Archive for February, 2012

PanLex joins Long Now Foundation

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Today’s announcement by The Long Now Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, makes public the transfer of sponsorship of the PanLex project from Utilika Foundation to Long Now. There, PanLex will be working in partnership with The Rosetta Project, which curates a massive collection of documentation on the languages of the world. PanLex is creating a database that aims to document every known translation of every word in every language in the world. There are about half a billion translations in it so far.

Google Translate hits 64 with Esperanto

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Google announced two days ago the addition of Esperanto as the 64th language served by Google Translate.

A quick test suggests that Esperanto is in some cases working a bit better than French, German, or Russian. Here’s a sentence from the home page of the PanLex project: “They dread a world in which only English, only Mandarin, or only Hindi has survived.” Here are the translations:

French: “Ils redoutent un monde dans lequel Hindi seulement l’anglais, seulement le mandarin, ou seulement a survécu.”

German: “Sie fürchten eine Welt, in der nur Englisch, nur Mandarin, Hindi oder nur überlebt hat.”

Russian: “Они боятся мира, в котором только на английском языке, только китайском, хинди или только выжила.”

Esperanto: “Ili timis la mondon en kiu nur angla, nur mandarena, aŭ nur hinda postvivis.”

Not perfect, but Esperanto seems to have escaped a weird parsing error that corrupts the others.

HOA, Show Me Your Stuff

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

When you make an offer to buy a share or unit in a housing cooperative or condominium (common interest development, or CID, also called HOA), your offer specifies things that you want disclosed to you during your inspection period. The law also requires that the seller make some disclosures, even if you don’t ask for them.

However, are the legally required disclosures and the ones listed in standard purchase-offer forms enough? That’s a matter of judgment, but I surmise that a buyer could be wise to add some required disclosures to those in the standard form.

The RPA-CA form of the California Association of Realtors seems (in paragraphs 5 and 6) to require nothing, or almost nothing, beyond what is required by law. It references “any documents required by law”. Those include the ones listed in § 4525 of the California Civil Code.

If I were buying, I’d probably add the following items to paragraph 6B (items that the seller must provide and that the buyer must approve in order for the purchase to proceed):

  1. Both draft and approved minutes of all board and member meetings for the 4 years preceding the last 12 months
  2. A list of the names, members, chairpersons, and responsibilities of all currently existing committees appointed by the board or by the president, and for each such committee a telephone number and an Internet mail address
  3. All minutes and reports of committees appointed by the board or by the president for the past 5 years
  4. All issues of CID-internal newsletters published by or with the financial support of the CID during the past 5 years
  5. Read-only access to any Internet-based archive of documents and/or discussions relating to the CID to which existing members of the CID generally are permitted to have access, whether or not such archive is sponsored or endorsed by the CID
  6. A complete set of as-built architectural and engineering plans for the improvements owned in common by the CID
  7. All documentation constituting or underlying the latest determination or estimate by or for the CID of the useful life of the improvements owned in common by the CID
  8. The maintenance manual for the physical facility owned in common by the CID
  9. All existing reports, permits, contracts, plans, and correspondence describing, diagnosing, analyzing, predicting, questioning, or recommending measures to deal with the resistance to seismic shaking, fire, or water infiltration of the buildings contained in the CID since they were constructed
  10. Each currently effective plan of the CID for disaster and/or emergency response
  11. The name, telephone number, and Internet mail address of each current director and of each person who was a director or a candidate for director during the last 3 years
  12. The last 3 pro forma operating budgets, reserve funding plans, and reviewed financial statements
  13. An itemization of all expenses during the current and preceding fiscal years, including, for each entity to which the CID paid $500 or more in the aggregate, the amount paid and the name, mailing address, telephone number, and Internet mail address of the payee and a description of the purpose of the expense
  14. Each claim or complaint by or against the corporation or any of its current or former directors, officers, or employees in their capacities as such, whether filed in a court, submitted for internal dispute resolution, submitted for alternative dispute resolution, or communicated to the CID’s insurer, if dated during the past 5 years

Aggressive? Perhaps, but it’s a test of the CID’s competence. A well-run CID these days has such stuff digitized and ready for its own members to download. Giving access to a prospective buyer should be child’s play. If the CID responds that it doesn’t have the time to wipe the cobwebs off the cardboard boxes in the basement that contain these records, or that it simply refuses to let you see some of the information in your list, you’ve learned something important.

This list does three main things.

First, it extends the history from 1 year to several years. Important shocks to a CID don’t occur every year. You need time to see how stable or erratic the CID has been, and to capture rare but significant events.

Second, it delves into the physical and organizational risks that might otherwise remain hidden from you and, most likely, from any ordinary residential inspector you hire.

Third, it helps you reach beyond the official version of the truth to various unofficial versions. Some of those are stories you’ll hear from people you contact. The contact information should help you discover any factions in the CID and let people from each of them give you their perspectives.

In combination, these features could give a buyer solid insight into what the property is really worth, how well it is being run, and how often (if ever) it erupts into civil war.

[Originally published 3 April 2011]