Monday, April 30, 2007

Perils of Progress

It seems sometimes
That personal growth
Is always followed
By a swarm of attacking
Challenges that continue
Until I succumb. The
Problem is that I don't
Realize the attack is
Underway until I have
Failed. It is then that
I seemingly awake to
Realize that the series
Of events leading to
Failure could not have
Been coincidence but
Could only have been
Organized against me.
Like Paul, I find
That the things I wish
To do, I do not do, and
The things I wish not
To do, are what I do.
Such are the perils
Of progress.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Tempering Influence

The most difficult part
Of raising a child
Is letting them make
Their own mistakes.
Love must go beyond
Protection; It must
Go beyond teaching;
It must allow failing.
Failure makes stronger
By strengthening resolve.
Just as steel must be tempered,
So must a child be tempered.
Which in turn tempers
A parent's love.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Where Are The Workers???

A friend of mine whose business
Requires a crew of laborers
To harvest turf for people's lawns
Constantly has difficulty
Finding anybody that wants to work.
The work is difficult and dirty
And the hours are often long
Especially in the spring and fall.
He said he gets quite frustrated
With all the folks complaining
About the immigration issue
Because he needs some help.
He tried to work college students
Because he figured they were
Always needing money but
They often left after only half a day
And never even came back
For their paycheck. They all
Wanted easy jobs that didn't
Take long hours and so they
Left without even saying goodbye.
They're spoiled, he said, and
Didn't even have the decency
To say, hey, this is harder than I thought,
I think I'll go find something else.
My friend said that with the
Unemployment rate as low as it is
Our country is basically at
Full employment, so why is
Everyone complaining about
Illegal immigrants taking all
The jobs when he can't even find
Someone to work the jobs he has?
Let's get 'em a "green card."

So, I got to wondering about his comment on the unemployment rate. Having been trained in economics, I was taught that anything below about 5% unemployment is considered full employment because there are a certain percentage of the populace that is either unemployable, or chooses to remain unemployed. As of January 1, 2007, our national unemployment rate stood at 4.6%. Click on this link to a table of the Unemployment Rate by State as of Dec. 31, 2006. I understand the "illegal" part of the argument; what I don't understand is the resistance to a work permit program. The jobs are here and a lot of them are going unfilled because it is "beneath the dignity" of our spoiled welfare class to take them.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Political Grease

It seems that almost everyone
Here in the blogging world
Is focused on the candidates
And what they stand for.
The trouble that I see is
They don't stand for anything
Except getting themselves elected
And spending other people's money.
And if they are elected
They'll keep on spending
Other people's money.
You'd think the folks with money
Would put a stop to it
'Cause everybody knows
When all is said and done
There won't be any money left
In the hands of the people
That earned it. And anymore
It doesn't seem to matter
Which party the candidate belongs to.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


It's interesting how many people tell me, "Oh, I could never be in sales." I understand why they say it, but I find it humorous. Why? Because every person ever born on this earth has been in sales from the day they were born.

A newborn baby cries. Why? To sell its mother on the idea that it needs something -- probably food. How many times does a 2-year old ask for a cookie? Just once and accept no as the answer? Not likely. They ask over and over again until you either give in, or get upset with them. They are trying to sell you on the idea that they should have a cookie.

In the morning when you are lying in bed thinking, "I don't want to get up," but you do anyway, why do you do it? It's because you sold yourself on the idea that it was the thing to do. We sell ourselves to prospective spouses, we sell ourselves to prospective employers, we sell ourselves every day of our lives. Yet, if you mention a career in sales to most people, their eyes bug out and they say, "Oh, I could never be in sales."

Why is that? I believe it is because most people have an inordinate fear of rejection. They are afraid that someone will not buy what they are selling. I like the line from "Dune" that says, "fear is the mind killer." It is true. Most people fail at sales because of fear. It is the fear of rejection.

In sales, if someone says that they don't want your product or service, they usually aren't rejecting you, they're honestly telling you that they don't believe that your product or service fits their needs. If you take it as a personal rejection, you will fail.

For several years, I lead a sales team consisting of 12 salesmen. I taught them to accept rejection as a victory. Why? Because on the average, it takes 9 sales calls to make 1 sale. I told them to start counting. After the first NO, that was one. The second NO was two -- and so forth. Almost without fail, they made a sale before they reached 9 which is the average. They beat the odds because they were looking positively at the experience of being told NO. Each NO brought them one closer to YES. It came down to their attitude.

Isn't it amazing how important attitude is in our life? If we approach each day in a positive fashion, the results are almost always positive. If we start the day with a negative attitude, we usually end the day in the same manner. We see everything that occurs to us in the worst possible light.

One of my favorite poems of all time is called "Attitude", by Chuck Swindoll.

The longer I live,
The more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude to me, is more important than the past,
Than education,
Than money,
Than circumstances,
Than failures,
Than Success,
Than what other people think, or say, or do.
It is more important than appearance,
Giftedness, or skill.
It will make or break an organization,
A school, a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day
Regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past..
We cannot change the fact that people will
Act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do
Is play on the one string we have,
and that is our attitude....
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me
And 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trails and Travel

Historic trails have always interested me. As a child, when we crossed the Chisholm Trail, I expected to see a well-worn and clearly defined path. It was many years before I realized that virtually all traces of the trail had been plowed under, or grown over for years.

This morning I awoke in North Platte, Nebraska. North Platte lies on the great westward immigrant routes of the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, The Pony Express Trail, and the first trans-continental railroad. It also lies not far east of one of the more important cattle trails -- the Texas and Ogalalla Trail, aka Texas and Montana Trail, aka Dodge City and Montana Trail (the one they supposedly followed in "Lonesome Dove"). Today as I travelled south from Nebraska, I basically followed the route of this important cattle trail of the late 1800's.

It is approximately 270 miles from North Platte to Dodge City. I took the most direct route, which is also one of the least travelled routes. South of Oberlin, KS, I took Kansas Highway 23 south into Cimarron, KS, (which lies on the old Santa Fe Trail and is basically where the Cimarron Cutoff branched from the main trail) and then into Dodge City from the west. Of course, Dodge City lies on the Santa Fe Trail and was one of the most important delivery points for cattle moving north from Texas on the Western Trail.

Dodge City was important for the Texas Panhandle in its formative years. The buffalo hunters that eventually wiped out the great herds that roamed the Southern Plains used Dodge City as their outfitting and "jumping off" point. It was the place they brought the hides from the slaughtered buffalo for shipment east. It was also the place to which the bleached bones of the buffalo were delivered some years later for eventual grinding into fertilizer.

When settlers began moving into the Texas Panhandle, many of them arrived first in Dodge City to purchase wagons and supplies for the trip south. For several years, it was the "jumping off" point to the frontier that until 1876 had been the home to the Kiowa and Comanche tribes.

It is interesting to me how few people I saw on the highway as I headed south toward Dodge City. I passed through several small towns, including Gove, KS, the county seat of Gove County, with a population of only 105 people. There were many highway stretches of over 10 miles in which I did not meet another vehicle.

Much of the land that I passed through is in grassland with cattle grazing on it. The early spring rains have been good and the grass is beginning to green. The few areas that were in cultivation had beautiful stands of winter wheat that are nearing the stage when they will shoot up the head of grain. It is beautiful country to one with a Plainsman's eye. I suppose to most people it would be considered pretty barren. I for one, relish the emptiness. I need my space.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Don't Settle for Pretenders!

Because of the travel that I do with my job, I eat out frequently. Tonight, I went to "Whiskey Creek Steakhouse" in North Platte, Nebraska. It has been several years since I ate there. It was good then and it is still a good moderately priced place to eat.

One of the things that I find interesting is that many restaurants, especially steak or barbecue restaurants, have attempted a "Texas" theme. They frequently display Western movie posters on the wall, have wooden floors, barrels of peanuts (that you shell and throw the shells on the floor), country music playing, Lone Star Beer neon signs, and things of that nature. I find it humorous -- especially since many of them don't even have locations for their franchise in the Lone Star State. I often ask where the "home" of the chain is located. Usually the answer is a large city in the Upper Midwest or sometimes on the East Coast. They are fakes -- wannabes.

It reminds me of the Saturday Night Cowboys -- you know the type -- they've never been on a horse, probably work in an office, but have a pair of expensive boots and a "snap front" western shirt with a western yoke on the back and pocket flaps. John Travolta started a trend quite a few years back with one of his movies -- Midnight Cowboy I think was the name of it. It was about the guys who dressed western and went to a Honky Tonk on the weekend. Pretenders. The movie Brokeback Mountain (which I intend never to see) created a resurgence in the "snap front" shirts and western attire. It's almost embarrassing to me now to see someone wearing one.

The real cowboys that I know -- and living in cattle country I know quite a few -- often wear tennis shoes, a "gimme" cap and a Harley Davidson T-shirt. You see hats and boots too, but they are functional, well-worn, and dirty for the most part. If you see nice polished boots and a clean felt hat during the week, it's usually a salesman that calls on the livestock producers. I guess what it boils down to is that the real cowboys have nothing to prove. They aren't pretending to be something that they are not. They are just being who they are. It's refreshing when you think about it.

If you want to find a real Texas Steakhouse, go to Austin, Texas, and eat at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at 6th and Congress (I know, Ruth's Chris didn't start in Texas but it got there as fast as it could). You won't find peanuts on the floor, but you will be treated right and served exceptional beef. Be prepared to pay for the quality -- but you will get quality. If you're looking for a real cowboy, don't look for pointy-toed boots with a glossy sheen, designer jeans, a "snap-front" shirt, and a funny looking crumpled-up loose-weave straw hat with feathers. Come out to the heartland of agriculture. Why settle for a pretender when you can have the real deal.

P.S. I hope I didn't step on too many toes out there!

Fred on Federalism

The article below is from It is by Fred Thompson and presents his view of Federalism.

Talking about Federalism
By Fred Thompson
Monday, April 23, 2007

My friend, Ramesh Ponnuru, over at National Review and I had a little disagreement over the issue of Federalism.
It might seem a little like "Inside Baseball" but, actually, it deals with something that is of importance to everyone who is concerned about the expanding power of government. Our government, under our Constitution, was established upon the principles of Federalism -- that the federal government would have limited enumerated powers and the rest would be left to the states. It not only prevented tyranny, it just made good sense. States become laboratories for democracy and....


It looks like Fred is for limited Federal Government. The article linked above goes on to discuss the idea that many issues should be left to the states. I think there was a war fought over this idea once upon a time (of course there were other issues involved). This short essay by Senator Thompson encourages me that he may in fact be THE candidate.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"The Worst Hard Time"

I am currently reading "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan. It is about the Great American Dust Bowl --i.e. where I live but about 75 years earlier. It's very interesting reading for no other reason than that I know of the places about which he speaks. In fact, today I drove across a big chunk of the area that was considered the heart of the Dust Bowl. It is hard to imagine that this is the same country described in the book. Although, I guess it shouldn't be that difficult to imagine. I grew up with the wind. I love the wind. I miss the wind any time that I am where it isn't blowing. It blew all day today but there was no dust.

Farming practices have changed this land so that it is unlikely that we will see another Dust Bowl time like is described in the book. Most of the land that is under cultivation today is irrigated farmland -- not dryland. Much of the land that had been farmed as dryland wheat in the days of the Dust Bowl is now in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) grass. The land generally is not left tilled and unplanted through the winter months as it was during that time (early 1930's). I don't always agree with the Farm Bill each year, but it helps to keep us from having another Dust Bowl and in fact, to a large extent, the annual Farm Bill grew out of the Dust Bowl.

One frustration that I have with the book though, is that there are occasionally things that I think the author didn't research completely. In fact, I wonder if he visited this country at all. I'm not arguing with the primary parts of his narrative, just the odd detail here and there. I grew up in this country. I've travelled it for years. My grandparents went through the Dust Bowl and told me stories about it. It is a story of a tough, hardy breed of survivors. I just hate it that there are a few details that don't quite add up with what I know from experience and from first-hand accounts. I suppose that's the way it is with any account of history not written by those who were there. In spite of that, I highly recommend the book.

Signs of Intelligence, Fred?

I was led to the article below by fellow blogger, "yeah, right, whatever."

April 20, 2007 10:31 AM
Signs of Intelligence?

By Fred Thompson
One of the things that's got to be going through a lot of peoples' minds now is how one man with two handguns, that he had to reload time and time again, could go from classroom to classroom on the Virginia Tech campus without being stopped. Much of the answer can be found in policies put in place by the university itself.

Virginia, like 39 other states, allows citizens with training and legal....


It seems that Fred Thompson (see "Run, Fred -- I Think...") may have the right idea about an armed citizenry. If he "sticks to his guns" (no pun intended) I will be impressed. Hopefully that will be the case.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hamburger and Fries

I like hamburgers.
They may not be health food,
But I like them.
I prefer them to be made
In the least healthy way;
I like them fried.
Fried on a griddle
And fry the bun too;
Just a little bit toasty
And a little bit greasy.
I like my burgers
California style
With some avocado,
Or I like them
New Mexico style
With grilled Chile peppers,
Or I like them
Texas style
With jalapenos on them.
I like hamburgers.
I prefer bread-and-butter pickles
Instead of the dill
I don't care for onion
Or lettuce but
I do like tomato --
Big, juicy slices of tomato
Fresh from the garden
That cover the meat
My burgers don't have to be fried,
I'll take them
Cooked on the grill outdoors
Or from under the broiler
With Tobasco Sauce
And Seasoned Salt
To spice them up a little.
I like hamburgers.
And while you're at it
I'll take a side of fries.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!

"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and, so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression:..."


March 3, 1836 -- Sam Houston is made Commander in Chief of the Texian Army of Independence

March 6, 1836 -- The Alamo falls to overwhelming numbers.

March 11, 1836 -- Houston reaches Gonzales where the assembled volunteers are waiting. There are 374 "effectives". He dispatches a courier to Fannin at Goliad to blow up the powder, abandon his position, and proceed to join him. Fannin ignores the order.

March 16, 1836 -- The Constitution of Texas is adopted.

March 17, 1836 -- The newly formed government prudently withdraws to Galveston Island.

March 20, 1836 -- Fannin surrenders Goliad.

March 27, 1836 -- Palm Sunday -- The Goliad captives are executed.

March 28, 1836 -- Houston and the volunteers reach Groce's Plantation at San Felipe where they spend 10 days drilling and training. The army swells to approximately 1400 men.

April 7, 1836 -- Due to the approaching Mexican army, Houston determines that he must withdraw to the east while continuing to drill his men in preparation for battle.

April 20, 1836 -- Houston allows himself to be cornered beyond Buffalo Bayou against the San Jacinto River. He burns the bridge across the bayou effectively cutting Santa Anna's avenue of retreat. Santa Anna and his approximately 1200 men contemptuously go into camp to rest with anticipation of capturing Houston at their leisure.

April 21, 1836 -- Houston assembles a Counsel of War at Noon. The officers wish to attack the next morning, but the men overwhelmingly vote to proceed with the attack on that afternoon. At 3:00 p.m. the advance is ordered under covering fire of the Twin Sisters, a pair of cannon provided by the state of Ohio. Houston and his 918 volunteers advance across an open field while the army of Santa Anna enjoys their afternoon siesta. At the center of the Texian line flies the Republic's flag:

The motto on the flag reads: Ubi Libertas Habitat Ibi Nostra Patria Est -- "where liberty lives, there is our homeland."

Beside the flag, Houston rode his huge white stallion, Saracen. Houston drew his sword for the attack and the screech of the field music filled the air with "Come to the Bower".

Will you come to the bow'r I have shaded for you?

Our bed shall be roses all spangled with dew.

There under the bow'r on roses you'll lie

With a blush on your cheek but a smile in your eye!

Colonel Sidney Sherman, commanding the 2D Texas Regiment, raised the cry: "Remember the Alamo!, Remember Goliad! Remember the alamo!" The battle lasted only a few minutes. The slaughter lasted into the night. The Texians could not forgive the treatment received at the Alamo or at Goliad.

April 21, 1836, Texas was won.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ahh, Friday!

Stress accumulates
In the confines of
The office until
Escape becomes
A matter of survival.
That's when the
Springtime weather is
Especially dangerous
Because an avenue
Will be created where
One may not exist
In which to answer
The Siren's song of
Swinging clubs
Upon the links
Or swinging rackets
Upon the courts
Or churning legs
Upon the pedals
Or anything else
Which calls out
"Come to me,
Come to me...."
That is when
The creative side
Flashes its brilliance
With excuses
To answer the call.
Closet Republican in the Arts has posted a great summary of the Liberal position.....


I know It's Hard to Believe But- by Edward L. Daley

Some interesting observations by Edward L. Daley of The Daley-Times Post. Most are very valid.
I Know It's Hard to Believe But...

There are some people in the United States of America who think that George W. Bush orchestrated the atrocities of 09/11/01

......and that Democrats are more responsible with our tax dollars than Republicans......and that Rosie O'Donnell is a patriot

......and that suspected terrorists captured during armed conflict in a foreign country deserve the same habeas corpus rights as domestic criminal suspects

......and that tax increases actually promote economic growth

......and that spanking a child equates.....(link here to continue)


The post continues with a rather enlightening list of liberal positioning on many issues. It's worth a look.

More on Ethanol

This article from is interesting (at least to those of us who seem to be obsessed with Ethanol)....

The Efficiency of Ethanol Production

The efficiency of ethanol productionhas long been questioned. Critics would argue that the industry could not survive without government subsidies and that it takes more energy to produce a unit of ethanol than the energy derived from the ethanol. There might have been some merit to these arguments, given the technology that existed at the time, both in terms of agronomic practices and the processes for turning feedstocks into fuel ethanol.
However, a study published in July 2006 by the University of Minnesota concluded that there is a net energy gain with the production of ethanol from corn. Researchers tracked the amount of energy used to grow corn and to turn it into ethanol, and they factored in the cost of transporting the raw product to the plant.
Researchers also factored in the cost of how much fertilizer and pesticides were required to grow the corn, and the greenhouse gases, nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants that were released into the environment. They concluded that corn-based ethanol yielded 25% more energy than was expended in producing that unit of ethanol.
The cost of producing ethanol varies with the feedstock being used and its availability. In the U.S. and Canada, corn is the most widely used feedstock because it is generally the cheapest, both in terms of the cost of feedstock and the processing costs. In Brazil, sugar cane is the most cost effective feedstock, despite the relatively low ethanol conversion factor. The low cost of sugar cane and the associated processing costs make Brazil’s ethanol producers very competitive in the world ethanol market.
Processing costs, for corn-based ethanol production, depend on the type of milling process. For very large plants, the economics of production favour the wet milling process, despite a lower conversion rate than the dry milling process and higher processing costs per gallon.
The value of by-products derived from wet milling more than offsets the lower conversion rate and higher processing costs, resulting in the lower cost per gallon of ethanol. The by-products of the wet milling process are normally corn oil, corn gluten meal, corn gluten feed, and carbon dioxide, but some larger plants have developed the ability to also produce vitamins, food and feed additives from the same feedstock, by-products which help to reduce the cost per gallon of ethanol.
Dry milling accounts for most of the ethanol produced in the U.S., and the main by-products of this process are distillers dried grain with soluble (DDGS), condensed syrup, and carbon dioxide. DDGS is a high-protein feed ingredient, but it is low in amino acids, including lysine.
The low levels of lysine limit the usefulness of DDGS in hog and poultry rations. However, the abundance of DDGS in the U.S Midwest, where ethanol plants are concentrated, allows nutritionists to incorporate this relatively low cost feed ingredient into feed rations, provided that the customers for the DDGS are within a certain radius of the ethanol plants.
Currently, the U.S. ethanol industry appears to be less dependent on government subsidies than in the past. That move to self-sufficiency can be attributed to several factors, including record high prices for crude oil. High crude oil prices and the market price of ethanol have made its production much more profitable.
In fact, ethanol production might be profitable enough to allow producers to operate without the US$0.50/gal subsidy they currently receive from the U.S. government.


Obviously the profitability of ethanol is dependent on the relative price of gasoline. The subsidy for production probably is just an offset against reduced farm subsidy payments due to increased corn prices in the market so it isn't a real loss to the taxpayer, however, I'd like to see our "all wise and powerful government" end this subsidy for ethanol and let the market take its course.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Contract

The image to the left is of a pencil sketch by Paul Wylie that hangs in my home. It isn't the best quality of photography, I have to admit, but I never claimed to be a photographer. You can't quite make it out, but behind the two gentlemen shaking hands is a herd of cattle. What is taking place here is a sale. The handshake is the contract.
It seems like in today's business world you need a contract for everything. I'm not talking about a two page agreement that outlines the basic points between the two parties, I'm talking about a ream of paper to replace a worn piece of carpet! It is ridiculous.
The typical process is basically that the principles agree orally to do something. Then one of them directs his attorneys to draw up a contract. The contract is then sent to the other party who asks his lawyer to review it and suggest changes that might be necessary. There are always changes (it's called job security and milking the deal). The revised contract is then returned to the first party whose lawyer reviews the changes and revises the changes and sends it back. The process usually requires several iterations and the contract becomes lengthier with each revision. The sad thing is, it's only marginally useful when completed. Ultimately, if one of the parties wants out of the contract, they will hire a bunch of lawyers who will find a way to get out of it.
You occasionally still see a contract similar to the picture above in cattle country, although they are becoming less common. It is amazing to me how many 100's of thousands of dollars are spent through verbal contracts over the phone. It typically goes something like this --
"Jim, I need about 2000 head of 500 lb. yearlings to put on wheat pasture. Can you get them put together for me? Ship them to my place out near San Jon, New Mexico."
"OK. I should be able to get them together by the end of the week. Plan on taking delivery around 7:00 am on Saturday."
The deal is done. It was about a $1.2 million deal for cattle "sight unseen". There were no guarantees, no inspections and no questions about whether there was money to pay for them. It was just each party's word over the telephone.
It's nice to be associated with an industry whose members have enough integrity that you can comfortably do business this way. Yes, occasionally someone gets burned, but it's rare.
"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'.... Matt. 5:37
The economic situation is China is tenuous to say the least. The article below (from Fox News) highlights some of the problems they face.

China's Economy Sizzles, Grows By 11.1 Percent in First Quarter; Some Worried About Inflation

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BEIJING — China's sizzling economy surged 11.1 percent in the first quarter, causing the country's Cabinet to declare Thursday it will take steps to keep the economy from overheating.
The pledge by the
State Council came after the government announced that inflation rose to its highest level in more than two years.
"If this type of fast growth continues, there is the possibility of shifting from fast growth to overheating. There is that risk," Li Xiaochao, spokesman for the
National Bureau of Statistics, told a news conference.
Worries that Chinese authorities would raise interest rates to curb growth in Asia's second-biggest economy prompted regional stock markets to drop sharply. European markets also opened lower.
The consumer price index in March rose 3.3 percent, data showed, above the government's 3 percent target. And fixed-asset investment countrywide grew a robust 23.7 percent during March. (Holy cow!!)
A statement posted on the council's Web site following a meeting chaired by
Premier Wen Jiabao said the government will work to "reduce the country's large trade surplus, limit rapid growth in house prices and maintain basic price stability." ........


This situation further exacerbates the disparities developing within the Chinese economy between the "haves" and the "have-nots". A crash within their system could devastate not only their economy, but would have serious rammifications throughout the world. Let's hope they can handle the balancing act. If the "giant" gets up on the wrong side of the bed, look out!

Robots and Ethanol

I thought this to be an interesting article on Ethanol. The ARS is searching for ways to make ethanol production more efficient. They need to.....

Robot, Yeast Combo May Mean More Ethanol

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Peoria, Ill., are excited about the latest member to join their team: a one-armed robot. They expect it to speed studies aimed at harnessing the power of proteins for industrial uses, such as making fuel ethanol from fibrous corn stover. The robot is the centerpiece of an automated system called the "plasmid-based functional proteomics work cell." According to Stephen Hughes, a molecular biologist with the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, the system is the first of its kind to fully automate several procedures that have traditionally been carried out by hand--human hand, that is. A short list of functions includes extracting genetic material from the cells of plants, microbes and other organisms; making DNA copies of genes; inserting the copies into Escherichia coli; culturing these bacteria so that the copies can be sequenced and their proteins identified; and inserting desirable genes into yeasts used to make ethanol. Thanks to the fast, precise movements of its mechanized arm, the robotic system can carry out such tasks hundreds--or even thousands--of times faster than a human could, notes Hughes. He and colleagues in the ARS center's Bioproducts and Biocatalysis Research Unit codeveloped the system with a team from Hudson Control Group of Springfield, N.J., starting in 2004. Of particular interest is using the robotic system to genetically modify new strains of Saccharomyces yeast that can metabolize sugars locked up within corn fiber--something these microbial workhorses have so far failed to do. Currently, only the starch from corn and other grain crops is being converted commercially into the sugars from which ethanol is derived. With the Saccharomyces yeasts now used, this equates to nearly three gallons of ethanol from a bushel of corn. Using new strains capable of breaking down corn fiber could potentially squeeze 10 percent more ethanol from the grain, Hughes and colleagues estimate. Read more about this and other ARS bioenergy research in the April 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Source: Jan Suszkiw, ARS News Service


I think there is definitely a place for ethanol in the alternative fuels debate. I would just like to see it made from recycling scrap organics, or from fibrous plant residues that can be harvested from marginally productive land rather than from corn. Until the switch occurs, the negative impact to food prices, and the inefficient ethanol production methods will cost the consumers more than the benefits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ear Him Down!

Back in the time when horses were broken rather than trained, the methods used probably would not have pleased the animal rights groups. The contest between the cowhand and the bronc usually became one of endurance and determination rather than a gentle "getting-to-know-each-other".

Usually the bronc was roped and snubbed (tied, for all you non-cowboy types) to a post. Then the "bronc buster" (cowboy) would have someone "ear the bronc down" while he put the saddle, blanket, and hackamore on the animal. This procedure could get pretty wild at times; hence, "earing him down". What this meant is that one of the cowboys would get close to the bronc, which sometimes was a life-endangering feat, and grab one of the animals ears and twist it. In fact, it was usually twisted and then bitten. While this was going on, another cowboy would put the saddle and blanket on and then the hackamore.

Once the animal was properly accoutered, the bronc buster would climb on his back, the rope would be slipped off, and then finally the one holding the ear would let go. That was when the fun began. From that point on, it was a test between the bronc that wanted to get rid of whatever was stuck on his back, and the bronc buster who intended that he stick there. It was purely a test of strength and will.

Now, the point of all of this is the ear. That ear was the key to the entire operation. By twisting and biting on it, the cowboy was able to distract the bronc long enough for the animal to be saddled and the bronc buster to take his seat. If it wasn't for that ear, the animal would have continued fighting with hoof and teeth and nothing would have been accomplished. The horse would never have been "broken", or trained.

We can all be like that bronc occasionally. Sometimes, something gets hold of us and we just go crazy. I'm not talking about fighting it out, I'm talking about going places in our mind and in our behavior that we wouldn't normally go if we were thinking straight. We need to be distracted from that wrong path to get back to where we need to be. It may take a friend or a spouse to accomplish the feat, but with a little attention and self-training, we can usually do it ourselves. When our mind engages the wrong things, we need to stop and re-focus our attention on the good. It will keep us out of trouble.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." Phil. 4:8 NIV

There's Hope

GALLUP: Hillary Clinton's Favorable Rating Plunges By E&P Staff Published: April 18, 2007 12:30 PM ET
NEW YORK As the early stage of the race for president heats up, support for Sen. Hillary Clinton appears to be cooling. A majority of Americans now have an unfavorable image of her, a new Gallup poll released today shows. Her current 45% favorable rating is one of the lowest Gallup has measured for her since 1993. Her lead as frontrunner for the Democratic nod has narrowed to just 31% to 26% over Sen. Barack Obama. Former Sen. John Edwards comes in at 16% and Al Gore 15%."The recent decline in her image appears to be broad-based, as it is evident among most key subgroups," Gallup reports. In the latest poll, conducted April 13-15, 2007, more Americans say they have an unfavorable (52%) than a favorable view (45%) of Clinton. As recently as February, her favorable rating was 58%.Sen. Obama and Sen. Edwards each have favorable ratings of 52% and unfavorable ratings of just 30%.
E&P Staff


Let's hope the trend continues!

It's Going to Take One Big Mole!

This is interesting in light of my previous post this morning concerning China.

Russia Plans World's Longest Tunnel, a Link to Alaska (Update3)

By Yuriy Humber and Bradley Cook

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.
The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow today. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.
A 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S.
``This will be a business project, not a political one,'' Maxim Bystrov, deputy head of Russia's agency for special economic zones, said at the media briefing. Russian officials will formally present the plan to the U.S. and Canadian governments next week, Razbegin said.
The Bering Strait tunnel will cost $10 billion to $12 billion and the rest of the investment will be spent on the entire transport corridor, the plan estimates.
``The project is a monster,'' Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist with Trust Investment Bank in Moscow, said in an interview. ``The Chinese are crying out for our commodities and willing to finance the transport links, and we're sending oil to Alaska. What, Alaska doesn't have oil?''
Finance Agencies
Tsar Nicholas II, Russia's last emperor, was the first Russian leader to approve a plan for a tunnel under ......


Follow the link and read the entire article. A tunnel under the Bering Strait? I suppose it is better for us to beat the Chinese to the vast repository of raw materials in Siberia. I can't see them sitting still for it when they will desperately need these materials and the energy over the coming years. It is going to become a matter of priorities for them. Do they invade north into the "storehouse", or head west to the "powerhouse"? If they go north, they get both. Will this country be willing to go to war as an ally of Russia against China to prevent it? We'd better be becoming energy independent quickly!

The Slumbering Giant

China makes me nervous. The article below points out just one of the issues that bother me. This is one big sleeping giant that is waking up.

China's Rural Poor Will Be Most Hurt By Econ Downturns

WASHINGTON (AP)--China's currently booming economy over the last quarter century has brought wealth to hundreds of millions but left one out of five Chinese in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 a day, a joint Chinese-U.S. report released Tuesday said.

It is that 20% of China's 1.3 billion people who will be most affected by the economy's health in the next 15 years, said the study, titled China's Economic Prospects 2006-2020.

"Despite unprecedented progress in reducing the most severe poverty, about 70% of the population still survives on very low incomes, defined at the World Bank standard of $2 per day," the study said.

Most of those Chinese live in rural areas, where the opulence that grew from an average economic growth of 9% a year for the most part has bypassed, it said.

"With about 45% of the work force still engaged in low-productivity agriculture," it said, "the Chinese economy needs to create hundreds of millions of jobs in higher-productivity sectors to enable these workers to earn their way out of poverty."

China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 generally benefited the economy, the report said, but again mainly for urban dwellers, not those of the countryside. It said accession increased employment by about 13 million jobs, or 1.4%. The government estimates 300 million were needed for full employment, which it said proves that "trade alone cannot solve the country's employment challenges."

The study came to its findings by considering three scenarios: current trends continue; world trade continues to grow, and China improves its resource allocation; and risks become more dangerous, with trade tensions increasing and government policy changes that reduces the quality of modernization in the economy.

- Continued current trends would maintain an annual growth rate of about 8% over the next five years. Based on 2002 constant prices, that would mean a $3.6 trillion gross domestic product in 2010, which still would be less than that of Japan in 2002. Per capita GDP would be about $2,670, comparable to current incomes of Brazil, South Africa and Turkey. Growth would slow slightly after 2010, and the GDP by 2020 would be $7.5 trillion and per capita GDP about $5,300, comparable to incomes in Poland and Hungary today.

- In the other two scenarios, the rural poor would be most damaged by the pessimistic scenario, the study said. As trade disputes and government policies had increasingly greater impact, fewer opportunities would exist for agricultural workers to find jobs in cities, and their earnings in the countryside would stagnate, it said. China would be importing fewer agricultural products, and agricultural production would decline in China and hit rural incomes.

"China's continued development will require a reasonably benign international environment if recent rates of growth are to be maintained," the study said. "However, policy choices by the Chinese government will determine whether living standards rise throughout the country, whether productivity increases to smoothly compensate for the aging of the population and whether the economy evolves in a balanced and sustainable manner.

The study's authors are Sandra Polaski, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Li Shantong, a senior research fellow, and He Jianwu, a researcher, at the Development Research Center of the State Council of China.


"Free-market-like" initiatives within this communist country are fueling the majority of the growth in their economy. However, the government attitude to these initiatives is often capricious. China is searching for its path to the future and it walks a fine line between old and new thinking. Every country throughout history that has made this transition has gone through periods of extreme political unrest. A significant downturn in the Chinese economy could easily result in widespread rioting and potentially, civil war. It is certain the Chinese government is considering solutions in such an event that would include heightened military activity -- not just against their own people, but against neighboring countries as well. Such activity would provide employment for the population both directly through military service and through increased economic activity within their military/industrial complex. Thrown into this mix is the Chinese dependence on foreign energy sources. With the political unrest in the Middle East, I'm certain they are already considering, or have, contingency plans for intervention to insure their energy supplies are uninterrupted.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guitar and Drum

Tonight I had an interesting diversion. I've played the guitar and sang for about the past forty years. During my college days, I actually earned a little money doing so. Over the course of time though, I haven't really kept up my skills and rarely do I play in public anymore. A friend of mine the same age that I am, bought a drum set about a year ago and has been learning to play them. He has been "dying" to have someone come and "jam" with him. I consented to do so a few weeks ago because I remember how badly I always wanted someone to "jam" with when I started playing the guitar. Tonight we were finally able to fit it into our schedules. To make the story short, we had a blast. It was just good old fashioned fun. We may make it a regular weekly event. It would be nice if we could get some others to join us though!

Run Fred -- I Think...

The more that I read about him the more I like him. The following is an interesting article about him -- you'll need to follow the link --

WASHINGTON — He’s a presidential player cut from Hollywood cloth, but is Fred Thompson more than a stuffed shirt?
Past colleagues and Tennessee supporters think so, but some political analysts say the former senator has more to prove if he’s serious about running for president in 2008.
"I think his support right now might be a mile wide but an inch deep," said political science professor Sean Evans of .....


It's going to be a long race.

Alternative Fuels - Biodiesel

This article might be of interest to you who are interested in alternative fuel sources:

Tyson, ConocoPhillips Plan Animal Fat Fuel Venture

Oil giant ConocoPhillips (COP) and meat-processor Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) said Monday they will join forces to produce biodiesel fuel using beef, pork and chicken fat.

Production is expected to begin late this year. Tyson said it will make capital improvements in coming months to begin pre-processing animal fat from some of its rendering facilities. ConocoPhillilps said it will make capital expenditures to produce the biofuel at several of its refineries.

Output could reach 175 million gallons annually, the companies said in a news release.

Tyson projected that the venture eventually could add 4 cents to 16 cents to per-share earnings, or $14.2 million to $56.4 million based on current diluted shares outstanding.

Biofuels are becoming increasingly popular, as traditional petroleum-based fuel costs rise and climate change becomes a growing concern.

The nation's largest pork processor, Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD) has been producing a biodiesel from animal fat at a small plant in Cleburne, Texas, for the past two years. When announced, that facility was to be designed to use vegetable oil as well as animal fat....


This may not sit too well with the animal rights crowds, but I think it's an outstanding idea. This way I can eat my beef and drive it too!

Ethics and Liberal Hypocrisy

Check out this post by Incognito. It's a very interesting read. You'll need to follow the link for the full post.

ETHICS and LIBERAL HYPOCRISY- Dianne Feinstein resigns from Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee
Not that you're going to see this in the mainstream media, for now at least, but it looks like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, resigned from her post as Chair of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON), which she has held for the past 6 years. Why? It appears that her hubby Richard ...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ride for the Brand

In cattle country there is a code of behavior written in the hearts of men who ride the range and work the cattle on ranches from Alberta to Mexico. This code is basic to the belief system of those who rightfully claim the title cowboy. The code is simply this; when you hire on to an outfit, you ride for the brand. Now, for those of us who grew up in cattle country, this code is self-evident. It requires no explanation. However, I've found that as my wanderings have taken me beyond the bounds of cattle country into the realm of "big business", that people don't seem to understand the concept. So, let me explain.

The saying came from the fact that cattle are branded with a mark unique to the ranch that owns them. It was and is a symbol that "these are mine, keep your hands off!" In the days of open range this was especially important because often, ranches shared grazing lands. Throughout the year, the cowboys would brand the new calves with a brand that matched their mother's. Most of the cowboys carried a "running iron", or they would sometimes use a saddle ring which would be heated in the fire and used to apply the brand of the cow onto the calf. The honest cowboys would rope only the calves belonging to cows from the ranch they worked for, or occasionally a "maverick". A maverick was an unbranded calf whose mother couldn't be determined. The mavericks were the real problem. Many cowboy started their own herd by branding maverick calves with their personal brand. Riding for the brand came from the idea that the cowboy, if in the employ of a ranch, should brand the maverick calf with the brand of the ranch that he rode for. It was an issue of loyalty. You worked for the man that was paying you.

The concept of loyalty to an employer is rare in many businesses. Employees are loyal only as long as it is to their advantage to be loyal. Too often, they are just looking for the next opportunity. That concept of loyalty cuts both ways though. Most corporations today look at employees as a disposable asset. They often fire long-time employees for no apparent reason. Often they replace them with someone younger that will work for less money. It's too bad.

It's time we change the business world. Ride for the brand.

Wait, Is That a Glimmer of Light?

This article from the Evening Standard caught my eye:

More young doctors oppose abortions on ethical grounds

Rising numbers of doctors are refusing to carry out abortions, leading to a crisis in NHS provision.

The stance by staff, taken on ethical grounds, has led to a doubling of abortions carried out by private clinics, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The swell of medical staff joining the unprecedented moral revolt means that there may soon not be enough doctors to carry out sufficient terminations to meet the public demand.

Katherine Guthrie, a spokesman on family planning for the RCOG, said: "You get no thanks for performing abortions. You get spat on. Who admits to friends at a dinner party that they are an abortionist?

"There is an increasing number of young doctors who are not participating in training. The Department of Health is really worried."

The numbers of terminations carried out in Britain currently stands at a record 190,000 a year. But refusals by its doctors mean that the NHS is having to pay private hospitals to carry out the procedures.

The percentage of abortions carried out in private hospitals has doubled from 20 per cent in 1997 to almost 40 per cent today.

Abortion is legal in Britain up to nine months if doctors believe the baby has a severe disability or the mother's life is at risk.

But termination for 'social' reasons - the effect of the pregnancy on the mental health and well-being of the mother - is legal up to 24 weeks.

However, campaigners argue that the current Abortion Act is outdated because of medical advances that mean more premature babies than ever now survive.

James Gerrard, a GP in Leeds, said: "Out of the six doctors in our practice, three of us object to abortion. I had made up my mind on abortion before entering the medical profession. I feel the foetus is a person and killing that foetus is wrong."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This is an issue we will be discussing with the RCOG."

A Roman Catholic hospital popular with celebrity mothers-to-be is to ban all its staff from providing contraceptives or abortion referrals.

Staff at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in North London is introducing a code of ethics for its resident GPs and other staff.

Anyone working there will not be able to offer any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on the value of human life or sexual ethics.

The hospital in St John's Wood is described as 'the poshest place to push' on account of the maternity unit's A-list clientele, including Cate Blanchett and Kate Moss.

The code is expected to be ratified at a board meeting next month.


There are some things in this article that bother me, but I am happy that many young doctors are recognizing that abortion is taking a human life. It is also nice to see a conservative attitude developing in Great Britain. Perhaps U.S. doctors will take notice.

On the negative side, the media still seems to slant the coverage of this development in a pro-abortion light. ... abortion for social reasons???

The Cowboy Code

I am priveledged to announce my membership in the Cowboy Code Blogroll.

1. A cowboy always tells the truth and keeps his word.

2. A cowboy is a Patriot and stands for Truth, Justice and the American way.

3. A cowboy never betrays a trust or takes advantage.

4. A cowboy is brave, but never careless.

5. A cowboy defends the weak and helps them.

6. A cowboy is kind to children, old folks, and to animals.

7. A cowboy is free from racial and religious prejudice.

8. A cowboy is clean about his person and in thought, word, and deed.

9. A cowboy is loyal, hard working and maintains a high ethic.

10. A cowboy is thankful for what God has given him.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bee Gone!

The following article from "The Independent" caught my eye:

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees

By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross

Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK."
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".
No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.
German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.
Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause. ........


My first reaction to the headline was that it's one more flaky angle from the Global Warming Camp. However, after reading the article, I'm not so sure. First, we don't really know everything about this wonderful creation that we live on, or all of it's inhabitants. It is certain that what each of us does has an impact on the things around us. That is a basic rule of operation within this created order. It is certainly logical that this causal effect applies at all levels. It is something that we innately know -- our actions cause reactions. That innate knowledge is part of what motivates many to quickly accept the idea that Global Warming is a manmade phenomenon. On the surface, it makes sense. When we dig a little deeper, the arguments begin to unravel a bit. Perhaps this theory about the cause of declining bee populations will unravel as more research is completed, or perhaps not. Second, I do wonder where all the bees have gone. I just don't remember seeing as many in the last few years as I remember growing up.

Besides the potentially devastating implications to food production worldwide due to the lack of pollinators for our crops, I have a personal interest in this issue. What would my wife's fresh homemade sourdough biscuits be like without honey?!

My Response to the Question of Why Politicians Lie

Politicians lie because we as a country have lost our way morally. Sadly, this lost direction includes the so-called Christian Right along with every other self-identified group in the country.
In a society bereft of moral clarity, the driving motivation for political activism becomes "me-centric". Certainly it is the natural tendency for each member of mankind to look out for his or her own self-interests. That is part of the self-preservative mechanism that we all possess. However, that self-preservation quickly expands to include factors beyond self that impact self -- sometimes indirectly. When that self-interest is bound by clear moral boundaries, society organizes itself in a manner which embraces those values. When there are multiple, but limited moral paradigms, society will organize around commonality within those multiple paradigms. When there are no clear moral boundaries, society will slowly devolve into chaos until moral clarity, or majority is achieved, typically because some clearly defined group steps into that vacuum. Our country currently lack a common definition of morality.
In such an environment bereft of moral clarity, there will arise individuals whose primary motivating factor is the quest for power or influence. With few exceptions, this describes our current political slate of candidates. In that environment, most of the political candidates who rise to prominence will do so because of their ability to convince the greatest number of voters that they will adequately, if not perfectly, represent their self-interests. Since these politicians typically possess little moral clarity themselves, they will adjust their positions to fit their current audience in an attempt to sway their vote. This closely represents a moral-relativistic worldview. Such a worldview espouses that there is no ultimate truth, therefore, I cannot lie. Political positioning suited to a specific audience is merely that, it has no real meaning. What is said is done only to garner votes and therefore ultimately, power.
If the politician is bound by clear moral boundaries that include the Judeo-Christian prohibitions against lying, there will be a greater likelihood of clear positioning in spite of the specific audience. If the politician were Muslim, there would be prohibition against lying to Islamic believers, but no prohibition against lying to "infidels".
Lying is a part of the basic character of some individuals. Lying should reveal to the informed voter at least some facet of the basic moral character of the politician in question. Part of the difficulty though involves the ability to discern whether a statement is truly a lie. This is due in large part to the media which covers the politicians and often distorts their statements. The distortion is due to the moral-relativistic worldview of many within the media. In this scenario you may have a lie (by the media) distorting a lie (by the politician). It is totally manipulative on the part of each entity in an effort to sway the voters according to the individual self-interest.
Ultimately, lying is the result of the morally relativistic nature of our society. That nature, unless checked, will lead ultimately to a chaotic vacuum into which will step a morally absolute-centered group such as the radical Islamic sects that are rising all across Europe and in some areas of this country.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Cup Runneth Over

Sitting on our mantle is a Hopalong Cassidy mug. My grandmother gave it to me before she died. I think that in a way it surprised her that it was something that I wanted to remember her by. We had gone to visit them and she brought up the subject. She asked me if there was anything that I would like to have as a keepsake. She was concerned that I receive something. I didn't even know that it was still around when I mentioned it. She had hidden it somewhere in the kitchen cabinets and only she knew where it was.

That mug reminds me of going to the farm to visit them when I was a small child. She would cook hot chocolate milk in a pan on the stove and serve it to me in that mug. It brings to mind memories of sitting at the "snack bar" drinking from that mug and eating fresh cookies that she let me help her make. It holds memories of spending the night and waking to the smell of bacon frying and hot oatmeal -- because that's what Grandpa always ate for breakfast -- and that was only the beginning. That cup is so full that it will never run empty. I hope that I can give those kinds of memories to my family.

I miss them.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Truth of the Matter

I find sometimes
That my chain of thought
Though consciously followed,
Resembles a dream
In its convolutions.
The links are often
Hard to discern but
Inevitably lead me
Down a path that flows
Naturally to a point at which
The disparate pieces
Rejoin in a stream
Leading to conclusions
Beyond the expected.
The interwoven threads
Display interconnectedness
And interdependence that
Create a tapestry of
Complexity escaping
Apparent solution.
Is it a paralysis due to
Failure of sifting the
Relevant from that which
Is immaterial?
Or, is it merely the
Truth of the matter
Revealing that in myself
There is insufficient wisdom
And that I must look
To higher sources
For conclusion?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Random Thoughts on Immigration

Strengthen our border controls.
When found, return illegals across the border.
Export the jobs right along with the workers --
i.e. don't discourage companies from investing south of the border.
Cheap labor, lower manufacturing cost, better buy for U.S. consumers.
Guest worker program -- strictly enforced and controlled.
U.S. Unions -- tough. It's either jobs here, or jobs there -- which do you prefer?
We either let them in or we export the jobs.
Implement trade incentives tied to anti-corruption measures.
Offer infrastructure loans.
Accelerate economic development and diversification south of the border.
Give them plenty of reasons to stay home.
Don't whine when you can't hire a maid, or a janitor, or a cook, or an agricultural worker, or a packing plant worker, or .... you get the picture.
Offer free travel south for all inner city gang members. No return ticket. Or, implement forced prison labor gangs. While we're solving problems lets solve as many as we can at one time.

Wind Power

This article was taken from the Amarillo Globe News today.

Region a wind powerhouse
Panhandle among suppliers of top wind user Xcel Energy
By Kevin

New ratings show the Panhandle and South Plains are already leading players in the wind energy game.
Xcel Energy, which serves parts of the Panhandle through Southwestern Public Service, is the utility that provides its customers the most wind energy in the country, according to the new report from the American Wind Energy Association.
"The Panhandle is possibly becoming the wind power capital of the country and we're in the heart of it," said Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves. "Right now wind is 10 to 15 percent of our capacity at SPS and we will see that grow to possibly 20 percent."
The utility added wind capacity in Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Colorado during 2006.
The new Texas power came from four installations in Hansford County in the northern Panhandle that are rated to produce up to 110 megawatts of electricity.

Going with the wind

Utilities using the most wind energy in 2006:
Xcel Energy: 1,323 megawatts
Southern California Edison: 1,026 MW
MidAmerican Energy Holdings: 861 MW
Pacific Gas & Electric: 793 MW
TXU Energy: 704 MW

Xcel buys that power from John Deere Credit and local owners.
One megawatt is enough electricity to power an average of 250 to 300 homes, according to the State Energy Conservation Office.
In 2007, Xcel has added up to 160 megawatts of wind power at the Wildorado Wind Farm largely owned by the Edison Mission Group. Shell Energy's Llano Estacado Wind Ranch at White Deer also serves the utility.
In addition, AWEA ranks the 19th Congressional District as having the most wind power production among districts across the country in 2006.
The district, represented by U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, runs from Deaf Smith County southward past Lubbock to Big Spring and Abilene then north toward Wichita Falls.
It had turbines that had a total rating of 1,419 megawatts.
The district's activity is part of what put Texas in first place for the second year among states producing electricity from wind.
Texas had 2,768 megawatts of capacity while California had 2,361, according to the AWEA report.
The expansion of wind energy may not be over.
"There's at least 20 companies that have expressed interest in developing it in Texas," said Susan Williams Sloan, communications specialist for AWEA. "If transmission is built, there will be more projects. That's our limiting factor."
Xcel's goal of 20 percent wind is in line with standard estimates of how much can be handled.
"In Denmark and regions in Germany and Spain, they have 10 to 25 percent. There's a lot to be learned," Williams Sloan said. "Texas is still at less than 5 percent."


Wind power is an important part of our future. In this part of the world we certainly have plenty of it!

Some related links:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let's Move On

It amazes me how the media (and incidentally the blog world) is so adept at "flogging a dead horse." It's time to let Imus get on with his life. He certainly can't recover the missing brain cells destroyed in his youth. Just like the way the media won't let go of that gal that OD'd down in the Bahamas -- what was her name? -- oh, yeah, Anna Nicole. Let it go. We quit caring about the story a long time ago. The important items of the day are quickly relegated to the back page and the current "dirt" is continually in the headlines. The entire media-ocracy (maybe that should be mediocrity) is turning into a giant tabloid. These tragic stories should evoke sadness for wasted lives, but the objects certainly shouldn't be turned into international icons of celebrity. Let's move on.

Old Tom

The jingle gives him away when he walks in the door;
He rarely arrives unheralded.
On a kid you might think it was merely for show
But the spurs in this case were a natural part
Of the handmade boots they adorned.
The hair's getting thin on the top of his head
But rarely is it ever seen for the paper-thin covering
So yellow with grease that it is almost transparent
Except for the crust that has turned to
Permanent decoration in the vicinity of the hatband.
The holes in the crown were made with a knife
To let the heat escape as it should. The stampede string
That drapes from the back is worn to the point
That some pony's tail will soon be missing a few strands
To be plaited back in by the fingers that are gnarled
And scarred by too many years of working the livestock
That is his life. Fluent in Spanish or English alike
He has worked the ranges from Argentina to Canada.
The wildest he said was the time he was shot down
In a Piper Cub over Uruguay by a band of guerrillas.
It seems they had been raiding stock from the spread
He was hired to patrol by a corporate owner in New York City.
I asked if that meant he was a mercenary to which he replied
"No, I was just the company troubleshooter."
Tom was once known in the outback of Paraguay
As that Christian cowboy because he never failed
To conduct a Sunday Service at his humble home
Which was open to all comers at all times.
His son once told me that he had made more money
Than most people will ever see in a lifetime but
Gave it all away because he couldn't survive
Without helping people needier than him.
The first time I saw him I felt sorry for this man
Who was wearing the worn-out shirt that had
Been patched at least a dozen times. I suspected
He was a down-and-out drifter that couldn't hold
A job and didn't have a nickel to his name. The
Next time I saw him he was sitting in a pickup
With a laptop making entries into a program he
Had written that could tell you in detail anything
Anyone would ever want to know about the operation
That he was responsible for. It seems that he had
Written his Masters Thesis over "cell grazing"
Back in the days before the concept had
Seen the light of any other researcher's eyes.
This Aggie was living the life that he loved
And loving the life that he lived because
He never lost site of his calling.
I'm proud to call him my friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Land of Promise

The children are crying from the hunger
That has plagued his family for generations
Because the meager sustenance purchased
By a hard day's labor barely keeps them alive.
At five feet, two inches, Jose is the tallest
In his family of nine surviving siblings.
His heart is full of fear because the only
Way to improve his family's lot is to travel
North across eleven hundred miles of desert
To where the opportunity for a difference begins.

Across the river is a patrol that seems ever vigilant
Yet the stories abound that there are many ways
To enter the Land of Promise. The small sack
That carries all his possessions is no hindrance
But also no help, because none in his family
Have ever managed to save enough to pay the
Fees that the "coyotes", the human smugglers,
Demand for safe passage. So, it must be the river.

Lost in a wilderness of thorns, he wanders
Searching for water that his body needs
To replenish the reserves which are almost depleted.
He stumbles across a stock tank that,
Although stagnant and warm, provides
That which is necessary for survival. He hears
In the distance the sound of a motor approaching
And knows that he must hide if he is to
Reach his cousin that is supposed to be
Living somewhere in San Antonio.

After weeks of travel, mostly on foot,
He knocks timidly at the door of Fernando,
His mother's cousin. Reluctantly he is allowed
To enter where he is fed and through family news,
Eventually accepted as someone to be trusted.
If only he could find some job that would
Give him the means to live and to send money
Back to his family he would be happy.
He is told there are no jobs to be had here
But, there is work in the feedlots far to the north.

Ernesto drives a truck hauling produce from the
Valley to Lubbock and he will take you, but
You must be careful to do everything that he says
Because the Patrol has been watching Ernesto.
If they catch you, they will send you back.
You must stay beneath the tarp Jose, if you
Want to make it safely. You will be on your
Own to get from Lubbock to Hereford, but
Once you are there, find Emilio, he will help you.

"Can you drive? Can you use a rope? Do you
Know how to doctor cattle? Do you speak any
English? Do you have warm clothes? I will
Get you a Social Security card and a driver's license
To use, but you must remember, your name is
John. You will bring your check to me when
You are paid and I will keep part for the rent
You will owe me, part for your food, and part
To pay for the card and the license. You will
Shovel the feed bunks and clean the tanks
And anything else that they ask you to do."

Six months later, Jose/John can speak enough
English to get around without much help. He
Lives with three others in a room behind the
Laundromat where they cook on a single hotplate.
He has sent twelve hundred dollars to his family
That he misses very much. It is a fortune to them.
In this Land of Promise the work is hard. He yearns
For the day that he can return to his home
And start his own business and a family.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Chivalry is Not Dead

Chivalry is not dead.
It lives on in those who think
There is truly a cowboy way.
It resides in a land of ma'am and sir.
It is the removed hat.
It is opening the door for the ladies.
It is almost humorous in its expression sometimes
Because it is filled with myth
And with a feigned humility
That cover a pride that holds
Little toleration for those
Who would be pretenders.
It is a club with initiation rites
As intricate as the most arcane
Fraternity rituals.
It is a seeming backwardness
Steeped in knowledge gained
Through a lifetime of learning
By watching the old hands
And from the hard knocks of
"Been there, done that."
It echoes the sounds of the deepest Ozarks,
The Texas Plains,
And the feedlots of Kansas.
It is at home in the fastness
Of a high mountain valley
Or on a western Indian Reservation.
It is heard in Elko, Billings, Brush,
Dodge, Kearney, Muleshoe,
Snowflake, Socorro, Gonzales,
And a thousand other towns and cities
Interrupting the landscape from the Mississippi
To the Pacific and from
The Valley to the Canadian North.
It lives on in all of its confused
And colorful expression, in the hearts
More than the mannerisms, of the
Modern mounted warriors
Who cling to the mistaken idea
That toughness is shown only
In physical endurance,
Hard drinking, and extreme living.
The contradictions abound.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

He Is Risen Indeed!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words. Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A Dark and Dreary Day

So far, we've had only a light dusting of snow. However, the forecasters continue to call for a chance through tomorrow night. Tonight, we are expecting a temperature in the low 20's. If the trees weren't damaged already, they will be after the hard freeze tonight. I should have expected this cold spell because the mesquite trees around here still have not budded and 3 of the 4 wild plums that I planted last year have yet to bud. Isn't it interesting how the "native" flora seem to know when spring is really here.

It's rather sad to look out at the green with a sprinklings of snow and know that much of that green will be black and rotting in a couple of days. That thought just adds to the dreariness of the day.

I guess it is appropriate for it to be a dreary day. In the context of Easter, this is the day that Jesus died on the cross. It was a day of great darkness about 2000 years ago. It would have been the point of greatest despair for the disciples. Until his death, there was still hope in their minds. Hope that he would miraculously come down from the cross and step into His Kingship. For them, all hope was gone. Little did they know the events that awaited them the next day.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Strolling the Blog World

I've been out strolling through the blog world and ran across a few that caught my eye. Big White Hat is the first that got my attention. For a down-to-earth worldview you need to check this one out. I also found TechSun, the Texas Rainmaker, and Born Again Redneck Yogi. All of them are certainly worth a look.

An Easter Spell

Just when you think
That Spring has arrived
You'd better start thinking again.
'Cause even though trees are blooming
And birds are singing
And wildflowers are raising their heads,
Until after Easter there's always a chance
That winter will make a return.
It's been a few years since we've seen such a spring
But there isn't a doubt that this year
Winter must have left something behind
Because it's returning in full gear.
The temperature is dropping
And the moisture is falling
And the wind's picking up from the north.
The weatherman's saying the chances are high
That a serious storm's drawing nigh.
The flakes should start falling
Sometime after Midnight;
Expect them to cover the ground.
We might get as much as six or eight inches
Of white stuff by the time Easter morn comes around.
I hope it doesn't kill my trees!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. I thought it might be a good idea to tell a little about Maundy Thursday since many people aren't familiar with it. I had never heard of it until a few years ago.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter that celebrates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It commemorates four events: 1) the washing of the Disciples' feet by Jesus, 2) the symbolic eating of the bread and wine (Holy Eucharist in some churches), 3) Jesus' agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and 4) his betrayal by Judas Iscariot.

The term Maundy Thursday originated in Medieval England. Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mande, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" -- which means "A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you." This is taken from John 13:34 after Jesus had washed the disciple's feet and sent Judas on his way.

Church services held on this day typically include washing of feet, The Lord's Supper, and a recounting of the events of the night prior to Jesus being taken by the Sanhedrin. Typically the account in the book of John is used because of its extensive treatment of the events of that night.

Maundy Thursday is commemorated in many different ways in countries throughout the world. The giving of alms to the poor by the English Monarchy on this night is a tradition that dates back to King Edward I. The giving of coins to the poor is common in numerous countries. In the Philippines, the tradition called Visita Iglesia, or "Church visit" is carried out. In this tradition, the faithful visit 14 different churches as a pilgrimage and say the Stations of the Cross, with one station at each church. Many do this during the "hours of adoration" which occur usually between 8pm and Midnight.

Maundy Thursday is an important Christian tradition. It should be a reminder to us all of the price that Jesus paid for our sins.


The Texas Legislature has proven that it is as spineless as the rest of the country. On Wednesday before Easter, the number one Christian holiday, it had a Muslim imam deliver the opening prayer. Once again, let's fire them all and start over!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Market Psychology

This evening I was visiting with a friend of mine who is a commodities buyer for a very large feed company. He commented about how crazy the market was today. So, I asked him what he was talking about. He said, "corn futures jumped 16 cents on the news that it froze in Missouri. The crazy thing is, they haven't even planted corn in Missouri yet! What could it freeze out?"

The futures market is a very psychologically driven market. It has happened numerous times with cattle futures based on rumors of BSE or some other disease being found. It makes no logical sense to someone in the cattle business. It shows the influence of speculative traders that buy and sell based on psychological factors, not on reality.

The same thing happens in the stock market. Stocks that are totally unrelated to newsworthy events about a business, or industry, are often impacted as much or more than stocks that should directly be effected by a particular news item. It makes sense when the stock of a chip maker falls because its biggest customer is struggling with sales. It doesn't make sense when the entire lending industry is impacted adversely by news that a particular sub-prime lender is heading toward bankruptcy.

It is the individual who understands "mob" psychology that will often do well in the stock market -- at least in the short run. I personally believe that such market gyrations should be ignored and investment should be based on business value, sound management and a strong plan. Time should be taken to understand an industry and the factors that affect it before putting money into it. Gambling based on "gut feeling" is a sure way to lose. That "gut feeling" is often indigestion caused by worrying about an investment that had no real merit in the first place.

Futures markets are a tool for protecting the price of a commodity that one owns, or plans to own in the course of their business. When used properly, they can be a form of insurance against cash price moves based on real-world events. The stock market is a place to invest in well-managed companies that need additional capital to expand. It is a place that requires a long-term view for success. It isn't a place to ride the capricious price swings of a psychologically driven market in the hopes of a windfall. In that environment, only the professionals win.

The markets have always intrigued me. I guess it is part of the same thinking that caused me to major in Agricultural Economics in college. On the micro, or firm level, economics is just a way to evaluate decisions on how to best utilize the resources that you have at hand. On the macro, or system-wide level, economics is frequently heavily influenced by psychological factors. What drives consumer decision making? Are they always rational in their choices? Do businesses always make wise decisions? -- and on and on. The people side of it often creates the greatest uncertainty. Maybe that's why we hear so much about Consumer Confidence Levels and similar measures of people's attitudes about the economy.

I've always enjoyed watching people and puzzling over why they do the things they do. I don't think I'll ever figure it out though. If I did, I'd be wealthy from playing the games in the stock market.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Few Sales Calls

Today was a great day for getting out and making calls on customers and prospective customers -- which is just what I did. Because of my general management responsibilities, I don't get to go out to my customers place of business on a regular basis. It is the part of my job that I enjoy the most. It is crucial that I talk to them about what's important to them, about how we can provide better service, about where they are headed with their business and what is shaping their decisions. That kind of input from customers is critical for my business as we shape our strategy for the future and as we adjust tactically to meet the current demands/needs of our customer base. It is also enjoyable to me to prospect for new customers. In some ways, it is like trying to solve a puzzle. How can we meet their needs? What do we offer that will benefit them? Why are they not our customer currently? -- and a million more questions. Many times that is the key -- asking the right questions. Once I understand their needs and what their objections are, I can shape an offer that meets, or exceeds, their needs and overcomes their objections.

People are interesting. Most are driven by completely selfish desires. It seems to be what makes this world tick. There is a constant "what can you do for me" attitude. It is sometimes expressed as a "why are you taking up my time" attitude. Rarely do you find individuals that are at least somewhat altruistic in their approach to life. Those individuals are motivated more by "what can I do for you" than the opposite. There is a rather interesting argument about what type of person makes the best salesperson. Most corporations look for someone that is highly motivated to succeed. Their definition of success is totally focused on money and production. So, they look for salespeople that are greedy. They want someone who is driven to make more and more money because that is the only way they know to motivate them. Interestingly, some of the most successful salespeople that I've ever met are just like a good teacher. They feel called to be in sales. That calling is one of providing the best possible product at a fair price that will solve a problem for someone else. The type of individual that best fits that role will walk away from a sale if he thinks the customer is making a mistake in purchasing what he is selling. If he isn't able to help his customer, he won't try to "finagle" a sale just for the sake of profit. He's in it for the long run. He knows that he must provide value to the customer in order for the customer to continue to rely on him to fill his needs. The best salesmen give more than is expected in the way of value and service. Their customers love them. I think Sam Walton said something to the effect that "great wealth will come to the person who gives the greatest value to his customer. The amount of wealth gained depends on how much a person gives or serves."

It seems to me that's an attitude that we all need to take in life. Give of ourselves to those around us. It is sometimes very difficult to do -- especially when it interferes with what we want to do. However, I truly believe that the rewards are great to those who give the most. It seems to me that Jesus said something like that -- you must give to receive, you must die to live. This world would be a better place if we all practiced those principles.