Housing market

small house
Photo courtesy of [2]rokbot[2]y

A never-ending source of conversation in Orange County is the current [insane] state of the real estate market. It has clearly been cooling off, but what seemed like an inevitable continued rise in real estate value has a risk which many didn't consider. That would be the cost of the mortgage payments when the market changes.

This article ('Exotic' mortgages seen losing their allure - Real Estate - MSNBC.com) talks about what happens when many over-leveraged people have to face the music.

"Now these cheap mortgages that fueled the real-estate boom are beginning to hurt the homeowners they once helped. Higher interest rates and the end of honeymoon periods for too-good-to-be-true teaser rates are increasingly causing payment shock for borrowers.

'Nationwide, approximately $400 billion of [home-purchase adjustable-rate mortgages] are scheduled to reset at some point in 2006,' said Frank Nothaft, chief economist with Freddie Mac in McLean, Va. 'A significant number of homeowners will face some adjustments.' In fact, the ARMs with scheduled payment increases this year work out to about 5 percent of all single-family debt outstanding in the country now, he said."

I take a little bit of selfish-evil glee in this because when we moved to the O.C. I had a real estate agent trying to convince me that if I wanted to buy a house that this was what I had to do. I told him it was insane and he gave a little head shake and a disparaging you-just-don't-understand look.

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Just talked to a realtor yesterday concerning what he claims are "dropping prices". I joked that that meant the owners only lowered their $550k price to $500k. He said, no, not that much of a drop.

Posted by: Nate at September 5, 2006 4:50 AM

New Airplane Ticketing Models

Photo courtesy of caribb

One of my former professors, Oren Etzioni, who was briefly my advisor, just launched Farecast. This website uses machine learning to predict whether or not an airplane ticket price is going to go up or go down in the future. If it is probably going to go up, then the site recommends buying now. If it is probably going to go down, then the site recommends waiting to buy.

This is such a compelling business model because of the fundamental problem of airline ticket pricing. No one understands how to optimize the price they pay for a ticket. I'm not even 100% sure that anyone actually understands how the ticket pricing scheme works, including the airlines. It involves evaluation of passenger demand and evaluation of competitive pricing strategies.

Some airlines, like RyanAir, are experimenting with different pricing schemes. Flat rates are obviously hugely popular with passengers because it allows a passenger to plan and comparison shop and not be put under pressure that a ticket price is going to change. On the other hand airlines want to differentiate the prices that they offer to different customers. They want to charge people who are less sensitive to ticket price more, but not risk flying an empty airplane.

The opaque ticket pricing scheme coupled with security is putting pressure on the airlines to change the way they do business. I have two ideas which I will describe over the next few days.

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I wonder if Farecast will, by changing the timing of purchases and hence the demand, create a new feedback loop in the pricing scheme. Is it smart enough to predict its own effect on ticket prices?

Hmm... I wonder when Stockcast will be available.


Posted by: haasebert at September 27, 2006 8:33 PM

The feedback loop should only affect Farecast if the airlines heavily respond to demand as observed through ticket sales. If the primary reason why airline ticket prices change is some other unrelated factor, weather, competition, etc. I think they might enjoy a run of success.

Posted by: DJP3 at September 28, 2006 7:40 AM

Rubik's Cube Solved while Blindfolded


This is incredible. A guy solving a rubik's cube blindfolded.

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Tea Partay

Click to play the video on YouTube.

Okay, even though this hits *way* too close to home, I'm posting it because it's funny. From the Tea Partay Handbook. Prep School Snaps:

  • Your golf game is so bad, they had to raise your handicap to infinity.
  • Your sailboat is so small, you spilled your water bottle and sank it.
  • Your money is so new, it has Ben Franklin's baby picture on it.
  • You went to public school.
  • Your look is so busted, the crest on your blazer is just the sticker off a banana.
  • Your summer house is so small, they renamed the town, "Broke Hampton"
  • Your shoes are so wak, they're called Bottom-siders.
  • Your Yacht Club is so cheap, they built it in the middle of a desert.
  • Your trust fund is so depleted, your great, great grandfather rose from the dead to play harmonica in the bus station.
  • Your shirt is a poly/cotton blend.

Thanks Nate!

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Piper on the Academy

Photo courtesy of Joe Thorn

"The task of all Christian scholarship—not just biblical studies—is to study reality as a manifestation of God's glory, to speak and write about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it. It is a massive abdication of scholarship that so many Christians do academic work with so little reference to God."
(John Piper, The Pleasures of God, p. 298)

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Airport Security

bathroom products
Photo courtesy of steveharris

I just got back from traveling across the U.S. the day after the would-be terrorists with their gel and liquids tried to bring their explosives onto the plane. Furthermore my flight was from LAX to Logan in Boston, two of the most targeted airport locations. I have some observations about air travel now:

  • Even though gels and liquids are clearly prohibited on planes, there is no one actually checking to see that it is happening. I saw lots of people bring liquids on board the plane while casting a sideways glance at the trash cans set up for voluntary collection of contraband. No one is prepared to search for this stuff.
  • The carry-on space is nearly empty now. All those people who were trying to get away without checking a bag, can't anymore (according to the rules anyway). On my packed flight home, I was the only one with a carry-on in my bin.
  • The BodyShop and all those stores that sell liquor in the airports are hurting. Good luck making a profit on bottles of liquor and massage oil when your customers can't take them out of the store.

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I had a bad experience with 1and1.com


If you are looking for a web hosting company, you may be inclined to use 1and1.com because they are cheap. I do not recommend them. I have been in a dispute over their root server package for almost six months now. There are two credit card companies involved and about 30 people from 1and1. Every time I call them, or email them, I get a different person who tells me a different policy that the company has. Each contact requires hours of my time and ends unresolved with a situation that is bad for both me and 1and1.com.

The substance of my problem is that they would not let my root server host a virtual machine in a bridged configuration because their network switches shutdown my Internet connection whenever they saw more than one MAC address coming from my machine. If you are going to run a web server in a virtual machine, you must have this ability. I contacted their tech support who refused to change the set up. Then they refused to give me my money back despite an advertised money-back guarantee. In the process they shut down access to my website on 3 or 4 occasions (a different package they offer), they charged and refunded my credit card 3 times, and they told me the issue was resolved and not resolved about 5 times. I'm still dealing with this issue today.

Instead, use speakeasy.net. The first person who picks up the phone will know what they are talking about and will solve the problem.

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old article from 06

Posted by: at February 11, 2009 3:20 PM

But I think they are still a bad company.

Posted by: Don at February 11, 2009 3:58 PM

Bren Hall Brick Campaign

brick walk

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is holding a fund raiser in which people can donate money to put their message on a brick in the entrance of Bren Hall. As a faculty member, I have participated in the project to show my support of the school and the new building. I donated a small brick.

The inscription that I asked to be put on the brick (3 lines at 20 characters per line) was this one:

Give us light, Thy
truth to see.Make us
wise in knowing Thee

It is a portion of an old hymn (~1889), which I love, called "We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought". The lyrics are thoughtful and compelling. When I read it, I think about God's revelation to humans: "Specific" revelation through the Bible and "General" revelation through creation. Understanding general revelation is the whole goal of science. So when I hear this song, it reads to me like a scientist who is crying out to God for forgiveness for not pursing the knowledge that he should have, for wasting the talents and abilities that God has given him or her, and for not taking the job of scientist seriously enough.

The flip side is that undertaking such a job is impossible apart from Christ. How can we be sufficient or do anything of value without Him working though us. We can't, because we must first be redeemed and we can't redeem ourselves.

Here is a sweet rendition of the song from Team Strike Force of Mars Hill Church, Seattle.

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