Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Rock

Last night was a fun family night orchestrated by Jenna - dinner and concert with the Trans Siberian Orchestra - a Rock Opera about Christmas.

 It's worth watching the trailer here: . 

Actually the attic story and stage setting with the opening of the magical trunk totally captured the magic and mystical feeling of the Christmas season.  The light show and pryo synchronization was spectacular.  Don't come thinking you will hear the traditional Christmas music - but the rock arrangements were fun to experience.

It was a fun evening and quite a contrast from the tradition of going to the Nutcracker Ballet.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Golden Birthday Card

As I eagerly awaited sorting the mail for all those Birthday cards (nada) the envelope from the Ohio Department of Aging  appeared.  YES ...   my GOLDEN BUCKEYE card (not a birthday card) was enclosed :)   As it said:  I've joined 2.4 million Ohioans in this privileged club.  "Golden Buckeyes are not defined by their age, but inspired by it."
So immediately I decided to head to the site to see how to "unleash your power".  The next milestone is a signed certificate from the Governor and Director of the Ohio Department of Aging when I turn 90. 

Just a short 30 years from today :)    Maybe that's a Platinum Buckeye!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Full not Dull Friday

Today, with Jenna's help, the house will transform into a Christmas theme.  Ellen and Martha will likely pitch in but Jenna is the source of the energy (and significant energy is needed based on the volume of trees). Carols will fill the air as we assemble the trees, string the lights, and hang the ornaments.   It is always worth the effort it to get everyone in the Christmas mood. 

The evening event will likely be some viewings of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as Susan eagerly anticipates the final movie that opens December 17.  Because each of the six movies opened in December, the season melds with a Tolkien mood also.

This time of year reminds us all of family traditions - activities, meals, visual reminders, even stories of holiday's past that are consistent year after year.  A way to ground us and surround us with the comfort of consistency. Full not Dull!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Billing Honor & Minutia

It's been a long time since one of my boring blogs on technology, customer service and billing - but here goes:

Of course, everyone knows (because I verbally tell the story to everyone that will listen) how much I despise Time Warner and their contractual shenanigans.  That is why, I patiently waited and struggled with Cincinnati Bell on DSL with bundled Direct TV .  Well ---- back in September I was able to sign up for a Fioptics bundle (Phone, Internet, and TV) with Cincinnati Bell.

The story of getting the  Cincinnati billing correct is long ... longer .... and even longest of my stories of dealing with technology providers.  Getting the bill to equal the promotional pricing is an exercise in detail auditing. The story ends well (however there is one last credit I will have to verify next month.

The good news is that Cincinnati Bell has consistently met my expectations (even if it requires a large investment of my time with a rep on the phone).  My bundle is $145.37 per month before fees and taxes.  Naturally those add up to nearly $13.75 (another 9.4%) that are the first "got cha".  But then.....  the fine print in this month's billing  (and I mean really fine print) was the price increases effective 12/15/14  -  $1.99 for Home Pak Lite and $3.00 for Fioptics Internet.  But there was hope - "Your promotional and contractual rate will apply until the expiration date. 

Wow - maybe Cincinnati Bell is different from Time Warner in honoring their negotiated deal.  Sure enough,  Michelle the Cincinnati Bell rep verified that my contractual rate was valid until Sept. 2016!

Now there are other details I could quibble with about Cincinnati Bell's customer service stumbles.  But in the end..... and that's what counts - they honored the expectation I had.

However - it requires extreme attention to billing minutia. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Winsome Bridge

Susan summarized Rick Warren's speech at Humanum Conference (Nov. 17-19 an ecumenical conference on Marriage, Culture and Civil Society) to our Sunday evening share group.  I decided to watch the entire 40 minutes this morning and you can see why he has had such a big impact - this generation's Billy Graham. 

Rick talks about being winsome......   What?  Never heard that word. 

Winsome - generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence <  a winsome smile  >  

Fast forward if to 22:27 (Twenty Two Minutes into the speech). "We must face attackers with joy and winsomeness". WOW -  that is quite the weapon.  A smile.   He follows that up with the quote: "You are never persuasive when you are abrasive ....  Are you more interested in making a point or a friend".

So start today - Build a Winsome Bridge with your smile!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Strength in Weakness

S.M. gave a heart filled presentation on his personal history at our Vistage meeting.  The testimonial of some of his weaknesses showed how his character turned that same perceived weakness into a strength.  I remember G.G.'s (Accenture Chicago Partner) comment to me about the cruelty of kids when they see something they can use to taunt you into feeling different or weak.  This is especially true of minorities whose physical differences can not be hidden. But even without an easy target to use, kids will find something - height, intellect, glasses, attire as the means to get under your skin.

We all know what "buttons" of vulnerability we have (and some are self inflicted).  However,  how we respond to this vulnerability (e.g. fear) is what will determine our ability to cope.  Self esteem (not pride) is an important emotion to build.  

Acknowledging a weakness is a strength and the first step in building a foundation of self esteem.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

First Frost

Saturday Morning (a late blog post 11/1/14) was the first frost and  there were snow flurries in the air.  I consider the transition from fall to winter as the most beautiful time of year.  Today's Bing theme picture is from Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest - Beaver Meadow that demonstrates the beauty. 
Green Mountain National Forest - Beaver Meadow  Vermont
The Indian Hill Green Belt behind my house gives me that same feeling as I wake up in our new Master Bedroom (the renovation is almost complete). 
No human can paint a picture like this - year after year.  Proving the non-existence of God is impossible when you  see scenes like this. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sure 'n Sure

Insurance is a great concept -pooling risk.  However, I have grown up with an intense dislike for insurance.  In every facet of its use it is too complicated, and rarely has it benefited me.  In fact the very concept of it benefiting me means that someone else paid for the services I have received.

Today I spent the day dealing with health insurance.  First, I started the appeal process as a result of Aetna's denial for Mom's skilled rehabilitation physical therapy. Then it was an evening of reviewing the 2015 Medicare & You guide and the Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan for Mom and Dad.  Then Jenna and I sat down to review her annual enrollment for health care and benefits for her job at Christ Hospital.

I just don't like the concept that health insurance plans incent - "How can you get more services and not pay out of your pocket".  Trying to make it a game of planning your healthcare each year so that you pay the least into the system and get the most out of the system.  You win ..  someone else loses.

Even after you come to equilibrium on what insurance level to pick, you discover when you need it - it's not there. Take the example of Mom in a Skilled Nursing Rehabilitation Facility.  Within a week, the facility and Aetna were denying claims (even when Medicare states you can receive up to 100 days of therapy).  Mom was not performing to "standard" (whatever that means).

This story is long and complicated and has reconfirmed my dislike of insurance - and particularly health insurance.

You can be SURE that your condition will not be inSUREd.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clock Talk

I've always been fascinated with clocks.  We have several meaningful clocks at our house.  The cuckoo clock in our kitchen pantry, the wall clock as we exit the back entrance, the Peck Wellingborough Antique Grandfather clock at the top of the stairway to the Master Bedroom, and the Howard Miller Graham Bracket Mantel clock that was Walt and Martha's wedding gift to Susan and I (which has been inoperable for the past 14 years).

Well my attempt to lubricate the Grandfather clock resulted in the snap of the 5 3/8 inch pendulum spring. While I thought this would require the expertise and help of an antique clock repair specialist, instead I was able to find the part on the internet ($23).  That gave me the courage to try a "do it yourself" repair of the Howard Miller mantel clock.

 A little lubrication and adjustments to the striker hammers was all the clock needed (tender loving care)  The Key-wound, Westminster chime Kieninger movement plays 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 chimes accordingly with full chime and strike on the hour.

In researching the Westminster chime I discovered an interesting bit of trivia:
The Westminster chime was not originally associated with Big Ben in London, instead it was fitted in the University Church St. Mary's the Great in Cambridge (1793).  The chimes are believed to be saying the simple but beautiful prayer"

"Lord, through this hour
     be thou our guide.
So, by thy power
    No foot shall slide"

And for the tone inclined the notes are permutations of E major:

1st Quarter -  g#  f# e b
Half                e g# f# b     e f# g# e
3rd Quarter -  g# e f# b      b f# g# e    g# f# e b
Full              - e g# f# b     e f# g# e     g# e f# b  b f# g# e
Hour Strike   (three notes together e b g# with g# octave lower) 

For the mathematically inclined there are five sets (combinations above) or maybe called stanzas.  They are played in order 1;  2 and 3; 4, 5 and 1; 2, 3, 4 and 5.

For the rhythmic inclined:

5/4 time -  quarter note, quarter note, quarter note, half

Is that enough Clock talk  :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Just Reason It

Seems my book reading is at an all time low.  However I do get to listen to books during my trips to Kansas.  The latest book was "How to win friends and Influence People .... in the Digital Age".   It has been a while since I read the original book but this was full of jewels of interpersonal development.

"The reason we do things is more important than the things we do".   I couldn't agree more.  While there is no substitute for action (e.g. Just Do It!), the reason we do things and how we decide what to do make up the complete self.  We are what we think and do.  Carefully deciding what to do, when to do it, and how to do it reflect our values.
Doing something is easy.  Doing the right thing is the difficult (and important) part!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seasonal signs

Fall is waning and winter attempts its entrance.  No frost this morning but the crisp chill has found it's way into the house.  The smell of chili cooking on the stove and the faint beeping of the home made bread maker are the true signs of season change. 

Saturday's chore was the visual indicator with piles of leaves dotting the yard and outdoor furniture snuggly stored away.  Winter clothes have penetrated the closet and Ellen's plea of a chilly house resulted in the flip of the thermostats to "heat".  My response - "Wear a sweater".

Even the fireplace magically turned itself on - a learning experience for all since the remote had been set mysteriously to automatic (the family room had dipped below 69 degrees). 

I personally enjoy each seasonal transition and the signs - both natural and man made.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ebola in the Air

A recent email from Susan demonstrates the how quickly an interconnected globe becomes personal. A student at my nieces school near Cleveland was on the plane with the infected Ebola nurse from Dallas.  Suddenly a infectious disease across the ocean is one degree from me (only if all the degrees aligned - contact of my niece with a student and then contact with me an my niece).

The simulation in the Washington Post article show the reason in black squares why this disease has people concerned:

Naturally, I couldn't resist researching the mathematics of disease.  The key variable is the basic reproductive ratio, $R_0$.  The rate of increase of the disease over a generation.  For measles this ratio is 12-18; for flu 2-6; for Ebola  -  the guess is 1.5 - 2. 

 So the good news is Ebola travels slowly -  unless you travel by air!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Heaven Board - Entry #8

J.V. walked into Friday Morning Bible Study and tilted the chair next to me against the table - as one would do to save the seat location.  It was Bob Edwards normal spot to sit and one I was privileged to be near for the ten plus years I have been attending. 

Today his seat is near God in heaven.  Yesterday a tragic accident occurred when Bob was hit outside of his car on I71 by a cement truck traveling southbound  (why .... we may never know). 

My memories of Bob are many -  his gift to Ellen 10 years ago -- a glow in the dark Rubber Duck;  his interest and support of SVP Cincinnati; his idea that got me interested in researching my Grandfather's cattle brand;  our joint interest in talking about WWII history........... and many more.

Bob Edwards was a witness of what philanthropy and Christian discipleship is all about.  His passion with the Freestore Foodbank and his fund raising effectiveness in bringing the Rubber Duck Regatta to Cincinnati will be how many will remember Bob.  My memories will be as a mentor and person with the gift of exhortation to other philanthropists -  and his example of how to be an "engaged philanthropist".

I will miss you Bob - but your spirit lives on.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rust Sounds Good!

"Back in the late 70's Neil Young sang a song about the emerging punk ethic ...  and the pivotal line in that song is 'It's better to burn out, than it is to rust".  Now I'm not sure that even Neil himself subscribed to that sentiment, but I don't see rust as a bad thing.  I have an old 1962 John Deere tractor that is covered with rust but it runs like a top.... you know, the inner workings are just fine. 

To me that rust symbolizes all the miles driven and all the good work done and all the experiences gained.  From where I sit rust looks pretty good."        Don Henley "The History of the Eagles"

Just finished watching this 2012 Documentary now available on Netflix.  Worth every bit of the three hour investment.  The quote spoken by Don Henley at the end summed it all up -  40 years of rust still sounds pretty good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mason, Rainbows, and Stars

A.M. invited me to the PNC Economic update which was held at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown. It was quite a beautiful building inside with sculpted painted 25 foot ceilings.The auditorium was impressive.

My grandfather Wells was a Mason (Freemasonry) and likely Grandmother was an Eastern Star (I know my Mom was).  In fact, Mom might have grown into the Eastern Star as a Rainbow girl (since Rainbow Girls started in Oklahoma). 

There were all kinds of references to Scottish rites and  33 degrees.  "The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is a system of 33 degrees (including the three blue lodge degrees) administered by a local or national Supreme Council."

I don't know what degree Grandpa obtained (the order probably keep these things secret or preached humility), however it states "it is the obligation placed on every Mason to contribute to charity. This occurs at both lodge and Grand Lodge level. Masonic charities contribute to many fields from education to disaster relief.["

So in a way I'm following in my ancestors footsteps when I joined the giving group: Social Venture Partners Cincinnati.  We just don't have a lodge, degrees, or secret handshakes :)

DYI Blogging

I was searching the internet to find how to fix the touch light inside a beautiful hand made Amish corner bookshelf.  It amazes me at the wealth of knowledge and information you can find!  My search lead me to one of the more interesting blogging sites titled "What I Learned Today".

In addition to the very informative information as to the cause and repair of my touch light, there were other intellectual treasures.  Obviously a very talented and smart blogger.  More interestingly is the elapsed time of the blog (August 2007).  There are 29 entries in 2014 for an average of 3 per month. 

Most bloggers are not sustainable bloggers and after 2-3 years they get all "blogged out".  Even I have started to become blog writing weary (and I only started my blog in 2009) with only 77 entries in 2014.

What I learned today is contained in the blog "What I learned today".  Check it out.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Buckles and Boots Party

Saturday night was the fourth Vistage Group 1107 party - hosted by Susan and I.  A chilly September evening caused us to finish the festivities inside.  A.S. had special 10 year awards for five of us and I concluded the evening with the Buckets and Boots contest (Guys wore Buckles, Gals wore boots).

Even though the house renovation project was not complete, Susan and I were able to make the house presentable.  We were able to "move" in the new bedroom just after we returned from Montana (Sept. 2).  Hosting a party is actually great incentive to clean things up around the house (and outside also). 

I remember as a teenager ( a lazy teenager) always snipping back at Mom: "Why do we need to do all this cleaning when it was only FAMILY coming to visit?"  After all, family knows how neat or messy we lived like.  Now I realize the reason - out of respect and as incentive to get things accomplished.

"Neatness is next to Godliness"  ....  also!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Big ... Beautiful ....Sky

All set for a relaxing Holiday in Montana. Yes Big Sky is the right name for the town.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Health Insurance Maze

Insurance in general is always a mystery.  Who for example has read their entire (word for word) coverage for home, auto, and umbrella insurance?  Likewise have you read word for word your Health Insurance coverage - unlikely.  Reading it is one thing - understanding the language is another.  So if you are elderly (lets call that 86 and above since I'm approaching 60), what hope do you have in understanding your policy and/or monitoring the claims process?

That is exactly what Mom and Dad face now and that I have been digging into lately.  Luckily, I have a personal friend M.I. who is an executive at Anthem to help me at a moment's notice (I called him last night to clear up part one (or as they say Part A, B, C, D, etc. of Medicare) of my confusion.

The interaction of Medicare with Private supplemental Insurance (Medigap, or Medicare Advantage) creates another set of players to add to the confusion.  Add to that four different doctors/specialists, a Skilled Nursing Facility with their staff, and outsourced therapists and you create an almost infinite set of opportunities for human error. 

Last time I visited Dad, he handed me the Medicare Booklet that the government sends to all Medicare Part A beneficiaries.  I've forgotten the number of pages but it approached the size of a Metro phone book.  Who has read that?

So -  I have entered the land (or should I say abyss) of Health Care Insurance. 

I think this is like having children - nothing prepares you for this, and it becomes "learning on the job".

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Renovation Blues

Susan and I love renovation projects.  We started our fifth major construction project on June 8th.  At the completion of this project every room in our home will have been touched or altered.  This renovation was particularly hard since every bedroom closet had to be evacuated.  So for three months we have been dressing in chaos. 

The stages of emotion during renovation are very predictable.

(1) Planning/Architectural Drawing -  This is probably the most fun stage. For the least amount of money, you get to dream about what you want; play with multiple ideas; exercise creativity; and scope the project for what you think will be the overall cost.

(2) Preparation/Teardown - A difficult but interesting phase.  Moving furniture out, finding alternate places to temporarily allow normal living; actual tear down to infrastructure layer; and the excitement of the project starting.

(3) Initial Build out = The most fun and where progress seems to go the fastest.  The conceptual drawings begin to take on physical reality.  Detail decisions and adjustments not thought out during architectural planning or blueprints enter the picture.  Excitement continues as daily progress can be seen physically.

(4)  Rough finishing -  This phase includes first coats of paint, hardwood floors laid or refinished, lights and electrical fixtures installed.  To the novice it looks like move in is only weeks away.  This phase is a little slower in noticing progress but the anticipation of completion keeps the spirits high.

(5) Final detailing and Finishing -  Suddenly the project crawls to a halt.  It appears they will never get done.  The molding, the door adjustments, window trim, final coats of paint, and even cabinetry adjustments all cause the project to drag (with the emotional blues).  When will the project ever end?

So we've been in Phase 5 for the last three weeks and counting.  Here is where patience is tested.  There was even the quote "This is the last time I'm doing this". 

Yes until it is all done -  and then we both begin thinking of the next project to do.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Ellen

Today is the big One Five -  or officially the starting the third year of teenager years (age 13-19). Actually the key date will be six months from today since that will be when Ellen can get her Learners permit to drive. 

Out in rural Kansas, Dad continued the tradition of teaching each of his Grandchildren how to drive.  That was only natural since he also taught both Jenna and Ellen how to ride a bike.  So Ellen experienced her first maneuvering experience in the parking lot of Derby's municipal park.

Already Ellen is pointing out "cool" cars to me - hinting that there will soon be a need for a third car to be available.  It all fits together as the social teenage years of independence converge with weary parental taxi cab requirements.

Happy Birthday Ellen

Friday, August 22, 2014

Like or Love

I watched Frontline's "Generation Like" a program that explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and how big brands are increasingly co-opting young consumers’ digital presences.

While I'm not an avid Facebook fan, I have been incented by contests and certain web sites to "Like" the product, service, or site.  So I began to wonder about the quote "You are what you Like"? 

Sure - conceptually what we like (what we watch, eat, read, people etc.) defines our priorities, our purpose and over history builds our memories and our life experiences.  But my likes change constantly and what I "liked" a decade ago bears no resemblance to my "Likes" today.

So  it could be that "Likes" are transitory and what matter is what we "Love". 

Maybe that's the next Facebook App -     Love

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cowboy Philosophy

Last week included a drive back to Kansas to see Mom (in rehab) and Dad.  It was also a great opportunity to prepare for the Labor day holiday trip to Montana.  K.C. had warned me that when you are in Cowboy country you better "fit in".  So it was off to Sheplers to find the correct accessories.  Dad gave me my Grandpa Wisner's string tie, and I supplemented that with a belt buckle that Dad and I modified to be Grandpa Well's cattle brand "The Rocking W".  Dad then gave me his hunting knife to round out the ancestral history of my Cowboy inheritance.

So it was natural that I decided to go down memory lane and rewatch the 1989 mini series "Lonesome Dove".  I had forgotten most of the details of the story of the Texas Rangers cattle drive from Texas to Montana.  But I got very intrigued with the sign for Gus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call's Hat Creek Cattle Company that includes a Latin motto, "Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit." Captain Call had placed this on the horizontal stake at the cross of Gus's grave.C

What did it mean?  Well it appears to be a reference to a proverb first attributed to Juvenal (a Roman poet).  And without going into all the detail analysis ( - suffice to say it followed Gus's Cowboy philosophical comments during the journey. 

Translated literally it means: "A grape is changed by living with other grapes" or maybe as the show illustrates "We are changed by the lives around us."

Hmmm ....   Cowboy Philosophy ranks right up there with the Ancient Romans and Greeks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Virus Wins

So the virus won this time.  After five days of no relief in sight, I decided to bring in the experts -  Doctors and Nurses. Yes, with weak knees I succumbed to the families pressure to go to the Doctor.

The bottom line:  get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids  -  $104 for that prescription.

The human body's ability to heal is nothing short of a miracle. In fact, there is alot of medicine and medical practices that only disrupts this process. Part of healing is patience - sometimes there is no quick fix. Part of healing is work - working to recover. Part of healing is to surrender- surrender your agenda and priorities to what really counts - your health.

Oh yeah - the final part of the prescription: "See me in 3 days if your condition worsens"....... for another $104.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mutt or Mutation

Whenever I was asked about my heritage, I would respond - "I am a mutt" (since our ancestors go back seven generations to the American Revolution).  However my recent project in documenting the family tree and taking the audio Genetics course caused me to submit the DNA tests for myself, Dad and Mom.

Mom and Dad's "spit test" results from DNA just arrived.  So I decided to see how the genealogy ethnicity test correlated. See below:  DNA Ethnicity

The context of the word mutation is usually considered negative in our vocabulary.  However in Genetics mutation is beautiful and necessary for survival.  Clearly from the estimate of

(60% Britain; 11% Ireland; 9% Finland/Northwest Russia; 8% Iberain Peninsula; 5% West Europe)

(59% Europe West; 19% Great Britain; 9% Ireland)

(44% Great Britain; 17% Ireland; 13% Europe West; 11% Italy/Greece; 8% Finland/Northwest Russia

Hmmmmm...   where did that Italian/Greek streak come from?

Maybe I'm not a Mutt ......   I'm a mutation   :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

To Labor or not

Susan's gynecologist had one of the best quotes about labor pains when Susan was explaining to him her pain tolerance.  When he asked if she intended to deliver naturally, she responded "Of Course!,  I don't even take novacaine at the dentist for cavities".  The doctor paused and then asked "Have you ever had every tooth drilled simultaneously?"

P.G. told me about a humorous youtube about two "tough" guys that decide to prove male tolerance to pain by simulating labor pains.

Watch and enjoy:

State your own conclusions :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Does surrender mean defeat?  The first two definitions refer to war, conflict or giving up control because of force.  However the third definition states:  give something out of courtesy.

So the context of surrender is critical to it's definition.  Maybe the better definition is from the quote: "Surrender is the intersection between acceptance and change."

Surrender is not about giving up ...... it is about giving in.  There is power in giving - both in and out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Life Marches On

In my latest interest in and tracking the roots of my ancestors, I happened upon an interesting feature of the site - maps of birth locations.

Here is just the U.S. map of seven generations of the 122 ancestors I have attached to my family tree. 

Many of the exact locations are not precise enough to identify the city (e.g. State or County only), but the migration from Orange County New York to the west in Oklahoma and Kansas is evident. 

It would be fascinating to visualize the movement by generation (probably a future enhancement to the software) from birth to death.  What it shows is how much mobility occurs as time marches on.  In biblical times there was also significant movement (i.e. famine, slavery, refuge, etc.). 

What it proves? - Life marches on.  The human explorer.  The young and the restless.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sing Along

It was a great weekend with the Cincinnati Pops Summer Riverbend  sing along.  The family brought blankets and KFC chicken meal and enjoyed the lazy summer evening together. 

I remember so well the free Concerts in the Park with the Cincinnati Pops that Susan and I would attend.  Cincinnati Pops has national recognition (like the Boston Pops) primarily because of Erich Kunzel (and now John Morris Russell). 

The songs were all the popular Broadway hits - Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Les Miserables and some more recent shows (Jersey Boys, Beauty and the Beast etc.). 

Singing joins laughter as the ingredients of joy in life.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


"Coincidence is God's way of winking at you"  Frank Gaad (From the TV Series The Americans)

That feeling of uncanny connection, or deja vu, or even just heightened intellectual awareness comes upon us more often than would seem possible statistically.  Yet as a statistician, the mathematics of many examples of coincidence can be explained logically.  Take the small world example - you happen upon someone you know while traveling in Europe.  Well - it just so happens a large percentage of your socio demographic network does similar things at similar times in the calendar.  The probabilities are high that there might be a chance meeting during one or more of these trips overseas. 

It is human nature to connect events - to associate cause and effect.  We want to place logical meaning to people, events, and things and connect them to our purpose in life. 

So when we do make a connection - maybe God does smile and wink thinking "Their understanding it afterall".

Friday, July 18, 2014

You First

The "problem" with covenants, is determining who goes first - I said this morning in FMBS.

In computer logic the "if/then" statement precisely defines the first movement. 

If you do 'X' then I will do 'Y'.           OR
If I do 'Y' then you do 'X'. 

Notice the difference in these two statements?

So how do YOU write your life's "if/then" covenants?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Good Enough

At a SVP Cincinnati (Social Venture Partner) meeting with our Investee FNC (Family Nurturing Center), I misquoted an expression by saying that "Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough".  It was my way of saying it was time for action - taking the risk of doing something and making a mistake would get us closer (and quicker) to our objective than more planning and preparation.

Actually the quote was: "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"  Voltaire  - translated:  The Best is the Enemy of Good.

This came up last night in my discussion with Jenna about some of her life decisions - career, home, and financial management.  We all struggle with what consequences a decision today will make in our lives in the future (see blog entry 2/24/11 Alternate Paths). 

Yet, not making a decision today is by default choosing a path.  As a partner at Accenture once advised me - What further information do you further need to make the decision now?  Instead of spinning in scenarios, work on obtaining that information. 

No decision you make will ever be perfect (there is no such thing in this world as perfect).  So all you are trying to achieve is "Good Enough".

Think about it .....   Is where you are - today -   in your life ......  Good Enough?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Energy Leak?

Look at the following graph -  what does it tell you?


I have purposely eliminated the title, scale and legend to show that graphs can automatically describe a story and serve as a basis for analysis and problem solving.  This graph would cause you to wonder about the sudden spikes in 2007 and now 2014 (the 2014 data is forecasted).
This graph is actually the Kwh usage for our home (blue line) with a linear trend line for the 10 years of data.  A declining line means less electric usage.  So what happened in 2007 and  what created the trend line down?  AND ....  what is happening in 2014 (annualized 6 months of data) that is reversing the trend? 
The big spike in 2007 relates to one of the hottest summers in Cincinnati history.  August alone had 25 days over 90 degrees. The record for total number of days over 90 degrees for the summer (defined as June 1 - August 31) was 1936 (the Dust Bowl) with 64 days (and 12 were above 100).  Cincinnati averages 19 days over 90 and 0 over 100.  If you want to compare to your city click here ===>
This was a call to action and we have put in several big energy saving features -  new windows, insulation, roof R30 six inch layer, high efficiency HVAC, which created a steep reduction from 2007 to 2013. This was excellent timing since more hot records were broken:
2010 - 12th warmest summer of all time
2011 - Record 17 consecutive days over 90 
 So the mystery is what is going on in 2014?  Do I have some kind of energy leak?
 Stay tuned for the answer.  Luckily I can try to solve this before the hot days of August arrive.
Addendum:  7/23/14  "Hottest June on record since 1880"    But not in Cincinnati :(          The mystery continues.

Cincinnati Hi./Lo vs Avg  June 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BBQ Branding Irons

I discovered a great guy gift -  Branding Irons for BBQ/Steaks and a web site that will custom make this novelty gift item  -  Brand First.  This will be something I add to my wish list (future Father's Day gift). 

Back in 2011, I decided to create a fun project with Dad and create wall plaques of my Grandfather Well's cattle brand and gave them as Christmas presents to the Wells boys (Kris had the original branding irons).

Wells Cattle Brand - The Rocking W
As I mentioned in the October 8, 2011 post, my research to find Grandpa's Cattle Brand Registration was futile.  The Kansas Historical Society found no record for a brand registered to William L. Wells nor could they locate the image.  Lynn Wells suggested I contact the Oklahoma Cattleman's Association - so I may get remotivated to see if I can find if the brand was registered in Oklahoma.

So now I will request my own personal set of BBQ branding irons for grilling out back.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mixed Marriages

The Saturday Wall Street Journal had a humorous article about Mixed Marriages - Political ones :) 

WSJ - "Sorry Mom, I Married a Democrat"  6/21/14
It was timely since Susan and I were honored to attend J.P.'s wedding.  Naturally, I was questioning the family backgrounds (especially when I discovered the Columbus Accenture Partner J.W. that was related to the wedding party groom).  And after listening to The Modern Scholar audible series by Betty Dexter Dryer "The Basics of Genetics", and subscribing to, I have been fascinated with family trees and lineage. 

Where do we get our religious and political points of view?   Nature or Nurture?

Wikopedia describes exogamy benefits as individuals who breed with more exotic partners and thereby avoid incestuous relationships and tend to have healthier offspring due to the benefits of Heterosis

That reminds me of the Andy Rooney short piece on the TV show "60 minutes" -   "A" people are destined to marry "Z" people.

"A" people carefully squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube  ...... Z people .......
"A" people are early risers ......  Z people .......

You get the idea.  Now go out an mix it up!  :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

So That

Last night, I attended the Social Venture Partners (SVP Cincinnati) training session titled "Meetings Suck".  Facilitated by Eric Peguro,  he provided one of the most useful techniques for effectiveness in meetings that I had ever seen (or heard of).  It came down to two words ..... "So That"

I had previously learned (and applied) the concept of being prepared for meetings at Accenture.  I would always ask myself (or the team) to define what we hoped to accomplish in the meeting and what would be the definition of success.  This technique came from the long tradition at Accenture  with written course objectives and learning expectations in every training module at St. Charles. This technique was also a standard requirement in designing system training materials for any installation.

So when Eric said the most critical element of effective meetings was written desired outcomes, I was nodding in agreement.  But he hit the "home run" with his definition of "proper" written outcomes:

(1) The outcome must be a noun (e.g.  document, agreement, understanding, etc.).  NO VERB ALLOWED!
(2)  Add the words  "SO THAT" after the outcome.  This will define the accomplishment expected.

Try it out.

A 3 month action plan .....   SO THAT .... everyone will see our goal and how they fit into the effort.

Eric had many more "jewels" of wisdom in meeting effectiveness making the evening a self help junkies delight.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

To die ... or not to die

I just finished week four of The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future by Dr. Jacob L. Wright (Emory University), who postulates that the Bible authors champion a normal way of life (man, wife, family), procreation, education and the preservation of people as the [my words now] purpose God provides for us.

SO - you can contrast Horace's view:  "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"  - It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country"

with Bertoit Brecht's view:   "It is sweeter and more fitting to live for one's country." and

with the WWI poem by Wilfred Owen "Dulce et decorum est" that graphically opines his view.

War or Peace -  "To die ... or not to die" that is the question.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

And Your First Born

Today's tight credit environment continues to prevent people from getting loans.  I remember the refinancing headaches I had in Sept. 2011 with the volumes of documentation required.  Yesterday I received the inch thick confirmation letter that the bank is required to send "In accordance with the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (S.A.F.E. Act) of 2008. 

With the consumer protection packet came MLO Registration Number, Credit Score Inquiry, Insurance disclosures, and about 12 state specific forms, housing counseling agency, and other Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) stuff.

You can see first hand. the burden of regulation and over protection that government mandates when they feel guilty about being "asleep at the switch" during the big housing crash.  This layer of inefficiency has not improved the risk of lending - it has impeded the process.

The banks are doing business reluctantly with fear of liability.  The volume of documentation they require is an indication of government mandating how they do business - which assumes government knows how to measure quality credit risk.  Instead of increasing quality and judgment, government is eliminating business judgment.

Don't be surprised when the next lending form will be promising your first born as collateral.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Home Networking

Last week we started yet another home renovation project at our house.  With the remodeling of four rooms, the issue of home networking has reared its head (see Tangled Wire Mess 12/4/2011).  Cincinnati Bell Telephone is preparing our neighborhood for Fiber Optics (within the next 90 days) and that will provide some "peace" in the household by increasing our internet speeds.

However the issue is what wire (or wires) should I install in the remodeled rooms (Cat 5e, Cat 6, Coax Cable etc.)?  AND.... what configuration do I want to plan for the new wireless LAN at home?  AND ....  how much of the legacy wires should I keep  OR should I "bite the bullet" and set up a logical (and clean) home network hub?

Well, as tempted as I am to design and install a "clean" network at home (with expansion for future unknown requirements), I have decided to just proliferate the spaghetti mess of wires. 

It follows the old adage - don't mess with what works.

Monday, June 16, 2014


"I hate returning items", was my conclusion to the story about my patio furniture experience.  "Do you know why people avoid and hate returning items? A.M. added.  Puzzled, I pondered what it was that caused my stomach to contract when thinking of the return process - the effort, repackaging the items, the wait in customer service line, the potential conflict, or the time to rebuy.  It was none of these. 

"It is because the return confirms you are a loser" - A.M. bluntly revealed.  

That was it!  The return was confirming I had wasted my time in the original procurement, AND that I was wasting even more time "undoing" the purchase AND I might even waste additional time rebuying the item in the first place.  Then there is still the risk the process could happen again.... and again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Deep Conversational Strokes

Conversations strokes (like your tennis strokes) can be short and simple or deep and long.  If you conversation is shallow your relationship with the person you are talking to will likely return shallow or non existent volleys.  The deeper your conversation will create an opportunity for more enriching "conversational play". 

For those people you love the most, practicing deep conversational strokes will provide you a more satisfying and pleasurable conversation.  There are risks in hitting a tennis stroke deep - it could go "out of bounds" or be interpreted as a ball not to be returned.  However, in most cases your conversational player will see the effort you are putting into your stroke and attempt to return it deep also.

Here is a deep volley question:  "What made you feel good about yourself today?"   Notice how it is an open ended question; it is very personal; it is positive; it indicates a sincere desire to learn more about the feelings of others.

I suggest you try some "deep volleys" first with your spouse, parents, brothers and sisters and then "graduate" to best friends (caution is warranted here - be sure you know what a best friend is). 

Remember, hitting it deep means more challenging returns - but a more enriching game.

Credit for this entry idea:   Six Questions that will save your relationships  by
I suggest you watch the video that they put together on their blog site.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cats in the Cradle

One of the keys to interacting with Cat people is to keep the focus narrow.  Too much stimulus will overwhelm a Cat - which applies to choices, number of people, noise levels, etc.  Think of it like the Cats Cradle game - the game with two people focused on exchanging turns in methodically pulling the string into a new formation.

Keep the movements simple, consistent, and predictable.  There are a finite number of moves (i.e. choices) and expected results. 

When a Cat person is focused on a result, then they can tune out some of the more troublesome distractions that can "spook" them.

The Cat's in the Cradle is the Dog's silver spoon. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Conversational NET-working

This may be a stretch in the tennis analogy - but being strategic in conversation will add significantly to your personal NET-work.   So in this case you want to capture all conversations you have with people in your personal network.
Why is this important?  Well, one of my Accenture partners once told me that your greatest asset in a job and career (and life) is your personal network.  You can measure this by the number of business cards you collect or the number of Linkedin contacts (and here I mean ...... meaningful contacts) you have. Other social networks also apply (e.g. Facebook, Pinterest etc.) But remember these are conversational physical networks not computer passive virtual networks.
When you are in conversation with someone, you will want to create a memory of that person and a category (e.g. where they work, their interests, their expertise, etc.) to file away in your personal network memory file.  That way should a need arise you can call upon them for help or advice.  In fact, you might even be able to help them someday with a need they described to you.  Finally, you might even be able to connect two strangers unknown to each other - because you put "one and one" together by matching their need which you discovered in your independent conversations with them.
If you think about trying to find a meaningful category in which to "file" that person into your personal network, it can help you with the ease (and less stressful) conversational flow.  It's fun to be a conversational detective and find out interesting facts about someone else.

SO .......  In tennis you want to always hit the ball over the net.  But in Conversational tennis you want to end the conversation ball in the NET -----  your personal NETWORK!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boston Legal 3 - Loyalty

Last Thursday (6/5/14), the guys got together for "Boston Legal 3" - possibly a tradition in the making.  J.P. hosted number three event which included reports from each of us on Global Trends and investments.  I decided to invest a small amount in each area (EPI and DDD) to track for the next 30 years :)

On the "lighter side", I brought a movie that I discovered researching the poem by Edgar Allan Poe - Eldorado (see blog 11/18/2010). We watched (in its entirety)  "Mountains of the Moon" a 1990 movie about the search for the source of the Nile.  It is amazing how well true stories and their drama can translate into a great movie experience.  I was "sparring" with J.P. in our ongoing debate about morality (and in particular Loyalty) when a scene in this movie created an "ethical debate between the two explorers.

The two friends and explorers Captain Richard Francis Burton and Lt. John Hanning Speke each have different personal reasons for searching for the Nile but agree to share the glory.  However there emerges both a dispute (about the true source) and a falling out by Lt. Speke presenting his view prematurely without a joint presentation. 

Rwenzori Mountains  Uganda

Scene:  Chapter 23    T: 2:00:36      LOYALTY
Lt. John Speke walking in the hallway leaving the Royal Geographical Society.  Isabel Arundell (Captain Richard
Burton's wife) confronts Lt. Speke in hallway.

Isabel:  Do you really  want this debate?
John:  Why Not?

Isabel: It's the last thing that Richard wants
John: Yes ...  I suppose he dreads the outcome.
Isabel: No...He knows you are incapable of assembling the proofs of your arguments
and that you will lose.
John:  I'm sorry.  I can't discuss this.  (putting her off as unworthy to discuss this further)
Isabel (emphatically):  No one - not even myself knows what you went through together. 
Those people [Royal Geographical Society] in there, they don't know and they don't care.
They need you as adversaries now and Richard doesn't.
John (visibly irritated): Then why is he here!
Isabel: He would cancel tomorrow. He knows no truth will emerge and in the absence of
truth he respects only one thing   ......   He respects LOYALTY.  
Isabel (as John walks away):  ....... John .....  he respects you.
I won't give away the ending but you are welcome to read the entire story on Wikipedia
Truth, Loyalty and Respect  -  A fitting trio :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cat People NonVerbals

Non verbal body language explains a great deal about the difference between Cat people and Dog people.  In fact Cat people are more "tuned" into non verbal communication than Dog people [generally speaking :) ].   Cats demonstrate their attitudes with their eyes, ears and tail (I've already shown many illustrations). 

Look for body signals of the Cat person to determine their inward feelings:

Eyes - Do you see any similarity between the following two pictures?

Look at the Cat person eyes - enlarged pupils indicate powerful emotions - fear, anger, suspicion but also arousal, excitement and interest.  You need to judge which side of the emotion spectrum it might be.

Ears -  Well for the human the ears are not much help.  However you can look for other facial expressions - eyebrows, wrinkles, mouth, temples etc.

Tail -  Cat people have no tail ...... but look carefully at what they are doing with their hands and feet.  When a Cat person is impatient, wanting to leave, the hand may begin to move rapidly (as if tapping) up and down on the knee or table. Or maybe the leg is jiggling or foot swerving in circles, or even knees knocking back and forth.  Careful looking under the dining table will tell you a lot about the non verbals for Cat people.

Purr  ...u rrr.....u rrrr  - You are in best shape if you can detect (visually or even audibly) the Cat person's purr.  Just like a cat there is no definitive answer why Cat people purr.  But like a Cat, there is a high probability that it indicates they are content with the situation.  Sometimes it is a self soothing/self healing state of mind - almost like a monk chanting.  It is definitely a state where they are saying:
                                                   "All is right with the World!"

And for you Dog people .........      Purring Cat means Peaceful Dog Habitat      :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Cornered Cat

It is a fallacy to think a Cat person is a "push over" - a quiet, vulnerable, intimidated, creature of a weak species.  One slice of the nose off the Dog person's face will disprove this theory.  Hence the danger of cornering a cat as further evidence of the Cat person's need to always have an exit path.
In fact, the most content cat is one that is placed in the most flexible position (e.g. on a couch ledge, or under a bed) for viewing any noise or movement that would alert them for an easy exit to safety.  Therefore the opposite of this environment is ......  backed into a corner.
So the best advice for a Dog person who wants to interface with Cat people is to establish environments that NEVER corner the cat!   This would include physical arrangements and plans, and/or verbal situations.

Cat in the corner is dog meat.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Most Cat people are comfortable (on their terms obviously) with one on one interactions.  With enough time and space a Cat person can actually become semi-comfortable (and I stress the word - SEMI) around a Dog (and notice the word "a" - meaning ONE DOG).   I illustrated this in the first blog with Nellie (our black lab) and Freckles (our Calico Cat).  Even this one on one interaction is "Cat driven" - meaning ... WHEN ... the Cat person feels "in cat-control", THEN (and only then) will there be an interaction.

The problem multiplies exponentially when additional dogs are added to the picture. So how does a Cat person deal with situations with a multiple Dogs? 
How can the Cat person maintain ...... "Cat-control"!

Multiple Dog people could potentially surround the Cat which would provide no path of escape.  Add to that stress, the rapid movement, loud nature, and over excitement of Dog to Dog interaction and you have a formula for Cat "stressure" (that is my word for Cat hair raising pressure).  One of the key's to "Cat-control" is to show NO cat "stressure".

So let's set up a scenario with three couples out to dinner together (this is the toughest of all Cat "stressure" environments because of the amount of time and fixed seating arrangements).  You are the Cat person with four other Dogs and one other Cat (but the other Cat might be a Lion).  What should you do?
First  (and foremost) recognize that the Cat's are outnumbered (but at least you have some alliance with the Lion).  Second, visualize the Dogs as "dumb (and cute) puppies instead of attack Dogs (or even think of them as other Cats).  Third, establish your location (and timing expectations) and always have a contingency exit strategy.

These three fundamentals will help (but not solve) the initial dinner "preliminary pleasantries". But there are other techniques to lower the "stressure":
(1) Avoid too many conversations that involve all the Dogs simultaneously.  Remember they get excited easily, and will raise the conversational levels several decibels.
(2) Sit next to a favorite Dog (the calmest Dog) or the Lion (for protection)
(3) Practice an exit strategy (leave the table for some brief period)
(4) If you have the ability to choose a location - choose your most comfortable setting and preferably a quiet one
(5) Maintain a quiet and consistent "purr" (more about this later)

 A Cat person can survive in a group of Dogs.  It just takes continuous Cat-control.  Remember a Cat person can look like a Lion to a Dog person. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cat Territory – Don’t change the terrain

Watch what a Cat does in a new environment. Take for example a bedroom – the cat will hide under the bed surveying the remaining territory for seemingly endless time. Waiting for all other people to leave the room and then some. Ever so slowing (as they do in stalking prey) the Cat begins to emerge from the bed (always with a plan of retreat) and determines the geometry of every square inch of the room working the back and forth from the perimeters to a retreating back under the bed each time.

This method of creating exact blueprints of the room provides an infinite set of exit strategies in case a dog would suddenly emerge.

And so it is with Cat people. Watch as they enter a hotel room. Since they can’t fit under the bed the first action is to find the bathroom. Like the Cat under the bed this provides time to remember the metrics of the hotel room – inventory of furniture, closets space, balcony, and even testing the adjoining locked door to an adjacent suite
So the more expansive the new territory (as in a vacation rental home or friend house) the more time is needed for Cat people to acclimate to the new territory. The difference between a house and a hotel room is that there could be Dog people coexisting in the same territory with easy access to the Cat person’s space.
So how can a Cat person minimize the stress of a change in terrain?

(1) After a brief introduction to the new terrain – both of you should leave the room giving the Cat person time to evaluate the metrics (e.g. exit strategies). This also serves the purpose of identifying the perimeter (i.e. the broader territory – floor, hotel lobby etc.) and broader exit strategies.
(2) Be quiet once the new terrain is introduced – let the Cat person concentrate on their analysis. You might even leave the room to go get something thereby simulating an entrance of an intruder upon your return.
(3) Point out the secure nature of the new terrain
(4) Unpack some items to make the terrain seem normal
(5) Open and Close the drapes to any outside openings
(6) The smaller (and more securely contained) space the better

The key objective is to provide time and space for the Cat person to adjust to new surroundings. Remember if the surroundings are not adequately secure to the Cats liking, then there is no hope of interacting with any Dogs.

Monday, June 2, 2014

You're a Cat ... They're a Dog

OK – So let's assume you’re a cat person and there are all kinds of dogs in the world, how can you survive? Yes I used the word survive because the natural state of cats and dogs is one of survival.

However there are examples where cats and dogs become acclimated to each other (example our dog Nellie with the cat Freckles) – they even become best friends.
So how can a dog and cat become best friends? The answer – it requires lots of time and space. Ultimately it is the decision of the cat – the cat “elects” the dog as their friend. What that really means is that the dog must “understand” and “change behavior” to win the cat’s trust. However it doesn’t mean success is all dependent on the dog, the cat must also be willing to take risks outside normal “cat risk profiles”.

So let’s start with the basics – the primary differences between "cat like" people and "dog like" people.

Cat people:
(1) Primarily from the DNA genre of introverted behavior (although remember Lions are cats too)
(2) Typically most comfortable in a one on one setting
(3) Likes softer tones, slower movements
(4) Need permission to be approached

Dog people:
(1) Primarily from the DNA genre of extroverted behavior (although remember there are calm breeds of dogs also)
(2) Can be one on one or excited in groups
(3) Moves fast, jumps, always licking and smelling new objects
(4) Approaches at an instant

Now these are just a starter list of stereotypical cat and dog like personalities. Naturally there are all types of breeds and variations. Understanding breeds of both types are critical to determining if a successful relationship can exist between the two.

Future Blogs will consider various Cat people issues:

(1) Cat Territory – Don’t Change the Terrain
(2) A Cat in a Group of Dogs
(3) The “Cornered” cat
(4) The Cat in a Cradle
(5) Cat’s outward signals (e.g. purring, tales and ears)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dog Eat Cat World

I think the world of Cats and Dogs can be a great analogy to understanding your personality. Just watching them as pets has caused me to believe that people are either -  a Cat type,  or a Dog type.  It is tempting to generalize this idea into introvert (e.g. Cat) or extrovert (e.g. Dog) but there is more complexity to my premise of Cat people vs Dog people.

Regardless,  there is some basic (and primordial) tension that exists between Cats and Dogs.  This is the most difficult for the situation where the Cat person must deal with the Dogs.

My subsequent blogs will be addressing this challenge for Cat people.  How a Cat can live in a Dog eat Cat world?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spending Reality

How you "spend" your time and money determines the priorities you have in your life at the moment.  I blogged about time and how that varies over the decades of your life (see Blog  11/18/12 Learn/Earn/Live/Give ).  How you spend money will also vary over the different decades of your life.

J.P. recommended that I read the book "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt which references an interesting Psychology site  It was at this site I took the survey called "Experiential Purchasing Scale" - How do you spend your money and does it say something about your moral values. 

The final question was to estimate your spending by five categories - Essentials; Savings; Material Purchases (furniture, clothing, jewelry); Experiential Purchases (vacations, concerts, meals); Charitable Deductions;   Hmmmmmm   this is not an easy exercise even with the detailed accounting that Susan and I have done since 1988 (we have recorded all our personal expenses into Financial Navigator software).  Naturally I have all those historical expenses detailed in a spreadsheet and so I went about the task of verifying my gut feel with actual data. It was an exercise in futility.

Just like problems with General Ledger Accounting - this 'functional view' was not just a simple exercise in adding certain general ledger accounts.  The "essentials" of house and car (even food) might be viewed by others as luxuries (or material purchases).  Another "functional accounting" issue would be the category of a pool at the house (which thank goodness we no longer have) - is this a material purchase or an experiential purchase (clearly it is not essential)?  And ....  how we spend money varies dramatically with our "ages and stages"  (single, married, kids, empty nesters, etc.).  What starts in life as material purchase priority turns into experiential purchase as we age.

So my answer to the survey was .......  at best an estimate of my values hoping the spending reflected that reality.

There is truth in the premise that how we spend money reflects our values.

Your are what you spend.    It's just too difficult to measure :)