Debate #2 in Haiku

I don’t get it, John

Months of Town Hall challenges

And you kinda sucked

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Presidential Debate #2 in 50 Words or Less

Dull.  Little new outside of a McCain plan to buy up mortgages and allow homeowners to refi at current home values, a plan that sounds pricey and vague.  Otherwise, both candidates mostly leaning on the talking points of debate #1.  I still think Obama presented better.  Not Brokaw’s best work.

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Do You Track Your Net Worth?

FMF asks the question, and asks why you do/don’t and how often.  My opinion is that you can’t accurately track your financial progress as a whole without a grasp of how to measure your net worth.

Like him, I used to look at mine pretty regularly, but now I check it once, maybe twice a month.  With the market of late, I’ve become almost afraid to.  I use Yodlee to keep everything in one place, and here’s what I look for as a barometer:

  • Is a large one-day or other short-term market swing significantly affecting my net worth?  If so, I try to factor that into my observations.  Just a simple check of my portfolio balances.
  • Are my floor and ceiling both rising? —  There are always fluctuations during the pay cycles where your bank accounts crest and trough.  I feel good if both the low-end and high-end of my net worth’s range are inching higher every month.  Hell, just paying the mortgage should give you a slight upward tickas you build equity.
  • Any recent big expenses?:  I just paid the car insurance, which always suppresses you a bit in the short term.  I don’t make many big-ticket purchases, but a car repair or like-sized expense should be taken into consideration.

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The VP Debate in 50 Words or Less

The format of the debate essentially rendered it batting practice:  straightforward questioning without any curveballs or hard sliders.  Five-o’clock fastballs that allow anybody with a base level of skill to make contact, but no opportunities for a career major-leaguer to flex their abilities.  Or a rookie to strike out.

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Jackson Browne — Running on Empty

I have a copy of Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty, but to be fair, this is my wife’s album.  Prior to about ten years ago I was familiar with some of the songs, but the work as a whole.  It really wouldn’t be fair to me to give a critical review of the record, but there’s still a discussion to be had.

Released in 1977 and easily Browne’s most successful album in terms of sales, Running on Empty is a travelogue, recorded by, of, and for the road in concert halls, hotel rooms, and on tour buses.  It sounds lonely and achey, like an album born under such conditions should.  Melancholy pianos set a persistent tone, driven home by echoes that betray the stillness of rooms both empty and full, and the loneliness that can accompany each.

As a concept album it works rather well, as Running never veers from its life-on-the-road framework and only occasionally (“Shaky Town”) descends into self-parody.  That being said, it’s a time capsule piece of music, inextricably tied to late 70’s rock excess and the lifestyle of a working musician and those working for him, which somewhat leaves the album feeling dated.  But as a 10-song postcard from the era it holds up fine.

Running on Empty‘s most useful application is where my association with it comes in to play.  As I said earlier, this is my wife’s album and one she clings to dearly, as for her it serves as a link to her father and the cusp of her consciousness.  She introduced me to it on roadtrips around the Southeast and to her family roots in Iowa.  The first few times she threw it in, the opening chords of the title track solicited a quiet cringe;  it usually just wasn’t what I was in the mood for.  But over time I began to appreciate the album as a wonderful backdrop for the open road — it actually sounds better the more sparse the road becomes and the later the hour gets.  I have a similar affection for the works of Bob Seger due to an old college roommate;  I only want to hear Bob on the road and out in the country.

Listening to it right now at a desk, I kinda wish I was in Iowa.  Or better yet, on the way there.

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Taking requests

I could stand the distraction from all the sunny economic news — name an album or an artist and I’ll give it a listen and review.  Nothing sounds good right now for some reason, so y’all choose.

And don’t be the guy in the back yelling for Skynyrd.

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End of the Credit Line

Paul Krugman with a sobering assessment of consumer behavior in the wake of the credit crunch.  The simple assumption is that consumers that previously leaned on rising home values to tap equity are now, as those credit lines dry up, leaning on their credit cards.  Which means they’ll be overextending themselves in (at least) two areas now.  What also probably isn’t realized by many of them is that credit card companies will be reacting to the credit crisis by raising interest rates.

The a lesson in here, as well a larger looming danger.  The lesson is to keep in mind that in all of the finger-pointing surrounding the bailout bill and the mortgage crisis, lawmakers will be loathe to admit that the American consumer played a large part in this.  Lots of people willfully and knowingly entered into mortgages they couldn’t afford, and as this piece shows, there are a lot of subscribers to lifestyle inflation who still aren’t able to rein it in and tighten up.  I imagine some have dug too deep a hole to simply climb out by cutting back.

The danger is that all of this is percolating on the outset of the Christmas season, meaning shoppers will have to pull back their spending, leading to a bad holiday retail season, leading to further economic woes.

Drink, anyone?

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