Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Inside the rails

I am an aging, middle-class (I guess) male who has lived a healthy life. Now, don't take that to mean I've always made the best health choices throughout my life. For twenty-five years I smoked. I have been smoke-free now since January 5th, 2:15 am in 2002. My Beloved still thinks I eat like a nine year old, but most of what my diet consists of when she's not around is what I grew up with. I eat cereal nearly every morning, usually a sugar-coated concoction of some kind or Rice Chex filled with raisins. The breakfast meal also includes toast with butter and coffee when I'm not scheduled early for work.

The one thing I've always hung my hat on is that I have never (outside of having my tonsils out at the age of seven) been admitted to a hospital. Oh, I've taken the trip to the emergency room plenty of times over the years for a variety of broken bones, deep cuts and athletically ripped muscles, but I have not been on the inside of the bed rails.

On most of my trips to the hospital I have been on the outside of the bed rails looking in. Well, today I had my first inside the rails trip. The difference is significant way of looking at life. Now, I'm not struggling with an insidious disease or condition. I won't make that comparison. Many people face life and death on a daily basis due to their circumstances, often beyond their control. This is not one of those struggles, but what it did do for me was put me in a situation where I was not in control.

I am used to doing things. I'm not used to laying in a bed and forced to do nothing. I'm not used to nurses sticking me with needles and having leads taped to my body. I'm not used to being wheeled around the hallways of a surgical building with the breeze wafting up my gown. And boy, do they keep those hallways cold. Apparently my doctor told My Beloved during the after-consultation that I was a lightweight. I was out before I even entered the surgery room. Today starts several days now of recuperating; more sitting around doing nothing and forcing my wife to be my go-fer. Well, in my case it is more not sitting on my butt ... if you get my drift. However my ordeal will be over shortly and things will return to normal for me, and the quicker the better.

And speaking of people I know who are facing the struggle of their lives, my author friend Brandon Hale is winning in his battle with cancer. He has a different view on the world and is the author of the Day Soldiers series. I urge everyone to give it a read and discover a brilliant author.

Although I was inside the rails I can still make the claim of not being admitted to a hospital. (Hey, you take your claims to fame where you can get them).

Monday, June 27, 2016

The 1%

We have all been inundated by them. We hear about them constantly in the news. The term has leaped in popularity. The 1% ers.

But this ramble isn't about THAT one percent. It's about the other one percent. You don't know who they are? Most don't, but they have a tremendous influence on our lives ... a negative one.

Yesterday at the store I was working diligently to put product on the shelves. It's that time of year where we are getting ready for back to school. Yes kiddies, you haven't been out a month and already the notebooks are hitting the shelves. But I digress. One of the challenges to the volume of work to be done is speed. One must slice open boxes with precision, time after time after time. In the past, that was easy, but somewhere down the line, that changed.

Why? Because some asshole somewhere couldn't figure out how to properly use a sharp razor knife and likely cut himself into oblivion. By his (and I'm using that term as a general term for mankind) utter stupidity I am forced to now use a safety knife that couldn't cut wet butter. With my old handi-cutter, I can take the top off a box in literally three seconds. What a safety cutter does is shield the blade so you can barely get it to the cardboard. What we lose in productivity we make up for in the cost of the one percenter to keep his job which he isn't likely qualified to do. He not only costs the company money from lack of productivity, he also cost them money to pay for his workman's comp claim he brought on himself.

Think about the products you use around the house. Ever try to cut through scotch tape with the plastic cutter that comes with it? It stretches out most of the time and never cuts. You can thank the one percenter for that. Now-a-days we're forced to use products that don't work because someone stupid can't cut paper with scissors.

Ever wonder why lawnmowers have all those warning labels on them? There is a well-known story of two highly intelligent individuals who thought it was a good idea to trim their hedges with a running power mower. Yep, you guessed it; lawsuit. Now, I'm not against companies making safer products. Look at where the automobile has come from? The real problem is the one percenter who doesn't use a product the way it was intended and then points the finger at the manufacturer.

Even wonder why most commercials for products come with half the commercial filled with a man talking so fast not even his own mother could understand him? Warning labels.

It's time we take our products back from the one percenters and let natural selection take its rightful place again in the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Heavyweight Champion of the World

A couple years ago when Michael Jackson died I was wondering what towering figure would possibly cause more of a stir when they passed away. My immediate thought back then was Muhammad Ali. Unfortunately, the time has come and an inspiring figure from my life has now faded into memory.

It is debatable if Michael Jackson rose to the same level as Muhammad Ali. In my mind he was nowhere close. But, it was a different time and a different world when Ali, then Cassius Clay burst onto the scene. He was the first to be openly brash and the first to challenge the world with cockiness as the 'Mouth of the South' when he knocked out Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

The difference between then and now is simple; there was only one heavyweight champion of the world and nearly every living soul from Asia to Africa to America knew who it was. Boxing was a sport followed around the world and the heavyweight champ was king, not like now when there are about six different organizations who claim to have a heavyweight champ. Muhammad Ali defined a generation of fighters never before seen and perhaps, never to be seen again.

But unlike most who talk the talk, Ali walked the walk. Whether you liked him or not, believed in him or not, he followed his convictions which ultimately cost him the title. He wasn't perfect. Like all of us he knelt at times to his demons as we all do. But to his credit, he learned to rise above them and made a difference in the world and the lives of many. To me, so many of those who are called 'famous' or 'legends' of their genre never rose above what they did on stage or on the field.

Ali became someone who transcended the world of boxing and sport and became a true icon. The fact the he changed his name and religion never mattered to me. He used his name and his fame to become more than just a boxer. Now as I have said in this blog in the past, as a rule I have never been one to look up to famous people. They were not my heroes. However, I remember the days when boxing was on broadcast television. I was too young to go to venues to watch a fight. Hell, I was just a kid, but I remember vividly waiting for his fights on television. I remember the Frazier fights, the Foreman fight but I also remember the devastation I felt the night he lost to Leon Spinks. It was the fist time in my sporting life I can remember true heartbreak.

Muhammad Ali set the standard for the modern athlete who has become nothing more than a braggadocios sabre-rattler. Gone is the good-natured challenges between sportsmen. Their challenges are now nothing more than two bullies arguing in front of a camera just to be noticed in front of fans who are witless lemmings.

The Greatest is gone and I feel a little older because of it.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why can't Johnny vote?

As I was driving home yesterday I heard a story on NPR radio concerning voting rights in the state of Ohio. Apparently a judge has struck down a portion of a voting rights law that was passed in 2005. (Okay, I'm going on memory here so don't feel the need to point our every minor detail. That isn't the point of this). The Attorney General and Secretary of State must now not enforce a provision of is package of laws that states that one can not register to vote and vote on the same day.

The reason behind this ruling is that it discriminates against minorities (African-Americans were specifically mentioned) and low income groups. This judge ruled it unconstitutional and also that it violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Now, since I am not a lawyer I will not argue the constitutionality of his ruling. What I will argue however is that this practice is not discriminatory. If I were an African-American I think I would be insulted by this statement.

Well, why would it be discriminatory? Don't people of all races know an election is coming up? Don't people of all races have a television set that has the ability to turn on a news channel? Don't the vast majority of people in the United States have access to the internet? Sure they do. All of these resources are present for everyone, White, Black, Latino et al. It's what you choose to do with these resources and how to make use of them that sets any one individual or group apart. There are plenty of African-Americans that understand the voting laws and, guess what? Go down and register to vote so they can vote on election day. Hell, it's more than just one day now. You can vote ahead of time.

I believe this is only discriminatory against those people who are either too lazy to get off their butts or are simply too stupid to be aware of the society around them. If you are more interested in watching the Kardashians than the nightly news, that's a 'your problem' issue. Once again we have someone or a group of someones pointing the finger at someone else blaming them for their own lack of knowledge and inaction. You're a victim only because you want to be and you're only way out and to feel better about yourself is to blame others.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A step away from forever



Our venture into a world away from home.

I see the shoreline, the water’s edge as it laps against the white sands once held only in my dreams. Long has it been since I have gazed upon the edge of the world in its vastness. The salt spray tickles my nose, its scent of ocean caressing shore is pungent as it lingers above that which locks me firmly within its grasp.

I step gingerly upon the oceans residue and feel its warmth upon my skin. I bury my toes deep and feel the grainy texture, soft as a mother’s touch. I stride more confidently out to the water’s edge. Nature’s touch again brings its caress as the lapping sea spills its white foam surrounding me for the briefest of moments before retreating again to the depths of a turquoise shelf.

We begin our sojourn, my Beloved and I along the banks of the world. We stride hand in hand as the cradle of the world’s life ebbs and flows around us. A tidal pool, lost from the ocean’s embrace as low tide abandons its child, simmers in the early morning sunlight. The waves push and pull across our feet beckoning us outward as though they were driven by God’s own breath.

The minuscule shells, remnants of a world unseen tumble their way up the shelf and ride back down again toward the bottom below. Their number uncountable, they splinter and crumble as they continue their never-ending journey upon the beach they will one day become. My tender skin protected from winter’s wrath by the tools of my trade, thick-soled boots and socks that bandage my skin have left me vulnerable to each step I take barefoot upon the world. I cringe with each step as their edges rake beneath my alabaster feet, the morning sun warm upon my shoulders ... and it is magnificent.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The band "Indie"

My Beloved and I were out again with friends last night. We took in a local watering hole that featured a band. It was a rocking good time into the evening with food and fuel ... okay, read that 'alcohol'. As we listened to the band, a foursome of gentlemen about my age I began to realize the similarities between what they do as musicians and what I do as an Indie author.

It occurred to me as I listened to well-crafted 80's classic rock tunes that rolled through the night air that I was hearing men who had long practiced their craft. I began to watch their fingers as they strummed across the strings of a bass guitar, the sticks that flew atop the drum skins and a voice that reverberated along the walls and ceilings of a packed house. These men had obviously practiced their craft for many years. They had developed a strong local following.

So what is it that keeps them doing it? They aren't going on tour or fronting for a world-famous band. Yet, how much less talented are they? My answer? They're not. They simply have worked their way through life with a passion they devoted themselves to. This passion took a second seat to families and jobs that payed the bills. So what's the difference?

The difference is being in the right place at the right time. It's about being discovered. There are thousands of talented groups just like this all over the country. That's what it's like to be an 'Indie author'. We live our lives and go to jobs that pay the bills. We strive with a deep passion to continue the work that drives us in the evening hours; the page of the written word. Authors and musicians face the same struggles. We are singular yet we number in the hundreds of thousands. We are mostly undiscovered and we await our time in the sun, when the cover is lifted off our work and the light of our talent beams across the stars of the known universe.

Like those who seek out new musical talent, I challenge readers to seek out indie authors you've not read before. You'll likely be surprised at the 'hidden' talent that has been smoldering below the surface just waiting to be discovered.

And just so you know ... the Jack ... is the band we rolled with last night.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ghost Fleet, the current WIP

   With the recent release of Star Eagle Six, book one of my sci-fi series Home World, work is underway on book two of the series, Ghost Fleet. We'll see how it goes with the writing but I am tentatively shooting for a launch in early summer. 

I hope you enjoy this brief excerpt from Ghost Fleet.


          The darkness was offset by the two glistening moons as they paraded across the night sky, their light casting a shimmering cloak over the starlight behind them. Below, the charcoal colored buildings of Fleet Main absorbed the reflected light from the rare, twin full moons. Fleet Main was planted on the outskirts of Galway, the most populated city of New Caledonia. With it’s placement negotiated in the formative years of the Home World alliance it had become the central core of the defense of the alliance.
Admiral Duley Connor was doing his best to clean up his desk before he retired for the night, and things weren’t going well. He was the command lead for three of the nine Home World fleets, and his were the most successful. They often had the lead for the heaviest Lorilon engagements and his Third Fleet was currently in the midst of the fight. He hadn’t received transmissions from Stuart Joseph in over three days. He leaned back and tossed his pen on the desk.
“Damn him.” Duley Connor had a distinguished career running breakneck up the ranks. He flew by officers who had more experience, more connections. On his way up he learned to work the system but along the way, he’d changed. He looked out the wall of dark windows into the night, his office overlooking the central pools of the ringed courtyard. He could see his reflection against the dark sky. He pushed his fingers through his thinning silver hair. Those heady days of running up the ladder were gone. Somewhere along the line with the glad-handing and deal making he became more of a politician in a uniform than a leader of men.
He pushed himself away from his desk letting his tired gaze fall on the orange moon of Mourne, her rocky reflection in sharp contrast to her pale sister Gullion’s soft light. Joseph was stalling. He was sure of it.
“What the hell was he waiting for?” Connor asked himself aloud. “Because he ignored my direct order." A sharp knock on his partially opened door grabbed his attention, pulling his thoughts back into the room.
“Sir?”
“What is it Mairead?” Duley turned his chair slightly, angling it toward his assistant. “I thought I told you to go home hours ago. It’s almost tomorrow.”
“I just needed to get some of my own work caught up too. Sir, a communique from Third Fleet, eyes only.”
“Really!”Duley’s eyes shot up in surprise. “Bout damn time!” He pushed himself away from his desk and stared at the huge com panel on the wall. The bottom of the glass screen was nearly pristine in its blackness except for the single red dot that pulsed twice in three second intervals. He was standing in front of the panel moments later. He placed his hand over the bio-sensor and the unit responded immediately.
“Connor, Duley. Authorization accepted.”
“Computer, open eyes only communication. Authentication alpha 3 zeta.”
“Acknowledged.”
Connor listened to the brief message in its entirety, his head down, his arms crossed. His longtime friend was hard to read even in person. A long distance communique made it even more difficult. As Joseph’s words fell away Duley reached out touching the now-black panel shutting it down. He turned and walked to the dark windows and looked up again to the celestial chariots racing across the night sky. Joseph was possibly the best fleet commander in the Alliance, his friend, but now, he had no choice.