Monday, September 30, 2013


The old-time band leader Lawrence Welk used to gather the attention of his crew leading up to a performance number by calling out, "A-one, an-a-two". This piece is not about that. In fact, it is the exact opposite, sort of a "A-two, an-a-one". It is about how I sometimes go about things in the wrong order, or how I don't deal with the most important things first. In some ways this reminds me of the old saying about how you can learn the native language of a person by how he cusses when he hits his fingers with a hammer. If that is the case, I am likely to loose my "good father" badge as I have sometimes put the "2" before the "1". Let me relate two stories that happened during the raising of my daughter.

Story #1: My daughter and I used to love to go to a nearby park on our adventures. One summer I had purchased one of those air gliders that you launched by mounting it to a spring-loaded trigger. After a few sessions the foam and cardboard glider had seen its fair share of brutal crashes. As my daughter was reloading the glider onto the rod that contained the spring, the mechanism on the glider that held the spring latch broke and a cardboard tube shot out from the trigger at mach 1, hitting her in the throat. My first words were, "Oh no, the glider broke!"

Story #2: My daughter used to love to go out with me to collect our mail after the postman came. Our mailbox is a rather hefty piece of cast iron. For some reason, the neighbors across the street used to love to back their car into my mailbox and then come over to beg my forgiveness. Anyway, these repeated blows eventually took their toll on the door of the mailbox. One day as my daughter opened the box to get the mail, something broke on the opening mechanism sending a jagged shard of metal flying. It hit my daughter in the neck. I yelled out "Oh no, the mailbox is broken!"

Well there you have it, my anti-Welk parenting stories. It's a wonder that my daughter even looks at me today.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Last Juror

My first foray into the world of author John Grisham was the book The Brethren. This choice was made not out of considered research, but because the book was available. The story was predictable and plodding, without great character development or in-depth layering. However, it wasn't horrible and I decided to try another Grisham book, The Last Juror. This work was evidently crafted, layered, poignant, and sweet. There was nothing contrived or implausible. Just good story telling from start to finish that kept me turning the pages.

The story takes place in the early to mid-1970s in Clanton, MS, a small backwoods southern town. At this time the deep south was still markedly segregated, although the first tentative and anxious steps toward integration were being taken. There was a very uneasy tension between the blacks in their portion of town and the whites in theirs. We meet the narrator of the story, William Traynor, a young man who has just gone through journalism school at Syracuse, but who essentially coasted through, without much motivation or energy. Through a connection made by his aunt, he ends up working as a reporter at the small Ford County Times newspaper. We are introduced to the various townspeople, a collection of folks such as you might meet in any small town. As an outsider, William is often dealt with coolly, kept at arms length. However, he is given an opportunity to purchase the paper and he jumps at the opportunity. Slowly he works to bring the paper to the modern age and along the way he slowly becomes an accepted part of the town. His attitude and approach go a long way toward helping with the integration of the town, weaving the stories of black and white simply and honestly across the pages of his paper.

The main headline in the Times in 1970 involved a man named Danny Padgitt. Born into a clan of lawless thugs, who are involved in every illegal activity that you can imagine. This family is comfortable keeping to themselves in their own corner of the world. However, one night after a night of drinking, Danny rapes and murders a local woman. He is convicted of the crimes, but his family has greased enough palms to ensure that his time served will be short and comfortable. When Danny is eventually paroled, two of the jurors from his criminal trial are murdered. The town reaches a boiling point and nobody feels safe. In this backdrop, we get to enjoy the growing friendship between William and a local black woman named Calia Ruffin, who served on the jury that convicted Danny. Calia is a woman deeply devoted to her large family and her Christian roots. We watch as this courageous woman deals with a very difficult time of racial stereotypes, but manages to maintain her deep faith and her love for life through all of the struggles that she faces. This was a gem of a story, perhaps not for folks looking for a white-knuckled, fast-paced thriller, but it made an impression on me.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Last Hug

My daughter is now in her second year of high school and I strongly sense that dreaded pull of melancholy, realizing that our time together is nearing an end. Even though she is now fifteen and becoming a woman, our relationship is still sweet and innocent. A daddy and his girl. In just the blink of an eye, she will be graduating from high school and going off to college or off to start her life. Since my wife divorced me nearly eight years ago, my daughter has only lived with me part time. Our life together in this period has played out like a movie where half the frames have been cut away and the movie speeds through at double time. The photographs I keep of my daughter around the house captured the little girl that somehow sits more vividly in my mind than the one that I see now. This is likely because I spent so much more time with that younger version of her that the foundations were built up with more of a solid structure.

The other night after my daughter went to bed, I said my goodnights and went across the hallway to putter about in my office while she wound down a bit with her Nintendo game. After a few minutes I realized that I had not given her my customary hug after she was tucked in, so I went into her room to say one more goodnight. She had already fallen asleep, her game sitting on her bedside table untouched from where it had been positioned just a few moments ago. As I whispered my sweet dream wishes to her, I sensed that I had missed an opportunity, like so many other times over the past eight years.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Observations 32

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • I was recently blown away when I walked past a colleague's office and overhead him talking on the phone in portuguese. I had no idea he spoke a second language.
  • There is nothing you can do when you walk past someone's car in a rainstorm and see that its windows are down. No cranks like in the old days.
  • I hate it when companies send their junk mail to me with the envelope addressed using a pseudo-handwriting font. They do this to try to trick me to open their crap under the thin ruse that I will think it is a real letter like people used to send in the days of yore.
  • In 1998 the NL leaders in home runs were McGwire - 70, Sosa - 66, Griffey - 56, Vaughn - 50, Belle - 49. With a few weeks left in the current MLB season, the NL leader in home runs has
    "only" 36. I love it when folks (including those who were users) continue to argue that PEDs make no difference in performance.
  • Businesses like to put up their local community awards around the cash register area. It is kind of sad when the only award mounted to the wall is a dusty and faded plaque from 2001.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


A friend once told me that when it comes to an anniversary or a birthday, you had better darn sure pay attention to one that ends in a zero or you will likely end up in the proverbial doghouse. I can only think that any reasonable person would agree that regardless of the context of my friend's statement, this had better darn sure apply to blogs. Today marks the 1400th post on this site. To put that in perspective, if I posted everyday for 1400 straight days, then I would have compiled a library of 1400 posts. Now that is a pretty sobering bit of perspective. Anyway, I am thankful that I have this outlet for my thoughts, my creativity, and my humor (such as they are). I have had a lot of fun and continue to have a lot of fun with this site. I also want to thank those of you who stop by regularly and say hello. Your presence here helps me to find my smile. I look forward to another forced celebration when I get to post number 1500.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Each year shortly after school begins, the schools in my area have an evening where they invite the parents to come in to meet the teachers, to tour the school, and to see what is expected of the children in each of their classes. At this year's gathering at my daughter's high school, I learned a few things.

1). Many of her teachers are young, energetic women, just a few years past getting their own high school diplomas. It turns out that all of these women have the same first name, "Ms." (where you really stress and enlongate the zzzz sound). None of them, it seems, has a traditional first name like you might find with ordinary folks out on the street, such as Henrietta or Maude.

2). On a prominent sign in all of the classrooms are the words: "Tanks tops should measure 3 fingers across." There were no other words or instructions given. Yet it seems to me that if the material that goes across either a girl's or guy's chest is only three fingers wide, that wouldn't leave much for the imagination if you get my meaning. I think some additional clarifications to this dress-code rule are in order, such as whose fingers are used as the standard?

3). A dress code plaque in the front hallway of the school just outside the principal's office read, in letters no less than 1 inch tall with a notoriously bold and jaunty font, "No razorback tops allowed!". Why the hate against folks from Arkansas? Shouldn't our schools be promoting harmony and acceptance of others, even folks from Arkansas (properly pronounced as "Arrr Kansas").

4). After a long and exhausting day at work, without a chance even to go home for a moment's rest and a quick bite to eat, I went straight from my last late meeting to the school. I did not want to miss the beginning of the festivities, which gathered everyone in the school's auditorium. Apparently severe fatigue and low blood sugar combined to make me so punchy that I could not help but giggle when the school's color guard campily goose-stepped across the stage swinging their fake wooden rifles to the prepubescent squeaks of their squad leader.

5). All of the teachers that I met had a great passion for their work and a love for children that was immediately obvious as they told us about their classes and their experiences as a high school teacher. I left feeling that my daughter was going to be in more than capable hands this year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Brethren

Over the past five or six years, I have read many fiction novels. However, I have contained myself to a relatively limited number of authors. In an effort to start seeking other sources, I decided to read my first book by popular author John Grisham, called The Brethren. After I finished reading, I checked out the online reviews for this book. Without a reference point to understand how others viewed his body of work, I enjoyed getting a bit more perspective reading what others thought compared to other Grisham novels. It was interesting that of the 1100 reviews for this book on, most had a decidedly negative impression. My take, just judging from this one read, was that this work was nothing special. Fairly predicable, fairly simple story arcs, not particularly compelling characters. However, I still enjoyed the book and it was a fairly quick read.

The Brethren are a group of three ex-judges, sentenced for various crimes to do their time in a low-security federal prison. They have set up a little court of their own within the prison to adjudicate various disputes between the inmates. They also oversee a scam that involves posting ads in the personal sections of gay men's magazines, posing as a young man looking for an older man for a relationship. Using a series of carefully crafted letters, they learn more about the men who answer before finally extorting money from them under threat of exposing their activities. It is a scheme that is beginning to pay dividends.

As a backdrop to this, the world continues on a steady course to instability and war due to various rogue leaders and enemy states. The director of the CIA and his inner circle have hand-picked a candidate that they will groom and fund to run for president of the United States. This man, Aaron Lake, a low-level congressman from Arizona, has agreed to run on a platform promising to double military funding over the duration of his term. The CIA director then uses every trick in his bag to ensure the citizenry grows ever more worried about the current weak state of the U.S. military. Mr. Lake takes the nation by storm, but has a single skeleton in his closet. He answered the personals ad and has found himself caught up in the net of the Brethren. Payoffs, assassinations, well-placed operatives, and intelligence services abound in this straight-ahead, but fairly middle-of-the-road thriller. I have another Grisham book on my desk called The Last Juror that I will tackle next.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quick Hits 6

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

A man reaches into his pocket to grab his handkerchief. Unbeknownst to him during this activity, he drops a $50 bill on the ground. What fraction of folks who witness this occurence do you think will keep the money for themselves? Do you think this fraction depends on the denomination of the bill?

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Starry Sky

Did you know?:
  • the age of the universe = 14 billion years
  • the size of the universe = 3 x 1023 miles
  • the number of galaxies in the universe =
    200 to 500 billion
  • the number of stars in each galaxy =
    200 to 500 billion
  • average size of a star = 1-2 million miles
  • the human life span / the age of the universe =
    5 x 10-9
  • the human scale / the scale of the universe =
    4 x 10-27
Sometimes this information makes me feel completely insignificant, simply dust in the wind. But just when I feel small enough to wink out ...
  • my daughter gives me an unexpected hug
  • I get home exhausted from work and find a forgotten container of delicious left-overs in the fridge
  • my knees don't ache after a long day at work
  • I stumble across a T.V. program that makes me laugh deeply
  • a friend invites me out for coffee
  • I catch all of the stoplights on the way home
... and then ... and then I can feel just big enough.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Diaries of Pontius Pilate

I got a suggestion on my Shelfari page for a book to read. It was a humble request by Joseph Max Lewis inviting me to read his first published work of fiction entitled The Diaries of Pontius Pilate. The plot synopsis looked interesting, so I picked up a copy. The story involves a team of archaeologists lead by American Dr. Kevin Elliot that is working on a dig near the Dead Sea. They uncover a cave filled with inscribed metal disks along with a Roman seal and a tar-covered relic of some sort. Just as Kevin and his team start to get an inkling that they may have found something important, a group of Israeli police arrive to investigate a dead body found near the dig site. It is then that the trouble begins to escalate quickly for the team. The site comes under sudden attack and there the team is wiped out. Kevin and his assistant Dr. Jill Gates barely escape into the night with the artifacts. It seems that no matter which direction they turn, someone is pursuing them with sinister intent.

As the story develops, the different factions slowly come into focus. On the one hand we have the extremely well funded and deployed Society for the Enlightenment of Humanity (or The Society). This is an anti-Christian group that will stop at nothing to discredit anything to do with Jesus and who he claimed to be. On the other hand, we have the group called The Fellowship of the Essentials (or The Fellowship) that also have a powerful and wealthy membership who are scrabbling to match The Society step for step. Both groups are hot on the trail of Kevin and Jill as they learn that they have uncovered the diaries of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate who gave the order to crucify Jesus, saw some amazing signs during this ordeal that convinced him to complete an official investigation into who this Jesus was. Ultimately he became so certain of who Jesus was, that he became an powerful force in the Christian movement. His findings were preserved on the copper disks that were unearthed. (The artifacts found are related to the commissioned findings purportedly from Pilate but are generally regarded as non-authentic by scholars - see the Acts of Pilate.)

Definitely a Christian thriller with an interesting premise. Not a bad first effort for Mr. Lewis. A good read that you should be able to read through in a few sessions. The author related to me that he is now working to finish up a sequel to this work.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Observations 31

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • I am a bit of a stickler for the rules of grammar. However, I have rewritten a few rules because they make better sense to me. One is to use two periods in a sentence ending with an abbreviation like T.V. or p.m.. Each period has its own purpose. The first period is part of the abbreviation. The second is there to indicate the end of the sentence.
  • Three of baseball's past MVP award winners have been suspended from baseball in the past few months for using banned substances (Rodriquez, Tejada, Braun). Makes you wonder what MVP really stands for any more, without even mentioning the known issues with other recent former MVPs like Bonds, Clemens, Caminiti, Giambi, Sosa, Canseco, ....
  • It's funny to me how baseball managers get all up in arms when their star player is thrown at on purpose by an opposing pitcher, especially if they have a history of telling their own pitchers to do the same thing.
  • There has been a big focus on whether Tim Tebow will make an NFL roster this season. When asked about this worry, his response was relevant for us all to make our own. He said, "I have learned to worry about what I can control. The things that I can't control, I'm not going to worry about. But I can control my attitude, my effort, my focus every single day, and those are things I'm going to worry about."
  • I absolutely hate it when I can no longer deny that summer is coming to an end.

Friday, September 13, 2013


The final book in The Books of Mortals series by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee is entitled Sovereign. Along with Forbidden and Mortal, we have followed the remnant of humanity some 500 years after nuclear war has fully decimated the Earth. In the aftermath of that long ago age, scientists developed a virus that infected every remaining soul on the planet. This engineered pathology wiped out all of human emotion except for fear. Gone were love, compassion, and empathy, but what remained was a lifeless population that no longer struggled with the forces that caused conflict and war. Yet this virus was not seen by all as the salvation of our species. A small group called The Keepers understood this infection for what it was, the final path to extinction.

In the first two books of this series, the protagonist Rom Sebastian, came across a small vial of blood and a cryptic ancient vellum that hinted at the mysterious powers of the blood. Once he injected this blood into his system, he underwent a conversion back into full humanity. Rom also came to understand an ancient prophesy about one whose blood would be able to cleanse and restore all of humanity. Although Rom was one against an army of very powerful foes, he ultimately found the one whose blood was to be the source of humanity's salvation, the one who was destined to be the sovereign of the world. With a growing band of followers, Rom groomed the young savior Jonathan from boyhood to the pinnacle of his ascension to power. Yet just when everything seemed to be going as Rom had come to believe it would, Jonathan gave his life. The resistance that involved all of Jonathan's followers then quickly fractured and fell into chaos.

Now some ten years after Mortal, Rom and his band of followers of Jonathan number fewer than fifty. They are hunted like vermin not only by the government forces, but also by the much larger remnant of warriors that had initially supported Jonathan. Seeing that those marked by the blood of Jonathan are doomed, an alchemist develops and releases a new virus that will wipe out all of those of impure blood. In one final encounter of pure blood lust, the leaders of the different groups vow to eradicate the other before the virus fulfills its purpose. To be the last one standing before death is the last remaining prize to be grasped. However, in that darkest moment, we find that Jonathan ultimately did fulfill his destiny to become sovereign of the world, just not the sovereign that his followers had expected.

A great series that I think stands well above the cookie-cutter, mass market, crank-it-out stuff that fills the shelves at our bookstores. Absolutely wonderful story, character development, and balance. Top notch. A wonderful aspect of this story is the brief epilog that brings everything back around full circle.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Quick Hits 5

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

I have been part of a church that would cancel services or change service times if there happened to be a conflict with the airing of a major sports championship on T.V.. This seems to me to be sending the wrong message that our worship time should play second fiddle to something far less important.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A+ America 8

Followers of this blog will know that I am a cancer survivor. In fact, the type of cancer that I had is never truly spoken about in the past tense. My cancer is one that comes back every few years and I have been living in tension with this disease for about 16 years now. However, this post is not about that. This post is about the dozens and dozens of nurses that I have interacted with along the way who consistently blew me away with how well they treated me and how they viewed their patient interactions as more than just a job. At many of my appointments and procedures I was anxious and scared, and they knew just what to say and what not to say to bring me a great measure of comfort. I remember one imaging procedure that I went to where they needed to look for evidence of cancerous growths that might have metastasized in other parts of my body. What struck me is that each of the three nurses working with me that day either had a husband or child who had been diagnosed with cancer. Not all of their loved ones had survived. Yet even after living through such a painful personal experience, each of them made the conscious decision to specialize in dealing with cancer patients so that they could serve and bring comfort to those dealing with this disease.

I was reminded of the wonderful blessing that nurses can be as my daughter recently had surgery to have her tonsils removed. Each of the men and women who would be a part of her treatment that day came and spent time with her before the procedure began. Each spoke love to her and treated her as the special person that she is. They treated her with respect and patience. As they were wheeling my daughter's bed back to the surgery room, the head nurse, sensing my great concern, took me aside and told me that her team would do their very best for my daughter and that she would get the best care. This wasn't uttered as a glib, formulaic platitude. This was spoken as someone who deeply cared and truly understood the situation. So, to all of you nurses who make your work more than just a job, who put your heart and soul into treating your patients with skill, with love, with empathy, and with tenderness, I say A+ America.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm Sorry (...)

In America today folks are always getting caught red-handed doing what they shouldn't. Politicians accepting bribes, celebrities getting caught in affairs, or professional athletes doping. These juicy, titillating, and oftentimes salacious reports drag across the news tickers every hour on the hour for a couple of days before they are replaced by the next indiscretion and the next "can-you-believe-it?" story. At this point in time, these reports of illegal and immoral activities are so commonplace that nobody is shocked by anything anymore. High dollar public relations firms have well mapped out strategies for immediate rehabilitation. Press releases are issued and a quick trip through the talk show circuit with a quick "I'm sorry" issued over chit-chat and coffee mugs. Personal appearances are fully saturated in the most professionally coached mannerisms with the saddest of eyes. Yet it is clear to me that the Ivory soap 99.44% of these folks are only apologizing for getting busted. I'm sorry (...), where the (...) is the mumble of let's just get through this so that I can get back to my usual life.

A perfect example of this public response was played out in front of us just recently. Kansas City Royals infielder Miguel Tejada was recently suspended for 105 games for testing positive two different times this season for using amphetamines banned by Major League Baseball. Tejada's PR firm released a heartfelt statement from the player saying (in part):

"I apologize to my teammates, the Royals organization and to the Kansas City fans. I have a medical condition that requires medication to treat. ... But I want people to understand one thing. I wasn't using a drug to take advantage on the field, or be stronger or hit more home runs."

It almost makes you feel sorry for the guy until you know a bit more about the full story. Mr. Tejada was up to his eyeballs in other illegal drugs through the Biogenesis company that has been in the sport headlines for the past several months. He had apparently been on a regiment of performance enhancing drugs to give him precisely the competitive advantage that he had denied in his professionally crafted press release on the amphetamines rap. It turns out that Major League Baseball gave him the option of accepting the suspension for the amphetamines or they would give him a lifetime ban for the P.E.D.s that he was also taking. "I'm sorry (...)".

Monday, September 9, 2013

Planting Seeds

The other day my daughter was discussing with me what classes she will be taking this fall as she starts her sophomore year in high school. Certainly some of the courses like english, history, P.E., and mathematics are required, but the remainder of her schedule is filled in with various electives that she specifically chose. I didn't ask her at the time, but I have been wondering since if there was any specific reason that she made the selections that she did. Were they made based on subjects that she thought that she would enjoy, or with teachers that came recommended to her by friends, or because she was told they were easy and wouldn't take much effort? Is it possible that choices were made with some longer-term strategy in mind like thinking ahead to college or career?

I remember back in my high school we were assigned to meet with a guidance counselor a couple of times per year. When I was a freshman, sophomore, and junior, their advice seemed to be laid back, without any pressure or intensity. Then all of a sudden when we became seniors, their attitudes took a markedly serious turn? "You only have a few more months before graduation. How can you not have detailed plans for your future laid out in every detail?! You had better do some serious thinking about your future and do it quickly!" It seemed like up until the last minute their attitudes were all "don't worry, be happy" and then suddenly they were ranting and raving because the majority of folks really had done no planning at any level.

Anyway, all of this got me to wondering about when young people start to get a realistic sense of what they want to do when they "grow up". Do most high school graduates who go to college (a fraction typically in the 50-60% range) go with a reasonably mature plan for what they want to do for a career? Are they just going off to school because that is what is expected of them? Are they just trying to buy time? What about those high school graduates who don't go to college? I wonder how long it took them to reach some sort of career equilibrium? It would be interesting to compare what careers folks ended up in versus the plans that they had when they graduated from high school. What fraction of these young people ended up where they thought they would? It would be fascinating to know what specific seed was planted in their lives that eventually sprouted forth into the career path they ultimately chose.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Dead Town

The last novel in Dean Koontz' Frankenstein series is entitled The Dead Town. This work picks up just where Lost Souls left off. The spawn of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a clone of the original madman, has used the latest technology to create what he believes is a new race of super beings. His megalomaniacal scheme is to use these efficient machines to wipe every man, woman, child, and thinking, feeling creature off the face of the Earth. At the end of Lost Souls, Victor's plan is already underway at the epicenter of it all, the isolated town of Rainbow Falls, Montana. Working to stop his schemes are ex-New Orleans homicide detectors Michael Maddison and Carson O'Connor, Victor's first creation Deucalion with his other-worldly powers, and a host of small groups of townsfolks.

The story is essentially plot driven. Even though there are several dozen characters introduced in the story, none really takes on a leading role. As such nobody really stands out or is developed to the point that they are more than two-dimensional devices. We never really get to witness any cleverness or cunning or bravery. The dialog is often at the level of trite quips or banter. The chapters jump back and forth from one group of the resistance to another, but the peeks into their actions, their emotions, or their plans are so quick that we never get a chance to develop any sort of relationship with them. The antagonist is not well developed and the story never really builds up to that edge-of-your-seat crescendo of suspense and action that is necessary to push this one over the threshold. Of course, this is certainly a criticism, and I feel a weakness of the entire series. However, in the last two books it was more glaring. Yet, I still enjoyed my time with these books and will continue to read through the Koontz library.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Space Madness

I recently came across a news story that left me so affected, I had to walk away from my computer to try to clear my head of the images and thoughts that had begun to race uncontrollably through my mind. A private company is devising plans to colonize the surface of Mars over the next several decades. In the first part of the Mars One project, they would like to send a small crew on a one-way trip to the red planet in order to set up the rudimentary phase one colony. A couple of cramped cubicles that will make up the living and lab spaces. This team will serve as canaries in the coal mine to learn how long humans can survive in the harsh Martian environment, before supplies and crews for future phases are sent. This first crew is paying dearly for a one-way ticket, without the possibility of ever returning. According to the news report, more than 100,000 people have filled out an application to be selected for the opportunity to make the trip.

Confined to a small space capsule for a year, the effects of micro-gravity will quickly wreak havoc on their skeletal, circulatory, and immune systems. After only a few days of travel, they will begin to experience mind-numbing tedium as they are confined to a space scarcely bigger than a pup tent, with the Earth big and inviting in their rear-view mirrors. Here they will soon realize that there is now no chance to back out. A sort of space madness will slowly take over as they begin to understand that any desire that they have come to know on Earth will never again have an opportunity for fulfillment. In for a penny, in for a pound. No way out, no way back. If they can last a year, they will have a short burst of excitement and activity if they survive the perilous descent into that thin, dusty atmosphere. Their new reality will be a rugged, inhospitable land stretching out in all directions to infinity. Average temperatures of about 80 degrees below zero.

The small crew will labor to set up their water collectors and food production units, praying that the kinks have been fully worked out. Rations will be tightly regulated and sealed away with electronic controls to prevent the crew unauthorized access. After the initial dealings with mission control, they will find that the all-too-brief period of newness has gone flat. Then they will somehow have to live in the dreams that someone else created. While the dreamers get the attention and accolades, they can look up into their new night sky and catch an all too surreal glimpse of the blue spec that they gave up for the chance to ... what? Have their names listed in some history book? Do they realize that Armstong got to come back and live his place in history? How long until they come to understand that the reality that they have accepted is nothing like the non-stop Las Vegas-themed vacation that Hollywood has filled their minds with? How long until they realize that the company supplied cyanide pill is the only sensible out for the insanity that they created for themselves.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quick Hits 4

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

There is a lingering phenomenon in our country known as "Bieber-mania". Is there an entertainer more seemingly reviled than this effeminate stock character? A sweet little boy with energy and a winning smile has degenerated into a foul-mouthed, law-breaking, promiscuous, disrespectful little punk. Why do so many young entertainers feel that they need to go down the bad-boy or bad-girl road for us to take them seriously as adult entertainers?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to School

One sure sign that summer has officially passed through (beyond the fact that yesterday was Labor Day) is that my daughter goes back to school today. No more mornings of sleeping in and waking up to a fancy breakfast. No more days of swimming, relaxing in her hammock on the porch, or playing video games. No more late lights with movies and board games. Now come the pressures of studying, frequent tests, homework, reading, and other school-related deadlines that seem to completely eliminate any trace of that lazy-day attitude and go-anywhere freedom that blissfully settles over her during the summer season. One of the things that we both like about summertime is that we get a bit more time. On our days together I typically leave work early and pick her up at lunch time. On school days, I don't pick her up until nearly 3:30 p.m. when she gets off her bus.

This year my daughter is a sophomore in her high school. Even though she has grumbled a little bit about school starting up again, I get the sense that this is just a pre-programmed response and that she doesn't mind it all that much. I think that she likes getting to be around her friends again and she looks forward to some of her school activities. While she would rather not have to spend her afternoons doing homework, she is more than used to this routine and she knows how to handle it.

In talking to some of my colleagues at work about back-to-school time, it seems that a fair number of them almost seem to be glad to be rid of their kids. Not me. I am blessed that my relationship with my daughter is such that I look forward to spending time with her and miss her when she is gone. I'm not sure if this will make any sense, but I am most like the me that I want to be when we are together. All of the crap and distractions that rumble about in my brain seem to be effectively quelled when we are doing our thing together. Still I look forward to helping my daughter in any way that she needs with her studies and her life in this new school year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013

Another year has slipped past me since I wrote my last Labor Day message to my readers. I just wanted to share a few remarks for my hopes for you today ...

Many folks will have the day off from work today and if so, I hope that you find some peace, some space, some laughter, some good food, and some love. Hopefully you can celebrate the unofficial end of summer looking back over a very blessed season that holds more than a few memories worth lingering over. For you folks that have to work today, hopefully you can still find some time to relax and enjoy yourselves. Regardless of whether you have the day off or have to work, I do hope that you take a few moments to be thankful that you have a job and can pay your bills. Plenty of folks are really struggling having trouble finding a job or having just been let go due to the ongoing struggles with the economy. Blessings to you all.