Mother Nature Sued: God Named Co-Defendant

Smog As I read the headline "Quake Lifts Solomons Island Out of the Sea", I was reminded of the incomprehensible power of the earth to create new...and destroy old.  In an instant, a 20 mile x 5 mile coral reef was lifted up 10 feet exposing it and obviously destroying all of the life on it.  Now it remains a rotting heap of rock and sea death. (Conspiracy theorists have already pointed to the magic George Bush Tsunami generator project headed by the NSA and Haliburton from their Dubai offices)

After I get over the shock and awe of what happened, I inevitably begin thinking about Al Gore, Global Warming, and Mother Nature.  I'm sorry, I just can't help it.  You think I like that this happens???

This is not a political blog nor will it ever be...but here's a few points that I'd like to throw up to the defense attorneys when Mother Nature (aka "The Weather aka "Old Man Winter") and God (aka "The Maker" aka "Dear God" aka "Oh My God" aka "Big Daddy") finally take the stand.

  1. I'm not a scientist and don't have access to the data, but I'm unguardedly certain that there are hundreds of countries, including the world's most voracious producers of goods that belch out more billions of tons of filth and pollutants that we here in the US could produce if we wanted to (China, India). Let's shift the focus onto them OK.  I drive a Honda man...and I use those ridiculous fluorescent bulbs that look like corkscrews.  Heck I even compost.  Am I cool?
  2. When a natural event like a volcanic eruption spews more CO2 and methane into the atmosphere that we can ever create here on earth over a few week period...ummmm...."Can I get some carbon offsets here!"  Pass a resolution that makes volcanoes illegal.  Did I mention the methane produced by cows?  We must immediately ban all forms of meat because those suckers provide enough gases via their own ozone holes to melt a glacier.  I'll just have a salad please.
  3. When it's 14.5 degrees when I wake up to a beautiful Des Moines April morn' and there's snow on the cherry blossoms in DC, warming is a tough sell.  I realize that global warming is actually the cause of both warming and cooling and that no matter how cold it may be...that it's actually warming that is the sole culprit)
  4. If the weather turns certain areas into less desirable places to live and others into more desirable places to live, and this transition happens over time( as it has throughout history) is that bad?  No one wants folks to suffer pain and suffering.  But since it seems that much of what we call "recreation" now was caused by receded glaciers ripping canyons into otherwise cruddy areas, I'm gonna go with it.  "There are new lakes forming daily from glacial melt" and I can't help but think that some enterprising folks with poor lives up til now are thinking "Lake front developments - cheap - inquire at shanty camp #2". 
  5. When I was a kid growing up in Southern CA in the San Gabriel Valley (east of LA by about 45 miles), 2nd stage smog alerts occurred often during the summer.  That means "Don't go outside unless it's absolutely necessary"  As kids we used to rid bikes everywhere and all summer long, our lungs would BURN and deep breaths were impossible.  This hasn't happened in SoCal for a long long time.  In fact the last stage 3 smog alert was in 1974.  (Ah ha! Governor Ronald Reagan single handedly stopped smog) See we all figured out that new cars put out a puff of bad emissions compared to a 70's belcher.  When those were gone, the junk in the air subsided greatly.  Sure there's a haze of YUCK over the valley's in SoCal.  But it has been that way for as long as we've had reporters in the field (aka "Indians").  They called it "Valley of the Smoke" because the heat traps in the moisture and dust from the windy conditions blah blah blah. 

Now I realize that everything I've just said circles back to my lack of education and understanding.  I do what I can to make the earth a sustainable place but I realize that's not enough.  I need to freak out, preach about our impending doom, and ride my bike more.  But what's my next step?

I'm really not sure.  If we've caused all of this and can't really do much about it, and it has nothing to do with the cyclical nature of our earth, then I guess I need a bit more indoctrination. 

Is the true goal of the Global Warming crowd to fund a fixing of the problem?  If so, we'd need to literally take everyone's money and stop the economy from producing so much goop.  Don't forget to shut down the coal fired plants and don't drive anywhere, then send all of that money you made at your home job that doesn't use electricity or paper or water or anything organic to the government to fund research.  We have a 10 year window according to Gore right before calamity brings the beach front to Nevada and Arkansas?

As we approach an era of hydrogen power (have you seen the 12 cylinder BMW hydrogen car?  Wow.), wind power, ethanol, biodiesel, and (shhhhh...nuclear power), I'm encouraged by our progress as humans and will not simply accept the role of global whipping boy for whatever problems seem to exist out there.  You see, this country and its people are a shining example of what ingenuity and the spirit of innovation breeds.  We're blamed for everything and expected to pay for everything that happens around the globe (protection, wars, humanitarian missions, environmental disasters, financial aide, natural disasters, and more).  We also do it here at home (however inefficiently) when things run amuck. 

If we are the world's bad guys and we're the root of much of the world's evil, perhaps the globe would do well to boycott us and all that we are.  Then, after the rest of the world's collapse due to lack of food, no pesticides from our research to prevent blight and plague, and the free reign of dictatorial regimes that enslave millions, we'll move in and ruin those new places too.  (By ruin I mean make prosperous and provide all citizens with their best darn shot at living out their God given rights to a great life).

Personally, I think I'll homestead a piece of land in Bordeaux when it becomes available and replant with some California grapes. (Wait, haven't we done that already?)

By Battery Power and Aircard

I'm typing this post by fireside, candle light, and via the battery in my Dell.  Let's hope it doesn't spontaneously erupt in flames..  Our power went out about 2 hours ago due to the ice and what the heck do I know.  Our power lines are underground but one never knows what brings down the grid.  We've got plenty of candles and big pot of chicken and dumplings from earlier tonight (wife made a killer batch tonight). 

It's amazing how quickly my thoughts turned to providing for the family when this happened since:

  1. I still haven't gotten around to buying a generator.
  2. We're on our last 10 pieces of wood since I didn't order more last week.
  3. Our basement flooded recently from a frozen pipe and without heat for x days (if the outage happened to be a long one), surely something else will blow.

They already have a crew out according to MidAmerican Energy (thanks Mr. Buffett) and it will probably be fixed before morning...but my first stop after I scrape off the ice will be Lowes and my first call will be to the Wood Man. 

Next stop tonight is a fat glass of something made for adults and a large stogey.  Three cheers for electricity!   

middle income buyers bail

It's widely reported that the middle income buyer, the buyer pinched most in the LA, California housing market, is bailing in favor of getting more for less elsewhere.  Joel Kotkin, the master analyst, author, and commentator on this subject wrote a piece that appeared in the LA Times on this today.  His article describes the necessary economic readjustment that will inevitably occur in LA since a massive and very vibrant economic sector, the middle income family, is moving out much faster than they're moving in. 

I believe that we're barely scraping the surface of the "scorched earth" in the LA area.  A massive percentage of the mortgages given in the last few years were negative amortization loans.  Many of these loans were taken out by very smart people.  It takes a while for smart and productive people's mistakes begin to pop up on the radar...but they will.  High limit credit cards and peak valuation home equity lines can go a long way. When the "good people begin to go through bad things" you'll see a more powerful correction in prices and economic conditions. 

DsmnightThe time to buy in LA may be only a few years away.  Once the economic dust has settled and barring a major earthquake or 24 like scenario, things will likely reach equilibrium.  Until then, many boutique cities and smaller Midwestern enclaves like Des Moines will flourish.  Our metro area has 99% of big city amenities without the hassles and pain associated with them.  We're seeing the "condo, office space, and retail" combination thrive in suburban areas.  Downtown is seeing flats and condos rising from the ashes of ancient manufacturing and warehouse facilities that have rotted for years attracting the young professional set, pre-kids and pre-McMansion desires.  Additionally, the nightlife and coffee house culture that seems to go hand in hand with this style of living is attracting and keeping the youthful twenty-somethings.  These folks may actually stay in Des Moines versus heading off to LA, Chicago or NYC for their assimilation into the debt laden high society collective. 

My wife and I have considered purchasing a downtown condo as a rental and as a possible "retirement home" for our post-kid life but have yet to pull the trigger.   The more I type though, the more interested I'm becoming in this option.

Paper Blogging & the Circle of Life

My wife brought the mail into today and much to my surprise, I received a "blog comment" on a real post card (that's a paper missive for the younger set).  The comment was a follow up on a "posting" I did in our local newspaper the Des Moines Register.  I responded to an editorial board opinion piece titled, "Pave Way For Preschool For All Iowa Children. The editorial board's penchant for spending my money seems never ending but I digress.

The crux of the story is the following non exaggeration.  Iowa needs to pay for preschool for everyone and for daycare before and after because it's a proven concept that preschool educated kids do better.

This idea is flat out wrong and I wrote the newspaper with my comments.  Here they are below and (linked)

The magic money tree must have sprouted here in Des Moines with all of the warm weather. At least that's the feeling I get when reading your gushing editorial about providing preschool and "wraparound child care" to everyone.

The piece builds from a "widely understood" truth that odds of future success are improved by attending preschool. I've seen plenty of alternative opinions that show unstructured play time being equally important to early development.

Now on top of paying yet more money for this option, you're calling for pre-preschool and post-preschool daycare funding! Let me clarify this concept to your readership: You'd like to outsource the management of children from early morning to evening with our tax dollars.

All of the statistics in the world cannot defeat common sense. Send your kids to preschool if you want to and can afford to, but please don't ask the general populous to provide nanny services at our expense. What a novel concept personal responsibility has become.

- Doug Mitchell,


My commentary was received very positively by an Iowa reader near Sioux City Iowa.  I'll call her Mrs. W.  Mrs. W said the following in her post card sent to me:

Thanks for your thoughtful letter in Wednesday's Register.  I taught kindergarten a couple of years (after mothering my own 3 past that stage) and learned the "common sense" advice - that children should not be pushed at that age.  They just need time to mature & at different rates.  You are correct:  "unstructured play time is equally important to early development."  Do continue to share your wisdom:

Mrs. W.

That word:  Wisdom made me feel pretty darn good Mrs. W.

I emailed a newspaper after reading a piece of printed paper.  My comments were read on paper and a postcard comment was submitted back to me.  Now I'm blogging on a paper comment and the circle is complete.  Now I'll follow up and send this printed post back to her.  The only piece missing was telepathy.  Blogs are just an extension of the conversation and I hope you'll join in like Mrs. W. did.

My telecom nightmare

I moved to Iowa about 13 months ago. Upon arrival, I was welcomed and really hooked up by Mediacom, the cable company presently embroiled in a battle with Sinclair Communications. I've posted on that deal before.  At the end of the day, I'm at the nexus of the perfect storm regarding my whole telecom infrastructure:

  1. I no longer have Fox (24 being the main issue) so I cannot DVR it and must switch over to rabbit ears to see it in scratchy low def.
  2. All of my discounts just expired.  I now have a $180/mo bill for internet, phone, and cable.  That does include a $20 discount on phone.  Mediacom seems to have no interest thus far in keeping me as a customer.  They must be trained with shock therapy to not even flinch when you say, "I'm going to take all of my services elsewhere unless you sharpen this pencil."
  3. My wife wants to keep a local 515 Des Moines, Iowa phone number (now with Mediacom using their excellent unlimited VOIP.  I'm in favor of ditching regular phone all together.  Our cell phones are CA area codes and must remain that way for another reason not worth explaining.
  4. I have Vonage for business already in the house
  5. I have a skype account and skype IN phone number but they don't even offer 515 area code for that nor does Yahoo Phone.

My buddy forwarded me a link to Grand Central where you can use one 515 phone number and it will ring to any phone you want it to ring on (cell, office, etc.)  It's free right now but probably wont be forever and it's a bit clunky.

Anyway, I'm anxious to hear someone's suggestions if they have them..but I'm pretty sure I've covered every conceivable way of doing this..and that I'm left with bending over for Mediacom and living with rabbit ears, or going the DirecTV / Qwest phone/DSL route.      

What's That Smell?

Have you ever someone say, " smells like Jersey!"  I have...but apparently there's a harmless stench floating about in NYC and it's getting worse.  Here's the USA Today piece on the topic.

I'd love to here your thoughts on what you think it is.

Multiple choices are encouraged!

My first choice:

It's the growing stench of the unbathed bloggers trying to influence the "2008 Hillary for President" Campaign.

Housing Market Shock Test

A piece appeared in the LA Times a few days ago that chronicles the plight of Will Hertzberg.  He's in a negative amortization situation on his loan.  The loan allows him to pay as little as $1106 per month (resulting in negative equity)...when the principal and interest would be $2513 on a 30 year fixed plan.   1 in 3 loans so far in 2006 are in this negative situation.

This story really got my attention because Will lives in Corona, former home town.  He describes how his equity has vanished.

HERTZBERG bought his house 11 years ago for $129,995, immediately after his second divorce. (He has no children.) Since then, Corona and the Inland Empire have boomed.

Comparable homes in his neighborhood fetch more than $400,000. With fresh paint and a few repairs, Hertzberg could probably sell his place for $275,000 more than he paid.

He would see little of that, however, because he's already seen so much. Over the years he has taken out $190,000 in cash through refinancings.

Hertzberg's home equity paid off his credit cards, financed trips around the world that allowed him to indulge his passion for photography, bought a $32,000 Toyota Avalon and enabled some lousy investments. He bought dot-com stocks and lost money. To recoup those losses, he bought commodities — and lost money faster

The bottom line here is that there's no one to blame but oneself.  Living in Corona always made me wonder how everyone in the neighborhood always had 2 white Suburban's, a boat, 2 Seadoos, and 4 Quads.  Now you know too.    

Act Like A Nobel Peace Prize Winner...Today

A little birdie (actually Sandy) posted a link to today.  I didn't know about this organization...but it facilitates you, me, anyone making a "micro-loan" of as little as $25 to someone in a developing country.  Thank you making me and my readers aware of this great cause Sandy.

Remember recently that, "Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he created won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for leveraging small loans into major social change for impoverished families.

The Grameen Bank's pioneering use of micro-credit has been duplicated across the globe since Yunus started the project in his home village three decades ago. Loans as low as $9 have helped beggars start small businesses and poor women buy cellular phones and basket-weaving materials."

Quoted from Washington Post

More Ethanol Alley

It was an amazing few days for Ethanol news around Iowa. Here's a story of an overturned tanker clogging the roads...most notably..check out the last section about "replacing any plastic pipes underground because the seeping ethanol would corrode/degrade it.  Corrosion is a problem that if solved...will make pipelines possible.  Right now, it's tankers and rail cars.

Our friend Chuck over at Domestic Fuel posted on 89 octane gas at a Hyvee in Iowa...being LESS expensive than the 87 octane NOT blended with ethanol.  This caused me some trauma when I first moved here too.  I hope Chuck found the folks here in Iowa as friendly as I have.

Here we see that the Northern Iowa Railway company received a big chunk of change to build out some of its infrastructure to facilitate smoother operations...sparked of course by the massive ethanol/bio-diesel output increases and continued growth projections.

Of course the political candidates are spewing about how they'll do better to promote biofuels, etc. but I don't believe any of them truly grasp how important this is to our state...and our nation. 

You'll see my blog ETHANOL ALLEY soon offered as a NAV BAR link on this blog.  I will begin posting on this site only within the next few weeks.  If you visit Ethanol Alley, you'll still see all the posts from the past and all future ones there as well.  It's just too much for me to manage 2 blogs and 2 sets of this and that. 

People Drought

Today, the Des Moines Register posted an editorial piece entitled:  The Issue:  The People Drought.  The piece highlights the major challenge that Iowa (like most of the non-coastal cities) will face in the coming decades.  According to demographers and other experts, we'll face a massive shortfall of workers here.  It's estimated that by 2012 (only 6 years from now mind you) that we'll have 150k more jobs than workers to fill them. 

It’s estimated that Iowa will have 150,000 more jobs than workers by 2012, and it could get much worse thereafter. Rather than new businesses coming to Iowa, the specter is of businesses leaving Iowa because they won’t be able to hire enough workers.

Living in California all of my life until 2005...I never had to face an issue like this...nor do I think we'll have to face it here.

Here's why.  These dire predictions of worker shortage seem to rarely if ever come true.   The statistics assume that at "retirement age", baby boomers will perform a mass exodus from the work force.  Wrong.  Using the same statistics, I'm sure we'd find that a majority of those boomers have under capitalized their retirements..and thus will be changing careers, filling in at mall jobs part time, and the uber professionals will be called in to perform their acts of gray haired wisdom at companies around the state. 

No one here is throwing illegal immigration into the mix either.  You can continue to put off the inevitable by allowing unfettered immigration to "fill the jobs"...but what job deficits are we really talking about here?  Are we facing a lack of 150k skilled workers, burger flippers, or doctors?  No one ever really makes that clear when they speak expertly.

The core of this insane political football remains:

  1. If education was the priority of this state above all else...we'd have the best starting point of ANY state from which to build our foundation.  End of discussion.
  2. If Iowa and the Midwest puts its full force behind becoming the scientific and ag/biofuel technology leader...we'd have no trouble attracting smart people and entrepreneurs and venture capital after the initial ethanol hangover wears off.
  3. Stopping illegal immigration will force the economy to realign itself with the proper market forces at play...this will throw all formulae off by an order of magnitude.

Cloaking is here

It's here!  I don't know about you...but I cannot wait until this technology becomes even somewhat tangible for the average Joe.  Cloaking is here!  Yet another product for Shatner to pitch!

`We have built an artificial mirage that can hide something from would-be observers in any direction,'' said cloak designer David Schurig, a research associate in Duke University's electrical and computer engineering department.

Any Star Trek fan (yes, I'm the biggest Star Trek nerd you'll meet this side of a convention)...knows the power of the cloaking device.  Recently the original series episode aired where the cloaking concept was introduced for the first time. 

If you could cloak yourself...where would you hide out for a while?

Tom Evslin on Ethanol...and then there's Doug's Opinion

I love reading Tom Evslin's blog.  There's always a fresh perspective to twist your synapses a bit.  He posted a wonderful piece entitled:  Ethanol:  Boon or Boondoggle?  This subject is near and dear to me as I'm smack dab in the middle of Ethanol Alley.  Evslin's piece talks about the science, environmental impact, and efficiency (or lack thereof) of producing ethanol.  I propose that although this part of the discussion is valuable...that the most important piece of the ethanol discussion is the mental shift that the citizens of the United States have undergone in the last 12 months regarding our energy independence. 

The debate has shifted away from "Can we, should we" to "How can we, what technology should we use".  Over a billion dollars of venture capital has poured into my humble Midwest ( that my family and I adopted last October after executing geographic arbitrage to Des Moines, IA from SoCal) and there's no sign of slowing. 

Those that have poo poo'd the inefficiency of corn based ethanol are sitting back now and watching hundreds of millions more gallons be produced from this method.  Additionally, our beautiful and humble state of Iowa is "getting it" by helping the Universities pursue the technologies, methods, and breakthroughs that will likely spawn the next generation of cellulosic ethanol production (making fuel from any plant/vegetable matter like corn stalks, grass, or ground up trees). 

Additionally, home grown Iowa start ups will provide supporting technologies and platforms to solve the other inefficiencies in the process of creating ethanol and getting it to the market place (distribution, logistics, etc.) (Contact me via email directly if this last sentence intrigued you)

The bottom line here is that we've begun the transformation and it will only take a hero to make it happen in a respectable time line.  I had a great conversation with my dad last week (I'm so stoked that my parents live a 12-hour drive away now versus 2500 miles).  During that conversation I found myself again stumping for an icon, a Presidential candidate that will arise and cut through the BS of the political process and promise us a Kennedyesque Man On The Moon Plan (this link contains my revisions to the speech appropriate for this discussion) to become 75% independent within 8 years (if we choose to re-elect him/her).  I'm a pretty fiscally/socially conservative guy...and I find myself passionately begging for a progressive tax levy on all Americans that will create an energy Independence race fund to drive our global dominance in this category.  Every single person I've talked to is in favor of such a levy.  Is this our rallying cause?  Is this the scientific area that the U.S. will dominate in this Century? (Stem cell is too much a political football) Is this my calling to run for office? I think not.  Where's William Katt when you need him?

Arnold Palmer...Flying High

One of golf's living legends, Arnold Palmer, still flies himself around the U.S. to engage in his golf and business activities.  Palmer says in the Sports Illustrated piece that, "It's a convenience, it's a business tool for me and it's also one that I enjoy doing," Palmer said. "I've been doing it 18,000 hours. That's almost a lifetime in itself."

Every time I go to the airport for a 1 hour flight (I just requalified platinum on American again darn it), I think about becoming a pilot and flying myself.  There's something magical about flight and taking this ultimate responsibility into your hands.  I must say I'm always edgy and nervous on flights and I think that taking my destiny into my own hands could really help that.  After all, who has time to be nervous in the cockpit when one is so busy making sure things are going right, on course, and out of harms way.  I read a blog called Flight Level 390 maintained by a commercial airline pilot.  I'm just drawn to the conversation, decision making, problem solving, and "cool factor" of flying big jets.  If I'm so interested in something...and that something could be a time saver and efficiency tool...then why not do it? 

I'll contemplate this through the holidays as the weather turns cold and I envision getting stuck in a snow storm and using instruments to land while sweating through my clothes.         


I was honored to have some commentary on Boutique Cities from a recent post...published on Joel Kotkin's website.   Thanks again Joel and I look forward to a Des Moines visit sometime soon.

Here's a snippet from Joel's Bio.
internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends,
Joel Kotkin is the author of the newly published, critically acclaimed THE CITY: A GLOBAL HISTORY from Modern Library. He is also author of the widely acclaimed, best-selling book, THE NEW GEOGRAPHY, How the Digital Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape (Random House, 2000).

H5N1, Hurricanes, & Gas Prices

Is it my imagination or have we literally heard nothing for months about the bird flu pandemic that was going to kill 50% of the U.S. within months?

I am just missing all of the stories that attribute the lack of destructive hurricanes slamming the coasts this year so far to global cooling or some other buzz cause?

Has there been even 5% of the coverage given to the decline in gas/oil prices as given the increases? (Has the credit been given back to those who were blamed?)  Gas in Iowa is below $2.00 and has been.

I find it increasingly difficult to look at mainstream news as anything but entertainment.  The truth, depth, and meaning tends to come from the blogosphere...and that's fine with me.  Are you being heard?       

Iowa Labor Shortage Forecast

Earlier this month, an article popped up in the Mason City Globe Gazette highlighting an anticipated labor shortage in Iowa through at least 2011.  The article discusses the usual excuses for a shrinking labor pool.  But as usual, there are major inconsistencies that lend themselves to the continual propagation of this problem of "brain drain".

  1. The article brings up the point that "Companies don't want to hire older people because young college graduates are cheaper." In the same breath, the article mentions that young people leave immediately upon graduation because they want to "get out of the Midwest", make more money, etc. Which is it?
  2. The article talks about ways to solve these problems like raising the minimum wage and creating government programs to help this cause.  Wrong.   Minimum wage has nothing to do with keeping young talent and other professional jobs in the state.  Government business funding programs typically make it easier for bad ideas to get funding.  That doesn't stimulate anything but higher taxes and political football passing at election time. 
  3. What this article and the leadership of Iowa isn't getting is that they need to court those who wish to come back and bring their skills, family, and higher wage expectations to Iowa.  It's the late 20 and early 30something crowd with 2 kids that begin to crave this lifestyle after they've "seen the world" out there in the big city and found that they don't really care for it as much as they thought they would (now with their mitigating circumstances like a 120 minute commute and a 2 kids under 5). 
  4. Almost nothing is going to make people flock to Iowa.  Period.  It's wonderful and beautiful and I love it...but for this area to boom, it will take vision.  As I've mentioned plenty on my Ethanol Industry blog Ethanol Alley, a place like this must take what it can get.  Right now the humble Midwest has the chance to become the scientific leader and key producer of all things bio-fuel related.  Will we seize this chance of a generation?  I still don't believe that our leadership understands that this is Iowa's silicon valley lite opportunity.  If our state government did its job, we'd be looking at initiatives that the people would vote YES on...that would give permission to the state to plow money into the breakthroughs leading to energy independence.  How about $1 billion to start...and watch the VC money flow like wine at a 1990's dot com launch party to follow. 

To gain true perspective on what it takes to become the next Silicon Valley or even just a hot bed for job and tech growth, I suggest reading one of my favorite tech/biz essayist Paul Graham.  His piece called "How to be Silicon Valley" is a wonderful primer on this topic.  The opening paragraphs state that, "You only need two kind of people to create a technology hub:  rich people and nerds."  Do we have many of either here in Iowa?

Sad End To A Colorful Career

It's just been released that the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin was killed while filming a documentary off the coast of Australia.

"Steve was hit by a stingray in the chest," said local diving operator Steve Edmondson, whose Poseidon boats were out on the Great Barrier Reef when the accident occurred.

Whatever you thought of croc hunter, sadly he leaves behind 2 kids and wife.  At least he died while living his passion for outdoor life and all things wild.


Potent Advice on Anti-Teamwork

A great piece showed up on Tom Evslin's blog Fractals of Change titled, "When NOT to be a team player".

Evslin shares how teamwork in the wrong context ultimately leads to appeasement, lack of progress, and potential disaster.  One of my favorite quotes appears too,

Winston Churchill wrote: “Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together – what do you get? The sum of all their fears.”

Let This Be A Lesson

This piece just hit the wires about gas moving down to between $2 and $2.50/gallon.  Remember the idea that the Dow was going to explode to 20,000, oil was going to hit $100/barrel by Christmas, and that we'd all be riding Vespas since gas was going to hit $5.00/gallon? 

This is the typical panic media redux.

Mark this down...if gas does go down to $2.50/gallon or SUV sales creep back up.  The American people have a very short memory..especially when they've been cramming their 3 kids into the back of a honda civic.

Best Quality of Life - Iowa

Forbes released its "Best States For Business" top 50 list recently, and Iowa faired 25th.  Right in the middle...and typical for Iowa :)

But guess which state came in first in the Quality of Life category?  You guessed it....Iowa.   It's tough to describe to people what "Quality of Life" means but you just know it and feel it when you live here. 

An article in Today's Des Moines Register discusses the results a bit further.

What do toilet seats and Mark Cuban have in common?

About 5 years ago now, I started hearing joyous praises from a friend of mine concerning a product he'd procured from Ebay.  He'd purchased a bidet...not some elaborate "second sink" mind you, this was the Japanese style "Toilet Seat Replacement Style Bidet".  Around our group of friends, this was quite a humorous endeavor.  There was all kinds of awkward conversation, laughs, and people emerging from the bathroom with damp pants because they turned the knob "just to see what would happen".  But nearly everyone that..."used it"...came out with a pleased look and quietly asked me "How much is that thing?"

I on the other hand, went on line, bought one, and then contacted the distributor to begin the process of reselling these marvels on my own.  Within a few weeks, I was up and running at Bidets Direct.  My friends and family laughed at my garage full of bidets for resale.  I even emailed the popular Kevin and Bean show in Los Angeles about these devices and within 24 hours, I was being interviewed on the radio about them.  The interview was a decent into the most graphic bathroom humor you can get away with on the air, but that's the style of the show and I adapted (pretty easily).  My phone rang off the hook after that interview for about 30 minutes when I gave out the number 1-800-2-WASH-ME (true but please don't call since I have no idea who has this number now).

I realized quickly that in America, we don't really talk about "The Bathroom".  I found it odd that something that everyone does (using toilet paper) hadn't really been improved since we replaced soviet style sand paper with soft Charmin.    I was ahead of the curve and going to develop an elaborate e-commerce site, etc.  I marketed at swap meets and made a few sales to friends and family but without full time dedication and the sticktuitiveness to literally "Educate the US market" in this technology and process, I let the business fade.  Never ONCE did I consider seeking venture capital for this business. 

Down deep in the core of my business heart, I knew this was going to take off here in the U.S.  It must right?  Research had been released that showed over 60% of Americans "Use some form of wet wipe" in the bathroom.  Ads were appearing more frequently in magazines for bidets.  I thought that if I brought a moderately priced device that Americans would gobble it up.  I did not push through to see if my theories were true.

Now, yesterday, I get an email from Business Lit that brings my attention to an article in the Wall St. Journal called "High Technology, Enthroned".  The piece talks about how bidets have become the high tech device de jour in Silicon Valley.  (They've yet to reach that status in Ethanol Alley)  The article has some very good descriptions of how toilet seat replacement bidets work and a really cool 3-D picture that's quite educational.

Also mentioned in the piece is the Silicon Valley company called Brondell who believed they could "Make a better bidet".  To execute on this vision, they sought out funding and low and behold, Mark Cuban invested in the firm.  I wonder if Mark has had these installed in the Dallas Maverick's locker room? 

This article brought home a few points that have been consistent themes in my life so I had a little conversation with me that I'd like to share

1.  I really can visualize how markets will develop, spot trends, and predict future buying behavior.  This is about the Nth time I've seen "my idea" develop out into a viable and profitable business" before my eyes.  REALIZATION:  You had the vision but didn't have the guts, skill, or entrepreneurial craziness to execute on your idea.  Therefore, find the right people early in your ventures.  Align with more people who will execute on your strategic vision.

2. There are a million excuses I can offer up for why I haven't executed on one of these ideas:  kids, risk/reward, lack of steady income, etc.  But you don't need to justify why you didn't do it, rather appreciate what you DID do...and if the situation is right, you'll pull the trigger and wont look back.  That was then, this is now...and I'm cool with that.

3.  You really do know how to generate buzz and free PR...and you can make people listen when you write.  You thrive on blindly contacting people who realize that they must meet you because you have a passion and understanding of their businesses that they usually don't see...FROM ANYONE else but themselves.

4.  Nothing is unworthy of funding.  I never looked for money to turn my vision into reality, but maybe I should have.  Sure I wasn't looking to create a new bidet or manufacture a product...but I believe I could have created the number one on line shopping site for bidets and perhaps could have made sure that a bidet was in every new high end home ever built, or placed very well at Lowe's home remodel center.

5.  It's really all about sales.  Finding a key mad dog sales person that will call the world to spread the gospel is really what I needed in most of my ventures.

I'm really not sure how this post morphed from bathroom talk to life and business lessons...but isn't that what's it's all about?  My wife often tells me, "You think too much" but I think it's quite valuable to sit and attempt to connect strangely dissimilar dots along life's continuum.  Do you think this is fodder for a TV pilot? (A little Quantum Leap...a little Apprentice)  OK, I'll be back, I've got to make some calls!

What Flying Has Come To

Thanks again to Business Lit for pointing out this loveliness.

This photo was grabbed from RyanAir's website.  Check out some of these FARES for comparison!

In case you're unaware, RyanAir is the low cost (Southwest style) airline leader in Europe. I recently read another piece discussing Ryan's business model where the CEO claimed that within some number of years, they'll actually be hauling 100% of their passengers FREE! All of their revenue will come from partnerships, advertising, and co-marketing agreements.  I believe they quoted that something like 40% of all people that travel on Ryan right NOW are free.

I love it.  Aggressive behavior and creative thinking will make airlines work.  The innovation I see on American Airlines right now is, "Which service to creatively take away next."

Gaining Ultimately Clarity

Thank you Business Lit for floating me this story. 

Every time I start believing that I can write effectively, think critically, and get an audience for my work, I read something like this speech given by Michael Crichton.  Then I curl up in the fetal position for a while and create a post like this.  With extremely clarity and vision and without politics, Crichton delivers an eloquent look at Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century

After reading this, I'm just not sure how the "panic media" or "activists" or "immediate action or else" crowd actually functions or reasons  I'd love to see one of those types do a step by step attempt at rebuttal of the logic presented in this piece.  I'm willing to listen.

Field of Dreams...Redux

Kevin Costner recently showed up in Dyersville, IA, home of the "Filed of Dreams" along with folks from around the U.S.  Costner played a concert and partied it up with fans.  Wholesome fun and nostalgia are not lost just yet in the beautiful state of Iowa.

I hope we find out the truth eventually

I'm hoping that these missing Egyptian students that were just found in Des Moines were just stupid.  Something in my gut says when 6 of 17 students, destined for an exchange program in Montana show up, and the rest go missing, that something is not right.  These kids were found in 5 states now.  Please tell me how a group of Egyptian students, all with the same alleged agenda of attending a program together, just turn themselves loose across the U.S.A.?  If we find that there's nothing to this, I'm still going to be quite happy that these guys are thinking about what they've done in the comfort of their Egyptian homes and not here. 

I Didn't Know Bono Was a VC

Wow.  Found this on the B2DAY blog.  Apparently, Bono is a partner in Elevation Partners, a private equity firm.  Now, Elevation has bought a stake in Forbes (as in the magazine/web properties).  As a rabid U2 fan, I'm intrigued.


Again...I'm Dismayed

Again another piece of personal opinion has emerged from USA Today disguised as a news item.

The Headline "Iraq:  Huge Treasure of info seized after Zarqawi raid" is innocent enough.  Here's SENTENCE ONE of the article.

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 104 insurgents in hundreds of raids since terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was slain last week, and the American death toll in the war in Iraq hit 2,500, the U.S. military said Thursday.
The author could be getting to the point with part 1 of sentence 1...but inserting the American death toll into this is simply ridiculous. It has nothing to do with the fact that the U.S. has gained a massive strategic advantage since we introduced Zarqawi to a 500 lb. version of an IED.
The article goes on to lament the "grim milestone" of 2500 deaths for the U.S.
The Pentagon's announcement that 2,500 U.S. troops had died since the war in Iraq began more than three years ago did not include any details on when the grim milestone was reached.

The grim milestone underscored the continuing violence in Iraq, just as an upbeat President Bush returned Wednesday from Baghdad and refused to give a timetable or benchmark for success that would allow the 132,000 U.S. troops to come home.

Again I'm stunned.  Which book on the art of war explains that 2500 is a "grim milestone"?  Was this milestone significant in another war?  Notice that once again, we've been informed the Pentagon didn't "included any details" of when this occured.  (Implication:  The Pentagon clouds the truth and leaves out key arbitrary milestones).

Finally, the author proudly uses "Grim Milestone" again and mentions that President Bush is "upbeat" and that he "Refused to give a timetable or benchmark for success".  Nevermind that for the entire duration of the conflict, not a single person in the administration has ever indicated an arbitrary timeline for withdrawl.  The author is simply attempting to interject more "Bush doesn't feel the pain (upbeat)has no idea of what success means (no pull out date selected)" venom. 

Agree with the war and its ancillary conflicts or not, you should despise this writing.  It's not reporting.  Shame on these people.

I'm starting to feel like a conversative talk show host and one who's bored with pointing out the slanted writing in the newspapers.  I wont write about this again.

10-4 Good Buddy

An article appeared today in the USA Today entitled Wanted: A whole lot more good buddies
The article describes the incredible truck driver shortage that our country faces right now and the new spin on recruitment that copmanies are going to try. 

With phrases like "Assembly lines don't give you stories to tell," "Tired of restocking aisle 7?" and "No one ever wrote a song called minivannin'," the campaign is lighthearted. But it's meant to address a serious problem.

Consulting firm Global Insight estimated a year ago the trucking industry was short 20,000 drivers and forecast the gap could reach 111,000 in 2014 based on demographics and demand for transporting goods. Currently, there are about 1.4 million U.S. truck drivers, according to the Labor Department.

"It's a really serious problem," says Duff Swain, president of Trincon Group, a transportation consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. "Most (trucking companies) have 5% of their fleet parked against the fence because they don't have drivers."

Swain estimates that for every truck parked, companies are losing $55,000 in unrealized profit each year.

The bottom line here is that our nation's economy is fueled by trucking.  Sure airfreight and rail are a part of the mix.  But how often do you see a rail car backed up to the Walmart in Des Moines, Little Rock, or Peoria.  The answer is never.  Trucks, diesel fuel, and hardworking engines allow you and I to have salad, beef, and beer for dinner.  The companies and individuals that address this issue head on, and revolutionize the transportation industry as we know it, will capture big profits.  This is an industry that is just starting to use technology to reinvent itself.  You need an internet hotspot...stop at the Flying J truck stop.  There's not as many of those as Starbucks (and the coffee is absolutely horrid)..but you'll get great access at no charge.  Redefine the trucking and transportation rule book and you'll win. 

Fan View, What Tobacco Didn't Do For NASCAR

When Nextel (now Sprint/Nextel and soon to be just Sprint) took over from Winston as the premier sponsor of NASCAR, I knew that this was going to be good.  I expected driver themed phones and the "Dale Jr. airtime plan".  But they've hit a homerun with Fan View, a personal viewing device, race scanner, in-car camera monitor.  This device rounds out the "Total NASCAR Experience" and makes those times when "They're just turning left in a circle" far more interesting.

Bomb Sniffing Rats!

If you can get a Rat to sniff out a bomb or land mine...why can't we get them to sniff out lies or crooked politicians?  There's probably already a "Don't train the rats to sniff because it would be bad for business"  and "The Rat's Rights" lobby.   Does PETA oppose this?

Reality TV For Cool Guys

You'd never get me to admit in public that I watch any reality TV (OK, Dancing with the Stars is a family event at our house).  I keep my record clear by never actually sitting down when my wife has on American Idol.  In my head, not sitting means I'm not watching.  I've stood for 59 minutes before. 

However, now there's "American Idol NASCAR".  I'm in heaven.

Typical Government Largesse

In Des Moines, we're going through the CIETC scandal.  The Central Iowa Employment Training Consortium leadership apparently (and allegedly) pad themselves quite well with Iowans money.  Board of Supervisors are resigning left and right. 

But the most appalling piece of the scandal that I've read so far is the One Day Offer.  This takes the cake:

"The state auditor's report on CIETC outlined an instance last summer in which Workforce Development officials realized that the budget year was within 48 hours of ending and that they still had $225,000 in unspent federal job-training money. Rather than return that money, Workforce Development officials sent out an urgent e-mail to job-training agencies statewide, telling them they had just four hours to ask for a share of the money as part of a special "one-day offer."

Although CIETC never responded to the e-mail, it received the bulk of the unspent money. On June 30, within hours of the spending deadline, CIETC's executive director received a handwritten check for $200,000. The money was then spent on bonuses for the CIETC staff."

Views From My Former Life

Here's a couple views sent in by listeners to The John & Ken Show, a widly popular talk radio program that carries a HUGE influence in Southern California politics.  These guys literally facilitated the recall of former Governor Davis by mobilizing signatures and politicians. 

Here's a sample sent in by a listener.  What's your take on this?

"If you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime, TRY THIS:

Enter  Mexico illegally. Never mind immigration quotas, visas, international law, or any of that nonsense.

Once there, demand that the local government provide free medical care for you and your entire family.

Demand bilingual nurses and doctors.

Demand free bilingual local government forms, bulletins, etc. Procreate abundantly.

Deflect any criticism of this allegedly irresponsible reproductive behavior with, “It is a cultural U.S.A.thing. You would not understand, pal.”

Keep your American identity strong. Fly Old Glory from your rooftop, or proudly display it in your front window or on your car bumper.

Speak only English at home and in public and insist that your children do likewise.

Demand classes on American culture in the Mexican school system.

Demand a local Mexican driver license. This will afford other legal rights and will go far to legitimize your unauthorized, illegal, presence in Mexico

Drive around with no liability insurance and ignore local traffic laws.

Insist that local Mexican law enforcement teach English to all its officers.

Good luck! You’ll be demanding for the rest of time or soon be dead. Because it will never happen. It will not happen in Mexico or any other country in the world except right here in the United States, Land of the naive and stupid, idiotic politically correct politicians."

The Greatest Spectacle In Sports

Yes.  I said it...SPORT....
Golf is a sport and the greatest event in golf, The Masters started yesterday.  There is a great piece on Sports Illustrated online today.  It's an interview with Jim Nance and his impressions and memories about The Masters.  It's a great read and for any golf fan who's followed the Masters for years, it will produce the "chill bumps" all over again. 

Here's a glimpse at the range of topics covered in the conversation style interview:
(remaining text is a direct quote from the article on

SI: An SI poll found that almost 90 percent of Tour players said invading Iraq was a good idea, and zero had seen Brokeback Mountain. Is there something beyond socioeconomics going on? Something about golf that suits a conservative temperament?

JN: I don't think golf gives you a political bent.

SI: Is it about control? Focus? Discipline?

JN: Golf is an individual sport. You have to be disciplined. Not that I'm saying liberals are undisciplined. I'll give you my political leanings when I run for office in a couple of years. But do I substitute the word discipline for conservative? Maybe. Guys in golf aren't hanging out in bars late at night, by and large, or trying to find the great nightclub at this week's Tour stop. If you do, you won't succeed. So it's a regimented group. You need discipline to get to the Tour in the first place. You need discipline to hit balls, to train. Nobody's going to cover for you out there -- it's just you.

It's "Like so not likeable"

I'm sitting here in the lounge area waiting for my flight from Des Moines to Chicago...and I cannot help overhear boistrous phone conversations and the inevitable buzz of groups of sales people waiting to fly out to make presentations about this or that.  I've been noticing for a long time that people today,  use the word "like" to fill space in conversation. 

I realize that this progression has been ramping up for years...perhaps it started with the valley girl "explosion" in the early 80's...I'm not sure.  However, it's at a point now where I even catch myself saying it now and again. 

Here's a few sentences I just overheard..."She was like....upset because when they got there...the projector was like...not working or something...and then the hotel didn't even care...she was like devastated."  This was a professional looking person who works for a very large insurance company based here in Des Moines.  Odd.  The sentence works quite well without the LIKES in it. 

I'm sure there's some kind of phrase that defines the use of LIKE today...perhaps it's called a "connector" or "filler" somewhat similar to the "You know what I'm sayin'?" so frequently put forth by rap stars during conversations.  I've even heard those words used far more than others in interviews.

Either way, I will attempt to use this gripe of mine to educate my kids in proper grammar and linguistic style.

Wouldn't that be...LIKE totally cool?


This is the kind of thing that will make you pop a vein.

Let this tease you:
“Time suggests in its hysterical story on global warming: ‘Maybe we can begin by living more like the average Chinese or Indian – before they start living like us.’”

Can you BELIEVE that? The sound you hear is Henry Luce rolling in his grave.

Schultz can't believe it, either. He writes: "According to the CIA World Factbook, the per capita GDP on India is $3,400 a year, and $6,200 a year in China. In the United States it's $41,800. So yes, Time is indeed advocating cutting living standards by as much as ten times. If you want something to ‘be worried’ about, as Time asserts on its cover, well there you have it.”

Time Magazine

Piece on Lifehacker about the Time article covering Generation M (multi-tasking).  I'm very cognizant of these people when traveling since they tend to have zero connectivity with their outside world.  They're often rude because they have no idea of what's happening around them...just what's on in their digital world of text messages and ipods. 

I will make a concerted effort to teach my children to be different than this. 

I suffer from this problem for weeks at a time too...then I realize that I'm doing it...then I stop and what comes next is pure productivity genius.

I'm turning off the email from 6AM-1PM starting Monday the 3rd...will report on results.

My Moment with Cap Weinberger

During my dot com days, I was taking the commuter flight from NYC to DC where we were headed to meet with AOL I think.  As we waited in the lobby, Eric Idle (Python) was there signing autographs and looking very rushed to do something.  As I boarded my plane...I saw a small man sit down in front of me.  That man was Cap Weinberger.  I didn't say anything to him that day.  I wish I would have.  He was a very impressive figure.  His knowledge, understanding, and clarity on global politics and the economy preceded him and I really didn't want to ruin our  "encounter" by bringing up something  that I knew nothing about. 

I've never forgotten that experience...because shortly after that "non-meeting" with Cap...I boarded American Flight 77   that a mere month later would slam into the Pentagon.

Karlgaard on Cap Karlgaard on Cap Weinberger

Karlgaard Mentions Savage

Karlgaard's Digital Rules Blog today mentions talk radio as a good way to "measure the pulse of what's truly happening in the world....and the best way to forecast the coming political scene.  I couldn't agree more coming from Southern California and listening to The John and Ken Show on KFI literally shaping policy and rallying the troops.  They bring awareness to the absurdity on both sides of the isle and they're heavily responsible for the recall of former Gov. Davis.

Karlgaard's post called Listening in on Xenophobia.

I had no idea that The Michael Savage Show  was up to number 3 now.  Wow. 

Is this the straw that broke the housing market's back?

Did Katrina just quash my chances of multiple offers at or above my asking price in CA?  Now that gas is $3+ per gallon, there's approximately $200 less per month now available to fund house payments.  Of course, in typical fashion, I guess we could all just absorb the increases as $200/mo increase in debt X  xmonths of high prices.  I think this is the most likely scenario.  I'm 33 and in my first home that my wife and I bought almost 8 years ago at nearly the bottom of the market cycle.  Now it is worth more than 3x what I bought it for.  I listed it 2 weeks ago, just in time for Greenspan and Katrina to start making me nervous.  I've got 1 offer that came in well below offer price...a few visitors here and there...but no frenzy that I was hoping for.  My house is NOT overpriced according to the area comps and listings.

So did Katrina push the American Emotional state into depression?  Will the 24 hour news coverage of this tradgedy and the coming economic impact of this make America wake up to the fact that a starter home in CA is now considered to be $650k and 2400 sq.ft.?  I'm probably not going to be around there to figure it out if I can close the 1 offer outstanding on the house.  I'm going to be firmly ensconced in my Midwestern 2 story with walkout.  I'll probably invest in a safe room now though. 

With the proceeds of my little 1800 sq. ft. goldmine, I'll get a big LCD TV, a new car, be debt free, and triple my family's living space and yard size...and still have a pile of money left over (to invest in gold of course :).  I'm going to be "Midwest Rich" and loving every minute of it.  Here's to Miller High Life and Nascar!