Bwana Ted…….

Posted from Mhlambanyati, Swaziland

Africa is full of contradictions. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, which is our next stop, are no exception. In so many of these areas the indigenous populations were conquered by colonizing nations such as England, Portugal and Holland during the previous 300-400 years. Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s the reigning parties were shown the door and the remaining entities vied for power. Most of the time these were the rich whites who were a minority but had the money. Depending on whose side you are on there was an uneasy truce if one at all. In many but not all the future is unclear.

Our first stop was Zimbabwe where the attraction was the magnificent Victoria Falls. Many times larger and deeper than Niagara it provides almost singlehandedly for the local economy.The cascading beauty of the Zambezi River has guides aplenty. Hotels are well staffed and the people cheerful. The country itself has 75% unemployment. The people do anything and everything to exist. Their long time black leader, Robert Mugabe can be considered hero and tyrant in the same breath. Be careful not to speak openly or you could be arrested.

Our guide Dummie(DOOMAY) and I hit it off right from the start. After a quick stop at our hotel he took us to a township which is best characterized as a poor run down area. The market where people sold foodstuffs was shabby at best. It was all some of them had. We went and had tea with Raymond and Priscilla in their home. They had built it themselves and if they stayed long enough they could keep it and call it their own. Probably about ten years. It was clean and of good size. They survived by selling vegetables from the backyard. They seemed affluent by comparison.

Our next stop was the Hope Orphanage which during the daytime was home to around 50 kids but they only had room for about 20 overnight.The rest were shipped out to other families in town.They all came back for their one meal a day. They greeted us by singing and dancing. They weren’t begging. They just wanted us to be at home. I sat on the ground in the courtyard and they were scrambling toward me to shake my hand and rub my bald head. They passed my old white floppy hat around taking turns putting it on and giggling. I was smitten as was Kathy who held a 6 month old girl in her arms to the point I thought we were going to be adding to our family again. As we left they were singing thank you and waving until we were out of sight down a dusty lane. Tough act to follow.

Why did we do all this? It put so much in perspective. There is so much natural resource wealth in these parts but the populace who are incredibly literate and industrious have no way to bring this to fruition. Foreign industrialists and governments are loathe to invest because of the political insecurity and the beat goes on. I asked my buddy Dummie if he was happy? He said his people were naturally happy and cheerful. They have learned to cope and he was so grateful he had a job. He shared with others less fortunate. He bade me good bye at the airport with a hug and a handshake and pronounced,”You are my brother, just by a different mother.” Incredible experience.

Fast forward to the ride from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park. We passed though mile upon mile of coal and corn fields, citrus groves, and banana plantations, while going up and down mountains of granite. We could have been anywhere from Florida, to Nebraska to Colorado. You keep thinking this was supposed to be the cradle of civilization as we know it and perchance the true Garden of Eden. South Africa is nothing short of amazing and we are just getting started.

A 4:30 AM wakeup call heralded the day to be spent at Kruger. In the lobby I did my best rendition of Wimoweh and luckily my fellow travelers were too sleepy to be throwing things. This national park is about the size of Massachusetts! We travelled probably 200 miles over the 10 hours in the park atop our safari Range Rover and yet we experienced just a minuscule part of the experience. The vastness was mind boggling.

We viewed, antelope, elephants, giraffe, kundu, Cape buffalo, lions,rhinos, hippos and leopards. We actually saw all the Big 5 which is not always predictable. Adrian, our guide chattered back and forth with his cohorts in any one of 11 official SA languages. They traded sightings and were probably making comments about their crazy American passengers. Toward the end of our trek we watched three lions try to peel off a Cape buffalo from the herd. They failed and the guide said the lions do not go more than 100 yards in chase. I of course said the Detroit Lions only ran 100 yards too. Boo,hiss TTG. Now cut that out!

Back at the hotel I sat on the patio and had my glass of red and a cigar. As I looked out I could have been in Tuscany or Napa.How much of our world is the same and yet why are we so far apart? The chef came out to tend to his barbecue. His name was Night and we talked for almost one half hour. He told me of his dreams to own a restaurant. He had been to culinary school and wanted a chance to show his stuff. A little difficult when you are feeding forty or fifty people at once on a buffet line. He asked that I tell folks back home that his people were friendly, gentle and welcoming. I said I hoped I would be back to eat in his restaurant someday.

As I said last week a friend told me when I saw the animals in their natural habitat it would change me forever. That may be true but I have a feeling that my new friends might do the same. It’s kind of fun to just know people on a human level regardless of their politics. Haven’t seen the news in a week….and have not missed it a bit. See you on down the road.

As always
Ted The Great


People in the townships build their houses when they have the money. It takes them a year to build one room. Then they all live in that until they have money to build another room. No mortgages.

South Africa has an enormous number of immigrants and most are illegal. The are 7 million Zimbabweans alone to add to SA’s population of 55 million. That would be like 50 million to America. They look the other way because it is right. Otherwise the interlopers would die. There is no welfare in Zimbabwe. They have to fend for themselves. In SA there is a small stipend.

There are huge forests of eucalyptus trees because they grow quickly. Amazingly these were brought from New Zealand and not a native species.

The antelope have coloring on their tails that looks like an M….the Golden Arches They number in the tens of thousands in Kruger and so they are considered fast food for lions. The old lion that was killed by the American dentist although illegally lured wasn’t of much use as a progenitor. Old enough to scare off the more virile young studs but not to increase the pride. Good press. Finally elephants are plentiful in southwest Africa. They when their 6th set of molars disintegrate and they are no longer able to eat their 250 kilos of greenery per day. They starve to death.

Africans walk everywhere. Several miles is considered a short stroll. Most are lean. There are very few bikes. They are considered too provincial. Of the 55 million people in SA only 10 million can afford cars.

Going Dark….

Posted on arrival at Johannesburg,RSA

Ted and Kathy’s Magical Mystery Tour is going dark for the next few weeks. We are enroute to South Africa and Zimbabwe. As of now we are just finishing our journey of nearly 10,000 miles in a 24 hour period. The hop from Denver to Dulles seemed like a ride around the block. The trek from the US to Africa seemed never ending. As usual my thoughts wander on a number of different levels. The last time we were this far from home was our adventure in Australia and New Zealand. Feels familiar but strangely different at the same time.

Traveling, you feel a sense of detachment as to what you are leaving behind and at the same time excitement and uncertainty about what lies ahead.CNN was on in the United Club at Dulles and I can’t say I will be longing for Bernie or the Donald any time soon. We speak of inequality here in the US and indeed there is such an affliction. But I still have to think about how much we have on both ends of the economic scale. Redistribution of wealth is not an acceptable doctrine but neither is poverty and survival of the fittest. 25% of South Africa lives on $1.25 per day. We ain’t doing bad!
South Africa is home to around 52 million people and therein lies the enigma. My vision of the metropolises of Johannesburg and Cape Town is crowded out by the vast reaches of savannah and jungle that I know are out there. A glass of red and a cigar at some lodge or outpost just won’t feel like my old front porch. I don’t think Starbucks has made it to Lesotho or Kruger. And that is a good thing.
Our flight plan took us over the Atlantic with a fuel stop in Ghana. Ironically the voyage took place overnight and the occasional light or loom of a city did not betray the borders that we all fight so much about. We passed over Senegal,Ivory Coast ,Birkana Faso and Namibia to name a few. At that hour everything and everyone looked the same. Kind of cool. China wants to extend its boundaries a gazillion miles into the South China Sea. Putin looks for footholds. The Dutch and English both had their turns at setting up colonies and finally giving up when it was no longer in their best interests. Is it just me or is the world just some huge chess board? The game has been going on for centuries with a lot of people being used during that time as mere pawns.
This will be a totally different brand of travel from our shipboard experiences. On the good ship Lollipop you pulled in someplace at 8:00AM and threw the lines off for departure at 6:00PM. Don’t be late or you are stuck. Hit the high spots and come back another day for more in depth study. For covering a lot of ground in a few days it can’t be beat.We will be on a so called land tour. We hop on a plane a few times in country but the majority is covered by some sort of coach. There are 16 other fellow travelers and just getting to know people from different parts of the country or world will be an interesting diversion.

It almost makes you want to be a backpacker or hitch hiker. Trying as best as one can to experience the real people beyond the souvenir stalls and glitzy restaurants. Not sure how well this would work in the “townships”. Probably a better move in New Zealand. There is a huge unemployment problem in SA and elsewhere. People have moved from the hinterlands to the city in search of a better life. From Zimbabwe,Botswana and Namibia to green pastures so to speak. Sound familiar? Housing and sanitation are a best a long shot. There are shacks of corrugated metal a stone’s throw from the downtown business and shopping sections. There is a large problem with crime because in the most simplistic terms it is the only way some of these people can survive. All within miles of a metro area of 6 million people.

Of course you say, “Why are you going there?” Victoria Falls beckons. Larger, more majestic and less commercial than Niagara is good for starters. In Kruger the “Big Five” (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and cape buffalo) are there for the watching. Probably won’t run into the dentist from Minnesota. Many people have told me that the sight of these creatures in all their natural glory will change you. Not sure if Kathy is ready for one more change from me. Oddly neither the Far East nor India holds any special interest but this call of the wild is real. I will let you know.

I will keep it short and who knows when my poor old head will dump core again. As usual I just wanted to share some quick thoughts and anticipations. Our sense of adventure is going strong.

As always
Ted The Great

The Dark Continent was named such because of the mysterious and unknown parts that were undiscovered and unknown especially in the late 18th century. Joseph Conrad fueled the fire.

The area around Cape Town was originally started as a way station of sorts for ships going from Europe to India. They stopped for fresh water and fruits and vegetables. Incredibly the settlement needed more than the local population to provide labor and so slaves were imported from the Indian Ocean countries to the east.

The Cape of Good Hope was just that…a wing and a prayer. The confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans created a maelstrom of winds, currents and high seas bringing many sailors to an early grave.

It’s That Simple….

I started out this week thinking about education. I have had interactions with all of our seven grandkids these past few days and you can’t help but think what is going on in those fertile brains ranging from 4-11 years. We are very fortunate because they are doing well in their own way. How does that happen? You look for common denominators and the two that stand out to me the most are creativity and parental interest.

I cogitated on our educational system both elementary and higher and tried to figure out if our kid’s kids are being best served. We have spent billions if not trillions trying to figure out what is the best way to get our kids up to speed. Over the decades we still have maintained a consistent model :construct a curriculum,lay it out there, and then test them to see if they absorbed it. Functionality at its best. I guess when you are educating 50 million kids you have to have some sort of common core not to use a worn out phrase. But it ain’t working.

The main thing about this learning thing is asking questions. You are pumped up about something and you want to know more about it. The “Why” questions of young’uns while maddening, demonstrate a desire. Our response is patient to a point and then we throw our hands up in exasperation and say,”Because I said so”. Also functionality at its best.

Now the triple fork in the road. Either the child is persistent, does the research on their own or they just meander on down life’s highway thinking, don’t go off script. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid and don’t rock the boat. School is no different. The teacher has a lesson plan to teach. He or she can’t go off topic because they have to get through this by Thursday or they are behind. They’ve got 23 minds to mold and can’t take time out for neither the inquisitive nor the laggard. Just the way the system works. And yet that curiosity thing is in all of us.

Leonardo Da Vinci is my hero if you have read many of my previous treatises. He knew how to think with the best of them. In his book on DaVinci, Michael Gelb writes of Curiositae. That insatiable desire to learn more, to seek other solutions or to just challenge common theory is the thing we are all born with. Sadly it does not increase but rather ebbs with age. As parents we get tired of it. Our schools squander it. Our big corporations discourage it. And in the end society tells us to stay within the lines. Slow down TTG. Why do you worry about that stuff? Life is not an adventure but something to be lived in passive obeisance. Just play by the rules and you will get a gold watch in 25 years. What a minute! That was fifty years ago.
I don’t have the cure for our ills today but I do understand that a structure that places a premium on multiple choice rather than essay is going to turn out just that. We wonder why high school graduates need remedial help in reading and writing after being accepted into college? We just had to regurgitate back to the teacher what we had been told. The right answer is the one I gave you and any independent thought is gravely frowned upon in this institution.
We want to call out the teacher but I am not sure if they have any real control over it. The most talented feel their own creativity being repressed and it has to be devastating. We stand up and cheer with tears in our eyes at Good Will Hunting or Mr Holland’s Opus but all that crap is not going to get my son or daughter into a top 10 school. Mom and Dad want results on the SAT’s or else.

Therein lies the second part of the puzzle I have laid out. Parents are a funny lot. They are either happy to have the school district as full time babysitters or they hound and harass until the teacher puts in for an unlisted phone number. Many and especially those of lower economic means have at least one full-time job. At the end of a long day they don’t have time or desire to help with homework. They miss valuable lessons at the dinner table or on a weekend sightseeing trip. Listen kid, I have my life and you have yours.

Right now you are either nodding in agreement or feeling a little squeamish. I have watched numerous specials on the topic and read more than a number of articles and rarely if ever are the parents mentioned either as a consenting adult or absentee owner in this process.They are the first teacher for any child. They set the tone and environment. Is that one of interest and involvement or dismissal and placement of said object in front of the TV for endless periods of wakefulness? Even if the interest is present, there is a “Phew! My job is done,” as Jane or Johnnie is put in the safe hands of preschool.

Like anything else in this man’s world we believe the solution is in more money. We have superimposed a whole new bureaucracy on our educational system. Counselors, security guards, advisors, and superintendents to the superintendents. We have built new schools to provide an ambience while learning. Yet the numbers go down. Why?

I think we have to rethink this whole thing. The first and foremost of the R’s have to include reading and writing. Not part of the program in the first years but THE PROGRAM. If you can’t read the text or the computer screen you can’t learn. If you can’t express yourself in words as well as speech how can you go further unless you are earmarked to be a recluse or a monk at best. The fact a high school graduate can get into college without either of these facilities is beyond sad and borderline criminal.

Secondly we have to take that marvelous proclivity we have towards a particular discipline and nurture it, not put it down. We all have it and for most it remains untapped. Want to make this a better United States and a better world? Find people’s strengths and then the education to make them blossom. Think outside of the box on everything from farming to science and yes even a thing called hospice. Have that wonderful desire to not only excel but to really make things better. That thing called innovation starts with WHY? and then Why Not? It is that simple. Well, almost.

As always
Ted The Great


The US spends around $11,000 per student educating them. $6500 of that is spent on instruction itself. The lowest per state is $7500 in Idaho and the highest is New Jersey with $18,000

The rates are all over the map but it seems that 25% of incoming freshmen is a good number when looking a remedial courses necessary to take college courses.

It is estimated that 70% of parents are involved in their children’s schooling via PTO meetings, Back to School nights etc. 65% of parents polled said they should be doing a lot more to further their child’s education.

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. This can be in art,thought, science or industry
Innovation generally refers to changing or creating more effective processes, products and ideas,

I could have talked of uniforms. discipline,(vis a vis a learning environment) responsibility etc. but I wanted to keep it simple.

Thinking Out Loud….

Thinking Out Loud…

I had an interesting phone call from a good friend who asked me what I thought of the shootings in Roseburg,Oregon. He said Ted’s Head was always thinking and he knew I would have an answer to the problem. Now either he was being patronizing or desperate to think I could solve one of our nation’s most intrinsic enigmas.

Just defining it is complex. We have this constitution that says we have the right to bear arms. Fair enough. There is also a clause that is not an amendment but a basic tenet that says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.Stress that life part.  Which right is superior? I don’t have enough brainpower to figure that out. Now I can consult my buddies and see which way the wind is blowing and find the issue divided even Steven. Probably shows my total lack of standards in picking friends.

But this one really is a bitch because for one it probably will never be solved, at least not in our lifetime. We want to have registration of guns and owners as well as background checks. This would lead to a national database that would be dependent on factual input and local adherence. Please note there are over 300 million guns in our country.

Now the VA wants to have a file that would put the records of all armed forces present and past into some jumbo computer. That hasn’t worked out very well. Homeland Security wanted to put together an identification system for guest workers.Ditto. The FBI spent over $500 million on a super computer program that never saw the light of day. I think you get the picture.

Maybe we can look at the problem from a mental health point of view. Let’s assume that 10% of Americans have some sort of mental illness at any given point in time. It could range from common depression to serious schizophrenic or bipolar debilitation. That is 35 million people give or take. We know right now that only 10-15% of that populace seek help even though it is proven that the cure rate or at least management of symptoms surpasses 90%. However our facilities and practitioners are taxed to the limit. What if we introduced another 20% into treatment That would be piling on to the tune of 7 million people. Forget about cost we just don’t have the docs and facilities to even make a dent.

This is where my eternal optimism runs headlong into my ever present pragmatism. What it really comes down to is by using percentages we tend to overlook the real numbers behind some serious problems and their ultimate solution. Take healthcare. The reality of actual numbers is shrouded in percentages. I can tell you that caring for ourselves has risen from 6% of GDP twenty years ago to almost 20% today. To most that is a vague number. What if I tell you that translates into $3TRILLION in expenditures per annum. Which number gets your attention?

Now the national poverty rate is around 8%. That is 45 million people in this great land of ours. Childhood poverty for those under 18 has fallen from 21.8% to 19.9 % Hooray! That means we only have 14.7 million kids that are at best destitute. Those living in severe poverty (less than $10,000 annual income for a family of four) are only 6% of the population. That my friends is 20 million people.

Now maybe you just put this down and have said no more this week big guy. I don’t blame you. I am not trying to have an intervention for you or me. Some will say that’s life and that is their prerogative. Some will wring their hands and say dear me the sky is falling. Me? I guess I am going to go on thinking and trying to figure out a way to make things better.

I have been looking at apps that can monitor our net worth and body worth on this index or that.Not many for solving poverty. I have seen we want to go to Mars while we can’t get Congress to authorize a highway bill. We have geniuses that can figure out how to bypass emission monitoring equipment but no one has figured out how to make an asphalt that doesn’t crumble in the winter. We have new materials that make airplanes more lightweight and stronger than steel but we can’t figure out how to eliminate rust and deterioration on our bridges and highways.

I continue to be fascinated how I and the rest of us focus on the petty or superfluous while we all kick the can down the road. I am not the Donald screaming and ranting how the rest of the world is putting us to shame. I happen to think we are a fabulous country that just has its priorities screwed up. We have a hard time thinking long term because our leaders both in Washington and the board rooms of America are short sighted. There is very little difference whether you are looking at the next elections or the next quarterly financials. Small minds think in short intervals. The big picture gets lost.

I am working on a project to figure out a way to clean up a small section of the Cherry Creek here in Denver. Is is a glorious oasis in the middle of a burgeoning spate of skyscrapers and apartment complexes. I have met the most wonderful people both inside and outside of government. I have gotten response where I never thought possible. It’s a little piece but I am passionate about it. Kind of feels good deep down. Not for me but knowing you can make a difference. Hope you didn’t mind my thinking out loud. Try it. It is good for the soul.

As always
Ted The Great


Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature,economics, health, property, information,theology, etc. Are we any good?

Right now there are 1 1/2 million apps available to mobiles phone users.
There are almost one hundred computer games that have sold more than one million copies. Time wasted or well used?

50% of the world’s population has neither made nor received a phone call in their lives.
The cost to go to Mars by 2025 has been estimated at up to $500 billion dollars.You know that will go up.

In America, there are approximately 300 million firearms possessed by civilians, and 897,000 carried by police.
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reports that about 5.5 million new firearms were manufactured in America in 2010. 95% of these were for the U.S. market.
Close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011 and an average of 268 citizens are shot every day.