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Work vs Life
Work vs Life

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a business executive, we are all running a small business, which is called our life.

Oprah Winfrey to be Keynote Speaker at U.S. Book Show

Oprah Winfrey
Photo Credit: Harpo, Inc. Chris Craymer

Oprah Winfrey will be the opening keynote speaker at the U.S. Book Show, the virtual book publishing trade show presented by Publishers Weekly.

Oprah Winfrey will give the opening keynote speech on May 25, 2021 at 10:45 a.m. EDT. She will discuss her newest book, What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, co-written with Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. The book, released by Flatiron on April 27, discusses how people’s earliest personal experiences shape their entire lives. The book offers a new way to understand the way people behave. Winfrey, one of the biggest supporters of all members of the book industry, will also offer comments on her love for books and authors and offer her appreciation and encouragement for all those who support them.

America’s Other Pandemic in 1918

Spanish Flu

In 1918 a strain of influenza called the Spanish Flu became one of the world’s worst pandemics. Five hundred million people became infected worldwide which was one third of the world’s population. Six hundred and seventy five thousand Americans perished from this influenza which many believe began in America according to the Smithsonian Magazine, November 2017 by John M. Barry.

In 1918 in Haskell County in Kansas, many farmers still lived in sod homes. Farmers there raised cattle and hogs. Seventeen species of birds also migrated over their farmland. Bird influenza infects hogs and humans. An influenza outbreak hit that January in Haskell County. Several of the local residents who had been exposed to the illness ended up in Camp Funston in central Kansas as new recruits training to fight in World War I. On March 4, the first soldier contracted influenza. The disease also spread to other army camps in our country. When there is a new virus and the human immune system is unfamiliar with it, the virus will spread quickly around the world as a pandemic. As American soldiers landed in France, they brought the disease with them, and it spread like wildfire. More American soldiers were killed by the flu than by the war. Remember, there were no vaccines for influenza in those days.

The reason this strain of influenza was called the Spanish flu was because Spain was a neutral country during the war and could broadcast information about the flu to the world. The Spanish flu was a virus that attacked the respiratory system and was extremely contagious through a sneeze, cough, or just breathing. Many American cities closed schools, movie theaters, and large public gatherings. Mask wearing was mandated. St. Louis, Missouri was one of those cities that imposed quarantines and tried to prevent the spread of the disease. More people survived in those communities that took health precautions rather than those that ignored those dying in their cities. In San Francisco, for example, a citizen would receive a $5.00 fine for not wearing a mask in public. In those days, that was a lot of money. Philadelphia downplayed the illnesses in their city saying the dying were not dying from the Spanish Flu. They allowed a parade to take place. Shortly after, 759 people died of the Spanish flu in Philadelphia.

Influenza can still be very dangerous today to the young, elderly, and immunocompromised. It is also extremely contagious. The worst time of the year for the flu is late fall to early spring. Two hundred thousand are typically hospitalized each year for flu-related illnesses in America. Thousands die each year from influenza. There are vaccinations available for the flu today.

It is sad that there were no flu vaccines in 1918. We should be grateful there is a vaccine available to us today.

Veterans and Legacy


Money, power, fame and fan adulation appear to be important to politicians, sports figures, television personalities, and online influencers among others.  Given all the headline attention that some of the people in those fields receive, it is no surprise that a combination of big bank accounts, influence, and the spotlight follow.

Veterans, the thousands of anonymous men and women who are asked to be constantly ready for the worst things that might happen the country, do their work for modest pay, no “power” beyond the power that comes with their rank and respect from their fellow men and women in uniform.  Their “business” is done outside the limelight and make headlines when something happens that many would rather not see.  No one gets rich while serving in uniform and the few that may have any fan following get it after some horrific events have occurred.

The unfortunate historical development of the past fifty-five years is that we demonized our combat veterans of the Vietnam era.  Society’s reaction to those who met the call and served in Vietnam caused them to go “underground” in the sense that many who served their two or three-year commitments left the military and attempted to bury that experience and hide it for decades after their service. 

Veterans of the Vietnam era were the last to confront something that the majority of Americans today may not comprehend—conscription, or more commonly referred to as the “draft.”  Unlike today’s volunteer military, tens of thousands of young American men waited for the draft board to send them their notices, or facing the inevitable, some signed up with the knowledge that it was only a matter of time till they would be called upon to serve.  Drafting manpower to fight in Vietnam invested more of U.S. society into following what the Government was doing and that resulted in the pressures to find a way out of an unpopular war.    

During the past twenty years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we seemed to have made a deliberate effort to make a distinction between the politicians and their decisions about wars and those who have volunteered to serve and fight the wars.  In recent years, on the streets, on television, on social media platforms, and elsewhere, we often hear or see notes expressing, “Thank you for your service.” 

It is hard to determine if expressing that sentiment allays the bitterness that some of our Vietnam veterans have felt for decades.  Whether it does or not, what is evident is that we do see more and more of our Vietnam combat veterans and other Vietnam era veterans wearing hats or shirts that signify their past service. 

While the vast majority of the veterans of our most recent wars are still relatively young, we should remind ourselves that as the few remaining World War II veterans pass away, the youngest of our two other wars (Korea and Vietnam) are now at least seventy years old.  Our Korean War veterans are well into their eighties.  With the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Vietnam in 1972, the youngest of those veterans are nearing seventy years old with the vast majority having already passed that milestone.

From the veterans of our most unpopular war, there is a great legacy being left to us by our Vietnam veterans.  The greatest legacy is the one they have given each other . . . life.  When a group of these old warriors reunite with men from their old units, they may shake hands, they may give their buddies a squeeze on the shoulder or a healthy slap on the back, but many embrace each other, embracing the life they gave each other for these additional fifty-plus years. 

That gift of life to each other has led to spouses, children, and grandchildren.  They provided each other a return home to see parents and siblings, living decades that were denied their fellow warriors who fell in battle.  Reunions are a time when each of these old warriors can see the legacy of generations that they gave each other. 

Today, the men and women who served decades ago in that most unpopular war are proud of their service.  Many proudly wear hats or shirts that signify their service.  These warriors, having their service and sacrifice disparaged for many years, have aged with the knowledge that, in the eyes of those who matter—their brothers in arms, they served with honor.  They had each other’s back.  They gave each other the legacy of life, allowing them to raise their families.  As individuals, they may not have fame or fortune, but the gift they gave each other is priceless.

Arlington Cemetery


Honoring the men and women who have fought for our country and the freedoms we enjoy each day.

Yona Goes To the Magic Flute


Yona Goes To The Magic Flute is a fun-filled fantasy introduction to Mozart’s great opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte).

An extraordinary young girl travels with her teachers and her friend, Ulysses, to the Metropolitan Opera in the Flights of Fancy, a flying piano. Their adventure/lesson is a unique introduction to Mozart’s genius––for opera goers, their children, and grandchildren.

The young heroine is Yona Short, who has magical musical powers. She can change human behavior just by THINKING ABOUT MUSIC.

Are you willing to stand up for Truth?

Are you willing to stand up for truth?

So far, the answer appears to be a resounding “No!” for the majority of us.

A friend of mine called me today and asked what she should do. A neighbor had openly told her that her teenage son had tested positive for COVID-19 and was having systems which the doctors had decided did not warrant hospitalization (yet) but that he needed to be quarantined. She took him home and put him in one of the rooms of her house although everyone shared the house as if nothing had happened. Soon, the neighbor’s youngest daughter was experiencing symptoms. However, the mother refused to allow her young daughter to be tested for COVID because she said the cotton swab used for testing was infected with the disease.

Meanwhile, the mother continued to go to the store everyday for her latte and groceries unmasked. Her other daughter continued to work in the local restaurant. The daughter with symptoms continued to go to elementary school, unmasked.

No one in the neighborhood knew that the son had tested positive, that the young daughter was symptomatic, and they were all living in the same house with no masks or precautions. Instead, they continued their lives oblivious to the fact they were spreading the virus throughout the town without anyone’s knowledge.

Until that point, my friend had no idea that the family was against the vaccines, and even though her son tested positive and the young daughter was symptomatic, the neighbor insisted COVID-19 was all a HOAX. A conspiracy. Fake News.

My friend was asking me what she should do. Who should she tell? Should she remain silent? Afterall, the neighbor told her as if it was nothing. There was no issue of personal privacy. The neighbor didn’t say, “Please don’t tell anyone?” Nope, instead, she was quite proud of her inaction and of herself.

I asked my friend what she knew she should do. You know, that feeling you get when you know God is telling you to act, and instead, you want to try and hide, hoping it will pass. She had very deep concerns about the neighbor next door who was 85 and in failing health…and all the other unsuspecting neighbors with health problems.

And then, I asked the question:

How will you feel if your dear neighbor of 85 dies when you could have done something?

So, I ask you, “What would you do?”

Defining Great Service

Defining Great Service

What is good service? When guest expectations are low, and we exceed them … not too exciting. But when guest expectations are high, and we manage to do even better, then we have accomplished something. In order to be able to seize every opportunity to do the things that help to create guests for life, we first must be able to identify those opportunities. Being aware of what is going on around us at the moment—and knowing what is going to happen in the future—helps.

A guest may refuse assistance with their luggage as they struggle to carry their bags up the stairs, but this does not mean we can’t run up the stairs ahead of the guests to open the door for them. What is the alternative? Watch the guest carry their bags and then open the door for themselves.

Our focus and mindset must be “What can I do to make a positive impression on every guest that I come in contact with?” It takes initiative, anticipation, caring, and sometimes a little hustle.

When you recall your most memorable hotel, dining, or other hospitality-related experience, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the room, the view, or the food?

When I think of memorable all-around top service experiences, the first one that I can recall happened soon after I was promoted to general manager. I was headed on a vacation to Florida with a buddy. The owner of the hotel arranged for us to play golf at The Jupiter Hills Club. Knowing it was ranked in Golf Magazine’s top 100 courses, I had high expectations and was looking forward to playing.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and boy, did the Jupiter Hills Club get off to a great start. To this day I am not entirely sure how they pulled it off, but when we arrived at the security guard station and I rolled down the window of the rented minivan, I was immediately made to feel important when the guard said, “Welcome, Mr. Ruby, to Jupiter Hills,” as if he had been anxiously waiting to meet a celebrity. My buddy and I shrugged our shoulders and without saying a word we both knew that this was going to be an excellent day.

The staff seemed to sense we were out of our element and anticipated our every need. We were then escorted to the bag drop where an attendant opened my door and again greeted me by name. The attendant took our bags, the valet took care of the van, and a locker room attendant said, “Please follow me, Mr. Ruby,” and brought us to our lockers, which of course had our names on them. We were then escorted up to the pro shop, greeted by name by one of the golf pros and then introduced to our fore caddie who took us to the first tee.

We finished playing the front-nine, and we were just starting to get used to our caddies doing everything except actually hitting our balls for us …  (However, out of mercy, I think my caddie used a wedge when he thought no one was looking so I would avoid an impossible shot). We were instructed that it was time for lunch.

A table was already reserved for Mr. Ruby, and the hostess acted like she had known me for years. Every staff person I encountered was not only polite and proactive; they also seemed to genuinely enjoy making two twenty-something average Joes from Chicago, who were not members, feel special.

The service afforded us was unforced, and providing hospitality, was clearly more than just part of their job. Every staff member seemed to have put themselves in our golf shoes and knew how to make two regular guys feel like rock stars for a day. The bottom line is I have no idea what my score was that day, or if played well or poorly. I can’t even remember anything about the course aside from I am pretty sure there were more hills than usual in Florida—and I have no idea what I had for lunch.

But the one thing I will never forget about that day was how the staff made me feel. Almost thirty years later, I can think back to my day at The Jupiter Hills Club when I need an example of what I consider to be great service.

Courage: Taking the First Step


The power to make your own decisions. The ability to act despite all odds when you know you are right. The ability to stand apart from others when your convictions are more important than your popularity.
The knowing that comes when you are connected to God and are willing to speak the Truth no matter what the consequences.
The ability to act despite the pressure to remain inanimate, passive when you see wrongs that are being committed.
The ability to perceive what needs to be done and the power within to act on that knowledge.
The ability to allow yourself the freedom to think about things and determine what is best…and act on that feeling.
The ability to look within

China, Into the Breach

RCEP, China, Into the Breach

The U.S.’s primary economic rival continues its efforts to be the predominant influencer in Asia.  On September 16th, China submitted its official application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  The irony of this development is that the U.S. had once been the country leading the effort for concluding this agreement when it was known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

The U.S. announced its participation in negotiating the original TPP in 2009.  The eleven foreign countries involved in the negotiation represented over 40% of the U.S.’s export market for goods based on 2013 trade data.  By the end of 2015, U.S. industry advisory groups were providing the Obama Administration of their views generally supporting a final TPP agreement.  No trade agreement is perfect and industry recognized that the benefits agreed to outweighed some of the less favorable provisions. 

Despite support for the TPP, the Trump Administration had the U.S. withdraw from it. Our trading partners worked toward finalizing and implementing the TPP with a new name, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  Without the U.S., the eleven countries remaining decided that some provisions that the U.S. had insisted upon could be suspended.  For example, U.S. insistence on higher levels of protection for patents and copyrights (inventions and creative works, both strong areas of U.S. industry) were set aside and not part of the CPTPP’s final text.

When the U.S. withdrew from the TPP, another Asia-oriented regional trade agreement was being negotiated without the U.S. and pushed by China.  China was engaged in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement (RCEP).  The RCEP was a counterbalance to the TPP and negotiations began in 2012.  The RCEP has some of the same countries that are part of the CPTPP.  For example, Japan, the third largest global economy, is part of both agreements.

The RCEP negotiations have been concluded and the fifteen member countries signed the agreement in November 2020.  It will go into effect upon ratification of the required number of countries. 

Commentators have noted that the RCEP does not include any chapters on environment or labor whereas the U.S. negotiated TPP did include chapters on both of these subjects.  Moreover, the U.S. negotiated TPP addressed state-owned enterprises that are plentiful in China.  The RCEP, however, does not have a chapter addressing specifically state-owned enterprises.

With China taking a leadership role in Asian trade through the RCEP and with its application to join the CPTPP, China is taking advantage of the U.S.’s absence in these regional trade agreements.  It becomes more difficult for the U.S. to obtain concessions from other members of these agreements if China beats us to the table or when we decide not to sit at the table. 

At present, it is difficult to see what the U.S. trade agenda is as it relates to Asia and, more specifically, regarding the CPTPP and RCEP.  What is clear is that we are no longer sitting at the big table where trade provisions are being negotiated and have implications for U.S. business interests.  Whereas at one time the U.S. was drafting the provisions that would help U.S. businesses operating in the region, today we are not in the room where the discussions are taking place.

China’s economic and trade influence has been on the rise for some time.  It should be no surprise that China would now seek to capitalize on the U.S.’s withdrawal from the TPP and seek to become a dominant party to the CPTPP.  The task of obtaining concessions and getting our preferred language into future trade agreements has just become more difficult and complicated.  The U.S. needs a dynamic and vibrant trade strategy that allows all interested sectors to provide inputs to confront a very challenging global trading system.

The Ninety-Somethings

Remember Honor

A good friend in Michigan announced the very recent passing of his father.  I never met his father, but the son, my friend, is someone with whom I have spent time discussing things professionally and also passing time as we solved the world’s problems.  The man was in his mid-nineties and a World War II veteran.  A year has passed since I received a similar announcement from another friend in New York.  In the latter case, I had met her father once, and we had dined together, having had a great, enjoyable and memorable evening. 

My thoughts of their passing were, for some inexplicable reason, emotional.  The passing of these two men made me pause and consider the fact that during the past year I have met two other men who are in their mid-90s.  Regardless where these men came from, what their long life’s activities may have been, the one thing that I realized that makes them special to me is that these men served their country during World War II.  I wonder if it would be possible to meet men of that age who did not serve in uniform during that war.

Considering the men I have met or fathers of friends who have lived into their 90s, their wartime service experience screamed out at me.  We often hear about the Greatest Generation and the men and women who make up that generation.  These men represent something special in the history of the United States.  They were of the depression era and a tough life as children and youth only to be called upon to fight a global war in Africa, Asia, and Europe. 

They created that glue that bound people to a common cause, common objective of a hard-working country that could do so much.  A horrific world war, their service, their sacrifices and the way they came home and went about their lives framed the way the country moved forward during the post-war period. 

They did not necessarily address the injustices of their own country, but they gave the country the time to progress to become the global beacon of the ideals that others sought to achieve.  We should remember that many of them returned home to create a vibrant economy and delivered a working middle class that was envied by the world.  Many of their contemporaries became elected officials who, while there remained many shortcomings of the promise of the country’s founders, worked hard and succeeded in passing legislation in the 1960s to address some of those injustices.

The passing of each of our 90-somethings citizens is more than the loss to one family.  It is a national loss to that direct link to a special time in U.S. history.  These are the great grandparents who, in their youth, confronted hardships that the vast majority of Americans will, fortunately, never know.    

We lose something of ourselves as we lose the direct link to that period when millions of Americans served and sacrificed far more than we have been asked to do in recent decades.  What they gave the country is its reputation of hard work, overcoming hardship, and some semblance of seeking to self-improve.  With their eventual passing, it may be that the reputation they fought for passes with them as the Greatest Generation hands off the future to something less.