Monday, October 31, 2011

Facial Hair Means You Care.

Happy Halloween. October 31st is an important day and the candy collection-athon is the perfect transition from October to November.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Given the downturn in breast cancer mortality BCAM appears to have a positive effect. This year BCAM was very prominent. Professional football players wore pink gloves, pink shoes, pink sweat towels and pink jock straps (OK I made up the pink sweat towel and did no research about the pink jock strap).  There were Breast Cancer Awareness walks, with seas of pink clad warriors educating communities one step at a time. There were even free market Breast Cancer Awareness opportunities. The message of knowledge (ignorance is not bliss) and community (don't go it alone) was everywhere.
Show Your 'Stache.
source: morgueFile
Tomorrow is the 1st day of November or should I say Movember. Just as October has become as pink as a bay girl's nursery for breast cancer awareness, the movement is for Movember to be full of facial hair for prostate cancer (and other men specific cancers) awareness. Just as families should be aware and supportive of issues surrounding breast cancer, families should be aware and supportive regarding prostate cancer. So grow, groom or apply your mustache and give prostate cancer the finger. Just don't give prostate cancer the finger the way my doctor does.  My doctor uses a glove and lubricant. I don't really like the way my doctor gives prostate cancer the finger, but so far for me, it works.

Friday, October 28, 2011


As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Bush administration made one of it's wisest decisions of either term (the list of wise decisions of the Bush administration is a short list, but I digress). Beginning in 2007, the end of daylight saving time was pushed back one week, from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November. The big deal? It allowed another hour of daylight for trick or treat. An extra hour of sunlight means it's a bit warmer for trick or treat. It's also one less hour of kids daring between parked cars. Now, it's time to complete the task started in 2005.
source: morgueFile
Consider The Source.
The observance of Halloween has a long history. Here in the western world there is a tie to All Saints Day (November 1) with All Hallows Eve (Halloween, October 31) being the night before All Saints Day.  The modern practice of kids running around the neighborhood collecting a month's worth of sugar fix or college kids dressed in "costumes" that hide nothing is not a celebration of saints or the hallowed. I'm not against kids and candy or college kids and body paint; to each their own. It's time to change the date of the modern celebration of Halloween. Why not the last
Saturday/Sunday/weekend in October?
The Calendar Can Be Changed.
Some of the most sacred days on our calendar are not fixed to a date. Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving do not have a fixed date. For most of my life Veterans Day was celebrated on the Monday closest to November 11.  Washington's Birthday has morphed into Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday in February. So why do we have young children out after dark on a school night merely to collect candy?
By no means do I espouse changing the day or celebration of All Saints Day and the accompanying All Hallows Eve for those that celebrate All Saints Day. As for the rest of us, move Halloween to the weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ROL: Define Yourself.

ROL (return on life) is a qualitative corollary to the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). Just as ROI strives for incremental investment driving disproportionately large returns, ROL strives for small incremental changes that greatly increase quality of life. This week's ROL is about defining yourself.
Time Flies.
source: morgueFile
Yesterday, the incredible Bruce Sallan posted on the great 12 Most blog (If you've read Bruce or seen 12 Most, you know the adjectives are not hyperbole). Once you get beyond the whole considering my own mortality thing, Bruce's post is really uplifting. Bruce lays out in spades the most important gifts he can leave his boys.
Who Am I?
Bruce got me thinking, What do I stand for? If I can't define myself and my beliefs, how can I assist my kids or my friends? Many of life's choices are tougher than mayo or mustard, Cheddar or Swiss? If I'm not clear on who I am once life goes beyond the sandwich board I'm in trouble. Fly by the seat of my pants management is no way to approach the tough times of life and no way to set an example for my kids.
What Do I Do?
Take a look around. You don't have to go far to find someone who believes in theirself, first, last, always. Turn the other direction and you find someone dedicated to alcohol fueled infidelity. The worlds of politics, entertainment, finance and sports are full of "role models" parsing words to describe their activities until the sentences are mere gibberish.  I'm not moralizing or judging, but these examples don't work for me. Perhaps, by establishing self definition, (some of) these situations could be avoided before they begin.
One of today's must-do activities is crafting a personal mission statement. Usually a personal mission statement is part of job search. Often a personal mission statement is part of developing a personal brand. Defining oneself shouldn't be merely career oriented nor does it need to be as formalized as a personal mission statement.
Make A List.
Start with one self definition. A single sentence or a simple concept built by short sentences. Wait a day or a week and add another. Keep the list handy. Refer to the list often. Add to the list when required. Share the list when appropriate. Here's my first self definition:
Life is one-third of what happens to me, two-thirds how I respond. That one-third that happens to me can be rough. Still, two-thirds of life is via response. That means full responsibility. I am responsible for my life.
What do you think about self-definitions? Do you have a list? Will you share a self-definition?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have Them At Hello. It's A Must.

For those keeping a duh! file for blog posts, this is one for the file. Sometimes it's necessary to state the obvious. 
Triberr Works.
I have been privileged to be a member of the Passionate Parents Tribe on Triberr for a month. I've also started a tribe, Renaissance Roundtable. During the past month, pageviews are up 5 fold. Comments have increased practically infinitely. Blog subscription has doubled. I could not be happier. I would like to take this rare moment of satisfaction to share two key observations.
What's In A Name?
My posts are tweeted to over 70,000 tweeters. None of those tweeters are required to click on the link to my posts. The post title must prompt those reading the tweet to click and/or retweet the link. The post title my be on point, brief and creative. Title SEO is great but I'm concerned about those 70,000 "birds in my hand." Great content unseen is a waste.
You Look Mahhhvuhlus.
The blog itself must  be easy on the eyes. Posts should be simple to approach, using subtitles and images to shorten and vary the readers field of vision. A curious click will not lead to readership of a long, bland looking post. Great content unread is also a waste.

Triberr is a great tool. But a mighty tribe and a killer algorithm can't turn hash into a gourmet seven course meal. The rest is up to the blogger.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What You Say?

The whole family was in the car on the way to somewhere when my son, Mario concluded a sentence with "a word I'm not supposed to say." I replied "Well, not only don't say that word, but don't make reference to the word" (I don't remember the context, nor the intended word). I added further, "When I was your age, one of my sports heroes was Randy Hundley, because he didn't swear. Lovie Smith, the Bears coach also doesn't swear." For the sake of full disclosure I didn't include myself as a non-curser.

I don't live my life with blinders on. I expect that Mario's vocabulary is already beyond PG. I harp on the cursing because Mario is an Aspie. Mario doesn't quite understand that you shouldn't curse with your teachers or parents (due to Asperger's) though you might curse while hangin' your circle of 7th grade friends (which doesn't exist due to Asperger's). My method seems to be working. I rarely catch Mario cursing.
I'm hoping to help Mario build on the don't swear (often) meme. The whole concept of not cursing breaks down to 2 significant points:
  • Don't do, wear or say something just because everyone else is doing, wearing or saying something. If everyone else is doing, wearing or saying something, it is no longer a statement of individuality.
  • Think before your speak. Start with reviewing content before hitting send (that's simple enough, right?) and build to thinking before speaking. When involved in an emotion fueled conversation, slow down speaking to allow thought and reason time to be involved. The proper sequence is ready, aim, fire when using a weapon. Words can injure (or ruin reputations) just the same as bullets.
How about you? How do you feel about cursing in speech, print, public? What guidelines would you share with your children (or children of the world) to highlight individuality and safeguard reputation?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Fall Into Seasonal Humor.

Next time someone says,
"You're out of your gourd."
Tell them,

"I've got plenty left"
and show this picture.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review and Revise.

Some updates on past posts:

Last week, the Cubs were on the verge of hiring Theo Epstein to guide them to their 1st World Series title in over a century and 1st World Series appearance in over 6 decades. 8 days later and so far no press conference. Sports talkers say the hiring will happen. Hopefully these are not the same sports experts whose preseason predictions start with: This is definitely the year the Cubs return to the World Series.

Last month, I shared my opinion about "Up All Night" a new NBC sitcom (without the com). I sacrificed another episode and a half to confirm my earlier conclusion. "Up All Night" is unintentionally unfunny. Looking for laughs? Discover "Whitney". Be forewarned if you find cohabitation sans ceremony personally challenging. Also, the supporting characters are stereotypes and not yet two dimensional. Still, the banter is sharp and the relationship between Whitney and significant other Alex makes a great way to spend a 1/2 hour.

Earlier this week, I posted about an exchange between my daughter, Little Suzy and me. I'm not sure which is my favorite part of the aftermath: Little Suzy's sheer delight in ratting me out to Mommy or the tread marks on my chest after my wife threw me under the bus. "Daddy had you sit in the front seat? Daddy knows better than that. Good for you Suzy." after telling me "It's only a block, no big deal." It may be a man's world but the expiration date is getting closer.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ROL: The Other Child.

ROL (Return on Life) is derived from the metric ROI (Return on Investment). Just as changes (hopefully small) to investment increase profitability (hopefully disproportionately larger than the increase in investment), small incremental changes in behavior can greatly increase QOL (Quality of Life). This week's ROL is about recognizing the other child.
Family Hand-Me-Downs And More.
I have ADHD. So do both my children. There should be some award given annually named for my wife. My daughter, Little Suzy has classic ADHD and the inattentiveness, impulsiveness and clumsiness that helps define the diagnosis. My son, Mario has Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD and some other organic stuff. Suggestions are now being taken for my wife's award.
Equity Requires A Fluid Definition.
When it comes to sucking oxygen from the room, Mario wins hands down. That's not a critique, that's a fact. Kids compete for attention and use of familial resources (TV in family room, for example). Mario being older and more volatile tends to win more than his fair share. On top of that, Mario absorbs more than his share of family finances. I'm not complaining. Aspergers is neither fatal nor rare. No critical surgeries (we know of that 1st hand; another post for another day), no weekly blood draws. Still, during the third meltdown on Saturday morning perspective disappears. Often, it's just not fair to Little Suzy. So...
Different But Equal.
Little Suzy is not yet 8 years old. She has a loft bed (Grandma and Grandpa bought her a good mattress for her 1st bed so mattress got recycled) with a recycled family futon click-clack on the ground level. Pink and zebra decorating thanks to Mom. A wall mounted (thanks to a neighbor, I'm not handy) TV (thanks again Grandma and Grandpa) with a DVD player (again household recycled).  Little Suzy does live in the lap of luxury, but...

Suzy's 1st bed was falling apart. My wife suggested (and I agreed) to do it once and do it right. Wife further suggested that Little Suzy's room be set up as an oasis. A place where Suzy can bring a friend to play, chat or sleep over. A place where Suzy can go hide when Mario can't be settled. A place where Suzy can be reminded that she isn't 2nd class to her brother the oxygen sucker.

3 months in and it seems to be working. Suzy spends equal amounts of time in the family room and in her special place. More importantly, Suzy know she has a place to go.
We Aren't The Only.
Everyone has Marios and Little Suzys. There are friends, co-workers, supervisors and committee members that drain a disproportionate amount of time and attention. It's vital to put the Little Suzys of the world on equal footing. Little Suzys deserve equal standing. It's good for Suzy, Mario and "parents" that Suzy gets her share. 

I've told you how Little Suzy gets her due in my world. Who are the Suzys in your world and how do you compensate? How does Suzy feel about your choices? How does that make Mario feel? How does that make you feel? What would you do differently?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life Lesson Jujutsu.

Had a quite an interesting conversation with Little Suzy this morning. Actually, it wasn't much of a conversation. I snarled, she cried. I know I won the battle but I'm not sure about the war.
Safety First.
I'm not an absolutist (not talking vodka loyalty here) on almost everything. Some might think it's crazy the way I view proper car seating. My son, Mario is thin. He remained in a booster seat until age 10 due to height and weight recommendations. It'll be the same with Little Suzy. Once in a while when traveling with a relative or school friend parent, the kids were able to ride in the back seat without a booster. Never in the front seat. In preschool, the Septran driver had Little Suzy in the front seat. That arrangement survived exactly one trip.
An Elephant (and Little Suzy) Never Forgets.
Source: morgueFile
6:35 this morning. Little Suzy and I exit the front door for the car. I accompany Little Suzy to her bus stop one block away. During inclement weather (rainy days and mid-October through mid-May inclusive) I drive her and we wait in the car for the school bus. Call me an environmental terrorist if you will; I get called worse names when I revoke dessert privileges for the kids. This morning there was one minor snafu.

Post a mid summer garage sale there are donation items stored in the garage. This week is dedicated to taking said donations to donation sites thus making the garage more conducive to parking cars in the winter. Both rows of  back seats are folded down in the Rondo to expedite making fewer trips to the donation center.
"Hey, Suzy. You're going to have to sit in the front." 
     "No Daddy, I sit in the middle row."
"Suzy, the seats are folded down. Just sit in the front."
     "Daddy, I don't want Mommy to be upset."
"Suzy, Mommy won't be upset. Get in the car."
     "Daddy, I'd rather walk to the bus stop."
"Suzy, It's 6:35 AM. It's dark, damp and windy. I am not standing out in this weather."
     "But, Daddy..."
The conversation had 2 or 3 more exchanges but you get the idea. I prevailed and Little Suzy got in the car (and on the school bus) crying. Cancel my "Dad of the Year" nomination.
  • Was it the greatest parent decision? No. A great decision would have been to spend the time folding up the seat for Suzy and then folding down the seat to cart donations. I wasn't spending more time on seat folding than on driving to and from the bus stop. 
  • Suzy being OK with pissing me off to not upset Mommy? That's okay. Suzy loves me like a daughter but make no mistake, Suzy is Mommy's girl. 
  • Suzy remembering about not sitting in the front seat but forgetting about listening to Daddy? Suzy is just getting us both ready for the teen years. 
  • Me and Suzy? We're fine. It'll be forgotten by time she gets home from school. For a little added incentive, I'll have a snack ready and make chili (a Suzy favorite) for dinner tomorrow. 
And life goes on.

Monday, October 17, 2011

That's It?

In the middle of what was an always busy yesterday, I received a phone call. It was Cal, a friend who is also a lawyer. Cal has represented me when twice when I have bought and sold a house. Cal has also always been available as a sounding board, offering the views of the legal system when necessary. "Barry, Jill (Cal's mother-in-law) went into the hospital last week, caught an infection and died at 5:30 this morning. We're planning on a graveside service on Tuesday."  The news was sad but not unexpected. I actually met Cal through Jill. Jill and my mother went to high school together, were (almost) life long friends and I called her Aunt Jill.

My mother and Jill went through high school together during the depression. When Jill's kids and I were younger, my mother and Jill didn't see each other regularly. They spoke on the phone when possible and got together for special events. As all the kids got older Jill and Mom spent more time together. It seemed they spent almost 15 years together, meeting every Saturday afternoon.

Jill and Mom were a great match. The both had been banged around a bit (who hasn't?) by life. Jill was an agoraphobic and Mom doesn't drive. Somehow, Mom could keep Jill calm. Jill could take Mom to get stuff done. Together they had a great time, helping each other.

About 10 years ago, Jill's youngest grandchild was born with hydrocephalus. Rather than go to the brit milah, my mother did as she did during summers, go to the village swimming pool. (My mother doesn't deal with tough times too well anymore. She prefers to play ostrich). Jill was offended and my mother never did anything after to apologize or repair the relationship (See almost life long friends). And that was that.

My mother isn't going to the funeral for fear of offending Jill's children. My mother's sending a card. I don't have any answers to life's great mysteries. I don't have any better questions about life's great mysteries. I do know that a lifelong friendship, followed by a decade of nothing, concluded with a sympathy card is a classic case study in how not to live. Your thoughts?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, 2.0.

Source: Wikipedia
Monday, October 17, 2011 is the one month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Happy Anniversary. The 1st OWS rally took place on Saturday, September 17, 2011. A number of people gathered in the financial district in New York City to protest corporate greed. Some never went home and many more have joined the rally. A brief (and by no means complete) review of the past 30 days shows tremendous progress:
  • Occupy groups have sprung up all over. There is pretty much an Occupy _________ in every U.S. city. There is Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Los Angeles. There is an Occupy Wichita, an Occupy Cedar Rapids and an Occupy Rockford. There is an Occupy Canada. Coming soon: Occupy World, Occupy Universe and Occupy Galaxy (actually not, Microsoft, Apple and Google are already there).
  • OWS has received an endorsement from organized labor.With the support of the unions comes organizational infrastructure. 
  • OWS has drawn the ire of many including Herman Cain and Eric Cantor. When politcos object to your existence in the mainstream media, you've made the big time.
  •  Occupiers have been arrested in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. Mayor Bloomberg even considered the old "shut down the site for routine maintenance" ruse, but later thought it better to allow the ongoing rally to continue.
That is quite a list of accomplishments in only 30 days. OWS has truly truck a chord and the whole world is watching. Occupy Wall Street, it's your turn. What do you plan to do?
Humble Suggestions.
It's time for OWS to let the world know exactly what OWS stands for. The meaning of a huge grass roots movement is beyond the scope of this blog and besides I'm only one person. Before OWS develops a written list,  a few areas remain that still require clarification. So:
  1. Make it clear that OWS has no issues with the average, every day employees that earn their paychecks working in the financial districts, banks and brokerage houses across the country. These "average Janes and Joes" are part of the 99%.
  2. Make it clear that OWS does not want to diminish the earning ability of any citizen. OWS is against the greed of profit at all cost and corporate welfare. OWS is for everyone contributing their fair share in support of the commons.
I also find it critical that OWS expand the base prior to codifying  creed, goals and objectives. Expand a base beyond 99%? Exactly and here's how:
  1. Lawn signs, window signs and buttons. Even though there are rallies in numerous not everyone can carve out time to attend those rallies. Yard and window signs and button will show the borad support for OWS.
  2. There are a number of 1%'ers in favor of tax equity. Invite the wealthy in favor of paying their fair share to become honorary 99%'ers.
Finding a way to implement the 2 points above will grow the political clout of OWS and continue to expose the shills of greed. I'm asking a lot, but look at all OWS has done in only 30 days. It is vital for OWS to make the next 30 days just as productive.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ROL: Cubs Hire Theo Epstein.

ROL (Return on Life) is a qualitative metric modeled on the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). The concept behind ROL is to make small incremental changes in habits that generate a disproportionately greater increase in QOL (Quality of Life).
An Introduction.
If you find the world of professional sports as exciting as a collection of belly button lint, you may want to stop reading now. I'm going to be talking baseball. I will eventually get on to other stuff, but I'm starting with baseball. Forewarned is well...forewarned.

Source: Wikipedia
I have a confession. I am a lifelong Cubs fan. Being a Cubs fan involves more disappointment, frustration and embarrassment than and and all the jokes about being a Cubs fan, but according to the news on Wednesday all that disappointment, frustration and embarrassment may be coming to an end. The Cubs are going to hire Theo Epstein, formerly of the Red Sox, as their baseball sherpa. Epstein's mission is to lead the Cubs up baseball's Everest and deliver Cub fans a World Series victory.
Anyone Can Have 
A Bad Century.
Both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox shared one major distinction for the majority of the 20th century.  Neither team had won the World Series since the end of World War I. Legend has it that both team's World Series droughts were due to a curse.
  • The Red Sox had the curse of the Bambino. Before the 1920 season  the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth, baseball's best pitcher to the New York Yankees. Ruth became the greatest home run hitter baseball has ever seen. The Yankees won a bunch of World Series. The Red Sox had to wait until 2004.
  • The Cubs have the curse of the billy goat. During the 1945 World Series versus Detroit, Sam Sianis (owner of the Billy Goat Tavern and the billy goat in question) was asked to take his goat and go home, because the goat smelled awful. (I've been in the bleachers in Wrigley Field. The goat gets a bum rap on the smell thing). Sianis, angry due to the eviction, said "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The Cubs haven't been to the World Series since.
The Red Sox, cursed due to selling the contract of the eventual greatest baseball player ever. The Cubs, cursed due to the eviction of a future victim of Santeria. Did I mention disappointment, frustration and embarrassment?

Source: Wikipedia
The Red Sox made Theo Epstein General Manager before the 2003 season. The team broke the curse of the Bambino by winning the World Series in 2004. Epstein's baseball acumen regarding key player acquisitions is largely credited with the Red Sox exorcising the baggage associated with jettisoning Babe Ruth. Therefore, Epstein is considered a primary requisite to break the longest running losing streak in professional sports.
Who Doesn't Need An Epstein?
If you watch TV, listen to the radio or pay attention to annoying pop-up ads, everyone is pitching a Theo Epstein. Virility, diet, investing, residual income, complexion and even house cleaning has a one item magic answer. (Anyone have a Roomba?) But Theo Epstein didn't become Theo Epstein by magic. Epstein got a degree from Yale and started at the bottom rung, the PR department of the San Diego Padres. He worked hard, learned his craft and eventually had a hand in the Boston Red Sox winning 2 World Series. In addition to hard work, Epstein is also a success because he is willing to make a tough choice and perhaps be wrong. (Anyone remember John Lackey? Maybe he's selling Roomba's.) So hard work, dedication, discipline and more hard work leads to magic. Go figure.

Note: As I prepare to publish this post, the Cubs have yet to set a press conference to announce the hiring of Theo Epstein. Did I mention disappointment, frustration and embarrassment?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Look At Me. I'm Important.

I've seen a recent pattern in some of the Twitter bios. "RT's/follow do not indicate endorsement". Thanks for sharing. You get 160 characters (not letters; characters include spaces and punctuation) to tell the Twitterverse about yourself.  You choose to share who you might not endorse? Let me offer the not-necessarily an endorser a tip: NO ONE CARES!

Similar behavior occurs in businesses and PTA's across the country. "Can you believe (s)he didn't take my advice?" "Why wasn't I selected for the project group?" "My opinion was ignored,  yet again."
  • You were ignored or not selected for a reason. The reason my be meritorious or petty but the decision maker doesn't care and those around you care even less. 
  • Your advice wasn't put into play. Maybe the advice was bad. Perhaps you were asked merely as a courtesy. Yammering on incredulously about the lunacy of choosing a path other than the path you advised turns you from irrelevant to boring.

Along these lines, please refrain from beginning a sentence, "If you want my opinion..." If your opinion was wanted, your opinion would have been requested. If your opinion isn't requested, why offer your opinion? Irrelevant (skip boring) to boorish. As I conclude this rant, it's not that people shouldn't speak up or speak out when appropriate. Be judicious in deeming appropriateness. Everyone will be a bit happier.

Monday, October 10, 2011

School Holiday Haiku X 2.

It's Columbus Day.
The kids are off of school, so
I will shoot, myself.

I'm just poking fun.
I won't hurt anybody.
Please pass the Cuervo.

For a light-hearted interpretation of Columbus Day, here's Stan Freberg. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Thank You Note (with apologies to Jimmy Fallon)

Thank you Dunkin Donuts for creating the ultimate in repurposed food, the doughnut hole, aka The Munchkin.

Not content with merely remixing unfried holes together and making doughnuts, Dunkin created an entirely new product, so functional that the Munchkin is available generically in bakeries and groceries across the world. And they call Steve Jobs a visionary.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The 2 (&1/2) Most Powerful Words and A Bonus.

Tonight, as the sun sets in each time zone, the worldwide Jewish community begins the celebration of the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a sunset to sunset full fast (no food or drink). The theme(s) of Yom Kippur include introspection, reflection and penitence. Communal worship is longer than normal in homage to the holiday themes and besides, no one has a meal waiting for them until the holiday concludes tomorrow night. The Yom Kippur liturgy teaches multiple powerful lessons, I will concentrate on just two.
source: morgueFile

Conciliation With The Congregation.
Communal prayer is organized to address certain themes and assist the not-as-articulate in finding the right note. In conjunction with the Yom Kippur theme of penitence, the prayers include a (long) laundry list of Transgressions/Oversights/Deficiencies/Offenses/Sins (to-dos). Within the to-do list I find two very interesting points:
  1. All of the to-dos are written in the plural (We did, not I did).
  2. During communal prayer, everybody recite the whole to-do list. It's not pick 5 to-dos or raise your hand for the to-dos that apply. Everybody owns each and every to-do.
I'm Sorry.
The lesson of number 2: Do not underestimate the power of the words I'm Sorry. "I'm sorry" are the two (and a half) most powerful words we have. When someone feels wronged the best way to start is "I'm sorry". The Yom Kippur liturgy teaches to say "I'm sorry" even if don't think you did anything wrong. Saying "I'm sorry" is neither placating nor should "I'm sorry" be used to patronize. "I'm sorry" indicates acknowledgement that another party feels injured. "I'm sorry" is the best way to begin a conversation that leads to reconciliation.
I Didn't Do It Alone.
The lesson of number 1: The liturgy has the to-do's completely in plural. I think the intention is "safety in numbers"; It's easier to claim a shortcoming when you believe you're not the only one making the mistake.  I think there is even a stronger concept at play. When you feel harmed by another, what responsibility do you have in the action that harmed you? Lawyers call this the responsibility to mitigate damages. I consider this (all to-dos plural) the maturity to understand that life doesn't happen in a vacuum. When Little Susie often complains that Mario hit her (my 2 kids). I remind Little Susie that Mario shouldn't hit, but if you didn't tease Mario, maybe he wouldn't hit you. Such is the case with many things that happens to us.

In conjunction with my own personal celebration, I will be unplugged from Friday late afternoon through Sunday Morning. (We're going to my in-laws for the post Yom Kippur meal). Any and all comments (always welcome) will receive a response after Sunday A.M. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs.

ROL (return on life) is the normal Thursday post. This week's ROL is postponed one week due to the death of Steve Jobs.

I received a text from my local TV station last night at 6:59 P.M. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc. had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56. Immediately the e-news purveyors and e-news aggregators sprang into action providing biographical information. The social media sites were full of tributes as Wednesday became Thursday. A true visionary would dream no more.

source: morgueFile
I'm about as far from an Appleophile as you can find. Except for some mid-generation iPod Nanos and Shuffles there are no Apple products in my house. When I finally got a 21st century smartphone, it was an Android. When I eventually get a pad, it will be an Android (I'm a fan of open-platform). It's important to remember that my smartphone and eventual tablet are responses to Apple, responses to the vision of Steve Jobs.
Information Is Power.
Steve Jobs changed the way information and entertainment are originated, curated and disseminated. The fact that someone else would have eventually developed the same vehicles does nothing to diminish the fact that Steve Jobs was the first. Steve Jobs ability to make tech tangible to the technophobic is true genius. Without Steve Jobs consider the state of computer accessibility, mobile entertainment and movie animation. That's quite a diverse portfolio, yet Steve Jobs managed that portfolio seamlessly.  Steve Jobs is undoubtedly the model of the 21st Century Renaissance Man.

Farewell, Steve Jobs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Find The Good.

My son Mario, who has Asperger's Syndrome (along with ADHD and some other short odds lottery genetics) is mainstreamed in the local jr. high school system. As part of his IEP, Mario receives significant accommodations. With his accommodations and very little effort, Mario is a solid 'C' student. When Mario puts in effort he has been an honor roll student.  This wide swing always makes for some interesting parent-teachers conferences.
Mario and Little Susie
Mid-Term Reports.
When we received Mario's 1st quarter mid-term achievement report we were very excited; Mario was on track for honor roll. My wife and I are not that tied up in Mario's grades, but his sister Little Susie is at the honor roll equivalent for her age. Self esteem issues often accompany Asperger's and ADHD. My wife and I both thought it would be good for Mario's self esteem to have some acknowledgment for his scholastics, especially since his sister excels academically*. Needless to say all four of us (with some coaching) were amped up for 1st semester conferences.
 A Lesson From The Teacher.
The absolute highlight of the conference was meeting Mario's language arts teacher. We found out that Mario was one of only two students that would receive an 'A' for the quarter. Great news but this wasn't what thrilled my wife and I, though. Mario's language arts teacher was also his case manager (responsible for making sure all Mario's accommodations in Mario's IEP were being met). After we introduced ourselves, the language arts teacher/case manager asked "So, what's Mario's gift?" My wife and I didn't understand the question. I thought, We're not even to Thanksgiving and this guy is asking about holiday gifts?" The teacher saw our puzzled look and said, "I'm Mario's case manager so I know he has Asperger's and we all know the challenges someone with Asperger's faces. I'd like to know if you've found his gift**, the things that compensate for his challenges." I knew right then, that Mario was lucky to have this gentleman as a teacher and a case manager. This guy gets it.
In Real Life.
I recall that conversation with Mario's teacher often. I think it's human nature to dwell on what we aren't getting or what isn't happening. Similarly, I often evaluate people in terms of their specific weaknesses, in terms of who these people are not. But frankly, we all have things we wish we could be better at accomplishing. I find my days happier, more fulfilling and more successful when I look for the best in those around me and think of those I love (and even those I merely know) in terms of who they are and what they do best. I try and incorporate Mario's teacher's lesson as often as possible.

Do you find yourself gravitating towards the negative? How do you accentuate the positive in those around you? How do you feel when you are evaluated based on your weaknesses as opposed to your strengths? Do you do better when you are complimented on what you do best? Or do you respond better to negative criticism?

*By the end of the year Mario had enough of academic excellence and wound up with a solid 'C' average.
** Mario's primary gift is his  rote memory. He remember many facts after seeing them only once. In grammar school he never studied for spelling tests and usually received a perfect grade. To this day he remains a visual learner.

Monday, October 3, 2011

They're Just Not That Into Me. Or You.

My wife has been with the same bank for 25 years. Actually, she's been with six different banks, but she's had the same checking account. The account started with Horizon Federal Savings (her father worked for Teletype and Horizon had an arrangement for Teletype employees and their families) and has been with First National Bank of Chicago, Chase Manhattan  and now J.P. Morgan Chase with other interim ownership along the way.  I wasn't married (nor dating) my wife when she opened the account. I can only assume Horizon Federal Bank was anxious to build lifetime relationships and create lifetime customers. Things change.
 My Five Cents Worth.
The first time I realized the bank (FirstChicago at the time) wasn't as interested in relationships is when they instituted a charge for making a deposit with a teller. That's right, if I wanted to deposit a check, they wanted me to use the machine or the night drop. Since cash wasn't optimal in a night drop, there was no fee for making a cash deposit with a teller. So being indignant about being charged for service from a service industry, I would deposit checks and a nickel. No teller fee when cash was part of the deposit. I pissed off a lot of tellers, but I guess I wasn't the only one. Within six months, the teller fee was dropped.
New Fees? 
You Can Bank On It.
The banks are at it again. Bank of America has announced that beginning next year they will charge $5/month for the privilege of a debit card. That's $60 a year for access to your money. Bank of America won't be the only bank to institute this charge. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are already testing $3/month debit card fees in certain markets.

There are many reasons for this renewed emphasis on more fees. It could be that the big banks upper level management are money grubbing whores that can't start burning in hell next to Milton Friedman soon enough for my tastes, but that would be a political statement and I intend to avoid politics on this blog. The fact is, banks don't really make their money by paying interest on deposits and loaning out the deposits at a greater rate. Banks make more money on fees and investments. There is also less competition in the bank industry over the last decade via consolidations. My mother can no longer call her local banker (Bank of America owns her neighborhood bank) for service, she has to call a toll-free number. For my mother that doesn't see or hear well and doesn't own a computer it is a very sad situation.
Source: Wikipedia

 Occupy Your Thoughts.
There aren't any easy answers (there never are) but I there is one thing I know. If I choose to suffer in silence, I can only look forward to more (and larger) bank fees. There are some people objecting to this bank over reach as well as other bank bad behavior. You may have heard something about Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street is growing and organizing locally. I realize that it's not so easy to march around with signs once you have a house, family, job etc. I agree. But sometimes a bunch of small gestures add up to a large gesture. My nickel's worth with other peoples actions got teller fees eliminated. Maybe together we can work on the debit card fee and other fee frustrations. Do nothing and the message is the fees are just fine.

How do you feel about being charged a monthly fee for a debit card? Is it just the coast of doing business? Do you have any ideas on how to share your feelings with the big banks?