Friday, August 29, 2008

Homebuying Radar - Florida

My NaplesRealEstateGuy just sent me this listing pictured above.

It's 173 Skipping Stone Lane in Naples, Florida. Map

The house is six years old, 3,215 square feet, 5 bedrooms & 3 baths, and not too far from I-75 and Route 951 - Collier Blvd.

It's currently listed at $321,900 by some bank, i.e. it's another foreclosure. Curiously, it looks like it sold only 3 months ago for $432,000. Here's its price and sale history below, as indicated by the dark blue line:

The dollar signs indicate "sales". This house demonstrates that, broadly speaking, housing is back to 2002-2003 prices - just as the blogosphere has been reporting. Note that some poor soul paid over 500k for this abode less than 1.5 years ago.

I have jokingly remarked to my buddy that I will probably buy down in Florida before I buy a house up in the Northeast.

My bid is $250,000 for this home. And I should very well get it (or a near facsimile in these developments) when mortgage rates hit 8%.

Though, who really wants a house that has been sold 5 times in six years?

There's got to be at least a curse on it if nothing else!

Snobbier Than Thou

The other night I was out with my brother-in-law at a pub one town over. At around 9:45pm some 'old coot' comes in and orders dinner. "Work late tonight?", I asked him.

We got to talking. Mostly I got to listening as the guy had little interest in me beyond the town I lived in.

"Oh, they are snobby there. We have plenty of wealth in Scituate, but it's not in-your-face, like where you're from...", he lectured.

Whatever. Let the guy ramble. I am scarcely defined by the town I currently reside in. I've lived in 5 different cities/towns over the past 7 years.

Now let me just tell you, that not more than five minutes later, I learned that this guy:

  • Owns some major industrial manufacturer in Massachusetts.
  • Winters in Palm Beach, Florida.
  • Owns "a few antique cars" and "a few boats".
  • And has a place at, as he so humbly put it, at "The Vineyard".

That would be "Martha's Vineyard" - not exactly a cheap place to visit, no less own on.

Hah! So much for others throwing wealth in faces!

Later on I jabbed him a bit, but nothing like what I did to that old coot on Boylston Street.

Even Rich People Were "Victimized"!

Prime Foreclosure Starts Surge Past Subprime in July

There can be no remaining doubt that the nation’s mortgage crisis has become a problem for prime credit borrowers: data released by the HOPE NOW coalition on Wednesday finds that prime foreclosure starts have finally moved ahead of subprime foreclosure starts, for the first time since the industry coalition began collecting data in July of last year — and likely for the first time in a much longer timeframe, as well, sources suggested to HousingWire Thursday afternoon.

HOPE NOW’s monthly data shows that during July, foreclosures were initiated on 105,000 prime borrowers and 92,000 subprime borrowers. Prime foreclosure starts in July were well more than double the 51,000 recorded one year earlier, and up almost 10 percent from June; in comparison, subprime foreclosure starts in July were up 22 percent from one ago, and up 10 percent month-over-month as well.

"It’s easy for lawmakers to paint a picture of poor borrowers taken advantage of by big, bad lenders," said one source, a bank executive that asked not to be named. "But that story falls apart when you start to see even those higher up the credit ladder struggle."

This is an important event. How many times have you heard (or thought) that high-end properties were "different"? That they would never "do down in value". As this new data shows, the unthinkable is well underway. Of course, the expensive stuff hasn't really dropped everywhere, but that's a coming. Just in the last 3 months I have noticed a sharp downturn in the 700k-$1.2 million dollar homes in my local, tony hood. See that prior post for an example (be sure to note the hilarious UPDATES).

The next heretofore steady domino to fall will be, I predict, Manhattan.

Remember, prime foreclosures represent a much larger market than subprime and thus the dollar losses for banks, lenders, and homeowners will be enormous.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How Dumb Are These Mortgage Lenders?

My NaplesRealEstateGuy just emailed me this one:

Look where it sold 2.5 years ago!

728 102nd Avenue North, Naples, Florida

I wonder who wrote the loan. CountryWide? WaMu? GMAC?

UPDATE - Looks like the Moronic lender here is Deutsche Bank.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Are Humans So Immune To Good Advice?

Upon learning that I had previously lived in New York, a local young lady here in Boston asked,

YoungLady - I am planning a 'girls weekend' in Manhattan. Do you have any ideas for our trip?

CaptiousNut - First of all, park your car(s) in Connecticut and take the train in. You won't need them in the City. It's expensive to park. You'll get lost left and right...

And I gave her some more sage advice. One thing I had to disabuse was her fear that after seeing a show, that at 10:00pm she thought all the restaurants would be closed for dinner. Pause here so all the NY'ers can laugh!

Fast forward to today. I bumped into her this morning.

YoungLady - We went to New York last weekend. I guess we should have taken your suggestion to use the train.

CaptiousNut - Uh, oh. What happened?

YoungLady - It was a disaster. Especially getting out....we couldn't find 95-North so we just got on 95-South and figured we'd turn around.

CaptiousNut - [chuckling] Did you go over into Jersey? Over the GW bridge?

YoungLady - We went everywhere. [laughing herself]

CaptiousNut - Why again didn't you take the train?

YoungLady - We were going to but when we got to Connecticut I asked the girls in the car if we should 'just drive in' and they said 'yeah'.

There you have it. Forsake the advice of a wise man who's lived in NYC for the impulse of some never-been-anywhere AirHeads in the back of your car!

I even remember imploring the YoungLady to take the train. I told her it wasn't just for convenience but a very relaxing, scenic, enjoyable ride. I could just sense that I had to sell her on the train.

In this world, you really do have to twist someone's arm to help them out.

Barry Ritholtz wrote a great blog on what to do (and not to do) in New York City:

A New Yorker's Guide for Tourists: 20 Ways to Make Your Stay in New York City More Enjoyable

If you are seriously planning a trip, make sure you read the comment section of Barry's post as well.

Now, getting back to the query of this post - why are humans so immune to good advice?

I really don't know. My research is ongoing and incomplete.

Misleading Evidence

A month or so ago, my son's grandmother took him to see a movie. It was either his first of second time to the theater. I asked her how he did sitting throughout - as he was only about 3.5 years of age - and my mother said, "he was on the edge of seat the whole time."

Alright, I figured. He's old enough now.

Due to some mitigating circumstances, I ended up taking LittleC-Nut to see the new animated Star Wars movie last night, The Clone Wars. Normally I would NEVER do something like this myself. It's a proven fact that adult brains shrink from watching children's content (even more than from watching our own junk).

I chose an aisle seat for my son so he could see a little better. Right away he went to his "edge of the seat" station. I let him sit there for 15 minutes before advising him to slide back a bit. Eventually I pulled him back and realized why the edge was his preferred seat position.

As he moved back, the darn seat folded him up!

Apparently he doesn't weigh enough yet.

He did enjoy the movie (after being put on my lap). But this goes to demonstrate that although things may be what they seem, the reasons why aren't always so clear.

By the way, Jabba The Hut's uncle is, well, definitely not a heterosexual. How's that for futuristic progressivity? I won't throw any more plot spoilers at y'all.

Altogether, the movie wasn't as bad as I had feared. Though I'd still outsource this one to the grandparents even if their *reports* can't be trusted.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Only In The Bizzaro World...

Freddie Mac sees stronger demand for $2 bln bill sale

NEW YORK, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Freddie Mac's (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) $2 billion bill sale on Monday drew stronger demand and interest rates rose compared with the most recent sales of the same maturities.

Freddie Mac on Monday sold $1 billion of three-month bills due Nov. 24, 2008 at a 2.580 percent rate, compared with a 2.475 rate for $2 billion of similar maturity bills sold on Aug. 18.

Freddie Mac also sold $1 billion of six-month bills due Feb. 23, 2009 at a 2.858 percent rate, compared with 2.780 percent for the same size sale of the same maturity a week earlier.

Demand for the three-month bills was higher than a week earlier, based on a bid-to-cover ratio of 3.95 compared with 2.19.

Demand for the six-month bills was higher than a week earlier, based on a bid-to-cover ratio of 3.42 compared with 2.42.

A bid-to-cover ratio reflects the amount of bids compared with the amount offered. A lower ratio indicates weaker demand. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Tom Hals)

How the bleep can "stronger demand" manifest itself as lower prices (and higher yields)?

Good job Rodrigo Campos and Tom Hals, you Morons!

These quasi-government agencies are selling their debt at record spreads to Treasuries.

For anyone to assert that their bonds are seeing "strong demand" (no less when prices are falling)...

It would be like me going to a bar, getting rebuffed by 25 coeds, and then claiming that I "was in high demand" because some wench enthusiastically took advantage of my *beer goggles*!!!

Hitting The High Notes

Turn your speakers up. Apparently the guy getting laughed at lost his testicles in some necessary medical prodedure.

Funny AND cruel.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Every Town Is Bankrupt

East Hampton Reels as Billionaire Town Floats Debt

The Long Island sanctuary for the rich, where lobster salad sells for $85 a pound, has been hit by a double whammy: a tripling in workers' health costs since 2003, which officials failed to anticipate, and a 43 percent drop in revenue from mortgage taxes related to real estate sales in the first half of the year from 2007. Town officials for the first time plan to reduce the deficit by borrowing, after winning state approval for a $15 million bond sale.

East Hampton is self-insured to cover health care for its 448 employees and retirees. Costs associated with the plan increased to $9.2 million this year from $2.9 million in 2003, according to the official statement for bond anticipation notes sold in June, one-year securities that helped finance capital projects and improvements.

The town intends in the next several weeks to borrow $4 million dollars or more with a revenue anticipation note, as it awaits receipt of mortgage taxes already collected by Suffolk County, said board member Pat Mansir.

"It still hasn't been determined exactly how much we might need," Mansir said.

As of July 22, the town's general fund contained only $900, she said. The town received enough revenue in fees during the next four days to meet its more than $1 million bi-weekly payroll, she said.

East Hampton also plans to sell a $10 million, one-year bond anticipation note in August, and then convert the note into a $10 million, 10-year bond issue that may cover some capital spending requirements along with deficit reduction, said board member Peter Hammerle in an interview.

The board will probably use the remaining $5 million of its borrowing authority by issuing a second 10-year bond issue next year to cover a deficit officials expect in 2009, he said.

"We still don't know how much our medical bills will total," Hammerle said.

'Bite the Bullet'

A $10 million issue over 10 years would require a 4 percent increase of East Hampton's property-tax rate, said Town Supervisor William McGintee, a Democrat.

"Once you go down that road you're raising taxes just to pay interest," he said. "I would rather see us bite the bullet now."

So how do healthcare costs triple in five years?

Sure premiums are rising, but not quite nearly that much.

The answer is probably in "retirees". East Hampton probably not only added to its *benefit payroll* because of retiring workers, these 'old coots' benefits probably cost a whole lot more.

The fact is, almost every town in America is paying the indefinite healthcare benefits of its retired municipal workers. It's a liability that they can scarcely afford no matter how much money they set aside for it. Cities and towns have been hit with the "triple whammy" of rapidly rising healthcare costs, longer life expectancy, AND shrinking confiscatory revenue. Innumerable towns will be forced to declare municipal bankruptcy just so they can *renegotiate* benefits with their retired cops, firemen, librarians, and janitors.

It needs to be said that these local governments had no business promising lifetime benefits to their employees in the first place. They had no business promising something they couldn't guarantee.

On a larger level, the States are all pushing for a bigger role for Medicare. They are trying to offload their healthcare liabilities to the Federal government.

In fact, the parallels between Medicare and Fannie Mae are striking.

Just as the blind Medicare expenditures have helped push healthcare costs to the stratosphere - Fannie Mae's movement into holding and (implicitly) guaranteeing mortgages also forced traditional mortgage lenders to lower their standards to compete - sending home prices to the moon.

Medicare helped bankrupt the municipalities and then they turn around and push for a larger State hand in they don't have to make any tough budgetary decisions themselves. Then the States knock on Washington's door...

Likewise, after Fannie Mae drove rates and credit concerns to the floor, taking the mortgage banks down a sewer, now Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and cohorts are offloading their bad mortgages onto the Feds via Fannie Mae and FHA. More accurately, they are offloading their junk onto taxpayers and future generations.

Big Government has grossly distorted the markets for both housing and healthcare. Sure, other options exist for consumers, but both Medicare and Fannie Mae have defined and inflated both cost structures and set standards industrywide. I am not positive, but I believe the term describing this type of *imperfect competition* is monopsony (surely some nerd will try to correct me).

East Hampton's fiscal woes are the perfect launch pad. From this one bankrupt municipality we can easily extrapolate to almost every other town in America.

If you knew anything about East Hampton you'd know that there has been new construction (read: new tax revenue) left and right for the past several years. None of these homes are under a $1 million either, with many multiples of that. Furthermore, on the East End there are scarcely delinquent taxpayers nor has there really been anything other than a recent, slight downtick in the NYC economy. So if a town flush with cash flow can't cover its bills what does this forebode for Camden, NJ or Pontiac, Michigan? For the State of California? This is my Greg Mankiw induction argument once again.

Politicians the world over simply spend every nickel that comes in and then go into hock for quarters and sawbucks.

East Hampton may be running short today, but it was just yesterday they were spending millions moving and restoring barns to *maintain the towns character* and, of course, to house municipal employees in the lavish manner they *deserve*. They've also got a confiscatory 2% transfer tax on all real estate transaction in the Hamptons called the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund. Surprisingly, there's not much written on the web on that slush fund. Two-percent is big money when you are talking about the multi-million dollar mansions and estates out East. It is just another example of a minority (those already domiciled in the Hamptons) voting themselves the assets of a majority (anyone who would in the future buy a house out there). I guess if you want to be part of the *scene* you have to ante up!

There's a running joke or catch-phrase in the doom-and-gloom housing bubble blogosphere that, "We're all subprime now." Like all provocative humor, its foundation is the naked truth. This line from the article above...

The town intends in the next several weeks to borrow $4 million dollars or more with a revenue anticipation note, as it awaits receipt of mortgage taxes already collected by Suffolk County, said board member Pat Mansir.

...certainly buffets that jest. Read up on RAL Loans on Wikipedia. These products for the *working poor*, are exploitive, allegedly racist, and got HR Block and Jackson Hewitt in all sorts of trouble.

The companies defended themselves by arguing that refund anticipation loans are legitimate and for *emergencies*.

If we aren't "all subprime", the differences at least seem very blurry these days.

By the way, if East Hampton is spending $9.2 million this year to cover the healthcare of its 443 employees and retiree...

...then it is spending a whopping average of $20,536 per person!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Most Underrated Sports

In the spirit of the ongoing Olympics...

At the top of my list would be ping pong. Though it's hardly underrated in the world *outside of America*. It's a game of reflex, strategy, and psychological warfare - as far as I am concerned. I love smashing weak volleys so they bounce up and sting my opponent in the face.

Next up would be another racquet sport - badminton. Watch this video below.

And now for one last racquet sport - squash. Though I've never really gotten to play it, it seems to be a more refined game than racquet ball. There's more strategy; less brawn. ESPN used to broadcast these types of sports but it seems they don't anymore. It's now all poker and X-Games.

The last game I will list today is ultimate frisbee. For sure, many of you 'old coots' aren't even familiar with it. I would say that generally speaking, it plays like football - though with a disc. There are two end zones and rules for advancement. Read up on it here on Wikipedia.

Watch the highlights of the University of Michigan's 2006 team below:

It was a bit of a surprise to learn way back that there is more than one way (traditional backhand) to throw a disc. There's the forehand, the overhead, and, for good players, all these throws with the off-hand as well.

Here's one other item on "ultimate", as it's called. I believe there are no referees. Players must sort out infractions amongst themselves. My parents wouldn't know whom to yell at!

Is lacrosse worthy of this blog post?

I don't think so - too many meatheads and not enough grace.

My Son's Advancement

My son, only 3.75 years of age, has now seen, and relished, both Rambo and Jaws II. By the way, those are two rare movies where the sequels were better than the originals. Another example might be Aliens.

His father wasn't allowed to watch this type of R-rated *romantic comedy* until he was at least 12!

No nightmares yet, BUT the wife is pissed at this element of his accelerated learning plan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Landlord Is Still Dumb

So my landlord said to me last week, "I've got good news for you."

Sure, I thought. When was the last time a tenant got exciting news from their landlord?

"You like my house right? Well, I would like to short sell it to you", he gleefully announced.

A short sale is when an upside-down (owes more than current market value) property is sold to a buyer. Before it can be finalized, as the mortgage lender holds the title, the bank/lender/vulture hedgefund has to approve the sale and accept a loss on their loan.

In other words, my landlord owes $1.2 million on the house I rent; market value is probably no more than 600k right now; so in order for him to sell it to me at that price, the bank (GMAC, WaMu, or CountryWide) would have to consent.

Was I interested in buying the house? Sure. At 375k I told my landlord - as diplomatically as I could.

First of all, banks generally ARE NOT approving short sales. It's no more complicated than this - lender management HOPES to indefinitely put off recognizing any and all losses. Even if the fair market value of the house in question was say 450k, it's highly unlikely that any bank would approve a sale at 600k. They simply do not want to have to recognize any losses; they do not want to have to mark their loan portfolios to market.

Further complicating any potential short sale of my house is the fact that the landlord has two liens, two mortgages on the property. He has a primary and a secondary (home equity type of loan) each for 600k. His loans are split up by two of the three banks I listed above. Since a sale at a mere 600k would wipe out all the equity of the second lien holder, they would do what they could to block a short sale. Although they can't completely veto a short sale, they do have some preemptive rights.

And they especially have veto power when the borrower is currently paying his monthly bills - as I believe my landlord is doing.

From what I have read, banks will only consider *loan modification* and short sales when payments have been suspended. I don't blame them. Otherwise, without any palpable signs of distress, they'd be open to manipulation. Borrowers who have no problem making their monthly payments might try to procure money, loan modifications, or a cheap real estate exit from unsuspecting lenders.

And all of this I have repeatedly told my landlord. So long as he foolishly keeps making payments in some asinine attempt to protect his "credit score" he loses all leverage with the banks. He's going to lose his homes (all four of them) in either 8 months or 18 months. The only variable is - is he going to have 100k left in his bank or zilch?

From another angle, if you were me, why would you pay *fair market value* be it 600k or whatever on a home:

1) That rents cheaper than it would cost to own ($2,500 versus about $3,000 per month).

2) That you KNOW is on a one-way, downhill skid to foreclosure.


Now he could still try to short sale the house to another buyer even though I have a signed lease through next August. BUT, he's waaaay to stupid to realize that. He mistakenly thinks that I am the only one he could short sell to.

It's all quite beside the point as the banks are going to appraise the property above what it's worth - probably $650,000 or higher.

There's far more than one Moron in this picture!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Homeschooler Profiling

Unlike the TSA, I am excellent *profiler*. (See my previous post on that. My profiling skills were also on display at the end of this, very old post.)

The other day I was at the playground with my kids. It was 6pm and there weren't many people left. One particular woman there I noticed was discussing with her four children what the overhead clouds were called. Cirrus? Stratus? Definitely not cumulus or nimbus.

Something was going on here. Moms don't frequently have this type of high-brow dialogue with their kids - no less on the playgounds. Usually there they are chatting it up with the other parents, talking on their cellphones, or, if anything, yelling at their kids to share.

After eventually speaking to the young lady, I discovered that she was also a (partial) homeschooler - a very rare animal in Massachusetts.

We had a great discussion while our kids SOCIALIZED in the playground. Her brood was older and she eagerly shared her homeschooling experience and recommendations with me (Singapore Math, Noeo Science, Stanford University's Educated Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

It's a pretty harsh statement on society that this young lady and her public edification stands out. I myself am always stopping at signs on the street while my son tries to read them. While bystanders always smile and take notice, I have yet to see any other parents doing the same. When is someone going to write a blog post about me?

Just so you know, or, remember:

A Conspicous Green Moron

Some guy that lives on Main Street in Hingham, Massachusetts has the most gorgeous lawn you ever did see. [not pictured above]

Every time I drive buy it I pause and think about jumping out of the car and carving massive divots on it with full pitching wedge shots.

Last week I noticed that he put up a sign on his doorstep that read "Well Water".

What the heck did that mean?

From last year I knew that these local towns enacted *lawn watering bans* during droughts so perhaps his sign was related. But this year, we've gotten decent rainfall and I haven't heard of any such prohibitions.

Anyway, if this ButtClown was ever cited by a town official, he could just tell them that he was using well water. In other words he needn't a public sign detailing his water source.

But more likely, this guy with the conspicuous, enviable lawn just wants his neighbors and passers-by like myself to somehow realize that despite his plush lawn, he is some sort of steward of the environment.

As far as I am concerned, wasting water is wasting water. If we were in a drought, I think it'd be incumbent on him to pump his extra water to the reservoir - or better yet, to some underprivileged neighborhood.

Furthermore, this guy manifests himself as a morally superior Loser. I mean who cares what strangers driving by your house think of your water consumption? Ironically, this particular stranger was offended!!!

Here's what I do next.

I slip a note into this guy's mailbox:


Then I post a sign on my front lawn:


I've also occasionally seen one of these cars in his driveway. Go figure.

Marginalizing Morons Mimicry

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)

So some *academic* wrote a book on "dumb kids" with their iPods, MySpace, Facebook, and shiftless lives.


Amazon retails the 3.5 (out of 5) starred book for $25. Check that, it's down to $16.47.

After reading Amazon's book reviews it seems the book is quite the *sleep inducer*.

Fundamentally, according to Will Durant, people that run around calling others *stupid* are dishonestly praising themselves.

I have no respect for other such clowns...

Is $800 Gold A Falling Knife OR An Opportunity?

"Higher demand"?

The above notice just was posted on, a popular *goldbug* website. It seems that all the end-of-the-world types are feverishly rushing to buy more precious metals at these lower prices. I guess I should have waited a few weeks before buying palladium. It's down from $390 to $285 in a month! If some of the banks I am short start to roll over, perhaps I'll buy more.

I don't have any strong feelings about gold. I see it as a tough call. It could very well take a two year break before resuming its uptrend.

UPDATE - It seems I am not the only one to have noticed strong investor demand for the metals. Read this piece here, particularly if you have a proclivity for government conspiracy theories:

The Disconnect Between Supply and Demand in Gold & Silver Markets

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Evolution Of A Moron

From John Taylor Gatto's prologue:

Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance; now it is transformed from ignorance into permanent mathematical categories of relative stupidity like "gifted and talented," "mainstream," "special ed." Categories in which learning is rationed for the good of a system of order. Dumb people are no longer merely ignorant. Now they are indoctrinated, their minds conditioned with substantial doses of commercially prepared disinformation dispensed for tranquilizing purposes.

If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.

If you've time enough to read my blog, you have time enough to click the link above and read the entire section (about 1 minute of work!).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maybe You Are A Loser?

From Parenting magazine's The New Mom at School:

The other moms in my child's class all seem to know each other. I feel like a loser when I hear them talking about scrapbooking parties or potluck dinners. What can I do?

"Just as there are kid cliques, there definitely are mommy cliques," says Michele Borba, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. If you really want to crack the group, don't approach the ringleader. "Instead, watch for someone who's friendly and somewhat on the edge," suggests Borba. Chat with her when she's alone or with just one other parent, instead of sidling up to the big group. Then, questions are easy conversation starters: "Is your son joining Cub Scouts?" If she's chilly, try not to take it personally -- as hard as that is. Move on until you find someone you click with, whether she's part of the Cool Mom Club or not.

Sometimes I can't believe the ridiculous cr*p my wife reads.

By the way, speaking of fitting in with the "Cool Mom Club", that French Mom that I offended never showed up again at my daughter's dance class.

Since there's no official scorer, I am going to co-opt the credit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another "Red Dawn"

That's right. They are going to make an updated version of the classic Cold War film. Watch the trailer here.

From MovieWeb:

MGM is set to remake Red Dawn, the 1984 cold war action drama, with screenwriter Carl Ellsworth recrafting the ultimate homeland invasion story about a new generation of besieged high schoolers. Dan Bradley is set to direct.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ellsworth said "the tone is going to be very intense, very much keeping in mind the post-9/11 world that we're in. As 'Red Dawn' scared the heck out of people in 1984, we feel that the world is kind of already filled with a lot of paranoia and unease, so why not scare the hell out of people again?"

The original was one of my favorites. It should be noted that it wasn't the *movie* that scared people. More accurately, it was stuff like my 3rd grade teacher telling us that there was a 100% chance that the Soviet Union had a nuke aimed at our hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts that scared the heck out of people in 1984.

I didn't realize it at the time, as I was only 10, but that movie was considered *by the usual suspects* to be a propaganda film aimed at getting Ronald Reagan re-elected.

Expect similar complaints from similar people when the remake hits theaters.

The Side Effects Of A Little Learning

I know very little about the fine arts. I guess it wasn't a big deal for college admissions in 1992, ergo my high school didn't bother us with them.

Over the last couple of years I have taken it upon myself to broaden my horizons and learn a little about classical music. (Will Durant is the one who piqued my interest.)

Lo and behold I discovered that Adagio for Strings WAS NOT a score composed for Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning movie Platoon.

It was in fact composed in 1936 by Samuel Barber, fifty years before the movie. From Wikipedia link above:

Barber's "Adagio for Strings" originated as the second movement in his String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11, composed in 1936. In the original it follows a violently contrasting first movement, and is succeeded by a brief reprise of this music.

In January 1938 Barber sent the piece to Arturo Toscanini. The conductor returned the score without comment, and Barber was annoyed and avoided the conductor. Subsequently Toscanini sent word through a friend that he was planning to perform the piece and had returned it simply because he had already memorized it.[1] It was reported that Toscanini did not look at the music again until the day before the premiere. [2] The work was given its first performance in a radio broadcast by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 5, 1938 in New York.

I'll bet you that many children (Taylor?) assume "Adagio for Strings" was actually composed for Seinfeld!

Everyone Kowtow To The Leviathan State

First I want y'all to read an excerpt from John Taylor Gatto's Underground History Of Education which describes the early-American political mindset:

Fifty children of different ages are teaching each other while the schoolmaster hears lessons at his desk from older students. An air of quiet activity fills the room. A wood stove crackles in the corner. What drove the nineteenth-century school world celebrated in Edward Eggleston’s classic, The Hoosier Schoolmaster, was a society rich with concepts like duty, hard work, responsibility, and self-reliance; a society overwhelmingly local in orientation although never so provincial it couldn’t be fascinated by the foreign and exotic. But when tent Chautauqua with its fanfare about modern marvels left town, conversation readily returned to the text of local society.

Eggleston’s America was a special place in modern history, one where the society was more central than the national political state. Words can’t adequately convey the stupendous radicalism hidden in our quiet villages, a belief that ordinary people have a right to govern themselves. A confidence that they can.

Most revolutionary of all was the conviction that personal rights can only be honored when the political state is kept weak. In the classical dichotomy between liberty and subordination written into our imagination by Locke and Hobbes in the seventeenth century, America struggled down the libertarian road of Locke for awhile while her three godfather nations, England, Germany, and France, followed Hobbes and established leviathan states through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Toward the end, America began to follow the Old World’s lead.

"A right to govern themselves"?. "A confidence they can"?.

Now compare that society to today's. Here's a letter from a frantic homeschooling mother that was just posted in an online forum. I've X-ed out names and the specific town. Suffices to say that it's one town nearby on the South Shore of Boston.

Hi All,

I am sorry to ask this question again as I did not pay attention to the answers last time. The Assistant Supt. in XXXXXXX is insisting that I have a face to face meeting with him to go over my home school plan for [my son]. Any advice? I do not want to meet with him. We plan on [my son] taking some sort of standardized test so I can keep track of his learning and I am willing to send the results of that in - however I do not want to get into a fight with this man and I can't remember the law that says I don't have to meet with him.????

I did send in a very specific plan that included names of the different classes [my son] will be taking etc. Maybe that was my mistake. Dr. XXXXXXX says that I need to set up a relationship with him based on trust so that we won't have problems.

To varying degrees homeschooling parents have to submit curriculae to their local public school government officials; they also might need to specify work schedules and whatnot.

I have two years from now before my son is *supposed to be in school* so that should give me ample time to prepare to lick the boots of some local principal or superintendent. I need this lead time. If some guy like this "superintendent" threatened me with "problems" and demanded my "trust" today, well, I probably punch him right upside his head.

When the time comes, I WILL lick their jack-boots, kill them with kindness, and take all the precautionary steps needed to keep them off my back. They may be outright thugs, but they are also Morons who can't be that hard to work around - hopefully.

No eHarmony For NYT Losers

For a curious joke I was wondering if eHarmony would match my wife and I.

I googled "go on eharmony to see if me and my wife are a good match" and up popped an article from a New York Times writer who's already run this experiment.

Here's his article - My eHarmony Experiment: Can This Marriage Be Matched?

To make a short story shorter, eHarmony didn't match John Tierney and his wife of 12 years. That certainly doesn't disprove the eHarmony algorithm as we have no idea how happy their marriage really is. AND, of course, *for example* does not constitute proof.

What makes this article blog-worthy is its hilarious, telling comment thread.

I haven't read the entire thread, but it suffices to say the tone was set by the first few comments. In fact, six of the first seven comments involved *gayness*.

Then the losers quickly ramped it up, inveighing against the *Christian* founders of eHarmony and their "bigotry".

The author, "John", was quick to defend himself...."I already mentioned their bigotry in a prior article!"

Hah! These guys and gals living in the NYT bubble-world are stereotypical to the bone.

The thread goes on with young women - most likely bereft of any relationship harmony - lambasting the author for giving momentary false hopes to the handful of women he was actually matched up with.

OMG, this comment thread is really funny. Make sure you click on the link above and peruse this well of levity for yourself.

Comment #44 - "Yes, I’m gay but, hey, I like to walk on the beach too..."

Comment #48 - Let’s say a restaurant reviewer goes to a place that won’t serve blacks. Should they mention it? Should they even *eat* at the place? Is it okay to say, "Gosh, I thought it was great! Too bad they don’t serve blacks."?

Comment #53 - I too submitted to eHarmony scrutiny once. I am not a practicing Christian and after telling them all the things I was looking for in a partner…..I received…one! count it….ONE match. It was a toothless hooker who was 18 years my senior! Which, strangely enough, sounded like the best thing they had to offer! hee hee!

Ah, dude, maybe that's your *match*? Consider it.

Comment #24 - I think you owe the women you rejected a better explanation than “no chemistry”? It’s not just a question of wasted time, it’s a question of feeling rejected.

Maybe if you didn’t "believe that compassion has a role to play in your life, in a structure of values that encourages people to take care of themselves" you would have realized that :).

Sounds to me like they could have substituted that whole spiel of "fostering independence” into the simple phrase "Tends to vote Republican".

— Posted by Debbie R.

Wow, this Debbie seems like a real catch! I wonder if she is single or if she has been chasing the wrong scents???

Comment #23 - Why would any rational person expect a computer to match him with his wife? Nature creates partners mostly by propinquity; computer matching does it based on assumptions by psychologists...

Ah, excuse me, Moron, a computer is a whole lot more *rational* than a person could ever be.

Alright, no more excerpts. Go read the Losers' comments for yourselves.

What kills me - to no end - is how smart and how highminded these NYT stooges deem themselves.

Sluts Strike Out!

The Pill May Put You Off Smell Of Your Man And Ruin Your Relationship

To millions of women it has been the great liberator over the past four decades, allowing them the freedom to control their fertility and their relationships. But the contraceptive Pill could also be responsible for skewing their hormones and attracting them to the “wrong” partner.

A study by British scientists suggests that taking the Pill can change a woman’s taste in men — to those who are genetically less compatible.

The research found that the Pill can alter the type of male scent that women find most attractive, which may in turn affect the kind of men they choose as partners. It suggests that the popular form of contraception — used by a quarter of British women aged between 16 and 50 — could have implications for fertility and relationship breakdowns.

These inane *scientific* studies are at least good for a laugh now and again.

I am wondering, however, how eHarmony and the other dating sites match up couples fond of each other's "scents"...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Child Incarceration

For the past five weeks, starting on our family vacation, my 2 year-old daughter hasn't been sleeping so well. She's been getting up 2, 3, or more times per night.

At first we figured, that it was the vacation house that corrupted her sleep schedule, but then even at home for a few weeks she still hasn't gotten back to normal. What makes it particularly hard is her invariable request for "Dada" when she gets up. I must say, even though I am awake most of the night anyway, this new habit of hers has gotten out of control.

Finally, on Sunday, I got some good advice from a horrible mother at the park. She told me, "turn the doorknob around and lock her in."

So after the second time she *didn't nap* today I went up and switched the knob around. She just spent the last 45 minutes banging on the door. This should work.

However, a couple of things are certain:

1) My son will start locking her in her bedroom.

2) Nana and/or Grandpa (or Mrs. C-Nut) will get locked in her bedroom at least once before Christmas.

Maybe I should leave that screwdriver in the room...

By the way, that wussy kid above is Elian González. He wasn't exactly incarcerated. If you're a young'un or suffer from a poor memory, click his name to read his story.

Women Are More Superficial

On more than one occasion, upon meeting *taller* women, be they married or whatnot, I have asked the ladies if they have a "height requirement".

They always nod their heads.

I express disgust, call them superficial, assert that "men would never be so shallow to rule out a girl on physicalities," then I walk away to punctuate my sarcasm disgust.

Here's an autobiographical tale of woe from a tall college girl who just can't find a suitable guy. She insists they be tall, Jewish, and apparently have no problem with her admitted "beer belly". Her little article has received 851,000 hits so far - probably because she tagged it with "sex".

One of her last sentences was funny:

I am sure I could love someone who is shorter if I tried, but I can’t seem to get myself to give them a second glance (after I look right over the top of their heads when I scan the scene at the bar).

Hmmm. So the little dude has to stare at her "beer belly" and have his view at the bar all night *obstructed*?

This chick reminds me of a lot of the thirtysomething single people I know. They all have *requirements*. For example, my cousin will only date thin women who share his *politics* (i.e. they must share his emotional misunderstanding of reality). Meanwhile, he's getting old (36), become fat himself, and quite frankly there aren't too many more crunchy, liberated, socialists chicks left in Cambridge that he hasn't dated. He used to be the dumper, but now, more often than not, he's the dumpee.

Yeah, as an addled bachelor I had *requirements* too. BUT, at least I was smart enough to grab my fabulous wife at the start of her uptrend, and my downtrend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Banned Levity

So my buddy just sent me a video clip of some dervish weatherman from Charlotte, NC:

I couldn't help be think it jived completely with one of my cogitations from yesterday.

On Sunday, I met a severed, make that a serveranced Boston Globe editor. He was there "for years" but recently "took a buyout". Of course I probed his thoughts and got the stock response, "Nobody reads anymore....Craigslist killed us....blah, blah, blah." None of them think, even after their business goes belly up, that the blame lay with managerial incompetence. I explained to this guy that I would never buy a newspaper because, one, it was unedifying, and two, it was thoroughly boring. (I left out the part about agitprop making my blood boil.)

What, have they completely banned levity from Big Media? I mean who wants to pick up a newspaper everyday and know, with absolute certainty, that they won't so much as giggle for the next hour or so they spend reading it?

Just Say "NO" To Mass Schooling

So my son is now 3.67 years old and I think it's safe to say that he is now "reading". Not only can he recognize a good bunch of words, he can spell, and sound out the unknown. Right now we are working on writing - though I am not sure that it is a necessary life skill today. My handwriting is but a notch above doctor scrawl. I mean seriously, who even needs to handwrite anything in our digital age?

Meanwhile, my son's local age-mates are still wrestling with the alphabet; some of them despite $34 per hour Montessori schooling.

Ever since I committed to homeschooling my children (2 years ago?) I have always held a doubt in my mind about following through on this. The once in a while *very bad days*" with the kids on the homefront helped sustain my uncertainty. But now that my son is reading and doing a little math, it's clear that in 2 years, September 2011, when he is old enough for kindergarten, that he'll be so far beyond any school's curriculum and that it would be cruel to send him to *school*. He'd be bored, wouldn't have to *pay attention*, and would be looking for inventive ways to *act up in class*...just like his father did!

My wife was always much more doubtful that we would eventually homeschool our kids. Now that she sees our son's progress, I think even she is 100% won over now.

Since I have been blogging I have always gotten interesting emails from people all over the globe. Here's an excerpt from a Californian guy, talking about his kids and their education:

Don't know if your interested, but since you've got kids, I raised my last two kids outside the school system. I loved learning and erudition. Hated schools. So thought I'd give my kids the opportunity to avoid being turned off to knowledge. My daughter at age 12 was invited to work in one of the top biotech labs in the UC system by the world-famous scientist who runs it. Two years later, the kid is still there doing advanced experiments on flatworms into the molecular basis of aging. She's applying to university next year at age 15. Just took her SATs 2 months into her 14th yr and scored 780, 790, 800.

She's a smart kid but no more so than lots of other smart kids I see around. The difference: she wasn't held back by the pedagogical hacks that run those wretched hoosegows called "schools."

Pretty darn impressive, huh?

This gentleman, among many others, recommended to me the Saxon Math books. I'll be sure to check them out. For right now, I have found the introductory Kumon books to be sufficient.

Moronic Signs

Love you long time, huh? See prior post.

My favorite from this batch was the doormat - the welcome mat's antipode!