Putting stock in property

This LA Times article discusses middle class investors who are putting their money into real estate:

The astounding rise in home values is enticing many middle-class Californians to bet on dirt, gambling their retirements that they can do better with property than with any other investment.

They’re cashing in retirement funds, selling stock and taking out second mortgages. They’re pouring the money into real estate, often in distant states, often without seeing the property.

Back in the 80s in Texas we had the oil boom and bust. In the late 80s, I sat on a civil jury. In the case, the plaintiff was a fairly small investor who had bought a house for rental property when the economy was good. He was suing the bank that had repossessed (or was in the act of repossessing) the property. This guy really had no case, but apparently his young lawyer had convinced him that if they took it before a jury, the lawyer’s astounding power of persuasion might win.
The plaintiff’s lawyer played the little guy vs. big faceless corporation card. His primary claim was that the plaintiff did not know that the house backed up to a major expressway (Mopac) and was therefore less valuable than he thought.
After a more deliberation than the case deserved, we found in favor of the bank.
At the time, I kept thinking: who buys a house–even as rental property–without walking the property enough to know that the back yard abuts a freeway? I’m still sure that the plaintiff’s claim of ignorance was a lie, but after reading this article, I understand that the investor probably thought he couldn’t go wrong with real estate. I’m afraid the people investiing in real estate in the current boom markets will find themselves in the same boat as this guy did.

My thoughts exactly

In this post, Friar Tim expresses thoughts I’ve long had:

I don’t like to fight. I once did, back in college. The fundamentalists who strolled my college campus and confronted us fellow Christian students with concerns about our complacency just infuriated me! They projected all of their personal guilt on the rest of the campus and it drove me nutty-bananas. So I loved messing with their sense of authority in others lives and created a nice batch of enemies.
I’m much more mellow now. I am an adult. I have a mortgage and a small child and think more about what things I have in common with those around me than what divides us. It makes for more peaceful living. If I counted the times in each day when I come to an interpersonal fork in the road, one where I have to make a decision about stating honest thoughts on a given subject or give one of those innocuous answers (Hmm. I see. I’ve heard that.) that leave it open on whether or not I agree, I think I would be shocked at how many times I tuck tail and run.
I’ve always said that every person alive chooses a level of hypocrisy they are willing to live with. There are no exceptions. Even homeless people have a system they must learn to operate within that requires certain compromises on their part and a willingness to play along. Part of growing older is giving little pieces of ourselves away that allow us to be a part of community. It’s only in ideal worlds of fiction and sitcom that diversity gets its full due without the cost that always accompanies it.

I particularly like the line: “every person alive chooses a level of hypocrisy they are willing to live with.”

Terri Schiavo’s brain

For days, I have pondered whether to post something about the raging issue of what to do about Terri Schiavo, and if so, what to say. I think it’s pretty much all been said elsewhere. Politics aside, this comment on Alas (a blog) states my feelings more elegantly than I could:

Hello, I’m a nurse anesthetists and work in Birmingham, Alabama. I live in the Bible belt, born and raised a Christian and I consider myself VERY conservative on politcal issues.
What Cerbrocrat has said, and what Jeremy has just said above me in a more technical sense, is right on point. This woman’s brain is SEVERLY damaged; the cerebral cortex is almost completely gone.
There is not a medication, therapy or experimental science that will ever change her condition. Like an arm or leg that has been amputated, the body can live without parts of the brain, but it will never regenerate. The only problem with my analogy is that although a person can actually function without an arm or leg, that’s not the case without a brain. There’s no such thing as a cortex prosthesis. She will be this way for the rest of her life.
I make my political and religious stance for a reason, that this is not a political issue; even if it has been made into one. This whole argument is about one single point, whether she would have wanted to live like this. Her husband (and some others) has said that she would not; her family says that she would. If all of you honestly were true to yourself, I would be willing to wager that at least 90% of you would say you wouldn’t want to live this way. Every person I have talked to, even the ones who have objected to letting Mrs. Schiavo die, have said they personally wouldn’t want to live like that. I know of dozens of family, friends, and co-workers who have just recently or are about to put this very thing into writing. Attorneys may end up the big winner when this is all said and done, but I digress.
The point here is that so many people would never want this for themselves, but somehow they want it for Terri and assume Terri would want to live like this. To me this is crueler than letting her die. I believe it is for the family’s own selfish reasons not to let her go, not the husband. If the husband wanted to be selfish, he would have been better suited to take the money and run 14 years ago, divorced her, walked away and just let here parents think he was an a$$. The money is all gone now, only about 50 grand remains, so what is his motivation at this point? To be the most hated person in America? It just doesn’t make sense unless he truly believes there is no hope for her and he knows she wouldn’t want to live this way.
I was asked today by a gentleman, “If it were your daughter, would you let her go.” I said yes and he responded with, “well, then you don’t love her.” I said, “Sir, it is because I do love her that I would want her to go home and be with the Lord, not suffer here on earth.”
As a parent it is only human nature to want your children to outlive you; I know I want mine to outlive me. But people have to put aside their own selfish wants to realize what is best for their child, and what that child would truly want in a situation like this.
So put aside all the conspiracy theories, the selfish motivations, the moral and emotional arguments and ask yourself, would you want to live like this?…and then ask yourself, do you honestly think Terri would?

National Geographic wrecked my family!

The April issue of National Geographic magazine arrived today. At bedtime, Katie took it with her upstairs, intending to read it in bed before going to sleep. Samuel followed her into the bedroom and saw the cover for the first time. The photo on the cover frightened him terribly: he burst into tears and was inconsolable for a good five minutes. I then tore off the cover and threw it away in hopes of appeasing him.
A little later, Katie tried to show the cover article to Samuel in an attempt to show him that it was nothing to be afraid of. She turned a page, he saw another illustration that frightened him, and we went through the whole thing again!


The office complex where I work has a small gym for the tenants’ employees. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I leave the house at 6:00 a.m., beat the traffic, and then run on the treadmill before work.
I’ve never worked out with weights, but from what I understand, the best routine is to use relatively little weight with lots of repetitions. If that is correct, in all the times I’ve run at the office gym, I’ve only seen a couple of people follow this routine systematically.
This morning it was just me on the treadmill and one younger guy who came in to use the weight machines. He cracked me up: he would put on lots of weight, do three or four difficult reps, get up, stare at himself in the mirrored windows while flexing and rubbing the affected muscles, then repeat. He spent more time caressing himself and staring at his reflection than actually lifting weights. I also noticed that he only worked the muscles that he could easily see: arms, chest and shoulders.