Bobbing Around

Volume Two, Number Four
February, 2003

Bob Rich's rave
email me
bobswriting.com/  anxietyanddepression-help.com/  mudsmith.net/

 
*About Bobbing Around
subscribe/unsubscribe
guidelines for contributions
*Thank you, Atlantic Bridge
*Contest results
All about the human breast.
*Responses to the last issue
Jeff Mullen
Pamela Faye
*Writing
Apostrophe -- or Catastrophe?
Marketing tips from Bobby Woodall
Advice to a beginner from Spiro and Cheryl
*Announcements
Heide Kaminski
Rita Toews about 'Read an e-book' week.
*Environment
Australia Ablaze.
Firewood and nuclear power.
Plastic Bags Don't Grow on Trees, You Know.
The Thin Green Line by Sarah Mankowski.
*Opinion
The Guns in the Crawlspace
*Psychology
The Magic of Hypnotism.
*Book Review
Skull Dance by Gerd Balke
   One of my pet hates is poor design. The toilet brush is a classical example. I used to live in a boarding house where the landlady bought one. She had to take it back to the shop because we tenants STILL kept asking for toilet paper.

   


   The best stories start at a turning point for the main character(s) and usually this turning point leads to action without me giving it too much conscious thought. And believe it or not, you can weld an action plot to what was originally an emotional journey. (I don't mean bang! bang! action, necessarily...) but beware of letting your character spend too much time thinking, waiting or bemoaning. Don't let her/him get too comfortable. Think of the worst thing s/he can face (or the best, or the most unexpected) then hit him/ her with it!
Sally Odgers

   I ran a contest in the last issue. Several people had a go, and I decided to print (and reward) the three best entries.

Thank you, Linda Ebertharter

   Sending Bobbing Around off used to be a big job. Now, it's a matter of visinging an online form, then sending a single email, thanks to Atlantic Bridge Publishers. The least I can do is to offer this forum to Linda Eberharter, the publisher, for publicising her publishing business. Please visit her and look around.


An Examination of the Human Breast
Competition Results

   Here are the three best entries, in alphabetic order of author's name. These three people may choose a free electronics book at bobswriting.com/bookbuy.html.

What's That For?
by Anonymous

   Well, I know who she is... but she asked that I keep her name a secret. There is a reputation to be considered. :)


Boobs, Boobs, Boobs…
by Heide Kaminski

   “Mom, I need a bra,” my youngest offspring informed me.

   “No, you don’t.”

   “Why not?”

   “Because you are only 5. Besides, you are a boy,” I tried to reply casually, worried that I might open a can of worms with that sexist undertone in my statement.

   “First of all, most women don’t need a bra until they’re 15 years old. Second of all, men don’t get boobs. And that’s what bras are for.”

   “Daddy has boobs,” he retorted innocently.

   I guess it was a good thing that daddy was outside of the audio radius at this moment.

   “What daddy has aren’t really boobs.”

   “They’re bigger than yours!”

   I had to bite my tongue. My innocent child had no clue that he had just formulated the ultimate insult.

   His dad wouldn’t really be offended. I am one of the women who require the invention of bras with the triple A cup size. This attack on my chest was solely my dilemma to deal with.

   “Well, mommy’s boobs can make milk, your dad’s can’t.”

   “If you can make milk, then how come I can’t have boo-boo anymore?” my son pouted. I nursed him way beyond the average length of years and my son was still reminiscing about this special time in his life.

   Dang, I wasn’t ready yet to explain the facts of life to this little boy. It had been easy with his teenage sisters, who had long surpassed me in their development of female assets. I had never had to do this with a boy.

   “Well?” his impatient voice pounded through my haze of thoughts about how to continue with this conversation.

   “Because you are too old for this. Besides, my boobs don’t make milk anymore.”

   “Then why do mommies have them?”

   “There had to be something that makes it possible to tell a woman apart from a man,” I tried to weasel my way out.

   “You are prettier than Daddy,” he stated. “And you don’t have hair on your boobs.”

   Oh, he just scored two points against the previous insult!

   One of his sisters walked in. “I heard most of that conversation,” she jumped to my support. “And I can tell you why women have boobs. Someone had to make sure that the inventors of bras had a reason for their invention.”

   “But mommy doesn’t wear bras.”

   “That’s cause mommy’s aren’t bouncy. They don’t need anything to hold them in place.”

   “So why doesn’t daddy wear a bra?”

   “His aren’t bouncy either,” I said, exhausted. “Besides, only women wear bras, if their boobs are bouncy, remember?”

   “Well, when I grow bigger and my boobs get bouncy, I’m gonna change that. You always say that boys can do the same things as girls, if they want to.”

   My daughter and I looked at each other.

   “We better start him on a diet. NOW,” my daughter hissed and walked away. She didn’t even try to hide her laughter…

   Read Heide's announcement later in this issue.


The Purpose of the Breast on the Human Female
by Kevin Tisserand

   Throughout engineering history, man has mimicked nature to great effect. Canoes were invented after someone saw a log floating down a river. Velcro was invented after someone noticed how well burrs stick to cloth. Light bulbs were invented after someone noticed how much easier it is to read in the daytime. And airbags were invented after someone noticed women's breasts.

   The breasts on a human woman are truly one of nature's greatest engineering feats. They are second only to the buttocks as an impact protection mechanism. How often has a woman had her child fling a spaghetti-laden bowl from atop a high chair with more force than a medieval catapult, only to have it bounce harmlessly away thanks to her built-in deflection system? A man in similar circumstances typically finds himself with a bowl-shaped bruise on his chest.

   One may ask why women have breasts, but men (well, most men) do not. The answer is simple: shoes. With the exception of a brief 70's infatuation with platform shoes, men have traditionally worn more sensible shoes than women. Women, forced to wear high heels to compensate for being shorter than men, have a greater tendency to lose their balance and fall on their faces. Stiletto heels in particular, while proven to be both an effective height enhancer and easy-to-master deadly weapon, are responsible for more gravitational mishaps than any other article of attire. It is clear that breasts evolved to provide a cushion, preventing serious injuries from such events.

   The previously mentioned airbags are only one example of engineering marvels modelled after the breast. Bubble-wrap puts the same principles to use on a smaller scale. Waterbeds protect members of both genders from dream-induced thrashing about. Beanbag chairs were invented to reduce the skyrocketing numbers of domestic furniture-related injuries, primarily arising from fights over possession of the TV remote control. And the earliest protective gear for sports such as ice hockey and American football consisted of dozens of round, silicon-filled pouches, sewn inside an oversized shirt. (Ironically, these are now used to augment the natural defenses of some women.)

   Protective devices are not the only inventions based on the breast, for these marvelous appendages, while primarily present for defensive purposes, have many other properties which men have closely observed for millennia. Buoys were invented after a man saw his wife skinny dipping off the back of their yacht in the Mediterranean. The yo-yo was invented after a particularly well-endowed woman was seen jogging (the sports bra had not yet been invented at the time). And baseball was invented after a woman, turning around suddenly, knocked a ball from her husband's hand and sent it hurtling through a neighbour's window.

   The primary reason for the existence of the breast is clearly the personal protection of the bearer. Yet we've seen how modern civilization abounds with inventions that owe their design or inspiration to the breast. In fact, no other human appendage is more inspiring than a woman's breasts.

   Kevin Tisserand loves trying new things. Writing lets him do that without the bother of actually, well, doing anything. He believes fantasy is an integral part of reality. Kevin's reality consists primarily of his family, without which he would cease to exist. Write him at ktisserand@yahoo.com or visit http://home.primus.ca/~tisserand/


Responses to the last issue

Jeff Mullen
Pamela Faye

From Jeff Mullen

Bob:

   Thank you for another spellbinding issue of "Bobbing Around." Your email address changed and I was not informed, so it is especially heartening to be able to reaquaint myself with someone who has done much to help me in my hours of need.

   I am interested in the debate that has gone on between Mr. Gorman and Mr. Jones. Although I find Mr. Jones to be arrogant and clueless--and I *am* a natural born citizen of the United States, and I *do* think that our President is trying to lead this country into war for reasons that have nothing to do with his stated objectives, and feel that no truly patriotic countryman of mine can support his heavy-handed handling of the situation, and should stand up to the fullsome windbag--I am most puzzled by the reference to a saying commonly attributed to Theodore Roosevelt.

   As can be quickly confirmed by checking out TR's online biography at http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/tr26.html, the phrase was not "Smile,..." nor "Walk softly,..." but, rather, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." Furthermore, Roosevelt did not make the phrase up himself, if memory serves; rather, it was a proverb.

Sincerely,
Jeff Mullen


From Pamela Faye

Dear Bob,

   As always it is a pleasure to read your EPIC e-mails, and to dart into your 'Bobbing Around' website, when there is hardly enough time to take breath because of an editing deadline. I love the words of wisdom from the old Cherokee to his grandson, by Chief Wombat. A truer perception of 'The spirit of wolf' couldn't have been offered.

   I would also like to submit a point of view on Bobby Ruble's letter in 'Bobbing Around' Volume 2, Number Three, December 2002, relating to 'A New Language for E-Mails?'.

   Bobby asks the question 'As long as we remember to cross our t's and dot our i's when we do our 'official' writing, what can it hurt?' I submit this for contemplation by all writers ... 'What can it hurt?' ... Your level of standing as a credible writer. What impression do you want to impart as a writer, and why would you want to compromise your ability when the eyes of the world are watching?

   If Bobby believes that our habits don't overlap from one style to another, then the theory of humans being creatures of habit is a fallacy. I give you one 'seemingly harmless' habit, which is possibly not even noticed by the untrained eye, but certainly is by Publishers. I refer to the simple habit of double spacing between sentences when writing official letters. As a writer, I sometimes find the flow of rushing thoughts that dance fingers over the keyboard literally gives the 'double space habit' wings to fly. I have been known to exclaim ... 'Will you get an act happening Pamela!' ... from the frustration of having to back pedal and lose this acquired style, for letter writing, while storytelling.

   The bottom line for writers Bobby? I guess it all depends on how serious you are about making a lasting impression. We all have a choice, we can either rise on warm summer winds, or dissipate as mist from snow covered mountains, where the beauty of visions carry grandeur.
Pamela

   Pamela Faye is the Australian author of the Native American novel 'Chétan' available at www.amazon.com. Her follow-up novel 'Niugini Gold' also incorporates native culture, and the native language of Tok Pisin, or Pidgin English, to bring beauty to turning pages. Watch for this release. To learn more about the author, visit www.authorsden.com


For Writers

Bob Rich
Bobby R. Woodall
Spiro and Cheryl Dimolianis

Apostrophe -- or Catastrophe?

by Bob Rich

   It's the little things in life that tend to trip you up. And many of my editing clients get tripped up by one of the smallest.

   They do have an excuse. English is an immensely illogical language, and the little hook is no better than other aspects of grammar.

   There is a general mnemonic: the apostrophe is a hook that holds possessions together. "Dogs" = two or more canine animals. "Dog's" = belonging to the dog. Simple enough? Well, what about something belonging to more than one dog? It's "Dogs'."

   This would be fine if it was invariable. Even so, I often have to correct it for my clients. No doubt many errors are typos, but some otherwise good users of language seem to get this rule systematically wrong.

   So, remember, the hook holds possessions together. Plural is just more of the same, so you put the s on the end without the apostrophe.

   If things were logical, this rule would always apply. However, there is one very frequently encountered exception, one that bamboozles many people. This is the little word for "belonging to it."

   Logically, this being a possessive, it should have the hook. Just the same, putting in an apostrophe is a great social blunder that raises literate eyebrows. The proper word is "Its."

   How to remember this? "Its" is of the same family as "His" and "Hers." No hooks there either.

   Besides, "It's" has another use, again an illogical one: it is a contraction of "It is." This is of the same family as for example "Hasn't," or "How're you going?" or "That's that."

   As I always ask about rules, does it matter?

   Not in the least if you are sending an email or paper letter, or jotting down a shopping list. However, if you are submitting something for publication, you'd better stick to the rules, arbitrary as they are. Those who will judge your work, accept or reject it, will be influenced by demonstrated ignorance of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

   So, mind your hooks.


Marketing Tips

Bobby R. Woodall

Business Cards

   It is very important to have business cards with your novel, book, etc., printed on them, otherwise, what are people to buy? I also have my email address on my cards and place each inside my book for handy book markers. "Please email, write or call me and let me know what you think after reading my novel. Good ones especially. If you don’t like my book then please don’t rain on my parade!"

   For example, I give my cards to people and they ask, "What’s this Clearwater?" I go into my sales pitch. "Funny you should mention that. Clearwater is a novel I wrote...etc."

   It helps to have at least one copy of your book with you at all times. No matter how much you extol your novel, a picture is worth a thousand words. A hard copy is better than an abstract idea. Often, your novel will sell itself. Once people see the clarity of the print, the cover and the reviews on the back, they’ll be intrigued to find out what is in the book.

Different Places

   Go to libraries and talk to the purchasing person. Show therm the book and ask if they will order it. Better yet, have a friend call the library, bookstore or other booksellers and ask if they carry your book. If they say no, then ask if they can order it for you. If these places get enough interest from readers, they may think, "Hey, this may be something worth investing in." So they order one, two or however many they think is needed. My local library in Columbus, Indiana (pop: 32,500) ordered six!

   Pick a busy place in the mall and prop your book up so the cover is visible. Strangers will ask, "What are you? A book salesman?" You reply, "Yes, I am, but this is a special book. I wrote this! When (not maybe or sometime of if) you buy it, I will personally sign it." People like to have something their neighbor doesn’t have -- like a personalized copy of a book.

   Restaurants are great places to meet people and sell your book. Sit with your book conspicuously displayed and before long someone, be it a waitress, manager or other customers will comment on it. Playing to people’s curiosity pays off. One you get their interest, it’s up to you to sell. Don’t be shy! Don’t forget, you are at that time the most important person in the world. YOU are the author of a book.

Book Signings

   Approach any small bookstore and ask if you can do an author signing. Tell the owner that you will supply everything, the table, the flyers and the books. All they have to supply is a place to do the actual signing. People come into a bookstore to buy a book, so why not yours? The way I approach this kind of situation is to sit at the table and smile. Remember to smile! I am sort of lazy, it only takes 12 muscles to smile whereas it take 32 to frown. When people approach I ask if I may recommend a book to them, mine! You can have a book signing anywhere. I’ve had signings at bookstores, restaurants, Holiday Inns and book fairs. Once while my wife was shopping at a supermarket, I went outside to sit on the bench to smoke my pipe. While sitting there, I was able to sell my novel to an employee taking a break!

Talk About Your Book

   Mention you book in everyday conversations. People will often say, "I didn’t know you were a writer." Notice the WERE. You are not dead, you are a writer now. Not only a writer, but a published author. Many times one will hear, "I going to get around someday and write a book." You have written one now! Be proud of yourself, but be careful that you do not hurt yourself from all the patting on the back you think you deserve!

Uniqueness

   There are three types of people in the world. The ones who ask, "What happened?", the ones who watch things happen and finally the ones that make things happen. Be that kind of person. The old adage, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!" is still true. But you can make the horse want to drink. You have your book and it is up to you to sell it. Invent a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Your book is your invention. No one in the world has one like it. You meet many people during the day, all of them potential customers. I have a hard time believing that not everyone would like my book because I like it. People are remarkable, different strokes for different folks. Not everyone likes westerns, although I can’t see why. We as authors write on various subjects, hence we are unique. There is nothing new under the sun, only different ways of telling it.

   Bobby R. Woodall’s western novel, CLEARWATER, is published by SynergEbooks on the Internet. It is available in CD and paperback. He has another western, MERCER'S MANOR and it’s to be published on the Internet and in paperback by SynergEbooks in 2003. He’s a member of EPPRO (Electronically Published Professionals) and EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection).


Advice to a Beginner

by Spiro and Cheryl Dimolianis

   Spiro and Cheryl together run the email group 'AustraliaTheWorldWordsmiths'. Recently, a beginning writer asked for advice on how to improve, and I liked their answer so much that I have reproduced it here with their permission.

   The advice we would offer is

1) Do an honest assessment of your writing knowledge, ability and talent and desire to write. This is useful in understanding where you are at now and can work as a yard stick to show how much you have grown as a writer. It also serves to show you just how much you do know. this assessment can include details like, "I have a good imagination", "I spell well enough and know how to use a spell checker". "I need to learn more about grammar", "I've done a short course in creative writing" etc Now draw up a list of some areas you know you need to work on. Write a list of your strengths.

2) Write yourself a letter telling you why you want to be a writer and what you want to accomplish. You can include all the things you learnt about yourself in step one. Discuss what kind of writing you would like to do and why that particular kind. Decide how much time you are going to devote to writing each day.

3)Research. Once a day do a search on the internet or investigate a site that discusses writing. The links page on this group has over 300 sites listed that are helpful and informative to writers. Read an article a day and if certain pratices, hints, tips or techniques are suggested that you think may be useful then copy an paste them into a word processing document. Many beginning authors go out and purchase many books on the subject and much of the information you will find in these books can be found for free on the internet.

4) Write. Write something every day. If you want to be a novelist then write a few pages of your novel. If you want to write magazine articles then write a short article about something you know, if you want to be a poet then write a poem a day, if you want to be a screenwriter then write a few scenes.At first don't overdo it a little each day is more useful in building your skills than sporadic all nighters.

5) Edit. Each day read over what you have written and make any corrections you need to make. It can be helpful if you leave a space of a few hours between writing and editing.

6) Be VERY kind to yourself. You are learning a new craft. Crafts take time to master. Sometimes there is a temptation to give into the frustration and say something like "I will never be a real writer" This is just a stage. Remember crafts can be learned. Talent helps but learning the skills that go with the talent are just as important.

7) Communicate with other writers. Asking questions about writing, genres, techniques and the writing market help to focus your attention on writing and it keeps you up to date. Listening to other writers' tales help to keep your journey in perspective too.

8) Bookmark several dictionaries and thesauri on your browser. There is a wide variety of dictionaries and thesauri on the Internet. Many sites are listed on our links page.

9) Nurture yourself. Do some fun, creative, silly adventurous things regularly that are not related directly to writing.

10) Keep on writing. The way to learn to write is to write.

   We hope this is helpful to you and we look forward to seeing other members responses and suggestions.
Spiro & Cheryl

   Cheryl has been writing poetry since childhood . She writes short articles, poetry & screenplays. She is presently studying for a BA Humanities as well as juggling kids household concerns as a fulltime mum and carer.
   Spiro has been a musician, composer and writer since childhood, he has been successful in every field he has turned his hand to, freelance journalism, poetry, composing various forms of music and arts management. Having worked in the nursing field for many years Spiro has a strong interest in the 'human condition' and his writing reflects his depth of understanding.
   They are co-moderators of the Yahoo writer's group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AustraliaTheWorldWordsmiths/


What my Friends Want You to Know

Heide Kaminski
Rita Toews
John Byrnes

   Personally, I don't have any announcements at all. On 8th March I am going to a conference where a senior editor will give me feedback on my current work, and I'll have the opportunity to address other publishers' representatives during a 15 minute speech. Until then, I am holding my breath...

Heide Kaminski

   When Dear Abby departed, she left a great void in our lives. Who could ever copy her popularity, when it came to dispensing advice? Well, you have to wait no longer! Get more than you pay for (and it is absolutely free...) -- get advice from the multiple sisters!

   I created a new kind of advice column. Each one dilemma will be offered a solution from ten different personalities, all hosted by one person. A word of caution: while all dilemma's are indeed based on real life problems, the answers should not be taken seriously.

   My personalities really do not intend for the problems to go away. they only want you to laugh about them.

   Laughter is the best medicine!

   My column can be found here: http://www.topica.com/lists/SarcasticWomen.


Read An E-Book Week - March 9 - 15th, 2003

Rita Toews

   March 9-15, 2003 is Read An E-Book Week. Join your fellow authors, publishers and content providers around the world as they promote the diversity and quality of e-books.

   Plan an event, no matter how small, to bring electronic books to the attention of the reading public. Offer to set up a display in your local library, hold an information seminar at a seniors complex and detail the benefits of e-book to the visually impaired, or plan a spring sale on your website. It would be wonderful if we could reach people who normally don't read e-books, or perhaps haven't even heard of them. Each contact we make is a potential convert to the electronic media.

   Rita Y. Toews is a Canadian author. She registered Read An E-Book Week with Chase's Calendar of Events in 2001. Please visit her delightful children's e-book website at http://www.domokos.com/Rita.html.


   Sydneysider John Byrnes, contactable at z2204020@POP3.student.unsw.edu.au is interested in trying to bring people together for some "Maitland-Sydney Cooperation".

   Maitland is the first big city directly north from Sydney, and is on the Hunter River. Via ever-improving highway systems it is currently about 1.5 hr drive from Sydney.

   John's focus on Maitland has developed since his department announced it would be relocating there.

   Maitland-Sydney cooperation of course could be for anybody, since there are no inherent restrictions on doing such a thing. But John initially has in mind that it could be of particular appeal to people either commuting between the two cities and/or who have property interests in both areas.

   The usual things that one might think of doing to look for and build cooperation include:

   John travels to Maitland regularly and would like any contacts with a view towards meeting with people to discuss these ideas. He is also interested in hearing from anyone with ideas on how to progress something like this, or ideas to share on the principles of cooperation generally.


Environment

Australia Ablaze
Firewood and Nulcear Power
Plastic Bags Don't Grow on Trees, You Know
The Thin Green Line

Australia Ablaze

   I've been lucky so far: the nearest fire has been 30 Km (20 miles) away. But then, the bushfire season could go for two months or more yet. And any day, some idiot could throw away a cigarette, or light a barbecue, or even start a fire with a faulty exhaust, or by hitting a stone with a chainsaw.

   This summer is the worst bushfire season since 1983, perhaps since 1939. People from other lands can't possibly understand what this means. In 1983, the township of Cockatoo was destroyed by a firestorm with more energy than the Hiroshima atom bomb. In 1939, eyewitnesses reported entire valleys, miles in width, going up in a flash of blue flame.

   Imagine radiant heat that could fry an egg from several hundred metres' distance. Imagine a fire so fierce that it sucks air into itself from all around, forming an evil, towering twister, a tornado from hell that can and does ignore wind direction, and lurches anywhere with a will of its own. Imagine a fire so thirsty for oxygen that people in fireshelters have been known to be found asphyxiated. (The answer is to have lots of water with its surface open to the air. Heat releases the dissolved oxygen.) Imagine a fireball rising from the flaming forest and jumping miles, to descend anywhere with a force no World War II air raid could have matched.

   This is an Australian 'crown fire' at its worst.

   At the moment, the big fires of the Victorian High Plains are hundreds of miles away from where I am. And yet, unless a strong westerly is blowing, the air is thick with smoke. The sun is a red disk struggling to shine through a grey murk that makes breathing a chore and steals the view. It is a blanket of misery, and a promise of things that could come -- at any time.

   Why?

   It is the fault of the foolish whitefella who came here from Europe and imposed an alien lifestyle upon this land. The original inhabitants managed nature with fire. Each area of fertile land was burned every two to five years.

   This has been going on for perhaps 100,000 years. There are plants that cannot reproduce without fire. Many species actually produce fuel to make a fire possible: eucalyptus oil, strips of bark, a forest litter of dry twigs and leaves that resist decay. All the animals have adapted to periodic low-intensity fire.

   Paintings from two hundred years ago show park-like scenes of huge, widely spaced threes with nothing much between them. The same areas are now covered by a thick tangle of vegetation -- except for the bits swallowed by cities.

   Not understanding the ecology, European settlers have prevented fire. We have put houses and farms where they would be damaged even by a cool burn.

   The result? A massive accumulation of fuel, so that when (not if) the fire does come, it becomes the savage monster we see now. Trees designed to be maintained by a low level burn are killed. Their seeds on the ground are burned to a fine ash instead of being germinated. Animals, adapted to fleeing to a neighbouring area, now have nowhere to go, for the fire can move far faster than a bird can fly. Various species of native animals, already reduced and isolated, can become extinct as a result. Even the very soil is baked, becoming a sterile powder that blows away on the wind, washes off with the rain to choke up waterways and estuaries.

   Isn't it time we adapted to the land, instead of fighting it?


Firewood and Nuclear Power

What are suitable sources of energy?

Dear Sir,

   I stumbled upon your quiz [http://mudsmith.net/] while searching for passive solar house blueprints. It was quite entertaining, but I disagree with you on several points. Trees are large, natural, solar energy collectors. I live with my parents on eighty tree covered acres; it is quite efficient for us to chop up a tree every year and burn it in our old wood stove. I am sure that the trees capture more CO2 than we release.

   Also, nuclear power is probably more environmentally efficient than any other kind of power. Nuclear power plants release less radiation than coal fired plants. They don't release CO2. I am a great believer in passive solar power, but even if the government required all new houses to be efficient, most people would still want another TV and an air conditioner. Nuclear power is the only renewable (we have enough Uranium for some millions of years) energy source that can provide for the "needs" of modern Americans. The main problem is nuclear waste disposal. Yucca mountain aside, it seems probable that the very deep mines our government is digging in the Western salt flats will be the perfect receptacle. In any case, the Uranium was underground before it was used; when it is re-buried, it is no more radioactive that before.

   Supply and demand predicts that people will not stop using oil and gas until it is cheaper to use something else. Using inefficient CO2 spewing SUV's only hastens the day when renewable power will be the only power. (The truth is scarier; it is predicted that American coal reserves will last about two hundred years, even with increases in energy consumption.) No matter how efficiently we use the fossil fuels, the net amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere will be the same. Eventually most of the coal and oil on Earth will be converted into CO2. This is depressing, but it has an important ramification. When we run out of fossil fuels, the society wide conversion to electric cars, etc. will be very expensive. The richer we are, the less painful the change will be. The cheapest and easiest (in economics, the best) way to expand the economy is through massive use of fossil fuels. Taxation and regulation of the fossil fuels industry reduces their economic benefit, making the impending conversion to efficient energy relatively more expensive.

   Educated consumers are realizing that it is already cheaper to utilize efficient energy sources, at least in home design. As fossil fuel prices slowly climb over the next hundred years, more consumers will make the switch.

Sincerely,
Ben Ranson

 

Dear Ben,

   Thanks for your interesting response.

   I have never said that burning firewood is always bad. In fact, I live in an area where a certain species of short-lived tree flourishes. It grows huge in 25 years or so, then dies. We have more wood growing than we can use.

   What IS bad is to use firewood in a dense city or suburb, because you end up eating the smoke. The same can happen where temperature inversions and windless days are common. It is also bad to cut down long-lived, slow growing species and burn them up.

   About nuclear power, there are several aspects you haven't considered. A nuclear power station has a limited life span. What happens to a 'decommissioned' power station? It is subtracted from usable land for 60,000 years. Also, nuclear power stations are potential generators for bomb material, not a good idea to have around. Finally, your belief that the waste is no worse than the ore was is false. Nuclear generator waste is INTENSELY radioactive. Deep burial has been discredited because of a number of accidents in which ground water was contaminated, or earth movements squished containers.

   There is only one nuclear reactor I trust. It uses fusion rather than fission, and is a nice safe distance away. You know the one.

All the best,
Bob.


Plastic Bags Don't Grow on Trees, You Know

   The stuff is everywhere. It's almost impossible to buy anything without also buying some clear plastic film. Plastic is made from irreplaceable fossil hydrocarbons. Its manufacture is quite a high energy user. Even recycling costs considerable energy.

   Where it comes from is bad enough. Where it goes is worse. It can kill land and aquatic animals. It clutters up garbage tips -- if it ever gets there. There is probably nowhere within Australia and other industrialised countries where you are free of the risk of being accosted by a plastic bag, blowing or floating by.

   The situation is serious enough that at last Government has taken notice. The war on discarded plastic is now official.

   It's ironic that the introduction of polyethylene film was hailed in the 1970s as an environmental breakthrough: it was seen as the replacement for paper. A tiny quantity of oil could save a tree's worth of wrapping paper. What people didn't realise was that the marketing geniuses of the world would soon wrap the planet in plastic film.

   What to do about it?

   For years, people gave me odd looks when I refused a plastic bag in a shop. Now at last culture has caught up with me, but of course as usual it's too little, too late.

   There are a great many things you can do in your personal life that will reduce your plastic film use, and incidentally save you money as well. You may attract some odd looks, but so what?

   Here are a few ideas:

   Based on this idea, you can use shopping bags, bread bags and the like as storage devices for hundreds of kinds of articles: seeds saved for the garden, beads and buttons for your sewing, instead of a pencil case to take to school…

   The best bet is not to take home the wretched things at all. But while they are around anyway, use them to replace other, newly bought plastic articles. You can use the money you saved to plant a tree.


The Thin Green Line

by Sarah Mankowski

   The street where I live is located mere blocks from the busiest intersection in town. I live within walking distances of a regional mall, grocery stores, fast-food restaurants and schools. And yet, sitting on the back porch this evening, watching distant lightning and listening to a chorus of frogs and crickets, I could almost swear that I was deep in the country.

   Many a morning I've sat in my rocker enjoying a sip of coffee, listening to bird songs and watching squirrels chasing one another around the cabbage palm. The only intrusion from civilization is a faint roar of rush-hour traffic that, with a bit of imagination, I could almost believe was really the distant roar of ocean surf rolling against the shore.

   How is it possible that so many critters thrive so close to a sea of tar and concrete? Simple: the thin green line.

   Walk down our street and you'll see modest cement-block homes set behind neatly trimmed front lawns. Peek behind the homes and you'll notice that every backyard contains at least a few trees, mostly citrus trees and palms, along with maples, oaks and cedars. This line of trees runs like a vein through the center of the block, creating an ideal habitat for a variety of animals.

   Most of my neighbors are retired. They enjoy watching the birds, encouraging them with feeders and birdbaths. My next-door neighbor and I are the avid gardeners of the block. We grow a wide variety of plants, including many enjoyed by wildlife. The elderly man who lives behind me completely ignores his yard, other than to mow down his weed collection now and then. For the most part, he lets everything grow at will. He even ignores the tangerines on his old and bountiful tree, leaving them for the birds and squirrels. All of these conditions work together to create an incredibly rich wildlife sanctuary.

   I'm not even sure how many species of bird nest on our block each spring. I'm aware of the blue jays who nest in that tangerine tree, mockingbirds who apparently don't notice that cats are about until the chicks hatch, cardinals, woodpeckers, mourning doves, and the ground doves who roost in my neighbor's orchid house.

   On our block, nesting season is always a time of great drama. One time I was pulling weeds when I noticed a large shadow pass overhead. Glancing up, I saw a hawk. A couple of minutes later the hawk flew back, shrieking, chased by a v-formation of birds of various colors and sizes. What an amazing sight! Every nesting bird on the block must have joined forces to chase away the predator. Couldn't tell for sure, but I'll bet Mr. Mockingbird was leading the chase.

   Trees, even a few trees, make an incredible difference.

   Sarah Mankowski owns and edits WordThunder.com and BookBanter.com, websites for online writers. Born and raised in Central Florida, she has called the Space Coast home for the past seventeen years. Her educational background is actually in horticulture. She is an avid butterfly gardener. http://sarahmankowski.com


The Guns in the Crawlspace

by Judy Nichols

   In the crawlspace behind our bedroom closet, there’s a tangle of heating ducts, some storage bins for sweaters, my husband Nigel’s gun safe and a box of ammunition. On the rare occasions when I go back there to hide presents or retrieve a sweater, I barely notice our mini arsenal.

   When we started dating, I was shocked to learn he owned guns. I insisted he sell them. He refused. I considered breaking up with him but thought better of it.

   Principles are great, but they don’t keep you warm on a cold winter night.

   The guns have remained locked away for nine years, safe from our daughter and ourselves.

   I’ve pointed out to Nigel that the necessity of locking them up nullifies any protective value they might have. Should an intruder break into the house, he would have to stumble into the crawlspace, hop over the heating ducts, unlock the gun safe, find the bullets and load the gun. By the time he was ready to shoot, the burglar and our valuables would be long gone.

   Which brings me to the real reason my husband owns guns–because he can.

   Nigel is a citizen of the United Kingdom, where there is no constitutional right to bear arms. If US ever passed a law requiring gun owners to relinquish their weapons, he would give his up without protest. He sees gun ownership as a privilege of living in this country, not a right.

   Periodically, we receive mailings from the National Rifle Association (NRA) addressed “Dear Fellow American.” They warn us about the horrible gun control nuts out there and ask for money to stop them. I send back the membership form in its postage paid envelope, informing the anonymous processing person that the gun owner in our household is not an American, and the American in our household is a horrible gun control nut.

   Wouldn’t it be great if the NRA embraced its own tenet of gun safety as its main mission, instead of promoting the siege mentality manifested in those “Dear Fellow American” lettters?

   Every person who bought a gun would receive a free course on gun safety from the NRA. Their mailings would say “Guns are dangerous and you must be very, very careful with them.” Charlton Heston would go on television and say “The NRA will not rest until every gun owner in this country follows all the required safety procedures.”

   I have made my peace with the guns in the crawlspace. I am glad they are there. I know that if Nigel had sold them, they might have been used to kill someone and I could never live with that. Locked away in the crawlspace, they harm no one.

   Because we know they are dangerous and we are very, very careful.

   Judy says of herself: 'I am a Cincinnati native, but have lived for the last two years in Wilmington NC with my (resident) alien husband Nigel, our seven year old daughter Aly and a border collie named Bronwyn. My first book, a suspense thriller titled "Caviar Dreams," will be coming out this summer.'


The Magic of Hypnotism

   "Look into my eyes! You are now in my powerrr! You vill do everything I tell you and you cannot resist!"

   This is close to many people's ideas of hypnosis. There is an Australian technical term to describe it: a word starting with 'bulls' and ending with 'hit'.

   Last year I went back to school, if only part time. The course was run by the Australian Society of Hypnosis, and proved to be both inspiring and informative.

   Perhaps the first lesson was: ALL HYPNOSIS IS SELF-HYPNOSIS. I as hypnotist can't make you hop into bed with me, or rob a bank, or dance around a stage like a headless chicken -- unless I could have got you to do that in your normal waking state.

   During hypnosis, the subject is always in full control. However, of your free choice, you give me permission to make suggestions, and provided those suggestions appeal to you, you will follow them.

   The hypnotic state is not anything esoteric. It is similar to what you experience when something happens to make you 'lose track of time', when you are completely absorbed in what you are doing.

   It occasionally happens to me that I am driving my car, and without doubt I am safe, paying attention to the conditions around me and trivialities like traffic lights. Also, my navigation must be all right, because I have arrived at my destination. And yet, I am completely unaware of the passage of time and distance, have no memory of the trip at all.

   I have been in a trance state, very similar to what happens to me when I am hypnotised.

   You can enter a trance while listening to music, dancing, doing exercise, reading a good book… almost any activity that completely captures your attention.

   People vary greatly in their ability to enter a trance at will. If you are experienced at meditating, or can call up mental images easily, then almost certainly you have the potential to become a good hypnotic subject.

   The difference between being hypnotised and other trance states is that you have a guide: a person you temporarily trust to lead you along the way.

   I have meditated for years, and use guided imagery a lot. And yet, I proved to be very resistant to being hypnotised. Partly this was probably because I was trying too hard, partly because I have a habit of thinking of several things at once, and perhaps couldn't concentrate enough. None of the instructors or my fellow students could 'put me under'. However, in between classes, I had four sessions with Esther Swoboda, a friend who is a very experienced hypnotist. During our third session, she tried 'indirect techniques', which were devised by the almost legendary Milton Erickson. They worked on me, and ever since then I have been able to enter a hypnotic trance without difficulty.

   What this demonstrates is that anyone can benefit from hypnosis.

   I have already used hypnosis with dozens of my clients, and have been immensely impressed by the results. It is not a technique, but a sharpening stone. I have a whole heap of techniques I use to benefit my clients. Many of them work better and faster when applied during trance, and the client's hypnotic ability doesn't seem to be that important. My most pleasing customer has been a gentleman who has intractable pain. I was the third or fourth person he had approached for help. Almost to the surprise of both of us, he is now able to control his pain using the tools he learned while in trance. He no longer needs me, because he has learned to hypnotise himself.


Book Reviews

Skull Dance
by Gerd Balke
submitted by Michael Larocca.

   SKULL DANCE, by deceased author Gerd Balke, will be published February 3 by NovelBooks Inc (http://www.novelbooksinc.com) All proceeds will go to his widow.

   "A terrorist with a little technical know-how and twenty pounds of smuggled plutonium could make a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city. That's what we should be worried about."
US Pentagon official, New York Times, May 13, 1996

   Can terrorists hold a nation hostage? Should a military officer follow orders regardless of consequences? If you and everything you knew were going to be destroyed in an hour, and you were powerless to stop it, would you want to know?

   "Gerd Balke has fashioned a novel that completely destroys commonly-held expectations of what is possible in the genre. It's completely unlike anything ever done before by the likes of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum or Larry Bond."
John Ling, author of SEVEN BULLETS and BROTHERHOOD: INFINITY TO ZERO

   "The late Gerd Balke leaves his author's mark in the world by the writing of SKULL DANCE before his demise. Strong plots and subplots entice the reader to each new page. The well-developed characters and powerful dialogue are masterful displays of a hierarchy in writing style. Gerd Balke brings the customs and culture of India to life, and international intrigue and espionage to magnificent proportions. SKULL DANCE is a diamond of a thriller -- a thriller of dynamic quality. I very highly recommend SKULL DANCE to any person that seeks an exceptional read."
Patricia Spork, Writer's Graphic Image.


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