Midnight Aloft

We don't want thunder. We want rum.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Real Estate Price Estimation

I haven't been in the market for a new house for several years now. Still, it's always nice to try to get an idea about how the housing market is doing. I ran across this site described in a recent NYT article.

They provide an estimate of a house's value based on information in public records about prior sales in the neighborhood, etc. They claim to be within 10% of estimating a fair sales price under current conditions (if plus or minus 25 grand can still make a big difference - then list it under for entertainment purposes only).

It's linked to a satellite map that shows you the value of the neighbor's houses too. I was surprised at the variation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Okay, thanks to JulieO., I was down on the floor sniffing my wall sockets and not only shocked myself silly but singed off my eyebrows and she'll probably just tell me she was being sarcastic or something again. (Everybody knows I'm lying, because I'm still in Japan)

At the Nussell home, we pay the premium for Windsource - even though there is admittedly no flowery fragrance to the electricity. It adds up to about $60 a year for our not particularly energy-efficient household which I'll admit is not cheap, but I just consider that I am trying to buy my children a livable planet on the installment plan.

I just read Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth which I highly recommend. I used to feel that Xcel should be investing in Windsource themselves instead of using it as an excuse to soak their consumers (that pseudo-green corporate crap really rubs me the wrong way). Then, about a year ago I decided it wasn't that high of a price to pay if it leads to some change in the system. After Al Gore's book I feel even more strongly that we need to change social habits systematically. Some of it will have to be bottom up and fueled by demand for alternatives otherwise we run the risk of being portrayed by the corporate water-boys as "elitists" trying to force the poor working man to subsidize our own environmental "preferences." (Although I'll bet a non-globally warmed planet will be everyone's preference and not a problem that the rich will be able to shop their way out of. Like in Jared Diamond's book Collapse, they will simply be able to buy themselves the priviledge of being the last people to starve to death) So it's good that Al is doing some heavy lifting in trying to educate the masses. As time goes by I'm feeling worse and worse about that vote for Nader.

One thing about Xcel that I think is a valid complaint is that last fall when Windsource was briefly cheaper than conventional electricity because of the high natural gas prices they wouldn't let people sign up. I think with the trends in resource shortage that there will be more occasions when Windsource is cheaper so I'm willing to subsidize positive change for the time being.

The consumer group ProgressNowAction.org has an Xcel Accountability Project that I personally think is worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

International Finance

I spent most of the day yesterday trying to find a way to get some money out of my bank account in Denver. My bank had unilaterally decided that the best way to prevent fraud is to seal off all access to the ATM cards. [Oh did you plan to use that to get money out of the bank? Sorry - nothing we can do.] So I decided to take a cash advance on my credit card. I know it's expensive but what other options do I have. I hadn't really planned on needing a cash advance but I am carrying two separate cards so I head on down to the local bank (Iyo Bank) on the advice of the customer service rep from Chase who tells me any bank displaying the MasterCard symbol will give me a cash advance over the counter as long as I have my card and photo ID. Famous last words Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! From the Japanese viewpoint I am constantly confused with some famous criminal named Guy-Jean. They insist that I take money out of the machine. That is complicated by the fact that only a handful of machines in this town with a population the size of Denver actually are on the MasterCard network [pay no attention to what the ATM locator website says!] and further complicated by the fact that I have only a vague recollection of which of several possible PIN numbers might be attached to each card. So without having done my homework I finally find an "International service" ATM at the Miyata Post Office and ask for $2000 in yen. The customer service rep did say, after all to take as much as possible at one time to minimize the fees. Unfortunately, that is over the daily maximum of $1500 which means that not only did I not get any cash but the transaction was immediately flagged as potentially fraudulent and the ATM wouldn't give me any cash even though I kept decreasing my request. Finally, I had to call the credit card company back again. Supposedly everything is cleared up as long as I wait 48 hours. But then I get back home and watch the news. Oh my god what have I caused?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Matsuyama, Japan

I'm in the Seattle's Best Coffee outside Fuji-Grand department store enjoying a grande drip coffee and the free wireless service.

I haven't been very good about my posting this spring. It was hell-semester for me in many ways. Now I am visiting my in-laws and trying to reconnect with the vague memory of my Japanese fluency. Such as it was. I'm making a promise to try to do better this summer. I have the feeling you guys know how little my promises are worth.

I read Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth on the plane ride over. Great book - I can hardly wait to see the movie. So in honor of all the carbon emissions from the plane trip I am riding my bicycle all over town here. I'll have to check into buying a carbon offset for the trip when we get back.

My daughters insisted on having lunch at McDonalds this afternoon. We usually let them have one visit to McDonalds on every trip. My wife and I don't like it so much, but I think there is an instructive aspect to seeing the corporate image refracted through different cultures. It was interesting here that you have to split the trash from your tray into four different bins for efficient recycling: Food waste, paper, plastic, and combinations (like the barbeque sauce package for my daughter's chicken nuggets). Home waste is much more complicated to recycle. My mother in law will be glad to give you the run down if you want all the details. Again there are the four main waste streams on different days of the week and a host of dates throughout the month for special items like batteries, broken crockery, etc.

I like the humidity in Japan. It is a nice change from the arid Colorado summer. I home my drip line is keeping the vegetable garden moist. Japanese television is all about the World Cup. Unfortunately they use the letter W to refer to the world cup on a lot of advertising so riding around town you feel like you are in some kind of republican dystopia with the W's everywhere.

Update: An inconvenient truth has a website too for those who are interested.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

South of the Border

The Nussell family enjoyed a leisurely holiday trip to Mexico. I say (despite all the nasty things you sometimes hear from certain people) that the Mexicans I have met are among the kindest people on the planet.

New Future of Southglenn Site

Well, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle here. Between an abnormally busy work schedule, kids illnesses, holiday travel, and all the other stressors of modern life I neglected to keep posting.

If anyone shops at Southglenn you may be interested in the new website that gives updates on the progress of the redevelopment. You can read all about it here. I had gone to the open house back in November where I learned that there is a strong association between the text label "urban cool" and photographs of hot women in miniskirts. Today I learned that there are going to be residential lofts.

As they say: Developing...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Internet Hoaxes for Jeebus

The other day, my mother, who is determined to reclaim my soul for Jeebus, e-mailed me this story about an atheist philosophy professor with unbreakable chalk that has previously been debunked by a prominent Christian columnist here, by atheists here, and by a reliable neutral party here. A couple of months ago, the inspirational e-mail was this story about a man contemplating suicide who finds God on his caller-ID screen, which, alas, has since been co-opted by the pastafarians, and also appears to be fiction.

Although I'm not the first person to point out that these stories would be much better evidence for the existence of God if they were actually true, what is perhaps more interesting is their validity as evidence that evangelical Christians are eager for any spurious justification to support their irrational and magical thinking.

Unfortunately, I've heard of too many instances of brave and devout soldiers with children who have been killed in Iraq despite their prayers for a safe return to their families.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

College Admission Essay

Here's one from those egg-heads at the New Yorker that could serve as a model to emulate. It's never too early to start coming up with catchy ideas.

Bush's War on Journalism

Le Monde has an article about this Daily mirror story indicating that newly uncovered Downing Street memos show that President W suggested bombing the country of Qatar (nominally our ally) in order to destroy the headquarters of the Al-Jazira news service. According to the Le Monde report various anonymous British officials disagree whether W was joking or serious when he made the suggestion. Both articles state that a transcript of the discussion of the possibility of an attack covers five pages which would suggest that this was more than a jesting comment tossed off by President Codpiece à la "Bring em on."

The documentary Control Room is an extremely interesting film about the network that aims to be the CNN of the Middle East. It also documents the murder of a young Al-Jazira journalist by the American military. The Daily Mirror story states:

The No 10 memo now raises fresh doubts over US claims that previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military errors.

The DVD is sporadically available for borrowing from my favorite library.