Saturday, December 17, 2011

I PC, Do you PC?

To bring some new light to the holiday I suppose I should write something about Christmas .  I am re-engineering the acronym “PC “ to--Prefer Christmas. Correctness be hanged.

I am well aware of the true meaning of Christmas. That alone is reason enough for me to celebrate. I imagine you are aware of the foundation of Christmas as well, but perhaps you celebrate something else.  That’s fine. Yes, Santa Claus, reindeer, trees, elves and imbibing eggnog, et al, have all crowded the holiday scene.

Over the past hundred plus years, Christmas took on an increasing role of a secular holiday in addition to a holy day.  Secular Christmas fills the lives (and certainly the cash registers) of believers and non-believers alike.  Is that a bad thing? Heck no. Christmas pumps joy into the soul and spreads cheer equally among all.

Some who don’t PC should consider all of the good that the holiday brings. Those who argue that Christmas must not be celebrated everywhere, as a separation of state and all that is holiday-ish, must ask themselves… why are the post offices and government building all closed on December 25th? If the government recognizes Christmas (it has been a federal holiday since 1870) in such a grand fashion, who are we to argue!

No matter what you believe, Christmas is wherever you are. Christmas floats freely in the air, it lives in every country and it snuggles up to you in bed.  It strolls on city sidewalks in holiday style and lies where the snow is deep and crisp and even.  It's on the moon. Christmas hides in the quiet and noisy places and it’s always right beside you.  Christmas is holly jolly. It’s up to you to stand close enough to it to feel its warmth.  Even the Grinch, who had a heart “two sizes too small”, was touched by what Christmas does to people. It made his heart grow three sizes larger.

I PC, do you PC?
For all of these reasons...I PC. How about you?  

No matter where you are, or where your heart is, allow me say this to you at least once... Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours - Merry Christmas wherever you are! For a little Christmas fun, turn up your speakers and click on this video link:  Christmas on the Moon   Enjoy!

“To all a good Christmas, and to all a good night.”  Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Voodoo King

Oh that voodoo that you do… Sometimes there’s just no substitute for hands-on experience.

I underwent surgery on my foot a few weeks ago.  It was to correct damage to bone, nerve and tissue that resulted from on and off infections in an initially small wound that occurred two-and-a-half years ago. It was a minor puncture, but a subsequent trip to Jamaica resulted in an infection from tropical marine bacteria. At least this is what I was told by four independent, reputable doctors on different occasions. It was very nasty stuff, very hard to cure, they said. It had morphed and reared its ugly head numerous times, defying even the most potent antibiotics.  The damage was repaired and now   everything was plodding along fine, pun intended, until the beginning of week two. That’s when the curse took hold.

Seems a nasty infection ferreted its way in through the open door of the surgical incision, or it may have been the one from below the Tropic of Cancer, lying in wait in my bones like an asp in the grass. This came to light as the doctor merrily pulled the numerous stiches. “Oh my, this isn’t good,” he said.  Those words are not good coming from a doctor who has visited and removed some of your inner parts. At least now there was an explanation for the steady increase in pain and obscene swelling.

After judicious injections of a numbing agent (which was certainly, and unfortunately, not single-malt scotch) he proceeded to reopen the incision and swept the gremlins out. I’m not afraid of needles. Really, I’m not. The good doctor hosed everything down with the stinging-nettle, clinical smelling variety of disinfectant and wrapped the foot tightly.  Well, not quite gift wrapped, but you get the picture.  Doc exhaled slowly.  “Along with powerful antibiotics you’re going to need x-rays and blood work,” he said. “We need to make sure that none of that infection is in your system and is going to end up in your heart or brain.” How could I argue?  Visions of more copays danced in my head along with our Christmas shopping list.

“Go wherever you want to for the x-rays; they can draw the blood here,” he continued. 

“Okay. That will save me a trip,” I replied.  He exited and I could hear him instruct staff members outside the ajar door. “See Mr. Gahan in room one. We need to draw blood. Complete blood-count,” he said to an invisible tactician.

“What kind of insurance does he have?” she asked.  Doc shuffled the papers in the folder and told her. She seemed pleased.

Waiting for the bloodletting only added to my discouragement about the way things had gone. I could do without more complications. The most recent complications paled when the Voodoo King entered.  Skinny as a broom handle, his skin was a tapestry of tattoos. He spoke with a strong Caribbean accent. He had weird eyes.  

“My name is Reggie. I’m an intern. This is my second day,” he said with a great deal of pride.

“Second day?” I squirmed on the vinyl padding.

“Yes, yes. No problem. All good.”

“I hope so. I mean, if you say so.” I gulped as I watched him snap on the gloves.

“Roll up your sleeve.”

“Which one?”

“No matter. No problem.”

I chose the right, only because it was the closest to him. I rolled up my sleeve and reclined. Don’t be a sissy, you’re not afraid of needles, I told myself. They wouldn’t let him in here if he didn’t know what he was doing. I should have relied on my visceral instincts.

He wrapped a rubber tube around my arm and probed my skin with his finger for a while. “Make a fist and clench it,” King said. I did and matched the action with my sphincter, which was grappling for a good grip on the green vinyl.  I also closed my eyes.

Then he said, “A little pinch.”  Needle-man was right. It was only a pinch and things seemed to be going okay. “Oh no,” he said.

“Oh no?” That was the second set of unfortunate words that I had heard from a medical professional in the past hour.  “Oh no, what?” I questioned.
“I missed.”  The weird eyes looked disappointed. Without missing a beat he lifted his tray of assorted blood draining tools, needles and vials and placed it on the floor to my left.  That’s correct… on the floor. “We’ll try the other side,” he said.


I kept my composure as I cleared my throat to protest.  The door to room one opened again and his superior stepped in. She was young, but assessed the situation and took charge.

“Don’t put this on the floor, “she said and put the tray on an adjacent chair.  “I’ll take over here.”

King appeared dejected but had a slight wry grin. He seemed to be enjoying the events.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “This will only take another moment.” She wrapped the tubing around my left arm and said, “Clench your fist and hold it.” Little did she know everything about me had been firmly clenched for the last ten minutes. “Okay, a little pinch.”

“That’s what he said,” I said.

“Excuse me?”

 “Never mind.”  I should have known better than to be winding up someone who was inserting a sharp object in my vein.  King Voodoo now stood with his graffitied arms defiantly folded across his chest. He grinned.  I think he had a gold front tooth.

“Oh no,” she said. Before I could say “that’s what he said”, those freaky tikki-torch eyes shot lightning bolts around the room. “Oh no, what? I said as I ducked his laser beams.

“I missed,” she said.
“…You, too?”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” she said. “Mr. Gahan, have you ever had blood drawn from your hand?”
“No, and I never will,” I said as I simultaneously unclenched everything and undid the rubber tourniquet.  I could have sworn a strange luminosity washed over her face.  Without movement of her own, or a breeze, her hair swayed. Moon glow filled her eyes.  I was certain about that. 

I’m also sure, at that very moment, somewhere in the world (likely on a tropical island), there was a group gathered around a fire chanting, moaning and swaying without the benefit of a breeze… I’m positive they were sticking pins in a tall male doll with a receding hairline and a heavily bandaged left foot.

I did go for the tests my doctor ordered at the lab that I've always gone to.  As I rolled up a sleeve I began to explain to the attending blood-tech what had happened. She rolled her eyes. “I don’t think I want to know,” she said. The cheerful technician was swift and merciful.  I told her she was a rock star. She laughed.  “Sometimes there’s just no substitute for hands-on experience,” she said.  I was in and out in five minutes. There was only one new hole in my arm. The test results came back normal; thank you for asking.
What about the x-rays, you say? That’s a story for another time.  

 Thanks for reading. To see my new video clip at please visit this link:


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just Knock.

United Parcel Service delivery people are trained to knock on the door instead of ringing the bell. Why? Because doorbells don’t always work and waiting for someone to respond to a defective bell wastes valuable time. UPS drivers only exit from the right side of their vehicle and make deliveries on the right side of the street. Why? Crossing the street leads to accidents and potential injury or worse. They've thought things through.

There’s an old joke, what’s the difference between the post office and the shoe store? ...The post office has more loafers.  For sure there are some hard-workers in the USPS, but it is this perception that fuels the public’s contempt. It has only been over the last few years the postal service stopped turning a blind eye to competition. The postal service instituted changes to service (and politeness) when they realized that they were losing not only the battle, but the war. FEDEX, UPS and moreover, email has put a cramp in their once monopoly of message delivery.  Failure to react, and adapt to a changing environment has led to their downfall. In many ways they failed to look at what works efficiently. Okay, having to feed an annual pension fund of $5.1 billion hasn’t helped – an expense that will unfortunately fall to the taxpayers at some point, not stockholders as it would in a corporation. The postal service now has debts of over $11 billion. That’s enough to make clear thinkers go postal.

It’s true the United States Postal Service has a laudable history that built a nation.  BenFranklin had a clear vision and the pony express riders enacted it. It was realized early on that getting information to people in a timely manner was vital to society and developing commerce. Technology and effectiveness has outstripped the long standing ways (and commonly held beliefs) of doing things. A kaleidoscope of opportunities are now available to message-senders from texting to overnight delivery by big brown… inter alia.

A colleague once emailed me that he had six pages of printed information that he needed to send. “I’ll fax it,” he said.

“Fax is down. Scan it and email it,” I replied.

“I don’t have a scanner.  I don’t know how I am going to get these forms to you.” He was now on the phone dizzy with panic.

“Why don’t you just stick it in an envelope and mail it? Better yet, drop it in my mailbox. You’re only five blocks away.” He had never readjusted his thinking on efficiency, or common sense.

Many point to technology as demise of printed books. Like email, ebooks and ereaders haven’t changed the message, only the way it is delivered. Bookseller giant Borders shrugged at ebooks years ago, saying it was only a passing phase. eBooks weren’t the only reason they folded, but it was one of the reasons. Borders did not embrace ebooks as others had and took too little action too late. Those who do not evolve, perish.

When adversity challenges your position, analyze the basics, revisit efficiency and keep it simple. Learn how to knock.

Thanks for reading. Please visit

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's All About the Words.

It’s not so much whether or not eReaders are good or bad as it is a change in the way people are reading.  When primitive man evolved from drawing pictures on cave walls to words on papyrus, people welcomed the change. If nothing else, it was easier than lugging stone tablets around. It made the written word available to more people.  The invention of the Gutenberg press around 1440 made the written word available to the masses. Monks no longer had to copy tomes word for word.  And not since that time has there been a bigger boon to reading than the invention of eBooks. Because of eBooks, people are now reading more than ever before. This is a good thing.

If I’m reading a print book I’m not concerned with the binding, interior design, the spline or any other attribute of the book as long as I can read the words. It’s all about the words.  We have hundreds of print books in the house, from the classics to the latest releases. They all will not fit in the palm of my hand.  Unlike a print book, I can enlarge the font size to aid my aging eyes. 

As an author, my novel in eBook form is available to more than a billion potential readers inover 100 countries. It has served me well.  eReaders are merely another step in the evolution of how people read. Print books will be around for a very long time, but possibly not forever.  The words will not change, but how we read them will. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Keeping Your Distance
Maintaining a buffer zone between you and your internet neighbor isn’t as easy as it used to be.  As much as you may want to keep your personal space…the world, or at least the distance between each of us, is shrinking.
Facebook’s gnomes announced the findings of their recent research. Ready?  You’re all a little closer to each other than you think.  They gave the third degree to the stats and squeezed out data that shows we are all separated by only 4.7 degrees of separation as opposed to the commonly held belief of six degrees confirmed by Microsoft in 2008. That degree of separation was derived from Microsoft’s own research of connectivity between users of their instant messaging.
Without doubt, Facebook is the undisputed king of connections with 800 million users worldwide and 500 million daily log-ons. Those numbers can make any marketer drool.

According to Facebook, "While 99.6 per cent of all pairs of users are connected by paths with five degrees (six hops), 92 per cent are connected by only four degrees (five hops). And as Facebook has grown over the years, representing an ever larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected. The average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops, while now it is 4.74."

Okay, enough with the numbers, you say. I agree. Let’s look at the practical side. Cozy up. You’re now a little more closely linked than you thought to BeyoncĂ©, Leonardo DiCaprio, Faith Hill, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, or the guy who does your dry-cleaning… assuming of course that they are all on Facebook.
If you think you may be feeling the hot breath of your internet connections on your neck, you could be right—especially if they are in the same country.  Facebook also found that when users were in a single country the distance between connections drops to only three degrees of separation, or four hops.
What does this all mean? In theory you are within a few mouse-clicks of 800 million people. The US population is  311 million…think about it.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Skunks Misery Road

“Blog!” she insisted. “You have to start blogging. Let people know what you’ve got.”  I argued briefly, kicked my feet in the dust and offered barricades that included—I’m already writing a ton of stuff all day, work keeps me too busy, family commitments and there’s something good on TV. “Get over it,” she advised.

Okay, so I am taking the challenge and creating a blog. I did so grudgingly at first, but I did have an inspiring moment aside from that push over the edge by the insistent  Vicki Lindgren Rimasse who can simultaneously Facebook, blog, tweet, text and make eggplant parmesan. I know she’ll read this. After all, she is the viral wizard of social networking. 

Last evening I received an email through my website, simply titled, Skunks Misery Road. Yes, such a place exists. The writer had come across my name in an elsewhere blog that commented on the most unusual names in the region. No, not my name—but the names of streets. Gail was her name. Gail explained and that she was researching the origins of the road’s name and stumbled across mine. I had submitted to the blog that indeed Skunks Misery Road was an oddity worthy of top honors. There were other contenders such as Bread and Cheese Hollow Road  and Whiskey Road.  In the end the blogger seemed to agree.  A name like Skunks Misery Road is just too good to pass up.

A few Google clicks later and Gail arrived at my virtual doorstep. Once inside she ordered a copy of my novel in eBook form.   “I learned about Skunks Misery Road during a family Sunday drive,” she wrote.  Coincidently, so did I. In later years, although still in my relative youth, I revisited the road many times during “cruise nights” in the area, the North shore of Long Island in Nassau County, New York.  Hot nights, hot cars and memories now fade in the rearview mirror. Gail explained that she now lived in the UK and couldn’t find my novel, Harmony Bay, at the local bookstore, so ordered the eBook on-line. That was fine with me. “It looks like my kind of book,” she said.

If nothing else, this episode shows how small the world has become via the internet, how we sometimes connect with people in the oddest way and… that I really should create a blog of my own.  

Thanks for the memories Skunks Misery Road and thank you for reading.