Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bane of Winning

     Admit it, you bought one, or two or ten.  Lottery ticket or tickets of course.  That half a BILLION dollars.  I did, please see above and nope, didn't win, not even one number.

     Of course, it's fun to think about what you could do with ALL THAT MONEY!  Issues that are a daily, if not hourly concern would (in theory) vanish.  Your kids (and grandkids) could be perpetual students.  For that matter, I could go back to school and bring my fraternity brothers with me.  We could re-colonize our old fraternity and I could even represent us in misdemeanor court for noise violations.  (Oh wait, I don't stay up late any more and complain about my kids' music being too loud.  Never mind...)

     Seriously, everyone I know had the "If I don't come in tomorrow" line on Wednesday.  And that's fine.  It is part of the fun to dream about how your life would change.  And it would.  Of course, it might not be for the best.  As the link below shows, there is the "lottery curse."  People who have won it have suffered deaths of loved ones and other less horrible but nonetheless heartbreaking events.  As the wife of one winner commented, "I wish I would have tore up the ticket."  (Or words to that effect.  (Please see the link below for the precise quote.)

     But what about those who do not suffer tragedies?  There is a strong likelihood that a winner of a mega jackpot will be broke down the road.  Oh and by the way, not decades, but a mere half of one.  I found this quote that sums it up pretty well:

"The researchers, led by Mark Hoekstra of the University of Pittsburgh, found that five years down the line, there were almost no meaningful differences between the big lottery winners and the small. The two groups had comparable assets and debts. But there was one big distinction -- the big winners were more likely to have gone bankrupt, for the simple reason that, as the authors put it, they had "'consumed their winnings.'"

     So be of good cheer if you did not win.  If you think about all the good stuff that is in your life, you are already a winner.  (OK, I admit, it is a trite expression but it is the best I come up with at 9:39 on a Thursday night and I have to be up at 5 tomorrow for mandatory fun (PT) so go with me on this, please. I will end on something I heard from Tony Robbins years (like 1990s) ago.  He was commenting about how he interviewed Sir John Templeton, then one of the richest men in the world.  As I recall the discussion, Robbins said,

     "Sir John, what is the secret to wealth?"

     The answer offered was one word- "Gratitude."

     We are all capable of this so in theory, we are all wealthy, even if we have to go to work tomorrow.  Oh, and we are free of the bane of the lottery win.  Perhaps that is the most priceless thing we can possess.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Silly Season

     Ah, the winter holidays, they kick off with Thanksgiving (granted, it is still technically fall but considering the billions of dollars that was spent on Friday (what's the color it is referred to again?) that sets up for the holiday gift-giving season I'll throw it into the winter holidays.  Besides, it helps to make a better blog post :))  Here's a link to some info on Friday:

     So about the title of this post, The Silly Season.  I recall that in the "Lethal Weapon" movie, there is a scene where Mel Gibson's character is attempting to control a suicidal jumper and in his small talk, refers to this the holidays as "...the silly season," or worst to that effect.  There is a link below to the youtube clip.  (I state all copyrights are owned by the production company who made the movie and/or they are cool with this being on youtube...)

     So here we are, a week away from December, no snow (at least in Eastern Iowa) and yet into the "Season."  It is a time to struggle (and maybe curse) at lights tangled.  (Didn't I make a sacred oath last year to put them away in an orderly fashion?) It is a time to marvel at how our kids can remember their lists the way 1950s bookies could remember bets and spreads.  It is a time to be caught up with nostalgia from all directions.  And yes, it is a time to be overwhelmed.  From social engagements to  juggling "who is at who's house this year" to all the joys the mall is, how could it not be a time for feeling just a bit (or a lot) of craziness.  Perhaps calling it the silly season is being charitable and I do not mean in a red kettle kind of way.

     Then again, it is our choice as to what we focus on this season.  It can be crazy or it can be great.  It can be stressful or it can be time to back up the truck (er sled) and cart away memories.  I do not claim to be an expert on the holidays (or anything else.)  Here is what I do know:

     1.  I have one child who believes in Santa;
     2.  I have another child who is a willing co-conspirator in keeping that myth alive;
     3.  Both of these kids are Jewish by way of their mom/my wife:
     4.  In our house, our Christmas tree went up Friday and today there were potato latkes for dinner;
     5.  My kids put up and decorated my Dad's Christmas tree;
     6.  We will light the Menorah during Chanukah;
     7.  We will have our traditional New Year's party and will start it early this year as making it to 1200 is not that big a deal anymore; and
     8,  I will try to not get stress out (much) and focus on all the wonderfully great stuff in my life. 

     If I can pull that off, it will be a great season, with all the silliness that comes with it.  Come mid-January, I think we'll all wish things weren't so calm,...and cold.

     What are your thoughts on the holiday season?  Is it truly the silly season, a wonderful time, or both?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Few Appropriate Remarks

Author's Note:  This blog post grew out of a Letter to the Editor of the Quad City Times that I was fortunate enough to have published on Monday, November 19th.  Here is the link to it:

149 years ago this Monday (November 19th), a government officer performed an official duty.  He was asked to formalize the dedication of a particular piece of Federal land.  In the invitation to this official, he was asked to offer "...a few appropriate remarks."  The main oration, a formal speech of greater length would be offered by another.  The government official was Abraham Lincoln.  The plot of land was the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg.  His ten lines of prose, a few minutes in length, became known as the Gettysburg Address.  That speech has become vested in our nation's history.  Here it is in its entirety:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
A Lincoln public domain.bmpLincoln Gettysburg Addy public domain.jpg
(Public Domain photos of Lincoln)
Last night, I took my 14-year-old to see the movie Lincoln.  It is a great movie and if you've got kids past grade school (there are some graphic battlefield scenes) take them.  There is a lot to discuss on the way home, including how it was that the continuation of slavery was even open to debate.  Not withstanding the "Hollywoodization" of the story, it still is time well-spent.  Here is the link to the movie:
In the beginning of the movie, the address is featured in a interesting and unexpected way.  Two years after the speech, it was popular with many and over time, its popularity has only grown and with good reason.  It is a part of our American history.  It has even found a place in our not-so-distant pop culture.  ##The iconic opening of "Four score and seven years ago,"  was spoofed in the "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" movie, where President Lincoln was brought back in time declared, "Four score and seven minutes ago, we, your forefather, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friend, Bill..and Ted,  These two great gentlemen are dedicated to  aproportion which was true in my time, just as it's true today.  Be excellent to each other..."
One could take offense to this clearly comedic use of the likes and words of our beloved 16th President.  However, I would offer that Mr. Lincoln would likely laugh loudly at the reference.  Considering how he was pillaged in the press, this would be deemed an act of no ill will, if not affection.  In any event, it shows the staying power of this speech.
It is a terrific speech.  A few years back, I was in Clinton, Iowa for court in my private practice.  I noticed that this speech was displayed in the iron sign often seen dedicating historical venues.  Here in a place where speeding tickets, divorces and on occasion more serious matters are deciding, routine in their own way, is a testament to something not routine.  Even though I wanted to get home I remember pausing to read it and marveled at it.
Lincoln was an orator and a statesman.  Yet he was also the supreme authority of the U.S. military.  The article below from the January 2009 Smithsonian online magazine by James McPherson discusses Lincoln as this wartime leader.  It is a terrific read and discusses how Lincoln determined the national war strategy.  He committed to it, knowing how heavy the cost would be in lives.  He then sought out generals who would execute it. 
Lincoln understood that in order for the United States to not "...perish from the earth...," and to finish, "...the great task remaining before us..." he would have to win the war.  I suspect that when he made those comments in November, 1863 he knew, he was certain, the war would drag on.  It would continue to create rows of crosses and grieving mothers.  Still, he was committed to this cause and with his short address committed the rest of the nation.  It truly was a few appropriate remarks.
Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving, especially to anyone reading this far from home.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Some Truly Good News

It is not hard to find bad news. In fact, thanks to the internet, you are one click away from war, natural disasters, economic pressures and other strive.  In a future post I am going to focus on the The Fund For Peace and its 2012 Failed States Report. That is chalk full of bad news, enough for at least a couple of posts. However, that is for another day.

For this post, I want to share with you what I consider a truly "good news" story. It has nothing to do with the military, the law, or anything along those lines.  And yet, I hope you will come away from this post feeling just a bit better about our world and the young people who live in it.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Ms. Sarah Cronk. I have not met her personally yet I know a number of people who do know her. She is from my town and has done (IMO) a pretty amazing thing. She created The Sparkle Effect.

In a nutshell,this terrific program empowers kids with disabilities with the opportunity to be cheerleaders. Here is the message from Ms. Cronk:

"The Sparkle Effect continues to profoundly change the lives and outlooks of participating students with and without disabilities, replacing insecurity with confidence and joy. In the United States today, athletes are taught to perfect their skills, to conquer, to win. Sparkle Effect teams are not about perfection, they are about connection. Join the nationwide movement that is changing game night in America."

I could go on at length about how neat and cool and wonderful this program is but please do me a favor, just check out the photos on the website. I think you'll get the point. Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, we're back. So from the website you saw what makes this so amazing. Here are what one could argue are two groups in the high school world you would not necessary think would come together. Back in my high school days (in the dark ages of cassette tapes and the Apple II) this would never have happened.

What I find so amazing about this group is that it is both a super idea and it also has a plan to grow. Itis what we in the military-speak call sustainment.  The program continues to grow, reach kids and I might add, the adults who have the good fortune to watch it happen.

As I learned about this program, I recall Sarah mentioning that her inspiration for this program was when her brother was invited to have lunch at the table of the swim team captain. The link below is from ESPN and tells a story on the same lines, although under more dire circumstances. A girl was being bullied and members of the football team stepped up and befriended her. It is another "good news" story.

Back to The Sparkle Effect, this story is something that has many so good points. The story by and far is great and that is enough. However, when you factor in that this was started by a student and grown legs and is now spreading throughout the country makes it even better.  

Robert Kennedy made a speech in South Africa on June 6, 1966. In that speech, he said the following:

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Is this quote a bit much for this program, maybe. Then again, watch the video from NBC news about this programand then decide for yourself about this program:

After watching this, I think that The Sparkle Effect is a true ripple of hope. If this is not a good news story, I do not know what is.  I would go so far as to say it is a wonderfully good news story.  I hope you enjoyed it.  So what is a good news today you have?  Please share it, either here or better yet, through your own blog, I would appreciate reading it, thanks.