Wednesday, July 30, 2008

World Most Expensive...

I don’t tend to get political. It’s not necessarily because I don’t want to. I’m just not very good at it all in all. I can remember stupid things like Roger Federer’s ace/double fault ratio through out the last Wimbledon; it was 108 aces compared to only 6 double faults by the way. But the American role in a matter of International opinion, or the intricacies of the declining value of the dollar tends to make my eyes cross.

However, I read something today that bothered me and probably for all the wrong reasons. I have some free time to kill at work, so I’m gonna talk about it.

MSN.com has an article posted today about the most expensive places in the world to live. (http://realestate.msn.com/buying/Article_forbes.aspx?cp-documentid=8839818&GT1=35000) What they did to gauge this expense was take the average cost of a little more than 200 items that everyone needs regardless of where you live. The survey covered 253 cities over the course of 6 continents, so sorry about your luck Antarctica. The top 5 most expensive cities in the world are:

5. Seoul, South Korea
4. Olso, Norway
3. London, England
2. Tokyo, Japan
1.Moscow, Russia

Not one American city of there. New York was the most expensive place in the US to live, and you have to get all the way down to 22 before you hit that. And who would have thought that LA is cheaper to live in (ranked 55) than Lagos, Nigeria (30), Almaty, Kazakhstan (44), or Zagreb, Croatia (49)? These are parts of the world that have historically been referred to as third world countries.

It sounds like I am complaining because it’s cheaper to live in the US than in other parts of the world. And I guess I am. People come to the US for the appeal of it’s moniker of being the land of opportunity. If you’ve ever watched a show about millionaires, you know there are plenty of stories about people who came from nothing to earn, and I do mean earn, everything. Good for them. But expense and cost of living is a function of supply and demand. People are demanding to live in Seoul, Oslo, London, Tokyo, Moscow, and 16 other cities around the world before they are demanding to live anywhere in the US. Interestingly enough, according to Forbes list of the world’s most economically powerful cities, the US has 3 of the top ten in New York, Chicago, and LA.

Does the disparity of the most expensive places to live compared to the economic control of US cities suggest that the US is becoming a second-rate power?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Bad Songs

The CD player in my car is broken. This is the second time it’s gone down on me since I’ve owned the car with the same problem each time. But this is not a scathing testimony to the inflated and overrated price of Lexus as a company…although I could probably figure something out to jot down about that. I have been forced to listen to the radio, or nothing at all. The problem with listening to the radio is that I am no subject to whatever they play, with few options available to me except to change the channel. Of course, then I am subject to what that channel plays, and so on this is perpetuated in vicious circle.

That said, this is my list of the songs that if I never hear again it will be too soon.

10. Love Shack by the B-52’s; I thought this song could’ve been cool, but when I realized they weren’t necessarily talking about a brothel I lost interest. I don’t want to hop in your Chrysler, and I don’t care how big it is.

9. I’ll Be There for You by The Rembrandts; Friends made your one and only song a piece of pop culture. Unfortunately, we had to hear that song during the opening credits of on of the most popular shows in history for 10 years! Well, Friends is off the air, so what have you done for me lately?

8. Most Madonna songs from about 2000 to present; You’ve been a global phenomenon. Too bad you stayed a little too long at the party.

7. Have a Nice Day by Bon Jovi; Slippery When Wet and New Jersey were a long time ago, but still rock. And a fair amount of their newer stuff rocks too. But this song just doesn’t make any sense, and the infusion of staccato rhythm gets really annoying.

6. The Way I Are by Timberland; He’s done some really impressive mixing on many songs. And the beat for this one is fantastic. But I just can’t get on board with a song that so brazenly goes to an unnecessary degree to utilize horrible and ignorant grammar.

T. 5. Viva la Vida, Clocks, Speed of Sound all by Coldplay; THEY’RE THE SAME SONG 3 TIMES OVER!

2. Dancing Queen by Abba; I got nothing. This song just sucks.

1. I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor; Yeah, yeah, yeah. The ultimate women’s empowerment song for any woman that has been dumped, mistreated, misrepresented, upset, had her feelings hurt, had someone look at her the wrong way, had someone say something about her that was true or not. Yeah we get it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Greedy People

Last night I was watching a show on HGTV. Yes I know, let the mocking begin. It was one of those shows that I love to hate. It was one of those shows that, though not intended to do so, shows the worst in people. It was a show that illustrated the proud, selfish, and greedy nature of people that might otherwise be described as compassionate, friendly, or even generous. Was this an “E! True Hollywood Story”? How about a “Fabulous Life” of someone who makes more money than most of us will ever count show on VH1? Well, it’s clearly none of those, and if you recall the first sentence, you know that already. This was “My House Is Worth What?” on HGTV.

Real estate shows are all the rage these days. There are at least a dozen on different channels right now, and they’re all about the same. Someone bought a house, fixed it up, wants to sell, and ultimately wants to much money for it. Maybe I am a little bit partial because I’ve worked in the field for so long. But I’ll present the facts as honestly as I can.

The facts of the matter: A couple purchased a house on Tybee Island in Georgia. They picked it up dirt-cheap for $150k. They have been in it now for a number of years, but not quite 10. They put $125k into making the house what they wanted it to be. Now they want to sell it and buy something bigger. They think their house is worth every single penny of $850k.

The facts as seen by a realtor in the area: The couple made many impressive upgrades to a home that is now in great condition and has a location that can’t be beaten. However, there are a few things that they overlooked in their rehab process in the forms of two of the most cost recovered investments in the forms of the kitchen and the bathrooms. For the record, the best investment to make in terms of cost recovery is anything that adds useable living space. But they didn’t add space, and they kitchen and bathrooms, while nice, were not consistent with an $800k plus home.

The result: The agent looked over their home, did an analysis of the surrounding community, and gave a professional opinion of price. He said that he would have listed their home then and there for $775k. They were immediately insulted. With no experience as real estate professionals they just knew their house was worth more and this guy had to be off his rocker. They were talking about a return of around $500k. Yeah, that’s half a mil for those playing along at home. And it just wasn’t enough for them.

All these shows have people who want too much for too little and refuse to budge an inch. You want to see the absoulte worst in a person? Skip the shows about the drunk celebutants throwing money everywhere and having public temper tantrums. Just watch a show about people selling a house!

The “professional house flipper” shows are the worst. No one knows how much a house should sell for compared to how much they bought it for. No one knows how to make a schedule. And no one can keep a budget worth a damn. What happens to the homes and the people that sank their heart, soul, and savings into them? They all end the same way; with an exit interview where a pissed off, greedy, wannabe “investor” ends up living full time in a house they meant to flip.

Strong work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Most Stolen Cars

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has released, yet again, the most commonly stolen cars in the US. I always thought that this was an interesting report to take time, money, and effort to produce year after year, and interesting in this sense meaning something that really bored people put together. What’s interesting though, is the age and class of cars.

Most of us have seen Gone in 60 Seconds. If you haven’t, you can probably catch it at least once a month on either TNT or TBS. And if you come across it, it’s worth watching. To sum up, a team of thieves has to steal 50 cars in one night. These cars are 6-figure exotics and collectibles. They are not stuff you run across on your daily commute…nor are ANY of them, or anything even close to them on the list of the most stolen cars in the US.

10. ’07 Carolla
9. ’88 Toyota Pick-up
8. ’94 Sentra
7. ’04 Dodge Ram Pick-up
6. ’94 Integra
5. ’94 Chevy C/K 1500
4. ’97 F-150
3. ’89 Camry
2. ’91 Accord
1.’95 Civic

NICB states that the reason these cars are most commonly stolen is because they tend to provide the best market for stolen vehicle parts. That makes sense I suppose. But doesn’t probability play a factor? After all, most of these are fairly common consumer vehicles. And it makes sense that the most common vehicles stolen in the US are those that are in the greatest circulation. Why aren’t Lamborghinis and Ferraris and Lotuses being swiped all over the place? Because there aren’t any. Okay, not exactly true, but I guarantee you’ll see 100 Civics for every Lamborghini.

The NICB suggests a multi-functional approach towards the prevention of auto theft. The first step is to take “standard anti-theft measures” such as locking the car and taking the keys. Yeah no shit. As opposed to locking it and leaving the keys on the hood? Next they say to get a warning or alarm on the car. So my little sticker that says “Protected by Viper” by itself doesn’t get it done? From there, use an “immobilizing device” such as a SmartKey or fuel cut off that prohibits the car from being driven. The Kelly Blue Book on a ’95 Civic is $3,800-5,500. How much does a SmartKey cost? How about go old school and buy a Club? And finally, they suggest a tracking system like Low-Jack to find your car if it is stolen. And how much is that?
An alarm, SmartKey, and Low-Jack all for a car who’s payoff will be as low as 3 grand? Shit, just take the car.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rodgers' Role in Green Bay

Again, I’ve been a bad blogger. I haven’t posted anything on this site in some time now…shame on me. I’ve been paying more attention to the other site that I put stuff on about cooking and such, and quite honestly, I have had some writer’s block on that one too. But in watching ESPN this morning while getting ready for work, and then reading ESPN.com while at work, my writer’s block was suddenly alleviated…at least for today.

Unless you’ve been totally blind to the wide world or sports, you’ve probably heard about the Brett Favre debacle in Green Bay. If not, here’s the recap; I want to officially and permanently retire… I’ve got an itch to play again… I want to come back. This is not the first time that Brett has run the okey-doke end-around on the Packers as an organization.

Highlights; 3 MVP awards, 2 rings, 422 TD passes (most all-time), 61,655 passing yards (most all-time), 5,377 completions (most all-time), 8,758 passing attempts (most all-time), 253 consecutive regular season starts with 275 in a row if you count the post-season (do I even have to say it at this point?). Just to round it all out, he also has more career wins than any QB ever with 160.

Is Brett Favre the greatest ever to play the position? History probably won’t remember him as the greatest. But there is no doubt that he will go down as one of the most exalted, hardest working, and certainly the most durable ever. Maybe it really is time to let it all be done? Maybe Brett really feels like he's got one more comeback in him? Maybe he should ask Michael Jordan about one too many comebacks.

Brett Favre’s transcendence into immortality isn’t really what I sat down to write about this morning. What gets my attention is what has to be the looming frustration of one Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s heir-apparent. This guy was drafted in the first round of the ’05 draft. Right now, he has exactly one more professional touchdown pass than I do. But this kid has been jerked every which way but loose for several seasons now while waiting for his time to shine… or at the very least, play. So far, he’s been classy in his public image as it pertains to the Favre controversy while he has to be frustrated and who could blame him.

Rodgers has been a virtual unknown. Who would want to turn a franchise over to an unknown and unproven 24 year-old? Worked out pretty well for Dallas when they handed off the controls to an undrafted free agent who no one ever heard of before names Tony Romo. Or maybe we should ask the city of Pittsburgh about how Ben Roethlisberger was actually going to be third string behind Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox? I think that turned into a 13-0 starting record as a ROOKIE. And who’s that guy that now runs the show in New England? The Tom guy? Picked 199 in the NFL compensatory draft, now a first-ballot HOF quarterback.
I’m not saying that Rodgers is the next any of these guys. I’m not saying he’s going to step right in and fill the role of field general like Favre. What I am saying is that he’s waited. He’s paid his dues. He’s going to get smacked in the mouth and driven to the ground. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to throw interceptions. By the way, Mr. Invincible Favre himself also holds the record for most interceptions thrown 288. What I am saying is that after 4 seasons a waiting, he’s earned his chance to stand on his own and lead a team.