Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?

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They say the world is made up of two types of people. They’re wrong. The world consists of three types of people, but two of those types get all the press.

Journalists like to frame issues in a binary fashion – one side against another. That’s simple. It’s black and white. It’s A versus B. Reporters don’t do this because they can’t handle the complexity of multiple opposing points of view. They structure their stories as a duel between competing interests because readers find those stories easiest to digest. The audience finds such pairings quite familiar. Literature is replete with examples: Ahab vs. Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, and Bambi vs. Godzilla, to name a few.

It’s not just drama. Philosophy often has an attraction to complimentary combinations. We see this most markedly in the Taoist notion of “dualistic-monism” as expressed in the Continue Reading “Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?”

If You’re Not Guilty, Don’t Act Like It

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In elementary school we walked a half mile each day to the bus stop at the top of the street. There were about twenty kids at that bus stop (this was during the peak baby boomer years, so it wasn’t unusual for one street to produce twenty elementary school kids). There were two sets of boys. The older boys and us (me, my brother Kenny, my best friend Angelo and his brother Markie). There was also this quite younger boy, Johnny, who desperately wanted to be like us (not the older boys, for even he realized that was too much a leap). We shunned him, as older kids are wont to do with younger kids, but we didn’t bully him like the older boys did to us (to see how I ultimately defeated these bullies – without any need for physical violence – see “Terror at the School Bus Stop – A True Life Story,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, January 11, 1990). As a result, Continue Reading “If You’re Not Guilty, Don’t Act Like It”

A Bully Tactic: Give Them Something to Deny

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If you knew me in high school, you’d know I engaged in a never-ending battle against AP English. It’s ironic, then, that my most thoughtful memories of high school come from those very classes I disdained. This story begins with one of those memories.

I don’t remember the context, but I do remember the lesson. It may have been during our review and analysis of The Scarlett Letter, where guilt is a major theme. The teacher, Mr. Polito, wrote on the board the following phrase: “Give them something to deny.”

This bewildered most of the class. He then mentioned it as an allusion to a made-for-TV movie thinly disguised to mimic the events surrounding Watergate. With Washington DC as its political backdrop, the movie’s antagonist was asked repeatedly how to defeat an Continue Reading “A Bully Tactic: Give Them Something to Deny”

Back in the Saddle Again!

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Ah, the joys of sitting atop the multiple horse equivalent of internal combustion, casually doing ovals around a track of flowing (and growing) green. Now that the boy is safely ensconced in university environs (if you can call doing a term project in Panama “safe”), I am now able to return to my weekly therapy. Others may call this a chore, but I look forward to mowing the lawn and the wonderful thoughts awaiting me as I go round and round from here and back again.

Besides, to paraphrase Robert Duvall’s Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, “I love the smell of freshly cut grass in the morning” (or afternoon, whatever the case may be). And while Francis Ford Coppola may have been calling his inner Joseph Conrad while making Apocalypse Now, I can’t help but call my own inner Gene Autry as I mount up and ride Continue Reading “Back in the Saddle Again!”

The True Legacy of Ben Franklin’s Last Will and Testament

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The following represents a chapter excerpt from the forthcoming book From Cradle to Retirement – The Child IRA – How to start a newborn on the road to a comfortable retirement while still in a cozy cradle (Pandamensional Solutions, Inc., September 2017). If you know of millennials (or baby boomers) who are parents (or grandparents), especially if they own their business or are part of a closely-held/family business, you may want to encourage to pre-order the book through Kickstarter project: “Child IRA Book – Is Your Child’s Future Worth $1,000 a Year.” Professional might want to take a look at and back this project, too, because it offers several low-cost opportunities to brand their business in this large and growing market.

Ben Franklin may have been teased into starting twin 200-year trusts in Boston and Philadelphia, but he nonetheless realized a great idea when he saw one. He even recognized the potential obstacles that might present themselves to those tasked with executing his grand plan. More important, we now recognize that, all other things aside, Franklin should be applauded for his eternal optimism in the nation he helped found.

The history of his legacy trusts – The Franklin Trust of Philadelphia and the Franklin Foundation of Boston – instructs us on both the power of compound interest and the dangers of relying on public officials to manage money for the long-term. We might even Continue Reading “The True Legacy of Ben Franklin’s Last Will and Testament”

Ben Franklin Trusts – Did They Work?

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The following represents a chapter excerpt from the forthcoming book From Cradle to Retirement – The Child IRA – How to start a newborn on the road to a comfortable retirement while still in a cozy cradle (Pandamensional Solutions, Inc., September 2017). If you know of millennials (or baby boomers) who are parents (or grandparents), especially if they own their business or are part of a closely-held/family business, you may want to encourage to pre-order the book through Kickstarter project: “Child IRA Book – Is Your Child’s Future Worth $1,000 a Year.” Professional might want to take a look at and back this project, too, because it offers several low-cost opportunities to brand their business in this large and growing market. 

The ever meticulous Benjamin Franklin sought to control at least a portion of his wealth from his grave. That particular bequest (in 1790) – 1,000 pounds sterling each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia – came with specific directions as to its use and disbursement. These instructions covered a period of 200 years. How close did the beneficiaries stick to Franklin’s instructions? How did this loyalty – or lack of loyalty – to the grantor’s final wishes leave the final estate at the end of Franklin’s 200-year time period? Finally, what does the legacy of Ben Franklin’s Last Will and Testament tell us about ourselves, our nation, and our collective financial literacy?

Franklin calculated the value of each fund would be £131,000 at the end of the first Continue Reading “Ben Franklin Trusts – Did They Work?”

Solar Eclipse, 1970 – A True Story

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Saturday, March 7, 1970 – Leisure Lanes, Camp Road, Hamburg, New York. I’ll never forget that day. It was the first time I remember having to make a very difficult choice. It was a wrenching choice. It was an agonizing choice. It was the kind of choice no one ever expects a nine-year old boy to have to face.

Yet I did. And I can blame no one for it except for myself, the expectations I had placed on myself, and the subsequent expectations I had encouraged others to, well, expect of me. Nonetheless, the way I approached the decision appears, in retrospect, to have become the template I have since used for all such future conundrums.

By that point in the latter half of fourth grade, I had become the de facto astronomer of the class. Yes, there was actually a competition of this exalted position, and I was determined Continue Reading “Solar Eclipse, 1970 – A True Story”

The Virtues (and Vices) of Deadlines

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What kind of student were you? The kind that got all your homework done before school ended so you could play guilt-free the whole weekend, or the kind that played all weekend and crammed your homework assignment in that space of time between Sunday dinner and bedtime?

Sorry if I just caused tonight’s nightmare for you. No doubt these questions bring up horrible memories for those who the phrase “no more pencils, no more books…” was last uttered decades ago. Similarly, those still subject to the school bell probably wish to avoid these questions the same way they want to avert their eyes from the coming weeks’ advertising circulars trumpeting all their “back to school” sales.

It could be worse folks. I could write just another ad nauseum piece on the latest hearsay Continue Reading “The Virtues (and Vices) of Deadlines”

A Lament for All the Nobody’s Out There

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I showed up unannounced (and a day early) at Chris Collins’ office at 1117 Longworth. Actually, I was under the mistaken impression the “11” of “1117” represented the floor. There is no 11th floor in the Longworth building, which I discovered only after the elevator doors closed. Fortunately, a kind lady told me the first “1” represented the building and the second “1” represented the floor.

When I arrived at his office, Collins wasn’t there. He was on the House floor voting on, as near as I can tell from the daily record of July 18, 2017, a series of otherwise mundane amendments. Somebody probably thinks they are important. Maybe even Collins. I didn’t bother to ask. Ironically, I didn’t think it was any of my business.

I say it’s “ironic” because everything Congress does is, quite literally, “the people’s business.” It’s just that I’m so accustomed to thinking of myself as a nobody that Continue Reading “A Lament for All the Nobody’s Out There”

Breadcrumbs of Unfinished Symphonies

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This is the fourth and final part of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

LEGACY [leg-uh-see]

Merriam-Webster: 1: “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property” 2: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

The gift seemed rather small for the usual Christmas gift. Still, my brother tended towards the creative in his gift giving, so I unwrapped the present in anticipation of experiencing one of those “big things come in small packages” moments. As I tore and crumpled the colored paper, I could only guess what was inside. Opening the tiny box revealed… a generic Christmas tree ornament.

I could see Kenny smiling broadly, as if this was the gift I had always wanted. My somewhat tentative “thank you” only made his grin grow larger. As I looked at him, something struck me about his beaming face. It seemed more of a “I know something you don’t” kind of smirk. Or rather, a “But, don’t you get it?” smile of self-satisfaction.

This was confirmed when he plaintively said, “But, don’t you get it?”

I didn’t. But now I suspected I should have gotten it. I looked again at the ornament and couldn’t figure it out. I failed to come up with anything in our shared life that the sled referenced.

Seeing my consternation, Kenny’s face returned to the “I know something you don’t” smirk. “Read it,” he said.

I looked once more at the sled. Though a standard-issue mass-produced Christmas decoration, I suddenly noticed a carefully handwritten addition printed on the faux wood Continue Reading “Breadcrumbs of Unfinished Symphonies”