Alternative Energy Ideas

There is a lot of talk about alternatives to fossil fuels. We hear a lot about wind and solar energy and storing electricity in batteries for cars and even meeting the needs of larger building with batteries.

Direct solar energy to electricity through photovoltaic solar cells is gaining traction, but there are obvious issues with the uncertainty of direct sunlight. Certainly we have the option to store energy in batteries as Elon Musk is championing. But the production of batteries and their subsequent disposal can have negative effect on the environment and peoples’ health.

There are other options, such as storing the sun’s energy in fuels that can be used later.  Below are two of many methods being explored to do this.

Turning Algae into biofuel provides a relatively carbon neutral fuels source. As the algae being used takes carbon out of the air as it grows, and then cycles it back into the air. Watch to the end of this video and you’ll see that they are considering ways to recapture the carbon directly from the power plants to use in growing the algae. Pretty cool ideas.

The other way is more in the idea stage. What if we can literally turn sunlight into an storable fuel source, as is done in photosynthesis. The concept is being explored and may be a viable option. However we proceed, exploring the alternatives of multiple paths will lead to several ways to meet our future energy needs.

Medicare For All Option

healthcare 2

It is not a secret that I believe that a single payer system to cover healthcare costs is in our best interest. One of the struggles is how to pay for it. There is a proposal out there to expand Medicare. I think it is worth exploring.

Administratively, Medicare is already in place. A single administrative body to coordinate the processing and payment of medical expenses. The greatest advantage of this is that it eliminates administrative overhead. Based on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the amount of expenditures related to Health Insurance overhead is significant. Consider the few examples that would not need to be part of the process.

Hospital and doctor compliance and monitoring. Doctors don’t just send a bill to the insurance companies. They first have to work with the companies (multiple companies) to understand the terms of the agreement. Then they have to have staff and processes to comply with each one of those companies.

Payement. As with compliance, each company has it’s own process for payment and reconciliation of payments. Each medical practice must manage to each of the insurance companies processes.

Each insurance company has its own administrative overhead to establish, maintain, and manage compliance, accounting / payments. The reason there has been so much consolidation in the industry it that the companies themselves agree there is too much redundancy and recognize the power of consolidating. The problem is that this gives them too much power to dictate terms with doctors, hospitals, and patients.

Employers higher specialist simply to manage and comply with insurance requirements.

Take a look at the study and you will see other areas where we add cost to healthcare but do not add any value. Non-treatment costs for healthcare go upward of 30%.

The supposition of is that we can drop all private insurance, increase the payroll tax associated with medicare from about 1.4% up to 5% and cover everyone through medicare. The initiative assumes a pretty significant cost reduction through the implementation of a single payer system.

While I think the assessment of 5% may be low, compared to the cost of insurance, which can easily exceed 15-20%% of HHI, even if we double that amount, it will be less for the average household than the cost of insurance.

While our preference is a capitalistic solution, it simply has become untenable. If we believe everyone who needs health care should be able to get it, then a single payer system is the only viable answer. Private insurance adds no value to the equation and in fact adds monetary and significant emotional cost to the process.

If you feel that poor people should not have access, than tens of thousands of people should be ‘allowed to die’, or that families should have to decide between homelessness or medical treatment (families lose homes over medical expenses), the private insurance for some at the expense of others is the better option.

Is healthcare in the United States only for those who can afford it?

healthcare 2

For healthcare we have to answer one fundamental question:

Is healthcare in the United States only the for those who can afford it, or is it a right for all regardless of their ability to pay?

The current system is setup for those with the ability to pay.

ACA’s failing was trying to make the current system something it’s not. The current system is designed to provide healthcare to those with the money to pay for insurance, not ensure healthcare to all. ACA tried to make it do both.

The GOP plan only makes the insurance more affordable for some people by dropping other people from coverage, or putting coverage out of their financial reach.

We had this prior to ACA. 40,000+ people died each year because they lacked the ability to pay.

Again, the question for us as Americans, is that okay?

We can’t obfuscate this with talk about our system being better. It’s simply not. When I looked into the stats, I was compelled to write about what I found: .

Capitalism is heartless. It is designed for one thing, to make a profit, as large a profit as possible. We get mad at drug companies for gouging. We get mad at insurance companies for dropping unprofitable regions or people. But these companies are doing exactly what they are suppose to do… maximize profits. Scorpions will always be scorpions. If they don’t maximize profits, then they are doing shareholders a disservice.

If we believe everyone has a right to coverage then we have to take capitalism out of the healthcare insurance equation.

There are many examples around the world of well functioning single payer systems. There is not just one option, but several to model a plan for the U.S.. It is up to us whether we believe people deserve healthcare or not.

Welcome to the U.S.(S.R.)

soviet flag

I remember watching movies as a kid about American spies in the Soviet Union. To travel the country they needed “papers”, documents to prove they were citizens. As freedom loving Americans we traveled our country at will; no “papers” required. The use of “papers” in these movies was one of the best creative devices / tools for showing the distinction between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. . It struck home with everyone in the theater. We’re free. They’re not.

If you don’t remember those days, then the story of U.S. government agents checking “papers” for people on a San Francisco flight to JFK probably doesn’t chill you. But it should.

We forget that there used to be a time when all you needed to get on (and off) a domestic flight was a ticket. That’s it.

Then terrorist struck. To protect us, we gave up a bit of our freedom. We agreed to have our identity checked before we got on the flight. You may remember that some people railed against that, but ultimately lost.

Now, to get off the plane the passengers had to prove (again) that they belonged.

This isn’t to protect us. The plane landed safely.

This is the FEDERAL government forcing (yes forcing) people to prove they are allowed to be in the U.S. before and after the flight, detaining them if they can’t.

Are we really so afraid of illegal immigrants that we are willing to cede even more freedom to the Feds?

Having a positive impact on each other


When was the last time you changed someone’s mind by calling them names? Which name was most effective? Idiot? Dummy? Racist?

(in case it was last in poor writing skills, that was sarcasm.)

We need to decide why we are engaging each other. If it is simply to vent and to insult, then by all means, throwing out some nasty names may make you feel better… for a while.

If you want to have an impact, get people to think about something, perhaps think about things in a new way yourself, leave out the insults.

The past couple of months have been confounding for liberals, and even many centrists. They have a hard time understanding how others could vote for Donald Trump.

One reason: Elections are binary, life is not.

When you vote for a person it is a task of weighing many different aspects, balancing those things on which you agree and those on which you don’t, and then throwing the qualitative “how do I feel about life at this moment” thing that really messes us up. You have one vote that has to accept the good and the bad.

If you voted for someone with whom you agreed on all points without reservation, congratulations. I envy you your certainty. I’ve never had it and would be startled if I ever did.

Nearly half the people who cast a vote did so for Trump. I know a lot of people. I don’t always agree with them and some voted for Trump. They are not idiots, dummies or racists. We can have some very good conversations, some are even about politics.

But, I guarantee that if I started the conversation with “you’re a racist”, or they began with “you libtard”, it would be a one sentence exchange. We would have no chance to find out that there are actually a lot of points are which we agree. That we both want to help others, but have different approaches. That neither likes how the crackdown on immigration affects families, but one is sincerely afraid of potential terrorist attacks. We would not have an opportunity to talk through these things and see if we can agree and perhaps support a common position.

If all you want to do is cast insult, that’s your right. But no good will come of it.

If you really want to see a better place, work to bridge the gulf the election created. Once you start trying you may find that the bridge doesn’t have to be as long as your thought.

Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket On ARS

Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket

Navajo Blankets have been popular American art for hundreds of years. Adapted from the Pueblo weaving craft at a time in the 17th century when many Pueblos sought protection from the Spanish by joining Navajo, the Navajo have created coveted art ever since. While much of the Navajo blankets we see today have intricate designs and deep colors of red, the original navajo blankets were quite simple, consisting of straight patterns of alternating colors. The colors tended to be earth tones and blank.

Among the most sought after Navajo blankets are the Chief’s First Phase Blanket. So, when one of these was brought onto the Antique Roadshow, the collector almost fell over. You’ll have to watch the video to see how much it is worth. But the part of the story that really gets me is that this family has been a hard working farming family without much money. All the while they had no idea of their hidden wealth. This valuable Navajo Blanket was passed from generation to generation, finally ending up simply being laid over a chair back.

John Oliver bit on truth for Donald Trump

oliver on trump

If you are an ardent Trump supporter, you either have a great sense of humor or you hate this.

Reporters covering him asked, “What does he mean when he says words?”

From the wall to the travel ban, he is trying to implement what he said, this as admirable.

The observation that was funniest was his focus on Trump’s obsession with cable news. Oliver showed the timing between Trump’s tweets and stories covered on Fox. Frightening or funny, you decide.

Following this, he showed Trump’s propensity to quote Breitbart and Alex Jones.

View the full video, and although funny, makes great points. The bottom line, Trump doesn’t care about the truth. He cares about a bunch of people agreeing with him even without facts upon which to base it.

Spencer justifying the President’s lying about the things by saying “he believes it.”

The ending bit is the best. It is up to use to check the new we hear, especially if the news validates our own world view.

Dancing aninamals

Dancing Animals

Sometimes we just need to find something to make a laugh. Unfortunately for the animal kingdom, dancing horse, cats, birds and chimps fit the bill. In the video below there are some funny dancing animals. Though there is one of a person making the cat dance and all you can do is hope that we (and the cat) are rewarded with a big chunk of the man's hand taken out. In truth, what kept me watching, well actually listening to this was the music. The animals provided some entertainment, but it ended up being the music that made it worth watching.

Bali anyone?

Rice Terraces near Sebatu, Bali

Bali, an island in Indonesia, may be the perfect vacation spot. The hotels cater to your every need, the landscape is beautiful with mountains, lush green rainforest, winding rivers with deep waterfalls, and animals in the tree all around you. As a tourist destination, very few places can live up to what Bali has to offer.

When you think of Bali, rainforest, mountains and ocean comes to mind. The photos of Bali are always breathtaking, in the ideal environment for rest and relaxation.

There is no limit to the number of photos you can find on the web. Here are some of the best images, giving you a good idea of what you’ll see if you visit Bali.

Check out the Hanging infinity pools in the Ubud Hanging Gardens, Bali

Hanging infinity pools in the Ubud Hanging Gardens, Bali

Rice Terraces near Sebatu, Bali

Rice Terraces near Sebatu, Bali


Bali swimming

Danu Bratan Temple at sunset


Political Correctness stifles conversations

When I was about 13 years old, a friend and I were sitting in my room, and for some reason I blurted out “oh sh*t!”.

From the hallway my mom yells,”Steve, you don’t say ‘oh sh*t.”

My friend, whose family was very strict and would likely get a paddling for something like this (yes, that was a thing back then), looked at me with dread. I was going to get it.

My mom followed up, “It’s not ‘oh sh*t’, it’s ‘ahh sh*t.’”

* used so as not of offend anyone 😉

Most kids learn to bake cookies from their mom. I learned to swear.

But I learned more than that. I learned that you have to hear beyond the words. For most parents, when the kids swore, that’s it, they swore. You aren’t allowed to do that.

For my parents, when a kid swore, it was because there was something behind it. A feeling. A concern. A fear. Something. Maybe even just a joke, but that was okay.

Focus on the message, not the words
So, for fifty years I have not been overly concerned with the actual words people use. The words are not the important thing, it is the message they are trying to convey. Yes, there are some words for which there may be but one, very bad, message. There are others for which there may be multiple meanings, or the meaning has morphed over time. When we hear these, too often we jump to the worst of options and stifle our ability to get the message behind it.

Being Politically Correct
Political correctness is the process of trying to say what you mean while using words that don’t offend others. It places the responsibility for communicating solely on the speaker or writer. This person must try to anticipate the perspectives of dozens, hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions of people. It is literally impossible.

Relieved of all responsibility in this is the reader or listener. They can remain selfishly tied to their perspective, making no effort to understand that of the messenger. We are allowing ourselves to become increasingly lazy with each offence. We take solace in the notion that the messenger is deeply ignorant for using words which are so clearly offensive. Yet our own ignorance compounds with each message that gets blocked by our walls of political correctness.

Politics is a process
Politics is about the process of managing and improving our society. In this, we are all affected. Over the past few decades it became apparent that some people were left out of the process. They didn’t know how to engage because the words, messengers and topics of focus were not things they could relate to. We made a conscious decision to be mindful of how we said things so that others would be able to join in the conversation. The intention was noble.

As with so many things, the pendulum has swung too far. We have gone from trying to speak in such a way as to invite others, to trying to be sure no one is offended. One speaker responsible for 1000’s of perspectives, and it is stifling our ability to communicate effectively.

Political Correctness is no longer about the words we use, but about the very topics we can discuss. It is preventing us from doing the very thing politics is suppose to help societies do, work through and solve social problems.

When it comes to entertainment (comedy, music, etc), there really is no such thing as political correctness. There is only the suppression of creativity. These things are meant to push us, make us think in ways that may be uncomfortable, or hit us with something completely new to us. But, if we choose, we can block these things out and live in our buble. It is up to us.

If you find yourself offended by music, comedy, television just turn it off, switch the channel or learn to deal with it.

If find yourself being offended in the process of political discourse, try to look beyond the words and into the message they are trying to communicate. If the message is still unacceptable, target the message, not the messenger or the method used to convey it.

Though I have learned that the words you choose affect how others hear you, I also know that people need to learn to hear better.