Monday, June 19, 2017

Fathers Day Blessings

It was a wonderful Father's Day full of blessings.  While grooming the forest, my two assistants attempted to police the area of unwanted critters.

Then the day dived when I looked at my wrist for the time and discovered my watch was missing.  How to find "a needle in a haystack".   Luck has it that a shiny object appeared after three hours of backtracking my steps and the watch was found.

A prior Father's Day gift, I was in mourning when I discovered it missing and the high probability it would never be found. 

The bonus was an grill out with the girls (and Paul too!) and the very thoughtful present of a new leather satchel (briefcase) to replace my 30 year old Coach briefcase that has traveled the world.

Like an old wallet - it's tough to give it up.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Boston Legal #11

Last night was the eleventh "Boston Legal" evening hosted by KC.  Chops, Cigars and Cinema.  The movie choice was a 1993 Robert Duvall classic "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway".  It was the most appropriate choice given the past history of viewings about life, mission, character and the journey. 

Duvall's character, Walter, reminded me of my barber Fausto Ferrari (see Blog entry "Same" 4/6/10). I've missed getting my haircut from him for the past six months and pray that he is doing ok. 
The real message of the evening was what will the three of us be like as septuagenarians?  This movie was littered with great old guy quotes.  My favorite:

Walter:  "You have to pee too?
Frank: "I'm 75 years old.  I always have to pee."     -----   Feed the fish :) 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Heaven Board #13

Memorial weekend is now booked forever in my memories with the wedding of Jenna and Paul (5/27/17).  What a wonderful event fully planned and implemented by Susan.  Not to overshadow the Friday night graduation of Ellen (5/26/17).  This will definitely be a milestone year.  Even two of my nieces gave birth to two new children this year.

There are endless stories that this weekend generated (and maybe future blogs).  However, my moment of tears happened during the soloist singing of the Lord's Prayer at the end of the church service.  Her voice filled Hyde Park United Methodist Church in a way that everyone was stunned to silence in an awestruck moment of reflection .  Jenna purposely broke the silence to clap and a tidal wave of appreciation filled the church.  It was exclamation of the holy moment of matrimony and the heavenly AMEN!

Well -  this qualifies for another Heaven Board #13 -  Holy Memorial Matrimony


Monday, May 15, 2017

Two Apple Sticks

This weekend was a wonderful Mother's Day celebration with family and friends.

Saturday, my project was to plant two Apple trees with the help of A.M.  Sadly, the middle tree of the three original apple trees (Heaven Board #3) planted Sept. 2011 died last winter. It just didn't seem right to have only two based on my blog's symbolism.  So....  with the expertise of A.M., I chose to plant a Yellow Transparent Semi-Dwarf tree but in a moment of buyer temptation I added an additional Golden Delicious Dwarf to the orchard.

How appropriate just before the family expands (May 27, 2017) with Jenna getting married to Paul.   Now four important relationships in my life.  How fun it will be to watch them grow from sticks to bearing fruit. 

So call this Heaven Board #3A (the A for addendum). 






Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Frugal Spender Rewards

Lately I have been watching the various credit card solicitations that I have received in the last 4 months.  Yes.....  I fell prey to the new customer incentive and signed up for yet another credit card to get the bonus 60,000 rewards points (American Express who I had vowed never to open another account with them - another long story about customer service).  Now my credit cards total over 10 not including Department Stores.

Rewards points is today's version of S&H Green Stamps of the 60's.  The 1200 stamp booklet was worth about $1.20 (about a tenth a penny a stamp) and redeemed for merchandise.














The very nature of maximizing your rewards points is a game with every credit card provider to get you to use their card and/or link it to various merchants.  The rewards vary from 1% to 5% depending on merchandise category, activation, dates, and even volume of purchases (bonus points). The newest "5% war" by the credit card companies shows the vary nature of intense competition.

The economist in me says that this is another indication of inflation.  This "rebate" will be captured in either customer fees, interest rates, or passed on to the merchants who will raise prices to cover the merchant fees. 

Who are the winners and losers?  Those who pay attention to category bonuses, incentives, and pay the card balance monthly will win.  The losers are those who carry balances, pay in cash (where no discount is provided), or use a single credit card.

So the general rule of points still applies.  Each point (assuming a point is $1 of purchase) is worth a penny to five cents.  Now the average American (as of 2009) has about $50K in spending per year with 60% that own their own home and their average credit card debt (2010) is $5K.  So.....if you put 80% of your spending on a credit card and get an average 2% back - that is worth $800 per year in rewards points.

PS - For the obsessed Statistician who wants to know every statistic go to www.creditcards.com.




 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Coffee Please

Well my frugal gene kicked in today (some call it cheap) and I decided to look at the coffee budget for the family.  Susan has loved the convenience of buying on Amazon and I can see why they have over 50% of the ecommerce.  Amazon provides great order history (since inception) so it was very easy to review the last years of coffee purchases for the household.  What I wanted to do was compare pricing to Sams Club and Kroger. But it led me to another place - my own personal coffee consumption.

I reviewed orders for the household for the last 16 months from Amazon-  over $800 and almost 1300 cups.  I supply my office from the household inventory in addition to buying at Kroger.  But how could our household possible consume 1300 cups (over 80 per month)?

I personally average about 1.5 cups of coffee a day.  So assuming coffee every day that would be 548 a year or 46 per month.  At an average of 50 cents a cup that habit is $274 per year (and I suspect I'm low).  Now add the variables of coffee at restaurants, Starbucks, and coffee shops and you begin to get a picture of how much an individual spends on coffee.

I can only imagine the cost for an individual that only drinks Starbucks and possibly their exotic beverages.   Clearly a good reason for why Starbucks market cap is $87.8 Billion. 

Crossroads Church uses coffee during services and  a liberal policy of coffee anytime as a form of identity and branding ("We don't sell things").   I remember Brian Tome saying in a service that the annual coffee budget for Crossroads exceeds $100K.  Now that's a lot of cups of fellowship.

So what's the funny fugal finale?    Give liberally to the church ..... and you will receive coffee.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Carting Balls

It was a great weekend with R.M. and friends with a road trip to Keeneland.   Plenty of food, drink and fun.  The only challenge was the seven holes of golf in the cold rain on Saturday.  Naturally, I had not played golf in the last two years so my performance was the worst of the four. 

The jabbing and kidding was in full steam from the moment my spiderweb clad golf bag was loaded in the car.   UGH.... said T.F. this is the heaviest golf bag I've ever picked up!  How many $%#$ balls do you have in the bag?  Well with my performance you just never know :)




A quick inventory of the bag after returning was evidence that I was prepared for any course and could maybe store some balls outside of the bag.  Thank goodness for golf carts!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Break Revisited

It was a wonderful Spring Break at Bald Head Island this last week.  Four perfect days with the beaches almost entirely to ourselves.  It was April of 1998 that we first visited this island which was just beginning to be developed.  Surviving the dot com crash and the housing bubble, the island has grown considerably yet maintained it's character of environment over commercial interests.

So it was a lot of reading, puzzling, kiting, walking the beach - definitely a comfortable place for introverts.  Luckily, R.M. dropped by (well not really given a 45 minute drive and the 30 minute ferry requirement) Wednesday evening with steaks and wine.  It was good to see my old college buddy.

Actually going bad to a place almost 20 years later brings to mind many memories - most of mine work pressure related.  This vacation had the opposite feel - very relaxing and no mental work distractions.  One thing constant - Old Baldy the lighthouse.  However it was under repair so there was no chance to walk to the top.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick

I was the guest of R.F. at the 149th Annual Banquet of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick at the Netherland Plaza Hotel on -  of course St. Patrick's Day. 



A black tie event of over 500 men, it was an evening of networking, dining, speeches (Dave Lapham former Bengals offensive lineman was the keynote), and music by the Glee Club of the Society.  What a wonderful tradition to be included in.  The Cincinnati chapter was founded in 1868 and the third oldest in the United States (behind Philadelphia and New York).  Dedicated to the principles of brotherhood, charity and community service, the society is open to Irish as well as non-Irish men of goodwill.  

I guess my 17% Irish www.ancestry.com DNA results was sufficient to allow me to feel connected to the long traditional Irish names in the program (see Mutt or Mutation - July 25, 2014).  Needless to say I didn't mention that it also estimated 44% Great Britain.


It was a table of fun with R.F, M.L., G.N., and two other guys I just met T.M. and M.S.  And of course there were other connections with Vistage B.E. and SVP Cincinnati A.S.  I ended up being the designated driver and good think because the Irish really do know how to drink and be merry!












Monday, February 27, 2017

Declores - Heaven Board #12


 "Spreading the light that illuminates
The divine grace from the great ideal.
     Spreading the light that illuminates
The divine grace from the great ideal."


Today is my day four of the Greater Cincinnati Walk to Emmaus (Men's Walk #100).  If you have ever pondered God's Grace, wondered about the power of prayer, and yearned to feel closer to God's LOVE, then the Emmaus Walk is whispering to you now.  If instead, you are thinking - No not really, like me for 15-17 years after seeing Susan when she first experienced her Women's walk and wanted to share this experience with me then .... it's not your time and maybe these are not your questions. 

For you, it may be a different question about GOD's mysteries that are turning in your mind, or burning in your heart, or churning in your purpose in life.  When that time comes, it will be right for you.  After all it is all GOD's time and you living on his time.

We are given free will in every aspect of our lives but one - TIME.  For me the Emmaus Walk was a glimpse of GOD's time (and is now Heaven Board #12).  Actually I now believe there is no time in Heaven.  When I gave up my watch and phone (begrudgingly) at 7pm on Thursday, time stopped.  Today on Day 4 it has started again. 

Heaven can't wait!  - DeColores!

  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Heroes Fall - The Wise Recall

P.N. sent me a November 1978 Harpers article "Too Rich for Heroes" by Henry Fairlie as a follow-up to our Wednesday  after Tennis Inkling discussions over a beer. It was in response to my question about who he considers wise, and my belief that our country needs a common purpose (similar to the race to the moon) to combat our divisive incivility.

"If we no longer have any heroes, it may not be because no one is fit to be a hero, but because we are not fit to recognize one" states Fairlie.

So, I wondered what is the difference between a wise person and a hero?   Both are discussed as virtues by the ancient philosophers.  Both are dependent on character and principles. 

Steven Hall in his book "Wisdom" describes eight "Neural" pillars of Wisdom - Emotional Regulation; Knowing What's Important; Moral Reasoning; Compassion; Humility; Altruism; Patience; Dealing with Uncertainty.

Fairlie talks about traits in Heroism as Courage, Valor, Excellence, Generosity, Forbearance, and  Daring.

Seemingly the common treads are Generosity/Altruism and Forbearance/Patience.  Yet when I ask the questions - Who is a wise person you look up to?  and Who is your hero?  the responses are usually different (normally I say to exclude family members who invariably are answers to both -  My father, mother, grandparents etc.). 

Also Hero answers vary across different domains - sports, academic, religion, business, politics, artists, military etc. and possibly connected to event/outcome. Heroism inspires in ways of action and motivates in risk taking ways.  In fact, too often we hold Heroes up to the standard of perfection.

Wisdom answers seem to gravitate more in the compassion, humility, and passive domains (probably due to the connection with older age and experience).  Conversely wisdom yields no need of perfection - just an outcome of overall virtuous well living and lessons of life in words. 

So Heroes fall  and the Wise recall.




Friday, February 10, 2017

Pet Cost Benefits

Several days ago T.M. mentioned that they "put down" one of their two cherished pets - a dog.  Those of us who have the joy of the close companionship of pets (or any type) and have experienced their loss can empathize when someone announces their loss.  In fact, T.M. shared his history of pets and the good memories of them growing up with his children.

Mom and Dad never allowed pets (that is -  in the house) when we were growing up.  Coming from farm backgrounds animals (and pets) we always outside and served various purposes beyond just being a companion.  However, they did allow us to "adopt" a stray cat once or twice.  Fast forward and now Vana, D'Lane and I have had various pets in our families -  personally I can inventory over 18 in my last 60 years (current inventory is 2 dogs and 2 cats).

I've maintained that having pets will extend your life (and all pet owners agree).  But is this claim really true?  An interesting article on this subject "Can Pets Help You Live Longer" concludes: "Besides being good companions and adding joy to many people’s lives, pets may provide some health benefits."

My view is that 60% of U.S. Households  (165 million) must believe that the benefits of owning pets exceeds any costs - financial, emotional and physical.



 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pathetic Customer Service Wanna Be

Today at lunch I heard a classic Customer Service story from a friend (privacy was requested) that reminded me of my own favorite POOR Customer Service Story.  Here are two classics in one blog.

WARNING:
The content of this story is politically charged (especially in today's incivility) and contains graphical language that may offend you (depending on your political bias).  Read forward at your own risk.

Story #1  -   A supporter of President Donald Trump recently called Nordstrom (yes Nordstrom the infamous icon of superb Customer Service) to voice her objection about the recent news of their discontinuing of Ivanka Trump merchandise.

[Note some history here: During the election there was a call to boycott Nordstrom back in October with a balanced Nordstrom's response "Nordstrom responds to viral letter"]. Back to the story ---  

After waiting 15 minutes on hold, she then told the Nordstrom Customer Service Representative that she would be forced [because of Nordstrom's politically pressured actions] to cancel her Nordstrom's credit card. 

[Here's the punchline Customer service response]

"That's PATHETIC, Sorry to see you go."

Story #2  -   Years ago, I was continuously flying every week during my years at Accenture.  Going back and forth to Canada, I had decided to fly both Delta and Canadian Air.  I had been a Platinum card holder of Delta for 5-6 continuous years when during the heavy years of flying to Canada, I had missed by a few segments reaching Platinum status. I decided to send an email to Delta Customer Service requesting consideration for an exception and to renew my Platinum status.   The return email subject was titled:

"Platinum Wanna Be"

Here are two stories of how exemplary customer service that drives intense customer loyalty can be lost in a single word!  And they both demonstrate how these stories are etched into the memory of individuals and spread virally to the detriment of the company.

Pathetic Customer Service Representative Wanna Be





Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Organized Chaos

I usually pride myself on my organizational skills combined with my technical prowess.  But I get humbled every time I try to do something that appears to be simple -  like send a video from my phone to someone, or download it to my PC.  Now, I must admit, I complicate things by having non-integrated solutions (vs the ease by which Apple users spout their iphones, Macs, and icloud).  Instead, I have a Nexus 5 Google Phone (Project Fi) interfacing with a Window's 10 Touchscreen Laptop.

Attempting to be frugal in data usage, I have tried to configure my phone to avoid cellular data uploads and/or sends without the Wifi network.  Even this month I seemed to inadvertently consumed close to 1/2 Gig with an innocent sharing of one 3 minute video taken from my phone (an SVP Cincinnati Fast Pitch coaching session).

Then getting back to my office - I tried to understand where all the automatic backups for my phone were stored - Google Drive and/or Microsoft One Drive.   Then I innocently tried to connect my Nexus 5 phone via USB to the PC hoping I could just copy and/or transfer any files from the phone to the PC.  That ended in a 2 hour troubleshooting with no result.

Also I wanted to figure out when I delete a photo or video from my phone (to conserve space) - does it disappear in the cloud?   I have so many backups of pictures the redundancy in multiple external drives would cause you to go crazy.  Like the photo drawer at home, I've said someday I will try to organize all this stuff.

The real answer is what happened today.  Just do whatever the minimum it takes for the task at hand (e.g. send the video) and defer all that organization stuff for another day.  The definition of organized chaos.

http://michelleandresart.com/2013/06/the-urge-to-purge/


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wisdom in Red

It's hard not to reflect on politics the day after the "Peaceful Transition of Power" Presidential Inaugural day.  Just after watching Frontline's documentary "Divided States of America" this started chapter two of potentially another eight years of divisive politics. I pray that President Donald Trump and the two parties can find ways to compromise.

The Inaugural speech was short (which is good) and what quote most resonated with me was:

" It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag."

Somehow the word "red blood of patriots" was a dramatic way of showing that we are all the same and we should focus on being freedom fanatics for the rest of the world to see. While we need (and should) constantly focus on improving our Nation (and it's problems), I believe protectionism is a form of isolationism. I believe our purpose collectively as a Nation is not about our selves - but setting the example of what freedom can do for it's people to the rest of the non-free World.

It's not about Nationalism - it is about Worldism - maybe that is misspelled - it's about Wisdom.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Invisible Monthly Costs

The start of 2017 has been busy - too busy too blog.  But on a rainy, chilly, and dreary Saturday - why not start the first blog of 2017 whining. 

In an effort to clean things up (the classic get organized resolution), I decided to eliminate monthly costs of subscriptions or memberships that I have not been actively using. Or evaluate the year-to-date use to determine if it is worth the cost.

It is so easy to establish a monthly charge to a credit card (or direct debit to checking) and forget about the "forever charge".  Or even prepay a plan that automatically renews at the higher non discounted rate.

Examples include Sirius Radio, Netflix DVD, Netflix Streaming,  FiOptics extra boxes, magazine subscriptions, Amazon Prime, gym or dining memberships, computer stuff (Carbonite, Office 365, Cloud Data plans), AAA membership, On Star, Verizon extra data plans (e.g. tablet access), FiOptics internet speed, Charitable monthly giving,  even loan payments.

The frugal hint for the day is to set up a calendar reminder when plans expire (or renew) so that you can avoid this hidden inflation.  

So ...... here is my long story (and now gripe) about reviewing my FiOptics plan with Cincinnati Bell.

It all started with a lucky technical glitch when my DVR box stopped working and would not complete the boot cycle.  After calling tech support a technician was assigned to come out.  But given my relentless desire to troubleshoot, I decided to unplug everything and use my second DVR box (which was working) to systematically determine if the problem was my network configuration or one of my own complicated hardware integration switches.

The short answer to that solution was..... the adapter plug for the DVR box was defective.  WOW - go figure.  Now I understand why they ask you to directly plug the DVR box into your home outlet (vs an extension cord). 

Now for the gripe.   The above story provided the incentive to return my second DVR box (which we never use) to get the $15/mth off of my FiOptics monthly billing.  But the "need for speed" caused me to add $10/mth on to the plan to increase my data speed from 30 MBS to 50 MBS.  Sounds good right?

NOT!   I have been monitoring my download speed for the past two days only to discover my speeds are ranging from 5MBS to 37MBS with most of the time at about 10MBS.   THIS IS RIDICULOUS.  The general public is paying at least $29.99/mth (that's only if you are getting the promotional discount) for a download speed that they have no clue if they are getting and no ability to monitor the provider for proper quality control and value confirmation.

SO..... as Bob Edwards would say "What are you going to do about it"?   Stay tuned.