Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Parade

Click on image for slide show

The image, above, is from the 2008 Seattle day-after Thanksgiving Day Parade. I got there later than usual, but enough to walk around the staging area for about an hour. They stage the parade in a 2 block radius from the start up the hill, so it gives enough to photograph which adds as the parade progress from the start at 8:45 am. Once it passes the start, you're essentially free to walk around for other shots, as the parade route is crowded and difficult to get photos (policed along the route).

I usually get my Christmas card for the year from the group, see last year's (top photo). I love the informality and relaxed atmosphere of the staging area and the freedom to walk anywhere and photograph. You just have to be aware after it starts with the coordinators starting the next one in the line. They also give more room and people will pose if you obviously have "better" equipment, meaning one or more larger cameras with a camera bag.

For what it's worth, I use a Canon EOS 5D and EOS 1N with 4 lenses (35mm to 135mm) . I never got my mind around those cameras with the APS-sized sensors. After almost 40 years I'm still a full-frame photographer. I'm not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination and skills, namely I'm a observational photographer.

And I'm a minimalist with photo editors. I try to capture the best photo (flim) or image (digital) when I'm standing there, but I also make mistakes, forgetting this or that, the complexity of newer cameras. I use the Galen Rowell approach and method, but occasionally forget to reset something, or watch the sky and forget to change the light/color balance. But this time, it was overcast with showers so the light was even throughout the time.

Anway, when all was said and done, there is a sample.

Monday, November 10, 2008

JMO - It's only money

Reading the news stories about the bailout which has morphed into financial industry, banking industry, insurance industry and now auto industry infusion of taxpayers' money with few strings attached, it's likely to top $1 Trillion. And all of it is government borrowed money. We borrowed to give to industries, and you'll be paying the interesting the rest of your life and generations beyond.

But listening the range of experts I'm still against it. But I notice they're trying to make it taste better with individual stimulus checks. Wow another few hundred dollars. Gee, we get pennies and they get billions. Why do I believe they gave away the candy store while handing out samplers to the American people? I'll take the whitle chocolate center one thank you since it's irrelevant who's talking and promising anymore.

But then it's just money. What this crisis showed was that the whole industrial world's foundation is debt and credit. There is nothing holding up the global economy but money borrowed in the endless circle of exhanged as everyone's hands are in everyone else's pockets while writing IOU's for the loan. No one really knows where the circular path of debt ends, except the taxpayers who pay the interest on the government's debt.

And now with the national debt at about $11 Trillion, it's hard to think of this bailout as just getting and using a new credit card to the max. and giving the money away. It's hard to see the bailout as real money, but in reality it's about $2,300 per person in the US. Per person mind you, each and every one of us just gave that money away from our government's bank account, except it's not really there.

As once said, "There is no there there." No money except what the government prints in Treasury bonds, prints in money, and signs for loans. It's all a paper, or now electronic, exercise. But as one senator said years ago, when you starting talking about the amount, pretty soon it becomes real money. Well, it's beyond that, it's more than real, it's our future, of a permanent debt we'll never pay off, but just keep adding to the amount.

And in the end, it's not like our finances and budget. That's real money. All of this money is only money on paper. It's not real, just part of the whole global finances. The there is real but similarly not real to us that we know and feel in our life and work. We'll never really see it but we'll pay for it with our taxes.

Dear Mr Obama

Ok, now you have won the election. And you have made many promises we both know aren't really that achieveable, but don't worry, I know they were mostly campaign rhetoric for votes and not really promises but ideas. My interest here is to emphasize one promise you made which I want you to keep, and that is transparency. You said it would be the in the way you and your administration will work.

The New York Sunday Magazine today (11/9/08) has an excellent article on imperial presidencies, especially Bush's. With the compliance and complacency of Congress, our freedoms, rights and protections have been evicerated to its lowest level ever, with warrantless wiretaps by the NSA, the Patriot Act, and secret excutive orders. The power the President has assumed over American is unprecedented, including the arrest and incarceration without evidence, just suspiciions, without access to legals aid and the courts, and without contacting family.

All in the name of terrorism, which we know it was and is a charade, a way to create an imperial presidency above the Constitution and our laws. It was a Vice President Cheney objective and he succeeded. And it would be the greatest gift you could make to the American people by changing this where we are a country and nation for the people living with pride and honor about and in our life and work.

if you do as you say you will, bring transparency to your office and work, then undo or ask Congress to undo all those illegal actions by the Bush administration. Give hope to the people that government trusts them and will act within the Constitution and the law. If you don't, or if you keep those powers, and especially use them, all what you promise is dust, long swept away with the campaign signs and debris.

If you prove you're no better than Bush, then you've lost the trust of the American people. And I for one will not only not trust you with anything and on anything, I won't vote for you again. That's what's at stake here. America and the American people. And now it's up to you. We voted and we have expressed our believe in you. And now it's up to you to show it was earned and deserved.

I'll keep you posted on how I see things going.

Friday, November 7, 2008

JMO - Government Service

In reading the articles and especially the editorials about government, meaning the whole government system of people, regulations, costs, etc., it's clear they all, on both sides, miss the real point. It's not about big or small government, it's about productive and efficient government. And this has been demonstrated, every president, including the current one, who have both increased the size and cost of government without really making it better.

And that's the key here, and the problem with poltiicians and almost every outside of government. It's easy to complain about government, and who doesn't have horror stories, but those complaints aren't fair or right, but just examples which we can also easily find in business and anywhere else. Human nature and errors are prevasive and not restricted to govenment.

I can say what I know because I spent 28 years in the Interior Deparment, specifically the US Geological Survey, and it's clear to me, almost everyone outside of government does not understand what working for the government is about and the importance of a good government workforce.

And the key is the workers are already productive and efficient. It's just the people and Congress keep demanding more work, services, etc. for less money. And as any expert can tell you there is an optimum productivity and efficiency, and passing it by increasing the work won't improve either, and in fact decreases both.

When I was a supervisor, my bosses always wanted me to schedule 100% of my staff's time and work. I didn't. I always scheduled 80% and said that the rest will easily be taken up by other tasks and work that happens in the course of the day and work. I always said when you schedule 100% of their work, they'll be working 120+% of the time squeezed into 100% of the time.

And that's neither productive or efficient, because going faster only increases the errors and always had me asking other supervisors who did schedule 100% of the staff's time, "If you don't have the time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to do it over?" And that's my point, as I found they eventually produced less, often less than in the contract, because they weren't thinking.

This was because they always unrealistically assumed the minimum of errors and wasted time, and we all know that doesn't happen. They forgot the simple idea of Murphy's law and being human. In return I rarely missed a deadline and we often did more than was originally planned, because people worked harder knowing they had the freedom and time to do their best and resolve problems before they became unsolvable.

And that's my idea to President-elect Obama, make government efficient and productive by optimimizing work, not maximizing work. The latter won't gain you anything, except problems, and the former will give the people the government they deserve, the most efficient and productive, and yes cost-efficeint employees.

You see govenment employees, from my experience, believe in their work and service. What they hate are bad managers and really bad senior managers, especially those political appointees always criticizing and sometimes demeaning, government workers for political agendas. And I know the American people appreciate government workers when they know they're doing their best for them.

Government employees want their boss to believe in them. It's a simple concept and simple to follow, if only they would, but they rarely do. And that's what you have to change. Not espouse ideas about big or small, expensive or cheap, but service to your country. The employees will follow with the most productive and efficient, and even cost-effective, work you won't believe is possible.

So Mr. Obama, that's my $.02 to you. I only ask you pass it on.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

JMO - Off Shore drilling

We don't need to drill for oil off our coast lines, in the coastal waters of the east and west coast. The Gulf coast already has extensive oil drilling, and it's obvious from the data, there's more oil there to add drilling, even in spite of the hazards of hurricanes. I say this because of a study by the General Accountability Office (GAO) which reaffirmed what many have already said about existing oil and natural gas leases on federal lands.

The GAO reviewed 55,000 oil and natural gas leases on federal lands issued between 1987 and 1996. They discovered only 6%, yes that small, of the 68 million acres of federal lands had been drilled and that only 5% were producing oil or natural gas. The remaining 94% of the leases were idle or had expired.

And only 26% of the current off shore, meaning coastal waters, leases had been explored and only 12% were producing oil and natural gas. It shows what was been said, even myself two months ago when Palin said, "Drill, baby drill.", it's all a sham for the energy companies to get more land under lease while not drilling.

You see they actually make more money importing oil from OPEC countries than producing oil in the US. They only pay the market price than pay for operations and maintenance of producing wells, along wtih all the local, state and federal taxes on domestic production. They're simply following the money and profit, and not being patriotic to America and the American people.

And the GAO report said that all the incentives Congress has given the oil companies, like less taxes, faster approval proces, etc., isn't enough to offset the profit from imported oil. So that's where the truth is, and with continuing record profits by the energy companies, we're expected to believe they want more of our land?

Because we know that's the issue to them, not about exploring or producing oil and natural gas here, but simply ownership of federal lands for future use. They don't want to produce oil and natural gas to help America and the American people. They simply want to own us and own our money.

And I agree with the report which recommends Congress revoke any lease that hasn't been explored and be producing oil and natural gas within the last 10 years and only issue new leases with the same provision, use it or lose it, along with your money too. And they raise rent on the unused land.

So, there's the deal. No new leases, especially off-shore in coastal waters, until they use the leases they already have. Or else face losing them to be reissued for lease with stricter rules. President-elect Obama and Congress, now act.

JMO - One word

Ok, Obama won, and by more than I estimated. I bet he would have about 330 eletoral votes, wining a mini-landslide if he got the big states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and California). I didn't account for some other states, New Mexico, Colorado, etc. But as a noted baseball manager once said, "You only need one more run than your opponent."

But this post isn't about the election, the win or even the issues and agenda we now face. It's about perspective.

When Bush ended speeches he usually said, "And God bless America." When Obama ended his acceptance speech in Chicago, he said, "And may God bless America."

Small difference, one word, "may", but big difference in perspective. Bush believed God and America are the same. Obama sees God and America aren't, but can be if we do well. Obama knows the difference between one's faith and one's life. Bush never saw this and never knew to separate them.

Bush assumes he has God's approval and he doesn't, he never earned it by being a better person and leader. Obama knows it about work and striving and if you do well towards people you'll achieve God's approval in your heart and mind. He knows you never assume it and you always strive.

Bush assumes it's already there no matter what you decide, say or do. It's why he knew the attack and invasion of Iraq was good and right, because he said God said so. What God assumes war against innocent people is good and right? The fight and war was and is in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Bush mistook he blindness for vision.

Anyway, this was about one word which show a world of differnce. And why Obama will likely be a good President, even with all the failures Bush is leaving for him and the American people. Obama knows it's about America and the American people, Bush never did and still doesn't see the simplicity of that idea.