Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Donate or recycle your old PC to giftmypc.org

Donate or recycle your old PC

Irvine OKs 6,000 homes in city's urban core

Irvine OKs 6,000 homes in city's urban core

Ben Franklin, Sustainable Thinker as Founding Father

I think everyone should pick a Founding Father to admire, and mine is Benjamin Franklin. 

All others are great choices, but I select Franklin because he inspires me.  Like Franklin, I think a key to sustainability is that successful business people have an obligation to be civic and community leaders.  So, over this Fourth of July weekend, I thought I would share some impressive background on my favorite Founding Father, who is also a sustainable thinker, and see if I can inspire those in Newport Beach.

I thought we could start with an overview of Franklin’s achievements, as outlined by Jack Uldrich in “Leader to Leader.”  Franklin did “walk the walk and leave a good trail”:

 

  • As a businessman, Franklin built America’s first media conglomerate by setting up printing and newspaper franchises throughout the American Colonies.
  • As a citizen, he formed America’s first public library, its first fire department, and its first nonsectarian university, the University of Pennsylvania.
  • As a scientist, he discovered electricity–an achievement that made him world famous and helped drive the Industrial Revolution. He also produced the Franklin stove, invented bifocals, conceived of daylight savings time, and was the first person to chart the Gulf Stream.
  • As an author, he wrote America’s first best-seller, “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” and his autobiography has been credited with influencing everything from the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie to Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
  • As a civil servant (postmaster general), he revolutionized the delivery of mail in America by establishing one-day service and home delivery.
  • As a politician, Franklin had an active hand in creating the major documents of the Revolution–the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the alliance with France, and the peace treaty with England–and was the only Founding Father to sign all four.
  • As a diplomat, he negotiated and secured America’s strategic alliance with France during the Revolutionary War–an act that arguably helped secure the eventual victory. 

 

Franklin authored many quotes, and here’s a relevant one: “Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought to equally have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.”

So, one of Franklin’s principle methods of learning was to engage others in spirited debate. 

Another quote: “More is to be learned with the ear than the tongue.”

Others are: “Early to be, early to rise makes men healthy, wealthy and wise,” and “Sleep with dogs, wake up with fleas.”

Franklin was also interested in the practical application of scientific knowledge.  The accent is on the practical, not the crazy, way-out-there stuff we sometimes hear about . And that he based much of his work on scientific knowledge is akin to my desire to make decisions based on facts and data and not the emotion-driven “logic” we often see on important issues in our community

I admire Franklin’s entrepreneurial risk taking, even if it gives my wife some pause.  At age 17, after leaving home, he established his own print shop. Three years later, he was one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent printers and by 26 had established America’s first franchise system of printing shops.  He formed an organization called the Junto, a group of tradesman and artisans who were intent on self-improvement.  Tell me we can’t use more of that type of thinking and success. 

So, as you can see, I have a broad definition of words like green and sustainability.  Thank you for taking the time to learn a little about my favorite Founding Father in hopes that it will, in some shape or form, inspire you to get out there in our community and utilize your talents to make this a better place to live.  Never have we needed more volunteers and public-private partnerships, at least not in my lifetime.

You can email Jim Fitzpatrick at JimFitzEco@gmail.com.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

If your a big enough lunatic, you can put this on your bucket list: Pamplona's Running of the Bulls

To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.

--Pericles, Funeral Oration to the Athenian People during the Peloponnesian War

It’s six a.m. in Pamplona, the sky is turning from navy to pale blue with the approaching dawn, and the streets are already packed. In reality, many of the people who line the cobbled lanes of the old town have not been to bed yet. They’ve spent all night in the bars, clubs, and culinary societies of this ancient Roman city celebrating one of the patron saints of the region of Navarra, San Fermín.

Every year, roughly a million people flock to Iruña, as Pamplona is called in the native Basque language, for the festival of San Fermín, or Sanfermines. They join the native Navarros in an epic bacchanal that has taken place annually since 1591. The party kicked off yesterday at noon with the echoing explosion of a rocket and will continue, almost uninterrupted, for eight days and nights.

Almost.

Around seven o’clock every morning, a pregnant calm sweeps through the city as municipal workers set up thick wooden fences along a well trodden path that runs a half mile (850 meters) from holding pends in the northern part of the old town to the bull ring. Over the next hour, young men dressed like 99 percent of the people in the city this week--white pants, white shirt, red neckerchief, and red sash around the waist--gather in the street where, at eight o’clock sharp, they will run for their lives in front of six angry bulls. This is the encierro, the running of the bulls, which has been taking place since the 17th century, and remains one of the most thrilling spectacles in modern sport.

As the crowd gathers, I find myself standing beside Juan Jose Iturmende, a 65-year-old Navarro, born and bred in Pamplona but currently living in France. He returns every year to enjoy the festival. The men gathering at the start of the run, on the hill of Santo Domingo, are mostly younger than him, the majority between 20 to 40 years old. They each carry a copy of the local paper, the Diaro de Navarra, as a matter of tradition and as a last resort, explains Iturmende. “They fold it like an accordion and toss it behind them to distract the bull if they think they might get gored. It probably doesn’t do much good, but it’s a mental thing.”

Iturmende used to run, he says, but now he is too old, has one bad Achilles tendon, and no longer has the mindset to be able to do it. “Once you stop,” he says, with a certain wistfulness “it’s difficult to go back.”

He points out the older runners as they go by and greets them with hearty waves. They are men in their 50s and 60s, fitter and trimmer than most of the young Americans, Australians, and Englishmen that pack the streets. They stand tall and saunter toward the starting line, noticably relaxed beside the skittish youngsters. Many of them run every morning of the festival and have done so every year since they were teenagers.

“Why do they keep running?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Either you have it in here,” he says, pointing to his heart, “Or you don’t. Eighty percent of the guys on the street are irrelevant. They don’t feel it, they don’t live it. Most of them don’t even run in front of the bulls, they just stand to the side and watch the bulls pass.”

The men gather below the small statue of San Fermín set into a recess of the stone wall that borders one side of the street. At five till eight, they raise their papers in the air and sing:

A San Fermín pedimos por ser nuestro Patrón nos guíe en en encierro dándonos su bendición.

Which means, we ask San Fermín, because he’s our patron saint to guide us in the encierro giving us his blessing.

Iturmende sings with them and as parts of the group break off to take up positions further down the street, he shouts encouragement. “Come on boys! Don’t get nervous now!”

The men sing their song two more times, then the clock strikes eight, another rocket explodes in the sky and Pamplona is quiet, except for the sound of approaching hooves. The bulls appear at the bottom of the 20 percent sprints down the street until a bull’s horn tickles the back of their red neckererchief and they are forced to dive to the side in order to avoid certain goring.

The bulls pass us in a matter of seconds, rush through the Plaza Consistorial, and hang a hard right at the Curve of Estafeta where the street is covered with an anti-slip chemical to keep bulls and runners from sliding out, as they often did before 2005. From there, it’s an all out sprint up Estafeta Street, an easy left on the Telephone Curve and down into the bull ring. Among the hundreds of people in the street, maybe 30 actually put themselves in front of the bulls.

And when they do, everyone from children peering through the bottoms of the wooden fences to the people drinking mimosas in balconies high over head seem to catch their breaths. Split seconds freeze in time as the impossibly sharp horns, unrestrained by such things as referees and penalties look sure to snag their quarry. In these moments, when death and happiness go hand in hand,* each runner realizes a certain larger than life glory that, in our age of professional athleticism, is otherwise unobtainable to the common man or woman. Then they dive to the cobble stones, or recede back into the crowd and become indistinguishable from their fellow runners. It is all over in 2 minutes and 23 seconds, pretty fast as these things go.

When I turn to Iturmende there are tears rolling down his cheeks. “I want to be out there,” he says his voice cracking. “I want to be out there running, but I can’t, I can’t...”

Either you have it in you or you don’t. And if you did at one time, if you really had it, but now have lost it, well, that’s a hard thing to let go.

*ibid, Thucydides, Pericles’ Funeral Oration

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