Safe travels and take along an extra dose of patience

In spite of retailers trying to steal the thunder, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It means time with family and friends. My favorite memories as a child were going to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Now, we have that house, where we will host 15 or more folks for dinner. And, we honor my grandmother, who we called Big Mama, by making her cornbread dressing.

I have written before about Big Mama and Granddaddy. They were each very special people and very different personalities. My grandfather was very quiet and worked with his hands building houses. He also loved to fish and we would leave early morning to drive to the lake returning with endless lines of fish.

Big Mama was a character and had character. She was very funny and was as talkative as my grandfather was quiet. She worked in retail sales for years and had relationships with families as she helped dress their kids all the way through college. Yet, unlike today, she did not work in the store on Thanksgiving.

I bring this up today, as I want people to travel safely to their many destinations. This goes for folks in other countries as they begin travel for their various holidays and year-end events. With things that have occurred in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and Mali recently, we need to remind ourselves to live our lives to their fullest and hug our friends and loved ones closely when we see them.

And, as we travel, please take along an extra dose of patience. Many travel officials are doing their darnedest to make us safe from those who want to do people harm. Help them, help you by being patient, considerate and kind. Expect and plan for travel delays. And, always remember, we choose how we react to things. Don’t cede that power and get flustered by things that are outside of your control. People in line behind you do not want to be in the line with the exasperated or angry traveler, just as you don’t want to be behind one yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Safe travels and may the force (of patience) be with you.


America must be better than this

For some time I have been deeply troubled by how we Americans are acting. We are tolerating bigotry and hiding behind a curtain of political incorrectness. Our political discourse has fallen into name calling, labeling and demonizing people who are different from the speaker’s audience. Avoiding political correctness, does not give someone the license to be a jerk. When an opponent raises an issue, your opinion is less valid by calling the person ugly or stupid.

The terrorists attacks in Paris have caused us to stoop to new lows, where we are forsaking our ideals and going against important foundations within our Constitution. We are kowtowing to xenophobia and fear mongering when we use crises to demonize entire groups of people, especially those in need.

Our country was founded on the premise of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. For some so-called leaders to say we should close mosques goes against who we are. Where would this stop – would we close Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh temples next? What about synagogues or Unitarian Universalist churches?

Our nation has also been built on the backs of immigrants. We have been consistent in extending our welcome to refugees of war torn countries. Yes, we should be vigilant, but turning away people in need, especially after vetting people from Syria for 18 – 24 months, is inconsistent with who we are.

At the heart of my concern is if we cede the higher ground by restricting freedoms and civil rights, the terrorists win. We would be lessening our country as well as giving more ammunition to terrorists to recruit people.

I understand the concerns and we must be vigilant. Yet, we should not replace serious and sober discussion with fear mongering and demonizing. We must hold dear what makes America great. When we cede the higher ground, we are just another country.

The Virtuous Cycle

The virtuous cycle is a nice term, but what in the heck does it mean? In the context under which I most recently saw it used is with one of two ultimate rationales why the move to renewable energy will begin to accelerate and replace fossil fuel energy sources.

Of course, renewable energy has many benefits and as the cost of production continues to fall, it will be on par with current fossil fuel energy production costs. This does not even consider the other costs that can be avoided which are inherent in the fossil fuel process. And, a key rationale for the migration will be the avoidance of the significant water loss that occurs in the fossil fuel and nuclear power production process through dissipated steam and loss of water to retrieve natural gas and oil through fracking.

But, the virtuous cycle will be one that will join water as the key reason for the accelerated migration to renewable energy. In essence, in fossil fuel energy production, energy has to be used to create energy. For example, to create electricity with fossil fuel, we have to burn coal or natural gas to boil water into steam to turn the turbines which turn the electromagnet generators. We have to exhaust energy to make more energy.

With renewable energy, we need not exhaust energy to make energy. The sun will shine and the wind will blow. They are doing this already, so we are merely harnessing that energy to produce electricity thereby creating a virtuous cycle. Using monetary terms, we do not need to spend money to make money, once the solar panels or windmills are created. Yes, we need to maintain them, but we do not have to spend energy to create new energy.

This matters now as energy companies look to build new energy production facilities. As a company considers the building over years of a natural gas-fired plant, the virtuous cycle of renewable energy may render that natural gas investment obsolete before a return on investment can be achieved. Companies will migrate to cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sources. The fossil fuel industry is big on focusing on the cost and jobs as reasons to do more of the status quo, yet the production cost will flip the other way and will become more favorable for renewables. The jobs are already there and growing rapidly with double-digit increases.

So, when  people say we cannot afford to move to renewable energy, that is actually a very short-sighted argument. When you factor all of the added costs on environment and health of fossil fuel acquisition, use, and future maintenance, the costs are already in the favor of renewables. The virtuous cycle will accelerate the move even more.



Old bodies remind you did your chores

At the age of 57, my body is no longer one that can survive doing various chores without telling me about it. Between helping my sister with my mother’s house and doing work around my house, aches and pains are par for the course.

The last few weeks have ranged from being up on ladders to cleaning out and repairing rain gutters to crawling beneath my house and deck to figure out where water has been getting in and trying to remedy the problem. Coupling these tasks with replacing and adding a few downspout corrugated drains, has meant I have used arms, shoulders, hands, legs, back, stomach, and fanny to maneuver and do the work.

On the upside, working your fanny off actually helps to work your fanny off. I have lost a few pounds along the way, mainly from climbing up and down ladders and toting a wet-dry vacuum to and from the garage to beneath my house. On the downside, it hurts to even type this. I am getting pains and spasms from all over, in places where I did not know I still had muscles. And, that departing fanny will hurt as well as it goes.

Truth be told, I enjoy doing work like this every so often. I enjoy the smell of freshly mowed grass, which I can smell better now with an electric mower. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment, even though with water problems it may or may not accomplish the task at hand. Sitting down to watch a football game is more satisfying after you have toiled some around the house. You feel entitled to watch a game to relax.

Now, calling myself a handyman is a far, far stretch. In fact, my wife likes to do things, as well, and it is harder to stop her than just ask her what do you need. In fact, when I would go out of town while working, it would not be unusual for me to return home to something she changed while I was gone. Sometimes, she would change something and then change it back and I would only know when I saw a debit and credit from Lowes or Home Depot on our bank account. Honey, what is this from Lowes?

But, back to the old body pains. The key to relieving some of these pains is warming up and warming down. Sometimes I forget the warming down part, as I am happy to get ladders and stuff put away. Then there is my friend Advil. I usually take a preventive Advil beforehand and some later. Yet, at age 57, there sometimes is not enough to do the job. So, enjoy working around the house. Let me know what you do to make yourself less sore. What kinds of work do you enjoy?

Letter from Mitt Romney to Barack Obama

This is not a real letter, but one that could be written.

Dear Mr. President,

I hope this finds you well. I know we have had our differences and I disagree with some of the positions and decisions you have made, but I want to commend you for your role in helping lower the unemployment rate to 5%. As you know, I promised during our campaign to get the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of 2016, so you have done well on this issue. I also commend you for overseeing 68 consecutive months of job growth in our country, which has helped reduce this rate.

While I could not advocate this during the campaign, I would like to thank you for using many features of Romneycare as part of your formulation of Obamacare. I take pride that Romneycare is working well in Massachusetts helping to lower the overall mortality rate and am proud that you borrowed from my successful template. I recognize it still needs some seasoning, but Obamacare is on the right track for our country. As you know, I shared these thoughts in an interview a few weeks ago.

We still have our work cut out for us, so I hope our next President can build on these successes. By the way, our friend Newt Gingrich wanted me to pass along his thanks for getting the gas prices down so low, which was a campaign promise he made in 2012.

Best wishes for continued success,

Former Governor Mitt Romney

Ten Greatest Global Risks over Next 10 Years per World Economic Forum

Let’s face it, long term thinking is hard for most leaders and society in general. It is too far off, but we still cannot wait to plan as the cost and problems can get too large. The World Economic Forum recently produced a Global Risks Report – 2015, which highlights the greatest risks over the next eighteen months and over the next ten years.

Rather than focus on the next eighteen months, let me focus on the longer term, ten-year horizon, as the risks are far more dramatic in impact as many are planetary in scope.

  1. Water crisis
  2. Failure of climate change adaption
  3. Profound social instability
  4. Food crisis
  5. Extreme weather events
  6. High structural un- or under-employment
  7. Large-scale cyber attacks
  8. State collapse or crisis
  9. Major biodiversity and ecosystem collapse
  10. Failure of national governance

Water tops the list as it is becomingly an increasingly dear commodity worldwide. I have noted before our energy production must bring into the equation more the impact on water sources. Moving to renewable energy sources which are not water intensive is as important as their positive impact on climate change. And, climate change will only make water and other problems like the food crisis, extreme weather events, and ecosystem collapses even more problematic with increased droughts, forest fires and floods with stalled weather systems.

The profound social instability and high structural un- and under-employment are contributors to our global poverty problem. Other top ten risks are also contributors such as state or national governance failures or the climate impacted natural crises. Those in poverty tend to more impacted by these issues as they have so few choices. Plus, I would season the ability to address these issues with overall corruption, where monies, services and goods intended to help are steered to the pockets of leaders and oligarchies of influential people.

These are the questions we need to be asking politicians and candidates about. If they are unprepared to address these issues or deny their existence or importance, then we need to vote for other folks who are prepared. These problems are already rearing their ugly heads, so the time is fleeting on our ability to do things to address these problems.

A link to the 2015 Global Risks Report follows:

A taste of Janis Joplin

If you ask people today if they ever heard of Janis Joplin, it would be a safe bet that many would not know who she is. And, for those who have heard of her, many of those would likely remember her for a wonderful rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s song “Me and Bobby McGee.” While that song is marvelous, Joplin is one of the most unique, soulful and brassy singers to whom we have ever had the chance to listen.

Like two others artists of her era (Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison), she died of a drug over dose at the far too young age of 27, the same age Morrison and Hendrix died. She came to prominence during the flower child movement to San Francisco as the lead singer for a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company. So, her experimentation with drugs was not unusual for where she made a name for herself.

Her songs were powerful vignettes that would rock the house. “Me and Bobby McGee,” is a quieter version of her splendid talent, but she does provide glimpses of her soulful voice therein. Here are sample lyrics of three songs that better reveal her talent. At the end of this post is a link to a blog that will let you listen to these three and other songs.

Piece of My Heart

Come on, come on, come on, come on

Didn’t I make you feel like you were the only one, yeah
I said didn’t I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can
Honey you know that I did
Well each time I tell myself that I, I think I’ve had enough
Oh, I am gonna show you baby, a woman can be tough

I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on
And take it, take another little piece of my heart now, baby

This is her most powerful song, which is about the man she loves treating her poorly. She wants to stay, but she wants him to recognize that he is taking another piece of her heart each time. And, clearly she says a “woman can be tough.”

Move Over

You say that it’s over baby, Lord,
You say that it’s over dear,
But still you hang around me, come on,
Won’t you move over.

You know that I need a man, honey,
You know that I need a man,
But when I ask you to you just say
That you think you can.

Please don’tcha do it to me babe, no!
Please don’tcha do it to me baby,
Either take the love I offer

This is my favorite Joplin song, although the other two noted here are very close. In this case, she is tired of the man saying he will change and is telling him to treat me better or “move over.”

Try (Just a little bit harder)

Try, try, try just a little bit harder
So I can love, love, love him, I tell myself
Cause I’m gonna try, oh yeah, just a little bit harder
So I won’t lose, lose, lose him to nobody else, yeah.
Hey, I don’t care how long it’s gonna take ya
But if it’s a dream I don’t want No I don’t really want it
Yeah if it’s a dream I don’t want nobody to wake me.

Yeah I’m gonna try, oh yeah, just a little bit harder
So I can give, give, give, give him every bit of my soul.
I’m gonna try, oh yeah, just a little bit harder
So I can show, show, show him love with no control, yeah.

You may have noticed a trend with her singing about challenging love. Here she soulfully sings that she will give everything she has to keep her man. I think her bluesy style is ideally suited for these kinds of songs. Give these three songs a listen (and view) from the attached link. If you are enthralled as I am, listen to her versions of “Summertime,” “Cry Baby,” “Down On Me,” and a fun song called “Mercedes-Benz” as well.

Please do enjoy her immense talent and unique style. And, if you listen to her while driving, please do use cruise control or you might find yourself speeding.