MARC’S REVOLUTIONARY ECONOMIC THEORY… subtitle: this man should not be blogging!

August 26, 2016

Student holding his head looking at complex math formulas on whiteboard. Problem to solve

I have been working on an economic theory that may have potential to solve many of our country’s money problems. Now, the only thing that doesn’t make sense here is that I stink at mathematics and when it comes to economics and the theoretic thereof, my capacity to think logically is out the door. I admit those kinds of intellectual shortcomings are contrary to anything that must bear up to sound economic policy. With that in mind, I shall plow ahead anyway.  For starters, you must accept that my economic theory is based on emotion.

Yes, I know that the last thing on which you should base money decisions is your emotions. But, think about it, behind most decisions involving a purchase is a sizable amount of emotion. We’ don’t admit that very often, but even when we buy things we rather not have to—like automobile tires—there is some emotional aspect involved. Maybe you like the Goodyear blimp or the Michelin guy or the local tire store that features the boss’ cute little daughter doing the commercials. Or maybe emotions come into play because you merely hate buying things like automobile tires. In this case it’s not the product or service, it’s the purchase itself that stirs the emotions. Regardless, the premise for my revolutionary economic plan is that all purchases have a moderate, if not huge, element of emotion driving them. Speaking of driving, do we even need to discuss how emotions factor into purchasing a car?

I will leave the path I’m on for a moment, to give you some necessary background information. My wife mentioned the other day how she’d like a quick 2-3 day getaway to the west coast of Florida. We live on the east coast. West coasters come here to get away; east coasters go there to do likewise. So, since we have our anniversary coming up in a few weeks, I thought I’d go online and see if I could make reservations somewhere without having to take out a second mortgage. My intentions were good, but the costs were not as honorable. In fact, it was about only one step down from trying to afford Disney World. I punted, figuring I’d think about for a day or more…much more. But then I wandered outside and sat in my thinking chair on the back patio. I got to thinking that we’d probably go to the west coast several times a year if it didn’t cost so much. In fact, because it cost so much, we don’t go at all.   Ah-hah, I thought, and my revolutionary economic policy was born.

Let’s say the hotel cost $100 a night instead of the $250+ most of them charge. Based on the lower cost, we would very likely go to the west coast three, maybe even four times a year. As it is now, we don’t go at all. That means the hotel has made the decision to stick with the $250 rate, which in our case, would represent $500 it’s not getting from us for a two-night stay. But if the hotel were to charge the lower rate, it would get as much as $800 a year. Of course, I realize that I have spent more at the lower rate than if I paid the higher rate and traveled only once…but that’s where the emotional factor comes in. When I go to book a trip, at the moment of impact, I am much more willing to go for $200 than $500. Hence my theory:

Significantly lower prices, ongoing, will lead to more spending, ongoing, thus feeding the economy and placing less demand on wage increases. 

One of my early jobs in life was that of a waiter (today I’d be called a server). The restaurant where I worked had a table section and a counter area. At first I always worked the tables where people were usually ordering full meals and leaving paper money for tips. One day I was asked if I wanted to move to the counter. At first I thought “hell no!” Why should I give up dollar-plus tips for the quarters I saw left on the counter?   Some of my veteran colleagues advised me to give it a try…so I did. I made, at a minimum, twice the amount of tips at the counter. People who ate at the counter rarely ordered full meals. Most, particularly in the morning rush, wanted just coffee and a donut. But the turnover at the counter was so much higher than at the tables, the result was significantly more tips. And too, people who come to the counter may be there every day. Folks at the tables come far less frequently.

People will spend more money when the price is right…and that means lower prices than corporate America is willing to accept. If the latter stopped being so greedy and so narrowly focused on shareholders, it might discover lower prices result in higher sales. The workforce, too, would have to contain its greediness for wage increases. After all, companies cannot be expected to lower their prices and perhaps forfeiting some profit without being able to contain costs.

I know all this sounds too simple for most people to buy into, especially those who control the economy. Sure, fixing the economy is probably a lot more involved, but for us little guys on the spending side it just seems it doesn’t have to be that complex.  I do not think many of us would buy the same amount of goods and services if prices were to be significantly lower…we’d buy more, much more. If we didn’t buy more, we’d buy better. In fact, I might consider taking an upgrade on my hotel on the west coast. An ocean view would be nice.

$$$$$


THE ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP

August 22, 2016

tialogo

It is time that I tell you about the This is America! Foundation. I have been remiss in not doing so, especially since I am on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The pictures featured on today’s posting will come into focus as you learn more about the Foundation’s work and its founders.

orlendouble

Ted Landphair is a long-time close friend and former colleague. We worked together at a radio station in Washington, D.C. for just short of a decade throughout the 1970’s. We rose through the ranks while there, each of us eventually becoming a department head, he News and I Programming. We then went our separate ways, both of us staying in radio and both of us maintaining our friendship. We are retired now…well, I know I am, but I am not so sure Ted is.

featured-farmTed remarried in the late 1980’s and his life, from that point on, would never be the same. That’s because he married the “energizer bunny.” Her name is Carol Highsmith. She also worked with us at the radio station in Washington, but when she left, she changed her career. Carol liked two things: history and taking photographs that would help preserve it. Her first major project that put her in the album titled Soon to be Famous American Photographers, was chronicling the restoration of the landmark Willard Hotel in Washington. It resulted in a lot of media attention, recognition in the architectural restoration community and notoriety among the who’s who in the nation’s Capital. Other similar historical projects followed, along with a growing reputation as one of the country’s outstanding architectural photographers. Simply said, within her genre, Carol Highsmith has become a rock star! But this is just the beginning of the story about my friends, Carol and Ted.

horsetradetripl

Ted’s background as a journalist married well, not only to the lady, but to what she did. The two of them went on to publish a pile of coffee table books featuring Carol’s photographs and Ted’s meticulous text.  Also piling up were enough projects to keep both of them busy for years to come. If you go to amazon.com and do a search for “Carol GreatHallHighsmith and Ted Landphair” you will scroll through four amazon pages listing the unbelievable number of coffee table books they have produced. These feature profiles of many states of our nation, various historic landmarks, monuments in D.C., the World Trade Center, and lots more. It is a jaw-dropping collection of lavish photographic journals. If you like your jaw dropping enough to hit the floor, then google “Carol Highsmith” and get ready to feel inadequate regarding how much of a “doer” you may consider yourself to  be.

Today, Carol and Ted work long hours, seven days a week, as they have been for several years and will continue for many more to come.  They are rarely home because they have many miles to drive, many places to see, many people to meet and many, many pictures to take.  Their SUV is loaded with all the necessary supplies from socks to wide-angle lenses.  Ted serves as driver,  writer, administrative assistant and grip while Carol lugs her gear to incredible heights, through tretchorous terrain and to wherever and whatever it takes to get the shot.

monroetripl

Carol has obviously been inspired by our country’s history, especially its structural content. Her inspiration intensifies as structures–large and small, famous and not, usual or just plain weird–are threatened to be torn down or decay and eventually disappear. She is in a hurry to document them for all the world to see us—you and me and our country—as we exist here in the beginning the 21 Century.

teepeeThrough the years, and through the lenses of other famous photographers before her, Carol came to a decision that she would donate her entire collection of photographs to the Library of Congress so that anyone who wants to use them can do so…FOR FREE!  Thus evolved the concept for the This is America! Foundation whose mission it is to photograph an extensive pictorial “snapshot” of America, state by state.  It will ensure that those who follow us will have easy access to an incredible collection of well over 100,000 views of just about anything representative of the people and places in America today.

As an afterthought for your consideration is the fact that both Ted and Carol are well into their retirement years.  That’s one picture neither one of them quite gets.  See and learn more about this incredible undertaking at http://www.thisisamericafoundation.org/  Contributors are always welcome.

*****


ODE TO HAPPINESS

August 17, 2016

SMILE

I said last time I’d make my next posting something fun and lively.

Yep, no more doom and gloom; I’ll avoid that like poison ivy.

I spoke of the word “mirth” and pondered if anyone says that anymore.

It’s a great word now that I’ve looked it up, certainly not one to bore.

It has a bunch of synonyms like glee and merriment, gaiety and joviality

A bountiful word that makes positive imagery always a happy reality.

So there now, that’s one happy gesture I offer in the spirit of spreading some mirth

In fact I’m sure there are many things you can think of, equal if not greater in worth.

I’m often told I’m the person who sees the glass half empty, but I don’t think that’s true.

I tell them there are lots of things that I think positive and it’s they who haven’t a clue.

Like falling in love and getting married or spending holidays with friends making merry.

Or how about that car you finally paid off or all the smiles in a pint of Ben & Jerry?

And speaking of food, now there’s some fodder for tasty thoughts we can talk about.

Where’s the best pizza? Who has the best fries or what’s your favorite stout?

Shopping makes a lot of people happy too, like buying new clothes or a big flatscreen.

Hey, I remember a great week at the beach when we rented a house sight unseen.

See, it doesn’t take much to think positive thoughts to keep you from feeling crappy.

Unless you’re stuck with no way out and that guy starts singing Don’t Worry Be Happy!

*****

 

 


IT’S ABOUT TIME…AGAIN!

August 14, 2016

Composite of Clock and Calendar

Something is not right here.  This is the third posting in a row that involves the topics of growing old and death.  I sense a theme.  I don’t like themes necessarily, at least this kind of theme.  I prefer spontaneity,  surprise, variety.  I would get off this somber track, but I already contrived yet another rhyme and, as such, we should not let it go to waste, right?  Right?!!  I shall do something happy and mirthful next time…like examine the word “mirth.” Does anyone actually use that word anymore?  Okay, here it is, one last downer…

*****

Time has become my shadowy partner; it forever stalks my mind.

I cannot seem to get ahead of it…it insists on leaving me behind.

There’s definitely a long and short of it as I often reminisce.

I find myself asking, “When was that?” and “When was this?”

The same memory that was years ago can seem like yesterday.

It all depends how I think about it and calculate which way.

The parading past marches on, revealing events both good and bad.

They’re all marked by time I spent, some of it happy, some of it sad.

Now they reside in days gone by; they form my lifetime clock.

It moves relentlessly, pacing forward with every tick and every tock.

I am not the first to be plagued by time’s persistent control.

Others have tried to tame it, shame it or simply cajole

It is not to be tinkered with as it dictates now and then.

It’s not ours to manage, only to keep up with, if we can.

Oh we still use it to regulate our lives and set points along our ways.

When we’re early it just idles by…if late, it’s gone and never stays.

When younger I wasted so much of it, not feeling its grasp so tight back then.

Now it’s of the essence as I watch its every tick, wanting to know when is when.

*****


AGED TO IMPERFECTION

August 11, 2016

oldsissies

I’ve said it here before…my father was a man of science and fact, exceptionally smart and succinct, especially in his later years when he spoke of the aging process. He simply, brilliantly said… “growing old stinks!” Now that I have reached the same era, I have adopted his slogan and, unfortunately, my body continues to back it up.

I am reluctant to discuss my personal wellbeing within the confines of this blog, but I have always maintained that its premise is one of personal expression without barrier, assuming any such disclosure is done so constructively and albeit with some humor in mind…or something like that!

Last night I was soundly asleep when the worst occurred. BTW that, in itself, is a rare occurrence for me—being soundly asleep. I have had a sleep disorder since my mid-thirties. As I age, it, along with numerous other issues, are growing in intensity.

Over the years, I have slept in several strange rooms with a bunch of wires stuck to various parts of my body.  These dictated data to monitors spitting out rolls of graphs the meaning of which I already knew: I don’t sleep very much. I have experimented with just about every sleep aid, both medicinal and mechanical, that doctors have to offer.

Slowly, as I have aged, my lack of nighttime sleep has led to frequent daytime “crashes” as my body declares it has been awake long enough and it finally falls asleep regardless of what I am doing. How rude!

Throughout the latter part of my career I was notorious for dozing during meetings. In fact, it isn’t unusual for me to drift off regardless of what I may be doing. Once I even fell asleep while riding a bicycle. Yes, it is true. I landed in the bushes to the right, luckily, and not into the lake to the left.  I have since been officially diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a condition whereby your body may decide to fall asleep at any time, even if it’s in the middle of a conversation with someone. I haven’t done that yet…well, almost yet.

I usually know when I am prone to “crash” and it is more often when my body is in a quiet mode and basically inactive. A good crash time is when I am doing exactly what I am doing now—sitting at my computer, relaxed and writing. I will often “leave” for just seconds, but long enough to “return” and look up and see a row of whatever letter my sleeping finger happened to be on at the moment. So while I write it is normal to see things like “thisgklx’’’’’’’;’’’’fpppdddpddd……d,fffffffffff” show up in the middle of any sentence. Sometimes, one letter will go for several rows.

I am in a period of adjustment currently. I have a very expensive pill I can take during the day if it is absolutely necessary that I stay awake and alert. I save these for days that I may have a long drive or some important project. Meanwhile, at night I am on a combination of two pills that seem to settle me down to a tolerable level of drowsiness. The only problem is that sometimes the medicine is a little too aggressive and I do strange things. Most of these have the family laughing when I retell whatever episode I was involved in the evening before.

Once I came downstairs in the middle of the night and took all the family pictures off this long bench-like table in the living room. Then I proceeded to put down four placemats, silverware and plates. I must have been expecting guests for a midnight snack. Another time I had gathered up all my bedding and I was walking aimlessly around the house looking for the stairs to the third floor because I wanted to sleep in one of the bedrooms up there. I must have become so frustrated that I woke up and had to laugh at myself because the awake-self knew very well that the house does NOT have a third floor.

There is a floor lamp in the corner of the bedroom. I stood clutching it one night as I slowly became conscience and realized that the bus I was waiting for no longer stops there.

These are the humorous side effects of my ailment. The ones that are not funny are the smashing of my head onto the desk as I unexpectedly fall asleep or unconsciously, once asleep, fall out of bed or a chair. I’ve had several of these incidents. Last night’s fall was the first really bad one.

I was, as previously noted, in bed in a rare deep sleep. I awoke as I felt myself falling, but too late to reach out and brace myself. Instead, I met the floor head-on, actually face-on. I not only felt, but I also heard my nose crunching inside, my forehead whiplashing onto the floor and the back of my neck immediately beginning to sense the painful snap it was forced to absorb. Within seconds blood began pouring from my nose. It was a rude and painful awakening.

Like most young people, older folks with all their physical calamities and collection of pills and appliances used to be merely something observed in passing. Sometimes they were even a source for humor. Not anymore. Growing old is fraught with numerous ailments, injuries, pain and frustration. I now understand why the elderly become so preoccupied with their health issues, many of which would overwhelm anyone both mind and body.

There is also a great sadness that accompanies all this misfortune. It has to do with the acknowledgement that you are no longer young and most of what you have to look forward to are more problems, more discomforts and more pain. Attitude will have much to do with how well you tolerate all that is happening to your body. Remaining positive and having a good sense of humor are critical to coping with the stress. And the less time fretting over it and dwelling on the downside, the better off you’ll be. If you must think about it, then acknowledge it and deal with it. One quick way is to simply, succinctly put it all in perspective and then move on.  For me, that brings to mind three simple words …growing old stinks!

*****

 


THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

August 6, 2016

box-coffin

I have spent much of the past few days looking for some pictures. I know I put them away someplace safe; I just can’t remember where. These are pictures I’ve taken of some of my ancestors’ gravesites. When you get into family genealogy and you start growing a family tree, you begin to get very interested in things like gravestones, personal memorabilia, and those boxes you’ve had in storage or hidden away on closet shelves where they’ve sat unopened for years. Ah, there it is…the topic for today’s posting: death boxes.

Okay, if you believe in heaven, that’s where you go after you die. I am certainly not one to interfere with anyone’s beliefs. But after this week, I’ve come to my own personal conclusion that after you die… you go to the boxes. Hopefully you warrant more than one box. I suppose, however, if you did not have much of a life, or didn’t keep much of your personal paraphernalia, then maybe one box it is.

I have a good load of boxes for both sets of parents, especially my mother. My mother, besides taking dictation and typing letters for the judges and doctors she worked for throughout her life, was a writer. She started at a much younger age than I have. Consequently, there is a good supply of words left behind in my mother’s boxes. These consist of manuscripts, letters, various reports and even autograph books that teenagers of her era used to fill up with witty comments from classmates.

The boxes I’ve gone through this week contain nothing I haven’t seen before.   After all, I originally packed most of them up in the first place. I just haven’t revisited them for a while. They all pretty much contain the same kinds of things—the stuff we accumulate throughout our lives. Documents easily outnumber everything else. There are both birth and death certificates, driver’s licenses, diplomas, various religious declarations, school projects and letters…some love, some not. Speaking of diplomas, my mother’s from Gratz High School in Philadelphia (1932) is incredible compared to how diplomas look today. Hers is on a piece of still very bright white heavy parchment-like paper that’s at least twenty inches wide. It is elaborately engraved and cries out to be displayed and admired.

There are other interesting things to see too, among them lots of old photographs. These can be the real treasure left behind. But more often than not, as it was in my  case, the photographs can also represent hardship and heartbreak. This is because many have faded with time or, more importantly, were never labeled.

In the boxes I have gone through this week, there are magnificent pictures of people of all ages in all kinds of settings, doing all kinds of things. I know most of them must be members of the family…BUT WHO? If I ever offer you a peace of sound advice worth anything at all, it’s this: label your photographs on the back with a minimum of the full names of those present and the date. Those opening your boxes years later will so appreciate your taking the time to do that.

Going through a “box session” revisiting the life of a loved one is a bittersweet task. As you take out each item, it usually comes with some kind of accompaniment. These each unfold in the form of a story you may recall, or an expressive sigh, a laugh or a whimper and more likely an inescapable tear or two.

The paradox these boxes present is not knowing what to do with all the treasure they contain. Lots of it is not usable. Some is actually disposable, although you are reluctant to do so. But a bunch of it…well, most of it, is to be held, observed and explored, remembered and cherished….and then placed back in the box, sealed and returned to the closet for another long span before anyone ever opens it again. Life is a bitch…and then you are boxed.

*****


WHEN WORK ISN’T WORKING

July 31, 2016

classroom and chalkboard

I have someone close to me (I’ll use the reference “CP” for close person) who is going through a rough time right now with an employer.   I don’t want to disclose details at this point because that would be inappropriate. Nevertheless, the situation is reminding me of some similar experiences I witnessed many times throughout my career and the bad taste still lingers.   Events likes these become part of that “baggage” many of us lug around all our lives. I’ve found it’s usually best to park it somewhere and walk away. But, as CP is learning, this is easier said than done. CP is making good effort to get through it, come out clean from it and move on. Ain’t easy. I applaud CP’s fortitude.

When the company you work for has done you wrong, the sequence that follows goes something like this: surprise (unless you knew it was coming), sense of abandonment, anger, resentment, sorrow, depression, healing maybe and, in rare cases…getting even!

Bad bosses and the bad companies they are allowed to represent seem to make up the majority of the businesses in this country. Yes, there are many good companies and good, even great bosses, but they just seem to be far less in number. I’ve worked for both so I well know the difference. And now with the advantage of hindsight, I have an idea of what might help eliminate some of the crap that CP and many others have had to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s not a short-term solution.

Like so many other opportunities lost, our educational system has not evolved with our society. I agree, it is necessary to still teach the basic three R’s, but there are new “basics” these days that wind up being self-taught, often poorly. Like they do at Disney World, every few years the old rides and exhibits are tossed and new ones replace them. The same should go for high school curriculum. For example: the most important subject, I think, that highschoolers should have added to their instruction is what I clump together as “Relationships.” I don’t have this all blocked out yet, but I can see a need to teach young people how to deal with such issues as adversity, diversity, conflict, empathy, sympathy, motivation, team orientation, leadership, subordination, etc. I am sure there are tons more of sub-topics that sit comfortably under the umbrella labeled “Relationships.”

Face it, there are too many of us who don’t know, or choose not to know, how to get along with people. It’s that very concept upon which we were judged in kindergarten: plays well with others. It was followed up by Rodney King’s “Can’t we all just get along.” It’s a simple concept…but a next-to-impossible process.

So, as I set up this mandatory course in Relationships, the focus will be on how best a person can both lead and follow. Why? Because these are the two roles that people will be expected to fulfill once they enter the challenging world of adulthood.

Both the home and working environment involve these roles. At home it’s parents vs. children–leaders and followers, although it’s sometimes difficult to discern which is which. At work, it’s bosses and workers. The dynamics are a bit different at work. One can be fired and told to leave…rightfully so, or not. Meanwhile, no matter how much they may want to, parents usually cannot fire their children.

CP’s problem is not an unusual one in the work environment. I am sure you, or someone you know, has trudged through the same swampland. The problem at work is that too many employers see the company/employee relationship as one-sided. The employee serves at the company’s will and in return receives compensation. The attitude is: I pay you, therefore you do as I want and I can treat you as I want. This is the telltale sign of inexperienced managers who think their role is to squawk a lot and boss people around just for the sake of bossing. What the employer usually fails to acknowledge, let alone understand, is that the employee has a stake in the relationship beyond compensation. If the boss learns how to nurture his workers, they will work harder, become more devoted and subsequently make the boss look good and the company succeed. The employee extends his or her skills and other abilities to the company and the more given over a period of time, the more valuable the employee becomes and the greater the investment he has made into the welfare of both the company and himself. It’s really a two-way relationship.

Sometimes, out of loyalty and work ethic, the employee may have overly devoted himself to the company and passed on other opportunities because of it. I have seen too often where employees who devoted a good portion of their lives—10 or more years—working hard and genuinely caring about the company, wind up being tossed out with no notice and treated as if they never counted nor made a contribution to the company’s success. Adding insult to injury, these people are sometimes even conspired against in the end. The company attempts to make them so uncomfortable that they eventually quit. That can saves the company considerable expense on things like severance pay. The tactic, too, can detour any wrongful discharge claims the employee may have wanted to initiate. These kinds of situations are just one of a gazillions that suggest fodder for a Relationships course in high school.

As they say, “it’s a jungle out there.” But when it comes to humans, the game should not be based on survival of the fittest, but rather on who best made the effort to benefit everyone in the relationship. Imagine how much better our world would be if we were given some tools early on that helped us to be better leaders and better followers. In my next life I think shall be a high school teacher and my students will learn about these things. If they rather have woodshop, they can go to Home Depot on the weekend and learn how to make a picnic table.

*****


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