Archive for June, 2009

Could I get a phone with my cell plan, please?

2009/06/30

Nowadays, phone service providers are so interested in making money off of extras that the phone you usually get is a piece of ka-ka.  Between providing a large enough screen to make surfing the ‘net possible and viewing images, and stuffing a high quality digital camera into the thing, the phone becomes fragile, easily messed up. Considering that the majority of cell phone users are merely socializing, those things are not that important.  But for people who really need a cell phone, the present situation is almost disgusting.

I would like to see a phone that is just a phone, no camera, no internet, with an antenna that extends,  a docking port protected by a retractable cover, and a battery that will support talking for at least 12 hours.  I don’t care if it is big, or heavy, or both, I want a phone that is reliable, that will do what I need for it to do.  Sure, I know that the exact phone that I have described is available for a few hundred dollars, but why can’t one of the phones offered by a phone service provider for free have these qualities?

Phone companies are trying to make cellular phones like Personal Data Assistants, multi-purpose devices that will perform a number of jobs, all of which have profit potential for the service providers.   Text messaging is merely the first step in reaping huge additional profits from cell phone users.  Internet access, image processing, instant messaging, all of these functions are supported by large networks now, with the capability to bill every second of use of each program, and round up to the nearest minute.

So most people end up geting a phone that is so small that it is nearly a choking hazard, with a battery that can only last about a third of the time that it is needed to, and is so fragile that a bump that is hardly noticable can disable it.  Of course, if I pay insurarce, I can get a new one for next to nothing, (but usually not nothing,} and so, provide an insurace company with profit as well.

Through smart marketing, a service which is certainly non-essential for most people has been made to seem indispensable.  In order to continue to pull in huge profits, now that the cell phone market is pretty well saturated, extra services have been added.  But reliable voice communication, the basic reason for cellular phones, has been pushed aside in the interests of profit.  Often times, a cell tower is operating at or near its capacity, which leads to dropped calls, just because there are so many subscribers who are talking about nothing important.

Lose a little, or lose it all?

2009/06/28

As the financial crisis has evolved, one subject that keeps causing contention is mortgage adjustment.  As people are losing jobs and seeing investments sour, their ability to pay their mortgage has dwindled.  Forecloseures are on the rise across the nation, resulting in more houses being put into a market which is already saturated.  This leads to home prices declining, which means that more people are holding mortgages that are worth more than the house.

Mortgage adjustment means altering the terms of the mortgage, either lowering the amount that must be paid, or extending the length of the mortgage.  These adjustments are made with the hope that they will help keep people in their homes, by preventing foreclosures.  But many of the investors who hold the mortgages are determined to avoid adjustments to those mortgages, believing that they will lose money.

True, if a mortgage is adjusted so that the amount owed is reduced, the holder of the mortgage is not going to get all of their money back.  But what happens when the the mortgage holder defaults, and the home is foreclosed?  It used to be that the mortgage holder could eventually get most of their investment back, through various legal means.  These days, the mortgage holder is in danger of getting little or no return on the investment if the homeowner defaults, because the price of the asset that secured the mortgage is shrinking so quickly.

The greed that got us into this mess is still with us, thwarting efforts to prevent things from spiraling further down. Demanding that a homeowner repay every penny of mortgage when the value of the home has decreased by as much as half is ridiculous, and is likely to lead to more bundled securities becoming toxic, as homeowners walk away from properties, or lose them in foreclosure.

Failing to realize that we are all in this together, and that no one is going to emerge whole raises the risk that we all will lose significantly.  Refusing to willfully downsize an invistment in light of the current economic situation increases the likelyhood that that investment will become practically worthless.  Who has more to lose, the homeowner, or the investor financing hundreds of homeowners?

bringing young and old together

2009/06/14

As the realization of how broke we all are sets in, perhaps we can contemplate some changes to save money.  We need new ways of doing things, ways which do not depend on the flagrant spending of money that we don’t have.  We need to look to the past, to see how thing were done before people could use energy so freely and easily.  We need to remember ways of living together which made us stronger, more unified, comfortable.  We need to be open to new ideas, willing to embrace change in the hope that we can learn from the results.  One such new idea is to hold day care classes at assisted living centers and nursing homes.

Currently, we are paying one group of people to take care of our kids, and another group of people to take care of our parents.  There was a time, not all that long ago, when our parents would have raised our children, while we were busy supporting both our children and our parents.  There were no such things as nursing homes, or day care, because those functions were performed within the family.  This is how culture was passed on, not through school.

A great many of the people who have been sentenced to a nursing home are still physically capable of looking after children, they just have some problem which their family did not want to deal with.  Having these people be involved in taking care of children, any children, would be beneficial for both the children and the elders.  And the children don’t have to be related to the elders, because children will accept almost any elder, and elders will accept almost any child.

Elders who actively participate in the care of the children could be compensated in some way, perhaps reducing the cost of their care that their family must cover, or receiving credit towards purchases.  Elders who merely interact with the children would not be considered employees of the day care, and would only receive the attention of young children.

Too many children today don’t know their grandparents, and there are children who have no idea what an elderly person looks like.  Far too many day cares merely take the children for a certain time, without much interaction between the workers and the children.  The children do not get an opportunity to discover what their heritage is, what it is that makes them who they are.

We can save money by having our elders do what they have traditionally done for most of human history, taking care of the children.  Doing so would also provide the benefits of young people learning about their culture, as well as seeing the world through the eyes of someone who has watched the world for a long time.

Midsummer Night’s Eve

2009/06/13

We are just a few days away from the Summer Solstice.  June 21st marks the beginning of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the longest day of the year.  This was one of the ancient sabbats, or celebrations, on the Wheel of the Year.  Because there is little work to do in the fields, and it is too early to harvest most things, people had time on their hands.  The weather was generally mild, so traveling was easy.  Thus, many towns had fairs or festivals, with vendors from distant lands selling exotic goods, and everyone had something to trade.

Soon, the days will begin getting shorter, even though Summer has just begun.  We are reminded of the natural cycles of Nature, which humans used to celebrate with each other.

Getting rid of houses

2009/06/03

Although this may come as a surprise to some people, we have too many houses in the U.S. right now.  The boom in real estate prices lead to builders producing more houses than the market needed, which means that houses are standing empty, waiting for someone to buy them.  At the same time, people are losing homes to foreclosures, which puts more houses on the market.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was created to buy up bank assets that had lost value, but so far, the money has not been used that way.  I purpose that we put some of what remains of the TARP funds into buying houses, and then trading those houses to lower income people who live in old, inefficient houses, which waste a lot of energy.  The old houses would be torn down, and the land sold to repay some of the cost of the program.

This would create some demand for new houses, while removing some of the most inefficient homes from the market.  Houses which are not structurally sound should not be upgraded in energy efficiency, but simply removed from use.  As the worst homes are often rental units, the owners would probably be willing to swap for newer houses which are energy efficient.

Somehow, we have to remove nearly a million houses from the market if home prices are to stabilize at anything near what existing houses are worth.  Otherwise, the over supply will drive prices to artificially low levels, wiping out most of the value that houses still have.  We could use this opportunity to remove some of the worst, most inefficient housing from the roles through a property swap financed by the governments Troubled Asset Recovery Program.