Put NCAA in charge of Wall Street

July 24, 2012

The NCAA’s penalties announced yesterday against Penn State’s football team were swift, decisive, relevant and appropriate, based on the “lack of institutional control” over the football program that lead to giving higher priority to protecting the program’s and its coach’s reputations than to protecting the child-rape victims.

Perhaps we should put the NCAA in charge of Wall Street, with power to levy sanctions where lack of institutional control has been largely unpunished despite actions that brought down the entire economy.


Playing Poker with Jamie Dimon

May 19, 2012

I love a good poker game.  To rationalize my desire to play a lot, I side with those who claim poker to be a game of skill, which happens to be affected by luck.  In that vein, Poker is like a variation of Day Trading rather than just pure gambling.  In both Day Trading and Poker, you place very short-term investments (wagers) based on limited information, with a commitment to realize your gains or losses prior to the end of your session.  Your gains and losses are affected significantly by the actions of others and by random forces that you cannot control.  In fact, good poker players may have more and better information for their decisions than day traders.

In honor of JP Morgan Chase’s multi-billion dollar trading loss, I have invented a new poker game.  Designed for very high rollers, it is called “JP Morgan.”

In “JP Morgan,” instead of betting that you will win, you bet on whether you think you will lose.  If you are right and you actually do lose, you lose the pot.  You will not be rewarded for losing even if you bet on that outcome.  But if you are wrong and you win the poker hand in spite of betting against yourself, you also lose the pot since you made the wrong bet.

At the end of each hand, the money in the pot is flushed down the toilet.  Nobody ever wins.

Then each player at the table who did not participate in the betting action is required to ante up some additional money to tip the dealer, who must be compensated for making all of this possible.

-David Bass


February 15, 2012

A continuation from the last post…

The next morning came, and I dutifully showed up at the coffee shop at 8 am.  I don’t drink coffee anymore, only hot tea in the mornings.  Over six years ago, I quit drinking coffee cold turkey on Labor Day weekend.  Haven’t had a single drop since.  I was drinking way too much, and the excess caffeine made me jittery and the acidity was causing some GI distress.  So I just quit.

When I meet someone in the mornings, usually for business networking to get acquainted or re-acquainted, I still refer to this as a “cup of coffee” meeting.  Sorry I digress.  I bought a cup of black tea and waited.

It was pouring down rain outside, a really nasty morning.  H____ told me she takes the bus to work, so on this particular morning it would be understandable if she were a little late.  I waited, drank my tea and read the newspaper.  A full hour I waited, now well informed as to the current events of the day.  Somebody committed a murder and is going on trial.  The economy in Greece is falling apart.  Republicans aren’t willing to tax themselves at the level needed to maintain greatness in America.  When Eisenhower was President, the top margin tax rate for individuals was 91%.  We built the interstate highway system, the aviation infrastructure, a permanent military, and maintained our national parks.  Duke’s perimeter defense is vulnerable.  Some parents are bitching that their kids aren’t being assigned to the right schools.  Sudoku is harder than it looks.

At some point I realized H____ wasn’t going to show up, and went back to my home/office.  There was a phone message from H_____, explaining that she arranged for a friend to give her a ride so she wouldn’t have to stand outside at the bus stop and get drenched.  Her friend was late.

I called her later, and we agreed to meet at 5:00 pm, right after she gets off work, a few days later.  But when I got there, a co-worker explained that she didn’t work that day.  H_____ was originally on the schedule but needed to swap days for some unknown reason.

In one of our short phone chats, she mentioned that there was an issue – not explained in any detail –  involving her children, now 13 and 15 years old.  She needed to work with the staff at the halfway house for help in getting into an apartment so the kids could move in with her.  An abusive father, perhaps?  Who knows.  She also mentioned needing time to work with her lawyer on how to get a drivers license again.

My life is so easy.  After paying her dues to society with seven years of incarceration, H_____ will continue to pay and pay again while trying to rebuild the basic infrastructure of independent living that folks like me take for granted.

As of this writing, we have not talked again.  There is no reason to rush.  H_____ has the rest of her life in front of her, and if she walks a straight and narrow line, keeps working, loves her children, keeps smiling, and slowly puts a foundation in place, the time for her entrepreneurial dreams will eventually come.


Hello… I’m Out Now

January 29, 2012

H____ called me last week, to report most happily that she’s been released from prison, found a job and still aspires to start her own catering business.

We only spoke a couple of minutes, long enough for me to learn that she is working at a quick service restaurant fairly close to my house, and then the call was abruptly cut off.  Has she gotten in trouble at work just for calling me?  Is this her own phone or a borrowed one?

I texted back to the number and suggested calling me when her shift ended, and she replied that she would do that.  But another call never came.  This was Wed. Jan. 18th.

Be patient, I told myself.  It must be hard adjusting to being freed from incarceration, and rather intimidating to reach out to me for help.

The following Monday I went over the the QSR where she said she works, a little before 5:00 when she had said her regular shift ended, but alas she was off that day.  Another employee described herself as “H____’s friend” and gave me her schedule for the rest of the week.

So back I went on Thursday, again a little before quitting time, and halfway through placing my order with a very pleasant young woman who’s nametag identified her as H_____, I blurted out rather awkwardly, “By the way, I’m David.”  After a short moment of looking like a deer caught in the headlights, she gathered herself.  “David Bass!?  Omigosh!  I’m so excited to meet you.”

And then explained that she needed to head to the bus stop to get back to a halfway-type house where she is living temporarily, because there is a house meeting tonight and she is trying really hard to do all the right things.

So I walked her to the bus stop, chatted as casually as I know how (which is NOT AT ALL!) to carry on a conversation with someone who has just been released from prison – and I know none the details.  She mentioned her desire to start a catering business, maybe someday own her own restaurant, how she got interested in food preparation and cooking, and did not come across in the least as having a chip on her shoulder about her incarceration.  I was expecting to see a woman holding a grudge against the world.  Instead I met someone cheerfully going about her business.

We agreed to meet the following morning before her work shift for coffee and further discussion.  More on that in the next post.


Let’s Play Stop

January 19, 2012

As a proud member of the Board of Directors of the Goodwill Community Foundation, here is the text of an article from Goodwill Today:

Goodwill Community Foundation App Snags Prize at Consumer Electronics Show

The Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF®), the foundation for Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina (Durham), walked away from the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week as a second prize winner in the Samsung Free the TV Challenge. The contest challenged developers to create “Converged Apps” that allow people to use more than one device to interact with content on a Samsung Smart TV.

GCF’s app, a game called Let’s Play Stop! , allows players to challenge themselves by quickly brainstorming words they know in English. It is a useful app for people trying to improve their literacy skills or those studying English as a Second Language (ESL).

The game chooses a random letter and players must use Android devices to type as fast as possible one word that begins with that letter for each game category: country or city, body parts, fruits, colors and animals. The player who successfully submits one word per category and presses the ‘stop’ button first will end the round, freezing the game and prohibiting any additional entries from other participants. The game then analyzes the accumulated score of each player. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.

The app was developed by the app development team for GCFLatino.org, the Spanish counterpart of GCFLearnFree.org. Both are free computer and life skills training sites available to anyone with access to the Internet. Many of the learning programs on these sites are also available as apps for the Android, iPhone and iPad.

As the second prize winner, the foundation won $75,000, a 55” LED Samsung Smart TV and a Galaxy Tab 10.1. The prize will be used by the app development teams of GCFLearnFree.org and GCFLatino.org to continue developing curriculum for the sites.

Let’s Play Stop! can be downloaded free at http://gcflatino.org/stop/. Currently, it is only available for Android devices, but an Apple version will be published soon.


YES, it is very hard

December 23, 2011

Dec. 23, 2011

Dear H______,

Thank you for your nice letter.

You asked if owning a business is really hard?  The real answer is YES, it is very hard, but you can do it.  You will just have to work hard at it and do not be shy about asking for help.

The most important thing is to be able to get customers for your catering business.  Without any customers, nothing else really matters.

To help you get your business set up and ready to start, there are several good resources available, including Business Link North Carolina, which a free service for you to be able to call a business counselor (Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm, call 1-800-228-8443 or 919-807-4280) and they provide a variety of assistance with your business structure and licensing requirements.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Very truly yours,


I will be released in 13 days

December 23, 2011

Received Dec. 21:

Mr. David Bass

Hi!  My name is H______.  I got your letter and I am still interested in starting my catering business.  I just completed Job Start and will be released in 13 days.  I have your number and will call you as soon as I get out.  I have done some planning allready and have done a lot of networking.  My release date is Jan 2nd.  What I would like to ask is it really hard to own your own business?  I don’t know anything about the book work.  I do know how to manage a restaurant but not the owning part.  You can write me but like I said I will be release soon.

Thank you

H_______