Refill stations for cleaning products in a Switzerland store reduces plastic waste

My youngest son made me aware of this neat initiative going on Switzerland with a supermarket called Migros. Migros’ aim is zero waste. In order to save plastic and rely on the reuse of materials, customers can refill their laundry, dishware and cleaning products themselves using the packaging more than a few times. The store noted “If you refill a bottle at least three times, the reusable bottle is already more environmentally friendly than the refill packaging. Migros hope to extend this service to other products and store.”

Per a press release, “Migros takes great pride in her investment in sustainability. The refill stations are just one example of many how we aim to reduce packaging and waste. At the moment, we are considering expanding the refill stations for cleaning products to more supermarkets throughout Switzerland. The first two refill stations were a huge success. Our clients appreciate this service very much. The numbers are a proof of this: our sales goals for six months were already reached after 2,5 weeks. Apart from the refill stations for cleaning products we are also offering refill stations for long lasting bioproducts such as rice, nuts or pasta. At the moment we are in the process of expanding these refill stations in Migros supermarkets across the country. 

Furthermore, in order to reduce packaging and waste we engage in several different project such as offering a reusable bag for fruits and vegetables, called «veggie bag». We offer reusable trays for restaurant and take away food. The mineral water of our own label « Aproz » comes in 100% recycled PET-bottles and in central Switzerland we have started a plastic waste collection system with our own plastic collection bag: You can buy such a bag in our supermarkets, collect your plastic at home and bring your plastic waste to a Migros supermarket near you. We transport the plastic to a recycling factory and with the produced regranulate, we aim to produce recycled packaging for our own label products.”

This is a terrific idea. I also like the idea of reusable restaurant take out trays. There is an initiative in Durham, North Carolina where twenty-five restaurants participate in a reusable tray program, where you exchange your cleaned tray for the new take-out order in an even more cleaned tray. If we can do things like this and reduce buying plastic water bottles, we can try to stymie this wastage in our landfills and oceans.

Interesting quote about church going

Sometimes quotes come at you from surprising sources. The following quote comes from a good movie called “Burning Bodhi” about old friends grieving the sudden death of one of their own from an aneurysm. The character was from a God-fearing community in West Virginia with a number of churches. When asked if she went to church, her reply was priceless.

“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than hopping into a garage makes you a car.”

The profound simplicity of that statement floored me. It also reveals the act of going to church is not as altruistic for everyone as it is for a group of truly devout people. Having grown up going to not only church, but Sunday school as well, I saw all kinds of people there. Just like in general society it was a collection of imperfect people with biases, faults, and sins.

There were good lessons to be learned as well as some that were not so good. This church had an excellent youth program called “Tell it like it is,” where young people could get excited about their faith. Yet, on the flip side the church eventually split in half over an argument regarding the overt nepotism of the pastor in hiring practices. I have seen churches and synagogues have active outreach programs even starting charities to help people in need, while I have also seen churches led by ministers whose ego and greed got the best them.

Having worked with church and synagogue leaders on outreach programs to help those in need, I have witnessed both sides of the coin as well. I have met the most wonderful and kindest people who want to help, but I have also witnessed some who were there for themselves, not the people in need. The charity has to be about helping people help themselves, not doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I am no longer a church going Christian, so many would not even call me such. I am imperfect just like everyone else, but I do feel we should walk the talk. I do feel it is more important to help people climb a ladder out of the hole they find themselves in. I do feel we should treat people like we want to be treated with no caveats. And, if a church leader does not espouse those things, I would suggest finding a different place to worship.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

Serious-minded people

Let me start out with the following firm belief of mine. I wish others who think winning at any cost gives politicians a free pass, would heed this belief of mine. I am not in favor of name calling, but I would say if people in or running for office want to be taken seriously, they need to be serious-minded with their comments. Saying obvious untrue things is not a step down that path. Full stop.

I am not naive enough to think politicians will stop lying altogether. To get elected, they will continue to overstate or even invent their role when good things happen and understate or blame the other side when bad things happen. And, if things aren’t too bad, many will even tell you it is bad to drum up fear. If things aren’t good enough, they will search for ways to make them even better sounding.

What bothers me greatly is when I see elected officials say or write things I know are not true, and even worse, many likely know it is not true as well. When I see such tales being told, it leaves me with two options to believe – either they really do not know they are saying untrue things or they are purposefully lying. Some politicians, like the former president, are so untruthful, they may not know where the truth stops and lying begins. As my colleague used to say in a voicemail greeting, “Always tell the truth, as you don’t have to remember as much.”

Unfortunately, we have allowed politics to become such a zero-sum game, meaning “I must win and you must lose,” we lose sight of the bigger picture. If nothing gets done or things get done to further the causes of a strident or well-heeled few and not a greater good, we all end up losing. When we make issues of import political, dividing people into two camps to play these inane zero-sum games, we all lose.

People may not be aware of this, but the PR folks who publicize these combative court cases for TV shows scour the cases around the country and find cases they can blow up into a big deal. Some of the cases present themselves as they bubble up, but some are found and honed for this purpose. Politics has become the same way. The PR people scour the country for news they can make into wedge issues. This is why many of us have never heard of an issue until it is presented to us with a bow that this is a huge problem.

So, once the wedge issue is created, the sides form and the lying begins in earnest. And, once the lying gets into the minds and keystrokes of others, it is extremely hard to erase that mindset. This is why we must be assertive in calling out untruths. In short, people who are in your tribe will believe BS if it makes the other side look bad.

This is misinformation and disinformation. This is right out of “1984” where the term “doublespeak” was created by George Orwell. But, let’s call it plainly what it is – lying.

When a US Senator says you can catch AIDs from the COVID vaccine, then when confronted says it may be true, that is lying.

When a former president says at least a dozen times that the tariffs imposed on China will be paid for by China (being refuted each time by economists that consumers pay the cost of tariffs), that is lying.

When a now US Congressman says he was not told by his wrestlers when he coached that the university doctor was fondling them as he did with over a thousand athletes (many after he was told), when six of his wrestlers said they did on the record, that is lying.

When a former president says you can keep your own doctor to sell the roll out of the new healthcare plan, that is lying.

When a former president says COVID is a hoax, or it will all go away soon when people start dying, while placing people in danger and ignoring what he is being told, that is lying.

When a US Congresswoman says a prominent Jewish family is using lasers from space to cause wildfires and profit from them, that is lying.

When a former president says he did not have sexual relations with his intern when he obviously did, that is lying.

When a former president hires over 1,000 attorneys before an election, naysays the process beforehand, and does his part to make it harder for people to vote by mail, then says the election was stolen from him an assertion he has failed miserably at proving, that is lying.

We need to hold our elected officials to account. We are owed the truth. And, when they don’t tell us the truth, we need to take action by voting for someone else. We need serious-minded people. The truth matters.

Alignment

One thing that impresses me about good writers who have complex series of novels or shows is their ability to keep track of the various histories and relationships of all of their characters and story lines. My guess is the better ones take the time to document the biographies and relationships, so as not to betray the trust of the reader or watcher. I am certain mistakes happen, but it is good to see the effort.

The writers for a TV series called “Young Sheldon” have done their utmost to make sure the show is in alignment with its predecessor, “The Big Bang Theory.” For those who do not watch either show, “The Big Bang Theory” is about four highly intelligent university professors who befriend a beautiful and sarcastic neighbor who lives across the hall from two of them. Other stars are added as the men start getting more serious girlfriends and wives. But, the show is about relationships.

Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, is the brightest yet most eccentric of an eccentric bunch. Parsons played him so well, he won several Emmy’s for the role. Due to his eccentricities, the show “Young Sheldon” was crafted to tell his story. With Parsons narrating the prequel which stars Iain Armitage as the younger version, we learn how Sheldon developed some of his habits, both endearing and frustrating. Since in the first show, we see guest appearances from the adult siblings and older mother, the prequel is good about remembering each character’s development and what the older Sheldon shared about them.

Sheldon has a twin sister, who is every bit as sarcastic as his future neighbor. He has an older brother who his jealous of the attention Sheldon gets yet is the typical teenage male. And, the scientific genius even as a boy has a mother who not only is a church goer, she works at the church. His father is a football coach, but we know already he will not be around much longer due to a storyline from “The Big Bang Theory” told of Sheldon losing his father as a young teen. The one character we did not hear much about in the first show is his grandma, who came in the second season of “Young Sheldon.”

The small things, though, are what make the alignment live. The older Sheldon loved trains, so we see the young Sheldon out in the garage with his trains. We learn why Sheldon uses terms like “bazinga” when playing a practical joke or why he uses the word “coitus” instead of sex, as it is less offensive. Don’t ask. The older Sheldon loves contractual agreements, so we see how that developed. And, of course, we see his mother singing “Soft Kitty, warm kitty” when Sheldon does not feel well and why he offers a hot beverage to anyone who is down in the dumps.

My wife and I enjoyed the first show immensely. I am a sucker for shows about relationships, especially the quirky ones. No one is more quirky than Sheldon, but what endears him is he has a good heart that is revealed from time to time. And, we adore the prequel as well, with the young Sheldon every bit as funny as the older one. Yet, what makes it live in alignment is the narration by the older Sheldon, with the occasional guest commentary by one of the other actors on the first show.

Do you like the shows? What are some others you care for?

That RINO label

I forwarded the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. I think they will likely pass as they published another one in the last thirty days. But, I wanted my fellow bloggers to see it.

As a former Republican and Democrat, I have long observed politicians and pseudo-news personalities who use labels and name calling don’t usually have much of an argument. They use labels like RINO as a short cut to denigrate an opposing argument to sway those who do not care to know the truth. So, when I hear RINO, it actually makes me look further at the target’s argument.

We need a viable Republican Party, but it bothers me greatly the truth tellers in the party are vilified, receive death threats and are called RINOs, while the recurring liars (Trump, Cawthorn, Greene, DeSantis, Gosar, Jordan, e.g.) are exalted. Our country is at odds with itself, because a person with a shallow ego cannot be man enough to accept defeat and too many feel they must facilitate his subterfuge to garner support.

A few more vignettes for Hugh Curtler from his memorial service

As a few of us have written in tribute (Lisa and Jill), our friend Hugh Curtler passed away last summer. With the pandemic upon us, his wife Linda and family delayed the memorial service to yesterday, which included an online viewing. Several friends, relatives and students spoke in tribute. Here are a few of the poignant and funny stories about our friend:

Hugh was a teacher, coach and friend. Several of his former university students and friends spoke of his impact on their lives. A few said Hugh taught them how to think in his philosophy class. Other classes were more lecture and rote, so Professor Curtler’s stood out. A few talked of changing majors or minoring in philosophy. One spoke of his mentoring.

He also started the Honors program at the university, Southwest Minnesota State, and the women’s tennis team. One of his early tennis players spoke of how it all got started and the influence Coach Curtler had on their lives. On Lisa’s blog she has a video of Hugh speaking of the tennis program start-up and rise to prominence.

But, a few funny stories were thrown in that made us smile or laugh. One former student spoke of Hugh and him walking along the campus having discussions in a Yoda-like fashion, as if Master Yoda was one of the students there. A co-ed student said she and several of her friends saw them laughing and wondered what it was all about.

A long-time friend spoke of Hugh and Linda’s bird-watching hobby. He called them both one day when an unusual bird was in his front yard and left a humorous message. He said he saw this bird and called them, but since neither were there, he just shot it and threw it in the freezer to be identified later. They knew he was joking, but were not entirely sure.

One student spoke of several students dressing in formal attire for one of his classes to celebrate a milestone. The good professor walked in and was stunned, but continued the class to the elegantly dressed students. Apparently, he still had some of the champagne left when he passed.

His sister wrote a note to be read at the service. She spoke lovingly of her brother and mentioned their common love for watching the comedienne Carol Burnett’s show on Saturday night. That was one of their touchstones. Mine too, as I grew up doing the same.

Finally, the bird-killing storyteller spoke of a recurring joke he had with Hugh knowing his feelings about politics. He would pretend to be a campaign person from a candidate Hugh did not care for and call him to thank him for his donation. He used the name Sarah Palin as an example, since she is back in the news running for Congress. He knew he could always get Hugh going with such a ploy.

Hugh will be remembered well. I miss his comments as much as I miss his blog. His voice was a lot like our British friend Roger’s, who offers context and history. Please take a look at my previous blog which has links to Jill and Lisa’s more detailed ones.

A New Palindrome

Many moons ago, I had a colleague named Ada, who I called my favorite “palindrome.” Ada was a delight to work with and knew precisely what it meant, so she gave me a novel to read called “Palindrome” that she thought I might like. For those who may not know, a palindrome is a word that has the same spelling backwards and forwards.*

The most famous English palindrome is “Madam I’m Adam” which can be read forward or backwards sans the punctuation. Yet, many names are good palindromes. Ada, Anna, Elle, Eve, Hannah, Sis, e.g. fit the bill. And, Mom and Dad are the most popular palindromes. The most recent numerical palindrome is the year 2002, but we had one eleven years before in 1991. Before then, we would need to go back to 1881.

Yet, palindromes can also refer to identical twins. They are as close to mirror images as we can get in nature. Not to spoil the novel by this name, but identical twins factor into the storyline. 

I bring this up as my wife and I have a new favorite palindrome. Ada will have to step aside as the old favorite, as we have a new niece named Hannah. Hannah is a great name to begin with, but the fact it is a palindrome makes it even more worthwhile. Welcome to the world Hannah. I know your parents are glad you were not identical twins

*palindromic number (also known as a numeral palindrome or a numeric palindrome) is a number (such as 16461) that remains the same when its digits are reversed. In other words, it has reflectional symmetry across a vertical axis. The term palindromic is derived from palindrome, which refers to a word (such as rotor or racecar) whose spelling is unchanged when its letters are reversed. The first 30 palindromic numbers (in decimal) are:0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 101, 111, 121, 131, 141, 151, 161, 171, 181, 191, 202, … (sequence A002113 in the OEIS).

Nowhere Boy

Being a huge Beatles’ fan, I stumbled on to a movie released in 2009 called “Nowhere Boy” after the John Lennon penned song “Nowhere Man.” The movie takes us through the troubled life of the teenage John just as he is about to launch a musical career. It should be noted this career seemed very unlikely at the start of the movie.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson does an admirable job as the troubled Lennon who was not the best of students, while he dealt with his Uncle George’s death and the reemergence of his mother Julia into his life. Two women, though, play a vital role in his life – his aunt Mimi (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) who raised him with George (played by David Threlfall) in her sister’s absence and his mother played by Anne-Marie Duff.

The story focuses mainly on these two sisters and John. Whether the movie tells the story 100% correctly, it does impart the needed theme his mother was not around for long stretches and his father was nowhere to be seen. When Julia got back together with him, it was more like she was a big sister than a mother aiding his truancy and rebellious tendencies. But, she also taught him about Rock-n-Roll and how to play the banjo, which he jumped at. Apparently, she was gifted and could pick up playing pretty quickly, a trait he seemed to have as well.

Mimi was the sober mother figure doing her best. She came across as not endearing, but John realized eventually how important she was in his life seeing his mother being less responsible. Mimi would buy him his first (and second) guitars, but she also sold the first one when he had failing grades. That made him none too happy, especially when his group The Quarrymen” had a gig that night. And, while Julia loved Rock-n-Roll, Mimi would prefer Tchaikovsky as listening music.

A young Paul McCartney is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. George Harrison (played by Sam Bell) makes a brief entrance, but for this movie he is put in the background. Josh Bolt plays a band member and friend Pete and Olivia Lovibond plays Marie, an earlier love interest. David Morrissey plays a key role as Julia’s boyfriend and father to John’s stepsisters. The movie is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and was written by Julia Baird and Matt Greenhaight. It should be noted Julia Baird is John’s youngest half-sister.

The movie is worth the watch whether you are Beatles’ fan or not. Rotten Tomatoes gives in an 80, e.g. It is easy to see why Lennon had a constant chip on his shoulder as a youth and how he had to become a better person to harness his talent. And, per the movie his observation to Mimi that you and Julia are still sisters, is a key point in his and their relationship.

The response to an inane remark

Having been in consulting for over thirty years before I retired, clients would on occasion say things that were not the most vetted of ideas. Sometimes the ideas would be too costly, sometimes too administratively burdensome, sometimes too hard to communicate and sometimes the idea may be stretching or breaking the law.

I had a colleague who had a disarming way of digging deeper, putting the onus on himself. This would prevent the client from being too offended by questioning. They may not be right, but they are still the client. My colleague would say “Help me understand….” as he asked why the client thought this was a good idea.

I mention this today as people have been writing about how to push back on people who are parroting untruthful information or conspiracy stories. Depending on the audience, one action is to simply vote with your feet and walk away. Or some version of “I do not believe that to be true” might suffice. Yet, those do not qualify as good rebuttal.

If you choose to rebut, you must get into a dialogue. This is the reason for my recent post on the Chicago song of that name. You do not want a shouting match, if you want to get heard. So, take my friend’s suggestion as a lead in – “Help me understand.” This will allow further conversation to delve further without being too offensive. Remember, people just want to be heard. So, hear them out and maybe they will do the same. This is how Daryl Davis talked over 200 members of the KKK into quitting.

Our blogging friend Clay used as an example yesterday about the North Carolina man who went to jail for four years for believing the conspiracy story that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a pizza parlor in Washington, DC and acting on it, by storming the place armed with a weapon. Clinton is not perfect and has been made out to be a bogeyman, but really, a child pornography ring?

If he told a friend this plan in advance, the friend might have said, “help me understand…” and saved this person from himself. After hearing the story, a few simple questions may have diffused the situation. The friend could have said something like “I don’t like her either, but c’mon, a child pornography ring? There is no way that can be true.”

I am not naive to think that this will solve our problems and it may be less effective with the most strident. Yet, if Davis can get KKK members to shed their robes, then it must have some validity. One thing is for certain, returning fire with fire by yelling and name calling, will not get you heard. Just watch any talk show with people of divergent opinions. Those folks are not listening to each other, because you cannot listen when shouting.

Let me leave one final thought. As a father of three adult children now, if you really want your children to listen to you, do one key thing. Lower your voice, even to a whisper. That will get their attention.