If I had the chance, I’d ask the world to dance

So far this weekend hasn’t gone according to plan, yet somehow, it’s gone well.  I decided to not fight with Seeno over the fence and just build the half fence that was already on the agenda.  It’s going midway through the yard.  It’s purpose is to keep the dogs out of the vegetable garden and away from the fruit trees, neither of which are currently planted.  Now I know where the raspberries will be planted.

I did a Sub-Max heart rate test yesterday.  I was a little nervous since I’d been so sick all week, and while I felt better, I didn’t feel great.  Still, I had pretty good oxygen and came out with the numbers I thought I was going to.  Max HR 190.  191 and I vapor lock.  Best number for cycling is 133, apparently it changes according to sport, but my heart still pops at 191.  I think I’m going to wear the Polar more than I do currently.

Rita is coming along nicely and if my Mac hadn’t taken a powder last night, I’d have lovely photographs of my little girl.  I have one more test to run before I’m off to see a Mac tech.  Blee.  Her little butt hits the ground when I say sit.  She walks at an almost perfect heel and she’s getting the automatic sit down pretty good.  The counter surfing is another whole issue.  I was getting ready to have some toasted nan and hummus and watch the game today when I heard a noise in the kitchen.  There was Rita with a hunk of nan running away.  She doesn’t get into trouble for much, since it’s obvious that she’s been beaten in her previous life, she got in trouble for that.  Generally raising my voice is all I have to do.  I raised my voice, took it away from her and banished her out of sight.  I might has well beaten her with a stick, she was crestfallen. 

And the Neti pot is an adventure in and to itself.  Who knew your nose worked like that?  But on the other hand, that thing works wonders.  Four paws up on that one.  I’m still not 100% but this was the worst cold I’ve had in years.  I stopped by a friend’s house yesterday and picked fresh oranges to make juice.  That was what got me through riding BART last year, maybe someone else’s trees will get me through this year.  I’ve had enough.

I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money


graphic stolen from the Chronicle 

On one hand, this makes my bunny whiskers twitch.  On the other, I see opportunity.  What I see here is that the more affluent counties are just fine…Marin, Santa Clara, even San Mateo and San Francisco.  The less affluent counties or counties with a higher concentration of lower income (not low income) are taking a beating.  Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Sonoma.  I know that Contra Costa County is taking an ass whipping out in Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood and Oakley.   Even Concord has their share of issues.  Most of these counties have workers who commute into San Francisco, Oakland or other hubs for work.  They’re getting killed coming and going.  Their commute costs have skyrocketed, they’ve been shuffling stuff around trying to keep things going and the mortgages have reset.  Mortgages they should have never gotten into in the first place.  And they have no equity.  So they’re short selling or just walking away.  And that drives the market down.  For the record, good houses in good neighborhoods are selling.  Crap is sitting.

I put 25% down on the The Farm and got it for around 20% under what the neighborhood was going for, so we’re in good shape for now.  A lot of people didn’t do that.  The guy that bought Camp Dowhatchawanna do is going to get killed when the mortgage resets next December.  I might buy it back then.  They paid over market and went with 100% financing.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I had a meeting last year with a contractor.  I was looking for a contractor to partner with to rehab houses.  He didn’t see a reason to partner with me, since I had the bulk of the skills myself.  I thought he missed the point, but admitted that maybe I was off the mark.  Today, I can say that guy was an idiot.  There’s a contractor’s special four houses down from me that I KNOW has $75k-$120k of upside and I can’t do it without a contractor.  The owner walked away four months ago.  The owner carry back is making the payments on the first, which is stupid because it was 100% financing back then and it’s on the market for less than the original 100%.  They ought to just let it go.  I just wish I knew a contractor with the vision to know what needed to happen. 

The Tom Toms are still warring

I still would like to be wrong about Financial Title Company, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  They’ve all but pulled out of Southern California and have had another lay off up here.  Smells just like what Alliance did before their collapse.  Last month I heard it was business as usual over there, nice lush offices, everything being taken care of, but in this market, that can’t last.  My experience with Ivy when she was at Alliance, was that she was a lot more conservative in her spending.  Sometimes so much so that it was a little over the top.   I find it hard to believe that she has changed that dramatically over a couple of years.  Not that her resume is such that she be considered an elite corporate officer, which is kind of typical of the Hauptmans.

but every junkie’s like a setting sun.

The Wine Dog is sick. Really sick. My sinuses are so inflamed my teeth hurt kind of sick. Of the ridiculous four head colds I have had this year, this one takes the cake. I got up and tried to go to work today, but I couldn’t stop sneezing, and my teeth hurt from my sinuses. So I went back to bed. But when I woke up, my teeth still hurt. And my sinuses hurt. And now I was hungry. Sooooo, (here’s the part I hate where I confess a guilty pleasure) I made a cup of tea and watched several episodes of the Real Housewives of Orange County. It makes me feel good about my life. At least I know who John Wayne was.

And here’s a little shot of my little Rita. Go ahead and click the thumbnail.  I know you want to.


That’s probably how she got puppies at such a young age. Old habits die slowly or old professions.

So gentle readers, I’ve got nothing new.  I haven’t answered my phone all day and I haven’t spoken to anyone, besides my dogs.  I really think the nuts and bolts of this thing are with the former Alliance Title transition team that now works for FATCO in Pleasanton.  Nothing sinister at all, they did their best to clean up the slop that Patty Hauptman created and then ran to the other side of the bridge to handle the intake.   A thankless job, but I suspect they’re being readied for Part Deux.  And I hope they testify.  In the meantime, one of our gentle readers forwarded me this.  Enjoy.

Put the lime in de coconut…

Oh my God!  The Coconut Telegraph is burning up the wires this morning.  So, like the kangaroo says, wtf mate. 

Financial Title Company has a huge managment meeting today, senior management was in meetings all day yesterday with the underwriter (FATCO) and word is, “ist kaput”.

Start making copies of your book of business gals, the fat lady is practicing her scales.

I think I’ll keep it for myself

Today, I didn’t feel bad enough to stay home or good enough to go to work. So that just makes for a really pissy combination. That kind of snottiness that makes you wake up with your eyes and nose crusted over in a pool of drool on your pillow because you’ve been sleeping with your mouth open, because your nose is crusted over kind of sick. The kind of sick where you go back in your mind over all the people who were so inconsiderate as to go outside in crowds of people when they were infected and want to disembowel them. I should have gotten up and stood on the BART train that morning that guy sat behind me and sniffled for the entire ride. Or the guy with the annoying hack. But I didn’t and now I’m just wasting my hate. My overall sense is that of aggravation. Coupled that with a few ironic conversations, well, away we go! Danger! Rant ahead!

First, let me take a swipe at Seeno. Yeah, the monsterous builder of Contra Costa County and also the owner of the adjacent property to mine. According to their “Property Manager” the fence that blew over in the storm is mine, and therefore my problem. It’s a common fence you ass clown. Is that how you got rich? Jacking the average Joe? I’m giving Albert Seeno III Today’s Worst Person in the World. (with a nod to Keith Olbermann)

The seminal event –a conversation with a Senior Paralegal at MoFo. (who BTW is on the list of the top 100 places to work) I’ve done business with this woman on and off for around twelve years. She was a puppy paralegal when I first met her. She is a seasoned professional now. We were working on a transaction together and I was explaining something in the preliminary report to her. There are certain buzzwords that make paralegals twitch. Documents entitled “Agreement for Water Use” fall into that category. This particular document affected farm property and was necessary back in the 1930’s for these guys to get a loan from the Federal Land Bank. It said so, right in the document. So I explained everything that I thought about the document and she said “I was so glad to see you were on this deal. There are so few Title Officers who know what they’re doing any more. I knew you’d know what to do.” I took it as it was meant. I get a comment like that nearly every day. I had a guy last month, who I had never worked with before tell me that working with me was “fun and easy”. For my money, that was one of the best compliments I’ve gotten short of this:

Thanks for all your help with the XYZ Holdings, Ltd. transaction. Your professionalism, calm demeanor and good humor were much appreciated. (They are in short supply in many organizations these days) I hope we can work on another closing in the future.


Hank is a Texas land lawyer who sent me that in a handwritten note on his personal stationary. Every time I read that I can hear his gentle Texas accent on the phone. Sadly, I haven’t had an opportunity to work on a Jaguar dealership since then.

I’m good. I know what I’m doing and I’ve been doing it since 1976. And I’ll probably leave the business in the next year or so, out of aggravation with the industry. The sad part is there is no one coming up behind me. I possess skills and a craft that is no longer revered or even expected, and the number of claims attorneys will triple because of it. Pay me now or pay them later.

The rumbling in the business is that things will swing back to the way they were (prior to title work being done uh, remotely) I think it will too. I just don’t know if I have the stomach to wait for a lumbering industry to catch up to what I already know. In 1995 I went to my first Macworld. I was amazed at the technology. I went back and told my boss at the time that the technology existed to store digitized copies of recorded documents, scrape those documents with optical character recognition software and insert that information into a preliminary report. Thirteen years later, the title industry still hasn’t implemented a technology that I figured out after my first Macworld and a couple of beers. And while that’s super cool technology, it is not a substitute for actual knowledge. Every county has it’s nuances and unless a title professional is working in that particular county every single day, they cannot keep up with the nuances. I am expected to write the entire country, (with the exception of attorney states). It scares me to death. Hell, San Mateo County with their squirrelly joint plant scares me. Multnomah County scares the shiweewee out of me. And we have 10,000 workers in a country that doesn’t even have title insurance writing our preliminary reports. How foolhardy is that?

Back in the day (when I was young) title companies built their title plants by having Posters in the back rooms. These people would run out the legal descriptions of every new recorded document and “post” that document into the proper arb account. Then when an order opened on that property, the searcher would go to the arb book, run the correct arb and be able to prepare the search package based on what was posted in the arb book. Smaller companies went to the courthouse and grantor/grantee searched everything, or purchased “plant time” or “search packages” from the larger firms.

That’s a big misnomer in this business. Customers, that is, policy purchasers, believe that we search the Official Record every time we write a prelim or a commitment. We don’t. We search our plant, we never actually search the Official Record. Nowadays, we all have the same plant, so we all make the same mistakes. Half the time we write “quick” reports that have a bullshit exception in them that essentially means “anything we might have found, had we done the job you think we did”. Back in the 1970’s a company by the name of HW Systems came into Alameda County and built a plant back to 1958. (a very good year). TRW bought them and ran it for a number of years. I used to hang out with the San Francisco poster. He would locate all of the previous day’s documents and mark them up for the keypunchers. They would then input the information for the title plant. He was out of there no later than 11am every single day and half of that time we were screwing around talking about Formula racing. He’s now a cab driver. The point is, not a lot goes into how things were posted back in the 1980’s. I’m sure less goes into it now. I’m positive that the tapes are sent to another country and coded and keypunched there. TRW sold the unit eventually and it is now owned by First American, which coincidentally had this little press release today. So when marketing reps come out and tell customers how they “carefully search the records”, that’s bullshit. They punch some buttons in on a computer, the document retrieval system prints out a run, they choose which documents they’d like to see from that and lickety split it goes right back out the back door, in Bangalore.

The thing is, the part where the record is carefully searched, is gone. It’s a lost art. It’s ancient history. When I ran the American plant we went into San Francisco. A friend of mine had a copy of the E&R cards in her basement and we paid her $2500 for them. They were Easement and Restriction cards on every block in San Francisco. It was compiled by a an old Title Officer, Egon Hall over the span of his career and then copied for those coming up behind him. I took a kid that I thought had potential and taught her how to run property at the courthouse in San Francisco. I told her “never forget what you’ve learned right here. It’s a lost art and it will separate you from the crowd someday.” That was the last kid I taught how to search the record. The guy at our shop who knew how to search the Macinernies in San Francisco died. That leaves me. Before I got here, they had no one. Which gets me to the last part of our rant today Jackie Speier.  Jackie Speier is running for the House of Representatives and needs to be stopped. Here’s why.

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, responded at the time by saying that lawmakers need to take a closer look at the politically powerful title insurance industry, which had lobbied aggressively to prevent consumers from having access to lower-cost alternative plans. Apparently Speier didn’t like what she saw. She introduced legislation the other day that would allow homeowners to cut their title insurance costs in half when refinancing. “The law in California has lagged behind changes in technology and consumers spending upwards of $1,000 each time they refinance their home,” Speier told me. “This bill will create more competition in the mortgage guarantee and title business, and that can only be good for consumers.” When I first tackled this issue, I focused on an upstart firm called Radian Guaranty that wanted to offer cut-rate mortgage insurance policies. Radian’s service wouldn’t include many of the bells and whistles, such as title searches, that are usually not necessary for refinancing. The problem was that mortgage insurance was deemed by state officials to be no different from title insurance, and title insurance can only be offered in California by a licensed title insurer. Under Speier’s bill — SB344 — both title insurers and mortgage guarantee companies like Radian could offer the new low-cost policies, a move that could save homeowners hundreds of dollars during the refi process.

Politically powerful? That’s a crock in and to itself. And why it’s complete bullshit.

And these little tidbits, that really make my whiskers twitch.


Beauregard and Rita concur, Jackie Speier must be stopped. The bitch is after two of the things that matter most to me. My job and my dogs. She must be stopped. Again.

Educating Rita


What a sweet little nose that is!


And she looks so sweet sleeping.  Unfortunately, today while I was at work, she ate the bicycle pump you see behind her.  I really wished she had cracked some of that cheap ass Lockwood shit on the fire place, but no dice.  Instead, she got hold of….


That was my tire gauge.  It is no more.

Munchenhausen by Proxy Wiederbesucht

I am sick again.  It’s the fourth head cold since August.  Coincidence?  Nein.  Two stomach viruses, four head colds, it’s no coincidence.  So I’m light on dirt tonight.  Please feel free to add you own spin.  I’m working on a rant against the Evil Empire, certainly one of my favorite targets, but for now, I’m sick, I just had a double shot of Jim Beam Black in some hot water with lemon and honey and I’m hitting it early.  Anybody know the keyboard shortcut for an umlaut?

What a drag it is getting older

Thursday was my Mother’s 80th birthday. Happy Birthday old girl. When we heard Auntie was coming to California we got tickets for Teatro Zinzanni. My Aunt told the hosts and everyone that it was my Mother’s 80th birthday. In the end, I don’t think they believed her. They brought out some 83 year old lady who looked like death warmed over and the other people at the table kept gushing about how Mother didn’t look 80. She is. Last night we had a cake for her over here. After she blows out the candles, some one says something about living another 80 years. My Brothers doesn’t miss a beat with “Please don’t”. She’s finally starting to get into the groove of the new place. For those of you who are new to the site, look up “Judy Davis, Today’s Worst Person in the World“. There’s a special place for her in Hell.



Rita posing. What can you say about a little girl who’s probably only 18 months at best, has already had a litter and has two tattoos? She’s my little redheaded hooker.


The boys got to play yesterday. Rita was very jealous of Loki. Beauregard, afterall belongs to her now.




Rita asking Auntie to please hold her beer while she goes for a run with the boys.

Because there’s no explaining what your imagination

… Can make you see and feel

We thought John Harritt was in the Witness Protection Program. But lo and behold, there’s been a sighting of sorts. The Wine Dog’s Coconut Telegraph reports John Harritt calling a former employee (who coincidentally threatened to sue Patty Hauptman personally) last week to say “Sorry, there’s no money to pay your vacation”. At least we know he still has phone service. And Patty Hauptman still has a lap dog.

No good deed goes unpunished

For those of you who thrive on my home improvements adventures, today I put the dishwasher from my house into my mother’s condo. Everything under the sink at my mother’s house is frozen. So I had to go back to my house to get some Liquid Wrench. So I crack the faucet handle and THINK I turn the water OFF. Not so much. So when I take the hose off of the dishwasher water sprays all over the kitchen. And sprays. And sprays. And sprays. Now I have an inch or so of water on the floor and my helper Guillermo (really my Uncle, Billy the Pope) is shouting “Mop, mop!” but I hear “hot, hot” and I’m like “yeah, it’s damned hot”. After that portion of our show, I realize that the discharge hose we have won’t fit this dishwasher. So off I go to General Plumbing. I’m not a fan of General Plumbing since a couple of their guys were jackasses to me in 2002. Yeah, I hold a grudge. But I needed a real plumbing supply and had no choice. I get down there and they’re packed. An older guy helps me and actually takes the time to understand my plight and then tells me “You have to go to Sears for that part, they make them proprietary so you have to go back to them”. So off I go to Sears. Downstairs to the dishwasher department and a very helpful young man informs me that I need to go to the parts depot (which is much closer to my mother’s house than the last two stops). So off I go to the parts department and they have ONE left. The guy at counter is probably from Willows, California, because he is epically stupid and may have an extra hand coming out of his forehead. Twenty minutes later, someone else returns from their break (I was the next person in line for all that time) and takes over whatever Epically Stupid Guy was trying to do and Epically Stupid Guy checks me out. For $16.98 I needed to show him my ID. Wow.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer company

American Express apparently is having some issues. After Thursday debacle all I can say is couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

What the Wine Dog is drinking

Ballentine’s Scotch. Hand carried back for me from Scotland. Yeah, that rocks.

What the Wine Dog recommends

If you’re owed vacation time etc. from Patty Hauptman and her trained lap dog John Harritt, threaten to sue them and send a copy to the local paper. And the Wine Dog, I’ll publish it too. And do check our archives, I have all the information you need to collect what’s owed, because you can not discharge wages in bankruptcy court. And please, file judgments on some of the lovely homes we’ve showcased here on PBE. Don’t file one on the PBE abode. 😉

And the conflict rubs against my grain

Here’s something that just makes my head want to explode. Just blow clean off of my shoulders. I have pretty decent credit, in spite of getting canned by Alliance Title Company last October and not getting a job again until February 2007. If you’ve been with PBE for a while, you’ll know I bought and remodeled a house last June. Some of the remodel went on credit cards. The Bloodless Empire supposedly pays bonuses quarterly in my unit. In reality, they paid a Christmas bonus to everyone in my unit but the Wine Dog, but that story is for another day. The byproduct of this slight is the fact that a chunk of the remodel should have been paid off last month, and wasn’t. So I got the idea to use some of those checks they send you every month with the low interest rate. The theory being to move the higher interest rate cards to the cards with checks and get it paid off at 0.00% or 2.99% or 4.99% all of which were offered. All the marketing material that comes with these checks suggests that the consumer do exactly that. I chose my Costco American Express to use for some of the consolidation. There was a balance there, which I would pay off with a 0.00% check from another card, thereby lowering my rates all around. So on the last week of December I write three of the checks. They pay off two cards and reduce a third. American Express takes it upon themselves to readjust my credit limit from $15,000 to $7500 and bounced the second and third check. Whee! When I call them and say WTF mate, they say, well, you’ve moved stuff from one credit card to another and you’ve only made your minimum payment with us so we adjusted the credit limit based on that information. Blink Blink. You stupid shits. If you didn’t want me to use them why did you send them and suggest that I do exactly what I did? And then jack me up like that? You can’t change your mind once the horse is out of the barn. How ignorant do you have to be? I did it so I could make more than the minimum payment. HELLO! So I finish opening my mail last night only to find another missive from American Express with three more checks suggesting I use them to reduce my rate from other cards. Can a company compete for Worst Person in the World? I got out my Sharpie and wrote a little suggestion for them and mailed them back.

SOS inquiry

Because you asked… Alliance Title Company, Inc., is a corporation in good standing with the Secretary of State of the State of California. It’s President is still John Harritt. That means that they have filed all of their State taxes appropriately, so far. It also means they haven’t filed for bankruptcy protection. And the Mercury website is still down. Don’t cha just wonder what they pay John Harritt to sit wherever they have him sitting and not return phone calls? (I did check our corporate directory to be sure he wasn’t on our payroll) THAT would have been embarrassing. And a little tidbit from the Title Report…Washington Mutual did in fact issue a do not do business edict regarding Financial Title Company on December 20, 2007. On December 21, 2007 they retracted it. I wonder how many phone calls from Denver it took to undo that. I’m trying to remember which large lender did the same thing to Alliance Title Company a couple of years ago…

The wine dog is drinking…

Robert Keenan’s 2002 Cabernet Franc. It’s got really nice structure, I believe it was released three years ago. I’m getting currents and blueberries with very nice (love to say this word) mouthfeel. I just googled around and Robert Parker gave this thing a 94. I might be a jackass for opening it on a Thursday night. Or not.

Every beer joint in town has played the fool for you

Sometimes things just fall into place. I’d been looking for a little female Doberman for about a year. I was thinking I was going to go the puppy route later this year, and then Rita fell into my lap. I named her that. She’s named after Rita Hayworth:
And her call name is Rita. Not Ritard.
Hopefully Rita the redheaded Doberman will continue to do as well as she has. I took her to the Mt. Diablo Dog Training Club on Monday night for the first class of the current session. I knew it was awfully quick after getting her, but the more things that I did and just acted as if it was business as usual; the better I felt her socialization would go. One of the guys suggested I take her back home it was too soon, but after a few minutes with her, he knew what I knew. She did pretty well. The mirror was a bit of a mystery to her. After all, how can you have a dog in the mirror that hasn’t any scent? What is that about? But she learned to sit and does it about 80% of the time. Then there is the biggest and bestest command of all time. This is the command where I teach my dogs to do their business on command. Yeah, on command. This is extremely useful when it’s pouring outside and you live in an apartment. I still laugh at the gal I lived down the hall from in Parkwoods. She’d be out there with her little guy Hunter and he’d be sniffing every blade of grass in the Oakland Hills. She’d be soaked. I’d come downstairs with Xica and Beauregard, bark the command and legs would lift and hips would splay and business would be conducted. I’d scoot back upstairs and she would still be standing in the rain with Hunter, sniffing his 723rd blade of grass for the evening. It’s a handy little command. It came into play over the weekend when this last storm blew over my back fence. It’s currently propped up with a 2X4 and a prayer. And Rita has learned the command in three days. And since we’re talking about the fence, how about a conversation with my Mother about the fence.

The back fence fell down.
It blew down in the storm.
No yesterday.
Is it still down?
Yes, the creek back there is full of rushing water too.
What creek?
The creek behind my house.
I didn’t know there was a creek behind your house.
Well now you do, that’s why there’s that easement back there.
What easement?
The one for the creek.
Why is there an easement for a creek?
So I can’t build back there.
Were you going to build something back there?
I’m hanging up now.

Blink blink.