Should we use food grains to create gasoline?


As someone who grew up in the farming community (dairyman’s son), I have a passing acquaintance with some of the agricultural issues of the day. Thus I have heard the talk, back and forth, about the pros and cons of using ethanol from grain as an energy source.

Which is why I found this video from the Peterson Farm Bros an interesting take on the process.

One of the chief complaints made about ethanol is that it is creating food scarcity by using food for fuel. In their video, the Petersons make the case that it actually benefits both the food supply and the fuel supply.

Ethanol is created by the fermentation of sugars. Most of those sugars are gotten from various grain crops. The demand for ethanol increases the demand for the crops it is made from. This increases the price of those crops, making them more profitable for the farmers to grow.

But besides benefiting crop farmers, it also benefits livestock farmers. Livestock farmers use the byproducts of the ethanol process, called DDGs. I looked up the definition:

Distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are the nutrient rich co-product of dry-milled ethanol production. Its utilization as a feed ingredient is well documented as both an energy and a protein supplement.

How does this work? The ethanol plant uses the starch from the plants to create the energy in the fuel for cars and other vehicles. The livestock farmers use the protein from the plants, now concentrated in the DDGS, to supplement the feed they are giving their livestock.

This cycling of the byproducts back into livestock production efficiently ensures that all parts of the plant are used, and nothing wasted, by the production of ethanol.

Besides the benefit to farmers, it also benefits consumers. It reduces dependency on foreign oil and is a renewable  sustainable energy source. It does not take food away from people or livestock



“The World Series is baseball…”


That is what started a very interesting lunch conversation I had today at Worlds of Fun. Unbenownst to me, the initial speaker had seen a poster behind me about “The World Series of Barbecue”, and had used that to spark his initial statement.

This led to a conversation about baseball, and how the World Series actually is just the United States, well, maybe Canada as well, there is a team or two there (you can tell how little about sports I know). The original speaker mentioned Japan also playing  baseball, to which I said, it might be a good thing we don’t play them, they might beat us in the world series. LOL

Which spun the topic to the question of Japan. We compared the responses of China and Japan to the pushes by the West to open both of them to Western trade.  China resisted, and events were forced in without their control. Japan was forced open, but greeted it and learned. We discussed how well Japan maintained its own culture while assimilating the technology and many cultural things from the west. With my family’s interest in Japanese anime, we noted how well they blended a uniquely Japanese outlook with many Western images and themes in the movies we watch.

One we watched today, “From Up On Poppy Hill”, had some significant sections of the movie where the theme music was this excellent American-style jazz music, but it worked very well in the flow of the movie, done in a uniquely Japanese way.

We reflected this back to the United States, with how it assimilated people and ideas from many different cultures into the unique freedom of the American experience.

I also reflected to the county of India, and its use of assimilation: How it took the influences of its colonial British masters and used them to pull together all the languages and cultures of the Indian Subcontinent, in a very Indian way, to form a very functional, diverse, secular representative state — in its own way more amazing than the assimilation and diversity of the United States.

And yet, even so, the United States is unique. The United States is an idea. You can be French, or German, or Japanese, or even Indian, without believing anything specific. You cannot be American, truly American, without believing a certain overarching gestalt.  People come to the United States, add their uniqueness, and join our gestalt about what it means to be free. Thus, we are threatened, subtly and invisibly, to the core when people come live in our territory but refuse to become a part of the gestalt. That is what may one day truly unwind the Republic — a lack of belief.

As you can see, this wasn’t a tight logical syllogism, but a general bouncing from principles of related concepts into a generalized whole.

I posited the fact that our unique freedom of ideas brought creative people from all over the world to the USA to try out their ideas and make them a success. Not that many didn’t do the same in their home countries, but other countries didn’t have the same influx of people for that reason.

I also posited that, while many people claimed that we impoverished the world and hogged all the wealth to ourselves, that the truer answer is that our exchanges of wealth with the rest of the world grew their economies, and lifted people out of poverty to a greater degree of affluence than they ever had. The metaphor/phrase “a rising tide lifts all ships” was mentioned.

Then we used the idea of ships differently. If the ship of our economy flounders or sinks, too many others sink with it. Our actions have consequences, and while an “America First” policy sounds good, it is only good if it recognizes the secondary effects we have on other people.

I illustrated, through the smaller example of our family, how taking care of oneself is important to be able to take care of others. As the father I need to take care of myself so I can provide for the rest. The hunters in the tribe ate first, so they might have strength to catch the food to feed the rest. But it was a necessity of service that provides for self first, not anything of better stature.

Then we brought it back around to how we need to be very conscious of the secondary effects of our actions. As the big economy in the world, we can’t do anything without consequences, nor can we just withdraw from the world. Not that we couldn’t learn to be a little more circumspect in how we intervene or not. It is too easy to be the giant in the playground, doing things to make ourselves feel good, while actually making things worse. Just because something sounds good, looks good, doesn’t mean it is good, or doesn’t have bad unintended consequences.

We discussed the concept of the “superior American” who goes around the world looking down on everyone else. I mentioned that many of the British at the height of their empire had the same thing. But our real attitude should be one where we feel, we know, we are unique because of our idea, our gestalt, but at the same time not look down on others because they aren’t Americans.

As I said above, America is different from the world, being an idea. I don’t think we realize how that makes us different: we see the world differently than they see us. There are many ways we just don’t understand each other, while being absolutely sure that we do.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, when we remember those who laid down their lives so we might be free, along with all our other loved ones who went before, let us be ever mindful, let us be serious, about the idea that is America, and not too serious about ourselves at the same time. And let us realize that we do live in a different world from the other countries of this globe, a world of ideas has been changing this globe for the past three centuries and hopefully will continue to do so for another three.

We see … and do not see …


I recall the talks I have had with my daughter about her powers of observation. She sees a lot of things we do not, yet some of the things we expect her to see she does not.

We attend the same places over and over again. We go to the park, to the same restaurants, to church, etc., with the same service people. But she does not notice or recognize the same people who wait on her day after day, even though many of those people recognize and greet her with familiarity.

I have encouraged my family to be aware of the people around them, and to notice the people who work for them and serve them. Showing these people recognition, the often unrecognized, is an important part of humanizing them and the interactions we have with them.

And while I point out this lack of observation on my daughter’s part, I also will admit to places where I similarly miss observations, or mis-interpret them.

In my runs and bike rides around my neighborhood, I have come across cars with people resting in them. Based on their conditions, and repetitions of sightings, I have wondered, finally, after time, whether some of these people might actually be living in these vehicles..

But if so, what would/should my response be? Or am I mis-interpreting these observations?

There is always a lot going on around us, and what we see, and how we see it, can be very important. We can be like my daughter, who seems to miss the people. Or we can be like me, seeing something, uncertain what it means, or what to do.

Even worse, can be the people who see, who observe, and who decide for themselves what is going on and treat those people that way, without realizing what is really going on with them. Speaking for someone who does not want to be spoken for, in a way they don’t want to be represented, is even worse than missing them entirely.

One can observe and do good, by really seeing the person. One can observe and choose a “good” that isn’t good, by seeing a type, a group, a class, and ignoring the person himself for the good one has already decided is needed.


“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast” … Proverbs 12:10


We have domesticated beasts, and we have beasts in the “wild” around us. Man takes a role of steward of both, especially as our habitats start to surround those of the “wild” instead of the other way around.

I remember growing up on the dairy, and the way dad cared for the cattle, nursing the cows and calves. I can also remember our part of the “circle of life” each fall, when we climbed the back hill, when of age, during the fall season, and sat and waited to hunt the deer. Many a time when a shot hit, and the animal was hurt, it as a responsibility to follow the animal, track it, and ensure it didn’t end its life in undue misery. As much as lieth in us, we took responsibility to ensure that any suffering necessary was swift and limited.

Today I don’t live on the farm, in the country in Upstate New York. I live in the suburban sections of the city of Kansas City, MO. We have a lot of “wildlife” in our suburban neighborhoods. Squirrels, woodchucks, deer, continue to grow and multiply, becoming less frightened and moving closer to the people.

On my ride to work on Friday, I turned the corner from Walker Road to Armour Road in North Kansas City, when I saw a deer a few yards ahead of me on the shoulder I ride to work on the part of the road. I thought it was dead, kneeling on all four of its legs, but then I saw its ears flap faintly, and move its head slightly.

The deer had obviously been hit, but I didn’t see a vehicle nearby. It couldn’t have been a long time ago, since the deer was still alive. Since there was no car,no humans to be concerned about, my thought went to how I could help the deer, put it out of its misery.

Since my route goes by the North Kansas City city hall, with the police department headquarters, I rode my bike up to the door and tried to enter. It was locked, and if there was a call button of some sort, I couldn’t find it. Looking through the class to the police window, I couldn’t see the presence of any officers. So I had to leave and head to work.

It wasn’t until this week that I found a police officer at a light, and flagged him to tell him about the dead deer, which by this time was bloated with legs sticking out. He asked where it was, and I told him, and he said he would call the Department of Conservation to take care of it. So I guess they are the ones that take care of deer. I’m not sure if they take care of dogs, possum, squirrels,  etc. And I still don’t know how to contact them.


We get disconnected from things like these, have people who do stuff for us so we don’t think, and soon we aren’t a part of nature anymore, so our “stewardship” gets full of crazy “green” ideas not associated with reality, or regarding the life of  man and beast.

Densel Ray Ball II: A Demi-Eulogy


Today’s post is going to be a very dangerous one. For while I won’t be speaking evil of the dead, I may not be speaking with high enough praise to satisfy everyone.

The deceased, Densel Ray Ball II, was a dear friend of mine, though definitely others knew him better and closer. My choices, and those of my family, took us out of his closer orbit, but still left my son and I within the greater orbit of his friendship.

Densel passed away on April 27, following complications from an automobile accident on the afternoon of April 21. He left behind his wife of 21 years, Denise, and two children, Jacqueline and Ty.scan0004

The service, as all funerals and eulogies tend to be, praised the man highly, as was true and right. People talked of his faith, of his care for others, the way he walked with his head up, reaching out to those around him. They portrayed the truth of his faithfulness: to his God, to his Family, to his Church, to his friends and fellowman.

I first knew Densel when he came to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church as pastor. We were between two churches, deciding which one to attend, and eventually chose the other church (close and specific programs). But we kept track of friends at Cornerstone through Facebook, and eventually when they started a men’s breakfast, my son and I started attending, and renewed old and developed new friendships.

And Densel was there, and I renewed friendship with him, and found his care and reach deepen with me and my son.

I also saw how he reached out to the staff at the restaurant, first at Home Town Buffet, and then Golden Corral. The way he observed everyone and reached out, and prayed for everyone, really was true.


The amazing thing about it, was that once he established the connection, the rest of us, less open to reach out, learned and grew to continue the connection on the times he wasn’t there. He was faithful, seeing Christ in everyone, and he taught us all to learn how to do the same.

Yet, with all that, there was also another side to Densel. The oblivious side. Because that demeanor to reach out to everyone, doesn’t work for everyone. My wife never felt comfortable with it, and Densel never seemed to realize that fact, never changed or modified himself to meet her that way. Because of his obliviousness to who she was, she was never really able to get along with him. Likewise, for myself, I had personal reservations at the start, especially because of the way it caused dissonance in my family, and it took the time of a different angle for it to merge and grow on me, for me to be able to grow and gain an appreciation for his ministry and style, as I kept my own, while learning from him.

One other thing the funeral service did for me, was make me acutely aware of how far I felt myself fall from the standard Densel portrayed of faithfulness and selflessness. It did not bring me to despair, because it also emphasized the role of Christ’s love and mercy for us to be able to become new creatures, and experience and practice that faithfulness.


The service also showed me how many people were touched by Densel, and I saw people I didn’t know knew him, and we all realized how much the body of Christ is one body, but many members.

A day in the life … but not just any day


Today’s post will be snippets of my life from yesterday day, with thoughts and observations therefrom. It was my 51st birthday.

Yesterday began with a trip to our “local” IKEA store in Merriam, KS. My wife and I arrived prior to the 9:30 a.m. opening of the store. The sliding doors to the store weren’t activated yet, and they were still locked.

We went to the Cafe for breakfast. IKEA has their cheap breakfast for $1 that we both usually get, but since it was my birthday I splurged a whole extra dollar and got the Swedish-American breakfast for $2. The crepes and the ligonberry jelly were a special treat, but not something I think I need to get every time I go to IKEA.

We did our usual wandering through the display floor, and discussed a lot of ideas from their small house models for the intended renovations of our our house “when we have money”. It is always funny how much fun there can be in envisioning potential futures for our house.

The one thing we did look to purchase was a light fixture for the son’s room. We looked at a lot of fancy fixtures, and then found a simple fixture that seemed nice — but we couldn’t figure out where the bulb screwed into it, and couldn’t find any of the GX53 bulbs that it said it took. So eventually we found an even simpler model that used regular screw-in bulbs.

From IKEA it was to the Wellness Center at work for Yoga Class. It was a day off work, but it was also the first day for the new Yoga Instructor, and I am glad I went to class: I learned at least one new thing — that will probably take me a few months to actually do right, of course.

From that it was on to lunch at 54th St. Grill. We had a $10 off coupon for a bill of at least $25. So we went by the prices on the menu and added up a nice lunch that added up to $25.08. But when the bill came out, it was $24.71. One of the items was a different price. Yet they took the coupon.

The day ended with a visit to the chiropractor, who adjusted another tense muscle throwing off my left leg, and then off to Festival Foods for supper — picking up their Monday chicken dinner specials.

I almost forgot the crowning event of the birthday: the cake baked by my daughter, presented with lighted candles. The candles were reused ones from years of birthdays — They got their final use, Monday, for my 51st cake.


The bounty of cultural appropriation


I am sitting here this evening among the bounty of our nation and my lifestyle. I am not rich, yet the things I have on not even a middle-class income today are more than a king of the Renaissance would have. Even most poor Americans of our day have items that the rich didn’t have at the start of the previous century.

But what I am thinking about today, is the bounty we have in what our connections to the world have given us culturally. Many naysayers have talked about the evil of “cultural appropriation”. What I think about is the benefits of diversity: what we learn and acquire from each other.

Right now we are watching Avatar: The Legend of Korra via Amazon Prime. Previously we had watched Avatar: the Last Airbender via Amazon Prime. The show is just one of many that represents the cultural concepts of other cultures. Once again, the naysayers would talk about how that hurts the cultures being “acquired”. But they have it wrong.

In the Last Airbender there is this excellent scene where Aang learns about the Chakras:

One of my friends from India posted on his Facebook about how it was one of the best explanations of the Chakras. All this “cultural appropriation” is a form of cultural exchange, of cultural sharing, of communication and building of understanding.

The naysayers to cultural appropriation are the ones that  want to keep us divided for their purposes. The ones who use it with the desire to learn, bring us together, and make this a greater, better world.