Saturday, December 11, 2010

A little Straight No Chaser to help you through the holidays......

Treasue hunting in the archives...........

Michael Wade, one of the great ones, suggested we look to the
archives.  This is one of my favorites, cut and pasted.

Some interruptions seek us and others are sought by us. It is often our choice as to whether speed is an ally or an adversary. The most onerous deadlines are those imposed by ourselves. Text messaging has given us a fancy new way to be rude. Some of the most arrogant people are also the most insecure. Few things are as enjoyable as an unexpected and kind note from a friend. One of the greatest challenges in business is discovering what interests other people. Beware of any rule that is written by those who are exempt from its effects. The more one studies communism, the more difficult it is to fathom how anyone ever believed it would work. As much as the marketing people would like us to think otherwise, new is not the same as improved. People never outgrow the need for toys. While pursuing happiness, it helps to stop and review the amount we currently possess. Glory in the stars of the blackest night. Savor the fresh beauty of early morning. Sip coffee slowly. Use candles. Remember that it is easier to find joy in small moments than in large achievements.

It's all in the wrist..............

Thanks Mashable

Results may vary in your neighborhood................

Good new and bad news from Calculated Risk

"Builders say construction costs are down 15 to 25 percent"

"Collins notes that most of the savings has come from
labor costs"

"Price drops for materials like lumber and drywall have
helped some, but not much,....... says that overall material
costs are down – at best – 5 to 10 percent."


Swindle, indeed........................

Charles Krauthammer writes:

"Obama is no fool. While getting Republicans to boost his
own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of
their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, Tea-Party, this-
time-we're-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal

And he gets all this in return for what? For a mere two-year
postponement of a mere 4.6-point increase in marginal tax
rates for upper incomes. And an estate tax rate of 35 percent -
it jumps insanely from zero to 55 percent on Jan. 1 - that is
somewhat lower than what the Democrats wanted.

No, cries the left: Obama violated a sacred principle. A 39.6
percent tax rate versus 35 percent is a principle? "This is the
public option debate all over again," said Obama at his
Tuesday news conference. He is right. The left never under-
stood that to nationalize health care there is no need for a
public option because Obamacare turns the private insurers
into public utilities, thus setting us inexorably on the road to
the left's Promised Land: a Canadian-style single-payer
system. The left is similarly clueless on the tax-cut deal: In
exchange for temporarily forgoing a small rise in upper-
income rates, Obama pulled out of a hat a massive new
stimulus - what the left has been begging for since the failure
of Stimulus I but was heretofore politically unattainable."

full essay here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Joy to the World............

Enjoy the snow.........!!!


Questions and answers from Mr. Hoffman........

G.L. Hoffman blogs at What Would Dad SayHere.  His recent
post offered short answers to the most asked questions about
getting a job and  blogging.  A sampling:

1. Why is it so hard to get a job?
So many emailers asked me this question this year, I wrote a
logical explanation here.
(Ed. note:  This is a link worth following.)

7. What advice do you have for a new blogger?
Don’t expect anything until you have written 1500 posts, so
sayth Seth Godin. This is my 1,377th.

On banning dihydrogen monoxide............

It is a dangerous world out there.  It even has its own wiki site.

The original video.............

the latest ...................................

Courtesy of Watts Up With That by way of Maggie's Farm

This is sort of interesting..............

That red line charts the recent course of much of the
construction and building trades industry for the past two years. 
Unfortunately, there is no turn around in sight.

chart courtesy of Maggie's Farm

Sounds like we need less managing and more leading........

     "Stephen Covey, in his book The 8th Habit, describes a
poll of 23,000 employees drawn from a number of companies
and industries.  He reports the poll's findings:

            -Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of
              what their organization is trying to achieve and why.
            -Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team's
              and their organization's goals.
            -Only one in five said they had a clear 'line of sight'
              between their tasks and the team's and organ-
              ization's goals.
            -Only 15% felt that their organization fully enables
              them to execute key goals.
            -Only 20% fully trusted the organization they work

     Pretty sobering stuff.  It's also pretty abstract.  You
probably walk away from these stats thinking something
like, 'There's a lot of dissatisfaction and confusion in most

     Then Covey superimposes a very human metaphor over
the statistics.  He says, 'If, say, a soccer team had these same
scores, only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know
which goal is theirs,  Only 2 of the 11 would care.  Only 2 of
the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly
what they are supposed to do.  And all but 2 players would,
in some way, be competing against their own team members
rather than the opponent.'"

Excerpted from Made to Stick by Heath and Heath

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Carol of the Bells..........................Let the Christmas music begin!

Watch the volume

Thanks Connor

This may actually be a good idea........

From HUD, "A consumer’s guide to owning a home with less
than three percent down".   Their web site here.

This story has been floating around several of my favorite blogs.  I
read it first at Mark Perry's Carpe DiemMark's post ends with
the question, "Isn't that exactly the same kind of mortgage
lending that helped cause the housing bubble?"

Low down payment VA and FHA loans have been around as long
as I've been in the business.  Not sure that there is a direct
connection to the "bubble". 

Relaxed loan standards, i.e. "liars' loans, and adjustable loans with
ridiculously low payments in the early years allowed people to
take on way more debt than they could ever hope to repay.
According to the mass hysteria of the bubble years, real estate
values not only  always went up, but they went up quickly.  With
this psychology in place, why not buy something you couldn't
afford.   It would be worth so much more in a few years that you
could sell it and make a killing before the payments adjusted. 

One of the benefits of the balloon burst is that houses are now
much more affordable.  They just cost less than they did five
years ago, sometimes a lot less. 

Here is an example from our market:   a four bedroom, three
bathroom, two story house with a full walk out basement, hot
and cold running water, and a two car attached garage was
mortgaged for over $250,000 in 2005.   It was foreclosed on in
2009 and recently re-sold for $165,000.

If the buyer has good credit and meets all of the other lending
standards that were in place in 1990, what would be wrong with
them taking out a 25 year fixed rate mortgage, borrowing 97%,
or $160,000, on this house?  The monthly payment would be
less than $1,000.

I suspect that the combination of lax lending standards, funky
adjustable mortgages gamed to make the debt load seem
affordable,  and the assumption that "no price was too high
because prices always go up", had  a lot more to do with the
collapse of the housing market than 3% down payments.

Of course, we like to buy things without any down payment,
so I might not be the best person to ask about this topic.

My favorite economic futurist seems happier today..........

Jeff Thredgold's latest newletter is here.  Excerpts here:

"Just imagine…

…the political game of give and take…of actual cooperation
between political parties…working for a change

What It All Means

In my view, three powerful and positive developments have
occurred in recent weeks.

The first was success by voters in early November of
derailing the ever-expanding nature of government fueled by
the Administration and the Democratic leadership in the

The second was the relative success of the Obama deficit
reduction commission in gaining traction in our longer-term
need to control the growth rate of government spending. Yes,
the commission only had 11 of the required 14 votes to send
the package to the Congress. However, a critical dialogue has

The final development is the tax agreement noted above. The
ability of political parties to come together for the good of the
nation…above their individual pursuits… is essential to
dealing with major issues."

Merry Christmas, kids................

Thanks Mungo

In praise of the human mind.........

The Coyote Blog offered a post titled  "60 Second Refutation of
Socialism, While Sitting at the Beach".  I suspect it could also be a
refutation of mercantilism, communism, statism, feudalism, and
probably even of what passes for capitalism today.  As one of my
teachers once said, "as soon as you put an 'ism' behind a word, the
corruption begins."

The blog post is here.   Fun excerpt here:

"For the true source of wealth is not brute labor, or even what
you might call brute capital, but the mind. The mind creates
new technologies, new products, new business models, new
productivity enhancements, in short, everything that creates
wealth.  Labor or capital without a mind behind it is useless.

From the year 1000 to the year 1700, the world’s wealth,
measured as GDP per capita, was virtually unchanged. Since
1700, the GDP per capita in places like the US has risen, in
real terms, over 40 fold. This is a real increase in total wealth
-it is not money stolen or looted or exploited. Wealthy nations
like the US didn’t "take" the wealth from somewhere else –
it never even existed before. It was created by the minds of
human beings.

How? What changed? Historians who really study this stuff
would probably point to a jillion things, but in my mind two
are important:

There was a philosophical and intellectual change where
questioning established beliefs and social patterns went from
being heresy and unthinkable to being acceptable, and even in
vogue. In other words, men, at first just the elite but soon
everyone, were urged to use their mind rather than just relying
on established beliefs

There were social and political changes that greatly increased
the number of people capable of entrepreneurship. Before this
time, the vast vast majority of people were locked into social
positions that allowed them no flexibility to act on a good
idea, even if they had one. By starting to create a large and
free middle class, first in the Netherlands and England and
then in the US, more people had the ability to use their mind
to create new wealth. Whereas before, perhaps 1% or less of
any population really had the freedom to truly act on their
ideas, after 1700 many more people began to have this

So today’s wealth, and everything that goes with it (from
shorter work hours to longer life spans) is the result of more
 people using their minds more freely."

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

" best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing......"

Feeling lucky.

Some good news! A trend worth noticing................

Long time followers will recognize the photo below as an aerial of
the Newark, Ohio Industrial Park. For those of us who care about
the economic welfare of Central Licking County, this Park (and its
developer) is like a security blanket.  Lots of  buildings (47 at last
count), lots of diverse industrial companies doing business, and
thousands of jobs in those buildings.  For an interesting story and
more statistics go here or here or here.

There was a time when we worried about the future of the Park.
There seemed to be a growing trend in the 1990's for the
industrial users to close up shop, followed soon thereafter by the
conversion of the now empty buildings to warehouses.  Nothing
against warehouses, mind you.  Some of my best friends own
warehouses.  But, from an employment point of view, its the
difference between hundreds of job opportunities and a half
dozen.  Since the 1990's least 700,000 square feet of industrial
space made this conversion to warehouse usage.

The last four buildings to sell in the Park (two in 2008 and two in
2010) were empty industrial buildings.  

Now for the good news............

All four buildings of those buildings are being occupied by
industrial concerns that have significant employment.  Nary a

We can (and do) still make things in this community.  It is a fact
worth celebrating.  Go team!

Newark, Ohio Industrial Park

Learning and experience...................."find a way to get it"

"If chess, which is among the most strategic and competitive
games in the world, can be learned, then we can do the same
with our game.  In fact, it should be much easier.

When you conclude that talent, though not quite a myth, is
certainly overrated, you start to realize that you never need
to see yourself as below anyone.  Instead, you should believe
only that you don't yet have the experience that another
person does, then find a way to get it."

-an excerpt from Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

An excellent partnership...........

........................Creativity and Generosity.

Thanks Jessica

Checking in with Hugh.........

The wisdom of gapingvoid

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"........just let me be myself........."

 You go, girl

Let's play Twister, Let's play Risk........Part 2

Maggie turns 16 today..........................

Happy Birthday!

Thanks Dennis

Let's play Twister, let's play Risk...........Part One

Summer before senior year in high school (August of 1968 for
those keeping score) we had a soccer coach who believed in
conditioning.  A "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger"
kind of guy.  In between the two-a-day practice sessions a group
of us would limp to my parent's front porch and play Risk for a
few hoursIt was a good way to forget about aching muscles
and recharge.

I was reminded of those days when I read the following passage:

"But if you're not playing games, we ask you, 'Why not?'

The Risk game board

"Games, especially in ancient times, were methods of teaching
skills in nonlethal ways.  Children in warrior cultures learned
games that improved their fighting skills.  Children in agri-
cultural communities learned games that pertained to their
chores in the fields.  A lot of our game playing lets us
deconstruct stories, helps us consider them differently, and
allows us to learn on an experimental playing field,where risk
is low.  These are all things we need, whatever our age.

"Oh, and games are fun.  They help us breathe.  They bring
people together and help them build friendships.  They help
them figure things out.  There's no harm it it, so go ahead."

-another excerpt from Trust Agents by Brogan and Smith

For those of us who LOVE watching thunderstorms...............

TigerHawk sends us here.

E. shows his serious side...............

E. posted a link to an interesting essay on leadership, thinking,
and moral courage.

The essay is here.  A few excerpts here:

"We have a crisis of leadership in America because our over-
whelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations
of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have
been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine
going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask
them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them.
Who think about how to get things done, but not whether
they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are
the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who
have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing,
but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of
exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders."

"What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People
who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a
new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college,
for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of
looking at things. People, in other words, with vision."

"No, what makes him a thinker—and a leader—is precisely
that he is able to think things through for himself. And
because he can, he has the confidence, the courage, to
argue for his ideas even when they aren’t popular. Even when
they don’t please his superiors. Courage: there is physical
courage, which you all possess in abundance, and then there
is another kind of courage, moral courage, the courage to
stand up for what you believe."

"Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs
your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one
thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning
other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information,
however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing
your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply
cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly
interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or
fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube."

"I find for myself that my first thought is never my best
thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always
what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the con-
ventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the
question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come
into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a
chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by
surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very
good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and
recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to out-
last my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done
and move on to the next thing."

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Emperor's new clothes..............

"Ironic quote of the day, from Kazakhstan, via Wikileaks:

     The Ambassador asked if the corruption and infighting are
     worse now than before in Kazakhstan. Idenov paused,
    thought, and then replied, “No, not really. It’s business as

    They’re confused by the corrupt excesses of capitalism.
    “If Goldman Sachs executives can make $50 million a year
     and then run America’s economy in Washington, what’s so
    different about what we do?’ they ask.”

Too bad we don’t have a category labeled 'Irony.'"

Full post and Wikileak transcript here.

Thanks to the HousingWire for pointing the way.

A monument to fear..............

Bruce Schneier says "close the Washington Monument."

"An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our law-
makers' inability to take that kind of stand -- and their
inability to truly lead.

"Some of them call terrorism an "existential threat" against
our nation. It's not."

"An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant
reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the
terrorists and what they could do. They're afraid that by
speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining
absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism, or that
some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the
face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror."
And they're afraid that Americans would vote them out of
office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they're right, but
what has happened to leaders who aren't afraid? What has
happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?

"Terrorism isn't a crime against people or property. It's a
crime against our minds, using the death of innocents and
destruction of property to make us fearful."

Full essay here.

Thanks to Marginal Revolution  for pointing the way.

Monday's poem...........

                    Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
            Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
            Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
            That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
            Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
            Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
           But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
          I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-William Shakespeare

Roadrunner redux................

You have to admire the creativity.........

Still, its hard to beat the original.............

Thanks to the Presurfer

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What the world needs now....................

Q-FM disc jockey Russell Carey used to play this song on his
1980's Sunday morning radio show, Psychedelic Sunday.  It
always made me stop what I was doing, so I could just listen.