05 December 2010

Favorite Sayings

My grandmother (Mother’s mother) had a never ending list of sayings and quotations which seem to cover every situation. A few of her sayings and other common sayings I have learned along the path of life and have found useful are listed below.

• The early bird gets the worm.
• A bird in hand is worth two in the bush or
• A bird in hand is worth a couple dozen in the bush.
• A job worth doing is worth doing well.
• A poor workman blames his tools.
• Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
• Be nice to those you pass climbing the latter of success; you will pass the same people when you are on the way back down.

Family and Personal
• Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
• As the twig is bent, the tree will grow.
• The acorn never falls far from the tree.
• Birds of a feather flock together.
• Blood is thicker than water.
• Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.
• It is better to give than to receive.
• Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

• Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
• If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
• It is always darkest just before the dawn.
• The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
• A chain is as strong as its weakest link.
• An empty can makes the most noise.
• Actions speak louder than words.
• Loose lips sink ships.
• If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
• Behind every cloud is a silver lining.
• The difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys.
• Give a monkey a typewriter, and you will get a word now and then.
• Pigs get fed; hogs get slaughtered.
• A penny saved is a penny earned.
• Let sleeping dogs lie.
• Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

04 October 2010

Dating Again

I have been married and faithful to my wife for 30 years so becoming single at the ripe age (never say ‘old’) of 60+ is something unanticipated and unplanned. I am still walking a strange path through the dating jungle, but can offer some early observations, especially with regard to Internet Dating at my age.

I was on the local newspaper’s web site when I noticed a big ad for Australia’s biggest dating service with a link to their website. It turns out the newspaper owns the dating service, which is probably more profitable than selling the news. One click, a few quick forms, and Bingo – my profile is available to the world.

It did not take long for the exploratory introductions (called ‘kisses’) began to arrive. In a typical week, about 30 unsolicited kisses show up in the special mailbox. It is impossible to hold a job and respond informatively to every inquiry. So here are a few rules I have developed to screen the volume of inquiries.

1. Decline all inquiries from anyone who looks really attractive or really young. At my age, no one looks that beautiful and I know they are not young so the pictures obviously lie.

2. Decline all inquiries from anyone who looks really unattractive or really old. It’s not their look that kills it; it is the fact they are too stupid to realize how unappealing their pictures are.

3. People who refuse to show a picture must have a reason.

4. Avoid anyone who claims “some college or university.” This means they drove by a school on their way to work in the beauty salon.

5. Someone who claims ‘degree’ may have a university degree or a degree in word processing. “Post graduate” is safer but not completely secure.

6. Avoid anyone who is working in some industry and lists their role only as “professional.” I talked to a woman in the publishing industry – with 17 years experience! Maybe she can advise me on publishing my book? Turns out she is a secretary in the marketing department for the publisher of crossword puzzles.

7. Assume the real age is 3-5 years older than the listed age. Either everyone’s memory is failing and they can no longer count or they are hoping to rediscover youth.

8. Cut anyone who is looking for a partner that lives within 500 kilometers of a city; this person is desperate.

If you receive an email where they actually have to write something instead of check the box to send a pre-written comment, look out for the following.

9. The dating service does not offer Spell Check. When every word that exceeds 2 syllables is misspelled, it is probably a good indication the sender is not too smart.

10. When someone takes the time to ‘buy’ an email stamp, it usually results in a few paragraphs of prose. The 1-2 sentence request for contact is not impressive. Either they have nothing to say or are engaged in mass mailing inquiries.

Let me share some actual experiences, changing the names to protect the guilty.

I am contacted by ‘Anne.’ Her picture shows a younger, very attractive woman; her profile indicates Post Graduate Degree / Professional / Business Owner. Sounds great! I am excited.

We exchange emails; she is very articulate. No misspelled words. She is a psycho therapist; my ex wife always told me I should look for a therapist!

We talk on the phone and she gives me advice on how to avoid the problems of Internet dating. She seems nice and concerned about my welfare. We agree to meet for lunch. This is looking promising. Maybe being single is not so bad.

I arrive early and wait outside on a beautiful sunny day. My mobile phone rings; it is Anne. “I am at the gate in front, where are you?”

I look around but do not see her. The only one at the gate is an older lady, who is very fat …. and has a mobile phone to her ear.


I am contacted by Bonnie. She is very attractive and is from Holland. I have worked in Holland and came to admire the tall, handsome women there. At my New Year’s Eve party last year, several Dutch women came as friends of a friend – I know there is a Dutch community here and the women are attractive. It must be my lucky day.

We exchange emails. She writes well and has an acerbic wit which makes me chuckle. She is insistent that my picture is recent and my profile is correct – this is a good sign.

We talk on the phone and I immediately detect her Dutch accent. She seems genuine. We agree to meet for breakfast. This looks promising.

I am stuck in traffic and I text that I will be a few minutes late; she responds she is already at the restaurant.

I arrive 5 minutes late walking quickly and arrive almost out of breath. I look around but do not see Bonnie to my surprise. Maybe she is in the bathroom? Then I notice an old woman with a slight resemblance to Bonnie. I wonder if it could be Bonnie’s mother?


No more lunches or breakfasts; the pain lingers too long. The new routine is a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The coffee can be consumed quickly and the escape plan implemented. The wine works too; drink it quickly and order a second glass – it dulls the senses.


I received the following email from a professional, degreed woman who owns her own business.

“I am sure that your accrewed knowlege is a breathe of fresh air here. I have just had a wonderfully busy past weekend travelling to Jamberoo with my work which is breathtakingly exquisite with its undulating pains and green pastures and just a hop skip amd jump is nearby Kiama a beautiful beach resort-then went on to Coldale another beachside small town.”

I do not know what her business is but am pretty sure it does not involve writing anything.


I receive contact from Candy, who has a cute picture, a degree, and owns a business. I meet her for a light dinner. Not sure where the degree is from; she seems a bit vague. She was a partner in a singles event service but her partner ran off with the business; not sure how you run off with a singles business, but what do I know.

During a lull in the conversation, she asks “so what do you do?” “I am the CEO of a property company here.” “What’s a CEO? Is it like an accountant or something?”

She is delightful but her degree must be from 8th grade primary school. Live and learn.


Most guys I know are motivated in part (actually in large part) by sex. After my divorce, I expected my sex life to improve compared to recent years of marriage. I was surprised how available sex was after divorce but even more surprised how unfulfilling it was when decoupled from a deeper emotional attachment.

I wonder how the suicide bombers who expect 21 virgins waiting for them in paradise would feel if they were told there was a reason the women were still virgins and were likely to remain virgins long after the bombing. My guess is there would be fewer bombings. Maybe the CIA should propagate such rumors.

Despite the false starts and unexpected twists in my journey, I have met some really nice women and have enjoyed serious relationships and good friendships. And I remain ever optimistic about the future but wonder if there is not a better way to meet people.

26 September 2010

A Soap Story

This week I achieved perfection for the first time. It was an amazing feeling to accomplish something so difficult after so many years of effort.

For someone who grew up in a cost conscious environment with parents’ attitudes shaped by The Great Depression, it was the ultimate achievement. For believers in “A penny saved is a penny earned,” it was winning the lottery. And for those of us who were lectured to ‘clean our plates’ at dinner because of the starving children in Indian and China, it was a moment of celebration.

For someone who worships efficiency, it was the Holy Grail. If you believe in environmental conservation, it was the ultimate “green” moment.

First, I should provide some context.

For my entire life, I have used bars of soap to clean myself. As a baby, my mother used soap in my baths. As an adult, I continue to prefer bars of soap when showering or bathing.

I feel very much in the minority in this regard, however. My sons use bath/shower gel; my ex girlfriend used a particular and expensive gel; my gym only provides gel (the bulk variety with a heavy dose of artificial scent). When I stay in hotels, they often provide miniature soap bars but multiple bottles of bath and shower gel. The consumers appear to have turned to gel and abandoned soap bars.

I am not sure why this has happened. To me, gel is like shampoo. I shampoo my hair but why would I want to shampoo my body? Years ago, I regularly shampooed the family dog; but he had fur. He also did not appreciate it and went into escape mode whenever I approached with the shampoo and a bucket of water. I tried to shampoo the family cat one time; it took weeks for the claw marks on my hands and arms to heal.

I prefer plain soap. Most soaps have many added ingredients. Some make you smell like strawberries or other ‘pleasant’ scents. I do really not want to smell like a strawberry. A friend gave me a present that included a few soaps. One makes you smell like cucumbers. I don’t want to smell like a cucumber either.

Only mad scientists can understand other listed ingredients in soap. One of the gift bars has ingredients like hydrogenated rice bran – sounds like I should be eating this instead of washing with it. Other inclusions are: coconut stearic acid, glycerine, sodium hydroxide, zinc oxide, citric acid, and perfume. What happened to plain soap?

After an extensive search, I found a relatively plain soap. The actual brand is called ‘Simple Soap.’ I just do not understand why simple soap costs more than complicated soap. Maybe they put all the ingredients in the soap and then take them out. It is confusing.

The increasing consumer preference for gel may make my accomplishment increasingly rare in society. Maybe it will stand as an eternal record.

Perhaps, I overstate the importance of my feat. It is not a miracle. An image of the Virgin Mary did not appear in my soap bar. My soap did not wash away poverty or feed anyone. I still tend to sink when I swim too many laps at the local pool. The accomplishment is much more modest; it is just remarkable to me within the narrow confines of my daily experience.

Everyone who uses bars of soap understands that the bar slowly decreases in size as it is used. Eventually, the remaining piece of soap becomes too small to use practically and is discarded. The challenge for all of us soap bar users is when to discard the diminishing residual bar.

Soap does not cost much money, especially, if you buy the perfumed variety. So continuing to use the ever-vanishing bar is not just a money saving technique. It is more about being efficient and not wasteful. Perhaps, it is a moral statement committing to use environmental resources wisely. Or maybe it is the legacy of the Great Depression, or maybe something else. Regardless, the challenge of washing with a residual fragment of soap is, for me and fellow bar washers, a common occurrence.

Eventually, I discard the residual soap fragment and start over with a new, full sized bar. Sometimes, I drop the fragment on the floor of the shower and it disappears down the drain. Occasionally, I will toss the fragment in the toilet; that requires walking from the shower carrying wet soap and then rinsing my hands of the offending soap. It is usually easier just to leave the soap in the soap dish and let the fragments just accumulate; after a year or two all are discarded when I throw out the disgusting soap dish.

But today the “miracle” happened. I used a bar of soap until it was no more. 100% used; no soap fragment remained to be discarded. I looked in disbelief at my hands as I stood in the shower that morning. I looked at the shower floor; I looked at my body to see if a fragment had latched on to a leg or arm. The bar of soap had completely dissolved with no trace remaining as I finished my shower. I had achieved perfect efficiency with no waste. The starving children in India and China will be pleased.

04 September 2010

Emails Forever

I receive a couple hundred emails a day. I cannot ignore them; I cannot escape them; I cannot hide from them. Sure I can leave an automated response that I am in Siberia, but they will just keep coming and piling up like winter snow in my birth city of Chicago.

I appreciate the instant communication emails provide. Just this week I received an email from my sister-in-law in the US that my brother was hospitalized and I was able to call him when I awoke in the morning. Emails make me much more productive at work and allow me to keep in touch with the relatives back home. But emails do have drawbacks and consume incredible amounts of time; I have this periodic desire to escape the electronic reach of my blackberries..

I have a trip planned to Darwin soon and thought I would take a day and go bushwalking in a remote area of the Northern Territory. Surely, there is no email reception there (actually I have been to Siberia and there is email there). Alternatively, a colleague told me I should take a 4-wheel drive trip through the Kimberley where there is no email or mobile phone reception.

But that would mean I would have a couple thousand emails waiting for me when I emerged from the wilderness. Emails do not expire like the biodegradable bags that are popular today but are useless in holding heavier groceries – they seem to degrade before I arrive home.

I have 7 email accounts, which eagerly fill up every day with various missives. Why so many? Well, I have an email address at work (that is one). Then I have my email address for my consulting firm which is inactive but registered with various government agencies and investment companies (that is #2). I have a personal email account from the US (#3), and when I moved to Australia Telstra gave me an email account when I signed up for Internet service (#4). Only I did not like the Telstra email name and they would not let me change it (I know because I talked to about 15 guys in India and finally gave up), so I added another Telstra email name that I can actually remember (#5). And then there is my old AOL email address (#6) I had for years before my ex wife took the email account with her as part of the divorce. Then she found out she could not change the email address of record with AOL (they must have a relationship with Telstra), so she has to keep my old account active as long as she wants to use her account. I still receive occasional emails from old acquaintances that do not have any of my other 6 account addresses. Finally, my blackberry comes with its own email address (#7). Now if I could only remember the passwords.

To keep track of my emails, I need 2 blackberries. One is for work and the other consolidates the other 6 personal accounts. Now if I could only remember the blackberry passwords too.

I always respond to personal emails; it is important to me to acknowledge when someone takes the time to send me a note. I do not respond to junk mail or the letters from Nigeria informing me they are holding $100 million for me but they are having trouble sending it to me. But I do respond to other copious emails each day.

The other day I sent an email to a woman with a request to meet for coffee. She, like me, responds to emails even if she is not interested. So she sends me a nice email declining the invitation due to a conflict. Since I respond to all personal emails, I sent her an email thanking her for responding. Since she feels compelled to respond to emails too, she sent me a note thanking me for responding to her response. I am getting ready to respond to her response to my response.

This could be a good story. Two people who have nothing in common other than they both feel it is proper and courteous to respond to letters and emails are caught in eternal email ping-pong. At first, they were irritated to respond so often to spurious emails, but eventually they came to look forward to the routine and familiar comfort from regular contact. After 25 years, the emails ceased. The system of email had been replaced by thought mail – you think something and the thought is transmitted. Unfortunately, he could not adjust and his attempts and sending thoughts often went awry. So he finally gave up, and the emails ceased. But they were fun and comforting for years.

Back to reality. I am uncertain what to do with the deluge of emails. I am reminded of a former US Senator who replied to various constituent letters by saying, “Dear sir, I thought you should know that an idiot has been sending me correspondence and using your good name.” Unfortunately, I would still need to read all the emails before I could identify the undesired senders. so this does not work either.

For junk mail and marketing solicitations, I used to “unsubscribe” to the sender’s list. I have since learned that this action only serves to confirm you have a legitimate email address that now can be sold to other mass mailing services, resulting in a quantum increase in emails received.

Until I figure out a better solution, I will just keep responding to personal emails and ignoring emails from marketing services, get rich schemes, banks where I do not have accounts, and assorted other nuisances. But it is nice to know my brother is fine and the guy in Africa is still holding my $100 million.

14 August 2010

Staying Awake

There are times when just staying awake is a challenge despite time of day and circumstances. Take Tuesday for example.

In a late effort to get in shape, I arose at 5 AM and had a good hour on the elliptical machine. It was exhausting, but the endorphins kicked in and it was a great start on my new fitness campaign. Caffeine at 8:00 and more caffeine at 10 and 12. Lots of meetings followed including a business luncheon with a glass of wine. Generally, I felt good all day but was beginning to fade a bit late afternoon.
5:30 PM arrived too soon and it was time to meet a friend for a light dinner of tapas at an outdoor sidewalk café. We split a bottle of Australian pinot; I really did not need wine but it was a nice complement to dinner. Conversation was good as always; food provided renewed energy; wine afforded relaxation after a busy day. I felt tired but was coping and acquired my second (or third or fourth) wind.

The piano concert that followed started at 7 PM. This would surely test my ability to remain awake. The famous pianist, Nikolai Demidenko, was the performer. The stage was bare except for a magnificent Steinway grand piano. The setting was a wonderful Sydney concert hall – Angel Place – which provides much better acoustics that the Sydney Opera House. Nikolai’s fingers flew over the keyboard; at times they paused in mid-air hovering, only to descend with a dramatic but fluid motion into the keys below. My friend called it a ballet of the hands. He was really good.

The music flowed from the Steinway in melodic streams. Thematic movements came and went and came again. Chopin would be pleased with how his music was treated.

After watching and listening for a while, the dimmed audience lighting coupled with the tender music made me feel increasingly tired; the mind said stay alert but the body said go to sleep. The effects of food and earlier coffees had passed. Then it became a sedentary appreciation of surrounding music and low light. I fought to stay awake. It would be very embarrassing to fall asleep.

I looked around the beautiful concert hall; I counted lights; I noticed lots of objects appeared in 4’s: l looked at the back heads of the audience and tried to guess what the faces look like. Finally, an intermission. I stood and stretched and talked and stifled my yawns.

Then the lights dimmed again, and the music returned. Now Demidenko attacked Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This piece was faster, louder, and bolder. But it was also a very long piece. Every time I thought it was coming to conclusion, another stanza began. This was War and Peace on a piano. I felt myself about to succumb despite my efforts to stay alert. I played games focusing my eyes on near and far objects. The sandman hovered.

Finally, Nikolai concluded a masterful performance. I jumped to my feet and applauded waking in the moment. Others applauded; he exited and I was ready to go home and go to bed. But alas he returned and began an encore. It should have been over but it continued. The audience was happy; I wanted to go to bed.

Finally it appeared to be over. More applause but no standing. This time it was more polite and less enthusiastic; others must be tired too. Two hours of music is a long time, especially on a Tuesday night. He exited; he returned; he sat down and began another encore. I felt I was about to die.

The lights finally brightened; no more encores. Time for home; time for bed. Good-bye to my companion; instead of the train or walking, I took a taxi – too tired to move. Sleep at last but tomorrow is only Wednesday.