Friday, August 26, 2011

Noodling Railroads and Life Stuff

Nood-ling (nōōd’lĭng) n. 1. Fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily by crazy people who cannot afford proper fishing gear. 2. The intentional annoyance by bloggers who are skeptical of the news as it’s reported, as in “Noodling bureaucrats is more fun than fishing bare hand for catfish and a lot more surprising.” This is now an end of the month feature.

Even the Best Intentioned Social Planning . . .
It seems that one of the darlings of the New Urbanist Movement, King Farm development in Rockville, Maryland is in the news. The community with its grid street pattern, broad mix of residential types, interconnecting parks, and a right-of-way for a future light-rail, has a problem – the residents don’t want the train running through their neighborhood. Right now the state wants to shove it down their throats. “You will be environmentally conscience, like it or leave!” (my quote). See article (SEE HERE).

Can Free Enterprise Kill the High Speed Rail?
 In two recent articles, one by friend Aaron Renn and the other by columnist Michael Barone, the entrepreneur is doing an end run around the high-speed rail (HSR). It seems that some savvy guys in "private" transportation have found out that it you provide good to excellent bus service, with decent toilets, wi-fi, and AC power, passengers will come. Buses are still around after almost one hundred years because they work. Now with a better service model, the ability to avoid traffic issues (what happens to a train when the one in front breaks down?), flexible schedules, and just plain nicer buses, these intercity services will blow the doors off HSR. These are called by various names: Megabus and Chinatown (due to the New York to Boston route used by Asian immigrants – cost $20). They don’t have expensive terminals and other fixed costs. Tickets are bought at the door – first come - first served. Take a longer look (HERE-Renn) and (HERE-Barone). My guess, since they will compete with state owned systems, efforts will be made to kill them or drive them out by regulation.

A New Player with a New Idea in the Home Foreclosure World
A friend’s son Alex, looking for a job after college a few years ago in this wonderful employment market, took what he could. It was working for a firm that bought foreclosed homes, fixed them up, and did what was needed to make them rentable. His first job was to clean and fix them. Fast forward to now, he has his broker’s license and is helping to acquire more and more properties. And Alex is with the same company. This article in the SF Chronicle (SEE HERE) does a very good job of pointing out the obvious: hard work and a good plan can make things happen, even in this poor housing market. One very important and telling quote by Doug Brien in the article: “There is a looming housing shortage on the horizon as new household formation continues at full speed while the construction ramp-up happens slowly (or not at all – author).”

Housing Collapse?
How many months, one after the other, do we have to hear that new home and existing home sales have fallen? It’s now the worst housing market in the United States since Columbus landed or since the fall of Rome. The dream of owning a home is sullied, but like all things, will soon pass. But we are always looking forward, we are optimists. The consumer is king, and as Ludwig von Mises said, "The market is supreme." 

Even thirty-six years ago this was true and as they say in the old 1975 Tubes song, What Do You Want From Life?

“A heated kidney shaped pool, : a microwave oven--don't watch the food cook, a Dyna-Gym--I'll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home, a king-size Titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum, a foolproof plan and an airtight alibi, real simulated Indian jewelry, a Gucci shoetree, a year's supply of antibiotics, a personally autographed picture of Randy Mantooth and Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number, a beautifully restored Third Reich swizzle stick, Rosemary's baby, a dream date in kneepads with Paul Williams, a new Matador, a new mastodon, a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego, a Merc Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor, a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu, a Mort Moriarty, a Maserati, a Mac truck, a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped, a Winnebago--Hell, a herd of Winnebagos we're giving 'em away, or how about a McCulloch chainsaw, a Las Vegas wedding, a Mexican divorce, a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee pot, or a baby's arm holding an apple.

While this video is not as good as the album (yes one of those black hard vinyl disky things with the little hole in the middle that went round and round), the band is still around and, in fact, are playing tomorrow night, August 27 in Warren, Michigan, and on September 9th in Pleasanton, California (SEE HERE). Check out this video, and yes we are all getting old.

Have a good weekend.

Stay Tuned . . .

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