The beauty of diversity

arrivals at denver international airport

Why is it that I always get to the airport too early? (Sometimes, Heather is better about judging that time parameters better than I. So she likes to arrive a bit later than I.)

But then as I stand watching people come out of arrivals, I realize that I just love seeing the endless variety and texture of humanity. It’s fascinating to see how many different types of people arrive from all over the USA. Denver international airport is really not that international when I compare it to London’s Heathrow. But in spite of that, there is an amazing array of sizes, shapes and colors.

Next time you’re picking someone up at an airport, arrive a little early.

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Music: short-term, disappointing and excellent

record album covers

Music falls into many categories. I’m not referring to genres but rather to human appreciation of musical works.

The broadest way to describe the value of how one appreciates music is shelf life. How long will you enjoy a piece of music?

Three categories, from worst to best:

  1. Loser: Listen once and you don’t need to hear it again.
  2. Ephemeral: When you first hear it, you like it. You listen again, over and over. Much later, you hear it and wonder what the attraction was.
  3. Timeless: These works stand up to multiple listens for your whole life. (You may need to take a break from time to time, but when you come back years later, you still enjoy the album.)

1. At one time, U2 was one of my favorite bands. The Joshua Tree is an amazing album.

Zooropa is not good. U2 failed when they released that album in 1993. Their previous work was majestic and melodic. Zooropa was experimental, and not all experiments succeed.


2. Jefferson Starship was a late 1970’s revamp of Jefferson Airplane, a seminal San Francisco band that started in 1965.

While Jefferson Airplane broke new ground, Jefferson Starship tried the formulas of their era to make catchy tunes designed to receive as much radio play as possible. Those melodies caught my ear enough that I listened over and over to Red Octopus.

Then, after a break of more than fifteen years, I listened again. I couldn’t even listen to the whole album. The songs were bathed in a syrupy pop sound that made me nearly choke.


3. Little Feat was one of my very favorite bands during my late high school years. I first heard The Last Record Album in a high fidelity stereo shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ambient swampy sounds seemed to come from every corner of the room, even though that expensive sound system had just two (large) speakers. Melodies went all over the place and blended soulful longing with weird perspectives on life that I still don’t understand.

After I saved up a bit, I went to a record store and bought that album. I still have it.

I’ve listened to that album from its creation in 1975 until now. And I still love it.

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Be real

building facades during contruction

It’s easy to put up a front.

It’s harder to bare your soul.

We like to appear competent, knowledgeable, accepting, loving and kind (or most of us do). And we are those things, to some degree or another.

But we can’t be everything that everyone needs.

There’s a spectrum between hiding our weaknesses to revealing inappropriate levels of personal frailties. We must learn when and where to reveal our true selves.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I don’t have any deep secrets to reveal to whoever can read this. But one-on-one, I’ll be trying to stretch my boundaries by going deeper.

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Bamboo, part 2

bamboo toilet paper package

Bamboo is a very sustainable plant. It’s super fast growing.

I wrote recently about bamboo toilet paper, and I did end up getting two packages from a company called Brandless.

The verdict = overall fail:

  1. The toilet paper was made in China. Shipping wood-based toilet paper from Arkansas has got to have a smaller environmental impact than shipping bamboo-based toilet paper from China.
  2. Shipping two packages to my door via UPS has a worse impact on the environment than adding some to my shopping cart at my local supermarket during the weekly grocery run. And I couldn’t find bamboo paper at any local stores.
  3. The paper is a little rough compared to the economy Kroger brand we normally buy.

Having said all that, I believe in Brandless. They are trying to be more organic and sustainable about most of the products they sell. And some of their prices aren’t bad. But I won’t be a frequent flyer, as shipping costs raise the costs to more than we normally spend.

Being good does have its costs. Sometimes I’m willing to pay the price and other times not.

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The joy of the old

Jay next to an MG Midget

Jay and I went for a test drive in a 1967 MG Midget. He was the driver, as his 2001 Toyota Corolla burns a quart of oil for every two tanks of gas and it’s nearing time for a replacement.

We both were surprised at how small the car is — and at how 30 mph seemed like 70 mph.

Alas, a much newer car can be had for the same money — and one that wouldn’t need $500 worth of work to be road-legal.

But what a piece of history!

The intricate wire wheels aren’t available on any new car, regardless of price. The engine was so simple that it wouldn’t take an engineering degree to change the spark plugs. And what joy to drive a car that no-one else drives!

It was a marriage not meant to be. When the quick honeymoon ended, the heartaches would begin.


Epilogue: In a recent issue of Autoweek, a 1967 Datsun Roadster — a direct competitor — sold for ten times what the MG was going for.

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We need help — some of the time

car exhausts from 3 different cars

Some praise the idea of increased rules. Others tout the benefits of self-regulation.

I argue for somewhere in the middle.

I am old enough to remember cities before the era of car emissions laws… a brown layer of thick haze covered the skyline on most days.

Today, new passenger vehicles are 98–99% cleaner in what comes out of tailpipes compared to vehicles from the 1960s (source). That change would not have happened without government regulation.

At the other end of the spectrum lies the ridiculous state of health care in the USA. Because of government regulations (and also private litigation), it takes months to pay a single doctor’s bill. And it’s nearly impossible to find out the real cost of a simple procedure because of added complications from the insurance industry.

Why does government involvement in one area yield good results in one area and bad results in another? I’m not sure.

One end of the spectrum says groups have no wisdom. The other end says the individual has no wisdom.

Both are incorrect. Groups and individuals have wisdom — some of the time. And some individuals have no wisdom, just as some groups have no wisdom.

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Feeling guilty on a Saturday

No one else was home.

That meant I could stream the crazy music I enjoy, at volume, without bothering anyone.

And then I started to feel guilty.

Not about the music I was listening to…  but about the luxury of being able to listen to music in a house with no shared walls.

I remembered living in Kenya — when I felt guilty about having a microwave oven, knowing that it represented about ten times the average monthly wage of many around me.

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Mail

mailboxes in rural Colorado

My brother and one of my sisters are pretty much the only people who write physical letters to me.

My mom used to, but she passed away almost nine years ago.

I challenge you to write to me. Just one letter or postcard.

If you leave a comment on this blog post, I’ll see your email address* and contact you for your snailmail address. I’ll send you a letter or postcard, and you can write back.

Just once.

No strings, no obligations.

Why? It’s fun to get a hand-addressed hand-written letter in the mail.


* No one else will see your email address.

If you liked this post, you might like this one and this other one.

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The tip of the iceberg

my family - part

We know so little about the people around us.

Even though I live with my wife and daughter, I realized that I know so little about their day-to-day lives.

Rachel is a junior in high school. I am not sitting in class with her, listening to teachers talk about math concepts that I have forgotten a long time ago. I am not in the school cafeteria during her 15-minute lunch with friends. I’m not in her Bible study when her girlfriends open up about life struggles.

Heather works in an office about 5 minutes from me. But I’ve only visited her office once. I hear tales of the joys and challenges that each day brings, but I’m not in the room when she discusses the latest design challenge of the big project that she’s tackling. I’m not at the chili cookoff with her colleagues.

My two sons, Jay and Ben, have rich and full lives too. And so does everyone I work with, hang out with and know from the past chapters of life.


My challenge to myself is to ask those around me a question that will uncover something I don’t know already. (And there’s a lot.)

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The beauty of bamboo

seventh generation toilet paper package

I came across a brand called (ironically) Brandless. Their Facebook ad was effective enough that I clicked through.

The Brandless product that caught my attention the most? Toilet paper made from bamboo fiber!

Bamboo grows at a rate of up to 36 inches (91 centimeters) in 24 hours (source).

Think about it — a regular tree takes way longer to grow. If we converted all our forests dedicated to producing toilet paper into bamboo forests, we’d use up a lot fewer resources. Think: reforestation in a much shorter time period.

The amazing thing is that the price of this Brandless product is just $3 for 6 rolls. True, there may be just 12 sheets per roll, but it’s worth a try.

I haven’t signed on the dotted line yet — but I’m seriously considering giving this one a go.


Footnote: I took this photo of toilet paper at my local Whole Foods. Surprisingly, they do not sell bamboo toilet paper.

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