Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back On Our Little Island

Spirits High, Soul At Ease...

After over eight hours spent blasting down the interstate across Tennessee and Georgia in the Chrysler 300, we finally cruised back across the bridge over the Inter coastal Waterway about 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon and almost all of my worldly cares immediately evaporated.

The smell of the salt water breeze has that sort of effect on me, and after all--we were "home" again after over a five week absence.

Even little Missy The Turbo Pup seemed to have a renewed sparkle in her eyes as she returned to the shores of the Georgia Coast where she spent most of the first 16 months of her life romping under the Live Oaks and spinning around on the pool deck and in the sands of East Beach.

After drinks at the locals watering hole over on the Marsh with friends and a hearty meal at my good friend and fellow Georgia Tech alum John Howden's Blackwater Grill, we settled in for the evening and I managed to forget to write anything here on the blog reporting our progress because...

after a little "puppy business" and further stowage and organization of provisions and supplies, I fell asleep about 8:30 PM.

Then I actually managed to sleep uninterrupted until after 2 AM, aided by the sound of the steady rain that began about sunset coming in from offshore.

This morning finds my contractor buddy Chuck and I meeting for breakfast and then wandering back over across the Marsh to the mainland, intent on making a bunch of sawdust on the stage of Brunswick's historic Ritz Theater--in the process constructing a giant staircase and associated balcony/handrails on which to stage the production of their upcoming play.

Whether it's Industrial steel infrastructure design one week, or short lived wooden fantasy scenes the next, I just love building things with life's "Adult" tinker toys.

I've suffered from this affliction been driven by this passion for nigh on 50 years now...and I don't intend to discontinue my antics any time in the near future.

(Stay tuned for photos of the progress to date on the never ending residential rennovation project...)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Value Of Having a "PROHIBITIVE" Cost Of Entry...

They're Still Not Burning American Dollars Yet...

At the ripe old age of "Nearly Fifty," all I can do is just sit here and shake my head at the current lamestream media hysteria and public uproar over the goings on on Wall Street and the latest round of so called "Bank failures."

Add this on top of Bush administration/global warming induced killer hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and $5.00 a gallon gasoline, and one could be inclined to think that Jesus had been seen putting his carry-on bag into the airliner's overhead compartment as he boards his return flight from Heaven or possibly that people were reported to be strapping on ice skates down in Hades.

Yes, I could see where those that are younger than me or otherwise uninformed could be looking around under their bed and in their closets for evil government regulators or greedy gas station owners lurking in the shadows--intent on stealing their last dollar intended to buy McDonald's cheese burgers and Happy Meals butter and eggs, but in the perspective of the history I've witnessed since graduating from high school things aren't nearly as bad as some people would have you believe.

For instance:

Remember when we had "stagflation" in the late 1970's during President Carter's tenure, and the interest rates, according to this web site, were at nearly NINETEEN PERCENT as the prime rate rose up to nearly 21%?

Talk about the pleasure and pain of home ownership, if you don't believe me just take a look at this chart:

See what I mean?

OK, at the risk of boring everybody to death I'm gonna do a little math.

Say that today you want to buy a fairly modest home, so you run out to the bank and ask them for a $100,000 loan to go with the $15,000 your old grandma left you last year when she went to be with Grandpa.

Assuming that you have good work history and even AVERAGE credit, you're looking at getting a 30 year mortgage at somewhere less than 6.5% with low points, and your monthly payment would be about $632.00 for principal and interest each month according to this mortgage payment calculator website.

Add on your escrow payments for PMI, taxes, and homeowners' insurance, and I'm pretty sure that you'd soon be grilling burgers and chasing the dog in your own little slice of suburbia for about $750 per month.

Such a deal...

Now let's pretend that President "Jimmuh" Carter is president and you've just graduated from college, got that new job and spouse, and since it's almost 30 years ago on the calendar you want to purchase a house that only costs $75,000 new.

Using the same Mortgage calculator web site, in 1979 you'd be looking at handing over a whopping $1,191.67 each month. Adding in the tax and insurance escrow and you're looking at nearly THIRTEEN HUNDRED BUCKS A MONTH FOR A STARTER HOME.

(For comparison, in 1979 a $100,000 house would cost you $1,750 a month...and increase of $1000 over today's mortgage rates.)

Can you imagine what those mortgage costs did to the housing market in the late 1970's?

If you worked in the Mortgage Banking business or built houses for a living I'm pretty sure you lost your ass in the process, and let me remind you that a DEMOCRAT frm the great state of GEORGIA was in charge of things at the time.

Funny thing.

The cost of money doesn't go up when no one is borrowing money.

It fact, it actually goes up as demand increases, and back in the late 1970's the available money supply was being sucked up by YOUR GOVERNMENT spending it on handouts, with business competing for what was left over getting the buildings and equipment in place for the Reagan/Bush/Clinton technology boom.

And another thing, if the government hadn't have been able to hit the highest income earners of that day with tax rates upwards of SEVENTY PERCENT they never could have been able to pay their own interest rates to finance their spending.

No ladies and gentlemen, what we're witnessing today is simply another boom and bust cycle in real estate, banking, and Wall Street.

Pick your reason, act suprised, but I have to remind everyone that it's happened before and it will happen again. I elect to learn something from the pain and try not to let it happen again as a result.

Remember "Black Monday", October 19, 1987, when the market suffered it's largest one day loss in history--with the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashing down from a little over 2700 to around 1700 in one day (that would be a loss of over 35% for those of you that went to Georgia or Troy State.)

Here's the map of that miserable financial journey:

If you listened to the news, the next day you would have thought that the world had ended, and people were running around screaming and pulling their hair out and a whole bunch of assholes in $1000 suits working on Wall Street drove home that day in their BMW's and Mercedes thinking they were penny-less, and in many times actually jobless.

Not to worry, because the ones that left the "financial services" business were replaced with guys that came along just in time to steal five figures of MY MONEY in the the mid and late 1990's in the IPO debacle as Clinton's Technology bubble burst.


That lesson was painfully learned, and today as a result of that and a few other experiences I'm just plain "bubbled out", but 'nother funny thing...

I, personally, have learned how to successfully employ the old axiom "buy low and sell high."

I sold in Mexico Beach before the current bust in resort property values hit, and I bought here on the banks of the Mighty Tennessee River as the prices held steady in the local market.

And another thing. Unlike some pockets in the national real estate market like Florida and NY and the West Coast, things are still moving along quite well here, as they are in the lower cost starter home market on the coast of Georgia.

So here I am, insulated from the current financial crisis by a little luck and a good deal of PLANNING. You can do it too if you'll just stop listening to the experts trying to sell you something and buy the things your brain and guts tell you you actually NEED and are in your best interest.

Now if I can just find a a car that gets 100 MPG to drive when we do seven hour road trips burning $4 gas, my life will truly be complete.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Professions Getting In The Way Of My Avocations

Distracting Distractions

Oh...I don't know...what's going on here on the banks of the mighty Tennessee River these days?

Not much writing if you haven't noticed...

Still screwing around with a whole bunch of steel at work--fine tuning our design and the drawings of the never ending Coke quench tower and stair tower projects.

Then there's the much anticipated upcoming glorious return to our Little Island and the Georgia Coast on Friday for a four day engagement in the set building business at Brunswick's Ritz Theater--this adventure's subject being the set for the play The Little_Foxes.

It's basically a giant staircase complete with handrails and a balcony that disappears upstage and off stage left (six years ago I couldn't tell my up stage from my down stage and stage right was a mystery to me also--I did know port and starboard and abeam and astern if needed however.)

I also have some real estate business interests to take care of in as much as this week my plumber finished new water supply piping from the city's water meter to two bathrooms, a utility room, and the kitchen of the never ending renovation project.

I have to schedule the plumbing inspection on Friday or Monday and the electrician starts work today installing a new electrical service entrance, panel, and all new wiring in the 1959 vintage structure.

Here inside my office and basement I have a number of electronic restorations in progress. The simplest is a 1944 wooden cabinet GE table radio I stole on E-bay that just needs new speaker cloth before it takes up residence in the living room foyer.

Projects #2 and #3 are again both old antique radios...a 1930's vintage battery powered Philco "Tombstone" farm radio (anyone got a 90.5 volt battery you're not using?) and a 1948's vintage Philco table radio like the one I lost in my house fire. Both radios need restoration of their electronic guts but I have downloaded the circuit diagrams and I have my soldering iron ready to get to work when we get back in town.

Then there is what I call the "Old Dell Laptop Computer Restoration Project" involving two old machines I've been dragging around in various stages of disrepair as "back-ups" to my current HP wide screen portable.

Since one machine had a dead display and the other suffered from a forgotten password, I guess their serviceability as "back-ups" are sort of like all of the combined forces of NATO and the United Nations could be considered "back-ups" for a couple of F-22 fighters and a division of US Marines.

Once again it was E-Bay to the rescue as I bought one lot of two Dell 640's in various stages of disrepair to get a working display, a cheep new copy of Windows 2000 XP Professional to keep Vista from wrecking further havoc on our network, and a USB hard drive caddy to allow me to recover the Photos and other files off both machines' hard disks before reformatting and installing the aforementioned 2000 XP and dancing the dance of success--having $5000 worth of computers (in 2003 dollars) working for less than $200 in parts and effort.

Just call me "Super Genius"...

Meanwhile, little Missy The Turbo Pup is getting her beach bag and bathing suits together, and we're really looking forward to getting her some exercise on the beach as they relaxed the leash laws on Labor day weekend and she can get back to her old ways of galloping unfettered along the surf in a 50 yard circle around us. She's certainly a little girl moulded in her dad's image of professional beach bum(ette.)

Other good news is that my company has recently been awarded some work which allows me to return to my Mechanical Engineering roots in Process Design and Thermodynamics, and my old college roommate Rusty's firm is partnering with us in the first of what we hope will be an ongoing series of systems which will increase my visibility and value to the firm.

I'm a much better Mechanical Engineer than I am a Structural Designer, but it's nice to brush up on the steel world after a seven year hiatus and let the synapses reconnect before moving back into Warp Drive.

I have to admit that the one thing I've learned the hard way over the past ten years is to not let my personal self esteem be singularly connected to my professional successes (or company failures), thus the wide ranging scope and variety of endeavors I find myself involved with today.

That said...I hope y'all all have a peachy day...If you will...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote O' The Day


"Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."

Albert Einstein
US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."

Abraham Lincoln
16th president of US (1809 - 1865)

"It is possible to fail in many ways...while to succeed is possible only in one way."

Nichomachean EthicsGreek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Bill Cosby
US comedian & television actor (1937 - )

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Tired...Busy...And Not Much Original To Say...

Work. Set Design. Travel Planning.

Writing's taking a back seat for a while.