Wednesday, July 29, 2009

time for a beer

Police release 911 tapes in Gates case, raising questions over report

A couple of weeks ago, the police were called to a residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts to investigate a possible break in. They showed up to find a black man, cane in hand, in his home. The man in question was Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

A Sergeant Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department showed up to investigate the possible break in. Sgt Crowley is a respected policeman who was chosen to teach racial profiling.

What should have been a just checking out, thank you sir call, turned out to be a something else. It turned out to be a racially charged power play of two people with attitudes unable to come to some sort of understanding of one person doing his job, and the other feeling the clutches of the slavery chains from years ago.

It was neither. What this really was about was two guys with power. The professor acted like the jerk he clearly was and the police officer wasn’t going to let the guy get away with it, at least not on his watch. If he was an umpire, he’s the guy who throws out the manager because he’s in charge.

They both put the President in an embarrassing position, which he was all-too-ready to take. They put the professor’s friends in an awkward position of changing his name to “Skip” instead of Professor Gates to make him look more human, more accessible. They put the Cambridge Police Department, and all police departments on trial across the country because Crowley just couldn’t look the other way.

And now, Thursday, the professor, the cop, and the President are going to get together for a beer. Maybe, next time, Crowley will show up at the Gates’ residence with a beer. Yeah, sure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Imagine my surprise when I got an audit notice from the IRS that I owed over $700,000 in back taxes and penalties. So, I called the agent on the notice and try to find out why I owed all this money. It had to be some sort of mistake. This was 2004.

It wasn’t, according to the agent. You see, I earned $1,106,125.00 from a barter company called Intagio. At least, that is what the 1099-B form said. But, I said, I didn’t earn this much and I wanted proof.

Eight years ago, I traded some furniture through Intagio for some services. The total amount was a little over $70,000.

So, about six weeks later, I got this pile of paper in the mail from the IRS with all kinds of transactions sent by a rogue computer at Intagio. They weren’t right and I contacted Intagio to get this corrected, and they did shortly thereafter. This was 2005.

It took me nearly two years and several visits to a local IRS office to convince them my position was correct. I went through levies and threats and all the stuff the IRS does. Finally, I sat down with one person who got it all settled, or so I thought. This was 2007.

About two months ago, I got a notice that I owed $28,000 for back taxes and penalties related to a 2001 return. Again, I went through the process of finding what this was all about.

I just received a packet in the mail. And there it is, $1,106,125.00 on a line on the form in the income column.

Here we go again. This is 2009.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

this just drives me crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One of the things I look forward to when I come to California is an IN-N-OUT burger.  I had mine this afternoon, Double-Double with onions, pickles and ketchup. 

If you’ve been to IN-N-OUT, you know your meal is made to order, fresh.  There is usually a line at the cash register and food usually takes about 10 minutes, maybe more.

This is the part that drives me crazy.  Since the place is so busy, tables are hard to come by.  So, some people like to think they can beat the system by having one person order the meal, while the rest scout out a table and squat.  Looking around, you’ll notice many tables are being attended by squatters, not eaters, while people with food are forced to figure out other methods. 

If people would just order their meal, wait for it, and then look for a table, there would be plenty of room.  But, we being the selfish people we are, can’t wait.  Sometimes I wonder if we really are intelligent life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

she was really tall

When I was thinking about Apollo and Walter Cronkite, I also thought about Mrs. McGinn.  She was my second grade teacher.  And then, I checked my local paper and found she died over the weekend.

Some people were meant to teach.  She was one of them.  She encouraged us.  She loved us.  She laughed.  She was bigger than the school.  She was Mrs. McGinn.

She was really tall and she liked the Packers, sort of a power forward who liked sports.  What wasn’t to like?

One project she did every year was hatching chickens in her class.  We’d start with a couple of eggs in a incubator.  Each day we’d come in and check progress wondering when those things would crack open.  Eggs don’t change much when they’re hatching.  And, when the chickens hatched we all went home and asked our parents if we could have a chicken.

Around my high school graduation, I received a letter in the mail.  It was a letter to myself written in the second grade.  I’d completely forgotten I did this.  Mrs. McGinn didn’t.  She remembered me, and every other second grader that went through her class for 30 years.

Growing up, there are people who have a real impact on your life.  Mrs. McGinn was that for me.  Sleep well Mrs. McGinn.

Monday, July 20, 2009

“the Eagle has landed”

Forty years ago I remember exactly where I was when this picture was taken. I was in the family room of my home with my dad sitting in his rocking chair next to me.

I don’t remember this picture in color. I remember it in black and white. That’s the kind of TV we had.

I was 11. For years we’d been watching the Gemini, then Apollo space craft blasting off during classes during school. It was always kind of cool when they’d let you watch TV during school hours.

John Glenn and Wally Schirra were big time heroes, bigger than Mickey Mantle or Bob Gibson. This was dangerous stuff they were doing. People died.

A remarkable feat is even more remarkable knowing now that these guys were flying machines that had less technology than today’s microwave oven. They saddled themselves to rockets like some kind of science fiction cowboys and shot themselves into the sky. But this wasn't science fiction. People died.

Landing on the moon didn’t necessarily give us any more information than we already had. Actually it was kind of a waste of time. It wasn’t about science as much as it was about achieving a goal once thought impossible. It was about fulfilling a promise made eight years earlier.

Before this photo, the moon was a sort of nightlight in the sky. After, it became a place where the earth looked small, an achievement, and a source of wonder. And, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

and that’s the way it is……

I always thought if God had a voice, it was Walter Cronkite.  That voice was silenced forever on Friday.

Any words I write would be too shallow, too hollow, too insignificant to underscore the importance of this man who I trusted throughout my youth.

Beginning from the time of my earliest memory, his voice resonated with news of the assassination of JFK to Vietnam to Apollo to Martin Luther King to Woodstock to Watergate to Iran.  He even introduced us and Ed Sullivan to the Beatles.  More recently, he was the voice of experience, of reason.

There were times he wept on the air, and we wept with him.  He was the truth.  He brought perspective.  He was our conscience.

His voice was everywhere.  On Satuday mornings, he was teaching me history on “You Are There” and “The Twentieth Century”. 

I think about my kids when  I think of someone as substantial as Walter Cronkite.  How do I tell them the importance of this man, the man who narrated the “Spaceship Earth” ride at Disney World? 

There is no parallel in society- nobody- not Oprah, not Obama, not Billy Graham.

And now he’s gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

politically incorrect


If you know me, you know I take no prisoners when it comes to teasing.  And, when I have new material to work with, it can be fun.  So, prior to reading this, understand, I AM TEASING. 

Serjio is a guy who is a partner in a furniture company in Mexico City.  As Latin people go, he is the stereotypical “Latin Lover”.  He likes the ladies.  If you watch his eyes, they focus and dart with the strides of senoritas.  Let’s just say his focus is unfocused.  

So, when he picked me up at the airport yesterday, we were doing the small talk thing when I noticed the eye movement.  He asked me how I liked Mexico.  I told him I liked Mexico fine, but I didn’t like Mexicans.  What?

He looked at me wondering if he heard me correctly.  I stood there like I said nothing, and then cracked a smile.  Then, he laughed. 

Latin men, especially men like Serjio, are very proud, very masculine, and very aware of their masculinity.  These guys are lions. 

Later, at dinner, he asked me if I liked fondue?  I told him it was OK.  And in a very matter-of-fact way, I also told him the gays in the United States liked it, too.  You talk about an uncomfortable few seconds.  And then I smiled.  Laughter.

I figured if it worked for Kathy Griffin, it could work for me.     

Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should


Most people are too young to remember an ad campaign run by RJ Reynolds that touted the flavor of Winston cigarettes with the jingle “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should”.  In the ad, the announcer corrects the grammar to “Winston tastes good, as a cigarette should”, but then a jingle comes in with the the incorrect grammar again.  It ran for a long time.

Think about that, an ad with grammar as the focus.  Today, it seems, we don’t know the difference.

A while back, I was following this beer truck.  “Traffic.  If only it were as light as your beer.”  Well, traffic were real heavy that day.  If I would have known traffic were going to be that bad, I might have stayed in bed wondering who proof reads these things. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

from the heart

If you’re feeling the least bit cynical, click on the link below.

The embodiment of class, Kevin Skinner taught me something a couple weeks ago on America’s Got Talent. 

Kevin Skinner pictures

When Susan Boyle came on the scene a few months ago, she had a decent voice.  But, it was that it came from THAT person that amazed us.  If that sound had come out of someone who looked the part, we would have never noticed, and she may not have advanced as far as she did.  

This is different.  I’ve watched the video several times.  This guy is good, really good.  It’s not a special training, but the honesty, the honesty of himself, his singing, and the way he lives. 

A guy like him doesn’t sing the music, he lives it, he wears it, he sleeps it, he eats it.

He doesn’t have to impress, because he’s comfortable in his skin.  Like an easy chair, he brings you in and makes you comfortable too.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Toto, I’m home!

About 24 hours ago, I put on my ruby slippers and clicked them together, “There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home,”  I said to myself.

As I landed in Madison, the sky was bluer, the grass was greener, the air was fresher, and all is good.

Thursday, July 9, 2009



I’m late, I’m late for a very important date.No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

Every time I go to China, I feel like this Alice in Wonderland song. 

Cell Phones Replacing Alarm Clocks

For some reason, the Chinese take “fashionably late” to a whole new level.  I think I’ve begun to understand that 8:00 really means 8:30, always.  I don’t know why.  It just is.

But, to me, a guy who believes punctuality is just being courteous, this drives me nuts.  I just wanted to get that off my chest.  I’m better now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Everybody Loves Raymond, including me


If you ever travel over a lot of time zones, you know the impact of jet lag. Thirteen time zones sometimes creates a little problem, especially with trips that last just a few days.

So, I try to make my work schedule work best with my best conscious periods. That means I go to bed around 6:00 p.m. and wake up around 11:00 p.m. I then do my U.S. work, and then go to breakfast. I actually bring food to my room to eat overnight to keep the patterns right.

So, tonight/this morning, I ran out of work to do. Time to watch TV. The TV in my hotel has their version of On Demand. It has one thing in English, “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I can choose from 22 different episodes. Since there' are no commercials, they only last 22 minutes.

So, here I am, the middle of the night in China, laughing out loud, possibly waking the people in the room next to me. I bet they think I’ve got a hooker.

Thanks Ray Romano and whoever decided to make this my viewing tonight. Sometimes, the Chinese are pretty smart.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

don’t mess with Lily


This is Lily. She is our General Manager at our facilities in China. And, she is one tough cookie. Don’t try to slide anything past her. It will slide right back to you with more than a suggestion to do it right next time. Believe me, it’s easier to do it right.

I met Lily about four years ago in High Point. She was working for a factory we were thinking about working with. I had a showroom a little off the beaten path. Finding it for Americans was tough enough. For a Chinese person, it was ridiculous.

She called me and asked where I was. About 45 minutes later, she showed up with a duffel bag full of samples. She dropped it in front of me and let me know she really didn’t appreciate the walk. In a word, she was spunky. I love that about her. And, I had to find a way to hire her.

Today, she’s in charge of making sure our angelo:HOME products meet the high standards of the designer. Angelo’s got no worries, because it won’t have Angelo’s name on it unless Lily says so.

She’s fearless and really feels honored to be part of this. So, when you buy an angelo:HOME piece of furniture, Lily is standing right there with you. I’m proud to have her working with me. And, I couldn’t have a better partner.

they didn’t even wave good-bye


There they are, already wrapped up an ready to go in their ISTA-3A rated boxes.  (I need to figure out how to get that date thing right on the camera).  They didn’t even wave good-bye.

Will they find a good home?  Will the family who gets one of these appreciate the care and love put into them?  Will they get proper care with light brushing and stain removal with water based cleaning products?  Will they be taken out of the sun so they don’t get faded?  These are the questions a parent has to know.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

be careful out there

Like a proud daddy with his babies, I thought I’d take a picture of the new angelo:HOME products before they go on the trailer and into the market.


What a long strange trip it’s been, as the Grateful Dead put it.  What started out as an inspiration has turned into a real product line, with quality, prices that consumers will pay, and most importantly, the point of view of an important person in the design world, Angelo Surmelis.

What makes this product line important is its accessibility by people of all income classes.  You don’t have to be rich.  You can be average and still have great design.   Angelo wants to reach everyone, not just the privileged.  The privileged already have plenty of design help.

So, here we go, on a new voyage.  You kids be careful out there. 


After nearly five hours of tennis, and 30 games into the fifth set, Roger Federer broke Andy Roddick’s serve for the very first time, and it won him a Wimbledon title.

In sort of a Rocky versus Apollo Creed match, tennis took a back seat to survival, as each competitor played not so much to succeed, as not to fail.

Brilliant play that was so evident during the first four sets turned into a slogging game of stare down, with each contestant peeking from their own post, hoping the other would blink,  and make the mistake that created the opening for victory.

In the end, it was Roddick who blinked, who found himself hitting the ball into the net, and then into the air on a miss-hit on consecutive points, turning a great championship run into a nightmare that will follow him throughout his career.

And, it is Federer who can now say he didn’t lose. 

are we there yet?

Dread.  That is probably the word that describes the feeling at the beginning of the trip I’m on to Shanghai.  For 14 hours, I need to occupy myself and my mind.


I’ve done this trip over 20 times.  And, each time it seems to never end.  Each time, I remind myself the time will pass, just like it always has.  But, how to make it pass: that is the question.

101_0323Lunch.  One of the nice things about international travel is that the food is tolerable, sometimes pretty good.  Today, I’m having Mahi Mahi with tiramasu for dessert.  That’s a good start.

101_0324Sometimes, I just like to look out the window.  Only problem is, today is overcast, for the whole world.  This is Chicago.


I frequently check to see our progress.  As you can see, we fly way north over Canada and the polar ice cap.  We’ll then fly south into Siberia and then China. 

But, mostly I watch movies.  So far, I’ve seen two good ones.  The first was called “Fanboys”, a look into the lives of people who are obsessed with Star Wars.  Instead of making them look stupid, the movie paints a rather poignant picture of relationships through the shared love of the Star Wars movies.

The second was “Sugar”, about a baseball player from the Dominican Republic and his journey through baseball to the minor leagues in Iowa.  The movie isn’t about baseball, but an empathetic look into the lives of people who are thrown into situations where they don’t know the language or culture, but must succeed to help their families at home.  It’s really good.

101_0326I just raised the window shade for just a moment.  The clouds have cleared enough to view this, the polar ice cap.  What a magnificent view.  I’d look at it longer, but the light coming in rakes the eyes of the people in my cabin, some of whom are using their time well:  they’re sleeping! 

Oh well, just eight more hours to go.

Next movie, “New in Town”,  Starring Rene Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr.  It sucks.  Only six hours to go.

101_0327 Siberia looks kind of desolate.  Four and a half hours to go.

101_0330 OK, now I have a decision to make.  Do I try to take a nap, or do I stick it out and try to be very tired tonight?  I’m going for very tired tonight.

I’m on the ground.  Before we were allowed to leave the plane, medical staff from the airport took the temperature of every passenger.  They are taking this Swine Flu thing very seriously here.  Once off the plane, it was less than five minutes to find my driver to take me to the factory.  More later…..

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our Story (I didn't write this)

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
John Hancock
New Hampshire:Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We’re number 37! We’re number 1!

The World Health Organization’s survey on the most effective health care systems in the world ranks the United States health care at number 37 in the world. But, there is one area where we are number one, cost.

With Costa Rica standing stubbornly in our way at 36, and with Canada hanging around at number 30, and those drug cartel goons from Columbia staring at us at number 22, our quest is number one….France.

Remember France, the place with pommes frites, the people who use lard in everything and butter on everything, the people who take forever lunch breaks with glass of wine or two, the people who seem to smoke three cigarettes at a time. Yah, them.

You know France, the country that doesn’t have an energy dilemma, with 80% of their electricity coming from nuclear generation, the country that has all of this fashion and flair as if it’s their birthright, the country that has The Louvre and bullet trains. Yah, them.

Since we’ve been told forever that fatty foods and cigarettes are bad for you, I’m trying to find out why France could be number one. And, now I think I’ve got it – soccer. That is the common link.

Looking at the list, most, if not all, proclaim soccer to be their number one sport, if not their religion. None of them are good at football. They’re good at futbol. We’re cheering for the wrong sport! That’s why we’re so sick!!