Friday, June 29, 2007

Sea Devils

As regular readers (and my wife!) of this blog know poor customer service is one of my major pet peeves so let me open today's posting with a shining example of EXCELLENT customer service. Due to my credit card company's fraud management policies and high gas prices my credit card was not allowed to charge beyond US$50.00 at a SuperAmerica yesterday when I filled my gas tank. Okay, no worries. However, today I stopped at the Kwik Trip near my home to get their US$6.00 car wash but my credit card was declined at the car wash auto teller even though 5 minutes earlier I used this card at my dry cleaner. So I walked into Kwik Trip to pay cash for the car wash mentioning to the manager that my card was declined due to fraud control so the manager gave me a free car wash -- the ULTIMATE version not their BASIC car wash -- for my trouble.

Now that is damn good customer service that will be rewarded with frequent future visits to Kwik Trip (!!

So in the game of convenience stores Kwik Trip is truly a champion from my perspective. Speaking of champions I am ashamed to admit I missed this but last Saturday the NFL Europa championship game ("World Bowl") was played ("NFL" = National Football league -- American style football my European friends, not "soccer").

The Hamburg Sea Devils defeated the Frankfurt Galaxy by a final score of 37 to 28 to win their first World Bowl. Congratulations Sea Devils!!! ( Since both of my parents' families emigrated from the Hamburg, Germany region for the promise of inexpensive farmland in the USA I consider myself a fan of the Hamburg Sea Devils -- despite the fact that the smaller city of Flensburg is on the seacoast not Hamburg. If you love the idea of touring through acres and acres of strawberry fields and strolling along the harbour in Flensburg this region should be on your short list of destinations. Having toured our ancestral villages in the region I offer wonder why my ancestors left so I always blame it on the political turmoil in Germany at the time while the German nation-state was being formed.

Fortunately American football is being played on their fields today versus soldiers marching to conquer their neighbors.

Play Football Not War,


Thursday, June 28, 2007

With one Tooth

No doubt my detractors out there -- Earth Muffin, Holstein Girl, and my racquetball buddy Dave -- will call me an uninformed, even heartless conservative with this posting but that is what encourages me to wake up every morning ready for another day of proving big government advocates like them to be COMPLETELY WRONG:-)

Photo/Image Credits go to -- Blue Dolphin Publishing

Today's posting comes courtesy of ancient Egypt and its Valley of the Kings. DNA tests completed on a single tooth from Queen Hatshepsut (QH) were recently published according to the Associated Press. These test results show that a long overlooked Egyptian mummy.............."of an obese woman, who likely suffered from diabetes and liver cancer............" are indeed the remains of QH.

Obesity, diabetes, and liver cancer? How is this possible my "obesity is a crisis that requires government action......" friends out there? QH was known to have dressed like a man and wore a fake beard while serving as pharaoh for 20 years during the 15TH CENTURY B.C. -- which means QH had a badonkadonk butt nearly 3,500 years ago!!!

Three thousand five hundred years ago -- now what kinds of things did not exist at this time? Here are a few that come to mind --

  • McDonald's restaurants

  • all you can eat buffets

  • late night pizza delivery

  • video games

  • surfing the Internet

  • leisure time (for the peasants anyway)

  • multi-national food/candy corporations marketing to children

  • soda pop/candy vending machines in schools

Yet somehow, someone like QH became obese on her own -- perhaps we could say she was "responsible" for her own fate -- without being targeted by sophisticated corporate marketing plans. Perhaps my more enlightened readers can think of other "evil" elements of society that the ancient Egyptians did not have in their time.

Clearly health issues like obesity have been with us for a long time so public officials across the country should pause to read a few more history books before they launch yet another government investigation or program to "solve" society's problems.

Teach history not social studies,


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


My own religion is Lutheran not that of the pagan Druids, however like the Druids I enjoyed celebrating the Summer Solstice (June 21) since this time of year is part of the "magical six weeks" of fantastic weather we experience in Minnesota. Three weeks in late May/early June and about three weeks in late September/early October is what I deem to be the "magical six weeks" -- so magical in fact that I would bet any of my readers that if you spent a few days here during these six weeks you would want to move to Minnesota.

Yes I hear you -- "but what about your harsh winters in Minnesota?" I always reply that the harsh winters are a blessing because they are nature's way of killing the mosquitoes!! It is surprising the Minnesota Department of Tourism doesn't hire me -- now that is some damn fine marketing.

That is enough free advertising for the State of Minnesota now back to the Druids. Granted, that classic scene in the movie, "Spinal Tap", where the dwarf nearly crumbled the band's Stonehenge model brings a smile to my face but an even better memory for me is my 1986 visit to Stonehenge, the famous religious structure for the Druids, in the United Kingdom. Back in those days visitors were still allowed to walk through the structure and actually touch it but today I understand it is fenced off so you can allow gaze upon this wonderful work of art/religion/architecture/astronomy.

The following website is a great overview of the Druid religion for interested readers --

Little did I know until I scanned this website that former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a member of the "more mystical Ancient Order of Druids" which he was initiated into at Oxford University.

Ah, the things you can learn while doing some light summer reading.

Enjoy the outdoors,


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tom Cruise

This posting must begin with a disclaimer so no readers are confused by my defense of Tom Cruise's basic human rights. First I am NOT a member of any Tom Cruise fan club and secondly I would NEVER join his Church of Scientology. However, my love of freedom and fear of the incremental growth of government requires me to speak out against my ancestral homeland -- Germany.

I heard today that the German military has refused to allow any filming on military bases for Cruise's new movie about a failed assassination plot to kill Adolph Hitler as noted in this 26 June Reuters story --

Why? Because Mr. Cruise is a member of the Church of Scientology which the German government does not officially recognize as a religion considering it instead to be a scam just trying to make money.

However this decision by the military might have to be reversed based on this court case decision from Hamburg, Germany stemming from a 1997 lawsuit filed by a Scientologist who was denied a city contract due to his religious beliefs. The excerpt below (also posted to the website below on 26 June) shows that the Hamburg City government violated the German Constitution's clause regarding religious freedom --

"The Scientologist refused to sign the document and filed suit against the city. The Hamburg Senior Administrative Court has now decided in her favor. The court held that the distribution of the filter by officials of the Hamburg City government violated the Scientologist’s rights under Article 4 of the German Constitution, which protects freedom of religion, as well as the city’s constitutional duty to remain neutral."

Again -- I am no fan of Cruise or Scientology but I do find the timing of this German military decision and the Hamburg court decision to be an amazing coincidence. Religious freedom is essential in Western democracies whether the church is Lutheran or Scientology so this Hamburg court decision is a victory for freedom of religion advocates like me!!

When I first heard this news report today I immediately thought of Pastor Martin Niemoller's (a German) poem which I will close this posting with to encourage readers to be vigilant when it comes to the slippery slope of government expansion:

"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew

MY ADDED LINE (with apologies to Pastor Niemoller) -- Then they came for the Scientologists and I did not speak out because I was not a Scientologist

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me"


Monday, June 25, 2007

Football News

Having taken a long weekend for a family trip to Iowa this past weekend I had some down time to read a few newspapers so I noted several football (American-style my soccer loving friends overseas) stories which I comment on below --

  • Big 12 Conference (university football) Forecast -- Sportswriter, Chip Brown of the Dallas Morning News, offered his pre-season ratings for the Big 12 Conference's 2007 football season. Leading the conference's North Division is the University of Missouri with the South Division's predicted winner being the University of Oklahoma. Coming in dead last for the North Division is my alma mater -- Iowa State University (ISU). Now while this is merely Mr. Brown's predictions it is still psychologically powerful since the first game is only two months away. As a season ticket holder at ISU I am understandably concerned especially since we spent a lot of money to hire a new coach out of Texas and because the athletic department has increased season ticket prices for the 2008 season.

  • United Indoor Football (UIF, Years ago I attended a Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits UIF game with my brother and sister-in-law which was a very fun evening out on the town. It is great to see the Bandits still playing after all these years regardless of their current 3 and 9 record. I read about their recent player trades which included a player acquired from the Bozano (Italy) Giants of the European Football League - a league I did not even know existed until I read the Sioux City Journal newspaper so just another friendly reminder to read local newspapers.

  • European Football League -- Other than the mention of the Bozano, Italy team in the Sioux City Bandits article I can't find any information about the EFL other than a website for "The EFL" which is a "soccer" not American football league. Do any readers have insights for me?

  • International Federation of American Football --, while searching for information on the EFL I stumbled across the IFAF which is hosting its "World Cup 2007" being held from July 7 to 15th in Kawasaki, Japan. National teams involved in World Cup include -- France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, and USA.

Overall an amazing range of American football options to consider which can be reviewed at this VERY extensive website devoted to American football -

There is no off season anymore.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Long Term Volunteers

The Associated Press reported today that the Paris-based European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a recruitment drive for volunteers willing to commit nearly 1.5 years inside a "mock space ship in Moscow."

The ESA notes that volunteers for this mission should expect --

".......crowding, lack of privacy, high workload, mechanical breakdowns, boredom with available food, and limited communication with mission control, family, and friends....."

This description of life in the mock space ship sounds more like prison life or (unfortunately) the life of many of our soldiers currently serving in Iraq. My sincere thanks to those men and women who serve in the USA military today -- your sacrifices are never re-paid in full by our country.

As for this mission I have to really wonder who would or could volunteer 1.5 years of their lives to such a project. The article I read did not suggest any form of compensation would be offered so I am thinking potential volunteers would come from these demographic groups -- recent college graduates, the chronically unemployed, and perhaps Hollywood celebrities looking for new "rehab" options :-)

ESA's reason for this mission is to better understand what "euronauts" can expect during the potential flight to Mars in the year 2030 when Earth and Mars will only be 35 million miles apart from each other. The current speculation is that such a flight would take 520 days from Earth to Mars thus making it a 3 year round trip mission. Now the 3 year timeframe is an amazing coincidence for a budding historian like myself because this is essentially the same timeframe it took Lewis and Clark to tour the Louisiana Territory from 1803 to 1806. The "Mars" of their day was the area near Seattle, Washington which really got me thinking about the technological progress we have made in the aviation world. So courtesy of the Lindbergh Foundation here is an overall Aviation History Timeline (edited by me to highlight KEY aviation events minus personal events such as Charles Lindbergh's birthday) interested readers should consider as they think about the ESA's planned mission to Mars:

1783 - Montgolfier Brothers construct the first lighter-than-air vehicle (a balloon)

1900 - Count Ferdinand Zeppelin's airship flies

1903 - Orville and Wilbur Wright fly first successful self-propelled airplane

1909 - Louis Bleriot crosses English Channel in a monoplane

1913 - Salim Ilkucan crosses Sea of Marmara by achieving the longest over-sea flight in a doubleplane

1918 - United States Post Office establishes airmail service

1924 - First flight around the world

1926 - Lindbergh makes his first Chicago-to-St. Louis airmail flight

1927 - Charles Lindbergh makes first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight

1932 - Amelia Earhart becomes the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean

1937 - Zeppelin Hindenburg burns

1946 - Radar bounces off the moon for the first time

1947 - The sound barrier is broken by Chuck Yeager

1950s - Technologies such as long-range missiles, computer systems, electronic controls, combustion chemistry, and new composite structures made possible by the aerospace industry

1958 - The first American satellite to be placed in orbit around the Earth, "Explorer 1", is launched

1959 - NASA selects its first seven astronauts

1961 - Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space

1969 - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first persons to walk on the moon

1971 - NASA's Mariner 9 orbits Mars, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet

1972 - NASA announces the shuttle program

1976 - Concorde flies

1981 - First Space Shuttle flight

Assuming the ESA's (reminder -- the ESA is based in Paris, France) mission to Mars is launched in 2030 that would mark 224 years after the Montgolfier Brothers launched the first hot air balloon flight known in human history in Annonay, France. As a taxpayer and adventurer myself I hope that the USA's NASA and the ESA collaborate with each other to not only save money but to also land a spacecraft on Mars sooner than 2030 -- a full 61 years after Neil Armstrong walked on Earth's Moon.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

General Vang Pao

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."
George Washington (1732 - 1799) US President and General

Given its Scandinavian heritage most non-residents of Minnesota would be surprised to hear that we have the largest Hmong (an ethnic minority in Laos) population outside of the Laos/Vietnam region. So when a pillar of the Hmong community like General Vang Pao (of the Royal Lao Army, retired now at age 77 in Los Angeles, California) was arrested by US authorities earlier this month our local newspapers carried the story.

According to the Pioneer Press ( newspaper General Vang "led the resistance against the Laotian and Vietnamese communists in a war funded and supplied by the US through the CIA.......In 1975 the war ended..............the CIA ordered General Vang to leave Laos so he emigrated to a ranch in Montana........." General Vang was arrested for his apparent role in securing weapons to lead an overthrow of the communist government in Laos. As reported General Vang violated the USA's "Neutrality Act" --
"November 4, 193976th Congress, 2nd Session, Public Resolution No. 54
To preserve the neutrality and the peace of the United States and to secure the safety of its citizens and their interests."

I was reminded of General Vang's early June arrest today (June 20) due to the front page headline in today's newspaper -- "Hmong Unite Over Vang Pao" -- which noted that over 500 demonstrators, young and old, rallied on our state capitol steps yesterday to support General Vang and to protest his arrest. Since the Vietnam War (and General Vang's active role in it) ended 32 years ago this is a pretty impressive turnout of 500 people on a beautiful summer day in Minnesota for a 77 year old retiree in California!!

My quick scan of the Neutrality Act made it pretty clear that General Vang has violated federal law but as a Cold War Warrior myself I have to ask -- "since our tax dollars funded his war efforts conducted in opposition to the COMMUNIST government of Laos don't we owe him our thanks not a jail cell for his apparent violation of the Neutrality Act?" I do not know Vang personally but given his history as a solid ally of the USA's foreign policy objectives (defeating communism's expansion around the globe) shouldn't he qualify for a presidential pardon and/or our Medal of Freedom instead of a jail term?

Perhaps General Vang should have noted that the USA established "Normal Trade Relations" with Laos in 2004 ( thus altering our Cold War relationship with this nation.

US taxpayers should watch General Vang's trial with interest since he is a "former employee" of our intelligence community.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Finally - A Memorial

Last week I arrived in Washington DC on June 14 -- two days too late for the dedication ceremony of the Victims of Communism Memorial ( which is located at the confluence of - Massachusetts Avenue/New Jersey Avenue/G Streets , North West.

That evening an awards dinner was held to present the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to:

  • William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (posthumous)

Being the Cold War Warrior that I am I regret missing an enormously important event such as this one. I was reminded of this event when I started reading the new book, "The Reagan Diaries", last week which should provide a wealth of insights on this particular period of history. As I reviewed the website for this memorial I noticed that a weblink of interest was included for the Terror Museum in Budapest, Hungary which I toured with my buddy Steve years ago. We were told by the locals that the original name of this museum when it served as the Hungarian Communist Party's torture chamber was the "House of LOYALTY" -- now that should frighten all of us!!

This is clearly a place I need to visit on a future trip to Washington DC and one I hope today's students visit since I fear our school system does not study the Cold War to the depth that is needed to better appreciate our current freedoms. The Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin killed more people than Germany's Adolph Hitler ever did but is that ever discussed in our schools?


Monday, June 18, 2007

Football News

Due to business travel over the last few weeks I have read several different newspapers where I noticed the following football stories that are worth commenting on:

  • Minnesota Vikings -- Skol Vikings, honor your name!!! This is my National Football League team win or lose which has been mostly "lose" for a few years now. Last week the Vikings owner, Zygi Wilf, hosted his first "board of advisors" meeting which consists of "25 local business leaders" who will meet "one or two times per year." Okay, so the Vikings generated a one day or two day story from this announcement but I can't see much else coming from it because this group will only meet once or twice a year and because it is a large group of 25 rather busy people including some Fortune 500 CEOs. Mr. Wilf no doubt wants this group's advice on how to win government support for building a new football stadium. The reality is he does not need this board -- he need a winning football team on the field!!! Also, he completely missed the opportunity to partner with the University of Minnesota to build a joint-stadium with the Gophers. Imagine how the Gophers football program would benefit in its recruiting program by having an NFL-quality stadium and imagine how the Vikings would benefit from an on-campus location. University of Minnesota alumni could show up on Saturday for a Gophers game and stay overnight for the Sunday game for the Vikings when schedules allow. The other missed opportunity was the lack of condos that should have been built into the Gophers football stadium which alums would no doubt be willing to buy.
  • Mid America Football League --, I have to admit I lost track of the two Minnesota teams playing in this league until I read an Iowa newspaper last week that mentioned that the Iowa Threshers were playing against the two Minnesota teams in August and September this year. I look forward to attending a game this season to check the level of competition and of course to purchase a "Lumberjacks" t-shirt if available!! the MAFL has been in operation since 1995 and plans an annual "All American Bowl" which serves as its all star game.
  • Friday Nights -- Dallas Mavericks' (National Basketball Association) owner Mark Cuban recently announced he is involved in an investors group which is considering starting a new football league to "compete" with the National Football League. I say "compete" because this new league plans to play its games on Friday nights thus "competing" for eyeballs with high school football games. The NFL has seen a number of alternative leagues over the years so Cuban's venture is not a new one so let me offer his group an option to consider. Negotiate deals with major college teams (at least for the first two seasons perhaps) to play your games one hour after the college football game ends on Saturday which allows this new league to keep its overhead down while also getting the "spill over" of fans from the college game. Some key college football towns/NFL markets that the "Cuban Football League" (CFL) should consider include -- 1.) Los Angeles/UCLA/USC because that is a great football market that does not have an NFL team today, 2.) Chicago/Northwestern -- Northwestern has had good and bad teams but it is still a major football market especially in Chicago which is a big enough city for both the NFL and the CFL , 3.) Miami/University of Miami -- again a very large city with a great football fan base with the University of Miami's history and the NFL's Dolphins of course. A Saturday night football game in all three of these cities in the Fall would be an ideal night on the town.

Pre-season is drawing near,


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Preservation and Priorities

Since I have not attended my local chamber of commerce's events for several months I decided to attend today because Minnesota's Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, was the guest speaker. If readers don't know the secretary of state ( is responsible for primarily two things - 1.) registration of companies doing business in the state, and 2.) serving as the chief elections officer. The secretary of state also sits on the state council which determines where Minnesota's "$59 billion in investments.........." are allocated.

What struck me in Secretary Ritchie's speech today was the concern he stated that our marble (one of only four in the nation apparently) state capitol dome is leaking. Secretary Ritchie was opposed to the current plan to issue bonds to pay for the repairs versus simply allocating the funds today. Wait a minute Mr. Ritchie -- I agree with you that we should maintain our capitol but past governors and legislators should have taken care of this problem years ago INSTEAD of building the State Office Building to supply legislators with offices and the new judicial branch building. Traditionalists (and fiscal conservatives) like me want to see the "good old days" when everyone worked in the state capitol not in satellite buildings like we have today.

A very simple solution would be for the State of Minnesota to sell the State Office Building to a private developer and use the proceeds to move everyone back into capitol offices AFTER the marble dome repairs are completed. The property taxes that would be paid by a private entity owning the State Office Building would be a welcome revenue injection for the City of St. Paul and Ramsey County (the "host" of the state capitol complex which is exempt from paying property taxes of course).

Before you go spending more of our tax money let's divest some state assets first.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Female Peter Pan

Personally I don't envy the rich and support their right to spend their money as they choose as long as it does not affect the rest of us personally. Secondly I am no fan of Hillary Clinton's friends at the Children's Defense Fund, CDF, ( but where is the CDF this week?

If the Fox News and CNN reports I saw today are accurate Paris Hilton's parents are hosting a "getting out of jail celebration" in Las Vegas, Nevada costing US$50,000 for their already spoiled child. Again I don't care what rich people like the Hiltons do with their money -- although hiring a mentor for Paris at $50,000 per year is probably a better choice -- but isn't lavishing such unnecessary gifts on your child simply another form of child abuse? While poor people might abuse their children by using them to extinguish their cigarettes it often seems like the rich people abuse their children in their own way such as this Las Vegas bash.

Let me encourage my readers (yes both of you!) to consider boycotting all Hilton hotel properties so that Paris' children (imagine what they will be like!!!) will have the opportunity to live normal lives.


Monday, June 11, 2007

A Teacher with Reach

While it isn't the football hall of fame, induction into the "Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame" (yes the Energizer bunny with the drum) would still clearly be an honor. I recently heard of this hall of fame because a fellow Minnesotan in Grand Marais, Minnesota -- David Freeman -- is one of the "ten finalists" for this honor. Should Mr. Freeman wins the most votes he will be inducted and will receive a $5,000 award.

Mr. Freeman was nominated for this award because he is the creator of the non-profit, online classroom known as the "Wilderness Classroom" which is at -- This project provides journal reports and online learning activities generated by Mr. Freeman's world travels for students in second through eight grade.

After a quick review of his website I admit I was a little jealous of his adventures which include:

Dogsledding in Manitoba
Exploring Costa Rica
Sking across Manitoba
Following the Voyageurs
Canoeing the Mississippi
Solo across the BWCAW

Perhaps this could be a good retirement job for me!!?? Personally I think Mr. Freeman's project is a great resource for getting children interested in the world beyond their community but I would hope it would also inspire them to get involved in the outdoors. I raise this concern because we are creating a generation of children who sit at home in air conditioning watching hours of TV and/or read my blog (okay that isn't a bad thing!!), then they travel via air-conditioned vehicles to air-conditioned classrooms where they (in some schools) are required to watch films like Al Gore's "scare-u-mentary" entitled, "An Inconvenient Truth", designed to frighten them the world around them is doomed due to man's daily activities. As soon as I see Mr. Gore trade his private jet travel and motorcade for a horse and buggy I will reduce my carbon foot print.

Keep Going Mr. Freeman -- you are doing more good than false prophets like Al Gore.


Thursday, June 07, 2007


When I left Minnesota in 1998 due to a career change the thing I missed the most was my membership in the Decathlon Athletic Club (DAC). The DAC was created in 1968 as a full service private club with dining facilities, social programs, athletic facilities, tennis dome, and hotel rooms. Sadly the club burned in 2000 when I was living in Washington DC. As a result of the fire the club was subsequently sold and demolished. Today the former DAC property is consumed by a hotel and indoor water park. Quite a departure from the club life we enjoyed at the DAC.

Now seven years later the camaraderie that existed at the DAC is alive and well. Twice a year the former DAC members gather for lunch to renew our friendships, share news about other members, and tell a few good stories. Today was no exception since this was the first time I saw fellow DAC member, "Mickey" , who is walking with a cane now but is still full of life and humorous stories. The world would be a better place with more Mickeys in it.

As I scanned our meeting room today I noticed that, 1.) no women attended and that 2.) I was by far the youngest (age 41) person in the room. If you give some thought to the demographics of such private clubs this is probably no surprise. For me the friendships and great memories I had from my time at the DAC are treasured enough that I made it a priority in my work week to attend today.

If my readers (yes both of you!!) out there find themselves in a similar social setting such as the one we had at the DAC let me encourage you to enjoy the time!! Life is too short for us not to have cherished friendships and memories.

Call an old friend sometime,


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Greatest Innovation

The years I spent working in London and Brussels were very rewarding both professionally and personally so I must admit I miss my regular attendance at events like my friends at Spiked Online hosted today in London, England entitled, "What's the Greatest Innovation?" The full details for this event are noted at the end of this posting. As I reflected on this question I thought of several inventions that would be candidates for such an honor but I have to cast my vote for the -- WHEEL.

Yes, the wheel because of the impact it had globally by immediately making our world smaller - no longer did most people "be born and die in their home village" as was the rule of history. The wheel provided mobility for people, it moved goods, and it helped build empires. Wheels moved the Roman chariots which conquered the known world, wheels diversified our diets by allowing produce to be transported quickly enough to be consumed by new consumers, and wheels brought the pioneers to the American West to united the USA from "sea to shining sea".

I would be interested in knowing what my readers (yes both of you!!) feel is the "greatest innovation" -- other than my blog of course!! :-)

Innovate don't regulate,



The internet, the alphabet, the discovery of nuclear fusion, x-rays, the brick, rockets, the eraser: all of these have been identified as the greatest innovations in history in a new survey.
Over 100 key thinkers and experts from the fields of science, technology and medicine - including six Nobel laureates - participated in the spiked/Pfizer survey
'What's the Greatest Innovation?' (

Six participants in the survey will be sharing their views and debating the subject of innovation at a spiked/Pfizer event in central London on Wednesday 6 June.

Anjana Ahuja science columnist, The Times

Dr Ken Arnold Head of Public Programmes, Wellcome Trust

Professor Peter Cochrane co-founder of ConceptLabs, and former chief technologist at BT

Professor Marcus Du Sautoy professor of mathematics, Wadham College, Oxford

Sir Tim Hunt (FRS) principal scientist, Cancer Research UK; Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001 (shared with Lee Hartwell & Paul Nurse)

Dr David Roblin VP, Clinical R&D, Pfizer Global Research & Development

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Public Accountability and "Brownie"

While in Orlando, Florida last week I read this New York Times headline, "China to execute ex-food czar", for an article by David Barboza. First a personal request to all editors out there before I continue this posting -- PLEASE do your part to stop the wanton use of the word "czar" (or "tsar" if you are old school like me) to cover nearly every key government job function!! Drug Czar, War Czar, etc. The only true use for this word is in context for the monarch of old Russia when the czar had ultimate power not to describe a government job -- no one in their right mind would want a true "czar" serving in modern day government.

That said let the posting continue with an obituary reference to Zheng Xiaoyu, the former Director of China's Food and Drug Administration from 1998 to 2005. Due to a series of tainted food scandals which led to the deaths of several people Mr. Zheng has received a death sentence by China's government for his poor job performance. No that is not a typo -- a death sentence was issued for non-performance on a government job.

Imagine how many people we would have on death row were this a policy in the USA!!!! ;-) All kidding aside this is not a policy I would advocate of course but it does highlight an important difference between our two countries in terms of the job performance expectations we have of our public officials. Former public officials like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Director Mike "Brownie" Brown should pause to reflect on Mr. Zheng's fate.

Rather than appoint more "czars" and/or risk having more incompetent managers like Brownie appointed to offices let us look for opportunities to eliminate entire agencies and departments in the federal government starting with the US Department of Education. Step One -- eliminate this department and divide its entire budget among the 50 state governments to use via block grants for 1.) science and math education 2.) energy research/science fairs 3.) foreign language study so we can become more of a trading nation. Step Two -- that will be addressed in a future posting as I continue offering ways to re-structure and downsize our government.

Citizens make great nations not tax slaves,


Monday, June 04, 2007

Profit Margins

As regular readers of this blog (yes both of you!!) know I do not support the concept of "minimum/living wages" since this is merely vote seeking via hidden taxation by public officials. However, I DO SUPPORT the elimination of all personal income taxes which would allow us all to live a higher quality of life.

I was reminded of the minimum wage arguments when I read an article in Florida last week which focused on the 88th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant-Hotel-Motel Show held in Chicago last week. Here are the restaurant statistics provided in the Florida Today newspaper article that I read --

  • 70% of restaurants are independently owned
  • 61% of these restaurants will close in three years
  • 30 to 34% of a restaurant's budget comes from food costs
  • 25 to 30% of a restaurants' budget comes from staff costs
  • 3 to 4 % is the typical restaurant's profit margin

So adding these statistics up another way shows that 55% to 64% of a restaurant's operating costs comes from food and staff costs which are some of the lowest paying occupations in the country. When minimum wages increases are imposed on business like restaurants and vegetable farms -- unless they can lobby to be exempted -- it further reduces the profit margins of restaurants thus causing more bankruptcies.

Since Americans love to dine out versus cooking at home I would encourage everyone to really think about immigration reform -- another topic I have written about on this blog where I advocated having the Mexican states vote in referendums to determine if they should join the USA -- the next time they eat in a restaurant since these professions tend to be dominated by immigrant workers.

A 3 to 4% margin is VERY thin so I am shocked anyone would open a restaurant -- state legislators and Members of Congress should have a greater appreciation for the entrepreneurs that do take the leap.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Disney World

My how your world changes when you become married with a child -- a very positive change of course in case my wife is reading this posting :-) Gone are my days of traveling alone to a remote Caribbean island for a week of scuba diving. The replacement activity is a trip to the amusement parks of Disney World in Orlando, Florida coupled with a Disney cruise to the Bahamas.

Overall it was a very entertaining trip with the "land-cruise" combination being the ideal scenario since one week in the amusement parks would be overdoing it and one week on the cruise ship would cause some cabin fever I believe. In no particular order are my observations regarding the Disney experience:

  • Luggage -- they really minimize how much you have to handle your luggage which of course is necessary since you are probably watching children, carry their equipment, etc.
  • Customer Service -- excellent service on board the Disney Wonder cruise ship but the amusement park staff (primarily the food concessions) were not at the quality level that you would expect from Disney. I would that most of the restaurant staff be sent to the Disney Institute so they can learn the quality process --
  • Amusement Parks -- for adults I recommend visiting EPCOT Center and Animal Kingdom. The country exhibits (Italy, China, Norway, Mexico, United Kingdom, etc.) at EPCOT are a great way for Americans not interested in touring overseas to actually give a glimpse of other countries (although it is no substitute for the real thing) and the safari ride at Animal Kingdom was very entertaining and educational.
  • Children -- the Dumbo ride is nothing more than a similar ride at your local carnival plus given the nearly 1 hour wait for the 2 minute ride is not a good ratio in terms of "time consumed versus fun produced" - my own formula :-)
  • Staff -- the cruise ship meals allow you the opportunity to get to know the wait staff. Our head server was "Witt" from Thailand who was married with four children. He works for Disney for 6 months at a time and then had 2 months off to visit his family in Thailand. Witt stressed that the Disney job provided the economic opportunities he would not be able to have if he worked in Thailand.
  • Obesity -- my only fear while touring Disney's parks was not crime of any kind but my fear of being run down by a motorized scooter or wheel chair used to transport very obese people around. Truly it was stunning how large people have grown and the prevalence of the obesity. I don't believe there is an "obesity epidemic" that requires government programs to be created to help people lose weight -- instead we need to reduce government programs such as subsidies paid to sugar producers. Ultimately we pay twice as tax payers -- 1.) sugar subsidies and 2.) health care expenses.

Our days at the Magic Kingdom are over as we fly back to reality.

Enjoy your travels,