Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sir and Ma'am

I was greeted in church during the service with "Hello Sir" by a young woman.  Was it because my grey hair has made me into a Sir?  Or was it just the respectful title from someone younger to someone older? Or was it a person from the South steeped in the tradition of saying Sir and Ma'am?

Growing up in Louisiana, I remember addressing my parents with "Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am, No Sir and No Ma'am".  When you did not hear or understand the person the response was "Sir? or Ma'am?".   This was drilled into me by my 5th grade teacher in school when she informed me that if I said HUH one more time that I would be subject to writing "Yes Ma'am" 1000 times.

Sure enough, the next time I was called in class for participation, I said "HUH" or "What" - and bingo -  that weekend I filled 20 sheets of notebook paper with line by line cursive "Yes Ma'am" now permanently etched into my respectful memory.

Thank you,  Ma'am - to my 5th grade teacher.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rate Prison

I returned the DVR/HD Converter to Time Warner.  After my emails to Time Warner, the BBB,, Yelp and the PUCO (Public Utility Commission of Ohio), I can now calm down and feel the freedom of being without Cable TV for a week until Direct TV comes out to install the satellite.

The short story is that Time Warner raised the price of the DVR/HD Converter Box by $1.99/mth.  My anger was less about the rate increase and more about the fact that the "Price Lock 2yr Guarantee" that I agreed to in July 2010, only applies to the Digital Content Plan - not equipment and I have no recourse with their indiscriminate  price increase - if I would cancel, I would be subject to an early termination fee - Hence I was in "Rate Prison".  They can do anything they want to the overall rate but I am locked in my own rate prison.

Those that know me, would now understand that I have no patience for this type of  a corporate bully tactic (the fine print of the "Other Terms and Agreements" section of the contract).  Regardless of the cancellation fee, I was determined to cancel.  I will decide later whether to settle the bill with Time Warner.

Clearly Cable Entertainment, options and prices has been the subject of many of my postings - 9/1/2009, 1/25/2010, 10/31/2010, 9/1/2011.  The $61/mth I was paying in 2009 (without DVR & HD) is now $75/mth (with the Price Lock Guarantee) and would be $80/mth without the Price Lock Guarantee.  That is a 31% increase in costs for the benefit of DVR & HD Channels with inflation.

Bundling services - cable, wireline phone, wireless, and internet (which I have not done to date) is now becoming a necessity to reduce the overall subscripton price.  So back to the Direct TV  I will go.  Since Direct TV is bundled with Cincinnati Bell, I should be able to get some economic benefit of bundling  my internet, wireline phone, and now satellite TV.  The last thing to go will be my wireless service with Verizon.  However I'm stuck in Verizon prison for 2 years (ending 10/14/2013) because of Ellen and Jenna's iphone data plans.

So instead of three rate prison cells - I can be in one very big rate prison cell.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfully Connected

Thanksgiving this year we are in Cincinnati but the extended family  are all at their respective locations (New York City, Wichita, Pittsburgh, Akron, Naples, Washington DC, Colorado and so on) ... as the network of connections extends beyond the first node. 

It would be interesting to see the visual "Linkedin" degrees of separation that shows the various Thanksgiving celebrations in process today.  Maybe an iphone app will be created called Pilgrim Square (like foursquare), or Get Turkey (like GetGlue ) to virtually connect us all at the Thanksgiving meal.  Or we could all  post to Facebook or tweet the moment we pass around the Turkey platter.

My thoughts connect to prior Thanksgiving gatherings and virtually connect all those family members today (those living and those beyond).  No need for technology for this type of connection - it is instant, continuous, ubiquitous, and requires no hardware or software. 

What am I thankful for today -  all those human and spiritual networks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Peace Meal

Reviewing the history and beginnings of Thanksgiving, I pondered why Canada and the USA are the countries with designated days for Thanks.  Combining the harvest festivals of European and Native traditions seems to be the root. My childhood pictures of Thanksgiving included the Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal together.

I have this theory that most of the worlds conflict is attributable to "grumpy tummies".  Whenever there is an argument brewing between family members, I always ask if someone is hungry.  It's funny how happy Jenna and Ellen become after a Sunday meal - singing songs in the back seat.  Like the Raffi song states:  All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, love in my family.

At the root of poverty is hunger, and at the root of hunger is survival.  B.E. who is on the board of the Freestore/Foodbank told our Friday Men's Fellowship group that nearly one in four children in the USA are at risk of hunger or as he said "food insecure" (BreadfortheWorld).  I feel good that SVP Cincinnati last year chose Whole Again International  a faith based non-profit that provides summer lunches to kids at risk and yesterday we announced our re-investment for the second year.

This Thanksgiving at your meal - think about how food creates peace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Invisible Moments of Impact

I like the visual of a small pebble creating the ripple in a still pond in describing the kind of impact one moment can create.  When I think back to the people who did something, wrote something, said something, encouraged something, or listened to something in my life that created impact, I think of how many ripples before them and the expanding ripples after them (and me) are yet to happen.

When your name is mentioned in a conversation; when "credit" is being given to you about something; when an action or deed is recognized;  all these moments are invisible to you - most even after you leave this world.

I think when you are in Heaven, you will suddenly see, hear and experience all those comments of others (a sort of Ebenezor Scrooge moment with the ghosts of time) and know all the impact moments.

What seems small and invisible to you today - will be infinite and known in eternity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Donut Delight

After the Miami U. football game,  G.M dropped me off in the rendezvous parking lot close to midnight.  Dunkin Donuts caught my eye and I thought  Ellen needed a donut this morning before her critical science quiz (ignore that large portions of salivation had entered my mouth at 11:30pm).  Not one but six were purchased - 2 glazed, 2 pumpkin, 1 coconut, and 1 chocolate glaze. 

Doughnuts (as properly spelled) are an important staple in business decisions.  Morning meetings with donuts can make sure the people who had skipped breakfast do not take out their "grumpy tummies" on the issue or plans being made. 
I have the responsibility for the donut list for our Friday Morning Mens Fellowship group.  Even spiritual study can be most effective after a glazed doughnut. 

Mom tells her early entrepreneurial stories of selling door to door and delivering Spudnut (or was is Sputnik?) donuts in Kansas to suppliment the family income.   That makes me believe there may have been plenty of extra inventory for the kids to consume.

 In April 1952 a dozen Spudnut donuts retailed for $.50 per dozen.  My six Dunkin Donuts were $5.49   (that's a 5.32% Compounded Annual Growth Rate over nearly 60 years). But in any year the cost is worth the benefit of the Donut Delight.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Guilty Introvert

Which word produces positive of negative images - extrovert or introvert.  I would hazard to say that the general populace has a negative perception of introverts - meaning there is something wrong with being an introvert. 

Myers/Briggs has Introversion and Extraversion as the first letter in their personality test  (e.g. INTJ or ENTJ etc).  Talk to any Introvert (that is if they are willing to talk) and they will indicate they feel guilty about the number of friends, acquaintances they have.  Or that they should be interacting with others more.  Is this guilt just the conspiracy of extroverts putting pressure on introverts?  Or is it a self inflicted pressure inside the Introvert forced into a world that values extraversion?

My Myers/Brigg profile is and INTJ with a close call on the I and E.  I can get "energy" in solitude and in social settings.  What I have learned over time is to minimize any guilt of my inner need to recharge with introversion.  I don't measure number of friends, acquaintances, network contacts, Linkedin & Facebook friends etc. etc.

What's the right dose of I and E.  Remember moderation in all things :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Deeper Data

At last week's SVP Cincinnati Innovation and Inspiration night, the guest speaker said "The data helps us view things more deeply".  Spoken just like a statistician who loves to wallow in the data (you get the image). Lately I've been helping Jenna with her college statistics course - reminding myself of the good, the bad, and the ugly of data. 

I had to chuckle when we covered the lurking variable - also known as the confounding factor.  This is the beginning of understanding a false positive (Type I error).  The erroneous conclusion that a variable is dependent on (and in relationship with) an independent variable. 

Sound confounding?  Dive deeper.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Healthcare Bull Dozer

The Anthem letter arrived thanking me while saying my healthcare insurance premium will increase 17.4%.  Factoring last year's 8.6% increase that is a compound annual growth rate of 12.89% and for the last seven years the CAGR has been 6.5% (even after increasing the deductible and eliminating Jenna from our family plan). 

Fidelity does a study each year, predicting the Healthcare costs for retirees (e.g. the Medicare Gap costs of Healthcare).  I've been following that since 2002 when it was estimated at $160K and for 2010 it was $250K which is a 5.74% CAGR.  Meanwhile my Health Savings Account (established in 2003) has grown a measly 4.06%. 

So I am losing ground in the Healthcare cost "inflationary war".   The only "wins" I have (and I thank God for those) is the family health has been close to perfect during that period (which keeps the premiums down).

Healthcare Insurance is really a bankruptcy insurance policy since most major medical costs can't be afforded by the average person. That is why I prefer to have a high deductible policy with a Health Savings Account.

The trouble with understanding the finances of Healthcare is that it is a complex web, rule driven, constantly changing, rarely transparent, and ignored by the individual until it touches their life or a loved one's life. 

But it is like a bull dozer - slowly approaching each of us.  Some avoid it's impact, and others get hit. If you are hit, then the speed of impact seems to accelerate and overwhelm your ability to get out of the way to avoid it's destruction.  

How do you avoid a Healthcare Bull Dozer?  The best exercise is running faster than the Bull Dozer :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tempest in the Teapot

In today's Enquirer a scientist referred to the details in the challenged results of a controlled experiment as a "tempest in a teapot".  Obviously the context of the quote indicates the scientist's  has the opinion that the details argued about were "much to do about nothing".  But where did this term come from? 

A quick internet search gave credit to Cicero - "Excitabat fluctus in simpulo" - translated as "He was stirring up billows in a ladle". 

It is so easy to get a meeting "off track" by showing a slight inaccuracy in a detail (like a number or assumption). The result can be to discredit the entire analysis and conclude the meeting with an opposite conclusion from the recommended postulate.  Which is why we claim "the devil is in the details".

Either way - the image I had reading this idiom was one of those "singing" teapots my Grandma Wisner always had on her stove - whistling at decibels that required attention when the tempest inside was over heated.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Voter Policeman

Tuesday, November 8th,  I was deputized as a Poll Worker and spent 14 hours in District 13-D as the presiding Republican "Judge" (actually they are trying to get rid of the name of Judge and just call us managers).  Yes even though I call myself a Libertarian and an Indpendent, I am officially a registered Republican and therefore eligible to be a Republican Poll Worker for the Board of Elections.  Susan joined me (although it was her leadership that got me to do this) for the day with four other veteran Poll Workers who showed us the ropes.

I have a much greater appreciation for the effort we take to make elections as fair and smooth as possible.  Of course, I didn't use the word efficient - because if this was a company, there is significant room for re-engineering!!!   How a Country which leads in innovation and technology puts up with this highly manual and error prone system is an example of the "cobbler's children go barefoot". 

Any system will be subject to errors and abuse.  Why we use tradition and privacy concerns to scare us from utilizing technology is a mystery to me. 

But - with all my critical remarks, it was still a day to be proud.  When I saw a Mom and Dad proudly  (who voted at different times during the day) proudly smiling after they brought their 18 year old son to the polling location to vote for the first time, my heart was warmed -  This is a Great Country!  Let Freedom Ring!

Friday, November 4, 2011

User Manuals

I think there may be two types of people in this world.  Those that read User Manuals and those that don't.   I fall into the category of "those that don't".  In Donald Norman's book "The Design of Everyday Things", he believes the best designed things are those that are intuitive and require no user instructions.  An automobile is one of the most complicated and sophisticated pieces of machinery, yet how many of us have actually read the user manual? 

I just downloaded my LG EnV (yes I have a dinosaur phone) VX9900 user manual (thank goodness now you can find most users manuals on the internet).  I needed to review how to set up voice mail/messages.  However there were two systems to look at - the handset (i.e. hardware) and the Verizon prompts (i.e. software).  As simple as voice mail is there are 54 paths in the tree diagram with the ability to go four levels deep.

Jenna called me yesterday asking why her TV screen was showing red tint.  Was it the component plugs, the TV menu settings, the DVD progressive interlaced 720i setting ..... the list goes on and on.  And do you really want to spend the time to find the user manual, download it, read it in detail and troubleshoot the issue?  NO!!  I just want it to work.

What's the real answer.  "You are only as smart as the best technology guy in your network" is what I say.  So when it comes to friends - find the guy that reads the user manual.

And for life? - 2 Tim 3: 16-17

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still Life

Several years ago, I read Charles Handy's book "Myself and Other Important Matters" and as preparation in the last Vistage meeting, I watched one of his video lectures.  I would define Handy as a Spiritual Capitalist - a great management guru with a heart.   I picked up his 2006 book "The New Philanthropists" and was intrigued by his teaming with his photographer wife as they profiled various Philanthropists' stories.

In addition to a black and white picture of the Philanthropist (I'm sure that was deliberate) there is a beaurtiful color photo on the adjoining page consisting of five objects and one flower.  Handy explains this as a "Still Life" - For which the person chooses five objects and one flower that would symbolize what was most important to them in their lives.  Arranged and photographed, this resulting "Still Life" would be pictorial representation of their life and values. At the end of the story there is an inventory of the objects with a brief description of the value or reason for importance.

Try this - it is not easy.  Like the Heaven Board - it is a project I may ponder and work on.  Once complete, I'll get K.C to photograph it.  Maybe that picture will be posted to my Heaven Board Entry #4.