Thursday, January 17, 2019

3 Stoic Mindsets to Adopt for a More Resilient Life by Jonas Salzgeber

How often do we get disturbed by banalities?

It’s not worth to lose our calm over trifles. Especially not if these things are not under our own control.
The Stoics are clear: Make the best of what you control, and take the rest as it happens.
We can all benefit from emotional resilience. So we don’t get jerked around by outside circumstances and other people’s thoughtless actions.
Adopt these Stoic mindsets to remain your cool head when others lose their temper.

Buy Tranquility Instead

“Starting with things of little value—a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine—repeat to yourself: ‘For such a small price I buy tranquility and peace of mind.’” – EPICTETUS

We have the power to choose tranquility over disturbance.
We step into dog shit. Glasses break. Other drivers cut you off. These things happen so often, so why should we get angry and irritated?
Buy tranquility instead.
Before you react to a situation, ask yourself: “Is this really so bad? Or is it just ordinary?”
In most cases, these things are not even worth to mention and much less to get irritated. If you bring enough awareness into the situation, you have the power to overrule your initial impression and remain calm.
Step in between your automatic response and choose tranquility. Nod or smile, do what needs to get done, and move on with your life. Nothing really happened.
If you practice this mindset, you’ll soon realize that the banalities that often disturb you are not worth the hassle. Nod and move on. This will save you countless nerves and energy.

Scratches Happen in Training

“When your sparring partner scratches or head-butts you, you don’t then make a show of it, or protest, or view him with suspicion or as plotting against you. And yet you keep an eye on him, not as an enemy or with suspicion, but with a healthy avoidance. You should act this way with all things in life. We should give a pass to many things with our fellow trainees. For, as I’ve said, it’s possible to avoid without suspicion or hate.” – MARCUS AURELIUS

In this life, we’re all just training. We try to give our best. Sometimes we do well, sometimes not so.
It’s normal to make mistakes. We make many of them. And so do others.
If we take everyday situations as training exercises, we’re much calmer and forgiving toward others. We accept minor blows quicker even if they are annoying. Such is life.
Don’t blame your sparring partner. Don’t blame the situation. Life happens, people act like jerks, nobody is always at their best.
Scratches happen.
With this mindset, the stakes become much lower. And we’re more generous with mistakes, get less irritated, and become more resilient.
Imagine the boxer in training. They won’t blame their partner for a hard punch. They take it, nod it off, and continue their training.
We cannot afford to react to every tiny scratch. These things happen in life. Smile and move on.


“We can familiarize ourselves with the will of nature by calling to mind our common experiences. When a friend breaks a glass, we are quick to say, ‘Oh, bad luck.’ It’s only reasonable, then, that when a glass of your own breaks, you accept it in the same patient spirit… We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others.” – EPICTETUS

Ever observed how much harsher we are on ourselves than others?
When you break a cup, you’re quick to judge yourself as clumsy. But when the exact same thing happens to your friend, you take it easy and calmly say, “Things break, man. It happens to the best of us.”
It’s much smarter to react in as a compassionate when it happens to ourselves. We’re not so special… So why should we make a mountain out of a molehill when it affects us, and take it easy when it happens to your friend?
Doesn’t make any sense, right?
Adopt this mindset: When something “bad” happens to you, imagine it happened to your best friend. How much more compassionate and forgiving will you be with yourself?
Look, if the exact same situation is not worth disturbance when it happens to your best friend, then it’s not worth when it happens to you neither.
Be kind with yourself. Don’t lose your temper over such minor blows.
Adopt these Stoic beliefs and you’ll be more emotionally resilient. You will be able to remain calm an extra time. So that you can express your best self more often.

Jonas Salzgeber is the author of The Little Book of Stoicism and blogs for a small army of remarkable people at He’s an expert in Stoic philosophy and passionate about self-made dark chocolate and buttered coffee with collagen.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dragon's Jaw by Stephen Coonts & Barrett Tillman

Dragon's Jaw An Epic Story of  Courage and Tenacity in Vietnam
by Stephen Coonts & Barrett Tillman 
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (May 14, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306903474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306903472

Every war has its "bridge"--Old North Bridge at Concord, Burnside's Bridge at Antietam, the railway bridge over Burma's River Kwai, the bridge over Germany's Rhine River at Remagen, and the bridges over Korea's Toko Ri. In Vietnam, it was the bridge at Thanh Hoa, called Dragon's Jaw.

For seven long years, hundreds of young US airmen flew sortie after sortie against North Vietnam's formidable and strategically important bridge, dodging a heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire and enemy MiG planes. Many American airmen were shot down, killed, or captured and taken to the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" POW camp. But after each air attack, when the smoke cleared and the debris settled, the bridge stubbornly remained standing. For the North Vietnamese it became a symbol of their invincibility; for US war planners an obsession; for US airmen a testament to American mettle and valor.

Using after-action reports, official records, and interviews with surviving pilots, as well as untapped Vietnamese sources, Dragon's Jaw chronicles American efforts to destroy the bridge, strike by bloody strike, putting readers into the cockpits, under fire. The story of the Dragon's Jaw is a story rich in bravery, courage, audacity, and sometimes luck, sometimes tragedy. The "bridge" story of Vietnam is an epic tale of war against a determined foe.

My Thoughts
From historical studies, we know the Thanh Hoa Railroad and Highway Bridge, near the geographic center of North Vietnam, was given the nick-name Ham Rong (Dragon’s Jaw) because of its layout. The original structure had been destroyed in 1945 and rebuilt.
Reconstruction began on the bridge in 1957. If you look at the photos on this books cover you will see that the bridge that was rebuilt and opened in 1964 was a steel through-truss structure supported in the middle by a concrete pier and two concrete abutments on each side. These abutments appear to be sited on a hill in a predominantly flat plain. The bridge was a conduit for supplies and reinforcements sent to the Viet Cong fighting in South Vietnam

America is known for many things, among them are the inventors of the world's  first successful airplane and throughout the standing of Dragon’s Jaw American military planners were preoccupied, to a troubling extinct, on its destruction - sending pilots on a mission to destroy it. 

I'm intrigued by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels air shows. When not there, you'll likely find me hanging out near old bridges like this one in the photo below.

                                                        photo of  Warren through truss bridge

Did you ever make a bridge for school out of balsa wood? If so, you probably tried to predetermine the weakest point so typically you’d look at all the connections at the top along the sides and any braces that were placed in the middle.

You might be thinking, what makes a structure that is repeatedly targeted stand for seven long years with only a few disruptions. Well, as kids, our toy paratroopers taught us visibility, wind speed, direction and the strength of wind gusts come into play when dropping from above. Added into the mix was the fact defense teams surrounded the bridge and counterattacks occurred.

To give myself an inkling of the scope of the feat in front of an air team I did something any grade school kid would do. I mapped the length of Dragon's Jaw versus the length of the bridge above. The bridge in my photo is 361 foot longer than the Dragon's Jaw. Next, I did some searching online and found that a Phantompilot11 drone filmed a motorcar crossing the bridge in my photo. As I sat and watched this, I can't imagine how any pilot could see this target let alone a bridge that is much narrower in length and in conditions I can't even fathom.  In 1972, America used laser guidance and brought down the target- Dragon's Jaw.

The mood throughout this collection shows great fortitude. Notably, this book is a glimpse at the lives of men who had scopes locked-on the bridge, those shot down, captured and held prisoner. Suffice to stay, these accounts are all captivating and some are gut-wrenching. These men speak of authorized targets, tactical reconnaissance and how they survived torture with faith and humor.  America knows them as the men who went above and beyond the call of duty to kill the dragon.

An Advance Reading Copy of this book was provided to me by the generosity of Da Capo Press Marketing Manager Quinn Fariel for my honest review.

About the Authors

Barrett Tillman is a widely recognized authority on air warfare in World War II and the author of more than forty books, including Clash of the Carriers and Whirlwind. He has received numerous awards for history and literature, including the Admiral Arthur Radford Award. He lives in Arizona

Stephen Coonts is the author of sixteen New York Times bestsellers, the first of which was the classic aviation fiction thriller Flight of the Intruder. He earned the Navy's Distinguished Flying Cross medal for his naval air service during the Vietnam War. A former lawyer, he lives and writes full time in Colorado Springs

Friday, January 4, 2019

2018 Book Blog Favorites

When we're kids it seems time never goes fast enough and when we get older we recognize how finite time is, 2018 simply flew by. I  set a lofty goal which I surpassed with the help of many publishing houses and authors. 

I read 117 books and averaged around 200 pages. My longest book was Purgatorium and the shortest was Animal Babies

My reads were vivid and many transported me to venues, some breathtaking, some extreme, and some neither. There were books that were futuristic, others that were old-fashioned and a few I'd call contemporary. 

There were introspective books that looked closely at relationships and other's that were atmospheric and explored ecology and environmental threats. 

There were books that were complicated and messy. I read books that chilled me and made me feel nervous and vulnerable.  There were books that were nebulous, gritty and mysterious and some were tongue in cheek and either were irksome or made me laugh out loud.

The  Top 10 blog audience favorites  for 2018 were: 

Fylgia by Birgitta Hjalmarson 

Lily White In Detroit by Cynthia Harrison  

The Little Star Fisher by Rachel Morgan

Armed Men and Armadillos by John Earl

 Crossroads by Mihai Brinas 

The Last Amazon by Apotheosis Studios

Never In Finer Company by Edward G. Lengel

Harry's Midnight Adventure by Catherine Campbell 

Moonshots by Naveen Jain

Tracey Maxfield

The top 10 blog audience of 2018 was from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, France, Poland, Netherlands, and Australia.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Song of Hiawatha

For those that wrote and asked what book I was gifted for Christmas this year, it was the 1855 copy of The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The setting for The Song of Hiawatha is the Pictured Rocks along the southern shore of Lake Superior.

I've spent time along the great lakes and am aware they are the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystems. From west to east is Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. 

Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes that lies entirely within American borders.

marvel at the Great Lakes picturesque beauty and recognize their vastness and danger. Perhaps that is why I appreciate reading maritime history and the legends along the lakes. 

English writer George Eliot called The Song of Hiawatha, along with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the "two most indigenous and masterly productions in American literature". 

If you look back at 1855 it was known as a year of conflict between Indians and American Soldiers and Longfellow's text depicts a brave Indian with noble traditions. 

History tells us the storms of 1855 were unusually fierce during September and November and it proved to be a disastrous season for Navigation in the Lake Superior region.  

The Ojibwe Indians knew the area as the land of thunder and the gods. The name for Lake Superior - also called "Kitchi gami" (or "Kitchi-gummi)  is said to mean the shining blue sea water but has also been translated as great water.

So, while I read Longfellow's,  ‘By the shores of Gitche Gume’, Gordon Lightfoot’s song 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' popped into mind. Gordon Lightfoot’s helped define the folk-pop sound with material that is lyrical and moving.  The 729′  SS Edmund Fitzgerald remains the largest ship to have sunk on North America's Great Lakes. She sank in eastern Lake Superior, about 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay, Michigan, November 10, 1975. The entire crew of 29, many from my home state, were lost

Back in 1855, Longfellow closed The Song of Hiawatha with  Hiawatha launching his canoe for the last time westward toward the sunset where he departs forever. 

If you want more details on Legends in America you can visit this link, and for maritime history check out this link

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Author Spotlight Birgitta Hjalmarson with Fylgia

Last year, I read and reviewed the enchanting book Fylgia. This book quickly grew to be a blog audience favorite and was recognized in October 2018 as recommended reading in Women's Writers, Women's Books.  You can find my review of Fylgia here.

I'm thrilled Birgitta Hjalmarson agreed to be in the author spotlight this month. 

Who is Birgitta Hjalmarson?

My husband and I live north of San Francisco, in a house on a hill, overlooking the ocean. I studied Swedish, English and German Literature, earning Master’s Degrees from the University of Lund, Sweden, and the University of California at Davis. While covering the San Francisco art beat as a contributing editor for Art & Auction in New York, I also wrote Artful Players, a book on early California art (Balcony Press). My novel, Fylgia, was published this year (Bedazzled Ink). I’d love for readers to visit my website at

Please tell us a little about growing up in Sweden and your studies?

I grew up in a town on the West Coast of Sweden. When not at school, I was at the library. To go there, I had to cross a bridge, the dark river roiling below. The library itself was a modern structure, a rectangular block of cement with large glass doors. On Saturdays, in a back room, we rehearsed plays, which we were allowed to perform at the town theater. I recall being alone on stage, the glare of the spotlights, and the hush among the audience. When I forgot my lines, a whisper came from prompt-box to the left. I thought of it as divine intervention. Part of me still does.

At eighteen, I left my home town to study English and literature at the University of Lund. As an undergraduate, I wrote a paper on Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. My graduate thesis was on Edward Albee, quite a departure in both content and style. I had lived a sheltered life, and what I liked most of all was Albee’s “depravity.” Nothing “nice” about him whatsoever. I remain a great fan.

How come you moved to America?

I think, in a sense, I followed my father. He was born in Sweden but studied architecture in Chicago. On a visit to Sweden, he met my mother and never went back to America. Caught in his responsibilities as a husband and a father, he became a merchant, a far cry from being an architect. Still, for as long as I can remember, he kept blueprints in his office, his compass and triangles laid out the way you might set the table for a long-lost friend, someone you hope may come back after all. America for him was always the land of promise. He was a wonderful family man, but I do think he gave something up that he could never replace. Perhaps, at some point, I told myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake.

I found myself hooked on your book Fylgia from the Prologue. Could you explain what inspired you to write it?

It began with an image I couldn't forget. I had moved to the US but was visiting my mother in Sweden. She mentioned Anna’s child almost as if in passing. Shortly after WWI, a family crossed a snowy field to the country churchyard, hidden in the forest of Sweden. As Anna's brother lowered the small coffin into the frozen ground, Anna clenched her fists, her knuckles white from cold and grief. A man, dressed in black, watched from the pasture below, a wreath on his arm. Only after the family left, did he approach the grave. That was all she could tell me. She herself had been a child at the time. Still, the scene kept haunting me, and I traveled to Anna’s village to learn more. I think that’s what stories do. They insist on being written. They won’t leave you alone.

I loved how you write of Anna reading Nietzsche and scribbling in the margins. Do you believe many readers study stories this way?

My mentor, Helga Wall, was an inveterate scribbler. Yes, she was an editor, and a tough one at that, but her scribblings were different. She was no longer an editor but a reader, her comments directed not to the author but to herself. Reading is much like writing, just as demanding in many respects. At first we need the author’s guidance, signposts as to who and when and where, but then it shifts and we become creators too, making connections, remembering, anticipating. Scribblings, I think, are proof of that. We’ve all come across used books where readers have left marks in the margins, notes-to-self as it were, reminders, sudden insights, protests, and questions. As distracting as those scribbles can be, I can’t wholly condemn them. Perhaps some of it is our need to be remembered, sort of like those rune stones from the Viking Age, someone saying, “I wrote this. I was here.”

The structure of Fylgia is fused with themes of birth, death, history, religion, and war. Can you tell us a little about the pealing of bells mentioned herein?

Ah yes, the bells. I’m glad you asked. The church bells proclaimed the end of the day, called to Sunday service, and tolled for the dead, a carefully orchestrated ritual, lasting longer for men like Anna’s father, who was the village leader. Myths and legends surrounded them, instances of bells pealing on their own, trolls hurling stones at them, and bells falling into lakes or sinking into marshes, thwarting all attempts to retrieve them. I learned a great deal about bells from the man who used to be the village bell ringer. He was in his nineties when we talked, almost deaf from his close association with the bells. As he spoke, his large orange cat kept wrestling his stockinged feet under the kitchen table, apparently using its teeth and claws, which made for several interruptions, all in good humor and with no harm to the cat. He said he could see for miles from the top of the bell tower, almost past the mountains. I can only imagine what it must have been like when he pulled the ropes and those huge bells began to boom. For my benefit, he listed the names of all the farms and all those who used to live there. When I took his photograph, I saw him straighten his back like a soldier standing to attention, still without his shoes. He too is now dead. I hope I do him justice in Fylgia.
How did you learn to tell stories the way you do?

Perhaps it’s true what they say. All stories have already been told, it’s only in the telling that they differ. I’m certainly no Selma Lagerlöf, but I was deeply affected by her lyricism and her reliance on folklore and myths. I may even have learned from Edward Albee, the way his characters talk past each other, the truncated sentences, the silences. As writers, we see stories in almost everything. I know all too well about false starts and stranded manuscripts. The challenge is to order those stories in ways we can’t always order our lives. When it works, it’s bliss. When it doesn’t, I’m convinced I’ll never write another word. Before I know it, I’m at it again. It’s an obsession. Otherwise, why go on?

Prior to writing Fylgia, you wrote Artful Players. What can you tell us about it?

No American city took up art quite like San Francisco. In the latter part of the 19th century, art was truly front-page news. The artists’ business was everyone’s business. Art criticism was more entertaining than informed, often to be taken with a grain of salt. With several newspapers competing for the readers, and with critics like Mark Twain, the articles were often as inspired as the art. It was that sense of excitement and fun that initially grabbed me. My goal was to write a lively social history with focus on art, using only sources of the period. Many of the artists had trained in Europe. In San Francisco they were free to experiment, even fail. They were splendid company and I miss them.

What did you find most interesting as a contributing editor for Art & Auction in New York?

It allowed me access to the inner workings of the San Francisco art world. Throughout the 1980s, galleries continued to open, new money from Silicon Valley mixed with old, and fine collections were formed. It was in many ways the contemporary version of Artful Players, as wildly irreverent and almost as much fun. Where but in San Francisco would a museum director and a drag queen sit next to each other at an intimate dinner party? In another life, I’d write about a book about that.

What are you doing when you’re not writing?

Reading in my favorite armchair, sharing books and thoughts with my husband, although his forays into quantum physics leave me far behind. Walking alone or with friends, up in the forest or along the ocean bluff, past the cove where seals give birth (you know it’s imminent when sea gulls alight on the rocks in anticipation of the afterbirth). I also tutor local children. Many have parents who don’t speak English and work two or more jobs. The boy I meet with now is 9 years old. Once we’re past divisions (I’m the only one allowed to use a calculator), I bring out Harry Potter and his eyes light up. He’s supposed to read aloud to me, but as we get further and further into a chapter, his voice trails off. I know better than to interfere. He’s in that other world, where all is possible and boys growing up in closets can still have a say.

Who is your favorite author?

Penelope Fitzgerald is certainly one of them, in part because of her respect for the reader and her refusal to explain. She’ll capture her characters in a word or two, and you feel as if you’ve known them your whole life. Her intelligence and her sense of humor always shine through. You’re in the best of company, but you have to earn it. Doesn’t get any better than that.

What are you reading now?

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth. I return to him time after time, mostly because of the sureness of his prose, that exactitude that always hits the mark. The Nobel Prize is in trouble right now, a sordid affair. The Royal Academy has some serious house-cleaning to do. One insider called it a rat’s nest, a shocking epithet for an institution that has existed for almost three hundred years. One can only hope it will rise again, immaculate and incorruptible, like the bastion it was meant to be. It took courage to award Bob Dylan the Nobel prize in 2016. Perhaps it would have taken even more to give it to Philip Roth? Granted, his books are sexist, some blatantly so, but he was true to his times and to the man he was. There’s honor in that, and art.

Finally, is there anything you'd like to tell readers?

Writing is a solitary occupation. When readers thank you, it’s the best feeling in the world.

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