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. 


"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

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


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:

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


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:

   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.