The Scroll

Far into adulthood I automatically assumed that my English was just average, like no more than 8th grade level. I came to that conclusion because I went to Jr. High school in Caracas, Venezuela. It was an American school where English was the common language. After eighth’s grade my family returned back to Holland where I attended Dutch schools. English was one class I was good in. I always knew the answers without the grammatical instruction given by the teacher. I was just fluent, so got straight A’s. I did not learn anything new, and I didn’t pay much attention to the grammar lessons. 

As an adult, many of my writings / reports were criticized, including grammatical errors. I automatically assumed that I only had 8th grade level English, so probably never would be any good in writing. I did not distinguish between asking someone for reviewing my writing for improvements, and pure grammar. I blamed my struggle in college, on not having been brought up in the Dutch secondary school system, which is far more rigorous than the American school system. I blamed / contributed getting criticized for my writing in my career, to the fact that I did not pay attention to English grammar beyond eight’s grade.

Fast forward to 2012-13 when we took a writing class where I got serious in writing and became aware that I could write. Even to the point that I took our teacher serious when she titled her last class: “finish your book…!” It was a class where we were taught how to write our life story.

The scroll started to unroll…

I ended up writing and having my life story printed in book form. That felt gooood, holding that book in my hands! The purpose of the book was for my grand children to learn more about their past. It turned out to be more than that. I passed a copy around in my bike club and soon a list developed so those interested could read it. I got a lot of positive comments.

Next I started blogging. I learned a bit from my daughter and son-in-law about that. Then I took a course from Michael Hyatt (Get Published), and next from Jerry Jenkins (Jerry's Guild), as I described in my previous blog. 

The scroll unrolled some more...

Simultaneously, I am following Rick Warren’s sermons about dreams and how those can turn into goals. That all sounds very good and well, but it is still so mechanical. What is it all based on? I say it is based on a world vision that everybody has, consciously or unconsciously. What is yours?

My world vision is that God exists, and that the Bible is His Word. You may have a different world vision, but you have to start somewhere.
We all have dreams. Where do those come from? That depends on your world view.
What have you always wanted to do? What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
When we put a date on our dream it becomes a goal. Goals require faith!
I will … by …December 31, 2016.  How do you know that?

How big should my goal be? That depends on the next question: How much time do you have? Do you want to accomplish your goal in one year? You can only do so much in a year. If you have ten, fifteen years, then you can dream BIG, and set bigger goals.
We over-estimate what we can do in a year and under-estimate what we can do in 10, 15 years. That became clear to me when I sat down with my financial planner recently, as to what my financial future will look like, given certain parameters. One of those parameters was age. He assumes I will reach 90 and calculated my financial needs accordingly. Ninety??? All of a sudden it hit me: that is 17 years away yet, but not impossible since both my parents reached 90! 

The scroll is unrolling some more, again… 

Now I want to write this novel. Just because my dream seems impossible, is not a reason to give up. 
Behold the turtle: he only is willing to take risks when he sticks his neck out.    Rick Warren

A Leap of Faith

A dream? Yes, but to make it a goal, a reality, it needs a deadline. That deadline is now set: December 31, 2017. But there is more to this…! 

This is how my last blog ended. When we set goals, and put a deadline on it - making the dream a goal by definition - isn’t that a leap of faith? Why December 31, 2017? Why not December 31, 2016? This goal did not just come falling out of the sky.

1. Start Writing

In 2012-13 Marise and I followed a writing class about writing your life story, held at the Senior Center on the South-East end of Woodland, California. We got a writing assignment each Thursday afternoon, then sign up to read it in class the next week and receive a critique from the teacher and fellow students. We also had to listen to a reading by the teacher of a good book - Sonia Sotomayor’s life story - wherein we were to listen for well written passages. We attended a second semester, sub-titled: "Finish your book!" It was not until  2015 for me to complete and have printed: Five Cultures Later, a life story. It was a dream-come-true, to feel a copy of that book in my hands!  

2. Get Training

I started to follow Michael Hyatt in July 2014, and signed up for: Platform University on September 11, 2014. There I learned what WordPress stood for, the definition of a blog, the use of several apps, such as Evernote, DayOne for journaling, getting a logo from 99Designs, and his course: Get Published. In the Get Published course i had to write out a book proposal , which I did, even though I still have to write the book! 

3. My Weekly Planning Habits since 2000

So I wrote a book proposal for editors, but still have to write the book. This is Habit 2: With the end in mind, from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , by Stephen Covey. I do not have a good ending yet for my book, but for the most part my book proposal is written:

4. How Do You Write a Novel? 

Since January 23, 2016, I follow The Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild (author of the Left Behind series); a course on writing. Here I am learning what a novel entails and how to go about it. Following him, makes me realize that I have a long ways to go. I am just at the beginning. That is why I set the deadline a year later. Developing characters is my next task. As I write, the story is developing, and I expect to come across the ending somewhere along the line. 

 Jerry Jenkins explains that there are basically two kinds of novel writers: Those who have an outline, meticulously defining every scene or at least the chapters, and those who go and develop a story on the run. I belong to the latter. So far I have developed two characters and a third one is emerging. I do not even know the ending yet. You, the reader can be part of this development. Here, I will write episodes which will become a chapter of the book. Go to (just google it…!) and read some of the previous blogs to get an idea of where this novel is headed.

So, there you have it. I have read many how-to websites, books, and newspaper articles. The how-to’s can be sterile, but as I look back over the above stages, those how-to steps come alive. Whether it is writing a book or any other dream you want to see come true: 
1. Realize that you probably are already on the way. 
2. Identify those steps to establish a starting point. Where are you now? 
3. Then set a deadline. 
Scary, and what happens if you don’t get your dream accomplished by your deadline? Adjust it, and keep at it! 

a Dream + a Deadline = a Goal

What is your dream? What are your dreams? One of my dreams is to write a book about water.

“Water," you say?
“Yes, Water!"

Having lived in five cultures, five years or more in each, I have seen how water is used, misused, how a culture thinks about water, affected by whether there is too much water or not enough, and how old that culture is. Not only that, but how does a culture deal with its water politically? Geographically? Culturally? Financially? So often we read articles in the newspaper about water issues, but they are very narrow minded and short-term oriented. A politician has a great idea, but it will turn out to be very limited, exclude consequences, and the politician will be long out of office before the short-term benefits have run out!

California has had five years of drought. Its reservoirs were almost empty around Oct-Nov. 2015. Yet the law required those reservoirs to continue to release water to sustain the natural habitat, protect almost distinct species, and prevent the concentration of chemicals in the water. In December, January and March enough water fell in the form of rain and snow, especially in Northern California, that by the end of March 2016 the reservoirs were full, or at least up to average as had not been seen for the last five years! “Full", to the extend, that enough space is required to remain for the coming snow run-off from the Sierra Nevada mountains. For the first time in years, complaints surfaced as to why all of a sudden so much water is released from Shasta Lake, the Yolo Bypass had to be opened up again after four years of seeing nothing, and the ground water levels are still way down, depleted over the past five years, causing the Central Valley to sink several inches per year?

In the past, multiple spillways would release water, to allow for snow run-off and potential further precipitation space, to raise the level. Nobody questioned it. It can take ten times as long for the same amount of water to be released, as it takes to fill up a reservoir with only a few rains of 2-4” at a time. Now, that we’ve had five years of drought, people notice it, report it in the news, when extra spillways are opened to release more water.

What about the flood of 1953 in Holland? Many people died, a lot of destroyed property, big cities like Rotterdam were threatened. It took about 50 years before those damages were repaired and the country had a reasonable level of security again. Fisheries in the province of Zeeland, between the islands, got wiped out. People in that industry had to be re-schooled into other jobs. Areas had to be created for excess water during the winter when the Rhine and Meuse rivers bring down tremendous amounts of water that cannot be channeled within the river dikes. The oceans are rising. The North Sea has been steadily rising over the past 40 years, which means dikes need to be raised.

What about Katrina? Everyone in the USA understands that word: “Katrina”. Every hurricane each year gets a name starting with the first letter of the alphabet. Katrina was the 11th hurricane in 2005, that just about swept New Orleans off the face of the earth! People were not prepared. They get so many hurricanes on the East and South coast of the USA, that Katrina was just another one, maybe a bit stronger, but “we can handle it,” was the attitude. 

What about the drinking water shortages in Africa, today? Rotary International has as one of its goals through the Foundation, to support water projects. We cannot simply send a couple of pumps to Africa, as we use here! Who will maintain them? Where will the spare parts be stored? Where will the power come from to run those pumps?

Along Hwy.1 which winds its way along the Pacific Ocean, you now find warning signs about the level of Big Sur State Park:
  Tsunami danger
Those signs were not there before the Tsunami hit the Japanese atomic plant along the coast, or the tsunami that hit the island of Sumatra in Indonesia! Have Tsunamis all of a sudden become a threat along the California coast, from the time when the California Missions were built - between, 1769 and 1823, along what is now Hwy 1  - and now?

We have to look at the big picture, at all aspects of water. That is what I dream to write about. It will be in the form of a novel. A novel needs characters, and a story line. It needs a title. The title that's emerging is:
  A Drop in the Bucket. That is the name of this blog. The blog is to help flesh out the story. You can follow this blog on:  
              ( ... google it! )
A dream? Yes, but to make it a goal, a reality, it needs a deadline.   That deadline is now set: December 31, 2017
But there is more to this...


Dreaming is a nice past-time. It doesn’t hurt you but gives a nice sensation. The question is, what to do with it. You dream you don’t have MS. You dream about a vacation in Hawaii. You dream about blogging, or writing a book. All good ideas. It is where ideas start. 

They get ruined because you have to finish your taxes, or the yard really need mowing. You promised to …; just fill in the blank. Writing a book is a big endeavor, but writing a newspaper article is do-able in a short time. It also is writing, right? It will help you fine-tune your skills.

Think of it as a triangle: on the left are the daily tasks such as washing the dishes, mow the lawn, take a shower, etc. On the right are the more like-able things such as writing a story for the newspaper, or a poem. At the top is what you really want: writing that book, but when do you have time for that?

A dream without a deadline will never come about! A dream with a deadline is a goal. You need faith to set that goal! What if you don’t make it by the deadline? So it goes all around in circles. How do you determine when to finish the book? In six months? A year? Two years? What faith do you need?

Very simple: set your goal for a year or two years. Based on what? Does not matter. I made that up! A novel starts with the main character charting a course, then he or she encounters all kind of challenges and at the peak there is no way out. Now what? Guess what: the author figures it out, our hero finally accomplishes the intended purpose. Isn’t that what movies are made of? If it is a good story, our main character develops character and learns from each challenge on the way. 

You dream you will be without MS one day. Maybe that is not a realistic goal, especially if you are 70 or older, but you can make life easier by adapting and asking your neurologist for help with side effects. But your goal has to be just out of reach, otherwise there is no challenge to it. Why get out of bed every morning? If you don’t have a goal you will stay the same; it is a status quo. Most of what we do requires no faith. If you aim at nothing you are certain to hit it. Plans give you hope. What kind of hope?

Watching a TV show every day may not be a good idea, because where will it lead to? Will you remember it a month from now? It is just not worth doing. Many things are not worth doing. We set goals too low and try to accomplish them quickly. Reach for the moon, but you may only reach the fence post. It is the journey.

The bottom line: A goal is a dream with a deadline.

Water for Food Production

                                       Almond trees blooming in the Capay Valley, Northern California

In my last chapter I gave an example of how water is used in a tomato cannery. This time, let's look at the bigger picture how water relates to food production, worldwide.

According to FAO data for 2015, almost 800 million people globally are undernourished. Insufficient daily calories and proteins means that they go to bed hungry. And this is without counting those who are not necessarily falling short in terms of the quantity of food but are not being adequately fed in terms of the quality of food. I know, these numbers are estimates, difficult to measure. We should, therefore congratulate FAO who developed methods for the measurement and is making sure this issue does not completely disappear from political agendas. 220 million of the undernourished people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, this is more than 23% of its total population.                                                                                                                                  (Food and water security Nov 26, 2015  Peter Brabeck-Letmathe   Chairman of the Board at Nestlé S.A.)

Brabeck-Letmathe goes on and states that: The inexcusable fact is that today the world is producing more than enough basic food to feed everybody.

There is a disproportionate distribution of food in today’s world. He goes on and gives some reasons; one of the main ones being:

Mainly as a result of the high water requirements to produce our food, we are already withdrawing 20% more water than what is sustainably available (Defined as natural renewal minus needs for environmental flows in specific watersheds) – mostly at the expense of nature. By 2030, if there is no change in the way we manage water, withdrawals will exceed sustainable supply by more than 60%. In 30% of the main cereal-producing regions of the world, water withdrawals will be even twice as high as sustainable supply. The buffers we have - underground aquifers and lakes - are quickly drying up. The long and short of it is that within some 15 years a massive food production crisis with massive food shortfalls is highly probable. 

Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Twente Water Centre, University of Twente, the Netherlands, writes:
Water management is no longer an issue restricted to indi­vidual countries or river basins. Even a continental approach is not sufficient. The water footprint of Europe – the total volume of water used for producing all commodities con­sumed by European citizens – has been significantly externa­lized to other parts of the world. Europe is for example a large importer of sugar and cotton, two of the most thirsty crops. Coffee is imported from countries such as Colombia, soybean from Brazil, and rice from Thailand. European consumption strongly relies on water resources available outside Europe. How is Europe going to secure its future water supply? China and India are still largely water self­-sufficient, but with rising food demand and growing water scarcity within these two major developing countries, one will have to expect a larger demand for food imports and thus external water demand. Water is increasingly becoming a global resource.

Although in many countries most of the food still originates from the country itself, substantial volumes of food and feed are internationally traded. As a result, all countries import and export water in virtual form, i.e. in the form of agricultural commodities.

A good example closer to California is the export of almonds, mainly to China:                                                                      From 2012 to 2013, China imported more than 94,428 tons of almonds from California, making it the largest export market destination for California almonds for the fourth year in a row, according to the Almond Board of California. Export volume of almonds from the US to China increased from 10,000 tons in 2002 to 100,000 tons in 2010, with shipments doubling in the past six years. 
Waycott said he didn't expect future almond sales in China to grow as quickly as they have over the last five years, but the long-term opportunity for growth in China was still very significant.  "From the 94,428 tons today, we could easily be doubling or tripling that in the years to come. We see a very promising future in China," he added.      By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily USA) 

As those of you in California are aware, the almond crop is growing exponentially, in leaps and bounds! More and more almond orchards are planted. California prides itself on the great crop and export, but has anyone looked at it from a “virtual water export” point of view as described by Professor Hoekstra?

The virtual­ water concept was introduced by Tony Allan when he studied the possibility of importing virtual water (as opposed to real water) as a partial solution to problems of water scarcity in the Middle East. Allan elaborated the idea of using virtual ­water import (coming along with food imports) as a tool to release the pressure on scarcely available domestic water resources. Virtual­ water import thus becomes an alternative water source, alongside endogenous water sources.
(Food and water security Nov 26, 2015  Peter Brabeck-Letmathe)

The water footprint of a product (a commodity, good or service) is the volume of fresh water used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced. It refers to the sum of the water used in the various steps of the production chain. The ’water footprint’ of a product is the same as what at other times is called  its  ’virtual  water  content’
Table  1  shows  the water footprint for a number of common food items:

So, with California’s drought situation, should almond orchards be increased to supply China and India?