Monday, February 28, 2011

What Do You Do?

I have written about Daniel Pink before, author of several books on the changing world of work and what motivates us in the 21st century.  I follow his blog (, and came across this article that he wrote for Britain's Sunday Telegraph.  Sometimes, things are less complicated than we make it. 

Think Tank: Ever felt like your job isn't what you were born to do? You're not alone
10:30PM GMT 26 Feb 2011 published in the Sunday Telegraph

The idea is that if we simply acknowledge what fires our soul, if we just pull out our metaphysical arthroscope and examine our hearts, the path will reveal itself.

So – with a voice that quavers in expectation and an inflection that italicises the final word – they ask us again, "What's your passion?"

Ladies and gentlemen, I detest that question.

When someone poses it to me, my innards tighten. My vocabulary becomes a palette of aahs and ums. My chest wells with the urge to flee.

Oh my. The answer better be amazing – not some fumbling, feeble reply. But I know the responses I've formed in my head aren't especially good. Worse, they're probably not even accurate. And I'm not alone.

So, as the economy comes back, and people begin pondering new opportunities, maybe we can take a break from this daunting and distracting question and ask a far more productive, one: what do you do?

I learned the wisdom of this alternative from Gretchen Rubin, who lives and works in New York City. After graduating from law school in the early 1990s, Rubin served as a law clerk for the US Supreme Court. This job is perhaps the sweetest plum in the American legal orchard. It practically guarantees a career of high-level positions in law firms and government. 

But during her stint, Rubin's eyes wandered away from the law.

"When I had free time, I never wanted to talk about cases or read law journals, the way my fellow clerks did. Instead, I spent hours reading, taking notes and writing my observations about the worldly passions – power, money, fame and sex," Rubin says.

"Finally, I realised, 'Hey, I'm writing a book.' And it dawned on me that some people write books for a living. This project didn't have to be my hobby; it could be my job."

She wrote her first book – Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide – and soon she realised that she wasn't a lawyer. She was a writer. Now she has four books to her name, including her latest, The Happiness Project.

Rubin might have felt an occasional bolt of passion while writing. But that didn't offer much guidance. Instead, she took a step back and watched what she did. 

Emma Jones is the founder of Enterprise Nation, a London company that supports small businesses. She has discovered that people who notice what they do when nobody is watching them, or even paying them, often end up as entrepreneurs.

"I'm seeing quite an increase in the number of people turning a hobby into a business," she says. "You start innocently by making cakes or taking photos in your spare time. Friends and family admire the results and recommend you to others. Before you know it, you are your own boss and making a living from doing what you do."

This is how people find their way. Instead of endless self-examination and the search for some inscrutable holy emotional grail, they act.

Sometimes the answer that emerges from the action isn't fully formed, says Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers. "Often that thing 'on the side' becomes a slash that gets tacked on after an answer to the 'What do you do?' question. That's why we're seeing so many lawyer/chefs and dentist/massage therapists. And these slash careers are often pit stops on the way to full-blown career shifts."

Of course, passion isn't bad. But business can be a bit like love. When people first fall in love, they experience that woozy and besotted feeling that verges on obsessiveness. That's passion, and it's great. But as couples bond more enduringly, that fiery intensity can give way to a calmer warmth. That's true love – and that's where the magic is.

So, next time you're on either the giving or receiving end of advice, skip the hot and steamy passion and go for the calm and deeper love. Ask questions like: 
  • What did you do last Saturday afternoon – for fun, for yourself?
  • What books do you read or blogs do you visit, not for work, but just because you're interested in them?
  • What are you great at? What comes easily to you?
  • What would you do – or are you already doing – for free?
As it happens, I can testify to the power of de-emphasising passion and re-emphasising doing. Beginning about two decades ago, I worked in some very demanding, intensely stressful jobs in American politics and government. But throughout – on the side, usually for no money – I wrote magazine articles about business and work, and formulated ideas for books. At one level, it was foolish. I lost sleep, sacrificed leisure, and probably distracted myself from my paid employment.

But after many years, it finally hit me: This – not politics – is what I did. And now, as a result, that's what I do.

Am I passionate about it? Sure, I guess. Maybe. Some days. But passion isn't something I much ponder. I'm too busy doing what I do.

Daniel H Pink is an author and business leader who writes about the world of work. His most recent book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Unintended Consequences in Sports

With special thanks to my brother, Ed, I share this article from The Wall Street Journal on how NHL owners have exploited a loophole in the hard cap to cover up their mistakes.  Makes for a good reason to go check out some AHL games.  (Note:  As for the photo above, I just liked it.)  

Where the NHL Stashes Its Mistakes

Faced With a Glut of Bloated Contracts, Teams Ship More Millionaires to the Bus League

Wall Street Journal 2/25/

by Kevin Cl

Last spring, goaltender Michael Leighton led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals. One month later, he cashed in with a two-year, $3.1 million contr

On a recent night in January, however, Leighton was minding the net for the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League at the Glens Falls Civic Center in upstate New York. The crowd of 3,889 was a little bigger than normal, but not on his account. It was Girl Scout night. "It's tough just to think about it," Leighton

There's nothing unusual about a millionaire baseball player doing a stint in the minors to retool his game or come back from an injury. But hockey's minor leagues are a different animal: They exist mostly as a holding pen for journeymen and fringe prospects. Future stars like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin never set foot in them and the facilities and accommodations tend to be considerably more sp

This season, thanks to a little-known loophole in the league's labor deal and a growing pileup of phenomenally bad contracts, the AHL has seen something new: an influx of millionaires making as much as double the NHL's average

Sheldon Souray, a former Edmonton Oilers defenseman who was once married to a Baywatch model, is patrolling the blue line for the Hershey Bears for $5.5 million. He was loaned to Hershey in the pre-season when Edmonton asked him not to report for training camp and no team picked him up off

Former New York Rangers defenseman Wade Redden, a two-time All-Star, is taking eight hour bus rides as a member of the Connecticut Whale. At a salary of $6.5 million, he earns the AHL's minimum salary of $37,500 in just over one period
of play.

Defenseman Mike Commodore, who won a Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, was sent down to the Springfield Falcons in January after the Blue Jackets failed to find a team willing to trade for him. Despite making $3.75 million, he's living in a hotel in downtown Springfield and doesn't have a car. "Honestly, I don't know where I'd go,
" he says.

The root of the problem is the NHL's salary cap, which was introduced in hockey for the first time in 2005 and limits the amount teams can spend on players to $59 million. Many of the league's general managers had very little idea how dangerous a cap system can be, and as such, signed a lot of players to long, bloated contracts that are now coming back to haunt them. But during the 2005 negotiations, the players union asked for an unusual provision that allows teams to limit their cap count to the salaries of players who are actually in the locker room. If a team can find a place to stash a player they no longer want, his salary doe
sn't count.

Some teams have taken novel approaches. The Chicago Blackhawks shed goaltender Cristobal Huet's $5.6 million salary by loaning him to a team in Switzerland. But the majority of the league's overpaid and unwanted have been sent to discover the charms of life
in the AHL.

As you might expect, the disparities in income on these teams now creates some unusual situations. In minor league hockey, there's a tradition known as "The Board," where players place small sums of money for the scorer of the game's game-winning goal to collect. Most nights, the board can be $100 or so. No longer. Redden has placed iPads on the board and Commodore has put up as mu
ch as $1,000.

When Commodore got to Springfield, he thought the team could use a particular type of weightlifting machine so he bought $2,000 worth of equipment on his own dime. He says he's grown so accustomed to paying for things that it's getting a bit "awkward" with his teammates. "The other guys want to start contribut
ing," he said.

The NHL's waiver system makes it unlikely any of these players will be back in the big league anytime soon. If a player is picked up on waivers, both his new team and his old team must add half the player's salary to their salary cap total. For players like Redden, who signed a six-year guaranteed contract in 2008, that's a huge disincentive that has turned the AHL into hockey's version of a white
-collar prison.

It's not clear if the stashing issue will come up again when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires in Sept. 2012. Scott Howson, the Blue Jackets general manager who sent Commodore down, said eating his salary in the minors is not "a desi
rable solution."

The NHL doesn't consider stashing players in the minors a violation of the rules. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the move isn't common enough to be a problem yet, but that the number of "high-profile players" with big contracts who've been sent down for cap management is a situation that
"bears watching."

As for Commodore, he says he's made peace with his situation. "At the time I signed the contract, I heard 'overpaid, overpaid, overpaid!' and that's fine, what
ever, maybe I am."

For a year, he said, the contract worked out splendidly. But after injuries and a coaching change, his career in Columbus started to unravel. In the end, he says, "it just so happened to be my
head on the block."

Rick Wright, a 31-year-old Phantoms fan who works for a satellite company said he didn't think fans particularly paid attention or noticed that Leighton, the goalie from last year's Stanley Cup Finals, is playing for their hometown team. "On one hand, I feel sorry for him because he's stuck in the AHL, but on the other hand, it's good because we had a lot of goaltending problems at the end of last year," he said.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How the West Can Be Won Again

The Right is Right About Rights
By Marvin Disgruntled, Staff Writer

The Bill of Rights is a uniquely American creation.  When George Washington wrote them on the back of an envelope before his appearance at Gettysburg as the rocket’s red glare glowed over head, it was a simpler time of principles over politics and majorities over minorities.  Men were men, women were women, and we were who we were, once and for all, e pluribus unum.  Liberals didn’t exist back when we were the greatest nation in the universe, and there was peace in our country.  What was different back then?  We all had guns.  Amen. 

We can recapture that peaceful easy feeling again, but to do so, we will need to follow more closely and literally this grand Bill of Rights and heed its important lessons.  There is one amendment however, that is the greatest among equals.  It is greater than the other enumerated rights because without it, all the other rights are impossible.  Over the years, the power and reach of this amendment has been eroded, but now more than ever, it needs to be followed as Washington intended some 400 years ago.

The 2nd Amendment states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So what was the original intent of this amendment?  I’ve been doing some reading on this.  In the late 1700s, muskets, rifles, and cannons were the weapons of war.  If you had muskets and rifles, and the government had muskets and rifles, then you had a state of MAD – mutually assured destruction.  The government could not move against the people, because both sides were proportionately armed.  This created an environment in which the government was careful not to tread on any person’s individual liberties, lest the one of the government’s unionized public servants pay the ultimate price.

Today the sides are no longer even.  The government now has enhanced weaponry at its disposal.  Armored trucks with machine guns, SAMs (surface to air missiles), long range bombers, and high powered rifles fill their arsenals.  These high-tech weapons were not available in 1789.  Making sure that the sides were of even strength was easy in colonial times.  Rebalancing the scales of power today is more complex and expensive, but no less important.  In order to protect citizens from tyranny and government oppression as the Founders intended, we must protect the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase and maintain weapons equal in lethal firepower to those owned by the government.  This is common sense. 

Think it through logically.  If your neighbor owned a nuclear weapon, doesn’t it follow that no one would try to break into his home, trample on his flower beds, or drop by unannounced selling coupon booklets for local businesses during the traditional dinner hour?  You betcha.  Your right to live and let live would be respected, just as the Founders intended.  If you could drive a tank loaded and ready with 50 caliber shells, what federal agency lackey would pull you over for violating those liberal utopian HOV restrictions on your favorite highway?  Now that is real freedom, my friends, like the Founders had when they traveled by horseback through the forests and the fields, over hill and dale, to grandmother’s house they went.

Of course, it naturally follows that tracking these purchases would be an invitation to the government to come and confiscate your legal property on a whim.  There can be no freedom as long as a database of these purchases exists.  If the government doesn’t know which person has a Predator drone in his garage capable of dropping a 2,000 pound bomb, it has to assume that everyone does.  That, my friends, is a blanket of security under which we can all sleep, albeit with one eye open.

In fairness to all Americans large and small, we cannot consider restricting the purchase of these vital weapons systems to those deemed “mentally incompetent”, whatever that means.  Restricting weapons access would be an invitation to the government to oppress those less emotionally stable members of our communities, and again, this is an invitation to tyranny.  And tyranny is bad.  We are against that.  And you must be, too.

Cost for the average weapons system can deter many hard working Americans from buying and owning the gun, rifle, launcher, or nuclear submarine to best provide adequate home defense; however, if this onerous and unconstitutional restriction on buying large systems is lifted, more buyers in the marketplace will mean lower prices for all.  How?  Surely government contractors looking to expand their market share will develop new, more affordable weapon systems to meet the new demand.  Neighbor could band together with neighbor to pool their resources, creating their own militia as prescribed in the Constitution.  It’s a win-win for Americans and the American economy! 
We need to get back to our roots, the good ol’ days.  Let’s finally start embracing the original intent of the 2nd Amendment in this country, and allow for the unfettered individual ownership of high tech weaponry by private citizens.  The scales of justice have been balanced for too long in the government’s favor.  We will never be truly free until we are all heavily armed.

The best defense is a good offense, and defense wins championships.  Let’s win the future!

I wonder what would happen if Marvin Disgruntled’s advice was accepted:

March 12, 2018
Springfield, CA

A lone citizen militiaman shot and killed 120 innocent people during a restaurant altercation over a dirty drinking glass.

The as-yet unnamed patriot used a bazooka, hand grenade and an automatic rifle that shot upwards of 100 rounds per minute.  He attacked after complaining to his server about the cleanliness standards of the restaurant, and then being handed a dirty drinking glass.  Patrons at the restaurant reported that the gunman had earlier commented loudly that the service was slow, and the attention to detail by the staff was sorely lacking.  It is rumored, but unconfirmed, that his soup was lukewarm as well.

The NRA released a statement condemning the man:
“Our hearts go out to the victims of this senseless violence.  We caution the anti-Constitutional elements on the Left not to use this event as a political staging ground for any restrictions on a citizen’s individual right to maintain their own well regulated militia.  Annual membership is currently available by going to our website,, and a portion of your membership fee will go towards protecting the rights of avid sportsmen and hunters to kill and maim animals in the wild, as well as any suspicious characters who approach your home uninvited, and at a rate of 100 rounds per minute. Thank you for your support.”

The shooter escaped the scene in a vintage Sherman tank.  Witnesses and victims fired a number of bullets in his direction, killing or wounding dozens more bystanders, but the perpetrator got away during the melee.  Police are searching for a man, medium height, medium build, medium intelligence, wearing jeans, a flak jacket, and a wry smile.  Area residents should be prepared to shoot anyone matching this description on sight for their own protection. 

On a related note, the hours for this weekend’s blood drive have been extended until 6 PM.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Night and Good Luck

I accept that there was a liberal media bias that existed for years in the days of a limited mainstream media (3 major TV networks).  I also accept that the liberal bias was overstated from time to time to advance a conservative talking point, or just plain hide the truth (see Nixon-Agnew blaming the Washington Post for uncovering and reporting on their criminal activities).  Blame the messenger worked then (for a time), and it works now.  Remember, Sarah Palin never flubbed the answer to a question; the media tricked her.  The media is a convenient enemy, and probably always will be. 

The liberal bias in the modern era, however, is a myth, a carry over from simpler times when Americans got their news from 3 different guys in suit and tie at 7 PM each weeknight.  Today, many conservative talking points, regardless of their merit, are treated with the same gravitas as liberal talking points.  The press and general media has been scared into submission by conservatives, so congratulations to the Right.  Your agenda is on the air, and from time to time, some good comes from that.  It can be healthy, as long as fact checking by journalists is involved.  You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.  The real bias, in my opinion, is towards the sensational and the inflammatory, and that is what really matters.

Let’s take a look at the recent mainstream political media coverage of recent court decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act.   Those upholding the constitutionality of the health care law get very little attention, while conservative rulings against the law are literally treated as front-page news.

From the Washington Monthly:
Three federal district courts have said the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster; two have reached the opposite conclusion. Here's how four major media outlets have covered the rulings, in the order in which the decisions came down:

Washington Post

* Steeh ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A2, 607 words
* Moon ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page B5, 507 words
* Hudson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1624 words
* Vinson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1176 words
* Kessler ruling (upholding the ACA): no article, zero words

New York Times

* Steeh ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A15, 416 words
* Moon ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A24, 335 words
* Hudson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1320 words
* Vinson ruling (against the ACA): article on page A1, 1192 words
* Kessler ruling (upholding the ACA): article on page A14, 488 words

Associated Press

* Steeh ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 474 words
* Moon ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 375 words
* Hudson ruling (against the ACA): one piece, 915 words
* Vinson ruling (against the ACA): one piece, 1164 words
* Kessler ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 595 words


* Steeh ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 830 words
* Moon ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 535 words
* Hudson ruling (against the ACA): three pieces, 2734 words
* Vinson ruling (against the ACA): four pieces, 3437 words
* Kessler ruling (upholding the ACA): one piece, 702 words

[Update: here's this same data in chart form.]

As a legal matter, none of these ruling is more important than the other -- they're all at the federal district level, they're all dealing with the same law, and they'll all be subjected to an appeal.  And yet, the discrepancy is overwhelming. In every instance, conservative rulings get more coverage, longer articles, and better placement.

Does this mean that there is a conservative media bias at work across these publications?  Of course not.  Let’s face it – deciding that a law is still a law isn’t very sexy news.  Declaring that a major piece of legislation is unconstitutional, now that’s interesting.  “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the old TV news saying.  Laws being overturned by the courts are the judicial equivalent of a car wreck.  You can’t look away, so the media covers it, page one, above the fold.  That's a bias towards selling advertising, not a political point of view.

Why is there such a bias towards the sensational?  Sadly, our national attention span isn’t long enough for anything else, and the competition for someone's attention is so acute in the Internet Age.  We have access to more information, and yet we're getting dumber.  

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll that asked people the following question:

"As far as you know, which comes closest to describing the current status of the health reform law that was passed last year?"

A narrow majority, 52%, said the law is still on the books, while 22% said the law has been repealed, and 26% weren't sure either way.  Yes, 48% of those polled don’t even know if one of the most important and controversial laws of the past 25 years is on the books.  Only three things could be at play here – the media has done a terrible job covering the story, Americans could care less, or Americans don’t understand the question.  Any of the three possibilities is a tragedy.

Editor's Note:
I have to mention that fair and balanced news reporting is possible, but I would question whether you could get that from a network that employs just about every GOP presidential contender for 2012 as a “paid contributor”.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Minority Report

In Steven Spielberg’s futuristic drama, Minority Report, pre-cogs have visions of crimes that had yet to be committed, and perpetrators are arrested based on those visions.  In essence, people are captured and sentenced before they commit a crime.  This is a world where thoughts are the same as actions in the eyes of the law.  It all seems very Orwellian and impossible, but it could be a reality that is closer than we think.

U.S. Congressman Christopher Lee (no relation to the 1960s B-horror movie leading man by the same name) resigned from the House because he posted a shirtless photo of himself on Craigslist, soliciting dates with desperate women with a keyboard and Fios connectivity.  This is not a crime, although his wife and kids might take a more dim view of this behavior.  His constituents and the media certainly did, and Lee left office in disgrace, sent home early from his term to consider his transgression, wait for Oprah to call, and sift through radio talk show hosting contract offers.  Such is the nature of redemption in America circa 2011.  Can a date on DWTS be far behind?

In years past, you had to have actually fathered a child out of wedlock, or be photographed on the deck of your own yacht with Donna Rice on your lap to be convicted in the court of public opinion.  Now, all you have to do is think about fooling around, dip your toe in the proverbial online waters, and you are tried, convicted and sentenced.  Posting a photo on Craigslist is the modern day equivalent of winking at someone across a crowded room, although now the ‘room’ has millions of people in it, and your wink is now a top rated video on YouTube.  Public service has never been more public, and he should have known this from Day One in politics.  No sympathy here.

I am not condoning the Congressman’s actions by any stretch.  He’s a low life, but since when did being a lowlife disqualify one from public office?  It is practically a prerequisite these days.  While the loss of a GOP House member does not usually bother me, this one feels a bit different.  What if he had a minority report (you have to have seen the movie...)?  What if his intention was only to know if others thought him attractive, and he never planned to move the relationship from cyberspace to his one-bedroom DC rental space?

We’ll never know, and I may be the only one who cares.   As Michelle Cottle wrote, this philanderer was “brought down by a sex scandal before he even comes close to having sex.”  I am sure former Rep. Lee sees that as the real crime.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Before There Was Twitter, There Was IRTNOG

The death of language and the negative impact on meaningful, rich communications between individuals has long been lamented by friends of mine, and tales of its demise might be premature.  They rage about text messaging, instant messenger, and Twitter, and parallel these technological advancements to the conditions leading to the fall of the Roman Empire.  I will admit that I too have piled on, wondering how we could promote effective human dialogue using only consonants or up to 140 characters.  My daughter was not allowed to use texting on her phone until she could demonstrate to me the ability to carry on a phone conversation using her voice and complete sentences made up of commonly accepted English words.  I went old school on her.  This was my way of holding back the tsunami of change that was sweeping me off my cultural moorings.  I’ll make me kids suffer my stubborn insistence on proper grammar, and everything will be right in the world.

Language has had to tighten up and be more economical, primarily because there is so much of it to absorb on a daily basis.  Newsfeeds, banner ads, emails, alerts, IMs, one minute videos, summaries of summaries of summaries – we are bombarded, and still we surf for even more.  We are more interested in what we are reading next than what we are reading now.  Focus and attention span are concepts for another age, and language is evolving to keep up. 

The death of language has been predicted in the past, and those predictions have yet to come to fruition, thankfully.  Language has changed, old words and styles have died, to be sure, but new ones have grown and matured to replace ‘ancient’ words.  My kids love it when I slip the word “trousers” into conversation, since to them, such a word belongs in the works of Shakespeare or Homer.  My parents, I am certain, were quite confused the first time one of us called something “bad”, which we knew meant “really good”.  Each generation has its battles with understanding the secret codes of youth, and our time is no different.  I can hear a parent in the 1940s yelling at his insolent child, “It’s called a ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’, not SCUBA gear.  If you don’t use proper English, you’ll never amount to anything!”

In 1938, the great writer, E.B. White, wrote a piece for The New Yorker, and I share it with you below.  Over 70 years ago, he foretold the shortening of language to consonants and brief bursts of words as a way to digest it all; however, he thought he was writing satire.  Little could he know how close he was to the truth of the future.  Enjoy:

IRTNOG, by E.B. White (1938)
Apropos of nothing but The Modern Condition (Long-Obtaining), an extremely short work of dystopian fiction:

Along about 1920 it became apparent that more things were being written than people had time to read.  That is to say, even if a man spent his entire time reading stories, articles, and news, as they appeared in books, magazines, and pamphlets, he fell behind.  This was no fault of the reading public; on the contrary, readers made a real effort to keep pace with writers, and utilized every spare moment during their walking hours.  They read while shaving in the morning and while waiting for trains and while riding on trains.  They came to be a kind of tacit agreement among numbers of the reading public that when one person laid down the baton, someone else must pick it up; and so when a customer entered a barbershop, the barber would lay aside the Boston Evening Globe and the customer would pick up Judge; or when a customer appeared in a shoe-shining parlor, the bootblack would put away the racing form and the customer would open his briefcase and pull out The Sheik.  So there was always somebody reading something.  Motormen of trolley cars read while they waited on the switch.  Errand boys read while walking from the corner of Thirty-ninth and Madison to the corner of Twenty-fifth and Broadway.  Subway riders read constantly, even when they were in a crushed, upright position in which nobody could read his own paper but everyone could look over the next man s shoulder.  People passing newsstands would pause for a second to read headlines.  Men in the back seats of limousines, northbound on Lafayette Street in the evening, switched on tiny dome lights and read the Wall Street Journal.  Women in semi-detached houses joined circulating libraries and read Vachel Lindsay while the baby was taking his nap.

There was a tremendous volume of staff that had to be read.  Writing began to give off all sorts of by-products.  Readers not only had to read the original works of a writer, but they also had to scan what the critics said, and they had to read the advertisements reprinting the favorable criticisms, and they had to read the book chat giving some rather odd piece of information about the writer  such as that he could write only when he had a gingersnap in his mouth.  It all took time.  Writers gained steadily, and readers lost.

Then along came the Reader's Digest.  That was a wonderful idea.  It digested everything that was being written in leading magazine, and put new hope in the hearts of readers.  Here, everybody thought, was the answer to the problem.  Readers, badly discouraged by the rate they had been losing ground, took courage and set out once more to keep abreast of everything that was being written in the world.  For a while they seemed to hold their own. But soon other digests and short cuts appeared, like Time, and The Best Short Stories of 1927, and the new Five-Foot Shelf, and Well's Outline of History, and Newsweek, and Fiction Parade.  By 1939 there were one hundred and seventy-three digests, or short cuts, in America, and even if a man read nothing but digests of selected material, and read continuously, he couldn't keep up.  It was obvious that something more concentrated than digests would have to come along to take up the slack.

It did.  Someone conceived the idea of digesting the digests.  He brought out a little publication called Pith, no bigger than your thumb.  It was a digest of Reader's Digest, Time, Concise Spicy Tales, and the daily news summary of the New York Herald Tribune.  Everything was so extremely condensed that a reader could absorb everything that was being published in the world in about forty-five minutes.   It was a tremendous financial success, and of course other publications sprang up, aping it: one called Core, another called Nub, and a third called NutshellNutshell folded up, because, an expert said, the name was too long; but half a dozen others sprang up to take its place, and for another short period readers enjoyed a breathing spell and managed to stay abreast of writers.  In fact, at one juncture, soon after the appearance of Nub, some person of unsound business tendencies felt that the digest rage had been carried too far and that there would be room in the magazine field for a counterdigest, a publication devoted to restoring literary bulk.  He raised some money and issued a huge thing called Amplifo, undigesting the digests. In the second issue the name had been changed to Regurgitans.  The third issue never reached the stands.  Pith and Core continued to gain, and became so extraordinarily profitable that hundreds of other digests of digests came into being.  Again readers felt themselves slipping.  Distillate came along, a superdigest which condensed a Hemingway novel to the single word "Bang!" and reduced a long article about the problem of the unruly child to the words  "Hit him."

You would think that with such drastic condensation going on, the situation would have resolved itself and that an adjustment would have been set up between writer and reader.  Unfortunately, writers still forged ahead.  Digests and superdigests, because of their rich returns, became as numerous as the things digested.  It was not until 1960, when a Stevens Tech graduate named Abe Shapiro stepped in with and immense ingenious formula, that a permanent balance was established between writers and readers.  Shapiro was a sort of Einstein.  He had read prodigiously; and as he thought back over all the things that he had ever read, he became convinced that it would be possible to express them in mathematical quintessence.  He was positive that he could take everything that was written and published each day, and reduce it to a six-letter word.  He worked out a secret formula and began posting daily bulletins, telling his result.

Everything that had been written during the first day of his formula came down to the word IRTNOG.  The second day, everything reduced to EFSITZ.  People accepted these mathematical distillations; and strangely enough, or perhaps not strangely at all, people were thoroughly satisfied, which would lead one to believe that what readers really craved was not so much the contents of books, magazines, and papers as the assurance that they were not missing anything.  Shapiro found that his bulletin board was inadequate, so he made a deal with a printer and issued a handbill at five o clock every afternoon, giving the Word of the Day.  It caught hold instantly.

The effect on the populace was salutary.  Readers, once they felt confident that they had one-hundred-per-cent coverage, were able to discard the unnatural habit of focusing their eyes on words every instant.  Freed of the exhausting consequences of their hopeless race against writers, they found their health returning, along with a certain tranquility and a more poised way of living.  There was a marked decrease in stomach ulcers, which, doctors said, had been the result of allowing the eye to jump nervously from one newspaper headline to another after a heavy meal.  With the dwindling of reading, writing fell off.  Forests which had been plundered for newsprint, grew tall again; droughts were unheard of; and people dwelt in slow comfort, in a green world.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Third Rail of Blogging

The GOP was swept into power in the House and many state houses across the country in November in a historically predictable pendulum swing, but they campaigned for this power in part by downplaying social issues.  "It's jobs, jobs, jobs", we were told.  The culture war will have to wait while we get our fiscal house in order.  Translation: "We're not that scary, Mr. Independent Voter."  We Americans believe in a good redemption story, though, and we gave the GOP, undeserving though they may be, another turn at bat. 

Now being led by the bronze man with the oversized gavel, we loyal Americans have waited patiently for the jobs legislation.  While we wait, we are being treated to a parade of bills that do not help the economy in any way, but pander to the far Right base. The House GOP has pushed the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (which the Hyde Amendment already does, and has for years), the "Protect Life Act," and a plan to raise business taxes over their private insurance plans that might cover abortions.  So much for the aversion to  government meddling in private health insurance.

The battle continues in the states.  In South Dakota, a state bill to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing someone in the defense of an unborn child was postponed indefinitely Wednesday after an uproar over whether the legislation would put abortion providers at greater risk.  Yes, that's right.  A Republican lawmaker proposed a law that would make the murder of someone who assisted, or was not actively trying to stop, an abortion legal in that state.  Pro-life my ass. 

I do not favor abortion, but I do favor the GOP doing what they said they'd do, and not spend their first 6 weeks obsessing over a controversial issue that they would not touch during the campaign.  If they felt that strongly and planned to introduce all these bills, fine.  Tell us before we vote.  Make it a part of your Pledge to America, and prioritize it as Task #1.  I think that's only fair.

I post this summary of a New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof, posted in The Week, and I post it without further comment.  I have no comment because regardless of your feelings on this topic, it makes you stop and think.  It sure made Sister Margaret think:

What would Jesus do? It’s too bad Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix didn’t ask himself that question, said Nicholas Kristof, before stripping St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Catholic diocese. “The hospital’s offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother,” who had severe pulmonary hypertension and would have died, leaving her four other children without a mom.

Seeking to “bully the hospital into submission,” the bishop excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, a hospital ethicist who had approved this single exception to the no-abortion policy. But in an act of defiance that should chill the Vatican’s soul, the hospital ignored the bishop and still employs McBride. And the Catholic Health Association, a network of Catholic hospitals around the country, has chosen to stand behind St. Joseph’s.

This could be a critical turning point. As bishops obsessed with “dogma, sanctity, rules, and the punishment of sinners” harden their positions, Catholics are beginning to go their own way—openly. McBride has spent decades serving “the neediest and sickest among us.” There’s little doubt about who is the “Christ-like figure” in this story.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tell Me More, Mr. Science

My degree is in Psychology, and psychology was my chosen course of study for a number of reasons. Yes, easy class schedules, liberal professors and access to free thinking girls were factors, but I was also legitimately interested in some of the research surrounding human behavior.  Why do people do what they do?  I was genuinely curious, and I thought the research studies were interesting and fun.  I know, weird.

One of my favorite concepts from my Freshman year studies was cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance describes the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. Psychologist Leon Festinger and later researchers showed that, when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists.  We make the world match our preconceived ideas of what it is in order to remove the uncomfortable dissonance.  This happens most often when far right Republicans are confronted with scientific information or reality in general.

As I moved from college into the working world, I became enamored with the Hawthorne Effect, named after a researcher named...Hawthorne (not really).  The Hawthorne Effect is the psychological theory that the behavior of an individual or a group will change to meet the expectations of the observer if they are aware their behavior is being observed.  This behavior was documented by a research team led by Elton Mayo in the 1920s at the Western Electric Company Hawthorne plant. In studying the effect of lighting on productivity, the researchers found that, regardless of the lighting conditions introduced, productivity improved.  We will supply what we are expected to supply.  This is useful in the workplace, and also when raising children.

As I grew into the role of parent, I started my fascination with the Stockholm Syndrome.  The Stockholm Syndrome refers to a group of psychological symptoms that occur in some persons in a captive or hostage situation. This helps explain behaviors in everyday family life. The term takes its name from a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1973. The robber took four employees of the bank (three women and one man) into the vault with him and kept them hostage for 131 hours. After the employees were finally released, they appeared to have formed a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor; they told reporters that they saw the police as their enemy rather than the bank robber, and that they had positive feelings toward the criminal. We don't know more about this syndrome because it would be unethical to test theories about the syndrome by experimenting on human beings, but we know it happens.  The contestants on Survivor seem to like Jeff Probst, the host, so that supports the theory.

I love this stuff, I really do, and now I have a new favorite psychological concept to share: the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This theory states that the less you know, the more you think you know.  Charles Darwin once said, "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge".  Man, that guy was evolved.  In sum, Kruger and Dunning found during their 1999 research study that incompetent people overestimate their own skill level, fail to recognize the skill of others, and fail to recognize their own inadequacy.  Of course, if you don't believe any of this, or think you are the exception, perhaps the theory has just been proven.  Not a sermon, just a thought.

So next time someone expresses too much certainty about their position on anything, think about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and silently pity the person. Chances are they know nothing at high volume, and it's better than 50-50 that they have their own show on cable.

Trust, but verify.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Driving Blind

To the driver of the car in front of me on my way to work this morning:

I did not think it would demonstrate good judgment on my part to get out of my car, knock on your driver’s side window, and respond to the question you posed on your bumper sticker. I would have preferred to have this conversation with you face-to-face. Since we were in traffic, I was headed to work, and your rear bumper was covered with NRA and other gun-related decals, I thought it best to respond this way – anonymously behind the security of my keyboard. I value honesty, but I value my personal safety more. Besides, it is possible that your bumper sticker was more of a rhetorical question, and no sense getting popped with a cap over a question that did not need an answer.

Your bumper sticker question to me, “Sorry Yet?”, with the Obama 2008 campaign symbol within the letter “o” of the word 'sorry', deserves an answer.

No, I am not sorry yet. Thanks for asking.

There are a few things that I would prefer Obama did differently. There are a few pieces of legislation that I wish Obama had pushed harder for, instead of outsourcing the job to his party leaders in Congress. I am guessing that those things about Obama’s presidency that disappoint me are quite different from the ones that disappoint you, but nonetheless, I am not 100% satisfied. That much is true.

Sorry I am not.

I am happy that private sector employment is growing. I am happy that the Iraq War has been managed effectively since January 2009. I am pleased that inflation is low (nearly non-existent), that my taxes haven’t gone up, and that the markets have rebounded nicely since he took office. I am glad that an economy in free fall has been reversed, and stability has taken its place.

I am glad that we cut out the banks as the middle man in the student loan process. I am not pleased that an auto bail out was necessary, but glad he did the unpopular thing and saved those jobs.  I am glad that bail out funds are being repaid.  I am happy that health care reform was passed.

I am glad illegal immigration is down. I am not sorry that financial reform passed and has become law. I do not regret that insurance companies cannot discriminate because of pre-existing conditions, and that those who try to avoid paying their fair share will be forced to buy insurance, just like the GOP advocated for years as a way to promote personal responsibility.

I am not sorry that quiet diplomacy worked and we will have a peacefully transition from Mubarak in Egypt, and that divisions of our young soldiers were not required to accomplish that objective.

You should be happy that Obama has signed only one piece of gun legislation since taking office. Concealed weapons are now legal in our national parks.  Yup, that's it.  He's not taking your guns, regardless of what you have been told.

I am glad that a majority of Americans in recent polls approve of how Obama is handling his job, even during a time of high unemployment and overheated rhetoric about Muslims and Socialists.  I am glad that you are vocal through your stickers, yet still in the minority.

Your bumper sticker also read, “If you aren’t outraged, you are not paying attention”. I am paying attention, and I am outraged. Not for the same reasons you are, though.

Maybe I would have stopped to chat if I hadn't seen the "I (heart) our snipers" sticker.  Maybe some other time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

“Let Me In, Immigration Man”

I have spent the past several months immersed in the world of a single government form.  This form has given birth to a multi-million dollar cottage industry of human resource advisors, software compliance systems, legal advisory services and training courses.  The official government handbook that explains the proper use of the form is itself 69 pages, and it still doesn’t adequately explain every situation that could conceivably occur when completing the form.  (The manual for explaining the E Verify process is another 97 pages of rules and exceptions, by the way.)  I speak, of course, about every HR professional’s favorite bane of existence – USCIS Form I-9 (formerly DHS Form I-9 which was formerly INS Form I-9). 
For those blessed by ignorance of the form, USCIS Form I-9 is completed by newly hired employees to verify eligibility to work in the United States.  Work eligibility is verified by the employer viewing original identity and work authorization documents from the new employee.  For example, an unexpired US Passport can accomplish both goals - identity and work authorization.  Some employees present a photo driver’s license (identity) and a Social Security card (work authorization).  Second to border checkpoints, this is the front line of the battle against illegal immigration.  Government audits of these forms in on the rise, and businesses are scrambling to keep up.  If you are still with me, I have a more interesting observation to make.

I ran across this quote in an article, since I spend an inordinate amount of time reading about this stuff:

“In the past two years, the Obama administration has significantly changed the direction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s worksite efforts,” Kevin Lashus, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig in Austin, Texas, told SHRM Online. “The Bush administration was interested in taking the highest numbers of unauthorized workers into custody during any time frame. The Obama administration, on the other hand, is interested in targeting the employers that hired them.”

Two approaches from two administrations to accomplish the same objective of reducing the number of the undocumented in this country.  This sounded to me much like the differing approaches to drug enforcement.  The question is always do you lock up the users to reduce demand, or lock up the dealers and reduce supply?  In the immigration debate, it sounds like the Bush approach was to reduce supply; Obama’s approach is to eliminate demand.  On a more cynical note, the Bush approach was designed to create scarier photo ops for Fox & Friends; the Obama approach is designed to quietly dry up employment opportunities for the undocumented.

Reducing demand clearly seems to work.  Illegal immigration is down the past few years (if you believe the stats, which is another post for another day), and that makes sense.  When unemployment is high, there are fewer jobs.  Fewer jobs means less incentive to come to the states and drink from its fountain of plenty.  It is not clear that Obama’s new focus caused the reductions as much as underlying economic conditions and generalized xenophobia have reduce the numbers coming here.  If the financial incentive to come to America is gone, the problem won’t be eliminated, but it should be significantly reduced to a manageable level.

The market forces that my friends on the Right trumpet as the solution to all that ails us are being allowed to work by this administration, and for that, I am certain they are being called anti-business.  If employers stop hiring all undocumented workers, the incentive to come to America will drop dramatically.  You can round up illegal aliens all day long, but American businesses want the most labor for the lowest price.  That’s the power of the marketplace, right?  If you ignore the employer side, demand will remain high, and the problem will never be solved.  Whether or not you believe that employers should be tasked with verifying employment eligibility in the first place is a different question.  At least since 1986, that’s the way it’s done.

And before you send me a nasty gram – I am calling for a diversified approach, not all one method of enforcement at the expense of another.

“Let Me In, Immigration Man”.  Crosby, Stills and Nash penned these words 40 years ago, and the topic of immigration still remains at the forefront of domestic politics and culture, primarily because those in power would prefer to have the issue as a battering ram against their opposition.  Resolution would rob each side of an effective wedge, and Lord knows we need a good wedge to spice up the 2012 election cycle.  Reagan worked with the Left to “solve” this issue once, in 1986, but that solution involved amnesty, the dirty little secret of the Reagan legacy.  I am sure my conservatives friends will explain to me why following Reagan’s lead on this would be wrong now. 
There is a solution.  We just need serious adults to agree on one imperfect, but better, solution.  In the meantime, when someone says “It’s jobs, jobs, jobs”, think about the I-9 form.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  While its’ enforcement drives undocumented workers out of jobs, it is also creating high paying, technical jobs right here at home – figuring out how to complete the one page form without going to jail or drowning in fines.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I must begin with a disclaimer.  I am not a veteran.  I have never served in the military.  No one in my immediate family was in the military.  I have never even been a Cub or Boy Scout.  My closest affiliation with anything remotely military has been the occasional run in with Major Headaches and General Malaise, two close personal friends.  I had a bad experience with Corporal Punishment once, but that was a long time ago.  Otherwise, I am civilian through and through.  I respect the military, although I am the first to admit that don’t always understand its procedures, protocols, motivations, routines, etc.  I know the challenges faced by military personnel are beyond my comprehension, and that’s by my choice.  I was (am) too much of a free thinker during my enlistment eligible days of youth to consider such a regimented and potentially dangerous lifestyle. 
From this vantage point, I read the following from (as reported in The Week):

For the second year in a row, in 2010 the U.S. military lost more troops to suicide than in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  At least 468 soldiers killed themselves in 2010.

Let that one sink in for a moment.  Tragic.  Unspeakably sad.  Avoidable?  I don’t know.
My healthy skepticism of all statistics got me to thinking that this presentation of a number without context could be misleading.  Shocking, right?  The questions kept coming: 
·         How does this number compare to the rate of suicide in the general population?
·         How does this number compare to peacetime suicide totals?
·         Is this above, below or the same as historical averages?
·         Do the military forces of other countries suffer from the same, worse or better numbers?
·         How does the survey define suicide?  I ask because the quote above refers to “at least” 468 suicides, which leads me to believe that the cause of death is sometimes in dispute.
·         How many happened in the theater of operations?  How many happened to individuals who had never seen combat missions? 
·         How many happened within 2 years of combat?  How many happened more than 20 years after combat?
·         Are those who join the military for the structure and the discipline more likely to drift into depression once that structure and discipline is removed post-active duty?

The easy answer, the lazy answer is that war is hell, and that these suicides in proportion to actual battlefield casualties represent nothing more than unavoidable collateral damage.  That view feels too cynical and too callous for me.  Another lazy answer is that more money and resources must be devoted to mental health resources for our military veterans, particularly those who have seen firsthand the horrors of war.  More resources may be needed, but I cannot base that opinion solely on the one dramatic statistic that started me down this path of curiosity in the first place.

I don’t know all of the answers to my questions.  Ultimately, I don’t know what drives someone to consider such a permanent solution to temporary problems.  What I do know is that these numbers represent real people, people who decided for whatever personal reason to join our fighting forces and spend time defending our nation.  For that, they should never be forgotten.  The causes of their descent are likely unique, but that should never be an excuse for not finding out the answers and addressing the problem of military suicides aggressively and in the light of day.

God rest their souls.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Institutionalization Guidelines

I have a nephew getting married this month, and I can’t make the trip all the way to California for his big day.

I remember the day he was born. I was 15 years old, just finished my first year of high school. One summer morning, I went downstairs into the kitchen and there was a note on the table with my first nephew’s name, time and date of birth, and other vitals. My first reaction was “Casey? OK, what did they really name him?” It took a few minutes to convince me that his name was in fact Casey. Remember, I came from a background where the only viable naming convention was to choose the name of a saint. Prior to this morning, I knew of only 2 other Caseys. The first was mighty, but he struck out too much. The second was an engineer who needed to “watch his speed”, because there was “trouble ahead, trouble behind.” Now the name Casey is much more common (but still not the name of a saint, at least not yet).

While I can’t attend, I can forward some unsolicited advice on the whole marriage scene. While the instinct to make sly comments and tasteless jokes about the institution of marriage (I mean, who wants to spend their life in an institution?) is strong, I will resist for a few rambling paragraphs. That is my gift to Casey and Laura – I will spare you the poorly crafted puns and obscure comedy movie quotes that are the foundational pieces of any Sherrier humor. You’re welcome.

Spouse is Number One. Cherie and I, like many couples, were required to attend pre-marriage classes by the church. Like many couples, we giggled through too much of it; however, 20 years later, some of the messages stay with me. The first message was that in a marriage, your spouse is Number One. This was a key message throughout the engagement classes. Your new spouse is ahead of your friends, your parents, your future children. All things good will flow from understanding that and living it. This message will be challenged along your journey, and sometimes you may not remember why this is so vital. I would encourage you to return to this message throughout your lives together.

You are the patriarch/matriarch of your future family. It is helpful in making early decisions in married life to picture yourselves as the patriarch and matriarch of your as yet undeveloped family tree. Cherie and I were challenged to visualize ourselves as the elderly grandparents, or great-grandparents, of our extended family, with branches extending in multiple directions. When you recognize your place in that future family photo, every daily decision about your small family (of only 2 people on your wedding day) takes on greater significance. Stephen Covey wrote that we should “begin with the end in mind.” This mentality provides clarity and perspective to everyday situations. Thinking about your final place on your family tree helps you to do that.

One last piece of unsolicited advice: On your wedding day, expect that three things will go wrong. I’m not being negative, just realistic. Keep in mind that a wedding is a major event, and few major events go off without some hitches. Assume there will be hitches, and when they do occur, you can allow them to roll off your back a little easier. Someone may be sick and unable to attend. The florist may forget one boutonniere. The cake may have vanilla icing when you requested chocolate. It will seem large at the moment, but life’s best memories are sometimes those mishaps and how we handle them. Oh, I forgot to mention – it’s a lock that your father (my brother) will embarrass you at some point during the weekend. But you already knew that. He means well…

I hope you appreciate this gift of sage advice. I know it wasn’t on your registry, but here it is anyway. I might send a check, too.

Casey and Laura, best of luck and a world of happiness on your special day and beyond. We love you and you will be in our thoughts as you begin the Great Adventure.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

31 Flavors

It's a day of the Big Game (as noted in previous posts, I cannot use the phrase "Super Bowl" since I have not paid the NFL for the rights), so I cannot reasonably expect any heavy thinking from the readers today...or myself for that matter.  So here is a random collection of thoughts, platitudes, mission statements, rantings, musings, and other emissions that have occurred to me and from me over the past few weeks.  I think it is more efficient to list them here than to provide these sweet treats as daily Facebook updates.  Happy Big Game Sunday!

1.       I never want to have a 5K named after me.
2.       If I ever have a hernia, I would like it to be a sports hernia.
3.       Those colorful, shiny orbs that people place on pedestals in their gardens are proof that we as a nation will buy anything if enough of our neighbor’s own it, too.
4.       With the exception of Ivy League schools, if your alma mater has a nationally recognized football team, you have a better chance of landing a job.
5.       Everyone is on a diet.  Some diets are lousy; some are healthy, but whatever we eat is our diet.
6.       The number of pages in a particular piece of legislation should not be allowed to define its merits.  The Bible has quite a few pages, and it is generally considered to be a valuable book.
7.       It still amazes me that in my adult lifetime, there used to be smoking and non-smoking sections on airplanes, and the only barricade between the two sections was your row number.
8.       Stephen King should really be locked up somewhere.  No sane person could think all those thoughts and write them down.
9.       Sometimes if you wait, a problem does go away by itself.
10.   I believe with all my heart that if Mike Piazza had rushed the mound after ‘Roid-Rage Clemens threw the broken bat at him, the Mets would have at least made the 2000 World Series a 7 game series.  
11.   I thought we’d all be driving Hovercrafts by now.
12.   Justice and revenge are not the same thing.
13.   I don’t know anyone personally who bought those X-ray glasses that were advertised in the back of magazines years ago.  I do know a lot of people who gave it serious consideration, though.
14.   By far the toughest day of work is the morning after you don’t win the $300 million Mega Millions Jackpot you were counting on.
15.   If I won the lottery, I would buy really nice and expensive sunglasses, and not care if they got lost or broken.
16.   Do we really need both AM and FM stations anymore?  We stopped selling black and white TVs at some point.
17.   Everyone has something wrong with them – pimples, acid reflux, bad hearing in one ear – something.  It may not be obvious, but everyone has a flaw, a weakness, and this is our great equalizer.
18.   When will the cursive signature be added to the dust heap of history?  I will miss it when it’s gone.
19.   Work gives me energy, and laziness makes me tired.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
20.   Spending is spending and investing is investing.
21.   Those little sliding windows in the confessional booth were designed by the same guy who devised the sliding windows in solitary confinement prison cells.  That should tell you something.
22.   I learned recently that Bambi was a boy deer.  Bambi never really took off as a boy name, though, for some reason.
23.   I would hope that advances in medical research will finally prove that the handkerchief must be banned.  Once nasal exhaust becomes dry and crusty, the germs are still alive with the power to infect again, particularly when stored in a dark, warm and linty pocket.
24.   I think defibrillators in the workplace are taking the entire self-service culture a bit too far.  It’s a slippery slope before a full array of surgical tools are available everywhere, and we’ll all be expected to know how to use them.
25.   Is allowing Budweiser to sponsor race cars sending a bad message to the kids?
26.   I am surprised, given the American obsession with NASCAR and the automobile in general, that more red-necks don’t drive cabs for a living.
27.   Celsius or Fahrenheit – make up your mind already.
28.   We play the Super Bowl in February, the World Series in November, the Stanley Cup in June.  It is only a matter of time before March Madness rolls into May.
29.   I have never met anyone who regrets having learned a musical instrument as a child.
30.   There is nothing more disappointing about a home than poor water pressure from the shower (thanks, Greg).
31.   Potvin sucks.