December 31, 1999

Does anyone remember the approach of the new millennium? I’m talking New Year’s Eve 1999.  Do you recall the media warnings that power grids might shut down. Telephone service interrupted. Computers could crash. And the world might come to an end. All because the shift from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, to a new millennium, would cause these catastrophic “issues” with computer networks.

As an Eagle Scout – and with my penchant to “Be Prepared” – in the week prior to this possible cataclysm, I went out and bought a few gallons of bottled water, some cans of Chef Boyardee, Campbell’s soup and tuna and I squirreled away a couple thousand dollars in twenties and fifties. And we had a few bottles of Liberty School cabernet sauvignon — all just in case.  As the clock ticked toward the advent of the New Year, Donna and I hunkered down in bed and watched a movie.  I figured – hey – when ya got no control, ya got no problem. . . . .

So as the nudge from 11:59:59 p.m. to 12:00:01 occurred (in Africa, Europe, New York and Chicago) and the new year went off without a hitch, we turned off the lights and went to sleep.   We ate the canned pasta, consumed the soup over the coming year or so, spent the dollars, and we drank the cab (which was dutifully replenished).  

A few weeks ago, I went down to the basement and in the back of the closet behind some flower pots, there was a dusty gallon bottle of water.  Leftover from that fateful night.  No.  We’re not drinking it.  But it is being used to water plants in the house.   Eighteen year old water. . . . .

Christmas 2018

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2018.  Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

Our best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

Sand Lot Baseball

When I was a kid, I played sand lot baseball. We would get 15 to 20 guys on any given Saturday morning in the park by Sunset School.  Two of the older boys (age 12 or 13) would pick the teams. “Meyer” “Shutt” “Kaspari” “Wilkes” “Knox” “Barsi” “Hudson” and so on. “Petersen” was usually one of the last picked.  But no hard feelings. And the game would begin.  Boys ran the game. There were no adult coaches or overseers. When a kid slid into second base and the tag was close, 10 year old boys would decide “safe” or “out.” Sometimes there would be an argument. A shove. Then it was back to baseball. It worked like a charm. . . . Regulations were not needed.  We made the rules as we went along. . . . . and they were fair.    

Government, however, is different.  We are one of the most regulated and heavily-taxed countries in the world.  And it’s getting worse.  Layers and layers of government, laws, ordinances, regulations, policies and such.   And there is a tax on everything.   Government grows incrementally.  Counties.  Cities.  Districts.  Municipalities.  Townships.  School districts (13,506 in the U.S. with 852 of them in Illinois!).  Each with its own rules.  Regulations.   Employees.  Whereas it used to be that (not long ago) 1 out of 15 of those employed in America were government workers, today it is 1 out of 4.6 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).   And most earn more than they would in the private sector.  The government does not trust its citizens to play sand lot baseball.  The government trusts no one to make decisions for themselves.   No.  The government wants to regulate every aspect of your life and make decisions for you.   It grows.  With more employees.  More taxes.  Sound cynical?  If you disagree, call me – I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you . . . . .

Just Turn it Off — Energy

You turn on the A/C on a hot day.   And the house becomes cooler!  The T.V. works.  The coffeemaker.  Your electric toothbrush.  It’s a miracle!   Yet the miracle of electricity is powered by carbon-based fuel sources (coal, oil and gas). The more electricity we use, the more fuel we burn. The more fuel we burn, the less we have — and more pollution enters our atmosphere.
By turning off electrical appliances when not in use, you save kilowatts of energy.  You save dollars.  And you save a bit of the planet at the same time. If every person in America – the world – saved a few kilowatts of energy daily, it would translate to a savings of many barrels of oil and many dollars in energy costs.  And our atmosphere might just become a bit cleaner.

What can you do to help? Keep in mind the Renaissance Hombre’s trademark — JUST TURN IT OFF®.
● Shut down your computer and turn off the screen at the end of the day.  Turn off the printer when not in use.
● Turn off unneeded lights and appliances in your home and office.
● Turn down the hot water heater when leaving for a weekend, a week or a month.
● Adjust temperature settings – 1° cooler in winter and 1° warmer in summer. And adjust settings up or down when on vacation.                        ● Use LED lighting or at least lower wattage on lighting.                                ● Unplug your phone chargers when not in use.     

Our planet needs help.  And each one of us – you/me – has an obligation to make the world a better place for those future generations.  Those who have no voice today.  Please.  JUST TURN IT OFF. . . . . .                                    


I am one of the Donkeys Here

A long time ago, I studied a bit of Mandarin Chinese. Then some years ago, I got back in the game with a 3 month Berlitz “immersion” course.  I continued for several years with my tutor – Weixin – who came to my office once a week.  And we would work on Mandarin.

Chinese is not as easy as it looks . . . . It can be challenging. There are four different tonal sounds such that each word can be pronounced four different ways — with perhaps a dozen different meanings depending on context.  Thus one must be very careful – when saying anything.  The only word resembling an English equivalent is the word “mama.”  And that will only get you so far. . . .

After the Berlitz immersion and a few months of tutoring, I had the occasion to host several Chinese judges and lawyers at my Firm.  I thought to myself I will wow them with my resurrected knowledge of Chinese.  I took them on a tour of our offices and brought them into our Board room for a meeting.   At one point in my presentation, I noticed some polite laughter which I thought might be a result of my excellent elocution or my Shanghai accent.  However, as they were leaving, their translator pulled me aside and commented that when I tried to say “As one of the partners at Holland & Knight,” I had actually said “As one of the donkeys at Holland & Knight.”  You should say lu shi — not lu ziPartner.  Donkey.  Great. . . . . 

I have a feeling that my contratemps was one of the highlights of their trip such that the story will be retold with smiles and great enthusiasm.  Probably for years (sigh) . . . . .   

Stevie Ray Vaughan

[A repeat from June 22, 2014]  I play guitar. Have for years.   I often stick in a CD and play along (or try to) with Buddy Guy, Eddie Campbell, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and so many others. Lead or rhythm.  But the chap I’d like to play like is Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990).  He was amazing.  I’d give my left arm to . . . . no – wait a minute. . .   

Stevie Ray was born and raised in Dallas, TX.  At age 7, he received a gift — a plastic guitar from a Sears catalog.  He liked music.  He tried to play drums.  Then sax.  But the guitar idea stuck.  And he got a real guitar and learned to play by listening to the greats above plus masters like Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix. His first public performance was at age 11 in a local Dallas talent contest.   And he realized – this is where it’s at.  “SRV” as he was known dropped out of high school and moved to Austin — to pursue his passion — music.  In 1977, the band Double Trouble was born.  And it soared – with SRV at the helm.  But  SRV developed an alcohol and cocaine habit while touring with Double Trouble.  His performance contracts called for two fifths of Crown Royal and a fifth of Smirnoff vodka.  His cocaine use jumped to 7 grams a day (together with the booze).  After a long stay in rehab, he returned to performing.  Stevie was spiritual, ascetic and sober.  And he went into high gear on producing some of his best music.   

But the music died on August 27, 1990.  Double Trouble opened for Eric Clapton at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin.  After the show, the musicians boarded four helicopters bound for Chiciago.  SRV’s helicopter took off after midnight and crashed into a 1000 foot ski hill.  Killing all aboard.  It was everyone’s loss.   

Some of the best guitar work you’ll ever hear  is at   and nothing like “Pride and Joy” –

November 27, 1990

I used to travel to Monterrey Mexico for business.  One such occasion was November 27, 1990.  My American Airlines flight landed at Monterrey International Airport a little after noon.  The day was sunny and beautiful.  As we taxied in to the terminal, I looked out the window and thought — oh my goodnesswhat is that sitting on the tarmac?  It was AIR FORCE ONE

As we began to debark, I was greeted by my dear friend Antonio who excitedly announced that the Presidents of the United States and Mexico — George H.W. Bush and Carlos Salinas – would soon be arriving for the departure of President Bush on Air Force One.  We walked out to the parking lot and – off in the distance – we saw the pulsing of Mars lights.  And a long parade of serious-looking cars.  It looked like we were in the right place – at the right time.  We hiked out to the narrow entry to the airport where we knew the cars would pass.  And we stood – alone.  Not a soul was around us.  Just Antonio.  And me.  

The first vehicles to pass – police cars and lorries – slowed to a crawl as they rounded our corner.  Just a few feet away.  And then we saw the magnificent – huge – black limo which chauffeured the Presidents of Mexico.  And the United States of America.  Antonio and I stood at attention.  And waved.   From behind the large window in the back seat, a hand pressed against the window.  And waved – enthusiastically – back to us.  Antonio was sure it was Carlos Salinas waving to him.  But I’m pretty sure it was George H.W. Bush.  Waving to me. . . . . 🙂