A Guilty Pleasure – Doc Savage Stories

I thought I had written about this before, but apparently, searching my archives, I haven’t. Today’s the day I guess.

It is no secret that I have a voracious appetite for reading. It started young, when I was in High School, and was heavily Science Fiction oriented. It was escape from some reality, and I doubled down.

My introduction to Doc Savage came much earlier than that though In grade school, my dad gave me one of the paperback reprints for Christmas. I read it, but since i hadn’t developed a passion for the printed word at that point, I really just read it and put it down.

Fast forward until I got my first e-reader. I was googling around looking for things that were free (i.e. in the public domain) to load up on it, and I found a link to the 162 Doc Savage novels. Not sure where I found it, but I grabbed it, and loaded them up (later, I learnt that they were not in the public domain, but copyrighted, and owned by Conde Nast publishing. However they just sit on the rights and don’t make them available for purchase. Boo.)

I whipped through them quickly, enjoying the tales immensely. They were quick reads, they were written to attract the attention of a 15 year old boy, and unlike the comics and superhero stories, there was nothing magical.

Read moreA Guilty Pleasure – Doc Savage Stories

House Hunting Journal – hidden meaning in real estate listings

Any serious time spent looking for homes for sale in the Bay Area, and you begin to learn some key codewords. You begin to think like Alan Turing deciphering the Enigma.

In the way back time, when I was first hunting, in the pre-internet era, the code words were clumsy. For example, “A Mountain View” didn’t refer to being close to the now-Google headquarters, but instead was East Side San Jose (Gang land).

Now, there are these gems:

  • Good Bones – This is a wreck. You will need to do significant work to make it livable. It probably was a rental for a decade or more, and the tenants probably crapped in the corners. Seriously, appliances will be straight out of the 50’s, and the carpets will likely be removed as they were health hazards. Yuck. These will be bought by contractors, tarted up, and flipped for a $250K profit.
  • Some TLC needed – A little less dire than the “Good bones” house. You can probably live there, but it will be like your first crash pad out of college.
  • Low Crime – the fact that they feel the need to mention this in the description is an indication that it is a crime infested hell-hole. Go to the SJPD crime map, and expect the neighborhood to be lit up like a Christmas tree.
  • Good Starter Home – Meaning that it is in a mediocre neighborhood, and the current owners didn’t want to tart up the place. Expect to spend $20K to make it comfortable.

Of course, you learn the gradations of the neighborhoods. Often just moving across the street will greatly increase the pleasantness of your living experience. Where we are currently renting an apartment, just east of Blossom Hill road, spitting distance from Oak Grove High School. Not a terrible neighborhood, but a lot of crime, and gang activity.

Cross Blossom Hill to the west, and the neighborhood is better. Yes, it is a high traffic area (3 schools within 1/4 mile) but you fear a little less for your life. There is still graffiti, but much less prominent.

Going further west, you cross the 85 freeway. Neighborhoods get a little better. Less traffic, the houses and yards are better kept. Schools are “meets expectations” and property values are a bit higher. Cross to the west of Santa Teresa, and you again get a bump.

And, if you are wealthy, bump over the hill to Almaden Valley, drop at least $1M and you get Willow Glen schools.

The further west you go, and the further north of Monterey Highway you go, the better the neighborhood.

Of course, even some cities with great reputations have bad areas. Check out the crime map of Sunnyvale to be shocked.

House Hunting Journal – 1000 Square Feet is really small

Looking at listings until your eyes bleed, and you see something that looks promising. Nice yard, well maintained, spruced up interior. 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms. Sounds good.

Then you hit the open house. Your instincts are correct, fabulous yard, kick-ass kitchen, indoor laundry (a RARITY in Silicon Valley). Nice.

But then you realize that at 1100 square feet, it is tiny. When the master bath is the 1/2 bathroom, you begin to think that 1100 sqft is too small, especially with a cramped floor plan.

Too bad for this house, as the neighborhood was awesome, and it was close to the hills and the open space.

This is the death knell for the downtown San Jose houses that are < 1000 sqft. Way too tight for us and our greyhounds.

The Middle Class – Its Origin

Politicians love to rant, and one thing they agree on is the importance of the Middle Class to the economy. It is taken for granted, and all that yada-yada.

Like this middle class has always existed, and been the lynchpin of progress, but that is not true.

This is the first of a series of posts on this thing called “the middle class” that is so popular.

In the beginning…

The genesis of the so-called middle class came from late medieval Europe. Previously, there were just three classes, Nobility, Clergy, and the Serfs. The nobility held all the power. They granted privilege to the Clergy to keep the nobility in power and to control the vast unwashed serfs. This worked (not well, but well enough) until the 14th – 15th century. Around this time, the rise of the merchant class, serfs who became traders, and profited quite handsomely, but still weren’t allowed to become landholders (where the power really was) began to gain some power.

Along with these two classes were trade guilds, skilled artisans who had a desired skills and thus a higher standard of living. That said, their position was little above the Serfs, without a lot of security.

As the Monarchs seemed to love to fight wars to gain territory, or to avenge wrongs and slights, they needed funding, and merchants had access to a lot of money. They loaned this to the warring Monarchs, and thus established a relationship above the serfs, but below the nobility.

Over the course of the next 3 centuries or so, merchants became master traders, plying their craft around an expanding horizon. THe discovery of the new world, trade routes to Asia and the middle east brought wealth. With this came the need for the professions. Banking, and Law rose, to join the merchants in this thing that was above a serf, but, again, below Clergy and Noble class.

Many of these professions had their origins in the guilds, groups that determined who could joined, the number of members, and prevented members from degrading their power. Think of today’s ABA, or AMA, and the parallel is clear.

This is the genesis of the middle class. As more professions gained cachet, and earning power, they were added to the middle class. But always remained the vast serfs who were on the bottom rung with little chance to climb up.

This was the status until the 19th century.

Next up: The Industrial Revolution and the rise of the capitalist.

House Hunting Journal – Slogging through Open Houses

A short post today. The hunt is on, and how the game is played here in Silicon Valley is that you pretty much have to hit open houses.

How different this was than our experience of selling in Phoenix. There, open houses were drains on the agent’s time. They would come, set out some cookies, and wait. And wait. And wait.

In 3 hours (or sometimes 5 hours, as they often started at 11 instead of 1) they would count it lucky if they had more than 5 visitors. And, truth be told, at least half of them were neighbors looking at the “competition”.

In Silicon Valley though, the Saturday and Sunday open houses are wild. Gourmet snacks are common, well staged houses, and throngs of people.  Literally scores of groups of people. Some stay for a few minutes, some for an hour, allowing the agents to gauge interest. But always, even in the worst looking houses in the worst neighborhoods, the cars keep coming.

For a buyer, knowing that you will need to compete against all the potential suitors, it is a groaner.