Monday, March 31, 2008

Carpe Diem and Miss Bimbo

Okay, I admit I bit at the media bait and checked out the Miss Bimbo site.

Not much of anything socially redeeming there, and no, I wouldn't let my little girl have a bimbet there.

On the other hand, I feel the same way about Worlds of Warcraft. And I'm personally more likely to participate there.

For myself, nowadays, I feel it's a waste of my time, in spite of the fact I used to have some fun with Dungeons and Dragons.

Which leads me to the true topic of the day: seizing it.

Warning: Hackneyed Phrase coming up. "We receive a gift of 1440 minutes every day."

But, it's true. Each minute should be filled with living your life in as full a manner as possible. That none of us truly do is beside the point. Many of us (dare I say most of us?) don't even come close to filling sixty (60) of those minutes in any given day. Myself, unfortunately, included.

I'm not meaning to get on the case of someone who is taking a well-earned rest in his or her hammock. I mean the rest of us who, in spite of our selves, are spinning our wheels. We routinely waste time better spent trying to do our work, raise our kids, do our shopping, and, yes, relaxing without worries. I'm told that lack of effective rest undermines all of our daily activities.

If you've ever been up all night because of some malady or worry. Were you anywhere near one hundred percent the next day?

I thought not.

How about if you were playing some online game all night? Or doing some heavy partying? Surely you were one hundred percent the next day?

Alright, you can stop laughing now. You get my point, don't you?

Seizing the day means different things to different people. That's as it should be. It should also mean 'make the most of your opportunity.'

A word about making the most of your opportunity. In the play Cyrano De Bergerac, the man with the long nose and longer sword, someone, wanting to pick a fight with him, told him his nose was "Rather large". Instead of immediately drawing his sword, Cyrano replied, "Is that all?", then proceeds to give example after example of truly witty insults about his nose. Then returns the insult with "These are things you might have said, had you had any letters (reading) or wit." Then Cyrano proceeds to sword fight with the ignoble fellow while composing a poem about the fight in progress, running the man through at the last line "... Then as I end the refrain, thrust home!" (for the complete list I commend to you the Brian Hooker translation of Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano De Bergerac, you'll find it in Act I)

The moral of that story is, if you're going to get yourself into trouble anyway, make the most of it (or don't cross swords or cross wits unless you are suitably skilled yourself).

Donald Trump has similar advice: "If you're going to think anyway, you might as well think BIG!"

Chelsea Clinton, in my humble opinion, missed an opportunity last week to properly answer back her questioner with style and grace, but instead responded in anger. Personally speaking, my angry moments have seldom been my best moments. I get tongue-tied, illogical, and prone to hit things. When I keep my temper I keep my wits. I can even remember license plate numbers (see: "What's in a Note, you say?" below).

In short, thinking makes you better able to seize the moment, and make the most of your opportunity.

Make each moment count. The folks at Miss Bimbo have tapped into something potentially big, if perhaps only short-lived (think: Pocket Pets & Tamagotchis) They're making the most of it. If they're smart they're scouting for the more possible Next Big Thing our there.

Make each moment count. Enjoy your relaxation. Our family trip yesterday to a snowed-in Rocky Mountain National Park was priceless to my spirit, and a wonderful experience for our snow-suited little girl, and a vital recharge for my wife.

Make each moment count. Including the ones where you just get your night time rest.

Seize the Day!

Make each moment count!

Yes, You Can!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

If At First You Don't Succeed ...

You might end up decorating cakes at WalMart.

One hopes that the cake decorator was given some remedial instruction regarding cake inscriptions. At least the script is legible, and the cake is quite pretty.

I think this is more amusing than aggravating. But, more to the point: if you make a mistake, learn from it.

To quote Marie Antoinette: "Let them eat cake!"

Have a great day!

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This is something of a follow up on my "Good Enough" essay (see below), and is to remind all of us that, whatever our work, whatever our passion, whatever our mission, we must find a balance.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Trite, but true.

In my younger days, I liked to listen to the late Harry Chapin's music. All of us who heard Taxi for the first time knew that here was a story teller. When I got a cd collection of his greatest hits, one of my daughter's favorites was Cat's in the Cradle.

It took me some time to realize what she was trying to tell me.

She didn't realize that she was trying to tell me anything, of course. And by the time I got the message it was pretty much too late. But by picking that as one of her favorite songs she was saying "Pay attention to me!" Much of our heartache then, and problems now, might have been avoided had I done so. But like the Dad in the song, I was wrapped up in business, and had pretty much checked out of the family life.

As much as we would like them, we don't get "Do-Overs" in the game of life. We may get another chance to do better. That's one thing I'm working on now.

There's a poem that I'm learning the truth of, slowly:

"There was a man,
They called him mad:
The more he gave,
The more he had."

Balance is what makes us whole. Even more, it's what makes the people around us whole. We need to share ourselves with each other. When we give of ourselves, we get back more in return. But don't give expecting to get back. What you get will not come in the fashion you expect in any case.

But it will come.

Find the balance.

Yes, you can!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Enough is Not Good Enough

This weekend brought many things to my personal inbox of Eyes and Ears. My schedule is such that my sleep rhythms are not what they should be. I often find myself awake at three in the morning. Depending on the next day’s duties I try to get back to sleep, or get up and do something productive.

This particular morning I tried going back to sleep, with the aid of boring early morning television (not infomercials, please, those keep me awake, or, if I do doze off, I’m quoting their nonsense for the rest of the day. Which is what they hope for, of course…).

The show I lucked into was not boring, though, at least not to me, a musician of sorts.

It was about a chamber orchestra, conducted by an amazing woman, and comprised of highly skilled and talented women musicians. I emphasize the fact of their gender because the program emphasized it. That, and the fact that they were from and based in Cuba.

What they are, in fact, are great!

I found myself needing to retrain my ear a bit to keep up with the music I was hearing. It wasn’t just classical string quartet, chamber music, or other such, though it certainly was that. It was Cuban rhythms and themes set to the voices of violin, viola, cello and bass. It was the cry of sorrow, and the song of triumph; the moan of defeat, and the exultation of joy!

In short, that orchestra was good!

How did they get that way?

Those of you who are musicians may recall the old joke of a man running down a New York street carrying an instrument case. He asks a street musician, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The street musician tells him, “Practice, man, practice!”

These women balance hectic lives as students, workers or mothers (sometimes all of the above) and still find time to practice, pay for lessons, and take direction from a singularly driven conductor. The conductor herself is driven to achieve a result as close to perfection as is humanly possible.

The result could be chaos.

What it is: a thing of beauty.

How do they achieve this result? Two things are required: a goal, and the will to achieve it.

Each of these women chose to follow a hard road. Music lessons cost money that could be put to use paying bills or buying food. The instruments themselves are costly. The time to practice might be better used to work to bring in a little more money, or to spend time with friends and family. Musicians sacrifice much for their goal: perhaps unattainable musical perfection.

They know sorrow.

But they also know joy. Their music comes from their hearts and souls. And long, hard practice.

In my humble opinion, the violin is second only to the human voice in its expressiveness. Some would say that, in the hands of a talented and trained musician, the violin surpasses the human voice, literally singing trills, runs, and duets. These same people tell me that to become that accomplished is a lot of work.

These women are united by a common vision provided by their conductor, and by combined decades of practice, lessons and training in the pursuit of excellence.

In short, a goal, and the force of will to achieve it.

You may not be following the musician’s path, but you can take a lesson away from this essay today. Follow your vision (you may need to find it first). Set your goal. Dedicate the necessary effort to achieve it.

Yes, you CAN!

PS: As it happened, I ended up getting up and doing something productive anyway. The Hot Cross Buns were delicious!

Promised Land

This is Easter weekend.

How many of you fully appreciate what that means?

In true Shakespearian fashion there’s a story within a story here. The redemption of the Children of Jacob (Israel). And the redemption of Mankind.

In both stories redemption comes from the Hand of God, working through the hands of a man.

Let me tell you what I mean.

Moses, a man who means well, kills an overseer who was abusing a slave. Knowing what he has done is wrong, albeit done for the right reasons, he takes off to go into hiding, spending forty years in the land of Midian, and building a new life.

God gets his attention and sends him back to rescue the nation of Israel from bondage to Egypt and Pharaoh.

Pharaoh isn’t having any, considering the impact of the loss of labor on the Egyptian lifestyle.

God visits a number of demonstrations on Egypt, leading up to the killing of all the first-born in the land, except for those who have chosen to follow Moses’ instructions in a ritual that has come to be known as the Passover, because the Angel of Death passed over the houses marked with the blood of a lamb.

Pharaoh sends them away, but has second thoughts, and tries to capture and/or kill the Children of Israel by main force. Moses, directed by God to stretch out his staff, parts the Red Sea, the Children cross over and Pharaoh’s army drowns in the sea when it rushes back into place.

(A little side note: there’s a story about a man who asked a Jew, “Do you really think that God parted the Red Sea to let you cross over?” To which the Jew replied, “Well, here we are...”)

Now, fast forward a millennium or so. Jesus, a man who has made something of a name for himself by generally doing good deeds, has also managed to raise the hackles of the religious leaders of the day. They scheme for a way to eliminate him and return to a comfortable (for them) status quo. That’s their view of things.

From Jesus’ standpoint of being a man, but also the Son of God, he sees it as the reason He came to earth: to become the Passover lamb for the world, allowing anyone who would to take His blood upon themselves, and thus escape the eternal death.

He proved it, not by dying, but by returning from the dead.

Thus Easter is a second Passover, writ large on the canvas of the entire world, and for all of time.

Satan, like Pharaoh, is not content to let his captives go, even after the battle is over. He continues to strive against us, lying to us, turn us one against another, causing us to try to harm each other.

That’s the only way Satan can get his licks in.

Like Pharaoh, Satan will meet his end when the portion of the human race that chooses to passes through the Red Sea of death into the Promised Land of eternal life at the end of time.

Do I really believe this?

Well, He rose. Eleven men, plus Paul (formerly known as Saul the Persecutor), staked their very lives on it. If Jesus had not risen, the scattered followers would have remained scattered, and this would have been a curious blip in history.

Can you believe it?

Yes, you can!

(Will you believe it? Only you, and God, know.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

"What's in a Note, you say?"

Folks have asked me (well, one person anyway) what was in the note I would have stuck on the guy's windshield the other day. Well, here it is:

Don't throw this away!
The life you save may be your own!

I have to tell you something very important. But for you to see how important it is I have to tell you what I saw a little while ago

I was heading west on the bypass, doing the limit when something zoomed by. At first I thought it was a state patrol car, and wondered how I had missed the flashing lights.

But, no. It was a little red Mitsubishi sports sedan.

The driver zipped over to the left lane, hugging the bumper of the car in front of him, and the absolute moment he could he dashed in front of me to race down the mile or so of free space in the right lane.

I saw his brake lights come on as he came up on the next car.

Then I saw something amazing: he started to signal a left lane change. he squeezed in between two big bruiser-type pick-up trucks that had barely a car length between them. I saw what the driver couldn't: the truck behind hit it's brakes to allow a safety margin for the Mitsubishi to get in.

Then, as we all slowed down for the red light I saw why the Mitsubishi driver sqeezed back into the fast lane: he needed to take the left at the light to (I imagine) take the Johnstown Cutoff to get to Denver. And I pulled up even with the little red sports car in my '72 Olds as we both sat at the light.

For all of his maneuvering, he gained nothing that just staying in the "fast lane" would have gotten him. And he would have risked (in terms of life and limb) NOTHING!

As it was he risked a minimum of a two-car accident, possibly a multi-car pile up (everyone in the fast lane was ignoring proper following distance), just to shave a few seconds off his trip time.

Which didn't work.

By now my story might be sounding a little familiar. It should. You see, I was able to read the license tag as the Mitsubishi zipped into my lane: 000-ZZZ (plate number changed to protect identity). That's your tag.

What I need to tell you:

Don't Kill Yourself (or others) to save a few seconds time. Most of the drivers in our neck of the woods aren't expecting Indy 500 speeds on the highways, and may react badly to the sudden hazard (YOU). Even if you're not directly involved in an accident, you might be an indirect cause of one, Or you may have been already.

Slow down. Follow those "boring" traffic safety rules. Live long enough to enjoy your prosperity.

And, if you really need the speed: Drive the Autobahn, or take up closed-track racing.

But please, in the interest of your life and ours: Be Careful Out There!

If I do get the chance to post the note on his windshield I think I have a better chance of his reading it than if I post a "You Stupid @#$%#$!" type of note. What do you think?

Imagine getting a note like that on your car. Even better, imagine leaving a note like that on someone else's!

Maybe the driver will read this and see himself, and take heed. I DID take down the plate number. Maybe I'll get a chance to leave the note some day.

By the way, to write this note I used priciples I learned from reading two books: Hypnotic Writing; by Joe Vitale, and The Adweek Copywriting Handbook; by Joe Sugarman (see the book list at the left). Hopefully I was able to catch your attention enough so you would finish the note.

Meanwhile, a couple of things for you to take away today: You can get a handle on your emotions. You can learn to write more effectively. You can achieve your goals.

Yes, You Can!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Trivia Machine Is Not Ready For Prime Time!

Sorry Folks!

Got a little overwhelmed the past few days and didn't get back here to do even the answer to the trivia!

Since you've been waiting with bated breath: Van Helsing's favorite adult beverage: Im-Pale Ale!

(Well, the pun was just sitting there!)

I'll get a collection of riddles, jokes, trivia, and other such nonsense, and try this again -- later!

Moral of Story: While the theme of this blog is Yes You Can, remember to not bite off more than you can chew.

"How do you eat an entire elephant?"
"One bite at a time."

Yes, You Can!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sounds to Me Like a Personal Problem

Daily Trivia Question & YES-terday's Answer
Sunday, March 9th, '08 (Hope you remembered to Spring Ahead 1 hour!)
Q:What is Dracula's favorite drink? A: a Bloody Mary (no brainer)
Q: What is Van Helsing's favorite drink? A: tomorrow

Yes, I've decided to add a bit of fun & nonsense to the blog. It came to me like a Bolt from the Blue, since I come up with these punny references, I might as well inflict, er, use them to entertain you, my kind readers. The way my mind works is almost pure free-association unless it's reined in and directed elsewhere. My wife suggests that perhaps I have a bit of that Adult ADD. Perhaps.

The daily trivia question will be daily and far ranging, from Dumb Puns to True Facts (both of those category titles could be considered oxymorons, and one might even be a trivia question itself). And for more True Facts, please check out Randy Cassingham's website: This is True.

Enough of this. On to today's topic.

The headline read: "Problem gambler sues casinos for $20M". My first thought was: "Talk about a long shot!" then today's title popped into my head.

"Sounds to me like a personal problem," was something tossed at the whiner in the group whenever he or she was complaining about something or other. I'm not quite sure where it started, possibly from a teacher that was trying to redirect a student's complaint back to the student. We students of the day were pretty good barracks lawyers (borrowing army slang, here) regarding points on tests, tardies, late homework, etc. I suppose not much has changed in that regard. Making some, if not all, of that problem a 'personal problem' of the student was a way of reminding us to take personal responsibility for the situation, and look for our own solutions.

Which, by the way, is what this blog is about. But I digress ...

The news story goes on to relate that the gambler in question was gambling non-stop (for about five days straight in on instance), passing out in her chips and sustained only by candy bars given to her by staff members.

The woman, a lawyer, had a $500,000 an year law practice that has since gone to pieces, and a current IRS debt of some $58,000.

She contends that the casino had a responsibility to her when it became "obvious" (her word) that she had a problem.

The casino contends that to do so would have interfered with her personal freedom to do as she chooses.

I'm not going to pass judgment on whether the casino had a legal responsibility to save this woman from herself. It might be argued whether they has a moral or ethical obligation to do so, but when has gambling ever been considered moral in the first place?

Just a thought, though, the casinos had no problem with her losing money to them, citing personal freedom. But, whenever (in their opinion) someone is winning too much at the blackjack tables they are accused of being a card counter (which there surely are a few), and shown the door, sometimes even being barred from returning ever again. Certainly they do the same thing if you cannot pay your bill. That seems to be an ethics of convenience (not to say self-interest), and the lawyer might even argue that point in court. But, again, I digress ...

We all need help from time to time to get us out of our personal pits. Our personal choices do come back to haunt us. Sometimes we don't have the strength to take even the first step. However, we need to be willing to choose to be helped, and to put forth the effort when we have it within ourselves to do so. In other words, we have to take personal responsibility for our personal problem before the helpers can truly help us.

What the gambler is contending, in truth, is that the casinos should have played the part of the Good Samaritan, and made sure that she was picked up from where she had fallen. This is, I think, something akin to the fox being asked to guard the hen house. Unreasonable expectations are being placed on the fox, considering the fox's nature.

Where does that take us, then?

In my humble opinion, the casinos (operating in the light of enlightened self-interest) should have ethically cut her off from the tables, at least until she had gotten some rest and regained her senses. Legally speaking, I don't think they have a responsibility to do so. After all, gambling is legal, at least in certain areas, and we generally do not prevent legal adults from partaking in legal pursuits.

It sounds to me like a personal problem. As part of the solution, this gambler should seek out some counseling (if she hasn't already) to help her come to grips with it. Blaming the casino will not help her recovery, except that whatever monetary award she might get from them would help to pay for her treatment.

I'm not belittling a gambling problem. Like any other addiction (and I use the word advisedly) it can take hold of you and drag you down. There was a time, though, when a person had not tried (fill in the blank). A little bit of temptation, a little bit to give in to, and the thing you'd be addicted to tries to give you a positive experience, to keep you coming back. If you do, you're on your way to being hooked. With chemical addictions (nicotine, alcohol, pot ,crack, heroin, etc.) it's worse, of course. Not only are you wanting the good experience again, your body is crying out for the substance that it has adapted to.

I have to admit that I'm lucky. My one addiction is food. I tried alcohol; I didn't give it much of a chance to chemically snag me, and I didn't care for the out-of-control feeling it gave me. Negative feedback, you see. I avoided the other 'gateway' drugs, since they were illegal. But food is another matter.

It's psychological, of course, but if I don't put myself into an "eat to live" frame of mind I can overeat like no one's business. And from time to time you'll see me relating my success, or lack thereof, to keep my weight under control. But, yet again, I've digressed.

Whatever this lawyer's chances in court may be, her personal road to recovery is a 'personal problem', and she will need to deal with it on that level.

If you are in similar straits (and we all are from time to time) you will, too. That's the bad news. The good news? You can do it.

Yes, you can!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beating Stress

The best way to reduce stress is not to become stressed in the first place.

Since we live in a stressful world this is not an easy thing. But we can get into non-stressful habits.

Not being a meditative person by nature or inclination it has taken me some time to get into the habit of acting properly to the need of the moment, instead of reacting with elevated emotion. My first self-taught lesson was: if the driver who cuts me off was doing something so terribly wrong, why was I not getting his license plate number? It was because I was overreacting with anger and not acting with thought. It took some time, but I am more able to focus on the license plate (often very quickly receding into the distance). I'm even able to write (in my mind, of course) the note I would stick on his windshield -- without expletives! Reducing stress, then, is learning how to find the path through the minefield of life by thinking, not emoting. Besides, what he was doing might not have been so terrible, once examined in the cold light of reason.

Simple enough to say, you say. Not so simple to do.

Well, no. And yes.

You see, most of us have gotten into the habit of emoting first and asking questions later. Just as habits are made, they can be changed, replaced by different habits. To truly break a habit you have to replace it with a better habit, preferably one that has an immediate payoff. In the case of my offending driver situation above, it was the contentment of knowing I could leave a note on his window that at least had a chance of getting through to him, if I ever got the chance. Besides that, it gave me a chance to use some of my copy-writing skills as well. Also, by remembering his plate number I had a fighting chance of properly identifying the person's vehicle. This is multilevel pay-off (and better than punching the guy in the nose).

Stress is a reaction to the environment. We cannot always change our environment. We can often change our reaction habit by acting in a deliberate way in a constructive fashion whenever a stress-causing agent attacks us. It takes practice, but we have to catch ourselves when we react, stop, and act properly instead.

Stress is truly an attack, designed to upset us and to throw us off-balance.

We beat stress by not allowing stress to win.

Yes, You can!