Happiness is a Citation

So I guess this would be double-happiness?

What a cool way to start off the year. Thanks, Dr. David Feng!

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Patch of the Month: Presidential Champion

Last month I talked about the President’s Challenge and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) as being important incentives to changing my thinking and my lifestyle, to getting me off my ass, off of fast food, and onto a much better life.

After earning the PALA four times, I decided to take on a much tougher challenge, the Presidential Champions Award. I managed to make it to the Bronze Award last year, and was starting work on Silver when the program was terminated on August 10.

I’m incredibly proud of this award, which is the highest recognition that I have received for any physical activity since I was in High School. It took me the better part of a year to complete the requirements, and by the time I had completed it, fitness had become a part of my life, rather than something that intimidated me.

Patch of the Month: PALA

While I have yet to encounter serious opposition to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, an argument can be made, perhaps, that a healthy life is its own reward, and that offering recognition – especially presidential recognition – for simply living a healthy life is a great big precious-snowflake-everybody-gets-a-trophy cow pie.

Statistics and my own experience speak volumes against it. Providing any reasonable incentive to entice people out of McDonald’s and off the couch is not only a good investment, it sets people on a positive path. Getting people addicted to achievement instead of instant gratification is a very different kettle of fish than rewarding mediocrity, especially if you build a program that rewards higher and higher levels of participation and achievement.

I weigh 50 pounds less today – and am healthier now than I was in my thirties –  in part due to the President’s Challenge, of which the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, is a part. The act of exercising regularly, recording the foods you eat, and gradually replacing less healthy foods with healthier choices is a powerful start, and was my ladder to a place that I always felt was beyond me.

I’ve won the award four times in the past five years, and subsequently used it as a stepping stone to higher achievements. But I can honestly say that this program probably saved my life and my marriage, and I have no doubt I earned this damned patch.

It is one of my proudest achievements, and I will wear it on my BSA Jac-shirt with pride.

Gaviota Dawn

Gaviota Beach and trestle bridge.


An early fall morning, just before dawn, and Gaviota Canyon is doing yeoman service as a wind tunnel. The Sundowner winds peculiar to this area are magnified by the narrow pass behind me and they’ve been rocking cars, pulling tent pegs, and making campfires impossible for the past 12 hours.

A fine grit pervades everything, and I wonder how long it will take me to clean up.

But two months (or more, I’ve lost track) of nonstop work, travel, and “drama, not otherwise specified” have made medicine of a couple of days plotzed in a campsite. The waves crash, the squirrels, ospreys, and Monarch butterflies go about their business, and they catch me up in their rhythm, allowing me to reset my tempo and reflect in a way I could not last weekend in a Chicago hotel room.

So I will take the grit. And as the sun rises, I start to see the path forward with unaccustomed clarity.

I reach for my boots. It is time to begin.

The Fall Cometh

Reading on my balcony in Deerfield, every few minutes my eyes are drawn skyward to the sound of a jet, or of a southbound flock of Canadian Geese.

Autumn has sneaked into the Midwest. Hopefully it will grace my home shores of the Strawberry Coast soonish.

I don’t find many here in Illinois who share the sentiment, and I acknowledge that my joy at the coming of Fall is colored by the mild and pleasant winters of the California Coast rather than the lake effect blizzards that punctuate the season hereabouts. 

For me, the sharpening chill of October evenings makes me think of sweaters, thick socks, and a good book with a cup of something hot. It means fast boat rides on windy chop, migrating whales, and the constant tang of the Pacific in the air. It means comfortable camping in tent and RV, a banket across my legs before the campfire is kindled.

It is meals in a Sukkah, a giddy dance with the Torah, the ranks of children knocking on our door on Halloween, Thanksgiving dinner, Chanukah lights, carols, movies, and school breaks with my son. It is the World Series, my son’s basketball schedule, and bowl games. 

Fall is first and foremost an affirmation of life in the maw of the oncoming chill. And for that it will ever be my favorite season.

Fly on, old friends, I think as another flock honks southward. May you find peaceful flyaways far from the engines of airplanes.

Home, home on the (shooting) range


A good day is any day when you and your son can go to the shooting range with a good friend, and you’re all breaking in new weapons.

Aaron zeroes his Ruger 10/22 while Dan hones his skill with his Sig P226. Not shown: me taking my first shots with my Sig P229. 

They both did better than I did, but by the end of the hour my groups were getting tighter and we’re inching closer to the 10 ring.