Saturday, February 27, 2016

Nasty Winters Of The Past

From time to time we can get abnormal weather situations with the potential to disturb our way of life and endangering our health and life. Tornados, hurricanes, ice-storms and huge amounts of snow and cold are weather situations none of us wishes to experience.
But it can happen to everyone and it happened to me from December 28-1978 to January 04-1979 in northern Germany.
I had traveled from Norway to Germany to spend Christmas with my family. Christmas went by and having a few days left I decided to go see a friend and his wife for an afternoon.  It was December 27 when I was driving the 40-mile distance to their home a little outside of Flensburg, Schleswig Holstein.
Together, we had spent 2 years in tech-college and I had visited them often while being a student.

The above video will take some time to load

Like always when seeing friends, the hours were flying by and it got dark early. It also started raining - on frozen ground. At around 6pm I checked outside and everything was glazed. FREEZING rain was making a trip home too dangerous. Of course, I was invited to stay overnight which I gratefully accepted. It would be much better to undertake the drive home next morning. 
The first light of dawn was a blur. We looked out the windows but all we could see was snow drifting horizontally through the village. Listening to the radio we learned that driving conditions had worsened throughout the night and that people should stay off the roads if possible. I had to make a 2. phone call to my parents and again they agreed it would be best to stay put and wait for any improvement.
To make a long story short, I had to stay put for 6 days. While we were all cooped up the power went out. Heating the entire house was now pretty much impossible. There must have been a wood stove somewhere because we celebrated New Years Eve with a ham, which we hauled by foot from the next village. Snow drifts had reached 20feet and some houses were buried in hard-packed snow up to the chimney. The northern part of Germany hadn't seen much snow since 1963 and authorities were not prepared for snow removal of these dimensions. After it became apparent that the country was in an emergency situation, winter equipment was hauled in from Bavaria, and then we got the German Army coming with massive tanks to open roads to free many of the isolated villages, where farmers were battling to stay afloat without power. 9000metric tons of milk from the cows were running into the snow as no trucks showed for pickup. If a farm didn't have power generators, the sustained losses went into the tens of thousands. Little piglets and chickens froze to death as heating lamps didn't work, even people froze to death as outside temps were -14C. Thousands of Christmas travelers had gotten stuck in their cars on the German Autobahn and 7000 needed to be rescued with helicopters. Babies were born during chopper-flights. 

An arctic cold front had collided with tropical air and caused a storm with 80-90mph winds with the blizzard lasting 4 days. 70 villages in the State of Schleswig-Holstein got cut-off from the rest of the country and 12 persons froze to death. Trains and trucks got stuck in snow drifts, all traffic ground to a stop lasting 6 days. Ships got trapped in the ice and the total economic damage went quickly into the hundreds of millions.

Whether it was this extreme winter experience or a general interest to leave Germany I don't know, but the year after my friend took his entire family and moved to Australia. Smart man!

There have been published quite a few videos and books about the catastrophic winter 1978/79. And my own memory stands clear in my mind. What nobody knew in those early days of January 1979 was that barely 2 months later the whole thing repeated itself. On February 13 the next huge winter storm challenged the same geographical area once again. 

Despite a lot of dramatic experiences, those extreme conditions did something wonderful as well. It brought neighbours together, forged new friends with total strangers. People worked in the streets and roads, shoveling snow, fighting for their survival. 
Truly a winter nobody forgets.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Eruption of MT.St.Helens in 1980

In 1984 my cousin and I was camped opposite of Mt.St.Helens,WA, We wanted to see the site of the biggest volcano eruption which had hit America in centuries. When driving into the area we were soon met by fields of fallen trees, most of them showing burn marks. It was 4 years after the eruption had flattened all surrounding forest, killed several people and the resulting floods had swept away many buildings. Signs had been set up along the road warning visitors of possible earthquakes and volcano activity. But this was a gorgeous sunny day in July 1984 and we drove up one of the makeshift roads the forest service had built for salvaging any usable timber. From our site we could see the western flank of the mountain. Instead of a typical volcano cone we saw a flattened top. The eruption had blown off 400m (1300ft.) of the mountain top. The devastation was of monumental scope. 57 people died, 200 homes and 47 bridges, 24km of railroad tracks and 300km of roads were destroyed.

We revisited the area in 2005 en-route to California. new forest had grown up, paved roads all around, a visitor and observation center had been built. Life was (almost) like it used to be. But mother nature has spoken, leaving an everlasting reminder of her power and might. 

The video below is quite long. It is well worth to watch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The State Of Market Economy

When Henry Ford began producing his Tin-Lizzy he experienced a poblem. The problem was not his car, but the affordability of it. Only middle-class and a few rich people could afford to buy it. But Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace and prosperity. His automobile production needed to find customers in all kind of society layers. So Ford figured that if he paid high wages to his workers they also could afford to buy his car. So he started to pay high wages. And pretty soon workers were arriving at the plant in their own cars.

What is there we can learn of it today?

Well, our marked economy has diversified since Henry Ford’s days and consume is what drives our economy, and like in the days of Henry Ford it is paramount that people have enough money to participate in the economy.

Demand and supply is what regulates most of any free marked economy. If the demand is going down the general supply (or availability) is going up.  Demand is going down when money becomes scarce in huge parts of a country’s population. People have to hold back with their purchases and finally only buy the most necessary items. At the same time this consumer behaviour is leading to lesser tax revenue for the country. Lesser tax revenue again is causing cuts in public budgets. We are now in a bad economic circle.

Consequently one can say that if a huge part of the population is not making enough money, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are getting an economy like a 3rd.-world country.

Unfortunately, many business leaders do not understand this fundamental principle and prefer to exploit their employees by having them work for crumbs. The most used argument against higher wages is that businesses lose their competitive edge. But of course, that is not true, as a raised minimum wage to say $15/hr. would apply to all businesses at the same time. Another argument I often hear is that raised wages will lead to higher product prices. Of course that is true, but a wage raise of say 10% will not lead to a raise of the product price with 10%. Any viable business has max 10-15% of their total costs paid in wages. Now 10% of 10% does not lead to an increased product price of 10%, but maybe 1-2% increase. 
If we look at the United States, the country had a 2013 and 2014 poverty rate of 14.8% of its entire population. In cruel numbers this means 46.7mill people are living in poverty.
An alarmingly high number for the US providing a dark outlook for the future.
If only 15mill of these folks could be lifted out of poverty by getting paid decent wages, it could boost the US economy by at least 10%. The public would save on social pay-outs like f.ex. food stamps. The saved funds could be allocated to other purposes f.e.x. pay off public debt.

I chose the US as an example as the US is a western country with a high number of poverty, but modern poverty, often caused by worker exploitation can be found in any country. Some are better, some are worse. Norway, often hated as an example of socialism, has a poverty rate of 1.7% in a 4.5mill population, while their capital of Oslo is reaching 10% poverty, mostly attributed to settling of new immigrants.

This is how market economy is the thermometer of a country. When the critical temperature is reached and exceeded the patient eventually dies.

The fundamentals of this are so easy to understand that one may wonder why there is such a wide-spread problem with poverty.
If you are interested to read more about wages and the impact thereof, here’s a good article of Harvard Business Review: In  this case it shows the benefit for the company itself – COSTCO vs. WALMART

Monday, February 22, 2016

Some Pretty Hard Back-Breaking Work Today

We have been blessed with one of the nicest winters I have ever experienced while being up north. We have been able to sit on the deck outside, coffee in hand enjoying the warming rays of the sun.
But most importantly the nice weather has provided ample opportunities for me to get plenty of firewood. The free firewood has saved us thousands of Dollars in heating costs. Also, the mild winter made heating the house easy. We had approx. 4 cords of firewood when winter started and, looking behind our garage, we still have about 4 cords. I have been able to replenish our wood stacks as we went through the winter. And our latest load of wood came just in today.
You remember that we have recently been out of power for 28hrs? Well, that storm took down many trees. One of them was knocked over in the cemetary of St.Anne’s Anglican Church, and it needed to be removed. It was a pretty big spruce tree and it had fallen across several of the graves. There was a question whether I could take it away.
So today, I was out there, sunshine and blue sky overhead, ready to cut up that tree. Problem was the spot where it had crashed down was a good distance from the road and backing the trailer close to the tree was not possible as the ground was really mossy and soft. So after cutting off all branches I carried all the stuff to the nearest road, for transport to a disposal site.
When I was done with that it was lunch time and I went home.
After lunch Bea came along. We had to take our wheelbarrow to wheel all the cut firewood down to the road before loading it onto the trailer. Those root-end pieces were extremely heavy and the wheelbarrow often got stuck in small holes. It was truly a back-breaking work, and I exhausted myself. But finally we had cleaned up the site and removed every little piece of the tree, the only evidence left of our work being the saw-dust on the ground.

Over the next couple of weeks I have to split the wood and stack it.
It might be very labour intensive, but it has been very healthy for me to do. I went back to the weight I had years ago and I enjoy doing the work, even though today’s was a bit on the hard side.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Are We Better Off Today Than In The Fifties?

After a downright gorgeous day yesterday, we got some grey skies, some wind and some rain today. But that didn’t deter us from inviting friends for coffee and having a few fast passing hours with lively conversations. I had made a peach roll and they brought a chocolate cake. I love chocolate cake! But my roll turned out pretty good as well. In fact, here I am sitting and the clock is almost 8pm and I could imagine to have a 2. taste of it.

I have always wondered whether most people were better off financially in the Fifties than today. And I asked that question to our American neighbours this afternoon. I hadn’t to wait very long for the answer. They confirmed what I had thought all along. Back in the Fifties most families had only one person earning the income and it was enough to make a decent living. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all income levels but the average  income seemed to be sufficient. Where I grew up, in Germany, it was the same. One income was enough. Daycare wasn’t invented yet because there was no need and kids were taught by their parents not anyone being hired to take care of them. Socially, there were less problems than today.

Today in many cases, not even 2 incomes of an average family are enough to make ends meet.

What happened? 

Generally, wages and salaries have been pretty much at a stand-still for 20 years, in reality going down as costs of living has gone up tremendously. Bea had a wage of $15 in 2002 when working at a travel agency. Today, 14 years later wages are still the same. In some parts of Canada they are even less now for the same job.  This is the fast track to creating an increasing  degree of poverty. And it is all aided by government and multinational companies. A nearby very fashionable hotel owned by Marriot is paying a mere $10.65 for most of their employees, except management. Consequently, very little income taxes are paid resulting in a very poor public economy.
A stay at that hotel is in the range of $250-400/night. You do the math!

Something has to change, and if one wants to avoid serious consequences, it has to change fast.

Just my little Saturday rant!

Friday, February 19, 2016

GOVERNOR Of Maine - Entertainment

WARNING: You are gonna laugh so bad that you’re gonna be out of breath, that is…..if it wouldn’t be so embarrassing.


Paul LePage Warns Of Dirty Asylum Seekers Bringing The 'Ziki Fly'

02/17/2016 05:28 pm ET

Amanda Terkel Senior Political Reporter, The Huffington Post


Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) thinks asylum-seekers are a major threat to the state.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) believes asylum-seekers are the "biggest problem" in the state because of the diseases they may be bringing in.

"What happens is you get hepatitis C, tuberculosis, AIDS, HIV, the 'ziki fly,' all these other foreign type of diseases that find a way to our land," LePage said during a town hall meeting Tuesday night, according to Maine Public Broadcasting News.

The crowd apparently didn't like him singling out asylum-seekers, replying with cries of "Shame!"

There is no such thing as the "ziki fly." The disease LePage was presumably referencing was the Zika virus, which is transmitted by a certain type of mosquitoand has rapidly spread through Latin America. Zika has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, which results in newborns having an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. El Salvador has urged women not to get pregnant until 2018 as a precaution.

As Reuters notes, the Zika virus is not currently found in Maine.

In 2014, LePage attracted national attention for trying to quarantine Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned to the United States from treating Ebola patients in West Africa. She showed no signs of having the Ebola virus at the time, and, it turns out, she did not have the disease.

More recently, LePage has been talking about the heroin crisis in Maine, saying that drug traffickers are a major scourge on the state -- particularly black drug dealers who allegedly "impregnate a young, white girl before they leave."

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen: THE COMMENTS

Rebecca Limback ·

University of Missouri

I know Republicans proudly ignore science, but seriously? Maine must be so happy to have a Governor who doesn't know the difference between a fly and a mosquito--as well as one who has no empathy for those fleeing violence in other countries. I cannot begin to imagine why this guy was elected to lead a state with such a rich history.

Like · Reply · 46 · 14 hrs

Kim Boal ·

Rawls professor of management at Texas Tech University

Never has a State had so much to be ashamed of.

Like · Reply · 28 · 14 hrs

Thebe Bashaleebee

He's so horrible I'm surprised he's not running for the Republican nominee for POTUS.

Like · Reply · 31 · 13 hrs

William Copeland ·

Troy State

Thebe Bashaleebee - great comment!!!

Like · Reply · 9 · 13 hrs

Show 7 more replies in this thread

Bob Casparius ·

Providence, Rhode Island

I'm originally from Maine and still have a house there. I have to tell you he is a total embarrassment.

Like · Reply · 35 · 14 hrs

Shawn Roehrig ·

Works at Self-Employed

Bob, then why is he still governor? Is there something in the water? Has eating too much lobster addled the brains of the voters?

Like · Reply · 7 · 14 hrs

Sandra Sneider Tatsuno ·

Englewood Hospital and Medical Center

Not enough of an embarrassment, apparently, for your fellow Mainers not to have re-elected him.

Like · Reply · 8 · 13 hrs

Dave Koga ·

Los Angeles, California

Governor LePage proves once again that he's an embarassment to his state.
FYI Governor, science clearly tells that only "Ziki flies" named D-Money, Smoothie, or Shiftie are considered dangerous

Like · Reply · 1 · 8 hrs

Steve Cherry


Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

Steven Underwood

FEAR! Bringing the fear. Does the GOP ever think about anything less? They never have any plans to improve our situation or how to fix problems. They just want us to fear everything except white, male, wealthy, Christian, far right conservative leaders. We, the people, need to make them fear ... for their jobs.

Like · Reply · 16 · 14 hrs

Howard Millman ·

Christians only have fear to give in order to make people feel guilty about themselves. Anyone who falls for religious bunk deserves whatever they get.

Like · Reply · 4 · 14 hrs

Judy Mccracken ·

St. Lukes Catholic School

Howard Millman Religion has been 'center stage' in the past SEVEN years.... WHY IS THE EVANGELICAL beliefs being shoved down the electorate's throat?..... I have my own religion, dont need a course in 'HOW the cruz's want to rule the world'....
WHAT HAPPENED TO SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE?....NOW, major discussions on defunding anything that is not in their prayer book...Is this what they mean, when they cry...'Take our Gov Back'?

Like · Reply · 7 · 12 hrs

George J. Zaidan ·

Christ The King College (C.K.C) - Bo

I have faith that Gov. Paul LePage will be able to shoot every "ziki fly" that crosses the boarder and if he happens to miss any he'll either sit on them, stare them down or just yell at them. Them "ziki flys" have no chance.

Like · Reply · 9 · 13 hrs

Jeff Newman ·

New York, New York

I honestly don't understand why LaPage is a govenor of a state instead of chairman of the RNC. He is the default of the Everyman Republican.

Like · Reply · 17 · 14 hrs · Edited

Todd Daugherty

I thought we had enough to be ashamed about here in Texas, but what were you guys in Maine thinking? Geez.

Like · Reply · 11 · 13 hrs

Dave Koga ·

Los Angeles, California

Both times LePage was elected, there was a third party candidate on the ballot who split the vote with his Democratic opponent. He won both elections with less than 50% of the vote.

Like · Reply · 1 · 10 hrs

Steve Cherry

Dave Koga It is always unfortunate when that happens and it never reflects the wishes of the majority.

Like · Reply · 2 hrs

Virginia Stanley

Dave Koga Well he represents the views of many Maine residents.It isnt only TEXAs that has extreme RW people. Yes,he won his first election because of third party factors but the second it was less of a factor.By the way the third party second election candidate was going to drop out.I think he made a deal for a state job and thus stayed in the election. It had somewhat of an effect, Its water over the dam.

Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr

Alyce Garrity

"Ooooh, they got cooties! They got cooties!" What is he, eight years old? Has he had so many people immigrate to his state that he thinks they brought all the Hep C, HIV, and tuberculosis there? Since he doesn't even know how Zika is transmitted, why does he think it will suddenly show up in Maine? I wonder how often he has sen malaria in Maine. It's also caused by a mosquito bite -- from a particular type of mosquito, that can't survive in Maine. Same with the Zika virus.

Like · Reply · 11 · 14 hrs

Calvin Robinson ·

Dunbar Vocational High School

When I was in grammar school the teacher would tell us, "You could be a senator or a governor one day!" I thought that was a really cool idea back then. If that teacher told me the same thing now, I would say, "For What?!"

Like · Reply · 4 · 13 hrs

Thursday, February 18, 2016

It’s Dark Baby–28hrs. Without Power

The wind started around 8pm. We were just coming from a community meeting. Within the next 2hrs. it increased in force reaching 100km/hr. (60mph) From there on it didn’t take long that our lights started flickering and we began looking for candles and kerosene lamps. Before the power went off we went to bed, flashlight on the nightstand.

Moving forward in time: It’s 6:30am and the house is doused in darkness. No power. Good thing I know where matches, candles and kerosene light are. Next move is fetching the propane stove from the basement. I can’t start a morning without coffee!
I have to make a fire in the wood stove. Everything is there. Some paper, an empty egg carton, kindling. OK, it starts burning. Luckily, the house is not cold. We have 4C (38F) outside. The storm, which has ceased by now, came from the south and brought warm air with tons of rain from the south-east of the States. Yesterday, the temperature rose from –20C to +10C within 30 hrs. A look outside confirms that a lot of snow has gone. Good! We don’t need to make snowmen.
Our power outages on the island are like waiting for dinner to be served. You know it’s coming every time the clock strikes 6pm, or in this case, every time the storm is reaching 60mph. The power provider sent a line-clearing crew this past fall and they took away a lot of trees and brush underneath the power lines, but what office people don’t know is that the next row of trees don’t have the same strong root system and will keel over much easier than the row which was removed. It is beyond my understanding why power providers can’t learn of this and rather bury power lines than leaving them exposed to the elements, having to send out crews every time a strong wind causes damage.
So after breakfast I decided to drive out to Liberty Point to watch yesterday’s surf crashing against the rocks. But I didn’t get very far. Mother Nature had closed the park road by felling a tree across it. So I had to back out again.

And the rest of the day will be spent in waiting for the power to return, so I can publish this posting.

Last update: The power was restored after 28hrs at 2:30am next day. It turned out that many trees had fallen across power lines. One treetop broke off and got hung up on the power line right over the main island road (Rte.774)