Today’s Word: putative (adjective) – Something that’s putative (PYOO-duh-tiv) is accepted as fact by supposition rather than as a result of proof. Example from the science fiction writer Greg Bear: “Conservatism is not about tradition and morality, hasn’t been for many decades…. It is about the putative biological and spiritual superiority of the wealthy.”

Did You Know?: Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer– published in 1876 – was the first novel written on a typewriter.

Worth Quoting: “Our fears do make us traitors.” – Lady Macduff in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Watch This

Life isn’t fair. Like poker, we are each dealt a different hand, and some of us get more favorable cards than others. Character is defined not by the hand you begin with but by how you play it. And although success favors some over others, it is ultimately determined by what you do with what you have.


Today’s Word: vinous (adjective) – Vinous (VYE-nus) refers to something that resembles or is associated with wine. As used by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The GreatGatsby: “She had drunk a quantity of champagne, and during the course of her song, she had decided, ineptly, that everything was very, very sad… A humorous suggestion was made that she sing the notes on her face, whereupon she threw up her hands, sank into a chair, and went off into a deep vinous sleep.”

Did You Know?: How to Hang a Painting – For the most part, paintings should be hung at head level. A portrait, for example, should be at a height at which the subject’s eyes are about level with yours (or up to 6 inches higher). There are some exceptions to this rule: If you are arranging paintings vertically, one above the other on the wall; if the room has a very high chair rail; or if you are purposely going for an avant-garde look. But for the most part, hanging your paintings too high indicates that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Worth Quoting: “Abilities wither under criticism and blossom under encouragement.” – Dale Carnegie

Check It Out

Students Making Waves at FunLimon

Nicaragua is a mess. The Ortega government is arresting protestors and tourism has dried up almost completely. But its people are as warm and ambitious and hardworking as they have always been. In our little corner of the country, Rancho Santana is open (keeping its employees on the payroll). And across the street at FunLimon, the educational and skill-development programs are moving ahead full steam.

Here’s a recent newsletter that will give you a glimpse of what that means.


Today’s Word: obviate (verb) – To obviate (AHB-vee-ate) is to anticipate and prevent something or to make something unnecessary. As used by the entrepreneur Sam Altman: “Technology magnifies differences, and it’s been replacing or obviating jobs for a long time. But what happens as that case accelerates? I’m not one of those doomsayers who says, ‘There will be no jobs.’”

Did You Know?: When a female horse and a male donkey mate, the offspring is a mule. When a male horse and a female donkey mate, the offspring is a hinny.

Worth Quoting: “The test of a man or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel. Anybody can behave well when things are going smoothly.” – George Bernard Shaw

Watch This

Lost faith in humanity? Need a break from all the dismal news? I could watch this video for hours…



Today’s Word: aleatory (adjective) – Aleatory (AY-lee-uh-tor-ee) means random, dependent on chance or luck. As used by Sean Macintyre: “My scope is wide and my organizational practices… aleatory.”

Did You Know?: The average woman spends the equivalent of a year of her life deciding what to wear.

Worth Quoting: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” – Ernest Hemingway


Check It Out

The Return of the Checklist

The first big direct-response promo I wrote had an order form that included a checklist to “qualify” candidates. I tested it against a conventional order device (one that had no barriers to enroll) and it actually outpolled it by a bit. And the lifetime value of the customer was much greater.

After I did it, others imitated it. And then, gradually, the checklist disappeared from the market. Whether that was a rational response to testing or an instinct that said “easier is better” I don’t know. But I thought it was interesting to see someone doing it again.

Today’s Word: noisome (adjective) – Noisome (NOY-sum) means offensive, especially when referring to odors. As used by William Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing: “Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome; therefore I will depart unkissed.”

Did You Know?: Today’s military salute had its origin in Medieval times. Knights in armor riding past the king would identify themselves by raising their visors.

Worth Quoting: “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” – Edmund Burke

Watch This

A Sneak Peek at My Movie, Off the Rails

This afternoon I’ll be attending the European premiere of Off the Rails, a movie I co-wrote and produced a few years ago. As you can see from the trailer, it’s a coming of age story about three working-class kids that try to hit it big by opening a rock ‘n roll bar in a bad neighborhood in the 1970s. It’s based on a true story (not surprising) that took place on Long Island. The bar was called The Right Track Inn. It eventually became very successful, but those first two years were tough going.

My co-writer, Steve Cabrera, was the second of the threesome that opened the bar. The director, Damian Fitzpatrick, grew up in Liverpool, which is why it’s premiering here. The location of the film is South Florida, not Long Island, because the budget was limited and I was given a choice: a period piece in Florida or Long Island today. I thought the period was more important than the location.

Take a look…


Today’s Word: pertinacious (adjective) – Someone who is pertinacious (pur-tih-NAY-shus) is stubbornly resolute, holding firmly to an opinion or course of action. Example from Izaak Walton in The Compleat Angler: “He had never met a man of more pertinacious confidence and less abilities.”

Did You Know?: In the U.S., we don’t have a name for @. We just call it “the at symbol.” But other countries are more creative. For example, it’s known as “little mouse” in Chinese, “little snail” in Italian, “little duck” in Greek), “little worm” in Hungary, “sleeping cat” in Finland, “clinging monkey” in German, and – my favorite – “rolled pickled herring” in Czech.

Worth Quoting: “There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.” – Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz

Recommended Reading

Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results

By Robert D. Lupton

2015, 195 pages

If you are a fan of Mother Teresa or Ayn Rand (especially The Virtue of Selfishness) or have ever thought seriously about charity, you will likely appreciate this book. The author is some sort of Christian minister, which worried me going into it. But he admirably restrains himself from preaching in favor of discussing the primary problems with charity: the unintended consequences of creating financial dependency and the feeling of entitlement, both of which are likely to do more harm than good.

I have been writing a book on this subject (The Challenge of Charity) for about 12 years, comparing both the good and the harm my family’s charitable foundation has caused in Nicaragua compared to the good and the harm caused by a for-profit residential resort that my partners and I have been developing across the street.

Reading Lupton, I almost considered abandoning my efforts since he had identified the same problems and was making many of the same arguments. But in the end, I think my “solution” is a bit better than his. So I will finish my book and recommend it to you when it’s finished.

Today’s Word: fatuous (adjective) – Fatuous (FACH-oo-us) means foolish or inane, especially in a smug or complacent manner. Example from The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins: “Well-dressed people avoided him as they emerged from Shreve’s; one plump man in a tweed jacket stood in the chill gray air with a fatuous smile on his face.”

Did You Know?: According to The New York Public Library Desk Reference, the practice of naming hurricanes began early in the 20thcentury when an Australian weather forecaster decided to insult politicians he didn’t like by naming highly destructive tropical storms after them.

Worth Quoting: Annie Dillard on What We Can Learn About Survival From Mangrove Trees

The mangrove island wanders on, afloat and adrift. It walks teetering and wanton before the wind. Its fate and direction are random. It may bob across an ocean and catch on another mainland’s shores. It may starve or dry while it is still a sapling. It may topple in a storm, or pitchpole. By the rarest of chances, it may stave into another mangrove island in a crash of clacking roots, and mesh. What it is most likely to do is drift anywhere in the alien ocean, feeding on death and growing, netting a makeshift soil as it goes, shrimp in its toes and terns in its hair. (From Annie Dillard’s essay“Sojourner”)

Check It Out: The Controversy Behind Banksy’s “Self-Destructing” Painting

Talk about raising the ante…

This publicity stunt by Banksy takes Duchamp’s “Fountain” to another level! Dada meets Gustav Metzger’s auto-destructive art!


Today’s Word: abrade (verb) – To abrade (uh-BRADE) is to rub off or wear away by friction or erosion. As used by Rudyard Kipling: “One of the many beauties of a democracy is its almost superhuman skill in developing troubles with other countries and finding its honor abraded in the process.”

Did You Know?: Not every state celebrates “Columbus Day.” In South Dakota, today is called “Native American Day.” In Hawaii, it’s “Discoverers’ Day” (honoring the Polynesian discoverers of the islands). And in Alaska and Oregon, it’s not a holiday at all.

Worth Quoting: “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” – Stephen Hawking

Watch This: Hearing for the First Time

Most people don’t search for meaning in their lives. And for a very good reason. Meaning for them is immediate, coming as it does from the struggle to survive.

Of those for whom survival is not a challenge, meaning is more elusive. Some find it by submitting to a belief system. Others, those that prefer to think independently, have a more difficult time. As near as I can tell, it’s never found through any sort of introspection. If it comes at all, it comes from work that has purpose.

The wife of a colleague has devoted her life to helping the deaf to hear through advanced medical technology. Take a look at the responses such people have when they first experience hearing. I can only imagine how meaningful it would feel to know that you gave this gift to someone.