June 25, 2023

A tribute to Richard Hopkins #CancerSucks

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This world lost another good soul to cancer. My dear friend Richard Hopkins heard the dreaded diagnosis in late January then left us just 3 months later. He was 60, but brought the energy and enthusiasm of a 16 yro and wisdom of a 116 yro to everything he touched. The consummate project manager, he planned his celebration of life, but underestimated attendees. He anticipated 50, maybe 75 people would come out. Last week over 175 turned out and many more wanted to be there.

I met Richard in 2003. We were both volunteers at the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic. In the span of 20 years the golf tournament raised over $13 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. While numerous celebrities from Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Dick Vitale, Coach K, Kevin Costner and an array of other sports and entertainment greats (Meatloaf!) brought the star power, the sponsors brought the donations. Richard and I were a member of the sponsor host team. Prepping and catering to sponsors was a lot of work - for good cause, but a lot of fun - the whole event was brimming with positive vibes. Richard was a natural fit. 

Over the years the regulars formed a tight knit group. We closed the winter holiday season with our annual White Elephant Potluck party hosted at his house a couple weeks before he started having health issues. 

That's the way Richard was - always in the middle, beaming with positive energy. Few people's words are backed so strongly by their actions and deeds as Richard. The man was genuine. He walked is walk.

The V Foundation and golf tournament combined Richard's love for NC State, passion for sports and drive to serve (though several years Richard was responsible for driving the Hooters girls around the golf course - that may have been a factor! it was certainly one volunteer duty he didn't want to shed).

The V Foundation awarded many cancer research grants in honor of notable people involved in the cause. They began extending this honor to one standout volunteer each year. Richard received that honor in 2010. On that occasion 13 years ago he put that love, passion and drive of his into a poem he wrote and read at the annual Jimmy V Volunteer party. It was his tribute to Jim Valvano. 

At Richard's celebration of life Terry Grayson spoke about his V work and I had the honor of sharing his poem. As a tribute to Richard, I'd like to share it again... 

January 22, 2017

Why I Marched (and What's the Deal with Obama Haters?)

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Jan 21, 2017: Raleigh, NC

Yesterday Donald Trump took office.
Today millions of concerned people took to the streets - across the globe.

Inspired by my wife who trekked up to DC for the marquee Women's March on Washington, I joined my friend Katherine and her little girls to head into the heart of Raleigh, NC for the local march. En route Katherine asked "how big do you think the crowd will be?", "I just hope it isn't pathetic" I responded. Then we hit traffic - there isn't traffic on Glenwood Ave on a normal Sat morning. This wasn't a normal Raleigh morning. A mile from the march route people donning pink hats and signs were hiking in. Turnout expectations for the little Raleigh march were smashed - 17,000. The DC crowd was estimated at 500,000, maybe more.

Inspired by my friend Jennifer who is capturing the mood of DC in pictures, I brought my trusty Canon to dabble in photo journalism too (more photos coming).

Inspired by more friends marching in Raleigh, DC, NYC, Copenhagen and beyond, along with viewpoints of others (from both sides of the isle) on social, traditional media and old fashioned conversations, got me thinking and drafting this blog post.

Why march? What will it accomplish? a coworker asked Friday. I don't expect much to change as a result of the march. If that holds true, nothing is a huge victory. Unless you've been in a coma, you know Trump and the socially/religious conservative-right have been attacking women's rights and minorities and every social program - including education - for years. Sometimes with rhetoric, sometimes with action - NC has seen this up close (HB2 anyone?). If the voices and votes from the millions that came out today slow down or stop attacks - pick your cause: equal pay for equal work, universal healthcare, the environment, abortion, racism/minorities, education, social services (which 99% of us will need in some form someday), that's a victory.

And why do the social conservatives feel it is their God-given duty to impose their beliefs on everyone else? I'm pro-choice. That means I'm ok with anyone that decides pro-life is the right thing for THEMSELVES.  I'm not ok w/ pro-lifers that feel their view must be enforced on everyone.
Ditto for religion. I'm for freedom of religion (or no religion). When one's view infringes on the views (RIGHTS) of another, that's wrong. That's the underlying spirit of the march.
When did separation of church and state stop being a thing?

Which gets me to the fanatical Trump supporters, aka Obama-haters. I get some people love the "Make America Great Again" slogan. What american doesn't want the USA to be great?
But why hate Obama? I didn't hate Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton or Bush 2 (I hated a lot of GW's short-sighted, ill-informed decisions, but he'd be a blast at a Super Bowl Party, just don't give him a pretzel).
What has Obama done that has made life worse for the Obama-haters? I've yet to hear an articulate response (please comment; seriously, enlighten me).
Unemployment is down, the stock market is up, Bin-Laden is gone, no new wars, no sharia laws, and everyone on the terrorist watch list still has their AK-47 assault rifle.

I wish more was accomplished during BO's reign, but Congress wouldn't have it. They are insulated with state of the art gerrymandering, Citizens United, and unlimited term limits. Congress can ride out whatever chaos they create (gov't shutdown, debt ceilings, 8 butts on the SCOTUS bench). Trump or no Trump, this problem is undermining our democracy and it's getting worse with no end in sight.

Don't give me bullshit about Obamacare. US healthcare costs were escalating well before we ever heard the name Barack Obama. The US spends far more and gets less per-capita than other developed nation.  I don't hear anybody in DC talking about that. Unless you're in the 1%, you are one pink slip and a bad diagnosis away from financial ruin and/or early death without Obamacare. Fix the cost issues, insurance becomes affordable again. Every other country figured it out, if the USA is so great, why can't we? In the meantime, if you want to drive a car you need car insurance, you want to live in the US you need healthcare insurance. If I have to pay more in taxes or premiums so a child in town can get her cancer meds or a diabetic on the opposite coast can get his insulin, then that's a small sacrifice.

I hope Trump can bring back jobs, but I guarantee the factory owners won't fire the robots. Educating and re-training the workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow is essential. I don't think Trump's tragically comical nomination for secretary of education will do a damn thing to solve that. And consumers will need to spend more on Made in the USA goods than the China imports on sale at Walmart (I'm not betting on that).

I hope Trump can get over the size of his hands, size of his ratings, size of his election results, size of his inauguration crowd - so he can begin to work on making America greater. He has been given the biggest responsibility and biggest opportunity in the country. Focus on the size of that Donald.

We the people need to keep an eye on what's really happening, not the divisive distracting tweets. Watch the Trump administration's actions more so than words.

Eight years ago Obama rode in on a wave of positive hope and change.
I'm still holding on to hope - hope Trump won't send us back 50 years.
A lot of people are fired up and ready to go!

Like what I have to say? Share it.
Don't? Tell me why.

August 9, 2016

Drinking with the locals in Bergen Norway

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Jun 30, 2016: Bergen, Norway

Let the Scandinavian adventure begin.

After 3 flights, a bus ride, getting settled in our Airbnb apartment and a power nap, Tee and I were ready to officially begin our Scandinavian adventure on the west coast of Norway in Bergen - a UNESCO World Heritage city and gateway to the majestic fjords (more on that later). At 6:30 we grabbed our umbrellas and cameras to venture down the hill to get our bearings and bellies taken care of.

With cameras capturing initial impressions, we were walking past Bergen's famous fish market (closed at this hour) and several bars when we hear some locals outside The Metz sports bar shout "Take my photo!" I've found if someone wants their photo taken, take it! You're going to get a fun photo. I was a few paces ahead of Tee, so she got the shot.  Then we hear "Where are you from?" "USA?, oh we have some questions for you - come join us - I'm buying you a beer!"  I turned to Tee and said "I don't know where this is going to take us, but let's roll with it."

Crazy Norwegians

Bergen's Hansa Beers - at The Metz
Next thing we know with cold Hansa Bryggeri pilsners in hand we're talking about everything from politics to weather to Norwegian dining ("We eat all kinds of vegetables!" "Do you like kale?" "What's kale?") with Per-Fredrik (the optometrist), Eddie (oil-platform worker), Arnfinn (manager at Fish.Me at the Bergen fish market), Trond-Even (businessman) and a couple others. I asked Per-Fredrik how they all know each other - "They're my mates." Duh.

Sign in Norway: Mexican food so authentic, Donald Trump would build a wall around it.
Trump: Norway gets it.
They had a lot of questions about Donald Trump. Is this joker going to beat Hillary? Why do so many Americans like him? (great question). It always amazes me that everyone I meet in Europe is in tune, at least at a high-level, to USA politics. I can't name the president of Norway. Do they have a president? Or a prime minster? Or is a king running the show?  Hey Google: Who is the leader of Norway?

A couple hours and a couple rounds later, one thing was clear - these guys are proud Norwegians, love Bergen - and dirty jokes. These sentiments echoed true with the other locals we spoke with over the next 6 days across Norway. One of the mates, Trond-Even wanted to show us more of the area and offered us a personal tour and boat ride the next day. "Sure! Might be rainy, but we have rain coats." You don't have rain coats Trond-Even tried to explain, I have some you can use. I'll meet you right here at 3pm. Ok, forget the usual touristy crap, we'll be there.

After connecting on social media and a group photo, we bid farewell to Per-Fredirk and his mates to grab a late bite at a Thai place around the corner (most kitchens were closed by this hour; Thai seems to be popular in Scandinavia and this meal hit the spot). Heading back up the hill we noticed Per-Fredrik, Trond-Evan and rest of the Bergen mates were still going strong. Tempted, but tired from traveling we called it a night - and great way to start the beginning of an epic vacation.

Our new Norwegian mates
Our new mates: The Crazy Norwegians

While traveling have you ever joined some locals for a round and wound up with a good story? Share it in the comment section below.

Next post ... The Bergen Boat Ride [coming soon].
Bergen, Norway Harbor
Bergen Harbor