Friday, April 1, 2011


" I am convinced that the value-free, value-neutral, value-
avoiding model of science that we inherited from physics,
chemistry, and astronomy, where it was necessary and
desirable to keep the data clean and also to keep the church
out of scientific affairs, is quite unsuitable for the scientific
study of life.  Even more dramatically is this value-free
philosophy of science unsuitable for human questions, where
personal values, purposes and goals, intentions and plans are
absolutely crucial for the understanding of any person........"

It is time for my annual birthday wish to Abraham Maslow.
He helped me along my path, as noted in last year's birthday post.

The above quote comes from his The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.

One could write volumes............

....on all I do not know about economics.  Maybe that is why
I like posting cool charts.  They are fun to look at while they
enhance understanding- usually. 

Received a comment about inflation from Dennis this week. It
was attached to this post about the income tax revenues being
collected by the States.  It made me wonder about the recent
trend of inflation.  I suspect that $3.60 per gallon gasoline must
be helping inflation along, but this is a fairly recent phenomenon. 

Faithful readers will know, that as a leveraged investor in real
estate, I much prefer inflation over deflation -  if those are the
choices.  It is possible that going into the future that will be a
false choice, but the in the past several years deflation has been
a serious concern. 

Anyway, back to the charts.  On the "inflationdata" blog- here -
I found way more inflation information  than I wanted, and this
cool chart.  Enjoy.

Checking in with the Trend Czar........

Jonathan Miller wants to talk about the BIG ONE.  Earthquakes
and tsunamis across the Pacific cause him to wonder if we aren't
forgetting about our own danger zones.  Full post here.  Excerpt

"It’s really all a roll of the dice—some of our most important
real estate markets and business centers sit along major fault
lines on the Pacific Coast, and three of our country’s most
strategic ports (LA Long Beach, San Francisco/Oakland and
Seattle/Tacoma) lie in potential harm’s way. If an 8 or 9
strikes in the wrong place, Katrina will look like a minor
incident by comparison."

Talking about HO gauge model trains........

My ambitions growing up were much smaller than this.

Happy 63rd Birthday to Jimmy Cliff................

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Great Moments in opening lines...............

 “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were
striking thirteen.  Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his
breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly
through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not
quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from
entering along with him."
1984, George Orwell

"The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring
fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting."
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."
Genesis 1:1
The Holy Bible, King James Version

"My wound is geography.  It is also my anchorage, my
port of call."
The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy

“Mama died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got
a telegram from the home:  'Mother deceased.  Funeral
tomorrow.  Faithfully yours.'  That doesn't mean anything.
Maybe it was yesterday.”
The Stranger, Albert Camus

"Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample
the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends
who have met again as men and found themselves with less
in common than they believed they had."
Lost Horizon, James Hilton

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty,
dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy
smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to
sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

"Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great
truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it."
The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck

“Call me Ishmael.”
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

"Call me Jonah.  My parents did, or nearly did.  They called
me John.
   Jonah - John - if I had been a Sam, I would have been a
Jonah still - not because I have been unlucky for others,
but because somebody of somethings has compelled me to
be certain places at certain times without fail.  Conveyance
and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been
provided.  And, according to plan, at each appointed
second, at each appointed place, this Jonah was there."
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

"A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are
human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught
but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the
lust of vengeance and of hate."
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures."
 Richard III, William Shakespeare

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the
world was mad.  And that was all his patrimony.  His very
patrimony was obscure, although the village of Gavrillac has
long since dispelled the cloud of mystery that hung about it. 
Those simple Brittany folk were not so simple as to be
deceived by a pretended relationship which did not even
possess the virtue of originality"
Scaramouche,  Raphael Sabatini

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book
by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that
ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain,
and he told the truth, mainly.”
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll
probably want to know is where I was born, and what my
lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied
and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield
kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want
to know the truth.”
The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was
the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the
epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the
spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had every-
thing before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going
direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in
short, the period was so far like the present period, that some
of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for
good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable
end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small
unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly
ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-
green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly
primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty
neat idea.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

“Who is John Galt?”
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

 “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the
desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf
Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without
taking a fish.”
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the
chaplain, he fell madly in love with him.  Yossarian was in
the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of
being jaundice.  The doctors were puzzled by the fact that
it wasn't quite jaundice.  If it became jaundice they could
treat it.  If it didn't become jaundice and went away they
could discharge him.  But this being short of jaundice all
the time confused them.”
Catch-22, Joseph Heller

“All this happened, more or less.”
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

If I wasn't so fearless.................

this would scare the hell out of me.   The map below is purported
to show the how many months supply of shadow inventory exists.
It comes to us from the National Association of Realtors here,
via the KCM blog- here.

"Shadow inventory" is one of those new industry buzz phrases. 
I suspect it is comprised of the number of single family residences
already foreclosed on and owned by lenders - but not yet
actively on the market, plus the number of single family homes in
the foreclosure pipeline, and plus those single family homes
expected to be foreclosed on in the immediate future.   If I am
reading this correctly, the map believes that, in Ohio, there is a
16 month supply of shadow inventory.

With this shadow inventory hanging over the market, the next
year will be tough on sellers.  Prices most likely will drop some
more.  We previously predicted another 5% to go, and we are
sticking with that number.

If you are on the buying side of the equation, this is not bad
news at all.  There are some really good buys out there, and
rates are highly affordable.

As we have stated before, all real estate markets are local.
States are not local.  Counties are sort of, but not quite,  local. 
School districts are local.  Neighborhoods are local.  Your
results may vary.

The good news is that, as the economy continues its
recovery, the pace of absorption should steadily, and then
dramatically, increase.

Number of Months' Supply of Shadow Inventory

Stuff you need to know...........

-For every dollar of U.S. economic output generated today,
we burn less than half as much oil as 30 years ago

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

-The upward “mobility” of the typical American remains the
greatest in the world. Why? The U.S. economy “rewards”
the combination of hard work and educational achievement
more than ever before…and more than any other country in
the world

-U..S. economic growth has now been positive for seven
consecutive quarters

-Average U.S. life expectancy has reached 78.2 years (men
75, women 80), the highest ever. This compares to 76 years
in 1995, 68 years in 1950, and 47 years in 1900

-The number of American volunteers rose 2.6% to 63.4
million in 2009

-The addition of 97,000 net new manufacturing jobs in recent
months was the strongest three-month rise in 16 years

-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%

-The infant mortality rate in the U.S. hit a record low in 2009

-A recent poll of more than 12,000 global business figures
conducted by the World Economic Forum ranked the U.S.
as the world’s most competitive economy

-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

-The earnings gap between men and women has shrunk to a
record low. Women on average earn 83% of what men earn,
versus 76% a decade ago. Women with comparable
education and experience earn comparable incomes

-Conventional 30 year fixed-rate mortgages have averaged
4.75% in recent weeks, near the lowest level in nearly 50 years

-Women have drawn even with men in holding advanced
degrees in the U.S.

-Men’s contribution to housework has doubled over the past
40 years, while their time spent on child care has tripled -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

-Economic output of the average American worker is
10-12 times that in China. Americans won 30 Nobel prizes
in science and economics during the past five years.
China?..…just one

-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

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

Source and full list of stuff here.

A few quotes from Clarence Darrow............

I have been a Clarence Darrow fan ever since we read the play
Inherit the Wind in 8th grade.  Seeing Spencer Tracy as Darrow
in the movie version helped too.  Somewhere along the line, one
of my teachers told this story (this from the day when smoking
was not a no-no):  Darrow, as a defense attorney, was always
on the look out for an edge.  One morning, just before Court
opened for the the final argument stage of a trial, Darrow stuck
a thin wire inside of one of his favorite stogies.  Later, as the
prosecutor began his closing argument, Darrow, with great
deliberation, unwrapped and lit the cigar. While the prosecutor
droned on, Darrow, slowly and contentedly puffed away. 
Gradually, the jury began to notice the ash on Darrow's cigar
getting longer and longer.  They began to pay less attention to the
prosecutor and paid more attention to the growing ash at the end
of Darrow's cigar.  The ash, held in place by the thin wire, never
fell.  The jury, their attention diverted, never heard the
prosecutor.  Darrow's client was acquitted and justice served.
Who knows if the tale is true, I just always wanted it to be so.

Here are some quotes attributed to Darrow:

To think is to differ.

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting
the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.

The litigants and their lawyers are supposed to want justice,
butin reality, there is no such thing as justice, either in or
out of court.  In fact, the word cannot be defined.

If a man is happy in America, it is considered he is doing
something wrong.

The first half of our lives are ruined by our parents and the
second half by our children.

As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if
no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would
last forever.

The law does not pretend to punish everything that is
dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.

Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the
people they serve.

Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.

No other offense has ever been visited with such severe
penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.

Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself,
even though you never touch its coat tails.

Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are
you going to speak it to?

I am a friend of the working man, and I would rather be his
friend, than be one.

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be
called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many
ignorant men are sure - that is all that agnosticism means.

I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have
suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.

If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.

Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.

I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries
with great pleasure.

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become
President; I'm beginning to believe it.

History repeats itself, and that's one of the things that's
wrong with history.

The trouble with law is lawyers.

The Art of Jury Selection................

by Clarence Darrow, defense lawyer par excellence.  Me thinks
he would be scolded today for, heaven forbid, "profiling."  Full
1936 essay written by Darrow- here.  Fun excerpts here:

"If a Presbyterian enters the jury box and carefully rolls up
his umbrella, and calmly and critically sits down, let him go.
He is cold as the grave; he knows right from wrong, although
he seldom finds anything right. He believes in John Calvin
and eternal punishment. Get rid of him with the fewest
possible words before he contaminates the others......"
"Never take a wealthy man on a jury. He will convict, unless
the defendant is accused of violating the anti-trust law,
selling worthless stocks or bonds, or something of that kind.
Next to the Board of Trade, for him, the penitentiary is the
most important of all public buildings. These imposing
structures stand for capitalism. Civilization could not
possibly exist without them."

"And do not, please, accept a prohibitionist; he is too solemn
and holy and dyspeptic. He knows your client would not have
been indicted unless he were a drinking man, and anyone who
drinks is guilty of something, probably much worse than he is
charged with, although it is not set out in the indictment.
Neither would he have employed you as his lawyer had he not
been guilty." 

 "You may defy all the rest of the rules if you can get a man
who laughs. Few things in this world are of enough
importance to warrant considering them seriously. So, by all
means, choose a man who laughs. A juror who laughs hates
to find anyone guilty."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Now what do we do...........?

From the camera of John Offenbach, as found here.

......and now more than ever, knee-jerk liberalism is the enemy of the poor.

From the keyboard of Walter Russell Mead comes this beauty:

"Americans ultimately have to accept the reality that you
can’t eliminate poverty by hiring professionals with post-
graduate degrees and six figure incomes to sit in downtown
offices and engineer policy solutions to urban ills. Poverty in
a society like ours is a human problem and it is solved one
human being at a time, usually through person to person
contact: above all the parent but also the teacher, the
preacher, the mentor, the entrepreneur who helps the lost
and the overcome find solid ground on which to stand and
build a life."

Full essay here.  Interesting excerpts here:
"The Census reported that waves of blue state blacks fled the
stagnant job opportunities, high taxes and rotten social
conditions of the mostly blue northern states to seek better
lives for themselves in the south."
"The failure of blue social policy to create an environment
which works for Blacks is the most devastating possible
indictment of the 20th century liberal enterprise in the
United States. Helping Blacks achieve the kind of equality
 and opportunity long denied them was more than one of
many justifications for blue social policy: it was the defining
moral task that has challenged and shaped American
liberalism for the last fifty years.

"The Census tells us that in the eyes of those who know best,
these well intentioned efforts failed. Instead of heaven, we
have hell across America’s inner cities. Blue economic policy
has cut the creation of new private sector jobs to a trickle in
our great cities, while the high costs of public union urban
services (and policies that favor government employees over
the citizenry at large) impose crippling taxes and contribute
to the ruinously high costs that blight opportunity. All the
social welfare bureaucracies, diversity counselors and
minority set-asides can’t make up for the colossal failure of
blue social policy to create sustainable lower middle class
prosperity in our cities.

"Most Blacks of course still vote blue at the ballot box, but
more and more of them are voting red with their feet. They
are betting in massive numbers that southern Republicans
will do a better job of helping their kids get good
educations, police their communities more fairly.....offer
more affordable housing and create a better business

People flee..................

From Jessica:

From Professor Green:

To finish the previous post's thought
The 2009 population estimate for Detroit was 821,792.
The 2010 count was 713,777.

From WSJ/Main Street:

"Detroit is a classic example of how a culture that was
legendary for enterprise and innovation was slowly eroded
by toxic politicization from the 1960s on," says the Rev.
Robert A. Sirico, president of the Michigan-based Acton
Institute. "It's been class warfare on steroids, and the
inevitable result is that so many Detroiters who had the
means—black and white—have fled the city."

Another way of putting it is this: Unlike New Orleans and
Japan, the ruin we see in Detroit is entirely man-made.

Great Moments in Prologue writing.....

From the Prologue to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those
who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your
Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance,
of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be
said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply
because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads
you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I
have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.
When they approach me they see only my surroundings,
themselves, or figments of their imagination - indeed,
everything and anything except me.

Can this possibly be true.......?

Mark Perry got his information to create the chart from the
Census Bureau here.  Looks like the trend line is fairly steady,
even if the volatility is increasing.  Perry concludes his post:

"The rising tax revenues at the state and local levels to
all-time record highs might suggest that the many states
with budget deficits have a spending problem, not a
revenue problem."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It is Spring Break at our house........

Points of view.................

Joe Stiglitz here:
The ballooning of the deficit since the crisis struck has under-
standably moved deficit reduction to the center of the debate.
But the best way to reduce the deficit is to put America back
to work.

Overwhelmingly, the deficit increase has been caused by the
enormous shortfall between the economy’s potential and
actual output. Even as growth has resumed, the “output
gap”—reflecting in high unemployment—has persisted.

Greg Mankiw here:
Our parents and grandparents had noble aims. They saw
poverty among the elderly and created Social Security. They
saw sickness and created Medicare and Medicaid. They saw
Americans struggle to afford health insurance and embraced
health care reform with subsidies for middle-class families.

But this expansion in government did not come cheap.
Government spending has taken up an increasing share of
our national income.

Our efforts to control health care costs have failed. We must
now acknowledge that rising costs are driven largely by
technological advances in saving lives. These advances are
welcome, but they are expensive nonetheless.

If we had chosen to tax ourselves to pay for this spending,
our current problems could have been avoided. But no one l
ikes paying taxes. Taxes not only take money out of our
pockets, but they also distort incentives and reduce economic
growth. So, instead, we borrowed increasing amounts to pay
for these programs.

Yet debt does not avoid hard choices. It only delays them.

Mankiw again with the final word:
As economists often remind us, crises take longer to arrive
than you think, but then they happen much faster than you
could have imagined.


Another excerpt from The Commercial Real Estate Revolution:

By now you should be seeing some important common

-The quality of the work we do is directly related to the
quality of relationships we hold (trust-based teams).

-The reasons behind what we do determines the quality of
what we do (intent of design).

-Building a better place for people to work produces
good and sustainable buildings.

-Buildings are really about the people who work in them,
not pro-formas.  But if you build a great place for people,
you will improve your pro-forma.

-If we reduce the harm to the environment, we might also
begin to see a corresponding improvement in the health
of our company cultures.

     Buildings are expensive - the largest capital expense
for any company.  But a building and all its operational
costs are only one-eighth of the cost of its employees.
We think the lessons learned from reestablishing trust,
developing collaborative partners, and discovering the
laws of sustainable practices will unlock our under-
standing of employee performance and engagement."

An appropriate response.............

Thanks Ka-Ching

Fortune Magazine gets all bullish on residential real estate.........

Tease here:  Forget stocks. Don't bet on gold. After four
years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset
class in America is housing.

 Full post worth reading here.  Fun excerpt here:

     After four years of falling prices and surging foreclosures,
it's hard to know what to think. Even Robert Shiller and Karl
Case can't agree. The two economists, who together created
the widely followed S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price indices,
are right now offering sharply contrasting views of housing's
future. Shiller recently warned that the chances were high
for a further double-digit drop in U.S. home prices. But in
an interview with Fortune, Case took a far brighter view:
"The lack of new home building is a huge help that a lot of
people are ignoring," says Case. "People think I'm crazy to
be optimistic, but housing is looking like the little engine
that could."

Editorial comment here:   All markets are local.  Your results
may vary.  However, as this blog has posted before, it is a
good time to buy.  It is reasonable to believe that prices may
fall a bit more (5%?), but it is also reasonable to believe that
interest rates will only get higher.  Trying to guess the bottom
of a market is a sucker's bet.  If you find a house you like,
at a price comparable to those found in 2001, buy it.  Just
remember, real estate increases in value over time.  Frothy
markets with rapid appreciation are unhealthy and not
sustainable.  Don't wish for another one.  Please.
Thanks Doug

Monday, March 28, 2011

A poem for Monday.......

When serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
- and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn - valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude - and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we'll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until)

-e. e. cummings

Quote security unquote...........

painting by ee cummings

"In the course of my first nonlecture, I affirmed that - for me-
personality is a mystery; that mysteries alone are significant; and
that love is the mystery-of-mysteries who creates them all. 
During my second outspokenness, I contrasted the collective
behavior of unchildren with the mystery of individuality; and
gave (or attempted to give) you one particular child's earliest
glimpse of a mystery called nature.  Now I shall try to
communicate - clumsily, no doubt, but honestly - certain
attitudes and reactions surrounding the mystery of transition
from which emerged a poet and painter named EECummings.

"As it was my miraculous fortune to have a true father and a true
mother, and a home which the truth of their love made joyous,
so - in reaching outward from this love and this joy - I was
marvellously lucky to touch and seize a rising and striving world;
a reckless world, filled with the curiosity of life herself; a vivid
and violent world welcoming every challenge; a world worth
hating and adoring and fighting and forgiving:  in brief, a world
which was a world.  This inwardly immortal world of my
adolescence recoils to its very roots whenever, nowadays, I see
people who have been endowed with legs crawling on their
chins after quote security unquote.  "Security?"  I marvel to
myself  "what is that?  Something negative, undead, suspicious
and suspecting; an avarice and an avoidance; a self-surrendering
meanness of withdrawal; a numerable complacency and an
inslave.  No free spirit ever dreamed of 'security' - or, if he did,
he laughed; and lived to shame his dream.  No whole sinless
sinful sleeping waking breathing human creature ever was (or
could be) bought by, and sold for, 'security.'  How monstrous
and how feeble seems some unworld which would rather have
its too than eat its cake!"

-excerpted from Nonlecture Three in e e cummings's
book, six nonlectures

On why Cultural Offering.................

.......makes following blogs worthwhile.  Personal essays like this
or this.  Essays on better living like this or this.  More about Bach
and classical music than I suspect some of us ever want to know,
like this. A weeks' worth of posts like this.

Wisdom, history, culture, thoughtful insights, amusements; all
generously delivered with style and a sense of humor. 

Thanks Kurt.

Great moments in swashbuckler fiction...............

    The absence of the dazed jury was a brief one.  The
verdict found the three prisoners guilty.  Peter Blood looked
round the scarlet-hung court.  For an instant that foam of
white faces seemed to heave at him.  Then he found himself
again, and a voice was asking him what he had to say for
himself, being convicted of high treason.
     He laughed, and his laugh jarred uncannily upon the
deathly stillness of the court.  It was all so grotesque, such a
mockery of justice administered by the wistful-eyed jack-
pudding in scarlet, who was himself a mockery - the venal
instrument of a brutally spiteful and vindictive king.  His
laughter shocked the auterity of that same jack-pudding.
     "Do you laugh sirrah, with the rope about your neck, upon
the threshold of that eternity you are so suddenly to enter
     And then Blood took his revenge.
     "Faith, it's in better case I am for mirth than your lordship. 
For I have this to say before you deliver judgement.  Your
lordship sees me - an innocent man whose only offense is that
I practiced charity - with a halter round my neck.  Your lord-
ship, being the justicar, speaks with knowledge of what is to
come to me.  I, being a physician, may speak with knowledge
of what is to come to your lordship.  And I tell you that I
would not now change places with you - that I would not
exchange this halter that you fling about my neck for the
stone that you carry in your body.  The death to which you
may doom me is a light pleasantry by contrast with the death
to which your lordship has been doomed by that Great Judge
with whose name your lordship makes so free."
     The Lord Chief Justice sat stiffly upright, his face ashen,
his lips twitching, and whilst you might have counted ten
there was no sound in that paralyzed court after Peter Blood
had finished speaking.  All those who knew Lord Jeffreys
regarded this as the lull befor the storm, and braced them-
selves for the explosion.  But none came.  Slowly, faintly, the
color crept back into that ashen face.  The scarlet figure lost
its rigidity, and bent forward.  His lordship began to speak. 
In a muted voice and briefly, much more briefly than his wont
on such occasions and in a manner entirely mechanical, the
manner of a man whose thoughts are elsewhere while his lips
are speaking - he delivered sentence of death in the pre-
scribed form, and without the least allusion to what Peter
Blood had said.  Having delivered it, he sank back exhausted,
his eyes half-closed, his brow agleam with sweat.
     The prisoners filed out.
     Mr. Pollexfen - a Whig at heart despite the position of
Judge-Advocate which he occupied - was overheard by one
of the jurors to utter in the ear of a brother counsel:
     "On my soul, that swarthy rascal has given his lordship
a scare.  It's a pity he must hang.  For a man who can
frighten Jeffreys should go far."
     Mr. Pollenfen was at one and the same time right and
wrong - a condition much more common than is generally

And so began the piratical odyssey of Captain Peter Blood, as told by Rafael Sabatini in his swashbuckling tale, Captain Blood.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Been reading.................

.......The Commercial Real Estate Revolution.  I'm only 150 pages
into a 300 page book, so at this point I'm dangerous.  The premise
of the authors is that the process of developing and building large
commercial real estate projects is broken, and everybody knows
it.  By broken, the authors mean that buildings cost way more
and take way longer to complete than they should.  A study
published in 2004 indicated that 72% of the projects followed
were completed over budget and 70% ran "beyond schedule."
Most of the root causes here are built into the traditional system
of contracting and are identified as "trust issues."

The following quote came on Page 6.  Reading this, I knew the
book was going to be valuable:

"Rushed implementation ranks as the next most common
complaint after the bid process itself.  Brokers are key 
contributors to the lack of planning time given to the design
and construction process.  They are trained to get the best
deal on a new building or a lease, and often they do not
appreciate the details and time necessary to plan and co-
ordinate construction and the move.  The commission
broker paid for the transaction has no tie to the success
of the transition."

I recognize that behavior. 

Great Moments in novel writing............

My mother and I sat opposite each other in the study while I
considered the infinite possibilities I had of making a grinning
ass out of myself.  If my mother and Reese Newbury were
signing valentines to each other over the recumbent body of
his dying wife, then that was no business of mine, especially
when the same wife seemed to be charmed by her generous,
self-effacing role as matchmaker.
     "Why isn't she in the hospital, Mom?" I asked, avoiding
all issues for a moment.  "She's obviously dying."
     "She wants to die in the house where all her forebears
have died," my mother said.  "She made the decision that
she wants to die in her own bed."
     "What kind of cancer does she have?" I asked.
     "It's spread all over her body," my mother said.  "She
began with cancer of the rectum."
     "Please, Mom," I said.  "Even God doesn't have that
good a sense of humor."

-a brief excerpt from Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides

Kevin Kelly on Art.............

"Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the
less the artist does the better.

Art is a revolt against fate.

Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward
what is arcane and concealed.

Art is a game.

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.

Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings
of misery and travail.

Art is not a thing; it is a way.

So say some famous artists. I'd like to add a few:

Art is the improbable becoming inevitable.

Art is anything useless.

Art is what remains when reality is removed.

Art is an illusion that requires at least two minds to exist.

But my favorite definition of art comes from Andy Warhol:
'Art is whatever you can get away with.' "

Full post here.

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

       If I have even just a little sense,
       I should walk in the Great Way,
    and my only fear would be straying.

The great Way is very smooth and straight,
  and yet the people prefer devious paths.
      That is why the court is corrupt,
              the fields lie in waste,
            the granaries are empty.

             Dressing magnificently,
             wearing a sharp sword,
     stuffing oneself with food and drink,
amassing wealth to the extent of not knowing
               what to do with it,
             is like being a robber.

    I say this pomp at the expense of others
 is like the boasting of thieves after a looting.
              This is not the Tao.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 53
as translated in Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life