Authors Always Have More Work To Do

The book is done. The work has begun. On Tuesday was the first book talk for Kettle Pot Cup, a book I published about tea. This is a book about real tea, not with pinky raised or head bowed, but tea as part of our modern informal accidental rituals that are held in everyday locations like coffeeshops, offices, deck chairs, etc. Life’s too serious. Tea’s an opportunity to lighten up. The book is also a way to support tea growers in troubled areas. For the author of the book, however, this is when the serious work begins. But that’s true of most events in our lives.

Writing is an interesting business. Writers are typically introverts. Worlds exist within their heads. Writers filter those worlds into words, edit them, polish them, wrap them in a cover, and produce a book. Congratulations to all who’ve managed to do that. 

Business is the realm for extroverts. Business owners are alert for what customers want. That requires reaching out, sorting through the population to find the niche that wants what the writer, now author, has to sell.

It is rare to find people who are introverted enough to create that world of words, and extroverted enough to introduce it to the right people. Approximately two million books are published in the US every year, most of them self-published. Only a few percent of them make significant money. And yet, writers write and become authors because money isn’t everything. (Gasp!)

Writers also write to get their message out, capture and chronicle their thoughts before their thoughts are lost, supplement a business, support a cause, and a near infinity of other reasons. Some are simply curious whether they can actually do it, can they actually finish a book. 

In communities like Whidbey Island that has hundreds of writers out of a relatively small population the phrase, “I finished my book”, can take on multiple meanings. It is polite to find out if they finished reading someone else’s book or finished writing their own. If they wrote their own, and you’re willing to dive deeper into details, ask whether they’ve finished the first draft, the last draft, the editing, the formatting, or are working through the publishing process of cover art, marketing materials, proof copies, or finally declaring victory because it is finally available for sale.

Then the work begins.

I’ll get to the personal finance part in awhile, but here’s my book’s story (the seventh out of seven of 16 depending on how and what you want to count) so far.

Kettle Pot Cup is done! The first copies arrived about a month ago. Because of caution, the first event was pandemic minimalism. The owner of a tea supplier (really much more than that, an herbal apothecary, Kachi Cassinelli of Dandelion Botanical) held the camera and directed the action while for a few moments I removed my mask and presented the book.

As I said, the book is done, and so is the first book talk. (You are welcome to contact me about scheduling a similar event at your facility.)

Now the work begins. The book proceeds are going to charities that support impoverished tea pickers. Research is required. Distributing books to bookstores can mean lots of driving to possibly deliver a book or three or rarely more. The gas costs can exceed any proceeds, at least until the bookstore is willing to order from the supplier or is willing to accept drop shipments by calling me. Signings happen, though those are less common. Interviews happen, if they fit a niche in a production schedule. Fortunately those were going remote even before Covid. And in the modern world there are many hours devoted to socializing on social media, a resource that must be tended with caution and respect because that can be the greatest leverage available, especially to an independent author.

So, you probably understand why I encourage you to buy Kettle Pot Cup, maybe schedule me for a talk, or even just connect me with your preferred tea charity.

(PS It is available on Amazon, but in the mysterious ways of publishing, at the same list price ordering a copy through Lulu.com generates over $10 towards donations, but ordering through Amazon.com only generates $1. I don’t know where the other money goes.)

Now, back to personal finance.

One last book note: Note that the book proceeds go to charity, not to me. I will gladly accept honorariums from book talks, however. I need to respect my time, and somehow pay for expenses, eh?

There are many events like ‘finishing a book’ because they represent an event, but also the beginning of a new phase of life. Buy a house. Welcome to homeownership and many trips to the hardware store. Get a dog. Welcome to companionship and many walks around the neighborhood and trips to the vet. Buy a stock. Welcome to wondering how it is doing, or being prepared to ignore it and then be surprised because it moved while you weren’t watching.

Most things are easy to buy. Pick them up, pay for them, bring them home, and maybe even use them. Necessities can come with maintenance, resupply needs, proper storage, and maybe not losing the manual – or at least finding a good YouTube channel that tells you how to deal with what you bought.

It is too easy to buy so many labor-saving devices that the labor involved in maintaining them becomes too much labor. Buy a car? A necessity for many, though not all. Buy a second car, maybe as a backup, or for special purposes like hauling stuff, and you’ve doubled your chores. Buy a boat. Buy an RV. Buy a drone. Buy bulky toys like skis, kayaks, fishing rods, and bicycles. It is possible to rationalize them all, but it can be hard to maintain, and maybe not even use, them all.

With help from a friend, Don Scobie, I’ve had fun interviewing various members of the unofficial Whidbey Island writing community. (WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com) It is obvious that there is no one way to sell books. Some use social media. Some knock on doors. Some hold sales, or give away copies for free until demand no longer demands any extra effort. Some are simply lucky. Writing a book can be like writing a literary lottery ticket. The odds are terrible, but are better than the real lottery. The payout as an author can be much smaller, but at least on Whidbey Island, the most expensive house for sale is frequently the home of an author who did very well. Regardless, there’s no formula for success, except for those who have enough resources to enlist publicists and other team members (who also must be paid.)

There’s more than one way to run a household, a life. Advice columnists, politicians, and ironically personal finance authors, can make it sound as if there’s one true and sure path. Life isn’t that simple. 

We all get to decide what life strategies we’re going to pursue and what projects we’re going to attempt. Time and money are limits that can be overlooked with the appeal of that new thing to buy or that new project to add. We’re human. We have limits. We’re imperfect. We can’t solve every problem. We can do what we can do, and it makes sense to not do too much.

Now, I’ve got some charity research to do, some finishing polishing to apply to my sci-fi novel, some photo essays to advertise and complete, my regular real estate work, and, and, and – and I haven’t mentioned the sequels. Hmm. Maybe I should go back and re-read this post for myself.

(Disclosure: I’m a real estate broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). There’s a blog post and a video about that, too.

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Affordable And Unaffordable Housing

(WA state required disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/).

My house’s tax assessment came in today. Yesterday I was part of a group meeting about affordable housing in one of your local tourist towns: Langley. A month ago I gave a presentation about real estate and affordability on Whidbey Island. Just prior to the pandemic I was also part of the discussion about housing on the less-touristy part of the island that is dominated by the Navy base. Throw in a few years of writing about affordable housing in the Seattle area (Seattle.Curbed.com) and eventually I might take the hint that I have some experience with the topic.

1) Affordable housing is a term that’s easy to mis-interpret. The current median sales price on the south end of Whidbey Island is $675,000. That sounds unaffordable to some, but the multi-million dollar homes sell to people who can probably afford them. We could use a different phrase.

2) Ten years ago the median sales price for the same area was $292,500. It was considered somewhat unaffordable then. ~130% increase in a decade? That’s a reasonable rate of return, if you’re the one with the house. If your income hasn’t risen by more than 130% in that time, then buying a house is less affordable.

My house’s tax assessment went up 22% in one year. 

Pessimist’s view: My property taxes just went up. My clients who want to buy might not be able to afford the house they want.

Optimist’s view: If I have to sell, I should get more than before. If I don’t sell, there’s that much more equity to borrow against in case I need a loan.

Pessimist’s/Optimist’s view: If I sell, I might not be able to buy – unless I move to zones that are under threat of wildfires or tsunamis. Fire or water; take my pick. (Remote Living – my 1,100 mile long road trip through Washington State’s more remote regions.)

The Langley Housing Plan, as well as the “Issues That Matter – Housing, Where will we all live?“, as well as the all-island meeting “Affordable Living On Whidbey” suggest that someone is paying attention. The continuing need also suggests that the issue hasn’t been resolved.

It isn’t only happening on Whidbey. Housing expenses are rising faster than wages, seemingly everywhere. Rising house prices prove that lots of people can afford to buy, frequently more than one, two, or more houses. Wage growth is nice to see, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. It might be one reason for the #GreatResignation.

Eventually something will change. Change is a constant. But will the change be evolutionary or revolutionary? #NotRhetorical

The move to remote locations has been enabled high-speed internet, decentralized electricity, and mobile phone coverage. Rural areas are the front line. Ironically, rural character can be espoused as something that defines an area; but that new rural character is far from the small, frugal, pragmatic, independent lifestyle of pioneer times. 

One of the more popular requests I get as a real estate broker is for a tiny house on a lot large enough for a productive garden. ‘Tiny’ can mean many things. To someone in a 3,000 square foot house it can seem radical to consider anything less than 1,500 square feet. To someone who has no home, 300 square feet can look luxurious. The irony is listening to people complain that tiny houses will impinge of the rural character of the neighborhood. 

Look at the houses that were built by true pioneers. Houses were as big as necessary, though not as big as they wanted. They couldn’t spare the time or money to build bigger. They needed those resources for wells, roads, clearing, and planting. Eventually septic systems and electricity were upgrades.

And then inflation and interest rates hit. I’m not grabbing for tangential news items. These are topics, current events. Housing becomes less affordable, again. (Housing Affordability Falls as Mortgage Rates Climb in April)

So, lots of talk while the situation worsens. Unaffordable housing is unsustainable. Eventually, something will change.

Considering years, decades of conversations it is possible that the old solutions won’t solve the new problems. Apartment buildings and dense developments are attractive to the housing industry because they use conventional models that create conventional jobs. They’re understandable. 

  • Tiny houses are happening, regardless of regulations – until a regulator notices.
  • RVs are not just for vacations, any more. Van life is trending, both by choice and necessity.
  • Living on a boat gets around the issue of having to find land.
  • Off-grid houses benefit from less oversight, simply because sometimes they are out of sight. Just hope nothing breaks at a bad time.
  • And don’t forget ‘other’ because innovation and necessity are familiar with each other.

And then there are the changes in the real estate industry, just in case enough wasn’t in flux. (Searching For A New Normal In Real Estate And Affordability)

How does that adage go? First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win. Inspirational, but not always what happens. 

These are dynamic times in real estate and housing. #MassiveUnderstatement I’m watching it happen from the inside and can’t see where it’s going and how it’s going to get there, and that includes on a personal level. Will I have to sell? Will stay by taking out another loan? Will my income or assets climb sufficiently for the issue to be more academic instead of dramatic? Dynamic times? Yes. Weird times? Definitely. Good luck predicting any of it.

PS I look forward to your personal perspective in the Comments

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Population In Perspective

Sorry I didn’t come up with a catchier title, but my brain is having more fun playing with a couple of observations. It all started with the phrase, “You’re one in a million.” I think you’re rarer than that.

As I type the estimate of the world’s population is just under eight billion; 8,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeroes. I’m not calling people zeroes, but that’s where we are, or will be after about 50,000,000 more births. Stay tuned. It isn’t far away. 

If a person is ‘one-in-a-million’ that suggests that there are almost 8,000 other people like them. The good news is that you are more likely to be one-in-eight-billion. That’s pretty special. That also means that if you are looking for that special someone who is ‘one-in-a-million’ you really have 7,999 others if one happens to be in a different country temporarily. Another way of looking at it, there are a LOT of fish in the sea.

The necessity of dating sites and the success rate of relationships suggest that the numbers may not be a good guide.

Another perspective I keep in mind goes back the one of my ancestors who signed the Declaration on Independence, Francis Hopkinson. Having such a less-than-celebrated ancestor is educational. The image of the perfect Founding Fathers got a massive reality check when I researched him. A fine guy, but he was very human.

Very human probably defined many of the signers. They all deserve credit for their work; but, it can be hard to remember that the prominent ones have been given that celebrity treatment, both in elevating them as well as chastising them. The rest did what they could, and I can easily imagine some of them treating the whole event as happenstance and dreading yet another committee meeting more than dreading the British.

But think about what the nation was working with. According to the US Census, the population of the colonies was about 2,500,000. One-in-a-million? That would explain two and a half of them. There were 56 signers. By the one-in-a-million metric most of them weren’t. And look at what they did. Imperfect? Duh. But, a successful revolution. (Maybe it’s about time to get out the polishing cloth, or at least the red pen for some editing of words that they knew were imperfect.)

Two-and-a-half million in perspective? That’s fewer than half the population of Greater Seattle. (And you are welcome to debate the Greater part. I am a long-time fan of the Lesser Seattle movement.)

A perspective I’ve shared before is based on my Dad. He was born just as the world population hit two billion (2,000,000,000). From what I could tell, he never quite understood why we had to worry about using up the planet’s resources. From his perspective there was plenty, and there always had been. He was born into a world that was celebrating another revolution, the Industrial Revolution. It was easy to think “This is great!”, or at least would be after he moved out of a coal mining town that was also experiencing the revolution that was the rising power of unions. (He’d also get to see the excesses of some of the unions with gangland style murders, and one episode that included a Teamster pointing a shotgun at his head at point blank range – and he was a member and past shop steward.)

Just out of curiosity, let me check the current world population (estimated).

Gee, there are more of us, now.

Supply and demand have changed. 

‘Go west, young man!’ Sure, look at what Lewis and Clark found. For over a century pioneers found the west, which worked well (but only for some.)

‘Work hard and build your own future!’ Which worked for my Dad, and benefited me and my brothers, too. We all went to college and built professional careers because our parents worked multiple jobs – until they didn’t have to. Then they went on cruises.

It didn’t work as well for my Mom, a woman who would probably be running a portion of the world instead of community projects. They were significant (building an ambulance service from an idea). She did impressive things, but she lived within limits. I wonder what she would’ve done in today’s world.

But now, some of the conventional wisdoms developed in those days no longer work. Anyone is allowed to work, which is liberating and welcome and necessary and just, but also doubles the supply of workers which has disrupted and confused sub-cultures and societies. As supply increases without an increase in demand, prices fall. This is one aspect of the new reality that some have yet to recognize, even though it has been changing since even before Rosie the Riveter had a chance to prove herself.

One-in-a-million. Supply and demand. Doing a lot with a little. Doing too much. One-in-eight-billion. Throw in robots, increased efficiency, a rising expectation of a rising standard of living. The world has changed. We are changing, even if we’re not fully conscious of it.

Did you expect this post to take this turn? I didn’t. But I expect such perspective shifts are going to continue happening, and the pace is going to accelerate. 

Hey, I was able to turn this into a personal finance post (which is appropriate because this is a personal finance blog based on my personal finances as described in my book about personal finance, Dream. Invest. Live. aka personal finance for frugal folk.)

Another reason for me to continue challenging the assumptions behind my financial planning, business planning, and even my job searches.

Some can see this as a shrinking of a human’s contribution. Some can see this as cherishing the increasing rarity of every life. And the romantics can be encouraged that finding that one person in a million is about 8,000 times more likely. (I’ll leave the effect of gender to personal curiosity and preference.)

And one last check…

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Companies Stocks Markets Economies

Companies, Stocks, Markets, Economies – that’s a title that encapsulates a lot. Those four terms are distinct, yet they’re frequently treated as synonyms. No, they don’t mean the same thing; which is good news because bad news for one is not necessarily bad news for the rest. That’s handy to keep in mind when the financial world is acting weird. 

For those new to this blog, here’s a reminder that this blog is based on my book about my personal finances, Dream. Invest. Live. (Hmm. Looks like Amazon found a way to force a link and a graphic that I didn’t intend. I guess I’ll leave it rather than break something by trying to remove it.)

I’ll emphasize, this my, my own, my personal finance strategy. It is how I look at things. This is Not advice. I hope the SEC understands the distinction.

Companies are not stocks, but some companies have stocks.

Stocks make up markets, but many stocks have almost no effect on the markets.

Markets influence economies, but markets only represent a part of the economy.

So, a bad economy may mean a bad market which may mean bad news for stocks which may mean bad news for companies.

But, companies are in business. They’re busy, as in busi-ness.

Stocks are priced by people who decide to buy or sell or hold. Investors and stockholders disagree by design. If someone sold a stock, then someone bought that stock – possibly regardless of the company or the market.

Markets are ill-defined, so the news tends to concentrate on a few names, essentially brands; e.g. Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, etc. Even those names can represent many things because each has sub-markets: Industrials, commodities, etc.

An economy supposedly covers all the monetary activity for a country or region; but while my personal finances are part of a global economy it shouldn’t be a surprise that the global economy can have a fine day while my day was – troublesome. And the opposite is possible.

Trying to keep track of all of that can give a person a headache, at least. Pardon me as I pop a few more ibuprofen.

My life is complicated enough that I simplify this part of it by going back to basics, back to the beginning of this maelstrom. I invest in companies by buying stocks. The economy may not know where it’s going. The markets can be confused. The stocks can be driven by irrational pessimism or irrational optimism or apathy. My companies, however, are groups of people showing up for work, trying to meet deadlines, launch products, sell goods or services, and generally keep their jobs. For me, that’s easier to understand and easier to track. Note, I used ‘easier’ not ‘easy’. But understanding the whims of the stockholders, the enormity of the markets, and the swings in economies is much more difficult to understand.

It is June. For the last decade or so I have conducted personal, semi-annual portfolio reviews at the end of June and the end of December. It is time to update it. I’ll do so more meticulously by the end of the month, but while chaos seems to be building I’m keeping in mind that:

  • Geron is making progress on their telomerase treatments for cancer,
  • Lineage Cell Therapeutics is making progress on their spinal cord repair treatment,
  • MicroVision is making progress on their LiDAR system for autonomous vehicles,
  • Electrameccanica is selling their electric vehicle, and
  • Solar Windows is making progress on producing transparent solar cells for windows. 

No mention of the markets or the economies required. They all can influence each other, but meeting unmet needs tends to attract attention, regardless of the market or economic news.

Small companies are affected by stock swings, market swings, and swings in the economy; but their value tends to be in their products. Large companies drive the markets and can be swung by economic topics, but small companies can’t get distracted by those issues. Small companies have simpler goals, simpler resources, and can have clearer ways to measure their progress.

The downside to small companies is that they are inherently more fragile and riskier. They don’t have the buffers and diversity of a Microsoft. Microsoft has had several products fail; yet remains successful. When a small company only has one product, a failure in that product is catastrophic.

The upside to small companies, especially overlooked or besieged small companies is that their successes can be amplified. A $100,000,000 sale for Microsoft may not get much of a mention and may not move the stock, but that same size sale can turn a small company into headline news, and the stock can rise dramatically. (Details of three personal successes and three personal failures are in my book. Dream. Invest. Live.)

I’m not telling people to do what I do. You do you. But I’ve heard so much worry about the world that I decided to share this one simple (and risky) strategy that I follow. Life is complicated enough. Your way to simplify things may be no-load mutual funds, managed funds, commodities, crypto-currencies, bags of gold buried in the backyard, whatever. No strategy avoids every risk. Risk gets balanced by potential rewards, potentially. No strategy guarantees success. Find what works for you financially, but also practically and emotionally.

I titled my book Dream. Invest. Live. because all three matter. Dreaming inspires motivations and goals. Investing is one way to do more than dream. To Live is the ultimate goal, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten by only dreaming or only investing. Why make it complicated? Keep it simple. Good luck. That’s one simple thing we could all use.

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Kettle Pot Cup Launched

Kettle Pot Cup Launched

I hereby declare my book about tea, Kettle Pot Cup, to be launched! Yay! OK, yay. As befits tea, it was quietly launched with the help of friends and their business (Dandelion Botanical) that added to its inspiration. On May 25, 2022 I recorded (and then was more ably recorded when one of them took over the camera work) a short video announcing the arrival of the first official copy and the unveiling of the web site where it can be purchased. Life is different, yet some things remain the same, just with a slightly different flavor.

Kettle Pot Cup is the result of casual comments from a few friends. They half-joked about me writing a book about tea because I drink so much of it. One even came up with a hashtag for Twitter, #TomTea, which I enjoy playing with and which I’m sure they thought was just a one time joke. Surprise! 

While it seems like the perfect pandemic story, a book written during lockdown, the book was originally scheduled to be published by October 2019; which means it was a pre-pandemic project. Several repackagings and replannings and restrategizings later, it is finally done.

This is not a serious book, but it is for a serious cause. Like many of the things we eat and drink, the people who make it happen don’t always make as much as the final retail price may suggest. Fortunately the Free Trade movement is working to make things more equitable, but there’s more than enough work to do. For the last few years my business has been – waiting for a recovery; which meant I didn’t have much to donate, sadly. But wait! I may not have money to give, but I could write a book. Give the appropriate charities the book proceeds and maybe I could contribute in more ways than I expected. Let’s find out.

As for being a serious book, well, as it says in the description of my first book reading;

The old world has its tea rituals. The new book “Kettle Pot Cup,” by Tom Trimbath is about our modern informal accidental rituals that are held in everyday locations like coffeeshops, offices, deck chairs, etc. Come by for less-than-serious essays about the way we really drink tea.

Kettle, Pot, Cup: Tales About Tea
Tuesday, June 21, 2022  6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Langley Library (part of Sno-Isle Libraries)
https://sno-isle.bibliocommons.com/events/6275b6968382fa28009358e3

Or, as the video’s description describes;

“Kettle Pot Cup is a casual telling of everyday events, wrapped into a book, with book proceeds going to various charities that support the people who make it happen.

Ah, tea. Why read about it? Drink it! But first…

Most tea drinkers include tea as part of their daily lives. There are rituals in Japan and England. Culturally tea has been influential for centuries. In the modern world the rituals look completely different. Enjoy observations on everyday tea, from coffeeshops, offices, deck chairs, and even some cocktails some teatails.

The world may need rituals, but someone who wants a cup of tea can have a ritual that is as simple as taking a bag of dead leaves, dunking it in hot water, waiting for the color to turn brown, and drinking it while they get back to work, or their drive, or while they visit with friends, or sit on the deck alone resting. That’s modern life, no bowing or raised pinkies required.

If it does well enough there could be a sequel. As most writers probably know, writing down one idea can create others. Kettle Pot Cup is thirty-ish short essays about tea in modern life, and as soon as they were declared done several more ideas already arrived. Stay tuned.

While the book was written with philanthropy in mind, it is also meant to be fun, or at least light. Consider it an excuse to read one chapter each day for a month. None are more than a few pages long. The book is hardback with color photos outside and inside. It is purposely produced this way to make it easier to give or even ship as gifts. There may be paperback or ebook editions; but for now, the book is available on Lulu.com. (Not Amazon – yet.)

I’ll be dropping snippets online. Check Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for likely locations for lines I like. (Find me as Tom Trimbath or tetrimbath, usually. There are too many sites to keep track of all my usernames.) And, of course, find previous posts by searching for the hashtag #TomTea.

I’ll be dropping snippets online. Check Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for likely locations for lines I like. (Find me as Tom Trimbath or tetrimbath, usually. There are too many sites to keep track of all my usernames.) And, of course, find previous posts by searching for the hashtag #TomTea.

I hope you enjoy it. I hope it does some good. I know I enjoyed writing it. And I suspect I’ll also enjoy doing readings and interviews. Contact me. Also, I encourage you to nominate tea-related charities. I can find some, but that doesn’t mean I’ll find the best. 

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Good Enough

Take a deep breath and find a good seat. A lot has happened in the last 48 hours; all of it is good, or at least good enough.

Just for the simple nature of it I’ll start with a personal best. Today was a low low tide, an excellent day to walk a greatly expanded beach. The birds noticed it too. Personal best: 48 great blue herons + several bald eagles + a few osprey + more gulls than I wanted to count. And very few people were out there. Two teenagers walked across the Cultus Bay channel without getting their knees wet. It was a low low tide for sure. Nice.

A walk like that ends with me kicking off my shoes and dumping out my socks because sand from the beach gets carried home. But that was interrupted because I had a surprise in the mailbox. I forgot that my newest book, Kettle Pot Cup, was due today. I couldn’t open it though because I didn’t want to smudge anything. Some clothing maneuvering and hand-drying later and the book was unveiled, revealed and met with my happy approval. It was not good enough before, but it is now. I got myself inside, opened the computer, approved the copy, and the publisher/printer, lulu.com, released it for distribution.

Pour myself a cup of tea, of course. Hmm. Pardon me as I pour another. (A garden blend partly from herbs from Dandelion Botanical, who also inspired the book, and partly from various plants in my neighborhood.)

OK. Cup refilled.

Well, the computer was open so it was easy to see if a video I’d been working on had finally uploaded and synced. Joe Menth over at Feather and Fox polishes my photos for my Twelve Month series on Whidbey Island and had delivered the final photos in the format I needed for the video. According the YouTube the video was ready. I added the description and such, and well, here’s that, too. Much better than using the unpolished photos that were good enough, but not as good as he just made them.

At the same time I continue to get to respond to people asking questions about the talk I gave at Langley Library two evenings ago. It was the first return to public speaking (something I enjoy) about real estate and affordability trends on Whidbey Island. (Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). Evidently it was good enough, too – especially after I fixed a link to the slides. (Includes a link to the video, too.)

Weird Years For Whidbey Real Estate – May 2022

I’ve also started receiving consultation calls (I help artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and creatives as I can.) And of course, real estate continues to be busy.

What’s next? Everything. 

Real estate always catches my attention because, in this market, there’s an urgency and a need to be responsive. My twelve month series continues as I collect the photos for the tenth (and possibly last) book in the Whidbey Island series. (There’s also a three book series of the Cascade Mountains.)

The tea book, Kettle Pot Cup, now enters the busiest phase. The common perception is that writing the book is the hard part. So is telling the world about the book, which will be particularly the case this time because the book proceeds are going to be donated to various charities that support the people who pick the tea. The launch event needs to be scheduled, posters and graphics arranged, and I have to order enough books (using a loan) to have enough to show off and distribute. Then, there’s the first of hopefully many talks at libraries, online events, and wherever else is appropriate and reasonably possible. Besides, if people want signed copies I have to give them opportunities to meet them and their book. 

And just in case I was going to take time off, there’s another of my favorite projects, my first sci-fi novel, which I intend to finish this autumn. That one takes much more effort, and so does its promotion. I might even get engineering-ish and sketch the ship and the colony, but maybe that’s loading too much work onto my To-Do list.

To-Do list? The grass is growing as I type. Life maintenance continues. It is also the time for more fun. It is the season for hiking, dancing, and bicycling (if the bike shop ever finishes fixing it.)

That’s a lot to be doing, and then irony delivered another element. As I started typing this I happened to have YouTube on. The rocket scientist in me had to watch a NASA launch that represented to me my past career. Those were busy times, too. They paid better, but sadly the culture had a price. It made for an intriguing counterpoint to everything that just happened.

I enjoy what I do. My passion is for people and ideas. I like introducing them to each other. Such introductions can inspire creations and solutions in a world that needs them. So far, that work has been good enough for my creativity (and I always have more ideas), but not good enough for my bank account. See, I did turn this post back into commentary on personal finance, the reason for this blog.

At the end of my real estate talk a member of the audience proclaimed what others have proclaimed, that I am a modern renaissance man. (Proof of that was that I didn’t have to look up how to spell ‘renaissance’.) My quick reply was that many creative people in the Renaissance survived because they were compensated for their work. Maybe that will happen for me, too. I look forward to that being more than just good enough. 

Doh! I just remembered. This is about the time to restart work on my game based on Whidbey Island. So many ideas. Same amount of time as anyone. Let’s see what I can get done.

Should I re-read it and check for errors? Nah. It’s probably good enough.

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Cute Unintended Consequences

What to write about? What to write about? What the…? Well, thank you, world; I’ll write about that. Unintended consequences happen, and one just happened while I was wondering about what today’s topic will be. Evidently, I can take a hint, especially if it is an obvious one. A deer just gave birth by my wood pile. Cuteness happens.

Wooden fences fall down. Wood can survive for centuries or millennia as part of a healthy tree. Wood can survive just as long as part of a well-maintained and protected building. Wood can also have trouble when weather gets to work on it, as some of my house’s trim pieces can prove. Wooden fences in the maritime climate around the Salish Sea have to survive wind, rain, moss, critters, and nature in general. Rot happens. Part of my fence fell down – again.

My fence falling down isn’t too much of a surprise. It is old, and my neighborhood is one of the windier and rainier parts of Whidbey Island. Put the fence adjacent to vacant fields (which are probably about to become house construction sites), and dirt and weeds can pile up against the outside of the fence. Hello, rot.

For years I planned on improving or replacing the fence, but spare time and money have been in short supply. I try to be resourceful and creative, so I was curious about other options. Stone is best, but I’m not trying to build a fortress. That wouldn’t fit a seaside cottage style. Replacing with wood is typical, but 1) I’d like to find something that didn’t require injecting chemicals into the wood making it harder to recycle, and 2) wood prices spiked during the pandemic. That leaves metal. Metal is fine. It will rust, but at least mold and bugs won’t break it down. Besides, I’m from Pittsburgh and I’ve worked in a mill. Steel or aluminum make sense to me because they are recyclable. And of course, there’s always having no fence at all.

I’m guessing that having no fence at all is the preferred solution according to the deer, the bunnies, the raccoons, and a wide variety of other critters. Having at least a small garden is my preference. I guess the critters would like it best if I had a garden and didn’t have a fence. Since my fence fell they’ve proved that by nibbling the lower branches of the fruit trees, or in the case of a struggling apple tree, all of its branches. Sigh.

This spring has been setting records for wet and cold in the area. It probably wasn’t the best season for growing (though the weirdness of the world encourages some home growing, just in case.) So, I haven’t done much about the fence. Besides, finishing three books, arranging for public speaking events, and ramping up real estate has kept me busy.

Finally, I have a design that minimizes the use of expensive lumber, is simplified by using metal posts, avoids concrete, and reuses fencing that didn’t break when it fell (even though it damaged me in the process, but that’s another story.)

Ah, but there was writing to do and nothing was coming to mind. One solution: do some yardwork. So, go into the bedroom to change into my grubbies, peek through the curtains to check the weather, and notice a doe with two fawns. Surprise! Sweet. I actually saw it earlier and nodded at it because it was resting beside the wood pile, out of the way of aggressive dogs that I’ve seen attack other deer. It looked a little chubby, but I don’t judge. But now, two fawns. What a weightloss program!

Because my fence fell down a deer was able to find a safe place to give birth to the next generation. That’s not the consequence I intended or expected; but I’m glad for it.

Unintended consequences are common in my life. The world laughs at plans, and yet things get done. There’s chaos under heaven and the situation is excellent, which is just another way of acknowledging that trying to control reality is a silly endeavour.

I have some friends who are already demonstrating their skills, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for them to pay their bills. I can see some solutions (that’s what consultants and engineers do), but my energies and attempts barely nudge them. I know they think the same thing about me. We talk, but we rarely actually do what the other thinks should be done. That’s human nature because many times there are other reasons those things don’t happen.

At the same time, I’ve been thanked by many people who’ve told me that I inspired them because of something I wrote, a casual comment, or a bit of body language at just the right time in just the right way to lead them to success. Great! How’d I do that? I don’t know; I was just being me (and not charging, which may be worth exploring.) One started a large project that was intimidating. One eventually produced a movie and TV series. One became a multi-millionaire. I didn’t make those things happen directly, but evidently I helped.

Just as I accidentally enabled a deer to give birth to two fawns (who were nursing and nuzzling a few minutes ago.)

This isn’t about me as much as it is about you. It is easy to be demoralized in today’s world. Work can seem pointless. Compliments can exceed compensation. Progress can be challenged by pointless commentaries. 

But you can’t know everything you’ve done that’s made a difference. (Cue up A Wonderful Life, though out of season.) 

This week I found two comments online about me and some of my work that no one told me about. No Notifications, that I noticed. Nothing that was being used for marketing. Just simply nice things. By not notifying me they weren’t intending any consequences for me, but the consequence was that their words felt more sincere, and were more welcome.

The same is probably true for you, too.

My unintended consequences aren’t paying the bills. (Yet.) I can’t deposit them (yet), but I can value them for my own well-being.

Two fawns are cute, and having them outside my bedroom window was not intended, but they are a fine consequence. 

A more personal consequence is that, because they are there, I have a great excuse to skip working in the yard. Hey, that’s valuable!

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Searching For A New Normal In Real Estate And Affordability

(Disclosure required because I’m writing about real estate: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/. Not a plug for my services, but evidently you know where to find me.)

One big thing makes me think about bigger things, and I know I can only know a part of the story. Later this month I’ll make my first public presentation since the pandemic began, the update to my somewhat regular talk about real estate and affordability on Whidbey Island. (The Ever-Changing World of Whidbey Real Estate) The local libraries are starting to open up for public events, again. I get to be one of the first. Public speaking returns! Thanks, Langley Library and the Sno-Isle Library system. Thinking about that local story made me think about the larger story, which could be a presentation, too; but can also be a blog post here. Affordable housing and the sustainability of the real estate industry, there’s yet another place where the New Normal is being sketched in.

It is easy to assume that real estate news is only happening where you live. Everywhere must be different, right? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

In the previous year, real estate prices where I live (Whidbey Island) have risen about 15% to 19% depending on the part of the island. Those percentages are a worry. The island has been seen as unaffordable for years. Rather than temper that, the pandemic accelerated the trend. With price rises that exceed historical norms of a few percent it is easy to assume it is an isolated incident, maybe a consequence of city folks escaping to a place where there’s more room between people. (Rural Distancing)

It isn’t only here.

Here are some sketches of my opinions. 

Inventory is down. Twenty years ago people were more mobile. Families grew and shrunk. Upward mobility was followed by downsizing. Kids moved out, started families, and started households. Repeat. The Internet Bubble burst and 9/11 didn’t help. Instead of switching addresses every 6 or 7 years, people stayed in one place longer, like 10 years. The Great Recession hit. (The Second Great Depression in my opinion.) The typical length of a stay became more like 12 or 13 years. Double the time in one place, halve the number of house sales. It wouldn’t be a surprise that more felt it was difficult to move. Low inventory means low supply; so, if everything else stays the same prices will rise. Multiple buyers can find themselves competing which is frustrating, and drives the prices higher. The same number of realtors are trying to earn a living from fewer sales.

A common response is to build more houses. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Building more houses makes sense – as long as it is one house per household. There’s nothing illegal about celebrating career success and frugal money management by buying a second house; but the consequence is that buyers lose an opportunity. A first-time home buyer may have saved up for a mortgage, but in a competitive market their offer may lose out to a cash offer from the buyer who wants a vacation house, or two, or three. Nothing illegal about that. Building more houses is popular though because it means jobs for builders, regardless of who those houses are being built for.

Building more houses isn’t simple, either. Not-In-My-Back-Yard, zoning restrictions, resource limitations, and time complicate and delay the process.

One of my more Frequently Asked Questions is roughly; “Where can I find a fixer-upper, or maybe some land where I can park or build a tiny house?” That fixer may not nice enough for a lender, but is fine for a cash buyer. As for tiny, or even small, or maybe manufactured houses – they may be fine for that person, but the municipality, or the homeowners’ association may say no. The person who wants a house and is willing to compromise is blocked by policies that frequently reach back 50 years to a different world. 

Got lumber? It’s expensive, at least for now. Steel stud houses exist, but they aren’t common. Are there enough contractors who know how to build them? Even conventional houses can be delayed because conventional contractors are also in short supply.

Lets go back to that idea of moving. It was easier to “Go west, young man.” But we’ve gone west and are now bouncing around inside settled borders; and ‘young man’ has expanded beyond ‘man’ and ‘young’. West was affordable. Now, west is expensive. People in ‘more affordable regions’ may be able to find opportunities somewhere else, but they may not be able to move there. They are effectively trapped, having to wait for jobs to come to them.

Affordability is an interesting term. Housing is affordable. When every house is selling then someone, or some company, can afford it. A million dollar house is affordable, at least for a while, to whoever bought it. But. Affordability typically refers to the perspective of people who can’t afford a house. The solution is commonly to build more houses that are affordable because, as mentioned before, building is popular (when possible.) To me, solving that affordability has less to do with real estate and more to do with economics. We cheer wages when they increase 5%, but if real estate prices rise 6%, then real estate becomes less affordable for those people. Here comes a copy&paste from earlier. “In the previous year, real estate prices where I live (Whidbey Island) have risen about 15% to 19% depending on the part of the island.” That’s a problem, and it isn’t just a Whidbey Island issue. 

Hmm. If the people who want to move to better opportunities could become the contractors building the homes, but they’d need to be able to move here, but they can’t afford that, and … So the situation sits.

Real estate markets are confused. While prices are rising, inventories are falling. It is a seller’s market. It has happened before, but this time the buyers are changing. Corporations and investors are about 18% of the market. Some are buying to rent, diminishing the number of homeowners and raising the number of renters. That also means more people who don’t get the benefit of building equity, instead paying more out for the expense called rent. A bigger concern can be the number of houses that are treated as assets, commodities. Many stocks don’t return 15% to 19%. A stock can become worthless but land almost always has some value. Renting produces income, but renters are a risk that something might go wrong. Even if it is typical wear and usage, an investor has to manage the property or hire someone to do so. Some let it sit and  wait for a good time to sell. Those houses are no longer available. A house built for ‘affordable housing’ can be pristine and taken out of consideration while a corporation waits for the proper appreciation.

As a stock investor, the author of a book about personal finance (Dream. Invest. Live., the basis for this blog), and a realtor I may look at the real estate industry differently. I’ve only been a broker for a few years, not a few decades as some of my experienced co-workers. Before then I wrote about real estate for Curbed.com. I watched the rise of Zillow, Redfin, Estately, etc.; and it became apparent that they were probably going to do to real estate what Expedia did to travel. Travel was much more of a commodity because there is little variation in airplane seats, so it was possible to mechanize the process of buying tickets. Houses don’t work that way, except for where they do at least somewhat. Condos and developments are easier to see that way. If the approach works well enough there, would it also work in older, less regimented neighborhoods? How about rural spaces? These corporations act more quickly than the industry. They are willing to try ideas and see if they succeed or fail. That is the disruptive nature of capitalism. No judgment, here.

No judgment, but definitely conversations, especially among the other brokers who got their license about the same time as me. I recall one conversation where three of us agreed that the industry would probably radically change within the next 4-5 years; and of course I mention it because that conversation was about 3-4 years ago. There have been changes, and they aren’t done, yet.

Last year I did a quick analysis and found that in my area about 1/3 of the transactions included discount brokerages. To brokers that means reduced commissions and reduced opportunities in existing careers. Within the last month a senior and experienced broker pointed out that 3/4 of the listings were from outside the area. We are close to Seattle which has many more brokers. They are in a similar situation, so if even a few of them extend their range our way our market drastically shifts, especially when inventories are so low.

People hear about how hot and busy the real estate market is. It is easy to understand why it seems like everyone is making money. But, if there are 12 offers on a house that is good news for the seller and their broker, the winning buyer and their broker (assuming the deal closes), and 11 pairs of buyers and brokers who spent a lot of time and money moving on to the next offering. That’s 12 offers here on an island. I talked to one broker in Seattle who has been involved in listings with over 70 offers. That is a sale, but I also see about 70 frustrated sellers and brokers. Imagine the buyers’ frustrations and understand why they’re willing to bid higher next time.

As I frequently add to social media posts (but not to Twitter because this takes too many characters);

Interesting times for #realestate sellers, buyers, and brokers
(Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/).

(By the way, that disclosure is required, but it is also an example of why real estate communications can seem stilted and stiff.)

‘Interesting times’ is a massive understatement.

I am also convinced that these times are not the New Normal, though they are leading to it. Within the world of finance and economics money flows from assets to assets, regardless of their target’s necessity. Money has been flowing into real estate. Money attracts innovation and challengers. Long-established industries can change when innovation succeeds. Eventually, at least some of the speculative money will move on to the next commodity. Real estate will adjust again, but it will be changed; especially in commoditized markets. The old industry Normal may not be sustainable in such a situation; except possibly in custom and niche markets. Vacation rentals, vacant speculative homes, and a backlog of housing demand will be affecting the New Normal. None of those trends and goals, however, are likely to provide sufficient housing for those who can’t afford it until economies change and personal finances improve to where housing becomes affordable for more, many more.

Discount brokerages are not new. Travel agencies acting as brokerages changed, or vanished. Stock brokerages changed, with some becoming more exclusive and some becoming so affordable that commissions are barely noticeable. The change in real estate brokerages has begun, which might bifurcate into housing that can be commoditized more readily (condos, etc.) and more exclusive (custom houses and rural areas.) 

This is happening as inflation rises, a pandemic sweeps through, refugees from disasters struggle to find any kind of place to live. 

I don’t have answers (except in my dreams), but at least I can try to answer questions about my area – which I just realized I can use a plug for my talk at Langley Library on May 17 at 6:30PM. It may not be live-streamed (I don’t know, yet), but I hope to record it and post it to YouTube. 

As I mentioned above, interesting times.

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Not Good Enough

Don’t worry. I’m not talking about you or me or any other human, not even pets. Yesterday I had a bit of mail I’ve been eagerly waiting for: the proof copy of my book about tea, Kettle Pot Cup. Eager (optimistic) and anxious (pessimistic.) I was cool, waiting until I finished a chore or three before carefully opening the package of what is a first edition. Looks good, er, well not great, but, but, is it good enough? For once my answer was No. Sometimes not good enough really is not good enough, because good is subjective; and sometimes good enough is something to treat with respect.

For those who don’t follow every one of my social media posts it may come as a surprise that I like tea and that I’ve been writing a book about tea. (#TomTea) This is not a book about High Tea, though there are comments about getting high on tea. There are rituals around tea, but I drink tea because I like tea. I guess that the majority of tea is consumed (because saying tea is drunk sounds like tea has an issue that requires intervention), that tea is consumed by people at work, or at home, or in the car. We’ve created informal rituals about those too, but they don’t get as much attention. Tea is simple: dead leaves, hot water, wait a bit, and sip. No ritual required, though some will make a ritual out of how it fits into their life. Do you compost the leaves, reuse them, or dump them and the bag they came in into the trash as soon as the water turns the right shade of brown? It’s personal, and it isn’t formal. That’s what this book is about.

This book is also about the people who pick the leaves. Thanks to Starbucks (really), I became aware of the conditions of coffee growers. They don’t get much money from each multi-dollar cup of mocha whatever. It didn’t take much research to realize the same was true of the people who hand-pick tea leaves in the few hours of the day that are the best for harvesting. I don’t have much money to donate (Ha! #massiveunderstatement), but I realized it was possible to raise funds for them by writing a book about tea, and giving them the book proceeds from a nice, small, hardback book that would be easy to buy and ship as a gift. Hence, Kettle Pot Cup.

With tempered relief I sent off the book ready to print (I hoped). It arrived yesterday. Books might seem like they’re about words, but there’s a lot of work that goes into designing the cover, laying out the pages, finding a publisher or at least a printer, spreading the word (thanks for reading and sharing), and generally finding yet another detail to resolve. 

At a glance it looked and felt like I expected. This isn’t an ebook, so the tactile sensation matters. It was fine. But, there within minutes I found three things that may never be noticed by most, but even I could identify as something to improve.

The battle to find the balance point of good enough is something I’m very familiar with. In engineering there were specific objective criteria. Could a 747 with one engine failed turn by a certain amount in a specified time? (Yes, and that’s another story about good enough, but I don’t want to tread on the FAA’s toes.) The more frequent battle is within the arts. Listen to almost any podcast of WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com, a podcast Don Scobie(y) and I co-produce and we’ll probably mention that line in the artistic sand. 

Most advice I receive tends towards, “It is probably good enough.” (Just like the punctuation of that sentence.) Advice frequently comes from people who haven’t even seen the product. In general, I usually tend that way, too. Books can’t be perfect. Have you found a typo in a book? Don’t be surprised. A 99% error-free book means 1,000 errors in a 100,000 word book. (Imagine how many typos there are in my millions of words online.) Writers frequently write to an error rate of over 99.9%, better than 100 errors, at a guess. 

The issues I found weren’t errors, but were things that could be easily improved and would remove distractions – and hopefully increase sales, and hence increase donations to the tea pickers’ charities.

And that was the thing that made me say, Not good enough. I’m trying to help someone else, and if a three week delay amplifies the benefit, then that’s probably worth it – as long as I don’t get detoured in the meantime.

Some may know that last week I also produced a book of nature photos of Whidbey Island, Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay. (Ninth in the five book series, which is another story.) The professional who helps me with cleaning and polishing those photos (Joe Menth) has much higher standards than me. We frequently have discussions about a photo which leaves him asking something like; “How can you not see that smudge?” If I have to stare, it is probably good enough for me. Not for him. ‘Good enough’ is subjective and situational dependent. (BTW His work is excellent. Feather And Fox Print Co)

With a bit of his help and maybe another person or two Kettle Pot Cup can be a dramatically better book. The words won’t change, but they’ll look better; and people do judge books by their covers.

I hoped to celebrate and announce the completion of the book in April, but it will now take until late May (which means missing Mother’s Day). It also means doubling up, or tripling up as I return to working on my science fiction novel (due this fall), and a busy real estate schedule (with my first public speaking gig due in a week or two.) Pardon me as I sip a cup of tea as that workload sinks in.

Good enough, or not, has more than one answer. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. For Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay, yes. For Kettle Pot Cup, not yet. Stay tuned, and maybe enough a cup or a mug of hot water poured over the right dead leaves. Remember, you are good enough.


PS
For those post to be good enough the state requires that I add:
(Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/).

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Big Slow Changes

Trend watchers, it is a job, a gig, an excuse to cruise social media watching for every nuanced shift in memes. Ukrainian farm equipment towing Russian tanks is one as I type. I watch trends to better understand where I want to invest (even if I don’t have the spare funds.) A personal trend lately has been to watch old black&white movies. Trends? You can guess at a movie’s age by watching the everyday things: hairstyles, clothes, etc. Guessing at fashions is not for me. I’m a minimalist and frugal; bland works for me. But those trends make me wonder about what is next in the trends in phones, cars, computers.


Phones

This is an easy one. Go back early enough and see the candlestick phones that you operated by jiggling the handset’s cradle to get the attention of the real operator, usually a woman working in front of a switchboard. Making a connection really was connecting the wire from your phone to a wire from the other phone because she physically moved wires. 

Pardon me as I skip a few steps because otherwise this would be a historical treatise.

Many of the operators lost their jobs as the connections were automated, partly because users could dial the number themself (unless it was long distance.) Switchboards of wires were too cumbersome as the number of phones grew, but most people didn’t see the shift behind the scenes. A major change in the house was to the bakelite phones where the handset and the cradle and the dial were more compact. Then someone got the idea (from de-regulation?) to try other shapes when push buttons and their tone provided new technology and new style. Wireless happened. Phones were chained to an outlet, but we could wander the house and talk. Cell (mobile) phones crept in via radio phones as designers tried to decide on shapes and features. Clamshells rule! And then the iPhone changed everything.

It wasn’t that long ago

And things we encounter less are operators, party lines, busy signals, that tone that told you the phone was working, and curly wires connecting a phone and its user to an outlet. 

Long distance? No problem unless it is to another country.

Busy signals? Hah! But good luck getting past the modern equivalent of an answering machine.

But we still talk about making a connection, ringing someone up, dialing, hanging up, picking it up,…

Our icon is an old fashioned handset, maybe because smartphones have become bland (and expensive) rectangles.

When phones are incorporated into our smartglasses will we use the same old words?


Cars

It may be quaint to look at old phones, but look at old cars. Iconic? Sure, in the horseless carriage era. After that was elegance, or sturdy as a tank, or unreliable. Eventually energy crises created design crises as car companies tried to discover how to balance operational efficiency, corporate financial efficiency, safety, pollution – and oh yes, style.

We’ve gone from handcranks to start, to keys, to push buttons, to wireless fobs.

We’ve gone from sweating to steer and brake because power came from humans not hydraulics or electronics, to autonomous operation (but keep your hands on the wheel and your feet on the pedals – ha!)

We’ve gone from dedicating time and money on maintenance, to using shops for the tough stuff, to relinquishing all control because there’s little left we can fix – all while frustration and a lack of control are balanced with greater reliability.

We’ve gone from carrying extra gas to service with a smile (can I wash your window and check your oil? – which wasn’t an innuendo) to self-serve to where can I plug this in?

Our icons are sedans from the dull days, yet the introduction of electric vehicles can change that as new styles are available; but autonomous vehicles can change it again. Will people even own a car?

Seeing someone in a movie pumping gas may make as much sense as watching someone try to get an operator on the line.


Computers

IBM ruled. Secretaries at typewriters, librarians at card catalogs, bookkeepers at adding machines – yes, they exist; but machines automated much of it, until mainframes took on some of it, until mini-computers the size of refrigerators took on more, until workstations, then personal computers put it all in the user’s hands. 

Paper tape and punch cards were replaced with magnetic tape, which was replaced with floppies, which were replaced with a variety of short-lived but denser media like Zip Drives, CDs, DVDs, and then USB for small things, then USBs that can do almost everything, then SD cards, the microSD cards.

And yet, our icon for storage remains the Mac floppy which wasn’t floppy. 

Paper was slow, but archival. Newer media hold more and retrieve it faster, but can fade or become obsolete within a few years. A recent study by archivists found that the longest lasting media is to chisel the letters into stone (with an update using lasers and quartz crystals.)

Apple rules – for now.


Watch a movie and notice how well it can be dated by phones, cars, and computers. The same must be true, now, too.

Of course now the three have blended. My phone is connected to my car via an array of computers that can communicate.

I think we’re at the end of an era when phones are still visible, rather than integrated into apparel; when computers aren’t just in our stuff but are in us; and when cars need to be fueled with gas or electrons, but may not be something to own because autonomy may allow on-demand delivery of robot taxis. Elements of today’s phones, cars, and computers will remain, just as we still have operators standing by, the call of the open road, and computers that quit shrinking because our fingers and eyes are the limiting factors. 

How bizarre will this era appear as people pick up a phone, drive, and rely on computers that require desks or laps?

Finger swiping in empty air may be a phone call, virtual travel, and the main interface with our information.

And here’s where personal finance comes in. What am I invested in that won’t survive the shifts; and how long until some of those shifts happen? (Futurists in the audience have been making commentary throughout, I’m sure. That’s what the Comment section is for.)

Subconsciously that may be why I invest in virtual displays (MVIS), electric vehicles (SOLO). Another trend for another blog post could be about decentralization, a trend I am watching which is why I am investing in solar power.

Thanks for staying with this stream of thought as I work through this realization. There is an awareness that we’re entering a time of a New Normal. I think it will be much more significant, and more subtle, than not wearing a mask.

I wonder how Hollywood is going to cope. I wonder how we will.

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