In response to Donald Trump’s latest demonstration of his version of foreign policy – i.e, coming out into the center of the ring very aggressively and then backing away before his opponent figures out what hits him – Bill Bonner published a very instructive essay on his blog. I pass it along to you here, pretty much in its entirety…

“The Age of Descent: A Short History of the 21st Century (So Far)” by Bill Bonner 

 “The Age of Descent began at the end of the 20th century. Then, four decades of bad money, bad policies, and the badass Deep State caught up with the U.S.

“By 2016, the War on Terror – designed to transfer wealth from the public to the armed wing of the Deep State – had already been going on for 15 years, funded by debt.

“And for the most recent six years, the Federal Reserve had conducted a war against normal business and economic cycles – preventing normal corrections – in order to keep the wealth flowing to Wall Street and the richest 10% of the population.

“It was then, in the election of 2016, that voters faced a sour choice. There was the devil they knew, Hillary Clinton. And there was the one they didn’t know, Donald Trump.

“Given what they knew at the time, they seem to have made the best choice; they voted, by a hair, to get to know the devil, Trump. At the very least, he promised something new.

“He said he would end the foreign wars… and pay off the national debt in eight years. The reasonable voter could say to himself: ‘Even if he disappoints me, he still seems to want to go in the right direction.’

“Mr. Trump also promised to call a spade a spade. In that, voters got perhaps even more than they expected. But it soon became evident that the reality TV show star didn’t know what a spade was. His shows had been scripted for him.

Deep State Script 

“In the fall of 2018, the Fed was normalizing interest rates and draining away the $3.6 trillion in excess liquidity (new money) it had introduced during the crisis years. This policy was known as QT or quantitative tightening.

“But then, with a sell-off in the stock market, and under threat from the Trump White House, the Fed panicked. It promptly ended its ‘normalizing’ of interest rates. A year later, in September 2019 and still, under pressure from the president, it panicked again and ended QT.

“Suddenly, it began flooding the markets with new money again. More spending and a tax cut had increased federal deficits. By that time, foreigners had largely stopped funding U.S. red ink. Americans were reluctant, too. This left only the Fed. It funded 90% of federal borrowing needs by creating about $4 billion per day of new, fake money.

“But it probably didn’t matter very much who was in the White House. While the president keeps his ratings up with unchecked impulses and improv dialog, the real, important lines are still scripted – by the Deep State.

Bitter Catastrophe

“By the opening of the 21st century, the military/industrial/congressional complex that Eisenhower had warned about in 1961 was a reality. It could not be stopped.

“Too many powerful people depended on it – for their reputations, their careers, and their wealth. Trillions of dollars were taken from the public in order to reward the Pentagon and its crony suppliers, Wall Street, and all the hangers-on, chislers, and shysters of The Swamp.https://www.markford.net/wp-admin/admin.php?page=jetpack

“Nor could the demographic trends be denied. More and more people were leaving productive careers to go into retirement. The over-75 population segment was the fastest-growing of all; it was also the group that needed the most care and attention. Now, with so many older voters, increased entitlement spending could not be stopped, either.

“And now, despite the irrefutable math and ineluctable financial debacle, the public barely seems to notice. Impeachment. Assassination. Partisan politics. Rising stock prices. Everything seems more important than saving the nation from a bitter catastrophe.

Insiders vs. the People

“The voters take sides. Some are for the president, some are against him.

“But they square off on issues that have little significance. Good guys vs. bad guys. Rich vs. Poor. White vs. Black. Straight vs. Gay. Red vs. Blue. Even man vs. woman. The Chinese are the enemy one day. The next, it is the Mexicans. And then, the Iranians.

“The real fight, the Deep State insiders vs. the People, is rarely mentioned. And so the Deep State keeps winning. Debt increases. The wars go on.

“And while the empire still has its soldiers all over the world… and controls the seas with its heavy ships… and the air with its high-tech airplanes… it nevertheless descends, sinks, and slides deeper and deeper into the mud.”

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“Be careful that what you write does not offend anybody or cause problems…. The safest approach is to remove all useful information.” – Scott Adams

 

The Language Police Are At It Again! 

Last year, according to Dictionary.com, we were no longer allowed to say “committed suicide.” This year, they’re taking aim at some “problematic” words and phrases that might “hurt some groups of people.”

A few examples from an article titled “Stop Using These Phrases in 2020 (Use These Synonyms Instead)”:

* Guru – “Throwing the term around casually – as in referring to yourself as a marketing/love/business guru – is disrespectful because it diminishes the importance of the title and its [Buddhist and Hindu] origins.”

* Binging – “The word… originates from serious eating disorders… and should be reserved for discussions about them.”

* Scalp – “Using it to say someone ripped you off or to infer that you got robbed is making light of what was a very gruesome act….”

* Hysterical – “Far too often women are dubbed hysterical for being outspoken or showing their feelings. That wades into… sexist territory due to the history of the term…. Hysteria comes from the Greek hysterikós, which means ‘suffering of the womb.’ [And] the ancient Greeks believed that when a woman was behaving irrationally… it was because her uterus was literally wandering around her body causing trouble.”

Lest you continue to unwittingly offend, the (anonymous) author of this article officiously offers alternatives. Doyen, virtuoso, authority, and maestro instead of guruindulging, satiating, being on a spree, and wallowing instead of binging… and so on.

You can read the entire ridiculous thing here.

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“I hate writing. I love having written.” – Dorothy Parker

In a very good and very readable recent essay – titled “Ruin Your Life” – James Altucher chronicles his journey as a writer. His advice to wannabe writers: “There are no tips other than to write write write. And read read read.” Then, in typical Altucher fashion, he proceeds to provide 21 very specific tips. You can read the entire essay here.

Meanwhile, here are some of those tips…

Writing Tips From James Altucher

* Read “Old Man and the Sea” – Read it once a year. Read how he strips out every word. It’s the most boring story in the world. It’s written at a fourth-grade level. But every time I read it I become (I think, I hope) a better writer.

* Read “Factotum” by Charles Bukowski (the art of the short chapter. The art of the memoir novel. The art of being bad but being lovable. The art of being depressed and scared and hopeless but sharing it).

* Read “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey (the sentences!) and “Spectacle” by Susan Steinberg (you will be one writer before you read it and a different one after you read it). And, most importantly, I’ve read “Jesus’ Son” by Denis Johnson at least 300 times and I will read it 300 more times.

* No matter what you write in the first draft, cut out 30% by the final draft.

* No matter what you write, before you are done, take out the first and last paragraph. Even if you know this rule, it still works.

* Avoid adjectives and adverbs. The story should reveal how quick he ran. Not the word “quick.”

* Try for a cliffhanger every paragraph. Fiction or nonfiction.

* Bleed in the first line, even if you have to start in the middle of a story.

* Idea Sex: Take one idea, combine it with another idea. BOOM! Thrillers + Legal = John Grisham selling 200 million books.

* Write down ten ideas a day. Get the juices flowing.

* Write Read Steal Repeat. Steven Pressfield stole “The Bhagavad Gita” and put the exact structure in a novel about golf in the 1930s. “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is now a modern classic.

* Process is all that matters. Outcomes will take care of themselves.

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“A sense of purpose is both the fuel and the compass one needs to move through confusion.” – Michael Masterson

 

Not every successful person sets yearly goals at the New Year. Just 90% do.

If you are among the 10% that can achieve your objectives without formalizing them – without writing them down and tracking them – you have every right to look down your nose at the rest of us that rely on goal setting to get things done.

How can you tell if you are one of the superior 10%?

Simply look back on the past year… and the past 5 years… and ask yourself if you have accomplished everything you wanted to accomplish.

If you haven’t, you are one of us.

I have written dozens of essays and almost as many book chapters on the subject. If you’ve read them, you know that my goal setting system, the one I’ve been refining for more than 30 years, departs from conventional wisdom in several respects.

* I do not believe in setting highly specific annual goals.

* I don’t believe in “stretch” goals.

* And I don’t believe in emotionally attaching myself to my goals.

One of the common recommendations I do practice is to publish my goals. Not because I want someone else to hold me accountable, but because I want to be able to hold myself accountable.

So that’s what this is: a public posting of my primary goals for 2020.

 

New Year Resolutions: 35 Ways I’m Going to Do More and Be More in 2020 

Social Goals

  1. Improve the financial well-being of my family and friends without damaging them.
  2. Contribute at least 30% of my active income to charitable causes.
  3. Continue to expand FunLimon, my family’s community development center in Nicaragua.
  4. Identify two additional worthy causes.
  5. Visit my grandkids at least once every 8 weeks.
  6. Listen more attentively.

Personal Projects

  1. Write more honestly and authentically.
  2. Write 150 new essays.
  3. Complete at least three new books.
  4. Publish two of them.
  5. Build a museum for some of my art.
  6. Add at least 100 new species of palm trees to my palm tree botanical garden.
  7. Improve my pass guard game in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
  8. Compete in a major tournament.
  9. Practice the French horn.
  10. Improve my language skills.

Business and Wealth Building Objectives

  1. Increase the value of my investments by at least 5% by making only one or two adjustments. (Less equity, more lending.)
  2. Increase ROI on my rental real estate properties by increasing rents where appropriate.
  3. Continue making an active income while living my ideal “retirement” lifestyle.
  4. Reduce or eliminate unproductive and unrewarding expenditures.
  5. Complete the latest version of my estate plan, giving away another 20% of my net worth. (My goal is to give away 95% of it in the next 5 years.)
  6. Continue to provide high value service to my one client (The Agora) by focusing on advertising compliance and efficiency.
  7. Help reestablish bookings and profitability for Rancho Santana.
  8. Buy 20 important pieces to add to my collection of Central American art.
  9. Sell at least 50 inferior pieces from my full collection.

 Health Goals

  1. Walk more.
  2. Worry less.
  3. Stay strong.
  4. Stay sharp.
  5. Eat well. (Fewer carbohydrates, more vegetables, more healthy fat.)
  6. Get my weight down to less than 200.
  7. Strengthen my heart and lungs with high-intensity workouts six days a week.
  8. Limit my cigar consumption to one per day.
  9. Strengthen my heart, getting my max up to 180 beats.

Stoic Goal

Own my self-worth. Do not burden others with the responsibility to maintain my self-esteem.

Zen Goal

Work with intentionality on all my goals without caring about accomplishing any of them. As I said in my January 1 blog: “You can learn to act intentionally without attachment. Remember, the way is the true goal. And movement is the reward.”

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“A man’s mind is known by the company it keeps.” – James Russell Lowell

 

I try to read a book a week. In 2019, I read more than that – some for the second or third (or more) time. Here are the 22 of the best and 2 of the worst:

 The Best – and Worst – Books I Read in 2019 

  1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)

A page-turner/science fiction/mystery – and a time travel novel without time travel – that explores what it means to be human. One critic described this book as “Ground Hog Day on Red Bull.”

  1. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (1999)

I saw the movie. This was Sacks’s account of how, as a doctor in the late 1960s, he revived patients who had been neurologically “frozen” by sleeping sickness. 

  1. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot (1922)

Eliot’s magnum opus, written in extremis, came to embody the spirit of the years following WWI.This was probably the sixth time I’ve read it, and it gets better every time. A portion of the content is academic; another portion is personal. So a third of it I still don’t understand, but so much the better for the next read.

  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)

I’ve been reading this off and on since the summer and have not yet finished it, but I intend to. It’s very funny. 

  1. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (2019)

With his wryly lucid prose, Bryson documents the attempts, both successful and failed, to learn more about the human body in all its glorious complexity. 

6.  Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism by Harold Bloom (2019)

Harold Bloom was one of my favorite literary critics. He was erudite, intelligent, and knowledgeable. In this book, he covers a vast landscape of poetry and prose, stopping to provide insights into and observations about some of the greatest writers of all time.

  1. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (1955)

I must have read Baldwin before, but this book stunned me. Baldwin had a reputation as an intellect, but this collection of essays about his experience as a black man in mid-century America is very, very strong.

  1. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (2019)

If learning about punctuation and grammar sounds painful, this book may change your mind. Dreyer, who was the copy chief of Random House, offers up lots of “inside knowledge” on the literary virtues and vices that professional editors look out for when apprising manuscripts. Although the subject matter is sometimes technical, the experience of reading the book is always fun and fast moving, thanks to Dreyer’s enthusiasm for his life’s work.

  1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

My fourth read of this classic and beautifully written novella. Hemingway’s prose style and storytelling is at its height here. If he had written only this, his importance as one of the most influential writers of the 20thcentury would be preserved.

  1. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1902)

Another classic. My second read. This was a book club selection, read simultaneously with The Old Man and the Sea. Both powerful and profound. A very interesting contrast in literary styles. 

  1. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson (2018)

I am a fan of Jordan Peterson as a YouTube intellectual. And yet this book was better than I had expected. This is not a self-help guide, but a treatise on what it means to live a meaningful life. The range and depth of Peterson’s thinking helped me understand why he’s so good at debate. 

  1. The Coddling of the American Mind : How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (2018)

The first third of this book felt like everything I’d already figured out, but the last two-thirds took me to new and exciting perspectives in understanding what has gone wrong with American culture and consciousness in the past 50 years. The last part could be read as an instruction manual for parents that want to save their children from the moral miasma we’ve gotten into. (I sent copies to my three sons.)

  1. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (2019)

Higginbotham’s superb account of the April 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is one of those rare books about science and technology that read like a tension-filled thriller. Replete with vivid detail and sharply etched personalities, this narrative of astounding incompetence moves from mistake to mistake, miscalculation to miscalculation.

  1. The Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (2013).

George Saunders is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and  The Tenth of December is Saunders at his best. These are brilliant but gentle satires on contemporary life in America. It’s hilarious and scary and joyful – often all at once.

  1. Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland (2019)

Here’s a look into my world – the world of copywriting and direct marketing – written by an articulate, erudite, and opinionated British businessperson.

  1. Interview With the Vampire by Ann Rice (1976)

I forced my book club to read this, hoping they would see in it, as I did, a profound exploration of the limits of human imagination. Ann Rice is a highly underrated writer. I made the case. They didn’t get it. But maybe you will.

  1. The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age by Leo Damrosch (2019)

This is a delightful read – conversations from some of the most interesting intellectuals and artists of the 18thcentury at London’s Turk’s Head Tavern, including Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, the actor David Garrick, the historian Edward Gibbon, and, of course, Johnson’s loyal biographer James Boswell: “a constellation of talent that has rarely if ever been equaled.”

  1. How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper (2019)

Set in England, Andrew’s job is to find relatives and friends of people that die alone. He has no friends except for an online chat group of train nuts. It sounds miserable, but it’s actually very smart, insightful, and funny.

  1. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)

The rise and fall of Willie Stark, a politician in the American South in the 1930s. (The story was apparently inspired by the life of Louisiana senator/governor Huey Long.) Some of our book club saw it as strictly a political novel. I thought it was much more than that. I thought it was about what it is to be human.

  1. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Half science fiction, half anti-war movie, the book follows the life of Billy Pilgrim from childhood to his service as a soldier in WWII to his life as a suburban family man after the war. I had never read Vonnegut before. I was happy with this introduction.

  1. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)

The protagonist, Jonah, begins to write a book about what some Americans were doing the day the USA bombed Hiroshima, and from there the book goes on a wild journey to the bizarre island dictatorship of San Lorenzo. It then gets weirder and weirder. The primary theme of the book – free will – is explored in some depth. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what insights, if any, were offered.

  1. Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (2013)

A gripping account of Thurgood Marshall’s defense (as a young attorney) of four young black men (the Groveland Boys) accused in 1949 of raping a woman in Lake County, Florida. This is a must read for anyone interested in racism in mid-century America.

 

And now here are the most overrated books I read this year…

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (2019)

If Whitehead is as smart as his admirers say, he’s pandering here to a think-what-I-should readership.

And…

Where the Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens (2018)

A feminist novel that is insulting to women.

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Santa gave Francis, our four-year-old grandson, a toy named Cosmo.

From a distance, Cosmo looked like a cheap plastic stocking stuffer shaped like a tractor. But it moved in what seemed to be a purposeful way. It approached me and looked up, its digital eyes scanning me.

“That’s Daddo,” Francis said.

Cosmo nodded its head and blinked.

Then it said, “Merry Christmas, Daddo!”

In 1965, Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel, postulated that the number of transistors that could be packed into a given unit of space would double about every two years while the cost per transistor would halve. The leading scientific community of that decade laughed at him. Such a pace of acceleration seemed absurd to them. But Moore was not wrong. In fact, the doubling has occurred about every 18 months.

In recent years, polymath superstar Ray Kurzweil has been predicting all sorts of modern miracles based on Moore’s Law. Kurzweil believes that advancements will speed up even faster because computer and biological technology has accelerated the nature of evolution itself.

It makes one wonder what Cosmo will evolve into.

Here’s my guess: By 2040, biological pets will be a thing of the past. In their place will be unimaginably advanced Cosmos, cuddly, loving, and supremely intelligent technological creatures whose job it will be to entertain, babysit, and socialize children.

Ah, yes. The New Year is always a good time for predictions. And although I don’t believe in betting on the future, Cosmo has inspired me to conjure up 18 more prognostications for your amusement.

 

Predictions for 2020 and Beyond 

* Donald Trump will be reelected, winning a higher percentage of Latino and African American support of any Republican president in the modern era.

* Sometime thereafter, we will have another financial crash, with real estate prices dropping 15% to 20% and the equity markets falling that much or more – this despite frantic government efforts at “quantitative easing.”

* After the crash, another effort to oust Trump from office will take place and succeed.

* Continuing innovations in technology and biology will gradually unleash a new era of economic expansion that will ameliorate the debt problem and improve the lifestyles of the middle and working classes. (The mega-rich will stay rich and the poor will stay poor, but only relatively. Absolute living conditions will improve everywhere.)

* Meanwhile, lots of ordinary things will improve. For example, in the next 3 to 5 years, weather forecasting will achieve 90% reliability for major threats such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and even forest fires.

* In the next 10 years, children around the world will be learning what their parents want them to learn by playing with addictively amusing interactive robots that will prove to be better teachers than the flesh-and-blood teachers.

* And for those worried about global warming, good news: Accelerating advances in the storage, transmission, and use of solar and wind energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by 30% in the next 10 years. (Mostly in the wealthier countries.)

* After decades of disappointments in the fight against cancer and heart disease, in the next 5 years breakthroughs in immunotherapy and genetic medicine will make most forms of these two primary killers treatable, in the way AIDS is treatable today.

* In the next decade, urban congestion will be greatly reduced by a combination of delivery drones (even for large objects like steel girders), driverless transport, and penalties leveraged on individually owned vehicles.

* Cryptocurrencies will not succeed as independent currencies. Instead, they will be outlawed and replaced by digital currencies issued by banks, brokerages, and other financial institutions that will allow governments to track every financial move their citizens make.

* The biggest economic challenge of the next two decades will be the addition of billions of children born in still poverty-stricken Sub-Saharan Africa… while the non-immigrant population of the “advanced” world will stagnate or fall.

* On the positive side for Africa (and India): Pneumonia, currently the “ultimate disease of poverty,” will be virtually eliminated in the next 7 years.

* During the next decade, many aging, crumbling mid-sized cities in North America will be renovated as urban populations abandon their decomposing neighborhoods and move into newer, cleaner, and less expensive ones, such as the one planned by Kevin Plank in Baltimore.

* In the next 5 years, farm animals – cows, lambs, chickens, and goats – raised in large production facilities will have better food, more space to grow, and healthful amenities such as musical and meditation treatments to improve their immune systems and fatten them up.

* In the next 2 to 3 years, most large chain stores will have eliminated checkout counters, using smart shopping carts with scanning and computing technology to process payments as items are loaded into them.

* The current price wars among ride-calling and sharing apps will end in the next 3 to 5 years, leaving only two or three companies standing. Uber will not be one of them.

* The current CBD craze will be over in the next 3 years, with 80% to 90% of the companies that are currently profiting from the craze going out of business.

* Yuval Harari will be proven right in his prediction that Homo sapiens will begin to be  (in the next 50 years) replaced by a new species of humans that are part robot and part computer.

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“The beginning is the most important part of any work.” – Plato

 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is exactly the right day for thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2020. You can’t do that seriously, however, unless you spend some time reviewing your success in accomplishing the goals you had for 2019.

If you have read any of the dozens of essays, books, and blog posts I’ve written about personal productivity over the past 20 years, you know that I organize my goals in four categories: health, wealth, personal, and social.

And at the beginning of each year, I challenge myself to complete a number of objectives in each of those four categories. Last year, for example, I gave myself 5 major financial goals (all of which were about preserving and protecting wealth – not adding to it). My health goals were also few in number (fitness, diet, strength, and mental acuity) but challenging (improving despite aging). My social goals were even fewer (be kinder, be more generous, pay more attention). The big category in terms of number of objectives was personal. I had several dozen projects – writing and building and collecting – that kept me busy.

It takes me less than 15 minutes to review my goals of the previous year, recognize where I met them, where I fell behind, and where I failed completely. And that helps me shape my goals for the next year.

If you wrote down goals for 2019, you might want to do the same thing. Be frank in your assessments. (Fooling oneself is much easier than fooling others.) And be realistic in setting new goals, giving yourself challenges that, based on past experience, you are confident you can achieve.

 

Contrarian Rules for Goals and a Zen Mindset for Accomplishing Them 

I don’t assign myself “stretch goals” because I’m hardwired to stretch. For me, the challenge is to be realistic about what I can do.

Contrary to what you are likely to hear from other productivity “experts,” your yearly goals should not be specific. They should not be “Write six books of 30,000 words by August  31.” They should be more like “Write several good books.”

After you’ve finished your yearly goals, you figure out how much you can reasonably accomplish each month throughout the year. Here is where you can get more specific. In January, for example, your goal for book writing might be something like: “Write 6-page outlines for 3 books.”

Then you break those monthly goals into even more specific objectives: “Write outline for one book this week.”

Keep in mind that your yearly goals should be important-but-not-urgent goals – the sort of goals that, though not urgent or even necessary, would nevertheless have a profoundly positive impact on the quality of your life.

And here’s a suggestion if you tend to beat yourself up over failing to meet your goals. This, again, is contrary to what most productivity gurus advise. They advocate a mindset of passion and zeal, of lighting a burning desire in your heart to accomplish everything you set out to do. I believe this is a big mistake. Instead, take a Zen-like approach to your New Year’s Resolutions. Write them down. Intend to accomplish them. But don’t allow yourself to care whether you do or you don’t.

You can learn to act intentionally without attachment. Remember, the way is the true goal. And movement is the reward.

There are lots of people that don’t believe in making New Year’s Resolutions. They will tell you that they are artificial and unnecessary. I think they are wrong. Dead wrong. Setting and pursuing goals the way I do has made my life immeasurably richer in all the most important ways. I believe it will have the same result for you.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. Start today. Let me know how it works.

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It’s always good to be prepared. In greeting 2020 with colleagues, friends, and family, the following sentiments may come in handy:

Toasts for the New Year 

In all this world, why I do think

There are four reasons why we drink:

Good friends, good wine, lest we be dry,

And any other reason why.

Here’s to cheating, stealing, fighting, and drinking.

If you cheat, may you cheat death.

If you steal, may you steal a woman’s heart.

If you fight, may you fight for a brother.

And if you drink, may you drink with me.

Here’s to a long life and a merry one

A quick death and an easy one

A pretty girl and an honest one

A cold beer and another one!

In Vino Veritas. In Cervesio Felicitas. (“In wine, there is wisdom. In beer, there is joy.”)

Dance as if no one were watching,

Sing as if no one were listening,

And live every day as if it were your last.

As you slide down the banisters of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.

9.

May your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.

And finally, from Benjamin Franklin…

10.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

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The history of the Christmas carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” isn’t entirely clear. The earliest known version dates back to 1780 in a children’s book titled Mirth With-out Mischief, but it had almost certainly been around for some time before that. According to Vox.com, “Some historians think the song could be French in origin, but most agree it was designed as a ‘memory and forfeits’ game, in which singers tested their recall of the lyrics and had to award their opponents a ‘forfeit’ – a kiss or a favor of some kind – if they made a mistake.”

In Christian theology, the 12 days of Christmas run from Dec. 25 (the birth of Christ) to Jan. 6 (the coming of the Magi – the Epiphany or Three Kings Day). So one interpretation is that it was written as a “catechism song” to help Catholic children remember the tenets of their faith. It works like this…

The [Purported] Symbolism Behind “The 12 Days of Christmas” 

* “true love” = God

* “me” = the person who is baptized

* “partridge in a pear tree” = Jesus Christ

* “two turtle doves” = the Old and New Testaments

* “three French hens” = faith, hope, and charity

* “four calling birds” = the four gospels and/or the four evangelists

* “five golden rings” = the first five books of the Old Testament (the history of man’s fall from grace)

* “six geese a-laying” = the six days of creation

* “seven swans a-swimming” = the seven sacraments

* “eight maids a-milking” = the eight beatitudes

* “nine ladies dancing” = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit

* “10 lords a-leaping” = the Ten Commandments

* “11 pipers piping” = the 11 faithful apostles

* “12 drummers drumming” = the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

This, as I say, is one interpretation. It doesn’t especially work for me. I prefer to leave the symbols less doctrinaire. But if you like to think of them that way, there you have it.

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“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.”

– Charles Dickens

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

K and I are spending the yuletide with about a third of our extended family – including our three boys, their spouses, our four grandkids, and various siblings and their children. Keeping one’s family intact for 40 years is a challenge – more so today than ever. But the ROI for all that effort is more than worth it.

It will be a madhouse in the morning – 20 people opening Christmas presents. Then there is our traditional family brunch, with various gastronomic treats that K cooks up just once a year. Then, around six, we’ll welcome a hundred or so of our friends to my “cigar club” for further celebration.

And then, sometime, I’m going to take a moment for myself and say my “prayer”:

Life is a continuum of moments…

Some will be annoying. Those I will ignore.

Some will be disappointing. Those I will accept.

Some will be dangerous. Those I will respect.

Some will be hurtful. Those I will forgive.

Some will be new. Those I will welcome.

Some will be challenging. Those I will embrace.

Most will be ordinary and thus invisible. Those I will see.

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