Have you ever noticed?

Have you ever noticed it is nigh impossible to move cooked rice from one container to another without spilling rice on the counter?

Have you ever noticed how the people who brag on how tough they are almost always are not that tough?

Have you ever noticed how often your dog wants to be petted after you wash your hands before dinner?

Have you ever noticed how many politicians are like weather vanes and change directions when the wind blows?

Have you ever noticed how salad dressing easily misses your napkin and finds your shirt when it splatters?

Have you ever noticed how winning is more important than playing fairly in too many people’s minds?

Have you ever noticed how a red piece of clothing can hide so easily among white clothes in the washer?

Have you ever noticed how lying is not as great a sin as it used to be and being caught in a lie is less shameful?

Have you ever noticed how smaller containers of leftovers can so easily find the back of refrigerators?

Have you ever noticed how courage is harder to recognize when the person is arguing against your point of view?

Have you ever noticed how things you did not like to eat as a child taste pretty good now?

Let me know some of your “Have you ever noticed?”

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Gumpish questions – a reprise

The following post was written three years ago in 2019. It still has relevance, in my view.

I have written a few posts on asking more why questions, but let me define a few dumb questions, in the spirit of a fictitious character, Forrest, Forrest Gump. It is amazing how these questions don’t leap off the news pages or out of cyberspace.

In know particular order…

Help me understand how the president can cause a problem, then get kudos (or claim such), when he solves (or lessens) his own problem?

Forrest Gump answered his drill sergeant’s question of his purpose? “To do exactly what you tell me to do, drill sergeant!” The drill sergeant called Gump a “genius” for his answer.

Help me understand how one of the largest US Christian denominations cannot resolve conflict and will be splitting in two? What message does that send?

Forrest Gump’s girl Jenny gave Forrest the best answer to danger. What should he do? “Run, Forrest, run.”

Help me understand how legislators, presidential candidates and current president don’t seem to care that our annual deficit and debt are exploding?

Forrest’s mama answered her son’s question of what is his destiny? “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get.”

How can people not see the intense and elongated forest fires in Australia, Brazil and California and not think we have a new paradigm with our heating planet?

Forrest got a Purple Heart. When asked where he was shot, he said “I got shot in the buttocks. They said it was a million dollar wound, but I haven’t seen any of that money.”

How can people feel that putting a face on an opposing argument, then beating on that person can pass for reasoned counter argument (think Al Gore and Greta Thunberg)?

Lieutenant Dan showed up at dockside to honor his promise that he would be Forrest’s first mate if he got a shrimp boat. He told Forrest he wanted to get his “sea legs.” Forrest said, “But, you don’t have no legs.” “Yes, I know this,” Lt. Dan replied.

Help me understand why important people are so cavalier with their reputations by spending time with Jeffrey Epstein and underage girls (think Prince Andrew, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton)?

Forrest answered Bubba’s mother when she asked “if he was crazy or just plain stupid?” Forrest uttered his classic line, “Stupid is as stupid does.” That is a profound statement.

Let me close with another Forrest observation. One of the key parts of the story is his relationship with Bubba, an African-American man he met in Vietnam. There is a metaphor in the middle of the movie, where Bubba asks Forrest to lean his back up against his, so that they both could sleep sitting up and stay out of the mud. Reminds me of a song called “Lean on me.” If we just do more of that, we can both stay out of the mud.

A man won’t be shot while doing the dishes – a reprise post

Staying married takes effort. The same could be said about any relationship. If you don’t work at it, it won’t last. The title is a funny, but true metaphor that will keep you married – if you do the dishes, even if only periodically, you at least will survive another day and not get shot. There are two messages in this saying – share the load and keep your sense of humor. Since we need a break these days, let me focus on the humor.

Comedian Tom Arnold had the funniest line which seems to apply to our household. When asked by the women on “The View” about how long does a physically romantic interlude last, he replied “thirty minutes.” When the women were surprised at his answer, he clarified, “yes, five  minutes of foreplay, five minutes of sex and twenty minutes to get all the pillows off the bed.” My wife and I roared with this answer as we have so many decorative pillows that take up more than 1/2 the bed.

Speaking of beds, in our house the last one up makes the bed. I sincerely try to make up the bed like my wife does, but apparently I fall short of perfection. My wife sighs and then pulls, smoothes and tugs to remedy my effort. My guess is my female readers who are or have been married are nodding yes as they read this. My wife tends to arise later, so it may be for this very reason. Or, it could be the first one up has to feed the cat and dog, make the coffee and get the paper.

There is one more chore with the cat, who we found out is diabetic last spring. He is doing well, but each morning and evening, we have to give the cat insulin. So, a common question in our house is strange, “Did you shoot the cat?” He will often come to us after eating and we will pet him, then give him his insulin. Yet, he will sometimes vamoose if he senses something is up or if the dog chases him away. Herding a cat is an art form.

The sense of humor thing keeps us honest. We often laugh at ourselves and feel open to teasing. Watching shows and movies are always interesting if they have a sad event. I will tear up with any scene where a parent/ child moment occurs over a tragedy or reunion. My wife will ball over any extended illness scene having lost her brother to Leukemia. So, we tend to tease each other about our sappiness. My wife likes to joke how I try to tactically wipe a tear away without her noticing, which I usually fail to achieve. I will asking “are you crying?” “No,” is often her answer through tears.

A final note about long term relationships. You both are your collective memory. When one of us cannot remember the name of a restaurant, movie or performer, et al, with seemingly confusing hints to the other, he or she can ascertain what you are talking about. Google helps immensely, but we try to come up with a name before we have to search. This helps especially when we see an actor or actress from one show pop up in another. It will start with the comment, “we have seen her before in something else.”

Share the load, laugh a lot and remember well. And, a well placed hug or caress never hurts. Plus, make sure the dishes are dry before you put them away.

New Year’s Resolutions I can keep

The following is a repeat and updated post for the time sensitive information.

It is that time of year to say farewell to an old year and welcome a new one. I am not too keen on making resolutions, as they usually don’t last too long into the year. They are not unlike the sandcastle virtues I wrote about in my previous post. So, with that in mind, what are some resolutions that I can keep alive in 2023?

– I resolve to remain imperfect. I will do my best to mitigate the impact of my imperfections, but they will shine through.

– I resolve to try to maintain my weight. I am good at trying to do this and sometimes I am successful. It is the sustainability of that success that usually gets me.

– I resolve to lose more of my hair. Look at it this way, I am just gaining face and visible scalp. Maybe I will invest in Coppertone stock.

– I resolve to retell stories I have told several times before. And, when I ask my kids if I told them that before, they will say only five or six times.

– I resolve to try to stay married for my 38th anniversary. Thank goodness my wife has a good sense of humor, otherwise we may not have made it to ten.

– I resolve to treat others like I want to be treated. I will fail on occasion, but know that I will feel badly when I do and apologize when I can.

– I resolve to continue to focus on the issues of the day and not who is winning a political game. I will do my best to give a needed voice to the disenfranchised, as they tend to get lost in far too many political calculations.

– I resolve to love my kids and my wife. That is the easiest resolution to make.

So, I think I can keep the above. But, I did note my resolution to remain imperfect. So, we will see. Let me know some of yours. Have a safe New Year’s celebration and a wonderful 2023.

Happy Easter, too – another reprise of an old Christmas post

While I did not grow up Catholic, my best friend did. So, one of our rituals that lasted about ten years was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the traditions of that mass was the Father would also wish Happy Easter, as he knew he would not see more than a few parishioners until next Christmas.

While fewer people are church goers than before and some check the box “none” when surveyed, Christmas remains an important holiday for the promise it brings. Whether you believe that Jesus is the son of God, there was a man by this name who walked the earth and spoke to gatherings of people of all sizes. He reminded us of four key themes among his many parables and lessons. And, these themes can be found in other religious texts.

– Treat others like you want to be treated.

– Help people less fortunate than you.

– Recognize each of us is imperfect.

– Forgive those who trespass against us.

To me, if we live our lives doing our best to remember these four things, Jesus’ words will help us be better people. And, if enough of us do this, the world just might be a better place.

Let me leave you with a true story. One of the homeless families we were helping did not know what their daughter was doing after school. She did not want her parents to know as they may make her stop. She finally confessed that she was going down to the soup kitchen to feed the homeless. To state the obvious, a homeless teen was helping serve other homeless people a meal each afternoon after school. Please feel to share this poignant and powerful story.

Price elasticity and inelasticity

These are some interesting words, but what do they mean? They have several related definitions in economics, but in one context, price elasticity means prices are more readily changed by the seller. Price inelasticity means the opposite, prices are changed less easily.*

In our current inflationary economy, much of it has been fueled by supply shortages due to the pandemic and tariffs, as well as some other factors (gas prices go up every summer because of industry maintenance and increased demand, eg.). But, some people have noted there are a few sellers, retailers, etc. who seemingly have raised prices beyond what is needed.

Using the above terms, price setting by sellers tends to be more upward elastic. Sellers will more easily change the price upward when the market supply drops, more so than the market would dictate. This adds to the inflationary push. Yet, when the market supply catches up, the sellers are slower to adjust prices down, hence the term price inelasticity can be used.

In its worst form, the upward price elasticity is sometimes referred to as gouging. A hurricane knocks out all the power, so stores raise the price of bags of ice and bottled water. Retailers in an inflationary market would be foolish to gouge people, yet there are some who have added to their margins on the backs of customers. On the flip side, there will be those that milk the higher prices as the prices should fall, to get every last drop of extra margin.

People should remember who these retailers are. Some have been so blatant in price increases they find their names in news stories. So, my strong advice is to vote with your feet and shop elsewhere. My wife and I use a term that a seller is “proud of their services and products” when we see consistently higher prices. If they do this, people better be getting some darn good service or much higher in quality goods.

Two final pieces of advice. First, alter your demand. If gas prices are higher, drive less and walk more. Bundle your errands more, as well, to reduce travel costs. Second, if you have not tried generic or store products, now is the time. It is funny, people have grown accustomed to using generic prescription medicine as the brand costs are so high, but are reluctant to do so on store brands of food, trash bags, over the counter medicines, etc.  There is no better time to try the lesser priced products than in an inflationary market.

Shoppers tend to know when prices are too far out of line. The best thing they can do is to tell the store manager he or she is forcing the shopper to look elsewhere. No words will be more chilling to a manager than that. Then follow through.

*Note: I am not an economist, so please do not presume the above is any more than from  someone who had economic classes in college, much of which I have forgotten.

A few sayings to help us through the day

Here a few sayings that I have picked up along the way. Please feel free to offer some of yours that who add some relish to this grouping.

Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re just a pair of old brown shoes? (George Goebbels)

I have noticed the more I practice, the luckier I get. (Gary Player)

Opportunity is often missed as it is dressed up as hard work. (Malcolm Gladwell)

I have noticed common sense is not all that common. (Mark Twain)

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes. (Unknown)

More shots are missed because they are never taken. (Unknown)

If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. (Unknown)

We tend to spend more practice on what we do well and less on what we don’t. It should be the other way around. (Harvey Penick)

No is just an answer. Don’t be afraid of hearing it. (Unknown)

I took the last shot because I knew I could handle missing it. (Jim Furyk)

You cannot have too many cups of coffee with people. It is my fault should not be a frightening thing to say. (a friend and colleague)

Don’t ever be surprised when an ego-centric person turns on you. It will happen. (Unknown)

People should get more credit for doing the right thing than going along with the crowd. (Unknown)

Paying it forward may be the most selfless of gifts. The gift of your time is the best thing you can do for your kids. (Unknown)

The greatest lights in our community or family are the people who always visit or help when it is needed. (Unknown)

Helping people climb a ladder out of the hole they dug is better than just pulling them up. If they climb it, they may avoid digging a new one. (a friend and social worker)

You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. (an old boss)

Read the room – make sure your advice is being heard

One of my mentors in consulting taught me and others an approach to addressing problems for clients which he termed the “total approach to consulting.” There are two impactful stories that frame this one – the approach and how he learned it.

First, what is the approach. Address each problem holistically looking at it from all angles – what is the context, what are the end-goals, what are the short and long-term costs, who benefits and how do they benefit, what is the competitive level of the benefits as it fits in the whole, what is needed in communication, what is needed to execute the change, what is needed to administer the change, etc.?

Quite often, the last three points are afterthoughts and are key reasons changes fail to deliver. One of the things he did in his reports and presentations is have sections on these subjects so the client knew what they entailed. And, what it cost. Sometimes changes are too burdensome to administer, so options should be considered.

Second, how he learned of this approach. On the last day of an internal seminar, when everyone is checking flights and airport shuttle arrangements, a fairly round man who I will call Paul got up to speak about this concept he had been using called – the total approach to consulting. No one was listening.

After about ten minutes of a fidgety and bored audience, Paul stepped away from the podium and slammed his hand on the top waking everyone up. He said very loudly, “Look at me. No one hires me for the way I look! This stuff works and if you want to make a difference, you might want to pay attention.” The audience was rapt from that moment forward.

He taught them the total approach and one other important lesson. Read the room. If the room is not with you, then you better change the paradigm. Slamming the podium and drawing attention to his looks as an obstacle got their attention.

Reading the room is why I always wanted to be present with the client, even if we had a colleague on the phone. If the client was not getting it, I could see that first-hand, and metaphorically bang my hand on the podium. Read the room – even the best advice needs attentive listeners.

A first step in breaking down barriers

Many of us have written about how divided we are as a nation. We are more divided than ever, but what does not get written about enough are what brings us together. We do not hear or read as much about the good news stories or people just getting along. Our friend Jill does a weekly post on these kinds of good news stories, but her frequency of covering good news is greater than that of most news publications.

One of the things I have observed in my many years is people will set up we/ they groupings, even when they do not need to or it serves no purpose. I recall a true story from 1987, when a large housing development we moved into had a North side and a South side. At a party, I heard someone make reference to “those folks in the North side” not being good people like us. Really, I thought. This person made up an artificial group to fear and ridicule. Now that is inane.

So, the first step to breaking down barriers is not to create them. Try to avoid we/ they groupings. If we do that, there is no one to blame for our troubles but us. A good step down this path is do not identify yourself as a member of a group unless you actually have to in response to a question. I am guilty of taking pride in being an independent voter, but even that is a grouping. I do that to get my message heeded by members of political groups, but it is still a banner I am waving.

When I hear or see people put down someone for the way they look, worship or love or their heritage it builds off we/ they barriers that have been created. For a diverse country, we tend to complain about the most superficial of things. Just taking food as a counterexample, think of the rich diversity of choices we have as consumers to eat a variety of foods from around the world. We even have “fusion” restaurants that blend together tastes from Asia and Mexico or Italy and Greece, for example. A Hawaiian pizza did not originate in Italy and Fried Chicken and Waffles is alleged to have started in California not the south.

If we can eat these wonderful foods from diverse sources, I think we can break down a few barriers. Think of it as breaking bread with people with different backgrounds. If we did not eat a variety of foods, we would certainly live in a bland world. And, think of how more seasoned the conversation will be as we delve into histories and mutual interests.

So, test yourselves. Lessen the identification of groups. Don’t define yourself by where you go to church and especially not how you vote. An old line comes to mind that is less applied now, but don’t ever bring up religion or politics at a party, as it will start an argument. If you must, focus on an issue at hand, not the grouping. The one group that matters is the human race. Let’s be better human beings.

Southern sandwiches

If South Carolina were a sandwich it would be a tomato sandwich with plenty of mayo on white bread.

If Georgia were a sandwich if would be a pimento cheese sandwich.

If North Carolina were a sandwich it would be pulled pork on a bun with a touch of sauce.

If Florida were a sandwich it wound be a Cuban on that long bread.

If Kentucky were a sandwich it would be a Hot Brown.

If Tennessee were a sandwich it would honor Elvis with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

If Virginia were a sandwich it would be a country ham biscuit.

If Maryland were a sandwich it would be a soft shell crab sandwich.

If Louisiana were a sandwich it would be a shrimp po’ boy.

If Alabama were a sandwich it would be ribs with white bread, not a sandwich per se, but the folks in Tuscaloosa will know what this means.

If Mississippi were a sandwich it would be a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich using your favorite jelly.

Note, there are no right answers to the above, only my and other opinions. Where have I strayed? What are your thoughts? I limited this to the south, but let me know of other states.