Friday, June 20, 2008

Four Hundred Dollars A Year

More Homeowner Stupidity...

Suppose that, having negotiated the purchase agreement, successfully closed the mortgage, and moved your wife, your kids, your dog, your ferret, and all of your worldly possessions into a concrete, wood, and steel box you call home, you found out that for an additional four hundred dollars a year you could close the only sizable loophole in your homeowners' insurance package--and you didn't do it.

Then, in the spring and early summer, like the "homeowners" in this news story, you watched the Mississippi river overflow across the local Levee and through that insurance loophole into your front yard and living room taking a lifetime of possessions and memories with it downstream.

Wouldn't you say that anyone that found themselves in that situation to have a bad case of "pound wise and penny foolish" disease?

Here's the meat of the story:

GULFPORT, Ill. (AP) - Juli Parks didn't worry when water began creeping up the levee that shields this town of about 750 from the Mississippi River - not even when volunteers began piling on sandbags.

After all, local officials had assured townspeople in 1999 that the levee was sturdy enough to withstand a historic flood, and FEMA had agreed. In fact, some relieved homeowners dropped their flood insurance, and others applied for permits to build new houses and businesses.

Then on Tuesday, the worst happened: The levee burst and Gulfport was submerged in 10 feet of water. Only 28 property owners were insured against the damage.

"They all told us, 'The levees are good. You can go ahead and build,'" said Parks, who did not buy flood coverage because her bank no longer required it. "We had so much confidence in those levees."

I did a little Googling, and the town of Gulfport, IL has a population of only 222 (something that would have been interesting to add to the news story written by so-called "professional journalists"), and assuming a household size of between 3 and 4 people, there should only be somewhere between 56 and 74 houses in the "village."

That means that somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3 of the "homeowners" were responsible enough to take the protection of their largest investment into their own hands and buy flood insurance.

That also means that somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3's of the "home borrowers" decided to rely on the GOVERNMENT to protect them.

And the levy...another government entity.

Let me say THIS about THAT (evoking my inner Sam Kennison) live IN a FLOOD the LARGEST river in the COUNTRY...


the SAME riVVVVVeeeRRRRRR that floods somewhere almost EVERY YearRRRRRR.

Remember 1993?

Were you alive in 1993...or just on drugs?

You must have been alive unless you have somehow bought a house when you are 15 years old. can people be so stupid?

We bought flood insurance on everything we had when we lived on our little island on the Georgia coast, even though the property in Brunswick didn't specifically require flood insurance.

Funny thing, but when I saw old black & white pictures of downtown Brunswick submerged under 20 feet of water during the 1893 hurricane, I decided that $400 was cheep when I considered the option of losing a building I paid CASH for.

I didn't need the GOVERNMENT or a bank or Mortgage Company to tell me I needed flood insurance--it's ridiculously inexpensive considering the risk, and the GOVERNMENT helps finance it.



I had a comment saying that my $400 figure was low, and they are probably correct because of the location and value of my property on the georgia coast.

The cost of flood insurance does vary by location, frequency of past flooding, and the value of your house, but that is something that I say people should consider when and if they elect to live in a flood hazard area.

I priced homeowners insurance for an ocean front parcel in 2002 on the Gulf coast of Florida--land and building worth about $500K, and it was over $13,000 per year for full coverage--half being flood and 1/3 being windstorm coverage.

Even if I could have pulled off buying the property and building the house, I couldn't have justified (or paid for for that matter) the cost of the insurance on an annual basis.

I know that things like Dams and Levee's breaking are extreme circumstances, but you also assume the risk when you live in the shadow of a manmade structure or on the shore of the ocean or on the banks of a river.

I don't mean to really appear heartless, but it just pisses me off when these news stories place the blame on FEMA and lament lack of government action rather than pointing out that people make the decision to place their lives and their property at risk and refuse to bear the true financial burden of their decisions.

I really don't think that the government needs to be in the Flood insurance business in the first place because I don't see it anywhere in the US Constitution and all it's done is encourage middle America to populate areas where the risks are just too large.

If you had to pay cash to live on the ocean or the Mississippi because the banks wouldn't loan you money, the value of ocean front and river front property wouldn't be so high and fewer people would be threatened, injured, and killed each year.

Talk about unintended consequences...


I Am NOT Sorry I Feel This Way...

Can we talk this morning?

Here...grab yourself a cup of coffee or some Orange Juice and pull up a chair.

Try to excuse my rapidly rotating, ever greying, ever balding head, if you will.

While I was taking a break from my "injuneering" work this morning, I wandered over to The Drudge Report and found yet another news story about the US congress debating a "Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue" "measure":

WASHINGTON (AP) - A broad bipartisan coalition supporting a massive foreclosure rescue beat back GOP efforts to gut it Thursday, defying a White House veto threat and quashing a bid to make it victim to revelations about two senators' VIP mortgages.

Administration officials said they oppose the inclusion of $4 billion in the measure to help states buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, and a plan to have government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) pay for the rescue.


Its centerpiece is a foreclosure rescue program in which the Federal Housing Administration would provide $300 billion in new, cheaper mortgages for distressed homeowners who otherwise would be considered too financially risky to qualify for government-insured, fixed-rate loans.

Borrowers would be eligible if their mortgage holders were willing to take a substantial loss and allow them to refinance, and would ultimately have to share with the government a portion of any profits they made from selling or refinancing their properties.

The measure is designed to help hundreds of thousands of borrowers in danger of losing their homes, but it also would benefit mortgage holders by allowing them to avoid costly foreclosures and reclaim some of what they're owed by people facing financial ruin.

Doesn't anyone but me have a problem with our Government spending tax dollars taken from people that worked to earn the money and giving it to people that are too careless or in some cases too stupid to pass one of life's most basic tests--buying and financing a home?

After all, I say that navigating yourself and your family through the mortgage process is actually the "final exam" in the challenge of passing from childhood to becoming an independent adult.

I did it the first time at the age of 25, and I've bought three houses I've lived in since, in addition to numerous other pieces of bare dirt and investment properties.

That said, I will also let you in on a little secret...

I, the current self appointed King of Home Improvement in Eastern Tennessee, nearly lost my third house when my company had a "financial reversal" in the late 1990's and I had to declare bankruptcy both personally and for my corporation.

Using the current political logic, I am wont to ask "Where the heck was the Federal By-God Government of the United States of 'Merica" and the hoards of pandering politicians when MY feet were being held to the fire, two customers owing me six figure sums each were going bankrupt, and the phone wouldn't stop ringing day and night with creditors demanding payment from my depleted bank account?

(cue the sound of the crickets chirping...)

It's since taken me eight years to rebuild my credit after my finances and all my things were flushed down the paper-work crapper. This from a guy that never bounced a check for 19 years with Bank South in Atlanta before my own "perfect financial storm" struck my stern.

All I have to say is that the government didn't come running to MY rescue then, and I don't think that OUR government should be passing new laws and stepping in to rescue people today that like me have a little bad luck, or in most cases have been selfish and just plain SCREWED UP.

After all, using the years since 1985 when I bought my first house as a barometer, who in their right mind could bumble buying a property with our current low mortgage rates enjoyed over the past five or ten years?

...unless they've run out and "let their eyes become bigger than their stomachs" (or is it abodes become bigger than their paychecks?)

My first mortgage was a 9.5% 1/5 adjustable loan, and we bought a little bitty house for $65,000 in that process because that was the most we were comfortable financing. The bank would have given me $100K at the time, but I had a modicum of sense about me and I didn't want to be responsible for paying back ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on our two earner family income and I didn't expect Uncle Sam to come riding to my rescue if things went awry just because I might have been crazy enough to roll the dice and bet my reputation and my credit on a trophy house.

Trophy houses--that's exactly what this current "mortgage crisis" is about, and the lenders are as guilty as the buyers in my opinion.

That's right, the lenders have more to lose in the current "mortgage crisis" overall than most of the poor beleaguered so called "homeowners" because the lenders are holding in many cases over 95% of the debt while the owners lose the other 5%.

What has happened here is yet another huge banking fraud on the scale of the Clinton Era "Savings & Loan" scandal, in as much as the "originators" of the loans (banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, et. al.) have handed out huge sums of money to marginally qualified (or outright unqualified borrowers) knowing that they can sell said loans to Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac--a.k.a. "the Government", earn all of the fees and income up front, then run away from the mess they've created when the feces strikes the rotating impeller.

I'm tired of seeing news reports showing women holding babies, surrounded by toddlers, lamenting being tossed back to the apartment complexes and trailer parks from whence they came because dear hubby got laid off from his job at the Manure Factory and the mean old mortgage company still expects to receive their monthly loan payment.


That picture is the exception rather than the rule...most of the people wallowing in the current "mortgage crisis" are actually gainfully employed men and women that closed their eyes and rolled the dice on their home value or mortgage terms and today they're finally realizing that they've simply


Stupidity no more deserves having tax dollars thrown at it than does outright fraud.


Taking a big breath...

That will be all...for now

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eyes Glazed Over

Traumatized By A Computer Monitor...

Sorry folks, but I just can't sit still long enough to write much this morning because if I do I will exceed my Government Recommended Dosage of Incident Computer Generated Radiation (or GRDICGR for that short?)

After about twelve hours of AutoCAD and Excel spreadsheets yesterday and already enduring a couple hours this morning doing structural deflection calcs I'm ready to shut this machine down, grab a shower, and head back in to work to do it all over again.

Y'all have a nice day...If you will...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fruit Massacre

Oh The Carnage...

I ran into this scene early this morning in my kitchen:

That's the carcasses of thirty seven key limes that gave their lives in my cooking efforts.

And here's a photo of the lone survivor:

I think that there's a Key Lime Pie around here that needs some garnish... RUN ROLL AWAY LITTLE FELLOW!!!

Taking An Evening "Off"

Or Is It Having An "Off" Evening?

I'm happy sorry to report that yesterday I didn't work on doors for the first time since Saturday evening.

Don't tell anyone...let's just keep it our little secret.

I wasn't totally useless however...basking in the glow of recent thermodynamic calculation successes during the daytime and working on the design of the set for the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association's fall production of Lillian Herman's 1939 classic play The Little Foxes in Brunswick's Ritz Theater.

While we're speaking of "sets", I also designed a couple of sets of steel lifting lugs for the Mississippi Smokestack project earlier this morning, but I won't risk boring you with the details.

The funny thing is that six years ago I hadn't set foot in a playhouse theater more than a half dozen times in my life, and now this fall's production represents my ninth design/build set construction effort since 2003.

That means that nearly forty thousand people have paid to see things which I built for Actors and Actresses to stand on and wander around in front of.

It blows my mind when I think about it...

It's actually pretty easy when you know how to build things like I do and you have competent theatrical support from people like Rob and Heather at the theater to back you up and help make things happen.

I'm sorry that this show will probably be my last at the Ritz due to the logistical issues of being eight hours away and working full time again. We plan on making our first visit back to our little Island in early September in order to complete the construction effort as I pass off the responsibility to one of my contractor friends there on St. Simons Island.

Why is it that the crappy stuff seems to keep coming at you and the fun stuff keeps going away in life?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Ramblings

Physically Focused But Mentally Distracted...

Oh...let's see...what's going on in Knoxtown and the balance of the world this morning?

For one thing, I was pleased to see Tiger Woods win the US Open in the playoff round in spite of his aching knee.

What a class act Mr. Woods is. Pat pointed out that you never see his wife half naked in public or drunkenly crashing her SUV into the media's cars and his kid stays out of sight instead of holding him out in front of cameras over the railing of his motel balcony.

Don't look for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to embrace his lifestyle and success any time soon. Come to think of it, Tiger has probably told them to stay in Chicago and Harlem and leave him out of their public race demagoguery.

Meanwhile, in the cooking department, I've slaughtered a bunch of yeast since Sunday.

First there was my introductory effort at taking my Pizza Dough Recipe and making Calzones--all in all a success except half-pizza sized Calzones contain more bread that one might want on one's plate at one time. Sunday night's Calzones contained baby spinach, diced pepperoni, Italian sausage, Mozzarella, and crumbled Feta Cheese.

Then there was the batch of Pizza dough produced for Saturday night that didn't get cooked. After spending a couple of evenings in the fridge (I made fresh dough for Sunday's Calzones) I rolled it out into an elongated oval early Monday morning, coated it lightly with olive oil on top, then sprinkled it with dried Tarragon, Oregano, roasted garlic, sea salt, and red pepper flakes before tossing it into a 450degree oven for twenty minutes.

When I opened the oven door, instead of Pizza, I had a loaf of fresh Focaccia Bread...go figure.

Almost half of it was gone before I left for my co-workers will just have to wait until next time I guess.

Finally, last night I reached into the Deep Freezer and extracted four giant Sea Scallops and a half dozen Snow Crab clusters. The clusters were simply steamed in one of my giant pots on the stove top, but the Sea Scallops had a little more work to do before they reached the dinner plate.

I pre-cooked some bacon slices so they were done but still flexible, then wrapped the Scallops with them and seared the packages under the broiler for three minutes on each side.

Meanwhile I sauteed some sliced mushrooms in the bacon grease and put together an Olive Tapenade (kalamata olives, sliced black olives, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, fresh Italian Parsley, oregano, fresh black pepper.)

Once the Scallops were hot and seared, I tossed them on a warm plate, spooned the sauteed mushrooms over them, piled on some Tapenade, diced tomatoes, and feta cheese cubes to finish.

Here...take a look...

Then the Scallops joined their crab cousins on the dinner table and major chowing down ensued.

Don't you wish that you were at my house for dinner last night?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dog Day Afternoons At The Puppy Pool

I Should Be So Lucky...

Here's a look at our little Missy the Turbo Pup cooling her belly in her new Country Puppy Compound pool this past weekend.

And here she is this afternoon whiling the hours away with Pat while I handled the painting of the new door duties on the carport.

I think that she needs a bigger pool so I have room to get in too with all of her floats and toys.

Maybe next summer...

The Three Hundred Dollar Sixty Dollar Doors

Nearly Out Smarting Myself...

When we exited our recent real estate closing, one of the only things that still hadn't been refinished or replaced inside of our new/old house here in Knoxtown was the interior doors.

They were actually still in pretty good condition considering that they were over 40 years old, but through the years the old luan finish had been painted on the side facing into the individual rooms and the hinges and knobs were showing their age and I--being the self proclaimed king of "Do-it-yourselfers" in Eastern Tennessee--decided they needed replacement about the time we moved in back in late April.

The process of replacing an interior door today on a newer home can be as easy as pulling out the old pre-hung door/frame/casing and sliding in a new door/frame assembly, securing it in place, and installing new trim.

Home Depot and Lowe's have entire isles filled with assemblies from which to choose if you're interested.

Not so in houses built in the days when Men were Men and battery powered screw guns weren't invented.

My Old doors were custom built into the rough 2x4 openings and the edges were hand cut to accept the hinges and knob assemblies. Further, as I learned this weekend, in 1966 in Knoxtown a 24" door was actually 23-3/4" wide and the 32" doors varied somewhere between 31-3/4" and 32" wide, depending on the room (and mood) you were in while holding your saw and chisel.

So any way, back in early May when I ordered and had delivered the picket fence panels I've since returned for Missy the Turbo Pup's Country Canine Compound, I also had a single 32" x 6'-8" interior six-panel door slab dropped in my carport with the intention of testing my ability to complete the necessary replacement process on a single door.

Silly me...

What has ensued since in my well intended saga was a tool purchasing orgy verging on the absurd, delayed by weeks of time spent at first waiting on tools to arrive from E-bay vendors and most recently by sheer procrastination.

Regardless, I'm proud to report that as of about two PM this afternoon I had successfully hung SIX new door slabs in all of the interior door openings of our abode.

Take a look with me as I reminisce about all of the contraptions and doo-hickies I had to acquire and add to my ever growing tool collection in order to accomplish this super-human feat.

Here's a view looking at one of the old doors covered with the weapons used to wrestle it from it's frame and install it's replacement.

See that long thin ominous looking thing there on the right stretching almost the full height of the door?

That's almost $200 worth of Bosch door hinge template designed to make cutting the little depressions needed in the door frame and slab easier. Since my door frames already had hinges previously, my project was supposed to be half as hard and twice as much fun, Right?

It only took about three weeks after the template showed up in a box at my front door for me to actually USE IT for it's intended purpose.

And here's what really started it all--a nice glass covered box featuring router bits of all sizes, shapes, and purposes. (Anyone but me notice that only the 1/2" straight bit is missing? Why pass up the opportunity to buy a "set" when you only need one item is my policy--it should be yours too.)

Next we come to the router motor department. I already had the big old cheep Black and Decker router there on the right...the little Bosch Palm router was purchased while still under the mistaken belief that the router bit template which worked with the aforementioned router door hinge template required the Palm router to complete my new project.

Turns out I was wrong, and the new bit template only fits routers built by Bosch that have been discontinued and only are available used on E-bay. Since the word "return" isn't in my policy statement when it comes to new tools, the little palm router still sits unused in it's plastic storage box as I write this evening.

Finally, we come to the mundane tools that are a necessity on every project...things like clamps and cordless screwdrivers and stuff:

I will point out that that yellow and black thing there on the right below the Dewalt Screw gun is a Dewalt door knob template that lets you cut the hole for the knob and the strike without having to make any measurements except the distance from the bottom of the door slab to the center line of the holes.

I'll never live without one again, and I just may mount it in a frame and hang it on the wall in my office because it was worth every penny when working on six doors in one effort.

And regarding my original posting title? What started out as one three hundred dollar door (actually four hundred if you include the palm router) has been reduced to six sixty dollar doors through the economy of scale and mass production.

Regardless of the cost, I still claim the self-appointed title of KING OF HOME IMPROVEMENT in Eastern Tennessee this evening. Who cares about actually saving money if you're having fun in the process and not causing any fatal injuries?

So now all that's left to do now is take them all back outside after work this week to add some paint, and then bring them back inside and re-install them each in their own little openings to hopefully provide privacy for the next fifty years.

Time to tackle some electrical wiring in the basement now...a home owner's work is never done...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Three Hundred Dollar Door

I Had One For A While...

Stay tuned for the details.