A small change

I am removing my post regarding the “Receiving Joy” game. It appears that one of the approved comments is some sort of tag for spam artists. I have received literally hundreds of comments by people pushing drugs, car insurance, and, of course, webcams, most with the suffix “Lit” at the end of their names. You have not seen them because posts on this site are moderated.

“Receiving Joy” will re-appear in a future post. Anyone interested in the meantime, can contact me via the Contact link found at the end of the page.

Thanks & Stay Safe!

With Their Hands Held Out

For nearly two generations, we have been told about the superiority of free market capitalism.  We’ve been told that markets are the fairest, most equitable way to do everything: they are self-correcting, more agile, and better-aligned to the American spirit of self-reliance, ingenuity, and ability. 

Some particularly myopic businesspeople and those who repeat their messages, have even held business as a model for government by declaring, “Government should be run more like a business!”  Given these decades of pro-business thought & policy, one would believe that no entity would be able to better weather any storm than tried-and-true American capitalism.  It is the stuff of pride and legend.

So, then came COVID-19.  What did nearly every business sector do immediately following the proliferation of stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

Continue reading “With Their Hands Held Out”

Let’s leverage the banking Industry to assist in Coronavirus financial crisis

Diagram summarizing major points of the narrative

Over the weekend, the Fed cut the prime rate to 0.0 – 0.25%.[1]  Virtually nothing.  Consumers cannot get that rate.  Businesses can’t get that rate.  It is offered only to the banking industry.

That’s OK.  Banks have decades of experience in validating credit risks & making decisions about who to loan money to.[2]  Additionally, banks often create & maintain relationships with their corporate & consumer-level customers.  One of the tenets of good management is to assign a task to the person with the skill, passion, and ability to accomplish the task.  The Congress & the President should consider tasking the Banking industry to help provide financial relief.

We have decided that consumers and businesses could use a shot in the arm during the COVID-related financial crisis.  It is clear that many corporations wantonly redistributed their tax windfall two years ago and are unprepared for the significant financial disruption caused by the pandemic.  A handout to these companies – or entire industries – often is tied to a raft of rules, regulations, and complex legislative language.  To try to do that in a matter of days with any sort of quality is likely impossible.

Two possibilities are most likely in a rushed corporate bailout:  (1) Rushed legislation results in unanticipated side effects that are just as dangerous as the problem trying to be solved or (2) industry lobbyists get unrelated concessions harmful to their competitors or American taxpayers.

A more reasonable and achievable option would be to direct banks to make more loans at lower interest rates at record-breaking speed.  They can do it.  Their people are working from home and need distraction from the neighbor’s dog’s incessant barking.  Banks should be directed to invest at all levels of the economy.  Banks have special privileges and responsibilities in the U.S.  Criteria can be created by Congress and/or regulators to incentivize such a response.  With proper oversight, some of which will have to be done in the rear view mirror, direction can be provided to the banks;  it would utilize those with the necessary expertise to help alleviate the financial stress.

Obviously, it’s a little more complicated than that.  Banks will want risk relief from the government. They shouldn’t get it – they’ll get really cheap money instead and it will be up to them to use it wisely.  Banks that do a better job during the pandemic and related financial crisis should get greater benefits and those that fail to do so should not.  If the Fed rate weren’t already artificially low, they could get a lower rate.  I am sure regulators can come up with both a carrot and a stick to use with banks.  Bank regulators have a great deal of experience and talent in that.

Lastly, debt relief needs to be a part of the picture.  Credit cards often carry “finance charges” of greater than 20%, all while they are getting virtually free money from the Fed.   Reducing the interest rates on those charges and / or providing a finance charge holiday until the end of the crisis would make a big difference to thousands of consumers whose livelihood has been interrupted.  Similar actions can be taken on business and consumer loans to help tide them over, as well.

So, here’s the Steve Lacks Focus Logic Diagram:

Diagram summarizing major points of the narrative





[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2020-03-15/federal-reserve-lowers-interest-rate-to-near-zero-as-coronavirus-spreads

[2] I refuse to characterize their decisions as good given the Financial Crisis of 2008 & the Savings & Loan bailout a generation earlier.  However, the fact remains that banks have given out trillions of dollars in loans in the meantime and have real experience in this regard that does not exist elsewhere.

Updated rules for Anabid! released

Multi-colored Anabid! dice with scoring reminder & steal tokens
Anabid! dice with Steal markers and scoring reminder card.

We’ve just release updated rules for Anabid! , our competitive bidding word game, that include an exciting new feature: the Steal! Each player receives steal tokens that allow them to take another player’s bid by identifying additional word(s) of the same length as those bid.

Be careful how you use the steal tokens, however. You must announce your attempt to steal while the player is revealing their words. Announce too early and the player might just spell the word you were going to use. Announce too late and another player might try to steal.

Each player gets steal markers to use over the three rounds of the game. Steal 1 markers require you to spell one additional word; Steal 2 markers require two additional words. Adding to the challenge, you only get one of each.

Anabid! is in pre-release with a limited number of development sets available. Want to know more about Anabid! ? Check out the rules, here, or write us at admin@stevelacksfocus.net.

Make Good Decisions; Don’t Expect Repayment when the Situation Changes

There are a lot of new ideas being bandied about by Presidential candidates this election season.  Those few that survive to a post-election legislative effort will likely be blunted or severely modified.  Nonetheless, that does not keep some folks from declaring with every new idea that the sky is falling and pointing out that some who took reasonable actions to deal with the pre-change situation will be hurt and require compensation.

We all take actions in response to situations as they currently are.  Things change.  You made a good decision at the time.  However, you’re not going to get a gold star (or a tax credit) if that decision no longer applies.

Let’s take two examples.

First, there’s the idea that college tuition will be waived at public institutions.  In at least one encounter recorded and played many times on television, a dedicated father complained to one of the policy’s proponents that “it wasn’t fair” to implement this policy because he had done “the right thing” and put aside money so that his child could go to college.  Great decision on his part.  Even greater that he was deliberate, forward-looking, and disciplined.  I applaud him.

However good and capable his decision, that alone should not mean this idea should be rejected.  Times change and we all adapt to them.  If free tuition were to go through, I am sure that he could find other uses for his savings.  Perhaps he could give his child the “on campus” experience or help them to start a business or buy a house (or even buy himself a retirement home somewhere relaxing).  He made an excellent decision and showed superior fiscal restraint based on the economic conditions at the time.  There was (and is) no guarantee that times won’t change and the value of that good decision lessened.

Secondly, I read a tweet where someone argued that many unions (and I believe, workers in general), “gave up wage increases & other benefits for health care coverage,” and asked how they will be compensated if Medicare for All were implemented.  I argue that the same principle applies in this case as above.  Unions & workers had a choice: they could pursue higher compensation or try to assure adequate health care for their families.  Where healthcare was chosen, those workers have benefitted from the peace of mind that insurance brings and may have received medical services that were covered, in part, by their plan.  Could most workers have had more savings or a better quality of life if they hadn’t opted for healthcare?  Yes (but some with large medical bills would have been worse off).  Should they be compensated if Medicare for All becomes the law of the land?  No.

Again, collectively or individually, they made a choice to value healthcare above compensation.  It was a good choice at the time.  Times may change, but it was still a good choice.

Most of us can look back on our lives and lament, “If only I’d had this or that when I was younger.” Usually we think “this or that” could have had a long-term impact on our quality of life and helped us to make better decisions.  And we’re not alone.  Engineers, public and private leaders, and others certainly thought so, because one or more of them brought the “this or that” we’re lamenting into being.  They saw something that could help other human beings and made it reality.

Look at the Internet for example.  A couple generations ago, we humans could only dream that the answer known to mankind to nearly every question could be researched in a matter of seconds — and with the most recent information!  Every day, people use information from the Internet to make better decisions about their long term goals as well as their daily lives. 

No one is advocating to compensate those who lived before the Internet for their time researching periodicals in the library or for mistakes they made because they didn’t have access to quality immediate information.  There are dozens of new programs forwarded by Presidential candidates that could affect how we plan for and live our lives.  If any actually comes to fruition, getting ‘paid back’ for your good decisions in the past shouldn’t be included. 

Times change.  Make good decisions.  Continue to make good decisions because they’re the right decision for you now, not because you expect they’ll be the right decision forever.

Golombki, American style

Well, if you’ve not guessed it by now, I am an American.  I descend (by family tradition, no genetic testing) from Southern and Eastern European peoples.  The U.S., being a relatively youthful nation, places great stock in one’s previous non-American heritage.  Notwithstanding that heritage, I am profoundly proud to be an American and of America’s melting pot of so many different ethnicities and cultures.

A recent experience reminded me of how fun the American melting pot can be.  I decided to prepare one of the traditional foods that Polish people (my Eastern European heritage) revel in.  I had never prepared it before and had never bothered to ask any of my relatives for a recipe.  So, I turned to that American social invention:  the Internet. 

I searched for golombki recipes (this is just one of many spellings for Polish stuffed cabbage).  Generally, golombki is rice and ground beef, slightly seasoned, rolled into a cabbage leaf.  Sometimes little cubes of rendered pork fatback, (which I called “spitka” but I can’t find any reference to that word), are drizzled over the top.  So, I had a general idea of what it was and could have tried to wing it, but searched the ‘net instead. 

I reviewed several recipes.  The one that I thought worked best was for something called “halupkys”, the Slovak version of the same thing.  I did have a substitution, however.  The recipe called for ground beef.  Based on my Doctor’s urging, I have been trying to rely chiefly on poultry and fish, so I decided to substitute that all-American bird, ground turkey.   That wasn’t the only change I made.  Since ground turkey can be a little bland, I also mixed in a little bit of hot Italian pork sausage (begging my Doctor’s allowance for this little deviation and swear-to-God I wouldn’t make the spitka).

Interestingly, my family’s tradition as well as this recipe called for tomato sauce.  Tomatoes are from the Americas and were not known in Europe before the 1500s.  That this American fruit somehow became part of this traditional dish is intriguing.  As I also have Italian heritage, I definitely opted to include the tomato sauce.

Lastly, came the preparation.  Besides telling me how to soften the cabbage leaves, the proportion of rice to meat, and how much stuffing to use for each one, the instructions directed me to roll the cabbage leaf around the turkey and rice mixture “like a fajita.”  How much fun!

As comedian Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “What a Country!”  I made a Polish traditional food using a Slovak recipe with a ground meat and a vegetable native to America, added Italian sausage, and used a Latino preparation technique.  With the help of all these ethnicities who are a part of my America, I made a wonderful and satisfying dish!  You are a tasty place, America!

Staying Up Late

Yes, it’s been a long time since my last post.  It’s been a busy year and many different parts of life have commanded my attention (Hence, the site name SteveLacksFocus).

On one such occasion of distraction, I was looking through old materials that I had put in a file probably back in college days.  I got a chuckle re-reading it and thought it might be fun for the blog.  I reworked a little bit of the meter and rhythm.  Here you go:

Staying Up Late

Neither evening, Noon, nor night
am I in such a plight
as in the morning when I mourn
for a day that's newly born.
The cock crows,
the light grows,
and all God's creatures come alive
except for me.
Don't you see?
I was up 'til quarter to five.

God Save ‘Da Prez

Here’s a fun little ditty for a Friday morning.  Sing out loud or to yourself to the tune of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. Need I say more?

My Country 'Tis for Me
Land of O-li-garchy
Of Me I Sing
Land where my Father lied
Housing to blacks denied
I love the Upper East Side
Of Me I Sing

My friends, please look at me:
Monied celebrity
It's me you love
With ten thousand-dollar bills,
Hedge funds will be fulfill'd
My wallet with rapture thrills
Of Greed I love

Let healthcare go to pot
And all Obama wrought --
Costs that are bad!
Let angry tongues awake
I'll sell them oil of snake
'Til their pocketbooks shall break
Like a Trump U. grad

They'll think I'm God -- you'll see
They'll trade their liberty
for me, I Sing
Long may my Star be bright
Lit up by TV light
Rev'ling every Twitter fight
Donald Trump your King.

Social Media Posts Need a Believability Rating

The Information & Social Media Industry needs to step up to help us differentiate higher quality submissions from poor ones.  Providing a rating for each post will help get us there.

Not all information has the same value. This is something that we all inherently know. However, when it comes to social media it is difficult to differentiate the quality information from the bad. An independent industry association is needed to provide some reference to help us determine the quality of the information we are subjected to every day.

To understand how we might address this chasm on social media, we need to explore how we validate information we receive in our physical lives. Let’s imagine that you are on an elevator and two women are talking. The daughter of the shorter woman in the elevator has an overbite and may need orthodontic treatment, as she is explaining to the taller, blondish woman. The shorter woman heads up a department in your company that you’re interested in and your Aunt is an excellent Orthodontist, so you are now very interested. You listen carefully. You decide to file this piece of information away for an introductory conversation that you might have with the department head in the next few weeks.

Of course, it’s not always that easy to determine the value of the information. In this case, you know who the shorter woman is, and you know that she is an expert on the primary subject of the conversation – her child! You also know that she could be important to your career. Each of these factors make this information valuable and believable, but how? Continue reading “Social Media Posts Need a Believability Rating”

Your Patriotism Is Up To You

In a recent post (http://mikerowe.com/2017/09/otw-we-decide-who-what-gets-our-attention/) that has been reported in many outlets, Mike Rowe (known for Dirty Jobs and his narration of Deadliest Catch) makes an engaging case about how politicians, players, and the NFL brass are using football and the controversy about kneeling vs. standing to make their own points. It’s a short and thoughtful read, and I highly recommend it. Mr. Rowe reminds us that our country is what we make of it. His opening words are a good reminder to all of us:

“In democracies, we the people get the government we deserve. We also get the celebrities we deserve, the artists we deserve, and the athletes we deserve. Because ultimately, we the people get to decide who and what gets our attention, and who and what does not.”

As I do not believe that this is a controversy that is among the most important in this country at this time, I should probably stop writing now. I don’t watch a lot of football, and when I do, I usually miss the kick-off and opening ceremonies, because something else I was doing was more important.

Like many people, however, I have been giving this issue a lot of thought. Continue reading “Your Patriotism Is Up To You”