End of a Decade...

Is this something to reflect on? I'll ponder it.


Quote of the Week...

When asked if she needed a break from holding Joelle when she was crying my grandmother replied, "I like holding a crying baby just as much as holding a happy baby."

Now that is refreshing.


From Around the Web...

I am home on paternity leave so in between my daughter's naps and feedings I've been doing what I like to call "putzing" around the internet.

Here are some articles:

American Babies Are Ruining Everything -- It amazes me that people think this way. I guess growing up in small town Dillsburg, PA and going to a pre-dominantly technical/business university I didn't get exposed to a lot of liberal/progressive social ideas.

What If Washington Were a Ghost Town -- I have had a non-sexual crush on Peggy Noonan for many years. And although I think she has spent two much time on the Upper East Side losing touch with the reality, her columns are worth reading.

Medical Care Confusion -- I also have a non-sexual crush on Thomas Sowell

The Exodus of Shame and Dignity -- And I have an all out crush on Dana DiDonato.


City View...

From the Penthouse on Bond Street - NYC


Joelle Grace...


Obsessing over Government...

On second thought why get all worked up???

This is what we want to paint on the wall in the baby's room.

Ali Spagnoli designed this for us.



I'm just thinking out loud here (actually in print): Is it the right thing for us to say thank you and have a small amount of gratitude for those who have the highest percent of their income taxed to sustain the spending habits of our politicians in our federal, state and local governments?

The grandiose scale of government would not be possible without these people.

If they decide that their hard work and personal sacrifice is no longer worth it, there will be serious problems, not just for the politician's re-election chances, but for those whose welfare is depend on government assistance.


City Views...

50+ Stories up (touch it...go ahead, touch it)



Yesterday I had to endure one of my least favorite things to do - get a haircut. All my life my hair has never really cooperated; it is a struggle to style it, gel it, fix it, etc...the hair goes where it wants to go and I've become okay with that. Laura however does not concede as easily as me. You wouldn't think it but something as simple and insignificant as a haircut often causes marital strife. Yesterday was no exception. What is simple and insignificant for me, not for her.

A typical dude haircut should not be that difficult; a 20 minute task that costs about 12 bucks + a tip. Every time I go to a barber it looks like I got run over by a lawnmower or they are sending me to Iraq. High and tight pretty much sums it up. So now I endure the uncomfortable environment of a salon. I hate walking into those places. It is just not my scene. Typically I will get a good intentioned girl right out of cosmetology school who instead of high and tight wants to make my hair crooked and uneven with maybe a few chunks missing - depending on how much she is talking to me. I can't win.

The futility of it all has caused me to seek consolation in my beautiful, well-groomed wife who makes me appointments at the place she gets her hair done. This adds a twist to the ordeal: now besides getting a haircut I also have to endure getting shampooed. I really don't want anyone washing my hair. It is awkward and redundant because I just washed it 30 minutes before I walked through the door. Plus it reminds me of washing my dog Peppy (RIP) as a kid. I finally get comfortable with it and this time they throw me off by giving me a dude. Yeah, I have this dude dressed in a tight vest with no t-shirt underneath lathering me up and scrubbing me down. All I see is arm pit. It is B.S.


Atlas Shrugged...

Reading fiction is not all that interesting to me. I think I have read 5 fiction books in the last 10 years. I am trying to incorporate them into my reading habits to exercise my mind and escape from political issues and religious dogma.

Honesty, I feel too ignorant to analyze the book. I probably need to reread it and let it sink in. I feel competent to make a few comments.

The story was great - all 1000+ pages of it. I enjoyed the characters personality and how the author used words to describe there actions and reactions. I laughed out loud a couple times (humorous laughs and laughs of disbelief). Every spare moment I had I opened this book, i.e., on the train to work, waiting for subways, on the subway, waiting for Laura to get ready, etc. People who always had a book open were an enigma to me. Now I can understand.

"Redistributing the wealth" and "spreading it around" are phrases we have heard a lot over the past year. Atlas Shrugged gives a window into the way these people think which is really unknown to me. I can't believe some people believe it is moral to take (tax) one person to give it to someone else. I understand the necessity of taxes but to to want more and more to redistribute is very disturbing to me.

The book inspires me even more to invent something. I studied Civil Engineering in college. My first job was in construction management with a consultant that worked mostly on state DOT projects. I was so bored that I had to quit (but it took me a year to do it). I remember my manager asking me how it was going and during the course of the conversation he says, "well we can't all be rocket scientists." That attitude really should appall us.

There are two things that I want to invent (or create): a school (because i believe that the public school system will become irrelevant) and a way to make existing home energy efficient & self-sustainable.


City Views...

Upper West Side (105th Street), 5 stories up, looking south (with an eastish twist).


Word of the Day...

Somnambulist - a sleepwalker (courtesy of Dictionary.com and Ayn Rand)



This how much our schools in Babylon, NY spend per student. The national average is $6058 per student according to Sperling's Best Places. Many people are leaving Long Island because of the taxes. Since I have always rented I never really paid much attention to property taxes. Now that we want to buy a house we are seeing how the taxes significantly reduce the affordability of a home (well I should say a nicer home).

So I have been thinking about how i can get involved to monitor this situation. It would be hard to imagine taxes ever going down unless people started building/buying more expensive homes increasing the tax revenue. I guess budgets could be cut but this rarely happens right?

It is my understanding that Babylon is a union free school district. I'm not sure the impact that has on taxes. I do like the educational philosophy of the school board:

The Board of Education is dedicated to educating students to develop desired moral, ethical, and cultural values, to stimulate and expand a continual learning process and to cultivate an understanding and appreciation of the rights and responsibilities of American citizens, which will enable them to function effectively as independent individuals in a democratic society. The Board strives to maintain a comprehensive approach to satisfy the educational needs of the students of the district by meeting or exceeding the state's requirements.

The Board seeks to implement a variety of instructional methods and to increase the opportunities for the development of each individual's capabilities and personality. It is the district's goal to foster in students good work habits, integrity, self-discipline, individual creativity, originality, aesthetic appreciation, good sportsmanship, self-confidence and a sense of purpose. Extracurricular activities will be offered when possible to enhance the academic program.

The Board encourages parents and teachers to offer their expertise in helping to develop a school environment that is academically challenging, psychologically satisfying and socially fulfilling for students at all levels. The objectives of an educational program are best realized when mutual understanding, cooperation, and effective communication exist among the home, community, and school.

They stress the individual...very interesting and also the rights and responsibilities of American citizens. Wow.

Long Island is an expensive place to live so I get why we need to spend more per student. I think it should be the school boards goal to have every parent involved in the education of the students. Good schools raises property values. There is a school board meeting Monday night. I want to go but looking over the minutes from past meetings it doesn't look like they do too much. Maybe there will be light refreshments.


Double Feature...

After a full week of work and a Friday night dinner date Laura and I watched Gran Torino. I have been wanting to see this since I first saw the trailer and it was part of a deal - I see "He's Just Not That Into You" and Laura will go with me to Gran Torino. It never happened until last night. What a great movie. It makes me want to live a better life.

As I was still processing the story, Laura suggested we watch "Changeling". She had already seen it in the theater and really wanted to watch it with me. My emotions can only handle a limited amount of manipulation so I didn't really want to watch another movie but I agreed. I can't believe it is a true story. I have been trying to figure out my beliefs on hell and judgement, doubting that there is an actual place called hell where people go. Watching this movie makes me doubt those doubts, and tepidly hope for such a place. Not just for the murderer, but for the liars, deceivers and manipulators of innocent souls.

We are just getting around to watching the movies that were up for Academy awards. There just isn't time during the week and we are usually traveling on the weekends. Our cable company offers movies "On Demand" and we have been taking advantage of this service. A movie costs $4.95 so it is like going to Blockbuster. So far we have seen "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Reader", "Man on Wire", "Gran Torino" (no nominations), and "Changeling".

I have no idea how the Academy decides/chooses/selects its award nominees but it seems these two movies were overlooked. Slumdog Millionaire had an energy and excitement that these two movies lacked. And I think it helped the the main characters were Muslim orphaned by the religious persecution of a dominant minority which set them off on their life journey. Whether or not it earned "Best Picture" is up to the experts. I saw it twice and glad it won.

The Reader was not at all what I thought it would be. The full frontal nudity and Kate Winslet seducing the 15 year old boy caught me off guard. I though she would be "the reader" helping blind children or something. My cynicism leads me to believe she won best actress cause she played a character who got naked, indulged a teenager's sexual fantasies, became a Nazi and killed Jews. Was her acting really that good? I don't think so. But what do I know?!?!

Maybe we will watch "The Wrestler" next. Honestly I thought Mickey Rourke was the Macho Man Randy Savage. I don't know if I was disappointed or relieved when I found out otherwise.

Snap into a Slim Jim, O yeah!!!


Intersection of Faith and Will...

I have been reading Bill O'Reilly's book "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" on my grandmother's recommendation. O'Reilly is someone I respect but I do not watch or listen to his radio or tv programs. I did a few years ago but today I only tune in now and then when Dennis Miller is on. Hilarious. I did read "Who's Looking Out for You" but I don't remember one thing about it.

"A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" is about how the author's experiences, from his Catholic school days to his climb through the news media, has shaped his personality and how he approaches life. Most people probably don't give a rip about O'Reilly playing stick ball in Levittown, NY, or that he was a news anchor in Dallas, TX. What interests me the most about his story is that as he tells it, it makes me reflect on my own story and examine what I am doing to get to where I want to be.

Right or wrong, what I took from my Christian faith growing up was that we prayed for something we wanted to happen and it was in God's hands. What happened, happened and I dealt with it. I'm not sure why I accepted this way of thinking. This is probably why I do not have many "wants". I just go with it.

There is a proverb that says the purposes of man's heart are deep waters but a man of understanding draws them out. Now I am not going to exegete the word "purpose" here. I will (hopefully not haphazardly) amplify "purpose" into desires, will, passions and dreams. Whether or not this is correct is inconsequential to me because the message is true. I'm not sure how to expand on this at the moment but I believe there is a powerful explosion when the will intersects with faith.


Product Review...

"The more we share the more we have..." (an internet search credits this quote to Leonard Nimoy)

These are a few items I have tried over the past couple of months and wanted to share:

I bought the Iron Gym with a gift certificate I was given as a Christmas present. It is about 50 bucks and well worth it. I don't have a gym membership and because of time constraints on my schedule, probably never will. I may never need one again with Iron Gym. It does leave marks on a white door frame but that is my only compaint.

To supplement the Iron Gym, Laura bought me The Perfect Push-up for Valentine's Day. I was skeptical of these but I actually really like using them. I have not been very consistent but when I have used them I have felt the burn.

This may be a repeat but I can't get enough of the Cholula hot sauce. I like to try all kinds of hot sauces. Cholula is not the hottest but it is the tastiest. I put it on eggs, baked potatoes, rice, even pasta. There must be some chemical in the ingredients that causes addiction because I stock up on the stuff and cannot go without it.

If you want eco-friendly clothes and don't mind paying for it Nau may be something to check out. They recently went out of business and relaunched their products in October of 2008. I treated myself to a few items over the holidays. I say treat because it is expensive compared to shopping at stores in the mall. If you are a regular at Bloomingdales or Armani then maybe you think otherwise. A 100 bucks for a t-shirt is a little ridiculous. Nau has good end of season sales, sometimes even offering 40-50% off. That's when I check in to make a purchase. If you subscribe to their email newsletter "off the grid" you get an early heads up on sales.

I ordered a couple shirts last spring and they mistakenly sent me a double order. When I contacted customer service they told me to keep it or give them to a friend. It was because they were going out of business but still I though it was a nice thing to do. (Maybe that's why they went out of business, giving away product!)


Wisdom calls aloud in the street...

What I am about to post will probably label me a radical. I came across this article, Let's End Adolescence, a couple months ago and it definitely intrigued me.

I do not really have much experience with this other than looking back over my own adolescence and time in school. But it does make sense to me. How much time did we waste in school? And how bad were some of our teachers?

Wisdom calls out to the young.


Seeking to Save the Planet, with a Thesaurus


Walking with Wisdom...

My apologies...Walking with Wisdom has gone negative over the past couple of weeks. The current political climate and the grandstanding of politicians has been too much to bear. However, this is no excuse...we have more self-control and discipline than that. We have just refused to tap into it.

What I love about wisdom is the expanding definition. Wisdom is discipline, knowledge,understanding, insight, prudence, discernment, and discretion. Who does not need/want these? As we intentionally walk in wisdom I believe these aspects of it unfold in front of us.

Discretion is especially important in our current climate of economic tumult and cultural soul searching.

There is something intriguing about being discrete. Maybe it is my personality. Discretion is, hard to believe, very satisfying.

Comedy of Errors...

Nobody messes with Joe



The glory of young men is their strength...

but the splendor of the old is wisdom and experience.

I am far from old but I think I am beginning to understand Shaw's saying "youth is wasted on the young".


Redistribute this!!!

In the words of Eva Gabor, "I just adore a penthouse view..."

Put that in your stimulus package!


Stand in the Gap...

I am trying to wrap my mind around the budget deficits that many states are reporting. New York, for instance, has projected a $16 billion gap. How can you be 16 billion short?

I looked for a man to stand in the gap but I found none...

Not the Chezman. Ready the pitchforks!



One day I want to buy a Porsche. I don't think I ever will but maybe. Right now, I have to put that dream on hold, cause we are having a baby. We just finished registering this weekend. What did people do before Babies 'R Us? So much stuff...do we really need it all? I do see some value in the diaper genie. :)

I felt the first "kick" the other night. No, it wasn't from Laura...the little one kicked my hand and sent a jolt through my whole body. Unbelievable.

Over the past month I have been eating one grapefruit a day. I never ate them in the past but now prefer grapefruit to oranges. I would almost say I am addicted.

I am definitely addicted to Cholula hot sauce. We are hooked up to IV's in the Chez house. Thankfully IHOP has it cause with Laura's pregnancy cravings taking me there every weekend, my eggs over easy never tasted so good.

Experienced the “Dairy Barn” the other night. Every time Laura and I drive by one we point at it and laugh. What is it and who goes there? We drove right up, got our water and ice cream, and drove out. You can even get beer!

Gordon Brown got DVD's.

Doesn't it make sense that the quickest way to get money into people's hands is to cut their payroll taxes? Tax credits are like coupons to me. I hate it when I have to buy two to get one free, or buy a pack of hot dogs to get 20 cents off ketchup. Cutting rebate checks is ridiculous. Why mail out all those checks other than political PR?

When AIG executives get retention bonuses they build summer homes or renovate their townhouse. That gives me and many other people jobs.

Coca-cola…it's not really necessary. How much money is spent on it every year? What if we just stopped drinking it? What would happen? How much money would people save? How many people would lose a job? How much would shareholders lose? It is an interesting question to think about.

Can't wait for warmer weather. I need some sun on the receding hairline.



So I was looking at various investments we have made over the years and it made me think of this proverb:

"Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle."

Or just give it to this guy:



Unfortunately I have to watch American Idol because Laura needs to talk about it for her radio show. Sometimes I can get into it but usually I leave the room when the songs are bad. Here is my prediction of the order the contestants will be booted:

1. Kris

2. Megan

3. Adam

4. Jasmine

5. Michael

6. Alexis

7. Anoop

8. Allison

9. Danny

10. Scott

11. Matt

12. Jorge

And the winner will be Lil.

My formula for picking the winner is talent+looks+likeability+politics.


Chill vs. Crisp...

Someone said to me the other day that this is the winter that never ends. I am getting accustomed to bracing myself for the cold each morning when I walk out the door. The travel mug I use can't even keep my coffee warm. I like the snow but typically do not get to enjoy it. It becomes more of a hassle and mess in the big city.

What I am looking forward to is the change of the season especially when the warmer temperatures try to break through the cold. I love a chilly spring morning when the smell of new grass and flowers is in the air. There is something refreshing in that chill against my skin.

It is similar to the change from summer to autumn but when the warm temperatures become cold I like to say the air is crisp. I'm not sure which one is my favorite, the chill or the crisp. There is definitely more excitement coming out of winter, anticipating spring and summer.

This weekend we turn the clocks ahead. I noticed it is no longer dark when I leave work. Now it will be lighter later. Longer days...another thing to look forward to.


The Mob is Fickle...

So I watched Gladiator the other night cause I wanted to see what thoughts and emotions it would provoke five years later. Definitely a great movie and Russell Crowe is awesome. I love when he tells Commodus that the time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end.

That line went through my head as I saw all the politicians in the Congress on tv the other night.

When will the mob stand up? Or will we continue to suckle?


You gotta laugh at this...

See the video at iowntheworld.com/blog/


Do Nothing Congress...

We wish...



All-star husband...

Passed up the Clint Eastwood movie on Saturday to see "He's Just Not That Into You". Despite numb butt cheeks and being bored at times, it wasn't that bad. The character's personalities and their relationships provided some good conversation for Laura and me. Ben Affleck's character was my favorite because he seemed genuine even though unrealistic.

And I liked how the movie was set in Baltimore, MD.

Unfortunately that is my review.

Hopefully it will be a Gran Torino weekend.



Okay, so it's Ponzi...


Who should decide???

Laura and I had an interesting conversation the other night that took shape from my recent encounters (more like avoidances) of the Children International workers on the sidewalks of Manhattan. I admire their dedication and persistence, enduring the cold weather, wind and snow flurries, trying to persuade people to stop and listen to their cause. Children International is a humanitarian organization similar to World Vision or Save the Children. I did some research to see if they were legitimate and they appear to be.

One of my findings in this search is that their CEO’s salary is over 300k. My immediate reaction was negative. This seemed quite generous to say the least. But the CEO salaries of the other similar charitable organizations (World Vision, etc) were comparable if not more. And I do not want to begrudge anyone’s salary capabilities. I don’t know if that is any of my business.

Neither Laura nor I know the duties and responsibilities of a CEO. Obviously it must be worth 300k or someone would offer to do it for less, right? We started thinking of some local charities and people we know who run them. What do they get paid? What is the job worth?

We didn’t really know how to answer. 50k? 60k or 70k? Long Island, NY is not a cheap place to live. Fifty grand goes pretty quick here.

This conversation is one I have been having with myself since Joe the Plumber brought the phrase “spread the wealth around” out of now President Obama. Is redistribution right? It already takes place in various ways so I guess the question is do we need more of it? If so who decides how much, who the beneficiaries are, and who pays? Another option I have read about is a maximum wage. Again, who will determine this?

Do we really want the government doing it? Elected and appointed officials who fail to report income and pay taxes? I do not think so.

I propose voluntary redistribution. It really is “better to give than to receive”. If enough people take initiative to help those in need, it will become contagious. This cannot be regulated by government, only inspired and made easier by easing the oppressive tax burden. Most of the men and women we elect are multi-millionaires (or their spouses are). They can set the example.

One thing I hope comes out of the Obama presidency is that people will really organize in community against the injustices in our society and a great place to start is with the local, state and federal governments. Oooo…was that a tingle up my leg or I am just Chris Matthews?


When is $1000 not $1000???

When you win it on the radio and the check only says $660.00 because of taxes...buzzkill!!!

In other news, I understand that the passengers who went down in the Hudson River on the US Airways flight were awarded $5000 for their ordeal.  Is one required to pay taxes on money received for pain and suffering?  

Look that up in your 1040 booklet!   :)



2008 Books...

I never was much of a reader, but for some reason after graduating college I started liking books.  At the beginning of 2008 I made a goal to read 4 books a month.  It was an ambitious goal but with a 70 minute train ride to work and another 70 minute train ride back home I thought I would challenge myself.  I didn't make it but I did manage to read 26 books.  Here is the list by subject:

The Four-Hour Work Week by  Timothy Ferriss
Saving the World at Work by Tim Sanders
Busted Budgets and Broken Buildings by Barry LePatners
Refabricating Architecture by Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake
Building Green by  Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

Trump: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received by Donald Trump
Building Wealth One House at a Time by John W. Shaub
Economic Facts and Fallacies by  Thomas Sowelll
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth by Ric Edelman
Applied Economics by  Thomas Sowell

Miles Gone By by William F. Buckley, Jr.
Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza
My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas

A Theology of the Built Environment by T.J. Gorringe
The Divine Omission by Dallas Willard
The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian Mclaren
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias
Everything Must Change by Brian Mclaren

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shleas
The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality by Jerome R. Corsi

A Field Guide to Buying Organic by Luddene Perry and Dan Schultz
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Each book I read was very enjoyable and worth the time (except Refabricating Architecture).  I did attempt to read Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility but just couldn't handle the personalities of the two sisters so I shelved it.  Last weekend Laura made me watch the movie and that was a waste of 2 hours and 16 minutes.  

I did not make any reading goals for 2009 but just ordered 5 or 6 that I want to read. Hopefully I can incorporate more fiction and politics(that is not meant to be a joke). One goal I have is to stop surfing the internet articles and blogs that react to the politics and events of the day.  I have stopped watching the political shows on the 24 hour news networks only to replace that time with the internet version.  This should free up more time to read.

If I had to pick a favorite it would be My Grandfather's Son by Clarence Thomas.  Very inspirational.  One book I would recommend especially with the "economic crisis" is Amity Shleas The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.