Tag: economy

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Sonic Boom of Behavioral Change

Around lunchtime today, when walking home from Von’s supermarket with cheap canned cat food, I got a hankering for a Sonic burger. We rarely eat out and the fast-food place was one of my father-in-law’s favorites. I thought to simultaneously see how the take-out experience has changed and to venture down memory lane. Surprise doesn’t enough express what I found or—stated differently—didn’t.

I stepped inside the restaurant to see chairs stacked on tables in fashion to cordon off most of the dining room. The menu screens were dark, as was the overall ambience. I could enter because roller-skating servers (e.g. carhops) exit through the same doors to deliver meals to parked vehicles. I vamoosed.

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Sale Sofa or a New Car?

Few San Diego neighborhoods can compete with Hillcrest for the financial gulf between those with means and others with little or none. People pay beaucoup bucks to live and party in what I unaffectionately call Hellcrest, where the homeless camp or roam rampant and the housed sidestep those who aren’t like someone might a piece of dog poop.

Sofa sale at one of the finer furniture boutiques had me laughing on Oct. 13, 2022. I can’t say which is funnier: The 50-percent discount or the original price—both of which you can see in the Featured Image, which I captured using Leica Q2 Monochrom through the display window. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, 28mm; 10:37 a.m. PDT.

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Pain at the Pump

If you’re wondering why another gas price photo, so am I. But the cost—a full dollar more than the Mobile Mart just three days ago—demands documenting. Today, I came upon the Shell station while walking to Petco in search of a potted plant for our cats Cali and Neko (out of stock, of course). Location: Fourth and Washington in San Diego neighborhood Hillcrest.

What can you say about seven dollars and twenty cents per gallon, unleaded? This place inched up to $7 during that last big rise (June 2022), but not higher. To think that in October 2021 $4.94 was outrageous. Now we can only wish that the price was as low.

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Oh No, Not Again

A week ago, price at the pump was 90 cents less than it is today at my local filling stations. This evening, in North Park, I passed a Chevron sign for $6.60 per gallon, regular unleaded. Oh my, what’s going on with gas going up the cost ladder again?

In the Featured Image, captured using Leica Q2, the Arco across Texas Street (at El Cajon Blvd) seemingly offers a deal for 10 cents a gallon less. But hours later, the station had matched Mobile Mart.

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The Price of Gas Rose 30 Cents Overnight!

When I drove past the local filling station late yesterday afternoon, a tanker parked and offloaded fuel. I wondered: You don’t suppose the delivery means Valero will charge more? Fleeting thoughts come, go, and never manifest into anything. But on this occasion, I was right to wonder and wish to be wrong. Gas prices had fallen recently and stabilized at $5.30 per gallon.

Ha! And I thought the 24-cent overnight increase, back in February, was a big hike.

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San Diego Housing is Beyond You

What I want to know: Who rented this University Heights home? When my wife and I passed by on Aug. 3, 2022, a “For Rent” sign welcomed interest—well, until looking at the asking price of, uh-hum, $5,450 monthly. Granted, by square feet, the place is one of the larger houses in our San Diego neighborhood. But who commits to $65,400—more than an annual salary for many locals—to rent?

Buying is no bargain. One of the, ah, affordable homes for sale nearby lists for $1.1 million. Zillow estimates a monthly mortgage payment, along with insurance and taxes, of $5,797; that’s after 20 percent down. Who can afford to buy? Answer: The fine folks at Visual Capitalist rank San Diego as the nation’s third costliest home market, with a median price of $905,000. Necessary salary: $166,828.

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A Good Reason to Work From Home

At one of the pricer area filling stations, located where Fourth and Washington meet in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, the price of gasoline approaches mountaineering heights. Grab your gear and head for the summit of cash required to fill the tank. For context, rounding to the nearest buck, customers paid $6.60 per gallon on May 27, 2022 and $4.94 on Oct. 15, 2021 at this location.

On the same day as the Featured Image, June 8, 2022, at my University Heights-located Valero, I filled up a half-tank for 30 bucks at $6.09 a gallon around Noon. Lady driving an Acura in the queue before my car paid $69 and some change. When I drove past a few hours later, posted price had jumped to $6.16.

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Yeah, But What About Diesel?

The price of gasoline is now above six bucks at my local Valero, which is one of the more affordable stations in this part of San Diego. Diesel is higher, and that’s a problem for truckers and the cost of transporting goods to retailers.

But there is another dimension that I hadn’t considered. Back home in Northern Maine, farmers are planting crops for autumn harvest. My dad reminded me that tractors and other equipment typically run on diesel. Higher costs transporting food is a bad situation, but the spike to grow food is far worse—especially if some smaller farms simply can’t afford to operate.

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The More You Pay, The More You Will Pay

Funny the things you long for. On Oct. 15, 2021, I shared a photo showing the cost of gasoline as $4.94 a gallon (rounded up) at the Fourth and University Shell station in Hillcrest. Fast forward to today and you pay $6.60 per gallon (again, rounded up). That $1.66 more than the old price—high for the time—seems oh-so affordable now. By the way, cost is 33 percent more than before.

Several large hospitals surround the station, and I got to ask: Is this why medical services—like ambulance—cost so much in San Diego? Yeah, the question is facetious. That said, unless the arm is severed and shooting blood, wrap a tourniquet and drive yourself to Emergency—and hope none of the doctors and nurses treating you filled up at this Shell. Somebody has to pay, and that could be you. Yuck. Yuck.

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We All Need a Smiley Break

Flashback two years, to May 2, 2020: SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns compelled Californians to avoid anyone and to otherwise practice so-called safe social distancing. The seeming hardship would pale compared to racial riots that would erupt weeks later.

One of my neighbors literally put on a happy face—among several encouraging, or funny, street decorations to adorn this University Heights property and/or the sidewalk straddling Meade Avenue. Seems like every time I walked by something different greeted. Thank you.

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The Angry Birds

Somebody is unhappy about all the talk that avian flu will lead to poultry shortages in the worst scenario and soaring selling prices in the better one. Look at those grim faces dominating the Featured Image captured on April 14, 2022 using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, 28mm; 10:39 a.m. PDT.

You can panic, and be sure smug prognosticators of doom are correct, when Costco rotisserie chicken sells for more than the long stable $4.99—or simply is unavailable.

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Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble

The current housing bubble—and there absolutely is one—bears only modest resemblance to the previous catastrophe, which I warned about in a lengthy August 2005 analysis. Rising mortgage rates already are deflating the 2020’s-decade bubble, but the pop is unavoidable without fundamental changes in the actual market or the myths used to explain existing dynamics.

Since before anyone heard of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19, which economic and societal disruption super-inflated the housing bubble, I had warned about a dangerous trend that ignores common sense observation of national demographics: Among the two largest segments, Baby Boomers are dying off and Millennials aren’t having many kids. As population growth stalls, there will be less demand for housing because there will be fewer people to buy. Meaning: All the babbling about not enough inventory has set into motion an overbuilding frenzy that is sure to deflate home values in the not-so-distant future. Before pandemic lockdowns, I had thought within 10 years. I now expect less than five—if we’re lucky.