fj: (phkl)
My most watched item on

This photoset.

1013 views since it hit the front page of Apartment Therapy. The pic with the most views has 984 or so.
fj: (angry)
Dear WaMu

Do you have any idea of the damage you have done? You were a bank. A BANK. As in stability, rock-solid, a foundation. You were supposed to be one of those institutions that would carry on, that knew what it was doing. You were in the class of companies that was special, that was so conservative it has its own hours and gets forgiven for them, where people dressed up to work at, where Business Casual was frowned on, where, from the earliest depictions in children's books onwards through everyone's life, you were depicted as necessarily stuffy and solid because you guarded people's money, so you had to be beyond trustworthy, and exude it. Hell, WaMu, banks are so special they weren't even ranked in the popular mind as a mere company. You were a bank. A bank!

You were supposed to be filled with people who patted youngsters on the head and adults on the shoulder, reassuringly, and say "You are safe here". Like a church is supposed to give sanctuary from evil, you were supposed to give what little we could scrape by from our hard work to save sanctuary from all the scammers and idiocy and forces ready to leave us with nothing when we needed it. Dude, that was my contract with you when you took that word BANK. That was your promise. You'd tell us in small print my deposits would be insured, but then you were supposed to be able grin a little as you ever so slightly rolled your eyes and spread your arms a little and said "Like you'd ever need that FDIC guarantee, I mean, look, we're a bank." Then you'd clasp your hands and put them on the desk and lean over and say "We are safe. We take your deposits and lend them out and then from the returns we give you interest. But we always make sure your deposits are covered. It is not just the law, it is our promise. We deal in trust." A bank, man, you were a bank. Not a corner drugstore.

And now it turns out you were taking my money and investing it in crap that only worked if house prices kept rising forever. Which you, as a bank, remember, the smart people with computers and MBAs, should know is an idiotic idea. Yes, everyone mortgaged as if it was true but we all knew it wasn't and couldn't be, and now you turned out to have bought into that idea wholesale in the investments you made, buying up all those mortgages, which turned worthless when a lot of people stopped making their payments, house prices stopped rising so they could not sell or re-fi, and the agencies you turned out to be paying to tell you those investments were good had no choice but tell you overnight they were bad. And you had so much of that bad shit you suddenly were no longer covered. You didn't buy just a little of that mortgage securities stuff with my money, you hadn't conservatively spread risk, no, you had bought whole hog into something you didn't actually know if it was worth anything. You took my money and invested in tulip bulbs, in

No, seriously, how could you? Not just be so stupid, but be so stupid that you ended up betraying your social contract with us so? How could you so behave like a drunk dot-com investor in 1999? I am so angry with your whole industry right now. Another set of lies I was fed. Turns out you were not trustworthy. Turns out you and all your little friends are no smarter than a chain of corner drugstores. I am not looking for mommy and daddy, I don't need a rose garden, but was it too much to ask for something, anything, to be more than a thin façade of trustworthyness? Like my bank?

Look, I'll get over this. I'll now have to just evaluate banks just I like evaluate everything else in corporate life: with mistrust, wariness, cynicism. A little extra padding on the skin, a little more irony. Turns out you guys with your smarts are just as shit moronic when it comes down to it as everything else in corporate life. Untrustworthy. Like there was no difference between you and giving my money to CVS to keep safe (except, well, CVS is still in business). Except this time with my money, you know, what I need for food and shelter. Turns out, all libertarian free-market-rules corporatist bullshit companies have been spouting for years now, in the end it actually is that government you business people so despise and feel holds you back that keeps me safe after all, that is the net that is there.

Because as sure as hell it wasn't you and your free-market honed, nimble smarts.

Deregulate more my ass, it turns out you actually couldn't handle being allowed to do what you wanted to do, you and everybody else invested in the stupidest thing possible, whole hog, until it killed you. I was always wary of people who scoffed at regulation and the government, saying they made things inefficient and got in the way, and had all this ideology and examples; I knew from my background It Wasn't That Simple. Now it turns out what should have been the most stable and conservative institutions, pillars of public trust, handled their unregulated freedom by chucking all common sense and being stupid. Without any real repercussions to the people being stupid. The shareholders lose money, dear money they need, and the rest of us lose trust, something all you money fucks should know is even more precious because it what your banks are built on -- 'scuze me, your companies, your rackets, are built on. "Bank failures like in the 30s can't happen again, oh no, we fixed that now, you can trust us. Your grandpa who is wary of us, well, that is old thinking, no, it isn't like that anymore."

WaMu, you suck. All the other banks suck too. I am glad I have so little money in your accounts. I burned much of it from that account trying to get away from the US clusterfuck when I knew that somehow the country would have to pay for giving the national checkbook to a cokehead alcoholic and his cronies for 8 years, so I am glad that I contributed some to you even being less covered for your idiocy, even if it was by an infinitesimal small amount. But I didn't get far enough. Because I did the right things. And now I am gonna hurt.

Because you see, WaMu and all you financial cronies, remember me? I am the guy who saved, like everyone says I should have, because I could. And when I had a chunk of savings I did what was recommended for good returns, which is invest it, carefully. So it would grow and not lose purchasing power when I needed it. And I bought my flat instead of "throwing money away on rent", because you have to invest and use tax advantages.

But here's something that you failed to mention, you financial whizzes of good advice, something I knew after I saw failure, but you still didn't explicitly mention: unless you put your money in places where it will not or barely keep up with inflation, it will not be available for you when you need it. When do we non-retirement age professionals need our nest savings most to tie us over? Not when times are good, we can g from one job to another then. When do we need money to move, retrain, pause, regroup? When times are bad. Well guess what, that's when nobody wants your real estate, your mutual funds have dropped so much your returns are worse than if you had bought CDs, and most of the good saving certificates still have your money locked up because to get that return you had to commit to a specific locking in.

There is no safe place for saving. The safest place turns out to be run by lunkheads, the place that gives some return will not be available when you actually need it, which is when times are bad. And the people reading this who want to tell me I should have 'diversified' can saw your own heads off with a popsicle stick first before even taking a breath to talk to me, and then go run a bank since they are in obvious need of your super smarts, but most of all, you can can it. I was diversified, and it included real estate and very diverse funds and saving accounts, and they all turned out more or less useless in a crisis like this when everything has lost value across the board and nobody can buy whatever I have to sell except against vulture prices, and the places I trusted turned out to be run by total idiots. Makes me reeeeeeeeeaaaaal comfortable about that 401(k) scheme I am supposed to believe in these days. I am kind of glad I have no US job and no salary to contribute to that bullshit built on the vagueness of "average returns". And the bailout apologists telling me that we have to support the lunkheads or "we will all hurt" need to fucking first acknowledge that I am already hurting. Everybody but the lunkheads is hurting, just in grades of hurting or hurting more.

fj: (Default)

Packing Is Going Really Well
"Packing Is Going Really Well", Nokia N73, Los Angeles County, 2008

fj: (LA)
Whirlwind weekend of seeing LA friends at private parties, bar nights, at their homes, having beer in thick crowds or having cake at birthday parties on Pico Place, being called by East Coast friends to say goodbye. [ profile] sabin was here to make everything even more fun on my last weekend together with [ profile] jeffla and [ profile] likethecandybar whom I finally saw in their natural environment, and the birthday party today at Pico Place. Tomorrow I have my last workout with my trainer, go to the supermarket to get party food, and pack my two huge new suitcases, decide what to wear for the next two days, and get ready for tomorrow night's goodbye.

Most large things have been arranged: keys to realtor who will sell while I am away, movers have been retained to be let in when the place is sold to pack up everything I do not get rid of Monday night or Tuesday morning. I want to not worry about objects any more, they need to be off my mind while I go to work on shelter and income  in another country.


Jan. 26th, 2008 01:53 pm
fj: (Default)
Strange lull. All is organized that I can organize, I think, before the great haul-away Monday or throw-away Tuesday morning, and then hopefully some friends who need my tools or can consign other stuff will be back after I have left. The movers will have a list fo what to pack, I will concentrate everything going to the UK in one area, except for the staging furniture. I think I'll have to wake up at 5 AM Tuesday to get it all doen before I leave for the airport on my afternoon flight.

But yet, right now this second, nothing. Movers arranged, temporary housing seems arranged, I should call tomorrow night. Flight arranged. Bought new luggage on closeout at Macy's so I can schlepp tons, only color available cheap was light blue. Thank god I am secure in my masculitnity. Now I just have to recover from the dance party last night and get ready for the bar tonight.
fj: (Default)
Because of a scheduling conflict many of my friends in LA are encountering, I will probably move my goodbye / buy-my-stuff party to Monday night the 28th. I just chose the 27th without having any idea what else was going on, and I shouldn't have.

Now I am going through all my archives and paper, even the box of warranties and manual, to purge more paper. We did this some in Boston, but not as much you'd expect from a move cross-country. Disney hired pro-movers, and they basically rolled our household up, every last bit of it, and took it here. Consequently, we didn't have a stage where everything we had to transport went through our hands for selection. Now I am doing that for my papers and the household documents.

Nothing major to find, but the receipt from my first TiVo is nostalgic. Or my first receiver. Furniture manuals. And then my personal stuff: first paychecks at Children's Hospital Boston. Documents and receipts with my temporary address on them (the then-location of Boston's soc.motss's Head Muffin). Other apartments. I can't find documents that I was ever co-owner of the condo in The Fenway, but little slips about my first brokerage account. The 4 changes of acquisition the bank I had my first account with in the US, BayBank, went through until it became Fleet -- now itself swallowed up -- and I then gave up for crappy customer service and a seemingly arbitrary limit they put on how much I could purchase in a day no matter how much was in my account I only found out about when I couldn't buy a laptop.

All of this now being disposed of again. The important papers will be sent to various addresses for safekeeping until I am established, the vital ones travel with me as they concern accounts I may have to switch off at a moments notice (utilities, insurances) no matter where I am. And as much as possible gets done in the large cloud of computing called the Internet.

I found the manuals for almost every piece of electronics I might want to sell or give away. I haven't watched a single episode of Desperate Housewives this new season, and I have to admit I simply will not watch them at all. I have stopped watching episodic TV, or any TV at all. I may pull BSG:Razor off to watch on my laptop, and then soon I will reset the TiVo and pass it on to its new home; it, and its lifetime service, have been spoken for.Thank god I have weaned myself off TV before moving to a TiVo-less country.

What I did not find is the title to my car, I will have to go to the DMV and get a duplicate. I suspect I missed it if it was sent to Oakwood, the corporate apartment complex I was in when I bought the car, just as I was moving to Downtown. Or it was never issued on paper anyway because my very large dealer is part of the Paperless Title program the California DMV has for institutions like that so that large lenders and other lienholders do not have to keep stacks of car-titles. Of course, I paid cash for mine and thus it should have been given to me on the spot, but it wasn't, and I didn't know enough about buying cars to notice. Well, since I am leaving town Thursday night that means I can't really list it now since the first DMV appointment I can get is Wednesday. God I hope I can sell the car next week in a few days then.
fj: (angry)
I guess I could yell at somebody, but it will not help.

Unique Restoration did send the project manager, Scott, by on Monday to look at my wall, see a small patch of discoloration outside, and tell me that that was all that needed to be fixed. When I mentioned mold might be growing in my wall because, you know, water went down it on Christmas Day, he kind of pooh-poohed that and said that if he went searching he could find mold in any house, so he wasn't taking that too seriously. I told him that if it the issue was important enough to drill holes in the wall of my neighbor downstairs and have fans running for a week, I would like to know my apartment was ok as well. I did also mention that the work had to be finished by this weekend. I finally convinced him to send someone by, Rick, to drill holes and leave fans to dry humidity out.

Rick calls that afternoon, says he can't make it, can he come Tuesday morning. I stress to him that the work needs to be finished and patched by Friday afternoon because I am showing this place. He says that that means he will just have to hurry everything up and work fast. He comes Tuesday morning, drills holes, puts the large industrial air blower and dehumidifier, tells me to run it for a full 24 hrs. I sleep in the living room.

I call UR yesterday to ask when they are picking up their equipment and patching my wall. I get Frank on the line who tells me they will be by at 9 AM for all that. Rick arrives at ten -- at least he showed up, which makes it the second time someone has showed up at all in 5 promises Frank has made about people showing up -- to take away the equipment, and hold a little tool against the holes to have it not beep which means there's no water inside. I ask him about the holes. He tells me this needs to be a whole new estimate process and will not be done today. I remind me he promised me. Rick plays dumb. I now have a wall full of decorative holes near the bottom, and a viewing of The Loft on Sunday at noon. I guess I get to give someone a call again.

Thanks, Unique Restoration!

Edit: I can't even get myself to call them. I know I cannot do this myself, my previous patch jobs have been horrible bumpy messes. I just have had a string of suppliers and services-people mishaps that leave me feeling I can't even get angry because that never helps. I just feel powerless.
fj: (Hector The Protector)
[ profile] fj : you know, if it weren't for the fans the evenly spaced holes at the bottom of the wall look almost decorative
[ profile] pinkfish : pics?
[ profile] fj : What is this,
[ profile] pinkfish : yeah
fj: (Default)
It's good thing I am washing my hair tomorrow: when I came in and lied down with front door propped open, Sammie came in from next door and decided my wet headfur obviously needed grooming.
fj: (Default)
Well, who would knock on my door at 9:12 Am but Unique Restoration. They did apologize when they saw that I actually hadn't really started my day much when I opened the door, and again when I mentioned that they had been scheduled to appear the two days prior and I had had no advance notice they would appear today. The main guy said he had been on holiday and hadn't gotten his messages until today, an excuse that actually makes the internal communication sound worse than I thought it was.

Anyway, the plan would be to drill holes in the drywall and put fans in front so the inside could dry out. This would only take two days of fans since it had been so long that a lot had probably already dried. Based on what they found, they would replace the insulation as needed. So I asked, if we start now and you guys come in Friday, could you be finished before any weekend showings of the house? A phone call to the office and the answer was no, the patching and painting would require drying of a day and a half. Well, I said, then you will have to start next Monday, because I want this place showable on weekends. That seemed to be fine, but they did want to leave a dehumidifier to keep running. I asked what it would do since I always had windows open and there would be no holes in the wall that is now dry on the outside, but they said it would help.

Ok, so I have a big box whirring in my bed area in front of a wall, with a long plastic tube that ends in my sink. A little water trickles out of the tube. The comment about only needing two days of holes and fans because the situation might have dried so much already makes me wonder just how much of this work is ncessary at all -- if I wait another week, might we cut drying time even by one day more? What if I wait a month? Well, I do not want the disclosure issue, so I signed the work order, and left a messagw at 502's insurance agent that I did.
fj: (Default)
And on the other hand, I cannot get the people from Unique Restorations to show up. They are the people that seem to be repairing the water damage to the units below me. I called Sunday about having them over, the guy said they would be in 302 Monday morning so they could stop by to discuss work on my place. Never showed. I called in the afternoon because I wanted to leave the house, I was told I would get a 30 minute warning before they'd arrive so I could get home. No call, never showed. I called yesterday, the same guy said they would be here this morning at 11. Guess what.

Tomorrow I am calling the insurance agent of 502, the one who caused the damage, and ask him for another water damage service to work with. Of course, I cannot do that today.
fj: (Default)
I just went downstairs to ask the number of the contractors and all that. All I heard was very loud fans, and I guess no-one's home. Now this flood happened what, Wednesday? Have they been drying out their wall since? Oh crap.
fj: (Default)
So I guess the country song of a year continues: now my trailer has been washed away by a tornado.

Ok, it is not that bad. But due to massive turmoil and exhaustion, my neighbor upstairs fell asleep with the bath running, and we found out the overflow doesn't have the capacity to handle the flow of water when the faucets are wide open. I found this out by email from my neighbor below, Tess, to tell me the bathroom and bedroom in her apartment were flooded, and was I still out of state? Oh, I was, so I called another neighbor, Cidney, to knock on my neighbor next door's door. He, David, is the owner of the kitten that visits every time we both prop our doors open, and he has a spare key to my place, but I did not have his number. David called me back to tell me he had already let the emergency people with the water vacuum cleaners in, and I had no great flood nor cosmetic damage. It all looks ok.

And now that I am home I can say that he is right, and the drywall will dry out and the ceiling will dry out. Unfortunately, the insulation inside the drywall will not, and I have to replace it or have a disclosure issue on my hand now that this property is on the market. The contractors are ready to go, in fact they wanted to drill holes in the wall today while I was still gone to survey the damage, but David would not let them do that until I was there myself. Which was excellent of him because I have a showing to an interested party tomorrow.

Ugh. It means taking a drywall panel out lengthwise along the wall, putting new insulation in, patching the thing back. While The Loft is on the market, about to enter a busier season as the new year starts. And no matter how little time a contractor says it takes, every contractor I have ever dealt with has blown right through his timeline. I cannot show this place for top dollar while there is a gaping hole in the wall.

I will talk to my neighbors tomorrow, call the contractor, call the broker (who is on holiday), and see how to proceed. But I really, really, really did not need this complication, and as much as the upstairs neighbor wants to put things right and her insurance will cut checks, considering not money but timing and scheduling are the major issues, there is nothing she can actually do.
fj: (Default)

Smooth Fluff
"Smooth Fluff", Nokia N73, Los Angeles County, 2007

The fun part of decorating a house in muted colors verging on duochrome, is that when you bring flowers in, they really pop. As in really.
fj: (Default)

I Will Miss These Moments
"I Will Miss These Moments", Nokia N73, Los Angeles County, 2007

fj: (Default)
I think from now on I am chucking all my public reasons why I am leaving and just answering I can't live in a country where Mike Huckabee is a serious candidate. (Thanks [ profile] danbearnyc. I guess he doesn't want the Jewish vote.)

To recap publicly: I used HomeGain to solicit realtors to sell The Loft. None of the responses were local to my market but covered other parts of the city, 80% of them were canned. What I can also report is that the one I wrote through HomeGain never got back to me. I talked with one broker who was a FOAF, one pair that I got through AgentMachine, one team I met at a party, and one that was recommended to me by a realtor who lives in my building. I signed with the last one as the best fit on Friday, listing went up on Saturday, and the team I met at the party already brought an interested party last night to my realtor. I should ask how the viewing went. While it was on I went to friends to have dinner and then [ profile] timfogartyfeed to not bake cookies.
fj: (Default)
So I am selling The Loft. It seems necessary if I am moving away. Bad time to sell real-estate in the US, but it could be worse: I could be trying to sell somewhere else than in Los Angeles city itself. I need to find a broker, then.

Now, what does a broker do? I am not entirely sure. They seem to list you on their big shared listing system, the MLS. They find out what you should set your price to by looking at what comparable units sold in your area, they call that "running comps". They stage, they photograph, make flyers, put out signs with balloons for open houses, tell you what your house should look like or find people to make it happen, and more. They also know which other brokers to talk to who have clients, or so they say. For this want they 3% of the sale price when you sell. You also need to pay the broker for the buyer 3% for bring you a buyer. Sell a half-million dollar loft and already you spend $15K on middlemen whose main skills seem to be entering data and running the color printer.

Or is it? Am I being mean, naive, or just ignorant? Maybe they have really good marketing plans or other things I do not know?

Of course, the WWW sees middlemen as damage and tries to route around them, or help you find better ones. An example of the first is RedFin. A seller signs up with RedFin and describes their house on a web-page. RedFin will find stagers and photographers and use their results to make your property look even better. Then RedFin auto-prints flyers, tells you where to pick up "For Sale" signs to put outside your house, and that you should bake cookies when it's time for an open house. They will list the place on the MLS, Yahoo homes, Zillow, etc, with your open house times, so hopefully buyer brokers will see it and people will come by. They will also give you a lockbox, a little safe you attach to your front door that opens with a numerical code, to put your front door key in, so brokers can come in when you are not home. So you do everything yourself to sell your place, except you do not know people and hope the listing on the MLS will get you foot traffic. RedFin will negotiate for you, handling all the official paperwork that comes with negotiating a price, going into contract, doing the final sale. For all this RedFin asks a flat $3K5. For a half-million dollar loft, the seller saves twelve thousand dollars by making their own cookies and smiling on Saturdays, RedFin says.

Seller brokers are screaming bloody murder on their blogs about RedFin. They invest tons of time in open houses and flyers and relationships with other brokers and other buyers and other sellers, and they have teams and workers to pay, they get only paid when they close, and now they have a down market on their hands. They see what Amazon did to indie book sellers and wonder if the Internet will take them out next. The ones who have been brokers for the long haul are less worried, they have seen these assist-to-sell brokers come and fail before, but do know that while this one plays out, things will be a little leaner. Still, times are tough for realtors. I know of one here and two in Fort Lauderdale who are looking for real jobs again. It is just lean times for those who started in the last 5 years, often with no sales in 2007 as buyers are skittish or uanble to get credit now, and sellers will not take their losses from when they bought during bubble years.

The web also tries to help you find a better middleman. HomeGain and AgentMachine have services for sellers where you enter some details about the place you want to sell, and they send it to seller brokers who have signed up with them, so these brokers can send you a response back why you should engage them. I used HomeGain to describe my space, but also as a chance to ask specifically, why should I hire you?

I had 4 or so questions in my application. Some might be seen as tough, but I truly think that is ok to ask someone I am about to go into an exclusive relationship with about the largest asset I have that results in me handing over 5-figure dollar amounts. How long have you sold in downtown Los Angeles, which is a difficult and very new area with its own quirks? How many properties have you sold in the last year, or 3 months? What can you give me that RedFin cannot, seeing as I am unemployed and can let in anyone any time?

I got 10 responses on HomeGain. 2 of those were from the same team of people, so those are out for not coordinating with each-other, it looks really bad. Those included, 8 were pages of boilerplate responses about how they had 12 to 21 point marketing plans that include how your home should look neat and what color flyers they will make and how experienced they were selling homes in my area, like Encino or Pasadena. Of those I am more inclined to take the one who speaks Korean and Mandarin since the dollar is low and DTLA is right next to Koreatown, but otherwise, no. One of them offered to buy the place if it was lsited for more than 120 days, I expect this means listed at half price for 120 days, but I should call, I think. And only one single respondent actually answered my questions, and his answer of what service he provides is that it will be a High Touch experience: he will be there, he will make it painless, he will negotiate for a high price for me. Ok, you know what, still sounds a little vague, but at least he answered what I asked.

And then there's John. John was proposal number 10. John didn't send me pages of boilerplate. John didn't write soothing or exciting words about how he has teams of people ready or knows the Los Angeles market inside out or will put me on his personal real estate site, or even educate me about what he has that I cannot see. No, John used HomeGain to send me:
"Why don't you just save the commission? It seems you don't value the job of an experienced real estate broker. Try to sell it...just Redfin and you. Good luck, JC"
HomeGain also mentions John sold 0 propertries in 2007. I wonder what his fallback career is.

And then there's my neighbor. He scoffed at this story and told me to just put it on Craigslist, of course that will sell.
fj: (Default)

I've had to be cabinet-maker, carpenter, buider, electrician, and plumber for the venting ducts for this one, but they are now all up, and I get to hide all my flatware, glassware, and other visual distractions.

Makeover... )
fj: (Default)
Anything that involves drilling into the concrete parts of my domicile -- like the 11 foot high ceilings -- counts as a major project, even if it can be finished in 30 minutes. It is a dreadful thirty minutes, balancing with a vacuum-cleaner hose and a heavy drill on the top of a tall ladder, using every core and other muscle I have to push that fucking hammer-drill, pounding against my joints, into the fucking ceiling. Then I need the drill again to turn the anchor into the hole. Of course, hanging up four cabinets with seven glass doors and a hood that requires sawing custom holes into the cabinet counts as a major project too.

Well, I think I have done all the ones I can do myself now but one. It involves taking down the curtains off the tracks so I can re-attach a small part of the track to the ceiling, straightening it out against the other tracks so the curtains will fully open. The curtain guy simply never came back to fix this a year ago, and we stopped calling. Now I have done so much myself I think I can do this too. Of course, again, this track is in the ceiling 11 feet off the ground, and the one curtain I have to take down for it is, what, 9 feet tall and 10 feet wide? Made of heavy cloth and a light-blocking backing? In any case, it's one heavy mofo to handle. But when I do, the big things are done, done, done. It's just a little painting, patching, and getting some shelves cut to fit around the duct in the cabinet properly.

I keep being in situations where I think "You know, this would be a really bad moment for a major earthquake."

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