Archives for June 2014


Azure blue, it’s true, is what I see when

I dream of the Golden State.


Like a string of pearls, I see sandy beaches filled with

surfers and the most beautiful girls from that state.


I see forests, rolling hills, mountains and lakes that

make it a beautiful state.


Agricultural fields filled with an enormous bounty that

makes it the promised land with abundant fruits and nuts.



Memories like this make me want to go back until I remember,


there is no azure blue. Only gray smog filled skies, and getting

to the beach means hours behind the wheel on jammed freeways.


Ditto for getting to the mountains where smog fills the air and kills off trees.


The agricultural fields are full of slaves working for less than minimum wage

and throughout the rest of the state roam many human fruits and nuts.


I ask myself, “Why, why am I going there?” as I start my car and begin

the long drive.


Ugly as can be, is the monster

I dream about while I sleep.


It leaps and the sound of beating wings

comes from above and awakens me.


What flies around my bed looks like

the gargoyle from my dream


coming to haunt my waking hours,

something I will not allow.


Without dispute, I reach under my bed for my

shotgun to shoot it with and send it back to hell.


Looking into its gruesome face there’s not much,

space when I try to squeeze the trigger.


I feel its icy mind, like a cold wind, penetrating mine

rushing to the center to be near where my fear resides


and tries to instill in me enough fright to make me believe

I’m not right so I will not blast it back to where it belongs.


Mentally it has me beat, but being fleet, I jump upon its back.

Flapping wings try to take me high into the sky so I’ll die.


I stick my rifle between its wings. Without room to flap

it falls back into my lap. I pound it with my rifle butt.


“Stay out of my dream and away from me when I’m awake,”

I scream as I beat it so bad it begs me to stop.


I do when I recognize the shrill screaming voice and know I’m

not dreaming, when I see my blood spattered wife.

This Is Your Brain on Writing


This Is Your Brain on Writing

Carl Zimmer


A novelist scrawling away in a notebook in seclusion may not seem to have much in common with an NBA player doing a reverse layup on a basketball court before a screaming crowd. But if you could peer inside their heads, you might see some striking similarities in how their brains were churning.

That’s one of the implications of new research on the neuroscience of creative writing. For the first time, neuroscientists have used fMRI scanners to track the brain activity of both experienced and novice writers as they sat down — or, in this case, lay down — to turn out a piece of fiction.

The researchers, led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, observed a broad network of regions in the brain working together as people produced their stories. But there were notable differences between the two groups of subjects. The inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch, the scientists argue, showed some similarities to people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports.

The research is drawing strong reactions. Some experts praise it as an important advance in understanding writing and creativity, while others criticize the research as too crude to reveal anything meaningful about the mysteries of literature or inspiration.

Dr. Lotze has long been intrigued by artistic expression. In previous studies, he has observed the brains of piano players and opera singers, using fMRI scanners to pinpoint regions that become unusually active in the brain.

Needless to say, that can be challenging when a subject is singing an aria. Scanners are a lot like 19th-century cameras: They can take very sharp pictures, if their subject remains still. To get accurate data, Dr. Lotze has developed software that can take into account fluctuations caused by breathing or head movements.

For creative writing, he faced a similar challenge. In previous studies, scientists had observed people doing only small tasks like thinking up a plot in their heads.

Dr. Lotze wanted to scan people while they were actually writing. But he couldn’t give his subjects a keyboard to write with, because the magnetic field generated by the scanner would have hurled it across the room.

So Dr. Lotze ended up making a custom-built writing desk, clipping a piece of paper to a wedge-shaped block as his subjects reclined. They could rest their writing arm on the desk and scribble on the page. A system of mirrors let them see what they were writing while their head remained cocooned inside the scanner.

To begin, Dr. Lotze asked 28 volunteers to simply copy some text, giving him a baseline reading of their brain activity during writing.

Next, he showed his volunteers a few lines from a short story and asked them to continue it in their own words. The volunteers could brainstorm for a minute, and then write creatively for a little over two minutes.

Some regions of the brain became active only during the creative process, but not while copying, the researchers found. During the brainstorming sessions, some vision-processing regions of volunteers became active. It’s possible that they were, in effect, seeing the scenes they wanted to write.

Other regions became active when the volunteers started jotting down their stories. Dr. Lotze suspects that one of them, the hippocampus, was retrieving factual information that the volunteers could use.

One region near the front of the brain, known to be crucial for holding several pieces of information in mind at once, became active as well. Juggling several characters and plot lines may put special demands on it.

But Dr. Lotze also recognized a big limit of the study: His subjects had no previous experience in creative writing. Would the brains of full-time writers respond differently?

To find out, he and his colleagues went to another German university, the University of Hildesheim, which runs a highly competitive creative writing program. The scientists recruited 20 writers there (their average age was 25). Dr Lotze and his colleagues had them take the same tests and then compared their performance with the novices’.

As the scientists report in a new study in the journal NeuroImage, the brains of expert writers appeared to work differently, even before they set pen to paper. During brainstorming, the novice writers activated their visual centers. By contrast, the brains of expert writers showed more activity in regions involved in speech.

“I think both groups are using different strategies,” Dr. Lotze said. It’s possible that the novices are watching their stories like a film inside their heads, while the writers are narrating it with an inner voice.

When the two groups started to write, another set of differences emerged. Deep inside the brains of expert writers, a region called the caudate nucleus became active. In the novices, the caudate nucleus was quiet.

The caudate nucleus is a familiar part of the brain for scientists like Dr. Lotze who study expertise. It plays an essential role in the skill that comes with practice, including activities like board games.

When we first start learning a skill — be it playing a piano or playing basketball — we use a lot of conscious effort. With practice, those actions become more automatic. The caudate nucleus and nearby regions start to coordinate the brain’s activity as this shift happens.

“I was really happy to see this,” said Ronald T. Kellogg, a psychologist who studies writing at Saint Louis University. “You don’t want to see this as an analog to what James Joyce was doing in Dublin. But to see that they were able to get clean results with this, I think that’s a major step right there.”

But Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, was skeptical that the experiments could provide a clear picture of creativity. “It’s a messy comparison,” he said.

Dr. Pinker pointed out that the activity that Dr. Lotze saw during creative writing could be common to writing in general — or perhaps to any kind of thinking that requires more focus than copying. A better comparison would have been between writing a fictional story and writing an essay about some factual information.

Even the best-designed scanning experiments might miss signs of creativity, Dr. Pinker warned. The very nature of creativity can make it different from one person to the next, and so it can be hard to see what different writers have in common. Dr. Pinker speculated that Marcel Proust might have activated the taste-perceiving regions of his brain when he recalled the flavor of a cookie. But another writer might rely more on sounds to evoke a time and place.

“Creativity is a perversely difficult thing to study,” he said.

Clean Water


Pure Genius: How Dean Kamen’s Invention Could Bring Clean Water To Millions

He just needs to get it to them.


Posted 06.16.2014 at 11:48 am



Dean Kamen
Photograph by JJ Sulin

At first glance, the bright red shipping container that sits by the side of the road in a slum outside Johannesburg doesn’t look like something that could transform hundreds of lives. Two sliding doors open to reveal a small shop counter, behind which sit rows of canned food, toilet paper, cooking oil, and first-aid supplies. Solar panels on the roof power wireless Internet and a television, for the occasional soccer game. And two faucets dispense free purified drinking water to anyone who wants it.

Created primarily by Coca-Cola and Deka Research and Development, the New Hampshire company founded by inventor Dean Kamen, the container is meant to be a kind of “downtown in a box”: a web-connected bodega-cum-community center that can be dropped into underdeveloped villages all over the world. Coke calls it an Ekocenter. It’s a pithy name, but it masks the transformative technology hidden within the container.

Inside the big red box sits a smaller one, about the size of a dorm fridge, called a Slingshot. It was developed by Kamen, the mastermind behind dozens of medical-equipment inventions and, most famously, the Segway personal transportation device. Kamen is the closest thing to a modern-day Thomas Edison. He holds hundreds of patents, and his creations have improved countless lives. His current projects include a robotic prosthetic arm for DARPA and a Stirling engine that generates affordable electricity by using “anything that burns” for fuel. The Slingshot, more than 10 years in the making, could have a bigger impact than all of his other inventions combined.


Kamen’s company, Deka, inhabits three refurbished 19th-century textile-mill buildings in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Photograph by JJ Sulin

Using a process called vapor compression distillation, a single Slingshot can purify more than 250,000 liters of water per year, enough to satisfy the needs of about 300 people. And it can do so with any water source—sewage, seawater, chemical waste—no matter how dirty.

For communities that lack clean water, the benefit is obvious, but to realize that potential, the Slingshot needs to reach them first. Which is where Coke comes in: The company is not just a soft-drink peddler; it is arguably the largest, most sophisticated distribution system in the world. That’s important because the scale of the water crisis the world faces is unprecedented.

Water seems so abundant it’s easy to forget how many people don’t have a clean source of it. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a billion people lack ready access to safe drinking water, and hundreds of thousands die every year as a result. Many more fall terribly ill.

Plenty of water-purification tools exist, of course—chlorine tablets, reverse-osmosis plants—but they all have drawbacks. Either they’re not adequately portable; they require replacement parts that can be hard to come by; or, most vexing of all, they remove only certain kinds of impurities, leaving others to poison the unwitting.

Kamen calls the global water crisis a “Goliath” of a problem, which suggests that he is David. He offers a quick refresher on biblical lore: David, it bears remembering, defeated Goliath with a slingshot.

“In my life, nothing is ever simple or easy,” Kamen says. “I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Wow, there’s a global water problem. I think I’ll work on that.’ ” He’s sitting in his office in an old brick mill building by the Merrimack River in Manchester, New Hampshire. A life-size cardboard Darth Vader leans against one wall, and a wooden chair painted to resemble a seated Albert Einstein sits among a circle of leather swivel chairs. Photos of Kamen’s various helicopters (he’s had a number over the years and occasionally flies to Deka from his hilltop estate) hang on the wall while outtakes from his dad’s work as an illustrator for Mad Magazine and Tales from the Crypt decorate the hallway outside.

When we first sat down, I asked Kamen a simple question: How did you get interested in the water crisis? The answer turned into a highlights tour of his career, before he became famous or wealthy. Kamen is a natural storyteller, and his narrative unspools at high speed. Now 63, he grew up in Long Island, New York, and he ended up leaving college to start his first company, AutoSyringe, in 1976, to address a problem he’d heard about from his brother, a medical student: Certain patients needed such frequent treatment that trips to the hospital prevented them from living productive lives. Kamen’s solution was the world’s first wearable infusion pump, which administered doses of medication automatically. It was a hit, and Kamen sold AutoSyringe to Baxter International, a health-care company. He was just 30 years old.

Suddenly a millionaire, Kamen moved to Manchester and started Deka (derived from his first and last names). With a few exceptions, such as the now ubiquitous Segway, much of the company’s work has focused on medical innovations that solve lifestyle problems. One such project, begun 20-some years ago, was a machine to reinvent dialysis for patients with failing kidneys. Baxter International had built a device to do what’s called peritoneal dialysis, which involves filling the abdomen with a sterile saline solution and using the body’s own membranes to filter the blood. It’s less traumatic than hemodialysis, which requires passing blood through an external filter, but the contraption was noisy and bulky. The company asked Kamen to refine it.

We’d empty half the hospital beds in the world if we just gave people clean water.

Called HomeChoice, Kamen’s design was small enough to fit on patients’ nightstands and quiet enough that they could sleep while it worked. The machine required a lot of purified water, however—many gallons a day per patient—and that wasn’t cost-effective. Kamen’s instinct: Invent a medical-grade water purifier, so that patients could use water from their faucets as the base for their dialysis solution. He knew that existing purification systems, mostly based on filtration, weren’t exacting enough to meet his needs, so he looked to distillation. In Kamen’s eyes, distillation was magical in its simplicity. “The sun will evaporate the water out of an open latrine, and it will leave behind all of the bioburden, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia,” he says. “It will even separate the water from the arsenic and hexavalent chromium in a chemical waste site.”

As is so often the case, innovation, when it strikes, is an obvious-in-retrospect connection between seemingly disparate ideas. Kamen’s unique brand of genius is that he can recognize those connections and see their potential where others can’t.

But fitting one of the planet’s most elegant systems into a home appliance is not without its challenges. For his distillation machine to work, it would need to boil many gallons of water per hour, and that would require more energy than everything else in a typical U.S. home combined. So Kamen and his engineers exploited another basic scientific principle. To vaporize, water must get hot, and to do that, it absorbs energy. When the vapor condenses back into liquid, that energy gets released. If the team could recycle it, Kamen reasoned, they’d have a much more efficient process. They designed a “counterflow heat exchanger” that would run cool incoming liquid past superheated distilled water that had been vaporized and compressed. The difference in temperature would simultaneously cool the outgoing water and flash-boil the incoming liquid. All they would need is enough energy to get some water boiling and a little extra energy to power a compressor.

Kamen leans forward and grins as he ties the first chapter of his story together. “We said, ‘Wait, we can build a device that could take any input water, whether it’s got bioburden, organics, inorganics, chrome . . .and we can make pure water come out? We can put it in somebody’s house and make a supply of water for injection that would meet the U.S. Pharmacopeial standard, on less power than a handheld hair dryer, and we could make a thousand liters a day?’ ” Imagine how valuable that could be.

As the plan for his water purifier took shape, Kamen found himself thinking a lot about disaster relief. Whenever an earthquake or tsunami struck, aid organizations would request clean water before anything else because local supplies were tainted with sewage or chemicals. Kamen thought, “I’ve been trying to make a box small enough that you could carry it around for mobile dialysis, and it makes 250 gallons a day—that would be enough for a hundred people in a crisis.” More to the point, why not use the machine to help entire villages, or even nations, with persistent water needs?

“There are nearly a billion people in the world that get up every morning and their primary goal is to find water,” Kamen says. “Many travel great distances to find water that won’t kill them. And sadly, hundreds of thousands of times a year it does kill, mostly kids.” With Kamen’s purifier, people could just stick a hose in their dirty laundry water, a polluted river, or even their own toilet pit, and crystal-clear, microbe-free water would stream out of the machine.

The question was how to get the purifiers mass-produced and into the hands of those who needed them. Kamen started by approaching global aid organizations. Jim Scott, who works in business development for Deka, says the groups simply weren’t set up to scale the technology. “I think it’s probably very daunting if you’re an organization that doesn’t do that,” he says.

The medical and pharmaceutical companies Kamen had worked with over the years weren’t much better positioned to help. They had infrastructure in developed nations but not in the 100-odd countries where he hoped to see the technology deployed.

Frustrated, Kamen had another obvious-in-retrospect insight. “You talk to people that travel a lot and they say, ‘If there’s one thing you can buy anywhere in the world, it’s a Coke.’ You know the joke: A guy takes three weeks climbing to the top of Mount Everest; he gets to the top and buys himself a Coke. So I thought, Coke is something you drink, and they have coolers that are about the size of our machine, and they have bottling partnerships around the world. I’m going to go and try to convince them to do this.”

Coke’s response to Kamen’s unorthodox overture: Glad to hear from you, but how about doing another project first? That was in 2005, and one of the company’s challenges at the time was to develop a better soda fountain. Kamen teamed up with Nilang Patel, the former head of Coke’s research lab. Drawing from medical equipment Kamen had developed to precisely administer insulin and chemotherapy drugs, they created the Freestyle. The freestanding dispenser combines concentrated ingredients stored in small cartridges (as opposed to five-gallon bags of syrup) with carbonated water and sweeteners to create as many as 100 different drinks.

By 2009, the Freestyle was in production, and Kamen reminded Coke about the handshake deal to pursue what he was by then calling the Slingshot. In the interim, though, Coke had gotten a new CEO and chairman, Muhtar Kent. Kamen feared he’d have to “grovel and beg” for support, but, he says, “within a couple of minutes of meeting Muhtar, I realized he’s not like an accounting guy; he’s a big-picture, global thinker.

“ ‘Dean,’ he says to me, ‘if we can make the water, why can’t we do other things too?’ ” Providing clean water could be the cornerstone of what’s known as a bottom-of-the-pyramid strategy for developing markets. By providing the poorest people in the world with new technologies, services, and opportunities, a company can help lift them out of poverty and transform them into viable customers. Hence, the Ekocenter concept took shape as a companion to the water purifier, at least in some markets.


Coca-Cola launched the first Ekocenter in Heidelberg, South Africa in August 2013. A slingshot attached to the faucets provides clean water.
Courtesy Coca Cola

“We believe Coca-Cola’s business can only be as healthy as the community it is part of, so the well-being of the community is important to our long-term strategy,” says Derk Hendriksen, the general manager of the Ekocenter program. Notably, the company won’t directly profit from the program; each “downtown in a box” will operate as a standalone business run by a local entrepreneur, typically a woman, selected and trained by Coke. (That the soda giant enjoys an image boost in the process goes without saying.)

In 2011, Coke and Deka sent 15 Slingshots to Ghana for a six-month field test where they provided clean water to five rural schools. In fall 2013, Coke and its partners announced a goal to place up to 2,000 units (either standalone Slingshots or Ekocenters) around Africa, Asia, and Latin America by the end of 2015. “The commitment we made is to provide 500 million liters of safe drinking water to communities in need on a yearly basis,” Hendriksen says. That would translate into improving the lives of 500,000 people a year.

Kamen, being Kamen, sees the current goals of the Coke partnership as the first step toward a much larger one. “Fifty percent of all the people in the developing world suffer from waterborne pathogens,” he says. “We’d empty half the beds in all the hospitals in the world if we just gave people clean water.” The Slingshot won’t be the solution for all of those people, Kamen says, but he sees no reason not to strive for that.

One way he might extend the reach of the Slingshot is to pair it with his energy-efficient Stirling generator, another longtime passion project. Rather than by internal combustion, a Stirling engine works by expanding and contracting a gas in a closed system by heating and cooling it. The concept dates from the early 1800s but never found much practical use. The engine in Kamen’s generator requires nothing more than waste, leaves, or some other flammable material for fuel; a test unit in Bangladesh ran for six months on cow dung. Combined with a Slingshot, the Stirling generator would enable the purification of water anywhere, regardless of access to the electric grid or a bunch of solar panels on an Ekocenter.

This is crucial because many of the places that lack clean water also lack reliable electricity. Kamen has already established a relationship with NRG Energy, the same company that supplies solar panels to the Ekocenters, to discuss development. “We can bring base power to more than a billion people,” he says. That’s more than twice the number of people he could help with Slingshot alone and nearly a quarter of the global population. Of course, it would never occur to Dean Kamen to stop there.

Dean Kamen At A Glance

Education: Dropped out of college

Company: Deka Research and Development

Why you’ve heard of him: He developed the Segway, along with dozens of medical devices

Passion: He founded FIRST, which sponsors student robotics competitions. Last year, 350,000 kids (and 28,800 robots) participated globally.

How It Works: Slingshot Water Purifier

The system needs only enough energy to start the first boil, and a little more to power the compressor and pump. That’s supplied by an outlet or a solar panel; all the subsequent boiling and cooling self-perpetuates.

One: The user places a hose in any dirty water source—say, a polluted river or well—and a small pump draws the fluid into a boiling chamber. As the water reaches roughly 100°C, it turns to steam, which leaves behind any pollutants. They flow out of the chamber via a separate hose.

Two: The steam rises into a compressor, which squeezes it and thereby raises its pressure and its temperature by about 10°C more. The high-pressure vapor now has a higher boiling point, which means it can condense back into water at a temperature greater than 100°C.

Three: A counterflow heat exchanger runs the superheated water past the incoming flow of dirty water. The process heats the incoming water and cools the hot water to room temperature. That distilled water is ready to drink, while the dirty water vaporizes and begins the process all over again.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Popular Science.

Read the rest of Popular Science’s Water Issue.



Walmart Shopper

Why do I expect the best from

those unfortunate souls who work

for Walmart, or abusive employers

allied with them to keep pay way below

what it takes to eat.


I go there for an oil change only to

have threads on my oil pan stripped

away by an employee who doesn’t care,


all he has to lose is minimum wage.


I listen to those selling phones and am told,

“Call Straight-Talk. They’ll hook you up with

a cheap phone service at low cost.” I call and

to where it goes, I’ll never know,


but the people there speak English in a way I’ve

never heard before. I should’ve known better than

to participate in conversations with people who are

demeaned and probably work all day


for less than what I pay for a cup of coffee or tea.

By being cheap I’m contributing to the self serving

behavior exhibited by the rich. So I get what I deserve

for patronizing companies that benefit from people

who are almost slaves.


Walmart-open today-Closed tomorrow, I hope.


“You misanthrope,” she said when I chased her out the cabin door. Didn’t she already know what I was when she came up the river to where I lived, a hundred miles from any other human being? She had wedding plans for me, but I always wished to be by myself and didn’t know why. I hardly ever showered or shaved, and I loved my dogs more than I’d ever love a woman.

“We’re all connected, you see,” she said, “and get over your mother. All women aren’t like her you know. If you don’t, you’ll always awake to an empty bed.”

How wrong she was. My dogs always slept with me, and will until the day I die. When I go to the other side, maybe my dogs and I will become one, and we’ll never need another. When we get there, we’ll see that we have lived before and can talk about the women and other dogs that filled our lives before this time.

Ice covered the river,  and she cried, “How will I get home?”

I gave her a pair of ice skates, and as she skated across the ice. I wondered if being alone was a wish part of me made many years ago. When I saw her fall through a hole, I knew it isn’t what I wanted at all. I grabbed my rawhide rope and pulled her from the ice. Carried her to my log cabin and set her close to the fire. I gave her mouth to mouth to get her to breathe, and I took off her wet clothes.

I watched her naked chest rise and fall as life giving breath filled her lungs. Feelings of love grabbed hold of me and I never wanted to let her go. I held her in my hairy arms, and my heart skipped a few beats when her eyes fluttered and she awoke.

“I want to wake with my hand resting on the one I love, and that’s you,” I said. “We’ll live together until the end.”

“If you’ll take a shower in the spring, I’ll agree,” she said.

I promised I would, but prayed that spring would never come.


What Do Turtles Eat?

When I was six years old my small world was called Hano. It consisted of Blaine, Hano, Everett, and a few other streets. About the only thing that grew in Hano were weeds breaking through cracks in cement and an occasional stalk of rhubarb that would grow in an alley beside someone’s house.

Wherever there wasn’t a building, cement or asphalt covered the ground, except for a few streets still covered by cobblestones. The empty fields where buildings once stood were covered with broken bottles thrown by men angry at life or sometimes just drunk.

I too hurled empty bottles into the air and watched them spin and spin like they’d dance forever. But they always returned to Earth and smashed with a sound that thrilled my little boy brain. Over the years, I probably contributed as much broken glass to those fields as any man.

The best place in town for me to be was playing on the 20 sets of railroad tracks that ran through Hano. I used to balance on one rail and try to walk a mile without stepping off. When a slow-moving freight train came along, I’d run alongside as if in a race. Surrounding the tracks were smokestacks, factory buildings, and Dorothy Muriel’s Bakery that mixed aromas of baking bread and pies with stinking industrial smoke.

Above the rails the Everett Street Bridge stood above the tracks on steel stanchions that beckoned me to climb them. The steel girders holding the bridge aloft were ladders I could climb to the underside of the bridge. Birds built nests there from twigs, pieces of string and other things, and then laid their eggs. To see a cozy nest with little chirping chicks made the treacherous climb worthwhile.

Gaining confidence, I soon climbed to the top, forty feet or more above the road that crossed the bridge. Once on top, I could see far away downtown Boston’s buildings that glittered in the sunshine, their windows gleamed like faceted diamonds.

If I looked down, I’d see anything on the tracks that moved. If a freight train happened by, I’d watch and smell the acrid black smoke from the locomotive as it swirled in circles, climbing to the sky. White steam flowed around the engine with a cowcatcher in front, and when it rolled on by with its wheels clickity clacking on the tracks, and the engine singing that choo choo Charley song. I wondered if I’d survive if I jumped from the bridge onto a box car. Tempted to try, but never did. At times I’d race along the tracks and hop aboard a ladder on the side of a boxcar attached to a slow moving freight train and climb to the top. Once there, I’d jump from car to car as the train rolled and rocked on down the tracks. Cowboys did this in movies popular at the time. I thought it a brave thing to do until a boy I knew fell beneath the wheels. His brother carried part of him home to show his mother, he wouldn’t be coming home for dinner—ever again.

One bright and sunny day I found a place beside the tracks where trees and weeds grew as tall as me, Behind the Harvey Steel Factory, I thrilled to be in what I called the woods. My friends and I gathered railroad ties and used them for walls to build our own cabin in our wilderness.

Hidden by grass, growing on a small hill, our log cabin was a secret place. No one but us kids knew it was there. Soon after we built it, we heard that a hurricane was coming up the East Coast. To get ready we put cardboard on top of the ties for a roof and covered the ground with it too. Inside was so cozy I’d rather be there than home. I could imagine I was Abraham Lincoln or even Davy Crockett hiding in my cabin waiting for rebels or Indians to come. If they did, I’d shoot them with an arrow from the bow I made by bending a green branch and attaching a string.

The hurricane came while I hid inside my cardboard cabin. The wind blew hard and rain began to fall. I heard every drop hitting the roof, some slow and others like a beating tattoo, a sound so sweet and comforting I wish I had it on tape. When memories arise, I still hear those raindrops beating on my cardboard roof until it collapsed from the pounding it took. Once the roof was wrecked, I ripped off my shirt and ran in the downpour feeling the windblown rain stinging my skin. I watched the flood beginning as water heavily flowed to sewers, overflowing them  and making deep puddles in the street. What a thrill to be in the middle of a tropical storm called a hurricane. If I hadn’t been six and believed myself immortal, I would have been scared when the flood came and washed me away.

Down the sewer I went, down the drain in a swirl to be expelled into a cresting river full of floating debris like me. I called for my mother and heard no answer, other than the one from Mother Nature who unleashed lightning bolts to light my way. I saw a giant turtle with snapping jaws and knew it saw me as a floating meal.

If the turtle ate his fill, would there be any part of me left to show my mother I wouldn’t be coming home again? I cried for her and only heard sobs from my little boy lips as I washed up on the shore without becoming lunch for a snapping turtle my mother had warned me to avoid.

I ran home to her, expecting to be greeted with warmth and love for having escaped a horrible fate. I ran through the door yelling, “Mom, Mom, I’m home.” And the words from her lips, “Where have you been you little bastard?” assured me that nothing had changed.



Pushing the envelope on genetics!

Goldwater Lake Wed, June 11


Time to Quit

Minimum wage is more than I’ll ever make

for a written page. No matter how hard I work

and persevere, the money just isn’t there to pay

me for staying up all night to type out a morning

glory of a story that’s flowing through my brain.


Is it time to call it a day, when, “Not for me,’

or “Thanks anyway,” is all I hear and when I

do get a, “We’ve accepted your story for publication,”

there’s never a check or cash award. Should I be

happy with that?


I’m not the only one working day and night without

compensation,  publication, or recognition. What’s our

condition when we submit our prose and poems over and over

to those who suppose they know if what we write during the days

and nights is good enough to appear this year in print or in an ezine.


While watching the birds go down to drink, I think of what Albert Einstein

said, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different

results is insanity,” That concludes that what writers do is lunacy, and it must

be contagious because there’re so many of us that are tired of repeating the required

process of submitting to those folks who think they know!