Economy Predictions

Feeding of Ole’s comment from the last post: What are your predictions for the US economy?

I’m not sure I have a prediction, but I have an observation. I was criticized last year for breaking up my viewpoint in three parts: Financials, Fiscal, Fundamentals. Tough, I still think it’s a good way to look at things. The crisis was created at the financial level and excacerbated by the poor fiscal status of the government. I think Obama has done a credible job of fixing things at the financial level. There aren’t anymore huge financial institutions going under, credit is slowly starting to flow again, the mess of the housing market may not be getting better but at least it is getting clearer, etc. Fiscally, we’re a little worse off thanks to all the stimulus debt, hopefully that was still the right thing to do. I think as the financial ship rights itself other areas of the economy will improve. So color me an optimist, I see things slowly but steadily improving through 2010.

This Housing Market

Deutsche bank just put out a very depressing report.

Over 25% of mortgages are under water (the house is worth less than the outstanding amount of the loan).

That’s an incredible statistic. One out of every four loans. They expect this to rise to 48% in the 1st quarter of 2011. (To be fair, keep in mind that anyone who has fully paid off their house is not part of that statistic because they don’t have a mortgage.

Poker Update

A weird night. All kinds of bad beats and weird draws. I’ve forgotten most of the hands, except this one.

Blinds are at 300-600. There are only five players left and play is fairly tight. The blind is raised to 1,600. I have A-9 in the small blind. I call. The flop is A-10-8. I feel good about my hand, a pair of aces with a good kicker. I put 2,800 into the pot. The other guy thinks about it for a while before moving all in. It’s another 4,900 to me. I have about 7,000 left.

The raiser is a tough one to figure. He used to play conservatively. Very value-based. To a large degree, if he raised, you folded. But he’s been studying poker and his game is vastly improved. I know I can’t read him well, but he has been pushing big all night. It’s obvious he’s been stealing pots a lot.

So… I got the pair of Aces. I figure he has an Ace also. What beats my 9 kicker? If his kicker is 8,10,J,Q,K then he has me beat. That’s a lot of cards to beat me. But it’s 4,900 to get roughly 13,000, those are good pot odds. But if I’m wrong I’m basically out of the tournament. And he did raise pre-flop. That’s what convinces me. If he had A-4 or A-5, it’s less likely he would have raised pre-flop. I figure him for A-J. Grudgingly, I fold. He turns over the A-7. Aaauuuggghhh!!!

I ended up playing him in heads up. I got a lot of Aces and face cards. He was disposed of quickly. I won!

I’m $110 richer. I’m also tied for first place in the league standings. I think I’ve finished in the money the last four weeks. That’s a pretty impressive run.

Book Reccommendations (Fiction)

And Then we Came to The End (Joshua Ferris):When we first starting reading this, we didn’t know what to think of it. The whole book is written in the first person plural. We wondered if they could keep it up, but they did. And we never did find out anything about the protagonist. We thought it was a conceit, and the novelty would soon wear off. It did, but the story was engaging enough to keep our interest. We became immersed in the setting and the style. We saw the book as an examination of the kinds of personal relationships that develop in the workplace, both the intimate and the ones that are impersonal. We give it a thumbs up.

Pretty Monsters (Kelly Link): From the very first page I was drawn into this book. I had read good things about it online and the good things were true. The stories all start in our world. Then the supernatural elements are introduced in way that makes you believe in it. Link has a keen eye for the characters of youth. I was impressed that the protagonists were anywhere from six to thirty and of both genders. I don’t know if Link is male or female, and can’t tell from the writing. That’s a good sign. (But I guessed female, I was right.) Although these are short stories, each one envelops you quickly and completely.

A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby): Nick Hornby writes great books and okay books. Fever Pitch was okay. Slam was okay. All the Way Down was great. Four people coincidentally bump into each other on a night rooftop. The reason they are there? It’s a popular spot to commit suicide, that’s what they’ve each come to do. Hornby takes an inherently depressing subject and makes it work. He doesn’t avoid all the sadness and depression, but manages to find connection and joy in the stories of how these four people got there, what they do after that night, and whether they change or not. His four characters are all very different people. Hornby excels at being able to draw characters from many walks of life. Despite being a book about death you’ll laugh out loud. (Semi-related: Even if you’ve seen the movie, it’s worth reading the book High Fidelity. Just different enough.)

Rough and Tumble (Mark Bavaro): Yes, by that Mark Bavaro. I took it out of the library on a lark. I’m glad I did. I certainly won’t say this measures up to The Grapes of Wrath or anything, but it’s an enjoyable read. It’s a book about an aging tight end for a Super Bowl contender and what really goes in and outside the huddle… I think the author knows what he’s talking about.

Cloud Atlas and Revolution 9… and anything else by (David Mitchell):It’s rare you find an author as engaging as this. Cloud Atlas came highly reccommended, I didn’t know the first thing about it. I hated it at first. One of those horribly stilted gentleman Brit at sea books. Well-written enough I suppose. In the middle of a page the story suddenly ended and a new one started. Obviously a printer error. The new story had nothing to do with anything. Although it was also very good, something about a reprobate musician. It ended in mid-sentence. Extremely annoying until you understand the structure of the book, then it becomes deeply engrossing. I have already Cloud Atlas on a best of list, and it’s one of the books listed in Facebook’s quiz about “bookiness”.