Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

What is it about the Divergent books that makes them so popular? Is it the headlong rush to violence? One guy/gal against the system willing to brave the odds? A world gone mad? The bleakness of the landscape? Whatever it is, Veronica Roth has brought to life a landscape of fear and control and lies within lies that is at the heart of this rocket through hell very popular -- and very readable.

At the core of change there will be blood and violence. At the core of Allegiant there is also death and redemption and the people in control willing to sacrifice everything to reset the world and wipe out generations of memories and history for the sake of . . . what? Depends who you ask.

The people on the Fringe believe it is control. The people in the government outside Chicago believe it is protection of their purification project, protection of their mythology that defective genes create defective people. For the people in Chicago, it is the truth, their truth, their faction's truth. Erudite was willing to destroy Abnegation to keep the truth from the people and protect their way of life even if they had to use mind control drugs on Dauntless to accomplish their aims and wipe out what they feel is a useless faction, Candor. Everyone wants control and no one wants to listen.

Tris and Four rescue Peter, who has done so much evil for the sake of power and his own greed for violence and destruction, and take them through Amity to the outside. They leave Four's father, the leader of Abnegation behind, but that does not change Marcus's plans or his ability to get back in control. Marcus convinces Johanna Reyes, the central focus in Amity and the new leader of the Allegiant group since she decided to leave Amity to help Four and Tris against Erudite, that she needs him to gather support because his name and presence will mobilize the remnants of the factions not under Evelyn Johnson's control.

Evelyn is Four's mother, the mother he believed to be dead, and the only person to be thrown out of Abnegation at Marcus's urging. Evelyn has become the head of the factionless when she threw in with the remaining members of the Dauntless faction not under Erudite and Jeanine Matthews's control. When Erudite was put down and Tori had killed Jeanine Matthews, Evelyn took control, abolished the factions, and became dictator, forcing the factions to disband and adopt factionless ways. Everything in Chicago is upside down, but Four has betrayed his mother, rescued Peter and Tris's brother Caleb, and fled for the outside with Amity and Johanna Reyes's help.

What they find is not a world in need of their divergent to set the world to rights, but the Bureau of Genetic Welfare and another layer of truth that belies the Truth they fought so hard to reveal against incredible odds and great personal loss.

Tris, Four, their friends and enemies, Peter chief among them, try to fit into a new world without factions and focused on the goal of fixing what went wrong in a country they didn't know existed when scientists decided to fix society's evils by changing their genetic code. Chicago was one of several enclosed cities where the goal was to fix the genetic mistakes and recreate a purer genetic heritage of which the Divergent were an integral part.

Tris and Four are tested and she is still Divergent, but Four is not. He is genetically deviant and less important in the world that the head of the bureau, David, wants to reset. The landscape opens up and a very different kind of prejudice and rebellion are revealed where the genetically deviant are slaves and menial laborers with a limited ability to advance themselves and the genetically pure, like Tris, are thrust into leadership positions. Rebellion is brewing and Tris is once again at the center of a maelstrom of change and violence where she will have to decide who to sacrifice next.

As if the imploding world of the factions in Chicago was not a violent enough landscape, Veronica Roth spreads out into the rest of the post apocalyptic American landscape where the economy has been destroyed and all semblance of a working and flourishing society has crumbled. Headquartered in what once was O'Hare airport, the Bureau has created a new kind of division between the haves and have nots by pinning it all on genetics. Underlying this new tyranny the one fact that is lost in the genetic shuffle is the resilience of humanity to bloom and grow in stony ground and continue to adapt and advance. Tris and the other Divergents are, for lack of a better comparison, the latest X-Men (and women), the evolution of the human species.

Roth focuses all of her attentions on Tris and Four and their friends -- and frenemies like Peter and Caleb -- and their struggle to return their world to one they recognize, a world of factions, but with a new focus. Evelyn's focus has been tight control and resentment of those she feels tossed her and a significant portion of their society onto the rubbish heap, forcing them into servitude and starvation. It is difficult to see Evelyn fitting into Abnegation society, especially since she has none of Marcus's ability to compartmentalize and justify his brutality to her and to their son, Tobias/Four.

Tris adapts quickly, but cannot come to grips with Caleb's betrayal of her and their parents, or how she missed Caleb's lies about who and what he was. What's more devastating is how he justifies his betrayals by upholding Jeanine Matthews's version of the truth and what he did in Jeanine's service to deliver Tris to death.

Roth puts the focus on the rebellion in the Fringe, within the Bureau, and against Evelyn's tyranny and yet she still manages to open up the heart of the main characters while adding more people and to the mix, always delving deeper for hidden truths and flaying mythologies for the seeds of their beginnings. There is no lack of violence and the violence gets bigger with high tech weapons, explosives, and a death serum protecting the serum that will reset Chicago and return the experiment to a world of factions and demolished memories. Allegiant lives up to the groundwork laid by Divergent and Insurgent and imagines a new landscape with free access to the rest of the world.

Roth does an excellent job of navigating this new and broken America and wraps it all up nicely in a bow reminiscent of an original Star Trek episode where a rigidly controlled world is allowed one day of excess and chaos and the computer controlling their society destroyed. What remained was a world of problems and unleashed minds and emotions finding a way to live in a more real, and usually chaotic, world.

The Divergent world is not without its problems, and adapting to change without the rigid construct of the factions makes it difficult, but Roth leaves readers with the hope that the scars will heal, the pain will ease, and the world will keep on ticking, ticking, ticking. I give Allegiant 4/5 stars. It is an admirable attempt to join up all the loose ends and offer a mustard seed of hope, but not without some devastating destruction wrapped in a nice neat bow.

Review: Insurgent by Veronic Roth

I have never gotten through a trilogy so quickly, at least not one where all the books have been published. I had a brief flirtation with the Children fo the Lion series by Peter Danielson, but that was far more than a trilogy and it took some time to get through the first 2 books.

I am not sure if it is the subject matter (dystopian future) or that the characters and plot are so interesting, or it could be Roth's writing, but I devour all three books in about 4 days.

Insurgent takes up where Divergent left off, but the ante has been upped way up. Tris's previous faction, Abnegation, is at the heart of the story because Erudite's leader is using Dauntless as the army to take the entire faction out. Even though faction before blood is at the heart of the factions, or at least has become in recent years, Tris cannot slough off her abnegation training and heart so easily. She is also divergent and the only person ever to come out of the simulations with three choices: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite. She is a very unique person, not to mention that she combines the elements of all three -- fearless, intelligent, and selfless -- in a brand new way and is immune to the simulation injections. She can control what happens and cannot be controlled by Erudite, which makes her a wild card in Erudite's plans, one that the cannot guard against.

Four, also known as Abnegation leader's son, Tobias Eaton, can be controlled, though he is also Divergent, and Tris must face off against him and all her friends in Dauntless. Erudite has a plan to get rid of her, thanks to Peter, Tris's nemesis in Dauntless, and her fear of drowning in an enclosed container is given life to take her out of the game. After all, Divergent must be eliminated in order for Erudite's plan to work.

As the Abnegation faction is attacked and many of its people eliminated, Tris must break find a way to break out of the cube and save the Abnegation people, including Four's father, whom she loathes, in order to get the truth out about the reason why factions were created and why they must live their lives within the confines of what once was Chicago, a truth that Erudite is willing to kill to protect.

Veronica Roth really turns up the heat in the Divergent trilogy with Insurgent and she brings out the interconnected layers and more characters, creating a dense onion of a world where friendships are tested and Tris's heart are laid bare. Roth adds complexity upon complexity and changes the game in fundamental ways for Tris and the faction divided world in which they all live. Sacrifice, truth, duplicity, control, manipulation, and fear add texture to a landscape already divided and fighting for its survival as the workings the workings of the remaining factions are brought to light.

Insurgent lays the groundwork for the final book of the series with a stunning truth that places Tris, Four, and their friends and enemies into a much larger world with so much more to lose -- and to gain. Insurgent is still 5/5 in writing, characterization, plot, and appeal.

I would also like to mention that although there are children killing children (and adults killing adults) the Divergent series shares nothing much with the Hunger Games books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Amazon usually hits me with movies or books I might like by using what I've already bought. Divergent by Veronica Roth is one of those books.

I saw a trailer for the movie and, after reading the book I have one thing to say. The actress playing Tris is not at all how I pictured her. She is too tall, too obviously female, and not at all like the Tris described in Roth's words. I pictured her more like my little sister Beanie who is short, and though 49 years old, still looks a bit like a 12-year-old boy when she's dressed in jeans and t-shirt and a baseball cap. She is exactly how I see Tris. And she is blonde, though her hair has darkened with age.Having said that, I will get to the point of this post and that is reviewing the book.

Veronica paints a spare landscape using Chicago as the home of the factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Candor, and Dauntless. It is a world where the five factions are intertwined, each with their own place in their world and each with governance of one facet of their lives.

The story is told from Tris's point of view, or rather Beatrice Prior's. She changes her name when she chooses to leave Abnegation and become Dauntless. Tris doesn't feel she belongs with her family in Abnegation because she is selfish not selfless. She has a desire to live, to be free of the restrictions placed on her by the rules of her faction. She chooses with the specter of being Divergent, someone whose brain is wired so that she can do what has been thought impossible; she shows aptitudes in the simulation tests for 3 different factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. Being Divergent is dangerous and Tori, her examiner, tells Beatrice that she must never let anyone know or it will mean her death.

From the beginning Roth keeps up the pressure, first from Tris's rare difference to disappointing her parents because Tris doesn't think she's good enough to be in Abnegation and then on to the tough initiation in Dauntless where she pushes herself to the limit, and often beyond. Despite Tris's confusion about where she belongs, there is no confusion in the reader's mind that she is a complex young woman who has more value than she realizes, no matter how tough and fearless she acts.

Add attraction to Four, her initiation instructor at Dauntless, to the confusion already rampant in Tris's mind and her inexperience and fear of what the closeness she craves with Four means, and the action and emotion go right off the scale.

Roth adds complication to complexity as she slowly peels the layers of this closed society and the struggle that results from the Erudite leader's greed for power and control, and Jeanine's fear and loathing for the Divergent she works so hard to get rid of because she cannot control them with her science, and yet Roth never veers off the true, keeping the pressure and the focus on Tris and her fearless -- and selfless -- drive to sacrifice herself for what Tris believes is the greater good. There is also a note of selfishness in Tris's struggle to be fearless and selfless at the same time and it seems she has a death wish once her parents die in the struggle with Erudite over control of the government and everyone in it.

Roth's writing is very accessible and the story speeds along at a break-neck pace. The characters are complex and the world Roth builds complicated and simple at the same time. Divergent is the first of a trilogy, and an adrenaline fueled and emotional ride into a rigid world of compartmentalization torn by greed and intellectualism without morals or feeling for humanity. Although written for a YA audience, Divergent will appeal to everyone. I would give Divergent 5/5 for a thrill ride I will not soon forget, especially since I've moved on to Insurgent.

Snow and Blood on the Moon

It has been a while since I posted anything really personal. Time to change the pattern.

Winter definitely is not through with us here in Colorado Springs yet as is clearly evident.

Nothing like snow the first day after spring and again on Sunday. I hope that means the drought is over for us and the snow pack in the mountains is at high levels. One can only hope.

Beanie thinks it is funny when I say I live surrounding by parking lot, but it is true. There must have been a lot of business at that little building on the right, or maybe they had a lot of family visiting and wanted plenty of parking that wouldn't end up as a muddy swamp the way my parents' house looked in Hilliard every time it rained on the day we had a family get-together. The only problem is that the parking lot is usually filled morning and afternoon with parents dropping off and picking up their kids from the middle school across the road. That would be far to the left of these pictures.

That's a corner of the deck and this picture was taken very early in the morning before the people started roaring down the streets. It is lovely in a way and I never have to worry about shoveling the walks because there are none.

Last night's blood moon was my first opportunity to watch a lunar eclipse. There have been 3 or 4 visible here in Colorado since I moved here, but the weather has always been lousy for viewing. It was cold and clear last night at the start of the festivities. 

I sat on the toilet and took pictures out the bathroom window. This was the start of the event.

Though far away, the moon began to pass under the Earth's shadow and it was lovely. I don't have a good enough camera to catch the nuances of color, like the blood that spread over the shining face of the moon, but it was at least proof I watched.

By manipulating the photos after I downloaded them to my computer, the background got fuzzier and the moon did too, but at least it is there. I was too early to see the high point when the moon was completely bloody.

Still fuzzy from manipulating, but definitely farther along. This was at the height of the eclipse.
My battery ran down at that point and I couldn't get another clear picture until I hunted up new batteries.By then, the eclipse was over, but I saw most of it. Another first.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Manipulating Illegal Immigration

I saw a video while following another news story. The headline got my attention. Why wouldn't a smart young woman with a 4.0 grade average be able to get into college?

The headline was manipulative and so was the plea by the teacher, Clint Smith. That is what the whole video was designed to do. I was manipulated by my emotions. It's easy to do when you have a caring heart and want to help out someone who is less fortunate. But, like so many other issues, some of the facts are missing or slanted far from true.

As sad as this is for Maria, what Clint Smith forgets is that this country was built on legal immigrants, people who waited at Ellis Island to be allowed to enter the country and become American citizens, not on people who defy the laws and sneak into the country. Maria suffers because her parents did not get in legally. It would not matter if Maria were yellow or red or white or black. Her parents broke the law. It doesn't matter the reason they broke the law. It does matter that they broke the law and must pay for that crime.

This is no longer the New World, a wide land of meadows, trees, plains, and forests waiting to be expanded and built upon. We are not an undiscovered country; we have been here for over 200 years, and we have laws. What would happen in any other country in the world where millions cross their borders and bear and raise their children and expect to be given the rights of full citizenship when their presence is based on a lie, on breaking the country's laws? Yes, the young who know nothing else will suffer, but it is their parents to whom they must look for answers, not the country that is following its own laws. Laws their parents broke.

These people cannot be allowed to break the laws of the country they sneaked into and expect to be given full citizenship as a result. That makes the laws of this country worth nothing and our borders no more lasting than a soap bubble in a wind storm. As much as my heart aches for the children, it is not the fault of the country or the law that puts them in the untenable position of not belonging; it is their parents' disregard for the laws of this land they illegally entered that is the problem and from that must come the solution.

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but it is also a land of laws. You cannot be free no matter how brave you were escaping poverty in your own country if you are not willing to obey the laws. That is what we must keep uppermost in mind. We have not denied Maria a college education; her family has. We have not ignored her hard work and her good grades; her family has. We have not denied her access to a better life; her family has. That is the cost of such a lie. The cost is in the damage her parents did to her by allowing her to believe she was an American and entitled to what her school fellows are legally entitled to because they are citizens?

Did her parents at any time seek to redress the wrong they did Maria by appealing to Immigration to become an American citizen? Until the 7 million illegal immigrants are willing to own up to their lies and the ways in which they broke the laws of this land and go through the naturalization process, waiting in line like all those refugees who landed at Ellis Island waited and hoped, then they cannot and should not be allowed to stay in this country and be given amnesty. It's a hard truth, but it is the truth.

I understand how Clint Smith feels about Maria. I felt the same way about a young man I once knew in Arvada, Colorado. He was a young man of Mexican heritage and he had just been rewarded for his hard work by a raise and a promotion to assistant manager of a local fast food restaurant. I was happy for him. His world came crumbling down when corporate headquarters fired him. He had done nothing wrong, at least as far as I could see, but then the story came out. He was an illegal immigrant who had lived and worked in Arvada for over 10 years. He showed me the letter he received from the social security department stating that the SS number he used was invalid and that he would be required to use the new card they had enclosed. Social Security knew he was illegal, but they gave him a valid card and number. The like to get their payments on time and in full, and he had used the correct number on all subsequent tax filings and at work. The social security system still marked him as an illegal immigrant.

The restaurant where he worked knew he was illegal from the beginning, but they continued to employ and pay him and take taxes, social security, etc. from his wages and report them to the right governmental offices. They had no problem with him working for them as long as he maintained a low profile, a profile that could no longer be maintained when he was promoted to assistant manager, a position he earned. He had risen in the ranks and he had become with that rise more visible in the system and the corporation more accountable for hiring and paying an illegal immigrant.

From what I soon found out, this is a common practice all over America. Forget about sweat shops and businesses that operate at a profit below the radar only to be raided by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). Those raids you see in movies and on TV are the tips of a very large field of icebergs. The truth is more subtle with far more tendrils and roots throughout the governmental system. Illegal immigrants are not difficult to find. The government has always known where they are and how to find them, but chooses not to do so.

I felt sorry for Rafael and went with him to a lawyer specializing in making illegal immigrants into legal American citizens. I was so moved by his story that I was willing to marry him to help him get a green card and become an American citizen. His girlfriend of several years, a natural born American, though she loved him deeply and wanted to marry him, could not because her father forbade it. He knew Rafael was illegal and he would not allow his daughter to compound Rafael's crime by marrying him and allowing him to get a green card. Their marriage would not have been a sham as my marriage to him would be. The girl's father had been born in America after his parents legally entered this country and became American citizens and demanded his children uphold the laws of this land, their land. She followed her father's wishes and broke off her relationship with Rafael. It was a heart breaking moment for him and I was sad to see it happen.

Full of righteous indignation and caring for my friend, I was willing to flout the law -- for him. That is the problem. Like Clint Smith, I wanted to right what I saw as a wrong done to my friend. I was wrong. The law has to be upheld no matter the cost to the heart in this case. Rafael knew he did wrong. He wanted to escape the few choices he had in his own land and was willing to break the laws of this land, America, to get what he wanted. He told me if he was deported he would have to wait for 2 years before he could apply again.

Rafael's family was not poor; they were middle class. His younger brother was employed by the government of Mexico and held a responsible position in the local government and was rising quickly. His family owned property and lived a good life, but Rafael wanted more, and he was willing to break into this country to get it. To cross the border illegally to get away from what he saw as few choices and fewer chances to rise.

He told me about how much he paid to get here, how he was given a social security card, and taught how to evade discovery. Rafael was also told that the longer he lived in America the harder it would be for him to be caught and deported. He would play the waiting game that millions had played and continue to play now. Having children on American soil would make his children Americans and it was a tool Rafael could use to his advantage in remaining in America and forcing the government to make him a legal citizen.

As he opened the doors to this dark underworld of corruption, lies, and crime, I was saddened -- and appalled. Rafael was no Cuban fleeing repression and risking death to cross the water in a leaky boat overloaded with people nor was he a Vietnamese family crowded into boats too small to hold the fleeing hordes and crossing the Pacific fighting the odds in the hope they could make it to America. Rafael is a middle class Mexican man who deliberately gamed the system, playing the odds so he could become an American.

Maria and her family are different, but not all that different. They were poor and they risked capture and being turned back when they raced across the desert to sneak past the border guards to come into America illegally. The story Clint Smith tells about running through the darkness and hiding in fertilized fields beneath trucks to avoid detection by dogs has nothing to do with fleeing their own forces. They were fleeing detection by American border guards, sneaking in under cover of darkness to exploit weaknesses in our border patrols. As dramatic and shocking as it is, what Maria and her family did was commit a crime. Maria was a small child and did what she was told, but her parents knew what they were doing and were willing to risk it. To risk their child's safety and life to break the laws of this country. That is a fact.

No amount of emotional manipulation can change the facts. Maria is not culpable, and I understand her parents' reasons for getting out of their own country, seeing America as the Promised Land, but they broke the law. Millions of people like Maria's family have broken the law. Do we bow to sentiment and allow our emotional buttons to be pushed or do we stand by our laws and the laws of this country. Do we keep out people who have entered the country legally and maybe doom someone whose life is in immediate danger from their own government to uphold the Marias and their families who broke the law? Forget sentiment. Either uphold the law or bow to emotional manipulation and doom someone who did obey the law. That is the choice.

Either uphold the law or bow to emotional manipulation and doom someone who did obey the law to possibly death. That is the choice.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Of Taxes and Death

I finally got a call back from the mortgage guy at Northstar Bank of Colorado this morning, 2 calls in fact. The first call is where I pitched Andre, the mortgage guy my plan: 80/20 mortgage, no down, 15-year fixed with a 6-year loan for down payment and closing costs. I explained my situation (no credit rating at all but stable job, payment history of 6 years without a blemish, first time buyer, etc.).

Andre was intrigued I had done my homework and said he doubted it would be feasible in the secondary mortgage market, to which I explained I wanted the bank to carry both loans and I would apply for refinancing in 2-3 years. That would establish a credit rating and eventually make me eligible for the secondary market. Andre was even more intrigued.

I did explain that in this soft market the house would be difficult to unload with the problems (needs new roof, new furnace, and maybe a new foundation) and that I was aware of the problems. He said he'd get more information from Rae Loschen, who was the bank officer who had dealt with the property from the commercial side since it was part of a commercial package the bank foreclosed on November 2013. He called back about noon since he had promised to get back to me to tell me Rae had been in a meeting all morning and he would contact me when he had finally run Rae to ground.

This all sounds like high finance, but I am impressed that I marshaled my argument so succinctly without being at all nervous.  I was all business with pros and cons. I cheated a little by writing down the talking points. It's good to be prepared.

Of course now I will also have to deal with property taxes, but for such a cheap house that should be much.

Now all I have to do is deal with HR at work. I have been told to provide links to obituaries for my Uncle Dewey and my Aunt Wilma. I found Uncle Dewey's and I was just told about his death, but he died March 31st. News travels slow in this family, but usually faster when death is involved. Aunt Wilma lived in a very small town and I haven't been able to find her obituary anywhere. It will probably come up in a few days in the weekly paper? This is all news to me. I haven't been asked for links to obituaries before. I guess that's because it is unusual for 2 family members to die in the same week and ask for bereavement pay.

I think those deaths, and Ms. Hoity-Toity's expertise in real estate, that got me thinking about buying the house I've been renting for 6 years. I'd toyed with the idea of owning this house and being able to fix it up. Now I will have that chance -- before I die.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

No Sale

This has been a time of life choices and changes.

In November 2013, I was informed that my house was part of a bank foreclosure on $2 million worth of properties. No wonder it took me so long to get the roof fixed on the back addition to this house. Now I understand why getting anything done was so impossible. It took me 4 years of nagging, complaining, and threatening the landlord with the county to get the roof fixed. But it was done 18 months ago and then I was faced with losing my happy home.

I didn't realize until I talked with Beanie this morning how much I actually love this little broken down, sagging roof, slate shingles off and insulation, once mouse-infested house so much. Beanie told me that when I moved in here 6 years ago all I did was talk about this house. This morning she told me that same enthusiasm and attitude was back in my voice.

There's a simple reason. Instead of bowing once again to the real estate gods, I have decided to fight for this house -- to ask the bank for a loan to buy it. I have lived on a cash only basis for about 20 years and it shows. I have absolutely no credit rating, which I thought put me out of the running for being able to buy this house, especially with no money down. I didn't know I'd be in this position when I rented this house 6 years ago. That's where my other sister, the real estate mogul comes in.

I talked to her last night on another issue. One of our aunts died, but that's another story for another time.

She asked me what was going on in my life . . . and I told her. She told me some things, too. She told me I had more to bargain than I thought. I have a good job that I've been working at for more than 2 years. I have a steady income and a 6-year history of paying rent on time. Most of all, I have no debt load. None. I live on a cash basis, so there is no accumulated debt, no interest payments, and no one else angling for my money. I am also already in possession of the house and I know the faults and work that needs to done. AND this is a soft real estate market so no down payment could be worked in. The bank wants their money and I don't want to have to move. Looks like it might be a deal made in real estate heaven.

Well, real estate heaven would be me buying the house and paying cash on the spot, but that's a different heaven.

For the first time since all this came up, and for the first time in 6 years, I might just have control over my fate, and that is the reason for my attitude change. So much of a change I actually did some housework this morning. I have a nasty headache for my efforts, but the living room is much cleaner than it was yesterday -- or for a long time past. I can see the sofa again.

I hate being at anyone else's mercy and I have felt as though I'm being batter and blown with no deep roots to hold me secure, to make me feel safe and in control again.

Last night I spent some time with a mortgage calculator and even at the highest rate, my mortgage payments would be less than what I pay for rent now. That means I could pay the same amount I paid in rent, with the excess going to the principle on the loan, which would also lower the interest paid, and the house would be mine free and clear of the bank sooner. It would be even more if I thought I could get a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, but I decided a 20-year fixed rate mortgage was a better idea and an easier sell to the bank.

I could also save the difference between the mortgage and the rent to put a new roof on the rest of the house, fix the porch, tear down the poor and leaking excuse for that roof over the front door that pours more rain down on the person standing under it than someone standing out in the rain, and replace the slate siding after fixing the insulation. I could eventually fix the bulging, rain damaged, and possibly mildewed and moldy paneling on the walls and ceiling of the addition, and tear down that awful cobbled together, poorly jerry rigged excuse for a bookcase in there. I could get a new furnace or install central air with a new heat pump. Or I could pay the mortgage off sooner. So many options, like building a greenhouse that attaches to the house with a garage/carport. First, I have to get the bank to agree to selling me the house and carrying the mortgage.

Beanie reminded me that I could take the interest payments off my taxes at the end of the year, but the best thing is that no one could throw me out of my home again (as long as I pay the mortgage) and force me out into the rental world again.

I knew when I saw the ad for this house and then saw the house 6 years ago that this was my house. If the bank agrees, this will indeed be my house -- for real.

The bank doesn't want the house; it wants the money. I don't want people tramping through my house every weekend. There is a basis for compromise. They sell me the house and I get to tell the real estate agent goodbye and thanks for taking up your signs.

This comes at a good time because I just found someone to do the repairs and maintenance around here for a reasonable amount of money. It would be good to have control for a change -- and to buy my first house.

One other perk is that finally my family will see me living here in Colorado not as a way to upset them, but as a viable choice. They can't ask me to uproot myself and move back to Ohio because I have no ties and no roots here. They will see me in a very different light. For the first time in the 59 years of my life, I will have my own home and roots. I won't have to move if I don't want to move.

Beanie reminded me of some other things, too. Any improvements I make in this house will increase its value, which means I can use that value to make some money if I decide to sell, or use the mortgage as a springboard to buying some land higher up in the mountains and building my writer's retreat with guest house, and I won't have to depend on the lottery to get there, which is good since I rarely buy lottery tickets.

I have always been a big fan of having some control. I had control when I got divorced, packed up, and moved to Florida. I have had control every time I decided to pick up and move to another state because it was my choice. I even have some control now that I've chosen to take action and talk to the bank about buying this house. I may not get a mortgage, but at least I have a good shot at it. I have some control. I have a direction. I have a choice, and it's a much better choice than whether or not to rent an apartment, rent the other half of a duplex or basement of someone else's house, or find another house to rent and move into so that I can find myself once again in a situation where someone else decides when it's time for me to move.

I am adaptable, but I find that my tolerance for being thrust into hoping for someone else to be on my side makes me feel uncomfortable and less willing to adapt. I do know that like my neighbor, Ms. Stilettos, I do not want to base my life on hoping that someone will buy this house and let me continue to rent the house. We almost lost our homes (hers is next door and part of the whole $2 million foreclosure) this week to a developer who wants to tear down both houses and put up something else. I not that adaptable. Not any more.

And so I move into the world of responsible home owner and gain control of my fate because the only factor in this situation is whether or not I pay the mortgage, and I'm not about to put myself into that kettle of rotten fish again.

Did I mention that the bank that owns this property now is also a local bank? Cross your fingers and light a candle for me. I may just have a shot at this. As far as I am concerned, the real estate agent can put "No Sale" on this house.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where Do I Find a Seeing Eye Dog?

Sunday when I woke up there was a big black blotch in my right eye. Horrors! My first thought was retinal tear. I just got back from the eye doctor's. It's not a retinal tear. I was somewhat less anxious when the blotch immediately began to dissipate Sunday, but I needed a second opinion, preferably from a doctor. My eye doctor isn't in on Mondays, so I called back Tuesday and got an appointment for this morning -- and I went. I'm still fuzzy; my eyes are dilated. I did all the machines and they took a photo of my retina. Everything is clear.

Surprisingly, my left eye has returned to 20/20 vision and is the dominant eye. My right eye has better vision than it did 6 years ago, which is why my contacts no longer help me see better. They are too strong.

Two hours and a dilation later (I won't mention the glaucoma screen; I hate that thing) and I have new contacts in a lower power for my right eye and no contact for my left eye since it is 20/20. I am a happy camper.

What I have is a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). That's when the vitreous (liquid in the eye) gets thicker with age and clumpy and folds over a bit. That was what the black blotch was when I woke up Sunday. The blotch is nearly gone, just a faint spot in the corner of my right eye. It happens as the eye -- and we -- age.

However, if you see a large or small or flurry of black dots, a hazy dark veil across your vision, and flashes/sparkles/lances of light, get to your eye doctor. It may be a retinal detachment and can be sealed with a laser to the affected area. Don't take your vision for granted. I certainly don't.

Friday, January 31, 2014

REVIEW: The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

Time hopping, reincarnation, and romance with a little last miute thriller thrown are the rage of late. The most recent entry into this compilation of genres is Lucinda Riley's The Midnight Rose. What begins with a 20-something actress filming in the English countryside while a 90-year-old Indian matriarch entrusts her legacy with her business obsessed grandson travels through the first world war in England, a maharajah's palace, and a young Indian woman coming into her own and crossing cultural and caste barriers for love.

Rebecca is a talented actress at the rising peak of her career. She needs to decide whether or not to accept her boyfriend's proposal of marriage as she embarks for her next movie filming in England. She finds the palatial Astbury Hall imposing and beautiful and quiet as the current lord of the manner welcomes her into his home while she is filming.

Anahita is an 11-year-old girl of royal lineage whose family has fallen on hard times. When she makes friends with the wayward and headstrong princess Indira, she changes her fortunes. Anahita, Anni to friends and family, becomes Indira's companion and is schooled in England along with her friend. Life is very different in cold and wet Britain, but it also offers Anni a chance to broaden her horizons and discover love -- and death.

These two young women are fated to cross paths through Anni's grandson who is trying to find out Anni's history and the truth about her son Moh's fate.

Riley cuts a broad swath through three continents and nearly 100 years of history in her attempt to bring the intricate tale to of The Midnight Rose  to life. The characters are interesting but come off a bit 2-dimensional outside of Anahita, Rebecca Bradley, and Ari, Anahita's grandson, Ari. These three are more richly developed than the rest, although there are quirks and some details that stand out in all the characters.

What is difficult to believe is the ending of the story, or at least the high point of a last minute intrigue that was not well developed or worked into the plot. The Midnight Rose is a sprawling book that could have been longer and fared better with all the plot lines. So much of the situations and relationships seem rushed and incomplete as though some of the details got lost in translation.

Outside of mentions of filming and sitting in Makeup, there is little information about the career that is central to Rebecca's life. The zenana in the Maharajah's court is more detailed and given much more time and attention. Much of the venues in The Midnight Rose are sketched in, but Riley seems more interested in life in India and Anahita than the rest of the characters and plots she attempts to weave together. Riley wastes no time in using every trick in the romance guide in setting up and breaking up the relationships and little of that is useful or believable.

However, I did enjoy much of The Midnight Rose, even though the actual rose plays a cameo role -- a very small cameo. The first part of the book is slow and doesn't really get moving and interesting until about a third of the way through where it plods and loses its way a bit in the middle only to go racing through the last part of the book. Anahita's story is fascinating and her view of London and the world outside of the British Raj is predictably difficult and clannish. The book could use a few hundred more pages to do the subject justice and give the characters room to grow and evolve. I'd give The Midnight Rose 3/5 stars for effort and some wonderful historical details.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

REVIEW: Collector of Dying Breaths by M J Rose

I began this journey with Jac L'Etoile in Seduction and I admit it was a bit difficult getting into the rhythm of the way the book is put together. The historical perspectives were very much like Jac's memory lurches and were a bit disconcerting. I've read several books in the series culminating in Collector of Dying Breaths. I wondered how M. J. Rose would incorporate perfumes and reincarnation into the story and now I know.

Jac's brother is dying from some unknown disease and he's going quickly, so quickly he does not have the time necessary to tell Jac everything she needs to know to carry on his work before he is gone. Robbie wants Jac to finish his work discovering the combination of fragrances to complete the project and infused the collection of dying breaths so they can be used to reanimate the men and women whose last breaths were caught. Knowing she must also work with Griffin is difficult enough, but the memory lurches remind Jac why she has distanced herself from Griffin. If the memory lurches are the result of her relationship with Griffin, she will once again cause his death. She cannot have that on her hands.

Jac's life is far from tranquil or uncomplicated and have always been since the memory lurches began. She is close to realizing what she experiences are past life memories of hers and others' lives. That is something she is reluctant to believe, that souls can come together again and again in new bodies with the same agendas and fates. That is what makes this series complicated and a bit redundant. After all this time, Jac should be ready to accept what she already knows: reincarnation is a fact and she has a gift not a curse.

Collector of Dying Breaths is set along the same lines that M. J. Rose began this series with and the memory lurches have become less disconcerting at least to this reader. Rose's ability to recreate the past and make it believable and fascinating is wonderful. Translating that information through Jac's abilities has ben a little rough around the edges and yet that lurch is part of the charm of the series and of Jac's stubbon refusal to embrace her abilities.

The one part of Collector of Dying Breaths that makes me sad is that it seems this series is now ended with the resolution of Jac's fears and the realization of long held hopes. Time moves on and even stubborn Jac must embrace the future, especially after yet another near death experience.

The manner in which Rose weaves the threads of reincarnation and Buddhist teachings throughout the series is masterful and the characters are memorable, even those that exist for more than a few sentences or pages. Rose writes rich and wonderful characters with complexity and texture that ooze reality. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems and clues are salted at just the right places to keep readers turning pages and moving through the web of deception and discovery.

I do not doubt that someone once tried to capture the dying breath in order to find a way to bring the dead back to life or that perfumes were part of that alchemical reaction in some distant past. I also do not doubt that Rose has yet more fascinating stories to tell and characters to reveal that will send this reader plunging into the worlds and stories she concocts. I have enjoyed many of Rose's series in the past and look forward to many more in the future. Collector of Dying Breaths is one of my favorites, not because of the resolution of so many conflicts, but because of the way in which Jac L'Etoile has grown and adapted to a world set on shaking ground. I'd give this one 4/5 stars but only because I think Jac should have embraced her talents long before now and because Nostradamus played such a small part in this tale, especially since he created a fragrance of sorts that was said to have protected against the Black Plague, which was rampaging through Europe at the time the Florentine perfumer was working out his alchemical tool for reincarnation. Brava!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When Thank You is Enough

Once a year, I get a thank you card for a Xmas gift. The card is always from Laura, Mary Ann's daughter-in-law. I received it yesterday. She and Jeremy won't be stationed in Colorado Springs as previously believed, but will be going to El Paso in the spring. I'm a little bummed because I thought I'd get a chance to get to know Laura and Jeremy in a more personal way and maybe even Mary Ann would get to come and visit for a change. Not going to happen, but the thought was lovely for a while. I was even cleaning house to be ready. Guess I can go back to my slovenly ways now.

I don't think people get how special thank you cards really are. I know it's something from an older time when the social graces included such niceties and thank you cards and, well, gracious rules, but that doesn't mean that they have to go out of style the way that graciousness and thank yous have gone out of style. I wish they wouldn't.

An old friend made his sons sit down at Xmas and write me thank you cards for the gifts I sent them. Well, I didn't really send the gifts to the boys, but to the tree. The cards they wrote were lovely and one of the boys even drew Jack Skellington on his thank you card. That is a bonus, a thank you gift for the gifts I sent for their tree. The boys complained loudly about how it was old fashioned and no one sent thank you cards any more, but my friend told them that in his house they would write the cards. They got into the spirit and did them. I don't know how much of a dent it will make in their lives, but I'm glad they wrote them.

Maybe we need to do something as an incentive for writing thank you cards and being more polite and gracious. I belong to a cross stitch bulletin board and everyone there is so polite. It didn't take me long to figure out why either. Every comment earns points that increase one's standing overall and allows the person to access more features and get more points. It's like paid politeness on the surface, but it also means that some people, in spite of the points they receive, are more gracious and polite and do it because that's the kind of people they are. It's like stimulating an unused muscle. It hurts for a while, but then begins to work smoother and more efficiently.

There is a counter at the top of every post that shows how many people have visited and how many have commented. The visits outweigh the comments, but the comments - the thank yous - are worth more to me.

I have yet to receive a thank you card from my grandchildren for their gifts over the years. I call them to make sure the gift arrived and they get on the phone and tell me they liked what I sent and we catch up. I often wonder if I'd get even a thank you if I didn't call and this has bothered me every year for a very long time. That is until this year. As my friend explained to his boys, no thank you card means no more gifts. That is what I'm giving my grandchildren for their birthdays and xmas this year and every year from now on. No thank you card means I will send them a card with a note that says that a gift was made in their name to a local charity, like Toys for Tots. I will likely not get a thank you card from the charity, but I will know for sure that the children receiving a gift from the charity will prize it because they have so little in their lives. That will be thanks enough.

I don't always send thank you cards. I often send thank you letters and I always call to say thank you, which isn't often since I receive gifts from only two people every year at Xmas and birthdays. It reminds me of a quote from El Dorado. Alan Padillion Trahern (James Caan) said, "A host of friends. I have a host of friends." Sarcasm at its finest and it only involved his hat.

I know times are tough; I live in them too. And I don't expect a gift for my birthday or Xmas or even Mother's Day every year, but it would be nice once in a while to know that more than my sister and Mary Ann think of me at those special times of year and respond with a gift to which I can reply with a thank you card or phone call. Such is not to be and I live with that every day.

In the meantime, I'll cherish my annual thank you card from Laura and the occasional thank you I get from Spock the cat and my friend's boys and whoever else decides that the old traditions are worth keeping and exercising on a regular basis. In lieu of that, I may have to consider something more pointed than sending personalized thank you cards, something like points or money. All I need to do then is decide what the points will be worth at the end.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Lair of the White Worm

After seeing The Lair of the White Worm again, the movie version with Amanda Donohoe and that old staple of British film, Hugh Grant, I decided once again to read the book by Bram Stoker. I've read several of Stoker's books, one of my favorite of which is The Jewel of Seven Stars, but was not prepared for the tale I thought I knew from the movie. The two versions, book and movie, could not be more different and not just in the usual "we can make it better and more spectacular" way of movie making. I was not prepared for the real story, as told by Stoker.

Lady Arabella March is quite the exotic female, at least from a 19th century perspective, in her all white gowns, sinuous movements, and determination to catch a wealthy husband in the person of Mr. Caswall, the current heir to an ancient stone pile called Castra Regis, a great tower that looms over the land of ancient Mercia like the Tower of Destruction in a deck of tarot cards, lightning blasting it to hell.

Adam Salton is the distant cousin of Mr. Salton who has no heirs and has made Adam his heir. The younger Mr. Salton has come all the way from Australia to meet his cousin and accept his inheritance. Into this genial partnership comes Mr. Nathaniel, local landowner and historian, and the two girls of Mercy Farm, Mimi and Lilla.

Mr. Caswall, lately of Africa, brings with him an evil looking Negro, Oolanga, whose reputation is of dark and powerful magics. Caswall and Oolanga are quite interested in their tenants, Mimi and Lilla, and spend a great deal of time at Mercy Farm in a struggle of wills with Lilla. Caswall is backed in this endeavor by Lady Arabella and Oolanga while Mimi pits the force of her will against them to shore up Lilla's flagging spirit.

The Lair of the White Worm offers several diabolical intrigues, one of which is Caswall's kite, a giant affair up which he sends runners of magnesium ribbon and weights, and which scares all the local birds from the area while it flies, a dark harbinger of the doom to come and the weighty presence of evil weighing down on the countryside from the Tower.

Caswall is the direct descendent and heir of a previous Caswall who learned mesmerism from Mesmer himself and came away with machines that have been stored in a trunk in one of the servant's rooms. The tower attic rooms are filled with the mementos of past Castra Regis heirs and all spread a miasma of darker appetites.

Lady Arabella, for all her sinuous and somewhat repugnant movements in her white gowns, spreads her own discord throughout the area and is at the heart of the legend of the great white worm, a denizen of Mercia from ancient times. Adam Salton becomes a witness to her nightly walks and to the death and destruction that follow in her wake.

I found Stoker's writer more florid than in previous books and even a bit fantastical in his premise that a woman bitten by a snake could actually transform a lithe and slender body into the massive bulk of an ancient worm that has evolved sufficiently to be aware of itself in human and worm form and be just as malignant in both. The addition of several mongooses (mongeese?) seemed little more than a bit of fancy thrown in that had nothing to do with the final outcome of the story. Even Oolanga's malign presence and presumption did little to add to the story or earn out his mention since he was soon lost to Lady Arabella's venomous intentions. Adam Salter's cousin offered little more depth than the reason for Adam being in England and thrust into this seething morass of intrigues and ancient horror.

Overall, The Lair of the White Worm is long on words and short on meat, depth, and complexity, although the machinations of the various cabals become quite entangled. Much was left to wither and die while Stoker moved on with the main focus of his story -- setting up the final spectacular destruction of Lady Arabella, Mr. Caswall, and the Tower.

The movie, released in 1988, was quite a bit different from the book in almost all respects. There is a Mercy Farm and the orphaned girls, Mary and Eve Trent, whose parents disappeared the previous year, Lady Sylvia Marsh, the owner of Temple House (which was Diana's Grove in the book), and Lord James D'Ampton, who is a conflation of Mr. Caswall and Adam Salton and like neither, except in being a wealthy landowner and the last in a long line of D'Amptons descended from the D'Ampton who killed the great white worm of legend.

Unlike Lady Arabella March, Lady Sylvia Marsh, played by Amanda Donohoe, scantily clad in black leather and black clothing, is an immortal who worships and is priestess for Dionyn, the great white worm of legend. True to the determination of movies to make a fantastic story even more fantastic and adding the larges helping of sex and seduction possible while amping up the volume on the original horror. There is a single mention of being bitten by a snake as a child and dealing with her fear of snakes by playing Snakes and Ladders while she weeps without a single tear in Hugh Grant's arms, but there is nothing beyond Amanda Donohoe's seductive charms and patently obvious malign intentions that signal she is at the heart of the mystery of the great white worm. The movie is low budget but high on the sex and shock scale. The added appeal of Catherine Oxenburg, Hugh Grant, and Amanda Donohoe ramp up the screen appeal to go with the spectacular, often psychedelic, montages of monsters, Christ, elaborately carved and prodigiously pointed dildos and Amanda Donohoe and the Romans ravaging virginal nuns while Donohoe sprouts 10-inch long fangs while painted blue. It is quite the spectacle.

Stoker may have had more in mind for The Lair of the White Worm, but he seems to have run out of steam or inspiration or something because very little of it hangs together in a cohesive tapestry of evil and good in earnest battle. Much was offered, but few connections made and fewer explanations given. The best I can give is 3/5 stars and a wish for more to fill in the blanks, something I doubt which will come about unless Stoker is resurrected or someone successfully channels him. I felt I had been to a banquet and left wanting as though the gorgeous spread were merely cardboard and pretty paint.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nothing special

I just saw the words, Jimmy Firenipples, and I'm not sure I want to delve any further into the mystery. I think the words are enough to get stuck in my brain.

One of my gifts arrived (finally) yesterday despite the Priority Mail guarantee of 1-2 days. This took a week, which is, to my mind, far outside the 1-2 day guarantee, especially since the package sat here in Colorado Springs for 4 days. I'm not pleased with the post office or their service. Every time they raise the rates, and they just got ANOTHER rate hike this month, the service gets worse and I get to pay even more for it. I may have to switch to UPS or FedEx to get packages to where they are going since the post office doesn't seem competent or capable of doing the job. Reminds me of Obama, who also costs more and more all the time and does less and less, except for lying, which he does a lot. So much so that he earned Lie of the Year from Politifact.

A reporter asked Obama what he thought about being called the liar of the year and his answer, true to form, was yet another ad for Obamacare and how it would be fixed. Now how does that have anything to do with the question, "How do you feel about being called the Liar of the Year?" Someone I am acquainted with asked on Facebook whether it was him or does Obama really never answer questions. No, Obama doesn't answer questions, but he will lead you around the barn and through the brambles while he smiles and uses a lot of words that mean absolutely nothing and never gets close to an answer. He does that really well.

One thing that Obama is going to have to answer is why he uses Harrison J. Bounel's social security number instead of his own? A Massachusetts judge has ordered Social Security and the White House to provide documentation and answers. I think this time, unless a deal is done under the table and behind the backs of the American taxpayers yet again, a straight answer will have to be given. Of course, this will have serious implications if it is found that Obama is guilty of fraud. On such a national scale, that kind of fraud will end his political career and his freedom very quickly and we will be stuck with Joe Biden in the office of President of the US unless something happens to him and John Boehner steps into the Oval Office. Talk about a fine kettle of fish -- smelly, decaying, rotten fish at that. I'm sure Obama and his crew will find a way to side step this faux political scandal. Whatever happens, I wonder how many other skeletons will fall out of Obama's cabinet and how many questions will finally be answered. Should be an interesting year in 2014.

Funny, but I didn't intend to get into politics or yet another Obama scandal, but it jumped right out there. What I intended to do was muse on a comment a friend of mine made during a phone call last night. She opened my Yule gift last night and was pleased with the contents of the package. She got the leopard I cross stitched and always meant for her to have. She said it will go well in her library - when the remodel is finally finished and everything can finally be hung.

She said I cross stitch at the speed of light. I think it's a rather slow light, but I am beginning to wonder if I do stitch faster than most people. I follow a blog called The Speedy Stitcher and she is quite fast, except that her projects tend to be small items like biscornu and tiny mice about 2-3 inches high and not much bigger around. I could finish one of those in a couple of hours, or an afternoon come to that. The projects I make are much larger and much more complex, like Xmas stockings, which take me about a month to finish, unless they are Brittercup designs. Those are much quicker and much less detailed and take me a week at the outside. I don't stitch constantly since I have a job and other things to do as well. I have been known to do a very complicated and detailed piece in 2 weeks, but I didn't have a job then and worked about 8 hours on the piece. The longest I have taken to finish a cross stitch pattern is 2 months, but that was very large and very detailed and had hundreds of beads to be attached.

I don't know that I'm quick as much as focused when I cross stitch, except when there is a big mistake that has to be fixed or I'm working in unfamiliar territory and have to design as I stitch. That's a whole different situation altogether. The only thing I can say -- and did say to my friend -- is that I am good with my hands. Always have been. So, take good with hands and add in a healthy splash of tunnel vision (focus), add a dash of determination to finish whatever I've started (family issues - don't go there), and sheer joy at the task and I have a lot of finished pieces, most of which end up as gifts. It's a good combination for getting things done.

In the end, for me, it's all about giving someone a gift they will treasure and enjoy for years and that makes it all worthwhile.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

REVIEW: Have Wormhole, Will Travel by Tony McFadden

Australia gave us Mad Max in a post apocalyptic world. Now there is Tony McFadden with a new twist on history and physics and vampires. By the way, there is no such thing as vampires, just aliens who gave Bram Stoker the idea for vampires. Or at least that is the way the story goes.

Take two tall, pale-skinned, and very strong aliens who have been on Earth for 400 years as advance scouts for their own planet 20 light years away, add 3 very lovely and unusual fan girls convinced Callum and his partner are vampires, throw in a mad scientist who thinks he can create wormholes and you have a world on the brink of destruction. It seems Callum's bosses back on his home planet are ready to direct a neutron star through a wormhole in Earth's direction if they can conceivably create wormholes to be used as a means of going to the home planet to steal their resources and wage war. They have destroyed other emerging technological societies and they are ready to do it again. Their only problem is Callum who has come to see Earth as a lovely planet to spend the rest of his very long life on -- and he is strongly to attracted to one of the fan girls, the martial arts teacher and fitness buff who owns her own business and just happens to be living with the not so mad scientist. He has a choice to make and he is running out of time. Earth's slated for destruction.

Tony McFadden uses Sydney, Australia and the surrounding areas to set her story, except for a few quick trips to the home planet quarantine chamber, and creates not only a plausible story but one that is fascinating and full of science and adventure. Who knew aliens have been watching us right here on our own planet and have quashed some of the best technological advances all to keep us in the Thules? (That's toolies to the uninformed.)

The scientist has a brilliant mind and and an ego to match and Jackie, the martial arts teacher and studio/dojo owner, is not as stupid as the scientist thinks. The other two fan girls are not quite so clueless either and they provide some of the humor and gum for the works. Three aliens, the ones on planet, are part of the story, but so is the elder in the quarantine chamber on the home planet and he is a bit one-dimensional as all villains and elders entrenched in a certain way of thinking and doing things. Add in an autocratic administrator of the university and a general of the armed forces with their own single-minded goals and you have a corner of the world where things get interesting quickly. McFadden hasn't stinted on the science either, even if there isn't enough of it to help anyone make a wormhole with cold fusion to power it. A genius or two might come up with the means to take us off planet and explore the universe with just those clues.

Have Wormhole, Will Travel is an inventive, funny, serious, and eminently fast read that satisfies and astonishes in equal measure. Aside from the one-dimensional characters, I'd say the book is just the beginning of a new friendship for a whole new bunch of science and fiction buffs, and the odd fan boy/girl. Well done. Now, when will Tony McFadden write something else I can devour? I really liked this modern urban science fiction as much as I enjoyed Mad Max.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holidays Aren't for Family and Fun Any More

Not having holidays is not surprise to me. I work in the health care industry as a medical transcriptionist and the company I work for doesn't give us holidays off -- none of them. I work through Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, and every other holiday that falls on a weekday. It's the price I pay for having a full time job.

However, most people have jobs with benefits that include holidays off with pay and they look forward to spending the time with their families and friends. I wish I could be one of them, but hospitals never close and I'm not a doctor who comes and goes as she pleases. I'm one of the worker ants and take what I can get.

Oh, there are a lot of people without families or friends or a place to share the holidays and there are always people who have no interest in the holidays because of a family tragedy or plain old every day tragedy that makes the holidays difficult. There are the those that find any lightness difficult to bear for many reasons, but by and large people want to share their holidays with their loved ones or at least spend time with the poor and homeless at shelters and gatherings where food and companionship is shared where it's warm and there is food donated and served by caring people. There are lots of options and many places to go if you've a mind to carve out a small piece of holiday cheer and a good meal. That is except for this 2013 season of holidays. Obama has decided that the holidays are his to use for his own purposes.

President Obama has decided to use families to have The Talk with their friends and relatives about signing up for the Affordable Care Act. That is far more important than turkey, family, and football. It is even more important shopping and handing out gifts from under the Christmas tree or during the holy time of Channukah or Eid or Kwanzaa or whichever way you celebrate the autumn and winter holidays. Obama has thoughtfully provided a list of talking points and how to plan your Talk about Health Care because in the end it is all about health care and the Affordable Care Act and not about holidays or family or peace on Earth with good will toward wo/men.

I suppose this too will go by the boards as just another quirk in the otherwise smooth running of America during Obama's term in office. Business as usual. People don't really care about having time off to spend with their families and every holiday family meal would be enhanced by bringing up health care, especially if Aunt Martha or Uncle Ted eat too much food or have too much dessert so they end up unconscious or in pain on the floor while someone calls 9-1-1 or EMS to take them away to the hospital. There is always the possibility that someone will die, as has happened many times before and will again in the future, during the holidays, so why not make the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare the main topic of conversation? It doesn't matter that the health care will be too late to save Uncle Ted and Aunt Martha, but at least the rest of the family will be safe from the expense of a long hospital stay or catastrophic illness. You know how people like to announce to the whole family they have cancer and only a few months to live during the holidays while they have everyone gathered together. Nothing like impending death and high health costs to brighten up a family gathering.

The fact is that the disastrous launch of the website has eaten away the numbers expected to sign on and sign up and the bottom line is -- as always -- numbers. If Obama cannot motivate people to give up their peaceful and happy holidays to strong arm their family and friends into signing up for ACA then Obama's singature legislation will have failed and the opposition will win. Politics during the holidays, what could be more appropriate and timely?

Maybe it's time you decide what you want to do with your holidays and how you spend them. After all, choice is still free in America -- so far.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.