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Friday, February 20, 2009

Mortgage Is as Mortgage Does

Clive Crook examines Obama's housing plan and finds this:
The administration says that its scheme does not reward people who recklessly borrowed too much. This is untrue: the plan will certainly help some people who borrowed more than they should have. No doubt, it would be fairer to help only borrowers whose standard repayments (after teaser rates expired) were no more than say 30 percent of gross income to begin with, and/or who borrowed less than 80% of their property's initial value--in other words, to help only borrowers who behaved prudently, and who are now in trouble because their income has fallen. But of course this would have meant many more defaults. Because foreclosures also hurt innocent bystanders, there is a public interest in limiting them.
A couple things worth mentioning.

The part I bolded, "borrowers who behaved prudently," may be a little too narrowly defined here, especially considering my situation. I borrowed, oh, about 99% of my home's value. Perhaps that initial decision may not be judged "prudent" on paper, and I have at times regretted it, but it would be unfair to call it reckless.

I bought a house I could afford: small, old, a low-income home in a low-income neighborhood. (As a guy with a decent income, I could have insisted on a more modern, decent-income type home...but if I had, I probably couldn't write this boast post.)

I was also able to secure a fixed (low) rate loan, so I don't have to worry about resets or any of that stuff.

Not only that, but I have been routinely, persistently, insistently making extra payments towards my principle. My debt-to-income ratio is where it should be. I'm within a hair's breadth of being close to that 80% initial value number.

Mortgage wise, I'm alright.

But that brings me to this:
"...of course this would have meant many more defaults. Because foreclosures also hurt innocent bystanders, there is a public interest in limiting them."
And that, my friends, is the sad truth of the matter. I may be alright, but I am not an island adrift in my own private utopia of self-reliance and discipline.

We're all affected by the actions of those around me, as I found out when my next door neighbor off-loaded her house on the cheap and erased twenty grand of my property value. (It was all on paper, though, part of the bubble, and since I'm not looking to sell the house for a while, it just means I pay fewer taxes.)

It's like dominoes...wait, have you heard this one before? Okay, then. I guess I don't have to go into that interconnectedness of the world thing then.

Road Tripping

Joel Johnson of Boing Boing is driving cross country and posted this map of his route, wisely with the caption "This route mutable."
It's fine, I guess, but as you can see it too avoids the whole Kansas City to Denver route.

And while driving through Nebraska is more entertaining than driving through Kansas, with it's flat nothingness and "God hates abortion" road signs, skipping Denver is just folly.

He could just follow I-70 all the way through, and if he still wants to cut up through Wyoming, I-25 will take him to Cheyenne in a little over an hour.

Otherwise that stretch from Kansas City to Salt Lake City is going to be nothing but truck stops and fast food joints, which could get a little monotonous.

Incidentally, I've been thinking of my own "cross-country" trip, probably still a few years out. (And now more feasible with a drivers license!) Only instead of east to west or west to east, I'd go north to south...or south to north, retracing the blues highway from New Orleans to Chicago, stopping at all the sites along the way.

The Mississippi Delta, Clarksdale, Memphis, Graceland, Beale Street, riverboat casinos, St. Louis, the Cahokia mounds, all of it. The little towns, the big cities, the river, just take it all in slowly, a pilgrimage of sorts. It'll be grand.

Gibbs V. Santelli

This:

Is a pretty good response to this:

Return to Base

So when I got up this morning (evening), I was dismayed to discover that it had begun snowing. My first thought was, "This is gonna put a crimp on my plan to hang some gutters this weekend."

My next thought was, "Oh, the drive to work is gonna be fun tonight!"

But the truth is...I didn't make it. I got on the highway and before I hit my first bridge, a truck maybe twenty yards in front of me spun the fuck out.

And when you see a truck spinning uncontrollably across two lanes of traffic right in front of you, well...it's almost enough to make you wet your pants.

Luckily, Friday nights we have double-coverage on the night shift, so I called my counterpart and told him that he was on his own tonight. The RTB order had been placed.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the gutter situation.

Ghetto Gutters

I've needed new rain gutters pretty much since I bought my house back in 03. Last spring I got a couple estimates, a thousand bucks being the average consensus, but I didn't pull the trigger, putting it off till bonus/tax time.

And here we are, bonus/tax time...but I decided to do it myself. Cost being one factor, another being that I can do more than just replace the gutters. For instance, take a look at this half-on/half-off pic.

On the right side, you can see where I've removed the old gutter. On the left side, you can see the sorry state of the gutters, and actually this is one the "better" sections. There are stretches that are cracked completely, basically nothing but rust and peeling paint. Taking a closer look, you can see the boards underneath are rotted out at the corners. Those will have to be replaced.

I was quite surprised to find the strip of unpainted wood underneath, too. It's as if these were the original 1949 vintage gutters. That, of course, will be scraped and repainted.

You wanna see how bad it was? Take a look at this. It's embarrassing!

So that's what I'll be doing this weekend. What about you?

Random Friday Ten - Eilza Kushdu Edition

1) It Hurts Me Too - Elmore James
2) Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun - Anthrax (Beastie Boys cover)
3) Wonder Why - Lightning Hopkins
4) Trampled Underfoot - Led Zeppelin
5) So Fine - Guns N Roses
6) Live For This - Hatebreed
7) Just One Fix - Ministry
8) Cold - Evan's Blue
9) Drink to the Dead - Clutch
10) Star 69 (PS With Love) - Common




These lines from Elmore James's "It Hurts Me Too" go out to a friend of mine. Lost her job, her boyfriend, and her internet access.

You love him more
When you should love him less
Why lick up behind him
And take his mess
But when things go wrong
Go wrong with you
It hurts me too

Size Does Matter

Hey, Jim, next time you want to complain about the size of the stimulus package, just remember this:
"It’s not intended to be a cost-effective way of juicing the economy. It’s intended to juice the economy by costing a lot of money."
Now whether it will do what it's intended to do is an open question...

My Eliza Doolittle

If I were Pygmalion, the woman I'd make for myself would look a lot like Eliza Dushku.

Vibrating Touch

Note to self: When I get home, I need to go to www.vibratingtouch.com so I can see what this is all about. I'm pretty sure it's NSFW because 1) it's made by Trojan and 2) all signs indicate that it's a device used for clitoral stimulation.

I guess I just want to see the demo video.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Very Expensive Shrug From Mike Rosen

I don't listen to talk radio, but I'm peripherally aware of Mike Rosen, a conservative talk show host. He's been in the news lately, not for saying something outrageous or anything, but for being the victim of a multi-million dollar fraud.

The lede in the Rocky Mountain News:
Denver talk-show host Mike Rosen revealed he has likely lost a significant chunk of his retirement money after entrusting a seven-figure sum to a local investment firm he has promoted on the air.
Not only did Mike Rosen lose a lot of money in this scam, he unknowingly encouraged other people to expose themselves to fraud.

A lighter wallet and egg on his face. I'd feel bad for the guy, except his response --an ideological shrug-- kills me!

Check it:
Rosen began investing with Agile about a decade ago after speaking at the firm's annual meeting. He said he wanted an alternative to stocks, and Agile offered a strategy designed to limit risk and protect principal.

For years, Agile delivered, producing steady, if not stellar, gains, Rosen said.

Soon he started promoting Agile, like dozens of other brands, in advertisements during his three-hour show.

"Of course I feel bad," he said. "But these are investments, and you know there is always risk in that."
You know, Mike, I'm a nobody and a liberal, but let me put this as clear as I can:

You did not "lose" a million bucks in some "risky investments." If you did, I can understand how you would "feel bad."

You were "defrauded" out of your million bucks in a "Ponzi scheme." Which is why I don't understand why you're not pissed.

I Am Nobody

I have it on good authority --a 21 year old Cher fan with a Myspace page-- that I am, in fact, a nobody.

Ack! I've been found out! I trust my loyal readers not to tell anyone. That would seriously damage my reputation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Northwest Began Serving Penis...

And Georgia is the top penis producing state in the country...

Just Saying

I don't care what Obama does for ailing homeowners, I'm not going to stop paying my mortgage.

Everyone else better keep paying too...

Riffing on Cher

I don't know why I clicked this item about Cher, but I did. I mean, I'm cool with Cher.

But this...Jesus H. Christ, come down off your cross, Half Breed.
AP: What do you do when you're not working on your music?

Cher: I have a school in Africa. I just got back from Kathmandu (Nepal) and I'm working with some Tibet children there, and I just got back from (the Los Angeles) city hall ... to try and save the life of this elephant Billy in the L.A. zoo. I just don't want this elephant to die ... he has so much anxiety. He's been alone there forever. ... Elephants should not be in zoos. Elephants don't live in zoos, they die in zoos.
Cher, baby, I get that you're a wealthy celebrity trying to do good things in the world, but come down from the clouds, dear.

A school in Africa is cool, but like...what do you do there? Teach music? No...drama class. Maybe you just write checks to...whoever and show up once in a while for a picture and to look at all the smart little kids of Africa. And you're in Nepal "working with some Tibet children?"

What does that even mean? Are you making soccer balls, right there on the assembly line next to Ram and Raja? What are you doing to these poor Tibetan kids way the fuck out in Kathmandu, Cher?

And Billy the elephant? C'mon? Really? What are you going to do with Billy, Cher? I mean seriously. What are you gonna do? Set him free on the Savannah, hope he finds a herd? Or maybe you can keep him, let him roam your back yard. You can lay on his back and he can comb your hair with his trunk. It'll be beautiful.

Of course, there is a caveat. I'm not sure how to say this, honey, so I'll just come right out and blurt it out. Cher, baby. Elephants don't just die in zoos. They die everywhere.

But as long as people like you love them, and the people who go to zoos love them, elephants will never die out.

So instead of prancing around City Hall, get your ass down to the zoo and take a picture with Billy. Bring all the kids, a nice field trip for them from Africa and Nepal.

"See, children? This is America. We have elephants here."

The kids yawn. They have elephants, too. They have so many elephants they just run wild, packs of em, holding each other's tales.

One kid raises his hand. "Are there schools in America?" he asks.

Cher shrugs back her wig. "What do I know, honey? I've been in Kathmandu this whole time."

The DMV - WTF?

So that was an ordeal and a half...

My appointment was for 9:00. I decided to go close to home and made it with the Aurora office, figuring, hey, it's an appointment. No lines! I don't have to go out to Whiteyville again.

Wrong.

9:15 I'm waiting by my truck, thinking WTF? I did what I was supposed to. Got my permit, my insurance info, my registration. I called the day before and scheduled the appointment. I showed up thirty minutes early as was recommended.

And it's 9:15. Where are you?

Finally, I went inside and asked the dude, WTF? He shrugs. Refers me to the manager. So I ask her, WTF? She shrugs. I ask for my permit back.

Fuck this. I'll sit on hold and make another appointment for another day...in Parker. Seems like a delay, but I'd probably be saving time in the long run.

But they tell me I'm next. So I take a few deep breaths and go back outside to wait. I smoke a cigarette, pace. The clock ticks. A minute, two.

Finally a guy that looks like Wood Harris comes out and I'm too pissed to ask him, "Hey, anyone ever tell you that you look like Wood Harris?"

This guy is a zen master, though, and he calmly goes through his schtick. I take him out for a little ride in the neighborhood, keeping my hands at 10 and 2, using all the mirrors, looking over my shoulder.

When I was a kid, I flunked my first driving test. The second time I took the test, I got a 60. The guy looked at me over his glasses and said, "Do you know the minimum score you need in order to pass?" I didn't. "A 60," he said.

This time I passed with no problem.

They told me to go sit down. They arranged things a bit differently this time. No numbers. Just a line, and it snaked around the room.

The chairs, those were for us waiters. I waited.

They called my name, asked a few questions, my address, my date of birth, brown, brown, six foot, 230 pounds. (Well, 230ish...) Then they told me to go sit down again.

Again I waited. I looked over at the line and this lady's boob was hanging out of her shirt. She didn't notice, and I tried not to look too much. No nipple, but with one arch of her back that thing was going to pop out and fly across the room. I waited some more.

They called me up again, took my check and told me to go sit down again. Again I waited for them to call my name. Boob lady must have felt a draft because she zipped up her hoodie.

This was the shortest wait, and this time they took my picture. I tried to smile. They gave me a piece of paper --the real thing will come in the mail-- and told me to leave.

Actually, they didn't need to tell me to leave. It was a quarter after ten and I wanted to get out of there anyway.

And I drove off a perfectly legal driver in Colorado, or any other state of the union for that matter, so Happy Birthday, Mom. Your boy is really goin' places now.

Fun With the DMV

This morning I'll be getting my drivers license. If I pass the test, that is. (I'm pretty good at tests, so I'm confident of my success.)

Last week, I went to the drivers license center down in Whiteyville, also known as Parker, a large bedroom community located in Douglas County, southeast of Denver proper.

After my disastrous outing at the Aurora office, I was reluctant to return.

Thankfully my experience in Whiteyville was quite different. I walked in, sidled up to the counter, told them I needed to take the written test. They gave me my number and before I could even look at it, the lady said, "And it looks you're next."

Next I was. Within a half hour, I had taken the test, had my picture taken, paid the fee, and walked out with a driving permit.

What that tells me is that the problems at the DMV are NOT institutional. They're all part of the same state agency, so it's not a city or county issue, so how can you account for the service discrepancies?

In Aurora, a visit to the DMV is a literal waste of time. You'll sit there for hours, accomplishing nothing, and if you are lucky enough to have your number called, you'll be dealing with incompetent people who could really care less.

In Parker, a visit to the DMV is a minor inconvenience. You walk in, wait a few minutes, are helped by competent folks who are both helpful and efficient, and a reasonable time later, you're back to your life.

Both offices operate under the same umbrella using the same basic processes. Only one does it well, and the other...well, sucks ass. That tells me it's a management issue.

The bosses at the Parker office probably emphasize customer service. Be quick, courteous, and efficient. Work as a team. We've got a job to do, so let's get it done.

The bosses at Aurora emphasize...well, something else apparently. Taking your lunch on time or something, I guess.

Illusions of Grandeur

I'm watching an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in which our heroes, and villains, are in a small Mexican town.

Then it dawned on me: I've been to that town.

It's on the Universal backlot.

Updated: Doh! No, it's not. It's on the Warner Bros. backlot, and I haven't been there. These backlot Mexican villages. They all look the same.

Attack of the Killer Chimp

This might make me a bad person, but when I read about this, I just started cracking up. I mean, eye-watering laughter. I think a my side split actually.

The lede:
The owner of a 200-pound chimpanzee that mauled a woman in Connecticut begged police to shoot the animal, crying that her beloved pet was ripping her friend apart.
Oh, where to start?

Probably with the 911 call.
The chimp can be heard at times on the tape, as Herold cries, "He's killing my friend!"

The dispatcher says, "Who's killing your friend?"

Herold replies, "My chimpanzee! He ripped her apart! Shoot him, shoot him!"
This is why I could never be a 911 dispatcher. If my question was "Who's killing your friend?" and the answer is "My chimpanzee!" my response is uncontrollable laughter.

And the story just gets better. This was quite the pampered chimp.
A veteran of TV commercials, Travis was the constant companion of Herold, a Connecticut widow who fed him steak, lobster and ice cream. He could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.

He brushed his teeth with a Water Pik, logged on to a computer to look at photos and channel-surfed television with the remote control.

But on Monday, the wild animal in him came out with a vengeance.
The pampered chimp revolts, shrieking "I ain't gonna eat this steak and lobster no more!"

Oh, and did I mention that silly monkey was on Xanax? Well, he was.

Doh!

I was just joking the other day when I said "Aerosmith called and they want their song back," but apparently it's true.

I know, I know. Copyrights suck.

Sarah Connor Chronicles

I don't feel comfortable saying this out loud, but I'm really digging this Terminator show. I admit much of its appeal is the sexiness of its female leads, Lena Headey in full-on MILF mode and Summer Glau as a bad-ass RILF Terminator, but there are other elements that I have come to admire.

The most surprising? Brian Austin Green.

During his 90210 days, I would have written him off as a no-talent pretty face. But watching his performance in the Sarah Connor Chronicles, I have to drastically reconsider my assessment.

Dude actually has some chops! His Kyle Reese character has a depth that a no-talent pretty boy could not even scratch, but Brian Austin Green nails it perfectly. Color me impressed.

Just Saying

It continues to amaze amuse me to hear people who haven't bothered to read the stimulus bill, or even familiarize themselves with the details in bullet point form, insist that "there's too much pork in the bill."

I'm not saying you're wrong, Jimmy. I'm just saying, "How the fuck do you know?"

Also, did the definition of "pork" change? I was under the impression that it referred to a particularly odious form of federal spending --the dreaded earmarks-- wherein a politician muscles through a sweetheart deal that benefits his or her district and his or her district only, say...the bridge to nowhere or that rain forest in Iowa.

I'm looking at the bullet points of the stimulus bill right now and while I see some massive price tags ($27.5 billion for highways!) I don't see very many of these sweethearts deals. I wish I did, that way I wouldn't have to ask, "So where's all this pork?"

After all, one may quibble whether spending $20 billion on food stamps is a good idea, but one cannot in all fairness call that pork. At least not without changing the commonly held definition of pork. (If that kind of spending is "pork" then all spending is pork, which I believe is the Republican party platform now anyway...well, except for defense spending, I guess. In the Republican alternate reality, defense spending is never pork.)

At any rate, this is what I think is going on: The GOP leadership (Boehner, Cantor, McConnell) and their ideological allies (Limbaugh, Hannity, etc) are repeatedly saying "There's too much pork" in the bill, knowing that

A) Their constituents won't bother to check and will repeat the "There's too much pork" idea like the dutiful little stooges they are

or

B) Their constituents will actually read the bill, see all the non-pork barrel spending in it, and call it "pork" anyway.

You literally can't argue against that. Once you get past the ignorance, you still have to confront the full-frontal intellectual dishonesty.

When it comes to the right wing in America, I guess that's just par for the course.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Aerosmith Called

And they want their song back.

The preceding was an actual video from Eric Cantor, House Minority Whip, bragging, yes, bragging that he and his Republican cronies in the House failed to stop the "porkulus" bill.

You know, the one that passed the House, Senate, and will be signed into law (in Denver for some reason) tomorrow. (Which reminds me... WTF, Barry, you can sign the bill here, but you can't throw any high speed rail in this direction? Not cool, man. Not cool at all.)