From the Editor

It Is Always a Choice

I do not have a global positioning service activated on my phone, which yes does have the capability to navigate my life; but I choose instead to either use a map or rely on serendipity to guide me. Though it works well for me, I am not necessarily recommending it as a way of life, but nor am I willing to proclaim that either the phone or anyone else actually have the answers I am searching for and that bit of truth may apply to you as well.

Recently, I was listening to someone speak about the very real limits in their life; they seemed to be feeling that theirs was a life defined by restricted choices. I did not disagree with them about the constraints that they lived with; but I did take exception to their perception, of the choices, available to them, because of said constraints.

As the conversation unsatisfactorily drew to a close, my mind wondered back to a bouquet of birds-of-paradise, which has forever stayed with me, and changed how I not only looked at the flowers but at life.

I will always remember walking into Lia’s home many years ago, and seeing a beautiful vase, filled with birds-of-paradise, a plant, which in Southern California, is almost as ubiquitous as grass.

Initially I was astounded by the majestic arrangement; being drawn in by the bold and bright colors and slightly mesmerized by the angles of the flowers, which all but project flight. It was, at that moment, as if I was seeing the intricate flowers, of the strelitzia regina, for the first time; this is a plant commonly used in landscaping, in this part of the world, as it is drought resistant, hardy, easily cultivated, and provides reliable color, thus not only did Lia have it growing in her yard, but so did thousands upon thousands of people.

I knew Lia was and is brilliant, but suddenly, I also thought her very clever. I did not ask her why she had made a bouquet of birds-of-paradise; did she indeed want this particular flower or was it what was available to her, as the why did not seem to matter.  What mattered was that she had seized the moment, as it were – she had adorned her table perfectly, and her choice had given me a new perspective, something I very much appreciated then and now.

As we welcome a new year, I cannot help but reflect on the role of choice and perspective in our lives.

I wrote in my column last month that my motto for 2016 was to go; not just on trips that were destined for a local I knew would lead to an enjoyable experience, or when I felt rested and ready for an adventure, or flush with spending money or was invited, or had the time, or the weather was perfect or was in the mood; rather I set out to go despite the destination or the circumstances, or my level of discomfort – and I must say it was an excellent choice!

For me, this choice meant that instead of staying at home, while Kate ran out to do an errand, I went with her, whether I was dressed, cold, hot, busy, working, hungry, tried . . . she was leaving the house, I was going to go, period. It also meant that if we drove through a town, at an least remotely decent time of day, where someone lived, that I knew, I took a shot and knocked on their door, oddly, they mostly opened the door, it also meant that if I walked past a place and instantly wished I had gone in, I turned around and went in, whether I knew what the place was or not.

While the going definitely dominated 2016, the other significant factor in my life last year was taking a chance on limitless rejection.

I am not a brave person. I am a person who goes and does, I always have been, but I am so often nervous or afraid when I step out into the unknown, including expressing how I feel about people.  Often when I want to do something for someone, I will initiate the process, and then hand it off, mostly to Kate who I think willingly will complete the task, on my behalf.  I almost always feel like I am bothering someone or do not want to make them uncomfortable or am just embarrassed to initiate the call or interaction; but in 2016, I decided to dam the torpedoes and go straight ahead.

For me, that meant regardless of how silly it may seem to you, I just went ahead and said you know what, I saw this, it reminded me of you and here you go. I was very brazen in my interactions with the people, in my world, telling them how I felt, not just in regard to my life, which for me is not difficult, but in regard to them, which oddly was much more challenging; but which mostly garnered me a lot more hugs than 2015; another excellent choice.  I also approached more strangers, solicited more contributors this webzine, and shared more information with the people I interact with because of their work or my need.

(I do know I made a few of you uncomfortable with my openness, and yes, I was a little uncomfortable in receiving your thanks and reciprocation – giving is somehow easier, is it not, than receiving – but I am working on this.)

These choices lead to many unexpected opportunities and even a few happy conclusions to long unresolved problems. What I so wanted the person, I spoke with,  to understand was that regardless of limits life may place on us, we still have a choice in deciding who, what, where, and when; and sometimes we are the ones limiting our choices, simply because of our perspective.

Let me say as clearly as I can, that I do get it – whatever your it may be, as oddly, we all have at least one it to deal with – most of us more than one.

Whether our it is time, money, or physical constraints, the top three its which seem to damper our desires, or the any of the many other countless its, from talent to possibility, or location to people, or luck to connections, they are all real and most assuredly impact our lives, but we do not have to be defined by the many its’ that so often serve as road blocks to our happiness.

When looking at our life and what we would like to do with the time we are given, we often speak about our dreams, and then fervently try to retract our statement, usually concluding that whatever we may be dreaming is in reality an impossibility, so why even try? I feel rather certain that the juxtaposition between dreams and reality is real, but not fatal.

I think so often we behave and believe that we are limited by constraints placed on us by the its’, when in reality it is that invisible other, which in-fact has the greatest negative impact on our life.

Whether it be what people may think or expect, beliefs held by groups we belong to from religious to political, or just the ideas we grew up with or are driven through popular culture and social media, we have become a society that continually and repeatedly relinquishes our power to some other voice, be it a telephone that thinks it knows the best route for you to travel, or a quiz actually designed to collect data about you, that masquerades as an oracle of wisdom directing you along a career path, or place to live, or God forbid who to marry.

I know this may be difficult for us to absorb, but while we cannot control the fact that say all we can afford this week is beans, we can control not only how we make those beans – look it up folks, there are endless ways to cook beans – but when we eat them and how we eat them and where we eat them and most importantly how we feel about those beans; and it all matters.

A cup of tea drunk from a paper cup, while driving down a crowded highway, is not the same as a cup of tea drunk from a pretty china cup with saucer, while listening to music as you look at your child sleeping or a favorite pet playing with a toy, or read a book or letter, or put elements in a scrapbook or stare out your window or enjoy it with a friend!

How we choose to perceive our life will impact our actions and the pleasure and joy we experience in our life.

Regardless of the its in our life and the limits which they bring, we have choices, and those choices are enlightened by our perspective.

I love having fresh flowers in my house. Of the many places I have lived, one of my favorite homes was a rented house in Whittier, because despite the slightly over-bearing landlord and too high a rent, the yard was filled with rose bushes, and I love roses!

Initially, I was a bit intimidated by the rose garden and worried about cutting the buds, fearing I might damage the bushes; but it did not take long to find a book about roses and begin to fill my home with fresh cut flowers, a true gift.

There is no doubt in my mind that my Mother introduced me to my love of nature; she was a woman who picked wild flowers and celebrated dandelions, but it was Lia who made me see that common shrubbery became common shrubbery because of an intrinsic beauty which should not be overlooked. We may not have access to gardenias or orchids, but that does not mean we cannot have fresh flowers in our house; if you cannot afford roses, buy carnations; and if you cannot buy carnations then by all means pick dandelions!  That Is All For Now

Perfect Post Cards – Picture and a Thousand Words

Stone Mountain

 

08-16-2016 01;44;03AM2

 

Let me start by saying that regardless of what those who initiated this project may have desired, the result, as it stands today is a work of art, worth the detour.

While American man-made wonders are not as ancient, as in other parts of the world, they are no less impressive, at least when viewed from this pair of eyes.

I no longer remember where I first learned about Stone Mountain, I think it was when we went to Mount Rushmore, which led to some reading about the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who initially began working on this monument to the South, before heading to South Dakota.

Located in Georgia, Stone Mountain is “the largest exposed mass of granite in the world,” upon which is a carving of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, all mounted upon their favorite horses, they were the leaders of the Confederate States, during the American Civil War; it is the largest bas-relief in the world.

Conceived before Mount Rushmore, the United Daughters of the Confederacy hired Gutzon Borglum the man who would later execute most of the work on Mount Rushmore, he would not finish the job, but rather it would pass on to Augustus Lukeman, then to Walker Hancock, and finally Roy Faulkner who finished the project in 1972.

Not too long ago, we had the opportunity to revisit Stone Mountain with friends in tow, rushing to make into what is now an amusement park, before it closed, we actually ended up crashing a party, which led to one of the most pleasant evenings I have experience on the road.

As the skies darkened, Kate heard other guest talking about the laser light show, and though our party was most assuredly hungry, we put aside our famished state for a few minutes, and were amply rewarded.

The show was spectacular! Accompanied by perfect music, every step of the way, the show takes the audience through the history of America, paying due respect to both those moments we take pride in and those which cause us to shed a tear.  Born in Ohio, I am a Yankee all the way, but when the sculpted figures, through the magic of technology surrender, to end the Civil War, sword broken, honor in tack, I was truly moved; especially because of this moment arises the re-birth and unification of the United States of America – very powerful and I could not more highly recommend a visit to this monument and show.

By the way, I took particular delight in the fact that the show quite literally highlighted the stops we had made on that particular trip, from Portland Head Light, to Plymouth Rock, to New York City, and Philadelphia . . . on it went

 

atlantamap 082 - Copy

Photos on post card by Steve Yost, other picture by yours truly 😉

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/geography-environment/stone-mountain

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To The Burlington Electric Company

From Russia With Love

The recent cyberattack at the Burlington Electric Company, in Vermont, is like something out of the pages of the Ian Fleming novel, From Russia With Love.

Fleming’s novel about plot and counterplots between British and Russian intelligence agencies, is very similar to what we have seen in the news the last few months. Smersh, a character in the novel, From Russia With Love, needs to restore the good name of the Soviet assassination agency, after criticism from recent failures.  Smersh decides that an act of terrorism will bring confidence back to the agency and plans to kill a British Secret Service agent, which is James Bond.

While the exact plot of Ian Fleming’s novel is not played out today in the media, there are striking similarities, such as Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia, wanting to bring back the Soviet Russia that was respected on the world stage. Putin has definitely taken steps that would leave no confusion as to his political motives, as well as international ambition, which should not surprise any of us.

So I confess my lack of understanding, at the outrage of the latest media story about Russian malware being found on a laptop at the Burlington Electric Company, and United States Senators talking as if this is an act of war; have they not been following the endless reports regarding cyber threats to America and the world?

Where was the outrage in the summer of 2014, when Symantec put out a report that State Sponsored Russian hackers, put malware on computers at power plants, energy grid operations and gas pipeline companies? Was that cyber intrusion not an act of war?

The cyber attack by the Russians was a long campaign against the Western Industrial Control Systems equipment; and while the attack also included Europe, most of the attacks were in the United States and Spain. It should be noted that Spain owns energy and utility companies in the United States.  The cyber attack known as Dragonfly, was nicknamed Energetic Bear.  But where was the outrage then?  The fact is, that there has been a cyber war for a long time, and while we hear about breech after breech of privacy, there has been a serious State Sponsored cyber war for years; but where has the outrage been?

The latest news story that has drawn outrage about a computer that was identified with the same signature malware from the DNC, at the Burlington Electric Company, leaves me to wonder, why now? Why the outrage now?  The infected computer was not part of the Industrial Control System network, which is surrounded by an Electronic Security Perimeter.  And while I personally believe it is Russian malware, because we all have a digital signature, to put it simply, I do not understand the outrage.

When I initially heard the story break, my first thought was the fact that we are fools to believe that this would be the first time that Russia has hacked into our grid, or for that matter do we actually not understand that China too has targeted our critical infrastructure?

The second part of the cyber attack story was about Russia meddling in our domestic political affairs. Can we, in the United States of America, really take issue with a foreign government meddling in our elections, when without doubt, there is proven evidence that the United States Government has meddled in foreign government elections for years.  If there is any doubt, look at Israel’ s last election.

However, what I am concerned about is not the Russians meddling in our political affairs, but rather the location of the piece of malware in question; it was found on a computer at the Burlington Electric Company, not at Southern California Edison, or Florida Power and Light, or Consolidated Edison. How many of us actually knew the name of the power company for the city of Burlington before this story broke?  Why would anyone hack or attack a power company in the city of Burlington?

This small energy company literally services under 20,000 customers; would taking them off line truly interrupt most of our daily lives? Would Americans rally around the city of Burlington in outrage and concern if they lost their power?  I have to wonder how much coverage a power outage in Vermont would actually garner in the national news cast.

So why would the Russians or anyone else bother to attack the Burlington Electric Company? I am afraid I can actually help you to understand this cyber-attack and why it matters to us all.

A little over a year ago, I was speaking with an official from a small local government facility, and he told me that recently he was approached by the FBI, which instructed him and his team on computer security for their municipality. The FBI stated that the smaller utility and local governments were the next frontier for nation state sponsored attacks; meaning that when we saw small companies being targeted, we would know that our enemies had completed mapping out the larger companies, and had then moved on to their next phase.

So I have to wonder, in terms of our critical infrastructure in the United States, are we now facing the beginning of the attacks on our last frontier?

How will we be able to stay safely Connected?

 

Film’s Recommended by Marcial

 
This is a trading world and men, women and children, who cannot live on gravity alone, need something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and hours, and he who ministers to this want is in a business established by the Author of our nature.  If he worthily fulfills his mission and amuses without corrupting, he need not feel that he has lived in vain.
 
~ Phineas T. Barnum ~

 

The Green Mile, US, 1999, 189 minutes, Drama

Rain Man, US, 1988, 103 minutes, Drama

Chicago, US, 2002, 113 minutes, Musical

The Upside of Anger, US, 2005, 118 minutes, Comedy

Scarface, US, 1983, 170 minutes, Thriller

The Notebook, US, 2004, 123 minutes, Drama

Million Dollar Baby, US, 2004, 133 minutes, Sports drama

Good Bye, Lenin!, Germany, 2003, 121 minutes, Comedy

Finding Neverland, UK, 2004, 101 minutes, Drama

Spanglish, US, 2004, 131 minutes, Comedy

The Aviator, US, 2004, 170 minutes, Drama

The Bridge on the River Kwai, US, 1957, 167 minutes, Action

Pulp Fiction, US, 1994, 154 minutes, Thriller

The Magnificent Seven, US, 1960, 128 minutes, Western

Zorba the Greek, Greek, 1964, 142 minutes, Classic

O Brother, Where Art Thou?, US, 2000, 106 minutes, Comedy

La Strada, Italy, 1954, 108, Drama

In Bruges, UK, 2008, 107 minutes, Thriller-Comedy

Whatever Works, US, 2009, 92 minutes, Comedy

Good Morning Vietnam, US, 1987, 119 minutes, Comedy

Awakenings, US, 1990, 120 minutes, Drama

Patch Adams, US, 1998, 116 minutes, Comedy

Captain Abu Raed, Jordan, 2008, 102 minutes, Drama

Bandits, US, 2001, 123 minutes, Comedy

Lucky Number Slevin, US, 2006, 110 minutes, Thriller

The Chorus, France, 2004, 97 minutes, Drama

Butterfly, Spain, 1999, 97 minutes, Drama

K-Pax, US, 2001, 121 minutes, Science Fiction

Winter in Wartime, Netherlands, 2008, 103, Drama, Suspenseful

Elling, Norway, 2001, 90 minutes, Comedy

Il Postino, Italy, 1995, 108 minutes, Drama

Under the Tuscan Sun, US, 2003, 113 minutes, Comedy

Les Comperes, France, 1983, 88 minutes, Comedy

Midnight in Paris, US, 2011, 94 minutes, Comedy

Moscow, Belgium, 2008, 102 minutes, Romantic Drama

Keeping Mum, UK, 2005, 103 minutes, Comedy

The Help, US, 2011, 146 minutes, Drama

Il Postino, Italy, 1995, 108 minutes, Drama

Mrs. Henderson Presents, UK, 2005, 103 minutes, Comedy/Drama

Memoirs of a Geisha, Japan, 2005, 145 minutes, Drama

Vitus, Switzerland, 2007, 123 minutes, Drama

Children of Heaven, Iran, 1997, 89 minutes, Drama

Volver, Spain, 2006, 121 minutes, Comedy

Rashomon, Japan, 1950, 88 minutes, Drama

Guantanamera, Cuba, 1994, 104 minutes, Comedy

Little Miss Sunshine, US, 2006, 101 minutes, Comedy

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, Russia, 1980, 150 minutes, Romantic Comedy.

The Pursuit of Happyness, US, 2006, 117 minutes, Drama

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, France, 2007, 112 minutes, Drama

Thank You for Smoking, US, 2005, 91 minutes, Comedy

Big Fish, US, 2003, 125 minutes, Drama

No Country for Old Men, US, 2007, 122 minutes, Thriller

Dirty Pretty Things, UK, 202, 92 minutes, Drama

The Edge of Heaven, Germany, 2007, 122 minutes, Drama

There Will Be Blood, US, 2007, 158 minutes, Drama

The Wrestler, US, 2008, 105 minutes, Drama

Bottle Shock, US, 2008, 110 minutes, Drama

The Truman Show, US, 1998, 103 minutes, Comedy

Stranger than Fiction, US, 2006, 113 minutes, Comedy

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, US, 2008, 166 minutes, Drama


The Gecko Says

The Gecko Says

Follow Revolutions and Revelations One thing I’ve never run across during my trips around our Sun is anyone who did not like music. Sure, there’s forms of music we may not care for; but I’ve never heard someone say “I just don’t care to listen to music.” Like you, dear Reader, I too have...

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Follow To The Burlington Electric Company From Russia With Love The recent cyberattack at...

My Mother’s Favorite Verse

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”~ Jeremiah 33: 3 ~

~ Aristophanes~

High thoughts must have high language.

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