Make Your Voice Heard

I have been known to rant and rave about all kinds of things, but as yet I haven’t written a blog on the quality of local drinking water. It is not something to sneer at given the problems in Michigan, and around the world. Now I am on a different bandwagon for the moment. I am making my voice heard and letting readers know the importance of finding a solution. Yikes, the planet is deteriorating. The quality of human life is threatened. It is a crisis situation. Do I have your attention? There are many culprits not the least of which are the corporate giants who insist on dumping waste into our lakes and rivers. Is it even safe to drink tap water anymore? I see everyone around me drinking bottled water to ensure purity and taste. At first, I thought it was a fad, but not anymore.

As for me, ranting is one thing; but I also want to take action of some sort. Beyond buying cases of water wholesale, I am adding a filtering system to my kitchen faucet. I have an Aquasource (https://www.kitchenfaucetdepot.net/aquasource-faucet-brand-review/) and the model lends itself easily to such an accessory. Now it is time to let the world know, starting with my neighbors. I am starting a campaign to have our local water independently tested in a lab, so we can inform the utility company of the results, and any change in practices that may be needed. You can’t trust someone just because they are there doing their job.

It is also time to put up flyers around the neighborhood including the commercial district. I will post them on trees and in store windows. I will have a closeup featured in the center of some bacteria. Above it, the heading will read, “The Frightening Truth.” I will include an email address and Facebook page, so people can find out the date and location of the next group meeting of concerned citizens. If you want to make a protest, you must be in considerable numbers. We won’t stop at writing letters and placing articles in the local newspaper.

Meanwhile I am not afraid to drink or cook with the filtered water from my revamped Aquasource. It is as good as any new model. Thanks to modern technology, I have solved the water problem for myself. Not it is a matter of making the issue known countrywide. In the olden days, people had to boil water. Can you imagine the hassle? Having a solution doesn’t absolve the utility company from improving the quality of their product. I am told that they test regularly, but they can make mistakes. I suspect that they are often at the borderline of acceptability when it comes to certain types of chemical content. While a given level may be legal, it doesn’t satisfy me. We want more than this. We are tired of hearing excuses and that everything will soon be fine. It is a temporary disorder. I am going to hold my water company to its word.

Voicing my Opinion as a Concerned Citizen

It is amazing how often people tell me that they don’t trust their government–local, regional, or national. This is a sad thing to hear in the United States of America. As citizens, we should voice our concerns to make it better. Accepting defeat is a sorry state of affairs. Meanwhile, I try to read between the lines and not accept the media domination of our political opinions. While I expect that we all understand this and look the other way, it is a glitch in the system.

You might say that I am too cynical, but I am opposed to biased reporting and misrepresentation. I know there is good and bad behind the scenes if you peel away the partisanship, but somehow, we always hear about the negative first. This is the source of much public distrust. At least, I can speak with officials and blog about it to you to promote awareness and concern. We wield our power as a group when it comes time to vote. But before an election, we are barraged with ads and articles that tell us what to think. Let’s clear away the clutter once and for all. I am not done.

Right now, I have issues regarding healthcare and recently visited a politician’s office to express my beliefs. I want a sense of his position before I vote to keep him in office next time his term is up. I prepared some notes. I have to address national policy, what the previous administration left us, and what to do about it in the near future. Healthcare has been and always will be a top domestic issue for every member of society. There isn’t a single citizen who doesn’t worry about it. Rising costs have made reasonable care impossible to afford. There must be a compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans. Both sides have valid views. I am somewhere in between most of the time. I don’t discount a good opinion just because it is not my party’s view.

During my visit, I was treated well and not rushed out the door to make way for another appointment. I got my two cents in and left happy and content. The politician thanked me for sharing and handed me the best backpack for backpack I’d ever seen, with the state logo emblazoned on the front. It would be suitable for business as it was made of a fine material. I am amazed that a promotional item like this was displayed so much quality. You would expect cheap canvas and poor construction. Instead it was fine-grade leather with a multitude of interior pouches and compartments. This must not be what it is given out to your everyday Joe. It has to be reserved for visiting dignitaries. Did he put me in this category? I wanted to find out but was afraid to ask.

I thanked him as he said farewell and added that I could return at any time.

First Panel Meeting

Have you ever been publicly mortified? I have. I am writing this blog to help others get over a similar circumstance. We are all human so small setbacks in life shouldn’t hold us down. We can rise and get over our embarrassments. We all have them. Life is too short to brood about things that in the long run aren’t major. What happened to me wasn’t good, but it wasn’t a catastrophe either.

I was asked to be on a panel of advisors for a local Mississippi representative. I jumped at the chance. It was an honor and a form of personal recognition; it was a great opportunity to garner some experience. These are the times when we grow. I wanted to make sure that people listened to me and that I had a positive and pleasant demeanor. The problem is that I smoke when I am nervous and couldn’t stop myself from indulging before the meeting. The smell of the cigarette is obvious as most of you know. It makes me self-conscious because I feel that people will notice. Guess what, they did. Not that anyone made a joke or yelled out the evidence, but I knew and wanted to hide in the closet. I ran out of there mighty fast and headed for the drugstore. I would be ready the next time I had to appear on the panel. There would be no odor at all. How did I do it?

I asked the pharmacist for every over-the-counter remedy to have a fresh mouth. Bad breath can be caused by food, illness, or smoking. They all get the same treatment. Binaca or a similar odor-reducing product. They are alcohol based and have a strong flavor that knocks down any telltale smoke. Even your standard mouthwash will help, according to https://www.nomoresmokesmell.net/no-ashy-breath-5-tips-fresher-mouth/. I also bought teeth whitening paste to handle the brown stains. If your mouth looks fresh, it feels fresh. Others notice. To enhance this “treatment,” I added Tic Tacs, those cute little white ubiquitous mints. They do contain sugar, so some people avoid them, but I don’t. There are only ten calories in one. One is potent enough to take care of your cigarette breath for a couple of hours.

Here is a crazy remedy told to me by a diet-conscious vegan friend. If you don’t want a dose alcohol, even in a rinse, and you don’t consume sugar, you can go natural and eat parsley. Yes, this simple green vegetable is a great breath deodorizer. Just make sure it is fresh, she told me. Cut it into tiny pieces and eat it alone (you can keep it in a plastic Ziploc bag) or sprinkle it in a salad for lunch. Don’t think you can substitute dried parsley flakes, the kind people use for cooking when they don’t have the fresh stuff. This will never work. There you have the modern and traditional methods for curing bad breath caused by anything from garlic and chili powder to cigarettes.

I Might Need to Move

Dutiful resident that I am, I attended an HOA meeting in my apartment building ostensibly to talk about security concerns. Self-defense and protection are hot issues these days so I thought the meeting was timely for all of us. There have been thefts reported in the area setting my nerves on edge. I was going to praise the building manager and ask him to extend my sincere appreciation to the owner. I was just about to give myself accolades for being part of social progress in my little community when I found out that the powers that be are more interested in adding an outdoor theater to the pool area.

They had already made their decision and wanted to run it buy everyone expecting nothing but applause. They handed out a print out from https://www.outdoorlightandsound.com/outdoor-backyard-theater-buyers-guide/ to everyone to discuss, but there was no question of a vote. There was no possibility that they would spend a portion of their budget, or all of it, on a security system of any kind. Wow that was asking too much! We could use outdoor motion sensor lights in addition to surveillance cameras. I could make a list of items that should be on their agenda but was frustrated at the direction the discussion took. I felt like moving I was so dejected.

I suppose I will get over it, but I was sorely disappointed. I consider our HOA to be a kind of mini government at work but it turned out to be a dictatorship. This is not what I signed on for when I moved in. I am involved in local issues in my area of Mississippi and extend my view of citizenship to other dimensions. My democratic perspective has no place in the running of my apartment building. None of the other residents seemed to care a whit. I did not expect them to cave in completely when presented with a dictum. What if that happened in our municipal government? The elected officials would not return to office once there terms were up. You can bet on that.

I am not sure why the HOA is so backward and indifferent but it did result in a very nice outdoor theater near the pool area where there is ample space. I see that they gave the selection of the entertainment system great thought, much more than they did to the proposal regarding a security system. There was no discussion of what was needed or whether security would be dealt with in the near future. It is time to lobby the management but I can’t seem to get anyone excited about it. All they are talking about is what films to watch first or whether they could have an adjacent pool party and run an assortment of movies as background.

The building did host an installation party and bought cases of beer and hired a caterer. I think the manager wanted a big pat on the back. I wasn’t about to give it to him.

You Are Drinking Government Overreach

Fluoride used to be desirable in water so kids count get fewer cavities. When it was first discovered, it seemed a godsend. Then the tables turned and we no longer wanted any additives at all. People in different parts of Mississippi, for example, lobby for or against it, hoping that the politicians will react favorably. So far it is a government decision that remains in place. If you don’t have children and no longer worry about growing teeth, you may want to filter out any fluoride in your water. It isn’t difficult to do and you can get rid of it fast and easy by installing a reverse osmosis system. A what? You heard right. It is a common type of water filtration that costs only a few hundred dollars for a whole house model.

Let’s say you do like fluoride, but only in your toothpaste. Reverse osmosis is the current preferred technology for attaining pure fluoride-free water, although it is a bit hard to explain. Let me try. You get an automatic efficient system that needs little or no maintenance. You buy a unit that can deliver the right amount of clean water to your home on a daily basis. The larger the family, the larger the system. The process for commercial and residential systems involves a barrier membrane that responds to water pressure to prevent pollutants from passing through. Larger systems involve pumps, flow gauges, monitors, etc. Home units are simpler and can be installed in various places such as under a sink, mounted on a wall, or outside. There is no need to be intimidated as the science is basic. Have a look and you will see that a reverse osmosis membrane comes in a spiral wound configuration. There are two types: cellulose triacetate (CTA), and TFC/TFM (thin film composite or material). One needs a chlorinated water source and one does not. Each has a different daily rate capacity.

Know you see how it works. You can override the dictates of your local or municipal government regarding water. They tell the water companies what to do in terms of additives. You have no impact on them so it is up to you to speak your mind through your vote. Exercise your right as a citizen about something that affects you every day. If not, you can see that there is a way to take the matter into your own hands. Water filtrations systems are in every community and a technician will do all the work. No need to learn installation yourself. Filters and replacement parts are readily available. They explain its operation and what to expect. You will love the taste of ordinary tap water such that you might give up your precious Evian. I know this will save money, especially for large families that guzzle it down.

I can testify to the efficacy and value of a reverse osmosis water filtration system so you don’t even have to read the customer reviews. My blog is the only one you need.

Is it Really “Going Green”?

Talking about the environment and conserving valuable resources is never old hat. There are still many out who are blissfully ignorant of how to go green. Any one can do something to protect our planet. Using non-toxic cleaning products goes a long way toward improving the state of the earth. Think of how many gallons get poured down the drain into our water system. I know you are skeptical about the effectiveness of off-brand solutions, but take it from me, they work just fine. You can get them on line or in most quality stores. If they aren’t stocked, just ask the manager to order them. The more people ask, the more likely they will be sitting on the shelf next time you do your shopping.

Recycling is so easy and most waste and trash companies provide everything you need. It is assumed these days that you can put certain items like plastic water bottles and glass, also aluminum cans, in separate containers. Meanwhile electric cars are another obvious way to participate. They are no longer rare and charging stations are easy to find. This is the mode of the future so get on board now. I know gas prices are falling and it isn’t always a matter of economics; but do it for the next generation.

I love the popularity of solar panels, especially in sunny climates. They save a great deal of money on utility bills and you always have enough electricity since the system stores what you don’t use. They are expensive, but you also get a big tax credit. You can dispose of them when needed without worry as there are professional services that will come to haul them away for you. When it comes to being green, there is always a good solution.

Last but not least, I want to mention the tankless water heater, an ingenious invention that improved the old system immensely. No more ugly, domineering tank lurking in your basement corner like a cylindrical bird of prey. The new state-of-the-art units (you can see them here) are compact in size and take up little space. You just mount it on the wall. You can convert the old area to much-needed storage. Meanwhile, these heaters are economical and save you money on your monthly or quarterly utility bills. In effect, they pay for themselves. You can buy them in different sizes to suit your family needs. You will never experience a cold shower. Instead, you get hot water fast and as much as you want. The only negative is that they work with one outlet at a time. But how bad is it to wait until your shower is over to run the dishwasher or washing machine?

Because this blog is devoted to energy conservation and other environmentally sensitive practices, I should mention that a tankless system uses thirty to fifty percent less energy. They can be electric or work on natural gas or propane. You no longer keep water in a storage tank, sitting there begging to be used. Unless you are filling a hot tub, the tankless system will serve your immediate needs.

New Morning Routine

Do you ever get so busy that you start to feel panicky and overwhelmed? If you are like me, you need to get a grip and create a better schedule or reduce your obligations. While a routine is good, it should be meaningful and work with the hours available. You can’t manufacture more. You know what I mean. It starts early in the morning when you arise to greet the day (with great anticipation or horror if your schedule is packed). I find that I must set a new morning routine if I want to accomplish everything on time. I don’t want a regimented life but I do want to be productive. Who doesn’t? Thus, I devote today’s blog to this subject.

Setting the same time every day to get up is good advice for those of us with regular working hours. If you work at home on a freelance basis, lucky you. For the rest of you, I suggest using an alarm clock to guarantee repetition and reliability. It will operate like clockwork. Ha! No kidding. I wouldn’t be able to do without it. I am, however, going to set it a half hour earlier. You would be surprised the difference it makes. You are ready to roll a bit in advance and have that much additional time to devote to your work or other projects. I must eliminate a few things for a while and it will have to be okay. I like to read the news at breakfast even if just an overview of major events. Opinion articles will have to wait till later for now, which is too bad because this gets me going. I rant and rave internally at what the media has to offer and start thinking of rebuttals and objections. It gives me a spark to motivate me to open my eyes and is also political fodder to share with friends and colleagues. People know what to expect from me in the way of discussion.

My alarm has various programmable settings so I can wake up to the radio, a series of soft beeps, some preselected music, or an array of colored lights. To each his own. For years I have been doing the old, traditional method and now I want a change. A simulated sunrise will be interesting and effective. It is the new wave of wakeup systems. I now see why they are so popular. It is a lot more fun than blaring noise. A few alarm clock tips and tricks can make a real difference in your morning mood. I find that I am less aggressive during the day if I use the sunrise lights.

A perfect day for me now starts with the right alarm setting, a cup of coffee, ten minutes on the CNN website, quick attention to my attire for the day, and a pat on the dog’s head. It is simple and fast, and I am out the door.

Runoff Elections

Different states and cities handle things in their own way when it comes to the voting process. Some states have runoff elections for things like primaries. Runoff elections work in a couple of different ways. Here is a quick explanation for how a runoff election may work:

–In some countries, a runoff election helps distribute votes from the losing candidates to the winners. In other words, you vote by priority. You pick your first choice, then your second, etc. If your first pick doesn’t win, your vote goes toward the second choice, and so on. That’s crazy to me.

–In, say, a primary situation, there is a pool of candidates. Sometimes there are a lot, and sometimes there are a few frontrunners. After the first ballot, the candidates with the least amount of votes are removed from the ballot, and a runoff election takes place to achieve a winner. Some other countries with more political parties also use a similar system. This way everyone is represented and nobody feels like they are throwing their vote away if they choose to vote for a minority party. They will be able to vote again for someone else if their chosen candidate does not make it higher on the ballot.

–Lack of majority. This has happened in Mississippi, where the GOP primary for Senate in 2014 did not have a clear winner. Some elections require the winner to have a certain percentage of the vote (in this case, it was a meager 50% of the votes). Unfortunately, this tends to mean that voters are already underwhelmed by the candidates, and even less people vote the second time around. Usually the winner is whoever spends the most money in the leadup to the runoff election.In theory, it is a great idea, but people lose momentum, which explains the low voter turnout when people have to show up a second time several weeks after the first election.

The idea behind runoff elections is to give people more of a choice. Many more people can run in the first election, allowing for a more open and fair selection. A second election can narrow the field down and help elect the person most qualified for the job. Or at least, that is the hope.

In California, they have this weird “jungle” primary system, where the top two candidates from either party end up on the ballot. That means you could have two Republicans or two Democrats, and nothing from the opposition party. I have no idea if that’s fair or not, but I’ll tell you—it makes California an even less desirable place to live if you ask me.

That’s what a runoff election is. Hope this cleared up any questions you might have.

Communication with Public Officials

One evening when I was in high school, I remember there was a knock at the door. My dad answered, and it was our councilman. He was going door to door to talk to his constituents (which was not a word that I knew back then). He wanted to know if there was anything that he could do for my parents. Turned out there was. My dad took him out to the part of our driveway that met up with the road, showing him this poorly paved section that filled up every time it rained. Within a week, the county guys were there installing a drain. My parents voted for him every time he was on the ballot after that. When I was old enough, I started voting for him, too.

That’s the kind of thing you never forget.

I’ve never had another politician come knocking on my door. Times have changed, I guess. If you want to know what’s going on politically that could impact you, it is probably better for you to get in touch with your representatives rather than waiting for them to stop by like my parents did. If you don’t know who they are, you can check out your state government’s website, or you can go onto the house.gov and the senate.gov sites. The state government people will have local numbers and office addresses, but the others may only give Washington D.C. contact information. Sometimes they have a local office, too. Write all that info down and put it to use!

You can email your representatives or contact them via social media if they aren’t nearby. Social media can net you a quick response but you never know if it is a lowly staffer who doesn’t know anything or the actual person you’re trying to reach who answers you. If you send an email to one of those addresses, though, chances are you are going to get a lot of solicitation emails that are basically spam. Just keep that in mind before you fire off that email.

Calling, though, is very effective. You call enough and you become the squeaky wheel. You get a response. I have called and emailed my representatives, and calling always earns me a faster response. Now if I have something I really want to say, like maybe I want to express my feelings regarding a certain vote that is coming up, then I am definitely going to call.

If you’re affiliated with a political party, you may find yourself on mailing or phone lists. You will get robocalls reminding you to vote or about other events that you might want to attend. I’ve gotten calls for things like debate viewing parties and town hall meetings. If being part of the political process is important to you, then I recommend that you attend these kinds of events. Town halls are especially great because you can ask questions and get real answers from your elected officials. They may not like the question and you may not like the answer but at least you get to ask.

The important thing, though, is for you to reach out when there is an issue that matters to you. These people are supposed to represent you, so they work FOR you. Never forget that.

Why Care So Much?

This is a question people have asked me over and over. Why do I care so much about politics? I mean, I am just an average guy with an average retail manager job here in Mississippi. I don’t have a whole lot of skin in the game, so to speak. I don’t have millions of dollars’ worth of investments to stress over, and I have enough to pay my bills and even get the occasional nice thing sometimes. I could probably go my whole life without meeting any of my representatives, and having nearly none of their decisions affect me on a day-to-day basis.

So why do I care?

It might not be obvious to you, but it is to me: I live in a democracy. In order for that democracy to work, the people need to participate. All of us. It is our job to elect people who will represent us in a way that we think will be best for our country. We should be keeping track of the laws passed on a local, state, and federal level. Not just because it is in our best interest to follow those laws but because it is our obligation to understand how these changes impact our country. The things these politicians decide on often isn’t applicable to them. Therefore, it has to matter to us. We have to vote, we have to pay attention to what is going on. If there is a bill going before Congress that is going to negatively affect you, your representatives should be hearing about it. The same goes if you approve of something. They work for you, you should be making sure that they are doing the things that you want them to.

I also believe that we should have term limits on members of Congress much like we have for our president. They rise through the ranks of Congress and have so much power, they can be like kings. Think about it: they’re the ones who are supposed to decide if we go to war and what to spend our money on. They have specific people nominated to chase down members of their own party to force them to vote in a way that benefits the party, not the people. And don’t even get me started on special interest groups or lobbyists. I don’t think Congress should be able to give themselves pay raises, either. I can’t give myself one and neither can you, so why should they? We elect them. We should decide how much they get paid. I think that would get rid of the people who want the money and the retirement benefits and instead would give us people who really believed in what they were doing.

I think the better question is not why I care so much, the question you should be asking yourself is: why don’t you?

Voter ID Laws

Lots of people get mad about having to show ID at their polling place in order to vote. I don’t really see how this is a big deal for most people, especially here in Mississippi. The idea is simple—to discourage people from voting who are not eligible to vote, and to eliminate voter fraud.

If you are a legal resident of Mississippi, chances are you have an ID card that’s acceptable to use. For example, if you’re driving—legally anyway—you have a form of ID that is acceptable. If you’re in the military, your CAC card is accepted, and so is the card issued to your dependents. The same goes for any other photo ID issued to you by a branch, department, agency, or other entity of the US Government—in other words, if it is a government issued ID, you’re fine. That goes for employee IDs, too. And passports. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be something from the state of Mississippi.

And what if you’re a college student who doesn’t drive? That’s OK too. They’ll accept your student ID as long as it is from an accredited Mississippi school for higher education. If you have a tribal photo ID, they take that too. They’ll even take a firearms license if you have one.

Somehow, if you don’t have any of these things, and you’re really an American citizen who has the right to vote, never fear. You can go to any Circuit Clerk’s Office in the entire state and apply for a Voter ID card. It’s free. You only need one form of documentation, and they’ll take nearly anything: a recent bank statement or utility bill, a paycheck or government-issued check issued in the last six months, a social security card, your birth certificate, a Medicare or Medicaid card… the list goes on and on.

I am a firm believer in the democratic process. I think that if you want to vote in an election, that is great. Everyone who is eligible to vote should do so. I think we should have elections on weekends or call them holidays and give people the day off. It would encourage more participation and then we would have officials who better represent the will of the people.

However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking people for ID. This way everyone votes only once and you can be sure that the people who are voting are doing so in their correct district. I want the people who vote in my area to be directly impacted by the choices they make so that they choose the best candidate. I don’t want some guy voting in the city for Mayor who lives in a rural area outside of the mayor’s purview.

And if you are a US Citizen or you came here legally, you either already have one of the required forms of ID or you can get one free of charge pretty easily. I don’t see anything wrong with keeping people honest about who they are, where they live, and being sure that people only vote one time.

Educating Yourself on the Candidates

I like hunting, I like owning a gun, I like the government to stay out of my business. I believe that people should work hard to earn the things they have. So I will be completely honest: I usually vote Republican. I stand with more of the things that party represents than the Democrats or any of those fringe third-party nonsense candidates.

However, just because you are a Republican does not mean I am going to vote for you. I am not some blind sheep that sees a red tie or an elephant and thinks, “sure thing!” No way. I pay attention. I like my Republicans conservative and smart. If you are too far to the right, like you are some kind of Ted Cruz crazy person, I am not going to vote for you. That’s not to say I will automatically go for the Democrat, but if they’re better at their job and are the more reasonable, then I am going to heavily consider voting for them instead.

While it would be nice if I could rely on a fair and balanced media to give me information on the candidates, that is rarely the case. I am usually stuck looking through several different sources in order to get the information I need to have in order to make a good decision. I usually start with the votesmart.org website. It tells me, very simply, what someone’s vote was on a particular issue. These are facts, and I like facts. I can look at particular bills or I can look at the record of different officials. It helps me to get an idea of whether a politician is telling me what I want to hear or if they really believe in the things they say. For example, they could tell me that they believe in less gun regulations, but if they vote yes on more restrictions, then they are misleading me. They don’t get my vote.

I also check Ballotpedia. I can pit the information from votesmart against the information there to make sure that it is correct. They also have a fact-checking section on their site. I like this. It is very straightforward language. They give background, explain the claim, cite facts along with the source they got it from, and wrap it up in a conclusion. When things are clear and concise like this, it is very difficult to lie. I like credible sources, not just mystery “unnamed” people “close to” a situation like what happens all the time in mainstream media. I like to know where the information came from. Ballotpedia will also tell me which elections are coming up so that I have time to prepare for them.

I like being able to hold people accountable as well. If one of my officials isn’t voting how they claimed they would, both sites give me different ways to contact them and find out why. I can also call them prior to a vote and let my voice be heard. Democracy is a process. It only works for you if you participate in that process.