Thursday, May 23, 2024

More Two Cents Worth

 

The first “Two Cents Worth” entry was last month, April 24 to be exact.  I think it’s time for another installment.

 

The Trump trial in New York is just another “you can’t make this stuff up” story that makes one wonder how much longer we can hold this republic together?  Massive deficit spending, cat fights in Congress, strangers crossing our borders, an education system that no longer educates, unaffordable housing and a nation irreconcilably divided on most every issue that matters.  And we can’t even find reasonably competent, age-appropriate Presidential candidates.  

 

NIL money and student-athlete transfers will quickly force realignment of major college sports into “big money”, “little money” and “no money” divisions.  Old guys like me will have less interest in watching college football and basketball, but there will still be a huge audience for these sports.  Turn the page.

 

2024 is on pace to be one of the worst tornado seasons in history.  Of course, this fits right into the climate change doom and gloom narrative.  And, no question, the climate is changing, always has and always will.  I just don’t think pushing everyone to drive EV’s is the answer.

 

The uproar over Harrison Butker’s commencement address at Benedictine University is just another sign of the times.  A devout Catholic speaking at a Catholic university to an audience that mostly appreciated where he was coming from, even if they didn’t totally agree with everything he said.  We should be more concerned about our government extending condolences to Iran on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim “The Butcher” Raisi.  

 

Watched Lonesome Dove again.  I’m well into double digit re-watches of that epic mini-series which could not be made these days.  It’s loaded with Racism, Toxic Masculinity, Cultural Appropriation, Animal Abuse and numerous images, words and deeds which would just upset too many people.  In other words, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of 1870’s American Frontier life (except the real thing was much worse.)

 

And then there is Memorial Day and this from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Rest comrades, rest and sleep! The thoughts of men shall be

As sentinels to keep your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green we deck with fragrant flowers

Yours has the suffering been, the memory shall be ours.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Getting It Right

 

Watching the Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Israel protests on college campuses, I found it both interesting and highly disturbing how little these protesters actually know about the Middle East in general and the long-standing conflict between Jews and Palestinians in particular.  But I know better than to go down that rabbit hole, so this blog post is not about the Middle East mess.  Rather it is about how we should think about our beliefs.

 

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  Thankfully and by the grace of God, I’ve learned from them.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to ask the hard questions and seek the hard answers.  This is not an easy thing to do.  Human nature is more interested in fruit that looks good and tastes even better.  Consequences be damned.  But eventually, some of us learn that consequences will not be damned and certainly cannot be ignored.

 

Those life lessons have led me to ask these hard questions: 

 

_Is what I believe actually true and am I on the right path?

_Why do I believe it?

_If I am on the right path, what does it mean for how I live my life?

 

When I look at what’s going on in the world today, I see people asking similar questions but getting the wrong answers.  And I think that pretty much sums up the craziness we’re witnessing.  People believe something because it just “feels” right, or someone has told them it’s right or they just need to believe it for selfish reasons.  The American Civil War is a classic example.  Southerners believed things about slavery, black people and states’ rights that were just wrong.  But they certainly believed they were right and went to war to prove it.

 

History is essentially about groups of people thinking they are right and their opponents are wrong.  In most cases there is right and wrong on both sides of the argument.  Unfortunately, those who are mostly right don’t always win the argument.  Sometimes those who are mostly wrong win…at least for a while.  And even when those who are mostly right end up winning, it’s not likely to be a “win-win” for everybody.  Life is hard and it’s also short.  No one gets everything right all of the time.  The best we can hope for is that we get most of it right for as many of us as possible for as long as possible.  

 

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” – Theodore Roosevelt


Monday, April 29, 2024

Putting Down Your Dog

 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s confession that she shot and killed her chicken- eating 14 month old “puppy” was not well-received.  In fact, she’s no longer a likely candidate for Trump’s VP running mate.  I suppose it would have been better if she had sent her dog to a sanctuary city where there were no chickens or the chickens were protected from dogs who liked to chase and eat them.  As a last resort I reckon she could have subbed out the canine capital punishment to a vet who would have done the deed with drugs and new age meditation music playing in the background. I don’t have a problem with what Governor Noem did.  But I grew up in a time and a place when people were actively and directly involved in the life and death of animals, including pets.  And it wasn’t easy, especially for kids. 

 

When I was 12 years old I had to shoot my dog.  I had taken in a stray.  He was probably less than 2 years old.  A mixed breed that appeared to have some Brittany Spaniel in him.  I named him Rebel and I loved that dog.  In those days dogs stayed outside.  We did not have “inside dogs”.  We might let a cat in now and then, but no dogs.  Rebel eventually got sick.  I’m not sure what all was wrong with him, but he had the mange along with constant diarrhea and he had quit eating.  My dad made it clear: my dog, my problem..

 

I was a big kid and already had a 16 gauge shotgun.  I remember it well.  At close range I shot Rebel in the head.  It was a mess.  He never knew what hit him.  I buried him out in the woods and never went back to his grave.  I cried and it haunted me for a long time.  But I accepted that it had to be done and I was the one to do it.  I chose not to tell people about it.  Even back then some folks would have thought it was a bit much for a 12 year old to handle.

 

These days we take our old dogs to the vet.  We stay in the room and hold them while they drift away.  The vet takes the body and in a week or two we get the ashes.  It’s a whole lot easier on us than shooting and burying the dog.  And I’d like to think it’s easier on the dog.  No final memories of us looking at each over a gun barrel.  But the dog is still dead.  I go home and cry.   The loss of a dog still haunts me.  But this way I don’t have blood on my hands and people won’t hate me. 

  



Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Two Cents Worth

 

Blackie Sherrod was an outstanding Texas-based journalist and sportswriter.  He was voted Texas Sportswriter of the year 16 times.  Yes, he was that good…even better.  He passed on in 2016 at the age of 96.  One of the columns he used to write was called “Scatter-Shooting” and he would address a variety of subjects, mostly sports, but not entirely.  It was great stuff and always left you wanting more.

 

I’m not about to use “Scatter-Shooting” to describe this ramble.  Instead I will opt for this well-worn country nugget: “Two Cents Worth”.  Back in the day, when someone wanted to say something, but with the qualification that it was just their opinion, they might open with “Just my two cents worth, but this is what I think…”

 

So, here’s my Two Cents Worth on some of the issues of the day.

 

College kids protest.  They’ve been doing it for generations.  Now the Cause du Jour is Palestine.  And, as usual, some of the kids are taking it too far.  Time for the adults in the room to set some boundaries…if it’s not already too late.

 

The U.S.-Mexico border situation baffles me.  The only reason I can see for the Dems allowing this to happen is they want to boost the number of Democrat supporters.  There may also be some pressure from business to come up with more cheap labor, but this really feels like more of a demographic play to shift the balance of power more toward the Dems.

 

Abortion is liable to end up being the difference maker in the November election.  Religious convictions aside, the majority of Americans favor some allowance for legal abortion.  12-15 weeks seems to be the acceptable range with exceptions for later term if there are serious medical issues.  The hardlines on abortion being drawn by many Red states are going to bring out the votes for the Dems.  If the Dems hang on to the White House, this will be the reason.

 

The Right is also overplaying their hand on shutting down DEI programs.  There are certainly all sorts of negatives in the way many DEI programs have been run.  But for a lot of people, DEI remains the “equalizer”.  Without established DEI programs and policies they believe we’ll just go back to straight, white guys having all of the advantages and everyone else scrambling for leftovers.  

 

Last but certainly not least, Federal government spending has now gone so far over the line that it will take years to recover.  Inflation is baked into our economy.   We’re not going to work out of it with increased production or economic growth.  And there is no commitment to cut spending.  Tax increases are just a way of shifting some of the debt burden off of lower income folks who are essentially bearing the cost through inflated prices.  There is no free lunch.  Someone has to pay.  Who, how much and for how long are questions no politician is willing to answer.   But I can tell you it will take a lot of time and way more than two cents.


Monday, April 15, 2024

Time Out

 

Two months ago I wrote about the struggles I’d been having trying to sleep while dealing with a stubborn upper respiratory virus.  I thought I was just about over the sickness and noted how God had used this challenge to draw me closer to Him. 

 

As it turns out God wasn’t finished with the lesson.  I did not get over it and eventually ended up in the ER diagnosed with atypical pneumonia (aka walking pneumonia.)  The past few weeks have been challenging.  Lots of coughing and spitting… and even less sleep.  I’ve been unable to work or do much of anything other than lay around.  But with medication and time, we finally seem to be getting over it.  I hesitate to say that too loudly for it has  been 1 step forward and 2 steps back since the beginning of the year.  But my vitals are all looking good and I am actually getting some sleep. The cough has settled down and my lungs are clear.  I am weak and wrung out but feeling better and regaining strength. 

 

So what have I learned?  How about be careful what you pray for?  I’ve never had much patience and it’s always been something I prayed for.  But I didn’t really make much of an effort to become more patient.  I think God finally said, let’s answer these prayers for patience with a long, painful time out.  And I must admit, it’s got my attention.  I’ve always been a hard-charger, even in my old age.  I’ve enjoyed good health to the point of taking it for granted. I believed that as long as I ate right, got some exercise and a bit of sleep, I could handle just about anything.  I thanked God for my good health, but I probably took too much credit for it.  And as long as I could keep pushing myself, results would always be more important to me than patience…or people. 

 

These last three and half months have humbled me.  I have come to realize how my lack of patience is just another form of selfishness.  When a person thinks first of their self and what they want to accomplish, it doesn’t leave much room for patience.  Your priorities become work and results…right now.

 

I suppose it remains to be seen what I do with this lesson.  Old habits are hard to break.  Do I return to the old pattern of “me first”?   Or, do I stop and put others first for a change?   God is watching.




Monday, March 18, 2024

Who Is My Neighbor?

 

I recently had the opportunity to attend a church service where the sermon was based on the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I’ve heard many sermons based on this famous parable, but this one definitely came out of leftfield…and I do me THE LEFT field.

 

This pastor, who happened to be a woman, repeated and repeated and repeated the question from the parable: “Who is my neighbor?”.  Her answer was emphatically “Everyone”.   She suggested that Israel should treat the Palestinians as neighbors.  Russians should treat Ukrainians as neighbors.  Americans, Christians in particular, should treat those crossing our southern border as neighbors.  Every conflict could be settled if we were just good neighbors.

 

She made the point that in this parable, the Samaritan who showed mercy was the “good neighbor”.  The priest and the Levite who had passed by the badly injured stranger and offered no help were definitely not being good neighbors.  The parable concludes with Jesus commanding that we should behave like the Good Samaritan.  Jesus tells us that we must “Go and do likewise”.

 

So, it begs the question, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)?  What should the Christian position be when it comes to immigration for example?  Some would argue that certain Christian organizations are making things worse by enabling people to make the long trek to our southern border and advising them how best to crossover; and then telling them “what to say in order to stay.”  Unfortunately, “activist” Christians must ultimately face socio-economic and political reality mixed in with a large measure of unintended consequences.  Simple solutions to complex problems seldom work.  Even more elaborate, sophisticated solutions often don’t work and almost never work as planned.  History is littered with problems which were only made worse by the solutions inflicted upon them.  The current situation in Israel being a classic example.  

 

People have been twisting scripture and stretching Jesus’ parables for two thousand years to fit their agendas.  It’s a big reason why so many people have walked away from the Christian faith and religion in general.  But ultimately people will end up believing something.  Everyone has a belief system, even if it’s just doing what “feels” right or following the crowd.

 

The world is complicated and broken.  8 billion people, 56 million square miles of dry land and 140 million square miles underwater;  millions of people sick and starving along with millions sick and overweight.  Vastly different cultures, religions, languages and living standards.  Only God can fix it and he will…when he’s finally had enough of whatever this is.  And Christians would be well-advised to consider that some problems are above their paygrade.  Do the right thing when and where you can, but don’t make things worse.  Now that’s being a good neighbor.




Wednesday, February 28, 2024

What Job Market?


Disconnect: An instance of disconnecting or being disconnected.

 

With a 3.7% unemployment rate and 30% more job openings than there are unemployed people, one might well conclude that the job market is great.  But that glowing big picture looks very different at ground level. There’s an old saying that “all politics are local”.  The same could be said when it comes to jobs.  All job markets are local.  And in addition to being local, they are specific, specific with regard to industry and function.  So, there is not one “Job Market”.   In fact, there are thousands of job markets just in the United States. 

 

The job market I know best is the one for transportation/logistics management and executive talent.  And even within that space, there are “job markets”.  Markets segmented by service offering, geography, commodity, equipment types and job functions.   So, when someone asks “How’s the job market”, my response is usually “Depends on which one you’re talking about.”

 

That said, there are clearly factors which impact the overall job market across the nation and certainly for specific industry segments.  In 2024, for the transportation/logistics industry it’s mostly about the economy.  Demand is down, rates are down and post-covid/inflation driven costs are up.   We are in the middle of “the great capacity reset”.  This time next year there will be fewer trucks in service.  It’s also likely there will be fewer freight brokers in the market.  (And probably fewer headhunters).  Companies are in “hunker down”/cost containment mode.  They are hiring only when there is a real, immediate need and only using search firms when other options are not working.   It is what it is…but this too shall pass.

 

And when it does, we will be left with much larger, long-term job market issues.  Some of these will have a disproportionate impact on the transportation/logistics job market.  Demographics is a big one.  While the USA’s demographic profile is not as challenging as Western Europe’s, we are still facing a shortage of younger workers.  And it’s an even bigger issue for the transport/logistics sector.  Not only do we have a shortage of drivers, maintenance technicians and warehouse workers; it has become increasingly difficult to hire and develop talent for leadership positions.  This is forcing changes on an industry that tends to resist change when it comes to workloads, working hours and work locations.  But it’s also an industry that cannot afford to just pay people more for the same old working arrangements. New technologies and innovation will take over some of the work.  But the industry will continue to be relatively people intensive.  Hiring and retaining the best people will be the key to success.

 

And many of these people are now chasing that elusive dream of work-life balance.  Work-life balance means different things to different people.  And rarely does it mean the same thing to your boss as it does to you.  But if you’re the boss and you want to hire and retain people, you best pay attention.  Work-life balance is a real thing and it’s not going away.  This will translate to more remote or hybrid work arrangements, better benefits and increased PTO. 

 

Today’s workers are also less inclined to frequently relocate for work and if they do relocate it tends to be to a place of their choosing that accommodates a spouse/partner’s career and/or meets other nonwork-related concerns.  So, promotions that involve relocation or might disrupt work-life balance are not a big motivator these days.


Lastly and perhaps most importantly, people are less inclined to feel a sense of loyalty or attachment to a company.  They may actually like their job and even develop meaningful relationships with co-workers, but most folks really don’t trust their employers.  In fact, the more companies talk about putting their people first, the less their people believe it unless there is compelling evidence to support such claims.  Free T-shirts and company picnics just aren’t what they used to be.  Show them the money and a consistently positive work environment and they might just stay awhile.

 

So back to that question, “How’s the Job Market?”.  The best answer might be “Disconnected”.   Employees want better pay and benefits and they want a life outside of work.  Employers want productivity and a fair return on their investment.  Work-life balance is a two-way street. Organizations that find ways to “connect” with their people will be the winners.