Nov 092005

Well, San Diego and the rest of CA has voted. They didn’t vote yes on the bad ones, but the didn’t vote yes on the good ones (79, 80) either. San Diego was a bit disappointing, as we were hoping for Frye and Remy. Hopefully the new mayor and district 8 candidate will serve us well, and not try to pass off the same lame government.

I’ve followed electronic voting with interest these last few years. As implemented, I see it as a major threat to the US. Diebold has attempted to convince CA that nothing bad will ever happen, electronic voting is foolproof, and there is no reason for a paper trail. That�s why I was so amused to see this in the LA Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election � and was told he had already voted….McCormack said she apologized to the governor’s staff and would investigate what happened. She said nobody actually voted for Schwarzenegger in Pasadena, and the governor’s votes today will be counted… “This is someone who breached our protocol and was playing around in advance of the election,” she said.

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

Nov 072005

This article in the UT is worth a read: Condo conversions in county cooling off. They claim there is a glut of conversions on the market, but that everything will be peachy in 18 months. Really though, the issue is price. These guys bought high, and now have to sell high. Some have reduced prices a bit, others are turning into car salesmen:

On Third, a conversion project in Hillcrest, is offering $5,000 toward closing costs and up to $20,000 in mortgage interest. Ridgecrest in University Heights offered a $25,000 rebate at closing for a limited time. At Ridgestone in El Cajon, buyers could receive a free plasma TV and $2,500 toward closing costs.

In addition, most converters now pay commissions to real estate agents who bring them buyers, with at least one developer offering as much as 4 percent and airline tickets to Hawaii.

…Buyers are catching on. Evan Bennett and his girlfriend, April Allen, didn’t think they could afford to buy until they learned of an incentive program at a conversion project in North Park.

Bennett, a chef, and Allen, a real estate agent, bought a 600-square-foot unit on Florida Street. They received a $15,000 rebate on the $295,000 unit. Allen also got a commission on the sale. The couple put the rebate and commission into a bank account, with plans to use that money toward their mortgage payments for the next several months.

“Our mortgage payment is double what our rental payment was,” Bennett said. Drawing on the bank account “extends our ability to pay $1,200 a month, which was our rent, for almost 18 months. So our payments, our bills, are not going up at all.”

Am I the only one concerned about that ‘deal’? In order for a couple to ‘afford’ the 600sqf condo payment of $2400/month, the developers gave them $15,000 cash, and a commission (3-5%? Roughly 12k?). The couple then uses this money for half of their payment for 18 months. This sounds unsustainable, and very desperate. For both parties.

Nov 032005

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

(The following is information I’ve picked up from various sources, so feel free to set me straight)

Dia de los Muertos is one of the more famous and widely practiced Mexican holidays. This ritual remembrance and celebration of the dead is said to be 3,000 years old, but was moved and mixed with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day by the Spanish to give it a church link. As I understand it, November first is All Saints’ Day, which is to remember children that have died. The second is All Saints’ Day, and is for everyone else. The celebration of the holiday tends of be quite different depending on the region. In Northern Mexico and the US, it tends to be a more private, with altars of loved ones in your home.

Anna and I visited the Sherman Heights Community Center on the first of the month to check out some of the traditional altars that were on display to the public. It was my first time in the center (I have only ever seen it from the road) and I was quite impressed with the building. It seems like a really great resource for the neighborhood. The altars were quite varied. Some were intimate, others very orate. Most focused on family members (for four years after death). But a few focused on other issues like lead in children’s candy, or the murdered women and girls of Ciudad Juarez. All of the altars had ofrendas of some sort – favorite foods or drinks, flowers, sugar skulls, photos, etc. We talked to the people at the center and bought some pan de muerto. I wish we could have stayed a bit longer, they were going to have some traditional dancers bless the altars.

We also checked out Chicano Park, as I had heard they were going to have similar events. But the park was fairly empty. Too early, or too late?

Nov 012005

Some folks claim to have found a Bosnian stairs-like pyramid, about 12,000 years old. Photos of the research here.

Scientific sleuth cracks code to $54,000 treasure

Ants in the Amazon rain forest labor to keep their territory free by using formic acid as a herbicide.

The remains of a massive Gold Rush-era sailing ship dating to the early 1800s have been discovered at the site of a large construction project in downtown San Francisco.

MIT professor sacked for fabricating data, investigations into other papers about immune response.