Getting paid $5,000 to be a MONK

Please listen to as you read this post:

This blog is 15% funnier if you read it while listening to the monks…..

I have a batshit crazy friend… and he bet me $5,000 that I could NOT date or be with any (human) woman until July 5th of this year.

Beers were involved, blood was exchanged, and we had a witness… this shizz is 100% legit.

5 months of being a voluntarily celibate monk. Damn.

Sell solar? Lift weights at Crunch? Get better at stand up?

It might be a good thing, a reset if you will…

Of course, he limited this restriction to HUMAN women.

Dudes are fair game, robots are ok… donkeys in Tijuana? No problem.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ben Alexander

January 29th : 2022

The End of the World and Corporate Interests.

Spoiler alert…. don’t read this post before you see the movie…

If you’ve already watched “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix check out this brilliant video by Brian Cox:

The 3 scenarios most likely to kill all humans:

#1. Nuclear Armageddon set off by rogue states with access to atomic weapons.

#2. A massive solar flare from the sun that burns the earth to a crisp and wipes out our atmosphere.

#3. A large enough comet OR meteor hitting our planet…

In the movie “Don’t Look Up” a fictional corporation tries to stop an incoming comet (and mine the metals from it) and the plan fails horrifically. Everyone dies.

There’s a lot more in the movie, the premise is really an allegory on the denial of climate change… but it boils down to “everyone dies” at the end.

I’m more interested in the idea of rockets designed to protect the earth from an extinction level event.

Corporations like SpaceX will eventually get us to Mars, I have no doubt about that, and we will see it in our lifetime… if we can avoid an apocalyptic event in the next few decades.

As innovative companies like SpaceX improve rocket and propulsion technology, we are moving closer to a planetary defense system that can obliterate anything headed towards the destruction of our planet, naturally occurring or otherwise.

In the next 100 years it will become profitable to actually capture and mine incoming asteroids and comets for valuable metals, and the technology required to easily do that will have the double purpose of eliminating any incoming asteroids that could potentially end life on Earth as we know it.

If we can drill into a huge (moving) asteroid to mine ore and other precious metals we can also drill into a dangerous asteroid and place a nuclear charge in the middle of the rock… then blow it to harmless bits.

This would all be done with rockets, robotics and cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

If an asteroid is 3 kilometers across, and we blow it into bits no larger than a bowling ball…. those smaller bits will harmlessly burn up in our atmosphere on entry, with a hell of a light show that will be seen by everyone within 500 miles.

Goodness knows there are enough nuclear warheads sitting dormant all over our planet… perhaps this will be the hidden blessing of the Cold War, the USA has extra nukes that can be repurposed for saving all humans from probable extinction.

It takes tremendous time, effort and funding to build a viable nuke from scratch, but the USA has plenty of thermonuclear weapons sitting and armed in submarines silently gliding under the ocean, and in missile silos hidden beneath corn fields in Iowa.

Government will supply the weapons, companies like SpaceX will supply the rockets…

I’m sure Elon Musk has already had some interesting conversations with the folks at NASA and the DOD.

I’m OK with profit driving the technological advances that will obliterate an incoming rock that’s 20 miles across flying towards our planet at 30,000 miles an hour.

Technology might save us after all.

Ben Alexander

January 2022

Beautiful Things, Eternal Things.

This morning I find myself watching this video and listening to this lovely music:

I’ve been a fan of composer Ola Gjeilo’s choral and orchestral works for many years now, yet I still have NO CLUE how to pronounce his name!

Beautiful music, amazing scenery, truly loving someone… these are all connected at a level that escapes my narrow comprehension.

How we feel when we hold flower, when we laugh, when a child smiles at us?

When we tell someone special we love them.

These are all connected. We are all connected at a deeper level.

There is tremendous beauty in the small moments, in shared moments.

There is love, there is connection.

Love these 2 pics…

I hope you enjoy the music.

I’m singing in a funeral this morning, for a gentleman named Earl Heiden (he was 83 with many health complications)… Earl sang in the church choir with me before the pandemic and I grew to love him over the years…

Last time I saw Earl in church (before Christmas) I gave him a hug.

I might have even told him I loved him, darn it.

Perhaps Earl is with me, right now as I write these words.

Ben Alexander

January 22, 2022

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:

Since 2019 I’ve loved Olive, her brothers, and her Mother as well.

Olive has 2 older brothers, all three kids lost their father in 2017… the boys thought of me as “that odd guy dating my Mom”… but Olive and I grew close because she was only 3 years old, she never really knew her father.

There was that Dad / Daughter dynamic between us.

Over time I got to know Olive’s brothers, they were both quiet and really into video games. I’m not quiet, and I’ve never gotten into video games… so we had few things in common. It took me a long time to understand Dill and Moose, on the Myers Briggs personality chart we are almost exact opposites!

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. Olive and I are both extroverts, so we would get loud and Winni would tell us to quiet down.

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

These past few days I’ve been thinking about Olive, her family… 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 really 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.

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

I think about Olive, Dill and Moose every single day, I wonder how they are.

Things didn’t work out with Winni, we broke up “officially” the end of 2020.

I wanted to marry Winni, I wanted to grow old with her. I wanted to help Winni raise her kids, pay the bills, do all that domestic stuff that’s far easier as a couple vs. being a single parent.

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 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… my daughters 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 Winni and her family as I’ve always felt with my daughters, and my parents.

That same tremendous love.

Hanging out with Olive reminded me of those times when my girls were little.

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

Many times we were the Three Musketeers; Me, Winni and Olive… the boys wanted to stay home to play video games (emerging teenage independence) but Olive wanted to go with Winni and I all the time.

I would watch Olive and Winni together, and I would be the third wheel there!

The love between Winni and Olive was a miracle to witness.

Damn, I miss both these silly girls.

Crazy thing is? I know that both Winni and Olive still love me… we went on vacation recently (as friends) and we still had a lovely time together.

There was love there. There is still love there.

I still love Winni and her family, I still want to reconcile with them.

I’m not giving up, dammit.

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 is the RIGHT thing to do, even if it hurts so much now.

This picture says it all…

I’ve reached the conclusion that I’d rather be totally single for now.

One of two things will happen:

#1. Winni and I will reconcile (maybe a 1 in a million chance)

#2. I will be alone, living my life and doing stuff until I no longer hold this love in my heart.

It is not HONEST to date anyone else while I’m still in love with Winni.

I can do comedy, hit the gym, do some writing, act in a play, sell some solar…. but I don’t want to hold another hand, or go on another godforsaken date, not while I feel this way.

This is a public blog, I’m putting myself out there by writing this.

This is honest.

Ben Alexander

January 19 ::::::::::::::::::: 2022

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?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

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?

+++++++++++++++++++++++

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

3 years ago, this weekend.

My first date with Winni was on January 16th, 2019.

We met for drinks at bar at Wiregrass mall, she ordered a seltzer… it was a really inexpensive first date!

We talked about how we both felt lonely, how Winni had lost her husband to a tragic heart attack just 18 months before… I told her about my 20 year marriage and subsequent divorce….

It was cold that night, I walked her back to her car and we briefly kissed.

That kiss was when I started to fall in love with her, there was just something special about her.

Something luminous, that came from within.

A few days later we met at the movie theater with her three kids and saw a movie together (one of the Transformers movies)… I remember her daughter sat in my lap halfway through the movie. Her teen boys were more shy, they sat in the row behind us.

In the next few weeks we saw each other frequently, and one weekend I took Winni and the kids for a weekend in St. Augustine. We rented a little beach house, played frisbee with the kids on the beach, saw the tourist sites in St. Augustine… we were growing closer, falling in love, and for the first time since my divorce I felt less lonely… in just a short span of time I began to see myself as Winni’s partner, and her little girl began to feel like my daughter. Loving Winni in 2019 helped me heal, it helped me move past the heartbreak of my failed marriage.

Winni’s daughter joined us on most of our dates, and we really grew close.

Her sons were more distant, to them I was just “Mom’s boyfriend” and I tried to find common ground with the boys, but we had very different personalities. Over time I began to love her boys, but it was a slow process. I can imagine it was awkward for them as well. I think of her boys often.

In April of 2019 I went on a week long mission trip to Honduras, and I missed Winni keenly. I think it was during that time that I realized I had fallen in love with her. I believe she felt the same as well. I remember how Winni picked me up from the airport when I came home, I could tell she was in love with me that night, I could tell she really missed me.

After six months with Winni I told her I’d like to marry her, but she did not feel the same. In September of 2019 she was helping me paint the dining room in my house and out of the blue she suggested we break up! She would put distance between us over the next few months, but I would always circle back to her, and she would let me in her life again. I guess I was just persistent, perhaps foolishly so.

Typical salesman, right?

I stayed with her… there was always a connection between us, but her love for me was not enough to overcome her perception of my flaws.

I loved her unconditionally, totally, and without hesitation…

I saw myself sharing a life with her, growing old with her, being there for her.

We became good friends, she joined the solar business, I thought we could have a great future together.

We had great conversations, about everything. Winni is very bright, and she was always reading and improving herself. I loved how we would debate stuff.

We kept dating through 2019, and then 2020 hit with the pandemic and we broke up again from March to June of 2020. During that time we both dated again, but we were back together in June of 2020, until she broke up with me again in 2020, just after Christmas.

On again, off again, certainly not by my choice. I loved her unconditionally, fully and completely.

We both shared Christmas’s of 2019 and 2020, am I’m grateful for that.

I’m grateful for the many nights we fell asleep together and the many mornings she woke up in my arms.

I’m grateful for every kiss we shared, every hug, every laugh.

I’m grateful that I grew to know and love her children.

In 2021 both Winni and I went out and dated other people. In November of 2021 we were both single and I invited Winni to go with me on a six day vacation in New Mexico. We went as friends, her daughter joined us… and I fell in love with her all over again, knowing she did NOT feel the same about me.

We had a really nice time together in New Mexico… we hiked in the mountains, rode the cable car to Sandia Peak, saw WhiteSands, paid $15 to go deep into Carlsbad Caverns… I wrote about the trip in a blog post in November.

After the NM trip W started dating someone else, again.

It broke my heart, all over again.

Maybe I’m a fool for loving Winni and her family, it really defies all logical thought.

She broke my heart, so many times, but I loved her so much I kept coming back for more.

A part of me wishes that Winni had loved me MORE than my flaws, that she had seen my heart, and let me be her husband, let me be a loving father to her kids.

The love was always there.

Summer, 2019.

I went to therapy, and tried to sort out this stuff. I don’t know if it worked.

Maybe all along I was a fool for loving her, but the heart wants what the heart wants, ya know?

Ben Alexander

January 20th :::: 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!

********************************************

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