Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Lotteries and All That Jazz

I was listening in my car to the latest blog entry from Malcolm Gladwell this morning. He does a series on Revisionist History and this one was called "The Powerball Revolution".

The premise for this segment was how we choose our leaders and how a lottery might just be as good or even a better way than a popular election.

Crazy idea huh?

Made me think of the time I first joined the staff of USF some eleven or so years ago. One of my fondest memories was meeting Dr. Stu Silverman, Dean of the Honors College.

When Stu found out I played the piano, he invited me to sit in with (his pride and joy), The Honors College Jazz Band: group of students from the Honors College that all played instruments in high school. None were music majors and the only prerequisite was that to play you have to bring your instrument. The band mix changed each year as the students graduated. Some years, Stu had 4 trumpet players or three clarinet players or four drummers. Didn't matter because he was happy to have all comers. One of the faculty members at the school of music served as our band leader.

Stu introduced me as "Not a REAL piano player. A member of the staff who plays piano for fun." I always thanked Stu for that kind introduction and mentioned his questionable drum skills in the process.

Actually, it was all a brilliant idea.

The Honors students were the best of the best. They were the smartest students at the university and represented a variety of disciplines of study. They were also typically shy, introverted and hadn't developed the social skills that some of their other contemporaries had. How could they? They were always studying. The Jazz Band became their outlet. Each year we practiced jazz pieces once a week under the tutelage of a faculty member from the College of Music and at the end of the semester ... we had a concert on the main stage of the theater.

I saw students who started out shy and tentative slowly develop into soloists that really rocked (kind of like the movie School of Rock) ... It was a wonderful experience.

So what does this have to do with Malcolm Gladwell's lottery premise?

I thought about the potential leadership that we all overlook every day. There are so many people that have so much talent and shy away from the election process because it requires a totally different skill set ... much of which is sales and "kissing babies"...  that our best and brightest would rather not even attempt. The shame is ... none of those skills deal with real leadership and management and we have so many that could provide SO much more than we have had in the past.

Lotteries aren't necessarily the answer to it all ... but worth a REAL discussion.



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

All That Matters


I've had a few heated conversations lately about politics, the state of the world and how bad things are. I really think it's time for everyone to reread my favorite book ... "All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. I used to remind my staff of the guiding principles (when I was a working man)

Here they are:

1. Share

2. Play fair

3. Don't hit people.

4. Put things back where you found them.

5. Clean up your own mess.

6. Don't take things that aren't yours.

7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.

Friday, May 8, 2020

So ... How Are You Really?

"I'm good."

That is the standard response to the question "How are you doing?" Oh yes ... I could go into a lot more detail but truly, people fall asleep after ten seconds of stomach aches, bleeding fissures, nausea and pain. By people, I mean ME. I can't even listen to it.

So the standard is "I'm good (or fine)."

I remember my brother in law Tom would always have the same response during his battle with pancreatic cancer. When asked how he was doing, he would always say, "Better than I deserve." That stopped further questions on the spot. I now have a new appreciation for that line. Tom was not one to dwell on the negative and hated the focus to be on him. Miss that boy every day.

Responses are a funny thing. Jerry Seinfeld has a new special standup on Netflix that should be required viewing for everyone. One of his hilarious sets is a back and forth on the two reactions that people have to everything; movies, food, health ... life. "It sucks ... or it's great". His claim is that there is no longer a middle ground. 

For example, You go to a movie and the conversation is:

"I thought it sucked, you?"

"Yeah, it REALLY sucked."

"You know the beginning was GREAT, but the rest ... SUCKED." 

His theory is that suck and great are really almost the same thing. For example, you're eating an ice cream cone and it falls on the sidewalk. What do you say? "THAT SUCKS." then you look at the damage and immediately say "GREAT!"

So true ... right?

NOTE: By the way, I never get tired of hearing from you and knowing that you care enough to ask me how I am. Tom would have said the same thing.

I might try "Sucks" and "Great" next time!




Monday, April 27, 2020

Always Hug Your Liver

As is my nature at times, I seem to have a knack for bad timing. Corona virus quarantine was apparently not dramatic enough, so I added to my burden by undergoing surgery to remove a melanoma from my liver two weeks ago.

How does one get a melanoma on the liver, you might ask? So did I. And it’s not easy. It can travel through the bloodstream from somewhere on your skin or just show up in odd places. I'm in the latter category with the other 5% (of course).

The past few weeks have been kind of a blur. Got through the heavy painkiller phase and trying to muddle through getting my strength back. Turns out that removing 40% of your liver is an effective way to drop some weight. But I’d still recommend Weight Watchers. And ... your liver grows back anyway.

I’ve also been dealing with a lot of emotions that I often can’t control. Losing 40% of your liver must be comparable to giving birth so I really have newfound respect for moms after childbirth. My kids think I've always been hormonal anyway ... even crying during episodes of Baywatch when they were young.

Yesterday, was one of those sensitive moments.

I was telling Deb that I had a great idea for a comic book superhero based on what I was going through. I called him IMMUNO-MAN. You see,  Immunotherapy is the next step of treatment to assure that the melanoma doesn't come back. Infusions every month boosts the immune system to help the body fight the cancer.

So I told Debbie, "IMMUNO -MAN has super immunities that fight off all disease and give him special powers."

Debbie answered, "That's a little different from what the doctor described."

"Well, exaggerated but still he will have the additional power boost to fight infection."

"Remember, the doctor said it will give you a little more and the ability to help ward off melanoma but not like you can fight off anything."

I was quiet and thoughtful for a minute and then overcome with emotion. "DEBBIE ... YOU JUST RUINED MY COMIC BOOK!"

I didn't talk to her for five whole minutes.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Outliers Need Love Too

Being the guy who has the reputation as an outlier has certain benefits I guess. People seek out your advice. (Not because you’re so brilliant but more because no one else thinks like that). Gambling has mixed results. When you’re hot you're hot but when you’re not ... Your kids always wanted a normal dad but had to settle for Mel Brooks and Larry David.

As of late, health issues have been quite a challenge. I’m getting a little tired of being in the 5% of unexpected outcomes. Lately, it’s been liver issues that have become so complicated that I have to read Debbie’s medical updates to the family to understand where I am.

I won’t spend a lot of time and medical jargon on this today. Just know that the last month or so has been a blur but we are moving through it with heads high and painkillers in each pocket.

To the outliers! Long may they keep it interesting. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

One More Thing ....

I have a favor to ask!

There is renewed interest in our kid's music and interstitials. Back in my old Dr. Pete E. Atric days, Mike Sexton, Kevin Riley and I produced these spots and actually won an Emmy for one of them "Chicken Named Mac". The other two: "Sunburn Serenade" and "I Am Not a Little Ant" were well received as well,

Take a look:









I talked to Kevin the other day and he was saying how much children's media has exploded and the renewed interest in content. He has been working with many producers on animated movies and stuff. So we decided to create some new cool stuff for kids and brush off our existing stuff as well. 

HERE'S THE FAVOR I ASK:

If you have kids or grandkids and they are glued to the TV or the iPhone ... what are they watching? Send me the popular shows that your kids like so we can get some ideas.

I will keep you posted!



Friday, March 13, 2020

Further Random Thoughts

So unless you’ve just arrived on earth from the planet Zoltar, you know a little about the Coronavirus. Almost as depressing as the latest political interactions among our leaders and wannabes, the virus is now everywhere ... literally.

And I happen to be among the fortunate group known as “corona-screwed”. You know ... the older population who are medically compromised. (As if they really need to add the last part. If you’re old and have not had any medical issues, your unicorn is waiting). And if it’s not bad enough that everyone is limited in their daily activities to reduce the spread of the virus, my group has been told that we could go anywhere in the world as long as it’s within the four walls of our bedrooms.

What does this new world order mean for me? I took stock of my favorite activities and found the limitations to be somewhat daunting.


1. Spending time with grandkids.

Tough to do when I think about one on each arm and one climbing up my back with those adorable runny noses and cute coughs reaching up to my face. They really are cute ... snot and all. But every time I visit I pay the price of a day or two in bed with a cold. The only way to visit and be protected is to separate them with a window and one of those prison phones.

2. Travel to cool places

That’s out. There are no safe places to visit and if I do find one on a deserted island I would still have to travel via the big flying germ factory in the sky. Every time I fly it seems that 75% of the passengers are sneezing and sharing their germs. Can’t open a window either.

3. The Casino

Probably the worst of all. Thousands of degenerate gamblers like me in smoke filled rooms where the object is to collect dirty chips and cash, play with reused dice or push thousands of buttons on slot machines that have been touched by the United Nations.


4. Going to ballgames, concerts and stuff.

Remember when we used to have ballgames and concerts? No more. Oh there might be a game or two played ... but you have to watch it on TV because there are no fans allowed. Just got our Rays season tickets last week. Oh well.

5. Monitoring my retirement fund online.

Talk about depressing. The computer screen has to add another segment on the lower right to be able to capture the descending line. Today it was on the floor next to my computer.




I watched a movie the other day that really had the answer to our problem. Bruce Willis played a cop. The movie was called Surrogates. It was a sci-fi set in the future and the premise was that everyone was connected to perfect replica robots that they mentally controlled from their homes. They could experience everything their robot did and be safe and secure (and waste away in bed).

Well, I didn't say it was a GOOD answer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

More Random Thoughts From an Old Retired Beach Guy

Ah ... another stressful day on the beach, another milestone birthday under my belt, another doctor visit, another grouper sandwich ... all made me think about putting together a list of the things I miss and the things I don't miss pre and post-retirement.

I'll start with the list of things I don't miss:

1. Traffic between St. Pete and Tampa.

To be more specific ... traffic between downtown St. Pete (my home) and north Tampa (my former office at USF). Truly, for those of you who currently make that commute: I really feel for you. Debbie used to pray for me during my commute both day and night. I think that was to protect me and to protect those who drive close to me.

She actually still keeps an encyclopedia of books about Jesus next to the bed, which she (RELIGIOUSLY) reads every night. I used to sneak a peek before I headed out to “ask him” to watch over me on the Howard Franklin or Gandy. When I talk to him I use his Jewish name, Jacob Smolensky (or Jake the Carpenter).

Thank you, Jake for keeping me safe for the last 11 years.

2. Meetings

I should be more specific here.

Naaaahhhhh!

3. Being the boss.

This might surprise you. Those who have never experienced the joy of leadership, collaboration with fellow staff members and creating destiny might not understand why I don't miss this.

Truth is ... you are never really in control of anything but responsible for everything.

NOTE: I was truly blessed as a boss because I had great staff that really produced incredible results and many became great friends.

Then again, there were others ...

Things I DO miss:

There are A BILLION OF THEM!!!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Random Thoughts From an Old Retired Beach Guy

People often ask, "So what have you been doing since you retired four months ago?" The real answer is "not much" ... which I tell the folks who are non-judgmental. But that only covers about three people. The rest of the world hears a variety of responses like "just clipping coupons, writing the next great American novel, working on my music, traveling, seeing my grandkids, blah blah blah ..."

Nobody really expects great answers. I just feel the urge to be creative. Truth be known, I do all those things I listed (except coupons ... Debbie loves doing that). I start and stop projects in the blink of an eye and have no remorse about completion dates or self imposed deadlines. I had plenty of those throughout the 40 plus years of working at great institutions that molded my character and work ethic.

Now I'm just a character with questionable ethics.

There are certain undeniable truths for me that I will list for those of you that still care about my rambling thoughts:

1. I LOVE being retired and having a calendar that has holes.

I often say that I now feel like a rock star without a band. I never know what day it is; I often forget what's on my calendar and I regularly trash hotel rooms after partying with my coked up bandmates (Okay ... maybe the last one is a complete lie. But I'm not bound by ethics anymore.)

A typical day can include a haircut, a burger at El Capp's, a visit with my grandkids (and their parents, LOL) and a fifth viewing of the latest Curb episode with my idol Larry David.

A month ago we hit the travel circuit and did New York, Vegas and Orlando back to back. Other than a quick trip to the ER in Vegas and then Urgent care in Orlando it was great. Not to worry ... both the medical visits were typical Momberg dramatic moments that had good outcomes.

2. My focus on writing is paying off.

Let's be clear, Hollywood has not called and the New York Times Best Seller list is not saving a spot for my third novel. But I have made progress. I wrote three pages last week before I spent three hours at the casino.

Hey, I told my host that I would visit him from time to time. He is VERY needy.

3. Projects at the house are a priority! 

Debbie (for some reason) can't give her full attention to removing 20 foot palms from our pool area and replacing the fence. She has a lame excuse about her real estate career and working full time. So I have dedicated 20 percent of my schedule to help. Today, I watched them remove the last palm and talked to the landscape guy about next steps.

I'm exhausted.




Sunday, December 15, 2019

What Would You Like to Know?

I want to share something with you about my wife. 

Debbie won’t mind ... she shares information often. Many times she shares even if it’s not part of the original conversation as in ... “So how was your trip?” 
“It was great. I’m one of seven in my family.”

Okay. I exaggerated. She would not answer that question that way. It would be more like. “It was so much fun. I have a big family.” 

Okay ... still an exaggeration (Debbie is editing as I write). 

Here’s a better example. On our recent trip to New York it was so cold every day that it limited our foot travel. When we did venture out it was to visit places we could not avoid like the Rock Center Christmas tree ... every Jewish boy’s dream. Standing there freezing and feeling aches in every one of my joints I said ... “Debbie ... we have to find someplace to sit.” We checked out the numerous places that overlook the skating rink and came to one restaurant that had tables. 

Debbie said “I don’t want anything to eat.”
Me ... in pain. “It’s okay. Let’s just get a table. We can sit and not order.”

We step up to the desk. Debbie says “We don’t want to order anything. We just want to sit there if we can. Well ... we might order drinks but I’m not sure.”

Poker players would kill to include her in their game. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Talking To Strangers ... and other "stranger" things

I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan.

Hoping there are those among my readers who are too. His latest book, Talking to Strangers, is truly brilliant. At the end of the day, you might still not know how to talk to strangers but you'll have a much better understanding of why it is challenging to discern the truth.

Gladwell is an engaging storyteller, and in Talking to Strangers, he tells lots of stories. He delves into the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, the trial of Amanda Knox in Italy, Hitler meeting Chamberlain and convincing him that war was not his priority ... even Sylvia Plath's suicide. The villains are many, ranging from Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, whose inability to communicate with Aztec ruler Montezuma II led to Montezuma's death and the eventual end of the Aztec empire; to Fidel Castro, who planted a Cuban mole into the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, which the agency, despite troubling warning signs, failed to detect for over a decade; to Bernie Madoff, who conned his way to the top of a massive Ponzi scheme involving some of the biggest institutions on Wall Street.

I could go on and on about the rich contents in this book.

But the basic message is something we can all relate to: Our ability to communicate and truly understand who we meet and talk to every day. We are fallible. Actually more than we even realize. Gladwell presents us with case history after case history where this happens. He tells us that people default to the positive whenever there's a question about validity. In other words, when we meet someone that tells us a story, we tend to believe it. This is not a bad thing. If we were suspicious all the time, we would be pretty miserable all the time. But in the cases of Madoff, Sandusky, Hitler (in the early years) and others, the people who believed that they were honorable people were fooled for years. And these were not trusting ignorant folks that were duped.

There is also a fascinating section on human behavior and crime and suicide rates. The novelist Sylvia Plath took her own life by putting her head in the oven and turning on the gas. At the time of her death, English residents were supplied with "town gas". This was a toxic mixture of chemicals with a large amount of carbon monoxide. The suicide rate among young white women in this era that chose this method was about 45%. Obviously, this was a method of choice. Over the next ten years, England moved to natural gas which had very low toxicity and not enough to cause death. The numbers of white women who committed suicide in general decreased dramatically ... more than half ... proving not only that the change not only decreased rates but also prevented suicide rates overall and that women didn't choose other methods.

Crime rates in Kansas City dropped when police applied successful methods to remove guns and criminals from high crime neighborhoods. AND there wasn't a resurgence in other parts of the city as many thought would occur. Criminals were just like other citizens. They didn't want to move. It was too stressful!

I'll let you discover the rest. You will be amazed at how incredibly interesting this book is. Buy the audio version and you can hear actual interviews.

You'll love it! (you believe me right?)

Lotteries and All That Jazz

I was listening in my car to the latest blog entry from Malcolm Gladwell this morning. He does a series on Revisionist History and this...