The View From The Golden Dome

Views on the week's events plus some of mine.

Les Berman Weekly 12-14 Hold Please. Traffic. PISA. Titan. Buddha and so much more…


So, I had to get some information from a government agency. At best, that’s a daunting task, as you know. I called the 800 number and was given a pretty complete menu of options, none of which could answer my question, and there wasn’t an option at any time of speaking to a live person. I gave myself a couple of options… hang up, guess at the answer, or press 0 and see if I get booted out of the system. I pressed 0, and got in a queue that they said was 31 minutes. And all of this for an answer that would take less than one minute. And I was on hold for 63 minutes – because I needed the answer to the question.

I made an amazing discovery about Los Angeles traffic. During the week, it’s very light at 6 AM. The corresponding discovery was that I really don’t like having to be somewhere at 630 AM. Especially because it’s still dark and cold.

I’ve learned other things lately. The PISA, (not pizza) rankings came out recently and scored students in 65 countries on different skills – math, science, and reading. Asian countries took the first seven slots in math. The highest ranking western country was not the USA (#36) nor was it Canada (#13) or the UK (#26), but it was Lichtenstein. And I would bet that most of my readers could not find that country on a map. Geography was not part of the testing.

In reading, the highest scoring western country was Finland (#6) and the first five slots were Asian countries. This testing was done on 15 and 16 year old students. Canada was #9 and the USA was #24. And in science, the highest scoring western country was again Finland #5, Canada in 10th spot and the USA was at #28, with Asian countries all taking the top spots.

These statistics are worthy of mention because concerned parents in the US will gravitate towards charter schools, and the stronger demands made on the students. Eventually, parents will realize that homework, actually completed by the students rather than with parental ‘assistance’, is a necessity. Perhaps a longer school day is an option, and without question, better paid teachers are a necessity.

There will always be kids who rise to the top regardless of circumstance, and these kids will likely be leaders in the future. I am curious as to the racial demographic in Ph.D. and M.D. programs in the top schools in the USA. The objective would not be to exclude students, but might be an incentive for more education funding here at home. Are we witnessing the beginning of the decline and fall of the American empire? A scary thought.

Meanwhile, a NASA spacecraft flying around Titan, a  moon up there near Saturn, has detected traces of the chemical used in the manufacture of propylene, that most important ingredient in food containers and car bumpers. I’m guessing this could become useful information for my great grandchildren. The article was a full page in length but I covered the essence.

And then, the journal Antiquity has published findings that establish an earlier date for the birth of Siddhartha Gautama who became Buddha. This is notable because there are approximately 350 million followers of Buddhism, making it one of the world’s great religions. The site at Lumbini is by tradition, the birthplace of Buddha. One of the remarkable facts is that the site was largely abandoned from about 250 BC until 1896.

The archeological findings reflect the nonviolence and nonoffering traditions of the Buddhist religion. As they excavated beneath the known sites, they found earlier existence of a shrine which pushed back birthdates about a hundred years, and more or less reinforced the Nepalese estimate of the Buddha’s birthdate to about 623 BC.

Home loan rules are changing again (January 10), and for the worst, thanks to our friendly legislators in DC. So if you’re thinking about refinancing your property, call me today. I do answer calls on weekends. The magic number.. 818.305.4695

Have a better week!

Les

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

You may not know that many non-living things have a gender.

Web Page — Female, because it’s always getting hit on.

Subway — Male, because it uses the same old lines to pick people up.

Hourglass — Female, because over time, the weight can shift to the bottom.

Hammer — Male, because it hasn’t changed much over the last 5,000 years, but it’s handy to have around.

Remote Control — Female. Ha! You thought it’d be Male. But consider this — it gives a man pleasure, he’d be lost without it, and while he doesn’t always know the right buttons to push, he keeps trying.

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist
       
NMLS ID 227675
Voice: 818.305.4695
Email: les@lesberman.com
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December 28, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, medicine, real estate, sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Les Berman Weekly 12-7 Toys. Imagination. Kids Have It Easy. Pearl Harbor. and much more…


So I think that the kids today have it too easy. They don’t really have to think, and I’m talking about play time. Think back to when you were a kid, if you can remember back that far, way back when, and what you had for toys. I didn’t have any sisters, so loyal lady readers, you have to use your own imagination.

 

And that was one of our biggest and best toys. Our imaginations ! When we played outside, which was all the time when it wasn’t raining or a blizzard, we created. Sure, we had our Roy Rogers cap guns which enabled us to play good guy bad guy, or cowboys and Indians, but the games we played were from our imagination. We would hide behind a twig of a tree, and we were safe, or someone would ride by on their bike or tricycle, and that could be the horse or stagecoach.

 

We had a lot of kids on our street. The first one outside would ring another’s doorbell, and eventually, we had enough to play. And our parents weren’t there demanding a perfect playtime, or football play, or baseball. Sure, my dad, and the other dads likely, taught me how to throw a football, a baseball, and how to ride a bike. But my dad wouldn’t criticize me if my throw went sideways. There was never any pressure for absolute perfection in sports.

 

And we never got yelled at by any of the parents if we drank water from the hose. We learned how to bend the hose to get just the amount of water we needed to drink… and we learned that from our older siblings who had waited until we were ready to drink, and then turned the hose on full blast ! And no repercussions. Tears yes, but nothing more.

 

I vaguely recall building things with tinkertoys – plugging those sticks into the round things and the angled things. I have no idea what the ‘things’ were really called. And I remember graduating up to a meccano set and being able to build better things than with tinkertoys. I don’t remember other toys. I do remember books, lots of books, and paper and crayons. Imagination worked.

 

When my kids were little, they had tons of toys. Sure, we indulged our kids, but there were no computers early on. My daughter had the requisite dolls and accoutrements and my son had the legos and eventually video games. They had organized sports and friends to play with. And when I bought them a computer, life as we knew it had ended.

 

Today, if you look in a store, everything is electronic. Toddlers know how to use tablets and smartphones. They are more technologically adept that I am, but that’s not a fair comparison – for the toddler ! It seems that every movie and television show is made to sell merchandise and it all ends up with the kids. I don’t see kids playing pickup ball games, or riding their bikes together or doing random things. It seems that their lives are scripted now, at least that’s the way it looks here in lalaland. How different is it from other cities? countries? Tell me, please.

 

And think of what playtime might have been years ago. I mean years and years ago. In Spain, archaeologists found a thigh bone of an early inhabitant, some 400,000 years old, and were able to extract DNA. They decided that this boy was playing long before Neanderthals. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. This was reported in the journal, Nature.

 

How does this affect us today? Well, it really doesn’t because we’re here now. It does cause scientists to rethink our origins. The only thing that they all still agree upon, is that our ancestors came out of Africa because that’s where the oldest human fossils, over 2 million years old, have been found. And science is amazing because the newest methods of analyzing DNA are only a year old.

That kid may have had sticks and stones to play with. Along with gestures and possibly some verbal sounds. I can only imagine how sounds were learned – like what did they say when a huge wolf was about to pounce ?

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Please thank a veteran for their service !

 

And my reminder that I make real estate loans.. for residential and investment properties. I work with veterans and foreign nationals because of their unique needs, and of course, with every homeowners in California. The magic number is 818.305.4695 .

Have a better week !

Les

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

You may not know that many non-living things have a gender. For example:

1) Ziploc Bags — They are Male, because they hold everything in, but you can see right through them.

2) Copiers — They are Female, because once turned off it takes a while to warm them up again. It’s an effective reproductive device if the right buttons are pushed, but can wreak havoc if the wrong buttons are pushed.

3) Tire — Male, because it goes bald and it’s often over-inflated.

4) Hot Air Balloon — Male, because, to get it to go anywhere, you have to light a fire under it and, of course, there’s the hot air component.

5) Sponges — Female, because they’re soft, squeezable and retain water.

to be continued

 

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist
       
NMLS ID 227675
Voice: 818.305.4695
Email: les@lesberman.com

December 24, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, sports, stuff, whimsy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Les Berman Weekly 11-30 Turkey Day Calories. Black Friday- Really? Saber Tooth. Loud Commercials… and so much more…


So you ate about 4500 calories worth on Thursday, but you may only have gained one pound. And then you went shopping after turkey dinner, and on Friday, and in so doing, lost three pounds because you were so aggravated that you had to walk from the far end of the parking lot, and lost two pounds working your way through the crowds. So far so good. And at the end of the shopping mania, you found that you had spent far more money than you intended, but you ‘saved’ so much more.

 

I do know that my daughter was excited about shopping today. To me, the most amazing thing about that is that her husband was going with her. The shopping gene hit him somehow. And that’s really noteworthy because he devours all sports. And I never knew that a sports fan could have the shopping gene too. But, I know she was doing well because when I texted her one word – “Winning?”, her response was ‘Yup”.

I did my own Black Friday shopping today. I bought some detergent. And saved almost $3.00. I contributed to the statistic. ! Did you?

 

Yesterday, I was listening to satellite radio and they were talking about a race among three people going from Manhattan (the real one in NY) to Washington DC by car, train or plane. My first thought was ‘why would anyone want to go to DC?’ and then I realized that the politicians are likely out on holiday so it might be ok. Now, I don’t know who won the race, and it really is irrelevant. The real news story would have been here on the west coast – car, plane or train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

 

And then I remembered that there is no train from LA to Vegas, and there may never be. So my thoughts changed to Los Angeles to San Diego. That would have been much more fun, even with sigalerts.

 

Do you remember that last December, all television broadcast media was supposed to reduce the sound volume of commercials to the same sound level as the TV shows? When I was house bound while recovering from my knee surgery, I found that many commercials blasted louder. Maybe they do that to wake up the viewer who has fallen into a catatonic state of bliss while watching daytime TV.

 

I know this kid was not interested in our foibles of the day. Around 24,000 years ago, this toddler was playing, but we don’t know what he was playing. Maybe it was chase the saber-tooth tiger, or don’t step in the mammoth stuff. The burial of an Upper Palaeolithic Siberian boy was discovered along with numerous artifacts in the 1920s by Russian archaeologists near the village of Mal’ta, along the Belaya river. But it was recently that they were able to extract DNA that showed this kid had genomes found today in western Eurasians and some that are unique to Native Americans. One of the interesting discoveries was that this little boy did not share any DNA with any east Asians. The scientists offered hypotheses as to eventual mixing of genomes with East Asians, but those hypotheses might just be marginally better than the one I might give as to the outcome of next June’s Stanley Cup winner.

 

So while you’re contemplating that, I will remind you that I am available for your real estate financing needs – mortgages for your purchase or refinance of your home or commercial property. The magic number is, of course, 818.305.4695

Have a better week !

Les

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

More “South” stuff…

“Cut on the air conditioning” means, “Please turn on the air conditioning.”

Women carry “pocket books” not purses.

“That will cost 4 dollars and 12 cent.”  Not 12 “cents.”

“I’m bar-be-quing this weekend.” Oh, so you are cooking a pig?  Anything else is “grilling”.

 

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist
       
NMLS ID 227675
Voice: 818.305.4695
Email: les@lesberman.com

December 16, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, real estate, sports, stuff, whimsy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Les Berman Weekly 11-23 Cold. Storm Windows. Outdoor Hockey. Super Dino. Wine Cellars in History… and much much more..


So, I was trying to figure out why we, here in southern California, think that 60 degree weather is cold. I grew up in a climate where the weather would go down to minus 40 degrees and we dealt with it. You dressed for it, and you knew that it would warm up in a day or a week, and we just waited for it to happen. And we never complained… unless it stayed that cold for more than a week. And it did sometimes.

 

Allow me to describe some of our preparations for the season, and I’m going to guess that many of you will have huge question marks about terminology. But that’s ok – you can google everything. In no particular order, because, I can’t remember, we took down all of the screens covering the windows, and replaced them with glass windows. That would create an insulation barrier that would help to keep the house warm. That was in addition to the dual pane windows we had.  I think my dad called them ‘storm windows and doors’. After all, we took the screen doors off and replaced those too.

The curtains were heavy material and that formed another layer of insulation.

 

Then, my dad would make sure that the tank was full of heating oil, the furnace would be serviced and tuned up. I don’t remember being cold, in the house. The cars would have the antifreeze refreshed and the snow tires installed.  And every car had a block heater that had to be plugged in – so the engine would start. The block heater would keep the engine warm so that the oil wouldn’t freeze solid. There would be an electric plug sticking out of the front of the car, and we had lots of fun telling summer visitors that the cars were actually electric: the cars were cheap but those long extension cords cost a small fortune !

And we brought the winter clothes and boots out of the basement storage area, and swapped them out with the summer stuff. And then we waited for the snow to come and for the winds to blow.

 

Of course, when the snow came, it really did. We played hockey on outdoor rinks. And that was life in Winnipeg. And we walked to school most of the time, both ways, in the snow,

 

Now, it gets down to 50 here in Los Angeles, and I reach for the warmer coats and hats. Either my blood has thinned, or I’ve become a wuss. Those who know me best, vote for the latter ! But really, we know it’s cold in LA when the water coming out of the tap is actually cold !

 

Apparently, it hasn’t always been like this. Some 98 million years ago, the climate was pretty conducive to providing sustenance to everything that populated the land. National Geographic described a dinosaur that as a toddler, weighed some four tons and was as long as a school bus. It predated T. Rex and was much larger. They know all this because someone found a few toes and some other bones, and decided that this was a missing link between the dinos that came before and those that came after. How do these people do that? I understand when a complete skeleton is found (check the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles), but how do you reach conclusions from fragments of a four ton toddler?.

 

Meanwhile, in more recent history, archaeologists were working some ruins in Israel and came across the wine room. While the wines were long gone, the residues were there. And through analysis of the residues, it was found that the wines all had the same ingredients – there were actual recipes 3700 years ago. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.

 

What is interesting to me is that the excavation team found two other doors leading to new rooms. And they can’t open those rooms until the next excavation season – in 2015. What’s up with 2014? I want to know what’s behind the door on the …. right ! or do I want the one on the left? What should I do? what to do? Audience. Help me ….

 

And if you are looking for real estate financing, for your residential or commercial property, call me today ! And if you know any veterans or foreign nationals, please have them call me. The magic number is 818.305.4695.

Have a better week !

Les

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

More southern stuff:

Going to “The” Wal-Mart is a favorite pastime known as goin Wal-Martin’ or off to Wally World.

You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good beef stew or chili weather.

Fried catfish is the other white meat.

We don’t need no dang Driver’s Ed. If our mama says we can drive, we can drive!!!

I’m having my “picture made” means “I’m having my picture taken

 

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist   
       
NMLS ID 227675 BRE #00924913 
 
 
Voice: 818.305.4695
 
Email: les@lesberman.com

December 10, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, medicine, real estate, sports, stuff, whimsy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Les Berman Weekly 11-16 Get Annoyed. Confusing Legalese. Great Gags. Phone Etiquette. Hair Cloning. and 125 Years… and much much more…


How often do you get annoyed because either there are stupid people doing stupid things, or smart people doing stupid things because it’s in the employee handbook? In which case, it goes up the line to supposedly smart people who are trying to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator (uhh.. that’s a math term)!

 

Let me give you today’s example. My regular readers may remember that I had knee surgery two months ago. So today I received a letter from an insurance company that said “please be advised that your notice of claim has recently been received…” and the next sentence says “please review your policy and let us know of all benefits in your policy you believe you might be eligible to receive.”

 

OK – you have my claim. It is for specific benefits. And now you want me to review the policy, written in purposely confusing legalese, and tell you what I’m claiming. Excuse me. Is there a little redundancy here. So when I called the insurance company to ask why, they said that not everyone knows what a claim is.

 

And again, if someone does not know what a claim is, either they should not be allowed out in public without a guide, or if it’s too late for that, perhaps the person who submitted the claim should assist.  And so we went in a circle. But I was polite.. and started to have some fun confusing the person on the phone.

 

And then, I was reminded of one of the great gags that my son did when he was a teenager. Someone had called our home line, and that was in the olden days when you answered the phone and just said hello without knowing who was calling. My son proceeded to carry on a conversation for 10 – 15 minutes with… a wrong number. And I still chuckle over his sense of humor. And I am guessing that he still does silly things like that, and I have to guess because his wife doesn’t reveal those secrets !

 

And while we’re on phone etiquette, if there is such a thing anymore, I would like to impart upon you, some wisdom that has worked for me for a very long time. Sometimes, you messed up and paid a bill late, or not at all, and you had somewhat of a legitimate excuse. Most people will call the creditor with a belligerent attitude, and then get really mad when you don’t get your way. And the person on the other end really digs in their heels and will not budge. And then you get really mad and it gets worse.

 

I used to counsel mortgage clients who had these issues, to call, and be super sweet. The people at the other end of the phone line are usually surprised by politeness, and tend to want to be helpful. After all, the previous 22 callers cussed at them and called them every nasty word. Most of the time, my clients were successful, and all because they decided to go out of character, and they were polite. It works. Try it next time !

 

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center published findings recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that should interest many of you, both men and women. They were able to clone follicles of hair and regrow them on lab mice. That in and of itself is wonderful for some of you hair impaired people who actually want hair. The agent that was used to generate the growth were discarded infant foreskins. So, in the future, as this becomes a standard form of procedure for hair growth, the jokes will start and many of you will call each other by that very obvious name…  ____head ! Yes, you read it here first ! (Now that is in very poor taste – but I know you laughed!)

 

On a somewhat serious note, which for me is extremely rare, I would like to salute the 125th Anniversary of a meeting that was attended by 33 men in Washington D.C. In 1888, these men gathered to found a society that would explore the world and tell everyone about it. 125 years later, we’re carrying out this mission in ways they never dreamed possible. I doff my hat to those men who founded the National Geographic Society. Over the years, I have enjoyed countless hours of my own exploration as I devoured the monthly magazine, and then the numerous NatGeoTV channels. I don’t know if I will ever get to the Serengeti or the Galapagos in person, but because of these men, I have been there several times both in print and on TV. We do owe them a huge thank you !

 

My three primary areas of real estate lending – veterans, foreign nationals, and  people needing private money loans for their commercial deals. And all of the regular buyers and refinance homeowners too.The magic number is 818.305.4695.

Have a better week !

Les

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

THINGS YOU LEARN LIVING IN THE SOUTH

You carry jumper cables in your car – for your OWN car.

You only own five spices: salt, pepper, mustard, Tabasco and ketchup.

The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local high school sports and motor sports, and gossip.

You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.

You find 100 degrees Fahrenheit a bit warm.

You know what a “hissy fit” is.

 

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist   
       
NMLS ID 227675
 
Voice: 818.305.4695
 
Email: les@lesberman.com
 

 

December 4, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, medicine, stuff, whimsy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Les Berman Weekly 11-8 YEsterday. JFK. 3 C’s. Cheeseheads. Rubber Duckies… and much more


It seems like it was yesterday, and I guess, when you consider that the planet is billions of years old, and our existence is a dot in time in that continuum, then the murder of JFK 50 years ago does actually seem like yesterday.

 

I was in high school in Winnipeg when the first announcement came over the PA system. And I remember the hush that swept through our class. Understand that this was in Canada, but even we identified with the youthfulness of JFK. And then the sobs from a couple of kids, who, as it happened, were Americans. I don’t remember what time it was, but I do remember thinking that if it was the ‘commies’ that shot Kennedy, then we, in Winnipeg, should be safe. After all, I was in Canada and no one hates Canadians. The possibility of war was real.

 

We used to go home for lunch because we had an hour and a half before the afternoon classes began. And yes, I walked home, in the snow, (uphill both ways of course), had lunch, and walked back to school. The TV was on and the chaos of Dallas was mind boggling!

 

I didn’t realize then that Kennedy had an immense influence on the cultures of both the USA and Canada. Kennedy didn’t wear a hat. My dad and his brothers stopped wearing hats (except on cold days). Jackie did wear hats but I have no idea if my mother did or not. Strange to think about now. He was a cool president and a role model.

 

The aftermath, to this day, is pretty amazing. The Warren Commission, Oswald, Ruby and so many more parts to the puzzle that have not been solved, or rather, have not been disclosed. There have been volumes written about conspiracies, cover-ups and collusion – the Three C’s. And some of the official records have been sealed for 100 years. So those of us who were around in 1963 will never know the truth, rather the truth that you will be told.

 

I don’t understand why the ‘truths’ cannot be told now. Did the FBI or CIA or Secret Service screw up? or was this a fluke? We’ll never know, and with the volumes of hypotheses that will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks, we’ll know even less.

 

The only thing that I know for sure is that this act of violence changed the free world forever… and for the worse. We can’t turn the clock back, but we can aspire to return to Camelot.

 

Meanwhile, in that bastion of good people, known somewhat affectionately as cheeseheads, or to some of you, as Wisconsin, there is legislation being considered to allow gambling on a small scale. We can’t all flock there, unless we’re migrating, but a bill legalizing rubber duck races is up for consideration before the state Senate’s Workforce Development Committee. And this happened because someone in the Wisconsin Department of Justice determined that, yes, duck races are, in fact, gambling !

 

Now, if you have never partaken in a rubber duck race, you know it’s extremely competitive, of course. You get a rubber duck with a number on it. You place it in a moving body of water, like a river or stream,  and then you yell, eat hot dogs, and drink cold beer, until the first duck crosses the finish line. And the owner of the number on that duck wins a prize of some kind. But most people don’t really care unless they are under eight years of age and are tired of drinking beer.

 

And I’m sure there have been instances when someone with scuba gear has attempted to move his duck to the front of the floating flock, and I’m equally sure there have been alligators and sharks involved as well. But Sheboygan Wisconsin is taking this to a new level, having determined that rubber duck races are, in fact, gambling. Wow… I think that some of those government people have the holes from the Swiss cheese, in their heads !

 

How would they deal with the golf balls being dropped from a helicopter? Same concept except that a chopper hovers over a parcel of land with a hole and flag, and the chopper guy dumps the bag of golf balls. The numbered ball closest to the hole wins the prize. everything else is the same : the yelling, the hot dogs, and definitely the beer !

 

In the meantime, if you or someone you know, is a veteran of the US Armed Forces, they should talk to me about some of the extraordinary financing opportunities for vets. And similarly, if you know immigration attorneys or investment advisors that work with foreign nationals, I have financing programs for them too. The magic number… 818.305.4695.

Have a better week !

Les

 

Berman’s Factoids of the Week:

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED LIVING IN THE SOUTH….

“Ya’ll” is singular; “All ya’ll” is plural.

You measure distance in minutes (that’s here in LA too).

You switch from heat to A/C in the same day.

All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect, or animal.

You know what a DAWG is.

 

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 Les Berman CMC
        Real Estate Loan Specialist
       
NMLS ID 227675
Voice: 818.305.4695
Email: les@lesberman.com

December 1, 2013 Posted by | business, fun, general interest, humor, stuff, whimsy | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments