Saturday, November 10, 2018

The End of the World

Some are predicting that the world will come to an end soon … like in January 2019 … just as the Democratic Party takes over the House of Representatives in the USA. I am not sure about this. Watch this video and you will get a good glimpse as to why I am not sure the end of the world is coming in 2019.


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Speaking of the States

Watch this hilarious and highly-entertaining video and learn all about the many states that have been and those that have not been and those that almost were … just watch the video!


Monday, November 05, 2018

We need to listen

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Americans will go to the polls for the midterm elections, elections that many believe are the most critical elections in recent history.

Tomorrow is a critical day for the country we know as the United State of America.

Between now and tomorrow, many minds will be made up for one candidate or another.

For those that are still undecided, and for any future elections, I encourage you to listen to those you agree with … and to those you may not agree with.

Elections are opportunities for all of us to learn about the issues that all of us have, and then use that knowledge to work together to find workable solutions. A workable solution is not a perfect solution. A workable solution is arrived at through compromise and negotiation, through seeking a win-win situation for all, by gaining agreement based on solid values and objectives.

A workable solution is not achieved through fear of any kind. A workable solution is not achieved through lies. A workable solution is not achieved by force.

During this election and during future elections, as was so eloquently stated by Dr. Steven Covey, "seek to understand, then to be understood." It starts by listening to the other side.

More importantly, it requires that we drop the "us versus them" mentality, it demands that we become "us" and that we resist the constant efforts of politicians to divide us, to demonize one group, to belittle another group. Unity makes a country great. Diversity makes a country great. Freedom for all makes a country great. Prosperity for all makes a country great. Respect for all makes a country great.

Anything that attempts to divide us is not in our best interest as a nation. Anything that negates the power of diversity is not in the best interest of our nation. Anything that attempts to deny our freedoms, to prevent people from voting, to mass incarcerate people to silence them, to make/keep people sick, that designs an economy that hurts the poor and middle class — anything that does such terrible things is not in the best interest of our country.

So, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2018, please vote. Vote for the candidate that will help solve problems that affect all, that will help bring people together, that will be truthful and honest. even when the truth is hard to take; pick candidates not just because of the party they are running under, but because they have a plan and they can address the issues without fear-mongering and lying; pick a candidate that you have researched and that you think is capable of representing the whole of the people and not just a few privileged. Vote with your mind and not your gut.

And when all is said and done, let's all set a goal to listen to all sides of an issue, to become better citizens, to be better human beings. It is not an easy path; it is the worthwhile path.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Adventures of a Lifetime

I have been captivated by the adventures of a young lady that has recorded what I considered adventures of a lifetime. Her name is Jessica, but her trail name is Dixie. She is from Alabama, and you can tell when you listen to her. From what I have gathered, she was working in Colorado at some point and decided that she wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail; she recorded every bit of it for the world to see. The Appalachian Trail (also know as the AT) is a 2200 mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine.

Then she embarked in the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), running from the Mexican border in southern California to the border with Canada in Washington State for a total of 2650 miles.

She finally did the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which runs for 3100 miles from the border with Mexico in New Mexico to the border with Canada in Montana.

Completing all three earned her the thru-hiker triple crown. For many of us that may never be able to do this type of hiking, it has earned her our gratitude and love for her dedication and hard work, not just to hike that many miles (about 8000 trail miles), but to record it and offer her experiences for free so that we can all enjoy the journey and destinations. Along the way she brings amazing photography and video, humorous and interesting commentary, and a warm reflection on the nature of humans, on having and achieving goals, on being scared and being mesmerized … in short, reflections on the beauty of being alive and doing what you love to do.

Dixie's playlist on her AT thru-hike in 2015

Dixie's playlist on her AT thru-hike Tips & Tricks

The PCT playlist for 2017

And the triple-crown CDT playlist in 2018

Spoiler alert: from time to time you will get some amazing drone views.

Go hike with Dixie; you will not regret it.

I had the fortune of hiking a tiny bit of the AT in 2016:

Appalachian Trail - Starting
Appalachian Trail - Starting group near the trail head, Salem, VA, on the way to McAfee Knob

Appalachian Trail - With My Kids, McAfee Knob
Appalachian Trail - With My Kids, McAfee Knob

Appalachian Trail - McAfee Knob
Appalachian Trail - McAfee Knob

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Another chapter in the book of life

Friday, MacKenzie and I went to the DMV near our home for her road test. It was a no go due to rain. 

This morning we went to the only DMV office that is open on Saturdays, which is way on the other side of town. MacKenzie is now fully licensed and has earned her independence

And with that, we close one more chapter in our family life and start a new one. It will be so weird not having to take either of my kids places like I have for the last 18 years.

I am so proud of both of my kids for all they have achieved so far and for the bright future they have ahead.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

When at the mechanic, jog

I took my daughter's car to the mechanic this morning to fix an oil leak. The shop said it would take about two hours. What to do while they worked on "Baby"?

Go jog!

I missed this morning's run, so this was my opportunity to make that up. I used the same Podrunner track that I listened to yesterday, with which I jogged at a 19 minute mile pace. Today, however, with similar weather conditions, I logged a 3.3 mile circuit at a 17:30 minute mile.

Yesterday's Jog

Today's Jog #1


My plan was to jog all around the shopping center near our mechanic until I reached Starbucks. After claiming my free drink and taking an appropriate break to give the mechanic time to finish the work, I would then jogged back to the shop to get the car. I am writing this first draft as I enjoy my latte and feel great joy for the first 3.37 miles of the day.

After a nice break at Starbucks, I jogged the rest of the way back to the mechanic, about 1.47 miles at a slightly slower pace (17:49 minute mile):

Today's Jog #2

So, when you are waiting for something, consider going for a walk instead of sitting around.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Priming

In a recent episode of the "Provocative Enlightenment" podcast, the hosts talked with Professor John Bargh about the effects of "priming" an dhow it affects our behavior and actions.

In one example, a group of individuals were asked to complete a questionnaire and their answers were evaluated. They were then returned to the test room after bottles of hand sanitizer had been placed on the tables. A similar questionnaire was administered, and the results were considered much more "conservative" the second tiime around. The inference made was that the hand sanitizer shown elevated the respondents' alertness to danger and thus shifted their perspectives.

The podcats highlights the myriad of stimuli that, unbeknown to us, affects our life, what we think, how we think, what we buy, when we buy, how we vote, etc. It encourages us to become more aware of these stimuli and mindful of how they affect us.

For more information on the podcast please visit http://www.provocativeenlightenment.com and look for the episode titled "Before You Know It."

Monday, October 22, 2018

Speeding Gains (and Losses)

How often have we experienced the joy of being passed by some jerk doing 50 MPH in a 35 MPH zone just to catch up with them at the next light? In my case, it is a daily phenomena.

I often wonder what the big attraction is to speeding. Of course, I admit going fast can be fun. By nature I like going fast, I enjoy the thrill of speed, of quick maneuvers, and the rush of taking a curve as fast as I possibly can. But those things are not meant for the often-congested streets and roads we drive on.

So let's approach this from a logical, scientific view. How much time does a driver save by driving faster? The short answer: not much, definitely not enough to justify the risks and penalties.

Here is an example using my daily commute to work which is about 35 miles each way. About two-thirds of my driving is on interstates with a speed limit of 60 MPH, the rest on streets/roads with an average speed of 40 MPH. That means I drive 23 highway miles and 12 street miles.

Looking just at the highway miles, it normally takes me 23 minutes to drive that portion of the trip at 60 MPH; at 65 MPH it would potentially save me two minutes, and at 70 MPH it would save me a total of four minutes. That would be true in ideal conditions (little or not traffic, no roadwork, etc.). I suspect the actual time savings would be slightly lower. For the sake of argument, let's say I save two minutes on the highway portion of my commute.

For the street portion of my commute, it normally takes 18 minutes at 40 MPH, and it would take 16 minutes at 45 MPH and 14.4 at 50 MPH, not considering traffic, stop lights, etc. So let us assume I save another two minutes by speeding on this part of the trip.

Normally, my drive to work takes me 40-45 minutes by obeying the speed limit. If I chose to speed 5-10 MPH I could save as much as eight minutes, but more likely it would be closer to five minutes.

Is it worth it?

Disadvantages of Speeding


  • Increased Stress: even when having fun, speeding increases our stress levels because we have to manage so much more information at a much faster pace. Stress damages our health.
  • Increased Wear and Tear on Vehicle: faster acceleration and harder braking will take a toll on the vehicle, not to mention a significant loss in fuel efficiency.
  • Speeding Tickets: from time to time speeders get caught, and the penalties can be substantial, not only in the ticket itself, but also in increased insurance premiums.
  • Increased Accident Probability: excess speed contributes to significant number of accidents, and fatalities are much higher in accidents in which speeding was a factor.

Here is a quick chart I created to visualize how much time one would save in varying distances and speeds:


Speeders and Speeding

To all speeders on the road:


Let's get something straight: I don't routinely speed. This is my choice and it is based on the fact that there are laws that dictate how fast we are supposed to drive, and the speed limit is set, most often than not, based on safety considerations.

I have the right to obey the speed limit. I have the obligation to obey the speed limit, and so do you. You have the right to disobey the speed limit and live with the consequences.



What you don't have is the right to harass and try to intimidate me or any other driver that chooses to obey the law and stay within the speed limits. You do not have the right to tailgate me, cut me off, or do any other kind of aggressive maneuver to express your displeasure with me obeying the speed limit.

In this matter, speeders are wrong and the rest of us are right. It is as simple as that.


Friday, October 19, 2018

mindful actions

this post is written in all lowercase letters. this is done on purpose and not as an act of laziness. it is an act in mindfulness.

how many times have you performed an action without paying attention to it? did you do it well? did you finish what you started? were you present throughout?

buddhists have a saying: "when you wash dishes, wash dishes." it means, be present in what you are doing. work on not getting lost in thoughts such as "i don't like doing dishes," "i wish i was doing something else," etc. just do the dishes!

btw, i cannot tell you how many times i have had to go back and change capitalized words to just lowercase words; my fingers naturally gravitate to pressing the shift key whenever a capital letter is supposed to be typed. doing this post in lowercase text is forcing me to be mindful of the exercise i am involved in, mindful of the activity, mindful of the muscle memory i have developed over the years, mindful of bad habits i may have acquired.

some bloggers refuse to use capitalization. it is their way to push back against norms, against what is expected. more power to them. i think we need more disruptors in life.

and we can apply this mindfulness exercise to other areas of life. my yoga teacher, juliett, once challenged the class to try brushing their teeth with their non-dominant hand. this, she said, would help us become more mindful of the things we do, of how we do them, and what would happen if we had to change.

can you brush your teeth with your weaker hand? can you write legibly with your non-dominant hand?

are you mindful in other aspects of life, such as eating and breathing? do you chew each bite carefully and enjoy each flavor from your food, or do you rush through the meal just to get to the next task on your list?

do you pay attention to your breath? is it shallow or deep? slow or fast? into the belly or into the chest? do you inhale as much as you exhale?

do you ever pay attention to your heart as it beats in your chest?

are you fully mindful and aware when you walk? when you talk with someone? when you read a book, magazine, or web page? when you listen to a song, a podcast, a news report?

do you go out in nature? do you listen to the birds? do you hear the sound of your steps? do you feel the wind blow?

one of the benefits of contra dancing is that it helps each dancer become more aware of each movement. and when you get to the end of the line, sequences are repeated almost in a mirrored way as you come back. contra dancing is one of the most mindful forms of action i know of. not only do you need to be in the here and now so that you can be on time to the moves, you also gain a pleasurable sense of your body movement and space, and you get to sense the energy of all those you dance with. it is a miracle in mindfulness.

my page is now screaming with little red squiggly lines indicating my words are not properly capitalized. i am smiling at all the "red ink" knowing that the writing and typing was done mindfully that way.

may you always be aware.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

"Get Smart About Credit" Day

Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner/adviser nor do I claim this commentary as financial advice. I am a widower and single parent of two teenagers, and I have experienced financial hardships and continue to struggle with managing finances in an effective and responsible manner.

Today, we celebrate "National Get Smart About Credit" day. I think it is an important celebration, perhaps one we should observe every three months, a call for all of us to become more informed about the credit industry and how it affects (some would say, destroys) our finances and our lives.

Let me be blunt: credit is evil.

One more time: credit is evil.

It really is worth repeating: credit is evil.

Credit is evil in many ways. First, it makes it easier for us to be irresponsible. That is, it makes us less able to respond to our long-term financial needs. Why? Because it makes us incredibly dependent on others for our needs and wants.

Second, credit has made it possible to bypass the process of saving for something that we need or want, and we have lost the willpower, discipline and skill to work, save and plan for those things.

Third, getting things quickly and easily has diminished the value of those items, and has lessen our enjoyment from acquiring them.

Finally, credit has enslaved us financially, turning our present pleasure into future suffering.

Credit is used in many scenarios:

  • The poor use credit to get things they need. Using credit ensures they remain poor and/or makes it harder for them to get out of poverty. This is financial/economical slavery. This is what slave/plantation owners and early industrialists used to do: force workers to buy from them on credit so that they were forever indebted and could not leave. Slavery. 
  • People use credit to get things they want. We all fall into this trap. 
    • We want a new phone: sign the credit contract and it is yours. Except we pay a lot for that new phone in charges that we otherwise would not. 
    • We want a new car: get a loan. If we look at the terms (especially the things that they try to hide from us) we can quickly see that loans can be very expensive. For example, when I bought my latest car (back in December 2012) I got tricked into buying an extended warranty that I normally would have not opted for. How? The finance manager altered the interest rate to make the payment stay "about" the same. Except he could have given me that better interest rate to begin with and not add the extended warranty (which is, as many of you know, pretty useless and pretty expensive). Extended warranties are free money for car dealers, so they always try to sell you one. And so does BestBuy and Walmart and everybody else.
    • We want a new home: get a loan (with no money down) that includes much more than just the home (IE., appliances, fences, etc.). Since the 2008 financial woes, the minimum down payment has been enforced more closely, but many builders still lure buyers with "no money down" deals. I have fallen twice for that. The first time was a total disaster, and the second time could have turned out poorly if not for extenuating circumstances.
    • We want to go to (or send our kids to) college: this is one of my pet peeves: another form of modern financial slavery. So many fall for the false paradigm that we have to start college immediately after high school, pay for college with loans and finish our college education in x number of years. None of those are true. Don't fall for that story line. High schools and colleges try to sell you on their plan, the one that is in sync with banks and lending organizations, so that they can slave you for decades. Just say no. Do it some other way. Work part time and go part time to school; find a trade and have fun with it — you can make lots of money and be debt free. A good carpenter, plumber or electrician can have a much higher net income than that of a surgeon over their lifetime. Look into it and think about it. Don't buy into false promises and lies.
  • The wealthy use credit to finance projects with other people's money, promising better returns on investment than they would get from other sources (such as the stock market).
  • The government (at all levels) uses credit to finance projects, which most of us end up paying in the form of increased taxes — unless you are wealthy or a corporation because then you can get away with paying no taxes and forcing the middle class to foot the entire bill.
I am sure there are other scenarios in which credit is used, rarely responsibly, mostly carelessly. And in almost all ways I can think of using credit, I think we are better of saving the money and being disciplined to live within our means and only buy what we can afford, what we can pay for right now, not next month or next year.

Shakespeare said it best: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." 

I Miss You

I miss looking into your eyes;
I miss you looking at me.
I miss your hand in mine;
I miss our fingers intertwined.

I miss your arms around my waist;
I miss your body in mine.
I miss your fragrance,
I miss your smile.

Until I see you again;
Until we touch once more;
Until I can feel your warmth,
I miss you.

Not you, not yet

Here is a call for action that we all can and should relate to:


The things that affect some of us may, sooner or later, affect all of us. Maybe it is not affecting us now, but we cannot discard the chance that they will some day. And the best way to prevent that is to help the affected now, relieve their pain and suffering now, so that others can be spared that pain and suffering. Let's not, not for one instant, think it cannot happen to us; it can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Nature and Man-Made Meet

This is one of those spectacular spots in the world where nature and humanity have created exquisite beauty together.


Do not blame the deficit on THAT!

The corrupt GOP machine is at it again, blaming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for the current deficit.



That is a lie, a blatant, shameful lie.



The reality is that much of the deficit is coming from the huge tax break they gave themselves and their rich buddies.

It is time to stop this madness. Every citizen has paid for these benefits; the money comes out of our paychecks. Yes, our employers contribute to the funds also. These are not entitlements, these are not gifts that Congress has given us. These are "savings accounts" we have been paying for and now the GOP is trying to steal our money, your money, the country's money, so that they can give it to their wealthy benefactors.




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Let's talk … about being black in the USA

Here is an awesome video about what it is to be a black person in America. Watch it. Think about it. Really, really think about it.


And then … be brave, be compassionate, be understanding. And then watch the video again. I know you will grow.

An Addicted Mind, An Aware Mind

A few weeks ago I went on a car camping trip. In preparation for the trip I looked at storage bins I could use for the trip and for future adventures. I was fortunate to have a variety of storage bins already and, after some cleaning, I had very adequate containers for this particular trip and, also, for future outings.

However, ever since then, my mind has been fixated on storage bins. Every time I go into a store I seem to gravitate to the storage bin isle and I spend a few minutes looking at the different bins to see if they would do what I want to do.

And then yesterday I became keenly aware of this obsession my mind is stuck in. I call it "The Addicted Mind." Consciously I know I have more than enough bins for any camping trip I may go to. Consciously I know I do not need to look for more storage bins. Consciously I know I do not need better or bigger bins. Consciously I know I do not need to buy any bins. And yet my mind drifts to the storage bins and wants to look at them anyway.

Becoming aware of this obsession re-opened for me the concept of "The Aware Mind." The Aware Mind is the part of us that is conscious and knows there is an unconscious part that is doing strange things, like obsessing over storage bins. Eckhart Tolle mentions both of these parts of us in all of his teachings. Other teachers throughout history, from Buddha to Jesus and beyond, have highlighted the importance of the aware mind.

My aware mind has caught my unconscious mind doing its thing many times. Examples include mindless thinking, wanting food immediately after having a full meal, wanting unhealthy food although I know it is unhelpful to my goals, wanting to buy more new running shoes even though I have six or eight brand new running shoes in the closet.

What is the best way to strengthen our Aware Mind? Meditation is the one tool that will help make our Aware Mind more capable of discerning when our unconscious mind is becoming an issue, when it is obsessing on something, when it is going to get us in trouble.

Meditation is simple. Take one deep, slow breath, and pay attention on how it feels for air to move in and out of your lungs; then, gently focus on your mind. Which mind is stronger at that point? The moment you do that, you have shifted control from your unconscious mind to your aware mind. In doing so, you are gaining control over your mind and over your life. It reminds me of the ancient story of the two wolves:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Which wolf (mind) are you feeding?

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Country Divided

The topic of today's NY Times' "The Daily" podcast was the midterm House and Senate races, and the chances of either party to gain or lose seats in either. The basic message: it is looking promising for Democrats in House contests, and Republicans could increase their majority in the Senate.

A key point made during the analysis is what portions of the population each body of Congress is designed to serve. The House ends up representing more of the suburban middle class centers, while the Senate ends up representing more of rural America. The comment was that this is the way Congress was designed. In my mind, it means that Congress was designed to be divided instead of united. Thus, this means our country is a divided nation. So much for the "United" part.

I understand the importance of having separate functionality, where the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary share the role of running the country. It concerns me greatly when elected officials have made it possible to divide us as a nation. "Divide and conquer." How can we expect to make significant progress on issues that affect all of us if we cannot come together as a nation? And when we constantly fight amongst ourselves we allow those in power to take advantage of our inattention. This is how corruption can go on, undetected, for decades. This is how waste is allowed to become virulent, money going to projects that benefit a few at the cost of projects that could benefit the most.

It is time to look at our nation and become aware of the many ways we are pushed to be divided. We are separated by political party association. We are split into a myriad of religions and churches within each religion. We are separated by skin color, race, age, gender/gender identification, sexual orientation, socio-economic status. We are divided by neighborhoods, counties, school districts, towns, cities, states, countries, continents. Wedges are driven between us based on schools we attend, sports we enjoy, teams we support, and even branch of the military we align ourselves with. And the list of barriers built to separate us goes on. Who needs a border wall when we have built so many other walls around us?

Each of these divisions we are part of competes for resources. What would happen if, instead of competing, we would cooperate to achieve long-term, well-planned goals that would benefit the majority? Could we not reduce waste, improve efficiency, and have greater congruence among all concerned.

It starts by becoming aware of things that divide us, how these things got started, and who benefits from these divisions. In the end we will find that career politicians and their supporters benefit the most from these divisions. Then we must begin to tear the walls, the borders, the artificial lines in the sand that have been put there by greedy politicians that do not care about the well-being of the majority and only have short-term plans that damage our health, our economy, our sanity.

When a government no longer works for the people, people must work to change the government. In today's world, politicians may be the cause of the majority of problems with our government. Replacing career politicians with other career politicians will not solve the long-term problem. Perhaps getting rid of politicians will be a much better approach.

As George Carlin said: they (politicians) don't care about you [profanity warning]


A Historical Spot

One of the features I enjoy about Windows 10 is the presentation of interesting world spots on the screen that locks your desktop. Today's feature on my PC is the "Pont de la Concorde" in Paris. The photo titled "Underneath the Pont de la Concorde in Paris, France" is amazing, and the history described in the caption is well reading. Enjoy!

Pont de la Concorde
Pont de la Concorde (credit)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Daily - Sunday, October 14, 2018

END OF THE DAILY

This will be the last "Daily" post, a blog that contains a variety of topics, one that attempted to be a daily newsletter of sorts.

Going forward I will post one or more items per day, each under its own separate title.

Perhaps this will lead to having posts in separate blogs, each dedicated to a particular topic. Successful bloggers seem to do that. Although I do not aim to compete with anyone or achieve the popularity of some blogs, I would like to make it easier for folks to find information I share and make the information more relevant to readers.

This also means a shift from quantity (number of topics or posts) to quality. And that sometimes may mean not having a daily post if the exercise of writing a better post demands additional time. That brings to mind the old adage: good, cheap, or fast; pick two, but not all three.

CELL PHONE ADDICTION

It is no surprise to anyone that we live in a world of cell phone addiction. I often, however, wonder how it is possible that people talk that much on the phone. There are people in my neighborhood that I have seen leaving home while on the phone, and they return home, get out of the car, and they are on the phone. Am I missing something?

Of course you have the inevitable person in a grocery store, gas station, or even a government agency talking on the cell phone. Some make it even more convenient (for themselves) and use an ear piece; sometimes that can be very scary because the ear pieces are small or hidden, and here you think this person is just talking to themselves, only to realize that perhaps they are on the phone.

As we know, there are real health concerns with too much exposure to cell phone radiation. But even more dangerous is the bad habit of talking on the phone while driving. Today I saw someone holding a cell phone with one hand, a sandwich with the other, and driving much faster than the speed limit. Yikes! That is scary!

Cell phone usage everywhere, all the time, no matter what. That is a whole lot of talking!

But … are they really communicating?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Daily - Saturday, October 13, 2018

WHEN GOVERNMENT STOPS WORKING

For sometime I have advanced the notion that many parts of our government no longer work. They no longer work, that is, for the average citizen. They work just fine for the wealthiest and for corporations, but not for the rest of us. Congress works for corporations and the rich; the Supreme Court works for corporations and the rich; #45 is a corporation and a wealthy oligarch.

When government no longer works for citizens, then citizens must act. After all, government exist to serve citizens. At no point should citizens serve a government that is serving anybody other than the majority.

What can citizens do when their government stops working for them?

Historically, citizens have revolted and overthrown failing governments. In other cases, representatives are voted out and different representatives are elected. Unfortunately, the new representatives often become corrupted and the cycle starts again.

One solution, as in the case of the Chicago Police Department officer that massacred a teenager with 16 bullets, is to use the legal system to seek justice. Sometimes that works, most often it does not.

In this week's episode of "The TED Radio Hour" called "Hacking The Law" (the podcast is issued on Friday's and then airs on Sundays on NPR stations), the show producers introduced a variety of ways to hack governments to make them work for the majority of the citizens. Two of the examples presented:

The Bail Fund

In the United States, those of limited economical means are often jailed, sometimes for years, because they cannot make bail. A group of public defenders started a program to provide bail for defendants, thus substantially reducing incarceration time and also allowing many of the accused to go free when their cases were thrown out or they were acquitted. The statistics provided were astonishing and well worth investigating. This program has been so successful that is now expanding into 40 cities. It is bringing justice where justice did not exist because justice is not cheap, and many poor people cannot afford justice in our country.

Here is the talk: Robin Steinberg: How Can We End The Injustice Of Bail?

Election Elimination

In Ireland, there is an experiment to eliminate the archaic institution of elections for public office. Instead, focus groups are asked to serve to solve problems. The concept is simple (but difficult to implement). Essentially, common citizens would take over jobs currently held by politicians. There are established term limits, an attractive salary, elimination of long term corruption, etc.

Here is the talk: Brett Hennig: Should We Replace Politicians With Random Citizens?

It is definitely time to hack our governments everywhere, do away with the old, corrupted methods, and try something new. There will be mistakes, there will be failures, and there also will be successes and real progress. It is certainly a better alternative that the stench of incompetent, corrupted governments that serve the masters and oppress the people.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Daily - Friday, October 12, 2018

MICHAEL DAMAGE

Hey Michael, I see your damage …



… I fix your damage …



Now, don't come back!



So, not a perfect fix, but more than half way there. Looking to borrow or rent a longer ladder to fix the rest.

TITLED & REGISTERED

The new Honda is now properly documented, and driver training continues in earnest


Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Daily - Thursday, October 11, 2018

ENTERTAINMENT?

For decades I have wondered why human beings find certain things "entertaining." Wrestling? Really?

Boxing? We enjoy watching two people beat each other up? Why?

Even organized sports and things like auto racing and pretty stupid forms of entertainment if we just stop and think about it.

There are two areas that are specially poor forms of entertainment:

Animals

Animals are not meant for our entertainment. They are beings that deserve our admiration and respect, not the cruelty that results from being forced to perform. Zoos and circuses are prime examples of what we should not be doing with animals. I understand that zoos have some species preservation function, or at least that is what they want the public to believe; If they were truly trying just to preserve species then they would call themselves a sanctuary and not allow the public to come watch the animals as if they were some sort of show.

Circuses, of course, have no excuses. I am glad they are closing and hope they will all be closed soon. Circuses are an obsolete form of entertainment we can do without. Neither animals nor humans should be exploited for the amusement of others.

It is no wonder people feel it is OK to hunt endangered species (see article).

Women

I have, for many years now, rejected the attraction to things like beauty pageants. This is especially horrific when it applies to children; they are often subjected to abuse by ego or money hungry parents that want to become rich and famous through the looks of their kids. That is so wrong! And these kids then are pushed into doing more of these things, sometimes with fatal results. Neither kids nor women should be used for the entertainment of others. To me, that is degrading and leads to so many problems, including the objectification of women that are turned into some sex symbols. That is ever so wrong.

All this is another manifestation of greed; read the article on how the Miss America organization is punishing states that have pushed back against what they perceive as unfair rules.

It is time to evolve. It is time to stop supporting "entertainment" that is bad for our civilization and our planet. Neither animals nor humans are objects, nor should either be used as entertainment.

Are you bored? Go read a book, go for a walk, go for a bike ride, go volunteer at a homeless shelter, go pick up trash from a nearby road. Stop abusing animals and humans by using them for your pleasure.

HURRICANE/TROPICAL STORM MICHAEL

Other than minor damage to our siding, Michael did not affect us much. We were so lucky. Many lost everything, some even their lives. We are grateful for everybody's concern. May you all be safe and free of suffering.

HONDA ACCORD JOINS THE FAMILY

We are happy to welcome MacKenzie's Honda to the family. It is now on our driveway and will be properly titled and registered tomorrow. MacKenzie drove it home for the 40 mile trip, and she did great. A few more driving lessons and she will be ready for her license test.



Special: Thursday, October 11, 2018: Michael Arrives

At about 5:55 I woke to the sound of high winds and strong rain. As planned, Michael had arrived. It is dark outside and hard to see what is going on; all we have is the sounds of Michael pounding the area. And, according to NOAA, this is just the start. Columbia is currently on the outer edge of the storm. The winds will intensify throughout the morning until about mid-day.

TS Michael as it approaches Columbia, SC
TS Michael as it approaches Columbia, SC

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Daily - Wednesday, October 10, 2018

BLAME THE VICTIM?

In today's "The Daily" podcast, the NY Times interviewed a group of high school girls about their thoughts, impressions, and concerns originating from the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court. The NY Times also revealed the interview with two adult women about the topic of "Who is Believed and Who is Blamed?" Overwhelmingly, the responses of these women (some young, some mature) is that women are blamed and men are believed when it comes to cases of sexual assault, violence, and rape. For me, it was heart-breaking to listen to the adult conservative woman, herself the parent of a victim of sexual assault, blaming the victims for these heinous acts, and minimizing the effect that sexual assault and violence has on victims.

Just as shocking was to hear the high school girls tell stories of how they were assaulted and disrespected simply for being women. It is still going on today, in high schools and colleges and businesses all across the nation, in houses were social events are being held, on streets, in parks.

Let's be blunt: women are under attack by men. It can be a cat call, a grope in a crowded room or bus/train, a push/pull into a dark alley/driveway, a push/pull into a bedroom, and so many other ways. Men exercise their physical superiority in the wrong ways and with bad intentions.

And let's be clear on one thing: we should not blame victims, not ever. Never can we use the way a a person is dressed, how they laughed or acted, where they were, what time it was, whether they had consumed alcohol or used drugs, or any other factor as an excuse for any type of violence against them. There are no valid excuses that justify violence against others.

Finally, we must become sensitive to the long-term effects that even a seemingly small act of violence can have on a person. PTSD in these cases is real, it is long-lasting, and cannot be dismissed as a victim's invention or excuse. Nor can we dismiss that victims fear reporting these horrendous acts, and they dread the consequences of speaking out. Why? Because we almost always blame the victim and believe the attacker. That is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Daily - Tuesday, October 9, 2018

PRIVACY: A PARADIGM SHIFT

In cyber news lately we learned of a "breach" of sorts affecting Google+, the failed social media competitor to Facebook. This breach, which was kept quiet by Google, allowed developers to capture the personal information of a Google+ user and that of their friends. Google, apparently, did not report this because it did not see evidence that the data was misused by developers that had access to it. Whether this will be proven wrong months down the road remains to be seen. Google is shutting down Google+ as a result of lack of use and the effects of the breach. Google+ will be retired next August.

What impressed me in the news clip is the apparent expectation that privacy of any kind is still possible for anyone that has had any type of online presence. I think that is an obsolete concept. Privacy is dead; we might as well get used to it.

Further, hackers benefit from this expectation of privacy and security, and thus seek financial rewards from exploiting our data in as many ways as possible. But what if that incentive was removed? What if we implemented a worldwide system in which there no longer be an incentive to get someone's credentials and steal their money or information? Such a system would be a radical shift in human behavior. It would involve the gradual shift away from materialism, and the elimination of greed from the human paradigm. That panacea would take centuries to implement unless something radical happens that forces humanity to shift more quickly.

In the meanwhile, let us not expect privacy or online security, and be ready for the loss of more on both fronts. As long as the rewards are high enough, then the bad guys will continue to attack.

DANGEROUS WINDOWS 10 UPDATE

In case you missed it, read all about why Microsoft is pulling the October Windows 10 Update: it basically can delete your documents and pictures. Here is the Microsoft page on the update.

TRUMPISM

How bad can Trumpism be? Just watch this video.


It is sad, it is disgusting, it is shameful.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Daily - Monday, October 8, 2018

THERE IS A NAME FOR THAT

It turns out there is a name for smart financial living: FIRE, or "Financial Independence and Retire Early" (or is it Financially Independent and Retired Early; who knows!).

Not surprisingly, there is some debate and controversy on the topic. I came across an article by Mr. Money Mustache explaining some of the misunderstanding and misconceptions around the FIRE philosophy. I will let you make up your mind as to who may be right or wrong on the truthfulness or accuracy of the FIRE concept, especially the early retirement part of it. The truth is, being financially responsible is not a new concept. Being frugal is a well-known viewpoint that was practiced by Benjamin Franklin and many others even in the early days of our nation, and I am sure they did not invent the practice, they learned it from smart, frugal people.

Being frugal means being smart with your money and with your spending habits. It means tracking how much you make and how much you spend; from that you learn what you may not need to spend on. You must make a budget and then stick to it.

It is a rather simple process, really, but it is not easy to do. But I think Dave Ramsey has one of the best, free methods to help anyone achieve long-lasting financial freedom. Start with the "7 Baby Steps" and you will be on your way.

AM/PM EDITIONS

I believe the AM/PM editions experiment has been proven unattainable during regular work days. If I did not have an 8-5 job I could easily do this. But work will always interfere with this hobby and so I will end the dual daily edition. I think, instead, I may migrate to a single topic posting, and post as many of those as seem prudent during the day. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Daily - Sunday, October 7, 2018 (PM)

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

This morning's run was less than stellar. I only managed to log 0.67 miles before my body claimed my attention; the body has a funny way to dictate what one does. Although 2/3 of a mile is OK, I simply was not happy with that. So, after dinner tonight, I got into uniform and went for a 2.2 mile jog. It was still warm and humid, but I made it. Now I am happy. I love jogging. And now I am on track for tomorrow morning and another 2 mile jog.

SELF-FINANCING, DEBT RE-ORGANIZATION

As I mentioned earlier, MacKenzie and I decided to pay for her car on our own. She is putting in $1000 from her savings and I am putting the other $1000 from our emergency fund. This meant that I would need to replenish both of those funds as quickly as possible. But I also saw the opportunity to apply a Dave Ramsey principle and get rid of my only other revolving debt: a credit card balance of about $2000. Our plan right now is to tackle the credit card debt first. Why? Because it is the most expensive debt we have. On the average it is costing us $30 in interest every month. Even if I repay MacKenzie with some reasonable interest, it would be lower than the credit card payment. Eliminating the credit card debt will be a multi-step process:
  1. Stop any new charges on the credit card — this will help re-build better, more responsible spending habits.
  2. Pay off as much as possible every month.
  3. Once my other car is paid off (December or January), then apply all that money (almost $400/month) to pay off the credit card.
I estimate that the credit card will be paid off by February 2019.

With no credit card debt, then we will start rebuilding the two savings accounts. I hope to re-pay MacKenzie no later than May 2019. After that I can rebuild the emergency fund and start building a Kia repair fund (it has 156000 miles and needs some preventive work, such as a timing belt).

With a solid plan like this, by September 2019 the only debt I will have is my mortgage. My plan is to get rid of that debt sometime in 2020 or 2021. 

I very much look forward to becoming and staying debt free.

The Daily - Sunday, October 7, 2018 (AM)

SHORT RUN BETTER THAN NO RUN

This morning's jog was short (less than a mile) and that's OK. At least I was able to get out there and log some time on the road. This, of course, does not preclude a longer run later this afternoon or evening. Or perhaps I will use mowing the lawn as my cardio for today. Or maybe I will do both. Let's see what the energy level is as the day progresses.

USE A PASSWORD MANAGER!

In several of the security-related podcasts I listen to there have been in-depth analysis of the state of password security and why it is impossible for humans to produce (much less remember) hundreds of random-character passwords that are safe to use. The only solution: use a password manager. I have been using an old password manager called PINs. Although it is an older Windows-based program, I have been able to successfully run it under Linux. If you have an older system and you want a fast and low-resource password manager, then PINs maybe a good choice for you. I have been able to run it from a USB drive for years, although this has been curtailed as many environments no longer allow USB devices to connect to their machines.

Another password manager I think is worth considering is Keepass. This application is free, open source, and runs in Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and other platforms.

Many security experts recommend Lastpass as one of the best password managers. The fact that you can have one account and all your passwords are accessible anywhere you log in (home, work, smartphone, tablet, etc.) is a great feature.

In the past, security experts had recommended using a root part of a password with a variable portion to make passwords easier to remember. For example, you could use something like "Mypass" + "Face" + "99" to make up a password for Facebook. Hackers have figured this scheme out and, experts indicate, using this makes it easier for a hacker to break into other accounts once they have one of your passwords.

The best approach:use a password manager and generate random-character passwords for each site/application, and make each password at least 16 characters long. Passwords should contain upper and lower cases, numbers, and special characters. Just as important: change your critical account passwords every three to six months. A password manager can alert you when a password needs to be updated. All websites allow you to change your password as long as you can provide your current password. Changing your passwords regularly prevents hackers from breaking into your accounts using old lists of hacked passwords that are readily available for sale.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

The Daily - Saturday, October 6, 2018

NO MORNING EDITION

The morning edition today just did not happen. Don't get me wrong. There was time to get it done. There was material to get it done. There was no energy to get it done. And, to be honest, I felt free to skip it. The advantage of having a small, unpaid membership is that there is flexibility for creativity. Honestly, the reason for the two daily editions was to help me write more often, avoiding the nightly rush to get a post in before the end of the day. It is a self-imposed challenge and, as with such comes the ability to choose. Today, I chose to rest, to sleep a lot, and to take a day off from many of the regular routines. My body was calling for it, my mind was calling for it, and my spirit was calling for it. And that is what happened: a day of rest.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Another "Zero" day? No way!

I woke up right on time and, although I had a slow, sleepy start, I did go for a 2.5 mile jog and it felt fantastic! I have missed my jogs the last three days. During the jog I thought I should start a daily running challenge and see if I can jog for 31 days straight. If so, then this would be Day 1. :-)

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Another thought that flowered during my morning run is that it would be helpful to keep up with the "streaks" and then report on those at the end of each week, perhaps on Sunday. Having a list of streaks has helped me stay on track with several aspects of self-improvement. I will work on the idea this week and will report on it on Sunday, October 13.

FINANCES

After much research and consideration, we have decided to self-finance my MacKenzie's Honda. Having the money in the bank was one consideration in favor of the decision. MacKenzie is putting half of the asking price, and I will be putting the other half. The strategy is not ideal and it leaves is a bit vulnerable because we are taking most of her savings and all of our emergency fund for the transaction. On the other hand, this will save us money (in finance charges) and it will reinforce in MacKenzie the value of saving for major purchases.

The money that MacKenzie is putting in is money I will reimburse her. I want this car to be her high school graduation gift. How the repayment will happen is interesting and a bit unusual, and I will go into that tomorrow.

KAVANAUGH: IMPEACHABLE?

Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed, as expected, by the Senate. There are many that have advanced the notion of an impeachment procedure at some point. This would require that the Democratic party have control of the House. Only one time in the history of our nation has a Supreme Court Justice been impeached (Samuel Chase, 1805) and he was acquitted of all charges (March 1, 1805).

Friday, October 05, 2018

The Daily - Friday, October 5, 2018 (PM)

IS HE TELLING THE TRUTH?

In this video, Sen. Sanders explains the reasons why the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh is troublesome and deserves additional scrutiny by the Senate. Why is the process being rushed? Is it for political, partisan reasons? Are politics more important than arriving at an honest conclusion concerning Judge Kavanaugh? Are we adding yet another member to #45's team of liars and cheats?



TRUMPISM AND FUTURE GENERATIONS

What is the current culture of lying, cheating, and disrespect teaching our youth?



The Daily - Friday, October 5, 2018 (AM)

INTERNET ISSUES

We had intermittent internet access issues at work. Early indications pointed to our ISP as the potential source of the problem. As with any such events, this led me to ponder what would happen, what would we do, if there was a massive disruption (nationwide? global?) to internet access. How will we deal with life when (not if) this unfortunate day comes?

We know there is redundancy in many parts of the system. Fortunately, mobile access to the internet is somewhat separate from regular access. But what if everything goes down? How would we bank, shop, and so much more? Sharpen your pencils! It will be a bumpy ride when that happens.

HEALTH & FITNESS

"Zero" day #3! <not a happy runner here>

FACTS AND LIES

It continues to surprise people (and maybe it shouldn't) that #45 keeps misrepresenting facts for the sake of entertaining the crowds that come to his rallies. Here is a good analysis by FactCheck on the latest blunder by our Liar-In-Chief: Trump Repeatedly Wrong on Ford’s Testimony

What bothers me the most, perhaps, is that this was absolutely unnecessary. Only a child consistently puts others down so that they can feel better about themselves. This childish, mean, vindictive behavior belongs to a six-year-old and not to the president of a country, any country.

I wonder what historians will think of our nation centuries from now. We know the era has a name: Trumpism. It is unlikely to be a period filled with high praise for our country.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Daily - Thursday, October 4, 2018 (PM)

THE KAVANAUGH QUESTION: JUSTICE OR POLITICS?

With the FBI brief investigation completed, and with the ultra-secret handling of the report, the whole nomination vote comes down to this: will senators act based on what is just or based on what the party affiliation dictates?

It is not hard to imagine that the accusations on Judge Kavanaugh were politically motivated. It would not be the first time that dirty politics are used as a means to an end.

Yet, it is also not difficult to imagine that these acts did happen more than three decades ago. If so, the acts are not justifiable. And we must ask ourselves: is the Kavanaugh of 30 years ago the same Kavanaugh of today? Did we not all make mistakes in our youth, some of them serious, mistakes that we would never make today?

I am not condoning, in any way, sexual assault or misconduct such as Judge Kavanaugh has been accused of. But I also recognize that the accusations were for actions that happened in a very different place and time culturally. They were wrong then, as they are wrong today, and if Judge Kavanaugh indeed conducted himself in such despicable fashion, he needs to deal with that sooner rather than later.

The other part of this whole process is the lack of evidence. Even the best FBI investigation would be suspect without evidence. Interviewing a thousand witnesses would only offer minor clarity to one side or the other. Law enforcement almost always needs evidence to make determinations about possible criminal offences. 

And so it comes down to politics. Will senators decide the nomination based on Judge Kavanaugh's legal merits and career? Or will this be a partisan vote regardless of obvious facts?

My heart goes out to Doctor Blasey Ford and all other victims of sexual attacks. As a man, I apologize to all of you for the hurt that other men have inflicted on you.

As a liberal, I resent the fact that President Obama was cheated of the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court judge when he had every legal right to do so. Dirty politics were certainly played then.

I suspect Judge Kavanaugh will be the newest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. That will impact our country for decades, possibly for generations.

In the grand scheme of things we need to remember that "this too shall pass."

The Daily - Thursday, October 4, 2018 (AM)

HEALTH & FITNESS

Another "zero" day? Yikes! I just could not get out of bed this morning! My fault, of course, for staying up too late. And this highlights the fact that morning rituals demand healthy evening rituals. What are my evening rituals? I have none!

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

I have been diligent on keeping up with my morning rituals, and it has really paid off. Except when I have not, like during the last two mornings. Today I realized that my morning rituals depend on how early I go to bed, and that trigger (going to bed) is not regular for me. Most nights I go to bed around 9:30 PM, some nights around 10:30, and a few nights after 11:30. However, if I want to always get up at 4:30 AM to do my morning routine, and always get at least seven hours of sleep, then I need to be firmer with my bedtime schedule. That, of course, is easier said than done! So many things can affect our bedtime. However, we know that if something is important to us then we will find a way to get it done.

Here is a nice article on sleeping patterns and how they can be useful to us: Why a Regular Sleep Schedule Benefits Your Health

THE FACTS ON NAFTA/USMCA

A little fact-checking on the latest set of fake facts from the Fake-in-Chief concerning NAFTA and its replacement agreement: FactChecking Trump on Trade

EMAIL OOPS!

Have you ever hit the "Send" button on an email and then realized that, for example, you forgot to attach the document that the message referred to? Or, worse yet, you click "Send" before finishing the most important sentence of the email? Or, even worse yet, you have written something really, truly nasty that you never meant to send and accidentally send it to everyone on your mailing list?

Here is a nice article on avoiding the Email Oops that get many of us: Email Oops, and How to Avoid Them

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The Daily - Wednesday, October 3, 2018 (PM Edition)

WEALTH: AT WHAT COST? AT WHOSE EXPENSE?

Here are two more links to the NY Times story on the Cheater-In-Charge: 



As Senator Elizabeth Warren has said many times, it is fine for millionaires and billionaires to make money, lots of money, but it is not OK for them to cheat the system that allows them to be wealthy. In a very real sense we, the people, through taxes, pay for the roads, the fire and EMS and police, the infrastructure, and all the services that allow the rich to become rich. When they cheat they make it harder for others to have a decent life much less become wealthy themselves. That is not in the best interest of the communities and the country as a whole.

I am glad the NY Times was able to expose some of these facts and shed light into the falsehoods upon which #45 gained popularity. Will this affect his base? Will he lose followers? Who knows. A cynic may say that it will not; an optimist can only hope that all this information will help a few more people understand that this president is a Fake.


The Daily - Wednesday, October 3, 2018 (AM Edition)

CYBER SECURITY MONTH: A Cybersecure Home

October is Cyber Security month. We can start being safe in cyberspace by securing our home network. The SANS Institute has an excellent article on the topic:


DEPLORABLE!

Hillary Clinton once used this term to describe all of our current Liar-In-Chief supporters. Using such a term to define a group is a dangerous maneuver as Mrs. Clinton knows all too well.

What is obvious is that the term does apply to #45. His despicable rhetoric attacking Professor Blasey Ford puts him square in the definition of deplorable. He is disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, unworthy, inexcusable, unpardonable, unforgivable; reprehensible, despicable, abominable, contemptible, execrable, and heinous.

Such behavior is beyond reprehension. But then again, what else can we expect from a misogynistic Fake President? 

WEALTH SHAM? SCAM?

The NY Times is reporting that the wealth claimed by #45 is based on scams, lies, cheating and fraud. Here are "11 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s Wealth".

The "Scammer-In-Chief" has openly stated that he took advantage of every legal tax loophole to avoid paying taxes. It looks as if he and his family also created a few loopholes, holes large enough to allow a semi truck to go through: "Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father".

I will have two more articles in the evening edition.

HEALTH & FITNESS

To borrow a phrase from long-distance hikers, today was a "zero day." For through-hikers that means a day of rest with zero miles hiked. For me it was a day with no morning jogging, of sleeping in to further recover from the exhaustion of the weekend and the effects of the cold I have been dealing with.

I managed to do a nice stretching routine (call it, if you want, Yoga in bed), followed by a not-so-mindful meditation period, followed by a good period of affirmations. Overall, a nice morning start.

Having a "zero day" does not necessarily mean being lazy all day long. I plan to go for short brisk walks every 30 minutes or so at work. I will manage to put about 2+ miles by 3:30 PM.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Daily - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 (PM Edition)

FUN OR REST?

I look forward to Tuesday evenings and my weekly round of bowling. Not only is the sport challenging, but the people in the league are friendly and supportive even with those they are competing against. Tonight, however, it was a matter of deciding whether having fun was worth the consequences. In the end, I decided to forego the fun and rest so that I can heal from this darn cold. I miss bowling, but it will be there next week. Rest it is.

PARENTING MOMENTS

For sometime I have been working on getting MacKenzie ready for the road; she is a good driver and we just had not had a spare car to finish her driver training. As of today we are getting very close to making that problem go away. The mechanic I engaged has given the Honda a clean bill of health, so we are on our way to acquire a new member of the Gascon automotive family:


This is about to become MacKenzie's first car. She and I drove it yesterday and I have never seen her more comfortable behind the wheel as she was driving this car. It is a 2001 Accord Coupe with 188600 miles on it, and it is in wonderful shape. We are looking forward to welcoming it to the clan.

OTHER STUFF

I have chosen not to do any of the other updates for now. I think the month of October will be more freestyle writing than the more structured format I followed in September. 

2018 BooneDoggle Special Post

Here are three videos of the dance I attended on September 29-30.




The BooneDoggle is a 12-hour Contra dance session that runs from 11 AM - 11 PM on the last Saturday of September. It is put together by the Boone, NC, dance community and hosted by the Appalachian Folk School in Mountain City, TN.

Enjoy!

The Daily - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 (AM Edition)

ETHICS, INTEGRITY, VALUES AND VIRTUES

A case for ethics and integrity. In the current discourse of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, it has become blatantly obvious to many of us that part of the problem with this process is that, as a nation, we have lost the sense of ethical behavior. And this is totally unrelated to our Liar-In-Chief; he is but a mere (albeit exaggerated) reflection of what politics in our country have become, where cheating and lying are just fine as long as "we" (meaning our party, our group, our city, etc.) win. It appears several generations of Americans have forgotten what ethical behavior is all about, what right and wrong are, what doing the right thing for the country means.

It would benefit our nation to go back to basic ethics training. Ethics is the area of human knowledge that deals with moral principles, with basic values, with virtues. I know many have forgotten what values and virtues are all about; many never learned those concepts at all. It is no wonder that we have such a mess in our hands.

Setting aside, for just one moment, the personal stories of the protagonists, the crux of Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is that we no longer know how to appraise truth and honesty from people giving statements, not even when done so under oath. Even more serious is the fact that politicians are willing, in a skinny minute, to ignore falsehoods in the interest of advancing a cause. This affects all politicians, all of them willing to take values, virtues, principles and ethics, and crumble them into a messy waddle destined for a garbage can. It is rare to have a politician or other leader stand up for what is right for the many, not just for the elite few; rare for them to stop, evaluate, think, ponder, struggle with the ethics of their actions and decisions.

Sometimes they are forced to. Sometimes two women step in front of an elevator and force a senator to confront the ethics of a decision. And sometimes that confrontation results in ethical action.

It is time for all of us to stop for a moment and take time to reflect on the importance of ethics, of morals, of values and virtues, and to do so with the well-being of all citizens in our minds and in our hearts.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Still fighting a cold, still dealing with a pulled groin muscle; still ran two miles in 38 minutes. Slow and steady!

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

I added "Affirmations" to my morning ritual, right after meditating. I used the following affirmations, which sit on my night table. You can easily find them on the web.

1. I am feeling healthy and strong today.
2. I have all that I need to make this a great day of my life.
3. I have all the information I need to solve any challenges that come up today.
4. I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself today.
5. I make the right choices all day using my inner wisdom.
6. I am happy and content with my life.
7. I am patient and calm and greet the day with ease.
8. I am filled with gratitude and kindness for another day on this earth.

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Daily - Monday, October 1, 2018

Today was a day of some work, some resting, and beautiful parenting.

I am dealing with a cold, one I felt creeping up last Thursday and did not take care of right away. As if often happens, a long dance event tends to deplete one's immune system, so by Saturday night (and definitely Sunday morning), the cold had developed fully, with a bothersome running nose and copious sneezing. I ended up staying home and working in the morning, and then I slept all afternoon. That was quite helpful.

And then MacKenzie and I had a great father-daughter time. We drove to Sumter to look at a used car that a co-worker is selling. We took it for a long spin and it turns out to be in excellent shape. It is a great 2001 Honda Accord Coupe with almost 190000. The current owner has agreed to take it to his mechanic for a full inspection. I will begin the process of getting a loan and insurance. Hopefully MacKenzie will be licensed and independent by November 1. She has been incredibly patient during this process and deserves an early high school graduation present.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Despite the cold I am dealing with, I managed to log 2.1 (slow) miles. I had to endure pain on my right hip flexor several times during the jog, but stretching it out seemed to help. Going up hill seemed to make it flare up and hurt so much that I had to stop. But I made it through and that is waht matters.

Today's run involved a brand new pair of Zoot Run shoes; this is the first pair of their "Sport" model that I have tried. They feel a bit tight and not as comfortable as the other Zoot shoes I have purchased, but this may be a combination of all the barefoot dancing from Saturday. I will try the Zoot Run again in a few days and see if they feel better.

GOALS, DREAMS, HABITS, RITUALS

Working on new rituals over the last few weeks has really paid off. For example, without an alarm clock I was up by 4:15 and out the door before 4:45 AM, a full 30 minutes ahead of schedule. This allowed me to handle the painful moments during the jog, and also the sneezing and low energy that came from having a cold.

The new rituals, now well ingrained, have turned into new habits. I no longer need to use the check list from my to-do list as much to get all those things done. They are becoming second-nature to me. This is the beauty and power of working on new rituals — they become new habits that help support our goals and dreams.

PERSONAL GROWTH

I was listening to the "Motivational Mornings" podcast in which they reviewed a book called "The Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod. In the book there is a acronym for six things to do every morning to boost your productivity and improve everything you do: SAVERS

S = Silence (meditation, relaxation, peace)
A = Affirmations
V = Visualization
E = Exercise
R = Reading
S = Scribing (or Scribbing or Scribbling)

I plan on implementing this strategy to impact my future success. I already do the first S and the E. For the next few days I will add the "A" to my rituals. Immediately after my morning meditation, I will use power affirmations to help me achieve my goals and dreams. After a few days I will add the "V" to my rituals. This should be fun!

One of the key concepts highlighted in the podcast is that we need to focus on what we need to become in order to achieve our goals or dreams. In order to change the exterior world we must change the interior world. Only through change will we grow and improve.

Here is a great video that nicely summarizes "The Miracle Morning" concepts.



FINANCES

September was a bad month on the expenses side. I have yet to catch up with entering data for the month. This will be done (hopefully by Wednesday).

POLITICS

In listening to the New York Times "Daily" podcast, I was moved by the powerful statements from two women, two victims of sexual assault that confronted Sen. Flake as he was leaving his office. The pain in their voice, their powerful words, and their moving stories may change this country in ways they may have never imagined. Perhaps it is time for all of us to look at our representatives and demand that they "Don't look away, look at me when I am talking to you" and hold them responsible for their actions. Sen. Flake was moved to do the right thing and he acted with integrity as he rallied senators from both parties so that a FBI investigation would be required in this matter. I am not sure if the investigation will result in Judge Kavanaugh's rejection from the Supreme Court job. Having the investigation is, in itself, a victory. It is one more win in the struggle to integrate women's rights into all aspects of life. It is not enough to have the right to vote. Women must have the right to feel safe everywhere, to make as much money as their male counterparts, to be treated fairly in all circumstances. The chauvinistic mentality is obsolete and must be eliminated and replaced with humanistic principles that will allow us to grow together, in cooperation and not competition.

FOCUS HABIT(S)

During the month of October I will focus on improving the following two habits:
  • Drinking 64+ oz of water: I probably enjoyed about 32-48 oz. today
  • Lubricating my eyes three times per day: two times today.

STREAKS - For the record

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 33
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 17
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 1 (I missed logging in during the trip)
  • Daily Exercise Routine: 
    • Cardio: Yes (2.1 miles, 41 minutes)
    • Yoga: No
    • Strength Training: No
    • Stretching: Yes
    • Meditation: Yes
  • Meditation: day 20
  • Number of tabs open: day 16

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The (On the Road) Daily - Sunday, September 30, 2018


The road trip is over, culminating with a wonderful morning session of waltzing.



https://www.facebook.com/vgascon1/videos/10210488690294022/


The drive home was uneventful except for fighting a cold that has been coming for several days but finally hit me late last night and this morning. Such is life. At least I was able to enjoy the weekend of dancing.

HEALTH & FITNESS

After dancing several hours yesterday and a little waltzing today, I again took a break from jogging. If all goes well I will be back at it tomorrow morning early.


STREAKS - For the record (updated)

Current list of streaks:
  • Writing: day 32
  • Blood Pressure Readings: day 16 (exempted from reading because of road trip)
  • Logging to SparkPeople: day 0 (missed logging in during the trip)
  • Daily Exercise Routine:
    • Cardio: Yes (lots of walking and some dancing)
    • Yoga: a little stretching in the morning
    • Strength Training: None
    • Stretching: short morning routine
    • Meditation: Yes
  • Meditation: day 19
  • Number of tabs open: day 15