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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Parkinson's Law, 2014 Election Primer, 'Lend' Versus 'Loan,' Lo-Tech Identity Theft Protection and a Short Story from my Archives

Parkinson's Law for Retirees

Why are retired people so busy? 
Well, let’s go back 59 years to the famous humorous essay published in The Economist back then by Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson who expounded “Parkinson’s Law” which stated that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”  While the essay directed its application to the worlds of business and public administration, it is applicable to retired people as well.  Its first paragraph is quoted below, and while it reeks of British usage of half a century ago, and is sexist as well, it is both amusing and pertinent today.

C. Northcote Parkinson             

“General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase 'It is the busiest man who has time to spare.' Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar box in the next street. The total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.”

On a very busy day, when you have two doctors’ appointments in the morning, a birthday luncheon to attend at 1:00 p.m., a mid-afternoon phone call awaited from your accountant who has been talking with the IRS about your 2012 return, and plans to go to dinner at 6:00 p.m.to be followed by a concert for which you’ve had tickets for months, how much additional time would it take if you suddenly remembered you had to stop off along the way at the cleaners to pick up something you wanted to wear that evening?  Five minutes, maybe?  

But if you had not a thing on your schedule that day, might not that trip to the cleaners expand to half a day, during which you might “unexpectedly” decide to go to a car wash, stop for gas, visit the library and buy a package of mints in the way to the cleaners?  It certainly would and it would take all morning or afternoon, like the postcard-mailing lady in Parkinson’s first paragraph noted above.

Retired people, rather than having “all the time in the world” really have a relatively limited amount of time available to them, usually measurable in decades or conceivably short portions thereof.  They should bear Parkinson’s Law in mind, and not spend any more time than is necessary on whatever tasks or chores they have before them.  Then, they will have more time available not only to use in carrying out the other productive and beneficial activities in their lives, but to spend seeking out and exploring more such activities as well.

Jack Lippman


2014 Election Primer

With elections for the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate coming up in November, it is becoming clear what the issues will be in these contests. 
First, the Senate:  (For the sake of simplicity, I will include the two “Independent” members of the Senate among the Democrats, since they usually caucus with them and vote with them as well.)

At present the Democrats control 55 seats and the Republicans 45.  Twenty-one of these Democratic seats are up for election while just 14 of presently Republican seats are up for election.

As of now, most pollsters see the Democrats losing five of these seats to the Republicans, resulting in what could be an evenly divided Senate with 50 Republicans and 50 combined Democratic and Independent Senators.  Under such circumstances, the Senate probably would be organized by the Republicans. The crucial states, where Republicans hope to take over Senate seats from Democrats are Montana, South Dakota, Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina.  Should they fail to capture all of these five seats, they probably will not gain control of the Senate.  Over the next few months, this blog will monitor these five races.

In the House of Representatives, 234 seats are presently Republican and 201 are Democratic.  Presently, pollsters see the Democrats picking up two seats which, in effect, will leave things pretty much the way they are in the House. Of the Republican seats, 23 are considered “competitive” while 25 seats held by Democrats are in that category.

The strategy of the Republicans will be to lock in their voting base by emphasizing issues which will get traditional Republican, Tea Party and independent voters to the polls.  Such issues will be what they see as the failure of the Democratic administration to respond effectively to the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi, the supposed failure of the Affordable Care Act, scandals involving the IRS and the VA and the what appears to be the impotence of our foreign policy in regard to the Israel, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  Whether these issues involve anything of substance is immaterial, so long as they get the G.O.P. voting base, including its right wing Tea Party base, energized Their tactics will include personal attacks on Senate Leader Harry Reid, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Kerry and of course, President Obama.  They will shy away from attacking likely 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton out of fear of alienating women voters. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton  Hillary Clinton  Harry Reid        

The strategy of the Democrats will be to get massive numbers of voters, particularly young voters, Afro-Americans and Latinos, to the polls propelled by their commitment to social issues.  Increasing the minimum wage, reforming the nation’s immigration policies, women’s rights and their economic equality, addressing problems of income and wealth inequities, preserving the world’s environment and finally, the what they see as the success of the Affordable Care Act will be among  their salient messages.  Many Democrats will attempt to do so at the same time as they try to distance themselves from President Obama, particularly in states where he is not particularly popular.  Senator Mary Landrieu's tight race in Louisiana is 

an example of this.     Mary Landrieu Landrieu

Democrats will not neglect to attack the acceptance by most of the G.O.P. of parts of the Tea Party agenda.

It is expected, due to several Supreme Court decisions, that an unprecedented amount of money will be available to Republican candidates from wealthy private donors and businesses, an amount which Democratic individual donors and unions, in particular, will not be able to equal.  In addition to this resulting in the likelihood of both Houses coming under Republican control, State Legislatures and Governorships will continue to be dominated by the G.O.P. which will favor that party in their periodic redistricting of Congressional seats.

The G.O.P. Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson as well as Democrat George Soros put their money where their mouths are

It is interesting to note that while the Democrats are claiming that the Affordable Care Act is a success, the Republicans are claiming that Obamacare, which they prefer to call it, is a failure.  Over the next few months, many Americans may come to realize how beneficial the ACA is for them, and the country in general.  Conversely, many will see the Act as merely another drain on taxpayers' money providing no additional benefits to them and imposing an uncomfortable burden on providers of health care.  The results of the election in the Senate and House reces may very well swing on how the ACA is viewed: a success or a failure.
That’s where things stand right now, less than six months before Election Day.  But in that short period, things can change.  Jackspotpourri will try to keep you on top of what is going on.


Friends, Romans, CountrymenLoan Me Your Ears ? 

I always thought that the word “loan” was a noun (go to the bank to get a ‘loan’) and that using it as a verb (the bank will ‘loan’ you the money) was improper.  To me the correct verb has always been ‘lend’ despite the common use of ‘loan’ as a verb.  Well, in researching this, I have discovered to my disappointment that ‘loan’ is a perfectly acceptable verb.  Note the following commentary from the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Whether the bank loans you money or lends you money, you can still spend it

The verb loan is one of the words English settlers brought to America and continued to use after it had died out in Britain. Its use was soon noticed by British visitors and somewhat later by the New England literati, who considered it a bit provincial. It was flatly declared wrong in 1870 by a popular commentator, who based his objection on etymology. A later scholar showed that the commentator was ignorant of Old English and thus unsound in his objection, but by then it was too late, as the condemnation had been picked up by many other commentators. Although a surprising number of critics still voice objections, loan is entirely standard as a verb. You should note that it is used only literally; lend is the verb used for figurative expressions, such as lending a hand or lending enchantment.”  (Editor's Note: Or "lending ears" as the heading of this article should properly read)


M. Antony (as played by M. Brando) knew difference between 'lend' and 'loan' in lines put in his mouth by W. Shakespeare at J. Caesar's funeral.

Well, I guess I stand corrected, but I still count myself among those included in the “suprising number” of those who still voice objections to its use as a verb.  Actually, in the United Kingdom, ‘loan’ in unacceptable as a verb, but the Brits speak English funny anyway as evidenced by Parkinson’s use (see top article on this posting) of the word ‘pillar box’ where everyone on this side of the Atlantic knows he means ‘mail box.’ 

For more interesting commentary on the difference between ‘loan’ and ‘lend,’ check out http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/loan-versus-lend  where the question is posed as to why when a bank ‘loans’ you money, the agreement you sign refers to them as the ‘lender’ (as in the baker of frozen bagels) rather than as the ‘loaner’ (as in what the dealership gives you to drive while they keep your car overnight for repairs). English is a wonderful language.  I wonder if other tongues present similar issues.



A Lo-Tech Identity Theft Solution

You never know where there might be a hidden camera attempting to steal your pin number



(A Short Story from My Archives)

When Russ turned the corner, making a right off of McKinley Avenue onto Oak Street, he blinked his eyes for a second.  Had he made the wrong turn?  The third house on the left was where his house should have been, but it wasn’t there.  The neighbors’ houses all were there alright, but where his house should have been was a fenced-in brick structure.  He pulled up in front of it and looked at the sign on the fence. “Keep Out – City Water District Pumping Station Number Four – Built 1999,” it read.   Reaching for his cell phone, he punched in his wife’s number several times, but each effort was cut off by a metallic voice saying, “the number you dialed in not available at this time.”  Putting the phone down, he slowly drove off, circling the block a few times.  Everything was as it was when he had gone to work that morning; all the trees and houses looked the same, but his house was gone. 

Deciding to drive back to the center of town to his haberdashery shop, he thought he might sit down and think it out.  It probably was a dream which he was in the midst of, or some kind of hallucination.  There had to be an explanation.

When Russ got to the store, or more correctly to where the store he had left twenty minutes earlier should have been, it wasn’t there.  Between the Children’s Shoe Emporium and the Chiropractic office, where Russ’ Dapper Dan Shop had stood for the past twenty years, was a Starbucks Coffee shop.   It hadn’t been there a half an hour ago.


Getting out of his car, Russ cautiously walked along the sidewalk.  He looked into the shoe store and the Starbucks, but didn’t recognize any of the help there.  The Chiropractic office was closed.  Finally, he went into the Starbucks and quietly asked the girl behind the counter, “Miss, do you know of any men’s clothing store around here?”

“No sir,” she replied.  “There’s a couple out at the mall but I don’t think there are any in town.”

A woman, seated at a table, looked up at him.  “Mister, she’s too young to remember, but there used to be one right here, about five years ago, right where this Starbucks is.”

“Thank you,” Russ said and walked back to his car.  This dream, he thought, had gone on long enough.  He had to do something.  He thought about going to the police but decided on the Emergency Room of the hospital instead.

“Yes, sir,” the nurse at the Emergency Room addressed him.  “Can I help you”? 

He didn’t know quite how to explain what his problem was, but he blurted it out as best he could.

“Miss, I need to see a doctor.  I seem to be living in a dream or hallucinating, or something, but since I went to work this morning, my house has disappeared, my store has disappeared, and I seem to have lost five or six years of my life.”

“Have you been drinking or using drugs,”? the nurse asked.

“Neither,” he responded.  An idea struck him.  While he might be hallucinating, the nurse wasn’t.  “Here,” he said, taking his wallet out of his pocket.  Please call my wife. I couldn’t reach her on my cell phone, but maybe you can.”

The nurse examined the identification in the wallet, took his phone number and dialed it.   She turned away from him so he could not hear the conversation. When she got off of the phone, she turned to Russ, looking at him peculiarly, and said, “I spoke to your wife and she didn’t quite understand what I was talking about.  It seems you were sitting at the table at the very moment I called, eating dinner.  I asked to speak to you, and you got on the phone.  The voice sounded just like yours, incidentally, and you were a little annoyed about being disturbed, since you had just gotten home from a hard day at work.  Is this some kind of joke, or something”?

“No it isn’t, but where did whomever you spoke to say he worked,” Russ asked.

“At his store, Dapper Dan’s.  Incidentally, I know the store pretty well.  I bought my husband and my father their Father’s Day gifts there the other day.  It’s a nice store.”


Russ held his head in his hands.  He was getting a headache.  Could it be that his body had split into two separate, but identical people, about five years ago, and one, the one eating dinner with his wife at that very moment, was continuing to lead his normal existence, but the other, himself, had been put into some sort of state of suspension, where he had remained until earlier that afternoon, when through some cosmic mistake, he had come back to a world where he did not belong, and would not belong, until his other self no longer existed.  That was why his store and his home had been made inaccessible to him.  So long as they were part of his other self's existence, they could not be part of his.  That could be the only explanation.  This was the stuff, he thought, that science fiction was made of, but it was happening to him.  He couldn’t tell the nurse about it, of course. If he did, she would think he was crazy and he would never have the opportunity to replace his other self and resume a normal life.

His quickly-devised plan was to murder his other self, dispose of the body, and resume his rightful life with his wife and business.   How to do it, however, was another question, however, since he couldn’t get to the house or the store.  They existed, alright, but in a world of which he was no longer a component.  But the nurse, he thought, might be a bridge between both worlds, just as she had been over the telephone.

“Miss, I feel a lot better, so if you don’t mind, I’ll leave now.  But, could you do me one favor?  Ask the man you just spoke to on the phone to stop by the Emergency Room.  When he does, just give him these.  Russ took some photographs of his family from his wallet.  Tell them they were turned in to the Hospital’s “Lost and Found” desk.”

The nurse, eager to get rid of Russ, who appeared to be just another of the many screwballs who wander into Emergency Rooms, quickly assented.

                                    *                            *                        *

The next evening, Russ saw his other self striding up to the Emergency Room entrance.  He was crouching behind some thick hedges where he had positioned himself for the entire day with a loaded pistol in his hand.  A few minutes later, as his other self left, Russ aimed and squeezed the trigger.  The silencer on the gun muffled the shot.  He quickly dragged the body into the bushes and to his car.  He drove off and disposed of the body in a quarry where it probably would never be found.  He then drove home. 

This time, when Russ turned the corner, making a right off of McKinley Avenue onto Oak Street, his house was there, right where it was supposed to be, and his wife was on the porch waving at him.   She had no way of knowing that he was a murderer, or was he?

Jack Lippman



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