AndyO Blog

Monday, September 29, 2008

The sky is falling (on Wall Street)

Well, the bailout package didn't pass the House of Representatives today. Everyone thought it was going to pass. And this is what it did to Wall Street:

Picture of Wall Street numbers - Sept 29, 2009

I guess -777.68 is the third-biggest decline since World War II, and the worst decline in two decades. However this decline is the worst "one day point drop ever for the index," which wiped out $1.2 trillion in market value. On Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the market lost 20% (508 points), which was a stock market crash.

So, I guess we could say that it could have been worse.

We'll see what happens.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:22 PM   0 comments

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad Ad: Mortgage dancers routinely ruin my day

You've probably seen them. You go to a webpage and suddenly you see a flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye. Your attention is sucked into the vortex of the mortgage dancers. You try to look away, but you can't. You might as well shut down your computer.

The mortgage dancer ads are everywhere on the Internet and have been for a while. If you're like me, you probably hate them, but also know they have the ability to hypnotize you. By the time you wake up, five minutes have passed... maybe more.

I thought I'd list a few of the mortgage dancer ads from with some commentary.

What do you think of the Mortgage Dancers?

Exhibit #1: Dancing women celebrate affordable mortgage payments


The first time I saw this ad, I was a bit mesmerized. My favorite part was the way the woman closest to the camera raised her hands to her mouth as if to say, "Mercy!" I'm not sure if that gesture is in relation to the affordable mortgage payments or her dance moves.

Note how Washington (probably being picked up by my IP address) is already pre-selected in the first drop-down box (pretty sneaky). Note how it appears you can calculate a new payment right here on the ad (you can't -- I tried).

Exhibit #2: Dancing green alien celebrates falling mortgage rates


The hip dancers have been replaced with an alien, whose moves bring to mind the dancing baby of the 90s that I also found hypnotic, but also kind of creepy.

Notice how Washington is now part of the headline, and it appears you can calculate your new payment right in the ad (you still can't do this).

Check out the mortgage rate: $510,000 for under $1,498/month. I took this screenshot a while ago -- long before the housing crisis came into the focus for the national media.

Exhibit #3: Dancing lady in a tank top celebrates a new housing bill


They must have figured out the alien creeped people out, because they're back to good old sex appear -- a lady dancing on a bridge.

The mortgage is now $133,000 for under $529/month. If we compared this to the last ad, you'd only be getting a $399,000 mortgage for around $1,500/month. This is due to the housing credit problem, or it's using a different default mortgage ratio.Either way, I'm annoyed.

Exhibit #4: Dancing lady celebrates a 2% fund rate


Yep, they brought back a dancing woman. This time there's no background to distract us. Rates haven't changed, since this was taken around the same time as the last ad.


In researching my disdain for these ads I realized that (as usual) I'm late to the party. Here are some other blogs and stories about LowerMyBills.

On, I found a few other LowerMyBills dancer ads that I remembered, but didn't capture at the time.

Dancing Santa


Jive-dancing woman in gray


First-pumping dancer


Dancing cowboys


Moon dancers


posted by AndyO @ 12:31 AM   13 comments

Monday, September 01, 2008

The PZEV conspiracy

The other day, as I was dropping off my son at his day care, I saw a Subaru Outback with a PZEV logo that got my attention. It looked like this:


When I got out, and looked more closely, I saw PZEV stood for "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle." I thought this was some kind of joke -- something you might see on a fake Saturday Night Live advertisement. But it's no joke: I looked it up, and it appears that PZEV cars really do release very little hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere.

How little? According to an MSN article I read, Dirty Secret: Green Cars Automakers Won't Sell You, you release more hydrocarbons by mowing your lawn in one hour than you do driving 2000 miles in a PZEV car.

If you're like me, you probably just said "Wow!" The next logical question is, "Where can I buy one of these cars?" If you live New York, California, or six other Northeast states, you can go buy one right now. If not, you're out of luck. As the article states:

"Not only can't you buy one, but the government says it's currently illegal for automakers to sell these green cars outside of the special states. Under terms of the Clean Air Act--in the kind of delicious irony only our government can pull off--anyone (dealer, consumer, automaker) involved in an out-of-bounds PZEV sale could be subject to civil fines of up to $27,500. Volvo sent its dealers a memo alerting them to this fact, noting that its greenest S40 and V50 models were only for the special states."

That's right folks. You can't buy a car that's going to help the planet. Here's the reason (from Wikipedia) with the red text emphasized by me:

The reasoning is surmised that while modifications only cost $200 for the consumer, it costs as much as $1,500 for the automaker. If the car companies passed on the entire expense, it could hinder sales and slow the automaker's compliance with ultra-low-emission laws.

It seems like this reason is designed to, perhaps, protect the American auto manufacturers. But that's only the partial reason.

A blog from explains that "politics and parsimony" have collided to make this mess:

The politics are regulatory. The federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn't have a PZEV category of its own, but won?t recognize the California rating, which can be applied only there and in the five states -- Oregon, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine -- that have adopted California emissions standards.  No regulatory agency likes to hand any of its power over to another.

The parsimony is corporate. Automakers spend about $100,000 to get a model certified as a PZEV under California Air Resources Board  rules. They would have to spend another $100,000 per model to get them cleared by the EPA, which insists on issuing its own certification even though it acknowledges that the cars are cleaner than required by the most stringent federal standard.

So whenever you read about those asinine bureaucratic schemes in China or Russia or Africa, you can feel good that the United States also participates in the same stupidity.

I for one will sleep better at night. And continue to drive my dirty Subaru Outback.

Dirty Secret: Green Cars Automakers Won't Sell You - MSN Autos


posted by AndyO @ 11:35 PM   1 comments