I care, you care, we all care for health care

One thing I have always felt guilty of is my lack of political views.  Do I have the liberal gene? Probably not.  But I sure as hell wouldn't say I'm conservative... sorry, Dad.  My absence of political views is likely due to my ignorance. But truthfully, I have little desire to become an informed citizen. So, as with most things in life, I go with the flow.  The hot topic of health care should appear important to me, as it will surely be impacting my life.  I think I have a side... I agree with Hippocrates.
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: 
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Everyone has a right to equal care... bla, bla, bla.

Today, there are discrepancies that for whatever reason have prevented the Hippocratic Oath from being properly followed.  It is neither a surplus of disease or lack of competent doctors that is causing this shortfall of care.  Just as healthcare should aim at disease prevention, the healthcare system should address the cause of the problem; society.  Thank you, Bernie, for making it clear to me.

Health Care Crisis in America: The Way to Avoid It
Bernie Siegel
The present health care crisis is not just related to health care; it is a crisis related to what is happening in our society. We have become depersonalized as a society, invested in technology and not the experience people are having. Consider this: studies verify what happens to children who grow up unloved and experiencing indifference, rejection and abuse -- by midlife if they haven't killed themselves and others while seeking revenge and experiencing guilt related to their actions, almost 100 percent of them have experienced a major illness, while loved children have one-fourth the serious illness rate.
Information does not resolve unhealthy behavior. People who smoke or are 200 pounds overweight are not acting out of stupidity or a lack of knowledge. What everyone needs is inspiration. When parents, teachers, clergy, doctors, politicians and other authority figures display their love for individuals they are related to or caring for the health of the planet and its residents will improve. This is not about liking what people are doing, but it is about loving them and maintaining a relationship with them until they realize they are worthy and loved. At that point they begin to follow instructions and behave in a manner that is life enhancing and not self destructive. I know this from my experience as a surgeon who did not reject his patients.
When you grow up without love what you seek are rewards and feelings that you never experienced in a healthy way. So individuals turn to addictions of drugs, food, alcohol and more as a way of rewarding themselves and numbing their pain. We need to listen to each other and treat the wounds of the individuals we are caring for and about. Studies reveal that when a patient states that their doctor listened to them during their office visit they are far more likely to take their medication and follow the doctor's advice.
Society should see parenting as a public health issue and help parents to bring their children up feeling loved. We have birthing classes but no parenting classes. The latter is desperately needed if we are to avoid self destruction. All authority figures in a person's life become either destructive or constructive parents for the individual. This includes everything from global warming to obesity. If you grow up with a sense of self worth and esteem you are far less likely to behave in a destructive and unhealthy manner towards yourself and others.
As the father of five children I know the importance of letting the children know that parental discipline comes from a sense of love for them. Then they follow directions because it gives a new sense of meaning to the message. I was called a CD by a suicidal teenager, who is alive today because I became her Chosen Dad, who loved her. We all have the potential to re-parent ourselves and others.
Doctors also need to understand that what people need is treatment of not just their diagnosis but their experience. When you ask patients what they want from their doctors they do not ask that every disease be cured but they do ask that doctors: Knock on my door, look me in the eye when they talk to me, say hello and goodbye and call me by my name.
Having a disease is an experience which varies with every individual. If you ask one hundred people with the same illness to describe their experience you will get a different answer from almost every one of them. I know from experience as a physician who has counseled cancer patients and others for decades. The words they come up with relate to their life and help me to treat them and understand their woundedness.
When a major medical journal publishes a pharmaceutical ad which reads, "I was depressed, unable to cope. I went to see my physician. I said you've got to help me. He prescribed an antidepressant and I feel wonderful now," I wrote in criticizing them for ignoring the patient's needs and responding so impersonally and asked them to insert a sentence which asked what was happening in the patient's life. They canceled the ad.
I know doctors whose salaries were capped because they talked to patients four minutes longer than the department average. The American College of Surgeons' pledge ends with, "I will deal with my patients as I would wish to be dealt with if I were in the patient's position." I gave up trying to get them to change it to care for my patients as I would wish to be cared for. The only way to avoid a health care crisis is to care for and about the people who need our care. We also should reward those who remain healthy. If I do not require a doctor's service, except for an annual physical exam, or any medications why not reward me at the end of the year with a refund or lower premium on my health insurance. If I am a safe driver I am rewarded. So why not reward me for safe and healthy living and let those who are self destructive pay the price and maybe rethink their actions if it becomes costly for them.
We also ought to be sure that all future doctors and health care executives spend a week in a hospital bed so they no longer are tourists but have the native's experience. The former CEO of the Ritz Carleton Hotels, Horst Schulze, changed the way the hotels were run after he spent time in a hospital being treated for cancer. He humanized them so employees took on the problems of their hotel residents and greeted them by name. Every employee gets a list of 20 behavior patterns that they are to adopt. Some hospitals have used this list when I gave them a copy.
We also need to understand that we have something to learn from patients who do better than expected. There are cases of self-induced healing and we can learn about survival behavior from these people and teach it to others. Relationships, connections, meaning all are survival behavior qualities. It is no accident that women live longer than men with the same cancers and that married men live longer than single men and have less lung cancer than single men if they are both smokers. 
We could cancel Monday and reduce the rate of heart attacks, strokes, suicides and other illnesses. Truth is that wouldn't work because Tuesday would now be the problem. Again we need to teach people how to cope with stress and how to control their depression, fears and other self-destructive emotions. Your body loves you but if you do not love your life it will end it far sooner, thinking it is doing you a favor.
Mind-body medicine should not be an "alternative," nor should complementary and integrative medicine be something doctors are not exposed to during their training. Medical journals which are supported by pharmaceutical advertising do not print articles which would expose doctors to alternative therapies. When patients are diagnosed with an illness they should be given instructions, not just a pill to swallow, about how to enhance their immune function and act like someone with an immune competent personality.
Psychiatrist George Solomon saw the benefits of such behavior early on when working with HIV positive patients, and I see it in cancer patients and others. Doctors need to be teachers. Doctors also aren't trained in mind body medicine. They are not told about Carl Jung interpreting a dream and diagnosing a brain tumor. Yes, mind and body communicate and the inner wisdom is also vital to survival. The patient's beliefs affect the outcome of therapy. When chemotherapy is portrayed as the devil giving you poison you are in big trouble. So doctors need to be taught how to communicate and enhance our healing potential. Scalpels can kill or cure and so can words become swords.
Survival behavior means people should not be submissive, suffering patients but respants, or responsible participants. One hundred thousand people a year die from medical errors. Patients need to be known as people and not by their disease or room number. We need to humanize the system for both the doctor and the patient. Then doctors will know how to deal with their feelings and loss and not just think and separate themselves from their patients so they will feel less pain if their patient dies. There are many famous paintings showing the doctor sitting next to the patient's bed, chin in hand, thinking while their patient is dying. We need to reach out and touch each other and to quote a young man who died of AIDS. "What is evil is not the disease but to not treat the person with the disease with compassion." 
My life as a physician was changed when my patient with breast cancer said to me, "You're a nice guy. I feel better when I am in the office with you. But I can't take you home with me, so I need to know how to live between office visits." I started support groups to help them to learn. I was amazed at how few patients came to the groups when I offered them a longer better life if they attended. I learned that if you grew up with guilt, shame and blame, due to parents, teachers and religions, you were afraid to participate in your own well being. That is why the group became ECaP or Exceptional Cancer Patients. What I learned was when you helped people to live they derived physical benefits from their new joyful life and didn't die when they were supposed to. The best hospices have graduations and drop outs too.
If I were in charge of health care I would also reward those people and companies who show the benefits of treatments that they can't patent. A tax deduction or some other financial reward would help lead them to investigate more natural therapies and treatments rather than reject them as unproven or unknown.
I have continued to run support groups for over 30 years. I have also benefited from the therapy. I have learned that people are not statistics and that we have to help them to achieve their potential and not see death as a failure or lost battle. When we see disease as the enemy and only focus on killing the disease, we empower our enemy. As Mother Teresa said, "I will not attend an anti-war rally but if you ever have a peace rally call me." 
We need to help people to heal their lives and bodies and benefit from the healing and the internal environment it creates. We give messages and instructions to our genes and so our lifestyle and personality all affect our vulnerability. Just as bacteria, viruses and plant life alter their genes to survive antibiotics, vaccines and the environment, so can we. Medicine needs to focus on the people with the illness and not just the disease.
Without first adapting the mindset of society, the healthcare system will fail.  It doesn't matter if Obama is running the show or if its this genius Bernie Siegel.  So how might the mindset of society change?  Obviously by a giant asteroid impacting the earth on 12/21/2012. DUH.



Autumn's in the air

Back in AZ, I always enjoyed it.  Liberation from the dreadful summer, Halloween parties, pumpkins and other gourds, and of course Thanksgiving feasts and family birthdays.  These are things that reminded me of Autumn.  I was obviously aware of the nature part; the metamorphosis of trees and leaves associated with this season.  However, living in the desert for the first quarter of my life, I was sheltered from a real 'winter,' and therefore also deprived of nature's transition to the cold.  That being said, my colorblinded eyes have been brought to life in recent weeks here in the 'great plains' of Hungary.  I have really enjoyed the trees, the leaves, and the weather.

I have been enjoying it even more since I recently refined my Gazelle.  This 1960s era bike probably never had a big american guy romp it around the forest quite like I did.  After I broke a few spokes and bent the rear rim, I let it wobble around for a couple weeks before I went in for an upgrade - bling bling single speed coaster break style.  And, a little 15% discount at the shop... FDub has got some competition.

And now, the feature presentation...



What does brilliance sound like?

Why have I just discovered this man?


I thought I was

Maybe I'm not.

I don't think that I have properly evolved.



Consumption by numbers

I will share some useless information regarding my food intake.  Keep in mind that though these numbers are guestimations, they are also fairly accurate.

  • 0.5 - kilos of oatmeal
  • 11 - delicious ripe bananas
  • 10 - persian cucumbers
  • 1 - jar of nut butter
  • 250 - grams of spinach
  • 800 - grams of beans
  • 6 - servings of yogurt
  • 10 - Hungarian apples
  • 25 - tea bags
  • 200 - grams of arugula
  • 33 - large carrots
  • 15 - Wasa crackers
  • 5 - ripe tomatoes
  • 4 - handfuls of almonds
  • 6 - spoonfulls of mystery cheese
  • 5 - fresh pears
  • a few - various sandwiches from work
  • 3 - Hungarian "paprikas"
  • 2 - heads of broccoli
  • 13 - mushrooms
  • 150 - grams of lentils
+ a few random goodies (aka - chocolate animal cookies) here and there.

From the words of Wyatt, "a bunch of healthy bullshit."  But its the healthy bullshit straight from the earth that I crave these days, so back off.  And, its also super cheap.

No, I am not a vegetarian.  I am simply scared of buying/cooking meat here, probably due to my ignorance.

BA - out


Hungry Hungary Hippos

The United States is infamously world renowned for being large and in charge.  Obesity is a major factor leading to diabetes and heart disease, two serious health concerns, affecting more and more people at younger and younger ages.  Yeah, something needs to be done about it.  And things are being done, finally, as society becomes willing to change.

In addition to being the home of some of the fattest people in the world, the US also succeeds in spreading its unhealthy ways globally.  Hungary's second largest city of Debrecen has very little American influence.  The main influences, however, happen to be in the fast food industry.  McDonalds first opened here about 15 years ago.  Within the past 3 or 4 years, KFC and Burgerking chains have been successfully added to the city's fast food repertoire. People often ask if I eat such fast food, and are usually astonished by my quick response of, "hell no."  "But you're American..." they respond.  

Out of all the great things that come from America, why is it that this bullshit becomes globally successful?  Undeserving corporations become affluent as unhealthy ways are adopted by naive cultures all while reinforcing the image of fat, lazy Americans.  Great.

Although the introduction of genetically modified and processed unhealthy foods by American corporations has not triggered a Hungarian obesity problem de novo, it definitely sends the wrong message.

With or without the adoption of American fast food, Hungarians don't have the healthiest of diets.  One of my first meals here I went out and ordered the 'fitness special' - I thought it would be a safe route, but turned out to be fried chicken over a bed of oily yellow rice.  Not bad, but not what you may think to be a 'fitness' meal.  Meat, oil, potatoes, cabbage, oil, cheese, and oil are staples of the Hungarian diet.  

That being said, I don't eat out much.  I take advantage of the markets where there are decent fruits and vegetables to be found...

... as well as stinky vats of pickled everything. 

Although the food isn't up my alley, it is a big part of the culture here.  Culture is something that I have unconditional respect for, regardless of its ingredients, stench, or appearance.



Seek high ground

I remember when I first heard about the Mayan prophecy.  I have to admit that I am to some extent a believer.  As you know, I am not the only one...  The fact that one of the oldest and most accurate calendars ends in 2012 isn't because some Mayan dude got tired of counting.  I don't think that an asteroid will hit earth, the polar ice caps will melt, or human existence will be terminated.  However, I think the high occurrence of catastrophic natural disasters in recent times is in no way coincidental.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and toxic sludge have drawn the attention of humanity at a high cost.  I recently came across a really great paper that parallels my views that I'd like to share.

New Dreams and Nature of 2012 - John Perkins 

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~Albert Einstein
In the next few weeks I will lecture at the University of Pittsburgh, the World Affairs Council, San Francisco's Green Festival, Sustainability conferences at Omega and the University of Massachusetts, and a number of other venues.
My co-facilitator Llyn Roberts - of Dream Change - and I will teach the first half of a 16-day Shapeshifting Apprenticeship at Omega and prepare to lead our Prophets Conference December 2010 trip to the Maya of Guatemala where participants will explore the true meaning of the 2012 prophecies with Mayan elders and shamans. I mention all of this because my schedule reflects, I believe, the tidal wave of change that is flooding human consciousness.
The tidal wave is coming as our dreams and our every day lives burst through the old and tired barriers of economically driven greed and return to the foundations of a sustainable and just life for each person in every community.
Our consciousness is changing our perceptions of ourselves and our social and cultural institutions, and this in turn is changing our lifestyles. We hear the indigenous people telling us how everything is tied together, that the spirit of the stone and the spirit of the mountain are inextricably linked to our own spirits. We are dreaming a powerful new way of living within nature, not "conquering" or destroying her.
Every indigenous culture i have worked with believes in the incredible power of dreams. Many equate dreams with the latent energy of the seed and embryo. Their beliefs are not unlike Carl Jung's theory that humanity's collective unconscious contains the knowledge of all past and future events and that dreams are a key for tapping into this vast library of information.
"Dreaming" is the most powerful thing we do in life. It forms the bases for our perceptions, attitudes, emotions, motivations and actions. It occurs all the time, at both conscious and subconscious levels; while we are working, driving our cars, preparing food, reading and watching television -- as well as during sleep. Individual dreams affect the courses of our lives; collective dreams determine the futures of civilization.
The past, the future, the present: we have the ability to blend them into one. We can transform ourselves and our cultures. All we have to do is dream a new dream, give it energy, and it will happen.
Knowing that we truly live in parallel worlds, we also understand that everything is one and it is all occurring concurrently. This means that all the great teachers, wise elders, and shamans are here now, ready to help us. Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Socrates, Einstein. . . their power is here with us today and it is awesome. This also explains why so many people -- including traditional medical doctors, physicists , and psychologists -- are suddenly being drawn to these "alternative" ways of thinking.
So now more than ever, it is up to us to continue to move forward in our journey of greater consciousness and awareness. I am struck by the signs that we are indeed poised to experience events foretold by the Mayan prophecy of 2012. And I view all these signs with a very positive bent.
Although there are many different interpretations of this prophecy, the one most widely accepted by the Maya teachers I know is taken from the Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation myth. Far from predicting a Hollywood-style doomsday, it holds out the possibility of positive transformation. In its simplest form, the people overthrow an egotistical regime characterized by exploitation and deception and replace it with an enlightened and compassionate one. In the process, the people have to surrender their own egos and endure material and environmental hardships.
December 21, 2012 was identified by the Maya as the time when this transformation will become most obvious. It was an auspicious date for them because their astrologers predicted that at that moment the sun would move into alignment with the center of the Milky Way. Modern scientists, not the Mayas, offer theories that the earth's climate and magnetic poles may be changing.
Whether or not you believe in this Mayan prophecy, you -- we -- can agree that our consciousness is shifting. With the success of the movie Avatar and real-life victories of indigenous tribes against the corporatocracy in places like Ecuador and Bolivia, we experience the deep power of our dreams for a better world. We are dreaming and demanding sustainability.

I believe the real message of 2012 is a call to action based on the knowledge that we can transform ourselves. It echoes down through the centuries from a people who built the magnificent pyramids that continue to enthrall and mystify visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula and who also created one of history's most accurate calendars -- the one that ends in 2012.
So, as I head out to these speaking engagements, I feel that the real tidal wave is not the one shown in movies that attempt to terrify us about a coming doomsday; rather, we are experiencing a tidal wave of changing consciousness.
I know you will be one of those swept up in this tidal wave, who dreams new dreams and, by doing so, joins our partnership to transform the world. looking forward to riding this wave with you.

Thank you, Mr. Perkins.



Not born to run

I like to run.  I truly do.  I have never been a terrific runner, and nor will I ever be, but I enjoy it nonetheless.  For a while, running didn't like me.  The ground preferred that I didn't frolic on it, and to make itself clear, the ground attempted to injure me.  Every muscle and joint between the hips and the ankles took a beating.

Yes, the ground is unforgiving, but what changed?  I don't think my mechanics changed.  Was I just getting old?  That couldn't be... or could it?  I don't know, but I did know something had to change.  I had enough of the vicious injury --> recovery cycle.  I was ready to be patient and put speed and distance aside and learn to run for real.

I am not typically one to promote products or ideas, but I feel as though not doing so wouldn't be fair.  Its like one of those 'secrets' that is so obvious.  I am a rational, left brained human.  Things need to make sense in order for me to believe.  I recently came across a methodical approach to running that makes complete physical sense.  People have been running this way most likely since the beginning of time.  This efficient running method has been marketed by the name Chi Running, making it appealing to new age folk in touch with ones' bodies, while quite possibly scaring off others who are intimidated by such a concept.  Though 'chi,' or energy, is essential to life, this running method doesn't have as much to do with this intangible energy, as it does basic physics.  Mainly, using gravity to work with you rather than against you.

Without further adieu...

I also found these helpful, because have never been quite aware of what my feet should be doing down there.

Hey, I'm a pronator.

So, I have only been running this way for a tad over a week, but finding the 'chi' groove is easy, and once found, it feels awesome.



1-2-3-4, I declare a thumb war

So, it's been about a year since that pivotal day in my life.  The day my lack of experience on two wheels in the dirt back fired.  The day I gave that rock in the Tucson desert a flying high five.  The so called 'crisis' leading to my 1/4 life crisis.

Is my thumb all better? - No.

My range of motion with my right thumb is still far less than that of the left.  When approaching the limits of that motion it I still have quite a bit of pain.  If I were a professional thumb wrestler, my career would be over.  Out of alllll the scars on my body, this one is most meaningful.  

With a few pins, the fragments of my trapezium fused leading to a pretty normal looking/functioning thumb.  For that, I thank Dr. Siegel.

It's hard to say whether or not this whole 1/4 life crisis thing would have happened if it weren't for the 'crisis.'  I'm not talking about this stupid blog but simply a slight change in perspective of life.  Perception is reality.  Reality is your path in life.  Your path depends on your desired destination.  Everyone's desire is different.  The only constant variable in this equation is the fact that things change.

Though its all crystal clear now, who knows where my mind would be if I didn't fly over my handlebars that afternoon.



The gift

I recently received a gift.  A gift that changed the world as I know it.  A gift so meaningful that its the first thing on my mind every morning when I wake up.  Its' essence is somehow incorporated into my life daily after 2 months of nothingness.  This gift, however, must be treated carefully.  It possesses a sort of magical energy.  An energy quantified around 100 kcal/tbsp, that if abused, could have adverse effects on my life.  I could be talking of none other than...
6 jars... creamy, crunchy, cinnamon raisin, almond, sunflower, and one which I have not messed around with until recently... the chocolate hazelnut butter.

This gift was welcomed back into my life with open arms... and a spoon.  Although I wish its existence in the cupboard were eternal, I fear the sad day when my spoon desperately scrapes the inside of the last jar.  Leaving unobtainable smears.  Smears that my tongue would easily clean, if only it were long and flexible.

For now, I must avoid thoughts of such a day and simply savor it.


P.S. Thank you, Suter family.


Don't ask me why

Time lapse videos excite me.

3 Years At The Same Place (english version) from Ramon on Vimeo.

Time Lapse Tour of Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.

I'm glad my life ticks away just one second at a time.  Sometimes even that seems too fast.



Ahhh yea.

COOOOL! I wanna go!

Happy 10-10-10 ya'll.



passion deficiency syndrome

He had locked himself in a room in the hospital, placed a large needle in his vein and injected himself with a drug that so effectively paralyzed his muscles he was unable to breathe.
Or call for help.
This was from a NYT article about Medical student distress, burnout, and risk of suicide.  In my opinion, it is the people that embark down the long road of practicing medicine for the wrong reasons who will find themselves in this position.

In Hungary, a first year medical student was asking me about doctor salaries in the U.S.  His dream is to come to America after medical school to practice since doctors in the U.S. are well paid and highly respected compared to other parts of the world.  I told him that the U.S. is a great place to live and to work, but if he was planning on becoming a doctor purely to gain money and respect, he should reevaluate his choices... especially being that he was only a few weeks into 10+ yrs of school and training before a life filled with practicing medicine.

I am not a doctor. I am not a resident. I am not a medical student. But, I want to be. I told this young first year student that I don't want to pursue this path in order to seek wealth or respect.  I told him that I wanted to be a doctor because I learned through trial and error in university that the one thing that I am most passionate about in this world is the human body.  Being a doctor will let me continuously learn and work with my passion while providing two positive outcomes: my self fulfillment as a byproduct of bettering a patient's health.

This young student looked at me as if he had never heard such nonsense in his life. Then he said, "You will be a good doctor."  It made me happy to hear, even if it was only the endorsement of an 18 year old Korean kid that I had gotten.

The above article tries to figure out the problem that is leading to medical professionals having unstable mental states.  To me its quite evident that these 'burner outers' who become distressed and depressed in life have chosen to pursue a career for the wrong reasons. Whether its medicine or being an astronaut, there has to be passion. DUH.



Chapters in my life were once defined by what my life seemed to be revolving around during any given moment.  From a young age, I tightly grasped hobbies and ideas, making them a big part of my life, often becoming obsessions.

  • In elementary school it was math.  I loved math homework.  I attended math camp during the summer.  I did math for fun.
  • Then, skateboarding.  Day and night.  Rain or shine.  I sacrificed a lot of time and energy to get hurt, break some bones, and do some stupid stuff.  I thought it was the cool thing to do of course.
  • Come high school, it was baseball.  I played every season, even during 120 degree summer days in Phx.  I sacrificed other sports such as soccer and swimming to focus on baseball.  I worked at a baseball training facility.  I had baseballs on my bed frame (still do).  I even gave baseballs with my face on them out as 'party favors' at my bar mitzvah (that was before high school, of course).
  • In the beginning of college, after settling down a bit, I guess you could say that I became obsessed with school.  I over studied and over stressed myself during the first couple years.  I thought good marks were all that mattered.
  • Desperate for some balance, I found triathlon.  Swimming, biking, and running was all I cared about for a solid year of my life.  I knew I wasn't particularly fast, but that didn't matter.  Life often revolved around training.
  • I had a realization, asked myself why I cared so much to be competitive, and became obsessed with riding bikes for fun.  Mountain bikes, road bikes, fixies, beach cruisers.  If it had two wheels, I wanted it between my legs.
  • When injured and unable to ride a bike, I quickly embraced art and started painting just about every day.

Now, what? - Yea, I have a bike. I still enjoy running.  I like academics, and baseball is still cool, I guess.  I have started lifting some weights again, like back in the baseball days. I have even forced myself to enjoy reading, and learned to like cooking.  My point is, for the first time in my life, I don't have an 'obsession.'  There is not one thing that dominates, and it feels pretty good.

1/4 of my life was driven by my passion for things rather than for life itself.  I know it may sound like an odd realization, but to me it seems important.  Though it may have been simply brought about by being deprived of my 'real' bikes (my latest 'obsessions'), I am glad nonetheless.



Adriatic Fanatic

I consider myself a fortunate young man. I think that in the first quarter of my life I have been to some pretty awesome places and have had a number of very inspiring experiences, a few of which I have shared with the world through this blog. I have been contemplating all day whether or not my experiences during the last few days belong at the top of this growing list, and have decided that they indeed do. I will try and gather my thoughts, organize my photos, and explain why this past long weekend getaway was so moving.

It starts with Anuska (...my sister's... fiance's.... parents'.... neighbor.... HA!) - and an amazing woman, who I now consider my closest friend over the age of my parents. Anuska is from Gradac, a small town between Split and Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast in what is now Croatia, formally Yugoslavia. Though I would consider Gradac to be one of the farthest points from a tourist destination that I have personally been, it has transformed significantly in that direction since the 1940s, when Anuska lived here. She was born in a lovely room of a lovely house (where I slept my first 2 nights in Dalmatia) and grew up with two younger sisters, both of whom I had the pleasure of getting to know. I could go on for about 294 pages (the length of her recently finished book filled of stories of her youth which I have begun to read) about Anuska and her wonderful family, but I will instead now get into what I was up to while visiting the coast of this beautiful segment of land along the crystal blue Adriatic sea.

I usually like to tell highlights of vacations and avoid boring mush, but every bite of fresh caught fish, every step along the pebbled beaches, every drop of fresh red wine, every site of pristine land, every swim in the crystal clear water, and every minute spent with new amazing friends was a highlight. I will let the pictures do most of the talking.
I was humbled by Anuska's sister and her 73 old husband who hiked up the 750 meter mountain with me (Hans, the husband, had just finished swimming to the next village and back... a couple km... no big deal) Older people who are active and in shape inspire me.

The following day, left Gradac bright and early to depart from Ploce, cross the Peljesac peninsula, depart from Orebic, arrive at Korcula, and zig zag through the island to Poplat, near Vela Luka... as seen on the handy dandy map.

Arriving at the peninsula

Departing from Orebic

Marco Polo's hometown

View in the direction of Italy from island of Korcula

Friends of Anuska seem to have somethings in common; they are all extremely generous and welcoming, and they all have amazing artistic talent.

The afternoon was spent indulging in fresh and delicious local cuisine and liter after liter of wine while enjoying pristine views and fresh air, perched hill side in a secluded cove at the most amazing, handbuilt home. Ante Marinovic has spent the last 40+ years of his life working on every slight detail of this work of art. He has put thought into literally every stone used, making up everything from the pillars to the detailed mosaics and now lives here with his lovely Ella, who is also an incredible artist.
Room with a view

Anuska's famous massage

Eros and Psyche mosaic

40+ years in progress

Sunset swim

Where in the world is this paradise?

This was just a 'pre-game' for later festivities. We cruised around Vela Luka checking out friends' homes and artwork as we continued to indulge. These were not your typical 'starving artists.'

The pre-game gang - in the latest piece of work by Milly (mustache man). Milly, inspired by his friend Ante, constructed (and made the furniture in) this beautiful cottage... no big deal...

After sleeping to the rhythm of the waves crashing, we woke up to travel back to mainland. From Vela Luka, passed Hvar, and to Split we arrived. Just in time for more deliciousness and some high speed site seeing - Anuska/Ben style - so I could catch my flight 'home.'
Anuska rubbing her lucky big toe

I miss my tall, white haired, hospitable friend. She and her Dalmatian friends and family showed me that growing old doesn't have to suck. I learned that it is important to figure out what you want and work for it. No one can stand in your way of having some fun on your journey. Every grape, bite of fresh fish, and sip of wine was sweeter this weekend and for that I thank Anuska.