Sep 252007

Today I did my first all digital purchase of music. I know, I’m behind the times, and a picky old man. Though itunes is a slick store, I’ve never bought anything from them. I really didn’t see the point of buying less than CD quality, in a less than standard format, with controls on how I use the files. CD’s seem like a hell of a deal by comparison. But Amazon MP3 opened up today, and all that changed. The files they sell are MP3s encoded at 256 variable bit rate. This means that the files will play on pretty much any hardware, are very good quality (almost lossless), and contain no restrictions on usage.

I picked up The New Pornographers, some older Calexico, and Regina Spektor. The purchase was pretty easy, and delivery was pretty painless as well – the files sound great, and downloaded quickly. It could use a face lift, but I’m a fan of the service so far.

Sep 162007

The WSJ has an overview of Greenspan’s new book. Currently making headlines is his criticism of Bush & the Republicans:

Mr. Greenspan, who calls himself a “lifelong libertarian Republican,” writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb “out-of-control” spending while the Republicans controlled Congress. He says President Bush’s failure to do so “was a major mistake.” Republicans in Congress, he writes, “swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.

In another article from the Times, he adds some more:

…it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says. Greenspan, 81, is understood to believe that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the security of oil supplies in the Middle East.

All well and good, but why did you wait until the end of 2007 to say this? In todays climate, anyone can criticize the Bush administration without any threat to your credibility. Clearly he didn’t have the balls to 4-5 years ago when it would have counted. Sure he mentioned deficits about once a year, but these soft words were hardly what was needed. I mean, this guy spent more time telling people to take adjustable rate mortgages (and other creative finance options) at the peak of the housing bubble he created.

The old boy does show some foresight though:

Left alone, he said, the Fed’s policy-making body, the Federal Open Market Committee, can keep inflation between 1% and 2%, but that could require forcing interest rates to double-digits, a level “not seen since the days of Paul Volcker,” his predecessor as Fed chairman. “I fear that my successors on the FOMC, as they strive to maintain price stability in the coming quarter century, will run into populist resistance from Congress, if not from the White House,” he writes. If the Fed succumbs to that pressure, inflation could rise from a little over 2% at present to an average of 4% to 5% by the year 2030, he writes. Ten-year Treasury yields, now below 5%, will rise to “at least 8%” with the potential to go “significantly higher for brief periods.”

Sep 082007

palm removal palm removal palm removal

Our old neighborhood has some great old victorian houses. It is also endowed with a lot of old trees. Right next to us are (were) two 100 year old Canary Island Date Palms. One is about 75 feet tall, and the other about 55 feet tall. We learned a few weeks back that the owner was selling them, as they were dropping a lot of leaves, and the maintenance on them was very expensive.

At first the word on the street was that they were being sold to some resort in Vegas. Made sense, in a vegas sort of way, and we were sort of comforted by the prospect of being able to visit our neighborhood trees on some horrible future business trip. But I found out by speaking to the owner that the trees were sold to Ty Warner. Don’t know him? He’s the inventor of, wait for it, beanie babies. He is apparently outfitting his mansion in Santa Barbra with millions of dollars worth of trees. I guess when you are worth 4.4 billion you can spend a little on landscaping.

It is interesting to see all the work that goes into transporting these old beauties. A day of trimming the tops and bark, another manually cutting out the roots, and then another bringing in the cranes and flat bed trucks to haul them away. We will miss the old trees, but hopefully something new and great will come in their place.

Sep 052007

Sessions Fest 2007

It is that time of year again. Who doesn’t love some free music in the park? Crazy people, that’s who. This year, Sessions Fest is September 15th from noon until 10 PM. Food will be available from Influx, Pizzeria Luigi, popcorn, cotton candy, and beer from Karl Strauss.

The lineup this year is: The Prayers, Fifty On Their Heels, Atoms, MC Flow, Pizza! (aka The New Motherfuckers), Red Pony Clock, Kite Flying Society, Habitat Sound System, Wild Weekend, The Corvinas, and dj sets by Skull Kontrol DJ’s.

via Cat Dirt

Sep 012007

I am finally a permanent permanent resident of the US. Confused? I was just a conditional permanent (haha) resident because Anna and I had not been married for two years before we applied for my residency (see here for my summary of the I-485 experience). To do this, I had to file I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence) 90 days before the expiration of my residency. They ask for all sorts of proof that we have integrated our lives since then. So we sent loads of paperwork (taxes, banking, etc) and photos. One thing that was weird about this application is that we needed at least two signed and certified affidavits from people that knew us before and after we were married. It feels a bit strange to ask someone “So… mind signing/writing a statement saying we aren’t trying to scam the govt with a sham marriage?”

The timing of my expiration was quite fortuitous. A week after my expiration date, the application costs jumped from just under $300, to just under $600. Our paperwork all packaged up, I submitted it to Laguna Niguel via USPS on June 10th, with tracking and a signature required. The tracking worked. The signature delivery, not so much – it took a month and a half to get back to me. I didn’t hear anything for a while, but they cashed my check, so I figured I had done something right. July 20th I finally received a receipt for submitting my application. Three days later I received a biometric appointment card for August 17th. I’m not exactly sure why I needed to go through this again… it wasn’t like my fingerprints changed much over the course of two years. One learns efficiency isn’t one of USCIS’s strong points.

I lined up with all the other applicants at the application support center on El Cajon Blvd. Your idea of an “appointment” probably doesn’t match the USCIS’s idea of an appointment – fifty other people in line with the exact same appointment, take a number. The mix seemed to be mostly Mexican, with a smattering of Filipino and North African judging by the passports everyone had out. We all filed in, filled out paper work, and then got in line for photos and fingerprinting. On the plus side, they were much faster than the last time I was here. The whole process only took about 25 minutes.

A week after baring my hands and face, and a two and a half months after giving up our privacy, I received a letter in the mail congratulating me for becoming a permanent resident. Yesterday I finally received my new resident card. It has an expiration date ten years from now, but I’m hoping it will be less pain than these last ones to renew.