Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Letter To The Dalai Lama

His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Jan 8th I posted a blog about InCoWriMo - International Correspondence Writing Month.  Tomorrow is day one of InCoWriMo and it isn't  too late to sign up if you're willing to write (not email, or text, or fax) one letter every day for a month.

But, I'm not recruiting for InCoWriMo with this post.  I'm going to tell you about the first letter I'm writing for InCoWriMo 2015.  I've decided to send it to the Dalai Lama, whose address is on the list of 29 people who would love to receive your correspondence.

I've never written to the Dalai Lama before, and I wouldn't do it now just to add him to the list of people I send letters to in February.  So what changed my mind?  That's simple.  A fifteen year old photo hanging in our living room did it.  It's a picture of nine men posing in front of the model for the Crazy Horse Monument still under construction in South Dakota.  The man on the back row, second from the right, is a friend of both the Dalai Lama and me.    

I call him the The Geshe of the A Team (read the blog and that will make sense - you'll also see the photo) here's the link Tibetan Monks - Sand Mandalas.  

Since a hand-written letter is a personal communication, I'm not going to tell you what I'm about to write to His Holiness.  But if you read the blog I just mentioned you'll have a good idea.  It's not often you have the opportunity to tell someone about a mutual friend who had a profound impact on your life.  I'm off to do that right now.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tweaking The Big Loop

Regarding running, "Don't leave home without it," has nothing to do with American Express.  What I don't leave home without is my Garmin 220 runner's watch (which also works for swimmers and bicyclists, I'm told).

The watch records many more things than I understand or am interested in.  All I want to know, when I'm running is my heart rate, and pace (current and average).

When I'm through with a run I print out the details, which includes the route map (see the illustration), altitude gain and loss, cadence, temperature, and about a zillion other things I seldom look at.  It's the route that I call "the big loop" that I began to scrutinize a few weeks ago.  At that time it was 7.4 miles, and I wanted to increase it to 8 miles.

I'd played all the possibilities over in my mind and couldn't think of a way that would work because, being a night runner, I'm rather particular about lighting, surface, and traffic.  Every way I thought of to add .6 miles wouldn't work.

Finally, I took a look at my print out and realized I was making a major mistake in my mental process:  I was looking for a way to add a single 0.6 of a mile chunk to the route and that truly wasn't a viable possibility.  However, with the map as a guide, I saw some minor tweaks, three to be exact, that I thought might give me the distance I wanted.

I noted the changes, strapped on the watch, and headed for the new, slightly tweaked Big Loop.  Viola, the 7.4 mile big loop was now an 8.2 mile loop.  Not a drastic increase, but its one that has, so far this month produced 16.8 extra miles and by the end of the month that increase should be 21.6 miles.

And the point is?  

By getting an accurate idea of what I was currently doing, I was able to make a few, small tweaks and get the results I was looking for.  Then, last night, when my Garmin 220 vibrated at the 8 mile mark, it triggered the realization that I could make a few, small adjustments in anything I wanted to do better and achieve the same results.

It's pretty cool when my watch points out philosophical truths like that.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The High Road - The Final Episodes

Last Wednesday, Noah turned thirteen.  Thursday we finished writing the last three chapters of The High Road, a book we've worked on for a year.  The book still has to be edited, but basically it's done and it is available now for you to listen to in its entirety.  The chapters are all here.

If you've been following the story and are just waiting for the last three chapters, you'll find them below.  They are there for you and they are a belated birthday present for the co-author of the book, Noah Charif.  Happy Birthday, Kid.

Thanks for riding with us,

Remember, all comments are appreciated.

Bert and Noah

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Noah

Noah Charif

Noah forgot to mention to me that yesterday he turned thirteen.  That's ironic, since in The High Road, Dahkeya forgot to tell John when he turned thirteen.   

Of course, he could have forgotten, because we just finished a writing storm, concluding with Chapter Thirty-Eight, which we believe will be the last chapter of this volume of The High Road.  

Tomorrow I'll record and post chapters 36 - 38 as a belated birthday present.  We'd appreciate it you'd take a minute and let us know if you think we should write volume 2 of The High Road.  

While you are commenting, remember, it's not too late to wish Noah a happy birthday.

Thanks for riding with us,

Bert and the Birthday Boy 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty-Four

To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, we wrote and recorded Chapter Thirty-Four, Emissaries of The Great Spirit, which seems a fitting tribute to Dr. King.

Here it is for you - remember, your comments are appreciated.

Thanks for trucking with us.

Bert and Noah

Note - All of the Chapters, in order, are here

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty-Three

Here is Chapter 33, written and recorded this morning.  If you have a minute, leave us a comment.

Thanks for riding with us.

Remember, all of the chapters, in order, are here:

Bert and Noah

Friday, January 16, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty-Two

Here is Chapter Thirty-Two - which, as of this moment, brings the writing and the recording to the same place.  That means Noah and I need to get busy and we will

Thanks for riding with us.

Bert and Noah

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The High Road Chapter 31

Here is chapter thirty-one of the High Road.  Enjoy.

We're glad you're traveling with us.  Feel free to leave a comment.

Bert and Noah

Remember, all of the chapters are here

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty

Here's Chapter Thirty of our High Road adventure.  Enjoy.

Remember, all of the chapters are here

Thanks for riding with us.  We're pleased that you are along for the ride.

Bert and Noah

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Nine

Here's Chapter Twenty-Nine of our adventure.  Enjoy

All of the Chapters, in order, are here:

Thanks for joining us,

Bert and Noah

Monday, January 12, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Eight

Late in the day,but still within the day, here's Chapter Twenty-Eight

All of the chapters, in order, are here


Bert and Noah

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Seven

Bert                                Noah

Here's Chapter Twenty-Seven - Enjoy

Remember - All of the chapters, from One through 27 are posted here for your convenience.

Thanks for riding with us,

Bert and Noah

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Six

Bert                               Noah
Here is Chapter Twenty-Six.  If you have a minute after you've listened, leave us a comment.  We'd appreciate it.

Don't forget - All the chapters we've recorded are here and there are more on the way.

Thanks for riding with us,

Bert and Noah

Friday, January 9, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Five

Bert                                    Noah

Here is Chapter Twenty-Five of The High Road

All of the chapters, in order, beginning with Chapter One, are here

Thanks for riding with us.

We'll see you tomorrow with Chapter Twenty-Six

Bert and Noah

Thursday, January 8, 2015

InCoWriMo - 2015

It's that time of year again - actually, it's almost that time of time of year again.  The official month of International Correspondence Writing Month is February.  However, since I discovered InCoWriMo on Feb 12th last year, and had to double-time to catch up, this year I'm starting roughly three weeks ahead of time, and I know I'm not the only one.

When this year's list went live last night (1/7/15), at about 9 PM Central Time, Carl Wood, Providence, R.I., USA, was the first to add his name to the list.  I added mine about three hours later, just managing to slide in ahead of my pen pal friend, Bill Milling.  Before I retired for the night, I penned a letter to Carl Wood, and before this day is over, I'll write two more letters - One to Heath Cates of Auburn, Alabama, USA, and the other to Tim Bennett, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

InCoWriMo is about writing one letter every day for the month of February.  However, I'm not the only one that writes outside the specified month - in fact many of us correspond year around.

I discovered fountain pens and letter writing way before InCoWriMo, or, for that matter, the internet existed.  Fountain pens and I go back to 1967 and halfway around the world, to Vietnam, where I found a Sheaffer pen in a PX.

Fountain pens were made for correspondence, so they are a natural for InCoWriMo, but certainly not a requirement.  Mimi Boothby writes her letters to me with a brush pen, Stephen Woodfin uses a legal pad and whatever writing instrument is close at hand, and Maggie Kimura uses a ball point.  The letter is what matters and the fact that it is handwritten is what makes it special.

If you're up for a wonderful "vintage social media" experience, check out InCoWriMo - You won't regret it.  And, if you wonder who to send your first letter to, send it to me, then begin watching your mailbox for my reply.

Bert Carson
2304 Bide A Wee Drive
Huntsville, AL  35801

The High Road Chapter Twenty-four

Here is Chapter Twenty-four of the adventure of John and Dahkeya


All of the chapters, in order are here

Thanks for riding with us.

Bert, Noah and JoJo

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Murmuration - The Ultimate In Group Travel

Ornithology, a division of Zoology in which its area of specialty is the study of birds, is one of the most primitive of all the sciences.  

The principal problem ornithologists are up against is, bird's aren't interested in talking to them.  So that leaves the ornithologists to speculate, and speculation isn't the strong suite of a scientist, no matter what their field of study.

To give you an idea of how far afield speculation has lead ornithologists consider this.  In a effort to explain how a hummingbird, which they believed must consume seven times its body weight in food every twenty-four hours, can cross the gulf of Mexico when migrating, they generally accepted, until very recently, that hummingbirds flew on the backs of Canadian geese.

The issue for ornithologists, is rooted in the simple fact that all scientific observation is filtered through the notion that humans are not only the highest life form on the planet, they are also the highest life form in the universe.  

That filter for years precluded the possibility that hummingbirds could somehow bypass what is known of their metabolic system and fly directly across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter home.

That filter still prevents ornithologists from explaining how a murmuration (flock) of starlings, regardless of the number of individuals which form it, can twist and turn in absolute perfect synchronicity.  They have come closer to explaining it with a principal adopted from physicists, namely phase transition.  

As applied to a group of starlings, this proposition theorizes that at some point, a flock of starlings transforms itself into something new, as water can become ice or steam.  Since heat, or the absence of it, is required for those transitions, the ornithologists note that the transition of the starlings is initiated by an, as yet unknown force.

When we break away from the mental filter that humans are the highest forms of life on the planet and in the universe, the correct explanation reveals itself.  When starlings (and many other birds) elect to migrate, they choose to do it in the safest possible manner.  That manner is to travel as one bird, not a flock of individual birds.  To do that, they choose to become one bird.

The, as yet unknown force, that enables them to make the phase transition to oneness is simply choice - they choose to become one, and it is done.  

It is enough to make you wonder what is, in fact, the highest life form on the planet while knowing that humans aren't the holder of that title.


The High Road Chapter Twenty-Three

You'll find Chapter Twenty-three of our adventure below.

All of chapters, in order, are on The High Road page of the web site.

Thanks for riding with us,

(remember, your comments are both welcome and appreciated)

Bert and Noah

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-Two

Miss Agnes is still running on schedule.  YES!

Below is the link to Chapter Twenty-Two

All of the chapters, in order, are here.

Thanks for joining us for the trip.

Bert and Noah

Monday, January 5, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty-One

Below is the link to Chapter Twenty-One.  We will continue to record and post a new chapter every day until we've caught up with the chapters we've written.  

Currently we've finished writing Chapter Thirty-One.  With the completion of a couple of more chapters, the recording and posting should be even in a bit less than two weeks.

As we record each chapter we add it to The High Road page so if you'd like to start from the beginning or re-listen to a chapter or two, you can find them all there.

Thanks again for riding with us.

Now, enjoy Chapter Twenty-One

Bert and Noah

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The High Road Chapter Twenty

Here is Chapter Twenty for your entertainment.

All of the chapters, in order, are here

Your comments are appreciated.  

Thanks for riding with us.

Bert and Noah

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The High Road Chapter Nineteen

We've placed the link for Chapter Nineteen below.  Remember, if you've missed any of the chapters or would just like to listen again, all of the chapters are here.

Thanks for riding with us.  We hope you're having as much fun hearing our adventure as we are telling it.

Bert and Noah

Friday, January 2, 2015

Travel Safe

The young man at the car wash made one more pass along the side window with the clean cloth, then he turned toward me, and said, "You're good to go, Sir."

I looked at the gleaming vehicle and said, "It looks great.  Thanks."

He held the door open as I slid behind the wheel.  Before he closed the door, he smiled and said, "Travel safe."

I considered that and said, "Thank you.  I will."

That happened a couple of months ago, but I haven't forgotten his words, "Travel safe."  In fact, before I'd gone a block, I jotted them in my notebook, Travel Safe.

I don't know for sure, but at the time I suspected he meant I should pay attention as I drove along the streets of Huntsville, Alabama.

Later I wondered if he meant more than that.  He might have been admonishing me to travel safe as the earth rotates 1,040 miles per hour at the equator (slower as you travel north or south away from the equator), and the planet orbits the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, and our solar system orbits within our galaxy at the rate of 420,000 miles per hour, while astronomers speculate the entire galaxy is moving through the universe at the rate of 2,237,000 miles per hour.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've come to believe that he meant all of it.  That is, he meant I should travel through my life, as it orbits on its axis, and spins around the sun, and swirls around our galaxy, all the while shooting through the universe at speeds we can only guess at, in a state of full awareness, as I use all the consciousness I can grasp to do it safely.

Yep, that's what I think he meant and that's my admonition to you,

Travel Safe!

The High Road Chapter Eighteen

Thanks for rolling into the New Year with us.

Below is the link to Chapter Eighteen.  Feel free to leave a comment to let us know what you think.
Remember, all the chapters - 1 - 18 are available on the High Road Page.


Bert and Noah

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Almost everything we do on a regular basis is, at least in part, a ritual in the generally accepted definition of word ritual.

Wikipedia defines ritual this way:

A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.
Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, atonement and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties, veterans parades, Christmas shopping and more. 

Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello may be termed rituals.

In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Rituals serve us when we understand their purpose and keep that purpose in mind as we practice them.  However, all too often we practice our rituals mindlessly, thus turning them into meaningless superstition - acts to be performed rapidly and forgotten as soon as they are finished (or before).

Rituals should bring us into the moment, but when performed mindlessly they take us out of the moment and move us into mindlessness.

Early last summer, I shaved my beard off.  Late last summer, while shaving, I had a shaving epiphany.  Standing in front of the mirror with a three bladed marvel of marketing in my hand, I saw myself at age 15, being instructed in the proper use of a straight razor by the three barbers who owned the barber shop where I shined shoes.

Though I only had a few whiskers to shave at age 15, I learned to shave them properly.  In the process, I unknowingly learned the true power of ritual - using it to come totally into the moment.  It is a universal law that when you are shaving your face (or your legs) you either come into the moment or you get hurt.

The vision of my fifteen-year-old self faded in the steam swirling up from the hot water in the basin and I looked at the three-bladed atrocity in my hand and realized that I'd moved a long way from my original ritualistic experience of shaving.  In that moment, I decided to recapture the ritual of shaving.  Immediately, I knew a straight razor wasn't what I wanted to use - time spent maintaining a straight razor exceeds the time one spends using one, and there is the fear factor to be considered  when you see yourself holding a straight razor to your throat.  So I opted to recapture and practice the skill of using an old fashioned, double-edged, razor.  In the months since my shaving epiphany, I've done it.

Now, instead of engaging in a mindless expenditure of time and money at the foot of the altar in the temple built to pay homage to the marketing skills of the Gillette Safety Razor Company, I practice the ritual of shaving, real shaving.  

I went through a period of trial and error in finding the shaving tools and products that work best for me, and I've listed them below for your information.  You'll note that shaving is not only a ritual for me, it is also an international experience brought to me by my store of choice -

Germany - my razor of choice is a Merkur Long Handled Razor
Japan - my favorite blade is Feather (sometimes called the Ninja blade)
Italy - my shaving soap and aftershave are produced by Proraso
United Kingdom - My shaving brush is from Edwin Jagger

The Power of Ritual

Photo by Adrienne Wall - 12/31/14

Return the power of ritual to your life in 2015 

The High Road Chapter Seventeen

Today, the first day of the New Year, we will finish writing Chapter 31.  That means, after finally recording and publishing Chapter 16 yesterday, we are still 15 chapters behind in recording and publishing them.

So we've made a New Year's Resolution.  We will continue to write chapters at the rate of at least one a week and beginning today, Jan 1, 2015, we will record and publish here, one chapter per day until we are caught up.  So here is Chapter 17.

Remember, all of the recorded chapters are available on The High Road page of this blog.

Thanks for riding The High Road with us.  May you have a wonderful, magical 2015.

Bert and Noah