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Everything posted by TheNiche

  1. I started seeing cyclists coming up the ramp from Memorial at the Waugh bridge, and then all the way to Montrose, and then pretty far down Montrose. EDIT: This is a little off-topic, but I was invited to the Moonlight Ramble tomorrow night. It sounded like it might be fun, but I don't like that they require that I register in advance and then pay them money so that they can force me to wear a helmet and sign a waiver of liability that allows me to ride on public rights-of-way. It's a bad deal. It's convoluted. I think it's a scam.
  2. It's unfortunate that we don't have Maglev. Maybe it's because we haven't the fortune to spend.
  3. I have returned and it was good. The Wal-Mart was perfectly adequate. Shelves were well-stocked and EDLP was in effect. There were many customers. The parking lot was probably two thirds full. The customer base was extremely diverse in every way. People of every shape and color, of both low income and high income households, with and without children, shopping alone and with others, and perfectly pleasant, all were in attendance. There weren't any protesters, possibly because it was a little cold out. I probably shouldn't expect them to be particularly tolerant of 60-degree weather or socioeconomic diversity. There was one frustrating thing about my trip, which was the drive home. It must've been a critical mass event, and the route must have picked up at Memorial Drive. The cyclists did not know how to stay in their lanes. Certain ones seemed to really take a pleasure in weaving around, in and out of lanes and posted bike lanes, or riding along the striped line. Something about that should be illegal. They were definitely posing a hazard to public safety. I think that I'm going to complain to the City and see if we can't get them monitored by HPD (perhaps instead of the Yale Street bridge).
  4. You can say whatever you want based on whatever benchmark of understanding you so please. Nobody's going to stop you except for you...which in this case, is what I am suggesting that you should consider. Just so you know that individuals are capable of not revealing their ignorance of a subject matter, I'm going to demonstrate my point by not commenting on what seems to me to be an off-topic red herring about which I know only a superficial level of detail, the issue of Bruce Molzan. ... See now, that wasn't so hard. Okay, now I'm going to go to Wal-Mart. Perhaps I'll see you in the pizza isle.
  5. I don't think that anybody was suggesting that your civil right to free speech is or should be constrained, merely that you are clearly lacking of experience and credibility and that your opinion is so worthless to decision-makers within our socitey that it is a waste of your own time to bother expressing it. That you would confuse the issue proves the point.
  6. I could've said that we should be comparing the lifestyles of dentists or CPAs that are demographically similar and that have similar household characteristics. I could've made the same inquiry as narrowly as to compare the lifestyles of Wal-Mart greeters, but not so broadly as to compare a heterogeneous category such as salespeople. I went for the unskilled Latin American immigrant household because it is a segment of the population that Houston has in huge numbers and that Washington D.C. and San Francisco do not. Houston has so many low-earning people living here not only because of proximity but because, for them, we are an affordable locale relative to earnings potential. That this is true means that our median income gets skewed downward. Typical lower-earning people are going to pay a larger percentage of their income toward housing and transportation than higher-earning people, regardless of which city they live in; so a city where the median worker is a forklift operator will appear in this study to be at a disadvantage from a city where the median worker is an entry-level accountant, even if the forklift operator lives in the city that would yield the highest income relative to earnings for forklift operators. My critique of this study has nothing to do with a political agenda. The research methodology is bunk, that's all.
  7. That's why I hate Dallas. It's overplanned and sterile. The best thing about Dallas is Fort Worth.
  8. I'd tell you to stick down a strip of something along the path that your pocket door closes, but it's a moot point since you've got central air. On the other hand, since you are renting and don't really care about the theoretical effect of back pressure on the longevity of the A/C system, you might fiddle with which vents are open and which are closed at any given time so as to create the effect of a zoned system.
  9. My rate is eight cents per kwh. That helps. I have two window units in my one-bedroom apartment. One is in the living room and one is in the bedroom. I cool whichever room I'm physically occupying and keep doors closed. I'm at work during the heat of the day and keep the A/C completely off. The kitchen is along the south wall and is against an un-air-conditioned stairwell, so it is the warmest room; it also has the gas oven, gas water heater, gas stove, and (electric) fridge, so it generates a lot of heat. Thankfully, the kitchen also has a door. I keep the door closed and the window open when I'm cooking something so that I don't have to offset the heat generated by my appliances. Another thing. Many older apartments are drafty. Mine isn't. I installed (or improvised) weather stripping on the doors and caulked-in any gaps that I could find anywhere in the unit.
  10. Texas has a large amount of electricity generation capacity from gas-fired power plants. Since natural gas prices have shifted to a structurally much lower level, I have been pleasantly surprised by my electricity contracts. I rarely pay a bill larger than $50 in any given month.
  11. I'm not trying to get to a predetermined goal. I just want predictive validity from my data. You aren't going to get that by making such arbitrary and meaningless comparisons. Also. Transit is not inexpensive, merely paid for in a roundabout manner. Since everyone is paying for it whether they use it or not, the average costs are impacted but the difference in cost for a user versus a non-user may be vast. But it isn't going to get picked up in a study such as this.
  12. They're calling Washington D.C. the most expensive in absolute terms and the most affordable in relative terms because households there that are in the 25% to 50% range of median income earn vastly more income on average. This reflects that their demography and economy are skewed, not that there is a lesson that can be translated toward better public policy elsewhere. So even though that slice of households within D.C. have housing costs that are 65% higher and transportation costs that are 5% higher than Houston's, they earn 57% more money, they're obviously from the same socioeconomic class and this is a valid apples-to-apples comparison with strong predictive validity...right? No. That's just stupid. It would be useful to examine the lifestyles of people that are of comparable backgrounds. For instance, it would be useful and interesting to compare the earnings and expense profiles of undocumented immigrants from Latin America that are living in various cities and that do not speak English and that have minimal skills. And then, within that group, what happens if they live in family households versus non-family households. However, we would also want to evaluate the qualitative aspects of their lifestyle. Do they live in a house or an apartment. How large? What is the crime rate within their neighborhood? Do they keep roommates? How do they commute? How long does the commute take? If they have kids, do their schools rank well with respect to students from similar households? I'd imagine that Texas would perform quite well if you bother to segment out the population like that.
  13. No worries, I've got you covered. Them too, as I plan on buying them some Kleenex, lest they cry me a bayou to try and prove their stormwater runoff concerns. Need me to pick up some 50-pound bags of dog food while I'm there?
  14. Developers can cope with the City giving them unexpected leeway. All they have to do is delay closing on the site until after the variance has been granted. It was when the City attempted to apply restrictions that didn't exist, or to apply them ex post facto, that pissed off the business community. This sort of approach, where a City has restrictive zoning but a fairly permissive approach to variances is what most large cities tend to do. It keeps things very streamlined for conforming development, but requires permission for anything that might be contentious. There is some logic to that approach to zoning; properly executed, a City can settle on a variance and also get something that they want from the developer...for instance streetscape improvements or other aesthetic embellishments. On the other hand, it does occasionally create motives for cronyism and corruption (like in Dallas), "political consulting" that results in the City becoming an investor (like in Austin), or circumstances whereby the developer has to hire someone's worthless nephew (like in San Antonio).
  15. A developer that is trying to put together a complicated deal will often not close on the acquisition of their site until conducting ridiculously thorough due diligence and lining up all the necessary variances, permits, and incentives if at all possible. It's not a 'Go' until it's gone; and until they have money, all they've got is talk. These circumstances are as true for Finger's deal as they are for Provident's, however to my knowledge Finger got the incentives and Provident has not, will not, and will now have to deal with subsidized competition as they're trying to lease up and stabilize their development. It is possible that Provident will have a separate deal worked out, but it may also be possible that Provident got snubbed for some reason. I don't care to speculate how they might've gotten snubbed or who might've engineered it if they were. Suffice it to say, somebody throught this through carefully.
  16. I agree with you in principle, however unless they've already got financing to move forward on the Texaco Building conversion, plans are mere ink on paper. Nothing more. It doesn't necessarily make them feasible. And in fact, if the City is aggressively encouraging other developers to build stuff nearby that would compete within a thin market, then that's a risk factor that might discourage prospective lenders.
  17. Your statements are factually incorrect. According to the Southwest Medical District's own website, there are only 1,923 licensed hospital beds, 26,878 employees and 4,590 students. It is comprised of only three member institutions spanning 390 acres. By comparison, the Texas Medical Center in Houston has 6,900 licensed hospital beds, 92,500 employees, 34,000 full time students. It is comprised of 52 member institutions spanning 1,300 acres. Furthermore, it has about as much built square footage as downtown Houston has office space (which for your reference, is 28% more than Dallas has in its entire downtown area, or can be thought of as the combined total amount of office space in both downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth combined). The ultimate capacity of the Texas Medical Center is 59 million square feet, or more than twice the square footage of downtown Dallas. Of course, I doubt that the TMC institutions would ever allow for a chronically high vacancy rate, pushing 27%, the way that downtown Dallas has been.
  18. The weird part of my deal might actually work on a credit card, however my limit is in the four-digit range, not six digits.
  19. The 380 Agreement, signed and dated Sept. 28th, 2010, cited the following: "Whereas, Developer owns or has contracted to purchase certain tracts of land totalling approximately 23 acres...as depicted on the map...for the purpose of developing a multi-tenant commercial/retail development..." The deed conveyed to Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust and was recorded on October 19th, 2010. Wal-Mart would have had the land under contract at the time that the agreement was made, however would have made the contract contingent on the seller fulfilling a variety of commitments. That the seller was able to do so created value for the buyer and would have been built into the contracted purchase price of the site.
  20. I increased my limits over the weekend. That helps the score, but only a little...and it actually hurts me at first. I have to establish a payment history to substantially increase the score.
  21. It's probably both government and banks that are screwing me (and anybody else that thinks that they can get away with it). The difference however is that if regulators were intelligent, responsible, and honest, then they would act on their own in ways that banks may or may not like, but that would allow people with proven creditworthiness to obtain debt financing. They could act unilaterally in the public interest, but they are not, and so they should share in the blame. My liquid assets comprise a mix of sources. Cash, checking, stocks, a short term promissory note, etc. I feel good about how I keep my assets. You're right that I should start putting as many of my expenses on credit cards as possible and paying them down almost completely each month. That's the easiest part, but it will not yield immediate results. Once I was able to see that there would be tough times ahead, I immediately began marketing my least liquid assets and converting them to cash when possible. (There was one asset that I couldn't sell or refi-, so my only purpose in life was to protect it.) I drew down my holdings of stock in the mean time. Having done that and after it became clear that the situation was an emergency, I totally liquidated my remaining stock and retirement accounts and charged everything to credit that I could, using my last remaining cash reserves to pay only minimum amounts for as long as possible. It got down to where I had only enough cash for a couple of weeks of personal expenses before there was any income that kept me afloat. I got really close to defaulting on a lot of stuff all at once, but barely pulled through. I think that I managed my finances and expenses well enough, although in hindsight I probably should've swallowed my pride and been begging on a street corner for at least a few hours per day to help on the income side of things.
  22. Ainbinder did own it and was the master developer. They have since sold a 15.9-acre parcel to Wal-Mart.
  23. I don't care how it was discovered that the bridge was in poor shape. There are probably lots of bridges in poor condition that Wal-Mart trucks pass over thousands of times per day throughout the country, but that we just don't know about because there hasn't been some sort of unrelated controversy nearby. Wal-Mart is not responsible for ensuring that government infrastructure is up to snuff. That's the government's job. Thankfully, there are alternatives. IIRC, the direct beneficiary of the 380 Agreement was Ainbinder. Wal-Mart was not a party to the 380 Agreement. It was therefore an indirect beneficiary; however, whatever economic benefits were generated would have been captured in the sale price of the land as Ainbinder transferred it to Wal-Mart. The agreement might have covered the bridge, but as Red points out, that would've been grossly irresponsible on the part of the City of Houston. I'm sure that Ainbinder, Wal-Mart, the neighborhoods, and the City would all have preferred that the bridge get re-built concurrent with the construction of the feeder roads and prior to the completion of the development...but oh well, that just sucks. So it's up to TXDoT. You should send them letters imploring them to replace the bridge sooner than later. But I don't see how it involves Wal-Mart or how it might be particularly controversial.
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