Book Review: Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

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When you dive into the latest work of a three time Pulitzer Prize winner, you begin with the question of whether or not the author really has something substantive to contribute, or if they have reached the stage in their literary career where they are simply fulfilling the quota of books they signed up for in their last contract. Yes, I have been burned by the works of big name authors who can garner $27.95 per book.

Hot, Flat and CrowdedWhy We Need A Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America is a work that indicates Friedman remains one of the best thinkers, strategists and authors of our time regarding social policy and geo-political strategy development. Frankly, some authors are gifted in observing and conveying what most people cannot see, hear or comprehend. Friedman does exactly that in this book.

He writes:

The future does not have to be a Malthusian nightmare — if we think strategically about how to mitigate what we can, adapt to what we can’t, and innovate our ways to new possibilities that right now seem unimaginable. The longer we wait to set out on such a strategic path though, the deeper the pail out of which we will have to climb.


Friedman cares deeply about the current state of the U.S. and it’s future. Pay particular attention to this theme in the first chapter entitled, “Where Birds Don’t Fly.”

The essence of the entire book, embracing the challenge in moving to what he refers to as a Clean Energy System is truly captured in a quote Friedman shares (p.265) from Machiavelli’s The Prince:

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents — who have the laws on their side — and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Hot, Flat and Crowded is clearly a work that was years in the making. It is a clarion call to action.Honestly, it, in my opinion, is Friedman’s best book. It is in my top 5 for 2008. Finally, I am reminded of a quote from another author that is poignant as it relates to the impact of this work:

We need voices of dissent that point to another way, creative models that take exception to the givens of society. Obviously, prophetic simplicity runs the risk of excess; but the danger is no greater than the excess of the status quo.“(ii)

A tremendous contribution. Thank you Mr. Friedman.

[i] Friedman, Thomas A. Hot, Flat & Crowded- Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Copyright © 2008 Farrar, Straus & Giroux New York, NY p. 49.

[ii]Foster, Richard J. Freedom of Simplicity, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, CA Copyright 1981 by Richard J. Foster, p. 135

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Beyond Peanuts and Pretzels

I always pray when I get on an airplane. My prayer is for safe travel. After the plane takes off and we reach cruising altitude, I begin to pray another prayer. It starts when the flight attendant in the first class cabin shuts the drapes that separate first class from coach.

My prayer is please send someone else this time Lord. Please. In the past several years, God has chosen not to answer this prayer. “Here they come again! It’s the peanuts and pretzel patrol.

Can you imagine having a business where thousands of times everyday you have your customers as a physically captive audience? You have the opportunity to feed them something as an expression of your gratitude for their business. You decide to give them a bag of peanuts or pretzels (rarely both or more than one bag per person). Why? Who made this decision? Do you know how this makes us feel? What sense does this make?

How do I get over my disappointment? Every time I get a bag of peanuts or pretzels on an airplane, I use it as an opportunity to praise God saying: “Thank you Lord for the nourishment only You provide that is so dynamically superior to peanuts & pretzels. I am grateful Lord that you nourish us from your love and abundance, no matter what the cost.”

Thank you Jesus for treating us like loved ones rather than expenses, burdens, nuisances, cattle or inconveniences. Approach the Lord today hungry for the nourishment that only He can provide. I am grateful that I am truly someone in your eyes. Ours is not the God who serves nourishment of peanuts & pretzels to the beloved. Be kind to flight attendants. They’re just serving what someone gave them to share with us.  Pray for the airlines….and the people employed by the U.S. auto companies while you’re at it.

I adore this quote from C.S. Lewis:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.


[i] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, HarperSanFranciscoA Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, (c) 1940, p. 34

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An Update from Bill Dahl

Well, here we go.

Welcome to the new blog. This blog provides a new platform for sharing  Bill’s writing and photography in one place. So many people have shared their desire to comment on Bill’s writing and photography that we are very pleased to migrate to this blog format that integrates the written word with photographic images ( wherever possible ) to accommodate your requests. We have transferred the bulk of Bill’s writing from the old website, as well as The Porpoise Diving website to this site. Explore and Enjoy!
Bill remains dedicated to creating dialogue in a world gone different.

As many folks know, I have taken a sabbatical in 2008 from writing (for the most part). I am recharged and very excited about 2009. Some of the writings you will see from me in 2009 include:

1. Books – One for certain, the other is a distinct possibility within the year.

2. Writings, poems and songs from the perspective of those who do not have a voice during this time of unprecedented economic malaise and chaos.

3. Other authors – Encouraging and working with other emerginf authors who have some superb works under development, assisting them in crafting their manuscripts and ideas.

4. Ideas – Consulting (gratis) with non-profits and others who are seeking to transform themselves in the midst of a riptide of socio-economic change.

5. Bridges – Building bridges in the inter-faith arena.

6. Book reviews – Although I have read a ton in 2008, I remain dedicated to reviewing pre-pub manuscripts and early realease new books.

7. I will remain an outspoken voice for U.S. immigration reform, particularly from the perspective of the children and young adults caught in the midst of this morass.

8. Assisting people to realize entrepreneurial faith breakthroughs via the ability to think differently and then carry out a strategic plan accomplish just that.

Special Thanks to David Dear at Setwise Technology in Newport Beach, CA for all the technical help. Without David’s expertise, this just wouldn’t be possible.


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The Little Ones

Little One
Little One

Mommy and Daddy had a fight today.
It was really loud – in a most unusual way.
I heard them very clearly,
Every word they had to say.

My little brother came running in,
Tears of fear ran down his left cheek.
He jumped up on my lap,
Startled, afraid, innocent and meek.

“We can’t make ends meet!”
We heard daddy yell.
“I can’t live like this!” he shouted.
“This economy’s gone to hell!”

We could hear mommy,
Sobbing in depression,
“What are we going to do?
To survive this recession.”

We peeked out my bedroom door,
Daddy hugged Mommy tight.
He ran his hand through her hair,
Comforting her plight.

Dad just got laid off,
Mom works just part time.
The best parents in the world.
This recession – it’s a crime.

“Our savings are all gone,
I wish we could borrow.
All our credit lines are maxed.”
He shared with mom in sorrow.

“The equity in the house;
It’s gone or going south.
“We’re going to lose our home,”
He raised his hand, covering his mouth.”

“Bailing out Wall Street!
Billions for the largest banks.
Rescuing sub-prime borrowers.
Where’s the help for families in our ranks?”

My mom and dad used to be happy,
The joy was delirious.
We had so much fun together,
Now it’s way too serious.

When your house is worth –
less than what you owe.
Why should mom & dad keep paying?
Why don’t we just pack up and go?

Dad:”We can’t even sell,
With all the homes on the market.”
Families in mainstream America,
We’re the bulls eye in the target.”

Mom: “Should we sell the house,
We’ll get a 1099.
We’ll owe the IRS —
This law’s outlived it’s time.”

Dad: “Friends and relatives are hurting.
What’s a family to do?
Does Congress understand our predicament?
Will they come to our rescue?”

Mom: “With our health insurance gone,
We cannot get sick.
Don’t spend any money whatsoever,
Until this economy begins to click.”

Mom burst out in tears,
My little brother began to cry.
As I reached out to comfort him,
I caught my daddy’s eye.

Mom and dad surrounded us,
We hugged on my bedroom floor.
“Please help our family —
We can’t take this anymore!”

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Walking Home From School Today

Walking Home From School
Walking Home From School

I was walking home from school today,
When something caught my eye.
“For Sale” signs are everywhere.
I began to wonder why.

Maybe folks don’t like it here.
Perhaps some people just need a change.
It’s unusually quiet now.
Gosh – this is really strange.

Jenny’s dad was just laid off,
Her mom works just part time.
Jenny overheard her parents say,
“We’re down to our last dime.”

My friend Junior, he has asthma.
Sometimes he struggles to get air.
His parents can’t afford his medicine,
They have no healthcare.

I am passing Mr. Jacobsen’s,
“This economy really blows!”
He remarked to Mr. Johnson.
“A real recession I suppose.”

Mr. Johnson walked toward the fence,
As he shut off his hose.
“My banker said this morning,
The credit markets froze.”

Katie’s mom was at the mailbox,
As I approached I could hear her sob.
What’s the matter Mrs. Brown, I asked.
“I just lost my job!”

Miss Koski chatted with Mrs. Fern,
She spoke softly, almost paternal.
“I’ve never seen it quite like this,”
As she waved her Wall Street Journal.

As I turned right on Elm and crossed the street.
A man emerged looking quite distressed.
A truck was towing away his car,
His bank had repossessed.

He wandered out into the street,
He brandished one middle finger high.
As he watched his car go down the road,
Behind the tow truck guy.

As he turned I recognized his face,
He wasn’t angry, he was awfully sad.
I began to run toward him.
To comfort my own dad.

He put his arm around me,
As we walked toward our front door.
“What’s the matter dad?” I asked.
“Can we go to the store?”

Mom was seated in the living room,
Her face – a shade of red.
She held a tissue in her hand,
Soaked with tears of dread.

My dog Barney lay in the corner,
Head on paws, he didn’t move a muscle.
He always jumps up to greet me,
Engaging in a joyful bustle.

Mommy rose and smiled at me,
Tears twinkled in here eyes.
When Daddy joined our family hug,
I began to realize.

Somehow, life has changed,
In these unsettling economic times.
I express my own observations,
Writing these little rhymes.

We didn’t go to the store tonight,
Dad said, “Let me explain something honey –
Our family is really hurting.
We’re terribly short on money.”

I always enjoyed shopping with my dad.
For me, a source of joy and thrills.
We can’t do that anymore.
What we have must pay the bills.

I learned something walking home today,
A lesson they don’t teach in school.
Republicans or Democrats –
Everyone can use this tool.

In a world full of viewpoints,
Regarding who, what, when and whether.
My family’s no exception –
We’re all in this together.

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"How might words, images and ideas open minds, warm hearts and inspire imagination? May you find them refreshing and share them among your people."


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