Sunday, July 31, 2011

The luckiest of weeks

My goodness. I am overwhelmed at the luck that has followed me around this week. It has been a stellar week and I am afraid to wake up on Monday morning to see what else wonderful is going to happen to me.

I was nominated for the prestigious Who's Who in America. This prestigious distinction is determined by Frank and Moe's panel of business excellence, headquartered in Pathetic, AK. Not only was I nominated by this panel but dozens of other panels with even more prestigious credentials. It is just overwhelming. I knew all along that I was born to greatness but this is way beyond expectation. I am just numb with shock and awe that I have been so fortunate.

The nice folks at Frank and Moe's have gotten sort of upset at me because, I hate to admit it, I am a procrastinator. I keep neglecting to acknowledge my candidacy and they are now threatening to take me off the list of candidates all together. Golly, gee-whiz they just sent me a FINAL NOTICE for acceptance. I put it in the pile of the twenty other FINAL NOTICES from similar Who's Who in Business, Who's Who in Agriculture ( I grew a fabulous tomoato plant in a pot this spring ) and Who's who in Golfing prowess and too many others to list.

If that is not enough I got an e-mail from a lady named Tammy Sue, who told me that I was the love of her life. I have not divulged this to my sweet wife, Nancy, with whom I just celebrated 38 years of marriage. Tammy Sue tells me that she has fallen madly in love with me and that she has posted pictures of herself on a select internet site for my viewing pleasure. She encouraged me to follow the link and make sure I had a credit card handy as I logged on. I have not done so because I am really not in the market for a girl friend but I don't want to hurt her feelings. After all to have expressed the undying love and devotion she has for me is quite humbling.

Then to just set everything else aside, I got an e-mail notification from an attorney in Nigeria. He represents a member of Nigerian royalty who is in exile and it turns out that this man is my Uncle. He has no other heirs and I am in a direct line to inherit millions of dollars. Of course there are understandeable bureaucratic hurdles that need to be overcome. That will require that the attorney represent me before the Nigerian consulate of dispensation to heirs. Looks like I am going to have to up front $10,000 and most likely more before we get the estate through probate. But, c'mon, what's a few thousand dollars against an inheritance of millions?

So you can see, that I have had an unbelievable week. Heavy emphasis on unbelievable. My son works as a financial crimes investigator and he tells me that all this pales against some of the other schemes out there. Good thing I have him to consult to keep my feet on the ground, huh?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Green Thing

I got this e-mail recently and found it amusing. I am posting it as follows. Kermit said it about as well as it could be said, " It ain't easy being green." I have been aware of the green thing for awhile. I could, if I wanted, pay $500 and sit in a class room and become a "green" realtor. There is actually some sort of certification for that. I still am puzzling over just what that means. I am of the personal opinion that it is a byline or buzz word to drive acceptance of a radical point of view. Every phase of the neutralization of human thought patterns carries it's own buzzword. I will let you play the list in your mind. I can put together a sizeable list dating back to the early 60's.

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store.. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized
and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb
into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana ..In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Real estate and alchemy

It seems to me that the practice of real estate is getting more and more like alchemy. You know the mystical art from the middle ages wherein a wizard, sorcerer, mostly schizoid types that thought they were such, try to turn iron into gold using various methods.

Now before you write me off as a lunatic just think about it. We mix together buyers and sellers in a chaotic market and try to align the elements of a transaction. Buyers are loosely connected to reality because they have been told that they are in charge as it is a buyer's market. Most sellers are in denial that the market is as bad as they read and hear so they set their prices beyond reasonable expectations.

Now the realtor is supposed to take all those elements and bring them together into a viable transaction that gets to the closing table and laces everyone's pockets with gold. You have to in many cases turn the lender's scrutiny into a positive element knowing all the while that it has never been harder to qualify for a loan. The seller's lender, in many cases, has to agree to take it in the shorts on the loan that he made to the seller all those several months ago when we were all living fast and loose. They have to agree to accept cents on dollars in short sale arrangements otherwise they own a piece of property in a distant city that they could care less about.

If that is not bad enough, once you get those elements looking lively then you have to endure the appraisal. That process has become a minefield. Mix in all the foreclosure and short sales, comparables are so diluted that not even a sorcerer can divine what a property is worth. Yet we press on in this mystical process we call appraisal. We accept their opinions as if they were the Rosetta stone of truth and accuracy. The truth of the matter is that they ain't got a clue. The old process has been "improved" by the government that now employs clearing houses that are assigned to retain an appraiser for a transaction. You could possibly get a Moultrie, Georgia appraiser coming into Leon county to perform an appraisal. They have no basis in experience or knowledge of a market that is foreign to them. Ala-Kabatra, Ala-kazam..........your property is worth zip! End of process and usually the sale.

Now we bring in the element of property insurers. If you are fortunate enough to get one of these guys to return your call then you are subject to all sorts of Harry Potter sorts of intepretations. From the four point inspections that they do to their interpretations as to how wind worthy your house is. After you have negotiated this complicated maze then you are off to the title search.

The title search turns up all sorts of strange manifestations, ranging from mechanic's liens to estate disputes amongst surviving heirs. You can apply all the eye of newt you wish in some of those challenges but you can likely forget getting a clear title to hang your hat on.

Add in covenants and restrictions of homeowners associations, surveys, home inspections, wood destroying organism inspections and just the general orneriness of all parties involved you had better have some elements of an alchemist within you.

To quote the wizard of Id, " Frammin' on the jim jam and frompin on the fritz !!! ". Turning iron into gold or spinning straw into gold is akin to trying to successfully get many real estate transactions to closing in our present day scheme of things. Wish it were not so, but it is and will be for some time to come.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

American Jurisprudence

Well, the Casey Anthony verdict is in. I first detected that fact when I saw a blistering barrage of cries of FOUL PLAY on Facebook. I know, I know why do you waste your time on Facebook? I really don't spend a lot of time on it because most of the traffic there begins with " Sally done clobbered herself a gopher out in the pea patch." But there is the occassional declarative statement that is pithy and borderline meaningful. I also sometimes find pictures of friends and family that I enjoy perusing.

The facts and whys and wherefores of the case are deplorable. Little Caylee Anthony's death goes unsolved and justice seems to have slipped away. The verdict replays American sentiments at the OJ Simpson verdict. I still remember the collective gasp that OJ's acquital brought onto America. What was that twenty years ago? I still remember the CNN replays of Johnny Cochran's, " If it don't fit, you must acquit !" I suppose that in the case of the prosecutorial team, they just flat out did not present evidence that led the jury to render a verdict that left reasonable doubt in the rear view mirror. Beyond a reasonable doubt !!

Have you ever served on a jury? I have been the victim, uh, er...........I mean the chosen citizen charged with rendering a verdict on whether someone committed a crime or not, on four occassions. There is a lot of focus given to the fact that the prosecution and evidence must present a case that the accused is guilty " beyond a reasonable doubt." That means if there is one little whit inside you that is not convinced that the accused is guilty, it is your honor-bound duty to render a verdict of not guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is what makes our judicial system stand muster.

This example does not stand as a reasonable comparable to the Anthony case. I will offer it just because it makes the case for what a state attorney must do to bring the guilty verdict. I was called to serve on a jury about 25 years ago. I was one of 6 jurists empanelled to determine the guilt of 2 FAMU football players who had switched the labels between a six-pack of Heinekens and a six-pack of Budweiser. The difference was 85 cents. Warehouse Foods convinced the state of Florida to go to the time and expense of trying these kids on theft charges to set a standard. I suppose they had reached the threshold of tolerance in a flurry of shop lifting in their store.

I and 5 others took two days to listen to the state make its case. We heard from the arresting officer, the store manager and countless other people who had seen these two thirsty young men do what the state was trying them on. At the end of the second day the defense attorney, Roosevelte Wilson, in his concluding defense argument, asked the state to produce the evidence. The judge then turned to the state's attorney and asked for them to produce the evidence. The state admitted that they were unable to produce the evidence. It had been removed from the evidence room by a thirsty bailiff or trustee of the sheriff's office and been consumed. The judge pounded his gavel and said " Since the state of Florida cannot produce the evidence then this case is dismissed." The jubilant accused and their defense attorney almost skipped out of the room.

I and my fellow jurors walked away scratching our heads pondering how a judicial system could allow such a waste of our time, courtroom time not to mention the cost to the court in such a case. The state's attorney must have known that the evidence was missing all along. Such is the state of affairs with our judical system.

Like it or not, our system bears the burden of proving guilt beyond any iota of doubt. It is far better for us to err on the side of a guilty person being freed on occassion than allowing an innocent person to lose their freedom or lose their life. Such is the system we live under. Less civilized countries presume your guilt. They then lop off your hands or your head sometimes on the weight of very flimsy evidence. Pardon me but I like our system better.