Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FHA To Toughen Down Payment Rules

Ouch! Here is an article about a couple of the new FHA rules trying to get finalized. I think the raise in the upfront mortgage insuranc premium is bit much. In other words, if you are buying FHA , on a $100,000 loan you will have $2,250 tacked onto the loan because you are using FHA. On the down payment part, a lot of lenders are not lending FHA to people that have a credit score below 580 anyway.

The Federal Housing Administration will raise the minimum down payment for its least credit-worthy borrowers, agency announced Tuesday.

Borrowers with credit-rating scores below 580 will be required to put down at least 10 percent. Those with a credit score above 580 will be able to continue to put down only 3.5 percent. The changes are intended to shore up the agency's finances.

The FHA also will increase its upfront mortgage insurance premium from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent. The agency is expected to seek congressional approval to raise annual mortgage insurance premiums, paid by borrowers over the life of the loan, above the current 0.55 percent maximum. The amount it will seek has yet been announced.

Source: Reuters News, Corbett B. Daly (01/19/2010)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mortgage Modification Plan Falls Short

Here is an article from the AP about loan modifications:

Only 65,000 people – about 7 percent of those who applied – have successfully navigated President Obama’s plan to help borrowers who are in trouble, the Treasury Department said last week.

About 49,000, or 5 percent, have dropped out of the program because they don’t qualify. Most of the remainder are still waiting.

Bank of America, the largest company in the program, has completed fewer than 2 percent of the modifications for 200,000 borrowers who signed up. The most successful lenders include Ocwen Financial Corp. and Carrington Mortgage Services, which have modified loans for 40 percent of their enrolled borrowers.

Source: Associated Press, Alan Zibel (01/15/2010)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

U2's Most Influential Album/CD

I think that if I were to take a poll about which body of work is U2's most influential, the result of that poll would probably say "The Joshua Tree." And, there is a strong argument for that. But let me tell you why I feel that Achtung Baby was a more important and influential album/CD.

After the Joshua Tree, came Rattle and Hum and the subsequent Lovetown Tour. At the end of that tour, there was a little noticed quote that Bono made near the end of the tour, he said that it was "The end of something for U2" and that they "Need to go away and.....and just dream it all up again." In hind sight, what had happened is that U2 was not prepared for the fame that they had created and the criticism that came along with it and they had grown tired of the sound they had created.

"We're at a point where production has gotten so slick that people don't trust it anymore.... We were starting to lose trust in the conventional sound of rock & roll—the conventional sound of the guitar, in particular—and, you know, those big reverb-laden drum sounds of the '80s or those big, beautiful, pristine vocal sounds with all this lush ambience and reverb. So we found ourselves searching for other sounds that had more life and more freshness."
—The Edge, explaining the band's motivation for seeking a new sound

U2 took a long break before starting on Achtung Baby and when they did get back together to start on a new album, the band nearly broke up. There was uncertainty in which direction the band should go musically and there was more friction between band members then at any other point in the bands history.

Then, something happened. It was a song called "One". If not for this song, there may have never been "Beautiful Day" "Elevation" "Original Of The Species" "Vertigo" or "Walk On" among the other great and wonderful songs that U2 has written since Achtung. "One" has been credited by the band members as the song that kept the band together and gave them hope that they could create a new sound. The Edge had this to say about One:

"At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went, 'oh great, this album has started.' It's the reason you're in a band - when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting. 'One' is an incredibly moving piece. It hits straight into the heart."

You might say, "OK, that would make for possibly their most influential song because it saved the band, but why is the whole album the most influential?"

Achtung Baby was a total reinvention of this incredible band. I remember when the first release, "The Fly" came out. I had not heard the song nor had I watched the video yet and I was just turning to MTV, this was back when MTV actually played music videos, because I had heard that the world premier of U2's new release was going to be on. At the time, I was a mild fan. Mostly because my girlfriend, now my wife, was a huge U2 fan. If not for her, I might not have been much of a fan at all.

When that video for "The Fly" came on, I remember saying to myself "Oh my God, this changes everything!" To that point, I had seen U2 more of a "cause" band that seemed "Holier then thou" so to speak. What I was witnessing was Rock and Roll at its best with an "in your face" attitude! It was awesome. The band had completely reinvented itself. From the great lyrics to the industrial sounding rhythmic guitar by The Edge to Adam's bass and the amazing drums of Larry. I couldn't wait to hear what the rest of this album sounded like!

The instant that I heard "One" I knew that it was going to be a huge hit. Little did I know the significance of this song to the band at the time. Same with "Mysterious Ways". The rest of the album was great too. From "Even Better Than The Real Thing" "Until The End Of The World" (written as a conversation between Jesus and his betrayer Judas) "Ultraviolet" "Acrobat" "Wild Horses" and the very under rated "Love Is Blindness".

Now, I know what you might be saying "Those are good songs, but I think there are better songs on other albums" and that could be true. But those songs are still only part of why I feel that Achtung Baby is their most influential work.

The other big reason, besides the story behind "One" and the remaining great songs, is because of the concert tour that followed.

In my opinion, this concert tour changed forever how concerts are done. Prior to this, going to concerts consisted of basically the band standing on stage-maybe dancing around a little, and if they were really creative then they had sparkling fireworks or something on stage.

The tour, "Zoo TV Tour", was an artistic expression like none other. HUGE TV's and Video Screens all over the place. A light show that was second to none, cars were hung from the ceiling and an amazing stage that featured Bono rising up from under the stage to start the show. During the concert, the band flashed different messages up during the songs like "Everything You Know Is Wrong" "LUST" "Watch More TV" it was truly a concert unlike any other that had been before it and influenced an era of concerts that were big on production to really give the fans their money's worth.

So, between the song that kept the band together, the influence the concert tour had, the complete change in style the band undertook and simply the great music that came from it. My choice for most influential album by U2 is Achtung Baby. Here is a video clip of "The Fly" being performed live in concert during the Zoo TV tour. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Kimberly and I were struggling to find something to watch to the other day on TV and came across a movie that had 2 of our favorite actors in it. The movie is called "Doubt" and it stars Kimberly's favorite actress Meryl Streep, and one of my favorite actors Phillip Seymor Hoffman, so we were bound to like the movie......and we did!

The movie is about a priest, Hoffman, who is accused of an improper relationship with an alter boy by a nun played by Streep. There is more to the story, like the mother of the alter boy and such but I really don't want to spoil anything else about the movie.

But the reason for this post, other then to tell you to watch this movie, is more about a scene that stuck with me then about the movie itself.

The scene is about a sermon called "Gossip" and it's effect once "Gossip" is out there. Now, there is not anything going on that I can think of that would keep me thinking about it, other then it has great imagery on what "Gossip" is.

Please take the time to watch this great 3 minute clip on "Gossip" I don't think you'll be disappointed and hopefully you will come away with a different perspective as I did.

Monday, January 11, 2010

America's Past Time

With the admittance of yet another steroid/human growth hormone user today in Major League Baseball, it got me to thinking about the History of America's Past Time and how it is looked at or maybe how it should be looked at.

Today Bud Selig released a statement saying that the "Steroid Era" of baseball is pretty much closed. I agree. The "Steroid Era" has been closed for about 7 or 8 years. Now we are in the "HGH Era" as steroids are an outdated way of getting a head of the game. And, as soon as there is a HGH test that is reliable, baseball players will move onto something else that is undetectable.

My point I guess, is that baseball always seems to have something like this going on. Look back at history. Maybe it is not always cheating, although that is the main constant through the years. It's interesting, that putting vaseline on a pitched ball or scuffing a ball or stealing signs all seem to be acceptable when put in the light of doing performance enhancing drugs. What's it matter. It's all cheating. But it seems that if it comes down to drugs or gambling, those are the 2 big taboo's for baseball that seem to be unforgivable. There are actually players in the Hall that have killed someone else.

How about telling a whole race of people that they cannot participate in the game. To me, that's worse. But during those years, when baseball refused to allow black players to play with the white players, are the records and statistics that baseball "purists" seem to worship the most. Seems to me, if you do not allow all of the best players to play the game, then those stats are no more valid then todays meaningless stats when everyone is built like superman.

And how did baseball make up for not allowing people of color play with the white players? They give them their own wing of the Hall Of Fame.......away from all of the rest of the players. Still seperated. Ironic, isn't it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Potential Fraud Scam in Southwestern Michigan

The following is a warning message that I received from my Michigan MLS Board of Realtors. I thought that I would pass this on to you as well, in case you run into this scam.

The Association was recently made aware of a failed fraud scam that happened in Southwestern Michigan over the past 45 days. The scam started with a purported Doctor from the United Kingdom contacting a local Brokerage about his desire to purchase a home in a private lake front community that he had seen on the internet. Because of the situation with a foreign buyer who was not going to be present for the closing the Brokerage assisted the Buyer with finding them legal representation. A Buy and Sell Agreement was negotiated and then finally signed after the Attorney had received an official check drawn on a U.S. bank from the Buyer through a private courier service for over $600,000. The check was deposited in the a trust account established specifically for the transaction by the attorney and the items needed to completed for a closing were scheduled to be accomplished. At this time everything seemed normal to the attorney and Broker, until a few days after depositing the check, the attorney and Broker both received calls from the Buyer demanding they wire half of the deposited money to a Chinese Bank account so the Buyer could take care of other financial obligations. When asked how he was going to pay the balance on the house he said he has now decided to be at the closing and will bring the additional funds to close the transaction at that time. This demand for the wire of half of the funds deposited for the transaction sent up warning flags and the attorney checked with the FBI and lender regarding the situation. The local bank’s fraud unit got involved and determined that the check presented and going through the banking system was fraudulent. Needless to say the sale of the home failed and the potential fraud was stopped.

Due to the different schemes and scams being used throughout the world today, all Members should use their best judgment and be prudent in evaluating the information being provided by the potential Buyer prior to negotiating the Buy and Sell Agreement.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hall Of Fame Rant

Every year, my best friend Dave and I talk about Major League Baseball's Hall Of Fame. Every year, we come up with players who should be in, but are not. So, this year I decided I would put my part of our rant into print for you all to enjoy.

In case you did not know, players can be inducted or voted into the Hall Of Fame after they have been out of baseball as a player for 5 years and then receive 75% of the vote. How does the vote work? You might ask. Well, a bunch of writers gather and cast their ballots. Mind you, most of these writers have never played a day of professional.....anything, not for a day in their lives. Sometimes they vote because they like the person, sometimes they do not vote because they dislike a person. It is really a poor process that, the best that I can determine, exists to make people that should not be a part of the game to be a part of the game. So lets throw my, just as meaningless, opinion in on that mess of a process as well.

Anyway, here is my short list of players who once again were short changed by these writers and why they should be in the HOF.

I will start with Jack Morris and by trying to prove his worthiness, it will prove Bert Blyleven's worthiness as well killing 2 birds with one stone..... so to speak.

Out of all of the players to have ever played, which is tens of thousands, Jack Morris is #43 in career wins at 254 over 18 seasons. Of the 42 players ahead of him, all but 13 are in the hall of fame. Of those 13, 6 of them are not eligible to be voted in yet because they have recently retired. Of the remaining 7, 4 of them pitched in the 1800's. The other 3 are Jim Kaat who is ranked #31 on the wins list at 283 and took 25 years to get there, Tommy John who took 26 years to get to #26 with 288 wins and is more famous for the surgery named after him and Bert Blyleven at #27 with 287 wins. The knock on both Morris and Blyleven, seem to be that they both gave up a lot of home runs, which is true. But so did Nolan Ryan and he is in the hall. Morris also would have a higher ERA then the others at 3.90, but so what! Morris was THE dominate pitcher of the 1980's and into the early 90's. He won a World Series with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays. Who can forget that 10 inning game he pitched for the Twins in 91? To this day, one of the best pitched games in World Series history. He also threw a no-hitter in 84 for the Tigers. Blyleven won World Series rings in 79 with the Pirates and again in 1987 for the Twins. The next 4 players below Morris in career wins are all in the Hall of Fame, one of which is Bob Gibson. Blyleven, had 15 1-0 wins, more then any pitcher in the last 50 years and had a career total of 60 shutouts which is more then the ENTIRE American League has had combined over the last 18 years! If you are not convinced that these 2 belong in, then I do not know what can convince you!

Next on the List is Roberto Alomar. Alomar missed out on getting elected today by only 5 votes! I can't help but to think that the reason he did not get those 5 extra votes was because of the "Spitting Incident." If the umpire that he spat on can not only forgive him, but become friends with him, then I think the writers need to look past it as well. Alomar was a 12 time All-Star, 10 time Gold Glove Award winner that had a career .300 batting average. Over his 17 year career, he compiled 2,724 Hits and was an incredible fielder. He also won back to back World Series rings with the Blue Jays in 92 & 93. This guy should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer!

The last 2 on my list I will also knock out together. Why? Because they are basically the same player. It has been said that Barry Larkin was the Derek Jeter before Derek Jeter. If that is true, and I feel that it is, then Alan Trammell was the Barry Larkin before Barry Larkin! There are 21 Shortstops currently in the Hall of Fame and nobody disputes that Ozzie Smith should be in the Hall. If you throw Trammell and Larkin into the mix, Smith would rank #9 in Hits (2,460), Trammell #10 (2,365) and Larkin #11 (2,340). In RBI, Trammell #10 (1,003), Larkin #11 (960) and Smith #17 (793). Runs scored Larkin #8 (1,329), Smith #11 (1,257) and Trammell #14 (1,231). Stolen Bases Smith #3 (580), Larkin #6 (379) and Trammell #11 (236). You might be saying, "Those are all offensive numbers, what about defense?". I am glad you asked! Ozzie Smith has a career fielding percentage of .978, Trammell's was .977 and Larkin's was .975. What about fielding range you might ask? Smith does have an edge, but when you look further, the gap narrows. Trammell played 7 of his seasons with less then 400 at bats due to various injuries. Larkin played 8 seasons with less then 400 at bats due to injury. Smith only had 3 and they were the last 3 seasons that he played. The final #'s were that Smith had 12,905 chances with 281 errors, Trammell 9,948 chances with 235 errors and Larkin had 9,251 chances with 235 errors. Smith definately has an edge, but injury shortened seasons lessened the numbers of Trammell and Larkin by probably about 500-700 chances each. Trammell only moved to 3rd Base at the end of his career in an attempt to keep him healthy, not because of the limited range that other Shortstops displayed late in their career (see Cal Ripken). Larkin won a MVP (95), Trammell should have (87). Larkin won 3 Gold Gloves, mostly because Ozzie Smith was winning them. Trammell won 4 Gold Gloves, mostly because Cal Ripken was winning them. Darrell Evans, former Tiger First Baseman, used to say "Every throw that Trammell made was perfect to catch!" And yesterday Peter Gammons wrote after voting for Trammell "There are times when you have to have seen a player, and Trammell was one of them."

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 09 Year In Review

At this time each year, it is popular for everyone to look back at the year we just finished and take a look at what happened. So, I will drink the kool-aid as well and do a "year in review" post as well. Here is what I can remember off of the top of my head:

In January, I remember us still feeling the effects of an economy in shambles and the "Hope" that a newly elected president brings us. I also remember the governor of Illinois getting taken out of office for trying to sell a senate seat. Then, my wife had sunny 101.5 pull a birthday prank phone call on me claiming to be someone named "Rod" who was looking for a house and was recently unemployed because he lost his job as governor of Illinois.

In February, President Obama passed a housing recovery act that banks have only started to use in the past 2-3 months. I also remember that it was very cold and that the Steelers beat the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. We refinanced our house.

In March, the $8,000 first time buyer tax credit was passed. I won a few awards from Prudential at our awards lunch one of which was "Listing Agent Of The Year" for the 2nd year in a row.

April had a lot going on! On the news that ND was having President Obama speak on campus for graduation that was coming in May, there were a lot people that started protesting around the campus. New Spring Church in South Carolina played "Highway To Hell" during their Easter service, which I thought was pretty cool. Cooler still was when snipers took out pirates that had hijacked a US ship. April was also when the first reports of "Swine Flu" broke out and had everyone in a panic.

In May, I was part of a large group of people that was able to help raise over $15,000 for local kids with cancer called "The Sunshine Kids". Obama spoke at the ND commencement, again lots of protesting going on. And, Fannie Mae needed more bailout money from our government.

June was a tough month for me as someone that I was trying to help committed suicide. Elkhart county still had unemployment around 18%.

In July, an article that included me, was on the front page of the South Bend Tribune which discussed the great deals that there were out there in real estate. The house that I had listed that was featured in the article just closed the last week of December for $177,400.

In August, I was once again part of an article that was on the front page of the South Bend Tribune. This time it was an article about a persons options when facing foreclosure. Taylor Bean and Whitaker was dropped as a FHA lender which was big news in the mortgage industry. Bank of America and Wells Fargo were both verbally abused by our government for not offering more loan modifications to troubled home owners.

September brought me to a U2 concert at Soldier Field in Chicago. My Detroit Lions beat the Redskins which was there first win in more then a season. It was announced that long time Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell was diagnosed with inopperable cancer.

October, Kimberly and I celbrated our 16th wedding anniversary. President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and we bombed the moon on the same day. I had my first meeting as part of the Indiana Leadership Academy for Realtors.

In November, Kimberly and I flew out to LA and hopped a cruise ship down to Mexico for a short vacation. The Lions actually won a 2nd game, this time against the Browns.

In December, I met Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

I probably left some stuff out, but that was what my year looked liked in short.
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