Bay Area Negitive Equity Flood Zones

Another map mashup. This one not as pretty.

We just refinanced and collapsed two mortgages into one and locked the whole thing down to a fixed rate mortgage (if you’re looking for a mortgage broker, Anthony Ingoglia is your man) to avoid the 2nd loan adjusting upward upon it’s 10th year anniversary. A lot of people were in the same boat as us, taking out a 2nd in order to be able to afford to move into their home back when the market was booming in 2004. The first round of adjustments hit us three years ago in 2009 when the 5/1 loans adjusted. Another group hit when the 7/1 adjusted. The final round will hit when the 10/1s like ours adjust.

Those that are unable to refinance because their homes are underwater are going to get hit and on the map above you can see where the flood waters of negative equity will hit. It’s not a pretty picture.

Google Maps Gallery

10 years ago, when I was looking for a place to live, I had three maps to help me zero in on where to look. I was concerned with schools so I had a map from greatschools.org along with a school district map showing which houses served which schools. I then had a real estate map from realtor.com that showed the price of houses in the area. Back then the wish was to overlay the two maps on top of each other and, indeed, some of the original mashups which kicked off the Web 2.0 movement were driven by these types of demands.

Since then, the Google Maps teams has been busy pulling in all sorts of layers together and have gathered them all together into their Google Maps Gallery which launched today. There’s a load of things to get lost in (including the overlay of San Francisco in 1938 shown above).

Read their blog post to learn more.

We can neither confirm nor deny. . .

The strange origin of the Glomar Response and its relation to a shipbuilder in Alameda.

We finally got a decent Winter storm here in California which meant that instead of my usual train/ferry & bike commute I had to shlep it home on a bus to stay dry. The bus is comfortable but it involves a good 60 minutes so it’s a good time to catch up on podcasts.

Today I listened to a fascinating piece which told the story of the “Glomar Response” which is that foggy response that a PR flack gives when they want to answer a question with a non-response.

“We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of. . .”

When did such a phrase come about? What were the circumstances that required someone to come up with such a turn of a phrase? The good folks at Radiolab dug in and found the answer. Give it a listen, it’s an amazing piece of cold war yarn.

Here’s the Alameda connection. A sister ship to the Hughes Glomar Explorer was the HMB-1. This was basically a floating dry dock which had ballast tanks that would flood and submerge the dock underwater beneath the Explorer. Inside was the massive claw device used to grab the submarine mentioned in the story. The sub could then be pulled into the docking bay while it’s still underwater and the HMB-1  surfaced and the retractable roof pulled back over on top, all the while hiding it’s cargo from the prying eyes of Soviet spy satellites. It’s all very James Bond.

Later, the HMB-1 was commissioned by the Navy for the Sea Shadow, an experimental ship built back in the 80’s when stealth technology was all the rage.

Sea Shadow.jpg
This would have been an excellent race barge for Team Oracle.

The HMB-1 was designed to hold this top secret boat, again, to keep it from prying eyes between engagements.

Sea Shadow at rest

The Sea Shadow never was produced and it, along with it’s floating/submersible covered dry dock was eventually mothballed in Suisun Bay north of Martinez.

The Alameda connection takes place several years later when the Navy decides to auction the whole package off.

Even though Bay Ship & Yacht Company would eventually be awarded the vessel, the company’s bid wasn’t the highest. “The highest bidder was a Chinese outfit, I believe,” Cameron said. “Even though the Sea Shadow project had been declassified, there were still some privacy issues, so the government didn’t want to sell her to a foreign entity.”

“And the second highest bidder, which was a company in the Gulf Coast, backed out when they realized how much it would cost to move her down there. We actually wrote it off as ‘not gonna happen’ when we found out we’d been outbid. Then we got a call a month later letting us know she was ours if we still wanted her.”

The $2.5 million price tag was small compared to the $15-$20 million that it would cost to build a new traditional dry dock, which Bay Ship & Yacht had been considering for some time. “And we wouldn’t have that cover, which makes HMB-1 such a strong and unique piece of equipment,” Cameron said. He estimates that to build HMB-1 now would cost upwards of $50 million.

The biggest challenge that shipbuilders and ship repairers face with traditional open-air dry docks is weather. Rain (or any moisture) and wind can bring a job to a screeching halt, making income harder to come by during winter months. “HMB-1 is definitely going to be an asset in that respect this winter,” Cameron said. “But it’s the ability to be more efficient and the environmental aspects that we’re all really excited about.”

 – Bay Ship & Yacht Repurposes Top-Secret CIA Project to Go Green

Bay Ship & Yacht Company is, “one of America’s leading service, refit and new construction yards for superyachts and commercial vessels” based on the old naval base on the West end of Alameda. If you have ever taken the ferry over to the Alameda Antique Fair or visited Rosenblum winery, you can see the HMB-1 docked right next to the ferry terminal.

HMB-1 at Bay Ship And now you know.

Further Reading:

History of the HMB-1 (Hughes Mining Barge)
Virtual Tour of the Sea Shadow
Flickr set of the HMB-1

Object Trackers – Two Approaches

Nokia announced, the Treasure Tag, new hardware to go with their Lumia phones sporting the latest update. The tag is a small piece of hardware that communicates with the phone via bluetooth and an app on the phone that monitors proximity, alerting you when the device falls out of bluetooth range from your phone. Until you turn it off (which you can do via the app) the connection between the phone and a paired Treasure Tag is constantly monitored. Nokia says a battery can keep the Tag running for up to six months.

Each phone can support up to four Treasure Tags. The idea is that you attach a tag to something you want to have close-by. Keys, purse, whatever.

The Nokia Treasure Tag app description mentions that you can use, “Audio alerts to find a tag, or a tag to find your phone” but I’m not clear on how a phone can activate the audio on a tag or visa versa if either is out of bluetooth range.

Nokia Treasure Tag

What would be cool is if the Treasure Tag could broadcast GPS coordinates much like an iPad or iPhone can when you activate the Find My iPhone feature on iCloud. Unfortunately, such functionality would be cost & power prohibitive on such a small device that retails for $30. As a work around, the Treasure Tile can put a pin on a map and show you where it last had a connection with it’s phone. Useful if you misplaced an object but useless if someone’s walked off with your purse.

Tile

The Tile is taking a different approach. Instead of looking for a paired device, the Tile can pair with any device running the Tile app. For example, if someone’s walked off with your bag and ends up at a party where someone else is running the Tile app, their app will send time and location of that occurrence from their phone to yours via their phone’s GPS. This is, of course, useless again if the thief discovers the Tile and throws it in the trash but the approach is innovative in its crowdsourced approach. There needs to be a critical mass of people running the Tile app for it to be truly effective but one can imagine the Tile being able to tie into the iOS Beacon sensors in every iPhone & iPad as a quick way to get to scale.

The Tile is also different is a couple of other ways. There is no replaceable battery. A tile lasts for a year, then you replace it. It also features a, “where you last saw it” function that pushes a pin into a map so you can figure out where to begin your search. There is also an audio signal that you can activate to find a Tile that might be hidden under your sofa cushions or in your laundry. Finally, there is an on-screen feature on the app that gives an indicator when you are getting closer or further away from an item when you’re within 150-50 feet of the item.

Tile Getting Warmer

I’m not sure which approach wins here. The goal is to sell a small accessory that you can attach to an object that lets you keep track of an locate it. Each has its own strengths but my gut tells me that form factor is pretty important. If the prime use case is attaching a sensor to your keys, wallet, (or, as my daughter said, television remote), size is pretty important. While the Tile wins on size, it’s unfortunate that you have to landfill the tag every year and would keep me from buying a set.

Hacking Madden

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, one of the most controlled sporting events on the planet. While it’s not exactly rigged, every aspect of the game has been optimized for maximum viewing audience engagement. Sure, there’s a football game in there somewhere but every variable has been carefully engineered to maximize viewing enjoyment.

Some suspect that the two week media circus around Richard Sherman was a carefully planned media campaign designed to put Sherman, and his sponsor, the headphone maker Beats, into the spotlight. With all the attention on social media around the event, it’s no surprise that there are social media hashtag strategies of each brand hoping to cash in. Advertisers, eager to build up anticipation of the big event, are previewed snippets of their big 60 second spot during the playoff games. Our emotions have been conditioned to peak around mid-day today as they kick off to the fading strains of the National Anthem.

As long as people are going to control all the variables around the game, why not engineer the game itself? Jon Bois over at SB Nation has a column where he hacks around with the settings of the XBox video game Madden to come up with fantastical characters to face each other on the virtual gridiron. In this week’s finale, he puts the 7 foot 400 pound Seattle Seahawks up against the 5 foot 160 pound Denver Broncos. And he didn’t stop there. He also slides all the ability, stamina, and strength settings to “11” for the Seahawks and turns all the Broncos players settings down to zero.

He wrote about the resulting game in his column, The Machine is Bleeding to Death, a hilarious piece complete with animated gifs highlighting the best bits. It’s a distorted, comic book caricature of the contest being played out on a gaming platform designed to look as real as possible. The best sports writing is at once about the game but more broadly about society and the world around us thru the lens of the game. Jon Bois’ review of the video game of the football game which we are all about to watch is social commentary at its best.

madden-graphic

May the best team win today. Despite the odds.