Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Roll-Over

I have this problem of reprogramming my brain for the new year roll-over. 

In my days of creating memo's to the files at Accenture, it took months for me to get the date correct.  I discovered how confusing this could be during a deposition, when a lawyer challenged me on a memo that I had written a year before  the event.  He knew I had mis-dated the memo but he wanted to confuse me with the hopes of digging something up.  One hour into the deposition, I finally figured out that I had mis-dated the memo - pointed this out to him.  He just smiled and said -  "I know".  Those lawyers - sneaky fellows :)

Calendars are fairly arbitrary - there is the Gregorian, Julian, Islamic, Hebrew, Persian, Hindu, Chinese, Lunar, Solar .... the list goes on.  I have been watching the History Channel DVD's on "Rome Rise and Fall of an Empire.  Like all conquering nations our calendar is a result of Gaius Julius Caesar (the month of July is named because of his birthday - July 13 100BC). 

Just imagine the stress in your life if suddenly a conquering nation decided to change the calendar - Birthdays, New Years, Holidays etc.   A year end roll-over would be the least of your concerns.

Since it takes me months for the actual change Year End roll over - maybe I like the Chinese system - Feb 14 is when 2010 begins.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Life Club

It's not a country club - no interviews, no recommendation letters, no initiation fees, and no minimums.  It's the milestones of life that gets you into the various levels in the club. 

I reflected with friends over dinner how their discussions about their kids (several years ahead of mine) went right over my head -  drivers permits, first crash, leaving for college ......  the list goes on and on.  Now my peers are beginning to have kids get married, first grandchildren etc.  

Each of these events (and others) are a punch in your life ticket and entry into another circle of people in the Life Club.  You now understand what they were talking about - you relate  --  "Been there, Done that".

In 2009, I entered (partially) into the  "kids go to college" section of the Life Club.  My "empty nester" ticket won't get punched until 2017.  I feel lucky about that and thank Susan for her strategic planning 10 years ago.

The Life Club has no waiting list - you can prepare for any level today.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Something about year end creates the desire in me to create annual goals.  Susan and I used to do this as we would travel on the road during the Xmas Holidays.  It's entertaining to go back and look at those historical goals also.  We would do annual stuff and also long range items. 

The categories one uses for goals is also an interesting exercise.  I just picked up an interesting book at the library - "Who's got your back" by Keith Ferrazzi.  I haven't finished the book but I chose it based on the picture I saw on page 163 - Your Personal Success Wheel.  It shows a wheel with 7 equal parts (categories) - Spirituality, Intellectual Stimulation, Physical Wellness, Financial Success, Professional Growth, Deep Relationships, and Giving Back.  That might be a good set of categories this year to set goals by.

Vistage gives me another opportunity to set goals and we will do that at our January meeting.  I did that last year and reported monthly about my progress in those goals. 

I think goals are important to your emotional, physical and spiritual well being. 

Goal- less in sports means you can,  at best,  end in a tie.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I was just reading the Best 100 Products 2009 list from PC World Magazine.  This is a gadget lovers dream list and luckily I didn't read it prior to creating my Christmas list. 

Number two on the list - Google Voice.  Amazing - this free service is what I dreamed would happen someday to telephony.  Each person would be assigned a phone number (almost like a Social Security Number) and that master number would control all communications to you (and a number that would stay with you for life). You can read about it (or see it) at 

So much has changed with the phone in my 55 years of existence.  My first cell phone (in my 1986 Supra--- and I still have that original number on Susan's phone) was over $1K and I forget the cost per minute.  Now 23 years later I've lost track of the number of cell phones I have acquired and not yet disposed of. 

How much time do we spend on the phone? 

One source I found states that for landlines it is about 480 minutes per person per mth and  for wireless 742 minutes per person per mth and I'm sure there are many surveys that site different averages.  So I decided to look at my phone - yes I reset the timer on Feb. 20th 2008 and it states I have talked 265 hours, 14 minutes and 3 seconds since that date.  So my personal average is 723 minutes/mth (12 hours).  That's over 3000 hours since I have owned a cell phone (125 - 24 hour days). 

Now you know why I refuse to answer the landline phone.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Most Memorable Xmas Gift

What was your most memorable Christmas gift and what age were you? 

Mine was Christmas1962 (age 8) and a Mattel toy called Vac-U-Form (you can buy it now on for $850).  Vac-U-Form was a small plastic extruder like machine that enabled you to heat to a soft state a sheet of styrene plastic that when flipped over a vacuum like device, you could mold small toys and parts. 

My memory is that it was a very expensive toy (too much for my parents
to pay for) and unlikely to be found under the Christmas Tree.  That
feature, my age, and the hours and hours of use could be why it is
etched into my memory banks - and qualifies for the most memorable
Christmas gift.

The hours and hours of use probably relate to the fact that we were not
just showered with many toys.  I observed Ellen (10 this year) and her
after Christmas activities.  On the day she dutifully tried out each of
her gifts for 10-15 minutes each (even played with some of the adult
gadgets received by Jenna, Susan and myself).  I wonder if she will
really spend hours and hours with one of the gifts received - will any
of these 2009 gifts be memorable?

So what makes it memorable - your age, the giver, the cost, the expectation, the surprise, the longevity of use, the volume of gifts, the popularity, the advertising, or some other feature? 

 When all the gift attributes align --- memories get defined.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top of the Tree

What's at  the top of your Christmas Tree - Star or Angel -  maybe something else - Ribbon, Santa etc?  My imprecise statistical analysis says that 99% are Stars or Angels with Star winning out. 

More importantly did you marry a Star or an Angel? On a mixed marriage, there is a 99% chance that the female wins out on what goes to the top of the tree - even though it is the male who is always responsible for putting the tree up and is the taller person appointed to place the final top ornament correctly centered. 

And whatever you have at the top - it rarely changes over the years.  That same 1950's angel appears on my parents tree year after year. It's like hearing Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas" each year -  a tradition that brings the memories of Christmas' past.

And what was on the top of the Christmas Tree in the final scene of White Christmas?  You better watch it again tonight for the answer.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Have you ever got the same design Christmas Card two years
in a row from the same person?   Yes that
is what I call re-carding.  Or a
Christmas letter on the same stationary again – yes you got it -  re-sheeting.
Or how about those Christmas cards with the printed name and
the computer address label – that’s feeling real special. And then there is my
real pet peeve – getting the card with only the children’s pictures - a single photo sheet - no note, no signature.   Hey -
I want to see you – get in the shot!
Take a look at all the Christmas cards you received this
year.  What’s the best looking card, most
innovative, most funny,  etc.  We should have an Oscar awards for Chistmas
Card Design.  That sould eliminate the
With the price of postage at 44 cents and rising, the budget
for Christmas Cards is getting squeezed.
As you create the note, letter and stuff the envelope how much time is
really spent per card?  And for those
received you need to spend time to read them and admire the design.  We must be talking about a billion dollar
So how many cards do you send out and how many did you
 Are you a net card
gainer or loser?  Remember to report that
on your taxes as a short term capital gain or loss.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Letters

Don't you just hate those Christmas Letters you receive with the Xmas cards :)  --- Especially in 8 font New Times Roman with the page packed to the edge of the margins.  On and on about .......   you get the drift.  There's a humorous Utube video of "Ask the Fruitcake Lady" featured on Jay Leno who gripes about those letters -  it was sent to me in response to my 2007 letter.

Yes -  I just sent out the 9th Wisner Family letter and email.  Actually I use the Merry Christmas email as an annual way to have the discipline to update my Outlook email addresses.  The returned emails get deleted (so that's your answer on how to not get sent an email).

I do get a few responses back about the email/letter.  There are people who enjoy the family update, the puzzles inside, or just are willing to put up with my antics. 

I like the tradition of composing the letter as it lets me reflect on what happened in the past year.  It's amazing how quickly you forget an event, and what things rise to the important event top ten.  And since I keep all the past letters, it is a written log of the family journey (albeit through my filter and crazy authorship). 

Really there is only one person who enjoys reading the letter - ME :)  And that's who counts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Health or Wealth

I watched the cloture vote last night at 1:00am (officially Monday morning) in the Senate on the way to a Healthcare bill by Xmas.  My prediction was that it wouldn't happen but now it looks eminent (another forecasting error).

With a choice of Health or Wealth - what  do you pick?   "If you have your Health you have everything"  

One way to look at this question is to determine how much you would spend to improve your health (e.g. reduce pain, avoid death, etc.) without insurance.  We know that  with insurance 27% of Medicare's budget goes to people in their final years of life - but that's what happens in the end - your health fails and you spend money.  And let's estimate it takes $50K on average for health care at the end of your life (in 2006 the highest city cost was Manhattan at $35K - lowest Wichita Falls at $10K). 

This becomes the hidden question in the Heathcare Bill.  Can we spend money now to lower the end of life cost and/or the total lifetime healthcare cost of an individual? Should we mandate that you spend your money now to extend your life? (e.g make the Health vs Wealth decision for you).

I like Benjamin Franklin's quote on the subject - "Nothing is more fatal to health than an over care of it"

I wish he had been on the floor of the Senate last night.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It only bleeds

Rich McCord and I  were talking yesterday about work.  I made the comment "Why should anyone keep beating their head against the wall" and Rich replied Yeah - "because it only bleeds". 

So you have found a technical detail in your work that would dramatically improve the business.  You bring it up and the naysayers begin to beat it down.  You are passionate, young, energetic, risktaking, and willing to go to the mat.  Or you are an engineer and see the beauty in the elegance of the design, the need for harmony in the science.  Time or money is not the object here.  You will make the time and you know the investment of money will pay off.

Fight as you might - the battle is uphill.  But with relentless persistence you get the feature implemented.  And the result?

Your boss gets a bigger bonus and because he is so many layers above you, he doesn't even know why he got the bonus.

Your head is sore, there is blood on the floor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The real story

As they say (who's the they?)  - "There is your story, my story and then there is the real story".   The challenges of conflict resolution will forever be a part of the human condition.  The ability to decipher the facts and present the "truth" is a multibillion dollar industry - the Legal Industry. 

Even with all the Lawyer jokes, I have great respect for those individuals that believe they can argue the truth, the absolute truth so help you God.  I am forever arguing (after all isn't that what Lawyers do) with my Lawyer friend Jack Painter about relativism vs absolute truth. 

But then again  -  There is Jack's story and then there is Garen's story and then the REAL (Absolute Truth) STORY.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forecasting Error

In today's world of everything being recorded, we begin to see how wrong the expert forecasters and financial talking heads really are.  I just finished watching the Utube clip of Bernanke getting it totally wrong from 2005 to 2007.

I've noticed in my financial journals many forecasting errors - mine are just not put on CNBC.  Tonight Cramer did a mea culpa on his pre-earnings call recommending Best Buy as a strong buy ---yesterday it dropped 8%. 

And how many people have you talked to about the outlook for the financial markets for 2010?  Any consensus- NOT.
50% say up 50% say down.  .

I forecast that 50% of those predicting will be correct :)

Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

It was the book "Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz that caused me on December 3, 2007 to begin writing  down each day 5 things I am grateful for.  I'm now on Volume 2 and while I have missed some days here and there, for the most part it is complete. So what have I learned?

Because of my rule to avoid duplication (except for people's names or actions) the initial months were easy.  Thankful for stuff, things given to me, my background, journey, recent encounters ....  you get the drift - somewhat inward focused, material and comfort related.   After draining all the personal blessings then the list grows to family, then friends, relationships, community .....   And it gets harder - and broader and in some ways smaller and more subtle.

A sunrise, the smell of winter, a touch from someone, a word of encouragement, a joyful thought, a smile from a stranger.  Yes - it's the little things, the "take for granted" things, the "blink of an eye" events that enter the list now.

There were days I actually pondered - "will the list run out"?  But the blessings are infinite, cumulative and permanent. 

"Count your many blessings, Angels will attend; help and comfort give you to your journey's end."  Johnson Oatman (1897)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Farmer's Values

Today I sat in on a orientation/review session for Gorman Heritage Farm.  This is a 122 acre farm in Evendale, Ohio that is 175 years old (originally the Gormans) and is now a non-profit that SVP Cincinnati selected as an "investee".  Their mission - "To give people the opportunity to explore and learn the history, methods and values of a working family farm in a natural setting". 

So what are the values of a working family farm?  Both of my grandparents were farmers and my parents grew up on a farm.  But I (and my siblings)  can only claim to be a city slicker with visits to the farm. By not living and working on a farm, did I lose those values?

Honesty is what I remember most about my grandfather -  "a man is his word".  Deals were done on a handshake.  Honor was the signature.  Duty was the responsibility.  Hard work was the delivery.  Helping others was the insurance. 

Are farming values black or white ------ red or blue? 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dog or Cat Person

What is your favorite pet - Dog or Cat?  We have one dog and three cats in our family.  I guess if I was forced to a decision, I would be a dog person (after all I feed the dog and not the cats).  Nellie, our black lab, is an outdoor dog -greets me in the morning with great anticipation (that is when she gets fed) and is the first to greet me when I arrive at home. 

The only conditional part of the love is food - otherwise she is always happy to see me.   Contrast this to the cats who are interested only on their terms.  Rocky, the cat,  does greet me every morning wanting attention and almost like a dog will come on command - but that is unusual for a cat.

They have proven that having pets increase your chances of living longer.  Why? It's that unconditional love and also your opportunity to share that love.  And it is the very nature of companionship with 100% approval of who you are - no changes needed.  Dogs may have the advantage of also getting you to exercise by walking them. 

So who really lives longer - a dog person or cat person?  An indoor cat lives 12-18 years and an indoor medium to large dog lives 10-13 years.  That means the dog person is losing companionship 25% more than the cat person. 

Somehow the expression "Help my life is going to the dogs" now takes on a different meaning.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Credit Scores

Your credit score is a complicated and mysterious thing. What does 779 mean?  I think the banks, insurance companies etc like it that way.  My parents always told me that your credit rating is one of the most important items for you to pay attention to and stays with you forever.   I always interpreted that as - pay your bills on time.  But there are funny things you discover about credit:

(1) Not being in debt can be bad - you have no history of credit performance
(2) Having too many credit cards or cards that are open that you don't use is not real favorable (banks see those credit cards as potential liabilities - so having open and unused credit available is not a good thing)
(3) Closed cards is not a good thing - even if you requested it to be closed and there were no issues
(4) New Credit Card applications -  see point (2)
(5) Credit inquiries on your account (e.g. Insurance change etc.) - called "Hard Inquiries"
(6) Public Records on File
(7) Collections on File

Here is an example where automation has created challenges.  Because each of these events are considered independent events by the computer, your credit score goes down. Humans are not looking at these reports.
Let me explain -  Recently I decided to open a Fidelity American Express Card (and quit using the Gold American Express card I received from being on Susan's account - that's another long story of dissatisfaction with Amex). I was changing and adding brokerage accounts with proper titles. At the same time I was doing this, I was considering changing Auto, Home, and Umbrella Insurance.  And about that time I missed a Discover Card payment  4/09 (see my previous blog).   All these events caused Allstate to kick out my application with a form letter.  Unbelievable. 

It's a good idea to annually get your free credit report and keep a file of these.  I don't practice what I preach but my file has a 2006, 2008 and 2009 reports.  Some reports have combined scores - some just detail.  I personally like the Privacy Guard report that Susan ordered the best.

There are some things that are a "permanent record" and your credit report is one of those.  No erasing, no going back TransUnion says I have been on their files since 1985 and it shows a credit card (still active) opened in 1983.  Even a pack rat like me doesn't have that data.

So be deliberate on all your credit decisions - it's like blogging in permanent ink.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Lists

There was a time when the entire family used to get together for Christmas and all the adults would draw a name from a hat for who they would buy a gift the following Christmas.   In order to know what the person wanted we would exchange Christmas Lists which were due by Thanksgiving to my Mom - the central depot and the matriarch of the family.  She would sent out the lists to all and there were no rules other than you had to buy one gift within the dollar limit to the one individual whose name you drew from the hat. But it did not preclude you from buying other gifts for people should you chose to do so (since you had their list).  This methodology assured you would get at least one gift. 

I enjoyed this exercise and took great joy in creating lists that had many items to chose from. People like to give what they like so the more items meant there was greater probability of gifts :)

Also the tradition in our family was that all gifts were wrapped and marked FROM:  SANTA.  In other words, you never knew who your gift came from.  Naturally there were years people screwed up and forgot their name, lost the slip of paper, a duplicate gift was given etc. etc.  But this made it even more exciting in trying to figure out the mystery of who had whose name and who screwed up.

Also this no "FROM" identity allowed  a creative person like me to buy and wrap a gift I wanted to give myself without anyone knowing that I purchased it myself :) 

And who knows - if you still believe in Santa (as I do), then Santa may still be the culprit That's why my list always had some big ticket items just in case.

Never skimp on the Christmas List :)

Buying Confidence

I just got the 2010 Consumer Reports Buying Guide - Best & Worst.  I was interested in what products are important enough (e.g. price, use, need, complexity etc.) to make the list.  Naturally most items are big ticket items - but here are the categories:
Home Entertainment - Bluray,DVD, Digital Cameras, Digital Frames, TV
Kitchen, Bath, Laundry - Countertops,Diswashers, Microwave, Ranges, Refrigs, Washer/Dryer, Toilets
Home & Yard - AC, Drills, Flooring, Grills, Mowers, Paints, Thermostats, Roofing, Vacuum
Computers, Phones, Peripherals - Cells, Computers, GPS, Monitors, Printers
Autos - Tire, New Cars, Old Cars

So about 31 products.  And how many times do you buy these same items?  I would guess in my 55 years I have purchased these items on average 6 times each (e.g. Cars-8 mine only; TVs - 15; DVD/VCR - 10 etc) - so almost 200 times.  SO WHAT?

Different people put so much time and effort into the buying decision (I'm one of those analysis/paralysis types).  Yet the average time we have the product is 3-4 years.  And who do you connect as the expert you talk to about each of these categories? --   Parents, Friends, Work Associates, etc.

We are so influenced by  (1) the person we last talked to (also known as "recentness weighting"),  (2) or our "perceived expert" (randomness of our relationships) we ask for advice (3) or our last experience (I'll never buy a Dell because of the lemon I had) (4) or our research on the web, consumer reports etc.

All of this is fairly random input creates a level of confidence in your decision - to assure you have optimized your "utility" for the cost.  I can guess I have made at least 50% of the wrong decisions in these 200 decisions..

So that qualifies me as and Expert in nearly every category :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Radio Buttons

No, I'm not talking about the computer term for those round circle choices on a web screen.  I'm talking about the buttons in your car.

Car radios have gotten much more sophisticated with scan, seek and automatic button assignment.  Just like most of my electronic devices, I refuse to read the manual and just experiment. Even the buttons are complicated. I wonder how many pre-set buttons are ever changed?  And when did you last re-set a button?

I really need only three buttons - WVXU 91.7; WGUC 90.9; WGRR 103.5; NPR Talk, NPR Classic, Oldies.  While I like XM Satellite in Susan's car, I'm too frugal to pay the monthly cost - but that button would be Watercolors.  I would buy per trip a button/station to listen to for long trips but that service is not available.

Will radio buttons disappear with I-pod streaming (Apple is buying LaLa)?  The problem is you still have to plug your I-pod into the radio before listening (too much effort).  The car needs to automatically detect the on board I-pods (another Bluetooth application). 

So Steve Job's next conquest in music -   The Radio Button 

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow

Ellen excitingly said it snowed last night before I had the chance to poke my head outside.  And indeed there was a light skift (skift:  an old southern slag word for a light dusting of snow - 1/4 inch or less). 

Cyndee O'Quinn of Channel 9  ABC Weather on December 3 researched the Cincinnati statistics: 

The average date of the first measurable snowfall is Nov 7th.  The records were 10/11/1925 for the earliest; 1/2/1983 for the latest with 0.10";

Last year, during the 2008-09 winter, Cincinnati saw a total of 23.0"
of snow.  Most of it fell within a week and a half during the end of
January.  Multiple snowfalls from January 25-30 measured 11.5" followed
by an additional 5.5" of snow on February 3-4. 

snowfall for Cincinnati is 23.6"  Last year's amount was close to
normal, while the 2007-08 season was slightly above at 26.2" of snow. 
We saw almost half of the yearly snowfall occur in 2007-08 during
one snowstorm.  The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Airport received 10.7" on March 7-8, 2008 with outlying areas measuring
over a foot of snow.  

Cincinnati has seen some snowy years and
the winter of 1977-78 stands out not only as one of the coldest but the
snowiest.  During this period, Cincinnati received over 4 feet of snow
with a total of 53.9".

Cincinnati's lowest snowfall total occurred during the winter of 1918-19, when only 1.2" was reported.

So why would I care about all this?  Well as the budget guru/ Trustee of the Armstrong United Methodist Church, I have to predict the budget for snow removal at the Church.  And as you might guess, I have been wrong two years in a row! 

So it follows -  "The weather is like the government, always in the wrong"  Jerome K. Jerome

Friday, December 4, 2009

Redundant Storytelling

Last night was full of storytelling. And there is great power in business and personal relationships with storytelling.   Kevin Murray, one of my Accenture colleagues, is one of the best.  But what do you do when you have heard the story many many times before.   Al Cambridge was a good story teller also - and a real mentor to me.  He invested lots of time in my career and as such I have heard nearly every Al Cambridge story. 

So when your boss, parents, grandparents ......  start into that story you've heard one hundred times before, what do you do?   Listen patiently again?  Interrupt and say - "Yeah you've told me that story"?     Well my advice is if it is a good story, just like a good movie, sit back relax and relish the chance to hear a good one yet another time.  If it isn't one of the top 10 stories - interrupt politely and move the conversation forward.

We are our stories............ -  oops that's redundant to one of my blogs.

What about redundant blogging :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I've  never been to a High School Reunion probably because I moved my Senior year to Solon, Ohio.. Last year was the first time Susan or I had ever been to Miami University's Alumni Reunion weekend.  I occasionally make it to the  Annual Wells Family ReUnion. Then there is my annual College Buddy ReUnion during the Superbowl.  And tonight
is the 9th Accenture Alumni Reunion at Arthurs. And I should count Holiday gatherings in the category of ReUnions.

Count up your ReUnions - I predict there will be at least a handful, especially the older you are. We measure time like other things in a relative way - by comparing ourselves to others.  It's comforting to see your friends, family and relationships over a period of time.  And there can be people you don't even know that you see on a regular basis over time (every year we see other Box Seat holders at the Masters Tennis Tournament). 

Big or Small - Annual or Sporadic -  ReUnions remind us of the importance of community, groups, and relationships.

Maybe it's time to attend one of those ReUnions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Presentation Pressure

For all the claims of how productive a computer has made us, have you ever pondered how much time we wasted booting, rebooting, printer problems, network problems ......... the list goes on and on.  I have no less than 9 different wires for various purposes in my laptop briefcase for device connectivity. How many presentations have been foiled by the challenge of knowing which two function keys to hit simultaneously to get the screen to appear?  How often has what you thought you printed - actually printed as you desired?  Have I hit your stress button yet (since in these cases there is no easy button).

For my family, I am technical support.  I know just enough to be dangerous and waste hours of time.  Tonight I looked furiously for an extra printer cable (their have been at least 5 versions of this that I can distinctly remember ....... does serial and parallel ports for dot matrix printer ring a bell).  I needed that wire (not one of the 9 I had with my laptop)  so I could direct connect the networked printer at our house to my computer to get something simple printed for a presentation (naturally the network was down).

There must be a corollary of Murphy''s law - if not call it Garen's Law -  "When you are in the greatest hurry to print - something will go wrong with the printer"

So what is the solution?   Use a Flipchart for all presentations --- or carry 10 wires with my laptop.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Statistician's Birthday

So have you ever checked out what happened in history on your birthday thinking somehow the one day out of 365 that you were randomly born is more important than the other 364?  And if there are 364 people in a room with you what is the probability that someone has YOUR date for a birthday (after all it is YOUR date not theirs)?

Try almost 100%.  In fact the probability is 50% with only 23 people in a room and 99% with 57 people (remember it is month and day only--- not the year).
Errata:  10/2/12 -  I'm embarrassed to say I made the same mistake as Johnny Carson (see Blog Erroneous Company).  You actually need 1679 people in the room to have a 99% chance that at least one person matches your exact day of birth (month and day).  The 57 people in a room for 99% probability answers a different question - "How many people do you need in a room for anyone's birthday to match (meaning two or more 'coincidentally' have the same birth day)".
And how many people were born on the same date as you?  The most common birth date in the USA is October 5th – back up 9 months and you get Jan. 1.  And the least common birth date – May 22.   But the most common birth months are August, July and September.  You come up with the hypothesis. 
And to be really precise – your birthday occurs once every 7 years (just like those born on Feb. 29).  Not counting leap years, the date you were born moves each year to the following day of the week.  Your annual celebration is actually for your birth date – not your birthday.
In Indian Hill Schools, they celebrate the half-birthdays for kids like Jenna and Ellen who don’t get to have a birthday celebration during the school year.  Soon we will be able to send half-birthday cards to each other.
And the most famous and celebrated birthday of all – December 25 (depending on the calendar you use).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday

Are you a cyber consumer or did you shop on Black Friday-  maybe both?  Someone said there are two types of people -" those that use time to save money and those that use money to save time".  I just checked my email and no less than 12 emails directing me today (Cyber Monday) to specials to buy. 

Was it a coincidence that today I also had many "web site busy or could not be found" messages during the day?  I think there are alot of Cyber Monday consumers.

I must admit most of my purchases this year will be on-line and shipped to the house.  I'm just not a shopper and prefer to avoid the lines and the crowds. 

So which person am I? - saving time or money or maybe both.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Punishment in Hell

I've always said my punishment in hell will be sitting on the floor with thousands - no millions of Christmas lights tangled together and partially lit.  And one by one I am required to take out a burnt bulb and replace it with a good one.  Once the half non-lit are fixed the other half flicker and go dark. 

This year I said - NO (and it took great courage to fight the frugality).  I said "I don't care if only half are lit - I will throw the entire lot away and - YES buy new strands.  Naturally, it wasn't until 8:30pm  that I decided this - where should I go to get CHEAP lights? - all the discounters will be closed.

Since I vowed this year not to make setting up Xmas miserable, I determined money was no object.  I would buy them at the local drugstore.What and to my surprise on the day after Black Friday there in Walgreens was 100 lights on special  - buy one get one free - $3.99.

So the price of not entering Hell - $17.00 for 800 lights.

Friday, November 27, 2009

On the other Hand

I just finished watching Fiddler on the Roof – the 1971
classic musical adaption of the very successful Broadway musical.  Tevye’s famous line “On the other Hand” is a
wonderful example of the tension in the story of honor, duty and tradition.  How appropriate after just finishing
Harvard’s Michael Sandel’s  PBS three DVD
series on Social Justice.  Sandel’s
Socratic style of teaching created the same Tevye – “On the other Hand”
dialogue between the students ---   a
point/counter point exchange.  And the challenge of defining moral justice - doing what is right - is an ageless debate between the political parties - right and left.

How important it is to see “the other hand”; “walk in others
shoes”; “seek first to understand”?  And
once you see the other hand -- is compromise a weakness or strength?  

Erasmus said “In the land of the blind the one eyed man is
king”.  So in a land of amputees, which
hand rules – the right or left?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Are you Awake?

The phone rings - your deep sleep hears some kind of alarm -  as you roust yourself to consciousness - becoming aware it's not the alarm as you pound the sleep button furiously. Now logic enters the semi awake state and you determine maybe the phone is ringing (since the sound is still piercing your brain) -  you fumble to stop the sound of that awful phone - place the receiver to your ear and hear a muffled voice say "Are you Awake?

WHAT!!!!   %&!#%#   NO!!!   I'm not awake.  But now I am - because of a rude phone call at 7:44am.  Thanks for the thoughtful question and lovely wake-up call.

So what's your calling etiquette?  No calls before 8am and no calls after 10pm - standard protocol.  On Weekends and Holidays - 10am - 10pm. 

PS - Don't ask me that question -  because obviously I'm awake now - Just get to the point otherwise my answer is "Are you Stupid?"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Law of Giving and Receiving

Gravity is an indisputable law - right?  Unless you have lived in space all your life.  So what about the Law of Giving and Receiving?  You ask - I never studied that law in science class - What is it?

Is it -  "It's better to give than receive"?  Live to Give?  Give to receive your Tax deduction?

No ----   this Law is simple and is only proven by actions in your lifetime.  It is not provable in a book.

"You will always receive more than you give" 

This law works two ways:

(1)  Don't give and you will still receive more than you give. (review your Mathematics course on properties of zero)
(2)  Give abundantly and receive abundantly.

As we approach Thanksgiving  -  Try giving Thanks - you may receive more than you give.    IT WORKS!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Loss of Service

How many bars are on your phone?  The new vocabulary for the all important communication network.  My phone (the hand me down from Jenna) is a Verizon LG Envy. It will tell you verbally when there is a "Loss of Service".  Forgetting I had it on in Church today - right during the quiet time of prayer my phone spoke up and said "Loss of Service".

Was this God's subtle way of saying that my actions may be entering a "Loss of Service" for the next week?  Afterall it was just after Rev. Nathan Custer had given the analogy of how we can become like Black Holes - totally focused inwardly sucking in everything and everybody - light, happiness etc.  As he jokingly said - we become not #$%@ Holes but B- Holes.

When we lose outward focus we lose our desire for service.  Some don't realize that service to others is really a way to service ourselves - maintain an attitude of gratitude - to be Thankful.

I am thankful for the reminder - my phone, Nathan, and others that nothing could be worse than a "Loss of Service".

God's network always has full bars - ready for service.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Ellacellation -  "The mistaken belief that
repeatedly pressing the elevator button will make it go faster". 

That was a sniglet from 1984 - humorous creations of words that Rich Hall felt
should be in the dictionary. I'm reminded of that sniglet every time I enter an
elevator.  In fact the Elevator conjures up many thoughts:

(1) Elevator etiquette -  Looking straight ahead (no eye contact) and
complete silence during travel time

(2) Murphy's Elevator Corollary  -  The person in the back of a
crowded elevator is always the first one to exit

(3) Premature Elevator Entrance -  Jumping into an elevator headed in the
wrong direction

(4) Elevator-itis -  Thinking about your actions if the Elevator

In 1971 I had the opportunity to visit Poland (during the Cold War and Soviet
domination).  I have many funny stories and observations about the
trip.  One of which was the humbling experience I had when being critical
of the Polish designers of the high rise dorm we were staying at in Krakow.

My room was on the 9th floor.  As I entered the elevator I discovered
there were only buttons for the even floors.  So I diligently pressed 10 -
got out and took the internal staircase down to my floor.  I figured - how
dumb; how poor; how shortsighted in design.........   And yes, I did
this for two days before one of the students informed me I should "round
the corner" and take the second bank of elevators targeted for the odd
numbered floors.

So to this day in Poland the joke is circulating ----- "Have you heard the
one about the dumb American and the Elevator ...............

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The other day Jenna asked me if I ever had long hair.  Of course - since I was a product of the fads, rebellion and peer pressure of my high school days in the 70' s.  Naturally my style was a compromise with my parents and the hair was not allowed below the neckline and had to be groomed (another way of saying clean and combed).  So what do you call that hairstyle?  A moderate hippie?  A mop top 60's Beatle? Just long enough or short enough to distinguish male from female? 

I remember distinctly when I decided to go completely short in style.  It started after I joined Accenture (then AA).  Somehow the topic of time management came up with an Audit manager in the Louisville office.  He said he saved alot of time in the morning by having a short haircut and not blow drying his hair.  BINGO - I discovered an additional three minutes of sleep (worth GOLD to me).

Now rethink the benefits of being bald.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's in Your Wallet?

A marketing phrase for one of those credit cards.  But pull out your wallet right now and determine what is really in it.  Is your wallet like mine and George Castanza's exploding wallet  (Seinfield - Season 9 Episode 12 The Reverse Peephole) ?

For guys the back pocket wallet may be the source of back problems.  But I can't change the habit and feeling (now for over 40 years) of a wallet in my back pocket.  Which back pocket do you prefer - right or left; buttoned or unbuttoned?  Mine - right pocket - unbuttoned.

Losing your wallet ranks up there in the top three stressful situations in life.  And it's not because it is just money and credit cards in the wallet.  What else in there is so important?  Maybe pictures of loved ones; your insurance cards; important addresses; secrets; key electronic card entry; library card; tickets;coupons; and the all important Driver's License (by the way while you are looking at it right now - check the expiration)

There is rarely a time my wallet leaves my side - sleep, exercise, shower and even in those times it is nearby. I guess wallets have gotten smaller over time. Will technology finally make the wallet go away?  Will cell phones replace the wallet?

Stay tuned for the next commercial tag line - What's in your cell phone?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Diarrhea Mouth

Not a pleasant picture is it. It's called Shock Jock Blogger.  Who immediately comes to mind when you state "He's got verbal diarrhea?  There is always someone (hopefully not me).  But I'm sure my mouth has had this condition at some time.

Today, was my first SVP Cincinnati Council meeting where I was not the Chairperson.  I was resolved to keep my mouth shut and listen, observe and maybe ask a question or two.

But that fateful time came where I announced " I just have to make a comment ........ I can't keep my mouth shut.....".  But the reality was I didn't just have to make a comment.  It added little value and I had violated my goal.

Listening is an acquired skill that takes lots of practice.  I even found my mind wandering into the land many times of.... here is what I should say - it would be so pithy, so insightful, so interesting to others.  NOT

How much do we talk in a day?

1984 and 2004, nearly 400 university students from the United States
and Mexico wore the recorders for up to 10 days in a University of Arizona study. The researchers transcribed the conversations and analyzed them,
finding that women spoke an average of 16,215 daily words while men
averaged 15,669 words a day. The difference between the two groups was
not statistically significant, and the scientists rounded up to say
that both used an average of 16,000 words each day.

So what would Diarrhea Mouth be?  32,000 words?  

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cloudy and Foggy

I received a great deal of training from Accenture.  In
effective writing, I can remember the Fog Index - a calculation of how
"foggy" your writing  is.   Here's the methodology:

When using these steps to analyze
your writing, choose a sample that contains at least one hundred words. The
"ideal" Fog Index level is 7 or 8.
A level above 12 indicates the
writing sample is too hard for most people to read. I computed my own fog index for this blog (as of 11/16/2009)

1. Count the number of words in the

2. Count the number of sentences

3. Count the number of big words (3 or more

4. Divide the number of sentences into the number of
words..............16.157/1,070 = 15:1

5. Divide the number of words into the number of big
words.............1,685/16,157 = 10.4%

6. Add the result of step 4 to the result of step
...........................15 + 10.4

7. Multiply by
.4..............................................................25.4 x .4 = 10.16


And tonight I was playing around with Clouds - Tag Clouds.  A tag cloud is
a visual depiction of the frequency of words in a document, web site, RSS
feed.  I just tried it on this blog. 
Interesting data – but what do you do with it?  It's a little cloudy.

 So is this blog in the clouds or the fog - you decide.


Dad's Easy Chair

Last night at the SVP Cincinnati event we got on the subject of easy chairs (because of my entry on the  website about the place I relax).  Do you remember your Dad's easy chair?  You know, the one you loved to sit in with your Dad and watch TV.  I remember the Sunday night ritual of watching Bonanza and the privilege of sitting in the easy chair with Dad. Visualize that chair that Archie Bunker sat in for "All in the Family"

Why is it easy?  Because we take it easy in the chair.  In John Ortberg's book - "When the game is over it all goes back in the box" he talks about the most dangerous object in your house - the  easy chair.  "What's so dangerous about this chair is not the things you do while you're in it.  It's the things you don't do - the relationships you never deepen, the people in need you never serve - never see.....  the adventures you never take."

Two guys took this literally -   Larry Walker (1982) strapped helium balloons to a lawn chair and with sandwiches, a pellet gun and six pack of beer off he went - not 30 feet as expected but 16,000 feet into LAX airspace.  Dennis LeRoy (2009) received a DUI when he smashed his motorized easy chair into a parked car.

Both probably said - "A man can't just sit there"

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Becoming a Scrooge

Saw the new 3D version of Christmas Carol with Ellen and her cousin Franny.  The technology was superb and was good enough to keep the 10 year olds slightly interested.  How much of the message really got through is difficult to determine.  The scary nature of it with the ghosts matched my memories of the television version as a kid. 

In the book  "Emotional Design"  Don Norman posited that movie theaters are our desire to virtualize and transform ourselves into the story (ever since I read that in his book I have sat in the front of the theater).  Now with 3D this virtualization is another step closer to this visualization.  The Holodeck in Star Trek - The Next Generation is the ultimate step forward to the vision of simulated reality in entertainment.  In that version YOU can be Scrooge and experience his journey.

Are you interested in becoming a Scrooge? Which kind -   In print, Two dimensional B&W, full color 3D, or holographic simulation -  or are you a Scrooge in reality?


Friday, November 13, 2009


When the word Masters is used - what exactly does it mean?

Life Master (Bridge); Masters Degree; Master Chair (Vistage); Master Craftsman (Medival); Master of Arms (Naval); Chess Master; Masters Tournaments (Tennis and Golf); Master Lock; Zen Master
As a verb - to master clearly has a powerful meaning - rule, conquer, overcome.  And as a title it implies the best skills - a singular copy - one of a kind.

I think the named "Masters" know that they are not the best and are even uncomfortable with the title.  I remember the orals for my own Master Degree - I left the room feeling how little I knew about the vast subject area.  I was in awe of those people with more knowledge -  the Ph.Ds  ( from the Latin - Philosophiae Doctor).   So I guess Doctors are a level above Masters. Julius Erving must have figured that out and accepted his title of  Dr. J.

I humbly ask that Mark Longnecker begin referring to me as Dr. G.   

 The G. Whiz Ph.D. blogger :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Legislate Morality

At lunch today I said "You can't legislate morality".  Does that disqualify me as either a Republican or Democrat?  I have always leaned the Libertarian way and I would assume this quote would be consistent with that affiliation. 

My best example of this was Prohibition from 1920 - 1933.  So you pick the vice and determine if legislating works.  Maybe it's like home security systems - it keeps the amateurs out but the real thieves can always beat the system.
So those who are pro legislation say - it's working for the majority of the people.

My view is when you tell someone they can't ....  you are prohibited ....   don't ......   it is human nature to rebel and want to break the rule. The younger you are, the stronger the temptation.

I think the right place for impacting morality is in the family.  So how about legislating the "family" issues.   NO - I'm against that also.  Culture and family are an extension of our individual rights. 

Oops - I violated my rule of blogging - pontificating on political issues. 

Maybe there should be a law prohibiting that :)


So how many keys do you carry around? Can you name what each one is for?  I have nine keys on one ring ( with a pendant that says  "Dad, I Love You Please Drive Carefully- from Jenna) and my Cadillac key on a different ring.  So what's on the ring:
(1) Outside Office Door Key, Inside Office Door Key
(2) Outside House Key Front Door; Inside House Door Key
(3) Laboratory HCBC Key
(3) Church Key; Jefferson Center Key
(4) Small Key to some unknown lock - desk, filing cabinet something small
(5)  And who knows what the nineth key is for??????

I remember going to an antique store here in Cincinnati to find a skeleton key for the 18th Birthday Box I gave to Jenna (a Heart/Key and Poem).  There was a display with hundreds of keys.  Think of the volume if every adult carries around just 5 keys each. 

I feel sorry for all those stranded keys - you know the ones that sit in a drawer awaiting disposal when someone finds them and can't remember what they are needed for.  All those extra keys to houses or cars you used to own.  And how about all those missing keys - the ones you lost -  where did they go?  And before hotels started using credit card entry - think about all those stranded hotel keys. 
And the purpose?  - to keep people out.  The reality - to lock you out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Read to Lead

I went to Miami University's Lecture Series last night featuring Historian and author David McCullough - "Leadership and the History You Don't Know".  His ending message was READ, READ, READ.  All our important leaders regardless of educational background were voracious readers and studied history.  They were not self-made men - they were the product of many others - their parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and they were products of the history (that they were reading) before them.  "You are what you read" - said McCullough.  WOW - that is something to ponder and why my mom said "Don't read those trashy comics".

I never really liked history - so his message was interesting.  McCullough mentioned many societal references to ignoring history - living in the present.  He refuted the comment -   "It was simpler times back then".  No - history is the true teacher. For history is not about what, why, when and the sequence of time - it is the who.  Who were they, and who are we now?  It is the story of people, relationships and how they acted in their part in the record of history.

So what script are you reading?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

220 - 215 Landmark Legislation

Last night 11:15pm was landmark Legislation started?  The House voted on over 1990 pages of Health Care Reform Bill #3962.  It made me wonder - what is landmark legislation?  Naturally PoliSci majors have raised this question for their Masters Thesis for some time.  Renowned authors have written books about this and the range of significant legislation is from 16 laws to over 300 laws in over 200 years of deal making.

From the 45th to 107nd Congress (1877 to 2002) there have been 39,630 Public Statutes.  That is an average of 176 per year although the more recent years the average was 233.  

I watched some of the debate yesterday and it was timely after seeing Charlie Wilson's War on DVD the other night.  The quote -" Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them made" - Otto von Bismark is correct.  We herald our system as the best - but watching it in action is ugly.  The art of compromise is not easy and I doubt many would call this latest bill a true compromise.

So the majority rules - for now.  Luckily we have a Republic and phase two of sausage making begins and the Senate gets their "kick at the can" and then to committee and conference.  A bill before Xmas - don't hold your breath.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I know conceptually it is all just stuff.   I am damned with the "pack rat" gene on top of that.  So throwing away stuff is hard. 

But too often with stuff comes memories.  That may be why it is difficult for me to physically throw the stuff way - I feel I am throwing away memories.  Case in point - the material my parents recently gave me (folders with Miami U material) has given me the opportunity to write down (and send to Jenna) my Monday Miami Memories each week in a letter.  There are many details, I would not have remembered without that old stuff.  And a detail sometimes spurred another memory chain.  Obviously the details are not critical to memory - but they are links to a full web of memories.

But where do we keep all this stuff?  I like George Carlin's quote - "A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it".  The bigger a house the more stuff we accumulate.  The more houses you have the more stuff you can hide away.
And the more locations and stuff you have the more you can get frustrated never finding it when you remember you had it at one time.

So what is the solution to stuff?   Limit the input (e.g. acquisition); Limit the space; Give it away;

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Market Timing Insanity

Yes - I know that trying to time the market, pick individual stocks and beat the index over the long long term is insanity.   There is plenty of literature that shows it takes 30-40 years to "prove statistically" that your performance is better than just passive investing in a total market index.
Albert Einstein said " Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Sort of like the early rounds of Bll Murray in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.  As I said to Mark Longnecker at lunch - market timing is a LOSERS GAME.
My early performance (while not 30-40 years) may be part of the statistical literature.  Since I keep meticulous records (although past tax returns are the best source), I have 20 years of data.  While my net performance including today's unrealized capital gains is positive the revealing issue is the amount of time I have spent investing over that 20 years.
Since 1989 I have 2,585 round trip trades.  I have had countless legal mailings from either bankrupt companies, shareholder suits etc. etc.  I have recorded hours of transactions in software, spreadsheets, turbo tax.  I have journaled my trading history and analysis in no less than 15 - 100 page notebooks.  I would estimate over the 21 years I have spent over 9000 hours of time looking at the market and doing my personal investing (much more recently).

When I put that amount of time into the equation and put it into an hourly rate I am making about what a decent programmer would make knocking out code.
So a rational person would say - the return on your time is ridiculous.  You should passively invest and use your time in higher yielding activity.  That same person (not me) would say Practice what you Preach. 
And that person is sane :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Solid Rock Memories

Today I was fortunate enough to meet the School Bus with my 10 year old.  Like my oldest, I always played the "kick the rock" game of soccer prior to the Bus arriving.  The tradition continued as Ellen asked if we could play the game (even though it was wet and cold).  We did - and she won.

Rocks have lots of memories with my kids.  Jenna remembers vividly climbing rocks on the shores of the Atlantic near the Connecticut home I was renting for three years during my work at SNET.  How interesting what your kids really remember about the time we spend with them.  In some cases, we will never realize what memories they really have about us.

"My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand"  -  The foundation, the rock of memories for all.

I wonder if I am creating solid rock memories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Calendar and Checkbook

Our great audit trail in life is our calendar and checkbook/credit card.  Look at yours for the past year and it will tell your story about priorities.  Who we interact with, what we spend money on, and how our time is spent.  And for me the history bar on the browser tells a great deal also.

Now does the actual follow your plan?  How you want to spend time and money.  Some time ago I blogged about the 5 and 5 exercise (the last 5 big things you spent money on in the last 5 years).  I just sent Jenna the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  In it he suggests writing down the 5 people you spend the most time with (his exercise excludes family).  That's an interesting exercise also.

So it's the 5-5-5 exercise.  And don't think you can fool yourself because your calendar and checkbook reveal the actual answer - not your guess.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Late Fees

I'm never late on paying bills.  It is a hard lesson to learn but you soon discover that it is one of those priorities that you don't procrastinate on.  The cost of procrastination on this one is very high - to your credit rating and to your pocket book. 

I was just reviewing my Discover Card statement.  Mainly to understand the cash back rewards.  It takes a PHD to analyze all these rewards programs to determine who has the best program.  Occasionally, I will get motivated to understand them and attempt to actually value the points.  It is way too complicated. 

I did miss a billing period for Discover this year - April 2009.  I was too lazy to call to plead for mercy (after all it was my absent minded mistake along with some other good excuse).  The result was $10.88 in interest (on $241.97 prior statement) and $19 late fee.  I never took the time to calculate the APR - but with the next month purchases I estimate I was paying well close to 15% annualized - and that is not the compound rate!!!!).  Then add in the late fee and the cost of missing one bill is astronomical!  You make those mistakes only once every 5-10 years as it takes that long for the financial pain to wear off.

Which is why most of my bills are signed up for automatic debit from the checking account.  In fact I was unaware Discover had this feature until tonight (I just signed up for it). 

So the lesson learned here is - Don't ever ....  ever .....  ever ......   be late on a bill - especially credit cards.  The other lesson might be to avoid credit cards completely - but that is probably fantasy land.

My heart does go out to those people right now whose stress is exponentially increasing as the bills pile up, the due dates keep coming and their financial hardship increases.  How difficult it would feel to be paying these credit card interest rates every month!  What a snowball effect one would get into with late fees on top of interest payments.  With an APR of  15% it would be a real mountain to climb out of debt. I  just looked up the cash advance rate and that is 25%!  and the variable rate ranges from 20% to 28%.

So the lesson is?------  Treat your credit card like a debit card - like cash.  If it's not in the account today - don't charge it.  Not even mandatory stuff - auto repairs, HVAC repairs, grocery store. 


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Another Autumn tradition occurred at the Wisner's tonight by the open fire pit making Smores. It was by Ellen's request tonight after working on the leaves this Sunday.

S'more appears to be a contraction of the phrase, "some more" says Wikpedia.  And I would agree - it's hard to eat just one.

The key to success is the consistency of the marshmallow -  and that is a function of the fire and coals and finally individual taste.  I'm not the burnt type - preferring lightly toasted and gooey inside.  Tonight we tried pressing the chocolate into the marshmallow first to get some melting going. It seemed to work ok.

Lately I've seen some high tech sticks - battery operated that turn at an even rate; some with places for 2 or more marshmallows at a time.  But nothing beats the old clothes hangar where the length creates a bobbing that dangerously gets the marshmallow close to the flames.

Then there is the real high tech cheating - microwave Smores.  This just doesn't count.  If it's not on a chilly November night by the campfire - it is not official.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Leaves and Limbs

Somehow this year the leaves fell all at once.  Could be my imagination but Councilrock was filled with leaves.  Naturally there are some limbs where the leaves hang on - all winter (Oaks I think).  But the majority of the limbs are barren.

Remember the fun of jumping into a pile of leaves.  While raking why not enjoy the fruits of your labor before disposing of all those leaves.  Jenna and I used to create entire paths - a complete labyrinth at our Brill house.  Such a wonderful memory of playing with her outside.  Naturally she will remember this and the chore of picking up limbs (not her favorite activity).

I wonder how those limbs feel now without the clothing of leaves.  Free or a sense of loss. Do they hang in there or just fall?  Jenna hopes they hang in there!

Friday, October 30, 2009


It's 1-1 in the World Series.  We are a nation of scorekeepers.  And I love the statistics.  If you haven't read Money Ball it is on the Best Seller list for Statisticians who love Baseball.  Just look at the back of a baseball card - its full of the numbers of success.  But how do you define success in Baseball? in Business? in LIfe?  What set of numbers taken together equal success?

I'm re-reading "When the Game is Over ..   It all goes back in the Box" by John Ortberg.  Chapter 3 talks about Ways to Keep Score.  I loved the part ---   "But nobody sells major league father cards with key statistics on the back (Had a great season in 2005: set career highs in unforced expressions of affection and averaged 87 minutes of quality time per day). 

And who are your most important scorekeepers?  - Parents, Teachers, Coaches, Bosses.  Is it half-time yet?  What's the score?

Trouble is, I don't know the answers to these questions. And I struggle with abandoning all forms of scorekeeping. But like the worry box - as I get older a high score or a winning score is less important to me.  But it is still important for me to strive for a score -  it's just the measure has changed.

As I've always said in business - you get what you measure.  So get the measure right and the score will follow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the Backs of "Bs"

Al Cambridge (Accenture Former Managing Partner Cincinnati) once asked me what "drove the success of the Firm?  -- Innovative 'A' players?   --  No he said -    It's the "solid B players".  That comment has stayed with me for a long time.  So developing people to their full potential - to be a solid B player was the key. Finding your B spot is what it is all about.  B doesn't mean average - it means above average. 

Garrison Keillor said it well - "Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." 

Is it possible for all the children to be above average?  I think we are all above average at something.  Maybe that is the definition of America's middle class -  the diversity of B's that make our country successful.  Sometimes I worry that we take advantage of the solid B players - we tax them, fire them, ignore them, and focus on the other two ends.

So can you be happy being a B player?  All our schools, all our measures are about getting A's.  Celebrating the 4.0.  How about your kids?  Can they be a B player in your mind?  No I think Garrison Keillor had it wrong -  every kid is an A in their parents mind.

Every person is an 'A' in God's world. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Remembering Names & Storytelling

Jerry Lucus - Dr. Memory spoke at our church a couple of weeks ago.  Remember he was the evil NY Nicks who would beat up on the 76ers (my favorite team since I lived in Philly).   He memorized the Manhattan  phone book.  In his presentation he taught that visualization is the best means of helping you remember someone's name.  Key to success is the rapid ability to find a rhyming word and put it visually on a prominent facial feature of the individual you want to remember.

Garen - would be a big legal GUARANTEE document.  Wisner would be a Wizard with at Computer Nerd (Wiznerd).  And the prominent facial feature - you decide.  So this Nerd Wizard will be writing the word GUARANTEE on this document on my thick glasses.  Easy -  NOT!!!     It takes practice and lots of work.

The the point of all this to visualize.   This was re-enforced at my SVPI conference in Dallas with the key note speaker talking about storytelling.  Since we were primates we told stories.  Bible stories are locked into our minds since childhood.  We are the sum of all our story telling.  What are the top ten stories you tell about yourself?  What is your personal mythology?

I'll try mine:

(1) Losing a contact while landing a plane ( and others - Carb Heat out)
(2) Jumping out of a plane
(3) Airline Stories -  Aborted Takeoff; Emergency Landing; Wrong Airport Arrival; Wrong Airport Departure;
(4) Workaholic Reformation and Wayne Walder Death
(5) Lost in Shanghai
(6) Passport Expiration in Amsterdam
(7) Accenture Eccentric Clients - Smelly Feet;Cigarette Man;
(8) Shaking Johnny Unitas hand
(9) Warren Buffet Monopoly Board and Monopoly MU Story
(10) Poland Bumper Cars, Poland Elevator

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moores Law Ending?

Yes I heard it on Wait Wait don't Tell Me that Radio News Quiz show on NPR.  Moores Law could end in the next 20 years - presumably my life time.  But that is even controversial.  Kurzweil speculates that it is likely that some new type of technology (possibly optical or quantum computers) will replace current integrated-circuit technology, and that Moore's Law will hold true long after 2020.

What is it again --- the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.  Or in laymans terms the cost of a PC should go down in price AND increase in speed every two years.  This law was introduced in a paper in 1965.  So if it ends in 2030 that would be 65 years.  I guess that is a good age to retire the law.

It is always interesting to find things that act exponentially.  Finding a stock like this would be good!   Just finding a stock with a great compound growth rate would be great.  Albert Einstein supposedly responded that Compound Interest was the greatest invention in human history or the ninth wonder of the world  (it is an urban legend - but note the picture).  So why get greedy - no need for exponential growth like Moores Law  - just give me some 25% compound growth rate -  After all that will never end.

Women, Horses and Dogs

Adams vs Jefferson was one of the books on tape I listened to during my 36 hour driving excursion last week.  It is about the 1800 election race to the Presidency.  I'm now convinced that my criticism of today's politicians as being  un - statesmanlike is ill founded.  They were just as dirty and mean back them.  And our recent disputed elections were no match for what happened in the 1800 election of our third president. 

I did perk up (the 10 disks were alittle boring at times) when the author said the three subjects that men spent most of their time talking about were - Women, Horses and Dogs.  Made me think - what are the three most common topics today for men?    In 1950's,  I bet it was Women, Cars and Sports   Today -  Cars might be on the downturn to be replaced with technology gadgets. 

So what stands the test of time -  The Human condition of companionship, reproduction, bragging?, or what? 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Truck Driver

I think in another life I was or will be a truck driver.  Just finished driving 2,364.6 miles over the last 6 days.  Cincy to Wichita to Dallas to Wichita to Cincy  and about 36 hours.  I just pop in my books on tape ( 3 complete books for this trip) and cruise.  Average speed - over 70 mph except on way back (traffic jam on construction) that I spent one hour in traffic for 3 miles - ugh!   

I like the car  and I like driving.  Now with cell phones you can still connect with people (if you want) or just zone out and meditate.  Just think about the amount of time you spend in the car.  Take an average of 15,000 miles a year and assume an average speed of 40 (probably high) with some start and stop time (avg. stop light is 3 min) - somewhere between 400 and 500 hours or 50 workdays per year.  Arbitron says the average person spends 15hrs per week in a car (11 on weekdays and 4 on weekends) which would be 780 hours or 98 workdays per year.  Now we know why there is so much billboard advertising.

So why would l like to spend 12 hours in the car driving to Wichita.  Well one part of the trip is almost spiritual.  Driving through Flint Hills Kansas.  I usually get to Flint Hills about 7pm as the sun is setting.  That drive shows the grasslands of Kansas - no billboards, no houses, no telephone lines, no sign of civilization other than the road and an occassional radio or cell tower.  The sun is setting over the rolling prairie with the cattle grazing - its just beautiful.  Or may be it is the fall leaves in Indiana just after Louisville, or the Kentucky hills and horse farms. 

Yes -it's alot of alone time - but I cherish my alone time.  I suppose that might be a common trait among many truck drivers.  But with all that driving there isn't much time for blogging :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Price/Volume Margin/Quality

There are really only two business models to choose from -  low price and high volume OR high margin and differentiation (also termed quality in product, service, image or other).  Both models are difficult and are always subject to intense competition.  You can get into all kinds of arguments about whether you can do both - low price and high quality.  I contend the answer is no - because it is all about process and people and it takes constant modification, teaching and reinforcement in the continuous improvement curve focused on price or quality. 

Susan's store is an example of the tension of this issue.  Should she price the same as Nordstrom?  Should she carry similar items?  The list goes on and on.  LCP Tech and my partners face this issue.  Price Nanocleanse for volume or keep the differentiation high and price the product for the value provided.

Growing up in Accenture,  I am brainwashed into the high margin/high quality area.  That takes greater sales and marketing costs and on the top line looks like slower growth.  But it provides a large cushion between price and cost for strategic discounting where other values could be found - R&D, recession stimulus, employee training & development etc. etc.

It is so tempting to "drop the price" thinking more sales will automatically come.  But that is being lazy and not spending the time to find more value to provide the customer with the existing business model.  In the end the customer votes with his feet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Britannica Browsing

As a kid,  when I was bored I would look through encyclopedias.  I was lucky enough as a kid that my parents had bought a used set of Britannica encyclopedias - 32 volumes I believe.There was a volume for just about every letter of the alphabet and some volumes for current events by year. Just pick a volume and thumb through it - not really read it - just browse. 

I think browsing creates innovation.  Accidentally happening on an unrelated idea that you connect together with another idea.  Unfortunately my Britannica browsing was limited by relating alphabetic items as I scanned from front to back whatever volume I picked up at the time.

Browsing is sort of like just driving along without a destination - wandering.  A curiosity of just letting the journey happen.  Maybe my blogging is like that too.  Whatever life deals me at the moment is worthy of blogging about.  I find browsing relaxing and enjoyable.  Who knows what interesting subject might appear - and really they are all interesting. 

Maybe that is why I was never interested in diving too deep into one subject area.  It's the old 80/20 rule - I get 80% of my satisfaction about learning something from 20% of the content.  Who cares about the minute details.

Now browsing can be less alphabetical and more chained by wandering.  With hot links to new subjects, you are immediately taken to the inside of another Britannica volume in a single click.  In fact it's difficult to navigate back to the source sometimes (on of my pet peeves about back browsing).  

No wonder we call Mozilla Firefox, Explorer, and others our browsers.  How often do you just sit down and begin to let your curiosity just take over and follow your browsing urge?  Start today - just begin with the letter "A".

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is Fun?

What is Fun? That is a tougher question than I thought.  I just had to write the answer to that question that will be published on the SVP Cincinnati web-site.  Here was my answer:

fun:  I like puzzles, problems, unknowns,
and new technologies.  Consequently, fun
for me is discovering new facts, faces and places. If an activity requires
logic, predicting behavior, probabilities and optimization, I will enjoy
participating.  For fun I ask people
their favorites, challenge their thinking, and learn as much as I can about
their point of view.

I could have listed all my favorite activities and hobbies as a participant or spectator (in no preference order in my life journey - child, youth, adult):  Basketball, Tennis, Golf, Ping Pong, Badminton, Pond Hockey, Piano, Clarinet, Puzzles, Board Games, Technology Gadgets, Investing, Gambling, Reading, Bridge, Flying, Collecting, Movies, Giving, Writing (and now Blogging), Bible Study, Alumni outings, Family gatherings, Friend gatherings, Miami U. Football, Home Renovations, Driving, Organizing

Now it begins to bleed into interests (e.g. subjects):  Math, Economics, Statistics, Finance, Human Behavior, Socio Demographics, Trivia, Lists, Technology, Human Ergonomics, Music, Magic, Self Help, Consumer Value, Memory, Business Models, Nostalgia, Adoption, Libertarianism, ....

And now it bleeds into philosophy and values  -  Moderation, Laissez Faire, Honesty, Frugality, Punctuality, Forthright, Seeking Knowledge, Flexibility, Adaptability, Helping, Encouraging, Teaching, Learning, Trying, Honoring, Respecting, ......

So how did what is fun turn into a self actualization of "Who am I"   -   That's the fun part of logical chains.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Your Private Social Network

So what is the balance between social networking and privacy?  I tend to be less private when it come to the internet and telling about myself.  Early Geocities site (about to be discontinued in a few days by Yahoo); (first signed up 4/2/2004); Facebook (just recently); My Space (2007); Plaxo (2008) and some other one that has morphed into My Life. 

Bill Ernst introduced our Vistage group to a great Utube video describing what social networking is all about.  It is why I started this blog.  But the privacy part is only a few people even know about my blog.

Now most of what is on Facebook, and Linkedin is public information.  I have set up no privacy features yet.  So like the Utube guy described - this is like the social party room.  Everyone can see you, know what you do and even see your friends.  And as he stated your blog is like your house.  When you feel comfortable with someone you "invite them over".  They begin to understand alittle more about you than just the surface level party talk stuff.

It's interesting to google someone to see what you can learn about them.  If you haven't googled yourself, it is a good thing to do once a month (like looking in the mirror). From mine you could construct alot of data.  For me it is no surprise but for others who value and attempt to keep private everything - they would be shocked.

For now, I will err on the side of transparency and little privacy.  If people know more about me prior to meeting, it can only help our relationship.   Those that object to who I am will avoid me (thank goodness) and those that are intrigued will seek a deeper relationship.  And that what life is really all about.

Be Still

We are so busy.  The days that I feel more peaceful occur when the battery on my phone dies without my knowledge.  How wonderful to have no interruptions.  It is so rare to sit and just listen - even then the noises bombard the senses; images still appear to our eyes;  and the mind races on. 

Is it possible to be still?   Life is a cacophony and filled with activity - even if it surrounds our stillness.  It is easy to equate stillness with a void.  To some it may be a black nothingness.  Some people need a TV or a radio going constantly in the background.  It is the noise of activity that gives them comfort.  A sort of worldly static of busyness (or is it business). 

I prefer the quiet stillness of life.  The calm day with muted sounds.  The roar of a ocean preventing the man made sounds from entering my ears.  No interruptions - no distractions.  A time to meditate and empty the mind of the activity demons of pressure.  A time of peace.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Puzzling over Taxes

So now that I have finished my 2008 taxes, I now turn to 2009 tax planning.  A great site I found for this is:
Naturally my personality likes to do taxes myself - why because it is a puzzle; a game; a system to understand.  And with Turbotax it is also a computer program to analyze.  What a complicated web of intra-dependencies.  Full of what if -  what if I earned more income?  what if I had more deductions?  what if I had more capital gains?  and it goes on and on. 
And it is always interesting to try to understand what loop holes Congress was trying to close, what social engineering they had in mind for the credit or deduction and whether it achieves the result is the constant debate.
So is there anything I can conclude from all this wasted productivity analyzing the taxes?  Not really.  It is like a fingerprint - the code is uniquely applied to each person (and rarely to a group).  Why?  Are you blind, how many kids, in college, married, unemployed, house, farm, self employed, rental property, moving and it goes on and on.  Taxes are as unique as our DNA. 
In fact there are about 113 million plus households in America.  So it is an easy math problem to figure out how many variables would create 113 unique outcomes -  2 to the n power where n is the number of variables.Try less than 27!
So when our esteemed Congressmen believe they are looking out for a group of people with a key credit- that may be conceptually true but it adds yet another variable that affects each of us uniquely.  Even if you said everyone (yes everyone) gets a $1 rebate, it still means that on the margin each of us received a different blended average benefit (e.g. everyone has a different and unique average tax rate).  
It makes my head swim to think of this complexity.  And for what gain?  To let those same Congress people (not all men) play with the social engineering of where to spend the taxes collected. Stay tuned for that blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving Franchises

So I finally figured out why I was so confused a few weeks ago.  I tuned in half-way through a Tennessee pro football game and was looking at Houston Oiler helmets.  How confusing -  I did remember Houston moved to Tennessee but did Tennessee keep the name and logo of Houston Oilers? Was it like the Baltimore Colts who moved to Indianapolis and kept the Horseshoe helmets and name? 

No it is now the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans; but it is the Indianapolis Colts.  The reason for the confusion is that this year they are celebrating the AFL legacy with 16 games being played in the old uniform and logo designs - Hence Tennessee was wearing the old Oilers uniforms. No wonder old fogys like me are confused.  Having just listened to Jerry Lucus and his memory techniques tonight, I can see why my mind is confused.  We all visualize things best to remember.  So seeing Oil rigs on helmets - I remember Houston ---- not Tennessee.
I've lost track of the Rams (LA or St. Louis), the Raiders (Oakland or LA) --- where or who are they?.  And such a shame to be unable to refer to any game with just the city or the team logo.  When you say - I remember that game between Baltimore and the Rams - just who are you talking about?  Colts, Ravens or St Louis, LA or Cleveland?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


No I'm not talking about Halloween.  I referring to the xylophone playing up and down your spine.  For me that occurs in music since I never watch horror flixs.  Since I have been watching concerts on my Blu-ray sound system there are songs that I really like and then there is the song that creates chills.  Bruce Springsteen Live from Dublin had several in each category.  So is it the musician or the listener?

Scientists found that people already familiar with the music are more likely to catch a chill at key moments:

  • When a symphony turns from loud to quiet
  • Upon entry of a solo voice or instrument
  • When two singers have contrasting voices
It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music.  I believe that music can touch something spiritual in us.  It's why I love listening to the choir at church.  Clearly music can evoke strong emotions and memories.  It can also be healing, calming and soothing. 

I do wonder the flow - do the chills go up the spine or down the spine?  Usually it is for a moment in time - nor more than 3 seconds.  And on a rerun of the refrain can the chills be recreated or is it a combination of unique one time factors?  I think I keep a list of the times this occurs for me and do my own statistical analysis.

Whatever the answers - it is a touching moment to get every now and then to have that musical experience.  Keep listening to those concerts.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Taxing Procrastination

Well -  I just submitted my 2008 Taxes early (that is early to the extended deadline of Oct. 15)!   I guess it used to be August 15 (of which I was a regular in extending to that day also) and now we get another 2 months.  Thank goodness they didn't make it November or December to ruin the Holidays.   Given I am 6 days "early", I guess I am not considered the chronic procrastinator.
So are there any advantages of being a procrastinator?  For me, (the over analyzer) one advantage is that is forces the old 80/20 rule and prioritization of only the important items.  When you delay to the last moment, it requires you concentrate only on the most critical tasks as the deadline looms and the contingency time goes to zero.
According to It's About Time by Dr. Linda Sapadin there are six
types of procrastination that a person can be solely or a combination
of. The styles are The Perfectionist, The Crisis-Maker, The Dreamer,
The Defier, The Worrier and The Overdoer.  I will need to read the book but in the case of taxes maybe I am being The Defier - whatever that implies.
The second week in March is National Procrastination Week and Fight Procrastination Day is the first Wednesday in September. In fact you can find out more than you want about procrastination at