Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Holiday from the Kids

One of my pet peeves is receiving Holiday post card picture of the kids with no note or even signature. Some don't even have the last name - just the first name of each kid. While I love kids - I want to see the person I know. Family cards are fine if I can see the parents also.

I think a great spoof would be pictures of the kids of a different family on a Christmas card and see how many people catch it. No names - just "Happy Holidays from the Kids"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

GPS Rest Stop

Driving to Akron over the holidays with three girls can require several rest stop breaks. My girls have learned my saying "hold it until it hurts" :) Consequently they announce with plenty of lead time for me to determine where to stop. Which leads me to a mystery - why doesn't the GPS system show rest stops?

It show traffic snarls, and all points of interest - so why isn't a state government highway rest stop listed on the GPS system? How could this be a design feature overlooked. My first thought - it must just be a user operational lack of knowledge - a simple menu choice. But alas - I couldn't easily find it.

This is an irritation - especially when I exit only to discover that a rest stop was only three miles up the highway.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

Waking up to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning is the picture card of a perfect Christmas morning. The silent night white flakes swirling in the sky adds to the comfortable feeling of a warm fireplace during final present preparations.

This morning the turkey is already filling the air with aromas; teenagers are still in bed; Nellie (the lab) is curled up by the fireplace; the expresso tastes even better in the quiet of the house.

I have diligently videotaped every Christmas morning and even let it run too long through the present openings. Some day maybe I will have the energy to edit these down to a year-by-year Christmas anthology with music in the background.

But even these tapes are rarely reviewed - the past seems boring; the presents trivial and not even remembered. Somehow the reality of the past viewed with precision of the video tape never matches the feeling of the reflection in memory or the excitement of the present.

Just another reminder of living in the present and making the present as joyous as possible.
Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before ....

I have read this poem hundreds of times and heard it recited even more. Reading about the history of the poem in Wikipedia is interesting - and it claims much of conception of Santa Claus was solidified with this 1823 poem.

No longer is Santa a mystery in the Wisner household (although the facts are never discussed just in case nothing would continue to appear in stockings). The night before will be a quiet time this year - church, maybe another viewing of White Christmas, and off to bed. I, of course will continue the after midnight tradition of wrapping all the gifts I have accumulated to give. Now that I have begun to acquire these throughout the year the real challenge will be remembering them - and then finding where I hid them.

Many Christmas eve's my brother and I would avoid cabin fever and head out to a late night movie. You would be surprised at the number of people in the theater after 10pm Christmas Eve. The movie line-up this year is pretty weak. D'Lane called and recommended the remake of "True Grit" - Hmmmmm maybe tonight :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Predictions

B.S. and I have a ritual. We schedule a Holiday lunch and bet $100 each year on predictions for the next year. We've been doing this for over 10 years. For the last two years we have tied 4-4 and the bet was resolved with the tie breaker. Winner buys lunch - and loser naturally orders dessert :)

There are usually two sports categories, two stock market categories, two personal business categories, and two political or other categories. We alternate who goes first in picking to provide fairness.

So what are my holiday predictions for 2011?
Crosstown Shootout - Bearcats
Bengals - 8-8
S&P - 1500
Best Long - MSFT (B.S. laughed at this one - and I must admit it is a long shot)
Best Short _ Netflix
SVP Cincinnati Partners - 22
B.S. Asset Under Mgt - 18M
Unemployment % - 6%

So I'm bullish on 2011 with a 19% return on S&P and unemployment down to 6%. Let's hope I'm half right.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jump Right In

Today was family day skiing at Perfect North. This was Ellen's first time and reminds me of when Jenna had her first lesson while visiting Rich in Syracuse N.Y. When Jenna started "kicking up" her heels and I said I would attend the lesson with her - the Ski Instructor respectfully told me that I was not allowed. They've learned - you just have to make the kid just "jump right in" and do it alone.

So it was great that Jenna took the leadership to help Ellen get comfortable with her first instructor and lesson. Ellen was not looking too happy as Jenna and I left - but in an hour it had totally changed.

Fear is a funny emotion; That first time skiing is full of complicated and numerous stuff to fear - rental equipment, where to go, how to ..... And everyone else seems to know what they're doing - the rookie feels totally helpless. Add to that the very feeling of looking dumb falling down or running into something.

But ..... after a one hour lesson - Ellen was acting like a pro and loving it. Jump right in and see how much fun it is.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Today was a complete day of sledding. After two great snows (with packing down the course in between snowfalls) the hill down Councilrock has never been better. In fact sledding is the most fun when the chance of severe injury is possible (like the obstacle course of trees in the forest in back).

Sled technology has dramatically improved from my childhood days. I still have a Flex-Flyer available for use - but alas not one kid wanted to even try it out. I can still remember bringing it out for the season, carefully sanding the rust off the runners to get a smooth shine. Then waxing the runners for increased speed.

Now the sleds are a foam like toboggan with a silicon smooth base. Easy to carry up the hill and requiring very little maintenance. The only problem is limited directional capability. But the thrills are equal or better than the Flex-Flyer.

The squeals of delight echo through the memories of the supervising adults.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Performances

Last night was the traditional viewing of the Nutcracker, downtown at the Aronoff. I have seen the performance at least 20-30 times starting as a child in Kansas. The only years missed have been replaced with the Rockettes or last year with a performance of White Christmas. The more memorable performance was in Salzburg, Austria in 1987 - memorable because it was in a unique location.

Jenna was the energy this year, requesting that we go. She reminisced at dinner and asked when are we going to see he Rockettes again. So I can tell Jenna will continue the tradition of attending holiday performances.

In the US the Nutcracker (since 1954) and Rockettes (since 1932) have become Christmas traditions (both spread once accepted by NYC residents). And at the Wisner household the family Christmas Eve viewing of Iving Berlin's White Christmas (1954) started in 1988.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Home

Last night at the Thirsty Thursday meeting of SVP Cincinnati Partners, three of us pondered on the challenges of Cincinnati - its future, its image and its vision. All three of us are "transplants" but loyal to Cincinnati and will stay here - probably for the duration. We want Cincinnati to be a successful thriving community.

But we concluded - Cincinnati has no image, no brand, nothing we really "stand for". I asked T.A. why does he stay in Cincinnati ... and we all gave our individual answers.

Susan and I almost left Cincinnati - for Hudson, Ohio (closer to family). But we stayed. Why? I couldn't completely verbalize the answer. Living in 5 different cities in the USA growing up; the chance with Accenture to move to practically anyplace in the world; - why 35 years in Cincinnati?

L.H. (our resident SVP Cincinnati expert in Marketing) hit it on the head - "Its Home" - "It's time to go Home".

Randy Newman's song entered my brain - "Feels Like Home"
Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I come from.
Feels like home to me, feels like home to me,
Feels like I'm on my way back where I belong.

Bonnie Raitt - Feels Like Home - Faust

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pork or Sausage

I sit again 9 days before Christmas watching C-Span - this time it is the House of Representatives trying to get out of D.C. in time for Christmas. This was happening last year (Dec. 21, 2009) for the Healthcare bill but it was the Senate crying about possibly missing Christmas. It reminds me of cramming for finals - last minute attempt to get it correct.

Tonight's vote is scheduled for 11pm EST. The Senate has already passed the bill 81-19 and now it is the House's turn to try to beat the Christmas deadline.

I blogged about the Healthcare bill politics (Nov. 8 and Dec. 21, 2009) referencing the famous quote about "making sausage". This compromise tax extension bill is full of pork and tonights chatter again looks like sausage.

Personally after watching both sides debate this bill - I think they are all "hams"!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift Giving Efficiency

Giving gifts (Birthday, Xmas, etc.) can have all kinds of baggage attached - conditional stuff. Was it expensive enough, was it thoughtful enough, was it equal or less than the last gift received from the person..... the list goes on and on.

I think many of us give gifts that we would want to get - hence a GPS system for the wife :) Or opera tickets from the wife :) It's hard to get gifts for certain people - especially the older they are and the richer they are - after all they already have everything.

That is when gift giving can be a chore. Invariably I get "tapped" for giving the "male" gifts to the nephews, uncles etc. Gift giving can take alot of time to figure out especially when the relative or friend is remote with little contact.

And there is a 80% chance that whatever gift is purchased will either be returned, not used, or "re-gifted". That is probably the reason gift cards are so popular - no real thought needed (other than forcing a particular store), no extra effort to find the item in inventory, no decisions on size/product type, no need for receiver to return the item, and transfer of all that decision making process to the receiver. no big package to wrap - how efficient -- whew!

The only thing less thoughtful but greatly appreciated - hard cash :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do you know What?

At the Vistage meeting last week, A.S. mentioned a quote from one of his CEO groups - WJP said:
"It's not what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you think you know that is wrong".

How true - In fact the more sure you are about something and continue to ignore contrary indicators, the more it hurts when reality occurs. It is a good reason to always have an open mind and continuously cross check your assumptions (regardless of how confident you are).

When you are surprised by something you didn't know, it is easier for the mind to rapidly assimilate the new domain and react - the mind does not waste time wondering why it was wrong.

Over confidence has been the downfall of many a sports team. Don't ignore the fact that your strengths may be what you think you know that is wrong.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowed In

Even though Nov. 24th was the official first day of snow in Cincinnati, today is what I consider a real snow (enough to coat the limbs of trees).

I always enjoy waking up to the white blanket of snow. Even the chance of being snowed in reminds me of the childhood glee of a snow day. With 3-5 inches expected between 1pm and 11am tomorrow, I suspect there are many children praying for a "free day". The world can and will always survive a snow day - if fact it's probably therapeutic to have one now and then to teach us how "dispensable" we are.

"The graveyards are full of indispensable men" Charles DeGaulle (1890 -1970)

So today was a relaxing day sitting by the fireplace looking out into the wonderland of snow - fully dispensable an loving it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Giving - It takes two

Giving requires at least two entities (but let's personalize it and say people) - a giver and a receiver. And there are really two gifts in play - the gift of the giver (obvious to all) and the gift of the receiver (asking for help). Why is asking for help a gift also?

Because without the "need" for help there is little purpose in giving. How ironic is our criticism of those in need when that very state is a key link in the giving chain.

Society programs us all for independence; self sufficiency; "don't be a burden on others". Yet, the very act of asking for help provides someone the opportunity to bring joy to the giver's life through the magical transaction of giving. The joy is doubled - receiving joy and giving joy.

I re-watched the Bucket List and as they sat on top of a pyramid reflecting on life, Morgan Freeman tells Jack Nicholson that the Ancient Egyptians believed that when your soul was at the entrance to heaven the Gods asked you two questions:

(1) Have you found joy in your life?
(2) Has your life brought joy to others?

Have you given the gift of joy to someone else? Try it - "I could use your help ......

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Gary M had lunch with the Vistage buddies today. We were reflecting on the ease of consulting with one simple rule ---shut up and let the client talk!

Gary M. said there are many psychological studies that reveal that when the other person talks more than 70% of the time - over 96% of those surveyed will recall the conversation as very interesting.

I guess we love to hear ourselves talk and project that96% of the time as interesting two way conversation. I worry about the 4% that don't like themselves :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Catastrophe Planning

I have this habit of scenario planning - looking a low probability events and weighing the costs and benefits. It bothers many people (especially the Trustees committee of Armstrong Chapel). For example - even if the probability of a catastrophe is minuscule - you must estimate the costs/liability and create an expected value and compare that with the cost of managing that risk. If BP had performed this type of planning the oil spill in the Gulf might have been avoided.

This comes into play personally when deciding what, and how much insurance to have - health, auto, home, business and umbrella. These are non-trivial decisions. It seems easy to save a buck in insurance for a low probability event. Risk is a way of life, afterall. But like the book "The Black Swan" - it's those minuscule events that creates the catastrophe.

TomR moved in early to a house (without the proper timing on insurance) only to have it burn to the ground. JackD had a house burn down during construction without the proper insurance and certificates. Just ask around and you will hear examples of what you think are minuscule events happening to good people.

Catastrophe planning is not about being a pessimist - it's being a good statistician.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hidden Beauty

AM and I were talking about re-finishing furniture (or a house) that had been painted over the years. How interesting to bring back it's original beauty - just strip away the paint and see the mahogany, cherry, walnut core.

At Councilrock we restored many things - but the crowning joy was the front double doors. Susan get's the credit for the idea as I was tempted to just repaint as we did the rest of the house. The result was beautiful and I see that beauty every day both entering and exiting the house.

Even past flaws can usually be sanded away and the luster can return to the wood through careful application of stain and sealer. For intricate furniture it takes meticulous effort and time.

There's an obvious analogy here to life - make sure you are showing all your original beauty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Retire the Ladder

JVD told me several years ago after his accident, "Every man should retire their ladder at the age of 50". So why was I up on my new roof several weeks ago blowing the leaves off. It is difficult to give up things as you age. Youthful thinking is - "It can't happen to me".

Then the phone call came on Thursday - JB was in the hospital (Bethesda North) facing a minimum of nine months of therapy after falling from the roof blowing the leaves off. It was by God's grace (and his wife's insistence that he not move) that he is not completely paralyzed from the neck down.

In my Bible study BE tells the story of his one year recovery from falling from the roof. I've heard it many times.

Wisdom can be sent to you in many ways, forms and through people. In fact how many times does it take to "get it"? Obviously for me more than 5 times. I haven't seen JB yet in his flap jacket but next week we will have lunch and maybe a visual will solidify the point.

Wisdom surrounds us constantly - just listen - then take it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wasted Worry

I believe worry is a waste of time:

If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying?
If you can't solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? Shantideva

Worry never robs tomorrow of it's sorrow but it always robs today of it's joy" Leo Besalia

My September 24th 2009 blog on worry frames my own philosophy about worry. I try to limit the amount of time that I worry. It is a constant battle with the human condition and an enemy of happiness.

I like the idea of logically using problem solving to combat worry. Transfer the energy from useless spinning around into productive problem solving.

Try to see the joy in problem solving - life is just an endless stream of problems to be solved - hence infinite opportunities for joy. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010


The statistician in me loves lists - top ten especially. Give me a set of numbers or characters and I will immediately want to "order" (or sort) it. The other day in Columbus I saw the book "Listography Journal: Your Life in Lists" by Lisa Nola --- very creative. That caused me to find the listology internet site for easily tracking of different lists.

Susan carries around a list of her favorite words. I have all kinds of lists (favorite quotes) on papers that I will never be able to find. I've asked many people - give me the top 3 of your all time favorite movies, books, songs, etc. Too often the category is too broad - so the response is - action, drama, or comedy etc. This is really asking for a "Chunk" (a term used in memory span).

The trouble with lists is the ability to remember the number of items. Miller's Law postulates that our short-term memory is optimized with 7 plus or minus 2 items. Further research states it is 7 for digits (e.g. the phone number has a chunk of 3 and a chunk of 4); 6 for letters; 5 for words.

So when you create you list - pick no more than seven items. (7 Habits of ....; The 5 secrets .....; The five people you will meet in Heaven; The five Chinese brothers; Seven Deadly Sins; Seven Dwarfs; Seven Wonders of the World; ---------- the list goes on :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Accenture Alumni Anniversary - AAA

Today marks the 10 year reunion of the Accenture Alumni gathering (this year at the Pig and Whistle) and also my mental 10 year point of exit from a career at Accenture (May 2001). Somehow the decade milestones create all kinds of reflections backwards - the 1950's, 60's etc.

For 24 years my identity was driven by a career with Accenture. Now 10 years later, that experience is only 70% of the combined 34 years and fading. In a life perspective it is only 43% of the time (no longer the dominate majority). I was lucky to have a career that long with one company which drove more emphasis to the "career identity".

It is the stories and people that really are the identity of those years - not the institution. The Accenture name (relatively new when I left) is just a book title in the chapters written by clients, personnel, and projects. Likewise - the gathering of 20-30 of us is a way to re-tell the stories and to hear the new chapters in the peoples lives that I was privileged to participate in.

Maybe being a character in other people's books is your identity :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Senior Power

It was a great day several months ago when standing in line with my fellow SVP Cincinnati Partners to get tickets on the Queen Elizabeth II, M.L. said - "Wow, I get my first chance at a senior discount". Indeed, I was also shocked - I too could get the Senior Discount 55 and older ($1 off I as I remember - which is getting harder now). They didn't even "card" me :) I guess the gray is visible enough proof.

Senior status begins early with the AARP promotional letters. But it doesn't really set in until you publicly declare your status at the ticket line. Those that know me - know that I would stand on my head (if possible) to save a buck - so declaring my senior status was no problem at the QE II.

I think officially the generally accepted Senior age is 65 (probably because of Social Security). So I still have a number of years to go. But I'll begin to look more carefully for the 55 and older stuff.

Coincidentally the first Baby Boomers (1946) will enter offical senior status 3o days from now.

The Senior Power tsunami is about to hit shore.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bad News Ages Fast

The ex Cincinnati Accenture Partners meet monthly for lunch to solve world problems, talk sports, reminisce, exchange politics and jokes - generally get updated on each other's life. A.C. was smiling as he said, "Garen would always peak his head into my office when there was trouble". I responded - "Yeah Al but at least I knew to get it in front of you fast". I remember your saying:

"Bad News Ages Fast". I learned that from Al and my parents. Don't think it will go away with time because it just get's more rotten each day.

I look back on my career and can thank my parents ( for initial life training), and then to many of the more senior managers and partners that shaped my performance and style in business.

You are the best and worst of the mentors in your life. Some are chosen for you - others you have a choice.

Chose Wisely.

Taxable Giving

I get a rash of letters this time of year asking for donations (I have 5 on my desk from last week). That and telemarketing must work or they would cease the practice. I've wondered if our tax code allowing deductions for charity actually encourages giving - either more, the timing, or both. It helps that Thanksgiving and Christmas align with taxable year end planning - combining a feeling of giving with minimizing the "gift" (tax that is) to the government.

I personally agree with Warren Buffet about estate taxes. I don't know his logic exactly - but mine is to create an incentive (even though the tax is a " death penalty") to encourage you to gift your money to the proper steward into the future. Notice I said the proper steward - because those that procrastinate in this decision end up giving it to the worst steward - the Government.

In Ron Blue's book "Splitting Heirs - Giving money & things to your Children without ruining their lives", he reiterates the point - "It's all God's". The only thing you are really doing with your money is finding the right steward - giving it to him/her (or the organization) and letting them do God's work.

Think about that - When you save money - you are just deferring the decision on it's productive use in God's eyes until you can decide who is the steward - you or someone else? When you spend money - you are choosing yourself as the "invest able steward" to grow the wealth further for God's purpose.

And when you give it to the government ......... one wonders it's purpose and the alignment?

So don't make giving a taxable moment. Give it while living to someone other than the government.

PS- SVP Cincinnati can always use a donation :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopper's Lag

We were all dragging this morning after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Serena had pulled an all nighter with her friends to be at the store promptly at 4am on Black Friday. So it wasn't jet lag - but "shopper's lag" this Monday morning. The early reports are that this Black Friday was successful for the retailers even though this year there are 2-3 less shopping days before Christmas.

I was shocked to learn that Thanksgiving was changed to the 4th Thursday in November by President Franklin Roosevelt (signed in 1941) to give the economy a boost. Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of November and right in the middle of the Great Depression ( 1933 and 1934) that meant 7 or 8 days less shopping before Christmas.

SO again the tradition of Thanksgiving is really all about Thingspending.

Be of good cheer - in 2012 Franklin Roosevelt can look down and see 8 additional spending days and a full recovery :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Books

I just finished the "Christmas List" by Richard Paul Evans. A good story about "beginning with the end in mind".

I read his first book "The Christmas Box" in 1995 and it had a profound effect on me. Probably because of my work habits and the main character's daughter was also named Jenna. The Hallmark movie was not nearly as meaningful as the book (but that happens alot).

I imagine books with the name Christmas in the title get a certain amount of sales (or at least a browse) by the reference of the holiday. I'm sure I picked up the Christmas Box because of my fond memories of Christmas and obsession with boxes. Plus the book is one of those smaller books - not too thick, short chapters, lots of dialogue, with a great story line (sort of mysterious).

What is your favorite childhood Christmas book? Is it a big picture book of the poem - "Twas the night before Christmas"? The Grinch? The Littlest Angel? The Nutcracker?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Signs of Christmas

There are signs of Christmas around the Wisner household this weekend. Jenna has taken the lead with decorating not just one Christmas tree but two. Off to Lowes to get a second tree (artificial) this evening - this one for the dining room.

Tonight with family and friends there was Christmas in the air. On Time Warner - Traditional Xmas music (Channel 933) piped through wireless speakers throughout the house. The smell of pine (from the candle scents) and the humming in the background (Paul, Serena, Ellen, Laura, Rima and Jenna). Fireplaces were lit to add to the mood. Thankfully the outdoor lights were put up last weekend (after nearly 4 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday during the Thanksgiving).

Sounds, smells, sight - all creating a feeling - striking memories of Christmas past, and anticipation of the Christmas to come.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Titles or Testimonials

Nathan said "Which do you seek - titles or testimonials". I remember in 1989 when I was promoted to Partner at Accenture. It was quite the title although there were other titles in the hierarchy (e.g. Managing Partner, etc.). I had not changed but everyone else's perception changed with the added title.

The other weekend P.S. and I were reminiscing about the old Accenture days and I mentioned how many of the staff had stories about me - things I can't even remember. P.S. related immediately and told a story of how he had picked up the parking fee late one night for the staffer that was following him out of the parking lot.

Years later the staff saw P.S. at a restaurant and reiterated the story and how much that had impacted their life. What a testimonial for a person with the title - Partner.

Amazing what impact a small act of kindness can have.

You choose every day - seek the title or testimonial.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The only thing on XM Radio the family likes to listen to (in Susan's Tahoe) is Watercolors (Channel 71 Smooth Jazz). So it was with great sorrow that the minimalist in me (that's the new term I use for frugal) convinced Susan to cancel the quarterly charge of $48.72 ($12.95/mth plus royalty and taxes).

So - I called XM with the express intent of canceling the service and saving $50. We have been listeners to Watercolors since Jan. 2005 Suddenly I get Sedrick on the line and he says - "I can save you significant money - how about 5 months for $20 - our special program to keep you at XM. It's not really $20 because after tax and royalty it's $25 (but who's counting).

Unbelievable - Sedrick talked me into it. So instead of saving $50. I save $25 and get two additional months. Like all subscription business models - they count on the human condition of forgetfulness five months from now.

Watercolors lives on until April 23. And we get to listen to Xmas music for the Holidays.

Minimalists - never forget :)


Yes the premature Thanksgiving blog (who knows I may be too stuffed on the day). 42 Million people will travel over 50 miles to celebrate this national holiday. It is the beginning of the holiday consumption line-up culminating in the new year.

The retailers are focused on the "Black Friday" activity of receiving your money. Their thanks will occur if you spend more.

Funny how Thanksgiving is about the bottom line : Things-spending. The attention is put on things (on sale) vs thanks and spending vs giving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give 'til it hurts

In our study group we discussed giving. The question was whether giving without sacrifice was meaningful - hence "give until it hurts". At Social Venture Partners Cincinnati one of our guiding principles is "Have Fun". Like laughing until it hurts - I think finding the joy in giving is the key. So much joy that it "hurts".

Too often guilt plays a role in giving. Some people give out of guilt. At SVP Cincinnati we also have the mantra - "No Guilt". Too often volunteers at non-profits end up feeling guilty - not giving enough time or money. Their schedule gets busy and they "drop the ball" at the non-profit.

We are trying to build a culture in SVP that allows our Partners to lean on each other (e.g. it's a team not the individual) - and not feel guilty. When one person's schedule gets busy - someone else "has their back". So it is a "meta giving" - giving (e.g. helping) to another partner while giving to the non-profit.

So if it is so much fun that it hurts - then I will give until it hurts :)

Friday, November 19, 2010


Returning from Kansas, I listened to a Christian book - "Extraordinary: The Life you were meant to Live" and it mentioned that in the top 25 movies of all time - 70% are about Heros (and the % is about the same for the top 50).We love stories about Heros - Ordinary people who do extraordinary things (my definition of a hero).

Then there is the category of Super Heros (like the TV series Heros) - people who have supernatural powers. But are they really Heros since they already have the power? - for them, the use of the power is not extraordinary - only extraordinary to us. In fact there are "good" Super Heros and "bad" - Evil Super Heros (maybe that is an oxymoron and they are technically Super Villains).

The Medal of Honor was just given out (3,449 recipients since 1861 ) to a living soldier (also rare) as a symbol of military heroism. Defender, Brave, Valor, Good, Moral Excellence, Self-sacrificing are words we connect to the word Hero.

Who is your Hero/Heroine?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Susan mentioned tonight that she never really understood poetry. Same with me, I echoed as I paused briefly from my reading. Then the very next sentence I read -- "A poem should not mean/but be." (Archibald MacLeish) .

I remember studying the meaning of poems in school - but only one that I can remember being forced to memorize - Eldorado by Edgar Allen Poe.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"                                                                   

 What does it mean?     Keep Searching?   Is it the Journey and not the Destination that counts?  Are you wasting your time looking for a city of gold?  Never ask a Shadow?  Only in Death will you find Eldorado?

Now 40 years later, I have the answer to my teacher's question -  "What does it mean"

"A poem should not mean/ but be"     :)

Mythical City of El Dorado on Lake Parime

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where am I

Our consciousness keeps us on track - it's our GPS system letting us know where we are. After all before we can go somewhere, you must know where your are - present location. Quite different from the question "Who am I" (the song from Les Miserables quickly plays in my head).

Our physical reality keeps us grounded in location - confirms where am I at all times. Think back to the number of times you were really lost - not very often I would guess. Maybe a short time within a city that was unfamiliar when looking to go somewhere. Maybe as a child walking back from school when taking a new route. In each case a landmark, a set of information (maps) some guidance system re calibrated and answered the question - where am I.

Lost in wilderness, an individual will walk in circles when there are no landmarks to guide them. Studies have found with the sun or moon visible, people can walk in a straight line.

Are you walking a straight line - or circling lost. Find your landmark.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

There's No Place Like Kansas

"Home is where the heart is" - the saying goes. Kansas (where I was born and lived for 8 years) is a place a vaguely remember - in 16mm films; 35mm pictures and the reminisce discussions my parents have when asked.

I can physically drive by the house where I was raised for those 8 years but it doesn't give the feeling of "going back home". Home is a feeling ---- of being with family; sitting in a familiar chair; or whatever physical thing produces that feeling.

The Good Witch of the East had it right in instructing Dorthy to think and say "There's no place like home" - Kansas that is :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mystery in Life

As we sat on the porch, S.S. said "There are some things we should leave as a mystery in life". The human condition of curiosity, the need to know, the search for origin etc. can not be extinguished. This urge is the energy that drives the soul and when that energy dies I think the spirit is at risk.

So can we be content with an unsolved mystery? Yes - but that doesn't mean contentment is the suppression of curiosity or activity to obtain the knowledge. In fact the journey (with the illusion that the mystery can be solved) is what we should celebrate and grows us.

So I say - "There are some things that will always be a mystery in life ..... never stop wondering why?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Voting Envy

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati "voted" last night for the 2010/2011 Investee (our term for the non-profit we will team with for 3-5 years). I put "vote" in quotes because the real vote is by the Council after the Investment Committee makes a recommendation.

Sounds complicated - and all governance is complicated. Wrapped up in legal mumbo jumbo, operating agreements, etc. The common man discovers how unpowerful his vote is when he finds out that the power of his vote was delegated to a board - or to a representative of the governing body.

So the real vote was when you elected the Board, or voted for your congressional representative. This indirect feeling of power becomes incomplete when the current issue at hand strikes passion into your soul and you want your voice to be heard and your vote to be counted!!

Instead you are subjugated to the back of the line - a distance voice from the hot issue at hand while your representative makes his/her decision with "your interest in mind".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A long time ago

A.M. mentioned that his father said "You're Dead for a Long Time". That is a very sobering thought for those who do not believe in an after life. The converse of that statement is "You're on this Earth a very short time". Both quantify time equally but have very different potential connotations.

What is the definition of a long time? "In a place a long long time ago" .... is one of those phrases used to start an interesting story of someone's past. A story that lives on ... influencing others beyond the main character's short life span on earth. A story potentially told (or read) for thousands of years.

The written stories (and the earliest) are from the Bible. They were first passed on verbally and then captured in print. So the character is not "dead" if the story lives on.

So maybe "You're Dead for a Long Time when your story dies"

What "short" story are you authoring? How long will it be told?

Monday, November 8, 2010


One of the Greek word's for Sin is from an archery term "to miss the mark". I wonder how many of us even know what target we are attempting to put in our sights. Aim high? Aim low? How many arrows are in our quiver?

"Action without vision is simply using up our time ..... Vision without Action is only a daydream" John Izzo.

So randomly shooting arrows in the air is using up our precious time and saving the arrows for the perfect shot is just wishing away our time. It takes a target and practice to get better at archery.

What is at the center of your target? How close is your life to the bulls eye?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Contagious Friends

USA Today states the Obesity is Contagious. "We find that having four obese friends doubled people's chance of becoming obese compared to people with no obese friends," says Alison Hill, the study's lead author and a Harvard researcher.

I wonder if there are other contagious attributes? How about friends with a spirit of generosity? I am studying the "Game Change" six week spiritual journey at Crossroads and this question came to mind. Social Venture Partners Cincinnati gives me the opportunity to be surrounded by like individuals who have a spirit of generosity.

So having 28 friends with the spirit of generosity will quadruple my chance of becoming generous also :)

Giving is contagious!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin Throw

This was the first annual Pumpkin Throw at Councilrock. The 20 small pumpkins that decorated the flowerboxes were first stripped of seeds and then kicked and tossed down the hill. I think they are still rolling toward Terrace Park.

As word spread in the neighborhood, each kid attempted an Olympic throw down the hill. Jenna - the expert coach helped assure there were no losers - everyone got a toss (or tw0). There were hits, splits, trills, and spills.

Then a few rides on the swing (installed this summer) closed out the contest as the swinger viewed the orange dotted hillside to determine the winner of the longest throw.

A great fall day - no ipods, computers, or DVD's. No kid inside :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blogging Destiny

"Be careful of your thoughts - because thoughts become your words
Be careful of your words - because words become your actions
Be careful of your actions - because actions become your habits
Be careful of your habits - because habits become your character
AND - your character becomes your destiny" John Izzo "5 Secrets you must know before you die"

"Be careful of what you blog - because your blog becomes your .......... background"
Garen Wisner "Blogging for fun"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Program your Brain

Control is one of those words like a sword that has two edges - danger and opportunity. Control is about power and power is both a danger and opportunity.

In Covey's books, he uses the concept "your circle of influence". Too often we try to control things outside our circle of influence - hence the terms regret (for the past) and worry (for the future).

I just finished reading John Izzo's book "The Five Secrets you must discover before you die" and the issue of control appears in the 4th Secret - Live the Moment. I would encourage you to read the book "The Precious Present" by Spenser Johnson to fully explore the 4th Secret.

We have the power to control our mind. In my technology terms - we can program our brain. Studies have shown we have 45-50 thousand thoughts per day. That is 50 thousand logical (or illogical) loops going on upstairs - or 50 thousand chances to enter negative code or positive code.

"Programming the brain" reminds me of the movie -Tron (a remake is coming soon). I have forgotten the exact plot but the image I have is the brain with all the programming code inside it. There is good code and bad code and "bugs".

You can choose the path. You choose to re-program. You control your mind.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Historic Mid Term Election

Hannity asked each talking head to use one word to describe last night - his word was Historic. Yes it is a historic election because it is over (thank goodness) - therefore it is history.

Elections have become our new reality TV - a continuous entertainment for those consumed with the trash of seeing people behaving badly. I got sucked into watching the talking heads last night, the high tech statistical analysis, the play by play action, the locker room speeches, the list goes on. The Superbowl night of Election reality.

Super Bowl XLIV (Saints vs Colts 2/7/2010) has the record - 106.5 million households watching the action. The media build up is intense. The Superbowl parties abound. The money spent for that weekend is intense. The player profiles, interviews, sidebar stories and "color" add to the excitement.

How many of the 106.5 million households even remember the historic on-side kick or who won the game? How many of the 40 million households remember who won Superbowl XVI -1/24/1982 (I won't mention the teams because the Cincinnati folks will remember).

So Election night 2010 (Republicans vs Democrats) is history.

Who won?

And in 20 years will you remember?

PS: Today starts the next season premier of Election Reality 2012 - only 735 days until Superbowl Tuesday :(

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lets Make a Deal

I DVR'ed the new CBS version "Lets Make a Deal" with Wayne Brady. It just didn't have the same feeling of Monty Hall and Carol Merrill of 1963 vintage. The trouble with trying to "re-live" nostalgia is the inability to re-create the thoughts, feelings and environment of the past.

The deals presented by Wayne Brady just didn't seem to have the punch and impact that watching as a kid in 1963. As a statistician, I know to much now also.

How ironic to just finish reading "A Drunkard's Walk" by Leonard Mlodinow where he describes the reason you should switch doors if asked.

Here's the set up: Suppose behind one door is a car and the other two goats. After picking a door, Monty Hall (who knows what is behind each door) opens one of the two unchosen doors which reveals a goat. He then offers you the chance to switch. Should you?

The answer is: YES - because of Cardano's rule. Because Monty Hall intervened into a "random process" - it is no longer random. The odds are 2-1 that you are in a "wrong guess" scenario and therefore you should switch your choice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Minimalist Sleep

L.R. diplomatically said - "There goes Garen the minimalist again". There is great power and comfort in being a minimalist. The feeling of self control and the peace of sleep.

Ecc. 5:12 "The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep".

When is enough - enough? And endless question and one unique to each individual. I suspect enough is when you can sleep peacefully and too much (or too little and wanting more) is when you are restless.

I sleep during the week about 6 hours each evening (by the way it is a fallacy that you can "catch up on sleep" like I try to do on the weekends). I do like a Sunday nap in the sun during football games (obviously I'm watching them on TV) regardless of what the experts say!

Researchers have found only 3% of the population do well on 6 hours of sleep. Obviously babies sleep the most - and it appears as we age less sleep occurs (although scientists think that may be more due to age afflictions -- maybe too much stuff --disturbing our sleep).

We come into the world with nothing (sleeping like babies) and we leave the world with ......

Maybe that is the key to sleep - becoming a minimalist :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Individual Prices

How many times have you sat next to someone on the plane and compared fares? Invariably you could never see the logic of why your fare was different from someone else. Accenture was part of the cause of this optimal pricing when various complicated pricing algorithms were programmed for industries (hotels, airlines etc.) with fixed capacity that is wasted when time expires (e.g. flight takes off, hotel room goes unused).

The software industry prices their product on the "ability to pay" (the bigger the company - the more you pay). After all the incremental (marginal cost) cost of an additional copy of computer code is nominal compared to the development and maintenance costs. Consequently pricing can be highly subjective and variable.

Consumers get very irritated when they find out someone else got a better price. We don't think that what we have paid - when we paid it - was a consious price/benefit evaluation. What we paid must have been fair at that time or else we would not have purchased the item. Somehow the value changes once we know what someone else paid.

Time Warner in their last billing indicated a price increase effective 11/2010 - but it only applied to those individuals who have are not on a 2 year contracted price program. In January 2010 I switched my cable to digital (long story that requires a different blog). In the space of 10 months the price had changed 4 times - $62.99;$54.95;$44.95 and now $72.99. Each time the price changed with a phone call or new information I obtained.

The lessons - everything is negotiable; prices are individual; value is related to what someone else paid; keep asking - keep calling - keep evaluating value.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Obama Care - Generation Warfare

I've blogged before about the Landmark Healthcare Legislation. It only hits home when you see exactly how it impacts you personally. So here is the summary:

Jenna has a high deductible HSA plan and the premium increased this year 29%.
Susan, Ellen and I have a high deductible HSA plan and the premium increased this year 8.6%
Because of the high deductible there have been no costs to Anthem in the last year - yet the premiums go up and up.

My uninformed conclusion is that the younger generation is paying for the Healthcare changes. The young healthy people are paying for the older generation - setting up a generation warfare. This will just be incentive for the younger generation to pay the penalty to avoid health insurance.

Another wrong incentive is to encourage the younger generation to stay on their parents plan until age 28 - ridiculous. We should be encouraging the kids to become self-sufficient adults - physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

There is little choice but to renew the policy and find a way to cover the increase in the personal financial budget.

PS - My family policy increased $23/mth. Check out the blog on Jan 6, 2010 ---- Based on the extra $23/mth I must weigh 200 lbs :)

Chainsaw Massacre

I played lumberjack in the backyard today. The heavy storm winds on Tuesday knocked down some significant limbs (12 inch in diameter). So out came my Eager Beaver chainsaw to clean up the mess. The first frost today made it feel crisp and enjoyable to be outside working.

There is something manly about using a chainsaw. The roar of circling steel, the blue smoke of exhaust and the spitting drips of oil flipping off the chain all add to the excitement of trying to control nature.

Plenty of firewood for the outdoor firepit - now just in time for Smores season.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lifetime Membership

The October letter from Miami announced the giving club changes. "Your dedication to Miami is reflected in your status as a lifetime member of the Presidents Club". But the Presidents Club will be reclassified as an annual giving club.

I always kicked myself for not "buying in" to the lifetime membership of the Delta Crown Room back in the 90's. What exactly does lifetime memberships get you - and how much does it cost?

I remember an Accenture consulting assignment with Rex Electronics in Dayton. Visiting the Louisville store a sign stated - Guaranteed lowest price - for life. I questioned the store manager about the advertising (did it violate corporate guidelines of 30 days). He quickly rebutted - "Who really cares" - it is a rare person who comes back to the store with the proper documentation and the value of "for life" vs 30 days was worth the risk.

Lifetime membership is an attempt to get the highest value (benefit) for life at the lowest possible cost. Do we really want a membership in anything that creates a club where "I win and you lose"?

So a lifetime membership is just a bet with other members - who outlives you and who pays more. So I either hope for you to die (less future costs); or for you to pay more than me (you subsidize me). Sounds like a club I don't want to be in.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Abandoned Data

I'm not a hoarder - but I do have the bad habit of not throwing stuff away. It includes data and PCs. I have PC's in the basement, 5 1/4 floppies in shelves, old software, IOmega Zip Drives, Maxtor hard drive, Seagate, the list goes on and on.

I feel sorry for all that abandoned data. There is no visability into what data is out there. The only difference between this abandoned data and the physical stacks of manila folders and financial statements in my attic is that I can't physcially open this data up. It is carefully hidden from access in virtual folders with index names that I could never recall on media that is almost impossible to open.

Today started a new version of Outlook on the "hand me down" HP PC from Jenna. A clean slate - nothing in folders - I have abandoned my 25760 emails from the Acer. Yes - almost twenty six thousand emails (from 3/16/2006 to 10/27/2010). That is about 16 emails a day for 1661 days (igorning the spam that gets scanned and deleted).

Well - I haven't completely abandonded them. They still sit on the Yahoo server in a backup folder :)

And what about all those pre- 3/16/2006 emails? Those are hidden away in Lotus notes files, old floppies, and backup diskettes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who is that behind the Mask?

Several Sunday's ago, Lee Tyson asked everyone to introduce themselves and describe their most memorable Halloween costume. Mine was Zorro - when my mom made caps, hats and swords for D'Lane and I. We both had the small black eye mask for anonymity. After all - Zorro was the key Disney show on black and white TV at the time.

Interesting that we can become whatever or whoever we want at a Halloween party. But who is that really behind the mask? Trouble is there is still a mask even after we reveal our non-Halloween identity. It is our own personal mask we wear everyday for most people we know.

How often does that mask come off?

Age has helped me peel the mask off. It doesn't make me look better :)

But it sure makes me smile more often - and smiling makes you look younger.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Home again

"Hey - it's good to be back home again .... It's the little things that make a house a home, like fire softly burning, suppers on the stove .... its the light in your eyes that make him warm". John Denver had it right in his 1974 song. Even if you're not a country pop fan this song has to hit the spot for you.

There is something special about walking back into the house after at trip. The smiles of loved ones who missed you.... the comforts of familiar things..... the routine begins...... and before long........

"I just can't wait to get on the road again... making music with my friends" (Willie Nelson)

Now if I was really technology proficient - I could embed the Youtube songs for comparison.

Airport Waves

I have spent thousands of hours in airports in nearly every city in the USA and many foreign cities. Naturally the airport I spent the most time in was luckily Cincinnati which for a time was voted the 2nd best airport in the world.

Later in my career at Accenture, I happened upon one of the most valuable "lower stress" lessons when I began to arrive early - very early to airports. When I was flying back an forth to Canada - my flight would be at 9:50am - but I would get up at normal time 6am and drive to the airport and "set up shop".

Airport activity goes in waves. During the hubbing years with Comair the volume of traffic would peak and die suddenly. During those valleys the airport morphed into a different animal. The personnel would relax, early non stressful flyers would leisurely walk the corridors, the sound would become almost library like. It was these times I grew to like airports.

Travel doesn't need to be stressful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Philanthropy - an "aloneness game" Matthew Bishop said at the SVPI (Social Venture Partners International) conference. The words constantly batted about at this conference were collaboration, co-funding and community. The SVP model attempts to remove the aloneness from Philanthropy by connecting a diverse group of partners together into a common giving group.

SVPCincinnati has touched 24 Partner units (our $ counting metric) and about 36-40 people - call them all acquaintances over the last 4 years. We have lost 7 Partner units leaving 17 units (24 people). Most of those 24 have turned from acquaintances to friends and for many of us the philanthropy we do together has eliminated the "aloneness".

Multiplying the joy in the network.

Acquaintances vs Friends

The keynote speaker at the SVPI (Social Venture Partners International) conference referenced the Malcolm Gladwell article from 10/4/2010 New Yorker "Small Change":

"Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. High-risk activism is a “strong-tie” [e.g. friends] phenomenon."

So what's the difference between friends and acquaintances? I've blogged about this before (Oct 8, 2009 - Faithful Friend) and it was interesting to see how social networks and the "friends" of Facebook are perceived in Gladwell's article.

In the SVP network, I have acquaintances and friends. The power of SVP combines the many acquaintances (innovation of new ideas and information) with my SVP friends (high-risk activism). It is a philanthropy network model with both powerful components.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get a Life Card

I pulled out my "Get a Life Card" from my wallet and blew the cobwebs off of it. Delta wouldn't like that reference to the million miler medallion customer they honor.

I've been in an airport no more than 10 times in the last 9 years. The Accenture routine felt familiar - like riding a bicycle - long term parking, self check-in, upgrade status, boarding, Hertz Gold, Hyatt Check-in, room prep, and locate dinner.

Now I studied the faces of those like me 10 years ago - what are their stories? Where are their smiles?

My past travel routine was a blur - I paid no attention to anyone throughout the routine - I doubt I was smiling that much either. How different to be an observer vs the road warrior.

On the Hertz bus everyone had their 3G data phone out checking messages and here I was with my old LG and lugging a laptop. Clearly I was the technology dinosaur "outlier" in a sea of road warriors.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


B.W. said "Things left unattended, decay". Wow - that principal applies to many things, vacant houses, human body, food, money, spirituality .......

While I am a procrastinator, at least I attend to the task - only in a "just in time" basis. Attention really means recognizing the relationship between time and decay for the object in question. The rapidity of decay as a function of time means greater attention earlier is required.

There is a "decay theory" for memory - that time will fade a memory. Attending to the memory must therefore slow down the decay.

Hence a side advantage of blogging :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Foolish Fear

Another person's fears look so foolish at times. But that is what fools us - the fear is real - the reality for the person experiencing it. I helped Ellen practice the 6th grade presentation to the class on Daylight Savings Time. I could see the pressure building inside her and the fear taking control of her both physically and emotionally.

Fear relates to future events which is why time makes our fears look foolish. That is also why practice (for this particular fear) can lower the level of uncertainty about the particular event.

I learned in my training at Accenture the value of video taping presentations. Seeing yourself as the audience would and projecting your presentation into the future can be invaluable. So I have a complete library of videos of both Ellen and Jenna in various classroom practice presentations. These memories will create laughter as they will both see the "foolish" fear they overcame.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Living the Dream

It reminded me of youth and energy at Accenture - eight fraternity brothers at KC's daughter's wedding on Saturday evening. In fact Hank had joined Accenture for a year and a half but now was doing marketing in D.C.

Wade was the first fraternity brother to get married and these guys were like the "The Diner" movie at their college buddy's wedding. Out on the patio smoking "stogies" talking about "living the dream".

Investment Bankers, Real Estate Mogal, Marketing Rep all aspiring to the top - Manhatten, D.C., Michigan, all with their button down shirts or tuxedos with no clip on tie. These guys had flown in and were "doing the town".

They were even willing to talk to a FIP (Formerly Important Person). Who knows - maybe he knows someone important :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Housing Crisis

In our Bible study about Revelations it mentions the size of New Jerusalem - Rev. 21:16

16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadiaa]">[a]in length, and as wide and high as it is long. (a stadia is about 1400 miles)

So the "numbers guys" (and I include myself in this elite group) start playing with the data. One internet site estimates that with a 2800 sq ft apartment 12 feet high you could get 1,500,000,000,000,000 apartments in this space (I was too lazy to audit this number). By the way that is 1.5 Quadrillion or 1.5*10^15.

On June 18, 2010 I blogged about the 106 Billion souls (as of 2002) looking for eternal space.

Still plenty of space available :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cigarette Habit

One of my many Accenture stories popped into my head today.

It was around 1980 and I was doing an EDP review (Electronic Data Processing) at Southern Ohio Bank. I had my checklist of questions and entered the office of Vice President Joe Falsetti. Looking back, I can smile as they loved to poke at the "green beans" (the term for the consultants/auditors).

As I asked my questions, Joe pulled a cigarette from a pack and began to manipulate it with his fingers putting it in back and forth in his mouth ( smoking was allowed in offices in 1980). This went on for the entire interview.

Finally I got the courage to ask Joe - "Are you even going to light that cigarette?"

No, he replied, I gave up smoking two years ago. He waited for my reaction.

Why - then do you have a pack of cigarettes? I questioned.

"Oh, I like the smell, feel and taste of the tobacco." Joe quipped.

And how long does a pack of cigarettes last? - the statistician in me wondered.

Joe said, "I consume about a pack a week."

I wonder if he has kicked the habit :) - Cigarettes or "toying with the green beans"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Gas - On and Hot; Undercarriage - down and fixed; Mixture - full and rich; Pitch and Safety Belt. This verbal checklist on landing a plane is permanently fixed into my memory.

Final approach on landing was always a time of excitement - a sense of anticipation (not necessarily fear - just a nervous anticipation).

I remember one landing in particular - it was a hot summer day and I was wearing contacts. It was early in my flying lessons and I was sweating - big time. As we approached the final, I tried to wipe my brow and somehow the right contact popped out of my eye. There was no time to say anything to my instructor - I just closed my right eye for focus and landed the plane.

I was too embarrassed to mention anything to my instructor and felt it was a good test of what could happen sometime. I would add a reminder.

GUMPS + glasses.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Prevent Offense

If it hasn't been invented - you heard it here (or hear) first. The Bengals have what is know as the "Prevent Offense". The ability to prevent a win by trying to play safe offense vs trying to win the game.

I think both the prevent defense and the prevent offense - prevent the team from winning.

Playing safe may also not be a real satisfying win. In games where the opponents are both playing their hearts out it is just more exciting. Maybe there is a message in life about this also.

Prevent living is offensive :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Seeing is Believing

The statistician (me) was talking to the nuclear physicist (Rich M.) on a recent rendezvous in the farmland of Granville Ohio.

I mentioned the book "Evidence of the Afterlife" by Jeffery Long M.D. (the book is intriguing but not well written) and the fact that statistically if two lines of evidence (mutually exclusive) of Near Death Experiences (NDE) are 90% convincing that together we would be 99% confident of an after life.

Rich M. responded that evidence in science is based on what can be replicated and observed. He then updated me on the current theory of scientific unknowns - we live in 11 dimensions. Why eleven? - because the mathematics seems to most elegantly work in the various equations.

Naturally thinking time was the 4th dimension, I asked about the other seven. Rich responded that the 4th dimension is not time - it would be better explained by rotating your left shoe in a way that it becomes identical to your right shoe. WOW - ponder that one.

I remember the book "Flatlands" that described what it would be like for a two dimensional inhabitant to describe activities of things popping in and out of the third dimension (almost like magical disappearing acts or teleporting).

Those individuals talking about NDE's are believers - maybe three dimensional inhabitants describing some other dimensions. For them - seeing is believing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's your Number?

I continue to see that financial firm's (ING I think) commercial with the guy walking around with "his number". The next door neighbor say's his number is a Gazillion - clearly a SWAG and without a thought of "how much is enough".

Back in 2001 my financial advisor (T.A.) helped pull together a financial forecast and we discussed "my number". Next I had the challenge of figuring out - was it enough (and endless question)?

We spend a lifetime thinking implicitly about "the number" - trying to earn it, save it, invest it, and give it away. K.C. and I talked about this yesterday. What if suddenly (like winning the lottery) the number changed significantly (we only talked about the number going up not down).

Do you calibrate "up" your number - basically saying "enough earlier was not enough"? Or do you say the surprise excess can be given away? Giving away "a big number" can be stressful. I know, I know - you are saying please let me have that problem.

Everyone has that problem today regardless of the relative certainty of your number (in actual terms or forecasted). In his book "Wealthy and Wise", Claude Rosenberg plays around with "the number" with the premise that we can give more than we think.

Remember - it's only a number.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Efficient Recession

The business cycle is essential for proper balance - it's like yin and yang. So what is the optimal recession - the most efficient recession? It takes at least two quarters of lower GDP to be even considered a recession. Since recessions are considered "bad", then we should only want two quarters -- right? I don't think so.

Attempting to define the most efficient recession assumes something can be done to "control the timing and depth" of a recession. Hence the attempt with government stimulus and Federal Reserve actions. So implicitly we are defining what we view as the most efficient recession - meaning short and thin.

However this is like "squeezing a balloon". The shorter we want it, the deeper it becomes; the thinner we want it, the longer it becomes.

An efficient recession - is exactly what it takes to eliminate the bad habits of inefficient growth during the growth phase. Habits are hard to break.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


One of the most interesting stresses that are self imposed is the famous personal schedule - or how you manage your time. Are you a planner - "Plan the Plan, and Work the Plan" or a the opposite.

What is the opposite of plan? The dictionary says - forget, ignore, neglect. I like the term ignore - because it is the most common cause of overscheduling (second is saying yes too much).

Calendar management is a learned skill and reflects the style and personality of the individual. It also relates to promptness, meeting management, route and travel habits, telephone management etc.

In the book "History of Time", I remember the cultural differences forcing others to wait extraordinarily long times for a meeting.

One thing I am certain of - when you overschedule yourself - you will be stressful. When you are around people who are overscheduled - you will be stressful.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Body Part Failure

At the Accenture ex-partner lunch, B.W. said "We are all just awaiting the failure of different body parts - we just don't know which ones and when".

My recent "hitch in the get-a-long" was the strained calf muscle from not warming up enough prior to Monday tennis. Hoping I was still a 20 year old expecting immediate recovery, B.W. reminded me that preventative care is but a minute compared to the recovery time in your 50's.

Yes my zeal to become more healthy by exercising (e.g. Tennis) had turned into a sport injury with pain, hobbling and cries for sympathy.

Wisdom arrives in the form of pain - and advice from individuals with their own painful body part failures.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kind vs Good

Rev. Stover's sermon mentioned that the word "kind" is never used in the Bible. Immediately a line from Sondheim's "In the Woods" popped into my head. Susan and I saw "Into the Woods" in Chicago (or I should say we saw half of it - because we walked out at intermission - that's a long story).

When the wolf first introduced himself to Little Red Riding Hood he said to her suspicious reaction - "But I am Kind". Her response was "Kind does not mean Good". Very interesting ......

It is tempting to automatically connect kindness with being good. After all why wouldn't you trust that the only reason someone is being kind is to promote goodness in the world? Unfortunately we have too many situations where kindness is a ploy for selfish manipulative reasons.

So be Good - and let Kindness follow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wayne's Weekend

Wayne popped into my mind as the weekend approaches. Get prepared this may be a long blog - but was an important lesson to me.

In a very emotional time of my life, Wayne asked if I wanted to regularly golf on Sunday mornings at the Neumann public course on the west side. So we started the tradition. One of the Sunday mornings I was lamenting about my work schedule and started telling Wayne that I may need to eliminate Sunday golf so that I could work. Wayne responded: "Garen, you dumb ass! there are only 52 available weekends in the year and look what you've been doing for the last 10 years with those weekends."

Wayne had a way of simplifying things. He was right and like a bolt of lighting hitting the golfer - my light bulb was now fully illuminated. I resolved at that point in time (1987) that I would re-allocate my work time. I would work 24 hours (if necessary) during the week - but I made a covenant to never work on the weekend again. If my career was going to require that - then it was a career I didn't value. It was time to draw a line in the sand.

Fast forward 9 years later- 1996. Wayne had just arrived in Cincinnati from Las Vegas (his new residence) for his brother's wedding. I was knee deep in a high pressure job at Southern New England Telephone (SNET) in Connecticut - but back in Cincinnati for the weekend. Wayne stopped by for a visit at the Brill house and had dinner with Susan, Jenna and I, on Sunday evening - I'm sure I was lamenting again about the "deadline" I was facing for the project.

After a wonderful visit with Wayne, I was back on the plane to Connecticut - Monday morning. It was a tough week - the client was nervous, we were struggling to hit the deadline, and the politics were ugly - it was clear we were not going to make the date. The only alternative was to work the weekend - the first time in 9 years I would break the covenant. I would need to call Susan to let her know the bad news.

I got on the phone to tell Susan and as I was telling her my news she interrupted saying that Wayne had died - a heart attack on the plane as he was returning to Las Vegas.

I didn't work that weekend - I was in Las Vegas at Wayne's funeral on Saturday April 27, 1996.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beginning and End of File

One principle I learned at Accenture in computer programming is the importance of the logic and code necessary for the first transaction and the last transaction being processed - Beginning and End of File.

Everything else becomes routine and with logical loops. Testing the logic at the beginning and end is essential for a sound program. I remember just opening the file was non-trivial code.

In life, the mystery of birth (beginning) continues to challenge scientists and death (ending) is a mystery for both the religious and secularist. So the middle part (Middle Earth) is what we know -what we routinely experience - day, night; consume, digest; start, stop; - seemingly endless cycles since we don't remember"beginning of file" and we await/expect and "end of file".

Unlike programming - we have no choice in the beginning, and the last transaction process is unknown. What we control are the logical loops in the middle.

Is it time to reprogram?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hope vs Optimism

Dr. J.E. loves to educate me on the "Doctor" perspective. He said: "Hope is a feeling, a spiritual sense that anything can happen. A sense of the world that there are powers greater than ourselves that can intervene. Optimism is a mature feeling within the spectrum of what we know - a probability of some relative (and hopefully high) value."

In a quick google search - you find very interesting theories with conflicting premises about learned, emotion or not, inside your control etc:

(1) Hope and optimism differ in that hope is situation specific (specific condition) and contingent upon one's own abilities (internal condition). Optimism is an overall explanatory style (global condition) that positive things will occur independent of one's ability (external condition).

(2) Hope is distinct from optimism by being an emotion, representing more important but less likely outcomes, and by affording less personal control. Motivation and Emotion, 2005, Volume 29, Number 4, Pages 324-35

Are you hopeful but not optimistic --- or optimistic but not hopeful?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Live Beyond the Grave

I was meeting with M.M. hoping to recruit more Partners for SVP Cincinnati. We got on the subject of passion and he described his activities at CBMC ("Connecting Business Men with Christ") and that he was doing something that will "Live beyond the Grave".

The certainty of Death can be very grave - the feeling of finality. I've said that "the memory you create today, is - a touch of your eternal life" (or something close to that). I think the feeling of a legacy or doing meaningful stuff that will not be final is something that haunts the soul. Touching eternity is an interesting concept.

Or John Ortberg said it another way " Every human being you see is a cleverly disguised receptacle of Eternity".

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Exporting Popularity

Over weekend dinner in Hudson, Ohio, Susan and I had dinner with Miami Mergers S. & L. O. Demographics and China came into the discussion with the inevitable growth of China that will exceed the USA. Neither of us "feared" this event, and in fact I stated the USA will always have the advantage in exporting popularity - trends, or the "in stuff".

Whether it is movies, movie stars, technology, gadgets, sports, Starbucks, fast food, the list goes on and on. Some of this is culture - some just the American Dream. Some would say it's capitalism - I would say it is hope and freedom.

Hope to better one's self with the freedom to do so.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hearing is Believing

S.S.#2 said that only 7% of what a lawyer says will influence a jury. I replied - people should believe only one half of what they see; and one third of what they read; and one quarter of what they hear - I heard that somewhere :)

I've blogged several times about speaking (number of words), listening (skills of a good listener), and understanding - now we have the next step - believing (or in a jury's terms judgment).

We hear what we want to regardless of what is said. Because the mind is constantly judging - the minute you walk in and I see you the mind starts the assumption and forecasting process. Getting someone to change their mind is one of the most challenging propositions. Billions of dollars are spent in business attempting to influence you in a direction.

What "weight" you put on what you hear is a function of the speaker (his credentials - or how often he is correct). Luckily we now have the 100% correct internet capability.

Hence - I-Phone it - I believe it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pictures of Numbers

A.M. said - "yeah everyone talks about you with those charts on your wall". In fact, I love charts, graphs, any pictorial representation of data. I carry them in my wallet, my briefcase, on the wall of my office, and saved in files on my computer.

It is the statistician in me - the need for a regression analysis, or a fit to an exponential curve. A desire to predict the future and to see the past - all in one picture. Give me a column of numbers and I will create a graph immediately. Why?

Because a graph is a beautiful picture of numbers. I guess I love art after all. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Touching Face

I remember D'Lane saying - "just keep your hands below your shoulders and you will be alot healthier".

I was listening to NPR's interview of the author of the book " Ah choo The Uncommon Life of your Common Cold" she said that we touch our face 1-3 times EVERY FIVE MINUTES! I won't even mention the number of times we pick our noses - ugh!

So trying not to touch anything above your shoulders would be a monumental task.

I'm a BIG BELIEVER in Vitamin C. I take 1000 mg per day. Does it prevent or cure the common cold? It will forever be a controversial subject. But what can it hurt?

Oops - in the duration of this blog I touched my face twice :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Printing Hell

I found my second punishment in Hell - trying to configure printers and print a document. I have spend years of my life messing with printers. This plug and play is a joke.

First- half way through the through the installation it asks for the locations of the driver. That creates the challenge of finding the old installation disk.

Then you discover it was a old disk for the old operating system.

Next you spend the time navigating the web site for driver downloads and try this feature.

Then Microsoft tells you - it's not certified.

I could go on and on. (out of ink, margin problems, letters cut off, ....)

So now add the challenge of helping Serena with her computer. Since I can't read her Chinese Microsoft XP instructions; I can't mirror the steps because I have Vista; and in the end I think it has something to do with Chinese fonts.

Yes - Printing Hell right here on Earth.