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Guns Are Not Cool

July 30th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

The Aurora, CO gunman, James Holmes, was just formally charged with 12 counts of first-degree murder and a plethora of other charges (there were 58 people injured in the shooting as well). Everyone from, the victim’s family members, relatives, friends, the local community (the shooting occurred 20 miles from Columbine) is grieving and the whole country is utterly in a state of shock and disbelief and is raising questions. What happened exactly? More importantly, why? How can a man with no previous criminal record and a promising future ahead of him commit such an unspeakably heinous crime?
Well, eventually all the details will come out; a countless number of studies will be conducted and perhaps we’ll learn that gene #17 mutated which caused him to lose touch with reality and go berserk.  On the other hand, maybe he was high on painkillers or conversely he FORGOT to take his medication.
What I’m going to blog about today is one thing what WE, as a society and a civilized country can do to, if not eliminate (which is impossible, there will always be crazy madmen walking around) but rather minimize and curtail the number of these type and other homicides with guns. The answer is Hollywood and Madison Avenue can portray people who carry guns to be pathetic, lame, ugly, and UNCOOL individuals. It’s the same strategy we are using with cigarette smoking – it’s not cool to smoke today and hopefully someday it will be viewed as despicable to be a gun owner.
Take a look at Bruce Willis, The Rock, Stallone, The terminator, ad infinitum toting these incredibly cool-looking weapons. And, just look at the power a gun gives you, in the movies you’re an unstoppable machine and all your problems can be resolved by moving your index finger. If I were in charge, my first marketing campaign would be something like ‘Only weaklings need guns – real men are martial arts practitioners who work hard to become a man.’ Or’ wow you’re a real tough guy, you can move your index finger back and forth.’ I know this sounds a little silly, glib, and facile but I am convinced that huge marketing strategies like this will SAVE lives. Kids and immature men are monumentally impressionable, and for a guy, being cool, strong, powerful, self-sufficient, and independent is everything.
This is just one strategy for combatting gun crime; obviously, we need to implement strict gun laws as well. So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think?  This is something we can do – STOP making the guy toting the gun look cool. No longer is the guy with the Marlboro hanging from his mouth macho, or cool, but rather he’s a person who has a disgusting, filthy habit that girls hate and in the end will kill him. So maybe 10 years from now we can say ‘ Look at that pathetic weakling who needs a gun to protect himself, a real man uses his brain and bare hands if necessary to get out of a tough situation.”

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Perils Of Wisdom

July 14th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
I love the great outdoors. City born and bred, I quickly became enamored with country life early on by our many family outings to (a once wilder) Long Island and the deep woods of upstate New York. I vowed to one day move to the country and have had my dreams realized once or twice in my lifetime. Whatever circumstances intervened to keep me from my idyl, the thought of permanently returning is never far from my mind.
Lovely as it is, outdoor life has its dangers; poison ivy, bee stings, sunburn, getting lost in the woods, getting snowed in, mud slides (twice our dirt road was washed out by torrential rains that affected the entire upstate region causing a state of emergency). The majority of most of these perils can generally be avoided with just a little foresight (or hindsight if you’ve already had the misfortune to misjudge), while others are simply unavoidable. Common sense however, is the saving grace in all things. I’ve experienced all of the situations mentioned and have questioned my sense of judgement more than once to ascertain if my calamities were brought on by carelessness or happenstance. The conclusion is, invariably, both. But this is how we learn and the mistakes made never bear repeating. And if they do, we are at an advantage as to how to better handle them the second time around.
My biggest fear is an encounter with a wild animal such as a bear or a bobcat. Though both are said to be elusive, nature is unpredictable. I have never seen either one in its natural habitat, but they’re there all right. They see you . One deterrent is to make noise. Quiet by nature, I find this behavior a little out of character for me but my fear of coming face to face with a ferocious version of Smokey will prod me to do some things any sane person witnessing would find alarming. First Rule: Never venture out of doors without your hiking stick, though I tend to think of myself running in the opposite direction rather than actually poke Smokey in the nose with it. Rule Number Two: Make noise. My idea of making noise is to sing a ridiculous song at the top of my lungs in an over zealous manner. That should send Yogi and Boo Boo hightailing to Canada along with a good majority of the human population. Unfortunately, all I’ve thus far managed to do is send poor little Peter Rabbit scurrying for cover. Awww….and he was so cute too.
In years past, there was no threat of bears in our area but they’ve made a recent comeback in prolific numbers. Then again, how do we know they weren’t there before? Maybe we just didn’t see enough of them and what we’re seeing now is the baby boomer generation of bears. I shudder to think of my teenage hiking days, traipsing off into the woods by myself. I’d be quiet as an Indian to try and spot as many wild creatures as I could when all the while there’s old Bigfoot with his eye on me, salivating at the thought of a teen burger. Really, Mister Bigfoot, I’m too skinny, I might have protested. On the other hand, my younger cousin was entirely fearless. Come dusk, she’d grab her sleeping bag and head for the forest, all alone. I never thought that was a very wise thing to do then, and especially not now.
I think of my many foolish moments off on my own. Once I found a small cluster of black flowers growing at the base of a huge tree in the woods. I was intrigued. I had never seen black flowers before. I crouched down to examine the sharply pointed petals on their long smooth stems. There were only 3 or 4 of the flowers and none others nearby. I decided to bring them home and place them in a vase. Home, at the time, was just a short walk up the road. The moment the flowers were placed in the water filled vase, they drooped. As in, died. As if the most abhorrent thing in the world to them was water. It was like the scene in The Wizard Of Oz where the water gets thrown on the witch and she starts melting. I was perplexed and a little bit frightened. What flower doesn’t like water? What was this mysterious plant? I have searched the internet and have never found any wildflower remotely like it. It could have been the poisonous creation of Merlin the Wizard for all I knew.
The point to my ramblings is this; If you have any misgivings on what your foragings have to offer, heed them. Don’t touch anything that’s not familiar to you. Learn as much as you can about your surroundings and don’t go nosing around unless you know what you’re doing. Be alert to what’s happening around you. If you hear a humming sound and you’re in God’s Country, it’s probably not the drone of an airplane, but a swarm of bees that are not necessarily airborne but may very well be where your next step lands; on the ground. No matter how much we think we know, there will always be moments of wonder.
Happy Trails and have a Safe and Happy Summer!
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For The Birds

June 24th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

While bike riding in the nearby Massapequa Preserve yesterday, I came across a glorious sight. Twelve swans floating as one in the creek that’s fed from the large pond a little further upstream. Other people also stopped to observe, one remarking “Six pair”. Everyone knows that where there’s one swan, there are usually two. Thus, multiple swans should turn out in pairs. They mate for life (something we humans can learn from). I spent a few moments drinking in their beauty before continuing on my way.
On my reverse trip, it seems that a Swan Lady had appeared, knee deep in the water, looking magical as the swans surrounded her. Then it became apparent, as the scene tarnished by the  fact that she was feeding them along with a smattering of baby ducks.  We were always told not to. Had something changed? As if reading my mind, she turned to me and said “It’s actually good for them. It’s wheat bread, not white”, she added in defense, as each swan politely took its turn accepting her offering by hand. I was somewhat skeptical but thought that she might be a swan expert, so certain was she in her conviction . She seemed pleased with herself at saying they had finished off the loaf. She had brought two and immediately began doling out the second one as more people gathered to watch. “Do you have any bread for the birds?” she asked a set of toddler twins. “If you do, then you can feed them too”.
On the other side of the preserve is yet another pond, along with a prominently placed sign facing Merrick Rd. DO NOT FEED THE WATERFOWL. It was posted by the Department of Environmental Conservation listing the reasons:
Poor Nutrition
Increased Hybridization
Water Pollution
Delayed Migration
Concentration At Unnatural Sites
Overcrowding
Spread of Disease
Costly Management Efforts
Unnatural Behavior
Cumulative Effects (one person feeds them, then another and so on)
Devaluation of the Species
And so, dear people, please leave nature to itself. It’s quite capable of providing for itself without any “help” from us, however well intentioned. It’s done so since the dawn of time. Take the bread home and spread some peanut butter and jelly on it for your kids. There are other ways of teaching your children about nature, beginning with suppressing the urge to feed the birds. They are not starving. They beg for food the same way your dog or cat does but the added distinction lies in the fact that these creatures are wild. So enjoy them at a distance with all the respect that they deserve. Meanwhile, the Swan Lady has prompted me to request another sign from the DEC to be posted at the Swan Lady’s site. It seems that it is she who needs to be re-educated, not I.
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A Chicken is an Eggs Way of Making Another Egg

April 28th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

I bet you never heard the chicken and the egg debate framed in such a way, unless you happen to have the good fortune of stumbling upon Robert Sapolsky’s lecture series of Biological Psychology on YouTube. Many folks go on you tube for music, others for human pratfalls (boring), and still others for cute or odd animal behavior. I personally go on for 2 reasons: yes I play guitar and if you’re having trouble playing Steve Howe’s – ‘The Clap’ I can always check out YouTube and get a note for note lesson from the actual Steve Howe for nothing. Amazing ! Who needs to pay $30 per hour for a teacher? (Will YouTube eventually supplant the need for a real music instructor? For me the answer is yes, for beginner’s no but I’ve been playing for decades and that’s another blog).
I love YouTube for enabling me to play any song under the sun (accurately) for nothing. Yes, some people charge but if you really search, you can always find any song for zip. The second reason I am in love with YouTube is for purposes of higher education. Indeed, you can take an entire course, a full semester, at Yale for absolutely nothing; and the great part is there’s no homework and you’re not graded. For me this is a dream come true. Now I must admit you probably have to be at least 40 to be attracted to this wonderful feature (after 16 consecutive years of school, the last thing a 22 year old recent college graduate would want is more school) and furthermore the # of schools offering free classes is growing.
I can switch gears and go anywhere I want with this blog at this point e.g. why we hate school when we are young and later love it when we reach middle age, why having a lecture on tape is better than just attending, – simply because if your mind wanders you can always rewind and go back to what you missed (the ideal situation would be attend the lecture and then watch the tape), I have always loved learning but hated school because I, just like everybody else, was more concerned about what part of the lecture would be on the mid-term and final because after all, sadly getting an ‘A’ in the course is more important than absorbing and enjoying every morsel of what is said. The ultimate goal of every professor or teacher I have spoken with is to ensure the student 1. Grasps and understands the complete course and 2. most importantly the ultimate goal is to encourage the students to become interested in the subject enough to go further and continue learning about what he or she was taught. Finally I can elaborate on how a person should be graded – I would throw out multiple choice questions, stick only to essay, and lastly I would have the instructor or T.A. sit down with the student alone and ask him telling questions and the final question would be to ask what this particular person got out of the course and how the instruction affected one’s outlook in the real world. The aforementioned would take a lot more money and resources but so what ! – More jobs and a more educated populace.
I will in the future blog about everything mentioned in the last paragraph but for now, all I want to do is alert all the readers of this blog about what a goldmine YouTube is. BTW, this is not an ad – honest; YouTube is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hey and what was so great about sliced bread anyway. So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think ?

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Mindfulness: The Art of Living Well

December 5th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

I have been a student of eastern philosophy for more than three decades and I am delighted to see that the practice of Mindfulness is very much in vogue today. One doesn’t even have to concern oneself with the historicity of Mindfulness nor even be remotely interested in Buddhism out of which this very simple, though at the same time very difficult and yet prodigiously effective practice sprung. As a matter of fact many psychiatrists and psychologists have recommended Mindfulness to their patients as a way of reducing stress, anxiety, and dealing with depression.
Many people have stated that Mindfulness has dramatically changed his or her life for the better; whether it is practiced by someone who suffers from some anxiety and mild depression to very serious psychiatric afflictions such as paranoid schizophrenia. (Last week The New York Times profiled a man who was diagnosed with having schizophrenia but was able to cope and function as a productive solid citizen, he is currently employed full time as a computer programmer, with the aid of medication and the daily practice of mindfulness.)
So what is Mindfulness? Is this something for you? Can you incorporate this sort of practice into your life and busy schedule? The answer to all three of these questions is a resounding yes. Mindfulness in a sense is a form of mediation, one doesn’t have to set aside a half – hour or more and sit in the lotus position counting one’s breath. Mindfulness is actually a way of life and a new way of looking at the world. Ideally, a person ought to be mindful every waking moment. The best definition for mindfulness is simply (it’s actually very hard) bringing your attention to the present and paying careful attention purposely and in a particular way to the present moment; the particular way is to be nonjudgmental and to except what is true and real without any pre-conceived notions or delusions. This is the reason a Zen Buddhist very often refers to this “state of mind” as Beginner’s mind or experiencing life as if for the very first time. One can be an eighty-year-old man with a lifetime of experiences and memories and still live almost child-like in terms of being curious, open, and accepting what you perceive to be the absolute truth – life is exactly what it appears to be, nothing less and nothing more.
Although Buddhism has been around for 2500 years, the concept and idea of cherry – picking, so to speak , the utilitarian down-to-earth nuts and bolts aspects of how to live a good life without adhering to and embracing the philosophy and religion of Buddhism, was put forth by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Minfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill. This was a hugely successful and clearly effective way of maintaining good health physically, emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually combining western medicine and the eternal truths from the East (from the East but they’re truths that are eternal and universal) about the human condition.
So tomorrow morning when you have your morning cup of coffee, experiment with mindfulness. Drinking coffee or tea is a good way of beginning your Mindfulness training. There are actually scores of books written about Zen and not only drinking tea but also the preparation involved which is sort of a ritual for many Easterners. (Now Westerners too, thanks to the proliferation of Zen and Mindfulness). Say to yourself, “This is the beginning of a new and wonderful day; this particular day has never happened before and never will happen again. Be mindful of this and be grateful. Smell the aroma of the coffee before taking your first sip, feel the porcelain touch your lips, take note of the weight of the cup, let all of your senses open up, and come to life. Nothing else matters at this particular moment and time but you and your cup of coffee. Be at peace and be totally present. If a thought, worry or concern crops up do not dismiss it, simply acknowledge it, accept it and gently bring yourself back to drinking your coffee or tea. Thoughts, feelings, awareness of your surroundings is all normal, the key is to be in the present and greet each feeling and sensation with curiosity, openness, total acceptance and feel the connection and relationship you have with your cup of coffee and ultimately with everything that exists and is in the universes. Yes, life is good and for these few minutes, there is nothing but this. You’re as close to the truth as the Dali Lama is as he meditates to greet the morning. “
So WhaDaYaThink ? What Do You Think ? This seems like a very simple exercise in Mindfulness but I can assure you, invariably a multitude of unwanted thoughts will permeate you being – just let them come and go, eventually you will be the master of your thoughts and you will be more peaceful, more at rest and yet more alive than ever. Peace on Earth.

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If You Love Animals, Help Save Feral Cats

October 30th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

Winter is fast approaching and if you’ve been feeding those feral cats all summer long, they’ll need a warm  dry place to stay. People have all kinds of misconceptions about cats. Because of their independent nature, people tend to think cats can fend for themselves and to a certain extent they can. But the sad truth is, these animals won’t live very long if they’re forced to endure extreme cold wet weather year after year. It takes its toll. So, you’ve been feeding that feral cat? Good for you! Now take the extra step in prolonging that precious little life.
I never intended to become the Cat Lady. It happened one winter when I was feeding the birds in my backyard. A small white cat would visit the feeder each day and in ignorance I would shoo her away. What I believed to be mischievous behavior was completely misunderstood. That pile of feathers revealed something more. Put simply, she was starving. I caved in. “Catherine” was fed from that day forward and was my friend for nearly ten years. Others came during this time – her sidekick Heathcliff. And a male I thought I’d been feeding (Mr. Linton) gave birth one Spring to three healthy kittens. I trapped and kept one. My intention was to trap and neuter them all but before I could bat an eyelash, three months later Mrs. Linton got pregnant again. This time there were four. God knows what happened to the other two from the first litter after a not so neighborly neighbor trapped and brought them to a local animal shelter. I was determined this would not be the fate of the second litter. But I needed help and fast!


I queried and I called but it wasn’t until I sought the expertise of two dedicated people at a local organization that things finally began to take shape. They lent me their Have-A-Heart traps for free and helped me to trap all four female kittens along with their mother. Oh, it wasn’t easy. It took round the clock supervision to trap them one by one but in the end it was worth it. When they were brought to be neutered, they discovered that Mom was “in the family  way” once again and so was one of the kittens at just three months old!
So, number one. You must trap and neuter your feral cats. As humans, we are responsible to take on the challenge and reduce the number of feral cats safely and humanely. After all, the problem exists because of us – beginning with the domestic house cat we failed to spay or neuter. Since this is the root of the problem, it’s also the means to its end. And just because you have a male cat, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be neutered too. What do you think he’s going to do with all that unharnessed energy? Contact any feral cat organization for help and information. They’ll also put you in touch with how to house your furry friends.
Mine are bundled all safe and snug on my backyard deck which happens to have an awning. Three separate units (small dog houses or large plastic pet crates) are clustered together with warm wool balnkets and rugs inside each one. Or you can even use straw for warm dry bedding. Styrofoam sheets for insulation along with plywood for stability (purchased at Home Depot) are stacked around the units and the whole shebang is covered with a heavy duty plastic tarp to keep out all that wind and snow. They love it. It’s like winter camp. When Spring arrives, simply take it apart, wash the blankets and store them for next season. Replace the winter blankets with some soft cotton ones as shelter against the hot sun and the occasional summer thunderstorm or if we happen to have a rainy season.
My five lovely ladies are happy, healthy and a source of constant joy all year long. Although I’ve given up feeding the birds (an unfair disadvantage to them with five cats to battle) I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world. They’ve gone from feral to friendly as nature intended. And the glow I feel inside having given them the life that they deserve goes beyond all measure. They give me so much more in return. Keep in mind, if you want to domesticate your furry family, you need to invest in the time. You can gain their trust by keeping perfectly still and letting them go about their business. Attempt to give them treats and eventually they’ll eat right out of your hand. I made it a daily habit of sharing my dinner with them. It took several months but now we’re friends for life.
I want to publicly thank Rob and Joanne at All About Spay & Neuter for their invaluable help four years ago. Please do your part and help support your local feral cat organization or get involved by writing to your congressman to stop the senseless killing of feral cats. The answer is “Trap, Neuter, Return”, an effective measure in eliminating feral cat colonies over time.  To learn more, log on to Alley Cat Allies. Give cats a voice.
So…………..whadayathink? Was this article helpful to you? Will you get more involved and help spread the word? Thanks for reading.

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