Saturday, June 11, 2011

Whither the Cloud...............


Jeffrey Douglass, a real estate broker from San Diego, makes
a habit of always pushing the real estate brokerage envelope. 
That's OK.  It  needs pushing. His really good blog,
RealtyV2.com, is here.

His latest post links to a 1000Watt newsletter.  Excerpts below:

"Apple let loose a bunch of things this week. But the announcement of iCloud is the one we think is worth thinking hard about."

"But iCloud will accelerate that by making the flow of data, media and connections between devices (your phone, your tablet, your notebook) seamless and effortless. No cables. No double entry. What we need, when you need it, where you are, on the device at hand."

"The real estate hook? Well, think about this:

The inventory brokers sell isn’t in an office.

The people buying that inventory aren’t going to be in an office or sitting at a desk - yours or theirs.

And, really, soon, your even your computer isn’t going to be in an office in any meaningful sense. The data, the docs, the operating system - all of it will live in the cloud. Everywhere, in other words. Not a server room. Not a desktop. Perhaps not even a local drive.

As you think about how you work, as you ponder your office leases, or think about how you recruit, recognize that “Mobile” isn’t just about smart phones and apps. It is about the rapid decay of a structure upon which your business has rested for decades.

Don’t be the last one to leave the building."

Wish my crystal ball wasn't so cloudy.

Thanks for the clouds Rob

On freedom...............

"No one is truly free who is a slave to his job, his creditors,
his circumstances, or his overhead."

-Alexander Green, Beyond Wealth

Fun with innuendos...........................

There is a Commencement Address in here somewhere.............

Maybe Michael will come speak to my daughter's class.....


A positive trend line............
















Thanks Jessica

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are Home Prices Headed Up or Down?

Yes, they are.  Now get on with your life.

One version of the story here.

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

Gapingvoid confronts The Resistance






I wonder if this is really true................

The FT.com headline reads........

US solar power nears competing on price

Excerpt here:

"Solar power costs have dropped about 60 per cent in the past five years due to technological advances, manufacturing efficiency and squeezed profit margins created by overcapacity among suppliers.

"The trend promises to open up a much larger global market, although analysts warn that not every company in a highly fragmented industry will succeed."

Full post here.

Thanks Tyler

The song of the guitar........

From Open Culture comes Andrés Segovia, aka the  Father of 
Classical Guitar.      Give a listen.

A few quotes from Andrés Segovia.....

 

You can learn more about Segovia here, here, or here.
Some words attributed to him: 

Among God's creatures two, the dog and the guitar, have
taken all the sizes and all the shapes, in order not to be
separated from the man.

Sometimes one is without the pleasure of playing. But when
the silence of the audience is perfect, we recover that.

I've had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars.

When one puts up a building one makes an elaborate
scaffold to get everything into its proper place. But when
one takes the scaffold down, the building must stand by
itself with no trace of the means by which it was erected.
That is how a musician should work.

Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar
against your chest, for the poetry of the music should
resound in your heart.

(I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts
of both, they were not discontented with each other.

The nuances in the rhythm come from the lack - the delicate
lack - of respect that we may have for the rhythm. But in
this lack of respect, you may define the good artist and the
bad artist.

The advice I am giving always to all my students is above all
to study the music profoundly... music is like the ocean, and
the instruments are little or bigger islands, very beautiful
for the flowers and trees.

The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every
string is a different color, a different voice.

The piano is a monster that screams when you touch its teeth.

When I began, the guitar was en-closed in a vicious circle.
There were no composers writing for the guitar, because
there were no virtuoso guitarists.

Electric guitars are an abomination. Whoever heard of an
electric violin, electric cello or, for that matter, an
electric singer?

I belong to the scarce minority of artists who work in
good faith, around whom the phenomenal world vanishes,
as it happens to the mystics when they give themselves
to prayer.

I had only one teacher, myself, and only one student, myself.

If people have even a little understanding, it is better to
move them than to amaze them.

You know what I think? If I am tired now, I don't mind,
because I have eternity to rest.

Limitations as weaknesses?

"Once, I would have urged her to change.  I would have
pressed her to man up, worked to be her coach, teacher,
even her role model in Googling.  But that was the
fascism of the man in me, the insistent belief that
limitations are weaknesses."

-from Tom Chiarella's Esquire essay What Is A Man?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Become like children.............

"A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does
the genius or the madman.  It's only you and I, with our big
brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and
hesitate."

-Steven Pressfield,  Do The Work!

By process of elimination................

"You can’t sit with cash and gold is in a bubble. So in the end a solid piece of real estate in the US, bought at a fundamentally good price in a sound market is likely as good an investment as you can make these days."

Joel Ross blogs on about the perilous shape of the world, and
suggests a likely safe harbor - American real estate.  Here.

I concur (and just because I'm biased doesn't make me wrong).

Ahh............the "old human element"...

"I've figured out that real estate is not rocket science - it's
harder."  
-Craig Robbins, Colliers University

I knew that.   The quote was excerpted from an article in the
Commercial Property Executive.  The article continued:

"He pointed out that math and physics function according
to rational and predictable principles; human behavior,
far less so.  Focusing exclusively on the technical and
financial elements of real estate, important though they
are, runs the risk of missing out on an exploration of how
behavior - rational and otherwise - shapes the industry.
A tenant's choice of location, for example, can have as
much to do with corporate image as with lease terms."

How to be a good boss....














Tom Chirella offers some suggestions (via Esquire) -

So you are god. Not the God, of course, but a sort of god.
Hence:

Arrive before everyone else. Look people in the eye.
Everyone. But don't work hard on speaking to them.

Do not look for consensus. Ask for volunteers. When no one
volunteers, do it yourself. Then ask for volunteers again. If
not one responds this time, fire someone.

Don't touch. Don't fraternize. Don't sleep with.

Flip through the handbook and look for rules you can undo,
ignore, live without, eliminate.

Understand: Everything is your fault.

Don't leave your door open. It should be a decision for your
employees to come to you. Knocking is a decision.

People want bonuses. From top to bottom. If you give
bonuses, give bonuses to all.

Know that there is honor in taking care of people, in
providing for their families. Treat it as an honor, and expect
that your employees do the same.

A sort of god, not the God. You cannot answer prayers. But
you can understand that cancer, death, sick parents, and
tragedies on the other side of the planet knock families for
a loop. Making things easier in times of trouble is not
betraying the bottom line. It is being a good boss. Don't hide
behind the rules; use your command of them. There is always
a moment for a flexible god.

Especially one who goes home after everyone else.

Fun with clouds....................


Hector Thunderstorm Project from Murray Fredericks on Vimeo.

Back story here.  Thanks Gerard.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Investing in farmland.................






















Story here.  Excerpts here:

"Just how hot is American farmland? By some accounts the value of farmland is up 20% this year alone. That's better than stocks or gold. During the past two decades, owning farmland would have produced an annual return of nearly 11%......."

"Crop prices are up. That's being driven in part by the emerging markets. Corn is America's number one crop. And nearly half of the corn we grow goes overseas to feed cattle and other animals. As China and the rest of Asia get wealthier they are going to eat more meat, and will therefore need more corn. What's more ethanol has had a huge impact on the price of corn as well. A higher oil price makes ethanol a more attractive substitute."


"Then there is farm technology. Seeds are better than they used to be, requiring less water. Most tractors these days are equipped with GPS, many of which will allow farmers to map out the most and least productive areas of their land so they can better distribute seeds and fertilizer....... The result is that crop yields are way up, and rising. If farmland is more productive than it was a few years ago, it should be worth more."


"So is farmland overvalued now? Here's the math: In Nebraska where I was, the farmland prices have reached about $6,000 an acre. Based on the current price of fertilizer and seeds, the farmers told me, it costs about $4 to grow a bushel of corn. That means at current prices, each bushel produces a profit of $3.50. Farmers these days get about 200 bushels per acre of corn. That means a $6,000 investment produces an annual income of about $650, which is an income yield of 10.5%. That's more than double the earnings yield of the S&P 500. And it is three times the yield you would get with 10-year Treasury notes. So by that measure farmland doesn't look overvalued."


Farm ground is selling in our part of the world.  Ten years ago most of the farm buyers were developers hoping to plant roads and grow houses.  Times change.  Today most of the farm buyers are active farmers.  Farm acreage with both a track record of good yields and road frontage has been selling in the $6,000 per acre neighborhood.

The 2011 growing season maybe a challenge for some investors in farm land.  Between floods and a Spring in which it never stopped raining, we expect that a record number of fields in our part of the world will lay fallow this year.

It is a mighty big country out there...... and ... Insurance has changed our world in many ways...............

Your basic Ohioan, watching local farm fields too sodden to plant,
might believe that corn production nationally will be below par in
2011.  Maybe not.   It seems this year is a lot like all the other
years:

"As of May 22, 79 percent of corn has been planted in 18 states that account for 92 percent of corn production in the United States. The 79 percent is near the average from 1980 through 2010. Two areas have low percent plantings: the eastern Corn Belt and the upper Midwest."



















Central Ohio, part of that eastern Corn Belt, enjoyed lots of rain
in April and May.  As a result, many fields that usually would be
sprouting corn right now are laying fallow.  Bad news for farmers?
Maybe yes and maybe not.

"Wet weather this spring again raises questions about prevented planting provisions in crop insurance."

"Farmers can take prevented planting payments once the final planting date has been reached if planting has been delayed because of insurable causes."

Farmers buying insurance against the possibility that the weather
will not allow them to plant.  It has become a sophisticated world.
I wonder if all those investor types buying farm land around the
country knew about the "prevented planting provisions in crop
insurance."

Story here and here and here for starters

The Furniture Guy paints his house................


















"One of our lovely neighbors recently vinyl-sided their house,
and told us about it. Vinyl siding is common here. Vinyl siding
is sold as a curative, but it's a palliative. It's the medical
marijuana of home improvement. You still have cancer but
you don't care as much."

Greg's latest entertaining installment, on one of the joys of owning
your own home, is here.  As you might expect from a furniture
maker, he is clearly a craftsman.  I painted houses for two
summers while in college.  On our four man crew, I was the
least afraid of heights, and always drew the assignment of
painting the tippy-top parts. The only time I looked this neat
and clean was on rainy days when we didn't get  the brushes out.

In search of optimism.....

Do you wanna dance?

Bobby Freeman wrote this song (as Do You Want To Dance) in 1958. It has always been a favorite. Others must share that sentiment.  It has been covered a whole bunch of  times.  Cliff Richard (1962) should be viewed as a "period piece".  Mike Love's dancing makes the Beach Boys (1965) video worth watching. Mamas and the Pappas (1966) are included just 'cause. Bette Midler (1972) is just flat out interesting. The Ramones (1977)  might be my second favorite version.  Watching the video makes me think being part of their stage crew would be an stimulating gig. Walter Beasley (1998) shows up because I like his sax. I left out Johnny Rivers's 1966 effort and Del Shannon's 1964 recording because they just didn't add much to the mix.  Enjoy.





















Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin............

..........born this day in 1848.  The  French stock-broker, turned
all-around artist, has been identified as a post-impressionist, a
primitivist, a cloisonnist, and a symbolist.  Over the years he
shared paint with the likes of van Gogh, Pissarro, Cezanne,
Laval, Bernard, and Schuffenecker.   It is safe to say that the
influential Gauguin liked to play with color.

Christ in the Garden of Olives  1889


Self-Portrait with Yellow Christ 1889




At the Pond  1887


Ondine  1889

Tahitian Landscape  1893
Mahana no atua (Day of God)   c.1894
Adam and Eve  1902


The Alyscamps  1888


Economic Rapture........

The Intertunnel* is a fine place to poke around in.  It is also an easy place to become depressed.   There is enough doom and gloom to cause many an impressionable mind to find its dark side.  Fortunately, if you know where to look, there is also optimism to be found.  As Matt Ridley so aptly showed in The Rational Optimist, while pessimism has a certain seductive charm, for the past four hundred years optimism was a better bet.

Brian Wesbury of First Trust Advisors is one of those consistently positive voices.  Here is his latest post:

"But a large, loud and sincere group is still convinced the economy is broken and fragile. They see the recent slowdown in economic growth – real GDP growth looks to be growing at only a 1.5% annual rate in Q2 – as another sign that it really has been the end of the economic world. Gloom and doom are back on the table.

"Never mind that much of the slowdown is so obviously tied to temporary Japan-related disruptions in manufacturing and tornado-related dips in home building. That doesn’t matter if you really believe the end is near.


"But, when we move through these temporary problems, when auto production overcomes the parts-related slowdown and spikes back up at about a 100% annual rate in Q3, real GDP will sharply accelerate again.


"At that point, we suppose that those predicting the end of the economy will postpone their forecast once again."
 
*thanks Greg
thanks Mark for pointing the way

Harlem Nights.............

Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Redd Foxx had some fun in
the 1989 movie Harlem Nights.  It was on the telly Sunday
evening.  So-so movie.  Better sound track.  Give a listen:















Responsibility and freedom............

     The difficulty we have in accepting the responsibility for
our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the
consequences of that behavior..........Whenever we seek to
avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by
attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual
or organization or entity.  But that means we then give away
our power to that entity, be it 'fate' or 'society' or the
government or the corporation or our boss.  It is for this
reason that Erich Fromm so aptly titled his study of Nazism
and authoritarianism Escape from Freedom.  In attempting
to avoid the pain of responsibility, millions and even billions
daily attempt to escape from freedom.

-M. Scott Peck     excerpted from The Road Less Traveled

Monday, June 6, 2011

Road trip.......................

Falling Water.  Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece.  The
harmonious blending of nature and structure.  A money
pit.  A treasure.  A beautiful drive through Western Pa. to get
there.  A perfect afternoon.

Seeing Falling Water has long been on my list of things that
must be done. The experience lived up to the expectations.


















My Sweetie came along to humor me, but ended up enjoying it
as much as I did.


















Built for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, the story of Falling
Water is too long to be told here.  Read about it here and here.




































The venture started because I wanted to see the Phillies play
baseball this summer, and their home games are sold out.  I
casually mentioned to my brother-in-law that it might be fun
to watch them play in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh.  A quick check
of the schedule, and Pittsburgh worked. 

There is something of perfection in a freshly mown, freshly lined
baseball diamond.  The new generation of ball parks, like PNC
Park, are truly fan friendly. 

Speaking of fans, 39,000 plus turned out on Saturday night to
watch the game.  At least half of the crowd was wearing Phillie
jerseys and garb.  Everywhere we went in Pittsburgh we
encountered Phillie fans.  Dennis idly speculated on the economic
impact the weekend series had on the city -full hotels, full
restaurants, full bars.  Must have been significant.

The Phillies lost to the Pirates.  They made the kind of mistakes
you might expect watching a Babe Ruth game, but still had a
chance to pull it out with bases loaded in the 9th.   A lazy fly
ball to left field ended that dream.  Oh well, that will happen.


















The nice people from Consol Energy painted the sky with
 fireworks after the game.  A better show than the Phillies put on
this night.



















A dramatic view was had looking back at the PNC Park as we
crossed the Allegheny over the Clemente pedestrian bridge.


















No trip to Pittsburgh is complete without enjoying a Sunday
brunch at the Grand Concourse.


















A view of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington after taking the
Duquesne Incline.  The Steel City could be named Bridge City. 
Their bridge maintenance fund must be considerable.

















The confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers
creating the Ohio River.


















No better traveling companions anywhere than my Sweetie,
Kate, and Dennis.

















A great trip.  Pittsburgh bills itself as a place where "there is more
than you can do in a lifetime."  Not sure about that, but you can't
even scratch the surface over a weekend.  We will be going back.

Monday's Poem

Casey didn't strike out, but Chase Utley flew out.  Same result.



            


















                       Casey at the Bat


The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his
    shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the
    air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled
     roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his
      hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered
      "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles
       strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
       shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

-Ernest Lawrence Thayer

"Procrastination is the friend of failure"

"There is an old Spanish proverb that says "Tomorrow is
often the busiest day of the week," and I think it may just be
true. We allow procrastination to get in our way because
that's the easy thing to do."

-Sean Carpenter,  full post here.

Lest we forget..................

June 6, 1944...........

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday's Verse

            The sage has no fixed mind;
       he is aware of the needs of others.

   Those who are good he treats with goodness.
Those who are bad he also treats with goodness
        because his nature is to be good.

                He is kind to the kind.
          He is also kind to the unkind
  because the nature of his being is kindness.

          He is faithful to the faithful;
     he is also faithful to the unfaithful.
The sage lives in harmony with all below heaven.
      He sees everything as his own self;
      he loves everyone as his own child.

             All people are drawn to him.
            He behaves like a little child.

Tao Te Ching:  49th Verse
as translated in Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life

Jesus, with a sense of humor.......



Thanks Nicole