Jun 10

Alien writing

IMG_3682We were playing around in the creek behind our house a few days ago. Looking up at the concrete supports for a bridge, we found the curious markings you see here. They are about an inch across, and take the form of white ovals with feathery lines extending out from them. They look for all the world like they are drawn with Liquid Paper. Inside the ovals there is a raised ribbed texture stuck firmly to the concrete.

I explained to my six year old son that they are messages written by aliens.

I do, however, admit that there is some small chance that they were made by (terrestrial) insects.

Does anybody know what kind of insect does this, and what they’re up to?



May 13

Becoming an Accidental Landlord, Part 1

Credit: jen on flickr

Credit: jen on flickr

Last year we decided we wanted to move. We liked our house pretty well, but we wanted to get into a better school district. We put our house on the market and started looking at new houses. As the weeks went on, there was very little interest in our house. We did a series of incremental price drops, but still no serious takers. So we started thinking about keeping the house and renting it out.

I should probably mention that a very good friend of mine had been encouraging me to get some rental property for the past year, and even gave me a very good book on the subject. He’s since bought 5 houses to rent (now 10!), and is looking for more. And another friend had recently made the same move we were making (from very near our old neighborhood to very near our new neighborhood) and had ended up keeping their old house and renting it out also. So keeping the house to rent out wasn’t exactly blazing into uncharted territory. But it was new territory for us, and we had a bunch of questions and concerns going in.

I’ll skip to the punchline and tell you that we kept the old house and rented it out, and we’ve been happy with the arrangement so far. We quickly found a renter, and now make a couple hundred dollars of (relatively) passive income each month, with no major hassles so far (knocking in wood). I’d heard some horror stories of bad tenants and major catastrophes. I’d also seen the infomercials for the high-dollar Systems for Making a Fortune in Real Estate, and you probably have too. So I thought I’d take the time to go into some detail about what’s really involved from the perspective of a regular guy who wasn’t crazy about the idea to begin with, and answer some questions that we had ourselves. There’s more to say than will fit in one blog post, so I’ll start with the basics, and drill into the details in later posts.

First, Do Some Homework

I don’t have any special real estate skills or background. But I did read this book: The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, by David Keller. The book is 50% getting you excited about real-estate and about 50% practical how-to stuff. I found it pretty helpful.

The basic numbers work out like this: Our house is worth about $150,000. It rents for about $1,400 a month. After paying the mortgage and all expenses, we make about $250 in profit per month. So, big picture, our investment is $30,000 (the 20% down payment to buy the house) and the return is about $3000 a year. That’s a 10% return, which beats the historical average of the stock market. This is without taking into account depreciation and appreciation.

There is a lot more to consider, but at it’s most basic, these numbers are how the landlord business works, and it does work. It’s real thing that regular people can do to make money.

Coming up next: The Details




Apr 21

Water bear


Absurd Creature of the Week: The Incredible Critter That’s Tough Enough to Survive in Space | Science | WIRED.

WIRED shows us this incredible picture of a tardigrade, or water bear.  The water bear is a microscopic creature that can survive freezing, boiling, and so far, up to 8 days in the vacuum of space.  That’s some pretty inspiring toughness.

Mar 26

The benCONCEIVABLE Financial Manifesto



The benCONCEIVABLE  Financial Manifesto is very simple: Earn as much money as you can. And spend as little money as you can.

But just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

1. Earn as much money as you can

My wife and I have good jobs.  We work hard for big companies, and contribute to our savings plans.  If we keep going like we’re going, we should be able to retire in our 60s, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But what if we could do a little better than that?  What else is there?

So we’re trying to generate more income streams. Owning rental property is one. Writing online is another. I’ve started following Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast and blog.  Writing the benCONCEIVABLE blog is part of that, in several ways.  I plan to use it to teach myself about online commerce.  And I want to tell other people what I learn.  And it would be nice if the site itself could make a little money (or at least be self-supporting).  I don’t think I’ll be able to quit my day job tomorrow.  But what if we could retire 5 years sooner?  Or 15?  We won’t know until we try.

2. Spend as little money as you can

I’m inspired by reading the excellent blog of Mr. Money Mustache.  We’re pretty frugal anyway, but not nearly as badass as him.  But we do a lot of the big things right.  We don’t carry credit card debt, ever.  But we use credit cards all the time, to collect the cash back. If we can’t pay it off at end of the month, we don’t buy it.  We buy reasonable cars, and drive them a long time.

Another part of this philosphy, which is also championed by Mr. Money Mustache, is to learn to do things yourself, so you don’t have to pay other people to do them.  So you’ll see some of that in this blog, too, especially if I can help you learn to help yourself.  I’ve learned how to build furniture, repair appliances, even rebuilt a car engine, and you can too.

One theme that you’ll see in both of the tenets above is: learning new things.  It’s good for you, and it will make you a better, happier person.  So follow along and let’s see what works and what doesn’t.

Mar 16

banana leaf

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took this picture by sticking the camera lens into the spiral of a newly opening banana leaf.  I was surprised at how cool it ended up looking.  When I see it, I think of spring and new growth.

Mar 16

Hi, I’m Ben!


I started this site to talk and learn about blogging and online business.

The blog will evolve as I learn more, but this is what you can expect to see:

– My thoughts, experiences and results as I try new projects

– How-to projects and tips

– Things that inspire me

I hope you like it, and feel free to leave a comment.