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. . . . . 🙂 

Just Turn it Off – Water

I am concerned about the environment.  Especially given the world’s casual abuse of air, land and water.  And now with the troubling National Climate Assessment report.  My very first blog entry touched on the subject of conservation.  It has been a theme in many of my posts.  One way everyone can help — is to Just Turn it Off®!   

Take WATER.  We cannot live without it.  Yet there’s only so much of it.  And more than 95% of the water on our planet is salt water.  Thus it is natural that we would want to shepherd our precious supply of fresh water, to use it sparingly and keep it clean and potable.   But most of the water that enters our homes literally goes down the drain – into the sewer.  So what can the average person do to conserve this valuable commodity for future generations?  JUST TURN IT OFF®.   If every person in America saved one gallon of fresh water daily, that translates to a savings of hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water.  

Consider the following. . . . .  

●  When shaving or washing, instead of leaving the water run, JUST TURN IT OFF.  And turn it on to rinse as needed.

●  When taking a shower, turn on the water – get it to the temperature desired – stand under the shower and then JUST TURN IT OFF.  Soap down while the water is off. Frankly you will probably get cleaner than if the water just continues to pour down the drain.  This is what Europeans do – and the military.   

●  When rinsing dishes, don’t just let the water run.  JUST TURN IT OFF and turn it on to rinse the next plate or pan. 

●  Make each drop count when watering plants and shrubs.  Use an on/off nozzle so that when moving from one plant to the next, so you can JUST TURN IT OFF. 

●  Toilets should provide a flushing choice for disposing of liquid and solid waste.  And by the way, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.”  You heard that right.  There is no need to flush every time. . . . .   

●  Rely on Mother Nature to water the lawn.  Use sprinklers when necessary.

●  In the laundry room, use less hot water, run full loads or use size cycles, skip the extra rinse and reuse towels (always a big drain on water).

Please — save water.  JUST TURN IT OFF (it’s the RH’s registered trademark).  The children of tomorrow – those with no voices today — will thank you. . . . . .


Saudi Arabia

[A timely reprint from June 12, 2016] Talk to Muslims.  The faithful.  And ask them what the problem is in the world of Islam.  Many (as I observe on 8/19/12 and 12/20/15) will confide that the problem in Islam can be summed up in two words:  “Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a paragon of hatred, repression and discrimination.  Saudis are Wahhabi — the ultra orthodox branch of Sunni Islam.   The country is the hub of anti-Semitism.  A glowing, seething inspiration for groups like ISIS. Boko Haram.  The Taliban.  Al-Qaeda.  Al-Shabaab.  An instigator of state terrorism.  Responsible for the murder of 2,977 souls on September 11th.  Women are subject to genital mutilation.   They must be completely covered (it is the woman’s fault she is a woman).  Cannot leave home without a male relative.  May not drive.  Or marry without permission.  No passports.  Higher education is haram (forbidden).  The penalties for defiance are steep.  Women may be beaten or killed for missteps.                  

On Fridays, one can saunter down to the public square to watch beheadings, eye gouging, stonings or hands getting chopped off.  Children too – can watch.  Or have a hand amputated for misdeeds.  Thus enforcing Sharia law.  If you are a kafir (an infidel) – you are not welcome in Saudi Arabia.  There are no tourist visas (except for business or to visit a family member).  And a non-Muslim may never visit Mecca or Medina (see 11/16/14).  Criticism of the government is a crime punishable by imprisonment.  Or worse.  Saudi Arabia has been condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  Then again, they are an ally of the U.S. . . . . .