Friday, March 31, 2006

The Leaf Blower

It is springtime and time to start cleaning up the yard after a winter of avoiding it. Lots of leaves and brush from last fall has accumulated in the corners of walls and trapped in the branches of bushes as if they were playing hide and seek. Leaves pressed so tightly in corners that even after I rake them out their dark mark is left from the months of blocking the sun and holding moisture. Lastly I plug in my leaf-blower and send them scampering in front of me while I herd them into a place to rake them into a garbage bag.

As I send the herd of leaves running a new power emerges. My electric leaf blower is no match for a new Vegas spring wind blowing a front into town. The Vegas wind is coolish as I feel it on my face and I soon find that I lost control of my herd of leaves. They scatter with a new freedom, some airborne and some simply slipping around my defense. I back up to try to gain control of them again and get the majority corralled into one direction and press forward. The pesky Vegas wind takes them again away from me and I beat a retreat, not wanting to lose the battle and refusing to give up my position in the clean yard. I whip my leaf-blower to the right and then to the left, I position myself in front of the herd and fight the leaves back into submission. I get some of them corralled but, again, the wind takes control of them and they sail around me.

I think I have most of them and quickly I bag them but then I turn and see that not only the escapees but new intruders are covering my yard. I have fought against the wind … and lost. I do a 180 and with the Vegas wind at my back it quickly and easily blow the leaves into the opposite corner and gather them up.

Have you ever felt you were fighting against the wind? Have you ever done battle with a little pea-shooter against a bazooka? As brave and challenging as that might be, I have found it to be generally a waste of time and energy. Sometimes you have to do a 180 to get things accomplished and often that means getting yourself or your pride out of the way. And sometimes you just my have to give up and weight for a more favorable wind to do battle.


I have never lived in a city where there are more “vanity” plates than Las Vegas. Vanity plates are those license plates where you can spell out things like your name or messages. Most will put their names on their plates and you cannot quite figure out what they are saying unless there name is SMITH or JONES. But I like the ones with a message like ISELL4U for a Real Estate Agent or DADYSGRL on a cute, red, small sports car, or 4GIVEN on a pastor’s car. The challenge is to say what you want to say with only 7 characters, either numbers or letters. It is fun to find these plates and try to figure out what they are saying, it is like some Pictionary-like board game my wife and I play as we ride together.

I was driving along in a neighborhood looking for a new friend’s house. I was probably going a little slow, even for neighborhood, kids in the street, cars pulling out of driveways, kind of driving because I was looking for the house number on the houses. Suddenly, with a huge roar of an engine a small black Mercedes blew by me and accelerated out of site, screeching around a corner and onto the main road. I hardly had time to see the thing but I did get a glimpse of its license plate. The vanity plate read IMMAGOD. Let me write that again … the VANITY plate said IMMAGOD! I don’t think I have heard a more aptly put name on a license plate than vanity, when it says “I’m a god.” So I have a few questions for god…

Don’t you think even gods should slow down in neighborhoods when children are playing?

Was that Mercedes given to you? I mean, wouldn’t it be a charitable deduction?

Did you stop the traffic at the intersection where we mortals have to stop at the STOP sign to look for oncoming traffic or did you just KNOW that there were no cars coming?

Do you ever wait in traffic jams?

Do you ever get angry at stupid drivers and LITERALLY damn them?

How is the parking where you live? Do you have a special sign at your parking spot that says, “This space reserved for the Almighty” or something like that?

Have you ever been pulled over by the police? What would you swear by to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth if taken to traffic court?

What do you need with a car anyway?

Is Mercedes the only dealership where you live? What about Saturn?

I am sure I would have many more questions for this person who says he is god but one thing I know for sure. Vanity plates say something about you and I am not sure I would be happy with what that plate says about me.

Feeding the Sparrows

I heard a phrase the other day that just stuck with me. A man was referring to a political maneuver by saying that this plan will “feed the sparrows by supplying the corn to the horses.” What an interesting turn of the phrase, a fascinating metaphor, and a descriptive picture. Now for those of you who never grew up on a farm or have hand any exposure to manure this might not resonate with you. You see … um … how can I put this delicately … corn is not processed through our digestive system, nor is it processed well through that of a horse. So while the horse might love eating corn right off the cob, as we fed it to them growing up, very little of it actually gets broken down and used for energy. That is why corn is ground into a powdery feed for us and our animals. We call it flour; on the farm we just called milled corn “feed.”

Now that you know that, you know that if it is not ground down it shows up again in the horse’s manure and birds come along after and take care of those unused seeds.

The political insinuation in this metaphor was that we “feed” our poor people by “feeding” our rich and the poor only get what was not processed by the rich. But I am not sure that metaphor was a negative thing. One of my jobs in the business world was shipping to Asia. I worked for over a year on a million dollar cost saving plan where we changed from shipping in wooden crates to tri-wall corrugated cardboard. This saved us money on cost of materials, on shipping weight, on volume shipped, and on disposal of boxes at destination. The biggest problem I ran into was that the poor people in this Asian country would not be able to have the wood crates discarded by the company for building their houses (shacks) any more. The Asian destination company had to deal with irate poor sparrows having their “feed” cut off after the “horse” digested it. There was a symbiotic relationship established that was now in jeopardy.

While feeding the sparrows by supplying the horses might be both good and bad we might also be careful “not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


“All humans are naturally free and good but are corrupted by institutions of society” The noble savage as described by Rousseau was born free but “everywhere in chains”

The man was probably a whole lot smarter than me but I believe his elevator never made it to the top floors, he was a few pints low, he wasn’t firing on al thrusters, he … well you get the idea.

I look at what is happening in Iraq right now and I am amazed by the degeneration of man. It is not the society or institutions that are keeping them blowing each other up, it is the people themselves. People full of anger, hatred, revenge and not a little bit of greed. Now I am sure you can say it is the institutions lorded over them by Saddam or the US army, but the fact is they have been fighting like that for hundreds if not thousands of years. It was the institutions that kept them in check for a while. It is not just Iraq and the Middle East the same thing happened when Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia broke up into a million little pieces. Rousseau had it wrong, in fact, he had it totally opposite. It is the institutions that keep people free. Institutions like family, church, and, yes, government or the state.

Old time Las Vegas residents will tell you that when the mafia ran the city there was NO CRIME. Obviously the crime committed by the mafia themselves didn’t count, but you could walk down a street anywhere and not worry about being mugged, molested or mauled. We Americans aren’t immune from our natural corruption. I heard a story recently about a friend who wanted to get rid of a working refrigerator and so they put it out by the road with a sign that said “FREE” on it, hoping someone would come along and pick it up. No one did. So next they put a sign that said “$50” on it and within a few hours it was gone.

The noble savage is a lot more savage than noble I’m afraid.


I had my computer crash this week. It wasn’t just a crash, it was more like a 20-car pileup kind of crash. Yikes, all my data, all my “stuff” was in jeopardy. You never know how much you miss something until you have it taken away from you. My computer is my livelihood and my lifeline to the outside world. I write, I research, I plan, I study, I play … all on my computer. I have three monitors staring at my right now and I am wondering if I should buy another. You just can’t do what you need to do on only one monitor anymore. How can I keep my websites updated and my stock portfolio in check with only one monitor? The worst part about my computer crashing is the fact that I don’t know what is behind the black box. I have a pretty good idea of the capabilities of my computer but I have no real idea of what actually IS my computer. The only thing I recognize is the fan that cools it, everything else is green and glowing like some tamed monster ready to pounce once the black box is opened. My computer geek assured me that the monster was back under control and some geek-speak about DIMMs, BIOS, RAM, and drivers. All I could do was look at him with a slightly dull expression and say, “I don’t know what that means?”

There used to be a time when I could open up the hood of a car and tell you everything that was inside of it. I couldn’t always fix it, but I could come close. Now I open up the hood of the car and I cannot even find the battery any more. I had to go to the Owners Manual to find out where to attach the jumper cables. It directed me to some bolts and body parts of the car that somehow, somewhere connected to the battery. I find myself reading the manual and saying, “I don’t know what that means?”

Kids today laugh about TV’s that weren’t in color, only had 3-4 channels on a dial that “clip,clip,clipped” along as you turned it, and you had to actually get up to change the channel. LP’s have turned to 8-tracks, which turned to cassettes, when turned to CDs which now is MP3 and iPod. Kids now have buds in their ears from their iPod as the text messages to each other while at the same time doing their homework on their computers. Technology is crazy-good , or crazy-bad (think Al Qaeda) and we are all going to be confronted with it whether we like it or not. It’s here to stay even though we might not be. Be informed, be aware and be prepared. I think I’ll still plant a few things in the planters I have outside just in case the grocery store crashes.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Playing the Game

One of my favorite segments of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno is the “Headlines” where Jay goes through some of the funniest headline mistakes, or even non-mistakes. One store will have a big sign saying “Store Closing” and then in a small sign on the same store is “Now Hiring.” There is a picture of a huge billboard that says: “There’s plenty of room for all God’s creatures. Right next to the mashed potatoes.” And finally another advertisement in the paper that says: “Illiterate? Write for free help.”

We all have stories of amazingly funny signs and headlines but what is even more important are the headlines that say things that aren’t in the words. We can say so much by telling the “truth” with our particular bent. Let me use an easy example. If you see a headline that says: “Bush Lies Again!” or “Clinton Too Close to Another Woman!” You can see that what is behind those headlines is more than just the words in the headlines. The first insinuates Bush lied the first time and that you KNOW he lied the first time. The second insinuates Clinton is playing with other women AGAIN, like you know he has in the past. Words are VERY powerful and they tell a lot about you. I read newspapers and magazines every day and I can tell by the headline the bent of the writer. Now I know a lot of writers don’t have control of the titles of their stories but you can tell the bent of the editors if nothing else. While we may not react to “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as a headline, we might react to “Arabs take over US Ports!”

Mark Twain said that there are “lied, damn lies, and statistics.” Which means that statistics are even worse than damn lies? So when you read a headline that says that “Senator’s Approval Rating at new Low” you really don’t even know what that means. When you hear ANY statistic, you must look at it through a critical eye. I could go out and poll drunks and find “80% Polled want Drinking and Driving Laws Repealed, while 15% think cars should include a beer dispenser and the other 5% passed out before they answered the question.”

That’s the game. It’s played out in the news, in politics, AND in your teenagers. “You didn’t say I couldn’t go, you just said you want me to stay home.” You can’t avoid the game but, with experience and open eyes, you can avoid getting played.

Check out the website at

One Small Window

Life whizzes by. It is like you are in a time machine from the movie and every time you glance in one direction and then the other – the scene is totally different. It all looks sort of familiar but … not quite recognizable. The same thing happened this week when I saw a niece of mine that I haven’t seen for years and in those years she grew from a precocious preteen to a young woman. I wonder what happened during all those years the blurred by.

Fitzgerald in his book “The Great Gatsby” says, “Life is better looked at through a single window.” I think that means when we have a singular focus on things we really see them. Choice has tendency to decrease your vision. There is nothing more frustrating for me than to sit by and watch my son flip through 100 channels on the TV. He stops and pauses for a few seconds on one that catches his interest then moves on.

We are the same way in life. We have so many “channels” to choose from that we loose our focus, we loose our vision, and we never really see anything clearly any more. How hard is it to stop and look a person in the eyes, really look a person in the eyes and see what they are really about? To see what really turns them on or off, to see what makes them tick? Instead we flip from channel to channel with our text messages, email, and cell phones.

Take the time this week to sit down with someone over lunch and focus on them. Look them right in the eyes and figure out what makes them tick. Ask questions, remove distractions, and dig down deep. It will be uncomfortable at first but in the end the effort is worth it. You will find life-long friends you never knew you had, you will find depth you never knew was there, and, if that person is your spouse, you will find a passion you thought was long gone. Take some time to look out that one small window.

Check out the full website at

Friday, March 24, 2006

That Little Drip

That Little Drip

Every time I go into the main bathroom in my house I hear it. When I sleep I hear it. If I really want to I can hear it now as I am typing this message. That little drip in my bathtub. I keep thinking that I have to fix that some day. Someday soon I am going to fix that little drip in my bathtub. After all, water is getting more and more expensive in Las Vegas. We live in a desert and I have a drip in my bathtub. There was a time when I even got my tool out and with a wrench in hand I stared at the little drip in my bathtub. I tried to see if it would be a quick fix, a little tightening here, a new washer or a new handle, but nothing I did could stop that little drip. I would have to put in and entirely new fixture.

As I sat on the edge of my bathtub looking at that little drip here’s part of what went through my mind. I have to change the fixture, which means that I have to open up the wall which means I have to take off the tile, break some of them, buy new ones to match, and then take out the drywall which means that I have to buy a 4x8 sheet of that moisture barrier drywall for a little 1x1 section. Then I have to remove the fixture which is probably soldered in on these old fixtures which means I have to take out more of the wall to get a hacksaw in there which means that I have to find a new fixture that will accept copper lines running in it unless I attach and end on it that will allow me to run a flexible line which would be much easier and less hassle. I’ve always hated that short shower fixture so since I am in the wall and have to do repairs anyway I should just raise up the shower spout so it hits me in the head instead of the middle of the back which would mean I have to get a new line up the wall a little taller from the new fixture which also means that I have to repair the hole left by the old shower spout and that is not tile so I have to do some fancy drywalling and finishing there. Which reminds me that my wife wants to get rid of that old tub anyway and put in a new standup shower which would allow me to not have to worry about the tile anyway which would let me tear things apart without worrying about having to put it back together again which means I have to look for some flooring and possibly run into some other “BUGS” under the tub when I remove it which means I have to open up the wall to the outside since the tub is too big to get out of the door of the bathroom and was probably put in before the room was finished which means that I will have to tear open our wall and then re-stucco the outside after I pull out the studs and pull out the tub which means that I will have to replace that old window with a new one but since the color of the new stucco won’t match the color of the rest of the house I will have to paint the rest of the house too, since we have been wanting to do that anyway which means the trim, which is a different color will have to be done first which means I will have to repair a few of those boards on the trip that are getting rotten and bad before I can paint them which means that I have to tear them off and you never know what you will run into when you start tearing off old board on your trim which means I will have to …. And on and on and on it goes, all for a little drip.

A friend of mine found out that his mother had cancer. She is 92 years old and to have surgery and begin a chemo therapy treatment at that age would … well… would be like trying to fix a drip by painting the house. She would probably live longer by managing the drip then she would by the radical surgery.

Someday, someday I will have to get that drip fixed but I know that it won’t kill my house or me. You have to ask: Is it worth fixing that little drip?

Check out the full website at