Monthly Archives: July 2016

AMSTERDAM AND ICELAND

Our first four days were canals and history, and then it was on to the land of fire and ice.

The 10-1/2 hour flight direct from Los Angeles to Amsterdam got us there at 9am.  Then we had to figure out how to stay awake all day.  Didn’t turn out to be a problem!

Amsterdam is a charming, clean city of about ¾ of a million people, almost all of whom speak English.  They’re all very helpful and as charming as the city.  The city is a real gem, with 40 parks and over 100 miles of canals with charming old houses embracing both sides of the waterways.

There are about as many coffee houses as there are miles of canals, they just don’t serve coffee.  These are the pot emporiums.

The city boasts a number of world-class museums of historical art masters and a variety of good, informal, casual and upscale restaurants to entice your stay.

We stayed awake with a walk to the Train Station Plaza and a two-hour on/off bus tour, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour canal boat tour, each with a splendid feel that makes Amsterdam so charming.

Since this was our fourth trip to Amsterdam, most of the next two days was spent visiting with the quartet of Gabriele’s charming relatives.

A few things in Amsterdam:  There are more bikes than cars, probably because it’s so hard to find a place to park your car.  If you’re lucky enough to find a space, you don’t have to put money in a meter.  You enter the number of your space in your Smartphone.  Do it again on your way out and your credit card is charged.  Great feature.  The other special was the security checkpoint at the airport—automated, fast, friendly and efficient.

Now it was time to move on three hours west to Iceland, a country the size of Kentucky, sporting 14 volcanoes and a population of about 350,000, most of whom live in/around Reykjavek, the business and political capital.

We took a cruise around most of the island country, but there are plenty of land tours and rental cars and campers available to see the sights.

Iceland is a visual paradise and a land of endless photo ops.  The mountains and volcanoes are always in the background as you cruise through vast expanses of green moss landscapes, some strewn with leftover volcanic rocks.

The skies are clear (we had no rain) and the temperatures ran from 45 to 59 degrees.  That is a warm summer for them.

It’s a young country geologically and historically.  In addition to the active volcanoes, there are bright green valleys, glacier-cut fjords, powerful waterfalls, black (volcanic) sand beaches and roaring streams and rivers.

Our first port stop was Grundarfjörður, at the end of a beautiful fjord that leads to the grandeur of the landscape and the extinct volcanoes.  The Snæfellsjökull Volcano is certainly one of the most famous mountains in Iceland, if not the world.  It is not unusual for photographers from all over the world to make their way to Grundarfjörður for the sole purpose of photographing this unique landmark, which is comprised of a glacier setting on top of a 5,000-foot volcano.  It’s quite a sight!

Next we headed for Grimsey Island, population 90 hardy souls.  The island is about 25 miles north of mainland Iceland and directly on the Arctic Circle.  It’s a haven for numerous colonies of birds along its jagged cliffs.  The main resident is the clown of the sea, better known as the puffers.  It is a rumored that the island has one store, which has  half empty shelves and the other half are quite dusty.

We didn’t quite make it into the harbor because the seas were too choppy, so we headed in early to our next port, Akureyi, a small city of 16,000.  Nicknamed the capital of Northern Iceland, it features a magnificent, modern, double spire church hanging over the downtown.

Moving on, we sailed down a beautiful, long fjord into Isafjordur.  Currently, the town has one of the largest fisheries in Iceland as well as a monument to the seafarers lost during long fishing expeditions.

Heimaey, one of the 15 Westman Islands, welcomed us next.  The only inhabited island, Heimaey has a current population of 4,700 and it was there in 1973 that an volcanic eruption began without warning by the side of Mt. Helgafell on the outskirts of town, to swamp one-third of the houses with boiling lava and bury most of the rest in ash.  Miraculously, the fishing fleet was in port, and evacuated the whole population to the mainland without loss of life.  Six months later, when the volcano had fallen dormant again, most of the islanders returned to rebuild their homes and lives—and re-established the Westman Islands as one of Iceland’s main fishing ports.

Iceland is dedicated to preserving its natural wealth through responsible conservation.  According to the Environmental Performance Index, it is the world’s greenest country.  Iceland is at the forefront of renewable energy production, and nearly every home in the country is supplied with heating and energy from renewable energy sources.  Iceland has also made a commitment to responsible fisheries management, and incentive programs to reduce fossil fuel-driven transportation through the use of hydrogen and methane.

All-in-all, we traveled 965 nautical miles, equivalent to about 1,200 land miles.  If you were driving, you would easily double that mileage.

It’s a good trip and a nice vacation, only six hours from New York.

ArtSchwartzSig

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I AM…

Have you ever considered the power of the phrase, “I Am”?

I have heard different uses of this phrase, some as simple as, “I am hungry,” “I am tired,” “I am happy,” “I am sad.”  Very simple phrases and not much to consider about their meaning—or is there?

I was going through my emails the other day and came across one of Oprah’s inspirational messages.  This one in particular read, “Two Powerful Words That Might Keep You From Your Best Life.”  I decided to click on the link, curious as to what the words might be, and there was Oprah, in all of her beautiful essence saying, “I am excited,” “I am energized,” “I am ready,” and so on.  The next phrase I heard was, “Whatever follows ‘I am’ will come looking for you.”  Whoa!

I have always been a bit skeptical about rah-rah motivational gatherings.  I’ve attended some of them and, yes, I felt excited!  I felt energized!  I believed anything was possible!  And then as the motivational gathering ended, the “anything-is-possible” feeling ended shortly thereafter.

So here I sat listening to Oprah; and even went on to listen to the full sermon by Pastor Joel that changed the way Oprah sees her life.  Here too was this energized man full of excitement telling the audience about the power of the words “I Am.”  I felt my resistance to believing what he was saying.  I thought, “Of course Oprah and the Pastor feel excited and energized, and everything else they are saying—look at their lives!  What is there not to be excited about?”

Then something shifted in me.  I considered the words I was hearing. I looked at the times in my life, past and present, when I used the words “I am.”  I can say that they haven’t always been on the positive side.  When I’m tired, “I am tired.”  But has this become a habit?  If this simple phrase can become a habit, perhaps I have even manifested this feeling.  What else have I been saying after the words “I am”?

It’s a good thing that I’ve been practicing mindfulness about the language I use when I communicate with myself.  Because of it, it didn’t take me long to realize how often I said phrases such as, “I am so tired of being in debt.”  “I am so tired of my life.”  “I am so inadequate.”  And the list goes on…what has come after the “I am” has found me.

So I asked myself the question, “Why not consciously change the way I talk about myself”?  How about if I start saying, “I am so precious”?  “I am so blessed and happy with my life.”  “I am very capable of doing what I long to do.”  “What harm could this bring?”  “What do I have to lose?”  What if what comes after “I am” finds me?

What has followed your “I am”?  What do you wish to follow it?

The wonderful thing about change is that we don’t have to do it all at once.  It can be a process.  We can become aware of what we want to change.  We can accept that it is time for change, and then we can take action—one step at a time.

Each day I will look in the mirror and say something amazing that I am.  We are all amazing.  We can see that in each other and we can say that to each other.  Yet the most important person that needs to tell us we’re amazing is us.

Maria Rueda can be reached at maria@balancedis.com.

ArtSchwartzSig

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THE SUMMER OF ’48

It was a great summer.  One of the best I can ever remember.  The year was 1948.  I was 17, about to be a senior in high school.  Not sure why, but I felt a sense of freedom I never had before.

My mother worked in the New York office and during summers at Cejwin Camps, a private camp built around a lake in Port Jervis, New York.  Cejwin was a collection of five camps divided by age and sex, hosting about 1,000 kids every summer.

I had been a camper there for several years.  This summer I was to be a waiter.  I went up early to work as an all-around gopher, delivering campers’ trunks to their assigned bunks and doing a variety of maintenance chores.

The physical labor was most enjoyable and there was time to play volleyball after dinner on a scrubby, makeshift court behind the kitchen with the guys from the kitchen crew.  It was there I met and played with Punch and his brother Horace.  Punch was about a year older than me and we connected.

After dark when we couldn’t see the ball anymore, we went across the road to a little beer joint to hangout and talk sports.

One night we watched Joe Louis outlast Jersey Joe Wolcott with a KO in 11 rounds at Yankee Stadium.  The Brown Bomber, as Louis was called, had been a national hero since he won the heavyweight championship in 1937.  He was now 34 and his skills were showing some signs of age.  This was his last title defense.

Everyone at the beer joint was ecstatic that Louis had come back after losing some of the early rounds to keep the title.  With all that enthusiasm, Horace, who had a car, said, “Let’s all go down to Harlem.  The celebration will be great.”

So off we went.  Ninety miles to NYC and a raucous celebration underway in all the homes and bars.  Our first stop was to visit Punch and Horace’s mother, then it was on to the neighborhood bars.

It was a great, joyous night celebrating Joe Louis’ victory.  We got back to camp in time to go to work at 8am.

When camp opened in early July, I moved into a tent with fellow waiters; Jerry White, Teddy Klotz, Bobby Sandler and tall Bill Walcoff.  I knew Jerry from the year before when I was a camper and he was a waiter.  I didn’t know the other guys but we all got along and had a lot of fun.

My summer girlfriend was Marilyn “Merry” Weintraub, a Bronx neighbor of Jerry White and we had a great time.

Punch and I played a lot of basketball whenever we had free time.  He was good and fun to play with.  The basketball court was a small wooden building.  For outside shots beyond the foul line, you had to shoot through the cross beamed rafters; and if you drove to the basket, you ended up smack into a wire mesh wall.

I was pretty good at shooting through the angled rafters.  Punch was quicker and a better rebounder.

You got one day off a week.  Sometimes you just hung out, went into Port Jervis or hitchhiked to Monticello, the summer capital of the Catskills.

That summer was the first opportunity I had to have a black friend.  Found out he was pretty much like me.  I could drink more beer than him, but he was a better athlete.

It was a great summer.

ArtSchwartzSig

P.S.  Even though on separate coasts, Jerry and I have remained friends all these years.

 

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ISLAM AND JIHAD – WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE IN AMERICA? – PART II

Right here in America since 9/11, we have seen an increasing number of, albeit small, acts of terrorism, including the recent horror in Orlando, San Bernardino, DC Navy Yard, Boston Marathon and Ft. Hood, as well as the growing attempts by Muslim refugees and transplants to undermine our culture.  Let’s look at the evidence:

According to the Heritage Foundation, since 9/11, there have been 84 attempted or successful terror plots.

According to CNN National Security Analyst Peter Berger, since 9/11, there have been 330 people here in America indicted or convicted of some kind of terrorism crime.  A surprising 80% of them were U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents.  Berger also noted that in 2001, there were 16 people on the “No Fly List.”  In 2015, there were 40,000.

Barack Obama is flooding American communities with Muslim “refugees” from about every terrorist nation.  Last year, we reached his goal of resettling nearly 70,000 refugees from nearly 70 countries.  And his plan is to lead in resettling Syrians this year as well.

SHARIA LAW AND SPECIAL TREATMENTS

Peaceful Muslims who are not terrorists don’t appear to be as grateful to America for saving them from the war, famine and the strife they escaped.

All we need to do is look to Europe to see where our country maybe headed.

Great Britian now has 85 Sharia courts.  In Germany, Sharia law has been used to defend a husband’s right to beat his wife and practice polygamy.  France has overhauled its domestic tax laws to accommodate “Islamic Finance.”

Just think about what is already happening in America:

  • “An Islamic women’s ‘advocacy group’ is DEMANDING a county in Minnesota change its food stamp policies” to require Muslim food. (Political Insider)
  • “Muslims Demand That ‘Offensive’ Crosses Be Removed…From CATHOLIC Schools.” (Top Right news)
  • “Muslims in Houston, Texas bought and built a compound outside the city limits to practice their religion. The land they bought is next to a pig farm.  Now they asked the farmer to move” because pigs are offensive to Muslims.  (Patriot Videos)
  • “Muslim Activists Demanded the Overhaul of All U.S. Law Enforcement Training”…and we have complied. (Judicial Watch)

The Center for Security Policy has released a stunning new report identifying “146 cases in 32 states” where radical Muslim law was used to render a verdict.

  • A New Jersey judge denied a protective order to a Moroccan-American woman being systematically beaten and tortured by her Muslim husband on the grounds that he was just practicing his faith according to Sharia. And in Virginia, an Islamic school operating under Sharia not only ignored the reports by a little girl that she was being molested by her father, but the principal sent her home for him to “handle it.”
  • A Muslim father murdered his two daughters in Houston a few years ago in an act known as “honor killing” for dating American boys. Others are having their girls’ genitals mutilated—yes, all here in the United States.

ISLAMIC INDOCTRINATION IN OUR SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES

 Millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries are given to scores of universities to fund Islamic indoctrination, including:

  • $11 million to Cornell
  • $5 million to MIT
  • $5 million to Rutgers
  • $5 million to Columbia (tried to conceal the source)
  • $20 million to University of Arkansas to set up Middle Eastern studies program
  • $22.5 million to Harvard
  • $28.1 million to Georgetown
  • And the list goes on…

As a consequence, professors teaching Islamic or Middle East studies promote the notion that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists, and the main stumbling block to peace in the Middle East is America and Israel.

The results have clearly shown a rising tide of anti-Israel speech and actions on college campuses, as well as a chorus of anti-Semitism.  This is stealth Jihad worming its way into America.

THE GROWTH AND INFLUENCE OF MOSQUES

“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant.  The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth,” declared Omar Ahmad, co-founder of The Council on American Islamic Relations.

Captured internal documents of the Muslim Brotherhood, detailing its strategy in the United States, say that the Brotherhood’s activities in America are “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

Mosques, says the document, are central to this activity.  The mosque, it says, is “‘the axis’ of our Movement, the ‘perimeter’ of the circle of our work, our ‘balance center,’ the ‘base’ for our rise to educate us, prepare us and supply our battalions in addition to being the ‘niche’ of our prayers.”

The number of mosques in the U.S. is rising sharply—from 1,209 in 2000 to 2,106 in 2010.

The Washington-based Center for Security Policy has been conducting a survey on mosques and Islamic schools in the United States.  Of the 200 mosques randomly selected, three out of four preach anti-Western extremism.  Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon official who runs the Center, confirmed that the vast majority are inciting insurrection and Jihad through sermons by Saudi-trained imams and anti-Western literature, textbooks, and videos.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS OR ABSURDITY

Why has our current administration under Obama, as well as the previous one under Bush, bent so far backwards to avoid any hint of criticism towards Muslims?  I do not believe they have even been nearly as sensitive in comments about Christians, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, or any other group in our country.

How far back can you bend without losing all credibility when you call the massacre of innocent soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009 “workplace violence” when it was clearly a terrorist attack by a one-man Jihadist officer in our army?

Give me a break.  It’s not as if that was one isolated incident.  The mischaracterization of that incident has been repeated about San Bernardino in 2015, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and literally dozens of similar (albeit smaller) incidents over the last 15 years.

I’m not sure you can win a war or vanquish an enemy if you can’t even identify them by name.  Make no mistake, our role may be somewhat passive at the moment, but we are in a war.

THE ISIS VIRUS ATTACKS AMERICANS

Richard Engle, Chief Foreign Correspondent for NBC News, recently said, “ISIS is like a virus and only appears strong because of who is hosting the virus.”

According to the FBI, there used to be 10/month trying to join ISIS.  Now it’s more like 1/month.

Engel said, “It’s true that there are now less Americans leaving to join ISIS because law enforcements is holding them back; but,” he continued, “that means there are radicalized Americans who are remaining here.”

WHERE IS THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

Yes, the fanatics, the extremists are a small minority in the followers of Islam, but they are encouraged by many more with money and support and enabled by the great mass who stand by and say, “I’m not a terrorist.”

The bottom line to all that’s happening in speech and actions from extremist followers of Islam is that it will continue and expand until the vast majority of Islam’s followers and their leaders condemn and extricate these misanthropes from their midst.

Islam cannot be considered and constantly referred to as a religion of peace until they rid their ranks of the agitators and terrorists.

THREAT – REAL OR IMAGINED

There is obviously a potential threat.  There may not be another 9/11, but there will definitely be more isolated incidents of death and destruction.  In addition, the influence of more money and more infiltration will continue to challenge all facets of our society and culture.

We must be more aware and vigilant.  Our leaders must help us see and tell us more of what is actually happening.

In the next blog, we’ll hear from the lead prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing court case against the blind sheik.

ArtSchwartzSig

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