Monday, May 31, 2010

a call to duty…


The above photo is from the Memorial Day services today in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, my home town.  I know most of the people in this photo.  I know their families and I know their friends.

These guys show up.  They show up for Memorial Day services.  They show up for Veterans Day.   They show up for deployments.  They show up for funerals.  They show up to decorate gravestones.  The show up in classrooms to talk about service.

For them, it’s not a choice.  It’s a duty.

For them, being an American isn’t an entitlement.  It’s something to be earned.  For them, being an American isn’t about paying someone else to fight your fight.  It’s about getting your hands dirty.   For them, being an American isn’t about waving the flag on the Fourth of July, but about honoring the flag everyday.


I’ve always felt that war is the result of a failure of leadership and diplomacy.  I’ve always felt that if the people in power had to lead our soldiers into battle, we might never see another war.  

But, I’ve never felt anything but respect, admiration, and thanks for our veterans and soldiers.    

Sunday, May 30, 2010



It is the VETERAN, 
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion. 

It is the VETERAN, 
not the reporter, 
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, 
not the poet, 
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, 
not the campus organizer, 
who has given us freedom to assemble. 

It is the VETERAN, 
not the lawyer, 
who has given us the right to a fair trial. 

It is the VETERAN, 
not the politician, 
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the
salutes the Flag,

This was sent to me earlier this week by a friend of mine.  I could not have said it better.  To those who have served, thank you.

Friday, May 28, 2010



Yesterday, I had the chance to be part of something very new and exciting. 

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’m mentoring a group of students at Savannah College of Art and Design.  Yesterday, they presented their final designs to me, and for them, their final exams.

The first time I went, they presented to me what they thought I wanted to see.  Their designs were clever.  But, I thought there was more to get.

So, we all sat down at the end of the last session and we talked about passion, not mine, but theirs.  I spoke to them about finding that thing inside them that wants them to do this.  I asked them to not be afraid of offending me, but to create their own voice.  I wanted them to represent their viewpoint, and the viewpoint of their peers, not mine.

The deal was, if they came to me with original thinking in designs, that can be produced in our factories, and could have broad appeal, I would make sure they would be made.  They did.  I will.

I spoke with a major retailer after the meeting.  He agreed, the idea was intriguing, to be able to be the seller of first designs of the next generation of designers for the next generation of consumers.  And then, it came to me; we’ll call it FIRSTDESIGN.

So, when you see something out in the future called  FIRSTDESIGN, you know how it happened.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

a ripple in the water….

So, here’s the point of this little trilogy.  Each life is important.  Each of us makes a ripple in the water that extends beyond our little space.

With the rise of technology, our lives are changing by the minute.  Bytes turn into kilobytes, then megabytes, then gigabytes and so on.  We have the ability to keep information.

So, why does the gravestone still have the starting and ending dates, with the dash in between, and maybe a little something?   Can a whole life be defined that way, by a dash and a memo?

Could we start to remember the person below the ground in a different way,  or better yet, not bury that person under ground and have their life story told through technology?

Wouldn’t it be great to have sort of a webpage celebrating the life of someone we loved instead of death and staring at plot of grass?   Wouldn’t it be great if our family and friends are remembered by how they are connected to our lives in pictures and words?

As our population grows, there will be an obligation of our generation, and generations to come, not to selfishly take up the land where we would be buried, without regard for the needs of  future generations.

The future cemetery can be something completely different.  It could be a small building lending the proper respect, with maybe a garden and walking path.  We could look up our loved ones in a database and read and learn and remember like you might in a museum.

And then, our name could be inscribed on a wall, much like the Vietnam Memorial to leave that permanent mark that we all seem to crave.

How cool would that be?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the dash….

The Dash Poem
by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

more to come…

Sunday, May 23, 2010

every life has a story….

I was with a friend the other day when I started talking about cities, travel, and places I love.  San Francisco, Washington, D.C., the Appalachians, Boston.

Some of the appeal of two of those places, Boston and Washington, D.C., is about their cemeteries, and the lives of the people who populate them. 

OK, so I like cemeteries, not for some macabre reason, but because of the stories, the history, the texture of life that makes us who we are.

Wandering through these places of historic importance, my eyes dart from one headstone to the next, trying to decipher dates and letters, trying to recall if I ever heard of any of these people from history books. 

Every once-in-while, I hit pay dirt, and see someone I know.

But, that makes me think, what about the rest of these people who aren’t pay dirt.  Who are they?  What did they do?  What did they look like?  How did they live? 

Every life has a story.  More to follow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

a really good shoe….

$399.99 after $180 OFF   Garbo Chair 2-pk   Bonded Leather

Every once-in-a-while, we do something good, when we don’t even know we did it. 

In an earlier post, I extolled the virtues of something called Renu Leather.  This is the stuff I claimed to be made from reclaimed leather….leather scraps and stuff.  Well, I’ve been corrected.

Renu Leather is made from recycled shoes.  That’s right, recycled shoes.

So, instead of sticking these unwanted, smelly things in the landfill, they’re ground up and repurposed to become something new again.  In this case, these old shoes become a new chair.

And, by the way, for a limited time, you can get these two Renu Leather chairs at Costco for $399 delivered to your door.  That is not a misprint, $399 a pair, delivered!

How cool is that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I must be too fat….

billboard advertising for weight loss 800-GET-THIN in southern california

I was in Southern California the past few days, and all I saw was this billboard…everywhere.  There weren’t ten or twenty, but hundreds.

Going after the most insecure, never admit you’re older than 39, stretch your face with botox, convertible driving population, lap-band surgery has found its natural habitat.

This led me to think, am I too fat?  Apparently, these signs were put up everywhere to remind me of my spare tire.  When you think of me and six pack abs, you’re thinking of the six pack I put behind my abs. 

There must be some SERIOUS CASH in this lap-band surgery!  And guess what?   They’re not going to get any of mine. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

this makes me laugh…..

If you’re really famous and do something really stupid, you’re probably going to get skewered by Beach Blanket Babylon, a cabaret style, raucous musical review staged at Club Fugazi in San Francisco.  Oh, did I say it’s been running for 35 years?


Using Snow White’s search around the world for a prince as its backdrop, this sometimes hokey,  but always funny show takes on the silliness of power brokers, famous people, and people who want to be famous with ridicule.  Nobody’s safe.


Songs and lyrics are adapted to fit whatever mess somebody’s gotten into.  Think of it as a little like “Saturday Nigh Live” meets “Saturday Night Fever”.  Watching Snow White turn from a sweet, demure damsel to a crotch grabbing rapper will make your face hurt.


But, what makes this show great is the pure quality of the singing and choreography.  Just because it’s silly, doesn’t give this show an excuse to be less than stellar on the performance side.

I’ve seen BBB maybe 10 times over the past 20 years or so.   And, it’s never failed to deliver a performance I didn’t want to tell somebody about.  And, here I am again, telling you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the real position of power…

I just wrote a blog about how the “Tea Party” movement is affecting election results and how power brokers behave.  This got me thinking about another potential fallout of this movement, the advent of a moderate party.


If you look at how both parties have courted Senator Joseph Lieberman, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Ben Nelson, Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Scott Brown - all Senators from the moderate center, it seems the real power in politics lies there.


Now, imagine if these Senators made a decision to develop a new political party, with the addition of Florida Governor Charlie Crist, this group would wield more power than either political party.

With no super majority, and more likely, no majority, deals would have to be made to make laws, not just within party lines, but across the fence. 

As the Democrats and Republicans fight for turf, they are fighting a losing battle.  Instead of strength, both parties will be working from weakness, selling out to those in the middle.

We haven’t heard the last of the Louisiana Purchases, or the Cornhusker Kickbacks. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

time to be a chameleon....

In recent weeks, we've seen two incumbent Republicans get the axe by their party. One, Charlie Crist, governor of Florida, has chosen to run as an Independent for the vacant senate seat in Florida. The other, Senator Robert Bennett of Utah will probably decide to retire.

Both of these incumbents have fallen victim to the "Tea Party Movement" that is working to get those, who are not conservative enough, removed from office, or beaten in the next election.

While Nevada Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid and I are on completely different planets when it comes to political philosophy, he is currently behind in his election race to a person who said we should barter chickens as a partial answer to health care. That's what you get when you're against something, instead of for something.

While personally leaning conservative, I believe the Tea Party is as close to a lynch mob as we've seen since Senator Joe McCarthy roamed the halls of Congress. Parading "Joe the Plumber" and former half-term Governor Sarah Palin as beacons of intellectual honesty and integrity scares the hell out of me.

With the nomination of Elena Kagan as the next Supreme Court justice, these opposition victories will serve to create an even greater rift in the arguments leading up to the confirmation process.

Those moderate Republican lawmakers, who might have voted for nomination, will now have to reconsider if this vote will cause the tea partiers to shine their light on them, and ultimately cost them their seats.

This leads to an interesting argument. Should moderates change their votes to match those of these Tea Party constituents, while believing something else? Or, should they vote with their hearts and minds and let the process take its course?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

a lucky guy….

The woman on the right with the lemon coming out of her ear is my mother.  Besides making lemons come out of her ear, she can do other neat tricks.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my Mom and Dad.  They’ve been a team for 63 years.  This picture shows Dad as the protector, the provider with Mom as the support person, always there.  I can’t imagine this picture being any different.

But, this is about Mom, and what she means to me.  First of all, I think Mom and I are very similar people.  We both like to measure what’s going on.  We both want to see the best in others.  She’s very forgiving, and I hope I am, too.

She raised six different kids with six very different personalities.  She always found time.  How she did that, I’ll never be able to figure out.

One time she was asked, “Aren’t you sorry you had six kids?”  She replied, “Which one would you kill?”  Although, I’m sure there were times when she knew which one.

Mom was part warden, part teacher, part supervisor, all-the-time cook, scrimper of highest caliber, always giving all she could and then a little more.

Punishment for some crime against a sibling usually resulted in dishes, for a day, week, or month.  I washed a lot of dishes. 

Each day in the summer, she made a list of work for each of the kids to do, at least two hours per day, no exceptions.   And, she would be coming out to check the work, so no shortcuts were allowed.  If you couldn’t work, you couldn’t make it in this family. 

As a child, I didn’t realize her impact until she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 51.  I was 16.   I’d never heard of such a thing.  But, she cried when she heard about it.  I’d never seen her do that, and it made me want to find out what this thing was and how to beat it back.

I read and read until I couldn’t anymore.  I’m sure the message the doctor conveyed was every bit as powerful as what I read: crippling, devastating, life changing, wheel chairs and PAIN.

But, as quick as the message came, the disease went away.  Miracle?  I didn’t care.  I just didn’t want her to feel the pain.  It served as a wake-up call to me how much she meant to me.

Over the years, Mom has always been there.  Now 86, she seems decades younger.  The other day, as I was driving to their house, she was outside burning egg cartons next to a brush pile, baseball cap on, next to her trusty Mule utility vehicle, flames going everywhere.

She still sends me home with food and cookies.  I don’t know how many times she’s said, “Why don’t you take some home?”  And, I usually do.  

One day, I hope to be able to make a cookie that will stand up to hers and say the same.

But, on this day, it’s just Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

the apple way…..


On Friday afternoon, I was in the Keystone Mall in Indianapolis.  Things seemed very normal, until, that is, I walked past the Apple Store.

It looked like there was a party going on.  There was a buzz that could be heard down the corridors of the mall.  Instead of seeing the normal few people wandering in and out, this space was crowded to the point that people were spilling out to tables and chairs in the common areas.

What is it that Apple knows that causes this sort of allegiance?  In a word, excellence.  When everyone else is chasing the customer, the customer is chasing Apple.

Apple has invented need.  The iPod, iPhone, and now iPad have revolutionized the way people live and communicate with one another.

They have also revolutionized how to treat the customer.  Instead of selling,   they educate, feeling an educated customer is more likely to buy their product.  And, based on this picture, it seems to be working.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

can somebody help Arizona?

OK, I’ve avoided this topic for fear of getting my head torn off.  But, I guess, a good head tearing off is a good thing to have…sometimes.

Arizona has just passed a law about people proving their citizenship.  Obviously targeted at the illegal Mexican population, the people of Arizona are  at the end of their rope.

This is a scenario nobody wants.  The problems are skyrocketing: deaths at the border, drug trafficking, overrun social services, and hemorrhaging budgets at the state and local levels.

For some reason, I see little men with little black moustaches saying something like, “Show me your papers."

From a distance, we can all criticize Arizona as a racist state.  People of brown skin will be subject to unwanted and unmerited searches.  People will be stopped going to church, school, work, or just moving about town. 

This is not a solution.  It is a symptom of a broken society.

I don’t have a solution.   And, while I don’t agree with what Arizona is doing, I don’t have anything better to offer.

Here’s hoping somebody smarter than me will come up with a winning plan.  Until, I guess I’ll keep my mouth shut.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

a long term problem….

It’s happened again to the people of Louisiana, a disaster whose effects could last for generations has found it’s way to the mouth of the Mississippi.  Oil.

For years, we’ve been hearing the debate of drill versus don’t drill and mine versus don’t mine.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the price of digging and drilling for those resources that power our lives.

I’m not here to judge people from either side.  There are reasons, both good and bad, why we need these resources.  And there are reasons, both good and bad why we should not go that way.

I’m sure the people at BP are fine people who felt they did all they could.  And, I’m sure the owner of the mine never intended for it to collapse.  Those are things that happen when we challenge Mother Earth for her offspring.

But, this should serve warning to all of us to reduce our need for these resources.  The price will get higher and higher as these resources become more scarce.  And, both of these companies would not have been digging and drilling if there wasn’t a market.

It is time we really take charge of our energy needs.  We need to find a way to harness the wind and the sun and the water.  It is time we go for the real long term solutions, not the short term idea.

Expensive?  Yes.  But, the cost will be even greater in dollars, lives and the environment if we don’t. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

when life gives you lemons….

Alexandra Scott lost her life to cancer in August of 2004 at the age of eight.

Alex at her front yard lemonade stand

Alex was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 at the age of four.   She had a simple idea, start a lemonade stand to help her doctors find a way to cure cancer.

Over the next four years, Alex sold lemonade and donated the proceeds to cancer research. 

In 2004, Alex had a big idea.  If enough people had lemonade stands, maybe they could raise one million dollars.  By this time, Alex was weak from her cancer, clearly with little time to live.  But, she wanted to try.

Eight year-old Alex did it.  In 2004, her lemonade stand idea raised over one million dollars.  Shortly after, she died.

Since that time, Alex’s Lemonade Stand has raised over 30 million dollars.

The reason I’m writing about this is it’s Kentucky Derby week.  And, I remember seeing Alex on TV in 2004, at the Kentucky Derby,  with her lemonade stand, thinking about how this little, sick girl could do something so great.

And, that’s really the story.  Alex took her lemons and made lemonade.  There’s a lesson there for all of us.  We each need to look in the mirror and make our own lemonade.