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Kikulu Crew 140

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season! Now that the new year is in full swing, it’s time to plan how you will give back in 2015.
Joining the Kikulu Crew140 is a great way to make an impact and start off your new year right. The Crew140 is a group of 140 individuals working together to support education for 140 children in rural Uganda through a recurring monthly donation of $20.00 that sponsors a primary or secondary school scholarship for one of these bright young minds. Consider the impact you can make:
  • Provides school fees, books and supplies to a child in one of the most resource starved parts of the world.
  • Enables a student to receive a quality education and build the foundation for a promising future.
  • Allows you to join the global community working together to ensure every child, across the globe, is in school.
We ask you to join us in the fight to support global education by joining Crew140 today, and share with friends and colleagues the opportunity to jump onboard and join the crew as well!
With deep gratitude,
The Kikulu Team
Gift a $20/Monthly Recurring Donation Today!

As some of you know I try and spend time giving back as often as I can and one of those ways is by serving non-profits both here in North Texas and abroad.  As part of that initiative I serve on the board for the Kikulu Foundation. Above is our first communication for the year seeking assistance in funding scholarships in Uganda, please take some time and consider what the impact of $20 a month is too you and what it could mean for a child who otherwise may not get the chance at receiving a quality education.  As we know, education and literacy are the paths to a better life, so please assist us if you can in providing some assistance those less fortunate than ourselves.

Justin

Palo Duro Canyon State Park – A visit in pictures

Plenty of people who spend their whole life in Texas never get out to see it, I do not fall in this category thanks for my father taking us all over by car when we were very young.  The “grand canyon” of Texas is Palo Duro Canyon just south of Amarillo and well worth the drive.  I would highly encourage anyone with the time and the love of our beautiful state to visit, it is a toss up for me which is better, Palo Duro State Park or Big Bend National Park.  This weekend was Palo Duro and was a perfect weekend to visit the panhandle.

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Lighthouse

Lighthouse

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Texas attempt at Red Rocks

Texas attempt at Red Rocks

The Texas Parks & Wildlife page is a great resource but I need to find some more reviews and information on what the various parks have to offer to pick the next break from mortgage land.

Too many stamps, Cheap Uber, WDW Marathon, National Championship

For this years international trip I am headed to Patagonia via Carnival in a few weeks.  As always I wait until time is short to work out the details which is always a bad idea but I will never learn.  The complexity of each trip is always a fun challenge to sort out so perhaps leaving inadequate time to sort out the details is is part of the fun of planning.  As I was gathering my visa documents for entry to Brazil I spent a few late night hours getting all the details together, only at the very last minute to read the requirements of my passport itself. I had read the check list offered at the Consulate of Brazil website at least 10 times and each time glossed over the sentence following good condition US Passport, where it says “with two blank visa/endorsement pages”.  Being a regular traveler and having immigration people just stamp wherever has left me without this requirement despite my passport being only halfway through its useful life.  In my opinion only having 20 pages for stamps/visas/endorsements does not seem adequate for a 10 year passport, if mine does not make it what about people who travel often?

Learning you have a passport problem when you are less than a month from departure is a bit terrifying knowing everything in the government is deeply bureaucratic and any urgency is ridiculously expensive. After some research and a few phone calls it was comforting to hear that there is a passport office in Dallas, granted you cannot call them directly or schedule an appointment while speaking to a person so they pass you off to the automated system.  So far things are looking positive, appointment the next day and not too excessive in the way of fees to have pages added to my passport, but guess I will see how it all works out in the morning.  To get normal processing for my Brazil visa via an expedited service, everything will have to come together tomorrow, this contingency is causing my blood pressure to rise since I have already committed to much of the trip via flights and lodging.  The last time I had to get some visa’a in short order, the people at AA Passports here in Dallas did a pretty good job so I am hoping for the same again this time and am not really considering driving to Houston on a work day as an alternative but guess thats better than losing the reservations. So in short I am really hoping for extra pages for more stamps, sort of like the mortgage lenders, pray for low rates which seems to be occurring now, so perhaps I can be as lucky as mortgage originators.

To shift to US travel thoughts, I have been a Uber user for about 3 years now and have never had a problem and after this weekend in Orlando am a bigger believer than ever.  In Orlando this weekend we stayed off the resort and so since I decided to run the marathon bandit had to figure out a way to get to the start line on time, which as it turns out at the Walt Disney Marathon is 5:30 am.  To assure I would arrive on time I scheduled a taxi pickup for the 7 mile trip.  This was just in case there was no Uber available when ready to leave the hotel at 3:30 in the morning.  Taxi: on time, $44 dollars one way.  After the marathon I figured I would either cab it or find an Uber, tried the Uber, no waiting and the trip cost was less than $13.00.  I am not sure how the union cab drivers in Florida can possibly get away with charging such an inflated rate.  Even with 26,000 runners the available transportation was quick and painless so if the cab drivers get themselves sorted out in the next year I would hope the consumer shows their might and just stops using cabs all together unless they come way down in price to align with Uber.

Some pics from Cape Canaveral, Walt Disney Marathon and the first NCAA Football National Championship

 

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Running Long Distance and thoughts on Mortgage Land

As anyone who follows this knows I am a long distance athlete, primarily a runner, hiker, but throw some triathlon in too for variety.  What this means to me is that I have mentally prepared myself to have my version of yoga/therapy/meditation be the time spent pounding the pavement swimming laps or enjoying nature.  I often times find it hard to get up the motivation to go out and every time I go out it seems like the first time I have run in my adult life, but despite these I still use activity for these sources of painful joy in life.

For Christmas I received a copy of a book by the comic, The Oatmeal, entitled The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I run Long Distance.  The author brings a wonderful perspective to the sport of long distance running and I was reading through tears of laughter the whole time.

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My favorite quote from this book is really sums up my position on endurance sports, “Running is a form of practiced stoicism.  It means teaching your brain and body to be biomechanically comfortable in a state of disrepair”.  I plan on practicing this effort this weekend so will likely post on the results of my first “bandit” marathon next week.  I will also likely try and do some more barefoot running this year and break out my vibrams for some trail running. Since everyone already makes fun of them I poked around and found another comic I really enjoy, XKCD, take on toe shoes…

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During my workouts this week I have been mulling over the news and where I think we will come out economically this year.  Being in mortgage we are always advised to “pray for low rates” but having spent many years in distressed/default, specifically embroiled in subprime, I am hoping this year for a return of private money to the mortgage marketplace.  The subprime link above is to a slide presentation to explains the last mortgage crisis in a humorous and simple way that I believe was written by a professor that I took a secondary market course from years ago, thanks Jay still using it.

With quantitative easing coming to an end we will thankfully see the treasury balance sheet stop expanding with hundreds billions of dollars of mortgage loans and while this may be painful for the sector to absorb at first I am hoping that it combined with a rising of rates will encourage private money to come back into the market, this will likely start with subprime which I am in favor of since it is an underserved portion of the mortgage market and when written well can serve all parties from the consumer to the bank to the tax man.

With Ocwen announcing their exit from GSE servicing, the non-bank servicers will likely all snap up the best portions of the MSR product that Ocwen sells, allowing them the liquidity they need to payoff the various fines and regulatory fees they have incurred.  This move will either position them to be the best low cost third party servicer in the country or precede their ultimate fall from grace, I hope for the former but predict the later.  As for the rest of the non-banks I hope they can find the correct balance of GSE and private since that brings balance to the market.

For lending, I am guessing the 10 yr stays low but refinance remains the ghost of the QE past and worry a bit that the game of chicken being played with petroleum production could have pretty adverse effects on housing production.  While that seems a little counter intuitive, cheap oil will drive an economy only so far and at some point the Federal reserve will have to take the punch bowl away from the party.  So in short at the end of 2015 I am thinking, slight rate uptick on the 30 yr rate, call it average of 4.5%, inflation will remain low, say 1.6% which I think would be up from 2014’s 1.3, and only in Q3 and Q4 will we see any private money come back to mortgage.

 

Enough insomnia time for last run before the marathon out east this Sunday.

 

 

First Brew day 2015 – Chipotle Porter and French Saison

Waking up early for a cold January brew day was invigorating.  Despite the high wind which makes the burners less efficient, it was still a great way to start the brewing year. Think an addition to my goal list will he to more fully develop my brewing effort through better recipe and production tracking, as well as tasting notes and at least two or three competitions. Today was a cold weather brew day so had to add some wind protection and some extra insulation but I’m pretty excited about both the beers.

I realized I had not posted about brewing in quite awhile so figured was good time to post. I made two batches as it the best use brew day of time.

Chipotle Smoked Porter:
First batch was extract with steeped grains. This is the beer I have made most frequently and always comes out really well. The recipe bill I have settled on after many different combinations are a mix of American Smoked malt, black malt, crystal and chocolate malt, balanced against goldings, Brewers gold, and cascade hops, all brought together with a American Ale yeast and finished with a ten day “dry hop” with rehydrated chipotle peppers.

French American Saison:
The second batch was something new, I did well at Bluebonnet Brewoff a couple years ago with a French saison so I dug out the recipe for that but for a new twist I brewed my first whole hop batch with some hops my neighbors brother grew. I think he is a alternative farmer so I am not sure where he came up with Anheuser Busch prime heritage hops but the big bag was such a fun gift. Along with those hops and French saison yeast was a primarily Pilsner malt grain bill with a little wheat, little Munich. Then to try and fit the style a extra long mash and boil and will probably try to re-ferment it with an extra dose of yeast in secondary.

A few pictures of the day are below and now I just hope our Dallas Cowboys can get past this horrible first quarter.

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Next post will likely be about the trip to Orlando with Emma and friends. Maybe a horrible choice but I found a bib for the sold out Disney World marathon next week so that will be my first big event for the

Goals and Resolutions 2015 – Year of nothing new

Sitting in a cold rainy January 1st in Texas I have been thinking through the last portions of my goal list for 2015.  This year the first goal is one I am sharing with my sister, a year of nothing new.  Meaning I will not be buying any new stuff, any gear I need to get for Patagonia used, clothes and toys, will have to deal with what I already have or see if there is any worthwhile resale somewhere.  Additionally my sister who is also going on the adventure with me and she will be doing the same, she will be posting about her efforts http://yearofnothingnew.tumblr.com

I have not flushed out my rules yet but will say there will be exceptions music, books, household consumables.  This goal is one that is sort of loose and the focus is just that I already have too much stuff and the reduction and self control is important to consider throughout the year.

-Year of Nothing New

-Go Ruck Ascent perhaps with a stretch goal of also completing Go Ruck Heavy

-Ironman or Half Ironman (have not yet settled on where or when)

-Live on a budget (will increase savings amount by 50%)

-More time volunteering (5 hour per quarter minimum Kikulu and SVP- Dallas)

-Take dancing lessons

-Complete Spanish level 1

-Read one book per month

-3 New Countries (Brazil, Argentina, and Chile)

-One significant physical event per month, stretch goal of qualifying for Boston marathon (50 min reduction on my marathon PR)

-More development activities for my team at the office (one per month)

-Paint another self portrait (hopefully better than my last one)

-Prepare the Maine summer cottage and make a long term plan for what to do, tear down or rehabilitate

-Take at least 5 camping trips (not counting Patagonia)

-Cheer/volunteer support for at least 5 events where I am not participating

-Babysit for niece and nephew more often

Starting the year off this morning is going sideways already since I have decided to skip my long trail run due to the weather and my desire to not catch a cold.  Will just consider my entry a donation to the parks department since last years race was awesome, but once I realized it would be run on the concrete on an alternative course and not in the trails, 20k doesn’t sound as fun if it is on the concrete in the rain at 34 degrees.  Perhaps that means I will have to run bandit in one of the events at Disney next weekend.

There may be some changes made for the goal list this year but this is a good place to start.

For anyone with a goal list I wish you the best of luck for the 2015

 

 

 

Holidays, Arts, Gifts and Almost ready for 2015

Since my last post a few things have happened but nothing crazy, more thinking and less doing in December.  I did have another taxing weekend running the Dallas Marathon Sunday morning and ending the day at the blackjack tables in Vegas but seems like that type of combo is not too bad.  I have been thinking about my goals for 2015 and need some more ideas, unfortunately one of them is going to be living on a budget which, by its very nature, limit the other outlandish activities I will plan but guess all will remain to be seen.  There will at least be a big Go Ruck(Ascent Heavy or both), some mountains, some new countries, Just Brewing progress, half or full Ironman, more time with Nick and Winnie (family), and dancing more dancing, and whatever else I can come up with in the next few days.

My sister brought me back to my childhood with a wonderful Christmas present, an adult advent calendar.  She gave me the gift during Thanksgiving which was totally overshadowed learning that she and Rob were getting engaged so it will be awesome to see the family grow despite my being sad to lose a Nezda:)  Big congratulations to Rob and Libby we so look forward to joining the Orr family as they join the Nezda’s.

The advent calendar we had growing up was always such a treat, we rotated each day of December for a small treat from chap stick to chocolate and I remember it being such a big deal when it was my day, made me want to wake up early.  The calendar from my childhood is now at my brothers house and still in use.

Oldschool Advent

 

Today’s adult calendar was a little different and came from a great beer store near Libby’s house in Austin.  The place is called Whichcraft and they are probably best beer store in Austin so I would highly recommend a visit anytime your in South Austin. Below is the 24 days preceding Christmas, craft beer style.

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After a wonderful family holiday I have had a slow week, work has been quite and away from work has been contemplative.  Went to Once at the broadway series with Libby today and have to say was a wonderful show.  Seeing musicals and opera always makes me wonder if I should be more artsy, at the very least could be more emotional. since theater often makes me cry and reminds me of the relationship challenges I deal with compared to star crossed lovers.  Artists seem to have such passion and that would be an amazing goal for 2015, perhaps more art will be part of next year .  I will be posting my goals by new years with any luck so cannot wait to see how 2015 goes.

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