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Category Archives: sonoma

Facebook Friend Count Linked to Brain Density [STUDY]

 

All those hours you spend on Facebook may be adding grey matter, signifying greater density, to the part of your brain linked to social skills. Or, perhaps, people with larger areas of the brain for social skills may just have higher than average Facebook friend counts.

That’s the chicken-and-egg problem researchers at University College London are grappling with after finding a connection between brain structure and Facebook activity. The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was based on MRIs of a group of 165 adults who were asked to report the number of Facebook friends they have. (The study doesn’t delineate what is considered “high,” though it refers to Dunbar’s Number, which postulates 150 friends is the limit of the average person’s social circle.)

The research discovered that those with higher Facebook friend counts had more grey matter density in the amygdala, an area the study says was already known to be linked to real world social network size, as well as in other regions including the right entorhinal cortex, which is associated with memory.

“Taken together, our findings show that the number of social contacts declared publicly on a major web-based social networking site was strongly associated with the structure of focal regions of the human brain,” the researchers conclude.

Professor Geraint Rees, director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, told The Guardian it’s too early to tell how the structure of the brain and online social networking activity are connected. “What we’re attempting to do is get an empirical handle using the types of data we can generate to try and start that process rolling.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, Patrick Denker

 

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Why Personalised Wine Labels are a Great Idea for Businesses

Businesses need to be inventive, original and creative when it comes to promoting themselves. In today’s highly competitive international marketplace, this is the only way to ensure your company makes an impression on a potential client and encourages them to visit your company website or consider your services for future projects. Increasingly companies are personalising the gifts they give and see personalised wine labels as an effective way to make an impact, catch attention and remain in your client’s mind.

Given that wine has such a broad appeal, the opportunities for taking advantage of this new trend are numerous. Here are a few suggestions:

Personalise the wine labels for a function you are hosting.

Serving your guests with wine from personalised labels indicates an impressive attention to detail and a willingness to go that extra bit further. This will leave your guests feeling that you have made a special effort and put thought into making them feel welcome and entertained.

Personalise wine bottles that you intend to give as presents.

When businesses feel they have especially loyal customers, they often like to show their appreciation through a gift, particularly at Christmas time. By presenting a client with a bottle of wine that has a personalised label, your company’s gift will make a greater impact and your customer will be reminded of your thoughtful treatment of them as they enjoy the wine, even if it is months later.

Personalise the wine labels at a corporate-sponsored event.

Your company has found a cause or event it would like to sponsor and has invested money in it to help promote the business. How can you make sure your logo and name stand out among other sponsors? By providing the wine with labels that have been personalised with your company logo, your business will have a more effective impact on attendees than if you are simply listed on flyers or banners that line the entrance.

Gifts that are personalised for employees who are retiring.

Personalised wine bottles can also be one-off presents. Choosing a special wine and designing a label that includes the names of closest colleagues can be a thoughtful retirement present that will mean much more than more traditional impersonal gifts. It provides a stylish and elegant way to combine the signatures of a greeting card with the present itself and can be chosen according to the particular tastes of the retiring employee.

Visit SpottySpoon.com and create your own personalised wine label for weddings, corporate gifts and every other occasion.

 

Top Tips for a Great Team Building Away Day

Team building is a useful way for businesses to get their employees together and achieve a number of business goals, as well as having a bit of fun at the same time. There are numerous ways in which team building can work, from a simple brainstorming session in the pub to a full on day out in professionally run venue, this type of activity can be very beneficial for both morale and the business in general. In this article we outline some top tips that can make these days run as smoothly as possible.

Find the right venue

For some purposes a car park might suffice, however many of the most effective team building days happen when the right venue is chosen. To make it an “away day” feel like just that, it’s a good idea to pick a venue that is out of the office but not so far that attendees will feel like they’re going to spend all day travelling.  The best venues will have a reception area where bags can be left and people can relax in comfort, flexible meeting rooms, and other outdoor spaces for some of the more fun or abstract team building activities, as well as free flowing refreshments on offer throughout the venue. Very often venues with all the top notch facilities will be on the outskirts of big cities or housed in some of the most attractive buildings in the country – this means they really offer an ideal location for productive team building.

Get the right balance of activities

Team building days should be fun but they are also useful if a business is hoping to get a message across or after lots of new staff members have joined in order that everyone can get to know everyone else. Therefore it is important to get a good mix of activities for the away day. These can range from the gently competitive such as a school-style sports day or go-karting to more collaborative activities such as assembling a huge art installation that highlights your company‘s corporate values. Other worthwhile activities include simple ice breaking games for those who may take a little while to get into it and even days where it appears there’s very little to do with work but collaboration is very important such as cookery workshops.

Supercharge your brand

Several conference venues have in recent years taken the innovative step of creating branded space for a business that is using its facilities. This can be a real benefit for a team away day because it really gives the event a professional air and can make attendees feel like they are part of something significant. The best conference providers will be able to customise the required space with everything from brand logos adorning the walls to whether solid oak floors or carpets are required in the business “hub”. Many businesses have found that creating this type of bespoke space is ideal for embellishing an atmosphere of quality – especially in regards to training and team building as it shows employees that their workplace is prepared to go that extra yard.

Obviously there several other ways in which team building activities can be done, however it is certainly an aspect of business that should not be avoided – in the very least it can be a fun day out for everyone.

Jonathan has been away on many training days and in many meeting rooms with a variety of companies. He has found training away days very useful and a good morale booster.

 

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We Are So Spoiled It Makes Me Ill. Hooyah! Let us Give These Brave People a Moment of Consideration and Thanks.

While the newsreels play out a perfect scenario of success, we sit back on our couches and pat each other on the backs for what “we” just did in Pakistan.  We all have the images in our heads (myself included) that Navy SEALs are invincible; highly trained and disciplined young men and women that somehow through deification become invincible the second they pass BUD/S INDOC.  Not to mention things like that if you fail the OC (obstacle course) twice you are out.  Contrary to the “GI Jane” opinion, you don’t necessarily have to ring “the bell” yourself.
In truth it takes a SEAL 30 months of training before they are ready for deployment.  The SEALs that emerge are ready to handle pretty much any task called on including diving, combat swimming, navigation, demolitions, weapons, and parachuting. The training pushes them to the limit both mentally and physically but that doesn’t make them invincible.
These young warriors aren’t anything like our wonderful Hollywood caricatures.  A model SEAL is 5’10” and 175 pounds, about the only similarity to the Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, and Keifer Southerland avatars we watch boldly walking down mud streets or wading in rice patties, guns blazing, as the venerable enemy drops silently in droves at either side.  Obviously these made up lipstick wearing Adonis’s wouldn’t last 5 seconds in an actual fire-fight, but that’s not the point.
As we sip our white wine with our fat asses on that couch, congratulating ourselves for a job well done (and for those of you who have been and done, this obviously does not apply to you) let us take pause to reflect upon just how “easy” it was to kill bin Laden.  We get a picture of the Spec-Ops guys gearing up for the pre-op briefing, huddled around Dennis Haysbert and the rest of The Unit, casually leaving their all very attractive wives for another mysterious little “outing.”  Every now and then one of them might be injured, but there is very seldom any wholesale gore, and it is very easy for them to “leave no man behind.”  We also have a tendency to look at the statistics of that particular (bin Laden) mission and have it validate our Jack Bauer image of what Spec-Ops duty is like:  build a practice scenario, shoot at some dummies, get briefed, get on a plane, get on a Blackhawk, insertion, recon, flash-bang, fire a few quick shots, egress, extraction, and appearance with the President.
http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/05/06/bin.laden.obama/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn
I t would be fine if life were so simple.
We can all mouth the words “war is hell.”  Very few of us can appreciate how true that is.  Sure we’ve all seen Ben Hur , Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan but the familiarity of the stars, the surreal nature of the sets and the dislocation of the context makes it beyond our sensibilities to comprehend or relate to.  It becomes as abstract as a computer game where the figures just disappear when you kill them or the car always returns to the track no matter how many times you crash.  A more true representation of “war” can be found in BBC History of World War II if you have the time, and the stomach to sit through it.  It would change your life.*
We have so much to be thankful for, and so much to regret.  Joseph Schumpeter (economist)  was correct in his publication of 1942 (Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy) in asserting that the success of capitalism will lead to a form of corporatism and a fostering of values hostile to capitalism, especially among intellectuals. The intellectual and social climate needed to allow entrepreneurship to thrive will not exist in advanced capitalism; it will be replaced by socialism in some form.   (Does this sound like anything we have been hearing lately in political debate?)
The end result of this is that we Americans have spent beyond our means, that stockholder equity has dictated that we ship our jobs offshore, that our past industrial success has left us with an abnormal dependency on foreign oil, and that the greed, arrogance and ignorance of our people has left our country gasping and vulnerable.  Can we get it back? Hell yes, but not without hard work and sacrifice.  Corporate bail-outs and pork-barrel legislation should be punishable by death.
So we got ourselves in a bit of a jam.  There are people out there that hate us:  Shiites, Sunnis, Cripps, Bloods, you name it.  In some part we have to be aware of the disparity that our opulence has caused, and the result of our largely Christian Evangelistic society and the push-back it can instigate.  We have been fortunate and not always particularly diplomatic about it.  We have all experienced the “Ugly American” at some point in our foreign travels, and I have had the good fortune to be able to travel extensively and hear what some extremely intelligent people actually think about us and our politics.  Since that experience it has been a comfort to watch BBC News more often than FOX, if you know what I mean.
The “war” on terrorism didn’t start on September 11, 2001.  It did not end on May 2, 2011.  How ironic it would have been if they could have negotiated the operation one day earlier.  “Bin Laden comes to infamy on 9/11 and is executed on May Day,”
* If you want just one example of what kind of hell a SEAL operation can actually endure I encourage you to read the story at the following link.  It is not my liberty or bandwidth to articulate how many stories there are like this, or how many young heroes have given their lives in the service of their country, and the pursuit of this threat.  Suffice it to say that the administrations statement of “no casualties” on this operation makes me sick.  This was part of a huge global operation that eventually culminated in a victory.  No victory for American service men and women comes cheap, nor should their sacrifices be overlooked.  Hooyah!
Please note that they had it right, even then. This Op was in Asadabad, where we finally caught him. They opened the door.  They did NOT die in vain.
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=37856
This Op stared out with a crew of 4 SEALs.  Take a look at how “Jack Bauer” this turned out:
11 Navy SEALs and 8 Army Task Force 160 aircrew died in the battle.
 Marcus Luttrell, Matt Axelson, and Danny Dietz each received the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration for valor in the military.
For his actions, Michael Murphy received the Medal of Honor on October 22, 2007.
The men who gave their lives on the helicopter are:
Staff Sgt. Shamus Goare, 29, Danville, Ohio.
Chief Warrant Officer Corey Goodnature, 35, Clarks Grove, Minn.
Sgt. Kip Jacoby, 21, Pompano Beach, Fla.
Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Muralles, 33, Shelbyville, Ind.
Major Stephen Reich, 34, Washington Depot, Conn.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Russell, 31, Stafford, Va.
Chief Warrant Officer Chris Scherkenbach, 40, Jacksonville, Fla..
Master Sgt, James Ponder III, 36, Franklin, Tenn.
Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan, 36, New Orleans, La.
Lt. Cmdr. Erik Ristensen, 33, San Diego, Calif.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Lucas, 33, Corbett, Ore.
Lt. Michael McGreevy, Jr., 30, Portville, N.Y..
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery Taylor, 30, Midway, W. Va.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel Healy, 36, Exeter, N.H.
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Patton, 22, Boulder City, Nev.

 

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Learning from Others: Finding Influential People When You Are On Your Own

My early years were blessed with always having owned a boat.  These were the frolicking years just after grad school with all the single folks jamming a deserted beach on a far away lake.  Naked waterskiing on a full moonlit night, was followed by running out of gas in the middle of the lake and paddling to shore with a water ski.   Ah, youth.

As the years passed, and children grew the excitement of the boat began to give way to other family responsibilities, and differed maintenance began to accrue.  Time was spent loading the thing with groceries and camping supplies for two weeks in the mountains, feeding 12 kids and 8 adults.  The yearly “tune-up” was accomplished, but little things piled up.  After about 15 years of this, it had come to a point of catharsis.  I was no longer motivated to keep the boat up, the kids were gone, and it seemed to be reasonable to give the thing up and move on.

This is where the power of the pen turned my life around.  In blogging about marketing, it seems to serve well to include a personal story and this was such a time.  Publishing the lament felt as a result of this dilemma yielded an unexpected, but welcomed response.  A good friend read the post and responded with a question as to my willingness to take a partner.

The attraction was immediate, and for a different reason than was later revealed.  It was attractive to have someone else to share the work load, to share in the cost, and to provide some renewed energy towards the project.   What was not yet apparent to me was that this person was my perfect complement.  He has an attention to detail that I don’t exercise.  If asked the proper way to accomplish something it is usually quite simple for me to utter a detailed step-by-step procedure of the correct sequence of activities.  Does this mean that this is the way I would ever proceed?  Hell no!

A good example is the boat trailer.  It has been rusted from salt water, the lights were almost all out, and the surge breaks hadn’t worked in years.  My new partner Scott looked at it and made some comments regarding an obvious course of action.  The wheels needed to be taken off and greased, the wiring repaired, the boat taken off, and the trailer ground, sanded, and sandblasted down to bare metal before priming and re-panting.

Well duh.  I knew that!  Why then was my first conclusion that the most logical course of action was to either buy a new trailer or just scrap the thing?  The most amazing thing happened when we dug into the work.  At first Scott did everything.  Finally the shame was too great and I picked up the wire cutters and pitched in.  Within a couple of hours we were working along side-by-side like the pit crew at an Indy race.  Wheels were coming off, bolts greased, tires changed, new lights installed, road test successful;  all things that I knew how to do, but would never have taken the time to do by myself.

That boat is like a business.  All it took was a fresh perspective to make it feel new again.  If circumstances are such that a “partner” is not the solution, there are alternatives.  I belong to several “success” groups and “Meet-up’s” where we get together with other professionals and share perspectives.  Many ides and disciplines come from these meetings, and they help me not only to see things differently, but to focus on the actions that are agreeably correct, but might not have been my intuitive course of action.  Webinars, podcasts, and YouTube videos are also great sources of educational and inspirational material. I try to schedule at least 2 hours a week in these activities, and then make sure that I document what they taught.

There are several ways to take advantage of the knowledge and inspiration of others.  We don’t have to do this all alone!

 

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If You Have Had Trouble Accessing a WordPress Blog…

Alexia Tsotsis Mar 3, 2011

You have no idea how hard it was to get this post up, as WordPress.com, our blog host, is currently under a denial of service attack. It’s been almost impossible to access the TechCrunch backend for the past 10 minutes (everything seems to be stable now) and users have been receiving a “Writes to the service have been disabled, we will be bringing everything back online ASAP” error message.

From the VIP blog post:

WordPress.com is currently being targeted by a extremely large Distributed Denial of Service attack which is affecting connectivity in some cases. The size of the attack is multiple Gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second.

We are working to mitigate the attack, but because of the extreme size, it is proving rather difficult. At this time, everything should be back to normal as the attack has subsided, but we are actively working with our upstream providers on measures to prevent such attacks from affecting connectivity going forward.

We will be making our VIP sites a priority in this endeavor, and as always, you can contact us via xxxxx@wordpress.com for the latest update. We will also update this post with more information as it becomes available

WordPress did not mention the origin of the attack (DDoS =! Anonymous) and I have contacted founder Matt Mullenweg for more information. WordPress.com currently serves 30 million publishers, including VIPs TED, CBS and TechCrunch, and is responsible for 10% of all websites in the world. WordPress.com itself sees about 300 million unique visits monthly.

Update: Automattic and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg tells us that this is the largest attack WordPress.com has ever seen, and is likely to be politically motivated:

“There’s an ongoing DDoS attack that was large enough to impact all three of our datacenters in Chicago, San Antonio, and Dallas — it’s currently been neutralized but it’s possible it could flare up again later, which we’re taking proactive steps to implement.

This is the largest and most sustained attack we’ve seen in our 6 year history. We suspect it may have been politically motivated against one of our non-English blogs but we’re still investigating and have no definitive evidence yet.”

You can check here for the latest status updates.

Image via: blogohblog

Update 2: Looks like everything’s back to normal.

 

Monday morning wisdom

An old man once said …There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living!!! Thanks Doug for this!

 

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Parting With an Old Friend – Part Three; Daisy Mae of the Redwoods

It’s been twelve years now, it will be in the fall anyway, and it still chokes me up every time I think about her. For some reason loosing that dog hit me harder than either of my parents. Good grief, I literally have tears rolling down my cheeks writing this, and its freeking noon on a holiday and I feel fine.

My first wife loved Alaskan Malamutes. She was from Michigan and had had several in her youth, so the first thing we did after getting married was to go to a very reputable AKC breeder and grab ourselves a descendant of several grand champions. His name was Duke, and he was a gorgeous creature. Like many physically perfect human specimens he could also be a bit of a butthead. I remember him getting loose once when a friend was walking him and he wouldn’t respond to his own name, but when shouted at with the name “Asshole” he responded. Fitting. Actually he was a great and loving dog, and actually did put up with lots from the kids and eccentric parents.

We had this thing about dress-up. Still do come to think of it, but that is REALLY another story. While one dog is great, I have always had a tender spot for leaving a dog alone all day while we go to work and go about our lives. Having been an only child, I could relate to wanting a brother or somebody around all the time to play with, so one dog just wasn’t going to make it. I had always loved labs, although never had one. I set my mind on finding one, much against my wife’s urgings. Not being a patient person, it had to be “right now.” There was a breeder way up in the redwoods by Humboldt that had a litter ready for adoption so we piled in the van and made the trek up to the snow to get my puppy. Immediately upon arrival we were ushered into the den with the litter and this little scrawny runt came out of the back of the pen and stuck her nose in my face. That was it. She had picked us. My wife was aghast that it should be such, as she put it, a “magnificent creature.” Guess she was all about looks, but how wrong she ended up being. There was more heart in that little ball of fur than an elephant.

We brought her home and Duke took right to her. One of the first weekends we had together we brought them to Tahoe to one of those ski cabin rentals where 10 people slept in the loft and another 6 or so crammed the bedrooms and fold-out couch. I remember them all running and cavorting in the snow with Larry’s dog Eddie, named of course after his father !?! They loved the snow, the Malamute was right at home, and Daisy was up for anything. They used to run behind my van up in the hills after getting home from work. It was a good way to combine dad’s “quiet time” (read: happy hour) with a dog run. Thankfully there are loads of quiet mountain streets with almost no traffic. That little black puppy would run for miles, keeping up with the Malamute twice her size because she didn’t know any better.

Then came the summer and the aforementioned boat. Before we found our “Shangri-la” at Sly Creek we went places like Whiskytown and Lake Tulloch. Fuzzy had already taught Duke how to swim by tossing sticks in the ocean, but Daisy needed no external motivation. She took to the water like, well like a Lab takes to the water. Once when we had been out skiing for about an hour we returned to find that she had been trying to “retrieve” the anchor buoy the entire time and almost drowned herself in the effort. It happened to be tied to the anchor at the time.

As we progressed to the great camping lake mentioned so often in the previous two blogs, http://wp.me/pY9Fa-9v the dogs were in their element. They loved all the people, the freedom to wander, and the music and attention of the evenings. Only one consideration for a rowdy bunch of evening frolickers with a minimum level of sobriety: Beware the sleeping black dog at night! Poor Daisy claimed the balance (and usually beverage in hand) of many an unsuspecting camper. Duke and Daisy both loved the boat. Duke got a hair up his backside and jumped off in Whiskytown once about a mile offshore and insisted on swimming the way back. They both used to sit up in the bow with the wind blowing through their muzzles like some strange byzantine kazoo.

Duke also decided to go AWAL once on a long holiday weekend and we had to stay over an extra day to go bail him out of the doggy penitentiary in Redding. He was getting on in years for a big dog, and his hip dysplasia was making him more and more grumpy. He made the mistake of snapping at one of the babies one afternoon and was with his honorable ancestors about an hour later. It wouldn’t have been my choice at the time, but mama bear was not happy with a 150lb doggy snapping at a two year old.

Daisy gave us a scare the next summer at the lake. As always, things like bursted water heaters, broken axles, or animal emergencies, happen on weekend when there is nobody at work to help. We had piled kids, tubes, coolers, skis, and friends on the boat for the morning run and were ready to push off. As was customary there were the checks of lines, glance over the shoulder to see that nothing was behind us, and we started to back out of shore. No sooner than the prop was engaged we heard a piteous whine which caused me (thank God) to immediately kill the engine. Recognizing the source of the scream I reached into the water and hauled the 85lb dog onto the boat with one hand. Amazing what adrenalin will do. There was no “vet” open on a Sunday, so we really didn’t have anything that we could do but my Boy Scout first aid and keep her quiet. Benadryl is good for putting dogs asleep too! Later that day, thankfully, a county sheriff (a dog lover) shows up and put butterfly bandages on her arms and paws so that we felt better about her safety. Thank you God and Karma. Next morning I was in the truck and off to the vet to find that her injuries were such that her tendons were spared by about 1/16 of an inch. Daisy Mae rocks, and God was lookin out.

We had so many other wonderful experiences with her it would take months to document. God only knows what patience that dog had to exhibit on New Year’s Eve with Dad and Uncle Paul. I think we were trying to dress her up like a can-can dancer. My lasting impression of her is her loving patience, her devotion to me, her brother Duke, and most importantly my girls. She allowed them to put skirts on her, to sit on her, to pull her ears, to drag her around any physical object available; that dog had more patience than the kids mother and I had combined. I sincerely believe that was part of what made the “family” as centered and “normal” as it was. There were other things that contradicted both of those terms, but it certainly was not the dogs fault.

The last trip Daisy was to take to Sly was in 1999. We had a great time and she never failed to return the Frisbee and set herself for another toss. Ad infinitum. There was no lack of spunk in her step as she ran the campground searching for food. She was above all a loving sensitive… but LAB. She had a way about food, but didn’t hold a candle to her new sister “Oakley” who we will discuss later. There was no lack of enthusiasm in the attack of the lake and the Frisbee, nor that in the love of French fries she inhaled on the way home at “In and Out Burgers” in Davis. The only thing that we noticed was that for the first time she had become incontinent and “peed” herself while sitting on the cement in front of our favorite in-route stop (“In-and-Out” in Davis). With concern we proceeded home.

Over the next two days it became apparent the this was not an arbitration and that Daisy was winding down. She began to lie in a particular area on the side of the yard instead of her usual spot on the porch. It was bizarre, but we finally began to feel that she was choosing her place to die. The incontinence got worse, but she did her best to hide it from us. Her visits to the bush, and the restful spot she had chosen were more frequently.. The decision was somehow clear to me, my love – my little black soul-mate, had lived her years. I spent the next three nights on the porch with her crying my eyes out telling her every story I could remember; preparing her (bullshit, me) for the fact that she was going to be put down. I actually don’t really understand how it is that we think that we get to play God, but when it comes to animals it seems OK. Is it that our love is conditional? Oh jaez! My ex once said “the second she can’t make it up the stairs on her own, she’s gone.” Is that what we really want to do to the things that we love?

Anyway that is what we do to dogs, and in this case I was convinced that it was for her good. That would have been the only way I would have ever parted with Daisy. Our mobile pet doctor Petra Drake was called and responded immediately. She is a wonderful doctor and person. It made me feel much better that she was there. Daisy was laid in my lap, in front of the whole family, and given an injection that removed her spirit from this earthly vessel. Dr. Petra simply said “She is gone.” What a lovely setting for Daisy, and what a meaningful way to go out. By God’s infinite design, my great friend Martin (see previous blogs) arrived just then to say “Hi” and ended up helping me dig a grave for Daisy in the exact place that she had been frequenting for the past week.

There are no coincidences.

 

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This is a most lovely grey day. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, all of you! It is great to be alive!!!

When I woke up this morning my head was pounding. My mouth was dry and my lips cracked from breathing through my mouth all night. I opened the curtains and it is cold and raining outside, the kind of grey drizzle that does no good, just keeps the sun away. The lawn is littered with fallen debris. As the house is inspected it reveals dirty dishes in the sink, an unmade bed in the guest room, clothes spewed all over our bedroom where I have been living out of a suitcase for the weekend, books and papers scattered about the living room. There are used towels on the floor in my bathroom, and we are out of toilet paper.

I cannot remember a more beautiful morning in my life. The dishes, clothes, and towels are all over because we just had my wife’s father and my brother-in-law down from Portland for the weekend. One of the papers cluttering the living room was a beautiful Valentine card from my wife. We are lucky enough to have a lawn for debris to be scattered over, and this rain is the first we’ve had in over a week and it is mid February.

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. What makes this such a beautiful morning is that I have the wife, the lawn, good friends, a new family (after I was divorced I got to keep the old one, so now I have two) and more importantly my heart is beating regularly.

Yesterday was one of those “ah ha” moments, or wake-up calls. Atrial fibrillation is a condition of cardiac arrhythmia usually reserved (at least in middle-aged men) for those either on a drinking binge reminiscent of spring breakers in Cabo, those with heart conditions, or those extremely dehydrated or on stimulants like caffeine or cocaine. I had none of those conditions so it was a bit of a surprise when I awakened to find my heartbeat rapid and shallow and about as regular as a ping pong ball in a clothes dryer.

This happened to me before, so I tend to downplay what does not seem immediately life threatening. The in-laws, wife, and I were scheduled to drive down to Pebble to join our wonderful sponsors at Hertz for a day of fun, food, and watching Bill Murray and Matt Cain. Oh, yes, and there was also golf being played. They having flown down from the great Pacific Northwest to attend the event, and my wife being the driver and also a great fan of the “amateur” celebrities it made no sense for them to miss the event to watch me lie in a hospital bed tied to all sorts of tubes, wires, and monitors. With a little reluctance they dropped me off at the ER at 8:00 in the morning, kissed goodbye, and all said they hoped to see me sometime again, in THIS lifetime.

The emergency room was jammed, but having a heart disorder no matter how trivial (guess there is no such thing as a trivial heart disorder in their minds) guarantees you a bed immediately. Having done this before I know was somewhat hoping to have the opportunity to spend an hour or two in triage watching the AT&T before being admitted. No such luck.

Having to suffer the indignity of immediately disrobing and being connected to an intravenous drip, an electroencephalogram (EEG), blood oxygen monitor, respiration monitor, linear accelerator, and wind tunnel, I was now prepared for my treatment. The first time this happened within 30 minutes they had me on blood thinner, my second drip bag of hydration, and 60mg of Soma to try and regulate my heartbeat which was vacillating between 100 and 300 beats per minute. My normal resting rate is 60.

This was not the case yesterday. The ER was jammed, so basically I got a bag of saline and was left alone – completely alone – for about three hours. There were some other brief encounters, but in general no progress, and no human contact for almost eight hours. There is no better format for meditation and introspection that comes to mind than sitting, watching your heartbeat racing in the “danger, warning will Robinson” zone on a monitor, trussed up like a thanksgiving Turkey, and just waiting. The occasional alarm would bring in a worried nurse/technician to look at the monitor, adjust the alarm threshold and DO NOTHING. I have no disrespect for Kaiser, but there are some horror stories that leave its reputation somewhat short of Johns Hopkins, so being left alone with my own mind it was quickly apparent that there was indeed the distinct possibility that there would be no future in my future.

With even this remote possibility, however self-created, comes certain clarity. I need to treat my loving wife, all of my friends, and family with more than mere respect, with palpable gratitude. That rainy blustery morning outside the bedroom window is one of the most beautiful things in creation. Every single person that can be helped by what we do as a marketing agency is precious. Every opportunity to turn someone’s business even more slightly towards the path to success is a unique gift from God to help. Random acts of kindness like sending $100 to help a friend I haven’t seen in ten years sponsor a short film even if it never amounts to a thing, every $10 check to the Southern Poverty Law Center, heck a $5 check to the Rush Limbaugh drug rehabilitation fund, anything anyone can do to help another is your great karmic responsibility.

Let’s all redouble our efforts to include what we share on the net. Is what is being written and broadcast truly intended to be helpful or is it self-serving? When we host an event is it truly crafted to educate our audience, or is it a veiled attempt to provide just enough information to “hook” them into being customers. Question the ethics, even the karma if you will, of what you are producing. The Buddhists call this “right livelihood.” It doesn’t take much explanation. When you speak at a convention or meeting, when you teach a class or sponsor a meet-up sincerely ask the question of your audience “are you being served?”

After eight hours of an extremely uncomfortable experience lying on a hospital bed, unable to turn, bleeding from the holes in my arms, and dying of hunger the doctor comes in and tells me “it’s not working.” This is sobering news as it means that they are going to have to stop my heart and start it again with electric shock. Although time is a factor, since my wife is in Monterrey with her family, they asked if “just in case” anything were to go wrong the procedure could be scheduled when she could be there with me. Short of asking if I wanted a priest, that was somewhat devastating news. We decide to postpone the procedure until the next day.

Since the sole reason for my fasting all day was in case I need what they call “cardio conversion” ( which is doc-speak for killing you and bringing you back to life) I was finally allowed a turkey sandwich (my now most favorite of all foods – ever). Figuring it to be symbolically my “last supper” I abandoned my diet and even had real mayonnaise on it.

Upon completion of said meal I took one last look at the little heart monitor which had been so disappointingly displaying rather random blips and squiggles for the last eight hours, and started crying. It revealed a sweet, absolutely regular, normal heartbeat.

A mandatory “safety” hour later I was released. I kissed the orderly (not sure he totally enjoyed that, but what the heck) promised to name my next pet after the doctor, and would have paid the bill with antique silver dollars had they asked.

Since my wife was still at the Pro-am and I didn’t want to bother any of my friends (whom I now adore one and all) it was decided to walk the two and one half miles home. What’s that line from “My Fair Lady?”

“I have often walked down this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before…”

The exhilaration and resolve for re-dedication to a more skillful position of loving-kindness towards all that is, can be fleeting after such an experience. My earnest prayers are that if only for a moment, it will be remembered and take priority over the usual knee jerk reaction to the next person that cuts me off in traffic.

Go hand a perfect stranger a flower today!

 

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Is it anarchy? Part Frank Zappa, part Howard Stern, and part Tony Robbins: I’ll show you how to make me money by making money by showing other people how to make money!

Frank Kern is without a doubt one of the best internet marketers I have ever run across.  His system is literally foolproof, he uses nothing but absolute common sense tried and true techniques, and the orchestration is so totally obvious it’s revolutionary.  The ironic thing about what he tells people, is that there is nothing in his delivery or offerings (aside from some research that it would take you some time to dig for) that you can’t do for yourself.  Another irony is that he uses the EXACT same technique selling you that he is also promising to teach you, so if you listen real good you can learn it for free.  It reminds me of Ken Kesey’s book, “Steal this book!”

Why, then, do we need these “Guru’s” to point out the obvious before we take the initiative to do these things ourselves.  I remember another one of the older school publications on this called “Think and grow rich.”  That is more prophetic than it sounds.  Think.  For information service/IP offerings, really think about what these Uber-successful people actually do.  They:

1.        Create big ticket offers where you are creating a dramatic change for your target market.

2.       Qualify the heck out of the market so that you are pitching to people that will get the biggest advantage from your offering, and can most easily afford to pay for your services.

3.       Market the hell out of the “solution” to get a constant stream of these prospects.  Do the math and see what your close ratio is, set targets for financial goals, then work backwards to see how many leads per month you need to achieve them.

4.       Arrange strategy sessions to see if there is “compatibility” between what they offer and your goals, then “un-sell” you to the point that you are begging for their solution.

5.       Leverage the “service” delivery so that you are establishing your creative only once for the whole market, then through technology you get as many people online or in a room as you can at once every time you have to go through it.

It was no coincidence that the big guns that rolled with Tony Robbins, Fran Tarkington and Lou Holtz used to give away “scholarships” to their huge convention like meetings.  These “today only” motivational promotions inevitably ended up letting the masses in the doors to drink the Kool-aid free or for a hugely reduced “one time only” price.  The real irony is that if you are like most people and lack the discipline and motivation to regiment yourself to load the proper amount of activity into your pipeline, a program like this WILL more than pay for itself with your first few “wins.”

I thank you Frank, for kicking me in the ass and making me realize this.  We can ALL do this, we just need to remember the basics we learned as newspaper carriers, summer gardeners, or fuller brush salesmen when we were kids. If you want a real wake-up call register for one of his webinars. State of the internet success is fantastic.

This guy is so basic and simple it makes me want to smack myself for not having done this years ago.

 
 
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