Friday, September 30, 2005

US Gun Control advocates have come up with a novel way to pressure lawmakers to scale back the 2nd Amendment: attempt to cripple the tourism industry by running ads in European newspapers warning people that they may get shot if they visit America.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before the nascent British “Knife Control” movement catches on to this latest innovation in fanatical fear-mongering. I can just picture the full page USA Today ads now:

Visit Jolly Ole England for a Jolly Good Stabbing!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

NEWS FLASH>> 27 Year Old Man Poses as High School Student to Learn English

Am I wrong to conclude that this guy should have been caught the first day of class given his obvious English illiteracy?

Am I wrong to assume that a strong command of the English language is a prerequisite for enrollment in high school?

Someone please tell me, am I wrong to think such things?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

According to the Tuesday night Nielsen ratings, my political junkie friends and I were among the millions of curious TV viewers who made ABC’s new White House drama Commander-In-Chief the top show of the night. After soaking in the much hyped show about the trials and tribulations of America’s first female President, the question now is “Will I tune in again?” The answer: most definitely not.

Billed as the answer to NBC’s fading West Wing, Commander-In-Chief falls well short of that standard. Whereas no one could deny West Wing’s consistently superior writing in spite of its extremely narrow and preachy liberal slant, the same could not be said of the Commander-In-Chief’s trite and almost laughable pilot script.

Gina Davis, playing an Independent Vice President (Huh?), ascends to the highest office in the land after her Republican boss succumbs to stroke complications. (Excuse me? A Republican President chose an Independent running mate? Whose twisted fantasy is this?) Amid all the confusion and hand-wringing over her decision to assume the Oval Office, we see the Vice President playing what appears to be a high tech version of Battleship™ with a US naval carrier fleet, putting US military forces in harms way in a unilateral action to save a single Nigerian adulteress from a death sentence (What? What??), and trading barbs with a sexist, racist, wild-haired, cartoonish arch-villain (Who? Osama bin Laden? No, no. It’s Donald Sutherland, playing the Speaker of the House, who is, surprise, surprise, a Republican), all while sporting the world’s most obnoxious shade of glossy red lipstick (just in case we forgot that Gina Davis does in fact have a vagina).

Frankly, based on last night’s pilot I don’t believe West Wing viewers will find much in Commander-In-Chief to quench their appetite for compelling political drama. The novelty of a woman President wears very thin, especially so when the writing that defines her character is so abysmally poor.

Monday, September 26, 2005

NEWS FLASH>>Terror on the High Seas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More House Sale Drama…

Ok, so we accepted an offer of $305,900 on the 6th, contingent upon the sale of the buyer’s house, which was supposed to be confirmed a couple of days later. The buyer of the buyer’s house dropped out of the deal at the last minute, leaving him to scrounge up a backup offer. He secured one within 24 hours. The silver lining of that episode was that my closing was pushed back two weeks, leaving us overjoyed at the prospect of avoiding bunking up with the in-laws in the interim until our new house is ready.

While the buyer was nailing down his back-up offer, two things happened almost simultaneously. First, my homebuilder called to say to say the new house will be ready on October 10th. Then, we received a second on my current house, a full price offer at $310,000 without contingencies. We instructed our agent to contact the buyer who placed the first offer and give him 48 to drop the contingencies clause from his offer, otherwise we would take the new deal. 47 hours passed, all the while we’re hoping he drops his offer altogether, leaving us free to accept the higher bid. At the last minute, he agrees to drop the contingencies. Disappointed, we ask the second buyer if we can retain her offer as a backup. She agrees.

Fast forward to last Thursday. Our buyer called our agent to tell him his backup buyer backed out of his deal, so he can’t guarantee his house will sell before we close. He rescinds his offer. Now we’re pissed. He drops the contingencies, then tells us he can’t buy the house after all?! What if our backup offer is no longer valid? What if she bought another property in the 5 days since she first put an offer on our place? This guy could have screwed us, bad! Thankfully, the backup offer is still good. We formally accept on Saturday afternoon: $310,000, no contingencies, close of escrow October 24th.

Later that day, another couple came through the house. They wanted to make an offer on the spot, but they were disappointed to find that it was already under contract. We told them we are still taking backup offers. They said they will submit one to our agent, but they end up passing on the deal instead.

That’s the latest. I have inspectors coming through the house on Wednesday afternoon. I have my fingers crossed that the sorry state of the roof will not be a deal breaker.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Finding myself lacking anything productive to do yesterday, I tuned into both the Emmy Awards and the E! Channel Red Carpet Pre-Show. How do I keep getting roped into sitting through several hours of sycophantic tripe, followed by several hours of self-congratulatory inanity?

Anyway, here were the few items of note from last night’s telecasts:

- Alan Alda (of all people) reminding E!’s red carpet gas-bag Star Jones that someone can be both “nice” and “conservative”

- The Ali G Show’s male porn star “O” face montage

- Shatner winning an Emmy?!?

- Shatner co-star James Spader apologizing to his mother for all the "sex and weirdness" throughout his career

- Conan O’Brien’s impromptu Charles in Charge theme song rendition

- Desperate Housewives winning fewer Emmys than expected (Yes!)

- F/X Channel programs Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me getting snubbed (No!)

Friday, September 16, 2005

As predicted, Katrina relief debit cards are being put to good use: food, clothing...luxury handbags?...beer??...strippers???

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NEWS FLASH>> Chinese Create "Cadaver Chic" Cosmetics.

The Goths must be in heaven.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Technical Model Signal for Monday morning:

- Buy 1 Feb 06 NST 30 Call @ $1.10
- Buy 1 Mar 06 LFG 60 Call @ $5.25

Friday, September 09, 2005

Recommended Reading…

Today’s Arizona Republic contains an article that features cash-strapped homeowners bemoaning the high price of gasoline. Owners say their once affordable homes in the far nether-regions of the Valley are now virtual prisons, as high gas prices have crimped their ability to commute at will.

Barbara Parsons says, "I don't go out on weekends, and people won't come see me…so my social life suffers."

Sam Sayles moans, "We're basically barricading ourselves in our house. We want to get out and mingle and see what the town has to offer, but we can't. I just turned 21 in July, and I'm staying home on Saturday nights playing Monopoly.”

Mike Paesano bitches, "We're pretty much stuck in the pool and hanging out at home."

If anyone sympathizes with their plight, raise your hands. Good. Now, make a tight, clenched fight with your raised hand and punch yourself in the face!

Put aside your knee-jerk “woe is me, gas is so expensive” gut reaction and read the article a little more closely, people. Barbara Parsons owns a “big house in San Tan Heights”. Sam Sayles “just turned 21”, yet he owns an 1800 square foot house in Gilbert. Mike Paesano’s home is in Paradise Valley, where the average house sells for over $1million.

The suddenly high price of gasoline isn’t the problem here. What plagues these homeowners is poor planning. I understand the desire to own a piece of the American Dream, but there are limits. If you have to do “precise budgeting” and squeeze every penny just to get a dream house on the outskirts of town with a monster commute (Barbara drives 124 miles roundtrip each work day!), then you have to plan for gasoline price shocks. It’s called common sense.

Unfortunately, things like common sense and prudent financial planning often get pushed to the side when greed rears its ugly head. Yes, you heard me correctly: I’m saying greed played a role here. I’m willing to bet the people in this article were at least partly driven to buy homes beyond their means by the prospect of striking it rich in the frothy Phoenix real estate market. I'm also willing to bet that these people are sitting on short term, adjustable rate, interest only mortgages, as well. Are we going to see a similar article in the Arizona Republic a few years from now, complete with cash strapped homeowners crying about suddenly being faced with big jumps in their mortgage payments? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting rich in real estate as much as the next guy (peruse my house sale posts below), but you’ll never see me stretch my budget to the limit just to play that game, then complain about my pitiful, boring life later.

When you live beyond your means, as Barbara, Sam and Mike clearly do, all it takes it one price shock to bring the house of cards tumbling down. Today it’s gas prices, but tomorrow it might be a spike in utilities costs, or taxes, or insurance, or interest rates. Maybe your home will sustain damage in a natural disaster, or you might become seriously ill or injured, or you might find yourself unemployed. There are too many variables in life to employ “precise budgeting” and “penny squeezing” and get away with it in the long term. If you let greed get the better of your common sense you will ultimately regret it. Just ask Barbara, Sam and Mike.

On a similar note, here’s something scary.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

House Sale Update...

We've accepted an offer: $305,900, close of escrow October 5th.

The price is right, but the tight escrow date is going to be a challenge. As of now, I still have not been notified by the builder of my new home as to when it will be ready for us to move in. All I've been told is that it will likely be any time during the first few weeks of October, and that a definitive date will be set any day now. Should it be after October 5th, I'll be forced to but our belongings into storage and bunk up with the in-laws for a while. Ugh!

On top of all that flux, I also get to worry about the inspection report. I know there are a couple of glaring issues with the house, namely the roof, which is in desperate need of a repair job (I have a quote from a reputable roofer of $3,000), and the termite damage, which is minor but still evident to a trained eye (thankfully, the critters have been completely eradicated with Termidor treatment). If the buyer signs off on the inspection report without rescinding the offer or requesting repair contingencies, I'm in the clear.

Update to the Latest Update...

My home builder called this morning to tell us we get the keys to the new house on October 10th.

Everything is coming together nicely. Does anyone know a good moving & storage company?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Technical Model Signal for Tuesday morning:

- Buy 1 Feb 06 AEP 37.50 Call @ $2.05