Thursday, April 27, 2006

VC to USA: Who's paying for this?

General Motors- the future of the US?

The analogy between the US and General Motors is pretty clear- competitiveness challenged by labor costs, pensions, and health benefits. We've signed up for a quite a social contract. We need to universally accept the fact that the best health care cannot be available to all. If it costs $10M to save (prolong) a life- is it worth it? In my mind- it doesn't matter if you don't have $10M...

...and then there is the massive consumption of financial and human capital called the US-Iraq war. All of the hawks out there should at least try to find us wars where we don't lose so much money.

I want to limit the ability of the government to borrow money. I am not sure if there is a political party associated with this or not, but there should be.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Commuter Love

Is a wonderful song by the Divine Comedy. Buy it now!

However, I don't love commuting much. Here was my plan:
drive two miles to the park and ride, (wair for) and take bus to metro, (wait briefly for) and take metro to work. It takes about 45 minutes- faster and cheaper than driving when the HOV restrictions are in effect on I-66.

Coming home is a different story- the metro is often so full I have to wait for multiple trains to pass before I can squeeze in. And there often aren't enough buses, so I have to wait 15 minutes for a standing room only bus. It only takes about 20-25 minutes longer than the morning, but it is much worse. Coincidentally, it's also usually worse driving home that driving in, because there are very few ways to get on to the westbound routes I need- huge choke points.

This guy did a whole statistical analysis of his travels- two way anova. And commutes average 26 minutes! That's nothing! I wouldn't waste my time with that.

So, I guess I am supposed to move closer to work. But work moves more than I do- I could be working right down the street next year- and then I'd have a miserable reverse commute.

In response to all this- I have made a game changing move- buying a Prius!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bubbly bubbles of bubbles

Lockboxes outside a condo near Dunn Loring metro- investors are bailing out!

It's popping. I had the fortune of making a deposit on a new townhome in May 2002. It was finally completed in September 2003. By that time there had been 10-15% appreciation in the value. In spring 2005, the market value was up almost 60% from the price I paid. Of course, at that time, we were still in the two year window where there are no free tax profits, so we couldn't sell. We were seriously thinking about moving up in fall 2005, but a few things held us back. I was still getting on firm ground with my business, so getting a loan might have been tricky. (Not to mention affecting the financing we did for my company.) We also didn't have anywhere we really wanted to go that we could afford.

Fast forward to the present and the neighbors on either side of me are trying to sell their places for what would have been great prices last spring, but are decidedly overpriced for this spring. My neighborhood was heavily subscribed by investors, who drove the prices up dramatically even before I locked in mine. There were hundreds of people waiting in line on the first day to make deposits...

All of these silly investors are really annoying to me. As my wife said today, it's just like the day traders who didn't know what they were doing in the internet stock bubble of the late 90's. As long as prices were generally going up, anyone could make money. But at some point, prices were only going up because people were taking advantage of the fact that everything was going up. A lot of dollars were flowing into the market, but very little of it was based on the fundamental reasons for owning stock. As soon as that kind of market changes direction- it tends to drops quickly. If you were only holding the stock because you thought a bigger idiot was going to buy it, you wanted to dump it as quickly as possible.

What generally has kept residential real estate more stable than the stock market is that the ration of owner-occupants to investors was pretty high. You can't live in a stock certificate, but you can keep a house that's a bad investment. If you're under water on your mortgage, you might not have much of a choice. However, when the ratio of investors soars, as it has in recent years in the DC region, the market can easily get distorted. There is a false demand for property. And the investors are willing to take losses. And they're mostly getting out now. It's going to be an ugly couple of years for people that want to sell their homes around here- supply is way up, and false demand is gone.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Start life blog

Based on some much-needed constructive criticism from my amazing wife, I have decided to create a non-work blog, for those things that a non-technical person might actually be interested in reading about. I am not sure who might be interested in reading these particular things, but I do have a fair number of thoughts that could use a place to live.

Hopefully this can be a little taste of production to go along with the consumption of which I am so fond.

Currently reading: "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson
Currently listening: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" Manic Street Preachers
Currently watching: My wee daughter on the video baby monitor. It's after 11PM- this kid doesn't want to sleep. Very naughty. And we're supposed to get up at 630AM tomorrow morning...

Who does want to sleep? Sleep is a waste of time...from a logical point of view. From a practical point of view, too little sleep can reduce the quality of life when you're awake. The massive line everymorning that snakes through the parking lot at the Starbucks drive-thru by my little house is an example of...something. Is it a sign of mass sleep deprivation? Caffeine addiction? Boring DC area govt related jobs where productivity is measured in abstractions of abstractions?