Monday, September 28, 2009

Seeing Double on Highway 50 - our tax dollars at work, times two

As we drove to lunch on Sunday, we noticed that every road sign for over a mile was duplicated. Not one or two, but every sign had its exact double next to it.

The stretch of Highway 50 with the double signage was resurfaced and the signs, even though most were clearly not needed, were added as, after all, it wasn't their money.

On Monday morning, shortly after these pictures were taken, the highway crew chopped down the older of the two signs, leaving just one sign. However, as these pictures will attest, most of the signs did not need to be replaced.

Milton Friedman once described why government does not spend taxpayer money the same way you or I would spend our own money.

  • Milton said that if you are spending your own money for something for yourself, you care about the quality of what you are buying and the cost of it.
  • If you are buying something for someone else with your money, you care about how much it costs, but not so much about the quality.
  • However, if like the government, you are buying something for someone else with someone else's money, you are not overly concerned with how much it costs or how good it is.
I guess Milton knew just how the Highway Department could replace all the signs on Highway 50, even the ones that you cannot tell the difference between the new and the older signs. The Highway Department is just spending someone else's money on something for someone else.

Such waste does not seem a smart way to stimulate the economy or run a Highway Department in tough economic times.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday was a glorious day in Lake Geneva.

My wife and I took a walk on the lake path and I took a few pictures. There is no trading lesson to be had. Just some pictures of a beautiful place on a perfect winter day.

The first picture is of Toni and a wood spirit.

Yes, I said wood spirit. When we pass it, we touch its nose for good luck.

Does it work? I cannot say for sure, but it couldn’t hurt.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How I lost the piano wars

My youngest daughter started taking piano lessons when she was five years old. She started learning with a Suzuki piano teacher in Kansas City. When we moved to Chicago, we found one of the leading teachers and our daughter became one of her star pupils.

I used to love to see her perform at recitals, usually held on in an elaborate recital hall at the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago.

The only problem, and it was a real problem, was that although our daughter liked the attention she got at her recitals, she hated practicing. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that her teacher insisted that she practice several hours a day.

The teacher said our daughter had real talent.

Insisting that she practice started our, now-infamous, piano wars.

We would ask, beg, cajole, threaten, and, lastly, scream at our daughter to get her to practice. Our daily emotional outburst would result in either our daughter grudgingly practicing, or my wife and I exhausting ourselves explaining the importance of the piano practice.

Even with her uneven practice schedule, she became quite an accomplished piano player.

My wife and I were happy.

We traded in our baby grand piano for a grand piano. We envisioned our daughter some day thanking us for forcing her to learn to play the piano. Our efforts seemed worth it.

Our daughter became so proficient that her teacher insisted she enter a citywide piano competition. Our daughter was 12 and would compete against the best in her age group from around the greater Chicago area. The competition was held at Triton College, somewhere in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Because I did not know where Triton College was, we arrived late and mistakenly sat in the room with the 14-16 year old pianists. As we missed our daughter’s age group and she was two years younger than the children in the group, they let her play.

When her time came to play, she was amazing.

When she finished her performance, I clapped so loud that I thought they might ask me to leave. She came in second in the citywide 14-16 year-old age group.

That was the last time I heard her play in public.

We still have the grand piano and somewhere we have her awards, but she quit because, as good as she was, there was no joy for her in her playing.

I lost the piano wars because I failed to appreciate that excellence in anything should bring joy, as well as awards. Whatever you do may be hard, but it also needs to be fun.

No one can reach and maintain the high level of performance necessary for excellence in anything unless what they are doing brings them joy.

This is why we emphasize that the ideal of success in
Transformative Trading is to be a Successful Really Happy Trader, or SRHT as we call it. Unless there is joy in what you do, any monetary success you attain will be incomplete and will not last long.

If you are a serious trader, your trading should bring you joy – the kind of joy that comes from doing something well - the kind of joy that comes from effortlessly executing your plan and knowing that if you just follow your plan and make good trades, the market will reward you with profits and joy.

Your goal should be to advance your trading to the point where trading is joyous.

Wishing you joy in your trading, Jeff

Copyright ©2008 Jeff Quinto
All rights reserved

Monday, April 14, 2008

Old home week at Childrens Memorial Hospital

Most of you reading this will remember the difficult summer we had in 2006 when we almost lost Creighton. He was in the hospital for a total of four and half months, including two months in the Intensive Care Unit at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where he arrived by Life Flight Helicopter from Wisconsin on June 19, 2006.

On Friday, Creighton had similar symptoms and, after eight hours in the emergency room in Wisconsin, he was driven, this time, by ambulance to Children's Memorial Hospital's Intensive Care Unit. By the time he arrived, the nurses who remembered Creighton were at the ready. Denise had left a note and Dana, one of Creighton's favorites, had finagled her way to being his nurse on his arrival. Later, his all-time favorite, Heather, became his nurse and we knew everything would be fine.

It was great for all of us to see the doctors and nurses who had, literally, saved Creighton's life the year before on the job protecting him from harm, this year.

Luckily, for us, Creighton's condition, today, is nowhere near as critical as it was in 2006, so we are assured of a good outcome, this time.

Amazingly, my memories of Creighton's hospital stay in 2006 are all positive and life-affirming. He received world-class care. Our Aetna Health Insurance did its part and Creighton left the hospital in his best health in years.

Every time I hear politicians talking about our broken health care system, I think of our experiences and wonder what they won't do and what they won't say to get votes. They are very likely to ruin a working, albeit imperfect, system and replace it with healthcare on the model of the postoffice.

As for Creighton, he ordered Toni and I out of his room, this evening, when the pretty new nurse arrived for her shift.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quite Something

Leslie Russell

When I started dating my wife, Toni, I was shown pictures of her mother who was a twin. It was easy to see that she was beautiful and I was told that she was quite something, although quite something was not clearly defined.

About a week before I met Leslie, I met her twin sister, Debbie.

The first thing that Debbie told me was that although she and Leslie were twins, they didn’t look a bit alike. When I finally met Leslie, contrary to what Debbie had told me, I realized that she and her sister looked exactly alike. Even though they were identical in every way, or perhaps because of it, they alternated throughout their lives between being inseparable and not talking to each other.

Leslie prided herself with never giving in and always doing what she felt best. She was not easy to be around during the early years, but time made both she and I calmer and I grew to cherish her friendship.

She loved people, places and things either intensely, or not at all.

She loved bingo.

I remember one night when we were broke. Leslie had won the big pot at bingo and woke us up after midnight as she spread hundred dollar bills on our bed. She was excited because she was able to give us money that she knew we needed. She was completely, totally unselfish.

She loved politics.

She had been some sort of Republican Party official in Iowa, but, as she grew older, she favored a more liberal version of politics and delighted in watching MSNBC and CSPAN. In the early days of our friendship, she and I used to argue about politics, she taking the liberal view and me the other view. I never changed her mind on anything I can remember, but I respected her opinion, and she mine.

She loved games.

She and Toni would play Rummy Cube for hours. They must have played thousands of games with the scores about split between Leslie and Toni. Leslie, also, loved crosswords and she would randomly ask people questions about history, geography and sports, not to engage them in conversation, but in the hope that their answer could help her solve a crossword puzzle.

She loved her family, especially Creighton and Ashley.

Ashley recently confessed that Leslie had bought her beer for her Junior Prom party. I was not surprised. The party was just a few kids in our home. No one had a car and nothing bad was going to happen.

As for Creighton, she loved him through everything. They were a team - Creighton and Grandma Leslie. Creighton was a challenge and Leslie proved herself to be “quite something” in her love and support for him.
When Leslie was first diagnosed with bladder cancer, we went to what we were told were great doctors in Chicago. Leslie was not satisfied with these first doctors and asked for another opinion. I thought this was just Leslie being her irascible self. Then, we found a doctor who was actually a great doctor. He is recognized as one of the leading, if not the leading, bladder cancer specialists in the world. Once again, Leslie was right in not accepting what was not right for her.

As her disease progressed, she fought bravely. She never complained and she was happy to help in whatever way she could. She and Toni continued their marathon Rummy Cube games and she continued her crosswords. She sat daily by the fire that we kept roaring day and night as long as she wanted to sit there watching politics on TV or listening to country music.

She left us peacefully after a final, brave fight. We shall never forget her.

She was quite something.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ashley's Big Secret plans first ever trip to New Glarus!

Thanks to our official Ashley's Big Secret cartographer, MJ!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ashley's Big Secret buys new limo - trades in heterodoxmobile

Here it is.

The new Ashley's Big Secret limo with Secret Keepers , Ashley and Toni, and ace limo driver, Jeff off on a jewelry buying trip.

What's next - an Ashley's big secret corporate jet?

Stay tuned.

Our thanks to MJ in Muncie.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Featured Artist of The Week: Jason Collett

On our podcast this week we featured Jason Collett- he's AWESOME! We are definitely digging this song. Click on the arrow below to download it for free!

Here's To Being HereJason Collett
"Charlyn, Angel of Kensington" (mp3)
from "Here's To Being Here"
(Arts & Crafts)

More On This Album

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Featured Artist of the Week: Phantom Blues Band

This song was composed by Ray Charles, and is really one of my new faves! Download it free below!

The Best of Little Mack Simmons: The Electro-Fi YearsLittle Mack Simmons
"Hooked On Your Love" (mp3)
from "The Best of Little Mack Simmons: The Electro-Fi Years"
(Electro-Fi Records)

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Featured Artist of the Week: Teuber, Peterson, Johnson, Bishop

After hearing the song, Greensleeves, played on a flute roughly 548 times today, I thought I'd have it as the featured song on our podcast. As it turns out, this is a pretty cool recording of an old song. Enjoy!

Winter - An Origin Records Holiday CollectionHans Teuber / Dave Peterson / Jeff Johnson / John Bishop
"Greensleeves" (mp3)
from "Winter - An Origin Records Holiday Collection"
(Origin Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Two stories - A great sparkling wine for under $20, actually, under $4, and great place to eat on the Rhine River if you look trustworthy

First, I love not knowing the price of wine I drink because it allows me to taste the wine without any preconceived notion created by its price. Sometimes when I find out the price I am disappointed that so much was spent on something so dismal. At other, better, times, I am blown away with how wonderful a wine is at such a reasonable price.

Elke, a friend of ours brought three bottles of Schloss Biebrich Sekt (Sekt means sparkling in German) to us on New Year’s Eve. As she is from Germany, her bringing a German sparkler was apropos. Germans drink more sparking wine per capita than anyone else, and, along with their fame in white wines, it only makes sense that a German sparkling wine should be good.

The Schloss Biebrich Sekt Elke gave us compares to any under $20 sparkling wine in taste and at $3.99 at Trader Joe’s it is an extraordinary value.

As you can see from the label, it is a serious looking wine, as well.

It is made outside of Wiesbaden, Germany where there is a castle named Schloss Biebrich, which is pictured on the label. Wiesbaden is a great place to start visiting the vineyards of the Rhine River Valley. It is 30 minutes from Frankfurt airport and a world away from the commercially-oriented Frankfurt.

My favorite memory of the Rhine River wine region was when we were trying to find a suitable place for lunch with a view of the Rhine River one fall day several years ago. We kept driving up to likely looking restaurants and I would jump out of the car and open the door of the restaurant only to find it jam-packed with Germans – imagine that!

After going through all of the restaurants in three little towns, all packed with Germans eating lunch, we saw a sign for the town of Piesporter. I headed for it because Toni and I (mostly I) drank gallons of Piesporter Goldtropfchen, an easy to drink, pleasant, low-alcohol, low priced German white wine, when we were younger.

On the way, up the hill from the Rhine River Road to Piesporter, we saw a small hotel; that advertised a restaurant, the Burg Schwarzenstein. As you can see the hotel sits among the vineyards and, as you might imagine, the restaurant is something very special.

We sat by the window looking at the vineyards and the Rhine beyond and made friends with our waiter who was excited that we were Americans so that he could practice his English. He explained that all of their wines were grown on the estate and suggested a variety of wines over the course of a two-hour lunch that culminated in our drinking wonderful sparkling wine, the first German sparkler I had ever tasted.

After our wonderful meal, we were presented with an appropriately large check for all of the wine, food and fun for the four of us. My friend Dennis and I fought to be the first to hand the waiter our credit card, but he told us that they did not take credit cards, only cash. As the bill was several hundred dollars, in German Marks of course, we told him that we did not think we had enough cash to pay for the meal, as we always used credit cards.

The waiter told us that our lack of cash was not a problem as we could write a check for our lunch. We explained that we did not have a German bank account, as we lived in Chicago. He said that they would gladly take a US check from us, as we seemed like such nice, trustworthy people.

As luck would have it, we were able to find enough German Marks between us to pay for our lunch and we left with a wonderful memory of German sparkling wine and German hospitality.

Happy New Year, Jeff

P.S. Just so you know, we do take credit cards at
Ashley's Big Secret and we have a great selection of gifts you can give yourself. After the holidays, you deserve a gift, or two, or three. You have been nice to everyone else, now be nice to you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Featured Artist of the Week: etypejazz

For my good friend Kyle, I wanted to find a great song to play on the podcast: this version of 'Little Drummer Boy' couldn't be better!

Download this song free by clicking the arrow next to "Little Drummer Boy".

HOHO Volume Twoetypejazz
"Little Drummer Boy" (mp3)
from "HOHO Volume Two"

Buy at iTunes Music Store
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Stream from Rhapsody
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More On This Album

Monday, December 10, 2007

Win This: Snake Charmer Bracelet!

Starting today, you can go over to and enter to win this completely fab Snake Charmer Bracelet!

I totally love, and am so excited to be collaborating with this fabulous chick on a contest! Give her some love!

Here are some other fun snake things we love:

For fabulous accessories, visit

Please feel free to comment here, or give us a shout out at

© Copyright 2007. Ashley’s Big Secret, Inc.