Saturday, April 05, 2008

“Consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life,” according to recent psychological studies reported today in the New York Times.

The newspaper I read at breakfast this morning told of the funeral of a young man who died trying to save his mother from being robbed in Mexico. It said she read this poem, which is what she found on his bed when she returned to Boulder:

A Postmortem Guide
For my eulogist, in advance

Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can't you see I've turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?
Go down to the old cemetery; you'll see
there's nothing definitive to be said.
The dead once were all kinds—
boundary breakers and scalawags,
martyrs of the flesh, and so many
dumb bunnies of duty, unbearably nice.
I've been a little of each.
And, please, resist the temptation
of speaking about virtue.
The seldom-tempted are too fond
of that word, the small-spirited, the unburdened.
Know that I've admired in others
only the fraught straining
to be good.
Adam's my man and Eve's not to blame.
He bit in; it made no sense to stop.
Still, for accuracy's sake you might say
I often stoppped,
that I rarely went as far as I dreamed.
And since you know my hardships,
understand they're mere bump and setback
against history's horror.
Remind those seated, perhaps weeping,
how obscene it is
for some of us to complain.
Tell them I had second chances.
I knew joy.
I was burned by books early
and kept sidling up to the flame.
Tell them that at the end I had no need
for God, who'd become just a story
I once loved, one of many
with concealments and late-night rescues,
high sentence and pomp.
The truth is
I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant snow.
You who are one of them, say that I loved
my companions most of all.
In all sincerity, say they provided
a better way to be alone.

When I looked up the poem online, I was surprised to see this by the same author:

John & Mary

"John & Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who also had never met."—from a freshman's short story

They were like gazelles who occupied different
grassy plains, running in opposite directions
from different lions.
They were like postal clerks
in different zip codes, with different vacation time,
their bosses adamant and clock-driven.
How could they get together?
They were like two people who couldn't get together.
John was a Sufi with a love of the dervish,
Mary of course a Christian with a curfew.
They were like two dolphins in the immensity
of the Atlantic, one playful,the other stuck in a tuna net—
two absolutely different childhoods!
There was simply no hope for them.
They would never speak in person.
When they ran across that windswept field
toward each other, they were like two freight trains,
one having left Seattle at 6:36 an unknown speed, the other delayed
in Topeka for repairs.
The math indicated that they'd embrace
in another world, if at all, like parallel lines.
Or merely appear kindred and close, like stars.

Mary and I have known each other since high school, we are engaged, and we keep putting off the date. It feels a lot like this.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

In 1854, Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, an employee of the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, is said to have first proposed a faster northern route for mail. Founded by William Hepburn Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors, the Pony Express officially opened on this day 1860. The first trip, westbound, was made in 10 days, 7 hours, and 45 minutes. It was a fast mail service crossing the North American continent from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California from 1860 until October 1861 when it was replace by the transcontinental telegraph.

I just sent out this to Denver newspaper:


Denver Socrates Cafe (good discussion about important topics), each Thursday, 7 p.m., Trinity Church, 19th & Broadway, Denver. Free. More info and RSVP at or (303)861-1447.

Denver Grassroots Rally (take your turn on the soap box), Friday, 4 p.m., Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, Denver. Free. More info and RSVP at (Note: at our meeting tomorrow (Friday, 4/4) we will announce a change of name to Denver Speaker's Corner & moving the meeting to Denver Civic Center Park on Sunday afternoons.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

From The Writer’s Almanac:

"The world must be made safe for democracy,"said President Woodrow Wilson on this day in 1917 as he called Congress into special session and asked them to declare war on Germany.

It's the birthday of the author of many of our best-known fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen. In 1835… he desperately needed money for rent, so he quickly wrote and published a pamphlet containing four fairy tales. It was such a big success that he published a new collection of fairy tales every Christmas for the next few years. They were cheap paperback editions, and they grew to be extremely popular. He started off by retelling the stories he had heard from his parents as a child, but then he began making up his own. Between 1835 and 1872, he published 168 fairy tales, including "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Snow Queen," "Princess and the Pea," and "The Nightingale" and "The Ugly Duckling."

Want to be happier? A new study reported today in the Wall Street Journal found that when we spend time on what the study calls “engaging leisure and spiritual activities," things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party, we're typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed.

"These are things you choose to do, rather than have to do," notes one of the study's co-authors, Prof. Schkade of the University of California, San Diego.

Do we really need a study to tell us this? Yes, it’s good to get a reminder. My dad always encouraged me to “take time to smell the roses.” I wrote down my goals yesterday, no mention of "engaging leisure and spiritual activities." Maybe that's why written goals are such a problem for me. I'm going to revise my list as soon as this is posted. How about you?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ophra just emailed me (well, not just me) and asked for what topics she might focus on in her magazine and future TV shows. Here's what I sent her:

I suggest that you do a show called "Do Businesses Start the Way the SBA (Small Business Administration) says they should start?"

Dr. Amar Bhide has written a book that the publisher of Inc. Magazine has said is the most important book ever written about business startup, but very few employees of the Small Business Administration have ever read it. Dr. Bhide's research has shown that successful businesses don't start the way that the SBA says they should, with formal market research and formal strategic planning.

In 1993 I was inspired by Dr. Bhide's work to write a little booklet on startup that I sold for years through local book stores, and I started holding a weekly meeting for people who were interested in business creativity.

You can see the booklet and a link to the group (that I now call the IDEA Cafe) on

It really does seem to me that this is a big, big story that just doesn't get covered by the business press. The SBA was started in 1954, what has it really done to small business in America? We used to be a nation of shopkeepers, we are rapidly becoming a nation of clerks working for big corporations.

I'll let you know what I hear back from Ophra.

Monday, March 31, 2008

“All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings. Farm workers are not agricultural implements; they are not beasts of burden to be used and discarded.” “It can be done!” César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) Cesar Chavez was an American civil rights leader. His birthday has become a holiday in eight U.S. states. It’s a holiday here in Denver (parking meters are free today, city offices, libraries, and the Denver Art Museaum are closed, the Zoo and Denver schools are open) but not in Colorado. Many parks, cultural centers, libraries, schools, and streets have been named in his honor in cities across the United States.

“If you don’t have anything to say, sing it,” said Hal Riney who died recently. Here’s an 8 minute clip of a talk he gave in 2002 about his ads, ads that had a big impact on not only how advertising is done, but even more importantly how we’ve thought about ourselves as Americans since 1965 when his first big ad ran for Crocker Bank. The sound quality is bad, but this is really worth watching:

"I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." Attributed to William F. Buckley (I can’t find the original source, does anyone know if WFB actually said this?)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"How much sadness there is in life, the right thing is to work." Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) who was born today. Later, just before he committed suicide, he said, "I feel a failure."

“When I have Republican friends (in Denver) say to me, we’re splitting town (during the Democratic convention), I say, ‘Why would you do that?’ This is going to be the greatest sideshow in the history of Colorado.” Dick Wadhams, Chair, Colorado Republican Party.

Bruce Benson, our newly appointed University of Colorado President, has scored his first victory, a new tax earmarked for CU Denver and the other Auraria schools.

Have a problem? Benson’s answer seems to always be, get a bigger hammer. (A thru I, Ref. C & D, etc. and the other special taxes Benson has pushed.)

Maybe “hammer tax” would be a good name for these special taxes, these end runs around the annual oversight of our elected representatives through the budgeting process, that Benson and Mayor J.Hic are so good at creating.

I wonder if “hammer tax” could ever make it into the dictionary? Probably not, since “seat tax” is not there yet.

Much thanks to my friend Larry, who just gave me this logo to use for my IDEA Café, isn’t it great? I’m going to post it here and on, and use it in other ways. Larry’s a very accomplished fine artist, and he also does commercial graphic art. He recently illustrated a childrens book for Kansas University, which I’m hoping that he’ll bring to the IDEA Café next Friday, and then to the Denver Grassroots Rally later that same day. See more about Larry, the work he has done, and how he might be able to help you at