Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is this a great country, or what?

The perfect $44.95 gift  for that "impossible to buy for" friend:

Popping toast has a new surprise

Every day, your morning routine is the same. Cup of coffee, plate of toast, morning paper. Yawn. It's enough to make you want to curl back into your regeneration cubicle, and disengage your central processor, and engage your alpha-waves for another 86,400,000 milliseconds. You need to inject some excitement into your existence before you endure yet another solar cycle in this mundane fashion.

Enjoy the full post here.  Thanks Gerard

A way of the world............

Thanks Tom

It happened today..................

"...the wilderness of your intuition...."

"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the
wilderness of your intuition.  What you'll discover will be
wonderful.  What you'll discover is yourself."
-Alan Alda

On confidence..............

"Larry Summers said at an event this past fall, 'Confidence is the
cheapest form of stimulus.'  While it may be the cheapest, it is
also the most crucial, and for leaders, the hardest to create."

I read that and my first thought was, "I miss Ronald Reagan."

Summers quote excerpted here.  HT:  here

Reasons why I like living in Newark and Licking County........

Reason #63:  Granville Kiwanis maple syrup project

A long, long time ago, I was active with the Granville Kiwanis
service club.  A truly fine group of folks.

One of their annual fund-raising projects is making and then
selling maple syrup.  This isn't one of those store bought brands,
made with high fructose corn syrup, coloring, and maple flavor.
We are talking honest-to-goodness maple syrup.  There is a big

The first step is to tap the sugar maple trees, of which there are
an abundance in Granville.  The second step is to set out the
buckets.  The third step is to collect the sap water drippings. 
If I remember correctly, freezing nights and warmish mornings
made for the best collecting days. The final step was to slowly
boil the sap water down until it turned to syrup.  On average it
took about fifty gallons of sap water to make one gallon of
syrup. Undoubtedly a labor intensive project, but the
camaraderie was part of the project's allure.

Forget about the Groundhog or seeing the first robin,  for me,
the surest signal that Spring is really on its way is the
appearance of the Kiwanis sugar maple buckets.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Looks sunny to me............

"The economy depends about as much on economists as
the weather does on weather forecasters."
-Jean-Paul Kauffman

Yogi Berra............

One of the finest catchers ever to play the game of baseball, Yogi
has an appealing way with  our language.  Some of the things he
was quoted as saying are incredibly wise.  Some of them are
merely entertaining.  They are all worth reading. 

Here is a sampling:

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you
are going, because you might not get there."

"If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."

"If you ask me anything I don't know, I'm not going to

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

"Never answer an anonymous letter"

"I always thought  that record would stand until it was

"In theory there is no difference between theory and
practice. In practice there is."

"The future ain't what it used to be."

"If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how
are you going to stop them?"

"In baseball, you don't know nothing."

"I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of
answering that question."

"I never said most of the things I said."

"It ain't the heat, it's the humility."

"It's like deja vu all over again."

"Ninety percent of this game is half mental."

"We have deep depth."

"The game's isn't over until it's over."

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

"You should always go to other people's funerals,
otherwise, they won't come to yours."

"We made too many wrong mistakes."

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

No one could have predicted this.......

From the Political Calculations blog:

     in percentage terms of the change in total employment 
     level from 2006 to 2010, jobs affected by the federal
     minimum wage hikes of 2007, 2008 and 2009 account
     for 41.8% of the total reduction in jobs seen since 2006.

(Ed. note: This post was shamelessly cut and pasted from here.)

Considering the benefits, it's still a bargain.......

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reading Nicholas Bate every morning.....

......makes turning on the computer worthwhile.  Especially here.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

I suspect this sounds much better after three or four green beers.

for those wanting to sing along, here is one version of the lyrics:

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside.
The summer's gone, and all the flow'rs are dying.
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow.
'Tis I'll be here, in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.

And when ye come, and all the roses falling.
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "ave" there for me.
And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me,
And, all my grave shall warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.
Oh, Danny Boy, Oh, Danny Boy, I love you so.

About that 30-year mortgage......

"People are living longer than ever before, a phenomenon
undoubtedly made necessary by the 30-year mortgage."
-Doug Larson

Sales 301..................

Sean Carpenter has a laser-like focus on building relationships,
solving problems, and having fun.   Here he is, mixing two of
the three.  I'm going to go check my mailbox.

On making money..........

"The life of money-making is one undertaken under
compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we
are seeking; for it is merely useful for the sake of
something else."

"Money often costs too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I don't like money, actually, but it quiets my nerves."
-Joe Louis

"If money is your hope for independence you will never
have it. The only real security that a man will have in this
world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability."
 -Henry Ford

"Foul cankering rust the hidden treasure frets,
But gold that's put to use more gold begets."
-William Shakespeare

"Money isn't the most important thing in life, but it's
reasonably close to oxygen on the 'gotta have it' scale."
-Zig Ziglar

"Money is neither my god nor my devil. It is a form of
energy that tends to make us more of who we already are,
whether it's greedy or loving."
-Dan Millman

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."
-Woody Allen

"Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel.
It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health;
acquaintance, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days
of joy, but not peace or happiness."
-Henrik Ibsen

Wisdom, continued............

"An undefined problem has an infinite number of solutions."
-Robert A. Humphrey

Not a moment too soon.........

Thanks Perry

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For a blog that has "real estate"........ its header, we sure don't seem to spend much time talking about it.  How about we change that?

Mortgage financing is in the news.  Happily, this discussion is not about foreclosures or negative equities.  Smart people are now debating 30-year fixed rate mortgages.  Are they the best thing since sliced bread and government at its best, or are they a root cause of housing inflation and our late bubble and government at its worst?  Inquiring minds want to know.

For a detailed and scholarly looking essay saying that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is, on the whole, a negative thing, go here.  For an equally detailed and scholarly looking essay saying that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is, on the whole, a positive thing, go here.

As an investor in commercial real estate, almost all of our mortgage debt is of the adjustable variety.  Some adjust annually, some every three years and the rest every five years.  It has been a while since we worried about upward adjustments and we have gradually been reducing the balance of the loans.   It all seems manageable today.  Stay tuned.

There is this one loan, however.  It is a non-recourse loan (we did not sign personally) and the rate was fixed for ten years.  When we signed it seven years ago we felt very smart.  Well, feeling smart and being smart are two very different things.  The loan carries with it a "yield maintenance agreement."  Think pre-payment penalty on steroids.  The interest rate on the loan is not especially low by today's standards, although we are content to pay it.  The problem came when we wanted to sell the property at the height of the bubble.  Oops.  The penalty for paying off the loan early was so great, we could not afford to sell, even at bubble high prices.  I now know what "yield maintenance" means.

But, I have wandered off track.  We were talking about 30-year fixed rate mortgages.  In and of themselves, such loans are neither good or bad.  It all depends on the borrower.  I suspect that the real problem is that borrowers don't really think the whole borrowing thing all the way through.  I'd been investing in real estate, using borrowed money, for over twenty years and then walked unsuspectingly into the yield maintenance trap.  What chance does someone who buys maybe three or four houses in a lifetime have to really know what is best? 

If residential real estate agents around the country wanted to do their clients a favor, they would share the following information with them:

To pay off in full an $150,000 mortgage at 6% interest:

30 year amortization = $   899.33/month      $323,757 in total
25 year amortization = $   966.45/month      $289,935 in total
20 year amortization = $1,074.65/month      $257,915 in total
15 year amortization = $1,265.79/month      $227,841 in total

Looking at those numbers on the surface, you might ask, "Why would anyone willingly take the 30 year loan and pay almost $100,000 more in interest just to have a lower payment"?  While I know there are more than several possible answers to that question, I suspect most of the answers have to do with the psychology of the market past.

First, if the borrower can afford the extra $366 to make the $1,265.79 monthly payment, they fairly quickly get informed that $1,265.79 per month with a thirty year term will net them a $211,100 mortgage so they can pay more for a house or buy a bigger one. 

Secondly, the borrower gets reminded that mortgage interest is income tax deductible, so the bigger loan payment is really not all that much bigger after all. 

Third, real estate values always go up (well, over the long term anyway).  A 10% increase in value on a more expensive home is naturally greater than a 10% increase on a less expensive home. 

All encouragements to stretch, to take on more debt than may be prudent.  It made sense in 2005.   It looks a bit like a trap today.

Thanks to Carpe Diem for raising the issue.

The Oracle.............

There is a new model coming.......

From the pen  keyboard of Walter Russell Mead comes this beauty on the changes coming, whether we are ready or not, to our currently unsustainable political/economic model, here.   Excerpts here:

Coaster capitalism (the blue model) is most clearly doomed; there are too many people playing catch up too well.  Countries and states that do not provide business friendly environments cannot attract new investment

.....the catch up capitalism (the red model) of the South also fails to provide a blueprint for the future. You can’t play catch up once you have caught up. The South can no longer poach enough business from the wealthy North to support its growth — and the federal subsidies to the region are also going to drop.

Cutting edge capitalism (the new model) is hard, and you have to make it up as you go along, but it is the only route to the kind of future Americans want.

.....when I write about the post-blue world I don’t offer a detailed picture about what it will look like. That’s inherent in the nature of the changes we have to make: discontinuous change driven by unpredictable technological innovation is where it’s at........ but one can no more expect anybody to produce a map of our future world than Queen Isabella could have asked Christopher Columbus for a detailed map of the Americas before sending him on his first voyage.

It's spelled "entitlements"...........

Federal government spending:
green is defense, red is health care, blue is everything else.

thanks tigerhawk

One of the reasons the future looks bright.........

The Mighty E. takes us to Times Square where an unknown
hacker shows what can happen when creativity and nerve
combines with technology and smarts.

The fact that it is probably faked is irrelevant.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arlo Guthrie..............

My Sweetie and I went to hear Arlo Guthrie play the fabulous
Midland Theatre last Saturday night.  It was a great show. 
Besides being a superb musician and easy-to-listen-to singer, Arlo
seems a friendly, gentle, story-telling type. A fun guy to hang out
with.  He played some of his songs, some of his dad's songs,
some of Lead Belly's songs,and Stevie Goodman's classic City of
New Orleans.  No Alice's Restaurant, to the disappointment of
some of the folk in the balcony (but at 18 minutes, not to me).

One of his best stories started with his earliest memory- strangely
enough from when he was two years old- meeting his dad's
friend Lead Belly.  He then talked some about Lead Belly's life
and music, including his stay in prison.  A few years back Arlo
was in Shreveport, Louisiana with has band and family.  Struck
by a sudden inspiration, he had the troupe set out on a mission to
find Lead Belly's grave.  They found the grave, surrounded by
an old wrought iron fence, behind a small church in Caddo Parrish.
Upon finding the grave, his young son exclaimed, "look Dad, they
still have him behind bars." 

But I digress.  It was a most enjoyable evening.  Arlo closed
his show with this song (Woody's lyrics):

My peace my peace is all I've got that I can give to you
My peace is all I ever had that's all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black and red and white and blue

My peace my peace is all I've got that I can give to you
My peace, my peace is all I've got and all I've ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more than anything I own

I pass my peace around and about 'cross hands of every hue;
I guess my peace is justa 'bout all I've got to give to you

The starting point of wisdom...........

“We’re not the ones in charge.”

"Planet Earth is the most complex system it is possible to imagine, with feedback loops and butterfly effects and myriad other indicia of unpredictability. We're seeing impressive improvements in the human condition in most if not all of the world, and the base case scenario is that we'll continue to see the same thing going forwards. Just don't ask me why: any answer is extremely likely to be both unhelpful and facile."
-Felix Salmon

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
-Steve Felix

Sales 101...................

The furniture guy talks sales and marketing, here.  Fun excerpt:

"But you can tell when it's not just the money talking; when
a manifest affection develops for the object of the attention
of talented people."

Fun video attached:

....enhancing economic self sufficency.........

Information about The Women's Fund of Central Ohio here.
Married with daughters.  Investing in the potential of women
and girls seems like a pretty good idea.

Thanks Kelly

Happy birthday to Lightnin' Hopkins.....

Sam John Hopkins was born this day in 1912.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Linky Goodness............

A Clear Eye indeed:  Tom Asacker on getting Back to Reality.
Full post here.  Excerpt here:
Business isn’t an arms length, abstract creation. Business is
reality, it’s life. We’re here to see, to feel, and to create with,
and for, others. We must immerse ourselves in our audience’s
world, so that we have access to real-world information and
insights. We must look with fresh eyes and feel with childlike
wonder and compassion.

Stuart Schneiderman on culture and the relations between the
young and the old; filial piety and benevolence/magnamity or
rebellion and oppression.  Full post here.  Excerpt here:
Truth be told, most American parents would do anything for
their children. Unfortunately, they have been told by people
who pretend to be experts that the self-esteemist approach
is best for bringing up happy and healthy children.

The notion wears the cloak of science, but it is really a
program that produces mediocrity and bad character.

Arts & Letters Daily sends us off for an interview with Niall
Ferguson, the author of Civilization, a book recently added to
my wish list.  Full essay here.   Telling excerpt here:
We take freedom for granted, and because of this we don't
understand how incredibly vulnerable it is.

The Friendly Anarchist has a new book coming out.  In the
meanwhile, he offers a preview.  Full post here.  Excerpt here:
Rules come in many styles and flavors, they hide in many
linings and disguises, behind various masks and makeups.
Often, they wear the latest fashion. Sometimes, they just
wear the emperor’s new clothes. And still, they keep being
the same old limiting rules that we would like to identify,
 analyze and – if we deem it best – get rid off.

Smart Duck.................

It was impossible not to notice the ducks that gathered around the tables at the restaurant looking for food. The birds would wait for the people to leave and then they would flock to the tables looking for crumbs that were dropped to the floor. There were dozens of birds fighting over the scraps left behind. Every duck did the same thing; except for one..........

And now......for the rest of the story........visit our friends at
Keeping Current Matters here

Yep, it is all true................

Thanks Inaki

The good news and the bad news.........

"But none of it works without discipline.  Early on in my
career, I was told that success demanded one thing above
all others:  turning up.  Turning up every bloody day,
regardless of everything."

-Hazel Dooney, as quoted by Hugh McLeod in his latest book,
 Evil Plans: Having Fun of the Road to World Domination.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday's Verse..............

12.  Miracles are thoughts.  Thoughts can represent the lower
or bodily level of experience, or the higher or spiritual level
of experience.  One makes the physical, and the other creates
the spiritual.

13.  Miracles are both beginnings and endings, and so they
alter the temporal order.  They are always affirmations of
rebirth, which seem to go back but really go forward.  They
undo the past in the present, and thus release the future.

14.  Miracles bear witness to truth.  They are convincing
because they arise from conviction.  Without conviction
they deteriorate into magic, which is mindless and there-
fore destructive, or rather, the uncreative use of the mind.

15.  Each day should be devoted to miracles.  The purpose
of time is to enable you to learn how to use time
constructively.  It is thus a teaching device and a means to
an end. Time will cease when it is no longer useful in
facilitating learning.

16.  Miracles are teaching devices for demonstrating it is
as blessed to give as to receive.  The simultaneously
increase the strength of the giver and  supply strength
to the receiver.

17.  Miracles transcend the body.  They are sudden
shifts into invisibility, away from the bodily level.
That is why they heal.

18.  A miracle is a service.  It is the maximal service
you can render to another.  It is a way of loving your
neighbor as yourself.  You recognize your own and
your neighbor's worth simultaneously.

19.  Miracles make minds one in God.  They depend
on cooperation because the Sonship is the sum of
all God created.  Miracles therefore reflect the laws
of eternity, not of time.

20.  Miracles reawaken the awareness that the spirit,
not the body, is the altar of truth.  This is the recog-
nition that leads to the healing power of the miracle.

21.  Miracles are the natural sign of forgiveness.
Through miracles you accept God's forgiveness by
extending it to others.

The Course in Miracles
Chapter 1, Verses 12-21

Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

Bruce Cockburn and Steven Page doing it up...........

A thought for Sunday.............

Interestingly, Jesus never said, “Believe my arguments.”
He said, “Follow me.”

-from the Bangkokpastor blog


On learning..............

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to
teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”
-C.S. Lewis

Thanks Nicole

I promise to never ever ever do this again....

volume up.......