My goal had been to take off by 3:30, 4 o’clock at the latest. It was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I was already over a month into the annual Open Enrollment season. By the end of November I am long past tired and more than a little frazzled. My plan was to leave early and to spend the evening in my kitchen. I could hear the cranberries calling to me. A pumpkin pie was in my immediate future. And then it wasn’t.
I had an unexpected service issue that kept me in the office till a little after 4. I left my office only to find a couple in my waiting room. There had been a small mix-up. Their appointment had been for 4 PM yesterday, Tuesday, but they were here now, Wednesday. The couple, we’ll call them Bob and Judy, had been referred to me by one of their friends, one of my favorite clients, and were here to get organized. It would be a month or more before we could possibly do business, if ever. They were here. It would be rude to reschedule them. Lianesha got them bottles of water and I ushered them into my office.
G-d I didn’t want to be there. From the other side of the room I could hear emails, messages, and the ringing of the phone. Even if they left immediately, I was locked in for another hour or more before I could escape to my kitchen. I was able to relax once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t leaving. And that is when I realized that I really liked Bob and Judy. We were all about the same age. I had a real connection to Judy’s profession and her employer. I could relate to the twists and turns of Bob’s career path. My agitation, my stress, had nothing to do with Bob and Judy. We had a nice conversation. The hour or so that I spent focused on them was as good an appointment as any I had had that week.
The holiday season can be incredibly stressful, even if you aren’t an insurance agent. There is still that woman in front of you in the Express Lane checkout, a cart full of groceries, talking loudly on her cellphone. You’re going to get cut-off by the guy who couldn’t wait to get into the mall. And yes, you will be stuck at an intersection behind a Buick, its driver never looking up from his phone to see that the light has changed. The challenge is to let those moments go, to not let a source of irritation impact the rest of your day and the other people you encounter. I’m not saying that it is always easy. Maybe it can be a goal.
I answered the call of the cranberries Thursday morning. The pie was done by noon. Everything gets done. It always gets done.
Picture – The Colors Of Thanksgiving – David L Cunix
My first trip to Las Vegas was in the mid-90’s. I had been to casinos and had even been to Nevada. But this was Vegas! I was there for a B’nai B’rith convention. About 10 o’clock, after my friends had gone to bed, it was time to hit the tables. I found a seat at a $5 Blackjack table and started to play. 15 – 20 minutes later, I was up a little and I surveyed the table. I was shocked to realize that no one was having a good time. The middle-aged guy next to me had been consistently losing. Neither he nor the bored over-dressed second wife/girlfriend/hooker by his side were having any fun. One by one I looked at each of my tablemates and saw that none of them, not even the dealer, were enjoying themselves. I understood that I wasn’t going to win enough money to retire and I didn’t see any reason to spend any more time with them. I picked up my chips and left. Why stay if you aren’t having fun?
Two of my friends invited me to their weekly poker game. These guys have been playing in a low stakes game for years. I had been asked to play before. This time I said, “Yes”. The first half of the evening was devoted to a $5 buy-in, like when we were in high school. Unfortunately, the games were similar to the ones we played back then. Everything was high/low, or had a wild card, or had names like “Stupid” and “Super Stupid”. And with all of that, we still had several Poker Mavens. One guy felt compelled to tell anyone who didn’t act immediately, “You know, you can fold”. Another thought that he was the keeper of the rules, an expert on this collection of games. I was surprised that I held my own.
The second half of the evening was a $5 buy-in Texas Hold’em Tournament. POKER. I was on firm ground. Mr. You Know You Can Fold was overconfident. He had knocked out several guys and was the big stack. My hand came, but I simply called. He raised, but I simply called. He pushed All In. Call! I crippled him. I busted him on the next hand. And I enjoyed it. And at that moment I realized that this was my last game with these guys. Destroying someone isn’t fun and crushing him for $10 or $15 is ridiculous.
What I learned twenty-five years ago still applies today. You don’t stay if you aren’t having fun.
Picture – Gotta Love Aces – David L Cunix
Senator Portman, President Trump just shot a man
What do you mean, he shot a man?
The President got mad at a protestor at his Nashville rally. He walked over to the Secret Service agent who was removing the man, took the agent’s gun, and shot the protestor. On live TV.
Well Senator, what do you have to say about that?
I sincerely wish President Trump wouldn’t have done that. I know that I wouldn’t do something like that.
Is that it? Are you still supporting him?
That doesn’t strike me as an impeachable offense. I’m sure the man he shot was a never-Trumper.
So you’re still going to vote for him?
Sure. I’m just happy he didn’t shoot someone in Dayton.
Picture – The Official Portrait – David L Cunix
The red Camry entered our parking lot the wrong way though the out driveway. He saw me, standing outside of the synagogue, and he did not slow down. I held my ground. He spun around, quickly exited, and gunned his engine as he went up the nearby freeway ramp. As I watched him I realized again that our first line of defense was me, an out-of-shape 64 year old. And no, I was not wearing Kevlar underwear.
The first line of defense has always been the individual Jew. We have not survived for thousands of years because of the strength of armies or the grace of governments. We have not survived because of the quality of our armaments. It is the individual Jew, one by one, who has chosen to be a part of the community, to teach his/her children, to have accepted the responsibility of being a Jew and all that that means to each of us.
Yes, there were armed policemen behind me. Yes, we have practiced active shooter drills and taken Stop the Bleed training. Yes, we have taken steps to be prepared. It is our responsibility to be as prepared as possible for the unthinkable. But in the end, it is still the individual Jew who serves as our first line of defense.
During the High Holy Days we reaffirm our participation in the community. We are charged with the obligation to hear the sounding of the Shofar. Some will spend long hours in synagogue. Some will reflect privately in their homes, the Shofar courtesy of the internet or Alexa. That effort is the first line of defense no less important than an old guy standing guard outside of the synagogue in the parking lot.
I wish for all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year, a year of peace.
Picture – Honey Cake – David L Cunix
There is a Chevrolet / GM dealership in South Shoeless, Ohio (population 6,437). A new ownership group took over Dirt Road Chevy in 2015. One of the changes they implemented was a focus on the service department, specifically brakes. By March of 2016 Dirt Road Chevy had already exceeded their brake orders from all of 2015. GM was thrilled. Dirt Road Chevy moved more brakes than much larger dealerships in Columbus and Cleveland. In December the manager of the regional distribution center, himself the recipient of a sales bonus, sent a special holiday dinner for the owners and employees of the dealership. Everyone was happy except Jack, a fork-lift operator in the distribution center. Jack thought it odd that a Chevy dealership in a tiny town could possibly sell and install so many brakes. He brought this up to his supervisor who told him that his job didn’t include thinking. In 2017 Dirt Road Chevy was #1. No dealership in the country ordered more brakes. GM was thrilled. Jack was freaking out. He contacted the FBI, who, it turned out, was already investigating Dirt Road Chevy. Brakes were the last piece of the puzzle. Local police, State of Ohio troopers, and the FBI raided Dirt Road Chevy on the morning of February 4, 2018 and uncovered one of the largest money laundering operations in the country.
There isn’t a Dirt Road Chevy or even a South Shoeless, Ohio, but there was a Unique Pain Management located in a real Wheelersburg, Ohio (population 6,437). Dr. Margaret Temponeras opened the clinic in 2005. According to the Plain Dealer, “In a span of less than four years, Temponeras ordered 1.66 million pain pills. The Plain Dealer found that she ranked 18th out of the 64,252 practitioners nationwide who ordered oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2012.” Miami-Luken, the pharmaceutical distributor, and the drug manufacturers were thrilled.
Ohio is second only to West Virginia in the number of deaths from overdoses in this country. There was a drugstore in Kermit, West Virginia (population 400) that sold almost 4 million opioid pills between 2008 and 2011. How could this happen? Was anyone paying attention or were the manufacturers and distributors simply pushing for more sales? U.S. District Judge Dan Polster is overseeing a collection of over 2,000 lawsuits against the drug companies. He wrote, “a fact finder could reasonable infer these failures were a substantial factor in producing the alleged harm suffered by Plaintiffs.”
A group of us were discussing the opioid epidemic, the recent Oklahoma Johnson & Johnson case, and the major case in Ohio. One guy was hoping this would all end soon. “These products are legal. You need to remember that lots of people have 401 K’s. Our money is invested in those companies.”
You have to work hard to see no evil.
I was at a celebration, a few hours later, in Solon. Someone noted President Trump’s aberrant behavior. While others were laughing about the doctored weather map, a Trump supporting friend weakly noted, “Yeah. Yeah. But I really like what he’s doing for my 401 K.”
I heard that twice in one day. I wish that it required more effort to see no evil.
Picture – See No Evil – David L Cunix
I was having a beer with Eugene. I have known Gene (name changed) for almost thirty years, back to a time when my hair was brown and he had some. He does business with me and I do business with him. We have never let our significant political differences impact either our business or our personal relationship. Mutual respect allows us to disagree without attacking each other.
Eugene was only a teenager when he and his family came to the United States in the 1970’s with next to nothing but a dream. They got an open door and little else. They took their opportunities and were incredibly successful. That success, and the equally big wins of a couple of his peers, informs Eugene’s politics. He worked really hard, took some chances, and won.
As I said, Eugene and I were having a beer. I told him about a new client, Mrs. J. This is her story:
I received a call earlier today from a man who wanted to talk about his 50 year old daughter-in-law. The woman is here in the United States legally and has her Green Card. The Federal Marketplace sent her and her US-born husband to Medicaid. Now, with Donald Trump and Steven Miller attacking legal immigration, the gentleman on the phone is afraid that having Medicaid could impact her future legal status. This seems like a reasonable concern. After some discussion, Mrs. J. contacted Medicaid, cancelled her coverage, and purchased the only health insurance she could, a short term major medical policy.
Eugene winced. “If you personalize this, if you know someone, this looks pretty bad.” But I believe that we all know someone. We have friends and/or relatives who were born elsewhere. My parents were first generation Americans. So were many of yours. This should look bad to all of us.
Eugene recovered quickly. He noted that too many people came to the United States and didn’t work hard within his own community. He believes, he knows, that the American Dream is available to anyone. So he is sympathetic to Mrs. J.’s plight, but he is much happier now that she will be paying for her own coverage, even if it is just short term.
What do you think? Should legal immigrants fear for their permanent status if they accept any governmental aide for food, shelter, or health care? I confess to mixed emotions. I’m not as certain as my friend Gene.
Let me know. We can always meet for a beer.
Picture – Stuck On The Wrong Side Of Liberty – David L Cunix
There is a car insurance commercial on television about a research center in Antarctica. The scientists are stuck in this building, protected from the elements, and Carl, tone-deaf Carl, brought his karaoke machine. His horrific singing is being piped into all of the rooms of his long-suffering compatriots. Two of the scientists have to stop Kevin from just walking out of the building. Here is the part I don’t understand. Instead of leaving the center, why doesn’t Kevin just unplug the karaoke machine? Hell, why doesn’t he destroy the karaoke machine? And for good measure, why in the world doesn’t he not only destroy the source of the collective irritation, but while he’s at it, punch out Carl for good measure?
I don’t believe I had a particularly violent childhood, but I certainly remember throwing a punch or two (and being the recipient of a few, too). There is no way in the world this behavior would have been tolerated in my neighborhood. The fact that your friends wouldn’t put up with this level of selfishness was self-correcting. Don’t want to be punched? Don’t make everyone’s lives miserable.
We saw this in real life four years ago at the Republican debates. It started with Donald Trump referring to Jeb Bush, a man of real accomplishments, as “Low Energy Jeb”. That was nothing compared to what he did to Ted Cruz (R-TX). At one point he linked Cruz’s father to Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination. The final straw should have been when Trump insulted Cruz’s wife, twice! Ted was insulted. Ted called Donald a “New York Bully”. Donald laughed, out loud, at both Ted, his wife, and Ted’s chances of becoming president. Because we may not like a bully, but no one respects or votes for a wimp.
Didn’t you wish that one of those Senators or Governors would have gotten right into the face of this poseur and called him out? And would you have popped him one for insulting your spouse? I would like to hope that most of you would have, but it wasn’t you, it was Ted. And because Ted was a wimp, Donald Trump is now president. It is all Ted’s fault. I can say that with impunity, because, you know, he really isn’t going to do anything about it.
Picture – In Search Of A Nose – David L Cunix
Are you still defending him? Then you didn’t read the Mueller Report. Don’t protest. Don’t argue. You didn’t read it. Period. Forget William Barr’s preemptive strike on the truth. That doesn’t change the written report. And don’t tell me that you believe the serial liar in the White House. You really don’t. You don’t want to know what is actually in the Mueller Report. You are happy with the packing of the courts. You may be thrilled that abortion may one day be illegal. You’ve made that deal – Ignore the means because the ends are what you really want. But don’t tell anyone that you’ve read the Mueller Report. You haven’t.
I have been reading the Mueller Report. It is a long slog. It is not an easy read. It is meticulously footnoted. It is heavily redacted. Even the footnotes have a lot of redactions. But the most difficult part of the book is that it is about OUR country. This would be a lot easier, and far more believable, if it was about some South American country that I had never visited. Heck, I spent nine days in Australia in 2006 and I’d have a hard time believing this took place there. It is painful, physically, mentally, emotionally painful, to realize that this happened on our soil.
The AMS Panel used control X-Agent during the DCCC and DNC intrusions was housed on a leased computer located near REDACTED Arizona.
This was a military operation. The players, on the Russian side, were “Two military units of the GRU” (page 75). The Facebook and Twitter posts, many of which some of you reposted, were created by a special Russian disinformation team, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), funded by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin. This wasn’t some 400 pound guy sitting on a bed as the beneficiary of these efforts postulated. The IRA created posts, organized rallies, and were in contact with the Trump inner circle (page after page after page).
Page 3 of the Introduction to Volume 1 states:
“In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In doing so, the Office recognize that the word “(collude)” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law. In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” – a term that appears in the appointment order, with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, “coordination” does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
That is one dense paragraph but it clearly states that the Mueller Report never said “No Collusion” as Donald Trump brays daily.
Page after page the Mueller Report details the concerted efforts of the Russian government’s successful efforts to promote one candidate and defame his opponent. This is just Volume 1. Volume 2 focuses on Obstruction of Justice. I will eventually get through this. It would just be so much easier if it was about someplace else.
Picture – The Mueller Report Sees The Light Of Day – David L Cunix
Is tolerance a good thing? Some people believe that the answer is YES. There are even organizations dedicated to the promotion of tolerance. I have been asked to join Americans for Peace and Tolerance and similar groups. I have always declined.
The Merriam-Webster definition of tolerance:
a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b : the act of allowing something : toleration
My issue with tolerance is that it too often refers to people, not ideas. Tolerance is something someone does for someone else. We judge that the other person is less than us – less smart, less moral, less successful – but we tolerate them. The starting point of tolerating someone is acknowledging that we are superior. I believe that we may/can tolerate a person’s actions, but not people. We should accept people and understand that we are equal even if they may have different beliefs, religions, or politics.
I saw a post on Facebook recently. It was from a friend who often shares posts from questionable sources. He is my friend. I accept him and our considerable differences without judgement. I ignore most of his political posts since they reflect views that are very different than mine. When he recycles memes that have already been debunked, often annually, I let him know in a private message so that I don’t publicly embarrass him. I accept him / I tolerate his posts. We disagree on both politics and religion. My ideas and beliefs are correct to the best of my knowledge, but that doesn’t make me superior to him or his.
My friend’s post was a quote about tolerance from D. James Kennedy.
Tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society. When you have an immoral society that has blatantly, proudly, violated all of the commandments of God, there is one last virtue they insist upon: tolerance for their immorality.
The quote appeared in AZ Quotes in the funny quotes section. I find nothing amusing about this judgmental balderdash. You may recall that Kennedy (1930-2007) and his Coral Ridge Ministries were early leaders in the Moral Majority and organizations that attempted to force the US into becoming a Christian country. Kennedy was behind the notorious documentary that linked Hitler and the Holocaust to evolution.
I vehemently disagree with the tone of my friend’s post. Hell, I barely tolerated it. But I don’t tolerate my friend. I accept him.
Picture – A Few Other Options – David L Cunix
I posted a picture of a cheesecake the other day. Several people asked for the recipe.
2 cups of walnut pieces
2 tbsp. sweetener (I prefer Joseph’s liquid malitol)
6 tbsp. melted butter (3/4 of one stick)
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cocoa (optional)
20 ounces softened cream cheese (2 ½ blocks)
2 tbsp. sweetener
8 ounces sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
8 ounces sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp. sweetener
• Butter a springform pan
• Preheat the oven to 350
• Mix the dry ingredients of the crust
• Stir in the egg and melted butter
• Press the crust into the springform pan. Make sure the bottom is well covered and push some up the sides.
• Bake for 11 minutes
• Mix all of the filling ingredients into a large bowl. Using a portable electric mixer, make sure that all of the ingredients are well mixed and smooth.
• Take the crust out of the oven and increase the temperature to 400
• Pour the filling into the crust
• Bake for 21 minutes. The cake should be stable but not starting to brown. Know your oven! Take a quick look at 19 minutes in case yours runs a little hotter than mine.
• Take the springform pan out of the oven and turn the temperature up to 500
• Mix the topping ingredients
• Pour the topping on to the cake and bake for another five minutes
• Take the cake out of the oven and cool on the counter for a couple of hours.
• When possible, I then place the cake, still in the springform pan, into the refrigerator to be served the next day.
Please don’t treat the above as the only way to make this cake. My recipes come from a variety of sources. I try to read a number of cookbooks, take some ingredients and techniques from each of them, and then create my own version. The above recipe is my sixth version since December. I’ve tried almonds, pecans, and walnuts. I like the walnut version the best for cheesecake. By the way, the sour cream is my best guess! I buy a 16 ounce sour cream, use half for the filling and the rest for the topping.
It is my hope that you will try this recipe and then change it, improve it to your taste, and love it. Because that it was cooking should really be, an expression of your creativity and the joy of feeding your friends and family.
Picture – Cheesecake 6.0 – David L Cunix