Mackinac Island, MI……

November 22, 2014

Macimack

I can’t remember how many times I have been to Mackinac Island, I think four but maybe more. It is a peaceful place without cars. Bicycles are the main mode of transportation.

2014-10-30_08-32-58AT&T has completed upgrading its fiber-network in Austin, Texas, to 1-gigabit-per-second broadband speeds, the carrier said Monday.The Dallas-based company, which started the Austin upgrade in August, has been working to increase the speed of its U-Verse with GigaPower fiber network from 300 megabits-per-second to 1Gbps. AT&T is racing to bring faster Internet to customers before its competitors.

SOURCE:  AT&T finishes rollout of 1Gbps connection in Austin – CNET.

I am one of the fortunate ones along my road in that I am within the 1.5 mile distance from the AT&T central office. I can get my Internet connection at 0.003 Gbps. That is 300 times slower than folks in Austin get.  To put that in perspective what takes them one second to get takes me 5 minutes. Sadly those north of me are limited to 0.0002 Gbps.So when I run across these types of announcements I often say “SHAME ON YOU”.

We all know that in the 21st century information is power. Those with it have opportunity; those without it have almost none and of course the Internet and access to it is fundamental to the 21st century information age.  Why are those of us in less populated areas denied access to the Internet speeds that our urban neighbors take for granted? Of course the answer is profits.

I look out my front door and see a couple of two-inch diameter cables strewn between two poles across my front yard. In some places along my road these cables sag to just a few feet above the ground. They have not been improved in many decades. The picture above shows that both of those cables could be replaced by a single small fiber-optic line but to do that would require an investment that currently goes to the owners as profit.

Looking at the history of utilities in rural America I see where this is nothing new. It wasn’t until the 1930s that electricity or telephone was widely available to the farmers who provide the rest of us with food.  The New Deal of the 1930s would finally help remedy that situation via the REMC. Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

Many such cooperatives exist in the rural United States, and were created by the New Deal to bring electric power and telephone service to rural areas, when the nearest investor-owned utility would not provide service, believing there would be insufficient revenue to justify the capital expenditures required. Many electric cooperatives have banded together to form their own wholesale power cooperatives, often called G&Ts for generation and transmission, to supply their member-owners with electricity.

If we had a functional government in place, instead of the gridlock that is there, maybe this issue could be resolved like it was then. I guess I should be grateful for my 0.003 Gbps Internet connection even though my city neighbors had connections three hundred times faster. At least my snail like speeds are several times faster than all my neighbors north of me.  It is about time for AT&T to spend a little money and put all of us on a fiber-optic system so that we all have a more or less level playing field for the future.  I thought that was the FCC’s mandate but if it is it is being totally ignored. Shame on AT&T for not having done so already…. And shame on the FCC for not having forced them to do it already….

Community Cars….

November 20, 2014

2014-07-24_08-21-56Self-driving cars would also create all kinds of positive possibilities in urban design. Tech-enabled transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft believe they can undermine the idea that every household should own a car or two. While the drivers for these companies are all human now, automated cars would be even easier to share because they could spend all their time on the roads. This could be the future—after all, Google GOOG is a major investor on Uber.

Cars that aren’t beholden to a single driver would mean cities wouldn’t have to use up so much valuable land on parking lots. A fleet of robotic drivers could use narrower lanes, shrinking the proportion of city’s surface area taken up by roads.

SOURCE: Why self-driving cars will mean more traffic – Yahoo Autos.

Will all cars become like NYC taxis? That is an enticing thought to me. I, like most teenage boys I suppose, was in love with cars. My first new car after college was a 1970 Mustang muscle car.  I spent hours each month making sure it was clean and had a fresh coat of wax. The car was my identity as far as I was concerned.

But like the bible says, when I was a child I did childish things but when I became an adult I put childish things aside at least for the most part. Now in my old age I think of cars mainly as just a way to get from point A to B. A car is just not that important to me anymore. So, when I read this article it got my attention. Why not share cars with everyone. That is an idea that needs a LOT of work for some, especially those California folks who simply adore their cars to the point of absurdity.

 

Just Who Are You???

November 19, 2014

2014-07-24_08-38-02How many of us are guilty of buying a certain brand of jeans or sneakers because we liked the way they made someone else look? We don’t just want to look like that person, we want to embody a bit of their identity by wearing the same costume.

Brands are everywhere, and sometimes, as Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz told us in “The Paradox of Choice,” deciding between them can be so overwhelming as to discourage making a purchase at all. But often, we know what we want: the consumption choices we make are guided by how we want to see ourselves in the world. What we wear, sip and drive all play a major part in the identity performance we all participate in every day….

SOURCE: How brands make the man, and the woman – literally | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

Of Course one of the best in this category is Harley Davidson.

2014-07-24_08-46-42The stage Harley-Davidson has set for us is one in which we escape the daily grind. Riding a Harley helps us reconnect with the myth of the American West, a time when the frontier lay untamed and when heroic, solitary explorers braved all manner of dangers.

“To all the freedom loving riders who celebrate the spirit of Harley Davidson every time they start their bike – we salute you,” Harley Davidson proclaims.

Who knew that marketing could basically change the face of America? It seems that so many people eagerly put down their hard-earned dollars for things they could get for much less when the label is on the inside instead of the outside. Who knew that so many of us would pay to be a walking billboard for a particular manufacturer?

I myself am not a clothes hound. I am still wearing some things that I bought twenty years ago. They continue to feel good so why throw them away for something newer? But I do admit that I have an urge to go out and get a Harley and hit the road. As the ad to the left ends. “Screw it. Let’s Ride”. But then again reality sets in and I realize that my rebel days, or at least those involving a motorcycle, are pretty much over. I now do my rebellion with a fountain pen as Bob Dylan’s song mentioned.

But let’s get back to marketing. Wanting something that you don’t really need is a very American thing. Our capitalist system almost demands that you spend more than you make so of course there are people out there that are going to “help” you decide what to buy.  It is ironic that so many of us insist that were are unique, that God only made one of us but then we end up letting others tell us how to dress, what to drive,  how to decorate our homes, and worst of all how to vote.  We let others tell us how to be unique? Isn’t that kind of ridiculous? If you want to be unique then maybe you should be doing the opposite of what they tell you.  It works for me.   :)

 

 

WarningAre we depriving our children of the ability to take risks in the future. Many of the things I did as a child would never happen today. Things like walking five blocks to school without an adult. Or discovering the mushroom plant four blocks from our house. Yeah maybe I fell out of a tree I was climbing there and fell on an iron picket fence doing some pretty serious damage but… I explored the neighborhood at the young age of 10 years old. About the only rule was that I had to be home for supper.

Are we over protecting our kids today? Are we doing them actual harm by trying to protect them from the “big bad world”?

Are we as adults just too fearful of the world ourselves to allow our children to see it in a different way?  We now seem to be totally absorbed with the idea of child abductions but in reality they are actually less prevalent now than they were in the 1970s and even the 1950s when I was growing up.

There are benefits to taking risks by thinking outside the box. It is one of the things that in the past has made us uniquely American. We were risk takers.  Are we stifling the next generation of out-of-the-box dreamers with our fears?

uRV 16554-EditThat is what you do when you are not doing your grown-up things. They allow you to at least for a while forget about the world around you.

I don’t have a direct source for this quote but it was from the NYPD Blue TV episode where Bobby Simone was dying. It was about his pigeon coops he maintained on the roof of his building in NYC.

I admit that now that I have access to streaming video I am sometimes a binge TV watcher.  I think I watched the entire nine seasons of NYPD Blue in a little over two month’s time last winter.  Got to do something to pass away all those wintry days. :)  While I am watching I keep my trusty iPad handy to write down quotes that get me to thinking about deeper things and this is one of those quotes.

We all need “clearing your head periods of time” where we shut out the outside world especially those grown-up things. For the last few years it has been making a micro-RV out of my old 1992 Chevy pickup.  The interior is just about completed now so next year it will be on to decorating the outside of my uRV. I will spend the upcoming winter months doing computer mock-ups of it.

This project is kind of like the “boat in the basement” on the TV show NCIS. Jethro spent hours working on the boat but never actually used it. My wife is just not a camper type person so if I use my uRV it will likely be in a Walden Pond type mode, that is by myself. But that is not a bad thing. We all need our alone time even away from our spouses.

We all need things that take us out of the world around us don’t we…

I was recently part of a Bible study where the tone – and apparently intention – was quite different.

As the leader asked a series of programmed and predictable questions (literally from the back of the book), I noticed that almost everyone seemed to be looking at each other warily as if they were searching for the ‘right’ answer. And they seemed to share the assumption that there was – and should be – only one ‘right’ answer.

And, above all, that the ‘right’ answer should be comfortable and familiar and should certainly not challenge any of us in our thinking, and definitely not our values, lifestyle or behavior.

And I realized that most ‘Christian questions’ that I hear are like this; they make us and our faith smaller, not larger, more about ourselves and our concerns, and less, usually far less, about any divine destiny for ourselves, our communities and certainly for the world.

SOURCE: Christian Questions | Morf Morford | Red Letter Christians.

Morf over at Red Letter Christians doesn’t mince words when it comes to his spirituality does he?  I believe that he points out one of the biggest needed changes for most of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. We just don’t ask the hard questions or anything requiring action outside of our immediate clan. We want a comfortable religion, one that fits like an old glove.

Looking to others for the “right” answer as Morf says is an all too familiar scene for me. I have come to realize that there really are no “right” answers. Right answers are most often dependent on your experiences and attitudes at a given time in your life. One person’s right answers can be quite different from another’s. All of us are at different levels in our spiritual journey. Simply stated there is no one “right” answer.

One thing that irritates me more than most others is how we want our answers to fit comfortably within our current circumstances. We want our world to be smaller, not bigger. I can recall one clergy leader who I personally knew  who constantly said that all God expects of us are things like taking care of your immediate family. He just never challenged us to get out of our comfort zones and do things for others.  In my mind that cheapens the words of Jesus and especially his actions. Jesus told us that all of humanity is our family and we should be as concerned about everyone as we are about our biological brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. But since this particular clergy was Lutheran and they do seem to have an aversion towards works I should not have been surprised at this approach to following Jesus.  I will sadly admit those words fit very comfortably within his congregation and in me for a time. It is easy to follow Christ when you don’t have to get out of your comfort zone.

When we make our version of religious faith small and about ourselves or immediate clan and not about divine responsibility for our communities and our world we are taking a much too easy road in our spiritual life. It is not about us. It is about loving others and yes even giving them the shirt off our backs or maybe some of our tax dollars if they need it.

Barns….

November 15, 2014

IMG_3663_edited-1

One of my long time hobbies is to take pictures of barns, that is the old wooden barns of the past. This is a prime example of an elegant one in the Midwest.

Common Sense…..

November 14, 2014

2014-07-25_08-48-31Call them the invisible rich. How do they do it? Sure, money like that sometimes comes from an inheritance or another fortuitous break, but more likely it’s the result of diligence, smart choices and, well, deferred gratification.

SOURCE: Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door – Yahoo Finance.

Wealth-building secrets of the millionaire next door

It seems like there are thousands of articles and books lately to tell you how to become rich. But do any of them actually have anything unique to say? I am not going to go into the details about the above article other than to give you the topic titles.

* They Don’t Spend Beyond Their Means

* They Educate Themselves

* They Pick the Right Field

* They Save (and Invest) Early

* They Don’t Swing for the Fences

* They Keep Themselves Covered

* They’re Wise About Windfalls

* They Hang Onto Their Cars (and Houses)

* They Avoid Debt

To this old Midwestern boy all these things just seem like common sense. Sure some like picking the right field are more luck than anything, but most are achievable by most of us if we just stick to it.  I really don’t know what keeping myself covered has to do with anything but I figure I must have done a good job at it since I am pretty well covered today. :)

Never had a windfall except for the new fishing reel I got as a young boy from my grandfathers estate. Now I am not a millionaire but I think I do have enough to keep me going for the final years of my life. But to me the point of life is not financial wealth building (easy for someone to say who has enough) but more along the lines of morality building and trying to treat the other guy with respect whether he deserves it or not.

But given the statistics lately it seems that most just can’t seem to live by the standards above. Maybe they should be teaching more about that in our school systems? I don’t know about wealth-building but I think I have done a pretty fair job of paying forward for all the good fortune I have had in my life. I might have had it tough in some regards, losing my mother in early life and losing hearing at mid-life was no joyride, but I had it a lot easier than many folks I came across in life….

 

Wanting a Gun….

November 13, 2014

2014-10-16_07-36-09“They want Peace, but they want a Gun to help get it with.” – Will Rogers, 9 February 1930

Yeah Will, nothing has changed much in this area since your day.  About the only thing different is that we have MUCH bigger guns now. It goes back to the old quote “If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail”. I love this country but I simply can’t begin to understand its obsession with guns…..