Friday, January 28, 2005

Grandma's 1970 Chevy Impala

Last night I went to a client's home to review their portfolio. I don't normally go to homes. The few times I have, they don't turn off the tv or the kids are going nuts or the house is mess or the phone rings and they take it. Not for me. If you're a client of mine you come to my office.

But this couple have a mentally handicapped son. Is that the right way to say it? One of them always has to be at home with him so I have to go there to see them both together. They are very nice and the home is emaculate and they turn off the tv.

We finished with the meeting about 7 and Mr. took me out to his garage to show me a car that his nephew is working on rebuilding - a 1970 Impala. It was torn apart, but I saw the slope of the rear window and - maybe because it's been a long month, maybe because I was tired, I don't know why - the sense memory was like a kick in the gut. That's right, I thought, that was Grandma's car. That's the one I broke. Every time I rode with Grandma, she would give the horn a tap and a low barely audible groan would sound. She'd look over at me in the front seat, unbuckled, head aimed right at that metal dash and ask, "When you going to fix this horn you broke?"

How'd I break my Grandma's car? Here's the story I was told.

In the fall of 1970, I was 6 months old and my father had just been released from his committments to the Navy. My parents were staying for a little bit with my maternal grandparents in Charleston. This was already a big household by the time we showed up so there was a lot going on. To keep this rabble fueled required alot of coffee. So me in my little scotter and a terry cloth jumper one day yanked on the cord of the 15 gallon coffee maker - it was one of those tall, silver restaurant jobs - and brought the entire batch down on top of me.

This is 2nd and 3rd degree burn time. The terry cloth sucked up the hot liquid against my skin like a sponge. Grandma, being the quickest to react, ripped the jumper off of me which brought much of my skin. That's when my mother ran into the kitchen. She blacked out. My father grabbed the car, the aforementioned 1970 Chevy Impala, Grandma jumped in the passenger side with me nakes and screaming and off they went to the hospital.

My father claims to have broken the sound barrier on that drive. I'm not sure if I believe him, but what I do know is that he laid on the horn the entire way. By the time he made it to the Naval Hospital in Charleston, it was blown out. Just that barely audible groan.

The coffee missed my head. As a kid I had scars on my chest but mostly my right arm took all the damage. It was pinkish when I was a kid and there were a few spots where the pattern of the terry cloth could be felt. The scars don't tan that well. But in the last 10+ years, they've started to fade quite a bit. I think the adult weight gain may have something to do with that. Daughter #2 sometimes runs her fingers across the more prominent ones not really knowing what they are.

So standing in the cold in Kentucky in my client's garage 34 years later, the thing that sticks with me the most about the whole experience - more than the scars - is that little tease that Grandma always gave me for the next few years every time she tapped that horn and asked when, "When you going to fix this horn you broke?"

Stay You.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Face Of America

I've pretty much checked out of the world besides business lately. I haven't been keeping up with the news much. No excuse really except that business has been busy and that's a good thing.

One thing political wise that I'd like to see is us opening up diplomatic relations with some of these Islam0-facist anti-women countries like Iran, Syria/Lebanon, Saudi Arabia(?) just so at the embassy we can post the portrait of our new Secretary of State. We could invite all the schools for a visit to the embassy of the most powerful nation in history and this is the face every little boy will see smiling down on him in the reception room. Could he comprehend it?

Imagine being one of these crackpot geo-gangsters. You want some US dollars or some US aid or some US-please-don't-invade-me lenience and you have to go cow-tow to her - a worthless female who shoudl be either burka'd or beaten. This would really be fun if South Africa was still Aparthied ridden.

Congrat's to Condi, er, Dr. Rice.

I know Dr. Rice is a big fat liar and all (at least that's what I read). But one problem she has caused me is that she has outdated my book (remember that?) in not time flat.

One of the jags I went on was that Democracy was required for markets to offer any decent returns. I compared the GDPs of middle Eastern countries who had no Democracy against the one - that's right, one - that did. Obviously, our friends the Zionist were way ahead of everybody else. But after Sunday the world will have 2 more Democracies and my book will be dated.

I have to ask you, is the chance at liberty and democracy and all that for 50,000,000 people really worth my having to revise my book?

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Right Foot

My Right Foot.

I bought my first pair of blue jeans since about 1990 this weekend. At some point, I bought a pair of dockers/khakis whatever and have been wearing them ever since. I remember the feel. My kids have never seen me in jeans. My wife had (before we were married), but she was still unsettled by my wearing them. Why'd I do it? Just needed a change.


I also bought some shoes for the gym. As you can see, they are black. The Divine Mrs. M. recommended them.

Stay You.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Latest Challenger Article

My latest article for the award winning - that's right, award winning! - Sunday Challenger newspaper was on a move by a local Catholic junior high school. It was published today. This just happens to be the one my oldest daughter will be going to in 4 years.

The picture sucks the more I look at it. If I had just stepped about 3 steps to the left, I could have gotten most of the front of the school in the shot and the little sign about the historic district. I like historic districts and their signs so I was probably too occupied with getting the sign in the shot than the subject. My house is about 10 blocks outside of this one and it irritates me everytime I see the cool little sign. Those women look hot!

On another level, this section of the article bothered me greatly:

Given the building's history and its place in Newport's East Row Historic District, care was taken to preserve as much of its architectural integrity as possible. Though the floor plan was reconfigured to allow for the maximum number of classrooms, the stained glass windows were preserved. Unfortunately, the budget didn't accommodate incorporating the ornate ceiling of the former auditorium into the school. But it was left intact for use in possible future renovations.

That "ornate ceiling of the former auditorium" wasn't in the budget. Want to know what was? An elevator. Randy Nieses told me that due to the extent of the renovation, they were required to install an elevator.

Will anyone use it? No, it's not worth the energy to operate it. But the American's with Disabilities Act requires it.

I asked if they have any disabled students or teachers? No, but they have to have it just in case they do in the future.

So I asked, if that happens, can't you install those little chair lift things that run along stairs? No, the ADA requires an elevator. If the renovation wasn't as extensive then they wouldn't have required the elevator.

Cost of working in the ceiling into the design? About $300K.

Cost of installing an elevator? 300K.

So here's the net effect. To accomodate a non-existent disabled worker or student, years of actual students and workers will be denied the beauty of that ceiling. A beautiful drop ceiling was installed. We are a kind and generous society. Laws like the ADA prove it. But stupid government dictates like these are going to erode that kindness and generousity.

Stay You.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

I be Studpid

I know I promised a story from the files of The Life of Howard, but an old high school friend sent me this little piece about Ft. Wayne, Indiana being the dumbest city in America. Here's the full report.

Why do I care? Because I grew up in Ft. Wayne, stupid. OK, so I now live in the Cincinnati area. Really, Kentucky. Ok, here. That's downtown Cincinnati due 500 yards due west across the river so I say I live in Cincinnati.

So I moved from a city that was 101st to a city that is 27th. Coincidence? Not really. After reading the article, some things rang true.

For instance, this piece:

"I always thought we were the fattest, not the dumbest," says Angela Jurczak, 26, a junior at IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne).

The elementary education major says it's hard to believe her hometown came in dead last in the smarts department. "I would have guessed we're at least a C. Not an F. That's kind of sad."

I don't care what this chick said. She a 26-year old junior....majoring in elementary education! Whenever I speak with people in Ft. Wayne they are always working on some degree. 4-year degrees are never completed and 2-year degrees take 5 years. Everyone is working on their degree...they are just taking this semester off...and that semester off.....Look people, you got out of high school at 18. You could have picked up a couple of credits there. If you're 26 and still getting a degree - unless its' your grad degree-, what have you been doing? I have a feeling Angela can't tell me.

Here's another:

Dan O'Connell of the Fort Wayne/Allen County Convention and Visitors Bureau concedes that Fort Wayne is "sort of a vanilla city" but says he was "floored" by the study. He cites the museums and universities that call Fort Wayne home. "We're spending $40-million-plus ($64 million, actually) on a new library. That says something about our citizens. We're building a library, not a stadium."

The Visitor's Bureau guy doesn't know how much the new library costs? He's off by over 1/3? By the way, the old library was - I'm sure - fine. I remember it. But I do think Ft. Wayne has what I call a very 70's attitude. Everything old sucks. Tear it down and build new. Yes, they are building (re-building) a library and not a staduim, but that has more to do with there not being a sports team in town. Except for this...and this place where I think the Komets still play. Oh, wait, they did already build stadiums.

I don't want to pick on my hometown, it's so un-Springsteenlike. But I looked up the address of a few high school friends who I recently got in touch with last year and, well..

Hetal..Surgeon in Atlanta #49 for Citibank in Manhattan #32 for a think tank in Chicago #11
Mike...professor in Denver #3
Amy R...musician in Nashville #15
Amy P...publishing design, e-bay entrepreneur in Seattle #5
Christine...does something I don't know Chicago #11

and my best friend from high school Mike who just moved back to Ft. Wayne to be near his son. Now that's smart no matter what Men's Health says. Ft. Wayne was a good place to grow up and a good place to go visit family

Stay You.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Howard's Here

Sorry Dear Reader,

I haven't been faithful in my blog posts. I have no excuse but the that in the ebbs and flows of life, I'm drowning in work. So I'll offer you a promise to pique your interest, later today (tonight?) I'll post about the first time my wife seduced me into eating something I didn't want to eat.

Stay You.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

CPA Roundtable Article, Part 2

I lied yesterday. My article was up. I just didn't know where to look. Here's the link. It's an adobe of the actual article. Why is it different? I don't know.

I hope you enjoy it and I hope that it inspires you to take a long hard look at your taxes. Read the third question I asked and if you fall into that category, go get yourself a CPA. A good one is worth the money.

Sorry that there's nothing more interesting today. Got a bit of a headache and some work that needs to get done.


Stay You.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Where Am I?

I was pretty excited by my CPA roundtable article that was to appear in The Sunday Challenger. I even told a client about it. The Divine Mrs. M picked up a copy at the newstand for me and it looked good. I got the front page of the "Money and Classifieds" section. Yippee for me! But when I got on-line to post about it to you, it wasn't on the website - at least as of the time I write this. No link! Nothing for my blog buddies!

For those who don't believe me. I included a shot of the section below. That's me in my kitchen holding the evidence. And yes, I know I have horrible '80s flourscent lights in my kitchen. Like I told The Divine Mrs. M. - "I'm getting to it!"

Here's a close up of my little bio in that green box:

This little roundtable took a while to put together. Especially since it was a week before Christmas. On a pure pay basis, it didn't really met minimum wage standards, but it got me in front of 4 prominent CPAs for an hour and that's always good for someone in the investment business.

I'm amazed at how many CPAs didn't have any interest in participating. I wanted to shake them and say "You can get free publicity! People pay through the nose for this!" But of course I just said ok and moved on to the next name on my list. One thing I've learned is that CPAs are not the most marketing oriented business people. One CPA sent me a thank you letter. That was nice.

This weekend I worked on an article about the new building the local Catholic Jr. High is moving into. It's not too exciting and I didn't think my editor would do it, but she did. Thank you, Tricia. Now let's see if I did a good enough job to get it ran.

That's all I've got for you. Sorry for being so self absorbed but I haven't watched the news at all this weekend.

Friday, January 14, 2005

More Howard

As my hit count has rocketed out of control, my comments section and private e-mails often times ask for the same thing: More Howard. You people can't get enough of me. How do I spend my time? What's my favorite food? My favorite author? T.V. Show? Which do I like best: sunrises or sunsets?

I understand their curiousity. I'm quite taken with myself.

To begin with I'm an intriguing contradiction. On the one hand I have an intimidating virility that is sometimes overwhelming to the lesser experienced of the fairer sex, but that is countered by a soft cuddliness that only comes out after you get to know me.

I'm ambitious, handy, and a lover on the level of Don Giovanni.

To wit, I'm the type of guy who closes a big business deal in the morning, unclogs a lady's sink in the afternoon then makes sweet, tender love to her...all...night...long.

I hope you've enjoyed the Coca-Cola and Hot Pocket fueled lunchtime fantasy.

Stay You.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dom DeLouise is Fat; Prince Harry in the Can; Waylon's Luck

I'm calling all my clients. It's something I do at the end of each quarter to make sure that they stay in touch with me. No one wants to think of their finances so it helps if I give them a nudge.

I bring this up because I like most of them quite a bit. It's just nice to write that.

Got home late last night. The Divine Mrs. M had already hit the gym so I felt an obligation to also go. I got there at about 9:00. 15 minutes of the elyptical (sp?), for 40 minutes I hit the weights, some abs, and then back for 20 minutes on the elyptical. We do 3 times a week (ok 2x during December) but these late nights do not inspire me to health. But I did it - grudgingly.

I tell you this because I came home and needed something silly and what happened to be on, but History of the World, Part 1. Perfect! I tuned in during the Roman scenes. In the scene were Gregory Hines playing a dancing slave, Madeline Kahn playing Caesar's beautiful sexy wife, and Dom DeLouise playing against type as a fat slob. Fast forward 24 years and Dom DeLouise is still a fat slob and the only one in that scene who isn't dead.

Here's my question: why did I drag my ass to the gym until 10:30 last night? I'm thinking these guys are right.

Next on my plate:

Drudge is all over the Prince Harry as Nazi deal. Here's why he did it: He probably doesn't know history. Big deal! The question to ask is that if he was to wear a Soviet uniform would people be outraged? They only killed 20 million or so. Or a shirt with the picture of an organizer of gulags? That's just stylin'. Or if he did a one man show dressed as a ChiCom army officer? You know, the ones that shot up Tiananmem when those teenagers got out of control...and still are. This is a piling on of my earlier post The Right Kind of Tyranny.

Anyway, I thought Prince Harry's family was kind of Nazi-friendly anyway.

Next up,

I sometimes wonder about tragedies I missed but didn't know about. Like Waylon Jennings giving up that seat on the airplane in 59 or a car that didn't hit me because I dropped my keys and had to stop to pick them up. That sort of thing. Would it have given me some perspective? Made me wiser and worry less. I don't know. I guess I'll never know but it's always made me wonder.

Stay You.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Driving While Rocking, Part 2

Lotsa of work. Short post.... Maybe more later.

For those of you who liked my Driving While Rocking initative (scroll down), I have another song for you:

Drowning Pool's Bodies

This song rocks and my odometer climbs. Vroom, Vroom.

Stay You.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Iraqi Election Doubts

Will Iraq embrace democracy? Will the Palestinians? The Afghans?

I don't know. People naturally dislike democracy. We do. Look at all the griping that goes on about our politicians. See my earlier post on this subject here.

It's good to remember Ben Franklin's advice:

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A republic if you can keep it" responded Franklin.

I will say that I wish them luck and I wish that they do embrace it. As Franklin recognized, it will take constant work. I don't think that they have a cultural predisposition against democracy like some commentators see to be saying. I think this racist remark is more anti-Bush reflex than outright racism.

I think it would be useful for people to look back on Western style democracies and see just how rare they really are.

The U.S. is a pretty old one, but as good as we are, more than 50% of our adult population couldn't vote as little as 80 years ago. Does this mean that Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson's administrations were illegitimate?

Democracy was imposed on Japan and Italy where they had never had it before less than 60 years ago.

Spain - the country of my birth - only went democratic in the late 70's.

Germany tried democracy and then embraced totalitarism rather quickly. France, always Germany's bitch, followed right along. Eastern Europe didn't have it until my college years.

Several English speaking countries still have Elizabeth II on their cash and as their technical head of state. Come on! Royals need to be beheaded not revered.

Practical working democracy is still a new concept in the human experience. The fact is that it's worth a try anywhere. As I pointed out in my book, no two democracies have ever gone to war against one another. Imagine a world of democracies; the peace; the progress.

I hope that the Iraqis succeed in one form or another. The attempt is the success. If just a few could see a world beyond the Fascism that they have known, they will be blessed.

Stay You.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Taxi Vignettes

I love people's stories. I love interesting people who are engaged in the world.

That's why I like Taxi Vignettes. It's written by Joan who drives a cab in the SF Bay area. I've never been to San Francisco, but I want to make up a reason just so I can have her pick me up at the airport.

She writes simply - dare I say Hemingwayesque?

She gets to the point- many posts are 100 - 200 words. That's just enough time for me to check her out when I need a little work break. I know I don't have to dedicate 15 minutes just to read her post.

But most importantly, she tells a good story.

In today's post, she runs into Charlie. On another recent day, she notices a vegetable bouquet. Other days she talks to weird people like this guy or a weirder person like this guy. I'm sure these conversations last just a few minutes and she's waiting for her ride and just killing time, but who else would do this?

Where I live, cabs cruise the neighborhood mostly taking old ladies without cars to the grocery store. The Divine Mrs. M and I have taken them a few times rather than pay for parking downtown - or when we couldn't find a bus back home! But these guys are just interesting in getting us out of his cab. No talk, no time. I picture a ride with Joan like her blog - I'm going to learn something or see something I would never have noticed.

So drop in on Joan and see where she's going and if you're going to the Bay Area, schedule yourself a ride in her cab.

Stay You.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

My Father Fell

My father fell.

Yesterday morning at 9:30 my 58-year old father stepped out of his house, slipped on the ice and broke both of those bones in his left leg. Ouch!

Luckily he had his cell phone and called 911. He then layed on the ice for a half hour in the rain until the ambulance came.

He's home already.

Sounds bad, but this country at this time is a pretty cool place. Fall down, call for help, someone comes; home the next night watching dvds. Not too long ago he would have layed there and frooze to death. If found, the doctor's biggest decision would have been what saw to use to cut the leg off. Then infection would have gotten him. At the least, he would have been hobbled for the rest of his life, but that's ok because at 58 he'd already been way past the life expectancy of that time.

Not here; not now. Unfortunately, too much of the world is living in that earlier time. I'll leave it to the comments section to debate why that is. Hint: It has nothing to do with US greed.

Stay You.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

America the Stingy & A Little House Cleaning

I'm a little irritated about all the talk of American stinginess? Let it be noted that if the guy in the background of this picture goes up to a US Marine asking for clean water wearing this shirt, the Marine will give it to him without shotting him. 'nuff said.

I don't want to write a rant today so to change the tone I thought it best to address some issues from the comments of yesterdays post.

I'm so disappointed in Madame Butterfly. I think she thinks that I made up the name of the Girl Scout Council in my Challenger article. She seems to infer some sexual connotion in the name Licking Valley Girl Scouts. But hey, that's the name. See here. Here's a map of the Cincinnati area. See that little blue line that runs south from the Ohio. That's the Licking River. There's nothing sexual about eating the cookies of a Licking Valley Girl Scout.


If you're not too disappointed in Madame, why don't you go read about her here. You might see something you like.

As for Katie's questions: Doesn't everyone know that to not burn muffins you fill one of the spaces in the muffin pan with water? Come on, what do they teach you in that medical school? I mean, I know it's in North Charleston, but it can't all be leeches and phrenology.

As for the monetary return on cookie sales, I think that it's worth it. I can't really do a return calculation for you because the scout troops themselves don't put up any money. It's all sweat equity. There's no monetary investment and no risk. So the first dollar earned is all profit to the girls. Go to this site to see the breakdown at last year's price of $2.50 (click on how the cookie crumbles in underlined red). Plus, it keeps the girls off the crack.

Stay You.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Let's Have A Good Year!

This is the way I felt at the beginning of every new school year. The turning of the calender leads to a catharsis. I toss off the negativity of the past year and reset my mind to do "Great Things."

I have plans! I do. I'm going to improve the home substantially. I'm going to bring on alot more clients. I promise to be more patient with the kids.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours getting my latest article for the Challenger done. I fixed the spare tire swing-out gate thingy on my wife's car that had broken during the storm last week and I finally took a look at the stove. The Divine Mrs. M. has been having to relight the pilot light for the oven and one of the burners. It makes her swear and curse. Between my own brain power and the wonders of google, I discovered that these gas ovens need to be....cleaned? Every few years, even. I'm not talking about wiping the stove off after cooking chili. But the little points where the gas comes out in the oven and underneath the cook top needed to be cleaned. A couple of hours of figuring this out, several q-tips and the thing runs like a champ. I had planned on buying a new one soon - not now.

My article on the girl scouts was published yesterday. There was a mistake made after submission. The Samoa is still the Samoa in Northern Kentucky and is not the Caramel Delight. That's Cincinnati. These people take their cookies seriously so you better get it right. A correction will be in next week's paper and the on-line version - I just noticed - has already been corrected. I'm learning alot by doing these articles. The thing I learned most over the last two articles is that not everyone likes the idea of having a story done about them. Why? I don't know. If someone wanted to do an article about my book or my business, I would be happy as heck. But apparently that's just me. Some people need convincing and cajoling. I didn't expect to have to do that.

Hope you like the article.

Stay You.

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

I'm not hung-over! Yippee.

Not much blogging today because I have about 437 things I want to do this weekend both around the house and for work. The New Year has invigorated and renewed me. I love the calender today. I was cursing it 1 month ago.

But first, I'm off to the Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival. If you're interested you can even by the video.

I've never been but The Divine Mrs. M said it will be fun. I'll report on that later.

Stay You.

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