Soundtrack Moi

I rarely if ever do these meme things but the travel city one was tempting and so was this.

I'm a ranter, not a memer. Plus, I never play music. I blog silently, but it was refreshing to do this and blog along to music.

Anyways, I was tagged by Jungle Mama ~ she thought I might have an interesting and eclectic playlist - I actually don't. Plus I saw it on Cassie's and Becca's sites, and caught Lynn's tune list too. So I decided to give this a try, and what do ya know? It was hilarious, and creepy accurate and lots of fun.

Give it a try. Tag team - I declare Nat, Alison and Jeri it. and anyone/everyone else who wants to play along.

I like shuffle. Shuffle is good.

If your life were a film, what would the soundtrack be?

So, here's how it works:

1. Open your library. (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle.
3. Press play.
4. For every question, type the song that's playing.
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button.
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool.
7. When you're finished, tag some other people to do it!

Opening Credits
  • Big Time; Electrokingdom/Peter Gabriel Remix ~ I’m on my way I’m making it....Big Time!" It could be a theme song or like an opening credits song or something….

Waking Up
  • Isaac; Madonna ~This tune is an eclectic mix of cello plucking, Hebrew chanting and dance remix, The chanting reminds me of a bit of an Arabic call to prayer so it's the perfect wake-up call I guess. And it's Madonna's tribute to Isaac Luria, a Kabbalist I just referenced on my other blog. Wild.

First Day at School

  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day ~"I walk a lonely road…" Yup. That pretty much summed up my first day of school and almost every day thereafter.

Falling in Love
  • Dear God; Sarah MacLachlan. A song of prayer is a good as any for falling in love, I guess.

Fight Song
  • Let’s Get it Started; Black Eyed Peas – A good song to spar with rhythm and groove.

Breaking Up

  • Somebody Told Me; The Killers ~ It's confrontational and slighty edgey in its antagonism so, not a bad break-up anthem, I suppose.


  • Vertigo; U2 - Now that was my high school grad in a nutshell - so drunk I was in a place called vertigo.

Making Babies

  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing – OK so it’s kind of sacrilegious to have a sacred Xmas tune play while making babies but then again…..this is supposed to be a lovemaking song…bright twinkling stars, heralding trumpets and singing angels are all part of the package. And let’s face it; Jesus as the quintessential miraculous birth baby - it fits.

Mental Breakdown

  • Wonderwall; Oasis - “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me....” (or maybe not, if I'm having a mental breakdown).


  • Hung Up; Madonna – “Time goes by so slowly for those who wait...” – Yeah, that about sums up traffic jams here in Seattle.


  • Don’t You Forget About Me; Simple Minds….My absolute all-time, fave flashback song. I. Heart. Jim. Kerr!

Getting Back
  • Hope Has a Place; Enya - Sweet, melodic, haunting and hopeful.


  • White Room; Eric Clapton - OK, that's funny. Our holy-80s wedding was a total white room - white mermaid gown, white tux for hubby, white flowers, white everything.... even our wedding song was Nights in White Satin.
Birth of Child
  • Unchained Melody; Righteous Brothers – not a bad random tune to show up for a birth.

Final Battle

  • Echo Taps; USAF Heritage of America Band – I kid you not, this is the next song that came up on my shuffle list. I had it saved because I blogged about Remembrance and Veteran's Days last November.

Death Scene

  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; Tkaivovsky - Does this mean I'll live happily ever after in the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairies?

Funeral Song

  • I Can See Clearly Now; Jimmy Cliff - How cool is this? My kids and I have a pact that when the day comes, this is one of the mandatory songs that must play at my funeral. This is turning out to be a surreal exercise.

End Credits

  • Candle in the Wind; Elton John - "And it seems to me, she lived her life like a candle in the wind..." Well I haven't really lived my life that way at all, but like, whatever - I'm surprised more songs weren't totally wonky like this....


Got Work.

Yahoo, I got a job today! Which is just terrific because blogging, quite frankly, sucks.

I’ve lost two posts this past week because seconds before I would go to upload, I’d lose the whole bloody thing. Bloody as in lovely words killed by the random exception of fatal errors. I’ve never understood that fatal exception thing. The fatal part, yes, because it killed my beloved words. But the exceptional error part seems so oxymoronic. It pisses me off. Anyways, I’m stupid that way. Blogging without saving or typing it first in Word. There are worse things I suppose...I just can’t think of any in the moment.

So yeah, I got a job. I’ll be lending my meeting and event skills to helping design global sustainability forums this spring for a non-profit organization renowned for its work in international microfinance.

All Work, No Pay

The pay is incredible, mostly I guess, because there actually isn’t any whatsoever attached to the job. Yes, it’s a volunteer gig, that much is true, but I’m following the law of karma. Meaning what goes around, comes around. And so, believing strongly as I do in the notions of paying it forward and that money has soul, I’m going to do this hoping something wonderful my way will come. Something wonderful called gainful employment.

So even though I will be out of pocket with gas money, according to the AAA’s recent study that suggests a 20 mile trip now costs somewhere around $10.00, I am choosing to look at it as though I will be microlending my services in trust to the global village of poverty such that we we will all get fed in the long run.

I will also be taking on a part-time volunteer position doing adult education seminars for another local non-profit agency. I’m hoping to lead their immigration prep. classes if only because (a) there would be great irony in doing so and I’m nothing if not ironic; and (b) it would be terrific advance study should we end up going down the same path in the years to come. I doubt they’ll allow a resident alien to lead such classes but what they don’t know won’t hurt them. And except for the small matter that I talk funny, my alien-ness is really not all that apparent.

On that note, hubby has recently begun hiding away his Canadian-ness under the need-to-know basis file category in all his conversational engagements. He has discovered, (rightly so I think), that planting his Canadian roots into a conversation is a bit like throwing weed killer on a dandelion.

Well-meaning locals try desperately to establish some grounds for connection when you mention you’re from Canada. As in, “oh, I’ve been to Vancouver, nice city.” This next awakens the need to recall some other Canadianism gleaned from the world, invariably leading to, “so, I bet it's cold where you're from.” And then the conversation will trail off and so will they, to the couple a few feet over who, lo and behold, attended the same high school and who share exact same worldview and history. It's all very understandable, I enter into the same kind of inane conversation with Koreans I meet; but according to hubby, it's also strategically avoidable for Canadians.

Assimilation is a mandatory requirement in American immigration, or so Bush-speak would have it, regardless of the fact that loosely translated, assimilation actually means to "make an ass of oneself while trying to emulate others of a different culture."
This is why hubby is also getting anxious for us to shed our Canadian plates. I'm less in a hurry to do so, perhaps because I have a tendency to cut people off in traffic ~ I’m doing my part to fit in is all. But I see his point and raise it ten.

Were it not for the fact that I keep failing the sample test, I wouldn’t be so reluctant. You see, I may have a bachelor’s degree but the only correlation between said higher learning and said drivers test is that my GPA corresponds loosely to the number of questions I can expect to answer correctly. To be fair, I did manage to correctly answer one question regarding the number of days one is permitted to maintain one’s out-of-state license. 30 days.

Not to be confused with the 517 days I have managed to hang onto mine since moving here. Although translate that to metric and you would see: I’ve really not been all that tardy.

Yup that will be my traffic cop argument, if and when. As futile a tactic as the illogic I once heard during my stint as a traffic court reporter: but occifer, I was just going the speed of the guy in front of me.

Distances, schmistances though. And signs, schmigns. I mean don’t ask me, what do I know? I just drive.

Games Without Frontiers
Yeah, it’s all fun and games. Driving tests, insurance, college, scholarships, career, house hunting.

Which is why I love the game of Life. Always have. Ever since the first time I played it at a sleepover at Arden Lupul’s house when I was 8. I remember she had the most amazing home – architecturally-quirky with nooks, crannies, lofts and hordes of board games like the game of Life, which I had never even heard of, which meant it had to be cool.

I remember feeling so empowered by the concept of the game. That you could spin the wheel and be anything you wanted to be and have this great fairy tale life.

My kids have taken to the game with the same enthusiasm.
Hubby, unfortunately, has not. He will do almost anything to avoid playing Life, including doing chores far down his procrastination list. Rather than nag him about these, I have discovered that all I need do is agree to the kid's pleas for a family game night around the coffee table, with the Life board spread eagle and the cars lined in eager anticipation. This alone spurs him into chore mania.
I’ll admit, I take way more risks in the board game version than I do in real life. I like to mix things up now. While I’m still inclined to take the college path before career (in that mama duck way of having my little ducks follow suit), I’m more eclectic in my spousal choices. I usually end up marrying a girl and having two girl babies. There’s something so Thelma and Louisey and Pinky Tuscadaro about this kind of girlie power, pro-choice stance; having all that pink exposed in my rag-top, plastic car, as we all race madcap through life.

And the kids giggle about this because they think it’s fun, too. Until one of us gets a flat tire, lands the best career and salary card, or I lose to the kids ~ whichever comes first.

High, Low, Jolly Go Pepper
So that’s why I’m not going to sweat the freebie work too much.
Instead, I’m going to draw my own arbitrary salary card out of the hat for doing the good work of volunteerism. Hmmm, what should my compensation look like?
A salary of $101,000 seems a fitting sum for the first meeting planning job. After all, having a stake in eradicating global poverty, promoting micro-entrepreneurship and building global sustainability is nothing if not six-figure work.

As to the second volunteer gig of life-skills teaching, I figure that since it’s more part-time and local in scope, I’ll apply an hourly fee of $50.00 to this stint instead. The agency serves as a conduit between the privileged and less privileged in the community by providing the necessary resources and tools for the poor, disabled and newly-immigrant to get a leg up.

It’s hard to fathom that such a dichotomy between rich and poor exists here, and yet it does. I am so firmly squished in the middle class that I have to confess to rarely having been intimately exposed to either extreme before.
Admittedly, the lines are quickly being redrawn as I blog, with new stats suggesting that a six-figure household income is the bare minimum required for new home ownership locally. Good thing then that I have landed two good paying jobs in the same day.

This middle class business is a little like living on the edge though.
There were moments in my childhood that were supreme touch and go. Like when our house burned down and we lived for a time in an abandoned shack with no indoor plumbing. Or the not-so-good-ole days, post-receivership (my mother's diplomatic way of avoiding the word bankruptcy), when my parents faced two failed business ventures and soaring interest rates back in the early 80s.
Or the lean, mean time in my mid-to-late teens, when I sponged off the goodwill of my brother, and my meal plan consisted of popcorn on Wednesday nights and canned corn with butter on Thursday nights (note to self: really must go back to that corn diet ~ I was skinny then).

Again in Pakistan, years later, we were exposed to the outer limits of both poverty and wealth, living as we did in a leased house on scenic Margalla Road, in an affluent Islamabad neighborhood blocks from the Prime Minister’s home, mere steps from Embassy leaders, and downwind from the Pakistan’s own version of royalty, the Mir of Hunza.
Yet in the streets, shoeless, even footless beggars reminded us daily of the true plight of the many, as did the makeshift squalor of the Christian village our cook deigned to call home.

And here we live again, sandwiched in a tired if quaint neighborhood with ample greenery; flanked between pockets of poverty to the south and pockets of extreme wealth to the hilltop east, lakeside west, and uptown north.

Our shopping sensibilities even reflect this. We shop not at Wal-Mart (too sleazy locally), nor at Nordstrom (too expensive), but at Target (just right). Such is not the case, however, for an unnamed gal I know.
Despite barely making ends meet as she relies on child support from her ex and free housing from her mother, this gal opts for the extravagance of a $200.00 white Coach designer handbag. I emphasize white because to my way of thinking, if you’re gonna splurge on a silly little purse while your kids wear flood pants, at least choose one with year-round appeal. Thus blogs the woman who carries a cheap, black plastic LeSportsac purse 1/10th the price of the Coach bag. Egads. Perhaps this might explain my inability to procure paid employment.

Tacky tastes aside, I think us middle class types are uniquely and ideally poised between both rich man and poor man. I liken it to the double dutch jump roper who dances precariously between the two disparate, skipping ropes – one proletariat and one bourgeoisie. Jump into the literal fray of the jump roper sometime and you’ll see it’s a similar viewpoint; that betwixt and between place at the centre of two overlapping circles.

And so it is with this same spirit of blind faith that I shall look forward to these volunteer ventures.

I will be hop, skip and jumping along to work to the beat of high, low, jolly go pepper and to the tune of hi, ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go. And of course, I’ll be sporting my chic alor, new lunch pail, the one I bought at my friendly, neighborhood Targete.

I’m sure I’ll fit right in at the office. That's right. Ass.im.ilate. Said in my best Mr. Rogers 'I like the way you say that' voice.
Somewhere between the billionaire philanthropist who founded the organization and the illegal immigrant cleaning crew who comes in to vacuum after hours.


Paris in Springtime

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.
What European City Do You Belong In?

Thanks to Jungle Mama and c for this for this post. JM lives in the Netherlands so she's already most of the way there. Some of us have to get our taste of Europe vicariously. Like in movies, travel brochures and funky coffee shops.

Sigh. That's cool that I'm Paris.

Because if belong means to be in a state of longing, Paris was the first destination I ever had a keen sense of longing for. Perhaps it may even have been the catalyst for my lifelong wanderlust. It was such an inexplicable longing that I felt in Grade 10, when my French teacher, showed us pictures of Versailles, that it felt gut wrenching - as though I had lived there before and longed to go back.

Paris, to me, is like meccaville for travelistas. I haven't been to Europe since I was a kid (ie. early 20s) but I'll never forget that one long, glorious day we spent in Paris.

We took a night train from Nice and ended up at the Gare de Sud sometime at the crack of dawn. We then had to haul our tons of bags to our quaint little hotel 1/2 mile away because cabbies wouldn't take us that close.

And then we went to Versailles, and then back to Paris and we walked literally miles from one end of town to the other - if you've ever wondered where hell's half acre is, let me assure you, it's in downtown Paris - we ran through the Louvre on a kind of proto- di Vinci run around, visited the Eiffel Tower, strolled the Champs-Elysses, stopped at a cafe for a very expensive coffee, drink and meal, and limped home sometime around midnight.

The sites such as Versailles were wondrous, the city was larger than life, the people were ruder than you can ever imagine, the cityscapes were mythical, and the day was almost never-ending.

Oui, oui, c'est magnifique, mon gay Paris.

Tag team you're it. Where in Europe do you belong?


Credit Card Fraud

We got a statement in the mail yesterday from our Canadian credit card security office informing us of several unsuccessful fraudulent transaction attempts on hubby's card.

One purchase, in Pickering, Ontario went through for $761.00 but was reversed a few days later, not before the bank charged us a 2.75 transaction fee. As if. The person had a fake card made up, apparently, although it would have been in someone else's name other than my husband.

And then there were three more keyed attempts in Lake Placid, FL a week or so later at Home Depot for $29.00, $41.00, and $63.00. Tied to that account is a significant line of credit amount which is dormant yet still there. Not that anyone would be able to make a purchase that large but still.

Of course we're suspicious that this is somehow linked to the recent T.J. Maxx credit card scam, which affected the stores, Winner's and HomeSense in Canada during specified dates after Christmas. Guess who shopped at Winner's and HomeSense on December 31, 2006?

I seriously doubt it's linked to an online scam but we'll need to be more vigilant about online purchasing, especially in light of all the wireless threats out there. The irony in this house is that we consider our stand alone computer to be the worm-ridden, vulnerable computer and our laptop to be safe for online spending.

Anyways, it's a very disconcerting feeling. Hope they catch the bastards and hang them by their slimy toenails in a rat-infested dungeon. But ask me how I really feel.


Write has Might

I suppose it was only a matter of time. And so here I am, about 352 days into my alumna life, already contemplating the wha' if, pronounced whiff and proclaimed with a curious sniff, of post-graduate studies.

Not the whole she-bang, she doth protest a tad too much to her blog lurking husband in off-key, William Hung fashion because he is reading this and learning of it for the first time. Hi honey, love you. How's your day at work going? Missing you :)

No I'm just talking about one little course. Maybe two. But no more than 10. Max 15.

And in the spirit of confession, permit me to admit that earning an MFA in Creative Writing is something I would consider way, ultra-cool, if only because it would afford same cynical hubby creative license to bastardize the someday distinction tacked onto my name as he saw fit. MFA. Think of the possibilities, hub!

He has a knack for that kind of thing, you see. He used to work at a company called IMP that he aptly dubbed Institute for Mental People some two months after joining them. To my credit, I never teased him that it takes one to know one because he did, after all, manage to escape the institute a year later, sanity partially intact. And now he works for a little aviation firm here in the Pacific Northwest whose name sounds suspiciously like Bo' Ring (said with slow resignation). But you'd never hear from him. No.sure.ee.

But I made a little promise, emphasis on little. OK, OK, OK, I'll admit. I kinda sorta didn't exactly promise so much as not respond, which is not to be confused with my reluctant acquiescence to that annoying obey vow that got wedged in most hegemonically after love and honour way back in the day. I tell ya, how to put further dampness on an otherwise perfectly auspicious if rather rainy wedding day).

In the extreme best interest of staying married to same multi-talented hubby though, I promised by said, silent omission that I would not, could not get my Masters.

Not in a year, he made it clear. No bribes of beer, nor a shed of tears, nor threatening jeers will dissuade my Dear. Nor in a decade, his mind was made. Let it fade, thus is forbade.

Yeah, it's true. Ask hubby what the D in my late-in-life degree stands for and he'll tell you in no uncertain terms. Done.

Now before you begin starting to see a pattern between me ignoring the obey in my vows and harbouring these forbidden, disobedient thoughts of further studies, allow me to wax etymological a moment on the history of the word obey. Obey, (first used circa 1290 CE), actually means "to pay attention to, give ear, listen and hear."

So while I'm hearing hubby and really paying attention to him on this issue, I'm also giving ear to this incessant voice inside me that's whispering, one more class. Just one.

A short one. Just so I can learn a little something about the fine art of non-fiction writing. So I can write a book. A short one. A little spiritual memoir. Which incidentally, rhymes with Renoir. It will be equally beautiful, me hopes. And then I'll publish it. And then it'll make money. And we'll become rich. And famous. And then hubby can say he loved and supported me when. And I can say that I'm sure glad I obeyed his sage advice to follow my passion.

And then I'll wink at him but not before grabbing him a beer from below deck aboard our new sailboat. So we can clink glasses ~ champagne flute to icy beer mug ~ which, when raised high in the air towards the setting sun, reflect as much love as light ~ and then we'll toast our newfound success.

Shameless, belated bribe? You bet. You don't stay married 19 years without learning a trick or two.


Getting Real on Real Estate

So we're house shopping. We have been armchair hunting since first moving here in summer of 2005, at which time house prices in our neighborhood were below the $500,000 mark.

Since that time, home prices in our belly of the woods have risen markedly by about 16% each year since 2005 and 2006 respectively, bucking both the regional and national trend.

Which brings us to early 2007. Housing bubbles abound nationwide, but not here. There's some flattening but that's in the new-build outlying areas or in pockets of Seattle proper. The grim reality is that there is a ton of dot-com money here, a fair percentage of northern California migrants and a diverse, booming industry afoot here with Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Costco and well, name your dot.com - it likely has an office here.

Tiny Bubbles - near the Sea
When we first moved here, we strategically chose to rent in central pleasantville bedroom community in hopes that our son would make it into an immersion school nearby. It's a fairly central area minutes to downtown and points north, south and east. It was really a great choice. Still is. Shopping is close, the schools all take great pains to brag about how they are some of the county's best, and the district is inordinately safe.

In fact, I have to say, crime stats were much higher in each and every neighborhood we called home over the years in Canada. People leave their doors unlocked, garages wide open - it's extraordinary really, when you think about it.

And alas, although our son didn't make it into that particular school, the local sloppy-second feeder school (plan B) was reputedly touted to be top notch, as well. Emphasis on well. Well, either we've been lied to and these schools really aren't as schmidthot as their whitewash varnish, or, this is as good as it gets. To be fair, much of the statistical information is driven by silly demographic profiling and not-so-silly funding. And so because we happen to live in an affluent pocket of Puget Sound that receives a decent level of taxpayer funding and PTA-driven fundraising, it tends to look a tad rosier than some. It's all relative though.

So this new fear-based construct, coupled with the fact that our son was admitted entrance into a more rigorously-academic lottery school, means I feel a bit tied to making a home purchase decision within the boundaries of this school district for not altogether rational reasons. But you're probably thinking, what's the problem - a focus on district means we can limit our home search efforts.

Here's the thing. There's a huge price to be paid for this so-called quality education experience. According to a report just released last week, the average schmuck looking to buy a home in the area we're in needs to make $124,000 a year. The lowest figure I saw in the district was $89,000. Is that unbelievable or what? You're probably thinking we must live in mansionville. Not.

We currently rent a mid-70s, 3-bedroom plus den rambler with double detached garage. Think Brady Bunch with less space, less kids and no maid. Not to mention no family room, no basement, no spare room. Square footage pn this home was purported to be about 1900 sq ft. but we have since learned that square footage figures in the US tend to include attached garages, below ground developed areas and in our case, our outdoor courtyard. Which means they lied. We're probably living in closer to 13o0 sq ft. and even that is bound to be a stretch.

THE SCHMIDT HOUSE (circa summer '05)

So anyways, that's fine, we're on the hunt for something larger but larger, of course, means costlier. A 2800 sq ft mid-70s tri-level just sold for somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 a few blocks away. Nice enough house, good size yard, but nothing great. The reality is that if we want to buy-in closer to that $500,00 price tag, we'll be buying ourselves a fixer-upper that will require somewhere between $50 and $100K in renovations. That's just the reality.

And to buy a new-build here? Hah, good luck. It means spending a minimum of $800,000, a price, incidentally, that will not necessarily guarantee you a lot larger than 5,000 sq ft. or a view of anything but your neighbor's siding. And let's not even speak of the number of listings in this market over the $1 mil mark.

On second thought, change my mind: let's do. There are approximately 30 or so single-family home listings under $700K, and most of them are pretty darn forgettable. But over the $900K benchmark, there are some 250+ ~ and most of those sport a $1.5 mil pricetag or better. I mean worse. Some go as high as $15 million. Quite a few are $7 million but most are sitting right about $1.9 million. I would say that's more the median price point on the market right now. It sure as heck ain't $500K, but for those Californians who've moved north, it's a steal of a deal.

It's a crazy kind of boomtown we've transplanted ourselves into here, and while it's a great place and vibrant and community-oriented and ever-expanding and has the potential for investment growth with real estate, we're starting to question if this choice is real for us, being that we are so many years removed from getting our green card and guaranteeed double income earnings. We can afford to live here and are fortunate to have a very good standard of living, it's true, but at what price?

Part of me thinks that buying in here and tripling our mortgage debt could pay-off for us in the long run - we can write-off our mortgage interest on taxes, we stop pissing away money to someone else's mortgage payments and we get in on the low, low end of an ever-increasing millionaire homes market.

But another part of me thinks the whole thing is crazy, absurd and just wants to pack it all in - say bye-bye to hubby's decent contract wages and steady overtime pay; see ya to the great locale and milder winters; adios to the bigger pond sports and activities for the kids, etc., etc. - and hightail it to the nearest small town across the border, where the pay would suck but we could buy a house for cash, I could work (7/11 is even starting to look appealing), and we wouldn't be feeling as though we had sold our souls to a mortgage company and the big city rat race, where money must figure uber-prominently if you are even to dream of staying afloat.

And I'm not the only one. Check out what another frustrated local, Beast Mom, and her readers have to say about this issue.

It's ironic, dontcha think. It's all so ironic. And it all points to the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have nots. Living, breathing proof of a disappearing middle class. It's downright disturbing if not depressing because if this generation struggles with these big market plights, imagine the lot in life our kids will face.

Have I ranted enough? Well, not really.

Secret Agents
We're not going to give up quite yet, although we have given up on our deadbeat realtor, who has earned a perfect track record of being late and ill-prepared for every single one of our home showings and/or appointments. Not to mention that we knew more about the properties we were going to look at than she did, thanks in large part to the folks at zillow.com.

In fact even without her having given us the address of a property we were going to visit the other day, (she inadvertently dropped the last name of the homeowner into the conversation), we found the address on Dex and the house history and schtick on zillow. She seemed really taken aback that we knew so much when she had told us virtually nothing at all about the house other than an approximate locale. In fact she was so bewildered that it makes me wonder if agents really get how much the buyer/seller game has changed. And let's face it, caveat emptor is as prevalent a consumer credo now as it has ever been.

I've also given up all hope that a decent copywriter exists in the local real estate market. One who gets that home shoppers just might possess some small measure of intelligence at least some of the time or worst case, maybe have read Freakonomics and are onto their game, which ya gotta know, is not entirely a skill-based activity - I liken it more to dice-rolling than anything.

The property descriptions kill me. Do realtors read the descriptions they write? I'm thinking not. I mean, come on: Charming? (outdated). Designer paint? (dark or busy). Cozy? (you need to step outside to turn around).

And what is this west of market and east of market thing? What the hell does that mean? If you know, please, please clue me in because I have no idea what that means. East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet in the market? I've only seen these as descriptors for schwanky homes so I think it has something to do with style, but what do I know? I fell into the "read the Freakonomics book" category.

But how crazy that realtors will use industry acronyms and buzzwords that the buying public doesn't even understand. And how crazy that they get paid several thousand dollars commission and yet it's left to the buyer to verify property figures, zoning and square footage. Half the time, the listing agent doesn't even take the time to list the feeder schools, (buyer to verify, they claim), much of the time the descriptive copy is typed in all-caps with hordes of typos and a good percentage of the time, they don't load interior photos. And for this, and the gift of a standard real estate contract and some ugly housewarming plant, they expect their hefty commission.

It's especially refreshing then to see new flat-fee and fee-for-service entries into the market.

Ziprealty promises its clients a 5% rebate on their commission, although in fairness, their agents are purely Web-surfer reactive and not necessarily as seasoned as their biggie brand brokerage counterparts.

And Redfin, another newbie online brokerage, claims even lesser commission fees (2/3rds commission refund) and thus, larger savings to the buyer, but buyer beware: you will do the bulk of the work and you need to be savvy to home buying and selling. Which we aren't, hence our hesitation to buy a for-sale-by-owner home off craigslist.

Buying a home in Canada is a vastly different process. There are way more closing costs here and it's much less a one-stop-shop process; hence, we really do need to work with a traditional realtor. Which sucks, because finding a decent realtor who will attentively and intuitively work in your best interests - it's like trying to match socks from the dryer. Not to mention that the model is so archaic and dysfunctional.

Then there's the foreclosure market. Another excellent way to buy a home - especially these days with people in debt up to their yin yangs and home prices skyrocketing - but there again, you have to know what you're doing. I'm going to keep my finger on this pulse just in case, with help from the guys at ForeclosurePoint.

And if the finger crossing doesn't work, I may have to bite the bullet and buy me a lucky real estate talisman from my friends at Archie McPhee. What the heck, if it worked for Kristi, it can work for us, too.


In the Outhouse

Guten tag und velcum to das outhaus.

This may, for a time, feel like a place at the far reach of civilization - like a last known outpost or relief centre. The wind has been known to howl here on this stretch of barren land that surrounds the schmidt shack. And when it comes in slant as it's be known to, it whistles a weird song through the cracks of the barnwood, the open-air window, and the moon cut-out above the door; and sets the door flapping in its gusty coattails.

It's at odds with its natural surroundings, this little haus here on the prairie. This reality brings an eclectic assortment of critters who come sniffing around, looking for signs of life and death. But stop by occasionally and you'll see - it's really quite the in place to sit, sloth, purge, graffiti, and ratiocitate. Not necessarily in that order, of course.

Which is really just a quaint way of noting that if you hang around awhile, you'll begin to notice that schmidt is gonna happen here. You can be sure of it.

Because walls talk. Always have. Beyond the graffiti lives tales as agitated as poltergeists. Even in the quietest moments. And philosophical brilliance is born in such moments and in such places that seem to crop up in the middle of nowhere. Out of nothing.

This is a nice segue into what led me here to this little blight on the blog prairie. I had this other outhaus in the netherlands of the prairie regions but it was starting to get a little large and cluttered. And there were long, slow lines to get in the door and passwords to be whispered and it all got rather tedious.

An outhaus is as sacred a bit of profane space as there ever was. It needs to be a place where you can get in and out quick before anyone gets hurt. And I don't know about you, but my feeling on outhouses is simply this: if you're going to own one, you need to keep it clean. Simple. Organic.

So without further ado, I'll finish nailing the Welcome sign to the door go pick some wheat stalks and bundle some wild flowers for the window shelf vase.