Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homes in Uruguay

Homes in Uruguay, South America

When we first arrived in Uruguay we decided that we wouldn't even *think* about buying a home until we'd lived in Montevideo for at least a year. After living in the capitol city for some time, I'm glad we made that decision. There are plenty of other options besides the default of settling in the largest city for the new emigre to consider.

It's different here. It's a completely different environment from what you've become accustomed to you in your hometown -- where ever you're from -- unless you hail from Buenos Aires :)

For the gringos reading this post in English, we can safely assume the majority of you weren't born in south america, or at a minimum that Montevideo, Uruguay is not your birthplace.

A brand new country can take some time to get used to -- kick it in the new digs for a minute and get a feel for your new hometown.

Obviously, finding shelter is pretty low on maslov's pyramid. You will be instictually driven to look for a home you will feel comfortable in when you land in Uruguay. This is when you should slow down and take a deep breath and answer a few questions if you haven't already.

Why your are relocating your household to Uruguay?
Do you plan to "snowbird" or hangout only in summer months?

Do you have a family? Or, do you just need a crash pad or hole in
the wall while you're traveling in South America?

Do you want to live fulltime with your family in Uruguay? If so, how big is your family? Do you need an attached yard for pets or kids with your dwelling? How many rooms and baths are necessary? (keep in mind many bigger homes and apartments in Uruguay come with separate service entrances, bedrooms and baths.

In what kind of dwelling will you live in Uruguay?

I list some of the choices available for expats choosing a home in Uruguay below along with some pros, cons, and a couple of 'got

Farms in Uruguay

Quite a few people I've met fantasize about moving to Uruguay with a dream of getting a big spread -- a farm or ranch land and to start homesteading. For most, it's something they've always wanted to do but couldn't afford to in their homeland.

The "gentleman" farmer and gaucho rancher are attractive lifestyles to some...sprawling haciendas with a large country estate or stately manor is one reason people move to Uruguay.

For us, a ranch was out of the question. A farm or homestead just sounded like a bunch of work to me. Anything with that much real estate will demand a lot of maintenance -- probably necessitating hiring ranch hands or caseros to live on site and building separate living quarters, or a dormitory or flop house for them to sleep in.

While Uruguay's property taxes for agricultural land are lower than Uruguay's residential properties, I don't like any taxes! :)


An apartments in Uruguay made a lot more sense for us -- although we initially wound up in a duplex, or flat. In the neighborhoods we were attracted to it was the least expensive way to find comfortable Uruguay real estate . Since we were unsure how we'd like it, we rented, of course.

For a home with a pricey address in Punta del Este, Colonia del Sacramento, or a more toney neighborhood in the capitol, a flat or apartment will probably be the most economical choice.

For those the plan to only occupy their Uruguay home part of the year, buying or renting an apartment will probably be the safest, most sensible solution for your South American household.

I don't recommend *buying* your home when you first land, but apartments are bought and sold in Uruguay. If you're not from a large city, this might seem strange.

Here, the owners of the individual uruguayan apartments are liable for joint costs with the rest of the building. This is similar to a homeowners association, co-op, or condominium. Keep this in mind when budgeting living expenses -- whether you buy or rent you home. The common fees as passed on directly to the tenants.

Houses in Uruguay

Uruguayan houses aren't constructed with the same materials and standards that many gringos will be used to. Quality of construction materials and amenities in the kitchens and baths can vary depending on where you home is. Homes in Colonia or Montevideo have small yards, with almost no surrounding property. Uruguay homes outside of the densely populated city neighborhoods have more land usually

Summer Homes and Cabins

Cabins and bungalows in Uruguay's resort areas will feel like heaven on earth -- half the year.
A bungalow, summer cabin, beach hut or cottage will be like a palace in summer. A throw back to the beach communities in the US from the early 60's. Tourists will infuse your beach haven into what appears to be a real town as the Uruguayans, Brazilians and Argentinians make your new Uruguay hometown their stomping ground.

As the cold damp air replaces the long summer nights, your pleasant abode starts to feel like a
dank cave. You'll cling to your wood stove or hearth, as you sit fireside trying to shake a cold humid winter day. Cute little summer homes are comfortable living quarters in the summer, but typically don't have enough insulation to shelter you from the cold and damp during winter months.

A summer cottage in Uruguay will feel like a shanty in South America.

A few of these homes could be mansions, but many are not up to the standards you've become accustomed to in you home country.

Uruguay Homes Summary

It's natural for many when they land in Uruguay to decide on a home in Uruguay too quickly. You can wind up in in a bad area -- either loud, dirty, or even dangerous. As I wrote earlier it's also hard to gauge the true habitability of a place until you've lived there year around.

Real estate agents work differently here, and it's important to be very cautious when selecting an Uruguayan real estate agent. But, when navigating unfamiliar territory, it's can be wise to get advice from a local Uruguayan Realtor before settling into a permanent living arrangement.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Capital Conservator Offshore Banking

For the last 2 1/2 years, I've been working in the 'salt-mines' of offshore entrepreneurism.

2 1/2 years ago, as a much more idealistic expat newb, I had the feeling that something very ugly was going to go down in the U.S.

I thought that I could kill two birds with one stone -- I could:

1.) improve what i thought was one of the big faults with Uruguay -- a lack of entrepreneurism & small growing young companies that could provide young people with financial opportunity, and
2.) give the 'little guy' a chance to protect himself & his family's wealth like the big guys do, by taking advantage of offshore asset protection schemes, which could legally diversify his assets out of what i viewed was a sinking ship -- the u.s.

Fortuitously, I met the founders of Capital Conservator, & was subsequently convinced to come on board & preach some offshore gospel to the eager flock.

As the CEO of capital conservator likes to say, we offer "an unique value proposition" (i suspect his grammar is proper but unique is always pronounced as if it starts with a vowel where this left coaster is from)...anyways, in a lot of ways, he is right...while the implementation of a new zealand finance company is by no means unique...nor is the use of a swiss trust company, offshore accounts with capital conservtor do offer something that i've been unable to find elsewhere:

A unified, simplified offshore account application procedure, that subsequently gives the client access to a bevy of offshore services & accounts, all the while protecting the privacy (i like to say anonymity) of the client.

The accounts really were engineered from the ground up to protect the privacy of the client first and foremost, but more on that in a later post.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Traduccion Chino

Uruguay is a big place for e-commuters.

The primary reason for this is, I guess, the utter lack of local jobs which are worth a damn, coupled with the fact that a lot of people find it a pleasant, agreeable place to live.

This got an added push a few years ago when it was a lot less expensive to live in Uruguay than many parts of the EU & north america. That momentum has carried over a bit as companies get more liberal about who they will let work online outside of the confines of a cubicle in the home office.

For my money, a north american salary in Uruguay is ideal because of the time zone setup.

During the winter it is one hour ahead of new york. In the summer it is a full three hours ahead.

Summer is a great time of the year to be able to come to the office at 11am & still have a 1 hour jump on people up north.

Recently, a friend of mine who is the wife of an Uruguayan diplomat decided she wanted to start an ebusiness, because it gives her the flexibility of working either here or in one of their duty stations when they travel.

She *just* got started with her website & service offering but it will basically be translation services from spanish to Chinese & back. Suprisingly, given the popularity of these two languages there aren't alot of offerings like this yet.

From my experience the south american business people and the chinese business people usually try to muddle through with some form or english, hand gestures, and patience.

Since she just setup her site, there isn't a lot to see there yet. I'm just gonna give her site a little bit of link love to make sure it gets indexed by the search engines. Once she starts to post on a regular basis & creates some material, the client conversion will be up to her :)

So without further adeu, traduccion chino is her site focused on traducir chino a esp y chino a esp. I have no idea if google expects to see a ` over the o or not. :) Good luck.


p.s. years ago, when i was trying to convince entrepreneurs to move here i looked into setting up an incubator of sorts. the conclusion that many shared with me was that the existing free trade zones which charge heavily for office space & are a better fit for large multinational companies looking to setup satellite offices, would fight me tooth & nail. since i didn't have the time/patience to fight the uy gov (the free trade zones are very well connected i heard), i decided against it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ireland is Targeting Crackdown of Offshore Banking Centers

It's pretty much everywhere isn't it?

I was just reading here:

The latest country to beef up its crackdown efforts on offshore tax avoidance is Ireland.

Iris Revenue Commissioners want the courts to compel Irish banks to identify customers with offshore accounts.

Revenue was already granted orders which made financial institutions give away the identity of their customers when money was moved to or from their own offshore subsidiaries.

They have to apply for new rulings in order to require banks to reveal identities of their clients with offshore account or those who wire funds to and from a number of offshore banking centers
This would reveal transfers with financial institutions that are not Irish owned.

The two primary jurisidictions being focused on by Revenue is Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The rumour is that Revenue is pursuing a very broad order, targeting electronic, as well as paper transfers, which will include checks and drafts.

Earlier this month, Liechtenstein signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with Britain. Ireland also approached Liechtenstein regarding a TIEA and wants to have an agreement finished soon.

Ireland recently signed similar accords with the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos Islands and Anguilla.

In addition, agreements are underway with St Kitts and Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Bahamas, Antigua & Barbuda, and Montserrat, the Cook Islands and Samoa.

A qualified disclosure will let those with undeclared tax liabilities from trusts, foundations, establishments, trust enterprises or offshore companies declare before September 1 to benefit from more leniency.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

It's the Future...It's the Future....It's the Future...It's

Things are a happening pretty quickly down south.

As the chilly damp air descends on the denizens of Uruguay, something more dangerous (perhaps) than even the annual bout of environmental depression lurks.

The Others

While the "others" (namely Chile and Argentina) seem to be getting the worst of it so far, the flu by the name of the "other" white meat has started to extract a toll in good ole Uruguay.


Well, Uruguay, my home country at the moment, nestles down between the dominating Argentina (to the west) and Brazil (to the north). It is a small country, with a small market, and finds itself routinely kicked around by its bigger neighbors in both trade negotiations and futbol matches.

Uruguay does however, have a strong social conscience --- born of fiscal excesses in the early part of last decade, and left in place, because franky nothing ever changes here, they have a relatively strong medical system, that will (if Argentina is an accurate indication of what's coming) will be tested dearly this winter.

The Swine Flu

Well, I've been beating around the bush for the better part of 8 paragraphs or so, and there -- i said it. This post is about the swine flu down here.

I know, i know, you're probably well past the saturation point if you live north of the equator. You already lived through it and can "tell the tale", right? Uh...not so fast. It hit really late in the flu season, and the first opportunity to watch it in action through a full winter has been the southern hemisphere.

In short, it's fortelling your future -- although that's not the only reason for the title of this post.

Situation on the Ground

This is moving very quickly (like the disease) and the numbers that are coming out of the various government agencies are a lesson (you'd rather not have) in infection rates. In subsequent days, Uruguay went from 150 or so infected and no deaths, to at least 10x the number of infected and 4 confirmed dead. Luckily, Uruguay, due in part by it's slow pace and lack of visitors this time of year is quite a ways behind Argentina.

Argentina Situation

Schools have been closed for nearly a month, and after a good month of underreporting the numbers, the media came out with the an estimate of 100k infected. 100k! I don't know, but nearly 50 are confirmed dead already. The estimate a week ago in argentina was 1500 infected.

What to do?

Well, apparently, one solution is to avoid contact with anyone :) Easier said than done in a city of 10MM (Montevideo is "only" 1.5MM). The other solutions, are to basically act like a thorasic surgeon everwhere you go and everything you do....masks, compulsive handwashing ('it's the future, it's the future, it's the future), staying away from people where possible -- much easier said than done where people kiss their grocers hello (and everyone else and their mother), hand sanitizing gel, never again touching for face for any reason, and all other manner of unrealistic disease avoidance strategies.

'gimme drugs, gimme drugs, gimme drugs'

...old welcome back kotter reference there. but, there is (some) help from pharmaceuticals -- namely relenza and better known tamiflu.

In Uruguay, by some miracle of God, (or governmental decree) tamiflu is available without prescription in farmacies. This is incredible, because you'll have a hard time getting anything stronger than aspirin without a script and things as simple as homeopathics and vitamins are very difficult to find, import, and procure without serious red tape and physicians being involved (often).

Of course, everyone and their mother is making a run on Tamiflu.

What really has some Uruguayos angry is that Argentina has been carrying out a roadblock on a bridge between Argentina and Uruguay for YEARS literally, under the 'excuse' of environmental contamination that might come when Uruguay opened a new paper mill on a shared river.

Anyone who knows anything, Argentina accusing Uruguay of environmentally damaging anything is laughable. It's like Oakland, CA condemning San Francisco because the criminal activity might spill over into Oakland.

Anyways, the "piqueteros" (picketers) who basically setup camp on teh bridge and don't allow anything to pass, decided (conveniently) to let argentinians come over to Uruguay to raid the Uruguayan drug stores for Tamiflu since it is available without prescription.

(not so) coincidentally, along with Montevideo, the regions bordering Argentina are where the first cases of swine flu are being reported.

I'll continue to keep you updated while holed up in my penthouse, in between feverishly washing my hands, peeing in empty milk bottles, growing hair and nails to legendary lengths and avoiding all contact with people.

"it's the future, it's the's the's the future...."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

US Bond Market Tipping Point?

Ever since the market turmoil of the last several years started to get peoples' attention, bond watchers have been looking for a moment when things would go critical.

While the stock market is well understood public indicator of the health of the general economy, it's small potatoes. The bond market is no less than the US government's ability to fund its own operations. In addition, since traditionally the US gov's debt was considered "riskless" (except for inflation), other debts pay a premium to the US gov's borrowing rate.

What bond watchers have been waiting for is a point when Federal Reserve (and Treasury) would be faced with a "Sophie's Choice" moment. Do you want to fund the next bailout, or risk sending your borrowing costs so high that you risk the solvency of the US govt? It's going to come down to a choice between the US Dollar, The Bond Market, and the Stock Market.

The Banks

Since the Fed is owned and operated by and for the banks, obviously, they would like to save the banks. In order to do this, the Fed is trying (at least) a few things.

1.) Increase the banks profitability.
2.) Stop the erosion in their assets.
3.) Increase private investment to short up their balance sheets.

Although I believe that their have been huge funnels of funds into the futures market in order to prop up the equity markets, it is only conjecture based on what I've seen in price/volume action there -- and subject of many a tin-foil hat forum. So, I will just say, the recent rise in equities has made it possible for many of the banks to do secondary offerings of stock to raise billions.

To stop the erosion of assets and increase profitability, the Fed decided it would (artificially) hold down long term interest rates. That would make mortgages and refinancings cheaper and more abundant (fees) and (hopefully) stem the decline in US Real Estate (loans against which most of their asset base is comprised of).

In order to push the market out of its natural range, they announced a program where they would buy 10 year notes in the open market, pushing the price up, and the yield down on these instruments. The Fed deemed this activity "quantitative easing".

While the announcement of this plan, immediately pushed 10 year note yields to around 2.5%, as traders have predicted, consistently buying a security above the market will ensure that you shortly become the entire market.

Fearing inflation, holders of longer term bonds have been moving their money to us gov debt with shorter maturities. Basically, they don't want to lock in a historically low rate if the Fed is able to stoke inflation again.

On Wednesday there was an epic "dislocation" in the rates of 10 year paper and a subsequent (and related) move in mortgage bonds. Banks and mortgage brokers were updated multiple times throughout the day as rates moved up almost a full percentage point in some cases.

While a move on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage from 4.5 to 5.5 sounds trivial, it was enough to make a lot of refinancings financially unviable, and make some contemplated offers for purchase impossible. While some lucky people had locked their rate earlier, lots hadn't, as the believe was, the almighty fed would hold rates down.

The Bond Market or the Dollar?

For the remainder of the week, the Fed had a decision to make: let long term rates continue northward (to their natural price), or intravene and risk stoking inflation and killing the dollar.

With more big auctions this week (the US Treasury trying to raise more money for its operation), the decision was made to throw the US Dollar under the bus. The dollar was down between 1 and 2 percent against most major currencies as the long end of the curve was bought down once again in an attempt to stem the tide.

Since I penned this short article -> US Dollar Double Top, where I basically called a double top in the value of the us dollar, the dollar index has moved from 90 to 80. On Friday it went through the psychologically important 80 level like a hot knife through butter.

What About the Stock Market?

Now that most of the banks have gotten their secondary stock offerings out of the way, I think we are at a dangerous time for the stock market.

If the value of the US Dollar starts to threaten it's earlier multiyear lows (in the low 70's) and/or the supply in the US bond market starts to outstrip demand again, look for the Fed to drain the swamp again and scare money back into US Gov debt as they did last fall.

Although I think risk assets (like us stocks in general) are overvalued right now, if the dollar continues to fall, they could go higher as a hedge against inflationary pressures....if/when we reach 72 on the dollar index, it will be another sophie's choice moment, and unless there is a really good reason to prop the stock market I believe it will be thrown under the bus again.

Short, Medium, Long Term?

There are some credible arguments that say:

short term -- everything is sunshine and strawberries,
medium term -- everything is going to hell in a handbasket
longer term -- people in search of less and less risk continue to move towards shorter and shorter maturities...with the eventual arrival at federal reserve notes themselves (bank of sealy).

go cool,

p.s. if this happens, we could see some real "funny" business since the size of the bond market dwarfs the number of actual federal reserve notes (paper currency) in circulation.....some deep thinkers even think that paradoxically, frn's could become "priceless" and be driven out of circulation (?!!?!) :) well, not sure how we would combat the counterfeiting at that point, but it's an interesting hypothesis.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I am short the U.S. Markets Again of monday...

it's not a trade i would recommend following necessarily since there is very little technical confirmation....i'm just betting on inflation (or recovery) driving the markets much higher from here.

so far, i've noticed a lot of market strength into "bad news"...that's also not a great sign for shorts.

i'm hoping the overhead resistance holds us at or under 1000 through this spring/summer and fall brings a reckoning again....maybe i'll get lucky earlier with all the equity raises/dilution in the financials.

good luck

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Black Swan Didn't Taste Like Chicken.... tasted like pork.

too early to tell how it's going to go down though.

more later.


Monday, April 20, 2009

April 19th Cycle Ends

Martin Armstrong is predicting the 19th as a turn date for the economy.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Uruguay Travel

While the summer months make up the bulk of the tourist season, Uruguay has some important periods for domestic travel as well.

Probably the biggest of those is coming up in a couple of weeks and centers around semana santa -- or holy week. While Uruguayans aren't especially "holy", hey, it's an excuse to go on vacation, right? And, basically, any excuse to go on vacation is a good one as far as the Uruguayans are concerned.

Travel and tourism in Uruguay is important to the local economy, and Uruguay has the equivalent of a Tourism Secretary. Tourism bureau president Luis Borsari said that along with domestic travel by Uruguayans, foreign visitors and tourist travel this semana santa looks to be strong again despite the economic difficulties being felt this year in most countries.

Bookings and reservations for lodging and rooms looks strong. Borsari feels that this year will be similar to last year where a healthy number of foreign tourists came to Uruguay, however, their overall spending per visitor was down.

The Uruguay Tourism Chamber president further added that domestic tourism is on the rise. And, many locals tend to use the week of semana santa to investigate the interior of the country. Travel around the more traditional tourism hotspots of Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacremento is the focus of more foreigners, and Uruguay travel from foreign tourists is likely be be strongest between Monday and Thursday of the Holy Week Holiday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dylan Ratigan Interview

This maybe dated, but i missed it the first go around. Flat the best interview I've heard on the "global economic crisis", and what probably got him in trouble with those spin doctors and the paid mouthpiece factory that cnbc has become.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

this guy cracks me up. so, i thought i'd share.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blogging About Stock Pays Huge $

I think people are starting to figure it out....

Get a load of this video.

What's amazing to me is that this guy is actually smoking. After about 3 minutes into his rant I felt like I was back in the Marines and he was gonna pick up a 1/2 empty coke can to spit his tobacco into.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Arrows will Block out the Sun!

I'm fond of using the title of this post when exorting them to ever greater feats of internet marketing -- hey, what kind of marketer would i be if i couldn't even sell my own troops on hyperbole! :)

But, lately I've been talking about another kind of overwhelming force in the money markets. The specter of "government guaranteed" money is rising to such great quantities as to effectively crowd most other forms of debt out of the financial markets.

What do I mean by this?

Well, in the first phase of the "crisis" people were worried about getting a return OF capital. The answer (of course, said the financial cognescenti) was to just guarantee it. What? Apparently, nearly everything.

Well, the knock on effect of this is that coupled with a global deflationary collapse, funding needs for govts rising everywhere, and more and more crap getting "government guarantees" that anything withOUT a govt guarantee is more and more expensive to fund. During the "freeze" this fall it got nearly ridiculous with wireless carriers reportedly paying more than 25% for short term corporate borrowings (fortune 500 companies NOT involved in banking).

Well, clearly, govt guarantees on money are a "bubble". And, it will work really well, until it doesn't. What's the solution to things costing too much to fund without a govt guarantee? Why of course, guarantee that too!

Credit card debt, school debt, commercial real estate, commercial paper, etc etc etc etc. Of course, when it does break now, we can be assured of having all many of commerce grind to an immediate halt. No problem though, almost all food and energy is locally grown/produced and consumed right? What? You say those things are delivered to customers at the end of long international supply chains that depend on shipping and the free flow of commerce and credit to ensure payments for delivery of goods???? ooops. nevermind.

To wit, here is a story about the chinese wising up to the game. I blogged about this a couple of years ago, saying that anyone investing in mortgage products for hundredths of a point over treasuries was an IDIOT given the risk they were assuming. hey, if they really weren't assuming any more risk were they really idiots? (assuming a govt guarantee to backstop all losses). and, on the other hand, if the govt guarantees fannie/freddie can they really sell the treasuries they'll need to to continue to run the govt? me thinks not.
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Asian investors won’t buy debt and mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until they carry explicit U.S. guarantees, similar to those given on bonds issued by Bank of America Corp. or Citigroup Inc.

The risks are too great without a pledge that the U.S. will repay the debt no matter what, according to Hideo Shimomura, chief fund investor in Tokyo for Mitsubishi UFJ Asset Management Co., and other bondholders and analysts in Japan, China and South Korea interviewed by Bloomberg. Overseas resistance may hamper U.S. efforts to hold down home-loan rates and shore up the nation’s largest mortgage-finance companies.

Even after President Barack Obama vowed on Feb. 18 to sink as much as $400 billion of capital into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, double the original commitment, “there is still a concern that there is no guarantee” from the government, said Shimomura, who oversees $4 billion in non-yen bonds for the arm of Japan’s largest bank.

“Looking at the risk, they’re not so attractive,” he said. “We need a guarantee before we’ll buy.”

Foreign investors sold $170 billion of agency debt and securities in the second half of 2008, the largest amount since the Treasury began tracking sales in 1977, according to the most recent data. Asians, the biggest non-U.S. block of owners in the category, unloaded $70 billion worth from July through December, after scooping up $55 billion in the second quarter and being net buyers during much of the last decade.

Lack of Confidence

The sell-off and calls for a guarantee reflect a continuing lack of confidence among foreign investors five months after the U.S. seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The takeovers followed the biggest surge in mortgage defaults in three decades.

Without restoring foreign demand, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will find it more difficult to cut rates on housing loans, which depend on the ability of the finance companies to attract investors for their securities at the lowest possible yield. Fannie and Freddie sell debt to fund their purchases of mortgage assets and also guarantee home-loan bonds sold by lenders.

The Fed, which promised to buy as much as $100 billion of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Home Loan Bank corporate debt, may need to spend more, according to Margaret Kerins, an agency-debt strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Buying Programs

The central bank last month indicated that it may increase this buying program as well as a second $500 billion one for mortgage-bond purchases. The Treasury has bought $94.2 billion worth of mortgage bonds under its own continuing program.

“You’d be back to the situation that prompted them to act” if the purchases of Fannie and Freddie debt were discontinued before foreign investors return, Kerins said. The agency-debt market has recently improved as the “crowding out effect” from sales of government-guaranteed bank debt has proven less than expected, something that may lessen the need for government buying, she added.

The Fed’s buying program resulted in a yield of 2.06 percent on Fannie Mae notes maturing May 2012 at the close of trading Feb. 18 -- 0.15 percentage point less than government-guaranteed Bank of America bonds maturing a month later and 0.12 percentage point less than similar Goldman Sachs Group Inc. debt, according to RBS Greenwich data.

Yield Spreads

Yield gaps between Fannie Mae’s 10-year debt and Treasuries have narrowed from the record of 1.75 percentage point set in November, after countries worldwide announced plans to back bank bonds and offer buyers more federal guarantees. At 0.64 percentage point, it is now 0.27 percentage point above what the spread averaged in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to a record low of 4.96 percent last month from 6.47 percent in the last week of October, according to Freddie Mac surveys. It rose to 5.04 percent during the week ended yesterday.

Fannie Mae, based in Washington, and Freddie Mac, in McLean, Virginia, have about $1.7 trillion of corporate debt outstanding and $3.7 trillion of their guaranteed mortgage-backed securities held by other investors. The two mortgage companies finance almost half of the $12 trillion of residential loans outstanding.

The government-run conservatorship won’t end until the mortgage market recovers and the companies regain profitability, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart said yesterday on Bloomberg Television. He took charge of Fannie and Freddie last September and describes the companies’ U.S. backing as “effective,” though not “explicit.”

‘Full-Faith’ Guarantee

That’s not enough for foreign investors these days, said Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director at Austin, Texas-based Amherst Securities Group LP. Goodman was a former head of fixed- income research at UBS AG.

“Overseas investors are looking for the full-faith-and- credit clarification,” Goodman said. Such a pledge would essentially about double the U.S.’s debt, potentially boosting the country’s own borrowing costs.

“The U.S. government is worried about the agency market, and market participants feel the same way,” said Kei Katayama, head of the foreign fixed-income group in Tokyo at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd., who oversees $1.6 billion of non-yen bonds for the arm of Japan’s second-biggest brokerage.

Katayama sold all of his agency debt on Sept. 16, the day after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed the biggest bankruptcy ever, taking it as a sign to get out of riskier assets, he said.

Difficult to Sell

The bonds also have been difficult to sell after credit markets froze last year, according to Jaemin Cheong, who trades U.S. securities in Seoul at Industrial Bank of Korea, South Korea’s biggest lender to small and mid-size companies. He said he won’t touch them.

Sellers in the fourth quarter included Caribbean-based investors, often hedge funds, which dumped a net $35.8 billion of the agency debt and securities after buying $15.7 billion in September. China sold $10.4 billion in the period after unloading $8 billion in September, while South Korea got rid of $10.5 billion.

“China’s demand for U.S. agency bonds will gradually decrease because China has drawn lessons from the credit crisis and learned to invest smarter,” said Yi Xianrong, a researcher at the Beijing-based financial research institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which advises the government. “We will try to stay away from these types of bonds.”

Freddie Mac Treasurer

Freddie Mac Treasurer Peter Federico connects the sales to certain institutions and doesn’t think it is part of “a broader liquidation,” although “it kind of felt like that for a couple of weeks or months later in the year.

“There are a couple of institutions who continue to sell agency debt,” he said in a Feb. 18 telephone interview. “I think their reasoning for doing that is not related to their comfort with our credit. It’s their own monetary-management and currency-related issues. Apart from those institutions, I don’t believe there is a lot of demand to sell going forward.”

Federico spoke after the company completed a record $10 billion, three-year note sale at yields of 2.24 percent, or 0.02 percent more than JPMorgan Chase & Co. offered in a sale of government-guaranteed, three-year debt of the same size.

Asian investors bought 12 percent of this week’s sale, and North American investors purchased 72 percent, according to the company.

More U.S. Buyers

The U.S. share was high in comparison to recent years, “but it’s very consistent with what we’ve seen over the last six months, where the U.S. domestic investor who probably understands the conservatorship status better than foreign investors has really been supporting the market in a big way,” said Drew Ertman, head of financial-institutions debt coverage at Morgan Stanley, one of the underwriters.

Amy Bonitatibus, a Fannie Mae spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Sales of agency debt and securities may be more closely tied to the availability of better returns in corporate bonds than a lack of faith among investors, according to Andrew Harding, chief investment officer for fixed income at Allegiant Asset Management in Cleveland. Those include bank debt with explicit U.S. guarantees offering higher yields, he said.

“I don’t think the credit quality or housing market has precluded people from buying agency debt right now,” said Harding, who helps manage $20 billion for Allegiant. “There are just more attractive alternatives.”

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co. spent last year trimming “risky assets,” and it sold all agency holdings in the third quarter, said Satoshi Okumoto, general manager at the company in Tokyo, which has $63.5 billion in assets.

“It’s not really the same credit” as government debt, Okumoto said. “It’s one step below.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Money Never Sleep, Bud Fox just rolls over and dies...

love, LOVE, this scene. one of my favorite all time classics due to the "dated" cell phone :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

UBS Swiss Banking Follow Up

Well, I wasn't aware of it, but almost coincident with my last posting, UBS was getting ready to declare another major loss for the 4th Q of 2008.

I've been openly speculating for some time that the Swiss Banking industry is too big for the Swiss government to save. To be truthful, I haven't really bothered to put pencil to paper on that speculation to see if it is true, however, i saw some figures that were a little bit alarming last fall outlining the relative size of both.

Is there a country that is more dependent on its banking sector?

I'm not sure, both panama and singapore also have pretty signficant deep water port and of course the canal in the case of panama.

Liechtenstein, perhaps, however, to be honest I'm not even sure if the qualify as a country or just a monarchy that's been carved out of some other countries :)

Anyways, if they lose their bank secrecy I think the Switzerland brand takes a major hit, and private wealth will continue to drain out in droves. Here is the story that was released where they lost $6.9Billion dollars in on quarter. Ouch...that'll leave a mark....


Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, reported a fourth-quarter loss of 8.1 billion Swiss francs ($6.9 billion) after writedowns related to the credit crisis.

The net loss compares with a deficit of 13 billion francs in the year-earlier period, Zurich-based UBS said in a statement today. The loss was wider than the 7.5 billion-franc median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

For the full-year, UBS recorded a loss of 19.7 billion francs. Chairman Peter Kurer and Chief Executive Officer Marcel Rohner pledged to return UBS to profitability this year after receiving a $59.2 billion lifeline from the Swiss government to split off toxic assets.

They’re scaling back risk at the securities division, where most of the losses have occurred, and seeking to stem defections by private banking clients. The investment banking “franchise seemed to have gone down to the seventh circle of hell,” Dirk Hoffmann-Becking, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein & Co., said in a note to clients. “Growth expectations for the bank are muted.”

UBS has fallen 65 percent over the past 12 months in Swiss trading, cutting the market value to 37.8 billion francs. The 64- company Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index declined 63 percent in the same period. Before today, the bank had announced 9,000 job cuts, exited parts of debt trading and commodities businesses and raised $32 billion from investors to offset record losses at the securities unit. Clients at UBS’s wealth management units removed more than 140 billion francs in the first nine months of 2008.

U.S. Tax Probe Financial institutions worldwide have amassed $1.09 trillion of losses and shed almost 270,000 jobs since the U.S. subprime mortgage market collapsed, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The U.S., Britain, France and Germany are among nations that injected billions into banks to prevent a wider financial calamity following the September collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s biggest bank, reported last week a record 4.8 billion-euro ($6.3 billion) net loss for the fourth quarter and its first annual deficit in more than 50 years.

Credit Suisse Group AG, the second-biggest Swiss bank, may say tomorrow its fourth-quarter loss amounted to 4.2 billion francs, according to the median estimate of 11 analysts. Kurer, 59, told investors in Zurich last month that the recovery of UBS’s reputation and a settlement of a probe into whether the bank helped 20,000 wealthy clients avoid American taxes are two priorities for this year. Raoul Weil, the former head of wealth management, was indicted on conspiracy charges in the U.S. tax case and stepped down in November. He was declared a fugitive from U.S. justice last month. Weil has denied allegations through his lawyer.

‘Biggest Challenge’

“The biggest challenge by far is fixing the reputational loss of the core wealth management business,” said Georg Kanders, an analyst at WestLB in Duesseldorf. “If they don’t fix that fast, the future looks very gloomy.”

A combination of asset outflows and falling margins in money-management businesses may lower profits by a third at the private bank and by about 40 percent in asset management this year, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley analysts Huw van Steenis and Carlos Egea.

At the investment bank, the management is caught between pressure from shareholders to cut costs and discontent among employees facing a reduction in bonuses, which may delay the unit’s turnaround, according to analysts. UBS said it cut the 2008 bonus pool for staff, excluding U.S. brokers, by more than 80 percent to less than 2 billion francs.

Keeping ‘Rainmakers’ “It would be surprising if the bank could hold on to key senior rainmakers in their core businesses after such a reduced payout,” Hoffmann-Becking said. “At a minimum we should see bankers going into nine-to-five mode.” The pretax profit goal of 4 billion francs, set last May by Jerker Johansson, the head of the securities unit, probably won’t be reached this year or even next, according to estimates from analysts including Citigroup Inc.’s Jeremy Sigee.

The fixed-income unit, which was responsible for most of the $48.6 billion in writedowns and losses from the credit crisis, needs further “radical change” to return to profitability, Jeff Mayer and Carsten Kengeter, the heads of the business, said in a Jan. 21 memo to employees.

Todd Morakis, who ran commodities, Sascha Prinz and David Sacco, co-heads of global rates, and credit head Chris Ryan will leave the bank, the memo said. Jon Bass, who headed fixed-income client management, left UBS to help BTIG LLC, an institutional broker, enter credit trading markets.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The End of the Swiss Offshore Bank ?

Well, UBS is really feeling the heat lately.

I know that not many of you follow this kind of news, and for those of you that do, you're probably thinking "good" -- but the IRS is putting major pressure on UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank to give up information on depositors at the bank who also happen to be US citizens.

For years, Banks in Switzerland have had a certain, "je ne cest quoi" (did i spell that right? :) ) Tons of Hollyweird movies have portrayed them as secretive, mysterious, guarded locations, with security rivalling NORAD....secret pin access codes and anonymous numbered accounts.

It's true, there ARE some Swiss banks that function like this to this day, however, not too many numbered accounts to be had....and the price of entry is 1/2 million and up.

While mystique is a nice selling point, the big draw is the history of neutrality, long record in wealth management, and of course the confidentiality, protected by their bank secrecy act of 1934 -- hey, just in time for the Nazi's -- big coincidence I'm sure :)

Swiss Banking Secrecy

Switzerland has a reputation for banking secrecy that attractrs depositors seeking less regulation. This became a source of good and bad publicity.

While Switzerland became a well regarded offshore financial centre it also garnered a certain amout of infrmacy as a place where grey money was being laundered. As the reputation for the Swiss has grown so has international pressure for greater transparency. (aka, "less secrecy").

While the Swiss opted out of the EU to avoid having to water down its secrecy laws, it is not at all certain that Switzerland will remain forever outside of the Union.

In addition, Switzerland has acceded to the EU Tax Savings Initiative, which has allowed EU tax collectors a 'nose in the tent'.

In the middle of 2004, new anti-money laundering and anti terrorism regs sounded the death knell on the famous swiss numbered account.

The UBS Fiasco

The scandal involving UBS and wealthy private US clients risks hitting a tipping point. After it was "discovered" (duh) by the IRS that UBS was helping US clients to 'evade' taxes, Switzerland has come under huge pressure to start releasing client information on request.

The issue at hand is that these US clients thought they were covered by the Swiss penal code which distinguishes between tax fraud and tax evasion (which is not a criminal offence).

Witht the IRS out for blood the Swiss may have to sacrific confidentiality to continue as a financial centre.

Opening a Swiss Bank Account

Opening a swiss bank account can be somewhat difficult.

For upwards of 500,000USD you can get a private banking account in a swiss offshore bank.

Numbered accounts exist, but will involve showing all your personal documenation, including passport and proof of residence and often a bank reference letter.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How To Be a ButtRocker

In preparation for the all-too-predictable retro move back to the whole buttrocker fiasco that defined the 80's rock music scene, I've prepared the definitive guide. OK, it's not really definitive -- more of a work in progress. Feel free to comment on it after you check it out here
How to Be a Buttrocker

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oh yeah....Machu Picchu, Peru

So, anyhow, I was leading up to telling you the story about our trip to Machu Picchu...But that was what seems like 100 years ago, so I'll just cut to the chase scene. Here are the pics.

Colonia Cleansing

A good friend of mine is rehabbing a home in Colonia and purchased a farm (chacra) in the outskirts of Colonia. He invited, me, Golden Lotus, and Midori (our lab) out for a visit in December.

The trip rocked. Of course, our visit coincided with a break in the month-long (at the time) drought. As we slept the rain rattled the corregated tin roof of the old farm house like an impossibly long drum-roll. The local farmers, and our lab, rejoiced, as it made the grass grow, and created a lot of mud for her to get filthy in. It was immediately obvious to everyone just how out of place our lab was in our apartment as she was a yellow ball of constant motion for the entire weekend.

To refresh everyone's memory, Colonia is on the south western corner of Uruguay, across the "river" from Buenos Aires.

Colonia is at once funky, fresh, hip, cool. It's the preferred spot (it seems) for the hippy, chilled out, artist, Cali-vibe culture that manages to make it down here. By virtue of its proximity to Buenos Aires, and it's being named a world heritage foundation site, the town seems to get by with having basically no industry whatsoever with the exception of tourism.

Oh, I'm sure that there are a couple of people trying to fish in the river or something...and like i mentioned, there is some farming and ranching as you move further away from town, but the ancient buildings and museums, restaurants, and aggressive restoration police keep the older buildings and funky vibe intact...and the influx of tourist money means no one has to be all that bothered with the less aesthetically pleasing aspects of commerce -- Montevideo seems to have most all of these.

I've included some pics below of our trip. Enjoy.

Life Down Under the Sun

I have to tell you, I've been so caught up with work lately I haven't really had time to enjoy this summer.

This is the same mistake I made last summer where I virtually missed the entire thing and only put my head up from work once the days were getting much shorter and colder.

...let's face it, entrepreneurism isn't all it's cracked up to be. And the Uruguayos seem to have figured this out. I have yet to meet one that is willing to work through the summer, and virtually all of them abandon the city wholesale during the summer and flee to the beaches for extended vacations -- euro style.

I can't say that I blame them, because summer is really the most pleasant and interesting time of the year -- by FAR. Winters down here are brutal in that there really is NO saving grace. The north american winters are broken up with holidays (thanksgiving, christmas, new years) football (superbowl), a full primetime t.v. schedule to keep you docile and stupid.

Meanwhile, the winters in South America are just a thankless three month slog.

I'll grant you that the winters down here are nowhere near as harsh as most of North America, but by the dreary, frownlines burrowed deep into the scowls of all the locals, you wouldn't know it.

An interesting exercise we do every spring is to walk around town and see if we can spot the tourists. In fact, the tourists are easy to spot, because they are the people walking on the street with a smile on their face. Sad but true.

So, time to put away the PC and plan a roadtrip to the beach.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celebrating South America's Cultural Diversity

Ok, let's face it, the Uruguayan's make Idaho look culturally diverse.

While there are definately some ignorant folks here when it comes to dealing with other races, it's OK...cuz there are hardly any around to offend! :)

To be fair, it's not like most Uruguayan's would try to intentionally offend someone. They've recently been making some great national strides in dealing with people of other creeds and colors. So, in celebration of the new US President, a Uruguayan "mate" company has created a new brand of the popular Uruguayan "tea-like" drink (pictured below).

When some folks who had travelled outside of Uruguay mentioned that the depiction of someone with mixed ethnicity on the mate bag might be a bit too harsh, the mate company decided to acquiesce. For those who thought the original depiction a bit too "harsh" they created this "suave" version :)

:) OK. I made the story up. But the products are real

In Mexico, I noticed it's OK to refer to someone by their skin color -- friends will often call a darker skinned mexican "negro" with no offense meant or taken. I'm guessing it's the same here, but to be honest, there really isn't enough color in this little country to really stir the pot enough to know.

Anyhow, congrats to Obamessiah. The Uruguayans that I've talked to are all quite excited at the prospects of a new US President. We'll see how long the honeymoon lasts.

Uruguay Guy

Credit Card Withdrawals

So supposedly the US
, and the rest of the world, is undergoing a great "credit contraction" right now.

Since all money is created out of debt, supposedly, this should in theory be deflationary....That kinda makes sense in the short term anyways. It makes sense at least in terms of things that one would ordinarily buy on credit.

However, I guess at this point, not all credit is created equally -- or, some has contracted and some of it hasn't. (Please keep in mind this is all be written by a poorly educated homeless looking man living in South America whose only knowledge of the US is acquired through 'reality' tv and moonbat conspiracy theory websites.)

Short term Business Credit

There was some evidence, at the for a spell there, that this was getting a little difficult to come by. Rates on corporate paper (or the bonds that institutions resell to those who like to lose money) was going through the moon. I hear high double figs for some of the paper coming from fortune 500 companies.

This means that it was getting more and more challenging and expensive for companies to fund today's expenses with tomorrow's earnings. The credit being provided these companies was letting them lever their growth by letting them eliminate the traditional "cash flow cycle" of build, sell, bill, collect, etc. They were effectively financing their short term cash flow needs with short term credit.

The effect of this contraction was (at least what seemed like) a lot of layoffs and downsizing announcements. In this regard one has to operate by looking anecdotally at the stories because the govt unemployment numbers are so half-baked as to be counterproductive.

Mortgage Loan Credit - Real Estate Credit

As far as residential realestate goes, this has been on the wane for some time -- and rightfully so. It's my conjecture that availability of credit in this space wasn't really doing anyone any favors. Since it was EVERYONE getting availability of credit it was just driving prices for EVERYTHING higher, putting people further and further into hock (debt) and ensuring they were further enslaved to the banks to make good on increasingly unrealistic debt repayment schedules. So, remove the credit flow, and we remove the unrealistically high prices -- or at least we start to.

Now, commercial real estate, for whatever reason that has taken a lot longer to start cracking than I thought it would. "Conventional" wisdom states that commercial real estate falls 12-24 months after residential. It is happening at the back end of that range as they are JUST NOW starting to feel some of the pain that the residential guys have been feeling for years.

Anecdotally, there are some big commercial developers shelving projects, and there is some panic about their ability to "roll over" their shorter term real estate development loans. Luckily for the commercial guys, the government has been sufficiently scared out of its wits so it is already meddling in the commercial space and it hasn't even fallen as hard as previous real estate recessions yet. We'll see if that ends bet: no.

Credit Cards and Credit Card Loans

Now, I've HEARD that some people have had their credit lines slashed on their cards. However, most of these SEEM to be peopel who had cards tied to home equity or business credit lines. Mysteriously, I haven't heard of a LOT of the folks that have unsecured credit card debt having their limits slashed in masse.

This is especially puzzzling because the credit card companies and the banks have been in the habit of packaging up this debt, securitizing it, and selling it in a very similar fashion to what the home loan people where doing. And if you think a house can depreciate fast, what's the repo value on plastic surgery or a spent vacation???

It *could* be that I'm just behind the times on this and I haven't kept up with the "haps" in the states, and everyone's credit line has been pared down to meet their ability to repay...but I doubt it.

My Visa Credit Card

I personally have a Visa credit card that last year had a higher limit than my annual salary. How is that safe?

I acquired the card when I had a much higher salary (in the US) and wanted to accumulate airline frequent flier miles.

So now my salary is a shadow of its former self, but my credit line is the same. Do you think this situation is similar to anyone else??? Someone who got laid off perhaps? Someone who worked for themselves as a real estate agent or mortgage broker perhaps? (ironically, part of my current job is to 'sell' credit cards -- albeit they are prepaid credit cards since we don't do credit checks they work more like a debit card)

Student Loans and Education Debt

This is another one like home loans. Good God. Could it be more expensive for people to go to school? What would happen if there were no govt subsidies and no student loans??? Would schools just go away? Would there be no more colleges? Well, let's see....Harvard has been around since what? the 1600's??? I wonder if a year of Harvard cost the annual salary of a "normal" person in 1750. I'm guessing it didn't. And yet, somehow they managed to educate people.. Weird huh?

So if we cut out all school loans, would we have massively empty universities with grizzled professors sitting around in their cordouroy jackets twiddling their thumbs in front of an empty classroom??? uh, no, i'm guessing they'd have to find rich students from abroad (and i'm guessing those will be getting more rare as well) OR they'd have to lower their prices to meet the market's ability to pay.

And, don't even get me started on the credit card companies' lecturous preying on foolish teens in college with their sales promotions during indoctrinations...what a mess we've created. We've willingly let ourselves and our young people become debt SERFs for the banks and monied elite. We were idiots. And, now, in our moment of salvation, when it becomes impossible for the bubblicious ponzi scheme to maintain itself, we ask for the government....the grandaddy of all ponzi-scheme bubbles, to save us from being creating a bunch more public debt, and giving it to the banks...only with the provision that they use it to enslave more people in debt!?!?! uh. i give up.

Debts and Depressions

Those that study debts, depressions, and deflation warn that debt is a KILLER and that it should be avoided at all costs. They recommend wiping out credit card debt...and really, virtually all other forms of debt whereever possible.

I'm Living the Depression

In some ways, we are living the "depression" down here already. My salary has been massively reduced, along with some of my consumption :) But, from a purely fiscal standpoint, I think the definition something along the lines of "a bunch of people experiencing a much lower standard of living".

There's some junk about reduction in GDP too....

But, the reduction in standard of living is usually measured in economic terms. Not, "i live in a town filled with coal dust so my quality of life is low". And, if you exclude immeasurable things that have to do with quality of life or satisfaction, then it's impossible to argue otherwise -- our standard of living dropped the first two+ years we were in Uruguay.

I staved that off the first two years with my mighty credit card and my unrealistcally high credit line -- oh, and some savings as well...Now, we are entering the era WITHOUT credit cards.

I purposely did NOT ask my former roommates to ship my new card down to me here in Uruguay. I haven't missed it....YET...although I haven't travelled yet without it. :)

Credit Cards in Uruguay

Although they are not nearly as widespread there are some interesting things to know about credit cards in Uruguay:

1.) you can get a partial rebate of your IVA tax on your credit card when eating a meal out. This is supposedly for the purpose of encouraging tourism. I'm guessing the goverment has the sneaky "ulterior motive" of making sure that the honest citizens in the food services industry are encouraged to stay honest when it comes to collecting and paying their IVA. a credit card transaction paper trail makes it hard to hide from the tax man.

2.) there are some things that you just can't buy with credit cards -- that you would otherwise expect would be obvious....Or, even though it's against the policy of mastercard and visa, they try to give you differential pricing. This isn't just because they are so cheap they are trying to avoid the credit card service fee, or the merchant account transaction costs...again, it's because they are trying to shirk the (outrageously high) IVA. Where I'm from people drive to portland, OR to avoid an 8% sales tax. So, imagine if the sales tax is TRIPLE that.

3.) they aren't really big on online banking here. in the US you can set it up to pay all your bills automagically. here it's GETTING there...slowly...but, when i went around to change my name onto all the utilities for the house, they all seemed very keenly interested in getting my credit card or my debit card on file to automatically pay the bills.

ok, now, a thing about this...paying bills in UY is HIGHLY inconvenient. basically, because no one has online bill pay (well..nearly no one) AND, there aren't really checks, or a great mail service that comes to your house to grab stuff or has mailboxes everywhere, no one pays bills by mail and check either.

So, what do they do?

they take their bills and go to these money changer/bill payment of which is called "abitab" here.

You hand the guy the him...they deal with it, stamp the bill paid, and presumably take a service fee for it. Supposedly, THESE are a recent invention/breakthrough. it used to be that these places expected you to take your bill, go stand in line at the various entities for the privilege of giving them your money. OBSCENE -- but that is some insight into why people and institutions have ZERO respect for peoples' time here -- cuz i guess they don't either.

ANYWAYS..people like the cable company were very interested in getting me to sign up with a credit card. I guess it's easier for them to autodebit the card (or whatever). This would be expected, right. My problem with the plan was that I have to show up IN PERSON with each and everyone of these agencies and stand in line again when i want to move or get my name OFF the bill. There is no way to cancel by phone or internet or (gasp!) automatically at the end of the year. duh.

So, I wasn't so keen on giving them my credit card details... EXCEPT...they were offering some crazy discounts. So, there must be some serious problems collecting on overdue bills or something. In the case of cable and the alarm company (ADT) it was around 25% discount if I remember right. Plus, it saves golden Lotus from walking to a payment kiosk.

So, because i'm trying to live without my credit card this year, the only challenge will be making sure that my US bank account, which is the one linked to my mastercard debit card is always flush...or I'll be hit with an overdraft fee...which would pretty much negate any savings, huh?

Anyways, enough about me. This post was really just a long-winded way to say, "hey, google, I'm still here"...and if i've managed to give you some insight into living in Uruguay, or a post depression (part II) US, then I've killed two birds with one poorly written blog post.

ciao for now,
Uruguay Guy

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Like Spain....with Bad Haircuts

As we try desperately to fire up the Irony Generator here at fuBarrio Studios, I'm forced to share some random thoughts that occurred to me over the last couple of months.

While the venerable R David Finzer describes Uruguay as "Iowa with a Beach", or "Eisenhower's Iowa...with subtitles", I think I prefer the title of this blog entry:

Like Spain...Only with Bad Haircuts

While it's true that this time of year there are a certain number of the glitterati that descend on Uruguay, generally speaking there is a relatively large component of the country -- young and old -- that seems decidedly more "unique" in their fashion sense than Western Europe.

Evidence of this could be found in my OWN haircut.

The last haircut I got here, I reluctantly went to some kid that Golden Lotus had researched for about a month. She assured me this guy was tops...

So, I showed up at his "salon" - hip, groovy, energetic, YOUNG. Ok, clearly I don't have to opt for the red food-dye look so I'm not to worried.

I spend about 15 minutes of my life that I'll never get back looking at some cheesy "haircuts" book/magazine. Now, if these are enough to give you a gag reflex where you come from...imagine looking at one of these in latin america!!! :)

I pointed out one that looked reasonable, for a man of my advanced age :) He nods his ascent and obvious understanding...and then proceeds to cut my hair like everyone else in this country....Somehow lost in the 80's...not your rick springfield "mullet"/"bi-level" but rather a ratty Pat Benetar 1980 look where it's thinned out and stringy at the edges.

This was the look that was so bad that made people think the mullet was a better replacement!!

At first I thought it was part of the natural progression back to the 80's ala the retro movement...and I'm just too old to appreciate its reappearance. But, when I watch TV or movies from the US, the kids' hair looks "normal" and "nice". So, I have to conclude the time machine of hairstyles known as Uruguay is unique to this planet...or perhaps confined to the southern cone of south america (one can hope).

Anyhow, since then I've just flatly refused to cut my hair here.

The result has been completely catastrophic....something between homeless person and mental patient....You can see in the above self-portait that i took about 2 months ago that the back was starting to flip up like one of Carol Brady's looks of "The Brady Bunch" -- The really funny thing is that when I go in public I don't get any funny looks. :) Just another horrible haircut in a sea of faceless bad haircuts.

Lest anyone think I'm a clothes horse or fashionista of some kind, I spend most of my time in 10 year old tech-company t-shirts and sandals....Clearly labeling myself as a burned out techie retread without the stockoption money to afford nicer techie-burnout clothes.

That's pretty accurate! :)

Ciao for now,
Uruguay Guy

p.s. Yes, I understand this post is pretty freakin' useless without some images. I'll try to add some this evening. The primary purpose of this post is to blather meaninglessness to get my blog recognized by the engines as bein back in business again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

fuBarrio is Back in the Saddle

Like Weekend at Bernie's Part III, the indomitable defies logic and improbably rides again!

OK...decided to spend some time fiddling with my godaddy account and see if i couldn't get this whole DNS resolution thing sorted.

I finally had to use a different computer to get a page that was built using flash to load on my screen (grrr...) which had the key to what I needed. What a fiasco that was.

Anyhow, there was so much crap to blog about over the last couple of months, I can't really go back and address it right now in such a frazzled state of lets just say...this is my attempt to win my way back intot he heart of google.

If I google fubarrio right now, my homepage is "POOF" disappeared -- a la the Argentinians.

I'll post some meaningless thoughts to alert the engines to my presence, then fuel up on some medialunas this weekend and start another rant :)


What Do You Call a Paranoid who is RIGHT?

Ok...surely the government shutting me down for publishing subversive ideas and fomenting rebellion is a lot more interesting than me just being an incompetent tech-n00b.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid the "latter" is the reality of the situation.

Without boring you to tears, let's just say and I can't for the life of me figure out why my custom URL won't show my blog. So for now, I'm going to post this, and then...who knows...maybe spend my weekend trying to tweak on my DNS server settings to see if I can't figure this out.

For now, wish me luck.