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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ghandi -- something to ponder


Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

-- Ghandi


Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy 2013



Og Mandino - Darkness and Light

"I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” 

― Og Mandino


This quote always resonates beauty and serenity.

A good thought for ending one year and starting a new year.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why does Jaron Lanier hate the idea of “the wisdom of the crowd”?

There is danger in the Web 2.0 -- some profound thoughts expressed at a very high level in this article. I encourage everyone to read it!

Why does Jaron Lanier hate the idea of “the wisdom of the crowd”?


Electric/natural gas deregulation ... fail!


Electric and natural gas utility deregulation: A Case Study/History of a late 20th Century Phenomenon -- From Riches to Rags

Here is a time line that demonstrates everything that was wrong about deregulation of the USA electric and natural gas utility industries. Deregulation was the great bugaboo of the neo-cons: the world would be remade into a paradise if we would only allow companies complete freedom to do whatever they wanted.

Not only did a LOT of money get wasted in these senseless mergers, acquisitions, IPOs and divestitures; a lot of people lost their jobs as well as their retirement pensions; local economies were saddled and burdened with terrible uneconomic costs; but ... a few millionaires got richer (hurrah for rich! they got richer!)

Read, weep, and then pity the millionaire investment bankers who wrecked the economy of the United States, the largest most productive economy this world has ever seen.

Here is a time line describing the destruction of Aquila and UtiliCorp (thank you Black Hills Energy for producing and preserving this case history).

2008
On July 14, Aquila announces that the company has been sold in two separate transactions. Black Hills Corporation acquires the company's natural gas properties in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, and its electric properties in Colorado. Aquila's electric properties in Missouri are merged into a subsidiary of Great Plains Energy.

2007
In February, Aquila announces the pending sale of the company in two separate transactions. In these transaction, the company's Missouri electric properties will be merged into a subsidiary of Great Plains Energy. Black Hills Corp. will acquire the company's electric properties in Colorado and its natural gas properties in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

2006
Aquila completes sale of its Missouri natural gas distribution operations to the Empire District Gas Co., part of The Empire District Electric Co.; the sale of its Minnesota and Michigan gas operations to WPS Resources Corporation; the sale of its Kansas electric properties to Mid-Kansas Electric Company (MKEC), and the sale of its Kansas City area Everest cable, broadband Internet and telephone business to a private investment firm.
Aquila completes sale two merchant peaking facilities.

2005
Aquila agrees to sell selected utility assets in transactions totaling $896.7 million.
Aquila completes exchange offer for premium income equity securities.
Aquila outlines further repositioning initiatives; considers sale of select utility properties.

2004
Aquila completes refinancing
Aquila completes sale of common stock and convertible senior notes.
Aquila completes sale of Canadian utility operations.
Aquila completes sale of 12 independent power plants to Arclight Capital Partners.
Aquila completes sale of its interest in Midlands Electricity in the United Kingdom.

2003
Aquila sells remaining interest in Australia properties.
Aquila sells remaining interest in Quanta Services.

2002
Aquila suspends dividend, exits wholesale energy marketing and trading business.
Aquila sells nearly $1 billion in non-strategic assets, including UnitedNetworks (New Zealand), Texas and Mid-Continent natural gas pipeline systems and natural gas/gas liquids processing assets, and California and United Kingdom gas storage.
Aquila completes concurrent equity and debt offerings.
Aquila purchases Midlands Electricity, fourth-largest regional electric company in the United Kingdom.
UtiliCorp changes name to Aquila, Inc. and adopts ILA as stock symbol.
UtiliCorp merges Aquila back into UCU.

ENRON IMPLODES -- By November 2011 Enron's stock is worthless -- it took 11 months for the  value of 1 share of Enron to drop from $84 to $0.61 (sixty-one cents). The following month, Aquila falls apart.

2001
Aquila Energy changes name to Aquila, Inc.
UtiliCorp launches initial public offering of 20 percent of Aquila.
Aquila breaks ground on 334-megawatt Raccoon Creek Energy Center in Flora, Ill.
Aquila breaks ground on 320-megawatt Crossroads Energy Center in Clarksdale, Miss.
Aquila buys $220 million natural gas storage facility in Lodi, Calif.

2000
UtiliCorp announces record 1999 sales of $18.6 billion and third straight year of 8 percent growth in earnings per share.
UtiliCorp announces agreement to acquire distribution and retail businesses of TransAlta Corp. in Alberta, Canada, involving 350,000 electricity customers.
Aquila Energy helps form IntercontinentalExchange trading platform.
Aquila Energy acquires GPU International.
UtiliCorp acquires St. Joseph Light & Power in Missouri.

1999
UtiliCorp acquires TrustPower assets in New Zealand.
UtiliCorp consolidates all New Zealand assets under one new name -- UnitedNetworks.
UtiliCorp acquires a 25 percent stake in Multinet/Ikon in Victoria, Australia.
UtiliCorp acquires a 40-acre coal-handling facility in West Virginia.
UtiliCorp acquires all of the 18 percent of AQP common stock held by the public.
Aquila Energy operations move to Kansas City.
UtiliCorp acquires 26 percent equity interest in Quanta Services.
UtiliCorp acquires 27.2 billion cubic-foot subsurface gas storage facility in Katy, Texas.
Aquila Energy breaks ground on 580-megawatt generating facility in Missouri.
UtiliCorp sells West Virginia natural gas and electric distribution assets to Allegheny.
Aquila Energy opens offices in Scandinavia, Germany and Spain to compete in deregulating energy markets on the European continent.

1998
United Energy sells 42 percent of its common stock to the public. As a result UtiliCorp's ownership percentage was reduced from 49.9 to 34 percent, after buying another 5 percent from a partner.
UtiliCorp acquires 78.6 percent ownership of Power New Zealand and concurrently sells the 39.6 percent interest in WEL Energy Group.
UtiliCorp acquires TransAlta lines assets in New Zealand and concurrently sells the Power New Zealand retail business to TransAlta.

1997
UtiliCorp restructures its U.K. operations to focus on the niche market of gas aggregation and related wholesale services.

1996
In January, UtiliCorp announces an agreement to merge with Kansas City Power & Light Company. In September, the company terminates the agreement.
Aquila Energy acquires 40 percent of Oasis pipeline.
Aquila Energy begins trading gas in Canada.

1995
Aquila Gas Pipeline acquires Tristar Gas Company.
UtiliCorp acquires 49.9 percent ownership of United Energy in Melbourne, Australia.
UtiliCorp creates EnergyOne, the first national portfolio of energy services in America.

1994
UtiliCorp acquires the Kansas gas and transmission assets of Arkla.

1993
UtiliCorp acquires the Nebraska gas distribution and transmission assets of Arkla.
IPO of 18 percent of Aquila Energy's gas gathering and processing assets - Aquila Gas Pipeline Corporation.
UtiliCorp begins acquisition of 39.6 percent of WEL Energy Group in New Zealand.

1991
UtiliCorp begins operations in the United Kingdom with gas marketing joint ventures with regional electric companies.
Aquila acquires Clajon Holdings, L.P. and combines all of its gas gathering, pipeline and processing facilities in Texas and Oklahoma to form Aquila Gas Pipeline Corporation.

1990
UtiliCorp acquires West Virginia Power Gas Service.
UtiliCorp acquires WestPlains Energy.
Aquila acquires the Mooreland Pipeline assets and the Elk City Natural Gas Gathering and Processing assets from Velero.

1989
UtiliCorp acquires Michigan Gas Utilities.

1987
UtiliCorp acquires West Virginia Power.
UtiliCorp acquires its first international property -- West Kootenay Power in British Columbia, Canada.

1986
UtiliCorp acquires Peoples Natural Gas.
UtiliCorp acquires Northern Minnesota Utilities.
Aquila Energy is made a wholly-owned subsidiary of UtiliCorp.
UtilCo Group is formed to invest in independent power projects.

1985
The company changes its name to UtiliCorp United, Inc. to reflect the numerous areas of the country being served.

1984
The company acquires Kansas Public Service.

1954
Missouri Public Service revenues reach $10 million, up nearly 700 percent from 1940. The company continues to grow and prosper through service expansion and utility acquisitions.

1927
West Missouri Power Company merges with Missouri Public Service Company.

1922
The company goes public and changes its name to West Missouri Power Company.

1917
Green Light and Power Company is formed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Recent Passings: Neil Armstrong

Thoughts on the Death of a World Hero

Neil Armstrong died earlier this week. He was 82.

Armstrong was a hero for the world -- not just our great country. He symbolized a number of characteristics that demonstrate the human condition.
  • He gave his best every day.
  • He worked collaboratively, aware that in this age of adventure one can only achieve great things through teamwork.
  • He was committed, to his work, his country, and to his objective.
  • He was modest -- genuinely so, in the way that is so unique for those Americans raised in the Middle West (in this case, Ohio) during the Twentieth Century.
I know the press -- and politicians eager to take credit for the achievements of others -- are eager to state that the moonwalk was a victory for the United States in the Cold War. This is limiting, and it is a throwback to the concerns of a distant age.

Armstrong's moonwalk was a victory of the Imagination, and it was a victory for the world. Every young person watching his first steps on television in 1969 knew this was an important event that transcended countries and politics. His moonwalk demonstrated that humans are really amazing creatures, capable of accomplishing nearly any task -- if only we will focus our energies collectively on the goal.

His moonwalk confirmed,also, that humans are genetically hardwired to explore, and there are new frontiers waiting for us: We can reach out and touch the planets and, eventually perhaps, even the stars.

America and the world owes a debt to Armstrong and his generation. His recent death is a reminder that the first moonwalk was call to action -- a call to work collectively and cooperatively to accomplish great things, and to remember that there are really no limits to what we can do if we allow the Imagination to be our guide.

A good article about Armstrong appears here in BusinessWeek:
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-08-25/1st-man-on-the-moon-neil-armstrong-dies

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ending the Bush Tax Cuts

Video puts tax cuts into perspective

Here is a short video that helps debunk the hysteria generated by the propaganda produced by Republican  PR firm:



The take away is that if taxes go up, the world will not end.

The other part of the story, which no political party will address in this election cycle, is that if taxes go up, our economy will not get better.

Things will get better only after we -- as individuals, as corporations, as separate local and state governments, and as a nation -- have finished paying down our debts.

The age of cheap credit ended in 2006.The bills are now due.

I remember a bumper sticker that was popular among senior citizens in the 1980s: I am spending my children's inheritance. As it turns out, the slogan contained an important truth. What is more, the children of these seniors -- children who are now old enough that they about to embark upon their own retirements -- borrowed heavily against their own children's earnings during the past 30 years.

This means that an entire generation will be saddled with the debts placed upon them by their parents and, in some measure, their grand parents.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Post a Birthday Wish to Queen Elizabeth

Click below to send a greeting to Queen Elizabeth II:

http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/node/62/done?sid=72874

I just learned you can post a happy birthday/happy coronation anniversary message to Queen Elizabeth II on an official website managed by The Royal Household.


I think it's rather sweet.


I learned about this visiting the website blog of actress and artist Angela Cartwright (she of the Sound of Music, The Danny Thomas Show, and Lost in Space). You can visit her blog here:
http://acartwrightstudio.blogspot.com/

When I was a little boy, I had a crush on her TV character, Penny Robinson.

 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Snagglepuss Was Cooler Than Donny or Beiber

Heavens to Mergatroyd! This silly lion was fun to watch.I'll bet Donny Osmond even liked him, and if Beiber were introduced to him, he'd like him too!

I found a cartoon homage website that has a description of the show:
http://www.cartoonscrapbook.com/S/snagglepuss1961.htm


Also, here's a youtube video (I showed it to my 15 year old daughter today. She'd never seen or heard of him before, but she couldn't stop laughing at how silly it all was.)




Sunday, May 20, 2012

Birther bullshite

So Arizona is playing games

With a fringe Republican candidate trying to get Obama off the ballot in Arizona:
http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/birther-controversy-obama-might-not-make-ballot_776466.html

Of course, Obama's so called "long form" birth certificate was released a year ago:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf

Fringe conservatives are wasting time. Jobs have been lost, and they aren't doing anything to help America get back to work.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dining out on Jenny Craig

I went to a Chevy’s restaurant for the first time today, for lunch. I thought I’d offer this review, and provide some opinions about the eating out alone experience from a married man who has just lost thirty five pounds on a Jenny Craig diet plan.

Originally, I had planned to bring my business to a salad bar – but that restaurant is out of business. I might add, finally – and I am not surprised: The quality of the produce was declining steadily as our economy got worse. Fewer people would patron the store, fueling the cycle of decline. I think the closure was only a couple of months ago.

So here I was about forty minutes from home, and my plans to have a robust,  veggie-laden (and typically very filling salad) with the least amount of meat and starches was shot. But this one restaurant – Chevy’s -- was here. In fact, it’s the only other restaurant here. There are a half dozen chain ‘big box’ stores – CostCo, Target, and the like. This place should be getting a lot of business. And I guess that it is.

First, there are a lot of young families here. In fact, this fact leaves me a bit confused by the ambience and the menu. The menu emphasizes tequila. Tequila is not a drink I favor. I know I probably don’t know what I am missing. I apologize to all tequila aficionados in advance. However, this emphasis on booze surprises me when I have mothers, fathers, grandparents, and youngsters between the ages of relative newborn to seventeen here outnumbering the drinkers.

And there are drinkers. (This one fellow in particular is probably unaware of how loud he is. His partner/spouse, whatever, seems aware. She has given him the old stinkeye more than once in brief time that I’ve been here.)

So as an old married person, whose family are out and about, I feel a conspicuous here. The only individual patrons in this restaurant are the men and women (who are older than the general population here) in the bar. It’s a full bar, with two large television sets. It’s also very bright with a full window offering natural lighting in the afternoon. It’s also clean and there is plenty of seating, which is surprising given how crowded this place is.

Speaking of noise, it is pretty loud in here – obviously by design. Personally, I have never understood the need for so much noise in a restaurant. The first I encountered this phenomenon was at the Cadillac Bar in San Francisco in the late 1980s. The building had been some type of factory or warehouse before the restaurant had been installed. It was deafening. If you were drunk, it wasn’t so noticeable. But being or staying drunk wasn’t fun, and the noise really became a distraction.

The wait staff are very busy. Practically no one who works here walks. The young men and women, all uniformed in logo-branded tee-shirts and dark pants, scoot, scamper, scramble and generally all-but-run from table to kitchen and back.

The meal, a fajita salad with chicken, was made fresh at my table. I know some ingredients will tip the scale on my diet. This means I will need to make some adjustments and compensate. For instance, the salad has diced avocado. That’s one fat. It also has oil in the salad, which brings the fat count to at least (I hope only) two fat servings. This I can adjust to easily. But the dressing also has sugar. This is a given. So now I will have to think about this in terms of either giving up one or more of my fruit servings. But the fat issue isn’t over yet: There are also seeds in the salad. Then I have to deal with the protein issue. There are at least two protein servings with the chicken, and another with the crumbled cheese. These are my first proteins for the day, however. I have three remaining. That leaves the final issue: portion size. I’d say they served up enough food for two. So I will have to put this aside (and hope that the salad is not so wilted later that I won’t eat any of it.)

For  this, I will have to make sure I increase my exercise allotment. At least thirty minutes more – making it one and a half hours today  and tomorrow, to compensate.
In sum, the food is fresh and tastes delicious. There are no options for dieters. Wait for a meal on my own day, and then really plan to compensate in a big way. Enjoy the people watching and the noise and the fast service.

I will probably be around here again because I shop sometime at the big box stores.

Be sure to leave a healthy tip. The kids who work here appear to work very hard, and they seem to have a good disposition in spite of all the pressure.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Life Is Short

Sad story: The brother of a friend retired six months ago. In January, he drove out to Firebaugh, CA. Just a day trip. Ate lunch, and drove back home to the coast.

Two weeks later he's feeling sick, can't breath, and is rushed to the ER.

His lungs are filled with fluid. Pneumonia, right? For three week's the doctors can't find a cure, can't figure out what's really happening. They're searching for a bacterial infection. Then they figure it out: he has Valley Fever. (Valley fever - PubMed Health).

Now his life has changed forever. Four weeks in Intensive Care. Need for long term care. His life in retirement: plans to travel with his wife, see the country, spend more time with children and grandchildren: All plans have been shelved, probably forever. Just stays in bed, in a hospital struggling to get even a part of his health back.

Amazing to me how something can just 'happen' and your life changes forever. Amazing also how that what happens is typically very bad.

Had we known, if we could have anticipated what troubles the future holds ... But don't we already 'know.' The theory of Black Swans events tells us the unexpected, the tragic, the catastrophic are in fact 'known.' We don't know the specifics -- cancer, car accident, valley fever. But we know that something terrible could, probably will, happen and will turn our lives entirely upside down.

How trite to say, "We need to be ready. We need to live life fully." But also how true.

As one truly great writer I know recently wrote: “We’re all living in buildings that are going to be demolished.” (see http://unexpectedendings.blogspot.com/)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Catholics for Obama

Newt Is a Poor Excuse for a Catholic

I support Obama, a good man and a good President who is guiding this nation through a difficult transitional time. He doesn't sleep around, get a divorce, blame is sinful behavior on his wife(s), and then buy an absolution from the Pope.

In fact, now that I think of it, Newt's morals are similar to a certain Kennedy's morals -- and that is not good.

If you also support President Obama, and are Catholic, please sign the petition:
Catholics for Obama

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