Saturday, June 29, 2019

Race Against Time

Ripened fields of golden grain
As the waves of moving air
Quietly o'er the heavy heads
For the giant machinery to
The bounteous increase of man's
While struggling furiously against
As looming masses of vapor
In the western sky which
To delay or possibly to
The fruit of many months
The farmer sends clouds of
To smudge the darkening
In a race against the violence
Has sent to thwart his
Tiny kernels of the
Heap in growing piles of
Where churning wheels
Them to a future turned to
Sustenance for the growing

Friday, June 28, 2019

Gardening: A Love/Hate Relationship

I like gardening.  I hate gardening.  Okay, let me start over...

I love fresh produce from my own garden.  I want to grow those few vegetables which I enjoy such as squash, okra, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn (I want it cut off the cob) and potatoes -- even a few onions.

I also want fruit trees and a vineyard.  I want cherries, peaches, apricots, apples, plums and grapes -- all grown by my own hands.  If I lived in a tropical climate I would add oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit to the list.  I would even try growing bananas, mangoes and pineapple if given the chance.

All of those things are "wants" that come with a lot of hard work.  I love the fruits of my labor, but sometimes am not too thrilled by the labor itself.  Is it a lazy streak?  Not really, because when it needs to be done, I do it.  I'm just not excited about a day in the hot sun with rivulets of sweat making tracings in the dust on my face.

I suspect that's why so few people are involved in agriculture.  It requires a lot of work -- even with modern farming techniques and the application of advanced technology.  The hours are long, the sun is hot, and it seems like everything is out to destroy your hard work -- like a hail storm, or insects, or some exotic disease that you didn't know existed until your plants had withered and died.

I suppose agriculture provides the perfect metaphor for life in general.  We work hard so that we might enjoy the fruits of our labor only to see them stripped away by some unexpected event such as illness, or accident.  Sometimes its just a matter of timing in a volatile economy.

I once had the opportunity to visit with a "past-his-prime but well-known" country singer who owned a ranch in my neighborhood.  He said, "Can you imagine?  I spent my whole life working my tail off so I could get off the farm only to buy one when I finally made it."

Agriculture is in our DNA.  It brought us civilization and wealth.  It is the foundation of every successful economy.  It takes a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it.  Now, I'm thinking a perfect summer southern meal of fried pork chops, fried squash, fried okra, mashed potatoes and cream gravy would just about be perfect....(I know fried isn't the healthiest, but it tastes fantastic.)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Trapped in a Box

One of the things we tend to do with the people we meet is to place them in categories.  This is especially true when it comes to the workplace where people are largely defined by what they do.  An engineer is an engineer.  A biologist is a biologist.  A feedyard manager is a jack-of-all-trades related to cattle.  Yeah, they are somewhat of an exception.

The trouble with placing people into categories is that we sometimes miss the fact that there is more to that person than what their career path has defined.  The engineer may also be a pianist.  The biologist might have a hobby farm that employs advanced agronomic techniques.  The feedyard manager -- well, he's so totally immersed in cattle that he probably has a cow/calf operation on the side, or is a golfer -- which in a way is related since it is chasing a little white ball around a pasture.

Every once in a rare while you run across someone who is proficient in multiple areas.  I'm not just talking about a generalist such as I have mentioned in previous posts, I'm thinking of those individuals who have multiple varied interests that they pursue simultaneously.  You might be able to recognize them by their circuitous career path.  It isn't linear, but may cross disciplines in unexpected ways.  I probably fit into that category.

One of the "buzz phrases" that has made its way around the world of business has been related to "thinking outside the box."  There is much to be said for the concept in that it refers to drawing ideas from unexpected areas.  It says, "don't be trapped in your thinking by convention."  I suppose I've never been particularly conventional and tend to respond to the concept with, "what box?"

We place people into boxes -- those categories I mentioned in the first sentence.  Sometimes we trap them in those boxes.  We fail to recognize that there is likely much more potential to that individual than is defined by the "box" we have them categorized into.  Every person has value beyond their role in an organization.  We need to find ways to tap that value and unleash the creativity that comes with it.  Who knows, maybe the future CEO is currently serving as the janitor....

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Facing the Wrong Direction

Messaging is important.  I've been perusing a large amount of material produced by corporate marketing offices and it is sometimes a chore to figure out exactly what the company does.  They create wordy paragraphs referencing their culture and sometimes their mission, but the core of what they do has to be ferreted out by digging deeply.

I've written before about Trade Shows and how some booth displays clearly indicate what they are about, but the majority mask their mission in phrases and words that require deciphering.  Their message needs to be concise and on point, but often is not.  Large companies with recognizable names will usually go ahead and draw visitors simply through brand familiarity, but the small ones see the traffic pass them by because they don't realize the value hidden behind the vague and confusing messaging.

Companies need to re-learn how to be clear about what they do.  Their images need to convey the same message.  A good example might be a seed company supplying hybrid seed to farmers.  A simple message would state something along the lines of, "Hybrid Seeds Are Our Specialty!"  In the background there should be fields of growing plants from those seeds.  They could inset some smaller photos of a laboratory, a DNA strand, a happy farmer and maybe even a consumer.  The images should support the core message clearly and concisely.

Instead, what you are likely to see is a technology focused photographic mosaic with happy employees doing things which are not clearly related to the message which is all about their culture.  Wait!  Maybe that is the key.  The messaging is focused inward, not outward.  It is all about me rather than what I can do for you.  Could it be that the same disease which has infected individuals is corrupting the ability of companies to articulate why they exist?

We need to reexamine company messaging.  It shouldn't be inward focused; it should be all about the customer and how we serve them.  It should clearly state, "THIS is what we can do for you!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Response, My Responsibility

"Young padawan, you must first learn to master yourself!"

I don't recall that line being used in any of the Star Wars movies, but it might have been.  It does, however, fit my perception of the process of development we must all go through as we grow and learn.  It is a proficiency that is rare, but necessary for success and critical for leadership.

What do I mean?  The best way to explain is with an example.

Suppose you are in a meeting with an individual that tends to "get under your skin."  You suspect it is deliberate, but it might just be a part of their personality -- or, perhaps their background is so completely different from your own that you see things somewhat as polar opposites.  You are often angered by the things they say.  When angry, we are not at our best.  Anger clouds our judgment. It causes us to lose our train of thought and fail to reason clearly.  We say and do things that we regret.

To overcome those situations, you must first overcome your own proclivity to be angered by what is said.  You cannot take the words as being a personal affront even though they may be meant to provoke you.  You must learn to "set aside" your visceral reaction in favor of reasoning.  Stay focused on the issue, not on the perceived abusive behavior of others.  Control your own reaction.

When I was younger, this one was very difficult for me.  I had the world by the ears and planned on conquering everything that stood in my way.  I took any and all obstacles as a personal affront.  It sometimes led to poor judgment.

One of the advantages of a few gray hairs is that they are usually earned through hard lessons.  Those lessons taught me that I didn't have all the answers, even though I may have thought otherwise at the time.  The issue was that I usually didn't have all the information necessary to produce correct answers.  Maybe the best response to the perceived affront is to question.  It is a tool that can be useful if correctly applied, or can be "fuel to the flames" if done poorly.  Many times, the types of individuals who tend to "push your buttons" are provoked if you question them.  They often will respond with indignation and increase their level of attack. 

The best way to diffuse your anger is to seek its source and then seek to understand why you see things differently.  Master your understanding and in doing so, master yourself.

I am posting this in spite of reservations about the wisdom of doing so.  I am not an expert in human behavior, nor do I have all the answers about how to deal with difficult people.  It is something that we all face at times and have to figure out our own way of coping.  My point in all of this is still, we need to learn how to master our own response to those situations.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -- Proverbs 15:1

Sometimes that's easier said than done....

Monday, June 24, 2019

Machines That Know Us?

As creatures of habit, we humans tend to be very predictable.  For those of us who are married, we quickly learn behaviors and habits of our spouse so that we usually know how they might react to various situations, or whether they would choose one type of movie over another.  Familiarity aids us in developing the "sense" of knowing the other.

The ability to predict from observed behavior is something that is likely written into our genetic makeup.  It would logically be part of the set of survival tools that allowed us to become the dominant species on the planet.  We learned many, many generations ago that when certain things were observed -- e.g. a lion -- we needed to respond in a certain way -- run!  Developing the cognitive ability to recognize danger, or safety, or situations calling for decisive action were necessary for coping with the world around us.

Animals also appear to behave along the same lines.  People who are highly observant of how animals respond to stimuli are often extremely good trainers and achieve a level of effectiveness that appears almost empathic.  It is simply that they are observant of the cause and response mechanisms and able to employ them to affect behavior.

What sent me down this pathway today is an observation on Facebook by someone I grew up with that their automobile seemed to know their habits to the point it was spooky.  They got in the car to go to church at the same time they normally do on Sunday and their navigation system informed them, without any input, that it would take them 19 minutes to their destination of XYZ.  The immediate reaction was, "I think our devices know way too much about us!"

Pattern Recognition is a field of study that has been around for a long time.  In recent years computing ability has made it more accurate and more pervasive.  The field of statistics developed as a rudimentary way to analyze behavior and through mathematical modeling, predict likely outcomes based on past behavior.  Today, such modeling has been refined to the point that huge reams of data can be parsed into subsets which allow a tremendous amount of accuracy in predicting behavior.

In the instance of the example above, it is clear that the machine (their GPS) has the ability to recognize patterns at some level.  If every Sunday afternoon at 5:40 they start their car to go to church and approximately 19 minutes later they arrive there, a clear pattern begins to emerge.  If next Sunday they get in that car and start it at approximately 5:40, where are they likely going?  You get the picture.

Computers have given us the power to model behavior in ways never before imagined.  It will be interesting to see how more and more machines mimic human behavior.  It isn't so much that the machines are exhibiting intelligence as they are using predictive algorithms to solve problems almost instantaneously that analyze the situation and compare it to a database of behavior-response scenarios that allow the prediction of likely outcome based on a specific action.

Alan Turing once wrote on the subject.  He suggested that we shouldn't ask the question, "Can machines think?" rather, we should ask, "Can machines do what we (as thinking entities) can do?"  It seems the answer is yes.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Space Food, a "Growing" Frontier

I've been reading quite a bit about the new efforts by NASA and various private companies and other nations to get back to the moon and possibly even to Mars.  The projected timeline for both endeavors is within my potential lifetime.

I remember lying in the floor watching the early forays into space on our black and white television, listening to Walter Cronkite describe what we were seeing.  In my head, I can still hear his voice.  When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon it was as though we, mankind, had achieved a victory.  It was more than just a U.S. win over the Soviet Union in the race to the moon, it was something that "felt" as though it went beyond that to encompass all of humanity.

One of the things that intrigues me as I read about the possibility of going to Mars is the question of how will they transport enough food for the duration of the trip?  If you figure roughly 6 months each way and maybe 90 days on Mars for 4 or 5 people, it will take a good deal of food.  The weight and volume of that food will be an issue in the design of the craft and it will affect other things such as the amount of fuel necessary for the trip and space available for other items.

In recent news there has been much ado about various alternative technologies for producing meat-like products.  One is through the use of bacteria to grow the tissue.  Perhaps that is one of the solutions being proposed for the trip.  If a substantial portion of the nutritional needs of the astronauts can be produced on the way, it might alleviate some of the space requirements.  I don't know enough about the technology to evaluate the feasibility but, I would guess that waste could possibly be recycled and utilized by the bacteria as part of the matter necessary to produce the food.  After all, something isn't created from nothing -- there has to be food to feed the bacteria.  It becomes an issue of efficiency in conversion.

Efficiency is one of the biggest constraints in food production.  There are widely varying differences in the efficiency of different processes.  It is a question of how much input is converted into usable output.  With catfish, the conversion is about 1.1 lbs. of feed for 1 lb. of meat.  In cattle it is closer to 6 lbs. of feed (on a dry matter basis) to make 1 lb. of meat.  I don't know what the conversion rate is with bacteria, but I can't imagine it being possible to do better than 1 to 1.

Even for vegetable production it is something that must be considered.  If we take and take from the soil without replenishing that soil, eventually it becomes unproductive.  Growing food of any kind is a matter of chemistry.  It requires energy and various elements which are extracted and recombined into forms that are usable by us, or by other animals as fuel for growth, maintenance and reproduction.  One of the more valuable contributions of plants is that they take carbon out of the air as well as from the soil.  That could be useful on a craft in space and would reduce the power requirements necessary for carbon scrubbers to keep the air breathable.  The water component is recyclable for the most part and fuel for food production could come primarily from sunlight.

Any way you slice it, food will be one of the major considerations as we venture into space.  The astronauts, trapped within their craft, are a microcosm of the same issue we face on our planet.  We are all, in essence, passengers on this giant blue marble hurtling through space.  We have to manage our resources in new and creative ways as our population grows in order to have enough to last the journey.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Take a Break!

Mental breaks are as necessary as is exercise.  I have found that the two are related.

I usually get both in physical labor.  Some people like to run, or go to a gym and work out, but I prefer to spend my time outdoors doing something physical.  It doesn't have to be mowing the lawn with a push mower in 95 degree heat, or working on a stretch of fence that needs repair; it can be as simple as sweeping the sidewalk.

The best mental break for me is a walk in the woods.  This time of year it isn't something I normally do because of the extreme heat, but when there is a cool morning and I have the time, there is little that I enjoy more.  Often, especially if I am out early or late in the evening, I will see wildlife.  Sometimes it is deer, or the occasional coyote or, feral hog, but I also enjoy seeing the various birds and listening to the frogs.

For some reason, when I am out and doing something physical, the cares and thoughts of work fade away.  My mind rests -- even more so than with sleep.  The constant background churning that is seeking solution to various challenges seems to fade away and I become more aware of the present.  I focus on the sights and sounds around me and simple actions like where I place my foot to avoid snapping a branch that would frighten away any wildlife that might be in the vicinity.  I focus on becoming part of my surroundings rather than an intruder blundering through.

I think our minds and bodies need the "rest" of physical activity just as much as they need the rest of a good night of sleep.  Without those breaks we lose our edge over time and with the fatigue of constant mental focus, we miss things that should be obvious.  It is amazing how often I return to a focused mental effort after such a break and the solutions appear clearly in my mind.

I have learned that small breaks during the work day aid in maintaining mental clarity.  Sometimes it is a deliberate walk to get a drink of water, or possible to step outside for a moment.  Such breaks help me to stay with a task.  It may seem counterintuitive to some, but the right kind of interruptions at planned intervals can speed the process by giving my mind the breaks it needs.

Give your mind a rest.  Get outside.  Do something physical.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bridging Technology Gaps

In a world of specialization, it can sometimes be difficult to be the generalist.  It seems that multiple degrees with increasing focus on a narrow band of study has become a status symbol -- especially in certain circles.  The trend has added to a polarization in the workplace that is embedded within the perceived intellectual superiority of those with "like" qualifications.

Specialists are needed.  As the complexity of technological innovation grows and more deeply permeates everything that surrounds us in an increasingly integrated "Internet of Things," those who have depth of knowledge in such devices and systems are required to keep them operating at expected levels.  For those of us who are "mere users" of the technology, dependency on the specialists comes at the price of loss of control.

In such an environment that is bifurcated into technologists and users, a niche exists that is often overlooked which can lead to failure in the implementation process.  It is that of "interpreter."  During the transition period to new technology, especially, there is a need for individuals who can walk, with some level of competency, in both worlds.  They become the bridge for implementation.

I have filled that role several times in my career.  One of the first opportunities I had to do so was during the early utilization of software systems to track animal health and feed data in cattle feeding operations.  Later, it was in the implementation of diagnostics as a tool of prevention rather than a tool for analyzing events.  Most recently, it has been in the interpretation and application of genomic data to fit within operational constraints of production systems.

Recognizing the need for those who can walk in both the world of technology and the constraints of the users of that technology is difficult for many specialists.  In the first example mentioned above where I worked with users of software in the cattle feeding industry I was told it would take six weeks to achieve a minimum level of competency to be able to solve the issues generated by "ignorant" customer personnel.  It took about half a day to understand how to bridge the gap.  It was a classic case of the "intellectual superiority" of the software developer blinding him to the fact we were dealing with a simple communication issue.

In the end, it boils down to communication.  My father was an educator.  He once told me that until you can explain a subject at a level appropriate to the student in such a way that the student could understand the subject, you did not truly understand the subject yourself.  Maybe that is the key to it all -- the generalist is the "educator" who fills the learning gap between creator and user of systems and technologies.  In this world of growing complexity where "specialists" reign, never forget the need for the generalist who sees a broader picture.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Coronado's Quest

As I gaze across the silent plains
My mind plays tricks on me;
Through shimmers of the rising heat
There appears to be
Moving silently.

In my head I make the leap
To a time so long ago
When Coronado crossed this land
And he didn't know
He might see.

I think of how he may have paused
And raised his hand to halt
The mighty train that followed him
Whose sweat had turned to salt,
On their skin

As unknown strangers there appeared
And sat upon their steeds
So alien with feathers in their hair
Aware of growing needs;
Source of life.

In unknown tongue and gestures
One pointed to the east
Then turned his shaggy mount
And seemed not the least
For safety.

Soon, there before them yawned
The canyon of the Tule
Hidden in the vast domain
Where Comanche rule
By isolation

These warriors of the open skies
Who feared no beast or, man
Led parched and weary soldiers
To quiet pools where they can
Their fill

Before moving on in search
Of wealth they had been told
Lay hidden in this sprawling land;
Cibolo, made of gold,
Leading on,

Never to be found.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Expectations Frame Perspective

The way we view events is often affected by our expectations.  It can be as simple as a storm which we see on the horizon.  We note the amount of lightening and the darkness of the color and think, "That's going to be a bad one."  Once it is over, we pass judgment with words such as, "That wasn't as bad as I expected," or, "Man, that was worse than I thought!"

On a slightly larger scale, our expectations affect our view of climate change.  Flooding in the Midwest this year is an example.  Those who are staunch believers that we are experiencing extreme weather events as the result of climate change see the flooding as a result of that change.  Those who are more skeptical, see the flooding as part of the cyclical nature of the world and point out historic flooding in times past.

What we fail to realize is that the same issue of expectations affects us in many other ways.  If we expect conflict to develop in a family gathering, it likely will do so simply because of how it affects perception of things said, or done.  That perception evokes reaction and the conflict begins.

It happens on social media too.  When we see a post from someone who typically thinks very differently than we do -- such as those of the opposite political persuasion -- we tend to react to it in a polarizing fashion rather than actually thinking about what they posted.  We immediately think, "stupid" liberal, or "ignorant" conservative rather than considering what they are really trying to say.  Admittedly, many such posts are meant to be somewhat provocative, but there is always an intellect of some kind behind them which is saying, "This expresses what I am thinking."

In business we often don't realize that a similar thing occurs.  When we present an idea, or a plan, we do so with expectations that the audience will see it the way we do.  That isn't always the case and we are faced with rejection.  Most people respond to rejection defensively.  The correct response is to be inquisitive.  Until you truly understand what is behind their rejection, you cannot effectively formulate a plan that will be successful, or frame your idea in such a way that it is understood.  We fail to clearly communicate because we are caught up in our own expectations.

Sometimes, our expectations get in the way of our success.  They cloud our ability to understand.  Our first response to rejection needs to be a question; "What is it that I don't understand?"  

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Becoming Innovative

The way we each go about solving problems tends to become entrenched within us.  When we find an approach that works, we subconsciously register that success in the "win" column and are likely to turn to it when the next challenge arrives.  Over time, we may build on that approach so that it becomes somewhat more "elaborate" and it will change slightly over time to incorporate new things that we learn.

Innovation comes with scrapping the old and bringing in the new.  It is difficult because our natural tendency is to turn to the tried-and-true methods that have previously brought success.  We "know" what works because experience has informed us that a particular approach provided a solution.  The problem is that we accept "a solution" as a "win" whether it was the best solution or, not.

One way to becoming more innovative is to look at how others solved similar problems.  We sometimes do this with friends, neighbors and acquaintances, but rarely look much farther.  Until we look beyond our circle of influence, we aren't likely to see radically different methodology.  This hit home with me years ago on a trip to Niger.

I was extremely interested in agriculture as practiced by farmers there.  I went with the preconception that the mega-farm approach using mechanization was the solution to all of their difficulties.  I quickly learned that I needed to lose all of my assumptions and start asking questions.  I didn't understand their situation and overlaying my experience was not truly applicable to solving their issues.

Finding that my "bucket of knowledge" was almost useless in their situation forced me to think differently.  What I learned there has helped me here.  Looking beyond the same old pool of experience is necessary to stimulate thought that leads to innovation. 

I realize this brief commentary doesn't include much in the way of details.  That is intentional.  My goal is to stimulate thought, not provide solutions....

Monday, June 17, 2019

That Which Dwells Within

Sometimes when I write,
The thing that is on my mind
Is wondering if
There is something I might say
That would make a positive impact
On one of my grandchildren
Who might read the words
At some point in the future.

I think,
Deep down,
What all of us really want
Is to know that what we did
Made a difference
For someone else.

There are other times when I write
That I think of those
In other parts of the world
Who might happen upon my words by chance
And read them,
Wondering who this person was
And why they think/thought the way they do
And just possibly
Find something positive there.

I think,
Deep down,
What all of us really want
Is to know that what we did
Made a difference
For someone else.

There are other times when I write
That those people
Who I came across at some point in time,
Whether classmates, or acquaintances,
Or friends through the years
Might read my words
And realize that who they knew
Wasn't all
Of who I am.

I think,
Deep down,
What all of us really want
Is to know that what we did
Made a difference
For someone else.

I hope that somewhere in my words,
People who might read them
Will see that,
In spite of my flaws,
Jesus is firmly at the center
Of what I believe
And who I am.

That, I think,
Deep down,
Is what I should want most of all --
Knowing that what He did
Can make all the difference
For someone else.

"For God so loved the world, He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not die, but have eternal life." -- John 3:16

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day

We watched the College World Series game yesterday between Texas Tech and Michigan.  It was more than out of character for me to do so, but my better half is an extremely passionate fan of the Red Raiders.  I also am happy to see them do well although they are not my alma mater.

The game made me think of Dad.  He loved baseball.  I wanted to take him to the College World Series but, either never had the money, or the time, to make it happen.  It is one of those things I regret.  It was something he wanted to do, but was never able.

Baseball is a game that requires patience.  It isn't like football, or basketball, with the constant action.  In some ways golf is similar because of the duration, but golf is an individual sport with competitors going head-to-head while baseball is a team sport at the deepest level.  It requires constant situational awareness which changes continually throughout the game.  Every player is dependent on his teammates and must anticipate their response to each action.

I don't have the patience to watch it for any length of time simply because I don't have the passion for the game.

Today, on this Father's Day, I am listening to the thunder which is likely to persist throughout the day.  We have had rain since about 3:30 a.m. and it is expected until Midnight.  I don't know of any baseball games scheduled here today, but if there were, they would be rained out.  I'm sure the weather will put a damper on some cookouts though.  I'm sure that if they are watching baseball in heaven, Dad will be there -- unless he's playing, or golfing.

Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Life on the Farm Ain't Really Laid Back....


S - seeking perpetuity in the ability to deliver.
U - understanding the long-term consequences of actions.
S - securing the welfare of all through thoughtful planning.
T - taking only what is necessary and regenerating where possible.
A - aiming for generational continuity.
I - intelligent use of resources.
N - natural processes that replace damaging practices.
A - acting responsibly toward others and the environment.
B - building systems that focus on renewability.
I - investing in solutions.
L - long-term thinking.
I - integrating economic and environmental systems.
T - teaching responsibility for and to others.
Y - yielding to needs beyond self.

I've been spending time digging into some of the new agricultural technology -- or, at least reading about it.  The buzzword of "sustainability" gets tossed around a lot.  I am a firm believer in sustainability, but I think sometimes the word gets used and abused in ways that subvert the meaning.

Ultimately, sustainability means to look beyond oneself.  All of us follow the natural tendency to focus first on our personal needs and then on the needs of our immediate family.  Rarely, you find those who reach beyond that to their community.  Even more rarely do you see someone who thinks on a broader basis -- to the needs of humanity.  Most of those have some angle that is driving at financial wealth.

We need more people who think in terms of global impact who recognize that we are all -- no matter of race, creed or country -- passengers together on this giant marble swinging around the sun as it hurtles through space.  We need to realize that actions have consequence beyond ourselves.

Am I a globalist?  No.  But, I do believe in a phrase captured in the Declaration of Independence in the words of Thomas Jefferson that "all men are created equal."  In spite of those who would make him an atheist, Jefferson was echoing a Biblical tenet in that we all are descendants of Adam.  We are all part of the human race.  Come to think of it, Darwinians think the same way, but they see us as descendants of primordial ooze.

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'" -- 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Feeding mankind will become increasingly challenging as populations continue to grow.  Weather factors affect production in various areas every year.  Seeking ways that work with the local climate, yet recognizing that it won't always cooperate, we must realize that the efforts in one geographic area may ultimately be the salvation of another.  We are dependent on each other -- globally -- for food.  Here in the U.S. many of our fruits and vegetables come from other countries.  They are often luxury foods, rather than our primary foods.  In some other countries that isn't always the case.  Many of them are virtually dependent on imported food to feed themselves.

Profit is necessary in order to fund growth.  It shouldn't be the total focus of man's endeavors, but must be a part of it.  Profit can be defined as "increase" above the cost to produce.  The "increase" of a herd are the calves born.  The "increase" of a crop is that each seed produces many hundreds of seeds.  U.S. food production is profit driven.  In most parts of the world it is survival driven.  We are fortunate to have an economic system that allows us the luxury of building a food system, through its profitability, that surpasses anything in the world.  We must remain aware though, that we cannot feed the world alone and that as our own population grows, there will be increasing pressure on resources by competing needs.

Sustainable practices here can inform sustainable practices worldwide.  We must continue to do more with less.

As to globalism vs. nationalism, I am unashamably a nationalist.  I believe in my country and our system of government.  It is being threatened at a level never before seen -- internally.  Those who would destroy it use everything possible against it -- even food production.  We need to be exporting our beliefs and our systems rather than allowing the destruction of those very things by those who would tear us down in order to build something else.

I suppose I have rambled a bit this morning.  Reading the mess in the news sometimes does that to me....

Friday, June 14, 2019

Thorns, Scars and Lessons

I've been doing quite a bit of "clean up" out at our place in the country -- mainly along fences which quickly become overgrown with brush and vines if they don't receive regular attention.  As a consequence, I get to deal with itching arms and legs from the chigger bites.  Fortunately, they don't attack me quite as bad as they do some people so it isn't unbearable.  It is a task that is much easier if attended to regularly than if one waits until the fence is overgrown.

This country is interesting because it's as if "nature" doesn't want to be controlled.  It seems that most of the trees and vines have thorns on them.  I was working to clear a path through one particular area yesterday using a chainsaw to cut through a tangle.  A dead honey locust tree (think 2 inch thorns all over it) had fallen.  It was covered in a vine of some kind that had probably been the reason for its demise.  The vine had spiraled around the locust and then grown across to multiple other trees, using them as a trellis to spread through the canopy.

I cut through the tangle and then had to pull the masses of thorny tree tangled in vine out of the way which meant pulling the remaining uncut vines loose from the trees overhead which sometimes caused thorny branches to come crashing down on my head.  It was hot and humid and there were mosquitoes and fireants and the unseen chiggers.  As I backed away, straining to drag a tangled mass to a spot where it could be piled for later disposal, I backed into a Bois d'arc tree.  It felt as though a thousand tiny needles were piercing my back.  What fun!

Oh, did I mention the greenbriar?  It is a vine that seems to grow everywhere in this part of the world.  It is covered with thorns similar to those on a rose bush.  They seem to go through any and everything.  Leather gloves help, but do not prevent them from leaving bloody punctures and scratches all over.  There was also greenbriar in the tangle.

Somehow I managed to get a honey locust thorn stuck in the end of my finger in the process -- through the leather glove.  I pulled it out with my teeth -- or, tried to do so.  The broken-off tip later had to be dug out with a needle.

What struck me about the whole mess is that it is an example of what happens in our lives.  If we allow the unwanted things to creep in and become established, it can be a difficult chore to clean them up and get rid of them.  They need constant, regular attention which requires discipline and effort.  It's a lot easier to gain control before they grow up to entangle us.  Allowing them to overwhelm us can be deadly (like the choked out tree) and removing them can leave scars.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Aging and Attitudes - A Little Randomness

Why is it that the more I learn, the less I know?
Why, with knowledge, do certainties become uncertainties?
How does youthful optimism become the skeptical old man?
Is experience about learning, or about attitude?

There was once a young man named Roy
Who wanted to be a cowboy
He headed out west
In spurs and a vest
And that is the end of my story.

If I follow my dreams to the end of the earth
In pursuit of riches and fame
Will I lose all the things that truly are worth
The price of my good name?

Life is a series of blusters and blunders
That lead us ever on
With fits and starts and various arts
We look up and find it is gone!

I once thought I could be President
Then found out I didn't want to be.

I never quite had the world by the tail
But, I found the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have done
By them to little old you.

It's about the journey, not the destination.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Trends in Food Production

I was reading this morning about a company in Singapore that is growing shrimp meat in a laboratory.  They populate a "soup" of growth medium with shrimp tissue cells which then grow.  After a period of time, they strain the cultured tissue from the liquid and have what is basically a shrimp puree.  It is being served in high-end restaurants there.

Singapore is a tiny country with a huge population.  Only about 1% of its land mass is devoted to agriculture, so virtually all of their food has to be imported or, harvested from the sea.  That dependence on others for their food has led their government to invest a good deal of money in new technologies such as vertical farming -- or, greenhouses in the sky (in a land of tall buildings, they add greenhouses on the roof).

Here in the U.S. the recent Beyond Meat initial public offering was extremely successful.  They create meat-like products using vegetable proteins.  The products have zero appeal to me, but they must entice a lot of people because investors have bid up their stock to a $5 Billion valuation.  I guess my penchant for beef biases my opinion, but I am concerned about the sustainability of such an enterprise.  The ingredients compete with the vegetable industry more than the beef industry.  Cattle eat plants that are not especially desirable or usable by humans.  Beyond Meat has done a fabulous job on their marketing campaign which appeals to many groups such as vegans, animal rights groups and climate change fear-mongers.

You can probably tell by my posts of the last few days that new food-production technologies are on my mind.  I have always been intrigued by such things, that's probably why I have stayed with a career in agriculture.

There will be proponents of strictly technological solutions to the world's food needs, but I think we also must think about it in other ways.  Fully integrated solutions similar to "First American" practices (American Indians) are another approach.  Many tribes would plant corn (maize) and then plant beans between the stalks.  The corn stalks would act as trellises for the bean vines.  They planted squash and other species such as pumpkins and cucumbers in a similar manner.  They were producing multiple crops on the same land simultaneously.  Modern mechanized farming methods make that all but impossible.

Another initiative that has interested me is the "Whole Earth" approach that creates intensive farms on very small acreages.  It might combine fruit trees, berry vines, vegetable plots, bee-keeping, greenhouses, chickens and swine all in a small space -- maybe 10 acres.  Irrigation water would be cycled and re-cycled and the ditches would be used to grow fish.

The big difference between the two approaches -- technology vs. integrated -- is the labor necessary for success.  A technological solution replaces human labor whereas the integrated solution is labor intensive.  One question I have for the proponents of pure technological solutions is what do people do when all of the jobs are replaced by robotics?  Not everyone is suited to be a computer programmer or, an engineer....

I think we need to consider all approaches to food production.  Each has its place and proponents.  It will be interesting to watch and hopefully be involved in over the coming years.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Budgets and Allocations

Years ago, in one of the various roles I served a small company, (to me it was large, but in the bigger scheme of things not as large as it seemed) I was responsible for developing an operating budget for the areas of business for which I was responsible.  It was in a time of rapidly fluctuating input prices -- particularly for fuel -- which were a significant component of our operating costs.  We were challenged to find ways to reduce those expenditures yet, to grow our top line revenue.

Any type of business operation works somewhat like a funnel.  You, hopefully, have a large amount of material going in the top (revenue) and after siphoning off what is necessary to keep the business running and generate that revenue, a steady stream coming out the bottom of the funnel.  The size of the "out" end of the funnel is larger, or smaller, based on the amount siphoned off to cover those operating expenses.  Most people in management focus on the expenses, whereas most leaders focus on the amount going into the funnel at the top.  That is one of the key differences between management and leadership.  One seeks to control activity and the other seeks to stimulate activity.

In a generalized sense, both types of individuals fill crucial roles in an organization and both are constantly thinking about the allocation of resources to meet various needs.  [I didn't intend such a lengthy preamble to what I wanted to say this morning.]

Allocation of resources is a complex problem for most businesses.  It can be complicated for a household dealing with competing needs -- house payment, groceries, fuel, clothing, etc.  If you expand the thinking to a country economy, or even beyond to the world economic situation, the problem becomes almost insolvable.  We depend on the marketplace to allocate resources based on pricing mechanisms that are often manipulated by governments -- such as the tariff "wars" with China, or the product embargoes against Iran.  Ideally a free market allows for efficient allocation of resources.  That free market can mean large price fluctuations based on temporary shortages, or gluts of specific products -- especially applicable to agricultural products -- food.  These can be local, regional, or global in nature.

Is there a better way?  After all, security issues will always come into play in interactions between countries -- or, between companies.  Those issues affect the movement of goods and services around the globe.

I don't think a "One World" government is the answer -- mainly because it concentrates power in too few hands, but I do think better needs-based intelligence could help provide a solution.  The growth of databases and the computing power now available can help us to solve global issues of resource allocation.  Making that "intelligence" available to businesses can provide better decision-making processes based on the dynamics of resource movement.

The problem is an old one; it is simply that of logistics.  When I was in college I took a course in Operations Research which was the mathematics behind solving efficient allocation of resources.  In simplest terms, an example is the best way to describe it.  If you are a large railroad company moving freight around the country, how do you determine the routing of individual rail cars to most efficiently transport them across the country from their point of origin to the nearest point of termination?  If you really think about it, it can become extremely complex.

For many years this type of problem was solved by brute force computation and a few wild guesses.  Today, it can be solved very quickly with computers.  Now expand that thinking to the worldwide allocation of food....

Monday, June 10, 2019

More Thoughts on Food Production

It seems that across the world people are becoming more and more interested in food production.  I think there are a number of reasons for this:  1)  Growing populations need to eat and some are recognizing a real concern with the ability of our planet to feed everyone adequately.  2)  Environmental impact of food production.  3)  Global warming -- whether you subscribe to human-causation, or not, doesn't matter because enough people do to make it an issue.  4)  Periodic weather events that disrupt agriculture.

I have recently been working with some folks from England regarding a project which they hope eventually to take to the AIM market (Alternative Investment Market -- similar to NASDAQ in the U.S., but on the London Exchange).  They have indicated that the taste for longer-term investments in agricultural technology is something very popular on that market and seek to take advantage of it.  I find that interesting -- the words "longer term."  Here in the U.S. most investors are worried about quarterly reports and fear "long term" operational horizons for their investments.

I mention that because this morning as I perused the Reuters News I came across two articles related to food production.  The first had to do with a vertical greenhouse and the second with a global network of satellites to map heat which is expected to be a useful tool for agriculture.

The vertical greenhouse mentions some of the very ideas that I referred to in yesterday's post regarding proximity of vegetable production to the marketplace.  It is investment intense, yet the advantages on reduced transportation and reduced land-mass footprint are also large.  It allows for better control of pests and invasive plant species (weeds) than do traditional production practices.

The heat mapping is interesting because I believe it will show something that might be even more beneficial in surprising ways than the benefits to agriculture.  I believe it will also show the impact of urban/suburban development on trapping heat.  The earth is an integrated bio-physical "machine" in which what happens in one place affects what happens in others.  I suspect far too little focus has been placed on the impact of urban development than is needed.  Along with adressing some definite opportunities in agriculture production, we need to re-think how we build cities.

Anyway, just my thoughts this morning....

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Exploding Populations and Food Production

I generally take information coming out of the United Nations with a great deal of skepticism simply because there is so much of it that is politicized, but their projections for world population growth, whether high, low or dead-on, should be taken seriously.  Barring some major worldwide disaster of unprecedented proportions, the population on the planet will grow.

Feeding that population will create challenges.

In today's world there are strange forces at work when it comes to food production.  1)  You have animal rights activists who believe we should completely eliminate animal proteins of any kind from our diet.  2)  There are environmental pressures -- some believe all agriculture is bad for the environment.  3)  There are trendy movements toward "organic" or "all natural" that affect productivity.  4)  There is the "eat local" movement.  5)  There is the "fresh" movement that would eliminate preservatives.  6)  There are various diets that eliminate certain food groups.  7)  There is competition for the resources to grow it -- land and water.

I'm sure I've missed a few of the anti-food-as-we-know-it pressures, but you get the picture.

My point is that in spite of the need to feed a rapidly growing population, there are pressures that negatively impact agriculture.  Add to that the normal periodic effects of massive weather events such as flooding in the U.S. this year which has delayed corn planting, or the droughts and fires followed by flooding which have hit Australia recently and the ability to feed the planet's population becomes increasingly questionable.

What is the solution?  New technologies that help us to do more with less -- just as U.S. agriculture has done for years -- in new and creative ways.

We need meat protein production for several reasons.  Animals are efficient converters of plants, that are unusable by humans, into excellent foods is the primary one.  Livestock, especially cattle, are also an effective way to manage some environments such as prairies and deserts -- if properly handled.

Vegetables are a different issue.  Locally grown has tremendous merit due to spoilage in transportation.  Transportation is also another problem -- the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere is transportation.  Growing vegetables locally would eliminate some of that.  They also lend themselves to industrial-type greenhouse conditions which are effective ways to grow them with a low spacial footprint which helps to solve issues of seasonality.

One of the greater concerns that I have is that of food waste.  In the U.S. it is a real problem.  Previous generations had lower food waste because they utilized the "scraps" and leftovers by feeding them to swine or their dogs -- which by-the-way had "jobs" such as "burglar alarm" and guardian of the domestic stock against predators.  How much potential human food is made into pet food?

Probably the biggest issue that will impact our ability to produce the necessary food to feed the burgeoning world population is water.  Competition between industry, cities and agriculture for this single limited resource will become fierce.  Efficiently utilizing it to meet the various competing needs is a problem we need to accept and begin now to implement plans that will meet the future needs.  With an expected increase of the world population of about 60% over today's numbers to a projected 11.2 billion people by 2050, we need to face the reality that water is going to be a growing issue.  That's only about 30 years away -- the blink of an eye when you really think about it.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Choose to Care

Caring is a decision.

What is it that makes us choose to care for some things and not others?  Why do we value some things or, some people, above others?

Value is something we assign.  It is sometimes related to the cost, but not always.  Sometimes it is related to the uniqueness, or scarcity.  Usually, value is related back to self -- what is it to me?  How does it affect me?

When it comes to people, we usually value family above all others.  Is that impulse driven by genetic coding that is focused on perpetuating our own familial line?  That perception sums up what most scientists believe -- that it is all about preserving our own genetic lineage.  After family, we tend to value friends -- especially those we believe will aid us in time of need.  Again, it is all self-focused.

After friends, we tend to value those most like us.  This is the source of racial, or national pride.  We believe those like us will be most likely to have similar values and cause the least amount of harm to us.  Again, self-focus.

One of the things that is most difficult for anyone who believes in God is that He makes no distinction between people.  He values all the same and offers the same opportunity to all races, no matter what they have done as individuals, to enter into His presence by the divine gift of His Son.  He also has called us to love, or value, as He does.

If we would learn to care about others as God cares for us, this world would be a very different place.

Choose to care.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Navigating Life

The advent of GPS Navigation systems certainly changed the way we travel.  I recall some of my earliest experiences with it.

Not long after it became a common tool for automobiles, I went on a trip across Kansas and through Missouri with a feedlot manager calling on some of his customers and doing a couple of producer meetings.  I was fascinated by his TomTom GPS system -- especially when we reached a point where the maps had not been updated to reality.  A new bridge had been put in which we crossed.  On the navigation screen of the TomTom it showed us crossing the river with no highway -- we were offroading it over water.

A few years later I was on a customer prospecting trip in Kentucky with a colleague who worked for the manufacturer of a product we were using.  We headed out of Lexington into the hills of the backwoods part of the state following his Garmin GPS system.  He had plugged in the address of a veterinarian whose clinic was somewhat off the beaten path.

We started out on a major highway and then, following the directions of his Garmin, turned onto a smaller highway which led to a barely paved blacktop which eventually turned to gravel.  After many miles of gravel road we were sent down a smaller gravel road that showed much less travel and eventually turned into a couple of tracks with weeds growing in the middle.  We passed a number of questionable places along the way and a couple of times, thought we heard banjos playing (just kidding).  The road eventually ended at a locked gate.

The Garmin showed we were about 1/2 mile from our destination which lay on the other side of the fenced pasture in front of us.  My faith in the navigation system was somewhat tested on that trip.  We had to backtrack about 30 miles and take a completely different route to get where we were going -- which, by-the-way, was across the pasture from where we had ended up previously.

[As I write this, I suspect I may have related this story previously.]

It seems there is a setting in the GPS system that gives you the option to choose the "shortest route" or the "fastest time" to your destination.  You also can program it to avoid toll roads if you so choose.  Frequently, the shortest route is not the fastest time as we found out in Kentucky.

Anymore, I use Google Maps on my phone.  It is usually up-to-date and I can easily look at optional routes.  Others will argue there are better map software applications, but I haven't found one yet that beats Google's version.

I'm not sure why this came to mind this morning unless it is just a reminder that there are many roads we travel in life.  Sometimes the route to the destination isn't the obvious one -- what appears to be a direct path is often the most difficult and may lead to a dead end.  It also reminds me that we need to trust the Navigator.  Fortunately we have One who is always up-to-date and takes us down the best path to our destination if we will trust Him to do so.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."  -- Proverbs 19:21

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Commemorating the Courageous

In the face of overwhelming odds
One does what must be done.

Resignation in the face of fear
Becomes courage to move on.

Love, duty, patriotism, loyalty --
Driving forward to the goal

The one merges with the many
As they storm the foreign shore

To liberate from those who would subjugate
All in their quest for power.

May the lessons be remembered
As we commemorate the courageous.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Patterns in Nature

Repetitive sequences;
Mathematical models;

Spiraling progression;
Exact ratios;

Latticework layers;
Visual wonders;

Oscillating patterns;
Vectored forces;

Least resistance;
Gravity driven;

Branching upward;
Ever seeking;

Nature is amazing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Not Lunch With Buffett

Each year there is a raffle for lunch with Warren Buffett to benefit the Glide Foundation, a charity in the San Francisco Tenderloin District that serves the poor, homeless, or those battling substance abuse.  This year, the price paid was approximately $4.57 million.

I think it is admirable that 1) Mr. Buffett would assist the foundation in this way and 2) that someone would donate that much money to help those in need.  I know nothing of the foundation other than of its existence and the annual charity.  Hopefully, it is well-run and not just a way for a handful of people to become wealthy off of the charitable tendencies of good people as so many so-called charities are.

If we set aside the charitable nature of the auction for a moment and think about paying for the privilege of having lunch with Mr. Buffett, the concept falls into a completely different light.  Mr. Buffett is known for his sagacity in the world of investment and has led his Berkshire Hathaway company to an extreme level of success while building his own Net Worth to a level seen by only a few.  It is assumed that lunch with him would provide the opportunity to garner a glimpse into that ability to accumulate wealth and allow for probing questions that would enlighten the purchaser of his time so they might recreate that success.

The people that most need that opportunity are least likely to be able to afford such a lunch.  The people who are most likely to be able to afford such a lunch are those least likely to need it.

I've been fortunate through the years to have the chance to interact with some very successful people and also with some people who had a lot of money.  They aren't necessarily the same group of people although both groups tend to have accumulated a large Net Worth.  Those who have that Net Worth by virtue of inheritance are often not particularly successful -- although there are exceptions.  Those who have built it from more modest beginnings all have a few things in common:  1)  They are focused on a few things and tend to stick to their core business.  2)  They work hard, but they also work "smart."  3)  When they take risks, they are based on thorough research that gives them a good assessment of their odds of success.  4)  They surround themselves with people who will challenge their assumptions and are above average intelligence.  5)  They believe in what they are doing -- they are passionate.

I think these are the kinds of things one would learn from lunch with Warren Buffett.  I don't know, I've not had that opportunity and I wouldn't pay to have it.  I have seen similar things written about him though as being things he has said.

If you will send me a private message I'll be happy to let you know where to send your donation.  I would prefer it be paid directly to me, but if you want it to go to a charity, just let me know which one and I will pass it on....

Monday, June 3, 2019

Building Blocks and Questions

This morning as I look forward to the week, my mind keeps turning toward things about which I wish I knew more.  One area that intrigues me is molecular biology.  Ultimately, what makes each of us unique is encoded in or DNA.  Not only does it make us unique as individuals, but it makes us unique as a species.

I recall many years ago an individual who worked for me discussing evolution and how there was only 1% difference in the genetic makeup between man, chimpanzees and gorillas.  He used that as an argument that it is "obvious" that we (humans) evolved from apes.  From a certain point of view his reasoning makes sense, but it certainly isn't conclusive.

If you think about it, we have many basic body features in common with apes such as the way our arms move (brachiation) and the relationship between our upper and lower bodies.  It would make sense that the genes which build such structures would be essentially the same between the species.  Structurally, we are much alike.

That 1% difference could also be explained by creationism.  If I build something that works in a certain way, it would only make sense that I reproduce those features which function as I desire into the next project that may be different.  In other words, I may use the same frame in 2 different models of cars, but the body I put on that frame may be very different.

The concept of time is also brought into play when discussing evolution.  The various rock strata on earth are frequently used to establish a timeline for the evolution of different species.  The layer of rock which holds fossil remains provides a type of measure to determine "when" something occurred.

Time is a slippery concept -- especially if you place a Creator outside of our perceived time which you must inevitably do since a Creator is not part of the created.  Therefore, time as we perceive it is irrelevant to that Creator.  What to him might be a day, could equate to millions of years to us.

Changes in species over what we might perceive as millions of years may in fact have happened minutes apart when perceived from outside our present timeline.  What instigated those changes?  The common explanation is genetic mutation caused by transcription errors.  It could as easily be explained by deliberate altering, much as man has learned to do through what to us is new technology to manipulate genes such as CRISPR.

I suppose my whole point in this brief commentary is that I wish I better understood all of the processes and links at the molecular level.  The whole thing starts with base pairs of molecules called purines and pyrimidines.  These, in groups of 3 base pairs, form codons which in turn determine the structure of amino acids which are strung together into proteins.  In other words, the order of the base pairs determines which proteins are produced. 

What I have described is an extreme simplification.  What intrigues me is that we now have the technology to "clip out" sections of the DNA strand and "splice" in a replacement.  Just suppose the Creator has been doing that as well....

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Light You See

In pride I stand
With arms spread wide
Bathed in brilliant light.
The center of attention,
All eyes turned to me,
I feel it is my right.
Why not me?

Then I see
That blinding pulse
Has my soul laid bare.
Don't place me here,
Don't look at me,
It isn't really fair.
Why me?

The two of us
All wrapped as one
Fall to our knees in shame.
The outward me,
The inward me,
Are really all the same.
Who am I?

Then Jesus whispers
In my ear
"It isn't about you.
The light you see,
It shines on me,
And I am always true.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'" -- John 14:6

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Dragging Main

Dragging Main was "the thing" to do when I was growing up.  Sometime in the last (ahem) years it apparently went out of style.  I don't know why, I was too busy trying to make a living to notice.  I do know it wasn't something my kids did, but we were living elsewhere by then.

In a small town there isn't much to do that appeals to the majority of the teenage crowd -- or, at least that was the case many years ago.  I suppose today there are video games that fill the time.  When I was growing up though, a newly minted drivers license meant any and every excuse to spend time behind the wheel was important.  It even had me running errands for my mother -- like going to the grocery store.  Sometimes I took the long way.

I never was particularly "social" back then and that probably holds true today, so dragging Main wasn't a big deal to me.  I would rather spend my time hunting, or reading, or in some other solitary pursuit.  Besides, my parents weren't particularly open to my wasting fuel running up and down the street, or sitting on a tailgate on The Square and hanging out with others who might be a "bad influence" on me.

There were times though, when I participated.  It was always interesting to see who was riding with who and who was "missing" and possibly parked somewhere....

Those were the days of muscle cars.  There were quite a few of them in my hometown.  Most had glass packs for mufflers and the low "rrrmm rrrmm rrrmm" of the horsepower rolling through town echoed off the buildings.  Occasionally a couple of them would pull up beside each other at the single stoplight in town and the squeal of tires and echoes of high performance engines could be heard when the light turned green.  The local constabulary frowned upon such behavior, so most of the contests were conducted on some more remote stretch of highway such as the Cemetery Road.

I guess what led me down this chain of thought this morning is that it is now June.  That means summer which includes July 4th.  Fireworks come with the celebration of our Independence and I definitely recall bottle rocket wars conducted out of car windows and on the Square.  It's a wonder we survived.

Anyone care to share a few memories?