Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I Was Ambushed This Morning by the Middle Schoolers

Greetings, to all my Internet friends and neighbors, and howdy to the one or two kinfolk who can read.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

Didn't really care for it as a kid. I was painfully shy, and was never able to tell girls that I liked them. What if they said no?
I might DIE!
This was long, long before I learned to read body language and interpret tone of voice, eye contact, and that sort of thing. It was terribly limiting.
I no longer have that problem; so, let me take this opportunity to clear this up:

Kathy Powell, wherever you are, I was madly in love with you in the 7th grade. 

I taped the Valentine's Day card you gave me over where I thought my heart was, and wore it to the 7th grade skating party at Durr's Lake. Just never was brave enough to tell you about it.
Probably made you nuts, but I was just too shy to let you know.

There. That's one more amends taken care of!

So, this morning, I got ambushed by the Middle School Brother Sister Tag Team. Now, I had spent ONE HOUR with them earlier, in serious, yet interesting, conversation, about menus, grocery items, and Proverbs Chapter 13.

And the did not say pea turkey to me about ....this.

But they were running a game on me, because just MOMENTS before they go out the door, faithful (yet often pestiferous) little sister Alicia comes into my man cave, and says (read this in a winsome girl voice):

"Papa Pat, when you go to the grocery store, will you get Kenneth a big heart-shaped box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers?"

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, he's got this girl at school. and, just get the chocolate and the flowers, okay?"

"What girl?"

"She's this girl at school. Just get the chocolate and flowers for Kenneth, okay?"

"What girl?"

"She's a friend of mine."

"What girl?"

"It's SQUERDLOCK." (gives the name of a lovely young lady we have known for several years. )

"Well, I need to hear this from Kenneth."

Alicia vanishes, and a moment later, Kenneth APPEARS in my man cave. Actually, not ALL of him appears. Just his head and shoulders; the rest of him is out of sight, behind the door, with just the tips of his fingers appearing to have a death-grip on the door frame..

And HE says (read THIS in a ninety mile-per-second adolescent boy voice, devoid of any inflection whatsoever)


...and he's gone. In the vacuum left by his passing, sheets of paper and maybe a tumbleweed fly through the air.

So, I get the flowers and the chocolate:

Roses, and Russell Stover's (the big box) .
Come big, or stay at home.
That's my motto!

And, a few minutes ago, Kenneth and Alicia got home from school. Their reactions were not what I had expected.

ALICIA got all excited upon seeing the flowers, squealing, etc. Kenneth's reaction was...meh.

So, I inquired. And got the entire story:

It seems that SQUERDLOCK and Alicia were talking, and SQUERDLOCK complained to Alicia that she didn't have anyone who would give her a Valentine. So, Alicia said she would get Kenneth to do it. And faithful (yet often pestiferous) big brother Kenneth said he would.

And now, he wishes that the earth would open up and swallow him, because he has ZERO desire to cause SQUERDLOCK any emotional pain, yet he does not wish to enter into a relationship with her. The lad is in a dilemma.

Fortunately, he has Papa Pat on his side. And Papa Pat, what with having raised teenagers before, and what with having been a middle school counselor for 16+ years, knows a thing or two about extricating yourself from sticky situations. 

And my advice is this: Kenneth will write SQUERDLOCK a note. In this note, he will tell her that when little sister Alicia informed him that she had no one to give her a special Valentine, he knew that this was an injustice that must be remedied, especially since SQUERDLOCK is the most beautiful girl in town. He would like for them to be Sweet-hearts, which is not the same as Boyfriend and Girlfriend. Sweet-hearts are friends who do especially nice things for each other from time to time. Sweet-hearts don't date each other, but if you find yourself without an escort to the Important Event, you can call your Sweet-heart, and they will take you. Boyfriends and Girlfriends usually break up in one or two weeks, but Sweet-hearts last a life time. You can always count on a Sweet-heart...

...and something like that is what we are going to attempt. Kenneth drafted a BEAUTIFUL first draft, but I sent him back with some suggestions for improvement.

I'll let you know how it works out....

Peace be on your household (and on mine as well!)

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Trace the Stars": Anthology Funding Student Entry to LTUE

Greetings, my dear Internet friends, neighbors, and the occasional family member who actually reads my stuff!

Papa Pat has something special for you today!
This book will NOT be published until FEB 14, 2019!!!

If you don't run an ad-blocker, you see the link. If you DO run an ad-blocker (as I do). you see zip, so here is this:

And the reason you see THIS, is because the proceeds from the sale of 
subsidize student admission fees to the LTUE conference.

Also: If you click a link in my blog and then buy the product from Amazon, I get a referral fee. It's not much; I've made $20 over the last four years. However, whatever minuscule amount comes my way from referrals on this post, I will also donate to LTUE, and match, up to the aforementioned $20.

I received a copy of this work from the editor, who requested a fair review. I was happy to oblige, as at the moment I was watching my daughter cheer for her middle school basketball team, and any distraction was welcome.

Proceeds from the sale of this work will be used to sustain the ability to offer students attending the Life, The Universe and Everything conference a much, much reduced entry fee. That's worth doing, so, buy this one, okay? The authors DONATED their work to this cause!

I've never been to LTU&E, and just from the reading I've done as prep for this review, it seems to me that the overall theme is this: what we do matters. Decisions must be made ethically, even if no one knows about it. I may be utterly wrong about that, but I include a couple of links so you can read up on it yourself:  About LTUE. ;   LTUE on WikipediaA History of LTUE.

I began reading with a bit of confusion, due to the dedication. I find that my reading pattern involves routinely skipping over content-free sections of text, a category to which I have assigned poetry, proper names, and most designations of time and geography. This USUALLY works, although sometimes I do have to go back and re-read, when I find myself hopelessly lost. That was the case here.

The book is dedicated to (mumble mumble) “Doc” Smith. Well, that's reasonable. Doc Smith was one of the early SF writers, and a noted mentor to Heinlein, after all. So there is no incongruity in the dedication of a volume  of space opera to him. Right?

Wrong. My flash-reading let me down; in the place of the (mumble mumble) up above, I find not 'Edward Elmer,' but 'Marion K.' It's an entirely different Doc Smith, linked, as far as I know, only by love of science fiction, and the accident of academic credentials and a common last name. THIS Doc Smith receives proper homage in Monson's “Foreword,” and I encourage you to read it as well as the stories.

To which we now turn our attention:

“Angles of Incidence,” by Nancy Fulda. The good doctor Kittyhawk – call her Kitty – is perfectly happy dealing with dead things, whether it's pieces of beings or pieces of structures. They don't bother her with disturbing intrusions into her space; they just sit there, at peace and in pieces, and allow her to discover their secrets at her own pace. So, it's bothersome to her when she is pulled off her field site, and asked to solve a question under a deadline; particularly when this is a literal deadline.  Deadly serious actions, with elements of comedy.

“The Road Not Taken,” by Sandra Tayler. It's likely that every one of us have spent time wondering (or fixating upon) what would happen had we made a different choice. We think we would be happier, if we had gone the other way. I've read several stories revolving around ways to make the choice differently, and it never works out, but this is the first story I've seen with this approach. I DO hope the author was going for 'creepy' in the reader reaction, because this one sent chills.

“Log Entry,” by Kevin J. Anderson. He's really a masterful writer: gives you (almost) the punchline, then tells the story. It is an engrossing tale of resolve, youthful expectations meeting reality, and a very strange alien ecology. This is one of my favorites in the collection, as it speaks directly to my love of military sci-fi. 

“The Ghost Conductor of the Interstellar Express,” by Brad R. Torgersen. If he knows how to write a bad story, I have found no evidence of it yet, I've just reviewed his short story 'Scrith' in the recently-issued “Man-Kzin Wars XV,” (it was wonderful) and then I was pleasantly surprised to discover he has a story in this collection as well. WOOT! I don't QUITE know how to describe the feel of this work; it's a bit melancholy, almost. The protagonist, Caddy Brenton, was removed from her parents as a young child, and sent with an older brother on a centuries-long journey to colonize a planet that there was only theoretical evidence of. When the ship arrives, there is, in fact, a planet, but it is totally devoid of life and the chemicals needed to create or sustain life. The solution: send out comet-catchers, to snag long-period comets and divert them to orbit around New Olympia, where their raw materials will be used to bring a garden where there is only desert. And that's what Caddy's beloved older brother was doing, when he vanished. Just him; his ship returned without him. She has to find out what happened. 

“A Veil of Leaves,” by M. K. Hutchins. It's her wedding day, and to her great joy, the star-man arrives! The star-people have provided them with power and light; who knows what beneficence will come this time? Surely it will be something wonderful! 

“Freefall,” by Eric James Stone. Anyone who has read “The Cold Equations” will never forget it, and it has such an emotional impact that you overlook the fact that it's utterly preposterous. It's entirely possible you won't ever forget “Freefall,” either.

“Launch,” by Daniel Friend.  Charity Penland is on the witness stand, to give testimony that will convict a co-worker of negligence or sabotage of the colony ship that carried away, among others, her treasured baby sister.  
This one is over the top, in my opinion; it produces a visceral reaction, but at the expense of distorting how humans handle guilt and grief. No one can tolerate living with such strong emotions as are expressed here without blurting out a confession. Just my opinion.

“Glass Beads,” by Emily Martha Sorensen. I've read a couple of good treatments of First Contact where the inequality of trade is a factor, starting with "Liberation of Earth" (1953) by William Tenn, with the lovely riff “Any lendi, dendi?” It wasn't until years later that I heard Glenn Miller's band play “Got a penny, Jenny?”More recently is the entire Four Horsemen series, which MUST have reached a hundred volumes by this time (at least, it seems that way). However, I haven't seen the treatment done in quite this way, and really, it's a very good read.

“Sweetly the Dragon Dreams,” by David Farland. Space Monsters wish to destroy all life in the galaxy; on a distant planet, humans and allies fight back.  That sounds like science fiction, but this reads like fantasy. I NEVER read fantasy if I can help it. If you like fantasy, I expect you will like this. 

“Working on Cloud Nine,” by John M. Olsen. Loved this one; didn't think I was going to at first, because it took me a while to understand the plain words on the screen. I have no excuse for that; it's a GREAT read! Sabotage on a space station, having to solve the problem before the rescue team gets there because unauthorized experiments; GREAT stuff! 

“Fido,” by  James Wymore. I was deeply taken into the world of the protagonist, a human on an alien spacecraft. He volunteered to go, because he felt he had nothing to hold him to Earth. After he discovers he was wrong, it's too late to return. And they are messing with his mind... Upon reflection, perhaps this is a horror tale; it's certainly of Twilight Zone quality. Very well done.

“Knowing Me,” by Eric G. Swedin. In 20+ years as an educator, I encountered more than a few kids  on the Asperger's/Autism spectrum that required modification of their educational program. A very few of them were also extremely intelligent.  Only one came anywhere near the limits and the abilities of this protagonist, and he wasn't even that close. What I find best about this selection is the sympathetic way in which he is treated by the author: this is not a monster or a freak. He is a highly gifted individual, with no social skills to speak of, and an overarching need for routine. It's through no fault of his that he was chosen to save the world, and that his selection cost him all that he had. Beautiful story.

“Making Legends,” by Jaleta Clegg. There are all sorts of ways in which we are denied our heart's desire. Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways we can find it, as well. Wonderfully wacky story. 

“Neo Nihon,” Paul Genesse. China has a population bomb that has already exploded on them; it's just that the shock waves haven't reached their limits yes. That's a truth, and this work uses that as a basis for the story. It's set in a far-distant time, and on a far distant planet, but it strongly evokes the Rape of Nanking, which some believe to be the true beginning of WWII, rather than the German invasion of Poland. I wonder if the author had the rape of Nanking in mind when he wrote this?

“The Last Ray of Light,” by Wulf Moon. You MUST read the Editor's Note and the Author's Note on this story! The author was 15 years old when this work was published. Seen with that perspective, it's a work of genius.  Otherwise, it's merely good, and the 'merely' qualification comes only because the characters' names are Xenon and Argon. That's the kind of thing a 15 year old inserts into the story to highlight the science fiction nature of the writing; it's not something an adult writer would do. Well, except for Isaac Asimov. The other noticeable discrepancy of the story is a function of the time in which it was written (1978) ; charmingly (to those of us of a certain maturity), the computer ends each sentence with 'STOP.' I am grateful they decided to release it in this form, instead of editing it to remove what would cause dissonance today.

“Cycle 335,” by Beth Buck. I really can't say very much about the plot of the story without spoiling it horribly, and I won't do that. I will say that the author sticks in nicely disconcerting thoughts in the protagonist's head. I'll also say that this is one of the worst wide-awake nightmares to have. 

“Sea of Chaos,” by Julia H. West. All of the science in the world won't make a good story if the characters aren't real. As far as the science goes, you really aren't asked to make too many leaps of faith. The first one is a standard, which is that there exists a FTL drive, in this case referred to as 'overspace.' However, the charming aspect of this particular drive, is that it is managed by a navigator using a VR interface that simulates the long voyages taken by the Polynesian explorers. Both of those are merely an excuse to bring the real joy of the story, which is of an old dog and some new tricks. 

So, the book will go on sale the day of the LTUE conference kicks off, February 14, 2019. However, I think you can pre-order.
Not trying to tell you how to run your life, okay? Only giving you some information.
Because that's how I roll.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Memory of the Time Before Marriage; Vows to God

Greetings, Internet Friends and Neighbors and Happy Family!
And howdy to glum family as well; I recommend a nap.

Nine years ago this week, I bought my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, an engagement ring, and put it on her finger. It's a lovely memory. 
Then, I was cleaning up my browser bookmarks today, and ran across this bit of history. Before you read it, I must explain:

Three years after my long-time family unit disintegrated, I emerged from my cocoon, and sought counsel from my pastor about my future. Was it possible for me to begin a family at age 57? I had no idea about how that might happen; I had been married for a little over 32 years, and knew NOTHING about the contemporary dating scene.

He had a few ideas, thinking about some women he knew in the church, but none of those turned out to be a match. Too soon, too young, whatever. He suggested I look into dating websites, including Harmony and Christian Mingle. 

I gave that a try for a bit, but my results were not good. For some reason, my profile seemed to attract 70 year old ladies with no teeth who lived in a chicken coop in Despair, Montana, and that was about it. So, I had reconciled myself to learning to be single. After three years, maybe I was over the worst of the adjustment.

I decided to give it one last try.

(Ignore the yellow spots. 
This is a scan of the original picture, 
which I printed from the website 
and carried in my wallet for nine years.)

I get a picture of this drop-dead gorgeous woman on my page; and her screen name is a BIBLE VERSE! I look it up; it's a BOLD Bible verse!
For your husband is your Maker,
Whose name is the Lord of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5, NASB) 

This drop-dead gorgeous woman is proclaiming that she is the wife of the Almighty God! 

And you should have seen the list of requirements she had for a husband....BRRRR! She said she was seeking a man who would be faithful like Abraham, passionate about God like David,  brave like Gideon, and love her unconditionally like Jesus. 
(I'm afraid I may have lost consciousness at that point. For a bit. But I got better!)

"But Pat," I said to myself, "this woman is TOO YOUNG for you! You are 57, she looks like she is, MAYBE, 30 years old!"

Except the age range she gives is 50-60, and she says she is a grandmother; is it, perhaps, a picture from a long time ago? We correspond, a tiny bit, and arrange to meet on Christmas Day, 2010. And that's when I discover that she really IS a grandmother, she really IS just six years younger than me, and she really IS that beautiful and looks that young.

Ummm...about that meeting: I left one tiny little detail out. You see, as soon as I saw that picture (THOSE EYES!!!) and read her profile, with her uncompromising stance on her Christian beliefs, I knew I wanted to marry her, and my greatest fear was that someone else was going to grab her up before I put my claim in. 

So, I did something that some may find a bit impetuous. Hasty, even. 
(I care not. This is my FUTURE we are talking about here!)

Ummm...I told her in one of the CM exchange posts (on December 23, 2010 to be exact), that when she asked me to marry her, I would say 'Yes.'

Well, no, we actually hadn't even met, yet. But she was EXACTLY what I wanted in a wife, to the tiniest detail, and I really didn't want to lose her to some guy who was just as smitten as I was. I wasn't depriving her of HER choice; she didn't even have to answer my messages if she didn't want to. I was just letting her know that I had found what I was looking for. Why keep on looking if you see what you want right away?
That was my perspective.

So, I went to her house on Christmas Day. I brought presents for her children, and for HER, I had something special: I gave her my high school ring (class of 1971) and my Army dog tags. 
(Always HAVE been a romantic!)

I chuckle, because it was obvious to me that she was scared pretty badly. I expect she was afraid I was going to attack her, or ask her to run off into the wilderness and join a survival commune or something. Nope. I was my normal, charming, polite self, acting just the way a proper suitor should act. I was nice to her kids, and spent whatever time talking with them that was convenient for them. 

And, within a few weeks, she DID ask me to marry her, and I said yes, and then we got an engagement ring and started a LONG (seven month) series of pre-marital classes. She said our relationship was like that of Ruth and Boaz. 
We were married on August 6, 2011.

There WERE some bumps along the way, even at the very end of the engagement period. Love prevailed, though. And what follows is something I wrote not long before our wedding day:
So, I'm marrying the wife of the Almighty God. That's a pretty tough act to follow! It's not news to me, though; in fact, I knew my sweet Ruthie, my darling Vanessa, was the Wife of the Almighty before I knew her name! So, I walked into this relationship with my eyes open.

But now, as I'm writing my wedding vows, I have realized something. I have to make vows to Vanessa, which is customary, but I also have to make vows to the Lord God. He's really her Husband; He's just loaning her to me, temporarily, until He returns for her. So, it's a pretty solemn event, when I promise our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the universe, that I will treat Vanessa, His bride, the same way He treats her. Query: is it even POSSIBLE for me to do that? Well, it must be, because there's no way He would permit His bride to be placed with some dork who wasn't going to cherish her, always desire her good, and take joy in serving her.

And truth be told, I am incredibly honored to be chosen! Check this out, all you dudes who read this: The Almighty God was looking for someone He could trust with His bride...AND HE PICKED ME! WHOO- HA! Did I win the lottery, or WHAT! Out of all the men in the world, He picked ME to stand in for Him. Listen, I don't know what your measures of success are, but this is better than being king. this is better than getting picked to be the chaplain to the United States Senate. This is bigger than being the Pope! Or being chosen to lead three major denominations at the same time! Listen to this: God went looking for someone who He could trust to be married to His wife, AND IT'S ME! That makes me like, I dunno, a super-hero or something! Maybe I'll get my own comic book: Stand-In Husband Man!

I ain't worried (okay, maybe a little bit, but just a little), because those He calls He equips. So whatever areas I currently am not up to standard in, God is going to issue me the equipment I need, or provide the training, or whatever is needed. That's because we are SURE about one thing: He is very, very serious about loving His bride.
Man, I've got to get those vows finished pretty soon. Only 17 days, 17 hours, and 23 minutes until the ceremony.

I love thee, sweetest Ruthie, darling Vanessa.

Your teddy bear is waiting for you.

And that's the way it worked out. And I'm glad.

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Man-Kzin Wars XV: HOORAY!!

If you don't have an ad blocker running, what follows will be a graphic link  to the book on Amazon:

For those who DO have an ad blocker, as I do, I do not wish that you should miss the chance to see the cover of (clickable link follows =>) MAN-KZIN WARS XV, so here it is:

The Cover. 
Nice, huh?

Seems like decades, but it's only been six years since the last Man-Kzin Wars collection was released. SIX LONG, MISERABLE, STARVING YEARS!!!!! Maybe that's a good thing; they say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", but that's only the pathetic solace sought by one who has been denied access to the object of affections. 

And there is SO much that we can be affectionate about when it comes to the war cats. To the best of my knowledge, the Long Peace, those 300 years in which humanity was lobotomized out of studying war, produced exactly ONE story: "Safe At Any Speed." Those who are SMOFs will correct me on this matter (or rather, they would if they read my blog) in the event that I'm wrong; I'm just basing that statement by Larry Niven that it's the only story from that time that he wrote, because: it's so BORING.

I wish to make this point perfectly clear: I would VASTLY prefer living during the Long Peace. I rather doubt that I would ever vote in a government that promised to socially engineer us to that point, especially since there are several billion people who don't share citizenship with me, and thus would not be subjects of that engineering, but still: if I were PERFECTLY assured (and there's the problem) of living in peace with all, I would be willing to forfeit some irascibility. I've got grandchildren, you see, and I'd like for them to be able to live as the first generation of my family who didn't HAVE to go to war. I am proud of the four generations of veterans! But war is not what I would choose for my life.

It IS what I choose for my escapist reading, however. I do not wish to read stories of interesting conversations all the time, as amusing as I find "The Importance of Being Earnest." It's a pleasant diversion, but I rather need the smell of horse sweat, the clack of the Winchester as I jack another round in the chamber, the 'voom-voom" of the light saber. 

So, HOORAY for Man-Kzin XV! These Are the droids stories we were looking for!  Even if we DID have to wait six years!

And now, to the stories:

"Sales Pitch," by Hal Colebatch, one of the strong veterans of the series. I suspect he knows more about this aspect of Known Space than anyone else. Whether everything he knows is TRUE remains to be seen, but he tells an excellent story. In this one, he provides deep, deep, deep background to the conflict between Man and Kzin, giving us another reason to despise those who pull the strings.

"Singer of Truth," by Martin L Shoemaker, another long-time writer. This tale is set relatively early in the Wars, before much of the self-centered nastiness of the human race has been stripped away by the desperate need to unite for survival. A human psycho-therapist risks his life and well-being in order to make contact with the Kzinti, especially those who don't wish to make contact with him. His biggest struggles come from his own people, who fight over their own privileges as if that were the biggest deal in the world.

"The Third Kzin," by Jason Fregeau. WHO IN THE HECK IS JASON FREGEAU??? When I first heard about this volume, I went looking, and I could find NOTHING he had written. And yet, he does one of the most elaborate combinations of classic films and Man-Kzin conflicts I have read.I love this particular method, although I am partial to the Humphrey Bogart movies. This one, though, is just wonderfully satisfying, combining the best elements of the movie (including the zither) with the story of Wunderland after the war.  I found "The Third Man" on a streaming service, and watched it in parallel with reading the story.  I think that served to enhance my experience; YMMV. But, don't miss this one, and I hope we get more Jason Fregeau in ANY lit form.

"Excitement," by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox." Both authors are veterans of this world, and it shows. I love the way in which they take pre-existing characters, ask 'What WOULD happen?' and then proceed to answer the question. In this case, it's the WunderKzin Vaermar-Ritt, who may yet solve the problem of a universe with both war cats and monkeys.

"Justice," by Jessica Q. Fox. As mentioned above, Fox is a MK veteran, and in this particular selection,l she appears to show some significant history with another thread that I don't recognize. Her characters seem to me to be too well developed to be created just for this story. THe Kzsin morality is their primary influence on the plot, which involves probably the nastiest villain I have seen in Known Space.

"Saga," by Brendan duBois. I'm having difficulties remembering if I have duBois' name associated with the MK universe, and the fact that I have to pick up my daughter for a cheerleader function in 29 minutes prevents me from taking advantage of my usual google-fu. Regardless, the snapshot of a particular point in Kzin development rings just as true as anything could. There have been numerous stories about the change from sentient to non-sentient females, but this strikes EXACTLY at the cusp. Even better than that, it inserts Kzin into one of the oldest myths humans have.

"Scrith," by Brad R. Torgersen. This is my personal favorite in the book, for at least three reasons. In the first place, Torgerson, a fellow POG, has written magnificently of the way in which a POG (Person Other than Grunt) can be the source of the human race being saved from a novel type BEM. Secondly, I loved Ringworld, as well as the other novels in the series, and this goes very far in answering some of the itch from "but what about" questions that linger after Niven closed the last book. Finally, it does a Wonderful job of covering new territory, while reading EXACTLY like Niven. It is UTTERLY faithful to the entire series. If you read Jurassic Park II, the you know that one of the serious questions was "How did they get this dino-clone thing right straight off the bat?" Well, same question goes for the RingWorld. 

As mentioned above, I have to be else where (now in only 19 minutes) so I will nt take the time to proof ths, nor will I attempt a brilliantly succinct summary paragraph. Gert the book!

Peace be on your household!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Back from "The Land of No Frontal Lobe!"

Greetings, Friends and Family out there in Internet Land!

It appears I am again operational, after some number of days in what I wryly refer to as "Zombie Man" mode. It happens when I am sleep deprived. I may LOOK normal, but I can't think coherently, my coordination is WAY off, I have little (if any) short-term memory, and I may experience auditory or visual hallucinations.

That used to be a regular thing, back when they were treating my chronic pain condition with morphine or fentayl,  from 2005 until 2012. The fentanyl gave me horridly vivid, repetitive nightmares, and the morphine kept me from going to sleep at all, for up to three nights in a row.  That's what lead to my forced retirement in 2007; I was no longer capable of doing my job as a school counselor. At the very end of my time employed, I arranged with the campus police officer to give me a field sobriety test, if there was any question about my fitness for work. And, a couple of times, I failed that test, and had to make arrangements for someone to take me home.

Seven months after marrying my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I realized that the side effects of the pain-killers were keeping me from being the kind of husband and father I wanted to be, and I withdrew cold turkey, from 165 mg of morphine per day to zero. The physical consequences to my body were unpleasant, but were limited to MASSIVE sweating, and restless leg syndrome:  I had absolutely no mental or emotional craving.

A consult with the orthopedic surgeon who had done a cervical fusion for me years before gave me a prescription for meloxicam, a powerful non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.  The pain clinic had given me a script for hydrocodone, in case I hit pain I couldn't manage. I averaged  1/2 pill (5 mg) of hydrocodone per week, and the Zombie Man attacks ceased instantly.

Unfortunately, after about 9 months, the NSAIDS started to make my gut bleed,  and I had to discontinue it. That meant I had to look at conventional return to pain meds again, but this time, they suggested the Butrans patch. Its' active agent is a rather bizarre opioid that appears to block pain without intoxicating the brain, and is missing some of the other bad side effects as well, such as constipation. I've been using it for about six years now, and haven't needed to increase the dosage.

It's very rare for Zombie Man to appear these days. He did show up last summer; my daughter noticed that my comments to her on Messenger were incoherent, so either she or I called my first-born son, who has had some experience with people with various types of neurological problems. At issue was whether this was a sleep deprivation-induced Zombie-Man experience, or whether I had suffered a stroke, seizures, or some other biological event. He came over to my house to check me out, and was prepared to take me to the hospital if needed.

That guy is SO cool! He ran a quick evaluation on me, without me even knowing he was doing it! I guess I have retained the idea that I know more medical stuff than him, because I was an army medic and he was a cannon-cocker. I tend to forget that he has spent huge chunks of the past five years of his life being poked, prodded, and otherwise invaded by brain docs, ever since he had a Real Bad Day in Afghanistan, involving a 155 mm rocket and a concrete wall. He also spent a lot of time with me back in the bad old days, when Zombie Man was a frequent visitor, so he knew what that looked like. He put me to bed, made sure I stayed there until I was asleep, and stayed with me until Vanessa got home.

This time, I'm not sure when the sleep deficit started. It must have started before Thursday, but I WAS able to do some things on Friday, and remember them; they DID take a lot longer to accomplish than they should have. I've got nothing on Saturday, but it was apparent that I wasn't tracking by then. So, Vanessa made me go to bed, and at some point I went to sleep. I slept though the 'get-up-for-church' alarm, and became functional shortly after noon  today.

I've checked my phone, emails, and Facebook page, and it doesn't appear that I insulted anyone, enlisted in the Army again, or made indecent proposals to the grocer.  And, I'm processing well enough to have written this. So, I have many reasons to give thanks. Actually, that's true enough on every day, but especially true after a crisis.

Thanks to the many, many friends who checked up on me, and your expressions of concern. If I have left anyone in doubt (I THINK I replied to all private messages), I apologize. And with that, I'm BACK!

Peace be on your household.

Friday, January 18, 2019

"What is the Kingdom of God Like?"

A great good morning to you, Internet Friends and Family! Just the other day, I had to look something up that was in a prior blog post, and noticed I had put NOTHING up for three weeks.
GREAT BIG sigh....
...because this is something I WANT to do, but with my attention to some other matters, posting here just fell by the wayside.
Maybe I should consider making a schedule, or a to-do list every day. These days, I ALWAYS make a list before going out to the store, and examine it closely when making my purchases, and it works, but I'm not nuts about making the commitment.

Like this, maybe.

So, this morning, while I am waiting on my son to come downstairs, I'm starting this blog, because it is about things significant to me.

In Matthew 13, we read of Yeshua  teaching in parables. I love parables; they were the only parts of the Bible I understood when I was a kid. The rules and laws, I understood, in the sense that I knew what the requirement was, and that it applied to ME, but I didn't understand WHY those rules and laws were there, or WHY I was supposed to go along with them CHEERFULLY.  With the parables, though, the pictures clicked.

The Parable of the Sower. UNDERSTOOD THAT! You spread lots of seed, some bears fruit, some doesn't.

The Parable of the Parables. I didn't really understand that one; why would you present a teaching in a way that was disguised? I understood what He was SAYING; just didn't know how it worked when I was a kid. Today, I understand it works two ways: if you are looking for a reason to reject the Kingdom, you can pretend it's too hard to understand; if you AREN'T looking to reject the kingdom, struggling with concepts a little bit truly helps you to earn what you learn, so you OWN it.

The Parables of the Weeds (or Tares, as we were taught) explains why God hasn't already brought judgement on a sinful world; the Parable of the Mustard Seed illustrates that from a tiny thing, a great thing can grow;  the Parable of the Leaven I understood with my head, but not with my experience until I began to mill wheat into flour, and mix in a LITTLE bit of yeast, which will make the entire loaf double in size.  I had never seen a mustard tree/bush, though, so I had to take that one on faith. It's a real thing, though: here's a picture of a guy reaching up above his head to pick the seed pods:

Picking the pods from a mustard plant; the pods contain the tiny little seeds, 
which are an excellent source of 
Omega-3 fatty acids and erucic acid, and 
may cure  polydactylism and galactorrhea instantly

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Costly Pearl. Yup. Understood them as soon as I heard them: the Kingdom of Heaven is so important that you would GLADLY give away everything you have in order to gain it.

And then, the first punchline. 

NOTE: I just dumped 384 words. They weren't BAD; I dumped them because they weren't ENOUGH. In order to make my point, in the way I was writing, I was going to need at least twice that much, so I cut the whole thing. I still have the words, and if you want them, I'll send them to you, but here's the summing up:

After WWII, everything changed...

...and now I resume with the stripped-down version of this post.

A by-product of those changes was a tendency to regard everything old as bad, everything new as good. THAT HAPPENS NOT TO BE THE CASE.

Yeshua says: 

“Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
My memories of scribes being mentioned in the New Testaments consists almost entirely of polemics against them: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" But here, they are accorded honor, if they are able to accept the devastating idea that things were changing. Then, they would have treasures new and old.

I'd like to be able to bring out treasures new and old, as well. Not the physical stuff; burglars can steal that right out from under your nose. 
Late one cold winter night in 1978, I had my raggedy old Honda 350 motorcycle stolen from the parking lot in front of my apartment. It was my ONLY means of transportation, and I was POOR, in graduate school, and making $250/month as a youth minister at the time. Driven to my knees? Check!
I prayed, and called the police to report the theft, and poured my heart to God. "I don't have ANY money, Lord, and I'm too far from school and work to walk there." Empty, I fell asleep. And, a little while later, I woke up, and looked out my window to see the back of a man running away, and my motorcycle back in its' parking spot. 
Just in case you ever find yourself in the same position, let me warn you in advance: if you call the DeKalb County Sheriff's  Office at 3:30 AM to tell them that the person who stole your motorcycle just brought your motorcycle back, they will think you are drunk. Don't try to fight it; there's nothing about the situation that allows reasonable explanations to be considered.

Nope. I don't want material riches, and I don't want to be materially poor, either.  I want to be rich in wisdom. new and old. In my early life, I was exposed to some fascinatingly wise people, and some of that rubbed off. Later, I was exposed to very UN-wise behavior, and I benefited from that as well: Might not know what I WANTED to act like, but I did know what I DIDN'T want to act like. Then I made some MASSIVE mistakes, things that nearly ended my life, and came very close to ruining it. And, EVENTUALLY, I stopped doing the stupidest of the stupid things, and from that, eventually, came wisdom.

And I went to college, and graduate school, and some more grad school, and some more grad school, and I don't know that any of that gave me wisdom, but it did give me knowledge, and some of that knowledge I was able to convert into wisdom. However, as much as I value my formal education, it is wisdom I've found through 31 years of 12 step meetings, readings, and prayers that has the biggest impact on my daily life.

And ALL of those are the old treasures.

Nother Note: I just cut another 149 words.

The new treasures are the things my kids and grandchildren teach me. It seems that almost every day, I get a new perspective on being the scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom; I find a new facet of being Papa. Kenneth teaches me almost daily, and so does Alicia Ann. I don't HAVE to be in the same room with them in order to learn, but it's awfully nice.

And a final secret: I started writing this as I was eating my breakfast. I've done many important things since then, and I feel relatively certain that whatever it was I planned to say, I have long since abandoned.

But that's a treasure as well; the treasure I seek may not be the treasure I find, but if I keep on doing the next right thing, I believe I will find the treasure I need. And the chaos that's bouncing off my head right at this very moment, as I hear Alicia Ann talking....excitedly... about some cheerleading commitment that she might have or might not have, and Kenneth wants to know if I have made the phone call to his pediatrician to find out if he can stay up an extra hour, and I STILL haven't made it to the drug store, and it looks like my internet cable is frayed?

I believe those are the sounds and sights of the Kingdom of God in my home.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Hot Tea For Sick Papa

Greetings, Internet Friends and Family!

It's that most wonderful time of the year, when we are cooped up with people bringing us gifts, food, and whatever virus they have encountered in the last week or so. 14-year-old Kenneth woke up on Christmas morning with a fever of 102.1, and Papa had it by the next day.

A cold is a virus, and unless you took action before you knew you needed to, there's nothing to do for it but treat the symptoms and wait it out, and try not to infect other people. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, has returned to the work place to see if she can spread a little disease there. That's mostly because she has this unbending streak of job loyalty, which won't allow her to take time off.

Not me, though. I did ALMOST go out yesterday to get some things I need, but then ran out of time and energy, and just started another pot of jasmine rice, and took a nap.

Best thing for the sore throat: hot tea. Good stuff to put in it: Lemon. Honey. Whatever. Ginger. It's mostly gonna help by keeping your throat warm and wet.

Now, STARTING OUT with hot tea is never a problem. Everyone knows how to do that. But, I like to drink out of my Papa mug, and it holds A LOT of liquid. And I found myself having to visit the microwave multiple times to reheat the stuff.

Kenneth suggested an insulated cup. Yes that's a good idea, except I don't have one and I don't want to go out and get one. Besides that, it's not my Papa cup.

Many, many moons ago, my coworker/trainer gave me a cute , dainty handmade coffee cup with  a matching lid, which she said would keep my coffee warm. Yeah, that MIGHT work...if I knew where it was and could tolerate having the frilly item in my man cave.

I could do like Steve McQueen does in "Bullitt" and use an immersion heater. Another cord would NEVER present a problem, particularly when attached to a hot piece of, no.

But then I remembered a trick learned in 1972 from a congenial Army mess sergeant: if you want hot coffee, you gotta warm the cup first. A few years later, I took a physics class, and got the basic theory down, and he was right. You can't GET hot coffee if you pour it into a room temperature cup; it's a matter of heat transfer to reach equilibrium.

I expanded that idea today, and realized what I needed: additional hot mass in my cup. Something dense, to act as a heat storage device, like the reverse of the heat sink you use when soldering electrical components.

I may have mentioned that I reload for my firearms. I have LOTS of metal on hand! However, I decided some time ago not to consume lead, put it in my mouth, or make eating utensils out of it or get shot by it. So, the bullets were a no-go.

The solution came when I found decorative rocks: dense, clean, and with life-affirming messages written on them that don't come off in hot liquids. I even used math to figure out some things, but that may bore you, so I'll leave most of that out.

My hot tea life-affirming rocks

I will say that the two rocks, "Courage" and "Persevere," weighed a total of 7.0 ounces, while only displacing 1.8 ounces of fluid.

And, it worked. My cup of lemons, honey, and whatever else I added, stayed hot enough to be a comfortable drink for quite a bit longer than it would otherwise.

This life hack has been brought to you by the Papa Pat and the rest of the Chattahoochee Pattersons, wishing you courage, the ability to persevere, and excellent health.

Peace be on your household.