Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Live a Long Life

The top ten ways to live longer, according to, are as follows:  

1) Don't oversleep – A study in the ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY reported that people who sleep between 6 and 7 hours per night live the longest.

Personally, I sleep about 10 hours per night. That way, I only need to take two naps during the day, plus I spend so much time in bed that I'm not as likely to be run over by a truck.

2) Be optimistic – Researchers at the Mayo Clinic determined that optimists have a 50 percent lower risk of early death compared to pessimists.

I'm a pessimist and proud of it. Optimists have high expectations which are not always met, causing endless disappointment. However, pessimists are never disappointed because they never expect anything to work out. I'd much rather be pleasantly surprised on occasion than disappointed.

3) Have more sex – An April 2004 study in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION found that sex keeps us healthy, by reducing stress and making us happier.

Apparently, I'm doomed to live a very short life.

4) Get a pet – Studies show that people who own pets, especially dogs, are less stressed, thus live longer. It decreases loneliness, encourages nurturing and stimulates exercise.

I've always had a dog or two hanging out with me. If I didn't have a dog, I'd be stuck with my alter ego and an oak tree for companionship.

5) Get a VAP – Heart disease is the number one killer in the USA. A traditional cholesterol test only detects 50 percent of the people with heart disease. A VAP test has been shown to detect 90 percent of heart disease patients.

Since I'm in the V.A. medical system, I'll just have to live with 1952 technology and take my chances.

6) Be rich – According to the National Center for Health Statistics, those with the highest poverty rates have the worst health status. Higher incomes permit access to increased medical care.

However, I prefer to remain poor because I don't like to pay too many taxes and no one ever tries to borrow money from me.

7) Stop smoking – Just about everyone on this planet knows by now that smoking is bad for your health and frequently leads to premature death.

I started in junior high and quit ten years later. I did it because all the cool dudes did it. And I quit because I realized that the coolest dudes of all were the ones who had minds of their own.

8) Chill out – A study at Johns Hopkins University revealed that men having the highest level of anger in response to stress were over three times more likely to develop premature heart disease than those with lower anger responses, and over six times more likely to have a heart attack by age 55.

I was often stressed and angry in my younger days, until I finally realized suffering was an important part of life and that I should embrace it.

9) Eat antioxidants – Free radicals are unstable chemical compounds that accelerate the aging of our cells and contribute to various degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's and cancer. Antioxidants destroy free radicals. Research shows certain types of beans and berries are the best sources of antioxidants.

I eat berries once in a while but tend not to eat too many beans, particularly in public, for obvious reasons.

10) Marry well -- According to a study in MECHANISMS OF AGING AND DEVELOPMENT, genetics is an important factor because longevity genes can be inherited. Healthy aging is passed down from generation to generation.

My ex-wife married well, both before and after her marriage to me. I wasn't so lucky. In my own family history, all the men die young and all the women live forever. I think it has something to do with nagging.

For me, the results are mixed. I'm a pessimist, I'm not rich, I oversleep, I've never had a VAP test, I probably didn't marry well and I haven't had any sex since we landed on the moon. On the other hand, I have a pet, I don't smoke, I eat antioxidants occasionally and I curb anger with chill-out resolve by recognizing it to be a weakness.

Quote for the Day -- "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work -- I want to achieve it through not dying." Woody Allen

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where life moves at the speed of slow.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Walmart Story

Sam Walton (1918-1992) began his retailing career in 1940 at a JC Penney store in Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1945, a regional retail firm that owned a chain of variety stores offered Walton a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. Disagreement over the lease renewal and the inability to find an alternative location forced Walton to open another Ben Franklin franchise in Bentonville, Arkansas. He called it "Walton's Five and Dime."

Walton succeeded by selling items at smaller markups than competitors, thereby increasing sales volume.

In 1962, Walton opened his first WALMART store in Rogers, Arkansas. Over the next five years, WALMART expanded to 24 stores in Arkansas.

By 1968, WALMART opened its first stores outside of Arkansas, in Sikeston, Missouri and Claremore, Oklahoma.

In 1969, the company was incorporated as WALMART Stores, Inc.

And the rest is history.

Today, WALMART is the largest retailer and the second largest corporation in the world, with 8,500 stores operating in 15 countries and serving some 200 million worldwide, including 100 million customers in the USA alone, on a weekly basis.

WALMART is the largest private employer in the USA, employing 2.2 million people worldwide, called "associates." The vast majority of managers started as hourly associates.

In an effort to bring affordable health care to consumers, WALMART initiated a program which offers 331 generic prescription drugs to customers for only $4 per 30-day period. Initially launched in Florida in September of 2006, this program has expanded to a majority of WALMART pharmacies and will continue to grow.

Fiscal year sales in 2012 were approximately $444 billion. WALMART is the largest corporate cash charity donor in the USA. In 2011, the company gave $$958.9 million in charitable contributions, including $872.2 million in the USA.

WALMART is an American success story.

It started from humble beginnings and blossomed through a combination of hard work, enthusiasm, smaller profit margins, quality products at affordable prices, being attentive to customers, an efficient distribution system, no slotting fee for suppliers (as many retailers do), etc.

Another reason for success was the small-town market niche Sam Walton targeted. WALMART stores were developed in rural areas where many of the goods WALMART carried were not available in local markets. These areas tended to be lower in per capita income and welcomed a centralized merchandiser with modest prices.

But with success comes criticism. Urbanites in trendy cities often object to a rural discount store in their area. According to a Zogby election poll in 2000, 76% of voters who shop at WALMART voted for Bush, while 80% of voters who never shopped at WALMART voted for Kerry, reflecting conservative/liberal, rural/urban, income-level cultural biases.

Labor unions can't seem to ignore the success of WALMART either and lust for a piece of the action. Unions continually yearn to expand their suffocating tentacles into large flourishing businesses.

Others oppose global free trade. WALMART imports products from foreign countries, particularly China, and has opened stores in foreign locations. But foreign trade is a win-win situation, as long as it remains fair to all sides. As foreign countries emerge economically, everyone prospers and global tensions subside.

Some people just can't stand to see others succeed -- if you don't like WALMART don't work there and don't shop there, but don't spoil it for the rest of us.

Foreign workers and American consumers are people too.

Quote for the Day -- "There is only one boss -- the customer. And he can fire everybody from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else." Sam Walton

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where WALMART stores thrive in scattered, small rural communities.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Camel Called Electoral College

There's an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

The framers of the Constitution were forced to compromise when it came time to define the presidential election process. Some legislators wanted the president to be elected by a purely popular vote of the people and others, not trusting the people to make the correct decision, wanted Congress to elect the president. So, as politicians often do, they compromised and created the Electoral College.

In essence, they created a camel.

According to Article III, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the populace doesn't really vote for a candidate, it votes for an elector. Electors are nominated by their state political party (usually a committee). The number of electors for each state is equal to the number of U.S. Senators (2 per state) and U.S. Congressmen (based upon state population) representing each state. Once the electors have been determined, each elector then casts the "official" vote for a candidate.

Most of the time the electors cast their votes for the candidate who received the most votes in their state but they're not legally bound to do so.

There are 538 electoral votes. A candidate needs 270 to win the election. If no candidate receives 270 votes, the president is elected by the House of Representatives whereby each state is allowed only one vote, which means that Rhode Island and California have just one vote each.

This is one ugly camel.

There have been four elections where the candidate who had the most popular votes didn't win the election.

1) In 1824, Andrew Jackson had 38,000 more popular votes than John Quincy Adams but neither had a majority in the Electoral College. The House of Representatives elected Adams.

2) In 1896, Samuel Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes by 264,000 votes but Hayes carried five out of the six smallest states to win the Electoral College outcome by one vote.

3) In 1888, Grover Cleveland beat Benjamin Harrison by 95,713 votes but won the Electoral College by 65 votes to win the presidency.

4) In 2000, Al Gore received over 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush but Bush had a total of 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.

Basically, the Electoral College is a weighted system designed to give heavily populated states more power in elections yet allowing small states to swing an election, thereby giving them a certain amount of clout as well.

 Whether this concept works well is subject to debate. In a recent survey, over two-thirds of Americans wanted to do away with the system and rely strictly on a popular vote. However, that might be easier said than done. Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

Unfortunately, many federal lawmakers are reluctant to tamper with the Constitution because they're afraid it will open a whole new can of worms. They're worried that making any changes to the Constitution would open the door for additional changes and don't want to mess with it.

Eliminating the Electoral College would also allow the emergence of additional political alternatives, eroding the influence of the two major political parties. Winning the presidency by popular vote would require a majority (50%) of the vote. Thus many candidates could run for the office and become potential spoilers. The two major candidates would possibly be forced to give some concessions to minority parties to gain their support. But as is true with human nature, especially with politicians, those in power don't want to give up their power.

The Electoral College is a camel bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. The framers of the Constitution were very wise men but this is a new era of communications and technology.

However, what worked in 1776 may not be the most desirable option in the 21st century. It's time for government to catch up with the rest of us.

If we really need a camel, we can always ship one in from Baghdad.

Quote for the Day -- "Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system." Marcus Tullius Cicero

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where horses designed by committee are called mules.