The more I practice the less I suck

The above phrase was uttered by Joe Walsh, the legendary guitarist with The Eagles and as a solo artist. Walsh was a guest on Daryl Hall’s show “Live at Daryl’s House,” where Hall has a studio in his mountain house and the crew and guest jam together, then cook and eat a meal. It is worth the watch (see a link below).

After jamming on Funk 49, Rocky Mountain Way, and Life’s Been Good along with a few of Hall’s songs, the group sat down for a meal which they prepared with a guest chef. As they spoke of how they got started in the music business, Walsh regaled them with his story.

In essence, Walsh spoke of an early band where “we all sucked.” This brought lots of nods and smiles. Then, he said The Beatles came out and they learned to cover The Beatles’ songs. He said if you knew the songs, you could get gigs and they began to play more. But, they also had to practice more beforehand. Eventually, they got closer to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice, which ironically referenced The Beatles in his book “Outliers.” Gladwell noted The Beatles were sent to Hamburg to learn to play better in front of an audience with seven shows a night, six days a week.

And, he then uttered the above line. The more I practiced, the less I sucked. This succinct lesson applies to far more than playing music or singing. It could be related to golf, tennis, free throws, research, business analysis, teaching, presentations, general medicine, surgery, investing, etc. It could be as basic as driving a car or learning to cook or bake.

If we put in the time, we will suck less. Doing something once, does not make you proficient. It means you did it once. It takes practice to get better at something. Thanks Joe for your music and advice. You no longer suck.

http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/

 

 

The new ten commandments

It may have been beneath the radar screen, but Donald Trump received the endorsement of Jerry Falwell, Jr. after Trump spoke at Liberty University. Falwell said Trump even reminded him of his father. I found that to be a stretch, as whether you agree with the older Falwell’s positions, his faith and sense of decorum does not resemble that of The Donald’s.

Even self-proclaimed evangelical brother Glenn Beck took issue with that endorsement and supported Senator Ted Cruz. Irrespective of the veracity of Beck’s choice, Trump proceeded to denigrate Beck in a less than Godly manner. WWJD in Trump’s mind? Slam Beck of course.

Equally puzzling is that evangelicals reconcile their religion to support Trump. I guess my ten commandments don’t read the way the evangelicals following Trump’s do. I guess they should be boiled down to six and read Thou shalt…

demonize others for being different
– denigrate women as objects
– name call or mock people for their gender, disabilities, war service, obesity
– lie and not care if caught in a lie, as it is only politics
– create an environment where dissent is squelched and tolerate the physical removal of adversaries
– say anything, but cry foul when someone questions you

Maybe the younger Falwell teaches a different version of the ten commandments than I remember. If he looked, Falwell might not be too keen on Trump’s history of exploiting others to make money or suing to evict people from their houses under eminent domain rules as he builds his casinos next door (see below).

My sister is an evangelical, but she from the outset has not liked Trump. His manner and denigration of others are not very Christian-like she has said. It surprises me that other evangelicals are growing accustomed to Trump given his history and conduct. This support seems to be inconsistent with WWJD in my simple view.

Please contrast this behavior and endorsement with the speech made by Senator Bernie Sanders in front of the same Liberty University crowd, which was less welcoming to him. Bernie gave a speech (see below) that moved people as he spoke of the real truths about inequality and social injustice. He spoke of how the words in the religious text matter and we should lift up people who are in need.

To me, the message that Bernie is talking about is a better answer to WWJD? It would also resemble the one that the elder Falwell may be more inclined to give.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/265171/donald-trump-and-eminent-domain-robert-verbruggen

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/14/bernie-sanders-liberty-university-speech-annotated/

That deficit thing is going to get worse

The Congressional Budget Office released its projections that say the decrease that has been occurring in the deficit is coming to an end. With the improving economy, sequestration cuts and not funding as many troops in the Middle East, the deficit has quietly been reduced to a less painful level, but we are still in a deficit position. The last time we had a surplus budget was when President Bill Clinton left office and before the President George W. Bush tax cuts that put us back into deficit.

The CBO anticipates the deficit to rise again this fiscal year and continue to rise. So, the debt will continue to climb and interest costs will become increasingly an important part of the budget. There is a group called The Concord Coalition (see link below) who advocates for addressing this ticking time bomb now. They have a bipartisan group of Board members and help frame a discussion balancing the spectrum of needed spending cuts and revenue increases.

The major parts of our budget that should get our attention are in five areas:

Expenditures: Social Security, Medicare/ Medicaid/ ACA, Defense

Revenues: Corporate Taxes and Individual Taxes

The other stuff is minor relative to these big items, but of course we need to address each and spend judiciously. There are ways to shave spending off each of these key expenditures, without being too detrimental to the underlying programs and needs. And, we could be more dramatic if we want to make significant cuts, but people need to know what they would be losing. We also need to recognize there are some areas, such as infrastructure investments, that need to be increased and funded.

Yet, we also need to reform our tax system to make it simpler for all and make it easier to repatriate some offshore corporate income which goes untaxed here. In my view, we also need to garner more revenue as we are one of the least taxed (relative to GDP) countries of the 33 member countries of the Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. So, we need to base our decisions off comparative information to other countries, as no one wants a tax increase, but that is something that should be considered.

Regardless of what we need to do to accomplish the task at hand, we need to move forward before the interest costs get too burdensome. Also, as we age as a country, our costs pressures will increase with healthcare and retirement costs. If we wait too long, the cuts will need to be more severe and more of us will be impacted. Learn what each candidate will do about these issues. They seem to be silent on these issues and that is not a good thing.

http://www.concordcoalition.org/

Do yourself a favor and try this

A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to connect more with people, highlighting the role of dot connectors. I value the effort and talent of those who reach out to people to find common ground. We need more of this in the world.

If you are not inclined to do this, I want you to try something for a few days or even a week. As you pay for services or ask for help in any retail store, coffee shop, or supermarket, make a nice comment to the cashier or associate. It can be very simple such as “I hope you are having a good day,” or it could be something related to that person. Often, I find myself commenting on interesting names, tattoos, or just because the person had an effervescent smile.

Life is too short not to make conversation. And, you just might be making someone’s day who has been on his or her feet for several hours. I am reminded of the true story about the manager of a grocery store rushing out of his office to see all the paying customers in one line. He encouraged them to go to another line, but they wanted to stay in that one.

Why would they do that? The bagger for the line was an autistic teenager, but that is not the whole story. The teen was so moved by a speech the president of the company had made to all store staff when he dropped in the previous week, the teen had taken action. The president said “You are the company. You represent us to our customers. How they are treated is important.”

The young man went home and he worked with his mother to prepared little sayings on cut up index cards. His well wishes ranged from “Thank you for coming here” toHave a great day” to “Your business is important to us.” He would place these little well wishes in each shopper’s bag. So, the shoppers would flock to him each time they and he was in the store. They felt good about receiving his well wishes and wanted him to know it.

It only takes a few words to make a difference. After your trial period, take a pulse and see if this impacted others as well as you. It makes me feel good to touch someone like that. It is not uncommon for me to learn something new through conversation. Thanks for spending some time with me today.

 

The candidate scared of a woman with microphone

I find it amusing that a man running for President, who is touting how tough he will be with our enemies, is running scared. No, Donald Trump is not scared of terrorists, he is scared of Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

He has taken his sand toys out of the sand box and won’t be appearing on the next GOP Debate aired by Fox. The reason is Megyn Kelly who he feels is biased against him. She just might ask him a question he does not like as she did the last time. Or, as reported this morning, he doesn’t want his competition bringing up milestone statements from his history. His previous stances on issues like abortion or healthcare or his several bankruptcies and numerous litigations, might make him uncomfortable.

Truth be told, The Donald does not like anyone asking him questions. His candidacy is built on a foundation of attitude, platitudes and lies, so when someone asks him a legitimate question, he dodges it and then cries foul or calls him or her stupid, disabled, fat or loser. Like he did the other day with one reporter, he may even ask for an apology. Think about that for a second. Or, like he did with Chris Matthews the other evening, he may just continually not answer a specific question on his error of accusing the President of being born non-American.

Everything a voter needs to know about The Donald’s veracity as a candidate is in his history. Coupling that with his very-unpresidential discourse throughout the campaign demeaning most groups and individuals that get in his way, he does not present himself well as a candidate. Plus, he has even taken a shot at his own followers, in essence saying they are so blindly loyal, he could shoot someone and they would still vote for him. I do not care that he wraps himself in a blanket of political incorrectness, yet he has the thinnest of skins and is very litigious. Being political incorrect does not give you license to lie as evidence by a 76% untruthful record per non-partisan fact checkers.

But, back to the debate sand box. If he cannot stand up to questions from anyone, but in particular, a network female reporter who he also insulted for her earlier questions, how will he interact with leaders of other countries, both male and female? How will he react when Angela Merkel or Christine LaGarde disagree with his position? Will he make remarks about their times of the month like he did with Kelly, say how disgusting it is that they go to the bathroom like he did with Hillary Clinton or call them out on their looks like he did with Carly Fiorina.

People are going to vote for whom they see fit. But, this candidate needs to answer a lot more questions. His history and conduct warrant it.

 

What movies disappointed you?

Going to a movie these days requires a microloan. With the price of tickets, the obligatory overfilled popcorn and two huge drinks that you need two hands to hold, a movie date runs US$40 or more. Once you are settled in your seats, you are tempted by movie trailers of future movies, which you and your date will comment on regarding the relative merits of seeing each.

One of the disappointments in going to the movies is seeing one for which you had high expectations, but it falling flat. Some comedies will have their only funny scenes in the trailers. Once you see the movie, you realize that you had already seen its Sunday best and could have saved yourself $40. Or, you may select one based on the cast of stars, only to realize that familiar faces cannot perfume a pig. Or, it may be based on a favorite novel or TV show, and leave you lacking.

At the risk of offending those who liked these movies, a few that come to mind are as follows. If you agree or disagree, please do not hesitate to reiterate or challenge my opinion. Maybe, I need to give some a second look. But, note I prefer plot and dialogue in movies. Action movies are fine, but they need to have a story somewhere within.

August, Osage County – This movie had all the making of a great film, with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper leading a very good cast. Yet, unless you like dysfunctional families that are not very endearing, screaming at each other for the duration of the movie, you might want to pass.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – The original version starred Audrey Hepburn (who I adore) and George Peppard as two people who made a habit of leeching off other people. So, it was hard to pull for these less than endearing people. Yet, what made this movie voted the second most racist movie of all time is Mickey Rooney playing an over the top Asian-American man who lived in the upstairs apartment. For younger folks, Rooney is not Asian and his portrayal of this character was offensive. The movie highlight is the introduction of the song “Moon River.”

Austin Powers Films – I generally like Mike Myers, but I must confess my wife is not a huge fan. But, at the recommendation of Bob, a good friend, who said we must see this movie, we shelled out our $40. About halfway through the movie, my wife looks at me and says “I am going to kill Bob.” I know many liked this series of movies, but it was way too childish for my tastes. I may get some pushback on this one, but we stopped at one Austin Powers movie.

Tarzan, the Ape Man – I hesitated to put this on the list, as several guys went with me to see Bo Derek (of the movie “Ten”) tell the Tarzan story from Jane’s perspective. We should have known better, so technically it could have been left off this list. After a few minutes you realize that her beauty cannot overcome a very terrible movie. We should have also realized the movie “Ten” was good because of Dudley Moore’s bumbling comedy, not Derek’s ten-like looks.

A Bridge Too Far – This movie was not horrible, but it had one of the largest, most elite casts I have ever seen. It had the makings of a great, blockbuster film. It is a WWII movie about a failed mission, which should have been a clue to the producers. It just meandered through to an unexciting end. If it came up for free access, I may watch it to see if I missed something, but would not spend money to rent it.

The Razor’s Edge – One of the most poorly titled movie’s ever, starring Bill Murray. This movie left you nowhere near the edge of your seat as it plodded along. Even though it is based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham, it left me wanting so much more. Since that was the theme of the book, maybe wanting more from the movie was a goal, which was successfully met.

Please offer up some of your disappointments. I recognize movie disappointments do not compare well to the problems in our world, but please look at this as a diversion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard for Cruz to be a solution

Saying people are angry with Washington is sloppy reporting and does a disservice to the problem. There is a large group who is angry for the legislators not collaborating enough to get things done. Then, there is a group who is angry that their representatives are not strident enough in their convictions to only get things done their way. Let’s set aside the veracity or lack thereof of those convictions.

The latter group has been tapped into by the two men leading the GOP race. The problem is they are angry at the wrong people. Senator Ted Cruz is one of those leaders of the strident group and advocates that he is the solution. That is difficult for me to fathom, as Ted Cruz is part of the problem.

Cruz is a grandstander who has made an effort to not work with his colleagues at any level. He has ridiculed the leadership, embarrassing them on occasion. As a result, his senate colleagues will not go to bat for him. It should be noted when Senator John McCain’s birth in the US Panama Canal Zone became a minor issue, the Senate passed a bill that said just to make sure, this is not a problem. With the issue over Cruz’ birth in Canada becoming an issue, he should not expect a hall pass from the Senate. That speaks volumes.

And, he personally shut our government down for 16 days. The President had to cancel his attendance at two important international trade meetings, which is a key role for the position of President. If it were not for ten female Senators, the US would have defaulted on some debt, which would have been a horrible move per other countries and the head of the International Monetary Fund. This is as good an example of why Cruz would be such a disaster as President.

Yet, if we get back to what I set aside, Cruz is also part of the problem based on his positions. His bellicose rhetoric about carpet bombing shows his ignorance of the challenges of the Middle East. While not as blatant as Trump he has demonized more than a few groups of people. And, Cruz tends to overlook facts when he criticizes policies. If it is not his way, then it cannot be working.

Most Americans want Congress and the President to get things done. They want collaboration. Cruz just wants the attention. He wants it to be his way or no way. He is not the solution. Ted Cruz is part of the problem.