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Financial stuff is complicated, and apart from retirement funds, home buying is one of the most common manifestations of it amongst the rabble. Computers are also complicated parts of every day life, but in terms of technology, not finance.
The last 10 years in computer technology, especially software, have brought on several innovations that help users deal with computers. This is due to the amazing User Experiences revolution taking place in tech companies around the world. Companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are keen on user testing and feedback, but it all comes back to design.
Is the financial industry, or more to the point, the real estate industry, really much different from software? Wouldn’t the real estate industry benefit from a user experience consultancy?
I offer a resounding yes.
I’ve been in the process of purchasing my first home for about a month now, and I’ve been burned. After signing sheets and sheets of paper multiple times, after copies of all my finances have been strewn around tables, after quibbling over an offer — now it may fall through because the lender’s (Edina Realty / Wells Fargo, I believe, though it’s hard to tell) appraiser that I paid for has given it a low appraisal. About $16,000 lower than my loan amount. This means the seller would have to agree to sell at this super low price. Obviously he’s hesitant to do this.
This snag has come up after the following events have already occurred:
On top of this, I am an organized person and thusly have completed several tasks. I scheduled a mover ($50 deposit gone if I have to cancel), I bought cleaning supplies and random stuff for the new place ($50), I have my insurance agent drawing up a new policy for me, and worst of all, I included my new address and the story of my new home in my Christmas letter. I will be so ashamed to send out an additional note explaining that I didn’t get the house.
The appraisal was filed on December 23rd and my offer was accepted about 20 days earlier. I was notified by my realtor (who forwarded me my mortgage guy’s email with the PDF) and the printed file in the mail on December 30th. My realtor said a week is normal for the distribution of the appraisal. Yet, the inspection had to be done within three days. Why the disparate timing?
The appraisal in question was done by someone apparently known for low appraisals. His opinion is now attached to that property for the next six months. I have conflicting information on whether we can do another appraisal. Winning a dispute is rare. Appraisals are totally subjective things, yet one person’s opinion tarnishes a property for six months. Why would the lender (the appraiser’s employer) want to do this to themselves?
Why doesn’t the real estate and mortgage industry realize that if things like this can happen (and my realtor said it’s become fairly common in this market), something is dreadfully wrong with the process. If this deal falls through, think of all the wasted hours Edina Realty has put into this. Three people did a bunch of work for nothing, not to mention me, my insurance agent, and movers.
This could have been prevented with a more streamlined, smarter process. I realize that they just want to make money, but putting the goodies (like the actual offer and loan acceptance) ahead of the finer details that are out of the buyer’s control creates unnecessary work for all. Also, appraisals should be an average, not one person’s opinion, or they should be connected to the assessed value of the home.
Get it together, mortgage and real estate industries, or suffer another failure as catastrophic as the one you are recovering from now. You need a User Experience Designer to help with your processes and forms. I am open for business.
I’ve struggled this year finding favorite albums. Sure, there were good ones. The one I listened to most consistently since its release has been Monsters of Folk. But even there, the second half doesn’t live up to the promise of the first half.
I’ve always been an album kind of gal. But, as times change so must I. It even seems like artists, including “indie” ones, aren’t bothering with the album as an art form any longer. The exceptions may be The Flaming Lips’s Embryonic and Julian Casablancas’s Phrazes for the Young, both of which contain strict rules on sound and instrumentation. That’s good and bad. Albums can be consistent in more than just sound…there’s many ways for an album to mesh together into a coherent piece of work. Just look at two more great albums this year, Dark Was the Night and Dark Night of the Soul (no they aren’t the same thing or even connected). These collections of various artists all sound like they belong together, even though they don’t sound the same. They just feel the same.
So, with that said, I welcome you to my favorite tracks of 2009, in some kind of order. (Most links will open the Google audio player in a new tab.)
Painstakingly sequenced…here they are, the lucky 13. They are albums I was obsessed with. They are albums I know by heart. They became my best friends.
Check back in the coming weeks for my favorites of 2009, and probably some other random lists. Because that’s what I do well…I make lists.
Keep heading over to http://090909roundup.tumblr.com for the latest Beatles news!
I am embarrassingly pumped for 09-09-09: the magical date when the Beatles albums will be released as remastered stereo and mono CD box sets, plus the Rock Band game becomes available. I will be broke, but unable to stop smiling or leave my house starting on that date.
They say that the game will be a journey through the Beatles’ career — something I imagined before I heard that detail. It’s a good move that will add a ton of fun to the game. I imagine it as the tour element of Guitar Hero World tour. Different venues and places to beat in order to unlock songs.
I see the game starting with a Quarrymen song (“Putting on the Style“, “Be-Bop-A-Lula”?), then “That’ll Be the Day” and “In Spite of All the Danger” from Anthology as early Beatles numbers. Maybe they can throw in “My Bonnie” (Apple doesn’t own it, so it seems unlikely). What I’m most curious about is how/if they will handle Hamburg and the Cavern. I mean, how could they not build those venues into the game? Will Pete Best be portrayed in the game, and Ringo added later as in real life? So even if the same person is playing drums the whole time, their persona gets swapped out?
Aside from the Pete Best situation, the problem with all this early stuff is that the Beatles mostly did covers. I’m sure it’s a pain to get all the rights to that music, but then again I suppose MTV are pros at that. Another question is, will the early cover songs that the Beatles never recorded (though they are available on the Live at the BBC double album) be liked by the people playing the game? I know I’d love to play “Ain’t Nothing Shakin’ But the Leaves on the Tree”, but will the Guitar Hero/Rock Band gamer dude want them after purchasing a Beatles game?
Just like in real life, the Beatles will start recording after playing Hamburg and the Cavern. They could include a bit of failing the Decca audition. This part of the journey element to the game will switch quickly between recording and tours, to give a sense of urgency to the game. I wish they could include photo ops and interviews in the game to give a real sense of what life was like for Beatles then. How they dealt with failing the Decca audition and replacing Best will be exiciting to see.
They can have a lot of fun with venues, and I look forward to them recreating Studio 3 in the game. I see Shea, Sweden, France and of course English theaters being stops on tour throughout 1963-66. There were a lot of the same songs (covers, like “Twist and Shout”) were played throughout those 3 torrid years, so I wonder how they will handle duplication. It will be very interesting to go from recording Revolver to doing “She’s a Woman” live at the Budokan. I hope they also include selections their last show at Candlestick Park.
Then you’ll move into the studio full time, working on “Penny Lane” (note: not a guitar song) and “Strawberry Fields”, working up to Sgt. Pepper. I’d love to play sitar on “Within You Without You” (or even “Norwegian Wood”), but that seems unlikely. It’d be awesome if they included some acoustic versions from Anthology of the Kinfauns tapes as a tribute to their time in India. Next you’d work through to Let It Be, at Twinkenham and Apple, then up on the rooftop. Finally back to #3 to focus on Abbey Road. Then you’re finished. Unless they incorporate any solo Lennon stuff that existed before Abbey Road came out, but I doubt it. Or for a huge splash they could include a bit where you play Paul secretly buying shares of your company to gain control, then run off to Scotland to record what you’ve always wanted: a one-man-band album.
My list of song predictions (somewhat in order) for the entire game are below the fold. Please comment and let me know what you think is missing or unlikely.
I intended my next blog post to be about my time in downtown St Paul during the Republican convention. I saw a taping of “The Daily Show” and some far less funny things on the street. I didn’t get around to it though, and the subject has been beat to death, so I’ll save you all from it.
Instead, I have an irritation to share. I love my Tivo. It has literally changed the way I watch TV. I don’t mind all the “Thumbs Up” things on commercials. I don’t mind the stupid messages Tivo downloads to my box. I can deal with the Norton ad on the bottom of the Tivo home screen.
But this is too much. Today I turned on my Tivo to find my Now Playing List contained a program with a different icon than I had seen, and it was something I did not schedule myself.
When I played it, my worst fears were realized.
What the hell does Tivo think they’re doing?! I PAY for this subscription service, and they have the balls to download a 29 minute infomercial to my box?! I don’t even know what the stupid infomercial is for — I’m not watching that shit.
Tivo, if you’re listening — knock it off NOW.
Here we are – about half way through another year. It’s hard to believe we’re almost done with the first decade of the 21st century!
What a great time to be a music fan though. The pseudo-mainstreaming of indie rock has catapulted non-bubble gum pop/rock to the forefront of MTV time and time again. TV dramady writers love to showcase songs by their favorite indie bands on their shows, and of course Garden State made one band change the lives of millions.
I want to share a couple things here: first, my adoration of what I’ve dubbed Pastoral (Indie)Rock. New-ish bands in this subgenre consists of, but is not limited to:
Each of these bands or musicians share a penchant for singing or playing about earthy things, or taking more modern thoughts and spinning them in a hymn-like web, in a very beautiful way. The instrumentation is always so intricate, and often includes banjos. I’m a big fan. There are more bands (Wilco, M. Ward for instance), but these are the ones taking it on now.
Secondly, I’d like to highlight my favorite releases this year so far. You can vote for yours at All Songs Considered.
There are other albums (Shearwater, Stephen Malkmus, R.E.M.) that are really good, but haven’t really stuck to me. I’ve been listening to an interesting mix of old and new this year. My favorite album for the past three weeks has been Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue Live 1975 (Bootleg Series Vol. 5). So passionate.