Archive for the 'snow' Category
For years I’ve been spotting pheasants in the city of Detroit. This one was out in the late evening during a spring snowstorm. I’ve seen them in many parts of the city, and almost had one hit my windshield while driving down Chene near Mack.
Searching online I came across several articles about pheasants in the city. The Metro Times had this article, the Free Press had this one about pheasant hunters training their dogs in vacant lots in Detroit, and of course, this Time article mentions pheasants in a piece on urban renewal.
The winter months in Michigan can be, and usually are, rather dreary. During our annual holiday visit to metro Detroit, along with the usual lack of sunshine, we had experienced the joy of pouring rain on Christmas day. Fun. Of course many can get used to such weather, and some will even claim to like it. For some reason many Michiganders complain all winter about snow. Some even claim to prefer cold, damp weather to dry, cold weather. Many say, “well, at least it’s not snow!”, whenever it rains. Because soaking wet and cold is apparently so much better. Besides, snow is the only thing that covers up the brown grass, bushes, trees, and all of the mud that we get to experience a good four, or more, months of the year. But, if someone claims to like it, who am I to judge. Whatever makes you happy…
On the plus side, we enjoyed the usual things during our visit to metro Detroit. We spent time with family for holiday brunches, lunches, and dinners, as well as at a memorial for my grandmother who had recently passed away at the age of 98. We ate and drank at some of our favorite metro area restaurants and bars, and caught up with Friends. We also got to enjoy a Red Wing’s game, as we watched Detroit beat the Colorado Avalanche.
In the weeks leading up to our trip back to Detroit, we scheduled some drywall work to be done prior to our arrival. Over the eight years we’ve owned the home we’ve gutted the bathroom and kitchen. And by gutting, I mean we ripped out absolutely everything. In the bathroom we had to stand on floor joists as we laid new sub-flooring. In the kitchen we spent days ripping out old underlayment covered with nasty, worn out linoleum made to look like bricks. In both rooms everything went. The bathroom got a new cast iron tub, all new plumbing, ceramic floors and tub surround, as well as new insulation and drywall. The kitchen received all new cabinets, appliances (other than the fridge), and new oak, hardwood flooring. We also replaced insulation and drywall in two bedrooms, refinished all of the old, existing hardwood floors, as well as the new kitchen flooring, after ripping out disgusting, rental house carpeting. We patched holes in the foundation leftover from the cement forms. All of this was done by us, with the rare helping hand of a professional plumber or electrician. The only thing we didn’t play a major role in installing was the new furnace and air conditioners.
We did as much as possible ourselves because we didn’t want to take out a loan on our house. We didn’t believe that borrowing to fix up our rather modest ranch house was a smart move. Instead invested a lot of sweet equity, saved money in envelopes, and always paid all bills in full. The only exception was the twelve months, same as cash, credit card Ikea gave us. We did take advantage of a free year long loan. Of course we paid this off in full before the deadline. We had also purchased a house we could afford, even on one income should one of us lose our jobs. And this happened shortly after buying the house. My wife’s company was purchased by good ole’ Barry Diller, and was promptly laid off. I quit my job a few years later to try my hand at self-employment. We never had to stretch to afford the house. We were never house poor. We even paid extra on the measly $666 dollar mortgage each month in a effort to pay down the principal.
While we did see hardship coming to the metro Detroit area, we didn’t have the renovations finished soon enough to sell when we new we should. And while we saw the writing on the wall, we certainly didn’t know it would get as bad as it did. Upon arriving home we worked hard on finishing the basement on our house, not really knowing the extent of the value lost in the previous six months. Sure we new it had lost value, but all told, it’s probably down 40% or more from it’s peak value. We were told by our real estate agent that we really needed to finish the basement, and so we were intent on it…until we realized what kind of shape we were in. Instead of throwing good money after bad, we began to think in terms of damage control. We may as well burn a pile of money on the driveway. Or perhaps put a pile of money on the driveway. At least that would generate some interest in the place.
Now I constantly read articles like:
After learning that we were hopelessly under water, we dropped all tools and stopped work on the house. Strategic default, the new term for walking away even though you’re currently good on your payments, became a very appealing thought. We moved for work, and we can’t, and don’t want to, go back. Two years of paying the mortgage on even a cheap house (that we don’t live in) is a huge amount of money that is not saved for retirement (not that I ever expect to actually retire), or for the unthinkable potential need for a future debilitating illness, or for other future needs. The money becomes locked away, in a sense, prevented from being used for more useful in the economy. Even though we bought way less than we could afford, never borrowed against it, and did all renovations ourselves, we are still faced with the possibility of owing $30,000, if we can even sell the house. This is perfectly plausible scenario even though we did everything “right”. And now the mortgage and banking industry wants me to think of my legal obligation as a moral obligation. The legal documents say it all. They state in the terms what we owe, what the collateral is, and what happens if we fail to pay. There’s no mention of heaven or hell, good or bad, right or wrong…only terms of agreement, and potential penalties should one side fail to uphold their end of the bargain.
I don’t like the idea of walking away, and we’re doing what we can to avoid it. But at some point we need to, once again start saving the large sums of money needed for our future. The longer we hold off, the worse it becomes. Even the moral compass in my head is weak compared with pending problems of a future with too little saved. Which potential scenario is worse? The one were we walk away from a legal obligation with a bank? Or the moral obligation were we fail to take care of ourselves and our families, without relying on public handouts?
Looks like there’s a job opening at G.M. With Rick Wagoner gone General Motors is now leaderless. What will they do? They won’t know how to make cars or, more importantly, how to make money…oh wait they already don’t know how to make money. In fact since they had industry insiders leading the charge towards irrelevance for decades maybe the could hire someone with no industry experience…like me, for instance. I have no idea how to manage an auto manufacturing company, neither did Rick Wagoner apparently. Rick Wagoner was paid lots of money. Oh sure, by Wall Street standards he was paid practically nothing, but compared to me, he was paid a lot. They could have paid me a lot less, and ended up in the same spot.
All kidding aside (ok, most), Chrysler and G.M. appear to be in deep doo-doo. I wondered what Cerberus was thinking when they purchased Chrysler from Daimler-Benz. I know what Cerberus’ M.O. is, but I think they were overly optomistic, and I don’t think their plan worked out too well. Now Chrysler has to Merge with Fiat. Wonderful. So, now, two crappy car companies can make crappy cars together. Maybe, at least, the crappy cars will cost less. I know I’m bound to anger some with statements such as the one I just made, but let me make it clear, that I believe management is to blame. The Union played a role in Chrysler’s demise as well, but any time a company is poorly run, and Chrysler has been poorly run, management is to blame. Management’s job is to maker sure all parts of a company function in unison to achieve a goal. If the goal is wrong, or portions of the company are not performing, it’s always managements job to redress such issues. And, most likely what G.M. really needs is a leader who the skeptical public will believe feels as disgusted with the old ways as they do. Someone who isn’t part of the dysfunctional machine, and shows a desire for a complete overhaul.
With two (here, and here) recent announcements by smaller companies, you have to wonder where the Big Three have had their collective heads lodged lately. Of course those cars aren’t out yet, and Tesla, and Detroit Electric have nothing to lose by making claims they may not be able to follow through on. Meanwhile the Big Three can’t afford to fall short of big claims. But that’s mainly because they’ve become the definition of over promising and under delivering. They’ve already used up their “get out of jail free” cards. Still, why did G.M. wait until the verge of bankruptcy to come up with a plan for a usable electric vehicle?
So the price to pay for such short-sightedness by the Big Three is partial socialization of a huge portion of our manufacturing industry. Anyone who’s angry about the state we are in should have spoken up long ago. It’s now a choice of pay to save the very ones at center of problem, or pay the price of doing nothing, and watching as an entire industry collapses around us. And actually there’s a third scenario as well. We may pay to save the industry, only to have it fail anyway.