Saturday, May 14, 2011

A stage of gold.....................

Shawna Corder and some friends played at the fabulous Midland
Theatre last night.  The evening was a tribute to the music of the
late Eva Cassidy.  Great local musicians making wonderful music
together, and obviously enjoying it.  It was a mighty fine show.

Bricks and Slaughter.......

Duke Long has an attitude.  He is down, down, down on the prospects for retail "bricks and mortar" especially the "dead and empty malls."  He mainly cites the changing consumer experience - on-line shopping - and changing demographics as the major problem for traditional retail.  I suspect he has a point, especially about the changing demographics. 

One of the problems with owning real estate is that you can't move it.  When the neighborhood changes, when traffic patterns change, when a fancy new center opens one interchange away, you're stuck. 

One issue that Duke didn't discuss is over-building. It wasn't all that long ago that everybody and their brother was a real estate developer.  Seems to us that too much was built too quickly in the 1997-2006 decade.  The market will take its time in correcting that imbalance.  Chances are real good that we won't be seeing any speculative retail development any time soon, which will help that correction.  In the meantime, there are opportunities to be had in the adaptive re-use of empty and unloved buildings.

All you have to do is watch the traffic at the new Ollies store in Newark (see 5/12 post and pictures) to realize that sometimes shopping is a social experience.  Bricks and mortar retailers still have some life in them.  Bless them all!

Here is Duke Long.................

You might need it some day.........

On gratitude............

From a Hospice program on Thursday evening:

Hem your blessings with gratitude so that they won't unravel.

Thanks Kerry

On Exceptionalism........

Rick Grant, writing for the Housing Wire, comments on how
meeting, and listening to, exceptional people will often
necessitate the re-calibration of some of our biases and opinions.
Full essay here.  Excerpt here:

"Columnists tend to simplify the world in order to fit a chunk
of it into an 800 word piece. It can be entertaining and
sometimes informative, but its always a generalization. I'm not
apologizing; just suggesting you keep an eye out for the
exceptions. They can be wonderful to find. It's even better
when you decide to be one."

Walk on..............

I'm disagreeing with this...............

From the Housing Wire:  full post here, excerpt here:

We aren't even halfway through a 10-year transition in the housing market.

"In the beginning of 2007, Countrywide announced a decline in its Alt-A book," kicking off the credit crisis, Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae said Wednesday at HousingWire's REthink Symposium. "We are in year four of a 10-year transition."

The transition, Duncan clarified, is in the process of returning to the old normal. This is characterized by stability in home prices and wages. In the run up to the bust, he explained, wages increased with asset prices, slowly and gradually to an unsustainable place. "It took 10 years to get there, so it will take 10 years to get back."

First issue:
"stability in home prices and wages" equals "the old normal." 
Really?  I'd like to see one of Calculated Risk's charts showing
average home prices overlaid by average wages for the past
fifty years.  My guess is there is very little of "the old normal"
for us to transition to.

Second issue:
"We are in year four of a 10-year transition."  Really?  Using
2007 as the starting date for the transition makes me wonder
if these folks think that 2003-2006 were normal times.  Seems
from this vantage point that, if there is such a thing as a "10-
year transition,"  it began when the bubble started inflating in
2003, not when the bubble burst in 2007.  That would put
us in year seven of a 10-year transition, with stability expected
to return to the housing markets by the end of 2013.

At least, that is what we think (mentally adding those great
weasel words "provided all other things being equal."  Hah.)

Thomas Gainsborough born this day in 1727

Wikipedia says of the famed English painter:

"Gainsborough was noted for the speed with which he
applied his paint, and he worked more from his observations
of nature (and of human nature) than from any application
of formal academic rules. The poetic sensibility of his
paintings caused Constable to say, 'On looking at them, we
find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them.' He
himself said, 'I'm sick of portraits, and wish very much to
take my viol-da-gam and walk off to some sweet village,
where I can paint landskips (sic) and enjoy the fag end of
life in quietness and ease.'"
Self Portrait       1759

The Blue Boy    1770

The Composer Carl Friedrich Abel with his Viola da Gamba    1765

Landscape in Suffolk  1748

Johann Christian Bach  1776

The Harvest Wagon    1767

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews    1749

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good thing I'm not addicted............

 blogging.  Google's Blogger, the host of this enterprise,
opted yesterday afternoon to deny us bloggers the ability to post,
edit, or receive comments.  Stayed that way for almost 24 hours.
While shutting down, Blogger decided to erase the posts from
Thursday the 12th.  Not sure if they will be returning them. 

Not much sense in complaining.   They do provide the hosting
for free

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On the local front............

....Anderson Layman Company had a pretty good day yesterday.
After an extended wrestling match with a large, and vacant,
"big box", we've finally gotten it 92% leased up.  Ollie's opened
a new 32,500 square foot retail outlet in Newark today- a week
ahead of schedule.

Ollie's mantra is "good stuff cheap."  Long may they prosper.

 Looks like a good time was being had by all.

The crowd gathers in anticipation..............

         Ollie showed up to greet his new friends in Newark..........

Commerce is going on.........................

"Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte"

I can't promise you for sure what I just said, but smart people on
the internet tell me that is a quote from Blaise Pascal's Lettres
Provinciales (1656-1656), no.16.  The translation is:

      "I have made this letter longer than usual, because
       I lack the time to make it short."

You may be wondering where this is leading.  Lately I have been
captivated by some very cool writing.  Call them blogstories.
Too short to be short story, but long enough to convey a
powerful complexity of image, feeling, and thought.  Takes a bit
of time and effort to accomplish that in 500 words or less. 
Blogs make it possible for them to share their art.  I am grateful.

Greg and Jeff are two of my favorite practitioners of this art.
Their most recent efforts are here and here.  Excerpts here:

"I remember when I was lying on the bed like a dead thing, and you came into the room and thought I was asleep. I wasn't asleep; I was gone from sight, and sound, and lost in a fever. I lay there in a puddle of sweat and more; my very life coming out of every pore, leaving nothing but a husk where a man used to be.

And you kissed me. I remember."

"She never liked this upstairs room, the way the ceiling sloped down from the peak in a sharp angle so that you needed to bend slightly at the waist when you moved deep into the room. But it was easier this way, he was in his own room, so he could sleep undisturbed and so could she.

But last night she fell deeply asleep in the corner chair while she kept one eye on the rising and falling of his chest, drawing the curtains as he drew his breaths.

The soft light of the sun coming up woke her quietly to the pinks and warm reds of the eastern sky. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep and suddenly startled, looked over at his closed lids and the rise of his chest.

She sat back."

Since we were talking about Blaise Pascal..........

Here is some smart stuff he said:

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.

Man's greatness lies in his power of thought.

Continuous eloquence wearies. Grandeur must be abandoned to be appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm.

When we see a natural style, we are astonished and charmed; for we expected to see an author, and we find a person.

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects.

The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason.

The weather and my mood have little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory.

You always admire what you really don't understand.

Vanity of science. Knowledge of physical science will not console me for ignorance of morality in time of affliction, but knowledge of morality will always console me for ignorance of physical science.

Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.

Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.

We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.

It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.

To have no time for philosophy is to be a true philosopher.

Imagine this................

.........a blog dedicated to convincing us not to blog.  Hmmmmm.
Wonder why they haven't posted since November of 2005?

Here is a part of their fun slide show

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Residential real estate arbitrage?

Buy now:   here and here

Sell now:   here and here

Writing an entry for a single purpose blog every day must be a
daunting task.  The crew at Keeping Current Matters are doing
a pretty fair job of it.

Their blog is all about the buying, selling, owning, and brokering
of residential real estate.

One might think there is a conflict in advising folks to sell one day
and then advising them to buy the next.  One would be wrong.

There is no true national real estate market.  There are, however,
hundreds of thousands of local real estate markets.  Each such
market is comprised of hundreds, or thousands, of individuals
with differing needs and wants. Some need to sell, some are
thinking about selling.  Some need to buy, some are thinking
about buying.  There is no one uniform question and/or answer
for all these folks.  Accurate information and reasoned insights
into what sometimes looks like a chaotic mess, however, is
fairly helpful.

The KCM blog regularly offers pretty sound counsel to buyers,
sellers, property owners, and to the real estate agents who serve
 them.  If you are interested in the goings-on in the world of
residential real estate, check them out.

Everybody has heard...............

........the story about 3M "lucking" into "Post-It notes."

The Presurfer takes us to that happy world of "accidental
discovery" with this link

Let's all root for more such serendipity.

On Running Out of Inventions..............

Or, On Misquotes that refuse to die............

Or, On History delivering a bum rap...........

Charles Duell, director of the U. S. Patent Office in 1899 was reputed to have encouraged the closure of the Patent Office, saying, "everything that can be invented has been invented."   It is highly likely that he never uttered those oft-repeated, and mocked, words.

"It's easy enough to prove that Duell was not the "dim-witted official" so glibly, referred to. One need only examine his 1899 report, a document of only a few pages available in any depository library. Far from suggesting to the president that he'd abolish the Patent Office, Duell quotes the following from McKinley's annual message: "Our future progress and prosperity depend upon our ability, to equal, if not surpass, other nations in the enlargement and advance of science, industry and commerce. To invention we must turn as one of the most powerful aids to the accomplishment of such a result." Duell then adds, "May not our inventors hopefully look to the Fifty-sixth Congress for aid and effectual encouragement in improving the American patent system?" Surely these words are not those of some kind of idiot who believes that everything has already been invented. Other information in that report also definitely refutes any such notion. Duell presents statistics showing the growth in the number of patents from 435 in 1837 to 25,527 in 1899. In the one year between 1898 and 1899 there was an increase of about 3,000. It's hardly likely that he would expect a sudden and abrupt ending to patent applications."

Full essay, from which the above was excerpted,  here.

Here is Wikipedia's take on Charles Duell.  It includes this quote from 1902:

"In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold."

Bum historical rap indeed.

Ahhh...............Emma Peel

Greg posted a video today about some lame idea of using a
personal blimp for "eco-tourism."  Discarding that suggestion,
he offers the following:

"I was thinking more of looming over my adversaries and
tormentors and mercilessly raining fire and death and
destruction down on them from the heavens like some crazed
Jupiter, accompanied by a cadre of leggy henchwomen in
leather Mrs. Peel jumpsuits."

Bloggery at its finest.  Don't you love how his mind works?

The Avengers was one of most fantabulous TV shows ever.  The
only problem was....not enough episodes.  Mr. Steed and Mrs.
Peel............nothing else needs said.

One of the glories of Youtube is the unexpected treasures
awaiting discovery.  Like this one.  Enjoy!

Irving Berlin...................

One of the true greats, Berlin was born this day in 1888.
Incredibly productive over a long career, the scope of his song
writing is amazing.  Here is a tiny sampling of his greatness:

something special on my mind...........

George Carlin must have stayed at a Motel 6 instead of the Holiday Inn Express.......

He seems a tad on the grouchy side here.  A few questions:

What does he mean we're not part of the "Big Club"?

Just exactly who is this "They" anyway?

It is a good thing he is funny, otherwise his bad attidtude
might not be so endearing.

If you double click and it does not enlarge enough to '
be readable, go here and read it all.

Thanks Ka-Ching!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

About that MBA.....

By the time 1973 and college graduation rolled around,  I was so
done with school that an MBA degree was the last thing on my
mind.  House painting seemed like a better choice at that time,
and that was the choice made.

The postman just delivered my very own copy of Nicholas
Bate's Instant MBA.  Thumbing through it this weekend, the
following quote jumped out at me:

       "Forget time management; get great at choice
        management instead."

Wow.  I had to put the book down.  All these years later,
choice management still needs more attention.  It seems
obvious now.

Thanks for your generosity Nicholas.

El Lawrence.............

One of the great movies was on the Turner Classic Movie
channel last night.  Lawrence of Arabia.  Without commercials.
Wasn't how I planned to spend my evening, but the best laid
plans and all that........

There is a great scene where one of the tribesmen gets left
behind in the desert without his camel.  Certain death if no one
goes back to get him.  Lawrence wants the tribe to go find
him, but the tribe is convinced that the lost one's fate is sealed.
"It is written," they say.  Lawrence replies, "Nothing is written"
and returns to the desert to find the man.  For his pains, he gets
called a blasphemer for defying the "will of God."

An epic movie.  Here is the clip just after Lawrence returns
from saving the lost tribesman.

More from T. E. Lawrence....

He even sort of  looks like Peter O'Toole.  Wiki here

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night
in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find
that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous
men, for they may act out otheir dreams with open eyes, to
make it possible.”

"Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but
the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the
pool, and that is the test of generals. It can only be ensured
by instinct, sharpened by thought practising the stroke so
often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex."

“I'm re-reading it with a slow deliberate carelessness.”

"Isn't it true that the fault of birth rests somewhat on the
child? I believe it's we who led our parents on to bear us,
and it's our unborn children who make our flesh itch."

“There could be no honor in sure success, but much
might be wrested from a sure defeat.”

"All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft:
for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come,
in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail
and ornament, alas!"

There is a message in this performance....

One way to rebel against lip syncing/imaginary playing is to not
do it.   Watch the Box Tops in open rebellion.

Thanks for the reminder Jeff.

Are attorneys deal killers?

The Dirt Lawyer's blog suggests otherwise, and gives five pretty
good reasons why this is so.  Full post here.  Two key excerpts

"They said this document was just a standard form. And
the check's in the mail, this will only hurt a little, and honey,
I swear it is only a cold sore. Uh huh. So that is why you
signed a ten year lease with a full personal guarantee for
your business even though your financing is still in the
approval state? You didn't negotiate an out from that? Oh,
your lawyer would at least have pointed it out to you so
you'd  know the risks. Oh, you are calling me now!
I see...well...."

"Trust me, the bill you get for being proactive will be cheaper
in the long run than the bill you will get for being reactive."

For faithful readers who remember our 33 guidelines for
investing, Guideline #18 was to have a good team of  advisers
and Guideline #19 was to read the fine print.  A smart real
estate attorney is a pre-requisite for a successful career in
investing in real estate.

While some attorneys undoubtedly take pleasure in "killing a
deal," it has been my experience that, if one consults with them
sooner rather than later, a good real estate attorney is worth
their weight in gold.

On golf.................

As a golfer who enjoys a fairly high handicap (once commenting
to my playing partner that my problem was a that I was just not
consistent,  I received the fairly wise reply, "yes you are."),
this quote by Joel Lazar rings true:

"I sometimes joke that golf is the antidote to good self-esteem."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Checking in with Steve Felix............

He is back from the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year
meeting and offers these insights gleaned from talking with
various real estate professionals:

Economy will remain sluggish until housing gets back on
track….in 2015!

Blue jeans will cost double what they were last fall-what is
the consumers’ ability to deal with this (the cost of goods to
the retailer is doubling).

Big question over the next three years is what curveballs will
come out of Washington?

The big unwritten issue is consumer problems qualifying for

How can we have the best affordability and the lowest home
sales of all time?

Value-add strategies back on investors radar screen

Consider value-add as core becomes fully priced and
opportunities to acquire capital starved assets abound

The big concern is prices of core properties being bid up.

Echo boomers are a key demand driver for apartment rentals

20-34 year olds have a 70% propensity to rent

Multi-family construction being held in check

“We’re disciplined, well, we’re pretty disciplined in looking
at potential acquisitions.”

Full post here

Our friend, the Sun.....

Call me a denier if you choose, but it sure seems logical that the
Sun has more to say about any changes our climate experiences
than things that we do.  The April issue of the Smithsonian
Magazine has a fascinating essay on the Sun.  Read it here.

The video below also comes from the Smithsonian web site.
It runs about 1:30, but it may start talking on its own. 

Two fun excerpts from the essay here:

"The Sun is a spinning ball of gas large enough to contain
1.3 million Earths.  Its core is a furnace of nuclear fusion,
converting 655 million tons of hydrogen into helium every
second at a temperature of 28 million degrees Fahrenheit.
This fusion creates energy that ultimately reaches us as sun-
light.  But the core and inner layers of the Sun are so dense
that it may take a million years for a photon of the energy to
fight just two-thirds of the way out.  There it reaches the
'convection zone.'  Above that is a thin layer we perceive as
the Sun's surface.  Solar gases continue far into space beyond
this visible edge in a blazing hot atmosphere called the corona. 
A tenuous solar wind blows through the entire solar system."

"But for now, the Sun's activity is so complex that its
convulsions baffle the field's top minds.  When asked to
explain the physics that drives the Sun's violence, SDO
scientist Philip Scherrer of Stanford University minces no
words:  'We fundamentally don't know.'"

God love him.

Editor's note:
The video was posted here, but it started talking without
prompting when the blog was opened. The technology eludes
me, but this is certainly not desirable. Go here to see the video.

A Poem for Monday...........


          The Tuft of Flowers

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the levelled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been, - alone,

"As all must be,"  I said within my heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

-Robert Frost

I nearly lost my mind...........

On stopping "whining petulance".........

Ryan Holiday suggests we swap moccasins:

"Think about how often we expect empathy and don’t think to give it. Someone is rude to you, it’s not acceptable. When you are rude, it’s because you’re tired, you didn’t mean it, because the process has been frustrating. We ask without consideration and can’t even consider why someone else might be asking of us."

Full post here.

After saying the Serenity Prayer about a hundred times (God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference) it finally dawned on me the the ONLY thing I can change is how I choose to think about, and respond to,  life it's own self.  Everything else falls into the "accept the things I cannot change" category.

On the difficulty of straight answers.............or, On finding gladness............

"Don’t give me math, give me the heart’s truth."

Full Tony Woodlief essay here.  Conclusion here:

And so when I urged them to search for that meeting place
of gladness and hunger, one of the professors asked: “How
many of you know what brings you gladness?”


“Do any of you know?” he asked.

Some were still and quiet, some shook their heads. No one
nodded in the affirmative. A young lady raised her hand, and
offered to speak for the group. She said she came to this
school because she is good at math, because she thought that
is what she was supposed to do. But she doesn’t know what
to do with her life, what will give her gladness.

I left thinking this is a pity, that there is some great lesson
here about young people and higher education and modern

But lately I have been thinking there is no lesson, only the
question: do I know?

Perhaps it arises for you as well. Do you know what brings
you gladness?

It would be a pity to reach the end of this life not having
known, not having stretched out our hands toward the
gladness for which we were surely crafted. But it’s a
frightening thing, to look fully at our work and relationships
and amusements, to gauge whether they bring us true
gladness, or just momentary respite from fear, from hurt,
from regret.

So here’s my offer to you, dear stranger: I’ll look if you look.

And may we each have the courage to embrace what is good
for us, what draws us nearer to ourselves and to God, no
matter from what it draws us away. Because if we don’t find
our gladness, and pursue it to the deep-running needs of this
world, how will our children ever know to do the same?

Thanks Andrew

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Why do you keep making it so complicated?"

An Open Letter from God, as channeled by Bo Lozoff via
Finer Minds.  Full text here.  Three excerpts here:

"I consider Myself a pretty patient guy. I mean, look at the Grand Canyon. It took millions of years to get it right. And about evolution? Boy, nothing is slower than designing that whole Darwinian thing to take place, cell by cell, and gene by gene. I’ve been patient through your fashions, civilizations, wars and schemes, and the countless ways you take Me for granted until you get yourselves into big trouble again and again. But on this occasion, I want to let you know some of the things that are starting to tick me off."

"You act like I need you and your religions to stick up for Me. Please, don’t do Me any favors. I can stand quite well on My own, thank you. I don’t need you to defend Me, and I don’t need constant credit. I just want you to be good to each other.........And another thing, I don’t get all worked up over money or politics, so stop dragging My name into your dramas."

"........if only you would go about My business of loving one another as I love you. How can you keep neglecting something so simple?"

Sundays Verse

 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

2  All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. 

3  Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

4  The LORD works out everything for his own ends-- even the wicked for a day of disaster.

5  The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

6  Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

7  When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.

8  Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.

Proverbs 16:1-8
The Holy Bible   New International Version

Happy Mothers' Day..........

Thanks Hugh

Thanks for everything Mom.........

Mama said............