Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Apostolate of the Laity

From the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People: "Wherever men are to be found who are in want of food and drink, of clothing, housing, medicine, work, education, the means necessary for leading a truly human life, wherever there are men racked by misfortune or illness, men suffering exile or imprisonment, Christian charity should go in search of them and find them out, comfort them with devoted care and give them the helps that will relieve their needs. This obligation binds first and foremost the more affluent individuals and nations."

This is what I believe. I've rarely seen it presented so concisely and thoroughly. This paragraph leads DIRECTLY to my beliefs on universal healthcare, education of my fellow man (including education of those in prison), the treatment of veterans and refugees, and the taxes to be paid by the wealthy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I Believe the Arizona Real Estate Market Has Not Yet Hit Bottom

The Arizona real estate market is already crashing to a degree not generally seen in most other states, and I believe one or two factors will soon make the housing market absolutely implode.

Arizona's growth, in many ways, was based on growth, which is an inherently shaky deal. People were coming here for jobs building houses for people who were coming here. The place was growing because the place was growing, which calls to mind an image of a dog chasing its tail, for some reason.

Anyway, the result of the rapid growth was that real estate in the greater Phoenix area saw tremendous, rapid appreciation. People were signing contracts to build new houses with no intention of ever living in them OR renting them out. Rather, people (investors from out of state, in many cases) would lock in the price, have the home built, and then sell it OVERNIGHT for gains of $40k-$50k.

Obviously this was all a house of cards, ready to fall apart, and of course it did. Over the past 36 months, most homes have lost close to 50% of their "value". That already sounds pretty bad, but it's not my point.

Many of the loans to buy these homes in 2005-2006 were interest-only ARMS that have since reset to higher rates, leaving many people in homes they never should have bought, with payments they can't possibly afford, and are now losing to foreclosure. Now it sounds even worse, but it still isn't my point.

Other people have lost their jobs. Some of these people had poorly-chosen loans, and some of them had nice 30-yr fixed rate loans that even the most conservative of advisors would have liked. Doesn't matter - lose your job, lose your home to foreclosure. Now it sounds REALLY bad, but it STILL isn't my point.

Here's the thing. Unlike most other states, Arizona has some pretty comprehensive "anti-deficiency" laws. Several cases have made their way up the appelate courts in AZ, so the interpretation of these laws has been clarified quite a bit by the courts. And here's what it boils down to, for most homeowners: If you lose your home to foreclosure, and if your loans were "purchase money", then your lenders can NOT pursue you afterwards for any losses they were unable to recoup by foreclosing and selling your home. If you owed $100k on your home, but the bank only sold your home for $80k, too bad for the bank - they can't do anything to recover the $20k.

What about the people who bought a $500k home by taking out an 80% loan (for $400k) and a 20% second loan ($100k), bringing $0 to closing? BOTH of those loans are covered by the anti-deficiency statutes.

Wow - is that my point? Are these laws what is pushing the foreclosure rate so high? NOOOOO! And THAT is my point. These laws are not publicized on TV, or on the radio, or in the local papers. The general man-on-the-street believes the following: "Gosh, my house is only worth $200k right now and I owe $390k on it; if I were to sell it, I would have to bring a check for almost $200,000 to the closing, just to get away from my house."

Imagine what will happen when people like that guy begin to realize that if they walk out of their homes and stop making payments, all they will lose is the house. They will have lousy credit for 7 years because of the foreclosure. However, they will NOT be forced into bankruptcy, they will not have to "sell their stuff", and they will not ever have to pay back that $200k (in the example I used).

Right now most of the foreclosures are people who took out stupid loans, or lost their jobs, or for whatever reason are "losing" their homes. However, if people become aware of the laws in AZ, you will start to see a TON of people who just choose to walk away - people for whom it becomes a business decision, a chance to improve their financial position by $100k-$200k-$300k at the cost of "having bad credit" for seven years. At this point most people still seem to worship their FICO scores, but I predict that may change. VERY, VERY SOON.

The foreclosure rate in Arizona is already staggering, but if this news catches hold (and I expect it will, at some point), homes will be worth next to nothing. The house that was worth $400k in 2006 will be worth about $50k.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Just IN: Just Say No

I've thought a lot about this since the election.  I think I'm going to just say no to news for a while.  No more TV news, no more websites like, no more political discussion forums, no more newspapers, no more National Public Radio, for at least the next several weeks.  Please stop the bus so I can step off.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Michael Bolton?

"Tell me, how am I supposed to live without you?  Now that I've been loving you so long..."

Oh, sorry.  I was singing a Michael Bolton song to my house.  I can barely believe we've been here for more than six years now, not even counting the time between when we signed the construction papers and when we got to move in.  This is by far the longest I've lived anyplace except the house where I grew up; I lived in that one for about 22 years.  But as for the others (not counting dorm rooms or other college lodging)...

  • House where I was born: less than 2 years
  • Fairview Street in Loogootee: 2 years and 4 months
  • Bellgrade in Loogootee: 2 years
  • Post Horn Court in Columbus: 3 years and 6 months
  • Windsor Road in Gerrards Cross, UK: 16 months
  • Bray Road in Maidenhead, UK: 19 months
  • Iroquois Trail in Columbus: 12 months
  • Apartment on Coronado Street, Chandler AZ: 10 months 

No wonder I've grown accustomed to this place, accustomed to its face.  It's like home, even though I despise Arizona and the horse it rode in on.

"Obama Biden Palin" - We can almost use those letters to spell "Osama bin Laden".  We are missing one "s", and we have a few letters left over: b, p, and i.  "S" is the 19th letter of the alphabet; b is the 2nd, p is 16th, and i is the 9th.  If we add up our leftover numbers, we have 2+16+9=27, and if we subtract our missing "s", we have 27-19=8.  Eight equals 2 to the 3rd power, and what is 2x3?  Exactly: it is 6.  Just like 666, the number of the beast.  You see?  You see now?  Is it clear what path you must take?   Good.  Go forth, and bring me back the prime factorization of John McCain, on a silver platter.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

I haven't written anything in a while, and I'm not sure why.  I think maybe I've just been too busy being deeply homesick.  At this point in the summer, I'm just tired, all the way through, and ready for it to be over.  And I guess there's also the knowledge that soon it will be that part of the year when I miss Indiana the most, when the leaves turn colors and the bite of cold is in the air.  I don't ever feel that chill in the air here until February, and by then I know that what's coming isn't snow, but 90-degree days much too soon.

This has been an odd summer and fall.  Every since RUME4 class ended in May, I've felt... disconnected.  From everyone and everything.  I didn't realize the role that course sequence was playing in holding me together with my colleagues, but I guess it was.  We said at the time that "one of these days we will really miss this exchange of ideas", but I certainly never thought it would be quite this soon.  Absent that, it's hard to focus.  I know this is the point at which a lot of PhD students flame out, but that knowledge doesn't make it much easier to fight the urge.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Valley of the Shadow of Death

George Carlin has died.  Less than 8 hours ago as I write this.  I know he was 71, which is somewhere between young and old, but he somehow seemed timeless.  Who among us could picture him dying?

It's sobering, and at 1AM in a quiet house it would be easy to succumb to the black despair of The Approaching End.  I've done it a few times, I know.  As far back as when I was just 8 or 10 years old, I remember lying in bed terrified of death.  Probably it was the result of losing my mom so unexpectedly and tragically, but who knows.

Rather than despair, maybe it's best to use the Cold Hand of Death as motivation.  I think this is true whether one is a religious person or not.  Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, it's good to remind yourself from time to time that this is your chance to do something marvelous with life.  Laugh, cry, live, love, make a difference.

I remember lying in bed as a child, thinking about the year 2000, which at that time was in the distant future.  I remember thinking about how I would turn 33 years old in 2000, one foot in the grave (33 is pretty old when you're 10).  Well, 33 has come and gone long ago, and now I'm 41.  Now this is the part where I could whine that I haven't accomplished anything, haven't done anything memorable.  Ah, but that would be a lie.  I've done a hundred or more things that are very important to my soul, and to other souls around me.  I've shared 10 years with a son who is an amazing person, partly because of me.  I've spent 17 years with a woman who... I don't even know how to finish that sentence.  I hope to be lucky enough to spend 60 more years with her.  I have the kind of bond with my Dad that few children are ever lucky enough to experience.

I've loved a best friend who ended up as my polar opposite in almost every way after our paths diverged.  I've loved another best friend who took his own life; that was one of the most traumatic events of my life, but I was privileged to know Thomas for 10 years before that.  I've made music with my sax and my voice, and I've hit all the notes in Bridge Over Troubled Water.  I've heard the thud of tennis balls against the grass courts of Wimbledon.  I've had my picture taken with two senators (including one who was later Vice-President of the US) and one porn star, and I've had the Queen of England walk within five feet of me.  

I can close my eyes and smell fresh-cut grass or burning leaves.  I have cried at sad movies, and at happy movies, and at action flicks.  I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way.

No, my 41 years have been far from a waste.  Still, dear Cold Hand of Death, I'm not nearly done.  I have so much left to do, so much left to feel.  "Your life is now", according to John Mellencamp, and I believe him.  I can and do spend time thinking about the past, planning for the future, and fearing the inevitable, but none of those are my life.  My life is now.  Now is the only moment available to me, and I am making Now extraordinary.  I encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Comprehensive Post

This morning I turned in my "Comprehensive Exam" for my PhD, 42 minutes before it was due.  For anyone who doesn't know but for some bizarre reason cares, the comprehensive exam is like the last "big hurdle" before embarking on one's dissertation proposal.  In fact, it kind of lays the groundwork for the proposal, although in my case it remains to be seen how well that will work... my comprehensive exam questions were so astoundingly broad that a person could write 20 different dissertations based on it.  But hey, that's better than ZERO.  Anyway, as far as I recall, I wrote about existing research, AND put forth my own ideas, on all of the following (showing just how broad the questions were):

  • Quantity
  • Quantification
  • Variable
  • Covariation
  • Functions
  • Function Composition
  • Related Rates Problems
  • Model-Eliciting Activities
  • The "Models and Modeling Perspective"
  • Reflection Tools
  • Affect
  • Motivation
  • "Flow" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)
  • Problem-Solving
  • Reflection (in the cognitive sense, not the mirror sense)
  • Teaching Experiments
  • Data Collection
  • Open Coding
  • Conceptual Analysis

I wrote 62 single-spaced pages, and given the time, I could have written ten times that much and felt like I still only scratched the surface.  It was a good experience for me, although I look forward to getting my hands on those people who described their comprehensive exams as "fun", or "a transformative experience".  Those people need to be beaten severely.  I hated every minute of it, except the part at 7:18AM when I emailed my responses to my committee and knew it was done.  THAT moment was indeed both fun and transformative!

I did learn some important things.  Most important was the need for a reviewer, at the very least a trusted friend who can serve as a "sounding board".  Even with 20 days to do my comprehensive exam, I felt that what I wrote was disconnected, flowed badly, had gaps, and BADLY needed a reviewer's eye.  That was against the rules, though... but maybe that was good, since it taught me (or reinforced the idea) never to publish anything without running it by a few trustworthy radical constructivists first.  Sadly, from what I can tell, there are less than a dozen such people in existence.  People who really "get" what radical constructivism (in my opinion) is all about.  Maybe I can help keep the flame burning for another generation.  Me and K-Mo.

The other important thing I learned from my comp exam was how to pronounce "Csikszentmihalyi".