Saturday, April 30, 2011

All the world astounds me and I think I understand........... That we're going to keep growing, wait and see.

Distilling the essence................

"I've found that you don't need to wear a necktie if you can hit."
-Ted Williams

"I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can."
-Babe Ruth

"'Good things happen when we hit the ball.'  I prefer that approach.  It turns the dull colors bright.  It creates line drives, soaring high flies and bouncing grounders.  It moves the fielders and sets the runners in motion.  It creates a competition and results in great plays.  It is what baseball was meant to be"
-Kurt Harden

Kurt has been teaching life lessons via baseball.  Here, here, and
here for starters.  Here and here from the archives.  I'm hoping he
writes a book.

He must have had an Amazon account......

As Cervantes introduces Don Quixote:

"You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman
whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year
round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with
such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the
pursuit of his field-sports , and even the management of his
property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and
infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy
books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them
as he could get.  But of all there were none he liked so well as
those of the famous Feliciano de Silva's composition, for
their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls
in his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon
courtships and cartels, where he often found passages like
"the reason of the unreason with which my reason is afflicted so
weakens my reason that with reason I murmur at your beauty;"
or again, "the high heavens, that of your divinity divinely fortify
you with the stars, render you deserving of the desert your
greatness deserves."  Over conceits of this sort the poor
gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to
understand them and worm the meaning from them; what
Aristotle himself could not have made out or extracted had
he come to live again for that special purpose."

As excerpted from Part 1:Chapter 1 of  Don Quixote

On thoughts and chatter............

"Have you ever meditated?  Then you know what it feels like
to shift your consciousness to a witnessing mode and to
watchthoughts arise, float across your awareness, and then
driftaway, to be replaced by the next thought and the
thought after that.

These are not thoughts.  They are chatter.

I was thirty years old before I had an actual thought.  Every-
thing up till then was either what Buddhists call 'monkeymind'
chatter or the reflexive regurgitation of whatever my parents
or teachers said, or whatever I saw on the news or read in a
book, or heard somebody rap about, hanging around the
street corner.

In this book, when I say 'Don't think,' what I mean is:
don't listen to the chatter.  Pay no attention to those rambling,
disjointed images and notions that drift across the movie
screen of your mind.

Those are not your thoughts.  They are chatter.  The are

as excerpted from Steven Pressfield's Do the Work!

On training..................

Many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We try to be good to the people we love, but then we forget them and put ourselves first. And when we want to change our life, we dive into spiritual practice and expect quick results, only to lose focus after the honeymoon has worn off. We return to our state of bewilderment. We're left feeling helpless and discouraged. It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don't we think about training our minds?

- Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
as borrowed from the HammockPapers
Thanks Rob the evening slips away............

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Board of Zoning Appeals meets............

once a month in Newark.  I've had a seat on that Board for many
a year and believe the Board has a history of being both property
owner friendly and problem-solving oriented.  The Board tends
to, if we can't say yes outright, try to figure out a workable
"Plan B."  We met last evening.  Two routine cases and two
interesting cases were on the agenda. 

In previewing the Board package, it looked to me like one of the
interesting cases was doomed to be "dead on arrival."  This
particular applicant wanted to change the use of a portion of a
6,000 square foot building from retail to a restaurant with a drive-
up window.  To accomplish that change, they needed to lose a
handful of parking spaces.  It was the reduction of parking spaces
below what the zoning code allows that had them before our
Board. Knowing the property well from having shopped there
many times before, it was pretty clear that, parking requirements
aside, retro-fitting the site to allow for the drive-up window
would create major access and on-site vehicular maneuverability

It didn't help that the property owner, the proposed tenant, and
the presenter were all from out-of-town.  Not that that is a bad
thing, but the Board members all have tons of local knowledge
and experience, and were vastly more familiar with the site and
its attendant problems then the applicant was.  That is a bad

But, I've learned the hard way to reserve judgement until the
actual hearing. 

Prior to the meeting I thumbed through my copy of Michael
Wade's How to Make Presentations to Councils and Boards,
wondering if the presenters might have read it also. 

Turns out the presenters mostly did a solid professional job. 
They very well could have read Michael's book.  They did not
get their variance approval, but the Board didn't say "No" either. 
We listened to their presentation.  A few questions were asked.
Then we shared our concerns about the access points and
potential traffic issues on the exceedingly busy road the property
fronts on.  We shared our concerns about the design of their
drive-up window lane.  They asked the Board members enough
questions to thoroughly understand the problems we thought
they needed to solve before gaining an approval.  They asked
for their application to be tabled until our next meeting so that
they could go back to the drawing board.  A professional
approach and tabling is a far better outcome for them than
being declared "dead on arrival."

On Improvisation...........

Thanks Steven


On starting...............

"Start before you are ready.

Don't prepare.  Begin.

Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it's not the
difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or
the emptiness of our bank account.

The enemy is Resistance.

The enemy is our chattering brain, which if we give it a
nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent
self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can't/
shouldn't/won't do what we know we need to do.

Start before you're ready."

-an excerpt from Steven Pressfield's Do The Work!

....educated....from good stock

Future Man visits 1962............

 double click to enlarge

Thanks Ka-Ching

Thursday, April 28, 2011

...days uncounted....

On depopulation...............

Deborah Popper, of Buffalo Commons fame, writes an interesting
essay on the depopulation trends found in our older industrial
cities.  Solutions to this problem are elusive.  Popper offers some
general ideas which might all fall under the heading of community
building.  What she hasn't suggested is doing the hard work of
economic development - making employers, existing or potential,
industrial or otherwise, feel wanted and welcomed.

Full essay here.  Excerpts here:

Is Detroit an epic outlier, a spectacular aberration or is it a
fractured finger pointing at a horrific future for other large
shrinking cities? Cleveland lost 17 percent of its population
in the census, Birmingham 13 percent, Buffalo 11 percent,
and the special case of post-Katrina New Orleans 29 percent.
The losses in such places and smaller ones like Braddock,
Penn.; Cairo, Ill.; or Flint, Mich., go well beyond population.
In every recent decade, houses, businesses, jobs, schools,
entire neighborhoods -- and hope -- keep getting removed.

The subtractions have occurred without plan, intention or
control of any sort and so pose daunting challenges. In
contrast, population growth or stability is much more
manageable and politically palatable. Subtraction is
haphazard, volatile, unexpected, risky. No American city plan,
zoning law or environmental regulation anticipates it. In
principle, a city can buy a deserted house, store or factory and
return it to use. Yet which use? If the city cannot find or decide
on one, how long should the property stay idle before the city
razes it? How prevalent must abandonment become before it
demands systematic neighborhood or citywide solutions
instead of lot-by-lot ones?

Fatalism is no option: Subtracted cities must try to
reclaim control of their destinies.

Thanks Richard for pointing this out.

...ride along to another shore.....

Blues Image "Ride Captain Ride"

On travel................

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
-St. Augustine

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
-Samuel Johnson

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.”
-Moorish proverb

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
-John Steinbeck

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
-Martin Buber

“The map is not the territory.”
-Alfred Korzybski

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
-Lao Tzu

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”
-Herman Melville

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
-Pat Conroy

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
-Maya Angelou

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
-Aldous Huxley

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”
-Rudyard Kipling

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”
-Clifton Fadiman

all quotes lifted from here

Great moments in mighty fine writing...........

"I told that boy, I told him. You don't want no part of this
farm, nor another. A farm is a jackplane for human boards.
Wears you out like a sermon."

The Furniture Guy is painting pictures with his words again. I
have to slow down and really read his stuff.  It's well worth the

Thanks Greg.

Neither twiddling nor tweeting he...........

Thumbs......Hard to do everyday things without them.

Jeff has an accident and lives to tell the tale.  More really
fine writing here.  A taste here:

"But consider now, after raising the hammer, coming down in
an arc just off a fraction of a degree, a momentary lapse of
aim, and the thumb becomes the focus of all your well sworn
attention. Interesting how close the thumb and the primal
brain are."

Thanks for sharing Jeff

It's hard to believe that Tommy Caldwell....

died 31 years ago.  He has been missed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hungry Ghost...........

     On New Years Eve, three weeks after we lost our savings,
six of us Madoff people gathered at Taj's house for dinner. 
As we were sitting around the table, someone asked, 'If you
could have your money back right now, but it would mean
giving up what you have learned by losing it, would you take
the money or would you take what losing the money had
given you?'
     My husband, Matt, was still in financial shock.  He said,
'I appreciate the question, but I can't even wrap my mind
around it.  I just want my money back.'  I wasn't certain
where I stood.  I knew that losing our money had cracked me
wide open.  I'd been walking around like what the Buddhists
call a hungry ghost: always focused on the bite that was yet to
come, not the one in my mouth; on the jacket I saw in the 
window, not the one in my closet that I hadn't worn for a year. 
No matter how much I ate or had or experienced, it didn't r
eally satisfy me, because I wasn't really taking it in, wasn't
absorbing it.  Now I was forced to pay attention.  Still, I
couldn't honestly say that if someone had offered me the
money back, I would turn it down. 
      But the other four all said that what they were seeing
about themselves was incalculable, and they didn't think it
would have become apparent without the ground being
ripped out from underneath them.
      My friend Michael said, 'I'd started to get complacent. 
It's as if the muscles of my heart started to atrophy.  Now
they're awake, alive - and I don't want to go back.'

-Excerpted from  Geneen Roth's  Lost and Found: Unexpected
Revelations about Food and Money

We ain't got nothin' yet....

     Enjoy the classic 1966 Blues Magoos tune  here

49 reasons to love Nicholas Bate....

I suspect there is more wisdom and learning to be had by reading
and absorbing all of Nicholas Bate's lists than there is in four
years at some prestigious university.  And debt free too!

His latest effort is here.

Never having heard of De Bono's 6 Thinking Hats (#30),
Google was consulted.  Here are the hats:

Information: (White) - considering purely what information
is available, what are the facts?

Emotions (Red) - instinctive gut reaction or statements of
emotional feeling (but not any justification)

Bad points judgment (Black) - logic applied to identifying
flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch

Good points judgment (Yellow) - logic applied to identifying
benefits, seeking harmony

Creativity (Green) - statements of provocation and
investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Thinking (Blue) - thinking about thinking

From what I have now read about the six hats, they are a
very useful way of brainstorming with others.  The main
caveat is to only use the "black hat" in its proper time and
place.  Apparently, many meetings are attended by people
who take great joy in pointing out, at the wrong time, what
is terrible and wrong about your idea.  We have very few
meetings at our shop, but I can still recognize the problem.

Concerning #40 and #41:  Gave up all soda pop -including
Coca Cola - for Lent again this year.  High fructose corn
syrup intake is way down.  Water intake is higher.  One of
my challenges is to keep it that way.

Concerning #33:  I probably will pass on the suggestion to
read Joseph Conrad.  I barely survived reading Lord Jim in
10th grade.   Traumatized, there are no plans to return there.

As a few of my mentors have said about teachings, "Take
what you like, and leave the rest."

49 out of fifty.  There is a great deal to like in Sir Nicholas's

Calvin redefines success.............

Just another thing I didn't know........

Housing prices are completely disconnected from the Consumer
Price Index (CPI).

As quoted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site (here): 
"Until 1983, the CPI measure of homeowner cost  was based
largely on house prices. The long-recognized flaw of that
approach was that owner-occupied housing combines both
consumption and investment elements, and the CPI is
designed to exclude investment items. The approach now
used in the CPI, called rental equivalence, measures the
value of shelter to owner-occupants as the amount they
forgo by not renting out their homes."  

I'm not 100% sure what that means, but the BLS goes on to
say, "The rental equivalence approach is grounded in
economic theory, receives broad support from academic
economists and each of the prominent panels, and agencies
that have reviewed the CPI...."

Imagine my relief.

The blue line represents the CPI, the red line represents
housing costs according to the 20 City Case-Shiller index.

The disconnect appears to be total.

Thanks KPC

Appearances matter...........?

From the Dirt Lawyer's Blog, an essay on both the appearance of
impropriety in government and a solution to said problem. Essay
here.  Excerpt here:

"In both instances there were numerous complaints that the appointment/job amounts to a quid pro quo: trading the tax hike vote for a government gig. I cannot opine on that. What I can say is that I would not have accepted the position, at least not so soon after being voted out of office and changing my mind on a critical issues such as this. But that is me. And I wonder aloud whether we need legislation prohibiting those voted out of office from accepting any paid government position for, say, two years after leaving office. It sure would look better while not permanently depriving us of talented people in civil service."

Late to the party..........again

21,547,477 views....and I've never heard of Mumford and Sons.
We need to get out more.

double click to watch on youtube

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mighty E. is at it again............

thanks Doug

Patrick is back from China.......with pictures

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
-Henry Miller

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
-Mark Twain

"A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”
-Moslih Eddin Saadi

Pat Guanciale joined a contingent from Licking County on
a Chamber of Commerce sponsored tour of China.  He took
374 pictures.  They are posted here.  Do look.

Grace under pressure, or "Hang on, I love you..............", or Great Moments in Video....

Thanks Wimp

To change or not to change...............

........that is the question.

thanks Tigerhawk

John Quincy Adams.......................

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Lest you think his meaning is unclear, the context from which this
quote was taken is here.  The comments are interesting as well.

Thanks Dennis

This always struck me as counter-intuitive.......

.....low interest rates help Sellers more than they help Buyers. 

I probably went to the wrong school on real estate investing, but I was taught that investment property values should be figured out before taking the buyer's financing into consideration.  This notion that one can pay more for an investment because money is cheap has to be one of the root causes of the late great real estate bubble.  Real estate investing has always been a long-term and management intensive way to make money. For those who care about the return of their money as well as a return on their money, overpaying makes a tough business even more difficult. 

Interest rates tend to vary over time.  If it is true that low interest rates help Buyers pay Sellers higher prices for their properties, it is even more true that higher interest rates force Buyers to pay Sellers lower prices for their properties.  Oops.

This line of thought was occasioned by reading an article about investors seeking potential future high yields by buying office buildings with significant vacancies.  Having made an investment like that, I can attest that the key word is "future."

Full essay here.  Excerpts here:
Government efforts to prop up asset valuations have likely fueled office building investments even in the face of a weak job recovery, suggests Chris Macke, senior real estate strategist for Washington, D.C.-based CoStar Group, a commercial real estate data firm.

Relaxed regulations on how banks account for troubled commercial property loans have limited the supply of office properties for sale. The Federal Reserve’s policy of maintaining low interest rates has in effect enabled investors to pay more for office buildings, thereby putting a floor under prices.

Jet Li does the Ali shuffle.........

Happy 48th birthday to Jet Li

It's all about those pesky customers........

Thanks Tom

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cool cat looking for a kitty..........

Click to watch some Lovin' Spoonful on Youtube

On scurrying to success...........

"You don't need to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to
succeed, but you must have a desire to learn.  I don't think
I'm any smarter than the next guy, but I am curious, and I
think that I have an inquisitive mind.  That trait sometimes
makes me a pest, because if I question a person and the
answer is 'we always do it that way,' I will not only ask why
but then continue to pursue that person until I hear a
rational answer.  If you can ask enough of the right questions,
you will eventually come to an understanding through
common sense.  The mouse that scurries around the maze
sooner or later learns the way out."
-Wayne Rogers, Make Your Own Rules

"But you're not up there in the ring......."

It is way to early to write the history of the Great Recession, but
future historians will probably have to figure this quote into their
analysis of this era:

"Dimon compared Paulson's task in the fall of 2008 to a
game of Whack-a-Mole, with crises popping up left and right.
'It's hard to make policy on the run,'  he said.  'I think there
have been plenty of mistakes.  But in general, and really I'm
thinking of Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson, here.... in
general they acted quickly, boldly, and bravely.  They
changed their course of action when one wasn't working.
Could you and I sit down and say, 'Well, A would've been
better than B and better than C?'  Absolutely.  But you're not
up there in the ring.  It's pretty easy to say to the guy, 'Hey
don't let him hit you like that!'

"Ever a student of history, Dimon sent Paulson a note including a citation from a speech Theodore Roosevelt made in Paris in 1910:  'It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points our how the strong man crumbles 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 dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.'"

Excerpted from The Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie
Dimon and JPMorgan Chase

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

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
-William Cowper

On self importance and arrogant meddling............

thanks Mark

On Traditions.................


"The chief strength of the ancient Greeks lay in their freedom from hampering intellectual tradition.  they had no venerated classics, no holy books, no dead languages to master, no authorities to check their free speculation."
-James Harvey Robinson

A test of wills.....................

double click to enlarge

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

photos borrowed here

We matter....................

Thanks Hugh

Sunday's Verse.......

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

And they remembered his words,

And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

10  It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

The Holy Bible   Luke 24:1-10   King James Version

WRM talks God.......or, "we do not live in a tame world"

Walter Russell Mead wrote an essay for Holy Week that reminds me why he has become my favorite essayist.  Whole essay is here.  Excerpts are here:

"God hates the quiet life, I think. He wants us to break a sweat on our passage through this vale of tears."

"God seems to believe in keeping it real. He wants us to face challenges that are bigger than anything we know, more complicated than we can figure out, and so dangerous and all encompassing that we are forced to develop our gifts and our characters to the highest possible degree. He wants us to ‘be all that we can be’, and he won’t take anything less."

"uncertainty is the dish humans hate most — and it’s the one thing we can count on God to serve.........The quest for certainty, for knowledge about the future, is a powerful force in human affairs. It makes sense; if your livelihood depends on the crops coming up, you want to know what the weather will be. A fisherman wants to know where the fish are. Fighting for certainty is hardwired into our nature — by the same God who then plunked us down in a world where certainty is the one thing we cannot ever have."

"The ancient Greeks consulted the oracles; the Romans inspected the entrails of sheep and the flight patterns of the birds to understand what the fates held in store.............We laugh at their absurd superstitions, but try going on television sometime as a political analyst."

"We are not just living in interesting times; increasingly, these times look adventurous. Prepare yourselves, friends. God loves us with a fierce and terrible love, and he really, really thinks it’s time for us to grow."

His wonders to perform.............

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
-William Cowper

Cowper's poem was incorporated into this gospel song at 3:34.

Thanks WRM