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Ubiquitous Seattle Salmon and Grape Cappers

Ubiquitous Seattle Salmon and Grape Cappers

I rolled into work this morning a little on the late side. I was really late. I was over four-hours late. I guess I needed the rest. I slept through my alarm and probably only awoke when the marimbas stopped. No one seemed to care though. The people I was supposed relieve had long since left, plus a couple new guys had shown up as additional relief. I hung around work for an hour, before heading off for the airport, by way of Pikes Market. I jaunted downtown for a quick photo-op, before heading off to SEATAC, where I sit now. I’m flying back through Denver again. On the way out I didn’t have to get off the plane. This time I have to change planes. I hope that I don’t sleep through the landing and eventually wake up somewhere strange. “Where am I, Oakland? Oh, you said Aukland.” Anne asked if my trip was successful. I told her from my point of view it was. I made a boatload of money. She meant from the company’s point of view, which I knew. She went on to tell me a joke: An engineering consultant was called in to fix a device. After a couple of taps of percussive maintenance he got it running again and handed them his bill for $50,000. What? All that money for only a couple of hammer blows they exclaimed. The engineer said the hammering was only cost a $100, but knowing where to hit it that’s worth $49,900. Over and out, folks.

Zero Dollars and Zero Cents

I-44 Sunset

I-44 Sunset

“As of April fourteenth, two-thousand and fourteen, the amount of principal owed on this loan is zero dollars and zero cents. The amount of interest owed on this loan is zero dollars and zero cents. The amount of escrow owed on this loan is zero dollars and zero cents. This account is now closed. Thank you. Goodbye.”

I liked the sound of that automated message so much that I ended up listening to it three times, before I decided to speak to a human, who once again confirmed that our thirty-year loan had been paid-off. She seemed suspicious at first, when I first announced that our account had been closed, but she patiently answered all my questions, repeating things when I asked her to. Maybe she was a bit peevish at first, because I was the one that got away. She eventually warmed up to me though, because I was always courteous to her and maybe because I symbolized the light at the end of the tunnel.

We are now free and clear, masters of our own domain, home safe. What triggered my phone calls was our monthly mortgage statement. It was like no other of the 360 previous mortgage statements that we have received over the years. For one, instead of a bill, it included a check from the bank. I really wasn’t surprised by any of this. I had been anticipating this day for some years now, but I was surprised by the amount of the check, I had expected a much bigger payout. As it turned out, the bank had used most of our escrow funds to pay our insurance for this next year. We’ll have to pay our taxes at the end of the year and then the insurance again at this time next year. Then we’ll repeat, for as long as we can or care to, but we’ll never pay another penny to the bank.

Blackened Benny Copters

Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis

I stuck my head into my favorite conservative’s office today, the Perma-Bear (PB), and offered up some free advice on his television programming for tonight. He got the joke and laughed. It’s the State of the Union Address tonight, in case you didn’t. President Obama will address the Nation and Congress. The PB corrected me, “You mean Dictator Obama?” He was referring to Obama’s plan to go it alone this year and utilize the power of presidential decrees to help move our country forward. I guess tyrant is how Fox is now characterizing the President. Trying to lighten the conversation, I told him that Vance McAllister (R) of LA-5 is inviting one of the actors from “Duck Dynasty” as his date. This seems a little gay, not that there is anything wrong with that. Anyway, it’s safe to say that the PB won’t be watching the speech tonight, but I will.

Before I got booted from his office, I changed the subject to one of his favorites, the economy. Ben Bernanke is retiring as Fed Chairman this week. I had to tread lightly here, because I know that the PB thinks even less of Helicopter Ben than he does of Obama. Bernanke earned this nickname in conservative circles for his activist running of the Fed. He was being compared to a helicopter parent long before he began pumping $85B a month into the US economy. So, I dared not mention what I heard on NPR while shuttling back-and-forth to the Land of Broken Toys today. Really, I dare not even mention NPR. It was one of the mid-day talk shows and it was about Bernanke. I caught the ending where the three guest economists were asked to grade the Fed Chief. The liberal gave him an A, the moderate gave an A- and even the conservative gave him a B+.

Instead of NPR, I told the PB about my encounter on Saturday with the Fed. I was wandering around downtown and happened upon Federal Reserve Plaza. Saint Louis is still host to one of the thirteen Fed branches. Being the fourth largest city in America, when the Fed was formed, still has its perks. What impressed me most about the building, were the interlaced bars on all of the windows. They looked like they meant business. So, I stopped to take a few pictures and after only a couple of clicks an armed guard walks out of the building, right under the American flag. He checks me out and without being asked, I moved along. When I told the PB all of this, he joked that I’m now in some FBI database and the black helicopters will be coming for me soon. I just hope that it doesn’t happen until after Obama’s State of the Union. It can go down during the Republican rebuttal, that’s OK. I’m down with that.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Wind, Solar and Hydro Power All Available for the Taking

Wind, Solar and Hydro Power All Available for the Taking

At least that is what Kermit the Frog always said.

Back in October, I wrote about our attempt to get solar panels put on the house. In a totally uncharacteristic fit of enlightenment the great state of Missouri enacted a law that requires the power company to purchase the electricity that we can produce. Furthermore, Ameren must pay upfront for the expected ten years of electricity that we will produce. This upfront payment will defray half the purchase cost of any system. Federal tax credits further reduce our out-of-pocket costs. Back in October, I inquired at Micro Grid, the leading solar panel installer in Saint Louis and was deemed to be not a viable candidate, because our shade trees blocked too much sunlight, making any solar panel system we bought too inefficient.

Last Friday, after Las Palmas we were walking back to the car. Most of the shopping festivities had died down by then, when I spied Earth First Solar. They had a few solar-powered toys and trinkets for sale, but their main business was selling solar panels. They appeared to be a bare-bones start-up. I cannot deny that alcohol was involved, maybe it was that free margarita, but I ended up signing up for an appointment, which was today.

Kyle showed up and we walked around the house’s exterior, looking at the roof, trees and power box. We went inside next and Kyle did his sales pitch and showed me the quote that he had worked up. It looked fine, except for one problem; they expect us to pay for everything upfront. They seem like honest people, but even honest people make honest mistakes. The amount of money that we are talking about here is not chump change and if something wrong were to occur then we would be without much recourse. Besides, in all my many years of home ownership, I rarely pay contractors anything upfront, let alone all of it.

This race to beat the end of the year is a little bit artificial. There will still be a pretty good deal next year, just not quite as good as now. I’ll call them tomorrow and see if we can work something out. I’ll also call Ameren, since they would be paying for half of this system this year and almost as much as us next year. They might have some good advise to give too.

Alternatively, I could take a page from my wife’s regular summer plans and disappear from Saint Louis during the summer months. Shutting down the air conditioner for those hot months might be even more cost-effective than buying solar panels.

Happy Sestercentennial, Thanks IKEA

The Saint Louis Arch

The Saint Louis Arch

Saint Louis was founded by Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau on February 15, 1764. That will make next year, Saint Louis’s 250th anniversary. The City of Saint Louis will begin celebrating this anniversary on New Year’s Eve and continue with festivities throughout 2014. This is good news, but anyone could have seen this party coming. In a bit of a surprise, city Mayor Slay announced today that IKEA will build a store in town. The store will be located near Vandeventer and Forest Park Avenues, southwest of SLU. Groundbreaking is scheduled for next summer, with the store opening in the fall of 2015. This news will act as a great salve to our hurt feeling, because we all knew here that Kansas City’s IKEA will open next year. Many other metropolitan areas have been enjoying their IKEA for years. I’m just glad that we’ll finally be getting ours, even if it will have taken 251 years to get here.

The placement of this IKEA store in our urban core is a bit of a departure from their usual business model. Normally, IKEA stores are placed in the suburbs. This difference didn’t go without complaint from some of my more white bread colleagues. Some scoffed at Mr. Slay’s assertion that this store marks a turnaround of the flight of jobs and people from the city. Their derision probably prevented them from hearing the mayor’s enumeration of other store chains that will also be setting up shop in town, Whole Foods and Lululemon to name a few. I fled their company, in order to hang out with the cool kids. They were nice to me today, even though I brought ‘tidings of great joy’. Their take on the store’s location was totally different, because they live within five miles of that spot. One of them, a Michigan grad, even offered that they had softened up Ohio State for me. I hope that this is true. Eventually, we all agreed that win or lose, Michigan State is almost certain to go to the Rose Bowl. It’s a BCS thing.