Author: Joe Wilcox

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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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Immigration Case Study

I am a vocal opponent to the Bush Administration plans to turn illegal immigrants into felons. I got to see another administration’s immigration policy in action today.

I’m out of town on business. On the way from the airport the car driver and I got to talking. He’s from Mexico City and has lived in the US for over 20 years. Looks like, at one time, he was an illegal immigrant. He came here as a tourist and never returned. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty that allowed this guy to stay in the country and get out of the factory and do better work. 

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What Would Wendy Say?

This morning, as I stood in line at Wendy’s, something troubling occurred. The male manager—maybe store, maybe shift—slid his palm around one of the female cashier’s midriffs as he stepped around the counter and out into the restaurant. He slid his hand around her waist across her tummy. It was an affectionate touch, the kind a man might give a woman he loves. But she didn’t react as a lover might. Rather, she slightly stiffened, as did the casher next to her.

Of course, I observed a fleeting action, with very little context. But the touch troubled me. I left greatly concerned for both women and maybe others. For all I know, the boss is touchy with everyone, just a helluva friendly guy. But the cynic inside says there was more going on. 

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Mutual of Yamaha

I took the day off from work (a rather rare action), for a family day. I’m out of town on business two days this week and another two days next week, and then my wife will be away for three weeks at a church workshop. Who ever said that only kids go to summer camp?

I also used the time to buy and set up a Yamaha YDP-213 electronic piano, from Music & Arts Center. My daughter and I have both committed to learn to play the piano. 

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SmugMug, Finally

Back in February I praised photo-sharing site SmugMug. I sporadically and half-heartedly uploaded photos there, as I pondered Flickr. I was strongly attracted to Flickr’s community—everybody seems to hang-out there—appeal. Last month, Thomas Hawk joined Zooomr, which created another quandary. Thomas’ Zooomr support simply couldn’t be ignored.

After weighing Flickr’s community and Zooomr’s Thomas endorsement,, I’ve decided to stick with SmugMug and really start using it. I spent part of the last two days adding new photos to my SmugMug site. The decision comes with angst, because Flickr and Zooomr also appeal to me, for different reasons. 

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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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A Matter of Perspective

We spent July Fourth with friends in Fredricksburg, Va., which is about 70 miles south of Washington. I had hoped to take fireworks photos, but we got stormed out. So I settled for pictures in the bathroom, instead.

Our friends have a skylight above the john, which gives a great view of the clouds while doing your business. Of course, the crooning strains the neck. But gazing at cloud formations is kind of relaxing, even in the WC’s confines.

I’m amazed to hear men talk on cell phones while sitting on the john in public toilets. So, I figured that carrying in my Nikon D200 wouldn’t be any more offensive, considering that I would only be taking pictures. The door was open, folks. 

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‘To The Republic for Which it Stands’

Today, America is 230 years old, more or less. I suppose it’s a question of counting from the declaration of independence or the actual gaining of independence about seven years later.

I’ve learned that too few Americans, or others living here, truly understand the Republic established by the Founding Fathers—nor have many living today read important documents like the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights. The latter document should be mandatory reading by everyone, given actions taken by the current administration against its own people (For the record, I am politically independent and do not side with either party. I voted for this president, so my criticism doesn’t come from partisanship). 

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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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Superman’s Story

Well, Roger Ebert didn’t like it. New York Times found plenty to fault. EW was much kinder, as was Rolling Stone.

I liked “Superman Returns“.

Whenever a movie follows a successful franchise—whether on screen, on stage, or in print—the hurdle is raised high. And sometimes, reviewers can’t let go of how things were done in the past. They compare against expectations, such as in the case of “Superman Returns” the performance of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.