Pulitzer Material

Nicholas Kristof, a journalist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes, made the observation that the awards are actually recognition for the event being covered. He won for his reporting on the Tiananmen Square protests and the genocide in Darfur. Since he has been nominated for a Pulitzer seven times, he is being overly modest about his own contribution. Meryl Street may have had a similar advantage portraying the remarkable Margaret Thatcher for her third Oscar win but Streep’s 21 nominations suggest that she is a great actress as well. Perhaps someone will someday win an Oscar for the role of Meryl Streep if she can survive some crisis or stop making her performances look so easy. For those who are not icons, subject matter gets you half way there. That is why actors and journalists scramble to grab the coattails of the best possible stories. That is why I bullied my way into delivering my Mom’s eulogy. I knew she would draw applause for the person she was and the life she led no matter who shone the spotlight on it.



Getting the hiccups in public can be both annoying and embarrassing. But after you have had the hicdowns, you come to appreciate the hiccups as a pleasant affliction. People are amused by the hiccups and offer you suggestions on how to get rid of them. Hold your breath. Drink sips of water. Drink water quickly. Have someone scare you. Bite on a lemon. Open a door and release the hiccup outside. Run onto the field naked at a football game. No, wait that last one is a tip for sobering up fast. But no one is amused or helpful when you have the hicdowns. People will plug their noses, announce in a nasal twang that you are disgusting, and move away from you. Or so I have heard.

Eerie Pains

Q-Tips are risky enough to insert in an ear but at least I use them on purpose. I accidentally put my fingers, pencils, pens, and the earpieces of my eyeglasses in my ear. I only know I do that because every once in awhile I yelp with pain when I hit something really sensitive. Remarkably I am not deaf yet. I may also be inserting straws, keys, and AAA batteries in my ears but I just do not remember specific episodes of pain when using those items. I always resolve to never, ever put anything in my ear again but I do it subconsciously. I need an alarm system on my ear that goes off whenever a foreign objects enters. I have tried taping my ears shut and wearing a helmet but both those solutions induce hysteria in my wife, especially when I attempt to accompany her to a wedding or funeral. Actually she did not notice the tape for awhile but the helmet was the last straw even though I decorated it with very flattering pictures of her. I could probably find an easy solution but I am too embarrassed to ask drug store employees if they carry products that would inhibit a friend of mine from sticking pens and eyeglass temple tips in his ear.

Looking for Losers

I have always been surrounded by very talented friends. They run companies, summit mountains, win awards for the books they write, skydive, achieve top awards from their professional associations, work overseas, volunteer for good causes, serve on Boards, learn foreign languages, and do other stuff they are too modest to mention. It all makes me feel like a loser. I am resolved to find a real loser for a friend. That way I can feel like the successful one. Wait a minute, my current friends even beat me to that strategy!

The Matthew Effect

The Matthew Effect essentially endorses the concept that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Famous or more senior researchers will tend to receive the awards or be named discoverers rather than the less prominent people who actually did the work or made the breakthrough. Robert K. Merton coined the term in 1968, carefully crediting the Apostle Matthew who recorded parables that illustrate the principle. Matthew is indeed more famous than Merton but he was only recording the words of Jesus. At any rate, the Matthew Effect and similar adages are used to describe the cumulative advantages of economic capital or early successes. Some people cite the principle as a way of diminishing the success of others or blaming their own defeats on a rigged system. Unfortunately I have been blessed with too much advantage to blame my shortfalls on that. Instead, I like to style myself as an heroic rebel, the exception that breaks every rule. The Geoffrey Effect documents the lesser known phenomenon of the rich who get poorer. I named my youngest son Matthew Geoffrey in homage to my discovery and doomed him to a life torn between conflicting principles. I call his condition the Stamper Effect.

Big and Bold

Leaders sometimes come up with big bold ideas to fix something complex. Pope Gregory fixed our calendar in 1582 by eliminating the ten days between October 4th and October 15th and introducing leap years to prevent future calendar drift from the reality of the equinoxes. Gregory saw a need for a big fix in an agrarian world before many others recognized the urgency or just felt too powerless to do anything about it. Lesser visionaries skirmish over an hour of daylight savings time. In 1962, John Kennedy challenged Soviet dominance in the Space Race by committing to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. The effort was successful seven years later despite the skepticism of those who thought it impossible and those who still do not believe it actually happened. Donald Trump envisioned the Mexicans paying for a five billion dollar Wall across the southern border of the United States to stop illegal immigration. That seemed like a painless fix to a big fear gnawing at millions of voters. I just wish Trump’s big idea was to use the Mexican money to resolve the threat of global warning. But he would probably just squander the funds on giant domed golf courses and stadiums with air conditioning.

Daily Pain(t)

Katikies Santorini, a boutique Greek hotel on the Aegean Sea with 34 rooms, employs a full time painter who even repaints a room whenever a guest checks out. According to Money Magazine, rooms rent for about $1,000 per night which more than covers the cost of paint. Hopefully they use a fume free whitewash that dries fast and does not damage the liver or they will be raising rates to cover medical and legal expenses. Lara Trump has encouraged government workers and others affected by the shutdown to endure the “little bit of pain” working without pay and cope with service disruptions for the sake of the greater good. The exact nature of the greater good is unclear in a polarized environment of dueling soundbites. Some people think of it as everyone being able to pay the rent while others consider it the opportunity for the few to vacation on a Greek island.

Hair Mystery

The bad news: I can no longer grow hair on the top of my head like I used to. The good news: I am growing hair like crazy elsewhere on my head. The crop in my ears and nose can be harvested daily. The eyebrows are going strong. I am forming an Exploratory Committee to investigate this anomaly and hopefully recommend solutions. Every person who sends a contribution of $25 or more to support this effort will receive both a nose and ear hair sample with a certificate authenticating the date of removal.

Breaking Barriers

In America, anyone can grow up to be President. So it was said. Even a Catholic as John Kennedy proved. Even a divorced man as Ronald Reagan demonstrated. Jon Stewart was asked by a guest in 2008 if he really thought the country was ready for a woman President when Hilary Clinton was battling Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. He replied, “No one asked if we were ready for a moron President eight years ago.” He was referring to George W. Bush. My mother was anti-Bush and a fan of Jon Stewart, so I quoted that exchange to her. I asked her why she was not amused. She told me that Bush was our President after all and deserved a certain amount of respect. Obama went on to prove we were ready for a Black man in the top job. Even though we have not yet had a female President, I think Donald Trump finally brought truth to the aphorism that truly anyone can grow up to be President in these United States. He is also trying very hard to contradict my Mother’s notion of having respect for the Office.

Taxing Logic

Today I am working on my 2017 income tax return. I have put this off long enough. Actually I am taking a break to post my daily Blog entry. But I will get right back to my taxes. I am spurred on by the realization that I cannot file my 2018 return until I fix my 2017 filing. Part of my bias in favor of procrastination comes from a belief that delays have two benefits. At work I found that if I did not take action, someone else would eventually step in and solve the problem. The second benefit is more ominous. I never took out my top two wisdom teeth despite my dentist’s bullying. My rationale included the possibility that nuclear war might wipe me out before those teeth cause trouble. So far, so good. The risk is that I might be in great pain while so frail in my 90’s when extraction complications could threaten my life. Delaying the task of straightening out my finances has one potential side benefit. It becomes someone else’s problem if I become incapacitated. My superstition is that this guarantees I will not become incapacitated. Just like carrying an umbrella insures no rain. My attitude also explains my unpopularity with the people around me.