Monday, February 28, 2011

and the winner is…..

I see a lot of  movies.  In fact, I believe I saw every best picture nominee. 

The King's Speech

So, as I sat watching last night, I was hoping a couple of pictures would find their way into the spotlight once again. One was “Animal Kingdom”, and the performance of Jacki Weaver, one of the most diabolical characters seen on the silver screen in some time.  Weaver played the matriarch of her band of small time thugs, with an odd, and sometimes difficult to watch, quasi romantic relationship, with her sons.  You knew when she delivered a full, on the mouth kiss to one of her sons, this was no ordinary  mommy.

But, I applaud the performance of Melissa Leo, the equally diabolical mother in “The Fighter”, whose self-centered, less than sympathetic, always in the center,self appointed victim, inserts herself in every situation to capitalize on her son’s work.  She makes you want to throw a punch at her in this movie of redemption and heart.

The other was “Winter’s Bone” and the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, a movie about a high school aged girl, trying to raise a brother and sister on her own, while trying to find her meth dealing father, knowing he’s dead, with unspeakable grit and composure. 

For me, both the movie and performance are unforgettable, on par with any I’ve seen in recent  years. 

I did see Natalie Portman’s performance in “Black Swan”, the disturbing ballerina who fought off her demons and mental illness.  The performance was very good, but the movie felt so contrived, I couldn’t get past all of the scenes that seemed to be inserted in an unnatural way.  For me, both the movie and the performance didn’t match up to “Winter’s Bone” and Lawrence.

But, it was the King’s year, and well deserved.  

As for the hosts, Anne Hathaway was stunning, bright and beautiful.  I could watch her do her laundry and it would be riveting.  James Franco, on the other hand, mailed it in.  Bring her back.  Leave him at home.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

playing a game they can’t win….

Democratic senators and union leaders have badly misjudged Governor Scott Walker.   Characterized as heartless and even Hitler, Walker is resolute in his desire to see this situation through.  He is in a winning position and he is going to use it.

Walker has already indicated that 1500 pink slips will be delivered to state workers next week, with more on the way if some sort of deal isn’t made.

If they really believe he is the Satan they say he is, it would be wise to take a different approach.  In negotiation, it is important to understand your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.  They are attacking his strength by questioning his resolve.  He will see this through.  His weakness is there are elections next year.

Instead, they should accept his deal and keep the union intact, although in a marginalized way. 

If they continue to butt heads with him, he will continue to turn screws until he wins.  That could, and probably would, include sending pink slips to all teachers in Wisconsin at the end of the school year and then having them reapply for their jobs.  That would break the union.

Right now, there are recall petitions being circulated in the districts of two Democratic senators who are seen to be vulnerable.   The Republicans will win at least one of those recalls.  Then, the Republicans will be able to hold votes with no Democrats present.

With his current offer, the union is damaged, but still intact. 

They will have another shot in two years to reverse whatever changes have been made.  I’m guessing money would pour into Wisconsin in unheard of amounts, showing the world what happens when you mess with a union.

money and power….

As you probably know, I’ve been commenting on the goings on in Madison over the budget debate, the union issues, the tactics, all of it.

One of the things that is curious to me is how money is being described as a bad thing, that money is the root, that money is being extracted from one side to the other, that a person protecting money is a bad thing, that money being given to a person with less is a good thing. 

To me, money represents work, not things.  I don’t think about what I can buy, but how hard I worked to get it.  Am I possessive?  Maybe.  But, I work hard, really hard to earn what I earn.  Forty hours is not in my world.   

And, I use my money to buy things, sometimes for myself, often for others.  I pay bills.  I try not to cheat others.  I try to pave my way through life without being a liability to others.  I try to be a positive in the ledger of life.

So, I resent it a little when somebody on a bullhorn says I’m not paying enough, when somebody compares my thoughts as those of being with Hitler.    I resent the person whose whole focus in life is to take away those hours I worked for in wanting something positive in my life, while not making the same commitment himself in his.  I resent it when I’m told the earnings from my work should go someplace else, for someone else to determine how it should be used.

Now, I’m not saying this about public employees and teachers.  On the contrary, I honor their work.  They earn their money.

But, I don’t honor the people who represent them.  They set up structures that enrich them.  They use the public employees to create a web that ensures their power going forward.   They coerce and demand and ridicule when they don’t get their way.  And, they don’t come up for election every two or four years.  They can outlast any politician or public servant.  Now, that is power.

And, every now and then, somebody comes up to challenge them.  And, they don’t like it.  They tell half truths and print signs and fly people in and protect their status, like Khaddafy in Libya, they’re fighting for their livelihood and salvation.  This isn’t about teachers and public employees, but union funding that comes from the public pantry.

Unions, at the beginning, served their constituents well.  They were noble, well meaning vehicles to help workers gain rights and privileges that made a good life possible. 

When they turned into political power brokers, with the power of the check instead of the power of the idea, they ceased to be relevant for the worker.  They would sell their soul to the highest bidder.

Now, I’m not about to forgive the public officials in this matter.  They all stink.  The Republicans finding their chance at turning the tables have acted like the rank amateurs they are.  They’ve botched this thing with missteps too many to count.

And, the Senate Democrats, fleeing to Illinois have subverted our political process by running away, going MIA.  It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their position, they have a duty to show up.  Maybe they’ll show up with some bogus doctor’s slip saying they were suffering from stress. 

It’s about time we had somebody who served us, the public, without some narrow view of how they’re going to split up the spoils of victory.  As it stands, we are the losers.

choosing hope……

In October of 2009, Sheila and Jeremy lost their daughter, Donna, to brain cancer.

Before last night, I didn’t know them.  Today, I feel I know them intimately, with shared purpose and conviction to honor Donna, her life and her potential.

Beth, a blogger friend and friend of Angelo, arranged a dinner meeting as an introduction of everyone to each other, and the potential of developing some sort of vehicle to expand fund raising efforts and awareness for “Donna’s Good Things”.

Donna was a toddler when Jeremy and Sheila were told Donna had brain cancer.  A life with cancer was all she knew. 

She was described to me as confident, bright, perceptive, sensitive, and courageous.  After meeting her parents, it’s not difficult to see from where these traits came.

These aren’t powerful or famous people, just two people finding their way after losing the light of their life.  Instead of being bitter, they are thankful for the time they had with Donna and want to deliver on the potential of her life.  They want to deliver the positive message that Donna delivered every day with the courage and optimism she exuded.  They want to provide support to those parents in the same situation, to let them know that life doesn’t end with the death of a child.

During dinner, Sheila pulled out a few postcards with photos of Donna.  What a beautiful girl, with expressive eyes just pulling you in.  Her picture showed everything her parents described.

It’s not often you get to meet people like Jeremy and Sheila, people who are prepared to take on something big in their own, small way. 

I get a sense they are approaching Mount Rushmore with a chisel, encouraged by the progress they make, chip by chip, looking at how much they’ve done, knowing there’s so much more to do.

So, that’s where we start, with the death of a child, with parents who are committed to living, not in the shadow of death, but in the light of the life of Donna.

Thank you for including me. 

To learn more about Donna and Donna’s Good Things, I’ve attached a link to the webiste.

Friday, February 25, 2011

the new Dave…..

Scott Walker’s history shows you he’s a tough guy.  As Milwaukee County Executive, he cleaned up a political and fiscal mess left behind by his corrupt predecessor. 

Prank Koch phone call aside, Walker ran a squeaky clean administration in Milwaukee.  He returned a large portion of his pay and drives a 1998 Saturn.  When Walker talks about fiscal responsibility, he starts at home.  You might say he walks the talk.

When Walker won election, he felt there was more to go after.  And, incorrectly, he has been positioned as being against public employees, and more specifically, teachers.

In a move that would remind you of the movie “Dave”, Walker looked at spending at the state level as a ledger only deal, looking at it line by line, trying to figure out how to save money.

At the heart of the issue is the health insurance premiums being paid on behalf of the teacher’s union.  What most people aren’t being told is that those premiums are being paid to the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s insurance company, not the State of Wisconsin’s or a private insurance company.  Independent audits show that the Wisconsin is overpaying by $73 million for insurance that could be bought privately.

Walker just can’t take his eye off that amount of money, and where that money’s going.  That $73 million is not being used to teach kids, nor is it being used to pay for health care.  It’s being used to pay salaries of union leadership and to fund political activities against people like Walker.

The reason Walker wants to take negotiating rights of the union away from benefits side is that he wants to regain control of runaway spending that is crippling the state.   In Milwaukee, for every $100 spent on a teacher, only $56 of that is being spent in salary.   This isn’t about teacher pay. 

Understanding that health care costs are outstripping the ability of the state to pay, even without the $73 million of overpayments, and the open ended nature of pensions, with benefits being tied to years of service and not years of life, Walker sees this arena as the area that needs to be fixed immediately.  Right now, he’s staring down a $4.9 billion unfunded liability.

Walker’s done a lousy job in the public relations battle.  And, he’s up against politically savvy machines that are entrenched, fighting to save their livelihoods.  They’ve figured out how to distill their disdain in short statements that fit nicely onto placards that make their way on TV.  Before this is over, people will be convinced he killed Bambi.

There are 49 other governors who are secretly rooting for Walker to win this battle.  There are no more stimulus dollars to help them balance their bloated budgets.  This is the Normandy of government spending at the state level.

While I disagree with how he’s done it, I believe what he’s doing is necessary.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

it’s time to end this…

I've been reading too many personal attacks on the Wisconsin budget bill.  This is a topic where both sides are passionate, and feel they're right.  Each side believes they represent good. 

People aren't stupid or ignorant if they believe one way or the other.  They just believe something different.  Instead of focusing on differences, let's find the common ground and work from there. 

Polarizing attitudes create schisms that will be hard to bridge in the future. 

The Governor vacating contracts unilaterally is unconscionable.  The ends may be correct, but the means are wrong.  He was elected governor, not dictator.   He can and probably should get his way, but he needs to do it in a more collaborative way.

To the senators who "moved" to Illinois, I have some advice.  Win next time.  Elections have consequences.  These are the consequences.  The Wisconsin public has spoken and you now need to suck it up and deal with this governor.

To the teachers who protested during school hours, stay on the job and teach.  I am not proud you walked out on your students.  Quite frankly, putting your students in the middle of this debate shows me that you may not be the people I thought and hoped your were.

And to Jesse Jackson, please learn the damned English language.  

Now, it's time all parties grow up and get in a room, mediate, do whatever is necessary to end this.

Friday, February 18, 2011

the Wisconsin problem….

I'm almost afraid to enter this one.  But, here goes.  The arguments are too personal.

We have a government for which we can't pay.  I don't agree with unilateral moves in negotiated deals like Governor Walker is instituting.  That is wrong.

But, the other option is significant layoffs, which is his option.   I'm guessing if Walker came to the unions and laid out the future, maybe the union could help with ideas.  Before he goes hardball, he needs to see where he can get help.

I believe in budgets, and staying within budgets.  If we have government we can’t afford, we need to elect different officials to make decisions to bring those budgets into line.  It seems that happened in November.

I believe in the current situation, given the choice of a 12% contribution to health insurance and a 5.8% contribution to retirement savings, or 5,000 layoffs, the union would accept the changes to benefits, but in a bi-lateral way.  If Walker can't get consensus from the union, and he is serious, he should deliver pink slips. 

A second layer of negotiations would need to take place that would involve how pensions are taken, work rules, and the like.  We need to rethink how agreements made long ago hold up in today's environment. 

A fully funded retirement at a number of years of service, at 55 or 60 or even 62 is fiscally irresponsible. There are many people today who receive retirement benefits for longer than they worked.  People can retire at any age they want.  They just cannot receive benefits until age 67.  People just live too long.

The answer of raising revenue (taxes) is not an option.  The tax the rich argument will only solve a small percentage of the problem.  This really is a spend side issue with $55 billion being spent at the state and local levels.

This also is not, and should not be an argument of the value of the worker.  I'm sure most people work hard for their money, and I'm sure each has set his or her life around that income stream. 

This is not a time to fight each other, but to come together with solutions, not at the end of pointed fingers, but with real consensus.

There are going to be some casualties this time around.  But, one of them should not be our integrity.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a math problem….

There are 312,000,000 people in the United States.  Our federal budget is $3,700,000,000,000.00.  Now, with Jethro Bodine’s tutoring, that tells me that my share of the budget is about $12,000.00.  In fact, everyone’s share of the Federal Budget is $12,000,000.

Now, let’s add state, county, local taxes and you have an, with deficits running in each state.  In Wisconsin, our total state and local spending is about $55,000,000,000, or $10,000 per person.  And again, with 9 percent unemployment, those numbers go up.

Now, with approximately 160,000,000 workers, the burden per worker is in the $50,000 range, or almost $25 per hour.  So, if you’re paying less than $25 per hour to taxes, you are not paying your share.  You are a slacker.

Yes, I completely understand money comes from businesses and rich people and hidden taxes and gas taxes and such, but the number is the same, and the dollar responsibility is the same per person, no matter where it comes from. 


a weekend away from home…..

For most of you who know me, I travel a lot.  And, sometimes when I travel, I have some down time away from home.  This week, I’ll have one of those times.

I’ve decided to stay out in San Francisco for the weekend, instead of traveling home.  I have meetings on Monday in Seattle and decided I would just stay on the west coast instead of flying back and forth to the Midwest.

I’m not used to down time, especially away from home, so I’ve decided to plan a sort of mini, solitary vacation for a couple of days in San Francisco.  What to do?  What to do?

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  For a city that is not the size of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, it has a lot going on.  I remember a couple of years ago, I checked the internet for something to do on a Tuesday night.  There were 87 events.  I ended up at a lecture being given by Deepak Chopra in a cathedral.

Other times, I’ve gone to theater, headed up to Napa, gone to Muir Woods, hung out in Sausalito, wandered around the many neighborhoods, and spent hours in City Lights Bookstore.   I think I’ve seen “Beach Blanket Babylon” a dozen times.   I might go again.

I love the North Beach neighborhood, with all of it’s Italian restaurants.  I just like walking up Columbus Street.  Many times I just decide to go into the first restaurant that invites me with a free sample.  I’ve never been disappointed.

But, this trip will involve going to see the Walt Disney Family Museum.  A child of the 60’s, and a frequent visitor to the theme parks named after Disney, this man shaped many memories from my youth, leading up to today.   I’ve checked the reviews of the place and they’re glowing.  I hope I don’t hear “It’s a Small World.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

things your parents never told you…..

I live in an interesting family.  We celebrated my dad’s 90th birthday today.  The photo below shows my mom, who is 87 herself with my dad.  They’ve been married 64 years.


So, as my brother, Doug and I are talking with my dad,  Doug said something about my dad trading with Frank Lloyd Wright.  So, I asked my dad about this.

And, of course, in his matter of fact, no big deal way, he said he traded two peacocks for a bull calf.  Now, only in Wisconsin can this kind of thing happen.


As a youth, I remember thinking how weird happy people were.  I mean, really, can anyone really be that happy? 

And, why were they happy?  I mean, really, people just chose to be happy?  No way.  They must be fakes.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned something, that I can choose the direction of my thought.  I can choose to look at situations and determine which way I want to look things.

Now, I know there is mental illness, depression, social disorder and all of that.  And, I know we all probably have some form of mental illness to varying degrees. 

But, I also know that our happiness is not determined by what’s going on outside our bodies, but inside our brains.   We get to choose our perspective.  We get a chance to get it right.

I remember, as a child, reading Ivory Soap is 99.4% pure.  Today’s newspapers might turn that to say Ivory Soap is .6% tainted.  I choose the pure part as my message.

Sometimes it’s work to be happy, because it’s easy to dismiss others happiness with our own jealousy and bitterness, so we can feel better about ourselves.   

It makes it so we don’t have to invest ourselves.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find the good in a bad situation.  But, we need to train ourselves to do it. 

We need to train ourselves to find the bad as an opportunity for change, for good. 

Yes, we can.  Remember that?

I like to think of my brain as sort of a resort hotel.  When I check in, I get to choose a room.  Do I want the cheaper room with the view of dumbsters (spelling intended), or do I choose the ocean view for a few bucks more?  I’ll take the view.

I know it sounds too simple.  But it’s true.  If I don’t invest in my own life and happiness, who will?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

winners all….

Every time I hear somebody talk about bad kids, I think about the kids that perform in show choirs, not because they are bad, but because they are completely the opposite.


We had our own little version of “glee” tonight at Fort Atkinson High School during the 16th annual Fort Showcase.  Twenty show choirs from around the Midwest sang and danced their way into the hearts of the over 1000 people who attended.


The precision and energy of these groups is something to experience.  I can’t explain it except to say that I had goose bumps, more than once, way more than once.


The cool thing about these performers is they root for one another.  They cheer and dance and support each other.  The winning choir’s biggest supporters were from the group that came in second.  Now, how often does that happen?  I’ll give you a hint.  In show choir, all the time.


Congratulations go out to 10th Street Edition of Linn-Mar High School,  Marion, Iowa as champions of this year’s Fort Showcase. 

But, as I watched these performances, there was a feeling that everyone was a champion, that we all win when events and activities such as these are offered. 

reinforcing my faith….

I came upon an accident earlier today on Highway 26, a major two lane highway in southern Wisconsin.  Apparently, the driver hit some black ice and careened across the road into a guard rail and came to rest there.  That is what I know of the accident.

But, there is more.  Upon arriving, and I arrived probably within a minute of the accident, there were six vehicles on the side of the road.  There were people attending to the people inside the vehicle.

And then, one of the people at the scene took it upon himself to direct traffic, since the road was down to one lane, making sure everyone could get by safely.

So there you have it, one minute these people were passengers on the highway, on their way to who knows where, and the next they were taking care of their neighbors.

Thank you neighbors.  Thank you for being the people I know you are.  Thank you for being the best of who we can be.  Thank you for reinforcing my faith in you.  Thank you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

what a time to live…..

My dad turns 90 on Monday. 

While time has robbed him of his sight and ability to move the way he once did, he’s as lucid as he was 50 years ago, and uses his voice in simple, direct conversation that leaves no doubt where he stands.  That we could all live the life he has would be a gift beyond our wants.

So, that life, that 90 years; what a remarkable time to be alive.  Born in 1921, he’s seen roads turn from dirt to pavement, the depression from a child’s eyes, World War II, Korea, the Cold War and the falling of the Berlin Wall.

He remembers Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and has opinions on each.

He’s seen a man on the moon, Vietnam, Martin Luther King Jr., The Beatles, Radio, Television, Computers and the Internet.

He’s seen polio almost eradicated and AIDS.  He’s seen x-rays used to size shoes and MRI’s to see inside you.

He’s lived through Albert Einstein and Madam Curie.

He went from the party line phone to the cell phone.

He went from aspirated engines that needed cranking to start to fuel injected engines  that can be started from inside the house.

He went from son, to husband, to father, to grandfather.  His hair went from black to gray to now almost white. 

And, yet, when you talk to him, he says it’s a blur, that life moved so fast that he wonders where it went, like some time lapse photography.

In his lifetime, there has been more change in the world than happened in the entire time of man.

He knows his time is close to an end, but he lives everyday the best he can.  There is one thing that hasn’t changed in my 53 years of being his son.  I’m proud to call him my father, my dad.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. – Vince Lombardi

Today, a trophy with that man’s name on it will be awarded to the winning team in the Super Bowl.

Lombardi was consumed with excellence.  He was a contradiction, a man who went to mass daily, but was a vicious, tireless competitor, who mowed down anyone in his way.

He believed in preparation, preparing to execute, preparing to survive, preparing to win.

There are only a few who could endure Lombardi, but those who did were prepared, not only for football, but life.  His passion, his zeal, his preparation penetrated anyone who came close.

I had a chance to talk with Willie Davis, the Hall of Fame defensive end and captain to Lombardi’s teams.  He, along with almost anyone else related to the Packers, is grateful, almost reverent when talking of Lombardi.  Like that great teacher, he was able to reveal the greatness in all of his players. 

But, in greatness, there was a great price.  Lombardi’s family suffered his highs and lows.  They suffered in defeat and reveled in victory. 

He alienated his children and destroyed his wife.   He was incapable of separating his family from his work.  His expectations were high in all areas, not just his football team.  In his mind, excellence was excellence.    

In spite of that, for just one minute of my life, I would like to feel the passion of that man, to know what his level of commitment really feels like.   I’m sure it’s a scary place. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

making sense of the Wynn…

I stayed at the Wynn in Las Vegas last week. 

File:Wynn 2 (2).jpg

For those of you who have not been to Las Vegas, the Wynn is the successor to the Bellagio, the next of the super luxury hotels.  In fact, the place was so luxurious, so over the top, it made me feel uncomfortable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a nice hotel.  I like a good, clean room, a comfortable bed, a good TV, maybe a nice restaurant on site.

What I don’t want is somebody offering me the unattainable, something that is beyond my understanding or wants.

Gold plated faucets and TV’s in the bathroom and matching bathrobes are nice, but they scream “You’re not worthy!”

I really don’t want to think a yogurt parfait and orange juice at $17 is normal.  I don’t want to think a $300 tab for a dinner for four is OK.  I don’t want to lose the value of how hard it is to make money and how easy it is to spend it.

So, next time I go to Vegas, I won’t stay at the Wynn, not because it’s not nice, but because it’s too nice.  Does that make any sense? 

Friday, February 4, 2011

the game…

I’ve loved football all of my life.  As a little kid, I played football everyday.  I played in high school, college, family reunions, Sundays.  It’s been part of me for as long as I remember. 

And, as long as I remember, I’ve been a fan of the Green Bay Packers.  One of my first recollections is buying a gold helmet at a garage sale for a quarter and putting “15” on the back of it, just like the pros.  That was Bart Starr’s number.  I changed it later to “23” for Travis Williams.

Football, especially Packers fans, is not so much about the game as it is about the bonding experience between fathers and sons.  It’s a language we all know.  It’s time we spend together.  It’s something deeper.

The Packers are an organization that reflects the community.  We like to think of ourselves as underdogs, people from a disrespected lot, wearing cheeseheads, eating bratwursts, drinking beer and dancing the polka.  Instead of being insulted, we’ve decided to embrace what others see as unseemly. 
We’re just a little weird.

The Packers play in the smallest community in professional sports, with a whole bunch of trophies, many against those big city teams from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and such.   If ever there were a David and Goliath, Green Bay played the role of David very well.

Now, I’m not a colors-wearing, shirt-off-in-the-cold, painted chest, drinking ‘til I can’t see kind of fan.   I love the game because it’s sort of a chess match with speed and power. 

Games are played by appointment.  TV makes them bigger than life.  Slow motion and close ups takes a game that is played in microseconds by unimaginably large human beings and turns it into a brutal ballet. 

As we all sit on our sofas, we coach and cajole, lean and lurch, feel our hearts race and fall.  It’s a game we feel.

Maybe I’m a Neanderthal.  Maybe I would have watched chariot races or the lions in the Coliseum.  But, there is something compelling about competition, about something that isn’t scripted, with real speed and danger lurking in the background.

So Sunday, I will be watching.  Go Pack!  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a wake up call…..

I wrote this blog a little over a month ago, but never posted it. 

In the late 1980’s, I had a mobile phone.  It came with a case and kind of looked like a real phone with a real curly cue cord.  It was heavy, sort of like carrying your lunch box with a few meals in it. 

I didn’t know too many people who had one, but I found it to really help in business, so I reluctantly spent the $1100 for the phone, plus the nearly $1 a minute cost to have one.   I kept the calls short, but over the course of an average month, I spent about $1000.

I was in a field where staying in touch was worth real money, so it was worth it to me.  The value of the call was greater than the cost.  It helped to make me money.  To most, it was an unaffordable luxury.   To me, it was a necessity.

Now, in 1989, if you would have gone to the public and said to them, we need $810 million to build cellular towers for these phones that cost lots of money, more money than most people could afford, would you have been in favor  of it?  To most, the answer would be no, because there wasn’t a clear need at the time, and it would only be for the very few.

We just said no to that type of investment in turning down high speed rail.  We’ve got our eyes on the past, with cheap gas and cheap cars compared to the rest of the world.  We are afraid to move forward because of current cost, not understanding the future cost of not reducing our national appetite for cheap gas.

The high speed rail project is not about the 70 or so miles from Milwaukee to Madison.  It’s about connecting the country to a bigger system. 

It’s about not building more runways at airports.  It’s about not building more highways.  It’s about saving fuel, which will become geometrically more expensive as more people from around the world have access to automobiles. 

We benefited in the short term with cheap vehicles and fuel.  Just like the credit bubble, our transportation bubble is the same.  Too many people will not be able to afford the real cost of the automobile. 

I’m writing this blog while I’m in China for business.  I was reading the newspaper today with three different headlines that underscore how different the world is from 21 years ago.

The first headline was about how GE (yes, that GE), was investing $50 million in a Chinese company, not because they were cheaper, but because they had the advanced technology to develop high speed rail in the U.S.  You see, China is the world leader in high speed rail, not the U.S.

The second headline was about how the Chinese had just developed the world’s fastest super computer, not Cray Research, and they were doing engineering projects that used to require days to compute in just hours. 

The third headline noted how the Chinese were on track to sell over 17.5 million new cars this year, breaking all sales records.  One dealership in Beijing sold 15,000 cars in one month.  They are actually implementing measures to slow down sales so they can catch up with their infrastructure.

The Chinese do projects that are unfathomable.  In one province where there are geological issues with earthquakes, they are moving nearly 3 million people to safer places over the next decade.

This is not meant to be an advertisement for China, but a wake up call to us.  We need to do better.  For some reason, we seem to have forgotten John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that implored us “to not ask what our country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

We need our leaders to step up with hard things, not promises to give us stuff if we vote for them.  We need to think in bigger terms, not always “my” pocketbook.  We need to stop running our country like some sort of ATM.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

a promise….

Last week I went to a dinner with friends, acquaintances and new friends in the furniture and design fields.

We came from everywhere.  We all came with different resumes.  I wrote about this last week, but there is more that I wanted to convey.  This is Las Vegas dinner blog, part two.

It’s interesting to me that people who’ve never met, can find something that ties them together.  Or, maybe, that’s natural, to find something, to search, to find something similar, some common ground.

There is something to be shared in every life.  Even though we came from different corners of the world, we are the same.  Our similarities are greater than our differences.  And on that, we were able to build our bonds.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that all of the time?  So often, we focus on our differences.  We find reasons to be angry, to sling arrows, to throw stones.  We bisect and dissect.  We split and chop.

We watch TV and see dysfunction.  We see Jersey Shore.  We see what’s going on in Egypt.  We see anger.

I’ve always been in the business of bringing people together, making deals.  Success has always been dependent on putting myself in the other person’s shoes and delivering on a promise to improve their situation, not my own.  When I do that, my situation almost always improves.

I think the same is true in relationships.   When you give, you receive even more.  Somehow, being selfless becomes selfish.  Asking for nothing delivers everything.

So that is my message.  Be nice.  Think about the other person.  And by doing that, you will be happy.  I promise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

snow day…..

We’re having a huge snowstorm.  Winds are wailing away at 30 miles per hour.  Over 15 inches of snow is expected.  Our offices are closed tomorrow.  Snow day you say?  No way.

Technology has made it so work can be done anywhere, anytime.  Each of us has a notebook computer that can patch into the company’s computer.   We all have cell phones with conference capability.   All of our tools are with us everyday.

So, hooky is out of the question. 

In fact, because there is no commute tomorrow, I would imagine productivity could and should go up. 

Snow days used to be a found vacation day, a day to do nothing, a reward for surviving the winter.  Today, the only difference is the drive, and the ability to work without taking a shower, although I think I’ll take one anyway.

Now we hope for power outages.  Is there such a thing as a power outage day?