Pumpkin Art 2013

Happy Halloween!
Pumpkin Art


Greatness 2429




















Greatness 2429










The Difference Between Complete and Finished

No English dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between these two words. In a recently held linguistic competition held in London, England, and attended by the best in the world, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese man from Bachelors Adventure, was the clear winner with a standing ovation which lasted over 5 minutes.

The final question was:

How do you explain the difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED in a way that is easy to understand. Some people say there is no difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED.

Here is his astute answer ….

When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE. When you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!

He won a trip to travel the world in style and a case of 25 year old Eldorado Rum.

Why Use Capital Letters?

Capital Letters? Who uses them anymore?…

A teacher’s explanation – short and to the point.

In the world of hi-tech gadgetry, I’ve noticed that more and more people whosend text messages and emails have long forgotten the art of using capital letters.

For those of you who fall into this category, please take a note of the followingstatement:

“Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and … helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

Is everybody clear on that?

Singing for Your Gas! – An Amazing Couple in LA

This was a Jay Leno skit that caught a wonderful couple at a Burbank Gas Station.

This happy couple Will and Monetha have been married for 12 years with a daughter.

Enjoy two great people in Los Angeles!

Pumpcast News, Part 1 – The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Pumpcast News, Part 2 – The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Note: All copyrights are NBC and Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.


A Video From a Brooklyn, NYC Unfinished Home Built by the Owner – A film by Kirsten Dirksten

I love when a person can start with a dream and over time build something amazing. The gentleman, Tim Seggerman, in this video was able to buy an empty shell of a building in Brooklyn (Queen Heights), and using scraps from other construction projects, build a home. A nice little video on hard work, inspiration, and dreaming big!

Watch for his description of his Japanese inspiration for his design and lifestyle. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: everything is impermanent, unfinished and imperfect.

A film by Kirsten Dirksten

Brooklyn Crafted, Impermanent House Gets Wiser With Owner

What Would the View of the Night Sky be if We Replaced the Moon With Other Planets

A very nice Youtube video by yetipc1 showing what the view of the night sky would be if the Moon were replaced with some of our planets from our solar system.


A Brothers Love for His Sister in Melbourne Australia Wall Collapse – Alexander and Bridget Jones

Sadly, Bridget died today from her injuries (2013-03-31).


Strong winds hit Melbourne Australia last week. These winds swept through the city and hit a historical brick wall on Swanston Street. The wall gave way crushing the people who were walking along the sidewalk next to it. Alexander and Bridget Jones were in the path of the falling brick and mortar.

Alexander took some of the impact when he shielded his sister from the crushing wall. He died later of his injuries. His sister is recovering.

Go the the official news site at The Australian to see the news video.

The story from the Australian with the video is listed in the link below:

Devoted brother Alex Jones shielded sister from falling wall in Swanston St

Devoted brother Alex Jones shielded sister from falling wall in Swanston St

by: Jon Kaila, Aleks Devic
From: Herald Sun
March 30, 2013 4:35PM

480256 wall tragedy

The scene of Thursday’s fatal wall collapse on Swanston St. Picture: Andrew Henshaw Source: Herald Sun

Pictures of the horror collapse
THE parents of siblings Alexander and Bridget Jones have said they are ”overwhelmed” and ”distressed” after their son died and their daughter battles for life in hospital following the wall collapse in Carlton on Thursday.

Ian and Sue Jones issued a statement this afternoon to thank everyone who tried to help in the tragedy.

”We are overwhelmed at the loss of our son Alexander and are very distressed to see our critically ill daughter in the hospital.

”Our hearts go out to the family of the other lady who was killed in this tragedy.

”We understand people who were passing by and the emergency services did everything that they could and we are so grateful these people tried their best for our children.

”We would also like to thank members of Victoria Police and staff at The Royal Melbourne Hospital who have been so caring and respectful.

”We would like to thank our family and friends and the friends of Alexander and Bridget, the Montmorency Secondary College community, and many others who have sent in their wishes and offered support.

169685 alex bridget jones
Brother and sister Alex and Bridget Jones were devoted to each other.

”We would ask that people respect our privacy at this very sad and difficult time,” the statement read.

Melbourne University architecture student Alex Jones, 19, was walking sister Bridget, 18, along Swanston St to her 3pm class when a powerful wind gust brought a brick wall crashing down on top of them.

Rescuers on the scene immediately afterwards said Mr Jones’s body was found on top of his injured sister, partially shielding her from the crushing impact.

Dozens of friends today gathered at the collapsed wall at the Grocon site on Swanston St to lay flowers and console one another.

Bridget remained fighting for life at the Royal Melbourne Hospital after emergency surgery.

Her brother, and an unidentified woman in her 30s, died instantly.

527685 wall collapse
Collapse horror

Thu 28/03/2013: A man and a woman are dead after a brick wall collapsed at the Grocon site


0:00 / 3:32
Grieving friends paid tribute to Alex.

Jorja Shae Carter-Smith posted on Facebook: “Zander, a true hero. I know you would have done this to protect your much loved sister, being the gorgeous soul that you were.”

Another friend, Bethan Wainman, spoke through tears as she lamented the loss of a ”Mr Nice Guy”, known as ”Zander” to his mates.

“They were very close and loved each other very much,” Ms Wainman told the Herald Sun.

“He was an amazing guy and no one had anything bad to say about him.

“He was very funny, jovial, and would always laugh and play around.”

Horrified onlookers tried desperately to clear the disaster on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Lian/Twitter

Zoe Liberona posted on Facebook: “Such a beautiful soul taken way too soon. Rest in peace, Alexander Jones.”

Callum Fuller added: “Still in absolute shock. Rest in peace, Alexander Jones.”

School friend Steven Kostadinovski said of the former school captain: “Much love to a great human being and individual.

“It was a pleasure to be a part of your life, big fella. Will be missed.”

And Matt Perichon said: “It is just so cruel how life can be torn away from such a beautiful young man.”

Mourners left flowers, a teddy bear and a Lindt chocolate carrot at the scene of the tragedy.

126701 wall collapse
Alex Jones, 19, died in the Swanton St wall collapse, and his sister, Bridget, 18, is fighting for her life.

Emergency talks will be held next week to determine how and why Thursday’s deadly wall collapse happened – and ensure a similar accident never recurs.

WorkSafe, the State Coroner, Victoria Police and Grocon have all launched independent investigations into the incident.

The remainder of the wall was demolished late on Thursday night.

Wire fencing was erected to protect the public from a rubble of bricks and debris still littering the site.

Red brick dust still covered the footpath.

Melbourne north Crime Investigation Unit’s Detective Senior Constable Brooke Manley said police had notified known affected families.

Flowers were laid at the scene of the tragedy this morning. Picture: Stuart Walmsley

“It’s horrendous – a tragic accident,” she said.

“The families involved are devastated.”

Police believe more people were injured in the collapse, but fled the scene fearing further harm.

Banyule Mayor Wayne Phillips said the council would offer any support possible to the Jones family, of Montmorency.

It was to be hoped the tragedy was a freak accident and not the result of red tape, he said.

“If it’s a freak accident it’s very sad,” he said.

“But if it’s something structural – or something caused by the fact there are heritage restrictions, and they have been demolishing parts of the site around it and the wall was not properly supported – that would be a tragedy,” Cr Phillips said.
Next week’s talks will involve the State Government, Victorian Building Commission and Melbourne City Council.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy told the Herald Sun he had ordered the Building Commission audit in a bid to prevent similar tragedies.

“We will get the Building Commission to look at all those CBD structures as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Mr Guy said he would also seek advice on structural tests and see if they could be carried out more frequently.

“This one has passed the structural strength for some time and that’s fine.

“But it’s whether or not it remains at that level,” he said. “There needs to be a continual audit and continual compliance for structures that are like that.”

City of Melbourne spokesman Sam Bishop said: ‘If concerns are raised about the integrity of any particular structure in the City of Melbourne, our municipal building surveyor’s office will investigate.”

The collapse of the wall at the CUB brewery site in Swanston, St, Carlton, is believed to have been caused by a freak gust of wind.

Grocon officials believe the wall was built in the 1970s, forming part of a boundary to the CUB site.

With Peter Rolfe

Additional reporting: Christopher Gillett, Jon Kaila, James Dowling and Jessica Evans

Bigger Than Elvis But You Never Knew It – Sixto Rodriguez and Finding Sugarman

A R&B/Soul singer who grew up in Detroit started his music career in the late 1960′s and released his first album in 1970. It never took off. Rodriguez released his second album but it also died in the US market.

The documentary “Finding Sugarman” takes the viewer on the real life story of a musician who was a commercial failure in the US music scene. Across the world, Rodriguez inspired a generation of South Afrikan’s to stand up to their apartheid government. He was a legend in South Africa and lost in the US with rumors of his death during a concert in the early 1970′s.

Searching for Sugarman

MV5BMjA5Nzc2NDUyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQwMjc5Nw V1 SY317 CR0 0 214 317

An interesting side note in the movies was the three record companies say they paid royalties to the label. The label owner refuses to answer where the money went. Watch the video and see who is lying. The companies who released the albums overseas or the man running the record label.

Rodriguez Official Web Site

I can not say too much about this movie without giving away the story line. I will suggest that is a real life story about a gentle soul that you will enjoy!

Household as a Center of Production

Does your household produce or consume? Since the industrial revolution the basic structure of a “home” has shifted from a small production center to a consumption of goods and services.

It is time to change our thinking. Work is not a four letter word. Well, yes, it is, but work is not a BAD four letter word. The goal isn’t to sit as much as possible in life. The goal is to find a way to express ourselves while providing a value to our family, and society.

I am not advocating living in the woods and wearing home spun clothes. I am suggesting that we need to relearn the skills that our grandparents had. And the primary skill was self sufficiency. Yes, they leaned on their neighbors or family during the tough times, but they also knew how to run a house like a small business. You had to keep it functioning, keep it running, it keep it afloat to provide for the members in the house.

Maybe that is a little too theoretical, but you can do some small changes that would have long term payouts for your family.

This is a nice article on what I am trying to say:

Escaping the Consumer Trap

“The household had changed from a center of production that supplied most of its own needs to a center of consumption that bought nearly everything it needed.”

Think about the skills a preteen child would have learned in the late 1800′s to be a productive member of their household:
1. Clean (simple but oh so needed in life!).
2. Making candles.
3. Feeding livestock, even if it was just the chickens!
4. Slaughter animals for meals. Those chickens weren’t for show. Ever pull some pork from a smokehouse? It isn’t like the supermarket!
5. Making thread, yarn or other materials and then sewing or repairing clothing.
6. Planting.
7. Keeping the plants free of weeds.
8. Herbal medicine.
9. Treating wounds and emergency medicine.
10. Cooking. How many adults do not even have this skill anymore. Remember most things were made from scratch then, not opening a can of soup and reheating. This was a real skill.
11. Making butter.
12. Milking a cow.
13. Working lumber.
14. Firewood. A lot of work here!
15. Working a horse.
16. Hunting and fishing.
17. Knots and working lines to secure things.
18. The ability to barter. You needed to work a deal to stay ahead financially.

Do you think children were ignorant coming from a one room country school house?

8th Grade Examination in the 1800′s

Here is the math portion of exam for a late 19th century student in Kansas:
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft deep, 10 feet long and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8 Find bank discount on $300 for! 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

Notice how it is an applied exam. These are questions that will allow a person to work the math for making a living in life. Not the theory of math that is taught now.

This isn’t the 1800′s and the vast majority of us do not live on farms. However, the idea of self reliance and being a center of production can be used today within our modern lives.

Remember doing bake sales or selling lemonade? Is everyone in your family on the Internet?

Home Based Ideas

I bet you could teach your children how to start and run a business over the web. Sell items over Ebay or you can teach them to write, make videos, do small jobs on eLance or Guru for work.

How about selling gift baskets over the web during the holidays; Mother’s day, Father’s day, Valentine’s day. All of those guilt filled holidays can teach a child how to design a product, cost and build the product, and run the books for a business. You play the bank and venture capitalist. They learn about borrowing, selling their ideas to you. They will learn some new skills in a low risk experiment. I had a friend in college that was selling eggs in High School on her bike. She paid for her college tuition with her own little business.

65 Home Business Ideas You Can Do From Your Kitchen Table

A neighbor used to run a salon in her basement when I was growing up. I am sure the zoning was against her, but she was raising her children after her husband died. The neighbors never complained to the city, it was expected that she took care of her family. Her little basement was a center of production!

The older sections of most cities have businesses with living quarters above them. That was built in the USA, Europe and Australia. You provided some service and you lived above the business.

AUS Biz 01A

Then the idea of the suburbs was developed. Move out, get space, and commute to work. Buy everything you need in exchange for your time. Never stop.

Try to get creative. Your time at your job is valuable, but you need to step aside, let the others stay on the treadmill. Break the cycle.

Making Cider:

Here is the plan:

Reduce your consumption on unnecessary items.
Become a center of independence and production (change your thinking!)
Eliminate your debt.
Build your savings.
Make your money work for you.
Become free in life and mind!


Melbourne Architecture

Some houses are designed or built better than other. You can tell when the floor plan works or fails. Materials have a direct impact on our senses that is hard to explain unless you experience them first hand. There is a difference between quality fixtures and the cheaper substitutes. Which is why I always hated a noisy bathroom fan. Some of them just scream like a jet engine while you are trapped in a small room with bad acoustics. The builder took the cheapest material he could find and you have to live with it for years or even decades.

While staying with friends in Australia, I found their floor plan to be very well designed. The whole place has a clean smooth flow. However, when the building was put up, the area was designed around natural ventilation with brick cooling and heating cycles. There isn’t any A/C in the place and on a day like today, you can just feel the sweat on your skin.

The only real failures in this whole space are a vent hood over the stove and the lack of a ventilation fan in the guest bathroom. While the screaming whine of most American vent fans is annoying, the complete silence in the half-bath are just as bad. Trust me, a bad fan is better than no fan in a shared living space.

Pepe Le Pew 01
Pepe Le Pew Copyright Warner Brothers

In this case, when I made dinner for my hosts, my Texas Chili and corn bread turned out to be only a partial success.


Don’t Be Afraid!

Bear safe image php
Image from Discovery News

Don’t be afraid, you are not alone in life. It really is a great journey you are on and the good times are all the sweeter from the struggles you may suffer.

Cryptid on mountain from not over til its over
Image from Discovery News

Just step back and look around you. There are people in your life that think you are fine just the way you are. They love you not because you are perfect. They love you because you make their life better just the way you are.


Have you ever gone to an event or location with thousands of people. I feel more alone in big crowds then I am with a friend or just a few people. Just the opposite of what we might expect. The more the merrier works to a point but closeness comes from the intimacy of family and friends.

Teddy Blonde 01A

Image from Music and Commerce

Some people can’t bear to be alone. We need to learn how to be comfortable with ourselves. I think we have lost something in the past few decades. Every waking moment is filled with activity or stimulation. Never learning that a little quiet moment alone is perfectly acceptable.

I remember driving up to my Aunt’s small country house one day. She was on the front porch swing in the afternoon, under the shade of the wide front porch, no music, no TV, just gently rocking listening to the wind in the trees, watching the ripple of the corn stalks across the black top road.

Corn Field 01
Image from The Field Report

She was smiling when we pulled up, everyone piling out of the car. Her quiet moment changed into the chaos of kids and guests running everywhere. Here is a woman who was able to enjoy those simple moments in life. Our modern lives could use more summer afternoons filled with gentle, quiet moments. We all need to be comfortable being ourselves in life.

Catch Your Breath!

When you feel overwhelmed, stop for a minute and just breath.

We all do it, but nobody ever teaches us how important breathing really is. Learn to do it right. Breathing is life. Use it to gain control over those feelings you may be having.

Your body will naturally tense up as your emotional state hijacks your physical systems. The body wants to respond to what you are feeling. Stress, feeling overwhelmed, panic, loss, all will manifest themselves in your neck, shoulders, chest, blood pressure. Take a moment, notice where your thoughts have taken you, practice relaxing, breathing and changing your thoughts to regain your balance.


Fear can be mind numbing and hard to control. We are built to avoid injury, bad or harmful situations. When your mind is focused on negative thoughts, or the fear of some calamity, your body is tensing up, getting ready to fight or run (fight or flight).

At the same time, fear can be a wonderful ally in life. That roller coaster is a positive expression of the fear you feel. Your mind tells your body that something bad will happen as you get on the ride, but the energy as you walk away from the ride makes you feel alive.

Learn to use fear in a positive way. Your mind is telling you something, learn to work with those thoughts and all of that energy. Listen, then direct it into a positive outcome. Practice overcoming your fears in little steps. You will become stronger over time just like a child learns to explore life in little steps. Have a trusted friend help you through these exercises.


Use positive thoughts to change your mood. Write three positive thoughts down each day. Write them down in a journal once a day. This has been proven to work for people.

Journal 01
Image from Nina Davis

When you feel that dark side of you coming out, stop and change the direction of your thoughts. You can control your emotions, it takes practice, but you can learn to do it.

Are you still feeling afraid, lost and alone?

Try working towards a better place instead of thinking about your current state. Action that makes your life better will do more than focusing on the negative. Only you can change your life. The world around us stays the same. How we make our life in this world is up to us.

If all else fails, get a dog. Dogs live in the moment. When treated properly, they give unlimited love back to you.

Dog Baby 01
Image from Release The Hounds

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~Gilda Radner

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. ~Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself. ~Josh Billings

From Quote Garden

Pause for a moment, reflect on this wonderful journey we are all on, control your breathing to help you find your center, smile at a warm memory, relax your shoulders, and just know that you are loved for who you are!


The Iditarod 2013 is Running

If you love the snow and you love dogs this is a great time of year. The 2013 Iditarod is running in Alaska.

This sled dog race is over 1000 miles across two mountain ranges, frozen rivers, a frozen ocean leg, and a lot of ice, snow and cold. The mushers and dogs work together as a team and the race is held every year. There are hundreds of volunteers working to keep the dogs healthy and the race safe each year.

The Iditarod Home Page

Here is a short video by Dallas Seavy, one of the mushers, on the Iditarod race:

Sign up and you get race updates and older videos. For a premium subscription you get a GPS tracking of the mushers, digital downloads, and live content from this years race.

If you are a teacher, you can get a classroom subscription or a subscription for an entire school. There are a lot of prebuilt lessons for teachers for different age groups that you can use in your classes.

Iditarod Teachers Portal

There are lessons in literacy, science, math and others. This is a very popular portal and it keeps growing each year as new material is added.

If you are homeschooling, this is a great portal for you to use. You can work your lessons with your children together.

Here is a great documentary on an earlier race. Part 1 of 5:

Toughest Race on Earth Iditarod 01 The Last Great Race

You can pull down the other videos, or buy them as DVD’s or iTunes. iTunes has TV episodes, books, podcasts, and iTunes University information on this race. There is a lot you can use for your classroom or homeschool.

The Iditarod Air Force is also flying again. Their motto is; “Going to the dogs since 1978!”

Happy Trails!


Do You Have More Card Debt Than Savings

From a CNBC an article on personal finance, the article discusses the sad state of US consumer savings.

One Quarter of US Has More Card Debt Than Savings

“The fact of the matter is that America is broke — whether it’s mortgages, student loans or credit cards, we are broke. The old rule of thumb is that people should have six months’ of savings,” Dvorkin says.”If you talk to people, most don’t have two pennies.”

Financial Slave 01
Image from Adult Onset Poverty

What a System!

I do have credit card debt. After eliminating all debt in my life, I cut up my credit cards. Then I found out my credit score went down. I then had to get a high fee credit card to rebuild my score because I had a poor score. You actually get punished for paying with cash and having savings!

Think about this. The banks and credit scoring agencies have set up a game through “Fair Isacc” sanction through Congress, that allows them to control you. If you live on cash, you get punished. You must stay in the game if you want to ever buy a house, a car, an emergency medical issue, or any big ticket items on credit. Your savings account does not matter.

So I built up my credit score again. Now I keep a balance on my credit cards to ensure I show a positive score and I pay my bills on time. Except I paid my bills on time when I used cash. What a racket they have us all trapped in.

How to Play It Safely!

The way to beat this game is, you need to keep about a 30% floating balance on your credit. Use and pay off the cards or other loans on time.

Make sure this is a low interest rate card. Your credit union is typically a source of a lower interest credit card.

Keep enough money in savings to eliminate the credit balance at any time. You are basically able to eliminate your debt with an online transfer, but you are keeping a running balance to ensure “Fair Isacc” monitors your ability to manage your debts.

What’s Next?

Get your savings up. You need that six months of expenses in the bank to ensure you can weather most financial storms.

Piggy Bank 01
Copyright Open Clip Art Library

BE YOUR OWN BANK!!! Make sure you borrow from yourself and not from a bank or payday lender! Even a small savings account will help you break the bonds of financial slavery debt can trap you in.

The credit rating game I described above is to build and maintain your credit score. You must keep cash in savings!

After you have your cash reserves built up, then you need to work on midterm and longterm investments.

Find someone you and your family can trust to guide you. Financial issues can destroy a relationship. A third party can often help you discuss the issues together in a rational manner.

Make sure you are protected in these financially troubled times.

Keep it Simple!


In-And-Out Burger and Antifragile – Part 3

The purpose of this series of posts is to use a business as a model for teaching fragility and how we can ensure the long term survival of a business or family’s finances.

This is a mental exercise on making In-And-Out Burger (INO for short) as anti-fragile as we can design it.

To summarize the past few posts, we have laid out the following scenario in the blog post “Stewardship and In-And-Out Burger” and then got deeper into the discussion in the post “In-And-Out Burger – Antifragile Part 1″:

1) Ms. Lynsi Snyder (now Ms. Lynsi Torres) owns 100% of the INO company stock.
2) This gives Ms. Lynsi the sole responsibility for ensuring the long term direction and survival of INO.
3) The purpose of INO is to provide for the heirs of the original founders, Ms. Lynsi’s grandparents.
4) In this case, the goal should be the successful succession of INO from Ms. Lynsi to her children in thirty (30) years.

This changes the timeline of the problem from one of quarterly results to a generational time period.

Ms. Lynsi now becomes the shepherdess managing the safety and survival of the flock instead of the more common business model of maximum efficiency with metric growth.

George Faulkner Wetherbee “A Shepherdess with her Dog and Flock in a Moonlit Meadow”
A Shepherdess 01

Image from MyArtPrints.Co.UK

Given the above goal, we then explored the dangers of expansion and marginal returns for the heirs in Part 1.

Basically, certain risks are a fact of nature. Big systems fail and the incentives for most executives is to expand the business. These two facts cause most businesses to implode over time.

Big Systems Are Dangerous – Don’t Kill The Golden Goose with Expansion!

The Golden Goose 01
Image from Dino Spike Fairy Tales

The marginal return issue is explained by the fact that after a certain point, having more money does not make you happier. In fact, one could argue, it shortens your life or brings misery.

If you have no money, and live under a bridge, then making an income brings you from survival to a more stable living. You know where your next meal is coming from which is a very good thing.

The Fremont Bridge Troll

Wikipedia Happiness Economics

When you go from middle class to upper middle class, you get more toys, and you can travel more. It also brings more hours at work, bigger mortgages, higher car payments and the loss of control as you keep up with your social peers. You may or may not be “happier”. You are better fed, clothed and housed with the higher income.

However, it has been shown that after a certain level, having more money does not bring more joy to your life. You can not eat more, you can not live in five houses, you can not drive twenty cars. You may collect them as a hobby, but overall, your life is not enriched with more cash. And once again, you have more financial headaches.

That means while the goals of the INO management is to expand the company, to make more money, to earn big bonuses and show their management expertise. Their goal is in conflict with the needs of Ms. Lynsi and her family. The problem is, earning $10 million a year for the heirs is great. Earning $11 million the next year by squeezing the system adds stress to the business but it does not make Ms. Lynsi any happier in life.

In Part 2, we once again explored the Agency problem. The fact that the goals for the management of INO is to make as much money in salary and bonus as possible while Ms. Lynsi carries all of the downside risk. They will push hard to expand into new states and territories and when it all goes wrong, they get new jobs at another company. They also kept their salary and bonus money. At the same time, Ms. Lynsi and her family loses their business. The risk is on her, while upper management has zero skin in the game!

Ms. Lynsi Gets Skinned, Management Gets Cash

Faux Bear Skin Rug 01
No bears where harmed in the making of this exercise. Faux Bear Skin Rug

When management announces their goal of expanding into Kansas or Colorado, they will show how they are growing the company and maximizing return. However, having 281 stores in 2012 is a big company that makes a solid return to the family.

When the company expands to 300 stores, the family gains nothing from this expansion. Management earns a higher paycheck and bonus while Ms. Lynsi gains nothing from the increased risk of collapse. Her family can not eat more, drive more, vacation more or go to better schools. They gain nothing except an increased risk of a systemic shock to the system that will bring a severe financial crisis.

Expand or Die!

The mantra of every MBA graduate! In my humble opinion, this is the same thinking that has brought down almost every major company in the past thirty years.

What is the end goal for INO?

If you grab a cup of sweet tea, sit down on the porch, and think about what INO should be in thirty (30) years, you have several distinct options.

First, as we discussed in the first post, the purpose of any company is to survive. So, INO must survive as an independent company. If they have to merge or get bought out, the management team has failed.

Second, the business has to provide for the heirs of the original founders.

Third, the business has to take care of its employees and customers.

Does the company need to be in every country on the planet?

The simple answer is no it does not. Which means that unlimited expansion is not the end goal.

Should INO be in Mexico and Canada?

A nice thought, but why do you need to go out of the country for sales? You can sell every burger you make in the 281 stores you already own.

Should INO be in every state?

I would argue that INO is NOT Wendy’s, Burger King, or McDonald’s. Therefor it does not need to expand to all fifty states. If you wanted to be like Wendy’s or Burger King you would start franchising.

Do you really need an INO in Time’s Square or Miami Beach?

INO was a California icon, and while there are big markets that they can expand into, the family gains nothing but more risk of failure. Management gains, but the family gets more headaches from regulations, tax issues, labor issues, and supply chain issues.

Think of it this way, the King gains nothing from doubling the size of the royal court, but the court gains more power over the King!

There is more to this exercise and I’ll work it out over time. Some questions would be;
What do you do with the system that has been built (now at 281 stores)?
What will happen WHEN the system faces a major shock (a Black Swan event)?

Black Swan 01

The Lessons of This Exercise

The Wizard Of Oz Tornado 02
Copyright – The Wizard of Oz

At this point, what applies to your small family is the fact that making more money does not always make your life more robust or anti-fragile. You need to build a system that is sustainable for the long term. Think in terms of generations instead of the fast buck. Avoid major risks to your family and your financial system. Ensure you live below your means and have a large cash cushion to buffer you when the storm comes. Plan and prepare before the storm, not when the clouds appear overhead.

The Wizard Of Oz Tornado 01
Copyright – The Wizard of Oz


Value – Engineering Designs versus Street Smarts

You don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate this story.

A toothpaste factory had a problem. They sometimes shipped empty boxes without the tube inside.

TGW 200b 01

Image from MH&L News

This challenged their perceived quality with the buyers and distributors. Understanding how important the relationship with them was, the CEO of the company assembled his top people. They decided to hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem. The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, and third-parties selected. Six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, and high quality. Everyone in the project was pleased.

They solved the problem by using a high-tech precision scale that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would stop, someone would walk over, remove the defective box, and then press another button to re-start the line. As a result of the new package monitoring process, no empty boxes were being shipped out of the factory.

With no more customer complaints, the CEO felt the $8 million was well spent. He then reviewed the line statistics report and discovered the number of empty boxes picked up by the scale in the first week was consistent with projections, however, the next three weeks were zero! The estimated rate should have been at least a dozen boxes a day. He had the engineers check the equipment, they verified the report as accurate.

Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, viewed the part of the line where the precision scale was installed, and observed just ahead of the new $8 million dollar solution sat a $20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes off the belt and into a bin. He asked the line supervisor what that was about.

Industrial Fan 01

“Oh, that,” the supervisor replied, “Bert, the kid from maintenance, put it there because he was tired of walking over, removing the box and re-starting the line every time the bell rang.”

Author unknown. I received this as an email joke.


Freedom! How Will You Live Your Life?

What kind of life do you want to lead?

You need to drive the bus, and control the direction and speed of your life. Your family needs to work together to find the path to freedom.

If you aren’t listening to me, listen to these gentlemen below!

Nigel Marsh has a wonderful quote from his TEDx presentation in Sydney. He speaks about living a balanced life.

“People work long hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”

Nigel Marsh Site

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work

Adam Baker gives his views on how he and his family changed their view of the American dream. Adam speaks about living without debt.

TEDxAsheville – Adam Baker – Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.

You need to take control of your life and live it on your terms.


Teenager Words to Live By – Tapene and Gilliam

This article was sent to me in an email. It was written in a school paper by New Zealand Northland College principal John Tapene. A college in New Zealand or Australia is a private High School. A different system than the USA.

Northland College Contact Page

Tapene Words For Teens 01

“Always we hear the cry from teenagers “What can we do, where can we go?

My answer is this: Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.

The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness and lonely again. In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important, you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you!”

Mr. Tupene said he was quoting from an old article:

“Mr Tapene first read the text, which has since been attributed to a 1959 speech by a Judge Phillip B. Gilliam of Denver, US, in a mail-out from the Secondary Principals Association.”

Northern Advocate Article

The original article is below:
- Start Article

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do? … Where can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through — and not too tired — read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational activities.

The world does not owe you a living… You owe the world something.

You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

You’re supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.

They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven’s name, grow up and go home!

- End Article

A nice background story on Judge Gilliam


In-N-Out Burger – Antifragile Part 2

Continuing the mental exercise of how to make Lynsi Snyder and In-N-Out Burger anti-fragile, I am going to add some more background to the discussion.

Take a look at the below video. I put it here for two reasons. One, in the Yahoo article here (Yahoo on INO) it was noted that drag racing was a pursuit for the family, and two, it shows in physical format the result of the unexpected or Black Swan event.

Worst & Most Spectacular Drag Racing Crashes

In drag racing you are trying to build a car that can cover a quarter mile distance in the shortest amount of time given your skills as a driver, your budget and your ability to design, build, maintain, and field a dragster. Thousands of parts are put together, and the team fields the resulting design in a complex series of events. All of this work comes together on race day to push the driver and the machine down the track to achieve their team results in full public view.

Note that this is a team sport. The days of one person building and racing their own car are long gone. This sport is now as complex as Nascar or the America’s Cup.

What are the odds?

For a thousand races, you may have 10% failures. The failures can be as simple as you had a cold and couldn’t go that day, to you forgot to fill the gas tank, to the catastrophic results you saw in the video. Results that put the drivers life in serious peril.

To have a perfect season, you, the team, and all of the parts in the dragster would have to be right 1000 times. Zero to over 300 miles per hour in about 4 seconds. Nature, and math, doesn’t work that way. You will have failures!

Think about this, for 1000 attempts, a 10% failure rate means 100 botched races. If all of your safety systems work, you only have a bruised ego. If anything rare happens, you need medical insurance for a broken bone, or a cemetery plot because it just went south for you that day.

This article isn’t about safety. The point of this discussion is to show that only one rare event needs to happen to cause the whole system to end in disaster. For example, the chute failed to deploy, or as you saw, a little wind lifted the front end and caused the dragster to turn into an airplane without the wings.

With a 10% failure rate, you will survive but you lost that race. You may also have a car that needs serious repair. If you don’t have a strong budget, you are out for the season. Or you now need to find a new hobby because you can’t afford to rebuild an engine that is no longer an automobile engine, but is in fact a work of art.

When not if!

So, take the point that in thirty years, it is not a matter of “if” something will go wrong for Ms. Lynsi. It is a question of “when” something goes wrong, will it be small or large. Then the question will become, can she survive the resulting crisis.

In my lifetime, the USA has experienced seven (7) recessions. This is a natural process, and any economist or government official that says not to worry has never really seen their parents try to make payroll, feed a family or pay a mortgage under financial pressure. It is not a matter of if another recession will hit, it is a matter of when the recession hits, how do you survive the slowdown?

See how the question has changed for the company managers. The financial advisors and senior managers are no longer focused on this quarters results. You are forcing them to look at the long term survival of a company and how to ensure that your risks are minimized. You no longer allow them the luxury of saying, “We’ll worry about that when it happens.” You have proven it WILL happen. Let’s look at it now before we are under the gun.

The military tries to do this. They call it wargaming. Testing and training their managers and equipment in different scenarios to see what works and what needs to be changed. The Marines actually planned the island fighting campaign of WW2 in the late 1920 and early 1930′s. Long before the USA even thought about fighting in the pacific. It is hard to find that in any business school or board room in America. Score one for the military.

Why will her managers fail?

I read this story a very long time ago. It shows that very few senior managers are able to hear the word “no”. Typically, they surround themselves with yes men who parrot back whatever they are told. In this case, it cost the General his life:

BG. Don Pratt – WW2 Glider Landing at Normandy


National WW2 Glider Pilots Association

Nobody told the good General that sitting in the jeep during a landing in enemy territory may not be the smartest idea in the world. Major staff failure. Notice his aide survived because he was NOT sitting in the jeep. And how amazing that Lt. Col. Murphy was flying. Talk about irony!

My MBA’s will save me!

Look at the number of MBA graduates we have in the USA. If I had applied for a job at Lehman Brothers in 2001, do you think the CEO would have given me an interview?

No way! I would not have the credentials to work for a “world class” company of their statue. They filled their ranks with MBA’s who started working on Wall Street and London. They hired the best they could find and retain.

If you can hire so much great talent, why does your company no longer exist?

Lehmen Brothers – 1850 to 2008. Gone!

Wegelin & Co. – From 700 to 2011. The oldest bank in Switzerland. Gone! Holy shnikes! You are the CEO of the oldest Swiss bank, and you tanked a 1300 hundred year company? That is beyond belief!

Qwest – Founded 1996 and merged in 2011. Essentially gone by merger.

MF Global – 2007 to 2011. Gone and infamous in that they crushed thousands with their financial dealings.

Bernard Madoff – NY financier and socialite. Oh yes, and ponzi scheme manager.

There are at least three things that come to mind from this list. First, all of the CEO’s had penis’. Second, they all thought they were infallible. Third, nature proved them wrong.

Once again. A crisis will happen. And being lucky may get you through. Being robust to the systemic shocks is better thank luck. Being anti-fragile will ensure your long term survival.

Multiple big shock events will happen in the next 30 years to Ms. Lynsi. The fundamental key to this strategy is to modify the risk of exposure. Then test, learn and practice getting out of trouble using simple strategies.

Which leads us to WHY the experts and company managers will screw the pooch… They were trained to!

Business courses and MBA programs focus on extracting the most they can from a given system. This is contrary to commonsense and nature.

It’s the system you built!

When a manager is given a target, they will twist, turn and lie to make sure they win. They are not being dishonest. They truly believe the lies they tell each other in their meetings. They are going for 7% growth this year. Every resource will focus on meeting that 7% target. Cheering will erupt, back slapping, smiles, cheers, and of course, year end bonuses will all ensue. Yea team!

Then the new goals will come out. We have looked into our crystal ball and determined that we can reach 7.3% this year. Let’s get to work! Once again, the machine will be unleashed in pursuit of the holy grail of 7.3% and our year end bonus.

Where’s the slop?

The slop has been removed. Let me explain.

When you keep optimizing the system, you remove the elasticity. The ability of the system to react to a change and bounce back. You keep putting air into the balloon, and it gets bigger and bigger. When it is half full, it can land on some sharp edge and it may not puncture. When it is filled to capacity, it no longer has any give to the skin. When it hits that sharp edge, boom!

If it is a car engine, you can build it to run at 7000 RPM. If you put a governor on it, and keep it below 6000 RPM, you can probably run that engine for years. If you keep pushing it to the limit of 7000 RPM and maybe go over a few times, you are going to throw a bearing. Take 50K on a new engine and test it out or take my word for it.

Look at those managers. In the long term, they are going to lose. They have so many things working against them:

1) Big egos.
2) Some level of narcissism (depending on the person of course).
3) High expectations of increasing returns.
4) No real world exposure to dynamic systems that go boom in real life.
5) A financial system that rewards high risk.
6) A failed belief system (more on this if I have the energy).
7) A failed education system.
8) A history of being lucky.
9) A social system of peers that expect the big win.
10) A culture of expand or die.
11) Nature is a bitch.
12) The fact lady luck hates a show off.
13) No practice or training. All decisions are made in real time with real money.
14) Predominantly male management structures.
15) No skin in the game.

When you put this together, you get a male dominated system that will implode and take everyone around them down.

The corporate Fat Cats!

Fat Cat 01

So much for being lean and strong over time.

More later!


Why Write?

A friend asked me months ago, why did I start writing this blog?

Sitting here, drinking my tea on a beautiful, southern Australian morning, I think I can finally answer her question.

I remember sitting in an English class back in High School. The teacher was asked how she became interested in English, and then went to college to teach it as a career.

She stopped the class to answer the question from one of her students. Then with great reverence she explained that when she was a little girl, her father would start each day by sitting down and reading the entire newspaper front to back. That simple daily act got her interested in English when she was growing up. Her father impressed her with his daily routine of always starting his morning reading the “entire” paper.

Newspaper 01

Image from: Teach English Today

It was then that my teenage mind leaped onto the idea of;
“What the heck, didn’t that lazy guy have a job?”

Now, years later, I know that I was wrong when I was thinking that way. As an adult, I can see the value in taking time to read each day.

Now, my grown up mind leaps to the thought; “What the heck, he filled his mind with that garbage instead of reading something of value?”

Take an a little time to read something that adds value to your life.

Classics to Read 01

Image from Albuquerque Extra

And in case you are wondering, I write this blog because too many thoughts race around my head trying to leak out. I found it is better to write them down, than to ignore them.

Keep it simple!


In-N-Out Burger – AntiFragile Part 1

I am about to build a mental exercise on how to make In-N-Out Burger anti-fragile. This will be a first for me. Solving a problem for someone, Ms. Lynsi Snyder, who will never know it was solved. Cute right?!

In n out sign
In-N-Out Burger – Typical Signage. Lee Abbamonte

While not the only solution, this will be one possible solution to the question:

How do you manage a business for thirty years?

That question came to me when I wrote about stewardship. My view is, Ms. Lynsi Snyder (now Ms. Lynsi Torres) has the ultimate responsibility to to turn over the company to her heirs at some future date. Figure any future heirs should be in their 30′s before taking the helm, we can say, Ms. Lynsi has a thirty year problem to solve.

So, you can do a traditional risk management model and try to prepare against every possible outcome. Locust, plague, zombie apocalypse, the meltdown of the US Greenback, or Congress gone wild. Yet, there are an infinite number of problems and you cannot prepare for everything.

Think of it as trying to go camping. You can carry more and more to deal with every possible risk, real or imagined, or you may decide, to go minimalist and live of the land. The sweet spot is what you are seeking. Having what you need, when you need it and leaving everything else behind.

For this puzzle, we will take a different view!

Let’s start with:

Why does In-N-Out Burger exist?

The answer may surprise you. INO’s soul reason to exist is to support the DNA of Ms. Lynsi. Strange but true!

Oh, you can ague that the purpose of a business is to provide a good service, and support the local community. You may say that a business needs to provide for the workers. You may take the view that the business needs to pay a return to the stock holders. All of these are legitimate views.

Let’s go back in time to find out why my answer is the correct one.

You and I have something in common with Ms. Lynsi. We all have grandparents. Yea!

Harry and Esther Snyder started a drive-thru hamburger restaurant in October 1948. Look at how they got there. The Snyder’s made it through the depression. They made it through WW2. They met, fell in love. They moved to California in 1948 and started a family.

Esther Snyder

Harry Snyder

They had the idea for the first drive-thru restaurant in 1948. They were in an extremely fast growing city. The demographics had the post-war families moving to LA. America was becoming mobile via the mass production and affordability of the car. All of this and more allowed this burger chain to grow. By the time Mr. Synder died, they had grown the chain to 18 stores.

The popular thing today is to disparage the wealthy. If you stop and think about it, all of our grandparents had the same choices. Yet, the Snyder’s took a chance and built a system that has survived for all of these years. That is a great accomplishment! We need to celebrate these people in life. Not give speeches to say they are criminals.

Why did they build it?

To feed their family. To earn an income. For self-fulfillment. To have work when others were searching for work after the war. After living through the depression they knew what a struggle life could be. They loved to cook. They had a strong religious conviction to touch others in life. All of the above?

Everyone works to eat, feed their family, and if they are lucky, to reach a level of inner fulfillment. Through your children, you ensure the survival of your DNA in the game of life. So, the Snyder’s built a economic engine that ensured the survival of their children (DNA) into the future. How cool is that?

DNA structure and bases color FR svg
DNA Structure and bases – Wikimeida Commons.

What about the stock holders?

The reason this solution works for INO and not for H-P or some other big company is, Ms. Lynsi is the sole stock holder. Therefor, all of the responsibility for the company’s survival rests with her. She is free to fail or succeed over the next thirty years all on her own.

Let’s explore some options for INO:

She could sell her ownership today, and live on an island with room service for life. Boring!

She could go public and reap a huge windfall. Then she can deal with the SEC and every Wall Street analysts saying the company is not squeezing enough profits for the institutional investors. Major pain in the arse.

She could let her management team deal with it while she sits by the pool. This works great until greed sets in and people start milking her profits at the expense of, you guessed it, her children’s future!

She can grow into the role as a Shepherdess and manage her flock until such time as her children assume the role from her. Bingo!

What should she turn over in 30 years?

This is the million dollar question, so to speak. Let’s explore it!

Currently, INO is in the south western states. From their humble start in Baldwin Park, California (LA area), they are now in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah (Salt Lake Region).

They just opened a new factory making burgers for their new Texas stores. This gives the company a lauching pad to expand from Texas, to New Mexico and up along the Front Range of the Rockies. That will put stores in Peublo, Colorado Springs, Denver and the Denver Area, up to Ft. Collins and if they push it, they can reach southern Wyoming at Cheyenne.

Going the other way, the can push up into Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and from there, they just keep growing.

I am sure upper management has a hard-on for this plan of global domination. And it would be wrong.

Why would expansion be a road to long term ruin?

If I told you that I will give you a hamburger chain that has a few dozen stores, and only operates in Germany, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Free. Gratis. Yours for the taking. Would you think that is a great gift in life?

Sure you would. You could feed your family, friends and take a nice vacation with a 24+ stores. You get manageable problems, red tape, worker issues, supplier issues, all while enjoying Europe.

If told you that I will give you 24+ stores but they are all located in Texas would you take it? Sure you would. Then you would say, “Oh we need to grow this baby! Make it huge!” It is the same gift, but being “confined” to Texas is limiting your plans!

Except you can feed your family, feed your friends, have a nice hobby, pay your workers, and enjoy a sweet life by just staying in Texas. This is the exact same gift covering a similar sized region, Texas and a chunk of Europe. However, the American managers want to “Get Big!” Yea big!

Now look at it from a thirty year view.

If you have 100 stores and you are the sole stock holder, what does the 101st store bring you? Nothing. You can not eat more, you can not buy a bigger house, you cannot drive more cars. The only thing expansion brings you are headaches and the risk of implosion from being too big!

Oh, the President and executives get bragging rights as they take home their bonuses each year. They get to stand up in front of an MBA class and say how they expanded from 100 to 200 locations. Then they took the money, left for the beach, leaving the stockholder (Ms. Lynsi) to deal with the BIG company and the resulting big mess.

There is a point at which BIG is BAD. When a system gets too big, it naturally becomes unstable. People forget this in life. Elephants need a lot of land to roam over for food. A mouse is doing pretty well in your barn.

Except we as humans are conditioned to look at all of the positives about being big. We fail to see the hidden faults that are waiting to explode when the system gets stressed.

I worked for a Fortune 50 company and dealt with the issues of being too big. We were selling 45 Billion a year when I was with the company. That meant, to keep growing 10% a year, the business had to find 4.5 Billion dollars in new markets, new sales, and new work each year! Everyone in upper management, and the “professional” money managers pushed for more growth.

Nobody ever said, “Wait a minute, why not build the most profitable company in our industry?” They just said grow. Like a cancer or tumor, they wanted growth no matter what. What a sad system they built.

Let me end part one here. There is more to this story and the possible solution for Ms. Lynsi which I will explore in part two.

Remember to keep it simple in life and enjoy the people around you!