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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why a Recession and Job Change Can Be a GOOD Thing

There is such a thing as a silver lining, even in a global recession. Lucky for us, a recession and a job change can be a good thing, if you think about it.

I have a friend whose TV career became an unemployment ticket to nowhere. Recently he announced that he had stated a video service to make videos of loved ones for families – like a grandmother or grandfather talking about their life that their kids and grandkids can replay in the future when that is all they have for a memory. For the first time in years, he sounds excited.

He’s now an entrepreneur in the Midwest, like the guy who returned to his village in Mexico after his U.S. job dried up. Now he’s helping build jobs in Mexico where none had existed before. That will bring new life to Mexico’s economy, which needs to offer jobs that involve more options than working for a cartel.
The experience immigrants gained in the U.S. is now benefiting their home country, if given the chance.

I went through this during the Texas bust of the 80’s –only then it was one state instead of the entire planet. But it worked out. During that long period of unemployment I learned to survive as an entrepreneur and started up the first of several businesses. Those long quiet moments lead to time to write a book –about a potential terrorist attack on the U.S. That was just before Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991 and the WTC bombing of 1993. Had I not been laid off, I never would have had time to think about it and would not have written about it.

That led to a stint as a TV terrorism analyst on 9/11 and that lead to my getting into a security technology that protects people and their property. That has put me in a situation where my business is growing wildly at a time when most are struggling. The layoff of many years ago led to this zig-zag ladder up to a better situation.

This recession will end up doing the same for others who find old jobs disappearing. Will they really miss working a meat packing line versus building solar panels and wind turbines? Being out of work is an opportunity to get a higher education. Another friend who was laid off was able to get financing to buy the pet store where she once worked. That is a step up, and it took access to capital to make it happen.

People are going to be doing something new in the new economy that emerges from the ashes of over-consumption and a regulatory system that is not based on “anything goes.” Americans need a reset in our values. It’s not all about how much money we make or how much food we eat. It’s about making a living in new ways and doing something to benefit the larger community as well. One of those community services was yesterday’s “Trash Bash” to clean up our beaches near Kemah/Seabrook, etc. It includes Rotary’s “Books for the World” program that takes us outside our obsessive focus on ourselves and includes the world. The Lions have a program to supply eyeglasses to poor people worldwide.

Everyone is getting back to earth on their spending habits. The Wall Street types who forgot that have seen that the public isn’t going to tolerate someone taking millions in bonuses for crashing the ship into an iceberg.
For too long everyone who could over consumed. The silver lining is that this recession will help restore some values and moderation in our habits, along with new job skills and greater appreciation for friends, family and a helpful government whose job is to provide some life boats and repair money to fix the ship’s damaged economic system.

It is a messy process and a hard one, but like Pearl Harbor, we can rebuild a stronger and better society as a result of this experience.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rainbow over Kemah Bridge

We had a fierce rain about 6 pm - then this rainbow broke out over Kemah Bridge.

Nice end to a busy week.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homeland Security

I just wrapped a homeland security event in San Antonio. It was incredible.

I learned from one source that our latest F-22 fighter has been compromised by an idiot (a Colonel no less) who apparently had no brain and was posting information about the F22 program on a blog! He was even answering questions like: "How fast a missile will it outrun?" Doh!

It makes the whole program scrap metal - The Chinese and Russians already know how to defeat it. The only option is to make something much better and quit wasting money on a compromised program - all because of one bozo who just had to show how smart he was.

I also discovered our film would protect troops in a way that still has not been addressed even after six years in Iraq. They wear those wrap around dark glasses for a reason. More on that later.

I have to drive several hours to the next meeting today...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Texas Lags in Key Technology

I'm in Corpus Christi, where I just gave a talk on solar security window film as a replacement for shutters.

I am finding that Texas lags Florida in this vital protective technology. Even in Corpus, few of the people that I talked to knew of this technology and its many-faceted benefits, from UV protection 24/7 to Hurricanes and Energy Savings.

I was one of the speakers at their Green show at the Ortiz Convention Center. Very impressive facility. It seems to be something old made better into something new. As I walked in, a ship sailed past the parking lot, so close it seemed you could touch it on the way by. Very relaxed and friendly environment.

On the local morning news, I saw a program how Corpus news thinks McAllen is the city that REALLY has it together- with leadership that has a consensus, a time line, and people responsible. Very interesting to see how other folks view other folks.

Despite Florida having a lot of knowledge about security window film replacing shutters and impact glass, few in Texas that I have talked to have been aware of it before I came along -- and I have now talked to many a Mayor, Judge, etc. I am beginning to feel like the Pied Piper of Security Window Film. It's all about taking knowledge and applying it to protect people.

The thing that keeps coming up, on top of security from storms, is the HEAT coming through windows . So more and more the choice is SOLAR and SECURITY film combined. It makes sense when you live on a hot coast for sure. Cutting 70% of the solar heat means the power bill goes down.

I am doing a Green Show, a Homeland Security Show and a Hurricane Show - that is how cool this technology is --it fits so many categories and at a fraction of the cost of the alternatives who don't do anything like it.

It's dry here in Corpus- it was BROWN the entire way. I saw no wild flowers whatsoever. They need RAIN here.

There here are a "million" families with kids here --lucky me. I hit spring break mayhem.

It seemed half of them were loudly and happily sounding off on their spring break into the early morning hours below my balcony. Fun kid noises. Yep. I stumbled into a spring breakathon. It was ok. Kind of funny really. The biggest pain was the 45 minutes it took to get checked in. All of us stood in a none-moving line as swarms of T Shirts streamed by, proclaiming "We Don't Just Bring It, We Lift it" and other causes that seem like a blur now. You just have to chill out and laugh when it happens.

The aircraft carrier (Lexington?) is berthed nearby. I can see fighters on its deck from our parking garage. I would love to see it but to do it right takes hours, and time is short. It is an incredible sight to see from the nearby hotels.

Tomorrow I am off to San Antonio and Homeland Security. Not only save energy, but save your butt from an explosion. It is our film that is on the Department of Energy in DC.

Hurricane season starts again June 1.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

G20 in a G200 World - Stopping Future Global Ponzi schemes

It is time for a global solution to a global problem - the current economic cliffhanger.

The world's richest nations, the so-called G20, are meeting to do a lot of talking but not much doing to fix the mess.

The Bernie Madoffs and the Allen Stanfords can set up and operate Ponzi schemes, using places like Antigua as a haven, because there is no global financial structure. There are no checks-and-balances. Offshore banking, as it exists today, allows tax fraud, drug dealers and Ponzi operators to thrive.

I've been to the Cayman Islands and seen the small brass plates on doors that are supposed to represent a legitimate offshore company, but that's all of the company you'll see. It is nothing more than a small brass plate. If you pay the corporation fees the offshore corporation is the key to an offshore bank account. U.S. companies have been using it as a tax dodge without even moving their headquarters. How patriotic is that?

All offshore accounts really do is cheat the American taxpayer who is paying his or her fair share of taxes. Those setting up offshore accounts aren't paying anything. Instead, they are using these vehicles to hide income (or Ponzi loot) in places like the Caymans or one of the dozens of other havens around the world. They are also convenient for drug dealers to hide their money. They serve no useful purpose in legitimate business since Americans are taxed on their worldwide income (the British only tax income generated in the UK).

There needs to be a world financial system that is connected, instead of the current non-system consisting of no rules. In the old days, the bank robbers escaped the Sheriff by riding over the border into Mexico; now they do it by going to Liechtenstein, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caymans, etc.

What someone needs to say is that it is time to grow up and realize that a G20 in a world of nearly 200 countries needs to become a G200 -- in which we have worldwide standard international rules that make it difficult for international criminals and drunk Wall Street hedge fund operators to play games with the stability of our economic system.

It is part of the AIG problem as well - when our own executives are so blind to reality that they pay millions in bonuses to the same people that got us into this mess, and after taxpayers have floated them billions. These people are not irreplaceable. No one is. They created this financial 'black hole' of global scale.

I once heard about a Chinese saying that goes something like: "You have to kill a monkey to scare the chickens." Or in other words, to prevent more bad behavior some heads need to roll at AIG (not to mention GM and others).

Only seeing some real punishment will make others pause from writing themselves checks with taxpayer money, especially when they were the ones helping creating this global train wreck...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let it Rain

Finally, some rain. After a dry spell even the cold and wet is a welcome relief.

Today I'm helping load more books for shipment to kids in South Africa who don't have any. Americans feeling sorry for themselves need only look around the world to realize how lucky we are, even in a recession.

Yet they are ahead of us in some respects. At an international law seminar I heard a South African attorney describe the banking situation in South Africa. He said that, unlike U.S. and European banks who took big chances on derivatives, etc, banks in South Africa are relatively healthy because they stayed away from hedge funds, etc.

He has a point.

I also attended a GHP event on Singapore, which wants to be a key gateway to Asia. Other than Hong Kong, it is. They have $$$ and high technology and are looking for a way to combine ours with theirs. This is another way America can rebound--by becoming more international. A U.S. technology company that needs capital (and markets) could use their financing--and Asia would also be a market for many technologies, so it could be a two-way street.

That would also be better than the past model of shipping all our raw material to Asia to be returned as cars and computers, which we bought with borrowed money(mostly from China, who is worried about its $1 trillion investment in U.S. bonds).

We need a return to entrepreneurship and a global marketing perspective to really get us back in the global game as a leader.

A recession could have a positive fallout if it makes people realize that. If they don't, then the road down protectionism will be a classic repeat of the increased tariffs of the Hoover years that created the Great Depression.

Sometimes a recession and a layoff makes people think about stuff they never did before because they were too busy to think. Sometimes it provides a career change that ends up enriching your life.

Americans in the past decade got too used to the good times when you didn't have to think about survival. Over-consumption became the norm. At one point, Houston was the fattest city in the U.S. A recession has a way of correcting that problem.

A friend of mine in the Midwest, who was once a TV producer, is now a budding entrepreneur with a video service that gets grandparents and adults to tell their stories--which will be a cherished memory by their children when they are no longer with us. When he couldn't find a job, he created one.

I had to do the same during the Texas recession of the 80's. Millions more will find that creating your own job is better than waiting for one that you never get. In fact, I ended up creating several of them. I didn't become Bernie Madoff (thankfully) but I survived. One of them is growing like wildfire despite the economy. So it has opened new doors that never would be possible if a recession had not thrown me from my Fortune 500 comfort zone over two decades ago.

It won't be easy but it will make us a better country in the end.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deer and Kangaroos Jumping Through Windows

I just saw a story on BBC news about a couple of deer jumping through a window and running through a store in the UK. Last week I saw a BBC story on a kangaroo that jumped through a homeowner's window - and they had a major wrestling match to get him out.

In both cases it occurred to me that our security window film would have prevented the deer and kangaroo from breaking in, as it would have kept the crazy lady from jumping through the couple's window in Houston at 2 a.m. one night.

And it would keep out 99% of the UV killing grandma's picture and cut energy bills. It keeps reminding me how valuable our technology is to people's security.

Imagine your high-rise office suddenly being sucked into a black maelstrom during a future hurricane, and your computer hits someone on the head. You lose your data. They get injured. You are in serious do-do.

It turns out that the windows were just sucked out of buildings. Our bonding and film connects to the frame so that even if the window is broken by flying debris, it does NOT blow out and there is no breach. The film keeps you safe and dry instead of wet and/or dead. Had people been in those Chase tower offices when the windows blew out during IKE, THEY would have been sucked out along with their desks and files. Imagine being pulled into a free fall on a one-way ticket during the next storm. That is what office folks in high rises face unless and until our film is installed.

We were hired by a county today to do all their buildings.

An engineer with a name-brand oil company made the same decision today. I had never been so grilled on specifications on any deal to date. Well, after seeing all the choices, he picked us. Everything else was more expensive.

We just did a Sugar Land house for an international executive who moved from the Midwest before IKE--and rode it out wondering if his huge windows would fail. When we finished the job, his wife told me something I had never thought about. She was worried about mosquitoes coming through the broken windows after a storm--and she is allergic to them. Her fear is now gone. They can either shelter in place or leave and not worry about broken windows and water damage.

Hurricane season starts June 1. We can't repeal the law of geography. We will be as close to the coast this year as we were last year. For those who still scoff at climate change, read this. Hurricanes are mother nature's way of throwing off heat from the equator to the poles.

As it gets hotter, the storms get bigger or more frequent or both. That means that riding out future CAT 3-5 storms without window-breach protection is suicide. It is not wise, or smart. Plywood is so old century and sucks. Go to Home Depot and pick 1 sheet up. Only 1. HEAVY. Imagine trying to lug it up a ladder in high winds. Take it down and repeat for the next storm that either hits or misses. Dumb. Our tech works 24/7. Put it on and live your life and forget it--until it saves your butt in a future storm or keeps out a burglar.

Security is No. 1. Most people are not prepared. Do it before a Kangaroo jumps through your window...or another Hurricane blows in.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Ahead - Economically and otherwise

From my balcony and the first time all year, I spotted a sunbather lounging at the pool late Friday afternoon -- a sign that spring is near. For months the winds have been fierce, cold, and mostly dry. Today it is warm and calm, and still dry.

On a trip to Austin a week or so ago, I noticed how BROWN the country looked - a potential tinderbox. We are in a weather drought to go along with the financial drought that has swept the country but so far has missed Houston.

At an international law seminar this week, I asked a Department of Commerce official who has been in Houston 15 years whether more American companies were exporting compared to 20 years ago. Then it was only 1 in 10 that could export, did.

His answer: only 11% that could export do. There has been no change in the last 20 years in the percentage of American companies selling products internationally. Every one billion in exports creates at least 25,000 jobs right HERE. This is one area that could help us climb out of the current economic mess. The problem is that the markets are down worldwide, so it won't be a quick fix, but it would be a fix.

It's one of several things that need to be done to "spring ahead" in an economic sense.

The other is energy efficiency and renewable energy development. In the seminar one speaker said that wind and solar installations have DOUBLED in the past few years, yet they contribute only 1.1% of total power production. If we went on an accelerated program of installing wind and solar along with energy efficiency technology, we could cut our dependence on foreign oil while cutting energy waste and the associated costs.

But doubling current renewable sources of energy it is going to be enough to turn 1% into a majority. The speaker said that 50% of our energy comes from coal, so we have to face the fact that "carbon capture" will be required to (1) get energy and (2) not add to the greenhouse gases that will eventually turn Earth into an overcooked Venus unless we start reducing it ASAP. Americans don't have that technology, but the Europeans do.

In the short term, we could gain more savings faster with energy efficiency that oftens pays for itself. One example: Just putting on solar security film would cut up to 70% of solar heat coming through a building's windows. That is 70% less heat to air condition. That cuts energy costs sufficient to pay for the installation over time. At the same time it protects from breach by burglars or hurricane-force winds, cutting future damages dramatically.

Another example is switching to LED and more efficient lights. This act will also pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

These are the types of product that has worldwide application well beyond our borders. We have received inquires from as far as India and the Middle East. It is an opportunity to create jobs and cut energy waste on a global as well as local scale.

Because our product makes so much sense, we are extremely busy. It has created jobs for Sales reps, installers, etc. while protecting historical buildings, houses and computers.

Bottom Line: We need more people building wind turbines and solar panels (and installing energy-saving technology like solar security window film) and fewer people selling hedge funds and Ponzi schemes.

That is how we rebuild American strength and values.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Invisible Treasure Every American Has That Could Change the World

Photo: South Africa housing. Photo 2: Zambia School
What if you had a tool that could end world ignorance and reduce the threat of terrorism, would you use it? If you had a valuable treasure lying about in your house, would you throw it in the trash? We do that every day in America.

Nearly every American has a goldmine scattered about their homes that is missing in much of the world. Even with a global recession, job losses and damaged 401K’s, Americans have an opportunity to turn that hidden wealth into an instrument of value and goodwill that costs them little or nothing but could transform the world with rich returns.

I just spent several hours on Saturday helping a Rotary team in a La Porte, Texas warehouse load abandoned school books and other donated books onto pallets that will be shipped to South Africa where many schools have no books at all. Many schools are lucky to have only a tiny chalkboard as the only resource, if that. It all started because of a meeting between a Rotarian in Seabrook and a man from South Africa that had a project that needed books.

Our kids think kids in other countries have what we have. I heard about one kid who commented: “Why are we giving them our junk?” There is a saying that one man’s trash is another's treasure. Our out-of- date books may be considered “junk” to our schools and put in the dump, but they are still a treasure to people who have no books at all. We are throwing out treasure every day that could be put to a good use.

In Pakistan, kids are sent to religious schools only because the parents can’t afford schooling. The religious schools “Madrasses” only teach hate -- not reading, writing, world history and math. These “schools” don’t have books. Imagine if those kids had access to our old books and the different view of the world it would give them. In our packing yesterday I saw books on Lincoln, art, math workbooks, wonderful stuff to a kid with no shoes in the slums of Mumbai or Johannesburg or a thousand other places.

The recipients even use the containers the books are shipped in! They become libraries, clinics or sewing centers. They are needed as secure buildings and training centers.

This project is called “Rotary Books for the World.” Every American can participate, even without spending a dime. You could donate old books, or help send books to Houston for shipment in containers. People from around the world who want books can also help. If you live in another country and know of a warehouse that could be a distribution center or an organization willing to help distribute books on that end, then we have people on both ends working on a common mission. Or you can donate money to the Second Wind Foundation. The website is

In the warehouse, we came across a pallet of Spanish books that had been donated by a group in Juarez, Mexico to a school in San Antonio. Those books will be sent to a school in Central America where we have a sister group, in Nicaragua.

This is a program that our kids should also be involved in; so that they can see the reality of how lucky they are in the world -- and how they can help make it a better place by helping other kids get books.

Mark Twain once said: “The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.” The reality is that people can’t learn to read if they don’t have books to read. We have been throwing ours in the trash instead of allowing them to be the treasure to others that they represent. Even if you don’t have a job, you can still donate books. It won’t cost you a dime but will make the world a richer place.

It will also give the world another face for Americans, who come carrying books. In the end, the books will win over those that guns won’t. A world that can read is better off than one where billions can’t. Donate a book to your local Rotary club -- and some of your time -- to make it a better place.

This report on Saturday's work just came in:
"The group worked from about 8:30 am until 3:00 pm. The pallet count when we finished was 60 which included 7 of the large Gaylords. The days work should fill two containers or be about 80,000 lbs which would provide about $800,000 worth of educational materials if our formula of an average book is 1 lb. and worth $10."