True Detective: Night Country’s finale ended with season-high ratings, according to Variety: 3.2 million viewers tuned in across HBO and its streaming service, Max. That capped off a viewership of about 12.7 million across all episodes, an all-time high for the franchise. As Variety notes, this new generation of True…
A man who thought he was simply buying an old storage unit go so much more than he bargained for when he cracked it open, started digging through, and found out it belonged to Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Mazi Smith.
So a Michigan player that went in the first round of the 2023 Draft let all his stuff get sold in a storage auction?!?
The TikToker who posted this tried to hide the player’s identity, but wasn’t very good at it by saying “he was drafted in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft,” and after clearly identifying that he played for Michigan it means Mazi Smith is the only dude who it could have belonged to.
It was packed full of player-exclusive Jordan cleats, Michigan apparel, a mammoth collection of Lego, as well as a 2022 Michigan playbook — which could have been disastrous had Jim Harbaugh not returned to the NFL. Sure, verbiage and plays change a lot from year-to-year, but a complete playbook in an opponent’s hands would have given incredible insight into the team’s defensive design.
As for how this unit managed to be up for auction, I get it. Having a storage unit seems like a good idea until you get a storage unit. On the one hand it’s a secure place to keep junk you don’t want to have in your house, and on the other it becomes like a dependent. The facility ends up getting sold randomly, your rates go through the roof, your auto-pay bounces back because there’s a new billing system and then you get warnings to some old email address you never use anymore telling you that your stuff is being sold for lack of payment.
Not that I’ve had any experience with that, or anything.
It’s my hopes that the things of true sentimental value find their way back to Smith. Sure, make some money off the unworn cleats — but at least reach out to the guy and make sure nothing is irreplaceable in there.
Of course we didn’t physically build the house. We paid a builder to have a house built for us. The builder didn’t physically build the house either. They only directed the build. All the physical work was done by their subcontractors.
New Construction vs Existing Home
The news media report two numbers about residential real estate sales in the country: existing-home sales and new-home sales. Existing homes make up 85% – 90% of all homes sold in a year.
New construction homes are often in undesirable locations in many areas because all the good locations have already been taken by existing homes. New homes may be next to a freeway or a major road. Or they may be far away from jobs, good schools, and amenities.
According to the Census Bureau, over 60% of new home sales are in the South region, with another 20%+ in the West region. There are much fewer new home sales in the Northeast and Midwest regions (see Census region map for where region lines are drawn).
A new home isn’t necessarily better even though it’s new. Fortunately, the area we’re in still has available land in good locations to build new homes. We chose to build a new home as opposed to buying an existing home because building new lets us choose what we want with less waste, it adds to the overall housing supply, and it creates jobs. The major downsides are that it takes a longer time and requires more time and energy from the homeowner.
When you buy an existing home, location, size, floor plan, and finish materials all come in one package. The parts you like about the home and the parts you don’t like are all included in the package. Many people buy an existing home and remodel the parts they don’t like before they move in. They basically treat some parts they just bought at a negative value because it costs money to demolish existing things in addition to installing new items.
You don’t pay for something and then throw it away when you build a new home. For example, we wanted a taller garage door in case we get a van for camping. Making a larger door opening costs no more than making the standard size opening when you’re building new. It possibly costs a little less because a larger opening uses less building materials. The incremental cost of a taller door over a standard-size door isn’t that much. It would be a much bigger undertaking if we want to make the garage door taller in an existing home. We would have to throw away a perfectly working garage door, remove a part of the exterior and interior walls, and install a new door.
Add to Housing Supply
You probably heard of people saying “We need to build more housing in this country.” Who’s “we” exactly? We don’t live in a centrally planned economy. Homebuilders are private businesses. They don’t just build more housing because doing so is good for the macroeconomy. The builder we worked with only builds when they have a paying customer signing up to build a house. If the country needs more housing, homeowners must step up to build new housing.
By paying to have a new house built, we added this house to the local housing supply. The local government will receive a higher property tax for the life of this house.
If we buy an existing home, the current owner gets the bulk of the money. People involved in the transaction — realtors, the title company, the home inspector, and mortgage loan officers — receive some fees and that’s about it.
Building a home involves many more people. 60 different subcontractors worked on building our house. The smallest subcontractor received less than $200. The largest subcontractor received over $100,000. We feel good about creating jobs in the local economy.
It took almost a year to build our home. It would’ve taken only a month if we bought an existing home. You have to pay for both your existing housing (rent, mortgage, or opportunity cost) and the cost of building the new home during this overlap.
Because many people can’t afford to pay for both at the same time during a long overlap or don’t want to spend the time and energy required to build a home, an existing home often commands a price premium over the cost to build. I’ve seen existing homes advertised as “No waiting, why build when you can have this now!”
Time and Energy
Building a home requires a lot of attention and decisions. We must have made over a thousand decisions, most of which were permanent and costly to change. This can be stressful if you’re the type that must research every detail in everything.
How high should the closet shelves be? What color do we want for the roof shingles? Where do we want to place the hose bibb?
On the other hand, if you buy an existing home, you’re only inheriting previous decisions by someone else. Every home was built by someone at some point. The previous owners made those decisions based on their needs and constraints at the time. Their decisions aren’t necessarily better than yours.
Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Our home is in a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which is described as a cross between single-family homes and a condominium. A developer bought a large parcel of land. They drew up a plan and got it approved by the city to develop the land into a residential subdivision of about 100 homes. They built roads and brought in utilities. Then they started offering homesites to build new homes.
Each homeowner owns the land beneath their home. The rest of the subdivision is owned by the HOA. The HOA collects dues and hires contractors to maintain the common areas. Instead of each homeowner hiring lawn service individually, the HOA hires one large contractor to maintain landscaping for everyone. It’s like socialism with a flat tax.
I know some people don’t like HOAs but it works well for us. The subdivision has attracted many retirees although it isn’t designated as a 55+ or active adult community. It’s currently 90% built. It’ll be full in another year.
Some new construction homes are spec homes, which means that you choose one of several models from the builder based on the size and the floor plan. The builder also offers some upgrades such as using hardwood floors versus carpet or different grades of countertops.
You can also build a custom home, which means that you engage an architect to come up with a design and then hire a builder to build it.
Our house is a semi-custom home, which falls somewhere in between. The builder has five base models for this subdivision. The outside perimeter and the basic outline of a model can’t change but everything inside can be modified. For example, you can have fewer but larger bedrooms or you can shrink a bathroom but make the closet bigger. You can arrange the rooms in a way that flows better for you. It’s just a matter of drawing the interior walls and doorways within the floor space. Of course if you don’t care to make changes you can also take the base model as-is.
The builder assigned a floor plan designer to work with us. The base model we chose had a theater room next to a guest bedroom. We combined the two rooms and made it a nice home gym. This was easy when we had a blank slate. It wasn’t any more difficult to build a home gym than a theater room plus a guest bedroom. It would be more involved to make this type of change to an existing home.
Semi-custom also means that homeowners have wide choices in the materials that go into the home. The builder had a designated supplier for everything. We went to the appliance supplier to pick appliances, the flooring supplier to pick flooring, the door supplier to pick doors, and so on. We could choose anything available at each supplier. It was time-consuming but we learned new vocabulary (baluster, transom, soffit, …) and now we know nearly everything that went into our home.
Cost Plus Contract
Our contract with the builder was cost-plus, which means that the builder billed us whatever their suppliers and subcontractors billed them plus a 12% fee for managing the project as the general contractor. The builder gave us an estimate of the total cost before we signed the contract but it was only an estimate. We would still pay whatever the actual cost came out to be from their suppliers and subcontractors plus the 12% fee.
This felt risky but we trusted the builder. This reputable local builder has built several hundred homes in our town over many years. Customers are happy with the homes they built. The owner of the builder is selling his mansion to move into our subdivision.
If you must have a fixed-price contract, the builder has to pad the price to maintain its profit. They would have to set a strict allowance on everything to differentiate between “standard” and “change orders.” A fixed-price contract is more for building a spec home. If the builder runs into unexpected cost increases they may skip things or use lower-quality materials. A cost-plus contract removes the incentive to cut corners.
Schedule Delay and Cost Overrun
Two risks we hear about in building a home are schedule delays and cost overruns. We had a little of both but it wasn’t too bad.
The original estimate from the builder was to complete the construction in 10 months. It took 11-1/2 months. The final cost came within 5% of the estimate the builder gave us at the beginning of the project even though they didn’t know what materials we would choose.
Both the schedule delay and the small cost overrun were acceptable to us. We didn’t go too much above the estimate because we didn’t go overboard in selecting fancy materials. Some neighbors chose high-end Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Thermaldor appliances. We went with Kitchenaid and Bosch. It was a small miracle that we came less than 5% above the original estimate when it was all said and done.
Inflation and supply chain problems subsided when our project started. Prices of building materials and labor that went up sharply during previous years stopped going up sharply but they didn’t come down. Still, I would much prefer to pay tradespersons who work on the home than the owner of an existing home.
If you need the equity from your existing home but you can only sell it after you move into the new home, you can get a HELOC or you can finance the project with a one-close construction loan, also known as a Construction-to-Permanent (CTP) loan.
The bank qualifies you for the construction loan based on an appraisal of the project using the blueprints. The interest rate is set when the loan is approved. The bank pays the builder during construction. You make interest-only payments to the bank. The construction loan converts to a regular mortgage when the home is built. You can pay down or pay off the mortgage after you sell your previous home.
Our builder had a contact at a bank to arrange for loans but we didn’t get a construction loan because the interest rate had already gone up at that time. I didn’t sell stocks either when stocks were down. I sold some short box spreads and used the cash to pay the builder every month when they sent us a stack of invoices from their suppliers and subcontractors plus the 12% fee.
I sold stocks now to close out the short box spreads after stocks bounced back. By coincidence, interest rates went further up after I sold the short box spreads. Closing them out now actually generated a small gain.
A new home isn’t necessarily better than an existing home in many places but when the right opportunity comes along, building a home can be a satisfying experience if you don’t mind investing the time and energy. You need a good location and a reliable builder.
This is the view from my home gym. The grassland is a reserved open space for the subdivision. I often see deer, geese, and cranes in the open space when I work out. I love it.
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The NFL’s salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team, the league said Friday, taking a massive $30.6 million leap from the 2023 number.
The increase is the largest the NFL has ever seen.
The new $255.4 million cap for 2024 is 13.6 percent larger than the 2023 cap of $224.8 million. The league also saw a big increase from 2021 ($182.5 million) to 2022 ($208.2 million), but that jump was more of a recovery following the unprecedented COVID-19-induced cap reduction of 2021.
The 2024 cap is simply the result of a prolific revenue spike — the league cited an...
In 1916, a French consular official reported finding a giant "iron hill" deep in the Sahara desert, roughly 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Chinguetti, Mauritania—purportedly a meteorite (technically a mesosiderite) some 40 meters (130 feet) tall and 100 meters (330 feet) long. He brought back a small fragment, but the meteorite hasn't been found again since, despite the efforts of multiple expeditions, calling its very existence into question.
Three British researchers have conducted their own analysis and proposed a means of determining once and for all whether the Chinguetti meteorite really exists, detailing their findings in a new preprint posted to the physics arXiv. They contend that they have narrowed down the likely locations where the meteorite might be buried under high sand dunes and are currently awaiting access to data from a magnetometer survey of the region in hopes of either finding the mysterious missing meteorite or confirming that it likely never existed.
Captain Gaston Ripert was in charge of the Chinguetti camel corps. One day he overheard a conversation among the chameliers (camel drivers) about an unusual iron hill in the desert. He convinced a local chief to guide him there one night, taking Ripert on a 10-hour camel ride along a "disorienting" route, making a few detours along the way. He may even have been literally blindfolded, depending on how one interprets the French phrase en aveugle, which can mean either "blind" (i.e. without a compass) or "blindfolded." The 4-kilogram fragment Ripert collected was later analyzed by noted geologist Alfred Lacroix, who considered it a significant discovery. But when others failed to locate the larger Chinguetti meteorite, people started to doubt Ripert's story.
"I know that the general opinion is that the stone does not exist; that to some, I am purely and simply an imposter who picked up a metallic specimen," Ripert wrote to French naturalist Theodore Monod in 1934. "That to others, I am a simpleton who mistook a sandstone outcrop for an enormous meteorite. I shall do nothing to disabuse them, I know only what I saw."
Encouraged by a separate report of local blacksmiths claiming to recover iron from a giant block somewhere east or southeast of Chinguetti, Monod intermittently searched for the meteorite several times over the ensuing decades, to no avail. A pilot named Jacques Gallouédec thought he spotted a dark silhouette in the Saharan dunes in the 1980s. But neither Monod nor a second expedition in the late 1990s—documented by the UK's Channel 4—could find anything. Monod concluded in 1989 that Ripert had likely mistakenly identified a sedimentary rock "with no trace of metal" as a meteorite.
Still, as Rutgers University physicist Matt Buckley noted on Bluesky, "This story has everything: giant unexplained meteorites, sand dunes, a guy named Gaston, ductile nickel needles, secret aeromagnetic surveys, and camel drivers." So naturally, it intrigued Stephen Warren of Imperial College London, Oxford University's Ekaterini Protopapa, and Robert Warren, who began their own search for the mysterious missing meteorite in 2020.
The trio acknowledges that there are reasonable pro and con arguments for the existence (or not) of the Chinguetti meteorite. On the con side, there is no evidence of an impact crater, although a 1951 study suggested this could be explained if the meteorite's flight path had been nearly tangential to the Earth's surface. The strongest evidence against its existence comes from a 2001 analysis of radionuclide data for the small sample Ripert brought back. That data showed that the fragment's parent could not have been more than 1.6 meters in diameter, and the 2001 authors suggested that Ripert was either mistaken or outright lied.
But a Marseille astronomer named Jean Bosler had spoken to Ripert at length about the latter's discovery and believed the man to be sincere. One detail in particular is strikingly credible: Ripert described finding "metallic needles" in one area of the meteorite that he tried to break off by hitting it with the fragment. The needles proved too ductile. In 2003, scientists discovered that iron meteorites often do indeed contain nickel-rich spikes that are similarly ductile. There is no way Ripert (or any contemporary scientist) would have known about that in 1916.
Warren et al. have their own hypothesis. "It is possible that the meteorite became covered by sand within a few years [of Ripert's discovery]," they wrote. "And because the initial searches were in the wrong direction, it is conceivable that the meteorite was missed and remains hidden in the high dunes, still waiting to be discovered." As for the unusual feature spotted by Gallouédec in the 1980s, it was probably a shale diapir, "an ephemeral phenomenon which we have observed a number of times in the area," they wrote. "These blocky dark masses stand out strikingly, silhouetted against the light-colored dunes, and are hard to fathom until seen up close."
If the Chinguetti meteorite is indeed buried in a sand dune, Warren et al. estimated that such a dune would need to be at least 40 meters high (the estimated height of the missing meteorite) and used digital elevation model (DEM) data to identify likely locations. This included determining how fast the dunes migrated; they estimated that the dunes could not have moved more than 100 meters (about 328 feet, or 0.6 miles) since 1916. They identified two areas of high dunes near Chinguetti: Les Boucles, some 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) to the south; and the Batraz region between 40-60 kilometers (25-37 miles) to the southeast. "There is nowhere else for the meteorite to hide," they argued.
That led them to the question of just how far a camel could reasonably travel over that terrain in 10 hours, both with and without burdens. (Insert your own Monty Python jokes about the airspeed velocity of an unladen African or European swallow here.) Our intrepid authors made two excursions riding camels in the area and found that burdened camels averaged daily speeds of 2.6 to 3.9 km/hr (1.6 to 2.4 mph). Unburdened camels averaged 5 km/hr (3.1 mph). Ripert and his guide probably rode largely unburdened camels, per Warren et al., who thought the faster speed would not be reasonable across less smooth terrain—plus Ripert and his guide likely would have stopped to rest along the way rather than riding for 10 straight hours.
Indeed, the chameliers who guided the authors on their two excursions said they never traveled more than four hours at a stretch before taking a three-hour break so the animals could recover. Nor would the journey have been made in a straight line, particularly at night. So the authors concluded that there was an upper limit of 50 kilometers (31 miles) and a lower limit of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Chingiuetti since "one would think that [Ripert] would have recognized the dunes close to town."
What's needed now is a magnetometer survey over the region the authors have identified as being the most likely location of the Chinguetti meteorite, if it exists. (The 1990s expedition had a magnetometer but only took a few null measurements at the location identified by Gallouédec.) The good news is that there is such an aeromagnetic dataset already, collected as part of a project called PRISM-1. It's currently held by the Mauritanian Ministry of Petroleum Energy and Mines. The bad news is that the data and detailed maps are proprietary information, and while Warren et al. have made repeated requests, they have yet to gain access.
Alternatively, one could conduct a surface magnetometer survey on foot along the Western base of each potential dune. In December 2022, the authors did just that, focusing on a small area covering six dunes. They were able to rule out all six. To complete a full survey of the areas of interest, they estimate it would take at least three weeks. It would be much easier to analyze the PRISM-1 data, should the team be granted access.
"[E]xamination of the PRISM-I aeromagnetics data in the region south of Chinguetti... can finally resolve the question of the existence of the Chinguetti meteorite in a definitive manner," Warren et al. concluded. "If the result is negative the explanation of Ripert’s story would remain unsolved, however, and the problems of the ductile needles, and the coincidental discovery of the mesosiderite would remain."