Archive for Common Cents

She has a roof over her head

Which is better odds than you get with him:

A new report by the online loan marketplace LendingTree has found that single women own far more homes than their male counterparts. The study revealed that in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, single women are almost twice as likely to be homeowners as single men. Single women in New Orleans, for example, own 27 percent of all homes compared to only 15 percent for single men. Multiple cities boasted disparities of over 10 percent. Interestingly, there were no cities in which single men outpaced single women.

And if you know lots of single guys, you’re already nodding your head.

The decision to marry and have children has a profound impact on earnings. Though the average man makes more than the average woman, the disparity is reversed when looking at unmarried women versus unmarried men. Based on data compiled from 2,000 urban communities, one study found that the median salary for young, unmarried, childless women is about 8 percent higher than men with the same characteristics. Other cities experienced pay gaps in the double digits, sometimes reaching as high as 20 percent. Further research has shown that unmarried college-educated women between the ages of 40 and 64 earn an average of 17.5 percent more than their male peers.

And probably a better credit risk, I suspect, having spent rather a lot of time at the wrong end of FICO.

(Via Stephen Green.)

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Don’t ever get sick

To misappropriate a line from J. B. S. Haldane, it’s not only more expensive than we imagine, it’s more expensive than we can imagine.

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Face off

Most Kenyan coins bear the image of Jomo Kenyatta, or his successor Daniel arap Moi. But this practice is ending:

Section 231(4) of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya stated “Notes and coins issued by the Central Bank of Kenya may bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya but may not bear the portrait of any individual.” New banknotes and coins are scheduled to be released by 2018 to meet up with this new law.

Still no sign of the banknotes, but the coins are now in circulation:

20 and 10-shilling coins minted in Kenya in 2018

The 20-shilling coin bears the likeness of an elephant; the 10-shilling, of a lion. All new-series coins have the Kenyan coat of arms on the reverse.

The current President of Kenya is the first not to have his image on any of the country’s currency, and he’s fine with that:

President Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of Kenya’s first leader Jomo Kenyatta — said the new coins were a “big change” and showed “our nation has come a long way.”

First day of circulation for the new coins was Tuesday.

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An ATM without so much rat in it

Perhaps the critter thought he needed fiber:

Eating money will not make you rich, but rather turn your insides into tub of paper confetti. A rat in Assam state, India, learned this hard truth earlier this week when it squeezed its way inside an ATM machine, consumed and destroyed $17,662 worth of Rupees, and promptly died.

The ATM in question was on the fritz for a few days when technicians were called to inspect it, Reuters reports. What they found looked like the contents of a paper shredder, with the rat already dead and buried within the mountain of minced up money.

The bank was properly appalled:

State Bank of India branch manager Chandan Sharma told reporters:

“The ATM was out of order for a few days and when our technicians opened the kiosk we were shocked to find shredded notes and a dead rat … We have started an investigation into this rare incident and will take measures to prevent a recurrence.”

The rat was small enough to evade the ATM’s security camera and burrow inside, ultimately ripping through $17,662 of its $42,685 supply. When the rodent’s body was retrieved, it was already a stiff and withered corpse.

The love of money will get you every time.

(Via Tracy Chou.)

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Ghosn with the wind

In 1999, Carlos Ghosn created the Nissan/Renault Alliance, to which Mitsubishi was added last year. Three utterly disparate automakers. But Ghosn, apparently, spent a great deal of time looking out for Number One:

Nissan Motors chairman Carlos Ghosn has been arrested and will be dismissed for alleged under-reporting of his income and misuse of company funds, the company said Monday.

The Japanese automaker’s CEO Hiroto Saikawa confirmed that Ghosn was arrested after being questioned by prosecutors following his arrival in Japan earlier in the day.

It was a stunning development that will pose a daunting test for the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, one of the world’s biggest automakers.

The biggest, at least during the first half of 2018, beating out both Volkswagen Group and Toyota.

The Yokohama-based company said the alleged violations involving millions of dollars by Ghosn, 64, and another executive were discovered during a months’ long investigation that was instigated by a whistleblower.

Did Ghosn think himself to be underpaid?

Ghosn’s Renault pay package amounted to a shareholder-approved 7.4 million euro last fiscal year ($8.46 million), with Nissan and Mitsubishi chipping in $6.52 million and $2.01 million, respectively.

I’m pretty sure I could get by on $17 million a year.

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Man of inconstant borrow

Why is the auto financing sometimes not fair? asks Mr. I Wouldn’t Give My Name Either:

I always see people with poor or not credit at all not a stable job and taking subsidies from the government getting those brand new cars while I have a stable job with good credit not getting even approved for a car loan which I really need to move on this car dependent city.

One of these, or both, will apply:

  • His credit isn’t as good as he says it is;
  • Their credit isn’t as bad as he says it is.

What I want to know: Are their FICO scores stenciled on the deck lid?

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A shiver of sharks

I can remember when the phone book hit the porch with a resounding THUNK. Then again, it was two thousand pages, not including coupons. Today it’s down around 550, and the sound is feeble indeed.

The back cover this year has been taken by a local loan operator with, it says, eight locations in OKC. Um, no, not really. While the eight locations have seven different names, three of them have the same address (different “suite number”), and two more are more or less next door to each other with a third just around the corner.

Across the bottom of the page is a single URL for all, which matches exactly none of those names.

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This is me being dumb

I planned this out very carefully. About four, having determined that I needed to pick up a bundle of prescriptions, I browsed over to my MasterCard provider, who would happily tell me my balance and how much I have left. This particular card has the lowest credit limit of any I have, so I tend to use it more for things like, well, trips to the drug store.

They didn’t recognize me for some reason, and requested further ID. Now I’m cool with two-factor authorization, so yeah, go ahead and text me a code. It was about twenty seconds later when I remembered I was still at the office, a virtual black hole as far as cell service goes.

</facepalm>

At five, roughly six minutes away from home (and the store, three blocks from home) they sent me a code, with a note attached to the effect that they weren’t going to call me this time. I have to assume there is such a thing as undeliverable SMS, and return messages then ensue.

Oh, and I put the drugs on American Express. Why complicate matters?

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Your very own tax haven

Your driveway runs through it:

One of the common arguments against the mortgage-interest deduction is that most of it goes to higher-income folks; most of those thus arguing believe that there must be some magical means in the arcane rites of mathematics that could somehow make it Not So. I figure someone who makes ten times what I do probably pays twelve or thirteen times what I do to the taxman, and someone who makes a tenth of what I do probably pays nothing at all. Besides, the deduction isn’t worth as much as it used to be, at least partially because of Donald Trump’s tax package.

And that said, the deduction is no longer worth anything to me personally: halfway through my mortgage, I pay less interest than I used to, and I’m now at the point where I needn’t even bother with Schedule A. The only reason for me to support it, therefore, is to annoy its detractors.

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Beyond mere inflation

This might even be beyond hyperinflation:

Venezuelan consumer prices rose 488,865 percent in the 12 months ending in September, a member of the opposition-run congress reported on Monday, as the OPEC nation’s hyperinflation continues to accelerate amid a broader economic collapse.

Daily inflation is now 4 percent, according to opposition legislator Angel Alvarado, with monthly inflation rising to 233 percent in September from 223 percent in August.

Not sure how you get four hundred thousand percent out of that, but it’s not like the government has a clue what to do about it:

In an effort to stabilize prices, President Nicolas Maduro in August cut five zeros off the ailing bolivar currency, boosted the minimum wage by 3,000 percent, and pegged salaries to an elusive state-backed cryptocurrency.

A mere ten years ago, the first three zeros were lopped off the bolívar, something Caracas hadn’t seen fit to do since 1879.

“The only thing planned economies never run out of,” says Stephen Green, “is zeros.”

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Lending again

Another small business I have opted to assist financially:

They’re seeking ten grand, as follows:

•$2500.00 — For the purchase of the new equipment for our Point of Sales inventory system, a new laptop for launching an online sales component and to increase our social media presence

•$3000.00 — To sustain our current employees’ salary. This will help our business maintain the current position for our employee. This position allows us to provide a job for a local community member and maintain our excellent customer service

•$3000.00 — To Increase inventory by adding additional product brands. Being able to increase our inventory will help us to fulfill requests from our loyal customers and will assist our store in being competitive with neighboring competition.

•$1500.00 — Marketing promotion expenses and flyer printing. Mailers and professional business flyers will include promotions, discounts and our new product offerings. This will keep our business relevant, increase awareness of our presence in our local community, and give our customers reassurance as to why time and time again, they choose our store for their immediate beauty needs.

Does “South Central” include north Long Beach? No matter.

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Glass sunroof

Apparently being female isn’t enough to silence complaints about fat-cat CEOs:

One of Britain’s best-paid female bosses has been slammed by critics over a £29million bonus.

Avril Palmer-Baunack runs British Car Auctions, which owns We Buy Any Car, the car-buying website known for its catchy jingles.

The vast sum, 59 times her normal salary, is the result of an incentive plan drawn up four years ago to grow the firm.

Oh, and her normal salary went up a bit as well:

On top of the £29 million bonus, which is linked to an increase in the share price, she also got an eight per cent increase to her basic salary to £525,000. The company defended it by saying it needed to pay a “competitive” rate.

But in a report to investors, influential advisory firm Glass Lewis called the £29 million payout to Palmer-Baunack “exceptionally disproportionate.” It said the increase in the value of BCA may have been boosted by broader swings in stock market prices “rather than company or management performance.”

Kim du Toit laughs at that, as he should:

Well, guess what? “Broader swings” in the stock market are a result of shareholder confidence in the market’s activities and results — and if the company and its boss benefit from that, it’s called “good luck.” I should point out once again that if the market is tanking and it takes a company down with it — through no fault of the company boss, mind you — the boss may well get fired anyway because at the end (and please note this, because it’s important), executive management is responsible for one thing, and one thing only: growth in the value of the shareholders’ investment. How it gets there is irrelevant (except in the Land Of Wealth Envy). When they say, “The buck stops here,” that’s precisely what it means: the ultimate responsibility for shareholder value lies with the executive manager, and with this comes either termination or reward, as agreed by the shareholders.

Glass Lewis may be “influential,” but they have no actual power; she’ll be getting her bonus, all $37 million of it. And I’d say she should be rewarded handsomely for phasing out advertisements like this:

That one alone is worth several million.

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Schools cost money

Even some Oklahoma politicians are coming to realize that.

Joe Sherlock tossed out this little statistic this past week:

Tuition at St. Joseph’s Prep, my old high school, is now $23,900 per year, not including fees (books, retreats, sports, transportation, etc.).

Which sounds like a lot, though public schools in Philadelphia, in 2015 anyway, were spending $12,570 per student, and it’s almost certainly gone up since then.

So I dialed back to my own old high school, which, if your family qualifies as parishioners in the Diocese of Charleston, is charging a mere $9,600 a year. (If not, it’s $14,100.) This is about twenty times what it was when I was there, fifty years ago, but the only things that haven’t gone up at that rate are the things the government uses to calculate the inflation rate.

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Malcolm beclowns electric

Syndicated columnist Malcolm Berko on the idea of investing in Tesla Motors:

TSLA is not the kind of common stock in which one invests money. It is not an investment that belongs in pension plan accounts, nor is it a stock for orphans, widows, widowers, the illegitimate children of widowers or conservative investors. In fact, TSLA is not an investment at all; rather, it’s a screwball speculation like penny stocks, oil and gas partnerships, and maps of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Tesla is well-known for missing deadline after deadline and constantly falling short on production numbers. Some watchers believe that Elon spends more time in his world than he does in the real world.

So, not a strong buy, then?

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Expect the quest to break your heart

The goddamn baht, man:

For reference, 2500 baht is about $75 US.

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Biggest Apple

Yesterday, Apple Inc. stock, traded on the Nasdaq, closed at $207.39. This turns out to be a milestone and then some:

Apple has become the world’s first public company to be worth $1 trillion (£767bn).

The iPhone maker’s market value reached the figure in New York on Thursday and its shares closed at a new record high of $207.39.

The stock has been rising since Tuesday when it reported better than expected results for the three months to June.

There’s a lot to be said for a small market share, if your customers are fiercely loyal. (I’m considering an iPhone for myself, if only because it will be relatively immune to Google.)

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Quote of the week

From The Manual by The KLF (1989), some thoughts on money:

Money is a very strange concept. There will be points in the forthcoming months when you might not have the change in your pockets to get the bus into town at the same time as you are talking to people on the telephone in terms of tens of thousands of pounds. Some of the following might seem contradictory but in matters of money they often are. We spoke earlier of how being on the dole gives you a clearer vision of how society works. What it doesn’t do is give you a clear idea of how money works.

After you spend any time on the dole you either resign yourself to the economic level your life is at and cope — or things start to slide. The rent gets into the arrears. The electricity goes unpaid. The gas board threatens to cut you off. When this starts happening a paranoia begins creeping in telling you modern society is geared to working against the individual and YOU in particular. The late eighties reaction to this is invariably to realise that the only way out is for you to become suddenly very rich and none of this will matter any more. You will start to fantasise about becoming very wealthy and how very shortly it will happen to you. You only have to make the smart move, find the right key, make the right contact, be discovered for what you are. Your fantasy will be fuelled by everything.

Nobody wins the pools. There is no such thing as a fast buck. Nobody gets rich quick. El Dorado will never be found. Wealth is a slow build, an attitude to life. I’m afraid the old adage that if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves is always true. That said, you must be willing to risk everything — that’s everything you haven’t got as well as you have got — or nothing will happen.

Nothing much has changed in three decades, has it?

Then again, as we were told, time is eternal:

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You just aren’t broke enough

The subtext of this CNBC article seems to be “Why aren’t you taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to go into debt up to your ears?”

U.S. homeowners today are getting richer by the minute, but they are less likely to cash in on their newfound wealth than during previous housing booms. As home values rise, home equity lines of credit, often used to tap home equity, are flatlining, and the overall amount of money people are taking out of their homes is shrinking.

The collective amount of so-called tappable equity, which is the appraised value of a home minus the 20 percent most lenders require borrowers to keep as a safety net, grew by 7 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics company. That is the largest single-quarter growth since the company began tracking it in 2005. It is up 16.5 percent compared with a year ago.

Homeowners now have a collective $5.8 trillion in tappable equity, the highest volume ever recorded and 16 percent above the last home price peak in 2006. The average homeowner with a mortgage gained $14,700 in tappable equity over the past year and has $113,900 available to draw. This is the amount over and above 20 percent of the value of the average home.

Yeah? Tap this, pal. The only debt I have is what I still owe on the house, and that amount has begun to visibly decrease. Yeah, I suppose I could get my hands on five figures’ worth of cash if I wanted to go to that much trouble, but why would I want to?

Pater Grant thinks even less of this scheme than I do:

[I]t’s bricks and mortar, frames and siding, foundations and roof. There are only two ways to convert that into cash: sell it (in which case one has to find somewhere else to live, probably at greater expense) or borrow against it. The latter is what the banks and economists would love us to do; borrow against our assets, go ever deeper into debt, to fund greater expenditure and grow the economy some more. The fact that the USA is already neck-deep in debt, collectively and individually, is ignored. That’s merely an inconvenience. The important thing, as far as they’re concerned, is to goose us into greater debt to fund greater spending — so that they can make more money out of us.

Emphasis in the original. The current operation of the economy — A buys something from B, but C skims off any profits to be had — is not something I’m willing to borrow money to support.

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The price of loneliness

The pure, unadulterated blankness of my dance card, as my therapist is fond of pointing out, surely costs me something. But trying to do something about it has a price tag of its own:

Over a 10 year span, there have been increases in the cost for singles to mingle, with the rise of inflation for in-person dates (i.e. movie tickets, meals, etc) and the popularity of paid relationship models, like Match.com or eHarmony. The average cost of dating has gone up about 52 percent — and that’s before you pay to swipe.

Truth be told, when I saw that phrase “paid relationship models,” I thought of, um, something else.

eHarmony and Match cost approximately $39.95 per month for a 6-month contract, not including coupons. In 2008, it cost approximately $50 to take someone on a date, and in 2018 it’s about $101 — which is a 52 percent increase, not even taking into account monthly membership fees or higher costs of living.

The average dater spends $239 a year just to be on dating sites, many using promotions and coupons to subscribe. That means if you’re going out on 4 dates a month, you’re looking at over $5,000 a year to search for love. Then, once you’ve found the person you want to promise forever to (or not), you’re looking at a total price tag of $72,000 from “hello” to “I Do.”

I am forced to conclude that the hermit, pain in the heart notwithstanding, comes out better on this deal.

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Industrial?

The most recent change to the Dow Jones Industrial Average is next week’s replacement of General Electric, the one stock that had been part of the DJIA since its inception in 1896, by Walgreens Boots Alliance, a worldwide pharmacy operation that runs the drug store down the street. If this sounds a little bit less than, well, industrial, there’s probably a reason for that:

[GE’s] ouster is an indication of the continuing decline in importance of heavy manufacturing in the U. S. economy. The only manufacturing companies left in the Dow 30 will be Caterpillar, United Technologies, and, arguably, Boeing.

Meanwhile, the Average rolls on with the likes of Pfizer, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Verizon.

I don’t believe that the United States can maintain a vibrant economy on the basis of finance and pharmaceuticals, both heavily subsidized sectors, but that’s the direction in which we’re heading and the departure of GE from the Dow is another milestone along that road.

Yep. We’ll be the world leader in hedge funds and lattes, but not much else.

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Perhaps grudging satisfaction

Nobody, I suspect, really likes property taxes. But some folks have a greater tolerance for them than you might think.

There are about 330,000 parcels of land in Oklahoma County. The Assessor’s office puts out fresh valuations every spring; once they’re out, there’s a 30-day appeal period, and under the law, any property owner may file an appeal. Few do:

The Oklahoma County Assessor’s Office said Monday that it had a record low number of appeals of property values set by the office this year — fewer than 150, or a rate of 0.0007 percent of nearly 200,000 property owners with a change in value.

Average county appeal rates range from 6 percent to 12 percent, “and it appears Oklahoma County has the lowest rate of appeals in the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S.,” said Larry Stein, chief deputy assessor.

It doesn’t hurt that there are strong cap laws in place, to keep valuations from jumping upward at the expense of longtime owners, and that the county in recent years has kept actual tax rates from rising more than a few mills; my tax bill has been within a grocery bag of $900 for several years, and is not likely to change much this year.

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$911 a yard, or something like that

Tam pries open the bill for an ambulance trip, and perhaps wishes she hadn’t:

Literally a hundred times more than I’ve ever paid for an Uber going twice the distance. Hell, I could have Uber’d back and forth between Indianapolis and Lafayette every day for a couple of weeks for that money.

Next time, no matter how much I’m writhing on the floor and screaming in pain at 0300, just tap me behind the ear with a hammer and throw me in the car.

Undoubtedly this was discussed in a boardroom somewhere:

“How much would this trip cost via Uber or Lyft?”

The new kid begins, “Well, it varies with how busy they are. Something called surge pricing.”

“We can’t do that. Bad optics. Find the average and multiply it by 200.”

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Because booze

I have to assume that this passage from the Instacart Help Center was put there for legal reasons:

Terms for Free Delivery

Offer valid on one order made through Instacart of $35 or more per retailer. Offer expires on the date indicated in the user’s account settings or displayed in the offer promotion. Orders containing alcohol that qualify for a free delivery promotion will be charged a $0.01 Alcohol Service Fee per delivery.

Because God forbid anyone should get anything liquor-related for nothing.

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Going on the Instacart

After reading up on the Instacart service, I decided that an operation that actually brought groceries to my door was probably something I should check into.

Instacart in the OKC shops at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Homeland. I opted for the latter and spent the next 15 minutes or so running through the item listing. Pricing was about where I’d expect it to be.

1:25 pm: Completed order (9 items, $36). Noted fees ($2 service, $5.99 delivery). Added 20-percent tip to total.

The Instacart app has a nifty little progress indicator, which even works on the Web version. Stage 2 (in progress, no further changes) began at 1:44 pm. Someone named Kelley was assigned to do the shopping. By 2:35 the order was marked as In Transit; at 2:53 Kelley rang the bell.

[Scheduled time of arrival: 2:25 to 3:25 pm.]

Were I going to use this every week, I’d sign up for the Instacart Express plan, which is sort of like Amazon Prime: two-hour shipping, no charge, $149 a year. I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet.

I note that they have Uber-like surcharges for “busy” periods, whenever those may be. Okay, I’m fine with surge pricing as a rule, and Instacart Express customers are apparently immunized against it.

So: AAA would buy again. It’s still a tad cheaper to drive out to Walmart, but there are some things the Waltons can’t or don’t do. Yet.

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Explosive plastic

I have two credit cards and two debit cards; three different networks are involved. This doesn’t mean I’m immune to this predicament, but I’d probably survive it better than some:

Millions of people have been left unable to pay for goods and services in shops, petrol stations and railway stations across Britain and Europe after an unprecedented crash in Visa’s payment system.

Shoppers and travellers were unable to use their debit and credit cards when the meltdown began at around 2.30pm on Friday across Europe.

Visa issued a statement saying it was experiencing “a service disruption,” without identifying the cause.

Major retailers confirmed that card purchases were failing, as queues built up at petrol stations, with frustrated drivers unable to pay after filling up.

As close as I’ve come to this lately was last month, when I pulled up to my usual filling station, did my usual painful exercise to get myself out of the car, and only then discovered that the card reader was inoperative. None of my cards would save me in this case. Rather than go through a second round of contortions, I pulled the Walking Appliance out of the back seat, wheeled myself into the store, and peeled off three twenties. This of course necessitated a second trip into the store to retrieve $17 or so in change, but it demonstrated pretty clearly who rules, and it’s not Visa or Mastercard or even American Express. Cash is king.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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As another closes

I’ve never met Caleb or Jessica Hill, and I have no reason to think they’re at all related to me. But by some weird bit of cosmic timing, I got to see their names twice in the paper this weekend, under the same heading: Land Sales.

First:

Whitney Fisher and Randell C. Fisher from Caleb and Jessica Hill, 3308 Oak Hollow Road, $740,000.

Quail Creek Golf and Country Club is sort of a horseshoe shape, open at the east end; this house sits on half an acre close to the middle of that open end. It was built in 1966, and this is still considered one of the better northside neighborhoods; the Hills arrived in 2012 for just about half the price they got for the sale. Nice return if you can get it.

But maybe they don’t need the space as much as they did. Here’s the second listing:

Caleb Hill and Jessica Hill from Traci D. and Jeff D. Turley, 6116 NE 105, $465,000.

Never been out to Oakdale Valley, where this home is located; I know from Oakdale School, a highly regarded PreK-8 school in its own little district, but there’s not a whole lot out there nearby. Then again, 73151, at the far northeast of the OKC ZIP code map — cross Hefner Road, three blocks to the north, and your mail goes to Edmond — might be the wealthiest ZIP in the entire range. This house sits on a smaller lot (0.31 acre, barely bigger than mine), and is smaller than where Caleb and Jessica used to live. Let’s see what Trulia had to say about it while it was on the market:

Entering through the double doors into the spacious entryway and dining area you will feel right at home. The living area is charming with a cathedral ceiling, floor to ceiling stone fireplace and windows that light up the room. You will enjoy cooking in the kitchen with a gas cooktop, ample counter space, and lighted custom cabinets. Wind down after a long day in the master suite, Jacuzzi tub or a steamy shower. Each of the 3 large additional bedrooms have bathroom access and are on the other side of the house. The upstairs bonus room is the place to be for fun and entertainment. The view on the patio is just beautiful. Exquisite landscaping designed by Oakleys. Oakdale Valley is a fantastic neighborhood that offers a gated entrance, community pool, clubhouse with exercise facility, greenbelts, fishing, rolling hills and acres of trees.

And, five will get you ten, a Homeowners’ Association. (Addendum: I got my ten.) I have to wonder if “gated entrance” was a major factor in the buying decision.

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An earlier Standard

A little family history from Warren Meyer:

My older readers will know that my dad was President of Exxon from the early 70’s (a few weeks before the Arab oil embargo) until the late 1980’s. In that job he never had to do analyst calls, but he did about 15 annual shareholders meetings. I don’t know how they run today but in those days any shareholder with a question or a rant could line up and fire away. Every person with a legitimate beef, every vocal person who hated oil companies and were pissed off about oil prices, every conspiracy theorist convinced Exxon was secretly formulating chemtrail material or whatever, and every outright crazy would buy one share of stock and show up to have their moment on stage. My dad probably fantasized about how awesome it would be to just get asked dry financial questions about cash flow. And through all the nuts and crazy questions and outright accusations that he was the most evil person on the planet, dad kept his cool and never once lost it.

If you asked him about it, he likely would not have talked about it. Dad — who grew up dirt poor with polio in rural Depression Iowa — was from that generation that really did not talk about their personal adversity much and certainly did not compete for victim status. He probably would just have joked that the loonies at the shareholder meeting were nothing compared to Congress. My favorite story was that Scoop Jackson once called him to testify in the Senate twice in 6 months or so. The first time, just before the embargo, he was trying to save the Alaska pipeline project and Jackson accused Exxon of being greedy and trying to produce more oil than was needed. The second time was just after the embargo, and Jackson accused Exxon of being greedy and hiding oil offshore in tankers to make sure the world had less oil than it needed.

Good old Scoop. Remember when he was the sane Democrat?

Through all of this, the only time I ever saw him really mad was when Johnny Carson made a joke about killing the president of Exxon (he asked his audience to raise their hands if they thought they would actually get convicted for killing the president of Exxon) and over the next several days our family received hundreds of death threats. These had to be treated fairly credibly at the time because terrorists were frequently attacking, kidnapping, and bombing oil company executives and their families. We had friends whose housekeeper’s hand was blown off by a letter bomb, and I was not able to travel outside of the country for many years for fear of kidnapping. (For Firefly fans, if you remember the scene of Mal always cutting his apples because he feared bombs in them from a old war experience, you might recognize how, to this day, I still open packages slowly and carefully.)

And that was during the Age of Carson, a largely apolitical comedian — yet the nitwits spun their way out of the woodwork with frightening speed. Today, no thanks to the current corps of synthetically edgy talkers and their reinforcement from the echo chambers of social media, there is no longer any such thing as a rhetorical question; it’s always a cry for a rally.

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Beyond mere hyperinflation

P. J. O’Rourke once explained Mexican currency this way: “One peso is worth 100 centavos, and one centavo is worth nothing.” God only knows what he would have said about the Venezuelan bolívar, which has sunk to a level that can only be described as surreal:

How worthless is the bolívar, Venezuela’s currency? You’d be better off investing in fictional currency from a video game.

The virtual gold in World of Warcraft, the online role-playing game, is now almost seven times more valuable than real cash from Venezuela, whose economy is in shambles.

As the South American country suffers an economic crisis due to extreme inflation, the value of bolívar has cratered. One US dollar today is worth 68,915 bolívares, according to the black market exchange rate the locals use. The black market rate is considered more trustworthy than the official rate, because the Venezuelan government has lost credibility among many of its people.

Who knew? (And no, you won’t see the S-word in this piece.)

Meanwhile in Azeroth:

By contrast, an official token, or in-game credit, in WoW is worth $20. Tokens also are sold to other players for gold, and their value changes through worldwide auctions. According to a WoW token price tracker, a token is currently worth 201,707 pieces of virtual gold.

Which means a single dollar trades to 10,085 gold pieces in WoW. This makes the fake money used in Azeroth, the mythical world of the game, about 6.8 times more valuable than the Venezuelan bolívar.

If you prefer Monopoly money, you can get $20,580 for a mere $14.99. And O’Rourke notwithstanding, the Mexican peso is holding steady at about five cents Estados Unidos.

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Bank error in your favor (4)

It wasn’t so long that a giant Korean conglomerate inadvertently paid out billions in “accidental” dividends. The Germans, perhaps miffed, figured they could do the same:

A routine payment went awry at Deutsche Bank AG last month when Germany’s biggest lender inadvertently sent 28 billion euros ($35 billion) to an exchange as part of its daily dealings in derivatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The errant transfer occurred about a week before Easter as Deutsche Bank was conducting a daily collateral adjustment, the person said. The sum, which far exceeded the amount it was due to post, landed in an account at Deutsche Boerse AG’s Eurex clearinghouse.

The error, which took place in the final weeks of former Chief Executive Officer John Cryan’s tenure, was quickly spotted and no financial harm suffered. But the episode raises fresh questions about the bank’s risk and control processes, which Cryan had boasted of improving before his ouster.

As they say at Fark, we need one more for the trifecta.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Bank error in your favor (3)

Oh, yeah, Monopoly, like that ever really happens.

Wait, what?

Samsung Securities Co. said Sunday that it will make amends to all those that have been affected by the mistaken dividend payments to its employees.

In a statement released by CEO Koo Sung-hoon, the brokerage said it will do its utmost to regain the confidence of its customers and take firm action against moral hazard cases involving its workers.

On Friday, the company had planned to pay dividends of 1,000 won (US$0.93) to its employees under a stock ownership plan, but it mistakenly paid over 2.8 billion shares by processing the wrong figure and making a computation error. This caused the firm’s stock price to plunge by more than 11 percent during the trading session to 35,150 won, although it recovered to the 38,000-won range before the market’s close.

A whole ninety-three cents? So generous of them. Then again, they probably can’t afford to pay out $75 billion just now.

Although no details have been provided, some employees reportedly sold off their stocks before the problem was fixed, with one even offloading 1 million wrongly gotten shares for at least 35 billion won. The brokerage said it has determined that 16 employees sold over 5 million shares on the market.

Quelle surprise.

(Via Fark.)

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