Karma – The only currency the IRS cannot tax and the FED cannot devalue.

by: Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

The InterContinental Hotel Group (NYSE Ticker: IHG) is the largest hotel group in the world with seven brands (Intercontinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge, and Candlewood Suites). They claim more than 645,000 rooms in over 100 countries.

priorityclubIf I take the time to join their “Priority Club Rewards” program, I get exclusive benefits like a free newspaper once a week. After I accumulate 20,000 points I get additional goodies such as Priority Check-In and a special phone number so I can wait less time on hold. Points are easy to accumulate because many of their rooms cost more for one night than I spent for an entire semester’s college tuition.

As a Club member, they would begin collecting information about me and my preferences so they can tailor an experience just for me. They promise not to release that information to anyone – not even me.

I never bothered joining. Unlike many, I can afford their rooms without going into debt to the credit card company. The issue is time, not money – my life is too short, and I don’t want to spend my time with them.

Instead, I belong to a different club, one with more space than InterContinental in more than twice as many countries. And my club is adding 14,000 members and 4,000 rooms a week.

And every one of those rooms is free.

cs-profileMy club is run by the Couch Surfing Collective. Although membership is free, four years ago I chose to donate about $20 and they verified that I was who I said I was, and I lived where I said I lived.

Couch Surfing members don’t have membership cards but rather online profiles that can be seen by all 1.8 million members. Other members write references, which can be positive, neutral, or negative – and all references appear on your profile, whether you like it or not.

Right now, I have over 70 positive references (and no neutral or negative ones), and therefore strangers all over the world will welcome me into their homes without any money changing hands. But if I stop Continue reading “Karma – The only currency the IRS cannot tax and the FED cannot devalue.”

Advertisements

Second Greatest Generation

by: Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

Paul Krugman wrote a piece in the New York Times in which he wonders if Congress will vote on a stimulus package to head off the Great Depression II.

Some believe that it was World War 2 that got us out of the depression because it was the greatest stimulus spending package of all.

I disagree. I believe it was my father’s generation, the Greatest Generation that fought the War and that got us out of the Great Depression.

People, not policies, got us out of our predicament.

The NY Times published my letter.

 

GreatestGeneration2

Recently, I reprinted the letter and illustrated it with stamps from my collection. The top contains U. S. stamps, and I notice they feature leaders and statesmen. The 3 cent stamp to the right commemorates the National Recovery Act of 1933, and it shows a woman, a businessman, a factory worker (with a hammer over his shoulder), and a farmer with a sickle, all walking side by side. There was no inflation during the depression (in fact, there was deflation.)

By way of contrast, Germany had rampant inflation. All the German stamps in my collection are un-cancelled. By the time a postage stamp made it to the post office it was worthless. The left-most stamp is for 10 marks, the rightmost 20 billion! Eventually it took a strong leader to get the economy under control… and we see who that was.

Persistence

© 2009 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

Originally published in International FamilyMagazine

Republished in Folks Magazine on 11/7/09.

I was working as a computer programmer at Rutgers University when I saw the perfect job advertised by American Airlines. It had everything that I wanted: interesting work, decent pay, and free travel everywhere American flew.

I sent a letter outlining my skills, and offered to write a resume if they found me interesting. They did not request a resume, but they did call me in for an interview. I thought that it went very well.

A month later, a “thanks but no thanks” letter arrived.

This was disappointing. I called Walter, the hiring manager and asked what was wrong, and why I didn’t get the offer. He said it was just a matter of competition; there was someone better.

I asked what I could have done to be better than the competition. He said it wasn’t likely there was anything I could have done. The person they hired came from the software vendor who had been servicing their account for years. He already knew their needs better than anyone else could have.

“So, why did you interview me?”

“Because the Human Resources department requires that we run an ad and interview three people before we make an offer.”

That made sense.

At the university, I wrote a computer column for a monthly newsletter. Every few weeks I would put out a document about some programming technique or software package.

I put Walter on the distribution list for all my publications. Then I forgot all about him.

Six months later he called me.

“I have a job for you.”

“Great.”

“There is only one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Get me off that damn mailing list.”

“No problem. I can start in two weeks.”

“We can’t move that fast. It will take six weeks minimum.”

“Why?”

“We have to run and ad and interview three people. But the job is yours.”

If you don’t get what you want, don’t forget to ask why.

Things VS People

© 2009 Brooke Allen
brooke@brooketallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published October, 2009, in International Family Magazine
Republished in Folks Magazine on 10/24/09.

When I was 16, my dad told me to get in the car – we were going for a ride. We drove to Bolek’s Foreign Car Service. My dad told Bolek that his son needed to learn how to work and he would drop me there every Saturday morning. He told Bolek that I wasn’t worth anything so he shouldn’t pay me anything. He gave Bolek $100 as an advance against any damage I might do. Then he drove off.

Over the next year I learned to get my hands dirty, how to use tools, and how things worked.

– – –

When my dad had a problem, we went to visit Frank at Frank’s hardware store.

Frank was a problem solver and his store was a huge collection of tools and parts for solving problems.

“Looks like this is a job for a ¾ inch bit and a stove bolt.” “I’d use a rubber coupling and a hose clamp.” “An arc welder is better for that than acetylene.”

– – –

Decades later, I became a dad too.

– – –

I sat next to a four-year-old girl at a neighbor’s dinner table.

“I hate broccoli. How come I never get what I want? I hate you.” She began pounding the table and crying.

While her parents were in the kitchen making her French fries, I turned to her and asked, “Wow. How do you do that?”

Her crying stopped abruptly and she gave me a sly smile. “You want to yell and make a lot of noise. Don’t stop. It really helps if you can cry.”

“But, why do I want to do that?”

“Because that way you get what you want.”

A young boy was given a present by his divorced dad at Cub Scout camp.

“But mommy gave me two presents, and both of them were nicer than this.” He wrinkled his nose.

The dad frowned, “You don’t think this is the only thing I got you, do you?” That afternoon, the father left the camp to go shopping.

– – –

I sat on the abandoned lifeguard chair as I watched a young girl run across the sand.

She twisted her ankle and fell in a heap.

She began crying hysterically.

Suddenly she stopped, stood, and looked around. Her father was far away; out of earshot.

She collapsed again and bawled even louder.

She stood again. Her father had wandered off so she resumed joyfully running down the beach.

– – –

Today, I can tell you what everything in a hardware store is used for.

But I am terrible at getting other people to do what I want.

Teach your children to manipulate things, not people.

 

(And the best way to teach them not to manipulate people is to not let them manipulate you.)

Crime Prevention

Many lock in only one door. Concept of security.

© 2009 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published September, 2009 in International Family Magazine

A week after I moved to Manhattan, I went to a street fair and found there a policeman with a big sign: HELP US PREVENT CRIME

I approached, “I’m game. How can I help you prevent crime?”

He said, “By putting three locks on your door.”

“But I already have two locks on my door, and I find it really annoying. How does having three prevent crime?”

“Years ago, everyone had one lock, so we told them to get two. Now everyone has two, so you need three.”

“But how does having three prevent crime?”

“The thing is, crooks are lazy… if they weren’t they’d get jobs. Your goal is to make your door harder to break into than the next one.”

“But that doesn’t prevent crime. It just gets my neighbor broken into instead of me.”

He laughed, “What do you care?”

A girl moved in across the hall a few months later. She did not have a phone and frequently asked to borrow mine, so I began leaving my door open. She reciprocated, and soon a bunch of us on the floor did. Our tiny apartments became less claustrophobic. Friendlier too…

There were break-ins in our building. But not on our floor – even though none of us bought that third lock. Perhaps it was because we were looking out for each other.

It takes community to prevent crime, and communities are made from open doors, not locked ones.

Putting more locks on your door prevents crime just like stuffing your face prevents hunger.

What am I?

© 2009 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com

Originally published August, 2009, in International Family Magazine

My friend in college, Debra, asked me, “What are you?”

I did not understand the question.

“What are you? How hard can that be? I’m Jewish, what are you?”

I said I was not religious.

“Neither am I. Just tell me what you are?”

I had not been raised with a religion… in fact; it had not been mentioned, kind of like sushi. I was 25 before I had even heard of sushi.

I asked my parents, “What am I?”

My mom said, “Brooke.” She laughed.

“I know that, but what am I relative to you?”

“Our son.”

“But what religion am I?”

“We don’t know. You haven’t told us.”

“How can I not even know what religion I am?”

“That is a personal choice – you will need to make it yourself. Or not.”

This was frustrating, “Ok, let’s make it simple. How about race? I’m not Black, right?”

My mom said, “I wouldn’t be too sure. There was a lot of fooling around going on. Everyone did it; don’t let them tell you otherwise.”

It was like sparring with a judo master who fades from every thrust.

In total exasperation, I said, “Look, my girlfriend is Jewish, and she wants to know what I am. Let’s start there… I’m not Jewish, right?”

My father became serious, “Do you want me to tell you what I want you to be?”

“Yes.” That would be a start.

“When they come to round up the Jews, I want you to be Jewish.”

__________________________________________________________

My friend in graduate school, Mona Hakim, was born in Bethlehem. When she was young, her family moved to Lebanon to avoid threats against her father’s life. She was going to the American University of Beirut when the civil war started.

She told me that your identity card had your religion printed right on it. Thugs would stop your car, and if you were the wrong religion for that part of town, they would chop your head off and place it on a fence post. Muslims did it. Christians did it.

Some people began blackening out their religion on the ID card. That worked for a while. How could you kill someone if you didn’t know what they were?

It didn’t take long for the thugs to think up an answer. If you were Muslim, and you weren’t proud of it, you deserved to die. Christians felt the same about Christians. They couldn’t agree on much, but they did agree on that one thing… don’t say what you are, and we’ll kill you.

That is when she decided she had to get out of there.

I asked her, “So, what are you?”

She said, “I’m not telling you. I’m through with that shit.”

Turns out, she was Mona – good enough for me.

If you conclude that your problems are caused by members of another group, you had better make sure you are not one of them.

If those others are humans, then you are either one of them, or you are inhuman.

Innocence and Responsibility

© 2009 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

My wife and I both feel that our society has gone overboard in making people afraid.

One very destructive message inflicted upon children is that they should fear strangers.

In a planet as overpopulated as ours, even extremely rare events provide plenty of copy for the press.

As awful as they may be, abductions are rare. When they occur, someone the child knows (a relative or an estranged parent) is usually the culprit. Strangers intending harm are few and far between.

As parents, we were much more concerned about the physical and emotional harm that we might cause you than the harm that stranger might bring.

Simply riding in a car is by far the riskiest thing most children do. Swimming in a pool is pretty dangerous. Talking to strangers is not.

This is not to say that children should be left to their own devices… not at all.

We believe that very young children are not yet capable of exercising good judgment, whether it is over wearing a seatbelt, gauging the depth of the water, or evaluating strangers. They are no more ready to bear this burden for themselves then they are ready to baby-sit the children of others. Responsible people must look out for their safety at all times since they can’t do it themselves. Eventually children will learn responsibility by observing others, not by being told a set of rules.

Our point was illustrated one Sunday morning in a bagel shop. I was reading the Newark Star Ledger and the woman sitting next to me was reading the New York Times She had a daughter (age five or so) who had nothing to do and was catatonic with boredom.

Since the Ledger has comics, and the Times does not, I decided to offer the young girl my comics.

She began to hyperventilate and make squeaky noises. Then she began to cry.

Her mother peered over her paper, “What’s wrong, honey?”

“Th. Tha..That.” She was gasping for air. Finally, pointing at me, “That man is trying to talk to me.”

The mom barked angrily, “Don’t be silly. That rule doesn’t apply now.” She snatched the comics from me and thrust them at her daughter. “Don’t embarrass the man.”

The girl became even more upset. Think of all the conflicting rules she was expected to follow and the conflicting emotions that were generated.

It is easy to understand where to draw the line. Think about how you would assign blame for an accident. If a toddler, left in the charge of a nanny, were to explore a light socket with a paper clip, would you blame yourself for not protecting the sockets or the nanny for not paying attention? Surely you wouldn’t blame the toddler for being curious; it’s in their nature.

You may not be innocent, but your children are. Let them lose their innocence at their own pace; it will happen soon enough.[1]


[1] I am glad to see that there is a web site devoted to freedom for children (and not going nuts) entitled Free Range Kids (http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/).