Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

No pictures today. I have no irritated photos.

Someone tell me what I am missing. Sincerely, I mean that. If I am wrong, I would like to know since ignorance is not a quality I desire to espouse. The theme of my irritation is best captured by the Mark Twain quote which forms this post's title.

First, taxes on investment income. I don't understand how this is more than a political slogan. I am not talking about the irony of taxing someone's earnings and then taxing the money he makes on his post-tax remainder. I am talking about the trickle down effect of almost every tax.

Am I not correct that any tax on investment income is going to either reduce the level of investment or increase the cost of investment? Based on what I know about economics, if investment profit is taxed at increased levels, that cost will simply be passed on. If in 2011 I could invest and earn a potential 5%, in 2012, with taxes on that profit, I will only invest if I think I can make the 5% plus the value of the additional tax. Otherwise, the risk of investment was raised without a corresponding rise in potential reward. So, if I now need assurance of a higher return on my investment, the company in which I invest needs to be confident of a higher profit so that it can pay me. The only consistent source of increased profit is to pass down those higher expenses to the consumer. So, in the end, taxing investment profits chills investment activity and incurs higher costs to the end consumer. I see no way around this inevitability.

Second, what is up with reporting (or what passes as reporting)? I increasingly get news reports which simply parroted  whatever is given to the reporter. Case in point: today I was listening to the public radio station. The report was on the success marked by the one year anniversary of the no texting while driving law. The proof of success was a comment from the original drafter of the legislation (he announced that the law was a success), and a few comments from some one in law enforcement who said that first, texting while driving was dangerous, second, that 162 citations were issued last year, and third, that the law was a success.

What??? How is it that passes for reporting? It's meaningless. I will not even try to explain all the hypothetical mischief that occurs with these kinds of statistics. My point will need to hang on the sufficiency of a few instead. For example, wouldn't the efficacy of the law be better shown if there were no citations (suggesting that people were so convinced of the purpose of the illegality that they completely gave up texting while driving)? Or, how about researching the number of inattentive driving citations given? If that number went down by about 162, doesn't that suggest that the law simply duplicated something already there? Or how about if they thought they would get 10,000 citations? Or what if they thought they would get 50?

The statistic of 162 citations, absent any real context, is completely useless. The whole point of reporting is to get a body of information which may not be readily available to the rest of the world so that we can be informed and make informed choices. There was no reporting going on here. No one asked the questions which would give meaning to a random fact. And, I guess, by extension, we are just supposed to accept that this law was necessary and good because we were told it was. That doesn't sound like me.

One quick note; I agree with the purpose of the law in that I have no interest in driving down the road with other drivers who are simultaneously texting. It is not the law I find frustrating. It is the reporting. Let me know what you think about these things and whether you believe I am missing something.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Power's Back!

Well, that was exciting. We heard from the weather dudes that a strong storm would be heading our way. They were right. On Thursday afternoon the winds started kicking up and, for the next 36 hours, we had, more often than not, high winds and rain. By 8:20 P.M. we had no power. At home our power turned back on the next afternoon around 4 and, at the store, sometime over Friday evening. Internet came back sometime yesterday.

So we spent Friday surveying the damage to our property (about a square of missing shingles) and checking the local area from Sister Bay to Baileys to Egg Harbor. Peninsula State Park was closed due to significant tree windfall, both Fish Creek and Ephraim had boats on shore, and power was out far more often than not.

Since it appeared the store would need to stay closed for the day, we went back home, grabbed some food, and took off to run a variety of errands. We ended up driving around quite a bit, stopping at just about every water access, and doing a little shopping including getting some apples (really excellent this year considering the summer's rain schedule), and getting to Off The Wheel Pottery so that Jenny could use her birthday gift certificate at Renee's.

By mid-afternoon we were back at the Ephraim beach were we sat in the truck like a bunch of tourists and had a picnic and watched the beached sailboat rock back and forth and the crazy sailboarded fly around and memorized lines and knitted and enjoyed Jen's bunny mug. And everywhere we went we talked with people who were checking on others or driving around to see if something needed to be done or checking on mooring lines or making sure  things were OK ... a neat glimpse of community in action.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Summer In Review

It would be both cliche and untrue to say this summer went by quickly. It was complex, full, rich, and profound, but not hasty. Indeed, I cannot remember a summer more patient nor a time in my life when I have been happier.

Not all has been perfect, by any stretch. Much has been two-steps-forward, one-step-back. But I think that is one of the critical differences. Last fall, at a time when I was really struggling with a haunt from my past, a friend of mine asked a stereotypical question; "What's the worst thing that happens?" I was comfortable with this as I had been asked many times before and knew the pat, almost rhetorical answer she would give. So I shrugged my shoulders in smug complacency and waited from some trite answer of the sort I had heard so many times, comfortable that no one knew my darker secrets.

When she continued with the answer, "That Jen leaves you.", I actually started crying for a bit. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someone would see that truth. I can handle a lot and have, but so much of my history is defined by making people artificially comfortable and safe and my world so by extension. But to have it named made all the difference, because, even though I knew that I could not control such ephemeral things as someone's love, I did not own that knowledge. I was still acting in ways which presented a version of myself largely divorced from the warty reality. In that moment, I really came to understand how my history of trying to control for certain outcomes had led to some really screwed-up results.

For those romantics out there, fear not. I have it on good authority that my relationship with Jen is stronger than ever. In fact, I posit that releasing that neurological fear of having to do what ever it took to keep her around has been one of the best quasi marriage counseling events ever. I cannot control what she does. All I can do is try to be real and hope that she likes what she sees.

And this relates directly to this summer as it both allowed me to not pretend that all things in my life were perfect (they are not) and to extend this understanding to my children (now all the age or greater than that of my engagement).

So this summer, while working to reinstate my law license, I applied for quite a number of service industry jobs. I got hired for none of them. Sexism is alive and well in Door County. If you are young and blonde and cute and female, you can make serious money. If you are middle aged and male, good luck.

Instead, I focused on simplifying (more on that in coming posts), exercising, seizing tons of opportunities for life (swimming, boating, kayaking, working on the house, volleyball, biking, lying in the sun, running through the park, etc...), relishing in relationship (I think we only spent one night of the week, on average, alone), and diving into rich artistic projects like the PMF's fantastic performance of Verdi's Requiem and, currently, a premiere theatrical performance at the TAP.

Letting go of controlling my children was blessed. Brynn could run her life without my feeling the need to care (care in the bad way not care in the good way). Lars could progress down his path of independence without my feeling the need to protect Jen. And Hannah could fail at her "emotional vow of silence", without my getting dragged into some sense that I had to fix something. Recognizing more fully that Jen is a fully capable woman who will (no doubt) make up her own decisions and act accordingly, has also been a blessing.

Finally, things continue to crawl toward resolution regarding financial clarity. The store is doing well and my past failings have largely been dragged into the light where the shock has killed some, given sudden growth to a few others, challenged my pride in all, and brought a peace to most. I do not have a perfect life, but I am not about to trade.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lost To A Summer Love

I think my summer hiatus is over. And I am glad that I had one although it lasted somewhat longer than expected. For those of you who encouraged this blog's return, thank you. While it was only a matter of time, the reminders were appreciated.

I had a very good summer, but more of that tomorrow. In the meantime, a synecdochal story.  The other day I had the opportunity to perform at The Clearing. It was a short environmental play presented as a dramatic reading. We gathered a few hours early to rehearse and concluded the rehearsal with an hour or so to spare. Fortunately, I have my summer truck.

The summer truck is so named as it is a vehicle of possibility. Some time in early summer I throw kayak racks, a bike carrier, and an oversized, covered storage bin on the truck. Our kayaks and my mountain bike get added and the bin holds an assortment of clothes, sports gear, cameras, towels, soap, etc... At any given moment, it is possible, within a few minute's time, to be engaged in anything from sleeping on the beach to entering a triathlon. In any case, there is rarely a justification for not being actively involved with life if you have even a few minutes to spare. At the end of each day anything that needs cleaning comes out and is replaced. It is a carrier of possibility. It is a summer truck.

So, realizing the surrounding loveliness, I went back to the truck, stripped down, grabbed my running shoes, shorts, and Zen, and headed off down the curving gravel drives that wander the property, Gaither Vocal Band singing loud in my headphones to drown out my gasps. I ran 'til the exit drive T'd into Garrett Bay Road and headed into Ellison Bay. I eventually made my way back to the primary entrance and cut back onto Clearing property, again following the single-lane, gravel path.

Back at the truck I dumped my shoes and music, grabbed a towel and my flips, and went in search of the stairs that dropped off the short cliff to the rock beach below. I stopped once for directions, and, after a quizzical stare, which I assume suggested a complete abhorrence for swimming in that cold water (or so I heard someone mumble as I trotted away), I found the path behind the Lodge and made my way down to the water.

Off shore by 150 feet were two fishermen on a small bass-boat casting for smallmouth. While that was enough to prevent me from jumping in au naturel, it was not enough to prevent me from the experience of swimming along that bluff in the mid-afternoon sun. Actually, "jumping" is a bit of a misnomer. Typically, at the bottom of these bluffs, the water is clear and lovely and gets deep quite quickly. The beaches, however, are rock and the rock continues well into the water. There really are no sandy entrances and the rock, once at the water line or beyond, can get very slippery.

So I didn't jump. I kicked off my flips and threw my towel and sunglasses on a large rock. I then minced my way into the water until about a foot or so deep. At that point, despite the high uncool quotient, the best strategy was to awkwardly flop into my stomach and drag out into deeper water.

I found a larger rock out a ways which allowed me to stand completely submerged except my canted mouth, nose, and eyes. The water was crystal clear and cool. I just hung there, gripping the rock with my toes to counter the slight waves and let the sun beat on my face.

After I had cooled enough, I swam along the shore a little and then pulled, alligator style, eyes and nose just above the water line, into the shallow. I heard a buzzing and glanced to my right. All along the beach, now exposed some 6 or more years, nature was reclaiming dry ground with an assortment of flowers, milkweed, and occasional poplar or cedar sprig, roots crevassing down to the water table. The buzz was a humming bird methodically working from town toward the bay, appearing to visit every stop en route. I watched, nose deep, until far enough away to not be disturbed by my exit, equally ungainly as my entrance.

I toweled off and headed back to the truck and people and dramatic readings and things of apparent greater import. Yet my strongest memory is of the hummingbird, barely 10 feet away, filling its gullet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Unexpected Rite of Passage

I am certainly proud. And I'm excited for her. And I am happy/relieved that she has a real interest in a professional career and that she has vision for her future. But, if I am going to be a little self-centered, I now feel suddenly older.

My oldest, a daughter, had the day off today. She requested it specifically since she used it to drive down to UW-GB, a hour and a half away, to take the Law School Admission Test. For whatever reason, it really hit me that this was a young woman and not my girl.

I assume she did well; she clearly has an aptitude for the type of mental constructs best used in law. In addition, she is no idiot and has actually been studying aggressively for it. It's fun to see the flash in her eyes as she pulled up after driving home. There is such an energy and drive...

So maybe it's that energy that makes me feel older. Or maybe it's the passing of the torch as I look back at my own LSAT experience. Maybe it's starting to see the next generation really start to make a move on assume the roles of social purpose and direction. Or maybe it's just seeing my daughter take the first real adult step for her future that didn't include me and was her own idea and goal. Whatever. I can get used to this feeling.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It Pays To Be Prepared.

One of the things that I find really fun about summer's in Door County is how so many people live their lives in total preparation for a moment of down time. With the plethora of opportunities to walk, run, bike, swim, boat, read, etc... and everything being fairly close, you can fit a lot into a day if you are ready to go.

Of course the dress code here helps too. Few are sloppy, and urban "costumes" are very rare. Things tend to be simple, crisp and clean, and versatile. My favorite summer outfit consists of quick-dry cargo shorts, a button down oxford cloth dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, sport sandals if its casual or leather sandals if its dressy, and my Aussie hat if I'll be on the water. I tend to wear some derivative of this all day, every day. The only thing it doesn't do well is travel into the evening as most get crisp enough to need some other layer.

So when I am out, I bring a polartec of some sort. But, if I am at home, I have something better. Evening fires are kind of a staple event and last week I finally committed to a plan for the east side of the main house. First in, as it is the most important, was a permanent fire pit. Over Memorial Day we fully tried it out with all the kids home, and a handful of other friends to round out the mix. We made burgers and brats on the grill, watched the sunset from "upstairs", and climbed back down to finish the evening with stories, glasses of Port, and people slowly heading home until just my family was left.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Here Comes That For Which I Paid My Three Bucks!

I try to not be one of those who complains about the weather, although I know I fail. And the reason I fail is that, in the end, I really don't like it cold or windy or rainy. So, by extension, I live for these days. June is here, the crickets, mosquitoes, tourists, and all-day-outside stuff is back. I'm a happy man.

I do need to be more disciplined however. I get up early. I make coffee and wake up with the sun and recent emails. I go to bed within an hour or so of sunset. There are a lot of hours in between. What's hard for me is to really live each day fully whether it is to include kayaking, working at the store, taking care of bills, building whatever, sleeping in the sun, running errands, getting together for another lunch or dinner or whatever with friends, ... there are so many excellent things to do that, if I am not careful, I waste too much time just trying to figure out what I want to do.

I think I found a derivative system that helps though. I have always been big on writing notes. Lately, with my morning coffee, I write a separate note of things to do that day. At the end of the day, I throw it away. The next day starts new and I always have a list for that day rather than a list that is impossible in it's length, impossible in its facts (I can't transplant trees if it's supposed to rain all day), or laden with the critique of those things not done yesterday.

This is my season. And I love the title quote. Mary Tyler Moore murmured it to herself as her hunky date, after they had gone to a cheap movie together, leaned in to give her a goodnight kiss. I love how it recognizes the redemptiveness that an excellent finish gives to an arduous process. It's summer and I'm going to get my three bucks worth.