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12/29/10

Geography of the Mind

Your Choice: In the mirror darkly or with clarity...

Paul's New Testament Biblical scripture 1 Corinthians 13:12 refers to the present and the future:

"For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know fully as even I am fully known."

It alludes to the veil that is placed over us as we see ourselves and this world as opposed to the lifting of that veil to see ourselves and the world in full light in the afterlife. How you interpret that or make use of it depends on your religious beliefs. My thought is that it worth it's original face value as intended but also, interpreted slightly differently, in another more practical daily perspective.

We all view ourselves as in a mirror and the way in which we view ourselves in light of the present world, religious decisions aside, is also how we react to the world and in return how it reacts to us. Lifting the veil to view ourselves practically and pragmatically helps us understand ourselves better for self-improvement. It is not a new concept and accepted in contemporary society as psychologically sound. Should we see ourselves darkly, we will view and be viewed in our interactions with the world accordingly. The same is true if we see ourselves with as much clarity as possible and view ourselves more assuredly, in turn our interactions will reflect that.

What I see in this difficult era is how people view themselves very much determines the course they will take during a turbulent, uncertain period of their lives and the ongoing outcome. You can view yourself as a casualty and injured party in this economic downturn, which may be true if you've lost a job, income, home, family...most especially if it's been uneven and unfair. The difficulty is getting beyond the point of feeling like an underdog and getting to a place in your mind that rises above that thought in order to move on. Otherwise your reflection of yourself will only mire you even more into a downward spiral.

This requires taking possession of the dominion of yourself and claiming control over your emotions and thoughts, never an easy task but required to get a better impression of yourself to project to others. It requires the tough actions of claiming and occupying your own decisions, taking charge of your attitudes and actions by creating original thoughts or borrowing some and adapting them to your situation, regardless of external circumstances. If you are prepared for challenge, change and adversity, the more often it occurs and you cope with them, then it becomes more natural to you and subsequently less difficult.

It's building character, which is never easy but always rewarding in the long term.

Arizona Landscape

Self Portrait: Flash in the mirror...

12/28/10

Only In America

On the onset of 2011...

Many Americans have lost their confidence, one of the traits we are most known for. Our moxie has lost it's nerve and it's easy to understand why with the economic, social and political problems we are facing that, alas, are intertwined. Then again, many other Americans are in a happy recovery mode, which somehow seems surreal and more like denial.

I think I know why there are these two juxtaposing viewpoints.

Read or watch any media outlet and you can find both good news and bad news about the economy, social problems and political issues. Take your pick which you want to believe. My favorite example is the seemingly opposing stories, very often on the same page, headlined something like "Unemployment is down and job outlook improving" and another story with the seeming flip side headline "Personal income is down."

Well, yes...both are true because some people are getting jobs but they are lower paying. It's good news that is not coupled with the countering bad news in the same story. The media outlets spit the news in half chunks. Some people read the chunk they want to and others read both and either make connections between the two or they don't, for a variety of reasons.

The actuality is that we face significant social, economic and political problems in the coming year. The sovereign debt crisis in other countries will affect us, unemployment is still high and stagnant, the mortgage/foreclosure crisis is unresolved, debt overhang threatens financial institutions, we're at peak oil, there are global currency problems and the stock market is flirting with highs far too dangerous for the underlying fundamentals of the economy are among the major ones. The biggest problem is that postponing the inevitable by "Quantitative Easing" and keeping the money printing presses rolling, isn't working quite as hoped, preventing us from getting on with clearing up the certain aftermath that is coming after it all inevitably falls apart, which is likely to occur in 2011.

Which leads back to confidence, which I think we can regain. My belief is Americans are struggling with confidence because they feel a sense of pending doom and rightfully want to get it over with. The American way is to face a challenge head on and overcome it, not dilly dally with it like some European diplomat. The dominoes are lined up and with one slip they all fall. Let it happen so we may commence with picking up the pieces and rebuilding a real and sustainable recovery.

That's the kind of confidence and determination that Americans are best at. The malaise is caused by the political and business classes stretching out to maintain the old while the new is overdue waiting to be born.

12/27/10

Arizona Landscape

A Year of Equinox and Solstice Sun and Moon...

Winter Solstice 12/21/09


New Years Day 2010 Blue Moon


Vernal Equinox Sunset 03/20/10


Summer Solstice 06/21/10


Autumnal Equinox Sunset 18:15 09/22/10


Autumnal Full Moon Sunrise 06:45 MST 09/23/10


Umber Moon before Eclipse 20:20 MST 12/20/10


Winter Solstice Sunrise 12/21/10


Winter Solstice Moon 12/21/10

12/23/10

Thinking Out Loud

Fast Food Head vs Good Food Mind...

You Are What You Eat

A diet of fast food and prepared chow is basically junk and nutritionally vacant, full of clogging fats, salts, starches, phosphates, dyes, colorings, hydrologized compounds and unpronounceable chemicals, to mention a few. Not only does it lack much nutritive value but it also has a lot of harmful constituents that are bad for your body and overall health. It stands to reason that an intake of this as food is not only bad for the body but cannot feed the brain what it needs to reckon even ordinary stuff out.

My conclusion, completely unscientific and from mere observation, is most people who survive on fast food and junk live their daily lives the same way they consume food, in an inert head that lacks control. Fast and full of junk time, wasting energy on trivial pursuits and not really thinking about what they are doing, how they live their lives and thinking ahead. This is a generalization but it seems to me, that if you don't think about what you are putting in your body, not considering how you eat, it's an indication of a general lack of concern about personal well-being. It's difficult to tell which comes first, a lack of ability to have a strategy and a purpose or the lack of good nutrition that creates a toxic body and dull head that can't think well because it's undernourished.

On the other hand, eating healthy food, basic unadulterated stuff that provides protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in proportional balance, is good for you. It doesn't have to be organic, vegetarian or vegan, sparse or dull and can be obtained in a regular grocery store for reasonable cost. It requires thoughtful shopping and most prepared freezer, prepackaged box and canned foods should be counted out. A lot of basic good food doesn't require much preparation and can be fixed relatively simply for a wholesome meal or "grazing" during the day. It provides the building blocks for a healthy body and simultaneously nourishes the mind.

Thinking about how you treat your body by considering what you eat with a modicum of exercise, is a sign of having control over your life and how you live it. It's an indication that you plan ahead, consider the consequences of bad choices, deliberate on important decisions and overall think relatively clearly. There's also a high probability that your moods are better or if you have mood problems you are better able to deal with them. My completely unscientific conclusion is that because you eat better, you also have a better mind.

Arizona Landscape

Kintucky Fried Craven...

12/21/10

You Can Quote Me On That

On being cool...

A contrived image created by clothing, cars, houses and going to all the right "happening" places where you think you're supposed to be, only works on people who for the most part are impressed by superficial things. A bona fide image of being a creative thinker who is original, credible, trustworthy, regardless of what you're wearing, driving or where you're living, naturally takes you to all the right places you should be. It all depends on who you want to be and who you want around you.

Arizona Landscape

Functionally utilitarian...

Front


Back

12/20/10

Thinking Out Loud

Always Learning...

There are a lot of things you can do to be always learning and challenged that don't require too much effort or even equipment. There are various ways you can figure out how to get what you need to do them for relatively no or low cost if you need to. Sometimes it's as inexpensive as simply thinking, for instance questioning why certain things are the way they are. Some call this pondering.

Anyhow, here are some other ideas:

Read good books, fiction, non-fiction, educational, classics, history, so-called "light-reading" and "How To" books.

Learning how to use or improve your use of a computer, netbook, tablet computer or smart phone.

Making or creating something...the possibilities here are great but the end product doesn't have to be great. This is one time the very effort often is the worthwhile part, not the end product.

Mind Builders: Puzzles, Crosswords, Scrabble, Brain Teasers.

Learn to sew. An entire outfit if you want but my suggestion is a sewing on a button, fixing a hole, darning a sock, stitching up a tear or split seam.

Learn to use tools. There is nothing wrong with not knowing how to hammer a nail, saw a piece of wood, use a screwdriver, pliers or a car tire jack. There is everything right about learning how to use them.

Learn to cook. It doesn't have to be fancy. A burger, rice, pasta and even stir fry vegetables is not so hard.

Repotting a houseplant or planting a garden, no matter how small, figure out how to keep it growing.

Learn another language.

Arizona Landscape

Brookline College...

12/17/10

Geography of the Mind

A renewed American Individualism...

Returning to traditional American self-reliance and individualism is key to everyone surviving this economic downdraft and its related psychological impact.

Although I'm a generally optimistic person who usually figures out a way to make the best of things, under the assumption that in the long term things do work out for the best, I am also a realistic guy. I have trouble ignoring facts that are in front of me and actually get quite annoyed when people live in happy denial of bad circumstances. This is because I prefer to deal with actualities head on, resolve them as best as possible, to authentically move on with day-to-day life.

In general however, I'm not optimistic about the world and our country overall for the foreseeable future, especially 2011, for a variety of reasons. It seems to me that we are going to be forced to deal with a multitude of issues that stem from economic problems that have been forestalled by happy deniers. At the forefront in the US is unemployment, the mortgage crisis, heavy laden debt problems and a currency crisis international in scope. All other difficulties stem from those brass tacks. Additionally I recognize this means that a lot of people will be burdened with arduous and formidable hardships that I'm not impervious to and have myself experienced.

To me a renewed American Individualism is the most pragmatic down-to-earth way, that as singular mortal people, we can cope with what may occur to us or those around us. The larger entities of government, business, social service agencies, can do what they are able but it will necessarily be limited, leaving us as individuals to our own devices. As an immigrant, at its core, to me this is what being an American is all about.

Our minds and our hands are our best assets and not our possessions or bank accounts, although the latter two can help. In order to overcome turbulent and challenging times it takes a resolve to strengthen our minds and not fall prey to weak thinking which leads to bad decisions and poor character judgments. Doing this is not easy, nothing worthwhile is, it takes work and effort.

I believe that we are in an economic depression that can easily lead to a national group mentality depression, if it hasn't already started. As a country, in the Spirit of America, we cannot as individuals allow that to happen. Many of us have suffered from episodic depression and there is a lesson to be learned there, many of the coping skills in overcoming depression are the same ones we will all need to rise above adversity. We cannot let minds go to waste during this epoch and let it become an era known not only as an economic downturn but as a psychological breakdown of the American people.

This means we have to actively protect ourselves from unnecessary negative input and also avoid the poison of small minded thinkers who would have us fall into their web of lies and disaffection. This exists everywhere, from mainstream media to online commenters to political mongers of hate. Our best defense is sorting the wheat from the chaff and averting away from this destructive disinformation. Idle minds and bodies are the factories for discontent and discord for the soul.

A return to the tradition of American self-reliance and individualism is paramount to all of us surviving this economic downdraft and its related psychological impact. It is a practical and realistic way of dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life in unusual times. This does not mean every man for himself but rather that for each person who is able to maintain composure, another hand becomes available to lift someone else up who needs it. If we are always learning, doing something with our hands, keeping our bodies healthy and staying occupied with something useful and meaningful, no matter how large or small it seems, it is a contribution to everyone.

Arizona Landscape

Speeding along Dunlap at dawn...

12/16/10

You Can Quote Me On That

Overcoming barricades in life builds intelligence and character...

Adversity brings out the most in creative minds and galvanizes a panorama of intellects, as well as stimulating artists of all types, to actualize the most imaginative endeavors. Deprivation and difficulty is much better for the innovative soul than comfort and abundance.

Arizona Landscape

Unfinished and needs infill...


12/15/10

Only In America

The crisis of missed opportunity...

We live during an economic crisis that is as devastating as the Great Depression of the 1930s. The difference is we entered into this crisis with much better housing, clothing, food supplies and the cushioning blows of unemployment insurance, severance pay and other safety nets. This means the initial  shock was distressing but not as dramatic as the Thirties and the residual hangover will not seem as severe and less uncomfortable. That is not to say all is well with everyone or that more is not on the way.

The long term effect of this great economic downturn is overcoming high unemployment, debt overhang and the length of time to fully recover, which has every potential to make this period collectively dreary. We must individually fight colorlessness of a flat time span to make it interesting to ourselves, making an effort to overcome potential personal lifelessness. Opportunities are fewer and farther in between now and will be in the upcoming era and every chance missed is a mini-crisis of itself. It is key to take every option to learn something new, make enriching friendships, accept a job that may not be permanent or ideal, travel or see something different, whatever presents itself and take advantage of the chance while you can. You never know when learning something, such as creating a website, fixing a bicycle, cooking an omelet, participating in a focus group, learning to use an e-reader, teaching a kid to tie his shoe, taking a community class or going back to school, you get the idea...may become a skill used in or to gain employment or create your own enterprise.

Over four years ago when I started getting interested in YouTube I didn't plan on learning to make, edit and upload videos, renew my photography interest and start a new blog. After I lost my main source of income in 2007, a full-time job I'd held a long time, I used the activities of all of them to occupy my time and gain some more skills in using the internet and get involved in the social web. I took the time to learn how to use a smartphone to its fullest, rather than just as a tool for work. I had no idea then that those skills would later impress an employer to hire me during a down employment market.

Opportunities usually don't present themselves as connections to something to advance yourself, your future and make your life better. Keep your eyes on the road and wide open.

Arizona Landscape

Ground Control to Moon...

12/14/10

Quality

List your ideas...

Every time you have an idea or a thought that strikes you, even if you think it's half-baked, it will never work or just too off the wall...write it down. Keep these ideas and thoughts in a list you carry around with you. If they're the type that fire up your imagination right away, at the first opportunity you get start doing them. In my case it's usually writing or creating a video.

If they don't spark you off right away, are not fully formed or ready-for-prime-time, let them sit awhile and when you have a moment of feeling uninspired or needing an idea, take out the list. I'm willing to bet that most of the time at least one of them will get you going. There's also probably a very good chance that you'll also discover that several of them are linked and will create a bigger project than just one of them alone.

Arizona Landscape

Willow Lake in the distance...


12/6/10

Geography of the Mind

Lifelong Learning...

It seems to me that the people I've met throughout my life who have weathered storms and disruptions between the good times are always learning. During periods when things are going well they take advantage of opportunities to acquire knowledge while they are abundant, to learn something new while they can. It can be anything, not only formal education that is worthwhile, although that is certainly one thing to take advantage of, also anything that comes along in their work and daily lives.

When times are difficult learning manifests itself in several ways, one is that what we learn during good times becomes more valuable and is turned into a second learning connection, which is appreciating the value of past learning and the chance to really implement and expand it. Problematic junctures in life present new ways to figure things out and solve problems, learning skills on the way to a better era when past experiences can then really bloom. If our minds are constantly open to new ideas and concepts, then we stand a much better chance of passing through each passage of our lives with ease.

Arizona Landscape

DeVry University on Dunlap...

12/2/10

You Can Quote Me On That

We're tinkering with the steering wheel when the engine needs repair...

All of the printing of money with Quantitative Easing, Treasury Bond purchasing, tax schemes and budget cutting, extending unemployment benefits, mortgage work-out plans, social programs, ad nauseam, cannot resolve our overall economic problems unless two underlying factors are realistically addressed:

1. High unemployment due to mismatch of the skills of many job-seekers and what employers need now and will need in the future. This requires people becoming cutting-edge skilled, free-agents and/or self-employed. Eight million jobs aren't coming back because they aren't needed any more, we should be preparing for what is and will be needed. The economy can only be stimulated with significant earned income

2.   The foreclosure and indebtedness problem of individuals, organizations and government. How the lenders reconcile what people owe and how much houses are worth and deal with uncollateralized debt and collect it, is still an open question that must be resolved, in order for any across-the-board financial restructuring to occur. If a large segment of the population has no earned income due to unemployment, how do they repay the debt?

Arizona Landscape

Need cash? We buy gold...

12/1/10

Only In America

An American Entrepreneur...

Only In America

Ten reasons to believe in Americans...

We're culturally and racially diverse but more alike than different.

1.  America is a large continent spanning from one ocean to another, rich with natural resources. Although sometimes exploited and under-utilized, they're still available to us and we're capable of using them wisely.

2.  We're innovators, especially in the areas of the arts, science and technology. We figure out new ways to do old things and create new things the rest of the world admires and uses.

3.  We are easily mobile and can move around the country because we are an educated work force and technologically savvy. Opportunity is available to most people who seek it.

4.  English is the dominant language and literacy is high allowing us to communicate among each other well. We have a sophisticated communications system.

5.  Millions of Americans are still hard-working (or want to be), motivated and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. We will rise above economic crisis no matter how hard or long it takes.

6.  Legal immigration. Immigrants have always brought to this country a desire to succeed and do better for themselves, revitalizing everyone. They bring their dreams, enriching us all.

7. The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and our form of government. Although currently racked with failure by a Political Class of two seemingly entrenched parties, they still do not own the system.

8.  The Second Amendment. Millions of Americans legally own guns and we can defend ourselves against our government if we are forced to. Most likely we won't have to because of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

9.  Freedom of speech and the press being overtaken by the internet, which is making self-publishing, creative endeavors and the spreading of ideas wide open to everyone.

10. Reinvention of self. There are dozens of ways to break from our personal past and begin a new life for ourselves if we have the will, utilize our resources and are willing to start over.

Arizona Landscape

Thunder Road...