Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zipping Across The World

Want to try something fun and totally different? Something exciting but not too dangerous? Ziplines. You’ve heard of them. Maybe read about them. But you gotta try them. What a blast! And what’s great – there are all sorts out there for every thrill-seeking level imaginable – from the most basic glide over trees and creeks to heart-thumping, stomach-in-your-mouth, 200 ft drop at speeds up to 100 mph across some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

My introduction to ziplines – or canopy tours as they are sometimes known – was when i went home to visit my parents this past June. I always look forward to going home; it’s such complete relaxation. (And nobody ever cooks as good as Mom, eh?) This year they had a surprise for me – tickets for a zipline tour with Adventures Unlimited. My parents understand my addiction to adventure – i get it naturally from my Dad. So we headed out one cloudy morning to “get our glide on.” The weather in Florida is always top priority. Only place i know where the Weather Channel is the first thing on in the morning and talk about the weather is serious business and not just idle chatter. As we drove out, we kept a close eye on the clouds and calculated (the very scientific – one, one thousand, two, one thousand,…) how far the rumbles of thunder were. Recently meteorologists counted 8,000 lightning strikes in one afternoon alone. And here we were going to be above the trees. Yup. Having an adventurous spirit means taking calculated risks and rolling with the outcome. (See Note)

The ziplines at Adventures Unlimited are new, just completed this past spring, and are impressive in their overall details to safety. I worked in construction safety for a number of years and i was very happy to see the rig they used for their lines. Everything is brand new and rated. Our guides were knowledgeable and clear in their demonstration in how to zipline safely. Adventures Unlimited puts safety first with fun a very close second. That’s how it should be.

The sprinkling of rain had stopped as did the thunder, so after a short trial zip to make sure we understood how to brake and land, my Dad and i climbed the next platform, hit the lines, and flew across NW Florida like low flying gliders. Whoo-hoo! There’s something about zipping over trees that makes you giddy – a human bird. I laughed. Crazy fun with just the right amount of scary. Dad – ever the perfectionist – worked on getting the braking and timing down so he could land effortlessly on the platform. After a little good-natured teasing, he was doing scissor kicks and “running” as he flew through the air. Good times with my Dad. No amount of money could compare with that.

Our guides were not only great zippers but knew the local history and wildlife as well. We were challenged as we crossed one of the many creeks to see how many turtles we could spot. Spotting a turtle was considered good luck in their book. We had a “one turtle day.” In other words – a great day indeed! It took approximately 2 hours to do 8 lines; we were breathlessly happy by the time we finished. It’s sharing experiences like this with my Dad that make every moment memorable.

Recently i had a thought – wouldn’t it be cool if we could zipline across America? From the Atlantic to the Pacific – zipping through spacious skies and amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and above the fruited planes – zipping across America the Beautiful without ever touching the ground! That makes me super excited just thinking about it! What a rush!

Seriously, zipline tours are easy to do, very popular, and popping up just about everywhere. So no excuse. Try it out with friends or family and share the adventure. You won’t regret it!

Links to Zipline Adventures and Info

Another Blog with good info on ziplines and their history

Heavenly Resort ziplines, Lake Tahoe, CA – reportedly the longest zipline in the lower 48

Adventures Unlimited, FL

Alaska Zip

Tahiti, Fiji, and New Zealand

Ziplines across the World

Note – Florida has the highest rate of lightning strikes in the US, which also corresponds to the highest death rate by lightning. If you are going to be outside, err on the side of caution.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I came across this the other day on MSN News – the author really hit it on the head and made me think hard about whether or not what i say is what i do. It's the old adage, “walk your talk.” I could expound upon the article, but i think he said it so succinctly there is little more to say.  So read it for yourself. The bottom line is, support our troops. It doesn’t matter if you believe our government is doing the right thing by being there, or if you believe it’s the wrong thing and our soldiers should come home. Either way, those soldiers are still our brothers and sisters; they are our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones. They need us. Please take a moment to care. And if you are already helping our troops – bless you.

Article from MSN has great links for organizations that help you help our troops

USO website for all things military

And last but not least – check this out. Gene Simmons, yes from KISS, sings a tribute to all US Armed Forces.

Friday, August 6, 2010


My first post is dedicated to my Mom. Today – August 6th – is her birthday. I Love her with all my heart and there’s no woman in this World who i admire more, Love more, or feel more proud to call “Mom.” She is strong, determined, beautiful, and the foundation of my life. I Love you Mom, forever and ever.

Happy Birthday!

Mom and Dad - my inspiration!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Candle For A Soldier

There is a blue candle that sits on my desk. It burns for a soldier gone far away to a land i will probably never see. To fight in a war that no one understands. To endure what the rest of us won’t endure.

I wonder what his life must be like, the camaraderie he is building, the paradox of boredom from long hours of dull nothingness and the fear that lies in those moments waiting for a stray bullet. Sand, ubiquitous in its persistence, working its way into every last thing. There is no stopping it. After a while you just live with it. Like not taking a shower. That was in some other life and some other person that took hot showers with clear running water. Had a clean towel. A Twix bar where the chocolate hasn’t all melted off. Soft cotton sheets – without sand in them. And news. News of what’s happening back home. It’s almost a fantasy world now. How can you compare this life to the one back home? This is home, isn’t it?

Yet, for all the hardships, i sometimes long to be there. I want to see. To know. To experience. To do so would be to understand. Not the war. But the humanity within it. The strengths. The weaknesses. I imagine living in war makes every moment very clear – whether in the gruesome details of death, or the precious knowing that you are still alive. It is Life without the comforts of society, a pared down, distillation of realness.

But these are only my fantasies. I am here. He is there. What can i know of war? So i said goodbye to the person i knew. The man who returns, if he returns, will be very different. That is to be expected.

I am reminded of these lines from a movie that – while not quite exact – pull the emotions down that familiar path…

“It’s an odd feeling…fairwell. There is some envy in it. Men go off to be tested for courage. If we’re tested at all, it’s for patience…for doing without…for how well we can endure loneliness. But I had always known that. It didn’t require a war.”

The candle is still lit…

Tortilla! Tortilla!

O.K. I admit. I live under a rock when it comes to what’s hip and popular in today’s culture. I get so excited when i think i’ve hit on something new only to find i’m actually the ONLY person not living in a 3rd World country who didn’t know. Sigh.

So it was when i “discovered” La Tortilla Factory’s, Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas. I’m not a huge fan of – well – being a fan. I like it that we all like different things and i don’t feel threatened or insecure if i’m the only one who likes something. We don’t all need to be on the same bandwagon. But these little babies are soooo delicious, i feel compelled to shamelessly promote them. Except i’m probably preaching to the choir.

For those of you who live under a rock like i do, you just gotta try these tasty tortillas. They’re small – which is one reason i noticed them right away. It’s frustrating not to find what i call normal sized portions of food at the grocery store. Everything is family or supersized. These tortillas are just the right size – one is good for a snack, two or three for a filling meal. The other thing i noticed – they are a blend of corn and flour which makes them very soft and pliable yet they have the yummy flavor of corn. I don’t know about you, but in my book, maize is the quintessential taste of anything Mexican. So i picked up a package and tried them out. Oh, oh, oh, heaven! Regular corn tortillas – we’re talking store-bought here – tend to be very fragile things before they’re cooked yet have the propensity to turn to shoe leather if cooked wrong. But these tortillas are absolutely perfect. They don’t fall apart and they don’t turn leathery. And the taste! I could eat them all by themselves. Or topped with grilled mahi mahi, pico de gallo, crumbled cotija, and avocado. Or carnitas and fresh queso. Or eggs scrambled with potatoes and sausage…or…

All right – i know. I’m raving about a tortilla on my blog. But – food and sex. The two things that make people happy. How can that be a bad thing?

The Tibet Problem

How would you like to be born in a country that isn’t. I don’t know about you, but i remember when Tibet was a country you could find on a map. I distinctly knew where it was, along with Bali, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Peru, and all those places that National Geographic made a young child yearn. So how has it just disappeared without a fuss? It’s not like this is the 13th century where wars and a country’s borders were as mercurial as Paris fashion. By God! We have Media and the Internet now to document every tweet twittered around the globe. So how did this slip by everyone’s notice? Did the World’s Head Cartographer come to work with a hangover and forget to put all the lines in their proper places?

Since 1959 Tibet has run a paradoxical existence – living on the front page news while simultaneously disappearing from the political/social/geographical structure that identifies a country. There is an enormously long list in the World news archives of both documented and undocumented crimes against the Tibetan people. I would think with such a prestigious list that it would be nigh impossible to simply make Tibet disappear. Yet it happened. Go to your local bookstore and find a Tibetan map or travel book. Won’t find it. Because Tibet doesn’t exist.

Tibet, the country-that-was, populated by some of the most peaceful people on the planet, doesn’t rank. And for some reason, the slaughter of these people is less important than the slaughter of the people in Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s sarcasm; i don’t condone slaughter under any circumstance. But it makes me wonder how governments chose who they are going to “help.” Is there some sort of raffle? A lottery? Pick a number between 1 and 100, the closest gets ten thousand troops?

The reason Tibet lacks a country’s borders and slaughter intervention isn’t because of drunk cartographers, losing lottery tickets, or even for lack of caring. The reason is one word. China. Yes – the Chinese government is sitting back in their smug largeness knowing damn well that no one, not even the U.S. government, wants to tackle this big, hairy, one-eyed yard dog guarding its latest kill. China has monstrous financial clout – what product doesn’t carry the “made in China” stamp? And how does anyone say “no” to them without getting blacklisted. If they want Tibet, who’s gonna argue? There is even a web site called “China’s Tibet.” Possession – 9/10ths of the law…

So why is China going through all this trouble over land that is seemingly too dry and too high (average elevation 13,000 ft.) to be of any value? What is it that the Chinese government wants? Oh, could it be the 27,000 sq. mi. of virgin forests? The 10 million tons of chromite (used to make stainless steel) or any number of other minerals like lithium carbonate, copper, and boron? Or maybe the 1000 plus plants for medicinal use? The massive and yet untapped capacity for solar, wind, hyrdo, and geothermal energy? You betcha. Not that i blame them for wanting it. It’s the torture, rape, and murder in getting it that i have a problem with. It’s the degradation of a nation’s people. The bastardizing of a culture that wanted nothing more than to be left alone. China is doing to Tibet what the white people did to the Native Americans. The musician Sting wrote lines to a song, “history, will teach us nothing…” It’s a blanket statement, but i tend to agree.

So what can be done for Tibet? Can the lines be re-drawn? Can a culture be saved when it is pitted against profits to be made? I don’t know. There are people – great people – working with all their might to bring a non-violent and happy ending to the plight of Tibet. Is there hope for this method? Maybe. There is always hope.

Yak and Yakboy
Photo by Onu Tarek

I Would Dream Something Different

Sometimes it takes my fancy that all of this, this Life, is just a shadow of a dream. It would help explain the absurdness of War - the idiosyncratic hype of a people gone mad. War is the ultimate illusion of control. We cannot control the wars inside ourselves. Cannot even control what our next thought will be. So why thrust our psychosis on others?

It is said that we cannot stand the thought of someone different from us. But i think it is rather that we are afraid to find that the person we hate, is the person inside ourselves. There are no emotions that have been felt by one that haven’t been felt by all. Yes – we share the same emotions as the murdered, the rapist, the liar, the cheat. The only thing that separates us is that we have not acted upon our emotions outside the acceptance of society. Which makes me wonder, why is murder and rape unacceptable, but war is not?

But there is murder in war. There is rape. What kind of dream are we caught in? The Battleground is a Dali painting. Bullets rip through flesh. What was once whole is torn asunder. That was a perfectly good human body! Now look what you’ve done to it! Humpty-Dumpty. By circumstance friends are made, by grenade friends parted. This can’t be real. I don’t want it to be real.

If this were my dream, just mine, every time someone would say something really nasty about another, i would hand them a mirror. Look in it. Repeat what you just said to the mirror. How do you feel – with all that hate staring back at you? How can you kill your brother who is you?

The Renter's Life

I’m sitting in an apartment that obviously needs a good fung shui cleaning – there’s something amiss that so many liars have been drawn to my little abode like stray cats to a dying fish. I should burn some sage, drum to the spirits, wear a cross, hang prayer flags, and have another beer – maybe that will clean out the vermin that have taken up squatters rights to the place. An apartment renter – if you’re poor like me – has to rely on roommates. When you’ve got a good one – what a blessing – better than marriage. But when you lose them…

So begins, The Search. The Search is God’s way of making you sweat when it isn’t hot. It’s a painstakingly slow process of finding what is apparently a unique commodity. An honest person. I’ve lost count to the liars that have tromped through my door. I made the mistake of believing people were like me, with no reason to lie. Just add that to the long list of mistakes i’ve made in my life. If i had a ten dollar bill for every lie i’ve been told, i would be able to make my rent this month. I’ve been looking for months. I’ve met a lot of liars. This past weekend this guy comes in and freaks me out because he won’t leave. Not like an outright stance, but you know when you’ve said all that needs to be said – it’s time to go. I made several attempts, hinting the conversation was over. But no, he didn’t get it. I finally stopped talking and just stared. Something finally clicked and he slothed his way to the door. It was tempting not to kick him down the stairs. He had the nerve to call back not an hour later to ask “how the interview went.” Today he called to see if anyone else had applied and whined pitifully when i said three other people had come by. He kept making references to his drinking. “Yeah, i have a drink occasionally,” which turned into, “I drink a lot actually but i don’t get drunk.” You keep on telling yourself that lie bugger. I’ve slept with the chain on the door and a stick in the sliding glass door the last couple nights.

There’s nothing like having a passel of strangers parading through your house asking all sorts of personal questions. I feel a lot like Bilbo Baggins when the Dwarves show up and take over his home. You know, i don’t tell people who i’ve known for years some of the stuff i’ve told these lying strangers. It just makes me feel dirty – and it isn’t even my lying! I think i need a bath. It will be a very long soak.

Earth Hour

I took part in this past year’s project, not because i wanted to make a statement about global warming, but because i wanted to see what it was like “back in the days” of my grandparents and great grandparents. What the heck would i do for a whole hour without my computer, phone, lights, stove, microwave, TV, etc.? Moments before the switch, i lit all my candles. But then realized – i have a lot of candles. My grandparents wouldn’t have lit that many. Candles may have been cheap – but so were the wages. The average salary in the 1910’s was $750 a year. That’s around $62 a month. My brain won’t even wrap around an amount that small. C’mon. We pay $4 for a Starbucks coffee. That’s twice what they made in a day. They would have had a fireplace – or wood stove. I have neither. So i allowed myself a few more candles. And then the hour came. I turned everything off. Even the heater. I did cheat a bit by brewing a hot cup of tea before the clock struck 8:30PM. I suppose i could have used a candle to heat up a cup of water but figured the hour would be over before it got hot so…

I sat. Drinking my tea. Quiet. Like i had not heard before in my own home except in the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t expect that. No hum of the computer. No music. Even the neighbors were quiet. I felt very self conscious of my own voice – like i was hearing it for the first time. It made me laugh. I laughed with my cat. She seemed to think the candles and quiet were just fine. I wandered room to room checking candles and straightening little messes i had ignored earlier in the day. I put the dishes away. Played with the cat. But as i puttered, i found myself humming. No song, just notes at random. I was smiling. And laughed again. I was singing not because the silence made me uncomfortable, but because i was happy. And so relaxed – melting like the candle wax. I had thought the absence of lights and things to do in the electronic world would send my mind into hyperdrive. But it hadn’t. I was amazingly tranquil and simply took in the scenery moment by moment. N-i-c-e. I was sitting on the living room floor when i spied the clock – 8:45. Only 15 minutes to go. Holy smokes! Where did the hour go? When 9:30 came, i left the lights off and let the candles burn. Good money couldn’t buy this sort of serenity. I happily poured myself into bed around 10:30 – the earliest i had been to bed since…? I was asleep in minutes. Happy Earth Serenity!

Note: I support scientific research on global warming – however – i am not a scientist and any comment i make will be just another uneducated opinion. I DO believe in taking care of our Earth – it is our only home – and support protecting Her precious beauty for All.