Monday, May 31, 2010

Elevating My MIL, The Trader

She told me the other day that she bought "IHOP" (ticker DIN), the pancake place at $10 a share about a year ago when poop was being splattered by the fan...

AND that she just recently sold it for $46 a share!

She had two other decent flips in there, one was SLB and the other escapes me at the moment.

Homeschooling - No Voucher Required!

Self-professed libertarian John Stossel laments - School Vouchers Die Again.

Apparently the state (government) of Illinois just failed to pass some measure that would jump-start the government school voucher program.


One of the small chinks in Stossel's libertarian armor is his ardent support for *vouchers*. He just doesn't quite understand this one. And I do kind of laugh at people who tell me they are libertarians but when I ask them if they homeschool they say *not THAT libertarian*.

Yeah, they're all for the free trading of widgets and marijuana but ignorant on how much the free trading of IDEAS is restricted by age-graded, curriculum-bound, and adulthood-deferring *schooling*. Hint - widgets come from ideas.

Some of these types say they are FOR private schools but the fact remains that most private schools today are, from an organizational standpoint, mere facsimiles of the flawed government school model.

There was one good comment on Stossel's blog by cb750:
Who are gov unions unionizing against? You unionize against an employer who you are adversarial towards. Since their bosses are also gov workers, who are they unionizing against? Its us, the taxpayer.


Now that I'm back in New York I think I'll try to get some tickets to attend one of Stossel's color TV shows.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

ESL Homeschool Math

Recall my 5.52 year old homeschooled son formally started algebra several months ago. I paid up for the Life of Fred series whose unconventional approach taught about X and equations through *story*. Feeling the text a bit tedious - a bit tailored for math-haters - I went out and got a much ballyhooed Singapore Math book (pictured above). And my son is just about to finish what's advertised as the first half of *Grade 7* math. Since about November, I've really cooled it on the math curriculum - as we've been reading a whole lot more. Plus, I guess, seeing his meteoric progress, I guess I've become much less worried and frantic about taking the responsibility to educate my own. The idea that my children will EVER fall behind or underperform any of their peers has become provably laughable.

So how was this acclaimed book for the *leading math program in the world*?

Well, it was simply okay, IMO.

The cover says it was *Reviewed and Recommended by Teachers and Parents*.

On that I'm going to call BS. This English translation, sold at Barnes & Noble, was riddled with mistakes and what I'd call "illiteracies" - the kind you'd find at American Chinese restaurants.

Sure I could instantly spot the errors and make do....but it's inexcusable for a simple algebra book to be so poorly written. Heck, I, or anyone else competent in this subject, could have proof-read the thing in only a few hours.

One other beef I had with the text was the queer, forced multiculturalism. Check out the obscure names from some of their word problems:






















Every time my 5.52 year old son came across one of these....I all but had to rename person for the sake of clarity!

On a related note, last week my embattled and aging 96.5 year old grandfather complained to me about the non-traditional names of some of his great-grandchildren. Not only are, most expectantly, his eyesight and hearing on the wane, but his memory as well. His complaints to me last week were adamant; he genuinely considers those weird baby names an act of inconsideration to him!

Getting back to Singapore Math...

I've already purchased the second half of the *Grade 7* material so we'll definitely make our way through that.

As for my general homeschooling plans, on the agenda at the moment are: buying my son his own computer, getting started on Spanish and perhaps computer programming, ramping up his blog output, and buying him a guitar (hopefully his nearby teenage cousin can help on that front).

And by July 1st, I have to register my son as *homeschooled* with the local school board. That should be real fun! How exactly am I not going to *not offend* one of these administrators - as the very essence of what I do is a complete rejection of them and their *system*?

Part of me would very much like to *get into it* with one of these knuckleheads...but it's far wiser to make nice. I just don't know. Perhaps I'll just delicately tell them we have to homeschool on account of my wife's job - that we have to be in Florida in the wintertime???

Saturday, May 29, 2010

That Nasty Neighbor

Great article here.

Buried In Boxes

Shoot. What day is it today?

Saturday? The moving truck dumped all our stuff here, at my MIL's house, early on Wednesday.

But we've still got a ton of work to do in terms of unpacking and whatnot. You see, this is essentially a full house here we moved into. The MIL emptied out the three bedrooms (and a chunk of her basement and attic) but still a lot of our earthly possessions need to be *managed*.

The movers deposited most of the boxes in the attic and the garage and we are in the process of unpacking them and making decisions: store, replace what's already here, sell, donate, or trash. Even though the boxes were labeled somewhat, we still really have no idea what's in each one until we unwrap all the contents. Heck, they packed the pegs for my shelves in a box (instead of taping them to THE SHELVES!) and I had to waste a back-breaking hour in the steamy attic looking for them. Because until my shelves were up I couldn't unpack my books or pictures that adorn them - like a butterfly effect.

Anyways, we're over the hump work-wise now, I think. Although we still have a ton of little things to do: change license plates, drivers' licenses, get train parking stickers, join the local homeschool group, register my son with the local school administration (for homeschooling), get FiOS,....and defibrillate my MIL!

People say that moving is a PIA or that it's hard work.

Of course I disagree somewhat. Sure it's disruptive, but we would all benefit from more disruption in our soft daily existences. It's therapeutic to purge material belongings; and it's healthy to be forced to rebuild one's social network once in a while. This will be my sixth abode in the past nine years (Philly to Brooklyn to Charlotte to Newton(MA)to South Shore(MA)to Long Island). Almost every move was a non-mistake; each one took me to a superior place for that particular time in my life (though Newton, MA is firmly entrenched in last place!). Long Island is a place I've long loathed for its traffic, lack of golf, steep prices, shallow people, and what I perceived as a ludicrous go-go mentality. If one had told me, even a year ago, that I'd be voluntarily moving here AND that I'd be extremely excited about doing so I'd brand them a Moron.

But it's all true and genuine - my enthusiasm.

So where exactly did I move?

Well, I'm on the border of Port Washington and Manhasset. That's the north shore, just a couple towns removed from Queens. Bill O'Reilly lives right down the street (on the water, I believe) and old pal Barry Ritholtz lives just one town over!

Maybe Barry will hire me to tutor his litter!?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tragically Bad Parents

A couple of these are pretty crass so I apologize upfront. What can I say? - I have to throw the groundlings in my audience a bone now and then!

Many Were Slaughtered Right On The Beach!

My 12 days of eviction limbo are finally over.

Tomorrow is D-Day.

Tomorrow I pack up the car, drive down to Long Island, AND officially move in with my MIL!!!

And no doubt many of y'all thought living under the authority of my former landlord was crazy, if not somewhat Moronic...

Though surely her friends are exclaiming:

What? You're letting your SIL move in with you?....In no time he'll be badgering you about alleged clutter and expired food! He'll probably even try to get you to clean off the kitchen counters....And he'll most definitely try to secretly dispose of your phonograph and your extra, perfectly functional Zenith TVs. Are you out of your mind? ARE YOU CRAZY???

Book Rec - God Never Blinks

A friend from my now former home - the South Shore - gave me this book last weekend as a wrapped parting-gift.

While she described it as just *a little something* and *light reading*, I'm happy to report that it turned out to be so much more than that. It was fantastic.

And I doubt there's a single person on this dreary planet who wouldn't profit mightily from consuming all its cheesy, pop-psychological/inspirational content.

Here it is on Amazon - order it.

I'm going to have my wife read it, right away. Then I'm going to go back and mine the book more meticulously for its precious gems.

Trading....The Pits!

Taylor sent me a link to this, wondering if it brought back any personal memories. (WARNING - adult language):

Sure, the profanity and altercations do ring some bells - recall my former career as a pit trader. If only I was as good (lucky?) at placing bets as I was at all the fighting and psychological warfare. Heck, if only I was half as good!

For more on the interesting-looking movie - click here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Handicap?

Nice, heartwarming story here.

IndyMac Offering 3.125% Fixed Rate Mortgages!

I know someone who, like millions of others, had the misfortune to borrow too much against *their* home during the recent housing bubble.

Owing over $500,000 on what's now worth, supposedly, $350,000 he did the rational, best-interests-of-his-family thing and strategically defaulted on the mortgage (400k) and HELOC(150k).

His first mortgage, 395k, was issued by the long-since-bankrupted IndyMac bank. So now the note is held by Goldman Sachs, I mean it's owned by us taxpayers and it's being *managed* by and to the financial benefit of Goldman Sachs cronies!

Seven months after deliberately missing his first mortgage payment, *IndyMac Federal Bank* - as it's been reincarnated as - offered him one of those so-called loan mods.

They, speaking for taxpayers and future generations, are offering him a deal:

They will transform his 395k adjustable (to LIBOR + 2.25%) loan to a fixed rate loan of 426k (includes late fees, taxes, etc.) at 3 1/8%.

3 1/8% for 30 years? Are you freakin' kidding me???!!!

The way he figured it, it came to $1,950 per month ("1556+395 for taxes and insurance").

BUT that wasn't precisely the loan *IndyMac Federal Bank* offered him via FedEx today. The numbers seemed off, too low.

Closer inspection revealed that IndyMac was actually offering him a fixed 3.125% mortgage for FORTY YEARS!!!

I have a question - can any of you Morons out there land such generous mortgage terms today?

Can any of y'all get a 426k, 3.125% 40-year loan on a house that, at the fleeting moment anyway, has manifest market value of $350,000???!!!

Realize that money, cheap as it is these days for those with access to the printing press, still isn't that cheap. So the government/taxpayers/IndyMac Federal Bank is offering a deal that's a guaranteed loser for itself.

Sure they can presently borrow short-term at less than 1% to fund these *mods* but that won't last forever - at least not for forty years. Once interest rates spike, not only will IndyMac become insolvent yet again, it will unleash another whole round of strategic mortgage defaults.

This guy asked me to calculate for him his net savings over the next ten years should he accept the loan mod versus, I guess, buying another place at today's market mortgage rate of 5.125%. I'll need some more clarity on the question/scenario to calculate anything at all.

But my hunch is that these hypotheticals are all quite beside the point. Since he'll always retain the capacity to simply re-default, I think he needs only to compare the $1,950 monthly number with what he'd be able to rent for that same monthly nut.

I told him that my hunch is still that the 40 year loan reset is a sucker's play. It's better to default now, and get one's good credit restored within 5 years than to prolong the agony. A loan mod, IMO, would merely delay the inevitable foreclosure as interest rates are all but guaranteed to rise significantly within the next 40 years. In other words, another leg down in the housing market will just, as I mentioned above, force him into another strategic default down the road.

Long-time readers well know my I'm probably not the person to ask about 40 year debt slavery sentences. I'm the one who thinks people should only buy/mortgage what they can afford on a 15 year term.

I'll have more on this one later on, for sure.

See also:

More On Goldman's IndyMac Thievery

The Cheapest Rent

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Windmills - Truth In The ART Of Lying

Nearly two years ago, I wrote:

Point of fact, we were up in Hull [Massachusetts] a couple of weeks ago and the wind was howling. It had to be at least 25 mph. I looked up and noticed the windmill wasn't twirling. Then, twenty minutes later, I noticed that it was *working* - rather rapidly at that.

I said to my wife, "They must have plugged it back in!"

Now check out what I came across in my daughter's book tonight:


The preceding page read had Dora exclaiming:

...We need to to TURN OFF the windmill so the kite can fly by.

For more on *bird blenders* see also:

Pagans Blowing It...

Bird-Blender Malfunction!

Green In-Fighting And More On Bird-Blenders

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eviction Chronicles - Parting Gifts

Every few weeks I get an email *reminder*.

It helpfully reminds me that [my scumbag landlord] has invited me to join Facebook! Can you believe that?

This is so ridiculous that I should probably just go along - join and *friend* him!

Actually, I have long joked that I won't join until you can *foe* someone through the site. De-friending just doesn't go far enough for me.

So, what did I do on my way out of the house last week?

Well, for one thing I procured a telescoping light bulb changer and de-bulbed all the recessed lighting. I say 'why not' - the light bulbs cost nearly $5 apiece AND I paid for them. At the time I was pretty sure that scumbag was planning on moving back into the house. Let him go out and spend the money to replace 40 bulbs!

I also went back and forth with a notion to jack up the water bill. Since he's already declared bankruptcy (and I already paid for his last 9 months of water) every incremental drop of water would be on him. At one point I just let the faucet in a bathroom run constantly - until someone warned me that it could back up the septic tank. They helpfully advised me to *run the outside faucet*. But I thought of this idea too late and wasn't fully committed to it. Every time he pulled up in the driveway I had to sneak out and turn the water off. Like I said, on this one I went 'back and forth'. But it's sage advice for other disgruntled tenants. Run the water and stiff your landlord because there's almost nothing they can do to stop you.

I might have accidentally packed the garbage disposal lids - the kind that need to be engaged to activate the disposal...

I pulled out the water filter from the refrigerator. There was no way I was going to allow this scumbag to come back into the bank's house and enjoy a cold glass of filtered water from the door of the fridge. That thing cost an annoying $35 - annoying because it had to be mail-ordered.

A friend suggested I buy a dozen eggs and deposit them deep into the air conditioning vents. This way the stench of rotten eggs, after some time, would fill the entire house and be impossible to pinpoint. Though I absolutely loved the idea, I wimped out because I wasn't 100% sure the Moron was going to re-squat at this essentially taxpayer-owned house.

Other small stuff: the movers *helped* themselves to a few small items, we left the house without vacuuming a floor or wiping down a counter - believe me it was filthy, several large items that we didn't want were simply unmoved, I forgot to leave the key to the side door - a key that I'm sure my landlord didn't have a copy of (how much does it cost to change locks?), like a twit I locked the bedroom doors on my way out, I made sure to remove the bulbs from the basement and then I cut the power of that circuit-breaker thing - whatever it's called. Let him figure it all out with flashlight in that flooded, rodent-filled basement!

I'll bet y'all are thinking that I totally wussed out - and you're right. What I did was nothing compared to what I contemplated: taking a hammer to the granite countertops, absconding with the appliances, breaking windows, etc. Screw this guy, right?

But if he potentially wasn't going to move back in, and if the bank was just going to auction it off (again!) soon then what could possibly be the point? All I might be doing is opening myself up (more) to some annoying future lawsuit.

There were a few things that I heard about my former abode today over email that piqued my curiosity and my still-simmering anger, yet seconds later my blood returned to 98.6 degrees and my pulse-rate to my normal 58 bpm.

I've moved on - literally, figuratively, AND emotionally.

"Hell Is Other People"

That book I read recently, and blogged on yesterday, recommended the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Now I'm by no means a *play* guy, nor am I at all a consumer of *fiction*. I just casually mentioned to someone that I had never heard of this *must-read*....and they provided me with a copy. It was as simple as that.

No Exit was only 47 pages - which was a welcome break from the usual tedious tomes I undertake. But it was certainly an interesting play AND reading it lowered my coefficient of cultural ignorance by a few basis points!

Sneaking Up On A Century

Here's my 96.5 year old grandfather at his weekly Candlepin bowling league:

The man has warded off melanoma for the past 4+ years, the loss of his wife, and numerous other afflictions standard for someone of his advanced age.

It may be awesome to watch my son, his 5.5 year old great grandson, solve algebraic equations, talk about the periodic table, devour book after book, and write his blog...

But for me it's even more impressive to behold my grandfather power through each day as he does. At this point he's finally grown a bit tired and despondent. Nevertheless, he chugs along as he seemingly always has.

Tomorrow his chess partner, the Russian, comes over. They'll play intensely "for about two hours."

See also - En Passant.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eviction Limbo

So while all my earthly possessions (golf clubs, a PC, and some books) sit on a moving truck bound for Long I am, killing time (blogging in my pajamas!) from my parents' basement in Worcester, MA.

Yesterday was a FULL day.

I played golf early, got back to help my kids do their *work*, and then set off with them for nearby Mt. Wachusett. It's a little 1,000 foot peak with ski lifts and an auto road to the top. There was no way I was going to hoof it up given the chicken-step strides of my little ones.

Except that the road was closed when we got there. Indefatigably excited about the ultimate destination, the 5.5 year old Prince and the 3.92 year old Princess insisted we start up the rocky trail. My son is going to blog that trip so I'll stop here. It suffices to say that I ended up hiking all the way up and all the way down with my two children AND my creaky, jurassic 'old man'.

Later that afternoon, I got in some more (free!) golf with my father at the country club that he works at.

By dusk, I had played 42 total holes with a mountainous hike in the middle. I was flatout exhausted and am just catching my breath today.

Tomorrow my golf has been postponed on account of inclement weather. All we're scheduled to do is head up to the government high school my mother teaches at. She wants to show her grandkids her science lab and whatnot.

On Thursday, I'm going to play The Shattuck up in New Hampshire. It's a *Top 50* public course according to those golf magazines. I'll tee it up from the back tees at the behest of my (much better) playing partner - slope 153!

My wife is down in Miami getting acquainted with her new job responsibilities. She reports that it's 85 and muggy. And she's mentioned, already more than a couple times, how excited she is to work out of there in the upcoming winter. "Key Biscayne is only 11 minutes away....Coconut Grove is a logical area for us to rent in..."

Tomorrow I'll tell y'all about how I *sabotaged* my landlord's house on the way out. It was nothing big or illegal; try as I might I just couldn't help myself.

Book Rec - The Well Educated Mind

The subtitle of this one - A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had - sums it up perfectly.

More, directly from the book jacket:

Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven’t because they seem too daunting? The Well-Educated Mind , Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to homeschool their children. That book is now the premier resource for homeschoolers. In this new book, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them for adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading.

The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres — fiction, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry — accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The anotated lists at the end of each chapter — ranging from Cervantes to A. S. Byatt, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich — preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing.

For more on this one, please see the lengthy and well-educated post I wrote on its predecessor - Book Summary - The Well-Trained Mind.

It suffices to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed both of Susan Wise Bauer's books. Read them.

BeHold Moronic Little Kids

Friends recently attended the *orientation* for their daughter's upcoming kindergarten class next year - a class my son, had we stayed in the area and not decided to homeschool, would have been theoretically enrolled in.

With expectations in the sewer (thanks to moi?) they said it wasn't too bad.

That is until the end when the teacher said:

...By the end of the year we hope the students have all learned how to HOLD a book properly.


Not read a book, but HOLD one!

Hey, if they can hold a video game console at that age, then mastering a book...

While that pic above may be a's still darn funny. You just have to give credit where it's due.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Puzzling Distraction

Have you all seen this brand of puzzles - Kenken? I just came across it myself today in my parents' *newspaper*.

It's not bad for what it is - a spin-off of Sudoku. Recall I got my son started with that a couple of months ago.

ANYTHING to keep your eyes and mind away from the *news*...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Those Experts Again...

With the Boston Celtics finishing off Leeeebron and the Cleveland Cavs in the playoffs tonight I think it's instructive to look back upon the *expert predictions*:

I was truly shocked that the Celts were only favored by 1 point tonight at home, leading the series 3 games to 2.

See also the predictions from two years ago.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mining Levity From Inanity

I was wondering why I've been seeing news crews in downtown Hingham, Massachusetts the past couple of days.

A Catholic school, actually the one associated with my parish, has rejected a student applicant because he has two mommies - big softball players I believe!

It's a private school, right? Can't they admit whom they want? Can't they discriminate and be selectively *hypocritical*???

Who cares...

However, there was one hilarious excerpt from that article:

Attorney Shawn Gaylord, public policy director for the New York-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, an advocacy group for gay students, said the Massachusetts law barring discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation applies only to public schools.


Obviously, Bernie MADOFF had the best, most apt name ever.

And that yacht guy's name was funny too.

Moving Now

Packers came today. It took the three of them only 5 hours to pack up our meager possessions.

They load the truck tomorrow morning; we stay with friends in Milton tomorrow night; vacation with at my parents' house in Worcester for a week; come back to the South Shore (hotel) for my daughter's dance recital next weekend; then it's off to our new life on Long Island.

So obviously I'm going to be a little busy for the next 10 days. But I will have my laptop and I will still be blogging a bit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eviction Chronicles - Blowing Gas Up My Landlord's....

Excuse my filthy stove - I'm just not going to clean this place up a few days before my deadbeat, scumbag landlord moves back in.

But note my gas leak. That flame shooting out gets bigger all the time. Don't dare put anything on the counter near it; and you can't even stir a pot from that side without burning your hand. Its true size shows up better at night (but my camera can't film in the dark.) Of course I notified my landlord several times of this fire hazard but he hasn't even responded.

Recall from my post yesterday that by order of the District Court I have to move out this week - Friday to be precise.

And while my landlord's attorney insists that the scumbag is not planning on moving back in here, I don't believe it for a minute. Remember, the dirtbag told me explicitly back on February 21st that *homesteading* this house was one of the tactics he'd employ to stave off foreclosure. Furthermore, he's been sneakily moving stuff back into his illegal *office*; he's loading up his SUV with all sorts of junk and burying it in the backroom....but when he thingks I'm not looking. All of a sudden he's got the shades mysteriously pulled down to hide what he's hiding.

While my neighbors most certainly ARE NOT, I am chuckling at the thought of this Moron trying to move back in here when he might only get a couple months out of it before the bank ultimately boots him out. For one thing, I'm going to get the utilities turned off and/or switched into his name. Note these are the same utilities he owes serious coin to.

The electric company won't *turn off* the power, I don't think. It's probably too expensive for them to send someone out and then re-activate later on for whomever.

But the gas company, National Grid to whom he owes $7,000, came by today to *read the meter*; shutoff is scheduled for next Wednesday.

By chance I noticed the service vehicle in my driveway and made my way out to talk to the servicewoman. She said that she was having trouble *reading* the meter. But she never got out of the car. She was using some digital device that must have been searching for a signal. I asked her if I could help or if she needed to get into the house or something. It turned out to be a very good thing I came out and offered because she was just about to drive away - and because of what then transpired.

She found the meter next to my house but couldn't read it even from up close because it was *old* and *not up to code*. Additionally, she said the pipe-work was improperly, illegally, and dangerously installed.

Scrutinizing some more she became confused at the routing of the line. I mentioned that my landlord uses the detached office across the driveway and a light clicked in her brain. She was pretty sure that my landlord was siphoning my gas line in to heat his office - a BIG NO-NO she added. I myself had wondered about this some time ago. He did spend something ridiculous like $4,000 to get the electricity sub-metered back when I moved in 2007. He paid the water bill so that was irrelevant. But with the heat and hot water I always assumed that he at least had an electric heater over there or something. Guess what....if he doesn't, he's going to be in deep poop. Stealing the gas that I pay for???

So the servicewoman was already telling me that an inspector was going to come over and fine him for the improper metering and installation, make him pay to fix it, AND that was before she figured out he might have been taking my gas.

Then I brought her inside and showed her my leaky gas stove which she took even more seriously - as she should - than the preceding violations. She declared it a major fire hazard.

I think it's safe to say I just counter-punched my landlord here but good. The service woman was insistent that he wasn't going to be able to snake his way out of this one.

And if it turns out that he was in fact taking my gas, not only will that blunt any of the future lawsuits his lawyer is planning on harassing me with, in that case I will go on the offensive and sue the pants off him!

Apparently when the inspector comes he demands immediate access - and if denied a cop is summoned forthwith. Gas is a very, very big deal - as it should be.

Earth Day Alarmism - An Annual Eco-Pagan Tradition!

I'm sure some of you have already seen these, since they came my way in an email *forward*....But I still found them worth highlighting. They are excerpts from Earth Day in 1970.

• "We have about five more years at the outside to do something." Kenneth Watt, ecologist

• "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." George Wald, Harvard Biologist

• "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation." Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

• "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction." New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

• "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

• "By [1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

• "It is already too late to avoid mass starvation." Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

• "Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine." Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

• "Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half..." Life Magazine, January 1970

• "At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable." Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

• "Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone." Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

• "We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones." Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

• "By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’" Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

• "Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct." Sen. Gaylord Nelson

• "The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

Reality Can Bite

My wife was called recently by someone who was looking to hire one of her former employees.

Mrs. C-Nut didn't respond right away. She came home all bummed out that she was put in that position. You see, this particular ex-employee was *absolutely horrible* and my wife is herself a horrible liar.

But both the individual and their spouse had reportedly been out of work for a long time. They have children...

Obviously, any frankness on the part of my wife would probably cost this incompetent person a potential job. My advice whether or not it was actually solicited:

CaptiousNut - But if you aren't honest, this woman may get hired over SOMEBODY ELSE who also needs a job badly, has kids, etc....someone more deserving.

Mrs. C-Nut - But the thing to do is to tell them (the employee) when they ask you to have them ask a different person. I can't remember if I was ever asked to be a reference or if I said 'yes'...There's an etiquette to these things.

It's surely a tough spot to be in - having the power of financial *god* over another person and their livelihood.

My wife did eventually speak with the recruiter/employer on the phone about her former employee. When I asked her what she said I didn't really get a response. Mrs. C-Nut is phenomenally talented at many things but like I said, she can't bull$hit worth a lick.

No clue what happened with the job, but my wife heard that her poor ex-employee's spouse filed for divorce and for full custody. Ouch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Super-Size That Junk Argument, Please

Not too long ago I was just thinking how McDonald's successful and highly transparent sales strategy, i.e. marketing to kids, ought to be outlawed. And I say this only in the context, or from the perspective of a socialist nanny state - not because I agree with such an action.

If they (our elected fascists) are going to ban animated cigarette ads, then it's not much of a stretch to imagine them banning inorganic Happy Meals and the like. After all, McDonalds sells complete crap, and attacking them can easily be marketed by dissembling power-hungry statists as yet another attack on Big Business and Corporate America. And not long thereafter, lo and behold, I heard recently that someone, somewhere in California had banned Happy Meals - or the toys or something.

In my ignorant rants of yesteryear I used to intellectually defend Big Business but now I'm a whole lot wiser. Large monopolistic companies like McDonalds aren't a proxy for *the free market*; in fact, they are more accurately described as creations of Big Government. Mom-and-Pop restaurants can't compete with McDonalds, hence it grew, because of government regulation NOT because McDonald's is able to buy and turn around food much cheaper. Again, McDonald's buying power is a consequence rather than the origin of its size.

The same goes for Wall Street. Morons, like the self-unconscious plutocrats at Forbes, think that defending Goldman Sachs and the banks against agitating statists is a just front on the battlefield of freedom. But it's most certainly not. Wall Street in nothing more than a giant skimming entity. Income taxes are so prohibitive that folks just blindly dump money into their 401k's each month. So, again, Wall Street is also a creation of Big Government and free market apologists would be on stronger ground if they simply attacked the income tax which is the real culprit.

I'm working on an analogy...

Some enlightened Morons go and start a forest fire. Then they turn around and start cursing the spreading flames for the damage they are causing!!!

Then their political adversaries come by and assert that the raging blaze is completely natural....and to let it burn freely.

Does that tale sound familiar?

I'm no marketing guru or child psychologist but I think if Happy Meals were ever banned....the shares of McDonald's would, if not collapse, they'd suffer a healthy haircut. I think that particular *restaurant* is dying anyway. All I ever see there are grandparents and their grandkids and construction workers ordering off the Dollar Menu. Most young parents that I know steer clear of that junk.

Empire Of Debt

I promised my kids a couple of weeks ago that one day soon I'd take them to the top of the Empire State Building.

But the next day my BIL dissuaded me. He said that it's now *like* $20 to take the elevator to the top. WOW.

Now I'm not spending $60 or $80 - if my wife is included - for that! My kids can skip that or, google the view.

When you think about it, though, it's not that expensive. Not only is it priced for one-in-a-lifetime visiting tourists, but also those elevators have to cost quite a bit to run and maintain. And there is probably drastically heightened security up there since 9/11. So it's really not as outrageous to charge $20 a head as it sounds.

Plus I once read something crazy like the Empire State Building was only worth $15 million because of all the long-term, below-market leases there. I'm skeptical of that low number but believe it essentially. Alright I found something from 2002:

NEW YORK – The Empire State Building, the cinematic backdrop for everyone from King Kong to Cary Grant to Tom Hanks, has changed hands. Donald Trump and his Japanese partners have agreed to sell the fabled 102-story structure.

The sales price is a stunner: US$57.5 million. That represents only a tiny fraction of the $1 billion that many analysts say the building would be worth without its burdensome 114-year master lease.

Drawn up in 1961, that lease provides for payments of only $1.97 million a year on the 2.5 million-sq.-ft. (225,000-sq.-m.) building. And the lease rate actually drops to $1.72 million from 2013 to 2076, when the lease term expires.

That low-ball lease has depressed the storied skyscraper's market value. So much so, in fact, that the $57.5 million purchase price is considered high, yielding an estimated annual return of just 3.4 percent. The buyer, however, is Empire State Building Associates, an investor group led by New York real estate maven Peter Malkin. And that same group also holds that master lease, which runs through 2076.

Therein lies the buy rationale. With leaseholder and owner in the same stable for the first time since 1961, the legendary tower can now be more easily sold with significantly better financing terms.

The sale closes - perhaps - a tumultuous, byzantine chapter for the facility built in 1930-31. Since the early 1990s, Trump, Malkin and real estate heiress Leona Helmsley have slugged it out for control of the Empire State Building.

Having checked the site now I see that adults do in fact pay $20 a ticket, children ages 6-12 pay $14, seniors pay $18, and that one can pay-up ($45) for a faster ride to the top. I don't see a mention of young children - are they free or are they even allowed? - so perhaps I should in fact take them now before my son turns six. Twenty bucks for the three of us is fine. I did go to the top of the WTC when I was a child but don't remember ever ascending the Empire State Building.

Battle Of The Bulge


And I was just going to do a post on how Tiger probably sufferedt his *bulging disk* from being a swivel-head!

And I already predicted Tiger would have problems playing golf all backed up this year...

Thanks to my cousin for sending me this one!

UPDATE - As expected, YouTube pulled that clip. Try this one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eviction Chronicles - Judgment Rendered

After a brutal day in court with my landlord (er, his attorney) we have some clarity.

Recall last Tuesday I was served with an order to appear in court today, less than 7 days later, for a motion to evict me for non-payment of rent, alleged malicious destruction of property, and the alleged interference with the sale of the property.

First of all, it became clear to me last week that my wife and I messed up royally during the course of our March *mediation* with him. Back then, my landlord took me to court because I wanted to use my pre-paid last month rent for March because the house was scheduled for bank auction. After filing to evict me and demand rent, my landlord, er his attorney, actually PAID us the money he owed us (water bill + interest on last month rent = $1,200) AND he said we could stay through April and May provided we pay $2,500 for each month.

What my wife and I didn't realize, was that the opposing attorney snuck in a judgment for *possession* into the agreement. What the bleep did that mean? It was literally a tiny box checked on the form. I thought he already had possession as the landlord. Furthermore, in the course of our mediation, the opposing counsel didn't utter the word a single time. As I said, it was literally snuck into the agreement.

So what exactly is *possession*? Well, apparently when a landlord has it the tenant has basically no rights. The landlord doesn't have to fix anything AND he can pretty much throw you out on a whim.

Hence I wasn't going to the tenant-sympathizing *Housing* Court today; I had to go to District Court where a judge was most likely just going to rule on the legality of the motion - i.e. I didn't pay the April and May rent, ergo the landlord could legally evict me.

I realized all this on Thursday and was downright pissed. All that work, research, and self-defensive legal maneuvering (Board of Health citations, etc.) on my part would be for naught on account of a technicality - *possession*.

So essentially, my landlord barely has to even provide hot water AND he can show the property to buyers at his leisure - the crux of my case was suddenly irrelevant.

And the news got even worse...

I was told by a local attorney back in January that it would cost my landlord $4,000 to hire the sheriff and a moving company to physically evict me. There's no way my bankrupt scumbag landlord would ever put that kind of money up. So my fallback move would have just been to force him to go into his pocket and dare him to physically evict me.

But late last week another attorney, a buddy of mine, told me that the cost for physical eviction was *only $300* and that the tenant (i.e. me) would have to pay to retrieve their stuff.


So now my worst case scenario was losing on Monday, getting notified by a sheriff, and having strangers pack up my house in 48 hours on Wednesday.

Double crap!

Could you imagine the injustice of ME GETTING BOOTED OUT OF HERE???

So I scrambled. First of all, we had been planning to move out roughly around May 24th anyway. The movers from my wife's company had already contacted us about a date. But could they move it up to Tuesday or Wednesday of this week? On 5 days notice? They hadn't yet returned my wife's phone calls.

Option 2 - Swallow my pride?

I tried to approach my landlord about a possible compromise. He wouldn't even talk to me. I emailed him my proposal, "$2,500 (half of what he thinks I owe) and I'd move out in two weeks, May 21st." He essentially told me to get lost.

Recall the guy is a lunatic. It'd be highly unlikely that he do better than that in court. A judge would probably give him a judgment for execution (i.e. eviction) OR some money....he wasn't going to get both - I don't think.

My wife calls me later in the day, Friday, and informs me that the movers can come pack on Thursday and load the truck on Friday. So that was comforting. Even in the event of a courtroom loss, I'd inform my landlord that I'd be out on Friday. STILL, he might, out of his palpable spite, decide to sick the sheriff on me right away, Wednesday, before my movers got here. I know I certainly would if I were him! I was definitely worried about this and resolved that in the worst, worst case scenario, upon receiving 48 hours notice from a sheriff, I'd simply run down to UHaul, rent a truck, and conscript my friends to help me load it. But again, that's the worse of the worst possible outcomes. I figured that I had to be totally prepared no matter what happened.

But still, I had one heck of a case and my landlord, with his $5 million, 88 page bankruptcy filing, is not exactly a sympathetic fellow. There was a solid chance that a judge would scoff at my landlord and his refusal to supply hot water during the first week of April, at his Board of Health citations, and at his portfolio of harassment and tell him and his attorney to take a hike. In fact, my landlord's attorney had already prepared for this event - he had already filed (and served me) with a Summary Eviction Notice for May 27th. I would, if I could, argue that is where my case belonged in the first place. That would be a much better venue for a tenant to defend himself AND I could file a response by May 24th and get the case punted for two additional weeks automatically. It'd be mid-June before I ever saw a courtroom - and the bank might well have taken *possession* for itself! (And the bank might well have been offering me $3,000 to vacate the place in good shape.)

I show up in court today at 9am. There's no sign of my landlord or his attorney. The judge comes in fashionably late and starts whizzing through the motions. My stomach is turning with anxiety and the hope that a no-show will default in my favor.

My case is called and I rise up...

Some lawyer dude runs out and gets word to someone...

My landlord comes running in looking like a basket-case....he says his attorney is *coming*.

The judge says he can wait and calls for a 10 minute recess.

Now my nerves are totally frayed watching the clock and watching people come in and out of the courtroom THAT AREN'T MY LANDLORD'S ATTORNEY.

The judge comes back in and starts rifling through the cases again...

My stomach feels like it just did every ride in an amusement park....and I notice on the carpeted floor of the courtroom about 56 disgusting fingernails (none of which were even mine)!

Still, no attorney. My illiterate scumbag landlord is now sitting in front of me poring over the paperwork in front of him. He's going to have to present this case himself - if at all...

Now it's just us left in the courtroom and the judge asks my landlord where his attorney is.

Scumbag - [shaking] He's coming....He's on his way from the airport, getting back from Florida.

Say what? He filed a motion less than a week ago to drag me into court....with a flight that would be cutting it close?

The judge said "OK....I'll hear this one in First Session when he gets here."

I protested. Like a Moron, I stood up and called BS on the judge.

CaptiousNut - Your Honor, if I showed up late you'd rule against me. I couldn't even get an attorney on such short notice.

Now at that, he could have easily jammed his gavel right up my hiney....but he didn't. He calmly asserted that if I had an attorney running late, he'd give me more time.

So out of civil and into a criminal courtroom I went. How fitting for my landlord - only I was the defendant!

There the agonizing wait continued. In the meantime, I got my first experience ever in a criminal courtroom. Some young chick next to me was furiously typing away on her iPhone throughout - though furious in the sense of how a normal broad would do it. Her calmness became a mystery to me when the judge called her before him. This girl had been arrested for her third possession of heroin charge within a couple of months. She was going to jail and didn't show any concern whatsoever.

And then there was a serial alcoholic send to *a bed*; a grocery store shoplifter; someone (else) accused of malicious destruction of property and intimidating a witness; a dude charged with robbing at knifepoint an alleged drug dealer of his cash and needles; and best of all were two drug addict clowns accused of masked armed robbery - one of whom couldn't stop laughing throughout the deliberation.

While I appreciated the distraction, I was still exasperated that the judge had given opposing counsel now 2 hours extra time to show up. And show up he did just then.

About 15 minutes later the judge espies the lawyer, whom he knew well apparently, in the courtroom and tells him to meet with me outside. One thing I learned from this day in court is how common this directive was. I guess, in contradistinction to color TV drama, this is how the creaky wheels of justice mostly turn - out in the hall from ordered mediation.

And during this first courtroom experience of mine, I realized that the judge wasn't really going to be very interested in the details of my case - my pics of dead mice, a flooded basement, and whatnot. He wasn't going to care how slimy my landlord was - or about any of the small (compared to heroin) issues I was all fired up to present.

So out into the hall I went with this lawyer...

Lawyer - What are you offering?

CaptiousNut - Well I offered (dirtbag) $2,500 and to move out on May 21st (11 days later) last week but he wouldn't even talk to me.

Lawyer - Why didn't you send that to us?

CaptiousNut - He didn't tell you about that?

Lawyer - He did, should have contacted us.

CaptiousNut - I'm not offering that anymore.

Lawyer - Why not?

CaptiousNut - Because I had to spend all weekend getting ready for this trial. And because I had to scramble to line up movers in the event that I lost.

Lawyer - What are you proposing?

CaptiousNut - Nothing. I can be out by Friday.

Lawyer - Well, we can evict you immediately...

CaptiousNut - Yeah, you can have a sheriff there by Wednesday and if I'm notified I'll rent a truck and move myself.

Lawyer - Look, you don't want to go down that road. You are opening up yourself to be sued for damages. You still owe (dirtbag) money - one month plus a third of this month's rent.

CaptiousNut - What about all the Board of Health citations? What about him entering my house without authorization? Look, I'm prepared to lose; I realize that I messed up granting him *possession* back in March.

And this went back and forth several times. Really, it was a discovery process for the attorney. He tried to act all calm and friendly but I knew he was just trying to get the gist of my argument so he wouldn't embarrass himself in court. But I was doing the same, to an extent anyway, or so I thought.

For example, in this motion filed against me, where dirtbag accused me of *trying to frustrate the sale of this property* his attorney wrote:

....Tenant has refused to allow access for the showing of the property and has continued to actively interfere in all efforts to sell by making false and defamatory statements to potential buyers. These actions have been done with the express intent to frustrate the sale of the property. Tenant has even gone so far as to advertise the property on Craigslist with the express intent to interfere with any potential sale of the property.

And during the course of our hallway *mediation*, the attorney brought it up.

Lawyer - What was that Craigslist ad all about? You know, advertising someone else's property for sale on the internet like that is a big deal. It's a serious offense...


Lawyer - Well then what was the ad for?

CaptiousNut - I was going to grant access to my house for any auction bidders....I was going to charge them $100 apiece - a number they'd surely cough up before bidding several hundred thousand dollars on a property without otherwise seeing the inside of the house.

Now I realize that I messed up here, again. I should have not given my counterargument to opposing counsel here for free. Obviously, in hindsight, he didn't fully understand the issue and had he brought it up in court I would have embarrassed him for his ignorance.

But I also learned a thing or two from this conversation. I learned that one of my claims - the harassment from my landlord running his unauthorized businesses on the property - had already gone to court three years before. And the court ruled in favor my landlord. So that was an issue I now knew not to push in front of a judge.

Lawyer - So it looks like you want to continue fighting...

CaptiousNut - I absolutely do not. I want to move on.

Lawyer - Well then pay the man what you owe him. You've inflicted serious harm on him with all this. He's really hurting.

CaptiousNut - I can't pay him, not when he's made my life a living hell for the past 5 months. How much do you think I should deduct for all the deferred maintenance and the loss of hot water?

Lawyer - Deduct $200 from April rent and pay for 10 days of May. (about $3,300)

CaptiousNut - Only $200?

Lawyer - Yeah.

CaptiousNut - I already had to pay the plumber $100. You think no hot water for nearly a week, for the fourth time is only worth $100.

Lawyer - No. I'm giving you $200.

Obviously, the guy didn't understand the math. This went back and forth a bit more. The attorney told me I should pay up because it was the right thing to do. And he even threatened me with a defamation suit. He said that dirtbag's new employer (whom I called a little while ago) was willing to sign an affidavit testifying to the fact that I *defamed* my landlord.

CaptiousNut - Well I could pay all the rent money you are demanding and (dirtbag) could still bring a defamation suit against me. So I'm not afraid of that threat.

Lawyer - IT'S NOT A THREAT. I'm not threatening you in any way....

Lawyer - You need to pay the man his money.

CaptiousNut - I'll tell you what, I'll pay $1,200 and be out by Friday.

Lawyer - No. Let's go see the judge.

CaptiousNut - You're not even going to take that offer to your client?

Lawyer - Nope. Young man, you're taking a big risk.

CaptiousNut - Let's go see the judge. I'm totally prepared to move out.

Ten minutes later, the judge calls us.

Judge - Why didn't you pay your rent?

CaptiousNut - I had no hot water. I lost hot water on March 30th and the landlord was completely non-responsive. I had no hot water for a week; this was the fourth time I had lost hot water; and it was a problem that the landlord was cited for by the Board of Health.

Judge - Let me see the citation. (he read it)

Judge - But all these (Board of Health) issues were there before you entered an agreement for judgment.

CaptiousNut - But there's been a whole lot more. We have a gas leak on our stove; we have rodents in the house; the landlord is entering my house without notice and without permission; the house in the late stages of foreclosure; he's trying to harass us out of there so he can homestead it to delay another auction....

I tried to cram as much stuff in there as I could. Again, from my earlier experience in the courtroom I could tell that these details were not going to interest the judge much. After all every landlord/tenant relationship has a contentious history. I did my best, in my 30 second opportunity to convey the worst about my personal situation.

CaptiousNut - The living conditions are so bad, I want relief from that judgment. I'm prepared to move out May 21st. I have kids in school that they need to finish up.

Judge - (to opposing counsel) What's the problem with that? It's only 10 days away?

Lawyer - That's not acceptable to us. Money is owed.

Judge - Has there been any deal offered?

CaptiousNut - I offered him $2,500 and a May 21st move out date last week (turning around toward landlord indignantly) AND HE WOULDN'T EVEN TALK TO ME.

Judge - Are you offering that now?

CaptiousNut - No. I'm not because he dragged me into court. I offered only $1200 now and to move out this Friday.

Lawyer - That's not acceptable to us.

Judge - What is this about *malicious destruction of property*?

Lawyer - (slowly, stammering) Things were functioning properly before we signed the we assume that he damaged them since then.

CaptiousNut - WHY WOULD I DAMAGE MY STOVE? I have a burner on my stove that shoots flames out and is a fire hazard....I have children in the house that can reach it...

Here I should have gone ballistic and accused THEM of making false and defamatory statements. That lawyer included an accusation in the complaint that had ZERO BASIS in fact. In hindsight, I should have expressed every ounce of the indignation I felt. I should have yelled, "Your Honor, this is exactly the type of harrassment I've been subject to. They make completely bogus accusations and then I have to answer them in court! It's legal harrassment!"

Judge - If he pays $1,200 execution is stayed until Friday.

Out in the hall, I wrote a check for the dirtbag and handed it to his attorney who said, "We'll deal with the balance of what you owe later on."

In other words, he was threatening/promising to sue me for probably $2,500 plus, I would assume, damages. This would really suck as I'd have to come back up from New York to fight it. He knows that and even said in the course of our prior talk, "Pay the man what you owe him. You don't want to have to come all the way back up here from New York for court again..."

While I do very much want and need this thing to be over, it looks like there's more to come. At some point, and we may already be there or past it, I have to do a calculation of how much time and effort I'm expending over a couple of grand. I know full well that's what he (and his attorney) are banking on; and that's precisely how he stole so much money from plumbers, contractors, former tenants, wearing them out to the point where they figure it's not worth it to fight over $500 here or $3,000 there. While it was never about the money for me, it was about the moral obligation of standing up to a bully crook, still I have other stuff to do - I have to get on about building a new life for my family, and maybe a new career in New York.

A lawyer friend of mine told me, given that expressed threat, to expect a regular *breach of contract* lawsuit from my landlord - if he in fact pursues the matter. I would think they try to serve me with a notice in the next couple of days before I disappear to *somewhere in New York*.

So....did I win or lose? Or should I be judged on *how I played the game*?

I felt like I lost. I was sick to my stomach afterwards and I don't understand why. Maybe I've worn myself out fighting this matter; maybe I was hungry; maybe it was the stock market bouncing 400 points yesterday?

The inherent problem with my case, aside from not being a tenant under the protection of a lease, was that by arguing strenously that my house was *unlivable*, in order to forcefully make that arugment, I have to planning to move out soon. In the end, my landlord, via his negligence and harrassment, did in fact force me out. And that'll be my defense later on should I be sued for monetary damages.

On one level I did win. I offered my landlord $2,500 last week and he turned it down - probably, along with his lawyer, assuming I would still be willing to pay that much, if not more, in a court. Since he only got $1,200 from me, I won that little game-within-a-game. Recall my pedigree as an option pit trader. I know value and I know that when a good offer is made and rejected you have to make penalize the pigs who held out for more; you have to reduce your terms. Only amateurs bid-and-offer less than they are willing to commit to with a hope of splitting the difference later on. In my email to my landlord last week I told him point blank that I would offer this deal if I had to waste my weekend preparing for court.

And I also won in the sense that the opposing counsel turned down my offer in the hallway only to be forced by the judge to accept it. I could have done worse, and I could have done better. The judge sliced the baby in half and moved on to the next case. Later on I'll do a post on *how I should have argued*.

But still, I didn't feel good about the outcome at all. Usually after these things there would be implicit relief in their closure. But there was no closure here with his attorney promising to keep coming after me.

I'm mildly upset at myself too - for granting *possession* to my landlord back in March. Ask almost anybody and they have no idea what that legal term means. Perhaps I read the agreement too quickly before signing. I'd have never given up any more of my rights as a tenant had I known what it meant - especially given the situation with my negligent landlord. Would having a lawyer have helped me? Sure. But it would have cost money too. I dealt with a Summary Evictions Notice and two Motions all on my own. An attorney would have cost at least $1,000 for all that. And what would it have accomplished? We were voluntarily planning on moving before the end of May anyway. So we moved a couple of weeks earlier. So what?

But I don't beat myself up over my mistakes - recall I've been a trader for 15+ years and hence demonstrably wrong at least 70% of the time.

Back in April, when this nonsense started up again with a loss of hot water and the scumbag demanding access to *show* a house he could never in a million years wife and I promised that we would fight him but not to the point where it spoiled out time here. On that mission we failed miserably. It was simply too hard to keep this last battle unemotional. It'd be one thing if the house was simply falling apart. But the killer was the physical presence of my landlord on the property, right outside my window, at all hours, every single day. It's tough to ignore a jerk of this magnitude who's on your doorstep all the time. Heck, not only are his victims customers rolling in and out of my driveway all the time, and not only he is lingering in his *office* past midnight dreaming up new theivin' schemes, but his teenage kids drop in whenever they feel like it (with their punk friends) and even his dog is here all the time.

As I've said before - the past 2.75 years here on Boston's South Shore, a place, despite being a native Ma$$hole I knew nothing about 3 years ago, my time here has been the most joyful of my entire life. Ideally I would have been able to spend my final days here saying goodbye to our friends, having one last huge barbecue at the house, and hitting, one last time, all the local places around here that had become special to us - instead of fighting with a dirtbag over a couple of grand.

Here's what I wrote most presciently about the scumbag over 2.5 years ago, after I had just got to know him a bit:

Now before I even signed my lease with this guy I knew he was in financial straits. He was trying to sell this particular house we rented for over $1 million but I knew from researching the area that it wasn't worth a nickel over 700k. Furthermore, he candidly told me that he owed $1.2 million in mortgage debt on the property AND that he owed $1.8 million on his abode. I Zillow-stalked him a bit - meaning I researched the size and value of his other house and learned that it also was worth much less than its debt load. And it suffices to say that every other bit of info I discovered about this guy literally screamed that he was tapped out and broke. So I knew what I was getting into from the get-go.

The guy wanted "first, last, and security" upfront - $7,500 ($2,500 in monthly rent). We signed the lease and Fedexed it to him with our check on July 3rd. On July 5th, the guy literally called me four separate times asking where the check was. I said, "Hey buddy, settle down. Yesterday was a holiday. If it's not there later today, it will be there tomorrow or the next day. We aren't moving in for a month. What's the big deal?"

Don't think for a moment this guy deposited the money in an escrow account as the more professional landlords would do. He obviously needed it to pay his personal bills forthwith.

Renting from this guy was making me more nervous by the second and we had a month yet before we moved in. Once we did, he effectively only had $5,000 of our money that we could lose. Since we would not be paying rent again for our "last" month, he would effectively only have $2,500 to hold over our heads. My wife remains very concerned about this clown we rented from - especially after I just relayed her the conversation I had with the previous tenant. I had to remind my wife that our monetary risk was a mere $2,500 and that I lose that kind of money in split-seconds trading. Everything one ever does has financial risks. The trick is to stay on top of their probabilities and magnitudes.

It also goes without saying that the landlord always takes on more risk than the renter who could just stop paying rent at any moment. In most states it will take many months for a landlord to get an eviction notice executed on a non-paying tenant. I could very well decide not to pay my penultimate month's rent - as well as the "last" month's - and leave the landlord with effectively no security deposit to withhold. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Outside of the security deposit, tenants still bear other risks while renting from a bankrupt landlord. For one thing, he'll skimp on maintenance. I already noted that I have a fire hazard of a chimney that my landlord won't deal with. There's also the general issue of having a business relationship with anyone who is losing their shirt. They'll be understandably ornery. I once worked for a guy who was losing millions in his own trading accounts. The bastard took it out on me and that effectively ended our partnership. I don't know that most people have ever seen acquaintances, friends, or colleagues lose their entire livelihood via bankruptcy but I can assure them, it's nothing you want to be a party to. It doesn't matter whether the outcome is bad luck, tragic, or even due justice. I guess just as waiters and bartenders tend to over tip, as a trader well-accustomed to losing money, even when some people that I loathe have gone broke I feel for them.

My landlord is a phenomenally nice guy. He does just about everything he can for us but financial realities are tough to overcome with a smile. I'd be really surprised if our rental/business/personal relationship didn't deteriorate rapidly over the next few months. I've just seen this movie too many times.

Well, it lasted, thanks to banks *not foreclosing*, a whole lot longer than I ever expected it to.

In effect, despite the late innings disaster, I have to say that on some level, by being able to stay in this house for the reasonably cheap rent we paid, that I benefitted from the banks' foot-dragging.

Going forward, the packers will be here on Thursday and the truck will be loaded on Friday. The only loose end we have here is my daughter's dance recital on May 23rd. So I am going to squat a my parents house in Worcester for a week - hopefully getting in a few rounds of golf - and then come back out here next weekend for the recital (before heading down to NY). My wife is busy as $hit with her new job and she'll be in Miami all next week because of it. Much of her new staff is based there and, hopefully, she'll be able to work out of that office in the wintertime. Therefore my future snowbird plans are shifting across Florida from Naples to Miami. THAT I'm very much looking forward to. (I like to walk South Beach with my head swiveled landward.)

As I mentioned earlier in this post, with promised future suits, these Eviction Chronicles might not yet be over.

HOWEVER, realize that we are moving in the the MIL on Long Island. So I'm trading one monstrous landlord for another, i.e. there'll be NO decrease in abode blog material!

Note she's not only a veteran landlord in her own right, but also a meticulous reader of this blog. No doubt she's taking careful notes and will be fortifying *possession* claims before we move in!