Saturday, April 24, 2010

The little squirt

My first car was a beautiful metallic maroon 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass that my parents gave me. That car was so sleek and rakish it could make anyone jealous. I know that sounds like I was excessively spoiled but in fact I was riding a bike on busy streets every day to the same job since I was 14. Why that is relevant is that I had kind of shamed my folks into believing I was reliable, responsible and would likely get killed more easily by a bus rolling over me on my bike than INSIDE my car.

Anyway, like all teens, that car became an extension of myself. Unfortunately my interests did not take to ordinary car modifications like cool chrome accessories and tinted windows. I instead chose to modify my window washer pump. It was not a big deal because all I had to do was simply reroute and add the windshield washer lines to the front grill of the car. So then, whenever I hit the windshield washer switch, the water that ordinarily would shoot on the windshield, now fired horizontally like nose-guns in a fighter jet. I only had to restrict the nozzle openings to achieve a very respectable 15 to 20 feet of water fire-power out the front of my car. I also set them at a 30 degree angle aiming upward so as to clear obstacles like bumpers and backs of cars.

As you can imagine, my new invention needed immediate testing so I drove up to the local Burger King and nosed the car into a space facing the front door and fired a full volley of water shots. I was visibly entertained like a circus simian as my car’s streams painted the entry window with little dots and streaks of water. Sadly a much bigger gorilla sized teen rounded the corner with a squeegee and bucket in hand, none too happy with my artwork so I immediately retreated out of the parking lot. Honestly I felt a little bad – but how was I to know that the big dumb monkey-boy had just cleaned the windows. I was a self-indulgent teenager – I thought ALL restaurants had clean windows by magic.

The car was generally a hit at school. On occasion I would use the little squirters to decorate the back of a car at a stoplight or somebody I thought I knew. That soon got challenging too however, especially when everyone always seemed to be inexplicably threatening me with bodily harm after a generous soaking. I never could figure out why as I was a responsible guy – not too spoiled or purposely mean. I was simply doing a public service by washing people’s windows for FREE. Doesn’t anyone believe in CHARITY anymore - I think they were all just jealous?

Sit right down & write a letter

A lot of you won’t even remember that great old 30’s tune “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter”. It is a catchy tune and has been recorded many times by the who’s who of crooners over the last 70 years, including Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Barry Manilow and even Willie Nelson. I’ve linked Nat King Cole’s version here since it’s my big band favorite. Now the REAL point of all this is, at times, YOU should invest some of your precious time and actually sit down and truly write yourself a letter.

Oh no he’s gone all ‘new age’ on us now – time to find a new blog. No, I’m still fairly practical in my philosophies, but I have found this technique of addressing oneself in writing helpful in several ways. First, there have been times in my business life, that I have become, uh let’s say … frustrated, at the way my bosses have approached problems. Instead of blurting out my objections along with how STUPID my superiors were, I FIRST took the time to pen out my issues and formulate a more TACTFUL response. Not only did it allow me a chance to stay employed a little longer, but I could plan countermeasures better to deal with any objections to my way of thinking as well as my own logic issues (NEVER!). This process does not have to be formal at all. Simply step back before you leap, jot down a few notes and think. You’ll be amazed at how helpful it can be to be your own stenographer and ‘Yes man’ all rolled into one.

My daughter’s school has done this second letter writing technique on at least two occasions. Her class was instructed to write a letter to her ‘future self’ and describe what she was learning, doing, and excited by in her future. This is usually limited to only a few years since kids change so quickly, but you get the idea. Write down what you ARE doing in the future and what is important to you then. It is a bit like setting a very long term New Year’s resolution. It may be helpful to refer to that written goal from time to time for anyone my age, but for the kids they actually MAILED the letters a few years later. If nothing else it makes for an interesting time capsule memento and snapshot of the way you saw yourself from an younger and often less sophisticated vantage point.

Abraham Lincoln became even more of a legend for his amazing restraint and letter writing. During the Civil War, after enduring a parade of lackluster Generals from McClellen to Hooker, Lincoln was greatly angered that General George Meade failed to attack General Robert E. Lee after Lee’s devastating losses at Gettysburg in July 1863. Lincoln wrote a scathing letter to Meade, that he effectively and single-handedly had prolonged the war - but Lincoln NEVER SENT that famous letter. Lincoln chose thoughtful restraint rather than rash reaction. Lincoln’s actions eventually stewarded a cantankerous Meade with a big ego to even stay on and serve ably under General Ulysses S. Grant and ultimately secure the war’s end in April, 1865. Lesson Learned: Check your ego, think long term, and write a letter … then promptly keep it to yourself. You can always send scathing criticism and complaints later so THINK first, plan next, and DO LAST!

Whew, that got a bit more ‘cerebral’ than I had intended, especially after starting out with a fun ditty about writing letters to yourself. Ok, to redeem this post and return the blogosphere to its vacuous philosophical ‘Facebook-esque’ roots, I have linked the “Letters Never Sent” website here. I know this site may waste more of your precious time but then again you have plenty of it – you got through this post didn’t you?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Modern Farmer

We are always hearing how independent family farms are going away year after year. In fact I believe the statistic is something like half as many small family farms exist today as a decade ago. Believe it or not, family farmers still represent about 90% of the agriculture industry overall. The rub though, is their production is only about a quarter of the nation’s food output annually. That means that the 10% mega-farm corporate operations are growing 75% of the food supply.

Clearly the massive farming entities are more efficient at nearly every level. If a combine breaks, they have dozens of others. If fertilizer or seed spikes in price, they negotiate a special deal from the supplier to ride out the cost increase. Obviously small farmers don’t have all those luxuries so life can be stressful as they work with what they have, and try to make it ALL work – no matter what. Is it no wonder then that modern progeny do not look to taking over the family farm as a viable long term career choice?

Even if the idea of a family ‘production’ farm appears to be waning, I think it is still important to stress the value in self-sufficiency alone when it comes to this topic. American’s have kind of shook off their agricultural roots at a time when it is now smarter than ever to actually get your hands a little dirty. We all need to RE-learn how to fend for ourselves a little more and stop looking to others in big government and outsiders to sustain us in all things artificial. We should be nurturing our ‘kids’ to take time to put down the cell phones and video games, and get out and make SOMETHING grow. What better way to teach about, planning, perseverance, biology, responsibility, and independence?

No I don’t expect every apartment in America to have its own resident milking cow, nor do I promote child slave-labor to tend to your family bovine. I do realize time is at a premium with kids, errands, eating, celebrations, travel, and … well - JOBS. But why not try to carve out a little MORE time for self-reliance in-between all that endless consumption on behalf of others? There is a unique pleasure in growing and tending to food for your personal use. You not only get the benefit of having the freshest of fresh food but it feels good to break away from book work and offices and take–in some natural light, nature, and FREEDOM once in awhile.

Whether on the porch in a pot, or in a plot on a plat, even Dr. Suess would approve of re-educating your family about personal farming. You don’t pay taxes to buy your own grown food and you don’t have to spend time and gasoline to transport it from the store. You are teaching your family time-honored VALUES about the skill and effort that goes into growing what we all eat. Yes the modern farmer is truly you and I, and with a little practice, we’ll be growing more than food - we’ll be growing respect, independence, and character in our families too!

Trash day in Suburbia

This week was momentous around here. We received a NEW trash can courtesy of the city. It has a serial number on it just like money, so it must be valuable? It is unusually large, tough and sturdy. They say that it is the equivalent of three normal size trash cans, so you can imagine this thing looks like a big blue hunky linebacker with wheels. My wife was quite pleased because she has been sick of our personal trash cans for well over a year. Yes I admit they were a tad offensive to the neighborhood as they were cracking and wobbled a little. I felt the duct tape ‘belt’ around the middle of the cans was a practical touch that gave them character, yet still kept MOST of the discards inside.

The very first thing I put in the new trash can was the other trash can. It probably could have fit whole, but I took the time to cut it up and stack it neatly inside. When you think about it, a trash can is the only NEW thing that you immediately WANT to mess up? I actually felt a little bad about putting trash in it. It was so shiny and new – if it had power steering I might consider driving it instead of my car. Nah that would never do in the summer, I need air conditioning too.

I actually enjoy driving through the neighborhood on trash day. Long ago I learned to suppress my urge to actually dig in my neighbor’s trash for treasures. But like an alcoholic, the desire never completely leaves you especially when your neighbors taunt you. I hate it when they throw away better stuff than what is actually SITTING in my house and being used right now? I have always prescribed to the idea that at any given moment, most anything you want is being thrown out by somebody else. It’s like Newton’s 3rd law of trash picking.

So I am starting out this Earth day on cloud nine. With the addition of these new trash cans, my life’s looking up since the neighbors can’t look down on me anymore for having the worst cans on the street. But still, why couldn’t our city favor our neighborhood equally with something with more curb appeal, like handsome matching mailboxes rather than dirty ol’ trash cans? Somebody in suburbia must have noticed that we are in need of some attention in the postal area too, right? Oh no, I had better not give my wife any more ideas – I just got her used to the duct tape strap holding MOST of the mail in the box!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prime 9 Un-godly Creatures

Whether you believe in natural selection or a higher deity, when it comes to earth’s inhabitants, sometimes you have to just step back and say “What happened?” No I am not talking about rabid sports fanatics or two-faced politicians – those things are just too graphic even for this blog.

Ok, let’s warm up with a couple of unique but cuddly car wash cloths that are really animals, the ‘Sheep Pig’ (Mangalitza Gilt) and the ‘Komondor dog’. I’ll leave to you to decide which one is which.

Well those are not weird enough to really keep you interested and also most of us don’t get enough seafood in our diet, so let me help with Ziggy’s doppelganger, the ‘Blob Fish’, a ‘Yeti Crab’, ‘Sea Pig’, and our happy friend the ‘Axolotl’.

Well after any daring sea quest you have to come up for air right? So I’ll end with the three freakiest land creatures that I could find to complete the prime 9 – the ‘Star-nosed Mole’, ’Pink Fairy Armadillo’, and the ‘Aye-Aye’. I don’t know about you but I would never take my ‘eye-eye’ off him or the rest of his un-godly friends?

Ok, these weirdo creatures should be enough to whet your whistle or maybe your pants if you are easily frightened. But if you want more, follow this link to at least 16 more strange creatures to terrify and satisfy all at the same time. You can also link here for even more background data and a few more pictures of nature’s oddest of oddities – well except maybe sport freaks and lying political hacks. Enjoy!

My Hang Up

It’s been nearly 25 years since I worked in production control management at Ricoh, a Japanese mega corporation. I enjoyed working there and learned many things. I practiced and preached a lot of line scheduling, supply chain management, fancy schmancy ‘just in time’ production, and oh yeah, how to HANG things up!

Well more to the point, I got things up off the production floor and learned to make room for ONLY the stuff that our company really needed to become efficient. Interestingly, it is my wife who NOW practices more of what I preached in those early days. She loves hanging things up and making everything efficient and easy to get to. In fact any long handled tool or pole, if I don’t intercede, will find itself being subjected to perforation by my wife and hung up on some wall. For the most part I love the organization and the relative ease to find any tool at any time.

Recently however, my wife went too far. In the garage, she drilled a hole in a TOILET PLUNGER, and mounted it at eye level so it is the very first thing that greets you when you enter the house. Now I’m realistic about this tool. I know that it is necessary on occasion to have this thing handy for the random 4 inch pipe constriction, but GEEEZ, why must it be easier to reach than a flashlight or a fire extinguisher? What kind of emergency is my wife expecting that requires ‘gunslinger’ access to a stinking potty plunger?

I don’t really think I am going out on a limb crying ‘foul’ here. Who wants a wet- wand in your face when you are groping around in the dark for a light switch? Why can’t this crappy commode un-clogger find a happy home, in some distant corner recess on the garage floor with the spiders, and THEIR restroom utensils? What kind of bathroom mass production is my wife expecting that requires a throne-thruster just in time, or any time, in THAT much of a hurry? Yes I may pout for awhile but I won’t plunge into a porcelain depression over this issue. Don’t worry my wife is privy to my concerns, but even though this ‘hang up’ of mine ‘sucks’, I CAN learn to go with the flow!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fake FLOWER power

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember my Mother showing off her fake potted flowers on 8mm movie film. Yes, every time we watched that movie, my Father would laugh and point out the absurdity of proudly displaying fake flowers in the first place and in REAL flower pots to boot! I think he actually liked them and I did too. I was always amazed at how much labor free color those little plants could provide even when it was colder outside. Still in California, real flowers throughout the year are ‘possible’ so our house always seemed particularly blessed with good fortune to the jealous neighbors.

So it was no surprise as I got older that within my own family unit, we have come to mimic this flower slight of hand. The only problem is that we live in a cold weather state as opposed to balmy West. This creates an immediate credibility problem when people pull up to the house in December to a field of colorful tulips happily in full bloom among the frozen tundra.

I have tried to be more careful since my early oversights. Now I typically try and interlace a few blooming facsimile plants in amongst the dying buds and wilting vines. By winter, I am careful to remove all of the good looking silk plants and simply stick a couple of the crushed green wires with a petal or two left for color. I bend the heads over like they are drooping and cold. When your plants look horrible in winter, they are very believable in Missouri.

Now on the inside of the house, I have a variety of Ficus trees which are all fake. I have several large pots with beautiful green Boston ferns but I never water them because they are silk. By the window sills, there is always a vase or two sporting a fresh rose or Snapdragon. Absurd or not, the little splashes of green leaves and colorful blooms really make the place look engaging. Yes, apparently my Mother taught me well, as I am a master of deception in the fake garden department. Too bad, I never listened when it came to cleaning up my room … because all of my plants are in dire need of a good dusting and polish!

Technology Jaw Droppers

I read a statistic the other day that better than 90% of U.S. residents possess a cell phone. Now isn’t that an amazing number? I did a quick check of Wikipedia and the astounding thing about cell phones is that as of 2007, nearly 61% of the WORLD’S population of 7 billion people, now own a cell phone. Take a second to grab onto that number. Anywhere you go, the odds are that any random person has a cell phone and if he doesn’t the person or two next to him most certainly will. I think the oddest thing about my brief search was that while Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon were at around 31% cell phone saturation among their respective populations, Egypt was a mere 23%.

I am also amazed at my newest laptop. No it is not that big of deal as our family seems to go through one every other year or so. But this round, my local Micro Center delivered an eMachines with wide screen, 2 gigs of ram, a DVD burner, and 160 gig hard drive & WINDOWS 7 for $299. I even saw a discounted similar machine at Best Buy in limited quantities with a $30 rebate last week for $239. Now I complain a lot about incremental taxation as our local and Federal government keep taking a penny here and a half cent there. But I am starting to wonder where can these computer prices go when they are closing in on a $200 price point. It is getting hard to imagine how there is any profit left already when you think of production, warehousing, shipping, software licensing, and retailing.

My final jaw dropper probably won’t surprise most of you but it did me. I understand that Facebook released numbers this week stating they had exceeded their 400 millionth account. I was pondering that statistic as compared to the entire population of the United States of 308 million people. Can you imagine just the storage space required to house all of those pictures and data, not to mention the server banks to process your account requests in a timely fashion. I am beginning to think I am missing out on something by not facing up to Facebook after all these years?

No, I can’t handle anymore jaw dropping excitement that Facebook might provide. I have more than enough on my plate just participating as one of a 100 million or so blogs dotting the globe and I am determined to leave a comment on each of them. Maybe a Twitter text would be a little more efficient? I heard that a couple of years ago, our texting proclivities had exceeded 1 TRILLION messages in a single year. No wonder I am getting tired of writing this post – that’s an awful lot of typing. }:O - LOL !

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Flag of Character

With the Tea Party folks around, I have seen more and more of those Gadsden flags flying. You know the ones, with the bright yellow field, a coiled snake in the middle, and the motto “Don’t tread on me” at the bottom. I like this flag because it is simple and to the point. I think it says just about all that needs to be said, when you are pondering the repercussions of kicking sand in the face of anything with fangs (and with the constitution to use them).

Christopher Gadsden (Feb. 1724 – Sept. 1805) was a wealthy merchant, revolutionary soldier, patriot and later British prisoner from South Carolina. He was among the first to serve in the Continental Congress and for nearly a decade prior, had urged the American colonies to form a union and fight England’s taxation policies. Even among friends Gadsden was outspoken but highly principled, stood for what he believed and was relentless. His grandson and U.S. Diplomat James Gadsden was of similar personality and later aided U.S. Southern transcontinental railroad expansion. The final 30 million acre chunk of New Mexico and Arizona’s current border (“The Gadsden Purchase”), was acquired from Mexico’s infamous dictator Santa Anna in 1852, for about 33 cents an acre.

It is believed that Gadsden’s flag was an adaptation of some of America’s first Philadelphia based Marines and their drum corps. They had painted their bright yellow drums like a coiled snake and emblazoned them with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” motto. Regardless of genus, Gadsden’s flag and the U.S. Marines early history of toughness, resolve, and patriotism have forever become intertwined. It was Gadsden’s vision, and a little later, that of a young America, whose collective character came to be symbolized to the world by that defiant and deadly rattlesnake who prefers to be left alone in peace unless provoked.

In general I like people to fly flags as it shows a little passion; so it goes to reason that the Tea Party participants can relate to Gadsden’s pluck and stalwart symbolism. I believe it is healthy and a time-honored tradition that Americans should stand up and speak out when feeling dismissed or “tread” upon. In 2001 I was amazed at the amount of U.S. flags that flew for many months after 9/11. Despite the tragic catalyst which spurred the outpouring of patriotism, most every street stood up and displayed flags with passion. So smile proudly, when you see Gadsden’s snake, Old Glory, or even your favorite college sport flag flapping stately in the breeze. Regardless of your politics or favorite sport, those are your fellow PASSIONATE patriots simply expressing their points of view freely. They are not merely holding flags as individuals, they are proudly UPHOLDING a united America’s greatest treasure – its true character.

Oklahoma City Memorial

April 19th was the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Federal building bombing in 1995. I am usually not one to dwell endlessly on funerals, memorials, and tragedies, but I thought as an American, today’s event was appropriate and meaningful. Though the time seems to have passed so quickly since this tragedy, I am sure the victim’s families wish they could distance themselves even further from those horrific memories.

I had the opportunity to visit the Memorial and museum about a year ago. I was quite impressed with the beauty of the site and the quality of the exhibits. In particular, I liked that they left a brick wall with original fire escapes and windows that were damaged and burned from the neighboring blast. I also liked that they have flat slate stones in front of the museum with a bucket of sidewalk chalk. You can put any personal sentiment you like on the stone in the multicolored chalk and enjoy reading other visitor’s thoughts and illustrations.

To this day, even 15 years later, a fence that borders the property is covered with flowers, buttons, personal items, and notes from friends, families, and visitors to the memorial. It is touching to walk among the 168 chairs representing the victims – large chairs for the adults, and the smaller chairs representing the children. Even if you have no direct connection to the victims, I think the reverence and respect by your fellow Americans and your National Park taxes will surely make you proud.

So if you ever find yourself in need of something more than a good steak while you are visiting Oklahoma City, plan on dedicating at least a couple of hours to the Memorial. I have linked the National Memorial web site here to the virtual tour page which will give you a better idea of the overall park. Do yourself and family a favor, don’t distance yourself from the Memorial and allow another 15 years to pass before visiting this living piece of history. It’s the American thing to do.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Revolutionary 'Anytime Monoblog Muffins’

You know I’m sick of McDonalds getting credit for innovation. Yeah I know it is true that their dumb Egg McMuffin started the fast-food breakfast revolution in 1972. My jealousy is apparently not unique though as other lunch type restaurants have fully taken notice too. Did you see that now Subway has started to get in on the muffin madness? It’s true they will build you an egg and muffin based breakfast with your choice of toppings. My first problem with Subway is that they NEVER seem to be able to serve any FAST food. My second issue with both of these franchise giants is that their low calorie muffin sandwiches are only served at breakfast and therefore usually unavailable when I’m out and about.

For fun, I once wandered from fast-food place to fast-food place at breakfast-time to see what menu choices were relatively healthy. Sadly as you probably have noticed, with buttery croissant sandwiches, French toast sticks, biscuits n’ gravy, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes etc. there really is not a lot that you can eat if you are watching your waistline. I was actually shocked to discover that Wendy’s did not even offer breakfast options? One look around with nobody but workers in their restaurant until 11 AM might make them want to rethink that business model though?

So as you might have guessed, despite my angst, I am fairly impressed with Muffin and Egg sandwiches. They are high protein, low calorie dense little chunks of energy and especially if you make them yourself, you can even further control the fat and sodium content. Yes I know it is not the ingredients to make these sandwiches that’s hard, it’s the time involved right? Well actually I timed it and without heroics, I can enjoy a very hot, tasty and healthy ‘Monoblog Muffin’ in just under 6 minutes. I think that is a reasonable figure especially for those who hope to someday have a reasonable figure ourselves again.

So if you are game, buy some whole wheat English muffins (regular ones are ok too), eggs, low fat or Fat Free turkey or ham sandwich slices, processed low fat or sharp shredded cheese, and a bag of baby spinach. Spritz a skillet lightly with cooking spray and bust an egg and its yoke. Place 2 slices of low fat turkey or ham on the other half of the skillet. Now start your muffin in the toaster. Low fat cheese will survive skillet temperatures so you can place it directly on the turned meat and cover it with the fully cooked egg to make a stack of sorts. If using shredded full fat cheese or processed slices, place half directly on one side of the toasted muffin before stacking the meat and egg so it will melt. DO NOT use butter, mayo or salts. The skillet spray, natural fats and sodium in the meat and cheese is more than enough to make the sandwich tasty. Before topping with the other half of the muffin, stack some baby spinach, the remaining cheese and pepper to taste. Now you can use the THIN sliced bagels but they will add another 10 calories or so and ‘all white’ liquid Egg Beaters are fine if you are overly concerned with cholesterol. Don’t use a full sized bagel or it will double the bread calories. As with the Subway version though, I noticed the more complex flavors you add like peppers, onion, jalepeno, ‘everything bagels’ – whatever, the sandwich will lose its focus. Though there is meat involved, the featured protein is the egg so of course experiment to taste, but in reality, as McDonald’s has proven - simpler is better.

Do the numbers yourself and the ‘Monoblog Muffin’ comes in at a very respectable 270 calories which is 10% less than McDonalds and even healthier due to the reduction of saturated fat and sodium in preparation, as well as the addition of a green leafy vegetable. Take in this sandwich anytime with a small glass of orange juice or ½ cup of fresh fruit and you have covered a full portion of ALL the food groups. Wow, 2000 calories left to expend over the course of the day after such a satisfying, delectable, and nutritious meal; NOW that’s what I call revolutionary! Maybe Wendy’s should give me a call about a breakfast menu and we can ‘do lunch’ … uh I mean ‘Monoblog MUFFINS’!

The ‘Taj’ Garage

My garage makes me smile. I have always dreamed of having the ‘ultimate’ garage, not just for cars, but for all the stuff that is ordinary relegated to the lost nooks and crannies of the house too. In general I am a fan of large areas of open space but no matter what I do, my garage always seems stuffed from corner to corner with important possessions. Those things are not always valuable but they ‘MAY’ have a repair purpose someday, so I feel compelled to keep them. Despite the clutter, I am proud of the possibilities that are contained in those walls, and that makes me happy.

Now I can handle lumping general tools, toys, garden, and auto stuff into respective corners of the garage but that’s about where my contributions end. My wife is far better at organizing the big picture down into all of those little sub-categories so I can logically store things and more importantly FIND them easily. 9 times out of 10, that is our biggest pet peeve – not that we don’t have something, but that we CANNOT find it. I like a garage to have character, not necessarily to be perfect. I like having those odd-ball screws, springs, or raw material that I can make into something needed someday and somehow.

I had a neighbor who dealt with clutter HIS best way and that was to NEVER let it start. He simply would throw out or give away his leftover garage things. He found it all too messy to store and classify so he would just buy what he needed new every time garage parts or fix-its were in order. Every couple of weeks he even would use a pressure hose to wash out his garages to make the floors spotless and dust free. The walls were white and in one corner was a mower, a trash can, and a few garden tools and that was it. I had another neighbor who lit up her garage like a car sales showroom and had glossy black and white tiles over the entire floor. She had white closed cabinets at the back of the space and a TV hanging from the ceiling in one corner with a large mirror along one side wall. I kind of felt like it was more of a coffee shop for the cars than an actual garage?

I know I will never have garages like either neighbor described. Though the simplistic beauty of having clean uncluttered space is attractive to me, in another way I find that my neighbors have missed the point of a REAL garage. That space is supposed to be for all the things that aren’t good enough for the other parts of the house. It is the work space to service and support all the machines and systems that make our homes and lives tolerable. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be organized and functional for a large variety of missions. It needs to fit your personality like a glove and to be more than a place to store cars, bikes and things – it needs to make you smile. Yes, the ultimate ‘Taj Mahal’ garage provides functional opportunities for your work, your passions, and your limitless possibilities – as long as you can ULTIMATELY find them of course.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Up to my lashes in Ashes

The recent Icelandic volcanic eruption has proven to be a dramatic example that nature is still the boss of this rotating antenna ball called Earth. The eruption has caused the unprecedented disruption of air travel from a good portion of Europe to international destinations requiring Icelandic over-flight. It has yet to be seen how much effect this will have on the world’s climate. However, fine volcanic ash has a tendency to circulate rapidly when it reaches the upper atmosphere and will likely affect global temperature.

The last event that I remember was Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. The upper level atmospheric ash caused measureable global cooling for a year as roughly 10% less light from the sun could reach the earth’s surface. Ash laden eruptions from Pinatubo lasted for nearly 5 months and stratospheric volcanic dust from the event were traceable for over 3 years.

So while I obviously agree with the current countermeasure of closing International air travel temporarily, what is Europe really going to do if a significant ash plume lasts for 3 to 5 months? Does international commerce simply stop and every major European airline go bankrupt or do flight times and fuel costs increase as air travel tries to resume flying around the ash laden clouds?

The irony of course is that nature in about a week has made a more significant negative impact on the world’s climate than man-made sources have over the past decade. I am not arguing against conservation. In fact, I believe we should all endeavor to use less energy, keep working on lower impact fuel sources, and re-use whatever we can. But in reality, no amount of taxes, legislation, world meetings, or feel-good hand-wringing can change one unshakeable edict. Mother nature still runs with the ‘house odds’ and carries the BIGGEST stick. She can bounce us all to the curb or put us up to our lashes in ashes, anytime she wants.

Choose a PERFECT college

It was a year ago that we escorted our kid to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas for the first time. My kid had been near the place many times before on her way to Corpus Christi, but she had never stopped in. Trinity was the last school to visit before the National college acceptance day of May 1st . Our plane arrived late but the school quickly escorted my kid to where she needed to be and my wife and I headed to a parent orientation. The weather was sunny and lovely which was always a good way to start, but we wondered if our daughter could feel at home at the place.

At lunch we all got to eat together in the dining hall and our daughter declared that she WOULD attend Trinity. We were surprised at her connection but were pleased with her excitement and sudden decisiveness. For all new college kids and their parent’s NO place is perfect but every school wants you to think THEY are. Every decision is magnified too because you are acutely aware, that while you’ve made a choice FOR something, you have also made a choice AGAINST something else.

That is some of the very first ADULT lessons that your kids will learn at college – you can’t do it all or be all things to all people, and no decision is risk-free . The real world starts creeping in very quickly and soon your time is filled up with new priorities and responsibilities. In many ways this new life is exciting and fun, but in other ways, as a few challenging classes and your odd roomie try to confound you, life is suddenly scary and harsh. Overall it’s precisely where you need to be though, and it’s exactly the stuff you need to learn in life; so in that sense, this place, THIS college, … it’s PERFECT!

So ‘Good Luck’ to all of you that are now in the shoes that we and our daughter stepped in for a test drive just twelve months ago. I don’t envy the work that you and your children have had to endure over high school’s final year. But I can assure you that very soon your collective efforts and patience will be finally rewarded with not necessarily the perfect college, but more importantly, A PERFECT CHOICE!