It has been quite awhile since I last updated the site, and since this site is based on the discontinued FrontPage product I will make one last major update after this one before I begin working on other projects.
As a return to life I would like to relay many of my frustrations with Microsoft products. As an early adopter of PC technology I lost all confidence in the Vista 64 bit operating system and was happy when Windows 7 proved to be more reliable, yet still unable to handle updates to my video drivers and some programs that were supposed to be compatible. After spending last week re-formatting my hard drive and re-installing Windows, I have since lost faith in Version 7.
After several decades of being a loyal Microsoft Office user I have now switched to the free open office product after failing to re-download the purchased version of Office in my preferred language. Microsoft has taken the download off their trial site and provide no assistance without cost.
I am now looking for an alternative to Outlook as Microsoft has also bungled their strategy in the Mobile phone business. As Outlook is not bundled with the home version of Office, it is necessary to make an expensive Outlook purchase if you hope to synchronize your phone with your desktop.
I wonder if someone high up at Microsoft is secretly working for Google or Oracle providing both these companies the Microsoft dissatisfaction that will enable Chrome, Linux, Java, and other open products to replace what was once a Microsoft playing field. Now I hate open systems, and would rather rely on a vendor that I trust. The problem is that Microsoft is no longer trustworthy in either their product strategies or sales policies.
It appears that Microsoft has aged and become another company spending more time trying to justify their huge mistakes, rather than trying to encourage customer loyalty or even maybe leading the way in the industry with vision that encourages innovation and creativity.
Moving on to another matter, for the last month a destroyed BP Oil Rig has been spewing what I heard was 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. I imagine that the next disaster movie and possibly our reality is a major hurricane traveling over the region engulfing the spewing oil into the storm system. Do we blame BP, do we blame our desire to travel and stay warm, it does not matter as there is over a million gallons of oil transforming the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.
On a personal note, now that I have been separated from Oracle, I am exploring idea's related to education and training. During my garden leave I took as many Oracle training courses as I possibly could. Let me tell you, it is of marginal value to take a course where the instructor is speaking another language. At least my materials and labs were in the correct language. Instead of repeating that fiasco, I choose to take classes where the instructor was in another city, streaming their presentation to people around the world. Though it was more convienent, starting a class at 6:00 in the evening ending at 2:00 in the morning was less than ideal. I can tell you from experience that after mid-night your concentration fades. The varying instructors skills determined how difficult it was to stay focused and awake.
As I am being asked to develop training, I am looking at alternatives to traditional training methods. Let me know if you have any opinions.
In The Corner
As I turn 51 I find myself reflecting (as I do each year) on the events that have dominated my time on this planet. The major topic in the News is the current war between Israel and Lebanon, my thoughts go back to what I remember, and have learned about this conflict. As I always do, I will also add my opinions on the matter.
My earliest memory of Israel comes from my support of the nation as a child. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, twice a week after school I would go to Hebrew school and prepare for my Bar Mitzvah, learning Hebrew, the Torah, and Hebrew culture. I remember a time when I took to the streets knocking on neighbour’s door with a certified labelled can in my hand, requesting money to support Israel in its time of need. It was a time when Israel had been attacked on multiple fronts by multiple Arab nations. The majority of the people in the neighbourhood were Jewish and it was a normal thing to do at that time. It seemed throughout the 1960’s Israel was under attack, and with World War II fresh in my parents minds as Jew’s we believed that the people living in that area deserved to be supported. .
Dropping out of Hebrew school, my life took a change, and my focus on Israel and Jewish history would wait 30 years before it would resume a significant role in my life. Over those 30 years I investigated many different cultures, religions, spiritual beliefs, and philosophies, seeking an understanding of why I am here, and why people hurt each other. When I have an answer to these questions, I will let you know. Like the Eveready Bunny, I am still working on these questions.
My first trip to Israel was to meet the woman who currently shares my life, her children, and family. Though she was born in South Africa, Israel was the place she turned when she was seeking a safe place to live and raise her children. I went to the North to visit her sisters and heard a story where one sister saw a missile fly over the community just as the bus carrying her children returned home on the steep mountain road. I saw a nation under attack from terrorists. Car and suicide bombings were normal news items of the day. I saw guards in front of all malls and transport points checking for guns or bombs. And I was frustrated by a country where you can not get pepperoni on you pizza. As a New Yorker this way of life was unknown to me.
You may think that this is yet another diatribe by a fanatic Jew, but for many years, without having ever been to Israel, I had been personally frustrated by its policies, believing that the people were turning into the enemy they fought, arrogant, unfeeling, and ready to use force to get their way. My hope is that the nation, and all nations, be allowed to live safely with secure borders and focus what will make life better for every creature on this earth.
Several years ago I moved to the Netherlands, a wonderful country, providing safety to its citizens in a way Israel can not. Friends knowing my history have been asking me what I think about the current crisis, so here goes.
First, I frown on people who talk about this being a post World War II problem, describing its history in terms of decades. The conflicts in the Middle East have been going on for Millennium, pitting Arab, Hebrew, Persian, and European armies against each other. These problems predate Islam and Christianity and probably Judaism as well. This region serving as the seed for most Western Religions has had focus placed upon it dating back to the beginning of recorded history. Most Jewish people had left the region to make homes in other lands, thanks to Roman influence and occupation. Despite the Roman’s many stayed residing in the area’s less desirable locations. To make matters worse, in the last century we discovered that the region was abundant with oil, the liquid gold fuelling many economies.
What we see today is that this region is interesting to the entire world not just those with roots to the religions born of it.
As for those asking about the current conflict, Israel had recently been taking a more moderate approach recently withdrawing from Palestine lands, years ago withdrawing from Lebanon. In return the people were rewarded with missile attacks and other terrorist activities. I have met and worked with people from many countries in the Middle East, including Palestinians, men with families and responsible positions. There focus like mine is to take care of the family, earn a living, and live a good and compassionate life. As we have these lives in place our interest is to maintain its thread to see were it ends. I find that the more we talk the more we have in common, a desire to understand and help our circle of people.
I say circle of people as this is the core or conflict. When a circle of people find the circle too small and decide to expand, and encroach or intersect with another circle, conflict occurs. For survival reasons we have learned that the bigger and more productive the circle the better off we are. We have also seen where bigger is not always better nor productivity be enough to stave off conflict. We experiment with religions, political systems, technology advances in order to expand our circle. We form organizations so that one circle may communicate with another with minimal conflict. We even have special individuals who sit in multiple circles joining them together without the need for physical conflict. “We need to grow more of these people”
How does the circle start? Someone once told me a story while I was attending a funeral for a distant family member. He said that the circle starts when you are born, for a Jewish man this starts with the circle of people at your Brit Milah, otherwise known as your circumcision. An interesting ceremony. The new born male is presented with his first experience of real pain as part of his flesh is cut off. You might say that this teaches each male that there is pain in life, and that it is a natural occurrence, and that you are capable of living through it. On a side note, when talking about this, I was reminded that before the blade falls typically the child is given something to suck on with an alcoholic content. This could be why there is a small occurrence of alcoholism amongst Jewish men as it reinforces the fact that you will suffer after getting drunk. The circle continues to expand with his Bar Mitzvah, Wedding, birth of children, and concluding with ones funeral.
I would say that for me the circle expanded with the television and movies I watched, books I read, music I listened to, political candidates I supported, people I work with, countries I have visited, and most importantly friends that I have made. We are all ambassadors for our circles when we venture into new circles. Both religion and technology has allowed our circle to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Coming back to the Middle East I see circles in circles creating conflict and colliding with larger circles to create war. Most of the media reports the conflict as one between Jewish and Islamic faiths; I believe this to be too simplistic. I believe that this is a guise used by circle leaders to influence the people in the circle to do there bidding, thus keeping them in power. I believe the problem to be more basic and go to the essence of greed, lack of faith, and dishonourable leadership.
I start with the premise that it is not necessary to kill anyone in order to support your given religion. It is not necessary for one political system to justify killing to support its health if it is well balanced and productive. It is not necessary for one circle to resort to killing in order to acquire technology held by another. Those leaders who choose this course of action should be scrutinized and removed from there place of influence. But this is a Utopian view of what is possible and not the way the world works today. We justify killing by rationalizing or pointing to the conflict and actions started by another. Many leaders today take reality and turn in around to falsely justify there actions. Many leaders refuse to acknowledge the injustice of the actions committed by their circle. Many leaders today take sides in order to gain access to resources present in geographic locations. And what horrifies me more than anything else is the rest of us as pointing to one side and saying this one is the cause, this one is the devil. I do not know how anyone can be so knowledable and confident as to the real cause for conflict.
We have started weaving our circles together on a world wide basis so that we are now a patchwork of inter-dependant communities. This conflicts with some communities who believe that their religious ideals are being corrupted by advances in technology or exposure to other circles. Some believe that only the purity of their beliefs leads one to a place of blessings. If this is the case then how can they make the argument that technology is good when it is used to kill, but not good when it leads to greater communication and productivity? How can they possibly explain this to rational people?
The world has come together to denounce terrorism, but has failed to adequately define who or what a terrorist is. For me anyone whose faith is so weak that they decide to use violence to bolster their belief is a terrorist. As long as we keep technology, prosperity, and knowledge from each other, we will have terrorists. As long as we feel that the ground is something to be owned and used for our own agenda, we will have terrorists. As long as we allow the unrighteous influence, and follow them when they point to violence as a road to travel, we will have terrorists.
All the spiritual beliefs I have studied point to a oneness, a weaving of all circles into a unified a single universal circle. I honour all who chose to recognize the circles of peace they are born into. Most people born to this world with a belief in spirituality leave this world honouring that same spiritual belief. Has our creator purposely caused us to grow with different beliefs so that we may find the one true belief as many claim to be, or is this our test to find the commonalities that exist in them all, and look at how we have prospered or suffered from them. I do not believe that we were put here to use violence as a unifying force to merge all circles into one.
So, to conclude, my heart is saddened by all sides of this conflict. I cry for those in Israel threatened to the North and South by small circles bent on violence to justify their existence. I cry for the innocent killed in Palestine and Lebanon by Israeli bombs. I cry at the insanity of the media and politicians more interested in ratings and exposure than they are in resolving a conflict that has been allowed to continue for millennium.
I was recently told that the local governing board for the city of Rotterdam was considering a proposal to impose a fine on those people speaking any language other than Dutch in public.
As a former New Yorker, now living in a city near Rotterdam, and an incompetent when it comes to language, I wondered what I should do. Though I love living in the country and learning about their culture, the reality of me learning Dutch, while working a 45 hour week is slim to none. Not that my desire is not there, but the therapy I would require to combat 40+ years of struggling with language is more than I am able to comprehend. I asked myself, will I need to buy a surgical mask when I enter the city with the words ‘Please Excuse Me I Don’t Speak Dutch’.
Would even this act warrant me a fine if it is not written in Dutch?
Will I be permitted to teach students working for companies with Rotterdam offices as I did a year a go?
This sounds like a potential problem!
I may have to attend the expensive but effective cloistered Dutch training offered in a Nunnery, known for penetrating minds like mine, fearful as I of learning the language.
I wondered maybe there will be a language handicap exemption I can apply for and have recorded on my residence card thus allowing me to communicate in the city.
Oh what will I do?
It was four year ago that I entered the country on a work visa based on my knowledge and desire to teach. My specialty is computer Relationship Management software sold by my company’s education division based in Amsterdam. These last four years I have enjoyed teaching and learning from both my Dutch students and those from other foreign nations.
Our Amsterdam office is rather special. We service a geographical area based in the Netherlands. We also service the Benelux, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and North and Central African regions. Many students come from other countries simply because we are offering the needed course on a particular date.
The diversity of a typical class is spectacular. People from all over the world attend a three week intensive training, learning together, working together, laughing together (usually at me), and sharing ideas.
The classes are typically made of people representing all religions, all colours, and ages coming together, eager to learn about technology and each other. They also walk away from training knowing a bit more about my company’s product. If only those people that attend meetings and conferences at the United Nation would spend the same energies my students spend on issues of Relationship Management, we could all relax a bit more at night.
As a teacher with an objective of contributing to students abilities I realize that in order to learn or be productive you must be in an environment free of conflict. As the instructor teaching classes mixed with Catholic, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, and Agnostic students, I some times wonder which will give me the most grief or pleasure, letting them know;
I am from the United States
I am a self defined Liberal Republican
I am a native New Yorker
I am Jewish,
I am what ever you need to be called to say you believe in something but what that is, well that is beyond my ability to define or describe.
I am interested in spirituality that also includes Shamanic practices in the America’s and Aboriginal beliefs down under.
I support and look favourably on the actions of the United States President George W. Bush
I do not believe in or condone violence in any form, but sadly understand why others do.
These are facts that usually come out over dinner conversations.
During a three week, forty-five hour week training, the four to twenty students per class get to know each other over coffee, lunch, lectures, and labs. Ideas are shared as my nature drives me to explore how my students feel about the events of the day and what their local culture is like. It is one thing to watch a CNN or BBC report (remember, I only speak English), and another to hear a citizen with an opinion on a topic in the news.
Ignoring the general rule guiding one to avoid social conversations including the topics of Religion and Politics, I typically wind up in a conversation including one or the other. I usually (I am human after all) advocate the side of tolerance and the need to let the other side be heard and given a chance to demonstrate good intentions.
I have learned much as a result of the last four years. In general we all want the same things, peace, security, something better for our children, and a climate were we may grow and reach our full potential, which typically includes contributing to our community. We differ as to how important any one desire is to us, or the order we put them, but we can talk about that. We can acknowledge the rights of the others and most importantly, can agree to the social graces needed in an international forum. Many even bring back delicacies to share in the classroom that reflect there local cuisine. Some even discover they comprehend more after voluntarily assisting their neighbours with a lab.
Imagine if our leaders came to a conference at the UN carrying their favourite sweet or snack and gave it out to all attending. Imagine if the meetings had a spirit of ‘If I help you grow, I will grow as well’.
As I usually do when speaking about the global culture, I am sliding away from the topic.
This week during lunch, I asked some of my Dutch students if I heard correctly about the proposed Rotterdam speech restrictions. Realizing that I would not be considered a tourist, they smiled as they realized my predicament (they have heard me try and pronounce some Dutch words).
As I thought it would, I learned that this proposal is another in an attempt by the government to deal with the current immigration problems that are dominating the politics of many Western European countries. As a language handicapped person, I am deeply thankful that the Dutch so commonly speak English. I am also very happy to help them practice. I expressed my hope that we remember the lack of tolerance lessons learned in the last devastating war.
As a person of Jewish origin, I was thankful to the Untied Nations and it’s president for the recent Remembrance day and the message ‘You are wrong’ to those extremist leaders saying that the holocaust never happed.
Since World War II I believe we have learned that it is much better to share our cultures than try and destroy them. Communication between World War II combatant nations is at an all time high. Around the world my company has been successful in helping to spread a service oriented culture to the businesses that are experiencing the success and benefits of a global economy.
How will speech restrictions affect the ability to conduct business of an international nature in the city of Rotterdam?
Are the corporations residing in the city of Rotterdam happy at the prospect that they can not talk to those foreigners they are doing business with as they walk to a local restaurant for a lunch meeting. Does this solve the problem that is forcing a wedge between the citizens of the country, I do not think so.
There are better methods that can be discussed to deal with the fear felt by citizens of the Netherlands and other EU nations that they will loose their cultural identities and benefits to a culturally different population.
In the Netherlands I see a community of people that hold respect for those in their community and those they do business with. As a historical trading country this included a very diverse international community. As a small country with less than perfect weather (I say this safely) they were not an attractive place to migrate to for long periods of time. Now the countries history, wealth, benefits, and openness have caused an incoming migration of people with a different culture and different beliefs, and the lack of desire to change. Those of historic Dutch lineage find themselves second in line to those immigrants entering the country with nothing but loss and seeking asylum.
I see the danger the Dutch fear as real though a migration of culture from the US and Great Brittan are also changing the culture. As attitudes of the Dutch youth are formed by their new babysitters; Electronic Games, Television, Movies, and Music. Closing the country to all people and cultural influences is impossible and can not be the answer.
For those in the powerful places of government who are spending time discussing topics that are silly I say, ‘Shame on you’. Proposals like that sponsored in Rotterdam are best left to café’s, pubs, tea rooms, and coffee shops. In well run businesses we look for root causes of problems as not to spin our wheels spending money only on the symptoms.
We are at a point in time where we need our best minds looking not only inward and outward through space, time, and technology, but also at what it would take to have global peace. We seek a political system that is flexible and strong at the same time, able to let those alive decide how they want to live there lives without fear of violence. We need to find a way to reward those with heart and caring as much as we do those with knowledge, wealth, beauty, or strength.
We are also at a time were it is not economically feasible to provide the current level of benefits to our citizens. In the near future this will become more severe as our population ages. Our politicians are aware of this and while mixing this topic in with speech restrictions in Rotterdam they are wasting time and leading us to a legacy of catastrophe.
I hope that one day;
For those in the Netherlands, I am hopeful. I see a people capable of dealing with the challenges before them. I believe that they will deal with the problems at hand as they did in the past; you respect your community and earn your place there. If you want a good and honest life you learn, very little comes for free. And that the ability to compromise and understand the others side is needed during a good negotiation. And finally, that violence should only be used as a last resort.
News - As many of my friends know, I have been fighting a degenerative eye disorder for over 35 years. On December 20th 2005 I went back under the knife. While I am still a bit sore and as you can see from the picture, my right eye is still a bit swollen, it appears that the procedure was a success. Now using contact lends and glasses, and a magnifying glass I am still able to function. Within a months time the eye should be healed enough so that with a contact lens I will be able to read again without the magnifying glass. I am in good spirits and enjoying my time of relaxation and healing.
To all my friends , a Happy, and Healthy Holiday Season, and the New Year.
What will this new year bring us all. I like many others can not miss a day without thinking or hearing about the World Wide War of ongoing terrorism and the actions of each side in the war. During this holiday season I am brought back to the knowledge that we are not in conflict with each other, as people I meet, be they Christian, Jew, or Muslim, ..., all want very similar things from life. The details of how we live our lives show many similarities, along with our differences. We want the same things for our children, health, prosperity, integrity, standing in our community.
While some may call me a Tree Hugger, having been raised in the 1950's and 60's I must admit that I am destined to believe that we can all live together in peace. The struggles we face will require us to work together to heal the damages we are inflicting on our world. The opportunities for us all are great, but this greatness will only be realized when we can put down weapons of destruction and use our technologies in peace, to feed us all, house us all, and provide energy and communication so that we may celebrate our victories and learn from each other.
I am tired of listening to those who trash talk our leaders in power. It is so easy to sit in the stands and criticize those on the playing field. From the creators of doom and gloom come one died interpretations of what is and what will be. As if their way was the only right way. I am only thankful that I am not the one to make the hard decisions that these men and women face. While many call our leaders Monsters, I ask, besides talking, what have you been doing. Are these not the leaders your country, province, city, village and house members have elected. Imagine if each word of hate be tempered with the acknowledgement that these are just ordinary men and women doing the best that they can.
Who then must we stand against?
Suppose the answer was no one.
Suppose the answer was as simple as it is time for us all to put aside our differences and stand together. Stand together to save our environment. Stand together to provide sanitation and fresh drinking water for all, stand together to provide education for all our children, stand together and take the time to learn about each other and celebrate the riches of each and every culture based on love, compassion, law, and the right for the community to define the daily routines of life.
To all around the world I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year
Hello from Prague in the Czech Republic. It has been a while since I have traveled to a new place and let me tell you this is a place to visit. Rich in history, beauty, and culture this city was so revered that during World War II it was only by accident that the city was bombed. It seems that those from both sides of the war could not bring themselves to destroying this Medieval city. In the year 2002, about 17 years after their revolution tearing them away from the Soviet bloc, Prague has adapted quickly to the comforts of the western world. Yes be careful as pick pockets and questionable cab drivers have also flourished in this city. If you are willing to take extra care you will be rewarded greatly as not only will your eyes, ears, and mouth feast on what Prague has to offer, so will your wallet, as prices here are almost embarrassingly low. For those of you, like me, who only speak English, have no fear, the city is used to our language deficiency's Bring your walking shoes as this is a city you will definitely want to explore on foot.
It has been awhile since I had last written as I have been busy setting up house in the Netherlands. As a new resident of Amsterdam, I have been quite busy learning the in's and outs of living in a foreign land. An exciting adventure though sometimes frustrating when you do not speak the language. I have never realized how much I take for granted in the States. It only takes a few tries navigating through Dutch Web-sites and Voice Response Telephone Systems to make me enjoy those times in places where my language skills are the dominant ones in the culture. So why not learn Dutch, well, maybe one day.
Take care, appreciate what you have, and exercise compassion for those less fortunate.
On September 11th 2001 I was teaching a class in Milan Italy. Another trip, another day, though this one was unlike any other this New Yorker has ever seen. This day would prove to be one of tragedy, a unimaginable loss of life, commerce, and the false sense of safety most Americans feel as they walk the street. We in New York are used to hearing the sirens of Police, Ambulance, and Fire Fighters at all times of day and night. But we always knew these sounds were the normal occurrences of daily life. Maybe we have grown cold to the sufferings of all those sirens that have come before. But on this day that would all change. An event of such a magnitude to stop the normal life of each and every New Yorker.
Now several weeks latter we have seen that this event surely to be noted in the history of the world has indeed affected the entire world. This one event has contributed to an alliance between former friends and foes. Let this be the legacy of September 11th. Let us mark this as the turning event in the world that teaches each nation that they are not alone, that a threat to ones security is a threat to all. Let the lives of those who perished senselessly not be in vain. We can live together peacefully, we can learn to get along, listen to each other, work with each other, and celebrate together. We have already learned that we can cry together. We do not need more tears.
In the last 7 years I have worked on 5 continents with people from so many countries I have lost count. I learned how similarly my life as a New Yorker born in a Jewish household is not that different from a student of mine, Syrian, Moslem, working in the Middle East. I understood the value of his culture, one he was as proud of as I am proud to be a New Yorker, a Citizen of the United States of America, a citizen of what I hope will be the planet earth before my days are numbered. Let us keep in mind that we need to work together, love each other, help each other. For it is more than security that is of risk, it is our whole planet that calls us to a higher purpose.
We Americans are frequently guilty for believing we know it all, sometimes to the point of arrogance. We are not perfect, but we have frequently come to the aid of those friends and foes who have been in trouble. We forgive transgressions, we help rebuild those who attempted to tear us down, we cry and come to the aid of those starving around the world or those dealing with horrible natural catastrophes. We do this as free people, people who have a stake in the direction of our country. I call on your compassion and spirit, let us turn this tragedy into the most unifying event in all our histories.
After probably a thousand or more hours, I have managed to buy a
new Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop, hook in my Sony PC-DRV20 Digital Video Camera,
Olympus 2020 Digital Still Camera with a PCMCIA Smartcard Reader, Logitech
QuickCam Pro Web Camera, Logitech Wingman Force Fed Game Controller, Creative
Labs Nomad MP3 Jukebox, Palm VII Personal Organizer, DVD Player (Built in
Drive), CD ROM Reader/Writer (Built In), network, Canon BJ80 Printer and
Scanner, TV Set, and Sub Woofer enhanced Speaker System. And that's just the
hardware, I will let you imagine the hours installing Software and Configuring
my Windows 2000 Operating System. My last task left is to connect to the
Cellular phone to download addresses. What a pain in the butt. Going on hunting
missions for cables, drivers, and converters was to say the least an adventure.
So what am I going to do with all this. I am now making my first video, learning Digital Video Editing and home to add streaming video to the web-site in the near future as well as a Live Cam Page.
The picture is a night in Bruge Belgium, taking the time to enjoy a weekend on the road with a new friend. Taking a train from Amsterdam to Gouda (yes home of the famous cheese) I got in the car and as usual slept for most of the ride through the Netherlands and Belgium. We arrived in Bruge the night before the Tour de Belgium, a major cycling event that begins the cycling season. One of the most beautiful cities I have been to, it still reflects its mid-evil beginnings. We wont even discuss the food and chocolate, suffice to say unbelievable is an unworthy description, and yes I did try the Belgium Waffles.
On a more serious note, this last trip I also spent another 2 weeks in Israel. Tensions there continue to rise as more violence feeds increases in conflict, retaliation, and death. It was the night before Israel's Independence day, I was staying with friends, playing a game with the children when I heard a strange sound. Asking everyone to be quiet, it turned out I was hearing a siren. What would you think of if you heard a siren screaming through the night in Israel. I asked if it was an air raid warning. No one seemed to know, and the other residence did not seem to be around, we walked out the door and the other houses on the Kibbutz seemed empty. Questions sprung up as to where we go for an air raid, who should we call, what would the night surprise us with, are we the monkeys in the middle of this insane conflict. As it turned out no bombs fell, no danger was to be found as the siren was announcing the beginning of a moment of silence for those fallen in the various Israeli fights for independence.
As a NY, Brooklyn, Jew, I remember walking from house to house as a child, soliciting money for Israel. I understand the need for a Jewish homeland, but I wonder if the price being paid will do more damage to the Jewish spirit than the historic atrocities we have survived. I believe there was a debate among Jews that questioned the founding of Israel. I must admit, a religious scholar I am not. But I believe the issue focused around the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the holy temple, and then the founding of the state. Well, one thing I have gotten from reading the Bible, is that the Jewish people never did what they were told to do without a struggle. Are we reenacting one of these struggles now.
I believe it is said in the book of Genesis that we are created in God's image. What could that mean. I for one have an opinion that it is not about what we look like but rather what we have the capacity to ascend to. I read the holy writings and find stories guiding us to love, compassion, wisdom, and mindful living. The Christians follow this up with the New Testament building on these themes. The Teachings of Buddha also put forth these ideals, as do Australian Aboriginal themes. Are these the images of God we are created to fulfill. We have seen throughout history how these themes have been interpreted to support violence, greed, intolerance, hate, and destruction. In Israel today, which side of the fight for good over evil is being played out. Both Israeli and Palestinian people are suffering. The Palestinians live in poverty, not to mention the threat of Israel bulldozing houses down when they are suspected of holding terrorists. On the other hand the Israeli people live in fear, a siege mentality encapsulating the culture where you must have your bag checked before going into a mall to ensure there are no weapons being concealed. With teenagers dressed in fatigues walking through the out door markets carrying automatic riffles and sub-machine guns strapped to their backs. This is not the way to peace.
As an American I think of all the money we have contributed to Israel. Building up their might over the years, giving them the power to protect themselves. Are the now protecting themselves or are they now flexing the muscles given to them. Are they turning into what they have historically fought against. What is the story of the Palestinians. Did they not at one time inhabit areas claimed by Israel in its fight for freedom. Were not areas being settled today by Israel once migratory paths for a nomadic people. So now Israel is settling the lands once owned by Palestians displaced by war.
In my opinion the Israel and Palestine governments are locked in a Catch 22, whatever they do seems to escalate violence, and both sides seem to be intent of continuing this course of action. Getting back to my earlier premise that it is our capacity that allows us to claim that we are created in God's image. What might happen if Gun's were replaced by Job's and services. What if instead of bulldozing houses Israel helped the Palestine Government build up their infrastructure. Much like we Americans did with Germany and Japan after World War II. Would Palestinians continue to throw rocks if they left the house with food in their cupboards to go to a decent job. Would the violence stop if people had better ways to make use of their time.
What would it be like if Israel embraced their neighbors and gave them a helping hand rather than a crushing stomping. I believe it is said that the coming of the Messiah or Messianic age will come with the rebuilding of the holy temple. Only problem is that where the holy temple is to be built stands a Mosque. To add to the irony Jewish law prohibits the tearing down of religious places of prayer In other words they can not tear down the Mosque to build the temple. Hmmmm, if it where not taking lives the irony would be funny. I wonder what it would take for the Arab nation to give their permission for the temple to be built surrounding the Mosque. Are the Israeli's hopping that the Arabs will accidentally bomb the Mosque so that the Israeli's could build the temple. something I doubt will happen. Is it more likely that it will take an act of kindness, and friendship that will turn the tide. Imagine if we really did see the return of the spirit to our world, and if it was just an act of compassion and kindness that was the trick to wake the spirit up from a lack of physical manifestation.
As a child of the 1960's all I can advocate is to give peace a chance.
It has been a long time since I last wrote. With 3 months of the year now passing by and 4 continents of travel under my belt I have met many new friends and have had many new experiences. One of the most common questions I get is from those finding out that I have no formal home to hang my hat. Now homeless for 2 years this is my normal way of life and I usually explain that it is quite an adventure. Starting to read a book entitled “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” I now have another appreciation for my situation. My travels and lack of formal home has allowed me to strip away the comforts that most people wrap around themselves. The author of the book talks about how we wrap these comforts around us and spend our lives looking for more to wrap around us, consumed with making life comfortable. He goes on to say that this comfort gives us a false sense of security, a sense we are in control, and protected. He claims that instead we should be aware of life’s impermanence, the fact that the only thing we can know for sure is that it would one day end and that instead of making life comfortable we should develop our spirit so when that eventual day comes we are prepared for the next stage in the cycle of living and dying.
Now I am not convinced that there is a heaven or hell, a life and a reincarnation of life, but neither am I convinced that these things are not possible. Heaven and Hell gives me more trouble than the concept of reincarnation, though it too I can rationalize as the transition faze some people unprepared for death experience in the interim phases. I do like the concept of reincarnation; it gives a whole new perspective to life. If we believe that we come back to this planet, will it not encourage us to take better care of the planet so that we may come back to something wonderful rather than come back to a world out of balance and harmony.
The more these thoughts enter into my daily life the more wonders I encounter, the more interactions I have with remarkable people living their lives around the world. With each new encounter I feel enriched and also I feel responsible, responsible for learning, listening, and fulfilling my place in this world. Several years ago I came to the realization that the Buddhist concept of compassion would enrich my life. As this word of compassion became more of a feeling I have grown, my life is no longer just about wrapping myself in comfort, the more I now give the more I get back, even when giving is uncomfortable. By giving up the wrapper I am have the freedom to live each day rather than worrying about each tomorrow or lamenting about each yesterday. My circle of friends has grown and my life is enriched.
I now see the world as a wonderful place full of mystery and opportunity. Thank you for stopping by my weigh station along the road of you today's and tomorrows.
Last Year was an amazing one. Working on 5 continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia) I have met many interesting people and have seen many beautiful sites. The world is a beautiful place and these pictures represent only a few of the places I have had the pleasure to see. Dream and you can make them come true.
Brazil - Rio New York - Long Island
San Fransico Amsterdam
New York - Fire Island South Africa - Cape Town
UK - London - Egham/Staines France - Paris
Australia - Sydney New York - Central Park
State Graphics Courtesy of MSNBC
My travels having told my body by way of a cold to slow down, I arrived back in New York and a historic electoral event-taking place in the USA. Waking up in a hotel near London’s Heathrow airport, I watched CNN report that Governor Bush won the race for President of the United States of America over Vice President Gore. Upon leaving my room, I further heard that there were questions about the vote in the crucial State of Florida. By law the state was required to recount the vote as the margin of difference between candidates was too close, requiring a recount so no question can be made as to which candidate won the office.
The American voting public including those of us who did and did not vote was with-in one or two percentage points in the popular vote, and the election would be decided on an electoral system dating back to the founding fathers of our country. Much about this process is the focus of attention for many of the channels of communication bombarding us each day. From what little this humble writer knows, this process can elect a candidate to the office of President even if they do not get the majority of the popular/individual vote for the country as a whole. With the Electoral College each state is represented by a varying number of delegates who latter meet and truly elect the President. Developed to ensure a measure of sanity and balance between the citizens of the country and their electing officials to office, today we question our elected officials and wonder if they should have this responsibility. We wonder if we trust them with this responsibility. I personally wonder about the sanity of the population as well as its politicians.
As a country we are evenly split between those who follow one ideology over another. Many violently argue one side over the other. I find it amazing that the vote is this close and the 2 houses o the Congress are split pretty evenly between both parties. This condition is a rarity in our history and warrants some introspection.
As a child I remember the excitement of the Kennedy elections and administration, another historic close Presidential election with many issues arising about the election results. In that time politicians had respect for each other and the respect of the population. Today where is the respect, instead today the animosity of both parties rises to such a level that the population is tired with both sides. The media with very obvious allegiances to one candidate further erodes the confidence of the electorate by highlighting the issues of contention rather than cover those issues of compromise and compassion. Have you ever heard one side acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side’s issues? The media today is our third party. A third party not on the ballot but one that sways the population. By announcing results before polling places are closed the media feeds on the emotions of the population and sways the electorate to the point were people take the easy way out and not vote because they believe their candidate has already won based on inaccurate media reporting.
We now face a nightmare situation where our elections are about to move into the courts. Candidates unhappy with the results of the election will bring to court irregularities they believe hurt their candidates. Will they also bring to court any irregularities they believe hurt the other candidate, I think not. The fight that is going on in the media and represents a continuation of the problems the current administration brings to our country. Problems arising from the use of inflammatory statements used not to get to the truth but to further their position. Respect comes to people taking the high road, win or lose, what has happened to fighting the good fight and being a good loser. Is winning so important that it out shines all else.
What does the future now hold for us? Who ever wins the election will do so with the narrowest of margins, the congress is evenly split along with the electorate. Do we face four years of ineffectiveness as each side stands firm on the issues of their constituents and nothing is accomplished? Or do we go back to the beginnings of our nation; beginnings where respect enabled elected politicians to rise above their differences and work together to get the business of the country done.
I believe that the worse condition we face is the inability of the government to make decisions. Ineffectiveness hurts us all. Though a bad decision hurts us, we have seen in our history laws made that the population latter voted down. I would rather see the congress and administration make bad calls then no calls, hoping that they make good calls. We can always change the bad and make them better, we have no vote when nothing is done, all it does is leave us with problems that are never resolved and fester eating away at the respect we have for each other.
We the population is as much to blame as the politicians. We argue our points not listening to the opposition; we spout the spins coming from the political parties without investigating the truth behind what is said. We do not take compassion in hand to look at why the opposition feels the way they do. When we are able to work together we will give our politicians the idea that they must do the same.
I for one am tired of fighting and watching others fight on the media channels. Lets understand both sides and take the best from both sides as we seek to come to comprises that would respond to all our concerns over issues in our nation and the world at large. Lets change our electoral system to first rid ourselves of the costs associated with the election of our officials, lets remove the temptation of soft money coming from special interests groups giving them an unfair advantage to advocate their positions simply because they have the money to do so. Lets remove the divisiveness that separates us and lets bring compassion and understanding back to our country. Look around at the weather patterns bizarre in many places of the world and take care of our planet and those who are in need. Separatism will not solve our problems, working together with an understanding that we have differences and those differences bring diversity and make us great. I for one welcome a debate of mutual understanding and now close my ears to any side unable to recognize the opposition. Lets tell our elected officials to work together to make a world better for all nations so that we may live together in peace with understanding and compassion.
Well, 2 weeks after election day and we still have no winner. The Gore campaign pushes on to recount the vote like the energizer bunny, again, and again, and again. The Bush team says What's Uuuuup, we won. Now I know the Clinton Administration a training ground for Vice President and Presidential Candidate Gore can be ruthless, but does anybody else wonder why Bush came down with a boil and Cheney is in the hospital with a heart attack, could Gore be using Voodoo with little Bush and Cheney dolls full of pins? Well lets hope the undignified acts by both sides have not brought us down to this level.
It has come to my observation that all the coverage of the campaigns and the post-campaign legal wrangling always have a representative from both sides, and neither side has anything positive to say about the other. The media seems to create this situation with its coverage. Wouldn't it be nice if a third commentator was available to cover the middle-ground. Maybe if we had someone commentating that could see both sides, the candidates and parties would wake up, do the same thing. One can only hope.
Happy Thanksgiving to all
Now I understand my opinions may not be shared by others, so to give equal voice, I will post all responses that meet minimal standards for decency and appropriateness. Should you wish, you may use the link below and send me an e-mail with a title of "Please Post", writing your response in the body section of the e-mail.
Olympics over, congratulations to all the participants of this years Summer competition. Go Team USA. I met one of our USA Gold Medal winners while waiting for my luggage at the airport, adorned in Red, White, and Blue, not tough to spot. Imagine the dedication it must take to represent one's country in an international competition. Imagine what each one of us could accomplish if we could take that dedication and harness that energy in our own lives.
My interests are split these days, do I watch the 2 New York Baseball Teams fighting to stay alive in the play-off's, the Presidential Debates with 2 characters trying to look professional in the debates, the NY Senatorial Debates, or the new episodes of Star Trek, good thing technology invented Remote Controls and VCR's. How much time do we defend or our teams our candidates of choice. The thrill of competition moving from the field to the seats of office. Imagine if we had umpires or referees to keep our political candidates fighting cleanly. Putting candidates into the penalty box when they lie or pull under handed tricks. Something is in the air as New York is holding its breath anticipating a long awaited Subway Series among the Met's and Yankee's. Let's Go Met's, yes I do have my own loyalties.
As I head off to Europe tomorrow I look forward to hearing about what is really happening in the world. TV outside the USA actually gives a good presentation as to how we are seen by the other nations. Well I am rambling, so take care and see you on-line.
Enjoy the change of seasons and the colors they bring.
After a grueling August, September finds me at home enjoying the comforts of New York City and Fire Island. I have hardly been at home this summer missing many social functions and opportunities to meet with friends. The life of a vagabond though always interesting, comes with its prices. Taking on a new role in my company my summer has found me out of balance, focusing primarily on business. A dangerous position to be in as life's meaning becomes focused on the material and commercial rather than the personal and community issues that flow about us day in and day out. Like any drug the life on a Workaholic is engrossing and leads one to shut out everything else around, conversations become a droning of the market and Information Technology industry. Though rewarding financially it can leave a person bankrupt of the more rounded aspects of life. I am lucky to have friends that point this out and bring me back to reality. I am also lucky in that my adventures around the world have provided an insight into how we United States Americans take for granted the rest of the world and how their visions of us are considerably different than our own view of ourselves.
As the elections come nearer to us in November, I am constantly asked about my views by my international acquaintances and friends. Interesting to hear how they want to learn more about our foreign policy directions and initiatives while we mainly focus on which candidate will keep the economy rolling along. I have for a long time considered myself a globalist, interested in a world united. I am aware that more now than ever before we are tied economically and socially to the rest of the world. With global warming, burning down of the rainforest, melting of the polar ice caps, emergence of new technology powers, we can no longer just look to our peaceful shores and say how goes the USA goes the rest of the world. Today the health of the world physically and economically dramatically effects our lives and the lives of future generations. We must hang our head in shame when the lead off story on the nightly news is the traffic resulting from the United Nations Millennium Conference, rather than the work going on in the conference. If we are the example for the rest of the world to follow, what example must we set.
In recent weeks I have been coming in contact with the concept of a life purpose. It all started when I blindly picked up the book "The Alchemist" at an airport bookstore. A marvelous book illustrating the journey of a Shepard and his journey traveling from his home in Spain to the adventure awaiting him at the foot of the Egyptian Pyramids. His journey started when he asked a Gypsy fortune teller to interpret a reoccurring dream that had been weighing heavily on his mind. After coming in contact with a rather unusual old man he made the decision to pursue the personal fortune awaiting him based on the dreams interpretation. During his journey, he triumphed over the obstacles life poses in front of all of us and traveled to foreign soil where he learned his life's lessons. The lesson to listen and watch the world around him and stay open to the assistance life can provide us when pursuing noble quests took hold of him. Along his amazing journey he meets many special individuals including the love of his life and the one who would teach him about life's mysteries. A most enjoyable read.
A few weeks after reading the Alchemist I received an Email inviting me to a workshop with Don Jose Quimbo an Ecuadorian Shaman coming to New York. Though the workshop interfered with my plans to relax at the beach house I call home, I realized that the weekend would be better spent pursuing my interest in Shamanic practices. Don Jose had us do some meditative exercises with the intent of describing our life's purpose to the group. An unusual coincidence? I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. Journeying inward, meditating on a question whose answer has eluded me for years, I finally awoke to the answer. The answer to my personal riddle is not the intent of this column, rather the process I used is more to it's point.
Many friends and acquaintances I meet in my travels struggle with the question of life purpose. We sit and analyze and get caught up in the conversation of "What do I want to do when I grow up". Sometime sad to hear when the person is well into the middle age of life as I am. Many of us feel the calling of the adventure of life yet we get caught up in the day to day minutia of our lives. When it was my time to relate my life's purpose I was clear in that the conversations of my purpose was nothing more than a distraction, a conversation and ego based delusion of who I am. Instead my answer came when I looked at my life, what did I do, when were the times I was strong and in the zone. My answers came without the ego, without the unrealistic fantasies, and with a great piece of mind. The answers do not have to be complex, or dramatic. Many times the simple answers are the ones that ring truest. Look at what you do, who you are, how you respond to others, rather than the conversation clouding the reality and the answers will come.
Traveling again and I have spent the last hour writing a letter to American Airlines, complaining about their service. I remember as a child when traveling on airplanes was an exciting experience. We used to get dressed up for the rare occasion and the airline took pride in their service to the customer. As the novelty of airplanes diminished, and as they became increasingly more affordable means of transportation for the average person, service became a thing of the past.
Today airlines are struggling to consolidate their power base through mergers and acquisitions, getting ever larger. It does not make much sense to me that a company unable to handle it's current customer base can merge with another company with even more problems and wind up improving current conditions.
What happened to the Icons of this once glamorous industry, either out of business or wallowing in the mud with their discounting competitors. The old Icons of service TWA and PanAm, are fragments of their former self. With aging aircraft, employee compensation squabbles, increasing fuel costs, and a public willing to compromise on service they have sunk so low that on-time records are a joke and better food can be found at the worst fast food restaurants.
Well I guess our only recourse is to go online and find the cheapest fares available. If we can not get service we might as well get a bargain. This works well for the casual traveler but leaves we the business traveler in the lurch. A reasonable trip can now be guaranteed to be a nightmare of delays and frustrations. One can only practice the art of meditation as one sits on the runway or in the air circling or worse yet, back on the ground waiting for a gate to open up in order to disembark. It does little good to get angry, that becomes just another win for the airline. So keep your cool, plan to spend a extra few hours over your original schedule and relax.
Well I am on another plane, heading home for the Memorial Day weekend, having completed another 3 week trip to Dallas, Texas. I meet many people from around the world on my trips and participate in many interesting conversations. As such, I have decided to take the opportunity to develop a weekly column-- a commentary on what I see and my opinions of current events. Am I qualified for such an undertaking? No more so than any other character who believes he has something to say and believes someone is interested enough to spend his time reading it.
A funny thought occurred to me the other day. Over the last month the Stock Market has seen a lot of volatility. Some people are predicting the doom of the dot com companies and the technology sector in general. I find this confusing, as I cannot imagine why so many people invested in the first place with companies that are losing money, with little or no prospect of turning a profit in the next 3 years. Pardon me if I don't understand, but I believed the whole idea of business was to turn a profit. Although I understand the concept of potential, I also understand that 3 years for a technology company is a lifetime. Who knows what the internet will look like in that time, not to mention whether or not the market will still be interested in what they have to sell. As far as I can see, the investor has just opened his eyes to the shell game played out before her on the Walled Street of New York.
With every plunge the market takes, someone is looking for an answer as to why it happened. Last week another drop-- what could be it's cause? I have a feeling that the answer to that is, fear. Not the fear of the public waking up to the dot com fiasco; but the fear that the game played over a hundred years ago by the north to the south has finally turned around. What game you ask? That of the Carpetbagger, the opportunist coming to a new town with the vested interest in milking it for it's value, taking away opportunity from it's citizens. I speak of our fair First Lady Hillary Clinton. With the tragic and soap opera-like tale of Rudy Giuliani leaving the New York Senate race, it appears that Ms. Hillary will be the bread winner of the family, supporting her husband, recently disbarred. Raising money from outside the state, New Yorkers are going to be inundated with the fast-talking, say anything, admit nothing practices that won the family the White House. New York has always loved a good show, but in the City we hate to be taken as rubes; and the thought of this family making permanent residence so close to the country's financial hub is enough to scare any market-go'er into wondering what has become of our great state.
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