Author: Joe Wilcox

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The Wrong Gulf

On Sunday, I gassed up my 1989 Volvo 740 for $2.69 a gallon–the good stuff–and moaned about high prices. Yesterday a friend IMed and told me to gas up before prices jumped 40 cents a gallon. Too late, $3.19 when my wife got the pumps. She paid more today, $3.49 a gallon, or a delightful 80-cent increase in just two days.

I predict the situation will get a lot worse. New Orleans is now the equivalent of a Biblical epic—disaster that will keep on going. The death, the destruction, the economic impact will be like another 9-11, except as an Act of God (Why should he get the blame, anyway?) rather than act of terrorism. Few weeks back, I blogged about the housing bubble. Katrina, that vicious bitch, put a hole in the bubble, I think. 

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Buy Refurbished and Save

I often recommend that people buying new PCs should consider refurbished. In my experience, used is typically better than new. I want to say always, because I’ve never had a bad refurb.

Refurbished is a computer sold secondhand by the original seller, which could be the manufacturer or a retailer. Hypothetical: Jack Consumer buys a new Mac from Apple, but after getting the computer home he sees the new Dell TV commercial with Sheryl Crow. He returns the Mac and buys a Dell. Apple still has to sell that computer, but now potentially at a loss and discounted to future buyers. Maybe Jack liked his Mac but it had a bum hard drive, so he exchanges it for another. Apple still has to sell that computer, albeit with the hard drive replaced, again discounted. 

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The Wrong Lesson

My wife is prepping my daughter for home school. She was surprised that my daughter couldn’t identify one U.S. state. “We were supposed to learn last year in social studies,” my daughter said. Apparently, the teacher couldn’t get to it. While I am largely satisfied with what the public school teachers taught my daughter, the incident reminded me of something that happened late in the school year.

One Friday, my daughter asked about Napster. She knows that I have gotten songs from Napster and wanted to know about stealing music. Problem: Her confusion over the original Napster filing-sharing site and Napster 2.0, which sells music or offers it on subscription basis. Her fifth grade teacher was source of the confusion. 

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Icon: Biography or Fiction?

I just finished reading book iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, which I bought at my local Borders Book store. I just about never buy hardcover books, but this one piqued my interest. After all, Steve Jobs banned all the publisher’s books from Apple retail stores.

I understand why the strong reaction from Apple’s founder. One undercurrent focuses on Steve Jobs’ charisma and claims of his taking claim for others’ work. The theme adds second meaning to the title, as in “I con”. 

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County Fair Adventures

Yesterday, I took my daughter and two friends to the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. But the excitement started even before we left the neighborhood.

So we’re sitting at this green light, with car horns honking and the lead car not budging a centimeter. Last in line, I swung around and drove past the other cars. In situations like this, I just have to look and see who’s driving the offending vehicle. In this case, no one, because the old—and I mean really old—geezer had slumped forward over the steering wheel. 

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School starts soon. Middle school for my eleven year old. For some reason that got me to thinking about Everclear song “Wonderful,” so I just went over to the artist’s Captiol Records website to watch the music video. Life is tough for middle schoolers.

After great angst, we’ve decided to home school my daughter for sixth grade. Local Newport Mill Middle School is nearly walking distance, but other factors make it just too far. For one, there is the adjacent Albert Einstein High School. For another, my wife and I don’t believe that sixth and eighth graders should mix. Development differences are huge, particularly when many eighth graders already are sexually active and eleven year olds are such easy prey. Not a reality I like to admit, but one we as parents can’t ignore. 

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Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

Last summer, my wife, daughter and I scoured the Washington suburb of Bowie for a house to buy. After a month of house hunting, we decided to stay put in our rental house, located in a nicer neighborhood and much closer to downtown Washington (We live off of Connecticut Ave. just three miles from the city).

The decision not to buy came with great angst. Rising real estate prices made the potential equity gains look promising, and we were simply ready to be homeowners. But the math simply didn’t work. When factoring in taxes and insurance, our monthly mortgage would have approached $2,200, compared to our $1,100—starting this month, $1,200—rent. We couldn’t see how our quality of life would be better doubling our monthly housing payment, even factoring in potential equity gains or tax breaks.