Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Turning a frown upside down.

When you own a house - you get pretty used to playing "what's that sound". You play it all the time. Usually it's the sound of running water where there shouldn't be any. Things go a little like this.

Me - why does it sound like water is running?

Mr S. - I don't know.

Me - There is nothing on in the house.

This begins me running around the house to find the source. Once something broke in our garage and it was flooding the whole thing. If we hadn't have been home at the time I can't imagine the water bill I would have gotten. Water was cascading down our driveway. I hope one of the neighbors would have taken upon themselves to shut it off at the curb. But you never know.

Anyway. When you have a house - this also means you have a house full of electronics. You are always playing "what's that sound". They have all sorts of unique sounds these days. Like our juicebox actually talks to you.

"What's that sound" can often turn into what's that smell. Which is what happened last night right before we went to bed.

Me - does it smell chemically in here?

Mr S. - Yes. Yes it does.

And this is how I found out that my machine had suffered the blue smoke of death. I was pretty bummed out actually because my machine is only two years old. I wasn't tired of it yet and it wasn't too slow. Plus it's not as easy to find a machine not preloaded with Win 8.

It wouldn't turn on at all, so we figured either my power supply had failed, or I'd fried my CPU.

For the first time in history, Mr S. and I actually have exactly the same machine. We swapped out the power supply with no luck. I didn't actually think that was it since it didn't smell burnt enough. Even with the windows and doors open for hours last night, the house still smells like burnt ozone today. He was going to swap out my CPU which I thought was hopeless. This is when he discovered my graphics card had a sweet burn scar on it. If we didn't have identical parts to swap - neither of us would have diagnosed a graphics card flame out. Usually that doesn't cause a machine to refuse to turn on at all. Neither of us would have checked it because a graphics card problem acts differently.

So instead of buying a new machine today - I just had to buy a new graphics card. To the relief of all involved. It takes a lot of work to find a machine you are going to live with for 2-5 years. Not to mention the expense. And the nominal improvements don't make that an exciting thing. The good news is tower machines are totally caved out. You can buy one for half the price of what you paid just two years ago. If you can't live on a laptop or tablet. Which I often can't. Try running Lightroom on a tablet.

It's the first time I've literally burnt up a graphics card. And I wasn't even overclocking it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Man. You can't throw a dart at a screen full of news stories these days without wanting to slit your wrists.

Clearly, Bernanke is going to taper.

Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying eyes.

Thu, 2013-07-25 - Mortgage Applications decreased 2.6 from one week earlier.
Wed, 2013-07-24 - Mortgage Applications see 1.2% weekly drop.
Wed, 2013-07-17 - Mortgage Applications decreased 2.6% from week earlier.
Wed, 2013-07-10 - Mortgage Applications drop 4% from last week.
Wed, 2013-07-03 - Mortgage Applications drop 11.7% from week earlier.
Wed, 2013-06-26 - Refi Volume drops to lowest level in two years. Down 3.3%.
Wed, 2013-06-12 - Apps jump 5% despite rise in rates.
Wed, 2013-06-05 - Rise in Rates result in 11.5% drop in apps.
Wed, 2013-05-29 - Refi apps see largest single week drop in 2013. 8.8% drop.
Wed, 2013-05-22 - Mortgage apps take near 10% weekly nose dive. 9.8% drop.
Wed, 2013-05-15 - Mortgage applications decreased 7.3%
Wed, 2013-05-08 - 7% weekly rise in mortgage apps.

10 weeks of declining mortgage applications. Almost solidly. And just FYI, mortgage rates have risen slightly since the Detroit bankruptcy. It makes rates higher for everyone. That is what happens when you are a deadbeat.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Amazon in government imposed death embrace.

Today I saw Amazon was hiring a ton of people. Which should have made me happy. Self I said - how can Amazon be hiring thousands of people when they just reported a loss. Who does that! How can you have so much business that you need so many extra people and then take a loss? What kind of business model is that?

Then I saw the President Money Bags was going to visit one of their new plants. Which of course made me sure that Amazon will continue to suffer. Almost every business that guy visits turns to dust. Now Amazon is a big corporation, so it won't happen right away. But really this is what you get when you make a deal with the devil.

All of this is happening because California sued Amazon to force it to collect sales tax. Even though Amazon didn't have a presence in this state. The rule used to be that if a company didn't have a building here, they didn't have to collect tax. It looked like Amazon would actually win against the State, and all of a sudden they caved. And you can see why! Amazon got a sweetheart corporate welfare deal. When they agreed to build two warehouses in central California, the government apparently agreed to share with Amazon up to 75% of the tax windfall from the warehouses. Here. Seriously!

Part of the settlement with the State also included Amazon hiring 10,000 people. So suck on that Amazon! It's no surprise they are logging losses.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Masi.

There haven't been many great cars out lately. So it was nice to run across a real masi in the wild. Not one of those Mehsi's. Here, and here. He turned into one of the local wineries which looks a little like a Tuscan Village. I couldn't have asked for better contrast.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The blog went off the rails.

Updated with video at the end.

The past couple of weeks the pay off I was getting was pretty low for all the effort I'd been putting in to find content. Blogging can be kind of a grind sometimes. So I had to take some time off. This happens a few times a year, and I never talk about it because I never know when I'll be back. Two days, or five. Sometimes I just don't have anything interesting to say. And really, the world isn't entertaining me right now which means I can't entertain you.

I wouldn't have even gotten this, but I wanted to get some funny graffiti in Berkeley. I've been to the Kite Festival a few years and the stuff is mostly the same. One year I almost lost my mind and vowed to never go back. Thankfully the city of Berkeley somehow grew smarter and provided shuttles this year. It's hosted right next to one of the busiest freeway interchanges in this area. You want to kill yourself trying to get out of there. But even though it's the same every year - you can't help but smile when you see these giant kites. Our shuttle was filled with kids and it was really a delight to hear them all react when we pulled up.

I didn't manage to get my graffiti shots because they were on a frontage road. And I only knew how to find them from the freeway which was jam packed in both directions. Probably people rubbernecking the kite fest.

Don't ask me! They had a petting zoo there, and I'd never seen a duck with a poof ball head. You know how this blog works. So you get a bunch of kites and a poofy duck. It's better than nothing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's been tough lately to find anything for the blog. I am not amused. So when this artist had a sign up saying no pictures were allowed, what do you think I did? I took a picture from far away! These people know we have zoom, right? I think what you do in public, is public.

I was going to credit him, but when I looked up what the artist said on the painting - I found that he'd lifted it from someone else. Which I found kinda funny. Since he didn't want people to take pictures and all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The canaries are all dead.

I was going to do this post this afternoon, then scrapped the whole thing. But I've reversed myself because I just can't believe how many times lately I read people who say they don't understand what is happening in the economy. Twice today! And is scaring the holy living shit out of me.

This guy doesn't understand why gas prices are so high considering we are floating on effing oil right now. Some guy this morning said he didn't understand why gold was behaving the way it is. And Bernanke doesn't understand why people aren't spending. I'm starting to wonder if anyone understands what is happening in the economy. Which quite frankly is terrifying. These are not small time guys. These are big businesses and people who run our country.

I know most individuals don't understand what is happening. It's even hard for me to keep it straight, and I spend a lot of time at it. But, I don't run this place. Soooo...

All I know is when Google misses, you better get your security blanket. But then what do I know? I spent the whole day listening to people who think the market is just going to keep rising. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that is an impossibility. There is 0 percent chance this market doesn't correct and soon. You know wall street has one hand on the exits. And they have the playbook. You can tell by all the "accidental" data leaks.

A couple of days ago I read that HELOC's were under a ton of pressure. I didn't know people still had HELOCS! The last four years people have been in Neg equity. This has to be people who were trapped in the market from before the recession because I can't believe they've written too many HELOC's in the last few years. This is a bad sign indeed. Those people might decide they've had enough. I know one guy who is paying 7% interest. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saving the planet indeed.

You know many parts of California have instituted those annoying plastic bag bans, right?

Well, I've noticed now that you have to pay for a paper bag - they are are twice as thick. Maybe even threee times. I'm not a bag expert. I guess when people pay for stuff - they expect to feel not ripped off. So all the bags are super thick now. Plus, we are all carrying cloth ones around too. I hate it, but at least I've found a use for all those trade show bags I get. It shows I love mother earth most! eye roll

Mortgage rates say you are lying.

Should You Worry About More Bad Housing Numbers?

Since interest rates began rising in May, the real estate market has been preparing for a major storm. A downpour arrived Wednesday as the Commerce Department reported the worst drop in housing starts in almost a year- confirming fears of investors and homeowners that a pullback in demand might dent the recovery.

But there was no panic in equity markets over the housing flop, and little fear that the sector will slip back into the hole it fell into in 2008. Housing as a whole appears to be holding its own, even with mortgage rates going up. (The Mortgage Bankers Association last week showed the average 30-year mortgage at 4.68 percent. That's nearly a full percentage point above last year.)

I've been tracking mortgage rates since I refi'd my rental in mid January. I have a reset in 2016 on my primary, so I'm in an all out sprint with the banks.

When rates started creeping up - I basically chuckled. At the time I made a concentrated bet the market could not survive 2006 rates or anything near it (which I'm still at), and it turns out I was right judging from today's news. However, even I was taken aback at the numbers. Still, the cheerleaders are everywhere. So, I went over to look at the rates which were really solidly in the 4.5-5% range a week ago. A constant climb from 3.25 I locked in Jan. Now they have slipped back to about 4.20%-ish range. That tells me the banks are starting to feel a drag.

I personally believe there is a different dynamic in housing psychology this time. In 2008,9,10,11, and 12 it felt like you would never stop falling. Now there is some question about that reality. At some point there is more people than houses. I don't know if that point is now.

Just as a side note - when I tell you guys I've managed to refi my primary - the market is still one to two years from peak. It's hard to know how many of those people just walked away. I put 20% down on my place at a time when that was pretty uncommon.

Monday, July 15, 2013

This should be funny.

Remember when I had that falling out with my neighbor to the side about their hedge? I'd never had a neighbor be a dick about trimming their trees before, so all my neighbors got a visit this summer. OH yes they did! Three of them. Oh yeah, I'm getting it from all sides.

Trees are not a shared expense. Most people actually try to be neighborly and handle them. And even though I'd read stories about people refusing, it was the first time a neighbor billed me for having their trees trimmed.

Since this new tree issue was just a few branches we offered to help the guy trim them. It's about 10 feet of tree on our side, and I was just going to take a saws all to it. The branches aren't even big enough for a small chainsaw. After dealing with him on the fence issue we were more than happy to help him. He's turned out to be a great neighbor.

Today he came over and said that he'd called a trimmer out. When I expressed surprise he said he was going to have them trim the tree that he shares with that neighbor I had a problem with. Their tree is over his fence by probably 20 feet, and he'd been stewing about it for a very long time. When Mr S. hit him up about the fence, the first thing he said when he came back was he had to sit through like 20 minutes of him complaining about it.

He obviously already knows about what happened with them and us, so I don't think he's even going to try and get them to pay. But the branch is a pretty significant one. It's got to be at least 12 inches in diameter. Cutting it will make the tree pretty side heavy. And...people who are shitty about not taking care of their neighbor/tree relations are probably going to feel pretty shitty about a giant branch being taken off their tree.

Of course I had to share a picture of the kind of people the neighbors to the side hire to do small tree trimming. One day I came out and their gardener was propping this ladder onto this branch. On a windy day no less. I had to whip out there and tell him - safety third. The branch in question is the one that juts out to the left. So, it's a pretty big branch.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More Blox 2013

Queue tard laugh.

Sometimes I think my posts are funny. Car, car, car - dog. It's sort of random. But I have to get my dog on everywhere I go. Mr S. is allergic to dogs.

I'm in the middle of an import show. So this must be okay. But.... are they taking it back? I'm not sure what the etiquette is anymore.

You are not going to believe this Nissan GTX costs about 100 grand. Other than a lambo, this had to be the most expensive car there. And they had it all boxed in real tight, so it wasn't easy to get a good side shot.

Part one here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blox 2013.

You have to work pretty hard at these import shows to get interesting things for the blog. They are more Fast and Furious types of cars and they don't customize much more than the motors and add some carbon fiber. I don't talk about motors here. I talk about tarded out rainbow wheels - which I love. I feel stupid about even loving them. But I do. It makes me laugh how dorky they make me. I mean, I can appreciate a corvette motor in a Miata, but that's not my thing. Although I'd like to see them try.

I also got one of these Nobles. Which I also love. And it's almost in the right color. Flat midnight blue. He was so close.

Part 2 here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

You can keep stealing from the bank as long as the bank doesn't notice.

You are the bank in this scenario

Last night I was talking to Mr S. about the Fed. I'm more freaked about the economy than ever which I will talk about at the end of this post. I was telling Mr S. that I thought it was interesting that Bernanke thinks what he is doing is totally cool man. The problem is "the perception" about what he is doing. I told Mr S. that I notice Krugman does this too. Essentially saying you can print all the money you want, but you just need to change peoples "perceptions" about the result.

This is where Mr S. says to me - well, yeah. Keynesian economics is based on tricking people. You print money in the hopes that it will trick people into thinking things are better than they are because more money is floating around the economy. But if you keep doing that people start to figure out it's a false signal for the economy and they still won't spend money. My add is this creates a liquidity trap which I talked about in May.

Which is also probably why each round of QE has a shorter and shorter lifespan.

Long time readers may note that I have been calling for deflation since April. I was very alone in that camp. As the months have gone on, more and more people seem to believe we are in a deflationary spiral as well. Including the Fed who gave this quote. "Fed's Bullard says "nervous" about persistently low inflation". If this is the Fed's belief, then quite obviously they are going to keep printing money until they don't believe that anymore. Only this time people are freaked out about the bond market who the Fed needs to keep interest rates low. Which means in all probability the Fed will have to print even more manufacture low interest rates.. Some economist are insisting that tapering is still going to happen. OK? I think those people are fools. The reason I believe this is because all I have to do is watch Japan. They are the model for what is possible apparently. They devalued their money by half, and they are still getting paltry inflation. Apprently governments can print all the money it wants, but if people just hoard that money - it doesn't matter.

Additionally, if it's true that China is going to print a huge miss on GDP next week - we are truly screwed. It's rumored that China accounted for 40-45% of broad money growth. There isn't another country on the face of the planet that can make up for that short fall.

So we either go into a deep recession, or the Fed prints more until morale improves. Which only makes more of the same.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hiding in plain sight.

I just got waited on by a checker who had a giant Che tattoo on the inside of his forearm. And this was in a upscale snobby town. The fucking irony.

All I could think about was how I could get a picture of it without getting into an uncomfortable confrontation. I thought about going the route where I was in his camp. All hail Che. But I was too pissed off.

Many years back you'd see people selling t-shirts and whatever with this shit on it, and it was sort of amusing because you just thought they were idiots. Now those idiots outnumber the rest of us. You know it to be true when an employer says... Che tatoo. Okay. Whatevs.

At least when the world gets really shitty I will think of that guy and hope it hardens my resolve to let these people rot.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Say it isn't so!

Mortgage applications continue to fall.

"Mike Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said last week that refinancing applications reached their lowest level in two years. The rate remains unchanged.

According to economists at Contingent Macro Advisors, mortgage activity has fallen 43.6% over the past two months."

I guess it wasn't an accident.

Listen - I don't know what kind of world this is where J.P. Morgan thinks that higher interest rates don't matter at all because suddenly 40% of buyers are all cash. That is not a normal market! Anyone who can afford to pay cash for a house is probably an investor who will want a return by either selling at a profit, or renting at a profit. If they are counting on the cash driven housing market to save the day - well, I just don't even know what to say. Refi's have had to have fallen off a cliff. Especially for investors who are not cash buyers. Any house you do not live in is a full point higher. So a rental would be at 5.5% interest, roughly. Only about a point lower than the rates that crashed the housing market.

Maybe there are a pool of fund guys sopping up inventory like DF says, or maybe the Chinese see their own economy imploding and are parking cash in the form of houses here. But if investors can't make a profit on these houses, this whole cash game stops.

At any rate, I don't believe they can actually taper - but I'd love to see them try. The market is a complete Potemkin village at this point.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

That's why.

I just got back from picking up some bunny essentials at the store. Carrot tops and parsley. There was a guy in the line in front of me who I suspected was on EBT. Though, it's really hard to tell these days since they all have a card that looks like a credit card. But he was holding up the line, which is  a dead ringer for EBT. I mean, he wasn't old, and not a woman. They are apparently still in love with writing checks. And they write them in the most precise cursive apparently. That must explain why it takes so long. So he had to be on EBT. Men usually don't hold up the line. They don't want to be chatty.

Anyway, EBT has all sort of rules what you can and can't eat. In this case this guy had purchased hot chicken from the deli, and apparently EBT will only let you buy cold chicken tax free. Or something like that.

When he went to the deli to get his "cold chicken", I asked the cashier how much of their business they got from EBT. And she was more candid than I ever thought she would be. About 1/3 of the state is on EBT, so I'd guess about a third.

I had to clarify, because my nerve cells are dead to this now. I don't even track it. 1/3rd of California is on EBT. Yes, she said, and that doesn't even count WIC. She goes on - we are paying for it. There is nothing we can do.

It was then I said to myself - this is why I feel shitty all of the time. I can go out of the house pretty good, and I will see some old lady digging through trash, or the uptick in begging, and it just affects me. I mean, seriously! One Third! It's depressing. I can not believe this world! And I try to carry on, but fuck - this is ridiculous. I'm going to stop calling him President Money Bags, and just start calling him the ghetto President.

Then you watch TV, and they all say everything is fine. Just fine.

The not so exciting drudgery of life.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in a bit of a funk recently. Normally this kind of funk happens more around the holidays. I don't find the world very funny right now. And I don't really know how the bond market works, so I feel uneasy about the rapid rise in interest rates. From the consumer side, I understand what it means. What it does to the rest of the world I'm not so sure. I never really learned about bonds because they were boring and safe. Now I believe they are neither.

The cheerleaders are out in force making me feel crazy. This interest rate rise is "healthy" they say. Which I do believe is true - but that doesn't mean people can afford this. I'm pretty sure you can't unless you are Chinese. Who apparently make up about half of the sales in California right now. And it seems to me we are right about the point where everyone is faking the data. Yet the stock market goes up every day. Not enough I can get out of a couple of my still underwater stocks from 2007. But something is going up. I guess.

Since I can't really figure out the world right now I've been doing Spring cleaning to get ready for a garage sale. Oh, how do I hate garage sales. I think we've had one in total. If you are going to do a garage sale, which day do you think is best? Saturday, or Sunday. I don't really know the garage sale demo. It's old people. Right? I'm going to use my garage sale winnings to subsidize a fancy new saw. My destruction sugar is low.

Then I had the mattress inspector out today. And no, this isn't a euphemism for my husband. The real mattress inspector. We call him Mattress Mcconaughey, because we are hoping he will say, alright, alright. You know those horror movies where your mattress eats you. It starts with your butt and you just have your arms poking out and it gobbles you up? That is our mattress. Apparently these things have a warranty for 10 years. I'm not counting my mattresses until they are hatched, but I'm hoping I have a good enough case to have this swapped under warranty. It's got a two inch sag. It's so saggy that after Mattress Mcconaughey left we laughed to ourselves that we were sure he must have been surprised we weren't obese. Not that I couldn't lose a few pounds. But still, it's like a meteor hit this bed and all it left was a crater.

So... that it. The most unexciting news. It's either this or nothing.

Friday, July 05, 2013


I need to work on my night photography. Every since the recession I just get so tired sometimes I just want to find my ass groove and block out the world.

Normally from our deck we can get a pretty decent show of fireworks, but this year was just so ho hum. Maybe because since it was over 100 degrees seven days in a row people didn't have the energy to put on a good show. Or were too scared to. For the last week you thought things might self combust. We really haven't had much rain since January. But we got plenty of wind, so it's a lose, lose.

The one thing I found really interesting about my shots was our city just put in all those LED street lights. Look at the blue hue the smoke from the fireworks puts off against them. I can't wait to see how fog works with those things.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Way ahead of schedule.

I think celebrating this 4th of July is sort of a joke. Half of the people here are attached in some way to an umbilical cord that provides for them and drains others. We've strayed about as far away from why this country was founded as we can get. So... I'm just going to brag about my corn instead.

Home gardening in California is for the indulgent. You can buy anything in the store for way less than it costs to grow it at home. Water in California is expensive! But of course the ethanol producers take the best corn, and the crap that gets shipped to us is pretty mediocre.

Since water is so pricey I actually start shlepping water from the shower. Not grey water, but all the water you normally waste while waiting for it to heat up we catch in a big bucket, which helps cut down the water bill. This year I was actually able to find trash cans with good flat lids so I can catch actual rainwater for next years garden too. I also have a minor hose leak we were going to fix this summer, but I've just been letting it drain into the cans.

I know you are confused. After all, I just said I didn't care about the earth. Which is true. I care about my pocketbook which in turn results in me helping the earth. See how greed works?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Its been 104 for 5 days. With 2 more to go. 4th of July should be exciting.

Over boxing returns to great laughter.

The economy must be really getting better. Why else would Amazon think they could spend so much energy to ship me some batteries? Take a piece of cardboard. Place batteries on it. Shrink wrap. Stick shrink-wrapped package in a cardboard box. Then put that box in a bigger box. Ship! Happy customers all around. Right?

This is how much room they took up in the box after you took out the cardboard stabilizer. You know, so it doesn't make noise.

I bet you guys are wondering what is inside that little box. "Whats in the boooooox!?" Well - lucky you. When I started this post I hadn't actually opened the box yet. It turned out to be these four batteries which are super special. They must be because I was forced into an unboxing experience.

I don't even care about ruining the Earth. I care about the health of the companies that reside on the Earth. And that has got to be ridiculously expensive to send batteries this way. You'd think it was nuclear fissile material or something. Oh come on, don't get twitchy,you see the spooks who travel through this site.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Italian Street Painting Festival 2013. Last.

I hope this show can make it. You just can't find a street art show as big as this one anywhere in the Bay Area. Even though for this year, the show was smaller. The San Rafael show is like the super bowl of chalk art. I've created a label over in the sidebar of all the chark art pictures I could find from my blog.

Part 1, and 2 here.