Sparking the Creativity, Love, and Playfulness of the Human Spirit


In my previous epistle I stressed the need for and benefits of physical exercise; Let us not leave out, put off or otherwise omit exercising you head…i.e. brain games. Not only can they be challenging and fun, but you can actually grow brain cells. Can’t remember why you went into the other room, where you put your keys, what’s that guy’s name….you know….doh?!?! There’s an app for that. Google, or put into you search engine on your smart phone, words like cognitive learning, mind puzzles, brain games, math games, word games, etc. and bunches of things come up. A lot of them are free, the rest not that expensive.
I do three solitaire games and four brain games on my phone just to warm up for the online crossword, in which I compete with 2 others in a friendly competitive manner. Played for speed, the fastest wins. That’s usually the woman among we three. A fine example of feminine intelligence she is, though once in a while one or the other of the remaining competitors is very infrequently faster. I’m usually in third place, in case you were wondering.
The brain is a wondrous entity. When injured, it can heal. “Neuroplasticity” It will mean more to you if you look it up than if I tell you.
A study was published in ’05 about the IQ of the American people. Just about half have an IQ less than 100. Apart from the psycho-social-political ramifications of this study, it is clear that we need to make more “smart” phones available to folks. And we all need to use these phones for more than texting and tweeting.
I was in line at the Post Office the other day, waiting for them to open for business. Three of the five of us standing there were tapping away and (gasp!) I was one of them! From pictures I’ve been sent, it seems these phones may be getting in the way of actual socializing face to face. Alas.
On the other hand, the available apps that can stretch your brain muscles can improve mental agility, concentration and peripheral vision. Just the things one needs to drive safely.
So before we all become half – human, half Borg beings linked inextricably to each other by wires and tubes and all of one mind, a possible scenario (star trek), we have to survive intact. Use the fantastic tools available to improve your life in soooo many ways, just…not while driving….Please.


Hurts so good

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” JFK
Yesterday I went to the gym to work out. Haven’t done that in years. But my tummy is beginning to stare back at me in the mirror with its one eye. This is the 3rd time I’ve joined a gym. It usually lasts a couple of months, then a couple more of not going before I actually cancel. “Good things come in three’s” is the old saying, and while I’m not very good with numbers, I will also keep my crosses fingered this time. My trainer said perseverance at first, and later, after I get the body I want, its maintenance. So what that means is that after 2 or 3 months of working out on the machines at least 3 days a week, watching my diet, drinking enough water, et cetera, I’ll only have to come in once a week. That’s fair.
Not that I want to be another ‘Ahnold’. I’ve always thought of myself as a Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda kind of guy, and that’s the goal. Just get fit one more time, then maintain…oh and boobs…pecs, to be specific. I could have some fake ones put in, could get liposuction for my tummy too, but…seems like cheating somehow. Plus, I would miss out on the endorphin rush when the exercising is over. If you haven’t heard, endorphins are feel good chemicals produced by the brain. Legal. Nothing to ingest, inhale or insert, no numbers to call, operators aren’t waiting.
So yesterday I dragged myself to the gym, whined all the way there, slogged over to the machines,and did about a half an hour. On the way home I noticed that I was feeling better, both physically and mentally. I’d overcome all the objections from the devil on my left shoulder, and while I didn’t peek, I knew the angel on my right shoulder was smiling knowingly.
Now comes the perseverance. I’ll keep you posted on that. After all, I’m only human, and…and…stuff happens once in a while to get in the way of going to the gym…and…and I’ve got years of wallowing in my propensity for procrastination and sloth to deal with as well, but…hey, I’m not making excuses here…I will overcome. That’ll be my daily mantra. Along with “All I am saying is give health a chance.”
Then there’s the diet. I love hamburgers and fries. There’s a good place near the HPC. Ok, I know I have to cut down on that stuff and eat more fruits and vegetables, no more downing 3/4ths of a cheesecake at one sitting…etc. I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits of a glass of wine…something about anti-oxidants. Oh and chocolate too. My trainer recommended having a glass of chocolate milk after a workout. That’s it! I’ll buy a package of chocolates and treat myself to one at the end of the day…and a glass of wine. Yup, sound like a good plan to me.
This is where I should say your body is a temple or something, but as I am now a little sore from yesterday’s workout, I have to rush to the store for some chocolate milk, chocolate candy and a bottle of wine.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that at the supermarkets in Sweden they have a wall of candy of all kinds in individual bins, with bags and scoops handy, and all for the same price? What a concept!
Ram Dassnt


Okay. The usual two parties have had their conventions. I don’t intend to comment here on my  preference. I would like to say a word or two about politics. It goes on daily between people. Between married and unmarried couples, at home, in the workplace, in schools, and on up the various ladders in just about every facet of life.

People disagree, and if they have a common goal, agree to disagree and work out a mutually acceptable solution…or not. If they don’t, it’s usually because of ego, machismo, tradition, power, money, you name it. Solutions to problems can only be resolved by talking it out, by compromise. Without compromise, things accelerate to more heated levels.

I once heard it said the “politics is war without the blood” and that “war is politics with the blood”. I’m not fond of either, but given a choice, I choose the obvious. I’ve also heard it said, “Make love not war.” Even making love is a give and take proposition…a political “movement” if you will, so again I choose the obvious.

The idea of “Love they neighbor as thyself”, a concept common to all major religions, seems to be all too frequently distorted or forgotten of late. Well, I prefer to be loved, so I have to dig a little deeper sometimes to find it in my heart to forgive those with whom I disagree.

Obviously, I love adages, saws and wise sayings, but I’ll not burden you anymore.

So Howzabout a song?

Rockaby baby … in the treetop….when the wind blows….the cradle will rock…if the bough breaks….the cradle will fall….and down will come baby…cradle and all.

Our country is the tree…We are the baby…(oops, I couldn’t resist one more).



Terzackly 24 hours ago I got off a plane from Sweden where I visited with a lady very dear to me. I’d been looking forward to  it for over a year and it was well worth the working and saving and planning. The worst part was the long flight with crying babies (not mine). The best part was being in the moment the entire time. No plans, no agenda, no place I had to be at any particular time, and wherever I was. I was happy to be there. Nothin’ like time with a person you care for, and when it lasts three weeks or more, it can deepen the relationship, especially if they also have the time.
Waking up in the morning with no plans and making it up as you go along together opens doors in the heart and mind. We went shopping and I actually concluded a transaction using only four of the dozen Swedish words I knew. We visited and partied with some of her friends and she translated for me when she felt it necessary. We would stay at her summerhouse a few days at a time and enjoy the sauna, the quiet, and the family of ducks who stopped by daily for a snack.
I’m glad to say that Rock & Roll is alive and well in Sweden, as is the love of American cars from the 50’s and 60’s, all beautifully restored. Also stunning is the countryside, gleaming colors with clear skies, and dotted with round bales of hay wrapped in white plastic. Looked like marshmallows on a bright green tablecloth. We toured churches going back centuries, and the manses of famous artists from the 1800’s. And the food! Most folks I met had vegetables and fruit growing in their backyards, and the rest is grown locally, a lot of it organic. I must have gained ten pounds at least. I remember bright flowers in the windows and gardens of houses we passed. Ahhh!
I guess the message I’m trying to convey here is to make time for friends daily, weekly and however often you can put it together. And when you are together, turn off the TV, throw away the paper and do something you’ve never done before….or not. Warm memories can be made without going anywhere. And if they live in another country, so much the better.You can learn a new language (good for the brain), you will spend quality time with folks you haven’t been with in a while (good for the heart), and you’ll notice that we humans are all pretty much the same (good for world peace).

On August 3rd, against the proverbial odds, my Swedish Sweetheart and I were reunited once again by our mutual efforts and with the cooperation of complete strangers.It involved 3 passenger jets, an few changes in time zones, attention to detail, the stubborn perseverance and determination that goes with being even one half Swedish, and some measure of love and desire.

What’s that? You haven’t heard about Anna? The love of my life? Well, for the sake of brevity I could give you the abridged version, the one I give to those in my immediate vicinity, to include friends, business associates, store clerks and tech support people, or the longer, more detailed  version.

Shorter? Okay, here it is. 1965 – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, decades pass. They reconnect using social media.  Boy visits girl in country of her birth… 3 times in 3 years. Each time, he grows to love her more…to be continued….

Meanwhile, back at the Austin Airport (ABIA), I waited in line to present my papers only to be told that located to the right of the cordoned off area I had just walked through was a bank of computers to be used to swipe your passport, the new first step in the process.  I tried, several times. On the last try, following exactly the directions on the screen, the computer printed up a statement saying it couldn’t do it. Aha! T’wasn’t me after all. Presenting this paper to the next clerical person, I stepped aside for him to try it himself. Oho! Further confirmation t’wasn’t me. Eventually, after a mini-conference behind the ticket counter, they verified my passport, passed my boarding pass to me and pointed in the direction of the next adventure.

After a short flight to Memphis and a short wait for the plane, a motley non-crew of passengers boarded for the 9 hour flight to Amsterdam. Before long I was reminded  why I hadn’t flown, ridden a bus, or spent time in a “family restaurant” in years. Crying babies. And they all seemed to be sitting near me. I was, in effect, surrounded, and the ordeal began soon after take-off. If you’ve ever been engaged in an intimate conversation over a nice dinner at a find restaurant and abruptly interrupted by a pouting, screeching alien creature who just seconds earlier was as beatific as the Christ child, then you may be able to appreciate why some eateries ask diners with howling, possessed tots to leave. Such an option is, of course, not available when flying in a metal tube hundreds of feet in the air.

I have several suggestions to remedy such in-flight problems but will limit myself here to only the two I could think of that are legal and moral.

1) Ear plugs…the kind you have to mold to fit till you get a good seal, and

            2) Follow that up with a set of headphones, the kind you buy at sporting goods stores to muffle the sound of gunshots.


As I didn’t have a pair of # 2’s, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight as well as I would’ve liked, but thankfully, in Amsterdam, I found a solution.

 No…not that.  I’m talking about the area in the airport where faux forest scenery, including  the sound of running water and tweeting birds, provided an unusually restful atmosphere for those travelers caught in a jet lag/time warp/ sleep deprived state of mind. I nodded out for a few hours on one of the many bean bag chairs found in the area. 

Stepping off the plane in Sweden and retrieving my baggage, I found myself in an unanticipated dilemma. To save my Swedeheart from a four hour trip (one way) to pick me up, I was determined to find my own way to the train station which would provide me with a ticket to her hometown. However, the phone I’d been given by my service provider to use in Europe was just about out of juice. When I went to make a call to her, I found a text message that she was on her way, we had miscalculated the time differences and no trains were going her way at that time of night. I tried calling her again, but…no juice. I retrieved the assortment of plugs for Europe to be used in charging the phone, but didn’t recognize anything on the walls, that looked like a receptor.  OK. Rather than risk and international incident by plugging something unusual looking into seemingly incompatible receptor, I walked over to an information booth and explained the problem.  The lady there dialed my friend’s cell number on the info booth phone, and viola!!!.  She had gone to the wrong terminal and would be at the right one soon. Time dragged, and just at the nadir of my despair, she walked into sight.  Clouds parted, angels rejoiced, a tear or two was shed, hugs lingered, and we drove until after sunset, arriving at her home near midnite.

Moral? Problems are there to test you and make you stronger. If what you’re going for is worth it, you will find a way to overcome them…and help will come from unexpected sources. Just ask.



On assignment in Sweden

Barrel Racing in Seguin

A while back, the daughter of my best friend’s wife took up barrel racing. Switched from volleyball to something a bit more dangerous. Now she’s good at it. Experience is an excellent teacher, and she’s got one or two scars to prove it.
So when I was invited along for a visit, I thought maybe I could get a good video of my bad self riding up, and saying howdy to the camera. Got all gussied up in my cowboy finest, channeled Hoppy, Gene and Roy, The Lone Ranger and the Cisco Kid, my Saturday morning TV favorites of long ago, and did it with the help of those with whom I was visiting. Not the best dismount ever, but…okay.
And it surprised me when they offered to give me a shot at barrel racing. Like I sometimes say to myself, “Well…..what the hell.”
For those of y’all who’ve never seen the sport, imagine a large rectangular corral with a gate at one end. Against the far end and on both sides are barrels. The rider enters at a gallop, leads the horse to circle the barrels along the side, then the one at the top, and back out the entrance gate. Around 15 seconds is a good score.
I was in a smaller corral than normal, but the game is the same. Someone yelled “Go”, I kicked the horse and off we went. Around the barrel on the left, then the right, over to the last one at the top, and back to the starting gate. Whew! What a ride! Time? Between two and three minutes if I remember incorrectly. Okay, so we weren’t going very fast, and were carefully circling each barrel, but I’m certain we almost got into a gallop in the home stretch. Of course, my youthful fantasies of being like Hoppy, Gene and Roy were somewhat diminished, but I had three things to show for it. An obviously bruised ego, a bruised butt (not immediately obvious), and the lesson learned…stick to being a weekend cowboy, preferably on the dance floor.
Don’t get me wrong, I love horses, but having a 2000 pound animal between your legs traveling at a fast gallop is something I now know I need to relegate to the distant past. A nice slow trail ride is more my speed.
I guess what I’m saying is “TRY IT!”….that activity you’ve always wanted to try. Like Argentine Tango, synchronized swimming, kayaking. Every new thing you try grows brain cells, and you’ll learn something about yourself. You don’t have to do dangerous things, but you do have to get up off the couch and stay active physically and mentally. Play board games with friends and/or neighbors, go to the courthouse and watch some trials, sit on your porch on an evening and try to find the big dipper and a few other constellations.
Or take a class at the Human Potential Center. I just finished one on “Getting Unstuck”, and for the past few days I’ve been positively enervated and intend to put what I’ve learned into action. More classes are offered on a lot of different subjects, so check out the website.
Me? Time to go soak my butt again.

Moobie Nite

Free popcorn, good people, intelligent discussion, all in a homelike setting, nobody texting on their phones, it doesn’t cost $6.50 and up and its free at the Human Potential Center.
I love movies. Its storytelling in its most expensive form. There are movies made to scare you, make you cry, make you laugh, make you angry, happy, inform you, and, with the industry’ descent into gross subjects involving precious bodily fluids introduced under the guise of humor, movies to make you sick and cause you to question your own sanity for paying the price of admission.
When I was a little guy, my folks could get rid of me for 3 hours for 25 cents at the movie house two blocks away. A dime to get in, a dime for popcorn, and a nickel for a soda. Yup, loooong time ago. And they were all double features with a cartoon to start things off. Ah, those were the days. In all that time I’ve only walked out on three of them. One was an Arnold Schwarzenegger, the second an Andy Warhol, and the most recent one by that “Borat” guy.
As the country grew, so did filmmaking. Special effects, incredible stunts, 3-D (the second time around for that genre), computer generated anything and everything, extreme violence with stupendous explosions and … well, if you can imagine it, you can make a movie of it. And several new movies opening every weekend. Movies with budgets equal to or more than the GNP of some small countries. Then there are the smaller films, independents and experimental, that you won’t see at the multiplex. And now you can use your phones to shoot and edit movies, add a soundtrack and put it on the web. Who’da thunk? I certainly didn’t.
Yet with all these advancements in technology, it all gets down to the story. What was the filmmaker trying to say? Did they succeed? The promos for all these movies exclaim “greatest”, “best”, etc. So you turn to the reviews by the professional reviewers, dependent on their mood at the time they saw the film, whether they saw it in a theater or at home, or how much they may be getting paid by the producers to give it a good rating.
We pays our money and we takes our chances. We spend cash to share the vision of the reputed filmmakers, suspending belief, allowing ourselves to be manipulated into exploring feelings we wouldn’t be able to in our “normal” lives.
We do it differently at the Human Potential Center. The films we view together still cover the range of American and foreign, independents, and even animation once in a while. Then we discuss how we were touched by them, what moved us individually, creating questions around the themes discussed that have a more universal ring. It’s amazing to watch that happen and be a part of, since so much of what you and I watch goes uncommunicated, underdiscussed, not shared. The Human Potential Center is the place for that…the joy of exploration. A safe place, good movies, supportive atmosphere, and free popcorn. What more could you ask for?

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