop new metric for morning/evening briefings--diaper burn rate. 17 infants in shelter x 5 diapers/day & 4 jars of baby food/day. Have one day supply of diapers, two days of baby food, but at least three more days in the shelter. Submit urgent supply request to Command Post. Luckily, Sanitation Kits include 44-year old feminine products.
- Still no cable TV and no internet. Information is life. I average (I counted) no more than 10 steps before someone stops me to ask what's going on outside.
- Lieutenant students offer to take over operation of the Children's Recreation Room. One has been to Clown College; several brought coloring books. First Sergeant asks me later (a) "How come the officers have coloring books?" and (b) "How come some of the pictures were colored in before the children started using them?" Honor of the officer corps is at stake; I quickly assign the Shirt to a meaningless task to distract her. Hope it worked. Best not to ask. (Note: to be perfectly honest, that actually happened during Hurricane Dennis in July, but it's 100% true and was too good a story not to include here)
- Pregnant Native goes into premature labor. Ambulance evacuates her to hospital.
- Another uncomfortable night. All Natives (and myself) report profuse sweating in lieu of sleep. Set up special room with lots of fans for children to sleep in. Authorized Chaplain to take a small raiding party to Chapel next door to get rocking chairs for parents with small children.

31 August (Wed):
- Still hot. Two cases of dehydration evacuated to hospital. I'm dehydrated, nauseous, and weak despite drinking constantly. Can't believe I let this happen. Check with medics, but saline solution is in short supply and if I'm still walking I don't need it bad enough. They give me some good drugs to control symptoms. Eight hours, 240 ounces of water (I had to keep track), and 9,000 bathroom breaks later I feel much better.
- Lots of debris around the building. Still dangerous for people to go outside, but Natives are getting stir-crazy. Assigned a team to clear and rope off an area near the building. Post guards to ensure nobody wanders off, then allow small groups outside for fresh air for short periods of time. They love me again.
- Wing/CC reads off list of inbound aid at CAT meeting. Not the same as hearing it on TV. I never imagined that it would mean so much to know that so many people are focused on helping you.
- Baby supplies critical. Wing/CC orders a raid on what's left of Commissary and BX. Deliveries to shelters save the day.
- Another bad briefing to the Natives. Only one way to explain why they can't leave the shelter--tell them the truth as I know it. Looting rampant off-base. Looters in base housing. AF member car-jacked right outside the gate. No gas in local area; $5/gallon three hours away. Chaos in New Orleans is moving our way. Extra Security Forces with .50 cals on HMMWVs en route to help secure the base.
- Natives frantic about their homes. They fear anything that survived the storm won't survive the looters. Try to focus them on aid headed our way. Emotions running high. One woman goes into shock; evacuated to hospital.
- Another sweaty, sleepless night. Natives apparently locate world's largest stock of extension cords. Conservative estimates indicate we're running 500 fans off 5 power outlets and 2,000 extension cords. Confiscated the most impressive daisy chains as a safety hazard. Briefed Shelter Management Team to increase fire checks of the building.

01 Sep (Thu):
- Cannot release people to return to homes overnight due to security concerns. However, must let Natives assess their homes or risk bodily harm trying to keep them here. Strict guidelines for home assessments--provide written route of travel; must have a wingman; no dependents can go; max of one hour to save what you can and return to shelter; must be decontaminated before reentering shelter because many houses (mine included) have sludge/sewage inches deep. Lieutenants do great job controlling departure and decon lines.
- Natives return to shelter. Many are homeless. Commander School never taught me how to respond to "I have nothing left," or how to comfort women and men crying uncontrollably in my arms. Some cried for what they lost, some for what they saw. News reports didn't prepare them for seeing not just their home but their entire neighborhood destroyed, or for the cops telling them the bad smell they noticed was probably neighbors who tried to ride out the storm and were buried in the rubble. My only consolation is that I know how they feel. The stink in the house made me gag; the mud was gooey, sticky, and got on everything. My wife spent years building a beautiful collection of Amish figurines. Seeing the trail of broken figures across two yards (I never found the curio cabinet) was painful to endure. Crabs running across my feet in the bedroom (which scared the bee-geezus out of me) was a comical twist to a non-comical situation.
- In an attempt to improve morale, the chow hall (excuse me, “Dining Facility”) next to the shelter opens for one hot meal of whatever was available. Natives happily wait in line 2+ hours for rice with spaghetti sauce and a piece of bread. After the week we’ve had, it’s like Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner.
- Third straight day of gorgeous weather. Security still a big concern. My DO reports her neighbors shot a looter (it may not be politically correct, but I applaud their initiative). Natives don't care, they just want out. Shelter Commanders compare notes at CAT—we’re all seriously concerned about tempers rising in the shelters. Believe the Natives are just about at the breaking point.
- Still no a/c. Lots of sweat and little sleep.

02 Sep (Fri):
- Security situation better. Natives' are about worn out. Wing/CC authorizes release from shelters. Six days and five nights we will never forget, and the recovery efforts have only just begun.

To say that Hurricane Katrina has been a "life event" would be an understatement. During my time running the Bryan Hall shelter I saw the best and the worst of people first-hand. Some sat in their little piece of floor space and watched others work to make the situation better. Most looked for every opportunity to help others and to make our little slice of hell a little more comfortable. I was amazed at how easy it was to read their faces. I could see clearly as fear changed to shock, disbelief, then anger. I watched in amazement as the anger was replaced with a calm sense of resolve and focus to simply move forward and do what needed to be done. From the little boy I found wandering the halls at midnight (obviously looking for a bathroom) to the lieutenants who stepped up, took charge when I asked, and showed all of us what "officership" is all about, every person in that shelter taught me their own unique and valuable lesson about command.
The CE troops and the Cops in my shelter taught me the meaning of dedication. I watched them tramp in and out on shift work throughout the storm and its aftermath. They were wet, muddy, sweaty, and tired. But every time they came through those doors they took time to find someone whose house they checked on and they always stopped by to give me an update on what they saw. To quote a favorite TV show of mine, "They were…magnificent."

My Wing/CC described it perfectly a few days after the storm. Some puffed-up colonel called him up in the CAT and said "General so-and-so is coming down there. I want to know who the most important person on that base is and I want their name right now." The boss' response was classic. "Well, colonel, the most important person on this base is a Staff Sergeant with a chainsaw and if you'll give me ten minutes I'll get that name for you." CE and Cops. If you're looking for the heroes of Keesler, I'll be happy to escort you to their buildings.

As for the rest of the folks in the shelter, they were just as amazing in a different way. For all but the first 16 hours of our 6-day adventure they lived in a hot, poorly-ventilated building with virtually no amenities but running water. Most slept on tile floors. All slept in puddles of their own sweat. All spent 5 days not knowing whether or not they had a home to go home to. Yet through all of it, they kept a sense of humor and worked together to make the best of a bad situation. Even in the darkest moments I never walked down the hall without hearing a constant stream of "Morning, Colonel!" "How's it going, Sir?" or "Hey, Sir! When's the beer truck getting here?" I was only chewed out once by a shelteree. I would argue that in a "typical" group of 731 people, I would've been chewed out several times a day at least.
In my 19 years of service I have never seen a better demonstration of the military "family", or a better demonstration of true professionalism. I have to add, though, that what I've seen in the 12 days since has been just as impressive. The base and its leadership have been amazing. In addition to bringing our mission back on-line in less than 3 weeks, we've provided critical support to local communities. At last count, we'd sent nearly 50 missions out the gates to deliver food, water, and medical support. I was the CAT Director when a local cop showed up and said the shelter down the street had an outbreak of diarrhea and vomiting. The boss had medical teams, food, and water on site within 30 minutes. The list goes on and on.
The same is true for my own unit. With more than one-third of my squadron homeless, my troops (military and civilian) have done things that will bring a tear to anyone's eye. Not one single person in my unit has cleaned out a storm-damaged home alone. We've had teams out every day helping squadron members and retirees (and sometimes people we didn't even know) cut trees and clean out flooded homes. They have made me proud to be part of their team and proud to be part of the US military. They have taught me when it comes right down to it they don't need leadership. They are, each and every one of them, leaders in their own right. Leaders with the willingness, the desire, and the compassion to do the right thing without being told. In truth, they don't need a commander, they only need a cheerleader who will give them the support and the freedom they need to do what needs to be done. When I look back in years to come and ponder what Hurricane Katrina taught me about command that may just be the most important lesson of all.

The message/email above is exactly as it came to me in a widely distributed email - except for the few sentences I separated and made blue plus the few sentences at the beginning I boldfaced about listening to SNCOs.

When I read this I laughed and I laughed and I laughed and tears ran down my face.

RileyD, nwJ
"Only the humble are sane." anon

1 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:15:35 by RileyD, nwJ

To: RileyD, nwj

It is Keesler, not Kessler AFB

2 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:17:01 by lmavk

To: RileyD, nwj; SandRat

Hey Sand - here's that Keesler AFB story!

3 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:21:29 by StarCMC (Old Sarge is my hero...doing it right in Iraq! Vaya con Dios, Sarge.)

To: RileyD, nwj

I moved to the Gulf are in 1974 with my family, the remnants of Camille (1969)were visible but not too dramatic, I think this storm is leagues beyond Camille.

My family rode out Katrina in Ocean Springs (4 miles East) of Keesler, they wound up climbing into the attic to avoid the five feet of rising water inside the house. Talking on the phone does not give justice to what it was like. Thanks for the very vivid and descriptive email summary... it will be awhile before things are anywhere near normal.

4 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:31:23 by Cliff Dweller ("get thar fustest with the mostest." GEN Nathan Bedford Forrest)

To: RileyD, nwj
First Sergeant asks me later (a) "How come the officers have coloring books?"

Ok - I know it's a fake now - no NCO - First Shirt or otherwise - has to ask why an officer has a coloring book!

5 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:34:57 by Tennessee_Bob ("You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.")

To: RileyD, nwj
Please fix the title ... It should read Keesler not Kessler.
6 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:35:56 by RileyD, nwJ ("Only the humble are sane." anon)

To: RileyD, nwj

Excellent post

Should be required reading in every high school civics course.

7 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:36:44 by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)

To: Cliff Dweller

My brother in law lives in Ocean Springs. He also is in the Air Force, stationed at Keesler. He lives on the east side of Ocean Springs, near a road that runs out to the Gulf and there is a marina along this road. You may know where it is. I've only been there once so I don't know the name or address. He was very lucky and din't have any damage, except fro a fence blown down. Other homes in the neighborhood were destroyed.

8 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:52:12 by freedom4ever

To: Cliff Dweller

Really hit home for my family as well. My bride of 34 years trained there, I trained there as a SSGT and as a civil servant, and our son trained there in 2002 - plus we all vacationed there for a few weeks one summer.

RileyD, nwJ

9 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:58:12 by RileyD, nwJ ("Only the humble are sane." anon)

To: RileyD, nwj

Thanks for posting this.

10 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 07:59:26 by Gritty ("Eight more Clarence Thomases is the only form of human cloning I would ever support" - Ann Coulter)

To: RileyD, nwj

I was a "diddy-bop" pinger at Keesler in spring of '73. We would launch a bottle rocket barrage on the classes marching across the old flight line at night. Ah...the memories.

11 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:03:16 by W.Lee

To: W.Lee

Yup, I trained in Bryan Hall back in 78. Glad I missed this event!

12 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:34:19 by awelliott

To: RileyD, nwj

"Never ignore a SNCO…Never ignore a SNCO."

The junior officers I worked for at the Pentagon knew this rule...

13 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:36:20 by dakine

To: Tennessee_Bob

That's's to keep them busy while the real work gets done by their subordinates....

14 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:42:17 by Gaffer

To: awelliott

I left Keesler for overseas in late 1969? (one month before Camille hit) Can't say I ever miss much of Biloxi, it REALLY sucked back then (before the casinos). Went back a few years ago, and it had really improved...didn't see any of the barracks where I stayed....since then, I Google-Earth'd Keesler and saw the demolished 'foot print' of where I'd stayed while there.... My guess is the old WWII barracks had survived....

15 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:46:19 by Gaffer

To: Tennessee_Bob

Ha Ha Ha......damned NCOs :)

16 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 08:54:22 by armydawg1 (" America must win this war..." PVT Martin Treptow, KIA, WW1)

To: armydawg1

Here sir - have some crayons and go sit in the corner. We'll let you know when we need something signed.

17 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 09:01:25 by Tennessee_Bob ("You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.")

To: RileyD, nwj
Thanks for the post. BTTT for further reading.


18 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 09:08:25 by CDHart (The world has become a lunatic asylum and the lunatics are in charge.)

To: W.Lee

If I remember a "diddy-bop" was a morse code reader/radio operator...."TWs" were "male admin specialists", "tape apes" were communications center specialists.....and the list went on and on......

19 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 09:58:41 by Gaffer

To: Gaffer
I agree completely. I spent two months there in 1978, then spent 10 months there in 1980 when I cross-trained. It was awful - the beach was nasty because of the effects of Camille (IIRC it created a huge sandbar that they never got around to dredging for many years). The facilities were horrible as it was post-Vietnam and during the lean Carter military budget years.

But the worst aspect was the relationship between the USAF and the neighboring community. I still recall the "Beautify Biloxi - kill an airman" bumper stickers. I can't say that I blame the locals as we brought much of it upon ourselves. Keesler was full of fresh-out-of-basic airmen, many experiencing freedom and responsibility for the first time, and many of us made a less than smooth transition to adulthood.

20 posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 12:59:57 by awelliott

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kidnapped - Written in 1996

I just woke up from a dream where I talked to "Susy" (Actual name different) in this story about this incident that happened. I never really talked to her about what happened in things from her point of view after the incident. I didn't really take much effort to go out of my way to talk to her, and our paths never really crossed through high school.

They had some kind of award ceremony after school for me one day after Susy was recovered that my whole family went to, but I totally forgot and ended up riding the school bus home.

I wrote this piece for my 8th grade English class in 1996:

“Caw! Caw!” an annoying crow called. I picked up a rock and chucked it at that dirty little pest. The stone was on its way to hitting the bird, but the crow flew off before impact occured.

It was the morning of a typical school day and I was sleepy from staying up late the night before. After I finished tying my shoelaces and checked for any other unexpecting crows I walked to my bus stop.

When I reached the bus-stop there wasn’t anyone except this little blue car occupied by a few people, so I fiddled with my fingers and took a big breath of the refreshing mornig air.

Finally, after waiting a few more lonesome minutes, one of my bus-mates, Susy, came out and waited beside me with her Keropi pencil pouch in her right hand. I wanted to say something like a polite “Hello,” but my soft embarrased voice was drowned out by the little blue car that drove into our neiberhood street. I just stood their with my hands in my pocket and looked down at my shoes that kept blinking on and off.

Some awkward moments passed by and that little blue car didn’t seem as little. It pulled up besides the bus-stop and two gangster teenagers came out of the car, grabbed Susy’s shoulders and started pulling her toward the inside of the car. Crying out in terror, “Help! Help! Jeff! Please help me!” she hit her captors with her Keropi pencil box, but the captors barely felt the pain and kept pulling her in. My face turned blank. I’ve seen TV shows that has a hero that saves someone from being kidnapped by karate moves or with fists of fury, but I was too caught off guard to do anything brave. I was still in one of my morning stupors. She was being kidnapped before my eyes, but yet I couldn’t do a single thing. Each time I tried to think of something to help her, she just kept getting closer and closer toward the inside of the car until, finally, she was swept into the not so little car with an incredible force. She gave a last cry for help and then it was cut off by the car door. The car zoomed off at a high speed and through all that excitment I managed to get a glance at the car’s license plate number.

At the other end of the street, two of my other bus-mates, Randy and Christina, came out had a look of astonishment and surprise on their faces. “Did you just see that?!” Randy said with and exasperated voice.

“Yeah, I was right ther and I saw the license number. It’s KIDNPR.” I replied.

“Cool, it’s a good thing you saw that. You’d better write the number on some paper and tell the bus driver about this when she gets here.”

“Okay.” I pulled some paper out from my Jansport backpack and I wrote down the number

When I finished writing the number down as the bus drove in. “You’d never believe what just happened,” I told the bus driver as I walked in, “A girl at this bus-stop just got kidnapped,” I paused to see her facial expression turn terrifyed, “by a couple of teenagers in a car. I have the license number right here.” I handed her the license plate number and she took it from my hand.

“I’ll call up the school,” she responded.

She called up the school on her radio, told the office what happened, and the school called up the police. The bus driver said to me, “Wow, that was really smart for writing that license number.”

“Well, thank you.”

When some of the other bus passengers heard about what happened they started to go into an excited hysteria about the whole situation. There was a, “Maybe we’ll skip school today,” a, “This is so cool!” and a “A kidnapping?” but there was one girl, Susy’s best friend, that came out and asked what was happening.

The bus driver tried to explain to her gently, “You’re friend, Susy, got kidnapped. We’re trying the best we can do for the moment and we got the car’s license number, so don’t worry to much.”

Unfourtanatley, her friend did worry and she sat down crying between her hands.

When I took a seat on the crowded bus next to my friend he asked, “Did you see what happened?”

“Uh-huh. Someone just got kidnapped.”



“Do you think they’ll cancel school today?”

“Maybe, who knows?”

Before the kid could reply, the bus driver said to everyone on the bus, “Okay, everyone sit in your seat and keep your voices down. A police car will be coming soon to bring us to school. Remember to follow the bus rules.”

I had a few minutes while I sat down to collect my thoughts and sort out what happened. There was no remorse, anger, happiness, or cowardnice. I was... numb. I should had felt something, but what? I didn’t feel sad because I wasn’t a close friend of susy, and I didn’t get angry because there wasn’t nothing to get angry about.

By the time I got my bearings a police car parked in front of the bus. The officer stepped inside and said, “Everyone stay calm, we have received the car’s license number and we have several patrol cars searching this area for the car.” He said something to the bus driver then continued, “I’ll be in my car driving with you to your school.”

The police officer got into his car and we arrived at school. When we reached school grounds, the principal and security guard at our school came onto the bus and the principal said, “I want all of you to go to your classrooms. Your teachers will know where you have been, so you won’t need a note. For those who saw the actual kidnapping. You’ll be talking to us later in the day to give us information on this incident.”

I gulped down my anxiety. . I decided not to say anything and I walked off toward my class. Before I stepped off the bus, the bus driver said, “You’re going to be a real hero.”

“Yeah. I guess I will.”

Later that day, I was called into the office for a description of the events on that day. I told them everything to the best of my knowledge. They also questioned Susy’s sister and the two other people that witnessed the kidnapping. Susy was found a few hours later where she was returned to her family after a routine checkup at the local hospital. I got a hero’s thanks and received a certificate of accomplishment from Susy’s dad and the police department.

Through all of the events that would and should make any child cringe with fear. I didn’t feel any fear nor any feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know whether I was so scared that I blocked out all emotions or the fact that I didn’t think that writing a license number was so heroic. I just did what was needed and I thank God that nothing bad happened to Susy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My First Flash Animation

I ended up making my first flash advertisement to be shown at Krikorian Movie Theatre in Buena Park, CA.

The link to it is below.

Monday, June 15, 2009

1999 BMW 528i Wagon, 109,063 miles - $5,000

I'm selling this car for my mom. If you're interested in purchasing it, you can schedule an appointment with me by emailing contact at jeffersonkim dot com or calling me at 714.733.6777.

I'm usually available M-F 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Any other times will need to be done by appointment.

The car is currently located in Buena Park, CA.

Here are some commonly requested facts:

- This car was bought used about three years ago.
- It is unknown if this car had its transmission fluid changed.
- There is no service report for the car.
- There have been no accidents with the car since ownership and it is unknown if the car had major accidents before.
- My mom owns the title outright and would be able to sign it over on the spot.

Some comparisons of what this car model is selling for:|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1308|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Useful Programs and Productivity Tools I Use

This is a list of very useful programs I use on my home and work computer to make life easier for minimal to no cost. It's just a pain every time I reformat my hard drive. . . another reason why I prefer Web applications. It's just that often times, you just have to install the programs.

Feel free to list your most useful productivity tools in the comments section:

Category Program
Audio Audacity (audio editing freeware)
Audio MP3Gain
Audio Stealth Recorder (to record the front desk constantly)
Entertainment BitTorrent
Entertainment iTunes
Entertainment VLC Media Player
Entertainment OpenPandora
Graphics Inkscape (For editing .eps and PDF documents)
Internet Admin DynDNS Updater
Internet Admin
Internet Admin
Internet Admin IPView Pro (View my IP Security Cameras)
Internet Admin Google Calendar Sync
Internet Admin WinSCP (to remote and get GUI into linux)
Internet Admin PuTTY (remote command line into programs)
Office Productivity Microsoft Money
Office Productivity Hardware keyboard shortcuts to various programs and folders
Office Productivity Firefox Preloader
Office Productivity Vista Search
Office Productivity UltraMon (Thumb wheel on Revolution MX switches monitors)
Office Productivity Three monitors
Office Productivity X-lite (SIP Softphone connected to bluetooth headset)
Office Productivity Microsoft Outlook and Suite
Office Productivity Open Office
Office Productivity Google Apps
Office Productivity Google Desktop /w Gmail Gadget
Office Productivity CutePDF
Office Productivity ADF Paper Scanner
Office Productivity Adobe Reader (Only this program makes thumbnails visible in Vista)
Office Productivity
Office Productivity Multimon (the Ultramon Freeware)
Office Productivity Bug Shooting (great screen shot tool)
Office Productivity Firefox
Office Productivity TimeTrex (Payroll)
Office Productivity JasperSoft (Makes reports from the payroll machine and .csv files)
Office Productivity Moffsoft FreeCalc
Other Yawcam (Home security)
Other Asterisk in a Flash (PBX)
Utilities AVG Anti-Virus Free
Utilities Syncback (Free backup software)
Utilities EASEUS Partition Manager
Utilities Live Mesh (Keeps documents synchronized and automatically backed up)
Utilities 7-Zip
Utilities Alcohol 52% (DVD Ripping software)
Utilities CDBurnerXP (Burning software)
Utilities RealWorld Cursor Editor
Utilities MyMobiler (remote into Windows Mobile device)

Here's the link to my most updated list on Google Docs:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brother MFC-7440N "Toner Life End"

UPDATE (3/31/2011): Asad below in the comments offered this document as a trick to trick the toner and actually "reset" it.  I downloaded it and am putting the direct link here because I noticed the site was kind of laggy.

UPDATE (3/28/2011): I just buy them from here now and don't seem to have any problems:

If you get this message, try putting a piece of masking tape on the toner cartridge hole on the right side. It's a translucent, white, circle that the printer "looks" through to detect how much toner is in the cartridge. You usually can extend the life quite a bit until the toner actually runs out.

If the error message remains, even when you replace it with new, re manufactured toner cartridges, then you'll need to bite the bullet, and buy an "authorized" toner cartridge.

At least, that's what I did to make the error message disappear. Then, I just switched out my old toner cartridge to make it work again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Time to stop my belly aching

It's time to take it up a notch.

My immigrant parents would've shriveled up and died with my work ethic.

I'm not an employee, but an owner. Paradigm shift in progress. . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reflections on being hated by so many people

I've been working as a General Manager for my mom at her hotels since August 2007 after getting out of the Air Force. It's been over a year and a half of constant struggle and loads of conflict with different people. I'm glad to have influence that actually affects people lives rather than living a life of inconsequential existence. Of course, as Stan Lee states in Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility."

As a junior officer in the Air Force that was heavily overmanned, I basically got away with doing nothing at work. Even if I wanted to actually do something worthwhile, I'd get stonewalled due to my lack of experience. So I spent my time doing random pet projects and volunteering as much as I could in the hopeless Chapel system. I hated feeling like I was a waste of life, but I got to meet and hang out with some really cool and interesting people my age. No power. No responsibility.

Since August 2007, I've been the General Manager at my mom's two hotels. Working under my mom as a General Manager, day-to-day, I'm the owner of the hotel. Other than depositing the checks/cash into the bank and stocking the vending machines which my mom does, I pretty much deal with the day to day issues, and overall strategy of the hotel. I don't want to go into the details of what it's like to own your own business as this'll get way too lengthy.

My linked in profile goes through the "professional" accomplishments:

What it doesn't disclose are the personal conflicts that I've had to deal with:

- The meetings I had with the previous General Manager dealing with the over $20,000 in checks he embezzled.

- The numerous employees I've had to fire/discipline for not showing up, stealing money, making out with their boyfriend while on duty, watching TV instead of working their shift, not falling payroll procedures, etc. Some employees would chew me out while others would say completely nothing as they would just stop showing up to work without any explanation.

- Closing a $12.6 million sale of a hotel and (still) dealing with the legal disputes with the purchasers. . .

- Holding vendors accountable whenever they fail to meet expectations (which happens a lot)

- Going through the process of evicting employees/guests

- Getting verbally chewed out by guests for not refunding money, and just about every other reason you can think of

- Trying to communicate with your mother. . . who's also your boss.

And the list goes on. . .

20 employees. Business travelers. Tourists. Locals looking for someplace for a fling. Corporate. Vendors. The mortgage company. My accountant. Insurance audits. Federal Government. California State. Buena Park City. Orange County. Health Inspectors. The police. Lawsuits. Prostitutes. Guests trying to hustle you. Unpaid debts. The next door neighbor who's too loud at night. Hordes of telemarketers and salespeople. 131 hotel rooms. Your mom as your boss. And the profit of the hotel.

Every single person above has their own personal objective and my hotel is a means to their end. A lot of times I have to say "no" in order to maximize the profit of the hotel, or I have to confront and terminate relationships for the sake of the profit of the hotel.

For some people I facilitate their life objectives well, and there's a certain level of professional respect (but never love). For others, I'm the only thing between them and their objective. So naturally, I take the heat because there's no one else to contend for the profitability of the hotel.

I'm seen as a means to an end by most, hated by some, and loved by none.

I've never really had a deep need to gain the acceptance of others, otherwise, I'm in the wrong line of work. I'd rather change the world and be hated by all, then be loved by everyone and get nothing done. This is not to say that there are a lot of days where I'm just completely emotionally drained from dealing with so much conflict, but then I think about the fact that I can't really see myself doing any other line of work except upper management. Plus, I'm just glad to have a job in this economy with my young age and lack of experience.

From what I understand of upper management, this is just the nature of the job.

Any of you in upper management that can recommend ways to help cope with the constant conflict and resulting isolation?