Tiled Stoves

Tiled Stoves: in apartments and homes, to burn coal, in order to produce heat.

Use resources respectfully, protect the environment. I recall the debates in Germany years ago about recycling. At that time the Social Democrats and the Greens were in power. Jürgen Trittin was Umweltminister, literally Secretary of the Environment. 

German business was against any recycling laws. It’s been reality for years now, though. How could there have been a debate at all? Quite the contrary. Protecting the environment should be foundational to the politics of the Christian Democratic Party in Germany (CDU). They and their sister party in Bavaria (CSU – Christian Social Union) were clearly on the wrong side of that debate.

I’ll never forget the smell of coal back then in West Berlin. Late Fall of 1988. I live in a boathouse in Konradshöhe, on the Havel River, on the other side the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, German Democratic Republic). No wall between, just the river. On the other side a strange stillness. Just a road along the bank and streetlights giving off a weak, halfhearted yellow-orange glow. Evenings and mornings the smell was strong. A weird feel to it, somehow historical.

My girlfriend then lived in the Schöneberg section of West Berlin. On the fifth or sixth floor of an apartment house built in the early 1900s. Back then I was reading Sebastian Haffner’s Deutsche Revolution 1918. Dry cold days in Berlin, the smell of coal smoke from the houses ever-present, Rosa Luxemburg murdered and thrown into the Spree River, Stahlhelm, Rätherrepublik in Munich. I think of my grandmother who back then was eighteen years old and living in Cincinnati.

I imagine what Berlin was like in 1918 and 1919. I, the grandson and great-grandson of coal merchants in Philadelphia. Our great-grandfather, Alexander Magee, started out with a horse-pulled wagon, going from house to house. Years later his sons, Frank and Alex, would join the business. I see the images in my mind’s eye. The coalyard in the Kensington section of Philadelphia located right next to the train line.

The coal was delivered from Northeast Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Mountains cut through the state from the northeast to the southwest, continuing into West Virginia. The business grows a bit, two trucks, a handful of employees. They’re not wealthy, will never become so. They pay the bills and have more than enough left over.

After the Second World War they convert to oil. Magee Coal & Oil. During my father’s freshman year at Amherst College in Massachusetts his father dies of a heart attack. His younger brother, Ken, uncle to my father, takes over the business. My father does not go into the heating fuel business, instead becoming a business consultant.

We six children of Frank and Laura Magee growing up in suburban Philadelphia have no connection to Magee Coal & Oil. But the constant coal odor in Berlin during those winter months of 1988-89, the dirt in my nose, cleaning it out a few times a day, brought me back into contact with the days when my recent ancestors lived from coal. And today? I, management consultant, put food on the table by supporting those who build coal-fired power plants.

Use resources respectfully, protect the environment, yes, the Germans do that better than the Americans. The war ended more than seventy years ago, but those experiences continue to inform and form us. During a long walk through Bonn with my son I try to describe to him what the town looked like in 1945. I repeat the stories of his German great-grandmother – my ex-wife’s grandmother. And why we are taking a walking and not driving tour by car or bus. Besides, walking is healthy.

Efficient products

Automobiles: Germans like to drive powerful, fast cars and are proud of their Autobahn with its lack of speed limits. At the same time they like to save money. This is reflected in their cars. Over the last twenty years the fuel efficiency of German cars has increased by 20%, while doubling their horsepower.

The VW Lupo 3L TDI is a case in point. It is the first mass produced car which can go 100 kilometers on 3 liters or less fuel, while maintaining the power of others compact cars.

The entire German car industry is constantly increasing the efficiency of its production methods. Most produce only 30-40% of the final product. The rest is developed and manufactured by a complex, sophisticated network of specialized suppliers, many of whom are located right next to their German customers.

Residential homes: Germans focus on building homes which maximize space. German houses tend to be small, certainly in comparison to homes in the U.S., which are twice the size.

German homes are built, and renovated, with an eye on energy conservation. Insulation and electricity efficiency are two of the key goals. And the German government supports these with generous subsidies via the KfW, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, the Bank for Reconstruction, founded in 1948.

This is especially the case with new construction and renovations, with the KfW offering ten different types of financial support linked to new efficiency technologies. All loans have borrowing rates guaranteed to be lower than the rate of inflation. In some situations, families receive cash payouts as subsidies.

Particularly popular, and subsidized by the government, are solar panels, which save electricity and reduce Germany‘s dependence on electricity produced by fossil fuels.

Water consumption: Since the 1980s ecological groups have been campaigning for less water use, in order to protect the environment and save money. Since then water conservation has become common in Germany. The manufacturers of showers, faucets, toilets, washers, dishwashers and other household appliances have developed and brought to market highly efficient products.

German households save so much water that waste water systems have difficulty keeping themselves clean due to too little waste water moving through the system. Local water works often need to flush through extra amounts of water in order to keep the system clean.

Three inches high

Horst Brandstätter, the founder of Playmobil, dies at 81.

“Although a billionaire by the end of his life, he was a world champion in economizing, the younger Mr. Brandstätter (son Conny) said, citing as an example his father’s insistence on using cheap packs of cards for his favorite card game.

Mindful of his cash flow as the world oil crisis drove up the cost of plastics in the 1970s, Mr. Brandstätter summoned his chief designer and asked him to come up with toys that would use less plastic.

Mr. Beck came up with Playmobil, whose miniature models and environments are said to have been inspired by children’s drawings and the figurines of traditional Christmas crèches. At about 3 inches high, the figures have round faces, movable arms and legs, and hands that can grasp a pirate’s sword, a carpenter’s saw or a firefighter’s hose.”

Source: New York Times, June 11, 2015. By Alison Smale


Fracking is a way of mining underground gas, but it has been linked to earthquakes and tap water that burns (at least when you run it over a lit match). 

The method was first discovered during the American Civil War, when Union Colonel Edward Roberts noticed the effects of explosive Confederate artillery plunging into the narrow millrace (canal) near the battlefield.

Americans, who enjoy using any potential resource once it becomes apparent, soon began experimenting with the new procedure, and these days there are several fracking operations taking place in the US. 

Although there have been attempts to legalize fracking in Germany, so far it seems like Germans would prefer not to risk the potentially dangerous method in order to gather new resources.


Transcendentalism was an American philosophical movement that began in the early 19th century. Transcendentalists emphasized individualism, self-reliance, and avoiding conformity. 

Many of the transcendentalists’ suggestions for how to live life were based on the assumption of readily-available resources, and especially on the idea that one shouldn’t be too careful about wasting resources, because often good things come out of failure. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

“Hitch your wagon to a star.”

“It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Henry David Thoreau:

 “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

Amos Bronson Alcott: 

“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”

Dignity of Work

About the dignity of work and the rights of workers the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writes:

„The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to  make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must  be respected: the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.“

“in the same light as a machine”

In his 1893 book The Distribution of Wealth economist John R. Commons used the term human resource. The term was then used in the 1910s and 1920s. Workers were seen as a type of capital asset. E.W. Bakke revived “human resources” in its modern form was in 1958. Adam Smith defined human capital as follows:

“The acquisition of such talents, by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study, or apprenticeship, always costs a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realized, as it were, in his person. The improved dexterity of a workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade which facilitates and abridges labor, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit.”

“… in the same light as a machine.”

“Throw More Bodies”

Let’s Stop “Throwing More Bodies” at the Problem, written by Adam Ziegler, August 8, 2013, on: smallfirminnovation(dot)com:”

“In my early days as a lawyer, there was one all-too-common phrase that drove me nuts: ‘just throw more bodies at it.’ I think it’s time to give this phrase a proper, final burial. 

It’s insulting
Most new lawyers enter the market as smart, well-educated and highly motivated professionals. They’re not that different than you were a few years or decades ago. And most importantly, they’re people.

It’s dumb
Treating associates like cannon fodder is bad business. Associates work harder and better for supervisors that respect them.

It’s bad for clients
The ‘throw more bodies at it’ mentality is terrible for clients. Treating legal problem-solving as a brute force function of the quantity of lawyers and billable hours that can be brought to bear on a situation leads to flawed, wasteful, overly expensive work.”

Powell Doctrine

The Powell Doctrine, named after General Colin Powell, stresses exhausting all political, economic, and diplomatic means, before a nation should resort to military force.

Powell has since expanded the doctrine, stating that when a nation is engaged in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing American casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the enemy to capitulate.

Deploy. To extend a military unit especially in width; to place in battle formation or appropriate positions; to spread out, utilize, or arrange for a deliberate purpose. From French déployer, literally, to unfold.

Limitless Resources

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) – French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America – wrote: “The country appears to stretch on forever and is of limitless resources. But, no matter how fast it grows, it will remain surrounded by resources it cannot possibly exhaust.”

Energy: The United States has more coal reserves than any other country in the world and represent one-quarter of the world’s total coal supply. The U.S. has 272 billion tons of coal reserves and uses about 1.1 billion tons of coal per year. At this rate, America’s 272 billion tons of coal reserves would last nearly 250 years.

According to the 2012 article “American Oil Growing Most Since First Well Signals Independence by Asjylyn Loder on bloomberg.com domestic output of oil grew by a record 766,000 barrels a day to the highest level in 15 years, government data shows, putting the nation on pace to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer by 2020.

Net petroleum imports have fallen by more than 38 percent since the 2005 peak, and now account for 41 percent of demand, down from 60 percent seven years ago, moving the United States closer to energy independence than it has been for decades.

Key natural resources: One-third of U.S. land is covered by forests (302 million hectares), making forestland the number one type of land use in the United States. One-fifth of U.S. land is timberland (204 million hectares), which is land capable of producing 1.38 cubic meters per hectare of industrial wood annually. 71 percent of all timberland in the U.S. is privately owned, while 29 percent is publicly owned.

Land: The United States has a land area of 3.8 million miles² (9.8 million km²) compared to 9.7 million km² in China, 0.36 million km² in Germany and 0.38 million km² in Japan.

Population density: United States population density per square mile is 84, compared to 365 for China, 609 for Germany, and 836 for Japan.