Monday, December 30, 2013

One 2014 Goal

The close of 2013 is upon us.  Less than 48 hours to accomplish the 2013 goals and objectives you resolved to complete.  I personally like all the press articles reflecting on the prior year (e.g. best tech gadgets; worst technology flops; etc.) and predictions for 2014.  So this is a time to create your own personal list - most joyous activities; worst decisions; best giving opportunities. 

Composing a Christmas letter each year provides me the discipline to summarize a theme and look back on all the activities with family and friends.  This becomes the starting point for my own personal year end evaluation.  But is this look back a waste of time?  Without some action or change, reporting history is meaningless.  So the next action is to create goals for 2014.

The first goal .........  "Write down the Goals!"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Appreciation through Information

Objects are only valuable when the information about the object becomes known (preferably in an interactive way)  and appreciated by the viewer/user.  I came to this conclusion during the two hour tour at the Musee d'Osay with a tour guide.  Of course, at many museums there is plenty of written material and even audio headsets that can be used to obtain information about the object, yet these two methods are not nearly as interesting as a human that describes his/her knowledge about the object and can respond interactively to questions with successive levels of detail in dialogue about the object. Also the ability to relate objects (compare and contrast) by the informant provides an even richer set of information in which to appreciate each object individually and collectively.

The filter of information through the lens of the knowledgeable tour guide (with their biases and imperfect knowledge base) gave me a much richer experience within the Art Museum.  Without this knowledge the Museum tour would have been just another experience of going to the Zoo (without the random action of animals). 

Clearly art appreciation (for me) requires interactive information.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Early Christmas

A week on the River Baroness traveling and viewing history of the Seine made this Christmas a very different and memorable one.  A special treat was Christmas Day inside the Notre Dame Cathedral viewing the morning Mass.  But all good things come to an end and tonight I get to fight off the jet lag fatigue at home sweet home. 

This was the third time I had been in Paris (Summer 1971, October 1996, and December 2013) the memories build upon each other. The only USA city that I think can compare in beauty is Washington DC. (and that city was inspired by the architecture of France - and specifically Paris).

A beautiful and unique Christmas this year (six hours earlier).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Dreams
Wisner Family   - December 2013

It was a sleepy year for the Wisners, no trauma or drama - just a calm peace (or piece) of life's journey.  This makes the thirteenth Christmas letter - short, sweet and sincere.   Don't fall asleep.
Jenna (Healthcare Czar) - With only five months remaining of parental entitlement, Jenna has discovered finding a job is not like Nursing - it's serious business.  Her election as Secretary of the Nursing Class and her Co-op job in the emergency care at UCMC, qualifies Jenna to be the family Healthcare Czar - maybe she can cure the ails of Obamacare.

Ellen (Cooking Czar) - A Brave freshman (UGH! or is it UGG), Ellen continues to serve up excellent results at school and home (Cake Boss). Early bus schedules cut into her sleep but are compensated with almost weekly friendly sleepovers.  Once upon a time, she read about Cinderella - now she's dressed that way for the homecoming dance.

Susan (Household Czar) - Chasing the title -"Frugal Czar" was too difficult in our household (GLW has that locked).  Watching the landscape of politics idly was not an option either.  Refreshed with adequate sleep, Susan decided to save America one business at a time with Your Back Office LLC.

Garen (Frugal Czar)  - An Oldie but Goodie, his failed attempt at Top Chef Czar resulted in wild games (was it fried turkey with a trace of Buffalo?).  Don't mock his case with weekly excursions to Miami (U that is).  Walking the Masters and crossing certain bridges created gold points - but he still needs training options.

No tree house addition this year - just plans to reconfigure things at home:  bedrooms, cats, doors and floors.  Paris (Fr) and Naples (Fl) were highlights of this year's travels with other trips to Chautauqua, Wichita, Chicago, Keeneland and Sarasota.  Sleepovers by Paul S, Rich M, Hartleys, Murrays, and Martha kept the guest bedroom occupied.  Maybe it wasn't such a sleepy year after all.

As 2013 dozes by, we awaken to a new year of opportunities.  Each opportunity  is a chance to build upon dreams.  We look forward to sharing these together with you next year.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


"Golden slumbers kiss your eyes, Smiles awake you when you rise"   Thomas Dekker


Monday, December 16, 2013

Inlaws and Grandpas

It was an interesting dinner discussion with A&M M. about family titles - what does the son-in-law, daughter-in-law and grandkids call you?  The only experience Susan and I have in this category is what do we call our in-law parents and what instructions (if any) did we give our children on what to call their grandparents. 

The variations are endless. The traditions are driven by past chains of ancestor titles.  As an example, it was important for Susan that our young children call me "Papa" and her "Mama". As they grew up that evolved to Dad and Mom (and on occasion Father and Mother).  Our children call my parents Grandma and Grandpa (without the surname Wisner) and for Susan's parents the titles are Popsie and Nonny (although I think it should be spelled Noni). Both Susan and I call each others parents by first name.

Generational spans create the challenge of addressing your elders.  Only after years of being out of college was I comfortable addressing people eight years older than me by their first name.  Consequently addressing Susan's parents by their first name took time to get comfortable with. 

The available nicknames for Grandparents are always fun to hear -  Grammy, Gamma, Mamey, Mimsy, Noni, Nana, Nanny ......   Gramps, Grampy, Pappy, PawPaw, Grandad, Poppa .......

My niece is expecting so Mom and Dad will become Great Grandparents soon.  Hmmm.......  I wonder about Great Grandparents titles.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slept like a .....

This morning it was tough to get out of bed.  "Boy,  I slept last night like a log" was my comment this morning to Susan.  I suppose the "log" reference was because of my lumberjacking the day before - totally wearing me out physically. 

But how do you answer the question how did you sleep last night?


Like a Baby
Like a Top

Like a Rock

But where is the guy "Sawing the Log"   :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Right Tool

A.M. dropped by to help me split the wood in the back forest Actually he was the catalyst to prevent my further procrastination.  Back in September Susan had several dead ash trees cut down. I had requested they leave the wood only to discover about 50 stumps (most 20 inches in diameter) from the trunk lying in the back forest waiting to be split. 

A.M. an experienced lumber jack, brought his "Big Bertha" (that's my word for the 12 lb tool he brought) Splitting Maul which was the ticket.  There was no way I would have had the patience (and strength) to split this wood with my 3 lb sledge/splitting maul and wedge (that I couldn't find).

So as the snow fell, we both took turns using Big Bertha.  A.M. was quick to give me guidance on proper technique to avoid injury and he added some insight into the difficulty of splitting wet stumps that were vertically placed on the ground. 

It just proves the old adage - you need the right tool for the correct job .......  and the right coach to correct the rookie.
12 lb Splitting Maul

Saturday, December 7, 2013

White Winter Wisp

The five inches of snow last night was but a wisp of white dust on the driveway this morning.  Expecting to spend hours shoveling the driveway ended up a 30 minute exercise of pushing the dust to the side and spreading salt for the patches of ice.  The sun has already done it's work and the beautiful reflection of the white blanket across the yard accentuates the feeling of a new day.

Unlike most people, I love the winter season.  The cozy feeling of sitting at home watching a horizon of white fill the skys during a snow storm.  The quiet feeling of peace as everyone huddles inside while the storm passes.  Then the undisturbed snowfall across the landscape of activity awaits the morning activities as we reengage after an evening of hibernation. 

As I sit here blogging away, I have the benefit of seeing across a valley of white. Even the trees are partially clothed in a light white outfit with sparkling jewels of ice on their branches. Their warm black coats of Bella and Fitch are  a complete contrast of black ink dotting the white canvas.

What fun it is to write and blog, a winter post today.

PS -  Now I know some readers will say - Why wisp?  Isn't that the wrong use - and doesn't he mean skift (see Blog First Snow - 12/7/2009).   Yes I did mean wisp - the third usage/definition of wisp:  "A fleeting trace or indication; a hint"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Birthday Best Buys

Saturday, I picked up two Surface RT tablets at Best Buy in Florence Ky.  One for E.D. my tech buddy and one for myself.  E.D. stopped by on Sunday to pick his up.  The Best Buy Black Friday deal was $199.99 ($212 with tax) and well worth the saga (and hassle) to get it.  That saga is too long a story for a blog (although in past years I would have detailed it completely).

Little did I know how fun a birthday present to myself getting the Surface RT would be!  All evening Saturday, all day Sunday, and good part of Monday, I have been playing with the tech toy!  So what is the good, the bad and the ugly:

The good:
(1) I've finally crossed the line into the world of tablets - no more ipad envy
(2) This will incent me to "virtualize" my files, calendar, and email into the cloud
(3) The design is cool, the productivity tools (e.g. Microsoft Office and even Outlook 2013) at my fingertips (literally), HDMI output to big screen monitor, and YES (for you Appleheads) a USB port (find that on your tablet!)
(4) Remote Desktop Access is a snap (too bad for GoToMyPC)
(5) Dancing tiles (again - raspberries to the iworld gruppies)
(6) Immediate integration with my Windows Phone and synchronization

The bad:
(1) It's not a Surface Pro so some software can't be loaded (Chrome, Firefox etc.)
(2) Not enough Microsoft Apps
(3) Only 32 gig - but can be expanded with the microSD card and/or USB flash stick
(4) No keyboard, cover, or HDMI cord (what do you expect for $212)
(5) Only 2 gig of Ram

The ugly:
(1)  The time it took to update the old operating system and security patches - 3+ hours

And the unexplored includes the Windows 8.1 upgrade features, the voice commands, the script capabilities etc.

So this Birthday was dominated by gadget heaven.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Hot Wings Friday

My version of Black Friday is to relax by the fireplace and cruise the internet for value.  I just can't get excited about joining the crew that left this morning for the Mall.  The reality is,  I got my toys ahead of time - Turkey Fryer, and Patio Heater. 

The Turkey Frying experiment was successful in the end but had it's glitches.  First the construction of the patio heater was not in time before starting the oil.  Consequently, I had to revert to the traditional pit fire for warmth.  I discovered the fryer requires near full time attention as the first 20 minutes were lost when the circuit breaker tripped.  Next, I discovered the oil requires a minimum of 45 minutes to get to the requisite 375 degrees F.  But, once the oil was ready and I had prepped the 14lb turkey - it was a simple 53 minutes to completion.  I completed with 40 minutes to spare.

So in the Turkey contest with Martha, what was the result?   Clearly Martha's 60 years of experience has provided her an advantage over my first year attempt.  At best it was a tie, with most saying they could tell no real difference in taste.  I'll take that ---  and declare success!

Today will be an experiment with hot chicken wings (after all why waste that 2.75 gallons of peanut oil).  And since the patio heater is now operational, staying attentive will be no problem.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Heavenly smells

It was Thursday last week, I walked into the kitchen to the heavenly smell of toasted cinnamon bread.   That even made the top entry in my gratitude book that day.  This time of year is abundant with uniquely wonderful holiday smells - the crisp air of a frosty morning, the pine of a decorated Christmas tree inside, hot cider brewing on the stove, turkey in the oven ......  you can add to the list.

So when A.M. punctuated the lunch discussion (about skunks) the next day with the phrase "It stinks to high heaven" the juxtaposition was too close for comfort.  Where did that phrase originate, I asked?

One theory is that it came popular from the Shakespeare reference in Hamlet -  "O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon it, A brother's murder."  Even though this refers to a deed versus a source of odor - it makes the point. 

Pepe Le Pew  -  Warner Brothers


I have concluded that everything must smell good in heaven based on this research - well maybe in high heaven :)

PS --  For J.R. the Song "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road"  was never recorded by the Beatles (I was wrong).  It was #16 in 1973 performed by Loudon Wainwright III

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks -- Giving

Thanksgiving is approaching (although it is as late as it can be - the 28th) and the articles abound that remind us about the season - giving thanks on thanks giving (a dyslexic word junkie has two chances to get it right).   Rev. Stover ended his greatest virtues sermon series - "Earn all you can; Save all you can; Give all you can" Sunday.. 

Getting all three of these correct and in balance is probably one of the hardest things in life. I personally find the most challenging of these three is "give all you can".  Giving is letting go of the illusion that all your stuff (and money) will provide you certainty in security - until you die.  So it is less about getting rid of stuff (simplifying life) or money (gifting assets) as it is teaching yourself that both of those are ephemeral. 

SO -  how does a person "Give all they can"?   Just like the question in money of "What is enough"? - the answer is very individual and unique of each of us.  No one can give you - your answer.  That is for you to explore as you seek joy.  However there is a clue provided for us just around this time of year:

                                        Thanks - Giving

                    Giving  - Thanks

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today  I read that "Selfie" is the Oxford  2013 word of the year (beating out Twerk).  Selfie is the word for a photograph taken of oneself from their smartphone (another reason it should be called a smart alec phone). 

Since Selfie sounds so narcissistic, I thought maybe it would go with "Bloggie" - the word for people like me that blog continuously about themselves and/or their philosophy.  Hmmmmm..... maybe this was the problem with ancient philosophers.

Opps - on search Bloggie is already a brand name for Sony - how appropriate a camera.

Every Selfie should be taken on a Bloggie  - in HD  :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fried Turkey Experiment

The Masterbuilt Butterball (Electric Indoor) Turkey Fryer arrived on Saturday November 9th when P.S. was visiting.  I already have my three gallons of LouAna Peanut Oil ready for the Thanksgiving Day experiment.  Susan initially objected by yielded to my desire to try it out one year.  I was convinced it would be a fun time after watching the late night QVC Infomercial promoting the unit.  I decided to buy it from since I received free shipping. 

I've been asking everyone I know for advice and confirmation about the taste.  Unanimously everyone says it is the best tasting Turkey they have ever had ........  and the most messy process to get it.  The best advice came from T.R. (ala Bloody Lamb) who said to be sure to NOT store any oil on the floor for the mice to find.  His other suggestion was to NOT inject any marinade into the turkey and everyone said - BE SURE the turkey is COMPLETELY THAWED and DRY. 

So -  This Thanksgiving will be a Double Turkey output day - the traditional ...... and Garen's Fried Turkey Experiment :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tinsel Strikes Again

Jenna is just the person every family needs around this time of year.  Her energy for decorating (and the dollar outlay goes with that) is boundless.  Last weekend she decorated no less than five trees at the house.  In fact, Susan put the foot down on tree capacity (see Holiday Hope)  at the household last year but Jenna found a thin six foot tree for the corner kitchen, quickly decorated it and won Susan's approval for this year.  

This is a short Christmas season given that Thanksgiving is late this year, so Jenna's early November energy has transformed the house into a feeling of Christmas already - music, trees and even pine smell.  It motivated me today to put up the outdoor wreath. 

I have told the story many times about Jenna's letter to Target offering her services to decorate their trees in their store and her entrepreneurial idea to set up a Christmas decorating business (Tinsel LLC).  She created a  marketing flyer and distributed throughout the neighborhood. 

I guess I'm her largest (and only) customer this year :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Passionate Tie Breaker

Last night the Investment Committee met to select the "winner" for our 2013 Investment cycle.  There was a tie vote in the written ballots of the general partnership Wednesday night. So this meant that the Investment Committee was faced with breaking the tie.  There was great passion (heart) and logic (head) revealed around the table as we compared and contrasted the risks and rewards that might accrue with the two finalists.  There was no easy logic on a tiebreaking principal and picking both non profits was not an option. 

S.Z. did a great job of facilitating the twelve members on the Investment Committee and just like the elimination round of the TV shows, Idol, America's Got Talent, and The Voice (now my favorite) there was no real bad choice.  Anne M. punctuated this point talking about the poem I remember (and blogged about) on flipping a penny - "Half a Decision".

No coin flip was required and by an overwhelming majority the Investment Committee picked Lawn Life - providing disconnected youth with an opportunity to gain real work experience and transferable skills.

Congratulations to Lawn Life! ..... and to the runners up Literacy Network and Faces without Places.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SVP Cincinnati "The Voice"

Tonight the SVP Cincinnati Partners meet to select the 2013/2014 Non-Profit Investee that we will both grant money and more importantly coach and advise to greater sustainability and impact.  This will be our 6th Investee in our "portfolio of good".  The final three are Faces without Places, Lawn Life, and Literacy Network.  They will present their organization an more importantly describe their needs and how they fit with what SVP Cincinnati could provide.

As I was sitting in the car with Ellen this morning I told her what was happening this evening with "The Voice" of these three Non-Profits.  When I asked her what choice she would pick (based on my elevator pitches of each), she chose LNGC - Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati.  You might think I have a bias also to this Non-Profit given my past posts of the "The Need to Read" - but actually it will be a very hard choice. 

Just like the judges on the television program "The Voice", I see all three of these Non-Profits as great performers in their own space.  I don't think there could be a bad choice.  Congratulations to each of the three for making the finals.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Matrix Matrix on the Wall

At the Board Development meeting for our SVP Cincinnati investee, they handed out a matrix of questions/skills/attributes that each Board member would complete.  It is a great tool in evaluating where there are gaps in an existing Board that a nominating committee can use to determine whom to recruit as a future Board member.  However, the most important portion of the matrix is determining the questions or attributes that you want - not a boiler plate list of items.

Too often surveys and questionnaires are designed without the projection of what data will be received (e.g. the completed questionnaire).  Misinterpretations, redundant data, incomplete data, and/or just worthless questions (once the responses are seen) can create an exercise in wasting time (both the survey designer and the participants).

It's as if the designer hopes that once all the data is received and the Matrix is complete, he/she can put it up on the wall and exclaim "Matrix Matrix on the Wall ...... tell me, tell me ...... about it all".   The answer will magically appear!  The answer never appears - even with the best designer's intent.

The reality is the exercise of design is 80% of the value and the data received is 20% of the value.  Thinking through the questions (regardless of the data) will yield what direction you are trying to decide to move toward.

So you should be saying:  "Matrix Matrix in my head .... instead"  :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Prideful Physics

You know the type - full of air and "blowing their own sails".  Actually I tried to find this idiom and found nothing.  Clearly boasting and bragging is inferred by "blowing your own trumpet" and the expression "taking the wind out of his sails" implies a challenge to someone's boasting or arrogance.   So putting these together, you could assume the context of "blowing their own sails" is all about pride and public pomp. 

More interesting is the Myth Buster's experiment with blowing your own sail - is it feasible?  The physicists can weigh in on this one - and many did  - see

So -  I guess blowing your own sail does work.   But only if you have fans :)

Myth Busters Episode #165 May 11, 2011

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Silent Vote

The conference discussion was dominated by the passionate few pleading their points. Many sat silent, pondering the principles and flexibly yielding to the passionate in the efficiency of time.  "Call the Question" and the vote was voiced - the majority absent in response.  After all, a "NO" uncomfortably breaks the silence, contaminates the unanimous, exposes the individual,  and .......

     slips the silent majority into a prison of dominance. 

Break the silence today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

God's Canvas

Sunrise  - Cincinnati, Ohio  11/4/13

Ellen pointed out the sunrise today - daylight savings time ended yesterday - were now on God's time :) .

 "How could anyone believe there isn't a God", was my remark. 

A constant living canvas - the master artist.

Sunset - Naples Florida  10/25/13

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Texting Fingers

I was watching Jenna the other day as she was voraciously texting someone.  It made me wonder if there is a measure of speed of texting (e.g. texting words per minute) like the old days of typing. 

A quick search of Wikipedia shows the world record by Sonja Kristiansen of Norway who keyed in the official text message, as established by Guinness, in 37.28 seconds. The message is, "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human."

The problem with statistics about texting is determining what a word is.  For instance is "U" a word for "you"?  Regardless, I can say my texting is as slow as a dinosaur (an appropriate word for my ability to use this technology). 

Maybe like the contest between John Henry and the steam engine (or Paul Bunyan and the chain saw), we should set up a contest between Jenna (on texting) and me (on the keyboard).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Need to Read

I just happened upon a blogger's post - "Finding Time to Read" by Shane Parish and quickly cut and pasted it to send to Susan, Jenna, and Ellen.  I encourage you to click on the title and read it yourself.

Reading is a gift I received from Mom - and it's evidence in my life is plastered all over this blog:

Book Arrivals
Great Books
Book Redos
Parenting - Serious Stuff
Failing Vocabulary
Lyrics and Painting
Exponential Browsing
Fearing Not Enough
Heavenly Books
Books and Movies

Add to that the tag - "Books" with 162 entries/references and the Shelfari bookself with 161 Books (oops that doesn't match) and approximately 5,444 pages (only a statistician would like that). 

"I feel the need ...... the need to READ .... yeaoh!"      Top Gun :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mechanic Mania

Just got my car back from the service department and struggled with the ugly bill - the 100K mileage service maintenance (I now have 95,462 miles on the 2006 DTS), new brakes, new battery, and misc repairs (Engine Strut Mount and Front Sway Bar Links).  The total cost was bad enough but what "steamed" my radiator was the fine print of the 15% discount coupon that I assumed applied to this service.

I am always cautious about reading the fine print of coupons and this one was full of caveats (present at time of service, applies only to parts and then an obscure reference to previously discounted maintenance menu items.  Hmmmmmm what' that mean?

Yes - you guessed it - that "catch all phrase" applied to everything except $150 of parts with a total discount of $23 on a maintenance bill of over $2K!  Needless to say, I was ready to drive the car through the showroom window.  It took a discussion with the Service Manager, and a 10 minute wait to calm me down.  In the end the dealership did the right thing and came closer to my expectations and discounted the bill about $200 (10%).

It is these interactions that create mistrust in the automotive mechanics industry (a close derivative to the feeling of interacting with a Used Car Salesman).   I will say this dealer neutralized a customer service situation and I would continue to consider both sales and service at this dealership in the future. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Laugh Often with Others

It was a wonderful weekend visiting J.P. and D.P. at their place in Florida.  One of the highlights was dinner at Campiello Ristorante & Empori Viale Terza.  The motto "Eat Well, Laugh Often and Live Long" fits with 20 plus years of friendship.  The evening entertainment added to the excellent Italian cuisine.  Campiello was started in Cincinnati (or so our waiter said) but is no longer there as they moved to Minneapolis (1987) and have 12 locations there. 

I particularly like the "Laugh Often" portion of the motto.  As we were sitting on the deck, D.P. pointed out that children laugh about 400 times a day and then asked "How many times do you think adults laugh?".  My answer was 40 - and D.P. revealed it was 17 - YES only seventeen!  So how do you solve this adult void?  One way is to find the people who make you laugh.  In fact studies have shown the health benefits of laughter are more powerful when laughing with others than alone.

"Laugh it up Fuzzball" :)


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tarnished Trust

I could kick myself for missing the Jack R. Andersen Distinguished Lecture Series at Miami University on Oct. 9, 2013.  I attended the series back in 2009 (see Lead to Read) when David McCullough spoke.  The speakers this year were Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and it is well worth the hour viewing! 

Alan Simpson pulls no punches when he talks about the generations. Sandwiched between the "Greatest Generation" and the "Greediest Generation", he claims responsibility for the financial place the United States has found itself in, yet he directly confronts the "wimps" without veracity and courage to correct the problem.

When asked about the current divisive atmosphere among our leaders in Government he poignantly described the issue:  "Trust WAS the coin of the realm ....  and it's gone.  It's a severely tarnished coin"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Healthcare Tsunami

Today I received my Anthem H.S.A. policy increase - a mere 24.8% increase (and a three year average of 21.3%.  Co-incidentally Susan sent me an article from the Heritage analyzing the data for the new Government Exchanges (see Find Your State: See How Much Obamacare Coverage Will Cost).  For once Ohio looks good (obviously it doesn't apply to me) but look carefully at the column for the 27 year old - the differences are astounding - double or triple!

Healthcare costs and coverage will be the defining issue of intergenerational wealth transfer of our time.  The challenge is the balance of compassion and individual responsibility.  We all make health care and lifestyle choices - taking risks (i.e. smoking, diet, exercise, physical risk etc.) that affect our health.  Some of our health is genetic and some random (i.e. like an accident).  So the challenge is whether we should try to eliminate this risk (some taken, some given) and provide everyone equal care (Affordable -yet Mandated - Care for Everyone).  If the answer to this is yes - then the next challenge is how (and who) should pay for this risk equalization.

Should the healthy pay for the sick?  Should the lucky pay for the unlucky?  Should one generation be forced to take care of another generation?  What amount of money should be spent during the last months of one's journey?

Here is a chart of my Healthcare Insurance Premiums since 1990 and the scary change that occurred in 2010 with projections from 2015-2019.  I can guarantee that I had no clue about this in 1990 (or for that matter in 1977 when I started work).  I hope the younger generation is ready for this Healthcare Tsunami!

Note:  In 2003 I tried to contain this cost by enrolling in a High Deductible H.S.A. plan which is why the big drop.

Wisner Household Insurance History & Forecast

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steering a Parked Car

Rev. Stover had a great sermon this morning about Prayer.  First he referenced Matt Batterson's  (the Church is studying his book Circles) point that failure is not about a prayer being unanswered, failure is the prayer not made.    And add to that the issue that asking is only part one of the prayer, acting is part two.  Rev. Stover then mentioned the quote he forever he would remember from Seminary - "Steering a parked car does no good".

Taking that first step in a risky area is always the hardest.  Being a self starter is challenging. How to motivate oneself into action.  One of my techniques (the ultimate procrastinator) was to get an action (any action) on a future date in my calendar.  Just the simple action of scheduling the task (even if it was on a future date) would get me started.

Find the technique you need to start your engine. That make steering much easier.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Musical Matches

I completed (well as much as I wanted to do) the Musical Oldies Personality Project for the Vistage 1107 group.  Each member was instructed (naturally there were some renegade non participants) to pick their favorite song for each year from 1962 to 1982.  I promised that I would analyze the data and analyze their personality based on the selections.

The research ("The Do Re Mi;s of Everyday Life: The Structure and Personality Correlates of Music Preferences" by Rentfrow and Gosling - University of Texas at Austin) was a gold mine of information.  Rentfrow and Gosling mentioned work by Mehl and Pennebacker (2003) that found individuals listened to music during approximately 14% of their waking lives.  So music is important to people!

It wasn't hard to see musical personality preferences (even without their stories and explanation of picks) among the 10 Vistage members who participated.  I'm sure I had some advantage in nine years of hearing personal stories from four of my Vistage buds. But even for our newer members, I could easily see some personality traits within their selections. 

Even more fun was coming up with the common matches among the network nine responses:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Triumphs and Trophies

Just finished my eighth presentation to my Vistage Buddies - titled Triumphs and Trophies.   An inspiration came when A.S. said that I was in the spotlight this month.  It all came together after a recent viewing of Lewis and Clark's PBS special, breakfast speech by Joe Gibbs, the recent read of "Triumphs of Experience", watching the Emmys, and the comeback win of the America's Cup Team (down 1-8) victory,  I began to think about the Trophies we get in life.

Answer this question:

Dad (or Mom), As you reflect back over your lifetime........   What is your greatest accomplishment?

This lead me on a journey of thinking of my accomplishments, and the fourth Life Strategy Principle that Kerry and Chris Shook suggest in their book "One Month to Live" ---   "LEAVE BOLDLY - creating a legacy that will impact generations".

But are they really your accomplishments - is it really all your trophy?  Think about your acceptance speech - who is (and was) a part of your trophy network?

Now - think about how many acceptance speeches YOU are mentioned in ( YOUR HIDDEN TROPHIES!).  Maybe just a smile of acceptance, a word of encouragement - something you may never know had an impact.

"Your Hidden Trophies are your bold legacy of eternity"   

Blogging Opens Today

Since the Government reopens today, my blogging will start back up.  Yet 16 days without an entry (well I did one on Oct 4th).  A.M. said the other day, "I don't know who to blame - Congress (GOP or Democrats), the President, or the People".  We both concluded you get what you ask for - and we have a complete set of children that reflect our own childish behaviors.  Clearly if this was a business (and it is a big business) that we were running, the shareholders would be fleeing!

P.H. sent me the best email titled "Washington Redskins" .....

The owner of the Washington Redskins conceded today that, in this era, their team name is insulting. 

From now on, they will just be called The Redskins.

P.S.   Hot Air blogging is open again :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Safety First

"Safety First" was Mom's constant reminder to my girls (and to me growing up).  Her rules were consistent with this reminder (e.g. no backyard tackle football).  I've been working on a Visage Spotlight (my eighth time in the hopper) and part of the presentation is on risk.  More importantly how do you measure your individual risk?

"Risk issues are emotional.  They are contentious. Disagreement is often deep and fierce. This is not surprising, given how we perceive and respond to risk is, at its core, about nothing less than survival"  (Risk- A practical guide for deciding what's really safe and what's really dangerous in the World around you, by David Ropeik and George Gray). 

So how YOU perceive risk and decisions are in the context of your own life.  Even with probabilities across events and populations with various consequences and outcome (costs and benefits), the risk statistics  can't answer the question  - YOUR risk is specific to YOU.

Judgments about risk are based both on the facts and on how we feel about those facts using the head, heart, cortex  and gut. "We are Affective"  (How Risky is It, Really by David Ropeik). 

My preliminary conclusion"

If you are not risking something .......

                                                              you are not living.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hot Air Shutdown

Hmmmm - no blog since Sept. 21. almost 10 days.  The Government shutdown today.

And the combined impact?  

Global cooling -  no hot air :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Next Frontier

I just finished watching the 240 minutes (and extra 50 minutes of special features) PBS Documentary of "Lewis and Clark" by Ken Burns. Bringing to life the 1804-1806 remarkable story of the Corps of Discovery, the movie captivates you with imagining the thrill (and effort) to explore the unknown. 

In Captain Kirk's famous monologue: "Space the Final Frontier", there is an explorer arrogance of thinking there is a limit to exploration - Final Frontier.  Yet each and every expedition reveals more to discover - an infinite domain for human curiosity. 

And at the "end" of infinity?  The Next Frontier.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Arrivals

Rev. Stover entered the room today with the box of books (Circle Maker by Mark Batterson) for the Friday Morning Men's Group. It immediately reminded me of when the elementary school teacher would enter the room with the Scholastic books that we had ordered at school.  Such an exciting time - first the negotiation with Mom on what books we could order and then receiving them to take home to read.

The paperback books with glossy covers and tightly pressed pages begged to be opened for the first time.  It had been at least six weeks since ordering the books, and the memory of what was ordered had faded.  So it was a joy and a renewed surprise to see which books had been chosen. Something was magical about owning the books selected to be read.

Mom was always generous in her investment in this wonderful tradition and building in each of her kids the love of reading.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


As I was reading the research paper on Musical Personality, the professors used the " Brief Loquaciousness and Interpersonal Responsiveness Test (Swann & Rentfrow, 2001) - the BLIRT in their study.  Specifically this test discriminates between individuals who tend to express their thoughts and feelings as soon as they come to mind (blirtatiousness) and individuals who tend to keep their thoughts to themselves.

Naturally, I couldn't resist taking the test (after all I'm a self help junkie) with the following result:
 Your response type:


Your answers indicate that you are a high blirter, which means that you have a tendency to express your thoughts as soon as they come to mind, become very engaged in conversations and interrupt those around you, and respond to people in conversations quickly. Because you're good at keeping conversations going, others see you as very sociable and likable. If you're not careful you may sometimes come across as brash. In general, you think well of yourself, partly because your willingness to express yourself allows you to get your needs met with little difficulty.

  Your self-criticalness:


You scored in the moderate range on the criticalness scale. This means that you tend to rate yourself as neither high nor low on the following dimensions: critical, judgmental, moody, controlling, dominant, patient, warmth, and tolerance.

You too can take the test at:

And what rhymes with blurt?   curt, dirt, flirt, girt, hurt, pert, quirt, shirt, skirt, spurt, squirt, vert, wert, yurt

Yurt??????  What's that?

Yurt Homes - A Bridge between us and Nature


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Your Musical Personality

The Top 100 Oldies project has morphed into an analysis of musical personality.  I couldn't resist searching the internet and finding a personality test based on musical preference (a sort of horoscope for your musical tastes). 

My summary results are listed below:

For the full narrative of personalities that have this distribution see  Garen's Musical Personality Profile

And if you want to check out your own musical personality take the test here:   The DO-RE-MI's of Personality

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

App Prison

My loyalty to Microsoft was best displayed on 11/16/12 when I picked the HTC Windows 8 Phone.  But now 10 months and counting I wait frustrated that anytime I want my phone to do something (e.g. an App) there is nothing available.  It hurts to especially as Apple announced yesterday their new iphone (not very exciting but it pays to be first to market). 

G.M. the other day was showing off his new Samsung  Droid phone that will automatically scroll the screen as your eyes read to the bottom.  I thought a Windows phone would have seamless access and become just another small PC.  But as I accessed sites that use Adobe Flash (disallowed by the Windows 8 phone) and other computer features, I discovered that the phone is not just a small computer.  I do like the that allows me all my PC documents (Excel, Powerpoint, Word) accessible in the cloud and viewable on my phone.  The customization of the home screen with the dancing tiles is cool.  Yet the Apps is what is critical

So I'm 10 months into my 24 month contract that subsidized the HTC phone.  The question remains - stay in App prison or break away.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just One Song

It all started when I heard American Pie by Don Mclean over the Labor Day Holiday.  It was on Jenna's playlist.  I immediately spoke up and said - that was the winter of 1971 my senior year of High School.  A vivid image of a grey Saturday in Cleveland popped into my head.  I was driving a group of us from the Methodist youth group to a volunteer activity on the West side.  We were all singing the song (8 +  minutes worth) in the car. Why I connect that particular event with the song is a mystery - but many songs conjure up a vivid memory in time.

So -  that put me on to a music project.  I decided to create a playlist of songs for each year from 1962-1982 consisting of only ONE SONG for each of the years.  Upon a search of the internet I found Music Outfitters which had a list of the top 100 songs for each of those years.  This task is not easy given my history of the endless hours I spent listening to the radio and taping songs on Dad's reel to real tape recorder.  Regardless - I plowed on and for the hardest years I picked three first and then tried to narrow to one.

Before I publish my list, I intend to go back an find what songs I actually taped to verify if my taste in favorites has evolved  (however back then I was not just limiting my recordings to just one song per year).

BTW - American Pie was my 1972 pick.  (Why 1972 - the song was released in November 1971 but made the top 100 in 1972).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Failure Rates

In our Sunday evening fellowship study of Jacob's story in Genesis, we talked about the failures we all have and have had since the beginning of civilization.  Given the redundancy of mistakes generation after generation, you could conclude that little progress has been made when viewed as a community even as individuals improve independently of each other.

The statistician in me kicked in.  Since we are not (and will never be) perfect you could use the analogy of the machine uptime or quality control dependencies.  Take four independent operations (probably not the best assumption with people but it will do) that each have different failure rates - 1%; 3%; 5%; and 0.1%.  The probability that the "integrated system" fails is 8.86%.

The more independent functions you have will create a multiplier effect in the resulting failure rate. If you had ten operations all with 99.9% quality output (sounds pretty close to perfect) you should expect a 1% defect rate overall. 

So since we all fall short of perfect - when you put an entire population into the equation - you get a pretty big failure rate.  But as Thomas Edison would say - we have found 1000 ways that can cause failure - but that doesn't mean we've failed 1000 times. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bow Chicky Bow

I think Hallmark hit a home run with their audio cards featuring Hoops and Yoyo.  Jenna gave Ellen one of these cards for her 14th birthday several weeks ago.  It's addicting to open up.  Almost can't get it out of your mind.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh   Baby  :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

High School Football

Tonight was the first Friday night home game for the Indian Hill Braves and the Booster Bash.  A perfect September evening as temperatures dropped from the high 70's to 56 degrees.  I was "on point" on several fronts - volunteering for the Booster Bash and the "supervision" (parent in waiting) for Ellen and friends that were attending the game.

Standing at the end zone fence, I observed the real action (off the field) of the various groups of kids (from elementary, middle school and underclass high schoolers) all "hanging out" paying no attention to the game.  At least the Seniors were dressed up in spiritwear and were organized as a cheering section in the home stands.

Across the nation, High School Football dominates the Friday night activities.  Just before the 7pm kickoff with the crowd leisurely sauntering into the stadium, the band began to play the National Anthem.  Suddenly, as if a snapshot had been taken, everyone and everything stopped as the band played on. 

.... And the home of the Brave. The "frozen" picture restarted and lives journeyed on.  Yet for a moment in time the Community all came together, stopped their agenda and through reverence to freedom, listened to the song that unites us all - a country blessed to be playing high school football across the land.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Your Head Coach

Today was a breakfast with Joe Gibbs and 1000 other guys.  Yes there was significant sports talk given the key note speaker was Joe Gibbs -  a 3-time Superbowl  Champion (Head Coach for the Washington Redskins) and a 3-time NASCAR champion also. A big thanks to Paul R. for inviting me to attend.

Joe Gibbs was really there to talk about the game of life (which he then related to football). He is a very accomplished speaker because he kept his message simple, repetitive, and told stories to enhance his four main points.

(1) In life (like football) the most important starting point is the Head Coach
(2) Next, you need players
(3) The players need to understand this is a TEAM sport
(4) You need a Playbook (Game Plan)

Joe Gibbs gave a great testimonial and witness to us all.  I can't wait to read the book that was provided to all 1000 of us at the breakfast table "Game Plan for Life: Your Personal Playbook for Success". 


So what's his real points:

(1) God is your Head Coach
(2) You decide whether you want to be a player
(3) As a player you decide what team you want to play on
(4) The Bible is your Playbook - it can speak to you individually and your team mates and it leaves nothing out (or in doubt).

And I would add my message (which he didn't say but goes without saying) .......

We can all win the game!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

He did it!

Mom (who taught school for 56 years) always solved the "who done it" finger pointing among the two children in a fight by punishing both.  The cause of the fight was not the issue.  After all it takes two to fight regardless of who lit the fuse.  In some cases an entire classroom would be punished for not self regulating the perpetrators.

And so we have the challenge of determining whether to get involved with the Syrian civil war.  Who (or which side) initiated the chemical warfare?  Can we really establish "red lines" for umpiring weapons of mass destruction.  Hmmmm - it is ok to fight and kill - just do it in conventional ways.

The American people overwhelmingly do not want to enter into the Syrian conflict yet our representatives are likely going to vote for a "limited" strike.

Limited to what?  Being a "Bully for the Day".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


In the consulting business we used the phrase "He's a rain maker" to describe the person with exceptional talent in attracting new customers or consistently creating more unexpected business than the normal consultant.  Rain makers are also individuals (usually extroverts) that shake up the normal procedures.  When they join an organization they bring new energy, test existing policy and procedures, and "shake up" the status quo.

But there is a difference in "rain making" and chaos making.  Rain makers are accepted because the results (the ends) justify the means (chaos created).  Chaos makers do the opposite - create change expecting that will create the rain only to find drought - d-raining the organization.

We had a neighbor that was a Chaos maker.  Came to our neighborhood, created all kinds of radical and immediate change in the landscape of his property, stirred up problems for all those (including us) adjacent to the property, and then left town within three years of creating the chaos.  Their chaos has continued to "pollute" the neighborhood even after the adjacent properties had turned hands several times (we left 10 years ago).  

Beware of the Chaos-makers.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hold your Tongue

J.R. and I were reminiscing about the historic days at Accenture.  Different offices (Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland) had distinctively unique cultures before we combined them into an all Ohio practice (those were the days when Accenture was still organized geographically).  Yet the power of Accenture globally was the "one firm" concept and shared values across the globe.  The centralized training at St. Charles Ill. was instrumental in defining that standardization.  The interpersonal training that every employee received (in addition to the technical and functional training) help each of us as individuals improve our styles.

One of the most important things that I personally learned in both client relationship building, and selling is determining when to "hold your tongue".  Too often we want to communicate our personal agenda, knowledge, and advice only to discover it is not desired, needed or even necessary.  Knowing your audience is critical to understanding when they will really listen to you and understand the point you are delivering.  This becomes critical in both presentations and even one on one discussion.

It is so tempting to want to redirect a conversation to something YOU want to say (or hear yourself saying) that has little to do with the objective of your conversation.  Being able to step back, hold your tongue (and even the thoughts) is a discipline that can be the difference between a yes and a no.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preaching Hypocrisy

I blurted out "We are all hypocrites" in the debate with J.P. last night.  "I agree with that", J.P. replied.  He then added "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."  This is actually a quote from François de La Rochefoucauld a noted French author of maxims and memoirs.  He was a pithy 17th century blogger/tweeter with his five hundred and four  moral maxims - one liners. 

Maxim 218 : L'hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend à la vertu.
  • Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.

Hypocrisy is commonly thought of not practicing what you preach.  But this is not the true sense of a Hypocrite.  If a person  doesn't attempt to hide or deceive you into thinking that he does practice what he preaches then he would not be a hypocrite.  He would instead be the person who states "Do what I say, not what I do".  

Maybe that is the definition of a preacher. :) 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

YOU - First or Last

Whenever the word "YOU" begins your statement ---- be careful.   There are just some words and phrases that should not be uttered.  Examples:

"YOU ought to ...........

"YOU should ............

"YOU are ..............

"I told YOU so"   (this one has a bonus -  the selfish word "I" combined with the declarative "YOU")

The reality is that none of us wants to be told what to do; what we are; or what we did wrong.  The ability to give advice in a positive constructive way is a gift. The best advice comes in form of a question .... 

"Have YOU considered .......

"What would YOU do if .....

"How do YOU feel about ......

and if your advice was not taken (e.g. I told you so)  ---

It's not about being right ..... it's about rightly being.

So - consider ending your statements with YOU instead of beginning them with YOU.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clothes Line

We all have troubles, problems and stresses.  Coming to peace with those emotional bumps is one of the secrets of maintaining your
 health.  There are many techniques each individual uses to cope:

(1) Give yourself time to vent (yes you are allowed)
(2) Use Gratitude and counting blessings to neutralize the negatives
(3) Exercise
(4) Focus on helping others (redirect the thoughts)
(5) Take action (small steps) to solve the problem (Just do it)
(6) Write down the problem (journaling)
(7) Seek social support (find a good listener)
(8) Laugh
(9) Put your problems in perspective

"If I took all my problems and hung them on the clothes line and if my neighbors did the same .....  I would keep mine"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Inside Lock

In "What's so Great about Christianity, there is a reference to Hell - where God is eternally absent. Dinesh D'Souza states that the atheist rejects God and reluctantly God grants him his wish. "In a sense the gates of hell are locked from the inside."  The atheist locks God out from inside seemingly unable to leave.

G.S. (from Sunday Fellowship Small Group) quickly spoke up "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." from the Eagles song Hotel California.  That song has had numerous interpretations and the writers have purposely been vague about it's origin other than the excesses of the music industry. Freely entering the pleasure dome ("This could be Heaven or this could be Hell") can result in an inability to leave it behind ("but you can never leave").   

Inside locks (usually dead bolts) are designed for an individual to be able to leave - but requires action.  But for every inside lock there is a outside perspective looking in.  A person knocking at the door awaiting your response.  But it takes a key (or action of unlocking) to open the door. 

Find the key. Check out. You can leave. Heaven can't wait.

"Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt  St. Paul's Cathedral London
PS.  No locks on this door. The door in the painting has no handle, and therefore can only be opened from the inside, representing the "Obstinately shut mind".  See Wikipedia : Light of the World

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ends and Means

The adage "The Ends justify the Means" is constantly a battle in philosophical war.  J.P. and I have discussed at length the issue of Kantian Philosophy and Individual Freedom.  The conclusion of the Kant's "categorical imperative" and the moral impact that individuals are ends in themselves and should never be used as means to an end, creates a battlefield with philosophical paradoxes and moral dilemmas.

Quickly the philosophical camps divide between the "Ends" group and the "Means" group with the moral battlefield in the middle of the ring. 

My viewpoint:

"Pay attention to YOUR ENDS, and don't worry about the others who are MEAN"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Deuce

J.R. remembered his Dad's observation when describing the "bottom of the pack":  "Well ....... there's no card lower than a deuce".  This fits the context since in talking about people we sometimes refer to strange behavior as "He's a card" or even that deuce comes close to the word dunce.

However this expression is turned upside down in the Video poker game of "Deuces Wild" (a favorite way to gamble for Wayne). 

So which is it?  "He's a card"?   or   "He's a wild card"?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Ellen

Today is Ellen's 14th birthday. Celebrating with five other teenage girls, we all had dinner at Ferrari's Little Italy and Bakery followed by cake, dessert and a sleepover at our house.  Well not much sleep until after 2am Saturday morning.  Most of Ellen's high school friends are older - that is in the American age system. 

East Asia age reckoning assumes newborns are one and incremented on the Lunar New Year instead of the actual birthday.  So Ellen actually turned 15 on Feb. 10, 2013 (this year's Chinese Lunar New Year) using this methodology.  She is precisely 15 years, 6 months and 13 days old today.  There is logic to this method since the Chinese start counting your age at conception (no disagreement here about when life starts). Therefore she will turn 16 (in Chinese terms) on January 31, 2014.

Susan hates when I increment my own age on the calendar year, always telling me that I am misstating my age to everyone. My logic is simple - that way I can calculate my age by subtracting the birth year from the current year.  Maybe I have the modified Asian system.

The American Midwest Kansas Age Reckoning system :)   ---  age zero at birth with Gregorian New Year increment.

PS.  Don't tell Ellen she will be 16 in almost 5 months as she will begin to think about driving a car!

Wire Nails

At breakfast this morning with L.C. described his travel story through hell.  The kind of hassles we have all experienced at sometime during our travel careers.  The stressful tie up on the highway, the delayed flight on the tarmac, the packed plane, your tight fit in the seat next to the overweight passenger with less than acceptable personal hygiene issues; connecting flight with no time during dinner; the airport spoiled tuna sandwich; the rude passenger who arrogantly cuts in line; tossing up the sandwich in the plane's latrine; and the bumping landing at the end with lost or delayed luggage.

L.C. concluded the story with "When I got home, I could have eaten wire nails!"

Those back of the woods expressions just pop out of guys like L.C.  They are precious since it took the context of all the above to match the need for the expression. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blankets or Chains of Tradition

Last night was the "traditional" gathering of J.R. and K.M at a Reds game.  This year we switched from the weekday afternoon game tradition to an evening event.  It all started fourteen years ago (when we were worked at Accenture) when J.R. offered up tickets one evening and I pressured K.M. into joining us.  So it was fitting that we "honored" the original genesis of the tradition by duplicating an evening venue.

Traditions can emerge innocently after one notices a consistent pattern each year, or they can be deliberate (like  scheduling one Reds game each year  or our March Madness lunches) based on an event or key annual activity.  How many years or repetitiveness is necessary to call an activity a "tradition".  I think somewhere between five and ten years of consecutive occurrences begins to qualify the occasion as "tradition".   

Sports events can generate the regularity and comfortable common platform that fits well with establishing a tradition.  Hence the excitement of tailgating, and congregating with friends at games.  Holidays and family gatherings almost automatically are considered "traditions".

The Tennis Tournament here in Cincinnati was a tradition in my life for over 30 years. Last week I didn't attend even one match and only watched the first set of the Nadal/Isner final on TV.  Somehow that tradition had worn its way out.  The extra cost of the box seats helped me see the "chains" of that tradition and created a cost/value equation to its benefit.

Traditions create a sense of security and joy - like a blanket and yet can turn into "chains" of duty and boring habit.  Ascertaining the difference is what counts.  Breaking traditions is hard to do.