Worried About Toilet Paper? Take a Breath and Look at The Big Picture

Did I ever tell you about my time in Pakistan and the guy whose job it was to scoop shit out of a port-a-john?

In 2005, I was on deployment in the western pacific and I got to be part of a multi-national military effort providing disaster relief to Pakistan. Devastating earthquakes had rocked the country, and the US was tasked with leading the relief effort. As a very junior officer at the time, this was quite an opportunity for me not only to travel to another country, but to spend about four months living with a group of people who hadn’t had Americans in their country for a few decades.

People who lived a very different way of life than my cushy American upbringing.

Not only did the joint efforts help with food, supplies, temporary housing (many homes in northern Pakistan were built in to the hillsides and thus destroyed), but we also brought out and deployed Army and Marine hospital units. We even had one or two full-blown MASH units that provided surgical care, trauma centers, dental care, and more.

I remember at one point people bringing reports and commentary back from those field hospitals. Many of the people they were seeing and treating said they had NEVER received care like this. Nor even had the option for care like this.

Before these MASH hospitals…before the world’s disaster relief efforts came to town…before the earthquake, many of these Pakistanis had never even seen a dentist, a pediatrician, or a doctor period.

This earthquake was estimated to have killed over 70,000 people and left close to 4 million homeless.

Think about that. And we have these MASH units ready to go in our backyard.

The Big Picture

image via wikipedia

Step back and take a look at your house, community, city, state, country…compared to other parts of the world. Don’t just look at other “advanced” countries. Remember there are “emerging” and “developing” countries as well.

For this report we grouped countries into three economic categories: “advanced,” “emerging” and “developing.” These categories are fairly common in specialized and popular discussions and are helpful for analyzing how public attitudes vary with economic circumstances. However, no single, agreed upon scheme exists for placing countries into these three categories. For example, even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund do not always agree on how to categorize economies.

—Pew Research

Take a quick look at this 2019 report from the United Nations. It lists the various country classifications with slightly different terms but the same concepts. There are large parts of this world that aren’t worried about the local store running out of toilet paper.

They just want to be able to eat with a roof over their head.

Or get paid to scoop shit out of a port-a-john.

Back to that Deployment

I wasn’t exaggerating about that. The local contractors that were hired when I first showed up outside of Islamabad, helped with some basic facility support. We were essentially camping out for a few months next to an ad hoc airport. We had the military tents, gear, and people…and they provided things like port-a-johns, water supply, some transportation, etc.

One day I was sitting, eating an MRE, and saw a gentlemen with a large ladle looking thing…almost like a shovel but the end was larger, flatter, rounder. Then I saw him start scooping shit…out of the portable outhouses we had been using.

This contractor didn’t have large trucks that could suck all that stuff up in to the back to later dispose of it at a treatment facility. These guys had to scoop the shit out before they got all the rest of the blackwater out!

Needless to say I lost my appetite for that MRE.

That give you a different outlook on your toilet paper tensions?

Values

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

I have always appreciated the perspective that being in the military gives me. For some reason, I don’t talk much about my work here. Most likely because I normally see this site (and my past websites) as an avenue for me to express myself and my interests outside of work.

However, I would be doing a disservice to those who read this to pretend that my work is not a big part of who I am. I got to college, met my wife, and have a career…all because of the US Navy.

I have taken courses on leadership, ethics, thermodynamics (unfortunately), constitutional law, engineering, joint military operations, and national security. Leaders throughout my career have taught me humility, selfless service, hard work, sacrifice, harder work, and core values of “honor, courage, and commitment”.

Take Comfort in Your Leadership

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am writing to my fellow Americans, but I hope that this can speak to those beyond our nation’s boarders. Yesterday I wrote about companies that are closing up but still paying employees, three days ago there was an Italian opera singer who serenaded his neighbors, professional photographers are giving away their paid courses for free, and so much more!

I can only assume that if you a re reading this, you probably don’t have it that bad.

YES – doing what you can to prevent further COVID 19 spread is important.

YES – take your local authorities seriously

YES – do your part

But please, step back….look at the big picture….and know that you are ok.

I trust our leaders have our best interests at heart and I know (for a fact) that they are working around the clock to make sure that people are taken care of. Those leaders that taught me how to lead, to serve, to be a man of honor…many of them are retired and work in government now. As a collective, our representatives and leaders will help us through this and we will be ok.

And please, don’t sweat the toilet paper.

At least you’re not scooping shit out of a port-a-john.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

COVID-19 Secondary Effect: Reduced Air Pollution Due to Reduced Global Activity

Never would have thought about this kind of secondary effect…

Kottke.org found an interesting article with a different look at the secondary effects of COVID-19:

Stanford professor Marshall Burke, who does research on the social and economic impacts of environmental change, wrote a post about how the decrease in economic activity in China due to COVID-19 quarantine and other countermeasures resulted in a significant drop in air pollution, which Burke estimates will save more lives than deaths caused by COVID-19.

And his conclusion is not that viral pandemics are a net positive for the world (you will see people naively arguing this, siding a little too closely with a snapping Thanos for my comfort) but that situations like this remind us, as Burke summarized on Twitter: “the way our economies operate absent pandemics has massive hidden health costs”:

Not something I would have ever thought of.

Decrease in Economic Activity Due to COVID-19 Reduced Air Pollution and Saved Lives

What is in a Name?

A bit of a paint job…

There is something that I’ve always struggled with when writing or vlogging.

My name.

More specifically it has been attaching my name to whatever I am writing or vlogging about. Now your raised eyebrow or narrowing your eyes are warranted…because on a vlog my face is there…no hiding it…there I am, talking to you the whole time.

However, when my vlog was also Patagonia Dad, there was still anonymity. That comes with the incredible volume of videos on YouTube. Here on this site it is the same thing…what does Patagonia Dad really mean? It may mean something to me, but to be honest…that is difficult to convey to a passerby. There really is no “elevator pitch” that would generate interest when telling someone what Patagonia Dad means. I have a good explanation (I think) but when I ask myself, “how would I explain this to my uncle…or my cousin…or an old friend” then it kind of falls flat.

Sure I could try to explain the article that inspired this website name, or the fact that many of my friends know that I am an absolute sucker for almost anything Patagonia (the company) makes…but those aren’t the people that might be clicking on a link to this website.

Scott from California

I changed the name of my vlog to Scott from California because I felt it personalized and explained it a bit more. Or rather…explained me a bit more. Since I am the vlog it made a bit more sense…and that “elevator pitch” is almost unnecessary. The name says it up front…this is about a guy “Scott” and he’s “from California”.

Whether you find that interesting or not, at least you kinda know what it’s about. And to be honest, the fact that California is a well known place throughout the world…and known for many things…doesn’t hurt.

Probably Overthinking It

Does this name change help this website? I honestly have no idea…and right now it’s only the URL that has changed (both still work)…but I have always tried to treat my websites as a place for me to do what I like. Just like a house you own and you feel like painting it…a name change can be much the same.

In the end it comes down to good content that people find interesting. So don’t go anywhere…this is gonna get interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is officially Thanksgiving.

I hope that you get to spend some time with friends or family.

Make sure you ignore your email and silence your work phone since time off is good for your brain.

Last, I want you to know I am thankful for you. I try to make your time on this website valuable and I appreciate each like, comment, share, and more.

God bless.

Scott

I Figured out Why Kids Don’t Eat the Crust

Lessons from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Lessons from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich


There are many things that kids do that confound us. As a parent, I often look at my kids sideways, wondering why they thought it was a good idea to see mud and head straight for it, why they think that dipping cheetos in chocolate milk will make them taste better, or why they diligently avoid the crust of any sandwich they eat.

Today it hit me…

They’re Going Straight For The Flavor

I was standing there watching my daughter eat a bagel with peanut butter, getting it all over her face. After I had wiped her face a couple times, I gave up – waiting for her to finish before I went in with another wipe. As she chomped away, her eyes were focused; she was determined to get to the heart of the semi-melted peanut butter bagel that held her attention like no preschool teacher ever could.

All she could think about in that moment was how good that peanut butter was going to be and again how good it was while she was eating it. Nothing else. She could have had peanut butter from her lips to her ear lobes and she would still be happy.

Which led me to my second realization…

They Don’t Stress The Mess

A couple days ago my oldest had jelly from his pb&j on his ear and either had no idea or didn’t care. His first priority was not making sure he looked good or wasn’t messy, he was enjoying the moment. He wasn’t really avoiding the crust of his sandwich, he was just going straight for the flavor, and not stressing the mess. No inner voice saying “Look at your face man!! You look like you rubbed an uncrustable all over it!”.

He was all in on that pb&j…not a care in the world about the somewhat superfluous things that adults care about.

Two Lessons From A PB&J

Think about those two things.

  • Go straight for the flavor
  • Don’t stress the mess

How many places in your adult life do you think you could apply those two lessons? The next time you plan a family fun night…a trip…a kid’s sleepover?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that as we gain more responsibility, it becomes harder for us to let go – because we know that we have to do the “adulting” on the backend of any event, big or small – sandwich or family vacation. However, thinking about everything you have to clean up or do afterwards often takes away from your ability to enjoy the moment. Hell, sometimes I end up not enjoying it at all…I don’t get any flavor from the peanut butter and jelly of life! That’s no way to live.

So what do you do?

You step back, self-reflect, decide to change, then change. Next time you take your kids out you go straight for that flavor and don’t stress the mess.

I know that I may be stretching my illustration a bit…but I think next time I eat a pb&j…I won’t eat the crust.

Links of the Week (8/19/2019)

Reading material for the week:

I’ll try to give you a list like this each Monday…let me know if you like them!