Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Astronaut Don Lind

This past week I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by former astronaut, Don Lind. As a young man back in Montgomery Alabama in 1964'ish I used to hang out with a lot of Air Firce brats. I was aware of and became a fan of Don Lind. He was a PhD in Physics and was also a navy pilot, before he became an astronaut. His son Dave lives here in Tallahassee and is a PhD and also teaches Physics at Florida State University.

I have kept up with Dr. Lind over the better part of 40 years and have always held him in the utmost of esteem. He flew on one of the sky labs and was lifted into space on the Challenger. I never knew this particular fact. He and his crew were the last crew to successfully fly Challenger into space. The next crew that went up on it were subjected to a fiery explosion that ended all of their lives. I believe that was January 28, 1986.

After the Challenger disaster Dr. Lind told our recent gathering that he was called into a NASA office in Houston and was told the following. You may recall that the reason that the Challenger exploded was because of a defective O-ring sealing the rocket booster from the separation configuration between it and the payload. This same defect existed on Dr. Lind's flight. The same malfunction occurred but through some miraculous coincidence a fragment of the O-ring plugged the rupture just long enough to prevent the fuel from rushing sideways thusly stopping the explosion on their flight. He told us that he was advised by this project supervisor that he and his colleagues had come within .3 seconds of the same fate as the crew of 1/28/86.

He testified as to how chilling of a realization that was. That he came that close to dying caused him a great deal of reflection. The thought that he could have ended up a charred cinder in less than one second had serendipity not have saved him was sobering.

Now he had landed almost 100 flights on the deck of a carrier during his flying days. He had led a life that involved a great deal of risk taking.

I can isolate several near misses in my life. Experiences behind the wheel of a car, behind the handle bars of a motorcycle, being a few inches to the left of a 30-06 round out in the woods during deer hunting season. I am sure that there have been numerous close calls that I was not even aware of.

We humans are most likely amongst the most fragile of all life forms here on planet earth. We are a delicate balance of carbon atoms suspended in just the right chemical status to keep us getting up in the morning. If the homeostatic balance is marginalized in any fashion we are toast.

I remember many years ago a railroad accident in Youngstown, Florida. That is near Panama City. A couple of young men thought it would be fun to interfere with the integrity of a railroad track. Their vandalism caused a freight train to derail. One of the cars was filled with chlorine. When the car was ruptured a fog of chlorine gas ensued. It was fairly early in the morning. As cars proceeding south on US 231 approached the area they noticed what they thought was a little fog hanging over the road. As they drove through the mist they unfortunately found themselves breathing poisonous chlorine gas. The outcome was 14 fatalities. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I remember reading a short story by Mark Twain called " The Mysterious Stranger". It had as its main point how precarious life is. It was somewhat of a commentary on how silly, Twain's opinion, that the theory of predestination was.

I suppose we should live each moment as if it were to be our last one. We would all be a lot better off, I would imagine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You suppose God is an Auburn fan?

I noted back when Auburn University squeaked by Arkansas about mid-season, on a Thursday night, that head coach Chizik told the lady with the big ear rings and TSH driven vocal chords, " This win is a GOD-THANG." Yesterday when he came from behind to beat the defending national champions in their back yard he announced to the interviewer, "God is good !"

Now I appreciate his obvious stalwart belief system. He has a right to declare his unadulterated faith. But isn't declaring God to even be a football fan a bit diminishing of His role as First Cause, Prime Mover, Creator of the Universe, etc.? I believe that to wear your religion on your sleeve brandishing it about for all to see is contrary to a spiritual personna. If you believe it, put it on and wear it, don't tell me about it. I don't need for you to save my soul at a football game on national TV.

I personally believe that tossing His name around for helping you pass a test, win an account, find something at a garage sale, turning the traffic light green at just the right time is on an approach to taking his name in vain. It might not be as severe as the lunatic golfer who curses, using his sacred name, when he duffs a putt, but it is in the neighborhood.

War Eagle and beat the 'Cocks and the Ducks and bring that national championship trophy back to Alabama for the second year in a row. This year it can be on display at the WalMart in Auburn, rather than Tuscaloosa.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Illusive Perfect Holiday

Just what is it that makes most Holidays a living nightmare? I believe that it is the illusion that we create for ourselves that this particular day will evolve into all that we hold in our minds as the quintiessential, primrose, poetic yet traditional holiday-esque time capsule. Just how long this illusion lasts into the day depends on an entire host of random acts. Most of us give up on the illusion by the time the perfect feast is laid out in front of us.

You want to sleep late into the morning. One of the central players in this theatrical endeavor is usually the maternal figure. She has not slept at all the night before because of all the responsibility she bears for bringing this illusion together in as faultless of a pattern as is possible.

You do your best to sleep but eventually guilt drives you out from under your warm covers. You wander down to the kitchen area for a bowl of corn flakes and encounter the red-eyed "significant other". With her nerves already frayed to the breaking point she points out an area by your recliner where your dog has evacuated his stomach of a load of green, soil-laced, froth. Before you have time to place anything into your stomach you have to get the paper towels, 409 and mop to remove the gastric exudate of your "best friend" from the family room. By the end of the day you will reinforce his role as your best friend from the experience of general interplay with various members of your family.

The day quickly springs to life. We are short on eggs by two. "I knew I should not have listened to you when you said that 2 dozen eggs was all we needed." says the red eyed galley chef. "Now what are we going to do?" You suggest that she cut down on the 13 pies she is going to make by one and therefore problem solved. She walks away muttering to herself and you go out to fetch your paper.

The newspaper looks like it is strapped with bailing wire to accomodate all the ads in their special, "pre-Black Friday" issue. You only want to find out who is playing football today and if there are any college hoops worth watching. As you leave all the ads in a 4-5 foot deep pile in the corner, extract the portion of 2-3 pages that actually deal with news and sports you pour yourself some Wheaties. You then find a quiet corner to crunch and read. Before you are able to finish half your bowl the next crisis hits. Uncle Ed has been released from the asylum and is coming to join us for dinner.

You wander out to find Uncle Ed. Now just which bridge overpass was it that he was sleeping under? Ah, it must be this one with the Mexican diplomats emassed. I pull up, place my .45 Smith and Wesson in my belt and get out of the car. Uncle Ed, over here ! Here he comes to join me. He asks me if it would be OK if he brings along some friends of his? I hesitate to respond then it becomes apparent to me that they are all imaginary friends, sort of like a virtual Facebook page. He wants to bring William the Conquerer, Sir Winston Churchill, Shoeless Joe Jackson and his agent. I can't really see the harm so I tell him it is OK.

Now comes the fun part. Taking him and his friends in the front door. By the time we have arrived the rest of the family is with us. They are comprised of a Judge, a police detective, a software engineer, a physician, and various working stiffs like myself. There are numerous conversations ongoing. They cover a variety of subjects: tea parties, Sarah Palin and Bristol, Mitt Romney, Tom Delay, Rick Scott, Obamacare,etc. Uncle Ed finally brings everyone to a focal point by announcing that Shoeless Joe and Sir Winston are hungry and when are we going to eat.

We go out to bring in the children. They have removed the cover from the pool and most of them are in the pool with or without clothes. The couple next door are in their hot tub, definitely sans clothes as is evident from the atrophied body parts as they make a mad dash inside .

By the time we sit down to eat the food is cold. Most of our women are off reading the paper and eating Wheaties. The dog has somehow consumed most of the turkey and dressing anyway. Uncle Ed calls on Shoeless Joe's agent, who is a reformed Druid, to pray over the food.

Later on that night, the mother figure says, "What a lovely Thanksgiving we had." Remember that you have to get down the Christmas decorations tomorrow first thing. The dog and I both vomit a sickly, green-hued froth near my recliner and we seem to have come full circle.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roll Tide and pass the cornbread dressing

I am thankful to be alive and well this Thangsgiving 2010. I am more thankful that my wife, Nancy, is alive and well. She had a serious brush with the grim reaper this past year. My daughter, Beth and her family have moved back from Pensacola and are now only 15 minutes from us rather than 3 hours. Our son,Drew, is happily employed and getting ready to have a new baby and our daughter Emily has been here all along with us. She is getting ready to give birth to another little girl. That will make 7 total grandchildren for us.

Someone once said that the Americans had discovered the perfect holiday, Thanksgiving. You do not have to go buy anyone a gift. All you do is eat all day long and watch football. How could there be a more perfect holiday?

I am healthy. A little too fat but I can walk 5 miles without too much of an effort. I can walk 18 holes of golf and occassionally break 90. Now I do take some meds. I spent thrity years in the pharm business and I truly do believe that pharmaceuticals do, indeed, extend and enhance life.I am thankful for them.

All in all my life is pretty good. I am not camped under a tank in Afghanistan or Iraq. I give thanks to those who do so voluntarily to protect us back here at home while I watch my Crimson Tide on TV and sneak an extra plate of cornbread dressing and gravy.

We Americans have a lifestyle that is the envy of the world. Our freedoms are unprecedented. I do not particularly understand a lot of stuff that goes on here. I had to quit watching the nightly lineup on Fox news from 8 PM on. It got me so worried about things I could not sleep. If there is not some sort of ball involved in what is going on TV-wise I just turn it off and try to read a book or something.

I have good friends. I love my church. I love my family. I had a wonderful career and am now into a second career that makes me realize what a great career the first one was.

Now if Alabama can just figure out a way to beat Auburn this will end up being a pretty good year, in spite of some seriously concerning moments.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Macy's in Philadelphia gets it!

Just when you thought it was getting to where you might be arrested for saying Merry Christmas to someone the following transpires. Can you just imagine walking through the mall and having a "Random Act of Culture" transpire before your eyes?

With all the political correctness folks around we have to think about any little thing that we might say that is offensive. We have come to this juncture through two or three decades of sensitivity training. I think we would have been better off spending our time in spontaneity training.

This "just happened" at the mall. Not like a nativity scene that shows up in the mall and the political correctness posse shuts it down because of the terrible affront it might be to someone to actually display symbols of the most relevant event in history.

I find this so appealing that it just happened. The lovely music of Handel's Messiah of course did not just happen. This presentation did not just happen. Both took countless hours and days of preparation. However the delivery of this random act did just happen. You can tell by the cameras panning the shoppers that they were mesmerized and delighted.

Good for us. Good for Macy's. Believe me I won't hesitate to spend my little bit of money there. God bless the organizational genius of those who made this happen. Just a few days ago.

If you have not seen it then please visit the following link. You Tube says that it has already had almost 3 million hits. What inspired genius to open the Holiday season. It renews my faith in all of us. To quote a famous line from a similar Holiday story, " God bless us, every one !"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Georgia sunshine, in Tallahassee

This is my little grandaughter, Georgia. She calls herself Georgie and she calls me Pop. She is one of five little grandchildren that my wife, Nancy, and I have together. Her Mother, Beth, has always been a bright, sweet and loving daughter to us. Georgia has two older sisters who have minds of their own. I am not saying that Georgia is any different.
Nancy recently had to go see a vitreoretinologist. The purpose was to have a needle inserted into her eyeball and deliver opthamologic grade steroids into her retina. I have always used an extreme, falacious example of deciding to give up golf and taking up inserting needles in my eye. The punch line on that declarative was that activity would be preferable to playing golf, at the level I play it. Well little did I know that Nancy would actually have to have that done one day.
Georgia went with us on this particular day as her Mother was volunteering in Kate's, her 5 year old's, classroom. Georgia and I played in the car. We listened to every song I could find on various CDs, including Ray Charles' version of Georgia. She obviously claims that song to be about her. After all the games I could come up with over an hour of waiting she decided that she wanted to see her Nana.
As it had been so long in the waiting I acquiesced to her demands. It is much easier that way, I am told. It was almost noon and the physician doing the procedure had to come into the office
in order to see Nancy. The waiting room was bare and this little imp burst through the front door and queried the receptionist, " Where's my Nannie?" The receptionist immediately brightened and smiled, Georgia has that effect on most anyone she meets, and asked her what her Nannie's name was. Georgia said, "Nannie, Nannie !". I quietly told the receptionist that this was Mrs. Vass' grand daughter.
The receptionist said to her, " Come with me and we will find your Nannie." She happened to be in the dark waiting area midstream in her first of 12 episodes of this procedure. As Georgia entered the room she saw her Nana. She squealed with delight and ran across the room yelling, "Nannie, Nannie." She climbed up on her lap and just hugged her for several seconds. I think she sensed that her Nana was doing something that was not terribly pleasant. Nana was just so happy and was warmed by Georgia's attention that day. I am sure that it had to have made the experience more bearable.
Georgia taught me a lesson. Of course I am not a cute little 3 year old girl. I am an overweight 65 year old man. The lesson is to try your best to put a little sunshine into other people's lives. It is so easy to get grumpy, cynical and mean. On the other hand, a kind gesture to anyone you encounter. Some pointless conversation to a person you pass on the way. A random note expressing concern or friendship to a person you have lost contact with. A random phone call to someone who is alone. All of these acts have an enormous effect on other people.
Something we ought to think about as we head into this very difficult and lonely time of the year for some people. The best gifts do not come from Macy's. They come from the act of giving a little of your time to someone who needs it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Depression and the migratory urge

I don't know about you but I have been pretty depressed here lately. My business has dried up and blown away to heaven only knows where. My baseball teams never made it past the first part of post season and now the mid-term elections are over. I suppose that I am just bored with life with nothing much to focus on. My candidates won for the most part in the elections. I really sort of liked seeing San Francisco win the series. Buster Posey played baseball right here in Tallahassee at FSU and I have always followed Cody Ross from his days with the Marlins.

I think there is something more here that I am dealing with and it has been a theory of mine for several years. I have a very happy life. My wife who was very ill earlier this year has rallied back and is her old self. I have wonderful children and I have 5 grandchildren who live within 30 minutes of me. Soon I will have two more of those. I have a wonderful home in a NE subdivision of Florida's capital city. So far I have been able to keep the wolf away from the front door. My football team is defending national champs and running at #6 in the BCS. I play golf once or twice a week with good friends. My scores suck rocks but that has not changed recently. So just what is it that is bugging me?

Here is the point of this post. I don't know if you experience this or not. I find in my own life that when the weather changes and fall settles in around us, I get a sense of melancholy and nostalgia for no apparent reason. I sort of review my past and drag up all the hurtful things that have occurred in my personal history and I feel regret and sometimes just abject depression. I suppose I could get my doc to Rx the latest SSRI and get to feeling better but I find that it always seems to go away eventually. But what the heck is it?

What occurs in nature when the seasons change? The bears load up on carbs and hibernate. The Canadian geese, except for the ones who defecate all over the greens on my golf course year round, fly south. Heck, even the monarch butterflies come floating in over the Gulf of Mexico in the hundreds of thousands. You see thier little corpses all over Hwy 98 south as some of them make landfall with unfortunate synchronicity of the passing of a car. Man, what is up with all that?

I believe that there is a remnant of the migratory urge in all of us. It is settled way down in our DNA. Back when we lived in caves and or tents or on the side of a cliff in a dugout apartment the weather would change. This signaled to us that we better follow the herds, head to a warmer climate or hunker down for the winter. I visited a place once upon a time named Montezuma's castle. It is about 50-60 miles north of Phoenix. There in the side of a sheer cliff are the remnants of the homes of a race of people who just up and disappeared back in around 1100 AD. No one knows where they went or why.

I think we mistake depression often for this wanderlust that seems to be endemic inside all of us. Now don't get me wrong there is a lot of stuff to be depressed about. Our economy is in deep guacamole. I don't see it turning anytime soon. However, who am I to judge. There are people that we just elected to office that are much smarter and more clever than you and I that are going to save us all. What's that? They are no more clever than any of the rest of us? Gulp !! Guess I will start taking a look at property in Niceragua.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why not be crazy?

I was reading a survey posted up on concerning the terribly exciting and ever present tea party movement. In my humble opinion the study was overtly biased, psychobabble. The end points were designed in advance to support their opinion that the tea partiers are right wing, whacko extremists.

I base that opinion on the inculcation of one word into the survey questions. " Are you of the opinion that the tea-partiers are crazy ?" Now I am not a scientist. I did, however, work for a science company for thirty years. I used to read and present materials from studies to very educated people. Your credibility was at risk if that study seemed biased in any fashion.

There is an entire branch of medicine that is dedicated to the determination of a person's mental health. I believe to become a psychiatrist you must have 4 years of college, followed by 4 years of medical school. I believe there is a 5 year residency following all that.

There is a 400 plus page textbook manual entitled the DSM-IV manual. It is a comprehensive listing of thousands of diagnosis codes related to mental illness. There is not one single code applied to the term crazy. Way too general. People can be bipolar, schizophrenic ( with or without delusion ), paranoid, obsessive, etc. etc. I am totally unqualified to diagnose or categorize.

However we as a society toss around the term crazy constantly. " Crazy, baby !" " Man you were crazy drunk last night." Hello, you crazy son-of-a-buck." " My friend is crazy about you. Do you want to go out with her? " " That guy driving that red Corvette is a crazy driver."

I think the more rational conclusion to draw is that we are all crazy in one vein or another. Is being a little crazy a bad thing? Have you ever been around someone so stiff and boring that you would like to inject them with a little crazy?

I don't know what conclusions you can draw from anything on this post. Trying to do so could drive you totally..............................CRAZY !!!!!!!

I will tell you something that truly is crazy. This real estate market we are in. It is the low point of the recovery ( what recovery?). I get lots of people asking me to explain it to them. I simply mutter something about "man it is crazy, I will get back to you."

I will try to help you figure it out in a sort of group therapy session. Visit me on my website at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Look at life through the windshield not the rear view mirror

I am a rabid football fan. I am schiziod in my allegiances. I have followed the University of Alabama since 1963 when I moved to Montgomery. I started out life in West Virginia, so I naturally like to see the Mountaineers win. I also like University of Florida where I sent a daughter and I like to see the home town 'Noles win because I sent a son and a another daughter through there.

My wife, Nancy, grew up in the shadow of Florida State University and graduated from Brigham Young University so she naturally is a rabid Georgia Bulldog fan. She likes to see the 'Noles win and of course her alma mater as well, but has done a lot of oozing over the bulldogs season.

My team, Alabama, (number one in the nation up 'til yesterday) got shellacked by the gamecocks of South Carolina. I was DEPRESSED afterwards. Maggie the wonder bassett felt it would be a good idea for her to take me for a walk after the loss to settle my nerves. She loves me and felt that a little squirrel and or rabbit chasing would improve my spirits. Nancy said to me as I we left the house, " Are you going to be OK." I told her, " I almost buried you back in April. I did bury one of my very best friends last week. This is a stupid football game. Of course I will be allright."

I once heard one of the leaders in my church say, " It is vitally important that we proceed through life looking at the world through the windshield rather than the rear view mirror." What a positive statement that is. There is a ton of stuff to get us down. Football games don't make a good sized pimple of importance on the buttocks of life in general.

I lost my job back in 2002. That will soon be 9 years ago. I could have drawn myself into a hole and put on 200 pounds and watched ESPN all day long and night. Living my life via the rear view mirror was not an option for me. I had a very successful 30 year career with a Fortune 500 company. They treated me fairly and I still get a pension from them. I decided to try real estate and have been a top producer in that realm from the first year. Now we are in the throws of a downturn in that business. Lots of soul searching as to what has gone on in the past to destroy that business along with the economy in general.

Tomorrow is a new day. Bama is going to win the rest of its games and play the Gamecocks in December in Atlanta for the SEC championship. After we beat them we are going to play Ohio State or Boise State for the national championship.

If and when this real estate economy turns around, I am going to go back to selling 3-4 million dollars of homes per year. I liked the way little orphan Annie put in "Annie" the motion picture.
" Tomorrow is just a day away." I also liked what coach Bobby Bowden said to Bert Reynolds in an episode of Evening Shade several years ago. The scenario was that Reynolds character wanted his son to play for Florida State. Coach Bowden went to talk with the boy as a courtesy to the Reynold's character. Reynolds was all depressed that the kid was not Seminole material. Bowden's parting comment was, " Football is only a GAME. !!"

Roll Tide and please pass the Kleenex.

Visit me on the web if you get bored at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Death, the enemy, or our friend?

I was walking by my neighbor's house here about a year ago and I saw the 85 year old wife sitting on the front porch alone. I had not seen her for a while so I walked towards her and greeted her. She seemed preoccupied. For the last several months I was aware of the fact that she had been suffering some rather severe dimentia. She did not acknowledge my cheery hello but instead said to me " Lee, I think I am going to have to place Dr. Townsend in a nursing home. " She went on to describe how he had been sleeping excessively and was not eating. I asked her if I could see him.

She took me to him. Sure enough, he was in his bed and cast a suspicious and wary eye on me. Now, here was a man whom I have lived by for the last 20 years. He was an active golfer for much of that time. He was retired from the Navy and had at one time been the commander of a significant base hospital. He was a physician and a very smart and friendly fellow. I liked him a great deal and always looked forward to running into him.

Now, here he was, obviously on the downslope of a pretty serious decline in health. I believe there may have been a bit of estrangement between he and his offspring based on the fact that none of them to my knowledge came to visit very often. Well I spoke with a neighbor across the street who was a nurse and their next door neighbors so we could begin a period of keeping them under close surveillance so that they would be in safe harbor.

We all responded and were doing pretty well getting him to see his doctor who prescribed meds to him and sent him on his way. Then came the day where he fell and could not get up. A call was made to 911 and the ambulance came. He resisted being transferred to the hospital because he knew the score. He was quoted as saying, " I just want to be left alone to die here in my own bed." Well he was transferred anyway and they diagnosed him as being dehydrated and having had a mild heart attack. They put him into ICU and kept him there for a couple of weeks.

In the meantime we made contact with a son and ended up having both of the sons come, one an attorney and the other a physician. The decision was made that he would be moved to be near one of them along with Mrs. Townsend. Dr. Townsend made the 18 hour trip in the front seat of his own car. Within 3 weeks we, the neighbors, got wind that he had passed away. He ws 90 years old. Echoing in my mind was his proclamation that he " just wanted to die in his own bed."

Here was a man who had practiced medicine over the course of a lifetime. He knew he was dying. He embraced it and accepted it. The rest of us could not just stand by and not seek some sort of intervention. He led a full, successful and pretty happy life. What would have been wrong with letting him die in his own bed?

I just delivered a eulogy for a friend of mine, Colin. You can read the eulogy if you like on the home page of my website, under "About". Colin had been diagnosed with cancer almost 10 years ago. I made his acquaintance and became his friend approximately 6 years ago. He was always sick and having to take radiation thereapy and ultimately chemotherapy the entire time I knew him. He loved life and did well for the extent of his illness for many years.

His son came and lived with him about 3 years ago and his daughter came within the last year. He was not alone. He would get to feeling better and then lose ground to the illness. He fought a long and brave battle. During his final days he suffered incredibly. Death came at almost midnight 9 days ago. His children and his beloved sister were beside him holding his hand as he passed away. Suddenly in as long as it takes to take a breath and let it out he was gone. The suffering stopped and he was at peace. He was 60 years of age.

My own Father in law contracted an illness akin to Lou Gehrig's disease. It was called a rediculo transverse myolopathy. In any event he was rendered parlyzed from his neck down, placed on a ventilator and had to be moved 250 miles away from his home to be supported in a ventilator hospital. He died after 6 years in that hospital on that ventilator. That was 13 years ago.

My mother in law lived to the age of 86 and got sick and died within 24 hours. She was surrounded by her entire immediate family as she took that last breath and surrendered to the reaper. Cancer took my father at 70 years of age. He was diagnosed in November and dead by mid December.

Is the reaper the enemy or is he our friend? In all of these scenarios I think he was a friend. I once read a quote by a philosopher who said," We fear death as if it were the greatest enemy. We do not know if it is the greatest good. How could anything as natural as death, designed by the Great Architect be bad? We live in the land of the dying. The next land ( for the believer ) is the land of the living. We die that we die no more." ( Neil Fugal, paraphrased ).

I suppose that someday we will all know, won't we? None of us are getting out of this world alive.

Lee Vass

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shooting and a lesson learned

I wanted to post on the subject of shooting. I am blessed to have good neighbors. One of my neighbors is Lamar. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He is also sort of a gun collector. We, on occassion, go down to the Wakulla County Sheriffs shooting range. If you own a gun then the problem persists as to where are you ever going to shoot it. Lamar and I solved that by going 40 miles down to the country. The sheriff there is very kind in that he opens up his facility to the public. On one recent excursion I learned a lesson concerning contrasts.

While Lamar and I were shooting our handguns at some innocent little paper targets there were some deputies apparently being qualified on their new assault rifles. We stood and watched them shooting and were amazed at the amount of fire power they held in their hands. It was impressive seeing them handle and perform with those weapons.

Now these were AR15's. They hold 30 rounds of ammo and you could squeeze those rounds off in a matter of seconds. After they run empty you just slap in another magazine and repeat. The ammo is lethal. It is about 2..5 inches long and would be coming at you so fast that it would be nigh unto impossible to avoid being hit, if you were the target. You ask yourself why do Sheriff's deputies have to have such a sophisticated piece of firepower? The answer is quite simplistic. Because the bad guys have all got assault rifles and anything else you can imagine.

Now I have to introduce you to Keith, one of my other neighbors. He is a retired cop with FDLE. He is another nice guy. Lamar and I got to speaking with Keith and he invited us into his house to look at a couple of guns that he was proud of. They were turn of the 19th century powder and ball muskets. They were quite impressive. He took them down off the wall and allowed us to heft them and look at them. These guns were responsible for helping us, as a country, to win our independence from Great Britain.

These smooth bore muskets were quite heavy. As I held the one of them I could not help but contrast what we had seen earlier down at the WCSO shooting range. In every Revolutionary or Civil war movie I ever saw, I recalled two lines of enemies facing off at one another and firing these guns point blank at the other guy. They had to shoot and then reload, filling the powder receptacle with powder and then putting a lead ball down the muzzle with a rod for that purpose. To shoot 10 rounds took them about 15 minutes. Another part of the story is that from 100 yards or more the balls fired were terribly innacurate and ineffective. The damage came from the soldier charging you and working you over with the fixed bayonettes.

I am 65 years of age. Somtimes the progress of mankind just dumbfounds me. Early in my career, just after college, I was administered a test by IBM as to whether or not I had any data processing aptitude. Turned out that I did. This was about 1970. My company wanted me to go off and let IBM train me up on a new data processing system that they were going to implement. I had just finished 4 years of hard work getting that BS and had enough. I passed on the opportunity, electing to be a sales and marketing guy.

I remember that we cleared out a room for the equipment. It was a room about 18x20 feet. There was a key punch station, card sorter and printer. That equipment looked like farm equipment. The little Blackberry that I hold in my hand today is abut 1000 times more efficient and 1,000,000 times faster than that stuff was.

My point is simply this ( and it is no epiphany ): This age we live in is so fast paced that it is almost impossible to keep up with it all. Somedays I feel like a cave man trying to keep up. But I keep trying. If I don't keep trying, life will knock me flat as one of those rounds from that AR15.

There are some sweet sides of it as well. I got a picture sent to me by my son in law of my two granddaughters selling lemonade in their driveway. How did it come? In an envelope with a stamp? No, it came through the airways onto my smartphone, seconds after it was taken. I watched 11 hours of football yesterday. BYU-FSU; 'Bama-Duke; Bulldogs and Razorbacks; LSU-So Miss.; Auburn-Clemson. I never left my recliner, except to get a snack. I watched on digital cable with high definition. It was better than being there.

I love it! Don't you?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mosque across from All Saints Church, Mayberry

Sometimes I think the media just tries to determine how riled up they can get everyone. This preacher in Gainesville could not have bought the publicity he has recently gotten for many millions of dollars. It has been intriguing to watch the national scribes whip the populace up into a frenzy.

You know, I don't really like the fact that this minister is going to burn copies of the Koran. Yet my logical mind tells me that if this guy had done this secretly and told no one then the world would still have continued to turn on it's axis. Of course then he would have remained the obscure little sociopath that he is. Do you suppose that this guy ever graduated from junior high school? Yet he has been contacted by the white house, Hilliary Clinton, General Petraeus, and on and on. He has much more notoriety than you and I do. Why? Because he is being used as the poster child for intolerance, bigotry and downright ignorance.

I know several people who are Muslim. I would just about have to say without any qualification that they are good, good people. They work hard and take care of their families. So what is the rub on these poor folks?

Well it is just like this. It is the extremists that we fear and loathe. Indeed we are at war with the extremists who brought down the twin towers. Why did they do that? Because they are nutcakes, intolerant, bigoted and ignorant. There is an organization named the Ku Klux Klan. What is their schtick? Intolerance, bigotry and ignorance. They started out as a means whereby the Protestant churches of the mid-1800's decided to deal with the question of slavery. The last time I checked the KKK is not doing all that well. It is a commentary on the many billions of dollars and time expended in corporate headquarters all over the globe holding diversity and sensitivity seminars that have tanked such intolerant organizations.

Now we see this phenomenon on our radar. It comes from the very people who have been the seedbed for the undoing of political incorrectness and bigotry over the years, the big media. This brouhaha has not been fostered by some little incidental BLOG. It has come about by the mainstream media. It is truly strange in derivation. I will admit, I just do not comprehend the whys and the wherefores of this tempest in a teacup.

I am a product of small town America. That gives me quite a bit of credit. Hillsdale, West Virginia is not a town it is a wide spot in the road. I am a disciple of the Andy Griffith era. I read this BLOG by Kay Campbell a Huntsville Times blogger and found it amusing. Take a look at it and see if you can decipher how Andy would have handled this mosque business.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What CPT code do you hit for "Friend therapy"?

A CPT code is coder language for how a healthcare provider bills your insurance for services. My physician son-in-law is on his way to a conference on this very subject as he begins his new career as a physician. I spent a week in Dallas when I worked for a healthcare company to learn as much as I could about ICD-9 codes and CPT codes in billing for a particular therapy in which my company was involved. Mind numbingly BORING.

So what is the point of my post today? I am never sure but here are some random thoughts about how we often receive therapy and are never billed for it. I have to take you back in time when I was a sales specialist for a drug called Revia (naltrexone HCl). Our indication, or license, was for alcoholism. This drug helped along with therapy and counseling to get alcoholics off the booze. It never was a big time winner but I was fairly successful with it. Anyways it was fun to talk about.

I remember being invited to a drug and alcohol treatment facility by our representative in Pensacola to speak with people about Revia. I also had an appointment with the sitting President of the Florida Psychiatric Association. This visit went very well. This physician/psychiatrist was keenly interested in what we had to tell him and it worked out to be a very nice interchange. We had a little time left at the end of our presentation and we were just sitting around shooting the bull with this brilliant physician. The local rep, Howard, threw a very thoughtful question out into the conversation. He asked, " Dr., when you are feeling sort of blue and low and disjointed, where do you go for therapy and answers to questions? I will never forget his response.

The physician looked thoughtfully at both of us and decided to give the question a response. This is what he said. " When I am having such a day as you describe I call a special friend. He is a man that is my age and makes his living as a tile setter. I went to kindergarten with him and ultimately graduated from high school with him. He and I climb onto a golf cart and spend 5 hours in pursuit of a dimpled spheroid. If I am in deep trouble, this visit could overlap into lunch or dinner. This man knows my soul and my heart. He always knows the right thing to say to me or not say to me. I always feel refreshed and enlightened after these sessions. I wish that my patients were to all have such a friend. Of course, I would soon be out of business if they all did."

I have often thought of that. I have a circle of friends that I play golf with and sometimes just go to lunch or breakfast with.. I have lots of acquaintances, numbering into the thousands. I have 256 facebook friends. However, there is only a small core of people that know my heart and soul. These are people that I count on. I am very fortunate that my wife is one of these people. I am also blessed that my son and daughters are in that circle. I also have 2 fine men who are married to my daughters that fill out this cadre of therapists. Along with it are little wider circle of people that I know from work, church, baseball, PTA, etc. They help me just when I sit and look at them. They square me up to the reality of important things.

No CPT code assessment is necessary in such therapeutic relationships. I wish that all people would avail themselves of such friends. There is also a wide army of people who are cynical, into private agendaes, selfish and painfully boring and opinionated. You know the type. You want to go hide in the bushes when you see them coming towards you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The colors of voting

I am an old man. On top of all that I am confused. When I was a young fellow, barely aware of politics in general, if you were a vehement Democrat, then you were referred to as a Yellow Dog democrat. If you were a vehement Republican then you were referred to as a Blue Dog republican.

Now I am watching a news channel some time ago and I will be ding danged if they didn't refer to a moderate democrat as a blue dog democrat. On top of all that wherein they used to color the states that went republican in general elections on the big board of states in blue on the TV. Now they color such states in red. I am so confused. Is it any wonder? When did they change all the colors around?

When I was a little boy, home sick with a fever, my Mom would bring me a coloring book with a box of Crayola colors. I always trusted those color crayons to make me feel better. I can still even smell the little guys. Now someone has changed all the colors around on me and I am suffering the early pangs of schizoid behaviour. Is it any wonder?

Another thing that I don't understand is the relative matter of voter apathy. I read this morning in our local rag that, on a good day, the turnout in a primary election is about 20%. The turnout in the last general election, which set some records, was 47%. Whaaaatttttt? You mean to tell me that 1 out of 5 people go to the polls in the very important primaries? 4.7 people out of 10 go vote in the general election? Why that is just preposterous.

Yet you hear almost 100% of the people grousing and complaining about our elected officials. I have those types in my family. I have an 82 year old aunt who complains almost nonstop about the President and our congress yet she has not voted in the past 40 years. I know that we all have similar stories to tell from within our own families.

It is a given that the right to vote has been preserved for us on the backs of our patriot fathers who spilled their blood to assure our voting rights. I can hear Yankee Doodle playing as I stroke this keyboard. It just does not make sense does it? I have observed the tea party movement which has established the fact that people are all P/O'd over the status quo. It will be interesting to see what sort of turnout we get at the polls in this primary round.

I don't get it. I just don't get it. It just portrays old fashioned stoopid. Speaking of STOOPID, take a look at this video of an elected official in our Congress and ask yourself if you think it matters that intelligent people exercise their franchise.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Youth baseball a mixed bag

I played Babe Ruth baseball, high school baseball and a little in college. After college, about 1970, I coached a Babe Ruth baseball team. When my son got to be 6 I started coaching again. I coached him until he was 14 and then I turned him over to Coach Bill Lord. My son went on to play shortstop at Lincoln High School and played at Tallahassee Community College. I am watching Sunday night baseball on ESPN as I type out this BLOG.

I was a baseball park president for 3 years. I had a great time doing that. It was just like running a small business. I had over 200 kids in my program. I had a budget of approximately $75,000. We trained umpires and worked them in our program. We took teams to state tournaments that caused us to have to raise $25-30k more at the end of the year.

My son was an All Star at every level he ever played. We should have rejoiced in that fact. However it was more of a curse than a blessing. We have had to cancel or fracture many vacation plans due to his baseball. We have had to hit the road, annoying friends and neighbors and relatives to raise many thousands of dollars to send his team to the next level.

I have done baseball up and down and I am here to tell you that it is frought with politics, unfairness and cheating. I remember a rather docile appearing lady who approched me, the park president, about coaching a team in our park. Coaches were hard to come by. We had a rule in our park that Fathers could not coach their own sons. They could be assistants and coach their sons but not head coaches. Well this lady, behind my back, turned her team over to someone else, called him the assistant and recruited his son and several of his friends to play on that team. In other words they loaded up a team. Someone wrote a letter to the editor to point out this cheating. I immediately fired both of the coaches and declared their sons ineligible as All Star selections. They left our park and played elsewhere. I never heard their names again so they did not do all that well. I remember telling this woman to consider what she was teaching her son,
" The rules are for everyone else, but you."

Then there was the man who approached me with a new air conditioner for our little concession stand. I was delighted because we did not have one and it was hot in that thing. I arranged to meet him at the park at the concession stand to receive this magnanimous gift. When I met him he said, " Before we unload this unit and install it, I would like to ask how my son is looking for All Stars?" I told him that I did not even vote on All Stars. Only the coaches did. I just made sure that the voting was fair. I then suggested that he better keep his air conditioner as it seemed to have a few strings attached.

The youth baseball parks were divided into 6 parks in a distinct geography. I cannot tell you how many people I caught lying to play in our park. Once we got to District tournaments we had to have parents produce utility receipts to prove they were in fact living within the proper boundaries of our park. TPRD made the boundaries and enforced them. If we played an ineligible player then you forfeited any and all games you won.

It is enough to sicken you about baseball. However, you have to seperate the game from the players and most especially their parents. In retrospect I have to say that I never had a complaint lodged by a player or an incident of cheating by a player. It was always the parents that brought the untoward demeanor. I have had to bar parents from coming to games, call law enforcement on them and generally watch them like a hawk.

Now I see that the Little League World Series has begun. You can watch all sorts of little tykes in uniforms on national television. You can learn what their favorite color, hobby, big leaguer, brand of bubble gum, video game, is ad nauseum. This all has such an aura of purity, all americanism and innocence.

I am here to tell you that it is rotten to the core all along the way. Someone has acted contrary to fair play and the rules to that TV spot. I speak from direct involvement and experience. Now I wonder what the betting line is on St. Petersburg , Florida vs. Canton, Ohio? Just kidding. That is whole different post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spinning the Oil Spill

In this real estate business we are experiencing one of the slowest summers in the 9 years that I have been in the business. We are usually covered up with buyers and sellers this time of the year. Ever since I have been a realtor this time, school summer vacation, has been the time to make hay. Not so currently. I was very busy up through the 30th of June. That was the magic date for consummating the tax credit on a purchase. After 6/30 it was as if someone switched off the power switch.

Why so? I think that there are a lot of reasons. The economy in general, the unemployment rate, politics, and just an overall feeling of dread by consumers. Witness a 10% drop in the consumer confidence index. That index dropped from 62.7% in May to 52.9% in June. That is significant. I also think that Tallahassee is bit more hard wired than the rest of the state. When bad news prevails it feeds out into the general Florida populace from Tallahassee, the state capital.

I note that there was just yesterday a meeting in Ft. Walton of BP, the Florida department of environmental protection and several realtor associations. The realtors on the beaches are feeling the sting of the BP oil spill. Ask yourself if you want to buy beach front in that part of Florida right now. If you are a holder of beach front property and have not felt some serious angst about your prospects of ever selling it then you sure ought to be concerned right now.

BP has established some sort of financial reimbursement effort. Realtors have submitted claims against those set aside funds and most have not heard anything back. The bureacracy in getting a claim through is unfathomable and untenable. I note that one of the people sitting in at the hearing held yesterday was a government affairs, public affairs designee from BP.

I used to occupy such a job here in Florida for a large company. It was my responsibility to do all the contact work at the state government level and feed all that into our home office. The home office would then contract with some grass roots advocacy group to try and put a positive spin on our efforts to do what is right for the citizenry. It is fascinating to read the spin coming off the newswires and contemplate the effort put into the tiniest little sound bite. A comparable effort is now going on in the headquarters of Johnson and Johnson the big consumer products company. They are smack in the midst of a recall of some serious brands like Motrin, Tylenol because of some quality control failure on a loading dock.

I really feel that consumer confidence being at such an anemic point is due to much of the stuff going on in our world that people just do not have any control over. So we close the blinds, turn down the a/c and squeeze our pennies. Who knows when this general depression of consumer confidence will end.

I will predict that BP will solve the oil spill and become bigger and richer than ever. If you are into the stock market and have expendable that might be a place to put a little extra grease into since the price of that stock has been driven to historical lows.

It is all about the spin and what we believe in our hearts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Facing Facebook

Well I am back on Facebook. The only thing up in the air is am I going to get back on Twitter? I used to be all over both of them and then frankly got bored with them. I have this unfulfilled question lingering in my mind that relates to whether or not my not being on Facebook and Twitter is costing me business. Is someone going to hire a Realtor who is so techno-challenged that they are not on Facebook and Twitter? One of the main reasons that I BLOG is related to that if I were honest. I do these little test Googles to see where I come up when I query Realtors for Tallahassee, Florida. I guess I should be happy that I come up, out of 2,380,000 hits at #42. Man, I want to come up on the first page. I have only done that one or two times.

I have begged people to bookmark me and visit my website whether they need to or not. I have meta-tagged myself to oblivion. That is a little process on the website that is sort of like word association. It is supposed to drive me to the top of Google searches. I suppose that I am quite happy with my web presence. However, is it bringing me loads of business? Not so much. Out of 100 clients I have attracted I would have to say that 98 of them came from some kind soul referring them to me. So I BLOG just to fulfill this endemic proclivity that I have to want to express myself in the written form.

Back to Facebook. I really think that I am too old to be on Facebook (FB). Most of the people on FB post up things that are enormously mundane. " I just clipped my toenails. Now I am going to bed, after I visit the potty." Post something clever and/or relevant to something important. I have also posted up my own stuff and been too controversial. Making a comment about a particular political candidate, a sports team or a current event can bring down the scourges of the simple minded on you. To wit: I lost a friend over Michael Jackson. They had posted up some trite euphemism about how truly wonderful Jacko the Whacko was after he gorked himself to wherever they send child molesters in the hereafter. I really don't think they appreciated it when I told all my friends that I really didn't give a damn about Jackson doing himself in. He was a child molester. The world is a better place. Not good stuff to put up on your FB page. I had some of my imaginary FB friends read me the riot act. So I got off and remained off for a little over a year.

So I have to ask myself why I am so double-minded about this matter? I believe it goes back to my youth. I was raised on a farm in southern West Virginia. We had no concept of indoor plumbing. The privy outhouse seemed quite functional for all of our bio-needs. We always had electricity but not a phone. I remember clear as a bell when my Dad allowed us to get a phone. People could actually call us up and speak with us now. Nowadays we have 3 phones in our home, all cordless. My wife has a cell and I have one. I have a fax line and a line for my internet. I am filthy with lines of communication.

Yet I think back to that big black phone the size of a horses leg sitting on the table in the corner there in that little farmhouse in Hillsdale, West Virginia. Along with it was my mother or my grandmother sitting with the receiver pressed against their ear and the speaker covered with a towel held firmly in place by their free hand. What were they doing? Why they were eavesdropping. Life was boring. Hardly anyone had a TV and if you did programming stunk. We had a party line as our phone service. We shared a line with 8-10 neighbors. My grandmother and mother found it scintillatingly interesting to hear Mrs. Lugar and Mrs. Tomlinson talk about their vegetable gardens.

That, my friends, is the appeal of Facebook. We are on this big internet party line. People revealing all sorts of inner thoughts. Most of it mind-numbingly boring. However, we like eavesdropping. Mary's baby is adorable. It just spit up on her. Perry has a new cocker spaniel. If you like you can look at the 500 photos that he has uploaded onto his page. Susie has a new job. Mike just got a divorce.

I guess at the root of it all is a harmless interest in our fellow human beings. Somehow we touch each other. Sometimes it is just nice to know that there is someone else out there doing the same things that you are doing. So, what's the harm? Anyone that gets scary you can simply block and voila, no more Mike. I think I am back to stay this time. Perhaps I will do much less contributing and a lot more reading just to stay in touch with people for the most part that mean a lot to me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fire flies and Iron Man

During the summer months one of my favorite activities is going to a movie in the afternoon. It is a nice cool environment and they have yummy treats, if you can afford them and it is a great way to relax.. When I was a kid one of my favorite things was catching fire flies in the summer. Fire flies still hold a fascination to me. I love to look out out over my balcony onto the golf course and see those little flashing bugs floating through the air.

My wife, Nancy, and I just got back from spending a couple of hours watching Iron Man II. It was an action packed thriller and we enjoyed it almost as much as the original Iron Man. From the audience I caught out of the corner of my eye these little flashes of light, almost like fire flies. I finally came to realize that they were not fire flies at all but cellular phones. I watched a couple of the people as they waved their little electronic candles and I could not help but wonder why woud someone pay good money to come to the movie and then insist on texting on their cell phones. Am I just ignorant but didn't they come to escape all that stuff for a little while? Usually the plot needs to be followed. Why the need to be so connected. Most of these folks looked to be 13-16 years of age. The explanation that they were busy neoroscientists or CIA agents did not seem to fit the need to stay in touch.

Let's just face it. Utilization of phones for calling, texting, instant messaging has just become a national obsession. It is not a good one in my opinion. We are way too wired up these days. We need to turn those blamed things off sometimes and read a book or have a face to face conversation with someone we enjoy talking with. It is not just an addicition for teenagers either. A lady in her mid-50's ran dead, head on into me on the sidewalk last week as she was texting and walking. I must admit that it has done got a hold on me as well. I am all too aften guilty of texting and walking and I must admit the occassional while driving.

Now that latter one is the one that can be fatal. I was on the road for DuPont for nearly 30 years. They gave me a company automobile to drive. They were fanatics about safety because of the fact that they started thier company in the late 1700's selling gunpowder. They had all too many accidents with people not paying particular attention while they were working. When you make a mistake with gunpowder your co-workers usually end up picking up your body parts and putting them in the nearest basket or crate.

I remember that for one safe driving campaign they sent us a little decal that was to be applied to the drivers side window so that you could see it and contemplate the message. The message was " While behind the wheel, driving is your ONLY business." Boy that sure has application in today's world. I saw a young lady standing outside of her badly damaged car the other day. There was no other vehicle in sight, just a guard rail. I did not see the accident but I will be willing to bet a sizeable amount of money that text messaging while she was driving was the causation.

Several states have already enacted stiff laws to forbid driving and texting. The fines can be pretty hefty. There are lots of fatlities caused by people that insisted on forwarding the latest knock knock joke they just got texted to their buddies whilst missiling down the freeway at 80 mph. Come on folks is it all that blamed important to be that wired up? Turn those things off and listen to the radio or CD player and arrive alive.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Radical Paradigm Shift

Two months ago on March 16, 2010 I had a Waterloo of an experience. All of a sudden the real estate market, my golf score, eating, breathing and little else mattered a whole lot to me. My wife of 37 years was admitted to the local hospital with a life threatening illness. She has always been my rock. Steady as the sunrise, day in and day out. Suddenly the sun was coming up in the west. My wife was critically ill. How critically I was to learn a few days later.

Nancy's portal of entry into the health care system was our friend Dr. Snyder at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She presented after lingering at home for two weeks. She had a slight fever and zero energy. Her blood glucose was 872, normal is anywhere from 80-110. We had been calling primary care physicians in our local offices for a couple of weeks and recieved the same message from each of them, " Sorry, but our doctor is not accepting new patients." Fortunately for us we chose to take her to the ER and our friend Matt Snyder.

Nancy had a lesion in her groin area and unbeknownst to me it had become infected. After several days of hitting her with heavy antibiotics and hitting her with insulin to get her sugar down she was not making any progress. Our hospitalist, Dr. Innisheer Shah, told me from the first moment she saw Nancy that she was more worried about that lesion than she was the diabetes. On a Saturday after her Tuesday admission she ordered a cat scan. She called me on my cell phone and told me that the news was not good. She described a burrowing wound into her groin and beyond. She had ordered emergency surgery. Dr. Jeff Crooms operated on her at 10:00 PM that evening and debrided the infected tissue out of her. He left the wound open and sent her to ICU where she would be for a total of 10 days.

An infectious disease physician came to consult on day 1 of her ICU stay. It was then that I was to recieve the big picture. He told me that she was critically ill. She had necrotizing fasciitis. He advised me that had we waited another 24 hours to get her into the ER that she would very likely have died. Dr. Philbert Ford described the illness. Necrotizing Fasciitis is also referred to as the flesh-eating bacteria. If you Google it you will find that the mortality rate is better than 35%. If Nancy had developed this infection in an extremity, she could have likely faced amputation. It is hard to amputate a groin. So they split her open and tried their best to remove the infected tissue.

From the ICU she was released to Select Hospital which specializes in wound care among other things. There, an angel of a wound care nurse, named Mary Jo, clucked over Nancy like an old brood hen. She supervised Nancy's healing up the surgical wound, orchestrated her wound being closed by a brilliant, young plastic surgeon, Dr. Rosenberg and then she was released to go home. After 5 1/2 weeks of hospitalization. Follow up by Gentiva Home Health care brought us full circle.

Nancy is at this moment walking around our bedroom fussing about the extent of the mess in the house left to be run by a helpless husband. We were both assaulted so fiercely, emotionally, by this experience that we are still drained and exhausted. Every day, however, she gets a little stronger and better.

I share this experience as a catharsis I suppose. There are far sicker people than Nancy in this world who fight a day to day battle. I attended the funeral of a 37 year old son of a good friend who died in the midst of Nancy's hospitalization. We have family members who have preceded us in death. Nancy's father was on a ventilator for almost 6 years paralyzed from the neck down before he died.

We get so caught up in the thick of thin things. Someone cut me off in traffic. Hannity says the illegal immigrants are taking over America. The gays and lesbians say they aren't getting enough respect. Business is bad. My neighbors drink and party too much. My football team never wins. I lost a fortune in the stock market. You face this assault day in and day out and before you know you have turned into a cynical, unhappy person. This experience has caused me to vow to be a little softer and kinder to people I meet. I have shifted paradigms at least for the time being. The stuff that was so all fired important to me two months ago has taken a back seat to my almost losing the most important person in my life. I reach over and feel her in the bed next to me and I have to suppress my almost wanting to cry like a little girl.

I hope that I have changed for the remainder of our time together.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Idealism and the Olympics

The winter olympics of 2010 are now behind us. I watched off and on from the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony. I was intrigued by the athleticism of the world's sports figures. I was proud of the fact that the US medal count was in the number one position.

I just read that the endorsement potential of stars like Lindsay Vonn, Hannah Teter, Shani White and others has multiple million dollar per year potential. Much of the reason is because of Tiger Woods fall from grace as the golfing nasty boy who has lost millions in endorsement revenue because of his inability to keep his woods in his pants. Now those dollars are up in the air to other spokespeople who project a much more idealistic public personna.

I cannot help but reflect on just how far from the truth that most likely is. I had a friend who won 4 gold medals in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. I used to hang pretty close with this guy. I remember on a trip to an out of town football game almost 40 years ago he pulled out a cigarette case and fired up a joint and handed it to me to join him. I could not help but ask him what the heck he was doing smoking anything, much a less a joint? Aren't you supposed to be a world class athlete? He then went on to describe to me what it was like in the olympic village. You put several thousand young people together and what do you expect to occur in all that idle time when they are not competing? He said that there was a constant presence of drug use and sexuality in the village. I suppose that my bubble was burst for a brief time period but I settled into a general boys will be boys and girls will be girls and drugs will always be drugs sort of mental state over the matter.

I have taken Sports Illustrated for most of my life. I have to say that I like the swimsuit edition. The most recent one highlights Lindsey Vonn, Hannah Teter and many others in provocative poses in the scantiest of fabric to titillate and parade their extremely fit bodies for the benefit of the public ( and the coffers of SI ). I could not help but notice the comedic utterances of William Shatner, Kathleen Parker, Michael J. Fox and others as Canadiens sort of portending what went on in Mt. Olympia during the games. References from making love in a canoe to urinating messages into snow banks suggests that the boys will be boys with girls will be girls and all mixtures in between idle time play was most certainly present.

I have only to think back to some of the many conventions that I attended over my 30 years of working for a big company to apply the " What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas " mentality to the romping escapades of those looking for adventure, to the olympics. The human animal is basically a simple model of reaction to circumstances, endocrine function and frivilous nature.

So dear friends I express my pride for the olympics and the pragmatic opinion that many of the heroes we want to put on pedastals and bow to are foibled and coarse in their basic nature. If you want to worship a hero find a hard working mother somewhere, a hard working father, a minister, a neighbor or many of the millions of people who populate this land of ours. They may not look too great in a swim suit but you would be a whole lot better off emulating most of those people than the glitzy stars of sports, hollywood, the body politic, etc.

I know in the murky world of real estate there abounds much glitz, promotion and down right mysticism. There are many straight as arrow licensees that you can trust and emulate. There also exists many reptilian practitioners who will wrap you in their coils and crush the life out of you to lace their own pockets. Be careful whom you place up on that pedestal.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Arrogance. What a peculiar disease !

I would like to post on the highlighted title. I once heard a man pose this rehetorical question,
" Isn't arrogance the most peculiar of diseases? It makes everyone sick, except for the person who has it." I am posting just after having listened to Tiger Woods speak to his subjects as a king would to his underlings. I would sum up his comments in one single word. Yes, the word is arrogance. The world rushes to hang on his every closely engineered and edited message. Yet how we can percieve him as anything less than a man who has a made himself a billionaire playing a game designed for gentlemen and then displaying anything but gentlemanly behaviour? His name and his demeanor are synonymous with that word, arrogant.

Another man once said, " I cannot hear what you are saying because what you are roars so loudly in my ear." I don't mean to pick on Tiger. He is just one single visit to a lifetime of arrogant people that I have had interaction with.

Success seems to be the mirror opposite of humility. Be it economic, academic, intellectual, physical bearing, athletic ability, circle of friends, influence, prominence, etc. the natural sequel to all the foregoing sadly is arrogance.

We are taught from an early age that we need to realize that we are special. We each have gifts that no one else possesses. I remember when I was in high school I had a little cock in my walk because of the fact that I was a pretty decent athlete. Later on I was successful as an employee of a Fortune 500, worldwide company. I married a pretty girl. We had pretty and smart children. We live in a nice house in the right part of town. My dog is the coolest one around. Now our grandchildren are exceptional in every way possible. I think it is probably healthy to think like that. It gives us cause to get up day in and day out and face the day.

The problem with living in this quixotic fashion is that sometimes we lose balance. The suffering of Haiti is a far removed reality. How about the various African countries besieged by diseases that no longer exist here in America? AIDS, malaria, cholera, measles, for crying out loud. Out of sight and out of mind. It would take a minor degree turn on the circumstantial barometer for us to realize just how spoiled, helpless and, yes, arrogant we for the most part are. There are people in our own land that get up in the morning hungry and lay down at night hungry.

I had an experience many years ago that caused me to reflect. I was on my way to Panama City to give a presentation to a drug and alcohol treatment center. I was to be the speaker to a group of therapists including psychologists and physicians. I thought I was pretty hot stuff to be making such a splash in this highly technical arena of the medical world. I had my little 35 mm projector and notes. I was going to wow them. How cool could I possibly get?

This was perhaps as much as 20 years ago. The summer Olympics were scheduled for Atlanta. As I exited off of interstate 10 I slid under the overpass there. I saw two middle aged men waking from a night spent under that overpass. That caught my eye. I reflected that they could very well be victims of substance abuse. That having led to their homelessness.

After a few miles I saw a state trooper coming towards me, over the hill of SR 20, a two lane, little country road. There was no one else in view either before me or behind me. The trooper indicated that I should stop to speak to him. I was going to be late so I stopped in an irritated frame of mind. The Florida trooper told me to pull off and wait until the Olympic torch passed by. What ?!? I did not have time for this, I was going to be late. However, it is best to do what a law enforcement officer tells you to do. I pulled over and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Soon an entourage consisting of 2 Georgia Highway patrol cars ( BMW's by the way ), a $200,000 Coca Cola exhibit truck and two bicyclists carrying the torch came snailing by me. I could not help but to reflect, " Man, there is something wrong with the way we do things. I just passed two guys who slept under an overpass last night. Here I see a representation of millions of dollars spent to promote the summer Olympics." Try as I may to connect those two dots, I still come up short.

Arrogance will always be a factor in the mix of humanity. I still encounter it in the people I run into on a day to day basis. I have to admit that sometimes I am the culprit. The goal we should have in mind is to always be kindly, patient and humble.

A man I have a great fondness for wrote:

" Humility is not weak, vacillating or servile. Humble and meek properly suggest virtues, not weakness. They suggest a consistent mildness of temper and an absence of wrath and passion. Humility suggests no affectation, no bombastic actions. It is not turbid nor grandiloquent. It is not servile submissiveness. It is not cowed nor frightened. No shadow or the shaking of a leaf terrorizes it. Humility makes no bid for popularity and notoriety; demands no honors. Humility is deity seated on the back of a lowly ass." ( Spencer W. Kimball; Faith precedes the miracle. )

Anyone who has ever played golf with me knows that I am the polar opposite of humility and control. However, I believe, that attaining control in this one thing is that which will ultimately save us. I hope Tiger and everyone else can keep their eyes set on that goal.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Walk Away and Forget It

I had a friend forward me a rather disturbing op ed about intentional defaults. The gist of the article was that the financial industry has committed malfeasance by placing people into mortgages that they could not afford. In that the financial institutions have stuck it to us then we should, in turn, stick it to them. We do that by burning our mortgages, sort of like we burned our draft cards back in the 60's to protest the war. The machine is evil therefore we implode it from within by walking away from our mortgages. The beast then has no traction and is destroyed. Honestly, I did read this. I will try and place a link to the article at the end of this post.

I have had clients that I was tempted to coach to that very end. I tried to negotiate short sales with the people holding their mortgages to no avail. The financial institutions were unbending. So what does it hurt if you simply disappear in the middle of the night just as people have run out on the rent in the same fashion? I just cannot, as a licensed professional, summon that anti-fiduciary counsel for anyone.

It is just hard for a 64 year old conservative like myself to give into this logic. Noone held a gun to your head when you signed that mortgage promissory note. You wanted that house really badly did you not? This whole process involves great effort to establish your likelihood to repay. You made a super-informed decision to sign. You cannot blame it on some sort of genetic malfunction within your self. You made a choice. Do your best to live with it.

It sort of falls into the fat gene world. " I am fat because I am genetically ordered in that direction.". Baloney I am fat because I shove more calories down my pie hole than I burn off. I make choices about that. "I got caught having innumerable affairs because I am addicted to sex." Buffalo chips ! You are a creep who does not live your marriage commitments and got caught. You made choices to that end. Pity you? I probably secretly admire you but you got caught Tiger and now you need to pay the piper." I look at pornography because I am just engineered to do so." Bull feathers you like doing it. Every time you make the decision to purchase that video. True it does cause an endorphin rush but face it man, you are a pervert. Get some help.

We live in a society that is married to the concept that we act like we do because we just cannot help ourselves. It is always someone elses fault. My behaviour is uncontrollable because my mommy did not breast feed me. My dad never took me fishing. My uncle was a peeping tom. I was sexually molested as a 3 month old. I remember it vividly. Hockey pucks !!!

People we have an obligation to live by a code of ethics. We repay our mortgages and other obligations simply because it is the right thing to do. If you get run over by a train and can no longer make a living then that is one thing. But to just walk away from something we agreed to do is just flat out wrong. Period.

There are a lot of people hurting in this stale economy that has descended upon us. It may surprise you that the larger percentage of them do not pick up a gun and go out and rob a bank than do. Why not? Because they were raised to be better people than that. The same reason applies to why we just don't walk away. We do all we can to meet our obligation.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's important to get it right

I had a client back about a year ago contact me about doing a Broker's Price Opinion (BPO) on their home in NE Tallahassee. They were good friends so I spent about 3 hours rendering the opinion. Banks pay brokers $100 for drive by BPO's. I did the heavy lifting for my friend and really drilled down on it. I felt that I had pegged it pretty close.

I advised them that there was about 30 months of inventory in their subdivision. I pointed out properties that had been on the market more than a year and had to reduce their price $100k or more and were still sitting. A home is sort of like a can of peaches that sits on the shelf too long. Once it sits too long people begin to wonder what is wrong with that property. I advised them to go to market at $429k and they would sell it pretty quickly.

They thanked me and put the For Sale By Owner sign out and priced the house at $510K. After all what did I know. I merely make my living in this business. The house sat and sat. Along about mid-June I got a call from them. Would I please take the listing? I asked what the price was going to be. They said $479k. I told them that was $50k too high. They were unmoved. I told them thanks but no thanks. My wife was a bit embarrassed that I did not take the listing. I explained to her that I had a decision to make. I could take the listing at that price and lose their friendship when it failed to sell. Also anyone and everyone who drove by my sign would question why that broker could not sell that house. He must not be very good. Or I could risk making them mad and losing thier friendship right at the front end by refusing to take it. I chose the latter course. They chose a very successful and effective broker to market the home. It went to market at $479k.

I happened to think of them a few hours ago and I checked on the status of thier listing. It has been almost a year since they spoke to me. They recently reduced the house to $429k and will most likely sell it at that price. ( Update: The house sold and closed 2/26/10 for $392k)

The absolute most important thing you do when you move your property onto the market is set the price. Our market is very, very price sensitive. Get it right from the beginning. Listen to the expert and make it happen. That is what we do to earn our commission check.

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