Six things I do need – A second comment about the future of our economy

September 6th, 2011 No comments

Last month I wrote about things I don’t need.  You can view those comments here if you like.  Today, I’m going to write about things that I do need.  Things that will make life better.

  • I need to know that my children are safe when I’m not around.
  • I need to know that my elected officials are doing what I elected them to do.
  • I need to know that my government is acting in the long-term interest of the country and its people.
  • I need to know that the people in charge are strong enough to make the tough decisions, even when it hurts.
  • I need to see that we act with compassion for our neighbors and our communities.
  • I need to see that we offer a helping hand to people that need one.

For  too long, it has paid, at least in the US, to act in one’s own interest to the detriment of others.  There have always been people willing to do this.  I don’t think they’re going to change very easily.  Certainly not on their own.

However my impression is that these people, the selfish ones, now have way too much power.  The checks and balances that were built into our government have been subverted.  New technologies allow those with a public voice to have much more influence than they ever have in the past.  Our leaders play homage to democratic structures and ideals, yet behind the scenes they serve only themselves.

As our economy continues to shift, (I think we’re all agreed that it is shifting) we need to change in positive ways.  And this change must be a deliberate one, with a positive intent.

The needs listed above are collective needs.  One person can’t control any of them directly.  But in my opinion, one person can make a difference.  I therefore post this for myself, as a personal challenge:

What can I do today that will make things better for everyone?


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The day I made a difference

September 4th, 2011 No comments

At some point in our life, almost all of us wonder about our ability to make a difference in the world.  This is a personal story that seems to show that we can.

I was at the University of Maryland (quite a while back now), attending classes.  I was walking between buildings, and was annoyed that yet again, the person in front of me had not even bothered to hold the door for me, despite my close proximity.

Now I’m not particularly thin-skinned, and my annoyance was actually due to the fact that no one on campus ever bothered to hold doors, rather than being due to the actions of whoever  it was in front of me at the time.  In a campus with 30,000 students, there were always people in front of you and behind you between classes, and for some reason common courtesy had been lost.

Then and there, I resolved to hold the doors for everyone behind me, even if they were 20 feet away.  I would be friendly and considerate to my fellow students, irregardless of how I was treated by others.

And things changed.

Literally within weeks, I found people holding the door for me, even when I was several paces behind.

Now you can argue it was my imagination.  You can argue I was biased to see a positive result.  But I’m an engineer, and I can be pretty good at examining data when I want to.  And I’m convinced things changed.

You might also argue that something else happened at the same time to cause the change, and that my action was purely coincidental.  And you could be right.  But in my mind, for the rest of my life, I will continue to believe that what I do makes a difference.  And I’ll act accordingly.

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Think you know what is dangerous? Check out these common ways to die.

August 27th, 2011 No comments

The reality of what is likely to be fatal might surprise you.  Some things seem REALLY scary, but, at least according to this page, don’t actually occur very often.  Too bad they don’t specify their sources.

Common Ways to Die

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August 11th, 2011 No comments

Some clever Germans have found a way to build a WLAN using LEDs.  Check out the link here:

Light Bulb Networking

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You think you know emoticons?

August 10th, 2011 No comments

Wikipedia has dozens and dozens of emoticons in their online listing.  Everything from the common ones that we all know to obscure ones that you’ve probably never seen.  They also have some interesting multi-line emoticons based on double-byte characters.

Emoticon List

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Incredibly Inspirational Video

August 8th, 2011 No comments

If you haven’t seen this video of Taiwanese motorcyclists you are missing out.  Best 3.11 minutes of the day, guaranteed.

Dream Rangers

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Calvin & Hobbes Teach Economics

August 7th, 2011 No comments

Bill Watterson was a teacher.  He taught us to look at the world as children again, and he taught us about the silliness in our ways as adults.  One of my favorite strips is, oddly enough, a sad commentary on our economic dilemma.  It is astounding how much insight he was able to package into just a few small boxes.

Calvin & Hobbes Teach Economics

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Eight things I Don’t Need

August 6th, 2011 No comments


I am one of the luckiest people on the planet.  Not because I win things.  Can’t remember even winning a raffle.  And I’m not rich, at least by US standards; you’d probably call me middle-class.  My lifestyle isn’t extravagant, and my tastes are pretty simple.

Given the billions of people on the planet, however, I’m wealthier and healthier than the vast majority.  I’m really lucky.

And here’s the thing: I don’t need any more stuff.

  1. I don’t need a bigger TV.
  2. I don’t need more horsepower, better handling, or more fun out of driving.
  3. I don’t need more channels on cable.
  4. I don’t need greater internet bandwidth.
  5. I don’t need a faster CPU, a bigger hard drive, or more music selection.
  6. I don’t need a bigger house, nor do I need more space to put things.
  7. I don’t need more clothes.
  8. I don’t need more food (unlike most of the people on Earth).

But this post really isn’t about me as a person.  It’s a post about the US economy.  And it’s actually an optimistic post, once you finish.  Bear with me.

There are plenty of the people in the US (and the world)  who would like (need) more stuff.  A lot of these people are struggling to survive, and they would probably prefer to have food more than any of the other items.

Unfortunately, these people don’t have a decent chance at improving their situation right now.  They don’t have good job prospects.  There used to be jobs around making stuff.  But these jobs have gone overseas, to people who have even less stuff than we do.  Some of these jobs might come back, but only because we learn to make things more cheaply (i.e. lower wages), or because we raise the quality high enough to become competitive.

So what does this mean for us as a country?  And what does it say about the future of our economy?  To me, it means that it is time to do something different.

For the past sixty years or so, the US has had an economy about making things for people like me to buy.  Now, when everyone is “waiting for the economy to recover”, I can’t help but wonder why they expect it to come back.  Things have changed. There is very little that I could purchase that would substantially improve my quality of life, and I’m part of the dwindling middle class that has disposable income for stuff.

What are you going to sell to me now?

To me, this means we need a shift in focus.  A shift to quality; a shift to improving what we have, how we do it, and who we are.  We need a shift away from “let’s all get more stuff” to a land of “better organized” and “more efficient”.  Better communities. Better schools.  Better relationships.  Let’s be better people.  Let’s have less wasted water, food, fuel, etc.  The list isn’t hard to expand.

Now this is not an easy change.  Even worse, the short-term impact on the economy might actually be negative.  Many companies are successful precisely because there is waste in the system.  But we all will benefit from the results in the long-term.

And no, this isn’t about cutting corporate profits.  It’s about changing the nature of those profits.  We can’t turn this ship on a dime, but we can turn it.  And turn it we must, if we hope to have anything worthwhile to pass on to future generations.

So please join me in saying “Not more, not bigger:  Better, and more efficient.”  There is enough room there for all of us to keep busy.

No more stuff for me, thanks.

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Roman Gods to Accompany Space Probe to Jupiter

August 6th, 2011 No comments

Well, at least their Lego counterparts will.  Glad to see, at the end of the day, and despite all the technology, we’re still very human at heart.

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World Got you Down? Read This.

July 24th, 2011 No comments

Here’s a great list of 50 things you can feel good about right now.  Yes, there are tons of negative things happening right now.  But there’s tons of good things too.  You get to choose your focus.

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