Ukraine–Russia; Gaza–Hamas–Israel; Where Lies Hope?

Missiles, artillery and bullets are easy; diplomacy is hard. So bloodshed continues. How did the Protestants and Catholics stop fighting in Northern Ireland (at least most of the time)? Well, it only took a few hundred years, but they eventually did. Mothers tired of sons dying played a major part. Outside mediation another part–by an American where America had no vested interest in an outcome favoring one side or the other. Continue reading

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Coming Soon–A New Blog Exclusively with Stories and Excerpts

It’s not ready yet. It will appear sometime in August. Not on this blog, on another one. It will feature excerpts from pieces I am contemplating incorporating into books. In the meantime, here is a sample of the type of writing to expect:

The path that Lily, my golden retriever preferred for her daily walks took us by the nearby retirement home. As much as I tried to steer her on a different route, three days out of four she would insist, in the retriever way with a gentle tug , that we go that way. So I yielded to her choice. With her stuffed plushie frog loosely gripped between her jaws and her bushy tail keeping up its horizontal metronome rhythm, she once again took me down that path. As we passed the retirement Continue reading

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Immigration Reform–Will Its Time EVER Come?

Lets be clear here, the number of  people crossing the southern border of the US has been steadily declining for several years, at least since the beginning of the Obama administration. At the same time, the numbers of Border Patrol agents has increased. The Obama administration has deported substantially more people during five and one half years than the Bush administration did in eight years. The US Senate has passed a bi-partisan bill to reform current immigration laws. The GOP led House has failed to take any action whatsoever and appears unlikely to do so any time soon. Only recently has the current crisis of children fleeing Central America into the US reversed the trend of border crossing. But that is NOT part of the overall issue. So what are the issues?  Continue reading

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Where is the Compassion on Children Crossing the Border?

Back in the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Bush spoke of “compassionate conservatism.” Examples of such were hard to find, although in the waning days of his 2nd term, came the 2008 law that now is being conflated with the overall immigration debate–protecting children from non-contiguous countries who come here seeking protection from abuses in their countries. So what do we see from Americans in California, Texas and Arizona–perhaps New Mexico as well? Not just NIMBYism (not in my backyard) but callous calls to send thousands toddlers to teenagers back home as if they were none other than illegal border crossers intent on corrupting America with their protest. Congressmen, US senators and even the White House insist few will qualify under the law intended to protect them and want them sent home almost immediately to Guatamala, El Salvador or Honduras.  Citizens block buses transporting them for processing and angrily protest their presence here. As a Buddhist, far be it from me to ask WWJD, but this all seems as far removed from Christian mercy as worshiping Satan. It is important to note, this has almost NOTHING to do with the overall immigration issue [more on that in my next post].  Continue reading

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Independence Day–American Revolution or Human Revolution?

It’s that annual celebration–picnics, trips to the beach, parades and fireworks. So long ago, 238 years, that the concept is difficult to grasp. Independence from colonial rule. Today the focus is either on enjoying the holiday or making political points about the significance of it all in relation to modern government in America. In the sixties and seventies, radicals spouted slogans like,  “Power to the People,” in response to what they saw as political repression and talked of “come the revolution.” Today it’s the right wing Patriot Movement that threatens to take up arms to protect their liberties against government repression. Neither made or makes much sense. America still has more opportunities, more freedom and more liberty than almost any other nation (not to say that I am aware of any that has more, just trying not to overstate my case). Ironically, it’s those celebrations that are most indicative of this truth.  While a burger, a beer and a hot dog may not have much to do directly with patriotic observation of the independence our forefathers fought for, the fact that we can freely indulge in them comes as result. But what of human revolution?

“A great revolution of  character in just a single person will help achieve a change in the destiny of  a nation and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of all  humankind.” Daisaku Ikeda

The fight for independence from colonial rule is long over in America. The political points that ideologues attempt to make using the words and principles of the Declaration of Independence ring hollow to my ears. The true revolution for America today is human revolution. The change in character that comes from accepting responsibility for one’s own happiness, one’s own successes in achieving goals–unimpeded by the real and the not so real constraints one faces–not from a repressive government, employer, neighbor, or significant other but from those imposed by oneself.  Now is the time to engage in that revolution and to celebrate it.

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Writing from Life–People and Scenes You See

Writers sometimes say they are stuck for topics, scenes or characters. But there is plenty to see all around you–provided you leave the blank screen of the computer in front of you. Coming back from vacation, we stopped at the Denny’s in Truth or Consequences, NM. I happened to gaze out the window while waiting for our orders just in time to observe a curious sight: a group of people carting bedrolls, backpacks and even one with a pillow and another with one of those wheeled roll-on luggage bags. They were coming down a hill from a shopping area a 100 yards above. They assembled into an amorphous, unorganized mass. One held a cellphone to an ear, talking to someone. After a bit, the group made their way across the street and into the Denny’s, where they proceeded to unload their burdens in the outer foyer. It then became apparent they were all teenage males, while the cell phone user appeared a bit older and the leader of the group. After consultation with the leader, the restaurant staff arranged tables so that the dozen or so youth could be seated across from one another. They ordered no food, we noted as we finished our lunch and exited; they had only water or drinks. So, what could a writer make of this?

There were no camping facilities within walking distance, especially on a 95 degree day. How did they get there? Did a small bus or a couple extended vans break down? Were they biding time until repairs could be made or substitute transportation be provided? Neither a pillow nor a piece of rolling luggage were typical camping gear. But some of the group had more or better equipment. No matching shirts, but the shirts they had on bore various youth program identifiers. I could not be so rudely intrusive as to ask what the circumstances of the group were, but I could find the makings of a short story or a scene from a longer piece with a little imagination. How about you?

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3 Little-Known Phobias

So many phobias, so many odd names for them. Everyone knows about triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13),  acrophobia (the fear of heights), agoraphobia the fear of open spaces or crowds. But what about the really odd ones?

  • The fear or avoidance of replacing the empty roll of paper in the bathroom. Do you know the name for this one? While the wives out there may not know the name, they know the symptom, eh?
  • What about the fear of peanut butter? Hah, what’s to fear with that, you ask. Well, what if you munch into a thick, sticky hunk of the aromatic spread and your jaws get stuck–the adhesive qualities of the nut butter sticking to roof and floor of your mouth? Scary? Not to most people, but to some . . .
  • “Step on crack; break your mother’s back”–you remember that one, right? You don’t believe though, do you? No, but what about the fear of stepping in a puddle? Lots of children love to step into them, to the consternation of mothers everywhere. But for those who worry about the depth of the puddle, it’s no messy matter. Oh no, what if it’s really deep? The water’s dark, you can’t see the bottom, it could be over your ankle, maybe even half way up your shin! Now isn’t that something to worry about?
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Building the Mighty Wall to Keep out Mexican Illegals

Picture this, the Republicans take control of the Senate and maintain control of the House. They want a taller, wider, longer wall between the United States and Mexico, to keep out all those unwanted illegals.  Republicans love contracting out tasks rather than paying government workers to do the job. When it comes to construction, maybe that’s who would be doing the job anyway.  So, what happens when it turns out that the Chamber of Commerce member company (the Chamber wants a guest worker program, you know) doing the job, has been using subcontractors employing illegals to build the wall? Oh, the embarrassment–the shame of it all.  Not saying it has happened, just speculating that it could happen.

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“An Idiot’s Guide to” Writing a “For Dummies” Book

It could be vice versa, but haven’t you been waiting for this one to come out in print–online or ebook, too? OK, this could just as well be a tweet, but tweeting is something I refuse to indulge.  So who knows the relative market shares of these two competing book series? Anyone? Your name will go down in book marketing statistics history if you have the verifiable answer. (Nah, probably not.)

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8 Tips to Successfully Manage a LinkedIn Group

I recently took over managing a group on LinkedIn. What is a group? It’s a bunch of people who have specific, definable interests around which they can coalesce and interact. Any LI member can create a group and anyone can join groups that interest them. Some are open and some require an application to join to be approved. These tips are about the latter. Here are 8 tips to successfully manage a group, ensuring it’s well-functioning for everyone’s benefit:

  1. Encourage useful discussions and topics, beginning with examples of your own. Look at the most popular discussions and rotate them through the Manager’s Choice carousel.
  2. Initiate good discussions, comment meaningfully on other’s discussions and strive to be a top contributor without abusing your manager position.
  3. Make sensible rules and communicate them–what is open for discussion and what is a promotion; don’t let spam annoy the group members.
  4. Don’t tolerate way off topic discussions or comments–delete them. Put repeat offenders in the moderation queue–meaning nothing they post goes up in the group without your or another manager/moderator’s approval.
  5. Don’t tolerate abusive, profane or threatening comments. Put offenders in moderation or if especially egregious, block and delete them from the group.
  6. Don’t use auto-join; review requests to join if yours is not an open group. Do use auto-send welcome messages that include specifics about the group, as well as do’s and don’ts. Do use auto-send messages for those member requests you decline.
  7. Stay active; visit the group every day, even if only for a short time, so that items in moderation don’t stay there too long or requests to join languish either.
  8. If the group is too big to handle on your own, recruit some moderator’s or another manager from among the most active members.
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