Notes From My Journal

“What they should do is let us go back to the old system. We’re spending two million more each year and getting service worse than we had 8 years ago.”

I’d heard this complaint before. A client decides his own IT/data services group is providing crappy service and costing too much. So he consults with an “expert” who promises to get him a much better system and save him money too by switching to a new provider.

He makes the switch. And several years later, he realizes it was wishful thinking.

Whatever your business, the problem is the same: Your people bitch about central services. They are not getting the technical support (they think) they need. They are sure they can get better support more cheaply by going with an outside vendor.

Eventually you discover (if you have good accounting) that you’ve been duped.

As I said, I’ve seen it happen many times. I’m not suggesting that you should always stick with the system you have. I am suggesting that the next time someone pitches you on going somewhere new, be skeptical.


Today’s Word: plenary (adjective)

Plenary (PLEH-nuh-ree) means unconditional, unlimited, unrestricted. When you hold a meeting to which all members are invited, it’s a plenary meeting. When the Pope offers a general pardon for all sins, it’s a plenary indulgence. I can’t say that this is a word you’ll use often. But here and there, to put a little spice in a memo, it’s useful.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

 Gaby at the Jasper Johns Exhibition*

 She paid the senior’s fare

For both of us

It’s a donation, she said

Not a freaking tax


Jasper Johns in Gray, I said

That’s what I want to see!

I should walk you through Rothko, she said

That’s what I should do

And we were laughing


Breathless, she led me through a dark hall,

Up a stone staircase to a bright-lit room –

Her hair was damp and wild,

Her coat, frayed and lovely, sad


She was half-mad and half-brilliant,

My little sister


I paused in front of something messy

“False Start,” the title read

This is not action painting, she said

Glad to hear it, I replied


And then a room of large gray pieces

Black and white encaustics

Maybe he was colorblind, I said

Or maybe he thinks youare, she said


Every piece we passed was on fire

For her, burning but invisible,

Part of her, conflagration after conflagration

She moved through them, wincing


Then in front of two vertical canvasses

She stopped, tears in her eyes

I stood beside her, struggling to get it,

Waited, handed her a tissue


Then she was walking quickly again,

Talking frenetically about Rauschenberg,

About sex and love and death and dancing

And I followed her, amazed, proud, smiling


* NOTE: An earlier version of this poem was published in my first poetry collection, Back and Out Again


Weekend Project: Your Own Starter Wine Cellar

If you like wine – and you should – having your own place for it will provide years of daily (if you drink wine daily – and you should) pleasure.

Contrary to popular wisdom, you don’t need a fortune to create a well-stocked cellar. A very respectable beginner’s cellar can be made from a converted closet. (Just vent in some air conditioning.) Or by purchasing a relatively inexpensive wine-storage cooler. (Some are under $300.)

The trick to putting together a good cellar is balance. You need wines that can be drunk right away and wines that need aging. You need reds and whites and a few roses and sparkling wines and maybe a good port or two. As far as pricing goes, you needn’t spend much. Good to great drinkable wine can be had for $10 to $20 a bottle. And if you do your homework, you can get world-class wines for $40 to $50.

Here’s my recommendation for a 40-bottle starter cellar:

* 10 white wines (6-8 dry; 2-4 sweet), none of which will need to be aged

* 20 reds (half full-bodied and half lighter)

* 5-10 roses

* a few sparkling wines

* a handful of ports

The reds should be a combination of French, American, Australian, and Italian wines (4-6 of each) and should include some full-bodied Cabernets and Shirazes, a few Meritages or Bordeaux, a few bottles from Tuscany, a few from Piedmont, and a few Pinot Noirs and Beaujolais.

If you are up to it, make notes of each wine as you drink it. For extra credit, research the wines online, comparing your impressions with those of the pros.

After you’ve gone through your starter wines, you’ll be able to stock a larger cellar with confidence.

Fun Fact

Apples are more effective at waking you up in the morning than coffee.

Look at This…

The Most Crowded Island on Earth