Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tear down that wall.................





























thanks mmescherzo

Aside from that..........................

Tracking The Rising Sun......................3

The House of The Rising Sun..................Joan Baez (1960)

More book learning................

Being self-employed is the purest form of capitalism and the
best way I know of getting paid what you are truly worth.  It
also demands a different mind-set, including an awareness
that the number of hours you put in is only meaningful in
terms of what you do with them.
     Most successful entrepreneurs spend twenty-four hours a
day either working or thinking about their business.  But it is
how they fill those hours that makes the difference between
success and failure.  The cliche is, "Don't work hard, work
smart."  The truth is, "Work hard, work long, and work
smart."
     On the positive side, in the beginning, when you are not
having to deal with meetings and memos and all the other
internal corporate time-takers, you can add, literally, four or
five hours to every day.  But if you don't spend them pro-
ductively, not only will the difference be "deducted from
your pay"; you might as well spend them writing memos
to yourself.

-Mark McCormack
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School

On winning...........

"A winner is big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough
to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them."
-John Maxwell

Opening paragraphs................

"Van Harder came aboard The Busted Flush on a hot bright
May morning.  My houseboat was at her home mooring, Slip
F-18 at Bahia Mar, Fort Lauderdale.  I was in the midst of
one of my periodic spasms of energy born of guilt.  You go
along thinking you are properly maintaining your houseboat
and your runabout, going by the book, keeping a watchful
eye on the lines, the bilge, the brightwork, and all.  But the
book was written for more merciful climates than Florida,
once described to the King of Spain by DeSoto as "an
uninhabitable sandspit," even though at the time it was
inhabited by quite a lot of Indians."

-John MacDonald, The Empty Copper Sea

Curious, don't you think................?



















thanks Warren

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sometimes it just makes more sense.....

....to cut and paste, rather than link.  This is one of those times.
From the keyboard and blog of Walter Russell Mead:

While Declinists Groan, America’s Factories Hum

Predictions of imminent American decline are looking shakier by the day. A new report cited in the Wall Street Journal finds that manufacturing has expanded dramatically over the past month and looks set to continue. Fears that the U.S. could never compete with low-cost competition in Asia or the high-end products of Europe are overblown. For all its problems, there are still plenty of signs of life in American industry.

None of this should come as a surprise. Americans’ deep and abiding attraction to newness, change, and innovation have long been one of this country’s strong suits. The drive to improvise, adapt, and overcome, to borrow a favorite slogan from the U.S. Marine Corps, has allowed America to weather centuries of global strife, emerging stronger and more prosperous after the winds cease to blow. These qualities haven’t gone anywhere, and the world itself isn’t slowing down any to let the laggards catch up. Good.

America’s pains are growing pains, not the pangs of dissolution and decay.

Go Team!

About that comfort zone......














thanks jessica

Prevailing...............

"Our nation cannot prevail as the dominant world power
if its leadership is contained to one man.  Even I, Attila,
cannot accomplish for you what you are not willing to
accomplish for yourselves."
-Wes Roberts, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun

How to be "in demand"...........

"Don't become a commodity.  Remember that many mechanical and even decision-making skills can be replaced by technology.  Keep asking yourself whether what you do could be replaced by a silicon chip.  To avoid becoming a commodity become the very best at what you do.  The world still needs some bank managers; not everything can be done by machine.  You simply need to be one of the best.  Then build your EQ or emotional intelligence skills; the ones which almost by definition a machine cannot do - leading, being empathetic or creative, innovative and inspiring.  Finally, offer high ROI - return on investment.  Be extraordinarily good value.  That doesn't mean long hours; it simple means that what you do is done so effectively that nobody would want to lose you."

-Nicholas Bate, Instant MBA

Tracking the Rising Sun..........2

The House of The Rising Sun...............Libby Holman (1940's)

Not quite performance art..............

Seen wandering around the streets of downtown Newark, this
fine fellow is trying to encourage us to patronize the local Liberty
Tax preparation outlet.  I admire his spunk, if not his costume. 
But.......since H & R Block rents a building from us, if you need
help with your tax return, please visit them.  Thank thee kindly.

Opening paragraphs.............

"I was in deep sleep, alone aboard my houseboat, alone in the
half acre of bed, alone in a sweaty dream of chase, fear, and
monstrous predators.  A shot rang off steel bars.  Another.
I came bursting up out of sleep to hear the secretive sound
of the little bell which rings at my bedside when anyone steps
aboard The Busted Flush.  It was almost four in the morning.
-John MacDonald, The Dreadful Lemon Sky

True riches................

"The true riches of a nation lie not in its gold or silver
but in its aptitude to educate itself and in the degree of
integrity possessed by its children."
-Kahlil Gibran,  The Eye of the Prophet

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Every silver lining has its cloud.............

The silver lining is for us borrowers:

"The Fed’s Open Market Committee (known affectionately as the FOMC) took that one better on January 25 with a statement that the federal funds rate would stay at its current historic low level 'through at least late 2014.' Another 18 months of incredibly low interest rate stability seems in store for the U.S.economy."

The cloud is for those seeking even a modest return on their
savings accounts:

"While the Fed’s announcement can be construed as good news for businesses and consumers that are net borrowers, it is simply more pain and anguish for net savers. Millions of retirees had done all the right things over the years…investing in stocks and then shifting to bonds and certificates of deposit in later years.......Millions of retirees assumed a reasonable level of interest income from FDIC-insured financial institutions that would essentially be risk free (allowing them to sleep at night), while providing a consistent flow of income……not so fast."

All quotes are excerpted from our favorite economic futurist
Jeff Thredgold's newsletter - here.

Bad news...................

Ten Questions.....................

Patrick Guanciale passes along ten questions - here

"The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine
your focus, and your focus determines your results."


Tracking the Rising Sun.................1

House of The Rising Sun........................Leadbelly  (1944)

Zen Master Mazu..........

                     The Normal Mind

    The Way does not require cultivation - just don't pollute it.
    What is pollution?  As long as you have a fluctuating mind
fabricating artificialities and contrivances, all this is pollution.
    If you want to understand the Way directly, the normal
mind is the Way.
    What I mean by the normal mind is the mind without
artificiality, without subjective judgments, without grasping
or rejection.
-Zen Essence:  The Science of Freedom
Translated by Thomas Cleary

Opening paragraphs..........

A big noisy wind out of the northeast, full of a February chill,
herded the tourists off the afternoon beach, driving them to
cover, complaining bitterly.  It picked up grey slabs of the
Atlantic and smacked them down on the public beach across
the highway from Bahia Mar.  It rattled loose sand across
the windshields of the traffic, came into the cramped acres
of docks and boat basin, snapped the burgees and went
hooooo in the spiderwebs of rigging and tuna towers.  Fort
Lauderdale was a dead loss for the tourists that Saturday
afternoon.  They would have been more comfortable back
in Scranton.
-John D. MacDonald, The Quick Red Fox

On happiness................

"Happiness is not a when or a where; it can be a here and a
now.  But until you are happy with who you are you will
never be happy because of what you have."
-Zig Ziglar

How America made its children go crazy....

Our friend Spengler is foaming at the mouth over "the sorcerer's
apprentices in school psychology" who forgot that "learning
how to learn is the point of education."

His full indictment of the educational establishment essay is here.
Concluding paragraph is here:

"If China replaces us at the pre-eminent world power, it will
happen because their children are smarter, more persevering,
more ambitious and tougher than ours. And we will have no-
one to blame but ourselves for handing our kids over to
quacks and snake-oil salesmen."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How I spend my Tuesday nights.........

The Green Wave won again last night with some solid team
defense and a passing game that leads to lay-ups.  Go team!


















About money.................

"A wise man should have money in his head, but not in
his heart."
-Jonathan Swift

On intelligent risk-taking......
















Ben Casnocha writes about the jammed "career escalator."  Us
old-timers not wanting to get off, forty-somethings stuck in the
middle, and recent graduates struggling to get on.  He suggests
that the employment model of the last century is hopelessly
broken; that it is way past time to stop "job hunting" and time to
begin" investing in ourselves."  That he is plugging his new book
takes nothing away from the importance of his message.  Full
post is here.  Risky excerpt is here:

Risk wasn’t a relevant concept in the days of the career escalator. The idea was to avoid risk, and avoid “high risk” career moves like freelancing. This is exactly opposite of how winners think today. Every opportunity contains downside risk. To effectively exploit opportunities, you have to be take on the right kind of risk, and manage it prudently. In so doing, you build resilience to the seismic industry and competitive changes that destroy professionals on a more brittle ”low risk” path.

There is an entrepreneurial approach to intelligent risk taking, and you may be surprised at how different it is from the stereotyped bet-the-farm, throw caution to the wind approach that people tend to think of when they think of entrepreneurs.

On reading and writing..............

Justin Wehr, while "helping" his school-teaching Mom try to
figure out how to instill into fourth graders the importance of
reading and writing, offers not much help.  Who gets bitten with
the love of reading and/or writing, and who doesn't, remains
pretty much a mystery.  Just like most things about us humans. 
Still, he writes an interesting post -here.  Excerpt here:

I think we’re taught that reading and writing are like eating our vegetables, that they are nice, nutritious skills to have for learning and for professional survival in a world of email. But it shouldn’t be true that that’s why we do them. At least not writing. Reading to me is pretty vegetable-like in that it’s mainly just something I do for learning or amusement, but writing has become so much more important to me than veggie-like nutrition. It is my means of processing the world, of thinking. And probably most importantly it is my means of purging all the gunk that’s building up, the stuff that is bothering me. I call it “cleansing my psychospiritual colon.”

Choosing quantity not quality......























thanks peter

The semi-annual love letters from...............

...........our County Treasurer showed up in last week's mail.  The
payments of property taxes are actually an important civic duty.
For better or worse, a significant amount of local governmental
services, including the public schools, are dependent upon
property tax collections.  So, believing that it is important to feed
the goose that lays the golden eggs, we will be happily remitting
our share.   As our friend Jessica reminds us: 

Book learning...................

From Mark McCormack's What They Don't Teach You at
Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street Smart Executive:

                     Don't Deal in Round Numbers

Round numbers beg to be negotiated, usually by counter-
offer round numbers.  Odd numbers sound harder, firmer,
less negotiable.
     I hate to hear "a hundred thousand dollars" as a number
thrown out in negotiations.  That's the world's most negotiable
number.  Make it $95,500 or $104,500.  Either way you're
probably gong to end up with more

Home ownership.................

Mark Perry posts this chart about home ownership. As a visual it
is very dramatic, until you look at the left hand bar and realize the
spreads are fairly narrow. Still, a 3% or 4% change adds up to a
whole lot of houses. Here's hoping we find the right balance soon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequences striking again?

Whenever governmental action takes place, about the only thing
you can be sure of it that the Law of Unintended Consequences
will have its say.  Nowhere is this more true than in the world
of housing finance.

We all know that lending standards have tightened considerably
since 2007, but is mortgage money going to be even more
difficult to get in the near future?

From the blog of Mathew Ferrara comes these happy tidbits:

Interest rates remain low and flat. The Fed’s interest rate targets are having unintended consequences. By keeping spreads low, banks see little profit in lending to a shaky housing sector. By promising to keep them low for the next two years, they encourage banks to look for better investments for the long term. Big Banks – currently 50% of all housing lending in America – can easily make money in higher return sectors around the globe, with less risk of political witch hunts, too.

Major banks are exiting the mortgage market. Bank of America is trying to shed its correspondent lending business; GMAC/Ally did it last year in Massachusetts. MetLife exited the forward home loan business earlier this year. Credit unions and local banks are not ready to step into that space.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is about to regulate the mortgage industry at unprecedented levels through its “Nonbank Supervision Program.” Essentially, the regulatory burden for mortgage brokers is about to get more complex and bigger. That means new costs for compliance, and guess who pays for those? Consumers, of course. Add in forced settlements for pseudo-scandals like robo-signing, and banks have less and less reason to make housing lending a priority.

Choosing quality over quantity..........

Calculated Risk, while discussing the current trends of mortgage
delinquencies and foreclosures, notes that real lending standards
are having an impact.  Full post here.  Impact here:

...those loans originated over the last two years have proven
to be some of the best quality originations on record.

Feeling good.................


















It was getting hungry out yesterday afternoon and, on my way
back to the office after showing a building, fast food was on my
mind.  Our town's commercial thoroughfare is just like your
town's commercial thoroughfare - every fast food option in the
world, with a few slow food places thrown in for good measure.

Tired of McDonald's, mad at Burger King for changing their
fries, having Chinese for dinner, oh wait, here's Arby's.
I'm not a big fan of Arby's curly fries, but I do like their roast
beef with Swiss cheese so I parked in their lot and entered
their store.

Having eaten a zillion meals in fast food restaurants, I am pretty
certain that happy positive attitudes are not typically on most of
their menus.   Ahh, but today was different.  The Arby's crew
was, to a person, happy, cheerful, and laughing, both among
themselves and with the customers.  The service was friendly
and attentive.  They were clearly enjoying themselves, their jobs,
and each other.  That kind of attitude is contagious.  While I
was in a good mood when I walked in, I was in an even
better mood when I walked out.   Thanks for the treat Arby's,
oh, and thanks for the apres-lunch mint too.

Craftsmanship 101

Greg Sullivan and Gerard Vanderleun share their love of  well-
made, well-worn, and well-repaired work boots  - here and here.

"One of life's many small pleasures is the pleasure that comes
from a pair of fine shoes or boots once they are perfectly
broken in. One of life's many small problems is that by the
time the perfectly broken in state is reached with most shoes
and boots those items of footwear are just about worn out."



















"As society gets more complicated, people become farther
removed from the physical production of anything. They often
get the same thrill I get when they encounter someone that can
do something with their head, heart, and hands really well."

Good old American craftsmanship on display at Red Wing Boots:

The $116,666 second...............

Tom Asacker wonders about the economics, and egos, of
advertising during the Super Bowl.  Full post is here.
His conclusion is here:

The best marketing will always be passionate people.

Stairway to heaven, or people just having fun?

Mr. Sun.....................

.................played at being an artist, and had his way with the
Licking County Courthouse, for about five minutes late yesterday
afternoon.  At least one bystander was impressed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Learners vs. The Learned

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the
future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live
in a world that no longer exists."
-
Eric Hoffer

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

     IX - Song. - To Celia

Drink to me, only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine ;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst, that from the soul doth rise,
Doth ask a drink divine :
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not wither'd be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me :
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

-Ben Jonson

Paul McCartney of Liverpool..................

The Beatles.................................................Yesterday

Opening paragraphs.....

     The first olive moments of daylight, anticipating the imminent appearance of the sun over the English Channel, disclose a wide, misty, green plain descending to the South Downs and the sea.  This is the great Weald of Kent.  It is a peculiarity of the Weald's terrain - demonstrated in the shrouded past by Romans, Saxons, and Normans - that it would be quite defenseless should an enterprising foe cross the Channel.  Were any force to prepare for an invasion, its campfires on the far shore would be visible from nearby Dover.  But now, fourteen years after the Armistice of 1918, the Weald is an idyll of peace, and the explorer on foot finds that it possesses camouflaged delights.  Its smooth breast, for example, is not entirely unbroken.  The pastureland, sloping upwards towards London, is cleaved by a shallow valley.  This combe rises to a timbered crest.  There among eighty sheltering acres of beech, oak, lime, and chestnut, stands the singular country home of England's most singular statesman, a brilliant, domineering, intuitive, inconsiderate, self-centered, emotional, generous, ruthless, visionary, megalomaniacal, and heroic genius who inspires fear, devotion, rage, and admiration among his peers.

-William Manchester,
The Last Lion:  Winston Spencer Churchill:  Alone: 1932-1940

About Emerson...............

Faithful readers of this blog will understand that this blogger is a
fan of the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson. A hundred or so (out
of the thousands of interest) quotes from Emerson have appeared
on these pages.  I never read Emerson in school.  I suppose he
just got lumped in with all those other classic 19th century
American writers whose style would never be described as light
and breezy.  In high school I found Hawthorne impenetrable, Poe
too frightening, and Crane too dark and real.  In college, Professor
Consolo's love for Moby Dick scared me off from Melville and
Thoreau's Walden just seemed tedious.   Never picked up
anything by Emerson.

Anyway, at a breakfast meeting about ten years ago, I
paraphrased the well known Emerson quote about the
foolishness of consistency. Friend Jim, an extremely bright tax
attorney, replied with the accurate, and extended, quote:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. 
With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.  He
may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. 
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow
speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though
it contradict every thing you said to-day. - 'Ah so you shall
be sure to be misunderstood.' -  Is it so bad, then to be
misunderstood?  Pythagoras was misunderstood, and
Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo,
and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took
flesh.  To be great is to be misunderstood."

Impressed, I visited the library.  It took a bit of time, in that
pre-Google era, to find the quote, but find it I did.  The search
was probably more valuable than the finding.  Emerson now
occupies a place of honor on my book shelves.

On consistency.........

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
-RWE












The art of living............

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which.  He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.  To him he is always doing both.
-attributed to James Michener

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thanks Dad...............

30 years ago, or so, my Dad handed me this photo, cut out of his
Rotarian Magazine.  He was close to 70 at the time.  I suspect
he wanted me to know that aging was a process that, to some
extent, we each have some control over; that aging was to be
savored not feared; and that, as with all things, our attitude
matters.  I've kept the photo close at hand ever since.  I suspect it
is now time to pass it on to my son.

Opening paragraphs..............

     "A Catholic orphan of sixty years is not apt to forget the
day he first learned he was born Jewish.  It would not have
been that bombastic an event, except that I am running for
the presidency of the United States.  The 2008 election is
less than a week away."
-Leon Uris,  A God in Ruins

These disorganizations.................

"A man is a god in ruins.  When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.  Now the world would be insane and rabid, if these disorganizations would last for hundreds of years.  It is kept in check by death and infancy.  Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise."
Ralph Waldo Emerson,  Nature (1836)

On faith...........

"God has many doors opening into truth which He opens to
all who knock upon them with hands of faith."
-Kahlil Gibran, Secrets of the Heart

A verse for Sunday...................

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment remains.
                 What can one do about it?
          Being content with what you have
                  is always best in the end.

Someone must risk returning injury with kindness.
           or hostility will never turn to goodwill.
So the wise always give without expecting gratitude.

                       One with true virtue
                  always seeks a way to give.
                   One who lacks true virtue
                    always seeks a way to get.
           To the giver comes the fullness of life;
              to the taker, just and empty hand.

Tao Te Ching,  79th Verse
as adapted by Wayne Dyer
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

One of the glories of the ancient texts, written in a language
not our own, is the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in
translation.  Here is a different translation of the 79th Verse:

Compromise with great resentment
      will surely yield lingering resentment;
How can this be seen as good?

For this reason,
      The sage holds the debtors side of the contract
         and does not make claims upon others.

Therefore,
      The man of  integrity attends to his debts;
      The man without integrity attends to his exactions.

The Way of heaven is impartial,
   yet is always with the good person.

Tao Te Ching
translated by Victor H. Mair

Now, about all those "aging gracefully" posts....

In case you haven't figured it out, your faithful blogger has his
60th birthday today.   Yippee!




















Gratitude is always appropriate.....