Author: Lloyd Graff

I backed my 2016 Acura sedan out of the garage and headed toward Bergstein’s Deli to pick up the chicken matzo ball soup I had ordered a few minutes earlier on the phone.  It is six minutes away. I order it a couple times a week. A teenager delivers it to my car five steps from the entrance. I always give the person who delivers it a couple dollars tip. I figure they are poorly paid and I want them to stick around because I value the good service. I got in the habit during the pandemic of picking up…

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As Putin impersonates Hitler and attempts to steal a big piece of real estate with 44 million people, I’d like to discuss a few small pieces of the American real estate dream where ambitious folks are trying to build an investment safety net that will grow in value. In the last five years, accelerated by COVID-19, Americans moved away from staying in hotels. They are seen as sterile, institutional, unsafe, and boring. The remarkable entrepreneurs who run Airbnb and their competitor Vrbo picked up on this trend early and figured out how to capitalize on it. When some observers saw…

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This is how I see the battle for Ukraine, from the comfort of rich, bumbling America. Vladimir Putin is Dictator of Russia, a miserable place to live. To Putin, the people of Russia are pathetic pawns in a narcissistic lust for power. The power game is his life and passion. He is a planner. Unlike American Presidents, he does not worry about elections or popularity. He sees their preoccupation with winning elections as weakness and silliness. He uses guile and corruption, backed by terror, to advance his almost maniacal lust for power and recognition on the world stage, using Russia…

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Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. A Hallmark invention. But the idea of expressing your love or kindness or compassion to a person you care about is no joke.  People have trouble communicating feelings. Not just people “on the spectrum,” but almost everybody on the planet has trouble connecting with people they care about. One problem is the language of connecting. The hug, the kiss, the handshake, even the wink or a laugh, often connect more naturally than words. A gift is one way to express feelings. Often it’s a clumsy way, but sometimes it strikes the right note.…

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For those who don’t know yet, I’m going to have my first child in April. Many people are telling me that I won’t have any time of my own anymore. Life is going to consist of going to work and then coming home to be with my newborn son—and I’m going to love that as my new existence. Right now, I spend a lot of time after work toiling on my weekly podcast, Swarfcast, along with some other creative projects. I know I’m going to have to alter my working habits to keep those projects going. I have heard in…

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When my kids were young, I used to make up goofy bedtime stories. They were silly, with crazy characters. I called the main characters Ooga, Wooga, and Mooga. The kids laughed loudly and always begged for more. For my readers today, I have decided to tell you one of those stories. Long, long ago, about 1980, at a Paris coffee shop that stayed open until 3 a.m., Ooga, Wooga, and Mooga were sipping Turkish coffee and smoking cigarettes around midnight. Ooga said “I miss the good old days of Hitler, Stalin, and McCarthy in America.” “Yeah, those were the days.…

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I like football, but I am not a football nut. I don’t even own a Walter Payton or Mike Ditka Jersey. But last Saturday and Sunday’s games were so riveting that I couldn’t move myself away from the TV, even for a stack of Oreos. And I love Oreos. Four straight playoff games were decided on the last play, and probably the eight best teams in the NFL played each other. Athletes gave every play everything they had. Great receivers used every trick they knew to get open, and the most amazing quarterbacks in the game threw the ball perfectly,…

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I grew up in between.  Eight blocks to the West were the people my parents called the “Schvartze,” and eight blocks to the East was the South Shore Country Club, where no Jews or dogs were allowed.  It was also the time when school desegregation was taking hold in Charlotte, North Carolina, where my wife grew up, and Martin Luther King was leading a March in Selma, Alabama, with Bull Conner lined up against him. I was “in between” the races at the time when America was starting to change significantly. I think I’ve lived my whole life struggling with…

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What makes a great team out of a group of good players?  I’ve considered that question since I first started watching team sports on TV and playing on organized teams myself. I could almost feel when a team would fail, not just because they lacked the talent to win, but because they did not have the other elements it took. I’ve been searching a lifetime trying to define those elements and putting them into practice.  Recently I’ve been watching a TV show that took the issue head on. Ted Lasso on Apple TV addresses teamwork with a light touch, flavored…

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I had the privilege to listen to a series of interviews with Paul Simon by Malcolm Gladwell over the past week, in an audio book called Miracle and Wonder. I found it absolutely riveting, Paul Simon talking about the early days of Simon & Garfunkel and then giving us great insights into the development and fruition of his brilliant musical career. Simon is 80 years old now. His voice has lost a little of the energy of his youth, but his mind is sharp, his memory remarkable, and his ability to inform us through Malcolm Gladwell’s well-researched questions is magnetic.…

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