Sunday, December 21, 2014

Is the Beginning of the End in Sight?

I'm composing this post while sitting in My McVansion parked in the Deming, New Mexico Walmart Supercenter parking lot. I'll be spending the night here and heading into Arizona tomorrow morning heading for the Quartzite area by the end of the day. My ultimate destination for this leg of the trek is Clovis, California to spend the holidays with my son, his mother (my former wife - the original family unit will be together for this holiday for the first time in about 25 years) and some of my outlaws (my former in-laws). I'm expecting to arrive in Clovis by early evening on Tuesday, December 23rd or mid day on Wednesday, December 24th.

As I've been traveling across the United States and the North American continent, as always, I have been meeting all kinds of interesting people, seeing all kinds of interesting places and terrains and observing Americana. For those who are familiar with me and this blog, you know that My McVansion is my personally customized tiny house on wheels and I prefer to travel on the Blue Highways to observe and experience what is left of the U.S. that existed before the interstate highway system was established and built out.

You also know that I'm sort of a digital, techy nomad. That means I have lots of electronics onboard. I usually have at least two GPS systems operating. I have my smart phone which is Bluetooth enabled with a speaker phone. I also installed a Sirius satellite radio receiver to eliminate the problem of listening to local or regional radio stations and running out of their signal coverage area.

Getting Serious With Sirius

The nice thing about Sirius satellite radio is that most of the programming has no or limited commercials. Also, I can select specific channels I elected to have on my receiver to match my specific tastes. So, I have all the cable news channels, old time radio, classical music, classic to contemporary country music, music from the 40's, 50's 60's and 70's (others, too, if I want to listen to them), public radio, political talk, well you get the idea. The service I chose only costs me $8.00/month and worth every cent.

So, as I cross the country I have constant entertainment. I also have constant news and information in numerous forms. This is the serious side of Sirius. In today's connected world (I'm also connected to the Internet almost constantly wherever I go, wirelessly) we get information and breaking news virtually as it happens. I am an information nut. I like keeping up on what's happening in our country and our world. So, though I may be in some remote location, with that little satellite antenna, I'm always connected to the outside world. This has its pros and cons. The pros are obvious, knowing what's happening constantly. The cons are actually, the same thing. There is so much going on that it can stress a person out, in this case, that person is me.

That's why I have the other channels to provide diversions. For example, as I'm composing this post I'm listening to classic country music. Many of the artists have passed away. This is the music I recall listening to in my pre-adolescent days, my teenage years and my 20's and 30's. There is something soothing and anchoring about this kind of music. The same is true for music from the 40's through 70's and old time radio shows.

Is The Beginning Of The End In Sight?

How many times have people asked this question over the centuries and millennia? I'm sure the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians and other societies have asked the same question. Am I talking about the end of the world? Possibly! With our exponentially advancing technology, we are able to track asteroids and comets better than ever and we're now realizing that some of them are coming fairly close to our little rock floating around in space. We know this planet, the moon and the other planets in our solar system have been struck by these objects numerous times each. One such strike is the reason dinosaurs and other forms of life no longer exist on this planet.

Yes! This is a real possibility. But, I believe there is something far more dangerous and menacing to the survival of life on this planet than being struck by some wayward heavenly body. That menace is human beings. The human has certain traits that have caused the rise and fall of societies and civilizations throughout history. Most humans are benign. They seek only to enjoy, at some reasonable level, the limited time each will inhabit this planet. Like many people, during my earlier years, I sought to make some giant impact on society and leave behind a legacy that would be my immortality.

For most of my life I believed this required me to be financially successful (wealthy), powerful and famous. After all, look at Charlemagne, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg to mention a few. And let's not forget the drafters of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. All of these people and those who collaborated in creating documents that changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people have impacted the world and, generally, have created their own legacy and immortality. Virtually all of them became financially successful, powerful and famous.

But, in the grand scheme of things, there are many others who will make significant impacts on all facets of life as we know it, yet, will come and go from this Earth and eventually just disappear. But, most of us will simply live, do what we have to in order to provide food, shelter, clothing and some minimal luxuries. When we pass, we'll be gone from mind not long after our bodies have returned to the dust they came from. I know, that's a rather cynical way of looking at life, but if you are honest with yourself, you know this to be true. The reality is that we only exist to be and perpetuate the species. Contributing to whatever society you belong to is expected only because we are social animals.

I simply call it "being." The purpose of life is simply being in the moment and enjoying the time we have on Earth. Once one can accept that and simplify life, shedding all the complexities societies and governments have impressed (and oppressed) upon us, happiness is easy to find and enjoy. In many ways, especially due to advances in all forms of technology like communications, transportation, medicine, environment, etc. our lives can be better than ever before.

However, this all comes with a cost. The cost is complicated lives, increased materialism that can enslave, addictions of various kinds, bigger and bigger government resulting in more and more laws, ordinances, codes, regulations, rules, etc. with the larger impact of loss of freedom and liberty. And this is where I see the beginning of the end.

I follow a blog titled "The Serenity Game" written by a woman in her mid 50's from Texas. She is, what I term, a rational thinker, something I have been accused of being, by other rational thinkers, of course. She goes by the name of Trinity Rivers. Real name or nom de plume, I know not. I just enjoy her diversity of thoughts and ideas. She sees the world through a woman's lens that is often interestingly different than mine, but she often broadens my perspective. Too many of us view the world with tunnel vision. A little jog from a different point of view is good for everyone.

In her post today, titled "Something Wicked This Way Comes," Trinity made some interesting points that resonated with me. One thing that resonated was, "Every day the news casters gleefully share the latest disaster, murder, insanely unwise new legislation, etc. Then the talking heads analyze it 8 ways from Sunday. But, in the end I’m expected to believe that everything is not only just peachy keen finer than fine, but getting better every day."

Okay, I have to admit, being an information and news junkie, I can really relate to her thought. Today, I have heard too much information about the two New York City police officers assassinated in cold blood by a man I can only consider a crazed maniac. He used a gun he obtained by questionable means. He first shot his girlfriend in Baltimore then drove to New York and murdered the two police officers. Then when almost apprehended by the police, he turned the gun on himself and (thankfully) saved the taxpayers a fortune in the cost of an ongoing investigation, incarceration, trial, etc. The story is going in all directions. The NY Mayor, a controversial figure already, was snubbed by the entire police force. There have been several press conferences. And, of course, the Rev. Al Sharpton's name was brought into the issue. The anti-gun activists will be on this like flies on . . . you know what I mean.

Trinity's thought came home for me when I read it as related to this latest news issue that will be drawn out for who knows how long. Oh, I know, until the next sensationalism breaking news occurs. Don't worry, that will be pretty soon. It always is.

She goes on to say, "If I beg to disagree I am labeled as paranoid, a nervous Nelly, glum, a wannabe prepper nut, depressed, or a glass half empty kind of person. And this labeling even comes from other people who are feeling the same feelings, and talking about it all the damned time. Talk is cheap and so they just want to whine about latest news sound bite. However, they do not want to really get down and dirty and talk about what might be coming. Forget doing anything about it."

I definitely relate to these thoughts. There are only a limited number of people who want to "get down and dirty" and want to really talk about the REAL issues and where these things are leading. Most people just accept losing our freedoms and liberties in exchange for a false sense of security. Only people who value and love true freedom and have the ability to be free, rational thinkers. If you're reading this blog, I have a feeling you are one of those free, (hopefully) rational thinkers. But, you need to engage in open and honest discussions about these issues since they all relate to the beginning of the end.

"All civilizations rise and fall. It usually doesn’t happen overnight. Most start a slow slide to oblivion rather than the fall of Pompeii where the mountain belched and destroyed every living thing in less than a day. Here in the U.S. our rights as private citizens are taking that slow slide to oblivion. The scary part is that much of this legislation chips away at our right and more important our DUTY to be self-reliant."

You nailed it, Trinity. It's not that I'm anti-American or would ever want to see our society fall. But, this is the history of the world. There is not one country in the world that hasn't risen and fallen, typically numerous times. The U.S. is a very young society. However, our own history is checkered. We may be (or believe we are) the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. But, we really didn't become a super power, as such, until about 73 years ago. Our economy exists on a huge defense/war machine and a material consumerism economy. The problem is, as we improve technology in the workplace and find cheaper ways to manufacture offshore, we can't keep sustaining either jobs or salaries.

Ultimately, at some point, consumerism will begin to falter and so will our economy. With a national debt approaching $18 trillion, there is the possibility that the country will eventually default and we'll find ourselves in situations like several countries in Europe and even tiny Iceland. Is it the beginning of the end?

One final thought from Trinity, "Did you know that in some states it is illegal to collect rain water? How disturbing is that? The rationale behind this is that rain falling out of the sky is public property. Therefore if we collect it we are “hoarding” the rain water. Well the earth can be considered public property also. Does this mean that I can’t own my home and the ground it stands on? Am I hoarding my little piece of the earth?"

Indeed, Trinity, this is all disturbing. And, as you pointed out, our "supposed" elected representatives have created their own form of aristocracy at our (the taxpayers') expense. I have often half-heartedly joked that one of these days we'll all be wearing meters that will measure the consumption of oxygen we consume and carbon dioxide we expel and we'll be charged or taxed for it. The reality is that the "little piece of earth" you spoke of doesn't belong to you now. It belongs to the government and they have the right to take it from you, by law, under a number of circumstances.

There are places in Maryland where land owners are taxed for any rainwater or snow melt that comes off their land and flows into the Potomac River or any other creeks or rivers (even 100 or more miles away) that ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. The water running off their land is bringing sediment, fertilizer, etc. into the bay and that is taxable. But, you can't stop that water from flowing either since that's against the law without a specific permit. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

When will the "end" be? I don't know the answer to that. But, I do know that the beginning of the end began upon the signing of the U.S. Constitution and is progressing exponentially faster today than ever before in our history. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren may only read of the freedom and liberty we once had, limited as it was, in history books, IF the government allows that history to be in those books in the future.

Any thoughts on any of this? I'd love to hear from you free thinkers. By the way, you can check out Trinity Rivers' blog by clicking on the title of the blog in the context above. Thanks for the inspiration Trinity. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Benefits or Entitlements

Benefits and entitlements, are they one and the same or are they different breeds of animals? There seems to be a trend for those in the bureaucracy of federal (and even state) government toward calling anything they pay out to citizens as entitlements. Now, I'm not sure. Is it because I'm becoming a crotchety old man (NOT)? Or, is it because those in the elected offices, their high ranking appointees and the massive legion of high level bureaucrats are using governmentspeak or doublespeak to get us to believe something that isn't true.

Would this be the first time the government has attempted (and often succeeded) in duping the "flock?" I think not. That is a huge topic for another time. However, as humans, we are basically pack animals. Although, it's probably more accurate to say we're like flock or herd animals. Watch cattle in the pasture sometime. When it's milking time they all line up one behind the other and follow the leader right into the milk barn. A new word becomes the "in" word to use in the pop culture - cool, dude, awesome, right on, righteous, bro, etc. All of a sudden, it slips into our vocabulary and pretty soon we're all using it.

So, if the government keeps using the word "entitlements" when referring to any payouts to citizens that have qualified to receive earned benefite payments, will we all eventually begin to accept that word for everything? I guess we could call it the "Word Game," only this game is controlled by government doublespeak.

Now, I, for one, have a pretty good idea of the difference between a benefit and an entitlement and I don't much like the definitions being crossed over and made fuzzy.


When it comes to certain payments made to individual citizens by the government, I go with this dictionary definition: " a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In other words, the individual invested or paid into some kind of fund by contractual arrangement with the long term benefit being some kind of payment after meeting the investment requirements of the contract. In the case of the government, I'm referring, more specifically, to such programs as Social Security and Medicare.

Most U.S. citizens have had to invest (involuntarily, I might add) into the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare year after year at a combined rate of 15.3% of the total income. I know many will say that the employee only pays half that amount and the employer pays the other half. But, let's be realistic. The employer could pay you the other half and you'd pay the full 15.3% just as self-employed individuals do or to put it another way, if the employer was not required to pay the 7.65% the government would dock your paycheck for it. This is yet, another way of distracting you from reality and the truth.

The bottom line is that just about everyone working on the books for any business or as a self-employed individual will pay a combined 15.3% of which 12.4% goes to the Social Security Trust Fund until (at the current ceiling) your annual salary reaches $113,700.00. Next year that increases to $117,000.00. The balance of 2.9% goes to the Medicare fund and there is no salary ceiling for the Medicare deducted from your salary.

The point? You and I have invested (paid) into these accounts, involuntarily (we had no choice under the law). There is the implied contract that when you reach a certain age (typically defined as the "age of retirement) you will begin drawing a "benefit" from your Social Security account based on how much you contributed to your account over your lifetime.

You'll also be eligible to take advantage of the Medicare health benefit Part A that covers hospitals, nursing homes, hospice and such. Optionally, you may pay a nominal monthly premium to the government to receive Part B benefits that cover doctors, tests and a myriad of other medical necessities. In other words, Medicare is a form of health insurance policy that you've partially prepaid and continue to pay into.

This is no different than you investing your funds in a 401K, IRA or other qualified pension fund. You receive a lifetime benefit based on how much you invested. And the Medicare insurance is similar to an employer or a private healthcare insurance policy from a private insurer. You have invested in and are due to receive the benefits you "contracted" for based on the terms of the contracts.


So, now, let's look at entitlements. The Merriam-Webster definition that comes closest to government entitlement programs is: "a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group." In other words the recipients of this government help have not invested in the programs that provide these various forms of help. This is different than those receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, for which they involuntarily contributed throughout their working lifetime.

So, these funds come from funding provided by other citizens who have part of their tax money given to people who haven't been able to or just didn't contribute to the programs. I'm sorry! But, I see a significant difference between a plan someone has invested in, earned and is now receiving the "benefit" of that lifelong investment and an "entitlement," where someone is benefiting from the system and from everyone else's productivity, but hasn't contributed into the system themselves.


So, I vehemently object to my Social Security check and my Medicare insurance being lumped in with social entitlement programs in order to make me and others receiving our "benefits" feel guilty. After a lifetime of contributions, we're NOT "takers" living off the public. And that, in my opinion is what our elected officials, their high ranking appointees and so on are attempting to do with their government doublespeak.

The reality is that the government has plundered the trust funds for these two benefits (and others). They were not just bad stewards of "OUR" money; they essentially have turned it into a new form of Ponzi Scheme. It makes Madoff's scheme look like he was a novice.

Our Social Security checks aren't coming from the compounded earnings of our "invested" contributions of 40 or more years. Our Social Security is coming from the pockets of our children's and grandchildren's generation. But, we're supposed to feel guilty because the government has bumfuzzled the public. They are trying to blame us for their incompetence and disregard for the law.

The Point?

The point is simple. We deserve the benefits we invested in and earned, period! Our children and grandchildren shouldn't have to pay for our benefits, they should be investing in their own benefits. But, like all Ponzi Schemes, someday this is going to come crashing down and lots of people are going to be hurt by it. Governments are, by nature, fiscally irresponsible because they aren't spending their own money. They don't have any money. They're spending our money. If they need more, they blame the public, take things away and raise taxes or create new taxes so it doesn't look like they're raising taxes. It's simply a shell game and we . . . are the marks.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind helping other people out. I believe we live in a great country where we do care about those who are less fortunate. But, I don't believe, other than in a few specific instances, that we should be taking care of people for all or most of their lives. Everyone can do something to contribute to society. I truly care about those who are in unfortunate situations. Unfortunately, some people in our society have not only allowed themselves to fall into these situations, but planned to take advantage of the system. Call it gaming the system if you will.

We are a very generous country. And, interestingly, those who seem to have less than others are often the most generous and charitable. I know some very wealthy philanthropists, many who give away sizeable amounts of money anonymously every year. But, too many of those we know are extremely wealthy work closely with their tax accountants to gain the maximum, personal, financial advantage for their charitable contributions. In other words, they want to be "rewarded" for being charitable.

Private Help Organizations

There are also numerous organizations, faith-based and secular, that provide all kinds of programs to help those who have fallen on hard times. The Mormon Church, for example, has their own form of welfare program within the church. I don't believe they call it welfare, though. They help their people regain their footing and climb back up again and be productive members of both the church and society as a whole. The Salvation Army is another such organization. There are also "pay it forward" programs. Someone is helped with the expectation they will reach out, once back on their own feet, to help one or more others in a time of need.

Certainly, we have people who have become disabled in one manner or another. This is a very unfortunate circumstance, especially if the person is relatively young. It's even harder if they have a young family. Unfortunately, there are some people who get into the disability roles by gaming the system and live off the public dole for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, others get assistance from the disability programs and learn new skills or find other ways to help themselves regain some degree of productivity, self-esteem and dignity.

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I!

Hey! For all I know, I may be "entitled" to some of these entitlement programs. I guess I could even play the system, if I were of a mind to. To be honest, I don't consider it playing the system, but I do take advantage of senior discounts when they are offered and I certainly paid my one time fee for my lifetime national park pass. I see these as small "rewards" for having contributed to society for most of a lifetime. I don't consider them entitlements.

I haven't looked, therefore I've not taken advantage of any "entitlement" programs I may be eligible for. Some people may say I'm foolish. If I'm eligible, I should go for it. Frankly, I don't need it right now. I hope I never will. But, if I do, I'll do it grudgingly. I'd rather see others who truly need help, more than I do, have the advantage of getting it.

What does and will continue to irk me to no end, is government employees getting ridiculously large bonuses for just doing their jobs. There are some who say that governments are the largest and most costly forms of welfare and public dole there are. If these people want bonuses they should join the private sector where they have to earn their bonuses. Those hundreds of millions of dollars of bonus money could go a long way to bolstering the money taken from the Social Security and Medicare accounts. They could also go toward helping more people (not for a lifetime, however) who are in greater need of a little helping hand getting back on their feet than the government employees in their nice secure jobs with comfortable pensions awaiting them at retirement.

Remember! It's important! Do NOT listen and buy into all the politicians, their lackeys, the talking head media types and others who continue to call our BENEFITS entitlements. Yes! We are entitled to them, but that's because we EARNED them. The only place there should be guilt is in Congress, the White House and the media who keep buying into the semantics game and acting like the government's mouthpiece.     

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Business as Usual - Elections 2014

Flickr Photo - Creative Commons License 2011 - Kevan 

Well, thank goodness (actually, there is no goodness) the 2014 mid-term elections are over. It reached a point where I'd find myself retching every time another political ad came on or I'd see it in print. I hung up on robo calls - (thankfully, I got few). For everyone reading this who still believes government is or can be good, well just keep your Shirley Temple, Good Ship Lollipop mentality.

Government is not good - in any form! It never has been and never will be. It is, unfortunately, necessary. It's necessary because most humans (notice I didn't make that all inclusive) have the basic drives and abilities to survive individually. But, put a group of them together and they act like a pack, herd, gaggle, flock (choose your word) and ultimately an alpha human will emerge and control the rights of the rest of the group. Oh, and by the way, I'm already sick of the 2016 election campaign and it hasn't even officially begun, yet.

It's been one week as of today, Wednesday, November 12, 2014, since most of the results of the 2014 mid-term elections were officially announced. The party of the largest land mammal in the world scored, what has been termed as and with much gloating, a "sweeping victory" over the party of the stubborn beasts of burden. In Brett Butler's immortal words, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Or to quote a more contemporary individual of questionable celebrity status (and not a fictional character), "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?" Thanks for that, Hillary Clinton. You're right, it doesn't.

Where I Stand

So, let me get this straight for everyone. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not a liberal or conservative. I'm not a Libertarian (though I often sound like I am). I am a member of a party with only one member. It has a long name. It's the Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. As I said, it only has one member, ME!

I seek no political office. I accept, mostly grudgingly, the often insane and even obscene laws of the land - federal, state, county, city, community and neighborhood. They are too voluminous for anyone to deal with. Of course, the vast majority of which are never enforced unless it is for the political expediency of some sociopathic politician's personal interests (or those supporting him or her).

Actually, I did my best, spending over 60 years of my life, attempting to live up to the letter of the law as I was conditioned to do by my parents, church, school, college, the military and over 57 years as an entrepreneur (beginning at age 12). I attempted to be a model citizen. This included serving my country voluntarily and not dodging the draft during an unpopular war. Hmm! Is there such a thing as a popular war? And what I learned, after all this time and voting for people I thought (unwittingly) would represent my interests, is that little ever changes other than a few faces and names. Otherwise, it's Business as Usual.

Everyday, since last Wednesday, my email box is filled with the gleeful conservative Republicans spitting their victorious vitriol at the liberal Democrats. And, of course, the liberal Democrats are sputtering back, "You'll be sorry! These Republicans will screw you (just as we've been doing, but didn't want you to know it).

Heck! I have no psychic powers, but I can predict the future. In one to three election cycles, the conservative Republicans will screw up enough - AGAIN - (just as the liberal Democrats have been doing) for the pendulum to swing back to the Democratic side. Wow! How can I know that? Simple, I looked back into the history of the U.S. government. Business as Usual.

Is Anarchy Evil?

I guess, if anything, I'm an apolitical, benevolent anarchist. Oh, my God! Did he say anarchist? Yep! I did. I said it. But, while anarchists are typically viewed as evil and malevolent, they don't have to be. The traditional dictionaries usually retain older, traditional and sometimes archaic definitions for words. But, as with everything in our world, words evolve and can have modified or new meanings such as this one I cite from the "Urban Dictionary:"

"Anarchists are people who want to live under their own authority. Political authority is what they are against, and some will go to extreme measures. Anarchists are extremely peaceful, but when time comes to take action they go right ahead. They are anti-consumeristic and often times grow their own food. Anarchism these days is often found in youth, particularly people around the punk rock scene. Anarchists are not people who make bombs etc. This is where the title for the "anarchist" cookbook went wrong."

The italicized, underlined and bolded words are my emphasis to make sure the context is not compromised. Also, I find with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes changes in thinking and philosophies.

It's not just youth who are rebellious. Actually, we were all rebellious when we were young. We all seemed to have times when we thought we knew it all and the "establishment" was a bunch of fuddy-duddies and didn't understand us. During my youthful years there was a name for the young people who really pushed the envelope, they were called "Hippies." Most hippies grew up and eventually bought into the prevailing, mainstream, societal model. A small number never did.

While I had my own rebellious attitudes during my youthful years, I was never a hippie. I had my secret desires to live free and unencumbered by the ever increasing burdens of dealing with an uptight society full of laws, codes, regulations, rules, ordinances, etc. However, I was probably a bit more like the fictional character, Alex Keaton from the popular 80's sitcom, "Family Ties." Alex was portrayed by Michael J. Fox. The show was the launching pad for his acting career.

I said I always attempted to be a "model citizen," but to be honest, the very nature of the entrepreneurial spirit is one of a certain non-conformity and rebelliousness. I did my best to stay within the law, but I was ever bending, testing and pushing the envelope.

Eventually, I realized that the box was getting smaller. The government was getting larger and I, like the vast majority of the population, probably 95% to 97%, was just a pawn in the real U.S. version of the "Game of Thrones."

Business As Usual

So, here we are. The 2014 mid-term election cycle is over. The sword of power passes from the one dynasty back to the other dynasty. Will there be changes? Of course! That's the purpose of the entire game.

We still have a sociopathic, arrogant, deceitful, ineffective, classless individual in the executive office with his own self-serving agendas. We have a Congress that is now controlled by the other dynasty. They will attempt to undermine the executive. Meanwhile the executive will do everything he can to stalemate the Congress and continue to portray them as "the problem." The executive will continue to play games with our enemies and throw anyone under the bus from his administration to assure that he is always beguiling. After all, it's his legacy as the greatest Pretender in Chief that is most important to him.

I wouldn't hold your breath for the economy to dramatically improve. I'd be concerned that the terrorism threat in the U.S. will likely escalate. More scandals will be added to the already existing scandals that have yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of the minions according to virtually every poll. And we may all reach the point of dry heaves long before the November 2016 election. The mainstream media will keep plying us with propaganda. Yep! I'd call that Business as Usual.

As for me? Well, I guess, I'm reverting in many ways to just being an old "hippie." I've figured out that I'm tired of playing "THE Game." I just want to live out however many years I have left staying as under the radar and off the grid as I choose to and enjoying the freedoms, I have left. Hopefully, those aren't ripped from me by more new laws designed to control and keep a finger on my location, life and thoughts.

As for you? Refer back to Rhett Butler's quote. I don't care where you stand or what you believe politically, religiously, ethnically, racially, nationally, financially, environmentally or in any other way. You have the right to whatever it is. Just DO NOT even attempt to tell me what or how I should believe or you're treading on quicksand. I am a Free Thinker and plan to remain that way until I die (and thereafter if there is a thereafter).

My only political aspirations are as the current sole member of my Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. By the way, it is open enrollment for anyone wanting to join my Party (and party is the operative word, because that's what we'll do - we'll party). 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

BEWARE - SCAM ALERT! Mystery Shopper Scam Using Social Media

Many people seek opportunities to generate extra revenue. There are, of course, more ways to approach this then there is room in this post to mention them all. A lot of the readers of this blog are "location independent" (full-time) or at least part-time "travelers. So, you are usually looking for portable, mobile or, in someway, location independent opportunities.

So, here's the deal. There are at least as many scams and possibly more as there are legitimate opportunities. The challenge is often that the scam or con is so well crafted that even the smartest of us can be duped. I fell into the trap just one time, probably 20 or 25 years ago when I had a very active audio recording business in full swing. I needed to upgrade to some new technology and decided instead of actually biting the bullet and buying the equipment outright, as I normally had, I would try equipment leasing. I applied to a legitimate leasing company I found in one of the industry journals and was turned down. But, they referred me to a company in Dallas, Texas they said would be more likely to handle a deal like mine.

Well, the second company was a one man operation who designed his con so well that he had the legitimate companies referring to him. I bit. Everything seemed pretty much on the up and up until a certain point. then I became a bit uneasy. I should have stopped and backed out. My intuition was saying Run Away from this deal. But, I didn't. I sent the requested $800 for the first and last payments on the lease along with the signed paperwork. That was the last time I saw my $800.00 and I never saw the equipment. I had been in business about 25 or so years at that point. I'd seen many "so-called" once in a lifetime opportunities come and go without getting caught. But, this time, I didn't trust my intuition and I learned the hard way. When it looks too good to be true, it usually almost always is."

Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate business and income opportunity. It is used by just about every retail industry and category there is. Even the largest retailers like Walmart, Target, Lowes; restaurants like McDonalds, Applebees, Pizza Hut; motel/hotels like Holiday Inn, Best Western, Hilton: supermarkets, pharmacies, clothing stores, you name it and they are probably using or have used mystery shoppers at some time.

I won't go into the details of mystery shopping. That's not the focus of this article. What I will tell you is that there is at least one and more than likely many cons and scams going on currently using the mystery shopping field as their vehicle. In the case of the leasing scam I was caught by, it was done domestically from Texas and the guy was caught. He used the UPS or Fedex to deliver his paperwork. However, he would occasionally use the U.S. Postal Service and that was how he was caught, convicted of fraud and other charges and sent to prison.

These new schemers are located around the world. They use email and a variety of social media to find their targets. They communicate via text messaging and email. They create a subterfuge by using different text numbers to send from and receive messages back from the mark. The same with email. They have often stolen the identity of legitimate people and businesses to add credibility to the con. The bottom line, if you were to do a cursory due diligence you might very well deduce that this is a real person, a real business and a real opportunity. That's when you may get hooked.

The LinkedIn Connection

I have a very large LinkedIn Network, the business social media network with 300 million plus members. I am one of the first one million members, so I've been around LinkedIn a long time. A friend forwarded me a solicitation for mystery shoppers through LinkedIn. Now, I'll be honest, it's kind of a warped hobby for me to discover these scams. From the beginning I was skeptical (and rightfully so, I must say). I forwarded the requested information and almost before I could blink my eyes I received a reply saying I had been accepted and my first assignment would be coming soon.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The man's name is John M. Hendrick. His company is Retail Active. Yes! There is a John M. Hedrick (probably a number of them in the world). Yes! There is a company in the mystery shopping business that goes by the name of Retail Active. But, the plot thickens.

First, Mr. Hendrick didn't seem to have a real command of the British English or American English written language. It wasn't bad, but there were some very obvious things that anyone with a good solid basis in these two versions of English would notice. That's why knowing your native language reasonably well is important.

Second, Mr. Hendrick sent me a text and an email saying my first assignment was going to be with the Western Union services offered at most Walmart stores and Walmart of my choice. So, he selected two, very well established and credible businesses to mystery shop.

Third, he notified me I'd be receiving a check (didn't indicate how I'd receive it) made out to me for $2,950.76, which I did, through my mail forwarder in South Dakota. It took about a week and a half to receive it during which time I received numerous texts and at least one email from Hendrick asking if I received the check and had I deposited it, yet. The first $400.00 dollars of that money was my payment for the mystery shop I was going to perform. The balance of the funds I was supposed to wire me via Western Union to three different people a three addresses.

Anatomy Of A Scam

Now, think about this. I have received no formal terms or conditions. I've received no agreement or contract of any kind. But, Mr. Hendricks trusts me enough knowing virtually nothing about me to send me almost $3,000.00 and expects I'll follow his orders and send this money to people I don't know. I'll be honest, no legitimate mystery shopping company operates this way and I knew it because I've done some mystery shopping in the past. I can also tell you that $400 as payment for an assignment like this is pretty bogus, too.

So, I knew from the get-go that I was dealing with some slick con operator in the Ukraine, Russian, China, perhaps somewhere in Africa and even South America. So, I have no terms and conditions. I have no contract or agreement. I have a check made out to me in my hands for $2,950.76. The check is drawn on PNC Bank, a branch in Princeton, New Jersey. The check is a business check issued by Berlitz International, Inc. (Notice, every organization in this scam is a legit business, credible and high profile.)

I called the PNC branch which actually existed and spoke to someone there who confirmed the check had their correct routing number on it, but it was a fraudulent check. I called the Princeton office of Berlitz International and although the check had the correct street name on it, it was the wrong street number, probably close to a mile or so from where the actual office was. They also indicated they were aware of these checks and their were not worth the paper they were written on. Additionally, that office didn't issue checks. Berlitz checks were issued out of an operations center at a different location.

I then emailed Active Retail, which I had discerned were located in the England and, as I was aware from their Web site, only operated in England doing mystery shopping assignments. And, of course, they had never heard of anyone going by the name John M. Hendrick. I have only received one additional text from John M. Hendrick wanting me to respond and tell him if had deposited the check as I was instructed and made the wire transfers. Of course, I'm sitting here looking at this useless piece of wall paper. By now, I suspect that Mr. Hendrick, or whoever he really is, has figured out that I'm onto his scam and don't plan to follow through.

I've also filed a claim with LinkedIn with all the details, so they can watch for him. I've heard that he's also appeared on Facebook, though I don't have first hand knowledge of that allegation.

There's A Sucker Born Every Minute

These people are becoming very sophisticated. People have been falling for the Nigerian Letter scam for years. I believe I read somewhere that someone in the U.S. Treasury almost fell for it and cost the taxpayers a pile of money (as if they don't squander enough already). For whatever the reason, people's greed and gullibility, I guess, they still believe there is a "free lunch" out there for them somewhere.

I don't go down this road playing games with a scam artist very often, only when it tickles my fantasy or I think I may learn something that will help others avoid it. And, don't believe that you're too smart to be scammed and defrauded. AT&T Mobility, my cell and wireless Internet provider, is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for selling unlimited full-speed Internet connections to some 3.5 million customers, then throttling back the speed to slow speed Internet approximately 2/3 the way through a month of service.

Think about it. If they just throttle back an average of 20% of a month's service every month on 3.5 million customers paying and let's just use $60.00/month, how much would that be? It would amount to $12.00/month of service not delivered as contracted or $42 million/month AT&T has received. In my book that is fraud and theft. How many of us may be part of that 3.5 million customers?

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate enterprise. It's a valuable service for the retailers, the managers, the shareholders, the employees and the consumers. It's also a great way for those of us to add a little extra revenue to our bank accounts. And, it is an especially interesting opportunity for those of us who are location independent travelers. Just be careful. Do your due diligence and protect yourself. And, believe that any legitimate mystery shopping service is going to do their due diligence checking you out before allowing you to represent them.

If IT looks too good to be true, IT almost always is.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Leaders, Leaners, Loners & Losers

I enjoy a little alliteration occasionally. This title popped into my mind while doing some fitness walking earlier today. Walking is a great time to develop ideas and lay the foundation for ideas. I realized everyone, during parts of their lives, wears each of these labels. Two are positive, while two are negative.

Fortunately, the two positive types, while experiencing periods of the negative traits, usually don't remain in the negative realm long. Unfortunately, the two negative types often spend most or all their lives wearing negative labels.

Have you figured it out, yet? Leaders and Loners are the positive people and Leaners and Losers are the negative people. Remember, everyone will experience periods wearing each of the four labels. So, allow me to give you my descriptions of these four kinds or people and experiences.


Leaders, in my opinion, aren't necessarily those people who might come to your mind first. There are certainly many people who manipulate their way to high-level, leadership roles. That, in itself, doesn't denote they are actually leaders. I could name names in the U.S., state and local governments, private sector industrial, commercial, medical and institutional complex, athletic teams, educational institutions and religious denominations of every variety. But, I won't. I'll leave that to your opinion.

First, leaders are individuals others look up to and respect for their integrity, competence, capabilities and actual achievements.

Second, leaders lead by example. They establish objectives, goals, rules, policies and provide an environment to fulfill the objectives and goals. Leaders also keeps their minds open for the ideas, suggestions and creativity of others.

Third, leaders always take full responsibility for the results of the undertaking. If the venture is successful, those under the leader receive  credit for achieving the positive outcome. If the undertaking is not successful, leaders assumes full responsibility and never embarrass or humiliate those under their leadership. Leaders never publicly pass the buck. Leaders will meet individually and privately with those who may be partially or entirely responsible for the outcome and discuss what happened.

Fourth, leaders always knows that it's lonely at the top. They will not complain, vent or offload their professional or personal challenges, issues or problems on those under their leadership. This is demoralizing. So, the leader is usually a loner.

There are a lot more leaders than many people believe there may be, because a true leader often goes unrecognized. Some leaders may actually be part of the "rank and file" and silently lead their colleagues to successful achievements without need or concern for rewards or recognition. See what I mean when I said leaders may not be the people who first come to mind?


Leaners are those who may have minor personality disorders, difficult or troubling childhoods, low self-esteem or many other possible reasons for their behavior. They can only function when leaning on others for support. I wouldn't necessarily suggest that a leaner is impaired. But, they shy away from leadership roles and usually display little initiative personally or professionally.

Leaners always need some kind of help or assistance. Leaners may whine and make excuses why they can't do something until someone finally offers to assist them. Then they carefully manipulate things so they do as little as possible. Leaners are often joiners, because they fear or dislike being alone. Leaners are seldom doers. They lean on group or organization to support their fragile ego and low self-esteem. Their identity comes from belonging, not from being.


Loners are a very unique group. Most true leaders are loners and that's because, as stated earlier, "It's lonely at the top." The especially unique thing about many, if not most, loners is while they may be alone, they seldom experience loneliness.

Contrary to what may be a popular belief, loners are very often social individuals. They may be extroverted or introverted, but they enjoy the company of other people. But, they don't necessarily need a spouse or partner to feel complete. Loners can usually blend into whatever social or cultural group they may encounter, make friends that often result in long lasting friendships and comfortably participate in the group's  activities.

Loners are seldom lonely because they know there are more interesting people around the next corner or over the next hill. They may not be the "life of the party," but they seek out individuals they most identify with and build relationships that may last for terms ranging from the particular event to a lifetime.

Loners are often misunderstood and even castigated for choosing to separate themselves from what the "majority" of a population consider a mainstream lifestyle. Loners may be nomadic or not. Loners may choose to live in traditional housing or housing that is outside the mainstream's frame of reference. Loners will often gravitate to more simple, natural settings, however, one can be a loner and find a place of solitude within a city or suburban setting.

In my opinion, loners can be just about anyone. However, I believe the common thread is that loners seek as much personal freedom to express their own way of living their life. Unfortunately, too many loners don't discover this until their lives are nearly over. Some may never discover it. Loners take full and complete responsibility for their own lives. While they may lead others in all kinds of endeavors, they are always accountable and seek their personal freedom and the ability to express it.


This is the end of the line. Losers, in my opinion, are those who simply do not fit into the other three descriptions. They have low self-esteem, choose to lean or live off others for their entire lives, have no ambition, fear failing so they try little or nothing, are never responsible for their past, present or future circumstances or actions and will do nothing to be responsible or accountable for themselves.

Their definition of freedom is finding ways to get everything, or as much as they can, free. Other names for losers are freeloaders, goldbricks, moochers and leeches. They live off the system (welfare), others like family and friends or on the streets looking for handouts. They have no initiative, no goals, no known exploitable gifts or talents or special knowledge or skills. Amazingly, any number of the people I just described are educated. They may have experienced a set back, chose to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or some other addictive behavior and simply gave up. They expect someone else to assume responsibility for them.

Leaders, Leaners, Loners & Losers

So, to wrap this up, as stated earlier, during your life and my life, we have worn each of these labels. I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's just how life works. Leaders and Loners will figure it out and within a short period of time move out of the Leaner label or even recover from being a Loser. There are many stories of the Phoenix arising from the ashes.

I can only suggest if, through your own introspection, you find yourself wearing a Leaner or Loser label you take some time, look deep inside yourself and find out who is really in there. If you can't find anything but darkness, then you may be a lifetime Leaner or Loser. But, if there are sparks of light somewhere in there, seek them out, rip off the Leaner or Loser labels and join the legions of Leaders and Loners who await your metamorphosis.   

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How To Avoid Being Lonely And Embrace Being Alone

One of my father's favorite songs was "Have You Ever Been Lonely." It was written and first recorded in 1933. I don't know which of the many artists who recorded the song inspired my father. I always thought it was Hank Williams, but he never recorded it.

I remember, as a kid, when my father would play his guitar and sing that song. Some of the words were, "Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? Have you ever loved someone, just as I love you?" Another line in the song was very prophetic. "How can I go on living now that we're apart?"

As I've looked back over the years at my father's short life (died at 42 by his own hand) and my life, the words have some deeper meaning to me. My parents, like many married couples, had their problems. As a young man, just coming of age when my father died, I didn't know how lonely his existence was.

Also, I didn't know my mother was asking for a divorce and the prophetic line, "How can I go on living, now that we're apart?" would ring true. I cannot imagine how lonely he must have felt during those final days and moments.

Have You Ever Been Lonely?

I don't have any polls or scientific data to back up my thoughts. I feel reasonably safe in saying everyone must experience some periods of loneliness. We are social animals. We live in tribes, hamlets, villages, neighborhoods, towns and cities. We socialize through religious beliefs, schools, work, families, friends and neighbors. Probably the most powerful social bond is the monogamous mating pair.

Being lonely can be realized in a variety of ways from not having any friends, being ostracized at school or work and in some cultural structures by exile from the tribe, community or family.  Whatever the circumstance, it is a feeling of emptiness. Being lonely allows too much time to focus inward on feelings that one is not acceptable, loveable or worthy of being part of a group.

Whatever the cause may be, it can be overcome and, I'd go as far as saying it must be overcome. Every single person is a "designer original." There is not another person who has ever lived or among the seven plus billion on the Earth today who is like any other person.

The Joy Of Being Alone

There is another side of the picture. Again, I have no polls or scientific data, but it is my firm belief that every human NEEDS some alone time. Being lonely and being alone are very different. Lonely is a time of low self-esteem, low self-worth festering in one's mind because he or she may have been rejected or excluded from some relationship or grouping. Being alone is a positive time when one can focus on their own positive self-worth, dreams, goals, objectives and it raises self-esteem.

I have experienced a lot of very lonely times. It has even been when in the company of my former mate, family and various groupings. I experienced another kind of loneliness when my marriage crumbled and I was living on my own again after about 20 years. It was an emotionally painful time. I began to understand more about the action my father took at age 42 and the prophetic words of the song. I made mistake after mistake attempting to prove to myself that I was a desirable person. Typically, I chose the wrong people. This only caused more pain.

Finally, and there was no great flash of light or burning bush or revelation, I realized that the person I was missing in my life was . . . ME! That's right! I had, for so many years, bought into the idea that I needed someone to "complete me." But, each of us is a complete person. We can enhance someone else or someone else can enhance us, but we can neither complete or be completed externally.

Alone And Free At Last

That was the day my life changed. For those with deep Christian faiths, you might say you were "saved" or "born again." And that's exactly how I felt. There were no angelic choirs, flashes of lightning or any other paranormal manifestations. And, it wasn't instantaneous. It was a growing feeling of contentment and fulfillment and joy of just being ME. I became my own best friend. I accepted myself with all my flaws and inadequacies as well as my gifts and talents. I'm not perfect, I'm just the perfect me.

I also decided to adopt an - what you see is what you get, attitude. You don't have to like me or live with me. I like me just fine and I'm the only one who has to live with me. 

I became aware of all the gifts I'd received over my lifetime. I found  being free allowed me open ended options of becoming very close to certain people and not as close to others. I gave up being judgmental.

While no person is an island unto himself or herself, each of us has to be self-reliant and not co-dependent. Enjoying a relationship with another human being is one of the great gifts and joys of life. Becoming co-dependent on anyone else is giving away one's personal freedom. The three most valuable gifts we receive at birth are life, time and personal freedom.

If you're lonely, and I know some of you are, then begin seeking your best friend inside yourself. Accept yourself and your unique gifts and talents. Explore your gifts and talents. Little by little you'll find you'll begin attracting other people to you, who, like you, are on a similar journey. Let the joy of being alone begin. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grades Just Don't Matter All That Much!

An old high school friend forwarded a YouTube video to me a little while ago. The title of the YouTube video was "Ten Minutes of Wisdom." Well, I'm right in the middle of a bunch of little detail stuff, plus composing another article to post, so I didn't think I'd take the time to watch the video right then. But . . .  I was curious and so I clicked on the link.

It was a presentation by a speaker at a college in Abilene, Texas. Frankly, I'm very glad I stopped and took the time to watch it. And, I'm giving you the link to watch it, too. The Link

This was an opening address to students at Abilene Christian University. Now, if you're not a religiously oriented person, don't let that stop you from listening to what this guy has to say, because he really hits a home run in my book. I think this should be required viewing at the beginning and end of every school year from the beginning of high school through college, graduate school and any other formal education or training.

One of his points about the formal learning process is that "grades" just don't matter all that much. The speaker had earned two degrees from this university and as he put it, he never got a B and graduated in the top of his classes. But, the only person in his entire life that cared about his  GPA was his mother. No one else cared.

I've often said the same thing about my two degrees, a bachelor degree and a master degree. In both cases, no one - and I mean NO ONE - has ever asked about my degrees, cared what fields they were in or what my GPA was.  No one cared that I was inducted into the honor fraternity for my undergraduate major. Did the education matter? Yes! It mattered to me because it helped prepare me for the future life I would lead.

But, did you notice I said that it "helped prepare me for the future" life I would lead. It didn't fully prepare me (or even close to prepare me) for what I would face in my life. The speaker made that point, too. Another point he made was when we graduate the best of our life is ahead of us. But, the worst of our life is also ahead of us. Believe me, this guy really imparted some vitally important life lessons during the ten minutes.

I relate to everything he said. I don't honestly remember one lecture from my 5+ years of higher education (let alone any from high school). I don't recall any of the papers I wrote - save one that I turned in to complete my masters degree - because it was actually a business plan that I prepared for a group of venture capitalists I was hoping to have back my business idea at age 24. What I do remember are specific teachers, professors and classmates who impacted and inspired me and I carry that with me to this day.

I also remember two important points that an English prof. imparted in about 1 minute in the very first class of my first semester of my freshman year in college. I've never forgotten those two points and they became the cornerstone of what I wanted my son to learn to carry him through his life. Here are those two points --

1. Learn to Think Critically

2. Learn to Burn the Candle at Both Ends (I interpreted that to mean learn to be a Survivor - do whatever it takes to survive)

That's what I wanted my son to enter his adult world with. I wanted him to be able to think critically and to be able to survive. He did and I feel I accomplished my objective in making him a productive, capable, competent member of society. He is, without question in my mind, my single greatest accomplishment.

Grades, smades - deal with them whether in school or career, but don't allow them to control your life. Learn to think critically, be a survivor and live and enjoy life to the fullest. When you reach the end of your journey, like everyone will, all your grades, all your awards, all your money, houses, cars, etc. won't really count for much of anything.

People will remember you for how you lived your life as a parent, sibling, friend and, possibly, as a colleague. What you'll remember are your memories. Listen to what this guy says as he sat at the bedside of numerous dying people. I hope it inspires you to live your life joyfully, not work your life toilfully. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me!

I love the simplicity of that ten word statement comprised totally of two letter words. There is a lot of power in those words. I haven't been able to find the true origin, but the first time I heard it was in the early 80's from Alexandra Armstrong, an accomplished and highly acclaimed Certified Financial Planner and investment professional from Washington, DC.

The ten words are often applied in a motivational context relating to career, professional and business success. However, the words can be applied to any facet of anyone's life. They certainly apply to making changes in your life to realize whatever dreams, goals and missions you have established for yourself including making whatever life changes you need to make to achieve your definition of living free.

A Case In Point

I meet a broad spectrum of people on-line and in person. Meeting people is one of my primary motivations for my particular version of a living free lifestyle. For example, this past weekend I attended the Veteran Speakers Retreat (VSR) in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. VSR is an event I have attended for more than 20 years. It was my privilege to be the coordinator and run the event for the past 12 years. This year was the first year I attended as a "civilian," a plain, old participant, again.

The event was held at the Allenberry Resort, the location of the Bass Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. To make a long story short, I was cutting through the museum to join other members of the VSR group that had gathered in an informal hospitality area. As I passed through the museum, I noticed an attractive, middle-aged woman looking at the exhibits. I passed a pleasantry with her that developed into a conversation and I learned why she was there and about her. I invited her to join the rest of the group and she did. When I returned to base camp from the VSR I received a nice note from Cindy inviting me to visit her when I might make it to State College, Pennsylvania sometime.

Cindy was there to meet a member of the VSR group and ended up meeting a lot of the group. She is looking for something that the statement, "If it is to be, it is up to me," applies. She drove about two hours just to meet up with one of our group and gained more than she anticipated by meeting many more people who inspired her and made her trip more worthwhile.

The Fear Factor and Living Free

I have been communicating via email with another person I'll call Sam to protect his privacy. He has been going through some serious emotional and psychological pain in his life due, primarily, from his description, to an extremely toxic marriage. An experienced RVer, he wanted to downsize his personal life, leave the toxic home environment, get on the road and "live free." We've had numerous interactions over the past month or so. He'd write to me and ask questions about the kind of lifestyle I've been leading, my motivations, the logistics, etc.

So, now he's ready to make the leap. The downsizing is done. The behemoth RV, downsized to a smaller, more efficient unit more conducive to a single nomad. He's packed up, BUT . . . he wrote me:

". . . I feel like a little boy not wanting to leave home. Going out in the big bad world feeling homeless for some reason and scared I won't like the little Chinook as it is so much smaller and wondering where the heck I am going to park. You see with the big motorhome I just  dry camped in parking lots on the way to Yuma and then we were always in the RV Parks. I am actually afraid and feel helpless although I have a roof over my head and have a small pension and should be financially OK like you and me talked about. What a S***ty feeling, buddy."

There it is, again - "The Fear Factor." Been there, many times. And, I'll bet you have, too. He's giving up a home. He's leaving the "comfort zone" of a relationship, that while extremely toxic is actually, in his mind, more comfortable than facing the "unknown."

The Reply

Here was my reply to him . . .

"Hi Sam,

Believe it or not, I just spent time with another Sam. He is an American born in the US to Dutch parents who took him back to the Netherlands when he was two years old and where he lived through the Nazi occupation and some brutal times. After the war the Dutch tried to conscript him into the Dutch Army and send him to Indonesia. But, his parents took him to the American consulate, since he was actually an American citizen, and enlisted him in the US Army. He got to the US, learned English and built several very successful businesses. He's 84 now and lives with his 84 year old wife (a humor writer and humorist/speaker) in Laguna Beach, CA. 

So, think about this other Sam and what he went through in his life - almost taken by the Nazis because they thought he was a Jew, left the country he grew up in without knowing a word of English even though he was a US citizen, came to a foreign country - his actual homeland, and learned the language and made a success of himself.

So, Sam - seems to me your situation is a piece of cake compared to this other Sam. Whaddaya think? It was FDR who said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And the only way to overcome whatever the fear is, Sam, is to face it head on. None, but a minute percentage, of the things we fear or worry about ever come to pass. When they do, they are usually far less onerous than the scenario we painted in our minds. You can say we are our own worst enemy - or as was stated by Walt Kelly in his Pogo comic strip, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

So, Sam - whatcha gonna do about it. The biggest challenge to making the jump to living free is breaking out of your comfort zone - and those comfort zones are often your own Hell on Earth. However, so many seem to perfer burning in their Hell because of this "fear of the unknown." So, pose yourself this question: Life is about as bad as I could ever imagine it could be, so what could be worse?

If you can actually make a list of things that could be worse than how you're living now - write them down on a piece of paper. Then, take a picture of your wife, current home and the area you live in. Crumple up the photos and the list you just wrote, light a match and burn them. 

Then, take a look at your birth certificate and just think - you were born to be free, not to live in a prison of your own making or a Hell that someone else created for you. Realize you are being given a free pass to live life on your own terms. Your sentence of bondage and unhappiness has been commuted. You can pick and choose to live any way, any where and any how you choose. And, if you don't like one way you've chosen, you are free to make another choice and you can do that over and over until you find whatever works for you. 

Talk about the greatest gift anyone could ever receive - Your FREEDOM! I know (and so do you) hundreds or even thousands of people who live their lives in self-imposed prisons and a bondage in Hell (toxic relationships) because they fear the greatest gift, the most natural way of living - FREEDOM.

You have a Chinook. They're in demand. They hold their value. If you find the Chinook is not right for you - CHANGE IT! But, give it a chance, first. You may find that living small with a small footprint, small carbon footprint, a certain degree of stealth and the ability to freely go where the 40' behemoths can't go is exactly what you want for your freedom. And, think about all the money you're saving that you can use for all kinds of other things on the "Life List" you need to start creating. A Life List is similar to a "Bucket List" except it's a positive version. It's not about doing stuff before you die, it's about doing stuff to live for. 

Remember the Nike slogan - "(Don't Think) Just Do It!" And there is a short sentence made up completely of two letter words - that should be your mantra - "If it is to be, it is up to me." 

So, aim the nose of that Chinook in any direction and drive - no matter where you end up, you're going to find interesting people, places, things, etc. And . . . you'll be amazed at how many people are going to tell you they envy you and wish they could do what you're doing. Unfortunately, they can't! The reason is because they'd rather stay in their self-imposed prison and the Hell of a relationship and/or job they are in. They fear the unknown and would rather stay in Hell. 

See ya down the road, Sam."

Remember, if YOU want to live free - "If it is to be, it's up to me." Make that one of your mantras and affirmations.