Saturday, February 11, 2012

Despotism over the mind.........

"The objections which are urged with reason against State education do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking upon itself to direct that education; which is a totally different thing.  That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in
State hands, I go as far as anyone in deprecating.  All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education.  A general State education is a mere contrivance for the moulding of people to be exactly like on another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government - whether this be monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation - in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body."

-John Stuart Mill,  On Liberty

artwork  is Edvard Munch's 1893  painting, The Scream

Your father's bankers.....................

We have returned to an era of standards.  While it may be
old-fashioned and inconvenient, it certainly seems prudent and
responsible for a lender to make sure the borrower can repay. In
the long run, both parties, and their neighbors, are better served.

Latest evidence of tightening lending standards:

"At the same time, lenders today have tightened the requirements that potential homeowners must meet to qualify for mortgage loans. Real estate columnist Kenneth Harney, writing for the Washington Post, reported early this year that home loans originated for purchase or guarantee by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now carry average FICO credit scores in the 760 range. That’s a record-high. Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration now have average credit scores just above 700.

"There was a time when lenders considered FICO scores of 620 to 640 good enough. In fact, that time wasn’t even that long ago - try the housing boom years of 2004 through 2006."

thanks REJblog

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

Mr. Satterthwaite sat on the terrace of Crow's Nest and watched his host, Sir Charles Cartwright, climbing up the path from the sea.  Crow's Nest was a modern bungalow of the better type.  It had no half timbering, no gables, no excrescences dear to many a builder's heart.  It was a plain, white, solid building, deceptive as to size, since it was a good deal bigger than it looked.  It owed its name to its position, high up, overlooking the harbor of Loomouth.  Indeed, from one corner of the terrace, protected by a strong balustrade, there was a sheer drop to the sea below.  By road, Crow's Nest was a mile from the town.  The road ran inland and then zigzagged high up above the sea.  On foot it was accessible in seven minutes by the steep fisherman's path that Sir Charles Cartwright was ascending at this minute.
-Agatha Christie,  Murder in Three Acts


This word for the day is brought to us by Mr. Webster and the
Third Edition of his New World College Dictionary:

excrescence           n.       1.  a normal outgrowth, a natural
                                               appendage, as a fingernail
                                              2.  an abnormal or disfiguring
                                              outgrowth or additions, as a bunion

as in:

Most builders I know would not like having their gables
characterized as excrescences.


As I grow older part of my emotional survival plan
must be to actively seek inspiration instead of passively
waiting for it to find me."

"Discipline is the servant of inspiration".

“The important thing is not to point a finger at flaws
but to attempt to correct them!”

-Bebe Moore Campbell

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

"Gratitude conserves the vital energies of a person more
than any other attitude tested."
-Hans Selye

Music on the radio........................

Rolling Stones.........................................Beast of Burden

About burdens......................

      "My forebear, Green-Eyed Devil, was asked the same
question by the Great and Honorable Jin-qua when he was
beset by his enemies, Tyler Brock and his scum, and he just
laughed and said, 'Neng che to lao' - an able man has many
burdens.  As I am abler than most I have to sweat more
than most."   
     Tip Tok-toh smiled with him.  "And are you sweating,
Mr. Dunross?"
     "Well, let me put it this way," Dunross told him cheerfully,
I'm trying to avoid the eighty-fourth.  As you know, Buddha
said that all men have eighty-three burdens.  If we succeed
in eliminating one we automatically acquire another.  The
secret of life is to adjust to the eighty-three and avoid at
all costs acquiring the eighty-fourth."
     The old man smiled.  "Have you considered selling
part of your company, perhaps even 51 percent?"
     "No, Mr. Tip.   Old Green Eyed-Devil forbade that."
The lines around Dunross's eyes crinkled.  "He wanted
us to sweat."
     "Let us hope you don't have to sweat too much.  Yes."

-as excerpted from James Clavell's Noble House

Friday, February 10, 2012

We try not to break these..............

Joe Stampone's A Student of the Real Estate Game blog brings
us Sam Zell's Fundamentals.  Zell has the reputation of being
one to the all time great, and hard-nosed, real estate and business
investors.  Here he offers his rules for investing:

Rule #1 - Operate on the condition of no surprises

Rule #2 -Everyday that you’re not selling an asset in your
portfolio, you’re choosing to buy it

Rule #3 - Ensure management’s interests are aligned with

Rule #4 - Look for good companies with bad balance sheets

Rule #5 - Nothing should stand between a company and its
fiduciary responsibility to shareholders

Rule #6 - Look for opportunities in markets with pent-up

Rule #7 - The definition of a partner is someone who shares
your level of risks

Rule #8 - Liquidity = value

Rule #9 - Sentimentality about an investments leads to lack
of discipline

Rule #10 - Take meaningful positions so you can influence
your own destiny

Rule #11 - When everyone is going right, look left

Rule #12 - Understand the downside

Rule #13 - It all comes down to Econ 101 – supply and

No suits here................

From the web page of Sam Zell's Equity Group Investments

Us bloggers don't eat donuts......?

thanks tina

Three things I know.............

I know I've played this before and before.

I know it is not Summertime and I am not wishing it to be
Summertime. After all, we've barely had glimpses of winter
here through the temperate climes of Central Ohio.

I know that, for reasons not fully comprehended, this
performance moves me.  Janis Joplin.....Summertime.

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

   When I visit the back corners of my life again after so long
a time, littlest things jump out first.  The oilcloth, tiny blue
windmills on white squares, worn to colorless smears at our
four places at the kitchen table.  Our father's pungent coffee,
so strong it was almost ambulatory, which he gulped down
from suppertime until bedtime and then slept serenely as a
sphinx.  The pesky wind, the one element we could count
on at Marias Coulee, whistling into some weather-cracked
cranny of this house, as if invited in.
-Ivan Doig, The Whistling Season

That's a relief............................

".......Nevertheless, this new research demonstrates that for a
certain segment of the population, distractibility can actually
be a net positive.  Although we think that more attention can
solve everything - that the best strategy is always a strict
focus fueled by triple espressos  - that's not the case. 
Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is surf the
Web and eavesdrop on that conversation next door."
-excerpted from Jonah Lehrer's essay Don't Pay Attention in
the Domino Project's End Malaria

A gift............

"I bring you the gift of these four words:
I believe in you."
-Blaise Pascal

The creative processs..............

"In a 1960's IBM film about the computer there is a good
description of the creative process............
The narrator states that the artist is never bored.  She looks
at everything and stores it all up.  She rejects nothing.  She
is completely uncritical.  When a problem confronts her she
goes through all the stuff she has collected, sorts out what
seems to be helpful in this situation, and relates it in a new
way, making a new solution.  She prepares for leaps by
taking in everything."
                                           -Corita Kent

-excerpted from Keri Smith's How To Be An Explorer of the
World:  Portable Art Life Museum

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Systematic risk..................

"The fundamental and ancient relationships that underlie credit, going back to passages in Deuteronomy - that borrower and lender enter a relationship that carries obligations on both ends - were severed by firms originating mortgages, taking the front-end profit, and selling the mortgages off into investment pools, defined mostly by their yield, that were then sold far and wide by the great marketing and influencing machines of Wall Street.  Prudence, even common sense, had been bled out of the equation."
-Ron Suskind, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington,
and the Education of a President

We claim no original insights into the popping of the housing bubble and the great financial meltdown post 2006.  But, let me relate a vivid memory:

When I first borrowed money to invest in real estate,  the year was 1979 and the place was Park National Bank.  I was a youngster with no visible financial wherewithal and could only borrow because my broker - and mentor - was willing to co-sign the note with me.  While sitting and waiting to talk to the bank's main commercial lender, I got to watch and listen to him work.  He was on the phone, in a no-nonsense kind of way, working his not-very-long list of customers who had missed a loan payment.  It was very clear to me that he took the business of lending, and re-paying, seriously and that there were consequences for both the lender and the lendee when things did not go as planned.

By 2004, it was becoming pretty obvious that the financial industry (except for Park National Bank) had changed dramatically.  Distracted by other things, we did not quite connect the dots in a useful way, but the biggest change to us seemed to be this gaping disconnect between those in charge of lending the money and those in charge of collecting the re-payment of money.  Lenders (many, not all) were being compensated for shoveling money out the door, with no negative consequences if that money was not repaid.  Standards got tossed out the window.  A far cry from 1979.

The writer of Deuteronomy would have been appalled.  Our economy has been reaping the consequences for the past four years.

For a previous post about Park National Bank go here.

Waiting for........................

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

Years ago, in state documents, Vachel Carmouche was always
referred to as the electrician, never as the executioner.  That
was back in the day when the electric chair was sometimes
housed in Angola.  At other times it traveled, along with its
own generators, on a flatbed semitruck from parish prison to
parish prison.  Vachel Carmouche did the state's work.  He
was good at it.
-James Lee Burke,  Purple Cane Road


 Chris Guillebeau asks some good questions........

Did I use this time well?  Did I feel alive, and did I do
something that mattered?

Full post is here

Same as it ever was.......................

Talking Heads...............................................Once in a Lifetime

Always with the goals................

Joy is a myth that we seek.  And when we find joy, it angers us, just as the river which hastens towards the plain slows down and darkens when it arrives there.
     For men are only happy through their aspiration to the heights.  And when they achieve their aim, they become disillusioned and aspire to other, longer journeys.
-Kahlil Gibran,  The Eye of the Prophet

A little and a lot...................

"Do a little more than you're paid to.  Give a little more than
you have to.  Try a little harder than you want to.  Aim a
little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks
to God for health, family, and friends."
-Art Linkletter

Learning to learn.........................

The Furniture Guy's heirs are being home schooled.  Looks like it's
working out pretty well.   Full post, with some fun guitar work
thrown in, is hereMoney excerpt is here:

"Technically, I'm his, and his little brother's, music teacher.
But in reality, he's just his own music teacher. He has learned
how to learn -- the only important thing in this life."

Can I get an Amen?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

He's talking about the end of "peak oil".......

.............but his conclusion is way more important:

"As Julian Simon taught us, the ultimate resource is human
ingenuity and the human imagination coupled to the human
spirit, which is infinite and will therefore never reach a finite

Full post from Carpe Diem is here

Calling the bottom.................

From Bill McBride's Calculated Risk blog, which tracts the
world of residential real estate better than most, comes this word:

"And it now appears we can look for the bottom in prices.
My guess is that nominal house prices, using the national
repeat sales indexes and not seasonally adjusted, will
bottom in March 2012."

Full post is here


Tracking the rising sun................7

The only version that really counts.....  The Animals


My sweetie forwarded me an e-mail with two quizzes.  One could
Google the answers to the first quiz, but I suspect that is not the
point here.  

Quiz One:

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best
Actor and Actress...
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series Winners..

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.
These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their
fields. But, the applause dies, awards tarnish, achievements
are forgotten, accolades and certificates are buried with their

Here's Quiz Two. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few favorite teachers who aided your journey
through school.

2. Name three friends who helped you through difficult times.

3. Name five people who have taught you something

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel
appreciated and special!

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

6.  Name a half dozen heroes whose stories have inspired

Easier?    The Lesson:  The people who make a difference in
your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most
money, or the most awards. They simply are the Ones who
care the most!

This arrived under the heading of "Charles Shultz Philosophy." 
Googling Charles Shultz Philosophy, we are led to the snopes
site that tells us that Charles Shulz, the creator of Peanuts, did
not in fact write this.  With the Intertunnel being what it is, who
knows?  And..........does it really matter anyway?

Thanks Sweetie!



"Each of us will one day be judged by our standard of life,
not by our standard of living; by our measure of giving,
not by our measure of wealth; by our simple goodness,
not by our seeming greatness."
-William Arthur Ward

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

    The Russians call their Kamov-50 helicopter gunship
Chernaya Akula - Black Shark.  The name suits it, because
it is sleek and fast, and it moves with cunning and agility,
and, above all, it is a supremely efficient killer of its prey.
-Tom Clancy (and/or Mark Greaney), Locked On

Back to the drawing board.............

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On the virtue of asking Why?..............

......................or the role of curiosity in saving this cat.

"I had seen some of the most reputable physicians in my area 
- ENT surgeons, ophthalmic surgeons, neuro-ophthalmologists,
and neurologists. The arrogance of reputation and education
may have been in the mix. But it was the lack of curiosity,
ignoring the question of what else might this be, that limited
them in a proper diagnosis."

Full post with satisfying conclusion is here


"Nothing tends so much to corrupt and enervate and debase
the mind as dependency and nothing give such noble and
generous notions of probity as freedom and independency."
-David Hume

Tracking the rising sun.....................6

Sinead O'Connor...........................The House of The Rising Sun

This makes as much sense as anything else.....

On writing good.............

(To see the entire post, please visit MmeScherzo)

On abundance................

"Reason and understanding are not like the merchandise that is sold in the market, whose value goes down with abundance; quite the contrary, the more abundant they are, the more their value increases.
-Kahlil Gibran,  The Eye of the Prophet

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's a buyers' market.....................

But maybe not this much of one..............

Choose wisely.............

"The history of free men is never really written by
chance, but by choice; their choice!"
-Dwight David Eisenhower

Tracking the rising sun.............5

Frijid Pink............................................House of The Rising Sun


This word for the day is brought to us by Mr. Webster and the
Third Edition of his New World College Dictionary:

pretermit           v.       1.  to leave out or leave undone, neglect
                                           or omit.  2.  to let pass unnoticed.

This blog has pretermitted the outcome of last evening's
Super Bowl.

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

           Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

-Kenneth Rexroth

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

If, as they say, the threat of the hangman's noose has a
powerful way of focusing one's attention, the same can
be said of pregnancy.
-Walter Cronkite,  A Reporter's Life

Folk wisdom.....................

"All work and no blogging  play makes Jack a dull boy."

The Execupundit asks us to recognize the truth, and the not-so-
much-truth, behind much of what passes as "folk wisdom."

A word to the wise:  check in with Michael every day.  You
can't help but learn something.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


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

41  Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.

42  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

43  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;

44  for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Mark 12:41-44
The Holy Bible
New King James Version

The widow's mites..........take two

     There is the story about Jesus and some of his disciples who were watching the people come to offer their contributions to the temple.  Some came with large amounts.  Others gave smaller amounts.  Finally a little old woman came and carefully put two pennies in the treasury.  Jesus pointed to the woman and said, "Look at this wonderful woman who gave her two pennies,"  The disciples were puzzled.  "Two pennies!"  they exclaimed.  "Of all the magnificent donations given here today, why are you pointing to this poor woman as an example?"   Jesus said, "You don't understand, but she gave more than anyone else."  They said, "Two pennies - more than anyone else?  Explain that to us, Rabbi."  He said, "Yes, for her the two pennies represented all she had."
     How remarkable!
     But let's examine the story further.  Sometimes what is not told has a more profound lesson that what is told.  Consider what Jesus did not do.  He did not take the two pennies out of the treasury and return them to the old lady, saying, "Here, old woman, we have observed that you are so poor and so pitiful that we are going to give you back your two pennies."   What an insult that would have been!  She would surely have said, "What's the matter, aren't my two pennies good enough?  They represent a considerable portion of what I own.  Would you take away my dignity?"   Of course, this scene did not occur.  And therein lies the most profound lesson.

-Jim Rohn, Seven Strategies for Wealth and Happiness,
an excerpt.

Tracking the Rising Sun...................4

The House of the Rising Sun......................Nina Simone

Nina Simone has a multitude of verions on YouTube. They are all
a bit different, but all very good.  Try here, here or here

Opening paragraphs

     There are no hundred percent heroes.
-John MacDonald, Cinnamon Skin

Pretty short opening paragraph.  Just for good measure, here is
the second:

     Every man can be broken when things happen to him in a certain order, with a momentum and an intensity that awakens ancient fears in the back of his mind.  He knows what he must do, but suddenly the body will not obey the mind.  Panic becomes like an unbearably shrill sound.

Location, location, location............