Loma Club on Labor Day (9/6/21)

The Loma Club is a very short course, in San Diego’s Liberty Station.

I, once again, forgot to set any goals before the round. I was going with my brother in law and my wife’s childhood friend’s husband (not the same person) to a very very short par 3 course. This makes it sound more abrupt than it was but, while I knew we had a tee time, I knew nothing else for how the day was going to go. Were my daughters and wife going to join us on the course? Were my sister-in-law and her (and my wife’s) childhood friend and childhood friend’s children?

Hence, the lack of goals.

What goals would I need besides “have fun” and don’t embarrass myself? Also, and I don’t know if you know this, but the last time I played I nearly broke 100 on a championship course so do I really need any help?

Anyway I should have set some goals. In retrospect, my goal was to bogey every hole. So there’s that.

But I was with my friends, playing on Labor Day, while my daughters and wife cavorted with friends (sister-in-law, their mutual childhood friend, my children, childhood friend’s children) at Liberty Station.

Hole 1 

Hole 1 is a short, uphill par 3. It is about 90 yards on its longest days with a bunker left.

I hit a sand wedge since according to my calculations, I tend to average a full sand wedge going about 80 yards.

(Details on this forthcoming)

Well, except if I hit it really good and flush. The pin was 86 yards and I hit a beautiful sand wedge to 108 yards. Maybe 100 yards carry and 8 yards of run. Way over the green and into the sand/dirt/mulch mixture behind the green.

I had about 32 yards to the green and it was a downhill shot. So I hit my lob wedge to … somewhere (I forget where I was aiming) but it didn’t stop rolling. Ball rolled to the fringe, about 10 yards long.

I missed the chip putt long (the practice green was a moonscape and I can see that affecting my judgment) and then I drained a 2.5 y downhill putt for bogey. But I felt pretty good. A wonderful tee shot that was somehow bad then a tough pitch from a bad lie, then a decent if poorly judged putt. And then I made it.

Hole 2

Hole 2 is a longer par 3 that is more uphill than hole 1. Okay, it’s about 100 yards (98 today) and the front and back are guarded by bunkers. Looking at the scorecard, the miss is right, since it’s a false front green. So you don’t want to miss short right. You just want to miss pin high right. Long and right is okay since that’s not where the bunker is.

I hit my pitching wedge because I wasn’t going to let one superpowered wedge shot throw me off my game. Pitching wedge goes between 100 and 110 yards and it was uphill.

The pitching wedge didn’t stop on the green and rolled out to the fringe. The ball was in the rough, but it was a downhill putt that I could try to make. I was 15 yards from the hole and putted to about 3 yards. I missed the 3 yards putt to about a yard long, which I then made for bogey.

Honestly, a SW was probably the right play there. Considering the distance on hole 1, I am surprised I didn’t make that connection at the time.

Hole 3

Hole 3 is the first “I’m playing a par 3 course” hole. It’s 70 yards from the back of the tee mat (no tee box here) to the very very back of the green. There’s a bunker right and a street very very far right.

Left is the course’s water tower. But there’s a pretty generous allowance.

I hit a very easy sand wedge that ended up just short of the front of the green. That it was 13 yards short. I guess I was adjusting?

I sand wedge chipped it on to 4 yards long, leaving me a downhill 4 yard putt that I nearly holed for a par save. As it was, the ball stopped 3 inches from the hole for an easy bogey.

Hole 4

This is a real par 3. 150 yards and uphill. Right is the road and a stand of trees protecting it. There’s also the remnants of a stand of trees up by the green.

And by remnants, I mean a 300 square foot patch of leftover pine needles, branches, and tree trunks.

Left are three bunkers: in front, to the left, and behind the green. It’s also a really large green. Everything says, “hit the ball left. The bunkers will save you from going downhill.”

I do not think about such things except in retrospect.

Naturally, with all these signs, I blocked out a beautiful 7 iron that would have been pin high if it didn’t, you know, go right.

Since I wasn’t sure I could find my ball, I hit a provisional 8 iron off the tee which got to the green on the left side of the green.

But sure enough, I found my ball, and I was on a tee of dirt, by a log, in the remnants of the trees that used to guard the right side of the hole. I later learned that this was ground under repair and so could have dropped freely at the nearest point of relief.

Instead, I hit my ball from the dirt. That 41 yard SW shot was pretty good okay: it got to about 26 yards and then died, leaving me 15 yards from the hole but on the fringe, at least.

It’s the on the fringe part that makes me say things like “it was okay.” I honestly don’t think I had a chance to aim it at the hole, from what I remember.

So I putted it 15 yards and missed 3 yards long. And then the 3 yard par putt missed 1 inch short, tauntingly. That’s a double-bogey. Good that I found my ball, I guess?

Hole 5

Hole 5 is a very short, very downhill par 3 that has a teeing mat. I had planned to hit LW or SW but unsolicited advice from my friends who are members said that that’s a great way to hit the tree that overhangs the tee box. So instead of using the shot that didn’t work on hole 3 but would have been very good here (since this hole is 60 yards), I hit my pitching wedge.

It was a pin high shot but a terrible bounce short of the green sent me careening off to the left, off the green.

For some reason, I thought a flop shot was a good choice here instead of a putt or a chip shot. I hit a flop shot with my lob wedge that I managed to get to 21 yards. Why? I don’t know. I guess I really didn’t want to give myself a chance to score? I guess the missing detail was that I was 30 yards from the pin.

Yeah I don’t know why I decided to hit a flop shot. At least it was a good flop shot, if in the wrong circumstances.

I missed the 9 yard uphill putt to 1 yard and made that putt. Bogey.

Hole 6

Hole 6 is parallel to hole 5, and as uphill as hole 5 is downhill. Today, it was about 55 yards.

So out came the sand wedge and out came a perfect replica of the shot on hole 3. This time, I was on the green with under 5 yards to the pin.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s birdie time!

Unfortunately, it was not birdie time. I putted it to about 1.5 yards long, all the way through the break. And that meant I had a 1.5 yard putt back that I missed. I did put the bogey putt away for my first 3-putt in … well, since Saturday when I played a scramble date with my wife. Yes, she is very kind to me.

But in official round terms, that was my first 3 putt in nearly 3 rounds! I would like to never three putt but they’re becoming much less frequent (1st in 23 holes, since my 3-putt on 7/15).

Hole 7

Hole 7 is another legitimate par 3. Nearly 200 yards, it benefits from being downhill and narrow left. So it is wide open for me, is what I’m saying.

I spotted a nice tee in the ground that someone left with a good lie behind it. So I teed up behind that tee and hit a sweet 6 iron to about 170 yards. The pin was very in the front and I was resting on the fringe of the green.


This time, I learned my lesson from hole 6: let’s lag it close and then make it for par. After all, it’s 10 yards from the pin! The green is covered in leaves!

Yeah, I made it. It was my first birdie in 26 golf outings (okay, I made a solo birdie in a scramble on Saturday at that great golf outing with my wife BUT STILL). My first birdie since February 2020, when Coronavirus was just this crazy thing in China.

Felt good to birdie.

Hole 8

Uphill par 3, about 150 yards, coming back against hole 7 and hole 9. It is wide wide open. There are some bunkers left and right of the fairway, but nothing long of the pin.

I hit a 6 iron and my brother-in-law said, “Wow! How’d you hit that so far with no follow through?”

I apparently hit a soft 6 iron about 130 yards. That left me 20 yards to the hole and, though it was uphill, I was flush with my success on hole 7. So I putted it uphill but it died at about 8 yards short, on the green. An unfortunate result.

8 yard putt got me 1.5 yards from the hole, which I made for a bogey.

Hole 9

On this hole, the kids ran out to meet us. So we had a gallery for this hole.

I always play better with my kids as an audience. On this one, 150 yards slightly downhill, I hit an 8 iron. I hit the 8 iron very good, almost to the green. It netted out to 141 yards, leaving me 13.2 yards to the pin from the fringe. I putted it and and left myself 1 yard to the hole.

Naturally, i missed that putt. No pars for me.

At the time, I felt pretty good about this one. My goal was to bogey every hole, and I shot 1 under that. If I had made the 1 yard putts I missed, I would have had a 33.

I also made a birdie!

For my tee shots, I made good contact on all of them. Unfortunately, only 1 found the green (although I’d say that the tee shots on 2, 7, and 9 were objectively good, as was my provisional on 4.). So about 5 of 11 really good shots off the tee/full swings; fortunately, no bad contact.

My putting was also okay: 16 putts on 9 holes, with hole outs of 2.5 and 10 yards. Making the under 2 yard putts would have saved me 2 strokes.

So my pain still came off the tee. I’m hitting it more consistently now, but I wasn’t hitting the green. When you don’t hit the green, it’s hard to make par. 

I also warmed up no chip shots at all, which I should probably do next time.

Let’s say I chipped and pitched better. How do I save the strokes? Hole 1: nope. A bad lie means even a good stroke can be bad. Hole 2: nope. Hole 3: maybe? Hole 4: not really. Hitting the ball not off line would help.. Hole 5: probably. Hole 8: maybe. Hole 9: nope.

So i maybe could have saved a stroke on 3, 5, and 8. So that’s a 30.

This reinforces that 1: golf is hard and 2: tee shot consistency is still a bug bear.

But some better short game play wouldn’t hurt. Especially under 100 yards. Because the over 100 yard holes I had:

15 (+3) on 4 holes, but it could have been a +1 pretty easy (don’t miss a 1 yarder on hole 9, hit a better tee shot on hole 4, chip better on hole 8). The short holes should be easy pars. Let’s work to make them work that way.

Then we ate lunch. And right when I was wondering what we were going to do with the afternoon, we got roped into another 9. Okay, well, my companions asked and my wife said “sure!”. But I had a caddie this time around: my oldest daughter came with me.

So back to it!

Hole 1

Since I blasted my SW long last time, I decided I would try to not do that again. Instead, I hit my LW. The shot went 75 yards and ended up just off the front of the green. A 10 yard putt up left me a yard to go … which I promptly missed. I made it the second time. Still no par for me.

However, my daughter pulled the pin and marked my ball (after kicking it down the hill on accident).

Hole 2

I tried to hit an easy pitching wedge and chunked it, ending up below the green about 78 yards out. Then i shank hooked (is that a thing?) my pitching wedge 20 yards left into the bunker that guards the green.

Then I blasted it out of the sand and got it on the green. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson from the previous shot and my 10 yard bogey putt was left 3 yards short. Then I missed the 3 yarder before making the triple bogey 1 yarder. Hooray.

There was a reason for this, however. After punting the ball into the trap, I received a text asking if my daughter wanted to go mini golfing. I asked her if she did and she said yes, and then, boom, we were off to the races back to the clubhouse to play mini golf. So there goes my caddie.

Hole 3

I decided to hit the SW a little bit harder this time and promptly shanked it right at the street into the pine needles.

I found my ball pretty easily (I could see it) and grabbed what I thought was my pitching wedge to chip it out. After all, the ball would easily roll out to the green.

Unfortunately, I had grabbed my lob wedge. I made decent contact considering the ball’s lie (behind some pine cones in some pine needles), and punted the ball and a few pine cones 10 yards, when I thought it would go 20 with a pitching wedge. Well, I went and hit the lob wedge again, another 10 yards, to get the ball on to the front right fringe of the green.

At least that was a consistent swing although I don’t remember at all what I thought I was doing there.

That left me 8 yards uphill for a bogey. But I thought: let’s get it close for a double. And I did: I got it very close. I got it in the hole, in fact. Bogey!

I was very happy despite my poor play so far. 24 foot putt should do that for anyone!

Hole 4

Since I had had success with my 8 iron on the previous time on this hole (you know, my provisional), I decided that the optimal play would be to hit 8 iron again. So I did. 

I absolutely blasted my 8 iron, but didn’t account for a fade and aimed at the right side of the green. So I ended up with the ball in a much worse place: instead of on a dirt clod adjacent to the scrub it was actually in the scrub.

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the rules. My lost ball here was in ground under repair, which would have entitled me to a free drop. But instead, I hit a provisional ball onto the green. This time, I aimed for the left side of the green and hit the ball straight.

After 3 minutes searching and not finding my ball (which, go figure, I hadn’t tracked it in the air to the ground), I went back to my ball on the green. Well, you know, my second ball.

So I ended up having 18 yards uphill for a putt. This to me says “Why didn’t you hit 7 iron?” but enough about that, inner voice. I made a pin high, uphill, 18y yard putt that I completely misread. The ball was 4 yards off line, leaving a 4 yard putt for a double. Which I also made.

So that was real nice. Double bogey and bogey — but on two putts I’d love to make again. Maybe next time for birdie and par.

Hole 5

This time I hit my lob wedge. It went a full 75 yards, well beyond the green.

I should mention here that I started doing something different with my swing. I slowed down my back swing considerably on 1 and 4+. It’s something that Jimmy does to ensure he accelerates through the ball.

And that’s what happened here. My lob wedge was perfectly struck and went way too far.

That left me on the moonscape behind the hole, which has become a moonscape due to all the players blasting it out of the bunker behind the hole.

It was a downhill lie and about 22 yards from the hole. I should have putted. Instead, I tried my SW and duffed the pitch shot about 6 yards. For my next poor choice, I made a flop shot that got to the green, but left me 7 yards long. I couldn’t keep up my streak of long putts and just rolled the 7 yarder to about 6 inches long. Tap in for double.

Looking at distances, I hit the shot I had wanted to hit on stroke 2. Except it was stroke 3. It went 23 yards. Oh well. Next time, I will try to putt it.

Hole 6

I continued my slow backswing and, though I took a bit off, I hit my sand wedge 20 yards further than the last time i played this hole. So it was into the sand trap.

It was a decent lie but I couldn’t putt it out because of the lip on the hole– or at least I hadn’t practiced. Fortunately, I made an excellent sand shot out and it ended 4 yards high of the hole.

I missed the putt 6 inches to the left of the hole but perfectly pin high. Easy tap in for bogey.

Hole 7

This time, I hit 6 iron with a bit more of a fade, quite a bit shorter. The ball landed directly in the bunker 30 yards from the hole, which means I hit it about 150 yards. Which is pretty normal for a not pure 6 iron.

Unfortunately, I was in the bunker. Also unfortunately: I had a great lie. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I hit a pure SW 60 yards, when the pin was 30 yards away. The ball went over the green and into some crappy fairway behind the tee. Then I hit my lob wedge 60 yards back over the pin to the fringe.

I had 18 yards for bogey and I got it within 1 yard. Felt pretty good about that and I finished it for a double.

The errors here were two fold: I didn’t hit it long enough off the tee (I mean, how could I?) and then I blasted it from the sand. That was unfortunate.

What was doubly unfortunate was the shot coming back: why did I hit a lob wedge in that circumstance? I have never practiced that? It should have been an easy sand wedge.

Hole 8

I hit an 8 iron on this hole and ended up going about 125, which was 5 yards short of an easy 6 iron. So I had 21 yards to the flag stick which would be a 7 iron tee shot, I do believe. Oh well.

I was 21 yards short of the pin and decided that a low-risk PW chip was the right choice. Which it was but unfortunately, I decided I needed to finesse the shot instead of hitting the center of the green.

So I finessed the shot all right, to the fringe, where it barely hopped onto the green and died. That left me a 9 yard putt which I put 1 yard close. Then I missed the 1 yarder and finally made it. That’s another double bogey! Argh!

Hole 9

I learned from my mistake on the previous hole, which was that I was short with an 8 iron. So I hit 7 iron off the tee with a pin high stroke that I aimed left and hit perfectly straight, maybe with a small draw. That meant I was in the bunker.

I then topped my bunker shot 60 yards out of the bunker that I could have easily putted out of. It rolled through a bunker and onto the artificial grass of the deck.

The marshall frantically told me not to hit from the deck so I dropped for free behind a bunker. It was 42 yards to the pin and I ended up 7 yards from my target, but on the green. Missed the 7 yarder close and tapped it in for a double bogey.

So this round I was significantly worse: 8 strokes worse, to be exact. No pars, no birdies, just 3 bogies for a 43. Bleg.

I really had a case of the golfs and also a case of the poor judgments. I didn’t really stop and think about the likely miss on most holes. So let’s see.

Hole 1 was a case of the golfs: good play to be in a position for an easy par and choked.

Hole 2 was a case of the bad lucks: chunk on the tee shot, then bad into the trap, then okay from the sand, then hurried because I had to run my daughter back to the club house.

Hole 3 was a shank and then a mistake compounded by another mistake (misidentifying my club 2x).

Hole 4 was a failure to miss properly.

Hole 5 was a duff followed by not responding to the duff.

Hole 6 was pretty good, honestly. Obviously, I wish I had hit the green instead of the trap and that I had saved it closer from the trap.

Hole 7 was a sand trap special and then a bad decision after that. Nearly made up for by good putting.

Hole 8 was a dorkus play: I played the length I could hit, not the length I would likely hit.

Hole 9 was a very high risk sand play and then okay after that (I swung way too hard for the distance it needed to go)

Making the 1 yarders would have cut my score by 2. A better choice on hole 3 (after I realized it was a LW), on hole 5 (maybe putting or switching clubs), hole 7, hole 9 could have saved 4. So that puts me at … 37.

Well that’s reassuring… actually it is. If I had made the right plays in a few plays, say, save those 6 strokes and then the potential 30 on the front: that’s a 67 through 18 holes which would be my best score by 1 stroke. I’d be very happy with that score, honestly. I wouldn’t even have to play perfectly to do that.

My lessons:

  1. You can’t score if you can’t get it on the green. I did not hit the green with my tee shots. I really only had a few chances at par. First round: Hole 6, Hole 7 (cha-ching!), Hole 9; second round: Hole 1, Hole 9.
  2. Make the 1 yarders or less. I did make putts of 2.5y, 10.3y, 8y and 4y. I also had shots that got me close enough to score: 10.5y, 4y, 9, 8y, 13y, 10, 18, 7, 4, 18, 9, 7: that’s 12 of 18 holes where i lagged it close enough to make a 2 putt nice and easy.
  3. Pitching pitching pitching pitching pitching. I didn’t feel confident pitching or chipping and that made things tough. Need to work on those almost exclusively now, I think.

But I did have some good strokes.

  1. GIR on 6 giving a chance for birdie
  2. Tee shot on 7
  3. 10 yard putt on 7 for BIRDIE
  4. 13 yard fringe putt on 9
  5. 10 yard Putt on hole 1 to leave a 1 yard par save.
  6. 8 yard Putt on hole 3 for bogey.
  7. 4 yard putt on hole 4 for a double bogey.
  8. Putt on hole 7 to make a triple bogey into a double bogey.
  9. Two putt on hole 9 after some challenging short game.

But that is not a lot. I didn’t play very well — can you tell? But it was still fun. And a 78 through 18 holes on a new par 3 course is pretty good, honestly.

Don’t Separate Immigrant Children From Their Parents

I just wrote this to my congressman:


Dear Mr. Issa,

Please work to actively oppose the Trump Administration’s reprehensible actions at the border, separating children from their parents, and their “zero tolerance” policy toward these people and their parents. These actions are morally repugnant and pervert the rule of law.

Please support any legislation that makes the practice of separating immigrants from their children illegal.  Please seek to curtail this practice.

Please seek to remove from any government capacity those who have advocated for and implemented this policy by whatever means are available to you, up to and including impeachment.

The attorney general lately twisted the meaning of Romans 13 to justify his horrifying decisions. I would counter with the parable of the sheep and the goats:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

Thank you for your time.


John Earnest

How many calories are in one cous cous?

Is it worth it to lick the plate?

If something is so good that you want to lick the plate, you should probably just go ahead and lick the plate. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

The other day, I was eating some cous cous from a lunch receptacle that trapped small amounts of cous cous in little pockets of the lunch receptacle (not a plate). After spending far, far too long chasing around one or two cous couses, I wondered: Why?

I like cous cous a lot. But not enough to eat it if I’m spending more calories chasing the cous cous around the plate than it will provide me as a digested foodstuff.

So what is the caloric value of one cousi cousi?

My cous cous box tells me that one serving of cous cous is 160 calories for 45 grams.


Target brand cous cous nutritional label

Target brand cous cous nutritional label. Cropped to remove the stain on my table.

So I weighed 45 grams of cous cous and realized that while I am interested in figuring out the answer to this question, I am not interested in counting 45 grams worth of cous cous.

45 g of cous cous

45 grams of cous cous

So let’s try 5 g of cous cous. How many couses are present?

5g of cous cous

5 grams of cous. At this point I was very intimidated.

This is 200 cous cous. It is smaller than a dime.

200 cous cous compared to a dime.

200 cous cous. Smaller than a dime.


This is 1,000 cous cous. Incidentally, I’d never counted to 1,000 before.

1,000 cous cous compared with a dime.

I’m pretty sure this is my picture for 1,000 cous cous, not 400.

And there are 2,849 cous cous in 5g of cous cous. I’d probably say give a plus or minus of 100 just because … I counted them all and know I started counting fast at the end.

2,849 cous cous, a tally card, and a dime.

2,849 cous cous and my tally sheet for each 50. Ignore the popcorn on my tally sheet.

This is how many cous couses are in 5g of cous cous. There are 25,551 cous couses in one 45 gram serving of cous cous, give or take a thousand.

So since 45 g of cous cous is 160 calories, and 45 g of cous cous is 25,551 cous cous, than the caloric value of one grain of cous cous worth 0.00626 calories.

Is it worth it?

According to some excellent googling (“How many calories do I burn eating while sitting down?”), one burns 29 calories in an hour of eating. It takes 1.53 seconds to eat one cous cous (source: me turning on a stop watch, eating a cous cous, hitting stop).

So, per second, I’ll burn 0.0081 calories, sitting down eating (29/3600). Since it takes me 1.53s to eat a cous cous, eating a single cous cous burns me .0123 cal and gives me 0.00626 calories.

So don’t eat one cous cous. Make sure you eat at least three.

2 years later

The blog still exists but I’ve been busy having children in the meantime. But, I’m going to try to add something once a week.

Lately, I’ve been playing more Civilization 4 online here and here. Check it out if you want.

I’m also going to be pulling some stories from my archive. Look for those soon.

How to buy a house (part 1)

Are you ready? I have a proven x-step program that will help you — yes, you — buy a house.

  1. Have your wife decide she wants to buy a house.

Important Caveat: You do not need to be married to reach this point. You can be unwed and have someone else decide to buy a house with you. It is important that you do not want to buy a house initially.

  1. Agree with your wife.

This just good strategy.

  1. Decide you want to buy a house.
  2. Realize that this has been a part of your wife’s plan for the better part of a year and be overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of house-related facts she contains in her brain.
  3. Go look at houses.

This was an important step. Ash and I went to go see two houses in neighborhoods we liked. On our own, without an appointment, and without the ability to, you know, enter the house and see what it was like on the inside. Instead we went and looked at the outside of the houses and decided that Ashleigh liked one and we both didn’t like the other one.

  1. Cry to the heavens in rage as the one house your wife liked is no longer on the market because someone bought it.
  1. Have your wife tell you that this will be a long process.
  1. Disbelieve your wife within the safety of your brain about the length and ease of buying a house.
  1. Disbelieve your wife in writing, in word, or in deed.

Step 9 is not required but it was one of the steps that we followed. I think I said something like, “I think we can get a house. We have like $10,000 in savings1. Why don’t we just offer that to the homeowner as a down payment?”

Substeps to Step 9

  1. a. Prove that a 20% down payment on a $300,000 house is $6,000.
  1. b. Realize the error in your math.

Step 9B isn’t required either. Sometimes you don’t need anyone to helpfully point this out to you! In which case, proceed to step 10.

  1. c. Say things like, “Well, at our current savings rate we will have the $60,000 down payment … in 7 years” and “If we cut our budget by 56.3% and took out all of our retirement savings and got a 25% raise every year for the next 3 years, we’d have the down payment by this September.” Wait a beat and realize your mistake.
  1. Despair.

You will repeat step 10 multiple times while trying to purchase a home.

  1. Meet with a realtor

We had a really good realtor, although I didn’t realize this until we were about halfway through the process. Her name is Brenda Ball, if you’re interested.

We are not currently anywhere close to halfway through the process.

  1. At the meeting with the realtor, she or he2 will answer questions like, “What if we have no down payment,” with statements such as, “Well, you can do a 0% down payment with Navy Federal.”3 It is important that you ignore any caveats after this sentence, especially caveats like, “but I wouldn’t recommend that” or “When did you serve?” These things will only distract you from step 13.
  1. Regain hope while in conversation with the realtor.
  1. Walk away from the conversation with the realtor with hope brimming from every follicle and cell of your being.

Having good, hopeful hair is an important part of buying a house. You cannot buy a house if you are bald.

  1. Develop a plan to save the money you need.
  1. Forget about the whole house plan for, like, 6 months.

Step 16 isn’t necessary. But I do remember there was a large gap between our first meeting with Brenda and when we actually went and looked at houses, under her supervision. We also developed a plan to save a bunch of money we needed but we decided to spend it on killing Ashleigh’s student loans. This was not a bad decision.

  1. Get a bunch of money.

Step 17 is essential. Buying a house is really really expensive and we could not have purchased our house without the generosity of my parents, who very kindly gifted a portion of my grandmother’s inheritance to us. It was tremendous. We could not have done it without their help.

  1. “Remember” about the whole house thing. Visit several houses with your realtor.


Once we got the sliver of money we needed for a down payment (about $12,000 in our savings account), it was time to actually look at houses.

Having around $12,000 in savings is really nice. Trying to buy a house with $12,000 … there’s a reason this is an x-step list.

A conventional loan with no mortgage insurance requires a 20% down payment. 20% down on a $300,000 home is $60,000. $12,000 is … yes, 20% of a 20% down payment (also known as 4% down).

This wasn’t bad math that we were doing at the time. With an FHA loan, you can make a 3.5% down payment: $10,500 on a $300,000 house.

However, we live in Southern California, one of the real estate capitals of the world. $300,000 gets you a  350-square-foot 1-bedroom beach-ish4 condo or a 15,000-square-foot behemoth hundreds of miles from civilization5. We wanted to live in Carlsbad (we were priced out), Encinitas (again, priced out), Vista, or Oceanside.

And that’s how we ended up with a price range from $300,000 to $350,000. And we were very aware that a 3.5% down payment on a $350,000 house was $12,250 ($250 more than we had saved for this eventuality). But $250 is a relatively small amount. Lots of small amounts like $250 will show up when you’re buying a house. The problem is that they also add up, too.

  1. Find 0 houses your first time out.

We wanted a 3-bedroom home. We weren’t considering two-bedroom houses because we wanted to buy a house that we could grow into. Ashleigh received the following advice which I will pass on to you:

“While you might plan on living in a house for 5 only years, you might have to be there longer. Don’t buy a house you are itching to get out of.”

This is good advice.

All the houses we visited that first day were ones we wanted to get out of. And that was before we entered these houses.

  1. Get offered a new job.

This was a very important step for us in the long term. I got offered and accepted a new job working with Qualcomm, which meant a large raise and a job switch. Oh, and temporary employment status. That was a problem much further down the line.

  1. Look at more houses.
  2. Find one you like! Make an offer.

We made our first offer on a seriously underpriced 4-bedroom house in Oceanside on October 27th. To obtain the house, I wrote a really long letter about how much we liked the house. With specifics. How we looked forward to running downstairs on Christmas morning. The beautiful tilework. Their excellent work on the closets. Etc etc.

Since the house was a short sale (e.g. the owners were getting kicked out and the bank was selling the house at a loss; or, everyone is unhappy), our realtor revised the letter to make it a bit more generic and a lot less specific in its warmth. Her feedback was, “You don’t want to necessarily remind them that they’re being kicked out of their home.”

  1. Get rejected

We received our first rejection on October 31st. The 4-bedroom house had 17 offers in 4 days and the one accepted was an all-cash offer. But this was a momentary setback.

  1. Find another one you like! And another. MAKE ALL THE OFFERS.


We made two more offers in the next week. One was a place where they wanted an accepted offer to see the house; another wanted a standard offer.

  1. a. Accepted Offer Before Visit

I never saw this place but they:

  1. required an accepted offer before we were allowed to see the place
  2. tried to upsell us on potted plants, refrigerators, washing machines, outside of the residential transaction.

Ashleigh went and saw the place. She liked it but the prospect of paying $250 cash for ficuses (ficusii?) was not something she liked. However, we still made an offer.

A few days later our offer was rejected. Someone had offered to purchase the ficuses.

  1. b. Normal Offer (Bellerive)

Ashleigh saw our normal offer house first and then I went and saw it with our realtor. It was listed at $350,000 which was pretty high for the market at the time. It was also pretty high for the property at the time.

Built in 1969, it had popcorn ceilings, carpet from 1970, paint and wall paper from 1970, deteriorating stucco, two un-updated bathrooms (complete with 1970s showerheads and soap scum), and was built on an enormous hill.

But it also had a deck, a white picket fence, a tastefully retro kitchen with a double convection oven, hardwood floors, built-in buffets, gorgeous trees, and large rooms. It had good bones.

But it wasn’t worth $350,000. So we offered $305,000.

  1. b. i. Counter-offer

Wouldn’t you know it? We got the counter-offer shortly there after. They would accept $325,000. So we countered their counter.

  1. b. ii. Counter-counter-offer

We had wanted to pay $315,000 for the house as we figured that was reasonable. At this point, we were still looking at an FHA loan, which meant we would need: ($315,000 x 3.5%) $11,025 for our down payment. To cover the cost of the updates we might need, we were considering an FHA 203k loan, which allows you to borrow as if your home were worth an additional 10% of the appraised value and use the additional amount to create some improvements. We could have $30,000 for improvements that way; we figured we’d only use about $20,000 for the improvements to make it liveable.

  1. b. iii. Rejection.

Our counter-offer was rejected. We felt bad about it at the time but not too bad. We didn’t think the house was worth the extra $10,000 they wanted in purchase price. So we kept looking. Also, we couldn’t really afford that. The extra $300 bucks in down payment was a consideration. Also, so was the inflating loan size.

That was an important consideration. While we could afford a $313,000 loan, that would mean, at the rates we were expecting, around $2,300 for a mortgage. That was getting into tight territory.

With the 203K loan, that meant we had to put down $12,000. Our payment would be around $2,400.6

This was slightly more than double our rent at the time.

  1. Make more offers.

Repeat step 10. Feel more and more desperate.

  1. Despair

We put in offers on 6 more houses. One got accepted en masse7 and then rejected shortly thereafter (I think they had 5 cash offers out of 17) in the next month. The rest fell by the wayside, as real estate agents enjoyed bathing in money, or whatever they were doing.

Conversations at the time varied from “We shouldn’t have pushed so hard on the counter-offer” to unpleasant words about our buyer to arguments about whether we should buy a house or not.

  1. Hope

On November 28, 2012, our long-languishing counter-offer on Bellerive Court was accepted. They counter-signed our expired offer8. Reading through the emails after the fact, the seller’s realtor told our realtor that she could “sell it all day at that price.”

Upon reflection, this was probably not the case.

  1. Enter Escrow.

One thing you’ve got to have in order to buy a house is this thing called “earnest money.”9 Basically, “earnest money” is cold, hard cash that you’ll provide to the escrow company in order to prove to your seller that you mean business. Or something like that.

In our case, we were offering $3,000 (which I think is fairly standard).  This basically secures your offer for a period of time for you to do all the inspections and title research and ley line surveying and private investigating that you will need in order to transfer one plot of land from someone else’s possession to your possession.


If you’ve heard about someone buying a house, you’ve heard about the some kind of thing called “entering escrow.” We were doing that here: after our accepted offer, we (the sellers) funded the escrow account (with our $3,000). The house couldn’t be sold to anyone else for something like 45 days. We were promising that, 45 days after the escrow started, we would buy the house.

So we’d buy the house on January 12, 2013.

  1. Get a loan.

As discussed earlier, we would be financing this home purchase. Our realtor referred us to an FHA specialist who asked us to tell him everything about our finances ever. This was disconcerting at first. Then it was … concerting.

Our specific loan process was arduous. I will try to write it up at some point the future. Right now, I’ve been sitting on this post for 6 months. So up it goes.

  1. Round and/or wildly inaccurate numbers are really really important to use in Steps 8 and 9. Otherwise you will proceed to step 10 and stay there for a long time.
  2. Since our realtor is a woman, I’ll dispense with the very progressive switching the gender of my pronouns.
  3. We were seriously considering a 0% down loan for a while (I don’t remember if Brenda warned us away from it or not). That was, until we realized that the fees and interest rate associated with it would make it cost-prohibitive for us. Also, neither my wife nor I served in the military.
  4. This is a condo that, on a good day, allows you to walk to the beach in a few hours.
  5. Temecula!
  6. Remember the earlier note about round numbers. These are fairly accurate numbers right here and also include such diverse payments as: mortgage insurance, FHA fees, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.
  7. This means that the seller accepted multiple offers and made multiple counters. Once they received all the confirmed offers back, they can chose which one to sign or continue to negotiate with.They did not choose our offer.
  8. Usually you set an expiration on your offer. I think is probably so that, 5 years later, someone doesn’t try to force you to buy a house.
  9. !


Too Much Computering

Written on 5/09

I guess I hadn’t realized how much of my life I spend online. Even when I’m home sick with gastroenteritis.

Even stranger is how much time I spend on my computer. I spend a lot of time computering. Er, computing.

Anyway, I’m lying on the floor typing this. Incidentally, my phone gets 3 dots of cell phone service when it is lying on the floor next to me as I sit on hold, waiting for Cox to get on the line to give me account credit or fix my internet or something. So I will stay on the floor.

Written on 5/11

This has been a really bizarre illness; I haven’t been sick like this in my adult life. I’m improving a lot now, but I’ve never had to convalesce before. I’ve always bounced back pretty quickly.

But considering that my biceps are getting tired while I’m writing this, it might take me a while to come back from this.

Anyway, I’ve realized I spend an awful lot of time on my computer and that this something that I would like to change. I have a lovely house, I live in a fantastic place, and I’m married to a funny, adventurous and beautiful woman. So, expect to see, ironically, more blog posting about the things that I’m doing.

Groupon. STAHP.

groupon. stahp.

I signed up for Groupon about a year ago, because they offered a round of golf at a mediocre golf course for a mediocre price. In the year since, I have been besieged by Groupon emails for products that I will never buy.

I have only opened these Groupon emails on accident — or out of the fascinated horror that overcomes one when one realizes that one has been contacted by another human being who thought that what a 25-30 year old male living in San Diego, California would buy was a Groupon Getaway to San Diego | Yosemite National Park | Los Cabos | Fullerton, CA | Honduras. Not only that, but this person (or algorithm, to be fair)  wanted me to wash down my random vacation plans with: 42% off Rosetta Stone Language Course, Garmin Geocaching Bundle, Petnax Digital Camera … and Nail Services.

So, I can get my nails did, learn how to speak Spanish, and take a picture of the bobby pins that someone hid deep inside the Cal State Fullerton bowling alley.

Once I finished marveling at Groupon’s frighteningly accurate grasp of my travel and vacation plans, I thought: does Groupon think I am made of money?

The mani-pedi? $20 (a $40 value). Rosetta Stone? $259 (42% off $449). Garmin eTrex 10 Geocaching Bundle? $95 (21% off $120). Pentax WG-2 16MP Waterproof Digital Camera? $189 (37% off $300). The ellipses? Priceless.

(Just kidding. Total cost of the other items detailed in Groupon’s “42% off” email? $445.)

That’s $1008 for 500,000% off such valuable items as Netgear Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter ($10).

The travel deals are even more ridiculous: that San Diego | Yosemite | Fullerton travel deal email thing? $4,000 to take advantage of all the discounts on 29 days of vacation (not including food, airfare, or activities at the HoJo in Fullerton).

I wish I had the time and inclination to make a spreadsheet that compiled all Groupon’s ridiculous deals and offers from the last year but I do not. So I’ll make something up and put some math behind it.

If the prices above are any indication, Groupon expects me to want to spend around $1000 every 2 days on crap and services and $4000 every week on month-long travel plans. That’s …

$208,000 on travel and $182,500 on crap and services and stuff. $400,000 spent at Groupon every year.

know that Groupon doesn’t intend for me, personally, to buy all this stuff. But that’s still a ridiculous amount of crap for them to send my way. Let me put it in perspective: Groupon wants me to spend more money than the total value of house, every year, on crap and entertainment that I don’t need and have not expressed any interest in.

Groupon. Take a chill pill. Just send me a crappy golf deal once a year or so. I probably won’t buy it but I will feel better about thinking about buying it. And isn’t that what you want?

RIP Dorothy Earnest – part 1

My grandmother died on July 30th, 2012.

I learned this at 5:44 in the morning, when the buzzing in my ear turned into my phone ringing, and my phone ringing turned into my mother’s voice and my mother’s voice was careful and controlled and calm.

“Grandmom died 10 minutes ago.”


My mom said more things to me that I do not remember.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” All I could think was: don’t fall back asleep. Listen. Grandmom is dead. Don’t fall back asleep.

My mom asked if I was okay, again.

“Nah. I’m fine.”

She said more things but when it sounded like she was done talking I said “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, honey.” She hung up and I told my wife what had happened.

I realized I wasn’t completely back asleep when I could hear my wife beating a soft metronome with her breaths. I was worried about work. My grandmother was dead and I was worried about work. I was really worried.

I didn’t want to. Go to work, that is. That day, that is. I also didn’t want to be worried about going to work. This is more important than that. Your parents need you. Your family needs you. What else do you have in this world? Well, what will they work on without you? At work, that is. Today, that is. If you don’t go in, that is. Especially with what’s been going on lately. Will they work? Family comes first. They’ll probably work. Should I go in? I don’t want to. My grandmother died. But what about work? That situation is tough. In this sleepy cycle of justification I lost sight of the fact that my grandmother, a woman who has had a beating heart for 90 years and 9 months, was dead. Her heart had stopped beating. Her brain no longer worked. Her kidneys stopped disposing of waste. Her liver stopped filtering blood. Her spleen stopped doing whatever spleens do. She had stopped breathing. The one way that I knew how to relate to her was gone, forever, when the breathing stopped.

I decided I wouldn’t go in to work when my first alarm went off.

Go on a date!

See John.

See John go.

See John go on a date with his wife.

Go, John! Go!

Go to the movie, John. Watch the movie, John. Criticize the movie to your wife.

Criticize, John, criticize! Talk about what you could have done better! Talk, John, Talk.

Mention character arcs. Mention them! Mention them!

Forget you have not written anything in a month.

Write, John, write!