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Comment Re:Not me, not in California (Score 1) 940 940

No, the reason that property can be such a good investment for individuals is the opportunity for leverage. I put down only a few thousand dollars (5%) on my house when I bought it, yet its increase in value is very large (several hundred thousand dollars). Of course, with leverage comes risk. Many people lost out dramatically in the recession when house prices dropped. My house value never droppped below its original purchase price.

And that risk has burned some folks significantly. I know folks who bought property with a 5/1 ARM, planning on moving before 5 years, or refinancing if they stayed. Four years into it, they hit the recession, couldn't sell their place, were underwater and unable to refinance, and saw their interest rate rise at the same time. They took a risk -- they're better now, but it was tough for a while.

Comment Re:Not that easy to buy (Score 1) 940 940

Peter - could you supply examples? Why won't the lenders lend to people "who can really afford to buy a house"? What percentage of renters fall into this category? I'd bet it's small. There are great rates for folks with stable W-2 income; there are decent rates for folks with more-fluctuating income (salesmen, business owners). Interest rates in the past five years are lower than they've ever been.

Comment Re:Not me, not in California (Score 1) 940 940

You sound bitter. Renters rent property because they prefer it to buying property. If they want to buy, there are many banks happy to lend money to people to buy property. Meanwhile, the person renting the thing out did trade something for the payment he got: he was deprived of use of the house or car for a month. Try going without your house or car for a month. Some people can; most people can't, not without some money to compensate. And let's not forget that the landlord who reclaims his property at the end also had to pay property taxes and perform maintenance on the building. If you think that the landlord's money is unearned, and he should let someone live there for free, I would like to rent from you.

Comment Re:So live underground (Score 4, Informative) 135 135

Interesting. I had read that they adjusted to a 25 hour day, not 30. My source: Richard M. Coleman's book, Wide Awake at 3:00 A.M., page 8, "The results of these sleep-wake cycles shows that most subjects averaged a 25-hour day - that is, left on their own, free from time cues, humans have an internal day length of 25 hours." The problem isn't the Martian day, which is much closer to our natural biorhythms; it is trying to work a Martian time schedule while living on Earth with its time cues.

Comment Re:Conform or be expelled (Score 3, Interesting) 320 320

HOA boards are proof that "for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing." The problem is that most good people would prefer to skimp on their community political engagement and let others deal with the bother of it all... they don't realize the danger of the vacuum that they leave.

Comment Re:Conform or be expelled (Score 1) 320 320

Where I live, townhouses mean you don't have anybody living below or above you, and you have some ownership rights to a patio-sized patch of fenced-in dirt.* Condos mean that dwellings are stacked on top of each other, and the association owns all the dirt.
* You still have to follow HOA rules about what you do with the dirt.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448 448

There is actually quite a lot of competition in the air travel space. About a dozen major national air carriers and over 100 regional and specialty air carriers that do passenger service. I assure you, the cost of airfares are set at what the market will allow. Chances are good that your local cable company or phone company has a monopoly on internet or video services where you are...There is almost certainly not a monopoly on air travel.

Somewhat true. There are limited gates at each airport, so any airline wanting to expand its business at a busy location will have to buy a gate from an airline that holds it today, and if the other one won't sell, too bad. Mergers as well reduce competition: American, Southwest, Delta, and United now serve >85% of the US market. Milwaukee claims to be served by 8 airlines, but it's really 3 plus a few miscellaneous flights.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448 448

However, what's wrong with bringing fewer bags, if you want to, or else paying the going price for the bags you really need?

What I'd like to see is a fee to use the overhead compartment. First checked bag is free; first bag overhead costs you $25. The problem with the process today is that it noticeably slows passenger loading and unloading, because everyone tries to cram all their stuff into overstuffed roller bags, making us feel like a cattle car and enduring multiple announcements of "place your small items at your feet, folks; we offer free gate check; ..." It's why I love that Southwest still includes bags checked for free.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448 448

You make some excellent points about why phones unbundled better than airlines, and the latest cellphone rate wars are a great example of the competition that remains in that arena. Based on this, though, I think cable is more like airlines than cell phones, as cable has a physical presence. I pretty much have two cable providers locally, and it won't make sense price-wise to get some from one and some from the other. Dish/DirectTV offer some hope, and Amazon/Netflix/Hulu offer even more hope, since they can stream nationwide as long as I buy Internet access from someone who won't throttle them. But I wouldn't bet on the pricey channels like ESPN or HBO switching to those folks since they have a good deal with the cable providers today.

Comment Re:blu rays are cheaper than the movie (Score 1) 400 400

...that's nice and all but those old Vaudville houses don't exist anymore. You can be nostalgiac all you want but today you have to deal with the houses that exist. Most of them are crap. Even the bigger ones aren't that impressive compared to a good home theater setup.

I would like to see the home theater setup that can compete with the mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Stanford Theatre. (http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/)

Comment Re:blu rays are cheaper than the movie (Score 1) 400 400

Exactly. And the reason for that is that they want to capture the largest possible audience. Some folks are cheap -- no snacks, thanks -- but the theatres still get their 10% from those folks filling seats. And others want "the experience" whatever it costs, or are taking someone on a date and know that acting cheap will cut off chances of future dates, so they suck it up and pay for whatever. A final group of folks are either aspirational or foolhardy or unable to refuse their children's demands, walking in meaning to be decently frugal but are then lured into buying "just a little something" at the concessions stand.

If they cut concession prices without adjusting ticket prices, they just lose money. Mr. "Experience" is spending less, Mr. Just-a-Little might buy a tad more, and Mr. Cheap probably isn't moved. And if they raise ticket prices to counteract the drop in concession prices, Mr. Just-a-Little might not show and Mr. Cheap definitely skips it, which leaves Mr. "Experience" wondering why he's spending all this to be in an empty or tiny theatre.

Tip for Silicon Valley Mr. Cheaps: the Stanford Theatre shows old-time movies, and you can take a date there, get concessions, and still have change from a $20 bill.

Comment Re:Are people sick of the MPAA? (Score 1) 400 400

The actually experience is different. Amazon reports that as they have grown bigger with more diverse offerings, the top drivers of revenue are shrinking. This is true if one is looking at a category (i.e. books) or as a whole. It looks like everybody has to buy the Harry Potter books, everybody will be buying a ticket to the next Star Wars film, etc.

From my observation, part of the reason for fewer items driving a greater percentage of the revenue is this: given three options for shampoo, I can try each of them and then reliably purchase my favorite. In a large population, we probably differ on what our favorite is. Given a hundred shampoos, once I find one that works decently, I'll stick with it; it's not worth it to me to try 90+ other shampoos. Replace shampoo with movie genre or book author, add in reviewer ratings so that we buy products that are reviewed more than untested and unreviewed products, and that's your Amazon experience.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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