There’s always something to howl about

Archive for November, 2008

“Privacy is an artifact of inefficiency”

I say that just about every time I speak in public, and people always ask me to repeat it, and they inscribe it carefully into their notes.

It’s a simple enough idea: What you’ve thought of all your life as privacy has simply been a function of inefficient data processing tools. The more efficacious the means of acquiring and storing data become, the less privacy — unintentional ignorance by others of observable facts — you will have.

If you find this idea repellent — dang…

It is what it is, and it’s absurd to rebel against it. We are real, physical entities. Our purposive actions sometimes have secondary physical consequences that are potentially observable to other people — and to data acquisition devices. Your best hope of achieving privacy, going forward, is to expire. Short of that, you might try to exist in some sort of extra-physical way. And short of that, you might try doing everything you do where no one — and nothing — else can observe you. And short of all that, swallow hard and prepare to have every fact of your life known, at least potentially, by anyone or everyone else.

This does not bother me at all. I deliberately lead a hugely public life. I’m not showy, I hope, but I never want for someone to be able to say something truthful about me that I have not said first myself. I try to lead a very moral life, but no one is perfect. But what I don’t want, ever, is to give the impression that I am trying to hide my imperfections. (Disclosure: I caused a car accident earlier this evening. No one was hurt, but the front end of my car was smacked up pretty good.)

(People who send me email will have grown used to me replying with multiple names in the CC line. I’m never trying to hide facts about my life, but, I am normally trying very hard to not-hide those facts.)

Another thing I say in speeches is that the world is becoming more and more the realm I would have imagined for myself. Mostly the private details of human lives are banal and boring. But if keeping secrets gives other people power over me, then I choose to have no secrets of any sort. (Briefs. Force of habit.)

Anyway, all that’s by way of introducing an article on privacy and data processing from today’s New York Times. I think the article misses more targets than it manages to hit, but the discussion of the massively macro-scale heuristics made possible by the internet is worth pursuing.

“The guilty flee where none pursueth.” It has never occurred to me to try to keep secrets because I know that no purposive human action ever goes unwitnessed. The fact is that most purposive human behavior is completely introspective. No one else can see — but I cannot avoid being aware of my own behavior. To hide from others, I would first have to affect to have hidden myself from myself. This is not an efficient use of a human mind. I expect I’m at the right edge of the Bell Curve when it comes to contempt for privacy — and feel free to ask me why if you want to know — but it remains that just about everything evil in human behavior emerges from secrets and lies.

And, like it or don’t, secrets and lies are soon to be dusty artifacts of the past…


Who wants to play the Scenius game? Rebuilding The Long List as a micro-blog

All right, let’s play a little, shall we?

One of the things that came out of our little scenius on Thanksgiving (which continues through today) was a better way of handling the job I used to do with The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. I’ve been ignoring that chore since last Spring, a plausible clue that I just might end up ignoring it forevermore. Even so, it was a good idea, and I learned a lot of cool stuff from the code I wrote to manage The Long List scroller that used to live in our sidebar.

What I want to do for now is to implement another kind of sidebar scroller, this one more like a micro-blog of useful and informative posts — mostly marketing, but other matters of importance as well. There were people who used The Long List as their feed reader, and this should work even better in that regard.

You can see it in our sidebar right now. It’s the scroller box headed “SCENIUS: SWITCHED-ON MARKETING” — with links to 50 highly-relevant weblog posts.

If you want to play along with the development process, you can be a big help.


Break this software:

<!-- BEGIN Scenius -->
<p><div style="display:block; width:95%;
height:320px; overflow:auto; padding-left:6px;
padding-right:6px; padding-top:3px;
border:1px solid #a9a9a9; ">
<?PHP $ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, 
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);
curl_exec($ch); curl_close($ch); ?></div></p>
<!-- END Scenius -->

I’m serious. I want you to install that code in your sidebar and see if you can break it.

There are two ways we know of that you might be able to break it.

First, the PHP may not want to work for you. If that happens, I would love to see a screen shot in your email to me about what happened. So you know: I do not believe this will happen. We broke it every which way yesterday, and I think I have code that should work on any true Apache web server.

The second way that this code could fail is that it might not look right. It should come into your sidebar as a well-behaved citizen. It should inherit your sidebar’s style sheets, and it should scroll top to bottom but not left to right. If it looks weird to you, I will want to see it.

And what if you can’t break it?

Leave it in your sidebar. You’ll be giving a lot of link love to real estate webloggers who deserve it, and you’ll look much more dynamic to search engines going forward. That’s a win-win-win, a Bloodhound kind of solution.

There’s more to what we’re doing — more every day! — but most of it is arcane enough that we won’t be discussing it in depth until BloodhoundBlog Unchained. But it’s all like this: Good content plus good SEO plus good SEM plus good SMM plus good neighborliness.

That a lot of good — good for your readers, good for the writer’s you’re linking to and good or you. Plus which, it’s slicker than whale snot — and we’ll teach you a ton of ways to make the underlying technology even slicker.

If you don’t know how to get this into your sidebar, speak up. Otherwise, how about let’s see how this looks on your weblog?

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Someday soon we may have to turn back the clock on home lending

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

Someday soon we may have to turn back the clock on home lending

Furniture stores are offering weekly payments. Department stores and jewelry stores are making Christmas easier with layaway plans.

Check the calendar. Did someone dial the clock back to 1968?

Not quite, but the credit crunch has got us looking backwards in time to try to remember how we used to do business, back before easy credit made things so easy.

Here’s the dirty little secret no one shared with you: For many, many years, the business of America has been credit.

Car dealerships don’t sell cars, they sell financing, selling your loan at a discount as soon as your tires hit the pavement.

Furniture stores don’t sell furniture, they use your desire for new furniture to get you to sign a promissory note.

One of the best protections of your financial interests is called Regulation Z. The Z reportedly stands for Zales, the easy credit jewelry store.

New home builders are in the same game. That’s why the incentives are so much better if you use the builders’ lender.

And that’s why there’s no interest for the first six months. Or no payments at all for the first two years. And all it takes is one quick signature…

But those days are done. Consumers — and corporations — are defaulting on debt like never before in history. The buyers of promissory notes aren’t buying any longer. Instead, they’re in Washington begging for bailouts.

And that leaves the furniture stores and the jewelry stores back in the merchandise business. They need to come up with ways to get people with no money to part with what little they have — a little at a time — in order to have any sort of cash flow at all.

And all this will come to real estate, too. We still have easy credit, but when interest rates start to climb, we’ll see our own kinds of “old fashioned” financing arrangements: Seller carrybacks, land contracts, wraps, lease purchases, etc.

We may be headed into tough times, but we still have a roadmap from 1968 to show us how to sell actual economic values and not just easy credit.

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On giving thanks: The Thanksgiving Scenius and the Thanksgiving scene and the abundance of love

This was a tough week for our house for a few reasons. One is that I am working through a contract, a situation in which my ability to communicate with my clients was all but shut down. This was a first for me, and painful. I understood what was happening, but not necessarily why it happened. I knew I had to keep plowing ahead though, and Wednesday we finally got back on some solid ground, something to be thankful for and grow from.

As bad as that was, the toughest thing we dealt with was a death. A teenager- a beautiful, intelligent, funny, and sweet child of 16, we had known her since she was 3, one of the few people in the world who was a friend to both of our kids, died in an automobile accident. She was a passenger on a sunny morning drive in the country, in a car with her girlfriends- cranking up the music, singing, goofing off, celebrating life with the joyous freedom that only teenage girls are capable of. I can’t help but smile when I picture a car full of girls, laughing out loud, full of life, full of hope, full of happiness… Then the driver ran a red light.

She had moved to a small neighboring community, and we didn’t see much of her any more, still, the friends of your kids hold a special place in your heart- as any Mom will tell you. The tiny community she lived in was shaken to it’s very core. The ripple effect- so many families knew everyone involved- the girls in the car as well as the couple who had the green light and hit the girls. It will take years to heal from this, and yet, and yet… The viewing was full of life. Yes, young people came to say good-bye to their dear friend, but teenagers are life itself- it oozes from them, they can’t contain it. Memories and testaments to this child and the special place she held in the hearts of so many people were everywhere you turned and this funeral was not about death, but was about living, and I think that all of us who were touched by this tragedy were pushed one step closer to understanding that every day, every moment is an extraordinarily precious thing that must be cherished or it’s wasted.

Yesterday I woke up and needed to connect to people, but not physically. And not with people who knew Amber or know anything about this beautiful life suddenly gone. I wanted to think about something not personal, not emotional, not painful. And on Thanksgiving, before I headed out to Grandma’s house, and that home, and all my cousins and the feeling of love and good luck to have such a remarkable family to call mine, I had the great fortune to have some very dear friends willing to indulge in some technical conversations of how to make computers and code and php-ish stuff behave in a way that will connect real people with each other.

It was another home- my cyber home. The conversation was lively, and funny, and smart, and often over my head, but I was welcomed and embraced and contributed what I could. I found that I was connected to the living, to a world that is only possible because we each wanted to connect to someone else that morning, all for different reasons I’m sure, but my conversations on that Thanksgiving morning were as meaningful to me as the conversations I had later at Grandma’s home, and what I thought was going to be a connection without the raw emotions of the week, only made me realize how important this home, this Bloodhound home, and all the people I’ve met because of this place, how important you all are to me. This world of technology has made connecting to people on a loving and giving level so much easier, but it’s still an extremely human connection, and the people who share and read and write here also have an exquisite understanding that while we live in a world of abundance, life is a precious thing not to be wasted.

Today, as you do whatever you do on the day after Thanksgiving, and in the coming weeks as we drive full throttle into the holidays, I hope that you stop for just a moment to reflect again on your blessings; the abundance you have in your life and the love you experience in all it’s manifestations, and I hope you move one step closer to understanding how extraordinarily remarkable life can be when surrounded by this extraordinary abundance of love.


The Thanksgiving Day scenius at BloodhoundBlog

Teri Lussier and Eric Blackwell get up early in a time zone two hours earlier than mine. Cheryl Johnson lives an hour later than me, but I don’t think she ever sleeps. Anyway, this morning I woke up to Teri, Eric and Cheryl gnawing on a bunch of insanely great ideas by email.

That’s a scenius, y’all: Smart, focused people concentrating on well-understood problems, looking for innovative solutions.

I chipped in a little here and a little there, and then, just like that, we landed on a brand new way of thinking about community building with hyper-local weblogs.

My piece of the puzzle was new software, but what we’re doing is not a tool but a praxis, a working procedure. As a consequence, I’m not going to teach this until BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix. I’ll show you how to use your weblog to make better connections with other local — non-real estate — blogs, even as you both improve your SEO and maximize the SEO benefits of weblogging. This is killer stuff, literally the hammer-tap in just the right spot, a cornucopia of benefits for a minimal effort.

But: It involves theory, preparation and a certain amount of software hacking, so we’re going to do it when we can do it all together, side-by-side and step-by-step in Phoenix.

I know money is tight. Pinch your pennies and bring them to Phoenix. We’re going to make it worth your while…

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One for the Authors…

One of the things I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving are the people who code, write, and give form to the internet. I am a huge defender of intellectual property rights as well as compensating those with links who author, post, and code on sites around the web.

I am honored to be able to write here and be one of the dawgs. I still feel intimidated by some of the great folks I get to write with here. I am well compensated for my efforts both with an audience and a place on the right hand of Odysseus’s blog with a link. With that in mind, please know that what I am about to say is out of respect for your generosity, Greg.

I am not a nameless faceless content generator. I am an author. I could not ask for more freedom and respect than Greg offers to us. Thank you, sir.

I am seeing three trends that are violating my respect of authors and creators in the real estate space and I want to get them off of my chest. Thanks for your patience while I do.

Ugly Trend #1: De-emphasizing of Authors on Group Blogs.

If you author a post on a blog that I have anything to say about, you will receive credit and links for your efforts. Simple as that. The current trend of consciously shifting the focus onto the domain and away from authors is offensive to me. Enough said. I got upset when Trulia no followed links to sites that gave them content (err..listings) and said something. Taking author links away from those who write is no different than no following them and I feel the need to be consistent. Good enough to hire, not good enough to marry? No thanks.

Ugly Trend #2: Content Stealing via RSS Feed

My buddy Kevin Koitz just guest posted on my Search blog about WordPressDirect and the increased ease of splog creation and the fact that it takes authenticity away from a blog / site. My antidote on WP blogs? This plugin or the one that is in Cheryl’s comment in the post link below. Load it and love it. Load some of his other good plugins. Now that I have added the footer, anybody want to syndicate my content? Knock yourself out.

Using RSS feeds to syndicate (as Greg posted) can be a VERY useful technique and a good thing. It also can equate to theft if you use it to steal content from others. All depends how it is used. Again. No link? No love. Write your own damn content if you think mine is worthless.

Ugly Trend #3: Website copying.

This is not as new, but has been on the rise lately. A friend in Atlanta just got a bunch of his site copied/pasted by three different people. One of copiers was a major real estate blogger who should have KNOWN better. (and does…) Folks, the people who write unique custom sites OWN the rights to their work. Just because you CAN right click on it, does NOT make it shareware.

The people who write code are AUTHORS as well. Their work has copyrights. Please respect them. (Or run the risk of getting a letter from a lawyer and some unwanted exposure online for taking others content…your call.)

Now that all of that has been said…I’d like to thank the folks who read, comment on, tweet about, and in general raise the level of conversation on the real estate piece of the web.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and my best to each and all.


Launching Love among The Unfallen at every wavelength of heaven’s light

This is the official launch of, the official first post. I’m cross-posting it at BloodhoundBlog, as well.

Fair warning: This post is comprised of an extract from my novel, The Unfallen. After the “more” tag, you will be exposed to romantic fiction involving sexually playful adults engaged in actual life-like grown-up encounters. If you’re not comfortable with that kind of thing, skip ahead now. The nets are awash in content, after all, and almost none of it is about grown-ups. This post is nothing but a tiny glob of glowing phosphor on the vast oceans of information. Feel free to swim away with my blessings.

But: If you do want to catch a glimpse of actual grown-ups in action, I might have what you need. The splendor that is the grail of is a state of mind, a state of being, a mental fugue state where being and awareness of being and worship of and delight in being all become the same thing. The fiction I write — or the best of the fiction I write — is about people who live — and who know enough to love — that splendor. The extract shown below is a snapshot of those kind of people at their best.

You may want to read things into this text, and, if you do, you will be wildly incorrect, but there’s nothing I can do about that. All I can do is be what I am, and that’s why I want to start with this text in particular. This is a work of large ambition: I wanted to rescue romance from the Romance genre as a worthy subject of literature, and I wanted to rescue sex from smut. But more than both of those, I wanted — I want, continuously — to rescue the ideas of reverence and worship and rejoicing and adoration and exaltation from the grave, from empty pie-in-the-sky promises. I know that the ideas I treasure are real because I live them in my own life, in my very best moments. There will doubtless be many more grand statements of what splendor is or can or should be, but it is sufficient for now to say this of I’ll show you my expressions of splendor, and I’ll be very grateful if you will show me yours.

Read more

Comments are off for this post

As an expression of gratitude to the Bloodhounds, here’s an Unchained Melody for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a holiday established by productive people to celebrate the success of their work. –Ayn Rand

I love this place — this life, this earth and this tiny little corner of the net. The accretion of evidence leads me to believe that the world is becoming more and more the realm I would have designed for myself. Yes, we’re headed into serious economic trouble, and, yes, we’re headed that way under the leadership of a man who has never held a job in his life and who makes no secret that he knows nothing about the causes of wealth and poverty.

But: Even so: So what?

We are on the cusp of riches without limits. We are literally standing around getting soaked to the skin as soup rains down from the skies, and yet we are so much in the thrall of our treasured wounds that we can’t even see it. That much, at least, is a correctable nuisance.

The curtain goes up at eleven tonight on Act Three of my life, and I know better than anyone that I am the best beneficiary of the riches I talk about. All my life people have asked me for writing advice, and, without intending to be glib, I told them simply this: Have something to say, and have a way of saying it. I am befriended by the times, and — amazingly to me — I am by now able to ship these piles of ore I have quarried from my mind. Do you want to know how to change the world forever, for the good? You do it one mind at a time — starting with your own.

I’m grateful to the Bloodhounds — to the people who read, comment and write here — both for BloodhoundBlog and for Unchained. I’m thankful for our clients, who have been prosperous enough to keep us in business. I don’t think I ever adequately express my gratitude to Cathleen, who gives me everything that can be had from another person. There are so many others — Richard Riccelli and Brian Brady and Teri Lussier — so I hope you won’t feel left out just because I haven’t named you. I’m a high-D and an insufferable bastard, but I hope I am never stinting in my praise, my thanks and my blessings.

But there is one Bloodhound I should single out this Thanksgiving: Brad Coy. He leaned on me enough that I logged in as Odysseus today and discovered that what he and others have been saying all along is true: Apparently only I (logged in as the admin) can successfully embed a YouTube video in a BloodhoundBlog post. That’s a correctable nuisance, too, and I’ll start quarrying for the correction.

In the mean time, here’s an Unchained Melody for Thanksgiving, Leonard Cohen’s Anthem as performed by his longtime back-up singers, Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla:

Here’s to a very Happy Thanksgiving and to a very productive fall and winter!

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Digging In To Dig Out

Wholesale lenders, escrow companies and title companies are sending me e-mails this afternoon:

In observance of the Thanksgiving holiday and as a demonstration of our commitment to our core values, ABC Financial will be closed Thursday and Friday (and Saturday and Sunday).  We wish you and yours a joyous holiday season and thank you for your business.


Okayfine.  Rant over, captured in three letters.  Sermon begins:

Thanks, Dave.  The words of encouragement are appreciated; readers might look at the words of the song he quoted, though:

If you’re going through hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there
Yeah, If you’re going through hell
Keep on moving, face that fire
Walk right through it

“Keep on moving, face that fire.”  A good reminder for us to persevere in the face of adversity.  What the title, escow, and mortgage companies are doing, however, is living in a 2005 world.  There are loans to be funded, resales to be recorded, and transactions to be closed.  There are, without a doubt, thousands of transactions that won’t fund, record and close on Friday…and thousands of clients who won’t be able to take advantage of the weekend to move.  Double that number if you count the chain reaction real estate transactions produce.

Complacency breeds contempt in my world.  I have always considered the last day of the month (which is Friday) to be a VERY important day.  If you can close ONE extra transaction, on Friday, instead of having it bleed over until Monday, here’s what you’ll gain:

1- One hour of phone time.  When the transaction won’t close because of the closed escrow company, we all have to make between 3-5 phone calls, explaining what happened and reassuring all principals that the transaction is fine.

2- One hour of e-mail time. Rushing to get last minute conditions in takes 30 minutes.  It takes another 30 minutes to get the weekend out of the employees’ minds, after their 4-day rest.

3- Four days of simple interest (or spending power).  When everyone gets their money faster, they can invest or spend it.

4- Points in the “favor bank.  The world works on the Law of Reciprocity. In Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe explains how “operators” in the NYC judicial, financial, and business systems kept close account of the “favor bank”.  Your clients do as well.  Pushing harder. to close their transaction just ONE DAY EARLIER, when everyone else would have given up, could result in five more referral prospects.

Let’s see why it’s important for those title, escrow, and mortgage companies to stay open on Friday. If we close that transaction on Friday, I save two hours of time, gain about $15 of interest, and open myself up to five more prospects.  I can spend that 15 bucks on the mail packages I send out, from the five phone conversations I have, in the two extra hours I found…

and I’ll close one extra transaction, next month…

…which is one extra escrow, one extra title policy, one extra loan closing, and two extra sides (for agents).  It’s a ripple effect and it’s traveling negatively throughout the economy.  We can stop that on Friday…

…if you’re committed.

PS:  I’m making a list and checking it twice.  If you’re naughty on Friday, don’t expect me to be nice next year.

PPS:  Oh, I already planned for this crap to happen so we closed our stuff yesterday and today.  We were maniacal this morning about getting the last one funded, even though the lender, title, and escrow company plan to be open on Friday.  I’ll be making those five extra calls on Friday.


Social bookmarking for home search. Will it work?

This has been in draft mode for a few days now since I commented on this at Mashable. That’s just as well since Benn over at AG was able to get a look under the hood which changes my feelings about this new bookmarking app for home lookers. (now in beta testing)

I’ve been a big fan of using Delicious for my own personal research for a while now. It offers a simple way to tag, take notes, and store in the cloud what it is I need to understand about something I’m curious about so that down the road I can either share that information with others or keep it private to myself.

Dwellicious puts forth the effort to do this for home search. As some of you may remember, this has been tried before with little success (if at all) for some reason. My take at first blush is that it’s something that users will be hard pressed to adopt. I have worked with several tech savvy clients who have done their own home search with the tools to share information and what I have found is that they are very reluctant to share anything about their decision making process. People hold their cards close to their chest when purchasing homes and often don’t even know what it is they want until they see it. So, for note taking purposes, I don’t know that it will be much help, but it’s nice to have the option.

It’s too bad you don’t see a consumer based search site that has all of the inventory data with a few solid consumer centric options like saving, RSS updates, and sharing without all the advertising, hierarchy of ‘featured listings’ and sponsorship options getting in your way. Bookmarking while weeding through various sites seems to be a chore few will have the know how or patience to handle. Another problem might be the slowness of updating on these sites to make any timely use of RSS. It could be a rewarding experience for those to venture another step into being their own agent, yet there are still a few bricks in that wall, that are still in place.

One step closer to better is what this should be as the robust portion of the pie seems to be where you’ll find at least 8 API’s built in help aggregate a variety of related information from sites like Zillow, Walkscore, Cyberhomes and Panaramio. Now that’s something the advanced home searcher can sink their teeth into. On the other side it would be cool if there were a Kayak type of search engine to pull in all the listing data to pluck from, but then again Real Estate technology is nothing like Travel, now is it?

Watch and see.


What’s Mu? Pulling unforeseen results out of

We launched just a week and a day ago, and already WordPress-MultiUser is changing my approach to everything in the weblogging world.

First, just as a caveat: It’s a bear to set up. Because of BloodhoundBlog, we have an enormous amount of server horsepower, but I think it matters a great deal that we live on a dedicated server. We can customize the host to live the way we need it to live, and we command a lot of tech support attention from — which has been invaluable.

But as with the discussion of FeedWordPress, living in the Mu universe leads to different ways of thinking.

An example: We’re wrestling with domain mapping right now, but, once we get it working, we will be able to put our affiliated vendors into their own blogs, running under their own domain names, in two wags of a BloodPuppy’s tail. If you think about the agony of setting up unique blogs, the upfront effort of getting WP-Mu to run will be handsomely repaid.

Likewise, both WordPress (dot org) and WP-Mu were upgraded to version 2.6.5 tonight. I already upgraded the weblogs. And sometime between now and Sunday, I will get to upgrade a solid dozen blogs. Between now and the new year, most or all of those will be moving to a new WP-Mu installation.

Here’s the best bet: The ability to set up clone weblogs on demand will permit a very granular kind of hyper-local weblogging. This suggests to me one or two more WP-Mu installations, strictly for real estate purposes.

And here’s a great big what’s more: Give me another week with this software and let’s see what else I can come up with…


Weblogging without weblogging: If syndication be the food of love, feed on — I crave excess of it!

I am playing with syndication on You can ignore me, although I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon enough.

Later: Okay, here’s what I’m up to. That’s a weblog that uses the plug-in FeedWordPress to create an automatically-updating weblog built from the RSS feeds from the home weblogs of six different BloodhoundBlog contributors.

These really are different feeds. Eric Blacwell came in with RSS 0.92, Teri Lussier with RSS2, Cheryl Johnson and Chris Johnson came in from Feedburner, Geno Petro supplied a feed, and I took Brian Brady’s ActiveRain feed.

Yes, you read that right ARbeings. You can syndicate your AR and Localism content to your “outside” blog.

Do please note: If you do not own the feeds you are syndicating, you are stealing. Don’t do that.


Citi’s So Nice I Bought It Twice (a Tin Foil Hat production)

Alright, let’s see if I got this straight:

  • Less than 4 weeks ago Citi was purchasing Wachovia in a deal brokered by the FDIC.
  • Less than 3 weeks ago the Fed injected $25 billion into Citi
  • Less than 1 week ago Citi’s shares tumbled
  • Yesterday the Fed injected ANOTHER $20 billion into Citi

Am I forgetting anything?  Oh yeah:

  • Based on share price, Citi is now worth $20 billion… which means we (the taxpayers) have bought her twice!

When Citi was buying Wachovia waaaaaaay back in October, it was apparently strong enough to handle the $42 billion in losses it agreed to take on in exchange for the Fed covering the other $270 billion that Wachovia was going to generate in bad loans.  But now we discover that they actually needed us to purchase them… TWICE, and we’re still unsure if they’ll survive.

(For a clearer picture of which lenders had these bad loans and would fail, read The Mortgage Dance from July of 2008 and click on the “accounting debacle” link which was originally delivered in a speech in August of 2007!  Or you can read about Countrywide beginning its fall back in May of 2007.  My point is that much of this seems obvious now and was actually visible on the horizon quite a while ago.  But the Fed keeps up its Animal House impression, telling us to “remain calm… all is well.”  The possibility of a conspiracy grows so large that now i don’t even leave the house without my Tin Foil Hat.)

I have to wonder if there was more going on in that initial Wachovia deal.  Was Citi getting a cash infusion of some type?  One of the influential directors at Citi is Robert Rubin – the former secretary of the Treasury.  I’m not sure I understand how he didn’t see that Citi was only three weeks away from failing.  Although I can certainly understand how he might have an inside ear at the Treasury.  Was the Wachovia deal a way to support Citi without making a public scene?  That would explain the ensuing public scene (the technical term in economics is hissy-fit) that Citi AND the Fed threw when Wells Fargo came along and said they would buy Wachovia without any help from the government.  The Chairman of the FDIC would have none of it.  She said they still backed the Citi plan!!  Citi itself stomped its feet to the tune of a $60 billion lawsuit.  Sixty billion dollars?  Is that what they were looking for all along?  How in the world did the FDIC stand there with a straight face and say they still backed Citi when Wells was offering 7 times as much with no taxpayer risk?  How in the world did Citi plan to show that losing Wachovia to Wells Fargo cost them $60 billion?  Maybe they all believed what they were saying… Maybe they all forgot their Wheaties that week… Or maybe there was more going on than we were lead to believe.

I’m not sayin’… I’m just sayin’…


Something new under the sun: Sim and the future of human interaction

I saw this commercial over the weekend and it’s been making me nuts:

This is fascinating to me. This is Game Console 2.0, the participatory gaming experience. Okay, that much is not new, going back to the Dreamscape, anyway. Ubiquitous at broadband speeds since the original Xbox.

What’s cool here is that the interaction is, first, among adults, and, second, has nothing to do with the game play. This is remote schmoozing through a game console, a phone call conducted from within a sim. SecondLifeLite, as it were.

I’m wondering if Nintendo got viraled on this, if a cadre of moms figured out how to use the software this way during naptime, and Nintendo is marketing to grow a niche that erupted spontaneously.

There’s way more. Simulation is emerging as a fourth branch of science. Computing grows year by year in its accretion of power. A model is not reality, a map is not the territory, but a sim of, for example, the life cycle of a star, could teach us as much in ten minutes as we have managed to learn in the last 10,000 years.

Now combine the two. Take ordinary people with better and better user-interface devices and let them work and play together by simulation in the cloud. The two phenomena are not the same, but, even so, at this incredibly cheap end-user level, we are all avidly nurturing and cultivating precisely the intellectual capital we will need going forward.

It’s daunting to stand at the threshold of what may be a calamitous economic disaster and, yet, to recognize that we are also at the threshold of an unimaginable increase in human mental prowess.

Further notice: Apparently, Nintendo has pursued an Alpha Moms astroturfing strategy for the Wii since its introduction. I don’t know if this use of this software is something they have encouraged, but presumably it is. Doesn’t matter to me. Better questions: Are moms meeting through this game? Are they strangers until they discover each other in the game — much as we discover one another through weblogs? More interesting: Are the children for whom this game is actually designed meeting other children through the game? Is some significant fraction of their socialization with other children taking place through a sim — among children whom they experience only through the sim? These are very interesting questions and we ignore them only because this world is already so “normal” to us…

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My BloodhoundBlog wish list as we embark on the SplendorQuest

We’re going to fire up full-bore this week. For now it’s nothing, no need to link to it. But if you’ve ever done a whois on any one of our domains, you will have seen that lives at the top of everything.

I’ve talked about Splendor a lot at BloodhoundBlog. It’s the defining metaphor of my life. I wrote my best philosophical defense of the idea, so far, in January and February of 1988, and my best ostensive definition in 1997. I’ve promised myself for two solid decades that I would get back to this idea, thinking that it was something that I would attend to in full in my retirement. Lately, that seems to me to be a less than satisfactory resolution. For one thing, this is the perfect time to talk about Splendor, just as we are about to suffer the full consequences of a hundred centuries of the worship of Squalor. And for another, I have just lately come to the realization that I will never, ever retire.

I predict that, whatever else it might become, will be a place of manifestoes. Even so, I think I’ve already written my own SplendorQuest manifesto. There’s a lot that I’m saying in that little extract, and you could read it every day and always find something new in it. But the essence of the thing, for me, is this: “[P]art of being who I am is a conscious refusal to hide things like this just because many people don’t want to hear them. I don’t believe that I owe anything to other people, but the best gift I can offer my fellow men is not to hide who I am.” I love my life, but, much more importantly, I refuse to affect to hold my life in contempt. That’s not Splendor, not by itself, but that’s a gift I can share with my brothermen just by being alive.

What we have planned — what I have planned, at least — is simply to be alive in public as this thing that I want to become. Just to be shamelessly alive, that’s all — just to be alive as a living, yearning, churning mind — without shame, without apology, without fearing ridicule or craving praise — without anything other than an insatiable obsession to do better and to be better as a free, rational moral agent.

I have no idea where this is going to go. I have a few really huge metaphors that I want to explore in essays and stories, and there will be other contributors, now and later, with their own agendas to attend to. It’s plausible to me that could turn into books, but it’s also plausible that is the first post-book book. The future is always a surprise, no matter how well we plan.

What is certain is that I am about to spread myself even more thinly. And that’s why I’m writing: I need help. Here are a few things that I would love to be able to delegate to other people:

First, BloodhoundBlog needs an amanuensis — a curator, as it were. We have a category called “Enduring Interest” that should contain nothing but the absolute best of BloodhoundBlog. If it were properly maintained, we could say to new readers, “If you devote some part of your attention to ‘Enduring Interest’ until you’ve read it all, you will be up to speed with the rest of us here.” The posts are there, but the category is a mess. If you are a mind of methodical bent, and if you would like to assure that the best of BloodhoundBlog truly endures, speak up.

Second, I have a pretty desperate need for art — good art. I do most of the decoration that gets done around here, but I suck at it. If you can express the idea of as a vector-based (glyph-based?) logo, you’re who I am looking for.

Third, I have admin jobs in abundance. I’d love to have someone take over Real Estate Weblogging 101, perhaps to make an ongoing tutorial site out of the content we built there. I could use help, in due course, on There are others. If you would like to administer a piece of our empire, I could not be listening more intently.

I’ve been juggling a lot of really interesting ideas for the past three years, most ardently over this summer and fall. Everything gelled for me Friday night in one, huge, overarching defining metaphor. I understand where we can go, as a people. Not where we must go, but where we can go if we dare to reach for it. I want to write about this. At an absolute minimum, I want to leave a record of what I think is possible for humanity, at its absolute best. But much more than that, if I can, I want to goad humanity into being its absolute best.

If you want to be a part of this, I have a lot more chores than I have hands or time to accomplish them. But: They also serve who only stand and watch. So do tune in. This is going to be a great show.

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