Rent vs Buy Interactive Map

On the Trulia site, there is a great interactive map that plots out median prices for renting and buying to help you make a decision without having to plot it all out and track the housing market and gives you pretty colors to look at as well.

San Francisco, LA & New York appear to be better for renting, but it is still better to buy in Oakland.

I am always interested in great infographics, (see Edward Tuft or Visual Complexity) or other posts. Especially when the information can help you actually make decisions.

Customized Currency to Solve US Debt

Aaron Marcus of AM+A here in Berkeley has proposed this idea to Stephen Colbert, President Obama and others. So far, no bites.

Another fantastic idea that will require grass roots organizations to get it off the ground.

The full idea is explained at the American Institute of Graphic Arts Website (Mr. M arcus is a Fellow of the AIGA). “A Modest Proposal: Customized Currency”.

A South Korean innovation Website has picked up on the Customized Currency project and posted a Korean text with all the key images.  See Seoul Design Market, South Korea Web Publication about Customized Currency

If you wish to vote in favor of the Customized Currency design idea at a competition to redesign the US currency, please vote for Aaron’s design at this site before 30 September: http://richardsmith.posterous.com/?tag=dollarredeign&page=8

ABC News interviewed Aaron Marcus for a half-hour to tape a segment about the Customized Currency project for the national US Evening News with Diane Sawyer scheduled for 30 September 2010.

The Green Machine project is a mobile phone concept design that intends to change people’s behavior about saving energy. Four case studies have been published in the US, Europe, Africa, and South Korea.

Obama's Tax Calculator

termiBama
While I understand that there may be a political charge to the calculator, as well as questions as to the validity of the results, there is no denying the simple usability of Obama’s Tax Calculator.

The Obama campaign continues to utilize the web with grace and style. It brings McCain’s technological retardation in to sharp relief.
For more info about Obama’s Tax plan you can read this PDF; Barack Obama’s Tax Plan.
Additionally, there is a comparison between Obama and McCain’s Tax Plans.

Wall Street Bailout

I think Marcy Kaptur of Ohio speaks for many of us about this turn of events and the insanity of letting the rich continue to gouge the taxpayers for money with no strings attached, no oversight and no real planning for how we will improve our national finances. While she  does not detail her bill in this video, she gives an outline of its objectives.

Wall Street Bailout

The update on Monday Nov 10 is that the Bush Administration is providing even more money to AIG than originally offered. The administration scrapped its original $123-billion bailout of American International Group (AIG) and offered a new one, for $170 billion, that extends the loan from two years to five. The deal is part of the $700-billion stash that Congress passed last month.

So far this morning, Wall Street seems to like the news. As for AIG, its CEO Edward Liddy said the new plan “is a significant step forward” that will help AIG divest itself of bad business loans. Tapped to lead the company amid its turmoil five weeks ago, Liddy also said it feels more like five years.

This is amidst revelations that the CEOs and account executives are continuing to get the big bonuses and perks that led to the loss of investors’ money in the first place.

The “Lame Duck” presidents have inflicted their fair share of pardons, gifts, etc during these last couple months. Lets not forget that the Bush Administration still has 70 days to wreak havoc. Lets not let these actions go unchecked.

Obama will have enough of an uphill climb without additional tom-foolery.

Frustration With Bureaucracy

department of redundancy

I received a letter from the DMV a week ago stating that my license was suspended in the state of Vermont. I then embarked on a journey of discovery in idiocy.

I have called the DMV in Vermont and in California. Additionally I was referred to something called the Driver Improvement department in Vermont as well as the Judicial Bureau. They don’t seem to know any information about what others are doing in the bureaucracy (although they were able to give me their phone numbers).

I was able to determine that 18 years ago, there were 10 citations issued and they were with my driver’s license information attached. Yes, I did type that it was EIGHTEEN years ago and that there are TEN citations. They were driving without a license and expired registration (meaning the officer never actually confirmed who the person was). Additionally, these occurred over the course of 6 months and my license was suspended in Vermont at that time (though they never arrested the person).

I never received any information about this until a week ago and continued to renew my license, get full FBI background checks and other high security checks over the years for my service in the Peace Corps and multiple school districts working with and transporting children.

I then was advised by a lawyer that I should ask the California DMV for a hearing and get a stay (so I can keep my license in compliance) until the hearing happens. I got shuffled around several departments in California including the Driver Safety Office and something called the PPPS (never did really find out what the acronym stands for) but they apparently CAN’T HELP ME EITHER. They just get records electronically from Vermont that say my license is suspended and they can’t do anything about it.

It seems that there are whole departments, with hundreds of people who get paid from our tax dollars who do ONE thing and it is never actually the thing YOU are calling for.

So I am redirected back to the office of Driver Improvement in Vermont because California refuses to do anything, even though they are the ones who are taking inaction on my renewal (although they have already cashed my renewal check) and they tell me to call each individual Police department where the tickets were issued from. I called the two departments and find out there are no longer any physical tickets and all they have are entries in the computer that don’t say much about what happened (this is before the computer system was invented, let alone in place). I then have to call this Judicial Bureau in Vermont to get them to give me a hearing to remove the tickets. (This is the third time calling the same office who did not tell me this information).

When I finally spoke to someone who was partially helpful, she tells me that there is a $35 non-refundable fee FOR EACH citation. I will be requesting that to be waived, believe me. In the meantime, I really am not sure what the next step will be and I am concerned that my license is going to expire and that I will have to pay reinstatement fees because it wasn’t done right.

In the pursuit of trying to do this right the first time, I contacted a lawyer to see if it could be taken off my mental plate. When I first spoke to him, he made it sound like it was a matter of filing a few papers and all would be easy-cheesy. When I spoke to him again to confirm what was happening, he quoted me a retainer fee of $500! I couldn’t believe it. That seemed a bit excessive considering the situation. I thought that if it was just about filing some motions and making some phone calls, that I could take care of it….Now I am reconsidering.

I have also, in the course of my research found that when the Driver Safety Office of the CA DMV does a hearing, the person who acts as judge is employed by the DMV (not a neutral agency). This person is also the prosecutor in the case as well as being the recipient of funds should the defendant be found guilty. Seems like a bit of a conflict of interest, no? The U.S. may be a democracy, but apparently draconian/communism rules our DMV.

How is it that citizens who have a clean record for over 20 years with no problems can suddenly be punished for something they did not do that occured two decades ago and that they were never notified of? The injustice here is overwhelming, yet my experience with our justice system along with the bureacracy of the DMV leads me to have a bleak outlook.