Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hacking Around

Q: What do Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, Francois Hollande, president of France and Charles Reilly, Jr., your scribe, share in common?    

 A. We three have been subjected to invasions of privacy.  Our communications have been interrupted; we've been spied upon. “Hacking” is not good by anyone’s standards except for the Benedict Arnolds of our day who pose as heroes by opening up someone else's mail in the name of transparency.

Spying is not news of course. Our own National Security Agency (NSA) has been looking over the shoulders of friends and foe alike since forever. So have the intelligence agencies of virtually every other nation in this world.  The difference is that here in the good old USA we are better at it because we have the dollars and the technology to stay ahead of the pack. That is until we are betrayed by one of our own. Then the whole thing is a pretty sad mess. 

It's one thing to be linked with Angela and Francois when it comes to being in good company, quite another to be victimized by having your privacy violated and having to pay tech people to clear up the damage. Yes, losing my address book was bad, almost as bad as the insensitivity of my carrier, They offered no help at all unless I would sign up for a monthly fee looking forward.  As my IT put it to AOL “you are holding his personal address book hostage; you are blackmailing him.”  Words fell on ears that did not hear.

There is general sadness these days about the loss of “ethics”, “integrity” and others words that once epitomized quality of life. They are pretty much gone with the wind. This particular hacking of my computer was a deeper wound because it came as we were announcing to the world the birth of our first great grandson, Charles Henry Williamson. As a consequence an exceptionally large number of people were inconvenienced. Again, I apologize to each of you. 

As for, well, you can pretty much read my mind.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Just about everybody remembers where they were on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald squeezed a trigger and killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy 50 years ago. America lost more than our president, as traumatic as that was. What was now gone, and what we have never since regained, was a sense of beauty and promise beyond the ordinary. Call it “Camelot” or whatever you like.  We knew what it was then and we miss it today.

On that November day, I was at Warner Brothers in California. Standing in front of the studio where Al Jolson made the first “talkie”, I was talking with John “Johnny” Beradino, the former baseball player who was then starring in a television soap called “General Hospital”. A man ran through the main gate screaming and waving to us. He was too far away to hear what he was saying. We assumed he was just extending a long distance greeting to Beradino. John waved back, and not knowing what else to do, I waved as well. Some minutes later another man rushed by to say that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Beradino and I immediately went into the studio reception area where a TV news bulletin was in the midst of telling the world that JFK had been assassinated. You probably felt then as I did – stunned, speechless. So was everyone else. Everything stopped.

Later that day en route to the airport for a return flight to New York the conversation in the car, what there was of it, had to do with the wounds the president had suffered. I remember telling another passenger that my medic training preached “you could survive any wound to the body except a direct hit in the heart.”  At the same time your chances of making it through without severe disability after taking a deep gunshot or shrapnel wound to the head were very slim because “there is so much sophisticated wiring up there in the skull.”

We lost John Kennedy that day but the mystique he created remains and grows even stronger with the passing years.  If you want to gain valuable insight into the hard-driving Kennedy clan, especially JFK the man, politician and president, I suggest you read “The Patriarch” by David Nasaw.

Yes, time does indeed march on for all of us.  Nevertheless, going to California since that fateful November 22 has always depressed me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

You Can't Go Back

A friend asked me if I ever plan to return to my old neighborhood, which in my case means either Darien, Connecticut, or the Main Line of Philadelphia.  My answer was “No, I can't go back because it isn't there anymore.”
It's true you know. Those happy memories I hold are mine alone.  I am happy to have them plus, and importantly, no one can take them away from me. But in reality those yesterdays are long gone along with many of the men and women who created the memories with me. The sites and the sounds are gone as well. “Enhancements” “improvements” and tall towers have replaced the cozy neighborhoods that made up so many yesteryears for our gang. Bigger is not necessarily better. 

Life goes on, dear reader.  Neither thee nor me can stop the treadmill to oblivion that is nature's way. Best to live in the present, cherish the past and hedge our bets hoping that Washington, D.C. won't make it any worse than they already have. 

All is not doom and gloom however. We just have to dig deeper to find our everyday gold. It's still there. Dig on. Stay with me for few more paragraphs while I try to make my case. When I was born back in the middle ages, Calvin Coolidge was President of these United States.  “Silent Cal” was more or less famous for not being famous.  He was followed by a lineup of men who were good, so-so or not very good at all. But we made it through the changes in Washington because we married, raised families and saw yet another generation dance down the very same yellow brick road. 

So yes, it pains me to see supposedly grown up men and women seemingly incapable of working out sensible solutions for our beloved (and their beloved) country. I have written to my representatives expressing my dismay. I will express my chagrin at the ballot box.  And in the meantime, my check will not be in the mail. On the other hand my lovely granddaughter, Brooke, is marrying Noah, a very nice gentleman next week.   

The gold of love, laughter and sunshine is still there to be found. And when we gather it up, let's appreciate our blessings in the here and now.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Everyone agrees, even we non-golfers, that the 2013 U.S. Open Golf Tournament was superb.

For me watching it unfold on television way down here in Florida there was an added attraction. This year's Open was played at the Merion Golf Club which sits right in the middle of my old neighborhood on Philadelphia's Main Line.

Which by the way is not so much what it used to be, as portrayed most famously in the motion picture The Philadelphia Story starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, as for what it is today. These little communities that tie together what William Penn fondly called his Greene Countrie Townes are populated nowadays by mostly ordinary folk who are scrambling 24/7 to make a living knowing full well that Wall Street or Washington can take it all away in a heartbeat. Yes snobbery and using terms like “old sport” or speaking with an under-bite still exists but mostly they are gone with the wind. After all how long can you sit by a swimming pool reviewing your portfolio and talking exclusively to your cousins?

Starting with the Overbrook station at the border of the City of Philadelphia the primary (main) line of railroad tracks wend their way northwest into leafy suburbia and stations like Merion, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Villanova. Many of the communities surrounding these stations include colleges and universities of national renown. All in all the Main Line is an area of rich cultural blessing. And, if military history happens to be your thing, you just can't have it any better than visiting the grounds of conflict where our country won its freedom.

Play at the 2013 U.S Open Golf tournament was more than a nostalgia trip down Memory Lane and Revolutionary War battle sites for me as well as the countless others who followed Open play on the tube.  It was an exceptional outing on a truly exceptional golf course.

But right now it's Happy Hour here in The Land of Eternal Sunshine. Time for me to ask my golfer spouse to explain the meaning of Birdie, Bogey, Eagle, let alone Triple Bogey and Shank.

Monday, June 10, 2013

10 S N E 1

Early in his Broadway stage career Humphrey Bogart was cast in drawing room comedies, usually as second juvenile. In one of these he spoke the immortal line “Tennis, anyone?”  Generations of bon vivants and lesser souls have echoed that line on and off the court ever since. One blonde in Connecticut had “10 S N E 1” as her license plate. 

Which brings us round to the French Open in Paris, one of the truly great settings for this much admired sport. 2013 play on that infamous red clay was extraordinary by anyone's standards. Yet a very real danger hangs over the head of this masterpiece. It has nothing to do with the red clay and the generally unfavorable weather sans roof. Certainly no blame can be laid on the shoulders of the players. It has everything to do with the chattering American television commentators. And part of this has to do with our national tendency to talk a lot more and listen a lot less. European broadcasters tend to let play speak for itself, not so for those of us on this side of the pond. 

This time out John McEnroe, Mary Carillo and Ted Robinson were at it again.  McEnroe truly knows the game and the nuances of same.  Yes, he would be better off by putting the lid on his “bad boy” days. Realistically the best we can hope for is that he minimizes recalling his own mischievous antics. Mary Carillo becomes less likeable with every outing. She is constitutionally incapable of shutting up. Ted Robinson, playing the role of Ed McMahon to McEnroe as Johnny Carson, spends most of his time feeding John opportunities to talk about what he did in the long ago. This year Ted got so gushy it was a better deal to turn down the sound. 

And it was certainly a better deal to turn the sound OFF when Maria Saharipova and Victoira Azarenka shrieked with every shot. They set a decibel high that will remain unmatched for the ages. They are both gifted athletes and selective commentary would help television viewers enjoy their play. But who can handle the headaches? 

The next French Open will probably be 10 S N E minus this 1.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Years ago my high school pal Chuck Barris created a show for television called “The Dating Game'. Barris' format for the program was basically simple. But then again dating itself was basically simple a half century ago.

Fast forward to dating in the year 2013 where both life and love have grown more complicated. Don't despair however, the outlook is not all doom and gloom. As long as you can access the Internet, adventure is right at the end of your finger tips with countless opportunities to link up. Dating services are a huge portion of TV advertising featuring tailored categories for one and all.  eHarmony is big here as elsewhere but if you want to target a specific demographic group there's no problem. We have Christian Mingle, our Jewish friends can access J Date, the list includes Black People Meet, Asian Dating, Amigos, Gay Dating, Seniors Dating (not to be confused with “Our Time for Singles over 50” or “Professional Singles over 40”. )

While my roommate and I have zilch interest in dating ourselves, we do have an array of eligible sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters on the active bachelor/bachelorette rosters. So as senior consultants it's prudent for us to stay current on people-meeting-people. The very thought of our Loved Ones constantly prowling the bars in search of Mr/Ms Right is a depressing thought for us as well as for them. Dating services are not infallible but they do provide a certain sense of controlling one's own destiny. Now you can have more going for you than just Aunt Marion's word that “she has a lot of personality” or your teammate at work saying that “he's more than your average computer guy.”

Still, at least for us, it's certainly better to be observing rather than playing today's dating game.                                

Friday, March 29, 2013


“Shark Tank” is a successful television show that counts my dear wife among its ardent viewers. The program's format pits an entrepreneur looking for financial backing against a panel of four businesspeople who have cash to lend IF they are impressed with the pitch. On any given evening it is even more exciting than “The Bachelor”.

Ever since “Jaws” swam towards us from the movie screens in 1976, I've had an aversion to being in any water where sharks may be on the prowl. Because this certainly includes my present abode in sunny Florida, it seemed prudent to read up on sharks and how they operate. Recent television newscasts showing thousands and thousands of them migrating close by our shoreline was an added incentive.

Conventional wisdom is that sharks in these waters are “spinners” or “black tips” and not a threat to swimmers. Authorities have the stats from 1882 to this year proving that no one has been killed down here by a shark. Bitten or nipped yes, but not killed. This data is but marginal comfort to me.

In the land-based marketplaces where you earn your paycheck, there are also sharks. Learn about them. Here too they may not kill you outright but they can still nip and bruise you. What is their M.O.?  How do they maneuver within the company or outside with clients? You can tell a lot by observing their body language and how they relate to others.

It's always best to keep your eyes and ears open when you're in the water. And in the meetings too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


We all know what makes a good leader. Right? Well, maybe yes or maybe no. 

Books written about leaders and leadership are all over the lot. On top of that, many of us have gone through “leadership schools” during military time or in the corporate world – some have experienced both disciplines. In every case personal communications is the foundation of leadership. Beyond broad principles let me suggest that the devil is in the details. We too often overlook the basics because we assume that we already know them and worse, think we consistently practice them. 

Let's review the things that are important to others – that is, to the men and women you are hoping will follow your lead. 

At first glance what we see dominates. The man or woman in a leadership role has to look the part by being well-groomed and well-mannered. The setting for your talks is an important influence of course, but your own unique style and good manners will dominate. So be your own best self. What appeals to their eye is simultaneously impacted by the sound of your spoken word. That voice has to project confidence. There is no one single way to dress or to speak so that others will listen. Effective communications combinations are endless. While you may not know exactly how a leader will be looking or sounding at any given time, you know the sight and sound of leadership when you see and hear it; so does your audience be it one or many. 

Now comes the key ingredient – a well thought out, properly rehearsed message. At ALL times your listeners are asking themselves “what's in it for me?” This is where Barbara Szala and the In-Person Communications professional staff can assist you in determining your own best personal style and approach as you convey important messages. Trust me, they know what they are doing and have assisted leaders a thousand and more times. Most importantly, they are light years ahead in objectivity from those you work with or the permanently-puckered lips of assistants on your payroll. In-Person Communications professionals have only one mission – to help you attain your objective. 

The next time you have to go into the lion's den, plan ahead. In-Person Communications is just a phone call (201 664-1955) or a click away (

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Florida in February

In addition to easy access for fantastic prices on oranges and grapefruit, Florida in February is certainly the place to be. (Whoops, sorry, by now most of you have already heard this a thousand times.)

Nonetheless the saying “there's no free lunch” applies even down here in the Land of Eternal Sun. A classic example is the “Early Bird Special” (EBS) which roughly means that right after breakfast you start getting ready for dinner. EBS menus have customer-friendly dinner prices that knock off a buck or two from the meals in order to lure in those of us on Social Security. “Having cocktails” has become an evergreen all around the country and most certainly is a fixture down here where the bar bill gobbles up what few dollars are saved on EBS, plus, plus. 

When the sun goes down most of us retreat to our little hideaways to turn on our television sets to check the weather up north. Schadenfreude kicks in for a few minutes followed by hours of gloom because television series re-runs dominate the airwaves. It could be far worse of course since most of the new prime time viewing is simply terrible. Re-runs of oldies are generally the best of what used to be better.  And still is. 

Florida is often derided as “Heaven's Waiting Room” because so many of us are senior-seniors.  So be it.  Most of our old gang on the upper side of the Mason-Dixon line are also senior-seniors living in retirement homes afraid to go out because of bone chilling cold. At least down here the nurses have suntans. 

With all the talk of Health Care in Washington, D.C., we Floridians share the perspective that television has the answer for most ailments. Products for every conceivable sickness flash by our eyes night after night. Especially if you are suffering from erectile dysfunction which some say make up 40% (others say 80%) of the TV commercials. 

Hang in, dear reader, for eventually Spring and then Summer will come your way. And then, when Florida becomes a white hot furnace for us, you may well have The Last Laugh as you bask in your glorious weather.