Thursday, March 31, 2011


I know people who do yoga every day. It seems to help them and to enrich their lives. Exercise is a good thing and we live in a sedentary society where you have to go out of your way to build muscle. If you do it long enough, you may end up looking like -

This guy (above) - your face here.

This is a practical approach to yoga. You may prefer the regionally adapted New England style of yoga to that practiced by Eastern mystics.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Feels Like Spring

MY top five signs that Spring is coming:

ONE - The Mercury rose to 89 F here today and it's predicted to be another scorcher with 90 F (32 C) tomorrow. Consecutive days with warm weather mean that it's springtime.

TWO -  The surf report is looking good but there will be a high tide early in the morning and that's not good. Still, it feels like a typical spring surf.

THREE - The gardner may have to mow twice a week to keep the lawn just so.

FOUR - The roses are still in full bloom, the way they've been all winter - but I think we have a few more buds. Tulip season has passed, so it must be spring!

FIVE - I can wear shorts, sandals and a t-shirt all day and all night if I want to and I'm comfortable - and the women are dressing down too. It just feels like spring!

(h/t Darlin' for the idea for this post)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writer's Block

I'm not saying that I have writer's block today, but sometimes when I'm trying to pull an idea out of the ether, I feel a lot like this:

Over the last day or two I've been making some serious progress on Jackhammer (forthcoming novel) and I have been working up the pitch I'm going to give a potential publisher that I'm meeting in Washington DC in a couple of weeks.

People commonly say that artists are batshit crazy, but I think that goes double for authors. You have to look into the abyss to write well, and as Nietzsche said, "When you look too long into the abyss, the abyss also looks back into you."

Thoreau said that it's not worth going around the world just to count cats in Zanzibar. I'm hoping that my journeys amount to more than counting cats when applied to the books I've written and am working on now.

BUT when I can hear one hand clapping, it's time to take a break from writing - or a cold shower - or something.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bundle of Joy

My daughter took a photograph of her husband/my son-in-law holding their new baby, Cannon. I spent the day today with Cannon and his brother, Griffin. It's pretty cool -- being a grandpa.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Plans for the Week

There is a far better even than par chance that I'll be flying to Washington DC and NY City for work this week. I thought it would be the perfect chance to pick up that good salsa that they make there.

Yes, there are things that they have in DC and NY/NY but good or even decent Mexican food is not one of them. However I'm holding out hope for the salsa...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stork Report (cont'd)

The two brothers meet for the first time (Griffin & Cannon)
Cannon is wearing camouflage because he needs to get used to it early. There is a family legacy of military service - and Special Forces, though at 6 lbs 10 ozs, Cannon has some growing to do before they'll let him into BUDS.

Dad, Cannon and Mom

Little Brother

The addition of a new baby to the family - another grandson for me - is a very special event. We had the whole band together today for a brief hello at my house to the new arrival. Now he's headed home with Mom, Dad and brother Griffin.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stork Report

My oldest daughter, Amanda, gave birth to a 6 lbs 10 oz baby boy yesterday. Cannon entered the world with a BANG!

Mom, Dad and Cannon

Cannon, allowing Aunt Emilie to hold him.

The star of the show, Baby Cannon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day - and war tunes

As a former resident of Ireland (many years ago) during the troubles in the North, my contribution to the holiday may seem to be a bit unconventional.

Of all possible Irish tunes, I have always liked the 'war tunes' the best. It may seem odd since I fought on the crown side of the question, but it's not impossible to identify with the other side from time to time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Character Development

When writing a novel - or a portion thereof - I'm continually torn when writing female characters. Making them real, and making them interesting while not continually relying on sexual tension to carry the character is not easy.

I find men easier to portray without that dynamic, possibly because I'm a man and understand what makes them tick far more clearly. It's not easy being an author.

Monday, March 14, 2011


When you run a small company, you're essentially self-employed because success, failure or the blending of the two falls to -- YOU. In the US, the government is there to saddle you with taxes that 'other people' don't pay. After you're done paying your federal income tax, state income tax, your property tax, sales tax and various excise taxes, the Federal Government allows you to participate in the great self-employed adventure by slapping an additional 15.3% on your shoulders just to show you that they love you. (thanks)

Fortunately, because they want the 'little man' to prosper, they only tax the 15.3% on the first US$106,800 you earn each year. After you've paid the extra $16,300.00, for the honor of being self-employed, you don't have to pay anymore - until next year. That's on top of your regular tax rate. 

But if you're not successful being self-employed, there is no unemployment safety net that "regular employed people" enjoy.

Self-employment means that you fail a lot. I run somewhere close to a 90% failure rate on landing any particular project I wish to undertake, so I'm in the market for that illusive 10% success - which will be taxed thoroughly with a 15.3% kicker on top.

Gallup ran a poll and found that 57% of Americans would rather be self-employed. Most of those people who responded were not self-employed. They simply thought it would be cool to work your own hours, in a place of your choosing with people you like. And while that's true, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Plant Melt-Down (Japan)

IWAKI, Japan (AP) — An explosion at a nuclear power station Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor amid fears that it could melt down after being hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

Large amounts of radiation were spewing out and the evacuation area around the plant was expanded but officials did not know how dangerous the leak was to people. Shinji Kinjo, a spokesman for the Japanese nuclear agency, could not say how much radiation was in the atmosphere or how hot the reactor was following the failure of its cooling system.

Smoke rising from the nuclear power facility at Onahoma, Japan

The initial report by the Associated Press sounded dire. Then the Japanese Government issued a statement urging everyone to 'remain calm'. The Great Tohoku Earthquake has been a disaster of epic proportions in Japan with nearly 90,000 people missing, many of them presumed dead.  But what about the nuclear powerplant?

The BBC Reported that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima-Daiichi facility... however, the public was urged to remain calm. -- BUT they've evacuated people within 20 kilometers of the plant and the police have a cordon up 60 kilometers from the site. The Japanese are distributing iodine to residents to combat radiation sickness. Potassium Iodide (KI) or Potassium Iodate (KIO3) before exposure will saturate (fill up) a persons thyroid gland with safe stable iodine to where there is no room for later uptake of radioactive iodine. Once the thyroid is saturated, then any additional iodine (radioactive or stable) that is later inhaled or ingested is quickly eliminated via the kidneys.

The BBC report (above) suggests that "the explosion was most likely caused by melting (NUCLEAR) fuel coming into contact with water.

John Cooper's comments copied from GatewayPundit: "Nuclear reactors are not like a pot of water boiling on your kitchen stove. They continue to produce decay heat for weeks after the reactor is shut down due to the radioactive decay of fission by-products. Those megawatts of heat must continuously be removed using the Residual Heat Removal [RHR] system. Failing to cool the reactor after shutdown results in core heatup and possibly core meltdown. The RHR systems I’m familiar with use redundant 400HP vertical shaft centrifugal pumps driven by electric motors to circulate the hot water through heat exchangers to cool the water in the reactor.

When the reactor is shut down (“scrammed”), the plant depends upon offsite utility power to run the RHR pumps and other safety equipment. When the plant loses offsite power (as happened at Fukushima), there are three huge diesel generators that start up automatically to provide emergency backup power. At least that’s the theory.

At Fukushima, some dumb ass design engineer decided it was a good idea to locate the diesels where they could be flooded. No diesels means no electric power to run the emergency systems to cool the plant. Apparently they had the steam-powered auxiliary feedwater pumps for a while.

Now they’re totally fooked. It must be real dark in the control room at the moment.

“In a BBC report a nuclear physicist stated that if they use sea water to cool the reactor, they have written off the reactor for ever being used again. Too many contaminants in sea water, the reactor will be scrapped if they do this.”

That’s exactly correct. The chlorine in the salt water causes stress-corrosion cracking in the stainless steel piping. The plant will never operate again if exposed to sea water.

Also, if they’re desperate enough to pump sea water in there, I’m wondering what they are going to do with the radioactive runoff. Let it drain out to sea, probably. With no electricity, what else can they do?"

We all wait for more news from Japan, but sadly, there's not a lot of good news in the aftermath of the 8.9 earthquake.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alexander Selkirk's Island

I'm not declaring this a 'bucket list destination', but in the world of out-of-the-way places, it has to be high on the list.

It's located some 674 km (411 miles) from the Chilean mainland in the Pacific Ocean. On this island, Alexander Selkirk (Robinson Crusoe) was marooned in 1705 and lived in absolute solitude for 5 years. His story was the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's classic novel, Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe Island is one of three islands of the Juan Fernandez archipelago. The archipelago was declared a national park by the nation of Chile in 1935.

San Juan Bautista (the only city) with some 500 inhabitants, engages mainly in fishing for the incerless lobster.

In 1977 these islands were declared by UNESCO as World Biosphere Reserves, have been considered of great scientific importance because of the endemic species of flora and fauna. Of the 146 native species of plants, 101 are endemic.

Defining what is 'cold'

COLD DEFINED by Southern California Standards: When you walk outside barefoot, wearing cut-off shorts and a t-shirt and feel the hint of a chill.  THAT is when you know it's winter.

Some people define it as an evening when you're sleeping with the window open, naked, under nothing but a sheet - and you feel as it it would be better to pull a second sheet over your body.


COLD  DEFINED by Canadian Standards: When you breathe in the air and your lung tissue begins to die due to frostbite. That is when you know that winter is on the way.

But to give them their due, Canadians are simply tougher than normal human beings. They love the cold, they revel in it, and they don't find any discomfort in standing on an iceberg (Canadian beach) in a bikini.

Different nations and regions, 
different standards of warm and cold.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Greatest Snow on Earth?

In Southern California, most people think of snow as that material that we don't touch that dusts the tops of the  high mountains that ring the Greater Los Angeles Area during the depths of winter. "Snow" is also an acronym for cocaine - and there is quite a bit of that substance in SoCal, brought north by murderous narcotics cartels. (shameless plug for my book Bloody Mexico)

View from my hotel room this morning (Note mountains are shrouded in clouds where it's still snowing)

However the farthest west I could get an airplane to take me last night was Salt Lake City. I thought that by March the weather would be balmy (like where I live  and in the Eastern Caribbean). No, they had the 'greatest snow on earth' falling in abundance when I landed. Fortunately, as an experienced traveler, I packed a REALLY good ski jacket so I stayed cozy warm. Though it's slightly clearer this morning, last night the snow fell very heavily.

So I'll soldier on and descend in latitude back to where the sun shines later this morning, gentle readers. My Journey won't be hindered by a little snow. I'm headed back to a place where the pool in the back yard isn't frozen over into a skating rink and the only ice is that substance that chills whatever is in my glass...

Monday, March 7, 2011


Doesn't the Queen of England look a bit younger on the local currency? Or is it just me?

I'm almost ready to gear-up and board the helicopter for Hewanorra Airport near the town of Vieux Fort. From there you can look south and see St. Vincent Island and the Grenadines. The roads take a lot of time to traverse because they're narrow, filled with potholes and everyone drives as if they've got a lady in the back seat and the baby is crowning. 

Taking a helicopter removes those concerns and it's a nice way to hop from place to place in the Caribbean. It doesn't have the elegance of a schooner or as mentioned, the hair-raising adventure of a ride down narrow volcanic mountain switch-backs, but it's better. (nice work if you can get it)

Bandwidth (the thing I'm blogging on) is one of those things that is new to the developing world - but it's here and it makes things a lot easier and less expensive than your Irridium or Inmarsat satphone. The Caribbean uses the GSM telephone band and most of the rest of the planet uses CDMA. They're mutually exclusive so if you want to take a trip down here and remain in contact (but why would you?), you'll need to opt for a dual band telephone or rent a GSM band cell phone.  -- Or use a satphone and bounce your voice off a bird in geosync orbit.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pigeon Island

(photo from hotel window)
It's a chunk of volcanic rock with a distant view of Port Royal, Martinique and it provided an anchorage for the British Fleet, circa 1778-1780's when the French and British Empires fought for control of the Spice Islands. It also presides over Rodney Bay where those yachts are bobbing at anchor.

Fort Rodney protects the anchorage and serves as a permanent lookout. It also protected the colony on St. Lucia from pirates (Pirates of the Caribbean).

As legend has it, without the fort where it now sits, pirates would have forced women of the town to 'surrender the booty'...

One of three original 24 pound cannon (6" gun) - overlooking the bay.

24 pounder looking across  toward Martinique. There were also two 11" mortars and another battery of cannon outside of the fort itself. A redoubt protected the approaches.

An enterprising company filled in the land between St. Lucia and Pigeon Island in recent years and built a resort on the causeway.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Writing a College Essay (example)

Sometimes it's just as simple as that...

Friday, March 4, 2011


The southern portion of the Island of St. Lucie is more rural than the northern section primarily because of the rain forrest and the volcano (cue Jimmy Buffet)

The coast of the entire island is a series of volcanic peaks and bays as illustrated below:

Island life is languid and there is really no hurry to do -- anything. In fact, doing absolutely nothing is the stock in trade for people looking to escape the rush and hassle of industrial cities.

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