Category Archives: Beginnings

2015 – A New Blank Page

Another year of my life – and yours has just slipped away. A year in which I did much, but not nearly enough of what was on my maybe-unrealistic annual to-do list. But being of the self-flagellating persuasion, I just re-read my motivational post written exactly a year ago. No, the year did not fail me, nor I the year. But the overflow from last year’s projects and intentions will be more than sufficient to fill 2015. In this new year the emphasis will be a different one.
It will most definitely be on the writing. In fact, I’ve just been invited to join a secret society of writers, the sole purpose of which is motivational. Nothing like encouragement from other like-minded people to get you onto your backside in front of that computer (but, no, NOT on social media!!) to work at those stories brewing inside your being, to get them flowing from brain to arms to fingers tapping on keyboard. Thank you, new friends, for including me in this venture!
To other friends who find making plans and setting goals either futile or too daunting, I wish you a year that changes your mind. And maybe, in reality, those goals and plans do exist. You just aren’t opening your eyes.

dchubbardwrites

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Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Last night we were invited to a party with old friends, good food, freely flowing inebriants and a fireworks display, solely for the purpose of celebrating the advent of the New Year. No doubt a great many of you did the same. And a great many of you (I won’t include myself since I was the designated driver) woke up at midday a bit worse for wear. Never mind. Who’s counting anyway?

Backtracking to 12:30 a.m, when the hubbub of cracking explosives, kissing and hugging, and the slurping of bubbly had subsided to a virtual quietude amongst the guests, I asked the fatal question:

Has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?

And what exactly was on their lists?

The response was a deafening cacophony of denial. No one had bothered to make – or even think about – what they…

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Filed under Beginnings, Endings, Fiction and Other Truths, Seasonal Reflections

PEACE ON EARTH??

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The Peace Bridge author is getting ready to shut down this device for the Holidays and do lots of real-time interacting with family and friends for the next couple of days.
I’d like to wish you peace for Christmas. It is such a precious commodity for its being so rare. Every year the situation on the world stage seems to deteriorate that much more. Or are we just more aware of it, with our never-ending flow of news – BAD news!
There are brief flashes of good news. For example, two grandbabies have just been born – one of them is a friend’s, the other is our very first.What kind of legacy will we be leaving them?

Since I don’t believe in praying to God, I’m praying to you to reach out with a simple act to make the world a more peaceful place. You and I won’t be able to influence world politics to any extent, but if we start close to home, in our neighborhood and in our towns, maybe small kindnesses will swell into larger ones.
I’m thinking specifically of the refugees flooding into Europe from the countries that are war-torn and sinking into chaos. I’m thinking it’s time to do something hands-on to help make them more welcome in our societies which must appear so totally foreign to them. I’m thinking 2015 is the right time to pitch in with more than words. How does that old saying go?

Many hands make light work.

Yeah, that’s it!

Wishing you peace on earth.

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GERMAN REUNIFICATION – 25 YEARS AGO

WE’VE COME SO FAR – WE MUSTN’T TURN BACK

I am shaking off the stupor caused by house-related renovations to comment on a breath-taking event that took place 25 years ago. Throughout the spring and summer of 1989, the situation in the German Democratic Republic escalated. East German “tourists” went on holiday to Czechoslovakia and Hungary – just about the only places they were allowed to travel. But they did not return home. They ended up camping on the grounds of the German embassies in Prague, Budapest and even Vienna, while behind-the-scenes frantic diplomacy was deciding their fate.

Back in East Germany, while the powers-that-were were gearing up to celebrate the up-coming 40-year birthday of the German Democratic Republic (DDR) in October, activists in Leipzig and Dresden and other eastern cities continued their weekly Monday Demonstrations. The meetings and marches were non-violent and centered around the Protestant Church, an institution just about tolerated by the government. Plenty of “unofficial” Stasi operatives took part, to be sure.

What did these people want anyway? Just everyday things really. Like being allowed to travel unhindered and not be walled in. Like the freedom to speak their minds without fear of arrest. Like not being spied on by neighbors and “friends” who had been enlisted for this purpose by the Stasi – the secret state security police. Just simple things really, things we in the West have always taken for granted.

Of course on the west side of the wall, West Germans watched expectantly, fearfully. There was no telling where it would all end. And from past experience, there was a good chance it would not end well. But bit by bit, the regime granted concessions. And then, almost by accident, on November 9th the wall opened. People turned up at various Berlin border crossings, demanding to be let through. East German border guards who were not able to get any clear orders from above, raised the barriers. Thank heavens, they had no desire to fire on their own.

And my husband and I watched this spectacle, wide-eyed and incredulous, from the comfort of our West German living room, along with most other “Wessis” (West Germans). From one day to the next, separated families could be reunited, ordinary “Ossis” (East Germans) could suddenly go where they pleased. And over the following months the road taken in Trabis and Wartburgs would lead to what became an inevitable destination: reunification.

Those were heady days, weeks and months. We became addicted to following the news reports on TV and radio, anxious to hear of the next unbelievable milestone in the journey to once again becoming one Volk. And 25 years later a generation has grown up that did not know the sorrow of a Germany rent in two by the post-World War II settlements. Those young people can’t imagine what it means not to be free.

And although the east of the country still lags behind economically, huge strides have been made, billions have been invested in infrastructure. BMW builds cars in Leipzig, VW in Dresden. Berlin is now, once again as it should be, the capital of the country. Both the Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Federal President, Joachim Gauck, hail from the east.

Of course, the fall of the inner-German border was just the beginning. Along with it, the entire Iron Curtain came crashing down and the Soviet Union dissolved. Voila, the end of the Cold War and the commencement of a new world order.

Unfortunately, black shadows loom overhead. Need I list the crises that dominate the news every night? The new world order has not brought world peace but new instability. One of the crises in particular seems to me to be so stoppable. That would be the Ukraine.

Why, dear Mr Putin, do you want to go backwards rather than forwards?
I wish he’d give us an answer.

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Filed under Beginnings, Cities, Endings, German History, Remembering

The Wooden Leg

100 years ago today Russia declared war on Germany and the fatal circus that had already begun between Austria and Serbia began its rise to global dimensions. In the course of 1914 there were 22 declarations of war.

This morning I heard on the radio a fascinating persepective from a man whose grandfather was wounded early in the war. A very young August Müller lost his leg and his war service was over. Every year that loss was remembered and celebrated within their family. On first consideration, it seems a weird thing to celebrate.But think about it. If August Müller had not lost his leg, he may well have stayed in the war long enough to lose his life. Considering the number of dead in that war – 17 million on all sides including civilians – this would not have been surprising. Thus this particular branch of the Müller family has August’s wooden leg to thank that they are living and thriving today, 100 years later.

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Filed under Beginnings, German History, Remembering, World Wars

Too Busy…

My New Year’s goals and project planning are already proving a great success. All sorts of jobs are in the works and keeping me busy.

TOO BUSY TO BLOG.

How’s a girl supposed to write blog posts without having some time to think? How’s the same girl supposed to work on the novel-in-progress when she’s occupied with more mundane items like clearing out the living room? And I mean CLEARING OUT in caps! Everything has to be moved out in preparation for painting and new flooring.

I am a victim of my own organizational success. So please bear with me while I work my way through some of those To-Do List points. When I’ve had the pleasure of ticking a few off, I’ll return as a more reliable blogger.

…that is, if I manage to come to grips with Windows 8. I was forced to declare my beloved 7-yr-old desktop (with XP) for dead . However, during those years Microsoft was not standing still – although not all forward movement is progress, and I must now reboot this ol’ brain to a new system.

Of course, it’s all my own fault, for another aspect of my malaise is that so many projects have been ignored over several years due to the single-mindedness (stubbornness?) that somehow got me through writing and publishing The Peace Bridge. Wouldn’t it be great to have it both ways? To be submerged in the writing and still get those necessary – and satisfying – home projects done. A clone would be the answer, but I’m not sure that’ll happen in my lifetime. Looks like just being (one) human, with the usual backlog on the To-Do List, will have to suffice.

How are you doing with your 2014 goals? Any successes to report? Would love to hear from you.

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Filed under Beginnings, Fiction and Other Truths, Goals

INERTIA

…can be a great help. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My last post was all about grabbing 2014 by the…hair on its head and making it count. Since I wrote it, I’ve read some other views on resolutions and must conclude that the word carries with it much too much hopelessness. Resolutions are made to be broken.

Going through my own private and personal “resolutions” for the New Year, I discovered I hadn’t even used the word when writing them. I’d written about GOALS, a more positive term, one associated with actually getting things done, a term used by businesses across the globe. So if I mean business, I must talk GOALS.

In the first few days of the year, I have to admit that exhaustion overcame me whenever I looked at the list of goals I’d saddled myself with. Everyone’s worst enemy (Well, it’s at least near the top of the list of the worst enemies we have to face…) is INERTIA. I spent 2013 NOT getting on with some very important goals. I blame it on inertia. I did, indeed, have some pretty good reasons for part of my inactivity. But they were not really good enough.

When I did have time to act, inertia was keeping me from getting that ol’ ball rolling, making me think: I really ought to get on with________ (insert any goal here). However, the project in question loomed on the horizon as an insurmountable mountain. So what have we got there?

Newton’s First Law at work! Our long-dead but favorite physicist Issac Newton (1642-1727) formulated it for us with scientific precision:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Newton’s first law describes an object’s desire to resist a change in motion. How often does that describe any one of us, busily doing our couch potato imitation?

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So do we give up and keep reading the newspaper or zapping the TV remote? That’s one conclusion we can draw. But somehow I discovered, if I could just bring into play the above-mentioned “unbalanced force”, maybe I could move my tushie.

I’m not exactly sure which force finally unbalanced my inertia, but something seems to have done so. Fourteen days into the New Year, I have actually started several of the projects  that are written in indelible computer screen ink. Sometimes all it took was a phone call or an email to set off a chain reaction that forced me to follow on with the necessary next step. Whatever works.

What this means, of course, is that the second part of Newton’s First, about an object in motion staying in motion, has now got me moving. And suddenly I’m thinking, INERTIA is probably my best friend. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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2014 – A Blank Page

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Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere!

Last night we were invited to a party with old friends, good food, freely flowing inebriants and a fireworks display, solely for the purpose of celebrating the advent of the New Year. No doubt a great many of you did the same. And a great many of you (I won’t include myself since I was the designated driver) woke up at midday a bit worse for wear. Never mind. Who’s counting anyway?

Backtracking to 12:30 a.m, when the hubbub of cracking explosives, kissing and hugging, and the slurping of bubbly had subsided to a virtual quietude amongst the guests, I asked the fatal question:

Has everybody made their New Year’s resolutions?

And what exactly was on their lists?

The response was a deafening cacophony of denial. No one had bothered to make – or even think about – what they could do with 2014.

It could be that I’ve been reading far too much motivational material to help psyche me for the work at hand, but I was surprised, and a bit disappointed at their reaction. Each of us goes to such lengthens to extend our lives, but to what purpose? Not that I’m suggesting we all have to take on unrealistic, unachievable goals, but maybe we should become more aware of the passing of time and how profligately we throw it out the window. For suddenly, we may find that the commodity we most cherish has run out on us.

A few days ago I took stock of 2013, how it let me down and how I let it down. Then I began thinking about my priorities for 2014. These kinds of assessments are very private and personal. They don’t have to be shared with anyone. So I don’t have to confess at the end of the year whether I succeeded or whether I fell short. Unless I want to. And as a typical member of the human race, I am more inclined to share the successes rather than the failures. But if I think about it, failures aren’t written in stone. I can keep working at those issues and maybe I can move them to the positive side of the balance sheet.

If I keep my eyes on my priorities, I can transform the blank page that is 2014 into a worthy story.

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Buffalo, New York – Armpit of the East?

Trimmed with art-deco

  Buffalo’s art-deco City Hall stands proud on the skyline

Today your intrepid blogger is checking in with you from her hometown, Buffalo, New York. Situated on Lake Erie, Buffalo was once home to prosperous steel, car and flour milling industries. It succumbed to the changing fortunes of those manufacturers, caused by the rise of new technologies and foreign competition.

The city was relegated, along with many other American cities, to the ranks of the Rust Belt. It became the brunt of endless jokes, my favorite (if I’m allowed one) comes up in the musical A Chorus Line. When one of the dancers confesses that when living in Buffalo, he was so depressed he considered killing himself. But he soon realized:  Committing suicide in Buffalo was redundant.

This is my first visit “home” in about 16 years and it’s given me the opportunity to counter some of this bad press. Buffalo ain’t what it used to be. It’s bouncing back, re-creating itself in a 21st century incarnation that will – hopefully – equip it for sustained growth in this still-young millennium.

Today I had the privilege of being taken on a guided tour by a native Buffalonian Booster who showed us where the city was heading.  And I am talking about serious inner-city redevelopment. Our guide, Peter Z, told us the mantra is Med/ Ed.

Several world-reknowned medical research enterprises have led the way by building state-of-the-art facilities in Buffalo’s city center. The University of Buffalo is boldly following suit and also moving its medical campus downtown. The face of the city is being tranformed.

Introducing students to the area – moving them in from the suburban campuses – brings in fresh young blood. It’s not unknown for students from elsewhere to graduate and stay to settle down in there newly acquired hometown.

These developments reflect the daunting challenge facing every city in every country in the developed world: demographics. A population increasingly suffering from diseases that typically afflict the ageing will require more medical facilities and research to better fight those ailments. Jobs in the medical care professions are bound to proliferate.

As we cruised along streets lined with old factories, we were confronted by buildings impressively rejuvenated to house offices and lofts and the amenities needed to serve the inhabitants. There are still many more properties requiring the same treatment, but the word on the street is that real estate prices are rising as we speak.

Meanwhile down on the waterfront, the decaying harbor facilities necessary for Buffalo’s once-thriving industrial life are being aggressively replaced by water-side promenades and gardens to create leisure options for all of those professionals now working – and even living – downtown.

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NO MORE ARMPIT

Optimism is the word to describe the smell of the air in Buffalo these days. Although it may still have a long road to travel to regain its former glory and affluence, the city is well on its way. I wish it well on its odyssey.

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Princely Entertainment to Distract Us During this Summer Stupor

A little English boy has appeared on the scene to charm us.

Since the weather across great swathes of the northern hemisphere has finally decided to behave more seasonally, most of us have gone into vacation modus – regardless of whether we’re on hols or not. It’s the time of year to pretend it’s not at all important:

(1) That the NSA is keeping tabs on us across the world, listening in on our calls, tracking our emails, (watching every time we head for the bathroom).

(2) That Edward Snowdon, a man who opened our eyes,  is a hunted and haunted figure who may never ever feel safe again no matter what country finally grants him exile.

(3) That people are dying daily in their fight for self-determination in the Middle East and in many other parts of the globe.

(4) That terrorists somewhere are, as I write, planning the next attack on innocent bystanders.

At the same time, in London, a huge fuss is being made over a new-born.On the evening of his birth, he was the only news in Britain. Last night I tuned into the BBC and enjoyed watching Mr and Mrs Cambridge leaving St Mary’s Hospital in London, cradling their one-day-old son. Mr Cambridge opened the door for his wife so she could climb into the backseat of their black, upmarket SUV. Then he jumped into the driver’s seat. Waving to the staff and well-wishers, the Cambridges drove home to their modest apartment at Kensington Palace. These Royals are nothing if not modern.

As yet we don’t know his name. No doubt he’ll be christened with a half-dozen of them to choose from, like his fathers before him. And one day he’ll sit on Britain’s throne as head of state. He’ll possess no real power; at best he’ll wield influence.  He’ll be drop-dead gorgeous – that, too, is easy to predict! – just like his Mom and Dad. It may take 50 years until he is a reigning monarch, but in twenty years he’ll already bear the title of World’s Most Eligible Bachelor and cause girls of the right age to suffer from severe heart palpitations.

You can look on the royal birth – and everything else royal, for that matter – as something quaintly British and slightly past its sell-by date. Or you can see it as one society’s modus vivendi, their way of melding tradition with change. Like the British Constitution and legal system, the British Crown is a perfect example of evolution. I don’t expect to be around when this child steps up to that colossal gilded chair, but I am very curious about how his role will have evolved. And what state will Britain – and the rest of the world –  be in by the mid to late 21st century when he succeeds his father to the throne?

Not being a science fiction reader, I haven’t schooled my imagination to think along the lines of what could/would/should be in the future. It’s hard enough for me to think in reverse, i.e. to look back from 2013 to the early nineties when cell telephony, personal computers and internet technology were still in their infancy and realize that these developments now shaping our daily lives barely existed then.

But if I go beyond the inevitable innovations that technology will thrust upon us, I’m left wondering more about who we will become. Do all the changes change the people, too? And if so, for better or worse?

Perhaps it’s a blessing that here and there, some institutions, like the British Monarchy, persist, if only to remind us of how far we’ve come.

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Filed under Beginnings, Fiction and Other Truths, Great Britain, Parenting, Traditions

ITALIA POVERA – POOR OL’ ITALY!

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Almost partly inhabitable – the house that is Italy?

Today I am very pleased to welcome Nic Mudie as a guest blogger. Nic has been living in Italy since the mid-nineties and is a keen follower of local and national politics as well as the Italian economy – and has a slight bent towards satire. So I was very interested in hearing – and sharing – his take on what the hell is going on in the country. This morning’s paper has reported that Berlusconi is on the verge of withdrawing his support of the government if Enrico Letta doesn’t revoke the property tax post haste. Thus I must get this report out to my readers before it becomes redundant! For the benefit of the uninitiated (including myself), I have added “translations” of some of Nic’s nick-names in parentheses. Let’s give Nic the floor!

Ok, where have we got to in the land of the lotus beaters – i.e.  makers of Ferraris?

Beppe Grillo (head of the Five Star Movement protest party that collected 25% of vote in election) had to be told, and he was, by me in Italian and English, that he was behaving like a dickhead and that even the soporific self-serving Italian electorate would recognise a poltroon when they saw one.

Consequently, he is losing weight in the polls and, this least Plautian, if not least  plausible, of comics  is allowing Burly Boy (Silvio Berlusconi) somewhere near the levers of power. The latter  is getting his garden gnome (Renato Brunetta) to push hard for his chairmanship of a commission that is  about to be set up to re-think a constitution that should have been consigned to the bin years ago. (Try this last remark on anyone in the nation that had Seneca but eschewed democracy for lunacy and you’d think you’d put cigarette ash in the butter).

Grillo won’t give anyone a vote of confidence – which we all know is only the ref’s whistle at kick off. This self-imposed principle is, as a matter of history, not worth a light – but mountebanks of his ilk are not those to let the effing facts destroy a good argument.

So, I will. Since 1945 Italy has had  65 governments – one lasted 9 days, two eleven and two the eternity that is twelve – so we can conclude that votes of confidence  in ‘das Land wo die Zitronen blumen’ (the country where lemons bloom) obviously carry the commitment of Don Giovanni on Viagra.

The electoral law that allowed the broad left with 25.9% of the vote (Burly’s + Burlesques took 25.4% but Grillo on his own 25%) to take 55% of the seats in the lower house has resulted in a government headed by a youngish left-leaning ex-Christian democrat (Letta)  looking for support from Burly and the rest. The main bone of contention at the moment is Burly’s promise to withdraw the property tax and Letta is tempted.

However, yet again, the facts are of no importance. The average family pays 140 Euros p.a. (somewhat less than two fill-ups of a nano-Fiat), but this brings in some 1.5 billion p.a. that’s going to go missing in a moment. Meanwhile, what we would call unemployment pay is running out and is likely to start costing the Italian government about 2 billion p.a. extra in about 4 nanoseconds.

This explains Letta’s precipitous visit to the Teutonic sphere – no, I don’t mean Auntie Angie (Angela Merkel), (t’was purely a dislocation of the digit squire, honest) followed by a mea culpa to two monuments to incompetence – one Roll out the Barrel (no idea….), whom I wouldn’t put in charge of a drunken orgy in the Douro – let alone a Portuguese Parish council, and Olli Reindeer (Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs) who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still thinks he ‘s a postilion to Father Christmas. These two luminaries have agreed to let Italy out of the Brussels’ observation room because it showed a primary surplus (more tax in than government spending out BEFORE interest payment on government debt) for two years running. Well done lads! Your reputation for ineffectiveness remains unsullied.

A) The observation room disgrace means not a light, as France and Germany were the first to break the Maastricht rules (3% annual deficit 60% total government debt as  %age of GDP) and remained unpunished, and…

B) Italy’s GDP is dropping like stone so the ratios get worse even with no extra spending and, remember, real interest rates are historically ridiculously low.

When the Japanese insurance companies inter alia stop buying European bonds and the European banks are completely stuffed, interest rates will go up and Italy will have to default. Government debt this year will be about 132%, to which you can add about half again in unpaid bills to suppliers.

I didn’t mention Rumpy Pumpy (Herman van Rompuy, EU Council President) because he’s not worth mentioning. As the Euro high priest he’s perfectly placed to dismiss science as not worth believing in when you’ve got religion.

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