Category: Money

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Park Your Butt, Not Your Car

Southern California continues to suffer from the self-inflicted economic devastation imposed by our esteemed governor, Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom. He has imposed a partial, second statewide shutdown in response to increasing confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—cases. Pandemic deaths aren’t rapidly rising, which, in my journaled opinion, is the metric more important to making policy that harms millions of businesses and leads to massive job losses.

What is the harm? Locally, according to San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation: “Forty-one percent of businesses surveyed saw revenues decline by 81 to 100 percent; 93 percent saw staffing declines of one to 50 employees”. Additionally, “minority-owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID”. Explicitly: “More than 90 percent of minority-owned businesses have seen their revenue decline, with most experiencing steep revenue declines of 81 to 100 percent”. EDC released the most recent data—collected May 28 to June 8, when the state started reopening—on July 1, or 13 days before Newsom reimposed new closure measures.

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COVID California: No School or Anything Else for You

Yesterday, which was when I captured the Featured Image, Los Angeles and San Diego school districts announced that students would not return to classrooms next month as previously planned. Kids will study online instead, as they had been since late March when Governor Gavin Newsom essentially closed California in response to the so-called pandemic. Also yesterday, he issued new orders that start a second statewide shutdown. Most indoor activities are prohibited; no more church services, shopping mall extravaganzas, zoo visits, gym exercising, barber haircutting, restaurant eating, or bar hoping—among many other activities and the business operations providing them.

There is nothing like the art of understatement. From the LA-SD joint statement: “This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators, and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand”.

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I Wonder How Much is the Pet Rent for THAT

About a month ago, I spotted a porker outside of a cottage apartment that my wife and I briefly considered renting sometime last year. While charming, with excellent windows, and lower monthly obligation than our current place, the one-bedroom flat came up short on living space; we wanted a little more square footage, not lots less. How then is it big enough for the current residents, which I guess includes the pig?

Then there is the question of pet rent, which already is an abomination applied to cats and dogs—and it’s too common a fee here in San Diego. Consider BLVD North Park, which actually is located in University Heights: Prospective tenants pay a $400 deposit for their animals and $50 additional monthly rent for each one. The fifty, even one-hundred, is typical for places demanding the fee—and so is $500 for deposit, which may not be refundable. Landlords could as reasonably pump a pint of blood from each resident, every 14 days, for the plasma. The vampires.

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Garbage Day

Trash and recycle collection is underway throughout San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood—and, whoa, is it needed. The cans overflow like I’ve not ever seen in the nearly 13 years living here. Shouldn’t surprise with most stores closed and Californians ordered to stay at home (e.g., “shelter-in-place“). Damn the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—aka COVID-19pandemic for the catastrophe unleashed on communities, counties, and countries across the globe. As asked three weeks ago: “I Wonder Which Will Flatten First: Us or the Curve?

The Featured Image (warning: 25MB file), taken on March 31, 2020 using Leica Q2, shows what happens with some of the refuse. The pizza box is one of three stuffed in a hedge. Seriously? Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 125, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 11:16 a.m. PDT.  The companion shot, from the same camera yesterday, gives glimpse of overflowing cans that typically wouldn’t be. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 4:25 p.m.

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The 2020 US Quarter Honors Bats–Supposed Source of SARS-CoV-2

Am I delirious, or delusional, or is that a bat on the 2020 American quarter? Earlier today, I picked up three rolls from the bank, for laundry, and one of them was filled with these freshly minted surprises—and they’re freaking me out. Humanity is in the grips of a viral pandemic that started in China and supposedly jumped species—from bat to Homo sapiens. So why is there one—no, two—on this year’s 25-cent coins? Is it coincidence? Prophetic? Subliminal manipulation? For that last one, pick your X-Files conspiracy-theory protagonist: Chinese Communists, American liberals, US conservatives, President Trump, greedy capitalists, or— why not—alien invaders seeking to control us all through mind-controlling vaccines.

As I write, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—has killed 144,047 people in 185 countries and there are 2,157,108 confirmed cases. And those are considered to be relatively good numbers, compared to recent projections. Apparently, the majority of countries closing most businesses and all schools, while encouraging citizens to stay home, has dramatically slowed spread of the contagion.

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Something Stinks Here

There are the photo opportunities that you frustratingly miss, those you purposely pass on, and the ones you use for illustration—even when they’re make-do. That’s the context for our Featured Image, shot today using iPhone XS. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 69, 1/1689 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 10:05 a.m. PDT. Now comes some explanation.

In response to the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic, federal and state officials have issued orders for citizens to “shelter in place“. Most businesses considered to be non-essential are closed; schools are, too. Staying home is fine most of the time, but some healthy outdoor activity is nevertheless necessary for the Wilcox family’s well-being. Turns out that walks are considered to be safe enough—and my wife and I continue to take them, mindful to try and keep the recommended six feet away from passersby (mostly dog walkers). At 8:50 a.m. PDT, we met someone, or I should say something, that we surely wanted to keep distance from: A skunk scurrying down the Meade Ave. sidewalk approaching us.

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To Slow the Pandemic, Commerce Crumbles

Last night, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the closure of restaurants—other than take-away or delivery—across California. San Diego County issued legally-enforceable health orders, 11 in all, that impose tighter restrictions. Sizable group gatherings are prohibited, and residents are instructed to stay home. Six days after the World Health Organization (finally) declared SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—a pandemic, commerce shutters, slows, and stops.

My wife and I take cautious walks around the neighborhood, avoiding other people as we can. Today, as we approached Park Blvd from Monroe Ave., a strange sight greeted: Closed LeStat’s. The bustling coffee shop is normally open 24 hours every day of the year. We didn’t explore the remaining portion of University Height’s main street, but for sure the many bars and restaurants are dark, too.

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Affordable Housing?

Oh the lies they tell to sell. San Diego is in the midst of a so-called affordable housing crisis, for which the poorly urban-planned cure eases zoning laws to increase population density among some neighborhoods. Funny thing, circumstances convince me that developers and politicians define “affordable housing” differently than do I or other residents. Rather than lower the entry point to rent, many newer properties raise it such that by comparison the already high monthly that I, or others, pay suddenly seems more affordable. Ah, yeah.

Consider, as example, the soon-to-open Blvd North Park, which takes up the block between Alabama and Florida on El Cajon. The complex is a wonder of marketing myths—ah, lies. As you can see from the Featured Image, which shows the leasing booth and building behind, the structure is very much under construction. Yet the leasing manger told me two weeks ago that the place would open—meaning be ready for tenants—on September 1. That’s the first lie; okay, a presumed one. The second is indisputable.

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Microsoft Investors Punch Back at Apple

In May 2010, I wrote about Apple’s market cap passing top-valued Microsoft; it’s only fitting to follow up with an analysis about the unbelievable turnabout that, like the first, marks a changing of technological vanguards. Briefly today, the software and services giant nudged past the stock market’s fruit-logo darling. A few minutes after 1 p.m. EST, the pair’s respective market caps hovered in the $812 billion range, with Microsoft cresting Apple by about $300 million. By the stock market close, a rally for Apple put distance from its rival: $828.64 billion to $817.29 billion, respectively (Bloomberg says $822.9 billion, BTW). Consider this: As recently as October, Apple’s valuation touched $1.1 trillion. But since the company announced arguably record fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on November 1st, investors have punished shares, which currently are down about 21 percent.

Apple has long been a perception stock, even when under the tutelage of CEO Tim Cook company fundamentals deserved recognition. But perhaps Wall Street finally realizes the problem of iPhone accounting for too much of total revenues at a time when smartphone saturation saps sales and Apple pushes up selling prices to retain margins. More significantly: Apple has adopted a policy of fiscal corporate secrecy by stepping away from a longstanding accounting metric. I started writing news stories about the fruit-logo company in late 1999. Every earnings report, Apple disclosed number of units shipped for products contributing significantly to the bottom line. No more. Given current market dynamics, everyone should ask: What is Cook and his leadership team trying to hide? 

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My Google Store Travail

Google Store’s bureaucratic ineptitude is beyond belief. My recent, unresolved customer crisis is an experience in artificial unintelligence. For a parent company whose core competency is supposed to be indexing, crunching, and disseminating information, it’s inconceivable that something so simple as fixing a single order error could escalate into a tragically comic Catch-22. I should have abandoned all efforts long before reaching the point of penning this post and looking back to the Apple Way.

To summarize: I received the wrong Pixel phone nearly a month ago. Google Store struggled to process a return authorization, because the device in hand didn’t match the one in the order. I eventually agreed to keep the thang, so long as the retailer could transfer the extended warranty—so-called “Preferred Care”—that I had paid for. But the process proved to be complicated, then necessity, after I unexpectedly needed to file a damage claim. You’ll have to read on for the sordid punchline, but suffice to say it all ends in a comedy of compounding errors.

Problems resolved! Please see:Thank-you, Google Store

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Apple’s Top-Tier iPhone Price is a Rainy Day

Trendsetter Apple has done it again! Just when you thought there was no innovation left in the smartphone market, CEO Tim Cook delivers the wildly price-disruptive iPhone XS Max 512GB for heart-stopping $1,449. Smartphones simply don’t cost this much. What other company would stoop so low by reaching so high? This thing is a monster with its 6.5-inch (nearly) edge-to-edge display; 2688 x 1242 resolution at 458 pixels per inch (less than Google Pixel 2 XL at 2880 x 1440 and 538 ppi); and dual-SIM support (so telemarketers can ring more often on two numbers).

For anyone whose hands aren’t too small to hold the new thang, iPhone XS Max is sure to draw maximum attention, letting all the little people know just how big deal you are. Praise be Mr. Cook. Only the privileged can afford this beautiful, beastly slab, short of taking out a second mortgage or cashing in their 401K. 

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A Florist Uproots

Last night, on the NextDoor social network, I read a post about the University Heights florist moving and asking if anyone knew where. This morning, I stopped into the shop, Florabella, and asked. The 29 year-old establishment will for a time share warehouse space with a large floral distributor off of Morena Blvd. The current location is convenient and charming—inviting for walk-in sales. The temporary space is along a congested, commuting corridor.

The end of Florabella’s 24 year presence in my San Diego neighborhood is a common local retail story. At the end of May, the landlord informed the commercial tenant that the rent would triple, effective July 1st. For that month, though, the increase would be reduced to $1,000. I have heard the three-times figure often over the past 12-18 months. With a difference: The other shops closed up. The florist saunters on.