Dave Cunix

Oct 122014
 

Mayfield Heights-20141012-00413

 

Regular readers know that I aggressively pursue moderation. Politics?  I am a centrist Democrat, have been since high school.  I have, however, friends up and down the political spectrum.  Religion?  Jewish.  Happily, intentionally, Jewish.  And I have friends who are ritualistically more observant than me and plenty of friends who define themselves as culturally or socially Jewish.

My needle is stuck in the middle.

I met Roger (name changed) for coffee last week. He chose Panera, the essence of moderation.  Roger would hate for anyone to mistake him for a moderate anything.

Roger is a well-educated young man. He and his wife have a house full of children out in the suburbs.  He is politically to the right of almost everyone choosing to have coffee with me.  And his faith, proudly worn on his sleeve, is a Jesus-focused Christianity.

We danced around politics and healthcare for a while, but all along I could tell that there was something else on his mind. Finally he asked if I was open to a personal question.  Me?  The Prince of Transparency?  Sure.  He wanted to know my thoughts about Jesus.

To his shock and amazement, I wanted to know his thoughts about Mohammed. I predicted that he doesn’t spend any time contemplating the Koran and Islam.  And I spend just as much time on the New Testament and the various forms of Christianity.  Again and again he returned to the story of the Resurrection and asked me to determine whether it was fact or a hoax, as if those extremes were the only choices.  And more importantly, as if I really cared.

I don’t.

My friend Heidi is an atheist. She doesn’t care what you believe as long as you don’t try to impose your faith on anyone else.  From her perspective and mine, Bill Maher and the Jehovah Witnesses have more in common than either have with us.   Proselytizing is proselytizing. Roger wasn’t recruiting.  He was just unprepared for someone failing to embrace his “Truth”.

Our conversation ended as it began. No one changed teams.  No one lost was saved.  No one saved was lost.  But I learned how someone else thinks.  And Roger learned how someone else who thinks asks questions.  What a country!

 

 

Sep 282014
 

Sunday Night Dinner

I had two recipe requests last week. One I could ignore or put off until after open enrollment.  Two?  With two you get dinner.

 

Fake Meat & Low Carb Pasta = Great Meal

¼ teaspoon Garlic Salt

1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 ½ cup uncooked Dreamfield’s Low Carb Pasta

Florets of one stalk of Broccoli

5 ounces Vegan Chicken

6 cloves Garlic, minced

¼ Roasted Red Pepper, sliced into small strips

1 Button Mushroom, sliced

Parmesan Cheese (real or fake), optional

 

Add Garlic Salt and a teaspoon of the oil to a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil.  Blanch the Broccoli for two minutes and remove.  Bring the water back to a rolling boil and add pasta.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil and then add the Broccoli, Garlic, Red Pepper, and Mushroom. Cook slowly for 5 minutes.  Add the Chicken.  Continue until the Garlic softens and turns golden and the Chicken is warmed all the way through.

Drain the Pasta and return to the pot. Slice the Chicken into strips and mix everything together in the pot.  Divide into two dishes, sprinkle a little cheese on top, and serve with a tossed salad.

Feel free to change ALL of this. I would like to hear what you do to make this even better.

 

Sep 232014
 

White Kipah

 

I have been looking for a white kippah for the holidays. Some Jewish men always have their heads covered.  Some never.  Many of us wear a kippah or yarmulke when engaged in prayer, when in synagogue, and whenever it seems appropriate.

I found my black knit kippah in the street markets of Tel Aviv. Not too big and not too small, with enough heft that it would stay on without a clip, I deemed my new kippah as windproof and wore it throughout both of my trips in 2008.  A few years ago Sally suggested that I should switch to a grey knit version to better match my hair.  And that is fine for every day, but what I really wanted was a white kippah for the holidays.

Rosh Hashanah begins this Wednesday at sundown. Jews around the world are preparing for the holidays.  Some of these preparations are spiritual in nature.  Others are more focused on family and tradition.  My friend Lisa drove almost 45 minutes just to get to a store that sold the special cheese she needed to make her family’s traditional recipe for blintzes.  Another friend should be dropping off her incredible honey cake to my office any day now.  Cards will be mailed.  Dinners planned.

My memories of the holidays always begin with the color white. The Rabbi and Cantor wore white kittels or white robes.  Some of the synagogues of my youth had choirs, also dressed in white.  I remember chairs on the Bimah covered in white and even white tablecloths at home.  Against this backdrop, a white knit kippah seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

Easier said than done. I have been looking for the white version of my black kippah for over five years.  The local purveyors of such goods were of no help.  I purchased a really big, Jerusalem kippah several years ago.  I searched the New York religious book stores with no success or satisfaction.  One store owner let me know how foolish I was to expect his store to have so popular an item outside of Israel.  But I never gave up hope.

It wasn’t my first online search, nor even my second. It was on my third attempt that I found the kippah.  The company is in London, England.  I ordered one white knit kippah.  The standard shipping was almost half the final price.  It was promised by the 29th, but arrived yesterday, a week early!

Here is wishing those of you about to celebrate the High Holidays a Healthy and Happy New Year filled with family, tradition, and joy.

 

 

Sep 142014
 

 

I heard the drums of war.  Again.

We are ready, once again, to pick sides in the Muslim world. We always think that we know what we are doing.  We identify the bad actors, the Evildoers, and announce that we will destroy them.  In an effort to minimize our personal involvement (ground troops), we lionize the sworn enemies of our new enemies.  We train our new friends.  We give them lots of nifty weapons.  And when our new enemy has been vanquished by us and our new friends, we try to leave.  We give the keys to the country to the victors and walk away.

That’s the theory.

We are currently freaked about a couple of brutal beheadings. To combat this we’ll recruit the help of the Saudi’s, the government that has helped to fund ISIS, provided leadership and manpower, and who has regularly scheduled public beheadings.

It’s the blind leading the visually impaired.

Should we have bombed Syria last year? Should we have armed the “moderate” Syrian opposition?

I have no idea. I have the same queasy feeling I had prior to our last incursion into Iraq.  What are we trying to do?  When will we know that we’ve done it?  What is our exit strategy?  My biggest concern centers on our lack of presidential leadership.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president with the courage of his convictions of a John McCain, but with the wisdom of – who?

Seriously, who? Certainly not John McCain, the human embodiment of road rage.  But not the current guy.  And not his predecessor.  Our current president can’t seem to grasp the counter-intuitive nature of these fights.  It’s not about logic.  Countries do not base their actions on President Obama’s perception of their best interest.  These decisions are based on religion, emotion, and slights that we’ve never bothered to understand.  With that in mind we must learn that the enemy of our enemy may also be our enemy.  In fact, it is unlikely that we have any friends in that region, just business partners.

And the last guy? That damage may never be repaired.

If you are looking for measured responses and justifiable restraint, you might want to consider Bill Clinton and the first President Bush. Colin Powell provided an oral history of the run-up to the first Gulf War to PBS.  Sadly, General Powell’s credibility was permanently damaged by the younger Bush.

We want to rid the world of ISIS. Sounds good.  How?  John McCain would have had us in Syria a year ago.  Undoubtedly, some of the very people he would have armed last year we would be fighting this year.

Déjà vu.

Do you remember the Mujahedeen? We wanted the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.  President Ronald Reagan, with the help of Senator Charlie Wilson (D-TX), armed and trained the Mujahedeen.  Those weapons and that training greatly benefited two successor groups, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

This link is to a Guardian article from 1999!  This article was published almost two years before September 11th.  Fifteen years later and it is difficult to prove that we have learned anything from our misadventures.

Five hundred years ago, observers from a distant planet would have seen the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the English, the Dutch, and the Germans engaged in unspeakable behavior on behalf of their Church, their monarchs, and their homelands. Forced Conversions.  The slaughter of the innocents.  The destruction of other cultures.  Slavery.  Rape.  Brutality.  And our observers, safe in the knowledge that they were beyond the reach of humans could let this play out.  Who would survive?  Who wouldn’t?  It wouldn’t matter to them.  But we, the United States and the rest of the now-civilized world, don’t have that luxury in 2014.  We can’t just let the various sects of Islam fight it out amongst themselves.  We are too dependent on their oil.  And they are too dependent on our attention.

So I hear the drums of war.  Again.

Aug 272014
 

Memorial Plaque

 

Rabbi Galperin walked over to the wall, the south wall of the main sanctuary of our synagogue, and studied the memorial plaques.  Like so many synagogues, we have an area dedicated to the memory of loved ones who are no longer with us.  Each plaque has a little bulb that stays lit during the month commemorating the anniversary of the person’s death.  Rabbi Galperin started at the top with the bulb next to the name Jerome Cunix, and gently unscrewed the bulb just enough to extinguish the light.  And with that another year passed since the day my father died.

My father succumbed to cancer on August 2, 1994, a month before his 69th birthday.  That day was the 25th of Av in the Jewish lunar calendar.   This year, the 25th of Av was last Thursday.  That was the official day to mourn his passing.  But as anyone who has lost a parent can attest, mourning isn’t ruled by a calendar

 

Aug 072014
 

 

We have been described as a nation of slobs.  I disagree.  No, we aren’t living in the early 1960’s, a time where gentlemen wore hats and long sleeved shirts beneath their tailored suit coats.  But we haven’t migrated to the other extreme.  I saw a guy in an office the other day that proved the point.  He was wearing a wrinkled suit and a tie that landed half-way up a shirt that may, or may not, have ever been tucked in to his ill-fitting pants.  He was a mess, but he was still close to where he needed to be.  And I got to thinking that there are three types of slobs.

Naturally Sloppy – This is someone who couldn’t keep his shirt tucked in and his tie straight if his life depended upon it.  Those around him realize that neatness must be like singing, a talent that some people have and some just don’t.

Personal Style – Convinced that this is either in style or HIS style, his shirt and tie are just part of his total look.  Much like the 3 day beard (not 2 day not 4), it is specific in what is and isn’t out of place.  His look has its own internal logic and truth.

The Attention Seeker – Starved for any attention, even negative, his appearance is a faux rebellion.  His attention is intentionally disruptive.  He wants to be the focal point even if it will lead to being reprimanded or to be excluded from other activities or opportunities.

Unless this is the first time you have read this blog, you know that this post isn’t about guys walking around with exposed shirttails.  It is about employees.  Bad employees.

Good employees will have to wait for another day.  People who excel at their jobs are never truly appreciated.  That is just the way it is.  Employees who do their job, nothing less and never anything more, seldom warrant much attention positive or negative.  This post is about the people that set the boss’s teeth on edge.

The Incompetent – Overmatched.  It is a daily battle.  They fight the job and the job wins.  This is an employer problem.  They have assigned the wrong person for the job.  We wouldn’t assign a guy 5’2” tall to guard an NBA center, yet business routinely puts the equally unqualified into jobs that they can not do.   It is not the employee’s fault.

The Clueless – This worker is absolutely positive that she is a rising star.  She is the reckless driver on her cellphone who has never been in an accident, but has caused numerous fender-benders.  Her mistakes are intentional.  She just doesn’t know that they are mistakes.

The Saboteur – The worst of all employees and we have all had one.  “No one could be that stupid”, you yell as you discover another mistake.  At some point the employer realizes that this employee wants to be disciplined and he hopes to be fired.  Being fired feeds into his internal narrative that everyone picks on him, nobody appreciates him, and that he was just too good and the other employees were jealous.  And, if you’re fired you get unemployment insurance.

One of my clients is dealing with a Saboteur.  Stuff disappears for a day or two, everyone gets upset, and then the hero finds the missing item where others had already looked.  Forms are misfiled, telephone messages are consistently wrong, and the rest of the employees are now left to wonder how long such behavior can be tolerated.  It is all so disruptive.  It is all so unnecessary.

My client knows what he has to do.  He has to terminate the malcontent.  But it is hard.  For one, he has to admit that he totally screwed up by hiring the guy.  For another, he also has to overcome his disappointment.  My client had been looking for a key person for a number of years.  He thought that he had finally found the right guy.  Firing any employee is difficult.  This will be that much harder.   But being a business owner requires a certain level of intestinal fortitude.  He can’t allow one employee to destroy his business.

So when it comes to negative behavior we are left to ask whether or not it is intentional.  And then we have to act.

Jul 222014
 

Ann Arbor City-20140718-00354

I could hear him before I could see him.   I was at the Ann Arbor Art Fest talking with John Russell, the guy who makes my pens, at his booth on South University Street.  It was Friday morning, the third day of the art show, and the crowd was building steadily.  John and I were talking about the various woods he uses and his unique process of incorporating exotic materials, like snake skins, into some his high end rollerball and fountain pens.  But the rhythmic playing of the karatalas cut through all of the crowd noise.

I heard the chanting and turned to see a man who appeared to be somewhere around my age dressed in off-white robes and bluer than blue high-top sneakers.  Due to the security protocols put in place after 9/11, the only place many of us now see a Hare Krishna is on a college campus.  I was now officially in Ann Arbor.  He chanted and danced to his own music.  He was not begging for money or food, just attention.   He was part of the scene, no different than the band that was performing a few blocks away.

Even though we were looking at each booth, we still managed to put about a block between us and the Hare Krishna.  This wasn’t intentional.  For the most part, he was in his own world and didn’t seek to make eye contact with the crowd.  Every now and then I could hear the karatalas or his chanting.

***

Sally and I were in Ann Arbor for my annual art shopping trip.  I still have empty walls in the Bogart, Cunix & Browning suite.  It is my goal to add a couple of interesting pieces each year.  I scored two clocks last year.  Two years ago I purchased the amazing digital picture from Beau Tudzarov.   This year I saw the new work from Beau, Ralph Rankin and Greg Billman.  Ralph, an incredible photographer, usually limits his art show booths to his ceramic works.  This year he also brought his newest passion, digital collage photographs printed on metals.  Bold. Surrealistic.  Mine will be shipped in a few weeks.  I’m already second guessing my purchase.  I’m debating whether I should have bought a bigger image or two of the pictures.  They are that cool.

***

It was the showdown at the OK Corral.  At one end of the block was the Hare Krishna.  At the other end, the most cluttered of minds, dressed in shorts and the usual offensive t shirt, eyed the infidel and marched into war.  Yes, it was a schmuck from Jews for Jesus.  The back of his shirt said that “Jesus made me Kosher” but he looked like someone who couldn’t find a Jew in a B’nai B’rith convention.  As I noted in Pigs For Bacon in 2010, few things offend me more than some guy hawking religion like an overpriced vacuum, foisting pamphlets on passers-by, and worse, dragging us into their pitch.  But I always worry that I could be overly sensitive.  More often or not, a simple “Get away” is enough to clear my path.  Buy this yahoo, also about my age, was enraged.  He marched up to the chanting Hare Krishna and began to berate him.

“You are worshipping a false god.”  The chanting continued.  He tried to dance around the pamphleteer.   He moved to the left, but was immediately blocked.  Standing in the middle of the street, nose to nose, one chanted an ancient mantra, the other chanting modern gibberish.  I thought about intervening, but realized that they were both getting what they really wanted.

Attention.

 

 

Jul 092014
 
The Vast Nothingness

The Vast Nothingness

I think this post is more fun if you click here first and then listen to the music while you read.  But that’s just me.

The Speech.  The My Life Had No Purpose speech.  You’ve heard it before.  I got to hear it again Monday evening.

Like all classics, the Speech has a time honored format.  The earnest young presenter (always earnest, usually male) tells his audience about his failures.  Sure he once made more money than most of his audience has ever made.  And of course he once had a nice home and better stuff that any of them have a reasonable expectation of owning.  But he was in debt and he wasn’t HAPPY.  His momma died.  His wife left him.  His dog snapped at him.  He wasn’t Fulfilled.  And then he found __________.

What did he find?  What turned his life around?  Jesus?  Yoga?  A new toothpaste?  It really doesn’t matter.  The only constant is that now that he and his life have been salvaged, he is ready to help you.  The price tag is somewhere between $16.99 and 10% of your income.

I turned to Heidi Cool who was sitting next to me at the Barking Spider and told her that I could give the next line of the Speech.  Two guys on a book selling tour were at the Spider to read a little from their latest tome on Minimalism, Everything That Remains.  In a little over three years Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have co-authored five books and have spoken at SXSW, World Domination Summit, TEDx, and numerous schools, organizations and meetings.  In other words, they have built an impressive empire out of eliminating excess.

I couldn’t tell which I found more depressing, the predictability of the Speech or the audience in attendance.  I studied the faces of the people listening to the authors.  I was looking for that sense of déjà vu, that acknowledgement that they had heard this before.  Because some of them had.  They were seekers, wanderers in search of some path to ease the dull throb that wouldn’t go away.  Even though these unhappies had heard much, if not all, of this before, it was all new to them.  The oldest of the group smiled knowingly as one of the authors described in exaggerated detail his IKEA shopping experience.  The youngest, unemployed or underemployed, were looking for validation for the choices life had made for them.

And all they needed to do was buy the book.  Really, you will be happy with less stuff.  Eliminate what you don’t need so that you can fully appreciate what you will have left.  And one of the things you don’t need is the money in your pocket that would pay for this book.  I didn’t stay around till the end.  I couldn’t.  But I wanted to just to see if they would accept credit cards.

The purpose of this post isn’t to knock these guys or anyone else who makes a living leading people out of deserts.  What’s great is that every once in a while someone may actually benefit from a speaker evangelizing a particular religion, lifestyle, or hair care product.  But if you cut through the BS what you will find is that someone hated their crappy job and what they had to do to make a living.  So they drank.  Or they gambled.  Or they cheated on their spouse.  Or they spent money foolishly.  And one day, they got a new job.  And now they feel good about themselves.  As is so often the case, the new job is to stand in front of a group of people and share with them how happy they now are.

Will playing pinball all day make YOU happy?  Neither will some book.

Jul 072014
 

Mayfield Heights-20140707-00349

 

I didn’t leave my office till a couple of minutes past six.  I knew that it was Sunday.  And yes, I have lots of windows.  I could see that it was beautiful outside.  But being a health insurance agent is a full-time job.  Work in a Chinese restaurant full-time.  So I put in over four hours yesterday afternoon.

This is not a complaint and I am not a martyr.  I played golf Sunday morning with Big Muddy and I found time for a walk before dinner with Sally.  Being self-employed or owning a small business requires a lot of self-discipline.  You must be willing to work until the job is completely done.

Most of yesterday’s office time was devoted to renewals.  Thirteen clients have policies renewing August 1, 2014.  In each instance I had to shop for new, 2014 policies that included the new required benefits and the new, often much higher prices.  I then compared the old policies against the new ones, decided what would be their best option, and then either prepared a handwritten note or sent an email.

Only one of the clients would save money by switching to the new policies.  A couple of young women could pay about 50% more for a new policy if they want maternity.  The rest should do nothing.

The hours I spent to determine that almost all of these people should do nothing were not wasted.  How would I have known if I hadn’t run the numbers?  How would the clients know if I didn’t prepare the reports?

Prep work is the real work.  Prep work is why a restaurant can serve you a dinner in minutes when it would take you hours to make it at home.  Prep work is why your physician is ready to examine you the moment he/she walks into the room.  The hours our teachers devote to lesson plans, grading, and evaluation long after our children have left for home may be the most important example of prep work.

So yes, you can find me at my office most Sundays.  The dress code is casual.  The music – loud.

Jun 252014
 

Mayfield Heights-20140625-00339
The Lord of The Rings opens up with the Shire preparing for the most remarkable of parties.  New wonders arrived each day for the September celebration.  There were fireworks.  There were cart loads of party decorations and favors.  And there were toys for the children, some that had been made in distant lands and were obviously magical.

Sally’s daughter, Raquel, is getting married Labor Day weekend.  Since Raqui lives in Baltimore, my office is the delivery spot for everything she has ordered for the upcoming event.  One day it is a huge box, the next it is a couple of satchels.  Today I got an envelope for her from China.  Thank G-d I’m invited.  I’m dying to see what’s in the packages.

* * *

I am totally unprepared for today.   I have had June 25th scheduled for three weeks.  I was to be in Medina, at Fox Meadow Country Club, playing golf with one of my clients.  Rick and I have talked about playing for years.  A few weeks ago I called and invited him to play at Tanglewood or Boulder Creek.  He belongs to Fox Meadow and asked if I’d ever been there.  I hadn’t.  We had a 10:20 tee time.  Have you looked out the window?  The last I heard, the club is closed due to the heavy rains.

So I’m here.  The crush of the Open Enrollment, annual Senior Enrollment, and usual end of the year stuff is way behind me.  It is too early to start on the 2015 season.  And, I was prepared to be off.  So, I’m here.  Not working and not having a lot to do is totally foreign to me.  Blowing out of here and heading to the art museum might be advisable, but I’m not sure I can really do it.

 * * *

The client didn’t want to talk about premiums, or claims, or even policies.  No, she called today to talk about coffee cups.  Mine in particular.  Of course, how often do you see a three legged mug?  Mine was picked out for me by Claudia of the Zeber-Martell Clay Studios.  I saw the new glaze and style and asked her to send one to me.  The client wanted one for her daughter.  I bet she’ll buy a lot more than one once she visits the gallery.

Heavy summer showers and three legged mugs and boxes and bags filled with who knows what are what filled my unplanned day.