Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.

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I was scared to leave the table

We have all been around people who openly denigrate others in front of us. For some reason, they feel by putting others down, it elevates them. In actuality, the opposite occurs. It shines a negative light on the speaker.

An old colleague framed the issue nicely, when he related to me the title of this post.  Let me offer some context. He was at a business dinner with several senior colleagues, including a new executive. Apparently, she liked to talk about people, so as each person left table to go to the restroom, she would express the negatives she had heard about that person seeking concurrence. After seeing her do this with three people, my colleague said, “I was scared to leave the table.”

He wisely assumed, if she talks about others, she would also talk about him. This is not a very endearing trait regardless of one’s gender. It is even more true when a person in leadership does it. Namecalling, denigrating, bullying and pitting people against each other is not leadership.

Please remember my colleagues’ words. If someone talks about others in your presence, take it to the bank, he or she will do the same about you. What should you do – don’t take the bait? Life coach Wayne Dyer would suggest you even defend the absent. At a minimum, try to change the topic. But, picture that person and how you would feel.

 

Senator are you sure you want to poke the bear?

Senator Lindsey Graham is the new Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In his view, now that the Mueller report absolves President Trump of concerns over collusion, he wants to have his committee investigate those who accused the President. Really? Are you sure you want to poke that bear? Do you want hard-working, reputable FBI and CIA people under oath again testifying why they had legitimate concerns about Trump and Russia? Just as a reminder, you do know the President has a very hard time with the truth?

Let’s start with a quick recap. We have yet to see the Mueller report which, per Fox News is 700 pages long. We have only had a very brief summary. We should also note it was reported yesterday by several sources the Mueller grand jury is still quite active and we should be hearing more on that front, especially from the Southern District of New York. Here is what the dueling versions of the Senate Intelligence Committee said last month per NBC News:

“After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

But investigators disagree along party lines when it comes to the implications of a pattern of contacts they have documented between Trump associates and Russians — contacts that occurred before, during and after Russian intelligence operatives were seeking to help Donald Trump by leaking hacked Democratic emails and attacking his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on social media.

‘If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,’ said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS News last week.

Burr was careful to note that more facts may yet be uncovered, but he also made clear that the investigation was nearing an end.
‘We know we’re getting to the bottom of the barrel because there’re not new questions that we’re searching for answers to,’ Burr said.

One Democratic aide told NBC News that while the Democrats do not contest Burr’s statements, they believe it lacks context. The aide said, ‘We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude.” However: But they also made clear they haven’t found proof of their worst fear: That the president formed a corrupt pact with Russia to offer sanctions relief or other favorable treatment in return for Russian help in the election.

After it recently emerged in court documents that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with a man the FBI says is linked to Russian intelligence, [Ranking Democrat Mark] Warner called that the most persuasive evidence yet of coordination.
‘This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,’ he said on CNN.”

What Senator Graham has lost sight of is the number of people close to the President that have pleaded guilty or been found to have of lying to the FBI or perpetuating fraud. Roger Stone still stands trial. What the Senator has lost sight of is Mueller also indicted dozens of Russians for interference with our election. What the Senator has lost sight of his Michael Flynn was speaking with the Russians about sanctions relief before taking office and lied about it. What the Senator has lost sight of is the active grand jury, post report that has its eyes on things like campaign fraud, using the positions for personal gain, misusing charitable donations, etc.

Or, maybe he has not forgotten this and the strategy is a ploy to perpetuate that the Deep State is against Trump, as he portrays. The fact Trump lies more than he does not is irrelevant. It is too bad Graham’s friend Senator John McCain is not alive, as he would slap Graham upside his head for his sycophantic behavior.

But, back to my question. Do you really want to poke the bear? Republicans tried to paint Michael Cohen as a liar, but he quite believably uttered these words. The President is a “racist, he is a liar and he is a cheat.”

Renewable energy has become cheaper than coal

An article in The Guardian caught my eye yesterday, entitled “‘Coal is on the way out’: study finds fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind.” This is not surprising to me as the production costs of solar and wind energy have significantly dropped over time, yet it likely catches some as a big surprise. Per the article:

“Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study.

‘Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,’ said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. ‘Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.'”

When all of the costs are factored in, coal is even more expensive than indicated above. For example, coal energy continues to be costly long after it is burned through ash maintenance, leakage and litigation. Yet, now production costs are largely higher for coal than renewables. As the article notes the decline of coal is passed the tipping point.

But, don’t just take the word of this article. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, more coal plants have been closed than in the entire first four-year term of Obama’s Presidency. This would have happened anyway regardless of who was President, but I mention Trump as even someone who campaigned on keeping coal plants open cannot stave off this trend.

If that is insufficient, note there are currently more than four times the number of solar jobs than coal jobs in the US. And, the wind energy jobs are growing very quickly in the Midwest, with Texas, Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota among others leading the way. In an article called “Will 2019 be the year of the turbine – wind energy continues to surge in Texas” in the Caller Times, in 2017 Texas provided about 15% of its energy through wind and has and will continue to increase that percentage in 2018 and beyond.

I feel for the coal miners, but they are owed the truth and help in retraining for new jobs and some transitional financial support. In the same areas where coal is found, the wind blows and sun shines. I implore legislators to help invest in the new economy in these areas. This should have been happening all along as this trend is not new.

 

 

The hard work is essential

Watching the college basketball tournament during March Madness, it is the hard work that wins ballgames. As my high school coach often said, you can have a bad shooting game, but defense and rebounding can never take a day off.

This is also a metaphor for life. Hard work pays dividends, even if it does not get notoriety. In basketball, making it difficult for your opponent to score requires determination, focus and hustle. The same goes for rebounding. Holding your opponent to one shot and giving your team more than one by good rebounding, makes a huge difference.

In life, being prepared by doing your homework, anticipating questions, learning and maintaining machinery or software, planning your efforts and asking questions puts you and your team in position to succeed. As legendary golfer Gary Player once said, “I have found the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

In “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, he notes four attributes of highly successful people or groups. They are talented or smart enough, they are given opportunity, and they recognize and seize such opportunity. The fourth one is they practice, a lot. He noted about 10,000 hours of practice as a key threshhold.

So, think of that last differentiator. Maybe your talent or smarts are average, but you can be much better if you practice. And, that takes effort and hard work. Maybe your opportunities are fewer, but I have found opportunities come to busy and capable people. If you are not busy, learn something, study and make yourself better.

Getting back to basketball, I was not the best shooter or big scorer on the team. If I led a team in scoring, we were not very good. So, I worked my fanny off on playing defense, boxing out and rebounding, and being a good passer to our better shooters. Being a good teammate and playing to your strengths are essential. In basketball, there are five people and only one ball. Play well together. The best five players don’t win; the team playing the best wins.

Work hard. Put the time in. Play to your strengths. And, be willing to pass the ball.

Saturday in the park (redux)

It is a beautiful spring day and we just got back from a walk. With due credit to the band Chicago, hum “Saturday in the park,” as you read on.

– Speaking of walking, there were multiple hundreds of thousands marching in London pleading for another Brexit referendum. Some of it has to do with Parliament’s inability to plan a smooth exit, but the large part is due to Brexit being a financially imprudent idea.

– The Mueller report is in and I encourage a large dose of patience. Let people read and digest the thing. Plus, this is just the end of one phase, with much more to come. Future indictments will likely come from the Southern District of New York and be of a campaign finance or conflict of interest nature. Spiking the ball in the endzone is premature, especially when dealing with such an untruthful man.

– Boeing is in a heap of hurt, with an order for 50 737’s being canceled. Training is everything and, apparently, it has been shortchanged on this unwieldy plane. A pilot said the switch from autopilot to pilot in some instances maximizes the worst attributes of both at the wrong time. Unfortunately, hundreds have died.

– Seeing the horrible flooding in the US and the cyclone damage on the east coast of Africa reminds me of a report sanctioned almost ten years ago by the largest pension trusts in the world on the financial impact of climate change. Between the increased severity of forest fires, drought, flooding and sea rising, they estimated a cost on the order of multiple tens of trillion dollar. I think that might be light as there will be an echo effect that is worse than predicted then.

– Kudos to New Zealand, its people and its  leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. From the heartfelt solidarity to the grieving Muslim community and nation to acting with seriousness of purpose banning assault weapons, Ardern showed what leadership looks like. As an American, I am envious of her leadership and proud we have such in our world.

Have a great weekend all. Best wishes to those in need or grieving their lost loved ones.

A fool’s errand

In my experience, people do not like to appear foolish. Yet, Mark Twain is quoted as saying it is easier to fool someone than convince him (or her) he (or she) has been fooled. With this in mind, believing the recounting of history by a man known for his untruthfulness and his disinterest in details is a fool’s errand.

In yet another attempt to point the spotlight elsewhere, the US President is denigrating a recently deceased American hero. During this head-scratching diatribe, he incorrectly said Senator John McCain obtained the fake-news Steele Dossier to sway the election.

There are two false statements in this Trump inane rant. First, McCain received the document and handed it to the FBI about a month after the election. Second, Christopher Steele is a well-respected intelligence gatherer, which increased McCain’s interest. The credible dossier has more than a few verified findings. The President is a cornered animal, so he has and will continue to attack anyone or anything to distract people.

But, inaccurately telling history is not new to Trump, as it is his modus operandi. When the US President says “I never said…” what follows is usually a lie. When he says something someone else did is “disaster,” it is not. More often than not it is some form of compromise or multi-lateral agreement where every partner gives up a little. When he says he is the smartest or best at something, I would suggest more proof.

So, when he says we achieved in 2018 an expected GDP growth rate of 3.1%, he fails to tell people that he said the tax law change would push it to 4% and pay for itself. The 3% is what economists expected, so when this was pointed out, he blamed the negative differential on Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Folks, to believe this untruthful man on pretty much anything is unwise. But, to believe him on historical matters is truly a fool’s errand, even when it applies to himself. He tells people he grew his fortune off a small loan from his father – the truth as reported last fall is his father transferred over $400 million to his son before he died.

There is a baseball analogy for this. Trump was born on third base and likes to tell everyond he hit a triple. Please remember what Twain said.