Sunday, December 31, 2006

Barberic Times

Last night I received a request from my Mother In Law: she wanted to see the complete execution of Saddam Hussein. It was easy to find on the Internet. I have seen it and I find no pleasure in it. I have also seen the documentary on the gasing of Halabja, the crime he was accused of and caused his execution. What a repulsive act against humanity!

The question in my mind is: have we not evolved enough as a species to stop these atrocities? Whether it is the killing of one or thousands, it is a barberic act. Sadly, more of the same is in the horizon. We end 2006 at war and we will start 2007 at war. Shame on human beings everywhere that kill for money, power, thrills. These are barberic times, indeed. Let's work on fixing that, shall we?

Tracey's Update: December 30, 2006

We can count Saturday as a very good day for Tracey. She really wanted to be released and sent home. Dr. Assad, the on-call Oncologist, told us she could leave only after she was taking all her medications orally instead of through the IV and if she started walking regularly.

Tracey received several visitors today and was delighted for the company of our great friends -- thank you all!

In the evening Tracey and I went for a "drive" (using a wheel chair) around the hospital and even a little outside. The night was gorgeous and the fresh air seemed to help Tracey. She and I are planning on several small walks tomorrow. It will be a different way to spend our 8th wedding anniversary -- but we are still together and that's what matters.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tracey's Update: Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday came and went with Tracey still in the hospital. Dr. Madden is concerned with her headaches and nausea, so he is keeping her in the hospital until she is more settled down. She was able to keep more food down -- a good sign. But her body is very weak and she could not walk out of the hospital even if they would allow it.

Two of my co-workers came to visit her after lunch. She was very talkative and she was fairly sharp despite the medications. Shortly after their departure she appeared spent -- the effort of keeping a resemblance of normalcy in front of my friends was exhausting and her words got a bit harder to understand and her headache intensified. Around 3 PM the nurse administered a set of meds (including some for pain) and she was ready for some sleep.

Jenny and I returned in the evening. Tracey was somewhat coherent, but many common words just would not come to her. She appeared very anxious, restless and unhappy. I look into her eyes and see so much confusion, fear -- is there some fight in those eyes? I often think so -- sometimes I wonder. This evening I saw none -- maybe it is a small break to regain her strength.

Tracey's Update: Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 27 & 28)

Wednesday was an OK day for Tracey. Her mental state seems to be more altered, possibly by the medications they are giving her, maybe by the swellings in her brain. She had more nausea and headaches. The hospital is adjusting her meds accordingly.

Thursday morning brought more nausea and vomiting. Doctor Madden still anticipates a Friday release. The kids have visited her almost daily and "the girls" (Jenny and Kayla) have spent several hours with her.

The nausea, dizziness and headaches continued throughout Thursday and Thursday night. Her hearing is now distorted -- for example, you may tell her that "Jane called to say hello" and she repeats it as "Jill went to the Zoo". :-( Communicating with Tracey has become very difficult and it brakes my heart to see the look of confusion in her eyes.

It looks like Friday's discharge may not happen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Secret

If you have ever wondered why some people are successful and others are not, then you may be interested in what is called the biggest secret in human history:

The Secret - Part 1
The Secret - Part 2
The Secret - Part 3

The above are great videos if you have high-speed internet. Please let me know if you are still on dial-up or if you have trouble reaching the videos.

I hope you will enjoy learning about the very important law of attraction!

Tuesday's Update for Tracey

Tuesday was a fairly good day for Tracey. She received her first radiation trreatment in the afternoon. She started to feel hungry, but lost her appetite fairly quickly (could have something to do with the hospital food being bland). She is also hungry for human company and is very bored. Tracey's memory is improving, as is her BP (with the help of medication). She is still receiving anti-seizure and anti-nausea medications to prevent a re-ocurrence of last Friday's events. And she is still getting steroid treatment to control the swelling.

This morning Tracey talked with Dr. Madden and it looks like she will be in the hospital until Friday. This will allow her to receive four radiation treatments before she comes home for the weekend. Let's see what happens.

Thank you for all the phone calls and email -- we appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than words can say!

More news as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Breast Cancer - Part 3 (Round 1)

My wife, Tracey, has been fighting breast cancer since she discovered a lump on her right breast in May 2004. She underwent very aggressive chemotherapy and radiation to prevent a reoccurrence. The treatment started with a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and then a hysterectomy. We though we had things under control as far as the cancer-causing hormones. The side effects of the treatment were very serious. Tracey ended up with neuropathy affecting her hands, arms, legs and feet. Quality of life has been greatly diminished for Tracey. Some medications have made her gain weight, putting even more stress on her joints and increasing the pain level she experiences.

In April 2005 Tracey's back pain increased substantially. Medical imagery revealed that her T5 vertebrae had collapsed due to a reoccurrence of cancer. Radiation seemed to take care of the cancer part, but the collapsed vertebrae and associated pain lingered on.

This month Tracey began having dizzy spills that mimic panic attacks -- something she began experiencing around the time of her chemo therapy in 2004-2005. This past week her blood pressure began to climb -- something that was also part of anxiety in the past. She also began experiencing headaches that would not go away -- they would subside when she was laying down and after taking pain medications. However, on Thursday, December 21, the headache would simply not go away. The BP rose to very dangerous levels. Tracey and I went to her Oncologist and they ordered urgent CT scans of her head, neck, and chest. The tests showed that there were two significant masses (0.6" and 1.1") in her brain. She was admitted to the hospital to begin steroid therapy to control brain swelling. Friday morning (December 22) (approx. 4 AM) she suffered a seizure and was transferred to ICU. She gave us a scare Friday and Saturday; her vitals went from stable to unstable. Her breathing was very labored and she developed pneumonia. She was, literally, fighting for her life.

Being the fighter and strong person that she is, and with the help and support of so many of you, she has won the first round of this fight. She is now back in a normal room at Lexington Medical Center and in much better shape. Her breathing has improved greatly, and she is a lot more aware of previous events. Her blood pressure is still high and the headaches are still there (all under control with medications). We firmly believe that radiation therapy will give her more permanent relief and get her on the way to remission again; this will start on Tuesday and run for ten days.

At one point we had hoped that she would be released to be at home for Christmas dinner -- but that was not to be. She told me this morning that she will be in the hospital at least two more days.

The kids are doing well -- they visited Tracey once in ICU (which was very scary to them) and once in her regular room (which was reassuring but still worrisome to them). The older girls, Tracey's mom, my mom, and I have been staying with Tracey as much as possible. Friends have been dropping by to be with her. Tracey definitely feels everyone's loves, thoughts and prayers! We all thank you for your support in these tough moments!

I will continue updating everyone as much as possible. If you have not received the updates and want to be added to the mailing list, please send me an email and I will add your address. If you want to send a message to Tracey please email me and I will share them with her. Please use my Gmail account (vgascon at gmail) for your correspondence.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Catching Up: Being Grateful

Being grateful is one of those basic emotions that build relations. It is perhaps one of those very basic instincts we also share with all other animals. But, as humans, we often forget to show our gratitude. Perhaps we are too busy with life's constant bustle and hustle, or perhaps we have lost some sense of basic manners. That is why I was impressed when I learned of Xerox's efforts to "Let's Say Thanks" to the US Troops. Whether you agree or disagree with the war, the Troops still deserve our messages of appreciation.

Catching Up: Black Friday

This post should have appeared shortly after Thanksgiving:

In the United States, Thanksgiving is now over. And so is the now famous "Black Friday," the official launch of the Christmas shopping season. For the first time, Tracey and I did the crazy thing of being in line all night at one of the major electronics retailers to catch the great sales they have on Black Friday. It was an experience of a lifetime. The weather was mildly cold for our area -- I cannot imagine doing this kind of thing in the colder states. The people were great -- we made some friends and had lots of fun. And the bargains were well worth the long lines and long waiting. The shopping did take a toll on us -- but the joy we brought to the family made it all worth it. Email me if you want more details on our shopping experience this Black Friday.

Catching Up: Microsoft and Linux

It did not take long for Microsoft to prove many of us right. Yesterday, Steve Ballmer clearly identified Microsoft's true intentions towards Linux and the open-source community. His comments are a clear picture of what Novell has gotten itself into. This is not a Win-Win situation for Microsoft and the open-source community. It is, in my opinion, yet another heavy-handed tactic from Microsoft to scare people away from Linux under the false pretense of lawsuits. Microsoft learned to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) from IBM -- and as with the latter's case, the former will eventually suffer the consequences of its actions. They have tried every possible soft-handed method to steer users away from Linux, but the open-source OS' popularity continues to grow in both the server and desktop environments. This displeases Microsoft and now they are trying other ways of preventing further loss of market share. Please don't be fool by their FUD tactics. As with SCO, Microsoft will be unable to prove violations of patents or copyrights by Linux users. In the end, the smoke will clear and the mirrors will be smashed -- and Linux will continue to be the most attractive option for a PC OS.

Catching Up: Danger ahead!

Danger! Danger! If you are a SciFi aficionado, you may recall the robot in "Lost in Space" issuing its warnings to its humans. That is the same sense of impending danger I get when I read that Microsoft has an agreement to work on open-source Linux through Novell. Microsoft has made it clear that it is in its best interest to destroy open source. They soften their stand on the matter only because they realized how much market share they were losing. But their basic philosophy has not changed -- in order for them to continue making money they need to charge for products. And I believe it goes beyond that -- it is a matter of corporate pride to dominate every market they are in. They have gone to great lengths to destroy any competition. They have tried to bury the Linux and open-source movement under tons of FUD. Although Microsoft has slowed down the adoption of Linux in the desktop arena, there is no doubt that they have finally realized the tidal wave is getting too large for them to stop from the outside. So they will try to do so from inside Linux. Is Microsoft's strategy to provoke a Linux war, as suggested by John Dvorak? Or is there a lot more than that, as written by Kevin Carmony of Linspire.

Catching Up: Moving

The following entry should have been posted at the beginning of November 2006:

My family and I are moving this weekend. We are not going far -- only 25 miles south of our current location. But we are all looking forward to the new life the change will bring. Despite the great efforts and inconveniences that moving can represent, we consider this our own version of "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition." We are moving from a very unhealthy environment to one where we will again feel happy and strong. I share these thoughts because it became obvious of how our focus was different this move from others. In previous instances we always looked at the pain of moving and concentrated on that more than the joy of being in a new place. We also took for granted that the home we were moving into would be safe and healthy for us. Our attitude is very different this time. We have learned many valuable lessons over the last eight years. And one of them is to approach the move with love and positiveness, focusing on all the good to come (for many years) and not the minor pains (short term) of the journey home. I hope you are all safe and happy in a nice home!

Catching Up: The wonders of technology

Technology is wonderful -- but it is often underused or misused. So it was refreshing to see news that Sun is providing their employees with online access to 5,000 volumes through "Safari Books Online." This is the best example of effective technology use I have seen in quite sometime.

Catching Up: Is bigger really better?

Is bigger really better? Is it even needed? Those are some of the many good questions being posed on David Morgenstern's eWeek article. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the hard drive, it is worthwhile to stop and think about the many issues that larger drives bring with them. Not only are we constantly pushing the physical limits of these devices -- with the resulting negative effect on reliability -- but we are also affecting the data management equation at an unbelievable rate. Larger hard drives pose as much a problem for neophytes as it does for seasoned IT staff. Give someone a Super Sized Hard Drive and they will surely fill it up -- just like we gorge on the Super Sized fast foods that have so affected our health. And when that hard drive fails, then all that data tends to vanish with that dreadful "click-click" or metal-to-metal scratching sound. There go all the music, photos, letters, emails, tax returns, websites and everything else we entrust to the device. Backup? Yes, well, that's a whole other story, isn't it? Is bigger really better?

Catching up: IT Certifications

It has been a while -- avery long while -- since I have blogged. Shame on me! Actually, I have written lots of "stuff" but it never made it to the blog. So here are a few of them:

To many of us in the IT world, the concept of certifications invoques a mix of feelings and opinions. Some people completely dismiss the whole thing as worthless, and some continuously add certifications to an already lengthy list. But do these certifications really matter? Some say no, some yes -- I say it depends. Certifications for the sake of themselves are worthless -- there are too many "paper MCSEs" out there to prove the point. Certifications in addition to real-life experience certainly can have value. But the certification itself must reflect real life in order for it to be worthy of the time and expense it requires. Therein lies the problem -- real life in the IT world is too complex to be similarly experienced by thousands of candidates. In order to bring things to a common point, certification exams sometimes have to bring their scope to the least common denominator that they can establish from their experience. And thus the testing can be significantly diluted and lose its value. I suggest a better system: revive the apprenticeship concept. Only through a healthy mixture of experience, theory and time can we prepare future IT generations to do quality work with better efficiency.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What is this world coming to?

Well, things are getting really bad when you constantly hear news of shootings at schools — but when the killings are at a small Amish school in Pennsylvania, you know things are really bad! What a sad day indeed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jericho (TV show) moves me

I am not sure why, but the new TV Show "Jericho" always leaves me in a high emotional estate. It could be that the father-son struggle portrayed reminds me of what my Dad and I went through. It may also be the result of seeing small kids in danger -- a normal reaction by most parents. Anyway, this is an awesome show.

The best jams ever!

If you want to try the best jams ever you really need to go to imladrisfarm. Talk about great jams! You barely taste the sugar in these great products. Forget the price -- they are worth every cent of what these folks are asking for!

Friday, September 22, 2006

We need NetForce!

Could it be possible? Could there be an organized effort to destroy it? As I read details of the latest Internet Explorer vulnerability, it dawned on me that the first websites to exploit the weakness came from Russia. I have nothing against Russia or its people -- but there has been a number of "black hat" programmers from the former USSR that have caused havoc amongst Internet users. Could this be a conspiracy to disrupt or destroy the ultimate capitalist symbol, the Internet? Could the Internet, rather than Internet Explorer, be under attack? Much of the world depends on the Internet for major parts of life: email, e-commerce, e-banking, etc. Email has already been crippled -- and the other sections are under constant attack. Could there really be an organized effort to destroy the Internet? Evidence clearly points in that direction.

Will it never stop?

A U.S. Senate committee has approved three bills that further undermine the established judicial system of checks and balances by allowing widespread surveillances without a court order. If you care about your privacy then you may want to read about these bills and act by communicating your thoughts to your representatives in Washington.

Monday, September 11, 2006

How long will we Office?

In his August 28 column, John Dvorak makes a point about why Microsoft Office, on the back of Word, will continue to be the dominant Office Suite. His messages are always interesting to read, whether you agree with his point or not. I happen to disagree with this one. Short term (which I define here as for the next five years) you may see the Microsoft Suite remain the dominant package. But there are too many others out there that can do as good a job. Economics alone will allow OpenOffice to make significant gains in market share. Various web-based programs will also erode Office's dominance. It is possible that the new Office 2007 innovations will do more to hurt than to help Microsoft -- that remains to be seen. Surely, the new version will require significant re-training by current users. The stability factor no longer will be completely in favor of the current champ. Listen to the wind -- it sings of changes ahead.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When boundaries fade

I see an interesting trend in computer technology. With Apple's migration to Intel chips, many users are installing the Windows OS in Apple computers. That was unimaginable a few years ago. It gives Microsoft an interesting opportunity to expand into a market it once thought closed. However, the picture gets even more interesting when you introduce virtualization. Now, we can have several operating systems running side by side in the same computer. It gives OS X, should Apple wake up and realize this huge opportunity, an opening into the previously-closed PC world. But which OS will be the "host" system of choice? Will Linux finally make it through? It certainly can do a great job at managing resources and providing stability and security. Those are critical factors of any virtual host OS. It seems obvious that major players are counting on significant growth in the virtualization technology; why would Microsoft and VMWare give away their virtualization products otherwise? I believe they are setting up the industry to finally come to realize the many benefits of virtualization. And as the previously well-defined boundaries of what OS runs in what platform melt away, I also predict that hardware vendors will benefit greatly by the increased demands virtualization will put on equipment (more RAM, faster CPUs, etc.). Indeed, it is an exciting time to be in the computer field. More importantly, all of us need to set aside preconceived notions and be receptive to new concepts. Change is the only constant in the world of computers.

Monday, August 28, 2006


S: We have some bad news.
P: Huh?
S: You are no longer.
P: What?
S: We are downsizing, you see?
P: What are you talking about?
S: You used to be one of them but you are not.
P: One of whom?
S: Planets.
P: Planets?
S: Yes.
P: I am a planet.
S: Not anymore.
P: What???
S: We decided that you are no longer a planet.
P: What???
S: Sorry, times are tough.
P: But ... you can't do that!
S: We can and we did.
P: But ...
S: Now, we need to go to another exciting scientific conference. Good bye.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


So I get this email from my lovley wife that reads:

Subject: something to make you laugh


Go to google and type in the word failure

So I did and I almost fell off my chair onto the floor!

Just in case the Google search engine gods get punished for showing the truth, here is a capture of what the search results were.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Dog Whisperer

We have been watching this fantastic TV show called "The Dog Whisperer." it depicts Cesar Millan sharing his extensive knowledge of dog psychology. We have three dogs now, and they all have some sort of minor disciplinary problem. We have learned a great deal from watching the show. The most important thing is to start by exercising with the dog to use up some of its energy. The next thing is to discipline and train the animal with a calm and dominant attitude. The dog needs to know that you are the alpha, the dominant member of the pack. The whole things revolves about how your energy will influence the dog's energy -- if you are calm/dominant then the dog will be calm/submissive. The third stage is to reward the dog, mostly with praise and love. We strongly recommend that you watch this great educational show.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Information Overload

I think we are seeing the nastiest symptoms of information overload. Not only are we personally being seriously affected by too much information, our whole society is being overwhelmed by all the data it has to manage. For example, there is the unbelievable number of laptops being lost everyday that contain confidential information. Despite all the publicity that highlighted the problem in the last few months, we are still experiencing data security breaches due to laptop theft or loss. Another example: government agencies are unable to safeguard valuable data. NASA is the latest victim as it confessed to have lost magnetic tapes of man's first moon landing. Not only are the tapes lost, but NASA's attitude about these important and historical objects reflects how overwhelmed we are. The spokesman stated: I wouldn't say we're worried -- we've got all the data. Everything on the tapes we have in one form or another. Unfortunately, the quality of what we got is seriously degraded from the original. The spokesman also said it is possible that the tapes will be unplayable even if they are found because they have degraded significantly over the years -- a problem common to magnetic tape and other types of recordable media. Which to me indicates potential mismanagement of these valuable data holders. I bet we would not be hearing the same non-chalant tone if the Declaration of Independence was suddenly lost. Nevertheless, it is perhaps time to re-examine our world, our priorities and our methodologies -- and it is definitely time to simplify our lives. I do believe this train is a bit out of control.

Friday, August 11, 2006

About values

What do you value? Our values are the things that guide us during all decision-making, small and large alike. It is our values that help us determine what is wrong and right, and what the best course of action is in different situations. Only after we are completely clear on what our values are that we can begin to decide what our mission in life is, what our goals are, and how to achieve those goals. It is extreme differences in values that cause significant human conflict. It is ignorance or vagueness of our values that cause us to act inconsistently and erratically. Do you need help clarifying your values? Creating an Ethical Will may be helpful in determining what things are important enough for you so that they will drive the rest of your life. You can download the software for free (it is ValueWare -- you pay as much as you think the software is worth to you).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Lesson from the Flea Market

It is getting harder to make ends meet. What with the rising cost of gas and everything else, we have tried all sorts of things to increase our earnings. This weekend we tried a flea market. Tracey is very artistic and has created some beautiful jewelry and other crafts that should attract some great interest. I decided to bring some used computer equipment and put it up for sale. We learned some valuable lessons on our first day. First, do not get there too early -- customers do not arrive until later in the day. Second, be ready for intense heat -- fortunately, we were pretty ready (plenty of water in a cooler, plus some fruit for snacking, and a nice fan). Third, make sure you have all the needed equipment -- Mr. Geek forgot a keyboard and mouse for the demo equipment (do I hear a big DUH from the audience?). Fourth, be ready to call it an early day if there are no significant sales (especially in the hot days). Fifth, talk with your neighbor vendors -- you learn a great deal by being sociable.

This last lesson, however, can be extended to many other aspects of life. It is through communications with other, more experienced players in a chosen field, that we shorten our learning curve and gain experience more quickly. Talking with others with an open mind is a very valuable lesson indeed. Above all, have fun doing whatever you are doing at that moment -- it will never happen again.

Monday, July 17, 2006

About Peace

Peace seems to be the one goal that human beings keep pursuing without achieving. It is commendable that we keep trying; goal setting is fantastic. Yet, setting goals without achieving them is an exercise in futility. The Middle East is constantly at the center of violence. Every time violence erupts there I feel humanity's overall energy is drained once more, and humanity as a whole suffers. I have friends with roots in Lebanon and Israel; I have learned from them the hurt that comes from each of these conflicts. I am sure it is the same in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and every country in which violence prevails. When we, as a race, finally challenge our anger into more productive activities we will realize the brightest of futures. May peace be with you wherever you are.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

About teaching and teachers

This week has made me gain even more respect for anyone that teaches. I taught a five-day course covering the complete Linux+ certification. Overall, the course went fantastically. As I expected, there were as many lessons learned by me as by the students. I encourage you to consider teaching a class on any subject you are interested in. You do not have to be an expert on the matter. As I learned, you do need to make a serious commitment of time and effort. You need to prepare for the whole class ahead of time. You need a plan of action for each part of the course. Each day, you need to thoroughly prepare for the next day's session, as well as review the previous day's class to make sure you covered all critical points. If this sounds like a lot of work I confess that it is. In the end, however, it is all worthwhile when students thank you for your efforts. And do not expect perfection in either the classroom, the equipment, the students or yourself. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Things will go wrong and your students will respect you if you calmly tackle each problem; enlist their help and you will begin to build a team. Finally, you do not have to know it all or have all answers to all questions. Encourage your students to research those along with you. Always give honest answers, even if they sometimes may be "I don't know but I will get back to you with a response." Above all, have fun!

Friday, June 23, 2006

I am Registered

I recently became Registered -- I am Linux Regsitered User No. 418894. This is an important statement on my support for Open Source and GNU/Linux.

But today I also became registered in a different area. As of 2 PM today I registered to be a bone marrow donor. It is a very easy process. Most of the time is spent filling some basic paperwork -- it took all of five minutes or so. Then you provide four simple samples of your saliva, seal the samples and you are done. Hopefully one day I will be able to help someone survive a fatal disease. Please consider registering for such a worthy cause! Visit the National Bone Marrow Donor Program website or call 1-800 MARROW-2 to find out when and where a screening is available near you. It only takes a few miinutes of your time -- it may save a child's life!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free bracelet kit helps fight cancer

Go to the link below and order a free bracelet kit; it costs you nothing, but for every one that is ordered, Merck Pharmaceuticals donates $1 for cervical cancer education and screening. It only takes a minute - the link sends you right to the Merck website.

It would be great to get Merck to donate the "up to $100,000" they have agreed to!

On standards and spyware

Last week I began hearing about the introduction of pre-802.11n equipment in the marketplace. Some manufacturers are offering devices that comply with the draft of this wireless standard. Unfortunately, the draft is not a sure bet for approval and anyone buying these devices may end up with unusable equipment in their hands. Standards are supposed to be adhered to after they are approved. However, some manufacturers are pushing for this new standard even if it's questionable. Dell will be shipping laptops with pre-802-11n Wi-Fi adaptors although they may be incompatible with 802.11g networks. That tells me that Dell (and others) will force the approval of 802.11n regardless of existing problems. They may "force" consumers to buy newer technology simply to stay compatible with their equipment. This is objectionable behavior in the part of Dell and others; they have disregarded due process and forced the adoption of a potentially-incompatible standard.

In other technology-related matters, Windows XP was reported to be "calling Redmond" everyday. Many of us consider this a form of spyware from Microsoft. What do you think? Could this be another reason to switch to Linux?

The meaning of life

A friend of mine sent this to me in an email. I had seen it before and found it very funny. I hope you do too!

On the first day, God created the dog and said: "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said: "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said: "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the Dog did?"

And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said: "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"

And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But man said: "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Patriot Act Protest and More

We are beginning to see some public reactions to the effects of the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II laws that went into effect as a consequence of the 9/11 events. Four librarians have challenged the U.S. government's actions under the Act. I applaud their courage for standing up to what is clearly a branch of government that has been given a waiver in the checks-and-balances system that was wisely implemented by the founders of this nation and that served us well for centuries. The FUD strategy used by the current administration will end one day and history will show whether the Patriot Act was a wise choice. I believe it was not.

After reading these thoughts (published elsewhere), a friend of mine sent the following commentary:

Whenever I read more “sky is falling” fears of the Patriot Act, I cannot decide whether to laugh or cry. Today, in California, they have adopted the “Anonymous 911 Drunk Driver” laws. Is there anyone you don’t like? An ex-spouse? Somebody owes you money? Annoying neighbor? Make the 911 Drunk Driver call, and the local police can enter their home without a warrant, take the suspect away in handcuffs to the testing facility. Of course, they also have the “in plain sight” laws, and once inside the house, anything is fair game. Care to have them inside looking around? Where’s this mythical “checks and balances”?

Of course, your name is kept confidential, so the poor schmuck never even knows who made the call, and unlike the Constitutional guarantees, he will never get a chance to face his accuser.

Where's the ACLU?

The DEA can also enter your house without a warrant, seize your personal property, computers, records, all cars, even the house! You need to prove innocence before recovering anything, which can and does take months. These drug laws are considered the single most dangerous invasion of privacy and individual rights on record. There are countless cases on record. Where’s the NYT’s and the ACLU? Where’s the outrage?

Many law agencies are now expanding the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), to tap your phones on a whim. No warrant.

The 1966 Lautenberg Gun Ban is so expansive and vague that almost any misdemeanor will prevent gun ownership. But that’s not enough for Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) who has launched her most recent effort to use Orwellian Big Government with her Bill HR 1415 -- the McCarthy bill -- would require states to "make electronically available to the Attorney General records relevant to a determination of whether a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm under [federal law" [Section 102(c)(1) (A)].

Now, God forbid this passes, but if it does, how does the gov’t obtain such records? Simple. The bill assigns millions to the FBI to troll through our income tax and phone records, internet use, military records, medical history, divorce records, police arrests, and yes, even library records, to examine whether retroactively you might have performed “something of a violent nature” that would preclude you from gun ownership. Something decades ago. Okay, you are anti-gun anyway, but what do you suppose the gov’t does with all those records? Throw them away? Yeah, right.

This is just another tactic for the gov’t to acquire citizen databases, triggering the end of personal privacy. Ever signed that box on a doctor or hospital form about sharing information? If so, you gave permission for any agency to obtain any record they want, without a warrant and without you even knowing.

While you are looking out the front door, worried about the gov’t checking library records, a dozen federal, state, and local agencies can already enter your back door, take your history, computers, phones and records, and then confiscate everything in site, and haul you away. All very legal, and without warrants.

Patriot Act? Sheesh..

After I asked permission to use these comments, I received a follow up:

Use it anywhere you like. I am certainly not hiding my opinions. Or my name.

Thanks for the comments. I know we disagree on this subject, but I truly believe the PA is about 1/100 of the privacy invasions we unknowingly encounter every minute of the day.

As a hard core Libertarian myself [except for some of their loony platforms] I am firmly against government intervention and interference, and a very strong supporter of civil rights and the Constitution.

But the PA is a straw dog, an easy target of the media hype. If we think that neutering the PA will somehow restore privacy, well, there are several bridges we can still buy. How about waterfront property in Florida?

Meanwhile, the government continually chips away at our rights and we don't even know it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What happened to the 1300FE?

I was talking to Nessie last night and we got on the conversation of good gas mileage cars. I told her about my first new car: a Honda Civic 1300FE. I wonfer what happened to that engine technology and why we are no longer seeing cars with that type of efficient design.

You see, the 1300FE was extraordinarily economical to run. My car gave me about 45 MPG in the city and about 70 MPG in the highway. I once drove from Upstate NY to Chicago, IL on 1.25 tanks of gas. I remember having to gas every 2-3 weeks during normal use; I lived in a small city, close to work, and not far from shopping places. However, I also drove to emergency calls as an EMT and Firefighter. I think the car was used in what could be considered average conditions (it was neither abused nor was it babied).

I loved that car and I wish I could find one like it today. Most importantly, I wonder why Honda and other manufacturers are not making more economical vehicles. Today's "oil crisis" is much worse than the one we suffered in the 70s (please see The Oil Age for more information). Not only do we need more fuel-efficient vehicles, we need to support the use of other types of fuels. Water is now being used successfully as fuel for many applications (including cars and military vehicles). Why is this not being made available to the public?

Pictures of Reality

I am looking at a picture and I think there is something wrong with it. Maybe my eyes are suffering from old-age syndrome, or maybe I am actually seeing a severe distortion in reality. The US Congress was recently considering passing S.1955, a bill that, amongst its many hidden items, contained language that would allow insurance companies to eliminate coverage for preventive tests such as mammograms. The language was clearly focused on eliminating coverage for examinations that can detect and minimize the effects of cancer. Fortunately, S.1955 was defeated thanks to the efforts of the American Cancer Society and many other organizations that saw the destructive effects of this bill. I am sure insurance companies will try again, burying language in another bill just like S.1955, and they may eventually get their way. After all, they have the deep pockets that can buy support in Washington.

Monday, May 08, 2006


It happens sometimes that we find strays that change our lives, even if we only handle these animals for a short time. Several of them come to mind: "Tiny" and "Coco" are two of the dogs that we actually named.

This morning, as I drove the kids to school, this little dog was confidently walking in the middle of the road. Cars were struggling to get around him. We stopped and it struggled to follow me, but calmly got in the car and settled on the floor. The kids immediately took to him and he was named "Angel." I took him home but he would not stay in the back yard despite the yummy food I set in front of him. He wanted to be with his humans. Tracey and I left for radiation treatment and he tried to follow us. We thought he had moved on.

After dropping Tracey at home, I headed to work and came across "Angel" once again. He was walking towards me in the middle of my lane, acting as if he had recognized me and was happy to see me. So I put him in the car again and took him to the county shelter. I hope his owners (if any, since he did not have a collar) will find him soon. He is definitely deaf and maybe somewhat blind. Despite his age he moved well and showed himself to be very docile. He could make a great companion to someone. Good luck "Angel" -- best wishes to you for a safe journey going forth! Thanks for coming into our lives -- I am sure there was a good reason for your visit.

Life's Heroes

Attitude is such a valuable intangible in our daily struggles with life's issues. On Friday we met a gentleman in the waiting room for Tracey's radiation. He appears to be in his 60s. His wife is struggling with breast cancer which started two years ago. She is still undergoing treatment. He humbly told us how he developed stomach and prostrate cancer, which quickly spread to other parts of his body until the doctors could see lumps on his neck. He, without complaining, told us how he is undergoing this extremely intense chemo therapy. And he still takes care of his wife. His attitude exuded positiveness. He walked with pride and strength in every step. This gentleman is not only helping his wife with a life threatening disease, he is valiantly facing his own battles. I do not know his name, but from this day forth I will remember him as a one of life's true heroes.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Counting our blessings

When Tracey's radiation session finished this morning, we stopped to talk to a lady in the waiting room. It turns out her husband has lung cancer and he has been given six months to live. She told us how they are struggling. His health is deteriorating quickly. He can no longer drive and they have a difficult time getting around (she does not drive either). His medications are expensive: one of them costs $19,000 per month OUT OF POCKET! She told us she has their camper for sale to pay for this month's medication and their home is now for sale to pay for future expenses. This couple is in their mid 60s to early 70s. Here they are, in what is supposed to be their golden years, facing complete financial disaster, not to mention the imminent loss of your spouse. We encouraged her to contact the hospital Social Worker and get assistance -- both financial and support for what they are both going through. Looking in her eyes you could tell she was perishing along side her husband.

Misunderstandings, chemo and memory

Yesterday we learned that there was a misunderstanding concerning the ability of caregivers to attend the support group sessions on Wednesdays. Tracey somehow misunderstood what was being said during the meeting. Yet another gift from chemo, as is the loss of her short term memory. I cannot even begin to tell you the effects of these losses on her confidence, happiness, and over all well being. Tracey used to be proud of how, as a Paralegal, she could not only understand huge amounts of information thrown at her in a short period of time, but also how she could remember minute facts many months after each case was completed. Today, she tells me something in the morning and then repeats the exact same facts (verbatim) in the evening as if it was the first time she ever had the conversation with me. It is very frustrating for her and scary for me as I see the effects of chemo (from almost 2 years ago) on her. Is it any wonder that she is less than enthusiastic when anyone mentions chemo as a possible course of treatment for this reoccurrence?

MacKenzie's Dress Code

When it is a bit cool outside, there is no sense wearing a shirt under your jacket -- is there?

Not according to MacK. Last Tuesday, just as we were ready to head out the door to go to school , she was told that it was a bit nippy and to put a jacket on. So she went back to her room and came out a moment later with her jacket on. Off we went to school without much else to comment about.

As Tracey picks the kids, she sees MacK wearing a school t-shirt. She asks her why she is wearing that. Here is the approximate conversation:

MacK: Because I did not have another shirt to wear.
Tracey: What are you talking about?

Tracey (talking with teacher and MacK):
Tracey: What happened this morning?
Teacher: When MacKenzie arrived in class I asked her to take her jacket off and hang it on the hook. She said:
   MacK: "Ma'am, I can't do that because I don't have a shirt under my jacket. I was told to wear a jacket because it was cool outside."
   Teacher: "Quit fooling around MacKenzie and hang your coat."
   MacK: "I can't do that Ma'am because I don't have a shirt under my jacket."

Needless to say, Tracey was embarrassed to no end. I was killing myself laughing when I heard the story, and now we have to:
a) be very careful of the instructions we give MacKenzie so that there is little room for misinterpretation; and
b) check her before she leaves the house to make sure she is wearing all needed clothing (and we are not to assume anything!).

Another funny story for the archives!

Monday, May 01, 2006

I saw a rainbow today

I was driving back to the house this morning and I caught a glance of a rainbow. From that vantage point, the rainbow appeared to be right over our house. Could this be a sign?

A few minutes later I saw that rainbow again — this time it was in front of me in the horizon, as if to say that there are beautiful things ahead. My heart filled with hope.

It is silly what the sight of a rainbow can do for us. ;-)

I hope you catch a glance of a rainbow soon — may it also fill your heart with hope!

Just caregivers

I am catching up with blog entries so forgive me if this is a bit outdated (by a week).

Last Wednesday Tracey and our friend Nesa (also a cancer survivor) went to the Cancer Support Group. At one point over 18 months ago I understood that this group was open to patients and their family. But late that night, I was told that caregivers are not welcome at this group meetings. One of the reasons given is that patients/survivors would sometime not feel comfortable sharing their feelings if their caregiver was there. Hmmm ... it sounds like there are unresolved issues that need to be addressed between these folks.

The comment ("caregivers are not allowed to come to the support group meetings") left me angry and bitter because I perceived it as if we were told: "You are just the caregiver and you need to deal with whatever is coming at you in whatever way you can — you do not need any help from a support group like ours." I was also told that they are "considering" having a support group meeting when caregivers can join once a month.

Well, let me tell you, those of us that have loved ones fighting cancer are not just bloody caregivers that can handle anything and everything. We have feelings and fears and anxieties. We have hearts that break everytime we see our wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends affected by this damn disease. Ironically, we may feel we cannot share ANY of these emotions with our loved one because they are already dealing with so much themselves. So we swallow it, smile, and try to continue with life the best we can.

And, yes, cancer sucks and I hate it. :(

Not "our" fight

Last week (was it last week? days seem to run together in the worst of ways) Tracey and I met with Chris Gibson of Lexington Medical Center. Amongst many other duties, she manages the Cancer Support Group that meets at the hospital every Wednesday morning.

During the conversation it became clear that I have been making a mistake all through Tracey's cancer treatment. From the beginning, I have referred to it as "our" fight against the disease -- meaning that Tracey was not alone and that the kids and I were fighting with her. What I learned last Tuesday is that this took away a great part of the disease ownership from Tracey. So I must stop referring to this as "our" fight.

May this be a lesson to any one that is a cancer patient caregiver: make sure you do not inadvertently take away ownership of the fight against cancer. Some people may prefer having you fight with them side by side and call it "our" fight, but some may not.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Enemy

Look carefully around you; there are terrorists amongst us. These terrorists are ruthless killers and torturers. They are equally cruel with children, adults, men and women. Their weapons of mass destruction are very difficult to find, and that happens only after they have already claimed at least some part of their victim. The measures used to combat these weapons can be just as damaging to those affected. Although many survive, many perish from the effects of either the original attack or the rescue efforts. Many of those that survive are scarred forever, left with pain and burn marks, and dependent on medications that are costly and full of side effects. Our government seems to do less to combat these terrorists on our own American soil than in invading other countries in search of ghostly weapons of mass destruction. If some of the resources used in war efforts abroad would be channeled to combat the real enemies here at home, then our citizens could avoid the devastation these terrorists cause. Our enemies work in a well organized group and its name is known to all. It is not the Talisban or Al-Qaeda. We know these terrible enemies as CANCER.

Two years ago, my wife Tracey was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last month the doctors, by sheer accident, discovered that her cancer had returned. This time it developed on her spinal column, fracturing her T5 vertebra, and threatening her ability to move and function. The fracture itself has left her in considerable pain, but that is supposed to diminish with the use of radiation. Although "chemo" (which nearly destroyed her quality of life last time) is not part of her treatment now, she is being given medications to further combat the estrogen in her body and to help reinforce her bone structure. These will have, no doubt, an effect on her. She received her first shots yesterday and today she is experiencing bone pain similar to that of chemo.

There are rumors to the effect that cures for many cancer types are available now but that drug companies are not making them public because they would lose billions of dollars in treatment costs. One whole area of medicine (oncology) could be nearly wiped out if these medications would surface. What is a fact is that we should do a lot more to find cures and prevention steps for all types of cancer. The scars (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) left by the disease and the current treatments are simply barbaric. It is time for cancer to be gone.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lessons from the CEO

I came across these words and I thought I needed to share them with everyone:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.

You name them--work, family, health, friends, and spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls--family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.


1. Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

2. Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

3. Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

4. Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life.

5. Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

6. Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

7. Don't be afraid to encounter risks It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

8. Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

9. Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going.

10. Don't forget that a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

11. Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

12. Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.

This was written by the President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Brian G. Dyson. It was used at Georgia Tech's 172nd Commencement Address Sept. 6, 1991.

The complete speech is at

My Alma Matter is up there with Harvard

Who would have thought it possible? The Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) is being put side by side with a University such as Harvard. That is big news for any of us that graduated from that school.

Look at the April 13 issue at Doonesbury Comic Strip.

Way to go RIT!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Are you sitting down?

For many years, those words have been used as a preamble for important news. One can usually tell if the news are good or bad by the way those words are spoken. On Monday, April 3, Tracey called me and almost immediately asked me if I was sitting down. The tone of her voice told me it was not good news. She told me that Dr. Madden, her medical oncologist, had called her and confirmed that the mass on her back was cancer — indeed, it is the same breast cancer that she discovered in April 2004 and that has changed her so much.

It all started in early March when Tracey went for a routine bone scan. The results came back abnormal and showed a compression fracture of one of Tracey's thoracic vertebrae (T9). This type of fracture has very few possible causes. In Tracey's case the most likely reason was cancer. We met with Tracey's medical oncologist and decided to do a CatScan to confirm the existence of abnormal cell activity near the affected vertebrae. The CatScan confirmed such but also revealed no other unusual spots in her chest or abdomen. On Thursday, March 30, Tracey had a biopsy of the affected area, including the removal of a small part of her vertebrae. We received the results of such on April 3.

Dr. Madden estimates that we can fight this with radiation therapy alone. Perhaps they can repair her T9 vertebrae after radiation is over. We have an appointment with the radiation oncologist on Tuesday, April 11, to map the needed treatment.

Tracey continues to amaze me. Despite the pain she is in due to the fractured vertebrae and the neuropathy caused by the original chemo therapy, she has her "game face" on and is ready to fight this new occurrence. And so am I and everyone around her.

I hope to see the day when we no longer have to worry about cancer, and that the isolated cases of such disease can be treated in an efficient, painless manner that does not involve burning someone (radiation) or running a poison through their veins (chemo). Current treatments remind me of those used in the dark ages, where patients died more from the cure than from the disease.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lessons from Mowing

One of the nice things about growing older (not old, but older) is that you tend to learn valuable lessons even from seemingly mundane tasks. Saturday was the first time I actually tried to mow our backyard. A few days earlier I had tried to start our mower, but it refused to crank up. So Saturday I asked our neighbor if I could borrow theirs while I took mine to the repair shop. When I got back to our yard, I looked at our mower and decided to try to start it again. This time I sprayed a little WD40 in some areas that may need lubrication and tried to start it. After trying several times the machine fired up. Lesson #1 for the day: don't give up so easily. I realized that I give up on mechanical problems a lot easier than I give up on computer problems. Why? Is it lack of knowledge and understanding? Perhaps so. I decided then that, since I will be using small engines (mowers, weed eaters, etc.) for as long as I can see in the future, I will enroll in some sort of course to learn to work on them. I may not be able to fix every problem (some situations require special tools that would not make sense to buy) but I will learn to handle the smaller tasks (such as fixing the pull rope that starts my mower).

As I started mowing I realized that my usual mowing pattern was not going to work -- some portions of the lawn were too tall for my mower. I quickly changed to a different pattern rather than forcing the issue. Lesson #2: be flexible and observe for the need to change.

Mowing progressed slowly but surely, and I found myself enjoying more and more the nicer lawn I was seeing. I finished mowing in what seemed no time at all. Lesson #3: learn to enjoy the process as well as the end result.

And those are the lessons I learned from my first mowing session of 2006. :-)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ten Seconds

Last night I was informed that a friend of mine, a fellow bowler, died in a fatal head-on collision this past Friday. His name was Mark and, amongst his many traits, he was known for being impatient. As I understand it, he tried to pass in a non-passing stretch of a local road. Sadly, I was told that if he had waited ten more seconds he would have reached the part of that highway where it turns to four lanes. Ten seconds between life and death.

Mark was 35 and had four children, the youngest is only six years old. I got to meet this little boy two weeks ago when Mark brought him to the bowling center. Mark was an avid bowler, passionate about every frame, always seeking to be a better player. He was a great conversationalist and it was always a pleasure to talk with him; he would usually challenge you to think in different ways. Mark was tall and strong and had a quick, warm smile. He will be dearly missed.

This has reminded me that we need to slow down, to spend a few extra seconds on the road so that we can spend many more years with family and friends. And it also highlighted the fact that we need to be aware of everything and everyone around us as we drive -- we cannot be too cautious on the roads we travel.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


The county where I live is now engaged in a Think Tank effort to encourage "open communications" as an initiative to improve conditions in the area. One of the main issues mentioned is honesty in communications between people of different races. There has been a huge level of fear in communicating problems because of the risk of offending others that are different from us. Our county is predominantly black (or African-American if you prefer the political correct term). White folks have been under the impression that they cannot speak openly because they may be perceived as racist if they disagree with someone that is not white. This whole discussion is a subject that Tracey and I have reviewed many times, especially since she and I grew in a multi-cultural environment (she in Toronto, me in Mexico City) that did not include discrimination based on one's skin color. Of all the talks we had as a result of this Think Tank, one concept became clear: our society needs to work towards a state of "oneness" where everyone can work together for the good of the community while at the same time retaining our heritage and values. Oneness differs from "sameness", which is an effort to make everyone the same (and in which minorities are forced to abandon their roots). Sameness causes resentment amongst minorities and fear amongst the majority; oneness promotes progress culturally, economically, and socially. Here's to being one with all of you!

Lady Liberty Cries

I often think of Benjamin Franklin's wise words, "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." In the last week there were several news concerning evidence of our country's trading of freedom for security. Don't pay off your credit card -- Homeland Security will be checking on you (see article below); your kids can be suspended from school for visiting websites while using your home computer in your home -- see the story below. Why do Nazi SS keeps coming up in my mind over and over again? Will future generations have enough courage and strength to reverse the damage caused by the post-9/11 laws? I certainly hope so. We are currently too scared, too comfortable, too detached to fight a government determined to dominate our society much like the SS ruled Germany and the occupied countries -- Congress just reinstated the Patriot Act provisions that began our dangerous loss of liberty. The "Lady" in New York is crying.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Thoughts on SuperBowl XL

SuperBowl XL happened two weeks ago. I have meant to blog my thoughts on that game since then.

The game was neither won nor lost by the teams on the field. This is another contest decided by the officials. I am particularly focusing on two plays: a touchdown denied to Seattle and one given to Pittsburgh. In neither case was the player's ability really a major factor. The officials broke one valid TD and made one happen.

Let me say that I am more a Steelers fan than a Seahawks fan -- I spent lots of time in Pittsburgh and love that city. I also have many friends from Pittsburgh that are life-long fans of the Steelers. But I completely disagree with the official calls that tipped the balance of the game so far in favor of one team. I may be wrong on this (I have been told I am) but that is the way it looked to me.

This SuperBowl reminded me of a question that popped into my head several years ago: are these games "fixed"? Sometimes it just seems that way. I hate thinking that this could be true. But then I look at professional wrestling and I realize that it is very possible indeed! Several people had mentioned to me in the last few days that the Olympics seem to favor some teams or athletes. Are these competitions fixed? Are other professional sports rigged to guarantee an outcome? I am certainly a cynic and skeptic of the authenticity of things I watch on TV.

A Win-Win Situation

We bought a new car today. I mention this because the experience was one of the most non-pressure car buying events my wife and I have ever been a part of. I think the car industry is finally getting it: high pressure sales not only hurt the individual business or sales person, they hurt the whole industry. The "no-pressure" approach is not new; I remember experiencing it as far back as 1983 when I bought my first new car. Every time I am faced with buying and I feel pressured into something I usually do not complete the transaction -- it just feels wrong. Today's transaction simply felt right from the very beginning. The salesman was objective, honest, and did not try to feed us any crap. The "behind the scenes" staff (General Manager, financing, etc.) were there to support the transaction, not to pressure us into getting more than what we wanted. What a great experience. We will definitely go back to that dealer for our next purchase and we will recommend them without hesitation. That is a win-win situation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Five Keys Of Defensive Driving

The company I work for uses the The Smith System™ to promote defensive driving. The Smith System includes five keys that have proven to lessen the likelihood of vehicle collisions:

Aim high in steering — Ths means you need to see beyond the bumper of the vehicle in the lane in front of you. Traffic farther head in the same lane, traffic from parallel lanes and traffic from other directions can all create a change in the safety of your intended travel path.

Get the big picture — It’s necessary to look around as you drive. Pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers merging onto the road from parking lots and driveways and other hazards must be part of your decision making process as you drive.

Keep your eyes moving — Make a continuous and repetitive cycle of your eyes to see both sides, in front and behind your vehicle. If you don’t know whether or not there is another driver in the lane on your right, or one approaching to pass you on the left, you’re not using your side view mirrors effectively.

Leave yourself an out - When driving in heavy traffic, there should be space you can use to stop and avoid hitting the vehicle ahead of you. This space is most likely in front of you, because Smith System advises a four second following distance. Think also about changing lanes into an opening on your right or left or using the median or shoulder to avoid collisions.

Make sure they see you — Use your headlights and horn appropriately. Signals are used when turning, as well as when changing lanes. Remember to use your flashers when stopping in a high traffic area.

The only person’s behavior you can change is your own. Make sure you and the riders in the vehicles you drive are safe by driving defensively.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Valentine's Day

Next Tuesday marks yet another Valentine's Day in many countries around the world. Looking at the celebration's history and roots, compared to its current customs, makes me wonder about the loss of the simpler traditions of life. Valentine's Day once brought a simple exchange of meaningful messages amongst people that love each other. There were no diamonds, chocolates, expensive flowers, or any of the other commercialized "stuff" we are bombarded with every year. In 2006 I will buy none of that for those I love. I will find a small poem, transcribe it by hand to a folded sheet of nice paper, and add a message of what that person means to me, not only on February 14, but everyday of the year. I will give one of these notes to my wife, my children, my mother, and to some of my dearest friends. I better get busy, then, so that I can have these messages done on time.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Selling Freedom Out

This week I saw clear evidence that many Internet companies believe freedom is up for sale. Google has decided to filter search results from China to comply with censorship laws imposed by that communist regime. Yahoo turn over emails from a Chinese user's account that caused that person to receive a 10-year prison sentence. Microsoft also vowed to Beijing and filters search results on MSN. All this censorship is being justified in the name of commerce. China has a large population and everyone is trying to get a piece of that market pie. But at what price? Are Google and Yahoo and others selling their souls in the process? It is ironic that one communist country is still able to suppress freedom and push their immoral mandates into the international winds. It is sad that large companies like Google lack the backbone to stand against this atrocity, acting like a Judas that justifies a hideous crime and receives a few coins. Benjamin Franklin said that "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." The same holds true of the entities that trade freedom for money.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Turkey Bacon

Last shopping day, Tracey and I bought some turkey bacon. This morning I had the opportunity to use it for the first time. The package claims that it has 55% less fat than regular bacon. I found that claim to be a bit inaccurate. I believe the amount of fat I saw was about 80% less than what I am used to seeing. WOW! What a great surprise! I use a special microwave bacon cooker designed to minimize the consumption of bacon fat. One hangs the bacon from these special racks and the fat drips down to the holding tray as the bacon cooks. I usually can see a substantial amount of fat on the tray after cooking regular bacon. With turkey bacon there was almost no fat on the tray.

Another thing I noticed is that cooking time was half of regular bacon. I was fortunate to read the package before microwaving the product. No only is this bacon healthier, it saves energy in cooking!

Of course, one will ask about taste and flavor. In all honesty, it was OK -- but it did not taste like bacon. It has a very acceptable "smokey" flavor that is just fine for me.

By the way, I am still holding around the 236 mark. However, my clothes fit better on me and I feel better overall.

Here's to your good health! :-)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Gentle Waking

I have developed a "wake up" technique with my kids that really works wonders and I wanted to share it with everyone. It is a method derived from something I read on the Net. It goes something like this:

- I turn a light outside their room to bring dim illumination
- I begin by whispering a "wake up" song that the kids and I invented. In essence, it has their names in it and lots of happy words to start the day.
- I raise my voice a little bit at a time until they begin to wake up. Sometimes I walk out and come back five minutes later to give them a chance to come out of deep sleep.
- If they resist waking up, we play "tickle monster" and "earthquake monster" games. That usually gets them giggling and laughing.

Most of the times we end up in a big "wake-up hug" that fills my heart with incredible joy. I cannot think of a better way to start a day than with hugs and laughter with the kids!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


My weight in the last few days has been fluctuating between 237 and 239. That is a significant reduction from the 257.5 of late November. This whole holiday season has been sugar-free for me; the sense of control over my eating habits has been a reward on its own.

I attribute the weight fluctuation to drinking less water than I had been and also drinking more coffee than I normally would, especially since at home I only have regular coffee while at my office I almost always drink decaf. Now that I am back to my regular routine more of the weight should come off.

I am also determined to begin a daily exercise routine, even if it is a 30 minute walk.

A Loose Tooth and A Philosophy

When Tracey and I got home yesterday after spending time with a very dear friend, Noah met us at the door and announce he had his first loose tooth. Our boy is growing up so quickly! He is so excited because Tracey had told him that loosing teeth is a sure sign of getting to be a big boy. Needless to say, he was looking forward to this moment!

Later on that evening he shared with us his 5-year-old philosophy on life, a take-off from something I had explained to him a few days earlier. Noah's statement was very simple: "You live, you loose your teeth, you die." Of course, my original statement was "You are born, you live, you die." This was an explanation to a question concerning why people die. Neither Noah nor MacKenzie have hit us (yet) with the more difficult question of what happens when you die. I am sure that will come. For now, their concept of death is tied to what happens to Mario (and other characters) on the video games. I love their innocence.