Monday, November 30, 2009

Reuters Blogs:
With their feet and their purchases, individual consumers are revolting.  Scholars have started to call this trend, “brand avoidance,” as consumers worried about the larger social and economic impact of brands on society look for other options, even if those options cost a bit more.  In growing numbers, buyers are choosing the local over the brand, the farmers market over the supermarket, the Main Street strip over the mall.  Same with coffee.

While Starbucks closed down outlets in 2008, citing the New Recession as the cause, independent coffee houses, the Seattle Times noted, brought in new customers and they didn’t cut prices.  Over the last few years, in fact, the number of independent coffee houses in the U.S. has jumped past the number of chain store outlets, and now represent 54 percent of the coffee market.


I posted this comment:

In the early 90s I hosted a weekly business radio show in Denver, Colorado. To promote the show I distributed a free newsletter to libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, etc.

SB stores wouldn’t allow my newsletter. SB had a policy of only distributing SB printed material, and they had no bulletin boards for community information.

This really grated on me. Coffee shops have always been community hubs for the dissemination of newsletters, posters about events, etc.

The SB policy may have loosened slightly, but SB and the other chain outlets are a far cry from the community coffee shops that were so important to the healthy growth of this country.

The great good places, as one writer has called them, have been disappearing. Is there a revival taking place? I hope so.
"Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others. But for the Civil War, Lincoln and Grant and Sherman and Sheridan would not have been discovered, nor have risen into notice. ... I have touched upon this matter in a small book which I wrote a generation ago and which I have not published as yet — Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. When Stormfield arrived in heaven he ... was told that ... a shoemaker ... was the most prodigious military genius the planet had ever produced." 

Mark Twain pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens born this day. (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)

Twain was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much time together in Tesla's laboratory.

Twain himself patented three inventions, including an "Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (to replace suspenders) and a history trivia game.Most commercially successful was a self-pasting scrapbook; a dried adhesive on the pages only needed to be moistened before use.

Twain made a substantial amount of money through his writing, but he squandered much of it in bad investments, mostly in new inventions, particularly the Paige typesetting machine. It was a beautifully engineered mechanical marvel that amazed viewers when it worked, but was prone to breakdowns. Twain spent the enormous sum of $300,000 (equivalent to almost $7,000,000 today) on it, but before it could be perfected, it was made obsolete by the Linotype. He lost not only the bulk of his book profits but also a large portion of the inheritance of his wife.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Today, Sun, Nov 29) is the birthday of C.S. Lewis, (books by this author) born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast (1898). He's best known probably for The Chronicles of Narnia, a seven-volume series of children's books. The first in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), begins: "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids."

C.S. Lewis is well known also for his essays on Christianity. He'd been baptized and raised Anglican (in the Church of Ireland), became atheist as a teenager, then a theist in his 20s, and then, in his early 30s, he converted wholeheartedly to Christianity.

His great many religious writings include Mere Christianity (1952), based on theological talks he gave on the BBC during World War II; The Screwtape Letters, a novel of letters from a demon to his nephew (1942); and the allegorical novel The Great Divorce (1945), in which dwellers of hell ride a bus up to heaven. In an essay called "Is Theology Poetry?" he wrote: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

He taught English and medieval literature for three decades at Oxford University, where he was good friends with The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

C.S. Lewis died a week shy of his 65th birthday in Oxford, England, the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

He said, "Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness."

From The Writer's Almanac

C. S. Lewis's life had a profound impact on me and at least one of my friends. I bought a biography of Lewis and gave it to the friend, who was going through Denver on vacation, before I'd read it myself. Later I did read it and wondered if I'd done the right thing; the story was not light vacation-type reading.

My friend  called me years later and said, "I wanted you to know I never read that book you gave me until just a few days ago. I took it down from the shelf recently, and was blown away by it. I just got back from talking with the Pastor at my church here, and I've given my life to Christ."

Lewis believed in putting his faith into action. I think he'd like what we are trying to do here in Denver with Denver Speakers Corner. (Does anyone know if Lewis ever attended the Hyde Park Speakers Corner in London?) Our little group got some publicity in this morning's Denver Post:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Denver Speakers Corner 

"Cor ad cor loquitur."
(Heart speaks to heart.)

Take the soap box and give us 3 to 5 minutes straight from your heart, or just listen to what others have to share about issues, candidates, causes, and local Denver community news.

It's like a poetry reading for politics.

The sign up sheet is out at 3:30 p.m. Those who RSVP and come by 4 p.m. speak first.

Denver Speakers Corner Meetup
Tomorrow, Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 4:00PM

Each Sunday we gather at 4 p.m. under the center arch of the Civic Center north pavillion on Colfax just across the street from the Denver Post.

Then we go to some other part of Civic Center, most of the time right between the state capitol and the Denver city and county building. That way we can point! :)

This is a lot of fun. Poets are welcome to read when they take their turn, or talk about the candidate, cause, or concern you have about government, politics, or anything that's happening here in our city, state, nation, or world.

What's on your mind?

RSVP is optional, but there are several advantages: 1) It gives you priority on the speakers list, 2) Makes sure you get a reminder of the meeting each week, and 3) gives you a vote as we make decisions about the group.
Join us now, while it's on your mind! Or just be there Sunday. Either way, we are glad to have you with us!
Civic Center Park (North Pavillion)
Colfax & 15th Street
Denver, CO 80201

See the full event details at

Check out what members are saying about Denver Speakers Corner:

"Come out and polish your skills. Rehearse a line a speech, or even an excuse you plan on giving your significant other. (LoL on the last one. "No really honey I was just joking!)

Express your thoughts, worries, anger (but please no violence), or just introduce yourself as you support those around you taking a chance.

Its free, so come on out and meet some pretty cool folks." - charles ballew
"Because there is no better way to keep free speech alive and kicking." - keith
"It will engage their interest, since we speak about current issues. Further, it will give people who like to speak a chance to do so, while giving people unskilled at speaking a chance to improve their skill." - G. P.
"This has the potential of becoming a great source of local news about Denver." - John
"This is my favorite meetup." - Michelle Fire Eater

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! For my Thanksgiving message (and to invite me to be
your Facebook friend if we are not already) click below:

John S Wren | <-- Click.  Happy Thanksgiving! Invite me to be your Facebook friend.

Yes, the Denver IDEA Cafe will meet this Friday, Nov 27.
Great speaker! For more and RSVP at

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The longer I taught in the public school system, the more I came to think that schools were concerned with everything but teaching. Teaching was the last priority, something you were supposed to do after you collected the milk money, put up the bulletin boards, straightened the shades and desks, filled out forms in triplicate, punched the cards, charted all the reading levels so they could be shipped downtown to the Board of Education. Everybody was test crazy. It seemed as thought the administrators only wanted to probe IQs and rank test scores. It didn't matter whether the children learned anything at all. Nothing was important except their performance on standardized tests. Teachers were supposed to teach skills specifically for those tests. Marva Collins, The Marva Collins' Way, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1982.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Very interesting discussion: Can B-Schools Teach Entrepreneurship?\

What has been your experience?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

John E Wren died 30 years ago today.

His hospital bed surrounded by family and friends, Pop did not pass quietly. If not a rage it was certainly a struggle there in Denver's Porters Hospital.

This morning, it suddenly dawned on my why the struggle. Pop must have finally realized it was time to go, as the hospice ladies were encouraging us to tell him, and with that realization he must have decided to get off the stage quickly. He played his part well right to the end of this life.

His last words to my mother had come earlier, that day or the day before if I understand correctly: "Don't worry honey, we'll whip this."

Pop always had whipped back adversity, right up until this final stuggle when it suddenly became clear that it was time to go. So he did.

He'd married my mom, Jane Edwards, a year or two behind him, a cheerleader and the most popular girl at Amarillo High School (I know she was and is because I got to see how they treat her at the 50th high school reunion). Mom a couple of years out of school, dad on a leave from the Navy, March 16, 1944 they eloped. I was born in 1947, they moved to Colorado in 1949, and had two more sons as they built a successful business which they sold in 1969 when I graduated from DU.

Dad was a Christian, but he never could find a church that met his standards. He left one when he offered to pay for Sunday school teachers who did more than just babysit, and they wouldn't do it. 

His deep faith and regular attendance from church to church seemed to help him be a high achiever, but it didn't appear to be a real comfort to him at the end. His then current pastor left his room with tears in his eyes and told me, "You dad just said a very profound thing. 'It's hard to fight two battles.'"

Pop we still miss you. Your 55 summers were not enough. Facing 30 winters without you has been hard for us all.

But this morning I take comfort in the prayer of a poem you recited so often:

As going through life,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the donut,
And not upon the hole.

I'm grateful Pop, for all the good lessons and the time we did get with you. And don't worry, Mom, we'll whip this. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

Friday, November 06, 2009

My old economics professor at the University of Denver used to tell us there is no such thing as unemployment. "If you don't believe me," he'd say, "anyone who considers them self unemployed can come with me this afternoon, I'll put you to work pulling weeds in my yard."

The problem is the economists pie chart. There is no pie. We are not so much in a ocean liner as a canoe; we each have to paddle our own canoe.

Yes, there is a need for temporary charity and a safety net. But the objective is to recover. In football, players are taught to hit and recover, to get back up into a good hitting position. If you need help getting back up in a good hitting position, if you're not sure what you are going to do Monday morning, join us any Friday afternoon for the Denver IDEA Cafe.
"Even the labor of humility is rest."
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Want to turn your inspiration into effective action? Whether you are part of the 10% unemployed, or the 90% who have a job, if you are starting a new career, a new project or campaign, or a new business, join us this afternoon or any Friday afternoon for the Denver IDEA Cafe. We meet from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, here in Denver Colorado. Contact me if you want more information.

Monday, November 02, 2009

"What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day."

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

George Bernard Shaw, who died on this date in 1950 at 94.