Friday, December 28, 2007

Warm weather saves work on my website

I spend lot of time working on my websites. I try to keep my main Southern Outer Banks site in sync with the weather.

This year, there has been almost no cold weather to get me to change the site. I keep shuffling a few words around and doing a new picture once in a while, but the information about the weather is almost always the same.

I can call it "Endless fall" or "Winter in retreat," but the reality is that we are having temperatures that make winter look far off. Today, December 28, the temperature approached 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you could zoom in a little more on this image you would see a lone paddler in the kayak on Bogue Sound. We were watching from a pier on Cedar Street in Emerald Isle.

Most of this week, the beach has been deserted, but it hasn't been from bad weather. As I am sitting here typing this in our kitchen the window next to me is open.

I certainly have no complaints. I moved to the coast to get away from ice and snow. Seventy degrees at the end of December is a good way to accomplish that.

I find it a pleasure just to walk to the mailbox without a coat. There were a couple of days just before Christmas when I went back to shorts. I might do it again tomorrow.

The warm weather has allowed my coastal blog to stay on top of the weather without a lot of editing.

That is fine by me. I see in the long term forecast that we have a spell of cold weather headed our way by the middle of next week.

That is okay too. I would rather have that cold stuff in January than in March. Last January we had nineteen hours of below freezing temperatures. I hope we have even less this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A sign the "iAge" is over

I snapped this shot earlier this week.

I was at Cannonsgate, a new development along Bogue Sound on North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

I prefer to call the area the Southern Outer Banks which is a popular name if you measure it by the number of "SOBX" license plates on the pickup trucks that are so popular in the area.

When I snapped the picture of the Bogue Sound sunset, the only thing moving was the Jumping Mullet. I was actually hoping for a boat to come along so the lines on the sunset would not be so perfect.

No boat showed up, so the sunset looked like a huge "i" sinking into the sound. I worked at Apple Computer during the beginning of the iAge when the iMac was introduced, so I feel like I was around at the beginning of the iAge.

The first part of the iAge happened to be computers that you could buy in different colors. Apple long ago abandoned that thought since retailers got pretty irritated over having to stock different colors of computers.

Another part of the iAge as presented by Apple was the Internet. The iMac was easy to hook to the Internet through an Ethernet connection to a cable modem. It an entry level computer that also came with no way to back up your data onto floppies. Apple quickly gave that up also and started shipping computers with drives that would burn CDs.

Still the theory was that the iMac was your gateway to the Internet. Exploring the Internet was an individual thing back in those days.

I think there has been a fundamental shift. We now explore the Internet not so much individually but as a connected family. We share links through spots like del.icio.us. Some of us are even on Facebook, and there appears to be no shortage of blogs.

The iPod may still be a wonderful commercial success. There are plenty of folks whose obsession with their cell phone makes you think they only care about themselves.

Still the "iAge" is in retreat. I am hoping the "weAge" will be just as much if not more fun.

I find exploring the world with the help of friends a lot more fun than doing it on my own.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A nice to have rainy day

Last Monday we had a rainy day.

Many of the places that I have lived that would not be a big deal.

When we lived in Nova Scotia, rainy days were pretty common. In fact I can remember a rainy month or two. There were even times when I was in Atlantic Canada that maybe we should invest in an ark.

If you work hard outside, a rainy or even snowy day can be a welcome change in your routine especially if you have been living in the Southeast this year, where rain has been very scarce.

Here along the Southern Outer Banks we have been lucky this summer with enough rain to prevent any problems. Fifteen to twenty miles inland, people have not been that lucky.

Still we haven't had any days that I remember since spring when it rained for a whole day.

I took advantage of the recent wet weather and cleaned out a lot of papers. I will not proclaim that cleaning out papers is a lot of fun, but I will admit that it is something you have to do.

Otherwise you can be overwhelmed with paper. The idea that a paperless office is just around the corner seems to have receded somewhat.

It appears to have died under the weight of paper.  Some of my past when I was a real estate agent  seems to be all paper. From faxes to contracts, I appear to have been swimming in paper.

For a while I tried to get away with using my Macintosh for real estate. My twenty years at Apple left me pretty comfortable with a Mac but unfortunately no company makes a forms generation package for NC real estate so I ended up buying a Windows machine. You have be able to generate all that real estate paper at a moment's notice.

If you think paper has disappeared from the business world, just try buying a house. It will be good for the economy and will convince anyone that we have a long way to go before we can dispense with paper.

In addition to giving me a chance to clean out my papers, the rain has helped to keep my tomato plants going. I did not have any idea that these three plants would last so long and produce so many tomatoes. We will be eating tomatoes from our three plants well into January.

Unless tonight turns out to be very cold, I fully expect to pick my first December tomato tomorrow. Once I have done that I am going to pull up the tomato plants, and watch all the green ones turn red in January.  I doubt there will be much more tomato ripening weather anytime soon so I can get the vines out of here before it becomes cold outside.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New beginnings at Thanksgiving

I am not surprised at how often we hear about life changing decisions at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of the few times of the year that modern families manage to get together.

With distance often playing a factor, people sometimes use turkey day as an opportunity to bounce ideas off their families.

A good Thanksgiving holiday can be an easy informal atmosphere where people can view new ideas in the positive light of a good holiday meal and some great friendship.

Whether the decision is a new job or moving to a new area, Thanksgiving is not a bad time.

When I first was hired by Apple in Canada, it was just after American Thanksgiving. We had to find a new home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We actually moved on Christmas day in a blizzard.

It was not an ideal time, but there is no great time to move. We managed to survive by clinging to our holiday traditions and by taking advantage of the holiday friendliness of our new neighbors.

Last year at Thanksgiving, we were having our first holiday on the coast. This year we might having one of our last ones in the mountains, but at this point, we do not know.

We'll go forward one step at a time and keep to our traditions no mater where we live.

I would rather be trying another path during the light of the fall than the darkness of January.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Still time for fishing

Surprisingly the real estate business has been pretty business the last few weeks. Still a fellow has to have his priorities straight.

I have managed to sneak in a little fishing. Tomorrow, I am hoping that it is warm enough to spend a little time focused on it.

That could perhaps be a challenge since according to the weathermen the eastern part of North Carolina is one of the colder places in the country tonight. The cold weather is here a week or so earlier than last year.

The forecast for cold weather got me to build a little tent out of blankets for our tomato plants. I am amazed but we are still getting tomatoes in quantity off of our vines.

The exciting thing is that they are delicious. I figure this is a huge victory for home grown produce. If I can get through the month of November, that will mean that we have enjoyed homegrown tomatoes for five months.

We might see enough of the green ones to get us to January. We got local hot house tomatoes for an additional two and one half months.

Having great tomatoes over seven or maybe even eight months out of the year, means that meal planning is simplified. We can always make something around a tomato.

It is strange to be thinking about tomatoes when Turkey Day is just around the corner.

We lived in Canada for over sixteen years, and the one thing we missed the most was Thanksgiving Day.

While Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, it pales in comparison to American Thanksgiving.

That special Thursday in November starts my favorite time of year. It is a time when we all get together. It is above all a time for family and for renewing connections.

This year will be special for us since our son will be able to come. Last year when I wrote about Thanksgiving in Truly time for turkey, I was saddened by his absence.

With any kind of luck, I'll catch some fish to eat before we have to get serious about turkey next week.


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Monday, October 29, 2007

Nice fall evening on the shore

We were checking out some listings to show tomorrow on this first cool day of fall.

The sky was very clear and intensely bright as we drove from Cape Carteret towards Swansboro.

As we pulled into the parking lot behind Clyde Phillips' Seafood, the sun was just getting read to set over Swansboro.

There were a couple of other photographers already in the lot. I thought about telling them there was a rental fee on my trained sea birds, but I let it go as I headed over to my favorite spot on the western most White Oak River bridge.

I never tire of taking pictures from the bridge.

I snapped a few shots of the sun on the water and headed back to the car. I took this shot just as I got back to the car.

There is something about the time just after sunset that clears up a lot of the mistakes and problems of the day. It is one of my favorite times. You can beat the colors that you see then.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sour Grapes

Our society has changed dramatically this century.

The new church is that of the corporation.

While many will deny their worship of the corporation, you can understand it best in their reaction to those who have been excommunicated from the corporate church.

There are still people at Apple who will not talk to me because the company got rid of me. Even more surprising, Apple people continue to be afraid to either send or receive an email from me. From that you might guess that I committed corporate murder.

Most of these corporate worshipers have little understanding of their new religion. With little questioning, they assume the decisions coming from the CEO, the nominal head of the church, are law that supercedes any law of the land. Their salvation is their job, and they will do almost anything to retain that salvation. They will not question the law.

Before I go farther with this metaphor, I need to make clear how I have worked in a corporate world so the differences between religious fanatics, and those who come to the church to fulfill their own needs can be made clear.

First off I believe in the power of teams, and the right of each individual to have a chance to prove themselves in an environment designed to further the goals of the corporation with maximum efficiency. I believe that each member of the team will in their own self interest drive the performance of others in the team if the compensation plans are constructed properly.

I do not believe in mixing friends and business. While some people whom I have hired have become friends, I have never hired anyone because they are a friend.

Individuals in my ideal corporate world need to be empowered to do everything needed to achieve the goals of their corporation while living within the framework of the corporate environment and not violating the outside world's ethical standards.

Those are lofty goals and only work when a manager can become a leader and is willing to take the flack for his team so that they can get their jobs done.

It has been my experience that corporations know what they want done, they just don't know how to go about it, and often they are willing to trust their fate to people who talk a good story, but really don't know what they are doing.

As a salesperson, and a sales manager my job at Apple was to sell computers. Most of my career it was to sell computers to the enterprise for a company that openly claimed to not be interested in the enterprise.

I was very successful in my nearly twenty years at Apple. I captured both manager of the year and account executive of the year in my career. I finished second in the world once. My wall full of sales awards includes numerous national and regional awards. The record shows that I and my teams over achieved quota for all but a few years in the twenty years I was there. Every single performance review that I have is a glowing one. There are no negative ones.

In my last role at Apple, I was director of federal sales. I worked my way into that job through almost unbelievable odds. I was given a defunct part of Apple's business the US federal government, one rep for each coast, one system engineer, and my area associate. It was expected that we would fail. The federal revenue for Apple had been dropping precipitously for seven consecutive years.

The thing is that we didn't fail, in our first year we grew our business over 60% at time when Apple continued to loose market share, and other enterprise teams were falling flat on their face. We got a few more resources the next year, and again grew the business over 60%. We were the darling of Apple, invited to present to other teams on how we created success in the middle of failure with so few resources.

Just as we were hitting our stride, a whole new team of managers were brought into Apple to fix the field sales team. My manager who before the coup had sixty people reporting to him ended up with me and my small team as his only reports.

All of the managers brought in came from Adobe and all were under forty years of age. None of them had experience selling hardware, and few even knew one end of a Mac from another.

The Vice President who took the helm even shared with us that he had been brought in to fire the Apple field sales team and fix the sales process.

After a year of trying hard to be helpful to the new people, my manager left after he got put in a job with no reports. He was one of the most successful enterprise sales people in the history of Apple.

In the space of the two years after my manager's departure, I got to report to four different managers, none of which had ever worked for Apple or even used a Mac.

One of those managers was apparently given the job of driving me out of the company. My team of very successful veteran sales and engineering people who had grown to twenty by this time were treated like new sales reps just in off the street.

They were assigned quotas which even sixty percent growth couldn't achieve. I was not allowed to speak in forecast meetings and was even told at the national sales conference that my team was going to publicly spanked and taken behind the woodshed for a whipping.

In a year when Apple couldn't ship G5 desktops in Q4 we were awarded the Plunger award for not shipping G5s in Q4.

The gory details aren't worth repeating except that I stood up and complained about the unfair treatment of my people who during that year did not receive correct commissions for over nine months.

The manager that took us to the woodshed left in January of that year. I got another manager in March. In June during an operations review, he complained that our growth of over 60% was falling short of our over 70% quota growth. I was asked to prepare a recovery plan.

The morning I was told to present the recovery plan, I was called and told the presentation would be in a hotel instead of our office. When I showed up at the hotel for the presentation, there was an HR person present, and I was placed on leave so an investigation could be conducted into my conduct.

Of course anytime something like this happens, you know you are already toast. Even as someone over fifty being fired while doing a great job, there was little I could do, so I headed off to a new non-corporate world.

Doing it the way Apple did it, cost me most of my retirement options which had been given to me but had not vested, but that is the high tech gamble and at this point water under the bridge.

The real sadness comes from the dismantling of a very successful team. One by one my managers were forced out. All the sales people but one are now gone from federal sales. They have all been replaced by ex-Oracle sales people.

How they are doing, I don't know and really don't care. I haven't seen any huge federal successes for Apple but perhaps they're keeping them secret.

This story isn't an unusual one in corporate America. It demonstrates who you know is more important than how well you do your job. You could write plenty on those who tacitly help get rid of people who are successful only so they can look successful. It is not worth the time.

Corporations are full of those types of people who unfortunately will do whatever is asked to keep their job or make more a little more money. They have to live with themselves so that is probably punishment enough.

The corporate church thrives on cronyism, money, and the willingness to say whatever upper management wants to hear and ignore any other values that might have been learned in life.

While truth is valued outside the corporation, saying the right thing and having the ear of the top dog is the most important thing in a corporation.

I certainly do not regret leaving Apple. I was lucky to have survived with my values intact. My career at Apple confirmed to me that I am the type of person that I knew I was.

One manager once told me that I was too much of a Boy Scout, and he could never count on me to lie when I needed to. I'm actually proud of that.

Having survived Apple, I feel much greater reverence for the "Honor, truth, duty" motto from my military high school and the "Veritas" that adorns my college diploma.

I escaped the corporate church with soul, and I continue to sleep well after a hard day's work.

So if that is sour grapes, then they actually taste pretty sweet to me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why we congregate

This weekend the town of Swansboro, NC had their Mullet Festival.

It is one of those events where people from the area and some from the outside the area get together. In Swansboro's case, the festival is held on the waterfront along the shores of the White Oak River.

We come together for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we enjoy the stimulation of other people. In a world where we are increasing isolated, there is some comfort in being in a friendly crowd of people having fun.

We enjoy seeing other people, browsing craft booths, eating fair food, and listening to music. People have been doing this for thousands of years in one form or another.

During the Mullet Festival we got to listen to Jackie Gore, the father of beach music. While it made working our real estate booth a little challenging, it still was a treat.

Getting together in a group like we did at the Mullet Festival reinforces the thought that we are not alone, and that there are other people out there interested in what interests us.

Sometimes being in that group can show us behavior that is acceptable in our communities. New ideas get to spread. New products are shown, and people get to renew their ties to the community. Seeing people they may not see on a regular basis lets us a backup safety net.

A festival is a healthy event for a society. Going to a festival on a Saturday afternoon is far better than sitting at home watching a football game.

Our time at the festival gives us time to size up our neighbors, our friends, and even our enemies in an environment where behavior is relaxed. It is far easier because people are making an effort to be friendly.

It is good for everyone that we have a healthy dose of festivals here in Coastal NC. There pictures of many area festivals, pig pickings, and celebrations at my coastal photo archive.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Near perfect weather on the Carolina Coast

Much of this post was written in 2007.  We have been through many spectacular fall since I took the picture in the post.  I even had a remarkably similar wonderful evening on the beach almost seven later.  It inspired me to update what I had written a little.

If you have never been to North Carolina's coast, and you can sneak away right now, you will never regret that decision.

In fact if things are a little rough, and you need to have your cares vanish for a weekend, going to the beach in October might be just the ticket to a different outlook on life.

Since it was impossible to resist, we went for a walk on the beach this evening. The water temperature on the Emerald Isle beaches is still 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The air temperatures over the next few days are predicted to be in the mid-seventies. It doesn't get much better than that.

There are no crowds, the weather is perfect, the seafood plentiful, and the prices for lodging are cheaper. It is the best time of the year on the beach. We have the same pleasant temperatures in the spring, but the water is cold then.

It was so nice on the beach, I had visions of a pitching a tent, but I know the Emerald Isle Police would frown on that.  However, I suspect that I could snag a campsite over on the Bear Island part of nearby Hammocks Beach.

While it seems this be abnormally nice weather, my experience since I wrote the first part of this seven years ago indicates that great fall weather is almost a birth right here on the North Carolina coast. Certainly there is no reason not to enjoy it. This is a great time and place to renew your soul. The beauty and serenity that you can find on an October beach evening here along the Crystal Coast will make a difference in how you see the world.

Here's my quick Emerald Isle Travel Guide to help you plan your vacation. 

Update- If you need more advice try our book,  A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  It was updated in the summer of 2014 and I am happy to report that seven years after I wrote this post, the fall weather is still great here on the Southern Outer Banks.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The wrong way to stand out

It is okay for a an early turning fall leaf to stand out.

There is nothing wrong with standing up for something that is right. It is even fine to be standing alone.

Our country has made mistakes before, but we have always stood for what is right. That has been the American way.

Using fear to manipulate the country, our leaders have shamefully abandoned the high ground.

The New York Times had this to say in an editorial.
President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies.
This morning the Washington Post said this.
PRESIDENT BUSH said Friday, as he has many times before, that "this government does not torture people." But presidential declarations can't change the facts. The record shows that Mr. Bush and a compliant Justice Department have repeatedly authorized the CIA to use interrogation methods that the rest of the world -- and every U.S. administration before this one -- have regarded as torture: techniques such as simulated drowning, induced hypothermia, sleep deprivation and prolonged standing.
It is hard to understand how a people so well off can completely lose their courage and condone torture only to have a false sense of security.

I am at a loss to explain this whole idea that the ends justify the means. Most of us long ago figured out that doing a bad thing to make a good thing happen just doesn't work.

It corrupts you. There is no satisfaction in being safe if we have become evil to achieve our safety.

I can only hope that we will reject all the politicians who have made America the home of torture. Using torture only confirms what our enemies are saying about us. We prove them right when we descend to torture.

To do otherwise is to dishonor the history of our country and the many who died to protect the ideas on which America was built.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The power of singularity

There was a time when I thought the solution to never having my reading glasses was to have lots of pairs of reading glasses.

I quickly figured out that more pairs of glasses did not necessarily mean that I would always have my glasses

In fact it turns out that I am much more likely to find my glasses if I only have one pair.

By having just that pair, I remember where they are hiding.

I suspect there are lots of things in life which can benefit from singular focus.

Fishing is certainly one. Writing is another. Talking is an important one.

Running a company is probably a big one.

Maybe lack of focus is a peculiarly modern aliment.

The typical CEO tends to have a multitude of things on their plate.

Just maybe we can improve the management of companies by letting CEOs do fewer things.

Of course you have to convince them that their expertise can be put to better use and to trust the wisdom of their subordinates.

Not all CEOs are willing to share power. See Welcome to Steve's World.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In trying to be heard, do we forget to listen?

As a salesman for many years, I learned to appreciate the ability to be quiet when you needed to be quiet.

Sometimes you get to a logical point where whoever speaks next loses the verbal sparring.

That may sound strange unless you have been in one of those moments but it does happen.

Sometimes I wonder if all our efforts to be heard among the onslaught of Internet media have dulled our senses of listening.

There is so much on the Internet now, the effort to be heard take a lot of work.

I am surprised at people, who have what seems like critical questions that I get by email, rarely find the time to say thanks when I provide a timely answer.

I had someone write me in panic on Monday that he just had to have a reservation at a particular restaurant that I had written about the previous year. His special occasion included his wife.

He thought the phone number had changed. I calmly sent an email informing him that the place was closed on Mondays.

Of course he could have figured that out himself had he taken the time.

He didn't, and there was no surprise that he also forgot to say thanks.

He yelled for an answer, but apparently was too busy to hear it delivered.





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Friday, September 21, 2007

The need for an audience

If you are blogging, you probably enjoy having an audience. If you make comments on a blog to a certain extent, you also want an audience.

Many blogging services are free, so it is pretty easy to make the transition to writing a blog from making comments.

Of course it helps if you have something to say, and you can find some people willing to listen.

It will be three years this November when I did my first post. In those days I felt lucky if a few people would read them in a week. It is not unusual these days to have over three thousand visitors in a day.

I have had a day or two after writing something particularly popular like my Guardian article on Steve Jobs and the iPhone when twenty thousand people have visited in a day.

There is lots of stuff on the web these days, the challenge is creating interesting content that is worth reading and connecting with the people who might enjoy it.

It is easy to get lost in the forest of blogs. I have my own Southern Outer Banks website where I do new content once or twice a week when time permits.

My original View from the Mountain blog gets the most regular attention, but I also have a Coastal NC Blog, and I have started one on WordPress and a Carteret County blog on .Mac just to try out some new forums.

I find many of those who post harsh opinions aren't willing to expose themselves to public opinion by having their own blogs. It is not easy work and most of these folks would rather be snipers.

I find topics are easy to come by, but the time to do quality writing is at a premium. If I could just write and take pictures, I would be a happy camper. Unfortunately these things don't pay the bills.

My real estate efforts at blogging are actually work, but I still enjoy the writing. Having a ready audience make it a lot easier.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gabrielle brushes by us

As noon eastern time slides by, Gabrielle continues to amble towards the coast.

I have been watching the storm forecasts with great interest most of the week.

Though the picture to the right might look like we have a lot of water. The levels are normal and about what we would expect to see based on the tides.

Friday evening I wrote a post, Quiet Waters before the Storm. I was impressed with the peaceful waters of the White Oak River near our home which is on the water near the Silver Creek Golf course on the linked map.

Then I wrote a post, Storm Watch. At the time my favored weather service, Accuweather, up in State College, PA was making the prediction that Gabrielle was going to turn into a Category 1 hurricane before coming inland.

I think they might be better at football up in Happy Valley than they are at hurricane forecasting. Their most recent 11 am Sunday synopsis says this.
The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center expects landfall along the North Carolina coast between Jacksonville and Cape Hatteras by early Sunday afternoon.
Jacksonville, NC happens to be almost twenty miles inland. This morning I was pretty convinced that all the weathermen (especially the Weather Channel ones) were trying to wish Gabrielle into a hurricane.

As you can hopefully see from this Weather Underground image, now it looks most of the rain will miss western Carteret County where I live.

For two days prior to the storm, predictions were that we would get three inches or more of rain with isolated areas getting over five inches. Finally the forecasters are acknowledging what I can already deduce from my slightly damp driveway.
...rainfall will range from an inch or less inland to up to three
inches on the Outer Banks and with isolated amounts of 5 inches possible.
I know that figuring out storms is incredibly difficult, but you would think someone would have been close on Gabrielle. It seems like everyone just has a slightly different version of wrong.

I guess this is just a really good example of how complex weather can be. We certainly don't know enough to predict what is going to happen a few hours from now. I wonder how good we can possibly be at predicting what is going to happen years from now.

All summer those of us on the coast have labored under the double whammy of a poor real estate market and a much hyped report that said Carteret County was the top target in the country for a hurricane this season. I just hope whoever paid for the report didn't pay very much.

Even as I finish this post the sky seems to be getting lighter. Today isn't even turning out to be a good rainy day.

Maybe it is time to point out that I have a new travel guide for the Emerald Isle Beaches which aren't far from us and are still open for business.

I suspect all that is happening from Gabrielle over on the beach is that the surfers are getting some nice waves. It is probably really nice time to take a walk on the beach since the temperatures are very moderate and there is a nice breeze.

We will have to wander over a little later in the day and take a few pictures of the waves. I wonder if the Weather Channel would like me to send them a copy?

It is nice to know that the Southern Outer Banks can get so much attention based on such a minor storm. Our first year here has been really nice. I was hoping that we could make it through our anniversary date without a bad storm. That date was yesterday.

It is nice to have a wish come true.

Maybe we will be as lucky next year.





Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Enduring the storms of life

There are plenty of storms here on the Crystal Coast during the summer months. You can almost count on a thunderstorm each afternoon.

Sometimes they come during the night. Last week we had one so intense in the middle of the night that you could read a book by the lightning.

Still thunderstorms eventually stop, the rain tapers off, and they move on.

Unfortunately human relations aren't so predictable especially when it comes to partnerships.

I got involved in my first partnership when I was just over twenty-one, it ended badly. The last time I tried to speak to my former partner, he would only grunt at me. The worst thing was that he wouldn't even tell me what I had done to make him so mad.

This was a guy who came to the partnership with only sweat equity. I had the money, we both worked hard, and we shared the results equally. I thought we were pretty good friends. I gave him the money for his wife's wedding ring.

When he wanted to buy me out, I only charged him what I paid for the property plus an agreed upon percent increase on what I paid. It was a reasonable price for very good coastal property.

Still he, like almost every partner, ended up feeling like he got the short end of the deal.

I guess if he was going to be mad at me anyway, I should have asked for the money I gave him for the wedding ring, but I just let it ride since I felt that would be rubbing salt into his wounds.

I think the fundamental problem with partnerships is that two people can say the same thing and each hear something completely different.

Not quite a year ago we got into another partnership. I didn't go looking for the partnership. I was actually headed in another direction when it found me. I knew it would fail as almost all partnerships do. Why did I agree to it?

I think at my core, I am fundamentally an optimist. I want to think the best about people.

Also I though maybe if I bent over far enough on this partnership, that it just might work.

This time we started with equal money, then I put lots more in and then we both put more in. I did all the work and got most of the benefit since the state reason for my partner's involvement was a long term investment and a place to have fun for a couple of weeks a year.

My new rule is the farther I bend, the quicker the partnership ends. I went to a lot of expense to make sure this partner got out with no monetary loses. Unfortunately I can't say the same for myself. You would think making sure that they lost no money would at least get a thank you, but I don't think I will hold my breath. Not losing money didn't fix the broken friendship.

At this point in my life, that's probably the last partnership that I will attempt.

Written agreements don't help either. I think the net of it is that all partnerhships are doomed to fail.

Partnerships end up being a long lasting way to mess up friendships.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Horned worms and walking the plank

I cannot imagine a good reason for tomato hornworms to exist.

They do a tremendous amount of damage. They are pretty gross to top it off.

Maybe if you were six or seven years old and wanted to hear girls scream a lot, they might be useful.

My wife, who is a few decades older than six, still hates tobacco worms as we call them. Whenever she finds one, I have to dispatch it.

They are even nastier when they are covered with their little white eggs.

We have been pretty successful with our tomatoes this year. In fact they have done much better than last year's ugliest tomatoes ever.

We got our first tomato on July 5 here in the Cape Carteret on the NC coast.

We managed to hit that date in spite of a sneak attack by the Hornworms.

However, we have also been bothered by Fiddler Crabs eating the tomatoes as they get ripe.

Today when I went outside I found that the Hornworms had come after the tomatoes in force once again.

Instead of throwing them in the street and watching them explode on contact, I decidea more coastal punishment was in order.

I launched a small piece of tomato plant with the Horn Worm still attached into the salt water gut behind our home.

It was my version of making them walk the plank.

Only one of the four was able to get in position to suck in some air for a while. The others went quickly.

I have probably lost a dozen tomatoes to tomato monsters this year.

The devastation they have caused has been considerable. So far the score is Horned Worms 12, David 8.

I wonder if these worms make good Bluefish bait.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Of Walmarts, SOBX and necessity

My daughter who lives in Reston, Virginia tells me that Walmarts in that part of the country are not very nice.

In her college years at Sweet Briar, she and her friends considered the Lynchburg, Virginia Walmart one of the cleaner spots to shop.

On the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, often known as the Southern Outer Banks, Walmart is a necessity whether you are furnish a new house or picking up things for your boat.

Traveling to shop has been a way of life in remote coastal areas is nothing new.

We were shopping for both the boat and house recently. We spent a couple of hours in the Morehead City Walmart. I found everything I wanted except a boat anchor, and I think they were just out of them since I got the anchor line and chains. The store was clean and bright.

There are things that Walmart does not carry so later I still stopped by one of our local hardwares where I do most of our shopping anyway. I needed some lag bolts.

It looks like we might be getting a Walmart in Cedar Point to go along with our new Lowe's Home Improvement Store in Cape Carteret. I suspect the damage to local business will be minimal since both have been available within fifteen to twenty minutes driving for a long time.

I can only take Walmart in mid-week and only about once a quarter. My contact lens solution was $2 a bottle cheaper, and I do not even want to think how much cheaper the anchor line and ropes were than if I had bought them at one of the specialty boating dealers who get plenty of my money anyway.

I think good local businesses can survive the competition from Lowe's and Walmart, they just need to specialize in quality products and maintain high levels of service.

I'll go to a local hardware store anytime over Lowe's. Recently I was pleased to find a local Ace Hardware that carried Echo trimmers. Lowe's doesn't carry them or the freshly roasted Methodist peanuts that all of our local hardwares have on their front counters. An Echo trimmer is the only kind I will use.

The challenge with Walmart is that we didn't have anything local to compete with it anyway.

Still when I am walking across the giant Walmart parking lot, I can only think about how nice a boat ride would be or maybe a walk on the beach.

The Southern Outer Banks are no Reston when it comes to shopping, and it is going to be a long time before we get much beyond Walgreen's, Lowe's, and Walmart.

In the Emerald Isle-Cedar Point-Cape Carteret area, we do not have a single chain restaurant beyond a few fast food ones. That's just fine with me, the restaurants and services we have are just about right for someone who doesn't like to shop anyway.

I figure 17 miles is about as close as I want to be to a Best Buy anyway. Anything for my photography addiction can't even be found in Reston so there is little hope ever for it here on the coast.

I think we might even escape the iPhone hype which is good since a bunch of them would screw up my new AIBRS.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The steam is here

The first days of June have exceeded expectations for heat.

I checked temperatures for Northern Virginia on June 8.

The high temperature was 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fortunately I am not in the land of suits but on the Carolina coast.

I managed to jump in the pool slightly after 7 am. The air was already warm on the walk over to the pool.

By the time I drove from Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle, the temperature was already over 80.

We were lucky it did not get much hotter during the day. I am thankful for sea breezes off an ocean that has yet to reach its summer maximum temperatures.

The water temperatures of around 75 degrees and the breezes they generate help to cool us down nicely in the evenings.

The best way to tell that summer is really here is when I get out of the air conditioned car and my glasses immediately fog up. It also happens to my cameras.

The fogging of the sun glasses happened this morning, and the camera fogged up tonight, so it should be official that summer and its steam are here.

It is a good thing that my blood has thinned. Well the weather is great for growing tomatoes.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Do you feel good at work?

There are times when you go into work with a great attitude only to have it smashed by the people around you.

Mostly this happens from managers who allow a negative attitude to penetrate their organizations.

Many corporations feel that they need to find and correct what employees are doing wrong. They spend many resources trying to make this happen.

What they should be doing is encouraging good behavior. I have seen employees disappointed when expected bad news turned out to be good news. Those kind of employees need to be out of any organization

The tone of an office is almost always set by the manager. The choice is pretty obvious, build a team where you focus on the positive or let a negative cloud hang over your team.

People respond by either wanting to be in the office or trying to avoid the office.

While you sometimes hear the theory that sales people need to be out of the office all of the time, they also need to be in the office enough to absorb the company's objectives and culture.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The vice president syndrome

The first time I made vice president, my son told me that I had finally made it to the land of empty suits.

My couple of stints as vice president did not do anything to convince me that having a big title made much difference.

I worked just as hard or harder as when I had a less exalted title.

I have also worked for a number of vice presidents.

There are a couple of things I will say about the role of vice president. In some corporations, vice presidents are almost gods with the ability to do almost anything they want.

As companies become smaller, the role of vice president is largely irrelevant. Often the CEO in small companies creates vice presidents only to make their own role seem more important.

That isn't too difficult since in a small company, the CEO has all the power. The vp role is largely ceremonial in those companies.

It can get a little worse. You can have a sales driven company with more vice presidents than sales people. At that point you have a reached a danger point of having more chiefs than Indians.

There is nothing worse than a top heavy company filled with people who think their title exempts them from real work.

The kind of organization that you really want to build is one where titles don't matter.

Most people don't like those, but they can be the most productive of any organization.

A focus on getting the job done instead of awarding meaningless titles make more sense.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Keeping your credibility

Long ago I decided that my credibility was the most important thing that I had to lose in writing.

It is easy to make some wild statements to drum up traffic, but most of that traffic bounces quickly.

You bring people back to your blogs with quality content that is interesting and truthful. They become faithful and regular readers.

I am not trying to play any particular role as I write, except that of a writer who tries to present a balanced opinion even when it is nearly impossible to do so.

My degree is in history, and I have worked hard to stand back and look at situations to understand the facts and try to present them as logically as I can. I do that so that I can understand the situation, not necessarily so I can influence others.

I consider myself something of an expert on technology, sales management, leadership and on a number of places where we have lived. I have definite opinions, but I am always willing to hear another point of view. I value my reputation for expertise in those areas.

What I don't like are self-appointed experts who don't have the experience or knowledge to back their statements. I often see folks on forums that believe their opinion no matter how one sided or unsubstantiated is the only possible way to look at things.

It has been my experience that blanket statements are usually wrong. No place, person, or company is as bad or as good as we might expect.

To understand the truth and then make sure it becomes a positive factor in your decisions if a worthy goal for anyone.

If you help others understand the truth and interpret the facts in a way that keeps their options open and their minds moving forward, you have gone one step further.

This is how that I have built my credibility, and how I plan to keep it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Selling the beach

No matter where I have lived, I have convinced myself that my particular spot is one of the greatest on earth.

Perhaps that is human nature. Still I like to think that I have lived in some gorgeous spots from Nova Scotia to Roanoke, Virginia.

We now live near the beaches of Emerald Isle, NC. It is pretty hard to deny its beauty. A couple of photos that I have taken in the area are among my all time favorites.

The first, Morning Waters, was a sunrise taken from the beach. The second, The End, was taken looking from Emerald Isle across Bogue Sound.

Since living in the area is almost as nice as the Southern Outer Banks pictures are beautiful, it isn't too much of a jump to selling property in the area as a Realtor®.

I really think this is a great area to live. It is easy to sell something you believe in unless you are trying to do it on city-data forum and you have anything to do with real estate.

I started blogging in late 2004 and have a tremendous number of posts about areas and things that have absolutely nothing to do with selling real estate.

While my Realtor® site and my ActiveRain site are definitely about selling real estate, it is really hard to argue that the first page of my Southern Outer Banks site has much to do with selling property. I might be promoting an area, but I am not doing much selling real estate or talking about my services as a Realtor® on a page with steamed crabs.

Today I got banned again from city-data forum for linking to my current Southern Outer Banks site and its Crab Feast article.

At the same time city-data forum is full of Google real estate ads. I am pretty sure that the city data forum folks have a special deal with Google to serve up members of the forum only to Google's paying customers.

I was very careful not to link to my Realtor® site while posting at city data forum and as you can expect I wasn't doing a whole of lots of selling my services as a real estate agent on a post about fried clams.

I may spend a lot of effort selling the area we live in, but that is not the same as being a real estate agent. City data forum must be making so much money for Google placements that they can't afford to have the chance that any forum members might wander across agents other than the ones that advertise on Google.

My latest site is about restaurants on the Crystal Coast. My guess is that the monitors at City Data forum would classify it as real estate site.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What I miss on the coast

There is not much that I miss on the coast or I would not be creating websites with titles like "Coastal Paradise."

I do miss some of the unbelievable lush green colors that we see in mountain valleys of Virginia.

It is the closest green that I have seen to that of summertime in Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritimes which I believe are the greenest spots on earth.

Even trips to New Zealand and Ireland with their fabled green have not persuaded me to back down.

The beaches of Emerald Isle in North Carolina cannot hold a candle to the green of the mountains this time of year. Of course, they have other attractions that keep me happy most of the time.

At the coast I also miss the hundreds of beautiful Irises that adorn many of the garden's in the interior of North Carolina and Virginia.

In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Irises would grow in the damp spots in the pastures.

We have lots of beauty on the coast, so I guess it is only fair that we save some of nature's spectacular decorations for the hills and mountains.

I had hoped to have more regular posts here at Ocracoke Waves, but I have been doing some all-consuming web work that has slowed me down.

My CoastalNC.org site and my Coastal Real Estate site have been completely redone after many hours of work.

My goal was to create a better user experience and make the information easier to find.

You can see some of the results of my work in the clickable buttons to my sites that are now in this blog's side panel.

I would love to hear any feedback. You can click here to email comments to me.

I have also started a real estate newsletter about coastal property which I will t try to do once a quarter, The first one is available for viewing and if you would like to subscribe, this link will get you to the form.

I have also chosen the Reston Backfence Online community for my first online ad. I will be interested to see what the response is.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fear of salespeople

I am wondering if it is a particularly American thing to be reluctant to talk to salespeople. I will admit to visiting car dealerships only on Sundays until I am ready to engage in the battle of wits.

I wrote about auto buying in America in the "That peculiarly American dance, the auto two-step." Still I like talking to good salespeople who know their products.

That's probably the reason that I avoid many of the big box sales people in electronics stores since it is so rare that they know their products. There are exceptions to the rules as I found in my purchase of one of the HP all-in-one printer, scanner, copiers.

Actually I have always considered myself something of a knowledge sponge, willing to soak up whatever wisdom I can glean from an expert. In real estate, we have used a Realtor® every Itime we bought a place but once. That once reinforced my belief in using Realtors®.

I have been in sales most of my adult life. Even when I was farming for eleven years, sales was never very far in the background. I firmly believe that sales done right is an honorable career.

I have found that in most cases, people have already sold themselves by the time they reach a sales person. The best that a sales person can do is make certain they do not end up buying the wrong product and become unhappy.

I am sure there are plenty of sleazy sales people in the world, but I cannot believe that people have become so divorced from their critical thinking skills that people ignore the opportunity to learn valuable information from people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to a particular product.

We are almost ready to buy a boat, and I have been wandering around boat show rooms for months since I know almost nothing about boats. Aside from one guy who tried to convince me that if I bought a skiff I would stay wet all the time, the salespeople and nearly half have been women have been very knowledgeable and helpful. In fact most of them haven't been real sales folks since I have gotten almost zero follow-up on my visits. That includes email requests for pricing which have mostly been ignored.

I recently had another experience which made me wonder how some people make decisions. I was participating in a forum where people are trying to find out about cities and towns where they either live or might want to live. Though I thought I was being very careful to adhere to the rules of the forum, one of which was not advertising my services as a Realtor®. I was, however, uncomfortable with people not knowing that I was a Realtor® when I was talking about real estate. I ended up being banished from the forum by what was likely an over zealous moderator who I am sure thought he was protecting people from me. Unfortunately for the readers, I was just trying to help some people learn the facts instead of hearsay.

I have a long history of posts about Apple and their computer products. I recently did a post about my letters to a friend who was considering buying a Mac. A couple of my readers there have suggested that I was doing everything I could to stop him from buying a Mac. Actually all I was doing was making sure that he went into the purchase with his eyes wide open.

In the end his friendship is worth more to me than whether he buys a Macintosh or not. I could tell from his letters that he has already decided to do it, so he might as well know the complete truth about the products instead of the Apple fanboy version of reality. Sugar coating the truth would only lead him to question our friendship.

It's easy to own one product and think that you have had the greatest experience in the world as an owner or user. When you have been involved in the industry or had a history with a particular company, things might not look so rosy.

I will no longer buy a Volvo, and I know a couple of Volvo owners who say the same thing. I only got to that point on my third Volvo. I will not buy a Maytag washer or dryer no matter how many cute the commercials they run are. If my current Apple MacBook breaks again, I might well buy a HP or Sony Laptop. In spite of what some of the Mac users want to believe the reality is that the reliability on my recent Apple purchases has not been good, and dealing with Apple on them has not been a lot of fun.

Still having said that, I am not afraid to engage a salesperson for Volvos. A good one would run back to the company and tell them how they lost someone who could have been a Volvo customer for life.

In this age of full disclosure on the Internet and with the power of Google, I find it hard to believe that there are people who are still afraid of being tricked by Realtors®. I spent nearly three years trying to find the right spot on the Crystal Coast. It was only with the help of a true local expert and Realtors® that we found it.

Expertise might be hard to find, but anonymous expertise is impossible to find. Engage the salespeople and learn what you can. You might find someone whose knowledge keeps you from making a mistake.

If you want to know about living along North Carolina's secret coast, the Crystal Coast, visit my website, "Coastal Paradise." I promise not to sell you anything since the facts speak for themselves, and you might even learn something from someone who is learning from the real local experts as fast as he can.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Produce stand ethics

After college in the seventies, I moved to Nova Scotia. I wanted to own some land. There was nothing affordable on the east coast of the United States  like the 140 acres, house and barn that I got on the Bay of Fundy near Bridgetown, Nova Scotia.

Having lived in Boston for the previous four years and awakening one morning to find nothing but a pile of glass where my car once was, I was initially surprised that many of the produce stands in the Annapolis Valley would operate on the honor system.

There would be produce, a scale, and a box or can for money. Sometimes the money containers would be attached to the stand, but often you could have walked off with the money with little effort. Though I am sure robbery happened, I never heard about it.

Even today in our fairly rural area, I know a fair number of spots where people could make off with products that aren't locked down yet I don't think it is huge problem with those businesses that are still in areas like ours where most of the people are trustworthy.

Still I doubt that many places remain like the small village of Tay Creek, north of Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada where our farm was for 17 years. I can't ever remember taking the key out of our pickup truck, and we never had a lock on the house until we moved. We just didn't need it.

I spent nearly twenty years at Apple and got to see first hand how the drive for success can change people.  It occurs to me that whether intentionally or not Steve Jobs created a pressure cooker environment where resources will forever be tight and the expectation is that there will be no excuses unless you are so high on the corporate tree that mistakes are never your problem.

It creates something of a moral wasteland where people tend to look out for themselves and just be thankful that they have survived another year. It is something like a fruit stand where selling the fruit and making the most money off of it eventually becomes more important that producing great fruit.

You hear lots about what a creative place Apple is, but I doubt you will ever hear anything about how ethical Apple is. The simple reason is that Apple is a company which has pretty well institutionalized the idea that the ends justify the means. If there are a few employee bodies scattered along the way, what does it matter as long as the end result is that another great product makes it out the door to help grow the company's reputation? When the products begin to lack greatness, the body counts will grow.

I doubt that type of environment has made Apple products great. I do know that it has created an environment that most people would rather forget than talk about when they leave the company.

I worked at Apple nearly twenty years, and I never saw any ethics training in my career there. I heard a vice president say you should make sure you didn't save any of your email because it might get the company in trouble.  I know lots of employees who lost their jobs because they were on the wrong side of a corporate struggle that they did not even know was happening.  It is unfortunate that 
collateral casualties during internal struggles have become such a part of corporate culture in America.

There are plenty of companies just as bad or even worse than Apple. The challenge is that Apple lives in a glass bowl.  Lots of people assume life on the inside of the great Apple mother ship is wonderful and yet they have never walked inside the halls of Cupertino much less worked there.

I was in real estate for a few years and ethics were a big part of the job.

While having a code of ethics certainly is not a perfect solution to bad behavior, it is certainly better than the free wheeling world of technology where anything goes.  Of course Realtors® in most states live with the knowledge that consumers can easily complain about their behavior with just a few mouse clicks. I am sure knowing the NC Real Estate Commission is watching is a good thing for many people who might stray from the straight and narrow.

Having that code of ethics behind you, makes it a little easier to stand tall for what you believe, but in reality it only reinforces what you have grown up with from your youth.

If you grow up a Boy Scout and graduate from McCallie, during its days as a military school you learn about Honor, Truth, and Duty. My college had the simple Latin word of Veritas as a motto. All of that builds character as my mother used to say.

Still we can all learn from the fruit stand vendors of Nova Scotia. If you build your business on trusting your people instead of creating a climate of fear, you might have an organization that does the right thing by default.

You can read about our early years in Nova Scotia in our $2.99 Kindle book, A Taste For The Wild - Canada's Maritimes.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

What makes me happy?

dualdogwoods
dualdogwoods,
originally uploaded by ocracokewaves.
I have lived lots of different places during my life, rural North Carolina, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Columbia, Maryland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ste. Croix Cove, Nova Scotia to a farm in the wilderness of central New Brunswick, Canada.

Figuring out what makes you happy at any given point in your life is always a challenge. I spent a good part of my childhood trying to get away from North Carolina or Mount Airy to be specific. Now I am happy living in North Carolina.

A few years ago, we got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Mount Airy area. It felt like home. As we started looking for a place to spend the next ten years, we started spending lots of time looking in North Carolina.

Spring in North Carolina or southern Virginia is a pretty special time. These pictures of my family's home place in Mount Airy capture some of the spring feeling just as the Dogwood picture in the post does.

While the beauty of spring or these inviting waters near Emerald Isle, NC might attract you to an area, to be really happy, you need more than a beautiful spring or warm ocean waters.

In the end it is the people of an area, perhaps even the culture of the area that ends up being the most important factor. I have found friendly people in almost every area that I have lived. Some of the most supportive neighbors that we ever had were on our wilderness farm in Canada.

However, from that perspective I think parts of North Carolina and parts of Virginia where the local culture and traditions still survive are among the friendliest places that I have ever seen. The openess of people and the willingness to help are rare traits that are a little harder to see the farther north you go or the deeper you get into urban areas.

I think a couple of places that I have lived in Canada have helped me understand what makes this possible. One was Ste. Croix Cove, Nova Scotia which was a very isolated coastal community where the same families had lived for years with little change. My welcome to the community there was someone running down my Labrador Retriever on purpose. Outsiders while welcomed by some, were distrusted by most. It was as beautiful a place as you have ever seen in the summer, but when you don't feel welcome in a place, you might as well move on. We did.

The next place we lived was in the wilderness about twenty miles north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. We had farm of two hundred acres. We were welcomed by the community with open arms. The difference I believe was that Tay Creek had seen and accepted new comers for many years. They were viewed as the life blood of the community. We spent eleven wonderful years there and made some great friends with whom we still communicate.

I think much of rural and small town North Carolina and Virginia are similar. They have seen many changes and have adapted to them. By in large, people are very accepting of people with different backgrounds.

So if I had to put one thing high on my list of being happy, it would be acceptance by neighbors. We have had it in Roanoke, Virginia and in Cape Carteret, North Carolina. Both places have stunning natural beauty on top of friendly people.

While you might have to search for the right neighborhoods in a particular area that are open and friendly to newcomers, it is well worth the effort. Talking to the neighbors in your potential new neighborhood is also an important step in evaluating what will make you happy.

With one foot on the mountain and the other in salt water, I live in great neighborhoods both in Cape Carteret and in Roanoke. As a Realtor® I would be glad to help in Cape Carteret or refer you to a good Realtor® in the Roanoke or Blacksburg, Va. area.

If you are interested in Roanoke, you can check out my View from the Mountain blog. If you are in interested in affordable coastal living in North Carolina, check out my Coastal Paradise blog.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How do we value a home?


I took this picture on a March 2007 weekend near "The Point" on Emerald Isle, NC. It has to be one of my favorite spots . The mix of sand, waves, and wind makes this a special spot. Still in the grand scale of things, the housing the area if not this particular spot is pretty affordable for many people today.

It was fun snapping this photo from the widow's walk of a really nice home just across the street from the water. It's listed for $1,099,000. There are lots of homes in the area for list, but this is definitely a special one partially due to the location.

The whole area is spectacular with great views of the sun setting over the sound and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. If you walk down the street by a few houses, you come to the access to "The Point."

There you will see a wide strand of sand and one of the most spectacular vistas on the coast. It is a great place to gather at sunset. You do not have to preview many homes along the coast to learn that the proximity to water has a lot to do with the price. This really nice beach cottage lists for $549,000. It is a great location, but perhaps with not as spectacular views as the other spot. It's also a smaller place.

Still on the beach much of your money goes for location and not house. Over on the mainland just a few miles from the beach you can find a place like this one for $339,900. On the mainland while still near the water you can end up with a lot of house just a few miles from the beach. This listing of ours at 126 White Heron Lane is a good example.

Of course if you want it all there are places that meet that criteria also. Bahama Breeze which is right on the beach with fantastic view, beach access, and its own home theater is a great example.

All of this proves that when buying houses, the equation to happiness and finding a place that meets your specific needs can be a little complicated. It pays to take the time to have someone helping you find that spot of personal paradise.

Of course if you never try to find that perfect place, you never will. There are lots of homes on the market right now. If you want a great choice, now is the time to start looking.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Emerald Isle, NC Saint Patrick's Day Festival


The Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival promised to be my first taste of a local festival. With the water warming, temperatures showing some promise and even some Bradford Pears starting to bloom, I was a little worried when the Saturday of the event turned out to coincide with the arrival of yet another taste of cooler Canadian air. Fortunately the cooler temperatures did little to cool the enthusiasm of the crowds. As I swung onto Emerald Drive from the bridge, it was not long before I saw cars parked everywhere along Emerald Isle's main drag.

The main event was hosted in the parking lot of Emerald Plantation Shopping Center by Food Lion. I was impressed by how many vendors could be placed in and around the shopping center. There were a number of craft booths, displaying several types of artwork including herons, fish, both painted wooden. Then there were booths with handicrafts such as hand bags, book marks, candles and clothing. There was even a table of homemade preserves. The Emerald Isle Fire and EMS Departments were there along with groups as varied as Angels for Animals and the Emerald Isle Parrot Head Club.

The kids had plenty there to entertain them, including rides and face painting. I saw a few folks with green hair and even one person who appeared to have painted all his exposed skin green. I did not see any blue skin from the somewhat chilly temperatures or people on the climbing wall. I did see a few folks warming their hands around some portable outdoor heaters, but most people seemed to ignore the weather and were having a great time.

The Budwiser Beer Tent appeared to be packed. There was live music and music from one of the radio stations. The music certainly added a festive air to the event.

Then there were the food tents and carts which had offerings ranging from Collard Sandwiches to almost every type of festival food that there is, including ribbon fries and funnel cakes. I was trying to stay away from the food so I could be prepared for the later in the day Oyster Roast in Swansboro so I ended up just taking home a pound of barbecue. It turned out to particularly delicious barbecue which I had watched them hand chop and season at the booth. Unfortunately the wind was blowing when I snapped a picture of the booth. It folded the sign so I will have to go another year guessing who made the barbecue which turned out to some of the best that I have had since my youth.

It brought back memories of containers of barbecue that a friend, who was farmer in Kernersville, NC, used to bring us as samples from their yearly cook off during their spring horse show. The Emerald Isle Festival barbecue was nearly perfect with just the right mixture of crispy outer crust and lean meat mixed with a spicy vinegar based sauce. My congratulations to the anonymous King of the Barbecue.

My only regret is that I missed the Port City Pipes & Drums. I assume they must have played earlier and left or perhaps were taking a well deserved break in the beer tent when I visited.

I have posted pictures at http://coastalnc.org/saintpatricksday

I know one thing, I have to find the maker of that barbecue before next year.

Friday, March 09, 2007

What is a view worth?

The simple answer is that it depends. This picture was taken from in front of an Oasis beach condo/town home in Atlantic Beach, NC. If you want to walk out the door of your own home and see this particular view, then it will cost around $750K to make ones of these homes yours.

Actually when it comes to being on the beach these days, that price is a bargain. Get in touch with me if you want to explore that thought a little more. Still if you just want to visit and rent a piece of paradise, the prices are much lower. Of course none of us really own a view.

A view is more than just the land. It is the light, the sky, the water, and the interaction between all of the elements. There's actually a public access parking area just behind the spot where I took this picture so timing is also important. You likely wouldn't find this same view during the fourth of July week. This picture was taken on a cool March 8, 2007. Actually it might be a long time before you could get this exact view again.

Still this was a particularly nice view with a 4WD truck headed down a mostly deserted beach with very nice light. I especially like the softness of the sand, shadows, sky, and water. It makes for a calming view or actually a very inexpensive digital image that I can enjoy for a long time.

I took the picture with my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 camera. It does a really nice job taking pictures with a true 16:9 aspect ratio. A good example is this sunrise over the White Oak River.

Getting that view required rolling out of bed very early and standing, almost shivering, in the early morning air at the Centennial Park in Swansboro, NC. In my old neighborhood in Roanoke, Virginia, most of my neighbors know that they might catch me out on the deck early in the morning snapping pictures of the sun rising over the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have taken thousands of pictures of the sun bathing downtown Roanoke in early morning light.

It takes some dedication to take pictures of sunrises. Anyone can take pictures of sunsets.

Of course anyone who gets up early and has a digital camera can take pictures of sunrises. They might not have as a good a location as we do in Roanoke, VA, but in theory they could find a spot. Still snapping pictures with a digital camera is not like the work of an artist who might paint something that they see only in their mind's eye.

I recently got the chance to meet Mary Warshaw, an artist living in Beaufort, NC. Mary also does a blog on Beaufort. As an artist she can do much more to create an image than I can even with all the tools in a fancy digital camera.

Having taken several rides on the Mystery tour boat which cruises Beaufort inlet and Taylor's Creek, I can almost imagine Mary's beautiful print, "I’m Home—Beaufort Waterfront and the Meka II."

The Beaufort waterfront, fortunately for those of us who missed the days of sailing ships hasn't really changed a lot. Through Mary's imagination and skill, we can see what Beaufort looked like long ago as the ships came home from the sea.

While the home with the view of the beach goes for only $750K and is a deal when compared to other homes with a similar beach view, Mary's prints are even more reasonable with prices as low as $45.

You can even enjoy them far away from the coast. I have one being framed now to hang on the wall in our mountain home in Roanoke.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Contemplating cosmic changes in real estate


I made the decision to become a Realtor® last July. As in any life changing decision, there were a number of factors. I wanted to be in an industry that valued individual contribution. Working with people where I could develop a relationship was also important to me.

My vision of real estate came from my own experience of receiving dedicated personal service when buying and selling houses over the years. While I found houses of interest on the Internet when we did our last purchase, we ended up buying one that we had never seen on a computer. A great local agent at Bluewater GMAC Real Estate in Cape Carteret, NC found us just the right spot after showing us plenty of places we couldn't see digitally.

Now as I am coming up to speed as a Realtor® here on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina (SOBX), I find that there is a huge push for real estate brokers to embrace the Internet. It is true that more and more customers are doing their initial searches on the Internet. The younger the people, the more likely they are to depend on some Internet help at first.

I believe that the Internet can add value to real estate transaction. I am a huge believer in technology used properly. However, I think people who believe that the Internet is going to drive all the costs out real transaction are misleading themselves or others whom they're trying to capture as customers. Adding technology to real estate purchases is not going to be the same as pay at the pump, ATM, or self checkout at the grocery store. Technology hasn't driven down our banking, grocery, or gasoline costs.

Buying real estate is also not like buying a car. While the Internet helps intelligent car purchasers save some money, it hasn't help much with my service costs at the local dealership.

Real estate is still a local market unless you just don't care where you live. Buying a home is far more complicated than any other purchase and comes with lots of potential pitfalls. The reason many people think that real estate transactions are easy is that they have been fortunate to have had some very good real estate brokers working with them. The number of things that can go wrong in a real estate transaction are amazing. Having nearly 24X7 human help during this process can protect the largest investment that you will likely ever make in your lifetime.

While the Internet can truly help, it is still important to have trained professionals doing a great job for each client who wants to find the right place to invest money in real estate, whether it is the perfect place for a second home, or the right spot for a great retirement home. There is no getting away from real estate requiring lots of shoe leather hitting the pavement or in our case lots of sandals on the sand.

While the real estate business is going to change dramatically just as many others have, it's not going to change to the point where working with quality professionals isn't important.

A post on one of my other blogs deals with an article which hinted that real estate professionals are on their way out because they don't add value equal to the commission that they charge. The post, "Old school at times and proud of it," is a detailed commentary on the subject and explains many of the complexities of the subject.

In this market, I think most sellers will find that a great Realtor® is worth every penny they charge.

While it may be very easy to buy a property right now, buying it and buying it right are two different things. Selling homes today requires all the professional help you can afford.