Thank you, Captain. . . .

One of my favorite stories relates to Napoleon* — the Grand Emperor of the French Republic.  Napoleon was at a parade of troops outside of Paris.  His Marshalls, his staff and his officers were all present.  As Napoleon was reviewing the troops, a small animal ran from a bush startling his horse.  The horse bucked.  Reared up.  And Napoleon fell backward in his saddle, clinging precariously to the reins.  No one moved.  Except for a young private who sprinted from the lines.  His rifle clattered to the ground.  His hat flew off.  The private grabbed the reins of the Emperor’s horse, unceremoniously shoved Napoleon back into the saddle and snapped to attention. 

Napoleon looked around.  At his Marshalls.  His staff.  His officers.  And then down at the young private.  In a booming voice, Napoleon said “Thank you. . . Captain.” 

The young man – obviously flustered – responded “Of what regiment, Sir?” 

Napoleon laughed.  “Of my personal guard.” 

The story speaks of courage and the occasional need for immediate action.  How often do we “pass by” those who may need help?  Those in trouble?  People who may need a hand?  Someone who needs a kind word?  I dunno – but when I’m confronted by situations like this, the story of the young but courageous private comes to mind.   

*Source – Billy Sunday, the Man and His Message by William T. Ellis

The End of Illness

Dr. David Agus, an oncologist at the University of Southern California, has a new book out — The End of Illness.  In his book, Dr. Agus speaks of the various remedial things we can do to stay healthy (the usual – get up and walk around, frozen fruit is better than fresh if you are “juicing,” take the stairs, avoid some vitamins, avoid stress, and so on). 

However, there was one comment that I found verrrry interesting.  Cancer, he said, can be a product of unremitting inflammation.  Thus keeping inflammation down — or at a minimum — should be a goal.  What can we do?  He recommends a baby aspirin every day.   The baby aspirin – or aspirin in general – does more than just promote heart health, it helps moderate the inflammation which can be a catalyst to more serious maladies. 

I have long carried aspirin in my briefcase and even on the golf course given its palliative effect on heart attacks and migraines (an aspirin will often help relieve the symptoms of a migraine because of its palpable and prompt expansion of blood vessels).   Seems like aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is worth a serious look for more than just heart health.*

*Check with your doctor before taking or otherwise using aspirin.

And Speaking of Conservation

I go to a fitness center two or three times a week.  In the locker room, I see guys standing at the sinks.  Shaving.  They leave the water running full blast.   And they talk to friends.  Shave.  Talk.  An occasional rinse of the razor.  And the water runs.  Good, clean, fresh water.  Full blast.   Down the drain.  

In my post of July 26, 2011, I spoke of my registered trademark — JUST TURN IT OFF.  A trademark I have used in connection with small efforts in the direction of energy and water conservation.   It is something everyone can do.  Easily.  Shaving?  Turn the water on – and off – as needed.  It’s a small thing but it counts.   Shower?  Turn it on, get wet.  And turn it off while you soap down (I think I actually get “cleaner” this way).  Then rinse.  Going from room to room?  Turn off unneeded lights and energy.    Waiting in your car?  Turn off the engine. 

It doesn’t sound like much but just think if everyone saved one gallon of water a day.  That’s 300,000,000 plus gallons of clean, fresh water.   Save a quart?  That’s still 75,000,000 gallons a day.   Our children and grandchildren may need that water down the road.  I – like you – want it to be there. 

Try it.  Just turn it off. . . . .


My great friend Antonio, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico (see post of March 12, 2012), and I were communing about how conservation worked when we were young (he is a few years younger than me).  It was pretty simple.  

Bottles were returned for a deposit – then reused.  Clothes were dried on a line – by solar and wind power.  Not 220 volt dryers.  Diapers were washed and reused.  We had one television in the house with a screen the size of a placemat.  There were no “stadium sized” t.v.’s.  Our moms used an egg beater (there was no blender).  And when we shipped Christmas presents, our parents crumpled newspaper for packing.  There were no plastic “peanuts” or bubble wrap.  We cut the grass with a hand mower.    Wardrobes were pretty modest.  No “new models” except hand-me-downs.   There were no plastic water bottles (which today are made, used in a minute and thrown out by the trillions).  There was one water glass by the kitchen and bathroom sinks — that everyone used.   Rinse to clean – drink.   And stores and businesses had water fountains.  Thirsty?  Use the water fountain.   And dad changed razor blades in his Schick razor.  Nothing disposable. . . .  

Have we become lazy and complacent?  You tell me.   We hear the political trumpets sounding about saving the environment and how we must look forward and not back.  But I do think that looking backward – at least in some areas – could sure provide a lesson for looking ahead.   

Income Inequality

CNBC recently had Arthur C. Brooks (President of the American Enterprise Institute) as a guest host on “Squawk Box.”  Mr. Brooks spoke on topics relating to America’s economy.  He feels the claims that income inequality cause our economic problems is a political distraction.  The real problem he said is the increasingly diminished opportunity for upward mobility of those in the lower 20% of the economic strata.   Without opportunity, comes stagnation.

What we have done is to gradually substitute social programs for upward mobility opportunities.  We are thus creating a culture of dependency on social programs rather than inspiring individual initiative.  And that culture of dependency is spreading to more and more people.  We are being told it is all the fault of the evil 1%.  And it’s just not true.     

When Bill Gates first came on the scene as one of the world’s most successful and richest men, a survey was conducted about how people felt about him.   Americans typically thought “my son or daughter can be the next Bill Gates.”  The French on the other hand were highly jealous and felt they should burn his house down “and take his stuff.”  It is the subtle and barely noticeable shift in the direction of the European ethos that has spawned a political environment of class warfare — the heroic and virtuous 99% versus the evil 1% (which is evolving into the heroic and virtuous 50% who pay no taxes against everyone else). 

The United States is the most heavily-taxed and heavily-regulated country in the world.  Our policies on dealing with the 20% are missing the point.   We should want people to succeed.  Want people to learn.  Want people to become entrepreneurs.   Want people to achieve.  Incentive and opportunity are truly liberating concepts and not a substitute for social programs.     

To see Mr. Brooks’ interesting comments, check out

Scoring Points. . . . Afterword

To further explain the acquisition of “points” in my prior post, I should explain that Donna and Lauren had been off shopping.  Donna arrived home at about 7:30 pm — tired and hungry.  Soooooooo, in addition to the 9-1/2 point meal that was so perfectly crafted, I had a Banyan Tree C.D. crooning some New Age stuff in the background, candles were lit, the splendid meal was on the table — appropriately hot (enchiladas), cool (avocado) and cold (mango).   Oh and did I mention the frozen French martini* that was waiting (and within quick grasp)? 

These are points that can be swept away in a heartbeat by some real or imagined misstep (such as not changing a light bulb).  But for now, they remain on the asset side of the ledger. . . .

*French martini — Chopin potato vodka; Chambord; and pineapple juice.

Scoring Points. . . .

I made dinner on Saturday.   Donna gave me a wink and a 9-1/2 out of 10.  A great score for Dancing with the Stars and an especially superb score for the Renaissance Hombre. . . .

Simple.  Fun.  Delicious.  I used the usual La Banderita corn tortillas.  I grilled two chicken breasts — very plain — and sliced them thin and marinated the slices in superb olive oil direct from Italy from my friend Cristian.  I grilled onions (Vidalias – see post of November 4, 2011) and then laid out the tortillas and laid in the chicken, grilled onions and garlic cheddar cheese and rolled them up.  Sprinkle with more cheese and bake for 25 minutes at 350 in a pan brushed with olive oil.  I served with fresh sliced mango and for Donna – fresh sliced avocado (though I am normally partial to guacamole).   Some Frontera Grill Tomatillo salsa and black beans on the side (rice optional) and — mercy — a meal that got me some major points.  Oh – and a Catena cabernet (Mendoza, Argentina) to top off the meal. . . .  🙂


The Third Time Around

How often have you read a book twice?  Anybody for three times?  I just re-read Robert Kagan’s book Of Paradise and Power for the third time.  Wow! 

In my office at home, I have a shelf on my desk with those books that have inspired or moved me.   Robert Kagan’s National Bestseller (Random House 2004) has been there since I first read it. 

Europe has been involved in power politics for 300 years.  And it has brought them nothing but misery.  They have been warring and killing off whole generations of young men for centuries.  Finally, after World War II, Europe collapsed emotionally — and decided that (at least for now) enough was enough.  They formed a European Union and have moved in the direction of controlling and limiting the exercise of power.  It is for that reason that many Europeans (especially the French) now assail the U.S. for what they perceive as the use of power politics.  This attitude has accelerated since the collapse of the Soviet Union — the end of Europe’s strategic dependence on the U.S.

Thus, the U.S. and Europe have differing views on the efficacy of power, the morality of power and the desirabililty of power.  Since the end of WWII, Europe and the U.S. no longer share a “strategic” culture.  Thus the U.S. feels free to act — as needed — in the defense of its national interests. 

Kagan’s book is the best I’ve read on foreign dynamics since reading (also for the third time) Walter Lippmann’s 1943 classic Foreign Policy.   Both are worth a read . . . .or two or three. . . .

Occupy Chicago

I am sitting in my office – 30th floor – overlooking the Federal Plaza.  It is May 1st and it is 3:11 p.m.  The “Occupy Wall Street” (or “Occupy Chicago”) parade has just arrived at the Plaza and they are loud and boisterous.  One man is yelling through a michrophone and someone is banging on a drum.  I can’t pick out the signs but I can imagine what they say.   The media had touted the possibility of “thousands.”    I’m looking down there and see what is probably no more than a few platoons of people.  Tops.  And that doesn’t count the curious onlookers.    I’ve never been able to understand what’s driving this movement other than the angry dissatisfaction that some people always have.   Bell curve.   To be continued. . . . .