Monday, June 30, 2014

I didn't even know I wanted that.

A sign of great technological design is you shouldn't even know you want it until you see it. Then it grabs in and makes you want to buy it. Which is why I shot this video. Pictures just don't do it justice.

Italian Street Art Fest - 2014 - Part 2.

Part 1 here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Italian Street Art Fest - 2014

Part 2 here.

Normally this is the superbowl of chalk art for this area. You can see last years photos here, here, and here. 2009 here. They fly people in! It's normally this massive thing. It went on for blocks. This year was maybe one block. Which kinda freaked me out. Last year the organizer did have a heart attack on the day of the festival because it was over 100 degrees. It was even hotter on the concrete I'm sure. Story here. But also, the city has had a hard time finding funding for the event. Here. So, I wasn't sure which issue was really driving the size.

Really - to tell you the truth - the whole thing kinda freaked me out this year. Let me explain. San Rafael never seemed to be affected by the reccession. Even in the deepest parts. It was the most fascinating place. We'd go there and it seemed to be recession proof. It always felt really great. Vacation great. It was like this odd insulated bubble. It never felt bad there. Sure they had shops that went out, but it was never as bad as the rest of the Bay Area.

After going through all the artists I asked Mr S. - does it look like they have a theme this year? Perhaps all the previous years they also had a theme, but it was so big you just couldn't pick one out. Clearly, this year was very centered around the WWII imagery. Not just a few pieces - pretty much all the pieces. Which I thought was super odd and freaky. It wasn't really the best of times.

Mr S. said the music they there playing was very Bioshock-esc. I wasn't paying attention to that because my mind was consumed with trying to get good shots, and trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I could feel the event was different before I even got there. The place we normally go for breakfast wasn't packed like it normally was, and town in general was way emptier.

All I know is normally I feel really happy when I leave San Rafael because you could forget the world. This time I felt worse than I have ever felt after I left that city. It really made you feel like things weren't going to be that great soon.

This was a forced perspective shot.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tron Lambo.

I don't think I've ever posted this many photo's of a single car. If I saw it on the road I'd think it was so douchey, but put it at a car show - and I love it to death. It's like my brain is fighting it out. So awesome. No douche. No AWESOME.  It looks so completely doctored and CG it makes me love it more.

It was at Santana Rows (in San Jose) monthly car get together. I saw this thing coming down the block and I was hoping they would park it. The interesting thing about the Santana Row thing is new cars show up all the time. Usually at these things the cars mostly remain the same. But there, the cars refresh. Someone leaves and some new car shows up. It's totally my favorite thing right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Sparkles!

Some days the small things amuse you. Because, I thought I was in the ribbon section of a hallmark greeting card store. It isn't the worst attempt to get women to buy stuff that is made for men ever I've seen.

I think it would be funny if men (being the men they are) started using this tape for gift wrapping. I mean, it looks like they have a tape for every type of event. Boys birthday party. Baby shower. Christmas. And Bacon. You get the idea.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

If Clinton can be considered the first black President, shouldn't we consider Obama the first female President?
Last night we got our first set of early fireworks. Normally that kind of thing makes you pretty happy. The rogue fireworks can be pretty good in my town sometimes. Last night though, I froze a bit. I knew we were close to the holiday, but it hadn't sunk in that meant shooting projectiles of fire.

California is a looking a little ragged right now. Lawns are dead. People aren't washing their cars. And the spiders have taken over yards with their webs. And it's only June! I was going to start spitting out pictures soon because even some of the trees are looking dead. I'm sure they will come back when the rain comes, but still. It's pretty sad looking. Plus - natures hair dyer (the wind) has been worse lately. Not bad like SoCal, but just bad enough that it makes everything dry out. I'm fighting the good fight with my garden, but you can't believe how fast the soil dries out.

It has to be a one off.

When the data came out this morning that new homes sales surged almost 19% over the previous month - I was stunned. You read this blog, right? It was almost a fantastical number considering the other numbers we've gotten this year. Just six days ago I was writing about price declines. Read: It's Spreading.

The numbers sent me into a self doubt spiral. Which IMO is an extremely healthy thing and not the negative it seems to imply. The world changes. Sometimes you don't see the whole picture. There are tons of reasons you should have healthy self doubt. And after all - I'm not an economist. I'm just someone that got trapped in the market who's had to learn more about the housing market than I ever wanted to know.

I was the only one who had faith when absolutely no one had faith. (and not the godly kind). When everyone on earth was saying houses would never be worth what you paid for them, I was saying that was complete bullshit. I didn't know when that day would come. For a few years the stress was unbearable. It was like a vice grip. No one wants the housing market to normalize more than I do. I'm just tired of needing to parse the data all the time to figure out reality is.

First let me start out with how these numbers are probably true, but temporary. Especially because the West seemed unusually strong.

I don't remember when exactly (but within the last year maybe) I noticed a really odd thing happening in Silicon Valley. At the time we still had a huge glut of commercial real estate sitting around. All of a sudden these huge commercial building were being razed and condo's were being built in that spot. It caught my attention because we've been through a lot of boom and bust cycles in the Valley, and I've never seen them raze commercial real estate to make way for residential housing. It's always been the other way around. Always.

The other odd thing was apartments and condo's were being built in odd places. Well... maybe odd is a bad word. Lets just say really undesirable places. California is getting away from the clover leaf highway entrances and exits, and that tiny bit of extra land next to the freeway was being built on. This is also happening with new commercial buildings now too. There's a building in Cupertino that just popped up one day next to the freeway. It stands out because it's unusual for them them build commercially that close to the freeway. Even the new Apple campus is next to, but somewhat away from the freeway. Not right up on it. There are tons of apartments and small business that sit next to the freeway, but Silicon Valley campuses tend to be more park like oases.  To me it seemed obvious that land was becoming sort of hard to obtain. Otherwise why would you build in  these places? Next to railroad tracks and places like that. They were building on all the little tiny bits of land that used to be a buffer from from stuff that sucked like train and traffic noise.

A lot of these developments are now coming on line. And while they are not in the most desirable places - they still are in the hearth of Silicon Valley which will make people snap them up quickly. Obviously Silicon Valley doesn't make the whole market, but there is really a lot of new inventory coming on line.

Now, existing homes. I generally don't believe that lack of inventory is why existing sales are not doing well. Even though the new housing sales numbers should actually enforce that belief. I've been trying to get PMI off my rental for almost this whole year. I've been watching prices especially carefully. May is the first month I started seeing price declines. June there were more and the price declines were more substantial. I've seen a lot of bloggers talking about how the rich 1% are the only ones out buying houses. I suspect this is because it's where a lot of the price declines are most prevalent. I'm starting to see a lot of million dollar houses being marked down. But it's not the only area. The price declines started out pretty small, and have gotten bigger this month. Thankfully I'm not the only person seeing this because the cheerleaders can really make you feel like you've gone insane sometimes. Today is one of those days.

Monday, June 23, 2014

For the care and feeding of my soul.

This weekend I had to escape from the world. I didn't even turn on my monitor yesterday. Some days you just want to throw your hands up in the air with how stupid things have gotten. Sometimes the best you can do is try to block it out for a short time. And that is what I needed to do.

Even though I'd gotten rid of the exploding mortgage on my place in January, my rental again got all the attention. I had to fix damage from the previous renter. I had to upgrade the property so I could get PMI off. That house has been robbing me of time and money for years. I'd just gotten it gutted when the market fell out. My renter was living in a brand new place, and I couldn't even work on my own because until January of this year because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep it. Even when I was working on getting a new renter in there this time, I had a particular bitterness because I was fixing the place up for someone else and I couldn't even work on my own place yet. For the second time!

There is a particular psychology that happens when you have an exploding mortgage and are underwater - you aren't going to do that much to keep the place up. You don't want to throw good money after bad. You just want to keep it up enough that if you have to do a sudden short sale - you don't get super raped. So, I did the yards because if you have some aggression to work out - running a bobcat and putting down a few pallets of sod isn't the worst way you can spend doing it.

Through the recession I realized how much we are all governed by the same impulses. I'd think I was this unique flower - but you could see people were reacting to things the same way I was. Sometimes it would take a while to see it unfold, but it just takes some longer for some than others. The recession made me understand the invisible hand in a way you can never explain to people. The invisible hand is just people all having the same impulses at about the same time in an unconscious way.

This is why politicians can never really understand why the stuff they do doesn't work. Until you are living it - you can't figure out how people will react. It doesn't matter what your algorithms and models say - the invisible hand knows better. Always.

Anyway - that was a really long way to tell you I was painting this weekend. And let me say - you have not lived until you own your own scaffolding. Just say'in.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's spreading.

A house one block from mine that's up for sale just went under price reduction. My neighborhood hasn't fully recovered yet. I have equity because I've been paying for a long time, but I'd still lose money if I sold. They call me "effectively" underwater. Not trapped, but not whole.

I've been watching the price reductions in my town. Most of the ones from May have been cleared except for two. They must getting sopped up by people who think they are getting a deal. The cuts started in the very low range of 10 grand-ish. June cuts are about triple. Inventory is very low, but still 5 houses have been cut so far.

Inventory seems to be building everywhere. I first saw it in San Diego. Now it's spread to L.A. and Ventura. Sacramento inventory is alleged to be up 84%. And then there's this: Bottom falls out as mortgage applications plunge 9.2%. This is suppose to be the busiest time of the year. And that is a lot of percent!

Every single day I read articles about how the fed just has to raise interest rates. Has to! Yet one or two tenths of a percent rise in them "allegedly" caused people to stop buying houses.

Good luck with all that.


Sometimes the only thing you walk away with from a car show is a thundercats jaguar. And you don't like either. Maybe you guys will enjoy it somehow. I have never seen one.(shrug)

I never really used to be that much of a car chick until the recession. I always loved seeing the CEO's drive Ferrari's into work in Silicon Valley, but my first love is technology. When the recession came it made it hard to find interesting stuff - so I had to find other hobby to entertain me and this blog. As it turns out - cars are bastions of individuality and creativity. I've really grown to love that about them. Cars are always changing. And cars are an endless source of entertainment from bumper stickers to licence plates with meaningful sayings. Some not so meaningful. Or even worth the cost of paying for individualized plates. But people do, and even that can be funny sometimes.  Why would they pay for that? - I always demonstratively huff. Some are worth the money right off. Like this one from @Andys_Cat:

The end. It was a crappy car show after all. What do you want from me?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

You ARR here. Final.

I think this was built on a rascal scooter. I thought it was a clever idea.

Skeleton five! He was high five-ing everyone. I just wanted to take a picture. He was like - no - skeleton five!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You ARR here.

I told you!

Moustache baby was hilarious.

When I saw this - in my mind all I could hear was Greg Gutfeld from Red Eye saying - is.......this....racist?

Vote Vader Together we shall rule the Galaxy t-shirt.

Wrong genre but I guess Steam Punk is still kinda interesting. I was at the Vallejo Pirate Festival.

Friday, June 13, 2014

We will pay for doing nothing in Syria.

I've literally said these words to Mr S. more times than I can count over the past couple of years. His very understandable view was - this is their problem not ours. It's a horrible problem but there just isn't anything we can do to make it better. Which I totally agree with. It's probably why I haven't written about Syria more - because he's right. I can't think of anything we can do to make it better.

However - I've had a twitter feed on Syria for a couple of years now. At least since I wrote this post in early 2012. Just one week ago I said the following to Mr S. "You know I've been following Syria for a few years now. The past few months have been like radio silence there. My twitter feed has ground to a halt. Even I don't know what is going on over there now". Before at least I could say people were just too lazy to care. If they just took a minute they could easily see what was going on if they wanted to. Now that wasn't true anymore.

You see - I've had to wrestle over Syria quite a bit. I was for the Iraq war on humanitarian reasons. I didn't really care why we'd gone in. I only knew what they were doing to their people. The horrible atrocities that were being reported. I was sure if we had twitter before the Iraq war the average person would have supported it more because you could see the horrible things that were happening to people.

But year after year I watched the videos out of Syria. The first couple of years it was a lot of the hospitals posting videos trying to get the world to see the horror. Then it was the people committing the atrocities. Finally this year all of that stopped. In my mind I thought - they know no one is coming to help them. They've given up trying to get our attention. The world doesn't care. After a while I'd seen so many deeply horrible things I couldn't believe when I found a video that shocked me. I thought I'd seen some of the deepest depravity you could get. But the fighters continued to find even new ways to shock me. And I've watched the Daniel Perl video. I would say that getting your head cut off in Syria might not be the worst thing that could happen to you. If I were there - I'd hope that is the way they'd get me before they started getting more "creative". A few weeks ago I saw a cartoon where they joked it was harder to cut off the heads of bald men. That is how common it is over there!

The videos stopped not too many months after Syria started using barrel bombs. Oh yeah. I'm betting most of you have never heard of this - because I'd never heard of it before Syria. I've never heard the news once cover the fact that they were using barrel bombs there. You fill a barrel full of fuel and push it out of a plane. I don't know how this is worse than other bombs. It just seems more terrifying.

I once saw them drag a naked man for blocks by his feet through the streets of a city. On the concrete. As if dirt would have been that much better. He was awake the whole time. These were not easy images to see. But it was however reality. I feel  no matter how uncomfortable reality is - if you shield yourself from these things - that is not true reality. It's just a reality that makes you feel better.

I figured we pay in shame. Like the Holocaust or Kosovo. The Iraq thing surprised me - but all that much.

All I know is Syria is the place extremists went to learn how to become the most depraved humans on earth. Which is already saying a lot because they are extremists! Syria is just basically one terrorist group fighting another to best each other. If those people are spilling into Iraq - these are the most brutal of brutal sorts of people you can imagine. An unchecked Syria has been their playground for years. They've had a lot of time to practice whatever form of fighting they plan to use. Who knows what will happen, but I can only imagine it will be super ugly.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Snarkolepsy's view of the world today.

I'm pretty anxious today because I finally got the bank to allow me to have my rental appraised so I can get PMI off. I have an appointment on Monday. You have to use their appraisers because if you use your own - obviously you are going to get a more favorable report. Of course the bank will use anything to stall you out. They put me into a 30 day document search for a report that didn't exist. They kept sending refusal letters over and over. It's taken a couple of months to get to this point.  All the while I'm watching the market top. The internet told me I'd probably have to refi my loan, because the bank almost refuses to allow you access to their appraisers. I'm pretty surprised I got through without having to do so. Although admittedly I did have the threaten to report them to my Attorney General for fraud. I meet their requirements - they are just trying to see if I will go away.You can't threaten to sue them. Everyone does that!

This morning I felt like - holy shit, this is just in the nick of time. The wires are filled with stories of shock that the housing market looks weak. I'm not even sure why people are surprised. The tip off was when the news headlines were filled with "weather weakness" excuses, the West (California) was weaker than almost anywhere. I think Arizona might have been next, or first, but I don't want to look it up. This is despite having the most generous weather conditions in a generation. Rain is the only thing that shuts down construction around here, and there was none of it the whole winter. Seriously - none. People could look at houses to their hearts desire.

After talking with people throughout the day though -  I'm the only one seems to be freaked at all. I guess the economy prints a negative 1% GDP (revised down to -1.7%) ( oh wait - revised down even further to possibly - 2%!) and the stock market just shrugs it off. Seriously? This is especially troubling because the first quarter is when people get all their tax refunds and buy shit. You can't seriously tell me that Q2 is going to somehow look better. There are virtually no spending holidays through the summer.

All I know is that when JP Morgan starts warning their whole staff they might cut their pay or lay them off because trading volume is so low, you can't believe the market keeps going up. Do you? You don't know what the day will be, but things that can not go on forever - will not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fire count? Two.

It's really unusual to have two fires in one day. Especially in basically the same place.

As we were settling into our ass grooves Mr S. goes - hey - there is another fire! Our house looks in the same direction as the creek which basically runs through the middle of town. It's a nothing creek in a rainy winter. I couldn't believe it honestly. They got the last one tamped down pretty quickly, so I almost didn't go out. The fire is much closer to the rental though, and so I had to go. The rental is two blocks from the creek.

At least I know what happens in a huge wild land fire. Which this one was not. But still - everyone drives towards the fire. I couldn't believe how many people came out. One off duty firefighter started to do traffic control over by the rental. If you don't know the neighborhood, and things got bad, you could really get trapped in there with all the extra traffic.

Hopefully that section of the creek is burnt down enough so I don't have to worry about the rental as much. Everything is super dry now. And homeless people live by the creek.