The Real Cost of Living


Cost of living may be defined as the amount of money needed to sustain a certain level of living, including basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes and health care. As reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price, it’s a measure of what typical consumers pay for retail goods and other items.

But the real cost of living is far higher. Beyond our teen years, few of us our live our dreams. Our aspirations. Our goals. That symphony you conceived. That killer app you thought up. That design. That song. That marathon. That painting. That book. That achievement. Even that trip or nest egg.

The 99th percentile are not just the hyper rich. More often they are the hyper focused. The ones who shed family and friends on the way toward their goal, be it success, money, or fame. The rest of us–we compromised.

Allen Saunders wrote, “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans” more than twenty years before John Lennon put it into a song. (Typical. Someone famous gets the credit.) Because paying the rent, changing the diapers, mowing the grass, washing dishes, even hanging out, solitaire or Facebook or Snap Chat all come first.

That dream, that image, that goal fades farther and farther away. Eventually we lose sight of it amid the clutter of life. We settle for … less.

The cost of living is your dreams.


President’s Day

washington image

The more I know of American history (and it has been my lifelong study), the more I marvel at George Washington, born February 11 or 22 (depending on which calendar used).

He was untypical for his day, which was a time of extraordinary people. America would not have progressed this far had another man been our first president. And, except for his military stubbornness against an overwhelming foe, we might never have had a first president.

He wasn’t perfect; no man is. But his role reverberates over the centuries, resulting in good even today. I’m sorry we no longer recognize (nor teach) his uniqueness.


We Veterans Thank You


In 1973, GIs returning from the Vietnam War landed at Travis AFB, CA. From there most of us were bused to San Francisco for connecting commercial flights to home or our next duty assignment. Before we left Travis we were warned about the treatment we’d receive in San Francisco. Public opinion was greatly against the war in Southeast Asia, and we would be cursed, ridiculed and even assaulted by people who found us to be convenient targets for their dissension. And we were.

Today thousands of us veterans enjoyed a pleasant free meal–in my case at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Glen Allen, VA. As I ate that fine steak, I remembered other wars and other homecomings. And of course those who didn’t come back or who have since died.

War is an unpleasant business. Some wars are necessary; some are not. Regardless, Continue reading

Struggles Will Come

“The purpose of our struggles is twofold: to develop God’s character in us and an opportunity for Him to show forth His power. If there are no struggles, then there is no character or power of a living God, and no witness of either. Embrace the struggle with faith in His power!” Kristin Davis

“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. … because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10: 32, 34-35 NIV)

Struggles will come. They cleanse you of the world, and in your victory they show God to the world. Nobody gets out of life alive.

Our hope, our goal is not in this world but in the life that emerges in us now.

Life in Him.

Happy Solar Eclipse Day

ecl-pd-01-hires image

Today many millions of you will see a total eclipse. For many it’ll be the only total solar eclipse you ever see. Enjoy.

The younger among you will have the opportunity to see three total solar eclipses over the next thirty years. Enjoy.

While solar eclipses happen every eighteen months, supposedly total eclipses repeat for a given spot on earth average only every 375 years. We’re about to blow that theory out of the water. The 2017, 2024 and 2045 eclipses will give Americans lots of opportunities to see an eclipse. Since the 2024 north-south route bisects the other two (which are essentially parallel east-west), folks in two areas may see two eclipses without leaving home. Enjoy.

If you happen to be in the eclipsed area, don’t just look at the sun. (Don’t look at the sun at all without special eye protection.) Look around. As the eclipse gathers and fades the light will change. It’s like sunrise or sunset, but will look significantly different. Enjoy.

Here’s why: As the sun sets or rises it passes through more of the atmosphere, shifting the observed colors toward the red. During an eclipse, there’s no such shift. The colors stay true, but saturate. It’ll look like an over-Photoshopped pictures. It’ll look like magic.


I Lied Today

r toon

I lied today. About my age.

As I waited to get a haircut, the other men bragged about how old they were. The oldest was 87, and the youngest, but me, was 81.

I told them I was 71. Which I am … almost. They complemented me on looking younger. I felt bad.

What possessed me to do that? Felt like a child saying he was almost seven.

Not a bad feeling–not the fib–the childishness.


My Seven Wonders of the World, #7

My Seven Wonders of the World, #7: Walls of Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is an interesting construction in its own right, and is surrounded by gardens and dry and wet moats making it a pleasant park in the center of Japan’s second-largest city. My focus in this designation are the fitted-stone walls surrounding the enclosure and central tower.

Almost five hundred years old, the walls are dry stacked of large square stones, some at the corners and gates huge, with smaller stones fitted to add stability. A rigid wall construction would not serve in earthquake-prone Japan. Must be seen (as we did in 1985) to be appreciated.

What we see today is a re-construction of the ancient walls and castle, which was destroyed several times over the centuries. The layout of the walls, moats and gates facilitated defense in the age before effective long-range artillery.

This last wonder is a place holder for the great stone works of ancient Asia. Elsewhere in Japan I saw similar stacked stone walls. In addition to their function as rock chutes for defense, the curves pull the eye upward, contributing to the wonder of their sites. I have not seen the Great Wall of China (itself mostly a re-construction), but would like to.

My Seven Wonders of the World, #6


Hagia Sophia Exterior –

My Seven Wonders of the World, #6

Hagia Sophia and its millennia-younger imitator the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. (The nine hundred years newer Blue Mosque is prettier from the outside and its dome cleaner and brighter inside, but the older church set the standard.)

As architectural achievements the domes of these buildings are incredible feats. As a sensory experience they are stupefying. Both boast amazing open space under their domes. Seeming acres of open floor stretch out with no columns intervening. Photographs do not capture the feeling of immensity.


Blue Mosque Interior — kids.britannica,com

Both give the illusion of being larger inside than they seem from outside. I have noticed this phenomena with similar structures, including large (now vanished) circus tents and Cold War hardened aircraft shelters. From the outside the vault or dome slopes away from the viewer, making it seem smaller than it is. Inside, the viewer experiences the full immensity of the covered space. For that reason, Saint Peters Basilica and gothic cathedrals may be larger but lack the feeling of immensity.

A unique experience.

Reconciling Irreconcilables

image from www.history.comHave you noticed the Alexander Hamilton worship? Paradoxically, many of his acolytes also adulate Thomas Jefferson.

In life, they were bitter opponents and greatly disliked each other personally. How do we reconcile the current love of both? Revisionist history, rose-colored glasses, and two centuries remove.image from

They were both great men, though they differed in almost every way. Our nation was fortunate to have both among its founders. If we hadn’t (along with G. Washington, B. Franklin and a few others), America might have gone the way of the French Revolution, which would have been fine with one of them.

My Seven Wonders of the World, #5


photo from

Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru.

Despite the latter being the poster image (top photo) of the Inca Empire, they ruled from Saksaywaman (near Cusco) eighty kilometers away. In my mind the massive walls of Saksaywaman (lower image) are more striking than the re-constructed temples, homes and terraces of Machu Picchu. (The photograph does not reveal that the far hills are separated from Machu Picchu by a river gorge, which effectively creates a thousand-foot-deep moat on three sides of the site.)

Particularly remarkable is the similarity of Saksaywaman’s finely-fitted massive walls to similar constructions, such as the cyclopean walls of Mycenae half a world and several millennia away, and Osaka Castle, closer in time but more remote culturally.

Machu Picchu’s site and modern reconstruction renders it more photogenic, despite its being a subsidiary outpost of the Inca. After the Spanish conquest, the site of Machu Picchu site was covered by jungle and known only by locals until the twentieth century. If you have the opportunity, visit both as we did.

The particularly fit can trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu along paved trails of the Inca. The distance challenges less than the altitude, which starts at 12,000 and descends to 8,000. We didn’t make that trek but did in 2003 climb Huayna Picchu, the hill overlooking Machu Picchu, to a tiny (perhaps priestly) community site for a selfie (since lost).