Archive for November, 2009

There’s Nothing Good to Eat…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, November 2009

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Treating Budget Cuts with Salt and Lemon Juice…

GRBJ0734

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 16, 2009

Of course the origins of many of ideas can be traced back to The Princess Bride. Here’s where this cartoon started to germinate:

Inigo Montoya: Are you the Miracle Max who worked for the king all those years?
Miracle Max: The King’s stinking son fired me, and thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it? We’re closed.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving everyone!

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Economic Recovery Marathon. Ready, set, go!…

GRBJ0733

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 9, 2009

Never miss a chance to take a jab at economists. The giddiness with which they anticipate the economy going into a recession (Oh, boy! Something fun to talk about!) is equaled only with their annoying enthusiasm for predicting exactly when the economy is coming out. The thing is, they are so very wrong most of the time. What other job can you have such a lousy success rate and still get paid the big bucks? I mean, besides Major League Baseball….

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Michigan Promise (!) Scholarship…

GRBJ0732

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 2, 2009

You know, sometimes it isn’t so much the actual failure that feels bad — it’s the knowing that you set yourself up for the failure that’s painful. I do this to myself all the time. Every week I make an impossibly long task list for myself, and by Friday late-morning (right around now in fact) it becomes eminently clear that I have no hope of crossing off half of them. Then I compound that by Friday late-morning (right around now) making a similarly impossible list of weekend tasks. No doubt that when Monday rolls around many tasks will remain untouched. And I can tell you, if that means that I’m scraping frost off my windshield at 5:45AM because I didn’t make room in the garage for my car, reality will = unhappiness. Cold, painful reality.

In my defense, I make these lists mostly knowing I have no hope of completing them — my first goal is not to forget anything. So if I make a note to update my blog’s interface or replace the uneven bricks in the front walk, it’s stressful knowing that I very likely won’t do it, but at least I’m keeping track of it. I never call my lists “My Holy Covenant of to Be Completed Tasks” or “Resolutely Affirmed Guarantee of Accomplishments I Will Achieve Successfully” or “The Highest Order of Soon Realized Commitments I Humbly and with Much Fidelity Pledge…” well, you get the idea. I make no promise.

So, a few years ago when the State of Michigan set up a scholarship for college students to receive $4000 toward their education, it was a good idea. And when funding for this program was cut because of the current budget crisis, that was cold, painful reality. The bad idea was naming it the Michigan Promise Scholarship, because that was just setting itself up for failure.

Gotta go. I have a long list of things not to get to this afternoon….

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And Now… Some Perspective on Michigan’s Current Economic Situation…

GRBJ0731

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 26, 2009

Did you ever have a coach who wasn’t a very good coach? I mean, whether you liked the person or didn’t like the person, he/she was simply not a good coach. Turns out, to be a good coach you really need two things: First, you need to get yourself the position. Second, you need to coach well. Alas, some people are only good at the first part.

I had a basketball coach in 10th grade like that. One game I was playing point guard and the other team (Flint Beecher) was playing a 1-3-1 zone. Well our offense had a point, two wings, a high post, and a low post. For those of you who don’t understand or want to understand basketball terminology (and let me just say that I cannot possibly understand why you wouldn’t), what this means is that our offensive players lined up right next to their defensive players. It was as the coach said, “Get as close as possible to a player on the other team. Wherever he moves, you move with him. This will make it almost impossible for us to find an open shot let alone score points.” So as point, I would dribble the ball down court and have nobody to pass to. Coach would yell at me. Nothing helpful. Just stuff like “pass it!” Sort of like soccer parents who scream for their kids to “kick the ball in the goal.” As if the thought had never occurred to kid.

I got pulled out and while on the bench I made the helpful suggestion of maybe running two guards up top and sending the forwards down to the baselines. Translation: Let’s not stand right next to the defense. He didn’t put me back in at point guard for the rest of the game.

So it goes with our Michigan “coaches.” Governor Granholm has done a dandy job of getting elected, but she has pretty much loused up the actual governing bit, especially when it has come to budgets. Now in some defense, Michigan has been in decline for her entire seven years, so it’s not like it was an easy job. But at some point, I would have hoped she would show some leadership, acknowledge that Michigan finances have to undergo a fundamental shift to adjust to new realities, and make bold, potentially unpopular but necessary decisions. Not even close. Mike Bishop is the leader of the Senate. You could give him points for cleverly sticking to the Republican dogma of never, ever considering different revenue sources, even for the long-term benefit of the state. But that’d be like complementing him on sticking to an offense with a single point guard no matter what, even if the other team is in a 1-3-1 zone. And I believe you know how I feel about that.

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