Saturday, July 3, 2010

In praise of ........................

Seth said, "That's one reason I resist the temptation to
optimize this blog for traffic and yield. I'd rather force
myself to improve it by having the guts to write better
posts instead."

There must be six gazillion blogs. I am totally unaware
of 99.995% of them.  However, in my little corner of
the blogosphere, nobody writes more better posts than
Cultural Offering.  Kurt's mini-essays reveal a consistent
thoughtfulness and an evolving, engaged, and generous
spirit.  His knack for the usage of the English language
makes the reading easy.  I often say, 'wow', and always
feel better after reading them.

Examples here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Enjoy.

Got that one covered.............

..............."Knee high by the 4th of July"

The beginning of the end...................

Pickett's Charge on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg
July 3, 1863.  Story here.

“Heroism is latent in every human soul - However humble or
unknown, they (the veterans) have renounced what are
accounted pleasures and cheerfully undertaken all the self-
denials - privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sicknesses,
mutilations, life-”
-Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine

History (and Open Culture) would suggest that................

.............the boundary lines we draw on maps really do not
mean all that much in the great scheme of things.

  Fun (and short) history lesson here.

Knocking.........part three

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Happiness Manifesto..........

"Seven days of unhappiness makes one weak. If you want to
feel strong during the week, then you've just got to be happy.
...........We must proclaim a new Independence Day. Today,
join the proud, the few, the happy. Give up your dependence
on happiness coming from outside sources. Join the
Happiness Revolution. Exercise your unalienable rights and
make happiness your Declaration of Independence.
Happiness is contagious, become a carrier."

Full essay here

Arkad's Seven Cures for a Lean Purse.......completed...

The Fifth Cure

"Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment.....Own
thy own home."

The Sixth Cure

"Provide in advance for the needs of thy growing age and
the protection of thy family."

The Seventh Cure

"Preceding accomplishment must be desire.  Thy desires
must be strong and definite....They defeat their own
purpose should they be too many, too confusing, or
beyond a man's training to accomplish....As a man
perfected himself in his calling even so doth his ability
to earn increase...Thus the seventh and last remedy
for a lean purse is to cultivate thy own powers, to
study and become wiser, to become more skillful,
to so act as to respect thyself."

The Richest Man in Babylon, George Clason

Ben Stein opines about real estate and time........

"The time will come when real estate is a glorious subject again
rather than a dismal subject," Stein assured the audience. "It
always comes back.”

"When people go to Egypt, they want to see the pyramids.
When people go to Rome, they want to see the Coliseum,"
Stein said. “It is the real estate, the shopping malls, and the
buildings that carry over our culture from each decade to the
next. It is these buildings that people will look back on and
learn about 21st Century commerce and behavior.”

I wonder if our real estate and buildings will confuse people
1,000 years from now was much as the Newark Earthworks
confuse us today?

Knocking......part two

Thursday, July 1, 2010

30 year mortgages................friend or foe?

Assume two borrowers with equal financial resources:

Borrower the First:

$100,000 mortgage at 6.5% interest, 15 year amortization
$871.11 monthly payment;

EOY 7       $65,075 still owed   -    $38,229 total interest paid
(end of year 7)

EOY 15     $   -0-    still owed   -     $56,798 total interest paid
(end of year 15)

Borrower the Second:

$100,000 mortgage at 6.5% interest, 30 year amortization
$632.07 monthly payment;

EOY 7       $90,416  still owed   -    $43,509 total interest paid

EOY 15      $72,559 still owed   -    $86,332 total interest paid

Over 15 years, the 15 year mortgage costs the Borrower the
First $239.04 more per month, or $43,027 more in total.

In exchange for the monthly higher payments, over 15 years,
Borrower the First has $72,559 more equity ( a 6.5% return
on the extra money paid) than Borrower the Second, and,
better yet, no more payments.

Borrower the Second will pay a total of $127,544 in interest
over the 30 year term on the original $100,000 borrowed
and will be making house payments fifteen years longer than
Borrower the First. 

If Borrower the Second is able to invest the monthly savings
of $239.03 and earn better than 6.5% on that investment,
then Borrower the Second is smarter than, has more
discipline than, and is wealthier than most. 

But, simple observation indicates that  most Borrowers the
Second either use the extra $239.03 per month to live a little
better now, or spend the extra $239.03 to borrow more
($137,817 instead of $100,000) and buy a more expensive
house.  Thereby owing more and paying more interest all
the way- for a long time.

A few more observations:

Life is full of trade-offs. 

Having options is good.

Fully understanding those trade-offs and options is
is even better.

Sellers of real estate love 30 year mortgages.
Longer term mortgages enable borrowers to pay more.
When Sellers figured out that Buyers could pay more,
prices increased.

It should come as no surprise that the largest sustained
run-up in housing prices started after thirty year fixed rate
mortgages became ubiquitous in the mid 1980's.

The deductibility of mortgage interest for income tax
purposes can be a nice benefit.  Watching Congress
operate makes this observer think that making
investment decisions based on current tax law is a
gamble, not an investment.

Debt is only your friend in an inflationary economy.

Everybody in favor a little inflation now, raise your

Arkad's Seven Cures for a Lean Purse.......continued....

The Second Cure

"Budget thy expenses that thou mayest have coins to pay
for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments and to
gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more
than nine-tenths of thy earnings."

The Third Cure

"To put each coin to laboring that it may reproduce
its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring
to thee income, a stream of wealth that shall flow
constantly into thy purse."

The Fourth Cure

"Guard thy treasure from loss by investing only where thy
principal is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable,
and where thou will not fail to collect a fair rental.  Consult
with wise men.  Secure the advice of those experienced
in the profitable handling of gold.  Let their wisdom
protect thy treasure from unsafe investments."

More excerpts from The Richest Man in Babylon

More from Mark Twain..........

"My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine.
Everybody drinks water."

"Possibly the book may not sell, but that is nothing- it was
written in love."

In response to a critic who wrote that A Connecticut
Yankee in King Arthur's Court was not fit for the 'cultivated

"Indeed I have been misjudged, from the very first. I have
never tried in even one single instance, to help cultivate the
cultivated classes. I was not equipped for it, either by native
gifts or training. And I never had any ambition in that
direction, but always hunted for bigger game- the masses.
I have seldom deliberately tried to instruct them, but have
done my best to entertain them."

Knocking.....part one

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arkad's Seven Cures for a Lean Purse........

The First Cure
"...For every ten coins thou placest within thy purse take out
for use but nine. Thy purse will start to fatten at once and
its increasing weight will feel good in thy hand and bring
satisfaction to they soul.

"Deride not what I say because of its simplicity. Truth is
always simple. I told thee I would tell how I built my
fortune. This was my beginning. I, too, carried a lean
purse and cursed it because there was naught within to
satisfy my desires. But when I began to take out from
my purse but nine parts of ten I put in, it began to fatten.
So will thine."

The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Clason

Words to remember from 'The Bottomless Well'..........

"....those who invested heavily in the 'efficient' technology
of the 1990's wasted their money.  They would have done
far better- and achieved far more efficiency- by stashing
away the cash for a few years until the next great thing in
efficiency materialized.

"Only two reasonably clear lessons emerge from this history.

"First, efficiency seems to come, regardless- often far more
efficiency than the most well-meaning regulators and policy
pundits can foresee.  While the negawatt faithful were thrusting
fluorescents on users who could hardly be persuaded to take
them for free, greedy capitalists were developing far better
semiconductor-based bulbs, and amplifiers.  It rarely makes
any sense for regulators to try to promote 'more efficient'
technologies, because given the fecundity of technology,
there's no reason to suppose that regulators will reliably
choose the right technologies to promote, or the right
time to promote them.

"Second, when radically more efficient technologies do emerge,
they are quickly embraced by paying customers without any need
for government mandates- embraced not just to displace old ways
of doing things, but to do all sorts of new things that previously
hadn't been done at all.  Which means, at the very least, that
rising efficiency certainly does not guarantee falling energy
consumption.  Through all of technological history on record
so far, is has had just the opposite effect."

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy

Only from the mind of Walt Disney......

A Picture of Frustration in a Failure of Communication..............

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In praise of small town bankers................

My grandfather was an old country banker from Chester,
Illinois.  He was an young country banker when the economy
shattered in the 1930's.

By the force of his personality, and because his prudent lending
style had made his bank rock-solid, he was able to stave off
a 'run' on his bank.  Over the decade of the 30's, not only did
his bank grow, but he was given control over a number of
banks in neighboring communities and counties.

He was one of the original "community bankers".

Newark is home to two very successful "community" financial 
institutions. We are fortunate, and maybe take them for granted
sometimes.  Park National Bank and First Federal Savings &
Loan are part of the bedrock of our community. Long may
they prosper.

My grandfather would approve.  He would also approve of
the letter from Sarah Wallace published in the Wall Street
Journal, here.

Thanks Pat

When I become king, this book will be required reading.......

"Arkad," continued the King, "our city is in a very unhappy
state because a few men know how to acquire wealth and
therefore monopolize it, while the mass of our citizens lack
the knowledge of how to keep any part of the gold they

"It is my desire that Babylon be the wealthiest city in the
world. Therefore, it must be a city of many wealthy men.
Therefore, we must teach all the people how to acquire
riches. Tell me, Arkad, is there any secret to acquiring
wealth? Can it be taught?"

"It is practical, your majesty. That which one man knows
can be taught to others."

-Excerpt from The Richest Man in Babylon by George

First Things First......

"A New Yorker showed up at Austin Country Club one day.
He said he'd heard about this famous teacher, this Penick fellow.

I asked, 'What can I do for you?'

'If you're such a great teacher, teach me how to get out of sand
traps,' said the New Yorker.

'Not so fast,' I said. 'I can teach you how to get out of sand
traps. But I'm not going to do it until I teach you how to avoid
getting into them in the first place.' "

-Harvey Penick's Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf

Television, back when it brightened lives........

Bertrand Russell on 'Work'.....

First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering
the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively
to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The
first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and
highly paid.

The second kind is capable of indefinite extension:
there are not only those who give orders, but those who give
advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite
kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized
bodies of men; this is called politics.

The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the
subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art
of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising.

-Excerpted from In Praise of Idleness

Monday, June 28, 2010

This too is progress..........................

Corporations and organizations brainwashed generations of
people to believe that they had no option. Go to school, go to
the placement office, get a job, do what you're told. The
amazing reality of our time is this is no longer true.

-full post from Seth here

Progress looks like this.......

Humans are opportunistic scavengers of energy, like all other
forms of life. Before we burned fossils, we burned life itself-
trees, whale oil, and grass, by the way of horses, for horse-
power. As late as 1910, some 27% of all U.S. farmland was
still devoted to feeding horses used for transportation.
People everywhere grasp that energy is the key to survival
and prosperity, and until they can satisfy their insatiable
demand for energy in other ways, they satisfy it by
occupying more land. Only very recently, and only in a few
countries, have people discovered how to sever the link
between wealth and land.
When Europeans first arrived on the continent the contiguous
48 states had about 1,045 million acres of forest. That area
shrank steadily to a low of about 750 million acres in 1920.
We have been reforesting ever since..........We're adding new
lumber quality trees 30% faster than we're harvesting them.
For the first time in history, a Western nation has halted,
and then reversed, the decline of its woodlands.

Excerpts from Peter Huber and Mark Mills' The Bottomless
Well: the Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why
We Will Never Run Out of Energy

Couldn't let the day pass without.....

.....wishing Mel Brooks
a happy 84th birthday.

Writer, actor, director,
producer, and general
funny man, Brooks has
earned the entertainers'
quadruple crown:
Tony, Oscar, Emmy,
and Grammy.

An amazing career for
an amazing talent.

Scenes from Blazing Saddles here and here
Scene from The Producers here
Scene from The History of the World, Part 1 here
Making Johnny Carson laugh here

Gapingvoid suggests we make choices........

Three poems from William Stafford.......


It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any, time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.

Far to the north, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked-
elves, goblins, trolls, and spiders:-we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have tasted far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall,
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

Suppose an insane wind holds all the hills
while strange beliefs whine at the traveler's ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, sturdy for common things.


Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens

I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know where it is.


Cutting Loose

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose from
all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell where it is, and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path- but that's when
you get going best, glad to be
lost, learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some Martina for a Sunday.....

A verse for Sunday......

36. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not
condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you
will be pardoned.

38. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed
down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into
your lap. For by your measure it will be measured to you
in return.

Luke, 6: 36-38 The Open Bible