Current Events

Boehner must live in the Sunniest part of OhioDuring President Obama‘s SOTU address he touched on something about making it easier for people to refinance their mortgages at the current bargain basement prices and today I’ve seen two or three articles about it.

I haven’t researched it (at all) but I’m assuming that this is some kind of after-the-fact reactionary federal government proposed “solution” to the housing crisis of the past few years, you know, an attempt to quell the number of foreclosures that dot the landscape.

But that’s where I lose the connection.

Refinancing at a lower rate (at best, 3 or 4 percent lower which, technically speaking, is nothing) doesn’t solve the foreclosure problem.

For instance, my newest neighbor moved in back in 2006 and paid around $275k for their home.

In general terms, it’s pretty much the same house as mine except that I only paid $141k for mine in 2002.

Following the housing “slump” our homes are currently only worth around $200k.

It’s not rocket science to come to the conclusion that my neighbors are underwater (they owe more than the house is worth) and are likely prime candidates to “walk away”.

The re-finance “solution” won’t ease their pain.

It’s not the interest rate on their mortgage to blame — it’s that they paid too much for their house.

So what’s the point of this government proposal again?

To make it easier for people who can’t afford homes in the first place…again?

It’s too soon for history to repeat itself.

This blog apparently is repeating itself…

Back in 2008 I asked, Are Home Values Important to the Economy?. That post was along the exact same line.

It was a better read, though…

I’ve lost my touch.

No, really…

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Full Disclosure: I freely admit that I benefited from the easy and available money back when I purchased my home with a tiny tiny tiny down payment.

Yes, mortgages were easy to come by and I’m fortunate enough to have rolled the dice, made a “wise” investment with the money loaned to me, and come out the other side a winner with a low rate, a low monthly payment, and a house worth more than double what I still owe.

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As a professional photographer, it’s sad to see Kodak’s coffin apparently on the verge of being nailed shut permanently.

They filed for bankruptcy protection today and if memory serves me correctly, this has been a bit of a recurring occasion for them over the past few years.

I think at one point they even demolished a number of their buildings on their historic campus in Rochester, New York simply to save some money on property taxes. You know you’re in rough financial shape when the situation is so dire that things like that begin to appear as solutions.

Though I rarely used Kodak film during my days of shooting with a film camera (in favor of, im my opinion, the far-superior FujiFilm) and haven’t even considered purchasing a roll of film since my switch to digital over a decade ago, I still use the phrase “Kodak moment” from time to time.

It’s going to become outdated quick — if it hasn’t already — like saying something like “Tommy Gun” or “Chicago Typewriter”.

My uncle says stuff like that and had I not sat and watched Geraldo’s anticlimactic primetime opening of Al Capone’s vault, well, I’m not sure I’d even know what a tommy gun is.

Obviously it’s a gun, duh, but for those that are completely lost, a tommy gun was the drive-by shooting weapon of choice from 1920 through, hmmmm, probably the mid-1940’s. Simply put, it’s an old school machine gun.

Anyway, back to the present, at less than 50 cents per share now, I almost want a piece of Kodak just to say I had it. Maybe even frame it and put it on the wall.

Do they even issue paper stock certificates anymore?

Probably not.

That’s too bad.

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iPhoneIt was all over the news today — about how seniors are 47 times wealthier than they’re under-35 counterparts.

Statistics can be tricky.

And they can easily be groomed and spun to suit whatever you want them to.

That said, I think the disparity may have something to do with the under-35 crowd spending over $1000 on new cell phones and their associated “plans” every year.

Just something to think about before you pick up the next i-whatever from Apple.

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I wish I could claim that my lack of posting were due the to widepsread power outages here in Connecticut but that’d be a half-truth.

Halloween Obstacles

Anyway, after four freezing nights without power or heat and a pseduo gas crisis (gas stations can’t pump gas without power…), I almost miss the expectation of spending another cold night with the entire family huddled into one dark (and cold) room now that the power is back on and I’m 12 inches from two flat screen monitors with iTunes blaring out some random rock hits from the early 1990’s.

There are a lot of irate local politicians here calling for the power company’s head. Earlier in the week, 87% of Connecticut was dark. Halloween was even cancelled.

We’re talking totally dark.

No traffic lights. None. Not even blinking yellow or red. They were off.

Just think about how crazy that’d make the roads? For nearly a week?

On top of it, the temperatures were dipping into the 20’s at night.

In my house, we could see our breathe. Yeah, it was cold.

So the politicians might have a point. Sorta.

But my PIAC persona was thinking about things differently.

Electricity is a bargain!!!

My average electric bill is around $150 per month. That’s five bucks per day.

Our utility provider is routinely criticized for having some of the highest rates in the country. I don’t know that this is a fact — perhaps just something that an angry politician is throwing out there just before election day next Tuesday — but I do know that I’d have gladly paid $5 for just one working outlet for a few hours as my family froze each night.

Yeah, electricity for my entire house is just $5 per day.

I’m not going to bash Connecticut Light & Power for offering such a great deal.

It’s a miracle that electricity is so cheap.

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Why not, right?

My unwritten debt ceiling was the $100k mark (in 2009) and since my latest round of credit card expenditures have all but shattered that, well, I’ve been fretting.

Not to the point that it’s kept me up at night but, well, let’s just say it’s often at the forefront of my thoughts.

To alleviate the issue, I’d been debating raising my unwritten debt ceiling to $125k to, I dunno, fake myself out.

But I’m not that stupid. That idea was obviously nothing more than a thinly veiled cop out.

So now I’m going to follow the US Government’s lead and just drop the whole idea entirely.

What, me worry?

Spend, spend, spend!!!

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I’m going to ignore the Brisk Iced Tea commercial for the time being but what was Chrysler thinking?

I got the message of the commercial — yeah, yeah, Detroit is making a comeback and Chrysler is trying to market themselves as edgier or something by using a local celebrity in a wicked long commercial.

On paper, or in a brainstorming marketing meeting, that sounds like a pretty good commericial, I’ll admit.

But then you choose Eminem to star?

What, was the scummy Kid Rock unavailable?

Now I know that Emimem has a pretty big fan base but his fan base would only make up a tiny sliver of the total Super Bowl audience — most of which would have tuned out long before the commercial aired anyway…

To the masses, Eminem is the guy who can’t get a full sentence out without using profanity, beat his girlfriend/wife, and on top of that, he hates his mom too.

Would you want someone like that as your spokesman for a 12-million dollar plus spot during the Super Bowl?

The vast majority is who Chrysler should be marketing towards…but they chose not to.

I won’t be buying a Chrysler. I probably won’t be buying anything out of Detroit — actually.

Seriously, though, most of the cars are made across the river in Canada anyway. “Imported” from Detroit is right…

Justin Bieber might have been a more appropriate spokesman… and, last time I checked, he still lives with his mom.

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This post was requested by Angie — and I love requests!

We had a hard time this past Halloween.

See, we had a costume in mind, one that we’d had in the closet since before Duncan was even born and we thought this would be the the year that it’d fit him.

Well, we were wrong — but only realized it days before Halloween.

So a last minute trip to a childrens consignment store resulted in this $6 penguin suit.

At first we were a little worried he wouldn’t wear it since he’s never been too keen on wearing things on his head (dating back to that great hat/headdress last Thanksgiving) but once we got it on him (I can confirm that there was some screaming involved) he went into a pseudo show-off mode.

Never’d seen him do that before.

We did some trick-or-treating which I’m pretty sure he found confusing but he most certainly enjoyed being allowed to walk around at night while the assorted princesses and power rangers cooed over his costume (or the goofy walk he does when he’s showing off) and pick up sticks.

Yep, he acquired more sticks than chocolate.

Better than Charlie Brown’s rocks, I suppose…

In other “family” news, we’re slated to add Duncan 2 sometime in early April.

Here’s one of those creepy looking 4D ultrasounds of the little guy.

(Seriously — that’s creepy, right?)

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Amy ToyenToday is September 11th.

In some ways, I’m kind of glad that the “hype” that’s surrounded the date for the last few years has finally subsided. I mean, is it really necessary to commemorate every single anniversary? I think that sort of thing had gone a little too far in the United States. Everyday on the calendar is an anniversary of something — but does it have to be mentioned every year? I don’t think so.

Now I know, there are people out there that claim 9/11 is different and that its so we “never forget”. Well, I’m not sure anyone in the western world over the age of 15 will ever forget anyway. I know I haven’t forgotten.

I actually knew someone in the World Trade Center that day.

These days it seems most people claim that they knew someone who died on September 11th, so as to feel connected to the event (which, quite honestly, why would anyone want to have a connection?), but I think a lot are just blowing a lot of hot air to get attention or something. That’s sad.

I went to high school with Amy Toyen. I can’t claim that we were close. In fact, I’d have to say that I knew her older sister even better than her, but she knew my name, I knew hers, and we occasionally sat next to each other on the bus to track meets.

She was the “manager” of the track team in high school — a position she took over when her older sister Heather graduated.

What exactly does a “manager” do for the boys track team you ask?

Well, if you tracked down all of the members of the boys track team from her years in high school, I’d bet every single member would remember vividly that she was the girl who brought blow pops for all of us to eat on the bus ride home.

It sounds silly, but that’s just the type of person she was. For some of us, the blow pop on the bus rides home was one of the perks of being on the track team. Actually, when compared to running up hills repeatedly until you couldn’t feel your legs, I’d say it was the only perk. And it was because of Amy.

In addition to being the ever-popular supplier of lollipops, at home track meets, she maintained the score book — that’s where all of the competitors times, distances, and heights are recorded. Scoring a track meet is rather confusing when you get right down to it — but she was second to none.

Sometimes it was like she had the school’s all-time record book at her fingertips too — always handy when striving to break a 20 year old mile time.

In high school, I was a distance runner. I often ran 4-5 events per meet, but when the competition was stiff, the coach had me run my two best events — the long ones.

The first event of a meet was the 5000 meter. The second to last event was the 3200 meter. Looking back, it was probably set up that way so that we distance runners had time to rest between the two longest events.

Basically, I’d have about 2 hours to kill between my two events. More often than not, I’d spend most of that time leaning over the counter into the “tower” shooting the breeze with Amy…

“Hey, what was my time last week?”

“Amy, do you have a pair of pliers? My spike wrench snapped…”

“What time to I have to hit to qualify for the State Open?”

“That kid over there from Tolland — can you see what he ran last year? I don’t recognize him…”

“Any chance I could get a blow pop now? Please? Pretty please?”

She always had the “right” answer to each and every inquiry.

When the news circulated that she’d been in the building, and it was confirmed when I saw her name go by on a ticker on television a few days later, I’m not sure that I was mad. Or even angry. My stomach was in a knot — I was shocked. And I was sad. Sad for her family and those who knew her, and yes, even those of us on the track team. She was one of the few ‘genuine’ people in our high school full of ‘entitled’ snobs.

They erected a statue of her at the local library where we grew up. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never actually gone to visit even though I’ve driven by numerous times over the years.

I’ve seen pictures though and, for me, it didn’t do her justice. I prefer to remember her for her huge smile, her freckles, her oversized glasses, and with an extended arm holding out a blow pop. And that’s probably why I’ve never stopped by to see the statue.

I’m going to go out and buy a bag of blow pops today.

(Re-post from September 11, 2007)

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