Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coffee on My Mind

I like Frank Sinatra's 1946 version of The Coffee Song, but this Edmundo Ros version is smooth too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law

I’d cringe on Sundays when I was a young boy staying with my grandparents and my Uncle Pete would head for the house’s sole bathroom, bringing with him the Sunday newspaper.  Now back then those Sunday papers were about the size of a Georgia cotton bale, not the wimpy, thin-as-a-fashion-model things you see today.  So for the next few hours, if I needed to “go,” it was going to have be outside behind the chicken coops.  It's funny what your memory holds on to.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's In A Name?

There are lots of cool made-ups names out there - stage names, celebrity names, sports, music (Gary Glitter comes to mind in that last category), etc.  But today I came across a real name that I would put in the Top 5 of great names:  Iggy Pipitone.  Is that a name that just rolls off your tongue or what?  He's a construction manager with a major food chain. Some guys have all the luck.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I recently finished reading Diné: A History of the Navajos by Peter Iverson. Iverson teaches at Arizona State University and his book is a fairly decent review of the history of the Navajos and how they became the Navajo Nation (Navajos refer to themselves as Diné, which simply means “the people”). The greatest weakness of Iverson’s approach though is his breaking up the narrative into eras (like any good history prof I guess) which are organized as distinct chapters. This chronological approach becomes a bit awkward and disjointed because of the number of (usually) unrelated topical discussions thrown into each chapter.

I knew a fair bit about the Navajos through my consulting work with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, but even with the flaws in Iverson’s approach, I admit I learned a ton more. Iverson has a pretty well-balanced treatment of the “Long Walk,” the forced relocation some 9000 Navajo men, women and children 300 miles to a settlement area outside of their reservation in 1864. Iverson also covers modern economic and political issues - right up to his book’s publication year of 2002. A small tidbit of information that I’m reluctant to label as “trivia” relates to the Navajo art of detailed rug weaving by woman and young girls. As expensive as a genuine Navajo rug is to purchase, as recently as the 1980s women effectively earned perhaps two dollars per hour for their talented efforts and netted in the neighborhood of $2,500 year.

One more factoid (this one not in Iverson’s book): most American Indians prefer being referred to as Indians. We non-Indians tend to assume that Native American is the more politically correct term these days. But when the federal government was planning a national museum, the majority of Native Americans preferred that it be called the National Museum of the American Indian – as it is. Opened in 2004, it sits in a prominent place on the National Mall, close to the Capitol Building. Worth visiting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Makes a Good Party?

So that's why my parties don't turn out very well, you've got to start with PLANNING. Of course!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Better Than Words

Whenever a major tragedy or disaster strikes, like the one we’re seeing unfold in Japan right now, news anchors, commentators, and us mere mortals struggle to make sense of it all, especially when the human suffering and loss of life is so great. It’s understandable that few of know what to say, or how to express our thoughts adequately.

But I heard a news anchor say something the other day that we often hear expressed when a tragic or dramatic event happens – whether that event is national or global in scope, or just besets one individual. Something along the lines of, “This puts life into perspective. At a tragic time like this I’m sure (the affected party) is not worrying about their 401k balance, or the dent their spouse put in the family car yesterday.”

Well, yeah, I’m sure that’s true, but such dramatic statements imply that we shouldn’t worry about such things, that we should always be 100% focused on the “important.” The reality of course that that there are hundreds of things in life that need to be focused on – at least at one time or another – for us to function as individuals, families, employees, etc.

The statements from the news anchor were well-meaning, I’m sure. Maybe they just point out the inadequacy of the spoken language when events occur that almost defy human explanations. At such times, at least when I take the time to stop first and reflect, I find prayer usually fits the situation much better than words.

Hair Stylists Make What??

The Sunday newspaper supplement, Parade Magazine, drives me crazy at least once a year with their “What Salaries Do People Make?” issue. A smattering of random jobs and professions, it really tells you nothing except that some celebrities make $26M a year and some small town barbers take home $22,000, and some auto mechanics in Pougkeepsie make $74,600. Are the individuals named in this special issue representative of their profession? Does the salary figure include overtime pay? What about years of service and education – are those “typical?” And what about geographical differences in salary scales? You’d expect the coffee shop owner in mid-town Manhattan to make more than the coffee shop owner in Manhattan, Kansas, but is his salary the norm for New York City, or is he doing exceptionally better than his comparable peers? We have no idea. All we have from the Parade editors is a wall of black and white mug shots with names, job titles and salaries without analysis. Salary voyeurism is not an obvious virtue in my book.

Now, I belong to a large quality management professional association that does an annual salary survey of that profession each year and presents the data in great detail, sliced and diced, table after table with tons of statistical analysis. Totally geeky. I admit to barely skimming the highlights.

Looking for the fiscal middle ground here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's Nuclear Concerns

Watching the post earthquake/tsunami events in Japan unfold, including the problems with five of their nuclear power generating stations.  Even if the very best scenario develops in the next day or two - and we certainly hope it does - these problems in Japan will have global consequences on the nuclear power industry. Certainly in the U.S., any traction the industry has benefited from in the last 10 years will be reversed - right or wrong.  Hello fossil fuels ... are you still there?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Needed: New Colors

Being in the environmental consulting business, I’m well familiar with being “green.” The Ecology Flag for the first Earth Day was green. A natural association. But before that event we of course referred to money and most anything financial as green, a reference to the color of U.S. currency.

And then there’s St Patrick’s Day coming up soon with shamrocks and that green beer stuff. Local auto dealers in my area combine two greens for sales promotions: “Save green on St. Patrick’s Day.” If they were selling Toyota Prius vehicles they could advertise a triple green play (as a bonus working in the concept of Red Sox spring training which is a popular daily news item hereabouts).

Not to be left out, there’s old adages like “green with envy” referring to a sickly skin tone brought on by a negative emotion. And so on.

This is all too confusing and duplicative. Come on people – this is the 21st century. Surely we can come up with some new colors to represent this digital brave new world we’re in? It’s pitiful to have to use the same terms we did a century ago. Somebody needs to work on this.