Johnny Lee

Wow. I wish I was this smart!

I wonder how he figured that out? He built sophisticated educational tools out of a cheap part, taking a $40 video game controller and turning it iinto a digital whiteboard, a touchscreen and a head-mounted 3-D viewer.

Can’t wait to take a closer look at Johnny Lee’s web site!

Discover Local Artist: Leslie Grossman

Leslie D. Grossman’s stone sculptures will be seen at The Neighborhood Gallery in Boynton Beach  October 5 through November 5.

Leslie Grossman

Grossman began sculpting seven years ago, following a kind of natural progression, he explained. His mother was a  photo colorist and he started drawing at age 5.  After graduating art school, he  created ads for motion-picture-production companies.

As in life, so in art. “The stones guide me and because I follow their flow, each piece I finish  becomes a living, breathing entity.

“Somehow, each piece knows the person it’s intended for, and when people get their particular piece, it gives them just what they need….hope, joy, love, peace, etc.

“My pieces speak for me, expressing my deepest inner thoughts and feelings. They tell my life story of where I was, who I am, and who I hope to be. They reveal the real me.”

PB Post
“Womb,” Aztec Red Alabaster, 12 by 12 inches, priced at. $1,850.

The “Womb,” above, symbolizes the artist giving birth to new ideas. “The round white ball represents potential birth inside the womb,” he said.

PB Post
“Fleur Africaine,” Tan Alabaster, 8 by 12.5 inches, priced at $1,975.

Grossman let the stone’s flow guide him when he sculpted “Fleur Africaine.” Notice the placement of the knee, for example, he points out. Although not anatomically precise, he considers the lines of this piece representing the female form to be beautiful.

PB Post
“Watchman,” Black Soapstone,8 by 12.5 inches, priced at. $2,050.

Grossman calls the sculpture above the  “Watchman,” because the posture describes someone who is watchfully waiting for something and is impatient for it to happen. “His hair has gotten gray from waiting, and his crossed arms show his frustration,” he said.

The Neighborhood Gallery is located at 422 West Industrial Avenue, Boynton Beach. Gallery hours are  11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call  Rick Beau-Lieu  at  (561) 736-8181.

Ideas

Just when I thought my brain could not stand another thought, along came this.

Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From.

So, if anyone can complete this idea, feel free.

Last night, to try to run away from all the stuff, I went over to Isabel’s house. I’m watching over it, and have permission to hide out there from time to time. I dreamed that people dressed up in Sunday finery were walking through her back yard in the direction of the road, which is behind a cement wall and lots of trees. Then a bride walked hurriedly through, and a little later a Rabbi (who, strangely enough, I recognized). Ok, your turn. Double Rainbow! What could this mean?

Get me out of here!

I stole a list from the Smithsonian. Don’t tell anybody. I came across a blog with photos of the places the writer wanted to see before she/he died. I felt that was a wonderful idea! and I started searching for places for me… and I found this list put together for me! I’ve been to the Parthenon and to Venice, the Louvre and the Ufizzi Gallery (of course I want to go again!)

Oh my, so much to do, so little time (and no frequent flier miles).

(Before I give the Smithsonian list, here are some ancient Tahiti photos. My children, Brynne and Ted, are now older than I when we made that trip!)

I’m very lucky and have done a little traveling. Tahiti was my first trip. It took forever to get there, and I think we only went for one week. Once there, I realized how many places I’d have liked to visit in that part of the world… Ah well, so many places, so little time…

Portals into the Past
Walk the timeless streets and byways of ancient cities on three continents

Mesa Verde
Pompeii
Tikal
Petra

Feats of Engineering
The world’s surviving architectural wonders hewed from stone and mortar beckon as ever

Pyramids of Giza
Taj Mahal
Easter Island
The Great Wall

A Matter of Timing
Choosing the right year, month or even moment can make all the difference

Aurora Borealis
Serengeti
Iguazu Falls
Machu Picchu

Triumphs of Vision
Come face to face with history’s finest works of art and design

The Louvre
Zen Garden of Kyoto
Uffizi Gallery
Fallingwater

Scale New Heights
Don’t just see nature’s most spectacular sites—experience them

Yangtze River
Antarctica
Mount Kilimanjaro
Grand Canyon

In the Presence of Gods
Encounter temples so magnificent then could only have been built by divine inspiration

Pagan
Parthenon
Angkor Wat
Ephesus

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
Visit these deteriorating or threatened destinations before they disappear

Venice
Amazon Rain Forest
Great Barrier Reef
Galápagos Islands

Portals into the Past
Walk the timeless streets and byways of ancient cities on three continents

Mesa Verde
Pompeii
Tikal
Petra

Feats of Engineering
The world’s surviving architectural wonders hewed from stone and mortar beckon as ever

Pyramids of Giza
Taj Mahal
Easter Island
The Great Wall

A Matter of Timing
Choosing the right year, month or even moment can make all the difference

Aurora Borealis
Serengeti
Iguazu Falls
Machu Picchu

Triumphs of Vision
Come face to face with history’s finest works of art and design

The Louvre
Zen Garden of Kyoto
Uffizi Gallery
Fallingwater

Scale New Heights
Don’t just see nature’s most spectacular sites—experience them

Yangtze River
Antarctica
Mount Kilimanjaro
Grand Canyon

In the Presence of Gods
Encounter temples so magnificent then could only have been built by divine inspiration

Pagan
Parthenon
Angkor Wat
Ephesus

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
Visit these deteriorating or threatened destinations before they disappear

Venice
Amazon Rain Forest
Great Barrier Reef
Galápagos Islands

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/lifelists/lifelist.html#ixzz10aUY0k7O

Cicadas

Another favorite sound. No matter where I go, I hear them!

From Wikipedia
In France, the cicada is used to represent the folklore of Provence and Mediterranean cities (although some species live in Alsace or the Paris Basin) (I heard them en masse on the French Riviera. I remember it like it was yesterday!)

In the Ancient Greek myth, Tithonus eventually turns into a cicada after being granted immortality but not eternal youth by Zeus (bummer!)

The cicada has represented insouciance (i.e. nonchalance or indifference) since classical antiquity. Jean de La Fontaine began his collection of fables Les fables de La Fontaine with the story La Cigale et la Fourmi (The Cicada and the Ant) based on one of Aesop’s fables: in it the cicada spends the summer singing while the ant stores away food, and finds herself without food when the weather turns bitter.(I thought it was a grasshopper. Are they the same? I don’t think so.)

In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. The songs of the cicada are often used in Japanese film and television to indicate that the scene is taking place in the summer. The song of a particular cicada, called “tsuku-tsuku boshi”, is said to indicate the end of summer, and it is called so because of its particular call. During the summer, it is a pastime for children to collect both cicadas and the shells left behind when molting.

In Japan, the cicada carries further philosophical connotations of re-birth. Since the cicada emerges from the ground to sing every summer, it is a symbol of reincarnation. Of special importance is the fact that the cicada molts, leaving behind an empty shell. But furthermore, since the cicada only lives for the short period of time long enough to attract a mate with its song and complete the process of fertilization, they are seen as a symbol of evanescence.

In the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, the title character poetically likens one of his many love interests to a cicada for the way she delicately sheds her scarf the way a cicada sheds its shell when molting. A cicada shell also plays a role in the manga Winter Cicada. They are also a frequent subject of haiku, where, depending on type, they can indicate spring, summer, or fall. Also in the series Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, cicadas (or higurashi) are a major subject in the series.

In China the phrase ‘to shed off the golden cicada skin'(金蝉脱壳) is the poetic name of the tactic of using deception to escape danger, specifically of using decoys (leaving the old shell) to fool enemies. It became one of the 36 classic Chinese strategems. In the Chinese classic Journey to the West, the protagonist Priest of Tang was named the Golden Cicada; in this context the multiple shedding of shell of the cicada symbolizes the many stages of transformation required of a person before all illusions have been broken and one reaches enlightenment. This is also referred to in Japanese mythical ninja lore, as the technique of “utsusemi” (ie, literally cicada), where ninjas would trick opponents into attacking a decoy.

In Mexico, the mariachi song “La Cigarra” (lit. “The Cicada”) romanticizes the insect as a creature that sings until it dies.

In Tuscany, the Italian word for the cicada (“cicala”) is the euphemism for “vagina” used by children (the usage is equivalent to “fanny” in British/Australian English).(Never heard that one).

In 2004, “cicada” ranked 6th in Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year.

Interview: Shari Olefson

INTERVIEW with Shari Olefson, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida real estate and foreclosure attorney, Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Court Mediator, Author of Foreclosure Nation

1. For mediations, must banks come to the table?

A. Mediation is mandatory in Florida – banks must come to the table for homesteaded residential foreclosures.

2. Following are numbers listed in the HUD report card. Is it referring to permanent or temporary modifications?

Since April 2009, low rates have helped 7.1 million homeowners to refinance

3.15 million modification arrangements through June 2010 (1.3 mil HAMP; 472 FHA loss mitigation and early interventions; 1.4 million through HOPE Now)

A. These are the numbers for temporary modifications. There are only about 500,000 permanent modifications. The good news about HAMP is that it did succeed in laying down a foundation for banks to do their own modifications. To see how successful the main banks are in doing these modifications, check out the bank’s websites.

Here are a couple samples:

Sept. 21: Bank of America has provided mortgage modification assistance to more than 680,000 homeowners, including an industry-leading 79,859 completed modifications through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) through August and more than 600,000 through the bank’s proprietary programs since January 2008.

August 20: Wells Fargo & Co. said today from January 2009 through July 31, 2010 the company had a total of 520,399 active trial and completed modifications. Of that total, 87 percent were completed through its own programs.

“This trend reflects our continued progress in working with customers on home payment relief, including those customers who ultimately will not qualify for a Home Affordable Modification,” said Mike Heid, co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “About 58 percent of our customers not eligible for HAMP have been redirected into alternate modifications. That’s one of the highest conversion rates among the eight servicers for whom that HAMP data is reported, and well above the 45 percent average.”

Wells Fargo continues to use a combination of rate reductions, term extensions and principal adjustments to address the unique financial needs of each of its customers. Beginning in January 2009—several months before the creation of HAMP—Wells Fargo became one of the first servicers to use principal forgiveness as an element of its loan modification program for certain portfolio assets. Through June 30, 2010, the company has completed nearly 60,000 such modifications with a total reduction in principal of more than $3.1 billion.

3. I’ve heard that the government pays participating banks the difference between the short sale and the loan. Is that true?

A. That is not true. The government does pay a part of it, but not all and not a lot. There’s a sliding scale.

4. Who manages mediations in Palm Beach and Martin County?

A. Palm Beach County Bar Association manages mediation. Meredith Trim is the director. The Collins Center oversees mediation in the 19th Circuit Court, which includes Martin and St. Lucie Counties.

5. Who has the mediation statistics in Florida? National Center for State Courts?

A. Call the Collins Center

6. I did last spring. It did not give those statistics.

A. I don’t know who would. No one wants to say the program is not successful. A friend told me she’s had success. Last year, it was all about going for modifications. But now, more short sales and deed in lieu can be done.  There are still kinks in Palm Beach County – homeowners are required to be notified to go for their mediations, but they weren’t.

7. Early this year, 8 million homeowners were supposed to get help from Making Homes Affordable. 3 to 5 million where to be served through modifications and another 4 million through refinance. Have these statistics changed and how are we faring compared to them?

A. They keep lowering the numbers and adjusting the goals. 500,000 have received permanent modifications. The thing is, now they are seeing re-defaults.

There’s a HAMP report card. It’s a little misleading, and it doesn’t show re-default.

Concerning the Refi alternative, negative equity makes these deals impossible to do. It’s not about unaffordibility anymore. The problem is unemployment, and these programs are not going to help you if you are unemployed.  We shouldn’t be bailing people out beyond a certain level. It’s not realistic and what the lenders get paid isn’t enough.

What the government needs to do is give incentives for people to stay in their homes – not to not walk away.

Then there’s the Buy and Bail. An owner applies for a loan for a home priced at $450,000 next door to his home. Then, he walks away from his home that he bought for $600,000. You think the loan officer didn’t know that he was going to default? The guy’s house was just next door to the one he was buying! The banks aren’t working together to protect each other.

More reeducation is needed for homeowners, so that they understand that a home is a long-term investment. What is the cost to walk away? Let’s say that you are $24,000 underwater, but if you walk away and you rent a house for the next four years, how much will that cost? You have to compare those numbers.

If you really did the math for strategic default, the math doesn’t work out. Talk to a credit councilor. How your credit will be affected has to do with your particular case. How many payments you are late on, and so forth. The more you are screwed up, the more your credit will be affected.

Fanny Mae just issued a statement: if you do a short sale, you can buy a home in two years. Deed in lieu, 4 years. Strategic default, 8 years.

The government needs to get people to stay put and do what it can to keep home values to stop dropping.

There are 7 million homes in shadow inventory — no one knows exactly how many — and five banks control that REO. I think this would be good opportunity to thwart that inventory from being dumped. That’s a bigger threat than strategic default.

Government needs to coordinate those five banks that have the most in shadow inventory.

I represented a bank taking back a condo. Down the street, another bank was selling one like ours at a deep deep discount. We knew that we would immediately lose $3 million. So we were going to buy the other condo just to keep the value up.  Banks don’t work together.

The banks have to figure out how to subsidize the carrying costs because there are 2 to 3 years of housing inventory.

8. What is the number of households that under water?

A. 24 percent nationwide and 46 percent in Florida.

9. Since all this started, how many foreclosures have there been? How many in Florida? On Realty Track – I see 2 million nationwide and 250,000 in Florida.

A. This is the number of foreclosures right now. Check, though, to see what exactly Realty Track is referring to.

10. How many mortgages do Fannie and Freddie hold?

A. Fannie and Freddie are originating all the new mortgages. 90 percent of every new mortgage is somehow touched by Fannie, Freddie or FHA.

11. What are the requirements for HARP?

The New Program HARP: People must have the mortgage with Freddie or Fannie and the banks must agree to write off 10%. FHA claims that this program will help 500,000 to 1.5 million homeowners.

I think that, like HAMP, it’s not about the actual number of people it will help. Like HAMP, I think HARP will provide a model for banks to set up their own refinance programs.

12. Is there anything else coming down the pipeline?

Nothing new. Maybe assumable mortgages would help if  it can be figured out how to do it as a discount.  Remember way back when you could assume a mortgage? People paid more because they knew they would save money — no closing cost –that would be attractive.

tax cuts

I love images that take lots of information and boil it all down to something that can be understood quickly. I’m putting this here, so I won’t forget it.

Here’s the link to the original graph, Coming Tax Cut (or Not).

Leather

I go for the shabby chic look, I’m embarrassed to say. I can’t help it — maybe that’s why I stick to white, otherwise EVERYTHING would be chintz.

But I was in a house the other day (I look at tons of multimillion-dollar houses because of my work), and, as I wandered from room to room in the semi dark (I told the realtor that he did not have to turn on the lights because I knew that’s a pain), I’d sit and make notes. When I finally got to the library, which was sparsely furnished, I sank into the leather couch. So soft and supple and it smelled wonderful. Not sure how to describe the color, a greenish brown, I guess (it was dark), but it made me smile.

I’m not a huge fan of leather furniture (although who can resist Ralph Lauren?), but when leather is soft like that and cared for, it reminds me of the days when Dad was determined to make horsewomen out of my sister and me.

easy riders
I’m front and center with Snapshot. To my left are Uncle John and Uncle Jere with a camera, and Cindy follows on Sir Charles.

You know those Irish. They have a thing about horses. Dad was a horse vet. Uncle John was a horse-vet-turned-trainer, and PopPop was the equine veterinary surgeon at University of Pennsylvania — something there is actually named after him.

Anyway. I was probably 7 or 8, Cindy,a year younger, and we had been going to riding lessons all summer. Great fun, because, after riding, we were able to spend time with other kids at the instructor’s barn — and summers on our farm were quiet and uneventful.

Well, at summer’s end, Cindy and I were to compete in our first show, the walk-trot class. I was on Snapshot, a little Welsh pony. and Cindy was on a Shetland, Sir Charles.

We were all decked out, new jodhpurs, rat-catcher shirts, jackets, borrowed boots, and off we went around the ring. Me, a bit stiff — too dam intense. Cindy, a natural, and easy-going as always.

Uncle John and Uncle Jere showed up for the occasion — can’t figure out how that happened, because those two were late for just about everything.

I can still remember posting and getting on the right diagonal…Cindy won the blue; I won the red ribbon. What a day! Cindy, the horse whisperer, continued riding. Dad and Mom bought her a little black Shetland pony, Mr. Onederfil (Cindy’s spelling). I went back to reading my Nancy Drew’s, more my speed.

Somehow, I have a photo of that day. And I also still have my velvet helmet, and Gerie Langdon, god bless her, gave me a riding crop she had around. Those few items, along with a third of my Dad’s antique horse paintings, and I guess that makes me some kind of horsewoman, too — maybe the leather armchair type? Hmmm, and I’m still posting!

Butterflies

I don’t know what kind they are, but I’ll figure it out and fill in later…

This one was so still, I thought it might be dead.

This one enjoyed leisurely flights, and rested from time to time (long enough to get a photo anyway).

These would not hold still for a minute, which is why he’s blurry. Could he be a Zebra butterfly? Yes, I found out, he is.

So, in addition to star gazing and bird watching, I should figure out the names of these guys, as well as the plants in the garden that attract them.

My friend, Mike, pretty well figured out big portions of my garden, but he did get sick of hearing me say I was useless in the plant department. He said, “You have got to be kidding me. It’s easy.”

Well, I wasn’t kidding and gardening  isn’t easy. But he shamed me into doing something (As I try to tell my son, you have to start somewhere, so just start!) So, one empty portion of the garden, I decided to fill in myself. I visited a local nursery, Meadow Beauty Nursery, that only sells native plants (I figured they might have the best chance of surviving) and bought things that butterflies like… Carl Terwilliger helped me pick them out.

So, I do get visited by butterflies often. Here’s two more.

Looks like the one on top in this photo is the elder of the two…

And here are a couple of the plants in the garden. I think they are beach daisies and fire bush…

Oh, and another thing. I have a gumbo limbo tree that grows in front of the garage door (makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?). I’ve tried to cut it down, but it grew back anyway. Mike took three branches, and just stuck them in the ground in this little garden area, and yes, they are growing! How about that for resiliency?

For Elisabeth

because I said I would.

Here’s a photo at dawn…

early morning palm beach county

The furniture belongs to Dennis, who lives upstairs. Somebody had left behind the cement seat (and the flower pots), so, I inherited them. Somebody painted the cement patio blue and its the most heavenly shade of blue! Other colors from previous paint jobs show through.

We tried to put grass in the little areas behind the tree. It died. So, now, we have a couple of different kinds of ground covers trying their best to fill in. One is going crazy. The ornamental peanut, though, is having the hardest time, but I refuse to give up on it.

I really do think the garden is enchanted, and I have no idea why…

wind mill

And above, is the picture of one of the garden areas taken at dusk…

This thing, it looks like a giant pinwheel. Mike found it. We had gone to buy some bamboo for the front, and he noticed it at a garage sale on his way to meet me. He said, you have to see this. It would be terrific in your garden.

I agreed. That surprised him. So, then we had to figure out a way to load it in the car. Bleeding hearts have grown all over it, and have rooted it to the spot. I love that it’s all crooked and rusted.

I dream about your garden, he told me.

Anyway, this old garden, Mike figured out how to coax it back.

The plan was there, it just needed to be filled in with the right things. I knew Mike could do it…