$112/month to live in a brand-new house in Bowie, Maryland

As part of our move to the Florida Free State, I had Everpresent scan a photo album that my mom made in 1966 (she didn’t use acid-free paper so there was no practical way to preserve it other than scanning).

Here’s the air-conditioned brand-new house that my parents purchased in Bowie, Maryland (my father was working as an economist for Census Bureau): $15,990 with $590 down and $112/month ongoing. (Deal was arranged in 1961, but the house was completed and they moved in 1962. It might have been the Cape Cod, actually, which was slightly cheaper.)

Zillow says that the median price of a single family home today in Bowie is about $500,000.

How does that compare to official inflation? $15,990 in June 1962 is worth about $145,000 today says the BLS. So a house is more than 3X as expensive in real dollars, despite the fact that the above (air-conditioned!) house was brand new. (Would $15,990 in today’s Bidie Bucks even pay for a central air-conditioning system (installed)?)

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If Zillow is right about inflation, is everyone who rents stupid?

The Zillow August 2021-August 22 forecast:

Zillow expects home values to grow 11.7% between August 2021 and August 2022, and to end 2021 up 19.9% from December 2020.

The September 2021-Sep 22 forecast:

Zillow expects home values to grow 13.6% between September 2021 and September 2022, and to end 2021 up 19.5% from December 2020.

The 10-year mortgage rate is about 2 percent. If Zillow is right, even for someone who wanted to live in a place for only one year, it would be cheaper to buy a house, pay the cost of capital, pay property tax and insurance, and pay a realtor 5 percent at the end of the year to sell the house than to pay rent (since the preceding scenario will yield at least a small cash profit).

So…. either (1) everyone who rents is stupid, (2) nobody who rents can qualify for a mortgage, or (3) Zillow is wrong about where the price of a house to purchase is going.

(Since we are renters and I am stupid, I am going to bet on Explanation 1!)

Note the pasted-on price adjustment in the chocolate alligator for sale below (PBI):

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Who watched the Dave Chappelle special on Netflix?

I didn’t know who Dave Chappelle was, but the protests against his latest show made me curious. See “Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special” (NYT), for example:

Internally, the tech company that revolutionized Hollywood is now in an uproar as employees challenge the executives responsible for its success and accuse the streaming service of facilitating the spread of hate speech and perhaps inciting violence. At the center of the unrest is “The Closer,” the much-anticipated special from the Emmy-winning comedian Dave Chappelle, which debuted on Oct. 5 and was the fourth-most-watched program on Netflix in the United States on Thursday. In the show, Mr. Chappelle comments mockingly on transgender people and aligns himself with the author J.K. Rowling as “Team TERF,” an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, a term used for a group of people who argue that a transgender woman’s biological sex determines her gender and can’t be changed.

Complaints like the above made me violate my rule of watching only content targeted at 6-year-olds.

I’m not sure that Chappelle is specifically anti-2SLGBTQQIA+. Much of what he said seemed to fall under the general category of mocking white people who don the victim mantle and demand favorable treatment, e.g., being hired for a job. Chappelle doesn’t say whether or not he believes that Americans should be sorted by victimhood, e.g., in university admissions and hiring, but if Americans are going to be sorted by victimhood he doesn’t think that a white woman is more entitled than a Black man nor that a white person who spends his/her/zir/their evenings having 2SLGBTQQIA+ sex is entitled to special treatment when applying for jobs during the daylight hours.

I wonder if part of the reason that white saviors are upset by this show is that Chappelle explicitly pushes back on the value of white saviors. He quotes a Black woman writer friend who, asked whether she was going to knit a pink pussyhat and join the Women’s March of 2017, responded “I hope those white bitches get teargassed.”

Trigger warning: He uses the N-word a lot.

Loosely related… “This Is What Will Make Sex Work in New York Safer” (NYT, 10/17):

When I took my first client as a sex worker in the 1980s, I had no other choice. It was right after the fall of the dictatorship in Argentina. As a young trans woman, I found that sex work was the only way for me to survive, but I faced constant harassment and violence, especially from la policía. So, I left my home to come to the United States, thinking things would be different.

But when I got here, I had no more luck. On top of being trans, now I also struggled with being undocumented and learning English. Once again, I turned to sex work to stay afloat.

Chappelle might point out that an article like this, on the victimhood of a white 2SLGBTQQIA+ migrant sex worker, takes up space and attention that, if one were going to dwell on victimhood, would properly belong to Black Americans. But he wouldn’t say it that way. He would instead mock the interest that white say-gooding Americans have in this kind of story.

Readers: Did you see this show? What did you think of Mr. Chappelle?

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How to stop Asian hate for $12

If you’re passionate about #StopAsianHate, you’ll probably want to invest $11.99 in a “Tolerant” wok from IKEA. Photographed October 3, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida:

#ProblemSolved

I proudly showed a Korean-American friend the above photo and told him of my sincere intention to spend $11.99 plus applicable Florida sales tax on this aluminum pan as part of my personal #StopAsianHate plan. His response to my SayGooding? “If it’s not carbon steel, it’s garbage.”

Separately, it would be good to get an FBI investigation going into IKEA’s ties to Vladimir Putin. Note the “Made in Russia” on this entryway table:

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Portuguese stock picks

If you want some insurance against future Europe-US travel restrictions, want your children to have the flexibility to study/work/live in the EU, or just want to be like Eric Schmidt (support Biden and the Democrats’ plan to re-make U.S. society and the U.S. economy, but have the Gulfstream fueled and that second passport handy just in case!), the Portuguese Golden Visa program is an inexpensive path to an EU passport (less than $100,000 in fees and travel expenses). One requirement of the program is investing in real estate, which the Portuguese love and which I personally hate, or stocks, which the Portuguese hate and I love. The stock purchase approach requires more capital (1 million euro, versus as little as 280,000 for real estate that needs renovation), but is virtually guaranteed to be liquid.

(see Portuguese stocks or Lisbon real estate for the next five years? for some backgrond)

Friends of friends manage money or work in investment banking over in Europe. The general consensus was that Portuguese stocks aren’t mispriced and therefore there is no reason to expect them to do worse (or better) than German or U.S. stocks. That said, the stock market isn’t very developed in Portugal and it is perhaps easier for a management team to loot from shareholders.

Here are some notes from a guy who grew up in Portugal, but has spent his career as an investment banker in London and Spain….

Don’t buy real estate unless you want to use it. He bought in the center because he is fanatical about capital preservation. It took a long time to unload an apartment in Lisbon after the last crash.

Why has PSI-20 done so badly? Had same problems in 2001 and 2008 as everyone else. Bank blew up in 2014. Should be correctly priced now. They’ve survived hell and high water.

The PSI-20 has more exposure to Poland than Brazil or Angola, e.g., through JMT.

You’re in great shape with the large liquid components of the PSI-20.

  • JMT (10, great management, high growth) [the number is a rating from 1 to 10]
  • EDPR (world’s leading wind farm developer, incredibly management)
  • EDP (owns 65% of EDPR, cheapest right way right now to own EDPR)
  • GALP (4, local distribution company for oil, invested some into oil fields in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, not especially well-managed)
  • BCP (6, only remaining bank, not especially well-managed, dirt cheap, too big to fail for system, largest shareholder is Chinese)
  • RENE (5, just the grid, regulated business, natural monopoly for electricity and gas, yield play)
  • SON (1, conglomerate, screw the minorities every single time, subsidiary is NOS and own that)
  • NVG (integrated paper manufacturer, Europe’s leader, very good management, very well run)
  • COR (10, one of the best companies I’ve ever come across, 50% of good wine[ry?])
  • ALTR (8, indirect way of owning, one of Europe’s most efficient [… something?])
  • CTT (6, post office)
  • SEM (85% of value is navigator, forget about them)
  • EGL (avoid)
  • PHR (avoid)
  • IBS (very nice company, KFC and Pizza Hut, they can grow)
  • Novabase NBA (great company, small IT provider, all software for Vodaphone, half of market cap is cash)
  • RAM (specialized steel and have a forest, properly managed and managed for you).

What if the Portuguese bank holding one’s securities fails? It is just like in the U.S. and the bank is only a custodian.


What did I decide to buy?

CompanySymbolWeight PSI-20Percent portfolio
J. MartinsJMT1325
EDPEDP1220
CorticeiraCOR417
NavigatorNVG610
AltriALTR410
IbersolIBS110
NovabaseNBA0.55
RamadaRAM0.33

The above is based on personal prejudice against banks (ruled out BCP), enthusiasm for Poland (overweight JMT), enthusiasm for electricity (overweight EDP; think of all the European douchebags needing to charge their Teslas!), belief that people are too lazy to cook and that table-service restaurants are unsustainable in a world of COVID-19 plus high labor costs (IBS).

Due to prejudice (observing the USPS!), I didn’t buy the post office, which is sad because they have great-looking trucks:

(2017 photo from the Azores)

Readers: Let me know if you need an introduction to attorneys and bankers over there.

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Restaurants need to shift to electronic menus for real-time price adjustments?

From a barbecue joint in Boynton Beach, Florida: “due to the shortages of commodities within the market such as chicken wings, pork and also beef we must increase the prices from what the menu prices reflect until the market begins to normalize. … we hope to retain you as a customer as we navigate these unchartered waters.” [sic]

I find it fascinating that the folks who run this restaurant imagine that their costs will come back down (“normalize”) at some point in the reasonably near future. For places that aren’t as optimistic about our economic future, should they all switch to big screen TVs for menu display? Prices will need to be adjusted every month or two at the current rate of inflation, right?

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How did you end up celebrating Latinx Heritage Month?

The Federal government says that today is the last day of National Hispanic American Heritage Month”. What did you do to celebrate?

Why doesn’t the post headline agree with the government’s web site? A TV show from state-sponsored media corrects the name of this celebration to “Latinx Heritage Month”:

(Most of the government-run events linked to from the government’s official site do use the term “Latinx” rather than “Hispanic”. Example:

)

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Folks who refuse to follow Dr. Biden’s vaccine orders are weakly hesitating (not boldly “Resisting”)

During four years of tyranny, anyone who posted a criticism of Donald Trump on Facebook or Twitter was boldly #Resisting. Example from my late friend Mike Hawley (the below was liked and loved 119 times by the righteous):

Successful alimony and child support plaintiffs relaxing in our old Maskachusetts neighborhood displayed lawn signs kind of like the below (“A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance”).

Before we moved to Florida, it was common to see cars with “RESIST” bumper stickers amidst the overall forest of social justice and political bumper stickers.

By contrast, how do we characterize those who refuse to follow orders from Dr. Joe Biden, M.D., and state governors to get vaccinated against COVID-19? In addition to being Deplorable (obviously), are these people bold examples of resistance? After all, those who merely disagreed with Donald Trump’s words were bravely resisting. Actually…. no. It seems that refusing to do what the government tells you to do is an example of weak hesitation. Google returns 152,000 results for “vaccine hesistant” within News and only 23,500 for “vaccine resistant” (most of which relate to the muscular SARS-CoV-2 virus itself, not to any humans).

Examples:

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Things that are difficult to buy in Florida

Florida is not lacking in big box stores and the ones we’ve been in so far have generally been nicer, cleaner, and newer than their counterparts in Maskachusetts (exception: Costco in Palm Beach Gardens, but they’re expanding/renovating currently so perhaps there is hope). Our neighborhood is walkable, but we’ve certainly spent a fair amount of time at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Costco and in adjacent strip malls. Here are some things that I find perplexing….

It was baking hot in mid-August. I bought a sun hat at Walmart that was marked down and used it for about a month before a rogue wave smashed me into the sand and took away the hat, complete with chin strap. I went back to Walmart on September 30th to try to get a replacement, but couldn’t find any. I asked a clerk and she said that they didn’t have any “this time of year.” Daily high temps were still mid-80s with plenty of sun. “When will you have more?” I asked. She looked at me with an expression of patience that might have been prepared for a slow-witted 3-year-old. “In the summer.”

Our apartment, despite costing only about as much as we paid for property tax and lawn mowing/snow plowing back in the Boston suburbs, includes a huge balcony. I figured I would get something like the following:

Some specialty outdoor furniture shops exist and they could have it made in 3-6 months for $5,000+, but nothing was in stock and the Big Box stores didn’t have any of the Chinese-made outdoor seating. The IKEA Web site shows some outdoor furniture, but it isn’t even displayed in the Sunrise, FL store, much less stocked (see below as well). Given that nearly every house here seems to have some sort of shaded patio and most apartments have shaded balconies, how could there not be a market worth serving for Target, Walmart, and Home Depot?

Shopping in Florida is a different experience compared to in Massachusetts. It has been two months and no retail clerk has asked whether I would like a bag and, if so, what kind of bag. How about when it is time to dispose of items that have been brought home in the free plastic unasked-for shopping bags? One of my last experiences in New England was being recycling-shamed by a friend’s wife. Trying to be helpful, I had scraped some plates into the garbage, careful not to scrape them into the recycling. “That should go in the compost bucket,” she scolded. How does it work in our apartment complex? Garbage is picked up every evening at 8 pm and it all goes into a huge compactor at the back corner of the parking lot. This includes plastics that folks in MA would send to Asia (where they’d landfill or burn it!), aluminum that actually could be recycled efficiently, food scraps, cardboard, etc. You can’t save Mother Earth by doing a better sorting job. The townhouse owners just to our north, on the other hand, do seem to be saving the planet. They have regular trash cans, plus blue (containers) and yellow (cardboard) bins.

(The trash disposal system overall seems to work better than in Massachusetts. Senior Management has repeatedly remarked that it is cleaner down here, e.g., along the highways or local roads (though she previously remarked that Massachusetts was super clean compared to the San Francisco Bay Area, whose roadsides were strewn with debris even before you got to any homeless encampments).)

How about stuff for the beach? At least in August-September, it is tucked away at Walmart/Target and not easy to find.

Everyone here has a gas grill. Our apartment complex has three that are available for common use, right next to the pool, and powered by natural gas. Grilling equipment and accessories are impossible to find at Target, though Walmart and Home Depot do have them.

It is always warm so there should be a lot of ice cream shops, right? Wrong. The density seems considerably lower than in frigid Massachusetts. Our neighborhood has a big shaved-ice shop where you’d expect to find an ice cream parlor. One can get ice cream at the mini golf course.

We just moved in so it is time to get some furniture at IKEA, right? Almost everything that we considered was out of stock at the stores near Miami, to the point where we wondered who would even bother going to the store. What would they actually buy? (How did Americans manage to consume so many more houses, apartments, and IKEA furniture sets? We do have millions of migrants arriving every year, but the shortages seem too severe to be accounted for by the newcomers. Nobody can sit on two chairs at the same time, right? And nobody needs two houses in the same general area, right? How did we run out of both houses and chairs to the point where prices are being bid up to insane levels?)

What if you wanted to buy some labor to assemble that IKEA furniture, assuming that you were able to buy the furniture? We are told that immigrants are a ready source of labor and millions of migrants show up at the southern border every year, so it should be easy to hire a handyperson (not to say “handyman” since that excludes 50 other gender IDs). In fact, it is almost impossible. I wonder if the shift from immigrant workers to immigrant asylum-seekers and refugees means that an increase in immigration no longer means an increase in the supply of labor, at least for labor traditionally performed by those who identify as “men”. The people best-situated for asylum are single moms and their children and unaccompanied minors (or unaccompanied young people who say that they’re under 18; as they have no documents there is no way to verify age). Since these folks will generally required housing and furniture, but not work, maybe this explains how the U.S. could be sold out of housing and furniture and at the same time have nobody available to do “handyman” chores.

One thing that I couldn’t leave behind in Maskachusetts and for which I am not sure a replacement can be found locally… my Pride-wrapped Listerine:

This was purchased right near the front door of the Watertown, MA Target. It is almost empty. I have been to three Targets so far in South Florida and none of them carry this product. Fortunately, this is still available at Amazon (review from a hater: “Not really LGBTQ colors.” and also complains that the colors are only a veneer on a wrapper, not embedded into the bottle).

Aside from Pride-themed household products, what do I miss? Apples! Macoun and similar cultivars are impossible to find here. Publix has some plastic bags of prepackaged McIntosh. Senior Management regularly braves a thicket of pavement-melting SUVs to enter Whole Foods and they have a minimal selection of mostly-insipid apples. A quick search reveals that a handful of orchards ship freshly picked apples, but they’re priced like melons in Japan, e.g., $62 for 18 apples, including shipping.

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Canon mirrorless versus Sony?

Now that we have near-Biden levels of free cash to spend (rent in Florida is cheaper than property tax plus lawn mowing in Maskachusetts and our neighborhood has a lot more to offer, especially for kids, than where we used to live), it is time to upgrade the household camera bodies. I have a few Sony lenses, both for full-frame and APS-C. I have lots of Canon EOS lenses, but they’re for the traditional SLRs, not for the new RF mount (which can use the old lenses via an adapter, e.g., when it is time to take pictures of birds).

Sony’s sensors were so much better than Canon’s for so long that I stopped using Canon, but DXOMARK says that the EOS R5 is competitive with Sony (14.6 stops of dynamic range, compare to 13.6 for the EOS 5D IV (2016), 11.7 for the EOS 5D III (2012), and 14.5 for the Sony A1).

Tony and Chelsea Northrup found that the Canon delivered a higher percentage of usable images of moving subjects than the Sony A1, which has a faster frame rate and costs more. The test might not have been fair, though, because of differences in lenses used, adapters, etc.

A friend loves his Nikon Z system (#SonySensorsInside), but I don’t have any Nikon lenses or bodies, so I’d like to stick with Sony or Canon.

Anyone here played around with the Canon R5 or the Sony A1? I’m leaning toward the Canon because it is cheaper, will let me use the legacy specialized lenses, and I never made peace with the Sony interface and software. On the other hand, Sony seems to be a lot more devoted to this market than Canon, which can’t even be bothered to ship a conventional SLR body with a decent sensor (last upgrade to the EOS 5D was five years ago!). I don’t see how, in the long run, the market can be big enough for more than one company and Sony’s annual revenues are $81 billion versus only about $30 billion for Canon. Combine the difference in financial resources with Sony’s demonstrated passion to take the market away from Canon and I think Sony is the better long-term bet.

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