December 5th, 2019

“Maayong Buntag!” or “Good Morning” in Cebuano as spoken in Northern Mindanao.

I got most of the framing done on my back yard project this week. It’s starting to look like what I have in my head. It appears to be going pretty well as my waste pile only includes a few extra “do over” pieces.

I know that many, if not most, consider Walmart (or Wally World as I call it) the devil’s demon sent down to kill all small businesses, but I continue to grow more impressed with that business. I have noticed a trend or what appears to be a trend in their business model. On several occasions, I have noticed evidence that customer value as big part of their plan – not just convenience but real value. Here are a couple of examples: I have mentioned that I noticed the price of some staples that I buy going down at Wally World. My family loves nachos so we purchase grated sharp Cheddar cheese fairly often. This week, Walmart lowered the price of our cheese again, We also like 2 kinds of coffee in our family, espresso (notice no “x” spelling fans!) and regular coffee made in a French press. Walmart created their own brand of coffee (in fact, several varieties) that tastes as good but is significantly less expensive than the others available. Inversely, Walmart made their own version of those chocolate peanut butter bars (Nuttybars) but evidently found that they could not offer their version less expensively than the original and so discontinued the product. At first, I was leery of their “house” brand products and have bought some of them just the one time but by and large, I have found their products to be excellent lower priced alternatives to named brands. I understand how they do it and again, am impressed. They cut out a lot of production costs but the leverage their existing distribution infrastructure and advertising costs much further than any individual brand can. This kind of “be the cheapest guys on the block thinking” is not new but doing it well by offering high quality competitive products is. The Walmart brand is essentially “Woolworths” on steroids. Woolworths kept trying to be competitive and profitable by focusing on production savings.. buying products produced in low labor cost locations as alternatives to higher cost American products. But by focusing on only driving down production costs, their product quality suffered as did their marketshare. Walmart is not making that mistake. They are driving costs out of all aspects of their business model and passing at least some of those savings on as lower costs for their customers without sacrificing product quality for the most part.

This week I learned some stuff:
• Between the backyard projects and trying to get ready for Christmas 2 weeks early to be ready for TX I am not afforded the same time to allocate to the UJT Update as usual. I also wish to give every one a heads up, There will be no UJT updates for 12/11, 12/18, 12/25, 12/31 or 1/7/2020 as I will not have the infrastructure on the road in TX or time to produce them. The UJT Update will be back in production on January 14, 2020.
• December 5th is the 339th day of the year (leaving only 20 days till Christmas!). On this day in1847, Jefferson Davis the soon to be president of the Confederacy, took his seat in the House of Representatives for Mississippi ; In1933, the twenty first amendment to the US Constitution was ratified (Happy days are here again!); It was in 1936 tha the USSR was formed; In 1952, a cold fog descends upon London, combining with air pollution and killing at least 12,000 in the weeks and months that follow; On this day in 1955 the AFL-CIO was founded; In 1964, For his heroism in battle earlier in the year, Captain Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam war; Born in 1822, Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, American philosopher and academic, co-founded Radcliffe College; In 1901, Walt Disney, American animator, director, producer, and screenwriter, co-founded The Walt Disney Company; In 1932, Little Richard, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actor was born; In 1969, Morgan J. Freeman, American director, producer, and screenwriter was born; On this day in 1926, Claude Monet, French Paiter, passed away; In 1951, the world lost Shoeless Joe Jackson, American baseball player and manager; Al Gore’s dad, Albert Gore Sr. American lawyer and politician, passed away on this day in 1998; On this day in 2010, we lost Don Meredith, American Football Player, Sportscaster and actor.

Website Update:
• Last week for the “New” Vocabulary Quiz!
• The Music Triva quiz will be back in 2020.
• I put up a couple of new recipes that I think you might enjoy. Try the Sesame Stir-Fried Pork and Shiitakes or the Angel Hair Pasta with Mushrooms and Capers. I think you will find that both are very tasty.

Writing, Ceramics and Painting Update:
• With the backyard project and the fact that we had no classes during the Thanksgiving holiday week, I didn’t do much painting or ceramics this week.
• Grandpa Stories is still not re-published.

• For a mission oriented geek like me, there are two very tough things for me to deal with. The worst one is helplessness. I hate knowing something is wrong, perhaps see a solution but for various reasons feel helpless to engage. The second one, is the loss of mission. I feel lost without a hill to climb or a wrong to right or a goal to accomplish. So far, I have been creative enough to overcome these obstacles to find happy moments most of the time. It helps to have reasonable expectations, as well. Let’s face it, I am not as strong, smart or creative as I once was. That’s not to say, I became any dumber or lazy… It’s just that some of my sharp edges are more subtle and rounded in places. It took me years to get this way and I am trying to enjoy it but I get a little panic stricken during those moments when I feel helpless or have lost my mission. The good news is that it doesn’t happen very often.

Music Update:

I have no theme in mind for this weeks UJT Radio Selection. These are just a few of the musical textures that enrich our lives so much. Ain’t Life Grand!!!

Go to this week’s UJT Radio program.
• The Allman Brothers Band — One Way Out— Greg Allman had one of the very best blues voices in the business. I first heard this on their “Eat A Peach” album released in 1972. I got to see them do it live too but Duane was gone by then. Dicky Betts and Warren Hayses did a great job but I always regretted not seeing Duane.
• Blodwyn Pig – Dear Jill — From the Vinyl!!!! This is a deep cut from their “Ahead Rings Out” album, released in 1969. Mick Abrams, who was the original guitar player for Jethro Tull, founded this band when he wanted to focus on rock and blues and Ian Anderson wanted to go a different way. I love the guitar work on this one.
• Crosby, Still, Nash & Young — Pre-Road Downs (Live) — A live and deep cut from their “4 Way Street” album released in 1971.
• Tommy Bolin – Savanah Woman– This song was a deep cut from his “Teaser Deluxe” release posthumously in 2011. This kid had it all, except for the ability to stay alive through his dumb-ass years.
• Shane Smith and the Saints — Coast — Another one from a couple of years ago but I just really like these boys from Austin, TX and I hope you do too.
• Shawn Mullins — Soul Child — I featured this song on the UJT radio the last time in 2017. I am kind of proud that I was able to hold out for this long. From his, “Soul Core” album released in 1998, it came up on the rotation this week and I just had to share it again. I LOVE this guy’s songs, voice and music!! This one that I LOVE to sing along with…. “You never know till you try…”
• Elton John — Love Song — This one comes from his 1971 Tumbleweed Connection album. This song didn’t really fit on the album. It is a love song written by Lesley Duncan. All the others on the album are more story telling songs written by Elton and Bernie Taupin. This is just a beautiful song sung beautifully.

That’s it… Do the best you can;  Laugh every chance you get;  And always remember …  The best is yet to come!  As always, thank you for being my friend!