Saturday, August 19, 2017

What do rich people worry about?

Overall, 91% of wealthy folks say maintaining “the luxury lifestyle” is a key concern.  About 81% say “not being able to meaningfully enhance” their current lifestyle.  That's what rich people worry about.

As Russ Prince (author, the wealth industry) describes it, it’s the mindset of, “I have the $5 million jet. I want the $10 million jet.”  But he doesn’t see it as greed.  Rather, he says, it’s simply a reflection of what everyone at every income level wants: something more.

” ‘Greedy’ is the wrong word,” Prince says. “ This is not a bad thing. This is the capitalist model. The desire to keep moving up, to enhance their lifestyle, is critical to having this entrepreneurial society.”


Awhile ago, this young fellow came to the teacher and asked what he needed to do to finish well.  He was told to love God and obey the rules.  The guy said he'd done all of that, and the teacher told him to prove it, but he couldn't or perhaps wouldn't, and he went away unhappy.  His wealth, it seems, had tainted his thinking, his view of his lifestyle and future.  He couldn't imagine changing course to a better purpose.

It's hard, the teacher said, for a rich person to finish well.  Really hard.  Later, the teacher's friends were struggling to understand.  "If that rich fellow can't do it, how can we or anyone?"   There is a way, but it's perhaps not obvious once wealth and class obscure things.  Wealth becomes an impediment at a surprisingly low threshold.

Interestingly, the not-rich folks are the most hospitable, the most generous, the most ethical.  The rich, not so much.  Where's the dividing line?   Around $20k/person/year is the dividing line between the richest 5% of folks in the world and everyone else.  Your $20,000 per person, per year puts you in the richest 400 million people in the world with 7.1 billion folks below you on the ladder.  Statistically, one group is normal and the other is an outlier, an aberration, and unconnected to 'normal'.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Deep, Dark Woods

Once upon a time in the deep, dark woods, little Ruby walked along the path with her mom and dad.  She stayed close like she is supposed to until, suddenly ... from the distance, they heard a most amazing BURP!  It was a hugely magnificent burp and even the ground vibrated a little bit.

Ruby and her folks were so surprised; it was even a little scary.  They couldn't help but go look and see what it was.  What could burp so loud?  Could it be an elephant, maybe, or maybe some secret dinosaur that had been hiding in the woods for a million years.  Who knew?

Off along the trail they ran, and Ruby ran the fastest.  Down the trail, over the hill, around the bend, and into a clearing ... 

FIRE!  FIRE! There was a cloud of fire in the air right there in front of them.  They could feel the heat, and it wasn't bad, sort of like sunshine at the beach.  And it was coming from a dragon!  It had to be a dragon because it was breathing fire out of it's mouth!

"Eeeek!"  They stopped in their tracks, not really sure what to do next.  Should they run, hide, scream?  Not knowing any better, they ran around in circles yelling, "what do we do, what do we do?"

Finally, Dad, the calmest one in the merry-go-round, says, "Wait a minute.  The dragon is smiling at us!"  And sure enough, it was.  

Ruby, ever the adventurer, steps curiously into the clearing and sees the monster close up.  Sure enough, it really is smiling and it's got something in its little hands; it's a strawberry!  Ruby loves strawberries, of course, and the monster cheerfully gives it to her, a friendship gift.

They all became life-long friends, and Ruby visited him a lot in the deep, dark woods.  Much later, they found out it wasn't a dragon, it was a granoladon, a friendly herbivore (leaf-eater) that had occasional flammable burps.  They named him George.

Ruby took all of her friends to meet George and play, but only after they and their parents got over the 'dragon' thing.  

Ruby learned a lot from George over the years, the best part of which was that being good and even occasionally being nice was a pretty powerful thing.

Think about it.  If George had been angry and mean, no one would have liked him, and everybody would be afraid of him because he was different. But George was good and even nice; and he shared his strawberries.  And if Ruby hadn't been brave, it would all have ended badly.  They did it right and it changed everything ... without a word being spoken.  

Pretty cool, George.  Well done, Ruby.
For Ruby, the nicest granddaughter in the world,

Of course, then there's the story of Tiny Tina Tumbleweed and how she saved everybody.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The tale of tiny Tina Tumbleweed ~ and how she saved everybody!

Once upon a time ...

You know what it means when a story starts like that, right.  "Once upon a time" means it's just a story, but there's a meaning hidden in it.

Okay, so once upon a time in the little village called Tinkertown, there lived a young girl named Tina.  She lived with her mom and dad, Teo and Tillie Tumbleweed. Everybody in the town was little bitty, like maybe dandelion tall, so the town itself was only maybe as tall as a blueberry bush.

Tina was little, but she grew up to be really good at running and jumping.  She was so fast that even the older boys couldn't keep up.  They'd be being cool and typical boys, thinking they are faster than girls, but when it came to running a race, she would leave them in the dust.  She'd smile every time.  She was especially fast at turning corners, too, and no one could keep up with her running around trees and things.

Tinkertown nestled on the edge of a deep, dark, forest where big animals lived and the trees are just huge, like bigger around than the town is.  It gave them lots of shade in the afternoons and fun places to explore for the kids.

Well, in the woods there lived this huge wooluf. He had big eyes and big ears and a huge mouth with nasty looking teeth because he didn't brush his teeth much.  The wooluf prowled the woods looking for something to eat pretty much every day, so eventually he spotted Tinkertown.  As he looked from behind a big tree, he noticed all the people in the town were small, maybe just the right size for a meal, and he decided then and there he would go catch one and eat it.  The wooluf's name was Wolfred, by the way.

So Wolfred the wooluf snuck out from the woods ... up to the edge of Tinkertown … where people filled the streets and the voices of street vendors floated in the air, "Radishes for sale, and grapes and strawberries, too."  Wolfred the wooluf stood up to begin his attack ... and an old lady saw him and screamed oh so loud, "It's a wooluf, it's a wooluf, eeeeeeeeek!"  

Suddenly, the town was in confusion with little people running everywhere, yelling to their children, "Run, run, run away fast!"

Tina saw it all.  Immediately she was afraid and turned to run.  She knew she was the fastest, and if anybody could get away, she could, but before she had run the first step, she remembered her mom and dad and everybody else she loved.  They were in danger, and maybe they wouldn't be fast enough to get away.  Despite her fear, she thought, well I'm fast enough, and if anybody could distract the wooluf away from the village, I bet I could.  And with that thought, her decision was made.

She ran quickly to where the wooluf could see her and hollered, "Hey, hungry wooluf, eat me!  I betcha you can't," and she laughed at him.  Now she definitely had Wolfred the wooluf's attention.  He stopped and stared at her, trying to understand why his lunch would taunt him like that.

He took a step toward her, but Tina danced aside and laughed again.  He took another step, and she dashed out to the edge of town and toward the woods.  "I can certainly catch her in the woods," thought Wolfred, "because that's my territory."  So off they went at an incredible speed.  Tiny Tina ran so fast that her little feet were a blur over the ground, but the wooluf was huge and had long legs and ran fast behind her, faster even than she could do at her best.
She could feel his snorty nose-breath on the back of her ears, so she made a sudden turn around a tree, and she did it so much quicker than Wolfred could.  He stumbled and skidded a lot and fell down, and he lost sight of her for a moment, but then he saw her a little way ahead and set out after her again.  His nasty mouth is open and his tongue is hanging out the side because he's breathing hard and running really hard to catch up.

Tiny Tina has a plan, and it's just ahead!  The thicket!  The thicket is bushes and brambles and briars that don't bother Tina at all because she's little and can run right under their little branches, but it's a problem for a big wooluf because he's so tall.  With Wolfred's nasty teeth now just inches behind her, tiny Tina ducks into the thicket, and all the wooluf gets is a mouthful of thorny branches. "Aaaaaouch!"  Still running hard, Wolfred gets a face full of leaves and twigs, and he keeps tripping over and over from all the brambles around his feet.  Not willing to be left behind in the race, the wooluf presses ahead, finally gaining on Tina although he can hardly see through all the branches and leaves hitting and poking him in the face. (bonk, ouch! slap, ouch! boink, splat, poke, OUCH!)

"Almost, almost ...," Tina thinks as she begins to see ahead to her escape.  She slows ever so slightly to let Wolfred get closer ..., closer ..., now!  And she makes a spectacularly sudden turn just in front of the grandpa of all big trees; it's el magnifico huge, and Wolfred, who can't turn nearly fast enough, runs face-first into the tree; BABABAAAMMMMMMM!  "My nose, my nose, ouch my nose" Wolfred wails in pain, "and my head, I've got a big bump on my head, and my tooth is loose, I think, and it hurts a lot."  Wolfred rolls on the ground, whining and complaining, but he's definitely done with running.  He finally gets up and limps off into the forest, never to be heard from again.

Still breathing hard, Tina smiles and walks back home.

At Tinkertown, Tina is met by a crowd of family and friends, precious people she loves, and they congratulate her and thank her for saving everybody. When evening comes, they celebrate together and laugh a lot.  It is such fun that they do the celebration over and over each year thereafter.

Every year at the celebration, they tell the tale of tiny Tina Tumbleweed and how she saved the village of Tinkertown from the big, bad wooluf.  Every year, the story gets better, the people get tinier, and the wooluf gets bigger and badder because that what tall tales do when you tell them over and over again.

Remember how we said there was a hidden meaning?
What do you think it was?
     ~ Be a good friend?
     ~ Do what's right and good?
     ~ Help those in need?
         Yes, every one of those are hidden in Tina's story.  
She'd be happy we heard her message.         
For Ruby Marie, the nicest granddaughter in the world.
I love you,

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


There is not a single pure heart among us, and the most judgemental are perhaps the most tarnished.

The less time we spend loving and enjoying and encouraging others, the less our life is worth living.  The more time we spend criticising and judging and blaming others, the more we corrode our minds and waste our years.

The racist extremists in Charlottesville don't need me to protest against them.  They don't need me to throw rocks at them.  They don't need me to crash my car into their midst to convince them they're on the wrong path.  It wouldn't change their minds.

They do need a better solution than the one they've got.  They need a hope that's real and healthy and noble.  The need to see magnificent life for themselves.

Extremists are a small fraction of of our population.  For every one such dark mind, there are a hundred or a thousand reasonable folks. So then, do we hide ... or step in? And how might we take advantage of this opportunity?

One unusual fellow sought out the KKK members and made friends.  They ate dinner together and talked things through.  His friendship lead to two hundred KKK members changing their minds and leaving the organization.  He is Daryl Davis, the famous musician.  And he is black.

"When two enemies are talking, they're not fighting," Davis said.  A Chicago-born Christian, Davis traveled the world in his youth.  After many countries and racially mixed cultures, coming home to America where folks could throw rocks at him because of his color was confusing, to say the least.  It lead to a lifetime of confronting racism.  His surprisingly successful tactic: friendship
Not everyone agreed with his tactics.  Davis recounts:  I had one guy from an NAACP branch chew me up one side and down the other, saying, “you know, we've worked hard to get ten steps forward. Here you are sitting down with the enemy having dinner, you're putting us twenty steps back.”
I pull out my robes and hoods and say, “look, this is what I've done to put a dent in racism. I've got robes and hoods hanging in my closet by people who've given up that belief because of my conversations sitting down to dinner. They gave it up. How many robes and hoods have you collected?” And then they shut up.
Davis's father, a senior Foreign Service officer, believed that his son engaged with the Klan because he needed to make sense of their hatred, to seek common ground. He remarked to The Washington Post that his son "has done something that I don't know any other black American, or white American, has done."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bias Surprise

Our educational institutions oppose discrimination, but are they unbiased?
A group of researchers ran this interesting field experiment. 

As supposed students, they emailed 6,500 professors at 250 top schools. They wrote saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? 

The messages to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different.  Names like Brad Anderson. Meredith Roberts. Lamar Washington. LaToya Brown. Juanita Martinez. Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen.   Obvious gender and ethnic name differences, these were the only variants in the otherwise identical correspondence.

A review of the results is interesting.  For positive responses from professors in the business field, white male identities were at the top with a 25 percentage point gap above female and ethnic minority identities.  The same trend was visible for each academic discipline.  

Keep in mind, these are the top-of-their-field professors at the most respected institutions where equality and diversity are strongly supported and vigorously pursued.  Such bias is perhaps more pronounced in the general population. 

Numerous inquiries, both rigorously scientific and anecdotal/informal, show the same perhaps subconscious bias in culture, even among liberals.

One recent recounting from the business world has two co-workers, one male and one female, swap names on their email correspondence with customers to see if it makes a difference.  The degree of respect and agreement given the male signature was extraordinarily higher than that granted the female.  To the supposed female service provider, customer correspondence was commonly condescending, distrustful, and disrespectful, the visible opposite of what was the norm for the male.  The customer behavior was tied specifically to the male or female signature even when they switched back and forth between the two workers.

Many women in the business world have changed their official signature to just initials for first and middle name.  Why might that be? 

Examples of such deeply embedded bias are visible in every venue, and to a greater or lesser degree, we're all participants.  How do we minimize the harm done?

Anthropologist Dan Grunspan was studying the habits of undergraduates when he noticed an unexpected trend:  male students assumed their male classmates knew more than female students - even if the women earned better grades.

Grunspan and his colleagues at the University of Washington and elsewhere decided to quantify the degree of this gender bias in the classroom.

After surveying roughly 1,700 students, they found male students consistently gave each other more credit than they awarded to their just-as-savvy female classmates.

Men over-ranked their peers by three-quarters of a GPA point, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE. In other words, if Johnny and Susie both had A's, they’d receive equal applause from female students - but Susie would register as a B student in the eyes of her male peers, and Johnny would look like a rock star.

From the journal:  "Female college students are more likely to abandon studies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines than their male classmates, and new research from the University of Washington suggests that their male peers may play a key role in undermining their confidence. ...  Researchers estimate that gender bias among male students was 19 times stronger than among females."
“Something under the conscious is going on,” Grunspan said. “For 18 years, these [young men] have been socialized to have this bias.”

We enslaved, we waged wars, we oppressed.  When we identified the injustice, we labored to end it all.  After decades of progress in law, the bias persists.

Racial, ethnic, and gender biases are deeply rooted issues that are generally unaddressed in current equality discussions.  We know the bias exists, but our understanding of why is incomplete.  Is it ignorance or perhaps a remnant of some natural (animal) trait that we as humans hope to rise above?  Is it deliberate?  Or a failure of conscience?  

Friday, August 11, 2017

No problem!

Discussions of our impact on the environment are not new.  We discovered early on that we could poison the air in our cities.  We discovered spikes in the rate of cancers and a long list of respiratory problems associated with pollution.  We found long-term health problems from factory products that invaded every community, even every home.  Asbestos and lead paint are the ones that most people remember.  Lead piping has resurfaced recently as a health problem for one city.  Air pollution is still with us.

Pumping fluids out of the ground can have an impact.  Still a relatively complex discussion, but ongoing.

My personal favorite, we've discovered that about 93% of the excess heat in our environment since 1970 got absorbed by the ocean.  The ocean is now beginning to change, and the changes will persist for centuries.  The currents that bring us our stable climate will move, the biologics that feed us will change, the reefs that support and defend us will change.  It's happening rather quickly compared to such changes in the past.

Suggesting that human activity has nothing to do with what we see ... I'm always surprised when I hear that premise.  Human impact, virtually insignificant in 1700, is now the single most significant impact element within our global systems.

  • Humans annually absorb 42% of the Earth’s terrestrial net primary productivity, 30% of its marine net primary productivity, and 50% of its fresh water.*
  • Now, 40% of the planet’s land is devoted to human food production, up from 7% in 1700.*
  • Fifty percent of the planet’s land has been transformed for human use.*
*Vitousek, P. M., H. A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, and J. M. Melillo. 1997. Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems. Science 277 (5325): 494–499; Pimm, S. L. 2001. The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth. McGraw-Hill, NY; The Guardian. 2005. Earth is All Out of New Farmland. December 7, 2005.

  • Equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster fifty times over, continuing oil spillage in the Gulf of Guinea has cost millions their livelihood, their communities, and their water.  It's been going on, the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez every year, for fifty years.  If it ever stops, recovery will take centuries.
  • Pelagics (tuna and the like) are now at risk from pollution and rampant illegal overfishing.  Total adult biomass summed across all monitored pelagic populations has declined globally by 52.2% from 1954 to 2006.  Regions like the Gulf of Guinea have seen 90% decline in marine populations bringing malnutrition and starvation among indigenous fishing communities.*
* Maria José Juan-Jordá, Iago Mosqueirad, Andrew B. Cooperf, Juan Freirea, and Nicholas K. Dulvyc, Grupo de Recursos Marinos y Pesquerías, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de A Coruña, 15009 A Coruña, Spain; Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada; Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, United Kingdom; European Commission, Joint Research Center, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen/Maritime Affairs Unit; School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada - Global population trajectories of tunas and their relatives

You might appreciate the recent U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM - CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT (CSSR) (Draft).   It's a good summary of recent research.