Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mysterious Grace

Today I was volunteered to be a part of a panel facilitated by Rev. Stover in the Contemporary Service.  Reflections on Matthew 20 - The Parable of the Laborers.

When asked about what is "fair", I responded with the pie example.  You can either cut the pie and I get the choice of the piece to select or allow me to cut the pie and you get to choose the first piece.  Equal choice either way. 

Yet each laborer was fairly asked to work for a wage and they readily accepted.  Why did they grumble at the end?  Because they saw their perception of inequality when comparing their effort to the other guy.  This is the basic problem of knowledge, bias and judgement.

I said I struggled with the concept of Grace - it doesn't fit mathematical or economic logic. It is not something earned. Fair is when we receive what we think we deserve.  Grace is when we receive what we don't deserve.

Grace is mysterious to me because it is infinite and can't be measured. Grace is uniquely available to all of us - in exactly the "quantity" we need - no more .... no less.  So we should accept Grace as it it given, not measuring or comparing, but grateful to God for it's infinite benefit for all of us.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rufferee & Wide Retriever

Week Four for Sunday NFL games:

The professional "Rufferee" is back - watching for pass interference for the Number 00 -  Bella the "Wide Retriever".

Pumpkin Harvest

Today was harvest pumpkin day at Counilrock.  A proud "farmer" is depicted below with his first crop:

Ten little pumpkins from the Councilrock pumpkin patch. One probably picked to soon (the green stands out).

September fades and October's orange takes over.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Staying Young

I had breakfast with J.Y. yesterday to discuss the site visit that SVP Cincinnati partners will make to Boys Hope Girls Hope to vet and understand their proposal in our 2012 Investment cycle.

 I first met J.Y. five years ago  when I was creating the business plan for SVP Cincinnnati and was immediately impressed with his accomplishments and passion.  Every time I meet with him I leave with more than I came with - a jewel or two of life wisdom.  Add to that J.Y. is so positive, affable, and humorous you can't leave a discussion without feeling good through smiles, laughter and optimistic thoughts.

During the pleasing pleasantries of getting caught up, J.Y. shared his transition from a successful run at the Free Store Food Bank to his next activity.  The word most would use is "retirement" but J.Y. and I both concluded this word is not appropriate.  We also discussed the process of "getting old" and had a great many laughs at the definition of a "senior".  But the real meat of the discussion came during the discussion of planning your "second half" (to use the title from Bob Buford's book). 

I liked J.Y.'s quote about this - "Sometimes I feel like I'm laying a mile of track just ahead of the train"

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Your Fired

It was a wonderful evening with J&D P. and K&N C. to celebrate a birthday age milestone (you'll have to guess the milestone age).  It has been a wonderful 15+ years of interacting with two other couples.

We used the book "Do you know your Wife" to honor the birthday girl.  The book was rotated to each person who would attempt to answer a question about N.C.  It was a fun exercise in discovering new facts about not only N.C - but everyone at the table.

After the scoring was complete, I handed out a 1939 Husband and Wife Test (by Dr. George Crane)  which created plenty of banter and laughter.  Complete with demerits and merits, it was a reminder that the goal in a relationship is to understand YOUR "job".

  As Clayton Christensen says in his book "How will you measure your Life":

"It's natural to want the people you love to be happy.  What can often be difficult is understanding what your role is in that. Thinking about your relationship from the perspective of the JOB TO BE DONE is the best way to understand what's important to the people who mean the most to you.  It allows you to develop true empathy.  Asking yourself 'What job  does my spouse most need me to do?' gives you the ability to think about it in the right unit of analysis.  When you apporach your relationships from this perspective, the answers will become much more clear than they would by simply speculating about what might be the right thing to do.  But you have to go beyond understanding WHAT JOB YOUR SPOUSE NEEDS YOU TO DO.  You have to DO THAT JOB.  You'll have to devote your time and energy to the effort, be willing to suppress your own priorities and desires, and focus on doing what is required to MAKE THE OTHER PERSON HAPPY. "

So I changed the wording in the scoring of the Husband and Wife Test -   0 to 24 points  from "very poor" to:


PS - Remember again -  "Happy Wife  -  Happy Life"   Don't get fired :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reboot, Reload, Retry, Retool

If in doubt reboot.  The problem is that reboot times are getting longer and longer.  Today DirecTV was out to troubleshoot a problem.  It all started with the DVR receiver that was overheating.  I was sent a replacement DVR for free (after pleading with the Rep to waive the  $20 shipping charges) that naturally did not work (it was a refurbished DVR). 

My first investment of time was 45 minutes with a rep trying to troubleshoot the problem which was then escalated to a manager who called me back and wasted another 15 minutes.  Instead of taking my advice that the problem was with the refurbished DVR (since the old DVR could be replugged and worked) they decided to send a technician out (even though it will cost them a $45 service call).

Naturally this is the age old story of waiting for the technician.  My window was 12-4pm with a promise to call 10 minutes ahead of time.  I got a call that morning reminding me of the appointment. Naturally I didn't get a call until 3:30 stating he was 10 minutes away.  At 4pm the technician showed.  Amazingly he plugged it in and it worked - we activated the unit and I thought I was done (a 10 minute job).   Suddenly the receiver lost the satellite signal and the trouble began.

One hour later, since the technician was convinced it could be my wires, I offfered the advice AGAIN that the refurbished box was probably defective.  This time my advice was taken and he installed a new box.  Unfortunately the time to install that was another hour and 1/2 because of ...... well there were all kinds of excuses.

So a simple replacement of a box that overheated required four DirecTV points of contact and 4 hours of personnel time (and my time).  Clearly the  activation controls, installation and setup complexity have gotten out of hand.  The business model is broken!

S.S. told me at lunch he was on the phone for six hours with Verizon trying to troubleshoot how to download his 9 gig of songs to his new Samsung smartphone.  YES SIX hours and the problem was still not resolved (he finally solved it himself). 

So what is the basic time problem here?  Humans waiting for the systems to reboot, reload - on each retry.  Reps and technicians that are not effective trouble shooters.

What do we really need - to Retool the entire technology service business model.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Taxing Week

It has been a taxing week for me - literally.  The paperwork necessary for my 2011 taxes is painful (the pdf file is 110 pages).  Yes - 2011 since I filed for the extension.  I'm actually a month early since 2011 extensions are due Oct. 15, 2012.  It has become habit to just extend and procrastinate.  Actually is is decent tax planning because working on 2011 taxes provides me an efficient "learning curve" for 2012 tax planning - giving me 3 months of room to manuver.

I blogged in the past (taxes even has it's own tag) about the complexity of the code, the need for software (or an tax accountant), and the wasted productivity of resolving all of the exceptions.  The trouble with social engineering using the incentive (or disincentive) of the tax code is the inability to predict the behavior response of those being taxed.  For example the recent Affordable Health Care tax penalty for those without health insurance (now estimated at over 6 million) was set too low for the social engineering desire to "incent" people to buy health insurance. 

The uncertainty of tax rates, deductions and rule for 2012 make planning almost impossible.  It's like trying to play a scocer game while they are moving the goal posts. In fact the final ruling may be that you are playing with the wrong ball on the wrong field.  Yet we are required to estimate what we should pay or be penalized.

Romney pointed out that 47% of the taxable American citizens pay no income tax - yet they must spend the time (waste the time) to file a return. Obama and Romney want to reduce the tax burden on the middle class (what exactly is the middle class). 

The real burden is not just paying the check - it is  the time filing out the form.  Very taxing!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Community Spirit

One of the many loves I have of Fall includes the collision of all the Fall Sports - Baseball Playoffs, Football (HS, College and Pro), Girls Tennis (because of Ellen and Jenna), and the many others available (e.g. Soccer etc.).  This year since I am the Treasurer of the Indian Hill Boosters, I'm much more "tuned in" to the High School sports activities (after all I see all the checks for the uniforms and spiritwear.  Last night Susan and I attended the Party on the Hill joint fundraiser for the PTO, Boosters and Foundation.

The network of parents with school children becomes the hub of a local community.  Crossing ethnic, religious. political, age and many other scocio demographic boundaries (albeit the challenge of Indian Hill economic ceilings), the public school system attempts to bring together a common goal for a "melting pot" of people. 

Being raised by a public school teacher, my bias is in favor of public schools vs private schools for the very reason of diversity.  Even though geography and economic boundaries prevent some diversity, the public school system attempts to provide equality to all within that geographic boundary.  Private schools, in concept, with vouchers could attempt to break the barrier of geographic economic walls, but I suspect the statistics prove differently.

There will always be the human tendency to be tribal and associate with like kinds.  But the American spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance of diversity will be the model for the world to emulate.

That's the true community spirit!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Buggy Whips

Susan is on a campaign to help de-elect President Obama.   So by default that means elect Romney/Ryan.  The other day a sticker appeared on my bumper when I returned to my car in the Madeira parking lot.  Today, she and Paul will be distributing flyers. And now she is asking every family member to write an editorial to be submitted to the local press.  Since I aspire to the rule "Happy Wife, Happy Life" I decided to cooperate:

Who saved the Automobile Industry?
If you said President Obama, then you probably believe that Al Gore invented the internet.
The financial bailout of $85 Billion to avoid bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler was just a huge speculative bet using borrowed tax payer money on two companies in an industry in need of re-engineering. You might say President Obama is the ultimate stock market speculator.

So far, President Obama doesn't have a great track record of picking companies in any industry (Automotive, Financial or Solar).  The Government  has already booked a loss on the Chrysler bet.  The General Motors bet has an unrealized loss that fluctuates between $12 and $16 Billion.  Remember, we bought this stock on margin so we have interest payments on this borrowed taxpayer money.
Yes - but what about the three million "saved" automotive jobs,  you ask.  What about the jobs of those who supplied parts to these two automotive companies?   Tell that to the Ford Motor employee who was laid off because of lower demand for Fords;  Or the USA employees that work for Toyota and all the US suppliers to foreign automotive manufacturers. 

When Government tries to pick winners - we are all losers.  When Government tries to save an industry - it stifles competition and promotes inefficiency.  Our free market system rewards the efficient, well-managed companies (e.g. Ford Motor Company) which results in higher job growth, lower prices and vibrant competitive  companies in each industry.  Government intervention disrupts that process and uselessly prolongs the losers and creates an anemic job environment.
Where's your buggy whip President Obama?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Does God Grieve?

It was a wonderful fall day yesterday as the family attended the Miami University (Oxford) first home game.  Continuing the tradition of subliminal encouragement (Ellen - Miami?), we ended the visit to Oxford at the Miami Coop Bookstore and the purchase of a Miami sweat jacket for Ellen.  That evening we were invited for dinner at the neighbors that was cut short by the need for Ellen and I to visit the Observatory in Cincinnati to view Neptune (for extra credit for Mr. Miller's science class). 

A day reminding me of the joy available from God - a day with the family, memories of college, a blue sky day with the fall feeling of football, dining with friends, and looking up to the heavens.  But the real moment came during the dinner discussion with T.B. about faith and grief.  T.B. professes to be an "ignostic". 

Somehow the discussion came to a subject no one likes to contemplate - living longer than your children.  Each of us shared our speculation on the emotional states we might experience.  There were even stories of people we knew who provided testimonials about their feelings and faith after losing a child (me with men in my Bible study; Susan with Emmaus). 

Then it hit me - "I think the very emotion of grief and hate speaks to me that there is a God".  Since we are made in the image of God, experiences like having children (creation), and raising children (dealing with control and free will), allow us in a small way to experience the enormity of God like emotions.  Dealing with grief (extreme grief) is just one of those emotions and is part of the "cost" of having the "benefit" of joy.

So does God grieve?  Yes - but in a journey of joyously watching his children grow spiritually.

P.S.  For T.B. - Is there a God?   Well maybe Pascal's view would convince him - "Minimize the downside"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Talking ROI

Just read an interesting statistic - "Talkative" parents spoke 2,100 words per hour on average to their infant - an estimated 48 million words in the infant's first 30 months.   The research from "Disrupting Class" studied the effects of how parents talk to a child in the first two and a half years of life.  A disadvantaged child hears only 13 million from their parents.

Also significant, is the type of language - business language (simple, direct, declarative) was not as effective in cognitive development as "language dancing" (chatty, thinking aloud, commenting on the child's actions, describing plans, asking questions, expecting understanding). 

And the effect of 48 million dancing words?  Incalculable cognitive advantage - not income, ethnicity, or parents' education.  A child who enters school with a strong vocabulary is likely to do well in school early on.

Remember the rules of talking -  Return on Investment (ROI).

Talking more/language dancing to infants yields high ROI for society - dance with the infants
Talking more (and not listening) to adults yields low ROI for society - listen and learn

Lyrics and Painting

At meet the teacher night, Ellen's English teacher mentioned the books they would be reading which included John Steinbeck's - "The Pearl".  I had not remembered reading that book in my middle school days, so off to the library I went to borrow the book.

As it set next to my chair, both Jenna and Ellen commented on the book.  "Why Dad, are you reading The Pearl?"  Of course when I asked Susan if she had read it she replied "I've read all of Steinbeck's books - multiple times".  A short read, it captures attention immediately - like a mystery flipping each page for clues of how will it end.  Throughout the book are "pearls of wisdom". :)

What struck me about "The Pearl" was the lack of dialogue and Steinbeck's painting with words. 

I've divided music listeners into two types - melody and lyrics and now I think book readers either enjoy the painting or the dialogue.  No I'm not an English major with detail knowledge of writing styles - expository, narrative, persuasive, and descriptive.  I'm just a simple consumer of music and books.

I fall into the camp of melody for music, and dialogue for books (fiction that is).  Hidden in my subconscious mind are the lyrics and paintings.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nekk-ed as a jaybird

M.S. gave the sermon this afternoon at church and with her Southern accent said the word nekk-ed - which translates to naked.  Immediately the phrase "Naked as a Jaybird" popped into my memory.  Where exactly did that expression come from?

The expression is most used to describe being naked in a public setting and without embarrassment. So during the 1973-74 fad of streaking,  my college roommate sophomore year at Miami, had the courage to streak at dusk one fall day in South Quad.  He was naked as a jaybird.  Ray Steven's in his song "The Streak" warns Ethel not to look at that feller - nekked as a jaybird - nothing on but a smile.

How a jaybird is naked - I have no clue.  An internet search provide no definitive answer - theories about the word "jay" as slang for hick seemed the most plausible to me.  After all who else says nekk-ed.

When Biorhythms Converge

On Sept. 2, I had placed in my Outlook calendar the comment "Big Biorhyrthm day" (probably a remnant of my analysis back on Sept. 16, 2009). Actually it has been a big biorhythm week for me based on the charts.

Click on picture for larger view.
Starting with emotional peak five days ago, with intellectual and physical peak today and tomorrow and ending with mastery after a near top on wisdom and passion - what will happen when my biorhythms converge?
Hurricane Issac arrives today in Cincinnati!  :)
P.S.  Next convergence - Feb. 13, 2013 - expect a blizzard!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Old and Beautiful

Susan and I had dinner with M.M and A.M. with great conversation with and evening desert (Pawpaw parfait - George Washington's favorite desert and Ohio's official state fruit) at their house.  Somehow the conversation and topical interactions with the two of them, flood all kinds of nostalgic memories into my brain:

(1) The 1960's vocabulary of cool, groovy, yea man ... like ...,
(2) The pocket knife game of chicken played as a youth
(3) The Godfather movie
(4) The manual ice grinders of the 1960's
(5) The embroidered bell bottom pants (apparently now coming back into fashion)
(6) The fashion in women's attire - short skirts and bikinis

We are all relatively the same age (55-61) but with diverse geographic roots.  As we were discussing fashion, it was natural to reflect on what looks good - then and now.  That's when M.M. mentioned the term - old lady and old man.

The tension of the word "old" is reflected in attitudes of it's asthetics, function, and context.  An old building without care is a dump.  An old painting can be worth millions.  Old technology is relegated to the unfinished basement. But what about the term old lady, or old man?

A skimpy bathing suit on an old lady or old man is .......

In the 60's bikini's were required to cover the navels.  In that case "old" can remain beautiful.  :)