Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The couple was in serious trouble. We met in an effort to discuss their marital struggles and, hopefully, avoid a divorce. The husband said something that caught my attention and caused me to ask him to repeat it to make sure I had heard correctly. He said “We are the only couple having trouble”.

How could he believe this? I think he was comparing himself to other couples in the church. As church people we were practiced and cautious to hide our struggles, fears, failures, problems and doubts. We presented a façade, a dishonest example and an unrealistic model to people in the church and to those outside.

His statement identified a problem and his words cause me to be more open. I write about my experiences, both good and bad, because doing so may help someone by offering a sense of identification and hope.

My main reason for reading blogs is to enjoy a sense of community. I learn, I empathize, I am encouraged, I am chastised and I am enriched by the people I call friends and know through their blogs. My main reason for writing is to contribute to the community as an equal member with some successes, some failures, some pain and some joy.

The cynic may say “misery loves company” but I prefer to say “we’re not alone – we’re in this together”.

Monday, November 28, 2005


My first memories of alcohol come from about age four. On a Sunday afternoon an uncle was laughing and telling about the “good” time he had the night before drinking at a local bar. He told about a fight and to illustrate he showed my father his suit that was splattered with blood. He laughed; my father didn’t.

Some older cousins gave me wine when I was in first grade. For some reason, I remember this clearly.

As a child I remember going alone into bars looking for another alcoholic uncle. A few years later I got a call from a cousin to come to her family’s help because this uncle was drunk and had a gun.

I watched an aunt with DTs. She was terrified and screaming because she saw snakes. He nine year old daughter was saying “I’ll kill them, Momma” and was stomping the floor wherever her mother pointed.

We had two cousins live with us for several months because their parents were too drunk to care for them. On another occasion my father sent money for an entire family to move over a thousand miles to live with us for a few weeks until they could get jobs and furniture and a place to live.

The stories could go on and on.

My parents never drank. I knew where my father stood on the issue but he never lectured me. He didn’t have to – I saw the risks and the effects of alcohol. I’m too rational and have too much of a kiss-my-ass attitude so I wasn’t affected by peer pressure to drink in my teen years. Oh, I did some drinking but very little. I remember going to a place as a teenager just to watch two girls dance and had to drink just to be there but drinking held nothing for me.

My son had a different life. He never drove an alcoholic uncle to a detox center. He never slept on the floor because some family was living with him to escape an alcoholic home. He never had to do without because money was being sent to buy groceries because an aunt or uncle was drunk. My son never saw me drink. He knew where I stood on the issue.

My son was an alcoholic by the time he was 21 and I never knew.

I thought I was doing all the right things. I added some money to what he had earned so he could buy a bass boat. Together we stripped in down, repaired it, painted it and reassembled it and all the time I never knew. I watched spend several evenings building a radio controlled model airplane and went with him to fly it for the first time and I never knew. Each year on the day after thanksgiving we would float the river and squirrel hunting and I never knew. Curfews and phone calls and doing all the right things and I never knew.

I feel like I can tackle any problem. Nothing is too hot, too heavy, too anything – I can beat it, dammit! But this? I’m powerless. I can’t change him. I can’t fight his demons. I can't protect him. I hate this feeling of helplessness.

For ten years it was rough and I was tempted to give up hope. It’s horrible to dread answering the phone because it may be the call that he’s dead.

About six years ago things started to improve. It’s been up and down but each up has been a little more than the down. He’s winning. Slowly, so slowly, he’s winning – I hope. I wonder how many years it will take before “I hope” becomes “I know”. It’s hard to let go of that fear. For now, I’ll hold on to the hope.


I had an enjoyable Thanksgiving trip with some interesting experiences. Due to work and responsibilities I must delay my usual morning post until tonight (Monday).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Mystery

I don’t drink. Reason number one: I don’t enjoy the taste. Reason number two: I dislike feeling fuzzy brained. Reason number three: there are too many alcoholics on both sides of my family.

My first wife’s uncle’s mission in life was to get me to drink. Why? I don’t know.

One Saturday evening at a wedding reception he continued to harass me. In part because I didn’t feel like I was getting support from my wife, I finally said “OK, bring me something but don’t mix anything in it.” I don’t like the taste and the few mixed drinks I had tasted were worse than straight alcohol. He brought a glass – a large glass - of straight whiskey. I drank it. He brought another. I drank it. When I began to feel the effects I asked a brother-in-law to drive me home. I got up, walked out to the car, had the sense to know it was about to come up before I got into the car, took care of that little problem, got into the car, went home and went to bed. On Sunday morning about six AM I went to a restaurant in town and had breakfast. I ate it and ordered a second breakfast and went on with my life. End of story!

Never again did this uncle offer me a drink. Why? I don't know; perhaps, because I didn't make an ass of myself and it wasn't any fun for him.

People are a mystery to me.

Friday, November 25, 2005


A few months ago I registered an internet domain name to develop a website about living off the grid. I have developed a template and outline for the site and will implement it over the winter. In the interim, I have created a new blog and written a draft of the first post. The blog is titled “Living Off the Grid” (http://gridfree.us/blog) and will detail my experiences and the things I've learned and am learning. I will include several photos.

Take a look and join me if it’s your cup of tea.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Random Disconnected Thoughts on Gratitude

Today is Thanksgiving but it’s not a special day to me. It seems odd to me that we allocate one day to express thanks and on that day we do so by participating in ritual gluttony. Ah, that is a strange and curious custom that we have but I refuse to go down that path. Rather I choose to focus on life lived with continuing gratitude.

I experience happiness but happiness seems shallow and fleeting without gratitude. I feel content but contentment is a hazy fog without gratitude.

I wake up each morning with gratitude which is difficult to explain and describe. Somehow, gratitude is a constant feeling or experience or attitude that makes the world seem right and good and sacred. I am not my own creator. I am not all powerful – not omnipotent – so I cannot control the world, my life, my present or my future. Gratitude is a way of acknowledging my dependence on and relationship with the Mysterious Unknown.

Continuing gratitude makes me thankful for life, for struggle and hardship, for challenge and success and failure. It wasn’t always like this. A bad first marriage and years of struggle and a growing feeling of hopelessness were not lived with gratitude. Somehow a miracle occurred and I was given a second chance at life. For this opportunity, I am thankful.

I enjoy the feeling of insignificance and fragility that I experience in nature. I like hiking in remote areas without telling anyone my location or plans. It can be foolish and stupid and dangerous but I’m thankful for this experience of solitude. In some inexplicable way it enriches me and makes me feel so alive and grateful. More important to me is the opportunity for semi-solitude as I share these experiences with Julie.

Sometimes, it’s difficult or impossible to order and prioritize lists. I’m thankful for my life and I’m thankful for my wife and the time and experiences that we share. For which am I more thankful? I can’t say. The two are intertwined and inseparable. It truly feels like “two who have become one”. For this I am thankful. Things can be replaced but Julie cannot. If forced to choose I say “I’m most thankful for Julie. I can’t imagine life without her.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I'm heading for Texas early tomorrow (Wednesday) so there may not be a post until late Wednesday or early Thursday. Hope everyone has a pleasant holiday.

My Stupidity

When I was young I had an affair. I can’t tell you why it happened. Lust doesn’t explain it. I can’t think of a rational explanation. What I do know for certain is that I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m thankful for it. It helped make me who I am.

It’s ironic but, I’ve learned more and grown more from my stupidity and bad choices than I have from my twenty-plus years of formal education. The affair was brief but the lessons have remained.

First lesson: I have no reason to be self-righteousness. I’m imperfect and I know it. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a holy roller. He passed on to my mother an unhealthy and unreasonable view of religion and life which she passed on to me. I was raised to expect perfection in myself and in others. My affair destroyed that fantasy. Fortunately, this affair occurred prior to the twenty years that I was a pastor and I view it as part of my preparation. It enabled – and enables -- me to see people more realistically.

Second lesson: I thought of the young woman frequently for about two years after I last saw her and it was several years before she slipped from my memory. It’s easy to become attached to people but it’s difficult to end attachments. Brief friendships or brief enmities can have long lasting effects. This has caused me to pick friends carefully and to be cautious how I relate to others. Physical wounds heal quickly, Emotional wounds may take a lifetime.

Third lesson: I can’t tell you how or why the affair happened. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened. I was a young male and it has been my experience that many young males are still learning to become human. That’s my only defense. It’s sad that we are often so quick to ruin a young person’s life for one act. I’ve learned that drugs, alcohol, indiscretions, petty theft and many other bad choices made by young people should be approached with compassion, forgiveness and magnanimity. Young adults need time and positive examples to emulate. Given time and encouragement, they will learn and mature.

I am no longer young and I learned some lessons from my act of stupidity. Now, I am older and I’ll continue to be stupid and continue to learn, but, this is OK. I like my life, I like it very much – the good and the bad, the wise and the stupid. I wouldn’t give up either part. Both make me feel alive and thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Necessity

It sometimes feels like an extravagance, an expensive indulgence, an unwise use of money. Fortunately, these emotions are fleeting and irrational.

My wife and I own a motorhome. We lived in it full-time for two and a half years and it was easy to justify the cost. Now, in addition to occasional trips, we pay a small amount to store it near Phoenix and, each month during the winter, we spend a couple weekends in it at a resort – hot tubs, swimming pools, sunlight, warm weather and, most important, new friends.

There’s something unusual about the people we meet. They refuse to act their age.

This past weekend we met Ray and Freida. Here are a few details about them.
  • Born in the UK.
  • Live in British Columbia.
  • He was in the Navy during the end of WWII.
  • Live on 5 acres in a forty year old mobile home.
  • Spend half the year traveling.
  • Motorcycled and tandem bicycled Europe.
  • Traveled throughout much of the US.
  • Lived a portion of the last 19 winters in Arizona.
  • Recently added a side car to their motorcycle.
If you saw them you would under-estimate their ages by 15 years!

The people – the OLD people -- we meet who own a recreational vehicle and travel tend to be happy, healthy, energetic, mentally sharp, really alive, vigorous, positive, bright, . . . – and the list goes on and on.

Last winter, at a resort, I met a man wearing a baseball cap that I recognized. It related to an article I read in a WWII magazine about a group of really old sailors who went to the Mediterranean to repair and sail an LST back to the US. He was part of the crew! It was fascinating talking with him.

I don’t know the cause/effect relationship. Do healthy/happy people own RVs or does owning and using an RV cause a person to be healthier and happier? Is it neither or both? Doesn’t matter, I’m not going to take a chance. I’m going to keep my RV and continue using it. It's not an extravagance; it's a necessity. I may not live longer but I’ll definitely keep good company!

Hope to see you down the road some day.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Weekend Adventure

Julie begins her new job on Monday so we took today (Friday) off to celebrate. We’re going south to hike in the Superstitions and will be home Sunday afternoon or evening. The next post probably won’t occur until Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Navigating Relationships

I answered the phone about suppertime and heard the words “Hey, come over and let’s go play pool”. The caller was a boy about fifteen who lived about one-quarter mile away and had been my best friend for the summer. My cousin was with him and the three of us made plans to go to a pool hall a few miles away. I agreed to meet them and hung up the phone. As I started out the door my mother told me to wait because supper was almost ready but I assured her I would be back in less than 15 minutes and started walking. When I got to the house my “friend” and my cousin were rolling on the floor laughing. We talked for a few moments about nothing in particular and I went home for supper.

This story makes sense if you understand that I was sixteen, could drive and had access to a car. My friend and cousin didn’t want to play pool with me. They needed transportation. They got a laugh out of my action of walking to the house rather than driving. They laughed because they knew that I knew their real intent. I have no memories of my friend after this experience. We graduated from high school and took different paths in life. About 20 years later I heard that he had been arrested for statutory rape. He died as an alcoholic in his mid-forties.

On that Saturday afternoon I was lucky. Normally, I would have gotten angry and reacted emotionally and verbally at the thought of being used but for some strange reason I handled the situation with a little grace and some finesse. My emotional reaction and thought processes remain a mystery. I reacted instinctually and the friendship ended peacefully, happily, perfectly.

Friendships come and go. Relationships change and become stronger or weaker, better or worse. Life is never static. For me, the art of life is to navigate relationships without harming or being harmed. Due to some mysterious unseen guide or sheer luck, I’ve realized that relationship navigation is an art that can be learned. I’m still working to develop the art. Unattainable perfection is a long way off but that’s not important. I’ll settle for slow progress and small improvements.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Teaching Sales

He asked me to sign a blank sheet of paper! Blank! Nothing on it!

I needed a new vehicle and the salesman was young, perhaps 25. His first question was "How much can you afford per month." Interesting question! Why didn't he ask "Will you be paying cash?". I ignored his question and told him what I was looking for -- features, price range, etc. As we began looking, he asked the same question again -- and again. I continued to ignore the question and focused on what I wanted to buy and not what he wanted to sell.

The pressure mounted. He wanted to go inside and sit. He offered coffee or another drink. I asked for total price, taxes, fees, etc, included. I don't care of the vehicle costs $3,000 base price. There are fees -- huge fees. The $3,000 vehicle will cost $22,000 or more in the end. After a while he quoted a price on a vehicle and then said "Of course, there is a $300 doc fee and . . .".

Finally, after two hours, "to prove that I was serious" he asked that I sign a blank sheet of paper. It was hopeless. He appeared incapable of learning and breaking out of his manipulation mode. I left.

I went to another dealership and approached the oldest salesman I saw and explained that I wanted to buy a vehicle, I didn't want to be asked how much I could afford per month, I didn't want to be shown vehicles that didn't match what I'm asking to see -- and, I wanted the final price without a detailed breakdown. He listened and we arrived at a deal.

Too much of the corporate world is strong on manipulation and sales techniques but lacking in ethics.

When my children were in their early teens I took them to a time-share presentation after telling them I had no intention of buying. It was my responsibility to prepare them for life. I wanted them to be educated in real life with some practical, useful knowledge. The presentation concluded, the pressure applied and increased and, finally, the regional manager was brought in without success. After we left, I talked with my children about the experience.

I don't fear terrorism or avian flu. In my opinion, one of the biggest threats that we face is corporate greed and lack of ethics. Too many people have been manipulated into buying things they don't need and are working to stay ahead of the bills while trying to plan some way to buy another novelty. Happiness has been defined as ownership.

By choice, I don't own much. I've learned that things can deny me the opportunity to enjoy life. I may be short on things but I'm rich with a wonderful wife, health, contentment, inner peace, nature, challenges and adventures. I learned the value of things about 45 years ago from a bicycle but that's anther story for another time.

Damn! I need to replace a cell phone. Here I go again -- off to try to teach a young salesman how to listen. It’s my responsibility to try.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The book caught my attention as I walked through the stacks and on impulse I began reading it while standing in the aisle.

In a Jewish neighborhood, beside a mail box, researchers dropped letters in unsealed envelopes that contained a check. The envelopes were addressed to an obviously anti-Jewish organization. The essence of the letters was something like "I support your organization. We must do something to stop the Jews. Enclosed find my (second, sixth, eighteenth, twentieth) of twenty payments to join your organization." Researchers watched as people discovered the envelopes, removed and read the letter, and mailed, kept or discarded it. After observing, researchers approached the people who found the letter and interviewed them.

The Results: If the payment was an early payment (first, second, third, etc), the finders were likely to discard the letter. If the payment was near the end (eighteen, nineteen or twenty), the finders were likely to return the check and letter to the envelope and drop it in the mail. This was true even if the finder was Jewish!

The Conclusion: People like success! We want to see people succeed. We cheer them on and want to help. The closer a person is to success the more we cheer and help -- even if we don't agree with their goals.

I worked in university fundraising for a few years. One of the principles of fundraising is that people give to winners, to success. Never beg for money. Don't talk about need. Rather, talk about success and goals and the good that will be done with contributions. A person's money is an extension of the person. Donors want to feel like they have done something worthy.

I try to live with thoughts of winning and succeeding in mind. I focus on people who are working to make a difference rather than those who are ranting and raving but never offering solutions. I try to look beyond problems to solutions knowing others will offer support and help.

I'm living happily and successfully off the grid. I think it makes a difference in our world and I know you cheer me on.

What are your goals and successes? Tell me and brighten my day. I want to cheer you on!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flipping the Coin

I'm guilty. It's easy to point out the flaws of religious institutions but let's be aware of the good side they can exhibit and the truth they attempt to embody.

I graduated from a Baptist seminary. Some Baptists are notorious for elevating themselves at the expense of Catholics. In a class on church history I was amazed -- and pleased -- to learn all that Catholics had done in this country: schools, orphanages, hospitals and other humanitarian efforts. Groups of Catholics accomplished goals that were impossible for individuals. Sometimes, institutions are necessary.

Religious institutions are not necessarily corrupt but they are creations and will follow the course of all creations -- people, buildings, societies and environments. Created things go through an aging process. They flourish, grow old and die.

Let's compare religious institutions to a building, a public school. A school is constructed to educate children but as the years pass the building ages. Additions are constructed, walls are moved, plumbing and heating systems are replaced or updated. In the end, the school building outlives it useful life and is demolished. It's the same with religious institutions. They begin because a group of people see a need, have a goal and are filled with passion and determination. The institution flourishes for a period of time before a transition occurs. The purpose or mission becomes secondary to maintaining the institution. "We must do something to increase attendance." "These young people are trying to change things." The mission is forgotten as those in authority struggle to maintain past glories and their authority. Slow death has begun.

In the midst of aging and struggle and slow death we need to remember the original purpose of religious institutions. They educate people, motivate people, consolidate efforts to accomplish goals, provide help and comfort, provide one means of corporate spiritual expression and do much more.

In the end, let's be cautious about destroying organized religion. Let's point out the weaknesses but let's also point out the strengths. Let's focus on successes while not ignoring the excesses. Let's not demolish until we can offer a replacement.

I don't attend church. Sometimes, I miss it. I wish I could find a group and join with them in celebrating Life. If this happens, I'll do it knowing it's temporary. Soon, too soon, age and decay will begin and I'll be on the move looking for new life -- because I don't know how to resurrect the dead.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I have nagging thoughts in my head about life and the Divine. Throughout the world and through the ages men and women have been creating religions, rules, temples and rituals. These seem so vain and useless and corrupt.

My nagging thoughts involve a young child, about three years old, who receives a gift from a parent, some gift of great attraction and mystery and unlimited fun and discovery. The child takes the gift and, shouting and running and leaping, beings to examine the gift and enjoy it and wants to share it with friends. In his excitement, the child says nothing to the parent and forgets the parent is in the room. The gift holds his attention captive. The parent watches and has an expanding, warm and filling emotion of happiness and joy. You know the feeling -- the one that makes you think life is so good that you will explode. The parent's joy comes from seeing the child's elation.

Another child receives an identical gift, looks at it with little emotion and then, with practiced tone and actions, says "Thank you, father, for the gift. You are truly kind and loving." And the parent feels . . . ?

Personally, I don't won't to be the second child who is cold and lifeless. I don't want to waste my gift in heartless temples worshipping a god created and given to me by old men and women who had the life extracted from them by their ancestors.

I choose to be the first child. I choose to be so caught up in life that I don't have time for prayer and rituals and reading dried ink on yellowing paper. I choose compassion over rules. I choose people over temples. I choose life over death. I choose risk over safety. I choose community over isolation. I choose gratitude over pride.

The act of living my life is my act of worship.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Being Made New

A lone condor circled above the Grand Canyon in front of a deep blue sky and moved gracefully without visible movement of wing tips or tail.

After we left a restaurant, I looked up to see if it was still there but saw an empty sky. As we walked along the canyon rim, I heard the excited voice of an older oriental woman speaking a language I could not understand but I was able to understand one word – condor! I saw her husband raise his camera and watched the smiles and anticipation and excitement on their faces. The bird was flying in a tight circle, coming close to us as it descended into the canyon. It looked healthy, strong and beautiful - and it was a raven. I smiled and watched the couple for a minute and soaked up their excitement and went on my way without attempting to tell them it was not a condor. It was a win-win experience.

Recreation is an interesting word: re-creation. When recreating we are being made new. This older couple didn’t need to see a condor nor did they need educated. They needed to be made new and this was happening as they explored, experienced and shared discoveries together. I was made new as I shared their excitement.

Julie and I will spend Christmas in Amsterdam. We will search out new experiences and explore the mysteries we find in The Netherlands. Hopefully, the cycle will repeat itself. Things that we will find amazing and don’t understand will draw our attention and native Dutch people will watch us and smile. We will be re-created and life will take on a magical freshness.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sized About Right

Not much sun for two days,
Very little wind for two days.
Julie’s son and daughter-in-love (doesn’t daughter-in-law sound cold?) are visiting so we are using extra electricity.

Because of these, yesterday I chose to run my gas generator for three hours to prevent my batteries from dropping below 66% full. This was the first time I’ve run it in five or six months.

Part of the art of living off the grid is having a system that is

  • reasonable in cost,
  • reasonable in materials and energy investment,
  • gives the opportunity to live comfortably but not extravagantly,
  • provides an experience of living in harmony with the cycles of nature.

I think my system is sized about right.

(Today the sun is shining bright in a cloudless sky and we're leaving for the Grand Canyon! Tonight we'll return home to full batteries. Life off the grid is perfect!)

I Was Left Wanting More

An amazing thing happened yesterday.

It had been a good day. We had hiked and taken photos. It just felt good to be alive. After we arrived back in town we parked and started to cross the street. A car was coming so I hesitated and waited for it to pass but the driver stopped and motioned for us to cross. I smiled and waved thank you. After crossing the driver waved and once again I smiled and waved back.

About 10 minutes after crossing the street a man about my age with a white beard called out to me. “My wife said that if we lived here, you and I would be good friends.” It was the driver.

I smiled, laughed and replied “Really? Why did she say that?”

“Because there’s something about your smile!” He laughed and slapped me on the shoulder. We exchanged a few more words and went on our way.

I was left wanting more. He spoke with a British accent which meant he had experiences and knowledge and perspectives on life that would be interesting and I wanted to get to know him. He was outgoing and friendly and that’s the kind of people who make life good and fun and exciting. He touched me – a stranger – and that’s rare. It took confidence and genuineness.

I felt good before that chance meeting but I felt great after that brief friendship. I many never meet him again. I hope I do and I hope I meet more people like him.

By the way, my smile had nothing to do with this adventure in friendship. I wouldn’t have smiled if he hadn’t been a kind person who stopped to let me cross the street. His kindness brought out the smile.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Prospecting Blogs

“…perhaps the beauty of god, is instead found in the depth and ugliness of our lives…”

I found the above quote in an eight part post by Natala that tells of her discovery of a life of faith that is challenged by dead religion. Part 8 and the comments provide rich food for thought. If you give it a try and choose not to read all eight posts then I encourage you to skip ahead to part 8. Here’s the beginning: http://heretogoal.blogspot.com/2005/07/porn-star-part-1.html

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Story

You may find this story upsetting.

There is a science fiction story about the atrophy of the universe but I do not remember the title or the author – perhaps Isaac Asimov. It has been too many years and I'm not certain.

In the story, mankind is concerned about the atrophy of the universe -- the death of the universe. Men and women build a great computer to find a way to prevent the atrophy but the computer fails. As generations pass, more powerful computers are constructed but fail to find a solution. Eventually, mankind becomes disembodied spirits with even greater computers but no way to stop the universe’s atrophy. Finally, there remains one star in the universe and two spirits. All other stars and spirits have died. The two ask the computer how to prevent the death of the last star and the computer replies “There is insufficient data at this time to reply”. The last star fades, the last two spirits die and the computer exists in darkness pondering the one question that it was never able to answer. Suddenly, the computer stops calculating and sits quietly for a time and then says “Let there be light” and there was light!

Does this story upset you? I know people who would react very strongly to this story and would call it heresy and would exhibit violent emotion.

I think there is no hope for the world until we can listen to one another’s stories with attention and sincere interest and without feeling threatened.

Tell me your story. I want to know and understand.

Eleven Energy Myths

I have no commercial utilites and must generate electricity so saving energy is important to me. The less I need, the less I must invest in my system. However, it's not just a pragmatic interest. I have an innner passion for preserving our environment. For me, preserving the environment is a spiritual act. Perhaps you will find this list of myths interesting and helpful.

  • Myth: When my appliance is turned off, it's off.
  • Myth: Fluorescent lighting is unhealthy.
  • Myth: Halogen lighting is super-efficient.
  • Myth: Cleaning refrigerator coils improves efficiency.
  • Myth: Leaving lights, computers, and other appliances on uses less energy than turning them off and also makes them last longer.
  • Myth: Energy efficiency products increase the initial cost of houses.
  • Myth: Insulating the ceiling will just cause more heat to leak out of the windows.
  • Myth: Switching to electric room heaters will reduce your energy bill.
  • Myth: Electric heating is more efficient than fuel-based heating.
  • Myth: Buying an efficient air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce my utility bill.
  • Myth: Installing foam gaskets in electrical outlets will significantly reduce air leakage.

Additional information: The energy crisis has given rise to a growing set of energy myths. In this article, researcher Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Environmental Energy Technologies Division reviews the myths and then lays out the facts. (http://enews.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/energy-myths3.html)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Game for Families

Do you have young children or grandchildren? Here’s a great game that involves beauty, exercise, nature, discovery and family time – Geocaching!

I have a cache hidden in Kelly Canyon near Flagstaff. The canister contains some inexpensive items. The latitude and longitude are posted on the Geocaching website and families (or anyone) can get the location and search for the cache using a GPS. Upon finding the cache an item can be taken and another item can be left. The real goal isn’t to find an inexpensive item but to get out in nature as a family.

Here are some comments that I received from some people who recently found my cache:

  • “We really did have fun this morning on this one. Thanks so much for the hike and the fun. We will be back again sometime when the water is flowing again.”

  • “Absolutely beautiful spot - nothing more to say. Be quiet and enjoy.”

  • “Geotoddler hiked almost the entire way to this hike and we all loved the location. Had a blast getting there.”

I have five grandsons living in Kentucky. Two years ago while visiting I took them to look for a cache. This one was a multi-cache. The website gave the coordinates of the first location where we would find a 35mm film canister that contained a note with the coordinates of the cache with the goodies. Each of my grandsons took a turn carrying the GPS while learning how to operate it. When we arrived at the location of the film canister we had to search likely hiding places. After they searched without success I suggested a spot or two and we found the canister. The six year old immediately looked at me with suspicion and a accused me of coming the night before and hiding the canister. That made me happy! It’s good to learn early in life to think and be a little skeptical!

Hiking and being out in nature is one of my greatest joys. I’m glad I could share that experience with my grandsons and I’m glad I maintain a cache that takes other families into beautiful, peaceful Kelly Canyon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Don't Talk, Do It

Too often, religious people do more harm than good.

I used to work at a Baptist college. One Fall I agreed to lead a freshman orientation class. Each student was required to complete a personality inventory and meet with me to interpret the results. As I prepared for this assignment I discovered that students at this Baptist college had more guilt than the general population.

What! How was this possible? These were children who were raised in church. These were children who should have been hearing and EXPERIENCING love and forgiveness and acceptance. They should have had less guilt, not more.

About that time a pastor phoned me. He had a young lady who sang in the choir and was pregnant. The problem was that she wasn’t married and the pregnancy was beginning to show. He asked “What should I do?” What he really wanted to know was how to get her out of the choir without angering her family. My response was “Don’t do anything. Let her sing and be thankful that she’s coming to church where you can show her that you care for her.” The young girl responded to a natural instinct and found herself facing a great deal of responsibility and lost opportunities. She knew she had made an unwise choice – not an evil choice but an unwise choice. What she needed was people who gathered around her and let her know that she wasn’t alone or unloved or condemned.

It's understandable that the students in the orientation class felt guilt. Our actions destroyed our message of forgiveness.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

No Winners

My neighbor was not a pillar of the community. I heard about him from many people when I first moved into the community. He and his wife had divorced but were living together. He had killed a man with whom his wife had an affair. His 16 year old daughter became pregnant and moved in with the father-to-be but they never married. I could tell you more but I think you have an image of the type of people he and his wife were.

My neighbor treated me with respect and kindness. I can’t remember the first cross word or unpleasant experience. I can remember his hospitality and kindness.

My neighbor had three children at home who spent quite a bit of time at my house. The oldest boy practically lived at my house. We fed him, took him to restaurants and paid for his meals and treated him like our son. He received something from us that he didn’t get at home.

I baptized two of my neighbor’s children. The father never attended but the mother did attend both baptisms. Upon seeing her enter the church the chairman of the deacons said to me “If she starts attending, my family and I are leaving!”

Amazing! Damned amazing! How could he be so blind, so selfish and so hateful that he would not want something better for the children of this family? How could he call himself Christian and clutch so tightly to hatred? I remember my neighbor with good thoughts because of the kindness he extended to me. I remember this church member with sadness and a slight amount of despair.

I try to end each post with a positive slant. In this case I can’t think of one. There were no winners – only losers in this experience. But, that’s life sometimes. We take the bad with the good and keep going.

We Are Intertwined

My life, my happiness and my future are intertwined with your life, your happiness and your future..

I was raised to be prejudiced against blacks. As a young child I was confused by comments I heard about Jews. I got the message that they were bad people but didn’t understand why. Once, while passing a Holiness church, I saw the religious fervor and being young and ignorant said to my cousin “I wonder if they are some of those weird Catholics that you hear about.”

About ten years ago I was making small talk with an older non-WASP contractor while working on some equipment. I mentioned that I was planning a trip to Santa Fe on the following weekend. His response surprised me: “I don’t like Santa Fe. There are too many weirdos.” That was the day that I realized I was a weirdo. I enjoyed Santa Fe because of the diversity. I fit in. In Santa Fe I felt the freedom to be myself without the need to conform. I enjoyed meeting and watching people who were different. I thrived on the experience.

How did I lose my prejudice? I had a father who was compassionate and rational and I learned from his example. I experienced prejudice myself. I lived and worked with people who were different and learned to appreciate the differences. I was fortunate because Life gave me the lessons I needed.

If I would care for myself then I must care for you. Your freedom is my freedom. You enrich my life. Be as weird as you chose and I’ll celebrate your weirdness and dance with you.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why I Don’t Watch Sports

I have a friend who is a sports fan, an extreme sports fan. I went with her to a college basketball game and it wasn’t going well for her team. I was slightly amused by her reaction – by the energy and emotion and passion that exploded from her as she watched the game. I almost spoke the unforgivable words when she suddenly turned to me and said “Don’t tell me it’s just a game because it isn’t!”

For her it was more than a game and it enriched her life but for me it was just a game. It was a game played by other people. I never watch sports because I want and need to play rather than watch.

When I get old and sit on a porch in a rocker and think back over my life I don’t want to remember television programs or sports games. I don’t want to have visions of other people playing and living as I sat on my butt. I would rather sit in a rocker and look at my hands and inspect the scars -- four on my left hand, one on my right. These and other scars are the souvenirs of my life that I gathered while living and playing.

A few years ago in remote part of Texas while hiking by a dry sandy stream my wife said “Let’s make butt prints in the sand!” So we did. That’s a good scratchy memory and probably the most fun I’ll ever have sitting on my butt.

Our universe is a huge smorgabord. Each of us can choose the people, things and experiences that enrich our lives.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Getting Better and Better

Yesterday my wife accepted a part-time job. Tonight she opened the mail and yelled “Yipee! I’ve found a charity and I can volunteer some time.” Life is good and keeps getting better.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Minimizing the Pyramid Effect

As children, we are sponges. We notice many things, ask questions and have a wide interest in the world we experience. As we age we tend to narrow our interests. We’re expected to select a major, to specialize. If we’re not careful a problem surfaces in our later years. We become so narrow and limited that we can’t relate to the larger word. Like a pyramid, we begin with a wide range of interests and narrow to a point.

This was impressed upon me years ago during one of my “teachable moments.” I was having a conversation with a retired faculty member who realized the problem. He had read, taught and breathed theology. He said “I can’t talk with people anymore unless they can talk theology.” He died about two years ago with alzheimers.

I’m trying to expand my interests by reading more subjects, trying new activities, reaching out to interact with new people. I’m experimenting to see if I can transform my pyramid into an hour glass. From some of my reading I’ve discovered that continued learning of new subjects may help delay the onset of dementia. If it does, fine. If it doesn’t then as least I’ll have a grand time with my new experiences, new books and new friends.

A Gift to Be Enjoyed

Great news! Today my wife accepted a new job making less than one-third of her current salary.

Why is this good news? Because life is a gift to be enjoyed and changes in her current job have not been increasing the joy. Her new position is part-time and will require her to work during the fall and spring semesters only – no work in January and no work in the summer. Since we are nearing retirement this will serve as a stepping stone.

So, to heck with the money and a less than pleasant working environment. Bring on the opportunity to live simple, to travel and to enjoy life.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I live in a desert and must haul water so I installed a water meter to manage my water usage. In the last eight weeks my wife and I have averaged 44 gallons per day. Some months it’s a little more or less. The average daily household consumption in the US is 350 gallons per day. I wonder how I’m doing compared to similar households because the national average includes families with children.

My goal is not to go to an extreme. It appears binge dieting is usually doomed and I think something similar applies to other areas of life. My wife and I don’t consciously try to minimize our water usage. We made choices and decisions, put them into practice and live comfortably without giving a thought to water.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Change of Pace

I posted some comments on Non Dual Reality’s blog. Since the comments took some time -- and relate to subjects that evoke some passion in me -- I'm reposting them here. The subjects: environment, energy, ecology, sustainability, everyone’s future.

I live off the grid -- no commercial utilities. I provide my electricity through wind and solar. I use 25% of the electricity that I used on the grid. I have had no reduction in quality of life. I have every convenience that I had on the grid. In town I was blind; now I see.

A little knowledge, a little discipline, $100 in purchases and most people could cut their electricity consumption dramatically.

We don't need more energy. We need more knowledge and the wisdom to use it.

i_wonder - what did you buy for $100?

Gretchen, here are some simple ways to save electric.

1. Compact flourescent lights - CFLs. They are a little more expensive than incandescent bulbs but use less energy. A CFL equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent uses 13 watts -- less than 25% -- and they last five years. I read somewhere (source escapes me now) that if every household in the US replaced just one incandescent with a CFL that it would be equivalent to saving 1,000,000 gallons of gas per day.

2. Outlet strips. Some appliances use electricity even if they are not being used. For example, TVs with remote controls must use some electricity to be able to sense the viewer clicking the remote's on-button. These are called phantom loads. I installed oulet strips on my television, CD/tape player, computer, etc. When I use them I turn them on via the outlet strip.

3. The most expensive item is a small unit called Kill-A-Watt (about $50?). Plug it into an outlet and plug an appliance into the Kill-A-Watt. It records the cumulative electric used by the appliance, the time in use, the rate of electric use and some other measurements. This tells me which appliances have phantom loads, and which use the most energy. For example, my refrigerator is about 13 years old and uses 60% of all the electicity that I generate and use. (Since I'm on wind and solar and my system works I'm not replacing it until it fails. However, if I purchased commercial electricity I would seriously consider replacing it now.) The Kill-A-Watt meter helps me manage my usage.

That's the $100. However, the biggest tip on saving electricity is turn it off if it's not needed.

A 100 watt light bulb uses 100 watts per hour. That's 2400 watts in 24 hours. My entire house uses 2400 watts per day for everything -- lights, fridge, hair dryer (obviously my wife's!), coffee maker, microwave, washer, gas dryer, furnace blower, etc, etc.

The bottom line: a little knowledge, a few small purchases and discipline.