Cuba FYI

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  • Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area.
  • Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than some developed countries, and an average life expectancy of 77.64. In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the WWF’s definition of sustainable development; having an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.
  • The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.
  • Shortly after the founding of Cuba’s first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from the island.

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

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Jonesville History: Henry of Eisentown

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Jonesville History Lesson: Napoleon B. Eison, prominent Jonesville citizen in the 1800s and Confederate veteran, was so attached to Henry, the horse he rode during the Civil War, that he had him buried in his front yard. Wondering if anyone in our Eisentown community has found him yet…

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— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

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What part of woof don’t you understand?

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This far into fall most of the persimmons have dropped from the big tree 70 feet out from my office’s private “crow’s nest” balcony on the third floor at Pineapple Hill. Still, sometimes a deer or two drop by looking for stragglers.

At 5:00 a.m. this morning, walking our pound pup, Jack, we went out to that tree so Jack could pee while sniffing the news from deer. It was dark and cold but the sky was clear and crisp. Starry. And quiet. Until a persimmon fell, thumping the ground near Jack and I, setting off the alarm—meaning Jack. He barked and barked and barked. He bared his teeth. He clawed the ground like a bull. I had to drag him back into the house.

But even then he stood at the door looking for any further signs of deer in the season’s last persimmons.

###

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

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Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt # 589

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ON THE MONEY TRAIL, THE BOUNDARIES AND RULES HAD WAY TOO MUCH WIGGLE ROOM
…WE WERE ONLY HUMAN.

What is guilt if not a hidden window to your soul? An over-tired or under-medicated reaction to whatever was stuck to the flypaper we call “memory.” Little things became large. Happy things became sad. Good things—evil. Monsters rode on your back, yes, like all the monkeys of the world. You felt them there but they ducked and dodged when you turned, suddenly, to catch them with your eyes. Weirdness begat more weirdness. Fiends procreated like rabbits. Very soon, they were everywhere. Hiding in the shadows. And then in the shadows of shadows.

The colonel, Alaska and the others—myself among them—knew those monsters well. There one minute. Gone the next. Rustling ’round where the tall grass begins. A shiny glint of something glimpsed off beyond your shoulder. A twig that snaps in the woods at night. The definition of the self-doubt that comes when God gets into your head, and you briefly let your guard down enough to wonder if there’s really a heaven and if hell could really be worse than what’s already all around you.

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t a bunch of butchers, but, yes, we crossed some lines. Oh yes, we crossed them, and, worse, we helped others cross them too—empowered them, encouraged them, planting the seeds of double-cross. Still, we were only human. We wondered about ourselves, wondered about the boundaries and rules that always seemed to have way too much wiggle room. Of course we did. The colonel described it as a long and twisting ride in the most devilish of amusement parks.

“You can get off the ride when it stops sometimes. You can take a break, rest up, most any time you want. Problem is, you’re not allowed to leave the park.”

It’s a Hotel California sort of thing.

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Buy it here

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

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Book Review: The Drunkard’s Walk

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I came home from the used book store with a copy of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,  a New York Times bestseller by physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow. It’s about the role of randomness in everyday events, and the cognitive biases that lead people to misinterpret random events and stochastic processes. For me (no mathematics scholarships in my past), The Brain Pain began just reading the introduction. Nevertheless, it’s a great addition to your private library book collection. A book for the beach. A book for the boat.

I brought it home in plastic grocery store bag. It was crammed in there with GONZO: The Life Of Hunter S. Thompson, PALM BEACH BABYLON: Sins, Scam and Scandals, FAMOUS MUGS (Stars Behind Bars), Hemingway’s Key West, and Wines & Beers of Old New England. Think of it as a Dagwood Sandwich for evening reading sessions in the back porch hammock. Drunkard’s Walk being the meat.

Sometimes I’ll have 3 – 4 different books going at once. Not unlike switching back and forth between channels on the television. Eventually, Drunkard’s Walk will be completed. And when that happens, I’ll “spike” it football style and do a victory dance on the sun deck.

But more than likely Gonzo, Mugs, Key West and Wines & Beers will have long been filed away on shelves in the new conference room library and I’ll have moved on to a Philly Steak created from other books brought home in sacks.

For instance, Keith Richard’s book Life. Or Outward Leg by Tristan Jones. And The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres. All of them also recent finds from the used book store.

What about you? What’s in your hammock?

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

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My Green Acres Way of Life

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Married people say to singles “so when are you setting the wedding date?” Parents say to newlyweds “so when do you plan to have kids?” And newcomers to the boonies tell their buds back in the city “you should move to the country.” It’s a “join the club” kind of thing. “Feel our pain” and “experience our madness”. Nobody likes to suffer alone.

Elsewhere on this web site are my Fear & Loathing tales of transitioning from sailboat to my new home: a beach house built up on stilts in a cow pasture in rural South Carolina.

There’s my ongoing contest with cow #316 escaping its pasture to sample my musa basjoo banana trees (from the mountains of Japan).

There’s the copperhead snake that took up residence in my Miata.

There’s the deer that cleaned out my all my peach trees in one single night.

There’s heavy machinery accidents in the vineyard due to operator error.

There’s the bats in the attic and, this year, carpenter bees. My countermeasure: a badminton racquet.

There’s the trail of parts—like bread crumbs—left behind by the Pineapple Hill “farm Jeep”. Oddly, none of what falls off seems to be missed, so there’s that feeling of another shoe waiting to drop.

I’ve never experienced as much chaos as what happens out in the boonies. Stuff happens all the time. Way more than I remember other places I’ve lived. And there have been many.

The learning curve is fascinating, common sense stuff. For instance, instead of locating of the sheep pasture based on how cool it will look from the road or from the porch, place it near water. And preferably, natural flowing water such as a creek versus water requiring an electric pump to get it up from the ground and then across a field up a hill.Who’d a thunk it? Not me, DUH, a newcomer to the Green Acres way of life

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

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Going Native (the soul of a whelk)

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(From a book I’m writing called Exaggerations And Lies Of A Sailor’s Life In Advertising)

 

Part of Going Native involves becoming true to oneself in business and at home—balancing both with perfect synergy.

I’ve worked with over a hundred entrepreneurs, VPs of marketing, company presidents, and CEOs. In my opinion, the best of the breed—the ones not only most successful but also happiest, even-keeled, and prepared for the long haul— understand that sometimes you have to go sideways in order to go forward.

They have what author John Irving would describe as “the patience of a time bomb.”

[Imagine, now, the situation of an actual bomb tick-tick-ticking calmly ever closer to a last moment; the grand finale of chaos and calamity –inching toward it quite surely, yet without even an eyelid twitching a little …a soul resembling that of a whelk from which, way deep inside, matches the soft yet unfaltering whispers of the sea and the infinite world beyond.]

* * *

The entrepreneurial spirit is not just a matter of confidence.

It’s self-awareness.

Syncing up with things “out there” beyond where eyes can see.

* * *

The best of the breed understands that the straight line sometimes isn’t the most effective and efficient way…

Sometimes the course, for the long haul goal, requires zig-zagging against the wind.

* * *

I appreciate minds that reach out beyond where eyes can see to gather subtle clues instead of quickly passing them by impatiently, too sure of only one way being the right way, too quick to risk the long term to satisfy the short.

 

For sailors, time and space are multidimensional. In a sailors world a broad range of factors influence success—many of them beyond one’s control, beyond the radar screen—yet sailors become tuned to them instinctively across moments and hours, months and years.

The sound of water and wind have special meanings under sail versus the mindless droning on of motors.  Valuable information of use now and later on.

True, the motoring types get there sooner. But they arrive with less information having done less thinking through and having depended too much on unreliable bits and parts: electronics, engine components, fuel and electricity gauges. They become less engaged and less interesting.Less likely to have lively tales and deep channeling insights when I ring them up to meet on the veranda for Costa Rican coffee and Cuban cigars.

# # #

We (all of us) can leverage an entrepreneur’s outlook, can be masters of life…

…away from the office

…and away from business altogether…

through the patience of a time bomb and by finding the whelk-like soul deep within.

 

Bottom line: Going Native is a “zest for living” thing…

that frees us (all of us) from the mundane.

* * *

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

 

 

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Cool People and OpenCPN

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I began using the Internet when was just light green text on a dark background—no graphics—reminding me now of equipment submariners use. Primitive by today’s standards but it kept me in touch with people and information I depended on for my work.

Screenshot of OpenCPN plotting navigating software from my Twitter friends @BigDumBoat and their team of volunteers.

As the ‘net developed and offered more purposes and became accessible to more people, it became further integrated into my life—not only could I communicate with clients in South America, Europe and the Middle East, I could socialize casually with total strangers sharing recreational interests. Some of them I’ve now known for years. We look for each other online at Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other places. We worry a bit when someone isn’t around.

It’s fun. Need weather conditions off the Dominican Republic? Check with Sara. Crave a recipe for lamb done New Zealand-style? Ask Sean. Have an itch to send a sick cat joke to someone? Address it to Olaf. And in return, receive way more.

While I’m drydocked indefinitely on the Pineapple Hill farm, I live vicariously through other boaters. Among them, I’ve most enjoyed contact with Dave and Kathi, full time live aboarders cruising the Intracoastal and offshore waters of the eastern seaboard in step with the changing seasons. Since 2000, they’ve headed South when it’s cold up North and vice versa—with no home port—from Newfoundland to the Bahamas. That alone is interesting enough, but they’re also the leading force behind OpenCPN, the free, open source chart plotting navigating software tool Dave started programming in 2004 when unhappy with what was available commercially.

OpenCPN is a fast-running, no-nonsense alternative to high cost gadgetry loaded down with too many ‘eye candy” features useless to practical cruising. [My tech clients back in the 90s might call this streamlined-yet-robust approach “elegant” but they’re all out sailing or sipping parrot-colored umbrella drinks on beaches so I’m just guessing.]

Kathi and Dave, living full-time aboard m/v Dyad. Look for them on the Intracoastal and beyond.

Today, OpenCPN is used worldwide and a team of fellow cruisers keep it going. Dave leads the team: a group of volunteers—all seasoned sailors—that manage the Facebook page, updates/edits user manuals, provides forum support, oversees the translation project, and more. Kathi spreads the word through social media and their websites BigDumBoat.com and OpenCPN.org. How cool is that?

Answer: So cool that Dave won the 2018 Ocean Cruising Club Award as follows—

“The OCC Award, which recognizes valuable service to the OCC or the ocean cruising community as a whole, goes to David Register, lead developer of the OpenCPN navigation software. OpenCPN is chart plotter and navigational planning software developed by a team of active sailors using real world conditions for program testing and refinement. Their motto: “We’re boaters. We’re coders. …A network of more than forty volunteer software coders now work to improve the product, update it and expand its capabilities. Dave continues to co-ordinate this work from his floating home, Dyad, the Big Dumb Boat. See https://www.bigdumboat.com/” …Open CPN has made a magnificent contribution to the enjoyment and safety of sailors cruising in small boats, and Dave deserves every bit of recognition for his invention and his ongoing efforts.” by Daria Blackwell, January 1, 2018

Dave’s reaction: “I’m honored and humbled. But I’m only the tip of an iceberg. This award and recognition would not be possible without the help and support of the worldwide OpenCPN team. Thank you.”

The award is a story within another story (Dave and Kathi) within yet another (fun on social media).

It all comes around neatly and taps gently against the dock just as the gods would have it.

# # #

They read the sailing sections of my book while riding out Hurricane Florence.

Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

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Political Discourse On The CowBird

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What lessons from Brown-Headed Cowbird could have significant positive influence on the Human Condition On Planet Earth?

I normally don’t discuss politics on the internet because I used to regularly visit various local editions of Rants and Raves on Craigslist. Rants and Raves is found in the Personals section so be careful. Don’t hit the wrong tiny button with your big fat thumb or you’ll be in for some surprises and perhaps an STD. In fact, forget Rants and Raves, it’s not what it used to be for political discourse, they’ve reined in the radicals on both sides of the blade, just go to any cable or main stream television news brand’s online reporting then scroll down to the public comments.

People get so mean-spirited. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

But back to the Brown-Headed Cowbird…

I bring them to your attention because they lay all their eggs in nests owned by other birds, leaving them there for the other birds to raise. That’s Part One of this two-part equation.

Part-Two is that, although some birds will reject cowbird eggs, others will indeed raise them up, buy them cars and even send them off to college. Even to the exclusion of their own offspring. This and other cool facts can be found in  Birds of the Carolinas Field Guide by Stan Tiekiela. He says warblers and other small birds will feed cowbird chicks twice as big as themselves.

Imagine. A small bird struggling to carry home a big fat worm to some other bird’s over-sized child while its own “normal size” children starve. Think about it. The lessons:

Part One: If more of the selfish types of this planet would simply step up to take more responsibility…

Part Two: And more others would step up to help those that need it…

Of course, as you would expect in matters pertaining to birds, this must happen in perfect balance, the right wing in harmony with the left.

Otherwise, it will never fly.

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Btw, were any of you reminded of the children’s book Fish Out of Water about Otto the goldfish that grew way too big?  I was. Another story lesson for another time.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

 

 

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Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #197

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TRUTH FLICKERED BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE LIKE A STROBE
MAKING IT HARD TO DISCERN THE DEAD FROM THE LIVING

It was a small, unpainted cinder block shack with a screwed up ’72 Cutlass parked a few feet away. On the stoop, a rusted red barbecue grill—charcoal, not propane—along with scraps of greasy foil, empty beer cans, and cigarette butts in and around a plastic bucket once containing drywall mud. What stood out—a crusher for aluminum cans mounted on the wall above the bucket. Pull the lever, crush the can, those hombres were into recycling.

Andy didn’t knock, just kicked the door open, a move he made look normal.

We followed him in—three ducks carrying bags, men on a mission, ZZ Top taking the stage as the fans went wild. That’s how it felt in those first exciting moments of my young and impressionable life. My mind-blowing threshold to the Money Trail.

One minute, you’re on a stolen boat peeling back a layer of messed up fiberglass, a first hard look at seriously bad luck. The next, you’re rocking bags of bullshit worth their weight in gold, king surfer dudes with raw attitude greater than any wave in the known history of Tamarindo.

The door flew open blasting the room with light—revealing five guys slouched over a small black shipping trunk—then closed so quickly I recall the moment as a flashing strobe. Blinding brightness. Blinding darkness.

Black plastic covered the windows, blocking out the intense sun. I was totally sightless in those first few seconds. Finally, I could see: five guys staring back, saying nothing, stacks of money on the small black trunk. Some loose bills, others counted and banded. A dirty Styro plate crusted with food stains and cigarette butts. Bottles of beer in various stages of stale. An olive green Uzi.

One of the guys leaned forward, took a pack of cigarettes off the trunk, tapped the pack against the top of his other hand, removed a smoke, and then lit it up.

“You’re late,” he said.

A few beats passed. Seemed like Andy should say something, do something. But he didn’t.

At this point I noticed the others were dead.

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Buy it on Amazon here

# # #

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

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Book Review: Chasing Che

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Patrick Symme’s Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey In Search Of The Guevara Legend brings a little more truth to light in separating the legend from the man. Too, the voice of the writer is both entertaining, thoughtful and likeable. In Chasing Che, Symmes attempts to replicate the adventure of Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries.

If you’ve read my novel Blue Rubber Pool, you know I’m fascinated by the Two Truths. One told by those admiring the Legend, and the other told by those that knew Che Guevara personally. What’s interesting is that both versions can be woven into complex fabric.

Che once said that “that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” Yet he also exulted “hatred as an element of the struggle” needed to make a person a “violent, selective and cold killing machine.”  If you joined his ranks but balked on the battle field, he’d put a bullet in your head without hesitation. With Che, it was his way or the highway.

Symmes illustrates the Two Truths by pointing out that pro-Che slogans such as “Be Like Che”—graffiti commonly found in  his travels re-tracing Che’s famous motorcycle ride—are to found concurrent with intense distaste for “Guevarista”-style guerrilla tactics.

The moral of the story:  Be Like Che by helping people. But without killing them to do so.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

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Jonesville History: Textile Mills

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This Jonesville History lesson touches on the textile mills that built this town then broke it.

After the War Between the States, Northern businessmen came South with the labor management practices they were used to back home. Although not anywhere near as awful as slavery, conditions in the South Carolina’s early textile mills were dangerous, the hours were long, the pay was low and workers were prohibited from organizing to arrange a better deal.

Many aren’t aware that children went to work in the mills at very young ages. Times were so hard that everyone in the family worked. Splintered wood floors injured bare feet. Lint in the air caused a fatal disease known as brown lung.

[Conditions in the coal mines of Appalachia, and the coffee and banana plantations of Central America were equally dangerous for meager wages.]

With textile mills came mill towns where workers paid their employee for rent and housing at company prices using company minted coin.

Later, some mills tried to improve conditions—including adding company base ball teams.

Cotton for the mills was grown in the Jonesville area. The old cotton warehouse and scales still stand in Jonesville but won’t remain up on their feet for long unless people join forces to save them.

Upton Sinclair Jr. (September 20, 1878 – November 25, 1968), wrote The Jungle in 1906, exposing conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

The book is now often interpreted and taught as only an exposure of the industry of meatpacking. The novel depicts in harsh tones poverty, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of those in power. Sinclair’s observations of the state of turn-of-the-century labor were placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American wage slavery. The novel was first published in serial form in 1905 in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. It was based on undercover work done in 1904: Sinclair spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards at the behest of the magazine’s publishers. He then started looking for a publisher who would be willing to print it in book form. After five rejections by publishers who found it too shocking for publication, he funded the first printing himself. It was published by Doubleday, Page & Company on February 28, 1906 and has been in print ever since.

Labor and management continue to teeter-tooter as each seeks to protect their self-interests.

Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold.

In 2008, products certified with FLO International’s Fairtrade certification amounted to approximately US$4.98 billion (€3.4) worldwide, a 22% year-to-year increase. While this represents a tiny fraction of world trade in physical merchandise, some fair trade products account for 20-50% of all sales in their product categories in individual countries. In June 2008, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International estimated that over 7.5 million producers and their families were benefiting from fair trade funded infrastructure, technical assistance and community development projects.

The response to fair trade has been mixed. Fair trade’s increasing popularity has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. Mark Sidwell sees “fair trade” as a type of subsidy or marketing ploy that impedes growth. Segments of the left, such as French author Christian Jacquiau, criticize fair trade for not adequately challenging the current trading system.

Sources include Wikipedia.

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

 

 

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