Category Archives: Thoughts

Thoughts that pop into my head. Things that I ponder from time to time.

A message from Fred

It’s easy to get in the shopping and preparation rush for Christmas. I know, I am guilty of this. This year, I am going to be mindful to celebrate the true meaning of the season. Work can wait, my home to do list can wait. These words penned below sum it up pretty much.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
― Scrooge’s nephew Fred, from A Christmas Carol

The revival of the artisan career

I don’t know about you, but I am seeing a surge of what is now called artisan businesses. There is a surge of people in their late 20’s and 30’s taking a stab at what were at one time,  businesses found in every town.  Bakers, butchers, jewelers, carpenters, brewers, hands on business, literally “hands on.” The definition of an artisan is: a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods: our favorite local food artisans. 3. pertaining to an artisan or the product of an artisan; artisanal: artisan beer.

Artisancarpenter

With everything seeming to go digital, there is a resurgence of people wanting to put their hands to something other than a keyboard. They want to see the actual results of something that they made with their own two hands. It’s a sense of satisfaction that one gets from making something, be it an awesome wooden bowl or a perfectly pulled shot of espresso.  Spending time with others who also share these interests creates community and the ability to collaborate as well.

Many of the skilled trades are suffering from a lack of people entering them. With the baby boomers hitting retirement age, there just aren’t enough people entering the trades to replace them.  This will drive up prices for those that stay in their business, but it also opens up opportunities for the younger generation to enter the field and earn a very nice living.

I see this also affecting brick and mortar stores in the not too distant future. With many analysts predicting the death of the brick and mortar store, I see it as only temporary. When you purchase something online, it’s only for convenience. If you can’t find it locally and the buying decision is relatively easy, I can see people opting for an on-line purchase, but for other things like clothing, furniture, cars and local produce, why would you want to buy that on-line? I don’t know about you, but I want to feel the fabric, sit on the couch, test drive the car and see the produce that I am about to eat that evening. I also want the salesperson to tell me about what I am thinking about buying. Ideally, I want to form a relationship with that business owner so that when I need more clothing or food, I can talk to that person to help me in my buying decision. Sitting behind a computer can be very isolating and a chat box that pops up does not suffice as someone coming up to me in a store asking if they can truly help me. The difference I see in the brick and mortar store is a move away from the big corporate giants to more independent, local shops, where you know that your business is putting groceries on the table of someone that you have come to know; hence the relationship.

Many times, we get the feeling that a trend will continue and last forever, yet history shows us that there is a cycle to trends; they never last forever. I’m not saying that on-line purchasing and digital jobs will end. They are here to stay. I’m simply saying that people have experienced the isolation that these jobs can cause and desire meaningful relationships and seeing something at the end of the day that their own two hands made  for others. There is room for both. We need both.

Digital vs Analog

You have heard the statement, “Everything is going digital.” I beg to differ. A few things that you can’t do digitally:

  • Build a house
  • Gardening
  • Repair your faucet
  • Skiing, football, tennis and all other sports (playing a video game does not count)
  • Paint a picture
  • Play a musical instrument (playing digital music doesn’t count)

Why would you want to remove yourself from many of the manual tasks that we perform today? How can you derive pleasure from having a digital program do things everything for you? For one, it’s just plain lazy. Obesity is already at a record level with all of the time we sit behind this keyboard.

I think that one day, there is going to be a sort of revolt against digital products, along with this website and many others. We are becoming socially insulated from each other because we can live and hide behind a keyboard. We will slowly become socially crippled. Have you noticed how brave and stupid people become online? There is no filter anymore. This digital part of our world has stolen courtesy and kindness.

I did some work in my basement this weekend. I ran a new circuit and installed 4 new outlets for my power tools. It was very fulfilling to get this accomplished. This is something that I can actually use. It does not require an app. It doesn’t need to be updated or be connected to the internet. It just works.

I challenge you today to go out and do something Analog, something that normally you would use a phone, laptop or other device to do. Go old school for a moment. Hopefully you will gain something more than just a reply in your inbox or a “like”.

Rent a Tesla

tesla plugged

Yesterday, I bought a few domain names that maybe I will use someday.

  • dailyteslarentals.com
  • rentanelectric.com
  • rentanelectricauto.com
  • rentateslafirst.com
  • teslaautorentals.com

If I can spare the time and borrow enough cash, I would start a small electric auto rental company. The slogan would be ‘Try one before you buy one!’  
I have never owned a 100% electric car. How do I know that I would like it? If I had the opportunity, I would rent one and try it out for a week, just long enough for the battery to die leaving me stranded. Ok, maybe not let the battery die all the way, but how much of a pain is it to realize you can’t just put a couple of gallons in the tank and drive another 50 miles? Will an electric car lesser than the Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode be zippy enough for me? Since an electric car is new for most of us, do I really want to be stuck owning a car that I might hate? Taking the car out for a spin while that dealer’s salesman is sitting shotgun is enough of a pain when you buy a gas powered vehicle, but there is just no way that a 20 minute drive is going to let you know if owning an electric car is right for you!
dealership-test-driveYou need to take it out on the open road, in the city, bumper to bumper traffic and let’s not forget recharging. How much will it cost to get a charging outlet installed at your home? How much will it add to the purchase price of the car? When it comes to owning an electric car on a day to day basis, you can try and find a friend that has an electric car and ask them, but everyone is different. Just like everyone needs a different kind of vehicle to suit their needs, will an electric vehicle suit your needs?

As the years pass, I’m sure there will be electric powered pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, motorcycles and minivans, but right now, your choices are rather limited. This makes renting an electric vehicle for a week almost required, sort of like pet adoption. As every pet has it’s own personality, so do cars. Why do we have so many different makes and models? It’s because we are so unique when it comes to buying a vehicle. It’s an extension of our personality, almost like the clothes you wear.

If I bought a used Tesla, would you rent it from me for a week or a few days? I’m talking the

Tesla Model S
tesla s

This is the expensive one. I can’t afford a new one, but a used one would work to rent to people for $150/day. I know that is a lot of money per day, but this car is the ultimate electric vehicle. Your friends could drool for the day as well. I promise to leave the ‘RentAnElectric’ license plate frame off of it.
Now that the Tesla Model 3 has arrived, and yes mine arrived last week, you could rent the Model 3 for say $100/day. This is affordable and a great driving experience! It has all of the great features of the Tesla line at an affordable price. This would give you a chance to test out the acceleration, charging requirements, the quiet instead of a motor and transmission whining in your ear.
Model 3 tesla
Many people say that they have a hard time getting used to the quiet. Do you need engine noise or will you love the quiet of nothing but the road noise? How do you know unless you try it?

When I brought home my new Model 3 Tesla, my neighbor who is a pure engine guy, was not impressed until he rode in my Model 3. When I floored it, his eyes got big and he said, “Wow, I never realized these things had so much torque!” Then he got intrigued with the center screen and all of the options that were available. So much for only wanting to drive a gas powered car!

Either way, I think it’s a good alternative to Hertz, Alamo or a host of other auto rental companies where an electric car is not normally an option and surely not guarantee even if they do have one.  Who is in this with me? I take Visa, MC, Discover and American Express!

Power tools and parts, the good, the bad, the ugly

old drill

Power tools, they are great things that help us do things quicker, with less strain on our bodies. They have helped build America.

The Good

Due to companies sending their manufacturing overseas, the price of power tools has fallen across the board. What used to cost $400, can now be obtained for $200. This makes building that project or replacing that power tool much cheaper. What may have prevented one from starting a project due to the cost of the equipment, now has been greatly reduced. Due to competition and the reduced cost of manufacturing a tool, many companies offer 5 year or even lifetime warranties on the tool. Wow, now you can buy a tool and it will be good for life. If the tool can’t be repaired, the manufacturer simply sends you a new one. That is the good.

The Bad

If you purchased a tool that has only a one year warranty, there is a good chance that the repair parts for your tool are not available. Possibly, there is a law requiring manufacturers to provide repair parts for their products for so many years, but we are seeing power tools where the repair parts aren’t even available one year after purchase. Those parts that the manufacturers do provide aren’t cheap either. Even though the parts cost them pennies on the dollar, the retail price for these parts is higher than they need to be in many cases, thus allowing the manufacturer to stock less of these repair parts. Many of the manufacturers that we deal with, have either raised the price of their parts to an unreasonable price or they put multiple parts in very expensive kits. Those tools or parts that do not sell are quickly eliminated. We have heard that one of our manufacturers simply throws the unsold repair parts in a dumpster.

We have become a throw away society. When was the last time that you took your TV to a TV repair shop? How about that computer or cell phone? Did you attempt to get it fixed or did you simply remove the data and buy a new one? My guess is that you bought a new one.emmets fix it

I sell repair parts for a living. We are having to change our business model due to manufacturers hiking up their parts prices or simply not making them available.

Many people under the age of 40 simply do not know how to repair things, nor have the interest in doing so. I know that when I repair something, I have a feeling of accomplishment. I know that I probably saved money as well as kept whatever I repaired out of the landfill. A generation ago, products were designed to have their high wear parts easily accessible as well as repairable. Have you tried changing the light bulb in your car lately? A simple task like this isn’t even, well simple. The last car that I had, I had to remove the tire, the fender well cover, the light bulb cover, then I had to squeeze my hand into what was a very small and sharp space. It ended up being a 2 hour project. Cars are built in sections, then dropped down over the frame, then the body parts are added, holding hostage any repair part areas. No wonder I was quoted $2,200 to simply replace timing cover gaskets on my 17 year old BMW. The cost of the parts was less than $50, but the labor was very high, more than the price to replace the entire engine!

The Ugly

What we are not going to see in the future are repair shops for ANY products. We are in a microwave society. Everything is instantaneous. If you are in a digital job, you know that you can create and send content very quickly. We have the tools to create, design and launch a website in less than a day, one that will reach the entire world without even licking a stamp. A stamp? What is that?

What is sad, is that people that have great troubleshooting skills like I have, will no longer be needed. We have AI (artificial intelligence) that will be able to take all the knowledge of millions of people in it’s database, that is able to troubleshoot based upon everyone’s voluntary input into it’s database brain that will eventually replace you, me and others thought process. Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. Just because we can send all of our production overseas to reduce costs doesn’t mean we should. We are eliminating jobs for our country, making products cheaper so that we don’t have to repair them. Instead of a tool lasting a couple of generations, we are lucky that it will last a couple of years. With lifetime warranties on power tools, this has to tell you about the actual cost to the manufacturer if they are able to continue to replace your power tool each time it breaks.

The next time you purchase a tool or appliance and you are pleasantly relieved at the low price of it, think of these things:

  • Where was this made? Are their wages comparable to what I earn?
  • Is that manufacturing plant down the street still humming along or is it a vacant building with broken windows?
  • How much do I think the product costs the manufacturer, to be able to offer a lifetime warranty?
  • How long do I expect to own this? Will I get to pass it down to my children?

We have traded low cost of a product for quality and the ability to have the item serve us well over the years. It bears contemplating if nothing else.

Shampoo, rinse and repeat…life isn’t to be lived that way

I’ve been thinking lately, and that is a dangerous thing! Much of our life is on auto-pilot, much like getting in the shower to shampoo, rinse and repeat; the instructions on the side of our shampoo bottle. In all actuality, I only shampoo my hair once each time I shower, not twice, but alas I regress.

shampoo

It is so easy to go through life doing the exact same thing we did the day before. I know that I get in a routine. I leave the house each day, vowing to make this day unlike any other day, but when I get to work, I see the exact same visual clues and I settle back into the same actions that I did the day before. Don’t get me wrong, many of these actions have proven very successful, but when the actions that you do are not giving you the intended results, then something has to change.

I believe that the reason that many of us do not veer off of our routine is due to comfort and fear. It is very comfortable to experience the same thing every day, even though it may not be healthy for us. We know the outcome, we don’t have to really put our mind in creative gear, we just put it in drive. Just like going to the gym, our muscles get used to the routine and stop developing. We are told by trainers, you have to switch up your routine or your muscles will not develop as they should. Our minds do the same thing, we stop growing as individuals when we go to that comfortable routine that isn’t delivering results any longer. The other reason I believe is fear. Doing anything new has some level of fear to it. Here I am writing this during my work day. Since I own the company, I should be able to be creative and write to my blog, right, but do I typically? The answer is no. I do not because I fear that if I don’t do the same thing that I did yesterday, my work results would change at the end of the day, and that is very uncomfortable. I can talk all I want about making changes, but do I really do it? Doing the same thing gives you consistent results, even when the results are not what you want, but hey, that are consistent. Doing something different or new makes us venture to that unknown land that takes us out of our comfort zone. God forbid that we might end up with superior results.

The same visual clues can also be a hindrance I believe. These are triggers. They cause us to repeat the same action the last time we were in that place. Why? I believe again it is comfort. Our brain associates an image with an action or thought process. It’s hard to stop thinking or doing something that has been ingrained in us. inboxFor instance, when I walk by my computer, instead of thinking of how can I write a really interesting story, I look over my work schedule, look at a profit and loss statement, look at our recent web rankings, look at my budget, check my email and any creative thought that would have been birthed has now vanished. You have to figure out what visual triggers cause you to fall into that trance that steals your life. Don’t get me wrong, many of our visual triggers are good, they get us moving and we get stuff done, but when you wake up with a purpose for the day, promising to brainstorm, don’t let the visual triggers side track you.

Purposeful living is hard. It’s much easier to simply repeat what you did the day before, in the exact same way that you did it yesterday. Also, being creative is hard as well. It’s much easier not to be creative. Creativity takes real effort. I don’t see being creative and routines as going hand in hand unless you call sitting still every day (the routine) to let God drop some really out of this world ideas into your head.

When I was a kid, my teachers used to tell my parents that I sat and daydreamed too much during class. I was guilty of this for sure, but I wasn’t daydreaming about the kind of cereal I ate that morning, I was dreaming of all kinds of inventions like space travel, underground cities and flying cars. I am also off the charts when it comes to dreaming each night. I joke about my multiple dreams per night, saying that I should have popcorn to go along with my dreams since many of them feel like cinematic experiences. daydreaming-space-travel

Somehow, the older we get, we seem to stop daydreaming or dreaming in general. We get into a routine that has proven to work for us. It pays the bills, keeps us out of prison and doesn’t cause people to hurl insults at us as we walk down the street.  I guess you can say that we start to settle. What if our shampoo bottle said, “Shampoo, rinse, wait a couple of days, rinse, then shampoo and if you feel like it, shampoo some more.” Well, they wouldn’t sell as much shampoo and for those of us that like instructions, we would just melt into total confusion. Shampooing twice in one day does sell more shampoo, but for those of us that shampoo every day, that’s just too much shampoo in one’s life! Back to the analogy. Routines are not all that bad. For instance, I started playing cello two years ago. Unless I set up a routine to practice, I won’t get better. I know that for myself, I also have to set up a time that I practice each day, which for me is around 9PM each night. My teacher gives me different techniques to help me improve. I use these multiple exercises which are all different, yet I use the routine of my practice to perfect these. This “routine” works for me and gives me the desired result that I want in this area of my life. Exercising is another routine that I know is good for me. I need that routine to keep my body in good shape, but even with exercising, I choose different activities to keep my body from getting used to the same motions so that I can get a full workout.
One good routine that I have started to do is to take the first part of the day to write down 10 different ideas.  (By the way, this isn’t my original idea, I borrowed this from James Altucher) These 10 ideas are not a to do list or a task list, they are ideas where I let my mind go wild. Some of them are great practical ideas and others are Buck Rogers type ideas.
buck rogersWhen I write down many of these ideas, I think of how silly they are, but when I go back and read through many of the old ideas, they don’t look so silly. Anyway, who said when we grow up our ideas have to become all serious and boring? I don’t think that Elon Musk starts his day by thinking, “I just need to start thinking of some boring ideas and businesses that nobody will get excited about, but will guarantee that I will make loads of money.” Nah, I think that Elon Musk believes that the future doesn’t have to be as bleak as we are all signing up for. It doesn’t hurt to have investors and the financial backing to make your dreams a reality, but we can all dream. This is the thought behind the movie Tomorrowland, that I wrote about last year. The future can have some golden moments and opportunities if we will start to dream again. We don’t have to stop dreaming just because we are older than the age of 12.

I remember when I finished college. The biggest wake up call was that the summer season would take on a whole new meaning. When you are in school, you have the summers off, for the most part. This was a time of going on vacation with your family or finally inventing that really cool rocket part that you didn’t have time to do during the school year. When you finally finish going to school, every month is like the previous, shampoo, rinse and repeat. Maybe you get a week or two of vacation during the year, but for the most part, it’s groundhog day.
groundhog day clockMy wife and I recently read a book by Bob Goff called Love Does. Bob has these zany stories where he strives to live a life that has a good amount of whimsy in it. He is an attorney, but he does not let his vocation dictate how he lives his life. He allows ideas to pop into his head, then has the bollocks to act on them. Our home group read his book. Most of the people in our home church group are retired. This book really challenged many of them and made us think differently about how we should live each day.

I feel that each day is a gift from God. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a gift, I’m very thankful. I take time to write a thank you note to let the person who gave the gift know how much I appreciated the thought, and for remembering me. My thank you note to God is taking the time each day to allow Him to fill my mind with the vast possibilities of what this world was meant to be and for allowing me to be just a small part of that grand plan.  Maybe someone one day will look back on one of my ideas and say, “Wow, that idea was bigger than Gill, he must have had someone help him with that one.” My answer would be, “You’re right, I don’t have that kind of imagination, but let me introduce you to the One whose imagination started this whole planet we live on!”

Give me back my toys!

I used to have hobbies. When I was a kid, I would focus on one hobby each summer. One summer, I was a biologist. I had one of those Tasco microscopes that many of us got for Christmas. With this inexpensive microscope, I was able to discover a miniature world, hidden from the human eye. We lived next to a swamp and just one teaspoon of swamp water resulted in a myriad of wild creatures.tasco_micro I bought some petri dishes and had quite a collection of swamp goo in my room. I would draw what I was seeing through my microscope. I bought some slides that had a small concave area that would hold liquid and this is where taking a medicine dropper, I would place a drop of swamp water so that I could view it through the microscope. There were all kinds of creatures swimming around; many of them had lots of legs and flagellum. Wow, I haven’t used that word since 9th grade.

Another summer, I took my Chemistry set and decided to be a mad scientist, creating god awful smells. It seemed that all of my experiments had a good amount of sulfur in them and sulfur melting in a spoon over a bunsen burner is the most awful smell there is.
chemistry_set It seemed that I was always running out of denatured alcohol which is what fueled my bunsen burner. If my chemistry experiment didn’t smell, explode or make some kind of foam that spilled down the side of a beaker, I wasn’t happy. There were all kinds of experiments that just changed the liquid from a clear to a blue. It was supposed to teach you something about the chemical you just added, but to me that was boring. I wanted to be Fred Macmurray and invent flubber. For some strange reason, the chemistry set included all the sulfur you needed, but they seemed to always be missing the saltpeter and charcoal. Hmmmm, I wonder why. I think that the chemicals permanently ruined the finish on my maple desk I had been given.

Many of my summers, I built model rockets. I loved to build rockets, but soon got bored with the small models. Back in the late 60’s, the largest engine they made was a D engine. The small rockets used an A engine. As you have already figured out, A is the smallest and D was the largest. After building all of the rockets that looked interesting, I decided to build my own. I found an old cardboard tube that held mylar sheets in it. It was about 48″ long and 2″ in diameter. This was just wide enough to fit an old frozen orange juice container inside the bottom where I took 3 D engines, glued them together and slid them up into the bottom of my rocket. Igniting 3 engines at one time was tricky. It took more than one attempt to get it to work. My grandfather from Alaska was visiting. He got a chance to go to the field where I was going to launch it and watch. The launch rig that they sold couldn’t hold my large rocket, so I made one out of a 6×6 and a nice straight rake handle.  It was satisfying, seeing my own rocket creating Triple_d head up into the sky. I was finally pushing past what they sold in the stores to satisfy these kids obsessed with space travel.

The next summer, I intended to build a 12′ tall rocket made from a carpet tube. It was going to have a second stage made from a smaller tube. This would require making my own rocket motors. To do this, I talked my dad into buying me a 50 lb bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer which was going to be the oxidizer for my rocket fuel. I dried it out in the oven on a cookie sheet. It’s a wonder that our house didn’t explode. I talked to a chemist at our church prior to drying it out and asked him why the ammonium nitrate was so wet when I ground it. He said I needed to dry it, so hey, an oven seemed like a good idea at the time. I wish I could say that I was able to create my own engine, but I did not posses the skills to weld or fabricate the nozzle that was required to compress the flame into a concentrated blast. I quickly found out that making a nozzle from copper and solder quickly melted when faced with the intense heat that the engine produced. Oh well, it was fun getting to the point I got to.

One summer, I bought a 3 wheeled go-kart frame from a kid at school for $25. I was determined to build a screaming machine out of it. My dad had an old self propelled lawn mower engine from a reel mower which meant that it had a horizontal output on it. I figured out how to mount it on my go kart frame. I bought the 4th wheel for the kart, which wasn’t exactly the right size and made the go-kart kind of teeter like a 4 legged stool where one of the legs was too short. Eventually I got it going. Once I got it going, there was a line of neighborhood kids wanting to ride it. I told them to go build their own, but my parents made me give them all turns. The go kart wasn’t fast enough for me so I found out how to rig the governor so that it went faster, that is until the motor blew up due to exceeding the maximum revolutions per minute than it was designed for. That didn’t stop me though. I went on the search for a new motor, one that was faster. I had another friend that raced go-karts, and his engines were super fast. I bugged him enough so that he sold me an old used one for $20. It was a 2 cycle engine which meant that it was as loud as a chain saw. This one was difficult to mount onto the go-kart frame, but I somehow finally managed to make it work. The chain kept popping off, but in between the chain popping off, this engine would scream I think it got up to 45 mph, which was fast for a 3 legged go-kart! Eventually the go-kart made way for my first car, a 1967 VW Beetle, not much more than a go-kart. When I had kids of my own, I did buy another go-kart frame that was 70% finished. This time, I bought a book on how to properly build the go-kart. By now I had a repair shop with the proper tools. We had 3 acres and the kids used that go-kart for years until it eventually rusted and was sent to the scrapyard.

When I was in my 20’s, there was a hobby shop in Portsmouth. They sold all kinds of things, but what sparked my attention were the radio controlled airplanes that were hanging from the ceiling. Years ago, I had a small control line airplane. I wasn’t quite sure how to fly it, running in circles, but it was fun, but these in the hobby store didn’t have a wire or line holding it to a handle that you went in circles flying, these used a transmitter and receiver to fly. I had to have one. I talked to the manager of the store and asked which plane was a good beginner to start with. He pointed me to the Falcon 56.
falcon_56

It took me forever to build it. Between work and other interests, the RC plane took a back seat, but finally when I was in my 30’s, I finished it. I went to a RC club and watched them fly. They told me that I needed to be trained to fly it. They said that someone else would get it up in the air and I would slowly take over the controls. I brought my plane to the field the next week only to find out that there were some tips on building the plane that I was not aware of and I really needed to add these features to fly it. I took the plane home rather dejected, but altered the plane so that I could fly it. Instead of return to their field, I decided that I could fly it in my backyard which was a pretty good size. How hard could it be? I started up the engine, walked back to a safe distance and revved up the engine until it started to roll forward. As soon as it got enough speed, it took off. Never learning how to fly it, I jerked the control to the left. The plane took a quick dip to the left and hit the ground. The wing broke and the propeller dug fast into the dirt shutting off the engine. Immediately I told myself, “You are an idiot. How in the heck do you think you could have flown this without any experience.” I picked up the broken pieces of my plane and took them back to the garage, to my workbench. Slowly over several months I repaired the wing and vowed to not repeat this exercise.

When I was in my 30’s, I read somewhere that these guys were building their own rocket engines. There was a how to book that showed you how to build a solid propellant rocket engine. It required buying a lathe to make the forming materials for the nozzle and a rock tumbler that would be used to mix the propellant along with non sparking brass plugs the size of a good Tootsie Roll section. I also had to buy a triple beam balance to measure the chemicals. There were quite a lot of steps in making solid rocket motors, but I methodically made all of the tools necessary. I even built a small rocket motor test stand so that I could test all the different mixtures, varying how much of one chemical to put in to achieve the best thrust. Eventually, I built size G rocket engines, about the size of a flare. These were much larger than the D size engine that I bought from the hobby shop. To see how high they would go, I would attach them to a long wooden dowel, just like a bottle rocket and launch them out of a 4″ PVC pipe that was 8′ long to guide them. I didn’t want to blow up a rocket that I had spent tons of time building so I tested it this way. What I learned out the hard way was that you can’t rush the drying process of a rocket engine. I had some of my kids friends show up one evening and I got to talking about the engines I was building, but had none to show them. I figured, hey I’ll just whip up an engine from some of the propellant that I had in the garage. I packed the engine, put it on a dowel and inserted it into the 8′ long PVC pipe. I was standing about 25′ away and pushed the ignition button. Instead of the rocket engine shooting out of the top of the PVC tube, it detonated in the tube sending shards of very sharp PVC chunks all over the yard, over the house and somehow missing me entirely. There must have been an angel somewhere protecting me, because none of the shrapnel hit me. My neighbor about a half mile away said it shook his house. My kids were standing on the porch with their mouths open, not sure what to think. The next day, I walked around picking up the chunks of white PVC. Somehow a good number of them had gone over the house and ended up in the front yard. I realized that this was not a toy. These were explosives that had to be handled with care.

Fast forward about 10 years. One day, I packed up all of my toys, my RC plane, rocket making tools, triple beam balance and rock tumbler. I took them to a friend that was into the same type of hobbies and said, “Here you go. I want you to have all of my stuff because I know that you will find good use for it.” He looked at me with a quizzical look and simply said, “Well, uh ok.” I got back into my car and left without another thought of what for so long, had been a big part of my life. I’m not quite sure why I did this. It was if the whimsical part of my life had just fizzled out. Maybe I said to myself, “It’s time to grow up. Quit playing with toys.” I never really thought of it much, but my business had gone from working with my hands to managing other people and typing on a keyboard like I am doing now. Instead of standing back and looking at a project with pride, I was looking at a profit and loss statement and trying to figure out how to grow my net profit. This is pretty much the progression of most business owners.mtr_store_logo

I had “grown up”, …but at what cost? The childlike wonder and enjoyment of spending time working with my hands building something that others would consider a hobby had been replaced with spreadsheets, meetings and managing employees. I find that I also had become much more cautious. I now tend to over analyze every decision, not wanting to make any errors at all, even if it would bring enjoyment or fun. Instead of becoming more confident and wanting to push the envelope to discover new worlds and ways to do things, I signed up for doing life the way that Harvard Business School said to do life, starched, tried and true. Don’t get me wrong, I have a successful business, even in the wake of extreme competition on the web, but I haven’t been exploring any new lands or opportunities either.

Why do we trade that childlike imagination and curiosity for what I call shampoo living; shampoo, rinse and repeat. I haven’t figured it out, I mean why I gave away my hobby things. I really can’t put my finger on it at all. My wife bought me a drone. I had been eyeing them for a while, so she bought me one last year. I haven’t used it much. I gave the excuse that we have too many trees around our house and I don’t want to get it stuck in the tree like Charlie Brown’s kite eating tree. It’s still sitting in a drawer. There are all kinds of really
kite eating treecool things that you can do with a drone, but it still just sits in the drawer. Just a few decades ago, I didn’t care about trees, but now I’m so cautious that I have refused to let myself have fun. My other excuse is, “It’s too windy.” Well, that never kept me from launching any of my rockets when I was a kid. Wind or no wind, I launched them. I simply adjusted the initial launch angle to compensate for the wind, and most of the time it worked, that is until the parachute opened and it floated into that rocket eating tree anyway. There is a phrase that has been used for
RETree_5young people called ‘Failure to launch’, but what if you own a drone and don’t fly it. Would that be called ‘Failure to fly a drone’?

 When I would here a guy’s wife saying “He like’s his toys, he is always buying some new gadget.” I always felt kind of proud because I didn’t buy any toys. I didn’t play video games. I didn’t buy golf clubs. Should I be proud? Not buying ANY toys is rather extreme. Buying too many toys is irresponsible. Guess what, I’m not irresponsible.  A happy medium would be nice. I have tried to be a little more whimsical in the past month or two. We need more whimsy. When we are young, our parents want us to grow up, but when we grow up, nobody says to become more childlike. We just heap more responsibility upon ourselves and drown out that childlike wonder and imagination.

I think that the reason that I gave up my toys is because I gave up on my imagination. Between trying to take care of everyone else, I stopped taking care of myself. Somehow I thought that by continuing my hobbies, I was being selfish. Imagination and ideas is the core of who I am, but I have seen this parts of me slowly dying. That scares me. To see the part of me that God created dying, is really sad. I refuse to let this happen. How will I change this? Well, I’m going to Disneyworld next week, that’s a start. I will also sit down and write out fictional story about what I have always wanted to do, writing it as if it was already in existence. This will cause me to use all of my imagination as I live in a state of uber reality. This will cause me to leave all of my limitations and excuses behind as I revel in the land of whimsy.

The next post might be of me climbing a tree while wearing a super hero outfit!super hero in a tree

It’s as plain as the nose on your face 

You’ve heard that phrase before. “It’s as plain as the nose on your face.” Sometimes, no most times, what is obvious to others is overlooked by us.

Have you ever been so focused on something that you don’t realize that your direction is totally off? Running into consistent road blocks it’s obvious to those watching us to try another method, but we continue on hoping somehow that the results will be different this time. It’s like trying to chop down a tree with a hammer; maybe if I just keep hitting it harder it will fall. Does it occur to us to use another tool? When you are the one doing the activity, it’s hard to get another perspective. It requires leaving the activity for a season to gain proper perspective. At times it requires even more, or should I say less. It may require quiet contemplation seeking the divine guidance given to all of us, if only we should ask.

If your dream doesn’t scare you….

There is a saying out there, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.” For one, finding that dream sometimes is the biggest challenge. I’m a dreamer, but for some reason I  seem to be stuck; I mean really stuck, like for 2 years stuck. I’ve never had problems coming up with new ideas, but to come up with that one big dream for myself, I am stuck. I would think that this “big dream” would just come up and slap me in the face, but so far this hasn’t happened.

When I was a kid, I wanted to build space ships, amusement parks and flying cars, but now that I am 61, the reality that this takes major money and education that I just don’t possess. I know that seems like a cop-out. For one, Disney already built some of the coolest amusement parks, so unless I want to work at one, why duplicate something that is already almost perfect. Flying cars, well it seems that these are just starting to evolve, in the way of drones. Since this is new, maybe it’s not too late for this. Space ships, well SpaceX and Blue Origin are doing this, but still they are stuck using LOX and SRB’s. For space travel to be a reality, some physicist needs to discover anti-gravity.

I started a tool repair business because I enjoyed tinkering. I mean, it wasn’t tinkering with cool cars, but at least it was tinkering, using a modest sum of money to be able to launch my self into business. This evolved into selling tool parts on-line which does a pretty good job of paying the bills, but lacks in the creativity department. I would actually let this business be run by someone else IF I discovered that big dream, but I haven’t.

Do I discover the dream or does the dream find me? I think dreams are like seeds, divinely planted within us. It’s up to us to water and nourish the dream, but we can’t make the seed. Man has tried to make seeds to no avail. We can make new plants by making a hybrid which produce seeds, but we can’t create seeds. Only God can make seeds. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus says that it is the smallest of seeds, yet it grows into a tree that the birds of the air can roost in. When God plants that seed within us, don’t minimize the size of the seed, because we don’t know what God plans to do with that seed.

I have decided to not force the dream. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like down time. I must redeem the time I have been given each day, but this is something that I need to learn to do. I will release it, let it go until I know that another dream has been planted within me.

Next generation Google voice search

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Being a CEO on the go, I use Google search quite a bit. I love that “she” (Google voice search) talks back to me with the answer which allows me to continue to focus on my task at hand. The ideal search is one that is almost like conversing with a human. AI is getting to the point where it understands what we need and want to search for.

Currently, if I want to know something that Google hasn’t found a definitive answer for, I get silence. This is when I know that I have asked for information that I will need to stop, put on my glasses and read the many web entries. Everything was going great until……silence. The relationship just broke down. In any relationship, silence isn’t always golden, and when it comes to Google Voice Search, silence means “she” is broken. Google, talk to me, but no, I get the silent treatment.

Progress towards real AI would be so that Google would continue the conversation. Here is an example.

Me: “Google, how can I make a music video?”
Google: Silence
Instead, let’s keep the conversation going.

Me: “Google, how can I make a music video?”
Google: “What kind of music video do you want to make?”  (Google just asks predefined questions: “What kind?” “Where?” “How?” “Why?”)
Me: “I want to make a Latin music video.”
Google: “Would you like me to change our conversation to Spanish?”
Me: “No, just tell me where to go to make a music video.”
Google: “Do you want to make a music video here or somewhere else?”
Me: “I want to make one here.”
Google: “Why do you want to make one here?”
Me: “Because I just do.”
Google: “Do you want a list of recording companies?”
Me: “No, I want to use YouTube.”
Google: “Ok, let me search for some YouTube music video how to sites.” (Google is simply taking my answers and forcing me to give “her” more defined answers.)
Me: “Great, can you email me the list.”
Google: “Sure, Gill (add name of the Google account holder), do you want me to send it now?”
Me: “Yes, send it now.”
Google: “Ok, I will send it, Do you want to talk some more, or are we done?” (personal and almost real)
Me: “We are done.”
Google: “Ok, goodbye, let me know if you need anything else.” (again, personal and almost like an assistant)

What we want to do, is to keep the user engaged. As we all know, images are very powerful, but now an actual voice is even more powerful; it is conversational. In this era of virtual everything, we desire that our virtual relationships take on an almost human interaction. AI can be friendly. It can be inquisitive, simply mirroring our questions like a good therapist. The therapist doesn’t need to have the answers, they simply need to learn how to rephrase our own questions so that it make us think and solve our own problems. The beauty is, we don’t even realize it.