Driving I-95 South, with a Hat Tip to David Kanigan

As my wife and I were heading down to Raleigh to visit our oldest son for the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite bloggers, David Kanigan.

David has been blogging on a daily basis for several years, and got started with blogging back in 2011. Many days, he has multiple posts. There are a few themes he keeps coming back to, one of which is commuting, which you can find here. If you take the time to look around his web site and read a few of his posts, you will discover that David has a beautiful way with words, and a unique perspective on the ways of the world. He has been an inspiration to me, and I highly recommend his blog.

Anyway, in the commuting series, David shares his thoughts and observations while commuting to and from work, whether by train or car. He has written several times about his commutes on I-95, and it was those that I was thinking about today.

The first 90 minutes of our trip went flawlessly, and we made it past Baltimore in near-record time. But then after that, things slowed to a crawl, literally, The rest of trip was marked by several delays because of construction.

Fortunately, the delays didn’t seem too bad, since we had each other and Spotify. We did try briefly listening to a book, but neither of us seemed interested after a few minutes.

As to my playlist, talk about being stuck in the 60s and 70s.

We started things off listening to some Boz Scaggs, an old favorite. A Boz Scaggs concert was our first date, and we had the chance to see him again just last year. He’s as great as ever.

We took a break for a while, and then later we played some Electric Light Orchestra. They were one of my favorite groups back in the 70s, and as I listened to them in the car, I realized I had forgotten how great they are. One of my favorite songs is Telephone Line:

Our final musical selection was the soundtrack from the Sound of Music. How can that not put you in a good mood, and help you forget about the traffic jam you’re stuck in. There’s so many great songs/scenes from the movie; here’s a sampling:

It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’ve written about it before.

Given how enjoyable it was listening to music on the way down, I think I might try to put together a couple of play lists for the ride back home.

Thank you again David for the blog inspiration!

Funniest Video I’ve Seen in Quite Some Time

I came across this video on Facebook (I think one of my cousins had posted it), so many of you may have already seen it on Facebook as well. That’s OK, because it’s funny every time you watch it.

I had tears coming out of my eyes when I first watched it yesterday, and then I watched it again today (twice) and each time I was in tears again.

Perhaps because it is so easy to empathize with this guy. I know I’ve felt that sort of frustration, and it’s funny watching his frustration build and build, just like it has for me on occasion (actually just a few minutes ago, but that’s another story).

So without further ado, I present, “Grandpa Is About To Rage”. Enjoy.

 

And the Winner Is…

Morning Consult, “a media and technology company at the intersection of politics, policy, Wall Street, and business strategy” according to its web site, just released its ranking of the most admired employers.

The results are based on surveying over 220,000 adults, and the rankings are broken down by age, gender, education, political affiliation, geographic region, and income level.

The top five overall companies, in order, were

  1. Google
  2. Disney
  3. Amazon
  4. Apple
  5. Microsoft.

If I were to list my top five favorite companies, those would be it. So I guess I’m not too different than the average American in regards to which companies I admire

When broken down into various categories, you can start to see some difference.

For gender, I’m much more closely aligned with women than men. Tesla seems like a cool company, but Harley Davidson probably would not even make my top 100 list.

 

Men Women
Google  Google
 Harley-Davidson  Disney
 Tesla  Amazon
 Amazon  Apple
 Microsoft  Microsoft

For Political Party, I am more aligned with the Democrats, since the other two groups mention Harley Davidson.

Democrat Independent Republican
Google Google Amazon
Disney Disney Harley-Davidson
Amazon Amazon Google
Microsoft Harley-Davidson Disney
Apple Microsoft Apple

For Education, it’s the same five companies for both Bachelor’s and Post graduate degree holders. Less than college includes Harley Davidson.

Less than college Bachelor’s degree Post graduate degree
Google Google Google
Disney Apple Amazon
Amazon Amazon Apple
Harley-Davidson Disney Microsoft
Microsoft Microsoft Disney

For age, I would be closely aligned with the Millennials. YouTube has replaced Apple in the top five (Apple is ranked 7th, after Netflix). As for the Baby Boomers, what’s with Lockheed Martin?

Millennials Gen X Baby Boomers
Google Google Amazon
Disney Disney Disney
Amazon Amazon Harley-Davidson
Microsoft Microsoft Lockheed Martin
YouTube Harley-Davidson Apple

For Income, I’m much more aligned with the middle column, with Tesla replacing Microsoft in the highest income bracket.

Under 50K 50K to 100K Over 100K
Google Google Google
Disney Amazon Apple
Amazon Disney Amazon
Harley-Davidson Microsoft Tesla
Microsoft Apple Disney

For Geographic region, they all list the same five companies, except for the South, which has replaced Apple with Harley Davidson.

Midwest Northeast South West
Google Google Google Google
Disney Disney Amazon Amazon
Amazon Apple Disney Disney
Harley-Davidson Amazon Apple Microsoft
Microsoft Microsoft Microsoft Apple

I’m not sure what all of the above really means, but I’m sure it’s no coincidence that of the top five overall companies listed, all of them except Disney are among the top five most valuable firms based on stock market value. The only company missing is Facebook, which is ranked fifth in market value. I am surprised that it never made the top five in any of the categories noted above (it didn’t even make the top 30 overall, which is all I can see on the Morning Consult web site).

It’s worth noting that Inc. claims that surveys like this are more a measure of brand familiarity and product attractiveness rather than an informed desire to work for a certain company.

Putting that caveat aside, I’d happily work at any of the overall top five companies. As to which would be my favorite place to work, how about mornings at Google and afternoons at Disney.

Is This What Students Are Learning in College These Days?

If someone were to ask you which one of the following terms does not fit in with the others, how would you answer?

Mathematics: the study of topics such as quantity (numbers), structure, space, and change.

Economics:  a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Kleptomania: the inability to refrain from the urge for stealing items and is usually done for reasons other than personal use or financial gain.

Mechanical engineering: the discipline that applies engineering, physics, and materials science principles to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems.

Psychology: the science of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought.

Accounting: the measurement, processing, and communication of financial information about economic entities such as businesses and corporations.

If you answered, “all of those terms, except kleptomania, are subjects you can study while in college”, you would be wrong.

And here’s the proof, in a story from the AP:

A Wyoming college student who told officers she was working on a term paper on kleptomania after she was caught shoplifting faces three felony charges.

The Gillette News Record reports a 23-year-old woman was arrested on June 5 after trying to leave Walmart with nearly $1,900 worth of merchandise.

Court records say investigators later found thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen items in her dorm room. The woman told officers she began shoplifting after being forced to move into a new dorm room, away from her roommate who had many of the household items.

She said she was caught once when she tried to leave Walmart with three flat-screen televisions(you have to admit that sounds pretty impressive).

The woman made an initial court appearance on June 8 and did not enter a plea. A preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday.

I understand the value of experiential learning, but this woman seems to be taking it a bit too far.

It seems like other excuses might have been a bit more plausible. She could have been writing a paper on “the use of cameras to prevent retail theft” for a course in inventory management, or “at what point does one person decide to ‘squeal’ on another person for a wrongdoing” for a course in psychology, or “attitudes about theft across different geographical regions” for a course in data analytics.

But citing kleptomania as the topic for a paper would seem to immediately rouse suspicion, and lead the police to want to investigate things further, as they did.

I don’t think it looks too good for this young woman, but I am grateful that “just” stealing stuff from Walmart is as bad as things get for her.

Can you imagine if she had to write a paper on “The Effectiveness of Primitive Versus Modern Day Weapons”, or “Is Stalking Just the Price of Being a Celebrity?”, or “The Pros and Cons of Torture as an Information Gathering Technique”.

Like I said, just be grateful she was writing a paper on kleptomania.

Anyway, if you are still wondering what item does not belong on the list, it would  be accounting.

All of the others represent topics that would be of interest to other people at a cocktail party.

I’m Thinking about Having an Auction: “Breakfast with Jim Borden”

For the past 18 years, Warren Buffett has held a charity auction, and the winner, along with up to seven of his or her friends, gets to have lunch with Mr. Buffett at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in New York.

The winning bid from this year’s auction, which ended this past Friday, was $2,679,001, which was lower than the record $3,456,789 bid in similar auctions in 2012 and 2016.

Over the past 18 years, the auction has raised over $25 million for the charity Glide, which offers free meals, health care and other services to homeless and low-income people in San Francisco.

I can’t imagine having that kind of disposable income, spending over $2 million for lunch. I like to keep my lunch bill under $2.00.

But sometimes, there might be a payback from such an investment.

Ted Weschler won the auction twice when he was a hedge-fund manager, paying more than $2 million each time. Mr. Weschler was later hired by Mr. Buffett to help run Berkshire’s investments. He and Berkshire’s other portfolio manager, Todd Combs, are expected to take over all of Berkshire’s stock investments after Mr. Buffett steps down.

So it got me thinking; maybe I should start an auction of my own, with the winner getting to spend four hours one morning with me. Of course this would not be a charity auction, unless you think of the Borden family as a charity.

The day would start with a personalized workout, and would feature a combination of cardio, strength training, stretching, and foam rolling.

After the workout, it would be time for breakfast, and my breakfast – a green smoothie – would be a lot healthier than lunch at a steakhouse.

The smoothie would consist of bananas, lettuce, kale, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, protein powder, and chia seeds. It’s the perfect recovery drink from the invigorating workout, and would provide an energy boost for the next several hours.

During breakfast, we could talk about any topic the winner would like; sports, politics, business, the weather, the meaning of life, etc. I would need to know in advance some of the topics the winner would like to discuss so that I can prep accordingly, and if necessary, bring on some subject matter experts.

After breakfast, I would offer a comprehensive financial planning session. The basic gist of the plan will be to put all of your retirement savings into a low cost index fund, like Vanguard’s S&P 500 fund, but I’ll try and make it sound more complicated than that.

The four-hour session will close with a hands-on tutorial on how to juggle and how to make balloon animals. The tutorial will come with a guarantee that you will be able to juggle three balls and make a balloon poodle by the end of the session, or I will offer the tutorial again, at no cost, as often as necessary until you do master such skills.

(Note that if the auction raises over $1 million, I will also include a lunch of oatmeal with almond milk, cinnamon, and blueberries).

So there you have it. I think if you compare what Buffett is offering the winner of his auction versus what I am offering, I think you will clearly see that there is no comparison.

And while Buffett’s auction has an opening bid of $25,000, I would start mine at $25 (to cover the cost of the smoothie and the balloons). If you are a fan of Buffett’s, you know that he is a value investor, and if you do any type of analysis, you will discover that my auction is offering a better value.

So be on the lookout for my auction; perhaps April 1 might be the perfect day to run it…

 

Maybe This Time I’ll Finish It

The book came highly recommended to me several years ago by a Villanova prof I have great respect for. He told me he had been assigning it to his students to read in his Philosophy classes for many years.

It’s hard to get a better recommendation than that, so I soon went to our local library and borrowed a copy. I started to read it, and then for whatever reason, I did not get too far.

That pattern has repeated itself perhaps three or four more times over the past few years, and I just started reading it again a couple of days ago. I think I’ve already read further than I have ever have before, and I am hoping that at some point I get to that critical stage where I just can’t put the book down.

The book is certainly famous enough, and seems to have received a great deal of critical acclaim. Here is an excerpt from its Amazon page:

One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear — of growth, discovery, and acceptance — that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.

Seems like the type of book I would want to read, so I’m not exactly sure why I’ve had trouble finishing it. Usually once I start a book, I’m pretty committed to finishing it. The only other book I’ve had the same problem with is The Three Musketeers.

threemusk

I’ve started that book three or four times in the past year or two, and then I put it down for a few days/weeks. When I go to start reading it again, I realize I have to start from the beginning, since the names are quite hard to keep straight.

Fortunately, this does not happen often. In fact just this past month, I’ve read three great books: The Upstarts, Thank You for Being Late, and How Google Works. We are trying to decide on a book for our Read to Lead program at VSB.

“Zen” is certainly a nice change of pace from those books, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

And if I finish that soon enough, I plan to give Mr. Dumas another shot, since summer is when I typically get a lot of my reading done.

After all, there’s not many things better than sitting outside on a summer day with a good book and a green smoothie…

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Mary (my wife) and I had the chance to spend some time at Chanticleer today, one of the hidden gems of our town.

Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural. It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home.  (from the Chanticleer web site)

We join Chanticleer every year, and like to go several times throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Besides strolling through the beautiful grounds, we usually bring a book with us as well, taking advantage of the many Adirondack chairs spread throughout the property.

Today was our first visit of the year, and when we got to this one section of the gardens, there was a lovely, distinct smell.

I said to Mary, “Is that mint?”

She replied, “I don’t think so. I think it’s cilantro.”

At that point we both realized we had had the same exact conversation last year while walking through the same part of the garden.

It’s nice having shared memories, but it would be even nicer if we remembered them…

The “Science” of Hand Washing

Quick, which if the following factors plays the most important role in effective hand washing:

  • water temperature
  • the amount of soap used
  • time spent washing hands

If you guessed “time spent washing hands”, you are correct. The other two factors had no impact on the amount of bacteria left on a person’s hands after washing their hands.

These results are based on a study conducted at Rutgers University. The researchers found that the study participants had less bacteria after a 10-second lather compared to a 5-second soaping, and hand bacteria decreased even further when they washed their hands for 20 seconds—which is in line with what the US Centers for Disease Control currently recommends (they say to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you lather).

I would have been curious if one of the test conditions had been “no soap used” to see if soap made any difference at all in how clean a person’s hands are after washing their hands.

One repercussion from the study is that perhaps the FDA should no longer recommend a certain temperature, since it appears that the only effect of using higher water temperatures when washing your hands is a higher monthly utility bill.

I’ll Have to Sleep on the Post I just Wrote

Maybe it was the result of watching too much news coverage from the Comey hearing today.

Maybe it was the culmination of months of frustration with what is happening in our country these days.

Maybe it’s being a sore loser from the Presidential election.

Whatever caused it, I just wrote a post that was highly critical of President Trump.

As I was about to hit the Publish button and make it go live, I thought of a couple famous sayings:

When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred. – Thomas Jefferson

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. – Chinese proverb

So I decided to take the advice of Jefferson and the Chinese, and hold off on that post. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish it, but it was useful putting my thoughts down  in writing.

It’s also nice knowing that I actually have a post ready to go at a moment’s notice…

Is This a Bad Omen for the Future of Baseball?

Of the four (sorry soccer) major professional sports leagues in the U.S., I would have to pick baseball as my favorite.

It’s the one I played most as a kid (but not very well), and I could recite the entire Phillies lineup and imitate the batting style of every player. I’m guessing that helped to imprint the sport on my mind. I also enjoy basketball and football, but not quite to the same extent as baseball.

Plus, there’s something magical about going to a baseball game on a warm summer night, sitting under the stars and watching the game unfold.

So imagine my surprise when ESPN just came out with its World Fame 100 Issue, and there were no baseball players on the list.

To compile the list, ESPN reporters from across six continents were asked to identify the planet’s top athletes. Then the director analytics ran nearly 400 athletes through a formula that factored in endorsements, social media following, and Google search popularity.

Some of the highlights of the list, besides the lack of baseball players, were the following:

  • a Chinese table tennis player made the list at number 71
  • 38 soccer players made the list, the highest of any single sport (Ronaldo was number one on the list and Messi was number 3), and more than all Americans on the list
  • 10 tennis players made the list, with Roger at number 4
  • 11 golfers made the list, with Phil Mickelson the highest at number 5
  • 13 basketball players made the list, with Lebron the highest at number 2
  • 8 football players made the list, with Tom Brady the highest at 21
  • 5 fighters made the list, with Ronda Rousey the highest at number 16
  • 4 cricket players made the list – yes, you read that correctly, four
  • 4 race car drivers made the list; it may be my lack of ignorance about race car driving, but I’m not sure why the drivers are considered athletes
  • 2 swimmers made the list – Ryan Lochte and Ning Zetao of China
  • 1 badminton player made the list
  • 0 hockey players made the list, so baseball is not alone

Ben Alamar, the head of analytics at ESPN, believes that the lack of baseball and hickey players on the list shows that such athletes are not international household names. As a result, these players lack global endorsement deals that would put them on the fame map.

While I was thrilled to see two swimmers on the list (I wonder where Phelps would have shown up when he was at his peak), it’s pretty obvious to me that I might be classified as the ugly American when it comes to sports. I think our four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) and its athletes are the biggest and the best, but the above list shows that is far from the case.

I hope this does not mean that baseball could one day fade away (I would be fine if that happened to hockey) due to a lack of international recognition. But it seems that soccer has done pretty well globally despite a lack of popularity for a long time in the U.S.

I think the solution is obvious – baseball needs to start developing leagues around the world, as well as do a better job of marketing its superstars.

If not, it could be strike three…