Bobbing Around

Volume Four, Number Two
August, 2004

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

 
*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe.
  guidelines for contributions.
*An important model of depression
*A Call to a Patriot's Self-Examination
  A wonderful essay from Zinta Aistars.
*Responses to 'The Right to Die':
  Lance Collins, Connie Winters, Carl Stonier, Kam Ruble, Lea Tassie.
*ADD/ADHD and Ritalin
  from Cynthia Clay
*The meaning of life
*Announcements
  30th book for Anna Jacobs.
  UNCONDITIONAL LOVE -- Pet Tales by the Humans Who Love Them.
  Cats in Clover.
  A Celtic romance.
  Book on bullying now in print.
*Ergonomics
  A better bike.
  A response to 'Driving Downhill'.
*For writers:
  The Rabbit and the Seed.
  Is good grammar necessary? by Cheryl O'Brien.
*Book Review
  'Winter Mournings' by Avie Townsend, reviewed by Selena Robinson.
*Popular FREE contest still open
*Thank You, Atlantic Bridge.
Another joyful announcement:
   Last issue, I announced that Striking Back From Down Under has been reissued by Twilight Times Books.

   Now I can add to this. Double Dragon E-books are now the official publishers of my award-winning novel Sleeper, Awake.

   Email me with a copy of proof of purchase of either book, and you will receive one of my other titles for free.


   Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the entire magazine to anyone else.

   I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them the courtesy of a forum.

A New Model of Depression

   Depression is now the most common form of psychological disturbance. Diagnosable levels of misery can be expected by at least 20% of the population at one time or another. This means that even if YOU never get depressed, chances are someone you love will be.

   The prevalence of depression has sharply increased, and is probably still increasing. It is a major cause of death, directly and indirectly, and of untold suffering. Depression is a human issue, not a theoretical one.

   My colleague Michael Gathercole has synthesised the available evidence, and presented a model of depression that is an improvement on anything I've previously read on the topic. It has practical consequences, in that the model allows the 'treatment' to be tailored to the needs of the individual sufferer. Until now, what help you received has been dependent on the theoretical preferences of the professional you happened to approach. Now, you can read Michael's paper, determine your particular profile, and then seek help that will work for you.

   This is a scholarly article, but is written in clear language with little jargon. It should be understandable by the intelligent lay person.

   Read his paper at my web site. It is posted there with his permission. I will also include the paper as a chapter in my coming book on Depression.


A Call to a Patriot's Self-Examination

by Zinta Aistars

   As one born of refugee parents who came to America from a war-torn nation, not seeking new frontiers, but simply running for their lives, I can say this: my family learned the values of this country, realized and respected much of that dream -- the dream that was once America. I have grown up in a multicultural home, with two citizenships, and a profound love for both of my countries -- the one where I was born, and the one where my most ancient roots have formed a long and complex tangle. Because the latter has for so many centuries suffered for a lack of the most basic freedoms as part of the Soviet Union, I have learned a unique appreciation for those freedoms that perhaps those who have never had to lose them sometimes take for granted. There lies my respect and love for this country. There, also, lies my fear that we will lose those freedoms for lack of understanding of what and how they are constructed, and how they are to be nurtured and protected.

   One lesson I have learned from my heritage is the importance of self-examination. In order to protect a freedom, one must constantly maintain a vigilance over it -- to watch for signs of erosion. I find the greatest patriots are not those of us who blindly thump our chests and spout nationalistic (and blindly ethnocentric) platitudes, but those of us who, however painful the process, look penetratingly at the face of our own government, scrutinize our own faces in the mirror, examine closely our own hearts, and forever test and retest our consciences for flaws and shortcomings. It is like the parent who spoils the child with an extravagance of lavish gifts… versus the parent who says a firm no to the child from time to time, and teaches the lesson instead, however difficult, that will prepare the child for a life of self-sufficiency and respect, for self and for others. Which is the truly loving parent? Which the one who sends forth a child into adulthood unprepared and spoilt? The patriot cares enough to be honest -- with others and with him or herself, most of all.

   Perhaps it is only at a time of testing, such as today is, that our own hearts are truly tested. Perhaps it is only then that we truly feel the extent of our own love for our country. It pains me deeply to see in today's news on a global basis how far our image has been tainted. How did this happen? Erosion, disease… these are things that happen a granule of sand at a time, a single cell at a time. Hardly noticeable… until it is too late. Until there is an avalanche, until the body falls resoundingly to the ground.

   As the global community continues to shrink, the process ever gathering speed as we are connected by technology in communications and transportation, it has become more crucial than ever for all cultures to be cognizant of each other. We must strive to understand our rights to be different in all that we are -- in our cultures, in our spirituality, in our lifestyles. It is not our goal to Americanize the world. It is not our goal to convert all others to our ways. This is not a time for chest thumping. This is a time for the true patriot to rise up and take a stand. This is a time to seek out the flaw, find the source of the disease, and to attack it mercilessly.

   Ah no, I am not speaking of the attack of the missile. I speak of the attack of the introspective spirit upon the disease that weakens it. We must not lose our American Dream. Fancy cars and designer jeans and immense houses be damned… I speak of our freedoms, our willingness to work toward excellence, our hearts to be open to understanding and compassion. This is our fight. If our global image is tarnished, it is up to each and every one of us to honestly and courageously examine the reasons why. Should we find the taint of corruption, or of greed, or a spirituality that has grown as hollow as it is shallow, then here lies our patriotic duty -- to polish what is tarnished, to reevaluate what has lost all value, to fill the void that our spirits have become. Here, in our own front yards, lies our greatest battle -- and it must be won.

   It is painful to look inward. But we must, we must… It is our greatest dream that is at stake.

   Zinta Aistars is the published author of three books (a short story collection, a children's book, and poetry). She is an editor for LuxEsto, the Kalamazoo College alumni magazine, and contributing writer to Encore magazine. Her work has also appeared in Welcome Home and Parade of Homes magazines. She has published poetry, travel essays, stories, and articles in the United States, Latvia, England, Sweden, Germany, and Australia. Her work also appears on several Web sites -- webzines and ezines -- including The Surface (upcoming August 2004 issue), River Walk Journal (upcoming Sept/Oct 2004 issue), Burning Word, Insolent Rudder, coilMagazine, Poems Neiderngasse, The Paper, Poetry Life & Times, QuietPoly Writer's Magazine, and others.

   Zinta is currently at work on a second collection of poetry as well as a compilation of essays that describes her many travels both as a physical journey and as an exploration of an inner landscape. Also freshly underway -- a novel called Beds, in which all scenes take place in and around beds.

   Zinta's Web site is at http://www.authorsden.com/zintaaistars.


Responses to 'The Right to Die'

   I published a short rave in the last issue, entitled The Right to Die. I expected it to generate a lot of controversy. I DID get many responses, but to my surprise, every one of them agreed with my basic thesis: that it is better to die with dignity than to live past one's use-by date.

   Here they are:

Lance Collins
Connie Winters
Carl Stonier
Kam Ruble
Lea Tassie

Lance Collins

   I agree with you. My problem is that if I will probably put off taking action until it was too late and I am incapable of doing myself in. If others are to decide it's time for me to go then lots of REALLY hard issues arise.

   Also I'm quite sure there is no other side. If I'm wrong I will be pleasantly surprised, if not it's irrelevant.

   My answer to Lance was:

   ...I have the advantage over you in being a psychologist: I know the early signs. So do all of us, really. But I think the point is the attitude that there is more to life than the vegetative functions.

   I used to be a skeptic too. However, in the past few years, I've had several personal experiences, and some clients have come to me with stories I cannot dismiss, that have convinced me that there is life both before and after death. I used to dismiss the Wheel of Life as probably being wishful thinking, but now...

Lance Collins has been a very long term solar-powered light for the Alternative Technolgy Association of Australia. When readers to the ATA's magazine ReNew, or visitors to its web site ask difficult questions, Lance is the person who finds the answers, and gives them in easy-to-understand language.


Connie Winters

   You asked for opinions on 'Right to Die' and here's mine: I'm 100% in favor of making my own decision. Only the most arrogant control freak can think he or she knows better than I when it's my time is to exit. (I'm leaving religious beliefs out of this equation, because, again, it's "my" choice whether or not a deity's directive matters to me.)

   The American Past, Rustic Settings and the Extra-Normal work as additional characters in C. J. Winters' ten romantic and cozy mystery novels, and in anthologies. Iowa born-raised-educated and Missouri seasoned, C. J. thinks creating intense relationships and helping them unfold through intriguing, subtle or whimsical interplay is fun. She says, "Story plotting is like weight-lifting for the brain. You collect puzzle pieces and then find places to fit them." You can read excerpts of her work at www.cjwinters.com/ or www.hardshell.com/.


Carl Stonier

Greetings Bob,

   Thanks for the latest issue of Bobbing Around.

   I totally agree with you on the right to die. I've been privileged to be with a lot of people as they've made the transition from life to death. For many, they were being kept alive by heroic medical interventions, but many were also being kept alive by the wishes of the family, who could not bear to let go "Don't die, how will we manage without you?" etc. etc. After a little work with the family, it's been very rewarding (for all concerned) for the family to be able to say, "It's OK, we'll be OK now, it's time for you to do what is right for you," and in giving permission, open the door for the person to let go and die with some peace and dignity.

   I have long advocated the 'living will' notion here in the UK, and have certainly defined the parameters and left instructions about my wishes, if/when I come to that point.

Carl wrote about himself:

   Originally trained in Nursing, then moved into counselling in the National Health Service. Took early retirement 4 years ago and now work as a freelance counsellor, psychotherapist and psychosexual therapist, and as a supervisor, trainer, selector and examiner for Relate. Currently completing a PhD looking at the relationship between physical health and psychological health. In my spare time, I am a trustee of the National Conference of Cancer Self-Help Groups ( www.nationalcancer.org ) and a long standing martial artist. Further information at www.personal-potential.co.uk.

   Carl is one of the contributors to my self-help book on cancer... when the pressures of his Ph.D. allow him the time to write.


Kam Ruble

   In response to your commentary "The Right to Die" -- I have to agree with your philosophy.

   If I were to start losing my mental faculties, found I had an incurable disease, or had severity of pain with no hope for relief, I would definitely find a way to pass over to what you so nicely referred to as, "that next adventure."

   To some, this would be considered the easy way out. To me, however, I would not want to have my loved ones go through the suffering of watching me deteriorate, or go through the expense of caring for me.

   Life is precious, no matter how many mountains we have to climb, or how many gullies we have to pull ourselves out of. That is why someone one stated to live each day to the fullest -- as if it were the last day of your life. (I did not quote the statement or give credit, as I'm not sure of the exact wording or who said it.)

   The point is, we never know when our time is up. But, if we have a warning that the mind or body is going on a rapid, downhill recline with no hope of surviving the impact at the bottom, then we have "The Right to Die."

Kam Ruble

   Kam is an award-winning poet; co-author of Black Rosebud: Have No Mercy II; and author of Black Lily: Have No Mercy III.
http://www.bobbyruble.com


Lea Tassie

   Hi, Bob! I've finally had time to read the June newsletter and would like to say that I agree completely with your viewpoint on death. It is a part of life, after all. I hope that when I begin to fall apart, that I will have the courage to dispose of myself before I become a mindless blob being kept alive by technology. The horrible part is that some people become too incapacitated to act for themselves and, in Canada, as elsewhere, the law takes a dim view of helping someone out of this world.
Lea

   Lea Tassie was raised on a homestead in northern Canada. She has published short stories, two suspense novels and a comic novel about cats. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia and is working on another novel.
http://www.leatassie.com
TOUR INTO DANGER, suspense
ASHES, romantic suspense, and
CATS IN CLOVER, humor, from
http://www.treesidepress.ca


ADD/ADHD and Ritalin

   Recently, one of the email lists I am on drifted on to a discussion about the usefulness or otherwise of drugs for children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Several people with some expertise, including me, wrote about the dangers. Instead of reproducing my own rave, here is an authoritative statement from Cynthia Clay:

   My husband is a certified behavior analyst who has worked extensively for family services in Dade county with children with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.

   His experience with children who had been put on Ritalin alarmed him terrribly. He noticed that children who had been on Ritalin for a prolonged period of time were suffering from a lack of fine motor coordination, and indeed, Ritalin, when used long term causes neurolgical damage. He found that children lost independent motion of their fingers. Consider this from p. 254 of Handbook of Behavior Therapy and Pharmacotherapy for Children: A Comparative Analysis by Vincent B. Van Hasselt and Micheael Hersen:

   "Side effects that are sometimes associated with stimulant treatment include irritability, loss of appetite, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, stomachaces, headaches, tachcardia, skin rashes, drowsiness, mortor movements (particularly of the mouth, jaw and tongue), cognitive blunting, and social withdrawal. Hallucinations an psychotic episodes have been reported, albeit rarely... The worst side effect that is of long-term concern is that of suppresion of growth, either in terms of weight or height."

   Also consider this from p. 413 of Mental and Elemental Nutrients: A Physican's Guide to Nutrition and Health Care by Carl C. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D. and the Publications Commitee of the Brain Bio Center:

   "Furthermore, these drugs can produce adverse side-effects such as insomnia, loss of appetite and weight, tactile hallucinations, tics, nausea and irriability. Evidence sugests that cardiovascular distrubances, possible Hodgkins' disease, and brain damage, as well as drug dependence, may result from continued use of these drugs."

   My husband and I attended a talk given by psychiatrist who specialized in children. He emphasized that giving drugs to children is always an experiment because every child is different; a child changes so quickly that dosages and drugs will change their effectiveness or exhibit side effects within a matter of months; and there really is no way to know what will be effective for a given child at a given time.

   Further, a governmental report came out that Ritalin and other stimulants were not useful in treating hyperactivity but behavior analysis is.

   My husband's work when he worked for family services, consisted of going to where the child was misbehaving, witnessing the misbahivor, and developing a behavioral program. In every single case of hyper activity he was able to develop a program to eliminate the problem. When children had been put on Ritalin, in every case, he was able to persuade the psychiatrist to remove the child from Ritalin because his behavioral program's success convinced the psychiatrists the child did not need that stimulant. However, taking children out of Ritalin always took several months because it had to be done very gradually and progressively. During these months the children would go haywire and everybody--children, parents, and teachers--were very miserable. Furthermore the behavioral treatments had to be constantly readjusted to the stage of the withdrawal of the drug, causing the behavioral treatments to be much more complex and intensive, and so more expensive.

   There is also the problem of misdiagnosis, which happens frequently. For instance, one little boy would not pay attention to his teacher when told to do so. He would start getting hyper instead. So, my husband asked him if he knew what "paying attention" meant. The child had no idea! He was frightened when the teacher said that and so misbehaved. So my husband taught the child "The Paying Attention Position" and the teacher was extremely happy with the child's new behavior.

   Before any parent takes the step of putting a child on Ritalin they should hire a behavior analyst for a behavioral program. Very few MDs are trained in behavior analysis. Don't hesitate to ask your behavior analyst about his perspectives. The old guard believes "Everything is behaviors" in other words, there are no emotions nor cognitive processes. The new guard behavior analysts often call themselves "cognitive behavior analysts" and accept such things as emotion and cognitive processes but approach them through behavior analysis techniques. Whether you use an old guard or new guard behavior analyst, he or she will be able to improve your child's behavior more than any other treatment.

   Cynthia Joyce Clay, an honors graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in theater, also holds an MFA in acting. She has been a member of the American Repertory Theater Company and has used these degrees not just to teach acting to all ages or to teach grammar, writing, and literature courses on the college level, but to fool people into thinking she was a computer program on Shakespeare during the Turing Test as aired by both Scientific Frontiers (nationally) and the Learning Channel (internationally). She is the author of Zollocco: A Novel of Another Universe, New Myths of the Feminine Divine, and Vector Theory and the Plot Structures of Literature and Drama.


The Meaning of Life

   A young client has been tortured for years by questions like, 'What's the point of it all? I'm going to die anyway, sooner or later, and then it's all over. Why bother with anything?'

   Of course, these ideas got him immensely depressed.

   On thinking and talking over these issues, he and I found an answer.

   Let us start with a worst case assumption: 'There is no God. There is no meaning to the Universe, it's all an accidental collection of junk, and we are mere accidental byproducts, with no meaning, no purpose.'

   "OK," I told him, "in that case, initially, that's all there was: an immense collection of rocks and gases, whirling around in an ordered yet chaotic way. But eventually, somewhere -- either here on earth or in a faraway galaxy -- life evolved."

   If a dying tree still has one living green leaf, the tree is still alive. An otherwise dead collection of junk is alive if it has one spot where primitive unicellular organisms live.

   It is possible that life is limited to our planet. But that seems improbable to both of us. We feel there just have to be a myriad different planets with incredibly varied life forms. There may be types of life that exist independently of planets, basking in a star's radiant energy and eating orbiting rubble. The Gaia hypothesis may be right: maybe the planet itself is a living, conscious entity, with us whales and elephants and humans and trees and paramecia merely lice on Her side.

   But that doesn't matter. The Universe is alive as long as some of its components are alive.

   Life diversified, and eventually some life forms became intelligent: able to reason, remember, hope and fear and love and hate. Horses and dogs come to mind.

   At that stage, the Universe became intelligent, because it had some intelligent components. You are intelligent, even though the nail on your left little toe isn't. The Universe is intelligent, even if the overwhelming proportion of its mass isn't.

   And then, somewhere, maybe here, but somewhere, sentience arose. Beings could conceive of a future. They could distinguish themselves from their environment, plan, and ask questions like, 'Why am I alive? What is the meaning of it all? Is there a purpose to existence? Is there a God?'

   And at that moment, the Universe became sentient. At that moment, the Universe became God: all encompassing, all-powerful, infinite -- and sentient.

   Another way of looking at the same thing is this. Suppose Mercury is just a rock orbiting the Sun. Suppose Venus has life, but not sentient life. Then, an accident that pushes Mercury into the Sun is of no consequence. There is one less rock in the Universe. So what. An accident that destroys Venus is much worse, because it has killed. Oh sure, life feeds on death in an endless cycle, but with the destruction of Venus, the whole cycle is destroyed, and all life in one small part of the Universe has been wiped out.

   But if OUR planet was destroyed, it would be far, far worse, because the sentience of the Universe would be lessened. In the (perhaps unlikely) event that we are the only sentient beings, basically God would die, and the Universe would go back to a lower level. But even if there is sentience elsewhere, our destruction would be a tragedy.

   So, our conclusion was that if we make the worst possible assumption that there is no Creator, no God, then inevitably there is a God, because there are sentient beings like us around.

   Isn't that wonderful?


Announcements

Anna Jacobs
Avie Townsend
Lea Tassie
Cornelia Amiri
Rita Toews

Anna Jacobs

   I have my 30th novel coming out in paperback in September in Australia and Commonwealth countries (August in the UK) and I'm quite excited about this, as you can imagine. I would never have thought when I first started writing that I'd have 30 novels published. I'm contracted by my two publishers to write ten more novels, mainly historical sagas, but a couple of modern family relationships tales, too.

   The 30th book 'Twopenny Rainbows' is the story of an 1860s 'stolen generation', two Irish sisters, brought to Australia by an order of nuns, then separated.

   People can find out more about 'Twopenny Rainbows' at: http://www.annajacobs.com/book.asp?pageID=41.

   They can read the first chapter at: http://www.annajacobs.com/excerpts/Ch1twopenny.pdf.

   Anna Jacobs is a dynamic Western Australian lady who ran a course on electronic publishing in Melbourne, I think in 1999. I went along, and that was the start of my e-career. Her historical books are doing extremely well, particularly in Britain, but are also highly sought in Australia and elsewhere.


Avie Townsend

   "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE -- Pet Tales by the Humans Who Love Them" is now available for sale. Compiled by Avie Townsend, www.avietownsend.com, the book is composed of stories by Townsend and 17 other authors located in the United States, Greece and Cape Town, South Africa.

   The stories will make you laugh, bring you to tears, and educate you about proper pet care and things you may or may not know on the care and handling of furry or feathered creatures.

   There are many stories of dogs and cats, horses and birds, and even one on chickens in the hen house. Each story has an accompanying photo or drawing of the animal featured.

   It may be ordered through Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, Booksamillion.com or at any Barnes and Noble store by ordering ISBN # 1-589612310. Or it can be ordered from the publisher by clicking on this link.

   The photo on the cover is Katie, a marvelous Wire Hair Fox Terrier owned by Sarah Cannon and bred by Coventry Wire Fox Terriers: www.coventrywirefoxterrier.homestead.com.

   Townsend, an animal lover and rescuer, said, "I am hoping the book will save the lives of many animals, because there are dangers out there that folks are unaware of."

   DK Dalton, author of Maggie's Song, said "This anthology gives the reader clear evidence that the compassion and love lived by the life of St. Francis is still alive on this planet."


Lea Tassie

   Lea Tassie is purrfectly delighted to announce the release of her comic novel "Cats in Clover" on July 1, 2004.

   George the Magnificent is a tabby-Siamese who revels in his royal status. He's adopted by Holly and Ben, a cat-hater, who buy a five-acre farm on a small island off the south coast of British Columbia. Ben is so impressed with George's intelligent exuberance that he becomes St. Francis of Assisi to every animal, even adopting Henry, a cat with a Buddhist nature. Holly worries about trips to the vet, invading guests and renovating dilapidated farm buildings. Ben worries that his dream of market gardening may fail. George doesn't worry about anything. But can Henry be plotting to convert him from feudal tyrant to mere citizen?

   Cats in Clover is available in ebook or trade paperback format from http://www.treesidepress.ca

   Lea Tassie has been a slave to the feline race for as long as she can remember.


Cornelia Amiri

   Cornelia Amiri’s new Celtic Romance, Danger Is Sweet, will be released August 14. 2004 from Awe Struck E-Books. From ancient druid lore springs the tale of a mysterious, dark warrior, a fiery Pict Princess, and the shadowy secret standing between them.
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?AuthorID=4165.


Rita Toews

   What do you do when you get repeated orders for a print version of an e-book? Well, when the latest order was for 200 copies destined for six schools in the U.S., Rita Y. Toews decided it was time to print publish The Bully.

   In The Bully, a story about bullying is followed by a question and answer section for children. The questions help children express their feelings about bullies, and the answers provide practical ways to deal with bullying. The illustrations for the story can be coloured while the subject of bullying is discussed.

   The adult's section of The Bully contains a question and answer portion that informs parents and caregivers about bullying and gives effective information for dealing with a bully situation in a manner that provides good role modelling for children. Additional informational resources are also provided.

   The Bully is an invaluable aid for parents, schools, community organizations, and agencies working with children.

   To learn more about this excellent bully resource, visit www.domokos.com/bullying.html


Ergonomics

A better bike
A response to 'Driving Downhill'

A Better Bike

   Last issue, I attacked that icon of society: the car. Now I'll have a go at the icon of the healthy: the bicycle.

   If you think about it, the bike is horribly mis-designed. It fails to fit human needs in three ways:
 

  • Sitting upright, and bending forward, you automatically compress your lungs. This is not a good posture for heavy breathing. Runners, swimmers, skiers, skaters all work in a posture that allows full lung expansion. Bike riders don't, and yet they may be working just as hard.
     
  • Sitting upright, and bending forward, you automatically form a sail that invites the air you are passing through to push you backward. If there is a strong following wind it will push on your back, but even then, the forward inclination of your body will reduce this force.
     
  • Almost all the driving power is from the legs. OK, the muscles of the thigh are the strongest, but a lot of the human body's potential is not being used. This also means that most of your muscles are not being worked. Unless you want to end up built like a frog, you will need to supplement your riding with upper body power exercises.

       The good news is that for many years now, there has been a bicycle design that avoids these faults. This is the RECUMBENT BIKE.

       When riding a recumbent, you lie back at about sixty degrees. This allows full lung expansion. Air resistance is reduced to about a third compared to a conventional bike. Leg power is supplemented by push from the abdominals, though, admittedly, the arms and shoulders don't contribute anything.

       When the first recumbents were made, the tubes used for the frame soon broke: the rider typically applied so much force that the frame bent from side to side until the metal fatigued. Try to exert that much force on a normal bike! So, now recumbents are made from the same type of tubing as car exhausts.

       A recumbent builds up so much speed that a normal bicycle brake would have no hope of stopping it. It needs car brakes.

       They are banned by the conservative, stick-in-the mud bike racing organisations. This is because an ordinary person (not a champion) can coast along at 100 Km/h (60 mph) over a level road when there is no wind blowing.

       A fibreglass fairing will reduce the wind resistance even more, and protect you from the weather.

       A basic recumbent can be built for much the same cost as a good quality bike. That is, for the same quality, a recumbent is a little more expensive. But if you are willing to pay $800 for a bike, you can afford a recumbent.

       Well then, why haven't they taken off?

       They are longer than a bike. This means minor storage problems.

       They look different. About twenty years ago, a biological research organisation in Australia developed a straight banana, because this reduced packaging and transport costs. No-one would buy them -- they looked too different.

       They have a low profile: you are far closer to the ground. People are worried that they will be invisible from car rearview mirrors. The solution is to have antennae with brightly flashing LED lights. As with a bike, you can use a horridly visible colour scheme. If you have a fibreglass fairing, this can add to the visibility.

       So, there is no real reason every bike couldn't be a recumbent. I am at a loss for their rarity. www.greenspeed.com.au


    A response to 'Driving Downhill'

    As well as commenting on my 'The Right to Die, Carl Stonier also wrote:

       I believe that there are now some infernal combustion engine cars that have an automatic cut-off for the fuel supply. The car that I drive, whilst not quite so advanced, has a limiter that minimises fuel useage whenever the brake is applied.

       What a powerful story was Three times a Hero. Thank you to James Choron for that, and to you, of course, for publishing it. It seems churlish to point out that you listed it after the article on finding your own typos, and it had the heading 'From Russia with Empaty', but hey, why change the habit of a life time eh!


    For Writers

    The rabbit and the seed
    Is good grammar necessary?

    The Rabbit and the Seed

       I am editing a crime story. In Chapter 17, Mark Matheson, tough African-American police detective, can only close the case by burgling the headquarters of the baddies. The law doesn't permit such action of course, but it's 3 a.m., and Mark is there dressed in a black tracksuit, and of course his skin is dark anyway.

       How is he going to get in? No worries! He takes a device from his bag and presses it against the deadlock. A screen dimly glows, Mark presses buttons, there is a click… and the door opens.

       Mark now pulls a piece of paper from his pocket and reads the number on it using a pen light. It is the code to the security system, passed on to him by an informer within the organisation.

       Good stuff, but there is one thing wrong with it. Chapters 1 to 16 made no mention of either an informer or a high-tech device that allows you to open any deadlock. These story elements were rabbits pulled out of the hat by the author when he needed them.

       As a reader, I simply don't believe the author. Once I think of questions like, 'Hey, what informer?' the illusion of being in the reality of the story has been destroyed. With it will go my interest, and if I put the book down, I'm unlikely to pick it up again. My opinion about it to others is likely to be, "Don't bother, it's not worth reading."

       And yet, in other ways, it may be an excellent book.

       Here is another example, a romance. Jessica and Tom are having an almighty fight in Chapter 17. Well, they do this often. Each secretly loves the other, but whenever they are together, they push each other's buttons and the argument is on.

       But now, Marge walks onto the scene. She is a middle-aged lady who turns out to be Jessica's aunt. When Jess's parents abused her, she used to run to Auntie Marge who gave her love and caring and consistent discipline, so Jess is now a fine person thanks to Marge.

       And, we immediately find out, Tom also has a connection to Marge. He comes from a criminal family, but Marge lived a couple of houses down the street, and her son Kevin was Tom's best friend, so again, Tom is a decent, fine person only thanks to this living jewel.

       Wonderful. But how come that we had not one word about Marge from either protagonist for sixteen chapters? She is a rabbit out of the hat, created by the author when she needed one.

       So, however good a character Marge may be, I as reader simply don't believe in her. Again, the illusion is lost.

       How else can it be done?

       In the paper and pen days, this kind of mistake would have needed a rewrite. But perhaps the greatest boon of the computer age to writers is that we can insert, delete or move text anywhere.

       Let's go back to Chapter 2 of the police drama. There, Mark Matheson gets a phone call from his friend Darla, who had locked her keys in her car. "You cops are so good at opening car doors and things," she says.

       Mark turns up with his high-tech device, and opens the car in two seconds. He tells Darla to keep the tool a secret, because of course it's highly illegal.

       "How did you get a thing like this?"

       Mark tells the story, and perhaps this can be a flashback, added in as a complete, exciting chapter. A criminal organisation had kidnapped the beloved mother and sister of Mark's old school friend Nick, who is a weedy little blond fellow with washed out blue eyes that peer through thick glasses. He is an electronic genius, and the crims force him to make incredible tools for them. When he tries to resist, he can see them mistreating his women through a one-way glass screen. When he behaves, mother and sister are treated well.

       Of course, the baddies underestimate Nick, who manages to make a disguised cell phone, and talks to Mark. And when Mark leads the heroic rescue, Nick's thank you gift is the lock opener.

       The informant needs to be inserted in various places too.

       Similarly, in the romance, Jessica can tell us about her aunt Marge early in the book. She'll always refer to her as 'Auntie'. And, in other places, Tom can mention the kind neighbour lady who'd changed his life. Therefore, when Marge walks onto the stage, the only coincidence is that she is both the aunt and the neighbour -- far easier to believe than a newly created character.

       So, if you need a story element, go back to earlier parts and plant the seed. Water it well, give it occasional attention here and there so that the reader doesn't forget, and have it come to full bloom when you need it.

       This is much more believable than the magical rabbit out of the hat.


    Is Good Grammar Necessary?
    by Cheryl O'Brien

    There have been arguments throughout time about whether good writers need to be good at grammar too.

       Naturally good story tellers are not necessarily good at grammar. Though some people seem to be born story-tellers no one is born 'good at grammar'.

       Once upon a time publishers may have had enough editors to be able to go through manuscripts making corrections. However, like all good fairy tales that was long ago and once upon a time. These days publishers expect that writers can write effectively displaying good grammar skills. If you want your story to be published then you need to learn good grammar.

       If you are groaning and moaning about how difficult and complicated grammar seems to be, you can sigh a sigh of relief. There is help at hand. It is never too late, or too soon, to learn good grammar skills.

       Here are some websites you can visit that can help you learn better grammar and you can continue to visit these sites free of charge and teach yourself.

        An interactive Guide to writing effectively. Inspiration: Ideas and approaches to help you get started. Organization: Plans, outlines, and structure. Composition: Thesis, introduction, body, quotations, and conclusion. Revision: Tips for revision, word choice, avoiding passive voice, and avoiding bias. Presentation: Proofreading, formatting, and citing. http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/writing/Writing.htm

       Common Errors in English. Errors? Yes we all make them from time to time... there is a list here of the most common ones and some interesting about grammar errors http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/

        Daily Grammar. A grammar lesson a day to help you build your writing skills... check out the simple-to-understand glossary of grammar terms http://www.dailygrammar.com/

        Grammar Blue Book. Need to brush up on your grammar? Check out this site! http://www.grammarbook.com/

        Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch. Very down to earth suggestions on grammar... you wont find hard and fast rules... but a good commonsense guide to the grammar of modern English http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/

        Guide to Grammar and Writing. Sentence parts, paragraph structure, quizzes http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

        Indispensible Writing Resources: A Guide to Indispensable Writing Resources http://www.quintcareers.com/writing/

        Linguaphile. A monthly newsletter about writing, improving vocab, answering question and a lot more http://www.grammarandmore.com/edu/archive/issue9.htm

        Online Writing, Lab Purdue University. Writing Lab Handouts, materials, and resources for students and teachers. Resources for writing and doing research online. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/

        Punctuation made simple: apostrophe or full stop? comma or semi colon? Find out which is used when! http://chuma.cas.usf.edu/~olson/pms/

        The Alt.Usage.English. Have a wander through this site... get some ideas about those words and how they work best for you... http://www.alt-usage-english.org/

        The Electric Editors Resources. The resources on this page are used by those in the editing and proofreading business... very useful to all writers... http://www.electriceditors.net/resources/index.htm

        The Well Bred Sentence. Does your sentence structure conform with the genre you are writing in? Have you written only half a sentence? Find out... http://www.englishgrammartutor.com/Grammar%20Book.htm

       And one from our own Bob Brooke: Writing at Its Best. Whether you seek information on punctuation or American English usage, check out this site's Writer's Corner for printable advice. http://www.bobbrooke.com

       Cheryl O'Brien moderates an international literary networking group for writers, editors, publishers, and those interested in literature at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AustraliaTheWorldWordsmiths/ The purpose of this group is to provide useful resources and an interactive site where members from around the world can communicate on all relevant aspects of the literary and associated arts.


    Book Review

    Winter Mournings by Avie Townsend
    Reviewed by Selena Robinson

       Ms. Townsend’s debut novel will have you sighing, shedding a few tears, and even smiling, just like the classic love stories of all time. Winter Mournings is set in scenic Niagara Falls, but unlike the beautiful landscape of one of the seven wonders, the story is filled with sadness, but like the Falls, it is also filled with the beauty of life. As with all great romantic adventures, love does conquer the conflicts and challenges that have plagued Kathryn Miller and Tom Morgan. The poignant scenes are beautifully written and will have you rooting for Kathryn and Tom. Winter Mournings is a must read for lovers of romantic suspense, as Ms. Townsend delivers great characters and an intriguing plot that will leave you waiting, as I am, for the sequel.

       I edited this book for Avie, and agree that it is excellent characterization and a good plot.

       You can visit Avie Townsend at: http://www.avietownsend.com/


    Popular contest still open

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    A little plug

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