There’s always something to howl about

Archive for July, 2010

Education? We Unions Don’t Need It.

This is stunning.

…in Oregon, where the state teachers union declared last year that resisting another full-time virtual charter company, the Baltimore-based Connections Academy, would be its top priority

Not educating student,s but resisting change.


Reasons to be (not so) cheerful, Part 3.0.0: While it may be implausible that western civilization could collapse, this much seems certain: You will not be prepared for what happens next.

So: Let’s drop the shit-hammer, shall we?

Greece is broke. So is England, and so is most of the rest of Europe.

California is broke, Illinois is broke, and, if you count unfunded pension liabilities, not only are all the rest of the states, counties and cities broke, so are all of the surlier labor unions.

Social Security is broke, as is the metamorphosing medical scam to be known, soon enough, as no-healthcare-for-you!

The United States government is broke, of course, limping along, for now, on funds borrowed against the promise of future confiscatory currency inflation, future crippling taxation — or both.

Socialism is a Ponzi scheme, and, before you know it, you run out of suckers to milk. Sooner or later, welfare-state socialism has to collapse. As I’ve argued, I don’t think that time is now. Despite our talent, as a species, for forecasting apocalyptic, pandemic doom, in reality the sky hardly ever falls more than once or twice a day.

Moreover, even though we are enmired in a deep recession — and even though our puerile president is making that recession much worse with every boneheaded error at his command — even so, it is very likely that we are out-producing welfare-state socialism in the long run. That might stick in your craw, but it remains that — even despite the drag on the economy caused by taxes, regulation, deficit spending and waste — the trajectory of the standard of living of every American — and virtually everyone on earth — is steadily upward.

But, but, but! Government is impoverishing us! I saw it on the big-screen HD-TV in the bedroom, and also on the even-bigger-screen HD-TV in the living room, and, just to be sure, I followed-up on the high-speed internet connection on my 27″ quad-core iMac! Don’t try to tell me the world’s not going to hell in a hand-basket! I’ve got the best hardware and software in the world to tell me how terrible my life is!

That much is funny to me, but, even so, these circumstances can’t last forever. At some point the parasites will overwhelm the host, and, when that happens, the shit-hammer will come crashing down on all of us — virtuous or vicious, wise or foolish, ready or not.

And no matter how virtuous we might be, no matter how wise, it seems probable to me that most of us will be unprepared for life in a world where government has collapsed. We’ve seen this happen in other places, generally very poor places, but few of us have ever lived through a state of chaos.

So what happens? Looting and shooting, at first, with the amount of that kind of behavior being a reflection of how well-armed and how well-prepared owners of stuff attractive to looters turn out to be. Ordinary people will pull into their shells with a pronounced vigor, making lists and inventories and peeking out windows to see if there are any looters around.

The inventory will not be inspiriting, very probably. You may be lucky enough to have two weeks’ worth of meals on hand — less if the electrical power has failed. Still worse, if the water supply has failed, you may have next to nothing to drink in your home. And no matter how confident you feel about your ability to defend your home from marauders, I’m betting you have fewer than two hundred rounds of ammunition to your name — or is it zero rounds, and zero firearms, as well?

So you have no food, no water and no firepower. The nicer name for your status is prisoner-of-war. The not-so-nice name? Corpse.

But here’s some good news: If you are healthy, and if there is food enough to keep you healthy, you might just get to live. There will be a need for people to clean up all of those corpses, after all.

Thousands of corpses, maybe millions. Welfare-state socialism rewards thoughtless people for being thoughtless — for being stupid and lazy and completely incompetent to provide for their own survival. As bare as your own larder might seem, the victims of the welfare-state will have it much worse. They will die in droves, by the thousands, as soon as Big Mother’s massive teats dry up.

It gets worse. No water, no sewage treatment, no reliable supply-line for food — and corpse after corpse in one house after the next. In a circumstance like that, you have to expect some nasty epidemics. Too bad there is no pharmaceutical resupply chain. Too bad your doctor is afraid to open his door — assuming he’s still alive.

If you get very lucky, the people who will have formed a gang big enough to make you their prisoner-of-war will be imbued with the Spirit of Seventy Six — the idea that all men are created equal and have the right to live in freedom. If you’re that lucky, your time living under martial law might be fairly brief, and life could return to something like normal within just a few years.

What if you’re not so lucky? Whether your overlords are socialists or theocrats or just thugs, your true name will either be slave or corpse. The freedom you grew up with — the freedom you have always taken for granted — will be gone. For years? For centuries? Forever? Gone from your life, at least, for all the future you can see — all the future you can bear to look at.

Now here’s an interesting question:

Doesn’t that seem like a fate worth avoiding?

Please keep in mind that I don’t think this is going to happen. It could, but I’m betting my money — and your life! — on happier fates.

But stipulate that it could happen — everything I’ve described and things still worse. Your children haven’t been stolen from you, conscripted into genocidal armies. Your daughters haven’t been raped and gutted. You haven’t had to choose between starving to death or eating the rotting flesh of one of those thousands of corpses you see everywhere. You haven’t been invited either to guard a deathcamp or to perish there instead. All of these things have happened — and recently — and there is no basis for arguing that they can’t happen here.

But if you want to avoid the collapse of civilization, what’s the one thing that could swing the balance?

[To be continued in Part 3.0.1.]

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Race Balanced Elections?

I wrote a satirical piece last August about how life might be if the Federal Government increased its power.  I suggested racial balancing might be a consideration in elections:

President Menendez was elected by a sweeping margin when he ran against former Senator Mel Martinez in the first ever race-neutral Presidential election.  Former President Obama signed the Neutrality in Elections Act of 2013 and it was agreed that Presidential elections would be held with a specific race/ethnicity as the qualifying factor, every eight years, so as to offer opportunity to all Americans.  We  The G.O.P originally nominated George P. Bush but his ambiguous ethnicity disqualified him for this particular election; he’ll have his chance in 16 years.

Crazy?  One commenter thought I might have gone a bit too far:

There was a time when I was warned about my on line reputation. After reading this blog for the past couple of months I look tame.

race-neutral Presidential election? …Sheesha!

I’ll admit that I have an active imagination but sometimes life imitates art:

Voters in Port Chester, 25 miles northeast of New York City, are electing village trustees for the first time since the federal government alleged in 2006 that the existing election system was unfair. The election ends Tuesday and results are expected late Tuesday.

Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.

You just can’t make this stuff up….even when you try.


No Day At The Beach

Yesterday was no day at the beach.  Okay, technically I suppose you could twist the facts around and put a major league, curve ball spin on it and call it a day at the beach.  You know, if you want to get hung up on little details like how I spent the entire day at the beach.  I packed up my two boys, an ice chest full of Cheetos and one large cantaloupe.  (I didn’t bring a knife and apparently you don’t eat those things like an apple, so I returned with one empty ice chest and one large cantaloupe.)  I met up with my good friend and occasional confessor Brian Brady and his lovely daughter.  We were later joined by his wife, whom I’ll just call Mrs. Lance Armstrong Brady for this story, and we spent an entire, glorious day at the beach.  But other than that, yesterday was no day at the beach.  Yeah, okay, I see your point.  Put it this way, it wasn’t a typical day at the beach.

For me, a typical day at the beach would mainly involve long discussions with Brian on solving the world’s problems (ask us sometime… we’ve got the whole thing whittled down to a small pamphlet) and occasionally testing the sandy hardness of the ocean floor by falling off my boogie board.  (This is all done purposefully and as part of my larger interest in oceanography.  I could ride a wave on a boogie board if I wanted to…)  Sometimes, just to spice things up, I see how long I can hold in my gut without passing out in front of an attractive, bikini-clad woman.  They usually do a surprisingly good job of pretending to not even notice me, but we’re so close to Hollywood I assume most of them are just acting…  Anyway, that’s a typical day at the beach for me.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday I was distracted by a gigantic hole.  Yes, a hole… in the sand.  Like I said: not your typical day at the beach.

My two boys and Brian’s daughter spent a good chunk of their morning – when they weren’t out on boogie boards catching waves and staying upright, as if that’s the only way to ride one of those things – digging a hole.  I know, that probably doesn’t sound like much fun, but you have to trust me: catching waves on a boogie board can be fun.  In any case, they dug themselves a pretty good hole.  It was big and deep and had a nice groove cut toward the ocean.  Once the tide came in, they’d have themselves a nice little hot tub just made for three.  (I actually overheard one of them… okay, it was one of my boys, say something about turning it into a jacuzzi.  I’m not sure how they planned on creating bubbles, but I figure what I don’t know won’t hurt me.)

Sure enough, as the tide came in all their hard work started to pay off.  At first there was only a little water, but it was obvious that before long they’d have a first rate hot tub.  It was about this time I began to notice other boys and girls approach; as time passed more and more came until we had a regular Hole in the Beach Gang.  They thought this was the neatest thing they’d ever seen and soon began to splash in the hole too.  It didn’t occur to any of them to ask if they could play in the slowly filling “hot tub.”  I guess they figured holes were just something that appeared at the beach without any work; kind of a no-cost benefit they were all entitled to play in and enjoy.  Pretty soon, my boys and Brian’s daughter came over to us and pointed out that they weren’t getting to play in the hot tub they’d created because there were “all these kids in there who didn’t even help build it!”  I have to say I was shocked, shocked to learn my kids possessed a sense of ownership over this hole.  Why?  Because they got there early?  Because they worked long and hard on it?  Is that any kind of a justification for not sharing it with kids who were busy playing video games all morning and only stumbled into the hole on their way to the ice cream stand?  Being a philosopher, I sat down to formulate a deeply moving response to our children’s dilemma.  Brian on the other hand, ever the pragmatist, just looked at them  and said: “Life’s tough. Wear a helment,” and sent them off to clear jelly fish so he could enter the water for a bit.

I stayed and watched “the hole” though.  I’d become intrigued and I’m glad I did because the most interesting thing happened.  The original three creators of the hole, once they realized they weren’t going to be able to enjoy what they’d built, wandered off to find new adventures.  (At least, I think that’s what they did.  Look, it’s a big crowded beach surrounded by pounding surf and occasional rip tides.  It’s not like I can keep an eye on them every minute…)  The others though, the ones who jumped with both feet into the hole they didn’t create, they stayed and they played and they made that hole their own.  But a very strange thing began to happen.  With each surge of ocean water came a large deposit of sand and the hole became less and less of a hole (and less fun) as it filled with water. 

Now here’s the really odd part: the kids all just looked at each other as it was happening.  They knew their hole was de-holing (don’t bother looking it up, I promise you it’s a word), but they didn’t know what to do about it.  The various shovels and buckets originally used to create the hole were all still there, lying on the outer edge, but no one thought to grab a shovel and contribute.  They just kept playing in less and less water, till one by one they began drifting away.  Maybe some found another magically appearing hole they could take as their own.  I imagined others discovering a blanket spread with hot dogs and chips… and helping themselves to the magic of a free lunch.  It wouldn’t surprise me if one or two went off in search of our three kids – the original builders of the hole – to complain about how it wasn’t built big enough and didn’t last long enough.  (I don’t know for sure where any of them went because that would have required me getting up out of my beach chair and I was, at that particular moment, testing another one of my scientific theories about compression of sand under extremely heavy loads.)

Toward the end of the day, my sons and Brian’s daughter came back around and looked at the hole, or rather: what was once a hole.  It was pretty filled in and the sides had crumbled under the weight of so many kids.  Their shovels and buckets were strewn about.  I asked if they were going to build another hole and they shook their heads no.  “What’s the point?” my older son asked.  “Yeah,” my younger son chimed in, “if we do, we won’t get to play in it anyway.”  Brian’s daughter summed it up, saying: “I think our hole digging days are over.  We did all the work, but someone else got all the fun.”  Kids say the funniest things, don’t they?

As we broke down the tents and packed the tools and tried to carry as much sand back to my recently detailed car as possible, I remember thinking to myself: I sure hope these little guys enjoyed themselves today, despite what happened with their hole.  And I certainly hope they’re not assimilating this one-time episode into any sort of large-scale, world view.  Deep down I hope that by the time they become adults they can look back on this day and say: “Life is no day at the beach.”  Just in case though… wear a helmet.

The Hole in the Beach Gang


Don’t blame me, I voted… to renounce my regrettable vote for Obama…


An Effective Alternative To the Team Model

I love the team concept as it’s executed corrected by some in the business. However, most of them, IMHO, and through first hand observation, produce pre-tax income less for most team leaders than most think. Going even further, I’d say those workin’ by themselves or partnered, using only assistants, not commissioned agents, will almost always bank more coin than team leaders.

The model I’ve used since late 1996 is so old it was in place in ancient Rome. It starts at the top with The Guy who then has as many assistants as needed, doing all the work that supports rather than generates company earnings. I’d never go as far as to say it beats the Team approach every time out, but there are some distinct advantages to my favored MO when compared tit or tat with the typical team.

My MO, as stated up top, is simple. I hire assistants as business volume dictates. The more the business, the more assistants. When I was able to work in my local market, San Diego, there were long stretches when I had three full timers — none of whom were paid salaries or by the hour. All were paid based on my production. See what I mean? Nothing new or ‘cutting edge’.

The Boss (Don’t ask who that is — must I explain marriage?) for years has resisted my somewhat awkward attempts to point her in this direction for one of her companies. It’s a retail bridal gown ‘n stuff kinda store. She’s a well known designer who’s also sold to other stores nationwide via her wholesale operation — she’s been doin’ this for over 20 years. Her store (Yes Stevie, there is a God) shares a wall with Hooters in the Mission Valley area of San Diego. It’s a measly 500 square feet.

Her MO was to hire salesladies to deal with customers. It was a constant pain in the ass, as most of ’em couldn’t manage a one-man picnic if given a plan and a how-to video. I finally resorted to begging and pleading. Then one night not long ago she suddenly announced she was firing everyone, hiring a friend’s daughter to answer the phone etc., and becoming an appointment only store.

I was elated.

I won’t bore you with the details, but sales, which were already better than most on a per square foot basis, are now through the roof. She has so much business she turns down far more bridezillas than she used to. In fact, the other day a couple gals actually thanked her profusely for allowing them in the store without an appointment. Before long I’m confident she’ll need a second assistant to keep things organized, and deal with brides/bride’s maids/bride’s moms who’re being taken care of by the army of alteration ladies she employs.

This new MO was put in place the first of this month. She’s already made just under 80% of last quarter’s production. Her batting average has literally skyrocketed.

But, you quickly ask, “Why is that?”

Don’t over think it. The answer is so simple, even a Realtor can do it. 🙂 (Hat tip — Russell Shaw) She’s the reason. Brides wanna work with The Gal. The store is now virtually printing money, and it was doin’ damn well before. But then, only about half the brides were able to work directly with her. The other half were shunted off to gals who could study what ‘Nicole’ does for a year and still not know everything she’s forgotten.

The same goes with real estate.

Back in 2002ish I was operating on all 12 cylinders, and had three very cool assistants who were flat awesome. One of them was an agent I was mentoring, but who wasn’t allowed to have their own clients. After a few months he was not only doin’ typical right-hand man stuff for me, but was puttin’ out 80% of the fires that come up from time to time in transactions. I only had to put out the potential forest fires, he did the rest. Imagine how much more time that gave me to do what made the big bucks.

There were literally a few times when, unavoidably, I had two conference rooms goin’ at once. But with three killer assistants doin’ most of the heavy lifting, I was able to shuttle back and forth, getting things done, adding the final touches. The clients very much appreciated how busy we were, and that The Guy was still the one takin’ care of them.

It’s at this point team leaders are dyin’ to interrupt in order to point out that their buyer-agents do extra deals from which he gains 40-60% of the pay. They’re right, no argument. Also, let’s acknowledge the difference between a house agent and an investment property guy. Whereas a client searchin’ for a home in which to live just wants a home, the investor, or even more important, a wannabe investor, doesn’t wanna be ‘shuffled off to Buffalo’ to some agent they’ve never heard of. “Hey, I thought I was gonna be workin’ with The Guy.”

I get it that home buyers are lookin’ for homes, not agents. But what about sellers? You’ve convinced them of your professional superiority, which is why they contacted you in the first place. Unless you’re Russell Shaw, whose team includes one, sometimes two listing specialists, sellers could easily become disenchanted cuz The Guy ‘assigned them’ to an underling. Russ, and those very few like him, are the exceptions proving the rule, in my opinion. Unlike most teams, they can point to a track record of sold listings that ends any, or at least most discussions.

Can you point to a few thousand sold listings? To a couple hundred in the last several months? Didn’t think so — which brings me back to the point — they wanna sell their property, and they want The Guy handling it — Period.

By ensuring you always have support staff doing 95% of what doesn’t generate income, you’re spending most of your time doing, well, what generates income. Duh.

All those follow-ups, all the day-to-day minutia you’re now takin’ care of, even with a team, simply goes away. I’ll admit this works best for a listing oriented agent. Frankly, we all know in our hearts a high school sophomore can be trained to be a buyer-agent in 3-6 weeks. It’s the listing agents who produce inventory, who add the real value as perceived by the public, not buyer-agents. Listing agents don’t need their counterparts to make a living — but try being a buyer-agent without listings. Can we please, Dear Lord in Heaven, not argue this Captain Obvious point?

So how’s my time spent?

The vast majority of the time, I’m doing one of the following.

1. Having an initial conversation with someone interested in what I have to offer — from whatever source they originated.

2. Talkin’ to an owner who needs to sell or exchange.

3. Causing a contract to be created for the purchase of property. And no, I don’t even do that myself.

4. List property for sale/exchange — something I’m just now doing again. Happy freakin’ days!

5. Create and discuss investment plans with new clients.

6. Speak to groups of house agents’ clients who are — or wanna be — investors, generating listings for the house agents — new investment clients for me.

7. Write posts for my blog and others’.

Finally, but not least important by any stretch, is the difference in gross and net income between the two models. For the most part, I’m doin’ as many, if not more sides than most smallish teams. Even when they out produce me in gross volume, my net almost always dwarfs theirs. My expenses don’t include paying commissioned agents. Most team leaders would gladly trade annual pre-tax income with those workin’ my model. They need more office space, more support staff, and all the rest. Me? Our office totals less than 500 square feet including the conference room. My marketing budget is surely about the same as a small team’s — but I simply don’t have many of their expenses to pay.

If a team leader’s group produces $12,000,000 in sides at 3%, they gross $360,000. Take out his marketing costs, office overhead, and buyer-agent commissions, and what’s left for him — maybe $200,000 or so?

The guy with the assistant(s) does the same volume, pays the same for marketing, but pays commissions to nobody. He’s gonna keep at least $300,000 pre-tax. Even if the team ‘out produces’ him, you’d still rather have his bank account at the end of the day. ‘Course at awards time the team leader gets to brag about his volume — a hollow victory if ever there was one.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


What’s it like to sell real estate in the Arizona heat?

We weren’t even out that long… But don’t think for a minute that I envy you your snow.


Ordinary communist photographer going Capitalist; greedy, greed, greed

If you’re a true communist real estate photographer like I once was and your getting ready to go as far right as my friends in the business Greg Swann and Brian Brady, who I humbly agree with; then it’s time to drop your ordinary communist real estate photography money distributing, crummy, worthless shop.  Warning to all communist!!!  The remainder of this article is about greedy greed greed; making money.

You might be asking, what is a true communist real estate photographer like I mentioned in sentence one?  A communist real estate photographer is what I used to be; simply list a home explain why I’m “THE GUY” and then take some “communist real estate photos” with my $350 best buy camera and put em’ in the system.   Why is a $350 best buy camera SO COMMUNIST you might be asking?  Simply put, in this new world of real estate over the past five years, myself and many others who are still in the business having had to adapt.

One of the ways I’ve adapted is really quite simple; CHANGE.  I believe in THREE main capitalist scenario’s needed to sell a home.

1)      Exposure (advertising) only a greedy greed greed capitalist would invest advertising money to make money.

2)      Presentation (PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO) this is where I was a communist.  My PRESENTATION sucked.  Buyer’s looking at online couldn’t distinguish a Worthington Realty home from any other home.  Simply put, I was losing money for myself and clients alike.  I wasn’t totally doing my job.  SO I CHANGED.  I made a near $2,000 investment in real estate photography equipment to get me started.

I AM NO HARRY BISEL, as a matter of fact, if my photos could be half as good, I’ve succeeded.  I have noticed because my PRESENTATION has “professional like” quality photos, my SHOWING numbers have gone WAY UP, and in turn I have CLOSED more deals.

How do ya like that Greedy Greed Greed explanation?   I was your typical communist real estate photographer and didn’t even know it.

3)      In case you’re wondering what the final point is – “Value” If the home is properly priced it will sell.  (Which could mean, I still might be a communist for not over pricing a home like your typically capitalist (wink) I think you get the point.

In the end, a simple investment took me from communist to capitalist in the “Presentation sector” of the 3 main bullet points that sell a listing.

What are your thoughts?  What have you done to convert your presentation sector from communist to capitalist?  Here how I look at…why not just spiff up your presentation since you’ll sell MORE home, generate more referrals, and you’ll have happier sellers because their home will be getting more showings!  Call it the capitalist snow ball effect.

How are you going to take a portion of your own personal business and convert over to capitalism?


Ashley Dupre, Manhattan Real Estate Broker ?

Remember Ashley Dupre?  We visited her two years ago, when her tryst with New York’s #1 John hit the front page:

Who is Ashley Dupree and why do we care about her? Ashley is a budding songwriter and singer with a compelling story. She was cast into the limelight as Eliot Spitzer’s paramour; taking a few large a month for companionship. Now I don’t want to comment on the morality of prostitution; in 49 states, it’s illegal. Whether you’re an Emporer’s Club “provider” or a sex worker trolling Grand Central, the State of New York considers prostitution a crime. The allegations against Ashley have not been proven in a court of law and frankly, I don’t care if she did it or not. Why?

I said then that she could reinvent herself:

Memo to Ashley Alexandra Dupree: America is the land of “reinventing yourself”. Ask Sidney Biddle Barrows, Vanessa Williams, Donald Trump, or even Daryl Strawberry how forgiving the American public is. Americans crave drama, revere celebrity, and have a sense of justice about them.

Ashley followed the”fifteen minutes of fame” plan.  She moved to LA, posed for a centerfold, and stayed away from jail.  She moved back to Manhattan and is pondering a career in…real estate brokerage!

The Post’s sultry sex columnist has moved back to town from the West Coast and immediately decided to enroll in a real estate course at NYU. The course is required to apply for a New York broker’s license — but Dupre said she isn’t quite ready to become a full-time real estate dealmaker yet.

She told us, “I recently moved back to New York from Los Angeles. Since being home, I took and passed the accelerated Real Estate Salesperson Course at NYU.

Only in New York.   Her future colleagues seem to think she fits in quite well:

Sources told us Dupre fit in well at NYU and “made a ton of friends. She dressed very cute to class, hung out with students during lunch, and has been very into the course. She was one of the top students — often answering questions from the lecturers before they’d even finished speaking.”

A cute dresser, who “does” lunch, and writes an advice column?  She’s gonna be fabulous.


So what if lenders are lousy at judging character? Who can’t identify fat people when they’re sitting on the other side of your desk?

Who says all academics are mindless time-wasters? A pair of brave scholars have demonstrated a correlation between obesity and mortgage defaults. A bad credit report is good evidence of insufficient thrift, but a good credit report is evidence of nothing dispositive. A bulging waistline, on the other hand…

We show that obesity is an economically significant predictor of mortgage delinquencies at the county level. In practice, however, loan contracts do not incorporate easily verifiable health risk factors such as obesity. The discrepancy between theory and practice suggests the existence of substantial cross-subsidization and misallocation of funds in the loan market. The potential for business opportunities and policy implications warrants further investigation of our results with more detailed, albeit costly data.

This is pretty dumb, practically speaking, but it’s nice to see that the idea of pre-existing conditions might have a future, now that it’s been outlawed where it actually makes sense, in the health insurance business.

As an aside, our own Tom Vanderwell makes a cameo appearance in this “study.”


A guest post from Jim Klein: “Owing on earth.”

My friend Jim Klein has been hanging out with us here at BloodhoundBlog for the past few months, gently tossing rhetorical hand-grenades into our discussions where he thinks they might do the most good. I met Jim fifteen years ago on Usenet, and we’ve been philosophical allies ever since. I love having him around here, because I trust him to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong.

I’ve been working to flesh out so that I might, sometime soon, move our more-ornately philosophical discussions there. Jim will be writing with me there, and possibly some other folks, as we go forward. My own plan is to use SplendorQuest to document everything I know about philosophy. There is a lot that I do that is original in the world of discourse — Jim can tell you better than I can what qualifies as being original — and I want to make sure I document what I’ve done in a thoroughgoing way before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

This post — our very first guest post — consists of Jim thanking me for challenging his preconceptions in an enduring way. At the time he’s taking about, I was beyond grateful that I could get anyone at all to listen to what I had to say, so my take is that the debt runs the other way. In any case, I am very proud to be able to show Jim off, both at BloodhoundBlog and at SplendorQuest.

With that, I give you Jim Klein:

[This was written for genuine Bloodhounds. Please check your chip!]

I always start simple. Then I try to stay there. This post is no exception. I even cut it in half, to keep it as simple as possible. The main question I seek to answer here is, “What is owing?”

You see, I owe Greg Swann. No, not for anything he sold me, nor because of anything he expects, let alone demands. He did do some software work back in the ’90s, but I paid for that. BTW his code is used to this day, making one part of our company’s website much better than any of our competitors’. And since that part is about the price, and since I offer (what once was!) a commoditized item, it means the whole website is better, from the customer’s POV. And in business, as is no secret here, there’s no other relevant POV.

Greg Swann has inspired me, as he’s inspired so many people, but lots of people inspire lots of other people. We don’t go around keeping track of who inspired us how much, and how much we ought to pay for each. So surely there’s no debt in that, right? Well, I guess it all depends on what you consider a debt.

And that’s the point…a debt is something you consider a debt. Never mind contracts and mortgages for a moment, for this is about owing. And this is about the fact of the matter. You cannot be in any volitional state, with or without others, save by your own…well, your own volition. This is not a comment on money debts or their resolution in cases of dispute; this is a comment on the existential state of owing.

Continue reading Jim’s post at


Cinderella’s memories of the zoo

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Cinderella was in a snit, and who could blame her? She was an orphan swarmed by a family of strangers, accidental intimates, pushy and intrusive and unwelcome. And the most distant stranger of all was the original Prince Charming, the man she had expected would always be beside her.

Physically distant, too, for he led the little brood, prancing on the balls of his feet, ostentatiously trying too hard, while Cinderella dragged her small feet at the rear, palpably punishing Prince Charming. Once he flounced back and tried to jolly her into joining them, into becoming one with them, but she blew him off with a furious shake of her head, horse-whipping him symbolically with her imperious, impetuous, long brown hair.

And something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo. I was sitting on a bench watching the Galapagos tortoises fornicate, a surprisingly delicate, amazingly time-consuming process. The post-modern delegation from the Brothers Grimm came trundling up the path, and they made a fine exhibit, too.

Only a fool would call them a family. They were a composite, an ungainly grafting of two diseased trees. If you keep your eyes open you can spot them all over, whisper-shouting through clenched teeth at the mall, squabbling over dinner at Denny’s, caucusing in sub-groups at gas stations and national parks. He’s responsible for his kids, if he has any, and she’s responsible for hers, and the children, ultimately, answer to no one. Very sad. Very stupid. Very common.

I didn’t pay them any mind, not then. If you’ve seen one tragedy, you’ve seen one too many. But I caught up with them again on the Zoo Train, a sea serpent’s idea of the ideal golf cart, designed for people who would rather sit than see the animals. And I didn’t go looking for trouble, neither; I was sitting peacefully, placidly, blessedly alone when they invaded me. I was waiting for the train ride to begin, and they tumbled into the row of benches ahead of mine, puncturing the quiet with random and raucous thrusts of sound.

The Wicked Stepmother was not the loudest of the bunch, not by half, but she was certainly the busiest. Picking at the Wicked Stepbrother’s clothes, lecturing the pouting Cinderella, brushing at the Wicked Stepsister’s hair, bossing Prince Charming around. She was a porcine excrescence on stubby legs, and her little round face was dominated by an expression that was both smug and profoundly stupid.

“Are we having fun yet!” she shrieked in a tone that mocked jocularity by being hostile. Her demand was directed at Cinderella, who glared in return.

The Wicked Stepbrother’s face was smeared in a technicolor history of his day’s devourings, chocolate and cotton candy and a slurpee and who knows what else. He was maybe five years old, and he wasn’t evil, just practicing for it. He was batting at Cinderella’s hand, trying to get at some small treasure she had clenched in her palm.

The Wicked Stepsister was impenetrably, imperviously, imperturbably wrapped up in the rapture of her own conversation. She yakked and she chattered, she blithered and blathered, and not one of the others paid her the smallest attention. In truth, her discourse was interesting, full of fact and insight, but her words seemed almost like a barrage — the best defense is a good offense.

The Wicked Stepmother jostled her with an elbow, temporarily interrupting her monologue. “Why don’t you tell your sister what you’ve been doing in school.” At the words “your sister” Cinderella blanched. Her face, until then haughty, went blank with rage. Very carefully, very decorously, she stood up, hopped down to the tarmac and climbed up into the bench beside me. As symbolic gestures go, it was nicely done.

Prince Charming’s chief skill seems to be looking the wrong way at all the right moments, but now he tried to intervene, however ham-handedly. “But — ” he started, then started over. “But aren’t you glad you’ve got a new sister and brother? You’ve got a whole new family! Isn’t that something!”

Of all the many flavors of dishonesty at Uncle Willie’s Palatial Emporium of Lies, hustling children with faked enthusiasm is easily the most repellent. By the sour expression on her face, I’d say Cinderella came to the same conclusion.

“Oh, come on, honey,” he wheedled, betraying his knowledge of the truth by pretending to deny it. “She didn’t mean anything by it. Would you rather she called you her stepsister?”

Ice burns when it’s cold enough and Prince Charming winced and looked away when he saw Cinderella’s icy glare.

The Wicked Stepmother couldn’t leave bad enough alone, though. She didn’t say anything, but she kept turning back and looking at Cinderella. Sometimes furtively, sometimes angrily, sometimes hurtfully. I had the idea she was trying things more or less at random. I also had the idea that the shame of being spurned was far more important to her than the reason for the spurning. To her credit, Cinderella ignored her entirely.

And to my credit, I said nothing — for a change. Instead, I waited for the Wicked Stepmother to look away for an instant, then I tapped Cinderella gently on her clenched fist. She looked up at me with pale blue eyes, sad and defiant and enormous. I shrugged and she opened her hand as though it were a treasure chest. In her palm was a tiny locket on a delicate gold chain. “He was trying to take it from me,” she said, pointing the Wicked Stepbrother.

“Is it from your mom?” I asked.

Her chin quivered and I thought she was about to bawl. Instead she said, “He gave it to me.” She gestured with her head at Prince Charming. He displayed his talent for looking the wrong way at the right moment.

And without being told, I knew the rest of the story. Cinderella was visiting her daddy’s new home. His new wife, who was not her mother. His new children, who were not her brother and sister. Not really his children, but she had no way of knowing that. A father’s relationship is to his children. A mother’s relationship is to her children. But a stepparent’s relationship is to his or her new spouse, and the relationship to the children is indirect and attenuated. That’s why the composite families shout and squabble and caucus, because they’re not really families. They can’t be. Everybody knows the stepparent is an after-market add-on, spare parts. And everybody pretends not to know. And everybody betrays the pretense, constantly undermining the stepparent’s false status by affecting to uphold it.

But Cinderella couldn’t know that. From her point of view, she was the spare parts. Her daddy had abandoned her — or so it must have seemed to her — and now he had replaced her and her mother with a brand new family, complete and ready-made. She had been robbed of her father and he had been robbed of his fatherhood and both of them were doomed by blindness and longing to race frantically after vain substitutes for the treasures that can never be replaced.

Very sad. Very stupid. Very common.

But everybody’s gotta take a side…

I said: “It’s hard to believe it’s so cool today when it was so hot just last week. Fall has fallen, resoundingly.”

She giggled, and that was good enough.

“I was swimming this time last week. I jumped in the water, and I got some up my nose. And just for an instant I was eight years old again. I had a pure and perfect memory of being a kid and getting water up my nose every time I went swimming. Does that ever happen to you?”

“I always get water in my nose. In my ears, too.”

“That’s not what I mean. Did you ever have a memory that’s as perfect as a dream? The other day I smelled a two-stroke engine, and it just about knocked me over.”

“What’s a two-stroke engine?”

I smiled. “I’m not going to explain internal combustion engines, not without a blackboard. A two-stroke engine is a simple little gas motor. You find ’em on garden equipment and motor boats. That’s what was so weird about it, though. I smelled that motor and it took me back thirty years. I felt like I was standing on a dock launching a fishing boat with my grandfather. I could smell the motor and the water and the fish and the dirt and the nightcrawlers. I could hear geese a long way off and I could hear my grandpa whistling, and it was just like I was right there, all in a flash. Does that ever happen to you?”

The Wicked Stepbrother had turned around and he was watching me with rapt attention. His chin was planted on the back of his bench, and he wasn’t missing a word. His mother was straining to turn and straining not to turn and doing everything she could to interpose herself between Cinderella and me, everything except actually planting her fulsome fundament between us.

Cinderella scrunched her tiny little shoulders in a shrug and I said, “I can think of a hundred little things like that. Camping out or riding my bike on dirt roads or bouncing around in the back of a pick-up truck loaded with Halloween pumpkins or looking at a great big yellow moon and wondering why it was so big.”

“I know why it was so big,” announced the Wicked Stepsister, launching into an endless lecture about perspective and proportion.

I said: “The point is, my past isn’t gone, it’s all right here.” I rapped myself on the noggin and the Wicked Stepbrother laughed with a wicked delight. “The good part is, it’s all in there, pure and clean and perfect. The bad part is, I didn’t pick what’s there, it sort of picked me.”

“What’s that mean?” Cinderella asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know, precisely. When you live, you just live. You don’t think, ‘I must remember this, I must forget this.’ You just remember and forget, and you don’t have a lot to say about it. But you do have a little to say about it.”

“What?” she demanded. Who could resist a hook like that?

I shrugged again. “I’m too stupid for this job. I think you find what you’re looking for, so I guess the thing to do is look for things in your life that you hope someday to find in your memories. Does that make sense?”

“…Not really.”

“Well, something’s gonna go in there, and it’s gonna come back out, again and again, pure and clean and perfect. If you live for pain, if you treasure every little wound, if you pick at your scabs so they never, ever heal, that’s what you’re going to find in your memories. But if you live for happiness, for the joy and accomplishment you can find in life, then that’s what you’ll find in your memories.”

Cinderella said nothing, just looked thoughtful. The Wicked Stepmother looked like she was about to bust a valve.

“Do you know the word ‘wrest’? As in ‘wrestle’?”

Cinderella shrugged. The Wicked Stepsister said, “I do,” and launched into a dictionary definition.

I said, “To wrest something means to take it away by force, like you might wrest a weapon away from a bad guy. I want you to remember that word, because the most valuable thing I know is this: To live, to love your life, you have to wrest joy from pain.”

She whispered it: “Wrest joy from pain.”

“Wrest joy from pain. If you remember that much, you’ll remember this day forever.”

She said it again, louder. “Wrest joy from pain.”

The Wicked Stepmother glared at me, and I would have been delighted to know whatever it was she thought she might want to say to me. The simple truth is that I’m a subversive, and I do nothing to hide it. But not very many people know how I’m subversive. And who is going to get in the way of a man who’s talking a little girl back from the depths of misery? I’m sure the Wicked Stepmother wanted to, though, more from censorious impulses than understanding. Prince Charming was quietly delighted to have me solve his problems for him.

I said, “Do you know the story of Cinderella?”

“She got married to the prince!” said the Wicked Stepbrother. The train was moving, snaking along like a gaggle of Shriners on tricycles. It wasn’t safe to jump off and back on, so the little boy climbed over the bench and hopped down beside me, tucking himself under my arm. Prince Charming tried to haul him back over but he wrestled free then handily wielded the rusty scalpel of stepfather emasculation: “You’re not my daddy! You’re not the boss of me!”

I ignored all these events. “It’s just at the end of the story that she marries the prince. Here’s what really happened,” I confided.

It’s not the story, it’s the storyteller, and I have proof: The Wicked Stepsister closed her flapping yap and turned around to listen. The Wicked Stepmother was ostentatiously not listening with all her might. Prince Charming seemed to be grateful to be temporarily relieved of all the indefinite responsibilities of his tenuous non-position.

I said, “Cinderella was a little girl who lived with her mother and her father, and she was very happy. But then her mother died. She was sad for her mother, but she was happy that she still had her father. But then her father married a very wicked widow woman who had two very wicked daughters.”

“They were mean to her!” said the Wicked Stepbrother.

“They were mean to her,” I agreed, “but she still had her father, and she was happy when they could be alone together. But then her father died, and Cinderella was all alone. She was an orphan, but no one knew it. They thought she had her stepmother and her two stepsisters, but really she had no one left at all. She was all alone, but no one could see that. It didn’t matter that they were mean to her, that they made her do all the work. What mattered was that she had lost her whole family and no one knew it, no one could see the truth.”

To their credit, the Wicked Stepsister and the Wicked Stepbrother both had tears in their eyes. Cinderella’s eyes were glassy but defiant. I said, “Wrest joy from pain,” and she nodded.

The train was stopped by the baboon exhibit. I looked at my watch. “Gotta run, my lady. Empus-tay ugit-fay.”

She giggled. “What’s that mean?”

“It means time flies right over your head.”

Prince Charming turned and said, “Thank you.”

I smiled a sweet, subversive smile. “If you only knew…” I looked into Cinderella’s big blue eyes. I said, “Wrest joy from pain.”

She said, “I’ll remember,” and I knew she would.

The Wicked Stepmother felt compelled to reassert herself. “Say good-bye to the nice man,” she said in a sing-song, saccharine voice.

To her credit, Cinderella ignored her entirely.

I touched my fingertip to the end of her tiny nose, the only Fairy Godfather on call at the zoo. “Don’t fall for the first idiot who rubs your feet.”

She giggled, and that was good enough.


Are Old Blog Posts Useless?

How much traffic could you reasonably expect from blog posts that are a couple of years old?asked Kaiholo Hale, a Maui vacation rental expert.

My answer?  A bunch of good traffic if the blog post is relevant.  I’ll show you two of my little workhorses:

  • Google “Apartment Loans San Diego” and you’ll see that my post from December, 2006 is ranking second or third.  I’ve funded about ten loans, most of them second mortgages, in the past 3 years from that blog post.  I only make about $1,000 from each loan but they’re really easy to do.  Few mortgage brokers have access to the capital I have to make these loans.
  • Google “Short Sales and PMI” to find that I rank first for that term.  The information on that post is some 10-12 years old so I need to update it.  Still, this post generates about a dozen inquiries every month.  I had to figure out how to make this post pay me so I built an opt-in email list for people who sold their homes via short sale.  That led to another list for people who lost the home through foreclosure.  Last fall, I stratified the lists by sale date so that I can “tickle” them as we approach their qualification date.  Over 200 people have signed up for these newsletters but only s few dozen are still reading them.  I add about five each month and expect that only one of those five will be “with me” in 2-3 years.

Two little work horses should produce $50,000 annual GCI for me in 2011. I can do much better than that. Greg Swann once remarked that you can return to old blog posts and “polish them up”.  You can update them, double check your grammar and spelling, and try to add some conversion tools or calls to action so that they can turn into GCI for you.  Let’s see what I might do with my two:

The apartment loans post is a quick conversion.  People landing on that page want a loan and they want it quickly.  I think I can add some recent loans funded with terms and scenarios published. I dare not mess with the original content so I’ll probably add “updated information”, as a paragraph header, below the original post.  I think  a conversion link, titled “Apartment Loan Guidelines“, which leads to a page with a loan request form, will do the job.

The short sales/PMI post is informational and solicits a long-term customer.  I think some seduction is in order there, along with a few testimonials.  I think I don’t want to mess with the original content, even though it’s outdated, but I’ll take any suggestions.    I’m organizing my content, to deliver via an “email course”, called “Countdown to Re-Ownership”.  It will be a more interactive approach integrating monthly newsletters, quizzes,  and an offer of an annual credit report.  I know more people are reading that blog post than contact me and have two problems I want to solve:

  1. How do I convert more traffic to subscribe to the “course”?
  2. Why am I losing 80% of the readers after twelve months?

After I update the content, I can build a bunch of fresh back links to the specific blog posts, anchored in text identical to the search terms, to perpetuate or enhance the SERP ranking.  I don’t see the value of writing a whole new blog post when I have strong traffic and SERP rankings on the old ones.  If I’m wrong, please point that out to me.

Kaiholo, thank you for posing the rhetorical question.  I know old blog posts aren’t useless but wonder how I can make them more useful

…to me!


Re-Entering the Real World of Real Estate Brokerage

As many of you know, I stopped doin’ business in my local market, San Diego, at the end of 2003. Since then I’ve done two transactions here, both as listing agent — both gettin’ the sellers Outa Dodge, so to speak. I haven’t bothered to market here cuz, well cuz I thought the prices were gonna keep falling, which they did, big time. Since I avoid short sales and REO’s like the plague, that pretty much ensured I’d not be doin’ any San Diego business. How dumb is it to buy income property in San Diego even now? You can see an example — where I present my answer to those whose only reason for holding on to the crappola they call income property there, is “I gotta be able to drive by my investment properties”. For the record, that example uses the lowest priced duplex in the neighborhood, and I used high projected rents.

My response to local real estate investors when they’ve called or emailed objecting to my stance, is to ask them, “Well now, how’s that whole ‘drivin’ by’ thing been workin’ our for ya lately?” The ongoing market correction, and there’s more to come IMHO, has reduced well located duplexes that sold in late 2005 in the neighborhood of $550-600,000 to hoping to find a buyer while now asking $300-400,000.

And their numbers still suck like a turbo-charged Dyson.

In spite of these empirical facts of life, I’m makin’ my official return to the San Diego investment market next week. Office is set up, except for the internet connection which will go hot by Wednesday. Yet it didn’t feel real ’till I picked up my new cards and letterhead this afternoon. Haven’t had either for many years. There’s literally been no need. Everything I’ve done since 2004 has been out of California, and everything sans referrals since July of 2006 has come from my 2.0 efforts.

It’s a good thing, cuz I had no other choice, unless it was to return to selling local homes to owner users, something I’ve happily abstained from doing since Carter’s second year in office. Man, just writing that puts a smile on my face.

Most have been surprised when I’ve told them my income should increase manifold almost immediately. This is especially true when they learn I will refuse to represent buyers in the acquisition of SD investment property — as in, get somebody else, I won’t be a party to it. Still, my income should rise by somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 times.

The reason is simple, in that pretty much all my local clients will be selling for the expressed purpose of movin’ their equities out of California. This means I’m back in the saddle again doin’ normal type business. See, when real estate investors make a move to improve their status quo, it almost always means they’re selling and buying — and buying more than they sold — 2-5 times as much. I’ve been shut out of this by San Diego’s horrific numbers. Since those numbers are now merely shamefully inferior, it’s likely local agents will bring their buyers to the table. There are more than enough agents/brokers and local investors who think I’m all wet about investing there. That works — as those buyers won’t be callin’ me when reality hits the fan.

The best part comes when the smoke clears on these transactions — the clients will be immensely better off. More cash flow, more tax shelter, and the ability to increase that superior cash flow 2-6 times in a surprisingly short time span. That doesn’t even account for the relatively rapid increase in their equity to value ratio. For me it’s like introducing filet mignon to someone who thinks a really top notch cheeseburger is the best they could hope for.

It’s what makes my work fun — significantly improving someone’s retirement, and/or movin’ up their retirement date. You can’t put a price on that feeling.

If you’re an agent/broker doin’ business in San Diego on the home sellin’ side, gimme a holler. I’ll show ya how to get listings you never knew were on your menu. No kiddin’.

So I’m all giddy with anticipation, not to mention I’ll now be able to resurrect my ‘local agent’ card on Fridays at HappyHour. Just don’t tell them how I feel about the local investment market, OK? They get a little touchy for some reason.


Active Rain Says TANSTAAFL To Founding Members’ Uproar

The Active Rain Real Estate Network is charging a fee.  I’m not surprised.  The network has been trying to find ways to monetize its business since inception.  It tried a referral network and advertising and now it’s faced with the hard decision of pay-for-play.

Lani, at Agent Genius reported that one founding member deleted all of his content in protest:

This week, Active Rain inadvertently makes for heated conversation again by going back on their promise to founding members (the first users of the service) that they would never have to pay to participate because they evangelized for free and promoted the service making it what it is today.

Real estate blogger Jay Thompson, one of Active Rain’s original users and long time advocate of the brand noticed along with many other bloggers today that despite ActiveRain’s promise to grandfather in “founding members,” he was asked to pay an annual fee before he would be allowed to continue participating.

ActiveRain allegedly fudged notifying founding members and moved forward by only allowing active members to be grandfathered in. Thompson’s argument is not only one that he and others did not receive proper notification, but he and others comment frequently and despite being on a points based system tied to each user’s account, it is not considered to be “participation.”

Thompson’s response? He deleted all of the content he had ever written and I suspect he and others will no longer refer to ActiveRain in their frequent seminars, courses and speaking engagements.

I don’t know if I would have chosen to delete my content there.  Like any advertising model, it might have been useful to really analyze the costs and benefits.  I can think of three benefits to paying for membership in the network:

  • Back links to my home site– I can’t quantify what that benefit is but I know it helps my SEO
  • Traffic- I get some 200 visitors monthly from Active Rain URLs
  • Conversion- I receive 1-2 GOOD inquiries monthly, directly from the Active Rain contact forms.

This isn’t too hard to quantify.  The traffic alone is worth $200/year based on a price of only a dime per click.  The 15-20 good inquiries turn into 3-5 loans annually; that’s at least $10,000 in annual income to me.  I like to receive a 5-1 return on my advertising dollar so let’s say that’s worth $2,000 to me.    That’s more than the $29/month it costs to have an Active Rain account.

I don’t understand why everyone praises the value of “free” if free ain’t producing results.  Moreover, if you can trade $350, for $3500, isn’t that a good investment?


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