Saturday, May 29, 2010

High finance, circa 2010.........

My Grandfather, the old country banker who stopped
Depression Era runs on his bank by the combination of the
force of his personality and his prudent business practices,
would not have made these loans.



Thanks to Gaping Void who led me to Megan McArdle who
led me to this.

Patrick Henry would be 274 years old today..........







Patrick Henry


May 29, 1736-
June 6, 1799





Lawyer, politician, orator, and a radical, Patrick Henry was a
complicated man. His oratory and passion for freedom helped
spur the American Revolution. His distrust of a powerful
central government led him to not attend the Constitutional
Convention, but he then helped draft and pass the first
amendments to that Constitution that we know as the "Bill of
Rights". He declined to serve in Washington's Cabinet because
he opposed Washington's Federalist politics, but later, perhaps
influenced by the outcome of the French Revolution, Henry
challenged the rights of the individual States "to pronounce
upon the validity of federal laws." He was a beloved
Governor of Virginia, elected to five one year terms, and an
ardent believer in the rights of the individual.

Here are a few quotes attributed to Patrick Henry:

"Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is impossible that a
nation of infidels or idolaters should be a nation of freemen. It
is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A
vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is
incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the
blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a
firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality,
and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental
principles."

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to
restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to
restrain the government."

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect
every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing
will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up
that force, you are inevitably ruined."

"Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and
George the Third may profit by their example. If this be
treason, make the most of it."

"Is Life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the
price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know
not what course others may take; but as for me, give me
Liberty, or give me Death!"

"They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so
formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger?
Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we
are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be
stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by
irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of
effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and
hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall
have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make
a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath
placed in our power."

As Benjamin Franklin Gates might say, people just don't
talk that way anymore. Our loss.

Happy Birthday Pat.

A few thoughts to share........

"All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit quiet in
a room alone."
-Blaise Pascal

"Half an hour's mediation is essential, except when you are
very busy, then a full hour is needed."
-St. Francis de Sales

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
-Bertrand Russell

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pretty good words to live by........

"The Sun will not rise, or set, without my notice, and thanks."

-Winslow Turner

Winslow Homer, a great American artist.........

Thumbed through a 'coffee table' style book about the art of
Winslow Homer while I was home visiting my Mom. Inside
was a card indicating that my sister and I had given the book
to our Dad for Christmas one year. Neither of us remember
doing so, but he was difficult to shop for- a man with few
needs, so books often became our gift of choice. My guess
is that he must have commented on seeing some of Homer's
work (a number of his oils hang in various Philadelphia
museums), so we just bought him the book. Published in
1972, Winslow Homer contains fifty color plates of Homer's
work in oil, over 150 black and white illustrations, and
commentary by John Wilmerding on both the artwork and
the artist.


Breezing
Up
(A fair
wind)

Oil on
canvas
1876



click on the pictures to enlarge them


The
Gulf
Stream

Oil on
canvas
1899




When pressed for an explanation of Gulf Stream, Homer said:
"I regret very much that I have painted a picture that requires
any description. The subject of this picture is comprised in its
title & I will refer these inquisitive schoolma'ams to Lieut.
Maury. I have crossed the Gulf Stream ten times & I should
know something about it. The boat & sharks are outside
matters of very little consequence. They have been blow out
to sea by a hurricane. You can tell these ladies that the
unfortunate negro who is now so dazed & parboiled, will be
rescued & returned to his friends and home, & ever after
live happily."

Wilmerding, then goes on to say: "The Gulf Stream is surely
as much about the belief in survival as about the acceptance
of death. It is Homer's great achievement that he has
revealed, through images so real and physical, ideas so
abstract and thoughtful."

More wisdom from Timothy Ferriss.....

In my continuing effort to catch up to my partner, I am
re-reading The 4-Hour Workweek. Here are a few more
excerpts (see April 24th for the original post):

"The key to having more time is doing less, and there are two
paths to getting there, both of which should be used together:
1) Define a to-do list and 2) define a not-to-do list. In
general terms, there are but two questions: What 20% of
sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired
outcome and happiness?"

"Slow down and remember this: Most things make no
difference. Being busy is a form of laziness- lazy thinking
and indiscriminate action."

"...lack of time is actually lack of priorities."

"If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too.
Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate
yourself. You are better than you think."

"It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In excess,
most endeavors and possessions take on the characteristics
of their opposite. Thus:
'Pacifists become militants.
Freedom fighters become tyrants.
Blessings become curses.
Help becomes hindrance.
More becomes less.' "
(Tim borrowed from here)

"I don't fix it if it isn't broken. Different is better when it is
more effective or more fun."

"....don't mistake retirement for the goal."

"What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best
years of your life hoping for happiness in the last?"

"The commonsense rules of the 'real world' are a fragile
collection of socially reinforced illusions."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm feeling the need to study the 'Tulip Bubble'.......

If we are going to live in interesting times, we might as well
learn something useful along the way. Walter Russell Mead
offers his Top Ten Lessons From the Global Economic
Meltdown here. Well worth the time. Might even cheer
you up.

Mead says in his essay, "Economics can help us understand
what is happening and give us more sophisticated tools for
investigating the unknown — but it cannot protect us from
uncertainty and risk. The “unknown unknowns” will always
be with us.

This means, among other things, that we are no closer to
eliminating panics and crashes than the Dutch were in the
wake of the Tulip Bubble."

As bubbles go, this one was prettier than most........









Semper Augustus, famous
for being the most expensive
tulip sold during tulip mania.










Not sure where
the data comes
from, but it looks
like February 1
would have been
a very good
day to sell.











Tulips are still popular




It turns out that lots has been written about Tulip Mania.
Not sure I plan on reading ALL about it, but our local library
system surely has this, or this, or this.

A quick read of Wikipedia indicates that the 17th Century
Dutch were fairly clever people when it came to finance and
commerce. There was also a whisper there that perhaps the
story of the Mania was a bit overblown. Probably bears
some more study.

I promise I will never do this again........

Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When will real estate values begin to appreciate again?

Aubrey Clark, being smarter than most, says he doesn't know,
here. Loved his comment, "I cannot predict when the real
estate market will bounce back, but I can tell you what needs
to happen before it does. America needs to reinvest in herself
by getting back to solid buying and selling principles."

Some of those principles might include:

1) Saving first, it's that old deferred gratification thing that the
"greatest" generation practiced. Buying less than you can
afford is a wonderful idea.

2) Housing is primarily shelter, secondarily an investment,
never an ATM machine.

3) The best mortgages are those that get paid down (or off)
quickly.

4) Flipping real estate is NOT investing. It is speculating.
Speculation is not to be undertaken lightly.

5) Real estate ownership, over time, tends to be wealth
creating. Underline and capitalize over time. It means "a
long time". Not one or two years, but ten or twenty years.

I'm not any smarter than Aubrey Clark, but my guess is that
real estate will not start achieving note worthy appreciation
until people stop asking "when will real estate values begin
to appreciate again?".

I always liked Tonto best.......

Jay Silverheels: May 26, 1912-March 5, 1980.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Another great quote from the Newark Catholic web page.....

"A person who has ceased learning ought not to be allowed to
wander around loose in these dangerous times."

- unknown, but attributed to M. M. Coady

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy 207th Birthday Ralph Waldo Emerson....








Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882










Casual readers of this site will realize that Emerson is a
particular favorite of mine. Could hardly let his birth
date pass by without adding a few more gems from his
pen.

"No man has learned anything until he knows that every
day is judgement day."

"Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey
the laws too well."

"The difference between landscape and landscape is small,
but there is great difference in the beholders."

"Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in.
Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on
every other sail on the horizon."

"Nature and literature are subjective phenomena, every
evil and every good thing is a shadow which we cast."

"People forget that is is the eye which makes the horizon."

Thanks for everything Mr. Emerson. Happy Birthday.

Speaking of birthdays............

Today is my sister's birthday. She has forever been a gentle
teacher, an example of right choices, an ally, an unfailing
support, and my best friend. I am deeply grateful.

Happy Birthday Kate.

Fred Schwed Jr. revisited.........

A while ago (February 10th to be exact) a quote from
Schwed's 1940 classic Where Are the Customers' Yachts? or
A Good Hard Look at Wall Street was posted, with a
promise of more to come. Here is more:

"What is the primary purpose of a business enterprise?
This question is specifically for young men considering
entering the banking field, where they will have a constant
parade of business propositions passing before them, and
they will be required to plump for a few of them and say 'no'
to the others. The answer is elementary and obvious: the
primary purpose of a business is to make money. Almost
anyone knows this with the top part of his brain. But there
are only a few valuable young men who also know this all
up and down their spinal column.

Most businessmen imagine that they are in business to
make money, and this is their chief reason for being in
business, but more often than not they are gently kidding
themselves. There are so many other things which are
actually more attractive. Some of them are: to make a fine
product or to render a remarkable service, to give
employment, to revolutionize an industry, to make oneself
famous, or at least to supply oneself with material for
conversation in the evening. I have observed businessmen
whose chief preoccupation was to try to prove conclusively
to their competitors that they themselves were smart and
that their competitors were damn fools- an effort which gives
a certain amount of mental satisfaction but no money at all.
I have even seen some whose chief interest lay in proving
this point to their partners.

So give yourself a real good mark if you know that a business
should make money, but only if you really know it."

More from Fred later.

Life 101.........................


















More fun stuff here

Monday, May 24, 2010

A lifetime of service..........

I had breakfast this morning in my Mom's kitchen. Mom's
kitchen, where I spent a considerable amount of time in my
formative years, is in suburban Philadelphia. Our extended
clan, with four generations represented, gathered there for
a family reunion over the weekend. A great time!

As I was getting ready to drive back to Ohio, Mom was
getting ready to go to school. On Monday's during the
school year, Mom drives to Leidy Elementary School
in West Philadelphia, where she volunteers as a "reading"
assistant for one of the kindergarten teachers. On a one-
on-one basis, she listens as the four or five year old reads
aloud to her. Their reading skills vary and sometimes she
has to help them sound out the letters and then the words,
but they are reading to her, she is not reading to them.
While she enjoys the whole process, I suspect her favorite
part is watching the growth.

Mom is 86.

A Poem for Monday

ARS POETICA

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown-

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind-

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea-

A poem should not mean
But be.

-Archibald MacLeish

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday's Verse.......

How to Know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

33. To be free from thoughts that distract one from yoga,
thoughts of an opposite kind must be cultivated.

34. The obstacles to yoga- such as acts of violence and
untruth- may be directly created on indirectly caused or
approved, they may be motivated by greed, anger, or
self-interest, they may be small or moderate or great,
but they never cease to result in pain and ignorance. One
should overcome distracting thoughts by remembering this.

35. When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from
harming others, then all living creatures will cease to feel
enmity in his presence.

36. When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from
falsehood he gets the power of obtaining for himself and
others the fruits of good deeds, without having to perform
the deeds themselves.

37. When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from
theft, all wealth comes to him.

38. When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from
incontinence, he acquires spiritual energy.

39. When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from
greed, he gains knowledge of this past, present, and future
existences.

-Chapter II, Yoga and Its Practice

We really don't have a clue...............



The Elusive Jellyfish Nebula, here