" /> Coruscation: May 2009 Archives

« April 2009 | Main | June 2009 »

May 31, 2009

Why buy a used apartment ?

"My buyers have found that construction quality went down as the boom years progressed," said Tom Demsker, who runs Demsker Realty, a specialist in downtown dwellings. "It seems like things were put together a little more hastily. We have seen issues like the leveling of the floor, the grouting of the tiles, the way the cabinets were hung, that lead you to believe things were probably done faster than they should have been."

Earlier vintages tend to have larger bedrooms and sensibly restrained common areas; sellers are potentially more negotiable; and lawsuits against developers are usually over and done with. And early-boom buildings tend to have fewer investor-owned apartments.

Mint Condition, Low Miles
Published: May 31, 2009
Savvy buyers are discovering that almost new trumps brand-new. The many advantages can include lower prices, easier financing and a stable building.

May 30, 2009

Unamerican names part 3

Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.

Mark Krikorian, Center for Immigration Studies blogs on the Corner

May 28, 2009

Sunscreen SPF update

New for 2009: SPF 85

A sunscreen's SPF, or sun protection factor, measures how much the product shields the sun's shorter-wave ultraviolet B rays, known as UVB radiation, which can cause sunburn. It used to be that SPF topped out at 30. No more. These days, a race is on among sunscreen makers to create the highest SPF that R&D can buy.

If adequately applied, sunscreens with sky-high SPFs offer slightly better protection against lobster-red burns than an SPF 30. But they don't necessarily offer stellar protection against the more deeply penetrating ultraviolet A radiation, or so-called aging rays.

The difference in UVB protection between an SPF 100 and SPF 50 is marginal. Far from offering double the blockage, SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. (SPF 30, that old-timer, holds its own, deflecting 96.7 percent).

A sunscreen's SPF number is calculated by comparing the time needed for a person to burn unprotected with how long it takes for that person to burn wearing sunscreen. So a person who turns red after 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure is theoretically protected 15 times longer if they adequately apply SPF 15. Because a lot of sunscreens rub off or don't stay put, dermatologists advise reapplication every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

SKIN DEEP Confused by SPF? Take a Number
Published: May 14, 2009
The SPF arms race is leading some dermatologists to complain that this is merely a numbers game that confuses consumers.


Mexoryl ingredient in sunscreen protects against UVA, UVB, recommended by
Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler

And use lots of sunscreen:

"It turns out that if you apply half the amount, you get the protection of only the square root of the SPF," said Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, who has done efficacy testing for Johnson & Johnson and the Procter & Gamble Company.

May 27, 2009

Cited for parking in their own driveway

Cars parked in front of their owners houses, but partly on the street, or partly on the side walk, are sometimes given parking tickets.

Pedestrian advocates emphasize the 'blocking the sidewalk -- stop sidewalk parking' aspect. Others just want the free parking without acquiring the land to build private parking.

See also old Ken Garcia column in SF Gate (may be on BATN).

May 26, 2009

Obama vs Limbaugh in the MSM

Steele was right: his power is not based on politics, it's based on entertainment. Great entertainers like Winchell and Limbaugh manage to simplify politics, to find ways of making it "us against them," to find ways to dramatize, to demonize, to villainize, to narrativize.


Coffee archives

The NYT puts it archives to good uses with a masterpage on coffee.

May 25, 2009

Third Wave of US Foreclosures


1. Subprime
2. Rate resent
3. Unemployment

Under a program announced in February by the Obama administration, the government is to spend $75 billion on incentives for mortgage servicing companies that reduce payments for troubled homeowners. The Treasury Department says the program will spare as many as four million homeowners from foreclosure.

But three months after the program was announced, a Treasury spokeswoman, Jenni Engebretsen, estimated the number of loans that have been modified at "more than 10,000 but fewer than 55,000."

In the first two months of the year alone, another 313,000 mortgages landed in foreclosure or became delinquent at least 90 days, according to First American CoreLogic.

"I don't think there's any chance of government measures making more than a small dent," said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital.

Last year, foreclosures expanded sharply as the economy shed an average of 256,000 jobs each month. Since then, the job market has deteriorated further, with an average of 665,000 jobs vanishing each month.

Each foreclosure costs lenders $50,000, according to data cited in a 2006 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, so an additional two million foreclosures could mean $100 billion in lender losses.

Job Losses Push Safer Mortgages to Foreclosure
Published: May 25, 2009
As job losses rise, the nation's real estate disaster is shifting from subprime loans to prime loans issued to those with decent financial histories.

May 24, 2009

Sam Kazman Debates Obama's Car Mileage Regulations

Sam Kazman on the 'benefits' on mandated change:

Part II: Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Energy Policy Myron Ebell debates the White House's proposal to raise miles per gallon regulations on car manufacturers.

May 23, 2009

Late night safety bus

If public transport and public health could merge, there would be a safe way to get home at night.

Atrios would approve, if public safety is a public good.

Phoenix, AZ 2009 May 21:

The Valley's light rail will soon extend its hours on the weekends.

Currently, the light rail makes its last run at 11 p.m.

However, starting July 1, the trains will leave from both ends of the line at 2 a.m., which means if your stop is somewhere in the middle, the final train will sometimes come past 2 a.m.

On Wednesday, the METRO Board of Directors approved the new hours.

The change was made after getting feedback from passengers and businesses along the light rail route.

Melissa Harrigan, a bartender at Zuma Grill in Tempe, said she thinks the change will be good for business because people will be able to stay longer.

She also said that she feels it will keep the roads safer because a bigger group of people won't be drinking and driving.

According to a METRO news release, the estimated fiscal and maintenance impact for extended weekend service is $254,500 annually to the METRO operating budget.

After six months, the Board will review ridership statistics and costs associated with the service extension to see if the change is cost effective.

Published in transit, urbanism, UK, SFO, ny.

May 22, 2009

Town for car-free life: Vauban

While there have been efforts in the past two decades to make cities denser, and better for walking, planners are now taking the concept to the suburbs and focusing specifically on environmental benefits like reducing emissions. Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

"All of our development since World War II has been centered on the car, and that will have to change," said David Goldberg, an official of Transportation for America, a fast-growing coalition of hundreds of groups in the United States -- including environmental groups, mayors' offices and the American Association of Retired People -- who are promoting new communities that are less dependent on cars. Mr. Goldberg added: "How much you drive is as important as whether you have a hybrid."

Levittown and Scarsdale, New York suburbs with spread-out homes and private garages, were the dream towns of the 1950s and still exert a strong appeal. But some new suburbs may well look more Vauban-like, not only in developed countries but also in the developing world, where emissions from an increasing number of private cars owned by the burgeoning middle class are choking cities.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting "car reduced" communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said. In previous bills, 80 percent of appropriations have by law gone to highways and only 20 percent to other transport.

In California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village on the outskirts of Oakland, accessible without a car to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and to the California State University's campus in Hayward.

In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars
Published: May 12, 2009
A young development in Vauban illustrates a trend of planning communities to thrive without automobiles.

May 19, 2009

Why is planning not 'stimulus' ?

Unexplained is why wages earned in construction are 'stimulus' and wages eared drawing blueprints are not.

The requirement that the money be spent quickly, in order to get it coursing through the parched economy, means that many ambitious projects that require more planning will have to give way to smaller ones considered "shovel ready."

House Plan for Infrastructure Disappoints Advocates for Major Projects
Published: January 20, 2009
As the details of Barack Obama's public works plan come into focus, big transformative building projects seem unlikely.

May 17, 2009

Bailout Nation, Amazon Used price

Barry's scolding Bailout Nation is out. Note the used price is three times greater than the new price.
(We blogrolled Barry Ritholtz' Big Picture years ago).


May 11, 2009

MEW: mortgage equity withdrawl

From 2004 to 2006, Americans took almost $700 billion per annum of net equity out of their homes through borrowing and spent as much as 50% of it on consumables. The most highly regarded study on mortgage equity withdrawals (MEW) is "Estimates of Home Mortgage Originations, Repayments, and Debt On One-to-Four-Family Residences," by Prof. James Kennedy and none other than Alan Greenspan (Federal Reserve Board FEDS working paper No. 2005-41); Kennedy has been updating his numbers.

Also: The Rise of A New Asset Class

Without MEW, we would have had 2 years, 2001 and 2002, with negative GDP growth. We're not going to go get those levels of mortgage equity withdrawals today - not in this environment. We're still seeing some cash-out borrowing, but it's getting more and more difficult; as home values drop, there are going to be fewer and fewer people pulling less and less money out of the "home ATMs." As Paul McCulley says, your home ATM is starting to spit out negative twenty-dollar bills

May 10, 2009

Nostalgic cars

In what ways are the new pony cars like and unlike the predecessors they at once pay homage to and claim to surpass?

-- Stanley Fish capture the appeal of retro cars like the MINI, new Beetle, Camaro, Mustang and Challenger.

May 9, 2009

The Giant Pool of Money / TAL Mortgageland

This American Life revisits the mortgage world: TAL.

355: The Giant Pool of Money

A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR News. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s? It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money.

A shorter companion version of this story appeared on NPR's All Things Considered.


Host Ira Glass talks with an NPR business and economics correspondent about two gatherings he attended--one at the Ritz Carlton and one at a community college in Brooklyn. The first was an awards dinner for finance professionals who created the mortgage-based financial instruments that nearly brought down the global economic system. The other was a non-profit conference for people facing foreclosure. Ira explains that today's show lays out how the finance guys and the people facing foreclosure are connected by a chain of middlemen, and that together, they all brought about the current housing and credit crisis. (4 minutes)

Act One.

This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR's Adam Davidson for the entire hour to tell the story--the surprisingly entertaining story--of how the U.S. got itself into a housing crisis. They talk to people who were actually working in the housing, banking, finance and mortgage industries, about what they thought during the boom times, and why the bust happened. And they explain that a lot of it has to do with the giant global pool of money. (31 minutes)

Song: "Hard Times," The Sex-o-Rama Soundtrack

Act Two.

Alex and Adam's story continues. (23 minutes)

May 3, 2009

Economy of social media

Seesmic (a start-up led by Loïc Le Meur) is hardly alone. TweetDeck, a budding business of the London engineer Iain Dodsworth, has more than a million users and also blends together Facebook and Twitter feeds. The software sits on the desktop, endlessly churning out both banal and urgent dispatches from everyday life.

SocialScope, a program from Amit Kumar, a former Bear Stearns investment banking analyst, is tailored for BlackBerry phones and lets users check multiple social networks. Though it is only in beta mode, it is already a more full-featured window into the social network than Facebook's own software for the BlackBerry.

May 2, 2009

3M™ Mobile Privacy Film

3M™ Mobile Privacy Film

Protective skin for a cel phone screen.

3M™ Mobile Privacy Film is the newest addition to the 3M Front Surface Protection Film product line. This removable privacy film allows users to text, review email, check electronic bank statements, etc. without fear of having your "need to know" information become public information. Allows you the freedom to text and email anywhere without worry that others will see.

Features and Benefits:
Offers the same screen darkening "microlouver" privacy as other 3M privacy filters but now is a smaller size to fit and protect your mobile devices.
Helps maintain visual security of information.
Light matte finish helps reduce glare so your screen is easier to see.
Protects your device screen from the rigors of everyday use.
Easy to apply and removes cleanly leaving no residue.

3M™ Mobile Privacy Film

Compare to Zagg InvisibleSHIELD / ShieldZone.