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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It’s The Actuary’s Fault

It’s The Actuary’s Fault
My children (and I have seven of them) have often wondered why everyone and everything seems to be falling apart all around me and I stand strong in midst of turmoil.  I’d be willing to bet that a large number of people don’t even know what an Actuary is or how they affect our everyday life.
An actuary is a business professional who deals with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. Actuaries provide assessments of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, their mathematics, and their mechanisms.
Actuaries mathematically evaluate the probability of events and quantify the contingent outcomes in order to minimize the impacts of financial losses associated with uncertain undesirable events. Since many events, such as death, cannot be avoided, it is helpful to take measures to minimize their financial impact when they occur. These risks can affect both sides of the balance sheet, and require asset management, liability management, and valuation skills. Analytical skills, business knowledge and understanding of human behavior and the vagaries of information systems are required to design and manage programs that control risk
I’ve taken the time to explain to my children the risks that are involved in just doing the simple things that we do every day. Here once more is the key to the “how I avoid or minimize the turmoil that surrounds all of us in everyday life. Actuaries mathematically evaluate the probability of events and quantify the contingent outcomes in order to minimize the impacts of financial losses associated with uncertain undesirable events.
 A very simple and practical example is the following:  When I used to go to work every day (as normal people do), I would come home at the end of the day, park my car and either relax or perform some chores (tasks) around the house.  In all likelihood, unless my wife and I had plans, we wouldn’t touch the cars again until the next day.  With regard to my children, they may drive to work from school or go hang out with friends at the mall, or just go driving around visiting friends.  Even when they came home at the end of the day, they may decide at 9:30 pm that they forgot to buy something they needed the next day for school. 
I don’t know if you are seeing the pattern here: the more they drive, the more exposure they have.  Many times more likely to get a parking or speeding ticket, more likely to get into a car accident, more likely to run out of gas, more likely that their car will breakdown, etc.
If I visit a Casino twice a year, and you visit a Casino three times a week; you are more likely to end up with a gambling addiction, maybe even with your house under foreclosure, or your car repossessed, etc.  You are actually increasing the chances that something negative will happen to you through the process of exposure (repetition).
If you get up and go to the gym (fitness center) at midnight or 4 am to work out in peace (away from the crowded center):  you are running the risk of your car breaking down at a time when you are all alone in the dark empty streets, and worst yet get assaulted, robbed, raped (if you think I’m making reference to women, think again men also get raped).  You also run the risk of having your car vandalized in the empty parking lot. 
I’m not being a spoil sport or doomsayer; have you ever heard anyone you know say, “I didn’t think that could happen to me, or in my neighborhood.”  One of the most common crimes are the crimes of opportunity.  That is the long way to explain why, even when turmoil is all around me, I remain safe to date.  I do play the odds, but I play them to my advantage.  Stay safe.  The best is yet to come…..

Head Above The Clouds

Head Above The Clouds
Any one following this Blog from the start knows that I live in the Northwest by design.  I love having the four mellow season every year.  The summers are perfect and so are the other three seasons.  There are no sinkholes, large earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, or monsoon type rains with flash floods.  What we do have is more than our fair share of cloudy skies and foggy morning at certain times of the year.
Some people suffer from a lack of natural light, and we are talking serious depression here. Others avoid the problem by investing in equipment that recreate natural light illumination. Then there are those like me that are not often affected by lack of sunlight.
A few years back (within the last 10 years), we went through an extra-long period of gray skies that stretched from early fall into almost early spring (with winter sandwiched in-between). I remember that toward the end of that period of time I was at my rope’s end and looking at weather charts to see how far south I would have to travel to get some sunlight. 
After I figured I would have to drive about a thousand miles south to almost Central California, I started to check my schedule for an open weekend.  I couldn’t see the clear schedule any time soon, and I must admit I was beginning to panic.  When I finally found the open weekend I booked a three day trip to Southern California.
To my surprise as soon as the airliner lifted off the ground and within minutes we pierced through the cloud layer and there it was the magnificent warm sun.  Of course I knew this all along, but the lack of direct sunlight for so long had affected my brain and kept me from reasoning.  As common sense as it sounds, what good can it possibly do to rationalize that the sun is just the other side of the clouds if you never get to see it.
That reasoning makes as much sense as knowing that there is plenty of money in circulation, but somehow it doesn’t get to my bank account.  I don’t know how much this information will help you, but if you get to where you get desperate for nice warm sunlight, just take it from me, it’s close by.
Drive or get on a plane and go chase it.  It will do your state of mind lots of good.  It does me, and while you are at it take your golf clubs (if you are an enthusiast) and get in a little practice.  The best is yet to come…

Giving Up On Marriage

Giving Up On Marriage
Is there an age at which we can stop trying to make it work?  Is it proper to bail out as soon as we feel unhappy or should we stay and try a little harder to make it work?  Once the children arrive should we stick around for the sake of the children (applies to either gender)?  Disclaimer: This is one man’s opinion, with no special qualifications other than one early failed marriage, and one very long lasting second effort that has all the makings of a marathon.
In times past the long courtships were the norm (anywhere form 6 months to a year or two), some parents insisted on a certain age for the lady (somewhere between 18 and 21).  Any older than 21 and it seems that every relative was trying to get her introduced and out the door (at least in my culture).  For long term relationship, maturity can’t possibly hurt, but I must say that I have seen more maturity in some 16 year old girls than in some 35 and 40 year old women.
This post comes to mind because a close friend, just told me that his 82 year old father just informed him that he was leaving his wife of some 55 years.  The mother is in her 70, and apparently the reason for the break up is her need to control everything.  I don’t know the couple personally, but I do know two of their sons and they are very quality people, whatever else they did wrong, they at least raised some good children.
As we get on in age we need to be able to either have some control for ourselves or at least the appearance of control.  I am very fortunate that my wife and I believe in a true partnership, and not just lip service.  We also take time to have conversations about more than just fluff.  Our most popular conversations revolve around our children and grandchildren.  I am always trying to convince my wife to add to her wardrobe, because if I don’t say anything she is happy to spend her time and money shopping for the granddaughters.
I can’t imagine walking out of my wife’s life, because we are so intractably interwoven.  As an example, I couldn’t imagine having limited time with my grandchildren, or keeping my little partner (Toy Poodle) away from my wife.  I further wouldn’t want to place our children in a position of taking side between their mother and father.  If something ever were to happen to my wife I couldn’t imagine life without her, she has me way beyond spoiled.
I will try to give a response to the questions I posed in the opening paragraph.  Every situation is different and we shouldn’t judge unless we are being affected.  The best tool to deal with a troubled relationship is communications.  Counseling can be great, but I have seen some pretty bad and as far as I am concerned un-qualified counselors.  The best policy to practice in any case is to not say what you don’t mean (meaning negatively) because once the words come out you can’t take them back.  While a bad comment can be forgiven, it will never be forgotten.
Sticking around if you are unhappy:  Some relationships can be made to work, but some were never meant to be.  If you have taken the time to discuss your feeling and you still want out, remember that it takes the effort and caring of two individuals.  One person might be madly in love, and the other not ready to settle down.  You can’t force anyone to feel the way you do, it has to be natural.  I suppose your can grow into love, but it seldom works.  For the sake of the children, is not reason enough, (keep in mind my qualifications or lack thereof).  Not much hurts as bad as leaving your little ones because you can’t get along with their other parent.  You can however be a responsible non-custodial parent and meet all your obligations.  If you stay around for the children’s sake you will learn to hate your spouse or partner.  No one should ever tell you what to do, you and you alone will suffer (pay) the consequences of your decisions.  The best is yet to come….

Monday, December 30, 2013

Breaking Tradition

Breaking Tradition
Sometimes circumstances control decisions that need to be made.  Two things are usually involved in the decision making process: 1) your heart, and 2) your wallet.  If your heart is in the right place and your wallet is financially adequate, the decision is easy. Go with your heart.
Many years ago as an employer, I preferred to reward my employees with year-end bonuses instead of pay increases.  To be fair, bonuses were performance based, and reviewed by a committee.  The preference for bonuses over pay increases, is that increases simply become a burden on payroll by being ongoing whether you have a great year or a bad year.  If the corporation is having a bad year financially, everyone is made aware during the course of the year, and bonuses are not expected.  Yet if you can still manipulate your financial picture and come through with a bonus you become a hero.
The post about tradition doesn’t involve payroll, but something equally important if not more.  I am not really looking for direction because unfortunately I am the one that has to bite this bullet.  I simply couldn’t help but wonder if there are other people out there in a position similar to mine.
While our family has been drawing names for gift exchanges at Christmas, we (as heads of the clan) have always maintained the tradition of giving every man woman and child in the immediate family a nice gift.  We are fortunate that our family size keeps increasing, and budget for gifts is ever growing.  Unfortunately all our grown children have taken their cue from us, and are also starting to give everyone a nice gift.  No one is complaining but I can’t help but notice that the gifts are ever more expensive. 
No one is skipping any meals over the gift giving, and no one is complaining, but I feel the need to bring it under control.  Since I opted for early retirement, I am the one that is best equipped to make an excuse for cutting back.  I plan to bring the adults over to a meal and discuss the possibility of not only drawing names but adhering to it.  I know that the gesture is a great one, but in reality if everyone kept their money they could spend it on themselves any way they see fit.
Family matters are not easy to settle and sometime the best intentions can be misunderstood. Wish me well, as I plan to bring this to a discussion and solution early in 2014.  In the meantime if you are wrestling with a similar dilemma, and have a better solution let me know how it works out.  The best is yet to come…..

Life’s Mission

Life’s Mission
Participation in this wonderful journey (life) is what it’s all about.  How do you know when your mission on earth is done and over?  You will never know, because as far as I am concerned, your mission is not over even when you die.  Until the day of your last breath and departure, you will contribute and then your legacy continues beyond.
  • So what does a legacy include? As you would imagine, financial assets are certainly one part of a person’s legacy. In fact over the next few decades over $25 trillion, yes I said trillion, will pass from one generation to another making this period the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in the history of the world.
  • The Allianz study actually revealed four pillars of legacy among its 2,627 people that they surveyed: values and life lessons, personal possessions of emotional value, wishes and directions to be fulfilled, and financial assets. Believe it or not, financial assets are not the most important of the four pillars. Non-financial items such as ethics, morality, faith, and religion, are ten times more important than financial matters to the elder parents and adult children.
  • This study confirms that the value of your wisdom and personal experience, despite what you may perceive, is more valuable to your descendants than what you would ever have imagined. As a father, son, and grandson, I completely agree with this study and value anything non-financial from my ancestors and descendants as the most precious gifts ever given. Published: 02/01/2012  by Lee Thorsen
I would recommend to anyone reading this post to start a journal if you don’t already have one.  If you don’t presently have a journal, much of what you will leave as part of your legacy is still in your mind, and we all retain that information at different levels of quality, in other words depending on our family health history, our memories could begin to fade with age.  I am presently writing a book on my family history, and what little I have shared usually brings surprising reactions from my children, like I don’t know as much about you as I thought I did.
If we set our minds to it, every year, or minimally every decade could be a chapter in the book of our lives.  We usually underestimate the life we’ve lived, and can’t imagine anyone wanting to know what our life was like.  Certain periods of time might have been painfully slow and unchanging such as the pioneer days.  The period of our life on the other hand has been fast paced, especially when you see it in retrospect.
If you think for a moment about what some of us have gone through: from no television to smart television; from no widespread phone service to cellular telephones and Smart Phones; from being contained to Earth to landing on the Moon, and exploring Mars.  The amazing thing is that we lived the above mentioned events as they developed.  We can share first-hand information with our children and grandchildren that they may or may not take the time to research.
We still have time (and the mental capability) to explain to our children how their parents first met, courted and fell in love.  What our early family life was like, whether we cruised or struggled for the first few year.  How their arrival into the family completed our very existence.  Sometimes when we want to give our family a special gift but can’t afford it (financially), well, here is the answer right in front of you.  Make the gift that you can’t put a price on, and no one else can possibly give them.  Give them the gift of your legacy.  The best is yet to come….

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Expect To Be Humbled

Expect To Be Humbled
I’ve always thought of myself as Yogi Bear used to say “Smarter than the Average Bear!”  Yet as life treats us well, and doesn’t throw us any challenges, we forget that there is a humbling waiting at every turn.  It’s easy to see those lessons at every corner.
Another of my favorite saying is that if you have children you most likely will be humbled when you least expect it.  That is not to say that I expect bad things from all children, but it does mean that their inexperience will come through when you least expect it and embarrass you.  I’ve recently watched some television programing where very wealthy people involved in financial fraud schemes got caught and arrested.  They actually looked not only human but actually looked like weaklings where right up to the arrest they had been all-powerful.
This time around the humbling is of a more personal nature.  I was walking into the garage through the mud room, and I heard a high pitch whine as I walked past the central heating furnace. I recognized the sound as a fan bearing gone bad.  Before I could reach the wall switch to turn it off, it went back to normal.  In my mind I made the decision to keep it running after all the nights are getting into the low 30’s.  My on call technician was down with the flu, and no one else was able to respond in less than 4 days.  The humbling comes in that I am reminded of how it was to grow up in a household where my stepfather was frugal, and would turn off the heat by 9 pm to save money.  The first to wake up around 4 am would start the oil heater to warm up the house, and believe me you could see your breath in the house.
Well, the emergency forced us to survive with the use of the fireplace heat (which is turned off when we go to bed) and an electric (reflective) heater which we turn on to low in the bedroom.  I must admit that you get so lulled into the comforts of just trusting the systems all around you that you never even give comfort a second thought.  My wife has been baking during the day to make use of the heat from the oven to keep warm, and wearing layered clothing also helps.
Always remember to expect the unexpected, and by all means be grateful for all the comforts that you enjoy.  Our furnace will be repaired or replaced within the next 24 hours, for now I am grateful for my blessings.  The best is yet to come….

Friday, December 27, 2013

Life’s Best Stages

Life’s Best Stages
I am contemplating which time in my life is the one that has brought me the most satisfaction. Every time that I settle on a stage in life, I revisit other parts of the spectrum of my life, and manage to create competition.
The very early part of my life was great and is one that I would like to maintain forever.  Having had no exposure to what life had to offer, it would make sense not to want to grow out of that first stage.  My parents took care of my every need, including dressing me and tying my shoes.  All my meals were prepared and perfect.  I had no idea what my needs were, but they were all been met, by two people who devoted their entire existence to me.
Please note the disclaimer: “Having had no exposure to what life had to offer.”  Life is very addictive, if you notice on a toddler’s daily routine, it’s all about exploration and pushing limits every day of their little life.  Once they break into that stage of life you can’t get them back into being passive little babies.  So for the reasons explained above this first stage in life rates a Best.
As mentioned above, the growing up years through 12 years of age, is a time when our minds are like sponges, and we are so busy learning, that time flies right on by.  Hopefully you will enjoy stability at home and make it a pleasant experience.  My parents divorced, and I hated to see my mother work so hard.  Perhaps I would not rate this as a Best stage of life.  I must admit that during this time I learned a lot from my mother.  I learned responsibility, and while I might not have enjoyed it as much, it help shape the man I am today.
The wonderful teen years, how can I not give this a Best stage of life rating? I was invincible, I was becoming a man, I was a chick magnet, and I was learning to work, and the value of a dollar, I was working hard towards a future.  I was deciding what I wanted to be in the next stage of my life.  I learned discipline by participating in school sports.  The stage is very special as life goes.
I started the next stage of life getting married the first time around.  Real responsibility was established in this segment of my life both by raising a family continuing my education, establishing my direction in management with regard to the workforce, and deciding who I wanted to be when I grew up.  I learned some great lessons and I applied those lessons appropriately.  I learned that long term lasting returns don’t come from building on quicksand.  Taking the time to properly build the foundation, makes for lasting rewards.  It was in this stage of life that I met my soul mate that would be destined to ride into the sunset with me.  From this stage in life and beyond to-date, I rate it a five star stage.
I can follow up and describe the stages that follow, but you wouldn’t be able to differentiate the various levels of grey (not to be confused with the popular book 50 Shades of Grey).  As life progressed, it got sweeter.  I would like to be a teenager again, but only if I could retain all my knowledge.  Financial stability more often than not comes with personal maturity, I actually have both going for me right now.  I wouldn’t change anything in my life because I love where I am in life.  I can’t imagine that I would want any different outcome.  Maybe one thing:  The age of fifties should last for twenty years, instead of ten before entering into the 60’s.  No real reason other than I feel it has the potential of being the best stage in life.  The best is yet to come….

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Many Happy Returns

Many Happy Returns

Day after Christmas is a very busy time for all retailers (brick and mortar or online).  Most people place a lot of thought and special consideration into gift giving, but a large percentage of people feel the need to return and exchange gifts.
In my whole life I have returned one gift, and it was for the sake of economics, and not for any other reason.  My wife and had been married two years, and she gave me a black jacket that I absolutely loved.  However, when we visited the mall on the first shopping day after Christmas, we noticed the big sign that read “Buy One and Get One Free.”  We went home immediately, and picked up the jacket so I could return it (yes, we had the receipt).  We walked into the store separately, and as I was returning the one jacket, she was buying two for the price of one.  I had for the longest time one black and one brown jacket that lasted me for the longest time.
As the memories come back to me, I still wish I had a jacket, like the ones I got for Christmas that year.  The reason that I always hang on to my gifts is simple, GRATITUDE!  Someone thought enough of me to give me a gift.  I feel that I would be disrespectful if I returned a gift that someone took the trouble to get for me.  A few years back I had a friend (won’t mention any names) that gave me a box of chocolates every year on behalf of his company, for Christmas.  I so enjoyed those chocolates (not cheap) that I decided to start buying the same product, and giving it to my good but less personal friends.  Personal to me, means someone with whom I am very familiar with, such as knowing their likes and dislikes.  This chocolates were a quality product that could be enjoyed by the whole family or circle of friends.
I know people, friends, and relatives that will return for exchange a gift almost every time.  I’ve often asked my wife to just give these people a gift card so they can get their own gift.  My wife, however, insists on putting in the time and effort of locating a gift specific to the person.  There is a saying that, “It’s better to give, than to receive,” and the older I get the truer it is.
My wife and I are blessed enough that we can get each other (within reason) whatever we want all through the year.  This year beside the special gifts that I always wish for: Good health, the love of my family, the happiness, and well-being of my children and their children, and all the other blessings that the good Lord provides, my one special gift is a retro game system.  I hope that you also had a very enjoyable Christmas, my wish for all my readers is for good health, shelter over your heads, and a happy and loving family.  The best is yet to come….

Obedience and Prevention

I’ve always thought that as long as the majority of our society follows the rule of order we can consider ourselves civilized and orderly.  Already we have way too many people committing crimes against one another.  Some examples of present disorder are the surprising large number of crimes being committed such as: home invasions, assaults, rapes, murders, carjacking’s, auto theft, and an additional number of petty crimes.
Crime and the fear of crime create special problems. Understanding the nature of the problem and knowing what to do to avoid being a victim of crime can help you. The following commonsense advice can be effective when you follow these tips.
  • Always plan your route and stay alert to your surroundings. Walk confidently.
  • Have a companion accompany you.
  • Stay away from buildings and doorways; walk in well-lighted areas.
  • Have your key ready when approaching your front door.
  • Don't dangle your purse away from your body. (Twelve percent of all crimes against the elderly are purse snatchings and street robberies.)
  • Don't carry large, bulky shoulder bags; carry only what you need. Better yet, sew a small pocket inside your jacket or coat. If you don't have a purse, no one will try to snatch it.
  • Don't display large sums of cash.
  • Never leave your purse unattended.
  • Use checks where possible.
  • Always keep your car doors locked, whether you are in or out of your car.
  • At stop signs and traffic lights, keep the car in gear.
  • Travel well-lit and busy streets. Plan your route.
  • Don't leave your purse on the seat beside you; put it on the floor, where it is more difficult for someone to grab it.
  • Lock bundles or bags in the trunk. If interesting packages are out of sight, a thief will be less tempted to break in to steal them.
  • When returning to your car, check the front seat, back seat, and floor before entering.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • If your car should break down, get far enough off the road, turn on your emergency flashers, raise the hood, get back into the car, lock the door, and wait for help.
  • Many criminals know exactly when government checks arrive each month, and may pick that day to attack. Avoid this by using Direct Deposit, which sends your money directly from the government to the bank of your choice. And, at many banks, free checking accounts are available to senior citizens. Your bank has all the information.
  • You should store valuables in a Safe Deposit Box.
  • Never give your money to someone who calls on you, identifying himself as a bank official. A bank will never ask you to remove your money. Banks need the use of your money, and they don't want one of their customers to invite crime by having large amounts of cash around.
  • When someone approaches you with a get-rich-quick-scheme involving some or all of YOUR savings, it is HIS get-rich-quick-scheme. If it is a legitimate investment, the opportunity to contribute your funds will still be there tomorrow-after you have had time to consider it.
  • Never open your door automatically. Use an optical viewer,
  • Lock your doors and windows. (Three quarters of the burglaries involving older persons involved unlocked doors and windows; and, less than one half of these robberies are reported.) Keep your garage doors locked.
  • Vary your daily routine.
  • Use "Neighbor Watch" to keep an eye on your neighborhood. A concerned neighbor is often the best protection against crime because suspicious persons and activities are noticed and reported to police promptly.
  • Don't leave notes on the door when going out.
  • Leave lights on when going out at night; use a timer to turn lights on and off when you are away for an extended period.
  • Don't place keys under mats, in mail boxes, or other receptacles outside your door.
  • Notify neighbors and the police when going away on a trip. Cancel deliveries such as newspapers and arrange for someone - a neighbor's child, perhaps - to mow the lawn if need be. Arrange for your mail to be held by the Post Office, or ask a neighbor to collect it for you.
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers to make repairs to your home. Deal only with reputable businesses.
  • Keep an inventory with serial numbers and photographs of resalable appliances, antiques and furniture. Leave copies in a safe place.
  • Don't hesitate to report crime or suspicious activities. Source: Originally developed by the City of Rochester
Listen to your instincts (also known as sixth sense, and intuition).  If something doesn’t feel right, play it safe, and if necessary ask for assistance.  Such things as asking a store manager to get you escorted to your car in the parking lot, should not be embarrassing.  Don’t be paranoid in everything you do, but a funny saying is, “just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you!”  Make 2014 your best and safest year ever!  The best is yet to come…..

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


·       Resolution (noun)                                                                                                                                         a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner  "he always wrote down his New Year's resolutions"
·       A firm decision to do or not to do something.  Research backs up these claims. According to a 2011 Marist University poll, "losing weight" topped the list for one in five resolution-making Americans, closely followed by "exercising more," with "spending less and saving more," "quitting smoking" and "being a better person" tied for third.
New Year’s Resolutions, can be from real common sense to the unrealistic.  An example of unrealistic is: “I will write a Best Selling Novel during the coming year.”  An example of realistic or common sense resolution might be: “I will whiten my teeth, and try to not stay up so late during the week.”
To succeed a resolution must be well thought out, and written down, so that you will be reminded of the commitment that you made to yourself.  If you over reach or exaggerate your resolution, you might well be setting yourself up for failure.
I have a pretty good grasp of my personal life and the things that personally affect me specifically through my action.  For instance I can confess that in my lifetime, I’ve probably lost at least a couple of hundred pounds.  That is not to say that I was ever that much overweight in my life, but in fact I have made corrections to my body weight by dropping a few ponds now and then only to gain them back.
I like to tell my wife that the only addiction in my life is her.  I never started smoking because back when all my high school friends were being cool, cigarettes cost 25 cents per pack, and I wasn’t about to grow addicted to anything that cost that much, just to burn (imagine that with today’s prices).  I never got addicted to alcohol because I’ve spent most of my life participating in sports, or otherwise holding down management positions that required clarity of mind.  Besides, when I go out for fun, I like to be entertained and not be the entertainment.’
I have the ability to analyze my life and determine that correction is required, whenever that occurs, I take care of it and don’t have to wait for New Year’s Day to roll around.  Resolutions are good however, for anyone that needs the additional pressure of having their life adjustments under the spotlight.  Even if it’s just pinned to the bulletin board at home or on the refrigerator as a reminder.  I definitely encourage and support anyone that is inclined to start working on a resolution for the New Year.  The best is yet to come…..

Monday, December 23, 2013

Doing Your Best

Los Angeles, California
When it comes to raising a family. No disrespect meant to Los Angeles or any other big city, but I was raised in a small town, and there is no comparison.  The Pacific Northwest has been home to me for most of my life.  I love everything about it.  From where I live, I am about one hour away from the Pacific Ocean, one hour away from snow skiing, less than an hour away from mountain hiking and climbing.  I am also less than an hour away from boating and fishing on lakes or deer hunting.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll stand by it, I live in paradise.
Pacific Northwest
I bring up the subject because I was raised by my mother, who divorced my father, and moved our abbreviated family to the Pacific Northwest.  My father on the other hand raised three of my sisters, and three brothers from his new marriage.  Once I had started raising my own family, I remember asking my father, how did you manage to raise such a good bunch of kid in the likes of Los Angeles?
His answer was typical of my father’s communication style.  Very low keyed and laid back, he answered that you work hard and effectively, to attain the best life style you can for your family.  You make your family home your priority (with regard to budget), and you move into the best neighborhood you can afford.  Then he went on to explain, that with the better neighborhoods come better schools, and improved community services (law enforcement, fire departments, even garbage service).  Once that priority is accomplished you concentrate in the actual upbringing of the children to include: leading by example, strict discipline (to include accountability), and a healthy dose of religion (especially prayer).
I asked him, what he meant by making you family home a priority, and he explained that some of his relatives, and close friends spent large portions of their home budget on automobiles, and other material luxuries, while sacrificing, and living in a less desirable neighborhood.  When you as the man of the house spend most of your day away at work, you need to make sure that your family is living and going to school in the safest place you can afford.
I don’t know what kind of a man I might have grown up to be, if my father had been involved in my early life.  I feel that what my mother did in raising me is difficult to improve on.  I do however, know that my father did a great job in raising my siblings, and I am very proud of his accomplishments.  When my father retired he moved away with his wife to a resort town, and a home that he had built (and paid for) specifically as part of his retirement plan.
He had already been away (some 10 to 15 years) from the town where he lived most of his life at the time of his passing.  Yet he was held in such high regard that the memorial services required that amplified speakers be placed outside the church for the overflow crowd of over 300 people.  I loved both my parents, and admired and respected them always.  The best is yet to come.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rapidly Changing Times

Rapidly Changing Times
Once upon a time opportunity was everywhere.  You hardly needed to strain your brain to figure a way to multiply your money. Today with the internet and business globalization, not only do you compete in your town, city, county and State, but now you are competing with people that can get by with $200 dollars per year income, and less somewhere in the world.
Some of the hottest businesses today were not around 10 years ago, Facebook and Twitter.  Some very prominent corporations of ten years ago are either gone or on the way out.  One example ENRON, one of the top 10 corporations in the country failed in 2001.  At the time of collapse ENRON had 62 Billion in assets. Another thing that is disappearing quickly out of this country is “Made In America” label.
Even small businesses (the back bone of our economy) have become dependent on China production to increase profits, and chances for success.  We are on a nasty merry-go-round. I am not arguing for or against, but there is currently a successful effort to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour.  In some areas of the country that is as much as 30% increase and more.  The fast food corporations are not going to absorb the labor increase of as much as 100%.  The additional costs will be passed on to the consumer.  Personally I don’t think that a hamburger is worth the present price (cost), but I certainly wouldn’t pay twice as much or more for the same product. 
The food chain will react with a domino effect further damaging the economy.  I can tell you from my experience in the workforce that even when a very hard working individual is deserving of an increase within his existing job assignment, he/or she don’t get that raise.  The reason is simple; within the rigid pay structure of a bureaucracy, to increase the pay of one individual within a group of 300 employees in the same pay bracket, would create discord in the least and bankruptcy at most.  In the just mentioned example the 299 workers not getting the increase could join together and demand equal pay (or even file a lawsuit).  So if you increase the one employee by $100 per month, results of your good intention could be an added production cost of $29,900 per month, or $358,800 per year, and that is just in one department, and within one pay bracket.  In case it sounds unbelievable to you, my son works for a company that employs 250,000 employees worldwide.
Who makes minimum wage? ~ By Drew DeSilver9
·       The controversy over Washington, D.C.’s “living wage” ordinance, which may prompt Wal-Mart to pull out of as many as six new stores planned for the city, has drawn new attention to those near the bottom of the nation’s wage ladder. The ordinance would require large, non-union retailers to pay their workers above the District’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage. But who are minimum-wage earners, exactly?
·       Perhaps surprisingly, not very many people earn minimum wage, and they make up a smaller share of the workforce than they used to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year 1.566 million hourly workers earned the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour; nearly two million more earned less than that because they fell under one of several exemptions (tipped employees, full-time students, certain disabled workers and others), for a total of 3.55 million hourly workers at or below the federal minimum.
Don’t think for a minute that anyone presently earning $12 per hour will stand still for a fast food worker to go from present $8 per hour, to $15 per hour and not ask for a raise or switch jobs.  Of course the domino will continue to fall.  A bad example might be that the CEO of the corporation might also want to double his compensation to maintain the gap between those that have and those that don’t.  The best is yet to come….

Friday, December 20, 2013

Story of Rudolph

Story of Rudolph

I don’t need any prodding to get me into the Christmas Spirit.  I’ve often said that I’ve never had a bad Christmas, and it’s a fact, but I am also aware that not everyone is as fortunate or blessed as I have been.  This is the first time that I run into the true story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  It was sent to me by my best friend Mike, because he knows that I am always a good recipient for a story of struggle and eventual success by an underdog.  Without anything that I could possibly add to make it more interesting, I am glad that I can share the following story with my readers.


A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing.

Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?"

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.

Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.

Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined a make one - a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animals story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.

Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there either. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas." The gift of love that Bob May create d for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.  The best is yet to come……