Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Condo Living

Buy a house or buy a condo?

During the last year or two, prices of homes have greatly increased, more so than the cost of condominiums. Not surprisingly, condos are starting to attract more attention.

Living in a condo has many benefits. You need not mow the lawn or worry about roof repairs. You may have access to amenities that otherwise you might not be able to afford, such as a pool or a hot tub, a tennis court or a clubhouse. You needn’t worry about packages or newspapers at your front door that might announce to the world that you’re away on vacation.

Yet condo living has disadvantages too.

Consider your family—do you have children who might enjoy playing in a yard and benefit from being able to be noisy without having condo residents complain? How soundproof are the condo’s walls, floors and ceilings to protect you from the noise of others? You may have neighbors above, below, on either side and across the hall from you. You may want to consider meeting your future neighbors before you sign the contract.

How about the dogs and cats you own? They may need a yard, unless you’re able and willing to walk them whenever necessary. Most condos have rules concerning animals. For obvious reasons, many associations won’t allow pets on Condo Common Grounds. This brings to mind that all condominiums have House Rules and CC&Rs that require careful study before you buy. You want to make sure that you can live with all Rules, Conditions and Restrictions. Because all violations are fined.

In some California cities, as in the fair City of Alameda, you may no longer smoke, not even on your balcony or inside your own Condo bedroom. The reason is that condominiums and apartments are considered community housing. Your cigarette smoke might affect other residents. In other words, cigarette smoking is viewed with hostility and therefore is strictly taboo.

It may surprise you that the majority of complaints that our condo manager receives are no longer about dogs but about some hapless neighbor, who is smoking. Of course, if you live in a separate, single-unit house, you can smoke as much as you desire, even in the City of Alameda. By the way, smoking fines are not cheap. Alameda City Law and our condo association are imposing a fine of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and a hefty $500 fine for the third violation.

House Rules that regulate noise are vital for harmonious community living. It may mean No Noise after 10:00 pm or before 7:00 am in the morning — as for example no loud music, TV, or using a vacuum or washing machine. And of course no barking—barking is usually restricted throughout the day. But how do you explain that to your dog? Actually, shock collars and citronella spray work very well and don’t harm the dog if used appropriately.

Now to the financial aspect of owning a condo. To begin with, it may be less expensive to buy a condo. However, condos require the payment of monthly Dues. The association pays for upkeep, management, repairs, replacements, legal costs and amenities. Expect the dues to increase on an annual basis.

Occasionally, an association will levy an Assessment needed for the unexpected. However, unforeseen costs can also hit owners of houses.

Finally, ask yourself a personal question. Are you an outgoing person, who enjoys the close proximity of others, who smiles if the neighbor’s children laugh or scream, who manages to close his or her ears if the lonely dog above you barks or whines unhappily? Or are you a person who deeply treasures peace and quiet and cherishes the idea that your home is your castle?

The list of pros and cons is long. Weigh all aspects carefully; it is worthwhile to take the trouble.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Europe's Future

Could European culture vanish into the mist?

Impossible. Europe abounds in culture. Its long history and its people of imagination, industry and creativity have fashioned a stunning diversity of art and architecture, thought and customs.  Its roots trace back to the ancient Greek and Romans, but also to the Muslim world that greatly advanced its science. Religion, too, shaped many of its customs, and so did the climate.  Customs in the frigid regions of the North differ vastly from those in the sunny South.

Could this change one day? Could Europe become an Islamic Continent? The Week cites persuasive facts. Muslims are streaming into Europe — 40,000 into Germany on one single weekend, 800,000 to 1.5 million more to come. When on a single day 9,380 asylum seekers crossed the border into Hungary, the country declared an emergency. The large numbers of refugees are simply overwhelming. Each and every one must be registered and provided with housing and food, medicine and money, education and support, likely for years to come. In addition, the birth rate for Muslims is one of the highest, while Europeans have one of the lowest.

Presently, most refugees are coming from Syria. But ethnic violence in many parts of the Middle East and Africa are bound to bring yet bigger waves of refugees. “Welcoming tens of thousands of asylum seekers is one thing; 10 million is another,” writes Walter Russell Mead in The Wall Street Journal.

Why is this an issue? Millions of Europeans have fled to America and become loyal citizens.

The difficulty may lie in the ability to integrate. When Europeans of diverse religions immigrated to this country, they were able to assimilate into the American culture. Europe and America have a constitutional secular government under the rule of law. A Muslim, however, is subject to Sharia law, which, according to Wikipedia, “is the basic Islamic legal system derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith.” It governs all aspects of a Muslim’s life, social, religious and political.

After World War II, when most German men had fallen or become invalids, thousands of Turks entered Germany to help rebuild the country. They remained in Germany and still live there today. Seventy years later very few have assimilated. They have formed their own communities, attend their own schools and mosques, practice Sharia law and maintain strict separation from their host country.

The Quran frowns upon believers who turn away from the Words of Allah. “O ye who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends,” it warns in verse 5:51, “they are allies only to each other.”  The word Islam originates from the Arabic islĂ„m submission, from aslama submit to God.

In 1946, after a short period of French rule, modern Syria obtained its independence. Yet its history is long and colorful. Since pre-Roman times, Syria was populated by Arabs, Jews and Christians. Emperor Constantine had legalized conversion to Christianity in the fourth century when he moved his capital from Italy to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople.

Around the year 632, shortly after the death of Muhammad, during the great period of Arab expansion, the Muslim Caliph Abu Bakr conceived of an ingeniously idea to surprise and conquer the Byzantine army that protected Syria. He took a shortcut through the Arabian desert, marching his troops for two days without water—thus “unhinging” Syria’s defense.

For roughly seven hundred years prior to the Muslim conquest, Syria has been primarily under Roman rule.

Then in 634, Syria became part of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire, which lasted for 623 years. It was one of the largest empires ever, extending over 2 million square miles. It stretched over three continents and controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. It ruled from 1299 to 1922.  

In many respects, so say historians, the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic successor to the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, which also had its capital in Constantinople and was one of the most powerful and long-lasting Empires, ruling over a thousand years.

Europe, an Islamic Continent? Something to think about.

Until next time,