Monday, May 23, 2016

Real World Time

“There is a little bit of Hamlet and Hamilton in all of us, especially when hearing a voice inside perpetually asking what’s your plan? I have an alternative proposition for you, one that may confuse your parents. Not having a big plan is actually a good plan. The story of tragedy following those who over-calculated their choices makes good theater, but it is, more importantly, no mere fiction.” William L. Fox ’75, St. Lawrence University President, Commencement 2016.

It is that time of year for College graduates to now get dirty. The Real World awaits: this writer has had the honor of knowing 135 of these graduates,  ranging in age from 20 to 49, representing eleven countries, some already working full time, some beginning jobs soon, and some going on to further their studies or seek employment. It is an economic world of multi-national companies, slow growth, political distrust, and immigration drama. Technology is the platform; diversity and equality are the standards.

While listening to Commencement speakers talking more about themselves than their audience, concentrate this time of year on celebration. Celebration of your efforts and celebration of the people who helped you get here: parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, mentors, and of course, the Game of Thornes. Okay celebration is over, now get dirty!

THE NEW DREAM JOBS – The National Society of High School Scholars asked 18,000 Americans, ages 18 to 29, to rank their ideal future employers:

1). Google
2). Walt Disney Co.
3). St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
4). Apple
5). F.B.I.
7). Microsoft
8). C.I.A.
11). Amazon
17). Starbucks
19). N.S.A.
29). Facebook
42). U.S. Army
43). JP Morgan Chase
50). Build-A-Bear-Workshop


We recently submitted ten questions to a graduating senior from College:

1). Tell us about yourself; where did you grow up, go to high school, hobbies?

My name is Bretten James, born and raised in Palm Springs, California. I’m also the third generation in my family to graduate from Palm Springs High School. I have one sister, two brothers, and two cats appropriately named Thor and Mar’i. I pride myself in being a nerd of all things, including most all books, comics, tv shows, manga, anime, cosplay, and other pop culture. I’ve been singing since I can remember and have sung professionally for five years. I also have been playing piano for thirteen years and enjoy doing theater productions on the side.

2). What was your major in undergraduate study, and why did you select your major?

Funny enough, I actually applied for the University of La Verne as a Math major, but changed it last minute to Psychology during my senior year of high school. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I was 17 years old. As I mentioned before, I love singing, theater, and playing piano, but I didn’t want to be an entertainer. Those were just for fun. I knew I was brilliant at math, which is why I chose the major, but I didn’t want to be a math teacher either. So in the efforts of filling my schedule for my senior year of high school, I randomly took an unnecessary, non-mandatory psychology class. And I just fell in love with psychology; it came so easily and was so interesting, like something had finally clicked in my brain. I thought, “Oh. So this is what I was meant to do.” Studying people with mental disorders and learning how the brain functions is just the coolest thing in my eyes.

3). What did you like most about college?

The thing I was shocked most about my freshman year was the fact that my consistent schedule of going to school from 8:00am to 3:00pm, Monday through Friday, was that it was stripped away from me. Though more difficult when it comes to courses, college is way more laid back, with a more open schedule and more time to attend extra-curricular activities and clubs. I was so surprised to have two hours between classes, at minimum, so I could take a break from life or get more homework done with ease. And I got to study what I really loved to learn! It was never a struggle to want to learn something, because you’re supposed to be in college for something that you want to do for the rest of your life. So if you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point?

I also found that you make your best friends in college. A few people had told me this before I entered college, but I never believed them until I got there. And it’s most certainly true. You find the people who only want to see you grow and who genuinely accept you for who you are, which was hard to accept, because it’s difficult for me to trust others, and I have such an unusual personality. But joining a sorority really, really helped me break open my shell. It taught me that I can become the best version of myself. And I have changed so much from little Freshman-Bretten to bigger Senior-Bretten all for the better. I am so confident in who I am, and it’s all thanks to my college friends and to my sisters.

4). What did you least like about college?

The hardest part, I would say, is the panic that comes with registering for classes. Unless you’re a senior who needs to graduate, everyone is left in a scramble to catch as many courses as they can manage to fit in one semester. It’s quite chaotic, and the schedule you end up with is never the one you planned a week in advance. You’re lucky if you get one class you planned on taking. Now, I’m not saying that pushes you back from graduating; I’m just saying what you expect to be given is usually different from what you receive, and you end up taking the classes you wanted later.

5). What next? Explain.

Just like when I was going into college, I also didn’t know where life would take me after college. I only figured out as of a couple months ago that it would be best for me to move back in with my parents in Palm Springs and find a two to three year career out there. I want to earn up some money for a steady apartment in Pomona and/or for a potential wedding in the near future with my boyfriend of five years. I want to get connected and work at a place called Easter Seals, which is a development center for children with mental disorders, who are local across places in California. So even if I move to somewhere else, I still have that connection. But who knows what will happen. Life always changes. I may not be happy about it changing, but I have to work with what I’m given.

6). How has education added to your life?

I am the first in my family to finish college and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, which is a pretty nice title in itself. But college has made me increasingly more intelligent. I know much more about people and the world than I could have ever known coming out of high school. I know how to function in the real world, how to make my dreams become a reality, and how to take initiative if there’s something I need done. It’s taught me how to manage my life and determine what is truly important and what is not. Those firm morals will certainly help me later when I have to make hard decisions that could potentially change the course of my future, and without pursuing a higher education, I wouldn’t be mature enough to even be able to think like the person I am today.

7). What is your perfect job?

This may seem completely random from everything I’ve just said, but my dream is to work at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios (in Hollywood, CA, or in Orlando, FL). If there’s one thing I obsess over the most, that’s Harry Potter. I just find its world so astonishingly magnificent, mythically entrancing, and powerfully influential. To see it and feel it come to life when it first opened in Orlando was a dream come true. It isn’t a typical theme park that looks like a theme park. You walk through the brick wall, and you are there in the Wizarding World. It’s so real, and it’s so breathtaking beautiful. It’s truly an admiration for fans, and it doesn’t disappoint. Just seeing the joy of every person in the park sharing the same love and appreciation I have for the Harry Potter series would make my day every day.

8). If you had some “mad money,” what would you purchase and why?

I would buy a plane ticket to anywhere and everywhere outside of America, but this time I would bring my little sister and my boyfriend along. I’ve travelled to several places: Canada, Mexico, England, France, and the Netherlands, but that’s not nearly enough for me. I want to see the world, experience new cultures, try weird foods, and get lost in the amazingness. Traveling abroad to bits of Europe was one of the best experiences in my life, but I only wished I had someone there to experience it with me. And the next times I travel, it will never be alone.

9). What are you currently reading?

The better question is, “What aren’t I reading?” I’m very prone for getting into books later than they are published, but I’m quite a frequent reader. Right now, I’m simultaneously reading the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and Attack on Titan manga by Hajime Isayama. I enjoy long series of books, because it gives me more to look forward to rather than craving more after I’m done with a single book. My absolute favorite books are the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

10). Define happiness.

The first thing that comes to mind is a quote by Albus Dumbledore that says, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” It means that happiness is always found somewhere. There’s always something to be grateful for and someone to be thankful for. Happiness can be an old friend waving hi across the street. Happiness can be holding hands with another person. Happiness can be laughing with friends over a stupid joke. Happiness can be hugging your mom and dad. Happiness can be staying up late just talking with someone. Happiness makes you forget the rough day you had at work, because now you’re home with your wife and kids. Happiness makes you forget the annoying girl at school, because your older brother has got your back. Happiness makes you forget the pain of losing a loved one, because of the great memories you had with them. Happiness makes you forget why you wanted to kill yourself, because there is someone who loves you and cares about you more than anything else.

Happiness can’t be described by one thing, I think, except that it is a result of love.

Thank you Bretton, it has been a pleasure.

BORING CONFERENCE – It is the conference season, conference can be a little niche, but most don’t aim to stultify. Not so the “Boring Conference,” a daylong showcase of talks on deliberately dull topics. First staged in London in 2010, the conference is set to take place next month in New York, tickets are sold out.

This year’s participants include a historian who will discuss the history of lampposts, and a jigsaw aficionado who will assemble a puzzle at the conference throughout the day.

Past participants include Tim Steiner, a hand-dryer enthusiast, a 7-year-old boy who likes elevators, and Peter Fletcher, who kept a years long record of each of his sneezes.

Boy this conference has AAUP annual meeting beat.

FAILURE TO LUNCH – In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko famously remarks, “Lunch is for wimps.” It has proven to be a prescient line in the American workplace, where taking time off for lunch has increasingly become a sign of idleness. Now some 62 percent of professionals say they typically eat lunch at their desks, “desktop dining.” Eating takes a back seat to meetings, catching up on to-dos or responding to email. Roughly half of American adults eat lunch alone: “I eat alone to multitask better.”

  •          109 minutes on average a day that Americans spend on “secondary eating and drinking, that is, done while carrying out other tasks like driving or working. By contrast they spend just 67 minutes on “primary” eating and drinking, in which the meal is the central focus.
  •           2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. the peak period for workplace snacking each day.
  •          5.1 million estimated number of vending machines in the United States, up 96 percent since 1995.


My boyfriend, Mike, and I just moved into a house that’s fancier than what we’re both used to. When friends come over, they often ask what we pay in rent. Mike thinks we should tell them, because they’re probably asking to see what’s attainable for themselves, I disagree.


Right & Wrong
Watertown, New York

Dear Right & Wrong –

Mike is nice but wrong. Your friends are doing exactly what you suspect: trying to figure out how much money you have, hoping this will help them feel O.K. about how much money they have. This is why this question is considered rude except in New York City, where they are all monsters. More charitably, they may be worried that your new fancy house might mean you’re going to dump them now that you’re a rich snob. Either way, the best answer is to break down your monthly rent to what you pay by the hour and let them do the math.

Rink Rats


Cornell University – May 28: James Franco, actor-director

MIT – May 28: Matt Damon, actor

Caltech – June 10: Atul Gawande, surgeon and author

Northwestern University – June 17: Seth Meyers, comedian

Sarah Lawrence College – June 20: Mo Rocca, humorist

Stanford University – June 11: Ken Burns, filmmaker

GOOD READS (SUNDAY) - MAUREEN DOWD, "Weakened At Bernie's": "I've talked to several former Clinton and Obama White House aides who don't enjoy checking in with the joyless Clinton campaign in Brooklyn. 'It's the Bataan Death March,' one says. Hopeful acceptance of Hillary has shifted to amazed disbelief that she can't put away Bernie. ... Hillary's Bataan Death March is making Republicans reconsider their own suicide mission with Trump. More are looking at Clinton's inability to get the flashing lights going like her husband, and thinking: Huh, maybe we're not dead here. Maybe Teflon Don could pull this off. ...

"Hillary can't generate excitement on her own so she is relying on fear of Trump to get her into the White House. And Trump is relying on fear of everything to get him into the White House. So voters are stuck in the muck of the negative: What are you most afraid of?

BILLIONAIRE’S BAY - The Spread of 'Billionaire's Bay,' the Glut of Million-Dollar Homes Across San Francisco. More than half of the homes in San Francisco cost $1 million or more. While million-dollar-housing creep is happening nationwide, it's nowhere more prevalent than in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland.

The rise of "Billionaire's Bay" is a distressing wake-up call from Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin, who has charted recent growth in seven-figure homes across the 100 largest metros. There's no comparison: Between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of $1 million+ homes in San Francisco grew an unbelievable 37.8 percent, rising to represent 57.4 percent of the homes in the city.

MICKELSON SNARED IN TRADING PROBE - Golfer Phil Mickelson has agreed to give back $931,000 in profits he made from stock trades as US authorities pursued insider trading charges against a famous sports gambler and a former chairman of Dean Foods. ... William "Billy" Walters, a golf course owner and leading figure in the sports betting industry, was charged with gleaning non-public information about the food and dairy company's earnings and its plans to spin-off an organic food line from Thomas Davis, his long-time friend and a former Dean Foods chairman and director.

By trading in advance of company announcements from 2008 to 2014, Mr. Walters made $32m in profits and avoided $11m in losses, according to a federal indictment. Over phone calls and text messages, Mr. Walters urged Mr. Mickelson to buy shares of Dean Foods ahead of spinning off its organic food subsidiary WhiteWave, according to the SEC. Mr. Mickelson, who had never owned shares of Dean Foods before, had gambling debts owed to Mr Walters at the time of the trade, authorities allege.

SPOTTED – At the Citrus Valley Health Foundation “Corks & Forks” wine and craft beer fundraiser, Tricia & Chuck Gomer.  Tricia (St. Lawrence ‘75) was Citizen of the Year for the Town of Glendora, California for her outstanding civic work.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Greg Ball ….famous amateur golfer, Cher (70) Palm Springs, CA.; Janet Jackson (50) Montecito, CA.; Reggie Jackson (70) Scottsdale, AZ.; Ron Reagan (58) San Diego, CA.; George Strait (64) Garland, TX.; Jack Whitaker (92) Palm Beach, FL.


Major League Baseball Game of the Week: Saturday May 28, 4:15 pm ET; Fox – Always off to a slow start St. Louis Cardinals (23-21) visit the Washington Nationals (27-17). Nats win 6 – 3.

Season to date (48 -28)

MARKET WEEK – American companies have been wadding up huge amounts of cash is no secret. What may be less well-known is that they're also accumulating debt at a much faster pace.

Total debt among more than 2,000 nonfinancial companies swelled to $6.6 trillion in 2015, dwarfing the $1.84 trillion in cash on their balance sheets, according to a study released Monday by S&P Global Ratings. The ratio of cash to debt is the lowest it's been in about 10 years, or just before the global financial crisis.

As financial markets came to grips with the prospect of higher rates ahead, corporate America went on a debt bonanza. Debt grew 50 times that of cash, with companies rolling up $850 billion of new IOUs compared to just $17 billion, or 1 percent, cash growth.

DRIVING THE WEEK - President Obama visits Vietnam and Hiroshima, Japan in one of his last big foreign trips as president. Prior to Hiroshima, President Obama will spend two days in central Japan for his final G-7 meeting ... Senate Finance has a hearing Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. on "Debt versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations." ... Senate Banking has Iran sanctions hearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday ... Second estimate of Q1 GDP at 8:30 a.m. Friday expected to rise to 0.9 percent from 0.5 percent.

Next week: Summer reading, movies and words of the month.

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

May 23, 2016


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