Archives for the month of: September, 2015

Occasionally it is good to be in situations where you are a minority. In my career I grew accustomed to being with groups where the majority of folks were not of my gender. As I grew older I often found that senior adults were a minority. There were times when my profession was not equally represented in the demographic of a particular activity.

The county I live in is majority non-white and my small neighborhood is very diverse. But most of my life has been spent in situations where the majority of people were of my ethnicity. I realize this is not the case with many. Recently I have been reminded of that and experienced a bit of what it feels like to be in the minority.

My wife and I attended an 80th birthday party for a friend and we were two of five people in a crowd of 50 who were not African American. Although we were treated with respect and dignity, there was a sense that most of the people present had experienced life very differently from us simply because of their skin color.

Being a minority is not limited only to racial distinctions. A few weeks ago I attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Everyone there was caucasian/white/Anglo (it is often hard to know the politically correct term) but my wife and I have a different religious background. Although everyone present spoke English, our language was different. The structure of our separate religious organizational structures provided fodder for conversation and accented our differences. I found myself interpreting and explaining things that I said because they were so foreign to the others present.

Last weekend I was in California for my daughter’s birthday and we attended a baseball game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As we waited for the ferry to carry us across the San Francisco Bay to the ballpark I could not miss the fact that just about everyone but my wife and me were wearing Giants apparel. Everybody but the two of us. And my Atlanta Braves cap made it more obvious that I was an outsider. It might have been because of the current sad state of the Braves team that everyone was courteous to me. Whatever the reason I was grateful.

I certainly do not pretend to know how it feels to be a racial minority. As a Christian in the United States I am sure I cannot fully understand what it is like to live where you are a part of a religious minority. There are other things that cause people to feel like they are mistreated or disrespected because they are a minority in that setting.

There are many instances in the Bible that makes it clear that God treats everyone the same and expects us to follow that example. I wish it was easy but it is not. I would like to say that I always treat people equally but I do not.

My recent experiences have reminded me that no one is an outsider. No one is less than any other one. We are all God’s special creation and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. God help me to see all people as Your children and treat them as my brothers and sisters.

Jamie Jenkins

Today is my first anniversary of my venture into the world of EVs. Electric vehicles have been around for a while but only recently have they become popular in the mass market world of automobile sales. Last year after considerable thought and research, I took the plunge and leased a Nissan Leaf.

My 2005 Kia Amanti had served me well but it had a lot of miles on it and I knew that I would probably have major maintenance and repair costs if I continued to drive all the time. I did not want another car payment but friends and things I read suggested that you could drive an EV for practically nothing.

In this blog 10 months ago I said, “I do not fit the demographic described above whether you consider age, income, or family. I am not often on the cutting edge of things. I am not a serious environmentalist and live a ‘green’ lifestyle. Nevertheless acquiring a Nissan Leaf seemed to be a good decision on all fronts.”

Now that I have 11,000 miles on my Leaf I thought I would update you on my experience.

Now to tell you how I feel after one year of driving my Nissan Leaf. Before signing the contract one year ago today, I considered four major issues: cost, safety, performance, comfort. Let me address each of these.

Cost: According to the Canadian National Campaign for Electric Vehicles, electric vehicles usually cost between 2 and 4 cents per mile to drive. Vehicles that have an internal combustion engine cost between four and six times as much. Electric cars have only a few hundred parts while gasoline-powered cars have a few thousand. This makes the maintenance cost of an electric car three times less than that of a gasoline car.

There is no transmission (drive train), radiator, or oil pump. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric cars do not emit pollutants. Owning an electric vehicle also eliminates the need for smog inspections, cooling fluid replacement, oil changes and other types of maintenance. All of this reduces the cost of operating the vehicle.

Another way to address the expense of an EV against an ICE (internal combustion engine, aka gasoline powered vehicle) is to look at actual money spent to operate the car. I calculated the cost of the two-year including lease payments, insurance, tag, and subtracted the savings on gasoline and the state and federal rebates to determine what my out of pocket expenses would be.

The cost analysis concluded that it would cost me about $51 a month based on gasoline prices at the beginning of the lease and 12,000 miles annually. With the lower prices at the pump, I am probably paying about $81 a month. If I had opted for the base model that would have been reduced by about $50 monthly.

Safety: The car is equipped with side airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags and front seat-mounted torso airbags, electronic stability control, and antilock brakes. It is rated 4 or 5 stars in side and frontal  and side collision and roll over.

Performance: When I first got the car one of my friends said with a smirk, “I’ll blow the horn when I pass you on the expressway.” A Leaf owner posted the following on a Nissan website and it expresses my feeling very well. “People always seem to assume it’s like a go-cart or a Smart car when I tell them it’s an all electric. They are always surprised to hear it can go 70 MPH (or 80 or…) no problem and it’s got acceleration you wouldn’t believe. It’s fun taking the car out of ECO mode to show off to someone who has not ridden in my LEAF yet – they always get surprised that the car has that much power”

Comfort: It is not a big car but it is not a “tin can.” You can carry five passengers but that is a little tight. However, I was surprised how comfortable it is for four passengers.

It is equipped with a back up camera, navigation (which needs improvement), blue tooth, premium sound system, four heated seats, heated steering wheel, AC, auto door locks, power windows, multiple speed wipers, rear wiper, and cruise control. The ride is smooth and quiet and it holds the road very well.

I love driving the Leaf. The biggest drawback is the limitation of about 80 miles per charge. For the way I use it, that is not a problem. I drive it around town during the day, plug it in a 110 electrical outlet and it is ready the next morning. There are other more efficient ways to recharge the battery and there are other EVs that get better range than the Leaf, but they are more expensive and I do not need them.

Since the Leaf and other EVs produce zero emissions, they are very environmentally friendly. In this review I have not addressed that issue but it is certainly a positive factor that should not be overlooked.

What is the future of electric cars? One website answers that question in this manner: “It’s hard to tell where the future will take electric vehicles, but it’s clear they hold a lot of potential for creating a more sustainable future. If we transitioned all the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. to hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles using our current technology mix, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30-60 percent, while lowering the carbon pollution from the transportation sector by as much as 20 percent.”

I will conclude in the same way I finished my initial account of my Leaf experience. Someone said, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” Every time I start my new car I am reminded that things once thought impossible are being accomplished every day all around us. That might be the best thing about my EV automobile.

A wise man of long ago said, “Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, CEB). That is true but often it takes a different shape and form.

Jamie Jenkins

P.S. If you are interested, you can read my summary of the history of electric vehicles below.

There is much discussion and uncertainly about when and where the electric car was invented. Evidence suggests that Robert Anderson developed the first crude electric carriage in Scotland in the 1830s. In 1890 a chemist from Des Moines, Iowa built the first successful car which was little more than an electrified wagon. It was not until the middle of the 20th century before the first practical EVs were built.

In the 1890s EVs which were assembled by hand outsold gasoline cars 10-1. The decline of EVs can be contributed to at least three factors: development of the motorized assembly line that allowed mass production of gasoline powered automobiles, the non-existent infrastructure for electricity outside city boundaries, and the addition of an electric motor (starter) to eliminate the hand crank method of starting the engine on a gasoline powered car.

In the late 1960s the OPEC oil embargo and concerns about air pollution sparked brought about a renewed interest in EVs. Then in the early 1990s, mainly due to California’s Zero Emission Vehicle Manadae, major automakers began producing a few EVs but this lasted only about 10 years.

Two events have been suggested as turning points in the development and sale of EVs. In 1997 the hybrid electric Toyota Prius was released in Japan and then worldwide in 2000, although Honda began selling the hybrid Insight one year earlier in the US.

The other event that helped reshape EVs came in 2006 when Tesla Motors announced they  would start producing a luxury electric sports car that could go more than 200 miles on a single charge.  Four  years later Tesla received at $465 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office — a loan that Tesla repaid a full nine years early — to establish a manufacturing facility in California.

About 345,000 EVs have been sold in the United States since 2008 through June 2015. As of July 2015, there are over 20 different models available in the American market from 12 car manufacturers.

The following web addresses provide a more thorough account of the history of EVs.

I am not going to drive my car anymore. It is too dangerous. Too many distracted and careless drivers. Too many behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Too many carjackings. There have been 851 traffic fatalities on Georgia’s roads and I don’t want to be the next victim.

traffic 3

I love to travel but I am afraid to fly anymore. I know that statistics show that commercial airplanes are safer than automobiles, but every week you hear of another plane crash due to pilot error, bad weather, or mechanical failure.  Besides, I would have to take a car, train, or bus to get to the airport and that adds to the chances of an accident. Stories of suicide bombers and other terrorist activity are constantly in the news. I am going to stop traveling. It is just too dangerous.

delta plane

Worship and Bible study are very important but you run the risk that some mentally ill person with an agenda will show up with a gun. It is just too dangerous. I will settle for studying the scripture at home and watching the church service online or a television broadcast.

The Atlanta Braves have provided enjoyable outings (until recently) but I don’t think I will be going to Turner Field anytime soon. It is too dangerous. I might get hit by a foul ball or a flying baseball bat. And there is always the good possibility that I could fall over the railing that is to low to protect the fans. I will follow the team on television and rely on Chip Caray and Joe Simpson to make the game come alive.

Braves 1

Although I do not enjoy shopping, there are occasions when I need something from the grocery, department store, pharmacy or home improvement store. But it is too dangerous. You never know when you will be at the wrong place when a  robbery or some other violent act occurs. Besides there are many options now for shopping online and having things delivered that offer a better and safer alternative.

I don’t have school age children anymore. If I did, I think I would consider home schooling because it is just too dangerous to trust them to someone else. School shootings, abuse and neglect are becoming all too common.

school shooting 1

The world has become a scary place. I am almost afraid to walk down the streets of my neighborhood. It is too dangerous. You never know when you will become a victim of armed robbery or kidnapping.

I think I will just stay home and hope that I will not become a victim of burglary or a home invasion.

I hear comments like the ones above all too often. Situations such as those described do occur daily but we must not allow such incidents to dominate our thoughts. We must not let fear control our lives. I am not advocating for foolish abandon. We must be wise and careful not to put ourselves in harm’s way. But I think Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

Fear 3

Tragedies of all kinds occur every minute somewhere in the world and frequently nearby. But they are the exception rather than the rule. For every person who is robbed at gun point, there are millions who are not. For every fatality on the highways, there are millions of people who arrive safely at their destinations. For every tragedy, there are  untold numbers of triumphs.

When we are afraid, we are hesitant to try new things, to venture into the unknown, to make the most of every opportunity. Journalist Dorothy Thompson said, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”

Fear 1

We do not need to ignore the harsh reality of pain, suffering, and violence but I choose to live in hope, not fear, remembering the words of Jesus, “Fear not, I am with you!”

Jamie Jenkins

Flea markets, garage sales, consignment shops, and antique dealers have a lot in common. Each of them provide a means for dealing with old things.Flea Market 2

Planned obsolescence causes many items that we own to end up for sale in flea markets and garage sales. These are things that are still functional but have lost most of their value because a new and improved model has been developed. If they don’t sell, we give them to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or set them out for the garbage collector.

Goodwill Industries

Furniture, clothing, sports equipment, jewelry, and other possessions that still retain value are often marketed through consignment shops where we get a portion of the sales price. This revenue may be used to replace these older items that are still serviceable and in good condition.

Occasionally we hear of someone discovering that some piece of furniture, a home decor item, or a painting is worth much more than they expected or might have paid for it. Television shows like the Antiques Road Show fuel our hopes of finding a treasure among our possessions. So we hold onto things that are antiquated (useless) hoping one day they will be considered antiques (timeless) and make a fortune from selling them.

antiques 2

Of course, there is always the option of being frugal enough to use things until they wear out. Then we can with clear conscience replace them with the latest model. Sometimes minor repairs are all that is needed to prolong the useful life of an item. Another possibility is to find new uses for an item or to upgrade it so it retains it’s worth.

But that defies the principles of our throw-away society.

We are trained to be wasteful consumers based on the messages we’re confronted with daily. Media pressure makes it difficult to be satisfied. It seems that everything is constantly being improved. Technological advancements add features to everything from automobiles to home appliances to office equipment that expands their capabilities. In an affluent society like ours, we are tempted to always have the latest and greatest. Being able to pay cash for it is not considered a prerequisite. You can use a credit card or one of many options that allow you to have it now and pay for it later.

Consumerism and materialism are prevalent attitudes in our world. Our culture tells us that everything is temporary and disposable. Not just things but morality and relationships as well. Timeless principles are often swept aside as out dated and irrelevant. People are even considered disposable as well. When they have served their “useful purpose” they can be devalued or discarded.

Pope Francis 1

Pope Francis has frequently spoken about a “throwaway culture” in which unwanted items and unwanted people, such as the unborn, the elderly, and the poor, are discarded as waste.

God, save us from ourselves. Help us to see the real worth of things and of people. Help us to differentiate between the eternal and the temporal.

Jamie Jenkins