The Scottish Scoundrel Who Changed How We See Data

When he wasn’t blackmailing lords and being sued for libel,

William Playfair invented the pie chart, the bar graph, and the line graph.


Today, graphs and charts are seen as more efficient than words, letting us gulp information rather than sip it. For a large chunk of European history, though, this was far from the case. As statistician Howard Wainer explains in Graphic Discovery, 18th century academics actually looked down their noses at anything that resembled a picture.

Into this void stepped Playfair, a man with very little regard for tradition. Born in Scotland in 1759, Playfair was a kind of Forrest Gump of the Enlightenment, rubbing shoulders with the era’s many giants, switching careers at the drop of a hat, and throwing himself headlong into history-changing events, from the storming of the Bastille to the settling of the American West.

His graphical inventions, like many of his endeavors, were inspired by a certain disrespect for limits. He wasn’t so much an inventor as an intellectual remixer, taking bits and pieces of different people’s ideas and piecing them together into useful wholes.

My comment: Fascinating! Plus a very entertaining writeup. Another good one from – one of my favorite web sites!!


8 Hottest Tech Trends in 1776

1. Underwater Warfare

4. Indoor Plumbing

5. High Tech Major Appliances


A little more than 240 years ago, our forefathers used the best technology available to inspire colonial proto-Americans to revolt against King George. At that time, the “best” technology available was the printing press and the “best” social network required the use of “word of mouth” in Public Houses. Grog was the lubricant that facilitated this communication and the rest, as they say, is history.

But while all this was going on, there were a bunch of entrepreneurs and a few startups that changed the world. In the 1770s, America was a relatively low tech, agrarian society, but as you can see from the list below, all that was about to change. So here are the eight hottest tech trends circa 1776.

My comment: Just for Fun!! Sent on July 4 by Shelly Palmer. If you like interesting tech stuff, sign up for his email newsletter. He was a tech columnist for many years. Check out his blog to see what he writes about – link at top of every page on the right.


In general, how much do you think the requirements of taking comp photos increases the cost of completing an appraisal? Go to to vote on the current poll!7-7-16 poll on comp photo cost

My comments: Comp photos are very controversial, especially with the availability of google (including historic photos), mls, Zillow, etc. Interesting results. Don’t know if this includes blurring out personal items, people, dogs, etc. Maybe includes driving time (non-rural of course) and downloading and filing photos. At least we don’t have to spend lots of money on photo processing plus time going to and from the store any more!!

I am not sure why, but lots of appraisers don’t like to take comp photos. USPAP certainly does not require it. I always do, even if I have taken a photo before, because I can’t remember what was near the comp, condition, etc. I always remember it when I used hear about it when speaking at Canadian appraisal conferences. At that time, appraisers were not required to put comp photos in their lender appraisals. They told me “I know that area very well.” Or, “I drove by it XX years ago.”

GO TO and read the comments or post your own!!

Previous Appraisalport polls on comp photos

6/2/15 – analysis of 3 comp photo polls – Comp Photos and MLS, Fannie, USPAP, etc.

Plus read the comments.



Email newsletter FAQs – who-what-why,

stop getting email ads,

not getting email newsletter, etc.

I have a new web page that explains it all.



How to manage your email to save time and reduce your stress!!

 In the July issue of the paid Appraisal Today, available now!!

Excerpt: Do not be a slave to your emails!!!

I don’t get many phone calls in my office any more (except from telemarketers). Most of my business communication is by email, including appraisal inquiries and orders. I also belong to many chat groups and email discussion groups and get the messages by email as I seem to forget to log onto the web sites.

A few tips:

Turn off visual and audible email notifications – very distracting. Keep your inbox relatively small. Use search to find what you need.

One of my favorite quotes (from Brett McKay) “When email was created, it was meant to streamline our communication and make it more efficient. And it still can, but more often than not it morphs into a time-devouring, stress-inducing, legacy-work destroying monster. How can we vanquish the mighty beast that lurks in our inboxes and let peace once more reign throughout the land?”

I use folders and filters to keep close track of all my business communications. I prefer email to phone calls as it faster, with less writing time and no chitchat.

Topics include: excessive client emails, using phone for emails, Inbox Zero, personal vs. business, and many more!!

To read the full article, and many other appraisal and business management articles, subscribe to the paid Appraisal Today!

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The Hidden Security Bugs in Architecture That You Never Noticed

Some of the best security features are subtly interwoven into the fabric of building design.


When you are strolling through exhibits in the Nevada Museum of Art or making your way to the roulette table at the Circus Circus hotel and casino in Reno, you are a player in a well-orchestrated scene. Your every move is carefully watched as you unknowingly follow a plotted path filled with invisible bugs-security bugs.

Security and architecture have always been intimately connected. The origins of buildings came out of a need for protection from the elements. The very first crude homes and huts can, metaphorically, be seen as security from the weather, says Manaugh. The very first locks date back to ancient Egyptian door locks made of wood. “You can actually trace any involvement of architecture throughout human history with different security concerns; that could be as simple as walled cities or as complex as today’s geofencing against drones.”

My comment: Very interesting!! I love spy movies and will be looking more closely at security devices. Plus, when I go into buildings ;>


The Subtle Design Features That Make Cities Feel More Hostile

Think your city doesn’t like you? You’re right.


There’s a fearsome fence surrounding the Miles Brewton House in Charleston, South Carolina. Its wrought-iron rails are topped with a cheval de frise, a horizontal bar covered in long spikes that jut out at multiple angles. Added in response to a planned slave revolt in 1822, the spiky bar sends a clear message: you are not welcome here.

In 2014, widespread outrage arose when a luxury London apartment building installed “anti-homeless spikes” to prevent people from sleeping in an alcove near the front door. The spikes, which were removed following the public outcry, drew attention to a broader urban phenomenon known as hostile architecture.

Hostile architecture, also known as defensive architecture, exists on a spectrum. At one end are the overt design features that are obvious to anyone walking by-like spikes and fences. At the other end, says Petty, are the design elements in which “the hostile function is often embedded under a socially palatable function.”

A prime example is street furniture, particularly public benches.

My comment: Very Interesting!!


Big Banks Have Nearly Abandoned the FHA Market


Big banks have drastically reduced their share of the Federal Housing Administration market, a massive shift that has big implications, according to new analysis by the American Enterprise Institute.

Large banks – which had a 60% share of FHA refinancings in late 2013 – had a 6% share as of May 31, according to Stephen Oliner, a resident scholar at AEI. Nonbank lenders currently originate 90% of FHA-insured refinancings, according to new data released by the group.


Brexit Could Bring More Commercial Real Estate Investors to U.S. Shores

Dated 6-24-16, the day after Brexit passed


Uncertainty, at least in the short term, is bound to be the prevailing mood for commercial real estate markets in the U.K., and for those who’ve invested there.

“The prospects for the commercial property markets depend heavily on the macro-economic situation that prevails over the next two years… Lower investor demand will have an impact on pricing, and we expect to see a softening in commercial property yields over the course of 2016-17. This will be a short-term reaction, and strengthening investor demand in the second half of 2017 will limit the rise in yields,” says Mat Oakley, head of commercial research at real estate services firm Savills.

The U.S. commercial real estate market could see an influx of capital coming from the U.K., and from other countries whose investors might pull capital out of U.K. properties. Analysts at data firm Axiometrics contend that “Investors from the Middle East, who have long favored London, could be ready for a bigger bite of the Big Apple if they see profitability falling in Great Britain.”


Brexit = rates low and refis way up


Brexit’s impact on mortgage applications is in and looks like borrowers cashed in on the ultra-low interest rates.

Refinance applications have fluctuated for a lot of this year, bringing out headlines ranging from “MBA: Refinance once again drives mortgage applications” to “MBA: Purchase apps rise as refi apps fade.”

Last week’s mortgage application news underwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, with applications posting a drop for the week. It seemed like Brexit did nothing to spur people into homeownership, that’s until this week’s news came out.


HOW TO USE THE NUMBERS BELOW. Appraisals are ordered after the loan application. These numbers tell you the future for the next few weeks. For more information on how they are compiled, go to

Note: I publish a graph of this data every month in my printed newsletter, Appraisal Today. For more information or get a FREE sample issue go to or send an email to . Or call 800-839-0227, MTW 8AM to noon, Pacific time.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 6, 2016) –

Brexit: Mortgage applications increased 14.2 percent from one week earlier

according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending July 1, 2016.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 14.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 14 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 21 percent from the previous week to the highest level since January 2015. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 4 percent compared with the previous week and was 23 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Interest rates continued to drop last week as markets assessed the impact of Brexit, downgrading the likelihood of additional rate hikes by the Fed, and mortgage rates for 30-year conforming loans dropped to their lowest level in over 3 years,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Chief Economist. “In response, refinance application volume jumped almost 21 percent last week to its highest level since January 2015.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 61.6 percent of total applications, the highest level since February 2016, from 58.1 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 5.6 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 9.5 percent from 10.6 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 12.8 percent from 12.2 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.6 percent from 0.7 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to its lowest level since May 2013, 3.66 percent, from 3.75 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) decreased to its lowest level since January 2011, 3.67 percent, from 3.74 percent, with points decreasing to 0.24 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to its lowest level since May 2013, 3.56 percent, from 3.61 percent, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to its lowest level since May 2013, 2.96 percent, from 3.02 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to its lowest level since April 2015, 2.85 percent, from 2.88 percent, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.

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