Archive for November, 2009


If you’re looking to kick off your Christmas season with something you’ll remember more than how many dollars you saved on that flatscreen, I have a suggestion.

A very good friend of mine, one of the Group here, has been given an ultimatum by her mortgage company to raise a ridiculous sum by the middle of this week. Rather than ask for handouts, she and her mother, who lives with her family, have made a boatload of the best tamales ever, and they’re selling them to try to raise enough to get the mortgage company off her back.

My family decided that this year, we’d donate some of our Christmas budget to our good friend Olivia.  We bought 60, which should feed even our family three or four times, for $100. I’m asking you to do what you can do. Anything will help. You go here to buy your tamales or make a contribution.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis says that in his opinion, you should be giving away so much to others that there are things that you wish you could do that you can’t. Here’s the quotation:

”I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures exclude them.”

I believe this as well. Please, for my friend, won’t you consider adding her to your list of those you’re giving to this year?

RateWatch – What is With Thanksgiving Week?!?!?

Markets: The collapse of the dollar has driven rates slowly but surely to levels we haven’t seen in six months.  Seriously.  It would not be impossible to find 4.625% on some 30-year fixed loans, and we’re closing a 5/1 ARM tomorrow at 3.875%.

Analysis: Well, exactly a year ago today we watched as the mortgage market exploded and rates dropped by more than a full point in two hours.  I remember this well, as I logged on in a spare moment from a condo in Florida, where I was supposed to be on vacation, and spent the next two solid days on the phone because of it.  Not that I’m complaining, exactly, although it was surely most inconvenient.

But this is gratitude week, and I am spending it more or less being grateful.  I am truly grateful for all of you and your willingness to pass along the information I share here.  I depend on referrals for all of my business, and I don’t forget that you have to be thrilled with what you get from me, or you won’t refer me – and I wouldn’t want you to.

We’ll be making some changes to our operations here over the next couple of months that should improve our communications and expand the number of available channels for it, so that you can get this alert however suits you best, whether by Twitter or Facebook or email or text or what have you.  Watch for that, and in the meantime, give me suggestions on how I can make this alert more useful to you.  In turn, let me ask you to forward it on to someone – just one person – that might enjoy it, so that the reach of good, solid market information can grow.  Thanks in advance.

Action: And here is a suggestion from alert reader AmyJo in which she suggests that I add an action section to RateWatch, so here it is: if you’re interested at all in potentially refinancing or purchasing, hit reply to this email and let’s start the conversation.  Average lead time from first discussion to close is running at a career-high 84 days now.  It takes time to get things in place to qualify in this environment.  Do not wait and miss out, and yes, we’re still working in the holidays.  Let us work for you.


Chris Jones

On Christmas Creep

This is the fourth (fifth?) in a Series of Short Takes, commentary on salient issues of the day.  Unlike most of them, this one is neither political nor especially religious.  But like all of them, it will probably get a few people hacked off at me.  You’ve been warned.

At the stroke of midnight on the night of October 31, one of the local radio stations (heck, it might be more than one) begins playing Christmas music.  Not an occasional tune, mind you, but constant, unremitting Christmas music 24/7.

In nearly every store, as of this morning, there will be Christmas displays replacing the Hallowe’en ones, changing everything from orange and black to red and green and white.  There will be nearly ubiquitous Stuffed Santa and reindeer, candy canes, and badly flocked evergreens.  No, not will be.  There are.  Right now.  Retailers, desperate for cashflow, will be especially aggressive this year in trying to get us to forget November altogether, and the quaint Norman Rockwell drawings of a family Christmas with a few handmade gifts ever earlier give way to CHRISTMAS, the Shopping Season, and its outlandish displays of computerized cheer.

Being huge fans of Thanksgiving and especially its attendant holiday Pie Night, we resist this Yule Tide.  I ordinarily have the aforementioned radio station on my presets, but I take it off on Hallowe’en and put it back the day after Thanksgiving.  We will have browns and greens in our home decorating, but no reds (multiple reasons for this), and we will not be playing Christmas music of any kind.  If we acquire presents for people, they will remain unwrapped, or at the very least well hidden.  We hurry past all Christmas displays.  We leave shops that play Christmas music as fast as we can.

We are not anti-Christmas.  We love Christmas.  No one I know celebrates the season harder than we do.  But I am a fan of taking the seasons as they come.  When it is cold I do not wish for summer, and when it’s hot I rarely long for snow.  I don’t much care for Halloween, but I would oppose ignoring it in favor of Thanksgiving, even though the latter is my favorite holiday.  I vehemently oppose the annexation of Thanksgiving by Christmas, and even if we are the only free and independent island of Thanksgiving celebration in a vast ocean of the Christmas Borg, we will nonetheless refuse to be assimilated.

Our society spends a lot of time wishing for things.  When it’s Monday, we wish it were Wednesday.  Wednesday we celebrate because we’re halfway to the weekend, the blessed weekend.  We spend five days a week longing for the other two, then spend those two dreading the coming five.  When it’s hot we want cold and when it’s cold and snowy all we can think about is how great July is.  This is not just disturbing.  It’s destructive.  Whole populations never live their lives at all, spending their time in a dark theater of the mind watching previews of coming attractions, waiting for a feature presentation that never begins.

What a spectacular waste.

Probably I’m making too much of this.  Probably I’m just annoyed because the growing majority of “Christmas” music is so very, very bad – we really needed Beyonce’s take on “White Christmas”?  I mean, really? – and more than likely this Short Take will be met with Fred-like howls that Scrooge should lighten up.  After all, there are powerful forces at work in Christmas that are present in no other major holiday, and not all of those forces have evil designs.  Christmas has the power to make us more cheerful and more kind, and who couldn’t use an increase of that, especially this year?

Besides which, although I protest, observant readers will also know that I am compromised in my complaining, because a part of me resides with the enemy.  If you look closely at my car, you’ll see evidence that I may secretly be in league with the All-Year Christmasers.  There is something curious hanging from  my rear-view mirror, every day, all year ’round.

It’s a jingle bell.