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Have fun ;-)
Lately I have been hearing more and more about the new real estate bubble. Apartment renovation! It costs much less than building a new apartment and it can still make you money. And for the buyer? A renovated apartment looks like new but is much cheaper. What a deal! The whole idea even has a term for it in Wikipedia: Flipping.
But now I am not only hearing *about* it, I am actually HEARING IT, actually witnessing it as it takes place here in Taipei...
The last two months I feel like living inside a construction site... So much noise from all the machinery that the workers use and from the constant noise I can tell they are working really hard. There are 2 apartments in my building that are getting renovated and another one on a facing building on the back side. Within a 100m radius I can *hear* 3 apartments getting renovated, maybe there are more...
Is it just me who thinks so or is it that the most money hungry people get involved in real estate? EASY MONEY! BIG MONEY! All you need is to be smart and withhold information! These people caused the previous housing bubble, they still walk free and now they are off to their next feat.
So my advice is simple, new or renovated DO NOT BUY, just RENT.
Wow... I was watching CNN this morning as I was having breakfast and the news item that they were discussing was this one.
Of course the way the item is presented on their web site isn't half as impressive as it was presented on TV but we all know what it means to make a TV show out of news.
Anyway, two things impressed me... They said that currently 500.000 foreclosure cases are pending... Yeap, that's half a million... Can you imagine half a million homes? And that is half a million "American Dream" homes, with their garden and back yard, two stories, garage space for two cars, usually a pool as well. That's a medium sized city...
The second thing that impressed me was an interview with a lady whose home was being foreclosed, because she could pay her mortgage for the last two years. She said something along these lines: "Now I live the American Dream like everybody else, sitting in front of a judge" and there was such pain in her voice...
By her looks, I think she should weigh around 130 kilos, maybe 140... Have you ever spend a minute to think how much effort it takes to keep yourself that fat??? Yes effort, albeit pleasant effort. And have you ever thought how much money you need to spend on food to keep yourself this way? And how much money you need to spend just to maintain an American Dream home for two years?
I don't know about you, but personally I find it insulting to have people dying of hunger in some parts of the world, people working for 1 USD per day, and CNN showing me a fat American woman complaining that she woke up from her American Dreaming. Oh my... life is so hard on her... She must have bought that home for around half a million USD, which is a modest number for American real estate standards. Half a million USD that she didn't have, that's why she got the loan in the first place, right? And now she complains. If she couldn't pay her mortgage then why didn't she move to a 70 sqm apartment in a building somewhere? Oh I forgot, that not part of the American Dream, unless the apartment is overlooking Central Park in New York...
Back in 2006 I spent more than two weeks in the Los Angeles area. That was before the crisis and the real estate meltdown occurred. I had some free time on the weekends so I drove myself around to see the Californian dream. And I was totally shocked... I would walk around a couple of cute little towns, complete with American Dream homes, no apartment buildings or anything, and I would look at the ads outside some of those homes... 3.5 million dollars, 2.8 million dollars, 5 million dollars at the beach front... And most of the homes were inhabited... I remember wondering... "How on earth is it possible that so many people have so much money???"
Well you can probably guess the answer... They didn't have it. Well ok, some had it but what most of them had was a just a high paying job that would qualify them to get the proper loan and then dream their American Dream...
Don't get me wrong here, loans are a useful thing, they enable people to do business and buy homes, but... there is a big BUT!
Loans started out as a useful financial instrument and were slowly turned into something that gave birth to the "Buy Now Pay Later" way of life. "Buy Now Pay Later" is so much engraved in our lives that we cannot see the huge fallacy behind it.
Imagine that instead of "Buy Now Pay Later" I proposed to you the "Graduate Now Study Later" model: "Well, I can see you are a really promising and bright student, you passed the exam to enter medical school, so we will give you your medical degree right away, so you can start working and make money, and you PROMISE to study along the way, ok?"
What about the "Promote me now and I will prove myself later" model? Wow, wouldn't that be cool!!!
I am sure that you will laugh at the idea, but it is the same thing really: "We give you something nice NOW, you promise to do something hard LATER".
And I ask you, isn't this the exact opposite of the "Work hard first, get reward later" model? Which is by the way the right model...
I think it is the opposite. But the idea of getting rewards immediately, without any effort, is so tempting that most people cannot resist it. How could they?
But for me personally, no thanks I will pass. I prefer the old fashioned model, work hard first, get rewards later :-)
That was a famous song from one of the super-bands of all times, Queen, but it's application is quite wide. In this case it's the Show Of Terror(ism) that must go on...
Give me a break guys, just give me a break... As soon as the US pull out of Iraq and the Afghan war has stopped being a sensation guess what..? Bin Laden woke up from his hibernation and started threatening France and sending mail-bombs to the USA...
Who is he working for after all? 'cause from my poor and uneducated point of view he has been long doing a favor to the US and the terror-hungry industry and media.
It so happened that I recently read the novel "Foster You're Dead" by the infamous Philip Dick. It describes a society where everybody has a car and a TV so consumption was dropping dangerously. So, in order to keep consumption at the appropriate levels the super powers created a never ending war-fear and started selling defensive toolkits and apparatus to consumers. The perfect sales-pitch, as Philip Dick puts it:
"You know, this game has one real advantage over selling people cars and TV sets. With something like this we have to buy. It isn't a luxury, something big and flashy to impress the neighbors, something we could do without. If we don't buy this we die. They always said the way to sell something was create anxiety in people. Create a sense of insecurity - tell them they smell bad or look funny. But this makes a joke out of deodorant of hair oil. You can't escape this. If you don't buy, they'll kill you. The perfect sales-pitch. Buy or die - new slogan. Have a shiny bomb shelter in your back yard or be slaughtered."
Any similarities to our reality are purely coincidental...
It is a lengthy article, but definitely worth the while reading throughout.
I just heard on CNN a little while ago the news about this pastor who is about to burn a Holy Book in order to make a point to his adversaries around the world, and how the US General is Afghanistan is asking or almost begging him not to do so because the American operations there will be in danger.
First of all I am really so sorry for any General whose operations are so well planned and thought out that a pastor on the other side of the world can put them in danger...
But the whole issue of Holy Books begs for some questions...
It seems that although a book is basically a bunch of pages wrapped up together with a cover, IF the pages happen to have imprinted on them some magic combination of words, which some people consider Holy Words, then the book itself becomes Holy to this group of people, Holy enough to provoke threats of violence in case it's integrity is violated. That is, a material object gets raised to Holy status, which is an act of total irrationality, especially given that you can reproduce it almost infinitely.
Yes, I know that this is basically a symbolic act, of actually burning the holy words, but bear with me for a minute...
Well, what if my freshly received copy of a Holy Book has two typos and a missing page? Is it still a Holy Book? I mean, it definitely aimed to be a Holy Book, but since it is not exactly the same with THE Holy Book, then I am not sure if it has lost part or all of its Holiness or if it was never Holy at all...
Clearly, if it was Holy (in conception) and ended up losing part of all of its Holiness, then someone is to blame for this... And this someone has to pay for their crime, isn't that right? So maybe I should go first blow up the bookstore (for selling this abomination), then the printing facilities etc.
What did you say? One or two typos don't matter? What about 3 or 4, or 10 or 50? Where do you put the line? How many mistakes in the reproduction does it take to make the contents non-Holy?
Now, the book is a relatively easy case, but we are not living in the Middle Ages anymore... What about that audio book of a Holy Book that I have in my iPod? Does this make the iPod Holy or is it just a Holy File stored in it? I don't know about you, but both the ideas of a Holy iPod or a Holy File just sound so absurd to me... but they are just a natural consequence of the Holy Book concept. Holy words are contained in there, and destroying these Holy words is an offense it seems.
So what if I need to delete the Holy file to make some free space? Is this the same as burning a Holy Book? Why should it not be? And it makes it much easier to knock yourself out if you happen in be in the Holy Book burning business. Just copy the Holy File 1000 times then delete all 1000 files... wow... what a pleasure... and so convenient, just remember to use something like SDELETE so that the actual bits are REALLY wiped out; you don't want them lying around in your disk, do you?
Well, if deleting a Holy File is the same as deleting a Holy Book, then clearly the operating system providers should provide some means that will prevent us from deleting these Holy Files, maybe they should be providing them to us as part of the operating system, as protected files... How rational would that be now?
Of course there's a next step to this... what if someone memorizes the Holy Words contained in a Holy Book? Has he become a Holy Person too? Why not? What if he prints the Holy Words on the walls of his home, is this now a Holy Home that you cannot anymore bring down? What if he prints them overnight on the Statue of Liberty? Would the authorities be allowed to cleanup the mess the next day, or would that provoke Holy War? What if a guy in death row tatooes a Holy book all over his body? Should that permit him to escape the death penalty?
I think that by now my point should be clear. If you want to consider some words as Holy that's your own business to do so, but don't mix things up. You should consider the words and ideas as Holy, not the material objects that happen to contain them. And the world might just be a slightly better place...
What do I think?
Greeks have historically been smart people, but there is no way to tell if today they are smarter than the people of other countries. The real problem is that about 90% of Greeks believe they are much smarter than the rest of the Greeks (and the rest of the world).
Believing that you are smarter has no value unless you can prove it, by doing something smarter than average. And the easiest way is to outsmart someone else or even better outsmart the "system"!
I will define "systemically unstable behavior" as something that if the majority performs within a system then the whole system gets screwed, including the actor. Trying to outsmart others or the system is systemically unstable behavior with regards to society.
In a nutshell, that's what happened to Greece. The 90% did 'smart' things and thought they would get away with it, that others would pay the so called negative externalities.
So many times I had heard the answer "But Everybody Does it, I would be stupid if I don't do it too" as an excuse for something inappropriate somebody did. This thinking is built into the Greek DNA.
Can this mentality change?
I don't think so, it might be temporarily put aside, but it is really the curse of the modern Greeks.