Monday, December 31, 2012

Into 2013

The holiday break was both busy and relaxing: it was nice to disconnect from the businesses and spend time with family and friends for a couple of weeks.  There was more work than usual this year in the run-up to Christmas, the convoluted tax and visa filings, and emerging issues in our product development programs, and I think that I was getting more run-down and stressed than I had realized.  I tried to shut off the emails and phone conferences for the holiday and give everything a chance to settle on its own.

The US didn’t feel like a particularly happy country this Christmas.  Folks were grim and surly in stores and restaurants, pushy behind the wheel on the roads and in parking lots. The stores, usually filled by end-of-year sales, remained pretty empty last week. 

I suspect that it’s all a hangover from the election and worries about higher taxes and decreased benefits after January 1.  The media seems full of false political drama and justified economic gloom, profiles of places (Greece, Spain) that America could become and indicting the people (the President, the Republican House of Representatives) thought to be at fault.

It can become an infectious atmosphere, and I already have enough work and life pressure without letting myself get sucked into it.  I know that I’ve become more stressed, impatient, and irritable in December, and that I need to turn that around.  So, in the spirit of getting 2013 off to a good roll, I’ll focus on the promising things happening in life:

I got my scores from the November Dutch NT2-1 language exams; A score of 500 is voldoende (passing) and I got a 537 to complete Lezen (reading) and a 494 to come within a whisker of passing Luisteren (listening).  Schrijven and Spreken (writing and speaking) came in farther back at 438 and 459, respectively.  I’m continuing my daily language work, but am looking for ways to kick up my expressive skills and see if I can get this behind me for 2013.

KPN ha finally gotten the internet and television working in the Maastricht apartment, and has refunded 100 euros in payment for services lost since October.

My travel companion, a 100-year-old teapot, survived it’s 10,000 mile journey.  A Barrington neighbor had acquired it when her grandmother passed away, and she asked if  I could carry it to her niece in Denver as a gift.  I’ve had it on my lap through planes and trains, airports and hotels, for nearly two weeks.  When we unwrapped it together, it was a beautiful piece of Chinese porcelain, happily intact: she was thrilled to have the memento.

My parents have successfully navigated November’s health scares.  My father had a small stroke during diagnostic tests to evaluate his heart; my mother had a cancer scare that required surgery.  These problems were compounded by medical errors and side effects of medications, so we’re all feeling like the program needs a re-think.  There needs to be a better balance of risk with reward, a realistic assessment of balancing long-term benefits with short term quality of life.  For example, should beta blockers be used to bring blood pressure down from 130 to 120 when it’s also causing lethargy and chills?  I just feel like doctors need to let people live their lives at that age rather than play a 30-year game of risk reduction.

My numbers, on the other hand, were uniformly good from a physical exam ahead of the holidays.  Blood sugar is down into the 70s, cholesterol is looking good, heart sounds fine, peripheral circulation is better than expected considering the ankle surgeries years ago.  If I avoid stress, exercise, learn Dutch, I could live forever.

End-of-break, then: on to the airplanes, ‘back to the Netherlands, and into 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

US shopping: Booze and bulbs

Trips back to the US always include home repairs and travel provisioning, trips to the Home Depot and the Safeway.  It still feels odd to find the stores so large, the opening hours so late, the parking so vast as compared with the Netherlands.  Nor an I used to hopping into the car and tootling off to the store at all hours for no reason, rather than walking to the Jumbo for a few things for dinner.

The stores generally seem quieter this year, people making less eye contact, everyone a lot ruder in the parking lots.  I think that folks are pulling into themselves a bit, sullen after the election and worried about the likely tax raise on Jan 1.

Washington State transitioned from selling liquor in state-owned stores to allowing full retail sales several months ago.  I voted against the ballot measure (People wanting 24/7 access to  liquor stores probably need to think about why), and I’m underwhelmed with the result.  There re now liquor aisles in the food stores, heavily taxed and with prices higher than the state stores were.  But worse is that they only stock what sells.  I needed cranberry liquor for a recipe, wanted a nice single-malt for a friend.  None is now available.

When stores market to the masses, they stick to the familiar, the cheap, and the bulk brands.  Choice is vanishing. 

Social problems are multiplying. Theft of bottles and distribution to minors is way up

Fees and taxes have closed businesses rather than stimulating them. Sales have increased in Idaho and Oregon.  More drinking drivers are on the roads.

I also had several light bulbs burn out: getting replacements is getting harder.  The federal government passed laws promoting energy efficiency,  requiring incandescent bulbs to be phased out in 2013.  The alternatives are limited.

Coiled florescent fill the aisles, but are more fragile and expensive than the older bulbs.  They cost $5-7 for a single bulb; incandescents used to sell for a couple of bucks.

Long-life bulbs claim up to 9 years operating life, offsetting the costs, but mine seem to blow out within six months.

The quality of light is much harsher in the new bulbs, a white “daylight” that cools and sharpens rooms to an industrial ambience.

I’m sure I sound like a grumpy old man,  but I’m really not.  These are two examples of  policies with beneficial intent that, in practice, have raised economic and social costs while lowering product quality and choice.  It’s a good lesson in unintended consequences, with business, consumers, and government all bearing some responsibility for making things worse. 

A partial solution might be to appoint review panels that evaluate the effect of laws a year after they are implemented.  The goal would be to see if policies have had the desired effect and what secondary changes have taken place.  Then laws could be intelligently tweaked lessons taken forward to future legislation.

I’m not hopeful about how this foreshadows legalization of marijuana in Washington State in 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Contacts dilemma

Contacts CalendarsI’m in the quiet period that ends each year, always a time for thinking on events past and opportunities to come.   I’ve resolved, if nothing else, to get the cloud-office cleaned up and functioning this year.  Email, social media, contact lists, web sites, and calendars need to be spruced up and functioning as I head into 2013.

Email:  Accounts, each linked to my business websites, feel scattered, but aggregators have gotten much better.  I can collect mail from every source in a single client and access it from phone, tablet, or PC.  The early glitches that caused downloaded mail to be automatically erased, or of carrying a page of port numbers and security settings for each account, seem to have passed. Bliss.

Phones: I standardized on simple USB-capable Nokia phones, one for each country, and synchronized contact lists between them.  This also works great.  And no smartphones yet:  the more features a handset gets, the less able it is to make regular voice calls.

Calendar:  I’m trying to get the Google ecosystem running, but it’s been a struggle.  Our office assistant has organized calendar sharing, but getting everyone to enter, maintain and heed event notifications remains challenging.  I want to stop using paper diaries, but the cloud isn’t (yet) cooperating.

Contacts are a whole ‘nother story.

I want to integrate my Contacts from across my email and social media into a single address book with fewer than 500 entries.  It should be self-maintaining:  As people update their contact information on social networks, it should update in my contacts.  Business cards and new email contacts should flow into the list automagically.  I should be able to subgroups for Christmas cards.

Reality differs.

I currently have about 1000 contacts.  Half should be culled: they are in the book because Live Mail adds people if I write to them more than three times. 

There are lots of errors.  Thinking I could solve this by computer, I imported everything to Plaxo to run a general clean-up on the lists, resolving duplicates and linking social media informtion.  It was a disaster: Plaxo spawned new contacts (Debell Fred J Debell DeBell), leaving me with a terrible mess of 3500 entries.

So, I‘ve set a 30 day goal of going through the alphabet with my Outlook.com address book and get that right, then propagate it to other devices and mail/phone clients. It’s a 4-step cure:

Delete the obvious duplicates and marginal people, fix the First and Last Name errors in the  rest.

I’ve decided that if someone isn’t a connection on some social media, then I’ve lost touch.   Delete, or send an sending an invitation to connect.

Delete old work, address, and phone information entirely so that those fields can be updated by imported data.

Attach a group designation so that I can do some minimal sorting and filtering.

I can get one letter of the alphabet done each day, so I’ll hopefully be done by Valentine’s.  Hopefully for the last time.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Unboxing the Nexus

For months, I’ve eyed my shoulder bag, filled with books and magazines, date books and expense books, camera and Mp3 player, Dutch dictionary and working notebooks. There must be a better way.  So, this Christmas, I worked with Santa to acquire a Google Nexus: 7” version, WiFi and 3G, 32 GB, ordered from the Google Play store.  

I chose the Nexus for it’s combination of apps, screen resolution, price, and performance.  Reading and movies are important but not enough, ruling out the Kindle, while the iPad mini seems expensive.  A 10” form factor, the Surface or regular iPad, offers little advantage over the netbook I usually carry.

So I’ve been playing with the new device for a couple of days now, and I really like it.  I haven’t fully crossed over to using it as a shoulder bag, but I’m making a full effort to be thee within a couple of weeks.

The device is bright and fast, pretty intuitive to operate and I like the touchscreen interface for everything except typing text.  The battery life is excellent: I can go most of the day without charging, and the WiFi connectivity seems seamless.  The ‘Live Tiles’ update more reliably than the Win8 tiles, and with better variety and configuration options, so I’ve actually started removing application shortcuts in favor of the little preview widgets.  I like the drag/swipe/resize touch controls, and it makes me think that I would like Win8 much better if I wasn’t constrained to using a mouse.

I need to get a cover for it, which has been hard to find: stores seem to stock for the iPad and Kindle, but never the Nexus.  A reasonably priced “Pay-as-you-go” data plan has also been elusive, running about 50 / month for reasonable support.  And international coverage is pretty much a lost cause.

I’m going to treat the Nexus as a content consumption device rather than a content creation one, so I’ve resisted the urge to hook up a keypad and run a file manager and shell script interpreter.  So that means loading and configuring apps.  There are lots of good recommendations on line for the best app for different purposes: here’s where I‘ve ended up so far:

  • Social Networking:  Facebook, LinkedIn, Plume for Twitter, Google+ al have wonderful live interfaces.  eMail in place of gMail is working well for aggregating mail and plays nice with Windows Live Mail on my other machines, sharing the cloud without deleting my messages.
  • News and Media:  The FT works nicely; the Economist doesn’t.  Stitcher and TuneIn for radio and podcasts.  Audible and Kindle for reading: Adobe Reader coupled with DropBox has brought my collections of .pdf’s within each without burdening the device memory. I’ve loaded media sources Zinio, Pandora and Netflix, but I haven’t played with them yet.
  • Travel:  Orbitz, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, Booking.com cove my usual sites.  NS, 9292, and National Rail all have apps for train schedules, OV and Oyster for (uselessly) managing your cards, but NL Train Navigator is really good, literally putting the station displays and delays in your hand. I’m still choosing among currency exchange rate calculators.  Delta’s app doesn’t work; Weather Clock is very nice.
  • Business:  Skype, of course, and I plan to experiment with receipt- and business card- scanners.  OneNote and Pocket for capturing thoughts and web pages respectively, and Documents to Go for reading Office files.  I need to get Calendar and Contacts resolved, but that is a much larger task.
  • Dutch:  Kranten en Tijdschiften NL gives all the dailies, but I haven’t found a satisfactory dictionary yet.  Google Translate works well, I need to find radio and video access so that I can stream in my practice media.  Rosetta doesn’t have a widget, so I’ll need to configure the college materials.
  • Misc:  Photo capture, edit, upload seems important and I’m fiddling with Snapseed and Pixlr without being convinced.  There is only a rear-facing 1+MPix camera: great for video-conferencing, but no substitute for snap-and-shoot.   The Flickr app is not compatible.
  • But I can still play Pocket Tanks and NetHack.

Further suggestions are welcome, of course 

The device feels nice in my hand and it take almost no space within a much smaller shoulder bag.  Overall, the reading / watching experience is very good (even for my 58 y/o eyes).  It’s nice to use around the house for email, browsing , and social media, but I’m not sure whether to take it to exercise for reading / listening on the bike.

And I’m really looking forward to seeing how it works on the road.

Disclaimer: I was neither asked to, nor paid to, use these products.  I choose and buy what I use, buying retail and paying retail, and write what I think, for better or worse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing day

Christmas in Seattle was wet, cold, but nice.  I’ve been catching up with assembling the last of the holiday and finishing some minor home repairs: entropy sets I month by month.  We opted for a smaller tree this year, $28 for a 3’ Noble fir.  The light strings were 3/4 dead so I needed to get more, but tree trimmings were long since on sale and it cost only a couple of dollars to put things right.

Christmas eve I was still finishing the baking: rugelach and my grandmother’s cutout cookies. We alternated cinnamon and Nutella fillings on the roll-ups , and the frosting went pretty quickly.  We had eggnog toasts when finishing, still hours to spare before midnight.

Christmas dawned warm and wet (snow had been predicted), we got off to a slow, boozy start with Mimosa’s and stockings, the video Yule Log and the ritual scratching of the lottery tickets (no winners this year) and shredding of dog toys.  Everyone did a good job picking their gifts for each other, and we spent the rest of the morning on calls to the extended family. 

I hope that everyone enjoyed their Christmas morning (or holiday break) and have warm and happy times with friends and family. 

And be sure to make 2013 a full and remarkable year. filled with family, friends, and opportunities to make the world a better place for everyone.

Very best wishes to all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Miscellany from Seattle

I arrived back in Seattle yesterday morning after a long ride over from Amsterdam. 115,000 miles for 2012, a bit scary in aggregate cost, time, and hassle.  I slept for 12 hours on arrival, only partly due to jet lag: ‘been burning the candle at both ends into the year-end.

Some good news: KPN finally arrived.  To recap: My cable / internet has been down since October and the utility has been claiming that bad building wiring is the cause: take it up with the landlord.  I have run power to the downstairs utility closet, placed the mode in direct connection with the street connection at the junction box, and nothing works.  For a week, I’ve hammered KPN on Customer Care and Twitter. 

The tech took a look, made a measurement, and said that he couldn’t understand why 5 earlier techs in the neighborhood had said there was no problem.  He needed a second person and a few hours, but everything is now connected and running.

Now to get the 2 months billing reversed.

I had a year-end health screening yesterday just to keep on top of things (my European friend say this is *never* done on the Continent).  It was conducted in a nursing home: a sobering reminder that I’m no longer a generation removed from its residents.

All of the blood chemistry, circulatory, bones, and blood pressures were good (although they couldn’t find my Abdominal Artery on the ultrasound).  Given life’s stresses and lack of time to exercise recently, I’m mildly amazed its looking so good.

I need to work on life balance, social connection, and relaxation in the new year.  There have been too many late flights and tiny hotel rooms recently.

Someone suggested including both “Game Changers” and “Mood Changers” in my future goals.  It’s not enough to tumble over the goal line with a business exit or a language score: along the way, I should  also include symbolic moments that recognize position and reward progress.

It’s an interesting idea: Christmas break should be a good time to wind things down and get perspective again.

The.Amazing.Race.S21E09The Amazing Race 21 came to an end last week – they went through Amsterdam and it was fun to see them searching past familiar spots.  There was a tied Haring Eating challenge, a choice of “arranging actors to replicate the Night Watch” or “Organ grinding to collect 30 euros”, followed by pole vaulting a dike. 

They got the traditional Dutch Hallo and Tot Ziens at the pit stop, which they needed to remember for the final challenge in New York.  As it turns out, the couple in the lead could not match Tot ziens to the Dutch flag and lost.

TAR21ep9-520x292Good fun: I’d love to do this Race some day – my daughter and I have discussed it.

‘Now to catch up with Masterchef Pro and Episodes.

And, since it’s 12/21/12, the 2012 marathon movie evening to celebrate the Mayan Apocalypse.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fyra and the Grand Place

 

I’m doing some frantic oscillation across the Channel, as though getting ready to slingshot to Seattle.  Three Eurostar trips, two Fyra trips, keeping costs and the carbon footprint down a little.  I like the train this time of year, more certain, cheaper, my luggage stays with me. 

Especially a 100-year-old teapot  that I am hand-carrying to Denver for a neighbor in England.

The prosaic reason for all the travel is the UK Border Agency.  I’m in Tier 1 Renewal Hell:  my counselors are rejecting every attempt to document proof of income.  We put together a P&L with original bank statements and the signed Dutch accountants audit letter, only to find that the British don’t recognize the Dutch firms legitimacy.  Barclays again proved unable to produce a simple signed letter stating the monies in the account.  They want my original doctoral diploma from the US.

And this is just a *renewal*!

I linked trains in Brussels, which gave me an opportunity to sample both the city Christmas Markets and the new Hi-Speed train connecting to Amsterdam, the Fyra (pronounced fi-ra).

  

The train is great: clean and new, unbelievably fast and smooth.  250 km/hr across the Dutch landscape with no more than a gentle sway.  2 hours, center to center, for 25 euros.

There have been glitches, and I caught one of them, about ten minutes south of Schiphol.  The train suddenly decelerated and stopped it a jolt.  The conductor announced a technical problem.  Then he announced that the driver had to reboot the train: the lights and air would go out (sounds like restarting the fences in Jurassic park).  Everyone waved phones in the darkness.  After a few minutes, back to normal and off we went.

Still, very recommended (even when the alternative is 10 gbp each way Stansted to Maastricht on Ryanair  nest month)

  

The controversy in Brussels is over the Xmas 3, the ‘christmas tree’ at the Grand Place.  It’s an 82-foot high construction of illuminated cubes vaguely in the shape  of a tree.  It’s not very appealing: fewer lights on the city hall, less music in the square, and this framework and fabric construction.  Critics argue that, together with calling the Market a “Winter Festival”, it is intended to make the event less offensive to non-Christians.  Where’s O’Reilly (actually, it turns out that he did pick this up on Dec 10 for his “War on Christmas” shtick)?

The huts were good, though: 2 euro Gluhwijn, Alsace platters of potatoes and sausage, lots of waffles and chocolates, and a good crowd enjoying the evening together.

The ‘tree’ needs to be consigned to the same circle of hell as the UKBA.   The same Border agency who grilled me today about why I needed to go to Amsterdam for original documentation for my visa renewal. 

And who then searched all of my bags on re-entry to the UK.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thoughts on economic inequality

The Economist published a survey of the World Economy last fall, For Richer, For Poorer, analyzing trends and cases in income inequality.  It’s interesting (airplane) reading, and I agree with their remedies:

  • Curb cronyism and enhance competition,
  • Remove subsidies for too-big-to-fail financial institutions,
  • Shift government spending, from transfers to education, and from older and richer people to younger and poorer ones,
  • Reform taxes, making them more efficient and fairer
  • Invest in education, beginning with pre-school and including retraining for the less skilled.

I would add to that Reform immigration laws, and Challenge the sense of entitlement.

1-  Immigration policy and residence processes for expats are a mess in both Europe and the US,  punitive and skewed against stated pro-growth policies. 

Populist movements are pushing for ever-lower quotas, punishing long-term residents with established lives and businesses.  The resulting trials I’m suffering with UKBA for a simple renewal are a typical of the consequences.

Efforts to be evenhanded with both unskilled and skilled migrants have led to emphasis on integration skills and financial maintenance to the exclusion of economic contribution or achievement.  No points are given for stating a business, importing capital, exporting goods, or creating jobs, perverse when growth is the mantra.

It’s impossible to take a long-term perspective in a hostile and changing immigration environment, where I have no assurance that I can stay more than a year at a time.

2- Governments and media promote accumulation of wealth, not creation of innovation, jobs, and markets.

There was a lot of debate about Makers vs. Takers in the recent elections.  The current debates about the Fiscal Cliff turns on whether to raise tax rates on the highest 0.1% of incomes and equalize tax rates for investment income and wage income.  Republican arguments still focus on not punishing success and the trickle-down benefit of having a high-net-worth cohort who buys and invests.

Politicians point to small business is a source of innovation and job creation. Government should, therefore, be supporting and incentivizing creative, energetic people who become entrepreneurs. They could scale regulations and fees, facilitate access to capital and resources, provide grants and tax incentives to those who take the risks and work to succeed.

But policies that benefit established wealth do not help those trying to create new wealth.  We suffer high health insurance costs, restricted access to funding, and anti-competitive practices in market access.  It takes 15% of my time to satisfy legal, financial, and tax reporting requirements every month; my tax rate is double that of Mitt Romney.

And it goes beyond that.

People in the top 5% of the US income distribution earn at least $150,000; the top 1% earn more than $340,000 a year.  0.1% of the population make at least $1.5m, and the top 0.01%, earn $8m or more (average income $24m).  The correlation of wealth with achievement, educational attainment or business success, is strong up to the 1%, but weakens rapidly above that.  The top .01% is dominated by inherited wealth, celebrities, real estate fortunes, hedge fund managers, and large-company CEOs (Economist). 

Not smarter or harder working, more right-place, right time.

I put long hours into the business for little reward at this point: there are a lot of lonely trains and grubby hotel rooms along the road to success.  I hope that one day I’ll market my product, improve patient care, generate of revenue, achieve a 30x exit, please my investors, and retire to St. Maartens.  But it’s fantastically hard work amidst high risk: I give my investors my very best, every day.

And in return?  I got this question yesterday:

The Articles provide first and second distributions to the Founding Members. These members received stock promotion and usually are the last to receive distributions after successful operations and return of capital plus preferential return to investors. It doesn’t look like the founding members have any investment ( skin) in the company but still receive early distributions and strong promotions. We need to examine the capital structure and valuation issues.

This attitude, the primacy of capital investment over sweat investment, really needs to change   We are each contributing a lot of value, taking a lot of risk, and the financier's argument that I’m the only one with something to lose get’s worn after my sixth consecutive 12-hour day. We both suffer opportunity costs, reputation risk, and there are mutual financial consequences.

I walked away from  job paying 250K/yr to work for less than a quarter of that.  If I don’t exit with at least 2M, it wasn’t worth it for me no for my investors.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meer Magisch

I was out with American expat friends last night, catching up on family and community events and exchanging ideas for improving the world.  We’re polar opposites politically, so there are different perspectives on almost any agreed fact, enriched by their foreign service background.  It’s still gospel in right-wing circles that Obama will socialize the country, that Takers are defeating the Makers, that high-quality health care is over, that personal taxes will reach Dutch levels, that debt will rival the Greeks.

But scratch the surface, and we can agree that there needs to be a better balance between revenue and spending,  that Strivers need to be encouraged, that Mitt should pay more than 14% tax, that healthcare insurance rates are too high, that everyone should have health insurance, that debt should be reduced, and that the parties need to avoid extremist candidates.

And, left and right, we share some wine and some food and we argue late into the evening about whether there is such a thing as Soft Power and where the best Christmas Markets are located.  (No, small countries can’t influence world events by exporting media and philosophy; Liege is good for eten but Koln has the best markt.)

Magisch indeed.

We failed to notice that the food hadn’t come after almost two hours.  We agree that we’re all tired of negligent service at restaurants and hotels, of late, expensive trains and slow, inconsistent internet providers, from cost-shaving doctors and price-gouging landlords.  This will be the year that we quietly, politely insist that things improve.

And, with that, we took our wine and our leave and decamped to another restaurant.

Taking pictures of the lights along the way.

Meer Magisch.

 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Magisch Maastricht

It’s war and wet in Maastricht this weekend, but the weather doesn’t dampen enthusiasm for the local Christmas Market, on the Vrijthof through January 1 2013.  Although it doesn’t compare with the big celebrations in Koln or Brussels, it’s a well-proportioned local event, with rides, shopping stalls, grilled krakauer sausages, mulled gluhwein, and a busy skating rink.

And a commemorative mok, this year going for 2.50 euro.

The lights are especially good this year, and I’ve been over to wander the grounds and take  few pictures ‘twixt nibbles and sips.

     

Friday, December 14, 2012

It’s a 5-2 world

Wine societyThe Royal Society of Chemists held a wine tasting in Cambridge last week, a festive event with good conversation and excellent bottles from The Wine Society.The  moderator,  a leading sommelier, started everyone off with dilute cups of tartaric acid, glucose, and ethanol so that we could learn the location and progression of each component.  The cups were then combined in various mixtures so that we could characterize flavors and alcohol content.  Then on to a selection of 12 wines, from both an aesthetic and chemical perspective.

I got pretty good at tastes, but we didn’t have similar guidance for smells.   I struggled all evening with identifying fruits and flowers: I‘m not a naturalist like my British peers, who quickly specified sources down to the genus.

In Latin. 

Nonetheless, it was a really fun and interesting evening, and I have a better approach to a glass in a good restaurant.

Along the way, the sommelier was asked how often it was safe to drink wine.  He commented that his partner, a physician, told him that excessive drinking leads to up-regulation of the liver enzyme that breaks down ethanol.  The enzyme also creates free radicals when not metabolizing alcohol, thus causing associated liver damage.

The way to avoid liver damage was to prevent up-regulation.  This could be accomplished by abstaining from alcohol two days each week.

The 5-2 Rule: In each week, do what you want for five days, but abstain for two.

I’ve been practicing a 5:2 diet for a couple of months and dropped 15 pounds by fasting on Monday and Thursday.  Now a 5-2 path to liver health.

Do two examples point to a rule?

  • 5 days work : 2 two days rest at the weekend.
  • 5 days training : interspersed with 2 days rest to let the muscles recover (and Standard 5:2 Split routines within workouts)
  • Golden RatioThe aesthetically perfect Golden Ratio (right).  Ah, you say, a bridge too far: the value of the Ratio is  1.618!  Yes, but the formula  (1+√5)/2, is at least in metaphoric distance.

Maybe not. 

But my point is that the secret to achieving balance in life may rest with something as simple as taking two days off for every five days doing it. 

I’ve long taught (but seldom practiced) that it’s important to keep balance in life: a new business will suck every moment that you offer it and always demand more.  A proportionate break, a 5:2 strategy to embrace life’s alternatives, to stop doing something that is good in moderation but bad in excess, is a nice strategy...

  …that you may observe discretion and your lips reserve knowledge.  Proverbs 5:2