Thursday, March 27, 2008

He's Famous!

My good friend the T-Rapper worked on the operation on the front page of CNN! Kudos, T-Rapper!

Welcome to Subprime Hell!


Executive summary: single mom formerly making $70K/year loses job, forced to get food stamps.

Particularly disturbing: "She has had to take extreme measures to pay for her interest-only mortgage of $2,500 a month. "

Interest-only loan of $2500 per month is $30,000 per year?! Even at 10% interest (which is almost impossibly high), that's a THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR HOUSE. For a single mom making $70K per year! How does that happen?

I used to think that "predatory lending" was BS. I've changed my mind.

Note that I still hold the buyer accountable as well for for doing something so heinously irresponsible, but a buyer shouldn't even have that option!

Is the recession going to get worse? My guess is yes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is a "Stealership"?

Today I read an interesting article about a guy who went undercover as a car salesman to learn the ins and outs of how everything works in that business. I was originally guided to that article by one of my favorite car forums, where people were discussing what it's like to be a car salesman. People commonly refer to dealerships as "stealerships" and I can see where they are coming from in some aspects, but I think that usually the terminology is BS.

First, examples where "stealership" actually applies: 1. You agree on a price and the transaction is seemingly finished, then you find out the dealership wants to charge you $800 in "document fees." Some dealers charge $50, some charge $100, others charge more. Those that have outrageous document fees they they are "helpless" to decrease are probably just trying to fleece you after you've spend hours arranging a deal. 2. They steal your time. My wife and I went to a dealer once for a transaction that was very cut and dry; I qualified for what is know as a "Supplier Discount" at a Chevy dealer and went in to find out what the price would be on a particular car. The salesman left us waiting for more than 15 minutes before returning and requesting that I sign something saying that if I was satisfied with the "mystery price" which could only be accessed via one "special computer" that I'd commit to buying the car. And note that this dealer didn't even have a car I wanted.

Clearly such practices are bad the dealers lose a lot of goodwill when they screw around with people with hidden fees and time-wasting. However, I always chuckle to myself regarding price. Is there really such a thing as "overpaying" for a car? If a car's MSRP is $25K, but deals can be found for $21K on the internet for out-of-town dealerships, if someone actually pays $25K, did they get fleeced? In my opinion the answer is no. Lack of knowledge of market conditions might have led to a transaction where a buyer gave a seller more money than was necessary to close a deal, but at the end of the day the buyer was the one willing to pay $25K for the car, because they valued the car at that amount. As a different example, there are plenty of limited edition cars out there which sell for vast markups. Of course, people complain about said markups but then when they want a car that's incredibly common they want to pay less than invoice. A dealer must make a profit of some sort to make a profit.

Make no mistake, though, I pretty much hate going to dealerships for reasons 1. and 2. I listed above. In a couple years, I'll be looking into a Toyota Sequoia for the family (if we can afford it, if gas isn't $10/gallon), and hopefully by that time, for a car that seems relatively common, it'll be straightforward to arrange a deal with a dealership over e-mail so that the transaction is as smooth as possible. One of my friends recently purchased a car, and after initially hearing "we can't go lower than $500 off MSRP" from a dealer his family had bought many cars from, when he knew that such cars were commonly going for $4K under all over the country, he simply took his business online, where he found another dealer a few miles away that happily arranged a deal with no hassle. Ah, the wonders of technology.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

T.I. Given Date with Jesus.


Is this news? I keep rubbing my eyes, wondering if I really just read a link on the front page of CNN about an entertainer, under house arrest for trying to buy an army's worth of machine guns, who is given permission to go to church.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Daylight Savings Time has been messing with me since it popped up last weekend. On Monday and Tuesday I had an extremely hard time getting up, in fact, the net result was that I got up at the same time as always, and it happened to be an hour later with DST. On Wednesday, my wife and I drove to San Antonio to attend a funeral, thus on Wednesday morning I legitimately had to get up early. Thursday and Friday were a sort of semi-awake-semi-zombie state at the midpoint of the old and new waking times, thus it makes logical sense (yet no sense) that today, on the first weekend day, I woke up at my typical 7:00 a.m. It's still dark outside, though, and it seems like I should still be sleeping. It's not going to happen, though, since once I feel fully awake, that's all there is to it, and there's no stopping the awake-train.

At least I don't have to worry about the rest of the family sleeping in, which they do with pleasure. Miles has learned a new trick over the past 6 months or so: since I'm almost always the first to get up, and depending on what time it is, Miles may or may not be in the mood to get up as well. These days, whether he's in the mood to get up with me or not, when I'm about to head out the door to go to work, he looks at me from the hallway with the stare of "YES! Mommy cuddle time!" He runs into the bedroom and hops into bed with my wife and they sleep like hibernating bears for a couple more hours. Lately, he's become brash enough to attempt this feat even earlier, i.e., as soon as I step outside the bedroom, i.e., right now. Miles likes to sleep later for DST as well.

And here's a picture of when he was a puppy just for the hell of it, since he's so ridiculously cute:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Health Care.

I found this story interesting. On one hand, Ritter's doctors were cleared of charges. On the other, we have this:

"Eight other medical personnel and the hospital have settled lawsuits. Ritter's widow and his four children received $14 million from those cases."

I'm guessing that eight other medical personnel and the hospital thought they were innocent of charges as well, but settled because it would have been more expensive to go through trial by jury. So there goes another $14M down the drain.

It's a shame when someone passes away, but it's unfortunate to read about cases like this. It's no mystery why health care in this country costs so much.

Friday, March 07, 2008

LOST: The Highs, the Lows

After last week's Desmond-centric time-travel-fest I was blown away and craving more. Last night was either somewhat of a let-down or just couldn't follow behind what may have been one of the best episodes of LOST I've seen in a while. So Juliette is owned by Ben - that a real revelation? The real kicker was the kiss between Juliette and Jack, to which my wife and I both said, "oh, come ON!" Needless to say, we aren't a big fan of LOST's love-lines.

Here's hoping we pick up on the madness next week...