Monthly Archives: May 2011

Home Crap Home

After spending four days in New York City, attending the Book Expo—the biggest book convention in North America—I flew to Rochester, N.Y., my hometown, to spend a couple weeks with my family. After my plane landed, it didn’t take long for me to recall why I moved to San Diego in 1993. Can I be blunt? The weather in Rochester absolutely sucks!

If you can deal with torrential rain, cloudy skies, unbearable humidity, severe winters, and real estate taxes almost the highest in the country relative to assessed value, it’s a great place to call home. I love being with my family, but I must admit that my visits are bittersweet.

When I retired from my “day job” to write fulltime, my wife and I reluctantly decided to move back east. I even spent two weeks looking at homes—37 to be exact. But the right one just didn’t come along. In retrospect, I wonder what might have happened if I had found the right place. I’ve come to the conclusion that I would never survive Rochester winters. After living in San Diego for 18 years, I now have California blood.

The latest plan—and this can only happen if my second novel, Resuscitation, is overwhelmingly successful—would be to spend spring, summer, and fall in Rochester. And then when the doldrums of winter fall upon Rochester and the snow flies, my wife and I could escape to a warmer climate for a few months. Please keep your fingers crossed for us. Better yet, you could help the cause by buying my second novel when it’s released on October 11th. Yes, I know it’s a shameless plea, but hey, it never hurts to ask.




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Gaga over Gaga

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last year, I’m sure you’ve heard of Lady Gaga. Love her or hate her, she’s made quite a splash in the music world. Many influential people in music believe that she’s going to surpass Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, and even Whitney Houston in popularity. When I heard this prediction, I said, “What the hell is this world coming to?”

Having celebrated my teenage years in the 60’s (wow, the 60’s!?), I was and still am a rocker. From the Beetles to the Who to the Stones and everything in between, I cut my teeth on good old-fashioned Rock n Roll. But like most people, over the years my appreciation for music expanded. I still love classic rock, but I also enjoy artists like Sting, Sade, David Sanborn, Seal, Tears for Fears, Sarah McLachlan, Elton John, and many more. I’ll even listen to a hip hop tune or a country song once in a while.

I always felt that my flair for music was rather eclectic and diverse, and that I was very open-minded even with the most outlandish performer.  But when I heard about Lady Gaga and saw a short clip of her performing, I pretty much made up my mind that her music would never, ever make it to my iPod.

Well, the other night I was clicking through the channels and came across an HBO special: Lady Gaga’s Monster Tour from Madison Square Garden. She had previously sold out four performances at Radio City Music Hall in February and then sold out four more performances at the Garden. Curious to see just how off-the-charts outrageous she was, I decided to watch it for a few minutes. Two hours later, when the credits were rolling on the screen, and I was totally glued to the TV, I understood what the buzz was all about.

If you can get past her foul mouth, her clown-like make-up, ridiculous shoes, orange hair, and nearly-naked outfits, she’s not only a fantastic performer, but her music sticks in your head for days–not to mention that her voice is incredible. Right now as I write this post, one of her tunes, “You and I,” is locked in my head. I can’t get it out. To be clear, her music is not even close to the type of music I listen to. I call it “Bubble-Gum” music that appeals to thirteen-year-old girls. But I’m here to tell you, and I’ll admit it to the whole world: I like her and I love her music. So, either I’m going through a monumental mid-life crisis or she’s as good as the music experts say. Either way, I’m going to fire up iTunes and download a bunch of her music.


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Food for Thought

With gas prices now exceeding $4.00 a gallon, the spotlight once again is on alternative energy. Politicians are sitting on their high horses, pounding their chests, and proclaiming that it’s time for us to take measures to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Really?  Is this something new? Haven’t we been down this road before?

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 to 1974, nearly crippled the United States. I remember preserving precious gasoline as if it were liquid gold. To help curb the demand for a limited supply of gas, our lawmakers implemented a program that restricted use. Basically, depending on whether the last digit of your license plate ended with an odd or even number, you could fill up your tank every other day.

During this embargo, two little known companies took full advantage of the situation. You may have heard of them. One was Honda Corporation and the other was Toyota. Domestic automobile manufacturers had no interest in fuel efficient cars. Performance was the driving force behind automobile production. Consequently, the embargo opened the door for Japanese auto manufacturers to “invade” the American market by providing no frills, fuel efficient hatchback cars that achieved 40 to 50 miles per gallon. In fact, one of the earlier Honda Civics was manufactured with a motorcycle engine.

As a result of this embargo, domestic auto manufacturers and politicians swore that we had learned our lesson, and never again would Arab oil producers hold us hostage. We vowed to not only produce fuel-efficient cars and trucks, we also made a commitment to explore alternative energy.

Needless to say, over the last four decades, domestic automobile manufacturers did keep their promise and engineer a wide array of fuel-efficient cars. We now have hybrids and compact cars that can achieve over 50 miles per gallon. But what happened to our commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by exploring alternative energy?

Here we are in 2011, and we’re no closer to curbing our ravenous appetite for foreign oil than we were in 1974. The highways are still littered with four-door pick-up trucks and gas guzzling SUV’s. And except for a couple electric vehicles, priced so ridiculously high that you could never get a return on your investment, we have done nothing to free ourselves of foreign oil. We spend trillions of dollars on waging war, but alternative energy is merely a political talking point.

Maybe we need to look at this situation from a different angle. Where do you think the money comes from that funds Al Queda and the Taliban? How do these terrorists groups buy weapons, train and recruit new members and continue to exist? You might not want to hear this or want to deny it, but every single time you fill up your tank, you are funding terrorism; contributing to their cause. Terrorist groups thrive because they are funded by oil-producing, Arab countries.

So here’s my plan. If we truly want to stop terrorism, we can’t do it with guns; it has to be done by cutting their lifeline to funds. The United States government should partner with all the major auto manufacturers and oil companies worldwide to initiate an aggressive plan for research and development of alternative energy sources. They should explore electric, hydrogen fuel cells, wind and solar. Now I realize that this is happening right now. However, the amount of money our government and auto and oil companies are spending on these programs amounts to chump change. We need to kick this into high gear and pump billions into this idea. Instead of funding two wars and maintaining a massive defense budget, how about pooling our resources to make the internal combustion engine obsolete. Imagine what might happen if we were all driving vehicles that did not require gasoline.

Obviously, I am over-simplifying the logistics of this plan. We must  build a complex infrastructure and must also overcome a wide array of complicated issues to make this a reality. However, how much effort did it take to land men on the moon in 1969? How difficult was it for us to win two world wars? If we’re truly serious about fighting terrorism, then we need to hit them where it will do the most damage. And that is to cut their funding. The only way to accomplish this is to make oil a nearly worthless commodity.


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Is God Sending Us A Message?

I’m not a Bible thumper, but I am a Christian and try to read scripture every day. I’m not trying to start a religious debate because it’s too sensitive a topic and generally does nothing but create hard feelings. But I would like to pose a possibility.

In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God becomes so angry at the conduct of His creation of man and woman that he floods the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights. All but Noah, his family, and a male and female of every species, perish in the flood. It seems like a harsh punishment, one we’ll never quite understand, but perhaps even God thought so, because he promised never to do it again. Maybe, just maybe, God has an agenda.

Unless you live in a vacuum, you’re aware that never in recorded history have there been so many natural disasters. Everything from floods, to hurricanes, to earthquakes, to tsunamis, to wildfires, to tornadoes, to tropical storms, to unbearable heat waves and bitter cold winters have gripped the Earth over the last few years. The death toll is staggering. The ozone layer is vanishing, the ultraviolet rays from the sun are more intense and more damaging to our skin, the ice caps are rapidly melting, jeopardizing the continued existence of many animal species vital to our existence, war rages in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more Arab nations in the Middle East are ravaged by civil wars, the economic woes of the United States and many European countries threaten the financial stability of the world, hostile nations implement programs to develop nuclear weapons, and there is no peaceful end in sight to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Is it a coincidence that all of these life-threatening events are happening simultaneously? Could it be that God is sending us a clear message that we’d better get our acts together lest he systematically exterminate us? Far fetched? Let’s take it a step further. Isn’t it interesting that when there are natural disasters like the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, or Katrina in New Orleans that there are no racial boundaries or political disagreements? When faced with a common enemy, people band together and work towards the common good. There are no prejudices or cultural divides. Nor are there any social differences.

Perhaps it’s time for each of us to take a step back and clearly evaluate just how much we contribute to the good of the human race. Maybe it’s time for us to reevaluate and take some steps to make this a better world. Perhaps we should put down our cell phones, turn off our big screen TV’s, and pay attention to what’s going on around us. Imagine if every capable person in the world did one small good deed every single day. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place to live? And who knows, maybe God might just reconsider His plan and bless us with peace in our hearts and a better life. Or should we start building an ark?


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