Paying for others’ home loan mistakes

Paying for others’ home loan mistakes – Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

YOU WERE the careful, responsible sort of home buyer. You took out a plain-vanilla, fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage, shunning exotic loans with low teaser rates, coupled it with a substantial down payment, bought only as much house as you could afford with monthly payments that were within your income. Maybe you’re even paying a little extra each month or have converted to a biweekly schedule to get the loan paid off in advance.

Silly you.

Or perhaps you were the careful, responsible sort of banker, one who got nervous over loans in which borrowers put nothing down, or paid so little that the principal owed grew every month, or signed up for loans whose payments they could never afford once the low teaser rates reset. Maybe you even shied away from making such loans, much less buying paper backed by them.

Silly you, too.

Because you, Ms. Prudent Home Buyer, and you, too, Mr. Cautious Banker, sure missed out on the party. While you were playing the role of the ant, everyone else was enjoying the life of the grasshopper.

And now you, directly or indirectly, will get to help pay to rescue those who had the fun — without getting any break as a reward for your frugalness.

Now, I’m not a libertarian, I’m more of a social democrat. So you’d think I’d be all for the nanny state coming to the rescue of those oppressed by the mortgage industry fat-cats. Except, I’m not. Why? Because I think there is a matter of personal responsibility. I think that some people were suckered by unscrupulous and lying mortgage brokers, but I don’t think that was the general rule. I think most people didn’t bother to read or try to comprehend the documents they were signing. And I think those people are idiots who fed the housing bubble and forced others who wanted to buy a house into risky loans too. I think that these people should deal with the pain they caused themselves and others. For those who were cheated, I think the government should step in and prosecute the companies and make things right (my social democracy roots showing through), but for those who couldn’t be bothered to try and understand this crap or the developers and flippers who were playing calculated games of chance with other people’s money… yeah, let them clean up their own mess and save my tax dollars for universal health care.

[via Seattle Bubble]

Condo owners lose their view… duh.

Condo owners struggle for views as Seattle rises – Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Benjamin Shanfelder signed up to buy a condominium on the west side of downtown Seattles Cosmopolitan building in 2005 because it was one of the first new downtown high-rises and was convenient to amenities like the downtown bus tunnel and South Lake Union streetcar.

But before choosing a condo on the west side of Cosmopolitans 21st floor, he looked into plans for the adjacent lot and found the city had approved a 13-story office building there.

“I bought with that assumption,” he said last week.

Shanfelder knew other nearby projects would block some of his view. But it was a nasty surprise when developers of the neighboring building, which would be 18 feet away, revised their planned height to 34 stories — one story higher than Cosmopolitan.

“I would lose most of my remaining view and pretty much all of my sunlight and privacy,” he said.

Personally, I find this hilarious. Not in a schedenfreude way, in a way that anyone buying a condo downtown would think that they would have much of a view for very long. I’ve watched the Belltown towers rise over the years first on 5th street, than 4th, 3rd, 2nd and now 1st. Expensive view condos now have views into the expensive view condos that moved in between then and their views.

The property developers prey upon the stupidity of people, who either don’t think to do their homework or don’t bother to really think much about it. The evilness is that the developers get away with it.

Wow, does the MyBook suck

So, I was at Costco and they had the Western Digital My Book Home Edition 1TB drives for $299.99. I snapped one up, $.30/Gb! What a deal! Then I plugged it in to my computer and… nothing. The drive didn’t power up. I tried different outlets, different cables, every combination. The drive was DOA. I should have looked it up on the web, but for some reason I was stupid, and I just brought it back. When I was returning it, I asked if they had many returns. “No, none.” So, I decided that it was just very bad luck and I got another two (I now actually need another 1TB and a backup as well).

I brought the replacement and the spare home. I opened one and it powered up (now that I know that the first drive never even powered up). However, this one refused to mount. Firewire or USB. Their cables or mine. Now, I actually checked the web and found out that the 1TB Home edition is particularly crap. So, I had to return both of these as well.

I’ve had several MyBook drives and haven’t had too many problems, except for one that had it’s firewire port crap out after several months.

I’m never buying another.

Is Microsoft trying to game the WSJ and do some slight of hand with its Zune numbers?

Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing — RoughlyDrafted Magazine

from a comment

The recent WSJ electronics buying poll got even better after this article appeared. In one of the most extraordinary developments in the history of retailing the zune managed to zoom at the last minute from 0% to 24%. More than 144,000 enthusiastic Zune givers magically appeared in less than 24 hours.

The above is a pretty interesting read. It seems like it isn’t 100% true, but no one has been arguing the radical surge in popularity of the Zune in a WSJ poll, nor is anyone challenging the numbers that Microsoft seems to be fudging to make the Zune look more popular than it actually is. If it is true, it is actually kind of sad, because I’ve heard that the new Zunes don’t suck as much as the old ones, but pulling this kind of stuff is going to seriously make people mistrust the Soft.

Microsoft should haven’t learned better by now, every time they try to pull one of these PR slights of hand, they get caught and look like idiots.

Crofton on Wells (Chicago)

Excellent food, excellent service, nice atmosphere. I have nothing bad to say about this restaurant.

how boring

The fact that this scores only 8% better than the not-very-good Grand Lux Cafe means that people have no taste. Although the lines at the Cheesecake Factory already make that clear.

Crofton on Wells in Chicago

Grand Lux Cafe (Chicago)

If you like the Cheesecake Factory, you’ll like this place.

I hate the Cheesecake Factory.

From their website:

The idea for Grand Lux Cafe came to life when The Venetian Resort, Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas asked David Overton, Founder of The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, to create an upscale casual restaurant concept for their property.

Excited by the proposal and the opulent “Venetian” theme, Mr. Overton traveled to Europe to study Italian trattorias, French bistros, and the grand cafes and pastry shops of Vienna. This culinary tour through Europe, focused on food, architecture, décor and design, provided the inspiration for what the restaurant was destined to become.

Blending the grandeur and luxury of European cafes with the sensibilities and spirit of an all-American restaurant, “Grand Lux Cafe” was born. Today, with locations in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Houston, Grand Lux Cafe is proud to offer our guests unique, casual global cuisine in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere.

I’ve eaten in Venice, I’ve eaten in Italian trattorias and tons of French bistros. Beyond the hordes of loud tourists, I don’t see any other similarities. At least it isn’t expensive, which its’ only redeeming quality.

Grand Lux Cafe in Chicago

Hey business traveller!

The next time you spend the entire flight standing in the fucking aisle next to me having an impromptu business meeting with three of your colleagues spread over multiple rows, surrounded by other folk, I’m going to record your entire conversation and then transcribe it so that your competitors can get every piece of information. I mean I now know your entire strategy of getting Boeing to buy your crappy parts. Real genius move talking about that loudly on a flight between Seattle and Chicago. No chance some salesmen from some other parts company might be on that flight.

This also goes for you people who have loud personal conversations on their cellphones next to me when I am stuck waiting for people to deplane so I can get away from you.

What does this say about us as Americans? That we are so egotistic and self-centered that we either don’t notice the other people around us or that we just don’t care because the other people around us are just ants? I used to ask politely for people to not shout their personal details or business plans into my ears, but mostly I would get a impolite response amounting to a “I don’t care if I’m annoying you, that is your problem, not mine.”

Well, from now on: I won’t get mad, I’ll get even.

go go gadget Harry Reid

Reid thwarts recess appointments (

Reid employed a rarely used parliamentary tactic of scheduling “pro forma” sessions twice a week until early December, when Congress returns for three weeks. Under that plan, a few senators, perhaps one Democrat and one Republican, will briefly open the chamber for debate on any topic during the next two weeks.

The move blocks Bush’s ability to make so-called recess appointments, which would allow the appointees to serve out the remainder of Bush’s term.

Under law, a president can use a recess appointment if the Senate is adjourned more than three days without reconvening on the fourth day. The interim appointments last through the current and next sessions of Congress.

AT&T gave feds access to all Web, phone traffic, ex-tech says

Story in the Seattle Times

In an interview this week, he alleged that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the help of AT&T and without obtaining a court order. Contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists, Klein said, much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic. Klein said he thinks the NSA was analyzing the records for usage patterns and for content.

He said the NSA built a special room in San Francisco to receive data streamed through an AT&T Internet room containing “peering links,” or major connections to other telecom providers. Other so-called secret rooms reportedly were constructed at AT&T sites in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, Calif.

In summer 2002, Klein was working in an office responsible for Internet equipment when an NSA representative arrived to interview a management-level technician for a special, secret job.

The job entailed building a “secret room” in another AT&T office 10 blocks away, he said. By coincidence, in October 2003, Klein was transferred to that office. He asked a technician about the secret room on the sixth floor, and the technician told him it was connected to the Internet room a floor above. The technician handed him wiring diagrams.

“That was my ‘aha’ moment,” Klein said. “They’re sending the entire Internet to the secret room.”

The diagram showed splitters glass prisms that split signals from each network into two identical copies. One copy fed into the secret room. The other proceeded to its destination, he said.

“This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style,” he said. “The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T’s customers but everybody’s.”

One of Klein’s documents listed links to 16 entities, including Global Crossing, a large provider of voice and data services in the United States and abroad; UUNet, a large Internet provider now owned by Verizon; Level 3 Communications, which provides local, long-distance and data transmission in the United States and overseas; and more familiar names, such as Sprint and Qwest. It also included data exchanges MAE-West and PAIX, or Palo Alto Internet Exchange, facilities where telecom carriers hand off Internet traffic to each other.

“I flipped out,” he said. “They’re copying the whole Internet. There’s no selection going on here. Maybe they select out later, but at the point of handoff to the government, they get everything.”