Daily Archives: March 6, 2010

Ain’t my business, but it’s interesting

There's got to be a pony under here somewhere!

Orthodox Jewry, eruvim and snowstorms

What Mrs. Smolen experienced has been shared by a religious niche in the Northeast during this epically* snowy season. From Washington to New York State, a series of “snowmageddons” have wreaked a particular form of havoc for Orthodox Jews.

The storms have knocked down portions of the ritual boundary known as an eruv in Jewish communities in Silver Spring, Md., Center City Philadelphia, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Monsey in suburban New York, and Teaneck and Passaic in New Jersey.

Almost literally invisible even to observant Jews, the wire or string of an eruv, connected from pole to pole, allows the outdoors to be considered an extension of the home. Which means, under Judaic law, that one can carry things on the Sabbath, an act that is otherwise forbidden outside the house.

I do enjoy the intellectual challenge of accommodating ancient religious beliefs to the modern world. It’s a real poser, and I suspect I am unduly critical of the Muslim burka babes but then, unlike Orthodox Jews honoring their G-d, those chicks are probably carrying bombs to blow themselves up (good) and infidels like me (bad).

* What do you think about this use, Hiram? I looked it up, and it’s a long episodic poem – can that be used for an extended winter? I like it it, but I defer to my master  in words.


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Iceland to EU: FU!

A bank in Iceland went bust, the EU and England made good on their own citizens’ losses and then demanded that Iceland’s residents pay it all back, to the tune of $185 per capita, per month, for the next eight years. Iceland’s people have declined to do so. Can’t say I blame them.


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Here’s an interesting blog

Vulgar Morality. Today he’s opining on Immanuel Kant. Another interesting post in his archives on Bismarck. I do so love the Internet.

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Scientology imploding? Never

Not while Hollywood nut jobs still have money, and they do. But the New York Times reports that ordinary camp followers are having doubts. What, they suddenly don’t believe that we’re all descendants of a 10 million-year-old alien civilization shot down here from outer space? I hate when that happens!


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What makes a child abduction a major media hit?

Amber Dubois, Chelsea King

Sadly, wealth and clear evidence of foul play. It seems likely that the pervert who raped and killed Chelsea King, 17, also killed Amber Dubois, 14, a year before. But where Chelsea’s abduction generated massive, nation-wide press coverage, poor Amber was pretty much dismissed as a runaway and ignored.

That’s just reality, I fear. Sophisticated parents will figure out how to reach out to the press and spark their interest while a kid who disappears carrying  a $200 check to buy a new lamb is considered, I suppose, a dumb farm girl who most likely ran away with her hick boyfriend. A miscalculation by the police and press that produced tragic results for both families.

Interesting statistic in the linked-to article: there are only 115 of these cases a year, on average. That’s 115 devastated families, but not the number you might expect from news coverage these days.

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I want some of this!

Enron advisor Paul Krugman has this to say about English health care:

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.

Reality says this:

British man dies of dehydration in hospital.

A man of 22 died in agony of dehydration after three days in a leading teaching hospital.

Kane Gorny was so desperate for a drink that he rang police to beg for their help.

They arrived on the ward only to be told by doctors that everything was under control.

The next day his mother Rita Cronin found him delirious and he died within hours.

She said nurses had failed to give him vital drugs which controlled fluid levels in his body. ‘He was totally dependent on the nurses to help him and they totally betrayed him.’

Of course, Krugman himself has admitted that he lives in two alternative universes, so this may not be contradictory in his eyes. Apparently, nothing is.


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This seems even dumber

BusinessInsider reports on a scam operation currently advertising on CNBC. Unlike me, BI must not be judgment-proof because they pull their punches and use waffle words like “seemingly” and “allegedly”. Let me put it more plainly: Anyone promising you “$20,000 – $200,000 a month with no money down” is trying to steal from you. If you don’t know that, you probably deserve to be ripped off, but shame on CNBC for running these ads. Surely they owe some modest duty to protect the stupidist of their viewers.


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This seems dumb

The BBC commissioned an explosives expert to duplicate the underpants bomber’s effort and test it on an airplane. His conclusion: “Oh no, lads, you’ll need quite a bit more than this to bring down a modern jet.” I’m sure Al Qaeda will be grateful for the information. They might have had to blow up several of their members before getting it right but BBC has now done the research for them.

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Good land will sell

432 Round Hill Road


I wrote about this Round Hill property earlier this week- 5 plus acres, great land, priced at $4.450 million and under contract in 7 days. It closed yesterday for $4.344 and I hear that there were multiple bids for it – the sellers, to their credit, stayed with the buyer whose offer they had accepted but other bids came in at as much as $500,000 more. 

This confirms my own experience in the past year or so working with land buyers – there really just isn’t much good stuff out there, so I’m not surprised that this parcel drew so much attention. It also gives a clue to the presence of some real money out there, just waiting for the proper house or land to show up. 

Assessment, by the way, was just $2.719 so, as I keep saying, assessments are a good starting point and a good tool, but they can also be way off, so don’t use them as the ending point. Local knowledge helps here.


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Pricing a house by age: $3,800 per year

The NYT reports on an Englishman who has turned to an American brokerage firm to sell his 1,000-year-old house because, the owner explains, the English are “quite casual about things that are old.”

Mr. Wynn and his wife bought the “uninhabitable shell” in 1996 for 300,000 pounds. He called the renovation “jolly hard work” that involved tearing up floors and living in a temporary cottage with small children for more than a year.

In 2003, Country Life magazine named the five-bedroom, three-bath property England’s oldest private home (royal palaces and castles were excluded from the survey) after it was able to date some original features to the first half of the 12th century. It boasts terra cotta frescoes in the bedrooms and former residents like Bishop Geoffrey of Constances, a guest at William the Conquerer’s coronation. The home also belonged to the Earl of Gloucester, who came from the “same family” as Gloucester in “King Lear.”

These details made Mr. Wynn fall in love with the property, and he published a book about its history, though he said that when he bought it he did not know he had purchased England’s oldest private home. He thought it was only “800 years old.”

Mr. Wynn wants to sell his home because his work has been taking him more to London and his children are now teenagers. In 2008, Mr. Wynn tried to sell the property through the brokerage firm Christie’s and received interest from prospective buyers in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. But he had some concerns with the “understated” approach of the British to marketing his property.

A brief survey of British property listings confirms Mr. Wynn’s fears: while New York apartment listings for the gloomiest apartments are liberally filled with phrases like “breathtaking” and “magnificent” and feature glamour-shot photos, British estates are at most described as “charming” and feature mug-shot style photographs some Manhattan brokers would consider real estate blasphemy.

Through the years, Mr. Wynn found that Americans who visited his home were more enthusiastic about its history than Brits, who are “quite casual about things that are old.” So he contacted more than a half-dozen real estate brokers in New York and California before choosing Ms. Herman.

“I felt his passion,” she said. “I’ve learned to love that house without even seeing it.”

She said she would not clutter the listing with phrases like “Norman invasion gem.” Her brokerage firm’s Web listing says: “On the ground floor, exquisite details abound; massive honeyed-oak beams, a Norman arch and Cotswold flagstone. Winding elm stairs lead to the first floor bedrooms, past a 16th-Century window salvaged from an Elizabethan chapel, and up to the top floor and two additional bedrooms – the largest of which blends New York loft with English Tudor.”

Maybe. Seems pricey to me, despite its honeyed-oak beams. But there may well be an American with more money than brains who wants to feel like an old peasant. I’d bet one of those A-Rabs will prove to be the sucker.

(Hat tip, LGF)


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Greenwich’s Eddie Lampert has views on job creation

From the WSJ:

In a letter to his shareholders, Edward S. “Eddie” Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings, summed up how Washington’s political obstacles may impede a robust recovery:

“Sears Holdings shares the stated goal of many public officials of creating jobs. But, we don’t believe that we need large government programs to generate these jobs. Public officials often fail to recognize the obstacles they place in the way of job creation. For example, over the past year proposal after proposal has been put forward to reform health care, reform the financial system, increase taxes, and add regulations, all with the intention of making the United States a better and stronger country.

“Yet, as a business, trying to understand which of these proposals might become law, what their impact might be on business prospects and competition, and what additional costs they might impose creates a great deal of uncertainty. It has led our management team and board (and I am sure those managements and boards of other companies) to spend inordinate time trying to determine which investments we should make, defer, or cancel and which jobs to create, maintain, or eliminate. The removal of this uncertainty and the constant drumbeat of new threats against various businesses would go a long way to allowing American entrepreneurial energy to be unleashed.”


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