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.