Credit scores are bullshit: part 2

So we've had a lively discussion about my previous post on credit scores, and an industry expert on credit scoring showed up to argue with many here. The New York Times noticed and published his side of the story as well. He urged me on Twitter to try out which is supposed to be more accurate. Well, I ended up trying it tonight and got a whopping 2 point difference on my credit score, with it still below 700 (690 vs. 692).

The best part is when it is being explained to me what my problems are, as this image captures:

Gee, I guess 16 years, 3 months just isn't a very long revolving credit history. Heck it is a few years shy of half of my entire life and "FICO High Achievers" average a whopping 2 years and 9 months more than me, which is such an incredible drastic difference that I can see your justification for docking me points on that one. /sarcasm

Like I said before, I understand the need for credit scores and how they are used, but much of the advice the credit reporting agencies have given me turns out to be conflicting bullshit.

They tell me to get a credit card to increase my score, and it ends up reducing my score (because I didn't know about the unwritten rules on how much of your credit line you are actually allowed to safely use). Now they say it's because I haven't had credit long enough when my oldest account is only 14% less than their suggested stellar achievement rankings. 

In summary: still bullshit.

Warby Parker: the bees knees


The Internet's Pal Adam released this new commercial today for Warby Parker, the hip online eyeglasses company.

Four short years ago I wrote a guide to finding cheap eyeglasses online, and one of my principal takeaways was that for most cheap eyewear sites, you have to wade through hundreds-to-thousands of options trying to find something cool. My tips certainly help, but it's still quite a bit of work to find something good and you are risking a few bucks on an unknown.

A couple years ago, a friend (can't remember who, perhaps Lane Becker? Anil Dash?) said the next big wave in business was "becoming the Zappos of anything." What they meant was even though there may be a crowded market for whatever is sold online, the market is ripe for someone to come in and provide the absolute best experience possible backed by great customer service.

I tried out Warby Parker last summer and loved it, buying two pairs of glasses I wear to this day. I've been meaning to write up my experiences with it ever since. Adam's commercial reminded me that I should write it up.

Buying cheap eyeglasses online is challenging for the following reasons:

  • there is too much selection at most sites
  • you never know what you are going to get sight unseen
  • it takes a lot of technical knowledge to figure out the sizes of temples, nose bridges, etc
  • at most sites, stupid glasses you would never wear are right next to cool looking ones, which are surrounded by 200 ho-hum options 

It's as if the people behind Warby Parker looked at every weakness in the online glasses buying process and came up with a solution, turning the whole thing into a positive.

The selection feels (I hate to use the word, but it is apt) curated. Instead of offering 500 options, there are about 25 and they're all pretty cool looking. The 5 pair try-it-on offer is terrific, letting you pick from all their styles to see what actually fits your face before you commit to buying them. The try-on is also free, which is incredible. Finally, when you do buy a pair, it's a decent price about half to one-third of what a nice eyeglasses shop would charge, and you get great customer service in the form of personal emails to you letting you know when they are made and shipped, and they check up on you after get them to make sure you are happy. Every single bummer thing about my original eyeglasses article is solved by Warby Parker, plain and simple (oh, and they donate a pair to charity when you buy a pair on top of everything else).

Last year I picked out three or four different designs I thought were all hits, but after I got the try-on pack, only one frame looked right and was the right size. It fit me so perfectly I bought two pairs in different frame colors and I recently scratched my favorite pair right across my normal eye path so I have switched to the second backup pair since. I would say in the future, I can't see buying glasses online from anywhere else (the added price of $95 versus maybe $40 elsewhere is totally worth it for the time-savings), especially since they started opening showrooms in a few select cities. The try-on pack was pretty fast, but it was a small pain to mail it back in, and I can't wait to try on every design quickly in their store.

Warby Parker didn't give me money to say this, didn't give me anything for free, and never even gave me a discount. I tried them on a whim last year and I've been nothing but satisfied ever since. They truly are the Zappos of eyewear and totally worth checking out.

Giro di Portland

Every summer there are some crit races in downtown Portland and they are a blast. I missed last week’s Twilight Criterium but got to see last evening’s Giro di Portland. The racing was hot and fast, with some surprise results. The Cat 3 race was won by a 13 year old that won a race earlier that same day and won a race the day before. The final Mens 1/2 was won by a late breakaway from one of the oldest riders in the bunch. Overall, it was a great summer night of racing in downtown Portland.


Racing over cobbles

Racing by

Racing by

Spectators on the cobbles

Women's race

Coasting over cobbles

Looking back

Women line up

13 year-old Cat 3 winner

Traffic control

Looking back

Full set of photos is on Flickr

Credit Scores are Bullshit

A couple years ago as I was getting a credit report from Experian (I was about to buy a new car and wondered where I stood credit-wise), I signed up for one of their monthly tracking features. I justified this waste of money because I'd had a credit card number stolen and wanted to watch my credit records for a while. Over the past year, I've watched my credit score start low and go lower, and I've come to the realization that it's complete bullshit.

My credit history is pretty ordinary: I got one of those credit cards that come with a free t-shirt and frisbee in college, mostly because I was amazed anyone would give me credit. The introductory $500 limit quickly went to $2k when I put some ski trips on the card, and I always carried credit at about 35-50% of the card's limit. After college I continued to use the card and watched my limit go to $5k and then $10k (as I carried more and more on it), and a few years after college the card's limit was at $20k. At the same time, finishing my Bachelor's degree and getting a Masters racked up about $25,000 in student loans (in 2011, 4 years of college only costing $25k is quaint!). I also owned a couple used cars with small car loans I paid off in time.

After I moved to Oregon in 2003, I finally got serious about my ~$30k in debt. My previous years of carrying thousands in credit and paying things off in time (but rarely getting ahead) ballooned my credit score into the low 800s. This was great when it was time to get my first home loan, and my second a couple years later. Once I settled into a long-term home, I started paying off my credit cards and school loans aggressively. By 2006, I had no balance on my credit cards and my wife and I finally paid off our school loans. I started closing my unused credit card accounts and shifted towards buying things with my bank's ATM/VISA card instead, so that I never carried a balance and the money came directly out of my checking account. I also followed the Get Rich Slowly mantra and focused heavily on building my retirement savings and over the years of maxing out my retirement with the help of an investment planner, I have a pretty good nest egg going.

You can imagine what all this fiscal responsibility did to my credit score the past few years. It dropped below 800 soon after I paid off all my cards and started closing accounts. For a few years I had no open credit cards and no open balances. I paid off two car loans and was paying ahead on my house loan, and each year I'd watch my credit score fall in the 700s. A couple months ago my credit score was barely above 700, and the main negative flag on my account was having no open credit card accounts, so before I took a recent trip I decided to finally sign up for one of those personal airline cards my frequent flier program has been pitching me and use the card on my vacation.

Today I learned that my credit score dropped into the high 600s and my risk just went from low to medium. The culprit? The credit card account I opened had "too low of a limit" (it started at $5k) and I had "too high of a balance" on it as I used it on vacation (I paid off the card as soon as I returned, two weeks before the first bill even showed up).

Financially, I'm in the best shape of my life right now. My house will be paid off in about 5 years at the rate I am going, I have a great retirement portfolio that I contribute aggressively towards and it continues to grow, and my business is doing well even as we've expanded with a new employee and several contractors. 

I had the highest credit score at a time in my life when I was leveraged to the hilt and I lived paycheck to paycheck. Now that I have my own business, a healthy retirement, and can pay for everything I need/want, I have a low score and I'm dubbed a higher risk even though my ability to pay is very high. I used to think a credit score was all about your ability to pay, but it's clear now it's more about how profitable you will be to banks.

Some Hot Air Balloon Photos from a local event

A few days ago, I saw a mention of a hot air balloon launch going on this weekend locally, both on Saturday and Sunday. When I woke up around 6am after just a few hours of sleep on Saturday the thought popped back in my head, I threw some warm clothes on, grabbed my camera, and headed out. I was greeted with dozens of balloons in various stages of setup and flight. Walking around near each hot air balloon’s base, I was pretty awestruck by the colorful beauty, the great early morning light, and the sheer size of them up close. The whole experience was overwhelming in a nice way and on the second morning I dragged Fiona along with me. Here are my favorite shots from the last two mornings:

Setting up

Filling up

Filling up

Setting up

Firing up



About to head up


Ready for launch

Over the wheat/weed fields

The full set of shots is on flickr.

Why men blog their clothes

Via Put this On comes this waaaay-inside baseball men's fashion blogging discussion at Park & Bond about whether men are dressing for themselves or dressing for women or dressing for other fashion bloggers.


Here's my pet hypothesis about men's style blogs: guys do it to get thanks and congrats from someone, anyone.

Hear me out: if you're schlubby 35 year old guy that wears t-shirts and cargo shorts, and you suddenly go out and buy $150 shirts that fit right and look nice and you start wearing tailored pants and smart shoes, barely anyone will notice. You might get some jeers from coworkers at suddenly becoming a dandy and/or your significant other might say you are looking nice, but for the most part, deciding to dress like a grownup doesn't result in much of any instant gratification, because HELLO: 35 YEAR OLD MEN ARE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE ADULTS NOT TEENAGED SLOBS.

It's kind of demoralizing at first, because if you make a huge change in your life and you think you are looking better, you expect instant results and a night/day difference, but the changes are more subtle and take months to even notice. Strangers will respect what you say more, people in restaurants and shops will treat you better, and yes, possibly people will flirt with you a bit when they never did before. But it's not an overnight sea change, and might be too subtle for most guys given the expense and effort that goes into ironing your shirts every day and picking the right things each morning.

Guys in the US don't have a good culture of supporting each other or being comfortable in general with telling each other they look nice, so men's style blogs (at least the ones I've browsed) that show lots of photos of a headless guy wearing "today's look" and are filled with positive back-slapping comments serve a definite purpose: reassuring dudes that they are making the right choice, they look great, and yes, we noticed you are wearing those special french-made striped socks that you can only buy online.