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January 9, 2006

How to Fix Kentucky Stack Pie

Back before the days of automobiles, when folks went to family reunions in Kentucky they went in wagons. But after Ma, Pa, and the eight kids got in the wagon, there wasn’t a lot of room for the food they were taking. To save on space, they invented the Kentucky Stack Pie. Instead of taking four single pies, they stacked four pies on top of each other, making an amazing dessert that fed 20 or more yet had only a tiny footprint.

The Kentucky Stack Pie is four chess pies stacked with caramel icing between each layer, covering the top, and dripping down the sides. It is so rich that only a sliver will satisfy, which is why it serves so many.

It is a tradition in our family to make one for Christmas, but stack pie tastes just as good on the Fourth of July or at a family reunion in the park. Including cooking time, it takes about 4 hours to make one, but the result is well worth it. Here’s how to do it.

Step Number One: Making Four Pie Crusts

I use four 8-inch stainless steel pie pans. They may be a bit hard to find, but I found mine in restaurant supply stores and second-hand shops.

2 2/3 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 C. Crisco shortening
8 tablespoons ice water
No-stick spray (like Pam)

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 2/3 C. of all-purpose flour with 1 tsp. of salt. Take 1 C. of Crisco shortening (not butter-flavored) and combine it gradually with the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until the mixture becoming crumbly (little pieces of dough).

Add ice-cold water one tablespoon at a time, then stirring with a fork, until the dough forms a mass that adheres together (that is, you could mold it into a baseball that holds together). This should take about 8 tablespoons.

Divide the dough into 4 equal balls.

Coat the four 8-inch metal pie pans or plates generously with no-stick spray.

One at a time, roll out a ball of pastry between pieces of wax paper and then coat a pie pan with crust. The pastry should come just to the inner top rim of the pie pan. Do not extend the crust so that it covers the lip of the pie pan. If you do, it will break off when you remove the pie from the pan. Set these pastries aside while you make the pie filling.

Step Number Two: Making the Pie Filling

10 egg yolks
3 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups butter or margarine
1 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)
½ tsp. vanilla

Separate the yolks of ten eggs and beat them well in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in 3 cups of sugar, beating well again. Add 1 ½ cups of melted butter or margarine, 1 cup of whipping cream, and ½ tsp. of vanilla.

Pour about 1 ½ cups of filling into each pie shell. If there is some extra, make the bottom shell fuller.

Step Number Three: Baking the Pies

Bake two to four pies at a time at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until the filling is done. It may bubble up during the cooking, but your fingers will tell you when the pie centers are firm to the touch and ready to come out. Allow the pies to cool in their pans.

Step Number Four: Making the Caramel Icing and Stacking the Pies

Prepare the caramel icing as follows:

2 cups of brown sugar
1 cup of whipping cream (heavy cream)
½ tsp. of vanilla or vanilla extract
½ cup of powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Mix 2 cups of brown sugar and 1 cup of whipping cream and heat on medium high until it comes to a soft boil. Cook it 10 minutes until the mixture thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes or so. Stir in ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Next, add ½ cup of powered sugar and beat with a hand mixer until creamy. If it seems too firm to spread, beat in some whipping cream (or Half-n-half or milk) a tablespoon at a time. The consistency should be such that the icing will pool on the top pie and then drip slowly down the edges of the stacked pies without spreading too much on the bottom plate. The consistency of thick honey or molasses is about right. Too thick is better than too thin.

Once the pies have cooled, run a long, thin spatula (7 inches by 1 ¼ inches) around the edges and under one of them to slip it out of its pan. Place it on a cake dish or large plate and cover the top with a thin layer of icing. Gently remove another pie and place it on top of this icing and frost its top. Repeat the process until all four pies are stacked. Frost the top pie generously and let the icing drip very slowly down the sides. One note of caution, it is better that the icing not drip down the sides at all than for it to be so thin that it floods down and pools on your cake plate.

This dessert rots tooth enamel on contact, but it sure is good! Enjoy.

What Exactly is a Hypocrite?

Lake Superior State University recently released its 31st annual List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. Over the past few years, these words and phrases have included hunker down, person of interest, junk science, chad, metrosexual, first-time caller, and dawg.

I would like to nominate a word I think is both over-used and misused—the word hypocrite. I hear this word constantly on National Public Radio, on talk radio, and on national news programs such as Dateline, 20/20, and 60 Minutes. It is usually used by politicians in reference to other politicians, but it also appears in the mouths of reporters and commentators in reference to a whole host of Americans.

What exactly does the word hypocrite mean? Basically, it is a transliteration of the Greek word that originally meant "a play-actor" and, more specifically, "one who wears a mask"—-as all ancient Greek actors did. In its original positive sense, a hypocrite was an entertainer who acted in a play. In a more neutral sense, a hypocrite is someone pretending, like all actors, to be someone else.

As far as I can tell, Jesus was the first person to popularize the use of this word in a negative, metaphorical sense. He labeled various religious leaders of his day, mostly scribes and Pharisees, as hypocrites. What kind of person was he describing? Here are five possibilities:

1. A self-deluded person—someone who is incapable of perceiving the enormous gap between the teaching of scripture and his own behavior;

2. A disingenuous person—one who pretends to be sincere and straightforward, yet who is in reality cunning, crafty, and ultimately insincere;

3. A show-off—one who pretends to be more important than he really is, someone who loves the limelight and needs to feel important;

4. An imposter or dissembler—one who pretends to be what he is not in order to derive some personal gain (social, political, or financial) or simply the thrill of deceiving others and thereby controlling them;

5. An inconsistent person—someone who is unable, for whatever reason, to both "talk the talk and walk the walk," a person whose actions sometimes belie his words.

The word most often appears In the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus uses it primarily in the second and fourth senses. Religious hypocrites are those who practice their faith not to glorify God but simply to be seen by other people, thereby winning their approval and admiration. Winning approval is not all they seek, however. They often pretend to be righteous in order to conceal or to justify their own unrighteous deeds. Sometimes their unrighteous deeds are done out of pride or the desire for power over others; sometimes they are done simply for personal material gain. Hypocrites are those who hear the word of God but who do not do it. They may even preach the word of God, but they do not practice it (see Matthew 6:1-16; 7:1-5; 15:1-9; 22:15-19; 23:1-33). In Jesus' opinion, hypocrites are going to hell (Matthew 23:33; 24:51).

These days, however, most people casually use the word in the fifth sense to denote anyone whose behavior is inconsistent with some remark he has made or some position he is alleged to hold. This usage does not suggest insincerity or deceit as much as it does either a lack of logic or the inability to live up to one's professed ideals. Writers of the New Testament occasionally use the word this way as well (see Luke 13:15 where the synagogue leaders are willing to help an animal on the Sabbath, but, inconsistently, will not grant Jesus permission to heal a human being. Peter's inconsistent treatment of Gentile Christians in Antioch is also called hypocritical behavior by Paul in Galatians 2:13).

I think calling people hypocrites in this sense is often tantamount to calling them human. Everyone of us is a hypocrite by the standard of perfect consistency. Virtually everyone makes New Year's resolutions he doesn't keep. Everyone makes little compromises he would prefer not to make. Everyone changes his mind at times and decides to reject as false or inadequate what he previously might have thought or said.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay "Self Reliance," went so far as to say that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Inconsistency at times may be simple honesty—a recognition that the general rule does not always apply. It may also be a sign of intellectual honesty, humility, and maturity.

We are not hypocrites every time we are inconsistent. We are hypocrites in the truest sense of the word when we are deliberately devious and manipulative, when we say what we actually do not believe in order to impress, deceive, or exploit others. To use this word of strong accusation correctly ought to require a clear proof of the culprit's intent.

I believe we could improve civil discourse if we all stop calling people hypocrites unless we have indisputable evidence of their imposture. Yes, there are real hypocrites in the world, but we destroy the power and usefulness of the word by using it--all too frequently--to denote mere inconsistency.

January 10, 2006

Things to Teach

When I was a boy, one of my responsibilities was to shine my shoes on Sunday morning before church. My father taught me how, and I derived a certain pleasure and satisfaction from acquiring this simple skill.

These days, I don't think most boys wear shoes that need to be shined, but the need for one generation to relate to the next in simple ways remains.

Here are ten things an adult can teach a young child. They require no special tools and no more than 15 minutes each. You can teach these things as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, or as a "Big" in Big Brothers and Sisters.

1. How to replace a toilet paper roll.

2. How to thread a needle and sew on a button.

3. How to identify common flowers and trees.

4. How to replace a car's air filter.

5. How to play chess (a universal game that requires no electricity).

6. How a toilet works.

7. How circuit breakers turn off the electricity.

8. How to check the oil level and tire pressure on a car.

9. How to shake hands (or clap) properly.

10. How to unstop a clogged sink.

This list is vastly incomplete. It may be more directed at boys than girls. I am interested in your comments and suggestions.

Whatever we may deem appropriate, let's all intentionally take a moment to interact with the next generation by helping a child learn to work (wash a car), explore (visit a bank), play (shuffle cards), and serve (help deliver Meals on Wheels).

Just as I remember my dad, a child will always remember you for explaining a "mystery" or teaching a practical little skill. Leave a legacy; show something "cool" to a child.

January 16, 2006

The Two Cultures of American Higher Education

Confucius once said, "A wall of dried dung cannot be troweled" (Analects 5.9). By this he meant that a student who has no desire to learn cannot be taught.

Contemporary learning theorists generally make the assumption that students will learn if given the proper kind of instruction. Teachers have only to ascertain the students' learning styles, develop an effective motivational plan, and provide appropriate instructional activities. If students don't learn, the argument goes, then the teacher hasn't really taught correctly, because effective teaching implies learning in the same way that curing implies healing.

Confucius never understood it this way. "It's not how wet the water is," he might have said, "it's how soluble the soil is." In other words, teaching is never a sufficient cause of learning. Teachers cannot make unilateral guarantees because learning is work done by the students. Students (from the Latin studere, to be eager) are those who want to learn, who strive to learn, and who bear the ultimate responsibility for learning. The question is not simply "How do students learn?" but "How can the educational system ensure that students take responsibility for their learning?"


Teaching implies a social contract between instructor and student involving mutual obligations. Teaching suggests a handshake, not something one bestows on another. Too often in American higher education, teaching remains but a proffered hand because cultural conflict hinders or distorts cooperation between teacher and student. Even in racially, socially, and economically homogeneous classrooms, conflict exists in America between the student culture and the teacher culture.

The student culture plays the "forgetting game." In this game, you forget by midterm what you have "learned" during the first weeks of class. Because you intend to remember by semester's end only what will be on the final exam, you dread a comprehensive final. As soon as the term ends, you typically dump your term papers in the trash and sell your books back to the bookstore. Formal education is a rite of passage, an inconvenience you endure until you obtain a valuable credential.

Without understanding this culture, it is difficult to explain why students pay tuition for classes they attend spasmodically, why they applaud when classes are unexpectedly dismissed, why so many fail to take notes, complete assignments, bring their eye-glasses to class, or even buy the textbook. Any theory of learning that doesn't take into account this student culture is doomed to naïveté.

Faculty members usually come from the counter-cultural minority that loves learning for its own sake. In their idealism, they are committed to their discipline, to the pursuit of truth, and to the value of critical thinking. They see education, with Cicero, as "an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity" (Pro Archia Poeta, VII, 16). They teach not only because teaching involves the sharing of knowledge but because "docendo discimus"--we learn by teaching. They admire the retentive mind. To forget what one has learned at great cost of time and effort causes deep remorse and regret. Libraries are their temples to remembrance and their vaccines for forgetfulness.

This is not to demonize students or deify teachers. Students can be models of responsibility and dedication. Teachers can be superficial, narrowly-educated, and even anti-intellectual. But on balance, two distinct cultures definitely exist in contemporary America, cultures that shape human identities and govern behaviors. This is not to blame students individually or collectively. The students' cultural behavior reveals not so much what they are as what our educational system has made of them.


Conflicts between cultures are best settled by politics--the process of bargaining between opposing interest groups. Teachers and their classes constitute opposing interest groups: The teacher desires the students to learn the subject and to learn to think; the students, with many notable and laudable exceptions, desire to earn credit with as high a grade as possible. Tension naturally develops between these two groups, and political compromises arise in order to keep both sides relatively happy.

Neither group is powerless. Teachers assign grades, but students can complain and resist. Part-time teachers and untenured teachers often find they cannot succeed without satisfying the student culture. Tenured professors also want to be liked and to see their programs flourish. In economic hard times, the very existence of a position or program may depend on student enrollments. No one completely escapes the market-driven reality of classroom and campus politics.

The faculty's power to wield the stick or offer the carrot lies in the grading system. Students focus on high grades because of their inherent prestige, their usefulness in maintaining financial aid, their importance to graduate and professional schools, and their clout with prospective employers. Grade inflation at all levels has caused the majority of students to expect A's and B's. Few today can say with a straight face that C is the average grade. Ours is a no-fault society where correction is indistinguishable from criticism and where the gracious and egalitarian ideal exerts cultural pressure on teachers to be generous rather than rigorous.

Students are not so much concerned with the internal validity and reliability of tests as with the outcome of the process. They are committed to a benevolent relativism. A fair test is a test on which more than one student makes an A. By this logic, those who do best should have A's, and the remaining grades should be raised proportionately. This is what today is referred to as "curving grades." Teachers unwilling to adjust test grades in this manner are at the very least expected to drop the students' lowest test grades from consideration when determining the final grade. A fair teacher is a teacher who helps students "succeed," not an impartial evaluator.

Temptation to cook the grade books rears its head with the close of every semester. Among teachers and students a conspiracy of silence sometimes develops whereby the teacher's grade says in effect: "I won't let it be known that you haven't learned psychology if you won't let it be known either." Teachers who continue to grade on some absolute standard of excellence often find themselves discredited as unreasonable or discouraging. One problem with student evaluations of teaching is that students have difficulty distinguishing between the teacher as teacher and the teacher as grader. Instead of evaluating the teacher's teaching, they frequently choose to evaluate the teacher's grading. Good teaching, in the mind of many students, is teaching that empowers them to earn a good grade.

Political compromises between the faculty culture and the student culture have made the objective assessment of academic outcomes within the classroom difficult if not impossible. You never know whose grades to trust. Graduate and professional schools have put increasing emphasis either on selected grades they still deem valid (e.g., calculus and organic chemistry) or on the results of standardized, multiple-choice tests like the MCAT, the GRE, the LSAT, and the GMAT. Sadly, advanced GRE's for many disciplines do not exist.

Universities get by with giving unreliable grades because universities are not academically accountable to anyone with clout. Who is the university's customer? The students are throughput; their parents pay the bills but don't actually use the product. The society of the future ultimately judges the university's product. Yet society cannot focus a response to individual colleges, and the future remains mute.

Universities must deal with economic accountability as well. As a business, every college answers to its bottom line. Alexander Astin, professor of higher education at UCLA, has observed that "academics seem content to define educational excellence in terms of what we have, rather than what we do." This unfortunate definition works because, in a pragmatic society, economic accountability (what we have) always takes precedence over academic accountability (what we do).

Academically accountable teachers must prove that their students have learned something; an economically accountable teacher must demonstrate retention and program growth. Daniel Boorstin, an American cultural historian, has remarked that "democratic societies tend to become more concerned with what people believe than with what is true." Universities, too, have been more responsive to student satisfaction than to student academic growth. Their concern for keeping students happy and matriculated means that the student culture has slowly but surely attained parity with the faculty culture in shaping the university's "system"--the sum of all traditions and practices that time has hallowed.


Many will see no need for change. After all, the emperor is clothed; the system works in its own way. Compromises have been reached to accommodate both culture and human nature. Since cultures possess such great inertia, attempting to change the American academic culture may well be an exercise in futility. At the least, it will require a cultural revolution.

For the record, I propose a three-point plan for solving the fundamental problems created by generations of cultural and political compromise:

1.Set general education goals in terms of competency rather than in terms of classes.

As long as students earn degrees simply by collecting course credits like stamps, they will be tempted to take the path of least resistance.

General education goals (those normally achieved in the first two years of college) should be streamlined, clarified, and uniformly measured. If, for example, students must know how to speak Spanish using the present, past, and future tenses, let them demonstrate that ability in order to meet the standard. If they must know mathematics or history, let them show their competence in some way other than passing a class with a "D" or better.

Nothing is achieved except on purpose. If educators cannot articulate clear objectives, it is doubtful they can consistently attain educational goals. Although it is easy to indulge in the wishful thinking that students exposed to higher education automatically take away with them a "je ne sais quoi" of great value, cold objectivity suggests just the opposite: In classes where objectives are vague, students learn little and retain little of what they do learn. The question is not, "How difficult will it be to agree upon objectives?," but rather "How can we expect students to learn if the objectives are unclear or unreasonable?"

2.Allow for greater self-pacing and individualization.

People always try to beat a system they perceive as unjust. Individual students learn neither in the same way nor at the same rate. Putting thirty or three hundred students in the same classroom and assuming they all will learn a similar amount in fifteen weeks has frustrated generations of students and teachers. If students are to take responsibility for learning, the college must provide a high degree of flexibility and adaptation in order to recognize individual differences and address individual needs.

New technology makes this possible. But the system has to catch up with the technology. The registrar's office, for example, should be prepared to put only two credits of a four-credit course on the transcript if the student has mastered only half the course objectives. Too often, bureaucratic foot-dragging prevents educational reform. It is the will to change, not the capability, that is missing in American higher education administration.

3.Reform testing and grading.

Students must have the opportunity to take tests when they are ready, not simply when the material has been "covered" and the teacher is ready. Testing and grading must become increasingly independent of the classroom, not only because carelessness and abuse vitiate the process but because the individualization of education requires more flexibility.

The current system strains the relationship between student and teacher, tempts professors to assign grades for other than academic reasons, and promotes a "judge not that ye be not judged" atmosphere. An evaluation system that openly accepts poor work as passing work clearly needs reform.

The creation of departmental testing centers where students can go on their own to take tests will not cost a exorbitant amount, but it will restore objectivity to a system that has become more and more corrupt. Teachers whose jobs are on the line will no longer be tempted to give "open book" tests in the hope that their students will at least appear to succeed. What happens, sadly, is that students who feel no accountability for learning eventually begin to fail tests where the answers lie before their very eyes. Then what is the teacher to do? This pressure to make students appear successful must be removed from the teachers' shoulders if American higher education is to retain its integrity.

To paraphrase the philosopher Robert Nozick, if one cannot say of the typical American university, "The emperor has no clothes," one can nevertheless conclude that "The clothes contain no emperor." Culture and politics as reflected in the system really determine whether students will or will not assume their share of responsibility for learning. Students and teachers are intelligent, well-meaning people trapped in a flawed system they did not create. Confucius said, "A piece of rotten wood cannot be carved" (Analects 5.9). It is time to invest some creativity and energy in reforming the system.

Time to Cop an Attitude

We live in disturbing times amid the sounds of wars and rumors of wars—yet so have countless others over the millennia of time. Despite threats to the security of our nation, to the security of our retirement portfolios, and even to the security of our social security, many others in the world have it worse than we do or have had it worse. We need only think of the ethnic conflict in Sudan, the chaos in Somalia, or the trials of a man named Job.

Job was a wealthy man. He had interests in ranching (7000 sheep), farming (500 yoke of oxen), and transportation (3000 camels and 500 donkeys). Job was successful in business, devoted to family, and faithful to his God, yet his God allowed an adversary called Satan to take everything Job had and then cover him with sores to boot.

In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Many commentators have criticized the epilogue of the book (Job 42:10-17) as shallow, superficial, and psychologically unsatisfying. How can money ever compensate for injustice? How can ten lost children ever be satisfactorily replaced by ten others? Whatever our modern assessment of such questions, two aspects of the epilogue teach us a remarkable lesson about attitude.

First, Job names his three new daughters. We aren't told the sons' names, only those of the daughters. The meaning of those names is Dove, Cinnamon, and Horn of Eye-Shadow. Despite all his suffering, Job never lost his appreciation for beauty. He gave his beautiful new daughters beautiful names.

Second, Job gave his daughters an inheritance among their brothers. He wasn't required to do that in the context of his culture and time. One presumes he did it out of love and generosity, maybe even out of a sense of fairness since he knew well what it was to be treated unfairly.

We Americans are subject to vagaries of political and economic forces that are nearly as beyond our control as Satan's activities were beyond Job's control in the ancient story. The way to find peace amid insecurity, as an individual and as a nation, is to focus on beauty, generosity, and justice. To choose one's attitude is to secure one's peace.

January 19, 2006

Four Approaches to Investing in Stocks

As one reads the literature of stock investing, it becomes clear that the world of investing, like the Christian world, is divided into denominations. Each denomination of investment philosophy thinks it knows how to get to heaven (that is, make money), but each has a different idea of how to do it. Sometimes the differences are radical.

Each time you buy a book on investing or check one out from the library, it pays to know which denomination it represents. Here are four basic denominations (or approaches) to investing in common stocks.

INDEXING (Motto: "Don't try to outsmart the market.")

Plan: Invest in mutual funds such as one finds in the Vanguard (vanguard.com), Fidelity, or Pimco families that are geared to various market indexes. Allocate your assets among different kinds of funds (for example, small cap/large cap, value/growth, domestic/foreign/emerging) in order to optimize risk and return.

Books to Read:

Armstrong, Frank. The Informed Investor. New York: Amacom, 2002.

Ellis, Charles D. Winning the Loser's Game: Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Malkiel, Burton G. The Random Walk Guide to Investing. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.

GROWTH (Motto: "Buy a few eggs you know will hatch.")

Plan A: Momentum Investing ("The trend is your friend"); buy and sell stocks that have the most favorable outlook over the near term, usually six months to a year. Day traders represent the extreme in momentum investing.

O'Neil, William J. How to Make Money in Stocks. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995.

O'Neil, William J. 24 Essential Lessons for Investment Success. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Plan B: Sweet Anticipation ("Buy high and sell higher"); buy and hold companies that grow sales and earnings at stable rates well above average, which, in turn, produce high profit margins and above average return on equity. These companies typically have high P/E ratios and low dividend yields.

Buffett, Mary and David Clark. Buffettology. New York: Rawson Associates, 1997.

Buffett, Mary and David Clark. The New Buffettology. New York: Rawson, 2002.

Lynch, Peter. One Up on Wall Street. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

VALUE (Motto: "Buy a dollar for fifty cents, over and over again.")

Plan A: Contrarian Investing ("Buy fear and sell greed")--buy stocks that are temporarily out of favor as evidenced by low P/E ratios, low price-to-book ratios, and low price-to-cash-flow ratios.

Dreman, David. Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Next Generation. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Wanger, Ralph. A Zebra in Lion Country. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Plan B: Fundamental Investing ("Plant a seedling and watch an oak grow"; "Buy a bargain and wait"). Create a margin of safety by buying and holding stocks that are selling at substantial discounts to their cash or liquidation values. Determine the spread between the price of a stock and its intrinsic value. Look for low price-to-book ratios, a continuous record of high dividend yields, and strong underlying assets or cash flow.

Graham, Benjamin. The Intelligent Investor. 4th revised ed. New York: Harper Business, 1973.

Klarman, Seth A. Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing for the Thoughtful Investor. New York: HarperBusiness, 1991.

Vick, Timothy. Wall Street on Sale. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

INCOME (Motto: "Dividends don't lie.")
Buy stable businesses that have low levels of debt, a low beta, and a long history of steadily increasing dividends.

Klugman, RoxAnn. The Dividend Growth Investment Strategy: How to Keep Your Retirement Income Doubling Every Five Years. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2001.

Miller, Lowell. The Single Best Investment: Achieve Lasting Wealth with Low Risk, Steady Growth Stocks. Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1999.

Tigue, Joseph and Joseph Lisanti. The Dividend Rich Investor: Building Wealth with High-Quality, Dividend-Paying Stocks. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

As you read about the different approaches, you will decide which makes most sense to you, which most fits your personality, and which offers the best return given the time you have to devote to investing. Good luck, and see you in church.

January 27, 2006

Who You Callin' a Jerk?

Don't be a jerk. Don't dump your trash on the road. Don't park in the handicap space if you aren't handicapped. Don't drive drunk. Don't smoke around gas pumps. Just don't be a jerk. Jerks think first and foremost about themselves and what they want. They are insensitive to the feelings and welfare of others. Jerks put their own convenience, their own wishes, and their own pleasures ahead of what others need or think. Being a jerk is basically the opposite of being a decent human being.

Does the word "jerk" have a masculine ring to your ears? Maybe so. But I have seen my share of female jerks. Society merely calls them different names. And just as self-centered behavior is not limited to one gender, it isn't limited to the non-religious either. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist jerks abound as well. "Reverends" who are unfaithful to their wives are jerks. I shudder when reporters refer to one of them as "the Reverend" So-'n-So. Televangelists who solicit contributions from poor widows and spend the money on big houses and fancy cars for themselves are jerks; they are not even genuine Christians because what they are doing has no relation to the anti-materialistic teachings of Jesus.

As I look at the world of yesterday and today--at civil war in Africa, poverty in Central America, injustice at home, and corruption just about everywhere--I see the accumulative influence of many jerks in key positions of power. As I observe single-parent families, recreational drug abuse, and obscene salary differentials between management and labor, I behold the ravages of selfishness. Always looking out for self rather than for others strikes me as the root of all evil. The love of money simply provides a special case in point. Being a jerk constitutes the foundation of immorality and unethical behavior. So, don't be a jerk--whether for heaven's sake or for humanity's--just don't be a jerk.

About January 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Trite but True in January 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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