“MORE THAN SONGS” Companion Adult Study (Introduction)

This is the introduction to the study that accompanies my book MORE THAN SONGS

 

The most important book you can ever read is The Holy Bible. To read it simply as a book can impart great wisdom and understanding of the nature of humanity, God, and history. It contains principles for all aspects of life, love, and prosperity.

However, the Bible is far more than a book. It is the revelation of God. He authored all sixty-six books, through yielded servants who faithfully recorded what the Lord told them to write. The words are the power of God released to anyone who seeks to know Him. They are truth. They are eternal. They are universal, and they are personal. Continue reading “MORE THAN SONGS” Companion Adult Study (Introduction)

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POTUS

For those who don’t know, POTUS is the acronym for “President Of The United States”. Probably most Americans would say that it’s the most powerful position in the country, maybe even the world. The position is certainly one of, if not the most influential positions in the world; and in that sense, powerful. However, examining the actual “power” of the POTUS in the US may look a little different than you thought.

Reading the US Constitution, you’ll find the job description of the president to be one of:

  1. Service– The function of the position is to serve the welfare of the citizens of the United States. Every action of the office is intended to be to this purpose. Although the position carries honor (even if the person doesn’t), the president is a servant of the people.
  2. Accountability- POTUS is accountable first to the citizens of the US. Our government was founded on the principle of being “for the people, by the people”. We have the right to hold any elected official to accountability. Furthermore, if we do not exercise that right, then we’re releasing politicians to do whatever they please. Secondly, the president is accountable to the US Constitution and all branches of the government on every level that endeavor to uphold it. How can POTUS be accountable to an old document, especially one that gets re-interpreted all the time? That is an excellent question. Essentially, we elect presidents based on what they say  their interpretation of the Constitution is (that and their promises about things like economy and education, etc.). Lastly, POTUS is accountable to the world. Especially as we progress toward a global community (regardless of it’s dysfunctions), the President of the United States is an influential figure, a representative of democracy, capitalism, freedom, alleged prosperity, power, and peace-making.

Looking beyond the Constitution, into the reality of the presidency today, it is a burden beyond the imagination of most people.

  • POTUS is the biggest celebrity in the world. Every detail of the president’s personal life, past and present is under a microscope. Their effectiveness in office is, in part, based on approval. If their ducks are not in a row, spin doctors need to make it seem they are.
  • Perhaps a majority of Americans over-estimate the power of the president. For example, if the economy is good during a president’s administration, he gets the credit. And if it’s bad, Americans blame the president. The reality is POTUS has almost nothing at all to do with controlling the economy. That power lies far above that office, in offices such as the Federal Reserve Board and The World Bank, places like that… Congress has far more influence on the economy than the president, and they don’t have much. When Tip O’Neal was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the republican party began romancing him to run for president. He responded [paraphrasing] “Why would I take a pay-cut for a less powerful position?”
  • Politics is a game. Jimmy Carter was a great man and humanitarian. He accomplished more toward peace than any other POTUS in over a century. He was an honest man. Unfortunately, these characteristics gave him a distinct disadvantage in the White House. History will remember Jimmy Carter as an ineffectual president. Politicians play a game, by certain rules. Things are done (or not done) a certain way. Special interests are pressed by lobbyists making behind-closed-doors deals with senators and representatives. Bills get presented, discussed, amended by other special interest issues that completely unrelated, but buried in the language of the bill so it can pass. It gets debated, back and forth. Eventually, what started as a simple idea plops on POTUS’ desk as a 1200 page bill, along with three more that twice as long. You get the drift?

I’ve gone really long on this post, and for that, I suppose I’m sorry. I feel passionate about this message. I have for some time. I just normally don’t go political. It’s timely. I believe it’s important. And I hope it is helpful.

 

The Appeal of Trump and Clinton

I don’t normally get political, but I just can’t resist. This has been occupying my mind, so I have to get a few things out there. I am not going to express my preference in this post; so if you’re wondering about that… too bad. I’m going to express my opinion about what I have observed as to why each of these two front-runners are front-runners. And we all know what they say about opinions, right? Everybody’s got one.

Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton first. I believe there are many reasons why she is the current Democratic leader:

  • She is a woman. Many Americans have felt for some time that it’s time for a woman to be President.
  • She is a straight party-line Democrat. Her platform is essentially the same as the party’s. That’s why I believe the party has been preparing her since her husband’s presidency. They got her elected senator for a state in which she didn’t live. The party got her into the key position of Secretary of State in the Obama administration (a position from which she was required to resign). At every opportunity to place Hillary in the political foreground, the Democratic party has taken advantage for the last 20 years.
  • Hillary has been a successful businesswoman. Although there were numerous allegations of felonious business practices, she has never been convicted. In fact, those allegations have been spun out of America’s short memory.
  • During her husband’s presidency, when it was finally revealed what had been known for many years of his decades of dishonesty and unfaithfulness in his marriage, America watched for Hillary’s reaction. She certainly would have been justified in divorcing him. But it was politically advantageous for her to remain. I’m not suggesting that was her motivation, but it hasn’t hurt her political career to be seen as the woman who stands by her man no matter what he does. And when Bill was impeached for lying on the witness stand under oath, she still supported his decision to remain in office.
  • Hillary Clinton is a thoroughbred politician. She knows the game and the players, and how to get things done in the political arena. The American voters who have approved of the Obama administration may be thinking her administration will perhaps be similar in objectives.
  • She has the experience in international affairs; although there were some questionable actions leading to her resignation.

But now let’s look at the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, and what I think makes him appealing to many people:

  • He is diametrically opposite of the liberal platform of the Democratic party, the Obama administration, and the Clinton campaign. He is, in fact, so extreme in his views, he scares the Republican party.
  • Trump is a very successful businessman. Many believe his business acumen may be what it would take to set our country on the road to economic solvency.
  • Donald Trump is not a politician. He has no political background, and no knowledge of the political process. This actually appeals to many Americans, who are tired of politicians playing games. They desire a president who will step into office and kick butts and get things done. They believe Donald Trump can do that.
  • Trump seems honest. His brash words suggest he’s not very concerned about his opinions wining a popularity contest. He speaks his mind, and people seem to appreciate that.
  • His extremist views reflect some common feelings in many Americans. They not only respect his courage in giving voice to these ideas, but see him as a lone champion for causes they never thought they would ever hear from a White House hopeful.
  • Donald Trump has no experience in international affairs. However, considering his national-isolationist platform, there’s no need. He seems to be promoting the United States withdraw from our involvement in the world affairs: a “we stay in and we keep them out” strategy. Many Americans agree wholeheartedly with that idea.

Well, in a nutshell, that’s my opinion about the main reasons these two candidates are the most appealing to Americans. Me… I don’t know…

10 Funniest Grammar Jokes (Or: Don’t Dangle Your Participle Around Here!)

 

For those writers, readers, and English teachers who are familiar with the English language, here are the 10 funniest grammar jokes :

1. A guy walks into a bar, only receiving minor injuries. (Just kidding. That’s not even funny. Poor guy.) Okay, Let’s try again…

1. Commas can save lives. Ex: “Some people enjoy cooking, their families, and their dogs”. OR “Some people enjoy cooking their families and their dogs”.

2. The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense.

C. When I was a kid, my English teacher called on me and said, “Name two pronouns”. I said ” Who, me?”

XII. Every time I see someone type “to funny”, I envision them raising a fist and heading out on a quest to find funny.

Yellow. AMBIGUITY… What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness, baby!

6. A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Still 6. Sign: “Attention: Toilet only for disabled elderly pregnant children”

11/3. From actual church bulletin: “ The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement Saturday.”

eleventy-2. Another church bulletin one: Applications are now being accepted for 2 year-old nursery workers.

10. I hate that awkward moment when I spell a common word correctly, but it looks so wrong that I stare at it forever, questioning it’s existence.

Okay, there you have it. What’s that you say? You can think of 10 funnier grammar jokes? Fine. Go for it. Where’s your list at? Im sure your working on it right now;, theirs’ probably just some re-search too due. Good luck.

 

Pool Fundamentals

It’s been a while since the last installment in my series of articles on pool. Hopefully, you have taken the prior instructions and practiced them; perhaps you have had some success, maybe some challenges. Good. Let’s move on…

The key to playing pocket billiards well is consistency. If a player fails in a shot attempt or position for the next shot, there should be a method of evaluation and adjustment. However, if there is no mechanical standard as a foundation, then how can you make an adjustment?

The best players establish the same stance, stroke, aim, and even thought processes, and maintain that standard. This is achieved through concentrated practice.

During practice sessions, slow down, and pay attention to what your body is doing.

Stance

There are diverse methods for dictating how to assume a good stance. But I’m not going to address any of them here. Instead, I’m going to give you some guidelines and encourage you to experiment and discover what works best for you.

  1. For over 99% of shots, both of your feet will be on the floor. If you have to stretch beyond that, you need to acquaint yourself with the mechanical bridge. Every good player knows this piece of equipment, and is not afraid to use what I’ve heard called “the sissy stick”. Snooker players become exceptionally proficient with it (regulation snooker tables are 10’ x 5’). Just think of it as a very steady means of going where your left hand (if you’re right handed) cannot go.
  2. If you are off-balance, that’s how you will shoot. Position your feet, legs, and body to give balance and support.
  3. Turn and bend your body in such a way that it does not obstruct a straight stroke from your carriage (back hand) to your bridge hand. This is especially crucial to larger framed people, like me.
  4. Position your head, and more specifically your dominant eye, directly above your cue as low as possible. Allison Fisher, one of the best players in the world, literally rests her chin lightly on her cue. This not only provides greater accuracy, but also gives a control meter. If for some reason her stroke is not smooth and straight, she will feel it. If you don’t get your head as low as possible, you are “shooting from the hip” (as they say). Accuracy is compromised.
  5. Once you are in this position, there are only two parts of your body that should move, which brings me to…

Aim

If you have not visualized the shot, why are you shooting it? Before taking your stance to address the shot, take the time to look around the table. Examine the situation, not only the current shot, but look ahead. Most players look at least two shots beyond the current. This should affect how you play the shot you’re about to take. Then, look at what must be done with this first shot to achieve your plan. Now, you’re ready to take your stance and begin aiming at the spot you have already determined.

In your stance, your eyes should move between your target-spot and the cue ball at first. Draw an imaginary line between the two points. This is your path. Your stroke will line up with the path as you line up the shot. Look at your cue stick as you take warm-up strokes. Ensure that it is moving directly on the path and the tip of your cue will strike the cue ball where you want it to. Then, and this crucial… DO NOT LOOK AT THAT CUE BALL AGAIN! It’s a constant. It’s not going to suddenly move on you. You have assured yourself through warm-up strokes that your cue is aimed on your intended path. Look at your target-spot on the object ball. Focus on it. The cue ball will go where you send it, so it’s not even relevant to your aiming process now.

Stroke

Warm-up strokes are essential. They assure that you will be shooting where you intended. How many warm-up strokes should you take? As many as you need to ensure accuracy and control; and then add a couple more for the feel of the shot. With more difficult shots, take more. As long as your warm-up strokes are consistent with the execution stroke (when you actually shoot), your movement should be programmed so that you could literally close your eyes at the point of execution, and still deliver the shot with accuracy.

When I say “accuracy”, I am not suggesting that you will make every shot. I am saying that, if you follow these procedures, you will deliver the shot that you intended. If you miss the shot, it could mean you visualized in error (in other words, you aimed wrong).

Herein lies my point about consistency in the mechanical processes. There could be an infinity of reasons why a shot is unsuccessful. Improvement comes from analyzing the unsuccessful attempts, more than the successes. But, if there are no constants (in other words, every time you shoot is a completely different experience), how can you make adjustments?

For example, if I have been, through concentrated practice, consistent in the mechanics of my game, and yet I missed the shot, then I have a basis by which to examine why it happened. Maybe I aimed incorrectly. Maybe I moved my head when I know I shouldn’t. Perhaps I shot too hard, or not hard enough. Maybe I applied accidental English (spin) to the cue ball, which changes everything about the shot.

Sometimes, we rush shots. We are presented with a shot or position that seems so simple, we skip the processes. In all of the Kingdom of Pocket Billiards, there is nothing more humiliating than missing the simple shot because we “took it for granted”. Unless you are competing in a tournament where there is a shot clock employed, there is no good reason for any player to skip the steps. And as a side note about these “shot clock” tournaments, the competitors in these should already be so adept at the basic steps that they can swiftly do them. If that’s not you yet, don’t play in that kind of tournament. My first article on pool talked about “controlling the rhythm of the game”. Here’s a principle to consider: If you have established (again through concentrated practice) a rhythm through which you are able to flow through the processes successfully, and you suddenly don’t, you are not controlling your rhythm. You’re not playing your best game. Here is an exercise to practice:

You are faced with an incredibly basic and simple shot. I mean it’s practically an insult to your pool-playing prowess. Go slowly through all of the mechanical processes, then just before you shoot, STOP. Stand up. Walk around the table at least once. Chalk your cue (don’t you hate missing a simple shot because you miscued?). Go slowly through the processes again. You might feel silly, but it will pay off in the long run!

Pool Basics

So many instructional books and articles for various skills give specific fundamentals and assume they are universal. Really… you’re not going to become a good pool player by reading this or any article or book.  You may, however, improve your game by applying some basic guidelines and practicing solid fundamentals. This is a universal truth!

*** Your Dominant Eye ***

Everyone has one eye that is dominant over the other. Perhaps you don’t know which is yours. This simple test will determine for you.

Pick an object to focus on. While looking directly at the object, create a frame around it with your hands, centering the object within that frame. Now, close one eye. Is the object still in the center of the frame? Now, close the other eye. Where is the object? When looking with your dominant eye, the object will remain centered in the frame. But, with your non-dominant eye, you may not even see the object, but will be looking at your hand.

Determining your dominant eye is important because you will be lining up your aim with your dominant eye.

*** Holding Your Cue ***

Assuming you are right-handed, your right arm will be your “stroke arm”, and your left hand will be your “bridge hand”. The two primary objectives for your method of holding your cue stick are:

  • Control– Your stroke and bridge should work together to deliver the shot true to your aim. If you shoot according to your aim, and you miss the shot, its because you aimed wrong. However, if there’s a hitch in your stroke or your bridge is not giving enough control, there’s really no point in your aiming.
  • Comfort– Playing pool involves some stretching, lots of bending, and body awareness. To play well, you must establish balance and consistency in your stance, stroke, bridge, and visualization. Seems like a lot, huh? Like anything else in this life that you may want to be good at, it takes persistence. The great basketball players shoot their best shots exactly the same countless times, until it becomes automatic.

Find the proper grip spot for your stroke hand by holding the cue and finding the balance point, the place where you can hold the cue stick balancing it on two fingers. Now move toward the butt of the cue two-to-four fingers width. That grip spot will be perfect for almost every stroke situation you encounter. Hold the stick loosely, cradling it between your thumb and fingers. If the stick touches your palm, you are holding it too tightly, and your stroke will be terrible.

*** Bridge Issues ***

There are three basic bridges and innumerable variations of each. Hands are shaped differently; and in the course of the game, countless situations arise, requiring adjustments. When I used to teach the billiards class in college, I strongly urged students to perfect the closed bridge. When formed properly, it provides the most control. However, it is difficult to master. The basic closed bridge involves forming a ring with the thumb and forefinger. Some beginners will attempt to form the closed bridge without closing the ring. They will simply lay the forefinger over top of the cue. This is so counter-protective to any control, they should be shooting blindfolded. But done properly, the cue passes through that ring and rides on top of the middle finger. The middle, ring, and little fingers should be spread as much as possible for a stable base. When possible, the heel of the hand should be resting on the table as well. The thumb-and-forefinger ring should be loose enough to allow smooth movement of the cue without finger or hand movement; yet snug enough to keep it stroking in a straight line.

The open bridge is simpler, and more commonly used for that reason. Again, the bridge hand should be stabilized on the table, four fingers spread as much as possible for support, and the thumb pressed tightly toward the innermost-knuckle of the forefinger. This forms a ridge for the stick to ride between the thumb knuckle and the forefinger knuckle. The open bridge can be more comfortable to form, but some control is lost. The tendency of open- bridgers is to raise the cue completely off the bridge instead of following through on their shot.

The third basic bridge is the rail bridge. It is perhaps the most commonly misused bridge form. When the cue ball is close to a rail and you have no other choice, its good to know how to properly form a rail bridge. Place your bridge hand on the rail. Tuck your thumb under your hand toward the middle finger. Slide the cue against the back of your straightened thumb. Spread your fingers and place your forefinger over the top of the cue stick, until it touches the rail also. Do not let any of your fingers or your hand move.

A common error a lot of novices make when the cue ball is close to the rail, is elevating the butt of the cue stick and striking downward on the cue ball. This mistake is worthy of mentioning. There are many things that will likely go wrong in that scenario.

  1. If you shoot down on the cue ball and hit anything other than center (not to the left or right), you are curving the cue ball. This is called massé. If you don’t adjust your aim to accommodate for the curve, you miss the shot. Sound familiar?
  2. If you shoot down on the ball center, you are jumping the cue ball. It may hardly be noticeable, but again, it alters the path of the cue ball. If you don’t know how to aim for a jump shot, don’t try it! And by the way, its illegal to jump the cue ball by scooping under it and lifting. It’s a foul, and doing it is foul!
  3. When you are aiming a shot, you must look through the cue ball to the point on the object ball (or cushion) that you desire to hit. (More on aiming mechanics later!) When shooting down on the cue ball, the tendency is to look at it. If you insist on raising the butt of your cue because the cue ball is close to a rail, just close your eyes!

Sometimes, when the cue ball is against a rail, the best move is to form an open bridge as close as possible, yet leaving room for stoke. I call this a “hanging open bridge” because sometimes only your fingers are touching the outer edge of the table. But this will enable you to keep the cue level.

*** Taking Your Stance ***

And finally for this installment, let’s talk about your body. Some instructional books and articles will recommend certain distance between your feet and placing them at certain angles, etc. But I’m here to tell you that a six-foot-four-inch body, like mine, has to do something different than the body of a five-foot-five woman, in order to get down over a shot. People’s bodies are shaped differently. Even health issues and flexibility are factors in your stance.

So, I’m going to give you some guidelines, and then its up to you to find the best method to achieve them for yourself.

  • Balance- You must be stable. If you are unsteady or off balance, you are not only unsafe; you are ineffective. Your body will move in ways you don’t want it to do.
  • Consistency- Once you find the way for you that works, stick to it as often as possible. Yes, there will be times when you have to adjust. But, understanding your body mechanics will enable you to make intelligent adjustments.
  • Get your dominant eye as close over top of your cue as possible- Many of the best players in the world will actually lightly rest their chin on the cue stick. They use that riding as assurance that they are stroking straight in line with their aim.
  • Do not move your head- Sometimes I’m bad about this one, and consequently, my game suffers.
  • Notice your stroke arm’s position and movement- The upper portion of your stroke arm should be parallel to the floor throughout the entire stroke. If you are dipping it, your stoke will be inaccurate. You will not be hitting the cue ball where you want, and you will probably have some side-to-side movement as well. Do not move your upper arm at all! Below the elbow, your stroke arm should swing smoothly like a pendulum, forward and back. Keep the movement fluid and straight!
  • Your bridge arm should be at an angle- If you try to lock the elbow or keep the arm straight (for most shots), you will be forcing your cue away from your body, requiring you to twist some more in order to keep your dominant eye over top the stick.

This concludes this installment. Remember to practice good fundamentals until they are natural for you. You will like the game better when you play better. Have fun!

Pain

I have often made light of my own physical pain by saying: “Pain is your body’s way of saying you’re alive! Some of us are just more alive than others.” Or I’ve been heard to say, “It’s only pain” (which is the little boy in me who wants to scream and cry trying to be a big boy because my dad always said “men don’t cry!”).

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy trying to help a dear friend through withdrawal from two powerfully addictive prescription pain medications, morphine and percoset, which are both narcotics.

She was prescribed these for pain management in preparation for necessary back surgery about nine months ago. As one psychiatrist recently stated, she should never have been allowed to continue on those prescriptions that long. She hasn’t had the surgery yet, but those meds were only intended to be for short-term use, due to the severity of their addictive and psychological effects.

So, when my friend was cut off, she was faced with “cold turkey”. This actually brings me to my topic. Continue reading Pain