Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tweeting and Posting


My dad told me, “Fools names and fools faces, always appear in public places.”  Advice to consider prior to tweeting or posting.

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Don’t Patronize Me!


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After a stray dog—who my dad named Brown Dog— adopted our family it became my job to make sure he was fed.  The first evening I fed the dog, I spooned the contents of a can into his dish and watched as he devoured his meal.  He appeared to still be hungry, so I refilled the bowl and again the food rapidly disappeared.  Thirty minutes later an overstuffed Brown Dog loudly deposited the undigested remains of his dinner at my dad’s feet.

My experience with Brown Dog taught me that dogs don’t possess good sense: put food in front of them and they will eat until they are ill.  There are politicians who believe the same is true of us—we are not blessed with the intelligence to recognize what is good for us.  Even worse, is the belief we are not endowed with self control to avoid unhealthy alternatives.  In other words, there are politicians who are convinced, like dogs, we need to be cared for.

During a preteen birthday party at a friend’s home, several of us snuck off into an adjacent orange grove.  When we were out of sight, the birthday boy lit a cigarette and dared us to take a “drag.”  I didn’t want to appear to be a sissy, but I was frightened—I knew “smokes” were addictive and bad for you.  I took a puff, manfully blew the smoke out and spent the rest of the day worried about becoming addicted to cigarettes.

In college I, like almost everyone, smoked—even during classes.  Several years later after completing army basic training I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.  I was aware they were bad for me—heck we called them “coffin nails—it didn’t matter, I liked smoking.  On my son’s six-month birthday, deciding I wanted to be with him as he grew up, I quit smoking.

Even though cigarette packs didn’t carry a warning and public service announcement and obnoxious anti-smoking television ads didn’t exist, we recognized smoking was bad for you.  Why then the necessity to spend millions of dollars telling people what they already know?  Because it enforces the appearance that politicians really care about their constituents and it satisfies a patronizing need to take care of people.

Supposedly, the cost to society of caring for those who persist in continuing bad habits is the reason behind regulating behavior.  Actually, this is the rationalization for busybodies sticking their noses into other people’s business.  Give me a break—unhealthy people die young; society will care for healthy people for many more years.  I haven’t seen the studies but I have read that societal cost even up.

To avoid future generations becoming automatons looked after by a benevolent and elitist dictatorships, people, of every political stripe, should respond to attempts to limit personal freedom with“I’m not and I refuse to be treated like a dog.”

Resilience


It was hotter than blue blazes, nowhere to stop and we were lost. Two days after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Dade County. along with an engineer who worked for Dade County, I was assessing school damage.

With downed trees, roads blocked by debris and landmarks blown away, the young engineer who had  been assigned to southern Dade for years, couldn’t locate the schools.

Block after block we passed heavily damaged homes: roofs blown off, trees uprooted and cars overturned. Some homeowners spray painted defiant signs on the sides of their houses: “We survived,” “You loot—we shoot” and “To hell with Andrew.” Others demonstrated their sense of humor: “Firewood for Sale” and “Used furniture—cheap.” Most frequently you would see the name of their insurance company: “Allstate—stop here,” “State Farm—where are you.”

In almost every yard home owners were cleaning up after the storm. No electricity, tropical hot—many without a roof over their heads—they continued working. Impossible tasks, that day after day, had to be undertaken one limb, one piece of debris, one precious memento at a time.

People faced the heat, the lack of water and the endless clean up and they dealt with the fear of looters. Armed with pistols and hunting rifles they banded together to patrol and protect their neighborhoods. They told stories of gunshots in the night and despite a dawn to dusk curfew, strangers roaming the streets.

Exiting from an elementary school near Homestead I heard a loud noise. Walking to the sound I spotted people standing on the sidewalk, cheering and crying tears of relief as soldiers from the 82nd airborne marched down the street. Dispensed only to provide humanitarian aid, nevertheless, their presence provided a needed sense of security.

When I left the key in the ignition and locked the car, The 7:00 PM curfew became a serious issue. Not wanting to spend the night in south Dade, I waived down a passing deputy who unsuccessfully tried to Jimmy the lock. In desperation I shattered a ventilation window and unlocked the vehicle. A damaged window was the cost for me to leave behind the misery that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were enduring daily.

Andrew taught me lessons about resilience, determination and community. I observed people pulling themselves up to rebuild and band with neighbors to protect their homes; I passed volunteers directing traffic in the brutal midday tropical sun.

I learned People are tougher than I thought.  In the midst of chaos and the absence of government they will do what is necessary to protect their families, homes and community.

Vigilant to Danger


Sitting in a night club, I observed an elderly man delivering a martini to his well-dressed  wife.  She finished the drink and with her legs tightly tucked together, rolled out of her seat and fell to the floor.  Almost at once, waiters and managers appeared and helped return her to her chair, where she laid her head on the table.

Placing a kiss on the back of her head as he stood, her husband unsteadily exited the room.  I was concerned about her being left alone until I spotted him reentering: wobbling and precariously balancing two martinis in his hands.

The over consumption of alcoholic drinks can lead to unintended, embarrassing and sometimes dangerous occurrences.  Consisting of almost straight alcohol, a martini is a particularly potent cocktail.  An insidious concoction, the strong concentration of spirit erases inhibitions and good judgment.

In his later years, my father decided to become a martini drinker.  Not realizing the potency of the drink, he unintentionally embarrassed my mother and she asked me to speak to him.

On a Friday afternoon, I cautioned him that a martini was too strong of a cocktail for a man of his age.  I suggested a glass of wine before and during dinner would be more appropriate and safer.  He sat quietly for a while and then said, “Thank you for the concern, but what I drink is none of your business.”

The next evening at a local restaurant, my father stared at me as he ordered a vodka martini.  Determined to keep him from over consuming, when he turned away, I grabbed his glass and gulped down half of the vodka mix.

After a puzzled glance at an almost empty glass, he ordered another martini. Again, when he wasn’t looking, I drank most of the potent drink; and as before, when he saw the glass was almost empty, he ordered another one.  Once more, I emptied most of the glass.  Only dinner being served stopped my insane consumption of my father’s drinks.

Monday morning, dad entered my office, closed the door and said, “So you believe I have a drinking problem—that’s the pot calling the kettle black!  I had four martinis and was just fine; you had one drink and we had to help you out of the restaurant.  I suggest you limit yourself to a glass of wine before and one during dinner.”

Friday evenings Terri and I enjoy a martini.  After arriving home we will exercise, change clothes and prepare dinner.  Shortly before the meal is ready we will fix our drinks and then—with our favorite music playing in the background—we’ll retire to the living room and spend time together.  By the time we finish the cocktail, dinner is ready to be served and there is little temptation to have another.  It is a ritual we look forward to: a quiet time spent putting the week behind and preparing for the weekend to come.

Upon reading a sign warning to “Drive With Caution,” you proceed with care.  Like driving on a road under construction, the consumption of alcohol requires you to be vigilant to the dangers that are present.

 A Treacherous Friend

Wine is a treacherous friend who you must always be on guard for.”-Christian Nevell Bovee

The Best Of Human Nature


Early in the morning, I listened to Today Show host Bryant Gumble’s report that Miami had suffered little damage from Hurricane Andrew. When I was unable to complete a telephone call to South Miami, I discovered that areas south of downtown Miami had been destroyed.

That evening an acquaintance called and asked if I would serve on an administrative team to assist in reopening damaged Dade County schools. He explained that many of the school administrators, having to deal with destroyed homes, were unable to work and the magnitude of the project required a team with experience in administration and construction. I agreed and early the following morning we left for Miami.

FEMA arranged for us to be comfortably housed in a luxury hotel located in downtown Miami. Arriving at the hotel and observing little evidence of a disaster, I thought I would be headed home in a couple of days. Later, as we traveled to the school administration’s temporary operations center southwest of downtown, I discovered how wrong I was.

Viewing  the devastation wrought by a storm such as Andrew on television, your perspective is limited and it is difficult to comprehend the true scope of the disaster. I realized this as we drove by miles of destroyed homes; past deserted businesses; through intersection after intersection without traffic signals and past acres of broken and fallen trees.

At the command center, a school board engineer and I were assigned to assess the damages suffered by schools. It appeared to be an easy task—the engineer was familiar with and we had ID’s that granted access to all areas. In reality, with blocked streets and street signs destroyed,it was difficult to find the schools, and when we did, they were occupied by people left homeless by the storm.

One of the first schools we inspected was  located in a lower income neighborhood. As we walked through the school, we passed peopled huddled in the rain-soaked, hot, humid hallways. From one side of the roof we saw vehicles overturned and tossed on top of each other. From the other we saw volunteers feeding hungry people from trailers, marked “Baptist Relief.” It was a contrast I witnessed over and over—devastation and the best of human nature.

We spent six weeks in South Florida. During that time, we executed contracts allowing schools to reopen—providing havens for children, and allowing their parents to begin to put their lives back together.

As I view on television the destruction wrought storms, I think of lessons I learned from Hurricane Andrew: the awe and terror inspired by the power of nature; the resiliency of humans and the willingness of people to help one another.

The World Is Not A Mere Bog

I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amidst the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail.” – Charles Austin Beard

A Lesson Learned From Chefs


I am impressed at how organized chefs are.  They undertake one task at a time—when preparing a shrimp recipe, they will remove the shells from all the shrimp before de-veining; when mincing garlic, they peel all of the cloves before chopping, and so on.  Because of the pressure they work under, to ensure profit and quality food, chefs must be organized.

Managing a construction firm, I discovered, a job’s profit was determined by being organized—the ordering of materials; the sequencing of work and job-site organization.

Remodeling homes with my brother, I learned the importance of completing one task before proceeding to the next: for example, completing demolition before beginning renovations.  By doing so, you could move from one task to another without tripping over uncompleted work.

Today, distractions arising from technology make it difficult to organize and focus. People pride themselves on multitasking: jumping from project to project; making decisions on the fly and talking to one person on the phone while answering an email from another—producing perfect opportunities to create misunderstandings and harm relationships.

Planning, organization and focus are essential to making good decisions, performing quality work and maintaining relationships.

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

Out Of Balance And Miserable


It had been a busy holiday season with parties, family and good friends, and culminating in the best New Year’s Day party ever.  I paid the price, on January 2nd I was standing on the scale looking as the needle on the dial came to rest on 187 pounds.  I was overweight and headed to obese.  Standing there, I remembered a picture taken the previous summer. I was shirtless, sitting at the kitchen counter of my brother’s lake house, and I looked like Jabba the Hut from the Starwars movie.  That is when I made the decision to lose weight, and my diet began the next day.

My weight loss plan was simple, stop eating and start exercising.  I decided to limit caloric intake to 1,000 calories on weekdays and splurge on weekends by increasing my intake by 200 additional calories.  I started  walking, eventually running and doing push-ups and sit-ups.  My big meal was breakfast, when I would have two eggs poached in the microwave, a strip of bacon and a piece of toast.  For lunch I would drink a diet protein drink, while dinner would consist of steamed vegetables, salad and a small amount of protein.

I never believed I could be so hungry.  To speed time between dinner and breakfast, I would go to bed early and awaken before dawn. To make it appear to be more, at lunch I would shake the diet drink until it was frothy and savoring each drop, drink it slowly.  Weekends,  I would consume the extra 200 calories I allowed myself on a before dinner beer.

How do you live with someone determined to starve himself to death?  As I would longingly gaze at the food on their plates, my six-year old son would encircle it with his arm, and my daughter would protectively grasp in her little fist the jar of Gerber baby food.  Friends avoided me, and rather than buy my lunch, salesmen would leave the money on my desk.  Upon achieving my first goal of losing 10 pounds, I challenged myself to lose another 10 and after that, 10 more.

Obsessed about getting my weight down to 150 pounds, after work I would weigh on the scale in our sheet metal shop.  When I reached 151 pounds, to see how close I was I took off my shoes, then my shirt, my pants, my tee shirt, and naked as a jay bird, I let out a shout of joy when the scale balanced at exactly 50 pounds.  My joy turned to embarrassment as I stepped off of the scale and saw my father starring and sadly shaking his head.

I couldn’t stop losing weight.  When I reached 137 pounds I looked like I was starving: my pants were held up by a belt that wrapped one and one-half times around my waist, my shirts made me look as if I was staring out of a tent-flap, my cheeks were sunken and my eyes surrounded by dark circles.  Friends wondered if I had some terrible disease, and customers avoided me.

At this point, my dad called me into his office.  He starred, grimaced, shook his head and said, “Stop losing weight, you look horrible.”  When I didn’t respond, he exclaimed, “Do you hear me?  Start eating or I will start feeding you.”  He gave me a check for $1,000 and instructed me to purchase clothes that would fit me when I gained the 10 pounds he knew I was going to gain.

Going from 137 to 150 pounds wasn’t easy but it was fun: milk shakes at lunch, a cold beer before dinner, steaks, chops and dessert.  I quit my diet but I didn’t quit exercising and ever since, my health has been great.  My decision to lose weight taught me a valuable lesson about obsession and balance.

An obsession is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies the mind, and so, by definition an obsessed person is a self-centered person.  Obsessions disrupt the balance that leads to healthy bodies and happy lives.

Years ago, a colleague commented he thought of his life as a wagon wheel: when all the spokes were the same length, his life was in balance and he was healthy and happy.  However, if any one spoke—work, play, family, etc.—got longer than the rest, he was out of balance and miserable.  Good advice to follow.

Passions

It is with our passions as it is with fire and water, they are good servants, but bad masters.” – Aesop