As many know, Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5th. He was an incredible catalyst for social justice, doing more than one man should feasibly be able to do. The life and impact of Mandela cannot be adequately captured by any tribute of any length. However, I do like this simple, yet powerful quote and graphic that I came across this morning. Education…something to consider.
Update: I wrote this post two years ago – my first Thanksgiving as a blogger here on Trokspot Enterprises – and this is an update of that post. I’ve got it pretty good, and Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on that and be especially thankful for a lot!
I’m normally opposed (at least in part) to overly emotional and outward signs and displays of emotion and feelings (especially on things like facebook, etc.). I don’t particularly buy into reading what I consider to be extravagant or excessive displays of others’ feelings.
Yet, as I sit here on a comfortable couch drinking a beer, watching football, surrounded by family, about to eat an excessive amount of food, I do feel that it’s an appropriate time to go through a quick list of things I’m thankful for…
Update: I am still on a comfortable couch, drinking beer, watching football, and surrounded by family (though not the whole gang); however, this year it is a different couch in a different place.
But before I even go through this list, I think it’s important to remember that when we (and by we I also mean I) pause on Thanksgiving to remember some of the things that we’re thankful for and have been blessed with, that it’s not just Thanksgiving that many of us are afforded these blessings. These are things that I am thankful for all of the time; Thanksgiving is just a good reason to take an extra couple of minutes to remember them.
I’m thankful that for my family.
That I was raised in a very stable house with siblings that I got along with (most of the time!) and with parents that were able to provide for more than my basic necessities.
I’m thankful that I’ve never truly gone hungry.
I’m thankful that I am employed (grad school is close enough…I’m able to live!)
Update: I am now gainfully employed (more than grad school) at a company that I really enjoy, learning new skills that I think are are interesting.
I’m thankful for a little nugget named Em.
Update: We are now engaged and will be married soon, whoa!
I’m thankful that I have no physical disabilities.
I’m thankful for having amazing friends.
I’m thankful for the rather extravagant meal that I’m about to indulge in.
I’m thankful for my two adorable little nieces who crack me up and make me smile.
Update: Add a nephew to that mix.
I’m thankful that all of my family is in good health.
I’m thankful that I have both sets of grandparents alive and fairly well.
Update: One grandparent on each side. It was still a blessing to have all of them around and involved for as long as they were!
I’m thankful that I have enough free time to spend with people I care about.
I’m thankful for a new little puppy named Wendy.
I’m thankful that I have a warm, comfortable place to sleep every night and plenty of food to eat everyday.
I’m thankful that I’m able to travel to places to see different people that I enjoy seeing.
I’m thankful that I’ve been afforded many opportunities that many others aren’t for a variety of reasons.
I’m thankful that I have the luxury to have lounged around on Thanksgiving day without worrying about much.
I’m thankful that I have access to all kinds of technology that I use on a daily basis without thinking about.
I’m thankful that I have clean water and other sanitation issues taken care of.
I’m thankful that I have a reliable car to get where I need to go.
I’m thankful that I get to experience four different seasons every year (even though I sometimes complain about the cold).
Update: I now live in the south, and I am loving the weather there (even if I miss out a little bit on some of the seasons…I’ll see winter for a quick visit and that’s good enough for me!)
I’m thankful that I’m fortunate enough to care about frivolous things like sports and fantasy football, and television shows.
I’m thankful for all of the abilities that I’ve been gifted, and for the opportunity to develop those skills and even venture into new ones.
I’m thankful to be 26 and debt free with a supply of steady work when many others are not.
Update: I’m two years older, but still debt free, with work. Thankful.
In short, I know that I’ve had all kinds of opportunities and gifts given to me. I’ve tried not to squander many of these incredibly opportunistic and fortunate things; I know that opportunity enough is not enough to succeed and be happy - I’ve tried to take advantage and utilize these things their fullest because I know that not everyone was given these things. Being raised as a white, middle class, Christian male, in America, with a stable and supportive family, great friends, educational opportunities, and many other advantages have all contributed to many of the great things that I am thankful for (certainly not an exhaustive list, by the way).
And this is my sappy, Thanksgiving post.
Update: I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!
October is a month that has been dedicated to breast cancer awareness, with all sorts of fundraising drives and the color pink popping up virtually every which way you look. It is truly a great movement for a worthy cause. Several years ago, “movember” was started with the idea to raise awareness for various types of cancer that tend to affect men more than women, such as prostate cancer.
The term comes from combining “mustache” and “November” as the idea behind it was for individuals to grow out their mustaches for the entire month of November in a show of solidarity (often while trying to get donations from sponsors for this ridiculous endeavor). It has gained more popularity and traction over the last few years. Again, a great movement for a worthy cause.
This year, I decided to take part in the “movember” movement. I’ve had facial hair for the last several years – essentially since I was able to grow it! – so my “sacrifice” actually came at the beginning of the month. I decided to shave completely and start my movember journey from scratch — the first time I have been clean-shaven since 2008 (if I remember correctly). After about a week I was pretty much back to normal, but that initial move was amusing, if nothing else!
So as November – and movember – begins to wind down, I actually look pretty close to how I would normally look, though a bit bushier than my usual beard. However, the clean-shaven look at the beginning of the month was certainly worth a laugh. Not to mention that Em didn’t stop telling me how weird I looked, and I threw myself off everytime I happened to see myself in a mirror. That, along with the feeling of shower water and the outside wind on my smoothe face (yes, there is a huge difference that is very noticeable!) made for an interesting first few days of movember.
Regardless of whether you decide to grow out your mustache or beard, consider trying to help raise awareness – or somehow contribute - to a good cause!
On Tuesday, JP Morgan Chase Bank agreed to a settlement with the US government for $13 billion regarding problematic mortgages that were sold on the secondary market. If 13 billion sounds like a big number, it’s because it is — it is the largest settlement ever coming from a single entity.
What was essentially happening was that many lenders were giving out high risk home loans and then selling them on the secondary market, under the pretense of meeting specific guidelines and being more secure than they actually were. As soon as these loans were sold on the secondary market, the lenders had their money and didn’t have to worry about the possible consequences of the loan defaulting. In the years leading up to and immediately following the housing bust and great recession, many of these loans defaulted.
The two biggest entities that bought these home loans on the secondary market were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government sponsored entities (GSEs). Having these two players in the secondary market helps free up banks and other lenders to make other investments and loans, so the lenders do not have their money tied up for 30 years per loan (the typical length of a mortgage). So the (very simplified) lending chain for a home loan looks something like this:
In this chain, there were lots and lots of places where the loans could go wrong (and it needs to be noted that misrepresentation happened in nearly every form imaginable from many different individuals and entities – not just lenders). As these loans defaulted for various reasons, it was Fannie and Freddie who took the financial hit, not the banks. The banks had already gotten their money from Fannie and Freddie, but as the borrowers defaulted and stopped paying, Fannie and Freddie suffered.
Because so many of these loans defaulted, these GSEs decided to go back through and actually take a closer look at some of these loans that they had purchased from banks and lenders such as Chase. (Actually, they hired quality control and risk management companies to do this for them.) In a lot of cases, they found some type of misrepresentation of the mortgages – the loan was much riskier than what they were told and/or it did not meet the guidelines that Fannie or Freddie had stipulated when they purchased the loans. In short, the product they were told they had purchased was quite different than what they got.
In the cases of egregious misrepresentation, Fannie and Freddie went to court to recoup their money from the banks the bad loans. With the thousands and thousands of the loans given out during this time period for trillions of dollars, several big banks (and likely more to come) have decided that it was in their best interest to negotiate and settle for a lump sum instead of continuing to pay them back piece by piece. This is exactly the case in this newest and largest $13 billion settlement from Chase.
Of course, when any large corporation gets punished and fined, the question of will they actually have to pay up comes to the forefront. It’s not all that uncommon for corporations or individuals involved in various white collar crimes to be fined large amounts, but never actually held accountable to pay in entirety. In this case, the negotiations have already spelled out where the fine money should end up, with a good chunk going back to the consumers in the form of mortgage relief programs to help consumers stay in their homes rather than foreclose. Only time will tell.
Interestingly enough, a lot of these bad lending practices helped to create a new (or at least newly important) sector in the lending industry, “forensic loan analysis.” There is now a need for companies that are able to accurately analyze and assess loan risk to go back to these defaulted (or “dead”) loan files to investigate what went wrong. Much like a forensic examiner looks at evidence to determine the cause of death, a forensic loan analyst (sometimes referred to as a loan review analyst or forensic underwriter) examines various evidence to determine why a loan defaulted. “Was everything properly disclosed and documented?”, and “were all of the necessary guidelines met for the particular loan to be sold on the secondary market?” are two of the most central questions to this type of forensic work. If the answer to either of these questions is “no” then Fannie or Freddie may have a legitimate claim to recoup their money from that purchase.
Now, more stringent regulations have been put into place when it comes to giving out home loans, in the hope of preventing a similar situation from happening again. (The Dodd-Frank Act is one example, with new pieces that will roll out soon as well.) Instead of waiting until there is a need for forensic analysis, there is also discussion of regulations that will call for an independent quality control review before the loan is approved.
The new analytic strategies and quality control practices of these companies, along with these new lending regulations should help to make mortgages and home loans much safer.
A few helpful articles:
Critique of the Chase settlement:
Countrywide in a similar situation – just a few weeks ago: http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/23/news/economy/countrywide-fannie-freddie/
If this title sounds slightly familiar, then it’s probably because you’ve seen it here before. However, this post is not a celebration of past posts. Instead, this is a fun little workout routine. Actually, you may just find it rather challenging, and maybe not quite so “fun.”
As the title suggests, you’ll do 100 reps of each of these different exercises. For this workout, you don’t need to time yourself. Just work your way through it, but try not to rest for more than 30seconds – 1 minute between excercises. Also, feel free to break the sets up into whatever is most manageable for you (e.g. 40 squats, quick rest, 30 squats, quick rest, 30 squats, move on…).
- 100 High knees (50 each leg)
- 100 lunges (50 each leg)
- 100 pushups
- 100 squats
- 100 abs (you can do all the same, or mix and match different varieties of abs)
- 100 punches (as if you were doing Tae-Bo, I usually hold a 5lb weight in each hand)
- 100 seconds of plank/table top abs
And that’s the Holy Hund-O. Or the Holy Hindi, as my phone has tried to autocorrect several times. It’s a relatively quick workout that doesn’t require much equipment or space, though it is difficult and hits your major muscle groups pretty thoroughly. Feel free to substitute and a little variety with the exercises – e.g. burpees, pull-ups, jump squats, etc.
It’s been a little while, I know. I’ve been off my game – out of the blogosphere if you will – for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is that I simply haven’t made a substantial effort to keep it a priority. For those keeping score at home, you know that it’s been a nearly two month drought since my last post.
But today, I received a pretty simple notification, and I hopped onto the old blog for the first time in a bit. It turns out that today is my two year anniversary since I originally got the blog up and running.
Yay for me!
I realize that it may not seem like an occassion to celebrate after a lull in my production, but hey, aside from this recent lag, I’ve been going pretty strong for a pretty good amount of time. And that’s something worth noting, and maybe even celebrating just a little bit. Not to mention that it may just be that little bit of inspiration to get back myself back into the game. A little kick in the pants to get me going.