Takeaways…

My normal stream of conscious has left me today. I find myself darting here and there just trying to make sense of our world. I could dwell on Las Vegas but the media has parsed every piece of pathos and investigation to the nth degree. As usual it is a futile attempt to make it go away by trying to come up with some sort of an answer. The bottom line is there are people out there who are sick, evil or both.

The problem and indeed it is one, is that we have let this go too far. There are over 310 million guns in the US today. This guy had fifty of them and thousands of rounds of ammunition. We could ban firearms tomorrow and it might make a difference fifty years from now. Nancy Pilosi at a town hall last night wants background checks. The LV gunman would have passed them with flying colors. She said the Republicans kowtow to the NRA and they do. But not too long ago the Dems had both houses and the White House. What changed? Nothing. All are complicit.

In a bizarre question a reporter asked the sheriff of McCarron County, “How could you let this happen?” It floored me just think about that. I guess we are to prepare for every possible eventuality whether dealing with violence, disease or personal safety. It was similar to what I heard in Puerto Rico and Texas and Florida when dealing with forces of nature. Why can’t you do something? Why weren’t you prepared?Now do we cede responsibility for every portion of our life to government? Some would and some wouldn’t. Both without thinking it through thoroughly.

We have made enormous gains as a society and we have also made horrific mistakes. In watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Viet Nam, the follies and hubris of people to whom we have entrusted our government seems to blare out stupidity or outright malfeasance. There was a haunting resemblance of Robert McNamara in Nam to Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq. In a despicable way they attributed their failures to “miscalculations.” Thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. That’s okay, we will learn from our mistakes. Really? And we keep relying on the bureaucracy to solve all our ills.

We have adopted this idea of political and business genius. People are reelected at a frightening rate because they know how to govern. Maybe I am on aa different wave length. At the same time in corporate America we are giving small fortunes to the executive suites even while some don’t perform in any positive way. The CEO of Equifax is leaving town with a bon voyage basket of over $20 million dollars after an egregious screwup on his watch. What does that really say about us?

I think the answer is twofold. First we accept too much as fact. We slurp the pablum fed our way without so much as a whimper. It is not just news, fake or not, but State of the Union speeches and annual reports. Is this because people don’t care, are too busy or have just thrown up their arms in frustration? Maybe a combo but it still projects a dire future. Government aid and soaring stock markets are the salves to sooth all our consciences.

The second piece is an overall feeling of comfort. We have had it good for a long time. Or at least for most of us. We check our IRA’s or pay stubs and say all is well with the world. We make sure our kids are in the best schools and then all will live happily ever after as in all fairy tales. What are we doing for the weekend? I hope the weather is good for soccer games and golf. Nothing like an Indian summer! Oh yeah, Vegas. I kind of forgot about that. Well, it was an aberration and besides I will make sure me and my loved ones are never put in not that position.

On the other side of the coin a friend of mine was in Texas for a month. He is a house inspector in Denver and was called to help out with the damage from Irma. Normally a quiet soft spoken guy he was like a babbling fool when I talked to him upon his return. He saw abject poverty. People not knowing where their next nickel is coming form. A majority on government dole of some sort. In a strange way feeling comfy with whatever they have without giving thought to where it was coming from.

 

I am a pretty upbeat guy but I feel dragged down on a lot of sides these days. I think of Catalonians, the chaos and corruption in Africa and South America as well as the unending strife of the Middle East. That is a lot of upheaval. We are kneeling to protest but there is no definition of what we want or how to get there. We wring our hands about 59 people gunned down but give little thought to the fact there were 100 gun deaths elsewhere that very same day throughout these United Staes. Another 200 wounded. That is 365, 24/7. We just accept all these things as part of society.

What scares me most is our lack of spirituality. True introspection not necessarily church going. Thinking about something more than myself and my possessions. Trying not to spend my days mindlessly going from one evolution to the other. Why am I here and what good if any can I do in this world? How in some small way can I make someone else’s life better? It could be just a deliberate hello or thank you. This isn’t Onward Christian Soldiers but a call to come out of our little orbits and taking responsibility for this planet. Crazy? Maybe. On the other hand I guess we could just sit back and let the government take care of everything. How has that worked out for you so far?

As Always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Ironically, banning guns, semi automatic or otherwise would have little to do with that 100 person per day death rate. 66% of the fatalities are self inflicted. People killing themselves. 20% are gang related. I am sure they are not doing background checks. And 5% are the results of domestic disputes.

Mass shootings: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents. A mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.

Let’s assume we spend a trillion dollars annually on fighting terrorism when you total everything up. Terrorism kills a relatively small number of people. What do we spend on mental health?

 

 

Curb Appeal….

When you are in the real estate business there is one sure fire attribute of any home whether you are buying or selling. It is curb appeal. Almost 2/3 of buyers will make up their mind about purchasing a house before they even get out of the car or view internet pictures as the case may be. Call it impulse or appealing to one’s innermost desires and fears, it is still a matter of human emotion and for the most part it runs on automatic

The metaphor is particularly apt as we look at our world today and its inhabitants as a house to be viewed. Does it turn us on or off? For me the curb appeal of Mumbai or Calcutta if only viewed online let’s me easily move on to somewhere else. Digging down I can’t see relating to their inhabitants also. As we have travelled the world I look back in reverie on some places and not exactly with a warm fuzzy on others.

I started thinking about this. How many times a day do I decide to take a deeper look at a place or person or do I just move on down life’s highway? Maybe even more how often am I repulsed? It can be the result of some sort of offense to my five senses.

You are not particularly attractive or may have some serious issues such a deep scar or defect that causes one to look away. If you haven’t bathed lately, adios. How about a whiny voice? And so on. For the most part I have given little thought to my biases. They just happen. I play a movie in my mind drawing on my vast stores and experience with the human race and proceed to blow them off. Sometimes gently and others without regard to feelings. Mea culpa.

Now that is my prerogative but also  extremely self centered. Did I ever really think how I hit people? I am bald as a billiard ball and maybe some my think me a punk terrorist. I hope I don’t smell bad but my voice can at times be rather strong and strident. I easily get wound up and perhaps others don’t quite share my enthusiasm….especially at 5:00 AM. Me? Not perfect? How could you think that without even spending the time to get to know me?

About 600 of you take the time to read my ravings on occasion. I thank you for that and it proves even the most vile can be appreciated even if it is out of sense of charity. Maybe I just amuse you or maybe you take something away to think about? Regardless you looked beyond the proverbial cover. Here is where it gets fascinating

I have been reading a book,”Conversational Intelligence”. It appears as a self improvement book for corporate execs but can be easily applied to all. That automatic response we shoot out when meeting someone or reacting in a forum is related to our fight or flight instinct. Is this person a danger either physically or more importantly psychologically? Then I want to know if they are a friend or foe. Then I make the decision to either engage or withdraw. All of this happens in milliseconds.

If I recoil my bod releases a hormone called cortisol, which is both harmful and beneficial to our overall health. It helps to heal wounds but many times creates others as it lowers our immune system and raises our blood pressure and heart rate. Kind of why, Stress Kills. If I smile and warm up to you, I release oxytocin which is known as the “cuddly” hormone. There is an overall sense of calmness and we open up more and more. Open is the operative word We feel safe, ergo we want to share more of ourself. On the corporate as well as the personal side it is tantamount to growth and profitability.

Now some of you are saying you are more than happy with who and what you are and don’t need any new encounters or personalities screwing up your lives. Good for you. For others it is not so much “finding ourselves” but seeing all the world has to offer. It is by definition diverse. There are a gazillion concepts out there. Some good, some bad, but I won’t know that until I explore. I guess the bigger question is, am I just being complacent or do I really fear the unknown so I will stay here safe and sound in my little universe?

I am not advocating for one side or the other. Some of you consider me bona fide crazy and you may have a point. I am also not going to tell you with a straight face that I don’t recoil from time to time. Just wave a picture of Mitch Mc Connell, Nancy Pelosi or the Donald in front of me and my fangs appear immediately. Used car salesmen and jaded celebrities also get their dose of my venom. But how many times a day do I blow off what could really be an interesting concept by shooting or at least not getting past the messenger?

In trying to understand how their persona affects their company’s performance, many suits have realized that rather than leading their enterprises they are often dragging them down by their imperious persona. With startling results they have found incredibly productive ideas right from within their ranks. When you give people a say and are willing to listen to it you empower them more. They are no longer a threat to you and you to them but they see a collaboration that is magical.

I hope you can see where I am going with this. In our world today whether it be in the nation, the village or our families, look around at what you have not been seeing or hearing. Think about how you affect people around you. It is my old pulling on the same oar concept. With all our collective curb appeal we could really go places.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Cooperation is lending a hand. Collaboration goes further not only helping but buying off and participating in a concept’s  success or failure. Indifference is just that. You are ambivalent and have no special preference. Sabotage is trying to actively destroy someone else’s idea or project.

Multitasking is actually impossible and you should probably stop trying to do it. Multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman,2016)

20% of the average workday is spent on “crucial” and “important” things, while 80% of the average workday is spent on things that have “little value” or “no value.

By taking 1 hour per day for independent study, 7 hours per week, 365 hours in a year, one can learn at the rate of a full-time student. In 3-5 years, the average person can become an expert in the topic of their choice, by spending only one hour per day.

It takes approximately 30 days to establish a new physical or emotional habit.

 

Asea, Adrift,Amok….

I love to do crosswords and manage to finish off at least one a day. Asea or adrift is a state of confusion in which the individual is completely confounded with no solution in sight. Amok means to lash out violently after a period of brooding. I am taking my meds but all of the above describe my mental state more than once in these past few weeks.

As is my want, I try to figure things out. Take a given set of circumstances and see if there is a way to make things better. Not merely for the sake of change or to be the savior of the world but more to be the arbiter between conflicting interests in the hope we can come up with something for all. Considering today’s world, I think I have met my match and I may just move to the sidelines and let the chips fall where they may.

We have just been through a pretty serious hurricane down here. As in Texas there is no escaping floods, winds and destruction. The irony is that you can dodge chaos by a few miles. Some make it and some don’t. The Keys might be 100 miles away but their devastation is humungous compared to our minor inconveniences. But in the end everyone pitches in and does whatever they can by opening their doors and their wallets to the less fotunate. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana came on their own to Houston and never once asked for a dime.

A week or so has passed since Irma. Even though Jose and who knows who else is looming out there, things are getting back to normal. The Kumbaya moments are passing as they have in previous disasters. Most notoriously with the horror of 9/11 shared by a country and not just a city or metropolitan area.Then civility ebbs. We soon get back to fighting, bickering and complaining. Translated, we get back into ourselves.

For a moment let us consider we are partners in one way or another in this thing called life. A lawyer friend once told me that partnerships were wonderful until one side or the other feels like they are being screwed. Then they should be disbanded because you will never get it right. I guess that is what happens in marriage, business, and even society. The whites hate the minorities though they will never tell you so. The blacks and hispanics feel a similar hatred that can only come from oppression in whatever form. The rich think they pay too much. The poor think they should have part of everything. Please define for me what is fair share for both? I don’t know the answer but it is in the middle and not on the extremes. But it is on those outer fringes that we live today.

Trump’s address to the UN brought several things to mind. In many ways it was a violation of what the United Nations was supposed to be. But then again playing nice really doesn’t work. Russia China and the US can make it their way or the highway by their veto power. Resolutions have no backbone. The Donald called a spade a spade which is forbidden in diplo speak. People mentally booed and hissed but the fact remains. years of dealing with North Korea has not changed them one bit. Neither side gets the other.

I am a centrist or moderate or whatever you care to call me. But that is not allowed. A conservative pundit in Denver said I was a copout. He is entitled to his position but basically he is saying there can be no compromise. Ditto progressives. With no exaggeration I see both sides and neither are completely right. What the hell am I thinking?

We have a winner take all society. Whacko fans scream into the TV camera their team is #1. I love it if at the same time they accept eventually accept winning or losing for what it is. Ain’t going to happen. People will argue their make of car or truck is superior to yours. My kid is smarter than yours and if he or she isn’t, I am going to pull out all the stops to make sure they are. Our country club is so much better than yours. Even in a community, our neighborhood is so much nicer or higher end than yours.In the hoods it is all about turf.  Capitalism and competition are great but we have taken it to extremes and that is now woven into the fabric of our society.

What is the solution? I hate to tell you but I don’t think there is one. That is the cause of my mental gyrations. It would take some level headed leaders and a patient populace. In an ideal world we would try one way and then understand it has to be tweaked. We might even try the other way and do the same. I think that is what the forefathers had in mind but that requires states-people and at the same time an inquisitive and informed populace.

It would be interesting to have a list of say, ten tenets of both the left and right. Then I would like to have the believers to mark them on a scale of one to ten how strongly they profess them and even something stupid like would you be willing to die for that particular ism? We say we are one side or the other but are we? Is the other side so hated that we feel that American urge to win at all cost and show no weakness? Or do we see some validity in their arguments but just can’t say, let’s talk about it.

Next time you go toe to toe with anyone give that some thought. It can be on anything no matter how minor. Just for one brief moment can you listen and say genuinely that he or she has a point? I am at sea and I really don’t want to go amok. Please help me.

As Always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

At the onset it was thought the desire to be number one was a matter of survival. In a psychological sense there is a debate whether it is the desire to win or the inability to taste defeat. Jimmy Connors of tennis fame for so many years said the latter was his motivation for excellence.

Statesman or states woman…a wise, skillful, and respected political leader…. Webster’s Dictionary.

The location of the United Nation’s headquarters in New York City was gifted to the organization by John D. Rockefeller. Real estate mogul William Zeckendorf bought the land with money donated by Rockefeller. The property was used to build the league’s international headquarters, which was designed and constructed with an interest-free loan from the United States. The whole area is considered international territory. In fact, the building doesn’t have to meet all of NYC’s fire and safety codes because of its status. UN diplomats owe $16 million in parking tickets.

When adjusted for inflation John D Rockefellers wealth surpasses Bill Gates by ten times. Not particularly pertinent but fascinating.

 

 

Stormy Weather

Writer’s Note.. I won’t be upset if you don’t read. It is really quite lengthy

 

Stormy Weather….. Friday Afternoon..3:30 EDT

This week’s post will be ongoing and yes, late. We are here in sunny south Florida about to get the crap kicked out of us by a nasty woman named Irma. I am going to try to relate thoughts and feelings which heretofore I have been relegated to as a spectator on the evening news. I am now a participant.

We have been casting a wary eye since Tuesday or Wednesday. It is a geography lesson on everything from the West coast of Africa to Barbuda, the Virgin Islands and finally the Bahamas before landfall in Florida. As she picks up speed and force it is almost unfair to give here a name to be hated. It is nature both at it worst and most beautiful.

The confluences of storm tracks and Bermuda highs as well as lows over the Gulf are almost alchemy. When we throw brickbats at the weather services for missing a forecast it is quite fascinating to see that the difference between a direct hit or a glancing blow can be a matter of hours. The Perfect Storm was an apt title of a thrilling movie and the ferocity is the same. Mother Nature does not like to be told what to do.

About 48 hours from touchdown it is a lovely day here. The sun is shining and we went out to lunch for the simple reason we may not poke our heads out for a few days. The food stores are still crowded but all will close today at 8:00 PM. The roads are pretty deserted and all the plywood and metal shutters everywhere are a tad disconcerting. I know it is serious but you still wonder if people are going over the top?

There is nothing else on the TV and you wind up shutting it off. Each station tries to whip their viewers into a frenzy and the public dutifully plays their part. Worried looks and wringing hands are everywhere. It may sell ad space but I am not sure how much of the public service there is. I have relaxation music on the Sonos. Appropriately it is the theme from “Out of Africa”.

As a lad on Long Island I got to see hurricanes but never quite so up close and personal as in the Navy. My first ship was experimental as a prototype of the Garcia Class destroyer escort. We tested everything from sonar to weapons systems to anemometers that would go on later ships. We encountered a Stage 3 off Puerto Rico but rather than dashing to a lee they wanted us to sit in the Southwest quadrant for awhile. Kind of put that baby through its paces.

Foolishly I went up to the flying bridge for a look see. Mind you this is five or six stories above sea level and even that high the waves crashing over the bow got this Ensign well doused. In Nam we transited the Gulf of Siam in a fifty foot Swift Boat during some sort of typhoon. 18-20 seas will get your attention when in the pilot house. At one moment you are staring at a wall of water in front of you and in the next you are surfing down the back side of a wave. In all honesty you don’t fear the sea and nature as much as respect it. That’s where Kathy and I are now. Electricity is on and I will check in later.

 

Saturday 4:00 PM

The lovely Irma has slowed down from a swift pace to a much more measured stride. She is hitting more populous areas south of us and almost wants to strut her stuff. The track is the most beguiling part of her route. The storm has moved slightly to the West which is more of opposing forces operating. The Bermuda high might be stronger or the Gulf of Mexico lower might be weaker and this determines the cone so to speak. Really fascinating stuff.

The data for all this is suppled by radar but moreso by the Hurricane Hunters. Several are Lockheed turbo props that go on six hour roller coaster rides. They are chock full of radar and instruments. They zig and zag in and out of the storm and its eye, dropping tubes to measure wind speed, temperature and barometric pressure. They are operated by NOAA and the Air Force. They operate out of Georgia because their old base in Georgia was destroyed by, you guessed it, a hurricane.

We won’t see huge winds until tomorrow but it is raining at a pretty good clip now punctuated by a bolt of lightening or a large clap of thunder here and there. As I look out over the lake in back of our house I can still see an egret across the way poking around and looking for food. Where does he or she and the other members of our ecosystem go when all hell breaks loose? Is their evacuation route I95 or the Turnpike? They have lasted through these things a lot longer than we have.

The lights are still on but that is probably just matter of time. I hope failure waits until after the Notre Dame game tonight. They say 5 million people could get their power cut off. Amazingly Florida Power and Light has brought in 13,000 personnel and their trucks from surrounding states. They are being strategically placed throughout the area to try to get things back up and running as soon as possible. What do you think the bill is on that?

The storm itself cuts a swath of almost 500 miles. The entire state of Colorado is 500 miles wide. Florida is only 135 miles in width.Quite an occurrence. A good portion of the state has elevations of less than 10 feet so when you see storm surges of 10-15 feet you get the picture. Unfortunately because of the climate and geography there are more than a few trailer parks. Nothing to do but hang on and hope.
We are in a voluntary evacuation mode which Kathy is dying to comply with so she is no longer trapped with yours truly. Fugeddaboutit! See you later.

Sunday 8:00 PM

The day dawned after several forays through the night to check and make sure there were no window or door leakages. I love my sleep and that was not my favorite chore.Earlier, I cursed the TV because hurricane coverage superseded football games. Glad I missed them. The Irish tanked. Funny how you take things for granted. This storm is off the charts. The winds extend out 250 miles on either side. As I mentioned that is the width of Colorado. We had 40-50 knots throughout the day and we just peaked at 80-90. Tornado warnings kept going off on our phones to a point where you wanted to disregard them. Then that dark cloud and an accompanying rain blew across the lake and you took heed.

Incredible on the TV were the idiots. There was a guy on a Jet Ski who was darting in and out of the inlet to the ocean. Of course the TVs were covering him. At Key West during Irma’s landfall there was a moron on a bicycle at the monument delineating the southern most point in the United States. Of course they were showing him. Countless people put themselves at risk and of course expecting someone to rescue them.These are our fellow travelers.

I take back what I said earlier about non stop TV coverage. These people were on all night giving info. To be in the path of a tornado is somewhat disconcerting.To at least be able to see its path is in a strange way reassuring. People called or texted all day because the eye had gone west. “Man you guys dodged a bullet.” Yes, we did but the shrapnel also got our attention. I keep going back to living an experience rather than watching it on the telly. Ever present was the thought that those people on the West coast were at ground zero.

I have to go back to preparedness.I am new here. There is a lot of protocol and practice in place. They don’t ask, they don’t plead, they lay it on the line. I understand this Governor Scott is under fire from many fronts. I have to tell you in watching him present and being present all over the state he wins points in my book. I am sure some will disagree.

The psychological aspect is intriguing. You encounter a burst of thunder, lightening, rain and wind and it abates. Ha, that is over. Then wham, that baby rears its ugly head all over again. You experience 50 knot winds and it grabs your attention. Then it becomes routine after an hour. Then it goes up to 65-70 and you go through the same drill. That’s got to be the crest and sure enough the next one tops that. When the crap will this slow down and head the other way? Then the total absurdity when 80 knots feels better than 90. You hear a noise. Is that normal like branch going scraping across your roof or is the that a tile cutting loose that provides a foothold for this bitch to rip your roof off? It is funny that you don’t worry about your house structurally but the idea of your roof flying off is real.

I won’t bore you any more with my incessant ruminating but as in all things we learn lessons. I have kept residents who are away from here updated as to conditions. I label myself the Hippy Dippy Weatherman. I have taken great license with both my boundaries and my text. I have had fun in the middle of a somewhat concerning event. I do so simply because it is one of those things in life that I have absolutely no control over. The storm zigs and zags as is its want. I can curse it and defy it but I can’t change it in any way. That is both frustrating and humanizing in this techno world.

This has sent me awareness and perhaps a touch of vulnerability. The world around is no longer just noticed but studied in all aspects. This causes this and that and then the result is something else entirely. Being is this community really brings people together, checking on one another. A nice feeling. Not just blithely going down life’s highway but being a part of it. Also no matter how big or how strong or smart, you are a poor competitor for Mother Nature. About all money can do is get you a plane out of here. Personal safety trumps possessions every time.

If you made it this far thanks for sharing the ride. Will get back to “Pondering the Imponderables” at the end of the week or maybe next. When the lights come on I may just make a cup of coffee, curl up and read a book. Sounds like a plan.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Ted The Great played golf by himself on Thursday. Couldn’t find anybody to go with me. As luck would have it on the fourth hole, a par three, I took out my seven iron and struck the ball. Into the cup for a hole in one with no witnesses! Sure, sure TTG   It’s a fact!

Hurricane Andrew (1992) ripped an 80-foot steel beam weighing several tons off a building and flung it more than a block away. With 210 mile-per-hour winds at landfall, Hurricane Camille (1969) is the strongest hurricane to strike land. Typhoon Tip (1979), which did not strike land, is considered to be the largest, with tropical storm-force winds 1,350 miles in diameter.

A single hurricane stirs up millions of miles of air and can dump more than 2.4 trillion gallons (9 trillion liters) of rain a day.Hurricanes produce enough energy in one day to run the lights of Las Vegas for many years.Earthquakes outnumber hurricanes. According to NASA, approximately 85 hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones occur worldwide each year. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are 500,000 detectable earthquakes in the world each year, with 100,000 strong enough to be felt and 100 of them strong enough to cause damage

Although hurricanes can cause terrible damage, they are an important part of Earth’s complicated weather system. Like giant fans, they take hot air from the tropics and move it toward the poles. They help balance temperatures and moisture around the Earth. Without hurricanes and other storms, vast areas of the planet would be too hot for animal and human life.

 

 

 

What Do You Want?….

A group of people from all walks of life were asked a simple question, “All things being equal, what do you want?” I couldn’t help but think of this as I watched the events in Texas unfold this week. How about if the rain stopped? Perhaps a roof over one’s head? A hot meal and a dry set of clothes? Nothing crazy, just some basic things. When describing our wants we seem to overlook just what we have.

When you drive around these parts in south Florida there is a nautical presence everywhere. The self described Sailfish Capital of the US, has marinas and boatyards galore. In the St. Lucie River one could count hundreds of vessels from sailing prams to gigundo yachts. One particular emporium of the sea has no less than two dozen brand spanking new boats just waiting for their future skippers. The smallest coming in at $50,000 and ramping up to well over a million.

But this has nothing to do with cost but what I will call utilization of assets or lack thereof. We went down to the water one night and had a drink at a restaurant. Looking out over row after row of slips I wondered just how often these things got underway? A fella sat next to us at the bar and of of course you will be surprised to hear we struck up a conversation.

 

He had a 65’ power fishing boat nearby in Hobe Sound. He was a trauma surgeon from Miami so I surmised that money was not an issue. Sometimes he liked to fish and other days he just putzed around the Inland Waterway. I asked how many times he actually went out and he volunteered it was once or twice a month. After checking with others this might actually be high usage. So many of them just sat tied up, gathering dust and barnacles.

I did a little research and it turns out there are around 16 million pleasure craft in these United States with around 1 million in Florida alone. Quickly doing the math in my poor little brain, I came up with huge numbers for purchase and so many more for dock space and upkeep.It’s their money and they can do what they want but wow, does that seem like a lot of dough for a seldom used asset?

Recently I learned that we use our cars just 5% of the time. There are 265 million of them for our population of 320 million. There are 17 million new ones that roll off the assembly lines per annum. Say the average car is $20-30.0000 and multiply that and well I hope you catch my drift. New gizmos and soon to be self driving will only accelerate the cost and desire to have the latest and greatest.

We could look to stuff in our closets and garages that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time. We have 340 million TV’s for our populace. How many are on at once? Vacation homes are notoriously used just a few weeks or months out of the year. I am not by any means anti capitalist or anti consumption but does this seem to be a bit of a waste?

I ask this for a simple reason. Getting back to that focus group of individuals who were queried as to what they want? The answer by a resounding majority was,“MORE!” That is rich man and poor man alike. That is a startling but not exactly unexpected answer. We are consumers par excellence. Our economy is 75% based on this premise.

If we want more it means we always have a lack of something in our lives. Overall that unease is not a terribly comfortable feeling to go through the day. It is with you most of the time. We want to shop. We want to buy. We re constantly unfulfilled. The contrary is the Buddhist principle of living in the moment. Take what you have and just enjoy it. I think they have a point.

It’s Labor Day weekend. The end of summer and fall is on its way. It’s a beautiful time of the year and college and professional football teams will light up those many boob tubes. I will be right there with the rest of the world. Yet I do have one thought. If you asked people from all walks of life in Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, what they would want most, do you think it would be more? Interesting how tragedy makes us stop and think. It shouldn’t take that. Have a nice holiday.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

The 50 inches of rain that has fallen in spots is equal to 65 feet of snow. (The blizzard of 2015 in the northeast had totals of 3-4 feet.) That is 25 trillion gallons of water came down. As an example New York City and its 9 million inhabitants use 365 billion gallons a year.

People have questioned whether Houston should have been evacuated prior or the storm. There is a population of over 4.5 million people. Imagine if they all hit the road and then got caught on the flooded highways when the rains came?

There are over 800,000 homes that were either destroyed or severely damaged. That would mean every home in the Denver metropolitan area would be uninhabitable for months if not years. Think cars, furniture, clothing, food et alia.

Word is that Hurricane Harvey will end up being the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. According to AccuWeather, the estimate for the full cost of the storm will approach $160 billion. To put this number in perspective, Harvey is expected to cost about the same as the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

The Swamp….

Some of you think I am going to get down and dirty in this issue with the Donald in speaking of the confines of DC. Actually our nation’s capitol was not a swamp but the river was dredged to make the Potomac more navigable and the crud was placed in the ‘Flats” and presto we had several more acres of property where the Tidal Basin and the Lincoln Memorial now reside. But I digress. I wanted to talk to you about my new environs and the Central and South Florida Water District. You probably know it as the Everglades.

I have just read a fascinating book by Michael Grunwald titled “The Swamp.” I won’t get too technical but this chronicles south Florida’s history from the 1500’s on. I should say it immortalizes several centuries of man’s foolishness in messing with Mother Nature. We are always so damn sure that we know better. And then spend inordinate amounts of money trying to undo our madness. The villains are many from early discoverers to land barons to our beloved Army Corps of Engineers.

For centuries Florida lay at the tip of the Continental Unites States and depending on who was the flavor of the day, changed hands many times as sovereign land of somebody. Eventually it became a territory and then on a state of the US. The southern part was largely uninhabited but we felt this strong desire to root out those damn Indians. They provided a safe house for run away slaves and we could not have that. So we chased the Seminoles before there was a Bobby Bowden, clear down to this weird and unforgiving place called the Everglades.

Like the US in many other places our tactics and soldiers did not fit the local terrain. Brute force was constantly thwarted by the wily redskins, sorry native Americans, who knew the wetlands like the palm of their mud caked hands. If my memory serves me it was kind of like that when I was in Nam. Ditto Afghanistan and Iraq. You’d think we would learn our lessons.

But after conquering or at least coming to a stalemate with the tribe we wanted to open up southern Florida for development in the 1900’s. Henry Flagler had made his money in starting Standard Oil with John D Rockefeller. He envisioned bringing rail transport to the length of the Sunshine State and building hotels all along the way. To entice him the state gave him so much land for every mile of track he laid. But there was this mess of swamp land that kept getting in the way. It actually stretched from around modern day Orlando to Miami before there was a South Beach.

This stuff was pretty much primordial ooze. Good for the lawn but not for habitation. It seems it was all a terribly complex piece of ecosystem where the parts were inextricably connected. There was this very windy Kissimee River that we thought was totally impractical. We did the best thing and straightened it into a many miles long canal. Good for boating but bad for letting Nature do its thing. You see in all those curves there was a natural cleansing and dropping off of things key to life on each bend. When we eliminate the filtering system all the gunk gathered on the floor of the canal and you know the result.

All this had a terminus in Lake Okeechobeee. Born millions of year’s ago it encompasses about 750 square miles smack dab in the middle of the state. Only problem is it is only 12 feet deep. It should be part of a fresh water system but low and behold with all that crap coming down from up north, the bottom took on the look and feel of a cesspool. In our brilliance we also created an earthen damn to control flooding and also to create land to the south. Seems it was perfect for growing sugar cane. And what does that do? It provides ready cash for sleazy politicians from the coffers of King Sugar.

So now we have created a toilet so to speak. What else should we do but flush it when it becomes overloaded. So the Corps digs a canal to the Atlantic on the East and the Gulf on the West. When the hurricanes make their way inland they dump a lot of rain. We got to protect the sugar plantations so we pump it out. You might have seen the algae bloom on both coasts last summer. Now you know why. Meanwhile without the natural flow of aqua pura the Everglades are dying. Indigenous species can find their old food sources and they perish in fires or lack of food. The aquifers don’t get replenished.

I don’t have near enough space or knowledge to do the subject justice but it pointed out to me how incredibly stupid and greedy we can be. We make moves as a country in our government as well as our private industries that are without forethought. I am not up for unending environmental studies but this is a notorious example of getting something done and worrying about the long term results later.

Now when the loan comes due we have to go back and try to undo the wrong we have done with a disastrous loss of time and money. The book is biased to the green side but even if you take it to half of what they are saying is true it is a disgrace. Laws are constantly being proposed and both environmentalist and big business take issue dragging things out and forgoing any semblance of closure. And time marches on.

Unless I am terribly wrong this is not the only project in the US that is fraught with complexity and ineptitude. Bridges to nowhere. Unfinished uclear reactors. Uncompleted tunnels under the Hudson. A high speed rail line on the coast that will never make sense. Yet we continue on. I guess you can say we are mired in the mush of politics, scandal, and corruption. Maybe swamp is the right word.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Al Gore neglected to support environmentalists in trying secure a solution to the Everglades problems in early 2000. He lost Florida by 500 some odd votes. It is estimated that 10,000 Florida environmentalists voted for Ralph Nader. Kind of like Hilary not campaigning in Wisconsin.

They put the curves back in the Kissimmee River. Slowly but surely flora and fauna came back to life. Parts of the Everglades are now protected. There was a proposed airport seven miles from it but it was defeated. There is hope.

There is fresh water and there is salt water. When they combine naturally it is called brackish water and it is sustainable. When there is too much flow one way or the other there is destruction of habitats and plant life. I never thought of myself as a tree hugger but the stance does have its attributes.

Exotic animals are a big business…about $15 billion last year. Hurricane Andrew hit Miami in 1992. A warehouse contains 1000 Burmese pythons was destroyed and the reptiles made their way to the Everglades where they are devouring everything in sight. They have no known enemy and they can lay 100 eggs at a time. Snakes on the Plain.

15 Minutes To Live….

Duck and cover. Say the rosary and of course don’t forget to make a good Act of Contrition. That was the standard A bomb drill at St Mary’s Elementary School. As a mere lad of 7 or 8 like everything else, you did what you were told without any form of discussion. Today everything we do is fraught with hypothetical consequences and the possibility of being scarred for life. How could I ever have made it this far?

For the people of Guam the drills are for real. They have buried deep in their island paradise, the largest collection of munitions found in the free world. If the radiation doesn’t get you then the secondary explosions will. So your cogitation is not whether you will survive but what does the next life look like? Or at least how am I going to enjoy my last quarter of an hour on the planet. Probably I would find the best single malt I could, unzip a fresh pack of Marlboro Reds and have one last chat with my wife.

In fifteen minutes you can’t really accomplish a lot. What about fifteen hours or days or months? Now that is a little different proposition. You are in a little more control of your environment but what to do? I have often found the concept of a last meal for a person about to be executed a bit of a mystery. Probably more to assuage the guilt feelings of the warden and jailers. You know at least we were pleasant to him or her at the end even though we were pulling the switch.

I would have some decent food in my last months but more importantly who would I reach out to? Would I keep my group selective or would I try to touch every base in my social spectrum? The internet has made that a hell of a lot easier but I would also want to put something in writing. As in real writing on paper. So someone in the future could sit down in a quiet moment and see my script. I have a letter from my mom and my brother and it is wonderful just to read them every so often as if they were still here. I can still see their great smiles in that handwriting.

I would try to have one on ones with my kids and grandkids. Nothing maudlin but maybe some little cliche or bon mot that would stick with them as time goes by. Maybe a whiff of my cigar or a memory of a funny moment shared. Of course I would tell my fantastic wife thank you so many times and probably tell her much more than I do now how much I love her.

With my work in hospice I have often thought how I would I handle it if someone told me I had the big C. I would want to have a long talk with the docs and approach it from a business like point of view. I would want to know the odds but more importantly what would be my quality of life? I have had a marvelous run and it would be somewhat selfish to try to wring out more than I deserve.

I would probably still like to read and write and try to make a difference. I met yesterday with the director of education for the Florida Oceanographic Society. This PHD was more than approachable as I just wanted to know more about the ecosystem I was living in. We talked for an hour and a half. If I had only “x” number hours to go, what a marvelous way to have spent some of them. He was magical in his explanations and of course I debated about getting involved in one more thing. No matter how long you have, it is good to be engaged.

I am somewhat disgusted at the palp and intensity of our news today. People breathlessly want to analyze the Trumpster’s every word. Calling him out, egging him on or shouting hosanna to the highest. Do I really want to spend my last days listening to Wolf, Rachel or Sean? Is listening to panels of so called experts blathering and interrupting each other going to improve my so called quality of life. Do I need a breakdown of every play on the field of sport or will I just sit back and watch the game? Relying on what I saw as opposed to someone telling me what I should have.

You can probably see where this is going. In our frenetic world we rarely stop and just think. A brief respite to bring things back in alignment. The doc I mentioned above told a tale of equilibrium in the world of nature. Things happen for a reason and there is a beauty to that rhythm and predictability. It has served this place we call home for billions of years. Yet in our arrogance we claim to make it and our lives significantly better by our tinkering. Are we really accomplishing that or do we spend a good portion of our time correcting our mistakes? Are we taking a masterpiece and tagging it with graffiti of all sorts? Good question.

I guess I am trying to think about my life and all the little pieces. If I had a short time to go how many would I jettison and how many would I treasure? Most of all I am asking the question, if this is how I would like it to be, If so what am I waiting for? Maybe not the Marlboro Reds but having a good talk rather than a hit and run or savoring a peaty Scotch rather than swilling it down. Throwing out the stupid distractions and static while listening to the sweet symphony of life. Loving people and my God like I meant it. That to me would be a wonderful way to go.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

About 10% of the people who die, do so suddenly. In the world today there about 360,000 births and 150,000 deaths each day. So about 15,000 never see it coming.

Through medical science we have extended the life expectancy to around 77 years for the United Staes. The average healthy life expectancy here is 71. Thought the world the life expectancy for Japan is 83 and Swaziland is 49.

We are a death denying society. There is a theory that we would be happier if we accepted death as a fact of life. Instead of doing all we can to avoid death and taking precautions for this and that, we might be more relaxed and ergo enjoy life more if we didn’t sweat it. Interesting.

We avoid terms like death or dying and instead call it “passing.” We ascribe to so and so that they have gone to a “better place.” I can’t wait because mine ain’t so bad here. We also use the following for death: “taking a dirt nap,” “wearing a pine overcoat(coffin)”,,”pushing up daisies”, “food for worms” and my favorite from the military: “Tango Uniform” which simply means Tits Up!