Thursday, December 30, 2010

Okay Internet, I want an answer on this one…

The question, “Are the citizens of the United States of America getting screwed?” has rumbled around in my noggin for quite some time now, and I’ve gone out of my way to satiate curiosity in two particular areas that affect nearly everyone in this country: Prescription Drugs and Fuel Economy.

Who’s the Fiend?

I know I’m not the only one annoyed with the constant barrage of drug ads during prime-time television (and it was enough suffering through all those embarrassing “enhancement/dysfunction” ads with an adolescent by my side.  Oh, to have a DVR five years ago…)  Did anyone else take notice, however, that most of those medication advertisements pitch to regular people, not doctors?  Why not create the nexus for sales from the generally uneducated, right?  Ah, well, that’s another gripe, but the real debate isn’t about devious advertising this time; it’s about something we, as citizens, voters and consumers, should have more control over—pricing.

In case you’ve been under a rock since the dawn of the internet, prescription drugs are cheaper internationally.  And, I’m not talking about drugs manufactured over there; I’m talking about drugs made in the good ‘ole USA.  Why?  Well, for one reason, manufacturers have stated that research and development costs must be offset by countries without price caps that can afford to pay higher prices…meaning, us.  If this is true then the United States is paying dearly for other countries’ discounts.  Is that fair?

Rather than give a lengthy exposé on why prescription drugs are cheaper outside the United States (here are links for Canada and the Congressional Budget Office.  And no, this problem is not a new one!), I’m more interested in why nobody seems willing to do anything about it—especially when faced with the prospect of our government forcing us to buy overpriced healthcare.  Wait, overpriced?  Absolutely!

Obviously, when drugs cost more than in other parts of the world, and when you delve into the Wide, Wide World of Wacky Medical Equipment Pricing and Service, you will quickly conclude that Healthcare Reform focuses on the wrong “problem”.  You see, the pundits in Washington, much to the delight of the pharmaceutical companies I’m sure, posit that we are the problem.  Some of us don’t buy health insurance and, when a visit to the ER occurs, they are a burden to the system.  All right, I’ll buy that as a valid argument, but it completely neglects the reason the majority of those folks don’t have healthcare in the first place—cost.  Whoa…may have opened up a can of worms with all these questions about healthcare costs, but I think the questions are fair.  Is it our fault?
I also have another conspicuous discrepancy to query, one that only recently came to light….well, mine, at least.

Motor Heads and Tales

A few months ago, I discovered a car show on BBC America called “Top Gear”.  After laughing hysterically at something in nearly every rerun from the previous five seasons (a rare feat these days—seriously, Clarkson, May and Hammond are hilarious!), I began noticing something rather odd.  While the presenters usually scintillate the latest European supercar, occasionally they’ll delve into the mundane for us commoners.  Instead of Ferrari 430s, Aston Martin DB9s, and Bugatti Veyrons, think Fiat 500s, Minis, and Volkswagen hatchbacks.  And, as they do with every model tested, they usually laud the car’s fuel economy.  On more than one occasion, I noticed one of the guys citing mileage estimates from European cars that produced astounding numbers.  At first, I wrote it off.  Okay, the Brits pay ridiculous gas prices and their cars are generally tiny after all.  50 or 60 miles per gallon doesn’t seem particularly outrageous since a Toyota Prius is in that range.  0-60 MPH times take a year, probably.  And what about the Volkswagen Golf TDI?  You may recall its 1970s predecessor, the Rabbit Diesel, attaining upwards of 56 MPG in its heyday, although you’d do well to climb a hill without getting out and pushing.  Just as soon as I had forgotten about it, one of the Top Gear presenters cited an incredible figure for a diesel Volkswagen Polo (similar to a Golf) at over *70 MPG combined…as in combined highway (extra-urban) and city (urban) use.  What?  Suffice to say, my gears started grinding, and that meant a personal inspection.

Of course, there are many vehicle manufacturers that aren’t available here.  Fiat (for now, but I see the 500 is on its way via Chrysler), Vauxhall (GM owned), Alpha Romeo, Peugeot-Citroen, and Renault to name a few, so I’ll stick with the familiar Volkswagen brand for comparisons.  As soon as you visit their UK website, and look at the model range, you’ll know you’re not in America any longer.  More cars and, more importantly, more engine options.  Click on the Golf’s engine selections, for instance.  Eleven are available, and if you look at their consumption figures closely, you’ll have a coronary.  Well, hopefully not, but you get the point.  Apparently, the British take their petrol money more seriously than we do.  Do we really like buying more gas?  Alas, we love our muscle cars and SUVs as long as gas is cheap, but that’s changing. As it was in the ‘70s, consumers are again looking towards models with fuel consumption in mind—and we’ll sacrifice some horses too.  Success stories like the Toyota and Ford hybrids remind us that American demand for low-consumption vehicles is high, yet manufacturers with existing high-MPG models overseas don’t bother exporting or manufacturing them here.  Why?  Ah, that is the burning question.

So how about it, Internet—are Americans lazy, not whiny enough, or are we simply getting the shaft?

*Note:  UK MPG uses an imperial gallon, which is 1.201 US gallons, therefore mileage figures stated in the UK do not directly correspond with US comparisons.  Even so, the European models still achieve a much higher MPG rating than their US counterparts.  (ex.  VW Polo BlueMotion achieves 80.7 MP(imperial)G combined  which, converted to US specs, is about 67 MPG combined (city/hwy).  Impressive!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Martyr for Change?

Just a little ramble for the holidays…

In America, you can be an Armed Forces hero.  You can earn a Bronze Star for bravery or maybe a Purple Heart if you were lucky enough to survive a wounding.  In America, you can leave the military, attend college, and earn a degree for a prestigious profession such as an attorney.  In America, you can continue serving your country by holding a public office.  And if you play your cards right, you can accomplish many great things there such as making a better world for an underprivileged minority, or rebuilding neighborhoods, or cutting taxes and creating jobs.  Yes, in America, even a poor immigrant from Puerto Rico has a shot at achieving The Dream.

U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D, NY) did all of the above and, towards the end of an incredible 40-year run in public service, allowed corruption’s evil a seat at his table.  When he tearfully faces his accusers and receives the justice they deem appropriate, I hope they take a long look at the system and craft the best elixir for what I believe is, and has forever been, a systemic ailment.

But this problem is nothing new.  We’ve heard “power corrupts absolutely” ad nauseam.  So what’s the solution?  Ah, yes—change!  We heard that term from our president during his election until we were sick of it.  What did we do?  Well—vote him in office, of course.  Two years later, have we experienced any real change?  Some would argue that the Health Care legislation should certainly quality, but while the incoming congress has assured us its repeal, I’m holding off on its inclusion.  What I’m talking about is real change—a fundamental change in the way we think about our country; the way we prioritize importance, justice, politics, health and wealth; the way we conduct business; the way we pay taxes; the way think about transportation; and, most importantly, the way we define change.

Examples?  There are many:  How about changing the way we write our laws so that passing otherwise good legislature isn’t dependent on the inclusion of wasteful pork or some other extortion?  What about uncomplicating our tax code so that the average Joe can understand and pay it without undue burden?  Why do we reward actors and athletes with riches and lavish lifestyles while our star teachers can only hope for a pat on the back to go along with their abysmal salaries?  Where are our flying cars, bullet trains, and 100mph speed limits?  Would you take a comprehensive driver training course if your insurance company gave you a 50% discount?  What about ending fifty-year-old embargoes that simply don’t work and trying something else?  Election reform?  Term limits?  Do we really want change or are we simply too chicken to give it a shot?

We once learned to cover great distances without horses.  We put electricity to good use.  We learned to fly.  We cured horrible diseases.  We became less smelly.  At one time, it seemed, everyone was creative, adventurous, and daring.  I thought our civilization had generally ceased innovation unless it could be a calculable profit over a length of time.  It wasn’t until the recent gasoline spike that I saw an inkling of our heritage (okay, Richard Branson aside).  All at once new designs and original thinking came out of the woodwork—as if it had been there all along just waiting for the occasion.  Is that what it takes for progressive change?

Poor Charlie Rangel.  He’s endured every ridicule imaginable; from a laughable caricature that seems somewhere between Don Vito Corleone and Mr. Potato Head, to that of the corrupt politician archetype.  At the age of 80, no punishment can be worse than everyone forgetting all the good you’ve done in the past and having your legacy ruined.  I think many of his peers will be thinking about this when they vote his fate.  I think they will be thinking of themselves too, and how their decision might affect how their behavior down the road.  But will they be thinking of systemic change?  Given the establishment’s history, my guess is “probably not”, but they should be acutely aware that many of us are.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hmmmm... upgrades!

I'm still in the middle of transferring content to this blog, so bear with me.  In the meantime, I've added a couple of cool new features.  Those of you who haven't taken the plunge on Dust now have a link to an exclusive EIGHT CHAPTER PREVIEW located in the Books section.  You may also notice something peculiar in the upper right-hand corner of the blog page.  What is that little thing?  Well, I can tell you that it might cause some trouble with a future publisher if I let it hang around up there too awfully long, but I say <evoking the tone of a one Jeremy Clarkson> rubbish!  If they want to change it later one, fine, but I'm going to keep it there--like some souvenir from a strip clubbing weekend in Vegas--to snicker at on occasion until I'm given sufficient reason for its removal.

More Soon!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This here intarweb thingy...

Welcome to my new home!

After wrestling with more PHP code than I could handle on my own website, it became apparent that change was in order.  Like all things that revolve around technology, change is an inevitable and regular occurrence.
I've spent countless hours - no, years, actually - learning HTML, Flash, ASP, and a nice array of archaic languages dating back to the late '70s (damn you, Cobol professor!).  The competition of late in modern site platforms such as Blogspot, Wordpress, and Drupal make it much more efficient to forgo the constant learning process.  So, I'm letting the nextgen codies take on the real headaches while I simply direct their WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors into something that's hopefully pleasing to the eye.

I'll be tweaking this sucka over the next few days, adding more features such as more Facebook and Twitter integration, and perhaps upgraded pages for Dust and Bolita.  If you have any suggestions, I'd be delighted to hear from you!


Monday, October 11, 2010


Yes folks, that’s the name of my second novel.  Currently, the book is in the process of seeking representation for a publishing deal.  This is where I get to take a short breather and think about future projects.  Rest assured, I don’t plan on keeping a certain young girl waiting forever, so the second volume of Dust is the logical choice.  But let’s not stray away from the topic du jour—Bolita.  What is it?

bolita: [boh-lee-tuh, buh-] Cuban-Spanish literal
translation:  “little ball”.
An illegal form of lottery popular with working-class ethnic groups during the latter 1800s through the mid-1900s.  One hundred numbered small ivory balls are typically placed in a bag for random selection.  Brought from Cuba to the United States of America in the 1880s, the games were run by members of organized crime families.  Over time, the Hispanics developed a name for each number (“La Charada”) based on Chinese origins, creating a superstitious method for interpreting drawings, or 
 placing bets according to dreams.

Bolita is a running theme throughout the novel, but the story itself is a fictional adaptation from true stories involving the Tampa City Police Department’s ongoing mob-entangled corruption during the ‘70s.  The story also has quite a bit to do with why yours truly came to roost for many years in a sleepy North Georgia lake town.

More Soon!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dos Marielitos

Towards the end of our South Florida vacation last month, I had the extreme pleasure in being treated to a fantastic Cuban lunch by the matriarch of my wife’s family, “Prima Olga”.  She is a very spry and chatty 93 year old who, along with her family and 125,000 others in 1980, escaped Cuba during the infamous Mariel Boatlift.  While filling our stomachs with her fabulous pollo con arroz, fried plantains, and avocado salad, Olga filled our ears with anecdotes from her native country—why she fled, the boat ride, landing on Key Biscayne, the F.B.I’s treatment.  There were so many, but most seemed to revolve around the necessities of life and in particular, her favorite pastime—cooking.

Like most Cuban refugees, Olga has no love for Fidel Castro.  She blasted his regime and the suffering it has caused on the loved ones she left behind.  She described the food shortages and opined that Castro must have directed his people to sow up the bottoms of chickens because there were no eggs.  When my wife puzzled at her meal, wondering why there was only white breast meat in the pollo con arroz when it’s traditionally served with all parts, Olga said the old bony parts where all she had in Cuba, so she would never eat that again; she was in America and now had a choice.

Olga was saddened by some of her grandchildren who decided to stay in Cuba.  She sends them money on a regular basis and would send them more, but “the thieves”, as she put it—meaning the outrageous transaction fees from the banks and the governments that added up to almost sixty percent of the total sent, and actual robbers who will cut your throat for a Franklin—kept her from sending more.  $200 a month, she said, became around $80, which, because of the Cuban economy, translated into only about half of her granddaughter’s budget for coffee and eggs alone.

The graceful elder woman spoke carefully of thieves when her nearly 50-year-old grandson entered her one-bedroom Hialeah apartment and sat with his young family.  Orlando spent the entirety of his youth living under The Revolution and, like most others, stole to survive.
“I fought with the policeman [sic] in Havana all my life.”  He said, graciously interrupting his meal to give me his story.
“I fought with them and spent a lot of my life in the prison, but what am I gonna do?  Seven dollars, they give us.  Seven dollars, and for what?  Nothing.  They don’t pay us to work, so we don’t work,” he laughed.
I could tell his laughter was only covering up the pain of his youth.  He then gave me a story that eerily resembled Tony Montana’s from Scarface.
“Before they sent me over, you see, I was in the prison.  They shaved our heads except for the very front, you know.  They leave a bit up there so they can tell you’re a convict, but a couple of months before they sent us over, they didn’t cut it like that.  And, they made some other mistakes too,” he said.
“Our passports were all nice and colored like the ones you saw from other countries, or from the rich.  The others they sent over (in the boatlift), those were just the black and white kind.  And when we got over here, they put us in those camps and questioned us all the time.”  He looked at me and laughed again, “I told them I was in sanitation!”  Of course, he was joking since that actually is a line from Scarface.
“They sent a lot of bad people over here, I can tell you.  Over ten thousand, probably and that’s why you got a lot of stealing around here.  They don’t learn.  I fought the policeman once over here too until I met this one.  He’s a commander with Miami now, but back then, he was just a new cop on the street, you know.  He taught me what that America was different; that you didn’t have to take; that you could keep what you earned and the government wasn’t trying to take it away.”

I knew what Orlando meant, but I couldn’t help but smirk a little after his hast statement.  He continued, “So I’ve been straight ever since and that cop is now one of my best friends.  After thirty years, we still talk every week.”

What an incredible success story, I thought, but I had to know if he ever intended returning to his homeland if things were different; if Castro were gone and Cuba transformed into a true democracy; to help rebuild a once-great country.  Orlando’s answered, “I’ve been in this country for thirty years now—longer than I lived in Cuba.  America is my country now.  I am happy to be here, and I am happy at how things turned out.  Look at my family (his wife and two young daughters).  I could not have so much happiness in Cuba.”
“Not even to help rebuild?”  I asked.
“Yeah, sure—I go install some windows over there or something, sure, but those people…  It will take years—generations— to overcome their behavior.  You give them everything all at once and they will just steal it from each other.  It is very sad, you know.  I feel for them, but I won’t go back.”

It seems Cuba has a very long road to recovery and with anything else, that recovery must start at the beginning.  The sooner Cuba begins change, the better, I thought.  America must also do everything to facilitate that change.  The embargo hasn’t shooed Castro away, nor benefitted the Cuban citizenry in any way.  If it did anything, perhaps it helped some wealthy corn farmers in the high-fructose syrup business when cheap cane sugar disappeared, and allowed the Castro brothers a lifetime in power.  But that’s mostly about Cuba.  What about America today?  I asked Orlando about his thoughts on the current situation in Arizona.  Like many outspoken legal immigrants, he too had a strong opinion on the matter.

“I tell you, that sheriff is right about the one thing: those bad people that he catch?  He does the right thing putting them out there in the heat, you know.  Let them suffer the same as anyone in the camps,” he said.  But he didn’t agree that anyone should get hassled on the street for a visa or green card just because they look like a Mexican.  I agree with this and apparently, so does the Arizona governor, but even though she has stated so much, and gone to great lengths emphasizing the law’s amendments that prevent undue treatment, the media seemingly ignores the intent.

Nonetheless, checking immigration status isn’t so much the issue as the problem of unscrupulous employers hiring illegals in the first place.  If you’re a fan of simple logic, you may agree that there is a cause and effect for almost anything.  Immigrants come here because at some point they heard a story of a better life in the States.  Employers hire them because the locals don’t want to do the job at the going wage, and the going wage is so low because American consumers don’t take well to inflation.  Simple economics, right? 

Employers also hire illegals because our government has the cost of sponsoring legitimate immigrants so high, the poverty-level immigrant virtually has no chance.  Admittedly, I was fully ignorant regarding the real cost of a green card.  I thought it was a simple matter of filing the paperwork and waiting out the government machine’s grinding gears.  Orlando laughed, “No, no!  Those things cost more than $5,000, you know!” 

After some Googling, Orlando wasn’t very far off.  The actual cost, after filing and lawyers fees, ranges anywhere from $6,500 to almost $18,000.  I also made the shocking discover that both Presidents Bush and Obama sought to significantly raise this cost, further raising the barrier of legal immigration.  Huh?
Call me crazy, but doesn’t it seem logical that if you want illegal immigrants to follow a legitimate path to citizenry, barriers should be lower and not raised?  Doesn’t it make sense to make it easier for employers to hire people willing to perform jobs that others won’t do?  Doesn’t it make sense to create taxpayers instead of facilitating transgression?  Both Prima Olga and Orlando partook, and then witnessed Cuba’s suffering most of their lives.  Now, they see its viciousness repeated at the Mexican border in Arizona.  “Those people—they suffer now too and it is the government to blame,” said Orlando.
“What does it look like to them that a person from Cuba can make the dry land over here (referencing our long-running wet-foot/dry-foot policy) and they can stay, but the Mexicans are sent back.  Incredible”

Just like any other polarizing litmus issue such as abortion, drugs, or offshore drilling, illegal immigration has become the row de jour with most people taking extreme sides while only an isolated few dare tread the middle.  To one side, there are the Sympathetics.  These are the people that believe our nation was founded on immigration, and immigrants should have a shot at the American Dream like anyone else.  On the other side beats the drum of the Hard Liners who chant, “What don’t you understand about the word ‘illegal’.  They aren’t immigrants; they’re illegal immigrants.  These are the people that freeload on the infrastructure we pay dearly to maintain.  Is that fair?”  Of course not, but that argument completely ignores our unreported, uncalculated economic dependency on cheap labor.

While those extremists understand the merits of each extreme, they tend to discount anyone in the middle as the Uninformed Undecided.  On one hand, unfortunately, some of those detractors are quite correct.  There is a certain percentage of completely disinterested people.  On the other hand, there is a certain number of people who don’t agree with the notion of a “side” at all.  Count me in that group.  Critical thinking and active discussion amongst the key players quickly uncovers a much more complex problem than the one “solved” by policy extremists.  Take a look at these excellent articles and give it some thought before choosing a side. 

You may find that both sides are looking in the wrong direction.

To show the past and present administrations positions…

Read carefully!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Summer Rant

Many of those that know me well would tell you how much I completely go bonkers when entertaining friends and family.  If I had but one wish for own happiness, not just one wish, no (that would have to go to World Peace or A Doctorate for Every Soul or There’s No Such Thing As Money Anymore, So Piss Off—I Don’t Owe You A Thing) my wish would be to have my family and friends over for dinner every night.  I simply love them; making them laugh; filling their bellies; hearing comments concerning so-and-so’s tipsiness—all of it.  I liken the feeling to having just walked off the stage after a smokin’ performance.  People congratulate you, slap you on the back, shake your hand repeatedly, ask how you did it…the list goes on.  For those of you that have never felt the joy (or relief!) after performing on stage for hundreds or even thousands, don’t be regretful!  Entertaining your friends and family every bit as rewarding.

Alas, this honor only, or I should say, usually only occurs once or maybe, if the planets align just right, twice a year.  Because of the recent damage to our home, there was quite a dry spell…until last month.  Two high school graduations, a birthday, and a 50th Anniversary later…wait, that was a month ago! (It all happened within four days).  Maria and I are still recovering.  For a moment that was actually a few days, I completely forgot that I was actually on a break from work so I could…work.

The Oil “Spill”

Seriously, how can they (everyone!) call the tragedy happening in the waters a few miles from here a “spill”?  Shouldn’t the term change “catastrophic deluge” or some other term that actually, and accurately, describes the never-ending gusher of marine death that British Petroleum (BP) unleashed.  And, let’s not forget the other owners of that sunken albatross—Anadarko Petroleum Company and Mitsui.  They own over a third of the responsibility according to news reports.  Millions upon millions of gallons of oil continue gush into our waters, and yet I’ve read reports where BP bought keywords from Google and denied the University of South Florida (my alma mater) a simple oil sample so they could track the spill more easily.  As a human being, I want to believe that large corporations do not have Hollywood-style evil CEOs rubbing their hands together, seeking new ways to rape and pillage the small guys.  When you see articles like those however, you have to believe the modus operandi for the guilty lately runs similarly to that of Tiger Wood’s, Bill Clinton’s, Major League Doper’s, and other notorious scandals.  Only if you’re caught deceiving do you do the right thing—otherwise, keep deceiving, right?  Pathetic.

The bottom line here is not BP, however; it’s the coastlines and the wildlife that ultimately pay the price.  The owners and operators of the Deepwater Horizon cannot possibly erase their mistake themselves.  It is going to be up to the general public who don’t give a damn about compensation from BP or any other entity; they just want to save what’s theirs because no amount of money will repair the damage if they let it happen.  Are we to believe BP will send us a check for the higher seafood prices at Red Lobster?  We know we’re screwed.  While some legitimate fisherman are allowed to come forward and make claims, hoping to be compensated in an fair and expeditious manner, many more that were off the books are now playing Go Fish with the dodos.  Hotels and other adjoined hospitality businesses all over the Gulf are losing incalculable revenue.  So incalculable, BP et al may likely never be responsible for the full amount.  In the end, we, the general public pays through increased petrol prices, increased taxes, and inflated goods and services.  WE pay—not BPplus.  So, if you decide to volunteer or help “the cause” in any way, please don’t do it to help these companies; do it to help yourselves.  That’s the right thing to do.

Last words on this particular tirade…
After pondering my individual course of action to “help” in this great tragedy, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only a couple of “best solutions”:  Wean ourselves from oil dependency and spend money in the affected locations.  I’ve read countless blogs and updates from friends stating their intention to boycott BP stations, perhaps with our without the full knowledge of how the open oil market works.  Suffice to say, that has very little or no effect.  There are over 3,000 of those oil rigs out in the gulf and, even after this debacle, there are many like-minded individuals that feel we need more—much more.  In a way, I almost liked the gas crunch back in 2008.  I saw fewer road deaths than any time in five decades, and I saw new innovative ideas spring forth.  The Sleeping Giant that is American Ingenuity briefly awakened and got back to work, creating more nifty energy ideas and solutions in a few short months than I’ve seen since the technology boom twenty years prior.  Hybrids, Windmills, High-Speed Rail—Alternatives!  Now that gasoline has settled down into a livable price range, back to thoughtless dependency we go.  It’s almost like watching your friend trying to quit smoking for the past twenty years.  Maybe, someday, I hope we become humans.

Now on to this writing thing…

I’m afraid to say I am adopting a new policy regarding content of the new novel.  Just a few weeks ago I was (thank goodness!) painlessly reminded that it’s a public domain topic and there ARE others out there fully capable of attacking much of the same story…or at least, the concept.  I can see why those like Tom Clancy opt out of discussing future works.  The book industry has forever been plagued with the unethical—searching like hungry gnats for the sweat of our labors.  I wish I could tell you what it’s about other than being a Tampa crime novel adapted from a true story.  I wish I could tell you why it’s being adapted instead of being written as a True Crime piece.  Unfortunately, I cannot.  Not yet.  What I can discuss is that I’ve enjoyed a full twenty days so far, back in the saddle, writing at a full-time pace to finally reach…the possible “halfway mark”.  I can also tell you that this mark is almost exactly the same word count as Dust. (we’re talkin’ within a couple hundred words…yoiks!)  I’ve certainly enjoyed getting back to where I was before that little work interlude, but I’m suddenly faced with another conundrum: this work vacation may be over in a month
Everything’s a learning process, isn’t it?  I’ve discovered that one should never, ever, ever take a break in the middle of novel.  That much is clear as crystal. What I’m faced with now is a deadline.  Lesson number two: never set a hard deadline!  I guess I’ll panic about this in a month, but with tens of thousands of words left to write, a deadline is a constantly nagging distraction from what should be “raging torrent, flooded with thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives,” as Heddy (Hedley!) Lamarr would put it.  We’ll see.

As a good friend likes to say, MORE SOON…

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mr. Murphy, your visa just expired!

Ahhhhh…so nice sitting in a new office with enough time allowed for Title #2’s completion, helter-skelter aside.  I’m excited to mention that I’m already in-process with the Almighty Red (a red Pilot G-2 pen) and expect actually creating new content in the second week of June.  In the meantime, my family’s planets have aligned for a two-week blowout featuring no less than three graduations and a 50th Anniversary.  I am so proud of them for these remarkable achievements.
I am afraid, however, due to these activities I must be brief and bid farewell until July.  Just know in the meantime that I’ll be carefully hammering away for your entertainment on a shiny new keyboard, on a shiny new desk, in a blood red office.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Life Is No Rehearsal

April?  Already?
Oh dear, oh dear.  Where has the time gone?

I can tell you it hasn’t been spent writing.  Well, at least, not on Title #2 that is.  Things are about to change, however.  I’ve received word that a major break in my “day job” will occur within the next few weeks, which means I’ll get back to writing soon.  At last!

Okay, with the current economy and high unemployment situation, why would anyone wish for an unpaid break?  Perhaps it’s part of my part-Italian heritage to value one’s integrity as one of the highest virtues.  You see, this author made a promise last year—a promise to complete this work before particular individuals depart this earth.  I knew a couple of these folks’ health were questionable and yet I still chose to take on a few projects in hopes of mitigating another long and painful story that must be saved for an autobiography some day.  These projects were originally scheduled for completion back in mid-January.  Mr. Murphy’s legal handprint is still visible across the face of my arrogance.

Slightly more than a week ago, I had the pleasure of entertaining one of these dear individuals for lunch.  As we sat and caught up, it became painfully obvious that I am on the clock.  The promise I made is in jeopardy.  Those of you who know me personally know I’m a devout entertainer at heart.  I’ve never missed a gig for any reason—no matter how sick or injured, no matter the technical breakdown, no matter what.  The “show” came first.

It would be hard to dispel any notion of “grand design” regarding my happenstance reminder last month.  People will interpret events on an individual basis and, like the potpourri we are, come to vastly differing conclusions.  For me, the message was crystal:  Play now, work later.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

e-book and Kindle Downloads

It’s here!  The electronic version of Dust is now available—only $6.99!

Choose from two available formats:
-          e-book (DRM-Free PDF for devices such as iPhones, Mac, PC, and any Adobe PDF reader)
-          Kindle by Amazon

I know what you’re thinking.  Then again, maybe I don’t.  After all, if I did actually know what you were thinking, I would be some kind of psychic, now wouldn’t I?  I mean, you could be sitting there thinking about sex, or murdering you husband, or your next trip to a café in Vienna.  In which case I should either call the police, or get your phone number and a flight reservation.  Heck, for all I know, you clicked on this page by accident.  Now I have to wonder why I’m carrying on a conversation with myself.
No, I’m not.
You totally are.
Forget it.  Just get on with what you were going to say.

Well, maybe, just maybe, they were wondering why the price is so much less than the printed versions.
Likely, but that can’t be assumed.
Whatever.  I’m going to tell them anyway.

Electronic media has very little cost overhead.  There is no printing involved and there are no shipping charges.  That means I can pass the savings on to you.  Better yet, there are no Digital Rights Management locks on the files.  You can copy, print, and pass the file along as many times as you wish.
Isn’t that a security risk?
Absolutely.  My guess is, those who want to steal from me are going to do so no matter what security controls are used.  If that’s your intention folks, make sure you share it with various publishers and Hollywood types.  If you’re successful and I get some wild distribution and/or movie deal from your shenanigans, I promise you won’t have to stay three years in a crammed cell with some 300lb bull named Lewis.
Somehow, the thought of Lewis won’t dissuade some…er…extraordinary people.
C’est la vie.  It happens.  The low price should make it much easier for those on the fence to stay honest, hopefully.

So folks, the internal debate on offering Dust electronically is over.  While I believe this industry is headed for turbulent seas much the same way the music industry has, I prefer catching waves as they pass instead of contemplative remorse.  Progress!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Electronic Dust

With an unusually cold/longish winter and a painfully intrusive utilities project both dragging on, “other” work appears to be coming along nicely.  By “other” I mean work unrelated to the writing of my second novel.  Animation projects continue taking the bulk of my time, but I’ve managed to start putting together the foundations of a musical recording project that will occur concurrently with Title #2’s resumption.  Like anyone else, there are brief moments for personal time.  During a few of those last month, I finally read Stephen King’s part autobiography, part educational piece entitled On Writing.

I image most curious writers would make a study of Mr. King’s wise advice well before their own attempts at greatness (or in most cases, mediocrity).  My own experience turned out to be somewhat retrospective having already completed and published Dust.  To my relief, most of his teachings (he was, and in my opinion, still is, a grammar instructor) were followed and the holies of holies left intact.  Okay, I didn’t follow every rule one of America’s most successful authors outlined, but hey—Mr. Predictable-F-bomb-on-every-fourth-page didn’t either!  I’ll let some Sun Tzu 101 reject nitpick the reasons.

What I wanted to say about On Writing is that it’s a fascinating read with practical information for anyone pondering their first work.  King’s history is enjoyably interesting and the information valuable.  While the book could use a minor update with his thoughts on the current state of electronic publishing, most of the advice is timeless.  I especially liked the fact he recommends Strunk and White’s Elements of Style as his single most important reference volume—a little book that’s had a permanent place just on the other side of my keyboard for several years now.  (Honestly, I should have it all in memory by now!)

And now for something completely unexpected, but not terribly different:  Dust is currently undergoing preparation for electronic distribution.  That’s right; after several months hashing the ins and outs, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-distribution should be explored.  Why?  If you’ve read my ramblings on Facebook regarding this subject, you may be familiar with my apprehensions as well as the potential catalysts that would tip the scales.  Back in September I mentioned Apple’s then-rumored iPad may bring e-book downloading into the mainstream the same way the iPod did for music.  While I don’t think everyone will run out and buy yet another niche device, at the very least, Apple is validating the format and doing it in a way that is publisher-friendly.

What does this mean to you?  Dust will be available electronically towards the end of this month and at a tidy discount!  I expect to make that announcement soon, so stay tuned…

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snow Day

January’s frigid temps brought a phenomenon I’ve not witnessed in Tampa since the winter of 1976 — Florida snow.  Back then, we accumulated a massive half-inch of the rarest commodity…and we watched it disappear within two hours.  33 years later, we accumulated nothing but fond memories and comments about the “Big Storm of ‘76”.  Still, it was a nice trip down Memory Lane.  I was in the fourth grade at elementary school and surprise!, did not get the day off.  Perhaps it was because the powers that be simply didn’t know how to handle a “snow day”.  Or, perhaps it was because people generally weren’t as panicky back then.  Or maybe, it’s because there are so many northern transplants in this town, the Storm of the Century was nothing more than a laughable nuisance.  Whatever the reason, our event was a rare kind of magic Mother Nature bestows on us maybe once or twice in a lifetime.  I say let the kids play.  Let them behold and wonder at life’s treasures as they occur.

Blissful dreams of the quiet white help mask the apocalypse metastasizing just outside my home office door.  For months, heavy equipment and burly men pounded their way down our streets and yards.  I still hear those loud beeps from the reverse warning beacons.  They don’t go away without malice.  Our house has sustained apparent collateral damage.  Whether instigated by the heavy machinery or not, we have floor, wall, and ceiling cracks that mysteriously appeared about the same time the construction project began.  Along the way, we’ve also endured brown-outs, power-outages, and twice they sliced our fiber optics…no matter how well marked.  Now, our previously-paved dirt street and previously-grassed lawns await (for two weeks accrued) restoration.  The equipment disappeared and all that’s left is a port-o-potty across the street—the perfect metaphor.
I suppose our neighborhood is in the eye of Hurricane John (lovingly named for the Project Manager).  I’ve had a moment to reflect on how much one can tolerate while attempting to be creative.  3D projects and homework assignments were completed, several thousand new jewels mounted in Title #2’s ring, and we ate and drank with beloved visiting family.  Sure, the squealing thunder of tracked diggers and beep beep beeps of reversing bulldozers will soon return.  We’ll survive.  The house may not.  In the meantime, I’m skiing Taos.  Well, at least in my mind.  Let the kids play.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I picked a good month to stop sniffing…er…writing.  WHAT?  Yes, I temporarily halted production on “Title #2”.  First, I have a major construction project going on 40ft. from my office.  It’s enough hearing heavy equipment rumbling by, but the constant squawking from their backup alarms (the loud beeps you hear when the machinery is in reverse gear) is completely distracting.  This project is expected to continue for another month.  Second and coincidentally, I’ve been Tom Sawyered into a 3D graphics project by a dear friend.  That project will end about the same time the construction project ends (supposedly – ha!), so the timing couldn’t have been better.  As well, the holidays bring expected and lovingly wanted familial disruptions.
“It’s all good.”

So, where are we with Title #2?  By my word processor’s count, Dust tallied some 88,800 words.  #2 surpassed 70,000 last week and is currently estimated at the halfway mark.  Wait.  What?  Okay, I fibbed a little.  I’m not completely halted, but the 8,000-10,000 words per week regimen has been reduced to the point I can honestly contend “I am not writing”.  The schedule change forces me to push back an expected completion to sometime in late March or early April.

Now, a shameless plug for that dear friend…

Bradford Rogers is finally about to release his long-awaited second album entitled “Guiro!”.  Even better, he is doing so on his very own, recently-created recording label, Worldsongs, Inc.
Keep an eye on this link:
T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita