May 10 2015

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch



We found a neat place called Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just north of San Antonio. You can drive your car through the wild life and you can snap all of the photos you like. Turned out really great and was a highlight of our trip.

May 10 2015

Awesome Texas Vacation



We had a great time on an 8 day tour of Texas hitting Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

May 09 2015

Plessy Ferguson

plessyI have often wondered when talking to someone on the phone in the United States, you can immediately know whether you are talking to a black person or not. There is a distinct American black accent. It is the same in the south, the north, the west coast and so on. Even though, there are large differences in accents between regions, the American black accent spreads across the entire country.

This is uniquely an American thing. In Brazil, it is not possible to discern the color of someone’s skin by talking to them on the phone. Nor is it possible in the UK. Black people take on the accents and slang of their country. So why is that?

When I discuss this with white people, they say it is the American blacks refusal to integrate into American society. That seems ridiculous to me, because that would mean there was a secret meeting with a secret code among black people. I knew that the reason had to be sociological.

I have come to the realization that the root of the American black accent is the Plessy Ferguson decision. In the late 1800s, a court ruled that black people should be considered to be separate and equal in American society. This one decision could very well be the worst Supreme Court decision in the history of the country. This decision should have been considered unconstitutional but it remained the law of the land until it was essentially overturned by the Civil Rights Acts past in the 1960s. The reason it is unconstitutional is the word SEPARATE. We are the United States and not the SEPARATE states. Later in the 1950s, the national pledge of allegiance was signed into law, with the word INDIVISIBLE in the last line of the allegiance.

My conclusion is the reason that the American black accent exists is because American blacks across the entire country were separated and segregated from the rest of the country. In my view, black people did not talk to white people as much as they talked to each other. The same way that people from Boston do not talk frequently with people from Tennessee. For me, the American black accent is a symbol of the injustice of separating the black population from the rest of American society. There is also the hypocrisy of American society that prizes individualism, equality and democracy.

Of course, the ramifications of Plessy Ferguson go far beyond a distinct accent among black people. It is the roots of the deep seated racism in our country. Racism will always exist, but in the United States it is more pronounced and I believe we can point our finger at Plessy Ferguson. To be clear, since the Civil Rights Act, the lives of minorities and blacks in particular are substantially better. Each decade, racism declines, and equality increases. And of course, the American black accent becomes less pronounced.

I have lived in Myrtle Beach SC since leaving Gateway in 1999. Last year, during Memorial Day, numerous black people were shot and killed. This incident has created a local firestorm and the City of Myrtle Beach, the State of South Carolina and the surrounding counties have banded together to create a response to last year’s shootings. One Myrtle Beach employee commented to me, “We are going to send them a message that they are no longer welcome here.” For this reason, I have decided that I will leave Myrtle Beach for Memorial Day weekend. I feel their is trouble in the air. I do not condone the unruly behavior of tourists during Memorial Day Weekend, nor do I approve of the police state that this wonderful city will become at the end of this month. Many Myrtle Beach residence leave the area during this weekend, and some feel that our departure is racism. This is not true. I am not a racist, but this is a fight that I simply want no part of.

Dec 27 2014

The United States of Money

benmoney
It is Christmas time and undoubtedly we will hear about the War on Christmas. This makes me sad, because the reality is that the war on Christmas was lost a long time ago to money and capitalism. Rather than celebrate the birth of the Savior, the meaning of Christmas has become consumer consumption, Santa Claus, trees, reindeer and snowmen. The meaning of the holiday has been lost.

But the sad fact is that Christmas is just one of the many casualties of how money dominates and pollutes all sectors of American life. To be honest, it wasn’t always this bad, but as time goes on, each year gets worse and worse.

Sports in general and college sports in particular are polluted by money. It is indeed a sad fact that the dean of the university makes about 1/4th of what the coach of the football team makes. On the professional level, the dirty secret is that the most successful and hence highest paid athletes are doing drugs to ply their trade. Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong are just the tip of the iceberg.

The American health care system exists to make money for the large pharmaceuticals and insurance companies. All other pieces of the health care system such as doctors, hospitals and so on, only exist to serve these masters. Lost in the entire equation is the health of the patient, and the only goal is for the doctor to sell more pharmaceuticals and to assuage any concerns about side effects of these bizarre drugs.

When we look at the Iraqi war, one must ask the question. Who has benefited? Certainly not the Iraqi people. Not the average American. And certainly not our soldiers that have come home dead, mangled or emotionally traumatized. There appears to be one and only one constituent that has won and that is the American military industry complex headed up by publicly traded companies such as Haliburton and Black Rock. These wars are not about terrorism or American security but padding the bottom line of these corporations. The military industry complex tries to hide behind the flag and patriotism to justify their activities but they are really nothing more than high priced mercenaries.

The incredible merger mania hitting corporate America is driven by money. The result of these mergers is to 1) increase consumer prices in a monopolistic way and 2) reduce jobs by laying off workers. None of these benefit the average American, but our SEC is so in the pocket of Wall Street that they turn a blind eye to the very people that are supposed to server and whose tax dollars pay their salaries.

Our government is now run by money and the companies and people that control the money. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are controlled by money. The president and all members of the Senate and the House of Representatives spend all their time raising money to get reelected in the next election cycle. Lost are the needs of the citizens that they supposedly are there to represent. Of course, once they are reelected they only serve their masters that donated to their campaign coffers. The entire election process is a charade to make us feel like we have a democracy when in reality we have an oligarchy that ignores the needs of the voters in favor of the rich moneyed interest.

Our entire food system is now contaminated by money. Have you ever wondered why you can only purchase drinks in almost any restaurant that contain high glucose corn syrup? Did you know that Monsanto now has a patent on soy bean seeds and suing farmers that violate its patent?

The problem with the United States is that it is no longer united. In fact, the money is so strong in both the Republican and Democrat party that we allow these artificial wedge issues to divide us. I believe that the fact that money runs the country and is ruining it will be the one ultimate issue that will unite us all against ALL the special interest that pollute our lives and our government.

Dec 25 2014

Rio de Janeiro Beach Shots



The beach scene in Rio de Janeiro is awesome. Lots of activity. Never a dull moment. People playing sports, enjoying the surf, and lots of people selling things.

Nov 29 2014

HiltonHead Vacation



Had a great time visiting Hilton Head for Thanksgiving break.

Nov 08 2014

10 Years of Running

running2It was November 2005, that I celebrated my first year of running. Now, November 2014, I am proud to say that I have been running for 10 years. A lot has changed in my life in the last 10 years. I married, have two wonderful children, and I have built my business from a small start up into a thriving medium sized business. Throughout all the change, there has been one constant – running.

After my first year of running, I established a routine which I still abide today. My normal run is file miles and it takes me slightlly less than an hour to complete. By any standard, I am a slow runner. I am not trying to run slow nor fast. I just start and go at a velocity that my body dictates. My mind is normally wandering through the clouds and flowing with whatever thoughts that will eventually drive my day. The good news is that in all my time in running, I have never sustained any major injuries. I did have a few falls but nothing that ever stopped the routine. I am happy to say as I turned 55 years old this year, that I still maintain the same routine with a goal of at least 3 runs of 5 miles each week.

In the last 5 years, I have been traveling extensively and that has not deterred my running schedule that much. Google Maps is a huge help when traveling. My run is normally somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, and I can plot a good course, and it helps me find the parks near by. I am proud to say that I have run Central Park in NY, and Hyde Park in London numerous times throughout my travels. There is also the treadmill option but for me that is solution of last resort. I like to explore the city and enjoy the outdoors.

Nothing really deters me from running. In Rio de Janeiro, I like running in the rain, because it never is really cold, and the rain is quite soothing. This year, it was less than 20 degrees in Myrtle Beach, and I just had to see if I could run. Running in the cold in the beginning is quite difficult, but after about 10 minutes, your body heat keeps you warrm, and you don’t have to worry about losing fluids.

In the last 10 years, I have run three half marathons. Running a race, for me, is a great challenge and highly rewarding. I love the feeling before the race begins, and then running among so many fellow runners. My goal is never to set a personal record, or run faster. I just want to finish and feel good after I am done.

I sweat profusely while running. I think that sweating is a very natural part of our body’s function and should be embraced rather than avoided. One time, I weighed myself before and after, and I lose about 4 pounds of liquids when running. The struggle for me lately has been how to rehydrate in the best possible way. In Brazil, I had the perfect solution in coconut water. It is 100% natural, with no sugar or calories, yet still high in potassium and sodium. Now that I am back in the US, it is very hard to find something that is not chock full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, that also contains sodium and pottasium. I am always experimenting with what I should rehydrate.

There is no doubt that my life is better after 10 years of running. My relationships at work and at home are all better because I have time to reflect on my life and my actions while running. My business is just starting to blossom and I hope that it will continue too.

I am now 55 years old and it is my sincere hope that I can run for another 10 years. I view running like my thermometer. As long as I can run 5 miles without stopping, my health must be OK.

Aug 24 2014

Divided We Fall

divided
In my lifetime, I have never seen the United States as divided as it is right now. And also in my lifetime, the country has never been in as bad a shape as right now. The two are related, correlated and even causal. I believe that the more divide the country, the less prosperous the country we will be. We as a country must focus on the issues that unite us and run away from the special interests and lobbyists that attempt to divide us.

America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. American ingenuity ushered many of the most important developments of mankind including the television, the car, the airplane, the radio, the computer and the internet. There are many others as well, but suffice it to say that many of these innovations greatly increased the productivity of the world creating enormous economic profits to one nation. Behind all of this are two key tenants of America. Capitalism and Democracy.

The problem in the United States and we are watching it fade right before our eyes, is that we no longer have Capitalism nor Democracy. It is sad to see capitalism fade in the United States. It has transformed itself into what is called crony capitalism. Success is not defined by how hard you work nor the quality of your innovations, but access to the right people in our federal government. This is defined by plowing money into the myriad of lobby organizations that pollute Washington DC. To be successful in American society today is to run a company that has a lobby organization in Washington DC. So American business is dominated by telecomunications, pharmaceuticals, banking, and the military industrial complex. Perhaps the most egregious of all is our banking system. The government as well all know is highly in debt and growing larger and more in debt every year. But there is nothing to be done because all of the moneyed interest want a large yet weak government that is afraid to regulate the very industries it must control.

Worse yet, the United States is no longer a true democracy on the federal level. Both parties Republican and Democrat have been seduced by all the money. Elections have become a high priced show where the outcome is irrelevant. Perhaps the largest hypocrisy was the election of Barack Obama who ran on a platform of Hope and Change. The sad reality is that Obama has done almost nothing to change the trajectory of our country. In fact, most would agree, he has accelerated the downfall.

We must unite behind the principles of free markets and democracy. We must restore these two fundamentals of our great country. The government must play an active role in promoted free markets but right now they are doing the opposite. The government picks the winners in back rooms rather than letting the market decide. Worse yet, the government allows large companies to merge without regard to we the people whom they represent. We must restore democracy so that the federal government represents the joint desires of the people who elect them and not the money that filled their campaign coffers.

The federal government must be reinvented under the original principles that made it great in the first place.

Jul 21 2014

Promote Competition

compete
As I get older, I am truly fearing for the future of the United States of America. One of the key reasons is that the federal government has been derelict in its responsibilities to promote competition. In fact, in recent years, it has been doing the opposite and doing everything in its power to reduce competition.

We can remember as little as 15 years ago, that Clinton went after Microsoft because of its dominant position in the market place. Then about 30 years ago, Ronand Reagan succeeded in breaking up AT&T into what was known at the time as the Baby Bells. Whether you agree with these federal actions or not, it is clear that government should play a role in promoting competition in the market place. In fact, going back well over 100 years, Teddy Roosevelt ran and won the presidency with the singular message to Bust the Trusts. Some of the most important federal anti trust regulations still in effect today came from that era.

Competition is essential for capitalism. Competition lower prices for goods and services and gives consumers a multitude of choices for their purchasing dollar. Furthermore, competition creates jobs. The sad fact however is that the federal government is doing absolutely nothing to promote competition. In fact, the federal government is playing a role in stifling competition to the detriment of the very people they supposedly represent.

A good example is the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. From a consumer perspective, there is absolutely no benefit to this merger. Both Comcast and Time Warner are considered to be among the worst in customer satisfaction. As a Time Warner customer, I am stunned on how bad their services, billing, and customer support are and their utter disregard for customer satisfaction. Of course, Time Warner has a monopoly in my area so there are no options.

The reason that Time Warner and Comcast can justify this merger is because the reduced company will enjoy economies of scale. Which is their fancy way of saying that they will start cutting heads. For every head they cut, their stock price will go up another $.01, so they have every incentive to cut as many “redundant” resources as possible. It would have been awesome if Comcast had come into my area and competed with Time Warner, but our federal government is essentially taking that outcome off the table.

Another example are the airlines. It makes me sad that American Airlines has now merged with US Airways. The reality that virtually every frequent flyer knows is that airline travel has turned from a pleasant experience into a mind numbing exercise in greed and stupidity. It was only 10 years ago before all the airlines began to merge, that meals were included in flights, blankets and pillows were available in all classes of services, no change fees, no baggage fees and on and on. When they merged, the airlines promised the government they wouldn’t raise price, so instead they reduced services. There is no good for the anyone except for the stock holders of these airlines and they don’t care since they all fly private airplanes anyhow.

This is not a Republican or Democrat thing. The trend started under George W Bush and has beome even more severe under Obama. Both the Democrat and Republican parties have become slaves to corporate interest and their mega lobbies and the concept of democracy has been temporarily suspended.

Jun 03 2014

Myrtle Beach Day



What a great day at the beach!

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