Saturday, October 9, 2010

A "valuable brain tonic"..................

And, from our friends at Wikipedia

"Invention of Coca-Cola

In April 1865, Pemberton was wounded in the Battle of
Columbus, Georgia, and like many wounded veterans he
became addicted to morphine. After the war Pemberton knew
he had a problem so he became a pharmacist at the Eagle
Drug & Chemical Company in Columbus. Searching for
a cure for this addiction, he began experimenting with coca
and coca wines, eventually creating his own version of Vin
Mariani, containing kola nut and damiana, which he called
Pemberton's French Wine Coca.[4][5]

With public concern about drug addiction, depression and
alcoholism among veterans, and 'neurasthenia' among
'highly-strung' Southern women,[6] his medicinal concoction
was advertised as being particularly beneficial for "ladies,
and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous
 prostration, irregularities of the stomach, bowels and kidneys,
who require a nerve tonic and a pure, delightful diffusable

In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted
temperance legislation, Pemberton produced a nonalcoholic
alternative to his French Wine Coca. Frank Mason Robinson
came up with the name "Coca-Cola" for the alliterative sound,
which was popular among other wine medicines of the time.
Although the name quite clearly refers to the two main
ingredients, the controversy over cocaine content would later
prompt The Coca-Cola Company to state that it is "meaning-
less but fanciful". Robinson also hand wrote the Spencerian
script on the bottles and ads. Pemberton also made many
health claims for his product and marketed it as 'delicious,
refreshing, exhilarating, invigorating' and touted it as a
'valuable brain tonic' that would cure headaches, relieve
exhaustion and calm nerves.

The original formula allegedly called for 8.46 mg of cocaine,
while an average dose of the street drug is between 15 and
35 mg. However, the effects of the coca leaf is greatly com-
pounded by the presence of caffeine from the kola nut. Coca-
Cola was originally advertised as a cure for morphine and
opium addictions among a multitude of other health benefits."

Memo to kids: Do your homework

Thanks, as always, to Calculated Risk.

Don't let me forget........................

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Pride of Philadelphia

Eugene Ormandy conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra, as they
visit Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky.  A pretty fair violinist sits in. 

In praise of good managers.................

Jeffrey Barrett manages the Newark office of Coldwell Banker
King Thompson, one of the stronger offices for one of the
stronger residential real estate brokerages around these parts.

Favorite blogger Mathew Ferarra's post on Wednesday talked
about an undercurrent of stress and malaise that he is sensing
throughout the entire residential real estate world.  It is a post
worth reading, here

Excerpts here:

"I’m beginning to think it’s a psychological effect, a sort of
post-traumatic stress disorder affecting a large group of over-
worked, under-paid and constantly-targeted entrepreneurs
called REALTORS. Maybe it was what caused one student
recently to take me aside after a workshop in Minneapolis and
say, “Thanks for making me laugh for a couple of hours.”
Sure, she appreciated the skills and ideas she learned, but
more importantly, right now, she just needed to laugh.

It almost made me cry.

Whatever it is, it’s dangerous, this thing in the air
surrounding the housing industry. It’s got a lot of people
teetering: trying to make sense of a different set of answers
every day, always changing, never certain, stable, consistent –
or sensible – is more dangerous than any wave of foreclosures
or lengthening of the hidden inventory shadows........

But whatever it is, it doesn’t have to win, wear us down, or
spoil one more day. I think it can be fought off with a simple,
funny video – shared with our social network. Or a kind word
or encouragement spoken in our office meetings. Maybe even
a politically incorrect hug (agents aren’t employees, so maybe
we won’t have any lawsuits). Perhaps a cheesy joke in a mid-
week blog post can spark a smile or two."

I would think that the cure for "post-traumatic stress disorder
affecting a large group of over-worked, under-paid and
constantly-targeted entrepreneurs called REALTORS" is
having a good office manager.

Real estate sales is a business like none other.  In the morning
you might compete against an agent for a listing assignment. 
That very afternoon you might have to cooperate with that very
same agent on a sale.   Your competitor/cooperator agent may
work for your company, or may work for a competitor's
company.  It does get interesting and it can get stressful- even
in a good economy.

Managing agents can be like herding cats. After all, they are
Independent contractors (with a capital I).

But, a good manager......well, a good manager can make all the
difference.  While there undoubtedly is a need for technical and
professional expertise, setting the tone, the atmosphere, the
attitude of the office may be the manager's most critical task.

A manager that creates a positive, optimistic, smiling, sharing,
problem-solving, goal-setting, and client-serving atmosphere,
will not only have a successful office, but is also going to make
coming to work fun!

Not only is Jeffrey Barrett a successful manager, he is fun
personified. I mean, really, look at the picture.  Instant
stress relief.

Fresh from Korea........Mega Mart?

Saw the head line.  Thought "wow",  if little old central Licking
County has two Wal-Marts that are each 204,000 square feet,
then a Mega Mart opening in Atlanta must be enormous.

Story here.

Turns out to only be 150,000 square feet of space on two levels. 
Selling groceries and family apparel and sushi.

It will be interesting to see how well they fare in America.

And now......a word from our sponsors....

Everything you need to know about the forclosure mess................

Where would we be without all the politicians jumping on the
band wagon to halt foreclosures?...................probably a lot
better off.

Two excellent essays- here (Paul Jackson at the Housing Wire)
and here (Richard Epstein at Forbes).

Excerpt here:

"Regardless, the inconvenient truth here is that until we allow
this billions of dollars worth of bad mortgage debt to truly
course through our economic veins, to work itself out, we
won’t see an economic recovery. Deleveraging privately —
and now, through transfer of debt, publicly — is a
necessary prerequisite to future economic growth in our

Foreclosures, then, aren’t really the enemy at our gates;
they’re instead a necessary and healthy indicator of market
correction. They are proof that our nation’s well-developed
system of private property rights is, indeed, actually
working as it should.

But our government has instead made foreclosures into a
“last stop” measure instead, something to be avoided at all
costs as well as something that probably rates just below
Big Tobacco on most American’s scale of corporate
loathing — this is a huge mistake, as NYU law professor
Richard Epstein notes in a brilliant column published in
Forbes magazine.

By giving in to sensationalism over robo-signers and who
notarized what, we’ve allowed procedural gaffes to
substitute for true substance. And we’ve forgotten why those
procedures really exist in the first place — not to protect the
hapless borrower, who has already defaulted, but to instead
protect our nation’s sacred system of land rights. To protect
the foundations of our very democracy."

Thursday, October 7, 2010


More of those silly rules............or, be careful what you ask for......

"No bathing suits allowed in the Lobby"

Thanks Grant

Aesop's Fable, "The Crow and the Pitcher"....

     Once there was a thirsty crow.  She had flown a long way
looking for water to drink.
     Suddenly she saw a pitcher.  She flew down and saw it
held a little water, but it was so low in the pitcher that she
could not reach it.
     "But I must have that water," she cried, "I am too
weary to fly father,  What shall I do?  I know!  I'll tip the
pitcher over."
     She beat it with her wings, but it was too heavy,  She
could not move it.
     The she thought awhile, "I know now! I will break it!
Then I will drink the water as it pours out.  How good it
will taste!"
     With beak and claws and wings she threw herself
against the pitcher.  But it was too strong.
     The poor crow stopped to rest.  "What shall I do
now?  I cannot die of thirst with water close by.  There
must be a way, if only I had wit enough to find it out."
     Pondering, the crow received a bright idea.  There
were many small stones lying about.  She picked them
up one by one and dropped them in the pitcher.   Slowly
the water rose, till at last she could drink it.  How good
it tasted!
     "There is always a way out of hard places." said the
crow, "if only you have the wit to find it."

At the intersection where "modern individualism and the essential institutions of modern life" meet.........

............we find Georg W. F. Hegel?

Interesting essay by J. M. Bernstein, Hegel on Wall Street, makes
the philosophical case for stronger regulation of "Wall Street"- here.

Longish excerpt here:

"The function of Wall Street is the allocation of capital; as
Adam Smith instructed, Wall Street's task is to get capital to
wherever it will do the most good in the production of goods
and services.  When the financial sector is fulfilling its function
well, an individual banker succeeds only if he is routinely
successful in placing investors' capital in businesses that over
time are profitable.....In this simplified scenario, Wall Street
profits are tightly bound to the extra wealth produced by
successful industries.

Every account of the financial crisis points to a terrifying
series of structures that all have the same character: the
profit-driven actions of the financial sector became
increasingly detached from their function of supporting
and advancing the growth of capital.....A system of
compensation that provides huge bonuses based on short-
term profits necessarily ignores the long-term interests
of investors.  As does a system that ignores the credit-
worthiness of borrowers; allows credit rating agencies to
be paid by those they rate and encourages the creation of
highly complex and deceptive financial instruments.  In
each case, the actions- and profits- of the financial agents
became insulated from both the interests of investors and
the wealth-creating needs of industry."

Short excerpt here:

"This is not a matter of balancing the interests of free-
market inventiveness against the need for stability; nor
is it a matter of a clash between the ideology of the free-
market versus the ideology of government control........
Rather, as Hegel would have insisted, regulation is the
force of reason needed to undo the concoctions of fantasy."

Speaking of Hegel...................

"Freedom, on the other hand, is focused liberty that exists
within a structure of rights, privileges, rules, expectations,
trust, and cooperation- in short, within an ethical and
political community.  Hegel's firm belief was that this
structure is best provided by a state, or rather is a state,
whose laws define the legitimate and illegitimate expressions
of freedom.  Laws, for him, are not abstract or arbitrary
prescriptions, imposed by some remote authority as
constraints that merely encumber people's lives and
stifle individuality.  On the contrary, they are the pre-
eminent manifestation of people's wills, the true
expression of freedom directed toward its own necessary
self-restraint and rational guidance................"

The Accessible Hegel, Michael Allen Fox

Then, for those who do not care for Hegel, there is this beauty
from (maybe an embittered) Arthur Schopenhauer:

"But the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense,
in scrabbling together senseless and maddening webs of
words, such as had been previously heard only in mad-
houses, finally appeared in Hegel.  It became the instrument
of the most ponderous and general mystification that has
ever existed, with the result that will seem incredible to
posterity, and be a lasting monument of German stupidity."

Wonder how he really felt?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pride of Philadephia................

The Soul Survivors classic hit from 1967

"Creative Destruction".............

"But in capitalist reality as distinguished from its textbook
picture, it is not that kind of (price) competition which counts
but the competition from the new commodity, the new
technology, the new source of supply, the new type of
organization.......competition which commands a decisive
cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the
margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms
but at their foundations and their very lives."

-Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, by Joseph A.

Wishful thinking......................?

Our friends at Keeping Current Matters have a superb blog.
If you follow this blog, you know I reference their posts from
time to time.  However...............

Their recent post quotes John Paulson as saying, “If you don’t
own a home, buy one. If you own one home, buy another one.
And if you own two homes, buy a third and lend your
relatives the money to buy one.”

Now, John Paulson is one smart guy.  He made more money
than the average bear by being one of the first to bet against
the sub-prime mortgage market.  Paulson sees inflation coming.
He is hugely into hard assets- like gold and real estate.  Maybe
I am misinterpreting what is being said, but it sure seems like
Paulson sees a big spike in value coming and KCM is urging us
on to take advantage of it.

Real estate values are highly location specific, so Paulson's
quote might be gospel for his neighborhood.  But, in the
average real estate market, more caution might be warranted.

For real estate values to increase substantially, at least four
things must happen. 

First, the supply of buyers must exceed the supply of sellers. 
With the incredible oversupply of sellers today,  the real estate
market is likely to stay a bargain hunters paradise through at
least the end of  2011. 

Second, inflation has to pick up it's pace.  While all the models
would suggest that inflation must be coming, this blogger is more
worried today about deflation than inflation. 

Third, interest rates would need to stay at historic low levels.  An
 increase in mortgage rates to say 8%  reduces the ability of many
a buyer to pay inflated prices.  If inflation rears it head, don't you
think interest rates will be going up too? 

Fourth, the employment picture needs to improve.   The
economy today is in a shambles because too many people bought,
and/or mortgaged, real estate based on jobs that just evaporated.

 If one wants to emulate Paulson, you would do well to
remember that "a whopping 80% of his assets are in gold."

If you want to buy a house, it is an excellent time to do so.
I agree.  The selection is plentiful, prices have moderated
(and may go a bit lower), interest rates are at historic lows,
and there are plenty of excellent Realtors ready to make the
whole process flow easily.

Just remember (unless you are planning to rent it out), it is a
home you are buying.  In due time it may become a good
investment, but if you buy with visions of new found wealth
dancing in your head........well, good luck to you.

Accentuating the positive.................

..........there is some good news out there.  Actually, lots of it.
For a really long list of things to be happy about go here.

A few quick samples here:

Economic output of the average American worker is 10 times
that in China. Americans won 30 Nobel prizes in science and
economics during the past five years. China?…just one

Violent crime in the U.S. declined during 2009 for the third
consecutive year. Reported property crime is at a 20-year low

Even as U.S. economic output (GDP) has climbed by more
than 210% since 1970, aggregate emission of six principal air
pollutants has plunged by 60%

During the early 1960s, the five-year survival rate from
cancer for Americans was one in three. Today it is two in
three…continuing to climb…and the highest in the world

For every dollar of U.S. economic output generated today,
we burn less than half as much oil as 30 years ago
Men’s contribution to housework has doubled over the
past 40 years, while their time spent on child care has

Roughly 47% of science and engineering degrees of those
ages 25 to 39 are held by women, compared with 21% among
those 65 and older

America produces more steel today than 30 years ago,
despite the shuttered plants and slimmed-down work force

The U.S. accounted for nearly one-third of the $1.1 trillion
spent globally on research & development in the latest data

Donations to charity were near the all-time high in 2009,
with nearly $304 billion donated by individuals, foundations,
and corporations. As a percentage of GDP, Americans gave
twice as much as the next most charitable nation…England.
In 1964, there were 15,000 U.S. foundations. By 2001, there
were 61,000

U.S. exports to China have risen roughly 24% per year since
2001, making China the fastest growing market for U.S. goods

The number of American volunteers rose 2.0% to 61.8 million
in 2008. Among young adults, the number of volunteers rose

Average U.S. life expectancy has reached 78 years (men 75,
women 80), the highest ever. This compares to 76 years in
1995, 68 years in 1950, and 47 years in 1900

Roughly 30% of trash was recycled or composted in the
latest year, versus 16% in 1990

A record 50.5 million foreigners visited the U.S. during

Thanks to my favorite economic futurist, Jeff Thredgold, for
the data.

Oh, here is something to look forward to................

"There is a massive political blame game going on now
pointing at Wall St, the US financial markets, subprime, and
those of us who played a role in the bubble. The reality is
everyone is to blame, and we will do it all again in ten or
twenty years. While the details will be different, the basic
cycle will be the same."

Joel Ross's full rant here.  One more fun excerpt here:

"......the more things change the more they stay the same. The
politicians have not, and will not, do what is needed. They
have no brains and no guts. The bankers still don’t really get
it about how to underwrite and risk adjusted pricing, high
frequency traders are destroying the stock markets with
algorithms just the same as the math whizzes destroyed the
capital markets with fictitious models, Fin Reg is a mix of
good  and terrible, and Obamacare will create the next
black hole entitlement program."

I wonder if he walks around with a smile on his face?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For my sweetie..................

The thing I liked about playing goalie.....

.....(in lacrosse) was the immediate feedback one received.  You
either made the save, or you didn't.  The ultimate in "the buck
stops here".  No pointing fingers, no one else to blame.  You
either make the save, or you don't.  Simple.

One of the best net minders ever was born on this day in 1965.
Hockey was never a sport I played, but I have loved watching
it ever since the Bobby Clarke/Bernie Parent days of the
Philadelphia Flyers.  Patrick Roy played with passion and set a
standard of excellence that few will ever match.  I always
found myself rooting for him.  Enjoy the highlights.

....he set in motion a mysterious.............

"Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth:  that by
performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and
starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but
infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration,
as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with
his.  He knew if he built it, she would come."

"...the professional has learned that success, like happiness,
comes as a by-product of work.  The professional
concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or
not come, whatever they like."

- The War of Art,   Stephen Pressfield

We are often confused about what true "strength" is.............

Seth Godin's post yesterday was titled Demonstrating Strength.
After reading some Gandhi over the weekend, I'm pretty sure
he would agree with Seth's summary of how to.


Defer to others

Avoid shortcuts

Tell the truth

Offer kindness

Seek alliances

Volunteer to take the short straw

Choose the long-term, sacrificing the short

Demonstrate respect to all, not just the obviously strong

Share credit and be public in your gratitude

Risking the appearance of weakness takes strength.
And the market knows it.

Just because I'm biased doesn't make me wrong..........

Licking County is fortunate to have Rick Platt at the helm
of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority.

His blog is pretty good too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Pride of Philadelphia.....................

The Dovells and the Bristol Stomp

Thanks for reminding me Eric

This may raise a few eyebrows...................

A few excerpts from Rethinking Federal Housing Policy:
How to Make Housing Plentiful and Affordable by
Edward L. Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko

"The current collapse of the housing market and of traditional
mainstays of federal housing policy like Freddie Mac and
Fannie Mae calls for a radical rethinking of housing  policy. 

"This is exactly the right time to reevaluate how the federal
government can make housing more affordable without
new institutions which put future taxpayers in jeopardy.

"The first step is to recognize that true affordability is more
likely to come from improving supply than subsidizing demand. 

"Today, local governments are making land-use decisions that
may be in the interests of their own communities, but that are
not in the interest of the nation as a whole. 

"NIMBYism (not-in-my-backyard philosophy) may be locally
popular, but it is a poor basis for national housing policy. 
The proper role of the federal government is to lean against
the local tendency to block new projects."

Perceptions matter.....................

"....psychology matters a lot. It makes no difference what your
politics are. What matters is the widespread perception that
this administration is bad for business and bad for investors,
and that is what is causing this period of putting everything
on hold."

So opines Joel Ross on his blog at Globe Street, full essay here
Continuation of his rant here:

"Perception is reality. Like me, many people who started
with  nothing, and spent their careers working their butt off
and risking everything to succeed, are deeply offended by a
president who now vilifies our achievements, and wants to
take our hard earned money and redistribute it to all those
who did not do the things we had to do to get where we are.
Many of us with incomes over $250,000 earned every single
penny we have, we did not break any laws, we did not take
any government money. We just worked hard and sacrificed
to do it, and now we are very angry that the government in
power is attacking our achievements. That was the over-
whelming view I heard over and over at the conference,
and this was not a group of tea party activists nor were
they necessarily Republicans.

A poem for Monday..........


The October air was warm and musky, blowing
Over brown fields, heavy with the fragrance
Of freshly combined beans, the breath of harvest.

He was pulling a truckload onto the scales
At the elevator near the rail siding north of town
When a big Cadillac drove up. A man stepped out,
Wearing a three-piece suit and a gold pinky ring.
The man said he had just invested a hundred grand
In soybeans and wanted to see what they looked like.

The farmer stared at the man and was quiet, reaching
For the tobacco in the rear pocket of his jeans,
Where he wore his only ring, a threadbare circle rubbed
By working cans of dip and long rows on the backside
Of a hundred acre run. He scooped up a handful
Of small white beans, the pearls of the prairie, saying:

Soybeans look like a foot of water on the field in April
When you're ready to plant and can't get in;
Like three kids at the kitchen table
Eating macaroni and cheese five nights in a row,
Or like a broken part on the combine when
Your credit with the implement dealer is nearly tapped.

Soybeans look like prayers bouncing off the ceiling
When prices on the Chicago grain market start to drop,
Or like your old man's tears when you tell him
How much the land might bring for subdivisions.
Soybeans look like the first good night of sleep in weeks
When you unload at the elevator and the kids get Christmas.

He spat a little juice on the tire of the Cadillac,
Laughing despite himself and saying to the man:
Now maybe you can tell me what a hundred grand looks like.

-Thomas Alan Orr

A belated birthday recognition..............

Mohandes K. Gandhi,
seeker of truth and simplicity,
proponent of non-violent
resistance to tyranny and
injustice, and believer in
equality and brotherhood,
was born October 2,

The world was vastly
improved by his life.

A few more quotes:
"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way
of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants
and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in
the end, they always fall — think of it, always."

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no
causes that I am prepared to kill for."

"I believe in the doctrine of non-violence as a weapon of the
weak.  I believe in the doctrine of non-violence as a weapon
of the strongest.  I believe that a man is the strongest soldier
for daring to die unarmed."

"I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all
humility, that those who say that religion has nothing
to do with politics do not know what religion means."

"To call women the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice
to woman.  If by strength is meant brute strength, then indeed
woman is less brute than man.  If by strength is meant moral
power, then woman is immeasurable man's superior."

"I came to the conclusion long ago....that all religions were
true, and also that all had some error in them."

"We do not know the laws of God nor their working. 
Knowledge of tallest scientist or the spiritualist (should this
perhaps be 'the most learned theologian'?) is like a particle
of dust.  If God is not a personal being to me, like my
earthly father, he is infinitely more.  He rules me in the
tiniest details of my daily life.  I believe literally that not a
leaf moves but by his will. Every breath I take depends on
his sufferance."

Charlton Heston, born this day in 1923......