A few years ago I really got into Citizen EcoDrive watches. I bought this one in 2019, the first month our sales team at Tampa Bay Solar hit $1 million in sales:
There is something really cool about a watch that is powered by LIGHT, so when you buy an EcoDrive watch you’ll never have to replace the battery. These watches vary in price, this plain jane version was $160 at Dilliard’s…
Citizen has been making EcoDrive watches since 1974… my Mom has an EcoDrive that’s over 20 years old, and it still works perfectly.
This model can be dressy OR casual.
With time on our phones we don’t really need a watch… but I feel like watches on men are classy, and I need all the help I can get.
I don’t need guns either… but I bought my first Beretta 9MM right before I went to Ukraine this past Spring. I use it at the range, but ammo is expensive.
Good skillset to have when the apocalypse starts.
I love the heavy feel and precision construction of a quality handgun…. but I survived 48 years on this planet without owning one… just bought this 45 cal 1911 recently:
I love the heavy feel and precisely machined parts of a well made gun.
I’m also into motorcycles… a few years ago I owned 3 at once.
I only have one now… motorcycles require more space than watches or handguns.
Just like a watch or a handgun these motorcycles are built for a clear purpose, but the designers also created a beautiful machine in the process. I’ve owned a bunch of motorcycles in my life, but this one might be the prettiest.
Last month we had a record month at Tampa Bay Solar, so I bought a new Citizen to mark the occasion….
This is my last one, if I buy another watch send me to the loony bin.
The problem runs deep……
Do we need this stuff?
Love, family and a purpose driven life are far more important… but there is a part of me that likes to own well built things, mechanical devices designed for a specific purpose.
Cool stuff that I don’t NEED, but just like to have.
The United States produces 16,500 barrels of oil daily, the largest producer of oil on the planet. Most of that oil is purchased domestically, with 12% of American oil being sold on the export market.
The USA is also the top producer of natural gas, producing 934 billion cubic meters in 2021.
39% of our national power grid uses natural gas turbines to generate electricity, so the majority of our natural gas production is also used right here in the United States. As rooftop solar becomes commonplace there will be less need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.
This is also true for electric cars, as more drivers replace a gasoline powered vehicle with a fully electric vehicle. For EV drivers with (paid off) rooftop solar they are essentially fueling their vehicles off sunshine!
A small solar array on every home and business, combined with 1 electric car in every driveway would allow the United States to export more oil and natural gas, which would make the US dollar stronger and grow our economy even further.
In 2022 the USA is expected to exceed $25 trillion in GDP, in a global economy with a total of $100 trillion in economic output. Americans represent 4% of the global population yet produce 25% of the global wealth!
The United States has had the largest economy in the world since 1871, and as the top producer of oil and natural gas we are poised to maintain our economic dominance for many years to come.
As this blog is being written the Inflation Reduction Act has been passed by the Senate and is moving through Congress this week, with the expectation that it will be passed and signed by President Biden soon after. One part of this Act is an extension of the 30% federal tax credit for solar, a measure that will continue to keep solar prices down and make solar more available for middle class homeowners. There is also a tax credit for buyers of used electric cars, which makes EV’s more affordable for lower income Americans.
There is a shortage of electric cars on the market due to high demand as well as the computer chip shortage resulting from the Covid pandemic. As the chip shortage is mitigated there will be more EV’s available for sale, and eventually these new cars will show up far cheaper on the used marketplace.
At Tampa Bay Solar we’re seeing a huge uptick in customers who buy electric cars then add rooftop solar to their home. This is not only beneficial to our client’s wallets, but also reduces the amount of fossil fuels used to power that house and that car.
We primarily use Mission solar panels manufactured in San Antonio, Texas. We are doing our part to use American made products when possible, and Mission panels have proven to be the MOST reliable panels we’ve ever installed, with zero failed panels to date.
Even with solar on every roof and all ground transportation converted to kilowatts there will still be a need for fossil fuels in jet planes, making plastic products, home heating, and basic lubrication for machinery. There will be a global demand for fossil fuels even 50 years from now, so if the United States can pump LESS oil now that oil will be sold in future dollars at a high premium.
In this regard reducing our domestic consumption of oil and natural gas today will reap huge economic benefits when the rest of the world runs out of these finite resources and has to buy them from American fossil fuel producers.
The Inflation Reduction Act will encourage EV and rooftop solar ownership, thus making the American economy far stronger in the long run.
The USA has had the largest economy on the planet since 1871.
Our projected GDP for 2022 is 25.3 trillion dollars, while the global economy is right at 100 trillion.
There are 330 million people in the USA out of 8 billion people around the globe, so our little 4% population represents a full 25% of the global economy.
4% of the global population generates 25% of the global economic output!
The 2nd place for GDP goes to China, at 19.9 trillion for 2022.
China’s GDP is impressive, but China is now cracking down on basic freedoms and asking all foreign nationals to leave their country… history shows that countries that rule by authoritarian government do not prosper, grow, or attract foreign investment.
China was on an aggressive GDP growth path from 1990 until about 2013, but the current authoritarian dictatorship running the Chinese Communist Party does not bode well for continued economic growth or freedom in China.
There also exists a massive Chinese real estate bubble artificially propped up by government spending… empty ghost cities that will never return a profit to the investors who put their life savings into these failed projects.
BTW… distant 3rd for GDP goes to Japan with $4.9 trillion… far behind China and the USA.
Our military has the best technology, hands down.
The F-35 5th gen fighter jet was developed here in the United States, and that technology is already 15 years old. I would not be surprised if our Defense Department has some extremely advanced technology that is being kept secret until we actually have to use it.
The USA spends $720+ billion a year on defense, by far the largest miltary spending on the planet, but when your GDP is 25 trillion that’s not such a large number.
We remain the only country with a large enough military to fight a global war on 2 fronts.
Our military is prepared to fight Russia (alongside NATO) in Eastern Europe while also fighting China…. when they invade Taiwan in the next few years.
In 2021 the USA pumped 16,500 barrels of oil per day, making us the largest oil producer in the world.
Saudi Arabia was 2nd place at 10,900 barrels, Russia a close 3rd with 10,800 barrels per day.
Most of that oil is consumed right here in the USA, so we are not sending US dollars OUT of the country to buy oil from foreign regimes.
This is one of the reasons the US dollar just hit 1 to 1 parity with the Euro.
Some of the oil produced here is exported to Asia, South America and Europe, which further adds to our GDP.
With 4% of the global population here in the USA we harvest 8.4% of the global wheat supply.
In contrast China harvests 17% of the global wheat supply but the Chinese people consume 19% of that same number.
If China stops importing wheat there could be widespread famine across their country.
With our wheat surplus here in the USA we have food security.
We have 2 massive oceans to the east and west, a natural barrier to invasion.
Those oceans are guarded by nuclear submarines and 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers… with F-35 and F-22 fighter jets ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
Our neighbors to the north and south are friendly.
Canada is too polite to invade and Mexico is busy fighting their own homegrown drug cartels.
Also, neither Canada nor Mexico has to worry about the USA invading their country. Not in this century, anyway.
If Canada or Mexico ever invaded US soil our military would obliterate them in days if not hours.
The USA has been a immigration magnet for the last 200 years.
My hard-drinking Irish and German ancestors came here in the 1860’s to fight in the Civil war, build infrastructure and get in drunken fights in bars all over the Northeast.
Our entire space program after WWII was staffed with German and Jewish rocket scientists.
Immigrants from India have been the backbone of the American software industry for the last 40 years.
Korean and Chinese immigrants came here to start small businesses, and their children became a 2nd generation of doctors and engineers.
My ex wife came here from Taiwan to work as a teacher and realtor.
My next wife came here from Ukraine and works in the shipping business… we’re getting married in the spring btw…
The USA has been a place where talented immigrants like Sergey Brin and Elon Musk came here to start multiple companies, innovate and add to our huge GDP.
Americans are really frickin’ creative.
This is where Jazz, Blue Grass, Hip Hop and social media was invented.
The modern power grid was invented here in the United States… so was the Internet!
There exists a creative energy that comes from a society with a mix of people from all over the world, coming together and doing cool shit.
Part of this massive creativity comes from our freedom to do whatever we want, worship or not worship any religion… if you have a creative idea you can come to the USA and use that idea to start a business, make money, and come up with more creative ideas.
Our population continues to grow.
In China the population has SHRUNK since 2018, down to 1.4 billion from 1.5 in 2010.
The population of Japan, Russia and Italy are also shrinking in similar fashion to China…
Young people in those countries are not having children as much as previous generations.
These countries will eventually have a large mass of retired people living off government pensions with barely enough middle aged and younger people paying into the taxbase to support them!
In general retired folks are not innovationg, starting new companies or hiring new employees.
In the United States our Hispanic / Spanish speaking population is our fastest growing demographic, going from 12% in 2010 to 20% in the 2020 census.
The USA can use immigration to add younger people to our population, even if our natural born citizens are having fewer children.
Young people pay taxes, invent new stuff, start new companies and help grow the economy.
If the USA wants to remain a dominant superpower we should allow for MORE immigration, especially young people who already have a college degree.
I’m pro-immigration as long as those folks are law abiding and willing to work.
There is corruption in every country, but for the most part Americans (and American companies) are known globally for being honest and getting the job done.
Elon Musk was born in South Africa, but he came to the USA to start Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX.
Corruption here in the USA is the exception, not the rule… after working in many American businesses over the last 28 years I have never had anyone try to bribe me, and I’ve never had anyone ask me for a bribe.
In contrast I’ve heard many stories about rampant pay offs and corruption from friends who have done international business in Eastern Europe, Africa or South America.
There are still lying and cheating Americans, but for the most part we are known for being straightforward and honest in our business dealings.
There exists a legal system in the United States that allows a citizen to sue a business if their product is dangerous and causes injury or death. This system is occasionally abused, but it keeps companies in check when it comes to offering safer products and services.
I hope you like the stats I’ve compiled here, we don’t have a perfect country, but it still beats everywhere else when one looks at macroeconomic factors.
I’ve spent time in Europe, Asia and Central America and these varied adventures have given me a unique perspective on what we got right and what we need to change in this country.
I moved to Tampa from the Northeast almost 20 years ago, and I’ve gotten to know almost every square inch of Tampa Bay, especially in the last 5 years selling solar. There are a ton of cool towns to visit and places to see in a 100 mile radius of Tampa city, lotsa great restaurants as well.
One of my favorite Tampa Bay activities is the Spongeorama island cruise from Tarpon Springs out to Anklote Key, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 5KM west of the docks.
It is especially beautiful around sunset:
The cruise only costs $30 per person, you can catch the boat at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, right behind Yianni’s restaurant.
We went to Hella’s for some light fare before the cruise… I’ve never had a bad meal at Hella’s. That’s probably why they’re always busy. If you like Greek food go there and enjoy!
I took this pic of My Favorite Ukrainian:
Life here in Florida is far removed from the chaos of Olga’s Ukraine. I’m glad we have this time together.
Olga owns an apartment in Kyiv, but she’s safer here in Florida, eating Greek food with me.
We got margaritas on the boat and enjoyed the ride out:
The boat takes you to Anklote Key, and you can get off the boat, walk around and collect shells… and just enjoy the breeze and the sky and peace of it all. They typically stop for about 40 minutes.
Only $30, for a cool experience. makes for a great date, or just an activity with the kids. You’ll see dolphins, exotic shorebirds, hawks, flying fish… all the nature and life that’s abundant here.
I’ve taken this cruise many times over the years, and I never get tired of it.
I had been thinking about buying a “weekend” car for the last few months, and I was looking at full electric cars… but they were all priced over $40,000, so I bought a used Acura TLX for just under $20K.
We needed another vehicle for the Ukranian Delegation, another factor in my decision.
For high mileage days I’m still using the Volt, but otherwise the Volt is there so Olga can have a car and do her own thing as needed. She works in the shipping business part time from home on her laptop for now, but that may change once her work visa goes through.
Before I bought my Volt back in 2017 I owned a Avalon with a V-6 and loved it.
The TLX has a 3.5 liter V6 that cranks 290 horsepower, and the car is tight, right and solid at 130 mph. I feel like the Japanese carmakers have really perfected the modern V6. My Acura does 100 mph at only 2100 rpm! That’s just crazy… but electric cars are going to take over in the next decade and a gas powered V6 engine will become antiquated technology.
Funny thing is how the acceleration in the Acura with the V6 is about the same as the Volt on all electric mode, but the Volt has a smoother delivery. My Volt is SMOOTHER than my Acura!
Even the best gas powered transmission is not as smooth as an electric powertrain.
By the time I need another car I’ll find a 100% electric car on the used market that is finally affordable.
Right now I can’t justify spending $40K on something with wheels. I’m cheap.
For under $20K the Acura was a good buy:
The previous owner really kept it clean and unmolested. I’ve changed nothing on it, windows were already dark tinted when I bought it. The car was bought in Florida in 2015, so there are no salt / rust issues underneath.
Acura is a Honda engineered product and I’m a huge fan of their motorcycles, I owned a CB1000r for several years:
I wish I had kept this bike longer… but I traded up to a ZX-14R… another blog post altogether!
From 1996 until 2015 I owned a 1978 Honda that refused to die:
If everything was engineered like Honda / Acura there would be far less work for auto mechanics everywhere. Fer sure.
Mom organized a military memorial service for Uncle Ken, who passed during Covid 2 years ago… and it all went down last week in NJ.
I decided to drive up with Olga and Vlada.
Our first stop was South of the Border, a money laundering operation on the South / North Carolina border.
Vlada wanted to pet an alligator and handle some venomous snakes.
There are a million different businesses at South of the Border, and they spend a gazillion $$$ on billboards up and down rte 95, yet the place always looks deserted, hence my money laundering theory.
The reptile house was worth the visit, only $8 per person!
Next day we saw DC:
That night we finally reached NJ and Uncle Ken’s service was the next day. It was nice to get everyone together, the six of us live in 3 different states. Mom arranged for a nice lunch after the service, but 2 of my Dickhead Uncles blew it off.
They don’t read… this blog, or anything else.
My 73 year old mother moved Heaven and Earth to get everyone together, because she values family and she knows we’re all getting older. She might not get too many opportunities to see her brothers again… but they don’t really give a shit… so….
The cool folks went to lunch.
Nice pic with Mom and Dad.
The 4 siblings… George finally smiled.
That night I took Olga and her daughter to the Ocean City boardwalk.
I used to hang out in Ocean City in my teen and college years. It was a lovely Friday night, the view from the Ferris wheel was lovely.
The next day I took the Ukrainians into Philly to have a cheesesteak at Pat’s.
Cause yo, that’s how you do Philly.
That afternoon Andrea hosted a big get together at her house.
Vlada bonded with Henry the pug.
The next day we drove 2 hours north to see NYC. We started with the 9/11 Memorial.
Everyone should go see this. Very moving.
We drove uptown to see Times Square. It was hot and dirty and crowded. Pics look better than the reality. I’m not a huge fan of crowded and expensive cities like New York City. The roads and tunnels look old and torn up, 30 minutes of parking cost me $45…. I think people glamorize places like this when in reality New York CITY is a stressful place.
We got on the road that night and headed back South. We stopped in DC to have dinner with Olga’s friend from Kyiv who now lives in DC.
Lotsa Ukrainians are spread out all over the world since the Russian invasion.
They were lucky to get out alive.
Olga has friends that stayed in Ukraine who have been missing since March.
Nice thing about a road trip is the ability to stop anywhere on the way home, on Monday we had lunch in very pretty Charleston, SC.
I’ve never been, Charleston is a lovely town on the South Carolina coast:
Charleston is an hour’s drive east of rte 95, with Civil War era buildings and lotsa really good restaurants.
If I wasn’t keen to get home we would have stayed longer…
Our LAST stop was Buc-ee’s.
Biggest gas station in the Universe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
80 cars can gas up at the same time!
Pulled pork sammitches!
I’m back now, writing this on my home computer, so don’t try to rob my house.
I don’t have a good pic of my Dad in my computer, but here is a pic of me and Claire instead…
She was 8 here? Not sure. Claire is 24 now, all grown up.
I wanted to sit down and write a handwritten letter to my father this morning, but then I thought it might be better if I posted it right here for the entire world to see:
Today is Father’s Day, and I’m tremendously grateful to see you and Mom at church this morning, then later today for dinner.
You and Mom are an energetic 73, another thing I’m very grateful for!
You and Mom are such a huge blessing in my life, and I’m glad you live right here in Florida so that we see each other frequently.
Now that my own girls have reached adulthood and are successfully “launched” I’m even more appreciative of what you and Mom did in raising 4 children to adulthood…. and beyond.
None of us were charged with a felony!
It’s not easy, and every stage of parenthood has unique challenges. You and Mom raised an FBI agent, a Registered Nurse, a Fashion Designer…. and whatever the heck I turned out to be!
I know I was wild teen and a huge pain in the ass, but you both supported me when I went to Taiwan, started a goofy balloon business, and more recently went to Ukraine. You both put up with a LOT, most of which I will not detail here due to federal secrecy regulations.
You both provided me an example of what it means to embrace responsibility, love your family and also serve the community, especially your work with our local school and in our church community.
You stayed together in your (53 year!) marriage, even despite challenges.
Now that I’m 48 I’ve come to realize that the BEST men in our society do what you did; accept responsibility, work hard, and love your family.
You went to church to support Mom, even though you were not a very churchy type of guy.
Over 53 years that amounts to 2,756 Sunday services!
That’s a whole lotta Sundays! You must love Mom a lot.
You also earned good money, kept the house nice, and took care of Mom.
A real man takes care of his wife and kids, even if it means waking up at 5AM and driving to a nuclear power plant in a Toyota Corolla with a gazillion miles on it.
You’re still working now, as an unpaid maintenance guy at Harvester Methodist!
There are men in my generation who did not have fathers, or grew up in the turmoil of divorce. Those men did not have the benefit of the example you provided for me, and they are worse off for it.
As Greg the Famous Prison Guard once told me:
“All the guys in my prison had ONE THING in common: no fathers around.”
Dad, you were always around, working 2 jobs sometimes… my entire life.
So on this Father’s Day I’m thanking you, publically…. right here on my blog.
When I booked my flight to Warsaw back in March I had no idea what might happen when I got to Ukraine. Fly there April 3, fly back home April 30th. Everything between those 2 dates was pure potentiality, random occurences, and more than a small amount of risk.
I wanted to take ACTION, but I had no idea what might result from booking that flight.
I just FELT that I had to go there, in my gut.. and in my heart as well.
When I got to Lviv and met Pastor Prokip I had no idea we would raise $12,400 to help purchase a much needed van for his church, with help from the generous folks at Harvester Methodist back home in Land O Lakes :::
And if helping my friend Volodymyr Prokip was the ONLY outcome of this trip I’d be very happy, very grateful, very BLESSED to have this opportunity.
I’d be grateful just to have MET this man, and the folks at St. John in Lviv.
I took a step in FAITH to go seven times zones east, and if I had NOT followed that instinct I NEVER would have met Olga and her daughter Vlada:
I went to Europe as a single Dad, NOT on any dating apps at all, just writing my 3rd book plus a crazy desire to volunteer and just Do Something Helpful.
But how can a guy like me meet a gal like Olga (also single….) and NOT ask her out for dinner?
On our first date we had a great time, Olga thought I was totally insane, but she went on a 2nd date anyway… Thank Goodness!
Olga has worked for the last 2 decades in the shipping business, so she’s smart, speaks English fluently, and I made her laugh…
Olga is also an active member of the Kyiv Rotary club, and I liked that about her.
I knew that I was flying back to the States on April 30th, so we went on a few dates, we felt a connection… but the future was a big looming big question mark.
Olga’s daughter Vlada is 15 (she turns 16 next week) and she reminded me of my daughter Grace: smart, quiet, and plotting Eventual World Domination. We included Vlada on our outings, and we all got along well.
Vlada is a nice kid, she’s a credit to her mother, for sure.
She’ll probaby grow up to become President of Ukraine someday, so we’ll be able to say we “knew her back in the day”…
Olga and I both knew the visitor visa requirement to come to the USA was complicated, so I came back to the USA not sure if we would see each other again… unless I flew back there.
That same week US Immigration came out with the Unify Ukraine visa, a program that allows Ukrainian citizens to come to the USA for 2 years, AND let’s them work here… the only requirement was that I fill out a form (the I-134) saying that Olga and Vlada could stay with me and that I’d help them out when they arrived.
I filled out the form, thinking it would take immigration 6 months to process everything… and our application was approved in less than a week!
I have a 4 bedroom house… just me here since Claire moved out 5 months ago.
Claire even took the cat.
Ms. Lemonssss………… noooooo…………
Olga and her daughter flew here three weeks ago. Before they arrived I took the all the stuff out of my 2 spare bedrooms and repainted both rooms, bought a dresser at IKEA, bought new bedsheets, etc.
The fridge in my kitchen went from empty to filled up with all the veggies and healthy food that it takes to sustain 2 Ukranian ladies and a goofy American.
I still like my instant coffee, but Olga conviced me to buy an Espresso machine.
I’m taking Olga and Vlada all over Florida… last weekend we visited Miami.
Yesterday we took an hour drive down to Sarasota, visited the Ringling museum, swam in the ocean, goofed off a bit….
For some reason I make Olga laugh, often. The last few months of her life since the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been tough. Several of her friends are missing, presumed gone. She still has an apartment in Kyiv, but until this conflict is over it is not safe for her or her daughter to go back.
A Russian missile could kill anyone in Ukraine right now, randomly and without mercy nor logic.
A few days ago Olga told me this is the first time she’s felt peace in months.
We laugh often, and this is the best thing I can give her.
Olga encourages me to eat more vegetables. We hit the pool together most mornings.
I say goofy stuff and Olga laughs.
Vlada is in tennis camp up at the Land O Lakes rec center… in addition to her Secret KGB Training.
As I write this in the early hours of Father’s Day I’m looking forward to going to church with Olga and Vlada this morning.
We’re going to my parent’s house for dinner tonight.
Grace is somewhere over in Australia, but I’ll see my Claire tonight.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, after the war Olga and Vlada might want to go back to Ukraine, but for NOW I’m glad they are here.