Real Estate Bubble WAS Money Laundering

If not in this sense, but rather in the sense of a place for currency inflation to go and more or less hide. These days money is mostly electronic, “on paper” rather than paper, and it is largely created by the issuing of debt or the say-so of the Fed, which comes to the same thing, since government debt is the main instrument.

Anyway, inflation spent decades, and especially around ten years at the end of and worst of the bubble, flowing into real estate values and storing in the associated financial instruments. Between not being as obvious as certain day to day expenditures, and of course no longer being included in the official CPI, that was a place for loose money to flow. Money laundering.

We are in such a dangerous place, and not just in that the government is taking way too much power, disdaining all limits. When the majority of federal debt is owned by the Fed, which created it out of thin air simply by making it so, how far away can total collapse be? It’s going to take an incredibly skilled walking back of how things are to prevent that, or even delay it, though it’s hard to overestimate the role of socio-infrastructure inelasticity and the cleverness of individuals and spontaneous institutions.

Calvin Coolidge

I have come to believe Coolidge was one of our best presidents ever. Which gives me the urge to have a look… Naturally he is ranked in the bottom 1/3-1/2, generally worse than Hoover, surprisingly. In thinking about going through presidents and finding something good and bad each did, I had no idea what Coolidge did that might be considered bad, and knew I’d need to research. Ended up spending time reading about Harding instead, finding that he did little wrong and important things right, yet is famed for being horrible because of scandals associated with appointments of people for political reasons rather than competence. Which makes his big failure a managerial/oversight one. But I digress. Ironically, I found Taft to be reprehensible when I looked for bad things, and you just don’t hear anything about him. Granted, by now that’s ancient history. It’s easy to say what Carter did wrong (and right), but he’s still recent. From my perspective, the demarcation from modern to historic presidents is at Eisenhower or Kennedy. Before that point, they tend to be caricatures of whatever traits history has assigned, however accurate or complete. Which is probably why liberal and conservative rankings of historic presidents tend to be closer than you might expect, flipping a few places at most. For instance, Wilson at 6 for liberals and 8 for conservatives, when conservatives ought to be ranking him near the bottom. It becomes about knowledge-free impressions.

Guacamole

I made guacamole for the first time ever this morning. It’s in the fridge, getting cold and waiting until we use it with burritos for supper. I didn’t have all the ingredients typically called for in recipes I found online, but it’s better, even warm, than anything I’ve tried and shrugged about in a restaurant. I used two avacados, juice but not all I could have gotten out of half a lime (just realized I could make chicken for burritos and use the other half of the lime in seasoning it… hmmm), a slice of sweet onion diced fine, and little bits of powdered garlic, cumin and red pepper. We’ll see how the flavor blends after sitting, but I think I’ll want to do it again. (Then I used another slice of the onion to make an onion, ham and cheese omelet, which was yummy. I used cooking ideas I’d found online, rather than doing it my old way. Water does indeed make the egg fluffy! The onion sauteed before pouring in the egg, so it was embedded into the egg rather than in the middle. Then I flipped the whole thing before putting in the filling and folding it, which I’d never thought to do. It looked more like a restaurant one, abeit slightly messy and overcooked.)

Calvin Coolidge

I have come to believe Coolidge was one of our best presidents ever. Which gives me the urge to have a look… Naturally he is ranked in the bottom 1/3-1/2, generally worse than Hoover, surprisingly. In thinking about going through presidents and finding something good and bad each did, I had no idea what Coolidge did that might be considered bad, and knew I’d need to research. Ended up spending time reading about Harding instead, finding that he did little wrong and important things right, yet is famed for being horrible because of scandals associated with appointments of people for political reasons rather than competence. Which makes his big failure a managerial/oversight one. But I digress. Ironically, I found Taft to be reprehensible when I looked for bad things, and you just don’t hear anything about him. Granted, by now that’s ancient history. It’s easy to say what Carter did wrong (and right), but he’s still recent. From my perspective, the demarcation from modern to historic presidents is at Eisenhower or Kennedy. Before that point, they tend to be caricatures of whatever traits history has assigned, however accurate or complete. Which is probably why liberal and conservative rankings of historic presidents tend to be closer than you might expect, flipping a few places at most. For instance, Wilson at 6 for liberals and 8 for conservatives, when conservatives ought to be ranking him near the bottom. It becomes about knowledge-free impressions.

Little Did He Know…

The person referenced in this repost on job hunting and referrals, who was hopeful about how much better things would be (having gotten decent at the time) once Bush was gone, has been beyond struggling under Obama. Maybe before, but that rendered it hopeless. I have no idea how he has made it during sometimes extended times of no income, no savings, no resources, not even anything qualifying him to plead disability. He went through every available week of unemployment and extensions. Though it is interesting that once that was over, he did find a something, anything type of job that was even nominally technical.

I’ve been down enough myself, given up when I shouldn’t have and all that, but I am still torn between smug at someone who makes Obama look right wing suffering from this economy, and sad that someone as reasonably talented as he is has been left in the cold.

As for me, I haven’t given a reference for a former collegue/report in years, though there have been times I stood ready when asked, simply never hearing from the prospective employer. The last thing like it I did was a written recommendation for someone to get into a college program to change careers, rather than to get a job. I am still in touch with enough former colleagues and managers to wrangle references, most likely, but they’re getting a bit stale at this point. Even the one I’d get from my former big client’s office manager is not especially current.

Early Christmas

So last year I noticed a few Christmas things pop up very early in my store, and they must have done well because this year? There’s a full aisle of Christmas goodies that’s already gone up.

I know they do this because people want it, but that they want it dents my faith in people a bit.

Borlaug Again

Here is my original Norman Borlaug at 90 post, updated to fix a dead link. It also provides another instance of Carter not being all bad, though it seems like getting Africa on its feet has tended to be more of a Republican/conservative thing, much as ending slavery, civil rights, desegregation, and equal treatment were/are. Obviously he is three years deceased, now, as Deb mentioned, but always worth celebrating.

I suppose Carter’s support could be explained by his religiosity, having been the last Democrat of the evangelicals and what we now call “the religious right,” plaguing the Republicans.

It Gets Better

Well, maybe.

I’ve been thinking that barring the coup scenario, and barring total collapse of the worst kind, there will be economic improvement regardless of who is elected.

Heresy! Right?

Maybe not. Look, it will still be relative, and will still vary depending who and on their specific actions or lack thereof, and on Congress, for that matter. However, we’ve been holding our breath, marking time, holding back, perhaps even actively not wanting to contribute to an economy for Obama to pillage or to reflect well by.

After the election, will we really keep marking time for another four years? To that same degree? Perhaps we’ll not act quite the same as we would in a more rational economy (talking relatively here… when was the last time the American economy was truly rational?), but are we really going to hold as much back?

So yeah, barring further meltdown, which is possible, given quantitative easing gone wild, and the pulling aside the curtain of any pretense of sound money, regime uncertainty will be relieved to some degree and things will improve… to some degree. It is entirely possible that the tax cliff will be averted, if Obama wins, since Congress will have no downside to legislating accordingly. Not that that changes the Obamacare taxes, or the law’s overall economic consequences, and not that we won’t have the same cliff looming in another year.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Outdoor Classroom

The elementary school attended by the older kids has a new “outdoor classroom” this year. While there’s probably some Gaia worship and being Environmentally Correct involved, it boils down to teaching kids about gardening. Sort of a miniature vo-ag program. They are learning about composting, for instance, which may be environmentalism, but it’s not extremism, and was something done when I was a kid and before, like, forever.

It occured to me that this is timely. If things crash to that degree, they could use the knowledge toward growing food. I like practical education. That is, if there’s time enough before it crashes, and of it doesn’t crash too hard even for that to matter. I’ve had a potentially lengthy post brewing in my mind about just what a crash might look like, and how socio-infrastructure inelasticity would have to affect it. (I love coining terms. Makes me feel like the Bernanke of phrasing, only not dangerous.)

Chances are that a crash won’t be so great as to mean mass death and destruction, unless there is a coup, which I started thinking about as a possibility a while back. Didn’t want to mention it aloud, since I remember how insane people sounded when they were frantic that Bush was going to cancel the election and stay in office. That would never have happened, since for all his faults, he is honorable and not that level of power hungry. Then I started seeing others mention it, including one detailed analysis of how it might go if Obama tried it. Right, Google exists! I think I read this one, which still sounded like it might be a bit over the top. Remembering that it said “Barack Obama is, unfortunately for America, a profoundly stupid man” made it easier to find with a search.

Anyway, I was a vo-ag student in high school, and I grew up about as close to farming as is possible without growing up on a farm. It makes me happy to have my kids learning something about one of my first strong interests/career aspirations. We had chickens. When I was very young we had ducks. I spread tons of manure from cows, horses and chickens. I helped plant, weed, and harvest vegetables. There was always a compost pile, if not any as intently managed and harvested as is possible. We did dig fresh soil from the the fully composted parts, but mostly it was a place to dispose of garbage and yard waste. It’s sad to live in a yard that, apart from being not ours, has no space for that. The closest I’ve come is pulling weeds from the flower bed in the front and leaving them to die and disintegrate as a sort of mulch on a bare area of my tiny adjacent herb garden.

I should take a cue from the school and my worries, and make even greater efforts to teach the kids the practical. Not just as a side note, like showing them how to build a fire when we were camping, and explaining the need for air flow. Or telling my son in passing yesterday how starting a fire by rubbing sticks together really works, since he picked that notion up somewhere. When my oldest was very young, as young as 3-4, I would give her pointers on what to do if she was trapped out in the cold, or lost. I sometimes have shown them what they can or cannot eat from “the wild.” They need more of that, alongside things like handling money, and the instilling of ideals. But I digress.

November

Every time I think about this election I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. There are just too many people around who want to force everyone to hold a single set of values, chosen for us by the government and the ones who exploited the fear and apathy of the nation to elect them. It breaks my heart. I love my country and my countrymen too much to see this devolution without tears.

We’ve only got a few more weeks until we find out whether there is hope.

Teaching a Four Year Old Relativity

This is funny.

I must say, I did a bit better teaching a bit of cosmology to a rapt seven year old, when she asked about the edge of space. Better still with the entire history of the causes and results of the Civil War, slavery and the civil rights movement in about ten minutes or so of lecture mode, prompted by a question on it by the six year old, who then left while I discussed it with the seven year old. Also did a pretty good job of explaining what money and value are, though that’s an ongoing lesson.

Spacebar

For the record, I am blogging on a hand-me-down laptop that barely works, with the screen trying to remove itself from the base. Between not being a real keyboard, and the keys not always registering, I produce a lot of wordswith nospace betweenthem. Spacebar is the worst offender. I usually type into Blogdesk, which doesn’t spell check automatically the way Firefox does if you type into a textbox, so these things aren’t in my face obvious. Forgive me if I don’t always hop back into WordPress and fix them.

Sooner or later, the computer situation will improve. I am still underemployed, and even when I make money associated with computers and computer skills, I am unable to put it into computers or computer skills. It gets sucked into the grocery vortex. Prior to this, I used a cool looking computer in a shiny blue case, built in 2007, a P4 3.2 GHz running (I know) Vista (ironically the second version of Windows I bought at retail, the first having been, yep, Windows Me). As a spare and print server, since my ancient HP 2100 only speaks parallel, not USB, I have an old 1.7 GHz machine running XP Pro, with mostly filled hard drives and a lot of iterations of almost-done code that will never see the light of day as software released by my five years since defunct business. It would have to be redone as cloud software, these days, and probably has, better and by others.

The blue machine fried. It appeared to be the power supply, and that may have been a factor. However, it is more likely the motherboard, and the CPU could have been a factor as well. I’d have to get a compatible motherboard, test the CPU in it, yada yada. In short, I pretty much have to build a new machine, not being able to rely on many of the old parts, and not being in a position to wipe clean either of the hard drives, where massive data remains available/backed up. I always figured putting the digital pictures of the kids on 2-3 computers and maybe multiple hard drives on the same computer would preven their loss. And they aren’t actually lost, but I’ve come damn close, and can’t actually access most of them currently due to multiple/cascading equipment failures.

I got a computer working based on a hand-me-down from my brother, a fairly decent machine, but almost as outdated as the spare I mentioned, which I’ll get back to. In fact, that is where the power supply from the blue machine landed. Still not sure that was wise. (To be specific, the blue computer would not turn on with the 4-prong CPU power plugged in, and would attempt to boot with it disconnected. This is opposite of how it ought to be, and appeared to be a motherboard failure.) Used that fora while, pretty happily and with one of the drives from the blue machine accessible in it. Luckily I’d synchronized passwords between machines with Firefox, and did so again when the set of machines changed. Then it stopped booting, failing on a specific driver. Replacing the file didn’t help. Replacing it in the DLL cache to be sure the replacement wasn’t getting replaced didn’t help. All it can boot into is safe mode command prompt. Rebooting to run chkdsk at boot, it fails. I need to spend some quality time with it, and really, worst case might be putting in a new drive and OS, and that only because I won’t want to lose anything I might have stored on the current drive. My most likely near-term recovery will be working that problem, which I was gonna do Real Soon Now That All Three Kids Are In School. (Still working out the logistics of taking advantage of the hours when nobody is home for things other than napping because I can’t get enough sleep at night before I have to get up at 2 AM.)

Anyway, the old standby machine that originated as a code testing and tweaking machine at my old office now won’t boot either. The biggest problem with both being down is no longer being able to print. The printer can only do single sheet feed, but it still works, still on the one and only tonerr cartridge that was ever bought for it at the office, probably 10 years ago, once the starter cartridge it came with ran out. Good thing, too, since $80 was a lot of money for it. I have no idea what the deal is, having not really touched troubleshooting it. My computers are on a high shelf above/behind the desk surface, and are impossible to work on substantially without moving them. I had setup a desk/table in here specifically for working on computers, but it immediately got stacked with old carcasses and parts, and blocked by things likea chest of drawers. I have to move things to the kitchen table, and then they can’t stay. In the meantime, the old machine lost its power supply to the machine the kids use, but that appears to be temporary because the fan in the power supply is noisy and sounds like it will die any minute. Logistics are bad, but when even $20 for a power supply replacement feels like a lot of money, repairs become problematic.

Wasn’t intending to be so verbose, but seeing the spacebar typo in the previous post got me going. This laptop is slower than it ought to be. I can’t restore it because it has no Windows/restore disk, and the original owner is unaware one ever came with it. There is too much running in the background, bogging it down, and I suspect it may have malware that’s not been found by the usual tools. Though its biggest problems with speed were Norton being resident, and Ad Aware being resident.

On top of all that, I have a crapload of computer carcasses to go through,most of which will be subject to disposal, being hopelessly obsolete. That even applies increasingly to ones that had files I wanted to maintain access to on them, like stuff from the old business. If it’s been 5 years since I closed, and longer since most of the files on them had any relevance, well, worst case I could remove and keep hard drives. At the office, most of what we used were Pentium 3 450 machines with Windows 2000, until long past the point when they were obsolete. You know your business isn’t doing well if you can’t replace obsolete computers, when you are completely reliant on same and are in a computer-related business. Just in case it seemed like I was oblivious to where things were going in, say, 2005, or even before. There are at least 10 old monitors, some of which are dead or unusably bad. I owe a guy I did work for 6 dead/bad monitors to dispose of for me in trade. Just have to test and identify the ones, then drop them in his yard. I figured I’d strip cases of all electronics and scrap them for steel, but the price has plunged. Not that a few bucks I didn’t have would be bad, even if it’s below what it might have been a year or two ago.

Meanwhile, I am intrigued by the Raspberry Pi even if it wouldn’t be ideal as a workhorse, every day computer. It’d probably be something like $60 to get one and anything I’d need for it. I’m intrigued by the idea of trying robotics, and one of those is a likely tool toward that kind of thing. I am also intrigued by being able to get a notebook/laptop/pad for as little as $200, functional enough to do the basics. All I need is that amount of money to spare, which is seemingly impossible these days.

Nerves

I spend way too much time reading links via Instapundit, but I try to avoid posting the same ones if I saw them there first (sometimes I see things days before Glenn and am surprised it takes him so long, which has meant I’ve beat him to some since reviving the blogging, gome).

However, this Sarah Hoyt post hit a nerve, even though I’ve never had the misforutne to live in that kind of environment, though I fear that could change.

Career Regret

This article inspires me to want to say so much that I proabably should saylittle or nothing. Let’s just say that my life is pretty much one giant fount of career regret, and I can tell you all about dimunation of options with age and cumulative choices. Or non-choices, for those of us who lived life as a veritable pinball, as if the flippers could only be controlled by others.

As I may have mentioned the other day, it’s kind of sad that a tech support job that paid somewhere between 80% and 50% of what it should have, and should have been more springboard than stopping point, is the high point of my working life.

On the other hand, it’s kind of hard to stop being a pinball or having regrets when you have no idea what it is you want. Sometimes I feel like that’s because I was raised not to want anything for myself, to have meaningful direction and interests, and know I had the right, even the obligation, to pursue them.