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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Looking at the other side of mortgage relief

I have lived in my house for more than 20 years.  It’s a nice size for two people, and I think it’s safe to say I know everything about it.  I know what the sub flooring is made of, the condition of the attic vents, where the leak is in the garage, and just how desperately the kitchen floor needs to be replaced.  I am keenly attuned to any change in pitch that might indicate that there is something wrong with the heat pump.
However, it’s not an expensive house.  Mind you, my income and that of my wife has gone up considerably over the past 20 years.  We’re very fortunate, but prudence, and yes, and being honest about it, a little bit of indecision, has kept us in the same property all that time.  I also have to admit that I have a low threshold for debt.  

Read more: Looking at the other side of mortgage relief

When Americans aren’t willing to move

There are three kinds of economic indicators: leading, coincident and lagging. Leading indicators include measures such as stock market prices and consumer confidence. Coincident indicators include production and Gross Domestic Product. Lagging indicators, sadly, include the one measure that’s on everyone’s mind — unemployment. In an economic recovery, which we’re probably in right now, as good as the numbers may seem, just about the last decision a company makes is to offer new jobs. They don’t want to make a commitment until they are sure sales are solid. That’s all very nice from a theoretical perspective, and it’s very easy to write about. But if you’re the one looking for a job, or the spouse of someone looking for a job, or the parent or a friend of someone looking for a job, then that’s another matter. Suddenly it’s personal, and these days, many of us fall into at least one of these categories.

Read more: When Americans aren’t willing to move

Remembering all those famous names

It was just a footnote on the local TV news, but for me, it was almost like a ghost from the past.  A group of businessmen in Northern Virginia want to re-launch Gino’s.  If this doesn’t ring a bell, I wouldn’t be surprised.  It was a fast food chain whose heyday was in the 1970s.  There was a Gino’s close to my high school in Falls Church and at least once a week a bunch of us would pile into my worn-out AMC Rambler and head over there for a sandwich and a Coke.  The whole meal probably cost a dollar.  They were around for years, but, in the face of tough competition, closed up shop in the early 1980s.  I don’t know whether a new entrant into the dog-eat-dog market fast food market, particularly one trading on a retro name, has a chance. But the prospect warmed my heart just the same.  

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Is it a sign of things to come, or just weird?

 A computer company in Edinburgh, Scotland, called Cereproc, a spinoff from a project that began at the University of Edinburgh, has developed a system that changes the entire notion of a computer generated voice.  Most notably, this week, one of the big celebrity stories was how Roger Ebert, the famous film commentator who lost his voice following cancer surgery, can now, thanks to Cereproc, type his comments and thoughts and have them immediately translated into what was his actual voice.  It’s uncanny, it works, and its impact on our future relations between humans and computers is both encouraging and disturbing.  But it also shows how quickly computers and various technological applications are developing a personality.  Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, a simulated personality.  A voice, with inflexion, emotion, whether it’s instructional, angry or pleased, is an important step in changing the way we relate to automation and computing.  

Read more: Is it a sign of things to come, or just weird?

This recession’s end: Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?  Anyone who has ever taken a child, or for that matter even some adults on a car ride appreciates the grating nature of that question.
 The answer is usually “no” which is then followed, in intervals as short as 30 seconds, by a repeat of the previous question.  The more tolerant among us, and they are relatively few, either respond by gently saying “no not yet,” or probably more like my Dad did in the 1960s, with “be quiet (sometimes it was a simple, “shut-up”) and “I’ll tell you when we get there.”  Given that it was offered in his best World War II Petty Officer’s command voice it usually ended the whining.

Read more: This recession’s end: Are we there yet?

Reduce unemployment, improve our decaying roads

This is a proposal that won’t go very far.  I know that.  I have been involved in politics, either directly or as an observer for more years than I care to remember.  I understand the political environment and for the most part have a feel for what ideas and proposals might make it and which won’t.  In the current political climate in Richmond I know this is one of those ideas that will never see the light of day.  But maybe it should.   
There are two problems facing Virginia right now and they’re big ones.  The first is unemployment.  
While Virginia has been spared the large scale unemployment faced in many areas of the country, we’re still not unaffected.  Almost every community has seen its unemployment levels rise, or at the least, through reductions in hours, or loss of commissions, seen income levels drop.  Those who aren’t unemployed, and this is certainly a normal reaction in times like these, are worried that they might be.  Retired people are worried about their neighbors and their children. Governor McDonnell has been aggressive in trying to make himself a real “jobs” chief executive.  He is off to a good start and he deserves a lot of credit for that.  
The second major problem is transportation.

Read more: Reduce unemployment, improve our decaying roads

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