Feb 28, 2009

Scary Sense of Entitlement & American Attitude

This entry has been percolating for a while, and I only hope that some of this diatribe comes across with a sense of clarity (if it does, tell me, because I am in a fog [that is for you Dana :o)].

During the Presidential Election, I had to do a lot of soul searching. I am a life long republican, and still believe in the previous core tenets of market based economics, smaller government, and letting the states and local governments figure out what is best for their constituents. While those philosophies and values work when the playing field is level, the huge economic recession that occurred in the 4th quarter of 2008 changed everything. So I voted for President Obama, although most of my other picks, especially locally, remained republican.

As the last couple of months have unfolded, I have become more and more concerned about the growing trend of entitlement in America. Whether the topic of discussion is welfare, poverty, education, highways, energy policy, unemployment benefits, health care reform, water rights, or any other current issue, there seems to be a growing sentiment among all Americans: “You owe it to me!”. Somewhere along the way we have transitioned from a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality, and developed the idea that, work or not, we deserve to have the American dream.

One of the biggest problems with this new entitlement mentality is that it is not sustainable. Debt comes due too quickly. High paying jobs are hard to come by quickly and often require higher education. Poor planning and living paycheck to paycheck can make a small problem quickly become a financial crisis. However, instead of recognizing these realities, we provide a list of excuses. Eventually the tab will come due and if it’s not this generation it will be the next. We would do well to remember the reasons for the establishment of our independence and let that motivate us to once again liberate ourselves from debt, vice and cling to honesty hard work and virtue.

Our government is leading us by example, and I don't mean that in a good way. For years, it has spent us into oblivion, mortgaging our future for programs we can't afford, and Americans have happily followed suit, running up credit card bills and home equity loans for things they never should have bought. Unfortunately, we're also learning something else from our government: how to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.

Now, with the new Administration, when there has been a clear mandate for change, and we are in the most dire straights since the great depression, we are entrenching even more into partisan politics. The Democrats are being accused as verging on socialism, and the huge stimulus plan and 10 year budget plan that relies on at least 4% growth in 2010 and beyond, to get us back to $500 billion deficits, is not helping deter that charge. On the flip side, the Republicans have apparently decided to ignore the past eight years and the contributions that their leadership, and lack of leadership, have made to the current crisis. The elimination of oversight and regulations on the banking and investment community, coupled with the war in Iraq, back to back dot.com and housing bubbles and subsequent bursts, have wreaked havoc with our economy. This has painted the Republicans as out of touch and irrelevant. Thinking back to Rodney King, I ask, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Americans have become disenfranchised because after working hard to support their families and to raise kids who understand the difference between right and wrong, their leaders do exactly the opposite. While I support eliminating the tax cuts that were enacted under the Bush administration, I abhor the philosophy that encourages the position where wealth is vilified. This only provides an opportunity to remove the incentive for any of us to work hard to get ahead. Would we feel better if the government was our answer for everything?

If both parties would focus on the common good, and meet in the middle, I think we could, as a country, as a community, and as individuals, dig ourselves out of this mess we have made for ourselves.

Feb 26, 2009

Pay Them Less?

Do not pass go, do not collect $1,900,000+

I have pondered whether President Obama's plan to tack those making more than $250K per year will make a difference. I recently read a Time Magazine article, and I can say that yes, it really will make a difference in reducing the deficit.

You see, overall, the top 0.1% of the income distribution in our country (in 2006, the most recent year data was available) was made up of 148,361 taxpayers who took home more than $1.9 million each. That does not seem like that many in a country with more than 250 million people, but these 148,361 people represent 11.6% of the personal income for our country. So, will raising taxes on these people make a difference, yes!

I am sure that they can do without the $100,000 of taxes. Heck, I could live nicely on the $100,000, let alone more than $1 million.

Feb 25, 2009

Financial Forum - Is Your Bank Stressed?

The Treasury promises to examine ailing lenders and then decide what to do. You are wondering whether your bank will survive, or go into stewardship.

Time Magazine performed an assessment (outside of the Government promised Stress Test), and here results for four of the biggest are grim.

The assessment is based on the fact that banks should show at least a 5% leverage ratio between equity and assets to be considered healthy. The big four are currently considered healthy, but based on projected losses in the current environment, JP Morgan Chase is the only truly healthy of the bunch (based on 13% overall loan loss projection). Here is the breakdown:

Citigroup 2010 Projection - 3.8%

JPMorganChase 2010 Projection - 6.4%

Bank of America 2010 Projection - 4.6%

Wells Fargo 2010 Projection - 3.7%

Feb 24, 2009

Science Scene - Can guns fire in space?

So, I have to admit, I sometimes have geeky tendencies [stop you snickering, really, stop]

Fire needs oxygen to burn, so if you're in the atmosphere less void of space [In space, no one can hear you scream, because sound needs atmosphere to propagate], can the gunpowder ignite and cause a gun to fire a bullet?

The explosion that fires a bullet does require oxygen for combustion, but it does not draw it solely from the air. Rather, some oxygen comes from an ingredient of the gunpowder itself, called saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The spark produced when the gun's hammer strikes the cartridge ignites the saltpeter and converts the oxygen in it to its gaseous state. This explosion generates a shock wave that propels the bullet out of the gun. [Note: lack of oxygen also makes explosions in space the rarity - looking more like a flash bulb as there is no atmosphere to transfer the energy to and cause the oxygen rich fireball.]

Care must be exercised though, because basic physics (Newton's Third Law) states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The kickback from firing a gun in space would send your entire body flying backward. Because there is nothing to slow the bullet in a zero-gravity vacuum, it would travel much faster and farther than it does on Earth, and so would you.

The visualization of a body hurtling backwards is what caught my minds eye while reading about this in the FYI section of the March issue of Popular Science. I just cannot get the image out of my mind of the shooter drifting out of sight :o)

Feb 23, 2009

Money Savings Ideas In Tough Times $$$

These are some approaches for managing our money during these difficult times. Ideas from March 1, 2009 issue of BottomLinePersonal with my two cents thrown in for good measure :o)

$4-a-Gallon Savings Club: Every time you fill up, calculate the difference between what you pay at the pump and what it would have cost you at $4 per gallon. Put the money away for the time when the prices inevitably go back up.

Financial Fire Drill: Evaluate the risk of job loss, loss or reduction in pay and/or benefits, and start your research now. Do on-line research into health care costs or insurance programs, while you are not in a crisis mode. We tend to make better decisions when our backs are not against the wall.

Barter: Check out Craigslist.org or BarterBart.com or uSwapit.com for ideas on swapping goods and services rather than paying for them.

Delay Purchases: Do not make spur of the moment purchases. Most of us eventually regret more than half of the discretionary purchases we make. Wait at least a week, and the odds are that you will not go back and make the purchase. Keep track of your discretionary purchases and review it before you go on a shopping trip, you may find that you reduce impulse and discretionary buying.

Grow Your Own: I am to young to remember victory gardens, but it is time to bring these small gardens back into vogue. Even a 4 ft by 4 ft garden can provide a lot of fresh produce in a growing season. If you do not have that space, consider herbs indoors and container tomatoes and cucumbers on the deck. Alternatives are to find a community garden to participate in http://www.communitygarden.org/. Another alternative is to by the share of a harvest for your own use, http://www.localharvest.org/.

Ask and You May Receive: With how difficult times are, customers have gained bargaining power and might be able to negotiate better prices. You never know unless you ask. Purchases that are likely to be negotiable are electronics, appliances, furniture, and medical expenses. The key is to be friendly and polite. Do not be afraid to say no thanks and look elsewhere.

Feb 22, 2009

Sunday Silliness - Dare to Slack

When birds fly in the right formation, they need only exert half the effort. Even in nature, teamwork results in collective laziness.

Feb 21, 2009

I wish you a "Garbage Free Day"!!!!

A forward I received that I liked enough to share with my Blogger friends :o)

One day I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was really friendly. So I asked, ' Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital! This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck. '

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks: They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and sometimes they'll dump it on you. "Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets," the cabbie said.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. Have a happy, garbage-free day!

Feb 20, 2009

Science Scene - Google Earth & CO2 Emissions

Very interesting concept, and it allows you to install Google Earth, which is awesome :o)

Boilermappers: Purdue Researchers Put Emissions on Google Earth
Posted by Keith Johnson

Google Earth let millions of people waste time at work zooming around the globe; Google Oceans promises the same for virtual scuba buffs and amateur oceanographers. Now, Google Earth will give people a graphic look at just where greenhouse-gas emissions come from.
Researchers at Purdue University just added project Vulcan—originally designed for the scientific community—to Google Earth. Vulcan uses EPA data to track U.S. emissions from cars, buildings, factories, and power plants.

The Vulcan add-on for Google Earth apparently addresses the need to bring climate science to Main Street. “This will bring emissions information into everyone’s living room as a recognizable, accessible online experience,” said Kevin Gurney, head of the project and an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue.

The first iteration of Vulcan on Google Earth uses old emissions data—from 2002—but the team hopes to update it with more recent information. After expanding the map to Mexico and Canada, the next step is to step-up the level of detail, so that emissions from individual streets and even buildings are visible on Google Earth, the developers said.

It’s all part of the Google Earth enviro-frenzy. The folks at the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction project are also putting satellite data onto Google Earth, to let people see where natural gas is burned off into the atmosphere, releasing many zephyrs full of global warming gases into the atmosphere.

Feb 19, 2009

Science Scene - The Pickens Plan

NOTE: See Red Text for hi-lites of this entry :o)

About the Pickens Plan:
Unveiled July 8, 2008, by T. Boone Pickens, the Pickens Plan is a detailed solution for ending the United States’ growing dependence on foreign oil. Earlier this year, when oil prices reached $140/barrel, America was spending about $700 billion for foreign oil, equaling the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. That figure has decreased some while oil prices have retreated, but the U.S. is still dependent on foreign nations for nearly 70 percent of its oil, representing a continuing national economic and national security threat. The plan calls for investing in power generation from domestic renewable resources such as wind and using our abundant supplies of natural gas as a transportation fuel, replacing more than one-third of our imported oil. More than 1.5 million people have joined the Pickens Army through the website http://www.pickensplan.com/, which has had over 14 million hits. For more information on the Pickens Plan, visit their website.

AEP Signs on as Corporate Sponsor of Pickens’ Energy Plan
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 19, 2009 -- American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) has signed on as a corporate sponsor of The Pickens Plan, the energy independence plan proposed by oil and gas industry veteran T. Boone Pickens. The Pickens Plan proposes to generate up to 22 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind and supports development of an extra-high voltage transmission system to facilitate that expanded use of renewable electricity generation. Extra-high voltage transmission is necessary to transport renewable energy from where it is most viable to the nation’s population centers. “For years, AEP has been the most vocal advocate for development of an extra-high voltage transmission superhighway that will efficiently transport electricity to support economic development and energy security, and The Pickens Plan clearly supports that vision,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We can’t significantly develop renewable energy resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and introduce competition for liquid transportation fuels without a well-designed, reliable national transmission grid. We don’t agree with every facet of the Pickens Plan, but we certainly agree that we need to step up our use of renewable energy, break the stranglehold that foreign oil has on our economy, build out our nation’s extra-high voltage transmission system, and do more to create jobs in the United States. “

“I am thrilled that AEP is supporting the Pickens Plan. AEP has always been a leader in the electric power industry, and their involvement in our campaign underscores a commitment to energy independence and the transformation of our grid into a state-of-the-art network that can truly manage our renewable resources into the future,” Pickens said.

In 2006, AEP first proposed development of a national extra-high voltage transmission system, modeled after the interstate highway system, to more efficiently transport electricity, support development of renewable energy resources and enhance energy independence and national security. The company has proposed more than 2,600 miles of 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission projects to enhance the transmission grid, including a 1,000-mile transmission project that would link the wind-rich Upper Midwest with the population-rich East Coast.

In addition to investment in renewables and the transmission grid, The Pickens Plan proposes developing alternative fuel vehicles, such as natural gas-powered trucks and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), to reduce the nation’s use of imported oil. AEP already is working with automakers and other utilities to study the performance of PHEVs and the effect of their widespread use on the nation’s electricity grid. AEP also is testing the use of PHEVs in its own vehicle fleet to learn more about their performance. Auto manufacturers have announced that they will begin introducing PHEVs in 2010. AEP does not believe that we can eliminate our use of natural gas as a generation fuel. But the more renewable energy we can generate and bring to market, the closer we will be to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our dependence on imported oil.

Boone Pickens and Mike Morris will participate in an energy summit on Feb. 23 for business and congressional leaders in Washington where we’ll talk about the need for more transmission and renewable energy. We hope that meaningful legislation will emerge that will support our vision for a true interstate transmission superhighway.

Feb 16, 2009

ChiTown Chatter :o)

For the well written and interesting details, head over to Nutwood Junction :o)

This post is for Joann, and her specific request for a picture in front of the Cubbies home, Wrigley Field.

We had a great trip to ChiTown for the Godfathers concert.

I had to work Friday night, and I am glad that there were actually some things to address so I did not feel like it was wasted time :o) After about 4.5 hours sleep, we got things gathered together and ventured against the headwind to the Windy City.

Chicago holds special meaning to us as this was where I proposed to Beth, before a Brian Setzer concert. We have been back several times, but on Valentines Day for another concert was great. We had an uneventful drive, checked into Sutton Place, and then got ready for the evening. Of course we brought some of our own cool amber beverages to get things started :o)

We headed to Cubby Bear for cocktails and dinner, with new Friend Ted and Cousin Shane and his friend Sam. It was barren when we first arrived, but quickly filled and was hopping by the time we had dinner. We headed out to the Metro about 7:30 PM to get in line for the show.

We were in line and saw the band chatting up one of their long term fans. We were first in line and had our pick of the stage, and I quickly staked out our territory. The first band was very loud and obnoxious, and we actually had to retreat to the back of the room. The second band was much better and we migrated back up to the stage. By the time the Godfathers appeared, it was almost midnight, and the room was ready to rock. We had our area staked out, and we rocked and rolled for their performance.

We were in our room by 3 AM, and poured ourselves into bed. This morning, it was a challenge to get out before the 1200 checkout, but we managed to slink out and across the street for some wonderful breakfast food at The Original Pancake House. After that, it was a quick trip home and a quiet evening.

Hope your weekend was as enjoyable as ours was.

Feb 15, 2009

Feb 14, 2009

Science Scene: Online vs. Mall Shopping

When it comes to the way we procure the goods we use in our lives, there are some mixed messages out there. Buying local is advertised as a green way to go -- and it can be -- but so is acquiring stuff with minimal shipping and transportation. Shopping online is fast, convenient, and your stuff comes right to your door -- no car trips required; shopping in local brick 'n mortar stores supports your community, and may not require much (or any) driving either. So, which is the greener way to shop? The case is explained below, or scroll to the bottom for a summary.

Shopping online vs. malls or stores: The variables

The answer, as with many such equations, depends largely on the variables, and one option doesn't win outright over another. We'll ponder the energy required to do both, and a few variables that change with every purchase, like packaging, and a few that are tough to put a number value on, like the relative value of supporting a local Mom & Pop Shop down the block. With that in mind, and, as always, considering that the greenest purchase is the one you've already made, let's begin.

The case for online shopping

This really comes down to scale. All products have to be shipped from the warehouse where they're stored after manufacture, and it can be quite a bit greener to cut the retail store -- and all the building, lighting, cooling, heating, and so forth that the store requires -- out of the equation. According to the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions, shipping two 20 pound packages by overnight air -- the most energy-intensive delivery mode -- still uses 40 percent less fuel than driving 20 miles round-trip to the mall or store or wherever you're going; ground shipping -- which is much more efficient than overnight air -- checks in at just one-tenth the energy used driving yourself.

How does that work? While your car is likely to get more miles per gallon than the truck that's likely shipping your stuff (truck freight accounts for about 2/3 of U.S. domestic shipping), your car only has you (and maybe a passenger), while the truck can be hauling up to about 30 tons of cargo (that's a fully-loaded truck at the legal limit for gross vehicle weight). So you, your buddy, your car, and your 40 pounds of package (on the way home) burn about one gallon of gasoline in those 20 miles.

Shipped 1,000 miles in a truck, your package accounts for about 0.1 gallon, and if you choose to ship by air freight, that number hops to 0.6 gallons; it's all thanks to the hundreds of other packages that are presumably along for the ride. And, even though your online order doesn't go from warehouse to your front door in the same loaded truck or airplane, companies likeFedEx and UPS are working to upgrade the efficiency of their routes and fleets, since faster, more-efficient service saves them money.

The case for shopping in stores

This comes down to real-world details. It'd be great if everything could be as efficient as the numbers above bear, but there's more to the process than just shipping. Shopping online results in 2.5 times more packaging than shopping in stores, so having many separate packages shipped can really add up. New Yorkers, for example, left more than 8,300 tons of cardboard and mixed paper to be recycled in the first full collection week after Christmas 2005, a 21 percent increase over the previous year. While all that can be recycled, it takes energy and infrastructure to do so.

Plus, every trip you make to the store isn't 20 miles round-trip, and every mile you don't drive to the store cuts back on the energy required to retrieve your stuff. If you live in a dense urban area, or have access to reliable public transportation, then a portion (or just about all, if you're walking) of your transportation energy is negated, and can tip the scale toward the brick 'n mortars.

A few other options to consider buying from retail stores include: Goods made locally; stuff that you are more likely to return (like clothes) if you can't try it on first; and, supporting stores who are owned and operated by locals, pay local taxes, and make where you live a more interesting and vibrant place. It's tough to put a price tag, environmentally or otherwise, on the social aspect, but it's important to consider.

Green shopping: and the winner is...

...different depending on what your priorities are, and how you do it.

Shopping online is better: If you live in the suburbs, or are surrounded be Mega-Marts, have to drive more than six or eight miles each way to go shopping, are scrupulous about bundling online orders, choose ground shipping rather than overnight air, and are more concerned about fossil fuel use than packaging waste/recycling.

Shopping in-store is better: If you can get what you need at a location that shows up on within walking distance
, can ride your bike (or take the bus or subway) to your store of choice, or are buying goods made locally, you're better off trundling down to the Stop 'n Shop.

Happy Valentines Day Sweetheart :o)

So, lets try this again, the previous attempts to schedule this post to publish while I was at work did not cooperate, so they were deleted.

Hope this finds you having a special day with someone you care about.

I know this will be a special day for me and my bride of more than seven years. We are returning to Chicago, the place were Beth agreed to be my wife, to see a concert. The Windy City will always have a special place in our hearts.

So, Happy Valentines Sweetie, I love you with all me heart.

Hubby :o)

Feb 12, 2009

Grand Obsession :o)

You can pick up some of the most interesting tidbits in the strangest places. The following bit of wisdom comes courtesy of the Winter 2009 edition of National Parks magazine, regarding observations of a writer (Nevada Barr) who spent eight days in the frozen tundra like environment of Northern Michigan (Isle Royal) during the winter with researchers investigating the habits of wolves and moose. Many hardships, no glamor, but lots of discussion of scat, urine, and animal habits.

The ability to focus on a single subject with an almost religious fervor put Nevada Barr in mind of an old adage: An expert is someone who learns more and more about less and less till he knows everything about nothing at all.

I found this adage thought provoking, reminding us to not let our fervor's consume us to the point that we are obsessed beyond that which might be considered healthy.

Feb 11, 2009

Is that Spring In the Air?

A recent study found the average golfer walks about 900 miles a year. Another study found golfers drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year. That means, on average, golfers get about 41 miles to the gallon.

I look forward to doing my share this year to improve our miles per gallon average :o)

Feb 9, 2009

Science Scene - BioDiesel from Jatropa

Bio diesel and bio fuel...believe it or not they are a huge business. It is one type of renewable energy that has gained interest from researchers, technologist, engineers, scientists, politicians, and investors.

As a result, around the world, planting of palm oil, rape seed, corn for ethanol, soy beans, sugar cane, etc. has occurred to produce bio diesel and ethanol. However, this has caused issues related to our food supply, causing food supply shortage and has thus contributed to the dramatic increase price of the crops last year. How can we use these crops for energy, when they are needed to feed an ever hungrier world???

One new solution is a species of tree called jatropha (native of the Caribbean). Why jatropha? Simply because it is non-edible. In addition to that, it has high oil content. Today, a lot of countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, and Thailand are encouraging their farmers to grow jatropha for bio diesel. 100 million acres have been set aside in India for jatropha with the expectation of supplying 20% of its diesel consumption by 2011. In December, Boeing successfully test flew a Boeing 747 (Air New Zealand) using a 50-50 blend of jatropha and aviation fuel.

My Dream Fuel, a company based in Florida, is attempting to bring this renewable fuel source to the U.S. The jatropha tree thrives so well in Florida that they may yield up to eight times as much oil as they do in places like India and Africa. This could translate into 1,600 gallon of diesel fuel per acre per year. My Dream Fuel in turn donates trees to Caribbean countries (such as Haiti) in the hopes that these energy starved countries can become more energy self-sufficient.

To see My Dream Fuel and get a more thorough explanation of how this tree grown renewable technology is taking off, go to Time.Com, by clicking the LINK.

Feb 7, 2009

Precious Art or Scrap Metal ???

When we went to visit my Mom over Thanksgiving, she asked us if we could try and get some money for her turquoise jewelry that she no longer wears. We replied that we would be happy to do that for her.

So today, after we took care of Cousin Shane's kitties, we headed to a local Coin & Precious Metal shop. We also brought some of our own personal gold jewelry (previous marriage crap :o) that we have had sitting around for the past decade.

The man who owns the store was very knowledgeable. There were several customers ahead of us, and it was interesting to see how he could tell just by looking at a piece if it contained gold/silver or not. It was also intesting to see the gun in a holster at the small of his back every time he turned around. He had an electronic lock releaser to let people into the store. Not a business for the faint hearted.

When it was out turn, he even accepted a gold crown of mine that had come out [thanks Sugar Daddy], and he stated that he would just use a hammer to get the composite dental material off of the crown itself.

The results of our trip were mixed.

Our gold crap netted us $146, with two rings (woman's engagement ring and men's wedding band) not part of the mix. He did not want to take those two rings because they both have diamonds, and he stated that we would do better to sell them at a jewelry store where they would want the diamond, than to sell them just for the gold content. So that was an interesting little tidbit.

The main purpose of the trip was to try and sell my Mom's jewelry to help her finance their move from Springfield Missouri up here to South Bend. So, take a guess at how much we could get for the ensemble pictured here.....[pause while you look at the picture, pull out your calculator, head over to E-Bayfor a price check, go to the bathroom, and so on......].

Turns out that the necklace is considered costume jewelry (real turquoise, but no silver). The two rings and bracelet are sterling silver. He would have given us a whopping $6.37. I think I will not share with my Mom what they were willing to offer.

So, I will be venturing into the world of E-Bay. While we were there, I pulled out a piece of paper that contained the results of on-line research that I had done. New, at a Native American jewelry store, the pictured collection would be about $1200, and on e-bay, maybe about $200. He collects a lot of this type of jewelry for the precious metal value, but was very intrigued about the chance to earn even more by selling it on E-Bay. He asked if he could make a copy of my paper, and I gladly acquiesed. He said, "Don't worry, I will wait a couple of weeks so you can sell yours first."

Overall, a positive and educational little sojourn today.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend :o)

Spam - Electronic or Ham Shoulder :o)

Tonight on the national news, there was a segment about how Spam sales have really picked up. Of course, the commentator and Hormel spokesperson both joked (snort inserted here, followed by the credit card commercial ha-haa-haa-haa-haa here) that this was not about the computer type of e-mail crapola we receive in massive amounts on a regular basis.

During times of tough economic times, Spam sales certainly do rise. This entry is not intended to make light of the current financial situation, but to call out that the current Spam is not your mother's Spam :o)

Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are: chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrite to help keep its color. Spam's gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name "Spam" was chosen when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name Spam was "Shoulder of Pork and Ham".

There are several different flavors of Spam, including:
Spam Classic - original flavor
Spam Hot & Spicy - with Tabasco flavor
Spam Less Sodium - "25% less sodium"
Spam Lite - "33% less calories and 50% less fat"
Spam Oven Roasted Turkey
Spam Hickory Smoke flavor
Spam Spread - "if you're a spreader, not a slicer...like Spam Classic, but in a spreadable form"
Spam with Bacon
Spam with Cheese
Spam Garlic
Spam Golden Honey Grail - a limited-release special flavor made in honor of Monty Python's SPAMALOT Broadway musical
Spam Mild

In addition to flavor, some of the tins come in smaller sizes than normal. A more popular option is the 7oz size can. Recently, "Spam Singles" have been produced: a single sandwich-sized slice of Spam (Classic or Lite), wrapped in plastic instead of a metal container.

Of course, if we are going to head down the Spam trail, we should make sure we understand the nutritional facts (or should I say risks?). A 56 gram (approximately 2 ounce) serving of original Spam provides seven grams of protein, two grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fat (23% US Daily Value) including 6 grams of saturated fat (28% US Daily Value), and over 170 calories. A serving also contains nearly a third of the recommended daily intake of sodium (salt). A 56 gram package of spam contains 4.7 grams of salt, indicating slightly over 8% of Spam's mass is salt. Spam provides very little in terms of vitamins and minerals (0% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C , 1% calcium, 3% iron). It has been listed as a food that is a poor choice for weight loss and optimum health and as a food that "is high in saturated fat and sodium".

To see what types of tasty meals can be made with Spam, you can always go to a Spam Recipe site.

And what Spam entry would be complete with out the Monty Python classic ???

Feb 6, 2009

Climate Change - What Can We Do???

Think climate change is too big of a problem to solve? Think again. Small changes in our everyday lives can make a big difference.

Easy Things You Can Do To Help Our Climate:

TIP: Travel light. Walk or bike instead of driving a car. Cars and trucks run on fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you’ll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

TIP: Teleconference instead of flying. For office meetings, if you can telephone or video conference, you will save time, money, and carbon emissions. Airplanes pump carbon emissions high into the atmosphere, producing 12 percent of transportation sector emissions.

TIP: See the light. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. These energy-efficient bulbs help fight climate change because they reduce the amount of fossil fuels that utilities burn. You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent, over the life of the bulb.

TIP: Recycle and use recycled products. Products made from recycled paper, glass, metal and plastic reduce carbon emissions because they use less energy to manufacture than products made from completely new materials. For instance, you’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you recycle. Recycling paper also saves trees and lets them continue to reduce climate change naturally as they remain in the forest, where they remove carbon from the atmosphere.

TIP: Inflate your tires. If you own a car, it will get better gas mileage when the tires are fully inflated, so it will burn less gas and emit less carbon. Check your automobile monthly to ensure that the tires are fully inflated. Follow this tip and save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 miles you drive.

TIP: Plant native trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and use it as their energy source, producing oxygen for us to breathe. A tree in the temperate zone — found between the tropics and the polar circles—can remove and store 700 to 7,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime. A tree that shades a house can reduce the energy required to run the air conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.

TIP: Turn down the heat. Heating and air conditioning draw more than half of the energy that a home uses in the United States. Turn down the heat or air conditioning when you leave the house or go to bed. You can easily install a programmable thermostat that can save up money and carbon.

TIP: Buy renewable energy. Electricity generation produces 40 percent of carbon emissions from the United States. A growing number of utilities generate electricity from renewable energy sources with solar panels, windmills and other technologies. If your utility offers renewable energy, buy it. If not, send them a message asking for clean energy.

TIP: Act globally, eat locally. If you shop at a supermarket, the food you buy may travel in a plane from the other side of the world, burning fossil fuels the entire trip. Shop at a local farmers’ markets and you will find fresh and healthy food, and help save our climate.

So what does it mean? Click on this LINK if you want to calculate your carbon footprint. Then, you can determine how much the changes above can start to reduce this footprint. For us, as a two person household, in Indiana, and based on my 80 mile round trip commute, our carbon footprint is 70. U.S. average for a two person household is 53, and World Average is 11. So, even though we recycle, keep the house cold in the winter and rarely use A/C in the summer, we can and must do more. How does your house stack up to the U.S. average and World average for your household???

Feb 5, 2009

Quality - Silliness Not :o)

Quality is the formal point within all key work processes. Built into the category are the central requirements for efficient and effective process management, effective design, a prevention orientation, evaluation and continuous improvement, linkage to overall high performance.

Feb 4, 2009

Feedback - Avoid Making Others Defensive

My Monday post dealt with the Dead Man Rule, and the nuances of behavior.

This post focuses on how to provide feedback in a manner that allows you to influence behavior, which in the long run will result in changing attitudes (and culture if part of an organization).

In order to change behavior, we need to provide feedback that is Soon, Certain, and Positive. It is only human nature to take the path that is easiest for us. When we are dealing with safety issues, it is more convenient to not wear a scratched face shield, or to not seek out safety goggles/glasses (have you ever worked with power tools at home without wearing safety glasses ???). While the consequence of an injury is large, the probability is low, and so we often will take risks.

For us to influence behavior, we need to reinforce the positive behaviors we encounter, and to present the at-risk behaviors in a positive way.

The natural question is, how do you present at risk behaviors positively? [pause while I wait for you to ask the question. Tapping foot patiently :o) ]

I am glad that you inquired. Use of the 4 C's will tackle this dilemma.
  • Communicate the at-risk behavior that your observed.
  • Check for the individuals understanding [motivation or ability issue]
  • Coach for improved performance.
  • Contract for corrected behavior.

The premise here is that our feedback is provided in a positive manner, and we do not use phrases that set people on the defensive. When we provide feedback, we need to avoid using words that will ignite defensive reactions [I understand vs. You, I appreciate vs. That's Wrong]. The best way to explain this is to focus on the behavior and not the individual.

How do you do that? If you want to talk to someone about things that bother you, the best advice is what Dr. Phil says, "It ain't about YOU". If you are coaching or providing feedback, seek to attempt to avoid the use of the work "you". This will result in a discussion about the behavior, and not be perceived as a personal attack. This works wonders with teenagers, co-workers, and even spouses :o)

Feb 3, 2009

Ownership - Silliness Not :o)

Evidenced by proactive actions that lead to solutions. Doing what is necessary to obtain desired results consistent with correct principles, procedures, and programs, to get the job done. External component is empowerment, internal component is accountability.

Feb 2, 2009

Dead Man Rule - Lessons for Everyday Life

On Thursday and Friday, I was in what we call Behavior Based Safety (BBS) training. The concept behind this is peer-to-peer observations and feedback on at-risk behaviors, with the goal to eliminate injuries.

The neat think about this training is that the information is transferable to feedback and coaching in our work and personal lives.

First, behavior is active. The rule of thumb that is used in this process is that behavior is something that a dead man cannot do. A dead man can wear gloves, but a dead man cannot wear gloves while tightening the bolt on a valve.

Second, behavior is observable. It is not something that you infer. If you observe someone walking and reading at the same time, you cannot infer that they are in a hurry, you can only determine that they are walking while reading.

So, for this entry, the lesson learned is to focus on what you observe, and do not infer things that you cannot confirm without asking clarifying questions :o)

Feb 1, 2009


Make your sweetheart smile when you choose to sent Earth-friendly flowers this Valentine's Day.

When you send flowers from Organic Bouquet, you'll know your gift has been grown and harvested using sustainable practices that aim to improve the quality of farm working conditions, minimize damage to ecosystems, conserve biodiversity and enhance environmental quality for future generations.

You can learn about this cause, and others at the Nature Convervancy.

Keep the Organic Bouquet in mind any time you need to send flowers :o)

Sunday Sillines - Corruption :o)

I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.

How appropriate for our current state of affairs :o)