The Dark Roast Effect

They’ve introduced a new coffee flavor packet at the office.  Before, we had Italian Roast and Donut Shop.  Now we’ve got Donut Shop Dark, too.

pflav-23116880t500x500I really like the Donut Shop Dark.  The packet says it’s “dark and intense,” and I agree with that evaluation.  It’s got a really rich, almost chocolatey flavor.  It would definitely go well with a chocolate-covered donut, like the one that’s on the packet.  And when you guzzle a cup first thing in the morning, it really gives your day a nice little kick-start jolt.

But here’s the issue:  at the end of the work day, I feel really . . . caffeinated.

If you do a Google search about whether dark roast coffee has more caffeine, you are told that there is no correlation and that the notion that dark-roasted coffee has more caffeine is a myth.  I can’t dispute that, because I’m no expert.  All I know is that dark-roasted coffee seems to have more of an impact on me.  Whether that’s because of some negligible caffeine difference, or because my brain is reacting to my (erroneous) understanding that I’m getting more caffeine . . . . or because I’m just drinking more coffee because I like the taste of this new blend, who knows?

Feeling more caffeinated at the end of the day isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Among other things, it makes it easier to rationalize having a glass of wine to celebrate the arrival at home after a long day’s work.

Art Outside The Lines

IMG_0774Kish and I went to have brunch at The Crest on Sunday — they serve a really good brunch, by the way — then decided to walk home via Livingston Avenue.  There we discovered we have a new neighbor: Art Outside The Lines.  It’s located in one of those former commercial buildings that face Livingston.

According to the window, Art Outside The Lines is a community art studio.  Its Facebook page says that it’s a place where people from the area can stop by and let their creative juices flow — and the Lord knows that we need more of that in the world.

I’m glad to see more venues for artistic expression in the area.  Art Outside The Lines, welcome to the ‘hood!

Pumping Up A New Housing Bubble

The Washington Post carried a story a few days ago with a surprising headline:  “Obama administration pushes banks to make home loans to people with weaker credit.”

Wait, what is this — 1997?

housing-bubbleThe story details the Obama Administration’s concern that while the housing market is getting stronger, not everyone is benefiting.  That’s because banks are leery about making home loans to new borrowers and people whose credit scores are iffy.  As a result, the Administration is trying to encourage banks to make more loans using programs funded by taxpayers that insure banks against loan defaults, including programs of the Federal Housing Administration.  The Obama Administration wants lenders to use more “subjective judgment” in making loans and wants to make it easier for homeowners whose houses are underwater to refinance their loans.

The article further notes that, since the Great Recession hit in 2008, the government has been insuring between 80 and 90 percent of new home loans.  One of the principal federal agencies involved is the FHA, which allows borrowers with credit scores as low at 500 or down payments as little as 3.5 percent to get home loans.  Banks aren’t going down to that low end of the scale, however.  The average credit score on FHA loans now is 700, because banks are worried that if their loan portfolios are hit with defaults they’ll be held responsible — so they’re playing it safe.  From 2007 to 2012, banks rejected loans for 90 percent of applicants with scores between 680 and 620.

It’s amazing that, so soon after an economy-shaking recession that was largely caused by a massive housing bubble and ridiculous lending practices, regulators would be urging banks to loosen up their loan portfolios, make “subjective” decisions, and rely on the good ol’ taxpayer to insure them against risky lending practices.  It appears that banks have tried to learn their lesson and not repeat the practices that made The Big Short such a wild romp.  Don’t we want banks to be prudent?  And why should the federal government be insuring such a large percentage of new home loans, anyway?  If so many loans are being made to people with strong credit scores and meaningful down payments, why should taxpayers be standing behind 80 to 90 percent of those loans?  Don’t we want banks to make their own credit decisions and take their own risks?

Oh, and one other thing:  the article talks about how owning a home helps build a family’s wealth, and notes that without looser loan standards many young people will be forced to rent rather than buy.  This seems like ’90s-era thinking to me.  The reality now is that many young people don’t want to be tied down to an immobile asset that consumes a huge chunk of their monthly paycheck and won’t be paid off for 30 years.  They like renting because it gives them flexibility and the chance to pursue those good-paying jobs that are so hard to come by and might just be in another city or another state.  With some people saying the economy is teetering on the brink of another recession, can you blame them?