Archive for February, 2008

It’s been a year! Woo Hoo!

February 22, 2008

one

Yep. It has been one year (and a few days) since I started this second attempt at maintaining a web log. I have a little under 50 posts in one year, which translates to about a post per week.

While I would like to post more, I am happy with 50, since I kind of forgot the blog for a few months after I started it last February. Hopefully, I can keep up the post frequency from here on. Do stop by later.

Visual Voicemail for your un-sexy non-iPhone

February 10, 2008

pinger

When the iPhone came out last year, the first feature that caught my attention was visual voicemail. Well, alright! I drooled quite a bit at the multi touch interface, but visual voicemail appeared to be quite a genuine idea. However, for all its goodness, an iPhone is still out of my reach because of my current contract that runs for another year (and of course, the price tag).

So, when it comes to visual voicemail, what about all us un-sexy non-iPhone users. Fear not! A few days back, I came across this new visual voicemail service from Pinger (via Web Worker Daily). Pinger has been offering a free messaging service much like Jott, but I like Jott better because it uses speech recognition to transcribe my message (which can be a boon or bane, depending on your outlook). Recently, Pinger also started a free visual voicemail service. Currently, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Alltel are the only supported service providers.

The Pinger visual voicemail service collects voicemails from your mobile phone (if you use one of the providers above) and shows easy-to-navigate envelope information about each sender, plus the length of the message left, and the date and time the message came in. To sign up you dial 408-916-5008 from your mobile phone and follow the instructions. Note that Pinger’s service is free, but carriers may charge normal rates for phone calls, text messages and call forwarding.

Pinger lets you manage your voicemail account from the web, so you can access the messages and make your replies online. You can also reply to and forward messages directly from your voice mail without making separate calls, and, if you choose, you can store voice mails in perpetuity.

Mainly, the service is completely free, except for any charges from your service provider for call forwarding and messaging. Of these, messaging has become almost universal these days and an unlimited messaging plan doesn’t cost too much. Call forwarding costs, on the other hand, may vary between providers. For my T-Mobile account, call forwarding minutes are not counted against the regular usage minutes, so this doesn’t affect my usage in any way.

They also give you a telephone number with your area code to access (or send) your messages. This is nice, as I can just access my voice mail from a regular POTS phone if a computer is not immediately nearby.

The web user interface is pretty slick too. You can listen to the messages and even record messages to a group of people at once, right there in your Inbox. You can also enter notes next to each messages, if you want to store some information from inside the message for quicker access later on.

Bye Bye voice mail. Nice knowing ya!

Overfeeding pigeons turns them aggressive?

February 7, 2008

One of the comments on this video was exactly what I was thinking…

I don’t know why this is funny, but I can’t stop laughing.

Soft Market Index – Google Maps Mashup

February 6, 2008

SoftMarketIndex

I came across this interesting Google Maps mashup from BloodhoundBlog (via Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports). According to SocketSite, Countrywide has a Soft-Market Index for most counties in the country, where each county is categorized on a level of 1 to 5 on their risk for declining value. The map is actually available at GeoCommons, which uses the above data to create a Google Maps mashup. SocketSite says

Because of these market conditions, as well as policies implemented by Government Sponsored Enterprises and Mortgage Insurance agencies, Countrywide®, America’s Wholesale Lender® is adopting new Soft Market policies designed to help serve qualified borrowers in markets which are either declining or projected to decline in 2008.

Impacted markets across the nation have been categorized, with Category 5 being the highest risk for declining market value and Category 1 markets currently demonstrating more stable market values. Those counties in a higher risk category are subject to additional guideline restrictions as described below. Click here to view a list of the counties currently attributed to Soft Market categories 1-5.

Now, this is only Countrywide’s own index, and might have nothing to do with how other mortgage companies treat different markets. Nevertheless, the mashup provides an interesting insight into how the mortgage market might shape up in the coming months.

Is the Fed being a ‘fool in the shower’?

February 1, 2008
shower

Unless you have been living in a cave, you’ve already heard about the Federal Reserve‘s cut in its funds rate over the past two weeks. The rate has gone down a whopping 225 basis points in the last four months. But the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has not only been cutting the funds rate, but he has also been infusing the market with tonnes of cash lately.

Considering that it takes a while for any funds rate cut to ripple through the economy, mortgage planner Dan Green is wondering if the Fed is acting like the proverbial fool in the shower.

Economist Milton Friedman referred to this scenario as the “fool in the shower”. And it goes a little something like this.

When the fools turns on the shower, the water is very cold. So, he turns on the hot water. Only the hot water doesn’t come on right away so he turns it on full blast. Before long, the water gets very hot, very fast and scalds him. Reflexively, he dials back the heat only to find that he’s too cold again.

Are more rate cuts coming our way in the subsequent meetings? Having read about Bernanke‘s history, it looks like there will be more. But the question, when and how fast will he take the rates up again?