Monday, June 23, 2008 Scam

One of my hobbies (if you can call it that) is real estate investment. It's worked out a lot better for me than playing the stock market. And with millions of homes predictably going into foreclosure, my wife and I are looking into picking up some property on auction. It's my understanding that its possible to buy foreclosers at around 80% of the appraised value or even less if you get lucky -- but you have to have cash.

Anyway, on Friday I told my wife to find an auction for us to go to so that we could see the process work. I want to go to about three of these auctions so I can understand the bidding process, the psychology behind it, and get some realistic expectations about the return on investment. We ended up going to an auction held by at the Seattle Convention Center. Since the auction was on Sunday morning and we were busy all day Saterday building a fence we didn't have time to checkout properties before the auction. Also I didn't know that my wife had signed us up for a land auction. I wouldn't buy just land because I don't know enough about land to make a good investment decision.

About two minutes into the event I became suspicious that it was a scam. I once befriended a con artist that moved nextdoor to me and it took my trusting soul about 6 months to figure him out. Now I can sniff out con artists in minutes. I am not even sure exactly how it is I recognize them, but I just do. As the auction progressed it became more and more apparent that it was a scam and my wife and I watched people plunk down tens of thousands of dollars to buy land sight unseen, most of it out of state. I could hardly believe it. My wife wasn't totally convinced that it was a scam and she was busy writing down the prices that the properties were selling for. After the auction we drove to two of the properties that were nearby and this is what we found:

Property1: Sold for $53,000. It was located about 15 minutes north of Seattle. It had a creek running through the middle of the lot, and since you have to leave a buffer of 25 to 100 feet on either side of a creek the land wasn't buildable. I wonder how long it will take the buyers to figure this out.

Property 2: Sold for $22,000. The area was very rural and when I got there I couldn't quite tell where the property boundaries were. The neighbour was out mowing his lawn so I asked him about the supposed property. The lot was indeed there right next to his. It was a small lot, part of it was being used as an easement to the lot behind it and about 1/2 of what was left was wetland. What was left over was too small to build on.

Anyway, the con artists were legally selling property that was worthless. The sales commission was 10% of the purchase price and that is probably where they make part of their money. Once the people find out that they have bought a piece of crap and figure out that they can't sell it, they probably hookup with to sell the property and pay a sales commision again.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Did I hear God's Voice?

One night I was lying in bed awake with my eyes closed, perhaps on the verge of sleep, when I heard a loud voice say to me "The Spirit of the Lord is upon you". The voice was masculine and familiar to me but I couldn't put my finger on whose voice it was. The voice was also very loud, like someone speaking over a microphone. I was certain that it woke everyone in the house. I was frightened and I pounded on the wall to see if my mom had heard the noise. She didn't and neither did anyone one else.

When this happened I was sixteen and it was shortly after the experience I had with sleep paralysis which I describe in an earlier blog entry. I thought about this experience and believed that it was God's will that I become a great Bible teacher. I was even more motivated to learn God's word than before. I often boasted that I had heard God speak to me in an audible voice. You are probably thinking that I had illusions of grandeur and if you are, I agree with you. For reasons I won't explain, things didn't turn out as I hoped. I never did become a great Bible teacher. In fact, I backslid and abandoned Christian practice all together.

Sometime later I was reading web pages about sleep paralysis and came across information on hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations. A hypnagogic hallucination is one that occurs when falling asleep. A hypnopompic hallucination is one that occurs when waking up. I have had several hypnopompic hallucinations but only one hypnagogic one. The most experienced hypnopompic hallucination I have is hearing someone call my name. Then I wake up but no one is there.

I now attribute what I heard when I was sixteen to a hypnagogic hallucination but I am not 100% sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Those Horny Federal Agents

This morning FBI and IRS agents raided several Seattle area strip clubs where a three-year undercover investigation turned up rampant prostitution and evidence of money laundering. Apparently dancers at the club pay the club $130 a night for the opportunity to dance and earn tips. These tips are sometimes paid with tokens that are purchased at ATMs in the clubs. These tokens can then be traded in at a 10-percent exchange rate for cash. The problem is that the clubs have semiprivate and dimly lit VIP areas where dancers and client engage in open sex acts and the floors are littered with used condoms.

Since prostitution is rampant and the floors of these VIP areas are littered with condoms, why did this investigation take 3 years? Was it because they also needed to collect proof that these night clubs cheat the federal government out some $3000 a month of taxes? I don’t think so. The cash only Vietnamese restaurant where I sometimes eat lunch probably cheats the government out of more than that. I think those federal agents were just plain horny.
I don’t advocate prostitution and I think that it is immoral – but I don’t think that it should be illegal. Prostitution happens and no amount of law enforcement will ever make a dent in its practice. So why not minimize the damage? Walking the streets and jumping in cars to perform prostitution is dangerous and a public nuisance. And let’s not forget that the Green River Killer drove around the Seattle area for years and murdered more than 70 women. Even prostitution carried out in the privacy of homes could be dangerous. So why not let it happen in a protected environment?

The news makes it out like these girls are being exploited by the night clubs because the night clubs get a cut of the earnings. So what? None of them are being forced to work. Girls forced into prostitution by street pimps get beat up and don’t get any earnings. These night clubs are actually providing a pretty good service for these girls. They provide advertizing, money collection and protection. I happen to know a dancer that works at one of these clubs and she brings home about $300-$400 a night. I hope she isn’t engaging in prostitution but she is getting a fair share of the money for whatever she is doing.

Isn’t it about time that we legalize a safe way to work in the oldest profession?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

PZ Myers is funny

Last night I went to PZ Myers lecture at the Laser Dome at the Seattle Pacific Science Center. PZ Myers is an Associate Professor of Biology and writes a blog in which he mostly ridicules people of faith. In the lecture he referred to such people as liars and as dangerous. He is worried that a large percentage of people in the US believe in creationism and that even a significant percentage of educators also do. PZ is a soft spoken person but says things that are amazingly rude. You could say he is funny in a kind of Rush Limbaugh sort of way.

In the lecture it was very apparent that he is concerned with promoting science and spreading the truth as (he sees it). His perspective is that religion is dangerous and science is a tool for combating it. In the lecture he discussed tactics for spreading the truth and even recommended books that could help his followers to argue against intelligent design and creationism. Strangely it reminded me of evangelism classes I used to take when I was a Christian. The funniest part is when he instructed his followers not to use “probably” and “may have” when talking or writing about science. Was he asking his followers to lie for the sake of the “truth” or what? I am now wondering how seriously I should take the few blog entries he does have on science.

I think I was only one of two people at the lecture that admitted to being a creationist. I was hoping that one of the people there would engage me in debate after the lecture but no one talked to me. However, if you want to practice your debate skills with me over coffee or lunch please drop me a line. It’s not that I want to convince you of my point of view – I just want to have some fun.

People I Like

I met Gilberto when I was leaving the office late one night. He was carrying a chop saw back to his truck. He was just finishing some repair work for the property management company that I rent my office from. I asked him how much he would charge to do free lance work and he gave me a price that was less than half the rate of the company I had hired to do some remodeling in my own home. I invited him over to fix some of their work and he did a great job. Later I asked him to paint one of my rental properties. I was concerned about the schedule so I asked him how much time he could spending doing it. He said he could work 4 hours a night after work until it was done. My wife asked him if that would be too much work for him. His answer was “I like to work”. Strangely I have heard a lot of Mexicans say the same thing.

Right now I have another vacancy and Gilberto and Lighting Bolt Dan are there painting and doing miscellaneous repair work. I have no worries.

I like people who like to work.

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