My guest blog post, "Hormones and Luck Aren't Enough", was just posted on "Seriously Maybe", a relationship blog. If you want to check it out, take a look here...
One of the challenges presented by the new world of publishing is the difficulty sorting through the mountains of readily available content and finding the gems that will resonate with you. Reliable, or at least reputable reviews have always been a useful part of this sorting process.
Once upon a time, the only book reviews that really mattered were in the New York Times and similar nationally recognized publications. That has been changing as social networks have made it easier to find recommendations and evaluations for just about anything from people you know and, presumably, trust.
This new, more democratic sifting resource has developed its own challenges, however, as fake reviews by companies paid to provide them have proliferated.
What's a reader to do?
As a writer, I need honest, impartial, reviews of my work to both provide me with helpful feedback and to spread the word among those who may find my books of some value. I never know what I'll get of course, and when someone really likes my work, it makes my day.
That happened this morning when I saw a review of my newest book, and first non-fiction effort, "Getting Past Getting Lucky." You can find the review by clicking here...
I read an article in the Seattle Times over the weekend. It's worth a few minutes of your time to consider. Leonard Pitts Jr. argues that the power of terrorists isn't in their strength, numbers, philosophy, cause, weapons or courage. It's the attention we give to their desperate, cruel acts. We can't control the insanity of impotent men (and occasionally women) intent on breeding fear, but we can control how we will respond. It's our response that can deny them power. Take a look...
My friend David sent me a link to an insightful, important article on how we die. More specifically, it's about how doctors die. You can find it at http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2011/11/30/how-doctors-die/ideas/nexus/ .
Last year my wife Pat and I dealt with 2 family deaths and one near-death.
Pat's mom Rose was 87. She was still very clear-minded and strong-willed, but her body parts were wearing out. She had been through heart surgery after a heart attack. She had a knee replacement that never healed quite right. Walking was possible but painful. She lived independently in her own apartment in New York until just a few months before she passed. She moved to Dallas to get away from New York winters and to be closer to Pat's sister and her family. A couple of months later, she had a stroke. She was taken to a hospital where the doctors told her they could insert a ventilator and keep her alive but she would probably never walk again. She declined. The family was summoned and everyone flew in overnight. She visited with them for a few hours, and then she died. Rose called the shots to the end. Hers was what I would call a good death.
My mom Marilyn was 85. After my father's death in 2002 she went into a deep depression, and eventually began showing signs of dementia. My younger brother lived nearby and took care of her. The dementia got worse, to the extent that when my younger brother moved out of the area, we felt she was no longer safe living on her own in Florida. We moved Marilyn here to Bellevue and into a very good assisted living facility near us. She received excellent care, though it was ridiculously expensive, but she liked it here. It was good to be closer to her grandchildren, and to Pat and me, but the dementia continued its relentless progress. She lived here for 4 years. In the last year and a half, she had no idea who I was, didn't recognize her grandchildren, couldn't speak, couldn't walk, and couldn't eat without assistance. She went on hospice in mid-September of last year, and died on October 11th. She spent the last couple of weeks on oxygen (for comfort) and morphine (for comfort), more or less asleep the whole time. I hope she wasn't aware of what was going on. It was exactly the opposite of what she would have wanted at the end of her life, though there was nothing we could legally do to make things any better for her. In fact, the last several years of her life were exactly what she had most feared. She slowly disappeared, losing herself as she lost all of us. It was what I would call a bad death.
On the same day that my mom went on hospice, I got a call from my sister-in-law in California. My 62-year-old brother had had a stroke. He was paralyzed on his left side, spoke with some difficulty, but was alive. He has since undergone intense physical, speech and occupational therapy, 4 hours a day, 5 days a week and is making significant improvements. He can now walk with a cane, speaks quite normally, and we are optimistic he will resume a more-or-less normal life. In his case, an extreme medical intervention both saved his life and significantly improved the (hopefully) many years he has left.
3 different scenarios, but each in its own way reaffirms the message of the How Doctors Die article. Medical intervention can be a miracle when done properly and at an appropriate stage in a person's life and illness. But for those facing certain and imminent death, it can lead to horrible and unnecessary complications, and often an end you absolutely didn't want. Those of us who are fortunate, will be able to determine at least some of the important details of how our lives will end. Others of us won't have that ability. Given what we've been through, that thought is quite terrifying.
I think the whole gun debate gets a bit twisted by those with an agenda that is barely hidden, but seems obscured none the less.
For the NRA and their sponsors, this is primarily about business. It isn't about freedom, or the Constitution, or self-defense, or any of the other stuff they like blabbing about. It's about money. There is lots of it being made by a relatively small number of companies, and they don't want the spigot turned off. These gun and ammunition manufacturers and marketers pay the NRA to provide them with political cover and ensure no one messes with their profits. The NRA, in turn, liberally dispenses money to politicians who will support their agenda, and attacks those that don't. It's really that simple.
The question is, since this strategy has been successful for a long time, and since there are millions of guns and millions more rounds of armor-piercing (read cop-killer) ammunition out on the streets, what's to be done?
A friend of mine says it's too late to do anything meaningful. We can tinker around the edges by providing better funding for mental health initiatives, but that's likely to have minimal impact and those funds will be cut again as soon as people forget why they were allocated. We can place armed patrols in our elementary schools, as the NRA has suggested, but the costs are huge and the effectiveness likely to be minimal. BTW - I love that those who make a living selling guns insist there's a simple answer to this problem, which of course is for us to all buy more guns. It's like tobacco companies saying the solution to the problem of second hand smoke is for more people to start smoking. If everyone smoked, no one would be bothered by second hand smoke. It’s really quite funny.
Anyway, I would like to suggest a good progressive solution to all this. I would like to, but I can't. There are too many guns on the streets already, and until we're able to take meaningful action to significantly reduce those numbers, things will likely not get much better.
So ultimately, if we really want to stop seeing thousands of people slaughtered in our streets, our businesses and our schools each year, including innocent small children and their less innocent teenage brothers and sisters, we need to take a comprehensive approach that would include 1) significant reductions in the number of available guns of all kinds - not just limits on future sales; 2) ongoing mental health improvements that would offer treatment and counseling where effective, and remove those who are dangerous from the streets; 3) cultural initiatives to reduce the prevalence and vehemence of violence in our movies, games, and other mass communications so young people (and older ones) aren't continually inundated with gory, mind-numbing messages; and 4) an effort to improve the sense of community and mutual responsibility in our culture so people feel less isolated from their neighbors, more responsible for each other, and it becomes easier to spot potential problems long before they happen, and for people to feel empowered to intervene before it's too late.
Is there the political will on the right or the left to take on such a broad, effective project? No. Would there be if every town in America experienced what Newtown just went through. Perhaps, but I doubt even that would do it. Sadly, we're not a very advanced species. Our simian selves often dominate our more human qualities. Perhaps we’ll evolve one day? We can only hope.
The day after, and still no answers to the BIG question.
Many of my friends are euphoric about the election results last night. Many are severely depressed. Overall, I think the results were better than the alternative, yet the most fundamental question we should be asking remains unasked. And if we don’t ask, we won’t find an answer.
We were told that both President Obama and Mitt Romney had plans to “fix” the economy. We’ve been told we have too much debt. This is true. We’ve been told there aren’t enough jobs. This is also true. Both men said their “plans” would create more jobs and reduce the deficit. But “jobs” as we know them are disappearing, and have been for decades and the deficit has grown under every president since Eisenhower, Republican or Democrat, with the exception of Clinton.
Leaving the deficit issue aside for now, I’d like to look at jobs. It would help if we know why jobs are declining here and all around the world.
At first, it was because globalization made it possible, and financially desirable, to move industrial production from wealthier countries to those that provided cheap labor. Manufacturing jobs shifted overseas in vast number. However, now that problem has taken a back seat to a bigger one. Manufacturers are returning to the US, but jobs aren’t. We have improved productivity to the point that we need very few people to do what used to be done by lots of people. Technology makes it possible for companies to be very profitable while hiring fewer and fewer people. This is not only true in the so-called “advanced” economies like the US; it’s also increasingly true in China and other rising economies
Which gets to the BIG question. What are people going to do? How will they support themselves if “jobs” as we’ve known them continue to decline? Even the low-paying service sector jobs will increasingly go away, replaced by more efficient, technological solutions.
Want to buy stocks? You don’t need a broker anymore. Just go online. The back-end analysis of stock values that was once done by skilled experts is now mostly computerized. Want to buy shoes? You don’t need a shoe store anymore with salespeople and displays and all that. Just shop online. Need your trash picked up? What used to take several men to do, can now be done by smart trucks with rapid hoists that do most of the physical work. Has anyone looked into becoming a travel agent lately? How about an on-staff trainer for a corporate HR department? It’s all available and being done online. Even education is increasingly becoming a virtual process.
These changes are not necessarily bad. In fact, most of them are good. You get better goods, cheaper, easier, and faster. Even in education, students can be taught by the world’s greatest teachers using technology - we just won’t need as many of them.
Which gets back to the BIG question. How is this new economy going to work? How will people support themselves and their families? What are people going to “do” when most of what we used to “do” is being done by very few people made massively productive by advancing technologies? That question wasn’t resolved last night. As far as I can tell, no one is even asking.
Congratulations to Paula R of Salisbury MD, Samantha P of Prince Rupert, BC, Ann T of Homestead, PA, Eileen M of Mystic, IA, and Pamela V of Pittsburgh, PA who won free copies of "Civitas Island - The Birth of Hope" in my Goodreads.com giveaway. Thanks to all who entered!
Timothy Mallborn: The Invisible Boy by Matthew Lie-Paehlke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Who says the soul-sucking alienation of contemporary consumerism can't be fun? Those of us who live in a community that features a shopping mall at its cultural and social heart, will have no trouble identifying with Timothy Mallborn, the invisible hero of Matthew Lie-Paehlke's delightful story of a young boy who grows up in a mall - literally.
Timothy gets lost as a five year old lad, and finds meaning, art, and even love as he wanders from store to store over twenty-plus years. In his world you're invisible unless you're buying something. Who hasn't had that feeling on a busy Saturday during a holiday sale? Yet despite having been abandoned by his parents and living a lonely life surrounded by thousands of shoppers, young Timothy finds a way to connect with his own humanity and the spirits of the people all around him.
It's theatre of the absurd, funny and touching, and I couldn't put it down. I look forward to reading more from this imaginative writer.
View all my reviews
Great opportunity to explore Goodreads.com (if you like reading and aren't already aware of the site). We're having a Goodreads Giveaway contest for "Civitas Island - The Birth of Hope". Check it out here...
Have you read any of the Civitas Rising series? Please share your thoughts about the Great Change, the impact of technology on our lives, healthcare, the role of government, and anything else the books got you thinking about.