Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekend Packs

 
 


"Sometimes asking "why" is not the right question - however, asking "why not" may lead to the right answer..."



I am going to let some in on a little secret. Some already know this, so for them it will not come as too much of a shock. In the county we live in, in the school district my kids went to school in, we have a real problem with hunger. And it is growing. For most of us, we just don't understand. We don't see it. We look around our neighborhoods, and everything appears to be fine. But it is there. In fact, in this school district alone, we have hundreds of kids who are homeless, hungry, or hurting.

Here is the sad truth. Monday through Friday, many kids are able to eat based primarily on getting free or reduced meals in school. Come the weekend, that benefit stops. Many of these kids go hungry until they get back to school on Monday morning. Before you start asking "why", and trust me, I have - one must just "do". I have had to reconnect the severed connection between by head and my heart to get involved in this.

One of the things I have learned from studying this problem is a basic truth. These kids don't enjoy this. Most are embarrassed by it. Some are angry with the state of their home life. However, I think one truth we can all agree on is this - the fact we have hungry kids in our midst is intolerable. That is the bad news.

Here is the good news. We can fight back against hunger. We can do something about this problem. More and more schools and youth drop in centers are offering "weekend packs". They are filled with enough easy to prepare food to allow these kids to have meals on Saturday and Sunday. The food is not a feast, but it is enough to get by on.

If you are interested in helping, contact your school district. They will get you connected with churches, drop in centers, or social services agencies that collect and distribute food for weekend packs. Our church is collecting this weekend. We hope to collect enough food to make thousands of weekend packs to be used right here in our community. None of us can do everything, but we all can do something.


Jobs in Realville

 
 



"The days of having a job for life with a great retirement package have gone the way of the Dodo Bird..."



Even though retired, I still read the business section of the paper. Only today, I read it for different reasons. Not only do I read the business section, I also scour the internet for articles which tell the REAL story of today's economy. They are out there, and the picture they paint is not pretty for many of the working folks today.

We have been hearing quite a bit from the front page of the newspaper about the travesty of the minimum wage. It is too low. One can't raise a family on $7.25/hour. It needs to be raised to $10.10/hour to give people a livable wage. This story is a canard. Nobody in this country, not even living in Appalachia, can support a family of four making $20k/year (That is $10.10/hour). If you want to use the term "livable wage" to support the family of four, then say $40k/year. In today's economy, making $40k/year would be a stretch, but possible.

However, while the press is focusing on this non-story of minimum wage, there is a much bigger story happening. I say minimum wage is a non-story for one reason only - it was NEVER intended to be a living wage salary. It was entry level for unskilled people. A place to start, not stay. If one's working skills are only suited for entry level wages, then we have a much bigger problem in our country.

The people who have gone to school, learned a trade, have a different problem. More and more companies are not offering employee retirement. That benefit is quickly becoming extinct. I talked to a friend of mine the other day. He told me his company informed the employees at the end of last year the retirement benefit was changing in 2014. Rather than getting a "normal retirement" using the "high five" formula, everyone will be getting $1,000 for every year worked. My friend is 50. If he works until 65, he will walk out of there with a check for $15k. Figure how long that will last.

Also this week, more layoffs were announced from Best Buy and IBM. Good paying jobs with some benefits now gone. These people will be looking for employment in a land riddled with part time, seasonal, contracted work, much of which has a lower pay scale and no benefits. This is becoming our new norm. The new realville. If you have a good job with good benefits, get down on your benders every night and thank the Good Lord. What was expected, is now becoming rare.

A good country becomes great by raising the tide for all boats. A great country becomes ordinary by draining the pond so only a few boats are left floating. We are starting to sink folks. It is happening. We need the adults back in charge - and quickly.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The new traffic jam...

 
 


"This was going to be the best thing since canned beer..."



Wow - we never saw this one coming. Years ago, when the plan was hatched to use the BN railroad tracks to run a train from St. Cloud to Minneapolis it did not sound like a bad idea. Heck, the track was already there, and it certainly had more bandwidth for use. The sales job was put together, funding was cobbled, and before you knew it, we had the Northstar.

Next up, the problems. The funding was never enough to run this train up to St. Cloud. All the lobby efforts that the good folks in St. Cloud did to get this thing going fell on deaf ears. It was not fiscally viable. Each ride must be subsidized with taxpayer funding. Highway 10 is still a mess. The Northstar was supposed to greatly reduce the amount of traffic on that major road. It did not. The number of trains which run are not enough for many of the people who work downtown. If you are in a late meeting and miss the last train out of town, well, you are stuck.

However the biggest problem of late is the congestion. There is a big traffic jam on the tracks and it will only get worse. Why? Blame North Dakota and the President. North Dakota is sitting on one of the biggest oil discoveries in our history. The oil has to go somewhere, and most of it needs to go south to our refineries on the Gulf Coast. And because our President has played favorites with the green wackos on Left, we never did build the XL Keystone Pipeline. So here we sit, with people sitting either on stalled trains, or waiting at stations for up to 90 minutes.

Don't worry though - Congress is going to look into this mess. And do what? Build more tracks? Tell us not to ship crude on rail anymore? Buy more from OPEC? Has anyone noticed the recent spike on oil due in part to Venezuela? No, we are stuck. Nowhere to go. A shiny new train which often gets caught in the queue behind a BN train pulling 100 or so oil tankers.

I don't know where this will end up. It will probably end up costing more money to build more track. The train lovers will not let this pet rock go. Eminent domain, environmental issues and so on will prolong this need for more track. Meanwhile, the workers who sit patiently on the stalled Northstar can while away the hours playing Candy Crush. The best laid plans... 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My change, please!

 
 
 


"Excuse me - I did not say keep the change!"



Yesterday I stopped at a store to buy some cold medication. Everything all together cost slightly over $15. I gave the clerk a $20 bill. She thanked me for my purchase and then told me she was keeping my change. I asked her why. It made no sense that I should have to pay more for something than it cost. She then told me there were other things she could do with my change. A possible store expansion, helping to pay off another person's bill, or just buying more inventory. I told her that was not fair - it was my money! She smiled and responded, "Not any more."

As you can see from this analogy, our state lawmakers are now back in session. Some are giddy with laughter as they think they just received a bonus. A bonus? Not quite. They have some extra money from you and I as we were charged too much last year to pay the state's bills. So whose money is it? Democrats believe that every dime that roles into St. Paul belongs to them. Conservatives on the other hand, believe we all have a responsibility to keep a "right-sized" government running. Period. Not a penny more than that. So if the numerator is bigger than the denominator, we get our change back.

I find it amusing that this issue even ends up in a discussion. If there is a deficit, that means the state spent more than what was allocated to it. Costs would then need to be cut to get the deficit "trued up". If there is a surplus, the state collected too much money. The excess money should be returned to the taxpayers.

No company in America is run the way our government is. Very little accountability, very little cost containment, very little acumen. Looking at the MNSure mess is a great example. April Todd-Malmlov was put in charge of this thing, a position she was not in the least bit qualified for. She made a mess out of it, and then gave bonus money to the people under her who helped her make the mess. Whose money was it? Ours, the taxpayers. Oh well - life goes on.

We expect accountability in Washington as well as St. Paul. We expect our government to be right-sized or down-sized. We will pay our taxes to fund a right-sized government, and not a penny more. If some incompetent person is put in a position of spending authority and wastes taxpayer money, many heads up the line should roll. In family budgets today, every penny counts. The same should be true for our government.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Defense Cuts?

 
 


"Yes, our military needs to go on a diet, but we should not starve it to death..."


Yesterday, our newly minted Secretary of Defense proposed some defense cuts which would start in 2015. The cuts were to make our military "smaller and smarter", and better able to meet today's threats. Hagel was right on half of his statement - it will be smaller. How much smaller? The smallest since most of us have been alive. The smallest in 74 years.

Do I think there is waste in the Pentagon? You betcha! However, part of Hagel's plan was to put these new cuts on the backs of the troops, both serving and retired. I can tell you right now, that will be a non-starter in the House. There are still some black eyes when the sequester cuts were replaced by cuts in some retiree COLA amounts.

So let us look at what might make sense in this still dangerous world:
  • We still have too many bases, especially overseas. The cost of maintaining these bases is enormous. We do not need bases in Japan, Italy or Germany. World War II has been over for decades now.
  • The new ships being built for the Navy are the right fit for today. They are smarter, tougher, stealthier, and have a much smaller crew. Some are built for littoral (close to shore) warfare, and others to complement our blue water Navy.
  • Although expensive to maintain battle groups, they are a bargain compared to maintaining numerous overseas bases. A carrier task force is almost impenetrable (with the help of the AEGIS weapon system), and can project American power anyplace in the world in a matter of days.
  • With all the talk about low tech EMP nukes that could cripple our country, we NEED the anti-missile system that many of our AEGIS ships have. If one of these EMP nukes gets through and goes off over our country, it is lights out (literally).
  • Speed up the delivery of the F-35 Lightning II fighter/bomber, and then speed up the sunset of most older jets.
  • Cap the "black programs", or get ready to shine more of a light on them. Many think these programs are only a "sink hole" for billions of unaccountable dollars.
  • Do yearly audits of Defense Department spending that stick. Having this major department flunk audits year after year is simply unacceptable.
We can do this, only if we do it smart. With all the bloating and waste in the Federal Government, this is a prime (but not the only) target. Every time we let our guard down, we end up with a 12/7/41 or 9/11 problem. Let us not repeat our past mistakes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Way too smart phones

 
 


"My computer? Why it is right here in my shirt pocket..."




Earlier this month, my wife and I refreshed our smart phones. Were they broken? No. Were they lost or stolen? No. Did they still work? Yes. Then why in the world replace them? This is my confession - I wanted a technology upgrade. The new Sony Xperia phones are fabulous compared to the Samsung Galaxy II phones we traded in. If I were asked to write a compelling narrative on the logic of this acquisition, it would be a classic fail.
 
That being said, I don't think I am ready to get off this merry-go-round yet. As good as things are with today's phone, and they are excellent, the future holds even more promise. It really does not matter if you live on Apple Street or Droid Avenue, both technologies are improving by leaps and bounds. Better battery life, better camera, better storage, besides the better technology. The other day my wife and I were trying to find an address. She put the address in her phone (she could have used voice recognition also) and the phone went into automatic GPS direction finding. Just as accurate as the GPS in my truck. No muss, no fuss.

In five years (maybe less), the new smart phones will have new or enhanced features. One that exists today (in raw form) is Augmented Reality (AR). One of the features AR will allow you to point the camera in your phone to a geographical area, and then something amazing happens. The microprocessor in the phone will recognize where you are (using GPS) and then display enormous amounts of information concerning your location. Your phone is truly a computer in your shirt pocket.

Voice recognition will keep improving, which will allow more voice commands and less "fat finger" data entry. In addition, with the introduction of Apple's Retina Display, we have gone about as far as we can in screen resolution. Oh we could do more - but it would be meaningless as the human eye cannot discern anything better. So where do we go from here? 3D of course. Newer phones will have a 3D feature with a possible hologram feature coming right behind that. 

With the security and accessibility of cloud storage improving all the time, the amount of personal information available to you using your smart phone will be virtually limitless. There will be very little computing one can not do with your phone. With the advancements in internet TV, this little wonder in your pocket will do it all. Compute, entertain and inform. Once in a while, these smart phones can even be used to make a telephone call.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Loving the Unloved

 
 

 
How in the world could anyone love that person? Simple - the same way that God loves me...
 


I am watching the most interesting show on Netflix. It is a sordid story of politics at its worst. It is a story of hate, lust and power. It is devoid of love, and has a paucity of compassion. I believe it is the antithesis of how God wants us to relate to each other. I watch it only out of morbid curiosity and interest. It really does sicken me to think that some might people might actually live this way.
 
I believe when Christ walked the Earth, the cornerstone of His teachings was to love the unloved. He did. Not only did He love the unloved, He also loved what we believe to be the unlovable. His love was never reserved just for the worthy or the pious - it was for all of us. When we are at our worst, and trust me, I have been there often, God still loves us with that same furious love. Love without measure, without end. Total love.

Love has intrigued and confused mankind since day one. It has been studied, dissected and studied again. Author Erich Fromm has written on love many times. I studied Fromm while in college. In his book The Art of Loving, Fromm describes love this way:

“Love isn't something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn't a feeling, it is a practice.” 
  
Fromm is right. Love is not natural for humans. Our nature is to be self loving and selfish. It is a deliberate act to love others. Love is so important to God, His two greatest commandments have the word "love" contained in them. In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus explains God's feeling on love:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

The language in this text is crystal clear. Love is a deliberate action. We are to love with passion, with a purpose. Not just like, not just tolerate, but love. We are to love the lovable, the unloved and yes, even the unlovable. Not just try to do it, but do it. Those who think this is easy are mistaken. It is fighting against our human nature.

We can love with our actions more so than our words. For many today, love has become an abstraction. This is wrong. Every one of us deserves to know that we are loved, not only by God, but also by each other. An old adage states that "love makes the world go round". That is true - but it also holds the world together. For without love, we have nothing. Without love, we are nothing. 
 
  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hunger, again...

 
 


"How rich are we? Most of us are in the top 1% of the world's population..."



This upcoming week our church will do its part to help curb world hunger. Our goal is to package 2.5 million meals for the world's hungriest people in less than a week. That is an awesome goal. Our church is partnered with Feed My Starving Children, an organization of immense talent and reputation in the fight against world hunger. This marvelous organization, which is headquartered right here in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, was able to package and deliver over 50 million meals last year!

One might think that solves the problem. Case closed. On to the next issue. The only problem is this - as impressive as that number is, it only puts a small dent in world hunger. Over the past three years, the UN has estimated that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight of us, suffer from chronic undernourishment. Many of those people starve to death. In order to give this number of people just one wholesome meal a day, we would need to supply 317,550,000,000 meals in a year. As laudatory as 50,000,000 meals seems, it is way less than one percent of what is needed.

In our country, we have plenty of food. Some say an obscene amount of it. The hungry in this country are hungry only because of a distribution issue - not resources. Nobody in this country should ever starve to death. However, the hungry in many parts of the world, especially the Third World, are hungry primarily due to resources. In other words, there simply is not enough food to feed the population.

By an accident of birth, many of us dine daily in the Horn of Plenty. We go to the grocery store and are confronted with hundreds of choices on everything tasty. The only problem we have is over selection. We eat our fill, while every day over 4,000 die from starvation or drinking bad water. Can we ever fix this to completion? No. However, while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something.

 What can we do to help?
  • Contribute money or time to organizations such as Feed My Starving Children.
  • Buy a share in a deep well to be dug in a country which has very little clean water.
  • Buy a $5 bag of donated food when you go to the grocery store.
  • Write letters to Congress telling them we must stop burning our corn for ethanol.

The Bible is very clear on this issue. Turning a blind eye or a deaf ear is not acceptable. We cannot be spectators to this issue, we need to participate. As the old saying goes, "For whom much has been given, much is expected..."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Life on Ice Planet Hoth

 
 

 
"There isn't enough life on this ice cube to fill a space cruiser..."

Hans Solo
Star Wars


As I age, I wonder why in the world I still live in Minnesota. I know, I know - it is the quality of life, it is the summers. However, now the summers are filled with other perils such as West Nile Virus (have no idea how that got here from Africa), Lyme Disease (at one time I thought that was related to my Gin and Tonics), and of course non-stop delays resulting from highway construction season (never really shovel ready).

Yesterday and last night, we had the biggest snowfall of the season. How bad was it? Our outside pet turkey (Tim) looked like he was totally fed up and getting ready to fly south. Of course with winter this year stretching all the way down to Texas, I don't know how far Tim would have to go. My driveway looks more like the Grand Canyon than a driveway. I can even hear my voice echo as I yell for help and rescue. Once again, I am taking on the persona of Per Hansa, rather than an increasingly Angry Bird.

Back to why I still live here. Is it the politics? This state is becoming as blue as California. In fact in Minneapolis, a Conservative is as rare as the Dodo Bird - in other words, extinct. We build trains that cost a fortune, and need need taxpayer subsidies just to run. We have a Met Council who unelected, has somehow assumed vast amounts of dictatorial power. We have a state income tax which is about to top 10%, while our neighboring state's taxes continue to go down. And we have a baseball team who is so good, they are getting ready to compete with the Mud Hens, the Millers, or the Saints from yesteryear.

I would like to move to northwest Florida. I could be close to my own peeps. Retired Navy, Conservative, and nice and warm in the winter. My wife had a bad experience in Florida when growing up (family vacation in the heat of summer), and she will be a hard sell. Truthfully, when I drive into Minneapolis these days, I hardly recognize it. It was been a "left leaning" city for decades, but now it is hard left. Everything has changed. I don't feel as if it is my city any longer. Pensacola on the other hand, I fit into.

Meanwhile, I sit here, marooned on Ice Planet Hoth, waiting for rescue. Rescue could take some time, as nobody in their right mind would venture here this time of year. In my first job out of college, I did relocation taxes for employees to transferred from out of state to take a job with the company I worked at. It was always a big joke, as the number of people who accepted offers in the dead of winter was just the opposite from the number of people who accepted offers in May and June. Why? This time of year this is a barren world, devoid of life and pleasure. Most outsiders could see that in an instant.

I am going to look at my travel brochures again this morning, and dream of white sandy beaches, and a sun that actually produces warmth. I will once again cuddle up with my space heater and wait for rescue, a rescue which might not come until July at the rate we are going....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"We are not as bad" Party

 
 

 
"Where am I right now? Somewhere between a rock and a hard place..."





I went to my BPOU this week. It was a chance to hear incumbents and challengers introduce themselves and stake out positions on some key topics. One might ask, "why in the world would there be challengers for seats which already have incumbents? Should we not be saving our firepower, keeping our powder dry, for the other side?" Yes - except for one thing. Many on the Right, many who call themselves Conservatives, are sick and tired of hearing "but we are not as bad as the other guys." That tune has worn out very fast.

Many people these days invoke the name of the "Gipper" - Ronald Wilson Reagan. Some who invoke his name were not even born when President Reagan was our Commander in Chief. Others, like myself, remember Ronald Reagan very well. A bold man with bold vision. Cooperation, collaboration, but never surrendering precious values. He could articulate his case to the American people. He could work Congress. He could lead. No excuses, just leadership.

Just in case someone has been in a deep sleep for a while, our country is a mess. Our state has sky high taxes, and about to go higher. Think that is hyperbole? Some in the Minnesota House want to put another 5% tax in gasoline. Our law makers have done nothing to reduce our taxes. Many taxes have just shifted from one pot to another. As our government footprint continues to grow both nationally and locally, so does the bill. Those on the Left spend like they are on a drunken orgy. Those on the Right, console us by saying they were able to hold down the rate of increase. Those of us in the middle can only say "BFD!"

Rush talks about this quite a bit on his program. His words on this issue are true. When Republicans run as Moderates, RINOs or Democrat Light, they lose. When Republicans run as principled Conservatives, they often times win. We don't want to elect people from our party to get to Washington or St. Paul just to get comfortable - we want real change agents. We don't give a hoot if they make friends or not - we want people who can tell the story, hoist the flag. No more surrender on values. We are tired of being frogs in slowly boiling water.

I am a sucker for people with bold vision. I have heard many charlatans in my adult life. I can tell the difference between the two in a New York minute. Even if Minnesota Republicans stay in the minority after 2014, I never again want to hear "but we are not as bad". Make the argument, seize the moment, win the day!  As for me, I will continue to vote for courage and vision. Everything else just leaves me cold on a very cold day.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Deep Web

 
 

"I am sorry Mr. Gore - you had NOTHING to do with the internet!"



The world wide web. The internet as most people call it. It continues to grow like a weed. Thousands of new web sites are added every week. The ones which have been around for awhile are getting faster, better and smarter. And yet, the internet holds a secret - what we see, what most of us are able to retrieve, is only a small fraction of what resides there. The majority of the information exists in what is now referred to as the invisible or Deep Web.

Even though the internet has been around for a few decades, I am still in awe of it. It really is science looking more like science fiction. Our kids today should be an order of magnitude smarter than their parents, just from having so much information available to them at the touch of their fingertips. For example, even though the number is impossible to nail down with precision, it is now estimated there are over one billion web sites available to us on the internet. If history is any guide, that number could double that by the end of 2015.

That being said, the amount of information available to us, albeit huge, is small compared to the total amount which resides in the web. The Deep Web on the other hand, is gargantuan. It is as large as it is mysterious. Special software is needed to take your there. Google will not. According to Time Magazinesome government officials now believe the deep web has become an “electronic haven for thieves, child pornographers, human traffickers, forgers, assassins and peddlers of state secrets and loose nukes.The irony is the Deep Web was set up by our government to store huge data bases - never to be used for nefarious purposes.

I started thinking about the Deep Web as I watched Season 2 of House of Cards. I had not heard the term for years and like most of us, have no need for it. However, it fascinates me. The internet which is available to us, has more than enough information to satisfy even the most curious mind. However, the Deep Web is there. It is like our subconscious which dwells right beside our consciousness. Like anything else which has been invented, it can be used for the good or the not so good.

The size of the Deep Web is also open for debate. Some estimate it is 500 times the size of the searchable web. When you think that Google itself covers over 8 billion pages of information, one can only guess the total size of the Deep Web. So as we walk further down the path of speed (Petabytes) and storage (Exabyte), one can only image where all this information can or should be stored. As we have seen from the latest "spook" building built right outside Salt Lake City, vast amounts of information can be stored and retrieved by NSA in a heartbeat.

So where are we headed with this? Some think we are on the verge of a brand new world, filled with superior knowledge for all. Others see a more dystopian future, filled with data being used as a weapon to conquer or control. A few even see a Skynet scenario coming to fruition. Similar to splitting the atom, let us hope we can use this tool as a gift to mankind, and not something that could eventually enslave or destroy us.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Birds of a Feather

 
 


"No, he does sit in his Mother's basement, eating cheese snacks, and blogging..."
 
 

Today will be a posting of a slightly different nature. In the picture above, is the Angry Bird, hard at work, writing a blog piece or working on his novel. Behind him, is his loyal and trusty companion, Tim the Turkey. It is late in the afternoon, and a well deserved scotch sits by his side.
 
So why in the world, with so many HUGE issues in the world, should anyone want to hear about the Angry Bird and his pet turkey? Because.....in the next few days, the Angry Bird will hit yet another milestone. He will hit 30,000 views on his blog post this month! He continues to be humbled and amazed that so many people take the time to read the ramblings of this aging old avian. In addition, one of his postings continues to be viewed at an alarming rate. The Poor,  http://veryangrybird.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-poor.html, is now over 2,300 views!
 
In case anyone is interested, some facts about the Angry Bird:
  • Happily married for 40 years
  • Two Adult daughters (no grandkids - just grand cats)
  • Retired Naval Officer (Crypto)
  • Retired industry (Defense and IT)
  • Christ follower
  • People lover
  • Constitution lover
  • Nature lover
  • Conservative (not Republican)

That being said, tomorrow will be another day. The Angry Bird will again be on the lookout with more social commentary, some of which will be sardonic or irreverent. The good shall be recognized and lauded, and the not so good shall be excoriated and eschewed. The powerful will be held accountable for their use or misuse of the power we have entrusted to them. Apostates, who attempt to hijack our basic Constitution rights, will be reminded in the most direct way, our rights come only from God, and not the government we elect. 

So the Angry Bird signs off for now, only to return tomorrow morning. Spring will soon be in air, as well a heated up 2014 political season. Very good fodder for any avian, especially this Very Angry one...

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Flat Earth Society

 
 


"No Mr. President - this debate is FAR from over!"



I have been denigrated. I have been besmirched. I have been dissed. Our very haughty Secretary of State has referred to me (and countless others) as "flat earthers". In the common man's vernacular, that means we are stupid. Why? Because we won't drink the Koolaid, listen to the sophism, about MAN MADE climate change. By the way - I have seen pictures of the houses that Kerry and Gore live in. Their carbon footprints look like they were made by Gulliver the Giant.

This continues to be the Democratic party line. The goal has never changed. Carbon tax. Think if the revenue the government could obtain just by taxing people for trying to stay warm, for driving to their jobs. Rather than coming up with a comprehensive energy policy, one that would show a natural "sunset" period for fossil fuels when the time was right, the Administration wants to "Cap and Tax" our energy reserves right now.

POTUS has used the drought in California to prove his point. According to him, it is devastating (true), and we have caused it (not true). The Southwest as well as much of Southern California are arid in nature - deserts. We have been able to "cheat" nature by using water coming off the west side of the Rocky Mountains. However, when the snow pack is not what it should be, and Pacific storms don't materialize, it can get very dry in the region. We have ways to prevent that (water farms), but we refused to develop them. So we let the desert be the desert. Not our fault. Next year could be wetter than normal. That is weather, not climate.

I have addressed this issue before. We are on the cusp of finding new, cleaner, abundant sources of fuel. They are out there, and many nations are searching for them. In the meantime, we have hundreds of years left of fossil fuels in this country. Our nation continues to produce enough food to feed most of the world, the oceans are not rising, and life goes on. I have been on this planet for over six decades, and the weather (climate) is no stranger now than it has been at any other time in my life.

So go ahead John Kerry - call us names. We may in fact be stupid. We did after all, elect your boss twice.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Universal Church or Universalism?

 
 

 
"I believe the church is at its best when it collaborates with other Bible believing churches..."
 


I have addressed this issue before. I know that not all agree with me on this one. However, it is something I feel strongly about. I think when Bible believing churches compete against each other, they are at their worst. By the same token, I believe when Bible believing churches work with each other, to collaborate in mission, they are at their best.
 
I am a believer in the Universal Church. That is not a religion, not a sect. It is the entire Body of Christ acting as His church. However, as good as the Universal Church is, it is not immune from the intrusion of pride. Once that happens, collaboration often times dissolves into competition between churches. Nothing good ever results from that.
 
Christians who identify with the Universal Church are sometimes mistaken for Universalists. Not the same at all. I have not studied Universalism in depth, so I will leave the nuances for others. I do know this much - Universalists believe in a relationship between God and man which is not defined in the Bible. Some have even equated it to more of a Hindu type belief than Christian. The Universal Church on the other hand, is steeped in the Word of God. No more, no less.
 
Like many of us, I have been on the receiving end of church competition. Sometimes, it goes beyond competition and borders on antipathy. I believe that to be sinful. The only time one should recruit or proselytize within the church is when a church has strayed from its Biblical teachings. Other than that, we are all on the same team. Period.

To me, the Great Commission as written in Matthew 28, verse 19 is very specific:

" Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." 

I believe this is verse addresses the need to spread the Word to the unchurched. Once a church is established, that church needs to be prayed for by fellow believers. And where it makes sense, that church should be collaborated with. So long as the teachings stay true to the Word, the Universal Church will only get stronger this way. 



 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Workforce Participation

 
 


"Holy smokes! Every day of the week is just like a weekend now..."


Towards the end of my working days, I worked at IBM. If I was not on site at a clients facility, I worked out of my home. One of the advantages of working at home was a more flexible schedule. I could go to the "Y" at lunchtime and workout. It was great, because I had the place almost to myself. There were always some "blue hairs" in the Sliver Sneaker Program, as well as a few stay at home Moms, but that was about it.

Flash forward to today. My wife and I go to the "Y" in the morning, and it is packed. So packed, that many times we are unable to get a machine. Who is using these machines? Twenty something and thirty something young people. Sometimes when I look around the facility, there are about 75 to 80 percent working age folks using the gym. The rest are legitimate retired folks like us.

We also notice this when we are doing errands during the day. The major department stores have parking lots which are way over half full or cars. Some days, almost full. Many times my wife and I ask each other the same question - "Don't these people work?" Maybe not. Or, maybe they work part time. Or maybe flexible schedules. However, the government is keeping statistics which might tell the real story.

Our workplace participation rate is horrible right now. As recently as last November, only sixty-three percent of us had a job or were actively looking for one. That is the lowest level since Jimmy Carter days. We have made it very easy for people to "game the system" to receive SSI (disability). Because of that, we are now spending $200B a year for people not to work, while many are still able to. There are two or three young people at the "Y" who work out with weights every day, that proudly proclaim they are on disability. And nobody seems to care.

So here we have our new reality. The "work sucks" reality. Living under the new Democratic talking point of "You don't have to work - you can just follow your muse instead." We don't need to work, we have "Uncle Sugar" to take care of us now. He can just print more money. The latest "tool" running the Fed is just a carbon copy of the ones before her. Print more, worry later. Work after all, is just for chumps.

If you work, the next time you take a day off, notice the number of people out and about. Then notice the ages. If might shock you. However, since this is becoming our "new norm", the shock value might be starting to wear off. We are either frogs sitting in boiling water or we are just falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Letter

 
 

 
"Just like in the story 'Roots', without stories (Griot) from our ancestors, we have no heritage..."




It really started when my Dad was still alive, and my parents still lived in their house in Robbinsdale. When my wife and I would visit, my Mother had a tablet and pen by her favorite chair. She was very proud of what she was doing. She was writing her life story, starting with her grandparents. As she was in her early 80's, she knew the days of recalling facts, and being able to put them on paper, might be getting short. So she wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Finally she was done, and the letter was 27 pages long. She gave a copy to my sister, and the original to me. I put it someplace safe, and basically forgot about it.

My Dad is now gone, the house was long ago sold, and my Mother is in a care center, pushing 96 years old. She has some dementia, no longer has the ability to write, and her eyesight no longer allows her to read. When we visit her twice a week, I usually read her a story - often times something I have written. As she has read to me for so many years, I now have the honor of reading to her. 

Last fall, I stumbled upon that 27 page letter of Mom's family history. Truthfully, I had forgotten she had written it. I pulled it out of the manila envelope and started to read it. It is a treasure trove of rich family history and stories! My Mother spent so much time on this letter and wanted to be so accurate. She truly did a wonderful job.

I have taken this letter and using voice recognition software, started "reading" it into my computer. I plan to have two versions. The first is just as she wrote it - a personal letter to my sister and myself. The second (with her permission) will be to write it as a story. I will use third person instead of first person. I will embellish it with historical facts from Minneapolis and places she traveled to.

Once I am done with this endeavor, I will share it with my children and cousins. It will be digital and on the "cloud", so hopefully it will be around for a long time.

I love stories. I love telling stories, I love writing stories. However, I love hearing stories even more. Stories are our fabric, they are the building blocks of our heritage. If you have a relative who is starting to age, encourage that person to tell (or write down) his or her stories. They are more valuable than gold.

A woman I once worked with had a saying on the whiteboard in her office. It simply said, "When a person dies, a library closes." We need to make sure we capture as much information from these "libraries" as possible before they close forever. We owe that much to our children, and those who will follow behind them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Rising Dragon

 
 



"And we thought all along the dragon was only sleeping..."




An interesting thing has happened while we were not paying attention. This very populous Communist country on the other side of the Pacific, is becoming quite a force in the world. One of the things that caught me off guard was it's new found prowess in supercomputing. In November 2013, only four short months ago, the Tianhe-2 (means "Milky Way") was introduced in China. This monster beat out the Cray Research Titan for the fastest in the world. How fast? Almost 34 petaflops, which is almost twice the speed of Titan.

Not to get too nerdy, but a "flop" from petaflop is defined as FLoating-point Operations Per Second. A "peta" is one with fifteen zeroes behind it. That is a lot of cheddar! The Titan, which is one of our crown jewels of computing, can do less than 18 petaflops - Tianhe-2 can do almost 34. As you can see, China did not just nudge us out of first place, they smoked us.

The US however, is not just standing still with this recent reduction in rank. The DOE has commissioned a study known as Fast Forward. The purpose of this study is to come up with computer architecture that will break the next computing "sound barrier". In other words, go from petaflop to exaflop. An exaflop is a quintillion calculations per second. That is a one followed by 18 zeroes. This speed would be about a million times faster than the fastest laptop computer on the market today. If the United States is successful, this technology could be in use by 2020, and put us back on top by a wide margin. Although the focus would be supercomputing, it could also affect the processing speed and storage speed of laptops also.

Now Fast Forward is not a secret we are trying to keep from the Chinese. It has been in the press and the tech blogs. I don't for a second think the Chinese are going to rest on their success with Tianhe-2. This next leap in technology is really going to be a game changer. We know it, and so does every other country in the computing business. However, the Chinese have one advantage that we don't have. They can throw thousands of people at a project, all of which are paid for by the state. We have to rely on a collaboration of public and private research funding.

So as China continues to expand its manufacturing footprint, it also continues to develop a more robust blue water Navy, it also works on a viable space program, and they also are becoming a tech giant. The dragon is rising, and we are only watching. As we continue to focus on the denominator rather than the numerator, due to issues such as "fairness" and "income redistribution", China has seen the opening and is sprinting towards the finish. The dragon now sees the once powerful and feared tiger for what it has become. A paper tiger, awash in a sea of political correctness and low expectations.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Debt and Leadership

 
 

"We have seen the enemy and it is us..."



For those who might now have heard the news, the House, led by Speaker Boehner, folded like a cheap suit yesterday when agreeing to extend the debt ceiling. During political squabbles, the talking heads are always trying to access winners and losers. Let me help on that on. Every person who agreed to raise our unsustainable debt ceiling is a Loser (with a capital "L"). And the American public are losers as they have no leadership in Washington looking out for them.

So where does this now leave us? In "nowhereville", as the expression goes. Our President, who when a Senator stood in the well of the Senate and blasted GWB for wanting an increase to the debt ceiling, is now the biggest cheerleader for raising it.
  • Our national debt now stands at $17.362T. That number by itself should take one's breath away.
  • Our debt goes up $2.40 billion per day.
  • This fiscal year, our deficit is projected to be almost $300B. Even though the deficit is coming down, the debt continues to grow.
  • According to the National Debt Clock, our debt on this day four years from now will be somewhere between $19.6T and $21T, depending on whose predictions you believe. Not one living soul is predicting it will go down, even a penny.
  • Nobody is suggesting a "grand bargain" anymore to address our runaway entitlement spending. We had all better break the bad news to our kids - the "boomers' will be the last generation before the insolvency on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Many marvel about the success of the Tea Party. The truth is, at the grass roots level, this country still has some very sound thinking and leadership. However for some reason, we send people with little moral conviction to represent us in Washington. Even those who leave home clean, become dirty in short order once reaching the Capitol City. The bottom line - we have no leadership in Washington. None. We flying in a plane with drunk pilots, and we are helpless to do anything.

To the President, the Speaker and the Senate Leader, thank you. Thank you for once again selling us down the river. Oh, a hard rain is going to fall - don't worry about that. You will be out of office by that time, living the easy "1%" life of a rich, retired Washington politician. The rest of us? We will just be searching for the crumbs.




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who is really keeping us safe?

 
 


"Sometimes the worst case is so awful, nobody wants to think about it nor plan for it..."



Well, even though it is getting late in the winter, there is yet another storm which is bearing down on the southeast and then up the east coast. The weather gurus in Atlanta are calling this one "historically catastrophic", whatever that means. As soon as the warnings went out, there was a "run" at the grocery stores (again). Somebody was even shot at one of them. Why? Despite all the warnings, most Americans continue to live their lives unprepared.

This storm will come and go. There will be some localized disruptions, and maybe even some fatalities. However before long, life will return to normal. Even with the widespread damage from Sandy, most (but not all) things have returned to normal.

As of late, I have hearing and reading more and more about the real and potential attacks on our nation's electrical grid. How bad would it be if our grid went down nationwide? Some planners think that 75% of our population would die. Die from exposure, thirst, hunger, disease, no medication, and yes, homicide by their own neighbors. It would be a scenario straight out of the science fiction books. And yet - it is preventable.

It has just been reported that last April in California, a major substation by Sacramento had transformers shot out by what is thought to be a highly trained sniper. Most substations are in remote locations and have very light security. This is a threat we have not considered. We have been worried about cyber attacks on the grid, not physical. And as far as EMP is concerned, we hear nothing. 

Back in the 80's I worked at Control Data Corporation. One of the programs I was on offered disk storage devices to the United States Navy. There were three type - CADS (Commercial Advanced Disk System), RADS (Ruggedized Advanced Disk System) and MADS (Militarized Advance Disk System). The Navy wanted the MADS robust enough to withstand a nearby nuclear blast on a carrier task force. In other words, they wanted them to be "Rad hardened". No problem. It cost a bit more, but we did it. We had them tested and they could withstand an EMP burst as well.

That same type of technology could be used on our grid. Been around, been tested, it is ready to go. The cost of doing our entire grid would be less than 1/3 of our stimulus package which gave us NOTHING in return. This is a one time fix. Do it, and you never have to worry again about a natural or man made EMP event. Don't do it, and we live in continual risk of being thrown back into the 1800's.

So the question begs to be asked - who is really looking out for us? This scenario is so awful, so catastrophic, and yet we hear nary a peep from lawmakers. I want action on this, and I want it now. Even the most ardent survivalists won't be able to stock up enough to make it though an major EMP event. I am reminded by the well respected saying, "failure to plan is planning to fail." On this, we can't afford to fail.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bullies

 
 


"Bullies are only as tough as we allow them to be..."



I don't know about anyone else, but I am sick and tired of hearing our education gurus talk about nothing except bully issues. News flash - bullies have been around since day one, and will be around forever. It is a natural progression of growing up. I was bullied - that is until one day I had enough. I then dispensed with the bully and have not allowed myself to be bullied since.

So why is the NEA on this kick about bullies? I have my own theory. They are changing the subject. Hard questions are being asked concerning the results of our public education. Rather than address the subject at hand, they are trying to make the rest of us feel guilty for not knowing more, or caring more about bullies. It is plain old deflection, nothing more, nothing less.

That being said, I have seen real bullies as of late. Where? On Capitol Hill. Bullies so entrenched, so powerful, that they are impossible to fight. I have never seen a bully as powerful as the IRS. They have the ability to destroy, to impoverish, to ruin. Not punishing people for breaking the law - punishing people for belonging to the wrong political party. For becoming too politically active. For speaking out against tyranny. 

The government, our government, is supposed to be a group of elected officials who work for us. Not to bully us. We are not the enemy - we are the stakeholders in this great Republic. Watching some of the Congressional hearings on TV was real tough. Good honest citizens telling tales of horror on how they were being harassed by the IRS. It made me want to vomit. Heads should roll on this on, and now! I would not tolerate ANY administration doing this to ANY group! It is simply un-American!

So please NEA, put a sock in it about bullies in schools. Rather let us address the real life bullies that can ruin our lives. THAT is something I am interested in.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Missed Opportunities

 
 


"Most of the needy are not looking for a hand out, only a hand up..."



This past week I had a huge missed opportunity. My eyes were open, but the eyes of my heart were only at half mast. I did not realize the huge miss until I got home and was replaying the day. At first I felt bad, really bad. Then I realized God was replaying this event in my mind so next time my "radar" would be better tuned in.

We were at the local adult homeless shelter, putting our names down to volunteer as drivers to pick up excess food at the schools and deliver it to the shelter. It is an important job, as much of the food served there comes from schools and some restaurants. As we were leaving, a lady who could barely walk, was coming up to the door. In her hands she was carrying a small box with some kind of food. She was wearing a light worn out coat, with no hat or gloves on a very cold day. We greeted her, held the door open for her, and then left.

When I got home it hit me like a bolt from the blue. I have about three or four pair of good gloves in the closet. I can only wear on pair at a time. I could have so easily taken my gloves off and given them to the lady who had none. But I did not. I did not react quickly enough. It was a missed opportunity.

One of the goals my wife and I have set for ourselves this year is to capture more of the opportunities to help, to serve others, when they are presented to us. In the past, if was easy for us to pretend we did not see the myriad of opportunities. We were only fooling ourselves.

Next Saturday, we go through training at the Feed My Starving Children headquarters. To say I was excited about this, would be an understatement. This truly amazing organization packs nutritious food packets to sustain life for one person for one day. The number of lives this organization has saved, the amount of suffering it has ameliorated, is nothing short of incredible. This was an opportunity that was presented to us and we jumped on it.

A couple of weeks ago in church we learned that more endorphins are released by the brain when you give than when you receive. Most of us feel good when we give, we feel good when we can serve. It is wired in our DNA.

This week I pledge to walk with my eyes wide open and my heart guiding my radar. I know I will continue to miss some opportunities - I am human. I just want to capture as many opportunities put in my path that I can. They are after all, a gift from God.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The circle of trust...

 
 
 


"Without trust, there is no relationship. Without relationships, we are nothing..."



Yesterday, I heard the most amazing thing. In fact, in the five plus years of this Administration, this beat everything else so far. Even though I had heard it the day before, it took Rush to replay it and explain it in gruesome detail. The Speaker of the House, the third most powerful person in the Free World, said it was useless to pass any more laws. Why? He believes the President choses to only enforce the laws he likes.

What does all this mean? If we are truly going to operate this way, we are no better than a Banana Republic. Our Founders NEVER intended for our government to devolve this way. We now have Shelia Jackson Lee (yes, her) telling the press it is the intent of the CBC to draft executive letters for Obama to sign. One wing of government. No trust, no Constitution, no nothing. A true Banana Republic.

Rush also said yesterday that in a different time, the impeachment process would have been started to fast it would make your head swim. Not with this guy. Nope. We are just  frogs in a pot which every day continues to get hotter. Now the Post Office is ordering scads of ammo. Why? For the mail carriers? Or is it because the Administration feels this march towards an imperial presidency will lead to an armed insurrection.

We have come a long way (in the wrong direction) since the days of the Gipper and Tip. They did not like each other politically, yet they could find enough common bonds to run the country. They were able to forge a degree of trust. Not with the current Speaker and the President. No relationship, no trust. The country is stuck in neutral, and starting to slip backwards. The January jobs report was horrible, and nobody in Washington has the where with all to do a damn thing to fix it.

It pains me to say this, but I don't know if the country can take three more years of this dysfunction. As much as I would like to see Harry Reid kicked out of office in 2015, I don't see how a change in the Senate in going to help us move forward. The President will just go around the Senate like he does the House. Don't get me wrong - this all needs to start with the President. He does not play well with others - and if he does not start soon, his legacy will make Jimmy Carter look like a genius.

Here is what the President needs to do immediately. Retract that stupid and arrogant comment about "all he needs is a pen and a phone". Promise to follow the Constitution every day (oh yes - you already did that when you took the oath).

Rome is burning sir, and you are holding one of the matches. Please blow it out and save the Republic while we still can. Restore trust, and restore liberty. That is what we are paying you to do.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Our growing drug problem

 
 


"Call it heroin, call it 'horse', or call it what it really is - poison..."



This posting might end up where I have a different opinion than some of my most ardent Libertarian friends. It is about drugs, and what they are doing to our society. What they are doing to our young people. What they are doing to our moral fabric. This is a vexing problem which is only getting worse every year.

It is all over the metro area now. Nobody, or no area, seems to be immune. How bad is it? Just in Hennepin County, heroin overdoses have gone from 8 deaths in 2010 to 54 this past year. In the very safe confine of Anoka County, heroine is suspected of causing 21 fatal overdoses last year, up from two in 2008. Just this morning in the paper, there was on obit for a 19 year old kid who died of an "accidental overdose".

What can we do? Here are some thoughts:
  • Anoka County is having three open meetings at three different locations within the county to address this problem. Bravo for that! We need more however, and in every county.
  • Change the drug laws. If you get caught using a Class A drug like heroin, you get no jail time, but mandatory "in patient" treatment.
  • If you get caught selling a Class A drug like heroin, it is 10 years (no parole) for the first offense, 20 for second, life for third. Selling a lethal drug is no better than attempted murder.
  • Let us face facts. Regardless of where it is grown, the vast majority of heroin comes up through Mexico, and then across our southern border. If you get caught smuggling heroine into this country, you get 20 years in a Federal pen with no parole. Period - no exceptions.
  • Finally, we need to control our borders. They continue to be a mess, and only a fraction of illegal immigrants or drugs are caught at the border. We need to starve the beast.
We can continue to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to this problem. Or we can do something. Kids with addictive personalities are particularly susceptible to this poison. I am sick and tired of seeing evil win costly battles in our war on drugs. We need better prevention, better treatment, and a cessation of punishing the victims. The only time a drug user should see incarceration is if he or she refuses treatment. At that point in time, that person would be incarcerated for their own good.

There is a huge difference between recreational use of marijuana and being a slave to a Class A drug like heroin. We need to use common sense in how we handle our drug issue. I really don't give a rat's behind if we legalize pot or not. I do however, care deeply about getting all other drugs out of our country. Our kids are our seed corn. Lets help the ones who need it. Let us help them fight this beast.