Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Super Efficient Vehicles

I've been listening to some pod casts by Amory Lovins and I'm excited about the prospect of sup efficient vehicles. With current day technology, car companies just need new factories, or changes to their existing factories, it sounds like fuel efficiency could double. I don't understand why Detroit is so anti-CAFE, when existing technology could get better than the suggested improvements already at almost no cost of material difference.

Amory talks about how Boeing leapfrogged Airbus by taking the time to design the entire system around efficiencies and the new Boeing saved a lot of fuel over the Airbus. Car companies have the same opportunity.

Another thing he mentions is that 70% of the fuel in the US is used by Heavy and Light trucks. As I said before, making Semi's more efficient will have the biggest effect on the cost of the gas. In the US there is about 400 million gallons per day that are consumed. Saving as little as 5% a day in these trucks will cut about 1 million barrels of oil a day, which would stop about 1 Oil tanker the size of the exxon Valdez tanker a day from entering the country (which also saves more oil) and reduces the amount of semi's on the road to deliver gas to gas stations by several hundred more. That also cuts down the amount of gas used. So a change in the fuel fleet by as little as 5% can have a huge impact. I got my numbers from How Stuff Works.

This is crazy considering that the past 20 years the car fleets of companies fuel efficiency has remained static. 20 years of no progress from the greatest scientific minds? I can't believe that in the time that supercomputers have gone from taking up rooms to taking up a 4 ft cabinet. And yet we haven't improved the fuel efficiency of cars or more importantly trucks. This just ticks me off.

As my friend Greg says, That's my rant, what's yours?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Is your company insurance inclusive?

I've been hearing more and more about insurance for companies trying to find out how it will go over if they start charging more for people who are out of shape. Apparently insurance companies have realized that people who meet a certain weight level also require less in the way of doctors visits.

Should companies penalize workers who don't meet a standardized metric of health?

What would you think about insurance companies raising the price based on a health metric? If they did, would you change your behavior in order to meet the metric and save money?

I'm both for it and against it. I like the idea of encouraging people to lose weight. But I don't think I like the idea of it penalizing people more than being overweight itself already does.

How will insurance companies start treating people with disabilities? What about people with kids, or, who are divorced? How far will they go to charge more for the people they cover?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In God We Trust

You always hear the usual stories of pennies on the sidewalk being good luck, gifts from angels, etc. This is the first time I've ever heard this twist on the story. Gives you something to think about.
Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her house
The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.

As the three of them w ere about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband.
He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.

Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny.

He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?
"Look at it." He said. "Read what it says." She read the words " United States of America "
"No, not that; read further."
"One cent?" "No, keep reading."
"In God we Trust?" "Yes!" "And?"
"And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to laugh. Yes, God, I get the message.

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful! And, God is patient..

Elitist ruining running?

I was just sent a link to an article titled "How Oprah ruined the marathon"

It kind of ticked me off. The running elitist writing it, claiming that races are races and meant for the fast. Oprah and John Bingham didn't ruin the marathon, they started on the path to saving a nation.

What good is it to a country, to have a few people who are faster, if the rest of us have to stay home to watch them run on TV. The couch potato nation, brought to you by elitists who would rather bar slow runners from running races.

Too bad, Mr. I'm not fast. I'm not completely a fan of the Penguin, I do the best I can with the time I have, but I also don't have the time to log 100 miles a week, or even 30 miles a week.

I run for two reasons.
1. It's a stress relief. Nothing that I have done relieves the stresses in my life and makes me feel better about how things are going than running does.

2. To stay in shape. Running burns more calories faster than any other form of exercise I do.

That's right, I don't run to win races. It's not that I wouldn't like to win, it's just that for me, the choice is between being good at running faster and sucking at the rest of my life, or being good at my life and sucking at running. I choose the latter.

Why then do I run at races? That must be the real question. Because if I know I'm going to be slow, and I know I'm not putting in the time to be fast, there must be some reason to run races. There is. I run races to meet other runners. My training is done alone, I don't have the opportunity to run with others very often. I don't even have the opportunity to meet other runners and talk about it very often, but when I show up at a race, I know I'll meet people who share common interests. I run races to see how fast I can run that distance that day, and to meet people. Races know this. That's why there are post race parties. If races were all about being elite then participating would not earn marathoners a medal. They would only give them out to people who qualified for Boston, or met some other arbitrary time goal. However races are about covering a distance. That's why anyone who completes a marathon gets a medal, they completed the distance and met the requirements of the race officials.

All these slow people taking over the race courses are good for racing. Despite the fact that average times are down, the fastest people are still faster. Sure they aren't on pace with the world's elite, but America's fastest are still setting American records. What's more important though is the number of people who run instead of sitting at home watching TV or at a bar drinking. Oprah and John "the Penguin" Bingham may have lowered the average time of races, but they have raised the number of participants and average health level of those people.
Interestingly, the last year an American born male won a marathon was 1983. This was at a time when runners from other countries weren't competing full scale yet. As soon as they started, America fell from the top and have never returned. It's not that American running was dominant. It's that American running was practically a monopoly. Those great late 70's runners are mostly coaches for today's elite runners. Those same men who knew how to be great then, haven't given America another marathon elitist. The problem is that they themselves were never really dominant, they won by default, by lack of competition.

For those American running elitists, if you really want to get America back into running, hire a coach from one of the countries that kicks our ass. Stop babying the elite we have with old elite that never were, and give them real coaches that will push them to the limits they should be pushed to be elite.

Me, I'd rather keep going down the path of America being more fit overall than America happening to win a few marathons.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Are you positive or negative?

It's that simple. You decide. Are you going to think positively about something or negatively.

A positive attitude about something will improve the chances of a positive outcome. While a negative one will increase the likelihood for a bad outcome. This is the law of attraction at it's best.

More importantly, approaching a tough situation with a negative attitude will make it all that much harder to get through, even if you do accomplish it, you will be drained the entire time you are going through it. However, approaching a tough situation with a positive attitude will help you get through it with more energy, and no matter the outcome, you will be less stressed.

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed Him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry Was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation. Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life." "Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested. "Yes it is," Jerry said.

Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life." I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

- - -

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body. I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"

I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. "The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live. "Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked. Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man. "

I knew I needed to take action." "What did you do?" I asked. "Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!'

Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead." Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

I heard a story very similar to that one that really made me think. Am I living this way? Do I choose to be that positive all the time? Maybe we can all do a little better with our attitudes.

Friday, November 02, 2007

How to win friends and amaze yourself.

Just over 2 years ago I read "How to Win Friends and Influence People". It was a very good book that made a lot of sense in my life and helped me improve my relationships with others. It helped, but I wanted more.

About 6 months ago I asked my boss to send me to Dale Carnegie training. For many reasons, this was a difficult task for me. Thirteen weeks ago a group of people showed up for an orientation meeting which ended with an assignment to be prepared for the first week. Each session would be spent listening to everyone in the class give a speech about their own experiences with the challenges in their lives, and participating in some exercises to help us stretch out of our own comfort zone.

The first week arrived and I was nervous. I was very nervous. I had been up until Midnight trying to memorize my speech, and I even practiced it at work, forcing my co-workers to listen to it. They gave me some constructive criticism and I incorporated it. By the end of that first Thursday, I was convinced that I could make up a story, whether it's true or not and get through 11 more weeks of this.

During that first week I was reading the assignments and realized that making up stories would do me no good. I wouldn't get out of the class anything. I had to put all of myself into the class in order to get a lot out of it. I remember telling Erin before I went to class the second week that "if I'm going to get everything the class has to offer, I have to put myself out there completely open". I was scared. I was petrified.

The speech that 2nd week had me nervous. I hadn't prepared it, I hadn't rehearsed it. I knew what I was going to talk about, it was my life, it was a topic impossible for me to get lost on. That day, I decided to put all of myself into this class. I was going to study the assignments, take the challenges that they threw at me and embrace them. I knew that I had to give it my all.

Last night was graduation. It was one final time to share our stories in a forced setting;. to stand up in front of people who started as strangers, but were now friends. In the last 12 weeks, my day to day approach to so many small things has changed. I don't think there is an a single aspect of my life that hasn't been affected by my attending the Dale Carnegie class.

Erin and the kids came to graduation, I wanted to share at least a small part of the fun that I've had in the class with them. I wanted them to see how much fun it is, and meet the great people that I now call my friends. Overall, I think the kids were great. For 2 and 4 you can't really ask for them to be better behaved than they were. I was so proud of them, and so happy that they were there.

When it was all said and done, we voted for the people we thought lived the Dale Carnegie principles the best. My votes went in, just like everyone else. I was pretty sure I knew those that would win. They had had amazing breakthroughs are amazing people. So as Bill stood in front of the room and talked about their achievements and struggles and how they have overcome things and how deserving they were, I was sitting right there basically saying Amen. When the final award for the "highest acheivment", the one voted by the class as the one living the principles the best came up, I sat back and relaxed. Class was almost over. I'd cheer for the winner, congratulate them, because anyone in the class who won deserved it and get home. My kids were tired, up way past their bedtime, and I was worn out. Bill announced the winner, Steven Rigney, and I started clapping...Then it sank in. That was me! That couldn't be me! There are so many others that have done amazing things.

I'm very proud. I didn't sleep well last night, and I've been on a high all day today with the after affects of this award. It is definitely going to be my proudest achievement hanging on the wall.

This class has been amazing for me. For anyone looking to stretch, to push yourself to become better than you are, no matter where you are, this class can help if you approach it with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.

You can read my wife's take at her post "I have barely recovered from last night but need to tell you just how awesome the Awesome Hubby is"