Balancing Act…..

Tornadoes in Oklahoma. Reopening Seaside Heights after the rage of Hurricane Sandy. Floods. Volcanoes erupting. Are things terribly out of whack or proceeding normally? Is there rhythm and symmetry in life or are we meant to live in chaos or fear thereof? That’s the subject of much deliberation right now.

Leonardo felt there was a balance to everything and I am not sure he was wrong. I have to go to Mother Nature. What we perceive as upheaval or disaster is to my mind just this big blue marble getting the kinks out. Or maybe it is just trying to rebalance what we geniuses tend to screw up in the name of progress.

There is a food chain which amply provides all living things an adequate source of chow in all forms. Sure the little guy eventually gets eaten by the dominant species but it all evens out. We are the only phylum that eats or kills itself. We call that a higher form of rational being.

As for humans, the evidence of balance is right there from the get go. The baby’s first steps are fraught with grins and a bit of thanks they are so low to the ground after the inevitable crash to earth. We speak of stroke victims who have to learn to walk all over again. Our battered and maimed warriors have to struggle to balance their broken bodies and minds alike.

Which brings me to another aspect. The thing between your ears. When we fly into a rage over being cut off in traffic that is losing balance. We figure that if you are a mass murderer you are unbalanced no matter how intricate your planning. We want you to undergo therapy and take drugs. We have no idea how slim that line in the sand that determines sanity as defined by so called  experts.

Markets are a great example of balance. The law of supply and demand is supposed to even everything out. But you know that is not good enough. We have to tinker. We keep our finger on the scale while weighing. Hoard and hold back for profit. Inject trading systems that react in nanoseconds to the mere mention of a scary word in the blogosphere.

The Walmarts and Costcos say their way of providing product is efficient and fair. And they are probably right. But I think they have also upset a very fragile balance of hometowns and local commerce all over America and the world beyond. I have to ask if Apple sheltering billions overseas is in or out of whack? Oh that’s right everyone else is doing it. Shareholder value you know.

There are warning signs everywhere. An overloaded and oversized truck was out of balance and hit a girder on a bridge across the Skagit River. Everything on that span’s assembly was dependent on the other pieces to stay intact. Interesting thought. An out dated design we say. Yet we pronounce that we should not touch the Federal gas tax that hasn’t changed since 1992 and the coffers for correction are empty.

We have a Defense Department that is so huge and complex former Secretary Gates says there is no way to get to the bottom to try and fix it. Yet we keep funding in the name of national security. We have a healthcare system that will vary charges two to three times the base price for the same procedure. That’s okay. That is just for the uninsured. Medicare and HMO’s get a much better price.

Our Legislative and Executive departments put through a sequestration program that was so heinous that nobody could survive under it. Yet the populace seems to have survived so far. The markets are up and even the annual deficit is falling. They are now spending all their time investigating and holding hearings at the expense of the affairs of state. Please tell me if I am delusional or is this seriously awry?

We overeat and overdrink. We have gone from normal portions to supersizes. That has caused us to recalibrate the size on clothing to XXXXL. We start partying at ten rather than being home by midnight. And then we exercise and diet like maniacs to bring it all back into norms. But what the hell are those standards?

On balance(sorry I couldn’t resist) I think we have lost our equilibrium. We are stressed out at home and at work. We worry about finances. We worry about college and our place in society. Our companies are too big to fail. Our armed forces are spread so thin to the breaking point. Like a machine that is about to burst cylinders from going too far too fast we need some time in the shop.

The good news is that the Ferrari can be rebuilt, tuned up and repainted. Same chassis, just some new parts after some serious and candid diagnostics. That is if we adjust the steering mechanism before it hit’s a wall at 160 mph. Balancing acts are old hat if you are a Wallenda. The rest of us really have to learn and put in some serious practice time. I’ll help man the net.

As always

Ted The Great


Over the course of our lifetimes fully 50% of us will suffer from some sort of mental illness. Depression. Paranoia. Reading this blog. Sorry about that.


Nik Wallenda walked on a tightrope 1800’ spanning Niagara Falls which roared 200’ below. ABC made him wear a tether which he felt hampered him. and the Big Men’s/Stout Men’s Shop is the nation’s oldest and premier Big and Tall clothing store. Their waist sizes range from 32 to 88, shirt sizes from Small to 12XBig as well as MediumTall to 12XtraLargeTall, and shoes/sneakers/boots from 8 to 20


new report from Transportation for America shows that there are more than 70,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States, which the federal government defines as needing substantial repair or outright replacement. More than 18,000 of these structurally deficient bridges are concentrated in large metropolitan areas, and account for three-quarters of all bridge crossings on any given day. That’s about 210 million cars crossing damaged bridges in the country’s biggest cities every day. Accidents waiting to happen.







Houston, We Have a Problem…..

As I look around at our world today we have more than our share of things to be fixed. Do you want to view them as problems or opportunities? Good question. We define ourselves as conservatives or progressives and that is supposed to steer our ship. But I think it goes way beyond that.

Whenever I get knee deep in things complex I always find my way back to Leonardo DaVinci. He was the master of thought and innovation. I have espoused on more than one occasion about his seven thought processes which have been cataloged by Michael Gelb. The two that spring to mind are Curiositae and Sensazione.

We have to take time to solve a problem by defining it in pretty good detail. Leonardo would look at something from three totally different directions. That’s his Curiositae. He didn’t go to the bookcase and whip out Solution#3 which he had learned at Harvard Business School. He laid out statements and parameters of what he was trying to accomplish.

To be successful you have to look beyond barriers and biases. We are not God’s gift to the music world or any other discipline. We have to look around us to be sure. How many times have you heard “This is the way we have always done it” or even worse “That will never work” before the idea is halfway out of your mouth. Negativity has no place in innovation. You have to want to learn from others. Curious ,we must be.

Sensazione is the tuning up of our five senses. People say they can’t visualize a set of plans. Is that because they really can’t or they refuse to open their eyes and press their envelopes? Hearing goes beyond great music but also challenges us to truly hear what is going on around us. We then take it in and study it. Contemplate on it. Not to look for the first opportunity to knock it down but see if it really has legs.

Our sense of taste let’s us try new things or do you dismiss them out of hand? “I would never eat that crap.” “I only drink white wine or red.” Hmm, I guess you are really open to my next thought. The sense of smell gets to our emotions. Garlic. Spices. Beautiful flowers. I don’t know about you but my brain lights up in about nine different directions. I get wound. I guess that is the manic side of my illness. Ha! Ha!

We have made remarkable strides in medicine but we still maintain a reactive rather than proactive stance. We don’t reward good behavior but in a perverse way do so for bad behavior. Go ahead and eat or drink your brains out and we will heal you. We really have to approach this in a different way but can the healthcare industry come kicking and screaming into the 21st century?

Schools, taxes, global warming, entitlements, farm subsidies, the size of government itself. All need breaths of fresh air. Totally new approaches. Ah yes TTG we will once again bring up that thing called compromise. But it all begins with seeing what is possible rather than predicting downfall.

Think back to Bell and Edison. These were true geniuses. Who today do we equate with Einstein? This may sound like a stretch but I think not. Our body politic is a reflection of who we are. We have all gone to our respective corners and will die on our swords. My way or the highway. As a people we are not creative. Innovation is a better vacuum or thinkpad or tablet. Stuff. Right now we need a lot more than a better driver or putter.

We need to address water and energy as resources to be managed. We need to find more food. We have depleted our oceans. Global warming is here whether you like it or not. We have to figure out how the hell we are going to live with one another. We shouldn’t be worrying about how we are going to finance the takeover of Sprint but how can we nurture entrepeneurship and true invention.

I actually feel all our consolidation has been deleterious. We have fewer of everything from banks to airlines. In these vast bureaucracies whether they are business or government the innovators die. Their seniors either feel threatened or deaf. Just want to get through and not create something dynamic.

As fewer and fewer manage greater numbers we become just part of the crowd. We need to see life as an exciting prospect and frontier. Not something to be endured. The old crowd doesn’t want to rock the boat or change their lives. The young look at things cynically and see no point in participation. If they do it is provincial in their town or burgh but not the nation as a whole.

We need Leonardo. He could invent things no one had even thought of before. We need to delve into our wonderful brains and find some pearl that just might make life a whole lot better. We need new approaches and a case of TNT for our staid thinking. We need Curiositae and Sensazione. I’m buying.

As Always
Ted The Great

Michael Gelb…How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci
The Da Vinci principles are:
Curiosità – An insatiable quest for knowledge and continuous improvement
Dimostrazione – Learning from experience
Sensazione – Sharpening the senses
Sfumato – Managing ambiguity and change
Arte/Scienza – Whole-brain thinking
Corporalità – Body-mind fitness
Connessione – Systems thinking
Some friends taught it as a course in high school

Da Vinci Inventions to name a few…all in the late 1400’s
Scuba Gear
Revolving Bridge

Super Freakonomics a fabulous book with tons of innovation and creativity. A totally new way at looking at the simplest of things.
Featured is a company call Intellectual Ventures which dreams up off the wall solutions to everyday problems.

Band of Brothers……

I made my way to San Diego last weekend. The town bleeds Navy and we gave it one more reason to do so. There was the reunion of the Swift Boat Sailors Association. The attendance of some 250 plus was amazing in that over a five year period from 1965-1970 there were only a few thousand who had received the title of Swift Boaters. The few and the proud does not only belong to the Marines.

It was my first time at such festivities. I made sure friends and family had their phones on for my collect call from jail. Nolo Contendere. Most were in bed early. The fact most brought their wives was a testament to advanced years or maybe everyone had gotten used to short leashes. They made up for it in enthusiasm.

A Swift Boat is a 50’ gun boat. It has a ¼ aluminum hull and a lot of firepower. It had a captain and a crew of 5 or 6 depending on how the draft and the rest of the war was going. We made do with extra flak jackets hanging over the rails for a little more protection. Probably a little more psychological than practical.

We were all pretty irreverent which you know is my style. But the overall persona was wrapped tightly in a thing called camaraderie. “I’ve got your back” was standard issue. But there was something far deeper that was somewhere between PT 109 and McHale’s Navy. No pomp. No circumstance. Just get it done.

I love the sea and was proud to be in the Navy. But for so many of those guys it is their day in the sun. It has defined who they are. They were resplendent in jackets, shirts and old river greens festooned with this patch or that. A few were in full dress and there is nothing cooler than Navy Dress Whites. Women beware. Well, it used to be that way.

As I wandered around the pool or hospitality room I could hear them telling of this firefight or that. Scary rivers and canals with nicknames like “Rocket Alley.” They reveled in the earsplitting cacophony of twin 50’s pumping out a gazillion rounds of hot lead per minute. Or at least it seemed that way. Time has a way of embellishing. Some say they should move on. To me it was oral history. A bit of folk lore. Who cares? It was fun to hear.

It was as if I was watching a movie where at least I had been on the set. I didn’t remember the hull numbers or the names of this river or that. I did remember the fellow skippers who I had not seen in some forty odd years. We seemed to bring up high jinks more than anything else and that was good. To each his own.

For most they have weathered the storm nicely. They had gotten married. Some had kids. Some had become famous in their own right. Most had pursued dreams. All were very human. No hot dogs here. Time had taken its toll but not in a bad way.

There were two things that struck me the most. The first was the ease of communication. To not see someone for 40 some odd years and be able to pick up where we left off in a matter of moments is a marvel of human interaction. There were no jaw dropping revelations. Some waxed philosophically about things like war and life. Neat but not gaudy as I like to say.

The second was more material. There are very few Swift Boats in captivity. The association found one. Where else but Malta? It seems we gave it to the Maltese Navy and they were about to give it up for the scrap heap. Somewhat battered and beaten they took her on ocean going freighters and through miles of government red tape to the Maritime Museum in San Diego.

The boys didn’t stop there. The “Dirty Boat Crew” sanded, filled, painted and rebuilt the engines. All retirees. All for free. There was one fellow who completely rewired the boat. He and his wife lived in Yuma AZ but had been living in motels for a month on their own nickel to get the job done in time.

The before and after pictures are a marvel. The boat? Gorgeous. We all took rides but the best part of all was when they started the engines. They were deep and throaty and the vibration on an aluminum hull came right up through your shoes. It was a feeling out of the past and one a Swiftie can never forget. At least this one won’t.

To my Band of Brothers I say thank you for letting me come back. You all looked great as Navy men do. Thanks also for the persistence in keeping the story going. So many of you busted your butts to do so. Go down to the wharf and think of all things good and bad. Savor the memories and forget the bad stuff. Life is good. Fair winds and following seas to you my friends.

As always
Ted The Great


PCF: Patrol Craft Fast. (Swift Boat) Length 51’. beam 13’7”.
Displacing 17.5 tons light. 22.2 tons loaded.
Power: 2 Gray Marine diesel engines.
Top speed 30-35 knots depending on your engineman

Armament: Forward: Twin 50 Caliber machine guns mounted in a gun tub atop of the pilot house.
Aft: Over Under Weapon with a 50 Caliber machine gun atop
an 81 Millimeter mortar. The strongest guy on board manned this one.
Various other weaponry consisting of officially M60 machine guns, grenades and M79 grenade launchers. Unofficially the strangest collection of sidearms, Uzi’s and AK 47‘s you would ever see. Go for it. Whatever made you happy.

We carried mortar rounds and enough ammunition to do considerable damage. The total cost was around $20,000 in 1970. We used to describe emptying out the various ammo lockers as “shooting up a Cadillac,” which was the going rate for a DeVille back then.

View all images

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Hear Ye Hear Ye…..

Hear Ye, Hear Ye….

Let me start by saying you can call off the suicide watches for yours truly. I am doing just great. As a matter of fact even better after all your wonderful responses to “You’ll Never Know” last week. Ted’s Head has never created such a firestorm of sorts and that was beyond interesting.

The ego in me says, “Wow, some of you got it.” Then the arrogance of such a comment brought me back to earth. Who the hell am I to say whether you got it? Guess what? Maybe I didn’t put it very well. For the moment I want to dwell on the process. A thing called communication.

We bombard and are bombarded by various messages all day long. They can be verbal, written, or non verbal such as eye contact or body language. They float somewhere in the spectrum and then are received by one of us. Whether we are genuinely receptive is another story.

We create barriers of some sort or let’s for the moment call them filters. First of all is the source. Whether it is writer or speaker we have something more than ambivalence towards them. We have some sort of gut feeling either positive or negative. For me it’s whether it’s Sandra Bullock or Nancy Pelosi doing the talking? Peyton Manning or Donald Trump? Duh!

Then if you are talking about something I know or believe in you are on the mainline to my brain. If not, I am starting to shut down. Positives get put in the cranial cavity for future reference and cons hit the circular file. I may respond for further clarification and then take appropriate action. Next.

It is actually very cool this happens probably hundreds if not thousands of times a day. Sender, message, recipient. Simple and yet so complex. To me the growing process involves trying to catch as many of these vibes as possible. Sure I will chuck some but I at least want to take a good look to see if they hold some degree of water. That’s probably not the norm.

If I am hard left or right I can’t let anything get past my fire wall of defense. I have worked hard to get to my position of the last thirty years. Don’t want any free thinker screwing up a good thing. I am comfy and don’t need any other noise in my life. I can’t say I blame you. Takes a lot of hard work to buck the tide.

On the other hand I dare any of you to sit down and listen to Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow for a bit. Separately of course. See if there are not two or three things they say in the course that make sense? Abortion? Guns? Economic theory? Not all ideas but at least something where you can say I agree. A starting point. But we don’t want to give even an inch. Can’t show any weakness…except of course in our thought process.

I am so struck by the road ahead and our response to the bends and curves. We have got to rethink so many aspects of our country and our lives. We have to have debates but they should be enlightening not divisive. We have got to utter the word that so many find impossible. COMPROMISE. And that means being able to put our radio on receive as well as transmit.

I work my ass off trying to do it. It ain’t easy. I labor through Charles Krauthammer as well as Maureen Dowd but in the end it is invigorating. The only way I can get my juices going is to think of new things. I have to take a problem and try to dream up some way to fix it. I don’t think I am anything special.

To me one of the greatest triumphs and at the same time failure of our body politic is Simpson Bolles. Here was a bipartisan commission that came up with a blueprint to get us out of our financial morass. It was presented two and a half years ago at the behest of Obama. It was shelved by him and the Congress because they could not stand the thought of giving up sacred cows. Ditto Immigration. Ditto gun control.

If each one of us were to concentrate on the task at hand we could accomplish some scary things. If we could hear disparate views and really try to think them through. If we could taste different foods, different ideas, different genres and just savor them for a moment before spitting them out. The worst sin is not to even taste them at all.

If we would just communicate and throw out the filters, the preconceived notions and prejudice we could make some really sweet music. This is not just a feel good concept. Maybe not my future but my kid’s and grandkid’s is in jeopardy and wasting that well being is not an option to me.

As always,

Ted The Great


Over 25 of you responded to last weeks epistle. I actually had written it a couple of months ago. Some of you were concerned for my well being including my sister and I thank you. Some of you read it a couple of times and couldn’t figure out what I was saying. One of you wrote back and asked if I had cancer. I don’t. Someone said they read it in the morning and after the fourth or fifth paragraph they wanted a drink. Kathy said it was really dark. Some had some deep insights and they caused me to pause. Most of you just read and wondered. I guess that’s what this is all about.