Thursday, May 31, 2012

Famous Last Words

Each night at dinner a candle is lit and the family says grace.  When Ellen was small it was always "God is Great, God is Good, now we thank him for our food".  However, now a designated person reads from "Graces ..  Prayers & Poems for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions" by June Cotner.   This evening Ellen picked the shortest Grace from Chapter 10 (Short Graces): 

"Make yourself a light"  Budda (his last words to his followers). 

So what exactly would be your last words to family, friends and followers?  Budda's words could easily been a tweet at only 21 characters (less than 140 character limitation). 

So in the twitter tradition think of some last words - limited to less than 140 characters that you would whisper at the end.

For some ideas and inspiration, here is the link to famous people's last words  -

The best choice of words  ---  "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"  - Jesus Christ  (Luke 23:46)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Runaway May

"Sell in May and Walk away" should be changed to "run away".  If tomorrow's stock market follows the Asian markets tonight, it will be a final  Mayday of stock market pain.  May is down over 6% and has given up half of the 12% year to date gain that everyone was cheering about at the end of March.

Managing your emotions in investing is the single most important factor in investment success.  Knowing yourself and your internal chemical reactions to risk and returns can provide a discipline to act methodically and rationally.   For example, yesterday the market was up 1.1% and today it was down 1.4% - yet there was no major change in news (political, international, financial, etc.). 

Even though I know intellectually that you can't time the market, emotionally I have attempted market timing many times (including this latest movement to cash).  But I have always said "the stock market continuously reminds you of your suboptimal performance". 

The best strategy is to establish an asset allocation that corresponds to your risk profile.  Your risk profile is correct when you can ignore the market news and on any large unrealized loss you can sleep properly.  Re balance every year or so back to your original asset allocation and continue to forget about the short term.   This "passive" investment style will give you overall a great long term performance and beat over half of the money managers.

So what's the most worrisome month to invest?

"October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February." -- Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tweet the American Dream

NPR had a segment on the American Dream this morning and asked listeners to submit their dream (pictures/words or both) to them.  I sat down this morning and wrote out my dream - which is related to the Moon Race post.

"I dream of a nation united in peaceful purpose with an audacious goal of freedom for every human being.  Like Andrew Carnegie's gift of public libraries to our nation, we should lead the world to a ubiquitous and free dissemination of public Internet access.  Freedom of ideas can tear down the mental prisons of despair and release the energy of hope throughout the world.  Only then can the American Dream become every one's Dream."

Off to the site to submit my entry - but alas there was a catch.  The Dream could only be 140 Characters! We have become a nation of tweeters.

So here is the Tweet -  "Like Carnegie's gift of Public Libraries, I dream of ubiquitous, free access for everyone, everywhere to the Internet."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Moon Race

When I picked up Dayna at the Dayton Airport on Friday, I asked her if she wanted to go to the Wright Patterson Airforce Museum to see the Airforce One planes (she of course agreed since really it was me that wanted to go).  While touring the four Airforce One planes was fun, the memory gates flooded in to my mind when we walked to the section of the museum where the missile and space exhibits resided (rockets and the actual Apollo 15 command module). Apollo 11 was actual first moon walk mission (July 20, 1969).  The virtual tour of the museum is almost as good as being there!

I remember the excursion Dad and his work buddy took me on at the Mississippi Test Site - where 13,500 acres  (and surrounded by 125,000 acres for acoustical protection) were acquired by  NASA to test the first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo missions to the moon. We drove around the site of abandoned houses and farm areas where pigs and other animals ran wild.  It was like riding through a ghost town.

I called Dad to ask him what stage was being tested at the site - he said stage one but somehow my memory was  stage two.  We were both correct - but the picture I have in my garage I'm sure is stage two :)

It was a fun time growing up during the race to the moon.  It just proves how a project can mobilize a generation and create a national peace time goal (although the "energy" was generated out of the cold war competition with the USSR).  It created a younger generation of space addicted kids (like me) and probably fostered a growth in science and technology in those young baby boomers.  Even the TV comedy sitcoms added to the "brainwashing" - with "I Dream of Jeanie"

K.C.  (or was it J.D.) and I mused about this 1960's national project in conversation  over a year ago.  The nation needs another audacious goal like putting a man on the moon to ignite and unite the people of this generation to a purpose beyond daily political stalemates. 

What goal do you suggest?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unofficial Summer

There are all kinds of signals of when summer arrives regardless of the official Solstice date (June 20, 2012 at 7:09pm).  The sun felt close enough over this Memorial Day weekend (94 degrees).  And enough though school is still in session for Jenna and Ellen, the holiday felt like the routine had begun.  Cookouts, Indian Hill Swim Club picnic and swimming, badminton court lined, games, and lazy day naps are all signals of summer. 

Dayna was here to visit after her graduation from Derby high school last week.  So even the excitement of company added to the feeling of summer activities.  So waiting another 24 days to declare it is summer will not work.  Memorial Day should be the real official start of summer (even though this was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May in 1968). After all - if we can legislate changes in traditional holidays - why not get Congress to act on declaring the official Summer date?

Armstrong has it's traditional service with the Brass Band on Sunday before Memorial Day.  It was another great performance and a time to honor all those who have passed on.  The cemetery was decorated with American flags and the roll call of all the military servicemen ( with names from every war since the revolutionary war) will be announced tomorrow at the 10:30am service.

It is a duty to remember that we stand on the shoulders of all those who served before us.  And it is our duty to prepare our shoulders for others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As you enter my office door the first picture/poster you see is this one.  For a given situation, I can exhibit this trait (call it a character trait) to the extreme.  If you google the word persistence and browse the images there are many visual ways to depict the feeling. 

And at Mom's house there is a derivitive of this picture I found on the internet  (it must be in the genes):

I'm reminded of the Winston Churchill quote in his 1941 speech at Harrow school:
"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. "

And why are these thoughts on my mind?   Ask Susan, Jenna, and Ellen as I continue to fight for CBT's DSL line at home   (against the evil force of Time Warner - the enemy)

Thanks to K.M. for his email encouragement for persistence:  "We’ve come to far to give up at this point."


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Minimize the Downside

From William Bernstein’s book – “The Investor’s ManIfesto  …  Preparing for Prosperity, Armagedddon, and Everything In Between”  - he says:  “Finally, never, ever forget Pascal’s Wager as it applies to investing:  The name of the game is not to get rich, but rather to avoid dying poor.”

P.S. Pascal was a famous French philosopher  and mathematician who defended his belief in GOD with this logic:

 (1) Suppose GOD does not exist ----  The atheist “wins” and the believer “loses”.
(2) If GOD does EXIST ---  The believer “wins” and the atheist “loses”

The consequences of being wrong with each belief is starkly different!!!!   [statisticians say - expected value :)  ]

 (1) If GOD does not exist – then all the devout believers lost the opportunity to fornicate, imbibe, and skip a lot of boring church services.

(2  If GOD does exist – then the atheist roasts eternally in HELL. 

The rational person thus chooses to believe in GOD.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Relationship Risk

A.M. had some sage advice about dealing with people.  "Too often we underestimate the risk associated with a new relationship".  This is so true when you are considering switching providers - banker, lawyer, accountant, financial planner, contractor, mechanic, physician, dentist ..... the list goes on and on.  Once you find a person who is honest, ethical, fair and objective (with your interest in mind), you have "conquered" that "start-up" risk since the probability is they remain in that state (and don't revert to evil).

This relationship risk is tested especially in inflationary times.  As prices increase, the temptation to switch to the low cost provider becomes greater.  This is especially true as the coupon work tries to incent you to switch and try out a new provider.  But that "one time" incentive must be weighed against the relationship risk of a new person and a history of getting used to each other - maybe a better word is mutual trust.

Coincidentally I picked up at the library,  Stephen M. R. Covey's second book on Trust - "Smart Trust" and started to scan it (the first book, I was unable to completely get through "The Speed of Trust").  "Trust has becom the new currency of the global economy.  It is the basis on which many people do business - or don't" he states. 
The following chart on page 15 shows an interesting relationship between corruption and GDP.

Then the "punch line" chart on page 24 shows the relationship of trust and happiness of Nations. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Call to Action

I listened to J.P.'s radio interview about religious freedom last week.  He has taken on the cause of freedom over the past two years and has included me in his journey - with discussions, drafts of his speeches, and invitations to his debate forums.  He has used a famous (but little known) story about George Washington to inspire to action the audience.  When you hear (or read) this story, you can't help to feel the xylophone run up and down your spine.

Here is J.P. 's version:

J.P. actually told me that he had first heard this story when he and I attended David McCullough's speech together at Miami University  in 2009 ( see my blog  Read to Lead).  McCullough has used this example to inspire many audiences to service - and here is the excerpt from his 2005 BYU "The Glorious Cause of America " speech:

In conclusion I want to share a scene that took place on the last day of the year of 1776, Dec. 31. All the enlistments for the entire army were up. Every soldier, because of the system at the time, was free to go home as of the first day of January 1777. Washington called a large part of the troops out into formation. He appeared in front of these ragged men on his horse, and he urged them to reenlist. He said that if they would sign up for another six months, he’d give them a bonus of 10 dollars. It was an enormous amount then because that’s about what they were being paid for a month—if and when they could get paid. These were men who were desperate for pay of any kind. Their families were starving.

The drums rolled, and he asked those who would stay on to step forward. The drums kept rolling, and nobody stepped forward. Washington turned and rode away from them. Then he stopped, and he turned back and rode up to them again. This is what we know he said:

My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.3

Again the drums rolled. This time the men began stepping forward. “God Almighty,” wrote Nathanael Greene, “inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.”4

Now that is an amazing scene, to say the least, and it’s real. This wasn’t some contrivance of a screenwriter. However, I believe there is something very familiar about what Washington said to those troops. It was as if he was saying, “You are fortunate. You have a chance to serve your country in a way that nobody else is going to be able to, and everybody else is going to be jealous of you, and you will count this the most important decision and the most valuable service of your lives.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Political Plates

The earth's plate tectonics are in constant motion and help us determine where the geographic stress points reside but do little to predict the timing of eruption.   Likewise the behavioral political and idealogical plates move constantly but we impose time deadlines that force collisions.  There will be plenty of "forced collisions" in the next seven months:

G8 Summit -Chicago 5/18-19; Nato Summit - Chicago 5/20-21; G8 Leaders Camp David 5/15-22; Iran Bagdad Talks 5/23;
Supreme Court rules on Obamacare - June; Operation Twist ends - June; Full Iran Sanctions - 7/1; Greece & Spain turmoil continues - Euro at risk; November Presidental Election; Bush Tax Cuts expire - December; $5B Mandatory Budget Cuts - Jan. 2013;

The question is - do the plates scrape past each other or do they collide?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Worst Case Scenario

S.S. and I were discussing the challenge of investing and the vulnerable feeling of running out of money.  This type of discussion naturally evolves into probabilities, longevity, consumption, risk, and life style choices.  S.S. said the important part of this planning is developing a "worst case scenario".  Planning for your "worst case scenario" is confronting the image of  your worst fears - for example, homeless, isolated, dependant, addicted, terrorized, tortured,  etc. 

Viktor Frankl's, "Man's Search for Meaning"  and his experience in a concentration camp popped into my head at that moment.  That book, my visit to Auschwitz, and the movie Doctor Zhivago have framed some of the images I have of  a "worst case scenario".

Very coincidentally, "The Search for Meaning" appeared on the kitchen counter yesterday.  Susan (who had never read the book) had just recently ordered it from after reading about it recently.  I quickly re-read the book last night. 

Frankl's book provides some clues about suffering (a worst case scenario).  "A man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas.  If a certain amount of gas is pumped into a chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber.  Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little.  Therefore the 'size' of human suffering is absolutely relative."

Maybe the "Worry Box" is a precursor to the "Suffering Chamber". 

Related Blogs:
What me Worry
Weary Worry Index
Quantify Suffering
Wasted Worry
Counting Feelings

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paint, Clothes, and Grass

"If done properly, successful investing entertains as much as watching clothes tumble in the dryer window."

 I just finished reading "The Investor's Manifesto" by William Bernstein.  Those who know me, have heard that my favorite investment book is "The Intelligent Asset Allocator" also by Bernstein because of it's simple way of presenting diversification and the efficient frontier.  But as Bernstein himself states, it was only liked by scientists, engineers, finance professionals.... and may I add statisticians :)   So this newer book tries to reach to a broader audience with humorous quotes, practical advice and tries to impart complex fianncial concepts in simple readable terms. 

Watching clothes tumble, paint dry, and grass grow reflect the need for self control, patience,deferred gratification, and will power in managing money.  "The name of the game is not to get rich, but rather to avoid dying poor".  The problem is we are always fighting our inner investment demons housed inside our chemical reactive brain.  How appropriate that Bernstein was formally a practicing neurologist.

The pair of greedy glowing coals (the Nucleus Accumbens) behind each eye and the "reptilian" Amygdala provide plenty of input to the hippocampi (which encode our memories).  Our cortex, where we consciously calculate and reflect, battles the limbic system (our instincts and emotions). 

The  investment war is continuous ----  buy now ---  or save and buy later?

Bernstein provides the answer -  "It is really true:  The anticipation is better than the pleasure".  "The nuclei accumbens responds nearly identically to the prospect of food, sex, social contact, cocaine, or financial gain."

So the cost is not only the reduction of money (and it's compounded growth rate) but the loss of the anticipation of the pleasure.  This cost is weighed against the pleasure of the present.

Life choices are always a trade-off. 

P.S. - I've always enjoyed my memories of watching clothes dry at the landromat --  but watching paint dry and grass grow is a different story  :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Like a River

Today we honor Fred Owlett and his life.  Fred was one of the spiritual pillars of Friday Morning Bible Study.  His humorous one-liner statements will forever be embedded in my memory.  Yet two images will be what I remember most about Fred. 

During an intense discussion about predestination, Fred related his belief in this area to a journey down a river.  While he felt "in control" in the canoe with the paddle, sometimes working against the current, he knew that the journey (his purpose) was winding graciously to a place with God.(see postscript 6/14/2012 below)

Fred was a proud Marine pilot and had many stories about the heavens above.  "Did you guys know that a rainbow is a complete circle at 30,000 feet?, he informed the group."  "It is a beautiful reminder of God's complete covenant". 

So whether it's floating now in the river's mouth, or soaring through the rainbow in heaven, we will miss Fred here on earth.

"When it's time for memories to really count ............
                                            It's good to have a good one nearby"        Fred Owlett

Postscript 6/14/2012:  Couldn't help but think of Fred when I saw this Billy Joel Video - River of Dreams

"We all end in the Ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
 by The River of Dreams"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beneath the Surface

Tree Lesson #2 - The Chinese Bamboo

I first read about the Chinese Bamboo in Stephen Covey's book "The seven habits of highly effective families":

  "After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb.  During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive fiberous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth.  But then in the fifth year the Chinese Bamboo grows up to eighty feet!"

Enter your thought here: __________________________________________.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Peaceful Trees

I met (and listened to) a Christian Palestinian who has a farm in the West Bank.  Facing the challenges of  continuous conflict, he acts in peace trying to bring people to live amicably together.  Olive trees are one of the plants he harvests - purposely. Christianity views the olive tree as a symbol of peace since a dove brought an olive branch to Noah to show the flood was over.  In Ancient Greece the olive tree was considered holy and people were punished for cutting them down.  Somehow the olive tree has survived the endless conflict in the region and man's destructive behavior.

It is believed that the oldest olive tree in the world is growing in Western Crete in the village of Pano Vouves, this incredible tree is thought to be 3000 to 5000 year old and the perimeter of the trunk is 12m! A branch from this tree was used in the opening ceremony at the Olympics! While not considered the oldest tree in the world, it ranks right up with the Sequoia's in the list of the top 50 oldest trees.  You can check out the pictures of some of the other oldest trees in the March 17,2010 Wired Science article.

Source: Museum of Vouves Website

Clonal trees are considered the oldest trees, yet they have no individual tree trunk. Above ground they look like individual trees but below ground they are interconnected and are all clones of the same plant.  The oldest of these, the Quaking Aspen, is estimated at greater than 80,000 years. 

Maybe the Clonal trees have the answer to living in peace to an old age - stay peacefully interconnected together.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Watch the Birdie

Badminton Season opened at the Wisner's this afternoon.  The ritual of lining the court in the backyard officially started the season.  I grew up with an official badminton court in our backyard.  Dad would edge the lines (both doubles and singles) for the court. I decided to avoid any landscaping conflict with Susan, and purchased an official paint liner to use for our yard. 

When we first moved into our property there was no suitable place for a "level" court (20' x22' doubles).  When we did our major landscaping project back in 2003, I told Witte Landscaping that he needed remove enough trees and move enough dirt to create a suitable badminton area.   It is not perfectly level but works fine. Dad gets credit for designing the original footprint of the court and permanent holes for the badminton net poles. 

Both Jenna and Ellen have become good badminton players over the years of playing on the "officially lined court".  I grew up loving the game, and now my family continues the tradition.  It is great exercise and fun for all ages. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get out of Jail

Another nugget of wisdom arrived in the Vistage 1107 meeting when T.H. said "We are our own jailer".  The context of this came about as we discussed words and the power they have on our actions and behavior.  T.A. declared that he has trained himself not to use the word "crisis" in his life - "There are no crisis's - only inconveniences".  That doesn't diminish major inconveniences - death, divorce, career events etc.  It only suggests that most items (other than those major inconveniences) are just entries on your inconvenience list each day.  It reminds me of the book "Don't sweat the small stuff".

The power of positive thinking is evident.  Too often, we are our own worst critic. If you obsess on negative waves, gloom and doom scenarios, and self criticism you can fall into the infinite downward spiral of a self fulfilling prophecy of failure.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't be realistic, practical and objective in learning from life's mistakes.  It just means to learn, adjust and move ahead (not spiral behind).

There are many times you should just use a "Get of of Jail - Free" card.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pointing to Purpose

Yesterday I had lunch with D.W. (SVP Cincinnati Partner) and we were discussing the "second half" of life.  Two excellent books I read by Bob Buford include "Halftime" and "Finishing Well" and both treat this subject well.  I mentioned to D.W. that lately I have been feeling peaceful.  But after reflecting on D.W.'s comment "Sometimes I get up and wonder what I have accomplished last week", I shared that one area wher worry creaps in  ---- My Life's Purpose.

The more I ponder and attempt to answer that forever unanswerable question, the farther away I feel that I am from the target.  I modified my peaceful statement above saying, "When I feel the least at peace is during the times I wonder and reflect about the history of my path toward purpose.  D.W. repsonded - "Maybe that is the Purpose!"

I decided to create a visual that is actually a derivative of a graph I saw about Holiness in Jerry Bridges book "The Pursuit of Holiness". His graph is much more spiritual (in context of Holiness) and I've taken great liberties in modifying it to make my point.   I started to title the graph - "The War Inside You" - but instead titled it "The Purpose Inside You".

What are you pointing toward?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This is the time of year that Graduations are beginning to be celebrated.  I have very little memory of my graduations - high school, college, masters.  Even the days of career promotions meld together (although I do remember the anticipation of salary increase letters).  I just sent a High School Graduation card to my neice (Dayna) with a picture of a bulldog in a graduation hat -  "You're a BIG DOG now!"

It's funny that for graduations and promotions the world perceives you differently, however that change seems only incremental to you.  I remember the thoughtful surprise party J.C. had for me when I was promoted to Partner at Accenture.  I didn't feel any different, but the title now provided others a different view of me. 

We use the term graduate "FROM" - since it typically means a process of training in one of more disciplines.  But the actual term should be graduate "TO"  -  moving to the next goal or acheivement.

What are you graduating TO now?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Principles and People

Watching Warren Buffet this morning on CNBC, he mentioned "We prefer to match the people to our principles vs finding principles to match the people".  Ethics in business, while a gray area, is something that requires constant attention.   I remember Bob Buck's comment in a presentation at Armstrong Men's Fellowship dinner about ethics.  He said that one of the principles at Cintas was to do nothing that they might fear would be tomorrow's headline in the Wall Street Journal.

M.L. (Vistage Bud) invited me to a Salvation Army event a couple of weeks ago. Right there, embedded in their mission statement was the basis of their principles - "It's message is based on the Bible".  This is a faith based non-profit, so it is expected that religion would be embedded in their mission, vision and goals.  But what about other "for profit" businesses.

What role, if any, should religion, morality and ethics be an active part of a business operations?  Just try to think of the businesses  you know that proudly promote their religion.  Not many.   I feel that business must rely on it's people (and their underlying principles) to provide the foundation of the businesses ethics.

When I was at Accenture, during the rollout of our Mission, Vision and Values, I remember the six core values - quality client service, one global firm, integrity, stewardship, best people and respect for the individual.  For me, personally, it was easy to support these values as they reflect many of the things I try to use as guiding principles in life.  Finding people that match these principles was the key to recruiting.

Warren is right.  Now let's extend this to the business of life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lawn Tennis

Today I played lawn tennis with Susan.  Well - not exactly the real lawn tennis game. 

Since I mowed the forest area of our property today, I happened upon no less than 10 tennis ball obstacles in the way of my walk behind mower.  Each time, I stopped and and hurled the ball up onto our grass back "in play".

The balls are in the yard for the dogs to play with. Thrown there by Jenna in a game of fetch - with little results.  Hence she throws ten hoping for the dogs to return one. Consequently 10 balls rest quietly in the grass waiting Susan's "volley".

Susan in her Mario Andretti style riding the John Deere is in no mood to stop for any tennis balls in her way.  Consequently like a sling shot they blast out of the grass cutter down the incline into the forest - awaiting my return volley.

So the volleys go back and forth until the ball disintegrates (after multiple lawn mower cuts) or rolls deeper into the forest out of view.

Does anyone think to pick the balls up that are littering the yard?   That would be no fun.  Susan's serve!  :)

Spades or Hearts

Last night was the celebration dinner for Susan and L.Y. for their tournament win in Gatlinburg several weeks ago.  A wonderful evening with friends, I caught myself before I said to J.P. "In the theme of cards, that's what I like - calling a spade a spade". 

Why did I hesitate?   Part of the conversation was when P.Y. posed the question to J.P on whether he thought the USA is a bigoted nation.  The word spade became an ethic slur (sometime around 1928) probably due to the color reference in cards - as black as the ace of spades.   In fact many people believe the expression "call a spade, a spade" comes from the card reference but many (like me) hesitate to use the expression because it may be interpreted incorrectly.   

Wikopedia suggests the actual context  (178BC) refers to a shovel (or trough) -  no wonder I like the phrase since it involves moving dirt.  So it's origin has nothing to due with color or cards.

Susan and L.Y received nearly identical congratulation cards with playing cards (Ace through Jack) taped strategically inside.  The only difference was the suit - Spades or Hearts.  As we all signed the cards with our personal congratulation notes, we all had the opportunity to:

Call a Heart, a Heart.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Appliance Dump

Just how many kitchen appliances (gadgets) are used for less than a year and forever shelved (or trashed) in the land of no use.  Ellen asked where our waffle iron was last night and I searched for 45 minutes without success.  Looking in every known high and low shelf, pantry, garage overflow, unfinished basement - even the kitchenette downstairs.  In that process I found many gadgets forever to be forgotten - George Foreman Lean Mean Machine, Air popper popcorn, coffee makers, cake pops, ice pops, Pizzle Cookie Waffle iron, Crock pots, Breadmakers,and the list goes on. 

Placing all these gadgets on the limited realestate counterspace would make a kitchen completely full of clutter.  Hence they get stored in the lowest shelf or the top shelves - out of sight and out of mind.  When those shelves are full - the gadget is placed into a "gadget runoff" with the loser finding its way to the dump.

Today, in a weak moment, I said to Ellen we would buy a Belgian Waffle Iron at Walmart.  A choice of four different sizes, styles, and manufacturers was enough to make your head spin.  Ellen's choice was the largest - four square waffle GE appliance.  Too large to even fit in the cabinet above the counter.  So it will find it's way to the larger and higher inaccessable shelf full of gadgets unused for years. 

Which gadget will hit the dump to make room?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Creative Tension

Just returned from the "bidders conference" for the 4th Investment cycle for Social Venture Partners Cincinnati (SVP Cincinnati)  The investment cycle is the process (May - November) where the Partners come together to select a non-profit in Greater Cincinnati to both grant money and provide "free" consulting to improve that non-profit's capacity to do good. 

Talking with my fellow partners afterwards, I used G.L.'s statement to me after a tension filled POG (Portfolio of Good) meeting last year -  "Tension is good - it means we are getting to the heart of the issue.  Creative Tension means we are stretching ourselves and improving". 

Even though conflict can be uncomfortable, it is the exchange of diverse ideas that can mold a better solution than one person's approach.  We don't even think twice about tension and stress when it comes to sports.  Athletes challenge their bodies capacity and stretch their personal limits to improve their performance. 

Too often the non-profit world avoids tension with group dynamics.  Needing to please everyone can become the default solution.  Board dynamics can become a process of avoiding decisions awaiting complete consensus - or completely avoiding an issue in order to minimize any tension.

S.Z was quick to say that SVP Cincinnati has no fear of this occuring as long as Garen is a Partner.  :)

Water Power

Last night was a joy in digging.  It's a male thing - attempting to control nature's natural flow of water.  Almost like a war, we try to control how, when and where water flows.  My specific problem was correcting the clog in the drain from the roof's gutter.  This project required digging up the PVC underground drain to the point of outlet into a underground rocky drainage pit. 

Even with all our technology, water can not be controlled - it will erode, evade, enter, and exit where it desires over time.  Patiently it can out wait any obstacles.  The best visual of this is the Grand Canyon - simply a beautiful truth about water flow and it's power. 

Directing water where you think you want it to travel is just a short term dream.  Canals and locks are great man-made inventions attempting to demonstrate man's ability to contol nature.  But most those man-made rivers have not stood the test of time. 

My project was successful - for now.  Until the water decides where it really want's to go.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Golden Mean

"Aurea Mediocritas", I learned in my Latin studies of Horace.  In his  poetry "The Odes" - Book II:X (which by the way is in the middle of XX chapters), he describes the Golden Mean.  Is moderation - mediocrity?  Or is moderation the virtue of self control?

The early Greek philosophers felt that beauty has three ingredients - symmetry, proportion and harmony.  These ingredients are evident everywhere - nature, mathematics, science, behavior, art, etc.  The Golden Mean has been an integral part of my personal philosophy.  Stressed by my parents, moderation provides an equilibrium of peace and a balance of virtue.

Yes - balance of virtues.  After all, even a virtue in excess can be unhealthy.  Too much courage - recklessness.  Too much patience - no action.

The "moderates" in politics (independents) are sometimes criticized for their lack of convictions - or even flip flopping in ideologies.  Yet it will be the moderates that determine the upcoming election. They become the Golden Mean.

"Auream quisquis mediocritatem  - Who makes the golden mean his guide
diligit, tutus caret obsoleti              -  Shuns miser's cabin, foul and dark
sordibus tecti, caret invidenda        -  Shuns gilded roofs, where pomp and pride
sobrius aula."                                  -  are envy's mark

Translation:John Conington

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who said it?

"Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow and act, reap a habit. Sow a habit , reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny".

I wondered who should be given credit for this quote and the research put me squarely into a Internet site that I was unaware existed wikiquote.   It was fascinating to see all the references to those who used this quote - Charles Reade, Samuel Smiles, and numerous others in the 19th century.  Wikiquote conjectured it may have originated from an old Chinese proverb.  In Yahoo answers someone referenced Galatians 6:7 "... for you reap whatever you sow" which Paul probably derived from Proverbs 23:7 "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he".

Quotes are a form of intellectual capital.  Wouldn't be interesting to see the legal challenges for who had the royalty rights to this quote?

But more important than Who said it?  Who done it?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Doubting Thomas

"Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see" - Ben Franklin.  I am a well trained skeptic which Susan often gets irritated about.  Part of this is in the DNA, but a significant portion is from years of observations where the facts can seemingly lead to improper conclusions.  

Even to this day I remember a card game called "I doubt it".  In this game the players try to get rid of their cards by declaring what they are discarding (either a lie or truth).  It is then up to the opponent to believe or doubt their statement.  As the discard pile increases the risk of being wrong (doubting an opponent) also increases (the improper doubter must pick up the entire discard pile). 

Last night, B.J. and I were discussing his field of study (B.J. teaches criminal law process).  I was describing the car accident that I was the single witness to on Saturday morning.  When asked to write down what I saw by the officer, I later reflected on how my mind had jumped to certain conclusions and how fickle memory can be.  Doubt about what I had actually seen entered my mind.   B.J. verified that eye witness testimony is some of the most unreliable evidence in criminal proceedings.

Piero Ferruci in his book "What We May Be", outlines several attributes of a well-functioning mind.  The two of the eleven that most resonated with me were (1)  "Never takes anything for granted"; (2) Can see all sides of a question, not only those it is comfortable with. 

I guess I believe 18% of what I read (2 out of 11).