Friday, May 29, 2009


I was out mowing the lawn this afternoon and a lady walked by with her kids. She looked at me with my reel mower and said, "doing things the old fashion way?" I didn't hear her, but my wife responded in the affirmative. I noticed that a conversation had taken place, so I inquired of my wife. She told me that the lady thought I was old fashioned.

I thought mowing with a reel mower was progressive. I sometimes like to think that I'm progressive. I told my wife that. In all of her wisdom she responded, "You are progressive, but nobody knows it yet".

I actually do think of myself as progressive and I think the next step is a step back. I see people dependent on their cell phones and other electrical devices and I don't think those things are helping society. The step forward, the progressive step is a step away from dependence on unnecessary technology.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Free stuff

People like free things, it makes them think they are getting something for nothing. When will people recognize the cost of free items?

I organized a health fair and made sure that all of the 'vendors' had some sort of screening or activity beyond giving out brochures and stuff. People seemed to still just want the stuff. I've been to health fairs and conventions before and I have gone home with stuff. I never look at it again. No matter how good my intentions, the pamphlets in the bag never get read.

While it is possible that I'm the only person who has that problem, I expect that many trees are thrown away or recycled at conventions and health fairs. The 'free' stuff that people take is certainly costing somebody something. It costs the company. So why does the company give it out?

I would assume that someone somewhere did the math and decided that 4 out of every 100 people who take a brochure will buy something (I completely made that number up, it could very well be 96 out of 100). It is therefore worth the trade-off. The four people that buy something pay for the 100 pamphlets to be printed. It's a numbers game and it's worth the waste.

There has to be a better way.

There is an interesting phenomenon with free services. I work in a health club. We have exercise classes that cost money to take. They are generally popular and people pay for them and attend. We also have free classes, but they never progress, they stay at the same level so that anyone can drop in and participate. We have tried to make some classes free, but still allow a progression through the class. We had people sign up for the classes, even though they didn't have to pay. At the end of the 8-12 week sessions, only a few people would continue to attend the free classes.

People don't value free things. I think we should start charging for things that used to be free. No more freebies. Pay for plastic bags at stores. Pay for brochures. Pay for samples at Costco. These things don't have to cost a lot, maybe even just a few cents, but putting a cost to them will reduce waste. And yes, taking a sample that you don't need at Costco is waste, you just happen to be using your body as the garbage can.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lots to post about

I think regularly about things I want to post, but I just haven't been taking the time to post recently. Part of the problem is that I am fairly certain that I have lost 80% of my readers (I used to have 5, now I'll be lucky to have 1). The other part of the problem is that I haven't really had the time to develop the thoughts. It seems that I am preoccupied.

One thing I thought of posting about was a the ice cream truck idea that my oldest son put together. In short, the neighbors gave us a tricycle that has a little basket on back for our youngest son. Our oldest son thought this looked like it would make a good ice cream trike and prepared to go sell Popsicles in the neighborhood. He persisted, so we put the cooler in a trailer and gathered the other kids on bikes and went around selling Popsicles. It would have been a fun little post, but I couldn't figure out the point that I wanted to make. (Believe it or not, I try to make a point with what I write.) We sold 7 popsicles (after many failed attempts) at $.50 each. The boys got to split $3.50 for their ~2 hours of work. They feel like the richest kids ever.

I've thought about posting about my new job which I love, but I don't feel that it is appropriate to post about your employer on a private blog. I'm not an official spokesman and I certainly have opinions so I feel it's best leaving professional and private life separate in the blog world.

On a similar note, I have thought of posting about the doctoral program that I left. I have been enlightened about the volume of 'politics' that occur at Universities and am gravely dissappointed. Maybe someday I'll expound, but not now.

I could write about cycling, but I have a 3 mile uneventful commute every day. I've gone on a couple of Saturday morning bike rides with friends, but they have been generally uneventful.

The topic that has really been dominating my thoughts sort of flirts with many of the areas I've thought about writing about. We are attending a new church congregation and it is in a quite affluent area. The people are very kind and we have been treated great. It is one of the nicest congregations I've ever been in. I just don't feel like I fit in. (Granted, I haven't felt like I fit in anywhere in the last several years.)

I doubt that we make less money than everyone else in the congregation, but we certainly make less than most. I know this because most of the people in our congregation live in houses that cost over half a million dollars.

The amount of money people make has been on my mind. It shouldn't be, I really don't care, but it is. I have had lots of really good friends who make far more money than me and it generally doesn't bother me. I think the feeling of not fitting in comes through conversations that I have with people. Typical conversation will inevitably lead to someone asking what you do for a living. I work for the YMCA.

In the beginning I said that with nothing but pride. I work for the YMCA. I love what I do and I get to make a difference. I am passionate about what I do and feel that I really make a difference in the lives of real people who need help. (those previous links were to the same video, this one is also good.)

It didn't take long for me to notice similar responses to the fact that I work at the YMCA. They seem disappointed, or surprised that I would 'settle' for a job at the YMCA. I enjoy what I do, I just don't make a lot of money. Why does it matter how much money I make? Evidently it matters some because either people have made a big deal of it or I have perceived them making a big deal about it. (I should emphasize that nobody here has been anything but kind. I just spend a lot of time feeling judged.) Unfortunately, I have started talking about my degrees to 'prove' that I'm above a YMCA job.

That last sentence is really what confuses me. I feel that I do find myself talking about degrees in order to prove something, but I don't hold a lot of value in the PhD that I didn't finish (that's why I didn't finish). I also sometimes find myself thinking that I'm 'above' a YMCA job. I love what I'm doing. How can I be 'above' the job that I love? Oh the hypocracies that I have to live with.

I went for a bike ride the other day with guys from my new church congregation. It was good. They make more money than me, but we got along fine. They invited me to do a ride in a couple of weeks, you know, the type of ride that you have to pay to do. I said that we couldn't afford it, but thanks for the invite. That was sort of true, but not entirely. We could afford it, but we choose not to so that we can stay out of debt and spend our money on things more important to us like our garden or savings. Anyway, the guys I was riding with decided they would offer to pay for me to do this ride. It was a kind and generous gesture, but I would feel bad taking money to do a ride that I could have afforded but chose not to because we have different priorities. I actually have a prior engagement that day, so it doesn't really matter, but it's an interesting discussion.

Overall, everything is going great. I love what I do and it provides enough money that I don't have to worry about it excessively. I have an incredible family and the greatest wife possible. Life is good. I will try to return to blogging as I have more time, I still think it's good to stay on top of my writing abilities.

Here are some pictures of the family for those who may be interested.

What an excited little boy! I'm not completely sure where his clothes are, but we've got about 50 pictures on the camera of this little boy with no shirt. Someday we'll get him dressed.
He's still excited and still doesn't have a shirt on. Notice the dinger on his forehead. He was pounding on the screen door, which he likes to do, but the screen door wasn't latched so he did a header out the front door, down a step and onto the concrete. As Homer said, "He took the earth full on the forehead." I'm going to post a video from a few days earlier where this dinger was far worse. Six-Pence certainly likes that his brother had a birthday. He got to eat cake. We didn't get many pictures of the birthday boy. He was making awful faces and then we ran out of batteries.
Something certainly seems to be good.

Here's the birthday boy. The Mugwump turned six. This is the only picture where he's not making a ridiculous face at the camera, largely because you can't see his face. He enjoyed the cake and his birthday.

Here are the videos that we've recently made. Be careful not to play the first one at high volume or CPS will come take your kids away, there is a lot of screaming. The second one is just documentation of bad manners. I don't know where he could have possibly picked up that habit.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

I want to post today on Mother's Day. Frequently, people get their mothers flowers for Mother's Day. While that is nice and all to get your mom something pretty, really I think it's a bad idea. Why would you get your mother something that is pretty for awhile and then wilts and dies? I just don't like the symbolism there.

You can get your mother a potted plant or tree that will live on for some time. That's pretty good symbolism and a thoughtful gift. But I have something better. I think you should get your mother a cow. (I'm currently envisioning my mom receiving a cow and figuring out what to do with it since she lives in a motor home).

Hindus worship the cow as a symbol of maternal nurturing. Think about it, the cow provides milk for sustenance, power for work and dung for fuel. When cow dung is burnt it releases a natural mosquito repellent and the ash makes a great fertilizer. For many of the Hindu people the cow nurtured their life more than almost anything else; just like a mother. So I think you should get your mom a cow for mother's day.

Oh, and don't get her a card. We don't need to support Hallmark in any way.

I recently heard a story on NPR that was wonderful. I think you should read it. (I tried to find an MP3 version, but failed).

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. I even think higher of mothers than I do of cows. Thanks for nurturing the world and making it a better place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Buying new furniture

We bought a futon about 4 years ago that we have used as a living room couch ever since. We now have a family of 5 and just one couch. While I really like the futon, the whole family barely fits on it. Then if we have company someone has to sit on the floor. We decided that it's time to have real living room furniture.

We had a couple criteria for our furniture. We wanted it to be green. I haven't got a clue how to decipher what goes into furniture as far as chemicals etc, so that was going to be tough. The other major criteria was that the furniture had to fit me. You see, when you sit on a couch with your knees against the couch, your hips are still several inches away from the back of the couch. Most couches force you to slouch. That drives me nuts. So I had to find a couch that would not force people to slouch in it, but would still be comfortable.

We went to several stores looking for the perfect couch. Couches that fit real people don't seem to exist anymore. We therefore looked at used furniture places. This also helped us find 'green' furniture. We ended up at Habitat for Humanity. And we happened upon an Amish made couch and love seat. Evidently they were custom made and painted black, but the buyer changed his mind. The Amish store that made them does no carry painted furniture, so they donated the furniture to Habitat for Humanity. This was a $3300 couch and love seat that was drastically reduced at a second hand store. With that said, it was by far the most expensive furniture in Habitat for Humanity.

I was extremely grateful today to be able to not only get new, green furniture, but to be able to make a substantial 'donation' to Habitat for Humanity. I got a couch that fits real sized people that is really well built for less money than a new living room set that they have at the stores. It's not very often that I feel good about spending as much money as we spent, but I feel really good about it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I'm going to post pictures. I'm glad to be back on my bike commuting daily. It feels good and now I'm exploring a little to find longer routes so I can get a little more distance in. I work at a gym, I would hate to have to work out there as well.

I also recently built a compost bin for the back yard. We got a used syrup barrel, probably from Pepsi. I drilled some holes in it, stuck a big pipe through the middle and stuck it on some 4x4s secured in the ground. The thing doesn't look great, but it works just fine.

Now for pictures.

This is the Mugwump and Jaguar on a hike that they went on this week. Kentucky is really a pretty state. It is extremely green!
This is Six-Pence making a fabric collage. He was pretty proud of it.
My wife took the boys to an activity where they were allowed to paint a car. It is unclear whether Jaguar got any of the paint on the car, but he had a lot of fun.
I wasn't overly excited to find that the little one can climb. This is a bridge over the creek by our house. While he certainly couldn't climb over the rail, it makes me a little nervous that he can climb it at all.
The Mugwump wants to grow long hair. It got pretty shaggy, but he let us cut the sides so it looks a little better. I think I need to go do haircuts right now. Mine is getting to the point where I have to pat down parts that stick up if I don't take a shower. That has to change, so I'll shave it.