Bobbing Around

Volume Five, Number Four
December, 2005

Bob Rich's rave

bobswriting.com/  anxietyanddepression-help.com/  mudsmith.net/  other issues

 
*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe.
  guidelines for contributions
Politics
  An unpopular view...
  'Nuclear creep' by Kim Stewart
*Pakistani Rape Victim Gets Honor in U.S.
*Philosophy:
  'Intelligent design is a crock' by John Gorman
*Psychology
  Cheryl O' Brien defuses trauma
*For writers
  How long should a novel be?
*This may be of interest to you...
  Sustainable home consultant website
  Twilight Times Books offers a holiday special
  Crisis Mode by Michelle Larks: four stories about women in trouble
  Siamese Summers by Lea Tassie: a cat book with a difference
  Zephyr Unfolding by Nicole Kurtz: mayhem in space
  Carolyn Howard-Johnson's poetry book is featured by magazine
  She has also announced the winners of the 'Reach for the Stars' contest
The shirt pocket, right and wrong by Paul Harvey
*Reviews
  TWO reviews of Cancer: A personal challenge
  Dead Men Don't Leave Tips by Brandon Wilson
  Practical Straw Bale Building by Murray Hollis
  Sleeper, Awake reviewed by Gianfranco Cazzaro
  A brief history of Neoliberalism by David Harvey, reviewed by John Gorman
*Poetry
  It's Only a Memory by Cheryl O'Brien
  Waiting by Margaret Muir
*Always a FREE contest here

   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 different Christmas present

   Is your Christmas going to be a happy occasion? I hope so. I wish you all the best for the holiday season, whatever your religious views may be.

   Sadly, for many people this is the worst time of the year.

   Those who have lost someone, even years ago, will miss them all the more on special occasions like Christmas. And all too many people have lost loved ones in one way or another.

   People who don't see each other for months get together at obligatory Christmas gatherings, to find that old enmities are just as sharp as ever. Instead of peace and goodwill to all men, they have war and ill will for each other. And the customary alcohol only lubricates the problem. I have had clients with severe injuries sustained at Christmas parties.

   If your Christmas is sad, or full of nasty problems, I have a little present for you. Any subscriber to 'bobbing around' may contact me for one free session of email counselling between the 15th of December 2005 and 7th of January 2006.

Politics

An unpopular view
Nuclear creep by Kim Stewart

An unpopular view...

   Today, Friday 2nd December 2005, the Singaporean government executed a man who'd been caught with a great deal of heroin.

   For many weeks leading up to this day, all of Australia, and several other countries as well, have been strongly campaigning to stop this man's death. A very senior Australian Minister went to Singapore to plead with the authorities there, thousands have signed petitions, the British government has applied pressure on Singapore, and now there is talk in Australia of boycotting Singaporean goods and services in retaliation.

   The focus of all this activity was a 25-year-old man whose parents had escaped Vietnam as refugees, and settled in Australia.

   It is wonderful to see that thirty years of racial prejudice against Vietnamese has now sufficiently weakened, so that he was accepted by public opinion as Australian, and deserving the support and loyalty of other Australians of all kinds of backgrounds and persuasions.

   Also, there is no doubt that the death penalty is wrong. Killing by the State is no better than killing by a private individual. As a deterrent, it simply doesn't work. This is shown by thousands of research studies. Executing a criminal is barbarous.

   But then, attacking another country is even more barbarous. In a war, innocent people including children are killed. Survivors may be emotionally damaged for life.

   The Australian and British governments have both been party to the illegal and unprovoked invasion of Iraq. If they deplore the killing of one person, how can they bear the guilt of having caused the death of many thousands, including their own soldiers?

   Imprisoning innocent people, or even possibly guilty people whose case is being investigated, is also evil. And yet, the Australian Minister who raced off to Singapore was the person in charge of Immigration for years, and responsible for the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, in conditions that are against international law. There are worse things than death. Some of these detainees, already traumatised in their countries of origin, may spend a lifetime in severe emotional distress because of the treatment Australia meted out to them when they asked for somewhere to live without being in daily danger.

   I don't like the death penalty, and agree that it should be abolished everywhere. It one of a class of actions that should not be done anywhere, by anyone. However, I am equally angry at the heroin trade.

   In my work as a psychologist, I have seen the immense harm done by this drug. It wrecks lives. I have had young clients who have committed crimes, caused immense distress to their friends and relatives, suffered themselves in various ways, because of heroin. One of my clients committed suicide some years after having given up heroin, because the craving never left him. Another had tried to go 'cold turkey', and during the throes of withdrawal, jumped out a window. Now, she has to spend the rest of her life a paraplegic, imprisoned in a wheelchair. I often work with the victims of robberies and other vicious crimes, perpetrated by people who were willing to do anything to get the money for their next shot. I have worked with the children of addicts, unfortunate victims of the people who make money from the heroin trade.

   I don't want to see anyone executed, for any crime. But if anyone deserves that fate, a drug trafficker is an excellent candidate. He went to Singapore with heroin in his possession. The Singaporean government has not kept its policies secret -- he had to have known that he was risking death if caught. I am sorry he was killed. I am not sorry that there is one less heroin pusher.

Do you disagree? I will print any responses without censoring them.


Nuclear Creep
by Kim Stewart

This essay is specifically about Australia -- but it applies to all the world.

Howard's nuclearisation of Australia and the fraudulent claims to sustainability

   With firm control of the Senate, the Howard government is set to bring in many unpopular changes that do not augur well for the future social and environmental sustainability of our country. One of these is the gradual 'nuclearisation' of the military and industry, in line with increased trade with the pronuclear United States, who currently buys almost half of the uranium mined in Australia.

   This nuclearisation is making itself felt in many sectors: mining, power provision, military, and even in the irradiation of food, sometimes done with the full approval of the opposition at state and federal levels. Current claims to cure climate change with nuclear power as the sustainable option are fallacious and dangerous for long term sustainability.

What is sustainability?

   The much quoted Brundtland Report (1987) defines sustainability as: "Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." For my purposes, sustainability needs to meet Brundtland's criterion through the five fingers of sustainability: environmental, economic, political, social and technological. The nuclear power industry fails them all.

Can nuclear power be sustainable?

   The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world's nuclear regulator, produce a leaflet Nuclear Power and Sustainable Development where they outline the arguments that are now familiar as those being voiced by the Federal government. That publication continues the now familiar myth that nuclear power can be environmentally beneficial. But can we really trust an organisation dedicated to selling non-weapons uses of nuclear to give an unbiased analysis?

   Environmental: While it is true that the actual power-generating part of the process is clean in that it produces no carbon dioxide emissions, the supply and disposal chain for that power is not. Nuclear power is not produced in a vacuum. It requires an extensive infrastructure including the mining industry, uranium enrichment industry, transport industry, security industry and a disposal process for the waste using massive amounts of fossil fuels. Less than one-third of the world's CO2 emissions are generated by power stations, so dealing only with power station emission will not solve our emissions problems. Add to that the risks inherent in the waste disposal, and all you have done is heap another environmental disaster upon future generations.

   The mining of uranium to provision a nuclear power industry is itself fraught with environmental problems. Currently Roxby Downs uranium mine uses 30 million litres of water a day in uranium processing, taking enourmous amounts of water out of a very dry environment, contaminating it, and leaving it radioactive in open tailings ponds.

   Economic: Economically nuclear power has never made sense. Even though Australia has the world's largest deposits of uranium, turning it into power will require huge subsidies. The US nuclear industry would not exist without them. In addition, experts estimate that our high grade uranium deposits will only last 40 years. Low grade ore will inevitably have to be used. This creates more pollution (CO2 and CFCs to process), and costs more. The short term gains we might make in mining and selling our uranium will soon dry out, leaving us with a huge mess of waste dissappated across the tailings dams, defunct power plants and waste dumps it leaves behind. Such a mess needs to be monitored and guarded for hundreds of years at enormous cost to future generations.

   Political: Politically, the nuclear option might look very feasible to our government. Federal Minister for Science, Brendan Nelson, says Australia will start using nuclear power within the next 50 years. However, governments' decisions lead to changes in voting patterns and in recent years the Greens are making considerable ground, possibly because of the current government's lack of environmental vision.

   Social: Pouring money into a venture like nuclear power is bound to require decreased spending in other areas. The social costs of depriving health, education and social services of more funds on top of the decreased funding already experienced under ten years of a Howard government can only be detrimental to the security of Australian society. That old furphy from the fifties, "Power too cheap to meter" has made a come-back in some pro-nuclear quarters, despite facts to the contrary. In 2004 the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Civil Engineers (RAE) put out a paper on electricity prices suggesting that new nuclear plants could produce power far more cheaply than even coal. But, tellingly, the RAE has also told the government that it must create a market for nuclear by ensuring the "long-term stability of electricity prices." This is shorthand for the nuclear industry's real agenda: a new system of subsidies to ensure it is never again exposed to the chill winds of a free market. The industry even has a name for it: the Security of Supply Obligation. (Leake & Box 2005).

   Technological: Decommissioning nuclear power plants (NPPs), which have an average life of about 40 years, is an expensive business too. The UK is currently decomissiong plants built in the 60s and 70s -- estimated at 56 billion pounds and taking as long as 125 years. To exacerbate this problem, the only 'in perpetuity' storage site in the UK is in danger of flood from climate change in the next 500 years (BBC 2005).

   If you're still not convinced that nuclear power is a bad idea, take heed of the words of Mark Lesinski, an engineer given the unenviable job of securing the site of the closed Hinkley A nuclear power station, in Somerset, England. Hinkley A, like hundreds of NPPs due for decommissioning worldwide, is expected to remain a dangerous site for millions of years, long after you and I, and our children and our children's children's children, are dead. He says, "I'll probably have to go and put a message to future generations inside one of the reactor buildings before we seal them up." He hasn't thought about what that sign might say to generations yet to come, but one of his colleagues has: "If you've got a problem, don't phone me." (Meek 2005).

Kim Stewart is an environmental and media activist working on climate change and nuclear issues with Friends of the Earth Brisbane, Food Irradiation Watch and for independent media. She also produces radio news for 4ZzZ 102.1fm.
www.climateimc.org
www.foodirradiationwatch.org
www.brisbane.foe.org.au
www.4zzzfm.org.au


Pakistani Rape Victim Gets Honor in U.S.

This is an AAP press release, written by Dino Hazell.

   A Pakistani activist who was gang-raped at the orders of a tribal council was honored by Glamour Magazine as Woman of the Year for her fight against oppression in her homeland. Mukhtar Mai braved social stigma by going public with her 2002 assault, and used the international attention she attracted to set up a girls' school in her rural community.

   "This award is a victory for poor women; it's a victory for all women," Mai said at the Wednesday night Lincoln Center ceremony after actress Brooke Shields presented her award.

   She said her motto is: "End oppression with education."

   Mia, 36, said she plans to donate $5,000 of her $20,000 prize to victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed more than 70,000 people in Pakistan. The rest of the money will help her establish schools and a women's crisis center.

   Mai already has set up a school for girls. She said she considers schooling equally important for boys, because they must learn that under Islam, and under the law, women have the same rights to be left alone as they do.

   Mai was ordered raped in 2002 by a council of elders in Meerwala, her home village in eastern Punjab province, as punishment for her 13-year-old brother's alleged affair with a woman from a higher caste. Mai and her family say the boy had been sexually assaulted by members of the woman's family.

   In Pakistan, using rape to restore a family's honor is commonplace. The victim often kills herself in shame.

   But Mai's outcry drew international attention and landed her alleged attackers in the national courts of Pakistan.

   A trial court in 2002 sentenced six men to death and acquitted eight others in Mai's rape. In March, the High Court in Punjab province acquitted five of the men and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison.

   After an emotional appeal by Mai, the acquittals were overturned in June and the 13 men who had been released were arrested again. They remain in jail while Pakistan's Supreme Court considers the case.

   Past winners of the Woman of the Year award include U.S. Sen.Hillary Clinton.


Intelligent design is a crock

by John Gorman

   While the current debate over Intelligent Design has largely been framed in terms of comparing this hypothesis with Evolution, there is another way of looking at this question from the standpoint of the philosopher, rather than that of the scientist looking for empirical evidence in support of his views. Intelligent Design can be examined, as it was in the days before modern science, as a concept in itself, asking whether it makes sense from a logical standpoint irrespective of the latest laboratory findings.

   Here, as in most areas, a little history will help a great deal. Intelligent Design, known in philosophy as the Teleological Argument, which sees the universe as purposeful, first appears in Plato and Aristotle as evidence for the existence of "an all-governing mind." With the coming of the Dark Ages in the West, faith supplanted reason, and these cogitations seemed unnecessary, if not dangerous. About 1000 years ago, however, when Aristotle with his emphasis on reason supported by observation resurfaced in the West, churchmen became very much interested in finding a rational proof for the existence of God independent of any religious belief. If the very existence of the deity was a matter of faith and could not be established by reason alone, they concluded, then all religions were equally uncertain. In other words, if I cannot know that God exists, why should I believe anything that anyone tells me about Him? One fantasy is as good as another.

   The Scholastics, of course, knew nothing of Evolution as an explanation for the complexity of the world and still accepted the Biblical account of Creation. To them, the psalmist's view that, "The heavens are proclaiming the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork," seemed self-evident. The universe is rational, and that rationality proclaims the existence of a mind, i.e. God.

   "We see," St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of these philosophers, wrote, "that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end not fortuitously but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed toward their end; and this being we call God." Awkward questions about how such an imperfect universe could point unerringly to a perfect designer were shunted aside by invoking the doctrine of Original Sin, which proclaimed that the universe had indeed been perfect before the misdeed of our First Parents interfered with God's design and threw everything out of kilter.

   It took a while, actually five centuries, for the weaknesses of this argument to become apparent, when Eighteenth Century Scottish philosopher David Hume took this thesis under his empirical microscope and found it wanting. Unconcerned with Original Sin, Hume noted that an imperfect design could point only to an imperfect designer, perhaps the neo-platonic demiurge or some similar being, but certainly not to the omnipotent, benevolent God of Christianity. Even if we postulate another designer above the designer of the universe, we still must ask how an imperfect product can reveal a perfect maker.

   Hume had not finished with this argument, however. When we claim the universe to be the product of a design, he asks, with what are we comparing it? Unlike other material objects such as ships, or wagons, some of which are clearly well designed, others badly, we have experience with only one universe and have nothing to compare it with. How then could we recognize another universe that was not designed at all but was the product of pure, eternal chance? How can we know our universe is not such a product?

   A generation later, the German thinker Emmanuel Kant opened fire from a different position with equally devastating effect, noting that the Teleological Argument depended on causality, the idea that every effect must have an adequate cause to explain it. Causality, however, turns out to be a fundamental principle, not of the universe, but of the human mind. It is our way of ordering the world, making sense of experience. That this concept is so useful, however, does not constitute evidence for its existence anywhere outside of our heads. Many concepts like "feet," "yards," "minutes" or "degrees" are also very useful, but no one imagines they have an objective existence in the extra-mental world. Put more plainly, we have no way of knowing whether the order or design we perceive in the universe is in fact "out there" or just "in here," since the mind is inherently unable to step outside itself to judge its own fundamental workings.

   Going farther down the path of Intelligent Design, we confront a sphinx that lies in wait to devour unwary travelers who cannot answer her riddle: the Problem of Evil, or, as it is sometimes known, the "Undesign Argument." Theologians have long distinguished between natural evils caused by the ordinary workings of nature, and human evils caused by the sins of human beings. Unlike conventional theology, however, Intelligent Design requires a moral explanation for both of these. If we are to get beyond the primitive notion of natural evils as the punishment of God for our sins, we must ask how an Intelligent Design can allow for tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues, fires and other disasters so destructive of human and animal life, not to mention the diseases and disabilities that torment so many of us? Is the design that allows such miseries truly intelligent or, on the contrary, stupid or even cruel? On an ethical level, what are we to think of a being whose Intelligent Design leaves room for holocausts and genocides? Are all these evils part of some unknowable Grand Plan in which we are to have blind faith? If the design is truly intelligent, should it not also be intelligible? If this design is unintelligible to us, what assurance do we have that it is intelligible at all?

   Looked at from this perspective, debates between advocates of Evolution and supporters of Intelligent Design are wrongheaded and fruitless. Intelligent Design needs to be weighed on its own merits in the Hall of Philosophy. On these scales, Intelligent Design can be "weighed, weighed and found wanting."

John Gorman is a freelance journalist based in Florida, and the author of King of the Romans. He is a frequent contributor to 'bobbing around'.

   Responses to John's essay are welcome. I might write one myself. :)


Psychology

Cheryl O'Brien defuses trauma

Cheryl has counted: this is her 9th contribution to 'bobbing around'. This wonderful lady has had far more than her share of suffering, so her words on dealing with trauma are wisdom indeed.

   Her poem in this issue is an exploration of the same theme.

   About a month ago I read a sentence in a little book. The book is an accompaniment to a deck of fortune reading cards which I use on a daily basis. They are the "Universal Love" cards and I find them positive and encouraging. The deck was created by and the book written by Toni Carmine Salerno.

   The sentence that really affected me was for the "Reflection" card:

   "OUR EXPERIENCES BECOME A MEMORY."

   This shifted something inside me. Our experiences are no longer experiences. Our experiences are a memory. No longer do I re-experience all the horrid things I have experienced in my life. No longer can I experience them for they are only a memory. Something I reemember, but no longer an experience.

   Maybe I am a bit daft or something but it had not really occurred to me before that you can only experience an experience once. Each incident in my life is just that, one incident and as soon as it is finished it is no longer an experience, it is a memory.

   Memories can make me feel afraid, uncomfortable, or even angry but they can not touch me. I am safe from memories. Experiences can and do touch me, then the experience comes to an end and it becomes a memory. A memory can't touch me.

   And, what's more I can choose which memories to pay heed to and which ones to let drift like autumn leaves on the wind.

   When I was little and was burned on the family stove by accident, the memory of that burn made me more cautious, but I don't have to dwell on the pain of the burn, as a matter of fact I don't even remember what the pain felt like. But, I can learn from it and move on and use the information painfully learnt and apply it in other situations like when using an iron or a heater.

   Other experiences of my early life were not so easily dealt with. I felt like I was reliving or re-experiencing them over and over. I never saw the parallel between the burning experience and other experiences. (Okay so maybe I am daft!)

   Now I see that I can do with each and every experience what I did with the burning incident. I can remember it and the lessons learnt with it and then let it go. If the memory is recurring too intensely I can imagine it as autumn leaves that are drifting on the wind and let it go. After all they are only memories.

   The only experience I have right now is the one I have right now, writing this message. Everything before it is only a memory.

   I feel my life is enriched, livened, and awakened just having turned that corner. Everything is better.

By Cheryl O'Brien


How long should a novel be?

   I belong to many email lists for writers. By coincidence, two of them have had recent discussions about the desirable length of a novel, how to determine it, and whether there is a market for longer stories.
 

   A work of fiction should contain as many words as takes to tell the story -- and not one word more. Whether this is 500 words or 250,000 depends on what needs to be told.

   Suppose I remove something: an entire subplot, a character, a scene, a paragraph, a sentence, even a word: does it leave a hole?

   Every word must have a job to do, must be there for some purpose. This can be subtle, for example allowing the language to match the mood of the story, and therefore amplify it.

   Consider 'Joyfully, she descended the staircase.' It is not all that joyful.

   'Her skipping feet pattered from stair to stair in a dancing descent' expresses the mood much better. Or, if that is too baroque for the particular story, you might use another device. All the same, 11 words have replaced 5, and they are working for you, doing a job. Cutting back to the shorter version would lose something.

   Words are needed for many other tasks. Here are a few examples:

  • World building is essential, even for a contemporary story in a well-known place and culture. Your book might be set in my home town, describing scenery familiar to me, but there are still elements that are new -- otherwise it wouldn't be fiction, would it?
  • Physical description of people and places sets the scene for action. You must not have your characters in a vacuum. One example of poor writing is 'word ping-pong': dialogue that goes on and on with nothing reported but the words of the speakers. As for all repetition, this very soon becomes boring. It needs to be broken up, and sensory details perceived by the current witness to the scene are ideal for this job. These can be thoughts including reactions to what is being said, bodily sensations, and observations of the physical appearance of things and people.
  • Each character in your story is a unique individual. They must all think and speak differently. Some will be terse and concise, others roundabout and verbose. The extra words from within the point of view of a loquacious grandmother are not wasted, but rather bring her to life. However, the same expressions used by her brusque granddaughter would be inappropriate.
  • The examples so far have been at the micro level. We also need to consider whether scenes, characters and entire subplots are necessary. For example, one very effective use of one-appearance-only extras is to show a main character in a new light without having to give an author lecture. Do this once or at the most twice in a book, and it can work very well. Do it more often, and the trick becomes obvious, and therefore harmful.
  • The role of subplots is to introduce additional interest and tension. Subplots must be essential to the unfolding of the main story line, instead of independent stories put in there as padding. As I said, the criterion is, 'if this subplot were removed, would a new reader notice that something is lacking?'
     

       One of my standard revisions is to go through my draft and see if I can cut words. My aim is to reduce word count by about 10%, and this is despite the fact that even my first draft is tight. I recommend cutting about 25% for some of my clients. This kind of revision results in the removal of many instances of 'that', 'was', 'he said' and the like, and yields far more powerful prose.

       Finally, there are commercial considerations. If your book is going to be in electronic format, the more words, the larger the file size. People might baulk at downloading a 5 Mb book. If it is to be on paper, large size is even more damaging. Paper is now nearly three quarters of the cost of producing a book. A larger book means more cost.


    This may be of interest to you...

    Sustainable home consultant website
    Twilight Times Books offers a holiday special
    Crisis Mode by Michelle Larks: four stories about women in trouble
    Siamese Summers by Lea Tassie: a cat book with a difference
    Zephyr Unfolding by Nicole Kurtz: mayhem in space
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson's poetry book is featured by magazine
    She has also announced the winners of the Reach for the Stars contest

    Sustainable home consultant website

       If you would like some professional advice on incorporating energy efficiency, water saving, rainwater harvesting or greywater recycling into your new house or renovation, contact Ecological Design at http://www.ecologicaldesign.com.au. We have practical experience backed by theoretical understanding of sustainable design principles. We charge for our consulting services but we aren't associated with any product so our advice is independent. Go to the website or email jcaley@hotkey.net.au.


    Twilight Times Books offers a holiday special

       Consider buying books as holiday gifts. We have great reading for each member of the family. Check out our recommendations. http://twilighttimesbooks.com/News.html#gifts.

       Buy any combination of print books, ebooks and/or magazines with a retail value of $15.00 or more and receive a copy of "Monkey Trap" for $5.00 in paperback, (retail value $19.50) or the ebook version (retail value $6.50), or any two ebooks of your choice free. Free shipping on your purchases during this holiday special. Offer begins November 24th and ends January 10, 2006.

       Place an order for your books or magazines and then send an email notification to publisher@twilighttimesbooks.com for your copy of "Monkey Trap" -or- your free ebooks.

    Lida E. Quillen, Publisher
    Twilight Times Books
    http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/


    Four stories about women in trouble

       In her new book of short stories, Crisis Mode, Michelle Larks delves into the lives of four different women, each struggling to overcome a traumatic situation.

       In the first story, "What's A Woman To Do?" Rita Atkins becomes part of the vicious cycle of life in housing projects. Raised to rely on welfare by her mother and grandmother, Rita eventually realizes she wants better for herself and her three children. She enrolls in trade school and life begins to look promising -- until she finds herself pregnant again.

       "Family Secrets" tells the story of Jeanine Myers, a woman stuck in an abusive marital relationship. Her husband, in a drunken tirade, delivers a near fatal blow to their child, she succumbs to severe depression nearly taking her own life. With the help of family and friends, she learns to deal with her tragedy.

       "Letting Go" begins three days before Desiree Cooper's wedding. She finds evidence of that her fiancé Andre has been unfaithful and reacts explosively, feeling rage not only at Andre but also at a lifetime of unresolved issues with her mother. Before she can walk down the aisle, she must deal with Andre's alleged infidelity, and her own troubled past.

       In "Family Meetings," a family's beloved matriarch is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. With this devastating turn of events, the family members must put aside their differences and learn to come together as one to care for their mother.

       "Packed with edgy wit and heartbreaking emotion, each story touches on problems faced by today's society. Although the stories represent common problems, Larks' unique style grabs reader's attention and explores the vulnerability and strength in each of these women."

    http://www.michellelarks.com/.


    A cat book with a difference

       Lea Tassie announces the release of her fifth novel, SIAMESE SUMMERS, from Felinity Press in trade paperback.

       George the Magnificent, the tabby-Siamese star of Cats in Clover, still rules over a small farm on Adriana Island. His slaves, Ben and Holly, have been whipped into shape but he has to start all over again when a mere kitten moves in. Kaylie, a purebred Siamese, aims to be Queen of Holly Haven and can hardly wait until she grows up enough to knock George off his throne. Ben and Holly are distracted by another arrival, Holly's mother-in-law. Ben wants to take good care of his mother, but she shocks him with her new independence and modern ideas about how to live her life. Meanwhile, Holly discovers skulduggery as ambitious land developers move onto Adriana and, already expert in feline politics, realizes she must take action to help save the way of life she's come to love.

       "One of the most delightful cat books I've ever read, even better than Cats in Clover. You'll want to stay on Adriana Island forever with Ben and Holly and their four-footed friends." (Sharon King-Booker, author of 15 Dark and Twisted Tales and Slaybells Ring).

       For more information visit http//www.leatassie.com/siamese.html


    Zephyr Unfolding

    by Nicole Kurtz

       "ZEPHYR UNFOLDING has action, adventure, romance…As good as any episode of "Alias" and as well-written as Tom Clancy or Larry Bond." -- Round Table Reviews

       The Resistance cause is one that Second-in-Command Ren has fought for most of his adult life. But when a surprise attack results in Angel's abduction and threatens his rank, he is relieved and somewhat dismayed that he isn't demoted. Instead he is given a new assignment: meet with the mayor of Zephyr and convince him to join the Resistance. Once Ren reaches Zephyr things aren't what they seem.

       Before long he finds himself imprisoned onboard a United World Council ship for an assassination he did not commit. Scheduled to die in three days, Ren's crew must put their lives, their morals and their vows on the line to save him.

       Zephyr Unfolding is the sequel to EPPIE and DREAM REALM Finalist in Science Fiction, Browne Candidate. It's available from Double Dragon Ebooks and from Amazon, BN.com and Books-a-Million as well as other online bookstores. Read the first chapter for free at http://www.zephyrunfolding.com.


    Carolyn Howard-Johnson in Speechless the Magazine

       Suzanne Lummis, editor of Speechless the Magazine has featured Carolyn Howard-Johnson's new chapbook of poetry, Tracings, in her pages, "Small Festival of Short Books."

       Selected were Howard-Johnson's poems " A Reel Left Running," "An Apparition" and "Perfectly Flawed." They can be read at http://www.speechlessthemagazine.org/chapbooks.htm#Carolyn_Howard-Johnson.

       The magazine's motto is the definition of speechless, "…to render, be rendered Awestruck. Awesome. A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A." The publisher is Mifanwy Kaiser and it is edited by famed UCLA Writers' Program instructor and poet Suzanne Lummis. The assistant editor is liz gonzález , managing editor Larry Colker and contributing editor is Charlotte Innes. The URL for this online celebration is www.speechlessthemagazine.org.

       Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poetry has appeared in literary journals like the Mochila Review, Banyan Review, Poetic Voices won a readers' award at The Pedestal Magazine. Her first novel, THIS IS THE PLACE, has won eight awards. Her book of creative nonfiction has won three. She is a columnist for Home Décor Buyer as well as several online sites and reviews books, movies and theater as well. She is an extension division instructor for UCLA’s Writers’ Program and her book THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON’T won USA Book News Best Professional Book of 2004. She was also honored by members of the California Legislature at Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment..

       Learn more about Carolyn Howard-Johnson at http://carolynhowardjohnson.com.
    Tracings is published by Finishing Line Press.


    Reach for the Stars contest winners announced

       Carolyn Howard-Johnson, the author of USA Book News' Best Professional Book 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and Kristie Leigh Maguire, author and publisher of Star Publish, named 13 authors the winners of their "Reach for the Stars" competition.

       "Reach for the Stars Best Frugal Promoter Contest" was designed to keep giving. The winners' contributions will be published in an e-book to be given at no charge to other authors searching for ways to bring their titles before the public. It will be released in early 2006 and made available on the Star Publish site, http://starpublish.com.

       Winners are Cheryl Wright, Editor of Author2Author.com, grand prize winner;
       Maryanne Raphael, author of MOTHER TERESA, CALLED TO LOVE, First Place Winner; Beverly J. Scott, author of JENAS CHOICE, Second place winner; Michael J. Wallach, author of HOW TO GET ARRESTED, Third Place Winner; and T.C. McMullen author of THE MANIPULATED EVIL TRILOGY, and Larry Pontius, author of WAKING WALT, both Honorable Mentions.

       Runners up include Hugh Rosen, Edward Lee Goldstein, Carol White, Myrna Lou Goldbaum. Karen Mueller Bryson, Abel. G. Pena and Donna D'Amore.

       In addition to having their ideas published, winners were given an assortment of prizes including books on writing and promotion authored by Joyce Faulkner, Shel Horowitz, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Peggi Ridgway, and Francine Silverman.

       The contest judges will were Maguire, Howard-Johnson, and Irwin Zucker, founder of Book Publicists of Southern California and President of Promotion in Motion.

    Learn more at: http://starpublish.com/Contest.htm.


    The shirt pocket, right and wrong

    by Paul Harvey

    Hi Bob!

       Just to let you know how much I enjoy getting your bobbing aroudn. I don't agree with everything you include but hey, that's OK. Its all thought provoking and interesting.

       I get fun from your little ergonomic articles. do you accept contributions to that, or do you write them all yourself?

       In case you do accept stuff from others, here are my feelings about the common or garden variety shirt pocket.

       I always use the right pocket of my shirt to put my glasses case in. The left one is for a pen. Regardless of the shirt, this is fine in summer when the shirt is the outer layer. But winter is here, and the shirt is now well buried, at least under a sweater, and maybe several other layers as well.

       There are two species of shirt pocket: those the way God designed them, just a flap of material sewn on along the bottom and two sides.

       Then there is the other kind, where the fashion designers got their hand in. For some reason I just cannot understand, they insist on putting an extra flap on top, like the lid of an envelope.

       So, if I accidentally find myself in a shirt with such a device, you can imagine me, scrambling around under two or three layers, trying vainly to put the pen or glasses case back where they belong after use. What should be a one-hand job becomes one for at least two hands!

       Just thought you migth want to know this,

    Paul.

    Paul only wants me to state that he has been subscribing to 'bobbing around' for a couple of years.


    Reviews

    Cancer: A personal challenge
    Reviewed by Paula Bentley in Ipnosis magazine
    and by Nowick Gray in Alternative Culture Magazine
    Dead Men Don't Leave Tips by Brandon Wilson
    Practical Straw Bale Building by Murray Hollis
    Sleeper, Awake reviewed by Gianfranco Cazzaro
    A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey, reviewed by John Gorman

    Cancer: A personal challenge

    by Paula Bentley

    Paula Bentley is Assitant Editor of the British psychotherapy magazine Ipnosis. When you read her review, you'll see that I somehow pushed her buttons, so much so that (in my opinion) she entirely misread the intent of the story that starts the book. All the same, she ended up enthusiastic...

       I approached this book with some very strong (entrenched?) opinions about attitudes to battling with cancer based on my own experiences of losing a close member of my family to pancreatic cancer. Any mention of things such as the importance of a positive attitude are always met by my mental bookmark of "yes that's all very well, but some people don't have any time to develop a positive attitude. There is no time to fight any battles".

       Take for example this quote from chapter one:

       A friend of the cancer sufferer suggesting that perhaps his relapse had occurred because '[he] felt disgusted and ashamed of himself and that was why the cancer came back'. She also regaled him with the story of a cancer survivor who had said that when he was told he had only 6 months to live he decided to make them the best 6 months of his life and he thought that was why the cancer had left him. "

       And this one from chapter two: "The most important step on your road to recovery on this Cancer Journey has to be a Positive Mental Attitude, Make up your mind that you can beat it, and you will. Add to this outlook the support from family and friends, Doctors and Support Groups, and you will win."

       This kind of thinking can be inspiring, of course, but it can also be upsetting to someone whose cancer has not left them, or to people close to someone who did lose the battle to cancer. It suggests that the cancer won because they had too much shame, or that they did not live out their last months in the right way, or that one's attitude or relations have let one down. It says, in short, "it's your own fault that you have cancer."

       The fact of the matter is that some cancers are too virulent or aggressive for anyone to fight. As Reznik points out in chapter 5, "Survival rates vary by primary sites from less than 3% for cancer of the pancreas to more than 90% for cancer of the thyroid."

       That said, I found that this book improved after a shaky start, as it began to examine cancer from a broader perspective. Cancer is placed within the context of the environmental impact of the industrialised Western world, and its effects on those of us living in it.

       The science of cancer and how it develops pricked the interest of the scientist in me, particularly in terms of the improvements (or lack of them!) in the treatment of the disease in the last 40 years.

       The contributors to Cancer: A personal challenge come from around the Western world and I found this a very interesting perspective. The book underlined the value of having an approach of working with the patient in their fight against this disease rather than focussing on what can be done to the cancer. This is perhaps established practice in the different health systems available in other countries, but here in the UK, I have found it more of an attitude of 'done to' rather than 'done with'. I appreciate that this may vary depending on where you live, but the experiences this year of several members of my extended family (who all live in very disparate areas of Britain) suggest that this is still very much the case. Perhaps this book should be required reading for all trainee doctors (and not just oncologists!)

       Moving through the chapters on the causes of cancer and how it develops, I came to the personal testimonies of people living with cancer, and this was the highlight of the book for me. The humour and sheer bloody-mindedness of these survivors was inspiring, but I must confess that the story that touched me the most was written by a woman caring for her dying husband. This was a remarkable family coping under enormous pressure and I found her story really humbling.

       The final section offers 'tools' to help not only those who are 'facing the dragon' but to all who are trying to cope with the stresses of modern society. There is much useful advice in this part of the book for therapists who may be working with patients or those around them. Carl Stonier's chapter on the use of imagery, Bob Rich's on psychological pain management, and Paul Bedson's on meditation offer valuable insights into possible preventive aids for people who are free of cancer, and not just as a help or possible treatment to current sufferers.

       The editor, whose fictional story in chapter one had been partially responsible for my consternation, more than won me round in his final chapter 'Why?' where he outlines his philosophy of life as "working toward a sane society that does not poison its population, that is not ruled by profit, but by the greatest benefit to the largest number." That does it for me!

       A book with the title Cancer - A Personal Challenge was always going to have a huge hurdle to overcome with this reader, and it is a testament to this collection that I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone, whether facing very specific battles or just trying to live in a consumerist society on this ailing planet.


    by Nowick Gray

    Alternative Culture Magazine. From 1980-2002 he homesteaded in interior BC, Canada, exploring many facets of alternative culture: wilderness, sustainable economy, health, politics, relationship, cooperative living, music, writing, and spirituality. Nowick now lives in Victoria, BC, where he edits, reviews, and plays African drums.

       Bob Rich has assembled a comprehensive and readable collection of personal stories and informative articles that should guide anyone in becoming acquainted with cancer and its conventional and alternative therapies. The book is well balanced in its approach: no-nonsense scientific descriptions of the medical conditions; heartfelt narratives of personal journeys with disease (involving acceptance, recovery and support); and insightful portrayals of alternative healing methods. Chief among these are various forms of meditation and visualization, with proven effects in reducing the threat or impact of cancer. All in all this book is a powerful testament to the power of mind over body, convincing both scientifically and spiritually.


    Dead Men Don't Leave Tips
    by Brandon Wilson

       I've read travel stories by Brandon Wilson before, so knew I'd be entertained, amused and instructed. His story of a crossing of Africa did not disappoint me.

       Leaving domesticity in Hawaii, Brandon and his brand new wife Cheryl joined what proved to be the do it yourself safari from hell. From the hot dry hell of the Sahara to the humid hell of the jungle, through starving villages and squalid cities, we follow a picturesque group of pilgrims. Brandon's writing makes the reader feel the heat, the discomfort and even despair, while giving one laugh after another. Living it was difficult. Reading about it isn't. If I wrote about the travails of camping beside a swamp infested with malaria-bearing mosquitoes, I might bring tears to your eyes, and have you grit your teeth. Brandon gives you a belly laugh instead.

       Not that it was all misery. It is clear that Brandon and Cheryl felt well rewarded for their endurance. His passages about wildlife, scenery and friendly people sometimes approach the poetic.

       Like all good writing, this book does a lot more than entertain. One would expect to learn about Africa -- its people, animals, landscape -- from a travel book, but, without lecturing Brandon gets us to see social conditions; the gap between rich and poor, urban and starving. Racially, he is colourblind, with respect for all people, while sometimes justly indignant about cruel or exploitative behaviour.

       The language is always lively and entertaining, clear and lucid with amusing little word-paintings: 'a Swiss cheese swatch of dirt road;' 'we were finally waved on our way -- and after only four hours;' and 'It was a sleepy place -- so quiet you could almost hear trouble simmering.'

       Brandon is a writer with the eye of an artist, a basic decency and social conscience that in another book made him the champion of the suppressed Tibetan people. He has the humour of a cartoonist and the old fashioned ability to tell a good story. I strongly recommend this one to you.


    Practical Straw Bale Building
    by Murray Hollis

       When I first got interested in strawbale, the only books available were American, and therefore expensive in Australia. There has been a recent blooming of Australian publications, each with excellent features, and this reflects the growth of interest in this technique.

       Practical Straw Bale Building is a wonderful addition to the Strawbale library. This is for several reasons.

       First, it is published by CSIRO, and with luck will take the same place as Middleton's Build Your House of Earth did for earth wall construction: convincing Authority that the technique is valid because it has the implied support of a government-funded research agency.

       Second, like Middleton, Hollis uses simple, easy to understand language. Without oversimplifying, he manages to explain issues in a language any person will understand. There were only one or two paragraphs I felt the need to read more than once, and these included mathematical calculations.

       All other Australian publications, including the strawbale chapter by John Glassford in the fourth edition of my Earth Garden Building Book, are aimed at the amateur, the owner-builder. Hollis is just as interested in supplying the tradesman with enough information to incorporate strawbale building into his or her repertoire, and in devising techniques to make the material more attractive to professional builders.

       Hollis describes the standard wisdom about strawbale building; I could not fault any of his information. What he states is exactly what I have gleaned from other sources. However, he goes beyond established knowledge, and presents a number of novel techniques that are obvious improvements. For example, he has developed a simple process for assembling and pre-tensioning a wall horizontally, and then tilting it in place. His reasoning clearly demonstrates the advantages of this method over the usual in situ construction.

       Practical Straw Bale Building is clearly illustrated with useful photographs and diagrams. Perhaps the one way I'd have liked to see it improved would be for some personal stories, inspiring anecdotes, some human element. This, however, is only my personal preference. This book is a 'must buy' for anyone with the slightest interest in building with alternative materials. And, in a greenhouse-affected world, that should be everyone interested in building.


    Sleeper, Awake
    Reviewed by Gianfranco Cazzaro

       Flora Fielding is a famous actress. Struck by breast cancer when at the top of her career, she invests all riches in cancer research and goes to sleep, hibernated until a cure discovery.

       When she re-open her eyes, not 10 nor 20 years have passed, but almost 1500.

       And the world is very different: the population is limited to one million people; resources (under the control of Artif, omnipresent artificial intelligence) are abundant for all; everyone can visit everyone else thanks to a "brain implant"; women have the right to choose the father for every newborn; men must show their worth overcoming risky and sometimes deadly challenges…

       Flora discovers herself being a pawn in a power game. And yet, many people will offer friendship and affection, struggling to help her conquer her illness.

       And Flora will discover that her past life has gifted her with useful experiences, and that a new life may spring in unpredictable ways.
     

       "Sleeper, Awake" is a beautiful story, winner of EPPIE 2001 Award for Science Fiction. The characters are depicted with effective psychological strokes. Even those who in the beginning aren't too likeable, little by little show their true self and become more real and also more acceptable.

       The chapters are divided in parts told by the viewpoint of a different person. This viewpoint may be multiple, too, because each person can send several self-images and become engaged in activities and conversations at the same time in different places.

       The settings are interesting and charming. The "reconstructed" evolution of Earth's surface, of submerged cities and newly appearing grounds, of sea currents and volcanoes… shows a very impressive amount of research. Also interesting and instructive are the examples of psychological counseling: through the words and eyes of Flora or Mirabelle seems almost to look at… Dr. Rich in action!

       The future society resembles an utopian vision -- an otherwhere, or better, an otherwhen -- a glimpse of how the world could be if we decide to follow new rules.

       Dr. Rich's world is an idyllic place. There still exist negative emotions, but the interpersonal relations are at least correct. It seems a second creation, a new Eden where Tony Califeri plays the role of saving divinity, and Artif is an omnipresent, reassuring and providential guardian angel.

       Until you reach the very last lines of the story, when suddenly over all of the previous tale… But no. Enough words. Read this beautiful book and discover the end by yourself!

    Gianfranco Cazzaro is an italian freelance writer, especially dedicated to tales and articles for children and teens. He maintains the "CariBooks" website: http://caribooks.altervista.org with many ebook reviews. Also, you may pay a visit to his "LocoMondo" website in italian and partly in english at: http://locomondo.altervista.org with a few excerpts of his production. I really enjoyed the Italian flavour of his English. :)


    A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey
    Reviewed by John Gorman

    Published by Oxford University Press, 2005

       Like many historians, David Harvey is good at telling us what happened and how. Unlike the best of the breed, however, he is not too good at explaining why. While he is accurate in pointing out the apparent failure of Keynesian economics in the stagflation of the '70s, which brought steadily rising prices with no substantial increase in employment or prosperity, he offers no analysis of the reasons for this debacle, which enabled neoliberals to move their doctrine from the fringes of economic thought to the center of discourse. Also omitted is any real attention to the ineptitude, if not cowardice, of those who should have opposed them. They get off much too easy. For Harvey, the rise of neoliberalism is treated almost as though it were willed by God.

       As the author correctly points out, the role of government in the economy changed radically, almost overnight by historical standards. While the mission of the government under Keynesian economics was to ensure full employment, economic growth and the welfare of the citizenry, those goals were now to be controlling inflation and creating a "favorable business climate" to liberate individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong property rights, free markets and free trade. Accomplish these aims, neoliberals insisted, and a rising economic tide that would lift all boats. "Individual freedom," "free choice" and "personal liberty" in the economic sphere would lead to everlasting prosperity.

       Of course, some transitional austerity, generally imposed by the World Bank or the International Monetary fund, would be necessary to bring about this millennium. Those who might resist would need to be convinced, if not by marginalization, as in England, then by outright force, as in Chile. In the meantime, society was to be profoundly altered. In fact, society was, as Margaret Thatcher proposed, to be obliterated altogether, replaced by innumerable individuals, each seeking only private gain. Unions, political, and even social, organizations, which might give their members some collective consciousness, were to be rendered powerless and irrelevant. Marx's "commodification of relations" was to become public policy. That, under such a Hobbesian agglomeration, life for many would be "miserable, nasty, brutish and short" seems not to have occurred to the supporters of this New Order.

       To give credit where it is due, Harvey admits the transitory success of these policies in Chile, Argentina and elsewhere. He is also quick to note that each of these triumphs was followed by an economic collapse that brought enormous suffering to all but the most wealthy who were able to flee with the ill gotten gains before the storm struck. Even China, which has seemingly prospered greatly on this neoliberal road, is threatened by steadily rising tensions between its proclaimed ideology and its economic practices. How long these contradictions can go unresolved remains uncertain at best.

       Harvey's most useful insight, however, comes not in the field of economics but in the area of political philosophy. Stepping back from individual countries and companies, he sees clearly that what is really going on is a coherent and constant drive to restore class power, to recreate the economic relationships that existed in the world before the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which produced what the author describes as "Embedded Liberalism," a capitalist economy with the moneyed powers left intact but confined within restraints that limited their further accumulation of wealth and protected the working class from their worst depredations. As President Roosevelt proclaimed, the main role of the government was to provide the famous Four Freedoms, especially Freedom from Want. Social justice was infinitely more important than a "good business climate." Neoliberals seek to reverse that proclamation, remove those restraints and return America and the world to the Gilded Age, not the time before Franklin Roosevelt, but the era before even Theodore Roosevelt thought he should "bust the trusts."

       Harvey, of course, is not proclaiming some new conspiracy. He is merely observing the fact that persons with common interests tend to act in ways that support those interests and others who share them. They are quite naturally enamored of ideas and theories that justify their social and economic position and support their power as the "natural" order of things, and will do their best to disseminate them far and wide.

       While Harvey is quite perceptive in his evaluation of the chances for social and political disaster involved in this scheme, noting that previous ruling classes have chosen to destroy whole economies sooner than give up a shred of their power, he falls short in offering any but theoretical alternatives to the current neoliberal orthodoxy beyond reminding us that "an injury to one is an injury to all," a truth the Industrial Workers of the World have known for a century. For those choices, there are, of course, other books like Cavanaugh and Mander's Alternatives to Economic Globalization. Yet their book, like Harvey's falls short of offering much useful advice to the individual citizen. Given that Harvey is right, we may ask, what are we as individuals to do or refrain from doing? Perhaps that book has already been written. We may state with certainty in the meantime, however, that Harvey's volume is not it.

    John Gorman is a freelance journalist based in Florida.


    Poetry

    It's only a memory by Cheryl O'Brien
    Waiting by Margaret Muir

    It's Only a Memory
    by Cheryl O'Brien

    Cheryl was crossing the road with her tiny daughter, carrying her baby son, when they were struck by a car. The baby died, her daughter suffered permanent damage, and Cheryl was also badly injured. All this was years ago...


    Waiting
    by Margaret Muir

    Margaret is a Western Australian writer. This is her second contribution: check out the previous one, very different from this little poem about an Alzheimer's sufferer.


    BOOKS WE LOVE ENCHANTED HOLIDAYS CONTEST

    CONTEST: To enter the Enchanted Holidays Contest, simply visit at least five authors in our author indexes, sign five guest books, and then list the author names on the contest form at the bottom of the contest page. Winners will be announced December 31st. You may enter as often as you like, as long as you sign five guest books for every entry. For more information, visit the Enchanted Holidays contest page.

    CONTEST DATES: The Books We Love ENCHANTED HOLIDAYS CONTEST will run from December 1 through December 31, 2005.

    PRIZES: There are many books to win. See the list at http://www.bookswelove.net/enchantedholidays.html.


    About Bobbing Around

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