Tag: money

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The Coins I Left Behind

While walking along Kansas from 30th Street in North Park towards the University Heights boundary at Texas, I spotted 21-cents change on the sidewalk. I moved about 10 steps before turning back—not to grab the coins but to capture the moment with Leica Q. Why leave dime, nickels, and penny? Doing so is a more interesting story than taking them.

I wondered why the change remained. Had no little kids, or perhaps someone homeless, come by? Surely 21 cents would mean something to someone. Were the coins maybe embedded in the cement (I didn’t check)? Who had left them there? Were they an accidental loss that kept little Johnny from buying ice cream at the corner store? Maybe they were dropped by someone so wealthy picking them up wasn’t worth the time? Oh the questions the forlorn change raised from its fallen, forgotten state. 

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Let the Bears Eat Bear Stearns

I agree with Gretchen Morgenson, writing for the New York Times. The Fed shouldn’t bail out Bear Stearns. The fed crossed a line by keeping afloat a major architect of the housing debacle.

I wrote my first blog post about the housing bubble in August 2005, a year after deciding not to buy a home in the Washington, DC suburb of Bowie. It was already clear to me in summer 2004 that something akin to a repeat of the dot-com bubble was taking place in the housing market.

Had we bought in 2004, we would likely hold a mortgage that exceeds the house’s reduced value. We could never have moved to San Diego. 

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The Corporation

End of last week, I watched a startling documentary, which resonated well with some suspicions I already had. Staunch capitalists probably wouldn’t be moved by “The Corporation“, although hard-core liberals or even communists might delight in the documentary.

My response is neither political nor economic, but rooted in my sense of right, which in part defines good as putting the wellbeing of others above oneself. People or organizations that prosper by harming others do wrong. Many societies recognize cannibalism as wrong, yet those same peoples often do not recognize as wrong another kind of cannibalism: The consumption (or sacrifice) of one person’s livelihood or well being to support another person, group or organization. 

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Housing Bubble Myths Pop

For more than a year I’ve warned that the housing market would retreat with wicked vengeance, with reverberations moving through the US economy as it did earlier in other countries. Today’s Fortune story “Getting real about the real estate bubble” rips apart some of the myths sustaining the bubble.

Shawn Tully whacks the hell out of four bubble myths: “As long as job growth is strong, prices can’t go down”; “the builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won’t swamp the market with new houses when the market turns”; “low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices”; “restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices”. 

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The Empty Commandment

Late last summer, a rap rap brought me to the door and face to face with a Sierra Club fundraiser. I’ve done quite a bit of fundraising myself, and I deplore going house to house. People aren’t home or they rudely close the door. Those folks who take the time to talk often aren’t interested in donating, particularly, as in the case of Sierra Club, if some type of commitment is required. I respect the work the Sierra Club does and pitied this road-weary fundraiser, so I made a donation. For my money, I also got a subscription to Sierra magazine.

The September/October magazine arrived today and turned out to be better reading than some of the other issues. Opening Ways and Means column, “The Devil’s in the Retail: A cult of consumerism is sweeping the planet”, really caught my attention. Carl Pope, Sierra Club’s executive editor, starts by discussing a multi-denominational religious service he attended in San Francisco. Leaders of different faiths—Christians Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, among others—gathered in defiance of what they perceived as a common enemy. 

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I’d Like to Be Wrong About This

I am back on my “collapsing housing market” bandwagon. Today’s New York Times story “Keep Eyes Fixed on Your Variable-Rate Mortgage” tells of the coming doom—people unable to pay for their homes because of risky variable-rate or interest-only loans.

The story, by Damon Darlin, reveals that nationwide, interest-only loans accounted for 26.7 percent of mortgages last year. In Washington: 40 percent! 

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When the Boom Busts

I have repeatedly blogged about the impending housing market crisis. While not as apocalyptic as my stated position, SmartMoney story “Home Crunch” warns of problems on the coasts, where inflated home prices and risky mortgages will pinch many home owners.

In my neighborhood, signs of a sales slowdown are everywhere. Two houses around the corner have been on the market for months. A year ago, they would have sold within a week. Some houses are selling, but the turnover clearly is slowing down. 

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Cancel Me, Cancel You

Ah, the power of the single voice, amplified by the reach of the World Wide Web. Today’s New York Times story, “AOL Said, ‘If You Leave Me I’ll Do Something Crazy’“, once again highlights the power of the Web, particularly Weblogs or content-sharing sites like YouTube. Randall Stross’ story is also a tell-tale account of how difficult can be account cancellation.

The story starts with a Bronx man’s 21-minute phone call seeking to cancel his AOL account: “Vincent Ferrari, 30, of the Bronx…recorded the five minutes of interaction with the AOL customer service representative and, a week later, posted the audio file on his blog, Insignificant Thoughts. Shortly thereafter, those five minutes became the online equivalent of a top-of-the-charts single”. 

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Oh, Joe of Little Faith

This evening, I stopped into Penn Camera to pick up that spare Nikon D200 battery ordered about a week earlier. I waited behind a guy spending big on a digital camera, although it was uncertain if he understood what he was buying.

Thomas Hawk might appreciate this: A Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens, Canon Speedlite 430EX flash, memory card, and some other stuff I couldn’t quite make out. The buyer seemed somewhat perplexed by the $5,500 total. I thought, “It’s what you pay for a full-frame sensor”. Turns out, Canon rebates would put more than 500 bucks back in his pocket—$300 off the 5D. The camera is practically a steal at $2,699 after rebate.