Mysteries of the HEART.

I loved this little girl like she was my own… heck, I still do.

Her name is Olive, and she loved to take selfies with me:

In 2019 and 2020… and even 2021… I loved her and loved her Mother as well.

Me and Olive were always really goofy together, she’s at that age where she fully embraced the inherent silliness of the universe, and I encouraged this.

Took this pic when we were on vacation together in New Mexico:

These past few days I’ve been thinking about Olive, her mother… and all the stuff I messed up.

I don’t have any answers about WHAT lies beyond death, but I think we are held to account in regards to HOW we loved people while here on Earth. Olive brought out the best in me, that gentle and loving part of my personality.

Having a child in your life is such a blessing, I’m grateful for the time we shared together.

Olive lost her father when she was only 1 year old, and I tried to be as good to her as the father she lost.

I wanted to be there as she grew up. I wanted to be there when she graduated college.

I think about Olive every single day, I wonder how she is.

Things didn’t work out with Olive’s mother, but it was never my decision to exit Olive’s life, that decision was made for me.

I wanted to marry Olive’s mother, I wanted to grow old with her. Frankly, I would have done anything to make that happen.

I question my OWN heart all the time… what was the meaning behind loving this little girl and her family?

With my biological daughters there was always a connection, from the moment they were born.

This is me and Grace, about 20 years ago:

Grace now lives up in Pittsburgh, she’s all grown up, she’s got a full time job… I’m proud of her.

The same goes for my oldest, Claire:

I’m having dinner with Claire and her boyfriend Paul this week, and looking forward to that.

Grace is 22, Claire is 24… these girls are such a blessing in my life.

Fatherhood changed as my girls got older, the questions changed, my role in their lives evolved.

I felt the SAME connection with Olive and her family as I’ve always felt with my daughters, and my parents.

That same tremendous love.

When I met Olive it reminded me of those times when my girls were little.

I loved coloring with Olive, this is one of my favorite pics:

Just reading stories to Olive before she fell asleep… I’m so grateful for those moments we shared together.

Damn, I miss her.

I wish that I had been good ENOUGH for Olive’s mother, but I guess I wasn’t.

That makes me sad, in so many ways.

WHY do we love people like this if we are to lose them?

What is the purpose to this?

Why am I crying right now as I type these words?

These are the unsolved mysteries in my own heart.

Sometimes I think life would be far easier if I didn’t love people like THIS, if I was NOT in tune with my heart.

Loving Olive and her family was the right thing to do, even if it hurts so much now.

Darn, this picture says it all… there was such love there… and I screwed it all up.

Shark Tank & Stand Up

That’s me on the left, on Shark Tank… back in 2014.

There are similarities in both.

You can make a fool of yourself in both, but if you do it on Shark Tank the YouTube clip will live forever.

There is less laughter on Shark Tank, unless you fail at stand-up, and there won’t be any laughter there either.

Most people who do both never make a dime off either.

Both involve some insanity, some risk.

Shark Tank is a mostly a one shot deal, but with stand-up you can fail your way to funny, eventually.

Both are fun to watch, most of the time.

Doing stand-up around Tampa Bay.

If you gave Jesus a crouton, could he turn that into a large pizza?

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The pic above is from an open mic last night over in St. Pete…. at a freakin’ VAPE store.

I have too much free time on my hands, dammit.

The solar biz is slow right now, but I only need to close a few deals each month to cover my bills.

My girls are all grown up, so I have no family to take care of, not on a daily basis anyhoo.

I spend some time every week with my girlfriend, but this relationship is kinda new, so I don’t want to crowd her out.

I have a tendency to do that, and I want to avoid that mistake this time.

My home is just too damn quiet, I gotta go out.

My small circle of friends and family don’t wanna see me all the time.

I’m in rehearsals for a musical with the Carrollwood Players, but I only have a supporting role… so I don’t have to be at every rehearsal. The show starts March 11th, and runs weekends until April 2… after mid-February I’ll be busier…

Of course, with Omicron surging that might all get messed up. Who knows?

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MEANWHILE… I filled a notebook with material and I’m openly experimenting with stand-up comedy.

It beats a heroin habit, joining a nudist colony, or knocking over banks.

I gotta do SOMETHING with all my free time, besides writing blog posts.

Being onstage and getting a laugh is AWESOME… when it actually happens.

Sometimes all I get is total silence from the crowd because my jokes suck, but you WILL NEVER KNOW if your 3 minutes is funny until you try it in front of a crowd of strangers.

Trial & Error, all the way. I’m failing my way to Funny?

Coming up with original stand-up comedy is harder than waking up from a hot date with Bill Cosby…

Pudding Pops anyone?

Last night I got there early and was playing pool with a guy who worked with young people at the youth center. He won 2 games in a row so I bought him a beer. I also met a cool chick named Angela who rides a motorcycle and works at a strip club!

Making friends, right? There’s a value in that.

If I’m going out to random bars I want there to be some purpose to it all, in addition to the alcoholism.

Be funny? Play pool and meet new people? Just make friends?

If I could develop 5 minutes of really solid comedy in 2022 I’d be real happy with that.

Realistically, how many folks have ever done that? One in 10,000?

I’m fascinated about comedy, comedians, what makes stuff funny… and how the entire industry works.

I don’t mind failing, because I know my brain is slowly learning in this process.

I’m doing the Open Mic at Side Splitters in Tampa tonight, 8PM.

Come get a beer, watch my ass crash ‘n burn!

Ben Alexander

Jan 16th :::::::::::::::::::::: 2022

GM is making big moves in the EV space!

Case in point:

I’ve been driving a GM Plug-in EV for the last 5 years… and I’m excited about GM’s direction moving forward!

Recently the Chevy BOLT has had a PR nightmare from LG Chem batteries that have caught fire… but GM seems to be moving past this (they probably need to recall 100% of the Bolts at this point).

GM sees the future here, and their EV innovations extend into watercraft, locomotives AND logistics vehicles as well. That’s a really broad platform. Based on my experience as an owner of a 2013 AND 2017 Volt I’m very confident in GM’s ability to pull this off with top notch products.

My Volt is fueled by the sunshine that falls on my roof.

Using solar to fuel your EV is the least expensive way to get around… my solar is paid off, so my fuel is essentially FREE.

my 2013 Volt.
the 2017 Volt….

This is an exciting time to watch tech progress in electric vehicles.

In my ownership role at Tampa Bay Solar I’m excited about the direction EV’s have taken… more electric vehicles goes hand in hand with more solar. As more commercial clients

EV tech is finally reaching widespread maturity just as fossil fuel prices continue to climb, and when American companies like General Motors and Tesla drive the progress this is great for our country.

GM sells a ton of vehicles in China, so GM’s top executives have seen the rapid growth of new EV companies over there… and they know that the competition in the EV space will be fierce in the next 20 years.

GM was a bit of a dinosaur from 1985 until about 2010, losing market share to companies like Toyota and Hyundai… seems like the GM giant has finally awakened!

Speaking of Giants… Toyota actually outsold GM in 2021 in the USA… but Toyota has been a slow mover in the 100% electric vehicle space. Toyota has over 1,000 patents on the next generation solid state battery technology… but I can’t currently BUY a 100% plug-in EV at my local Toyota dealer!

I hope that Toyota execs will start to move a bit faster once GM starts to sell hundreds of thousands of vehicles using the Ultium platform.

… reporting from Tampa …

Ben Alexander

January 10 ::: 2022

A Better Path for Immigrants.

On Monday I was out in Plant City closing a solar deal and I pulled over to take a picture of these workers in a field:

Mexican / Honduran and Central American farm workers can be seen working out in strawberry fields all over eastern Hillsborough county.

These are the immigrants working on roofing, construction and landscaping crews all over Florida, doing the brutal and dangerous jobs in the hot sun that no one else wants to do.

In the last year there have been thousands of low level jobs all over the United States that have gone unfilled, at Tampa Bay Solar we pay $20 per hour (and UP) and we still have a hard time finding enough installers willing to stick it out and learn the job.

During the Trump administration there was a huge backlash against illegal immigration to this country. Many people were hunted down by federal authorities and deported back to their native country. In most cases these were folks with jobs and families, homeowners who paid taxes and had never been in any legal trouble…

We have jobs that are going unfilled because there are not enough low level workers OUT THERE.

BTW… immigrants are not TAKING jobs from Americans, they are filling the jobs that no one wants to do. If you have a harder work ethic than the next guy you deserve the job, the promotion, the raise, etc.

If 90% of employers are hiring we should cancel all unemployment benefits until this problem no longer exists.

Maybe if folks HAD to work to feed themselves they would be more willing to do so.

All of the people I personally know who live here (but were not born here) are productive citizens. My ex-wife came here from Taiwan, worked as a school teacher then realtor… now she’s in school to be an RN… she is also a homeowner and a taxpayer.

My best friend Marcus came here from England 30 years ago, and he’s started multiple franchises that employ hundreds of people.

Many of my solar clients came here from India, got Master’s degrees and now earn six figures in the IT and engineering field… and these guys live in $500,000 homes, pay taxes, drive nice cars, etc.

New Tampa would be much smaller without the dynamic Indian population who lives there.

There are entire housing subdivisions that would not exist without the Indian immigrant polulation here in Tampa. How many construction jobs does a 1,000 home subdivision create? How many Central American workers built those homes?

Because of my educational background I see the world through a macroeconomic viewpoint; the benefit of NEW immigrants bringing a hard work ethic to our shores far outweighs the cost of immigration in terms of crime or social service costs.

If you are willing to come to the United States, work hard, pay taxes and NOT commit a crime? They should let you stay.

Maybe for the first DECADE we disqualify any immigrant from taking a dime in unemployment, not until they’ve legally paid federal income taxes for 10 years.

NO federal benefits for any immigrant, not until they’ve paid into our tax rolls for at least 10 years.

If immigrants from Mexico are willing to work as farm workers and roofers and landscapers I say let them come and build a life here. Let them start a business, build a home, pay taxes, etc.

If they don’t work, or get arrested? Send them back to Mexico on the next flight.

My ancestors came here in the late 1800’s from Poland, Scotland, Ireland and France… they worked their ass off and built a life here. Maybe that first generation was a bit rough; they drank too much, got in fights at pubs, etc… but they also became small business owners, fought (and died) in our wars, and became a part of the ever growing American tapestry.

Native born Americans are having less children, and if we don’t accept MORE immigration into this country in the next 20 years we will have eventually have more retired people collecting social security than younger folks paying taxes into the system. This is happening right now in Japan and Russia, both countries are seeing a decline in population!

Countries that don’t have a vibrant younger generation driving the economy forward are going to stagnate and possibly face an economic collapse.

The United States has always represented a beacon of hope and opportunity to people all over the world. Let’s get a simple program that lets immigrants come here, become a part of our country, and help keep our country economically dynamic.

Ben Alexander

Jan 5 ::: 2022

DO this if you’re BUILDING a new house.

As one of the owners at Tampa Bay Solar one of the most common questions I get is “I’m building a new house, how much solar will I need?”

The answer to this question depends upon many factors, but the main factor is the overall efficiency of the home. The building stage gives the new homebuyer a great opportunity to build a MORE efficient home so they don’t NEED a ton of solar on the roof.

Disclaimer: I don’t sell HVAC systems, roofing or radiant barrier, I have NO horse in this race, but I’d rather give our clients better ADVICE. In the long run this is a great way to SERVE your clients, and you actually make more profits when you serve your clients better than your competition!

BEFORE you get solar do THIS:

#1. Opt for a higher SEER rated HVAC on your new home.

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The higher the SEER rating on your HVAC the less $$ you will spend to heat and cool your home. Using the air conditioning from February to December will use 60% of your electricity, so why not spend a little more upfront to buy the MOST efficient HVAC in your budget? The general contractor building your home might install a 15 SEER HVAC because he wants to meet the minimum county code requirements, but in my experience most general contractors are not focused on long term energy efficiency.

The difference? Maybe you spend an extra $2K upfront to get an 18 SEER rather than a 15 SEER rated system, but it saves you $10,000 in energy costs over the next decade you live in that home.

#2. Get radiant barrier in your attic.

Many builders offer this as an option. Radiant barrier keeps your attic cooler, which keeps your entire home cooler. Cooler home = AC runs less = less wear and tear on your HVAC and lower energy costs.

#3. Get a 240 volt outlet installed on your garage wall.

If you plan on living in your home over the next 15 years there is a high chance that either you or the next owner will drive a plug-in electric vehicle. This outlet is inexpensive to install when the electrician is putting in the main panel. Make sure each 240 volt outlet has it’s own breaker in your main panel. The 240 volt outlet can fast charge any electric car, versus trickle charging with 120 volts.

If your home is “electric car ready” you are far more likely to buy a plug-in electric vehicle, which will save you thousands of dollars per year in gasoline costs, especially when gas is at $6 per gallon by 2025…

#4. Don’t go with darker shingles on your roof.

Dark colors absorb MORE radiant heat from the sun, lighter colored roofs reflect heat away. I’ve seen homes with black shingle roofs and $400 electric bills. A dark roof is a huge mistake, your house will heat up like a microwave oven every time the Florida sun comes out. Hot roof = hot house = AC working all the time = crazy high energy usage.

#5. If less than 4 people live in your home install an instant-on or a hybrid water heater.

These are highly efficient for a house with fewer people. If you have a large family (5+ kids…) a solar water heater makes more sense. I have a solar water heater on my home, along with 34 electric solar panels and they work great together. I don’t have 5 kids… but I wanted to use solar to heat my water.

That pic below is my roof in Pasco County:

My system was installed 5 years ago, the long panel in the middle heats my water, the other panels surrounding it generate electricity. My solar paid for itself in less than 4 years!

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Building a new home from scratch gives you a great opportunity to plan for the future and make your new home really energy efficient. This means you can meet your total energy needs with LESS solar panels on the roof, which means LESS cost to install the system.

Yes, I might make a smaller commission, but I’d rather do the right thing here.

Powering an electric car off the solar array on your roof will also save you $100 or more per MONTH in gasoline cost (hence the 240 volt outlet recommendation).

If you’re smart about your new home in the construction phase you’ll save thousands of dollars in energy costs after you move in!

Hope that helps!

Ben Alexander

http://www.TampaBaySolar.com

Covid19 evolved.

574,000 More U.S. Deaths Than Normal Since Covid-19 Struck - The New York  Times

The death rate from Covid19 dropped starting in March of 2021 when vaccines became available to every American. I got both my Pfizer shots by April 9th, 2021.

The people who did NOT get vaccinated got the Delta variant in August, and the death rate went up again from roughly mid August to mid-October. Delta spread faster than the original strains of Covid19. I got Covid19 (maybe it was Delta) in August and it lingered for 2 weeks, It was more of an annoyance than anything else. I did test positive for Covid19 at the time, and quarantined myself.

Omicron popped up, with milder symptoms, in early December 2021. I had a really mild, really persistent head cold during that time. I did NOT get tested, but perhaps I got the Omicron variant? It was a sore throat and running nose. My girlfriend got it too, she recovered in 2 days.

Omicron will hit the unvaccinated folks and some will get really sick. Some unvaxxed folks will die from this… that’s sad, and really pointless.

But, perhaps… Omicron will be mild enough and spread through the population thoroughly enough that we will finally achieve herd immunity, all of us, vaxxed and unvaxxed.

Let’s hope that Covid19 finally fizzles out in 2022.

I sure as hell hope so.

Reporting from Tampa….

Ben Alexander

Jan 2 :: 2022

You are welcome.

Take a second to listen and watch:

We were going to do this song for the Easter Cantata at my church in 2020… and then church stopped for the next year or so…

I had not heard this song in a long time, until I clicked on the video this morning.

Andrew Peterson is a really cool composer / performer / human being.

Really a lovely song, I hope you enjoy it.

Ben Alexander

Jan 2 ::: 2022

New Year’s Eve 2021…

A picture is worth a thousand words.

That’s Marcus in the pic, for scale.

The flames must have been 40 feet high… we chucked some fireworks into the fiery maul of the beast, just for fun. You gotta love a huge intentional fire. It was still going this morning, Marcus used wooden pallets on the outside, huge pine logs in the middle to keep it burning.

I got to drive a tractor:

This was at Marcus’s 5 acre spread up in Dade City, lotsa folks showed up and we went through a couple cases of beer… I fell asleep on a chair by the pool.

A few drinks puts me to sleep, especially as I get older.

2022 is here. I’m a Pisces so the zodiac says I’m going to have an amazing year, let’s see if that comes true. I’ve been dating a lovely gal for the last few weeks, but I’m not going to write about it until we’re further along in the process.

Being single is just plain sucky. Meeting someone you can have a blast with? That’s really the best.

Happy New Year y’all!

Ben Alexander

January 1 :: 2022

The problem with Crypto Currency:

I have a degree in quantitative economics and I’m still lost when it comes to crypto currency.

If you have an hour to kill watch this:

I’m wary of anything that takes hours to explain. Crypto currency is more complicated than the compensation structure for a mult-level marketing scheme.

For instance, if I describe what we do at Tampa Bay Solar; “We put solar panels on your roof, they generate electricity and lower your electric bill.”

I just explained my basic business in 15 words, in just one compound sentence.

You can ask some follow up questions, but those 15 words clearly communicate what we do.

The promoters of Bitcoin will try to convince you that their virtual currency will replace money backed by national governments like the US dollar, the Japanese Yen, etc.

I’m not buying it. Until Bitcoin can be explained in a way that everyone can understand it all crypto currency will be problematic at best, fraudulent at the worst.