HAPPY TO BE HOME.


The sound of music off in the distance was a gentle reminder of where I was waking up. I was back in my childhood bedroom and the day had started. The heavy drum line of the music was just what I needed to rouse me from a great night. The cool Sunday morning did not disappoint. I looked out the window and saw in the distance the rising sun just above the Caribbean Sea. The sounds of sound birds flavored the air with joy and anticipation. I opened the window and my ears were treated to the full cacophony of morning time in the countryside. My nose was filled with the smell of Sunday morning in rural Jamaica. I filled my lungs and remembered. I was transported back decades to my childhood. I could almost smell the wood fire and the roasted breadfruit. The scent of sauteed salt-fish and boiled ackee. The slight sharpness of the scotch bonnet pepper just above the scent of salt-fish.

The sun rose more quickly than I wanted it to and I could feel the heat. The birds started to disperse and the smell of food grew stronger. The aroma of cocoa tea made me smile and reminded me of all the advantages of growing up in a rural farming community. The music off in the distance diminished and the chatter of farmers taking out life stock became the background. The bleat of goats and the moo of cows off in the distance. I was happy to be home. Missing some of the conveniences of the big city was worth it. I loved my rural up-bringing and would not trade it for anything in the world.

NO VITAMINS PLEASE.


The encouragement to take a daily multivitamin continues to be strong. However, the accumulation of data suggests strongly that daily supplementation is not necessary. The reasons for fortification of specific foods with specific nutrients starting in the early twentieth century was deliberate and with good reason. The indications for Folic acid, VItamin D, Iron and Iodine were clear and scientifically proven interventions using prevention as treatment for neural tube defects, Ricketts, iron deficiency and goiter. For these diseases the scientific connection was clear and proven. Forward to today and vitamin and micronutrient fortification is touted as a panacea and treatment for all that ails. The evidence for the addition of most supplements is weak at best. Frankly, it is without merit and almost totally baseless.

The extrapolation that since we need small quantities larger quantities will be better is short-sighted and potentially dangerous. The evidence does not support that view. The industrial production and addition of vitamins to every conceivable food item is primarily a marketing tool. It is a waste of money for consumers. If we look at nature we can see a better paradigm to extrapolate from. The concentration of vitamins and micronutrients are small and very large quantities of whole foods would need to be consumed to approach the quantities in many of the marketed items. If there is not a proven deficiency there is no need to add to our foods. The proven need is for small quantities that is more than adequately supplied by a balanced diet. The evidence for benefit beyond that is none existent.

Although, the evidence for potential harm is small we must ask the question. Will super sizing the quantities we ingest be harmful in the long run? Like with the craze for copious quantities of bottled water we have been marketed a hook and we have bitten and are drowning in a sea of misrepresentation. Improve your diet. Make fruits and vegetables the base of all meals and stop wasting your money on bottles of urine coloring.

WAR and PEACE


The cycle of war and peace continues like the flow of water. Unlike the processes of nature, it is not inevitable. The process of life is about choice. We have the ability to choose the path we take. The decisions we make are not preordained, we are our life’s directors. As we direct our life we must take care of the vulnerable among us. War is a selfish act, resulting from the disregard for the many. It is the result of disordered thinking, that justifies killing as a means of protection. The incongruity of that argument is evident if we would reflect on it. Our reflection must consider the social nature of our species where we will follow those among us that profess caring and loyalty to the group. Unfortunately, the malicious and selfish among us have and will continue to exploit the majority, until the majority decides to be as concerned about the stranger as we are about the ones closes to us.

The more important question that needs examining concerns what will our future be if we do not break the cycle. War may bring a temporary peace, but the underlying discord will resurface. The cycle must be broken, if humanity expects to survive. The cycle can be broken when we address the root causes. Where the root of war is usually the exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. We must reconsider our use of the planet’s resources. It will be painfully to many, but will be beneficial to the most. We may not think that we are exploiting anyone, but if we examine our life it will become clearer that many of us are consuming excessive quantifies of the available resources.

If we all consider and re-order our life’s the great masses of the deprived on our planet could have the possibility to improve their lives. The cycle of war with interludes of peace could be broken by each of us say no to exploitation. We all have a responsibility to our species. Our care needs to extend further than down the street. We need to extend our care and concern to the father thousands of miles away that cannot feed his family, while we dump more food that we eat.

War is and always will be about resources. Let us all take a stand and share.

MEASLES, REALLY?


The current rise in measles cases is a direct result of poor vaccination coverage. The current and pass trend in not vaccinating children is dishearten and threatens public health. How did we get from measles being almost completely eradicated to the highest numbers in decades? I want to suggest that this is emblematic of the poor scientific education of American society. We have allowed the principles and fundamental laws of nature to be undermined in the public discussion of societal problems.

The pervasive acceptance of the creation myth and the almost complete rejection of the pursuit of scientific knowledge is  at the root of the resurgence. The lack of understanding and rejection of the scientific method has led to a population that questions everything without the requisite background information.  Questions are healthy only when the questioner has a grasp of the context of the questions. We have lost our ability to objectively analyse the facts. The is not because the population is less intelligent that prior generations, but because we have had a 30 year campaign to undermine the foundations of scientific thinking. Scientific facts and precepts are attacked for economic reasons. The concerted and coordinated attacks have led to a wide-spread loss of societal scientific identity. We have lost our understanding of our place in the earth’s ecology. Instead of seeing our species as apart of the larger ecological system we have deluded ourselves into the belief that we are superior.

Many are under the miss-guided idea that creationism is an equal theory to evolution. This as lead to loss of understanding of the biology of life. Without a grasp of the facts of evolution an understanding of biologic life is not to be expected. The current concepts of biologic life are based on evolution and its essential component natural selection. Without a working understanding the general population is susceptible to the quacks that propagate the anti-science garbage that masquerade as alternative “scientific” theories. These vessels of idiocy need to be marginalized. They are the most dangerous threat to our society. Humanity will not be killed by global war or a rock from space. Humanity will be destroyed if we do not accept scientific facts and methods in our approach to the ecological system.  Science is the only route to understanding the physical world. We are a small part of a larger ecosystem. We are not essential to this system. If we do not understand that fact we will join the many other dead ends of evolution on our home planet.

Our ability to educate our people will determine over survival as a species. Let us drive the anti-science crowd from the places of power and consign them to the waste-bin of history.

Jacksonville


Not many cities can boast the diversity in ecology that can be found the Jacksonville, Florida metropolis. I have had the pleasure of working in the downtown area for several week over the last several years and did not notice until recently. My recent experience has shown me a very different side of a wonderfully diverse city. If you love nature and love city living you would not go wrong considering Jacksonville.

The shear area of the city is without comparison and borders on sprawl with all its negative connotation. However, the city is redeemed by its access to the Atlantic and the surrounding marshes. The creative restoration and preservation of wildlife habitats along with the rescue and re-purposing of old railroad tracts has created a large, diverse and intricate network of trails. The accessibility provided is wonderful and shows what can be done when thought and energy is applied to the ecology we are blessed with.

On my last visit I ran several trails and had the opportunity to watch the sunset over the wonderful marshes. Never did I pay for access, but would have gladly. The paths were well-marked and maintained. From downtown to densely wooded areas was an easy drive, with most within 20-30 mile of downtown. The accessibility allowed me to work a full day and still make it out to enjoy nature before the sun went down. I took the opportunity and explored some of best trails.

If you are a runner and enjoy the natural environment you would love visiting the Jacksonville area. I suggest you take that trip sooner than later and enjoy what Jacksonville has to offer.

I did not get to all the trails that I planned to, but there is always next time. What are you waiting on?

See some of my pictures.   https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYa1Sag

WHAT DO WE OWE OUR CHILDREN?


Our children are our most important investment and their well-being is our primary responsibility. How we get them from helpless to confident and self-sufficient is our primary task. I am currently on that journey with my two beautiful daughters and hope I am doing the correct things to create wonderful members of society. These are my guide posts:

1. Create confidence
Give them confidence by allowing them to succeed and fail early. There is nothing like accomplishing physical tasks to give confidence. My girls have never been restricted by age guides. We have allowed them to challenge and master anything they would like to attempt. Many times they fail but it is only in failure that we learn how to succeed.

2. Make learning fun
We strive to make every experience a learning opportunity. I hate structured learning, that is not where most of our learning occurs. Most importantly, answer all their questions (much easier said then done).

3. No baby talk please
When my girls speak others are often amazed at the depth of their vocabulary and general language skills. Those skills are not coincidental. We talk to them in adult language and provide definitions as needed so that they have early exposure and reinforcement of appropriate language.

4. Early introduction to technology and science
My girls are 3 and 4 and both know their way around a computer. They both have been introduced to programming. The 4-year-old gets it and is an intuitive problem solver. The 3-year-old is not there yet but she is learning about computers and always want to program. They love seeing the effects of their work. They remind me daily that they need to program. We are on code.org most days and I am the one limiting their time.

5. Respect others and the planet
Letting them see us showing respect to others and nature gives them a sense of their place in the universe. We are here to take care of the planet which is not limited to our fellow primates.

Our child are willing and able to learn and accomplish so much more that we give them credit for. We need to unleash them. In the rapidly changing world we live in, the only skill that will guarantee success is adaptability. Exposing our children to as many learning opportunities as we can will prepare them well for the challenges ahead.

 

GO CREATE SOME MEMORIES.


Life is what we make of it. It is short and turbulent, then it is over. The question of what comes next has been and will continue to be asked by the many with no really fulfilling answer to the had. For the religious the answer is often clear while not really clarifying. Humanity continues to look to the skies for our salvation. Some see a maker and some see the origins. Whatever you see, if that comforts you it is good enough. No one has a complete or even a near complete answer.
The joy of life is in the living. Live well and make others happy. Live well by making yourself happy. Live fully and experience the creator. Live fully because our conscious time in the universe is short, it is like a minor wrinkle. Our years cannot be compared to the vast time scale of the cosmos, our time can only be remembered for how we lived it. There is only the past and future, live life well and leave or create joy in another heart. It is in creating joy that we can change the direction of the universe. Our atoms will be reused when we no longer need them and we will not know any better because this is the true nature of all life. We arrived, we depart and we are forgotten. Let’s live our time not trying to be remembered, but live it to create memories.

THE BEAT IS THERE.


I never leave home without a good pair of headphones. How I came into that habit I am not sure. It may have something to do with growing up around great music, even if it was conservative christian music. The exposure to wonderful sounds is an experience unto itself.
The joy of music is universal and the very universality is why we don’t need to understand the words to enjoy the experience. If you need the words you have not understood the power of music.
The language of music is as universal as mathematics. The communication of meaning is not about the rote definition of the words. It is about the resonance of the beat in you brain. It is about the translation of the physical to the digital. We are by nature digital, and the emotion of good music is translated without regard to the dictionary.
We all have the beat in us. We all have rhythm. Like with every other part of life the question is a matter of nutrition. Have you been exposed to a diverse musical palate? If you were, the beat is there. The beat is there, just feel it. Just catch the beat, move with it and stop being ashamed.

THE PITCH 4


As soon as we entered the hall the girls came running.
“Do you guys want to take a walk?”
“Are we going to see birds?”
“I hope we do.” Sarah was usually keen on seeing new birds but I had not taken our bird guide. This was going to be interesting.

Although the kids and spouses had only recently meet the kids seem to have become fast friends. Several kids wanted to join us on our walk. The count had gotten to 6 kids when I started to feel like I was a tour guide. The only problem with that was that I did not know where I was going. This was going to be an adventure. We loaded into the elevator and made our way to the surface. The sun was high in the sky but the temp felt perfect. I looked at my watch and documented the time so we would not be out too late. At the same time Sarah went about introducing the kids. She reminded me of my oldest brother. She was not the oldest but she was a born leader. Watching her reminded me of why this project was important.

As the leader of an important project I received many visitors. I had on many occasions taken consortium members on tours so tour guide was often my title. Tour guide to my kids felt good. However, this was a little different. The kids were better listeners or maybe not. It seemed as if they asked about every plant and noise. During college I spend almost all my weekends birding, hiking or snorkeling. Nature was my escape from the carnage that was the Pale war. I missed those days, nature not the carnage. The beauty of the forest around us was a vivid reminder of how much we had lost. As we walked beneath the overhangs of magnificent trees I felt sad for our loss, but I was like a grade school teacher. The kids should not see me grief. They asked so many questions that I was looking for a reason to return to the house. I kept walking because I loved walking in nature and the many questions distracted me from what tomorrow would bring. The chirp of birds everywhere was soothing and stimulating simultaneous. The smell of trees and the distant sound of water kept me walking. Before we had noticed the sun was fast approaching the horizon. Sharon was enjoying the experience as well and I suspected it reminded her of our long weekend hikes in college and the early years of our life together. I had proposed to her while we were on a weekend hike. She did not appreciate  the timing. Gladly she overlooked my bad timing.

“Mike I think it is time we turned around.” As usual Sharon always knew just the right time. That was my cue to get the kids together.
Sarah was the furthest away from us and I shouted for her and she instantly understood. She immediately lead the kids that were with her towards us. Sharon was always nervous about leaving anyone behind and so counted. They were all accounted for and we started the walk back. The sun was racing toward the horizon and without any street light the beauty of the setting sun was inspiring. The rapidity of the approaching darkness was sped up my the shad of the towering trees around us. We picked up the pace and all arrived back at base slightly sweaty. We were met by worried looking staff.
“Mr Gold, I am Mildred, and I am responsible for your safety. Please no unattended walks.”
“We just took a walk, what’s the problem.”
“The problem is that we are not alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you ever seen a bear in the wild?”
“No”
“Please be careful. I’d like everyone to be in doors before sundown every day.”
“Thanks for the heads up.”
I walked away and did not intend on conforming to her request. Sharon and I both instantly understood each other. We both walk away with Sarah and Samantha following.
“Mike I see that look in your eyes. You don’t plan on complying, do you?”
“Great minds think alike.”
“That is what I thought.”
It was dinner time and I had not seen our work space. We were directed to the cafeteria and enjoyed a wonderful meal. The food was too good.
After dinner I was too tired to go looking for the new workspace. We all when to out quarters.

I was roused by my alarm, it was 6am and I did not remember going to bed. It was Saturday morning and I had nothing planned. I rolled over and went back to sleep. It had been more than 5 years since I last slept in. Sleep was wonderful and refreshing. I was jarred back to reality by Samantha pulling on my leg and calling me to come to breakfast. As I stumbled out of bed I felt the cool floor. It was a wonderful felling. The smell of fried dumplings filled my nose and brought me back to my childhood. My eyes finally adjusted to the light as we got to the table and I was treated to the beauty of a plate of ackee and salt fish with fired dumplings. It was at least 20 years since I had any of this. I had a smile on my face as I sat.
Sarah noticed, “Daddy why are you laughing?”
“Honey, Daddy is happy to have breakfast with you guys and mommy.”
“Thanks for staying home Daddy.”
Having meals with the girls was such a rare occurrence that I could not remember the last time. They enjoyed the food but had many questions. I was surprised that I could answer. For a moment I forgot how greatly the world was about to change. As I remember it, when I signed up for the project they had asked me about my favorite meal from my childhood. Now it makes sense. My other team members and their families would be having a similar experience. For just long enough we were happy. We had nowhere to be.
“Sharon, did you make this?” She started to laugh hysterically. Between the laughter she said no.
“Breakfast was delivered and the table set by our wonderful staff.”
I didn’t realize that this was the level of service that was going to be provided. As we ate I could feel the tension in the air. Sharon wanted to know more. She had been patient with me but she wanted answers. She was a remarkable woman who had given up her career for the life of a suburban housewife. She did it very well and I continue to love her just as much as the day we meet. But the time had come.
“Lets take a walk and chat after we are done here. Just us.”
“Thanks, I need the air.”
“Like the old days?”
I smiled. The old days where a distant but very pleasant memory.

Before we could finish eating there was loud wailing of a what seemed like an alarm tone. A voice come over the intercom informing us that this was not a test. It just all became real. I hugged the girls tightly and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the burden of what would be happening. I sat the girls down and they instinctively started to cry. I looked up and Sharon was crying too.
“Guys, it will be ok.”
As I tried to comfort them the reality was setting in on me. Our life as we know it was over.
“Group hug guys”
I squeezed them tightly. We were still hugging when there was a knock at the door. I opened the door but did not immediately see anyone. I stepped out into the hallway and then notice Jenny. She was walking from door to door knocking. We were soon all in the hallway. Jenny was dressed in fatigues with a pistol on her left hip.
“Ladies and gentlemen I have some news. We will have to move our plans up. Instead of Monday we will be deployed today. You will be provided gear and all team members need to be top side at 1300.”
On cue 2 big guys pushing large carts delivered our gear. By this time the families were all in the hallway. The spouses looked bewildered and the team was business like. We all took our gear and retreated into our space. There was another knock on my door and Sharon answered. It was Jenny.
“Hello, Mrs Gold, I need to speak with you and your husband.”
“Come in please.”
She sat us down and as she began to speak I drifted off into the ether. I could not believe that we were here. I had been preparing for this for my entire professional life, but never really thought of how I would handle it. I just did not want my kids to experience the same trauma I had growing up. I wanted them to have both their parents for as long as our life lasted. I had been working toward this day but never really addressed the many possible out comes. I just lost the chance to explain to Sharon what was going on and lost the chance to just hangout with the girls. A tear rolled down my left cheek. I tried to wipe it away without the ladies noticing but failed.
“It’s ok honey.” Sharon was trying to comfort me, but her tears were welling up and flowing out. I lost all control of my emotions. Sarah put on her bug sister act, “Daddy, it’s ok.”
Jenny reach over and held my had and I was surprisingly reassured.
“Mikey, it’s going to be ok. We are prepared.”
I wiped by face and Jenny continued to explain to Sharon what was happening.
“Will all the spouses get things explained?”
“Yes, everyone is being briefed as we speak.”
Sharon was looking straight into my eyes as Jenny explained what has been happening and what the next steps will be. I really wanted to be the one to explain all this to her, but I had lost my chance. She took it remarkably well. Jenny left and I started to get prepare to leave. The girls were watching TV while I got dressed. They looked so happy and content. I drew strength from their demeanor. I knew they did not understand what was to befall them but they were my reason to be strong. I was doing all this so they could have a better life. I looked up and the girls were watching me. I pulled my backpack on and gave them each a kiss. As I turned to Sharon we heard the alarm tone again. This time it was coming from the TV. This is not a test, this is not a test, shouted the voice from the TV. The volume seemed to me at maximum. It had started. We were now officially at war.

“This is not going as planned. We should have struck first.” As the words came out of my mouth I realized that someone must have known something.
It was all coming together. We had been pushed to speed up our work. We did meet the revised deadline, but we were not mentally prepared.
“Give daddy a hug.” I tried to remember the warmth of the girls. I kissed Sharon and walked out as quickly as possible. The entire team was in the hallway. All 10 of us. We did not look the part. We were all back packs and a single side arm. The light weight dress will come in handy for the next stage.
“Said your goodbyes?” All around the answer was the same. We were all ready.
“Got enough sleep?” That was a question with only one answer. As a group we made sure we got at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Most of us had been doing that from day one. We had to be prepared for the inevitable. A well rested runner was always the best. We packed into the elevator and made it top side. Once outside we meet our protection detail. I assumed that they had come in overnight. They didn’t look worse for the wear. These guys definitely knew what the mission was. They were carrying weapons designed by our team. Lightweight and programmable with biometric signatures. The alloy was top-secret and could not be used without a unanimous vote of the consortium. Jenny was dressed but it was obvious that she was not going to be apart of this mission. We listened as Jenny gave final instructions. She did not address why the mission was being fast tracked. She assured us that we had all the necessary skills to complete a successful mission. The consortium had a way of being super confident, but they might have underestimated this endeavor. I examined our all female security team and was not sure if this was the correct team. In total we were going to be 15 people on this mission.
“I am Kathy and I am going to be in charge until we reach our objective. No one falls behind unless I say so.”
Her voice seemed so mellow, but I knew better. The consortium chose all female security teams for a reason. They were better shots, more instinctive and ultimately a lot more violent to the enemy. We all put out ear pieces in and followed the instructions. We lined up with a partner. Kathy and I would be in the lead. I noticed the inscription on her jacket “You’ll never walk alone”. I asked her if she was a Liverpool FC fan. “My dad was. I am here in his memory.” We synchronized our watches and we started the run. An hour into it and I was happy that I had not been a stranger to running in the forest. It was therapeutic and distracting. The music in my earpiece was just loud enough with the perfect tempo to allow for a comfortable run. None of us knew our destination. We were following the instructions in our earpiece. Two hours in and it was time for a rest. This was a very fit group, so after only 10 minutes we were ready to continue. As we started off again we could see the difference between us lab rats and the professionals. After a 4 hour run we were instructed to make camp for the night and await further instruction. Combat meals were nothing to write home about, but the necessary calories were present. I fell asleep wondering what the girls would be doing.

The warmth of the sun on my check was enough to awaken me and as I opened my eyes I notice that I was the last one up. I packed up and was given my breakfast ration. Kathy did seen pleased.
“Guys, we are behind today. We have at least 6 hours of daylight to work with. Lets make it count.” The pace was brisk and remarkably quiet. I was surprised at the discipline of the team. The pace sped up as we went along. We made up a remarkable amount of distance and got to our target within 4.5 hours. The area covered was truly amazing, but I should not have been surprised. My entire team had been preparing for this one mission for at least 2 years. We were all the fittest people we knew. The security detail was expected to keep up. I started to chat to Kathy about how great we did and she reminded me that this was just one leg of a long and dangerous process. Her face was stern and betrayed her disrespect for me and my team.

BEST CAMERAPHONE


For those of us that love taking pictures there is nothing like a real camera. I currently own the canon 60D and it takes amazing pictures and video. The only problem is that sometimes you need to just take a picture. Sometimes I do not want to set up the frame. Most times I just want to point and shot. The truth is there are many great point and shoots.

My great discovery was the Nokia N95 8gb. Thanks to my little brother for the introduction to the excellent quality of Nokia camera phones. In  2007 the Nokia N95  took best in class video and stills  and today it is still better than most.  I am truly gutted that I gave mine away.  Fortunately Nokia continued to make some great camera phones which include the Nokia N8 and most recently the Nokia 808 Pureview.
As I look over my picture library I am amazed by the quality of both the N8 and the 808.
The 808 has many downsides as a modern smart phone, but video and still creation is not apart of that. I have been living with the stellar quality of the 808 for the last 3 weeks.  Wow! I love this device. Here are some unmodified pictures. Enjoy.

2013-07-05-0735 2013-06-01-0202 2013-06-20-0322 2013-06-24-0489 2013-06-25-0513 2013-06-28-0561 2013-06-29-0630 2013-06-30-0647 2013-07-03-0677 2013-07-04-0697 2013-07-05-0704 2013-07-05-0732