Life’s a Beach (Not the other word)


What does the beach mean to you?

Allegories Abound

The term in the title is often made as a complaint about hardship or complications. But it also can be interpreted as an allegory. How we love the beach! Glorious in summer it offers us motion, change, ease and cools our days and nights with gentle breezes.

But the most prominent feature of the beach is the waves. They touch our hearts as the most prominent feature of our planet interacts with us. It also represents the very essence of our existence. Our lives are ruled by waves as are our social interactions and the larger experiences of humankind.

Succession and Change

Of course, we understand change but the waves of the ocean are enduring and, while repetitive, they are also ever changing with tides, gentle caresses and tempests. Surfers understand to wait off shore for the very special waves. And they do come in, yes, waves. And what we are learning is that our lives are ruled by the goings and comings of tides and successions of waves of entirely different kinds.

It is fascinating that economists are focusing on theories of waves currently. In recent history we can see the waves as conflict built leading to World War I, turmoil of a different kind and then the building tumult of the rise of naziism culminating in the next wave of conflicts called World War II.

In America we saw the tide of people coming off the farms to factories and the crush of such movement in the war effort. Then the men came home, built families and we had unexpected prosperity.

Information Technology

Of the greatest interest is the rise of information technology. It appears to be the beginning of one of the largest wave movements. Humankind went from feudalism to the industrial revolution to market capitalism and now information technology is apparently leading to what is being called a postcapitalistic society.

I won’t go into all the fascinating details in Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism but he makes a compelling case. At first it is hard to grasp but he gave one example which was illuminating. Did you know that 75% of the world’s music is stored in a computer in Cupertino, California. The cost of storing is minimal, given the magnitude of data and that and the means of distribution and sale has brought the cost of purchase down dramatically.

Tsunami of Change

As a young person I recall getting on a bus near my house and riding it to a nearby town to a record story. I would go in and request to hear certain records I was considering purchasing. I took them into a booth where I would listen to them and make a selection. Then I climbed on the bus and went home with my purchase.

Need I say more, as I sit here at my computer considering what I might want to purchase. The ramifications are amazing and the argument is made that these processes will put an end to capitalism as we have known it. The playing out of the effects into all elements of society are endless. And, in world conflict, we are seeing the waves of our future.

How has information technology changed your life?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Dreams Versus Reality


Let’s branch out a little from this world of fraught political realities.

The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.

Complex History

As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies. Which often meant slavery.

St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.

What We Expected

We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.

We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.”

We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.

Other Realities

The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountain where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.

In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep. It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our Chinese attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”

What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.

In Conclusion

These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.

Would such an adventure interest you?

If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my .

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The New Millenials


What is your age group called?

Making Noise

I’m from what is called the Silent Generation but it seems I can’t keep quiet. My commitment now is to an entirely different generation. They are called the Millenials. Once upon a time I was of that age and the cadre I traveled with was not so silent. So let me speak in behalf of the Millenials.

A common viewpoint is that age brings wisdom. Seriously? I am not impressed by the evidence to support that contention. Experience, perhaps. Wisdom. Not so much.

The Wisdom at Awakening

I was to learn about wisdom. When I was hired for my first job after I got my Ph.D. at Duke I went to Baltimore in 1967. The community mental health movement sounded interesting and groundbreaking. Using a public health model, we were to bring mental health services to all the people of our country. Nice try!

Then came the awakening I could never have expected. To be blunt, effective leadership was lacking. Or at least their concept of leadership was a foreign language to the twenty somethings on the line of delivery. We huddled as we developed services and were not impressed by the seniors. Our particular unit was headed by a psychiatrist (of course!) and he was fairly clueless in our estimate.

Dedicated to a Mission

The people who had hired us made a significant error. They hired young people who loved new ventures. We were dedicated and could think. Bad. Bad!

Now granted, many of us were finding our way into a new field of endeavor. They called it mental health but it was being done differently. Or at least we wanted to do it differently. We were a diverse lot. Many of us banded together while some others chose different courses. One of the early radicals later became a dedicated creature of the establishment. One other fellow was fired. (An appropriate term because he became a radical who engaged in arson.)

Frequently the young staff went off the radar and developed new slants and we really, really got into the community. We even managed to engineer the hiring of people from the community we served so they could work with us.

Dedication Versus a Form of Venality

What’s the bottom line? We developed a very effective system for intervention, responded to the needs of these impoverished people and learned effective means of passive aggressing the establishment rather than engaging in confrontation so that we could deliver truly effective services.

The powers that were wanted not be disturbed, assumed obedience by their lesser colleagues, lived for status, wanted continuity of the established system, reveled in the status afforded by a new type of grant and wished unfettered use of the money. We wanted an effective mission.

In the end the establishment won. Yes, some of the hires from the community actually retired form the jobs which was an enduring victory of sorts. But, in the end, the services were sabotaged.

Bonding With and Empowering the Millenials

What did we learn? A great deal. We learned how to deliver truly effective services to an impoverished community and allied ourselves with them. And one of the things I learned is that we need to listen to and engage the young people now called the Millenials. Our current young adults have been dismissed as not interested in what needs to be done politically and otherwise. My brushes with them suggest something different. Look at who was standing in line in Wisconsin to vote. Millennials! And now look at who is fighting for effective gun control!

They are there. Many are quietly angry and frustrated. Only now are they beginning to show up on the streets. We need to recognize them and that this is their future and we old farts need to form a union with them. The coming demographic changes of all sorts are in our favor and we can win this fight. Now we need to band firmly with the Millenials.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Problem With Ratings


Manikin leaping from reflective sphere in fantastic landscape

What do you think about the issue of ratings for fiction?

What a Nuisance

When someone is writing fiction it seems likely that the primary reason they are doing it is to write fiction. Duh! It is an interest pursuit and can be challenging in a way that is fulfilling. Unfortunately, in most instances the author would also like to sell some books. Maybe they have a dream of being greatly successful or at least would hope there would be some sales.

And so that means it’s necessary to be involved in promotions. Ugh. The dreaded promotional process. It can be cumbersome and time consuming and is not exactly creative. Since it is quite likely that the book will be sold on Amazon the author will begin to see ratings go up. It is at that point that the author needs a perspective on just what they mean. Here are some thoughts.

My Recent Experience

In the spring Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power was published. I anxiously awaited the first reviews and ratings. Then came the first one. It was a one star. Very far from what I hoped. It lingered there alone on Amazon for quite some time. Not a high point. In the review the person said “vocabulary to advanced for subject matter”. There were other errors in spelling and grammar in the comment. Let me just say that the book obviously was not suitable for them and probably not to their taste. Fortunately, shortly other ratings began to show up with 5 star ratings clearly coming to dominate. Large breath of relief.

Choosing to Rate a Book

In working on promotion it was clear to me that there are very distinct categories and people have clear preferences. I will not review or rate a book that is not within one of my fields of interest or preference. If I don’t like the subject matter I don’t have to read it to know I won’t like it. Well, at least most of the time. Sometimes I’m surprised.

What to Expect

I’m sure there are widely divergent opinions but my perspective is that if five stars absolutely dominate then it is likely that the person has a following. That isn’t always the case but it is sometimes. The import of that is that an author, particularly at the beginning, needs to temper his or her perspective and expectations. Since ratings are often done by reviewers it can be expected that a reviewer will be critiquing a book. And that means when they see a problem or a shortfall it will probably dictate a lower rating. That is fair enough.

A Perspective

The bottom line is that ratings are valuable to authors and readers alike. But the numbers don’t stand alone. Among them are reviews and reviewers can give an added perspective. And the author needs to be ready for the rating which represents a person who simply doesn’t like the genre or the level at which it is presented.

What has been your experience with ratings and reviews?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Eve and the Snake


It’s Not So Simple

Monday’s post this week was about whether Eve did us a favor when she supposedly got humankind kicked out of Paradise. Of course there was another creature involved—the snake. The story I was thinking of was from the Bible. From interpretations I had heard, I thought the snake was somewhere between evil incarnate and the Devil. I thought it told us that we had lost the wonder of Paradise because we fell for what the snake was offering. Well, turns out it is all more complicated than that. In my post I indicated I thought it was not really so bad to be kicked out of Paradise. But then I got an interesting query from my friend Nathaniel.

“And where do you suppose the snake came from?” was his question. Crafty man Nathaniel. So I went online to get clarification. I was surprised.

Alternatives Offered

Here’s one thing I found:

“Fertility and rebirth. Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.”

Richness of Interpretation

Nathaniel had offered a interesting interpretation about mermaids which evidently symbolize a melding of earth and the sea and in the melding they also represent orgasm. Such wonderful complexity and it demonstrates what is offered to us in mythology and even in the world of fiction.

What I found particularly interesting is that when we rove into the world of symbolism and mythology there are often not simple answers. Certainly in my writing on the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I have found multiple meanings that I had to weave into the story.

And There’s More

Then Nathaniel, with his rich knowledge of the Bible and symbolism, clarified further. “Yes, there are many symbolic meanings for the snake. We tend to forget that in the Biblical story God created the snake.  There is always a tension between bliss (the garden) and reality (post garden).  God also lives in that dialectic and, as creatures made in God’s image, so do we humans.”

Things to contemplate.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Vitamin D and Health 2


What a Dreadful Oversight

There is a condition called nonceliac gluten intolerance. I have it. And it means I can’t uptake vitamin D effectively from food. I can only get the doses I need from ultraviolet exposure.

Now I know the medical advise was terrible. All of my life I sought to lie in the sun at every opportunity. And now I know why. I have a picture of me lying in front of a snow drift in the sun in January. I hoped for help but now know if your shadow is not shorter than your height you cannot get much help from sun exposure at that time of the year.

In graduate school I read a book which was a study of suicide in northern Europe. They sought every possible explanation and came up with nothing. I think I know why. The suicides were related to an inherited deficiency like the one that runs in my family. And so the suicides in northern Europe clustered in villages and, of course, was related to families and limited exposure to sunlight.

I go to a tanning booth regularly and it lifts my mood immediately. The dose of vitamin D in a tanning booth is rather large and the effect for me is immediate. My mood alters so the world is bright and brimming with hope and physiologically I feel ever so much better. I call my tanning salon Mother’s after the 60s drug dealer who sold things which made people feel great. Of course drugs are not the answer but the sun is legal.

What Took Them So Long

Until the year 2000 there were almost no studies of vitamin D deficiency which is why my search for information led nowhere productive. Since 2000 researchers have begun to take a look. I know what they will find when they shed their medically induced denial. They probably found nothing in the study of suicide in northern Europe because it may have been a familial disease related to vitamin D deficiency and they never looked into that possibility.

I won’t go into the research in depth but it is available online. Among the results are indications that vitamin D will cut cancer risks for such things such as colorectal cancer and prostate cancer by 30-50 percent. It decreases the risk of heart attacks by 50 percent and reduces the risk of dying from a heart attack by an even larger percentage. It is also linked to dementia.

No, I do not put sun screen on when I leave the house. Yes, I understand there is a cancer risk. I also understand there is a suicide and cancer risk and dementia risk if I do not get the ultraviolet rays on my skin.

A Flawed Set of Medical Models

Am I pleased I traced the source of my vulnerability? Yes, and I find it deeply unsettling. Time and time again I have seen the myopia, and prejudice in medical research. Over the decades I have been less and less impressed by the medical model and see our wellbeing impaired by the influence of big pharma in marketing drugs. (“Tell your doctor if you have been to a place where there are certain fungal infections.” Seriously?). And too often it seems that medical people don’t believe anything unless it is printed in a medical journal.

We wrestle with outdated “mental health” issues and now at long last some people are looking at Vitamin D deficiency but it should have been on the radar before the year 2000. At least at a personal level, concerning mood and for prevention, we can do our own research. The personal study is strikingly simple. Anyone with winter depression can do three things sequentially. Take oral vitamin D, try broad spectrum light therapy and after ending both other tests go to a tanning booth. The cancer and dementia prevention is implicit. Oh yes. Getting sunburned is still not a good idea.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Did Eve Do Us a Favor?


Challenge and Opportunity

Writing fiction is a challenging task. It is generally said to be a creative pursuit. Easy statement but not so simple in practice. How many of us have looked at the image of the writer sitting at his/her desk wondering how to begin. Of course the first question is probably not what to write but why write. Somehow we feel a challenge or a push but at base writing fiction is fundamental to human existence.

Oh please! (I don’t mean that.) Not everyone feels the urge to write but they often enough choose to read. It’s not just a matter of us having the capacity to do either. There is something fundamental because of our tendency to seize the moment of creation of all kinds.

Who We Are

I’ll try not to go too deeply into philosophical meanderings. One of the categories I chose for my WordPress blog is “struggle”. When I chose it, I thought it would fit some specific items but found I selected it over and over again because I came to realize that life on this planet has a fundamental element of struggle. Once that is stated I don’t think I need to exemplify it. Surely many forms of it leap into your awareness. And its not just a matter of survival. Its incredibly fundamental and the challenge is essential.

One Example

You may have been wondering when I would get to the title of this post. Did Eve Do Us a Favor? Actually that came to my mind clearly one day. It’s possible to take that biblical episode as an indication of how women have fouled our future. It can also be seen as how evil can trip happily into our lives as in the form of the snake. But certainly it has been taken in a variety of ways as indicative e of how women are naive and fail us.

A Very Different Take

I have another view and think we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Eve. Without her we would be sitting in Paradise desperate for something interesting to do. The view presented to us of paradise is shallow and wanting of challenge. Perhaps Eve saw that the snake was offering us a rich future of struggle and with it opportunity. But it required being cast our of Paradise and its inevitable boredom.

Not Stopping There

When we move beyond Paradise we immediately recognize a universe of opportunity. And I use the word universe pointedly. When we step back and look at our four plus billion year world we see amazing diversity and creation. We may be a moment time and have to wonder how we will evolve from here. Of course, each of us may well not see much of what is to come but the contemplation of possibilities is stunning.

Thanking Women – Again

And so I come back to the matter of struggle and seizing the opportunity. Our human past has been rich in struggle but also creation and opportunity. Women as the source of children and our future require recognition. So, again…Thank You Eve!-for your marvelous gift of opportunity.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt