My 2004 “Balance Sheet”
January 9, 2005
(not too late to feel the need to apologize)
Three of the things I learned in 2004:
- Good things come to those who don’t wait for good things to happen.
- Persistence doesn’t necessarily “reward,” but it usually “allows.”
- The bank closes at the same time, regardless of whether you’re making a deposit or withdrawal.
I turned 50 last March and I haven’t taken care of myself. I’ve worked too much, eaten too much, exercised too little, my hair is grayer and my bald spot is larger. I’ve gained weight and lost touch with people like you. I’ve watched too much TV, listened to too little good music, and haven’t read enough.
But, I had LASIK eye surgery in August so I can now see all that with near 20-20 vision. Here’s what the rest of my year-end balance sheet looks like.
Effective January 1, 2004, I began my term as full-time Executive Director for the ‘new’ entity resulting from the merger of the International Society for General Semantics with the Institute of General Semantics. Much of the year was spent dealing with the financial, administrative, organizational and logistical implications of the merger and the transitions of work from California and New York to Texas.
Our success in slaying these office dragons owes to our most capable Assistant Executive Director, Jennifer Carmack. Jennifer joined us last January and has several years of experience working in the local Fort Worth non-profit community.
Some of the fruits of our office labors for the year:
- We progressed toward renovating the Institute’s new home, the building purchased in November 2003 in the historic Fairmount Neighborhood, by:
- completing design details with our architect, Mark Gunderson;
- navigating the Fort Worth City Hall bureaucracy to receive plan approval by the Historic and Landmarks Commission, re-zoning approval by the Zoning Commission and City Council, and re-platting approval by the Development Department;
- gaining IGS Board approval for funding;
- completing two rounds of bidding/negotiation to procure the services of a general contractor after the first contractor walked away from the project after his low bid was accepted;
- applying for a Building Permit on November 1st which disappeared into the bureacratic backlog of an understaffed city department, on which we are now waiting.
- We kicked off a $1M Capital Campaign to raise money to fully fund the building project, build our endowment, and begin new outreach initiatives. The new IGS home will be known as “Read House” in honor of Allen Walker Read and his wife Charlotte Schuchardt Read, whose bequests in 2002 financially enabled the Institute. We developed a special brochure for the campaign and also created a new general marketing brochure.
- We supported four trade shows that allowed us to expose a variety of groups to general semantics and the Institute:
Conference of College Composition teachers in San Antonio
Entrepreneur Expo Trade Show in Fort Worth
Sister Cities International annual convention in Fort Worth
National Council of Teachers of English convention in Indianapolis
- We held three seminars on general semantics, including two weekend seminars in Fort Worth in March and September and our week-long seminar held in July with Alverno College in Milwaukee.
In terms of my own speaking, teaching and writing efforts:
- I taught 5 sections of “Lucid Dating for Adults” in the continuing education departments at SMU and TCU. (Notes from the class)
- I was invited to speak with 3 classes at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, thanks to arrangements made by my niece, Jessica Bridges, in September.
- I was invited to speak to a breakfast meeting of merchants hosted by the Grapevine (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau, thanks to one of their representatives being especially taken by our IGS booth at the Sister Cities convention.
- I was invited to deliver the first Berman Lecture on General Semantics at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) in October, thanks to IGS Trustee Dr. Sanford I. Berman. The title of my talk to 200 students and faculty was, “Calling Out the Symbol Rulers.”
- I invited myself to edit a special issue of the IGS quarterly journal ETC: A Review of General Semantics, under the theme “General Semantics Across the Curriculum.” I selected 35 articles from the archives that reflected applications of GS across a wide array of academic disciplines. I also included a section honoring the life and work of Allen Walker Read, for which William Safire penned a nice personal tribute.
I don’t know who invited him, but somebody stole my bicycle that was locked outside my apartment door in September. (That was after somebody else, without an invitation, stole my Social Security number to open a Verizon cell phone account in Atlanta for which they didn’t pay over $1,000 worth of bills.)
I’m in an apartment because last May, I had to move out of the house I had rented since January 2002. My understanding landlord decided to retire and move into the house she had originally built to retire in in 2001. “The Plan” was that the renovated Institute building would include a “loft apartment” (i.e., minimally-configured flexible use space) which I would rent, and since that was supposed to be completed last summer, I put my stuff in storage and thought I could make do for a few weeks in a temporary “rent-by-the-week” motel. After a month of that and realizing the “loft apartment” was months, not weeks, away, I rented an apartment in downtown Fort Worth last July. That lease is up in 10 days and I’ll be moving to a different apartment down the street for the next six months. Depending on when we obtain the blessing of a Building Permit from the city, perhaps I’ll be able to finally move into the “loft apartment” in the summer.
Of course, the greatest satisfaction I’ve taken over the past year is to proudly observe the process of Hereditary Optimization and Evolutionary Enhancement — or, the amazing development and accomplishments of my daughter Stacy.
Now a senior Communications Major who will graduate in May, she turned 21 last June. I bought her first (legal) drink.
Her college life is centered around her activities in her “social club,” T.I.P. (they don’t have “fraternities” and “sororities” at McMurry). Last spring she was elected Historian of T.I.P., which includes serving as their webmistress.
She was chosen “Sweetheart” for Ko Sari (rhymes with “so sorry”), one of the men’s social clubs at McMurry. (Man, it was hard to say men’s instead of boys’.)
She was elected President of the Inter-Club Council at McMurry which oversees the activities of all of the campus social clubs. In this capacity she’s organized, developed, planned, taken charge of, etc., a lot of great things.
She was crowned “Senior Class Favorite” during Homecoming activities in the fall.
In addition to arranging my visit to Hendrix College, my niece Jessica has made a name for herself at Hendrix and is preparing for her own great adventure — studying abroad for the next six months in Chile (the country in South America, not the b-b-b-baby back ribs place). She’s taken an interest in general semantics, especially as it compares to certain aspects of Buddhism. My youngest niece, Britni, graduated high school and elected to carry on a family legacy at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, grandmother and grandfather, 3 great uncles and 2 great aunts.
I took a week off for what was supposed to be a ‘vacation’ in Las Vegas in August. I got friendly, but not lucky, with a roulette dealer at the Mandalay Bay casino. I witnessed a very interesting and expensive lesson in elementary logic-reasoning-probability while playing at her table.
Since my focus was split between the bets on the table and flirting with the dealer, I didn’t notice that a crowd had gathered around the table, two and three people deep. Their gazes were all fixed on the light board that displayed the results of the past 20 spins at that table. I looked at the board and saw what they saw — the past six spins had come up BLACK . Several people reached over my shoulder to place bets on RED , including one guy who plunked down a stack of $20 bills. The ball spun and spun and then landed on … BLACK . The guy lost $760, just like that. The 8th spin resulted in the same thing, BLACK , and the guy lost another $500. The 9th and 10th spins fell on BLACK , whereupon the guy walked away from the table muttering in disbelief, over $2,000 lighter.
The ball didn’t land on RED until the 12th spin, then it started another run of BLACK . Over a stretch of 28 spins, the roulette ball landed on BLACK 25 times.
I was amazed that so many people did not understand the fact that each new spin of the roulette wheel was completely independent of and unaffected by past results. Each new spin was equally likely to result in RED or BLACK (or, of course, 0 or 00 for those who know their way around a roulette table).
The guy who dropped his $2,000 only stopped at the table because he could see the history of the previous spins on the electronic board that the casino had conveniently placed for passersby to see. Looking at the evidence of BLACK coming up six times in a row, visually it didn’t make sense … it was time for RED ! The casino provided the means for the guy to fool himself into thinking the odds on the next spin were in his favor because he saw the results of the past spins. The guy was responding not to the action on the table, or to the ‘regular’ odds, but to the lights that conveyed to him a different set of odds that would favor a RED bet. Judging by his behaviors before, during, and after his bets, it was clear to me that had he not been aware of the streak, he wouldn’t have bet as he did.
So in a sense, I’d say that for those few minutes at the roulette table, the guy was ‘ruled’ by the lights and symbols on the display board, put there for that express purpose by the casino. As Alfred Korzybski said, “Those who rule the symbols, rule us.”
Sometimes our symbols, and our symbol rulers, are not immediately obvious to us.
And yes, my trip to Las Vegas was most definitely a withdrawal.
I spent last spring in a short relationship, which was also a nice thing. Then I bought a car.
The year ended on an upbeat when I learned I had been selected as one of thirteen “Community Columnists” by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 2005. This means that I’ll have four columns in the Op-Ed section next year on the last Saturdays in February, May, August and November.
Over the next twelve months I can look forward to:
- Stacy’s college graduation.
- Celebrating my 50th and 51st birthdays sometime, since I gave myself an IOMe last year for the big 5-0.
- Moving into Read House (carry over from last year).
- Spending more time at the office working on external efforts instead of the internal stuff we focused on this past year.
- Spending less time at the office.
- My Star-Telegram columns.
- A trip to New York in April for our Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture which we’re greatly pleased to say will be at the American Museum of Natural History.
- A change in the way I ‘celebrate’ the holidays; with the unfolding tragedy in the Indian Ocean, our uniquely-American unending urge for unneeded excess came into clearer focus for me so 2004 marks the last Christmas in which I’ll participate in giving or receiving gifts. (Don’t worry, I cleared it with Stacy first.)
- And a lot of other stuff that will happen I can’t foresee.
So, here’s wishing to you, and to those you care about, a great year ahead, with many prosperous trips to the bank. Hurry, before it closes!