November 26, 2014

Weekly Book Scan

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Updated: 54 min 41 sec ago

A Guide to Gratitude

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 10:11

I don’t know about you guys, but getting ready to host Thanksgiving is pretty hectic for me. How do I get 20lbs of turkey home on the train? How do I entertain out-of-town guests the rest of the weekend? What can I do weeks and days ahead to lower my stress on the big day?

Notice anything there? I, me, mine. Not the George Harrison lyrics; it’s the T-day ego. See, all the folks you praise for working so hard to make Thanksgiving happen aren’t saints. Most of us genuinely like making stuff for other people, and seeing you all smile and pat your tummies when it’s over is the best thanks we could get. What we hosts really need is to be reminded of how to thank others. See, in planning and executing such a grand experience, it’s even easier to forget the meaning of it all than it is for those who simply partake.

For me, the best way to remember to be thankful is to read the words of others who are actively giving thanks. This year, my inspiration comes from the REALTOR® family. A little over a week ago, when reflecting on his time at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans this month, Nate Ellis of Keller Williams Realty in Walnut Creek, Calif. wrote the longest Facebook update I have ever read in full.

See, Ellis was recently diagnosed with a very rare neurological condition called CIDP. While his prospects are apparently good, he required a wheelchair to make it through the long days of the conference. And instead of posting something at the end of the conference talking about how tired he was, or how much work awaited him back home, he took the time to thank more than 50 people (!) who had made his conference experience awesome, listing the specific actions they’d taken to do so. When is the last time you could list even half as many people and tell them what they’d done to make your world a better place? I have never met Ellis, but he seems to be that quiet kind of “amazing” that embodies gratitude.

Here’s just a tiny snippet from Ellis’ post:

I knew that coming to New Orleans I would need to lean on some of my friends for support. I just did not know how much their love and support would really mean to me… My smile may have masked many things during this conference. From pain, to doubt, to self pity but please know that my smile contains so much joy and gratitude for everyone who has helped me make this my favorite and most memorable conference ever.

So, if you’re not sure how to toast this Thanksgiving dinner, channel your inner Nate Ellis. You’ll be thankful you did.

Creating Connection with Shared Public Spaces

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 12:14

“Lose the ego.” “Integrity.” “Pay attention to detail.” These are the some of the phrases REALTORS® wrote on the chalkboard wall outside the Morial convention center’s La Nouvelle Ballroom at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo to complete the sentence “Professionalism means ____________.”

The concept is the brainchild of Candy Chang, an artist at the intersection of public space and personal well being. Her iterative installations, found in cities around the world, are often tools for gathering community input about how to make unused public space engaging and inclusive (“I wish this was ___________.”)

At times, her installations are more personal. After the death of a close friend, Chang struggled for perspective. Searching for a way to connect with what really matters, she sought permission to paint an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood with chalkboard paint. Passersby were then able to complete the sentence “Before I die, I want to ____________.” The project spawned more than five hundred Before I Die walls all over the world and a book that collects images of the walls and the stories behind them.

She said the heartfelt responses—from “tell my mother I love her” to “follow my childhood dream”—help her remember what’s important.

“Our public spaces are our shared spaces and, at their greatest, they can help us make sense of the beauty and tragedy of life with the people around us,” Chang said.

—By Christina Hoffmann

Learning From the Funny Pages

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:27

Like a lot of people my age, nearly everything I’ve learned about building and altering websites has come to me on the fly. Sometimes I’ve had the leisure to teach myself, poking around on the back end of a site, figuring out what elements lead to this or that attribute. Other times, I just happen to be the one person hanging around who knows what a <p> tag is when something breaks, and I’m asked to dive into the HTML and fix it.

A panel from Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress.

Maybe someday I’ll go to night school and get my webmaster’s license, but for now I’m having a ball reading the funny pages. See, I just started digging into a copy of Build Your Own Web Site: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress. And I never thought I’d say this, but the comic book format may be a perfect vehicle for teaching this sort of skill.

To carry this theme to its logical conclusion, let’s imagine the authors as a classic superhero team. The knowledge base is laid down by The Deft Explainer, a.k.a. Nate Cooper, a New York-based web consultant. Cooper’s world of web construction and design is brought to life by his sidekick, The Spunky Illustrator (a.k.a. Kim Gee). They take turns in each chapter; Gee lets us travel alongside her as she traverses the route of website creation, meeting wacky characters who lead her along the way to a perfect online portfolio. Then Cooper takes over, giving the more textbook version of what you’re learning in the comic. His language is very layman-oriented, and he throws in his share of levity too, so maybe “textbook” isn’t the best description. Regardless, Cooper’s screenshots and step-by-step instructions really compliment Kim’s sections well.

To me, the most interesting stuff was the CSS information, mostly because I’m not as well versed in that as I am HTML and content management. But I also appreciate that they tackle WordPress and the basics of creating a better blog, too. So many real estate pros simply throw words up on a page and don’t bother with site hierarchy or tags or formatting. The authors share simple tips and tricks (as well as the reasoning behind best practices) that have the power to not only make bloggers look more professional, but also help their websites look better in social media and across different browsers and devices.

You could probably follow this book to the letter and build a website. But I could also see this guide being really helpful for those folks who just want to be a little more hands-on with their existing site, understanding it more thoroughly and troubleshooting when issues come up. Also, it could make a great gift for an assistant or office manager who wants to expand their list of talents to the web.

Maybe I’ll see you in the funny papers?

What to Pack for NOLA

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 09:31

I just got my travel plans in order for next month’s REALTORS® Conference & Expo in beautiful New Orleans, La., and I’m already thinking about what to read on the plane. See, each year before we get together at NAR’s annual convention or for our legislative meetings in D.C., I like to comb through the schedule and put together a reading list for the event.

© Lasse Christensen, 2009

So here’s a list of a few of the books written by authors who will be presenting at the 2014 conference, along with a link to where they’ll be appearing in NOLA this November. (That way you can go pester them to autograph your copy.)

Before I Die, by Candy Chang (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013). Artist Chang will be part of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Sessions on Saturday, Nov. 8, 11:00am-12:00pm.

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, by Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly, and Jeffrey Zaslow (Scribner, 2011). Former U.S. Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly, will take the stage during the general session which begins at 4pm on Saturday, Nov. 8

My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009). Besh has three cookbooks, but I thought his contribution to culinary thought about New Orleans, the host city of the convention, would be the most appropriate suggestion. He’ll also be part of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Sessions on Sunday, November 9, 1:30pm-2:30pm. In addition, he’ll be doing a cooking demonstration and book signing on Monday.

Double Down: Game Change 2012, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (Penguin Press HC, 2013). In the Federal Legislative and Political Forum on Saturday, Nov. 8 from 1:30 to 3pm, Halperin and Heilemann will discuss the outcome of the 2014 midterms, public policy debates that affect the real estate industry, and the 2016 presidential election.

The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits, by Chris Birk (Veterans United Home Loans, 2011). Birk will be presenting during the regulatory issues forum on VA loans on Friday, Nov. 7 at 11am.

Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). John D. Kasarda will talk about his concepts defining the roles of aviation and airports in shaping 21st century business location, economic development and urban growth on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 9am.

Emerging Market Real Estate Investment: Investing in China, India, and Brazil by David J. Lynn and Tim Wang (Wiley, 2010). David J. Lynn will address the Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 9am.

So, what’s in your carry-on?