Saturday, September 18, 2010

Laughter IS the best medicine...............

Bet you can't watch without smiling.  Who wants to start a group?




Thanks Letters from a Hill Farm

More thoughts from Clay Shirky

Quotes from Cognitive Surplus..........

"...people don't behave in ways they don't have the opportunity
to behave in."

"...abundance can be harder for a society to deal with than
scarcity."

"Groups tolerate governance, which is by definition a set of
restrictions, only after enough value has been accumulated to
make the burden worthwhile."

"No one gets it right the first time."

"The best writers sometimes disregard the rules."

The Sun and the Moon...........



 




























Thanks Leah

Consistently useful...............

"I start with this: do we agree that there's a problem? An
opportunity?


Do we agree that we need to take action, that something
needs to be done, that there's an opportunity here?

If we don't agree on that, then don't waste time listening to
my solution. Before we do that, let's spend more time deciding
if there's a problem or opportunity here.

Once we agree on that, then the response seems simple:
'What do you think we should do?'

'Be specific.'

'Thanks.' "

Seth's blog

Time Magazine is such an easy target..................

....it should come as no surprise that I took a shot at  it yesterday.
It should also not be a surprise that many other bloggers have
registered disapproval concerning their September 6th cover
story on the current real estate market.  For one such (more)
detailed look at the two cover stories, check in with our friends
at  Keeping Current Matters- here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A sure sign that a turn is coming to the housing market..........

The Housing Wire  led me to Time Magazines's
cover from September 6, 2010:



Rethinking Homeownership
"Owning a home may no longer make
economic sense,"




I will confess to not reading the magazine or the cover story.
But, doesn't it seem to you that  whenever Time has a cover story
like this that the opposite is about to occur?

Let's harken back to June of 2005.









"Why we're going
gaga over real estate"









Twelve months later, housing prices were in a free-fall.

I had been thinking that the stablization of housing prices
was several years out. 

The appearance of the September 6th cover, has me
reconsidering;  thinking that maybe by this time next year
prices will have stabilized.

Still won't be buying their magazine.

The Pride of Licking County.......................

The Licking County Courthouse.  Build 1876-1878 for the
princely sum of $190,000.  It is a treasure, inside and
outside.
















































Thanks to Arnie Shaheen for caring enough to put these
pictures on his web site.  Extended pictorial tour- here.



Then there is Christmas Time................















Thanks to the Courthouse Lighting Committee

Emerson redux..................

Faithful readers will know that Emerson is a favorite.  It is
always nice to see others quote him- here.

Ziggy...................

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The impact of great influences.........

A number of years ago I read Julia Cameron's Vein of Gold.  In
the book she championed the idea of "morning pages".  Essentially,
one wakes up, goes to a desk, sits down with pen and paper,
and then writes.  Not great literature, just what comes to mind.
Stream of consciousness writing, a dumping if you will, until
such time as you have written three pages.

For two years I did just that, five or six days a week.  It is a
great practice.  First and foremost, it is a discipline thing but
with great and therapeutic side benefits.  It is also hard work. 
Eventually, I stopped. I've noticed that disciplines lost are often
difficult to regain.

A month or so ago I read Pressfield's The War of Art.  His
great descriptions of the battles with Resistance encouraged
me to re-start my "morning pages".  For the past three weeks
I've gotten up a little earlier than usual, and have been
writing my three pages.

You may not have noticed, but it was really tired out this
morning.  I longed to roll over and sleep for another hour.
But, the stirrings of a habit got me out of bed, put me at
the desk with pen and paper.  Still thinking that this is
ridiculous, you're really tired, go back to bed, I turned on
the computer to see what Nicholas Bate had to say this
morning.  I was greeted by his post titled 30 Reasons to
Write. More, More  Often, More Widely .  Wow.  Talk
about good timing.  Here are some excerpts:

      "Discover more about who you are. Clarify your thinking.
      Muse.  Be creative. Be private. . Wonder. Storm ideas.
      Generate scenarios for discussion.  Surprise yourself. 
      Experiment. Break out the demons. Record your thoughts.
      Tell stories. List dreams. List opportunities. Develop a
      chain of thought. Develop something from nothing.
      Discover what you are really passionate about. Pursue
      the germ of a possibility. Frankly: why not? Know this
      is what you have to do. Realise it's actually critical to
      your well-being."

Going from feeling wrung out with nothing to say, I started to
list opportunities.  Not only was it the fastest writing of three
"morning pages" ever, but spending time with my
"opportunities" feels energizing, invigorating, and just plain
healthy.

Great influences change things, even if it's just the context.
Here is a big Thank You to all my great "influencers".


Keep your slate clean............

Enjoy this blog on a regular basis. 

Megan McArdle talks taxes and small busines.........

"Small business owners have a bunch of fixed costs, like their
mortgages, their kids' schools, etc. I'm not arguing whether
they deserve to live in a big house, or send their kids to
Catholic school, or drive a lovely car. I'm only arguing that
they often do those things, and over the last ten years, they
have undertaken fixed obligations based around their after-tax
disposable income. For your typical small business owner, that
after-tax disposable income is the corporate profits, less their
personal income taxes, minus any investment they want to do
(which is not necessarily immediately tax deductible). Small
businesses tend to be structured as pass-through corporations,
with the income taxed at ordinary income rates.

"So what does it mean if their taxes go up? If you reduce their
after tax income, you may have a negative effect in one of two
ways. First of all, you reduce the future return on investments
they make now. If they sacrifice a given amount of after-tax
income now, they end up with less after-tax income in the future.
On the margin, some people will probably decide to use that
money for current consumption rather than investment.

"The other way you may lower investment or job creation is
simply that you leave less money on the table to be invested.
Owners who have fixed expenses that they cannot easily reduce
will take the money out of the business now, even if it
potentially costs them later.


"Will this marginal effect bring America to its knees? Hardly.
But will it deter productivity and employment enhancing
investment? Almost certainly."

Don't think my house is all that big, or my "pre-owned" car fancy,
but my "fixed obligations" feel real enough.

Full essay here

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"There's so much said today about leadership. But I don't think in business you can forget the fact that you don't just have to lead, you have to manage."

So says Mike Duke, the new CEO of Wal-Mart.  Interesting
feature story about Duke's leadership and management style,
here.

Did you know that for Wal-Mart to "increase revenue by a
modest 3% this year, for instance, Wal-Mart would have to
produce additional sales of some $12 billion."?

As a dedicated Wal-Mart shopper, I am pleased to note that
they are reversing the silly decision to cut the number of different
items offered in the grocery side of their super-stores. I am now
willing to do my part in their generating $12 billion in new sales.

Nostalgia strikes...........













Thanks American Digest

And I thought housing prices were unsustainable..............

One in college, two on the way.  Hope this bubble
pops soon.














Thanks Considerations

"So one day I seized a hatchet........"

    "Zorba was also turning yellow and green.  His sparkling
eyes ere dulled.  It was only towards the evening that his eyes
brightened again,  He pointed out two dolphins, leaping
through the water alongside the ship.
     "Dolphins!" he exclaimed joyously.
     I noticed for the first time that almost half of the index
finger on is left hand was missing.  I started and felt sick.
     "What happened to your finger, Zorba?" I cried.
     "Nothing," he replied, offended that I had not shown
more delight in the dolphins.
     "Did you get it caught in a machine?" I insisted.
     "What ever are you going on about machines for? I cut
it off myself."
      "Yourself?  Why?"
     "You can't understand, boss!" he said, shrugging his
shoulders.  "I told you that I had been in every trade.  Once
I was a potter.  I was mad about the craft.  D'you realize
what it means to take a lump of mud and make what you
will out of it?  Ffrr!  You turn the wheel and the mud
whirls round, as if it were possessed while you stand over
it and say:  I'm going to make a jug, I'm going to make a
plate, I'm going to make a lamp and the devil knows what
more!  That's what you might call being a man:  freedom!"
     He had forgotten the sea, he was no longer biting the
lemon, his eyes had become clear again.
     "Well?" I asked.  "What about you finger?"
     "Oh, it got in the way in the wheel.  It always got plumb
in the middle of things and upset my plans.  So one day I
seized a hatchet....."
     "Didn't it hurt you?"
     "What d'you mean?  I am not a tree trunk.  I'm a man.
Of course it hurt me.  But it got in my way at the wheel,
so I cut it off."
      The sun went down and the sea became calmer.  The
clouds dispersed.  The evening star shone, I looked at the sea,
I looked at the sky and began to reflect.....To love like that,
to take the hatchet and chop and feel the pain.....But I
hid my emotion."

-Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some things bear repeating...................

"We’re  a society that doesn’t like the fact that some times are
tough and some people have to feel pain. Our laudable
tendency for social compassion has become complete
avoidance of any problems, along with political and
financial absolution for any mistakes, even the ones we bring
on ourselves. Unfortunately, social compassion isn’t an
economic policy.  Good emotions often lead to bad market
interventions and unintended consequences that mostly make
things even worse."

As promised, this re-run comes from a September 7th post
quoting Mathew Ferrara.  Full post here.

Some statistics I would like to see.................

1.  The percentage of home owners whose houses are "free and
     clear".

2.   The percentage of home owners who have owned their homes
      since before the year 2000.

3.   The percentage of home owners who have refinanced within
       the past ten years, but did not take any equity out with the
       refinance.

4.    The percentage of home owners with mortgages that are not
       in default.

Just read a blog post titled "Will the American Nightmare Ever Be
Over?"   The essence of the essay is that the American Dream of
home ownership has become the American Nightmare.  Excerpts
here:

     Housing had been a good bet for much of the 20th Century. 

     And then the boom years hit. As this decade progressed, the
     mantra of “home ownership at all costs” pervaded the
     American mindset, largely due to government policy of
     promoting home ownership, declining interest rates and
    relaxed lending standards. Folks who bought homes as early
    as the mid- to late 1990s saw huge returns when they sold
    them a decade later.

     Everyone and anyone, it seemed, who could secure a
     mortgage did so and paid high prices for houses, believing
    they would continue to appreciate. Existing home owners
    also took advantage of mortgage rates and used their homes
    as ATMs, drawing money out for anything from home
    improvements and college tuition to vacations and plastic
    surgery.
   
     Then the financial crisis hit, triggered primarily by those
    same relaxed—and, some would say, irresponsible—lending
    standards.

    
    Simply put, the overinflated housing bubble finally popped.

Yes it did.  The author continued the essay with mostly anecdotal
stories about the hardships caused by the popped bubble.  Then
ends with this:

     When will home ownership, which has become a nightmare
     for many, regain its title as the American Dream? Or, will it
     ever?

I'm one of those people who believe that definitions matter.  To
me the American Dream is not "home ownership at all costs."

Some other day I will regale you with my interpretation of
the American Dream.  For now, I'm just saying that the current
crisis in the housing market- the "nightmare" - is the result of bad
psychology, bad public policy, bad behavior, and mass hysteria
acting in concert.  But not all home owners are players in this
drama.  In fact, I suspect the majority of American home owners
are not players in this drama.  Hence, my desire to see those
statistics mentioned above.

My guess is that home ownership is still performing its core
duties as well as ever.  Short term wealth creation was just
never one of those duties.  The fact that the market behaved
as it did from 2000 to 2006 was the aberration.  We are
going through a well earned correction right now.

It won't be painless, this not-so-gentle reminder that actions
and behaviors have consequences. But, the "nightmare" will
end when the bad psychology, bad public policy, bad
behavior, and mass hysteria are fully wrung out of the
marketplace. 

I think.

So.....this is a surprise?

From the op-ed pages of the New York Times, an essay on an
unintended (we hope) consequence of new regulatory activity. 
Damned if you do, damned it you don't.

     "Nobody wants another economic collapse a decade down
     the road. But that’s no reason to stifle the recovery. In
     forcing banks to sit on their money, the government and
     the bank regulators have not considered the effect of their
     actions on the nation’s money supply and the economy as
     a whole."

  
Full opinion here.

Glenn Beck.....................this is special

"The world has once again come to a point where it cowers at
best and, at worst, appeases crazy and dangerous men of all
philosophies of God and man. We must again link arms and unite
despite our differences against evils that only wish to destroy or
enslave no matter the god they hide behind. “The truth shall set
you free” is more than a phrase - it is a universal principle that
cannot be changed by a bonfire or suicide vest."

Full essay here

Monday, September 13, 2010

A friend worth having...................

David Klauder, a man I have long considered a mentor, died
recently.  His body lived 86 years.  His spirit, not quite that long.
At his memorial reception, I gave his wife of forever a hug and
told her how sorry I was.  Dottie responded with a "thank you"
and said, "he is free.  He is so happy to be free.  I might cry, but
I am so happy for him."   Wow.

I first met David in 1977.  I was 25 and trying to figure out my
life.  My two previous jobs had been fun, but neither seemed
right for a career.  I had taken the required real estate classes
and was ready to sit for the State's licensure exam.  All that was
needed was a sponsoring broker's signature on the application.
David was the broker/owner of a very small real estate company
in Granville, Ohio.  Our first conversation went something like
this, "would you sign as sponsoring broker?" "What makes you
think you can sell real estate?"  "I just spent eighteen months
selling the Newark Advocate.  If I could sell that, I can sell
real estate." "Ok, where do I sign?"

I passed the test on August 2, 1977.  A week later I was sitting in
the Century 21 Corner Real Estate office ready to sell real estate. 
Raw, green, and clueless- but eager to learn and willing to work.

In our first conversation David had made it clear that he had
little interest personally in selling real estate and even less
interest in training me to sell real estate.  He was a truthful man. 

His top salesman was willing to guide me, show me the ropes,
and generally keep me pointed in the right  direction.  But beyond
that, it was sink or swim.  Learn by doing- and by watching.

Our office was large enough for  five desks.  Office cubicles had
not yet made their way to Granville, so there was little privacy.  
For three years, I got to watch David work.  It changed my life.

He was a real estate developer creating small residential sub-
divisions.  He was a home builder, building several homes a year. 
He was an entrepreneur, owning the very fine Bryn Mawr
Restaurant outside of Granville.  He was an artist,  a performer,
playing his clarinet in a band with some of his cronies or acting in
the local summer theatre.  He was a businessman/philanthropist,
owning the small real estate brokerage that he never made any
real money from, but kept open out of loyalty to the people
working for him.  He was an experiencer, a willing and capable
conversationalist, and a serious minded man with a wide playful
streak and a zest for life.

At his best, David was a problem solver.  He had the ability to
truly focus on a problem.  To really chew on it.  Then to mull over
the various solutions, and the problems that  those solutions
would bring.  Then to let it all sit.  Then to decide.  Then to act.
He seemed most alive when confronted with a worthy challenge.

He lived his life by his own lights.  He did it his way.  I have heard
self-actualization defined as "living independent of the good
opinion of other people".  While he may not have cared about
pleasing others, he cared about others.  He paid attention to
people.  He was  loyal friend. 

David once described Granville as "a good place to hide", but he
was open to the world.  He saw a significant part of it, taking
his family on really long trips through South America and Europe.
He was an early buyer of Japanese imported cars because of
their superior gas mileage.  It was not a money thing, gas cost
$.75 a gallon when he told me that.  It was a "let's not be
needlessly wasteful, let's preserve the natural resources" thing.

David was never an overt teacher.  He never said to me, "do
this" or "don't do this".  He never preached. He taught by
example. He let me see him succeed and he let me see him
fail.  He was fully human.

He synthesised an eclectic mix of interests and skills into a useful
and productive life.  I am grateful for his life and example.  I am
happy that he is free again.

Thanks, David.

How do you thank someone................?

A poem for David...................

The other boot doesn't drop from heaven.
I've made this path and nobody else
leading crookedly up through the pasture
where I'll never reach the top of Antelope Butte.
It is here where my mind begins to learn
my heart's language on this endless
wobbly path, veering south and north
informed by my all-too-vivid dreams
which are a compass without a needle.
Today the gods speak in drunk talk
pulling at a heart too old for this walk,
a cold windy day kneeling at the mouth
of the snake den where they killed 800 rattlers.
Moving higher my thumping chest recites the names
of a dozen friends who have died in recent years,
names now incomprehensible as the mountains
across the river far behind me.
I'll always be walking up toward Antelope Butte.
Perhaps when we die our names are taken
from us by a divine magnet and are free
to flutter here and there within the bodies
of birds.  I'll be a simple crow
who can reach the top of Antelope Butte.

-Hard Times, by Jim Harrison

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How I spent my Saturday..............

My sweetie and I enjoyed a fine late summer
afternoon in Columbus.  A little rain never hurt
anybody, certainly not the 105,545 nice folks at
the game with us.

The dotting of the "i", as The Best Damn Band In
The Land completes Script Ohio.
















Rascal Flatts singing the National Anthem
















The Kickoff
















Great seats!  Thanks Don and Pat!
















Final Score   Ohio State  36           Miami  24

Go Bucks!          

Sound(s) of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel's classic 1965 effort.  There is no good to
come from second guessing previous posts, but..... when I was
13, I really liked this song.


In lieu of a Verse, a Sufi poem................