Monthly Archives: July 2013

Profit or Loss?

My education is in business, an interesting field, but not necessarily for good reasons.

Simple business is when you find something that people want, build or buy it, add in your other costs (rent for your store, salaries, etc.), and determine a selling price. In an ideal world, both you and the customer leave a transaction reasonably satisfied.

Today, many people are in the business of cooking the books. By using creative accounting, tax loopholes or other corporate they make a significant profit without actually providing anything of value.

When you read history, you may see Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands as great explorers opening new sea routes and discovering new (at least new to them) places. What happened to their power and prestige?

Generally they became banking and finance experts. In other words, they became experts at moving money and making a profit without providing anything of value.

Profit is not a dirty word – it encourages us to succeed. To invent. To build. But profit should actually be earned.

When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, He told them that the worker was due his wages.

His parables often utilized the rich master as a metaphor for the Father. The good steward invested the master’s money and made a profit.

He also taught that we should build up our wealth where moth or decay won’t destroy it.

That’s the kind of business advice that we can live by.

Busy Weekend

It has been busy. Friday we made more progress on cleaning out the garage as well as some work on my antennas. We still can’t park in the garage, but the antenna situation has improved.

There’s a type of antenna called a “Yagi” (after its inventor) or a “beam” based on its appearance. It’s a highly directional antenna that lets you aim your signal in a particular direction. I had one years ago, and I’m ready for one again. In the meantime, the existing antennae (sorry, had to do it) after the weekend’s work are now operational and let me talk to stations in the Caribbean and much of Europe.

It was great.

usgs.gov

usgs.gov

Later in the weekend, we went treasure hunting at the thrift shops and I found a 4.5 inch reflector telescope with electronic positioning. It needs pieces parts, but I’ve tried various telescopes over the years, and this is the closest to what I’ve wanted.

I’ll keep you posted as I work on it.

The thought of seeing Saturn’s rings or Jupiter’s moons with my own eyes is absolutely awesome.

Detroit’s Demise

I grew up in Toledo, about an hour south of Detroit, so I feel a personal twinge about the financial disaster Detroit now faces.

It wasn’t always so. They used to say that, “What’s good for General Motors, is good for the country.” Supposedly GM had to keep its market share below 51% to not run afoul of monopoly laws.

Imported cars were rare.  They were exotics, like Lamborghinis, sports cars like the MG, or quirky like the VW Beetle.

How did Detroit go from being on top of the world to bankruptcy?

Two words.

Flying Cars.

The Jetsons! Hanna-Barbera

The Jetsons!
Hanna-Barbera

They’ve been promising us flying cars for years. “Thunderbirds,” the 1950’s black and white marionette space show had flying cars. The Jetsons made it practically a promise, and, if that wasn’t enough, we had the hover cars in “Back to the Future.”

So, Detroit, it’s all Hollywood’s fault.

Where Are the Elves?

Free Advertising for Keebler (I prefer chocolate and peanut butter if you feel compelled to respond)

Free Advertising for Keebler
(Any thing chocolate and peanut butter if you feel compelled to respond)

I recall a story from my childhood in which the elves came at night to help a cobbler make shoes. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard that Keebler uses an elf as their mascot since “Keebler” sounds like cobbler.

I want to know where MY elves are.

I don’t expect them to go to work for me, but elves who made coffee, fixed broken things, etc. would be mighty helpful. So far, none have shown up, so I have to do those things myself.

Oddly, when I do, my wife has this funny Mona Lisa smile.

Pope Francis

 

 

 

Pope Francis created mayhem in Brazil when the driver of the Fiat he was in made a wrong turn, and his car was mobbed. To the chagrin of security officials, he had traveled simply in a charter flight without the bulletproof popemobile.

Word is he carried his own luggage.

He still refuses the Papal residence, staying in a modest guesthouse.

He dispenses with the fleet of Mercedes Benz (and apparently chauffer), and instead drives a 2008 Ford Focus.

At first I had a problem with that.

I drive a 2007 Ford Focus.

But then I figured – hey, he’s the Pope. It’s okay if his car is newer than mine.

Thieves, Scoundrels and Billionaires

 

baronsOur current economy is due, to a large part, to those who had the knowledge, the ability and the guile to work the system.

The executives of companies “too big to fail” who skimmed the profits, got a government bailout and paid themselves bonuses out of the bailout.

The mortgage company executives who made questionable loans and bundled them so that the risk was no longer identifiable.

The derivative traders who made the investment instruments so complicated that no one knew what they were worth.

We’ve always had those types.

But somehow the Medicis and their contemporaries gave us the art of the Renaissance.

The robber barons gave us coast to coast railroads and telegraphs.

I don’t credit the rich and powerful for these benefits. Instead, I think this is God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Even the greediest, most despicable person’s actions will ultimately reflect God’s will.

It’s a comforting thought.

Home Again, Home Again

SONY DSC

It’s the middle of the night, and we just got back from the airport. At half past midnight, our daughter’s flight arrived after her soccer camp.

With all my kids I’m amazed at how I enjoy seeing them learn and do new things while simultaneously knowing that they’re so close to growing up and being on their own.

As we read in Ecclesiastes: The words of David’s son, Qoheleth, king in Jerusalem: Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun? One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.

Each generation wants the next to be a little better. Better educated. Better positioned for a successful career. To do well.

However, the most important thing we really want for our kids is for them to do good. To know that God has a plan for them that is better than anything they could ever imagine for themselves. To know how to trust Him.

I don’t have the talent to convince them by logic or clever arguments, so my wife and I have to try to teach by example. Examples like showing up together (complete with her brother) at the airport in the middle of the night with a small (Walmart) bouquet and her favorite Tropical Smoothie.

I figure that if we show them what love is, it cannot lead anywhere but to God.

You Can’t Hide from God

Michelangelo Cistine Chapel

Michelangelo
Cistine Chapel

Genesis 3

“(8) They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

(9) Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

(10) He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

The Bible is a marvelous teaching tool written to make us think.

When I read this passage, I don’t see it as God not knowing where Adam was, but instead as His way of saying, “You can’t hide from Me.”

We can deny His existence. We can pretend He can’t see what we’re doing. We can fool ourselves, but we can’t fool Him.

In other words, God is always near us.

When we’re tired, or lonely, or discouraged, God is near. He’s always close enough to hear the smallest, quietest prayer.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra

Frank Capra

I happened to run across some information about Frank Capra the academy award winning  motion picture director. You may know him for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed – a Christmas staple. If you grew up in the fifties or sixties you may also have enjoyed a reprieve from your science textbook to watch the sixteen millimeter films “Our Mr. Sun,” and “Hemo the Magnificant,” also directed by Frank Capra.

Capra came to America from Italy at the age of six, and was the embodiment of the American dream.

He believed in democracy, freedom and that man could and should do good.

Toward the end of his career he regretted the film industry’s attitude of anything for a buck. He abhorred its reliance on shock to attract audiences. He condemned its focus on nudity, violence and especially in dredging up the evil in men.

Today, almost all media has taken this path. Cable television. The Internet. The “News.”

I understand that evil is in this world, but things become evil when the goodness is removed, just as we have darkness when the light is removed.

This world as God intended was created good. Fortunately, there will always be people who aspire to do good; who try to treat others with respect; who value decency, and freedom, and who see the good in the world and their fellow man. Who try to fill the void of evil with good.

Frank Capra was one such man.

No! Really!

 

Al-Capone-9237536-2-402

First, I sat down and started to write. An ant walked across my screen. Then another. And another. (Yes, I know it sounds like the Monty Python bit, “A Minute Past.”)

My computer has been invaded by ants.

Other people’s computers get viruses – mine gets ants.

So I decided to play with the dog. As you may know, Louis is a hound just over a year old. He’s grown on the outside but a big puppy on the inside. A very BIG puppy. During the recreational activities he lunged and hit me in the nose.

I’m sure tomorrow at work people will ask. “Who punched you?”

Rather than try to explain I’m just going to say, “Big Louie. It was just a playful tap.” Let their imaginations run wild.

Prior Planning Prevents ?!$$ Poor Performance

Oil painting  Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Oil painting
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

I love planning.

I love determining where an effort is and to where it is headed.

I love figuring out how to get to the goal; what resources are needed; what obstacles lie in the way, and how to get around them.

I hate planning.

I hate the way that people “wish away” all of the problems.

What if there’s a hurricane? No, problem, we handle hurricanes all the time.

What if the levees don’t hold; the Ninth Ward could be flooded? Don’t worry, the levees are fine.

What if we need to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people? That’s why we have Interstate 10 and Interstate 12, so it will be fine.

Too bad I can’t just wish away those people who wish every problem away.

G-O-O-O-O-A-L!!!

Denver-bound!

Denver-bound!

Our daughter, not yet 13, is taking her first semi-solo trip. She’ll be traveling with a group from her soccer club to Denver for the national soccer camp.

We are not dealing with a scared, frantic child.

Mom, on the other hand, is a different story.

There’s something unsettling about having a child take one of those big steps.

What if…?

What if…?

The packing is done. We plan on being at the airport at 5:00 AM (at least traffic will be light on the way there, not so much on the way home).

Now, all we have to deal with is reality. Our children are growing up.

HOWEVER

 

Federal Furlough Friday

Federal Furlough Friday

I get a three day weekend every week for the next eleven weeks, HOWEVER, the extra day will be without pay.

In the meantime, here are a few HOWEVERs I learned from the mainstream media.

Justin Bieber, was videoed urinating in a mop bucket, HOWEVER, he did call Bill Clinton to apologize.

Fish oil is going to kill me through prostate cancer, HOWEVER, having cancer may save me from Alzheimers.

My cats are going to kill me through microbes in their litter box, HOWEVER, they make great companion animals for people who are dying.

Americans, are exercising more, HOWEVER, they’re still getting more obese.

To lose weight many people drink diet soda, HOWEVER, it may actually make you crave more calories.

I could write more, HOWEVER, I’m out of ideas.

Renaissance Man

Leonard da Vinci

Leonard da Vinci

I’ve been described as a “Renaissance Man” because of my wide range of interests. I’ve always thought that it was kind of cool to be described that way.

However, my dog has enlightened me. He’ll be lying calmly. I walk toward where I leave my car keys and he’s up and moving like a lightning bolt. “Car! Ride!”

I walk out the back door to the deck. “Grill! Food!”

There’s a noise outside. “Squirrel!”

You get the picture. Unfortunately, I realized that Renaissance Men are…

“Book! Read!”

“Computer!”

“Guitar!”

“Ham Radio!”

Maybe that’s why the dog and I get along.

You Should Be Fired

I intentionally try to avoid political topics – Lord knows our nation is divided enough. From time to time, though I feel I need to point out the obvious.

fired

If I contract with somebody to build a house for me, and after selling my existing home, I find that my new home is not only not complete, but barely started, what will I do? I don’t care if the electricians blame the plumbers. I don’t care if the plumbers all say it’s the carpenters’ fault. I hired a contractor to build me a house, and there’s no house.

If we send people to Congress, we likewise expect that they are going to do what we sent them to do. I don’t care if the Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Republicans. The Congress has not done their job.

People who don’t do their jobs should be fired.

Do we have a workable budget? No.

We’re sending money to countries that don’t even have a government while we’re making the employees of our government take time off without pay.

Except, of course, for Congress.

Therefore I suggest that we call Congress on the carpet and fire them. Every one of them.

Yes, I know your Congressman was able to get his/her district funding for [Insert your pet project here]. I don’t care, and neither should you if your project is at the expense of the nation as a whole.

We’re not a series of independent and competing congressional districts. We’re a nation. “One nation, under God, indivisible.”

Send an letter/e-mail/whatever to your senators and congressional representative and tell them that based on the performance of Congress as a whole, unless things change you’re going to vote against all incumbents at the federal level in hopes that the next Congress understands for whom they work, and what is expected.

Faux Pet Peeve du Jour

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CNN Link

Today I’m going to rant about sand sculptors.

I see all these beautiful sand sculptures knowing that in a day these sculpture will succumb to wind, waves, kids and critters. Hours and hours of work for only a brief period of enjoyment.

I suspect that these artists are good not only with sand but paints, clay, marble, concrete, stainless steel, anti-matter, etc.

I believe that they are so good, that they make sand sculptures just to show guys like me that they can create beauty that will disappear, and I have to work hard just to have a decent lawn.

Okay, artists, you win.

Independence Day

1776 Ben Frnaklin telling John Adams, "Don't worry, the history books will clean it up."

1776
Ben Franklin telling John Adams, “Don’t worry, the history books will clean it up.”

It’s July 2nd – the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress voted for independence. John Adams predicted fairly accurately how we’d celebrate Independence Day, with parades, fireworks and such, but he figured that we’d celebrate the second, not the fourth.

The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th, which is why that date appears at the top of the document; “In Congress, July 4, 1776”, but the motion was voted on and approves on the second.

Incidentally, most of the delegates signed the Declaration on August 4th, not July 4th, with the last signature, Thomas McKean not being added until 1781.

However, this is all trivia. It makes things interesting, but does not detract from the importance of the event. A handful of accomplished but very human (i.e. flawed) men worked through their differences and created this great country of ours.

When we despair at the political antics we see today, perhaps it is good to remember that beloved Thomas Jefferson came in second to John Adams and therefore was Adams’ vice president. The next election cycle he hired an expert to run a vicious campaign against Adams accusing him of being a hermaphrodite, among other things. (For an interesting Mental Floss/CNN article, click [HERE]).

Our democratic republic is hardly perfect, but I argue that it’s as good as we humans can do.

P.S. As you know, I enjoy the Musical/Movie “1776” and have tried to make it a family tradition to watch it the weekend closest to the 4th. Unfortunately, there’s not too much enthusiasm, and in a year when I’m down to one child without a driver’s license, the chance for it becoming a tradition will be gone.

Random Thoughts

I understand that in theory competition is good. However, are 500 different smartphones really necessary?

It’s mind-blowing that JC Penney’s effort to lower prices didn’t work; and people prefer a higher price with coupons in order to purchase the same product at its formerly everyday low price.

Great Britain is looking at combining DNA from three adults in the production of a single child. Ethical issues aside, this means that each teenager may be able to drive three people nuts.

Did anyone actually see all those cicadas the news was talking about this spring?

Which is more weird – seeing the movie star ten years after their last film with no makeup OR the first time seeing a picture of your parents when they were in high school?

Governments have statutes of limitations that limit how long someone may be charged with a crime or sued. The exceptions are serious crimes, such as murder, and political incorrectness.

Remember in the 1960s when fighting pollution meant reducing the carbon in the air? Now they’re looking forward to an increase in the carbon to mitigate the greenhouse effect.

Fifty years ago the phone companies dropped exchange names, like “Greenwood” in favor of all numeral telephone numbers. The post office introduced zip codes and people were afraid that they’d become just numbers. Of course when you have names like “Moon Unit,” “Blanket,” “Ke$ha,” and “North” perhaps being known by a number is better.