I‘ll Only Quit Once

posted by Steven on Thursday, July 7th at 3:24 am under , , ,

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. — Chinese Proverb


Upon returning home from responding to a near midnight awakening call from Life Line, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I suppose this may have had something to do with the call: alerting me to the fact my Mom had fallen, could not get up, and needed my assistance. I know, duh…under such circumstances who would be able to sleep. Therefore, as a diversion, I found myself reflecting on some lightweight topics…quitting was one such topic.

Think about it…why is it so difficult to quit most things you no longer want to do? I don’t know about your answer, but mine came to me like snail in a mile long race. Quitting just seems too stagnant and finite for me. It’s much easier to convince myself to take a break from something. Doing so leaves that sacred option of changing my mind. Options mean you aren’t standing still…

I would prefer to know if I decide to take a break from something, I can return to it. No one-way tickets, thank you very much. To me, the one-way, no option of turning back, occurs at the end of my life…the finale. Everything prior to that should include options.

Next time you are battling the “I want/need to quit” syndrome, possibly substitute simply taking a break from whatever it is. You may find it much easier to accept, and accomplish the change.

Until next time, I’m taking a break.

Bedhead for Laughs

posted by Steven on Sunday, May 29th at 6:47 pm under , , , , ,

I can’t bear looking in the mirror-I guess that’s why my hair looks like this. ~ Lance Bass

Poor Lance Bass doesn’t know what fun he’s missing…

I’m not certain what psychologists would say about one who starts nearly every day by approaching the wall mirror, peering at his reflection; just to get a laugh at the bed induced hair design. Actually, I would be more correct in stating I’m better off not knowing.

Haven’t most of you done the same thing? Now I can certainly understand a puzzling look on the faces of those sleepers of stone; the ones waking exactly in the same position they fell asleep. They must be the rarities of the sleeping world. For the rest of us, if there is still hair crowning our conk, after a sleeping session of pillow plowing, we’ve created a masterpiece to be proud of.

As a three-pillow sleeper, I can achieve hair shooting off in just about every direction. At times, I may have wondered if Dennis the Menace a/k/a Dennis Mitchell and I are related. He certainly carried that stampeding cowlick in every moment of being filmed. Some may wonder why I wouldn’t have thought of Our Gang Alfalfa. Though he undoubtedly had the most prominent cowlick ever to grace the movie screen, I ruled that possibility out. I can at least carry a tune, and Carl Switzer was lucky if he could carry one in a bucket.

I realize that unless you have a cowlick or two, these early morning events may not mean much, since the morning hair probably just looks a bit poofy. Having at least a quad of cowlicks on the ole noodle, I can get some real dramatic styles going on.

One may think after over fifty years, I would get used to having these bedhead looks, yet my early years were spent with the good ole butch haircut. With those, the look is the same waking as when you turned in. Therefore, to me these are relatively new experiences.

Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression these hair raising creations would be enough to scare anyone, or at least I would hope not. For me they are a great way to start my morning…I love to laugh, and I’d rather laugh at myself than someone else.

If you want to start your day on a positive note, glance at yourself in the mirror and see what the sleep session’s handiwork has provided for you. In addition, if you really want to continue laughing for awhile, don’t touch it, drive to the nearest convenience store for a gallon of milk or something. Smile at everyone you meet, and pay attention to how many glance up at your hairstyle…just don’t laugh aloud when you catch him or her.

Missing “aitch” in Humor, & Nearly Unrelated Things

posted by Steven on Saturday, May 14th at 6:37 pm under , , ,

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. ~ Dalai Lama

Etymologists claim that the pronunciation of the “aitch” in humor “is only of recent date, and sometimes omitted….” yet recent may mean 1729 or so. Not wanting to shortchange another such word, herb, I include it within my pronunciation of the pronounce them proudly “aitch” words. Let’s be real…if it isn’t going to be used, get rid of it. My /ˈhɜːb/ dehydrating includes the “aitch”, just as Martha Stewart pronounces it. Really, are we getting so lazy we need to start zinging letters out the door? Linguistics never was one of my strengths.

In contrast with the above, a couple of things appear to be reviving with increasingly loud fervor in America. They would be, common sense and reality. Over the past decade, I had a growing fear that these were destined for the history books as things of yesteryears. It had seemed more and more people were allowing themselves to be led to the proverbial waterhole and drinking whatever was in front of them.

To a certain extent, I could see how reality had become so muddled and helplessly mired. Reality-the state of how something actually exists. The unquenchable thirst of our 24/7 media had replaced analysts and pundits with regurgitators. Many with a half baked opinion and an attention grabbing title line, pulled the wool over our eyes with no concept of using truth and actual facts. We fell for it. People simply didn’t have the time to question if it was reality they read or heard. Our wet-drives had become, in part, misfiring mush within our cranial cavities. We asked for it, we got it…

Now reality and its sibling common sense are typically connected at the hip. If we weren’t making the time to question what we were hearing and/or reading, it’s a good bet common sense had been relinquished before we came through the door. Pitiful…no chance for even a cautionary flag, or at least a blinking, yellow light.

Things are a changin…polls, which for the most part I detest, at least show more Americans are starting to make the time (can you say unemployed) to question why the cream at the top is keeping the agitator from bringing us back into the mix. We are learning what a “barbell” employment recovery is, and we ain’t going to settle for it. Even if we don’t trust the polls, we can see on our fave 24/7 selections that people are getting active…I don’t mean they’re dancing in the streets…those are protests!

Protests are good…we can’t forever remain silent…unless we want to lose everything this great nation stands for. While some continue to accept the “aitch” as silent, I’m going to say them loud and clear. I’ll also keep my eyes and ears open for reality, so common sense can be applied. How about you?

First they came…

posted by Steven on Friday, March 4th at 6:16 pm under , , ,

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1946

With the global unrest, including that within the boundaries of our own nation, the above seemed appropriate, and timely. Thanks to a friend (M.P.) for leading me to this quote.

Funambulism and Politicians…Say What?

posted by Steven on Sunday, February 27th at 7:54 pm under , , , , , ,

I refuse to live in a country like this, and I’m not leaving. Michael Moore, Capitalism: A Love Story

Funambulism and Politicians – The first we know as tightrope walking (we can pretend we knew what it meant) and the latter as…apply your own descriptive terms for most politicians…

We remember times at the circus. Ringmaster, 18th century gentleman’s riding habit like garb, top hat in hand, topcoat with flowing tails, barking, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, look up and see the death defying tightrope walker.” Momentarily holding our breath, as the attention grabbing, ornately dressed, show person seemed certain to fall from that thin rope. And when those near slips happened, silence instantly gave way to unison of gasps. Our eyes couldn’t divert long enough to make certain the safety net was still below. Some of us dreamed of being up on that rope…fast-forward to today…many of us are there.

We’re where we dreamed of, though not in a circus setting. Welcome to 2011 day-to-day living. Help…that was a childhood dream and I actually have a fear of heights! Why are we here? Where in hell is the safety net? There it is, being used in a vicious game of tug-o-war by…our politicians!

That’s right. We seem to be precariously teetering on the tightrope of day-to-day American life…not the American dream…at least not any longer. Meanwhile, our elected, our safety net tenders, ignore us as they play a vicious game of tug-o-war with our safety net. We are no more than the fools, high up on the tightrope. Their objects of amusement…and of course, votes. Votes so they can squabble over which corporate entities will be allowed to dominate, and of course, pad their pockets towards the next round of elections.

Get me down. Let me go home. I don’t want to be part of the circus anymore. I fear heights, or more accurately the sudden stop after the fall. Moreover, I do not appreciate being used as a circus clown for the amusement of the corporations now controlling nearly every minute of our lives. Thank you politicians…you have soured my memories of circus funambulism forever.

As Rep. Dennis Kucinich stated, “Is this the United States Congress, or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?” I guess time will tell…after the circus ends.

Online Communication – The Saga Continues

posted by Steven on Thursday, January 6th at 2:22 pm under , , , , , , ,

“If you have embarrassed yourself and are going to laugh about it someday, you might as well start today.” Unknown

You ever have one of those oh sh_t moments? I did. Mine was accompanied with sudden and extremely intense doubled-over with too-late-for-embarrassment, laughter. What else could I do!

I’ll tell you my story…

Last year, I posted Online Communication – For Better or Worse, rambled about some pros and cons, and offered my personal conclusion that I’ll do my part to keep the electronic information highway busy. As of the time I wrote that blog posting, I had just entered the world of Skype, and wrote about needing to find others using it. Today I can state, you’ve come a long way baby! Yup…been using it with increasing frequency.

For those not familiar with Skype, let me explain it. It’s show-n-tell two-way communication. You can talk and see each other at the same time. Pretty slick. Skype is the poor person’s (me) Cisco ūmi telepresence ($600+/- plus you must use a suitable computer, sufficient broadband, and high definition television) substitute. For Skype, under $100 and you can play in the world of show-n-tell all around the world.

Lost yet?

Seen those commercials on television (you must still have one of those) where people are performing in front of their televisions while watching someone from far away doing likewise? They are watching and talking with each other, more or less, in realtime. Live without being live. I think you get the picture. They are using the big brother (mucho expensive in comparison to ūmi…business users around $300,000) on those fancy commercials. Now, back to my Skype…

When using any of these hear-me/see-me devices, one needs to constantly remember you are not talking on the telephone. You are being seen while being heard. For the youngest and/or more tech savvy of you, this would be nearly second nature. I’m not young and I’m only moderately tech savvy. The dangerous to myself caliber…as you’ll see.

The other night, and for me it was a late night, I was using Skype to communicate with a member of what I refer to as my Montreal team. They are doing the things I don’t understand, in order to make my upcoming website a reality. Therefore, the conversation was, for me, very complex, as I tried to comprehend what team member X was saying about coding, Drupal, etc. Of course, I also had my moments as he didn’t really have a clue what I was talking about when I started on the nuances of the appraisal and abatement processes. We were well beyond an hour; I had prepared myself and had been consuming bottled water (from my Klean Kanteen, for those likeminded conservation folks) as well as coffee to keep the vocal pipes working, and my eyelids open. The price you must pay when your primary means of communicating is via a keyboard, you’re 55-years old, and used to starting your day within the first three hours of the morning.

My mind (what was left of it) was fadingly on what I was hoping (praying) was nearly the end of our conversation, as I started squirming in my chair. Quantity of fluid intake plus time equaled an increasing need for output. You get the picture. Well, the conversation kept rolling, and my chair squirming took on a clear amount of mounting desperation. In those last few minutes, I must have been moving as if an army of fire ants had used my bare legs as upward escalators. The call ended, I bolted, and then returned to properly shutdown my equipment. I needed to make certain my faceVision, wide angle, auto focusing, video camera was…smile…I had been on candid camera.

A Quest – Ethics for Appraisers

posted by Steven on Monday, January 3rd at 8:58 pm under , , , ,

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The most critical precept to professionalism is ethics. Many of you would presume this to be a given. Sorry to say, many of you will be shocked.

Somewhere along the long and arduous path towards attaining recognition as an expert, it became starkly clear, not everyone within my profession shared my view on ethics. This was more than a little unsettling. Early on, I remember spending time searching for legitimate reasons why some of my colleagues so openly cast aside key ethical provisions. The answer was not an easy one for me to come to grips with. They just didn’t care. I spent the remainder of my professional career knowing many of my “peers” were, in my opinion, frauds; they were unworthy of being classified as experts and/or professionals.

I could easily digress from what needs to be the focus of this topic…why it should matter to you, and turn this into a rant. However, on to the meat…

What is the role of an appraiser of real property? Quoting the Appraisal Institute, “The role of the appraiser is to provide objective, impartial, and unbiased opinions about the value of real property—providing assistance to those who own, manage, sell, invest in, and/or lend money on the security of real estate. Appraisers assemble a series of facts, statistics, and other information regarding specific properties, analyze this data, and develop opinions of value. Each appraisal assignment challenges the appraiser’s ability to put analytical skills into practice, exercise sound judgment, and communicate effectively.”

My summation of the above is they are intended to be the gatekeepers…the ONLY objective person involved in transactions involving the valuation of rights in real property. Why should you care? Because you are now paying for their errors, and their inability to adhere to the ethical standards they were supposed to uphold.

No, it wasn’t just the appraisers. In fact, many of them were hoodwinked along with bankers, mortgage originators, regulators, congressional members, auditors, and…you get the broad picture. Thank you special interest lobbyists. You were misled. You were deceived. You deserved a heck of lot better. Why didn’t you get better?

In part, human nature. As I found, not everyone is willing to forgo their profession, and with it, their livelihood, to stand by the professional code of ethics. Eyes were closed; some looked the other way, while others just did not know what they were doing. Once again, you and I are going to pay the price.

Has it ended? Is it being changed? No, and not really. There are some conciliatory steps being taken, yet in the larger scheme, they will allow this to recur, just as it did after the now infamous “Savings & Loan” crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Why? Many reasons. Some complex, others…in my opinion, downright sinister. Oh, I can’t forget to include another all too common reason, appraisers not competent to do what they are suppose to do.

During the unwinding process of the S&L crisis, I was interviewed by members of the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC). This was prior to being accepted to perform a ton of subcontracted, appraisal work for them. The interview was conducted by what was supposed to be one of their crackerjack teams. One of the first questions posed by this team’s designated appraiser left me not knowing if I should laugh or cry. I realized the Peter Principle held actual truth. “The Peter Principle is the principle that ‘in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence’”.

So, the upshot of this rant (I just knew it would become one) is, you have once again been scammed, you are being scammed as I type, you are being scammed as you read this, and it won’t end anytime soon. Why won’t it? This systemic, devious scheme has been in existence for more years than some of you are old. It is costing you tens of thousands of dollars over relatively short time frames, and will probably continue going the same old way.

I’ll revisit this topic, and I’ll continue working on my plan to provide some actual help. In the meantime, we need to embark on a quest for fairness through demanding proper ethical behavior from those charged with doing what their profession dictates…and demand they stand up to those continually undermining your rights. The special interests need to have the door slammed in their faces.

Mahatma Gandhi stated, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I went that route and was shown the door…now I’m on my way back in!

White Noise Is … Noise

posted by Steven on Monday, December 20th at 3:40 am under , , , , ,

True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. ~William Penn

When I was a child, nighttime was one of hearing crickets chirping, frogs croaking, the wind blowing, and sleet or rain, depending on the season, tapping on my bedroom windows, asking to be let in. I drifted into sleep with these comforting sounds of nature as the backdrop. At times, it was nothing more than near silence.

Decades ago, it was common for us to take vacations seeking refuge in moments of calm and quiet. Camping, hiking, lazily lounging on a beach. Sounds of nature during times of no conversation or while falling asleep. We also sought places of quiet to achieve better concentration. The world wasn’t as busy then. Now, all too often, some seem to think we need white noise to drown out the noises of everyday life. Think about that…more noise to drown out noise…more noise to enter a state of rest. This is what is known as white noise. The world of 1001 voices or the world of 20,000 tones being played at the same time…

Besides being ambiguous, what is white noise? According to Robert Grover Brown, it is “a stationary random process having a constant spectral density function.” Ahh, they have defined what it is. Some noise becomes a distraction, so add more types of sounds until your brain arrives at overload, and now you can relax. To me, that seems like a contradiction in logic. It also implies an overloading of noise can provide both focus and block distraction. Whoa…I’m not certain we really need to give up on the sound of silence without a good fight.

What about the chirping crickets, croaking frogs, or the sleet or rain tapping on the window? What about silence?

There are those that have become accustomed to noise as the backdrop to falling asleep and to them silence can be frightening. As a rural country person, I have to ask, frightened of what? Seems to me that the last time I tried to assail slumber land while staying in a city, I had to tire myself to the point of exhaustion before I was able to sleep, due to the constant noise. To me, there was nothing white, calming, or blocking about that crowded din. It was chaos, plain and simple.

Noise is actually an unwanted sound. Subjective, true, yet, to most an annoyance. That is why those subjected to noise often seek sources of white noise. Sources of noise overload to the point they perceive it as blocking the lesser, unbearable noise. A busy, hectic world, filled with unwanted noise, remedied by building upon it until the ears no longer hear it as an annoyance. Well, it certainly isn’t music. It is far from silence. For those of us that still believe silence is golden, than white noise is the opposite. To us, we can add the visualization to the audible. I prefer to call this white sound. Not actually silence, yet pleasing. Relaxing. Music to my ears.

December 2010…listen carefully…white noise…the light sound of snow meeting other fallen snowflakes already on the ground. For me, this is my real white noise…or is it white sound?

There ain’t, there is, not, is…

posted by Steven on Tuesday, November 23rd at 10:07 am under , , ,

There ain’t no answer. There ain’t going to be an answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer. ~ Gertrude Stein

This morning, I must have been in the mood for a mind-blender, and I either found or created one.

I pondered the above quatrain for a moment or three before I decided I possibly understood the meaning…that was until I reversed the lines of what seems to have been intended as a quatrain in irony. Then I second-guessed myself. Not a good way to start the day. Too late. I committed the act…

Is a poet similar to a scientist? If so, the mind of the writer was checked at the door…expressions of choice, emotions, will, and logic are the brain incognito. I’m now thinking a toss of a coin might be in order to settle my question of understanding the meaning, if there is one, of “That’s the answer.” To heck with it, I’m going out on a limb with this one.

To most, whatever meaning is found comes from us, as we read meaning into things, not from things. Is that clear as mud? Probably.

Let’s look at it with another twist. Do you possess a meaning meter? I don’t. Therefore, the proper way would be allow each person reading Stein’s quatrain above to conclude their own meaning and purpose, and accept it for what it is to them.

I understand the meaning…that’s my final answer.

How about you? “Game’s on…”

Optimistic?

posted by Steven on Monday, November 22nd at 6:57 pm under , , ,

The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Ever been accused of being too happy? Asked, why are you so happy all of the time? How did you respond? What did the question make you think? How did you feel about the person asking?

At first blush, the above seems like a rather lightweight line of questioning. On the surface, it could be construed as such. Yet if you really think about it, complexity can mount, as the depth of thinking about something often does.

Over the past decade or so, I have been increasingly challenged with those types of questions. It took a few years before I even realized it was happening, so until then, I had little reason to think about it. That has since drastically changed.

At first, I had written it off as ranging from polite conversation to well meaning comments. One to which I probably smiled, or even made some off-the-cuff something for a response. Then a point arrived that I knew something must be changing, and that something must be me. My disposition was the culprit. It had taken a substantial turn for…well, for the better. I had gone through several years of transitions connected with my profession, and once issues settled down from their roar, I became more at peace with my place in the world around me. Be it age, tiredness from years of fast-paced turmoil, one result was my expanding positive attitude. I finally recognized the fact we can’t do a darned thing about what happened two seconds ago, so why waste time dwelling on the past. More importantly, it was also the point in my life that I learned the difference between happiness and optimism. The latter came about when I realized I am a realistic-optimist. To me, that means I can set my goals extremely high, yet not become disappointed if I fall short of fully achieving lofty goals. That is the realistic part…for me it has worked extremely well.
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