Tuesday, December 26, 2017
“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
― Woodrow Wilson
So we come to the end of another year. 2017 was the Year of the Rooster. 2018 is the Year of the Dog. The Earth Dog to be more specific. Last one was in 1958. The year of Sputnik and the invention of the microchip. 2018 should be interesting.
Now it’s time to grade my 2017 predictions and go back out on that limb for 2018.
Here’s what we said about 2017:
1. This one is easy…Alabama wins the National Championship
Close but close doesn’t count. Congrats to Clemson. Grade: C+
2. E-commerce retail sales will exceed $450 Billion
The final numbers aren’t in yet, but I think we will exceed $450 Billion. Grade: A
3. Oil prices go up a bit but remain under $60
Pretty accurate forecast. Grade: A
(Dec 27: A last gasp push..and the price briefly went over $60 before backing off...so this grade drops to C+)
4. The Cleveland Indians beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
The Dodgers got there but the Indians really let me down. Grade: B-
5. GDP growth at 3%
We’re going to get close, but for the year will be under 3%. Grade: B
6. Moonlight wins Academy Award for Best Movie
Yes. Grade: A
7. New England beats Dallas in the Super Bowl.
New England got there and won. Dallas, Atlanta…same difference… B+
8. Going out on a limb here, but the next Supreme Court Justice will not be a white guy.
Whiffed on this one. Grade: F
9. Significant M&A activity in the final mile delivery space
Not really. I still think it will come eventually….Grade: D
10. Trump gets a lot done in his first year and drives the mainstream media crazy.
Welp, he got some things done and he definitely drove the media crazy….Grade: B+
Now the fun part. What will 2018 bring?
1. I am going with Alabama again to win the Natty. Just can’t bet against Saban.
2. GDP growth tails off in the second half of the year. A shortage of workers and the mid-term election cycle put a damper on the economy.
3. The Post wins Best Movie. How could it not?
4. I think oil prices just bump along at current levels, maybe down a bit.
5. China will handle N. Korea.
6. The Democrats win big in the mid-terms.
7. We finally pass an infrastructure spending bill.
8. The Mueller investigation goes nowhere, but keeps on going.
9. Big news on the UFO question.
10. The Dodgers meet the Astros again in the World Series. Dodgers win. (And, of course, New England wins the Super Bowl. Doesn’t matter who they play.)
Saturday, December 16, 2017
I got a day away from it all this past week. No work, no TV, no internet, no phone calls, emails or text messages. Just me and my bucket and my bed.
I guess it’s just part of the holiday season and my wife’s willful participation is said holiday season. You see, she likes to shop and hang out with her friends and co-workers, meet and greet and press the flesh. In the meantime, I stay in my little bubble. The office, our house, the property, the dogs. Limited exposure, frequent hand-washing, avoiding the sneezing, coughing unwashed masses… and, as I result, I stay pretty healthy. Most of the time.
She started throwing up and out (both ends) and running a fever on Sunday. Frankly, I thought I did yeoman’s duty in the emptying of buckets, fetching clean towels, fluids and more toilet paper; administering over-the-counter medicines (which had, at best, placebic effect on the moderating of her various aches, pains and un-ending bodily excretions); and, in general, being a sympathetic and comforting caregiver, present at all times, assuring her that she was not going to die.
By late Monday my wife was still miserable, but agreed that she was not going to die. The worst was over. There was no more worse to come out and she just lay there on the couch watching Hallmark Christmas movies, the dogs around her enjoying the warm stillness of a sick person’s body.
And then I started to not feel so good. A bit of a headache and nausea. OCD that I tend to be at times, I decided to work out. We have an exercise room with a treadmill, elliptical, and some free weights. After working up a sweat on the treadmill I started to hit the weights and then had to think better of it. Went to the bathroom, the first of many trips to come over the next 24 hours. Resumed the workout, only to take another break shortly thereafter for the same purpose. Deciding that perhaps rest might be advisable, I cut the workout short, cleaned up and decided to go sit with the wife and watch Hallmark Christmas movies.
After about 15 minutes of a Hallmark Christmas movie I felt really sick. And I knew it was more than just the Hallmark Christmas movie that was making me sick. I told my wife that I needed to go lie down. And, thankfully out of the fog of her sickness she suggested that I take “the bucket”. I said, “Not necessary, just a headache and some nausea. I’ll be ok.” She rallied herself and threatened me with “Take the bucket, I am in no shape to clean up your mess…”. So I took the bucket.
Good thing I had the bucket. I got really sick. Good thing it’s a big bucket. Seriously, I got really sick. And for the next 24 hours: no work, no TV, no internet, no phone calls, emails or text messages. If I had not been so sick, it would have been a great vacation. Just me and my bucket and my bed. And my dogs. They abandoned my wife and crawled up around me; now a sicker, warmer body I suppose.
Apparently this bug is making the rounds. With the holiday season upon us this is going to get worse before it gets better. Schools around here are closing. Too many sick kids. Emergency rooms are filling up with people who think they are dying (they are not…well…maybe some will). Someone suggested that perhaps this is just God’s way of slowing us down during the holidays and forcing us to take time for reflection and meditation. I don’t think so. If anything, I think it’s the Devil delivering his version of Christmas cheer to one and all. Forget the Christmas wish list. Just keep a bucket close by.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
Those of you who are old enough or just Steve Martin fans might remember his movie, “The Jerk”. It was a stupid, but in my opinion, very funny movie. In one scene Steve Martin’s character, Navin R. Johnson, is totally excited when the new phone book is delivered (yes, phone books used to be a thing). He jumps around yelling “The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! ….”. And then finds his name in the phone book and proudly points to it commenting that he is now somebody. Spoiler alert, a nut job also randomly finds his name in the phone book and…well…watch the movie.
The is sort of how I feel about the new tax plan. The jerks on the right are excited about their new tax plan and the jerks on the left hate it because they are bound and determined to hate anything the right wants to do. So with Republican majorities the Senate passed their version and the House passed their version. We don’t know exactly what the final version will look like, but we have a pretty good idea. Maybe it’s better than what we have now. There will be winners and losers, but “tax reform” it is not. Not even close.
The monster that is our tax code scares the hell out of politicians and even most economists aren’t really sure what to do about it. They have their ideal models and how things should be assuming this, that and the other. But, considering where we are and how money is earned, spent, saved, invested, taxed and given away...how much do they rock that boat and who wants to do the rocking?
For me the elephant in the room remains government spending and the way we just keep adding to the national debt. The “new tax plan”, whatever its final version, will not fix this problem. As I understand it, they are betting on GDP growth plus they have baked in some “adjustments” in the future which will increase taxes for certain groups. So over time we begin to chip away at the debt. That’s just plain bad management. But, if you can print your own money, why not kick the can down the road? And if getting re-elected is more important than doing the right and responsible thing, why not kick the can down the road?
The New Tax Plan is here! The New Tax Plan is here! And the Jerks are still in charge.
“Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.” - Steve Martin’s character from the movie The Jerk.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Financial and family circumstances forced my Mother to get a job when I six years old. This was way back in the Leave It To Beaver days when more women stayed home than worked. It was the Mad Men era as well. Women often got hired based on how they looked and how they dressed. My Mother was a good-looking woman. She got a job as a secretary with a small real estate company in Fort Worth. It was a good place to work and for the most part they treated her right. Almost like family. But the owner’s son, only a year or two younger than my Mother, was always flirting and teasing her. One of the male real estate sales agents, a retired air force officer, also tended to say and do a lot of things that crossed the line. My mother had a thick skin and was no prude, but I know it eventually got to her. She even complained to my Dad and then had to spend the next few years convincing him not to go down to the office and kick some ass. But, I think the men in her office knew that the threat was there. After my Dad died unexpectedly in a construction accident, she decided to change jobs and went to work in customer service for a chemical company. Is it any wonder?
My first wife worked in a bank. She was young and attractive and she was sexually harassed. Even to the point of being cornered in an office by her boss, a young VP only a few years older than me. She fended him off. This was in a day and time when women didn’t go to HR or complain. “He said-she said” tended to always fall in favor of “He”. But when she finally told me about it, I made a point to drop by the bank and introduce myself to this VP. I was sort of an intimidating looking guy back in those days, 6-2, 225, mostly muscle and bone. I remember smiling, shaking his hand, squeezing it very tight and saying in a whispered growl, “My wife has told me a lot about you. I’d appreciate it if you kept your hands to yourself.” He gulped, adjusted his glasses and mumbled something unintelligible. Not long after that episode, she started getting bad reviews, minimal raises and crappy work assignments. But, eventually things changed. New ownership came in and this jerk along with some other jerks, went off and started up their own bank. Things got better for my wife and the jerks eventually went broke.
My wife now (and forevermore) has worked off and on throughout our marriage. She’s tough as nails and can pretty much take it and give it back. She would have made a great truck stop waitress. But she too has been the object of sexual harassment. Like a lot of women, I think she just accepts it as coming with the territory and has learned not to tell me about it. And, she’s older now. So most of the harassment is coming from real old guys which she finds mostly harmless and amusing. And regardless of their age, her come back is usually along the lines of “You couldn’t handle it” or “Let me check with my husband, I think he’s at the gun range right now.”
I share these stories to make the point that I have witnessed the anger and pain that comes when men harass women in the work place. When men who have power and can impact a woman’s career say and do things that suggest a woman should just go along in order to get along, it’s plain wrong. Always has been, always will be. And even though I went out of my way not to be that guy, I look back at times in my career when I said things to women that probably made them uncomfortable or at least question my motives. And for that, I am truly sorry and apologize.
With all of the sexual harassment revelations, accusations and confessions coming out of entertainment and political circles, a lot of us are thinking back, wondering if or regretting that a comment or a look made a woman feel uneasy or uncomfortable or objectified. At some point, I do think “correctness” in this area is likely to go the way of all “PC” issues…to the extreme. Can you compliment a woman on her appearance? I’d be afraid to say anything today. Can you take a second, perhaps long look at woman? I wouldn’t today. Would you risk being alone in an office or even out on a business lunch with a woman? You may have to as part of your job, but be careful. However, this is the price we pay for years of bad behavior. Eventually we’ll strike a balance and it will be a balance set by those who have been the victims… our Mothers, our Wives, our Daughters, our Sisters.
“I am not your dog that you whistle for; I’m not a stray animal you call over, and I am not, I never have been, nor will I ever be, your “baby”!”
― Joy Jennings, I'm Not Your "Baby": An Australian woman's tortured life of sexual harassment and assault.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
We come to Veterans Day a nation divided. Blue and Red. Left and right. But, hopefully we can agree when it comes to honoring and respecting our veterans. I posted this poem several years ago. I wrote it after attending a local event honoring wounded veterans. It was a moving and emotional event which I will never forget.
Purple Hearts and Roses
They gathered at the Methodist Church.
To honor and read those names.
It is the Heart that brings them together
The Heart, it is all that remains.
They wear their wars on their faces.
Every battle, some won and some lost.
These people know the truth about fighting,
For they have paid the costs.
The greatest generation sits up front.
Old men, some waiting to die.
Fears once felt again remembered,
Yet courage still fills their eyes.
They read the names of the departed.
And place a rose for the fallen Heart.
Each drop of blood is sacred
Each rose sets them apart.
They play “Taps” at the Methodist Church.
A salute to the dead and the dying.
Purple Hearts stand together in silence
With roses these Hearts are crying.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
“What can you say?” is most often used as a way of expressing exasperation or amazement about something or someone. Someone does something really stupid and they have shown this to be a pattern of behavior over time…what can you say? Your favorite sports team blows another game….again…what can you say? Your teenager dies their hair pink…what can you say?
But, for me “What Can You Say?” is becoming a real question. I don’t blog as much as I used to because “What Can You Say”. When it comes to interviewing candidates, new laws are being passed in certain states and cities that prohibit me from asking about compensation history. “What Can You Say?” If you say something that goes against the progressive agenda, you’re a racist or a fascist or a homophobe. “What Can You Say?”. If you say something that isn’t in lock-step with the conservatives, you’re un-American or a socialist or just a mushy-headed liberal, now called a lib-tard. “What Can You Say?”. Admit that you actually voted for Donald Trump and….well, you better just not admit that. What can I say?
Political correctness run amuck. Just about anything you say these days is likely to offend someone, somehow. And with plenty of smart phones out there ready to capture the moment, what you say or do may just end up going viral. And if you put your thoughts in writing, good luck.
For example, I wanted to write something about a recent court case where it was ruled that movie theaters had to accommodate deaf AND blind patrons by bringing in special “interpreters” who can communicate the visual and audio content to the deaf and blind. I am not making this up. (https://www.dallasnews.com/business/business/2017/10/06/cinemark-movie-theaters-must-provide-interpreters-deaf-blind-customers-court-rules).
But, if I say what I really want to say about this, I run the risk of being labeled insensitive toward those who have disabilities. (Can you say “disabilities”? I don’t think so. It’s now ______-challenged or maybe it’s _______-impaired. I don’t know for sure. What can you say?).
We are in uncharted waters when it comes to what we can talk about. The left has their list of targets and the right has theirs. You can say pretty much anything about a target, up to a point. Kathy Griffin found the line not to be crossed when she did the bit on beheading Trump. On the right, you can say pretty much anything about an approved target this side of praying that their children burn in hell.
In this giant field of left and right targets, you’re expected to pick a side and go all in. I’m sorry, that’s not how I see the world. So my options are to say nothing or to say what’s on my mind and live with the consequences. What can you say?
“The two pillars of 'political correctness' are:
a) willful ignorance
b) a steadfast refusal to face the truth”
- George Macdonald
Sunday, October 8, 2017
I wrote the following after the Sandy Hook tragedy in Dec 2012. Rinse and Repeat.
I live in one of the reddest counties in one of the reddest states in America. I am in the old white guy demographic. Most of my friends are old white guys. Last night I was at a holiday party with old white guys and their ageless, forever young-looking wives. (I am not stupid…someone might actually read this.) Conservative old white guys and their lovely, equally conservative wives. The wives talked about holiday plans, family, food, fashion, football, the horrific Connecticut school shootings and gun control. Their husbands talked about local politics, the fiscal cliff, Obama, deer hunting, the drought, football, the horrific Connecticut school shootings and gun control.
Most folks, especially folks from “the Left”, would predict that this crowd is in the “pry the gun from my cold dead fingers” camp. And I guess, to some degree that is true. But only if we are talking about hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols. Maybe it was just the reaction to the latest mass murder, but no one was advocating that citizens had the right to own automatic or semi-automatic, assault weapons (rifles or pistols). Who needs 15, 20 or 30 round clips of firepower? Sure, there are people on the fringes who are preparing for life after the “big one” (whatever the big one might be.) They are storing food, water and fuel. They are armed to the teeth and prepared to defend themselves against the stupid and unprepared masses that won’t be able to survive when the shelves at Wal-Mart are empty. But these “survivalists” are few and the reality is that they will find a way to arm themselves.
What concerns the mainstream, even the conservative, gun-toting mainstream in places like Texas; is the firepower that is now available to virtually anyone with an ID, a little money and a few days to allow for processing the paperwork. We fear that the next mass murder may be in our school or our church or our mall. As I have written in the past, we are not shocked anymore when these things happen. It’s almost become the norm in our society. While we are not likely to stop the crazies from killing people, we can at least take steps to reduce the body count.
The other concern is that every time we have guns used to commit mass murder, we move closer to the extreme position that citizens should not have guns in the first place. Oh perhaps, you can “own” a deer-rifle or a shotgun for hunting. But those need to be secured in a locker somewhere (not your home) and only accessed during hunting season and with the proper licensing and authorizations. Now that’s not going to happen, but when folks in this part of the country hear liberal knuckleheads preach gun control, we fear even the possibility of such controls and limitations of our gun rights.
Last night I heard conservative, gun-owning and gun-toting Texans saying that something has to change. They weren’t spouting the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” mantra of the NRA. They were saying ENOUGH…we’ve had enough and if we don’t crack down on the ownership and possession of certain types of weapons, we are at risk of losing our rights to own and possess any type of weapons. And, we and our children and our grandchildren are at risks of becoming the next victims of a mass murderer wielding guns designed for killing dozens of people in only a few minutes.
I have friends and family who literally hate guns. Don’t own one and would never allow one in their home. I respect their point of view. Don’t agree with them, but respect their viewpoint. I do own guns for hunting, varmint control and self-defense. I live in a rural area, no police patrols and no next door neighbors. If someone decides to enter my home uninvited while I am there, it is very likely that they will be shot. I have more than one gun in more than one place. This is not unusual for people in this part of the country. (And when kids are around the guns are locked up. So if the bad guys hit us when kids are around I guess we're just SOL.) But I don’t need assault weapons with 20 round clips of ammo. If I can’t stop the bad guys with my .357 revolver or 12 gauge shotguns, then I deserve to be a victim. And if my lovely wife goes off the deep end someday and shoots me, I will probably deserve that as well. So don’t blame the gun.
Gun control will be a hot topic for the next few months. Like most controversial issues, the majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle. Those of us on the right have concerns about losing our guns. But we know that something has to be done to restrict the types of weapons and the level of firepower. We understand that there needs to be more extensive background checking and if that means it takes longer to purchase a gun, so be it. Most of those left of center are not for taking our guns away. They are for banning assault weapons and having tighter controls on who can purchase or possess firearms. We must find solutions. They may not be perfect and they may not satisfy either side completely. But, it will save lives.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Exactly one year ago I posted this:
I think it’s fair to say that the “anthem protest” movement has not gone away. What was a fire just got a load of “Trump Regular” poured on it and has turned into a blazing inferno.
My opinion hasn’t changed. I think the athletes are undermining their cause and alienating the very audience they could influence if they expressed themselves in other ways. But, this is America and it’s their right to protest. While their employers could fire them if their actions are “unreasonable” and legitimately damage the enterprise, I don’t think any team owners are inclined to fight that battle in this day and age. And I don’t see sponsors pulling out over this.
The NFL has a bigger problem: Most of the games are really boring. Attendance is down. Who wants to spend so much money to watch a boring game? Viewership may also be down. I’m not sure anyone knows given all of the different media options that now exist. And then there are the questions about concussions and the dangers associated with the sport. And if that were not enough there always seems to be a headline about some player beating up on their wife or girlfriend. Colleges and even high schools have their own issues, but they play a more exciting style of football and the fans seem to be more emotionally invested in their teams.
But the real story here is not about football. In September 2017, the real story is that our President has now decided to wade in on this “anthem protest” issue. I guess at this point I should not be surprised . I’m on the record, I voted for him. No way I could have voted for Hillary. In hindsight I should have just written in someone, anyone…ABT. But, I did what I did. It didn’t make a difference in the outcome. Texas was in the bag for the Republicans. And maybe it was for the best that I did vote for Trump. Otherwise, I would be over-the-top in criticizing his behavior. As it stands, I have to hold back just a bit.
But he really is pushing all of The Progressives' Hot Buttons. I don’t think it’s a winning strategy. The battle is always for the middle ground and Trump is losing that battle. Even those of us who lean more to the right than to the left, are frustrated and increasingly worried about his behavior. Those who lean left have quickly moved further away from him. The hardcore Pro-Trumpers are still there, but like Trump, they are stuck. This is a Presidency that is going nowhere except maybe backwards. The deck was stacked against him to begin with and he has continued to overplay his hand time and again.
The Democrats do not have any answers, but will win big in the mid-terms because they are anti-Trump. I have my doubts that Trump will serve out his term and if he does he will not be the Republican candidate in 2020. He might run, but it will be as an Independent or as the head of his own Trump party. If the Democrats can find a semi-moderate candidate they will win the White House. But it’s almost reached the point, where I’m not sure it even matters.
Oh say can you see? I think most of us can. The nation is being pulled apart by the extremists on the left and the right. The debt just keeps piling up and the things that need to be fixed (healthcare, infrastructure, taxes, education, immigration…just to name a few) remain nothing but talking points for the next election cycle. America is still a great nation and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But damn it, we are making one hell of an effort to ruin it.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
A few weeks ago we looked at “ghosting” and how it applies to the recruiting world. “Ghosting”- The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone. Part I introduced the concept and how it looks when the recruiter gets “ghosted” by the candidate. In Part II we’ll turn it around and consider what’s happening when the candidate gets ghosted by the recruiter.
Recruiters ghosting candidates is a big deal. On almost any career-oriented website you’ll find comments from frustrated candidates regarding the lack of communication from recruiters. Whether they are working directly with the company or a third-party recruiter, the reports are similar:
“I submitted my resume and they requested additional information, which I provided. I did not hear back from them. I’ve called and emailed. No response. That’s just rude.”
“I interviewed with the recruiter and they said they would get back to me. I waited a week and contacted them. No response. I’ve called or emailed several more times over the past month and got nothing back. The least they could do is let me know if I’m still being considered or not.”
“I had several phone interviews and they said the next step would be in-person interviews with the hiring authority and other members of the management team. Since then I’ve never heard another word. I’d just like to know what’s going on.”
“I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs and rarely do I get any response. Maybe a computer generated acknowledgement, but that’s about it. I know I’m qualified for these positions. What’s going on with these recruiters ?”
OK, I will be the first to admit that job seekers have some valid complaints about how they are treated by recruiters and/or prospective employers. However, some of the complaints are the result of unrealistic candidate expectations. So we should talk about what candidates should expect and how they should communicate with recruiters, specifically third-party recruiters, aka headhunters.
Let’s start at the beginning. Say you email your resume to a search firm and based on the information available on the firm’s website, it’s reasonable to assume that they may have clients who would have interest in you as a candidate. In that case, at minimum you deserve a confirmation that they have received your information. Beyond that, it’s unrealistic to expect anything more.
Moving on, let’s say that the search firm requests additional information. Perhaps they ask you to complete a questionnaire or profile of some sort. Perhaps even submit references. When you submit that additional information, you deserve an acknowledgement. Beyond that, don’t expect more. Trust me, if the search firm thought they could place you, they would follow up and you would have a conversation with a recruiter.
So let’s assume that you do have a conversation with the recruiter. The feedback you get from the recruiter should fall into one of four categories: No Way, Unlikely, Maybe, or Yes. At least that’s how I approach it. Honesty can be brutal, but I try to soften the blow as much as possible.
A discussion about these four categories is a whole other issue and I think I’ll write a separate post about them. But regardless of which response you get, your expectations with respect to future communication with the recruiter should be realistic. If you’re going to get an interview with one their client companies, that recruiter will contact you. If the recruiter thinks he may have something that will fit and he wants to run it past you, that recruiter will contact you. Beyond that, don’t expect the recruiter to contact you “just to check in”. That may or may not happen. If you want to “check in” with the recruiter, that’s fine. That doesn’t mean every day. Maybe once or twice a month and via email or text. And you do deserve a response to that communication.
Now let’s take it one step further. Assume that you interview with one of the search firm’s client companies. This is where it gets a bit complicated. If it’s just an initial phone screen with an HR person, there may be very little to report. You will give the recruiter your feedback on the interview and the recruiter will make their best effort to get feedback from HR. If it’s positive, most of time there will be confirmation that you are likely moving forward in “the process”. Sometimes, it’s just "your information is being forwarded to the hiring authority”. Could be positive, could mean nothing. And sometimes, it’s just a no. If time goes by before that recruiter gets the feedback and if the feedback is such that no further action is likely…DO NOT be surprised if the recruiter doesn’t contact you. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s reality. Good recruiters are really busy. Again, you should be following up with the recruiter on the status of the opportunity. And that recruiter should absolutely respond to you.
Then there is the grand finale. You go for in-person interviews with the client company. You definitely should expect feedback from the recruiter. But as these things tend to drag out over time, don’t expect the recruiter to contact you weeks later to let you know the company hired someone else. Again, you should initiate periodic contact with the recruiter as to the status of the position and they should absolutely respond to your inquiries.
Here’s the bottom-line. Recruiters are motivated to establish, develop and maintain strong relationships with quality candidates. Recruiters are also very busy and their first priority will be working those things which are “closest to money”. Good recruiters are managing hundreds of candidate relationships and dozens of client relationships. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Don’t be that special snowflake who melts because the mean old recruiter didn’t get back to you. Initiate contact with your recruiter, stay in contact. If for some reason they don’t return a phone call or an email, contact them again. Things slip through the cracks. But if they fail to get back to you after that, you can fairly say that you’ve been ghosted.
“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Monday, September 4, 2017
I’ve been trying to write Ghostbusters Part 2 for about a week now. But all of my thoughts keep going back to “Harvey”. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Houston. It’s a great area full of great people. I can do without the humidity and my DNA is more West Texas. But Houston is Texas. Heck it’s pretty much the birthplace of the Republic.
And Houston is a melting pot. DFW is diverse, no question. But Houston takes it to a whole other level. Every race, ethnicity and religious (or non-religious) persuasion is well-represented there. It is a “global” city and one of the most important economic hubs in the world.
And it is flood-prone. I’ve been down there twice when there were floods. Nothing even close to this, but bad enough one time that I was stuck there for three days. Over the years, they have taken steps to deal with too much water. But, you don’t know what you don’t know, and no one knew it would ever rain this much. Can you prepare for it? Could something have been done. Probably. It only takes money. But no one is much inclined to invest in ways to manage a disaster that has never happened and probably never will.
But then it happens. The critics and second-guessers will be all over this. Once everybody is safe and the water goes down, get ready for the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s. We will learn something from Harvey and maybe the next time, a thousand years from now or next week, we’ll do better. But, honestly I am amazed at how well the city, county, state and federal authorities have handled this unprecedented disaster. And then there are the everyday people. Wow, did they ever step up and show what Americans (and Texans , of course) can do when bad things happen.
Some folks will shake their fists at God and ask how could He let such a thing happen. Some will blame global warming and say they told us so. Some will say this is just what happens when too many people choose to live in a coastal flood plain. And some of us will simply say that we live in a broken world. This is what it is. We can do better and must do better. But chaos, destruction and death are baked into the recipe of the life we live on this planet. And if that were all there is and then it’s over…now that truly would be a tragedy.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Ghosting: The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just "get the hint" and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. (From the Urban Dictionary.)
The term “ghosting” became popular to describe the silent ending of dating relationships or potential dating relationships. No response to texts, emails, phone calls. Just crickets. Not even a Boo! or a KMA.
Now it’s found its way into the business community, especially in the triangulated communication between employers, job seekers and search firms. Let’s be clear on what qualifies as ghosting. If you are a job seeker and you submit your resume to company or a search firm and you do not get a confirmation response of some sort, that is not ghosting. It’s not very professional and reflects poorly on the recipient of your resume, but it’s not ghosting. By the same token, if a recruiter calls or texts or emails you and you do not respond, that is not ghosting. You may have just missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime (probably not) or the chance to build a relationship with someone who might eventually bring you the opportunity of a lifetime; but it’s not ghosting.
Ghosting looks more like this. You have a conversation with a recruiter and express interest in further discussion about new career opportunities. You say that you will get back to the recruiter with some days and times that would work for that next conversation. You might even commit to send a resume. And then you vanish. The recruiter calls you, emails you, texts you and gets nothing back. That is ghosting. However, if you are a candidate whose skills and experience are in big demand, you can get away with it and the recruiters will keep coming back. Or when the day comes when you’re finally ready to grace that recruiter with your time and attention, they will come running…because they see money. It’s just business.
But when the day comes, and it comes eventually for everyone, when those skills and experience are not so highly valued; the recruiters may not come running like they used to. Maybe you’ve had a few too many jobs or got fired or the company you’ve been working for has developed a really bad reputation or maybe it’s just that your career clock is ticking down. When that day comes, you don’t want to be remembered by recruiters as a ghost.
The flip side of the ghost story and one that gets more hits on social media, are the recruiters who don’t communicate with candidates. I’ll talk about those ghosts next time.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
One of my all time favorite comedians, the late Robin Williams, used this line in one of his comedy routines when describing some sketchy characters inhabiting a small town somewhere out in the California desert.
Apparently a lot of people in North America will ask to be excused so they can stare at the sun when the Great Solar Eclipse occurs on August 21, 2017. I guess this is a really big deal since there hasn’t been one like it since 1918. (Although another one is passing through Mexico and the Southern U.S. seven years from now). There is concern that in some places along the path of this eclipse there will be massive traffic jams. Small towns are bracing for an onslaught of SEWs (Solar Eclipse Watchers). Some have predicted up to a billion dollar negative impact on businesses from lost productivity as employees take time off to watch the eclipse. (Note to businesses: Between fantasy sports and gambling you lose at least that much every week, probably twice as much during football season.)
I don’t know, I just can’t get all that excited about The Eclipse. It’s going to be on every news outlet and will be replayed for days. It will be out there on You Tube for eternity. I mean we know how the eclipse works and exactly what it’s going to do. I just can’t get worked up about it. Give me a thunderstorm and lightning, some hail and high winds, a big old West Texas dust storm. That excites me. Shooting stars get my attention. A real UFO would really cause me to take notice. I even like sunrises and sunsets because they look different depending on clouds and temperature and the time of the year.
But a solar eclipse is pretty much the same thing every time. We know when it will happen, where it will happen and what it will look like. So even though it is indeed a rare occurrence, considering that it’s been going on the same way for billions of years and so many of my clients will be watching or doing double duty to cover for those who are watching…. I think I’ll just take a nap.
And then there is this about an eclipse from long ago:
In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., AD 33) there was ‘the greatest eclipse of the sun’ and that ‘it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea. – Phlegon, Greek Historian
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galations 3:28
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, I decided to look back at some of my previous blog entries which addressed the racial divide in this nation. I didn’t realize how often I’ve been moved to write about it. That in and of itself says a lot about the problem. Sadly, if one wrote something every time there is an incident (and some do) you could have a daily blog about nothing but racial conflict (and some do).
Saturday, August 12, 2017
A recent study at the University of Southhampton in the UK has come up with some interesting, counter-intuitive results with regard to neurotic people living a bit longer than the normal, well-adjusted crowd (http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/407963). The study is a mind-numbing read, so I suggest that you just read the introduction and discussion. The statistical evidence that neurotic personalities might live longer is sketchy, but it certainly would lead one to believe that they do not live shorter lives and “may” live longer than the happy people who worry less and take life on the sunny side.
This is good news for headhunters and very good news for those of you who work somewhere in the supply chain. If your job involves the movement of stuff from one point to another, you know that worry and anxiety come with the territory. Rarely does anything go completely as it is supposed to go. I laugh when I hear companies and carriers talk about service levels. Whether the bar is set at 100%, 98%, 95% or something less, I figure that service when measured against the “original” order and across all links in the supply chain is probably less than 70%. And that’s being generous.
My experience when purchasing goods and services is that “service” if measured against 100% buyer satisfaction almost never happens. I honestly cannot recall the last product or service I purchased where everything was perfect. Interestingly enough, one of the most critical, overpriced services we all need at one time or another is among the worst. Healthcare. If something like healthcare can’t come close to getting it right, how do we expect a piece of furniture being made from materials sourced on three different continents, partially assembled on two, finally assembled 1000 miles from point of sale, transferred to a distribution center, shipped via truck to a store or warehouse and finally handed off to a delivery service; to actually arrive at your house as originally planned? Somewhere along the way, something will get screwed up and “the plan” will change.
Service these days is a moving target of constantly changing expectations and commitments. Wal-Mart recently came out with a mandate to their suppliers that every order must arrive On Time, In Full (OTIF) or else. Let the games begin. I promise you OTIF will be redefined and renegotiated on virtually every order and the measure of success will be something like musical chairs. When the product is finally delivered and it’s not 100% OTIF, just make sure you’re not the vendor, carrier, or service provider left without a chair. It will become a game of cover your ass, track everything and point fingers.
This is pretty much the way all products and services are delivered. Nothing ever works exactly like it is supposed to. The directions are seldom perfectly clear and when they are, you’re likely to be missing that one nut or washer necessary for final assembly. Your mileage may vary is BS…your mileage WILL vary. Everything breaks down and fails, thus the Warranty business becomes a huge industry just on its own. There are even warranties on top of warranties. So a lot of us end up playing the “warranty lottery” game, buying extra coverage just in case. Warranties are just a way of getting you to pay extra so maybe that washing machine will do what it’s supposed to do for more than five years…maybe.
So whether you are hunting heads or moving stuff around the world or selling something or buying something; you know it never goes as planned. Those of us who worry about everything know that even warranties are only an expensive band-aid that will leave us with a hollow feeling about the quality of our purchase. And after the repair, nothing is ever as good as new, and it wasn’t all that good to begin with. But we can take some comfort that all of our worry and anxiety may help us actually live longer. Now we can start worrying about having enough money saved up to live out those extra golden years.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
I’ve made some bad purchases in my life. Mostly back in the 70’s. When gas prices were going crazy I bought a Ford Pinto. Hello, Buyer’s Remorse. When it was a thing I got a man-perm. I used to have thick curly hair, so I figured an Afro would look cool and be easy to maintain. Again Buyer’s remorse. We bought an old house and fixed it up. Fixing it up included lime green shag carpet (with some brown and gold mixed in). A decision that should have brought on buyer’s remorse, but I actually thought it looked good at the time. I had similar feelings about the gold plated necklace I wore until I saw an old photograph the other day. Buyer’s remorse AND embarrassment.
Over the years, I’ve bought several items that left me with buyer’s remorse. There’s the expensive, wired up cabinet and universal remote that controls everything when it actually works, which is rarely. So I end up opening doors and drawers, turning things on and off manually. The genius that sold it and set it up says the problem has to do with the way my house is constructed. Something about energy forces intersecting and bad feng shui. Buyer’s remorse.
We went with a tankless water heater when we built our house. What a rip-off. Buyer’s remorse.
I’ve got a garage full of golf clubs, mostly drivers and putters that don’t work right. Buyer’s remorse.
I paid $5 for a Siamese cat one time. Buyer’s remorse
I ended up trading that Pinto for an AMC Pacer. Buyer’s remorse…big time.
And...I voted for Donald Trump….
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Who's gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you
Lord I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes
Yes I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes?
-from the George Jones’ song Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?
There is a lot of talk these days about the ELD mandate (Electronic Logging Devices) and how it will effectively reduce truck capacity. Calculations are being made as to the impact this will have on reducing truckload capacity. The range seems to be from 3 to 7% depending on assumptions about the number of owner-operators and small fleets that will exit the industry and the impact on utilization for those who remain but are just now getting on the ELD program.
I’m inclined to think that the industry has already adjusted, for the most part, to ELD’s. Has it had an impact? Yes. Will forcing all fleets into compliance have an impact? Yes. Will it be the primary catalyst for industry consolidation, higher rates and better pay for drivers? Not so much.
No question the ELD mandate will be the last straw for some small fleets and owner-operators who’ve been hanging on by threads and fingernails and creative paper logs. But these guys have been steadily going under for years. The ELD issue may create a larger wave for a brief period of time. But unless there are some other significant barriers to entry, a new generation of trucking entrepreneurs and disrupters will enter the game.
The real issue for trucking is drivers. And if there is an entry barrier for someone looking to start up or expand a trucking company this is certainly a big one. All other issues pale in comparison. It’s a job very few young people want to do. More money, better roads, more home time, better equipment, more enlightened management, better treatment from customers, redesigning operations to provide for more relaying of loads…there is a long list of factors that could make the job more appealing. But within the realm of reasonableness, I don’t see anything moving the needle on drivers. Truck driving is one of those challenging blue-collar jobs that doesn’t appeal to most folks. Add in regulations, training, licensing and drug testing and there just aren’t enough bodies left in line for the job.
I only see a couple of pools to draw from. One would be immigrants. Bring in more people from other countries who can drive or wish to be trained. Right now the mood in this country is not very favorable toward this approach. But when it gets down to it, people want their groceries, clothing and toys and it takes a truck to make it happen. If that means a Swahili tribesman is driving it, we will adjust.
The other pool comes from the young people who are open to the job but can’t get into it at 18 or 19 years of age. By the time they are old enough, many of them have already found other work. We need to seriously consider putting 18 year olds behind the wheel. There has to be rigorous testing in terms of both skills and attitude. But I’ve met 18 year olds who are more prepared than 30 year olds when it comes to handling the stresses of driving a truck. Age matters, but at some point, it is just a number.
The industry will adjust. There is not just one answer or even two or three. There will be multiple changes that will make the job more attractive and increase the pool of available drivers. But these changes will cost money. Perhaps autonomous trucks will replace some of the miles and do it cheaper. Longer combination vehicles in certain areas could effectively provide capacity. The other wild card is energy. If we can figure out how to move stuff with cheaper energy or a whole lot less of the more expensive energy, that could offset the other cost increases. And, of course, there is the diversion of freight from highway to rail.
But, at least for the next 20 years, I think we’re going to see significant increases in freight costs. The industry will remain extremely competitive and, as always, the cream will rise to the top. Consolidation will occur. I expect market share for the top 10 carriers will triple or quadruple over that time. There will still be a place for smaller, niche carriers. But being big AND being good will be a significant advantage going forward.
Monday, July 10, 2017
“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash. Each of our bodies may occupy only one cemetery plot when we’re done with this world, but a single person’s 102-ton trash legacy will require the equivalent of 1,100 graves. Much of that refuse will outlast any grave marker, pharaoh’s pyramid or modern skyscraper: One of the few relics of our civilization guaranteed to be recognizable twenty thousand years from now is the potato chip bag.”
― Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Remember the old commercial that ran back in the 70’s with the Native American shedding tears over the pollution and litter that was ruining his land (or what used to be his land). Iron Eyes Cody was his name and he captured the hearts of America as did the slogan:
“People start pollution. People can stop it.”
So some people, a lot of people, started hanging little trash bags on the dash board of their cars. Instead of wadding up those food wrappers and paper cups then chunking them out the window as you sped down the highway, you put them in the trash bag. Handling your trash in a responsible manner was cool. Throwing your trash out the window was not cool. Iron Eyes Cody’s tears were a great motivator. (Ironically, he wasn’t even a real Native American. Espera Oscar de Corti, aka Iron Eyes Cody, was born in Louisiana to an Italian father and Sicilian mother.)
But somewhere along the way, our paper cups got too big and wrappers turned into Styrofoam cartons and automobile dashboards became high-tech, cockpit control panels and the only place to throw trash was in the back seat or out the window. A lot of people do not like trash in the backseat, so it goes out the window. Especially when they think no one is watching.
I live out on a country road where no one is watching most of the time. So people throw their trash out on my country road. And it’s not just paper cups, Styrofoam containers, beer and soda cans. I get furniture, clothes, construction materials, cats, dogs, car parts and carved pumpkins. I’ve yet to find human bodies or body parts, but I’m sure that day is coming. Body parts and/or money, it will happen.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and I can assure you that Texas (and Oklahoma) are among the worst when it comes to roadside trash. It must be something that followed our ancestors from the South. The South is just about as bad, but I think it’s reached a higher level on the Southern Plains where the wind must create the illusion that somehow the trash all just blows to a neutral site where it is gathered and disposed of properly.
There’s less trash in the Midwest and the farther north you go the less trash you see. Some of it may be tied to the Germanic and Scandinavian influence in those regions. Even in Texas, the old German communities are relatively neat and clean. West of where I live there are towns such as Muenster where you just don’t see roadside trash and the farms and ranches are all well-tended and proper. But the old Southern Scots-Irish-Anglos that settled most of Texas brought their trashy ways with them. Junk cars, porch furniture (and appliances), stray dogs and a steady stream of trash flying out the windows of their pick-up trucks. My people. You might be a redneck if…..
So I’ll continue to pick-up trash. The little stuff goes in the regular trash. The stray animals get picked up by the county shelter. The big stuff: mattresses, couches, chest of drawers, etc will go up in smoke. My neighbor across the road has a “burn pile” hidden at the back of his property. (You might be a redneck if...you have a burn pile.) So I drive through his pasture over a little hill and down to “the pile” where I will dump the latest collection of abandoned chattel. When there is little or no wind and things aren’t too dry (rarities in Texas) we’ll have a big burn sending no small amount of pollutants into the atmosphere. It's probably not what the environmentalists had in mind back in the day when old Iron Eyes Cody was shedding tears. But it works. Which is the redneck rationale for a lot things.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
In a moment of rare optimism I attempted to drive from Sherman Texas to Fort Worth during the Friday rush hour. If you’ve read previous blog entries, you understand that I am pessimistic about most things, knowing that Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” applies to all human endeavor . But, for some reason, I actually thought I could drive across the northern half of the DFW Metroplex during peak rush hour late on a Friday and only suffer a few minor delays and slowdowns.
I even had a plan. I used to go the round-about way over to Gainesville and then down I-35. But due to construction (which, oh by the way, will never end), 35 essentially comes to a standstill just north of Fort Worth. I hear that people have died of thirst or exploding bladders while stuck there. Instead of highway signs warning of heavy traffic and delays they should simply say “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”. It’s that bad…all the time. So no way, I’m going that route. I’ve made it across the Metroplex on weekends or non-rush periods by simply heading down 75 and taking 121 either to DFW Airport or all the way into Fort Worth. How much worse could Friday rush hour be?
The answer is: As bad as it could possibly be. Compounded by a multi-vehicle accident that essentially shutdown 121 just north of the airport (I guarantee you that a lot of people missed flights), there was no good way to get where I wanted to go. To make matters even more stressful, my wife is over in the passenger seat with her I-phone giving me all kinds of instructions. I decided to give it a try and we only went from gridlock to almost gridlock. Little did I know that “almost gridlock” was as good as it gets during Friday rush hour in that part of the Metroplex.
But having vast local knowledge and minimal patience, I concluded that I could do better than Mr. Know-it-all GPS/real-time traffic conditions/I-Phone Cloud Navigator. Turns out I was wrong. I didn’t find a better way, but I did find out that most every major route that goes anywhere in the Northern half of the Metroplex is under-construction. I eventually ended up out by the Texas Motor Speed Way north of Fort Worth. And even there, running into construction, detours and delays.
Eventually I had to surrender and listen to Mr. I-Phone Cloud Navigator, and he routed me back to I-35. Against my wishes and better judgment, I followed his instructions and ended up stuck in the very same jam I wanted to stay out of in the first place. I could have avoided a lot of frustration and anxiety by just going the old route (82 to Gainesville and 35 to Fort Worth) and ended up in the same mess. But apparently, given where I had traveled in my search for alternative routes into Fort Worth, this was the best option.
We were eventually directed to exit I35 and after a few dubious routings through neighborhoods where I swear I heard gunshots, we ended up at our destination. Missing dinner, but making it just in time for the main event, an outdoor concert. The Fort Worth symphony was doing the music of Pink Floyd. By the time we got to our seats I was numb, but not “comfortably numb”. The drive back, late at night, took less than half the time spent trying to get there during peak rush hour. So in the end, was it all worth the trouble? Of course, the music was great, we got to spend time with old friends and I have another story to tell.
While I can only laugh about the craziness of that rush hour trip, I do wonder what we’re going to do about the gridlock that is crippling our major metropolitan areas. It’s costing truckers billions of dollars. And what is it doing to the poor souls who have to commute every day in the middle of this mess? People either fight the rush hour beast or they go in very early and come home very late, effectively putting in 14+ hour days. It’s insane and no way to live. We have to figure out a better way to transport people and products around this country, especially through our major metro areas. Want to Make America Great Again? Just figure out a way to get from here to there in a reasonable amount of time and in one piece.
Friday, June 16, 2017
“Trump gets a lot done in his first year and drives the mainstream media crazy.”- Neal Click 12/26/16
2017 is nearing the half-way mark and again my annual predictions turn out to be only half-right: “GDP growth at 3%” and “Trump gets a lot done in his first year and drives the mainstream media crazy.” At this point, we’re probably looking at GDP under 2%. And Trump isn’t getting much done, but he is driving the mainstream media (and everyone else) crazy.
I think a lot of us expected better things in 2017. If not from the new administration, at least from the economy. It felt like we might be on the cusp of a breakout from the anemic pattern of 1-2% growth. Apparently not.
I talk to people in all segments of the transportation and logistics industry. This is the most confusing economy I’ve seen in my lifetime. Reports from the transportation/logistics world are all over the map. Some segments are doing well, others are not. Within segments, some companies are doing well and other are not. It really depends on what industries and markets are being served. If you’re closely tied to automotive or “big retail” you’re probably not having a great year. If you’re closer to construction or other types of manufacturing you may be doing ok. If you’re disciplined and not adding too much capacity, too quickly; you’re being smart. If you’re finding ways to play in the e-commerce explosion… profitable ways to play… you’re being smart or perhaps you’re just lucky.
A lot of what’s going on doesn’t seem to make sense. Many large shippers are aggressively going after rate reductions at a time when the long-term capacity forecast would say that rates have probably bottomed out and are very likely to go up. I talk to companies on a regular basis that need to fill key positions, but aren’t willing or able to offer the level of compensation necessary to attract qualified people. At the same time, I see candidates who are unemployed or under-employed, but unable to find new employment because of location or experience or frequent job changes or any number of other random factors.
I think businesses and employees are uncomfortable and uncertain. There’s not a lot of confidence out there. And, that’s not good for the economy. Even where I live in North Texas, as things are about as good as they can be, there is a sense that the most likely direction is downward or at best sideways. In regions of the country where things have not been so good, the mood is even more negative. The anger and frustration that fueled Trump’s run to the White House has turned to malaise. And those who did not support him in the first place have essentially become a lynch mob. Not a good recipe for “Making America Great Again”.
Then there are the fundamentals. Government debt continues to climb and consumer debt is back up to Pre-Great Recession levels. The ‘juice’ created by low interest rates and Fed policy decisions has just about run its course. At some point, one has to pick-up the check. One cannot buy more stuff without cash or credit. And my sense is that we are feeling the effects of this reality. Add in the demographic shift as Baby-Boomers go from consuming to downsizing to retirement, and those generations coming up are unwilling or unable to follow in their predecessors “go big or go home” footsteps; and you end up with low-growth, limited opportunities for marginally qualified workers and an economy that will punish those companies that are poorly positioned or poorly run.
In other words, it’s tough out there. And this may just be the way it’s going to be. Slow or no growth. Changing markets. A nation too divided to move the needle on pro-growth legislation. A workforce unprepared for the new economy yet unwilling or unable to take on “old economy” jobs. But success awaits those willing to adapt, willing to learn and; most of all, willing to work hard. And that’s pretty much how it’s always been.
Some will win
Some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on
Don’t Stop Believin’- Journey
Saturday, June 3, 2017
“Just because a country signs a UNFCCC agreement does not mean the agreement has any legal effect in the country. The Clinton Administration signed the Kyoto Protocol in November 1998, more than six months after the agreement opened for signature. President Clinton never submitted it to U.S. Senate for ratification. In March 2001, President George W. Bush rejected Kyoto and the U.S. never became a party….”
“…Kyoto was legally binding and countries still failed to comply. Non-binding targets in the Paris Agreement will not produce any greater confidence that countries will comply.”
“…from the year Kyoto entered into force until the first commitment period ended in 2012, the U.S. was leading the top twenty economies in the world in reducing emissions without being a part of the Kyoto Protocol or embracing stringent EU style carbon policies.”
From the Senate Majority White Paper presented to the Committee on Environment and Public Works, April 16 2016
OK, so President Trump did what he said he would do and rejected the Paris Agreement. My sense is that the UNFCCC agreement is ill-conceived and not enforceable. That it would do little or no good; and to the extent that it might be followed would likely harm the very economies that are doing the most to support and feed the world. BUT, these days, any agreement that proposes to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases is, de facto, an agreement that must be supported. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or well thought out or enforceable. If its goal is to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, it is something one is expected to support.
All of these CEO’s who are coming out in support of “The Agreement” and condemning Trump for rejecting it, are doing the smart thing. People who support “The Agreement” are much more passionate about climate change than those who do NOT support “The Agreement”. If I am leading a global company or a company that relies heavily on an educated workforce under 40 years of age, it makes a lot of sense for me to support any high profile initiative that “is good for the planet”. It’s a winning position with most of my employees and customers.
And as for all of the other countries supporting The Agreement, they breakdown into three groups. The liberals (mostly Europeans) who know that they have no choice other than to support any climate change program; the poor nations who stand to lose nothing and perhaps gain a great deal if by some miracle The Agreement actually did what it’s designed to do; and, lastly, the big players like China and India who have no intention of making any changes unless someone else pays for it. In the meantime, they will exploit their competitive advantage and keep on pumping out more carbon emissions.
And the media is totally in the bag for any program that addresses climate change. Add in that most of them are anti-Trump, no matter what; and rejecting The Agreement, becomes just another blood in the water feeding frenzy for them.
I’ve written before that I do believe the climate is changing. And it may be changing in ways that will be catastrophic for some parts of the world. What remains unclear to me is how much of the change is man-made. Some of it, no question. And efforts to reduce carbon emissions are a good thing. I’m all for it. But crippling the economies of the most developed countries, transferring wealth to third world nations where corruption and mismanagement will piss most of it away and allowing our largest global competitors to pretty much conduct business as usual seems like a bad deal. And what if we really do reduce carbon emissions significantly and it turns out that it has less to do with climate change that we thought? Probably time to move to higher ground. In the meantime, we should continue to work toward reducing carbon emissions and developing alternative energy sources. But let’s not kid ourselves that something like the UNFCC agreement is going to be the game changer.
My advice to President Trump would have been to just go with the flow. Express your concerns, sign The Agreement and then just ignore it like everyone else will. Your core constituents might howl, but they will still support you. Your opponents would have been caught totally off-guard and forced to consider that perhaps you’re not just a crazy old man with a long red tie and an orange complexion. Remember this…taking care of Mother Earth, even if it's only a symbolic gesture, wins every time.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
When I was in school, 9th grade as I recall, we learned this poem, “In Flanders Fields”. Written after the First World War, by Lt. Col John McCrae, a soldier, physician and poet. McCrae served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the Second Battle of Ypres in Western Belgium.
My guess is that kids these days don’t read, much less memorize, poems about wars or those who died fighting in wars. Someone would be offended or upset and a teacher would likely lose their job for recommending a poem such as “In Flanders Fields”. But these words need to be read and we need to remember.
Saturday, May 13, 2017
God blessed me with a good mother, exceptional grandmothers and a lot of wonderful aunts. I was raised by a bunch of strong, smart, loving women. My mother, my grandmothers and most of those aunts have passed on. No doubt they have things running smoothly in their corner of heaven.
If the woman or women who raised you are still around, thank them and tell them that you love them. For the ones who have passed on, remember them, thank them and tell them that you love them too. They are still watching over you.
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Saturday, May 6, 2017
Well here we are again. Trying to figure out how to provide healthcare for 325 million Americans and who’s going to pay for it. The healthcare problem is challenging, but it’s not all that complicated. It comes down to five basic questions:
_1 Are all Americans entitled to healthcare?
_2 If all Americans are entitled to healthcare, what level of healthcare are they entitled to?
_3 Are all American’s entitled to the same level of healthcare?
_4 How do we control the costs of healthcare and still provide timely, high-quality service?
_5 How do we pay for it?
What we have now is not sustainable? I have the opportunity to review benefit plans as part of the compensation negotiation between employers and candidates. Over the past 5 or 6 years health insurance benefits have changed significantly. Premiums have increased big-time for employers and employees. Some of the premium increases are being offset by increased deductibles and more HMO offerings. In other words, the more “affordable” insurance options now carry high deductibles and are often part of an HMO network (as opposed to PPO networks.)
And if you are already confused, you’re not alone. That’s part of the magic show health insurance has become. Give them Gold, Silver, Bronze options and whatever other metal you can think of; and just maybe no one will figure out what’s really going on. The truth is most people figure it out eventually when the bills come in. They realize they are paying more for less. Or they figure it out when they realize that the HMO option they selected forces them to change doctors, have fewer doctors to choose from and go through a tedious process of referrals and approvals before treatment.
We are where we are, as they say. And it’s time to answer those five questions.
Are all Americans entitled to healthcare? I say yes. It’s just unacceptable that someone would suffer and/or die when there is a medical solution to their condition.
What level of healthcare are they entitled to? Again the standard is if someone is sick, in pain or their life is at risk; they should have access to treatment.
Are all American’s entitled to the same level of healthcare? The key word here is “entitled”. If by entitled we mean “at least” the same level of healthcare and not “only” the same level, then I would say yes. This is not a free country, but we do have freedoms. If someone wants better or more healthcare than they are “entitled” to, and they can pay for it, that option needs to be available.
How do we control the costs? As Shakespeare wrote, “first we kill all the lawyers”. Just kidding, sort of.
But we do have to reduce litigation risks and get physicians away from practicing defensive medicine. Secondly, we need to streamline the “process”. The administrative side of the healthcare industry is way too expensive and inefficient. Third, more emphasis on healthy living. If we are all going to pay for each other’s medical care, we have the right to demand healthier food choices, higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol and maybe a few other things that will really make Libertarians mad. Fourth, open up markets to more insurance providers. No brainer. Lastly, we need to figure out how to fund research and development of new drugs and treatments other than by charging an arm and a leg when they are finally offered to the public. And as part of that, new drugs and treatments should get to the market sooner. The government bureaucrats are unnecessarily driving up costs and delaying drugs and treatments that could benefit thousands of people.
So how do we pay for it? We’re already paying for it. And we’re not getting what we pay for. There will be taxes. Some of us who make more will have to pay more. Some who can’t pay now, will have to pay later. I see us with a “basic” entitlement healthcare program and everyone will have to participate. All physicians will have to take a certain number of “basic” coverage patients at the prescribed rates in what is essentially a managed care system. Then for those who can afford supplemental or umbrella coverage, they get to use the “express lane”. More options, more services, more timely, self-managed and expensive.
This is fixable. Those at the top of the pyramid are going to take a haircut. No way around it. Physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, big pharma, medical equipment and supply companies will get dinged. High income individuals will get dinged. Basic healthcare is a right, not a privilege and we need to make sure that it is there for all of us. And, you’re getting this from a conservative. What is this world coming to?
Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.- Thomas Jefferson
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
John 20: 24-29
I am a believer. But I am also a doubter. And, in my opinion, anyone who says they have no doubts is either dishonest or delusional, or both. The Bible is full of doubters. Almost every major character in the Bible had doubts at some point. So I think God is OK with doubters.
We have doubts when bad things happen to good people. When natural disasters strike. When an innocent child is dying from some terrible disease. When a van loaded with Christian seniors returning from a retreat gets crushed by a pick-up driven by a young man who decided texting was more important than driving. When a job is lost. When a marriage falls apart. When a child raised the right way, goes wrong. When prayers seem to go unanswered. When one ask “Where is God in all of this”? Why is this happening?
Even Jesus himself had a moment of doubt. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed not once but three times that “this cup” might pass. But, he always added these words, “yet not as I will, but as you will…” Jesus was both divine and human and the human side of him was filled with dread. And the human side of Jesus was looking for a way out. That is our human nature as well. And when we look for a way out, doubt is usually right there with us.
Doubting is part of believing. Doubting comes with the territory of being a human being living in a broken world. Easter is a good time for us to think about what we believe, why we have doubts and what we will do with our beliefs and our doubts.
As believers, we live by faith. We surrender to God and say those words from long ago…yet not as I will, but as you will. What other option do we really have? He is God and we are not. I have no doubt about that.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
“He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath
put all my substance into that fat belly of his…” - Shakespeare
So it turns out that repealing and replacing the not-so Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is hard to do. Fixing it may not be any easier. There are those who do not want to take anything away from the current offering. There are those who want to take a little bit away. And there are those who want to strip it to the bare bones. And they all have their heels dug in. This mindset is why we have a $20 Trillion dollar national debt and are pretty much guaranteed to keep adding to that debt as long as we can get away with it. It’s why entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and various other social “safety nets” ; taken together representing almost 50% of federal spending, are untouchable and ever growing. And the unfunded liabilities associated with Social Security and Medicare aren’t even on the books.
There are hardcore conservatives who want to turn the clock back on most entitlements, starting with the Affordable Care Act. The progressives (liberals) only see the need to do more, give more and get more votes in return. There are some moderates in the middle who are doing their best “can’t we all just get along” dance; but it’s not working.
I live in a very red county in a very red state. And I’m mostly conservative, especially on fiscal issues and foreign policy. Not so much on social issues. The sad truth is that this last election cycle was likely the final hurrah for conservatives. Things are changing, even in Texas. In the major metro areas, age and ethnic demographics are pointing left. And this is pretty much the trend across the country. It will accelerate if Trump fails over the next four years and it appears increasingly likely that he will. The Democrats are committed to stopping him and not all of the Republicans are committed to supporting him. Throw in his own craziness and self-inflicted wounds; and the Democrats will gain ground in the mid-terms then regain the White House in 2020 (as long as they don’t select a really bad candidate again).
So what does the future look like? I mean the future from now to 2030. Federal spending will grow along with entitlements, including more funding for healthcare. Taxes are going up. It may not all be in the form of income taxes, but the government has to find more revenues. The debt will increase, but a growing economy may slow down the rate of that increase. America will still be great, but very different. More left turns than right turns eventually puts you somewhere farther to the left. I hope I’m wrong. But there’s an old saying about having the world’s greatest opportunity to screw up the world’s greatest opportunity. We may just be watching the GOP do exactly that.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
I have always been a “mountain person” not a “beach person”. But that may be changing. I recently spent a couple of days on the Georgia coast. My wife and I had visited there over 25 years ago. Our first trip had been to St. Simon’s and this time we opted for nearby Jekyll Island.
We were there in mid-week, before Spring Break and the beaches were empty. Mountain people tend to prefer solitude which may be why I’ve never been much of a beach person. I could never afford to go to a secluded beach. So my beach experiences have been of the Texas Gulf Coast or Florida public beach variety which is akin to Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon. Tolerable if you’re about half-drunk, but otherwise unbearable.
The beach at Jekyll Island was perfect. Walking there at sunrise is a worship experience no matter who or what you worship. It’s just in our DNA. For a Christian, the first light of daybreak says “in the beginning”. The sky, the water and the beach speak of creation. Let there be life. Birds are everywhere. Small island deer stand frozen in the dunes then disappear. High tide has just passed and the waves are retreating leaving signs of life and death on the wet sand. It is as it has been for thousands of years. Ebb and flow, moon and sun.
And I believe there is, indeed, a purpose to all of it. It did not “just happen”. Something does not come from nothing. There is a “first cause”. We call it God. And for Christians it is personal. Life is short, eternity is forever. That beach is somewhere in between. Someday it will all come together. And the mountains will be there as well.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”–John 1:1-3
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
In the Spring of 2016 I decided to drop a few pounds. I used to be 6-2, 225 with those pounds mostly in the right places. I’d pretty much been at that size since I was 18 years old. But over the years, I had gotten shorter and those pounds shifted. One day I looked in the mirror and saw an old man who was 6-1 and 233 with too many of those pounds around the middle and in the dreaded man-boobs. I was still pretty healthy by old man standards. Blood pressure was ok and I worked out regularly. Except for my cholesterol being a bit high, my doctor said “You’re in great shape for your age. Just keep doing what you’re doing but try to drop 10 pounds.”
So I decided to drop 10 pounds. And it wasn’t that difficult. Eat less and up the cardio a bit. Boom, 10 pounds gone. Well, maybe we should drop a few more and see what happens. So we continued to just eat a little bit less and workout a little bit more. Nothing crazy, just less in and more out. A year later I’m down over 25 pounds. Cholesterol is great. Blood pressure is better than OK. Energy level is up. I sleep better and have fewer aches and pains.
And I get questions. Am I ok? Is there something wrong? Nope, just decided to drop a few pounds. Oh...well, that’s good, I guess.
How did you do it? Atkins? Paleo? Weight-watchers? Nope, just ate a little less and increased my workouts from 45 minutes to 60 minutes. Oh...well, that’s good, I guess.
There is a huge industry built around losing weight. There are the diet programs where they claim you lose weight and are never hungry. There are the special workouts where you don’t sweat and just have fun. There are exercise machines that burn more calories faster and allow you to tour the Alps in HD as you go along. There are those annoying Fit-Bit things that tell you how many steps you’ve taken and poke you to get up and move ever so often.
There should be a way to turn “my weight-loss program” into a money making proposition. But most people really don’t want to just eat less and exercise more. We human beings are weak-willed and in a culture of consumption, we see-it, want-it, have-it and, if it’s food, we eat it. And we eat too much. We lose weight and gain it back. We make promises then we break them. It’s true with food, exercise, money, relationships…you name it and we can screw it up.
So one of these days beer and pizza will call out to me and the dam of self-discipline will break. I will say what the hell. Life is too short and who wants to live a little bit longer and not enjoy it. Besides, I can stand to gain a couple of pounds. “My weight-loss program” is just as vulnerable as all of the others to one thing…our choices. But I am committed. I’ve bought new clothes and really enjoy being thinner. Life is good. However, I am keeping my old clothes just in case. For I am, indeed, a backslider by nature. Aren’t we all?
“The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you are off it.”- Jackie Gleason
Saturday, February 11, 2017
I’m already tired of the First 100 Days countdown. All of the news is about the Trump administration and none of it is fair and balanced on either side of the divide. And a lot of Americans just don’t care all that much one way or the other. 40% of our nation’s 231 million eligible voters did NOT vote in the Presidential election. In the 2014 mid-term elections, over 60% of eligible voters did NOT vote.
While there are certainly non-voters who have strong opinions about how the country should be governed, most of them just don’t care. And a lot of the 40+ million who only vote every four years in a Presidential election either don’t care or don’t have a good reason for voting the way they are voting.
Then there are those of us who do vote most of the time. Some are highly committed to a party platform and/or a candidate. But most of us are just trying to figure out which candidate or party will do us the least harm. And by “us” I mean the personal “us”. Me, my family, my community, my company, my customers, my convictions. Some of us vote FOR a candidate or party and some of us vote AGAINST a party or a candidate. But when it’s all said and done, we go back to our families, our communities, our jobs, our friends, our convictions and we admit to ourselves that it’s not going to get any better. We pray that it won’t get worse. We know that our government is not too big fail and it’s probably way too big to succeed.
So we are ready for other news. Just the facts will do. We are tired of editorials presented as news. We are tired of celebrities telling us how we should have voted. We want to know the time, the temperature, the traffic report and the scores. Beyond that we pretty much know it’s all fake news or just someone else’s opinion. Most of us 231 million eligible voters are just putting one foot in front of the other… just trying to get home in one piece.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
It’s been said, be careful what you ask for. Well, again we’ve asked for change and we are getting it. Obama’s “Hope and Change” was a trickle compared to Trump’s fire hose blast of “Make America Great Again” executive orders, tweet darts and dust-ups with the media. Trump has taken Washington by storm. Action, action now, is the new normal. That part I like. But, I have to admit that some of the actions are questionable. (The Wall makes no sense…).
Perhaps somethings are meant to move slowly in Washington. There is a reason for checks and balances. Our nation’s founders designed our government to be deliberate and minimally invasive. Over time we’ve managed to make it too invasive and too big. And deliberate has become dysfunctional. But we must remember that it didn’t get that way overnight and it cannot be fixed in a few days, or weeks, or perhaps even 4 years or 8. The world is complicated and it’s dangerous. And it’s more connected than ever.
My advice to our Disrupter and Chief would be to slow down, take a breath. You won the election. Stop campaigning. Rise above the petty squabbles with the media and Madonna; and ignore Saturday Night Live. Step away from Twitter. Don’t go out of your way to piss people off. You’ll do plenty of that by just doing the right things. Pick your battles and allow your opponents to save face. You are holding a winning hand. You have Congress on your side. You are in position to influence the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation. Half of the country hates you and that’s not going to change. Just do your job and make sure that the other half doesn’t end up hating you. How about that?
“In the end, you're measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.”
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Free Will vs Determinism. It’s an age-old debate in philosophy and religion. Whether you believe in higher powers or nothing at all, it’s a subject you cannot avoid. How much control do we really have over our lives? To what extent is our course determined before we are even born?
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one place at one time can result in large differences in the future. For example, a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location.
I don’t know about butterflies, but I ended up being a Texan for a lot of reasons, one of the biggest being the American Civil War. All four of my grandparents’ family histories trace back to the Civil War. Three of four fought for the Confederacy. It’s unclear what the other one was doing, but he was most likely on the Confederate side. Two died during the Civil War. Details are sketchy. What is known is that my maternal grandmother’s family moved to Texas from Kentucky in the 1850’s. After the war began, my ancestor joined a Texas Cavalry regiment then fought and died on the Western Front. He left behind a son who was born in Texas in 1861 and to that branch I am attached.
My maternal grandfather’s family also lost one during the war and it is a story straight out of the movies. They lived in SW Missouri near what is today Branson. The father was killed by Kansas bushwackers. Whether he was fighting for the Southern cause or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, we’ll never know. But the young son and his mother loaded up the wagon and went to Texas. And from that young son, my family tree grew in Texas.
My paternal grandfather’s ancestor joined a Tennessee regiment as did his brothers. One of those brothers was killed, but my ancestor survived. He went back home to Tennessee, started a family and a few years later moved to Texas for better land, more of it and a new start.
And my paternal grandmother’s line goes back to Mississippi and an ancestor who joined the 37th Mississippi Infantry as a youngster, somehow survived and moved to Texas as soon as the war ended. His children were all born and raised in Texas. And the old veteran finally passed away at 98 and is buried in Texas having outlived all of those children.
Not only did all four family streams flow to Texas, but they flowed into a three county region south and west of Fort Worth where their children met and married and had lots of kids and those kids had kids and now here we are. They were country people. English, Scots-Irish and German; more Hill Southern than anything else. Loyal to family, extremely mistrustful of governmental authority, and inclined to bear arms and to use them. Not plantation people, not slave-owners. Like so many, they fought for the South because their friends and neighbors were on that side. For generations mostly Democrats until the Democrats got too liberal. Even still, some continue to vote Democrat just because they always have. Or they don’t vote at all. Baptists, Methodists and Church of Christ all well-represented among them. As prone to violence and alcoholism as to piety and good deeds. For better or worse, I didn’t fall far from that tree.
What if one branch of my family tree had grown in another direction? A decision here, an event there. A bullet missed by inches. One baby dies at birth, another lives a long life with many children of their own. Four families from different starting points move to the same state and settle in close proximity to each other. A great Civil War the common thread. And butterfly wings along the way, even back to the beginning of it all. So there is Free Will, but only in a small corner of one’s life created by forces which determine, for the most part, who and where and what we are or can become. It’s humbling and frightening to think about such things. But it’s also necessary. Necessary for perspective and necessary for faith. Most of all, it’s necessary for forgiveness. We’ll not figure out the mystery or the meaning of it all in this life, nor perhaps in the eternity to come. And that’s ok. It’s probably more than we could handle anyway.
“The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.”– Numbers 14:18
Saturday, January 7, 2017
I think the American people should express their preferences, and we'll accept their choice.
So the Russians have been reading our mail and using it against us in ways that are most likely to benefit their national interests. How dare them do such a thing. Since when did countries start spying on other countries? And who would have thought that a rival might resort to cheating in order to gain an advantage? This isn’t the NFL. No one could have anticipated that Vladimir Putin would turn into Bill Belichick.
Welcome to cyber warfare. The Democrats seem to be doing most of the whining, but all of us should be concerned and embarrassed about getting hacked by the Russians. We should also be concerned and embarrassed about the information revealed from those hacks. But we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just politics as usual. And the Russians, or someone else, likely have a lot of dirt on the Republicans and are just waiting for the right moment to use it.
I think there are several lessons to be learned here. First, make every effort to protect your information. Second, before you hit the send button, consider how you would feel if your email ended up going public (or became part of the discovery process in a legal proceeding.) Third, be prepared for negative news about public figures. And lastly, be prepared for it to be twisted and used according to the bias and agenda of whoever is putting it out there. Propaganda is never used fairly, especially when it has supporting evidence.