Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Madness

So it's been over a month since my last post here and that was a recipe for meatloaf, which let's face it, is kind of like cheating - unless you tried the meatloaf, of course, in which case you should be impressed enough with my kitchen skills to cut me some slack on the regularity of my blog posts.

Truth is I've been busy - something I never thought I would hear myself say again since I don't really have anything to do anymore except tinker, which by definition, is on my own terms and according to my own schedule, a flexible thing these days - certainly more flexible than I am in my advancing old age.

I did an art show in mid December at my sister-in-law's place in Deland, FL. I set up a tent in her back yard and displayed most of my stuff, hoping to sell some of it to the more discerning locals.

I actually did move a few pieces. That much was gratifying, although I didn't move nearly enough to justify the back-breaking effort required to load all that stuff up in a rented trailer and haul it 150 miles, then repack it and haul it all back.

There is a reason I never want to move again, and it's the very same reason that I really don't want to do another art show unless I can get a minion or two to do all the freaking work. Sitting in a director's chair in a tent and talking to people about my work is actually quite pleasant. Getting that work out on display so I can talk about it . . . not so much.

I did some more cooking over the holidays. My Christmas culinary triumph was bacon brittle. That's right, B A C O N  B R I T T L E. The name says everything you need to know about it except how to make it. That will remain my little secret . . . unless you buy my book. If you buy my book and send me an email telling me how much you enjoyed it (or didn't - I'm not particular in that regard) I will send you the recipe. If you put a good review up on Amazon or Smashwords or Goodreads, I will come over to your house and love on you. I realize that may not be a great incentive, but I'll be just that happy. I might even bring food.

Bulletnose: 24" x 36' x 1.5" gallery wrap canvas print

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meatloaf recipe

Made a fantastic meatloaf last night. Served it with spaghetti squash and broccoli. Big hit.

Cooking may be the most social of the creative arts. Writing, in contrast, is a lonely pursuit while you are writing, and maddeningly fraught with social discourse when you are trying to market the fruits of your labor. With cooking, you've got all those wonderful smells to do the marketing for you, so all that's left socially is to serve it up and receive compliments.

Great Meatloaf Recipe

  1. 1.5 - 2.0 lbs meatloaf medley (I get mine from Publix. It's 1/3 ground pork & 2/3 ground chuck.)
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 cup panko
  4. 1 cup milk (I use skim)
  5. 1 med carrot cut into tiny cubes
  6. 1/2 med onion, chopped fine
  7. 1/3 med red bell pepper
  8. 1 tbs vegetable bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon paste. Flavors are really intense.)
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  11. 1/3 cup ketchup
  12. 2 tbs mustard
  13. 2 tbs brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine first 10 ingredients. Shape into a loaf and place on a slatted broiler pan to allow juices to drain off during cooking. Combine ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar and smear on top and sides of loaf to create a glaze. Bake for about an hour and a half, or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees F. Allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes before slicing.

Next time I make this, I'm going to substitute shallot for part of the onion and sautee the onion, red pepper, and carrot before adding to the loaf mixture. This will serve 6 - 8 people pretty handily, or 4 with plenty left over for sandwiches the next day. Or you can do like me and have a slice for breakfast with a fried egg on top. Yum.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Survivor Man!

I like to think that I'm not easily defeated. By way of evidence, I submit that I have beaten cancer twice. One year ago today I was undergoing a gruesome 10 hour long surgery to remove a large tumor from my sinuses. The procedure involved peeling my face down over my chin, harvesting bone from the upper portion of my forehead, and reconstructing the bridge of my nose, my brow line, and bits of my right eye socket. The amazing thing is, not only did I survive the procedure but I still look mostly human. People keep telling me I look great, but that is a relative thing. They wouldn't say it if they didn't know some details about what I went through to survive.
The actual procedure was, of course, a piece of cake for me. I quite enjoyed it. All the attention, the care, the well-wishing and prayers and concern were gratifying. Plus, for the truly terrifying parts, I was sound asleep. When I woke up, I was surrounded by my wife and her sisters, my own sister, and some nurses. I thought I had gone to heaven. It was a wonderful experience. I'd do it again, although I don't think anyone else enjoyed it quite as much as I did.
The misery started the next day. It's been a year, and I'm still not back to normal. I have random attacks of pain and discomfort in my face and eyes. I'm kind of used to it by now. It's part of the new me—the guy who has trouble getting up out of a chair even though he's demonstrably tough as nails. The guy who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and lived to tell the tale. Happy anniversary to me! Superhero. Survivor Man. I just need a Spandex suit.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Relentless Promotion with a Twist

All the best advice I've seen about how to succeed as an indie published author claims that you have to be relentlessly upbeat in all your social media posts while you're trying to market your book. I've tried this to the best of my ability, but it has become increasingly difficult to do given my lackluster sales numbers and the fact that, even though everyone tells me to my face that Speedster is a real page turner, hardly anyone has bothered to go to Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble or any of the other places where the book is retailed and give me a nice 4 or 5 star rating or post a review. Staying relentlessly upbeat is requiring ever greater amounts of gin and vermouth and repeated trips to the grocery for olives and/or lemons. Just sayin' . . . in the most relentlessly upbeat possible way.

BTW, if this piques your interest in any way, Speedster is now FREE for a limited time in virtually all ebook formats, including Kindle, from the Smashwords Store. Just follow this LINK.

People who have read it really do say good things about it, and I tend to believe them even though the only posted rating I have from someone who is not a friend or relative only gave it two stars. Two stars in the Goodreads universe means okay. To have any chance of respectable sales numbers, I apparently need to have an average of 4.5 stars.

I really want to know what people think. If the book is not as good as I think it is, as I've been led to believe by others that it is, then I want to be able to to make the next one (already in progress - working title, Hiding Teeth) that much better. I need some thoughtful and independent feedback. If you want to help me out in this regard, I promise to love you forever in the most relentlessly upbeat way possible.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. Mark 6:4

Apparently this little proverb applies to writers as well as prophets. I can attest because getting my family to read Speedster has been like pulling teeth. Some are easy. My wife, cousin, and two sisters-in-law, for instance, were early readers and supporters. They even talked me up—said things like once they got started they couldn't put it down etc. You'd think statements like that would get more family members motivated to give it a try. Not so much.
Language might be part of the problem—that and my decidedly irreverent spin on things. Many in my family are devoutly religious. They home school their children in order to shelter them from the kinds of things I write about. Knowing that, I can hardly expect them to download the very stuff they are guarding against directly into their homes. Still, you'd think they'd be at least a little curious.
Now, to be fair, I have pointed out to them by way of forewarning that parts of my book, especially any dialogue involving the characters Dwayne and his boss Earl, are liberally peppered with F-bombs and scatological references. I know that people really talk this way because I have worked for people who talked this way. I've had more than one boss who thought nothing of standing hard working and dedicated employees up against the wall without much provocation and yelling obscenities at them until the paint peeled around them.

In addition, a great many of my 'mommy blogger' acquaintances talk that way in their blogs. They are perfectly lovely young women with small children, who write about their day-to-day lives, managing their familial obligations, and dealing with husbands who seem to grow more useless and ignorant at an accelerating pace. They talk about these things like drunken sailors. It seems to be a requirement to get in one of the many 'mommy blogger' clubs.

A certain amount of unseemly language is essential to disagreeable tasks. I know, for instance, that it is impossible to repair an automobile or perform rudimentary plumbing without cussing. Should raising small children require any less? I don't think so. I've done some of that too. It's certainly stressful, often painful, and almost continually icky—just like plumbing. I'd say cussing is a job requirement for mommies, and on that basis, I think F-bombs and vulgarisms ought to be an accepted norm of expression. If you're thinking, 'What would Jesus do?' you should bear in mind that Jesus didn't have small childrenor plumbing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Moluccan Cockatoo

I was reading an excerpt from my new book (working title - Hiding Teeth) yesterday at a new writers' group I am trying on for size. While I was reading, a Moluccan Cockatoo named Floyd flew across the room and landed on my shoulder. I took it as a fortuitous omen. The group moderator said my writing was 'brilliant'. Taken together, I think that these two things mean that you should definitely buy my book, Speedster. Honest to God, you just can't argue with signs like that! BTW, Floyd is a girl. That's not her in the picture, but she looked just like that. Quite lovely don't you think? I think she was mesmerized by my reading voice. Someone else said I sound just like John Goodman. All in all, it was a pretty cool day for me.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Procrastination Proclamation

I love putting stuff off until tomorrow that I know I will wish I had done today. This applies to writing as much as anything else. It's a double-edged sword though. What I write tomorrow will be better than it would have been had I written it today, but it will be worse than what I would be writing tomorrow if I had just bitten the bullet and written what I'm going to write tomorrow today. Does anyone have a headache besides me? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Writing a Novel: best get rich quick scheme yet. Just ask someone who's done it.

Great post yesterday by Larry Brooks at StoryFix.

Not very encouraging to those of us who would like to make some money writing books, but a good dose of reality comes in handy every once in a while.

Two kinds of people should definitely read this: 

  1. people I owe money to that think they are going to collect because I have published a book, and 
  2. people who owe money to me who think they no longer need  to pony up because I have published a book. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Synopsis for Speedster

I rewrote the synopsis for Speedster, hoping to better convey the things I think make it stand out from the crowd without giving too much away about the plot. Tell me what you think.

At 48, Jack McCain is beginning to resemble the antique Auburn Speedster his grandfather left him years ago. Sleek, classy, and powerful in its day, the car is now an anachronism that needs to be sheltered from the harsh realities of its environment to prevent its slipping into an ignoble dotage.
Jack would like nothing better than to keep himself garaged and under wraps next to his Speedster, but fate has conspired against him. Driven to distraction by a manipulative ex-wife, an insensitive girlfriend, and an epic mid-life crisis, Jack finds himself the chance owner of a customized import car. Hoping to sell the car, he joins a car club run by a bunch of twenty-something tuner punks who don't seem to know very much about cars. When one of the members, a beautiful tomboy who happens to be an exotic dancer, follows him home his life begins to spiral out of control.
Meanwhile, a screwball collection of villains including a pair of neon-haired underachievers, a serial sexual predator, and the owner of the gentleman's club called Glitters, scheme to separate Jack from the valuable Speedster. They want to sell it to launch a black tar heroin enterprise on Florida's posh Lower East Coast. They will stop at nothing to get it. Fueled by their spectacular and often hilarious ineptitude, they mire themselves and Jack in a predicament that seems more and more hopeless as it unfolds.

When a murderous deviant named Mateo abducts two women to force his hand, Jack must shake his malaise and come to grips with the boredom and indecisiveness at the root of his troubles. He enlists the help of his best friend, Mike, to rescue the women, but even a bagful of guns and the best of intentions are not enough it seems against a resourceful and determined foe. Tensions rise and bodies fall, from the walled mansions of Palm Beach to the mangrove labyrinths of Florida's Gulf Coast, as events race to an exciting and unexpected conclusion.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Court Jester?

I dusted off this old post where I was complaining about some other personal karmic slight, real or imagined, to complain today about an alarming paucity of book sales. It seems I just cannot decide to be happy about being poor. I can, however, be funny about it. Well, kind of.

When I was 21 or 22 I told my mother, who was busy at the time chiding me for what, according to her, were serious lapses in my attention to my future, that I had as yet no regrets—that everything I had done or failed to do to that point only added to the sum total of me, which sum, in my opinion, seemed to be tallying up just fine. It turns out though, 40 some years later, that I had many regrets at the time. I just didn't know it.
Now that I'm shipwrecked and washed up on the shores of an uncertain dotage, ill-provisioned and without prospects, all those early and unseen regrets are coming due like markers to a loan-shark. Now, I understood perfectly at the time all the places where I went wrong. I knew where I didn't apply myself as I ought, when I skated or took the path of least resistance or effort, where I caved in to idle self-indulgence, and where I wasted monumental effort on things that were bound never to pay dividends. I knew what I was doing when I did it...or wasn't when I didn't, and I understood the consequences.
Those things don't bother me so much. I made trade-offs that I valued one way at the time. That I have changed the valuation over time may make my decisions lamentable, but it does not make the consequences unfair. I got what I asked for...up to a point.
My problem is that now I think I'm well past that point. I'm past Karma, past just deserts, past what I bargained for, and well into the uncharted realm of cosmic retribution. Things are way worse than they ought to be, given what I did or failed to do in the past. I can say without irony, 'I don't know what I did to deserve this.'
Maybe it's that I made disparaging comments about the so-called law of attraction. Maybe it's that I sprinkle my prayers with profanity and vulgarisms. Maybe it's that I think Kim Kardashian, who seems to have replaced Paris Hilton on the altar of American celebrity worship, is a waste of otherwise useable oxygen. Maybe it's because I believe that professional wrestling is more entertaining and realistic than any episode in any city of the Real Housewives—ever. Maybe it's all these together. Maybe it's something else entirely. I don't know.
'Keying Up'
a court jester fortifies his wit
William Merritt Chase - 1875
Whatever is going on puts me in mind of the Book of Job. I must confess I don't get the Book of Job, but neither can I deny that it is a fascinating study in the fundamental unfairness of things. Job is a victim. He doesn't start out that way. Initially at least, he has the world by the tail. His God, however, who is also my God by the way, is a capricious bully who hangs his loyal servant up for sport and wagers with Satan that the poor slob won't eventually curse his Maker for his current sorry condition. What kind of bullshit is that? Even when Job passes the test, and God restores his former status and fortune, Job never really finds out what it was all about. It doesn't matter to him. God is God, he says in effect, and God can do whatever God pleases without having to answer to mere mortals.
I have to tell you that this is a completely unsatisfactory ending for me. I'd like it better if Job learned something useful from the exchange, even if he only learned that occasionally God will screw you up for for His own amusement.
Believe it or not, this would make more sense to me than what I have now in terms of either prospects or understanding. I mean if an angel were to appear to me as if in a dream, and say, in effect, the court of heaven needs a jester and that God would like it to be me, I would accept the position and even feel a little honored. Doing pratfalls in the Divine Comedy would be way more gratifying than whatever it is I'm doing now, which seems to count for nothing. Maybe I am the court jester. Maybe I'm providing entertainment for a fickle universe with a mean streak. Problem is, just like with Job, no one asked and, so far at least, no one's bothered to explain. Is it too much to ask that my fate ought to be salted with a little justice?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Work in Process

After nearly three years of this I am beyond expecting anyone to respond, but...

I have two stories percolating that I intend to expand into full-length novels. The first has to do with triumph and failure in business. It contains a cast of bad actors patterned after the fools, thieves, pirates, and charlatans that I have been associated with in my previous life as an accountant and financial executive. The themes are basically that success in business is more about luck and timing than it is about actual managerial skill, and that the more success one has by dint of good fortune, the more likely one is to believe that the success is due to one's native intelligence and acumen. You can get the gist of it by reading my early blog entries that detailed my work experience prior to being thrown out on my ass after 30 plus years of loyal and conscientious service.

The second story is more romantic and altruistic. It deals with a young man who is so moved by a single smile in his youth that he spends a lifetime searching for and hoping to find the young woman who gave it. As you can probably imagine, this is no easy task, a perfect, fleeting smile being as ethereal and elusive as the Holy Grail. Many obstacles will present themselves. Much time will pass. Eventually he will realize that, even if he were to find it, he could never be certain it was the smile that moved him in the first place. This story will be more difficult to tell, I think, but more satisfying to write. I may not be ready for it yet. I don't know.

What do you think? Which one should I attempt next? I'm going to do them both eventually, but I need to know which one to start. Which one tickles your fancy?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Smashwords Author Interview

Link to my author interview on Smashwords. Fun facts for fans. sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Book Giveaway


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Speedster by Jonah Gibson




          by Jonah Gibson


            Giveaway ends October 20, 2013.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Trouble with Tribbles

Do Tribbles multiply like rabbits, or
do rabbits multiply like Tribbles?
I learned a valuable lesson about editing over the past few days. I published my debut novel, Speedster, on Smashwords, Create Space, and Amazon on September 30. I'd been through the manuscript making corrections and editing text multiple times before I hit the publish button. Not counting rewrites and on-the-fly edits, my wife and I made at least eight complete passes through the book between us. I thought it was in pretty good shape. That is until I looked at it again several days after I'd put it up.

It seems that if you miss even one typo, miss-placed comma, or awkward phrase in the text, they multiply like Tribbles while you are sleeping. Who knew? Anyway, new files are up now in all three venues - just as spiffy as I can make them. If you already bought the book, you can download the updated version where you originally purchased it. If you have any problems, give me a shout. Next book, I promise to be more professional and less anxious about getting listed. Hopefully, I won't be as impoverished.

You can download the Smashwords edition in a variety of ebook formats, including Kindle, for Free! Just use coupon code EF93M at checkout. All I ask is that you give me an honest review. So far everyone is telling me they can't put it down. Hope that's true for you as well.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Character Development

My wife remarked yesterday that the characters in my book, Speedster, are so real to her that it seems like I haven't done any work in creating them; I'm just reporting what they said, the way they said it. She's almost right. They are real enough to me. It's just that, instead of occupying space, they only run around in my head. They seem happy to do and say things on their own, without any input or direction from me. The writing part is easy. The hard part is living with these bastards in my head.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Ideas

Got this brilliant (to me anyway) idea yesterday for another book. This one would be a series of essays based on my blog entries for the past 4 years. I'd divide it up by topic - I'm thinking religion and spirituality, business and economics, philosophy and wisdom, and politics. Overall theme would be life balance issues and revolve around using losing my job as a springboard to a happier, more creative existence. Problem is there are a bunch of pretty good rants in my blog about working for fools, thieves, pirates and charlatans that would take a deft touch to incorporate without looking like the whole project was just self-serving self-justification. I don't know. What do you think?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Unabashed Self Promotion?

Now that Speedster is published, I've been spending my days learning the ins-and-outs of unabashed self-promotion. I've set up an author page on Good Reads, sent out multiple e-mails, and strummed all my social media accounts like banjos. Total sales so far - one book. Actually it's three, but only one was actually paid for. The other two were bought with a coupon and no actual money was harmed in the transactions. I guess if this were easy, even children would do it. Oh, wait! Children do do it. Maybe I should rethink my aversion to vampire romance?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SPEEDSTER: availability update!

My novel, SPEEDSTER, is now officially published and available in a number of popular formats. You can get it as an ebook or Kindle file from Smashwords or in just Kindle format from Amazon. (Click the links to go right to the book at the store or your choice.) Sometime today (hopefully) it will also be available as a paperbook print book from CreateSpace. (I'll post the CreateSpace link here when it's ready.)

This was a lot of fun for me to write, once I got in the groove, and by all accounts it's an engaging read. It looks and feels like a men's action adventure suspense thriller, but it's more than that. At least I tried to make it more than that. It has lots of humor and a few surprises along the way. I think you'll like it. My wife thinks you'll like it. If you do like it, be sure to go to Amazon or Smashwords or CreateSpace...or all of them, and write me a nice review.

Thanks, everyone, for your support.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wacky Comments

I've been getting a lot of page views lately. Most of them come from Tumblr or Stumble Upon. Most of them go to one or the other of just two posts—Treason!Who Knew and Building the Ziggurat of Babel. I don't know how these got on the hit list, but in addition to the increased page views they are also generating a lot of comments.

The comments are telling. They are mostly spam although they are composed in such a way that my spam filter only picks up about half of them. The rest I have to go through each day and physically remove. Some of them are quite entertaining. It's obvious that none of these people have actually read my blog. Their sole motivation is getting me or anyone else to click on their link. The comedy stems from the fact that English is not their first language, and whatever translator they're using brings way too much to the table. I've included some here for your amusement.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Oh, the Irony! Atheists Provide the Best Evidence that God is Real!

Seeking a more logical cosmology.

I've been involved in a lot of discussions lately about the existence of God or, conversely, the folly of faith. Mostly these have been fairly civil dialogues on Soul Pancake or The Great Silent Majority page on Facebook. I recommend either or both to your attention if you think it's fun to think and write about life's great questions with people who are willing to listen politely, even to those they consider to be idiots. I've distilled much of what I've posted elsewhere into this little treatise on why I believe in God and why I do not think this is lunacy.
Atheists like to assert that there is no evidence to support the existence of God. Believers then are held to be an ignorant and superstitious lot who need religion as a crutch to face the crushing realities of a meaningless existence. Or, as comedian, Bill Maher, quipped:
Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.
Maher is a funny person and a bonafide wit, but he has no more philosophical leg to stand on here than Dr. Stephen Hawking who has suggested that the laws of nature prove that there is no God. According to Hawking the universe 'popped' into existence, in accordance with the rules of quantum physics, as an 'infinitesimally small, infinitesimally dense' proton—so small and so dense that it could not admit time. There was therefore no time for a creator to have acted, and, indeed, no need of a creator except to explain all these things before we had quantum physics to take over the task.
For Hawking, Maher, and all the rest whose understanding of our existence is rooted in the physical sciences, God is a construct. They believe that men invented gods to explain the mysteries of the universe. Presumably they believe that, in modern times, Yawheh, Allah, and the Father of Jesus, all the same God, are just more complex and fully realized versions of the same superstitious hokum.
The Big Bang is a theory whose purpose is to explain the existence of the universe without God, and its proponents have made good on its promise. Of course this is rather easier when the theoretical construct was made without any reference to God. When it comes to accepting theory as scientific fact though, in the absence of any as yet complete proof, a certain amount of faith is required even though those who advance the theory would probably deny it.
On the other hand, be He construct or reality, God has always required faith. The faithful already know this—the ones who actually think about it at any rate. There is no conclusive proof of the existence of God. I will submit that there is a lot of evidence, but there is no proof. I'm talking about objective, scientific proof—the kind that can be tested and verified by repeatable experimentation. There will always be some theological wankers about who will quote the Bible as an authority in an argument with an atheist as if Scripture carries any weight with a non-believer. Most of us realize that this is not just an exercise in futility. It is stupid. The Bible does not prove that God exists with any authority except to those who already accept it. This won't work to bridge the chasm between objective reality and the metaphysical plane. For that we need faith.

Faith is bigger than certainty,
but it may still require
heavy equipment.
For the intelligent believer, faith must necessarily contain an element of doubt else it isn't faith at all but certain knowledge. Certain knowledge does not move mountains. Certain knowledge does not even build churches. Certain knowledge is not spiritual, religious, holy, nor full of grace. Certain knowledge, or at least the requirement for it, is the necessary fundamental limitation of the physical sciences. Science requires proof to keep it honest. When science makes an assertion that is not backed up by proof, it is required to keep looking.
Doubt, on the other hand, is the liberating principle of faith and the ultimate foundation of metaphysics. A metaphysical philosopher must ask a question of the discipline that no self-respecting physicist ever would or could ask about physics, and that is, 'Is metaphysics even possible?' Asking this question makes metaphysics at once more honest and analytical than physics will ever be. Why? For the simple reason that it forces the philosopher to consider, with humility, that he might be wrong.
As I've already said, atheists believe that God, or the gods, are a construct of the human imagination designed to explain the mysteries of the universe. I believe that this human ability to conceive of a creator god is the best evidence we have that one actually exists. Here's why.
If you subscribe to Stephen Hawking's idea of the Big Bang—that a prototypical, protean proton 'popped' into existence and exploded, and that all of the untold trillions of selective events that happened between then and now, leading to our current state of evolution and development, were completely natural and godless and random, then what in our experience of this process would lead us to conceive of a creator cause?
Someone once said, 'all art is derivative.' (I've been trying for several days now to find out just who said it first, but it's all over the internet without any attribution. If anyone knows who said this first, please let me know.) What this means is that, even in the arts - presumably mankind's most creative endeavors - nothing is truly original. Everything is built on something that went before. I submit that this is true of everything that men do.
There is nothing man has accomplished that is not rooted in something else that already existed. To be sure there are materials that exist today that did not exist at the dawn of time, but every one of them is comprised of stuff that did. There are concepts and designs and theories that seem new and wondrous, but all of them are derived from and built on the foundations of the past. Even at the height of its power, humanity is not capable of producing anything from nothing. Everything humanity has done is derivative. Science does not beget; it discovers. Or, as Ecclesiastes has it:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Beatific vision or
atmospheric pollutants?
If we are nothing more than the sum total of all the random electro-chemical responses that have flowed into our genetic makeup, how did any of us come to conceive of a creator at all? If there is no God then there could be nothing in our naturally-selected history upon which we could begin to assemble this concept. If God doesn't exist, we couldn't possibly have made Him up. What I think instead - no, what I choose to believe - is that we are predisposed to believe in God because we were imbued with a spark of divinity by the creator.
I believe this because it has been given to me to do so. I am not a fool, and I am not insane. I know full well that I had to make a choice to get to this state—a choice that is not supported by any objective, scientific logic, but one that nevertheless makes perfect sense to me.
There is a word in ancient Hebrew, 'ruach.' It is usually translated as breath or spirit. We first encounter it in the Genesis account of creation. I am not offering this as any kind of proof. I am offering it as an explanation as to why I believe what I believe. I am not getting into an argument of Genesis vs. evolution. I believe in evolution, and I accept science, as far as it goes, as demonstrably true. I also believe Genesis—not as a literal account of creation, but as a lovely, poetic allegory for the metaphysical reality of man's place in it.
There are famously two accounts of creation in Genesis. They are different from one another, our first clue that the Bible, even for believers, is not meant to be taken literally. As to the origins of man, the thing I mean to consider here, Genesis 1:27 says, 'God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them.' In Genesis 2:7 it says, 'the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.'
These two accounts are different, but they are meant to be taken together. They are two different ways of looking at the same thing. The Aramaic word for 'breath of life' in chapter 2 is 'ruach.' Its parallel in chapter 1 is 'the divine image.' God breathed His divine self-image into mankind, male and female, and made of us something entirely new. This is the only reason I can fathom that we are even able to conceive of things beyond our knowing.

Pondering imponderables.
Were it not for this ruach, we would not be able to ponder infinity. We would not be able to embrace divinity. We would not be able to approach holiness. We would instead be imprisoned by our mere chemistry. Without the breath of divine life we would be incapable of bridging the gap between the physical and the metaphysical. We would be the pinnacle of mammalian existence, but we would be incapable of imagining anything else.

This for me is the best evidence that God exists. It doesn't have to be in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition. Virtually every religious tradition has its own creation narrative, and they all presuppose some sort of relationship between mankind and the divine. My point is that, no matter the faith tradition, somewhere, somehow God has enabled us to know something of Him, and had He not done so, had He not intervened in our evolution, we would not be able to think Him up on our own. Of course I rely on my faith to tell me I could be wrong.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Doctor is Holding My Money – Another Heartbreaking Reality of U.S. Healthcare

This might pinch a little.

My oncologist owes me $1,500 and change. Her office insisted that I prepay my first two chemo infusions because my insurance company told them I had not satisfied my deductible. I knew this would become a problem for me, but I had cancer. What was I going to do, delay treatment until all the insurance foibles resolved themselves? Hell no. I paid up and took my medicine.
Cancer is expensive as hell. The total billings for my disease are approaching half a million dollars. Without insurance I'd be dead already. I wouldn't even have insurance were it not for the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. I was able to get into the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP. My pre-existing conditions related to my hypertension. They had nothing to do with my cancer, but still no one wanted to give me insurance when I was already infirm. Too big a risk for them. Better I should just die and not burden the system that pays the insurance execs fat bonuses and annual sales meetings in the Caribbean.
PCIP is not free, but it is reasonable. My policy premiums were $376 per month for the first six months and $436 per month for the next six months. After that I qualify for Medicare, so PCIP coverage automatically terminates. I will have had it for exactly one year, but since the plan year is a calendar year, my coverage spans two plan years. This cost me an extra $6,250 dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses because the out-of-pocket maximum for deductibles and co-pays reset on January 1. So be it. I still got pretty good coverage, and was only personally responsible for a little over $10,000 of the total cost of my care.
A lot of people with good insurance pay a lot more to deal with cancer. Cancer causes a lot of bankruptcies—even among people with insurance. This is why I am a big believer in universal healthcare. Sure it's costly, but it's not as costly as the system we've got now.
I'm a big fan of ObamaCare too. You can't get me to say anything bad about it. It may be flawed, but it saved my life. If that's not good enough for you, too bad.
So back to the oncologist. My guess is she doesn't even know that she owes me money. She deals with the cancer and she pays an administrative group to deal with the money. The administrative group's function is to make sure the doctors don't miss out on any money. I don't really have a problem with this until they decide to over-reach. My doctors work hard. They are smart. They are doing good work. They deserve to be compensated. That doesn't mean however that I am happy to let them earn interest on my money while I struggle to pay my bills. That's not fair.
They all drive German cars and live in big houses. They take nice vacations in exotic locations, and they maximize their contributions to their retirement plans.
I don't have any of that. I don't even have a job. So when the doctors' administrators decide to hold on to my money to make sure that they milk every available penny out of my insurance company, they are doing me an injustice. They are creating a hardship for me that I can't afford.
When my doctor's office made me pay in advance, they expected that payment to cover the deductible and the co-pay. They didn't want to have to come after me for the shortfall later. I understand that...understood it at the time. The insurance company however allocated the whole deductible and all the co-pays up to my maximum annual out-of-pocket cost to another doctor. So when they paid the oncologist, they paid her 100% of the contracted allowable for each claim. They didn't deduct anything, so the amount I prepaid was due back to me. I need it to pay the other doctor. Hell I need it to pay a lot of things. I do not need it to be sitting in my oncologist's bank.
Another thing to consider is that no one makes it easy to figure out where you are between your insurance company and your medical providers. My oncologist group doesn't even send out statements. I spent a week going through all my bills and benefits notices and matching everything up. I'm a degreed accountant, a former CPA. It was hard even for me, but I was able with effort to figure out that there was a credit balance in my accounts with several of my doctors. They weren't about to tell me about it. Apparently they expected me to figure that part out for myself and come ask them for my money back. What chance does some poor widow have, grieving for her dead husband and hard pressed by her doctors and hospitals, to figure out that her doctors are trying to fleece her in her hour of need?

I am not a fan of this. I shouldn't have to fight with my doctor's office to get my money back. I shouldn't even really have to ask them for it. They should just give it back. They don't though. Most of them will never tell you you've overpaid. They'll wait for you to figure it out. If you don't, well more money to put diesel in the yacht. Seems to me that profanity is the only appropriate response.
Even more so now that I have caught them out and asked for a refund. They still don't want to give me my money. They are going to make me wait until all their outstanding claims have been addressed by my insurance company. They are doing this even thought they know that my insurance company is reimbursing them at 100% for the remainder of the plan year. To me this is an unimaginably bogus state of affairs.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013


All is Vanity - Charles Allan Gilbert - 1892

Lately I have noticed that I'm at my most creative when I'm thinking up excuses not to write. This may be lamentable, but, if you think about it, at least I'm being creative.
My excuses are legion. They run the gamut from 'I'm still recovering from cancer and the disabling effects of all its attendant therapies' to 'the world is a mess, and nothing I have to say is going to change that so why bother?' The first is true enough, but less so each day. The latter is reminiscent at least of the opening verses of Ecclesiastes from whence we get the memorable phrase, 'all is vanity.'

...yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, I learned that this also is a chase after wind.
For in much wisdom there is much sorrow,
and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief. Eccl. 1 17:18
The world has become a scary place. Even when we lived under the constant threat of thermonuclear war and our teachers were explaining to us how to get under the desks in our classroom, we at least felt that there was some overarching good sense operating at the pinnacles of power that would prevent a final conflagration. The threat of global devastation and mutually assured self-destruction may have lessened somewhat in the intervening years, but the underlying assumption of logical decision-making has fled the scene.
There is no operative wisdom or knowledge at the pinnacles of power anymore, nor anywhere else either it would seem. I offer the following as anecdotal evidence:
  • In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Monday, former Vice President, Dick Cheney, called last year's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi “one of the worst incidences, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” I'd say that Cheney's recall is pretty bad. If he is talking about terrorist attacks, he has conveniently forgotten the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 which I submit were decidedly worse. If he is talking about lying to cover up alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, then he has conveniently forgotten Saddam Hussein's illusory weapons of mass destruction and the deliberate outing of CIA operative, Valerie Plame, for political vengeance and the following cover-up.
  • On April 19, 2013 twenty or so police officers in Watertown, MA fired several hundred rounds of ammunition into a boat containing Boston Bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev was subsequently found to be unarmed and already grievously wounded from a shootout the night before, where he was also either unarmed or armed only with a pellet gun. The police, in a rather dramatic display of incompetent marksmanship failed to kill the boy. They were subsequently lauded as heroes. Sean Hannity, yes the same Hannity who failed to call Dick Cheney out for his memory lapses in my preceding point, remarked that he was convinced that the unarmed Tsarnaev had shot himself in the throat in order to avoid having to incriminate himself in a police interrogation.
  • The National Rifle Association held its annual convention in Houston May 3-5, 2013. The meeting was largely self-congratulatory in its celebration of the defeat of a Senate bill to expand background checks into people seeking to purchase firearms in the wake of the most recent gun violence tragedies. In spite of the NRA's repeated and vociferous insistence that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people,' they are nevertheless quite proud of their ability to squash any attempt to determine whether or not people who want to own guns are in fact mentally stable and law abiding enough to qualify. Apparently they feel that the best way to demonstrate an individual's lack of responsibility with respect to gun ownership is after they have killed a slew of innocents. Trying to do it beforehand would be unconstitutional. Shoring up the organization's claim to intellectual clarity and philosophical integrity, key addresses were given by Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Glenn Beck. Nugent's comments were evidently so stimulating that they had to be given in a closed session. No media allowed. Glen Beck's keynote address lasted 2 hours, and yet no one took advantage of the extended opportunity to pull the plug on his microphone.
  • Of 10,000 scientists who have expressed a view, 98.4 percent agree with the consensus that global warming is real and is caused by humans. In spite of this overwhelming scientific support for the concept of anthropogenic global warming, however, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas felt compelled by his Tea Party ethos to have a reference to 'climate change' stricken from an otherwise innocuous Senate resolution commemorating International Women's Day. Cruz believes that even if there were such a thing as global warming, which there most likely is not, its author is God rather than man. Presumably he also believes that God has visited climate change upon us in some sort of divine retribution for having elected a Kenyan Islamic Socialist as president, and shame on us. Interestingly, the stricken reference made no mention of the cause of climate change, but only said that the women of impoverished nations were generally the first to feel its effects. This would be true even if global warming were widely held to be a cyclical phenomenon, which, clearly, the scientific community no longer believes. Cruz, a Harvard graduate, must be causing conniptions in the halls of academia for his singular lack of reading comprehension skills.
  • In the wake of Angelina Jolie's announcement about her double mastectomy a surprising number of people, many of them women, feel sorry for Brad Pitt. Really?! This is all garnered from Twitter feed, and surely most of these comments come from the shallow end of the gene pool, but, again, really?! Do people honestly believe that the only thing Angelina Jolie has to offer Brad Pitt is her breasts? Is it any wonder that, this being for so many people apparently the best and highest expression of a romance, over half of marriages end in divorce? Is this the real reason that so many people are against gay marriage—not enough or too many breasts to sustain a meaningful relationship? I don't know.
          I'd like to weigh in on these issues, but frankly I'm baffled by it all. To think that I could change this level of ignorance, that I could somehow lift these dolts out of the morass would be the ultimate vanity. I know at the end of the day that I'm not going to change anything. Still I feel burdened to try. I say in my profile that one ought to leave the world a better place than one found it and that it's okay to fail at this, but it's not okay not to try. This is a good way to live, but it's not a path to euphoria.
          Perhaps this is why Qoheleth opines in Ecclesiastes, 'in much wisdom is much sorrow.' Perhaps this is why he says, 'A thankless task has God appointed for men to be busied about.' Let's be honest. This probably requires more thought and less writing, don't you agree?

Friday, March 15, 2013

I know it's way past time to have posted something new here, and I apologize for the slacking. I have several things in the works, but it's been difficult to get through a monumental depression - the result of too much cancer treatment and not enough money.

While I work out my issues, please enjoy this:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

When You Think About It, a Hangover is Just Karma

...most of them anyway. If you mixed brown ale and gin last night, you kind of deserve to feel poorly today. On the other hand, if you had a chemotherapy infusion yesterday, you prolly deserve a little more sympathy from your'higher power'. The above image graces my latest Tee-Shirt creation on Zazzle. The Royalties, meager as they are, help with the costs of my treatments.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Last night I dreamed that I killed a guy in a knife fight. I didn't just dream that I had done this in some nebulous past. I dreamed the actual fight in all its gory detail. What I didn't dream is why we were fighting in the first place. That is, I don't know why the guy I killed was fighting me. I was fighting him for my life.
You need to know that I never dream stuff like this. I don't as a rule have scary dreams, or violent ones, and if ever I dream something that seems like it's going to tip the scale in that direction, I wake up before anything serious happens. Not last night.
My opponent was relentless. He cut me several times. I cut him back. Neither of us was doing a lot of damage, but the intent was obvious. At some point my mind-set changed from merely trying to stay alive to a joyful determination to end the guy's life. I quit looking for opportunities to escape and started looking for openings in his defenses.
We were both dancing around. Our moves were punctuated by stabbing thrusts and whirling slashes. Blood was evident, but not quite flowing. I had cuts on my arms and shoulders, and one on my right side. I tried to slice his neck open, but missed. He tried the same move on me.
By this time in the fight, I knew how he moved. I took a chance. I was not afraid...either to fail or succeed. I grabbed his right wrist with my left hand as his blade flashed forward and stepped inside his swing. I got right up in his face where I could smell his spittle and his determination. I shoved my knife up under his rib cage and into his heart. He went down like a sack of potatoes.
That was the end of the dream. Short on philosophy and long on action...pretty much the exact opposite of me.
The most disturbing thing about it was that it wasn't very disturbing. I wasn't shocked or unnerved by my capacity for violence, nor did I have any remorse over the dead guy. I really had no feelings whatsoever beyond the understandable relief that it had been him rather than me and that things had turned out much better than I could have imagined beforehand.
I think it may have been the first dramatic dream I ever had from which I couldn't draw a lesson. If you know me, you know I like a good lesson. With no known motive for the dead guy's attack and no obvious reason for my response other that self preservation, there's not much about anything to be gleaned from this dream. A guy wanted to kill me. I don't know why. I killed him instead, drawing on resources I didn't know I had. End of story.
The only thing that makes this dream make sense to me is if the dead guy, the guy who was trying to kill me for no apparent reason, was cancer. Now that sumbitch I could stab without compunction.