Friday, June 26, 2009

Justice Served

Yesterday on my ride from work I see a guy feverishly riding a bike in high gear and a dude with blond dreadlocks running after him screaming "Stop than man! Stop that man!"

I think for about five seconds whether I should follow the bike or pretend it's not happening. I figure I'd catch up with him and ask him why there is a man running behind him suggesting that he be stopped. The biker sees me and turns onto a four-lane one-way street against moving traffic. I follow him, but stay in the empty bus lane, watching him cross in front of several cars. Then I hear a boom sound and see him flying over a blue Toyota Tercel with a busted windshield.

Dreadlocked man catches up with the scene and picks up the bike with a cut cable lock wrapped around the handlebar and a deformed front wheel. The bike thief -- a troll man with bloodless skin and bruises for eyes -- is alive and is trying to walk away, but he is forced to stay still by a very tall pedestrian who happens to be a doctor. "Hold on, let me check you eyes," he says. The driver of the Tercel hands me a pen and an envelope from a bank statement asking to write a note explaining what happened. I try, but my hands are shaking. I leave him a voicemail instead.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wow, I've just used $400 of self-bailout money to pay down my mortgage!

For the last 28 days or so I've been playing some homemade music on my website — the website invites the visitors to help buy a little part of my house.

About $620 in contributions from friends and family served as a major source of fuel for my journey to date — thank you very, very much for your support and endorsements.

I have to pay some of that money to taxes (to support socialism), so for now $400 went to the bank. It was by far the hardest-earned $400 in my life.

I would also like to thank everyone who mentioned my website in your blogs, tweets, and facebooks.

I would also like to thank everyone who provided feedback regarding the UI, copy, recordings, and functionality of the website.

I'm switching to a weekly recording schedule for now — I have to concentrate on my work that is actually paying our bills.

If you feel like supporting this project nonfinancially, there are a few options:
— Link to from your website or blog.

— Visit my YouTube channel, and give great ratings to songs you like. Also leave comments.

Digg it

— Let me know of others who are doing something other than waiting to see what happens about their upside down homes — a group of insane lunatics is always more appealing to journalists than just one insane lunatic.

Turtle Tower Vietnamese Restaurant in SF

Cheap and spicy (дешево и сердито). Recommend.

The experience is amplified by all the amazing faces of the neighborhood.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

VARONA — Egoist is out

VARONA — Egoist is out

Posted using ShareThis

I owe twice the market value of my home to the banks. How did this happen? What do I do?

When we bought our house in late 2006 we thought we were getting a pretty good deal. Mainly, because we liked the house and the neighborhood. The house — a Victorian-type structure — had front and back yards, the proverbial character, a new foundation, and 11-foot ceilings. A BART station was two blocks away, San Francisco less than 10 minutes away, the neighborhood was up-and-coming, and was steeped in history. We were very nervous during the appraisal process, fearing it wouldn't qualify as a single-family residence because of the unfinished first floor (it used to be a duplex).

We didn't have a downpayment, so in addition to a 30-year 400K mortgage we signed a 30-year 100K second mortgage. We thought: we'll fix up the first floor, reappraise the house, and get a normal jumbo loan in a couple of years.

So, kudos for the optimism and all, but that plan — how should I put it — didn't work out. One reason it didn't work out is because the housing market committed suicide and it became apparent that we wouldn't be able to refinance anything. I was grateful for being smart enough to steer clear of the short-term, variable-rate stuff (I had the luxury, my credit score was 810-ish). The second reason it didn't work out is because I grossly overestimated my ability to fix up the downstairs. Working crazy unpaid overtime for AKQA didn't help either.

The third reason it didn't work out is because the house decided to create projects for us on its own: in the two and a half years of living there we had replaced three out of four faucets, the washer, the dryer, the refrigerator, the garbage disposal, and the stove. They all broke. Then, the stately Victorian roof started leaking. Then, electrical outlets stopped working on one side of the house. Then, we found a major water leak in the laundry room.

I fixed the laundry room leak myself, because I sort of understand plumbing: water goes through pipes. But electricity is black magic. It'll probably cost around ten thousand dollars to fix the real problems. For now: orange extension cords.

It appears the path to our salvation is a bag with ninety thousand dollars (principal on second mortgage), which we would turn over to Chase Manhattan Bank. Then we'll have only one mortgage and the house will only be about 150 thousand dollars upside-down, not 250 thousand. But then we'll be much closer to being able to refinance. We'd have an extra thousand dollars a month.

We could abandon the house and stop throwing money away, at the cost of my credit history. People are doing that all over the place. For a while, it appeared that half the houses on both sides of our street were at some stage of a foreclosure.

Wait, maybe we can get a bailout? We can just wait for some bailout to arrive in the mail. But they probably won't be sending us any bailout since we have a steady income and we've never missed a mortgage payment. Not to mention the fact that bailouts are wrong.

Before turning to radical solutions, however, I did the obvious: began busking online at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Grasshopper” by Bulat Okudzhava — translation

Grasshopper by Bulat Okudzhava
Written for Yuliy Kim
Translation by Andrei Soroker

How can I please you, my grasshopper,
When your anthem fills the void?
One note will cure all sorrows,
The song will resurrect the dead.

Some string you pluck — it is so wonderous,
A chorus joins your serenade at once
Sublime, mysterious, and awful
Of your green brethren and sistren.

Some miracle must be on its way,
Gliding down onto the land from above,
That with such ease, with a choir in the background
You so loudly confess?

You must be a member of the verse-laying cohort,
Of our immortal regiment...
Scream and cry. Chances are, your children
Will look down upon your life's work.

Many thanks to the true poet,
To his pen, to his insanity
And to his voice, which reaches its heaven,
As it rises into a wheeze.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Man № 0