Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to John Phillip Sousa.....

John Phillip Sousa was born
this day in 1854.

Known as "The March King",
Sousa was an American
composer and conductor.

His specialty was military
and patriotic music.

Incredible listing of his
compositions, here.

In 1966 the Ardmore Junior High School band marched in
the Memorial Day parade in Narberth, Pa.  I was playing
(not particularly well) third trumpet that day when we performed
Stars and Stripes Forever.  I think of Sousa being more brass
than violin and piccolo, but who am I to argue with Leonard
Bernstein.  Enjoy!

"Failure: The Secret to Success"

"You're constantly on the brink of crashing, because that's the
fastest." - Danica Patrick

Thanks Sean.    Double click to enlarge.

Keith Olberman suspended without pay........?

News travels slow to my part of the world, but apparently the
MSNBC host of Countdown has been suspended because he,
without permission from atop, donated money to several
candidates in last Tuesday's election.

The TigerHawk blog has a classic response to this, here.

Fun excerpt:

"I'm not among his viewers, so I don't really have skin in the
game, but it seems to me that suspending Olbermann for not
disclosing political contributions to Democrats is a little like
suspending a WWE referee for not disclosing that the pro
wrestling matches have pre-arranged choreography and out-
comes -- I mean, duh. You're not watching Keith Olbermann
to get objective reporting, you're watching him (or not) to see
him express a particular progressive viewpoint in his own
unique fashion. He has a certain niche, and occupies it in a way
that has turned out to be a good living for the man, for a
period of time. Of course he's going to contribute money to
Democratic candidates."

"Justice for all"

Washington's Blog says that we have to prosecute fraud or our
economy won't recover.  Here.  How about we prosecute fraud
regardless?  I'm not a prosecutor, or an attorney, but I would
sure like to know how selling an investment as "AAA", when
it was so obviously not, does not amount to fraud.  Just

Excerpts from the essay:

And Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has
demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals -
and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more
economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in
the future.


I know so many people who say it's an outrage that we had
more accountability in the '80's with the S&L crisis than we
are having today. Yeah, we fine them, and what is the big
lesson? Behave badly, and the government might take 5% or
10% of what you got in your ill-gotten gains, but you're still
sitting home pretty with your several hundred million dollars
that you have left over after paying fines that look very large
by ordinary standards but look small compared to the amount
that you've been able to cash in.


So the system is set so that even if you're caught, the penalty
is just a small number relative to what you walk home with.

The fine is just a cost of doing business. It's like a parking
fine. Sometimes you make a decision to park knowing that
you might get a fine because going around the corner to the
parking lot takes you too much time.


But there's a broader sense of collateral damage that I think
that has not really been taken on board. And that is confidence
in our legal system, in our rule of law, in our system of justice.
When you say the Pledge of Allegiance you say, with "justice
for all." People aren't sure that we have justice for all.
Somebody is caught for a minor drug offense, they are sent to
prison for a very long time. And yet, these so-called white-
collar crimes, which are not victimless, almost none of these
guys, almost none of them, go to prison.

The world according to Jessica.............

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vanilla Fudge.....................

These guys played at the first rock concert I ever attended.
I think it was at the Spectrum. 1968 Maybe the Chambers
Brothers, and Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company
 were on the bill as well.  I was in way over my head.

Creating a fun customer experience.......

Thanks Sean

Buildings as public art.....................

Our friends at the Columbus Dispatch ran this photo in their paper
yesterday.  It is a picture of Columbus based artist Curtis
Goldstein painting a mural on a brick building at the corner of
West Main and 5th Street in downtown Newark.

Curtis Goldstein has been busy in Newark's downtown.  Below
are three additional murals he has painted over the past several
years. The murals were paid for by a local charitable foundation. 
We are a fortunate community.

These are located between Second and Third Streets on the
rear of the buildings fronting on South Park Place.  They
are worth a look see.

"Its the way you ride the trail that counts"

Roy Rogers was born, as Leonard Franklin Slye, this day in 1911.

It was a simpler time back then.  From the Roy Rogers website:

Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:

1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10. Always respect our flag and our country.


The lyrics to "Happy Trails"
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

-Dale Rogers

"Gridlock as far as the eye can see"

"No matter what happens (in 2010), for now, we can look
forward to two glorious years of hyper partisan, acrimonious
gridlock - Washington's most moral and productive state."

-David Harsanyi, as lifted from the Columbus Dispatch, 11/4/10

"..tell her that I'm well and feeling fine...."

Happy Birthday to Peter Noone, who turns 63 today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Because they could................

Speaking of great teachers..............

Spent yesterday accumulating some continuing education hours.
The State of Ohio requires all real estate licensees to obtain thirty
hours of instruction every three years.  I think they let us off too
lightly, but that is a story for another day.

Generally, the level of teaching in these classes is pretty good.  I
almost always learn something of value.

The instructor yesterday was Sean Carpenter.  I have been paying
attention to his blog (here) lately, so I wanted to meet him.   I
guess this time I actually signed up because of the teacher rather
than the course of study.  It was a good decision.

Sean started out each of his sessions with the power of the "high
five".  He wanted us to take away from the class not one thing of
value, but five things of value.  I believe that happened.

Having been licensed to sell real estate for 33 years,  I have been
known to tell new salespeople that they have a serious advantage
over me- they don't have all of my bad work habits.

Here are the main reminders I took away from Sean today:

     1.  The importance of creating a great client/customer
          experience and to have fun doing it.

     2.  That a great client/customer experience is just not about the
          sale. It is also about relationship building and problem
          solving, and to have fun doing it.

     3.  That in many ways sales is still a numbers game, and the
          most important number is how many real contacts I make
          each and every day, and to have fun doing it.

     4.  That each day needs to be planned in advance, insuring
           that time is set aside for the making of real contacts each
           and every day.

      5.  That each week needs to be planned in advance, insuring
           that time is set aside for family, fun, study, and reflection.

      6.  Prioritize by comparing each activity with the other
           activities on the schedule.  First priority is that activity
           that gets me closer to a closing.  Etc, etc......

      7.  That technology is supposed to be my servant not my
            master, and have fun using it.

      8.   Part of my job is the continuous nurturing of my
            connections, but don't forget to prune the data base.

      9.   Attitude rules.  It is not just  being positive, it is also being
            willing to a) accept new challenges, b) to push the limits
            of my envelop, and c) fail in the attempt of something
            new and worthy.

      10.  Don't wait until next year.  Do it now.  Oh, and have fun!

Thanks for your commitment to excellence Sean.  It was a
valuable day.

Financial Crisis Primer....................................

Thanks Maya

"an extraordinary example of mission creeep"



Thanks Hugh.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Feels like a John Prine kind of a day............

"....against all odds, honey we're the big door prize."

Learning to ask better questions..........

It doesn't take a lot.  One or two really great teachers can make
all the difference in the world.  Door openers, jump starters,
awakeners, exploration guides.......Our society desperately
needs these kinds of teachers.

I was blessed with a few educators during my school days who
fit that bill.  They had the notion that if their students learned to
sort things out for themselves then they were successful as
teachers.  One was Fred Brock, who taught Bible as
Literature at Lower Merion High School. Another was Bob
Toplin, a Denison University professor who taught a course called
Latin American: Evolution or Revolution (or as we
affectionately called it "Bullets or Bananas).  For a previous post
about Toplin go here, for a sample of his writings go here.  The
man was a great teacher.

Faithful readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of The
Hammock Papers.  See here for instance.  Rob had a post
titled "Plan B" on Tuesday that made me wish he had taught my
kids when they were in the fifth grade.

Rather than make you chase another link, I took the liberty
of cutting and pasting.  Enjoy!

Plan B

Nothing is as dangerous as an idea when it's the only one
you have.

- Emile Chartier

The first area of study that we tackle in Mr. Firchau's 5th
grade class is problem solving. We use it as the basis for
much of what we explore throughout the year. I challenge
my students nearly everyday to move outside their mind's sense
of "normal" in order to innovate, analyze ... and expect more
of themselves. It is my belief that this is what will not only
inspire them to lead an enriched life of inquiry but also give
them skills that sustain them in the good ol' "real" world.

This is another way to prove to the kids that, "If you think you
can't ... your right."

We rely on the problem solving process while brainstorming in
writing class, coming up with an hypothesis for the science
fair,  finding the solution to an economics project, ... even
finding new friends (to which one student said, "If you don't,
you should!").

Our classes problem solving process

1. Identify the problem ... literally ask, "What happened?"
Be a detective.

2. Understand the problem ... teach yourself. Be an explorer.

3. Brainstorm solutions ... don't solve; ideate. Be an artist.

4. Analyze possibilities ... weigh the pluses and minuses. Be
a scientist.

5. Implement the solution ... choose and do. Be a carpenter.

6. Determine the result's effectiveness ... critique. Be a judge.

We add a seventh step ...

7. Reflect ... what can be learned? Be a student.

As a teacher I started creating more meaningful lessons after
I noticed how closely aligned the process of solving problems
is with Bloom's Taxonomy. We began following the steps
toward critical thinking to ask more of ourselves. I began
to ask better questions, the root of learning, and expecting
answers with "more meat on the bones," as we say.

 Dr. Akpan used to remind me in his thick West African accent,
"Mister Rob, teaching is preparation, preparation, preparation."

Yes, it is. "People don't plan to fail, ... ." The idea is to not get
caught short. Ask not only, "What if it doesn't work?," but,
"What if it does?" Be prepared for the next step ... the next

Cultural Offering provides further inspiration here.

Wouldn't it be grand if all kids were taught like this......not to
prepare for some standardized test, but to think for themselves.
The potential boggles the mind.   Thanks Rob.

The ever quotable Teddy Roosevelt.........

Teddy Roosevelt's
birthday was last

He is so quotable,
I am sorry I missed

To compensate, I
offer the following:

"Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm
that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the
vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures."

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out
how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds
could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is
actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and
sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes
short again and again, because there is no effort without error
or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great
devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the
best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and
who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so
that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who know neither victory or defeat."

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the
chance to work hard at work worth doing.  The first requisite
of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be
able and willing to pull his weight; that he shall not be a
mere passenger......"

"Political parties exist to secure responsible government and
to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both
of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to
promote the general welfare they have become the tools of
corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their
selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits en-
throned an invisible government owing no allegiance and
acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this
invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between
corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the
statesmanship of the day. "

"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary,
these big aggregations are an inevitable development of
modern industrialism................. We draw the line against
misconduct, not against wealth."
"We stand equally against government by a plutocracy and
government by a mob."

"There is no room in this country for hyphenated
Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this
nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to
be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle
of squabbling nationalities."

"Men with the muckrake are often indispensable to the well-
being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking
the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above
them. … If they gradually grow to feel that the whole world
is nothing but muck their power of usefulness is gone."

"The President is merely the most important among a large
number of public servants. He should be supported or
opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good
conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in
rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation
as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there
should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this
means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does
wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude
in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce
that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are
to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only
unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the
American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about
him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the
truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."


On the off chance you missed it, Cultural Offering had a wonderful
post yesterday on improvisation.  Here.

My sort of cousin, David Pasquesi, does improvisation for a living.
Here is a clip advertising his work:

Here he is riffing about hobbies and regrets...........

Improv..........the true high wire act.

The Preamble to the National Association of Realtors' Code of Ethics..........

The first paragraph:

"Under all is the land.  Upon its wise utilization and widely
allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of  free
institutions and of our civilization.  REALTORS should
recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens
require the highest and best use of the land and the widest
distribution of land ownership.  They require the creation of
adequate housing, the building of functioning cities, the
development of productive industries and farms, and the
preservation of a healthful environment."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just get on with it..............

Mathew Ferarra suggests that getting on with the foreclosures
is a healthy thing for the economy.  Essay here.

Excerpts here:

"Contrary to popular belief, a wave of foreclosures would be
the best solution for the housing market. In fact, they’re
already amongst the best performing assets in the market."

"One-third of foreclosures are purchased by owner-occupying
first-time buyers. The rest are being snapped up by cash-
carrying investors turning them into rental units. Just follow
the transactions."

"Could waves of foreclosures cause existing prices to drop
further? It’s doubtful for a few reasons. First, sensible owner-
occupied sellers have already priced foreclosure prices (and
pace) into their offering price. If they haven’t, they aren’t in
the market anyway. A drop in their fantasy-emotional price is
irrelevant to the market. Second, the pace of foreclosure sales
is so brisk that prices should stabilize: It’s only rotting
inventory that causes downward price pressure on the stock.
If turnover remains high, prices will level off. Third, if more
foreclosures stimulate local economies, wages and consumer
sentiment will rise, sparking an up-tick in demand."

Not sure that I agree with the last paragraph.  One of the reasons
that foreclosure sales are moving so well is the perception of
true bargain pricing.   It seems logical to assume that sheriff
sales will continue to dominate the market for at least the next
twelve months or so.  Markets like this are called "Buyers'
markets" for a reason.  Having gotten used to these lower
prices, and knowing that the foreclosure pipeline looks to
be full for 2011, I'm not sure why Buyers would allow prices
to firm up any time soon.

The Case-Shiller Composite Indicies chart below would seem
to support Mathew's contention that prices are firming.   In a
previous post, I opined that, before this crisis passed we would
see prices fall back to the year 2000's level, scrubbing out all of
the gains from the recent bubble.  I'm hoping that Mathew is
right and I was wrong.

An interesting chart...........

You can draw your own conclusions.

Story accompanying the chart here.

Double click to enlarge.  Thanks Megan

Thinking about my Amazon account.....

Thanks Jessica

I hate it when this happens............

Brokerage commissions take a tumble.  Story here.  Chart here:

- double click to enlarge

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Good Old Days...............

"Suppose you had said to my hypothetical family of 1800,
eating their gristly stew in front of a log fire, that in two
centuries their descendants would need to fetch no logs, or
water, and carry no sewage, because water, gas, and a magic
form of invisible power called electricity would come into their
home through pipes and wires.  They would jump at the
chance to have such a home, but they would warily ask how
they could possible afford it.  Suppose you then told them that
to earn such a home, they need only ensure that father and
mother both have to go to work for eight hours in an office,
travelling roughly forty minutes each was in a horseless
carriage, and that the children need not work at all, but
should go to school sot be sure of getting such jobs when
they started work at twenty.  They would be more than
dumbfounded; they would be delirious with excitement.
Where, they would cry, is the catch?"

-an excerpt from The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

A Poem for Monday..................

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
   And he raised his head and looked upon
the people, and there fell a stillness upon
them.  And with a great voice he said:
   When love beckons to you, follow him,
   Though his ways are hard and steep.
   And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
   Though his sword hidden among his pinions
may wound you.
   And when he speaks to you believe in him,
   Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

   For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you.  Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.
   Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
   So shall he descent to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.

   Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
   He threshes you to make you naked.
   He sifts you to free you from your husks.
   He grinds you to whiteness.
   He kneads you until you are pliant;
   And then he assigns to you his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God's sacred feast.

   All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a
fragment of Life's heart.

   But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
   Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love's
   Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, bun not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

   Love give naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.
   Love possesses not nor would it by
   For love is sufficient unto love.

   When you love you should not say,
"God is in my heart," but rather, "I am
in the heart of God."
   And think not you can direct the course
of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.

    Love has no other desire but to fulfil
    But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:
    To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
    To know the pain of too much tenderness.
    To be wounded by your own understanding
of love;
    And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
    To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
   To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love's ecstasy;
   To return home at eventide with gratitude;
   And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

-from  The Prophet,  by Kahlil Gibran

"...And it's been good............"

If this one is good enough for Bill McBride and Greg Mankiw,
it's good enough for me.  Now to find some Barry White....

The inspiration, Barry White:

The Seasons of Life................

I like spring, but it is too young.  I like summer, but it is too
proud.  So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a
little yellow, its tone mellower, its colors richer, and it is
tinged with a little sorrow....Its golden riches speak not of
the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of
mellowness and kingly wisdom of approaching age.  It
knows the limitations of life and is content.

-Lin Yutang
as quoted by Jim Rohn in The Seasons of Life

Sunday, October 31, 2010

When musicians get testy....................

Looking through my stack of CDs, I made a list of the most
prevalent artists. Santana topped the list with ten CDs, followed
closely by The Beatles, R.E.M., David Sanborn, and Bruce
Springsteen with nine each. 

Pat Metheny showed up seven times, so obviously Pat
Metheny is a favorite. I will confess to not understanding, or
liking, all his music. But that which I like, I really like. I guess
that means I can listen and enjoy music without being a student
of music.

Pat Metheny is clearly both a student of music and a person
who cares deeply about the integrity of the subject.

Kenny G playing over a Louis Armstrong recording of What a
Wonderful World sort of upset Pat.

Full thoughtful interview answer here.  Amazing paragraph here:

"But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to
defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz
musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive,
pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up
playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of
his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have
imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably
pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this
most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all
the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by
going out there on the road for years and years developing
their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis
Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an
amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his
legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do
something positive with improvised music and what it can be,
Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture -
something that we all should be totally embarrassed about -
and afraid of. We ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril."

Here is the offending song:

Original song without Kenny G's help:

A Verse for Sunday....................

         The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
  It flows to low places loathed by all men.
         Therefore, it is like the Tao.

Live in accordance with the nature of things.
        In dwelling, be close to the land.
     In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
                Stand by your word.
                Govern with equity.
  Be timely in choosing the right moment.

One who lives in accordance with nature
    does not go against the way of things.
He moves in harmony with the present moment,
   always knowing the truth of just what to do.

Tao Te Ching: 8th Verse

translation from:
Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life:
Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Artists at work.............The Pride of Philadelphia.....

Grover Washington Jr. and Julius Erving were friends.  The video
of Erving dunking may seem commonplace by today's standards. 
Thirty years ago, this sort of athleticism was brand new and
electrifying.  Dr. J became a worthy role model for the following
generation.  Story behind this tune here.