Sunday, December 30, 2012

Deadlines

This evening the news in Washington about the "grand compromise" will be revealed.  Just in time to meet the deadline. 
The origin of deadline began as a real line in the dirt - restricting prisoners in the Civil War. "Cross the line and you're dead". 

I saw the movie "Lincoln" recently and the politics of this "fiscal cliff" look remarkably similar.  History seems to repeat itself manifested in different contexts in today's modern ideology chasms.  There will be minority of people that will realize this deadline may mean the difference of financial life or death. 

This deadline was manufactured by the politicians.  The new politics is to avoid permanent decisions and instead create laws that sunset into the future - putting the "monkey on a future generation's back" (e.g. Bush tax cuts that expire; sequestration of spending cuts; fiscal debt ceiling etc.)

So expect a decision tonight - to move the deadline, and move the monkey to Congress #113 (12 new Senators, and 67 new Representatives).



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Whispering White

I enjoy waking up to complete white on the ground.  No plow prints, foot prints just a smooth blanket of snow that is freshly falling down.  I decided to drive Jenna into work and the roads were drivable with prudent caution.  It was a wet snow of about two inches and will quickly melt down. 

Things quiet down with cancellation of activities, and people hibernating inside.  Somehow it feels calm and a feeling of peace is whispered in the air.  The melting fluff from the tree limbs provides an intermittent fall of additional white to the ground.

A day inside to relax (for those of us that can) and enjoy the comfort of being surrounded in white.





Friday, December 28, 2012

History Lesson

Some lessons in life come easy but most occur during mistakes.  Mistakes that come with consequences.  That is why making small mistakes with non life threatening consequences early in life yields dividends for the remaining time.  Just think back to any injury, sickness or emotional pain.  Usually that was a consequence of a mistake or poor judgement.  From childhood -touching a hot pan on the stove - to adult - lifting a 440lb drum of liquid from upper body, the physical consequences help etch into one's memory the life lesson.  Pain punctuates the lesson.

Every person you see is a vessel of lessons that they have conquered.  Their stories could help you avoid the pain if you are willing to believe their life lesson.  Yet too often each of us must learn our own lessons in life. We learn best when we experience it directly - even with the pain.

Yet our human body was designed to heal and forget pain (just try to remember the extreme pain of a past injury).  The consequence fades and often we forget (or ignore) the lesson. That is our human condition - it looks stupid but it happens.

It is why history will always repeat.   

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

White Christmas - Unofficially

Today the snow arrived - a little late for an "official" White Christmas.  Officially, Ms. Binns told me (and verified by the Enquirer reporter Cliff Peale), it must be an inch on the ground to be called a White Christmas.  And I suppose it must arrive between the official hours of Christmas Day.  There here have only been six "official" White Christmas in Cincinnati in the last 30 years and only 16 since 1916.  So consider the official "white" title - rare in Cincinnati.

It was a cozy day inside during the sleet and snow. I took a slight break from my chair to try out the John Deere plow that A.M. and I successfully attached several weekend's ago.  All was fine except when right side tire chain decided to uncouple.  No real problem, since only about an inch had accumulated so far - the John Deere worked fine with a single chained tire.

This year is full of unofficial activities.  Instead of the official viewing of the movie "White Christmas" on the eve, we delayed watching it until last night.  With only a 480p resolution DVD, I suppose it's not considered "official" anyway until I invest in the BluRay DVD 1080 resolution.

And to top it off - this evening we will finally get out to see a big screen movie - Les Miserables - again a delay in the official tradition of a holiday flick. 

Hmmm - maybe the timing of Christmas activities were a little off -     off ...icially that is.  :)

PS - Officially it was a foggy Christmas Eve.





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning

I always enjoy my time after midnight Christmas Eve - a quiet house, the midnight clear, and occasionally a light skift of snow on the ground with floating snowflakes in the air (not this year though).  My routine is to begin wrapping all presents after everyone has gone to bed.  This year, I varied the rountine and got an early start - beginning at 10:45 pm after the service at Armstrong Methodist Church. 

Jenna and Ellen saw me hiding the presents under the tree this year - "busted' they exclaimed - as they headed out the door at midnight to house sit/pet sit for the neighbors.  No longer can I be sure they will be in bed before midnight.  In fact this Christmas morning (or with teenagers it will be the afternoon) they won't even be available for me to wake them up (must be how empty nesters feel).

So after the quiet completely settled in at our house, I poured a glass of egg nog and rummaged up some cookies -  no longer do I have the Santa snacks already neatly arranged under the hung stockings.  The Cuckoo clock ticking in the background punctuates the passing of another Christmas and it's cadence methodically draws me back to memories of Christmas Eve pasts.  Each  a comfortably copy - yet different in details.

Merry Christmas to all - and to all a good night. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

All I Want for Christmas

Reading the Wall Street journal today, I marveled at the half page ad "Mastering Differential Equations - The Visual Method".  A limited time offer 70% off if ordered by January 3.  Regular price $254.95 now $69.95. 

Well - I wonder how big the market is for this DVD series taught by Professor Robert L. Devaney (Boston University)?

The pitch:

"For centuries, differential equations have been the key to unlocking nature's deepest secrets. But now, with the aid of easy-to-grasp computer graphics, a highly visual method exists that can start a committed learner on the road to finally mastering this beautiful application of the ideas of calculus."

Wow - hold the door! Don't wait another second to get your copy ordered.  Sure to be a best seller!



PS.

Here's your ordering link:  www.thegreatcourses.com/5ws  use priority code 65108



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Freedom from Fear


Fear is the opponent of Freedom.  The fear of terrorist attack, nuclear attack, domestic violence, future health care, financial ruin, unbridled media, environmental abuse, corporate shenanigans, immigration, alcohol and drugs, gambling, prostitution etc.   The list of moral and safety concerns is endless.  Each of us has the choice of living out of fear or living for freedom. 
Every regulation invented for the "common good" has roots in individual fears and reaction to perceived evil.  The result of free will is the existence both good and evil.   So where is the balance in the fight of good against evil?  It lies in the golden mean of individual freedom.   
And how do laws and obedience influence us?  Laws and regulation are established to create boundaries and definition of good and evil.  But it is the individuals free will to decide to either be obedient or not (good or evil).  Every law is a boundary established to restrict free will.  More boundaries - less individual freedom.
We have the choice - create more laws out of fear or create freedom from eliminating our fears.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve/Twelve/Twelve


WisnerFamily          December 2012

This, the twelfth year of Wisner Christmas letters, chronicles a life full of treasure (or treasurers - Emmaus, Cincinnati Bridge Assoc. and I.H. Boosters).  Neither  silver (the hair) nor gold (the investments) make up our treasury - it's each family member's  new talents,  educational achievements, and service in life's purpose. 
Read  on to discover the new deposits for the year:
Jenna (Laborer) -  She has discovered that 6am does exist - in her PCA role at University Hospital - starting literally at the bottom. But she can lift up her nose and be proud of her Nursing     Scholarship and a future career path to the top of service to others.  Twelve  hour work shifts were only a bump in the road this year as 21 became a sobering entry into adulthood.

Ellen (World Traveler) - Taking advantage of Mother/Daughter and Father/Daughter trips, Ellen entered the frequent flyer club with flights to New York and Toronto - I guess straight A's does count for something.  Cheers to her art and exotic fingernail designs.  The Voice in choir, and no longer a Mat to be stepped on, 13 has been a year of skill not luck.  After all, getting up on water skis is an accomplishment.

Susan (Life Master) - Or is it "Master in Life"?  Don't call her a schmuck in cooking  or bridge; or a twit in her technology skills.  Her tweets are never "On the Fence" and her rotten Apple now provides a Window of financial compatibility.  As Lay Director for Emmaus Walk #108, she continues to be the spiritual head of household and masterful pray- er.   Without a new hobby, maybe the Hobbit will suffice for next year.  

Garen (Gardener) - No, it isn't a spell check error, but there was a calculation error with the eight foot sunflowers  he planted ( stick with planting pumpkins).  Garen found no Mammoth of Gold in the keen land of Vegas or the weekly football family pool. Instead, he  found a segway to treasure in daily  I.H. Boosters  bank deposits.  He is now officially a smarter alec with his HTC Windows phone (maybe he will find the perfect sleep app - or CPAP).

Projects at home included a new gate, flowerboxes and energy independence (no more oil).  The Reds were close but with a disappointing outcome (e.g. baseball and election).   However there were no family blues around trips to Chautauqua, Keeneland, NYC, Toronto, Vegas, KS, TN and IN.   Everyone is healthy and one year older and wiser (or spellchecked  -  Wisner).

As those close to us approach and pass 60 years (you know who you are! ), we are reminded of the brief time together.  A dozen Christmas letters of memories are just moments behind, yet a dozen more will seem to pass by even faster in time.  It's not a race to the finish line - it's a marathon with friends and family to the eternal treasure line.
                 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year  

"Sure, Twelve is still our number .....and each day it's the number of times I'm thankful there's such a thing as family."
                                      Kate Baker in "Cheaper by the Dozen"                                           


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Half the Sky

Source: Half the Sky
Our choice of Christmas/Holiday Cards is easy each year, since beginning in 2000 we have always purchased our card supply from the non-profit that Susan and I so passionately support (Half the Sky). 

Named after the Chinese proverb "Women hold up half the sky", Jenny Bowen's spiritual light was ignited in the cause for children (primarily girls) in Chinese Welfare Institutions.  Her journey to China started three years before ours and has multiplied exponentially in outcomes and impact.

Sending a card from Half the Sky each year, reminds me of how much one person can do with the help of others. When the needs seem overwhelming ...  changing one person at a time can multiply the good forever.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas App

This weekend the snail mail Wisner Christmas Cards/Pictures/Letters were sent.  This is the twelfth year of composing a family letter - a project I have come to enjoy.  It is a way to reflect on the year, document certain milestones, and think about the importance of family, friends, relationships and time. 

Each year, as I begin to compose the new letter, it is fun to read the old letters - textual video stories. Interestingly no year stands out,  nor could I rank the years (which of course is what any statistician would do when given twelve items).

One side benefit of this self inflicted tradition (or as Susan would say obsession) of letters, cards and family picture is keeping my technology skills current.  The digitization of the content to send to 75 -100 people (who probably don't need yet another email during the holidays) has allowed me the chance to understand html issues, cell phone display, embedding musical files, avoiding spam filters, email stationary, outlook address issues, animated cards, facebook interface, etc.

What's next in the Christmas greeting technology innovation?   You tube, iphone app, holographic 3-D - prepare yourself  for the ultimate Christmas App!

PS   Dec. 22, 2009
       Dec. 24, 2009
       Feb. 24, 2010
       Dec. 23, 2011
       Dec. 25, 2011






Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lurking Values

My personal mission statement has evolved when I began thinking about it during a Covey exercise that I participated in when Accenture put their entire management team through the Stephen Covey Seven Habits training (1993).  The other day J.Y. sent me his personal strategic plan, which included not only a mission statement, but his Vision,Values, Goals, Objectives and Measures (and all on one concise page).  Boy, did I feel inadequate in my strategic consulting background by ignoring all the additional "required" strategic planning methodology documentation outputs. 

I concluded I needed to "step it up" in my Life Planning consulting capabilities (thanks to J.Y.)

Vision?
Every time I have worked with clients on Strategic Planning the question arises - what's the difference between Mission and Vision?  Which comes first and why do you need both? The best answer I can come up with is the Vision is more the future dream (possibly unattainable) while the mission is the day to day management of activities, priorities, and trade-offs you make as you strive for the dream. Which comes first is not important - however stay tuned as I ponder what my Vision is.

Values?
I like Daniel Taylor's description in his book "Creating a Spiritual Legacy" -  "Human beings are values-soaked creatures.  We cannot think, speak, or act for more than a few minutes at a time without revealing a value - a preference for one thing over another or a ranking of priorities ....  every choice we make announces a value.  I choose this and not that because .... And in every because there lurks a value."  Hmmmm - writing down my actual historical values (vs my hopeful future values) may reveal things I prefer to stay hidden away in a lurking fashion. 

Goals/Objectives/Measures?
Actually, I do a decent job documenting each of these annually (with help from A.S. at Vistage).  Vistage provides me an annual planning and accountability opportunity with annual "spotlight" presentations.   Also yearly in December (we will do this again on Thursday) A.S. challenges each of us to write down annual Goals/Objectives/Measures. The problem is these are too tactical (being annual) and not strategic enough (hence my decade planning presentation last month). 

Are you planned out yet?  Maybe Patience (or  is it Procrastination) is one of my lurking values.  :)


P.S.  M.L. my Vistage Buddy (if he didn't say this he should have) humorously described my obsession with life planning.  P-ersistently   L-ooking   A-t   N-avel  (P.L.A.N.).


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Non Material Life Results

Stick to the important things; "Don't Sweat the small stuff";  ABC classification of Inventory; The rocks in the jar story; and the list goes on.

"Basically, 20% of what you do brings about most of the results in your life..... and 80% of what you do is pretty much wasted time".  Kerry Shook "One Month to Live".

Countless times I have read self help books about focusing on the important things in life.  Don't let the details override the big picture outcomes desired.  Yet, we all get caught up in the 80% and let that consume our worry and attention. 

I can get caught up into this when I am balancing spreadsheets and doing accounting work.  Clearly an accountant/bookeeper is rewarded for his (or hers) attention to detail - balancing things to the penny. Yet, the CFO is rewarded for looking at the "materiality" of the numbers. 

I remember my first lesson in this while at Accenture/Arthur Andersen.  One of my first jobs was testing the Florida Software Systems Mortgage Banking System at First National Bank of Cincinnati. I discovered that on a loan payoff the computer system was doubling the escrow payments and  the Bank was remitting too much escrow to the customer. I approached the audit senior with the issue and he thanked me for the observation (saying the bank would quickly correct this problem) and told me it was not material to the overall audit. 

Mistakes happen - money can be lost, time can be wasted.  It's up to you to determine if it is material.  Most of it not material - move on - correct the mistake and focus on the future results in your life. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

b-Lame Leaders

Blaming someone else is not leadership.  When negotiations are difficult, leaders emerge with creativity to find a way to move forward.  Leaders understand that leading is neither dictating, demanding  or directing - instead it is discussing, describing, and developing. 

The fiscal cliff continues to play out in the media with blaming rhetoric.  Threatening statements are awash with each side criticising each other saying time is being wasted.  "My way or the Highway" is the adage that comes to mind.

To lead means that others will follow - respectfully, willingly, and productively. A promotion (or election) does not make you a leader.  A title to your position doesn't automatically mean you have the skill of  a "leader".  We define a leader only after there are overwhelming followers (not 50% followers). 

It is only after the fact we see who the true leaders are.

Remember that lame is the result of b-lame.   I hope our politicians figure this out.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who Built it?

During the height of the 2012 Presidential campaign, the Republicans jumped on the opportunity to take words that President Obama said and use them effectively to contrast political ideologies. 

Two sentences (taken from a speech about working together) inflamed the Conservatives -  "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."  You can read the whole context of the speech here: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/did-obama-say-if-youve-got-a-business-you-didnt-build-that/

President Obama goes on to infer that it is the Government that creates things (e.g. the internet, bridges, putting a man on the moon etc.). 

So while the exact words are taken out of context - the political ideological differences are correct.  Where is the emphasis - on the individual ("I" and "You") or the government ("We" and "They")?

Trouble is......... both  parties assume the wrong grammar .......

The reality is God Built It!





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

For Better or Worse

Yesterday I had my "annual" holiday reconnection lunch with H.B. who on Friday turns 85 years old.  H.B. and M.E.B. were our neighbors when Susan and I lived in our Condominium.

H.B. retired early at age 51 and so I naturally asked him what retirement was like for 34 years - and especially what M.E.B. thought of his retirement.  He said,  "For Better or Worse", but not for lunch". 

I think "second half" transitions are extremely difficult on relationships.  For the female this happens usually when the kids are gone (empty nest time).  For the male, it occurs on career retirement.  Like any major milestones in life, neither party really can predict their mental state when these big transitions occur. 

Working to a new equilibrium is critical to making the second half - more better than worse.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Merry TAX-mas

The "Fiscal Cliff" is 28 days away and the House Republicans are presumably painted in a corner by the President and the Democrats.  It is "reality news TV" playing out sound bite by sound bite.  A ridiculous public display of amateur negotiations and negotiators.   A stalemate based on a single issue -- TAX RATES on Incomes over $250K.

If you look carefully at the tax tables you will quickly see that this is not a fight about INCOME TAX RATES - it is really a fight about CAPITAL GAINS and DIVIDEND TAX RATES.

Look at the tables:

Individual Income Tax Rates
Tax Brackets (2012 Dollar Amounts)Marginal Rate
Unmarried FilersMarried Joint Filers
OverBut Not OverOverBut Not Over20122013
$0$8,700$0$17,40010%15%
8,70035,35017,40070,700*15%15%
35,35085,65070,700*142,70025%28%
85,650178,650142,700217,45028%31%
178,650388,350217,450388,35033%36%
388,350388,35035%39.6%

Long-Term Capital Gain Rates
Maximum Rates201220132013 (including Medicare contribution tax)
Long-Term Capital Gain15%20%23.8%
Qualified 5-Year Capital Gain15%18%21.8%

Dividend Income Rates
Maximum Rates201220132013 (including Medicare contribution tax)
Qualified Dividend Income15%39.6%43.4%
Ordinary Dividend Income35%39.6%43.4%


Notice that the INCOME TAX RATE changes are nominal. The Married Joint Filers from $17,400 - $70,700 INCOME TAX RATE DOESN'T  EVEN CHANGE!!!!!!  regardless of what is done. The other brackets are up only 3% - 5%.

But look at the CAPITAL GAINS and DIVIDEND TAX RATES -  up 8.8% - 28.4%!!!

So the Republicans and Democrats waste time talking about spending, debt ceilings, medicare, social security, growth, jobs when the "show stopping" negotiating issue is Unearned Income Tax Rate.

It's time to state the obvious!  What will Santa deliver on Tax-mas?

Addendum:   Just a clarification -  My observation about no change is on the rate in the $17K-$70K bracket - not the total taxes on income.  Rates are at the margin but everyone pays the  5% increase for the first  bracket  $0 to $17,400 - or $870.  So if you made (married filing joint) $70,700 and the Bush tax rates expire then your taxes would increase 1.2% or less than $2.50/day - just over the cost of a large coffee.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Grateful Place - Heaven Entry #6



Describe your "grateful center" ["God's Joyful Surprise" by Sue Monk Kidd].  Each of us has such a center in our lives - a time and place where we were free of all the grasping and grabbing, all the pushing and shoving, all the disapproving and dissenting.  An appropriate place to retreat to during the Holiday Stress.

"Find the place that heals you", was the phrase I heard in one of my training classes about work/life balance in Accenture (see March 28, 2010).    "Your peaceful place allows whispered prayers and thanksgiving to flow" ["Prayer" by Richard Foster]. 

I like Foster's suggestion to try to live on entire day in utter thanksgiving. Balance any (and every) complaint with ten gratitudes, every criticism with ten compliments.  I have my own practice of writing down five things I'm grateful for each day (since December 3, 2007 and now starting it's sixth year and a new Volume IV) See 87th blog entry "Practice an Attitude of Gratitude" on December 16, 2009.   I asked Mom if she would join me in this "trained habit". 

On December 3, 2010 I ended Volume II with the "Top 10" things I was grateful for after reviewing the first thee years of entries - you could say that was my "grateful center":

(1) God's messages to me (Spiritual Growth)
(2) All my entries about family - Susan, Jenna, Ellen, Parents, Slanta Family, Murray Family, D'Lane/Ann & Family, Vana/Dayton and Family
(3) Nature's signs of God's Presence (The Seasons)
(4) Health of All
(5) Social Venture Partners & Vistage
(6) Friends and Relationships
(7) Home; Office; and Feelings of Security
(8) Library;Books;Movies;Concerts ... Intellectual Stimulation
(9) Memories - Blogging;Journals

and the top choice .......   A Loving Spouse

Find your Grateful Place - each day, each year, for a lifetime of peace.

P.S. >   It hit me as I was 'tagging this entry" with virtually all of my tags!  This is my Heaven Entry #6!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Curiousity Killed the Cat

Last night I got an interesting tweet/email/text from a Vistage friend (S.B.) "just what are you doing on this movie".  A perfect one liner to capture curiousity.  Now normally I ignore these strange unexplained emails but this on had a url listing as apps.facebook.com that could possibly be a video where my name was "tagged".

While I have nothing to hide -  I was still curious (it could be that latent desire to be a famous movie star in me).  So I decided to take the bait and click on the url.  Naturally it took me to a screen that asked for my twitter name and password.  I couldn't resist (afterall I don't use twitter that much and have no real followers - at least that I could remember). 

The next level displayed a screen (presumably a You Tube screen) with a box asking me to upgrade to improve performance of the movie but upgrading my Flash player.  At that point I knew I had been hacked! Luckily I didn't attempt the upgrade which would have loaded a virus on my machine.

And sure enough, I started getting emails from any twitter followers saying they had received a strange email/text with the same question (or even a variation  - "what could you be doing on this video".

So I quickly changed my twitter password and tweeted to any of my followers to ignore any strange tweets.

It is amazing how quickly a viral message like this proliferates.  Within hours I have now received another tweet from one of my followers that is identical (so curiousity both killed the cat and all the other cat's friends). Then one from Jenna - another cat slain.

Like cats though - twitter has nine lives (that is if you change your password). 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Receiving Joy

Tonight T.C. and M.C. (two wonderful people, my SVP Cincinnati Partners, and community leaders) hosted a wonderful holiday open house for the Social Venture Partners (SVP) Cincinnati, their friends and other community "givers".  Ruth Jones (SVP International) was at the party helping us celebrate over five years of giving back to the Cincinnati community.

It was a special evening to me personally as I have found many friendships that I would have never received without being engaged as a Partner with other like minded (and "giving minded") people.  You could call it an evening for receiving joy - relationship joy.

I helped start SVP Cincinnati for very different reasons than the benefits I have accrued since inception.  It just proves that giving can return in ways you can never predict. 

There could have been no better Birthday celebration (even though 80 people did sing it to me -  thanks to L.H.) than to spend it with my SVP Partners and their "Social Network"!

Happy Birthday #5 to SVP Cincinnati!

What we boys do!

"This is what we do!"  William Adama vociferously yells as he wins his first Battlestar Galatica battle in the 10 part web series of "Blood and Chrome". 

And the response to Adama by Coker Fasjovik (the co-pilot and navigator) was "Not bad Oscar, Stupid but not Bad".

What a great nostalgia time for me, since I was hooked on the remake of the 1979 series that first aired on SciFi (now SyFy) on Dec. 8, 2003.  I watched the first eight episodes of Blood and Chrome on the web during the Thanksgiving holiday and I look forward to SyFy delivering the complete 1080i version of it on Feb. 19, 2013 (maybe with enough interest SyFy will take a risk on another series).  Boys will still be boys.

The progression of young boy's interest in television went from war series (Combat, The Gallant Men, The Rat Patrol) to the Spy series (I Spy, T.H.E. Cat, Man From U,N.C.L.E, Mission Impossible; The Avengers) to the Space series (I Dream of Jeanie, Lost in Space, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galatica).  Actually I stopped with Star Trek and never really liked the 80's version of Battlestar Galatica.  Like I said boys will be boys

I'm sure this media framed the attitudes and opinions of the baby boomer males interested in war, guns, and "final frontiers". 

This is what we [boys] do!   And the girls respond - Stupid, but not bad.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Milquetoast Christmas



I'm sure there was a time in my life that I had some milktoast.  My memory is faint but I'm sure Grandma enjoyed her milktoast - a comfort food for a nervous tummy.   I remember dunking grahmcrakers into milk as a snack but never a daily diet of milktoast.

So how did milktoast become a term for timid, over tolerant, shrinking, and apologetic person.  That was a discovery today as I was reading "Prayer - Finding the Heart's True Home" by Richard Foster.  He mentioned  that humility had nothing to do with a "Casper Milquetoast  kind of personality". 

Having just used the expression in a previous blog, I began to wonder it's etymology.  Yet again I was "beamed" back to the 1920's and H.T. Webster who probably grew up on milktoast and decided to create a character with a personality behind it. 

We are entering the season of saying "Merry Christmas".  Business has worried about the issue of religious tolerance and political correctness around this time of year.  So the fear of saying "Merry Christmas" has morphed into a bland "Happy Holidays". 

I'm sure today's Caspar Milquetoast's Christmas Card would say:  "It may be too early in the calendar to say this - but Season's uh - er  Greetings - if you are willing to let me broach the Holiday subject - since you may not believe it is a valid holiday."



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Failing Vocabulary

From Washington Irving's "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent."  Volume 1 (The Knickerbocker Press 1895), I read the short story "Rip Van Winkle".   We all know the story - but the real question is have you read it?  If so - exactly how many words did you skip over?

WOW - my vocabulary is not of 1820 literary caliber!   I decided to pick out 75 words in the 28 pages ( I estimate about 3,500 words total).  I knew (and some not very precisely) only 48 of the 75 words  below - a mere 64% -   a 'D' in English Vocabulary!

You can try it yourself:

obsequious, conciliating, pliant, termagant, amiable, impunity, insuperable, aversion, assiduity, perseverance, pestilent, patrimonial, galligaskins, incessantly, eloquence, provoked, adherent, precipitation, rubicund, junto, vehemently, approbation, august, virago, clamor, reciprocated, precipice, shagged, skulked, glen, jerkin, alacrity, torrent, peals, azure, visages, countenance, desisted, smote, flagons, quaffed, roisters, gambol, famished, perplexities, invariably, haunts, bittern, desolateness,connubial, metamorphosed, phlegm, tranquillity, bilious, haranguing, akimbo, austerity, squall, confounded, bewilderment, throng, province, corroborated, evinced, cronies, impunity, reverenced, torpor, despotism, tyranny, venerable, propitiated, vexations, beetling, chivalrous.

The key here is not to guess - or depend on context.  Just the precise definition, Ma'am.

 If you need some context here's an excerpt from Rip Van Winkle:

"I have observed that he was a simple, good-natured man; he was moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient, hen-pecked husband.  Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home.  Their tempers, doubtless are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation; and a curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering.  A termagant wife may therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing; and if so Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.

And even if your vocabulary fails you -  here is the  real message for all you husbands out there --- :) ----- Remember "Happy Wife, Happy Life". 


PS -  Washington Irving also wrote "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"  (in Volume 2) a favorite story and memory of D'Lane and I.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Reply All

I wonder if there is a course in high school or college about email?  I remember this subject in high school (it may have been a quarter focus in English).  Those of us, past the days of formal education, have just discovered our own equilibrium on how to compose and reply to emails.

My current pet peeve is those people who constantly hit "reply all". 

Think about the "reply all" feature - only email technology has recently allowed this capability.  Group discussions were relegated to committee meetings and even then only a few participants (the vocal ones) participated. There is always one person in the committee meeting that "needs to be heard" - call him (or her) the actor of the group.

I rarely use the reply all button when responding to an email.  It clutters my email when I receive them and provides little added value in information. 

So don't be the guy in the committee that wants to hear himself speak- skip the reply all button.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vampire Prejudice

I had successfully avoided the Vampire Fantasy Romance movies until last night. I was drafted to sit in the movie theater with Ellen and her friend and forced to watch (and I hope the last of these movies) Breaking Dawn - Part 2.  Unfortunately the movie (and I presume the book) ended with a chance of another sequel - ugh!!!

While I can't be a perfect critic (since I didn't read any of the best selling books or see the first four movies), it seems to me that this fantasy series has permanently ruined the whole image of Vampires. Who wants to see a "Friends" type format with Vampires celebrating Christmas in a cozy cottage around a family gift exchange!

Even the remake of Dark Shadows (which I didn't see) is described as a fantasy comedy.  How could Johnny Depp even be considered a serious candidate for a Vampire anyway.  Where has the rightful frightful place of the Vampire King?

I remember as a kid watching Vampire and Frankenstein movies at midnight and being scared to death.  The dynamic dual for frightful supremacy between Boris Karloff and Bella Lagusi helped keep plenty of nightmares fresh and kids wanting to sleep with their parents for safety.

I hope this Vampire "milk toast thing" is not some subliminal Hollywood theme promoting tolerance. 

One thing I'm certain of in my fantasy land - I will always be prejudiced against Vampires.






Saturday, November 24, 2012

Copy Cat

The digitization of content has created exponential growth in the issue of intellectual capital ownership.  Who had the idea first? Who said it first? Whom owns the idea?

Actually an idea is worthless until it is shared with others.  The idea can manifest itself into a physical object (e.g. inventions, sheet music; books, etc.) or passed on in the moment (e.g. verbal, performance, etc.).  Once shared in the public domain, the idea is subject to being duplicated, manipulated, and enhanced.  The U.S. Constitution Article One addresses exclusive right to respective writings and discoveries and the 1790 U.S. Patent Act help formalize what has become the World's standard in addressing Intellectual Property Rights.   The intent was to economically protect the "owners" of an idea from copy cats. 

USPTO
 

"Everything that can be invented, has been invented"  Charles H. Duell - U.S. Commissioner of Patents 1899

At LCP Tech Holdings LLC, we received our patent 7,125,449 on 10/24/2006 (originally filed 08/13/2001).  I joined LCP Tech back in 2002 because I thought it was interesting to join with some inventors that have a patent pending on a "new composition of matter".  Yet this idea (and the patent) is "a solution in need of a problem" - tabled until a need overrides the cost of producing versus alternate competitive technologies. In fact since our patent was issued two other patents (one by our development partner Delta Faucet/Masco) have referenced our patent.  Are they copy cats? 

My opinion of patent law (based on my experience at LCP Tech) is conflicted.  While I see the need to reward the inventor, the reality is that it becomes a false sense of security and "full employment act" for attorneys.  I also believe it slows the growth of innovation. 

There is a great advantage to copy cats - it accelerates the idea, stimulates rapid improvements, and frankly demonstrates ultimate freedom in exchange of ideas.  Once you share your idea (and that is your personal freedom of choice) - everyone owns it and is free to use it.





Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas in the Eyes

The tradition at the Wisner's is Thanksgiving Day holiday decorating (at least for Jenna - the head decorator; me - the physical labor; and Ellen - dutifully following sister orders while helping Susan cook). 

So today (the day after Thanksgiving) the house is transformed - inside and out with the sights of Christmas. 

The lights are the distinguishing feature that makes the viewing so beautiful.  Hundreds of small lights surrounding garland, trees, and outdoor bushes softly enter the quiet dark crevasses of the night. 

Here is where being nearsighted has a great advantage when I remove my glasses.  You can experience this too by just filming the sights  with an out of focus camera. 

The lights expand into small circles of various strengths in luminosity. They meld together into a mosaic of magic  creating a small corridor of peace. Nothing around them is sharp - the extra softness of the blurred background gives the light its preference in priority.  Not one but many together creating the beauty. 

Maybe the lights are the eyes of Christmas - looking at us with hope.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Story

The smell of cooking, the warm sun penetrating our family room,  and the crisp morning amble to get the paper start this Thanksgiving day.  Yes - I'm thankful and today allows each of us the opportunity to remember what blessings we have. 

Last night Jenna, Ellen and I went to "Life of Pi" a movie bound to quickly exit the theater because it is philisophical with no explicit violence, sex, or foul language.  Still the special effects were outstanding, and the story was compellingly interesting for the two plus hours of viewing. 

I believe a movie is good when you continually recall it - visually, intellectually, and replay it in your mind.  Life of Pi might even motivate me to read the book. 

The ending is intriguing since the movie deals with Pi's search for God (also fear, faith and religion). When he poses the question to the interogators about his story and replies "and so it goes with God" - the meaning of our lives emerges from Pi's search for God.

Our story can be one we can regret; or  that we thankfully remember.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Unintended Consequences

It is the law of unintended consequences with governmental legislation or regulation (like the Alternate Minimum Tax) that will always spin out of social engineering control.  The bigger the legislation (like 2000 pages of Obamacare) the more probable and voluminous the unintended consequences will arrive.

We humans are crafty and innovative individuals.  Where there is a system of rules, we will find (and some just for the fun of it) ways to break the rules.  Even the most ethical and prudent among us will fall into this temptation. 

For example - the law of speed limits.  In order to save energy there was a federal mandate (NMSL) in 1974 to establish a national speed limit at 55 mph.  Funny, in 1978 Cincinnati Microwave introduced the Escort Radar detector with the mission of "Drive Smarter". That company's success was an interesting example of an unintended consequence. 

I have great memories of playing with radar detectors ( small time Cop and Robbers stuff) and buying various versions of Escorts during the 1980's.  I even got Dad interested in the fun. Where are those gadgets now?  Sitting in my electronics junk pile.  Why?  because the Congress repealed the NMSL in 1995.  And now Texas has introduced the highest speed limt yet - 85mph  http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2011/09/highest-speed-limit-in-nation-takes-effect/1.

So - we are about to begin another game of Unintended consequences - a game of Simplifying Taxes. 

The Laffler Center for Supply Side Economics estimates that this game is a $431.5 Billion (yes with a big B!) industry already. What forecasts can we predict for this industry in the future? 

I remember asking G.E. (Arthur Andersen Tax Partner) if he was worried about all the Congressional pressure to simplify (and reform) the Tax Code back in the 1980's.  G.E. smiled and said - "Anytime the Government talks about simplifying the Tax Code, it is a automatic signal of exponential growth in the Tax Accounting Industry".

Maybe there is a market for a "Tax Escort"  :)  -  a future Intended Consequence!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AMT and MIIT


In 1969 when Secretary of the Treasury Joseph Barr testified before Congress that 155 individuals had incomes above $200,000 but owed no income tax. The resulting uproar led Congress to enact the so-called "add-on" minimum tax, a precursor to today's Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

From Politco 8/5/11  
And, the [IRS] data show, the 235,413 taxpayers who reported earning seven digits or more in 2009 took in a total of $726.9 billion — yet 1,470 paid not a penny of income taxes. In 2007, 959 Americans earning $1 million or more paid no income taxes. Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60717.html#ixzz2CnObjdZs

Are you as outraged as they were in 1969!

It is probable that the names of the 155 households in 1969 are still the same as those 1,470 in 2009 - 40 years later.  Yet AMT has found its mark on over four million new household names ( In 2012, 45% of all tax filers with cash income between $75K and $100K will be affected by AMT  see article "Who Pays AMT") and will increase to 28 million if the Bush tax cuts expire.

My guess is the Republicans and the Democrats will compromise soon and enact some 2013 "add-on" minimum tax on millionaires - call it the MIIT (Millionaire Incremental Income Tax). And 40 years from now, you (or your children) can also pay this tax.

Maybe the Government should call it by its real name - More Invisible Inflationary Tax!

I'm so glad the popular vote is to tax the rich and not me! Wake up Rip Van Winkle!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

P.S.  The Math ------Let's say today a young couple in their 20's makes $250K together (just below the 2008 definition of wealthy).  With  a modest inflation rate of 3% per year, when they turn 67 that same $250K will be  $1 million to keep up. We know they will still be working at 67 (to save Social Security); consequently they will have entered the "Government definition of  wealthy people" who can afford to "pay alittle more". 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Acceptable NO!

A.M. provided a great quote this morning when he made the observation that "No is an acceptable answer".  In fact No is probably said more times than Yes or Maybe (I can't find the statistics but my intuition tells me No wins). 

Ellen, as a child, would answer "No, ... Yes .... Maybe" to most questions/decisions that were difficult.  As if buying time she had everything covered by this answer.  Notice that No was the first response followed by a pause as she thought about the costs/benefits further.

Actually many people have great difficulty saying No. They correlate No with the feeling of guilt.  Sometimes in an attempt not to "hurt" someone, they will couch their statements or defer a decision -  like a pocket veto.  This is why in scheduling people or planning attendance, if they haven't responded either yes or no - you can assume no.

Even when people are assertive (and self confident) enough to say 'No', they mess it up with trying to explain why 'No' is the answer.  Explaining just creates more questions and or lack of understanding by the party receiving the 'No' news.

SVP Cincinnati has made their Non-Profit selection (called our Investee) this year.  All three candidates that presented Wednesday night were great finalists - but only one could be chosen.  In a discussion afterwards, the Investment committee wrestled with how to tell the two runners up that they were not chosen.  Many on our committee wanted to give them specific feedback.  I was dead set against giving specific feedback. 

A simple "No, you were not selected' - is both acceptable and ENOUGH information.



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learn/Earn/Live/Give

My profile describes a concept I read in Michael LeBoeufs book "The Millionaire in You" that we all spend our time in four basic buckets - Learning, Earning, Living and Giving.  LeBoeuf's Law is "Invest your time actively and your money passively." We should manage this time like a portfolio of investments.   This "time allocation" caused me to create a picture of where I have spent time over my 50+ years.

I presented this in a powerpoint presentation to my Vistage group.  I have created a specific Powerpoint Audio Visual slide show titled - Learning Earning Living and Giving:

http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/garenwisner-1595870-learningearninglivinggiving/


   Here is a view of how my time was allocated in the first  five decades.  The quadrants are:   Learning Top Left        Earning Top Right; Living Bottom Left; Giving  Bottom Right.                                                                                
Activities are placed in the primary quadrant of purpose.

The size of the circle indicates the amount of time spent on the activity.

Maybe this will be what my 60's look like :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Smarter Alec

Thursday my LG EnvyVX990 (Jenna's hand me down phone) died.  The final twist of the wire would not get the phone to recharge.  I should have been doing my analysis/paralysis when the trouble first appeared about a year ago.  Instead, I assumed my careful jiggling of the wire could continue indefinitely to charge the declining Lithium  Ion battery. 

My time had run out.  So I just went to the Verizon store and without a great deal of thought purchased the HTC 6990LVW Windows 8 4G phone.  Today was spent "moving" into the phone - contacts, calendar, apps, etc. 

Now I can be like everyone else - staring continuously at my phone.  Or as the CNBC Anchor Bernard Lo (who apparently doesn't own a smart phone) said - "Oh all those iphone smart phone users who at lunch are constantly looking up the answer to a disputed question to be smart -  I don't call them smart - I call them Smart Alec's."

And why did I pick a Windows phone - the lowest market share phone device? 

To be a Smarter Alec :)

PS.  Yes Ellen - your Dad no longer has a "loser phone".

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vistage Viewing

I've been busy developing my presentation for Vistage this coming Thursday.  Each member of the group is rotated into the "Spotlight" and my turn is Thursday.  This is my seventh time in the "hot seat" describing my strategies for business and life to a group of 10 unbiased observers.

My participation in Vistage now in its eighth year, has been very beneficial since leaving corporate life.  Having objective Partners that created some self accountability at Accenture was a critical success factor in my career and life.  Vistage membership helped to replace that career void and continued to put some third party accountability into my life.

Lately my presentations have been focused on my personal life.  The last four (including this one) are:

#4. August 14, 2008 - "Return on Life" -  I analyzed my time allocation and asked for input on how to prioritize my efforts.
#5. February 11, 2010 - "Be Happy" -  I asked the group for reactions to my personality (using the Johari Box) and presented research on happiness.  In this presentation I began the process of revising my Life Mission Statement.
#6. April 21, 2011 - I presented  some research I did on luck and risk, reflecting on what things in my life had been luck and/or risky.
#7. November 15, 2012 - The theme this year is "Live Long and Prosper" and I will present some ideas I have about the next 32 years and some of my life planning  themes.

I know I will catch grief from the group when I present that I have been blogging for the past three years.  In fact, I will blame Vistage member B.E. for the idea of starting this back in 2009.  Now 703 entries and 159,246 words later, I will justify my blogging with the following quote:

"I write to discover what I think"  Daniel Boorstin  (former Librarian of Congress)

and then I will add my own quote:

"I prepare and present Vistage Spotlights to discover what I should do"   Garen Wisner

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Non Event

After a complete day at the polls (handing our Republican suggested ballots) and anxiously watching on TV, the verdict was in at 11pm - with the results from Ohio - President Obama would be returning for four more years, the Senate majority would remain with the Democrats and the House of Representatives with the Republicans.  Affirming again that the American majority wants a split government that will require compromise.

The stock market voted today by dropping 2.4% in an attempt to warn both parties that they had better "kiss and make up"  ---  or else! 

So with all the hype, negativism, fear, uncertainty and doubt raise during the last 18 months, today is just about the same as any other day (other than the slight drama in the stock market).  I got up, went to the office, had lunch with an SVP Cincinnati Bud (D.W.), skyped with my parents, had dinner and will do the normal evening routine   -  a typical Wednesday.

The talk radio, lunch conversation and general "post game" analysis talked about the same speculation of the future that has been discussed for 18 months.  The end result of over $2 Billion dollars of campaigning and countless hours of energy is really a non-event - "the status quo".

If we had only known back then, the result we know now we could have avoided a great deal of effort, angst and wasted money.


PS - Immediately after this post I ran upon this article   "Prescription: A Healthy Dose of No News for Election Blues".
“People need to be more accepting and less emotional about the results and realize that, in the short-term the election will not affect them,” Shah, chief of Psychiatry at Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital. “If you wake up and go to work or take your child to school the next day, you will still need to do those things as part of your life after the election.”










Sunday, November 4, 2012

Stewardship Spending

The interesting phenonomem when groups of people come together is the inability to collectively decide for fiscal prudence.  I see this in committee after committee - non-profit, suedo governmental, and even business.  Too often an attempt to compromise between two approaches creates a "caving" in efficient spending.  We are all in this together and the collective money with the treasury becomes easier to spend than if it was coming directly out of your wallet.

Many committees want the big bad Financial officer (usually the Treasurer) to act like the parent and prevent the spending from occuring.  The treasury becomes the Treasurer's wallet.  That's why we like fugal and stalworth CFOs.

I've encountered "loose" spending within the efficient "for profit" world.  Employees mismanage corporate expense funds since the feeling of spending is the "company's money" and not their own.  They attempt to "push the limit" on what gets approved or rejected on employee expense reports.  I've even heard the statement - we can spend it because it is in the budget. 

Owners and Partners in closely held businesses see money quite differently than employees and contractors.  The flow  of cash in and out of the corporate account is the same as their personal checking account.  It is taken very serioiusly.

It is time for our Government officials to begin to treat money as a proper steward.  Maybe if we should paid them  a salary at the end of the year only out of any remaining  money in the budget.   That would make them treat the money in the budget as if it were their own.

Now that is stewardship spending!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nation of Winners or.... Losers

In four more days, about 50% of the interested electorate will feel like winners and 50% will feel like losers.  We vote, we wait and watch, we celebrate or mourn.  Then we wake up and decide how to carry on.  It is the following days that determines whether we are a nation of winners .......   or losers.

The strength of our Democratic system embedded in this Republic is the ability to put the past behind us - "bury the hatchet" (which is an appropriate colloquialism given the negative campaigning).  We all grow up learning how to lose - our little league baseball team, our favorite local sports team, electronic and board games, market share, and even business ideas and entities.  Our capitalistic and competitive system defines and creates a natural selection and continuous improvement process. 

So it is the system that wins and that system includes all the players.  We are all in this together, so the ideas of one don't overcome the ideas of many.  Our Republic protects the ideas of the few.  They are not losers - because of them we are all winners. 

Remember your coach's wisdom and sportsmanship during that crushing emotional feeling after the championship game.  Let's apply those words to this election.

"It's not about winning or losing ...... "

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wear Out or Weary

Last night (about midnight), I called DirecTV about a billing error. After several menus of voice automation choices, I finally announced "Representative" to be connected to a real person.  First level support was a 15 minute process and second level was an additional 15 minutes with no final resolution.  They committed to a resolution within 72 hours - don't hold your breath.

Companies count on the fact that we have limited time and energy to pursue resolution (especially small dollar transactions).  The entire customer service process helps to re-inforce this fact with hold times, voice response suggestions, redirect to the internet, etc.   Now it is a common procedure for me to write down the start time, individual talked to and phone number in case of disconnect.

A few of us are relentless - unwilling to let the cost/benefit of time/economics to wear us out. 

Weary yes - Wear out no!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Living Risk

I said "If you don't take a risk in life, are you really living?" in a recent discussion with a friend. 

In fact, every day when you walk out the front door you are taking a risk - a very calculated one and with low probabilities of dire consequences - but still risk.  The real issue is that we all differ in the type of risks we take, the amount of risk we take, and when we take risk. 

Risk is the currency of return.  No risk and no reward. Which is why I believe life becomes boring without some risk.  However more risk (with possible more or less return) is not always better.  But the fear of risk can freeze an individual from deciding or implementing an action. 

This came up in discussion today about the stock market.  Loss aversion (preference to avoiding loss vs acquiring gains) sets in at times and limits our desire to take risk. With the market (S&P500) continuing to advance toward the October 2007 high (1,562), emotions about risk begin to take hold.

The talking heads on CNBC refer to this as "risk on" and "risk off" - making sudden and complete moves in either direction of taking large amounts of risk or alternatively reducing risk to zero. However the prudent person doesn't use this approach to life (on or off).

Your "Return on Life" is dependant on how you live with risk.




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Life Master

Friday October 26, 2012 was an important day for Susan. Earning her necessary remaining 0.59 Silver points, she officially became a Life Master (Bridge that is). She already had the necessary 300 pts (306.04 total points to be exact) but didn't have the necessary 50 Silver points.

I was at the same sectional tournament (but not as her partner) so she and I got to celebrate together with dinner at the Grand Finale.

I am humbled since my measley 51.44 pts (with 5.82 Silver) has a long way to go to reach Life Master.  I am just a "Padawon hoping to become a Jedi Knight" (from Starwars) - or in Bridge terms Sectional Master hoping to become a Regional Master (100 pts; 5 red/gold; 15 silver).

As Susan told me a Grand Life Master (over 35,000 pts) quipped to her at the last National Tournament she was at -  "All those points and five dollars will buy a beer".

Congratulations Susan!  A MASTER!  --------  see Nov. 13 2009 Blog  :)

P.S.  Grand Life Master is over 60,000 pts.  There are only four living people in the ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) that have achieved this level - the highest being Jeff Meckstroth,  with 72,353.43 (as of Oct. 1, 2012).





Sunday, October 28, 2012

P Squared


 K.C.(10/18/12)


This weekend was somewhat confusing - P.R. and P.S.  (P squared) were with the family on the excursion to Keenland (the last day of the season).  Several mentions of their identical first names resulted in dual responses.  Yet throughout the confusion it was a wonderful time.  Even with the cold blustery weather, the rain held off and the races were enjoyable.  Ellen picked the first three races perfectly, so we expanded our equestrian expertise into attemping the Superfecta.

The Superfecta is picking the first four horses.  This is of course confused by the variations of mathematics.  The Superfecta "wheel" is picking the first horse with all the combinations of the next three.  The Superfecta "box" is actually making 24 different bets to assure every combination of the four winners.  Or if you are really an expert - just the plain Superfecta - picking the EXACT order of the first four horses.

So it was a "fun" in the ninth race (the 55th running of "The Fayette") when P.R. bet a Superfecta but mistakenly bet the Superfecta exact (the exact order of the first four horses) when he thought he was betting a Superfecta box.  So at the final crossing when #4, #3, #5, and #6 results became official, we all speculated how P.R. would have felt winning Superfecta Box paying  about $259 for a $0.10 bet ($2.40 overall).  Alas - he had picked the order as #3, #4, #5, #6.  What we didn't tell P.R. is that the Superfecta exact paid $4,539.60 for a $2 bet.

So the day ended in great coincidences of mathematics.  P squared and Combinatorial Statistics.

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Butt Heads

As I sat at the stoplight, the driver in front of me flicked his cigarette butt out the top of his sun roof.  I wonder what percentage of smokers just litter their butts off?  Disgusting!

In fact cigarette butts are the most littered item in the USA and the world (several trillion butts a year) as estimated by the non-profit www.cigarettelitter.org

One of the early non profits that submitted a letter of interest to SVP Cincinnati was Keep Cincinnati Beautiful (afflilated with Keep America Beautiful).   G.B. and I performed the site visit to this non-profit during the 2008 investment cycle.  Their mission attempts to change behaviors - one of the toughest challenges for anyone or any organization. 

The first most important step is to educate people on what is litter and the consequences (since the $500 fine is rarely imposed).  The next step is to instill the habit of cleaning up after one's self.  For example:  At a baseball game, theater, etc.  do you leave your "litter" at the seat assuming your ticket price includes the cost of custodian help to clean up?  Or do you feel the individual responsibility for throwing your litter away?

I think I will modify Sir Francis Bacon and John Wesley's treatise on cleanliness and godliness.

"Litter-less is next to Godliness".

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Parent Class

Wayne Walder was the Physical Director at several YMCA branches in Cincinnati, so he had lots of experience watching unsupervised kids.  He had a great quote -  "We need a law that establishes before you become a parent, you have to go to a parental training school".  This popped into my memory as I listened to the book "Willpower, Rediscovering the greatest human strength" by Baumeister and Tierney.  There were a few chapters on parenting that suggests it is lack of  parental willpower to discipline which is the cause of the behaviorial chaos in "control-less" children. 

I remember the parental course Susan and I were required to take during our adoption proceedings.  Of course we thought we "knew it all" since we had eight years of the "hard knocks experience" with Jenna already.  Regardless, we had to sit through a video training  on child discipline called "Magic 1-2-3".  It was amazing and I immediately tried the technique on Jenna (then 8 yrs old) and it worked perfectly.

The technique is amazing.  When you want to discipline a behavior you just say - "That's One".  Normally the child might respond "What do you mean?".  No answer is needed.  If the child continues the behavior or action you say "That's Two".  At this point the child gets it usually.  But in the early circumstances of determining your "will power" a child might attempt it a third time.  At that point you say "That's three" and then punish with whatever appropriate consequence.  After only a few of these events you will rarely (and in my case never) get to three again.

It worked perfectly with Jenna and Ellen.  No explaining, no justification, just Magic 1-2-3!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Countryside

I just finished 23 hours of driving (1600 miles) across the Midwest countryside - to and from Wichita Kansas.  I took the southern route (through Louisville) for the trip out and the northern route (through Indianapolis) on the way back.  Amazingly the weather was hot (Kansas had the hottest day on record Tuesday) at almost 90 degrees but with the "2-80" airconditioning (two windows down at 80 miles per hour), I got to experience the smells of fall - the Combines clearing the fields and the smell of burning leaves. 

This is the most visually appealing time of the year to drive the relatively flat terrain of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.  Luckily San Franscico won the National League Championship (so tonights game is in San Fransicso) so the traffic through St. Louis was minimal. 

It's good to visit Mom, Dad, Vana and Dayton but also great to be back home.  This weekend will be a fun excursion to Keenland with the family.  I hope my luck in horse picking will be better than this year's stock picks.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Transitions

A damp chilly fall October day - a prescription for "winterizing" the home.  That means storing the spring/summer furniture, collecting and storing the thousand feet of hose, cleaning the gutters of leaves, lighting the fireplace pilots and testing them and verifying the setback on the thermostat. 

The mosaic of orange, yellow, red, and brown background make the oustide work enjoyable.  Inside the early test of the fireplace warmth makes the house feel cozy and invites a hot cup of coffee to relax with after the chores are done.  Fall is my favorite time of year.

Even though nature is hunkering down for the winter, the transition is beautiful.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Bifurcate Nuance

Seems to me words come into vogue.   I getting sick of hearing people say nuance and bifurcate. 

Whenever someone say's "nuance" I think of the company I invested in called Nuance Communications.  On my wall is a framed picture of a worthless stock certificate from Lernout Hauspie Speech Products (LHSP) which also reminds me of Nuance (Nuance acquired most of the intellectual capital of this LHSP; which had been acquired from the bankrupt Kurxweil - KURZ).  My investment in voice recognition software started after a presentation by Kurzweil at an Accenture Technology Conference at St. Charles Illinois (3/8/1994).  So there were many bifurcations KURZ  - LHSP - SSFT - NUAN.
I was convinced that voice recognition would eliminate the keyboard within 10 years - how wrong that assumption was!  If you have experimented with Siri on your iphone, you can attest that voice recognition technology will take a very very long time to become mainstream.  I sold my Nuance position May 18, 2012 because of the Siri glitches.


For me, if you bifurcate Nuance, you get a bad investment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dignity in Politics

I was amazed at the number of my friends who did not watch the Presidential debate #2.  In fact, I did not watch it live since I was playing duplicate bridge that evening.  But I did tune into (and toggle between) Fox News and MSNBC and their spin doctors. 

I have become increasingly troubled with the tone and reporting on both of these channels.  E.W. put it the best - "We've lost our dignity in politics".  Seems to me, political debates have become another "reality TV" or another football rivalry but without referees.

Both networks and their reporters have no problem calling the opponent a "Liar".  Even writing this now reminds me of children whining "Liar, Liar, pants on fire".  I think calling someone a Liar is disrespectful and has no place in the analysis of a debate.  It is time to change the format of debates.  Newt Gingrich probably had it correct when he suggested that debates should be in a Lincoln/Douglas format (although in researching this there was some partisan editing done after the fact in the news print). 

Elections have always had a component of a popularity contest - looks, charisma, eloquence, humor, and style (and even more so in our media intensive age).  The best way to "dethrone" the most popular kid, is to discredit, disrespect, and demean their dignity.  Consequently negative advertising, cutting humor, and belittling quips work.  So our political stewards become polluted by the advisers who become their "hence men".  They (and I mean both parties) use the partisan networks to mouth their most demeaning remarks. They hide behind the PAC's and Super PAC's trash while innocently remarking that they had nothing to do with those advertisements.

And the dignity decline spirals down with increasing momentum to the November day of reckoning.  When both parties can rise up and declare the process was necessary to "get elected". After spending months in the mud, we should all wipe our faces clean and "kiss to make up" for a brief intermission until we can start the process again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hope for Change

Tonight is the second Presidential Debate.  R.M asked me who I was going to vote for last week. I'm fairly cynical about the Presidential vote - they both talk to the middle and you must guess how their "real" ideology will affect how the nation is governed.  My vote will be about which individual has vision and inspiration - which to me is leadership.

I think Obama won the last election with his "Hope and Change" theme.  This year's "Forward" is a weak follow on theme.  My theme is best described in the letter I sent to the Cincinnati Enquirer today:


You Can’t Buy Hope - You Can Vote for Change
You can't buy hope.  In fact, over-spending money will only create a vicious circle of addiction to superficial values with dire long-term consequences. 

Hope is best promoted by sacrifice - deferring today's want for the benefit of a future need.  My parents were the best example of this for me.  Raised during the depression, Mom and Dad realized that hope came in the package of hard work, responsibility, and caring for community.  They worked their way through college, spent below their means, and provided for their family in the hope that their values would be embraced by the next generation.  They passed on that hope to me - not through money or loans or spending what they didn't have - but through their values.
I agree that we are all in this together.  Hope is a collective asset.  It can't be bought or sold, traded or bartered. Hope is the inspiration an individual gets from their heroes (usually our parents) when they act responsibly and with care.  It builds with each generation, not in what we have, but in what we can be. The future can't be bought with borrowed funds, but it can be built with leadership and actions. Our careless governmental spending has proven that the more government spends, the more hope recedes.

Measure our hope today:  twenty-three million people have questionable hope for employment.  Twenty million young people fortunate enough to be employed have diminished hope for promotion and salary growth.  Thirty-nine million retirees have questionable hope about their financial security.  And some elderly are beginning to hope that the end is near.

Our nation was founded on hope – not by buying it, but by building it. But even with reckless, and divisive rhetoric, and poor leadership, Hope's flame cannot be extinguished. Hope can be rebuilt.  My parents built it - you can too.

"Forward?"  or Four Words    VOTE FOR A CHANGE!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Limited Freedom

Just going through country customs reminds me that our freedom is limited to the borders of cooperating countries.  Of course the five questions asked on the Declaration sheet (Form 6059B) are important "regulations" for trade/commerce and safety - food, farm products, livestock, money, purpose of visit etc.  That's what we have come to believe.

Our "protection" comes at a cost - privacy, personal invasion, and inconvenience.  As I re-entered the US, my boarding pass was a "4S" and the first checkpoint guard smiled and said "You're Special".  The US customs agent finished his questions and said welcome home but at the next checkpoint, the guard joked "He tried to hide his boarding card" he will need to be checked.  The "4S" on the boarding pass meant that I had been randomly  selected (by Delta) to have a complete search (either body pat down or machine scan).  This also meant that Ellen's bag would be searched (in case I had packed something in her bag). 

We accept these security measures for our combined safety (or the perception of that safety).  The reality is that we have lost some personal freedom.  Many would say - "You should have nothing to hide.  Why not put up with a little inconvenience to find "evil ones".   The answer is simple:

Are you innocent until found guilty  or guilty until found innocent? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Father/Daughter Trip

I have to give credit to K.C. for suggesting that I plan a father/daughter trip and so it is fitting that the destination was Toronto, Canada. 

Leaving Friday morning I almost created a disaster when, at the check in, I discovered I had accidentally picked up Susan's passport instead of mine.  Luckily (but because of my obsessive habit now of getting to the airport early), Susan was able to make it to the airport with my passport in time for us to make the flight (but it was a close one).  Ellen all during the turmoil was willing to forgive me.

Thankfully the rest of the long weekend went perfectly.  Shopping at the Eaton Center, Bloor-Yorkville, Haselton Lanes, the Distillery, and Chinatown.  Even I couldn't resist dropping into the Mont Blanc Boutique store on Bloor Street.

We enjoyed wonderful food at the Royal York, atop the CN tower, Marche, and Il Fornello and sipping Starbucks in the underground passages connecting all of the downtown shopping.

The highlight of the weekend was Amaluna (Cirque Du Soleil) - worth every penny of the expensive tickets.

Sunday, Toronto was hopping (or I should say running) with the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with over 3000 participants and probably 20,000 people lining the streets of downtown. 

Ellen (and all her shopping booty) and I arrived safely home this evening.  A "priceless" memory.