Monday, December 21, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009


One positive from the earlier flight (reference Royal Air Maroc: Airplane Restrooms) was that I saw how the flight attendants "fix" the bathroom lock from the outside to make it look occupied for take-off and landing.

Now I can repeat said 'fix' and....make one restroom my own personal restroom for a flight. Like Jerry remarks about George's personal workplace restroom in Seinfeld...'Xanadu'!


Also, I had no idea....but when flying from Canada, US Customs gets done BEFORE the flight! There is an American Section at the Montreal airport!! Like Guantanamo in Cuba,...okay...bad example. You experienced travelers probably knew this already, but I found this to be go through security and customs in Montreal and arrive at Gate C, Terminal 1 in Chicago instead of at Terminal 5, Gate M and take a train over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Airplane Restrooms

When I boarded the Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca to Montreal, I had already unleashed a horde of obscenities after spending 5 grueling hours with them the day before.

When I checked in, I asked for an exit row, because of my height. The ticket agent gladly obliged, ripping up my old ticket, and telling me I was in an exit row on an aisle.

When I arrived on the plane, my seat instead was against the exit row, with a barely reclining chair, a safety vest beneath the seat in front of me, and a restroom directly to my right. Add crying babies, no movies, a call button being pressed over and over again unanswered by the crew, and a flummoxed attendant who mentions that only one ear bud is SUPPOSED to work for the in-flight music. Thankfully, the music available is not appealing, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out too much.

Back to the restroom….

I was faced with several people who are unfamiliar with ‘locking’ the bathroom door, the door remaining ‘unoccupied’ to outside observers and therefore being opened mid-business. Each time, I was the face the user saw when the door opened…instead of the person actually opening the door.

So many people were confused at how to open the restroom door that I was asked repeatedly during the flight to help people open the door. Mid-flight I took out a hand towel, meticulously placed it folded over my forearm, took out the life-savers from my backpack and started assisting passengers in their restroom experience. Thankfully, Royal Air Maroc already provides some of the amenities expected from a high-class restroom: tissues and fine-smelling lotion. A few guesses as to nationality: ‘Bonjour’, ‘Allo’, etc. to make the experience ‘warm and inviting’ and I am the proud owner of 15 Moroccan Dinars.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I returned Sunday late, from a week in Berlin. I flew to Berlin to meet a lady. :-)

In January, my good friend Liz introduced me to Lisa via e-mail. She mentioned, in her e-mail, a few facts about each of us and why she thought we would enjoy each other's company. Liz met Lisa at the Missionary of Charity homes in Kolkata when they both were volunteering.

Since January, Lisa and I have been e-mailing, video Skyping, and sending notes and letters to each other. We wanted to see 'where' this could go.

During the week, we saw Checkpoint Charlie, a museum dedicated to freedom and the escape attempts from East Berlin, the Reichstag, the Berlin Wall, rode a Ferris wheel, and took a bus tour of Berlin. We also cooked dinners for each other, and attended 3 outdoor Christmas markets drinking gluhwein.

Like usual, I was not very good about carrying my camera everywhere. However, from these pictures, you can see how beautiful the architecture is in Berlin. Berlin is a an international city with a famous arts scene.

Things went extremely well during the week. And I look forward to wherever this new relationship takes us. :-)

For a picture of Lisa, see my FB profile pic.

East Berlin's TV Tower

Train Station at Alexanderplatz

Spiral ramp looking down from the top of the Reichstag

An inside look at Alexanderplatz Station

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Fun, Temporary Job

Starting October 16th, I started working as a contracted courier carrying manufacturing parts, made in Lincoln, to factories in Europe and North Africa.

Trips: 6
2-Casablanca, Morroco
1-Tangier, Morroco
1-Porto, Portugal
1-Paris, France
1-Tunis, Tunisia

Countries Visited: 4
'New' Countries Visited: 3
Languages Spoken Within These Cities: French, Arabic, and Portuguese.
Words Spoken By Me In These Languages: oui, bonjour, merci, merci beaucoup, si vous plait, bon, bom dia, and obrigado.
Travel Time: Equivalent of 15 days
Total Time Spent On-The-Ground (Excluding Airport Customs & Checking-In): 60 hours mostly overnight
City Views: 1 Tour of Tangier
Movies Watched on Planes: Terminator (Huge Disappointment), Star Trek (Good), Coco Before Chanel (Pretty Good), Hurt Locker (Excellent but didn't get to finish), State of Play (I really liked), Julie and Julia (Good), Ugly Truth (Ugly Truth is Not Good), Great Buck Howard (Good), Hangover (Really Funny), and Taking of Pelham 123 (So-So).
Frequent Flier Miles Gained: American-2,420 but haggling over another 6,000, United -19,132, and Delta-17,667. I am missing some other mileage, but every leg is through a different carrier so tough to keep track AND hold them accountable.
Other Carriers Flown: Royal Air Maroc, TunisAir, SAS

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Younger Siblings

In my family, some of the younger ones would just lick the salt off chips and put them back into the bag. And I, on more than one occasion, put a soggy chip into my mouth.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My New Grey Suit

Moral Sentiments and Material Interests

"The behavioral sciences have traditionally offered two contrasting explanations of cooperation. One, favored by sociologists and anthropologists, considers the willingness to subordinate self-interest to the needs of the social group to be part of human nature. Another, favored by economists and biologists, treats cooperation as the result of the interaction of selfish agents maximizing their long-term individual material interests. Moral Sentiments and Material Interests argues that a significant fraction of people fit neither of these stereotypes. Rather, they are conditional cooperators and altruistic punishers. We show that a high level of cooperation can be attained when social groups have a sufficient fraction of such types, which we call strong reciprocators, and we draw implications of this phenomenon for political philosophy and social policy."

Page xi.

Talk about a page-turner!!!! I'm on page 85 and this book is extremely fascinating! The book is a 'reader', with each chapter written by different authors exploring the results of their research; research that may supplant classical economic theory by taking into account real human behavior both observed in the field and in experiments. Some chapters include: The Natural History of Human Food Sharing and Cooperation, The Economics of Strong Reciprocity, The Evolution of Altruistic Punishment, and Policies That Crowd out Reciprocity and Collective Action.

This book was referenced in a previous blog post because of a magazine article that referenced and quoted the book and I was so intrigued I had to purchase it; I have not been disappointed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Second Day; Overheard at Village Inn

Waitress (Shouting from across the restaurant): Hey 'Matt', you want to be a server today?

Matt: Why, you one short today?

Waitress: Yeah, 'Julie' tore a ligament in her uterus and won't be here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Overheard At Village Inn

Waitress: How is the Hollandaise sauce this morning?

Patron: It is a little watery, but the flavor is good.

Waitress: Maybe it is because they don't know how to make it.

Are You Allowed To Put GPS Tracking Devices...

In your airline bags so that when they misplace/lose the bag, you can tell them exactly where it is?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reflections From Morocco Trip

-On the flight into Madrid, a guy behind me SHOUTED: "Of all the things to do today, don't fly!" but no one paid much attention.
-A couple rows behind me, there was another guy that snored like he was sipping cola out of a straw. I could almost hear the drool being sucked back into his mouth.
-I sat next to a heavy-set woman visiting her family in Greece (she's probably 50) and our elbows 'spooned' on the armrest. She had fabric on but it felt just like her elbow was nestled into my elbow resting there. You know that feeling of the mix of skin and hair. That felt weird.
-A woman pauses in mid-conversation with another woman, and kicks her legs up with her 2 inch heels and pantsuit pants up the wall ramp and holds it there for a second to stretch. Then she repeats with the other leg. Her legs were almost above her head. She did this right after we turned the corner because right before there were 12 customs agents/police officers on the ramp.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reflections From Portugal Trip

-No Profiling (I saw a pilot and a grandma getting frisked).
-Best Meal Had On An Airplane (Involved two German sausage meals)
-First Class From Chicago to Omaha
-German spoken at Heathrow more than English
-Mistaken for being German
-So Happy With Melatonin
-Smiled A LOT when people would erupt into laughter watching The Hangover on their personal video screens in the cabin. Ended up watching it again myself and laughed out loud.
-Listened to classical music and read a good book
-Want to finish Hurt Locker and Appaloosa next journey
-4 Free English papers available through Lufthansa...even the Sunday paper with the insert magazines.
-Got to practice my Portuguese in Portugal. Only remembered two phrases...Darn.
-Saw, after several delays getting into Porto, passengers receiving food vouchers for airport restaurants and one passenger ripping up the voucher in front of the gate agent and giving it back to her. Then him yelling at her. And everyone else yelling at her. And remembering a sign for TAP passengers that read: Do not abuse airline personnel; they are only trying to serve you. Any abuse will be taken seriously. Or something to that effect.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My New Temporary Life As A Courier

A picture from Porto, Portugal, a VERY short visit as a courier.

Today I leave for Morocco and will be back on Thursday. I hope to keep doing this for the next few weeks/months depending on the needs of the companies. This could be a quick way to add countries to the passport. :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Prophecy Comes True

Airline Asks Passengers to Empty Bladders Before Boarding Flights Japan's All Nippon Airways is Trying to Reduce Weight on Environmentally-Friendly Flights

From ABC News:
ANA's latest effort is part of a month-long trial called "e-flight." The "e" stands for ecology and the airline is trying to make flying as environmentally friendly as possible. Instead of plastic cups, the airline will use cups derived from plant materials. Paper napkins will come from non-wood products. Passengers will learn more about the environment during the in-flight entertainment.

But the environmental push starts long before then.

While at the gate, ANA staff will introduce the flight as an e-flight and request that passengers lighten their baggage and to go to the restroom before boarding, according to ANA spokesman Justin C. Massey.

"I think it's bit redundant to ask people to relieve themselves," said Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare site and an columnist. "Most people, including my family, do it anyway because they hate the cleanliness of the lavatory."

The e-flight is being tested on domestic flights between Tokyo's Haneda International Airport, Okinawa's Naha Airport and Chitose Airport and on one international route between Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Singapore's Changi Airport.

The test period is from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 and the airline said it will review whether it wants to continue the program.

Refer back to Post from February 19, 2009:

Monday, October 5, 2009


Jared Landreth has always wanted to mentor and inspire his friends. Years ago, he thought about famous characters of literature, history, and stage and screen that 'resembled' his friends. He wanted to talk to us about the potential that he saw in us and the particular 'honor' that each of us could nourish.

For Silas, Jared saw Aragorn. For me, he saw Atticus Finch. What a great character with which to be compared. In fact, coincidentally, it was/is the only movie I own.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Church Stories

-At my church in Illinois, a Christian comedian performed one evening and near the end, gave an know the invitation I'm talking about. Somehow I was confused. I was sitting in the balcony, I stood up, and started walking downstairs only to mentally realize the substance of the invitation. I quickly replayed the comedian's message to see if a 're-dedication' would be appropriate and concluded no. I deviated from the group walking downstairs and pretended I was lost for about 3 minutes before going to my dad's office (he was a Pastor at the church). I met back up with family member's at the end and recounted the embarrassing story.

-My cousin Steven and I were sugar fiends in late elementary/early junior high. We had a whole tour around the church. First, we would sneak down to the pantry and take taste tests between sugar, equal, and sweet-n-low packets. We also ate cookies (mostly oatmeal...a real treat was the rare chocolate chip), drank tang up in the nursery, then to the choir room for the hard candies, and then across the street to Burger King (skipping church) to get free refills on Coke. No wonder he was a bit 'jumpy' those years.

-After 1980, 'Jim' was rarely seen at church without a Big Gulp in his hands. When the Super Big Gulp and then the Double Gulp came out, he upsized. 'Jim' was not self-aware...even taking the first chunk out of my sister Catherine's birthday cake. Our family used to spend Sunday afternoons at church because of the 45 minute drive into the city and needing to be at both Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. Because of this, Catherine's birthday cake was put into a fridge upstairs to be celebrated later. When it was taken out, there was a large section missing. 'Jim' later confessed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inspired by True Events

In the movies, often mentioned with romantic flair, is when a man holds his girlfriend's hair back when she is sick and vomiting. This is how she 'knows' he is the One. It is similar to the television/movie scenario: "all I need is a gazuntite or a bless you" and I know he is sensitive and will be there for me.

Cut to marriage. One sister and her husband. She gets sick last night.

He does the following (Inspired by true events):

1) Pretends he's not nearby when she calls from the adjoining bathroom for him to get her something.
2) Says 'get out of our bed and sleep with our son' who is also sick.
3) Says '95% of not feeling well is in the mind.'
4) Says 'it must have been something that all of you ate' (3 people are ill)...even though they all ate different things yesterday.

My sister says she should have known because when they were dating, he came over with chicken soup, dropped the soup on the front step & rang the doorbell, and high-tailed it out of there.

He must have a Pentecostal view of sickness and not allowing it a 'foothold' in. When I mentioned, to be empathetic, that my niece had been fussy all day and this is probably the reason she was fussy with him...replied "We don't say fussy, we say particular." Huh?

He really is a good husband and father, just a little wacky.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Most of the Family...

Taken at Ashley's wedding last year (our niece). Richie is missing from the picture.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Business Ideas...

Just so you don't think I 'rigged' an earlier post, writing in hindsight of good business ideas I've had, only after they came to fruition: I want to share some good future business ideas. Each business idea below meets a need or fills a niche.

1) New Jukeboxes. Context: Matt Neher and I were at Crescent Moon when someone played Little Mermaid on the jukebox. This killed the mood at the bar and I overheard other groups of guys cussing about the music. SO...I propose jukeboxes where if people can put in $1 to play a song, $3 can be used to 'kill' a song and put in another one.

2) Man Stationary. Context: Over the years writing lots of letters to friends and supporters, I have been extremely disappointed in stationary. Stationary is usually made for women, is bright pink, has butterflies, etc. I wanted 'manly' stationary, if there is such a thing. I wanted stationary in browns and tans, with dark blue complements. I think having nice stationary that is marketed specifically to men would be a big seller and I'm personally prepared to drop a lot of cash. I could see this being valuable for any guy in missions, in churches, or even in business. Instead of pure cream colored stationary, a bit of dark color is mixed in, and guys can feel good about sending notes again.

3) Accounting Program. Context: When working for a bank and also when working for WMF, finding potential accounting errors was extremely time-consuming. BankOne had a whole team of people looking through Excel spreadsheets trying to find numbers when I was there. In accounting, often there isn't one transaction that is wrong, but two or three transactions that leads the 'batch' or reconciliation to be in error (Let's say the batch is in error by $24.14). There is a program that can be written (after talking with a computer science friend and an engineer friend), that gives the possible combination of 2 or 3 numbers that add or subtract to $24.14. It could also rank the possibilities by their probability based on the task (two positive numbers might be more common in a batch). +12.12 on 1/01 and +12.02 on 1/29 might be tied with +8.64 on 1/3 and +15.50 on 1/15 for highest probable errors, but other probabilities would show as well. This would work best with small bodies of numbers (weekly or monthly reconciliations).

The program could also perform a second, but different task, which is to find a number in a certain range. Quickbooks is good for finding numbers above or below another amount, but not good at finding a number within a range. These two sorting mechanisms could significantly decrease the amount of time that bookkeepers and/or accountants to find an error in a batch.

4) Pitch a new 'Judge' show on T.V. Context: I know that the market is saturated with judge shows on t.v. right now (8-10 in my market), so how does another one fill a niche? So many of these shows are dominated by women suing men who have taken advantage of them. The kind-hearted woman pays for everything for the man because they are supposedly in a relationship. The man dumps her/cheats on her/leaves her and the woman sues for rent, phone,etc. The judge usually tells the woman that these were gifts and that she can't sue just because the man was a whore-bag. So, I propose that a judge show be created where ONLY women sue ONLY men and the judge is a comedian but also performs a bit of a social service. Someone like Steve Harvey. The show will feature large segments of Steve Harvey berating the man but also telling the women to be smarter and this is generally how men are, so be careful.

5) Tear-Off Calendar. Context: When George Bush was in office and United States standing in the world was at an all-time low, I started a project of a 'tear-off calendar' where every day shows a different invasion, coup, etc. that the United States has performed in its history against another country/people group. Generally, these actions by the U.S. would fall under the following criteria: 1) that it was unprovoked, or 2) that it was in some way horrific; that it violated the Geneva Convention, the national sovereignty of another country, or demonstrated a severe barbarism. I didn't find any difficulties coming up with entries, but with the election of Obama I thought the calendar sales might not nearly do as well, especially in the States. However, they still might do well if translated into Urdu, Farsi, etc.. An example: May 20, 1961 US provides rifles for conspirators who assassinate the Dominican Republic dictator after he fell out of favor with the US.

6) Brake Toggle Lights. Context: I almost hit another car when I saw their brake lights but I didn't know how quickly they were slowing down. Brake lights just tell whether or not the brake has been applied. In the last couple of years, some buses have started to incorporate a different kind of brake light that seems to show how hard the brake pedal is being pressed and therefore how quickly the bus is slowing down. I would love to see these more sophisticated brake lights on all cars.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Economics Jokes

Everything here found on Econosseur

Peter Orazem
"The economy is so bad these days that I miss the old days of $4 per gallon gas prices. It was so nice when you could fill up your car and double its value."

Best Financial Jokes from and 'cherry-picked' for the blog listed above, by its authors: Richard W. Evans, Assistant Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University, Jason DeBacker a Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia, and Guest Contributor Scott Condie, Assistant Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University:

-The problem with investment bank balance sheets is that on the left side nothing is right and on the right side nothing is left.

-How do you find a good small-cap fund manager? Find a good large-cap fund manager, and wait.

"I have a 10-year-old at home, and she is always saying, 'That's not fair.' When she says that, I say, 'Honey, you're cute; that's not fair. Your family is pretty well off; that's not fair. You were born in America; that's not fair. Honey, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you.'"

(P.J. O'Rourke, Political satirist, in "The Problem is Politics", Cato's Letter: A Quarterly Message on Liberty, The Cato Institute, Spring 2008, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 5)

Capitalist Hell vs. Communist Hell
A man dies and goes to hell. There he discovers that he has a choice: he can go to capitalist hell or to communist hell. Naturally, he wants to compare the two, so he goes over to capitalist hell. There outside the door is the devil, who looks a bit like Ronald Reagan. "What's it like in there?" asks the visitor. "Well," the devil replies, "in capitalist hell, they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"That's terrible!" he gasps. "I'm going to check out communist hell!" He goes over to communist hell, where he discovers a huge queue of people waiting to get in. He waits in line. Eventually he gets to the front and there at the door to communist hell is a little old man who looks a bit like Karl Marx. "I'm still in the free world, Karl," he says, "and before I come in, I want to know what it's like in there."

"In communist hell," says Marx impatiently, "they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil, and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives."

"But... but that's the same as capitalist hell!" protests the visitor, "Why such a long queue?"

"Well," sighs Marx, "Sometimes we're out of oil, sometimes we don't have knives, sometimes no hot water."

(Taken from the website of Jeffrey Parker at Reed College)

On the One Hand... The Economist's Joke Book, by Jeff Thredgold. You can purchase the book from his website.
Three economists went out hunting and came across a large deer. The first economist fired but missed by a yard to the left. The second economist fired, but also missed by a yard to right. The third economist didn't fire, but shouted in triumph, "We got it! We got it!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I went to a local drop-off for recycling tonight and it was a complete mess! There were boxes and bags full of recyclables that weren't sorted but thrown on the ground and lots of trash as well.

A lady who was sorting her own recycling, started sorting the mess around her and placing the bottles, cans, etc. in their proper compartments. I started helping and another lady came by and started helping as well. We three cleaned up so that all the recyclables were put in the right places and the first lady took the trash back to her own house in a garbage bag.

At first, I felt terrible about humanity and its carelessness, but my feelings turned around by these people helping out, taking 30 minutes after work to make sure recycling is taking place properly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memo to Cheney:

You're not Vice-President anymore, so shut the @##$ up!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Your Predictions:

Make Your Predictions For Upcoming Events:

1) At the end of the year the Dow will be:

a) at or above 11,500
b) below 6,599
c) between 6,600 and 9,499
d) between 9,500 and 11,499

2) The US will invade/attack what country by the end of Obama's presidency (Pakistan is excluded because it has already been attacked recently):

a) Syria
b) Iran
c) North Korea
d) Sudan
e) Other; please write in.
f) You're so naive, they will attack all of them; we just won't see it in the news.

3) The public option for health care will go forward and be signed into law in the US:

a) Yes
b) No

4) There will be another senator/congressman/pastor caught cheating on his wife by Dec. 31st, 2009.

a) True
b) False

5) We are already on our way out of the recession and will see unemployment (a lagging indicator) start to rebound in:

a) 3rd Q. 2009
b) 4th Q. 2009
c) 1st Q. 2010
d) 2nd Q. 2010
e) 3rd Q. 2010
f) longer than one year from now
g) we will see a 'W' shaped recession instead of a V and employment will suffer for a long time.

6) An invention or research will be found that significantly increases the ability for the world to extract oil, natural gas, etc. or limits demands through efficiencies thereby making supplies last significantly longer.

a) Yes
b) No

7) The Cubs will win the pennant in:

a) in 3 years or less
b) between 4 and 7 years
c) between 7 and 15 years
d) longer than 15 years
e) never (or at least not in my lifetime)

8) Worms, Malware, Trojan Horses, Bots, or other software hacks in a coordinated attack will cripple internet worldwide for more than 4 hours by 2014.

a) Yes
b) No

9) Life expectancy for women born in 2009 will be greater than 100.

a) Yes
b) No

10) The Biblical age limit of 120 years for humanity can be/will be circumvented in the next 50 years:

a) Yes
b) No

11) The next war involving more than 2 nation-states will 'start' (first attack originating) on what continent:

a) North America
b) South America
c) Africa
d) Europe
e) Australia
f) Asia
g) Antarctica

13) The H1N1 virus will:

a) mutate into a more deadly form and kill hundreds of thousands worldwide
b) will continue to spread/be transmitted rapidly but will only critically threaten those already with health problems
c) the health reaction towards quarantining & not congregating together will outpace transmission but will threaten basic services.
d) the media has centered on H1N1 as a scare tactic and H1N1 will not infect or kill more patients worldwide than other types of the flu.

14) Declassified documents released in the next 30 years will reveal:

a) Kennedy's real assassins
b) Measures the US government used on its own people, including testing biological and chemical agents on citizens.
c) Vladimir Putin was a robot
d) As bad as the US was, Russia was still worse
e) All of the above

15) The strongest country (militarily, politically and economically) in 2030 will be:

a) The US
b) China
c) India
d) Brazil
e) The EU
f) There will be more differentiation so that one country may be more dominant politically, another militarily, etc. Write in which country will be most powerful in the 3 areas.

16) A serious archeological discovery will take place, much like the Dead Sea Scrolls, in our lifetime that further corroborates either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament:

a) Yes
b) No

17) Within 50 years people will watch color holograms in place of television:

a) Yes
b) No

18) Mars will be colonized in 75 years:

a) Yes
b) No

19) There will be instant software translation services (used as an in-ear device) that will make learning a language obsolete within 50 years.

a) Yes
b) No

20) People will undergo questionable surgeries to replace somewhat functioning limbs for bionic limbs within 50 years.

a) Yes
b) No

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prevenient Grace

One of the subjects that keeps coming to me this year is the grace imparted to every human that is separate or could be separate from the grace imparted to Christians.

I'm no theologian, but during my attendance in many different church services in the States and abroad, I have continually been struck by the continuity and similarity of the following messages:

1) God always initiates. Not only did God initiate God's relationship with humanity in terms of both creation and in terms of Jesus becoming human, but especially towards pulling on individual hearts in the present time towards God's self.

2) God's imprint is in and on everyone because everyone has been created in God's image. Scripture is especially clear in this regard when Jesus refers to serving the poor as directly serving Christ himself. This is not referring specifically to serving 'poor Christians' but serving humanity which is poor.

3) C.S. Lewis talks about the moral code put in each person (conscience) that is a foretaste of the proper relationship between God and humanity.

4) Any time that humans respond to God, this response is directly related to God's "wooing" God's creation towards God's presence and love. Most of the time, this response is emotionally felt as being overwhelmed by God's love and falling into the arms of forgiveness and peace.

5) God is relentless in wooing people towards God's self. In Methodist circles, this is often referred to allegorically as 'the hounds of heaven' continually pressing people to abandon themselves and give everything to Christ.

6) I've heard several times from Christians that the Creation story suggests that God continually breathes the breath of life into humanity... that the world would stop functioning unless God recreates breathing life into Adam and Eve every second of every day by breathing every breath of humanity. Humanity is under constant life-support from God so we always know how much of life is a gift.

Humanity's response to God's love is where denominations deviate. Some denominations believe that God's love is so powerful that it is impossible not to choose to accept God's loving grace if 'chosen' but being chosen suggests a different kind of grace. Other denominations believe that free will is paramount and that it is possible to escape from God's caress.

These points, along with other conversations I've had, have made me wonder more about the presence of the Holy Spirit in each person. If God is continually pursuing individual humans towards God's self, is this best represented by an 'outside force' involved in a 'grace' hit & run that happens over and over and over again or could it suggest the possibility of the Holy Spirit in every person whether or not that person has accepted Jesus? Especially since God's imprint is already in everyone throughout Christian orthodoxy.

I know that accepted orthodoxy does not hold the view that the Holy Spirit is present in each person and Scripture does not support it, so I'm willing to drop the theory. However, if the caveat is introduced that people cannot fully know God without accepting Jesus, then can the Holy Spirit be part of every person but that it is through the acceptance of Christ that the Holy Spirit inside is listened to and responded to in obedience with more frequency? That would reduce the ability of Christians to draw such a strong division between 'believers' and 'unbelievers' especially since so often our lives don't look all that different from non-Christians.

The people I've known that I would say have the closest relationship with Jesus (which is my context) have been palpably infatuated in a good way with God's love for humanity. They were comfortable in their own skin, were convinced of God's love for the world and for themselves, and accepted grace from God and others with no conditions. Everything boiled down to love.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This video is a re-enactment of an encounter I had with the farmer's wife up in northern MN after we ate rhubarb pie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Futurist/Good Business Ideas

Over the years, I've had a few good ideas, ideas ahead of their time...which I mentioned to close friends.

1) Green Exercise Machines at Health Clubs

Several years ago, I asked why fitness clubs don't harness the energy of its members... particularly with exercise bikes and treadmills. I even asked Dr. Mike Mullens, an engineering professor at UCF about this wastefulness. I am encouraged that some gyms have just started to incorporate this technology. The picture below shows a battery being charged at a micro-gym but I recently read of a larger gym employing this technology. In terms of power generation, I believe that these batteries can only power a small amount of the power needs of a gym...enough for lighting the building. The ideal exercise remains walking or biking to work and for your shopping.

2) Servers Using PDAs for Orders

Many years ago, when PDA's first came out, I wondered about all of the possibilities for PDA's and thought that taking orders in restaurants by servers was extremely inefficient. I thought that wireless PDA's could send orders back to the kitchen immediately and also minimize errors that come from trying to read illegible handwriting.

Servers using PDA's have started in some locations.

This is an example of software that can be used with the PDA.

3) 'Treat Receipts' by Starbucks

Years ago when I was working for a fast food restaurant, the manager mentioned having really great traffic for lunch but that company-wide they wanted to see more dinner traffic. I proposed the idea that customers could buy breakfast or lunch and if they brought back their receipt, would receive a discount for the dinner meal. The manager told me this was a great idea and other staff told me to be careful because he would probably introduce this idea to his bosses and not give me credit. To my knowledge, he never followed up on my suggestion.

Read about something similar at Starbucks from a recent Business Week article:

From Business Week, August 17, 2009. Howard Schultz v. Howard Schultz, By Susan Berfield. pg. 32 "And Gillett's store sales data helped Schultz see an important difference between the morning (when coffee is a necessity) and the afternoon (when it is an indulgence). "We never had that level of segmentation before," Schultz says. "It's a new tool in terms of being able to move the business in different ways." The numbers prompted Starbucks to offer any grande cold drink for $2 after 2 p.m. to customers who had already made a purchase that day: The company calls it the treat receipt."

4) Archived Video & Lecture Notes Changing Education

Years ago in college, I had a Technology-In-Education class that, as a side-note, was worthless because they were teaching out-dated technologies: Lotus in black screen and WordPerfect. Anyway, I asked the college professor what was to keep technology from laying off scores of professors in the future. With streaming video and now archival video and lecture notes, why would a student want to take a class from a good but not great professor? With streaming and archival video, students now have the possibility of seeing the best professors teaching courses at MIT, Harvard, Princeton. She was MAD!! But the question about a revolution in education remains and was recently mentioned in a Fast Company magazine article entitled Who Needs Harvard? September 2009. In the article, writer Robyn Twomey quotes Jim Groom an instructional technologist at University of Mary Washington who has coined the phrase 'edupunk' who embodies the DIY education. Twomey writes that since colleges are SO expensive and borderline unaffordable, many 'edupunks' have decided to learn on their own with free content online.

When I went online to search for subject materials, I was inundated with videos from prominent professors and speakers, lecture notes, exams, etc. Just going to MIT's site, I found 70 courses in economics; many of which held:

Lecture notes
Projects and examples
Projects (no examples)
Online textbooks
Assignments and solutions
Exams and solutions
Multimedia content
Assignments (no solutions)
Exams (no solutions)

As an example, I found this Newton and The Enlightenment lecture by Courtenay Raia from UCLA. It is a little hard to hear so turn your volume up all the way.

I watched an incredible video last year on the creation of mini-markets (matching buyers/sellers, donors/receivers) related to organ transplants. The speaker is a specialist who creates mini-markets whenever/wherever these markets are failing.

What is missing is an accreditation process that measures actual mastery of subjects for the self-learner (edupunk). Bob Mendenhall, president of the online Western Governors University and mentioned in the article, has forged a new path where students do not have credit hours or receive grades. Instead they receive assessments based on competencies and are then awarded a degree. Some students already working in their chosen fields have signed up and have finished their bachelor's degree in six months.

5) Using Phone Cameras When Shopping
My dad has been doing the family grocery shopping for years but several times has been told by mom that he bought the wrong thing. I thought that dad, whenever he was in doubt about a particular product, should take a picture of the item while in the store and send the picture to mom and she could text back whether this was the right product or not. I have not seen this practiced yet.

6) Comparison Shopping
I mentioned comparing prices online before sites like Pricegrabber, Nextag, Bizrate came about. I don't have the coding skills to put this into practice, but was shocked when I heard recently about a PDA attachment that supposedly has a barcoding wand that you can take to the supermarket. So, say you are at Kroger's, you can 'scan' the 2 liter of Coca-Cola and it will pull the prices from all the other supermarkets within a 5-mile radius for Coca-Cola. Whether Kroger would allow you to bring this into the store is another thing; for places like Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. this could be devastating. Whoever doesn't have the lowest price loses the sale and price pressures intensify. There could either be no profit or collusion among stores for setting prices.

7) Appliances Networked
I mentioned that appliances in people's houses should be connected to the internet so that they would both a) identify any problems they have and report them to the manufacturer, and b) be on file with the house records itself to prevent fraud when selling homes. This idea hit me when I had had enough of seeing vague descriptions in home sale advertisements: nearly-new water heater or barely used washer and dryer. I've read recently that several companies like Toshiba and Hitachi are actively engaged in producing home appliances with these networked capabilities.

Friday, August 14, 2009


In a recent post, I provided a link to Ode Magazine and an article by Jeremy Mercer entitled 'The Altruism in Economics' that challenges the foundation of classical economic theory. Much research has been done in cross-disciplinary pursuits in the last 30 years that seriously challenges the presumption that people make rational choices and that they always operate out of self-interest. In this article, Mercer makes the claim that our focus on self-interest in economic theory 'crowds out' altruism. Since altruism and cooperation are not rational in classical economic theory, material incentives are usually proposed when moral incentives would work better. A system that incorporates cooperation, altruism, and a conception of fairness would make people more altruistic.

Particularly interesting is his citation of the book, Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (Economic Learning and Social Evolution). In this collection of essays, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Herbert Gintis proposes what Mercer calls 'a more nuanced economic theory' based on strong reciprocity. Mercer writes: "Under this model, on meeting a stranger, the initial gesture should be conciliatory (a smile or a handshake are human demonstrations of goodwill). But from that point on, one should act as the stranger acts: hostile if hostile, cooperative if cooperative. In short, do unto others as they do unto you." For a Christian, this is not ideal since our mandate is 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' but this is still better than neo-classical economics in which people act out of self-interest ALL the time. As the author writes: “Altruism isn’t irrational because if it were, the only rational people would be sociopaths.” A new economic theory must also incorporate the need for humans to perceive that things are 'fair'. Mercer cites many experiments done over the last 30 years that demonstrate, across cultures, the need for humans to act fairly.

I have included one book review from Amazon that is a mini-lesson in this new economic theory and I hope to purchase the book soon.

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairness and Sociability, May 8, 2006
By E. N. Anderson (Riverside, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life (Economic Learning and Social Evolution) (Hardcover)
For several years now, a group of social scientists has been studying the human tendency to be socially fair rather than narrowly selfish. The editors of this volume--Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, and Ernst Fehr--are among the stalwarts; others are found among the authors of the book's chapters.
The core of this long-running effort is Fehr's experiments with the ultimatum game, in which two people must share a sum of money (say, $10); Person A gets to propose a split, Person B can only accept or decline. Economists and politicians would expect every game to wind up with a $9.99/$0.01 split (or actually a 9-1 split, since bills are used), but in fact typical splits are more like 5-5 or 6-4, and in one place (Lamalera, Indonesia) people actually split something like 4-6, few A's ever claiming even half the money. This long-running set of experiments around the world adds to a vast, rapidly accumulating set of data showing that people are sociable, not "rational" in the folk-economic sense (i.e., dedicated solely to narrow material self-interest). The present book discusses the implications for economics and politics. If people are naturally concerned with fairness, narrowly economistic policies can be counterproductive; we all know cases of "crowding out," in which a material incentive actually makes people act worse, by crowding out moral incentives. If you reward people for being good, they will think it's all a cynical game, and will act worse. Punitive legislation to make people do what they do anyway (for moral reasons) is also counterproductive. Imagine what these realizations would do to American social policy.
The problem with this book is that it is too optimistic and upbeat. The downside of human sociability is confined to one page, late in the book (p. 388), where racism, honor killing, and the like get a quick mention. Alas, the morning radio brings a stream of accounts not only of such things but also of religious butchery all over the world--Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and even Buddhists (theoretically prohibited from killing but busily genocidal). This brings us back to Adam Smith's suggestion that greed may not be lovable but may be better than the noble, virtuous alternatives. I hope Gintis et al work on how to decouple fairness and interpersonal concern from the desire to exterminate everybody who is not in one's immediate social set. Until this is done, the hope purveyed in this work will remain thin.
The authors note that humans seem genetically programmed to have at least some sense of fairness and of self-sacrifice for the common good, but they wisely refrain from trying to unpack "hereditary" and "environmental" or "cultural" aspects. Heredity makes us do this, and learn it easily, and heredity gives us the ability to learn and develop cultures. No way to unpack. Still, more needs to be done on just how flexible these inborn moralities are. The range from Lamalera to certain parts of South America is pretty great. So is the range of murderousness in religious and ethnic settings. We need to know how to modify human behavior in these regards, and how much we can hope for.
That being said, this book is the best yet in the long list of books that devastate the selfish-individualist model of human behavior. People desperately want to be sociable, and be good members of their society. This may lead them to fairness and generosity, or to body-piercing, or to suicide bombing. This book offers hope for building new societies through use of innate human decency. At this point in time, any book seriously offering such hope is desirable.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Few Random Events:

-Brage & Brian's Bathtastic Party Sat. Eve: Friends and neighbors came over to view the DIY television show Brage & Brian taped last year and to see the bathroom in person.
-House-cleaning for Brage & Brian's to rent their home to a professional golfer this week for a LOT of money.
-Hopefully a video re-enactment soon of some social faux-paus at the Quaker house in northern MN.
-Even though I've read several Wes Jackson books, the PhD. scientist in northern MN who is acquainted with Wes, mentioned that Wes is not trying to cross-breed traditional grains with alternative grasses and such but only to increase yields on grasses, sunflowers, etc. (crops that don't require tilling) and to have these replace our traditional food sources. So in the future, we would eat sunflower bread instead of wheat bread or something like that.
-Conversations with family members, Liz, and Phileena at different times regarding the presence of the Holy Spirit in people, prevenient grace, and human depravity. All super interesting conversations and I hope to write some thoughts for a few blog and encourage others to post.
-I stretched this morning and stuck my left hand into a twirling ceiling fan, but only some missing skin.
-Drinking too much in front of my parents at the Bathtastic Party. Embarrassing other stories followed.
-Being given a bottle of 12 yr. Balvenie Scotch as a present from one of Brage's neighbors.
-Talking with Micah in Canada on the phone.
-Blowing a tire on the way back to Omaha but seeing God's provision throughout and possibly 2 angels.
-Sleeping in my own bed in Omaha, viewing my mail and magazines, and getting settled in again.
-Starting the job application process. Please pray for me.
-Starting to reconnect with good friends.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Few Farming Points I Didn't Know:

Many, many bees die from constipation because they will not 'soil' their own hive if they can help it. When they can't help it, bees have diarrhea and there are few things that stink as much as a bee hive full of bee diarrhea. Also, when bees are alarmed, they send out a scent that smells like if you smell that...RUN.

'Sticking'- is when you open a chicken's beak and stick a knife in there, immediately scrambling it's brain,so that it doesn't 'feel' its imminent death from breaking or cutting it's neck. I've heard it is considered the most humane way to kill a chicken. There will still be reflex actions from the chicken, moving its wings and feet for a couple minutes. Also, chickens don't have a lot of blood but it is best to hang the chicken upside down to drain. As with most animals, the younger hens (1-3 years) are the tenderest for eating.

My time at the farm came to an end on Friday; I was sent off with some horseradish, mustard greens, summer sausage, BBQ beef sticks, rhubarb, eggs, carrot cake, and some honey.

This weekend was spent with Caleb & Daphne in Minneapolis and we had SO much fun!!! I just arrived at Brage and Brian's and have vacay this next week as several other family members come. Lots of Scrabble will be enjoyed!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Content and Grateful

Several things have made me content and grateful recently:

1) A few nights ago, reading a good book called "Gilead" while classical music played on the radio and the host dad prepared dinner.
2) Riding in a truck with the windows down as the sun was setting, setting aglow a nearby wheat field.
3) Having a wonderful dream where I directed an imaginary orchestra and choir as classical music poured out; new & beautiful words were created in that symphony.
4) Seeing clouds in a diagonal pattern that looked to me exactly like a surfing wave with certain clouds pouring over others.
5) Having a couple of dreams of reconciliation with some distant family members and friends.
6) Seeing the sun poke through a sky almost totally filled with clouds.
7) Seeing the circle of life here at the farm in northern MN.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Random Conversations

A few days ago, talking with Farmer 'John' and fellow volunteer 'Jane':

Me: I'm a pacifist and your a pacifist, but how do you feel about me punching one of your chickens in the face, when she tries to bite me and makes me bleed again?

John: Uhhh....I don't think it will work.

Me: Oh yeah, I'd probably just get bit again. They're quick.

John: But your question does bring up a really deep philosophical discussion about whether pacifism extends to animals.


Jane: These eggs at the bottom of the refrigerator are two months old! I'm still going to eat them.

Me: You're on strong antibiotics from your cold; there's no're invincible and could eat anything. If you get sick, I'll know not to eat them. If you don't get sick, I'm still not eating two month old eggs.

Jane: You know that most of the eggs you buy at the grocery store are at least that old, don't you?

Me: No.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Random Events

I'm out in the garden using this hat every day.

Yesterday, we checked on the bee hives.... Evidently bees are more agreeable when nectar is readily available & being produced (summer) so we only needed netted-hats and the smoker. Smoke 'calms' or 'frightens' the bees and is used before and immediately after opening the hives. We opened up 5 hives and checked each one methodically for chalk broods, for mites, honey production, queens, etc.

This is a re-enactment of the 'two-finger test' which is how my host farmer demonstrated how to tell whether a hen can lay eggs. He caught a hen, turned her upside down, and stuck two fingers in her. That particular hen could lay eggs because three fingers fit.

In other news, the farmer and I drove to a nearby dairy for non-homogenized milk yesterday. This is milk that you take home, let rest in room temperature for a couple hours to separate the milk from the cream and then spoon out the cream at the top.

Also, hay is any type of grass, alfalfa, etc. that is cut & dried for animal feed. I didn't know that until yesterday.

Outside of farm news...I thought this article:
was particularly interesting. I may post some more thoughts about the 'market' in the future and how psychologists and economists studying human behavior are radically changing economic theory away from 'perfectly rational participants' and away from 'greed and/or self-interest as the necessary main ingredient for a well-functioning market'.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tree Identification

The last few days have been quite fun:

Tuesday- we (the organic farm family) drove to Lake Itasca for tree identifications and measurements. There are many plots set up in Lake Itasca that have been measured every 7 to 10 years since the 60's for biodiversity. Stakes are set at particular GPS points with three lines going out from the stake. One line is placed directly north and the other two lines move in quadrants clockwise so that we are researching two circles around the stakes. The volunteer researchers are interested in everything within a particular radius from the stakes.

Within the first line (and first radius), two researchers confer about all the small plant matter within..including 'litter'-fallen leaves, twigs, etc.. The second line is for researchers identifying trees. The day consisted of going to many different plots in Lake Itasca and shouting out things like: "1-live, 2-red pine, 3-dbh: 50.6, 4-ring 4".

1-We differentiated between live and dead trees.
2-Researchers originally started calling out trees in English but in the middle of the day switched to Latin. So red pine would be pinus resinosa I believe. It made it difficult to switch gears half-way but still fun. I got to identify several different types of trees- red maple, red pine, black ash, paper birch, etc.
3-DBH refers to the measurement of the tree. centimeters times 3.14 (pi).
4-We had 5 rings from the stake and needed to shout out 'where the tree was' in relation to the stake.

Each researcher was given chalk to mark the trees measured and a tape measure. Later the data will be compiled. Lake Itasca is a particularly interesting research location for at least two reasons: 1) plants were selected and planted similarly in many locations but plants have become very 'micro-localized' with species dying and other ones taking their place. Researchers love knowing why certain plants have come in to these plots and others didn't survive...and 2) DNR in MN has done localized burns to prevent larger forest fires and to encourage biodiversity. The mixture of plots with and without burns can help researchers better understand what happens after a controlled burn.

Wednesday-the dad went again for identifications, but I stayed behind to look after the farm. What was particularly fun was the 3 minute tutorial he gave about driving the tractor...then me driving it along paved county roads and then 'raking' hay in the afternoon with the tractor.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pommel Horse

Yesterday was spent driving from northern MN to Omaha for a good friend's wedding this weekend. It was not the most pleasant experience...

I had a bad head cold, my back hurt from farm work, and I thought I broke my hand in the night. I also carried two egg-laying hens for Silas and Kimberly.

To back up...I thought I broke my hand because starting around 1:30AM I woke up with my hand HURTING like h@ll!!. I woke up dazed, and pictured myself on a pommel horse, only to take painkilers and fall back asleep for a few hours.

I take painkillers for the ride but still feel the throbbing pain of my hand/wrist during the drive, peak over into the back seat to check on the hens in the back seat. They pop up their heads and occassionaly cluck. They are 'nestled' into a sewn towel because the farmer says they relax when in a tight & dark space. I have a pillow sheltering the sun, above the towel and balancing on the back seat.

I arrived first at Silas and Kimberly's and two of their children came running to see the hens I've brought. Silas opens the towel slowly to take them out and says 'I don't think these hens are alive.' He feels one that has already gone rigamortis and the other one he hits gently on the head to try to 'wake up' from its eternal slumber. I have just driven almost 9 hours with hens shitting and pissing in my back seat to deliver dead hens to good friends.

I had offered these hens to Silas and Kimberly thinking they might want to have fresh eggs in the mornings and they even had an Omaha government worker come out to inspect their yard and certify that it was suitable for hens.

Thankfully the kids seem nonplussed, don't cry or scream. I had asked the farmer specifically if the hens would survive an 8.5 hour drive and he assured me yes.
Thankfully Silas grew up in Kenya and knows how to pluck & cook the dead hens for a future family dinner. Sorry Silas and Kimberly.

While I was there, I asked Silas about my hand and if someone can break their hand while sleeping. Silas said 'for anyone else I'd say no, but I've seen you thrash around pretty good in the night-time.' I knew I tossed and turned, but this was a revelation.

I had dinner with Paul and Ana from Romania last night at the Brazenhead and then slept at Jared & Julie's. As always they were super gracious and kind. When I woke up after a good night's sleep, my head cold had significantly improved and my hand had stopped hurting! This morning it was breakfast with Chris Harrell, in from Romania for his brother's wedding.

Tomorrow is the wedding and then I'll head back to the farm.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Min-a-sota

Working on a real farm is HARD! I have been here for about a week and 10 hour days are common.

I am enjoying working very much however and learning a lot. So far this week, I've:

-fed chickens and collected eggs from the chicken coop
-seen how eggs are cleaned and 'candled' in a home operation
-cut, washed, and bagged numerous vegetables for the CSA (community supported agriculture) that is delivered twice a week
-fed cows salt (more on this later)
-set up trellises for pea plants
-picked potato bugs
-tilled the land with both wheel tillers and automated tillers
-weeded & fed drip irrigation lines for several rows of plants
-planted from seedlings numerous vegetables
-used a scythe to cut down daisies which are poisonous to cows and thistle whose bristles don't hurt after being cut and which the cows will then eat.
-filled several compost bins with weeds and shrubs

The quaker family i'm staying with have been great. They live a real lifestyle of simplicity and make most of the food they eat. So far i've seen homemade: jams & preserves, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and bread. They rarely buy from the supermarket. We had worship in sunday morning in the typical unprogrammed quaker style...silence.

Some pictures of the 154 acre farm:

A rooster like this climbs up a picnic table every morning around 5 to announce the new day. It is two-toned and severely aggravating. I tried convincing the owner that this should be the next choice for the proverbial Sunday dinner but he had another old hen and rooster in mind. I may learn how to kill & pluck a chicken later tonight.

Evidently, the cows hadn't been fed salt in quite awhile, so yesterday when I brought the bag to the field, they could smell the minerals and started fighting for access to the salt while I was there. I was stepped on (WHICH HURTS) and horned (but not bad). I quickly stepped out of the way for the cows to fight amongst themselves and establish dominance and I could re-enter later.

These are two pictures of the 'upper field' with many of the vegetables. On the 'lower field' are mostly potatoes. Also there are many fields for pasture land.

I took a picture of a few of the hens where I collect eggs.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Left Idaho

I had a wonderful 3 weeks in North Idaho and have started to make the way to Solway, MN. I write from a Super 8 smoking room in Jamestown, ND.

While I was in Idaho, I was able to help the family with many projects and learn new skills. The family was great...kind, hospitable, and great conversationalists. The parents are a bit anarchistic and rebellious, having spent their formative years in the 60's, but they have a son that is polite and responsible. They joked that this was a purposeful component of their parenting style. We had dinner together every night and the conversation would revolve around books, philosophy, politics, technology (the parents don't think computers have added much value to life), organics, etc.

I weeded, pruned, watered, raked, transplanted plants, hauled and placed woodchips, and organically fertilized vegetables. The mom is the primary caretaker of the gardens (both the greenhouse plants and the outside garden). All kinds of vegetables, fruits, and flowers were cultivated.

I also helped around their homestead and at their welding shop (they make mounts for solar panels).


-How to varnish (Evidently, I am an excellent varnisher and could consider a new career in varnishing).
-That crushed dead fish (fish emulsion) make excellent organic fertilizer. However, gates must be kept on the garden because other varmints smell the fish and come.
-How to use bolts and a strap to carry items using a forklift.
-Comfort in a canoe, while shooting bullfrogs.
-Plucking the wilting flowers off some plants allows the plants to put out more flowers and continually bloom through the summer.
-A Japanese woman who previously volunteered there misunderstood the directions for trimming the raspberry plants by cutting every single leaf off the plants. However, the plants will put out their best crop ever this year so the couple is thinking the Japanese woman may have secretly known what she was doing.

I saw on their homestead 3 moose, 1 muskrat, many turtles, frogs, and ducks, mole hills that popped up every other day, bumblebees and other bees, and heard the howling of a coyote.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cochabamba, Bolivia Jungle

Courtesy of Katie DiSalvo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day Trip To Spokane and Frog Hunting

Last Friday I took a day trip to Spokane to cross another state off my list...Washington. The Spokane river, with its quick rapids, runs right through the city and is surrounded by parks, which makes it quite beautiful, peaceful, and green. They also have beautiful old bridges that you can cross and stop along the way to admire creation.

One of the voluntary tasks I've taken up in Idaho has been to hunt bullfrogs at the family's pond. They are an invasive species to the area and are said to eat small fish, other frogs, and even baby ducks! They are HUGE! And they make sounds throughout the day and night that I first mistook for donkeys. I asked the family..."Do you have donkeys in your backyard?" "No...those are bullfrogs", they replied. The sound can be heard both in the house and in what my host family calls 'the gypsy wagon' sometimes waking me up in the middle of the night.

I will try to post a picture of one of the frogs I killed using a BB gun. They seem to be armor plated since after that first 'kill' I've shot many more and they haven't died. When the dad and I went out on the canoe on Tuesday we shot 4 more that never reappeared. When the son went shooting Wednesday, we found 4 BB holes in one frog and it was still crawling around. I had to shoot it point blank to get it to die....its 5th shot!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From Idaho

I forgot that the family sent a few pictures before I came.

Here is the outside and inside of the truck where I'm living. And it does have electricity, I just didn't know it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Radio Con't...And Arriving Safe In Idaho

4 Radio Stories then a Description of My Living Situation in Idaho

1) While I was driving, I felt for a few minutes like I was in LOST...There was a repeating AM signal: F-PCom Alpha, Broke-Nition Green.

2) There were also cow auctions being advertised and ALL the nearby families that were selling their cows...I was mesmerized. The Petersen family, 115 black & baldys, heifers, 6 and a half to 7, grass fed, no hormones. The Fowler family, 95 reds, steers, 1050 to 1200, no hormones. The Nymans, 55 blacks, calves, 4 to 5, weaned.

3) Also, a Hospital Report listing all the people in the county that were at the hospital.

4) Finally, there was a bluesy jazz song...sung by a woman about her how her butt is too big for her denim jeans. Something to the effect of...My butt's too big for these pants. My zipper cries out. There's no such thing as a butt too big. There's no two butt's about it.

In Idaho, I am living in a converted old truck bed that made me think immediately of "Into the Wild". It has water from a foot pump, no electricity, and I have an outhouse immediately behind the 'shack'. I can use the family's house whenever I need for showers or to help prepare/eat meals. The structure is made from wood and is quite beautiful, compact, and cozy.

The family is great so far. I did some transplanting of some plants today and weeding. I will come to the coffee shop or the library once a day for internet. My first 'weird' experience was while getting settled in....a moose appeared less than 5 feet from me. Unfortunately, I think I left my camera battery & charger in a wall socket in a hotel, so no pictures for awhile. However, the family says that moose reappears frequently, so by the time I leave I hope to send a picture of the truck & the moose.

To leave you with some sense of time lag, here is the picture of me holding lit dynamite in Potosi, Bolivia.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In Montana

At first, I let my sense of direction carry me out west...following generally the need to go north and west. Big mistake....I bought a map in South Dakota that helped me get onto the Interstate I couldn't find.

In my journey I've seen...snow covered mountains, gorgeous scenery like the Black Hills. The whole journey has been beautiful...SD, WY, and MT have to be some of the most beautiful in the Union. I especially liked South Dakota, the first part of Wyoming, and now the mountains of MT. I was disappointed to frequently see what looked like fertilizer run-off into nearby streams or collecting in beds at the beginning of my journey in Montana.

I also saw a 44 wheeler semi, which I didn't even know existed.

There have been signs for: Deadwood, Yellowstone, Sundance, Wounded Knee, and Custer's last battlefield.

Radio: In part of Wyoming, there were 5 AM stations, 3 of which played Rush Limbaugh and 2 of which were Christian. In part of Montana, there was only 1 FM station which played country.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Traveling Ironies

I made it safely to Miami about two hours ago and have an overnight before flying out tomorrow morning at 6:50AM heading for Omaha.

A few of the ironies:

While I was supposed to have an innocuous 30 minute flight yesterday from Cochabamba to El Alto and looked forward to spending about 20 hours with the WMF crew, Aerosur changed my flight time to two hours earlier than posted. I arrived at the airport at 1:00PM for my 3:00PM flight but Aerosur said I missed my flight and they didn't have any other flights later that day. All of the other airlines said the same thing...they didn't have El Alto flights or were booked solid for later that day. Since my flight out of El Alto was 6AM this morning, the WMF crew helped me problem solve what my options were. I was left with buying a bus ticket from Cochabamba to El Alto yesterday.

1) The 8 hour bus ride cost me 30 bolivianos. (Equivalent..$4 dollars). The taxi ride with Wes and Heather to their home, once I got into El Alto = 45 bolivianos (Equivalent...$6+ dollars)

2) The bus company I took is known for trafficking women. On the bus, they showed the Christian movie Fireproof about a husband struggling with pornography and endangering his marriage.

3) When I went back to my host family's house to call Wes & Andy, I looked online for my Aerosur & American flights...Aerosur had been delayed to 1:40PM and I could have been let on the flight when I arrived at 1:00PM.... (If the desk agents knew the flight was being delayed). At the point I double-checked, it was too late.

The 8 hour trip was profitable though so I'm trying to take it in stride.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The New Clothing Label

Instead of the generic and wildly unhelpful: ¨Made In Indonesia¨ or ¨Assembled in the USA¨, let´s propose a first step towards pricing externalities into the system by having more complete labels.

A shirt could have the following new label:

-100% Organic Cotton (No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or genetically modified seeds were used) farmed near Baton Rouge, Louisiana using annual crop rotation.
-Picked by machine using biofuel from switchgrass, also farmed on-site.
-Cotton shipped to a Carenco, Louisiana textile factory by rail.
-Patterned and sewn by workers paid a living wage. Only natural plant dyes were used.
-Buy Local: Recommended Retailers in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I marked the travel itinerary to Potosi in blue.

The trip to Potosi over the weekend was great... filled with lots of Potosi´s 400 year-old architecture and history, great conversations with Wes and Heather, and a trip into one of it´s silver mines. We visited lots of churches, an ancient convent for Clarissans turned into a musuem, a museum about the mining and processing of silver and silver coins, and we also looked out from a bell tower while a guide told us about various locations throughout the city.

I wanted to highlight the silver mine. The mine itself was SCARY. We were led by a guide into the mine that was cool at first and then warmed as we went in with the strong smell of sulfer. (Hot AND the smell of sulfer...isn´t that what hell is described as?). We were led by a former miner, who 8 years ago discovered a piece of high-grade silver so that he was able to leave mining and become a tour operator. (There are both commission-based miners and miners paid hourly on contract). We walked for some time, eventually climbing down 3 ´floors´ of ladders. While in the mine, two things struck me: 1) How easy it is to buy/hold/use dynamite in Potosi. The guide took the $2 stick of dynamite we bought earlier, mixing the ingredients necessary for an explosion, lit it and we quickly walked for 3 minutes around a bend to hear the explosion. We also held lit dynamite outside the mine when we used the second stick of dynamite and both saw and heard its destruction. 2) Miners make offerings to a ´devíl´ inside the mine. This devil is presented with alcohol, cigarillos, and coca to protect the miners from harm and to grant wishes. To the miners, God is the God of the Outside/Cultivated Earth & Sky, but the devil is the god of the Inside/Tunneled Earth*. They suffered so many tragedies in the mines that there is a perverse logic that they depend on this personified evil. There is a confusion of good and evil in their lives, like the admiration that abused peoples sometimes have for their abusers.

The god of the Europeans made them suffer....what if the god of one people is the devil of anothers? The way of salvation described by the Europeans led to damnation in the mines for Bolivians. How interesting then that so many Bolivians adopted the religion of these Europeans? And that some Catholicism here is a mix of indigenous religious beliefs (Pachamama, Mother Earth) and Catholicism.

+The interesting take on God and the devil is not the only interesting theology of the Bolivians. Many Bolivians believe that God dies each year on Good Friday and therefore cannot see any of the bad things that people do until Easter. Therefore, Good Friday and Saturday are days of drink and visit ladies who prostitute because God is dead. Carnival represents the time each year when the devil dies...unfortunately I don´t believe this also coincides with a period of self-reflection and piety.

*Legend has it that the indigenous of Bolivia knew about Potosí´s silver before the Spanish came, but were told in a ´vision´ not to touch the silver because it was meant for people from a far-away land. Certainly this was not a vision from God....can the devils of power and wealth get together to conspire against a whole people to send them a vision and enslave them for centuries?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Headed to Potosi

My journey to Potosi, Bolivia begins later today via a 12 hour bus ride from Cochabamba. Potosi, a mining town, was one of the world´s largest cities in the 1600´s and was exploited mercilously by the Spanish who wanted its silver. Legend has it that the amount of silver stolen from Bolivia and shipped to Spain could make a bridge that crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

While silver and other minerals continue to be mined there under horrible working conditions, the town is said to have a ghost-like appearance...both because of the abandoned and deteriorating buildings and because of the regular appearance of ´fantasmas´ or ghosts. Isn´t it always in the places where the most horrific and violent acts take place, that ghosts appear?

Spain´s legacy in Potosi consists of the environmental disasters caused by heavy metals mining, slavery, conscription, and the ´genocide´of Indians (through brutal and lethal working conditions that included direct exposure to mercury) much so that Spain had to send African slaves to Potosi every year to keep up the mining and processing of the silver.

I started reading Eduardo Galeano´s book: Open Veins of Latin America several years ago when I was in Argentina. This book introduced me to Potosi and the exploitation of colonial powers past and present in South America. I didn´t get to finish it, but want to find it again when I return to the US. It has recently gained popularity/notariety because this is the book that Chavez handed to Obama. I would highly recommend that Obama reads it.