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My most recent single release - "My True North" - is now available on Bandcamp. Open my profile and click on "audio clip".

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Talking Vs. Doing

Join me and put on an introspective hat for today's reflection on talking vs. doing. What percentage of your time would you estimate you spend in each of the four modes described briefly below? Just as important, how closely would your estimates match what people close to you would say? I have no expectation anyone will claim mode #1 or mode #4 as their default. Some may even think they spend no time in either of those modes. I make no such claim; haven't mastered that walk on water thing just yet. 

Mode #1: Talking without doing: Call this the procrastination or flapping gums mode. I spend about 25% of my time operating - or more accurately, languishing - here

Mode #2: Talking then doing: This is my default mode. For better or worseI'm someone who announces my intentions because I've learned doing so greatly enhances my chances of following through. Could be the extravert in me, could be the showoff, could simply be my temperament; take your pick. I spend about 60% of my time operating in this mode.

Mode #3: Doing without talking. Though I strongly endorse the notion that actions speak louder than words, this mode is more aspirational than operational for me. And though some people I admire - the strong/silent, still waters run deep, etc. types - actually do a great deal for others or for the world without much talking or fanfare, my experience has also shown me plenty of strong/silent, still waters types whose default is mode #4. As for me, I'd estimate I spend about 10% of my time in mode #3, my aspirations aside.

Mode #4: No talking or doing: Call this the uncommitted or cynical mode. I spend about 5% of my time in this mode. An unofficial motto for this mode could be "Talk is cheap." That naysaying is a kind of code not real subtly aimed at dismissing people like me who default to mode #2, even when my (too many) words do (eventually) turn into action. I'm most likely to operate in mode #4 when I'm afraid of failing or disappointing others, or when I succumb to reflexive skepticism.

Are you going to leave me all alone and emotionally exposed out here in the blogosphere? Come on, have a heart.       


Saturday, June 24, 2023

A Hole in Time

Normally as I approach my laptop, several nascent ideas battle each other as potential topics for the day's reflection. 

But today, as my daughter and son-in-law begin their cross-country drive to a new home in Los Angeles, my usually restless blog brain is subdued. I recall only two earlier instances in the twelve + year lifespan of my blog when this has been the case - the day Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey shore in 2012 and the day my sister was hospitalized in 2020. Right this moment, reflecting on anything except the hole in my heart would feel inauthentic. What comparable moments have you experienced most recently in your life? 

When sadness threatened to overtake me yesterday as we assisted our daughter to prepare for the trip, my wife helped me remain reasonably grounded. She reminded me of my young adult adventures and how my parents might have felt at the time. My daughter is so much more emotionally intelligent than I was at her age, so much better at collaborating with others, so much more in tune with and fully connected to her parents. In short, even with her being far away for the foreseeable future, there's little for me to worry about and little excuse for feeling sorry for myself. That doesn't mean I won't worry or feel sorry for myself. Denying that would be also be inauthentic.        

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Using My Passions to Shape a More Perfect World

"We must become the change we wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi 

Since the inception of my blog, every four years on June 22 I've published a post with my ideas about making the world a more perfect place. For this fourth iteration in the series, I decided to abandon the snark of my three previous visions and instead note here a single book, movie, and song that could have an actual chance of accomplishing a sacred objective of mine, i.e., improving the world, a little bit. 

To that end, please guide me and others by doing the same. Use my three passions and share here a book, movie, and song you believe could do what I hope my choices might. If you can't come up with all three, share one or two. I pledge to read, watch, and listen to every suggestion made by any reader who comments. I don't see a downside doing so. Do you? Imagine the riches we'd each be exposed to if every thinking person reading this post offered one or more suggestions. Isn't even the tiniest potential for making the world a better place worth this little effort? Please join me.  

Book: The Illusion of Separateness (2013) - Simon Van Booy

Movie: Soul (2020) - Disney/Pixar animated film, directed by Pete Docter 

Song: I Hope You Dance (2000) - LeeAnn Womack (composers: Mark D. Sanders, Tia Sillers)


Monday, June 19, 2023



I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I was not aware until quite recently that Juneteenth was officially declared a national holiday in June 2021. Although my life was topsy-turvy those first four months of 2021, by June some semblance of normalcy had returned, so what can I offer as an excuse? The continuing fog of Covid-19? Gas at $5 a gallon? Mulling over the cost of my daughter's wedding the following year?

Reflecting on this leading up to today, I concluded the public marking of this significant date in American history passed me by for a simple reason: I'm white. I don't expect any white person I know to say they too were unaware of a national holiday that is now two years old. I also have no plans to further embarrass myself by asking my one close black friend if he knew Joe Biden signed this into law two years back.

But forced to wager, I'd say there's a better than even chance this piece of history did not escape that close friend. My second bet: There will be a sizeable number of white people surprised today to find their public library closed.   

Friday, June 16, 2023

Be My Guest

Although the offer is always out there, it's been quite a while since I've publicly issued a reminder to those of you who might want to be a guest contributor on my blog. Regular readers will be more familiar with what I aim for here, but for the more infrequent visitors to the bell curve who might want to give this a try - including a few folks in my writing group who have recently expressed interest - please note:

* Aim for concision. Most of my posts are three or four short paragraphs. Go for a length where the average person can finish reading a post in about the time it takes to empty the bladder, seated.  

* Although my choice of topics is purposefully broad, I've largely avoided politics or strident polemics. Please do the same. And no profanity. 

* Use of questions is encouraged. I started this blog to engage readers, not to lecture or give advice. 

If any of you decide you want to give it a go, get your e-mail address to me in either a comment on this post or contact me offline somehow. I'll reach out to you. Once you land on a topic, try writing it as though you - an average person on the bell curve - are reading it. From the outset, my intended audience  has been people who want to .. a.) love and be loved; b.) take care of their families; c.) work at something meaningful; d.) leave the world a slightly better place. That is, nearly everyone. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The Magic Pill Fantasy

From the time I was a young boy, regular exercise of some kind has been a part of my life. How old were you when you began regularly exercising? What form did it take? First for me was baseball, followed by cross-country as I became an adolescent.

I'm confident saying most people like me, i.e., those who have remained physically active for many years, share a common tendency: The main thrust of our exercise regimen has switched at least a few times over those years. For me, cycling and tennis took over in my post-college years. Later, I returned briefly to running, then took up skiing, joined a gym. In between, there were short affairs with squash and racquetball and lots of bike tours. Tennis returned with a vengeance after I stopped working full time in 2010. Currently, it's hiking year-round, cycling from April-October, visiting the gym when it gets real cold or funky outside, skiing a few days a year. How has your regimen shifted over the years? What does it look like now? OK, enough reminiscing and sharing commonalities. Here's what I really want to know from those of you who exercise regularly and extol its undeniable value.      

If there was an affordable pill with no side effects that guaranteed the same physical benefits as regular exercise, would you begin taking it in place of all that sweating? I'm reasonably sure I would. Just think of the good use you or I could make of all those hours we'd get back. But wait, I can hear the gym rats objecting: What about those endorphins, they ask? Sorry, even when training for the marathon I never finished, that legendary runner's high stubbornly eluded me. I've never disliked exercising, exactly. I also know staying fit "should" be its own reward or something vaguely Buddhist like that. And, I fully acknowledge quality of life is often enhanced by staying active and fit as we age.

Still, the magic pill fantasy dances around in my brain pretty routinely. Like earlier today, about five minutes into my bike ride. I stoically - or something - pushed through my resistance and stayed on the bike. But if that pill was available?      

Monday, June 12, 2023

A Record Turnout for a Worthwhile Book

Attendance at tomorrow night's meeting of the book club I established in January 2017 will likely set a new record. Unless my projections are off, there will be more than fifteen readers present. I'm pleased my sister will be moderating our discussion of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (2014). Her moderating will allow me to take a more active participant role. Given my complete immersion in author Jeff Hobbs's account of "..a brilliant young man who left Newark for the Ivy League..", I'm looking forward to having more latitude with respect to my participation.


Additionally - even more than usual - I'm anxious to hear how this particular book, and its cautionary message, landed with the  discerning readers in my club. From the moment my wife finished reading it, I've wanted to hear her take. But, because I invariably enjoy hearing her contributions during the club's discussions, I've tried gamely to avoid cross-examining her these past several days. It hasn't been easy.

If any of you have read this worthwhile book, I'd welcome hearing your takeaways. In the meanwhile, wish my sister good luck on her maiden voyage as moderator at my club. I'm planning to be on my best behavior.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Shattering the Posse Gender Monopoly

Pleased to report the hiking group I joined early this year includes several serious readers. Because this group has about the same number of men and women, the recommendations being made to me are a nice balance of non-fiction vs. novels. Sweet.

Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Lies and Legends About Our Past (2022) is the most recent winner recommended to me by one of my fellow hikers. The twenty essays in this excellent volume each skillfully de-construct a persistent myth held dear by many Americans. Every essay selected by editors Kevin M. Kruze  and Julian E. Zelizer is solidly written and strongly supported via the extensive footnotes citing formidable secondary sources. Although there's not a weak piece here, for me The Magic of the Marketplace tracing the long history of the canard that unregulated capitalism is the answer to society's ills - was among the most compelling and persuasive. I was not at all surprised to learn that the authors of that essay - Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway - are also the authors of Merchants of Doubt, the source material for the remarkable 2014 documentary of the same name.


Kathleen Belew's contribution to the book - Insurrection - centering on the "leaderless resistance" model being used by white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, is, by a wide margin, the scariest piece, and Voter Fraud by Carol Anderson the most sobering. End-to-end, The United States Is An Empire (Daniel Immerwahr) was perhaps the most educational. That one sent me on a search to discover more about five "proposed" States that the U.S. Congress "...swatted down...", including Deseret, Lincoln, Montezuma, Sequoyah, and West Dakota.

Based on Myth America and other winners recommended to me by one hiking friend, I'm mulling over whether to offer that person an opportunity to apply for membership in my reading posse. I'm now working on a rubric to share with him to ensure he knows what is expected should he want to be considered for that august group; he would be the first man ever so honored. Stay tuned for further news. In the meanwhile, try picking up Myth America. No need to read it cover-to-cover; just scan the table of contents, read the pieces that interest you, and then tell me your impressions.   


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Spin the Word

 Let's play spin the word. Without using a dictionary to parse your response, answer the following:

a.) You're an attentive parent. Which would offend you more - someone referring to your child as coddled or doted upon?

b.) You occasionally lose your cool when playing sports. Would you prefer your teammates call you competitive or intense?

c.) Your tastes in food, music, etc. are well known to people close to you and largely unchanging. Would you be more likely to refer to yourself as predictable or an open book?

Pay close attention and tell me the next time you run into a potato vs. potahto scenario similar to a-c above. I'm curious to know if the next tomato/tomahto situation you encounter is one I haven't already captured on a list I've been keeping for years. And as far as that list of mine is concerned, call me thorough or quirky - I've heard both. Just depends on who is spinning the word.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Joy Spreader


Although most of the things I've been called over the years are not worth repeating - let alone holding onto - when my daughter recently called me a "joy spreader", I happily embraced that. What inspired her to label me this way? 

I defy you to listen to the YouTube clip above and not get juiced. Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, whoever I'm with, when What is Hip? begins playing, that infectious musical energy puts me over the top. As my daughter watched me get ignited when Tower of Power began doing their magic, she decided to send a video of my rapture to her social media network. The response to that video prompted her to call me a joy spreader. Although I can accept a tiny bit of credit, it's really about this remarkable song and performance. 

The driving bass, the kinetic guitar playing, those explosive horns, what's not to like? Go ahead, put it on  and tell me your feet don't start moving involuntarily or your face doesn't break into a wide grin. I dare you. Spread the joy. How can this possibly be anything but a wonderful thing to do?