Sunday, July 13, 2014

Motivation

What makes us tick?
What gives us drive?
What gives us joy to be alive?

Is it the things we do each day?
Is it our job that gives us pay?
Is it our work that lights our way?

What is our game?
What sees us through?
What is it that we want to do?

Is it our family?
Is it our home?
Is it our friends upon the phone?

What pumps our heart?
What makes it beat?
What puts the motion in our feet?

Is it someone?
Is it a thing?
Is it a thought the bells do ring?

What gets us up?
What never lets down?
What is it that removes a frown?

For each of us there is something
That lifts our heart and makes it sing.
Until we find what makes us thrive
We'll never truly be alive.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Starting a New Business

This isn't the first time that I've found myself involved in a new business startup.  In fact, I have been involved in three at different levels. 

The first was a local Veterinary supply business which was started in 1991.  I was hired as the first manager and I had lots of guidance and input from the owners.  It was successful and profitable and is still in business.

The second was a new division within a large company.  It utilized new technology and was very capital intensive.  It required developing a working prototype of a computer driven system for delivering small amounts of feed additives and then from that prototype, creating a business around the supply and delivery of those feed additives to customers.  It is a continuing operation today although that company was "swallowed" by merger into another company in recent years.

The third was a service company built around new technology.  I was essentially handed the keys by the partners and asked to build it from "scratch."  It was profitable the first full month of operation, became the largest in its very specialized field and served customers from coast-to-coast and border-to-border in the U.S.  In 2012 it was purchased by a global bio-tech company that, just this year, was acquired by an even larger global bio-tech company.

So, here I am again.  Sigh.  You would think that I would be excited -- and I am -- but, this one has some challenges that are very different than the previous ones and yet includes elements of all of the previous startups. 

I like a challenge.  The biggest issue is limited resources.  Hmmmm.....that's what I studied in college -- Agricultural Economics with an emphasis on Farm & Ranch Management.  By definition (mine), I studied the art of the efficient allocation of limited resources to achieve a specific business purpose related to a successful farming or ranching endeavor.

Specifically, I am starting a new ranch.

We (I use "we" and "I" interchangeably because, being married, it is a "we" investment/endeavor.) bought land In August, 2012, and turned cows on it in late September of that year.  We sold our first calf crop last year and they made the land payment and recovered all of the operating costs for the first year.  No, they didn't recover all of the depreciation from capital invested in equipment or the cows.  So, technically, we operated at a loss.  However, I consider the first year to be a very successful one.  It was a solid launch.

By making some operational adjustments related to seasonality of forage availability, we were able to cut our hay usage by about 40% this winter from what it was the previous one.  We also have changed the genetics of the calf crop and tightened the calving window significantly.  The uniformity of calves this year is much improved over last year.  So, we are moving things in the right direction operationally.  The issue now is scale.

Scale is related to the efficiencies of the capital investment.  A great example is a tractor.  A tractor is necessary whether you are running 10 head of cows or 1,000 head of cows.  The cost of that tractor is spread through depreciation over its lifetime but also over the number of revenue producing units that it serves -- in our case, cows.  A $35,000 used tractor depreciated over 10 years is $3,500/year just for depreciation.  Divided by 10 cows is $350/cow/year.  Divided by 1,000 cows is $3.50/cow/year.  So, the point is to utilize equipment and other capital items at a level near maximum capacity.  The cost per producing unit is then minimized.

I need more land and more cows.  Land costs lots of money to purchase.  The best scenario would be to obtain a long-term lease, however, there is none available to lease that I can find near to me.  That is the dilemma.  How do I achieve scale for maximum capital utilization if I can't expand my operation?  Any suggestions would be appreciated.  Any "sugar daddy's" out there that want to buy a ranch as a long-term investment and then lease it back to me?  If so, comment with a way to contact you.

It's amazing how many things just take money to solve.....

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Centrism and the Smell of Ozone

No matter what we do, or how hard we try, the world of each of us is centered on self.  We can't help it.  "I am the center of my universe" is true for everyone. 

It doesn't matter whether one lives in the slums of Nairobi or in the lap of luxury, each and every day is all about "me."  What will I eat?  What will I do?  Even if we claim to help others, the first question we must ask is "How can I help?"  Note the common denominator -- I.

I am the center of the universe.

I don't truly don't believe that, but, like everyone else, I behave as if I do.  So, I expect this brief written word to be read by others who will see my great wisdom and praise my deep insights into the cosmos.......is that ozone I smell?? (as the thunder rolls)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hounds Come Home

 
I don't know what came over me.....a pair of One-year old female Redbone Hounds now reside with us.  I have to plead temporary insanity. 
 
 
We had a male Redbone a little over 10 years ago.  We called him Beauregard -- Beau for short.  I have written about him.  He may have been my favorite dog we ever owned.  I'm not sure why.  I think it must be in my blood to like hounds.  It was Beagles and Bassets as a kid and Redbones as an adult.
 
 
 
Belle has a scent.  Beautiful classic trailing pose.
 
 
My grandfather on the maternal side was from Missouri.  He grew up with hounds.  His brother, my great-uncle Bill, raised hounds for many years -- mostly Walker's and Beagles.  At one time he probably had as many as 40 of them.  He was known throughout the Ozarks for the quality of his dogs.
 

 
Sadie posing for the camera.
 
 
My wife has been wanting a dog ever since we have been without one -- which has been several years.  She watches the Buy/Sell sites and the papers for them all the time.  Yesterday, she sent me a text about someone wanting to give away these two Redbones.  I think she knew my weakness for them.  I resisted going to look but, finally gave in.

 
Twinkies.  Litter mates.
 
 
I feared that if I looked I would bring them home.  I could list a dozen reasons not to get them.  But, I obviously gave in.  They needed a new home.  They had been well fed and given proper medical attention but, they just didn't have any room to run and be dogs.  It took me all of 30 seconds to make up my mind.  Sadie and Belle have a new home.

 
The squirrels don't have a chance.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Repetition

Have you ever noticed
All the things you do
Are the same as yesterday;
There's not much new?

We get out of bed
Then shower and dress,
Eat a bite
Then spread some stress.

We go to work,
Get our coffee cup,
Head down the hall
To fill it up.

We check e-mail
And then Facebook,
Look at the calendar
Then take another look.

Go to meeting one
Then meeting two,
It's the same old things
There's nothing new.

Then off to lunch
With the same old crowd.
Head to the local dive
Where it's nice and loud.

The afternoon
Is much the same;
Around and round
It's just a game.

Head home from work,
Do some laundry,
Fix some food
And watch t.v.

Just like Spring,
Summer, Winter and Fall,
The cycle goes;
On a treadmill, all.

I wonder if
We changed something
If the sky would open
And the birds would sing?

We can't expect
A single thing new
If it's all the same,
These things we do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Naturally Failing the Credibility Test

I know that I have harped lately on the failure of many to apply critical thinking skills.  One of the things that stands out to me is how many people reject the arguments concerning Global Warming and yet accept the propaganda that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) are bad and natural/organic is good.

I personally believe, based on scientific evidence, that we are seeing a climactic shift.  I reject the notion that it is caused by the activities of man.  It is a natural cycle fueled by the sun's activities.

I also believe, based on scientific evidence, that GMO's are a positive for feeding mankind.  GMO's reduce the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides which means less potential harmful chemicals in the environment.  Our digestive tract is designed to extract needed nutrients from the food we ingest and the waste (harmful or useless compounds) is passed from our body.  The yields of crops managed by purely mechanical means (which requires either more hand labor or more machine labor) are typically lower because of harmful pests that remain unchecked or because of incomplete eradication of competing plants (weeds).  So, we produce more food with fewer chemicals through manipulation of the plant's genes.  Note that this manipulation is with naturally occurring genetic material that is duplicable through natural propagation once the initial modification is made.  If the gene splicing is harmful to the plant it will not survive and certainly will not propagate.

But, people are gullible.  They accept arguments that sound reasonable if they fit their preconceived ideas.  The most effective lies are those that are nearest to the truth. 

If you want to argue against Global Warming, argue against the causes.

If you want to argue against GMO's, argue against monoculture cropping systems at the expense of species diversification.

With advances in technology come new challenges that must be solved.  Focus on solving the issues, not on stopping advances that are good for man.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Chance Encounter and Misunderstanding

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the Terminal at Nashville International Airport waiting on my flight home.  It was a Saturday morning and I was just relaxing.  I was early for my flight and there weren't many people so there was lots of room.  I was reading a book.

After awhile people started gathering and a young lady sat down the row from me and also was reading.  Shortly afterward a young man, obviously a musician because he carried a guitar case, sat across from her and they started visiting.  Not long after another musician type sat down as well.  I spoke to the young man with the guitar and asked if he was headed to a gig somewhere.  It turned out that all of them were on their way to Dallas to play for an engagement as the band for Gwen Sebastian, a former winner of "The Voice."

I asked where they were from and it was all over.  The young lady said that she was from Springdale, Arkansas, and wondered if I knew where that was.  I said yes and named a few small towns in the area.  We struck up a brief conversation at that point.  She never mentioned her name and seemed evasive at times -- enough to really pique my curiosity.  It turned out she played fiddle and guitar and sang vocals.  If she hadn't been evasive on some of the questions, my interest would have quickly waned and I would have gone back to reading.

As we boarded the plane I pulled out my phone and did a Google search based on the clues from the conversation.  It turned out that she was Jenee Fleanor, who plays fiddle, guitar and sings back up for Blake Shelton.  That is how she ended up playing with the group for Gwen Sebastian -- Blake was busy with a new season of "The Voice" and she had some open dates and the Shelton connection got her a gig with Sebastian I guess.  She backed Blake at the 2013 ACM's....

In my focus on my Google search I didn't realize that she had sat down in the seat behind me and in doing so had glimpsed my phone with her photo on it from the search.  I guess she thought that I was stalking her although I wasn't.  I just was exercising my natural curiosity.  It wasn't long before I realized that she had changed her mind and moved to the back of the plane with the other musicians.

When we landed in Dallas I spoke to her again, by name, and apologized, saying that curiosity got the best of me.  I then wished them an enjoyable time in Grapevine at the Gaylord Texan where their engagement was.

You never know who you might meet.

Here's a sample of her music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouElhFcOxG4&list=PLtJS3g04CETYblu-pTUn-WeFKcS1309bc&feature=share


New Music

Many of you who read this blog know that I play the guitar and sing.  It is primarily for my own enjoyment, relaxation and unwinding, but occasionally I will do something for church.  Since it isn't part of my vocation it is often difficult to spend much time learning new songs.

Lately I have had a little more time on my hands so, I've starting trying to learn some new stuff.  After all, most of what I know are songs that were popular back when I was in college when I had time and more inclination.  Things have changed a lot since then.

I remember using a cassette recorder to capture what was being played on the radio.  Most of it I didn't care to learn but, there were a few gems.  When I caught one of them I would play it repeatedly to transcribe it to paper and begin the memorization process.  Then, I would spend hours figuring out the chords so that I could play it.  I tried my best to make it sound like the recording artist but, of course, never quite succeeded.

Today, it is a very different proposition to learn new songs.  If it is something that I know the title, or the artist, or even a phrase, I can look it up on the Internet.  I can listen to YouTube videos and print off lyrics with chords already written on it and then play along from the printed music to the video as it plays.  It has certainly shortened the cycle to add new music to my repertoire. 

Sometimes the chords on the printed sheets don't exactly match the music.  There are mistakes.  After all, someone probably went through an exercise very similar to the way I used to learn music to create those sheets with chords.  The system isn't perfect but, it's much better than what I used to go through.

Here's a link to one I've been working on this morning.....

http://youtu.be/dYsc15s0IDM

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Burning Daylight

Today's the day we change our clocks
'Cause the gov'ment says we should
It doesn't save a bit of time
Though they told us that it would

Out here we get up 'fore the sun
And work 'til it's long set
I've never seen a changing clock
Affect the length of it yet

It reminds me what my Grandpa said
When he woke me from the night
Get up and dress and eat a bite
We don't wanna burn no daylight!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It Fits My Preconceptions, Therefore It Must Be Right!

I've written here before about critical thinking skills.  I was taught early on to examine carefully the things that I hear and see for accuracy rather than to just accept they are what they seem.  It is usually easier to detect something fraudulent by sight than by reading, although with digital image enhancement, that may not be so.  I'm thinking about things we actually observe in person.  Of course that assumes you aren't observing a magician at work whose entire performance is based on misdirection and deception.  But, for purposes of this brief post, I want to focus on the written.

We all have a tendency to accept things that agree with our preconceived notions of how they should be.  The Internet and other forms of electronic media such as television have made it very easy to mislead large numbers of people in a very short period of time.  Some businesses are base totally on the simplicity of manipulating the masses.  One that comes to mind is The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  Their commercials are built around apparently abused and mistreated animals, yet it has been shown many times that the money they collect through such advertising is spent primarily on salaries and lobbying efforts.  Less than 1% of the funds they collect actually go to help these mistreated animals according to most credible sources.

This happens with political ads as well.  Politicians have made an art of appealing to the preconceptions of their target audiences -- especially when painting an image of their opponents.  Most people readily accept the message without carefully examining it for the truth.  For whatever reason, most people are pretty gullible.  Perhaps it is rooted in our "herding" instinct -- that desire to follow a leader and to live within the safety of numbers.  It is easier to follow along than it is to lead.

I guess my point is simply this:  If we see or read something that fits our expectations, we rarely question its validity.  We need to be much more critical in our thinking.  Test it.  Check it.  Look at it from different perspectives.  It is a little easier for those who base their lives on an Absolute Truth.  For Christians, the Bible offers us pretty clear guidelines against which we should measure all things.  As our society drifts toward Atheism, the ability of the nefarious to perpetrate fraud will only grow.  One need look no further than Washington to see plenty of examples.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Musically Connected

Music inspires
Or, can sooth the soul
It tames the wild beast
Or, can rock and roll

It expresses our heart
Or, the thoughts in our mind
It can lighten our mood
Or, 'cause tears 'til we're blind

It can tear down the walls
Or, say, "leave me alone"
It can pierce our ear drums
Or, be mellower tones

It can be personal
Or, make us part of the crowd
It can be soft and low
Or, unbearably loud

It can be background noise
Or, the focus of all
It can be played alone
Or, a huge music hall

Music connects
One soul to another
It crosses all bounds
Makes us sister and brother
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