Monthly Archives: October 2008

Happy Halloween

**UPDATE**

We had a whopping 33 kids Halloween night. I thought it was going to be really slow, as we only had 3 kids from 6-7:30. Then it picked up after dark and carloads started showing up. Still a ton of candy left…..

Just make sure you have the right “treats” ready tonight just in case these guys show up…..

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The ever-falling market…..oil market, that is

Back in June during our first trip up to Minnesota of the summer, we were faced with gas prices that were $3.99/gallon on average. I remember getting a “deal” on fuel on the way up in Champaign, Illinois for $3.89 at a Wal*Mart. On the flip side, we paid $4.09/gallon in Ashland, Wisconsin.  

At that time, panic was everywhere. Everyone said the prices were here to stay and the last of the cheap crude oil was near and we’d all be riding bicycles to work. Some “experts” were saying the cost of oil would reach $200+ a barrel and we’d be paying more than $7/gallon for gas. I read what a small segment of economists were saying that what was happening was nothing more than a market bubble. The economic fundamentals showed the market could not support the ever-increasing crude oil prices, they said, which peaked in July at nearly $150/barrel. They gave examples of Japan’s Nikkei Index in the late 1980’s, the “dot com” tech stocks, and the housing market bubbles and how the trends in the price of crude oil mirrored the increases in those particular economic bubbles, which all eventually burst. What they said made sense to me, and from that point it wasn’t long before the price of crude started to fall. Now, just 3 months later, crude oil ended today at $62.73/barrel, well over half of what it was in July. Demand has fallen and OPEC has even cut production. Due to consumers adjusting their driving habits, the market has taken care of the price of oil, just as it’s supposed to.

Most folks said we’d never see gas below $3/gallon ever again. Sunday afternoon we took Jennifer’s mom out to eat for a belated birthday dinner and thought we caught a deal at $2.25/gallon. The very next day, gas at that station was at $2.19, and today it was at $2.14 across the street.

We made a quick trip on the way home tonight (we’ve been carpooling for the past 4 months) out to Brownsburg where we found gas at this Speedway station on State Road 267 selling for:

Not to be outdone, the BP across the street beat ’em:

I had just filled up the night before and only had 50-some miles on the tank, but I refilled anyway….and it only cost $4 to do it. Ahhh, how it brings back memories of when I could fill up a bone dry tank for less than $15. Hopefully everyone will continue to exhibit the same driving habits that brought the prices back down. Makes those fall foliage cruises a lot easier to pay for!

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I’d welcome this like a badge of honor

I got this from my brother Jeff and switched the names to show mine in the video “news story”. For those of you who know me and my political leanings, I could only dream about a story like this. Unfortunately, the pending election on the 4th will turn out to be more of a nightmare, I’m afraid.

Enjoy!

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Time for our own poll

Lately I’ve been getting on the election polling site Real Clear Politics to see how the polling is going for our upcoming elections. It’s quite an indepth site, as they show results from various elections from various pollsters. I thought I’d start my own poll to see where the tides here are turning. Vote early, vote often!

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All in the family

A lot of you reading this know that I’m a devoted Corvair owner. But you may not know how I came to be involved with one of America’s most infamous vehicles. It all goes back to the early 1970’s, when I was just 3 or 4 years old. Our next door neighbor at the time worked for the drug company Eli Lilly and had just taken a transfer to England. My dad was a plumber (not named Joe) and our only vehicle was our old 1968 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon. Throughout most of the early to mid 1970’s, work was hard to come by and dad worked many construction jobs that were quite a distance from home…..as far away as Cincinnati as I recall. He was working about an hour north of Indy and driving the Bel Air every day was eating him up in fuel costs. The transferring neighbor had to sell a lot of stuff for the move and one of those things was his 1964 Corvair Monza. It was a 4 speed with a basic 110hp engine. Dad didn’t know a thing about Corvairs, even though he’s always been the type that could figure out what he didn’t know….usually by taking it apart! He ended up buying the Corvair for a few hundred bucks and before long it paid for itself in gas savings.

All five of my brothers learned to drive on it…..except me. Before I learned how to drive, brother #5 bought it from my dad for his first car. The result was I got stuck learning how to drive on a ’75 Ford Maverick. The experience driving a Corvair caught on for 3 of the 5, and before you knew it…..we had a lot of Corvairs! Brother #1 had a ’66 Monza, #2 had a ’64 Monza, and #5, as mentioned, bought dad’s ’64 Monza. I bought my first car in February of ’87, and yup, it was a ’68 “500” model, which was the bare bones model. I paid $1500 cash for it from a car lot in Greenfield, Indiana and loved it for the 2+ years I had it.

I had it painted, but after awhile, there were signs of bodywork coming through, so I decided to put it up for sale, since I was in college and had just a part-time job. I sold it in the fall of ’89 to a 16 year old kid for $2000 and I bought my oldest brother’s ’78 Chrysler Cordoba, which to this day was one of the best cars I ever owned.

Ten years passed and I had looooong moved on from Corvairs. Dad has two Model A Fords and I’d go along with him to car shows & cruise-ins. That’s where I got the bug to maybe buy some sort of car of my own to take. After going through a somewhat bad personal experience with someone, the need to get my mind off of it is what pushed me to get serious about getting a car. My brother Jeff & his wife were coming home from his in-laws in Ohio one weekend and happened to take US 40 back home instead of I-70. He spotted a ’65 Corvair Monza at a used car lot and called me that night to tell me about it, knowing that I was in the market for “something”. Just so happens it was a car lot in….Greenfield. Talk about karma! Hadn’t really thought about getting another Corvair, but after listening to his description of it, I decided to take a look at it. It was a little higher than I wanted to spend ($4500), but I figured if I it was worth buying, I’d walk up with $4,000 to see if they’d bite (they did!).

 

At the time I got it, it was just the tonic I needed. It got my mind of her….errrr……that bad personal experience I had. In the nearly 10 years I’ve had it, it’s been a source of joy, frustration, debt, and ego, especially when someone pulls up next to me at a stoplight and gives me a thumbs-up. One of the first things I did after I bought it was take it to Southeastway Park for a few photos. Some 11 years prior, I had done the same thing with my red ’68 and thought I’d recreate from the same location, and here was the result:

1988:                                                                                                     1999:

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, those are the same trees 11 years later!

My dad’s always been my chief mechanic when it comes to some major repairs on it, especially engine work. I just don’t have the sense for it, but I try to pick up whatever I can from him. Dad hadn’t had a Corvair since 1983 and his helping on mine kind of gave him the bug to get one as well. Some friends of our’s had a ’64 Spyder coupe that had been sitting in an abandoned airplane hangar for 16 years that he was trying to sell. So in the fall of ’99, dad bought it for $800 and towed it home and put it in his shed until he figured out his plan of attack:

Sitting for 16 years was not kind to it. Mice had taken up residence in several parts of the car, including the engine. The stinch of it when tearing out the shag carpet (you read that right!) is something I can still smell to this day. It needed a lot of bodywork, more than he anticipated, and he decided to take every last part off the body and have the body “dipped” in a tank of acid for about a week. This process removes all the paint, body filler, everything except the metal. He had built his own car rotisserie to work on it, and when getting it back from being dipped, this was the result:

He started collecting parts and storing them in his basement for when he’d need them. He was sidetracked in 2002 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but after his surgery (still cancer free 6 years later!) he resumed working on it. $20,000 later, he finally got it completed in the Spring of 2005.

Well, with all these Corvairs back in the family (Dad has since bought another ’64 Monza as a “beater”), my oldest brother was at a car show in ’04 and ran into Tom Miller, who is in our Corvair club. Tom preached the gospel to him good that day and Mike soon got bit again by the Corvair bug as well. The next day he sent me an e-mail at work and was asking about my Corvair. I knew something was up & he told me he might be looking for one. He found a black ’66 convertible on ebay and so we (Mike, dad, me, and my nephew Preston) made a trip to southern Tennessee to check it out. Mike had me drive it so I could compare the drivability to mine. We ended up going home without a deal, but that week Mike & the owner reached an agreement and Mike got a fine car for a lot less than market value.

All told, we’ve had some 10 Corvairs in our family over the years. They’re just a fun little car to have and for a classic car, they’re fairly affordable. Plus, when you’re at a car show, it’s nice having something that no one else at the show will have, unlike your typical Mustangs, Chevelles, Novas, Camaros, etc. I always get a kick out of the little kids who walk up to it and see the engine in the rear and watch as their eyes light up in amazement. Plus, it’s good having something someone else in the family can help you work on too. 😉

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Up on the roof

Today was quite a fun day. First I had a Corvair club meeting, which went pretty well. I sold some more of our 2009 club calendars that we made and which Jennifer shot the photos for. I had to pick her up at her office downtown after my meeting so we could run around today and hit some orchards. Nice day…mostly sunny & around 60. She & Amber drove down to her office so Amber could take some pictures up on the roof of Jennifer’s office for a photography class she’s taking at IUPUI. There are some nice views of downtown up there, as we sat up there a couple of years ago to watch the July 4th fireworks shot off of the top of the Regions Bank building. Up on the roof, they have for some reason a shower head and two faucets on the side of a “shed” that houses the workings for the ancient elevator that’s in their building. For a project, Amber wanted to take some pics of that and add some bathroom amenities to it:

While she was doing that, I had my Canon PowerShot with me, so I took a few photos from various parts of the roof:

And a familiar face was waiting for me when I arrived…

 

It was really nice & peaceful up there. We really love the atmosphere downtown near her office. “One day” we’d like to move down to that area of downtown, be it in an condo or apartment.  It’s a very vibrant area of downtown and we love just walking around down there and getting our groceries at O’Malia’s across the street from her office in the old Sears building. Called the “Mass Ave.” District, here’s some info. Ahhh, one day….

 

 

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The markets, my 401k, and why I’m not worried

I got an e-mail Wednesday that stated my 3rd quarter 401k statement was available on the Merrill Lynch web site. I typically don’t pay attention to the statements, as I monitor my account online, typically weekly. But lately, I haven’t been watching my account, for obvious reasons. I printed off the statement, as I was interested in how my investment selections were doing. Some were actually in the black for the quarter, but most were not. Since I’ve got about 20-25 years to go until retirement, I’m still investing fairly aggressively. Right now I have it spread out to about 80% in stocks, and the rest in bonds & cash. The company I work for pays their employer match to my account once a year, in the 3rd quarter. Also, they have a separate pension for their employees that is deposited in the same account at the same time.

I was interested to see how those two deposits, plus my own contribution, changed my account balance since the end of June. YIKES! The total of the employer match, the pension payment, and my contributions combined weren’t enough to make up for my account’s negative change in market value. And mind you, this all happened before the market REALLY tanked in October. I estimated for the quarter about a -12.3% loss. For the year, I’d guess I’m looking at something around a -20% loss. One of the dogs barking the loudest in my 401k is the Janus Adviser International “Growth” Fund. For the quarter, it dropped 24% and is -30% for the year. My lone salvation was the BlackRock Health Sciences Opportunities Fund that squeaked out the quarter with a 1.19% gain. Wooo hooo!

But am I worried about all this? No way! And if you’re, say, 50 or younger, you shouldn’t be either (Unless you plan to retire at 50 1/2). Even if we haven’t reached the bottom of this fall, it’s an excellent time to jump head first into the markets and BUY, BUY, BUY! I only wish I had more $$$ so I could obtain shares at good prices. Why? This ain’t lasting forever folks! The markets will rebound….they always have & always will. I was talking to my company’s 401k rep, Dan, about this today. Dan played football at IU in the early 1990’s and has that competitive attitude when it comes to the markets. He likes talking to me, because he knows I “get it”. Unfortunately for him lately, he’s been getting beat up pretty good by those in our company who don’t get it. I don’t claim to know as much about the markets as I’d really like to, but I surprise myself when talking to others who don’t. In these “tough economic times” as we’re told by the media, consumers are going to be looking for bargains. What bigger bargain barn is there than Wal*Mart? The stock market can be a crap shoot without doing your homework, and since I haven’t done my homework, I’d bet on Wal*Mart as a good place to put some money (Your results may vary). If you’re fairly inexperienced in investing, but don’t want to hire a broker, I buy my individual stocks through sharebuilder.com for just $4 per trade. I don’t put that much in…maybe $50 every now & then….and the stocks I’ve got on my “to buy” list are mainly those companies that I send money to (AT & T, Comcast, etc). As you may guess, I’m not doing homework on ’em! Since I don’t know what I’d ever use this stock fund for, that’s the reason I don’t funnel much money into it. It’s just for play, basically, and will likely serve as a rainy day fund.

So when the markets make their rebound, you’ll wish you would’ve invested NOW if you didn’t, and if you did invest now, you’ll be glad you did. And like the great Gordon Gecko said: “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

Consider what you just read for the past five minutes a share of that commodity.

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