My water, not our water

Sign describing well water is used for irrigation

During my bicycle ride to work, I pass by a large cemetery with vast green expanses of lawn spread out among scattered memorial benches. (They have a rule against vertical tombstones.)

And they use their own well water to keep the grass a healthy and tranquil green.

But isn’t that water drawn from the same aquifer that surrounding neighborhoods use?

Apparently, when you use your own well water, you can water at the peak of sunshine exposure, when evaporation is at its highest. And you can water however many days a week you like.

Even worse, one neighborhood I ride through irrigates grass along the edges of their roads seven days a week.

The rest of us in suburbia are limited by Denver water authorities to three days a week and no watering between 10 am and 6 pm.

I’m not jealous of this extravagant use of water. But I find it interesting that these rules apply to only one set of users.

Life is always like that — one set of rules for one group and another set for another group — unlimited access to resources for one group and very limited access for another group.

You and I need to just accept this and ride on.

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Lawyer overkill

warning label from CD package

It all started with spilled coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through.*

Well, not really. Our American tendency to sue for everything probably started long before that.

How many people would buy a CD and give the thin plastic wrapper to their baby and say, “Play with this wrapper — it will do you no harm”?

Anyone who reads magazines today is used to flipping past pharmaceutical ads that use two full pages of fine print after the actual ad that could be summed up in one simple sentence: “Use of this drug is possibly dangerous, and you should consult with your doctor before using.” The television equivalent is 10 seconds at the end of an ad that are some of that fine print, read at 300 words a minute.

Please, please, America…

Just don’t be stupid.


* That incident happened in 1994. And she won the case.

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Police brutality and the National Anthem

No doubt by now you’ve read about football players not standing during the singing of the National Anthem. They are using their visibility to make a statement that they stand against our country allowing police to do bad and sometimes horrible things to African Americans.

I believe they could turn that important energy elsewhere. Yes, it’s a horrible problem. But malaria kills thousands of times more Africans than American police kill unarmed African Americans..

I lived in a malaria-prone country for five years. I love that country. Overall, people there seem happier than Americans, in spite of the significant challenges of daily life.

Malaria was not a problem for me there, as we were privileged to have been taught ways to prevent the disease. Many there aren’t — or simply don’t have the $10 for a mosquito net.

I know that no NFL football player will ever read this, but for the rest of you, Unicef is just one place you can give to help prevent deaths caused by malaria.

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Because I’m selfish

motorbike riders in Phnom PenhI love freedom. But when freedom costs me something that could be easily avoided, I pause.

For people living in the US, depending on your state, you can ride a motorcycle with out a helmet. It’s super enjoyable to zoom along with the wind in your hair.

But then that driver doesn’t see you, he turns into your lane — and your dreams of motorcycling disappear into years of surgeries, physical therapy and pain.

This is not theoretical — a good friend of mine experienced that. And he was wearing a helmet.

So here’s the selfish part of the equation… when the helmet-less rider ends up in the hospital with years of medical appointments ahead, it costs me. My insurance premiums rise.

The same holds true for bicycle riding.

I have to admit that I am not super rigid on that — sometimes when I go for a quick ride to the corner store on my (slow) mountain bike, I don’t put on a helmet. And yes, I know that most accidents happen closest to home.

So I leave it up to you where you draw the line between your freedom and your responsibility to society.

The photo is Creative Commons licensed by Sara y Tzunki (Cecilia e Francesco) and was taken in Phnom Penh.

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The problem of where they should live

aspen-airportPlaces like Aspen and Breckenridge have a problem: people who work there can’t live anywhere close.

Jonathan Thompson wrote an article about this in The Denver Post (link). He outlines the problem far better than I can — and backs it up with good research.

But Jonathan did not propose any solutions. I will.

Part-time residents in such places should pay a tax to build affordable housing in close proximity. That tax should be based on the amount of time they don’t live there. In other words, if someone lives in their vacation home just three weekends a year, their tax would be higher than someone who lives there year-round. Or than someone who rents out their vacation home during the time they’re not there.


I know this is the kind of post that many read and take issue with. I’m turning off comments for this post only, as it’s one of those things where if you believe differently, I can’t convince you of my point — and vice-versa.

p.s. I love Aspen. And Breckenridge. And their competition. I took the photo above during a brief visit in 2007. That’s the airport just outside Aspen, which has a greater density of Learjets than any other airport in the USA. (That is not a statistic I can back up.)

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Buy a pen now, to help others

writing with a Schneider penI love Schneider pens — the very best in the world. They’re made in Germany.

Stride is the company that distributes Schneider pens in the USA. Stride employs people with intellectual and physical challenges – allowing these individuals to learn and grow in a working environment that is full of love and acceptance.

You can read the stories of Peter, Victor and Vaden to see what a difference Stride has made in each of their lives.

Stride distributes pens and doesn’t sell them directly to consumers. But you can buy them at Office Depot. When you buy some of these amazing pens, you will help the team at Stride.

If you prefer porous-tip pens (what used to be called “felt-tip”) or gel pens, Schneider has those also. And they’re excellent.

Ask the Office Depot sales staff to help you find them – the Schneider pens may be tucked away in a back corner.

And then go back home to write a real letter, by hand, to someone who could use a little extra love and acceptance.

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Making Strides

Life’s challenges can push some to despair and others to greatness.

I was recently inspired by the story of Barbara Brennan. The challenge of a son born with hydrocephalus pushed her to greatness. She began her company, Stride, Inc., as an avenue to employ people with developmental challenges.

One example of how Stride has made a difference is Victor. When he began working for Stride, he didn’t speak much, due to a communication disorder. He proved himself by succeeding at several different jobs and now manages their shipping and receiving department. Victor has been with Stride for thirty years!

Writing with a Schneider penMy connection with this amazing company came through enjoying the excellent products they distribute in the USA, Schneider pens. Kerry Bertam, Stride’s CEO, found my review of their Slider XB pens. He very kindly sent me several Schneider pens – and they all are beyond perfect. As I highlighted in the review, these are the smoothest ballpoint pens on the planet and yet amazingly produce no blobs of ink. Knowing that Schneider pens are distributed by such a great company makes writing with these pens even more pleasurable!

I’d urge you to try Schneider pens through Office Depot. If your local store doesn’t have any, you can go to Office Depot’s website to order them. (Many are available for in-store pickup through their site.)

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$550 or $15?

My oldest son is spending his summer working with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. He’s working on hiking trails in national parks in Colorado. A typical day involves using a large cross-cut saw to remove giant trees from many paths. (You can check out his adventures at their WordPress site.)

gore-tex jacket (detail)I’m not telling you this to brag about Jay, but rather to talk about breathable rain jackets. In the June 7, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal, an article about outdoor adventure gear features a jacket — the Arc’teryx Beta AR. I am sure that it is a totally amazing garment. However, H&M had a similar breathable waterproof jacket for $70. I went to my local H&M and bought it on an end-of-season closeout for $15.

I ask you — which is the better deal?

Jay will be using that $15 jacket all summer — far more than the average Arc’teryx Beta AR buyer will wear their finery during their whole lifetime.

There is an American tendency to buy far more than you need. I also fall prey to this thinking. Let’s fight it.

Footnote: I understand that it is more righteous to buy used clothing than to sponsor companies like H&M that use far-too-underpaid labor. Alas, I couldn’t find a good waterproof breathable jacket at any of our local used clothing outlets.

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Sadness about competition

Curbside trasn canThere are too many trash companies in Denver. In the old days, the city would have picked up our trash. These days, there are about ten companies to choose from. The upside is that it keeps the cost down for those who have to pay for the service, such as myself. But there are many downsides:

- There is way more needed infrastructure. Every company needs its own fleet of trucks. Every company needs their own offices.

- There is way more pollution. Each of the ten trash companies that makes a pass through my neighborhood has ten trucks that drive by each week. There used to be one.

- There are five days of noise, rather than one.

- There are cans at the curb five days a week, rather than one.

- “Having so many trash companies provides more jobs.” That is true in the same way that having ten people on a road crew so that six can stand by and watch four work provides more jobs.

We changed trash services recently over two issues, even though we had used the same company for at least five years:

1. We care for humans. Our old company did not have trucks that could empty the cans; the guys had to lift them up to empty them. I always felt bad for their backs. So now, at least there is one less set of cans for them to empty.

2. Price. Yes, we are paying less now — due to competition.

Finally, please understand that I am not saying competition is bad in every case. It’s just bad in this case and situations similar to this.

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Changing minds

powIt is so hard to change the minds of people.

The massacre in Connecticut brought all who are for or against gun control to the surface. I like the idea of gun control. (Please, bring on any controls!) I have many friends who prefer total freedom when it comes to firearms. I can never convince them to change their minds. They cannot change mine.

This left me in a discouraged frame of mind. I don’t see the reason to post a video on my Facebook page from Bill Moyers that makes a very convincing case (to me) against the availability of automatic weapons to the general public. (I posted the video and later thought, “What’s the point?” I probably turned off several people, if they actually clicked on the link. And it didn’t make any difference to those who agree with me.)

The one area where I can make a difference is to convince young, impressionable minds of the values behind the ways I think. My wife and I have three kids. All of them agree with our views about gun control (and lots of other things).. at least for now.

For my friends who don’t have kids, you can get involved in a mentor program — and make a difference in the minds and hearts of young people who need the influence of a caring adult. You can pour yourself into their lives. Chances are they will listen to you more than your adult friends.

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