Category: Uncategorized

These are Fascinating Times

As the global universe deals with this horrific virus with, at this point, no cure, I can only look forward. Asia appears to be on the back side of this pandemic. The US, with still a great many cases documented and the medical professionals say we have not yet reached the peak, is already making some plans to reopen the country and its struggling economy. But the big question is “what will the US and the world look like when we attempt to return to normal”? What will normalcy look like in a world that has, as of yet, to develop a vaccine for Covid 19?

Opportunity Exists

This pandemic does not surprise me. There have been many articles written over many years that have suggestedopportunityd that the world’s population will not end or be decimated by a nuclear holocaust but by a rampant virus of some sort. And again, it is not surprising that this disease probably started in a country with a huge population like China. At least in China there is a high population of educated people who could understand what may be necessary to control the virus. Maybe they did not act quickly enough or were not upfront with the rapid spread of the disease, but that is not what I care about in this discussion. Just think what it would be like if ground zero was in the ghettos in India where the population is poor, under educated and lacks, for the most part, even the most basic medical care.

Where does opportunity exist? It exists in the way we handle a new world order, in new technology, construction, population management and on and on it goes. I have been listening to a lot of talks about what will the new normal look like in the way we worship for example. We assume that social distancing will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. That means that our mega churches that have stadium style seating for say a few thousand, will only be able to seat maybe 750 as social distancing will require six feet in between each church goer or 2 seats in between. As churches rely on donations, how do they make up the lost revenue from the loss of seating capacity? Add a service? I don’t know? But some genius will come up with a way to make “community” among church goers work. If the online service has been moderately successful, maybe amp that up. Will there be a resurgence in the drive in movie theater that could double as a Sunday morning church service venue? We will think big, think different, use the ingenuity that has always gotten mankind through troubles almost as great as what we experience now. And that is just one example.

Construction

I was listening to an article on NPR the other day talking about how we will have to change our workplace. They were specifically talking about the interior floor plans of the style of workplace that is in vogue right now, especially among the younger working persons. The floor plan that has randomly scattered desks, a game room,  a total open space with minimalist furnishing. And the speaker also discussed the air filtration system which in most buildings is designed to push air around and not necessarily filter it for bacteria. In fact, I have read that inside many office buildings the air quality is fairly poor and can be a breeding ground for disease and germs. Yuk! Schools the same way. And lets not forget gyms and restaurants. And on and on the list goes.

go greenRight after hearing this article, I had lunch with my youngest of two daughters and we were talking about this talk. And first, I must add that since we don’t live under the same roof, we sat outside her first floor apartment and had lunch while respecting the 6 foot distancing norm. She discussed that very thing. Her office is set up in pods of 4 work stations to a pod. Each desk area faces another desk and has no separation. If one person coughs, they all get the spew from that cough. As they think about opening up that office, that is something, for the health of their employees that they must consider.

The company that she works for is a very large international construction company based in this area. Now here is where a golden opportunity exists. There current office building is stunning by office building standards. Being a construction company, one of there goals was to showcase there design and construction prowess. And they have succeeded. It’s beautiful. But, because of their rapid growth, they have nearly outgrown their location. And now comes their opportunity created by the Covid 19 pandemic. Their plans are to build a new location and have it operations by sometime around 2025. As buildings standards will surely change, create this building with state of the art design and construction. A current standard is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified office building with the highest rating being platinum. Go beyond that standard. A new post Covid 19 standard will incorporate the same level of design and environmental thought but add to the mandate air movement within the building. Germ and bacteria buildup and remuneration of it. Materials usage that is clean even prior to installation. Construction techniques that have that same care. Windows that open to allow in fresh air (fresh being hypothetical). A floor plan that reflects maybe an open concept while still respecting the need to keep your coworkers germs to themselves. Landscaping that helps filter air into the building. Washing stations throughout the building and not just in the bathrooms. Bathrooms being totally touch free. And the list goes on. Her company has the opportunity to show the world new ideas on an old concept, our work place.

Working from Home

One thing that will definitely come out of our quarantining is that working remotely from home works. But it is far from perfect. I think that we will see creative ways to increase bandwidth from our home work stations. As always, weather it is because of a weather emergency, whenever we are forced to work from home, that becomes a huge problem. The current network infrastructure is overwhelmed. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom are easily slowed when it seems that half the world is zooming.

My generation primarily, has been skeptical about how successful working from home would be. Many in my age group may feel that if he, as the boss, can not see a person working, than they are probably doing a bit of work, than watching TV and that if an employee worked from home, their productivity would wan. Because everybody is working from home, I think we see that it is very possible to be a good alternative to an office environment. But then again there are many folks who like the office environment and will continue to go to the office. They like the friendships that they have developed at there office. Even before the pandemic, I have wondered if the office  building will become a dinosaur. If a large proportion of the work force is now working from home, will there be wholesale office vacancies? What will we do with the 30 and 40% and more office vacancies that I foresee in the future? What is the future uses of these buildings.

Dining Out

If you were to ask me what I miss the most, I would have to say dining out. I miss the social interaction of dining at a restaurant with friends. I think the “with friends” is the most important part of the statement. I would have to say that is it possible that we are seeing the demise of “fine dining” though. I would define “fine dining” as generally good quality food, well cooked, well presented and in an atmosphere  of some elegance. Tammy and I were discussing just last night that the style of restaurant interior that I like may be white linens, beige curtains, the service staff dressed in white shirt, apron, etc. Just my version. But how can we expect that to be these days in the new error of social distancing? Tables are spread out, staff wears gloves and masks or food is to go.

Do we need to rethink or will we rethink what dining out is. Is a more sophisticatedoutdoor dining version of the food court possible. And maybe that is not so bad. Picture the “plaza” or piazza. New construction prior to the pandemic has city blocks being created with office, shops and restaurants being created with apartments and condos atop them. Nice idea last week. But this week, should we look at a large square, with those sames shops and restaurants surrounding it but instead of a scattering of benches the square is now filled with tables and chairs where patrons of those restaurants can carry their food to those tables and enjoy and outdoor meal. From an economic standpoint, maybe not so bad for the new restaurant. Their real estate space is minimal as now they are more of a store front with minimal indoor dining available. Their staff requirements are less. What do you do during bad weather? That is a caveat. Indoor seating is definitely limited, so you have to rely more upon your warmer months. Or just simply be creative. There are lots of creative people out there that will figure it out and not just survive but thrive.

As to my fine dining? Well like I said, maybe eating out socially is more important than that elegant fine meal. Maybe I reserve that experience either in my home or at one of the few fine dining restaurants that will figure it out.

Our World has Changed Forever

Our World has changed forever is probably a “no kidding” statement. There are those persons and groups out there that long for our old world and old way of doing things. And that is just that. In just a few short weeks and months, our Old World is out the door. Lots of good will come out of this pandemic. That is not to say that we should not mourn the loss of more than 100,000 lives and counting in the US and many more around the world. But in the spirit of positivism, our new world may be so much better. We have seen that the family is a pretty good thing to rely on and be around. I like my wife…a lot. And my dog. And my kids (although I miss them as they live elsewhere). I have connected with my brothers and sisters and mother on a more frequent basis via Zoom calls. I have lost a fair amount of weight by eating at home. Fortunately I like to cook. Wholesalers who sell to restaurants don’t have restaurants to sell to so they are selling to us folks. We are buying better quality fish and meet and making some very terrific meals. I was supposed to do a fair amount of traveling both overseas and within the continent and that won’t happen this year. But we are now saving more money so that when we do travel we can do a little more.

Overall, life is good. As long as our health remains strong, this hiatus from life for maybe the entire year is good. I hope you all see the possible changes as positive and remain hopeful that in the months and years ahead, we will, in fact figure it all out through innovation, caring and love. Carry on, care for your neighbors, be cool, enjoy the summer with your family and continue to live life to the fullest.

Cstay safe

Plastic Pollution is Epidemic …Duhhh!

A number of years ago after reading an article about the industrialization of the US and plastic pollutionthe subsequent pollution caused by it. We look back now at that period of time and say “how could we have let this happen to our rivers and lands”. We now have the luxury of hindsight and know how detrimental the lack of disposal rules and regulations were to our environment. But what will people 100 years from now say about this period of time? How did they not see how the effects of blah, blah, blah would have on our environment. And now I am pretty sure I know what that will be. PLASTIC! It is everywhere and we cannot get away from it and from what I can see, nobody is in any great haste to do something about it.

Start by thinking about the plastic that you use in a day, a week, etc..

Take a day, just one normal day, and go without buying anything plastic. Go to Starbucks and have a cup of something and a bagel. The cup, if you did not bring your own has a plastic coating on it and when you toss it in the recycling trash can (which are usually full) it is contaminated by that little bit of coffee waste. Now have that bagel. You apply it with a plastic knife. The cream cheese comes in a plastic container. It’s only 7:00 AM. You go to work and you are surrounded by plastic containers that hold all sorts of things; toner, paper, electronics to name a few. At lunch you go out to target to buy a new let’s say computer. While it comes in a nice recyclable box, the computer is protected from damage inside the box by styrofoam. Additionally, the computer is shielded from dust and dirt in a plastic bag and the little parts are in hard plastic wrappers. On the way home you have to go to the grocery store, Whole Foods, which is known for being environmentally aware. You buy chicken and it is packaged in a ridiculously huge plastic container and a plastic wrapper. Whole Foods does that you say? You buy fresh vegetables and how do you contain them? Three guesses and the first two don’t count. Plastic bags. And that is just one day.

Walk up and down the aisles in any store.

Costco, Target, Walmart! Hundreds and thousands of pounds of containers that WILL most likely end up in landfills. But I recycle you say. Yes that is a good thing but there are some very specific rules for recycling that I think most people are unaware of. If we as individual consumers of plastic recycled well, the amount of time it takes is astronomical. And if you don’t take the time, your efforts in recycling could all be in vain as contaminated recycling waste can stop production at a recycling plant at a cost of many thousands of dollars to the recycling company, and that waste may end up in the landfill anyway.

Much of our recycling waste is shipped overseas.

Much of it was shipped to China but after 2017, China has refused to accept additional waste. Other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia or Thailand accept waste but they do not have the infrastructure to handle the huge amounts of waste produced by developed countries like the US, Japan and Germany to name a few. As these other countries refuse to accept more waste, it is stockpiled at the source where as they become over burdened, to create space it is dumped in the landfills, local and abroad. Additionally when some of the aforementioned nations that now accept waste become overburdened, to reduce their storage stockpiles, as there are few restrictions on dumping that waste, it is just dumped anywhere. An ultimately it ends up in waterways and the oceans. Sad!

I don’t think that I, as one person, have any answers.

I look at photos of lands covered in garbage. I look at photos of sea animals, big and small, dying from ingesting plastic or getting plastic stuck on a fin or their nose or in their mouth that causes a slow, painful death. I see plastic “islands” in the oceans that are many miles wide and deep. In my walk this morning of a short two miles, I saw discarded plastic and paper littering the landscape. I never understand how some of this debris ends there. Is it possible that some people are unaware of the detriments of throwing trash to the side of the road or path? Or do they just not care because it does not affect them? Maybe. But maybe the start is to think of ways that you as a single person can reduce your intake of plastic and for the plastic that you do buy, recycle it properly or not at all.

Recycling is not the answer. The answer is to reduce the use of plastic. 

Why are There Wars?

Memorial Day2
Last weekend the United States celebrated Memorial Day. This day traditionally has been recognized as a solemn day to pay tribute to the US soldiers who fought and died in our wars since the Revolutionary War. I was surprised to hear that that figure, those that died, was only 750,000 (approx,) men and women. And I say only because the people that we fought against lost so many more. At least particularly when we speak of the loses in our Asian Wars and others in our history. In the Vietnam conflict, 1.1 million NVA were killed and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers perished. In Korea, 1.5 million North Korean and Chinese soldiers were killed. In World War I a staggering 9.7 million soldiers from all participating nations including 126,000 US soldiers were killed. AND, a total of 950,000 civilians were killed as a direct result of war time activities. World War II, Japan  saw 2.1 million soldiers killed and the civilian death rate was many times that.

When I have looked a film footage, especially of World War II which has been portrayed and chronicled in so many films, I still don’t think that the average person who has never seen wars fought of that magnitude, cannot image the carnage that the average soldier saw. The soldier sitting next to him blown to bits. He himself, being seriously wounded and watching the blood life drip out of his body. Body parts laying on the roadside alone because the rest of the body had been incinerated. Myself, I cannot image. My father who fought in Europe during the battle of the bulge, has divulged some of the maybe less horrific sights he had seen as a foot soldier with the 84th Infantry. But I presume there are many encounters that are locked inside of his 95 year old mind that he has never chosen to tell anyone and unfortunately he cannot dispel from his thoughts especially when the silence of the night allows our minds to wander and recall. My mother has recalled many a time that he has called out at night, probably remembering the horror of what he saw.

What I have always, and I want to say marveled at, but I know that is the absolute wrong choice of words. More like shocked at, is the damage to a country’s infrastructure caused by war. There has always been little regard for the civilian structures during war.  Vietnamese villages, people’s homes, were torched. And yes I know it was because the NVA would use these villages as staging points for attacks and weapons accumulation and it was often difficult to tell who the enemy was. But still, somebody’s home was destroyed because of war. So many magnificent structures and their artifacts were destroyed to bombings, light and heavy artillery and fire. Some of these buildings were hundreds of years old and in the flash of the explosion of a bomb, they were gone. Roads, bridges, stores…gone. People’s livelihoods…gone. Innocent people, men, women and children…gone. For what, quite honestly I don’t know or understand.

If you take a broad look at why many and I may say most wars have been fought, I think the conclusion would be the accumulation of power and wealth and land. I’m not sure if there has ever been an altruistic reason for a war that I can think of. There have been “skirmishes” where a country may have attacked another for reasons related to that country’s treatment of it populace meaning their horrific human rights violations. But the country that was grossly mistreating its citizens did it to consolidate his or her power, gain more wealth or gain unrelenting control over its citizens. Going back to the Revolutionary War, the British throne did not want to give up its territory in America. World War I, a land and power grab. World War II, the same. Korea, yup. And on and on it goes. And yes I know it is a very simplistic view of why wars happen, but again, I do have a very hard time thinking of a war over time that was not for that very basic reason. I look back at the invading leaders of these invading countries and I think that in many if not most, the principal leader was not a military man, except in his own mind. Kaiser Wilhelm I, Germany WWI was not a professional military man. Hitler, not even close. Kim Il Sung of Korea was the dictatorial leader of North Korea. And on and on it goes. If a leader of a country who wants to “conquer the world” had fought on the lines in a truly horrific war, and seen the carnage first hand, would they want to engage their people in a war. If they saw the burned bodies, the dismembered bodies, the families separated by war, all of the spoils of war as we know it, would they want to engage their country in a war for, for the most part, for them to gain power and wealth, would they pull the trigger? Sadly, I think so. Dictators and oligarchs are full of narcissistic personalities. And that person, to be blunt, really does not give a crap about about anyone else but themselves. And then to help them lead there war, they hire more narcissists to help them in there quest. And these “aids” just want to protect what they have gotten (power, wealth) through their association with said leader. And if said leader suddenly develops an altruistic bent to their personality, they have no problem whacking that leader to protect their wealth and power. And the cycle goes on and on.  How do we stop them. Sadly, I don’t have a clue because that person will always exist. I think I know a “leader” now, and I use that term VERY loosely, who appears to exhibit many of those same tendencies. Hummm!

Stepping Back in Time … And Saving It

 

I am always DSC_0005 (2)fascinated with old, derelict buildings. They remind of days gone by. Imagine what it was like when this building was in full use, the people that used it on a daily basis to, in this case, make their living. I hear their ghosts going about their day. I live in Loudoun County, Virginia about 30 miles west of DC. This abandoned farm sits on a parcel of land about a mile and a half to the west of busy Dulles Airport. Just a few feet away is construction for the soon to be opening Metro Stop or train stop. And in this particular part of Loudoun County, the ever burgeoning construction of Data Centers leads the growth so it seems. It has been rumored that some 80% of all internet traffic routes through Loudoun. Clearly, this large tract of land is destined for development and I know it is coming soon as is evidenced by the one heavy piece of equipment that sits in next to one of the barns.

The United States is a mere 243 years old. By many places around the world, we are just a baby nation.  Many of these other countries have buildings and structures that are many hundreds of years old and some are not even museums but to an extent are still in use. The middle east is teeming with these old structures as are many places in Asia and Europe. But here in the US as we don’t have that kind of history, few older building exist. But it is perplexing that we don’t even try to create a history of architecture. Certainly not in commercial real estate. In residential homes, Frank Lloyd Wright created beautiful “way before his times” dwelling that are prized today. Falling Waters come to mind. New York City has some wonderful examples of residential real estate that have endured by US standards, for years. But we still continue to develop “throw away” buildings, residential and commercial. Partly, that is because in today’s fast paced technological advances, the technology developed for a particular structure may change so fast that it renders that en year old building obsolete and rather than retrofit it, it is easier and more cost efficient to plow it under and start again. But again, that leaves US architecture with no legacy and no history upon which to build ideas.

Turning to residential architecture, again, I believe there is no enduring plan to build homes that foster a sense of history and that their construction lends itself to enduring for years to come. Take Levittown, PA where in 1950 the first suburban town was built by William J. Levitt. The suburban dream of affordable homes for the masses was developed. Much heralded, much maligned, much copied. But all of these homes will fall as, in reality, there construction will never stand the test of time. Look at the opening photo above. That property was abandoned only ten years ago and look how it has fallen into such a state of disrepair rendering it impossible to renovate. Its fate is only the wrecking ball even it it had not been absorbed by the inevitable commercial development of this area. 100 years from now, 200 or 300 years or more, what will we have to show for our architecture? Nada, Zip, Nunca! Maybe technologically advanced buildings, but probably uninteresting, featureless structures with no imagination and no history.

Have you ever seen a re-purposed building? If you look into more of the industrial cities, it is not uncommon to see an old brick factory constructed of heart of pine frame work and a brick exterior. Richmond, Philadelphia, Hartford, CT are teaming with these beautiful old building where rather than tear them down, some have been developed into trendy European style condominiums. Sometimes an office space. In some cases where the building has been slated for demolition, at least some of the wood beams have been extruded from the building and been cleaned and cut for the value of their wood, often as wood flooring or mill work pieces. And an incredibly novel use for these soon to be destroyed factories have been to create these structures into urban farms using vertical farming methods. With a creative mind, many of these wonderful structures can be saved and maybe we, as a country can begin to think more long term in regards to our architecture rather than thinking of a structure, residential or commercial as just a single purpose building. It good for the country and good for the environment.

Just a Little Provocative? Really?

Here’s what a like about the Title, Just a Little Provocative. I can be a little provocative or a lot…or not at all. My wife and I will be driving and I will bring up a rather arcane subject and she will always say, “How do you think of the sh#t.” Being self employed and spending a good deal of time either driving or walking the dog or cycling or sailing, and if you are any sort of a “deep thinker”, random thoughts just happen. And I like that. I like to comment on things that I see or hear, or what others talk about. Go to Starbucks (too frequently) you can watch how people interact or mostly don’t interact. Be that fly on the wall and watch that as Starbucks customers are waiting for their latte to be made, have their heads buried in their phone. Remember the days of waiting for your order to be fulfilled and you would smile at the person next to you and maybe have a conversation? Not much any more. The phone screen is king. For some reason there is always something happening on your phones screen. I also do it but I also like to watch the scenery and even talk. Yikes! But I digress. And that is what this blog site is all about. And, of course, I would love to hear your comments. Please do! And stay tuned for more miscellaneous ramblings.

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