Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Taking stock: What have we learned this year? Nothing new, really. What goes up, must come down, the higher they go, the harder they fall, and that the arc of history bent towards Obama in 2008. Who'da thunk it? I can say with pride that I was a supporter of his since the moment he entered the race in February, 2007. We can thank Kerry for making Barack keynote speaker in 2004. Often my father, who is of a persuasion across the aisle, as it were, talked about Reagan's 1964 keynote address -- and, depending on how things go, I fancy myself saying the same thing to my kids about Barack in 2004. That speech and introduction to the world was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dismal year (politically), and now comes forth the fruit in 2008.

2008 was also about discovery for us as a family: Would we go forth with our plan to move to the midwest so that we could buy a house? Or would we flip the script based on new realities. As it turns out, our landing point would have been Chicago, and though we do have a handful of friends there, it would be like starting over, and starting over while freezing our asses off for six months out of the year. We're getting to be too old to start all over again if we don't have to. Although it is also true that Northern California has a kind of fountain of youth: youthful attitudes can prevail for people like me, at age 38. I still feel like I'm in my 20s sometimes.

So...when K started crunching the numbers --indeed, this year was finally the year where we paid off all of our old debts, and we are indebted to her mom for advocating a living situation for us back in 2004-5 that allowed us to do that--she realized that housing prices in some areas here began dropping into our price range. We took preliminary steps and as the weeks and months passed, we realized we could begin saving and maybe make a run at a house in Oakland. Now, with some additional help from K's father and some belt tightening on our end, we are about to put in a bid for a house. We submit the papers on Friday. So it looks like we'll be here to stay. The job front looks stable enough for us to ride through the time it will take to close on a house if we start now.

It's funny, back in 2002 when we felt so broke, drowning in credit card debt, the rest of the country, it seemed, was beginning to feed at the housing trough. The tech industry here was at the edge of collapse and you'd hear stories of PhDs in computer science begging for work, but the mortgage bubble was in its infancy, and it would follow the same path as the dot com boom and bust. People had the same false hopes at quick cash: "Flip this house with no money down!" And suddenly my wife and I look like geniuses for holding off on buying a house--for being too broke to do it earlier, when it seemed like a no-brainer investment.

We're cautious people. This is not to say conservative in the sense we know it today in the political realm, but in the choices we've made for our family. We have a lot to be grateful for and I, for one, think 2008 was a good year. At least, I think it will be a turning point for a lot more people down the road. Hopefully more people will be able to take stock of things like we did back in 2004, asking themselves what can they do without. There is a lot of hurt out there, and I hope that hope wins out over fear. Because there is a lot to fear right now. But...it's not 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis, or 1931 and the great depression, or 1861 and the civil war...our country has been through worse.

About 2009: we are ready to move into our own place and have the freedom to make the decisions we want to make about what goes into it. The past three years have been fortunate ones and we are grateful for the help of others, particularly in our family, but there have been some drawbacks too--certain episodes of drama and perfectly avoidable chaotic moments out of our control--indeed, all things come at a cost. And so: Happy 2009 to all. Will it be the last year that people can sell those "00" glasses that began in 2000, or will they be able to come up with a non-lopsided design for 2010 where the "1" is over the nose and the two zeroes are the eyes? We shall see about this time next year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

This may be counterintuitive, but I am actually ok with Obama picking Warren for the invocation at the inauguration. I mean, for one, he's not picking him for a sermon. It will be like, "let us pray" and maybe a couple of paragraphs praying for the families, yadda yadda. He's not gonna say "I hate fags" or anything like that.

Obama can use this opportunity to neuter some of the wingnuts while hammering another nail in the Wright controversy's coffin, but I think it serves a larger purpose: increasing public scrutiny on Warren which will expose contradictory statements, beliefs, half-truths, and sloppy thought. I think as long as Obama remains magnanimous and somewhat aloof, there won't be too much guilt by association. Hopefully time will fade that. But getting to know the real Warren will hopefully have a lasting positive effect (well, negative for him specifically, but positive for the rest of us). We're seeing some of that already.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can someone please tell me, really, what the difference is between what Madoff did and the global economy as currently configured?