Archive for the 'Flourishing' Category
Back in January, I wrote here about taking private pilot lessons. My post was inspired by one Greg wrote in December about mastering something difficult this year. Earlier this month I took an oral exam and then check ride with an designated examiner for the FAA, and I passed!
The next day, I piled my wife and a little bit of luggage into my Piper Cherokee, and took off for the coast. An hour and 15 minutes later, I was down at Ocracoke, part of the Outer Banks that would ordinarily take someone 6 hours or so to get to by car from Raleigh.
My wife and I got a lift to the local pub – really, the only one worth considering on Ocracoke – where I ordered a non-alcohol beverage and we got some shrimp and burgers, before flying south/southeast along the coast to Beaufort, North Carolina.
It was a ton of fun.3 comments
I always love to read about the outrageously nefarious bad guys who are doing all the things we hate. Doesn’t matter who “we” are, since the bad guys afflicting every “we” are always blindingly brilliant, amazingly competent masterminds of evil.
I guess it’s useful to exaggerate your opposition, but here’s the thing:
Everyone I remember from school was a fuck-up.
Start with a good solid two-thirds compliant drones, dutifully going through whatever motions seemed to be required. Maybe half of the rest were glib and lazy. Even the straight-A apple-polishers were just phoning it in, doing the minimum necessary to get the grade from the glib-and-lazy grown-up teaching the class.
Am I misrepresenting the world of education? Is there anything you can think of that you did in school that you’re truly proud of now. Away from athletics or the school play, was there anything in your academic life that you gave everything you had? Was there anyone else who did that?
Was there any class that you took — ever — where you had to bust ass Read more2 comments
How do you know when a time is right for your idea? How about when someone else comes up with something similar?: Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across USA, world. For the past three months, I’ve been thinking about starting a church evangelizing egoism and excluding no one, and here is the something similar. I’m reading this as a publicity stunt, but we’ll see. That’s definitely not what I’m about.
What I want is a mission devoted to the idea of doing better. Just that. The doctrine is mine, Man Alive, et very cetera, but I’m a lot more interested in praxis than dogma. If you cross a soul-enriching music performance with a mind-enflaming motivational seminar, you’re halfway to seeing what I see.
Picture a real live church service somewhere, once a week. My ideal location would be a big bar on late Saturday afternoons, to put the idea of choosing admirably in mind just when it might be needed most. That can be simulcast by Ustream or Spreecast, so the whole world can join in, one mind at a time.
But: I’m digging living on the road a lot, so I would love to take this show on Read more2 comments
Everything is all one thing, so this is a video essay about art about music about morality about song-writing about marriage about redemption – simple stuff. This is egoism in action, me being me.
This video connects directly to the argument I made on Friday about ‘conservative’ art, and all of everything I am saying – and everything I am doing – connects back to everything else I am saying. This is a one-hour immersion in Splendor.
An audio-only version is linked below, and that will show up also on iTunes in due course.2 comments
It’s a dread we’ve learned to live with. I wrote about this day in fiction a couple of months ago so I would have the choice not to write about the facts today. I can make death beautiful — big deal. Nothing can make death tolerable, nothing but time.
But: He died as he lived, game and eager, his face alight with love for everything. Cathleen was there to hold him and his favorite vet, Doctor Blackwell, was there to say goodbye and I was there to make fun of the most adorable big dumb doofus I ever knew and he left this life with a smile on his face.
One last time: “Lay down, Puppy. Go to sleep…”8 comments
It was just seven short years ago that the prices at the epicenter of the housing bubble, Los Angeles, CA rose by 50% every six months as the nation experienced its first parabolic move higher in home prices courtesy of Alan Greenspan’s disastrous policies: a time when everyone knew intuitively the housing market was in an epic bubble, yet which nobody wanted to pop because there was just too much fun to be had chasing the bouncing ball, not to mention money. Well, courtesy of the real-time real estate pricing trackers at Altos Research, we now know that the very worst of the housing bubble is not only back, but it is at levels not seen since the days when a house in the Inland Empire was only a faint glimmer of the prototype for BitCoin.
A lot of the people I talk to in Phoenix are trying to time their exit. It wasn’t this way in 2005-2006; I had people still eager to buy ten months after the market had turned.3 comments
I was walking around the house Saturday — busily working away, headset in my ear, making phone calls and dealing with emails — when it hit me:
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the world’s first peripatetic computer.
It’s easy and natural to work — to do real work — while walking. Salesmaniacs know that you work better on the phone when you’re walking and talking, but that’s just one aspect of the the sheer utility of doing the desk work where the work is, instead of trying to disgarble the mangled reports of intermediaries.
Comprehensive reviews of the S4 abound, pick your poison. I’m Apple to the core since 1985, so this was a big move for me. I have zero doubt that all smartphones are rip-offs of Apple, that without the iPhone, cell phones would still look and disappoint like the the Nokias and Motorolas of yore. But Samsung is number two and it is trying harder than Apple is now — a lot harder.
The unique features of the phone are gee-whiz and boy-howdy both, doubt you nothing, but that’s all just geekery (and the whole Android universe is rife with the kind of self-satisfied jargonistic needlessly-arcane asshattery that made normal people shun Unix (Eunichs?) geeks even before they made DOS for the dumb ones). What makes the S4 work is the way it’s made for work.
* Size: Nice in my hand, maybe just a touch big for the wimminz, but very pocketable, unlike the largely-comparable Galaxy Note 2. (Between the lines: Leaving the phone out of the iPad and iPad Mini was an unforced error on Apple’s part.)
* Weight: That plastic shell feels cheesy, but it makes the phone super-light. I can hold it stationary in one hand indefinitely, easily, without rest or stress. I sold my iPad 2 because the weight of the thing made it, de facto, a crippled laptop, not a usefully-mobile computing solution.
* Software: This is still the weakest link for true peripateticism, computing while ambulating, working while you walk, but we’re getting there. The whole “app” diversion has been a disaster, with millions of people possessed of dozens of one-off (cr)apps, each one of which is really just a showy database client. But because Google is (dimly, slowly) catching onto the idea that the essential component in computing is not the device, not the code and not the data but the end-user, device-irrelevant computing gets better and better. As it does, the amount of work you can get done wherever you are grows dramatically.
* Camera: Better than my point-and-shoot — by a lot. The sharing support everywhere is first rate, but it’s easy to move photos or videos wherever you want them.
* Battery: It’s a slow charge for a long life, a good trade-off. Much better, the battery is user-swappable, so dedicated road warriors can keep a spare or two fully-charged.
But wait. There’s more.
Take a look at this docking station. Power, monitor, hard-disk, keyboard, mouse — desktop. The S4 and this dock are, as of now, the perfect solution for working a conference: The workstation stays at your seat as you, the phone and your headset work the breaks, then everything is back to a desktop/laptop-like solution when you sit back down.
Invite me to your show. I want to prove this will work beautifully!
I’ll have more to say about the S4 as I have more time with it. But so far it’s doing for me what my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and my erstwhile iPad could not do: Giving me a way to work when the only flat surface available to me is my left hand.10 comments
Joel Kotkin at The Daily Beast:
Once considered backwaters, these Sunbelt cities are quietly achieving a critical mass of well-educated residents. They are also becoming major magnets for immigrants. Over the past decade, the largest percentage growth in foreign-born population has occurred in sunbelt cities, led by Nashville, which has doubled its number of immigrants, as have Charlotte and Raleigh. During the first decade of the 21st century, Houston attracted the second-most new, foreign-born residents, some 400,000, of any American city—behind only much larger New York and slightly ahead of Dallas-Ft. Worth, but more than three times as many as Los Angeles. According to one recent Rice University study, Census data now shows that Houston has now surpassed New York as the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse metropolis.
Why are these people flocking to the aspirational cities, that lack the hip amenities, tourist draws, and cultural landmarks of the biggest American cities? People are still far more likely to buy a million dollar pied à terre in Manhattan than to do so in Oklahoma City. Like early-20th-century Polish peasants who came to work in Chicago’s factories or Russian immigrants, like my grandparents, who came to New York to labor in the rag trade, the appeal of today’s smaller cities is largely economic. The foreign born, along with generally younger educated workers, are canaries in the coal mine—singing loudest and most frequently in places that offer both employment and opportunities for upward mobility and a better life.
Over the decade, for example, Austin’s job base grew 28 percent, Raleigh’s by 21 percent, Houston by 20 percent, while Nashville, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Dallas-Ft. Worth saw job growth in the 14 percent range or better. In contrast, among all the legacy cities, only Seattle and Washington D.C.—the great economic parasite—have created jobs faster than the national average of roughly 5 percent. Most did far worse, with New York and Boston 20 percent below the norm; big urban regions including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and, despite the current tech bubble, San Francisco have created essentially zero new jobs over the decade.
The reality is that most urban growth in our most dynamic, fastest-growing regions has included strong expansion of the suburban and even exurban fringe, along with a limited resurgence in their historically small inner cores. Economic growth, it turns out, allows for young hipsters to find amenable places before they enter their 30s, and affordable, more suburban environments nearby to start families.
This urbanizing process is shaped, in many ways, by the late development of these regions. In most aspirational cities, close-in neighborhoods often are dominated by single-family houses; it’s a mere 10 or 15 minute drive from nice, leafy streets in Ft. Worth, Charlotte, or Austin to the urban core. In these cities, families or individuals who want to live near the center can do without being forced to live in a tiny apartment.
And in many of these places, the historic underdevelopment in the central district, coupled with job growth, presents developers with economically viable options for higher-density housing as well. Houston presents the strongest example of this trend. Although nearly 60 percent of Houston’s growth over the decade has been more than 20 miles outside the core, the inner ring area encompassed within the loop around Interstate 610 has also been growing steadily, albeit at a markedly slower rate. This contrasts with many urban regions, where close-in areas just beyond downtowns have been actually losing population.
Pressed by local developers and planners, some aspirational cities spend heavily on urban transit, including light rail. To my mind, these efforts are largely quixotic, with transit accounting for five percent or less of all commuters in most systems. The Charlotte Area Transit System represents less a viable means of commuting for most residents than what could be called Manhattan infrastructure envy. Even urban-planning model Portland, now with five radial light rail lines and a population now growing largely at its fringes, carries a smaller portion of commuters on transit than before opening its first line in 1986.
But such pretentions, however ill-suited, have always been commonplace for ambitious and ascending cities, and are hardly a reason to discount their prospects. Urbanistas need to wake up, start recognizing what the future is really looking like and search for ways to make it work better. Under almost any imaginable scenario, we are unlikely to see the creation of regions with anything like the dynamic inner cores of successful legacy cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago or San Francisco. For better or worse, demographic and economic trends suggest our urban destiny lies increasingly with the likes of Houston, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Raleigh and even Phoenix.
The critical reason for this is likely to be missed by those who worship at the altar of density and contemporary planning dogma. These cities grow primarily because they do what cities were designed to do in the first place: help their residents achieve their aspirations—and that’s why they keep getting bigger and more consequential, in spite of the planners who keep ignoring or deploring their ascendance.
Read the whole thing. I’ve been pimping Kotkin here for years. When you see his name out on the nets, give him your time. He’s been dead right about what’s happening in American cities, where Richard Florida has been dead wrong.1 comment
How often had you heard real estate agents complain about “the inventory problem” this past year? I used to think their complaints were farcical until these past 3-4 months. I have about a dozen pre-approved buyers out looking for homes. Interest rates are low and the foreclosures are getting snapped up as soon as they hit the market. Not one of those dozen has been able to get an accepted offer since Labor Day, 2012.
Clearly, there must be an inventory problem.
It’s time to change gears real estate agents. A few years back, I suggested that buyers would be controlling the market and the listings side of the business should be de-emphasized. All the properties being offered were short sales or foreclosures. Paperwork-intensive transactions didn’t sound so appealing to me and I recommended that agents focus all their efforts on finding buyers and getting them into contracts. Those who followed such advice didn’t get rich but earned a darned good living these past few years.
I had breakfast this morning with Mr. Oceanside, Don Reedy. We discussed the local market and “the inventory problem” when it hit me; there is no shortage of homes. In Oceanside alone, there are thousands of home owners, with equity, who can sell their properties to ready and willing home buyers. This offers the ambitious real estate agent a great opportunity. Too often, real estate agents (and loan originators) forget that we are paid to add value to transactions. If we’re simply acting as gatekeepers, we are no different from everyone else. We need to “create personal inventory”–find sellers for the buyers who want their homes.
Here is my ten- step plan for real estate agents, for a great 2013…with PLENTY of “personal” inventory:
- Attend your local caravan meeting each week. Pay close attention to the agents who speak during the “buyers’ needs” segment.
Call a dozen local agents weekly who work with buyers. Find out where the inventory problem is. At this point, you will see a glaring opportunity in your town/market area. If you know that those agents have 2-3 buyers, for a certain price range, in a certain area, you have identified “half” a market.
- Look at the property tax records in the “problem” subdivision. Choose only properties with owner’s equity. Generally speaking, you’ll look for homes bought prior to 2006 or in 2010. If you’re doing a search with the local title company, and you know the homes are worth $350,000-$400,000, you could also search for sales which had recorded mortgages under $250,000 (that can eliminate a lot of problems). Compile a lit of potential “equity sellers”.
- Visit those equity sellers on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Don’t mail them. Don’t call them. Don’t email them. Bang on their door and tell them that you KNOW where 2-3 willing buyers of their property are. Ask to meet with them to discuss the idea of “equity transfer” to different property.
- Meet the now interested seller and explain that, when they look at their original mortgage payment (before they refinanced), and add the expected equity from the sale of their home, they might be able to buy a “better” (bigger, nicer, closer to work) home. It might be useful to have some listings printed out, in the “better” homes’ price range, to whet their appetite. Recommend that they speak with America’s #1 mortgage broker, to get pre-qualified for the “equity transfer” program, with mortgage payments which were equal to their original (before they refinanced) payment. Schedule a follow-up visit and tell them you’ll have the mortgage broker call them in the morning.
- Speak with the agents who have willing buyers for the home. Verify that they are still in the market and that you might have a property about to hit the MLS. Explain that you’ll give them a “heads up”, right after the listing agreement is signed, and tell them that you’ll let their buyers “preview” the property the day the listing is entered into the MLS. Estimate when you think that will be.
- At the follow up visit to the interested seller, start the meeting off by showing them the available inventory for the pre-approved amount (you’ll have a pre-approval letter from the mortgage broker). Sell the fact that you are transferring the equity from the existing property. If they seem excited, offer to list thee property for 30 days only. Explain that this market is a bit of an anomaly and, if you can’t get them the price they need, to affect the “equity transfer” in 30 days, it may not make sense to sell at that time. Have the seller sign a 30-day listing agreement along with a 60-day buyer’s brokerage agreement.
- Instruct them to be out of the property from 2PM-7PM on the next Friday and out of the property from 1PM-4PM on the next Saturday. Schedule time to review offers, at 6PM on that Sunday evening.
- Plan to enter the listing into the MLS on Friday morning (or late Thursday night). Schedule an open house for that Saturday. Call the agents with buyers, and instruct them to schedule a showing on that Friday (from 2:30PM until 6PM). Tell those agents you plan to hold it open that Saturday and that quick offers are the wisest policy. Explain that you expect to be presenting offers all day Sunday.
- Find your seller a new home. Collect commission checks for adding real value to a lopsided market. Celebrate.
It really is that simple. If there are more buyers than sellers in a market, find more sellers.17 comments
Reacting to this post from yesterday on a better way to handle video testimonials, Don Reedy brought us this idea in the comments:
Greg, this is really easy, and does take planning, but not much time.
I’ve started trying to communicate with prospects, people I just meet coming and going, and folks in escrow by using my laptop, recording a 30-45 second message, posting as an “unlisted” video to YouTube, and then linking a picture of myself with a “play button” on my torso to that link.
I embed the picture with link in emails. They fly through, are almost always clicked on, and provide that belly to belly contact emails don’t always do. And yes, often that simply results in future actual phone calls, but the goal of creating value to and for the client is surely helped along by this methodology.
Here is the photo of Don he sent to me in an email:
And here is the video I see when I click on that image:
As constructive criticism, I think I want the photo to be bigger with a bigger YouTube-like Play button, plus also a reiterated call to action in text form: “I’ve made a ‘video voicemail’ just for you. Click ‘Play’ to see it.” For the video, I want Don’s head and shoulder bigger — closer to the webcam — and higher in the frame.
Those are quibbles, though. I love the idea, and the “Yeah!” special effect is fun. It might work to tack on a business card at the end, along with a link-back, in the video and in the description section, to any client-specific web pages.
This is cool, though: Using rough-and-ready tools to put a very personal touch on voicemail-like contacts. Using smartphone video with one-touch YouTube posting, Don’s technique would be useful for all kinds of client follow up.
As an example, here’s the ‘script’ for a movie you’ll have to screen in your imagination:
Hey, Jim and Shirley. Greg Swann here with a quick video voicemail about the houses I looked at for y’all today. I’ll have a web page for you later today with photos of the homes I visited, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes: Westwing Mountain may be the answer to our prayers. The homes are a little pricier, but they’re newer and most of them are in great shape. And the views are simply breathtaking… [insert slow panorama here] Watch your email for my pix. Talk to you soon.
Not as fast as a voicemail, but it delivers the goods where a voicemail can’t. I rate that a win.
This is a cool idea, a Scenius present from Don. How do I know it’s a Scenius-in-the-making? Because if you think about this Don’s way, you’ll come up with a dozen great ideas of your own.8 comments
I love Walmart. I am very happy to call myself a member of the middle class, and I take huge delight in cruising the aisles at Walmart, scoping out all the incredible deals.
I don’t buy a lot of stuff, though. Away from TechToyz, I lead a pretty Spartan existence. But I love to see all that incredible wealth stacked floor to ceiling, knowing that it is the much-maligned engine of freeish-market capitalism that makes all that stuff available to me.
I’m not a Black Friday kind of shopper. We’re not all that Christmas-y, and I do not like to be crowded, not ever. But the phenomenon of Black Friday, especially at Walmart, is fascinating to me.
We had to stop in at a Super Walmart late Wednesday night, and I took the opportunity to snap a few dozen photos of that store’s preparations for Grey Thursday and Black Friday. Every wide aisle in the store was lined with pallets full of shrink-wrapped merchandise, millions of dollars worth of stuff waiting to be sold between now and Monday.
There were more staffers than customers in the store, and they were all busy getting ready. Black Friday takes its name from the sad fact that the day after Thanksgiving is the day most retailers reach the stage of profitability for the calendar year. In other words, storekeepers large and small work almost eleven months of the year before they make any profit at all.
Walmart might do better than that. Apple’s retail presence does a lot better. But retail is a hard way to make an easy living, and my bet is that it will get harder as the parasitic weight of government crushes more and more of the economy.
Meanwhile, smug people like to sneer at Walmart for selling Americans goods they want to buy at prices they want to pay. I’m happy that some people are so rich that they can afford to spurn and scorn Walmart. But I’m happier still that Walmart is around to provide incredible values every day for people who work hard for their money and want to make it go as far as it can.
Happy Black Friday, Walmart. You treat us better than we deserve.7 comments
Here’s my quick take on the presidential election, from a video made one day prior to the event: Mitt Romney is going to win an Electoral College landslide. My state-by-state prediction is shown below, but it’s not based on any sort of arcane science. I’m just betting that married people with kids and jobs will vote to fire Barack Obama for gross incompetence.
Note that this is not an expression of racism, as you will surely hear from the perpetually-sore-losers of the chattering classes. I’m just betting that the people with the biggest stake in the game of human life will vote against the most perniciously anti-life candidate ever to seek the office of the presidency.
But at the same time, Romney’s win will not be any sort of repudiation of Marxism, contrary to Michael Walsh’s claim at National Review Online. It’s just the correction of a bad hiring decision.
In this week’s video, I argue that the self-loving thing for you to do is to accept that fact that each human being is sovereign and indomitable, and that, therefore, self-control is all the control that can ever exist among human beings. In the course of that argument, I cite an essay of mine, Meet the Third Thing. I also recite an old poem, which I will transcribe here for what may be the first time it has ever appeared in print:
What if I’ve been wrong?
What if I’ve been wrong all along?
What if everything I’ve said,
everything I’ve done,
everything I’ve thought about is wrong?
What if I’ve been wrong all along?
Here is this week’s video:
For an audio-only version of this video, take yourself to the SelfAdoration.com podcast on iTunes.9 comments
Man Alive! is six months old this week. A video I made on Monday celebrates the book’s demi-anniversary by eviscerating two mutually-contradictory theories of human free will.
Meanwhile, I’m in the early stages of writing a new book on moral philosophy, this one concerned with moving your self rightward on the number line discussed in Chapter 7 of Man Alive!
Cathleen and I were talking about a piece of this pie last night, the idea I call Cultivating Indifference. She asked me if I am really unhurt by other people’s (sometimes virulent) criticism of me. I am, although I understand why people might find this hard to believe. But here is how my thinking runs:
If you say something about me, it is either true or it isn’t. If it’s true, I am improved by your observation, however it comes packaged. My goal is to do better in everything I do, so if someone points out that I have been in error, I am glad to know it.
And if the claim is not true, I am unmoved. I keep my own counsel in everything I do, and I never change anything in my thinking or my behavior without a good reason.
If the criticism is offered in good faith, I will explain my thinking. And if it is simply malice, a verbal spear intended to wound me, I will know that the person throwing that spear is not to be trusted, and my life will be improved by that bit of new knowledge.
In all cases, I am concerned with nothing but my self, so other people’s behavior toward me is only interesting to the extent that it offers me opportunities to improve my own mind and conduct.
To my mind, this is completely rational. I like it when folks I admire return my admiration, but I don’t give a rat’s ass if unlikeable people don’t like me. It would be a red flag for me if they did!
Anyway, here’s a rockin’ tune from Cage the Elephant that expresses my attitude on this subject perfectly:2 comments
When Man Alive! was first published, a number of people were distressed that I didn’t take a harder line on religion. My reason for doing as I did was pretty simple: Although I am a very strident atheist, and although I have nothing but contempt for theology and for all religious apocrypha, I like, respect and admire many people who say they are religious — including my own Best Beloved, my wife, Cathleen Collins.
I care a lot less about what you say you believe than I do about how you actually behave. If you are capable of leaving me alone to live my life as I choose, I don’t care what you say are your reasons for behaving as you do. By contrast, if you claim you are in agreement with my own ideas about the nature and structure of reality, and yet you cannot manage to keep your nose out of my business, then I care a great deal your actual behavior, regardless of your putative agreement with my philosophy.
This topic is of moment this week because our friends in the lands infested with Islam have put on another display of the impotent irrationality that is represented to be the substance of their religion. I don’t make fine distinctions about anegoistic doctrines: Whether your claims are based in religion, in politics or in some absurd academic dogma, if your behavior is atrocious, you are engaged in self-destruction in spite of your self.
We go through all this in the video, but the solution to every problem posed by anti-human dogmas is four-words simple: Fuck you. I quit. When the sane believers of every sort of doctrine work up the nerve to say those four words to their would-be masters, the world will be a better place overnight.
You can find an audio-only version of this video at the SelfAdoration.com podcast on iTunes.6 comments