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Not Everyone is a Barista

Yamamoto makes all his latte art in under four minutes

It is often said that Starbucks made the word Barista a household name. Maybe, but the word was in existence long before Starbucks became a brand-name in the 1980s. In its origin it’s Italian for bartender, but these days it is mainly if not exclusively used in combination with the art of making good espresso and all its derivatives such as cappucino, latte, macchiatto .

Now it would be easy to make this story short by saying a ‘barista’ is just a fancy word for someone who prepares coffee and operates an espresso machine in a chain coffee shop. And granted most often that would be enough to describe most baristi. However it would sadly not take into consideration that in true espresso loving countries being a barista is a career, rather than a job between high school and climbing corporate employment ladders.
Have you ever wondered in a good restaurant how some waiters and waitresses can spell you a 3 minute list of specials with all accoutrements and sauces into smallest detail, while others can merely point at the specials menu?

Just as some taxi drivers turn out ambassadors for their city with lots of historical, entertaining and business information to share, while others just want to be left alone as they take you from A to B, in many so-called menial jobs, the cream of the crop stands out with amazing clarity. And in the world of baristi (Italian plural for barista) one such example of magnificence is Kazuki Yamamoto, a Japanese barista who constructs eye-popping works of 3D art using just foam and espresso. To underline his popularity, within the six years Yamamoto has been working at a coffee shop in Osaka, he’s racked up more than 100,000 Twitter followers obsessed with his latte art.

Yamamoto says he only uses two very common objects — a spoon and a toothpick — to create all of his art. He pours the foam in first, then uses the toothpick to paint with espresso and the spoon to create shapes.

Now you may be of the opinion, why bother creating a masterpiece if it’s going to disappear down someone’s throat in just minutes? And in our fast world of driven accomplishment, you will find a lot of support for that stance. But that would also entirely deny that ephemeral art has its roots in traditional Japanese aesthetics such as the concepts of wabi-sabi and mono-no-aware, which hold that “many things are beautiful precisely because they are short lived!”
It’s the way of nature also. Butterflies, just like cherry blossoms light up nature for about 2 weeks every year and there is the emotional poignancy of knowing that it is only a temporary state of affairs.

Yamamoto must work quickly to satisfy customers’ desires for a fresh cup of delight. He claims he completes each work of art in under four minutes, so the coffee is still hot when he serves it and those who have seen him work confirm.

2013 Great American Smokeout

2013 Great American SmokeoutWe are about one week away from the 2013 Great American Smokeout. It was two years ago when I chose to play along and not smoke on the third Thursday of November.

About a week before the event, I decided I would go ahead and quit on that day! So I prepared myself emotionally and began cutting back on the nicotine.

So here is your one week “heads-up” from me to you, if you are looking for a gentle nudge to get thinking seriously about giving up cigarettes for good.

Mark your calendar now for November 21, 2013, and if you need a little motivation, hit us up on facebook for tips and motivational support!

Good luck!!!

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Veterans Get FREE Haircut at Great Clips

Veterans Get FREE Haircut at Great ClipsGreat Clips, the world’s largest hair salon, is launching its “Thank a Veteran” promotion on Veteran’s Day this year.

On November 11, active or retired military members can walk into any U.S. Great Clips and get a free hair cut OR pick up a free haircut card they can redeem for a free haircut through the end of 2013. Great Clips leaders say the gesture is one small thank-you for our veterans’ service to country.

Shears Salute
On Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, customers who come in for a haircut at any U.S. Great Clips salon will receive a free haircut card to give to an active/inactive/retired military member of any branch, including the National Guard. Military members can also come in on Veterans Day for a free haircut or to pick up a free haircut card to use, with proof of service, any day before Dec. 31, 2013.

“We’re honored to help the entire nation show appreciation for the men and women who have served our country,” says Great Clips CEO, Rhoda Olsen, who is married to a Vietnam veteran. “We invite everyone to come into a U.S. Great Clips salon on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to purchase a service and pick up a free haircut card. Give the card to your veteran neighbor, family member or just someone you notice is a veteran to thank them for serving our country. It’s one small way to show you truly care and appreciate their service.”

How It Works:
• Customers come into any U.S. Great Clips salon on Nov. 11 and, with the purchase of a service, receive a free haircut card to give to a veteran.
• Limit one card per customer (while supplies last).
• The free haircut cards are redeemable by veterans at any U.S. Great Clips from Nov. 11 – Dec. 31, 2013 with proof of service. The promotion applies to veterans only.
• Veterans who visit Great Clips in the U.S. on Nov. 11 receive either a free haircut that day or a free haircut card to redeem by Dec. 31. After Nov. 11, veterans must have a free haircut card to get the free haircut.

“Many of our franchise owners, corporate staff and Great Clips stylists have served in the military, or have family members or customers who have served, so we are all excited to be a part of this nationwide ‘thank-you’ to our men and women in uniform,” says Terri Miller, Great Clips vice president of marketing & communications. “To make sure as many veterans as possible have the opportunity to get their free haircut, we extended this promotion through the end of the year. We want to give these great people more time to visit a Great Clips and redeem this thank-you card for a free haircut in honor of their service.”

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Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas ChildIt’s time to pack a Christmas shoebox! Operation Christmas Child is underway and they are asking families to pack a shoebox (or more if you’re able) to add to this ministry outreach.

Each year, Operation Christmas Child collects gift-filled shoeboxes to be sent around the world along with a the Gospel message in the recipient’s native tongue.

Collection week runs Sunday November 17 through Sunday November 24th, the week before Thanksgiving.

Simply get a shoebox, fill it with gifts, and drop it off.

1. Shoebox
Use an empty cardboard or plastic shoebox (average size). You can wrap the box, lid separately, but wrapping is not required.

2. Boy or Girl
Decide whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Download and print the appropriate boy/girl label HERE. Mark the correct age category and tape the label to the top of your box.

3. Fill With Gifts
Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child.

4. Include $7 Donation Per Box
Help cover shipping and other costs related to delivering your shoeboxes to children overseas by donating $7.00 for each gift you prepare. You can give online to discover the destination of your box. Or, you can write a check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on the memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the items inside your shoebox. If you are preparing multiple gifts, please make one combined donation.

Note: Follow Your Box is only available through online giving and you can track the destination of your box by going online to www.samaritanspurse.org.

Operation Christmas Child is about kids reaching kids… a great way for families to share the love of Christ with another child in a very tangible way.

Drop your boxes off at The Relay Center located in the Food Outreach Center Of The Journey Church. Located directly across A1A from Chic Fil A at 96064 Victoria’s Place (Next to Atlantic Self Storage).

Relay Center collection hours:
Mon – Fri (18th-22nd) 3 – 6pm
Sat (23rd) 10am – Noon
Sun (24th) Noon – 3pm

To learn more, Operation Christmas Child will be featured at the Fernandina Beach Market Place farmers’ market on Saturday, November 9th, and you will be able to drop off your boxes at the farmers markt Sturday November 16, 2013.

If you’d like to volunteer or if you have more questions, please call Laura Beasley at (904) 261-1222.

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Sunday Funday Funnies

I took this shot of an AA plane flying into St.Maarten in 1990

Got an hour more today as Daylight Savings turns back to normal (Thanks to Ben Franklin’s folly) and while my friend Joe Bonamassa is filling my speakers with songs from his 4 DVD Set Tour de Force he did earlier this year in London, I want to share a couple of funny picture galleries, videos and stories I find in my email inbox daily.

By the way I hope this is not what happened to you this morning when the  Alarm Clock was mistaken.

How much music you can still make with what you have left

The first one is a story I can relate to as a string musician. It describes Itzhak Perlman, the world renown Israeli born violinist, conductor and music pedagogue who reportedly had to doubly overcome his polio handicap during a concert at the Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York in November of 1995. Even though this story was published by the Houston Chronicle in 2001, it turned out to be a hoax as can be found on Snopes. But beyond that as a string musician I can attest the challenge of playing leads on less than the usual number of strings on an instrument. When I push a B or G string too far in a blues bend and it breaks, the rest of the song becomes a matter of transposing and rephrasing instantly. A true challenge of the mind. But moreover the message of this story is so heart warming that I decided to share it with you:

On November 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, world renowned violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

He walks awkwardly, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair.  He sits down, slowly puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his leg braces, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward.  Then he bends down, picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and begins to play.
His audience is used to this ritual.  They sit quietly while he makes his way across the state to his chair.  They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs.  And they patiently wait until he is ready to play.

This particular time, just as Itzhak Perlman finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke.  You could hear it snap – it went of like gunfire across the room.  There was no mistaking what that sound meant.  There was no mistaking what he had to do. (What follows is actually the weak part of the story). The audience figured Itzhak Perlman would have to get up, put on the clasps, pick up the crutches and limp his way offstage to either find another violin or find another string for this one, and they would have waited patiently for him to do so.

Instead, he paused a moment, closed his eyes, and then signaled the conductor to begin again.
Of course, everyone in the audience knew that it is virtually impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings.  But that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

The orchestra began and Itzhak Perlman played from where he had left off.  He played with a passion, a power, and a purity they had never heard before.
You could see him modulating, changing, and re-composing the piece in his head.  At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to elicit sounds they had never made before.  When he finished, there was absolute silence in the room.  Then the audience  rose as one and cheered.  It was truly an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of Avery Fisher Hall.  The entire audience was on its feet cheering and whistling and doing everything they could to show how much they appreciated what Itzhak Perlman  had achieved that night.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet the audience and said in a quietly distinct tone:  “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he made music with those three strings and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more memorable, than any he had ever made before.

Why did the police stop him?

My friend Eric retired to the Panamanian Highlands in 2005. Before his retirement he was Holland’s top law enforcement officer, which is probably why he noticed instantly the reason why this motorist with his beautiful by-rider in Paris was stopped by the gendarmes, as he send me the following picture show yesterday.

That’s right. The police stopped them because she took the helmet off!!!

A funny Dutch Commercial

Click on the link below

I have something in my garden you don’t


November celebrates National Adoption Month

November celebrates National Adoption MonthNovember celebrates National Adoption Month across the country. The month focuses on raising awareness about adoption, educating communities about the challenges and myths around adopting children, and draws attention to thousands of children in foster care who need good homes.

If you’re thinking about adopting a child:
-Educate yourself on common adoption myths and how to make the process the easiest for you.
-Know that on average, it takes a year from the time you contact an adoption agency to the time a child is placed with you.
-Remember there are several steps in the adoption process, including: completing an adoption home study, getting approved, and being matched with a child.
-Have appropriate expectations and avoid judgments based on information you’ve read.

Learn more about adoption in the United States visit THIS LINK.

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The Start of RockandRollParadise.com

Lou here with his wife Lauri two years ago at his 69th birthday

Today I purchased the domain name rockandrollparadise.com! The trigger? Lou Reed passed away today at age 71. Who is Lou Reed many out there will say, to which my answer is he wrote and performed most of the album “Velvet Underground & Nico, an album Rolling Stone Magazine puts at nr. 13 for the best albums of all time. But of course that would not give the credit Lou Reed really deserves.

My plan is to use the site to give tribute to the passing of all those great musicians who grew up with us and gave us rock, blues rock, folk-rock, reggae and country rock, when our boomer generation grew up in the sixties and seventies and early 80s. I invite everyone with a heart for the music that defined those “tender(??)” years, to contribute. It’s going to be a couple of weeks before the site is anticipated to be completely up-and-running. Keep an eye on it.

2013 is turning into a strange and scary year. Friends and family are starting to die like apples falling from a forgotten tree. Some quiet, others with a worldwide impact. Less than two weeks ago my godmother passed away at age 90. It was a good and long life, considering that I lost my mom 10 years ago and my dad 18 years ago. End of life anxiety really hit home when my youngest sibling, friend and business partner Thom passed 39 months ago. I know death is the Great Equalizer and in Jim Morrison’s words “No One Gets Out of Here Alive, but I will not just stand there with arms wide open when the Grim Reaper plans to come and get me, even though there are already so many of my childhood heroes gone to the far beyond.
They say that the stars in the sky are the souls of the people who die and living here on the beach I have lots of opportunities to watch the billions of stars every night. Tonight there will be another one shining bright as Lou Reed lights up the stage.
Every time another hero of mine passes these days my first thought is: Damn there must be a magnificent concert playing  up there tonight.

Today Lou Reed moved on to that Rock and Roll Paradise in the Sky at age 71. The concert tonight will be minimalist, because it was this Velvet Underground frontman, singer/songwriter who once claimed that a One Chord song was fine, using two chords was being on the edge of Rock and Roll and if you played 3 chords, you were into Jazz!

As famous riffs go, it is said that Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” is the world’s most recognized guitar riff. A bit of trivia here is that Ritchie Blackmore used the beginning of Beethoven’s 5th and reversed it to come up with the riff. Yet, if you ask me the honor would have to go to Keith Richard’s “Satisfaction”, even though my personal favorite is “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. BUT… I will always and anywhere and immediately recognize the opening lick for Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” in that monotone rhythmic beat on the D string.

The Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol and Femme Fatale Nico

As a teenager/guitarist in Holland in the early 60s my search for original music quickly moved from the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds and Animals across the pond to New York and the West Coast. I soon became enamored by Westcoast commune bands like Iron Butterfly, Mad River, Quicksilver Messenger Service, HP Lovecraft, Jefferson Airplane, the Westcoast Popart Experimental Band, United States of America with the unforgettable Dorothy Moskowitz, Southern Jambands such as the Allman Brothers and the products of the Village scene in Manhattan such as the incredible Ten Wheel Drive and the incomparable Vanilla Fudge. In my personal development Leonard Cohen brought some of the coffee shop poetry into my musical palette, Dylan captivated my political and societal formation process, and Lou Reed filled a niche of darkness, carelessness and anger that expressed perfectly the mood of the mid-sixties before flower power. His compositions were provoking and challenging in lyrics and haunting in music and part of a mindset controlled by a deep need to be contrarian and unexpected.

Even though Lou Reed was never a great musical inspiration for me,  I may have been a reclusive member of a very small and highly exclusive group in Amsterdam that played vinyl records by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground in those early years. Brian Eno once famously explained Lou Reed’s massive influence on grunge, punk and other musical forms: “Velvet Underground’s first album only sold 10,000 copies, but every one who purchased the album started a band.”

New York’s Greenwich Village was Andy Warhol territory, and there is no doubt that the Andy Warhol pop art cult and the man himself ‘managing’ and sometime contributing to the works of the Velvet Underground, have largely contributed to Lou Reed’s long term rock status into this century. Warhol was in my opinion more a visionary of human manipulation than a magically talented artist, but when he added beautiful German born model Nico (1938-1988) as singer to the group for the album Velvet Underground & Nico,  (yep the one with the famous banana on the cover, he established himself as an artistic genius and Lou Reed and Velvet Underground as a musical force. After Lou got out of Andy Warhol’s shadow, yet still remained close, he played guitar sometimes. He “pretended”  to shoot up on stage. He wrote songs about sex, homosexuality, drugs,  S & M, transgender and transsexuals, abuse, politics, death, suicide, darkness, and light. He made some amazing music. He was avante garde right in your face.

Enjoy your welcome concert tonight Lou, we’ll miss you here, but you left us a great legacy of work to enjoy for the remainder of our years. The world has lost an original, but rock and roll paradise welcomed another rock God today.

I’m going to leave you with Candy Says –  song so pure, naked and vulnerable, that it only could come from Lou Reed’s pen.

Ronnie Stoots Writes New Song About America

Ronnie Stoots Writes New Song About AmericaRonnie Stoots is well known around Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach and Nassau County in NE Florida as a coach, and mentor.

Many in the area also know him as a professional musician and songwriter who has traveled with Grammy Award winning artists.

I know him a neighborly, friendly and a man of faith. Ronnie has written a new song, praying for the future of this country, our country.

Here is his video followed by the song’s lyrics:

“They say she is a Lady, but I’m thinkin now that lately she’s been treated wrong
Cause when she was young and tender we stood proudly to defend her, but since she is grown..
Some no longer stand beside her, and the light that used to guide her has grown dim
So dear God can you forgive us, and bring back America again.

I’ve been dreamin ’bout a home where mom’s & dad’s would get along
and everything was right
I’ve been wishin for a place, where every boy and girl feels safe to go to sleep at night
Where the war is finally over and we’re standing strong together hand in hand
Where there’s love in human heart, and harmony & peace throughout the land

God bring back America again
Remind her of the way it was, when we first began
Let the song of freedom ring in the heart of every man
And God bring back America again.”

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Wait
 and Hope!

The Best Revenge is a Good Life

The Best Revenge is a Good Life

Wisdom is not something exclusive to our time and age. As a matter of fact, I think we have lost a lot of it because of presumption, as we continue to challenge the powers of the Universe with aggressive human behavior. Two hundred years ago famous French writer Alexandre Dumas – the elder, wrote the Count of  Monte Cristo’s final words that all human wisdom can be summed up as “Wait and Hope”.

That would be my advice too for the the ABC series Revenge which was based on the 19th century French revenge novel series  The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas – the elder, who gained even more fame for his novel “The Three Musketeers.”

Original creator/writer Mike Kelley cleverly approached the story of Revenge from a female-driven angle and created a contemporary take on this 18th century novel playing in elite circles around the Mediterranean Sea. The runaway success of the no doubt intended mini-series, created the usual greed syndrome with the TV bosses, ( I expect a similar fate for this year’s Under the Dome and Revolution, and production pressure created a rift between creativity and the usual soap opera crap. As a result original writer/creator Kelley is no longer part of the team Even though it is played off as friendly and in good spirits, Kelley and his production partner Melissa Loy, left after warning ABC on several occasions that they could not deliver consistently crafted believable story lines in the way it was demanded by the Network.

If the Networks cannot find a better distribution set up in their struggle for viewers and advertising dollars, we’ll end up with an infinite line up of mind numbing so called Reality Shows and boatloads of boring 22 minute situation comedies.

What I did like about the first season of Revenge however, and to a lesser degree the second one, is the way the writers used quotes of wisdom and observation in  a background frame of human behavior, in a similar way as Alexandre Dumas created them for us to learn about human behavior over the centuries. Almost like the excuse of the Scorpion after killing his ride; I can’t help my pedigree!

I was immediately a fan of Mike Kelley’s pointed scenario creativity, yet also wondered where his writing would have to go in order to keep a believable story line in the production of 22 episodes per season. Most of American TV series after a while turn into soap operas of questionable intelligence, because the pressure of delivering high quality story lines that can be turned into a financially feasible story board week after week, is too nerve wrecking and physically taxing.

And contrary to all those comments I see about too many characters and too many plots and ABC playing with on air schedules, as reasons for a drop in ratings and Kelley leaving, I think it is just another sign that so many traditionalists have no clue about how to apply the possibilities offered by the age of technology and how things have changed.

That became once again apparent when I read a story yesterday about the Beatles recording their first LP (anyone still remembers vinyl?) on a brand-new 4 track recorder in 1963 – just 50 years ago. I’m not going to bore you with the galactic changes we have seen since those days, but when it comes to Network and Cable TV, I now have something called an ON DEMAND button, which allows me to watch ALL my favorite show in a delimited time frame. I don’t care any longer if Revenge comes on at 9pm on Sunday night or Prime Time on Wednesday. I can watch it on Monday or any other day with less quality TV offerings, because I’m not interested in pseudo reality shows like Dancing with Stars or the Voice or any of a long list of “stupid duds”.

I love a show that makes me think, even if only by reference.

Revenge’s Master villain Conrad Grayson explained in one episode that there really was no The Initiative,  but just a group of smart business people that got together and used the behavioral knowledge that People Spend Enormous Amounts of money to Ward Off Fear. He essentially admitted in an off-the cuff manner, that the ruling classes create disasters to be able to sell security and protection to the tune of trillions of dollars.

So I was delighted to hear last night’s episode where one of the characters said: A boat is safe in the harbor, but that’s not why it was built.

I like creative people that know how to verbalize an observation into a life changing reaffirmation. Alexandre Dumas was a master in the art as he wove jewels into normal dialog. Here are a few:
• The Priest : In return for your help, I offer you something priceless.
– Edmond: My freedom?
• The Priest: No, freedom can be taken away, as you well know. I offer you my knowledge.

• As a general rule…people ask for advice only in order not to follow it; or if they do follow it, in order to have someone to blame for giving it.”

• “For all evils there are two remedies – time and silence.”
And in the closing dialog of the ultimate Revenge novel the Count of Monte Cristo says:
the count just told
us that all human wisdom is summed up in two words?`Wait
 and hope.'”
And that is great advise for the Third Season of “Revenge”, the future of Network TV and Cable, and yes Life in General.

Time is here and now

Clouds constantly change their appearance as they move across the sky

“And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”

This famous line comes from a well-known Pink Floyd song titled TIME.

Even more than in the 1970s when PinkFloyd wrote these lyrics, people have forgotten that time, and living in the present, is a gift from God to enjoy and make it what you want.  We should all be grateful that we are alive, and are given the opportunity to make the world a better place.

The greatest enemy to living in the moment and making things work for you is pre-occupation with the past and the future, wasting time on scenarios that only happen in our mind and in fact never materialize and actually occur.

So many of us are boggled down by the bad things that have happened to us, and our mind set is that we remain a victim to those things that happened. But really, you are only a victim as long as you allow yourself to be, or even worse, as long as you make yourself one.

There are people who revel in being a victim, because that’s all they’ve ever known. They are comfortable in their habits, and they seem to have committed their lives to staying there as long as they live. Don’t be one of those people. Don’t be stuck milling over a painful world that you went through, and therefore have no future.

The other great enemy of your happiness is what can happen in the future. Some people live their lives dreaming of what might be that never comes. There are people who are living for the day they win that lottery, and every night they sit in front of the TV with great anticipation hoping that their numbers will come in, as their bills continue to mount. There is nothing wrong with playing the lottery, but meanwhile, getting a good job that will pay your bills is far more pragmatic.

Living is meant to be an active process, and if you don’t keep up with it, it will take the direction away from you. Living is growing, changing, circulating your vitals and finding new worlds while you change the old ones. Living is actively getting off your butt and participate into the mess, learning, moving, becoming a force in yourself instead of being taken over by it.  Sit in that miserable job for years and accept that comfortable paycheck and one day you realize that life has passed you by. Stay in that miserable marriage without doing something about it and one day you realize that life is passing you by. Time waits for no man, and as time goes by, you suddenly see that you have wasted what could have been active choices and abundant living.

You are only given your life once, and that’s why today is called “the present.” Take your present, unwrap it, and enjoy it.

There is only one way to overcome the inheritance of a bad past or the hopeless end of a future that never comes, and that is to live in the “Now”, to enjoy the present in all its glory. In fact, it is only by living in the present that you have any power to make your life and the lives of those around you better.

Living in the present gives you power to do something about your life and the lives of others around you. You can activate choice, and you can do it immediately. You can chose to motivate yourself, to move out into that ‘cruel’ world and make it better. If you need to get a better job, now is the time. If you need to love your kids, now is the time. If you need to get a better understanding of God and the Universe, now is the time. If you need to make amends with a friend or a loved one, now is the time. If you want to enjoy their company, now is the time. If that car needs fixing, now is the time. If you desire a better place to live, now is the time. If you wish to get out of that unhappy relationship, now is the time. You are not going to live forever. In fact, the only thing you know for sure is that you are going to die.

So start living!

What are you waiting for? To win the lottery? Are you waiting for your children to get nicer? Are you waiting for Prince Charming to magically appear on his horse and scoop you up and take you to his castle? Well, here is a truth; nothing is not going to happen until you make it happen.

So make it happen! Stop whatever it is you’re doing for a moment and listen to the wind singing in the leaves on the trees. See how the branches sway, how they enjoy the breeze, how they take in every moment without worry and enjoy their existence. Look at the clouds and see their glory. They revel in their existence as their shape changes in front of your eyes while moving across the sky. Listen to the people around you that are within earshot: Those are the people you need to interact with right now, those are the people who need your help! Help them. Stop the drama of your past and dreaming of the future. Get into the present and grab your time and don’t worry about what problems you might face in the future. Take the Power of Now and influence that future to be shaped and sculptured in your favor by the choices you make today, right now. The greatest power of the present is its ability to influence the future by the choices you make today. So decide what you want to do, what you need to do, prepare for it as best as you can and do it, NOW.

Life Through the Lens of a Baby Boomer

The World of a Baby Boomer Unraveled

The word Health Insurance has been ranking high on the family roster since the tooth of time started chipping away at our once magnificently young and healthy bodies a couple of years ago what seems now with the increasing speed of a roll of toilet paper nearing the end. My friend Ric, who is my senior by 5 years started warning me about half a decade ago. “Gravity sucks”, he said as often as middle schoolers in Connecticut are apparently saying: “Guess what day it is…?

Granted in the early days of my career years health insurance was a given; it was part of the fringe benefits in the corporate employment package; a ‘gift’ from Union Action over the decades in a country that promoted National Health Insurance as a human accomplishment.

When I decided to leave the corporate world behind to start my own journey I continued private insurance for my partner and myself until she ended up in the emergency room of a Florida Hospital with a hornet poison allergy. Cost of ambulance and ER treatment was $9,800. Insurance paid $2,800 and cancelled our policy. The balance was left for me. Since I grew up in a non-litigeous society, I left it at that, rather than wasting precious time with lawyers and courts.

About a decade later after several “run-ins” with insurance company flood and wind policies on a professional level, I thought I knew a lot more about insurance companies and decided to take out another private health insurance policy; it was the early 90s and it seemed the right thing to do.
Well, two years into the policy, hurricane Luis hit my primary residence, the island of St.Maarten in the Caribbean and getting hurt in the aftermath debris of rusty nails and loose bricks and boards was more a given than a question. Another emergency room visit became inevitable in the process and again, after the financial dust had settled, including payment of a sizable deductible, the policy was cancelled by the insurance company; after faithfully paying premiums of $225 every months for almost 3 years. That’s when I figured that if I would have saved $225 in a special insurance account for those 36 months, I would still have almost $3,000 left in the account for future health emergencies. Self insuring seemed a solid option, as long as medical care is an affordable proposition. And a doctor’s visit in the Caribbean goes anywhere from $35 to $200 per visit and generic pharmaceuticals are very reasonably priced, while a day in a hospital bed cost about the same as an upscale tourist hotel.

Consequently my decision was to no longer bother getting insurance, just put some money aside in your budget for the proverbial rainy day and try to live healthy and preventative. And in many countries that works pretty good, except here in the US where government larceny has reached a level of perfection never before seen in the history of mankind.

History has shown that all form of government is an exercise in larceny. All governments take things away from some people – power, money, dignity, freedom – and bestow favors on the ruling elite and its clients. The masses willingly and eagerly comply, as long as they think they can get something out of it – that is, someone else’s property. And here in this country the government has managed to become the largest employer, which creates a complete other level of direct dependency (until of course they shut down payroll…)

History of Government Larceny

Back in the time of Genghis, Attila, Alexander, Caesar and since the Middle Ages of royalty formation and even Napoleon, things were simpler. A powerful leader was a leader who could conquer other people/tribes/nations. Once conquered, they were looted and maidens were deflowered, and the war machine moved on to the next target. In the process the goodies were divided and ruling elites were created. The leader/ruler were innovative people, giving benefits and titles to the elite and delegated powers of punishment and reward. Those were the good ol’ days – before health insurance!

In those years the framework of a “philosophy” was developed that was later introduced as democracy literally meaning people rule. With much fanfare it was introduced in the nation states of the late 18th century as the most important experiment of humanity so far. Accolades and kudos aplenty and in the last 2 centuries it has been spreading the world like wild fire. Just reflect on how many wars we have and are fighting in the name of bringing democracy.

And yes I know I’m hugely sarcastic at this point because in the ideological years of my youth in the 1960s I believed that humanity might actually be getting somewhere in search of reasons for universe and eternity.
Well that’s not the case because what I’ve really learned since is that the beauty of democracy is that it defrauds the average person into believing that he has been invited into the ruling elite. He thinks that, ultimately, he decides what government does, so naturally, he deserves a share in the spoils.

I’ve said it on more than one occasion here in this country: “I have never seen such a large number of “poor” people defending the rights of the rich.” The only explanation I have for that peculiar behavior is that they were once part of an advancing middle class with presumed rights to the economic spoils of the Nation. Social climbers with a promise to become ruling elite, so to speak. Evidently they haven’t caught up yet with the reality that those dreams were smartly destroyed in the crash of 2008. I do admit that it’s fascinating to see in 2013 how many still believe that nothing has changed and that soon everything will be back to “normal”.

Also I have never seen so many people trying to validate a piece of paper such as the Constitution, that was written in the time and under the circumstances of a rebel war against an oppressor (Britain). Don’t make a mistake, the Constitution and the 10 Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights are a proud relic in my office, as a beautiful representation of its time, but I never ever forget that it was written by a ruling elite, that separated itself from another tyrannical empire, because it was dissatisfied with the arrangements of power and sharing.

And lastly I have never seen so many people adopt such a zombie-like attitude when it comes to being fleeced of their hard earned assets by a clever manipulation between the ruling power of politics and finance.

Coming back to Healthcare and the argument in Congress that this Government shut down is over the Affordable Healthcare Act, maybe you understand my confusion when looking at the following factual bullet points on American Health Care:

• Roughly $2.2 trillion is spent annually in America – more, per capita than in any other nation – on health-related consumption. The fight is over who gets the money and who gets the care.

• When comparing life expectancies and quality of life, it strikes me that most of the money spent on health care is simply wasted, for France has a nationalized system. It costs considerably less per person than the US system. Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia – all the developed countries have health-care programs partly or wholly run by the feds in one form or another. All spend substantially less than the US and all have about the same or better life expectancies.

• Cuba, a front runner in global medical technology, relatively spends only a fraction as much as the US… But it, too, has life expectancy rates that are not much different. A root canal in Panama, Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic is about 10% of the price quoted here in the US, often performed by very capable and up to date orthodontists and dental surgeons from Europe or Asia.

I could go on and on but it should be clear by now that GOVERNING is all about transferring money to the ruling elite. If it would be about a healthy population and an efficient health-care system, the system would cease offering health care services to anyone who was overweight, smoked or to anyone who couldn’t do at least 10 push-ups.

The US Health Care System is based on End Care rather than preventive care. This was not a decision made yesterday, this was done many many years ago.

Preventive care does not sell pharmaceuticals and that would mean that there are no spoils to share among the ruling elite.
The same goes for Wall Street’s spin doctored bull runs, the Federal Reserves stubborn promotion of monetary stimulus and low interest rates and the promotion of fear among the masses. People spend enormous amounts of money when they are afraid.

And what is there to be more afraid of that a failing health and pain.

Welcome to my first segway into Life through the Lens of a Baby Boomer! I’ll try to keep it light and fluffy.

I’d Love to Change the World

Alvin Lee, one of the greatest guitarists of our generation

In a week that has tested human sanity into the widest stretches of the universe, I was intensely pulled to a song from one of the most underrated greatest guitar players of my generation, who passed away earlier this year from complications during a routine surgery.

His name was Alvin Lee, and his life’s defining moment was when he played the only original 1969 Woodstock Festival with his band Ten Years After. Everyone there and millions since remember his sensational ‘I’m Going Home‘, which pretty much defined the band’s popularity until they split. In my personal opinion however his finest composition was “I’d love to change the world” (1971).

I know there are many of you out there that will inspect, dissect and reject many of the words in this great song, and it’s your right to do so, but one day when the years have come upon you in a constant, ever speeding onslaught, you’ll remember that once you would have loved to change the world, but didn’t know where to start or how to go about it. In minuscule ways we try and adjust in the process. But when something life altering is introduced, many of us become parrots of un-researched opinion and spins.

The Government shut-down overshadowed the first major implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act introduction, because lawmakers once again have made it a political issue. I refuse to call it Obamacare and for several years I’ve been on the fence on this increasingly hot and often willfully mis-interpreted piece of legislation, because like most of you, and definitely your representatives in Congress, I hardly have the time to read anywhere from 2,400 to 2,700 pages (depending on which source you trust) of topic specific material that is not my field of expertise.

What I usually do in a situation like that is, I study people in the topical field, how they conduct their lives, personally and professionally, how they deal with emotions like empathy and sympathy, how they feel about humanity and rights, what they consider fair and responsible. And in this case I directed myself to a number of medical practitioners and their opinions.

First our family physician, then some highly regarded specialized physicians from Baptist and St.Vincent in Jacksonville and then I happened to catch an interview with Dr. Delos (Toby) Cosgrove, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Cleveland Clinic, a cardiac surgeon with 22,000 procedures in his back pack, who now runs an organization with 43,000 employees of which 3,200 doctors and specialists, who eloquently states that “the train of healthcare reform had already left the station”, long before the introduction of the Affordable HealthCare Act.

Influence of Politics

In the big political show that is acted around the Health Bill’s introduction, Texas Republican Ted Cruz’s marathon speech, included a reference  to an announced budget cut at the Cleveland Clinic, which this political animal manipulated into a direct result of the introduction of “Obamacare”. In the viedo-taped question and answer Dr. Cosgrove resents this claim in a very professional manner, because the Clinic’s budget cuts have no causal relation to the Affordable Care Act and are the result of a long term consolidation plan. He admits that a lot of political maneuvering has added to the general assumption that diminishing Federal pay structures will affect health organization’s incomes, but the budget cuts are entirely the result of consolidations of longterm organizational inefficiencies. What’s more, he never imagined that the clinic’s normal management decisions and philosophies to be hi-jacked for political purposes, something he considers quite irresponsible and unethical. Cosgrove is furthermore a strong proponent for physicians being salary employed by the hospitals they work for, which completely takes away the incentive to overburden the financial reimbursement system, which has added to the fact that the US Healthcare system is the most expensive one in the world.

A personal run in with the system this year has convinced me deep into my wallet that the cost of medical care in this country is disturbingly confusing, dangerously gridlocked and ultimately electively cost prohibitive for people to use other than in an instance of absolute emergency, better known as life or death. Which is why caring medical professionals see the need to change the system. Cosgrove and many leading medical authorities warn that the US system is based on end term treatment, rather than prevention, which is the leading mantra in most countries with a general healthcare system in place. This is also the reason why Emergency rooms here in the US are on constant overload.

To explain this with an example: Take a chronically obese person who hasn’t seen a family physician in years, wakes up one night bathing in sweat, numb in limbs, pressure on the chest and dizzy in the head. What does this person do? This person ONE -Calls 911 and an ambulance arrives with emergency care technicians (Cost approx. $700). TWO – This person gets delivered to the emergency room /ICU, where in a flurry of activities vitals are taken and with the help of a number of physician recommended (and liability insurance driven) equipment decisions (X-rays, Ultrasound, EKGs, Scans, MRIs, emergency meds etc.)(Approx $11,400) and THREE –  The immediate results are gathered into a preliminary diagnosis and a care plan is discussed with the Emergency Room Physician ($685)

Now the patient becomes part of the medical system ……IF there is an insurance carrier (government or private) willing to take the person on.

Approximate Cost
Besides the ambulance and the emergency physician, which is reasonably fair pricing, everything charged is  FULL RETAIL, racking up a bill of “force and fraud” totaling almost $13,000 in a 6 hour time interval.
Who in this country says there is nothing wrong with the cost of healthcare?

Now, I do have friends, good friends even, who’d like to take the healthcare fight into the arena of political power fights, by saying that the affordable care act just means more government involvement in our lives. And if they would leave it at that, I would say okay, and now shut up… and let’s introduce this country to the 21st century where national health care is a given for any civilized and developed society. In other words, get it activated and then start improving on it, rather then waiting any longer to work out everyone’s little pet peeve. If our family physician says that the Affordable Health Care Act is perfect for people like my wife and myself, than I’m sure it’s going to help a lot of small business owners who fearfully face the hospital admittance question: Are you insured or self pay?

So to make a real long (lifetime) story short, if you want to change the world, start with the outlines and once they’re implemented, start filling in the details and correct as you go. Considering that we’re all living under borrowed circumstances, financially and otherwise, it’s better to start than wait on blueprint paper perfection of plans that may never see the light of day.

Until then be prepared to be confronted with stories of atrocities committed by people who turn out to be mentally unstable, but apparently found no relief in a health system that was too expensive to care.

I am ashamed to see media using a couple of bullet points to sum up a life and make us believe that the Capitol Hill lock down yesterday was an isolated incident caused by a woman with a history of mental illness. In this case it was the poor woman who died in trigger happy police gunfire, but a couple of weeks ago another man, declared mentally unstable after the fact, purchased a Remington 870 Express Tactical 12-gauge shotgun and two boxes of shells, after passing a state and federal background check and walked into Washington DC’s Navy Yard and killed 12 people.

These incidents will keep on happening in growing numbers if healthcare stays largely inaccessible in a country with 320 million people and an outdated health prevention system.

So yes I started out my day with listening to Alvin Lee’s “I’d love to change the world” at 6:30 this morning and now at 5pm I have to come to the conclusion, that “knowing how to change the world” is more a matter of just starting the journey, than arguably aiming for perfection.
Like my wise mother always said to her five sons. Perfection is God’s territory. 6 to 9 is human… anything under 6 is a waste of time and energy
Here  are the Lyrics and a Video to
I’d love to change the World
Everywhere is freaks and hairies
Dykes and fairies, tell me where is sanity
Tax the rich, feed the poor
‘Til there are no rich no more
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
Population keeps on breeding
Nation bleeding, still more feeding economy
Life is funny, skies are sunny
Bees make honey, who needs money, No none for me
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
Oh yeah!
World pollution, there’s no solution
Institution, electrocution
Just black and white, rich or poor
Senators stop the war
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you

Here I am, I’m 50 Years Old

Here I am, I'm 50 Years OldThis has been a reflective year for me. Our youngest has moved into a college dorm. We are empty nesters, and I am celebrating my 50th birthday September 28th.

The day before my birthday I was sitting in the Publix parking lot with our dog while my husband went in to find something quick for lunch. It’s not really a search for something quick; it has become a Friday lunch routine and I knew just what he’d return with to eat.

As I mindlessly watched the lot’s traffic flow, cars pulling into empty spaces and then pulling out, I heard a horn and looked up to see an elderly couple park into the spot facing me. I watched as they appeared to move in slow motion, turning off the car, opening the car door, getting out of the car, getting a box out of the back seat of the car, closing the car door, and then locking the Mercedes station wagon’s doors. They had an automated appearance and barely spoke to one another. He was nicely dressed and she carried a Vera Bradley purse on her arm, the same green pattern my daughter once carried. Crossing to the sidewalk for an obvious trip to the UPS Store, she waited patiently on the other side, as he shuffled so slowly across the road to catch up with her.

I turned my neck to see if my husband was returning yet, he was not.

Looking around the parking lot I witnessed a young woman drop her purchases onto the asphalt while a young man passed. As I sat in my car, I could tell he pretended not to see her, never looking up from his cell phone. Society is always evolving and just a few years ago, there’d have been no phone in his hand, no place for him to hide. No, just a few years ago he’d have helped her pick up the items sprawled, smiled and continued on his journey into the grocery store. I quietly chuckled to myself, understanding perhaps what my elders had already learned.

I glanced again towards the entrance for my husband, he still had not exited the store. Then I noticed the same elderly couple who obviously finished mailing their box and were moving slowly towards Publix. The woman once again was a few steps ahead of her mate.

I noticed nearly everyone going in and out of the store was older than me and it reminded me of something I had once read; I don’t know who the original author is:

And Then it is Winter

You know… time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

But, here it is… the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is… my friends are retired and getting grey… they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me but, I see the great change. Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant… but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be. Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore… it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will… I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so… now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did! But, at least I know, that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last… this I know, that when it’s over on this earth… it’s over. A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done… things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not in your winter yet… let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, what ever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life… so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.

I glance around another time for my husband and here come the elderly couple, living in their winter season, returning to their car. I giggle aloud knowing that even with their slow movement, they have still completed their errands faster than my husband.

Once again I am reminded that I’m about to turn 50. I am reminded of hope and the dreams we made for “once the kids are out of the house”. I think of things I still want to do and am thankful I am still physically able to do them.

While my grandson may think 50 is old, “I am not old,” 50 is the Indian Summer of life!

My husband returns to the car and I ask him, “What took you so long?”

He answers, “The store was full of old people.”

Soldiers’ Angel on Watch, Chapter 21

Soldiers' Angel on Watch, Chapter 21Soldiers’ Angel on Watch: Memoirs and Travel of a Country Parson Into War Zones, was written by Mike Dykes an ordained minister and veteran pastor of 43 years. Mike has been with the Armed Forces in the Morale Wellness and Recreation Department in Iraq and Afghanistan to become that Angel on Watch for the soldiers.

Here is Chapter 21:

My Education in Gratefulness

The old saying, “You don’t miss the water until the well runs dry,” just became a reality here on our base. I awoke to a dry well, literally. We depend on outside sources for our water supply because we are a small encampment. When the source in interrupted, as in the case right now, you realize how vulnerable we are over here, and are at the mercy of our host country.

I took a ‘soldier bath’ before reporting for duty which was a bottled water bath, and was thankful to have a bottle of water to do so. I’m sure something will be done to correct the escalating problem ASAP, but in the mean time, we will just have to endure the smell.

Even in a war zone one can get spoiled, and another old saying comes to mind, “It could always be worse.”

What I’m trying to say to all you back home is, “Go about today with a grateful heart, and take a little inventory of what you have as opposed to what you don’t.” For so long I tried to appreciate life and all the liberties I had before coming abroad and seeing how most of the world lives, oppressed and in poverty. America truly has been heaven on earth, and I just did not know it fully, until being deployed overseas these last few years.

I took for granted the soldiers who paid the ultimate price in the two world wars and conflicts every since. Freedom is not cheap. However, being here with these brave men and women has made me acutely aware of how precious our liberties really are. Do you want to know the real facts and the bottom line? America is still the greatest nation on earth.

Don’t let current conditions, or the threat of our demise cause you to lose faith in our God. We are still far better off than most of the rest of humanity. Do yourself a favor and let today be the beginning of the rest of your life to appreciate family, church and liberty while you can. Because, trust me, you can wake up like me, to a dry well.

This is your paster friend and soldiers’ angel on watch.
God bless you and God bless America. Bro. Mike

Soldiers’ Angel on Watch is available in soft or hard copy for only $25.16 and FREE shipping within the continental United States. Please email publisher@searchamelia.com for more information.

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Mathematical Riddle Explains Truth Behind Attitude

Motivational Coach and Mentor Zig Ziglar Built his Career on Attitude

I learned that the following mathematical curiosity was discovered by 2 seasoned math teachers with a combined total of 70 yrs. experience.

Not saying that it takes someone’s boredom to discover something this interesting, but it begs to be considered at least. It is no surprise that language (any language) has a numerical order initially based on a variety of expressions and sounds. Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote in his “Essay on the Origin of Languages” that language (as well as the human race) developed in southern warm climates and then migrated northwards to colder climates. In its inception, language was musical and had emotional power as opposed to rational persuasion. The colder climates of the north, however, stripped language of its passionate characteristic, distorting it to the present rational form. In the later chapters music is used as a metaphor to convey language’s transition. There is some proof that his assumptions are correct because in order to formalize and structure a language, western alphabets at least were developed in a numerical order.

Keep that in mind when exploring the following indisputable mathematical logic. AND…It also made me Laugh Out Loud.

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint it goes like this:

What makes 100% and what does it really mean to give MORE than 100%?
Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings and gatherings where someone promises to give 200%.
We all know that it is absolutely meaningless when someone claims or promises to have given 110% What makes up 100% in life?
This little mathematical equation shows how stupid it is to go overboard:
If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
is represented as: 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.
Then:
H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K 
 – 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%
and
K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E –  
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%
But ,
A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E –  
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%
And,
B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T  – 
2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%
AND for the kicker, look how far ass kissing will take you.
A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G – 1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+
14+7 = 118%

So, it is with mathematical certainty that we can conclude, that while Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you a perfect score, Bullshit and Ass Kissing will put you over the top. Keep that in mind at your next job interview or political rally. Oh wait….isn’t running for political office really a Job Interview. Mmmm

And who says mathematics is boring?