This just in…

Stewart Title Contra Costa buh bye. Houston tossed in the towel today. PBE wishes the best of luck to the folks who lost their jobs. Call me, we’ll do lunch! God knows I haven’t anything else to do.

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed

The Evil Empire cut 1600 jobs in the second quarter and is prepared to lop off more heads. Doesn’t that make you proud? The stock took its largest dump since 2005 last Wednesday. Yet, the Burgermeister continues to show a profit. Not much of a profit, .03 per share, but a profit. Actually it’s a fall off of 92% from last year. Here’s the transcript of the call.

We continue to navigate our way through an extremely challenging market during the second quarter. Title order accounts continuing to weaken, focused on reducing our personnel costs, downsizing our operations, refine the size of our title operations, (inaudible 00:03:13) Randy Quirk, as our cost-cutting efforts.

Bill Foley

I’d sure like to refine that guy’s ass.

Today is Ted’s Excellent Title Adventure’s earnings release…after the bell natch. Here’s a little something that ended up in my inbox. Someone needs to tell NASCAR Teddy that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. They downgraded your ass and put you on a negative watch. All the mayonnaise in the world isn’t going to make that taste any different. It’s still a chicken shit sandwich.

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The Bloodless Empire will have their call on Thursday. My final act should have been to submit a question to them. Although in a week my question would have changed. Now it would be “What is the Bloodless Empire’s threshold for pain when it comes to terrorism?” You have to wonder, is it the loss of human life or the loss of data? Or my other question “Can the title company really stand on its own after the split or is it ripe for assimilation by FNF or LFG?” They both want to buy it once it’s split off. The hedge fund doesn’t care, they’re busy destroying an over one hundred year old institution, they’re just corporate raiders. We all know who’s pulling Parker Kennedy’s strings. My money’s on Ted on this one. LandAmerica|First American, coming soon.

Dinty Moore reports tomorrow. Doesn’t look like they have the stomach for an earnings call. After bleeding out $1.24 a share Q1, they’re probably just hoping to sneak past the graveyard.

Old Repulsive seems to be just chugging along. They reported a loss of .22 per share last week. They’ve been on a negative watch since June, so Ted’s in good company. Their old school conservative management continues to navigate these treacherous waters. You’d think this would be the one that everyone was gunning for, but I think they’re too stodgy and they’re going to bring their battle weary ship in to port when this is all over with.

But action is no gift from some covert and lofty god


View Larger Map

Does this make me Satan? Somebody said to me that it was probably some godfersaken hellhole with goats walking through it. It’s not. It’s a nice pristine hellhole with workers slammed in there elbow to elbow. Something you can’t do in this country. Here’s Bangalore. Here’s Mangalore. If you have any question as to why the title plants (information retrieval systems) are the way they are, check out Hyderabad. I supposed I could spend some time figuring out where LandAmerica or Fidelity outsources, but they didn’t shitcan my butt last week. Actually, a little bird told me this info is on it’s way.

L’il Red Dog

I took Rita for a long walk today which happened to go past the vet’s office. I wanted to get her weighed in. If you recall I was fighting to get some weight on her little red butt. Well, today she weighted in at 53.9, which is close enough to 54 to make me very very happy. If I can get her to hold right here I think it’s perfect. This little dog has been living in the lap of luxury since last Monday. I don’t know what she’s going to do if I ever go back to work. (feel free to support the PBE sponsors, it helps with the dog food)

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Down on the Farm

The zucchini is growing like crazy. I cut the first one tonight. I’ve got another right behind it. The tomatoes are coming along nicely. The second part of Rita’s walk was a stop at Navlet’s. I asked them what I could plant because I had a partial crop failure. Apparently the fall seeds are coming in on Friday, so I’ll go back then and pick out some stuff to plant for the next season. I haven’t had to pay money for lettuce in over a month now. That rocks.

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They’re thumbnails…click me click me.

Working it out

I started another four week cycle this morning. For all intents and purposes, it went very well. It’s nice to have all the time I need in the gym, although sometimes I kick my own ass. I went out this afternoon on the bike. I got about 2 miles from the house and POP SSSssssss. There wasn’t anything in the tire, it’s just that the gash that the glass cut is so deep that the tube pushed it’s way out of it and ruptured. I’m not too thrilled with the idea of having to buy a new tire already. I don’t know if this can be fixed. Must consult the Google.

Ooops!

The right wing is having a grand time with this:

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Everybody knows he knows he meant 47. Just like we know that McSame knew the mike was upside down.

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So let’s just end with some random cuteness.

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Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning

It goes boom!

My goodness, where to start on something like this? I would say something like I told you so, but that would be smug. How long do you think this can go on with exploding flower pots? I wonder what kind of stomach Santa Ana’s has for dead people.

Say cheese

At what point does the bullshit stop? This is enough to make my head blow up. And y’all think this makes you closer to God? Bet not. As a matter of fact, I think it puts you out with the moneychangers. Wonder what was on the note McSame stuck between the Stilton and the Gruyere.

La porte s’il vous plaît

I hope I’m not the canary in the pile of cow crap crowing, but I think I finally got the damned French Door fixed. I was afraid to start this part of the project because if I blew it the house would be wide open and I would be heading off to work. So since that nasty having to go to work problem has been solved, I thought I’d dicker with the door today. It didn’t start off properly. I had the wrong sized screws. I took the hinge off and went down to the hardware store and got the right sized screws. The contractor who was helping me called back after the last debacle and said “try chiseling out some wood from under the top hinge and then get some longer screws and pull it right into the house”. I did and it worked. I’m going to install the dead bolt finally…if some cow doesn’t come along and crap on my head.

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Li’l Miss Pissypants

My unemployment has been a boon to the little red dog. She went from spending eleven hours a day by herself to have me up her ass home more often than not. Before, she would piss in my dining room easily every other day. If it was cool enough to crate her, she’d even piss in her crate. She knew she wasn’t supposed to, I guess she just couldn’t help herself. Sometimes it would be when I went to the gym and then she’d be fine while I was at work. I really think she would get too fired up with squirrel tv and try and mark the dining room as hers. Now, I’m wearing her out. When I come home I find her asleep. As a matter of fact, if I can’t find her at all, she’s probably asleep in the yard, on the couch or in my bed. All are acceptable sleeping spots. I took her for her walk around 10am this morning. I was running a little late as I was busy doing behind the scenes work on this page and my other website. I got to the gym around 8:30 and her walk ended up around 10am. What I noticed was this little dog is walking perfectly at heel. She sits perfectly and she’s even learned the turns she has to do for the Obedience Ring. She’s got the worst down in the whole world.

Down!
Really?
Down!
Really?
Down!
Are you sure you want me to down? I know you’ve said it three times now, but before I lay down, I really want to be sure that’s what you want.
Rita! Lay the hell down!
OK, I’m going to lay down.

I’ve been taking her with me more places trying to get her more socialized. She’s doing great. The hardware store is a favorite adventure. She stands quietly while I pick out what I need, she’s kind to children and doesn’t jump up on the counter for treats like every other dog I’ve owned. I can’t wait to get her into the Novice 1 class in September.

The jig is up the news is out they finally found me

For those who asked:

This is a little off as I didn’t go back up Ygnacio, I took Treat back.

  • Total mileage 66.76.
  • Time 5:24:19
  • MPH 12.3 (I lost almost 1 mph off the average on the way home…more on that)
  • Calories burned around 2930
  • Post ride nap with Rita 2:00

I left that house around 7:15. I came screaming down Ygnacio, there was no wind at all. The first portion was completely uneventful with the exception of the fact that I was riding very fast. I was averaging over 14mph. And I felt awesome. It has done my body good to not sit in a chair all day. I should have filed a worker’s comp for them not fixing my chair. Just a week out of it and I feel a ton better. I made my morning potty stop at the Chevron in San Ramon and refilled my water bottle. I’d already gone through one 25oz bottle. Off I went through Dublin, no problem, Pleasanton, piece of cake. As I’m nearing the Pleasanton Ridge regional park I hear POP, SSSSssssssssss. Out on those back roads there are lots of trees which cover the roadway. As you go into and out of the light it’s hard to see things in the road. I didn’t see a broken beer bottle until it was too late. So I changed a tire in front of a lovely estate out there. I got back on and started to head out when I realized that I didn’t close my rear brake. THAT would have sucked if I didn’t remember, had to brake hard and only had a front brake. But I remembered and got it taken care of. I got all the way to Sunol and then wasn’t sure what the safest way to proceed south from there might be. I was three miles short of where I wanted to be and it was already screaming hot. I decided to head back. I was booking around 18mph on the way back and then somewhere in Danville, I hit the wall. Bad. I had drank all of my water and refilled at the Iron Horse Trail intersection. Drank a bunch more to no avail. I got back on for the ride through Alamo, which is usually the gravy train for me but it was grueling. I chose not to return up Ygnacio and it was a good move. I did the last five miles at about 10mph. I just could not get it going. It was 95 when I got home. Then I realized I had two gel packs and a Powerbar in my jersey that I was supposed to have done on the ride. I’m sure that’s what buried me, I ran out of nutrition. I tried a new product on this route. Accelerade. I really like their gels and decided to try their electrolyte replacement drink. I got the lemonade one, figuring it would taste less like ass than some of the other flavors. It tasted just like lemon curd. I want some more right now.

Tale of two weeks

The Cheese Aisle

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Berlin:

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Now which guy looks Presidential? OK, how ’bout some help.

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Ich bin ein Berliner. Tomorrow we go to Hamburg.  And in lieu of the Divine Miss M doing that routine, we present Delores DeLago the Toast of Chicago!

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I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set

Yesterday I took advantage of my new found freedom and made a road trip to Napa with The Sommelier. I realized what had been missing from my life for so long, and it wasn’t wine. More on that later.

The Sommelier is big on freebees. Generally, I could give a damn, I’d rather sit down, pay for it and move on than run around trying to find the guy, blah blah blah. Well, since I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from, free was looking pretty sweet. First stop Sunshine Foods. Sunshine Foods is where all of the chefs of Napa County go to get their produce every morning. To me it was like going to Mecca. One of the owners had been in to The Sommelier’s restaurant. He didn’t have a business card on him so he gave her a post-it note that said “Lunch for 4” and had his signature. Well, he wasn’t around yesterday, but his floor manager looked and said “Yeah, that’s his scrawny writing” and comped us lunch. We had a sandwich called “The Bomb”. Holy crap, what a sandwich it was. On a crinkle roll it had tri-tip, avocado, bacon, lettuce and tomato. It wasn’t a taste of avocado, it was a thick layer. The tri-tip was fresh, moist and flavorful. They used that maple smoked bacon and it was thick sliced. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in years. Not your Body for Life sandwich, that’s for sure, but for a free day, a spectacular offering. We also got a pint of their asiago pasta salad. It was just right. Pasta and olives in a very gentle cheese based dressing. If I had a choice in the future of stopping at Dean and DeLuca for lunch or Sunshine Foods, I’d go to Sunshine Foods, which is the point of comping a bartender lunch on the back of a post-it.

Next stop, Freemark Abbey. I had some wine to pick up there. I got a Bootleg Cab and a Petite Syrah. A couple of years ago, Freemark Abbey went into bankruptcy. I was very concerned about what was going to happen. It was followed by the winery being sold. That concerned me even more. I didn’t want it bought up by a big conglomerate like Constellation. Yesterday, I asked who bought it. It was Jess Jackson. This makes me happy. Jess Jackson is the Jackson in Kendall Jackson. You may raise your eyebrows, but you can’t argue with that reserve chardonnay that they make. There’s a wine you can walk into any supermarket, pick up a bottle for around $12 bucks and take it to a gathering and know that it will be enjoyed. It’s your go to guy for a summer wine. You can bring it knowing that you won’t cringe if somebody’s Aunt Julia pours 7-up into it, hell you only paid 12 bucks for it. Back to Freemark Abbey. I knew Ted Edwards and Tim Bell were still there, which was a good thing. Ted has been guiding Freemark Abbey’s program for many years, first as the winemaker and now the wine director. Tim Bell has been the winemaker for many years. The wine is still as consistent as it’s been for all the years that I’ve been in the fold. They (not Ted and Bill, but Freemark Abbey) had an entry in the 1976 Judgement in Paris, and they beat their French counterpart. They have been making solid wine without buying into the California “big” thing for years. First stop, a success. The Sommelier really liked the Viognier. We had a 1990 Bosche along with the 2003 Bosche. That wine just ages so nicely. The 1990 was elegant, still had good fruit, beautiful soft tannins and lovely mouthfeel. I had the whole $140 worth of love for it. I just didn’t have the $140.

Next stop Alpha Omega. I’d never been there although I’d seen their wines on wine lists and in stores. I will not skip over one of their wines again. They’re only two years old but they are doing amazing things. The place was a mess as they had just moved into their new tasting room and it wasn’t really finished. Mess aside, their wine list didn’t have a weak link. Winemaker Jean Hoefliger did not miss a thing. The chardonnay was an European style, which is what I like. I picked up some banana on the nose, which is unusual and kind of fun. Not on the palate at all. It was a gentle citrus, well balances with a hint of honey. Just a gorgeous little wine. Next up, the Rose. It is a Bordeaux styled Rose. They’ve just started doing these in California, or at least just started marketing them and I really like what’s happening. This had a white chocolate covered strawberry thing going on that was delightful. We moved on to the 2004 Cab. I would have bought this one if I had a job. Well balanced and well priced, the notes said Kirsch and marzipan. Jean Hoefliger is Swiss and insists on using European words to describe his wine. Having lived in Germany, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Cherries and almonds. There’s also a dried blueberry thing going on with this wine. Very gentle tannins for a beautiful mouthfeel. This thing will age beautifully. Jean Hoefliger was hanging around and took me to secret barrel No. E. He pulled out a taste for himself and then handed me the glass. It’s the 2006, 92% Cab. I said “I see where you’re going with this”. “Really?”, he beamed. “Absolutely, I can’t described it, but you nailed it.” He doesn’t know me from Adam and who knows if my opinion counts or not, but it was a fun exchange. We also had the Proprietary blend. To be called a Cab you have to have 70% cabernet sauvignon grapes. This has 69%. It was a little jammier than his other wines, but well balanced with tobacco on the back end. Not a miss in their line up.

Next stop Opus One. Someone in the know had stopped into the Sommelier’s restaurant and hooked us up with the full Monty. After fifteen minutes I knew what has been missing from my business life. The desire to excel. The corporation wants to excel on Wall Street without excelling in the market place. It may work in the short run, but it’s not possible for sustained period of time. I’ve spent the last year patching up slop from Bangalore and Roseville. Stuff that real title people who really knew what they were doing would never have done. But those guys are out of work. The procedure in Bangalore is to show any document that affects the property. I can’t tell you how many notices of mergers and self terminating documents I removed from reports. I can’t tell you how many times a paralegal asked me why it was shown when it didn’t affect the title. I can’t tell you how many creative ways I can answer that question without saying “because we’re stupid.” We spent 15 minutes in the lab with John the Enologist while Keith our tour guide explained the process that Opus goes through to select corks. Yeah, corks. Say you spend millions of dollars for the best grapes, you hand sort everything numerous times, every step of the winemaking process is done by hand and then your close this beautiful product with a crap cork and sell it for $180 a bottle. The customer opens the product and it’s corked. What does that do to your name? John the Enologist recognizes this and goes to great lengths to get these beautiful bottles proper closure. Their cost per cork is around $2 right now. His process for testing and selecting corks is very interesting. The corked wine rate per bottle is 30 to 1 industry wide. Opus’ rate is 4000 to 1. That’s impressive. Opus is an amazing project by the two giants of wine, Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe Rothchild. Not one detail is overlooked. Every single step of the winemaking process is perfected there. The building is as impressive as the wine. The thing I noticed was how immaculate everything was. Not a dust bunny or a missed corner to be had. They have one product. Opus One. The 2004 version is a Napa styled wine. It has that bigness going on, but it follows with a subtleness that’s interesting. We were lucky yesterday as they had a 2001 open. It ages beautifully and becomes, if this is possible, more elegant with time. They also had a 2005 open. It’s not released yet. We got a sneak preview. You’re going to like it, trust me.

It did my battered soul good to see excellence in practice in a business. This country has been so slipshod in it’s approach to anything in recent years that I wondered if any body cared if anything was done right the first time any more. It was nice to see something as large as Opus doing every single step methodically and correctly. It’s good to know that there is still a place in the world for perfection.

When the jester sang for the king and queen

Photojournalism

My dog is a jerk.

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Title bots up close and personal

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I left them a little something on the window sill. They are either hiding real well or haven’t been back.

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Better than Coconut Telegraph

Don’t be a hater, but look what one gentle reader put in the Wine Dog’s inbox.

We have all seen and experienced changes going on in our marketplace, some within LandAmerica and many around us in the industry. We have seen friends and co-workers leave the business as these times dictate, some have had their positions reduced, some at a time of their choice. We have another such change on our horizon.

As you know, we have recently seen announcements about some of LandAmerica’s benefits changing at the end of the month, and a few at the end of the year. That has changed the plans of some employees and Don Littell is one of those individuals. As we talked over the past couple of weeks, Don made it known that this may be the best time for him to leave the company in order to maximize the opportunities he had available to him. Therefore, we have worked out a voluntary reduction for Don and he will be leaving LandAmerica at the end of July. Don has been a great contributor to the over all efforts in Northern California for LandAmerica Commonwealth for many years and we are working with him in this endeavor to honor those contributions.

As we move forward, we have two individuals who will be stepping into Don’s responsibilities. For Contra Costa County, Mark Medel will be the interim residential manager as we develop a plan for the long term success of this area. Mark is no stranger to Contra Costa, having been the manager there in the past, as well as currently running a successful Alameda operation. For Napa County, Bill Starner will assume the residential manager responsibilities there. Joining us recently from Liberty Title and currently the Sonoma manager, Bill will bring many years of experience in the industry to the great staff in Napa.

Please take the opportunity to touch bases with Don before the end of the month and express your appreciation for what he has contributed to the Northern California operations. Thank you Don.

The Wine Dog wishes you well, Don. At least you had a choice.

Hinkiness

Or stuck on stupid… For some reason, I went through my time card on Tuesday of last week, as in one day before Mr. First American called in my paperwork. What I found was that Mr. First American had taken hours off of my time card that I had worked and substituted in PTO, thereby eating up some of my PTO. Well, Dearly Departed Escrow Officer’s told me that he’d done some funny stuff to her time card, which is why I looking in the first place.  She did an audit and found a lot of missing time. Imagine that! An Escrow Officer doing an audit, as if you didn’t see that one coming. Well, I found missing time too, and I had kept records too. When I called his ass on it his lame excuse was “Sometimes I have to do these remotely and they need to get done so I make the changes”. Hey Eagle boy! There was nothing to change.   My card was right! How about picking up that freaking thing on your belt that you play with during meetings and dialing a number? BTW, a cell phone on your belts is sooo 2002. So you got to wonder how many before us got cheated out of their PTO by this joker. They are so shutting that sonofabitch down.

How do you like me now?

The Eagle didn’t like PBE. Back on April 24th they called me in and gave me a formal verbal warning for internet usage. I lost my mojo for about a week and this precipitated the Al Capone analogy . Because my internet usage was not what the problem was. It was PBE they were upset about. They didn’t get that I was writing about things that were already out on the internet in some other form. I guess they were confused by The Google. So they shitcanned me. Who thought that was a good way to shut me up? Yeah, I know the answer to that. How do you like me now? I’m sure Patty Hauptman is thrilled that I got laid off. Don’t worry honey, I’ll be back up your ass soon.

Road Rage

Yesterday’s ride was a lot of things. The Ygnacio loop at 1:10:41. A loss of five minutes. The wind was blowing all the way down the hill so I took it a lot slower, just to be safe. And my legs felt like lead. And it was around 95 out. And I was so bad coming up the hill that I will tell you it was around 10 minutes. Tuesday I got to the base at 46:03. Today it was 50:10 and went downhill (not really) from there. I just stunk up the place. I did do a crossfit workout this morning. I’m going to start powerlifting again on Monday. It was thrusters and pullups. I added a bench in there two. Three sets 21-15-9.

Another drunk kills another cyclist.  My Father taught me way back when I was 15 years old that a vehicle is a dangerous weapon.  Too bad he couldn’t have taught that to everyone.

Double Secret Probation 

I know it’s long, but it’s worth it.

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And this little tidbit came in from dolphyngyrl.  I told you so.   And because we’re on the subject, little Brother was hilarious yesterday.

I stirred my last batch of gravy

Bloodletting
Things got a little messy over at Ted’s Excellent Title Adventure. LandAmerica/Commonwealth/New Century/Liberty CoCo County just got a little leaner. They’re light one County Manager, who decided to “retire”. Interesting timing. If you’re going to retire you don’t usually decide to do it on a Wednesday afternoon and clean out your desk on the spot. The Alameda County guy will run both counties yada yada yada. We’ve all heard this song and dance before. Wouldn’t it be nice if he took one for the team? I think he just took one. I liked the guy, but I didn’t have to work for him…

From the Peanut Gallery

EOinHell had a very interesting observation yesterday. Will NASCAR Teddy be putting copy machines in all the EO/Sales Rep’s living rooms? Actually the whole concept has garnered some interesting discussions. I’m wondering if it gets so busy that the EO/Sales Rep needs an assistant, do they set up an assistant in the EO/Sales Rep’s house? Kind of reminds me of the networking meeting on Tuesday when the agent said the bathroom had been converted to an office. How does NASCAR Teddy expect to teach the business to new EO/Sales Rep’s? Traditionally, someone would start as a messenger or receptionist, then would become an assistant and learn at an EO’s knee and after several YEARS be moved up to EO. How are you planning to homegrow’em Teddy? I guess there’s no worrying about what your rep’s doing. You are your rep. The big problem I see is the two different skill sets that are needed to do the two different functions of the job. Some EO’s are sales oriented, many are simply polite and wouldn’t drive business their way without a rep to bring it in. They may get some referral, but numbers and order are their strong suit. They are the personality that crosses every t and dots every i. Sales reps are your walking party. They don’t ever like filling out expense reports and now you want them to do escrow? This is a recipe for disaster. I can’t even begin to figure out the multitude of ways they can violate RESPA in LA with this, although it does take the romance out of equipping new real estate firms. Maybe that’s the answer to EOinHell’s inquiry. They buy the copy machine for the real estate office and just use that one!

Milestones

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Mr. First American’s arrival in San Francisco. While we love to celebrate here at PBE, in this case, after a discussion with Dearly Departed Escrow Officer, we thought it would be nice to post his resume. Here’s some lowlights. In one year he:

  • Gave away one long standing well respected rep and lost the other
  • Lost two solid EO’s to attrition (both money making desks)
  • Lost an EO who always did solid six figures (including a 300k month)
  • Thought it would be a good idea to lay off another EO because she had an opinion (ok it was because she’s smarter than he is…we should leave this part off of the official resume)
  • Laid off the guy who knew everything, probably because he was gay
  • Played a lot of golf
  • Bought a lot of lunch for people who probably never want to lunch with him again
  • Sent numerous clients to other branches
  • Explained to us that we weren’t competent to operate a fire extinguisher because we hadn’t been in the Navy. No shit.
  • Broke employment laws in the name of “company policy” (which was recently corrected after a class action settlement)
  • Lost two published title policy experts including a National Underwriter
  • Lied to the staff so much that the only certainty is if his lips are moving he’s probably lying
  • Dismantled an office that his predecessor spent years building and creating good will in only a year

Happy Anniversary. I hope you and your stuffed eagle remembered to wear your First American pin on your lapel.

Martina McBride disables all her videos so no embedding today. In lieu of embedding…linky loo. Actually other links work. File this one under “We get what we deserve”

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I’m bursting with pride. Et tu?

Speaking of bursting with pride, this little speed bump has been good for Rita. Today she was out in the yard barking at something, that’s right at 5am. For the sake of the neighbors, I called for her to come in and all of her hackles were up. Then she started spinning and herding me out to see what she was upset about. She’d touch my leg, bound, spin once, head in the direction she wanted me to go and go through the routine again until I came out in the yard to check it with her. I suspect the culprit was a long gone raccoon.