We’re out in San Diego

In the summer of 2008, while we were still living in Costa Rica, my wife and I purchased a home in San Diego. Our initial goal was to purchase a house (while the home prices were at rock bottom) that we could eventually move into. Our thought was we could rent it in the mean time to help off set the bills. However, during our search we found an even better situation. The house we ended up buying not only made a perfect rental, but the guest house made a perfect place to escape to when we could. On top of that it allowed us to get all our personal belongs out of storage in Las Vegas where they were starting to rot in the harsh hot / dry climate. Since we purchased the home in September of 2006 we’ve only spent a total of maybe 8 weeks here, but over the next two weeks I’m looking forward to adding weeks 9 and 10 to the tally.

Since it’s only a 4 hour drive (without stops) door to door from Las Vegas to San Diego, it’s a lot more accessible than it was while we were living in Costa Rica or the Cayman Islands. This is our 3rd trip out here since moving to Las Vegas in March and I’m looking forward to making this a quarterly event at the minimum.

We don’t “have” to be back in Vegas until November 5th for the start of the November 9 coverage. I’m not sure exactly when we will head back, but it will be sometime right before then I think. My wife wants to spend Halloween out here since we don’t expect many trick-or-treaters. We love kids and participating in trick-or-treat, but our 85lb German Shepherd is another story. The house is on 1.25 acres of property situated up a steep hill. Not exactly the type of place that gets a lot of visitors.

Since we pulled into the driveway way after dark, it was hard to see what was going on around the property tonight. One of my favorite things to do when we get out here is to tour the property and check our fruit trees. There is always something different growing out there since we planted 24 trees about 18 months ago. We went with mostly citrus including lime, lemon, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, etc. We also have some other things like apple and pomegranate. It seems like the lemons are growing all year round, but there is usually at least one other thing out there when we are here. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in store tomorrow.

I have traffic! And SPAM!

When I launched my blog a couple of weeks ago I didn’t think it would get much, if any, attention. However, the traffic stats have been quite surprising so far. It looks like I’m getting about 30 unique visitors per day. That’s nothing to write home about, but it’s certainly more than the 1-2 I was expecting (1 for me and 1 for my mother from time to time).

When you break the results down by country the results are a little less impressive. Since I don’t know anyone in the Russian Federation, I’m going to chalk those visits up to people looking to SPAM (or to hack) my blog. The same goes for China. However, I’ll take the 468 visits from the USA, 35 from Canada, and 6 from the UK. Also, a special shout-out to my peeps in Costa Rica for stopping by 19 times. Here are the results broken out:

Country / Unique Visits / Percentage

UNITED STATES 468 73.70
RUSSIAN FEDERATION 67 10.55
CANADA 35 5.51
CHINA 27 4.25
COSTA RICA 19 2.99
UNITED KINGDOM 6 0.94

The other interesting thing is I just found out that my name “Michael Jackness” gets searched about 25 times a month according to Google’s keyword tool. I find it interesting that this many people are looking for me around the world. I have a feeling that a lot of it has to do with the lawsuit that I’m currently involved in though. I kind of touched on that a little bit in this post.

Finally, I’m proud to report that I got my first SPAM today. It was someone leaving a BS comment on one of my posts with a link to their website. In an age of Akismet and people manually approving comments, you would think people would just give up this practice. I guess not.

Happy weekend everyone.

I hate being sick

I went on a pretty good streak without getting sick, but three nights out in a row last weekend in a smoky casino did me in. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, so the smoke bothers me a lot. I’m also not used to being in smoky areas anymore since I don’t really go to bars or spend much time in the casinos. However, over the weekend I was in a bar / casino every single night. I could feel my chest getting heavy by the end of it and sure enough when I woke up Tuesday morning I was pretty sure I had bronchitis. It started with just a small tickle in my chest and then progressed into congestion in my sinuses along with swollen glands in my throat. I’m going to give it a couple more days before i go to the doctor and get antibiotics, but I kind of feel like that is the inevitable at this point.

This is one of those instances where I really miss Costa Rica. You can walk into any pharmacy there and get any medication you need. After 34 years of life I know exactly when I need antibiotics to cure an infection in my body. I used to get an ear infection every year growing up and I know exactly what it feels like. It really sucks going to a doctor in the USA, paying them $125 to see you for less than three minutes, and then going “Yup, you have an ear infection.”

Two trips to Costa Rica

I just booked the first of what will be two trips I’ll be taking to Costa Rica in the next few months. The first will be strictly business in December and the other will be a combination of business and pleasure in February / March.

The trip in December is the one I just booked. I’ll be heading down there from Las Vegas on December 13th and coming home on December 18th. I’m going down there for our quarterly board meeting as well as our annual Christmas party. It will be a quick, fast paced trip, but it will be worth it. I always look forward to seeing everyone in Costa Rica and it’s even more enjoyable when I get to see our employees significant others at the party. I’ll be flying out the day after the Christmas party to get back home in time for the NFL games on Sunday, but my flight isn’t until 4pm on Saturday. That will allow me to have a good time on Friday night and not feel like total crap on the flight home.

The trip in February is a combination of business and pleasure. First, I’ll be down there for Adam Small’s wedding. He is the new CEO for Protos Marketing and I’m really looking forward to his wedding. After his wedding he will be going on his honeymoon for a week and I’m going to use that time to explore parts of Costa Rica I never saw when I lived there. We’ll also be heading out to Manuel Antonio to stay in our beach condo for a few days. After the week of relaxing I’ll head back into San Jose to have our quarterly board meeting and catch up with some employees. It will be a total of about 15 days away from home, but I’m really looking forward to that trip. I’ll book the flights for this in a few weeks.

The weekend in sports

Lets start with the one thing that actually went right – the Redskins beating the Packers to go 3-2 on the season. I missed most of the game because I was too tired / hungover to even move. The games start at 10am out here in Las Vegas and I didn’t even go to bed until after 5am. It was a miracle that I got up at 12:30pm to watch the end of the game. To my surprise when I woke up the Redskins were still in it. I figured it would be a blow out since Green Bay is a much better team on paper. I made it down to the sofa just in time to watch the 52 yard game winning field goal try of the Packers bounce off the upright and send the game to overtime. As it turns out, Aaron Rodgers’ interception at the end of the game cost me my fantasy matchup this week, but more on that later.

After the Redskins win I went into the afternoon games with a great feeling. Then that all came crashing down. As a San Diego Chargers fan, it’s NEVER good to see them lose to the Raiders. I’ve always hated the Raiders since they beat the Redskins in the Super Bowl years ago, plus I think their owner is an ass too. Once I started following the Chargers my hatred just grew. The Chargers are such a better team, but on this Sunday afternoon they did everything they could to lose the game. UGH.

I’m also in a survivor pool for the NFL. This is the type of pool where you pick one team to win each week, but you can only use each team once. Once you pick wrong, you are OUT. I won the first 4 weeks and thought I had an absolute lock this weekend. In fact, I was telling my friends that I might put some money on the game. After all, the defending Super Bowl champions were playing the hapless Cardinals who were starting a rookie QB in his first NFL start. I guess I was wrong and “That’s why they play the games.”

Then, in my fantasy football game it came right down to the wire. Since I was playing against Hakeem Nicks, Ray Rice, Michael Bush, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who all blew up this weekend, I was going into tonight’s game 50 points behind with only two players left. It would seem pretty improbable to get 50 points from Percy Harvin and the Jets defense, but that’s exactly what happened. The problem is I needed 50.5 points. What a heartbreaking loss. That leaves me at 2-3 now instead of 3-2 and I have a feeling that I’m going to look back at this loss as the one that knocked me out of the playoffs.

What a great weekend!

This weekend was one of the best I can remember having in a long long time. It all started Wednesday night when my best friend from middle and high school (Mike Lewis) landed in Las Vegas late that night. I picked him up from the airport and then headed down to his hotel to get him checked in. He was staying in a separate hotel room from his soon to be wife. She is a bit of a traditionalist and wanted to stay in separate rooms in the couple days leading up to the wedding. Wednesday night was pretty tame with a little gambling, drinking, and some late night steak and eggs.

Thursday brought the arrival of the majority of the wedding party and guests that were attending. The wedding was Friday night and everyone came in a day early to catch up and have some fun. It was great meeting a bunch of Mike’s family and friends, but it was even neater hanging out with my old friends. We had a core group of us back together hanging out for the first time in over a decade. We were so excited to see each other and be hang out that most of us forgot we are no longer in our 20′s. I have no idea what I was doing, but I had WAY too much to drink.

Friday was welcomed in with a serious hangover and left me wondering if I should find a body double to stand in for me at the wedding. Somehow I managed to pull it together though and got to Caesars in time to get dressed for the wedding photos. We grabbed a quick snack before the wedding and before I knew it we were in one of the Caesars wedding chapels listening to “I DO”. I was actually more nervous staining in Mike’s wedding than I was in my own wedding. I don’t know why, but I was feeling faint and my legs were shaky. It was a bit hot in there, but I attribute it mostly to drinking too much the night before.

The actual wedding ceremony was the quickest I’ve even seen. From the time the bride walked in the room, till the time they were walking back down the aisle, was less than 10 minutes – my kind of wedding. After the wedding we went to the reception at Joe’s Stone Crab in Caesars and then did some more drinking after in a bar off the casino. Compared to the night before it was a pretty calm night and I got home around 3am.

Saturday night was when the real party started though. After an awesome dinner at Ni9e Steakhouse in the Palms we ended back at a bar off the casino floor in Caesars. All of the old gang was hanging out. It was just like old times, except this time we were all 10 years older and married. After dinner, one of my friends turned me on to a new drink called an “Old Fashioned” and evidently it’s a pretty strong drink. After a few of those babies it was all over and next thing I knew it was 5am before we got home.

Sunday was a day of recovering and goodbye’s. I always hate saying goodbye to people and it’s even sadder knowing it might be many years before all of us are together again. It’s even possible that we may never all be together again, at the same place, at the same time. However, for this one weekend in Las Vegas, the old Lakeridge crew ruled the world.

Thanks to Mike Lewis, Matt Petrus, Matt Arden, Brain Rand, and John Sounders for all the great memories. Also, a special shout out to my wife for putting up with my drunken ass all weekend.

Terran Marketing

For the past six years I’ve been working in the online poker affiliate marketing arena, but I’ve decided to get out of that space and start working on something new. Towards the end of this year I will be resigning from my position as President and CEO of Protos Marketing and Adam Small will be taking over my position there. I will still be involved with the company in a board capacity, where I will serve as Chairman of the Board, but I will no longer have any day to day involvement.

This begs the question of what will I do next? While I haven’t figured it out exactly, I do plan on staying in the affiliate marketing arena. This way I can use the skills I’ve developed over the past several years and apply them to something slightly different.

Yesterday I took the first step in this process by creating a new company and purchasing a domain name for it. I wanted a company name with “Marketing” in the title and spent several hours hunting for a name. It’s amazing what’s been taken out there in the domain world. It’s just about impossible to find anything that is available, but I was lucky enough to find something that I like a lot – Terran Marketing. For those of you who are sci-fi fans, or play Starcraft, you will get the reference. Basically, Terran means “human” or the “human race”.

While I’m still in my current position at Protos Marketing I won’t have much time to get started on Terran Marketing, but at least I have the company name now and get get a basic website up so it can start indexing.

Heading to a wedding

This weekend my best friend from high school is getting married. Luckily for me he is getting married in Las Vegas, so I don’t have to travel anywhere. Normally I have to do the traveling for meetings, vacations, or to visit family / friends so this is a nice break. I guess this is just one of the perks of living in Las Vegas – people come to us.

Last year I flew over 150,000 miles. The year before that clocked in at about 90,000 and this year I’m going to finish right around 60,000. At first it was really exciting. I got to see new places and along with flying so much came many perks. Even with all the horror stories you hear about the airlines, they really do take care of their top customers. As a platinum member with Continental you get free upgrades to first class 5 days before the flight providing a seat is available. In the past year that has been on ever single flight leg except for one. You need to fly 75,000 miles in a calendar year to qualify for this benefit, so it’s definitely something that you earn. However, I’m at the point where I’m looking forward to flying A LOT less and just not caring about what status I am with the airline anymore.

I’ve earned enough miles the past few years to get free tickets from them for at least the next two years. I’m looking forward to some free travel over the next couple of years for the limited travel that I do have to book. Besides that, I’m looking forward to staying put for awhile.

What the heck is Editz

Some of you might have noticed the little blue “Editz” button on each of my posts and wondered what the heck this is. Well, Editz is actually a company that I’ve invested in that allows copyediting of web pages. It’s a pretty amazing application and even integrates directly into WordPress. The best part is that it’s free for personal bloggers and can really add a level of professionalism to blogs and other content.

I don’t know about you, but I’m horrible at copyediting my own content. If it’s something I’ve written then I often glance over the errors. For instance I’m habitual at using you instead of your or you’re all the time. I’m thinking “your” as I type, but it just comes out “you”. Then, when I read over the content I often glance over it again. So, I’m soliciting the help of all my readers to copyedit any errors you see on my blog using Editz.

I know I’m biased, but I also think you should also try it out on your own blog or content site. It’s free and very easy to install.

The United States is just broken

Before I even get started typing this post I already know it’s going to be long-winded and turn into a total rant. There are just so many things that frustrate me about the United States and it’s getting worse, not better. I don’t even see a glimmer of hope that anything is going to change. The worst part is I feel powerless to actually change any of it. Sure, I can vote, and that’s supposed to make a difference, but I have serious issues with BOTH the Democrat and Republican party. Even if a politician agrees with most of my views in theory, that normally is NOT what actually happens in Washington. Below are a list of just of a few things I think the US has wrong. It’s by no means a complete list; I can only type for so long. I’ll also note that these are also in no particular order.

The United States government feels the need to invade our personal lives – I’m talking about things such as passing a bill to make funding online poker accounts illegal, effectively making it impossible for someone to play online poker in their own home. The government also makes it illegal to smoke weed, and tried to even make it illegal to drink or have abortions at one point. Heck, there is even a politician trying to make it illegal to masturbate now. The problem is that politicians are trying to force their religious views upon the entire country. This is in a country where separation from church and state is supposed to be one of the cornerstones upon which we operate. While that might have been the case at one point, it sure as heck isn’t anymore. I’ve never smoked a joint in my life; I don’t need the government to help me make that decision. I really don’t care if my neighbor wants to smoke a joint though. If I want to play online poker in my house, with my money (that the government already taxed me on), why shouldn’t I be able to? If I want to jerk off 5 times a day, do I really need the government to tell me that I shouldn’t? I guess the bottom line is that I feel the government needs to stay out of my personal business and worry about other things that are actually important to this country. Things like better roads and other infrastructure, education, fire, police, health care, and other domestic concerns.

The IRS is all kinds of jacked up – I could write 20 pages on this alone. For anyone who doesn’t fill out the 1040-EZ, then I think the tax code in the country is WAY to complicated. I’ve spent well into six figures over the past few years getting tax advice just so I could comply with the IRS. Now, I’ll admit that my situation is way more complicated that the average person: I own a business, rental properties, trade lots of stocks, lived abroad for several years, etc. However, I shouldn’t need a degree just to be able to file my taxes. Even my tax preparer is confused half the time on what we actually should do. The tax code makes me want to never do anything because I know when April 15th comes it’s going to be a big headache.

The IRS is also impossible to work with. Let me give you an example. Two years ago we added some new employees under a new company. However, when we filed one of the forms for these employees the person who was responsible for this forgot to check a box on the form. This box was to let the IRS know that we didn’t need to withhold for Medicare tax. Well, after 14 months of this being incorrect the IRS finally caught up with us. They sent us a letter saying that we owed about 100k in back taxes plus another 100k in penalties and interest. We consulted our tax guy to figure out what the problem was and discovered this mistakenly unchecked [check] box. Shortly thereafter we sent in a letter to the IRS with an explanation and started checking the box from that point forward. The following quarter they sent us another letter and the bill continued to grow. This time we called them and wrote another letter. Again, the following quarter we got another letter and a bigger bill. This time the letter was certified with a threat that they were going to put a lean on our bank account. So, we called them and wrote them again. We thought we had the problem solved that time. Then, 2 weeks later we got a letter in the mail saying they were too busy to process our request right now, but they were working on it. Six weeks after that another certified letter showed up that the lean process was going into effect on our bank account. So, the process of getting letters, calling them, writing them, and getting threats continued for a few more months. Finally we got someone at the IRS that said “One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing here. Don’t worry about your bank account. We’ll get this sorted out for you.” Sure enough it did get sorted out, but it took over a year and cost us god knows how much in lost time and consulting fees to get it worked out.

Finally, on the topic of the IRS, it really pisses me off that the IRS collects taxes on your worldwide income. This isn’t an issue for most people, but I lived out of the United States for over 4 years and had to pay taxes to the USA the entire time. The USA is one of only like 3 countries in the entire world that does this. For instance, if you live in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, you can simply leave there and stop paying taxes there. So, if you chose to move somewhere like Belize or the Cayman Islands, then you actually pay zero tax. You don’t give up the right to visit home or move back there either. Once you move back, then you pay tax again. That kind of seems like the fair way to do things to me!

What the heck is wrong with our legal system – I’ve always heard about how our legal system is messed up, but I didn’t fully understand it until I personally got involved in a frivolous lawsuit. Now, I’m sure that everyone says that they are being sued unjustly. I’ve never heard anyone say “I got sued and I deserve it”. However, in this case I can objectively say that this is the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit. According to Wikipedia this is the definition: In law, frivolous litigation is the practice of starting or carrying on law suits that have little to no chance of winning. Well, in my case I’m being sued by someone who claims to have a trademark they don’t actually have, claims to have used it first when in fact they weren’t, and says the meaning of their site has to do with the Celtic meaning of the word and has nothing to do with the general meaning it has on the site. I’ll go a step further and say that this lawsuit was filed not only knowing they couldn’t win, but also to use the legal system to bully / hustle us into giving up. It turns out that it costs about a quarter million dollars to fully defend a trademark case, no matter how frivolous the claim might be. In many cases people give up or settle even if the claim is frivolous just to make it go away. Most people don’t have the money to defend it and the reality is that even if you win, you lose. In US law, even if you win, you still have to pay your attorney fees. Most other legal systems require the losing party to pay all legal fees (the fair way). This prevents people from filing a law suit unless they think they can really win it. The US does have a system in place to prevent this though, but it’s a very tough standard to adhere to. I’m just hoping that the judge in this case doesn’t have his head buried up his rear end and that he doesn’t fall for any of the smoke screens the other party’s lawyer is putting out there.

I’m not the only one that this type of stuff happens to. In doing research on this case it turns out that there is a whole economy doing stuff like this. It’s known as trademark or copyright trolling. Basically lawyers file a case which they know will never see the light of the courtroom. They are praying on the weak or someone they know can’t justify the cost of the case. In most cases it has nothing to do with whether the person has done something wrong or not. The only thing that matters is if they are a target that can be legally extorted. It’s really a shame and goes to the heart of what’s wrong with our legal system. Stuff like this is why insurance costs continue to go up and why health care costs have skyrocketed. It’s the American way now. SUE SUE SUE.

Government taking advantage - The last thing I’m going to rant about today is how government takes advantage, which leads to our taxes being higher, and the services we really need suffering. I ran across this story yesterday while listening to talk radio (something I rarely do). This type of stuff really pisses me off. It goes right to the very heart of the problem regarding what is wrong with our entire government system. You elect people to go take these jobs and look out for the people they represent. However, what often ends up happening is they are only looking out for themselves, their friends, and family. Contracts being awarded to “friends”, roads being built to no where, and pensions that exceed what anyone intended. How on earth a librarian ends up making mid six figures, I’ll never know. I’m going to end this here because anything else I say at this point can’t possibly be constructive.

/ rant