I live here

not in my nameI’ve watched the news in sorrow. News of deaths, of outpourings of sympathy, of despair that other deaths go relatively unmourned as people of all faiths and backgrounds flee in terror. Mostly they are running from those would kill them if they cannot control them. Sometimes, though, they are fleeing the bombs of those trying to stop the terror. Everyone runs from bombs, no matter what their source. And the hate and the fear and mistrust grows all around.

peace parisI write a blog about world peace. It’s an odd topic for a blog, but it grew out of the premise that if we all understood each other better, if we listened, if we could feel another’s pain and joy as our own, world peace would be achievable. I know how idealistic this is. But I believe it.

We have to harden our hearts, steel our minds against empathy in order to commit the sorts of atrocities that have filled the news. We have to lie to ourselves deep within to justify behavior that we know is wrong. It is easy to argue and point fingers and incite others to be afraid and angry with us. It takes so much more strength to soften and allow understanding. It is far more difficult to admit that, at our core, we are sisters and brothers.

parisYet here we are, throwing rocks at each other on this little playground that we call earth. The teachers and other adults appear to have left, and we seem like a bunch of rambunctious children, often dedicating ourselves to finding ways to make each other miserable. It’s time for us to grow up. The playground gets smaller every day. The calls to hate and hurt grow stronger, made more powerful by the technologies we have invented. Our “rocks” and other ways of harming each other have grown exponentially with our cleverness.

Most of us want better. Yes, the few who prefer chaos, or think they have a right to control others lives or end them if they cannot, must be won over to compassion, and they must be isolated and rendered harmless until they are. But as we do that, we must avoid becoming insensitized to the humanity of others, lest we become the very thing that we are trying to stop.

We need to fix this, not make it worse. It’s important. We are talking about our home here. herelive







(For more on this subject see my post “And the Hate Goes On…“)


Posted by on November 17, 2015 in better, empathy, peace


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My Imaginary Prison Time

sceince of mind 1We get by. When those around us have more, we feel cheated. When those around us have less, there is this sense of satisfaction, or gratitude, or relief at our good fortune, that makes us happy. I don’t think most of us consciously want to have more than others, but I do think that we define normal based on what we see.

Everyone in the neighborhood has a hover car but you and maybe one other person. Feeling bad? No one in the neighborhood has a car of any kind but you and this real rich guy up the hill. Feeling good? You get the idea.I recently read a short story that intimated that fairly tale princesses were far less well off than today’s teenagers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that princesses were happier though, because they were special. Then again maybe not. We are talking about about teenagers here.

At any rate, a while back I hit a difficult time in my career and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’d made my way into some management positions early on and the perks were pretty nice. I had a corner office and I do like my windows. Nice wood furniture and big plants can make you feel pretty important, especially when yours is little nicer than everyone else’s on the floor.

Things changed. My company was bought out and as my career morphed with new circumstances, I returned to technical work and a single window, cheaper office furniture and a small plant. Still not bad.Things kept changing. I had choices to make and went with consulting as I liked the freedom. But consultants usually get put in cubes. My little cubicle wasn’t bad. I could see out of a window down the hall. But when a new contract put me in the tiniest cube yet in the darkest corner of a windowless room, something in me screamed. This isn’t fair. I work hard. The situation wasn’t helped by the many beautifully furnished window offices sitting empty, being held for “real” employees soon to be hired.

Okay, I thought, time to get a grip. So I started to do what I do best. I began to make things up.

I was being held in a minimum security prison. I’m not sure what crime I committed, but it was something non-violent and even kind of noble. Maybe I refused to give up the name of a source and was being held for contempt. Yeah, that was good. My sentence included being kept in this little dark cube all day, where I was required to contribute by working on some inane thing I could care less about. (Not every piece of this fantasy was total fiction.) But lucky, lucky me. Due to prison overcrowding and my general good behavior, I was released every night to go directly home, where I could see my husband, eat a good home-cooked meal, watch TV shows of my choice and sleep in my own bed. The requirement (enforced by some sort of ankle-bracelet arrangement I was a little vague about) was that I had to return at the same time the next morning and continue to serve my sentence.

Not a bad deal when you think about it. I had creature comforts at the end of every day and all the sky I wanted to see from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and most of the other women here weren’t half as lucky. I started to feel bad for them, and feel pretty good about my own situation at the same time.

The fantasy was helped along by the fact that my real-life contract was for 10 months, after which I knew I would be moving on. I exed off the days on my calendar like any prisoner would, and did my best to savor and appreciate the wonderful privileges I had been granted while I served. When the real-life contracted ended, I said something to my husband about being so excited to finally get out of jail.

“It was that bad?” He looked shocked.

“No, not really.” I squeezed his hand. “They treated me okay and let me come home every night to you and it could have been so much worse.”

“You’re a weird one,” is all he said.

Yeah, well, we all find a way to get by. Some methods leave us feeling happier than others.

(Read more at “My Imaginary Time in Witness Protection“.)


Posted by on November 11, 2015 in better, empathy


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There is no dark side of the moon

I’ve always had an interest in astronomy, and I tend to correct people when tides, eclipses and locations of planets are described in a way that is just plain wrong. Mess with your facts in a science fiction story or show, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen. But somehow, Pink Floyd made my list of exceptions. It’s probably because I’ve loved their music for decades, and no album better than “The Dark Side of the Moon.” I’ve always been happy to allow them poetic license with this phrase.

Moon and VenusBecause the moon turns slowly, it’s days are about 28 days long. It also takes the moon about 28 days to go around the earth, so it always faces the same side toward us.There is a far side to the moon, one we can only see from spacecraft we’ve sent. It is mysterious and hidden. But it’s not the dark side.

It is true that at any given time roughly half the moon is illuminated by the sun, and half is not. You could call the part that is not “the dark side” I suppose but it is not really a side, it’s the part of the moon that is experiencing night. If you simply look at a crescent moon from earth, you could call the part that doesn’t glow “the dark side” but its not really a side either.

Anyway, if doesn’t matter. “The Dark Side of the Moon” conveys something deep and hidden and mysterious and I am willing to leave it at that.

I share a few things in common with my hero Lola, including that fact that we both once lost a bet that there was a song named “The Dark Side of the Moon.”  The song of course is titled Brain Damage and it is the first song that Lola hears after she becomes a full fledged telepath. The lyrics cause her to reconsider telling friends and family about her new abilities.

Enjoy reading about “Brain Damage” in this short excerpt from x0.

By the time she had made it to frozen foods, every person in the store had a song to sing. A story to tell. The vague and sometimes annoying feelings she had picked up from folks in the past were gone, and Lola felt like a person with horrible vision who had just been given a pair of good glasses or a person with very poor hearing who suddenly was wearing the best of hearing aids.

It was true that most of what was coming at her was boring. His feet hurt. She was annoyed with her child. He was annoyed he had to work today. Right. He was missing the football game. Lola laughed. People were preoccupied, tired, worried, looking forward to some later event, thinking about sex, and one guy in aisle seven was thinking seriously about beating the shit out of someone at work tomorrow. Lola, knowing that most thoughts don’t result in actions, decided that without more evidence of intent she should just leave people be. And she did. She could. She practiced. Tone up the intensity. Tone down the intensity. That worked. She could do it.

Not all the thoughts were admirable, but amid the petty and the complaining Lola had to admit that there was an underlying hum of just wanting to love and be loved. To be left in peace. To have a little fun. To have worries solved and some joy at the end of the day. She figured she shared the grocery store that day with forty or so other souls, and she could honestly wish each one well and move on. It was all going to be okay. smiled instinctively at the checkout clerk as she finished, and felt the girl’s blip of joy at the smile. That was surprising. Lola’s smile, an unconscious reflex she often found annoying because it was so habitual, apparently sometimes brought other folks a bit of happiness. Interesting.

Then, just as she was leaving, some lady in produce started singing to herself. Wouldn’t you know it, Lola laughed. She had lost twenty dollars once betting that there was a Pink Floyd song called the “Dark Side of the Moon.” There isn’t, of course, just a 1973 album with that name, and a perfectly wonderful song called “Brain Damage” which talks about a lunatic inside the singer’s head and mentions the dark side of moon.

As Lola listened to the eerie lyrics, she decided they were a little too close to the mark. Probably time to get home and take a break. As she headed out of the store, she couldn’t help singing along.

Driving home, she gave some thought to her next obvious problem. It looked like Jumoke had been right. Thanks to some combination of the Igbo woman and the canoe incident, she had become a telepath. Why had it taken so long? Maybe for the last couple of months the PTSD, or maybe the medication, or maybe both, had suppressed her symptoms. No, abilities, she told herself. This is not a disease. You have abilities, not symptoms.

At any rate, if this was now the way she was, should she tell Alex? Her children? Her sister? In one sense it seemed only fair, but in another she doubted she’d be believed, no matter how much they loved and trusted her. That was until she demonstrated the truth of what she was saying, which now that she thought about it could be harder than she thought. She could not do card tricks. Tell me what I’m thinking. What she could do was pick up the real driving emotion they were feeling at the time and if she was lucky it looked like she could pick up a few facts related to that emotion as well. Which meant that she would probably just pick up disbelief. And worry. And maybe a little fear because whether she was telepathic or not, the fact that she thought she was meant there was something to be concerned about one way or another. Pointing out the presence of these emotions was hardly going to constitute compelling evidence to any of the fine folks in her immediate circle.

So what was the hurry? First, she should probably learn more about this and how it affected her and her life. The lyrics to Brain Damage kept playing in her head. It was true. Having people think that one is crazy seldom ends well.

I don’t usually go for “fan-made” videos with the lyrics, but I was fascinated by this fan’s recording of a live performance of Pink Floyd with assorted images and the lyrics to “Brain Damage” superimposed on the concert footage. It’s creative, and eerie.  Enjoy!

Buy the song at  Read the lyrics.  Hear, buy and read about the song at the Pink Floyd webpage.

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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in music for peace, Telepathy


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“For What It’s Worth”

27-Courage-21Like most people, I reacted with horror at the video of a Columbia SC police officer grabbing a high school student by the neck and throwing her across the room. No classroom infraction warrants this, and certainly not a refusal to put away a cell phone or leave class. But today, my thoughts are with the girl’s friend, Niya Kenny, who was handcuffed and arrested as well for daring to object. Speaking up to others, saying “this is wrong, somebody do something” was deemed illegal too, and that is even harder for me to believe.

I filled the novel x0 with music that spoke to the part of me that wants a better world. I’m going through each of my blogs and expanding my writing on each song, and on today’s to-do list was the 1967 Buffalo Springfield song “For What it’s Worth.” As part of the rewrite, I’ve just watched about a dozen different videos of it, and each time I listened to it, the echos of the Columbia incident would run through my mind.

“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away”


Both girls were charged with “disturbing school”, a criminal offense in South Carolina. I listen to this old song and remember the feeling that we all need to “disturb school” and disrupt life when it means standing up for what is right.

Because life works that way, today I also came across a moving post entitled Why I’m prejudiced & So Are You and in my humble opinion it ought to be required reading for the human race, preferable followed by lively and healing discussions held among people with vastly different bodies. Allow me to quote one of my favorite lines from it. “I know that every body on this Earth has equal, unsurpassable worth.” Who can disagree with that? And yet …. well, read the article.

Here, by the way, is the updated post on my music page. For what it’s worth.

The first time that Lola learns of the complex and sometimes destructive history of oil exploration in Nigeria, the song “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield (1967) begins to play in her head. The haunting tune and veiled warnings of this forty year old song perfectly fit the troubled tone of the news article that she is reading and also describe the feelings of  helplessness and anger that learning of this history produces. turned to the major news outlets and found that British news, particularly the BBC, did a far better job of covering news from Africa that any U.S. source that she could find. Reading through BBC articles, Lola learned that less than a month ago, on June 30, Amnesty International had released a report calling the years of pollution and environmental damage in the Niger Delta a “human rights tragedy.” The report claimed that the oil industry had caused impoverishment, conflict, and human rights abuses in the region, that the majority of cases reported to Amnesty International related to Shell, and that Shell must come to grips with its legacy in the Niger Delta. The report noted that Shell Petroleum Development Company is and has been the main operator in the Niger Delta for over fifty years and is also facing legal action in The Hague concerning repeated oil spills that have damaged the livelihoods of Nigerian fisherfolk and farmers.

Lola found Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 hit “For What It’s Worth” starting in her head while she read the news article on the internet on her lunch break. Was it because the song’s haunting tune and warnings fit the troubled tone of the story? Or maybe she had just heard Bob whistling the refrain in the break room….

In the article, the BBC went on to report that Shell had defended itself in a written statement provided to the BBC arguing that “about eighty-five percent of the pollution from our operation comes from attacks and sabotage that also puts our staff’s lives and human rights at risk. In the past ten days we have had five attacks.” The Shell response added that “in the last three years, gangs have kidnapped one hundred and thirty-three Shell Petroleum Development Company employees and contractors while five people working for our joint venture have been killed in assaults and kidnappings in the same period.”

The general insecurity in the area, according to Shell, is what prevents it from running maintenance programs that might otherwise be run. Meanwhile, militants in the Niger Delta say they stage attacks on oil installations as part of their fight for the rights of local people to benefit more from the region’s oil wealth. Others argue that the attacks are staged mostly for the attackers’ financial gain.

Lola read the article with sadness, feeling for so many individuals now trapped on multiple sides of a bad situation. She had no trouble believing that Shell had behaved poorly, maybe even abysmally, decades ago, destroying the livelihoods of Nigerians they probably had barely noticed. But today, she needed an armed guard in Lagos to go from the hotel to the office. Who was in the right? How did one solve this sort of mess?

When it comes to this classic, one has a lot of fine video performances to chose from. Dates range from 1967 through a live Buffalo Springfield performance at Bonaroo in 2011, not to mention a wealth of covers by notable artists and several moving montages created on YouTube showing scenes form the Vietnam War and various protests. I decided to step out of the box on this one and link to the original Buffalo Springfield performing way back when on the Smothers Brothers show. This clip will remind you of just how young these guys were when they wrote this song, and of the goofy humor of that era in the midst of the turmoil. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in more, you can learn about the history of the song, hear serious performances from 1967, 1982 and 2011, or buy the song at


Posted by on October 29, 2015 in music for peace


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“We are the World”

Every character I create is part me, part fiction, but none is more like me than Lola, the hero of my first book. We do have our differences, but we share a strong desire to make the world a better place. She will find her path in the sixth book of the collection, which I am writing now. My path, for the time being, seems to be to write these books about her.

The music in x0 is tied into this idealism. “We are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie was released in 1985, the year that my characters Lola and Alex were married. In x0, Lola becomes obsessed with Africa once she starts work at a Nigerian based oil company. Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009 brings to Lola’s mind his role in both the song and the fundraising he was responsible for. A short excerpt is below.

On June 25, Michael Jackson died. Although none of the Zeitmans were devoted fans, all five mourned the loss of a talented, troubled man who had written songs that they had enjoyed. Lola noted with interest that so many people accessed the internet in search of more details about his death, or even just in search of shared comfort, that several major websites became unusable for a while. What a force we can be together, she thought.

While she found herself humming snippets of his music for days afterward, she mostly sang to herself the one song of his that she had liked best of all. Forty-three other musical stars had joined in to sing his 1985 collaboration with Lionel Richie called “We are the World”, with over sixty million dollars in proceeds donated to fight starvation in Africa.

She could still see in her mind the video of Michael in the black jacket with the gold sequins, his sparking white glove undulating to the music while he sang the first rendition of the chorus. Lola thought that when Cyndi Lauper quipped that the lyrics sounded like a Pepsi commercial, she had a point. There was no deep meaning here. Just a hell of a great idea. “We are the world.”

Due to the number of artists involved and various claims of copyright infringement, videos of this song being performed are few and far between, and are often removed from the internet. Enjoy the version below, which has been viewed over forty-seven million times.

Twenty-five years later, a new group of artists performed this song to raise money for Haiti after the island was devastated by an earthquake. For the full experience, and a chance to give your tear ducts a little exercise, spend a few more minutes enjoying this official 2010 Artists for Haiti rendition.

With the second song of each book, I pick up the intensity a little. Click on to read about y1’s “Party Like it’s 1999“, z2’s “Only the Strong Survive“, c3’s “Heads Carolina” and d4’s “I Follow Rivers“.


Posted by on October 22, 2015 in music for peace, Nigeria


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Time After Time

If I had to pick a single song as my favorite ever, it would be Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” It’s not a decision I can defend, because, well, you can’t. You like what you like, you love what you love. But because music is such an important part of each book in 46. Ascending, it makes sense that “Time After Time” would be the very first song I linked to, in my first electronic novel.

CyndiA little over a year ago, when I gave each of my first three books a light edit, and checked all the links, I also re-evaluated the links to the each of the songs and decided in each case to find a video of a special live performance that I thought captured the essence of the song-writer and singer. I was so happy to stumble upon this simple but stunning version of Cyndi Lauper performing “Time After Time” live on the sixth season of Australian Idol in 2008.

Enjoy the video. Below it is the excerpt from x0 that refers to the song.

Over the next few weeks, Lola finished working her way through the interpretation of the small structure located in one corner of her company’s lease. As happened so often in the oil business, her company had subleased the drilling rights from another company which had done so from another company, and now the term of the lease was near expiration and either a well would need to be drilled soon or the lease would need to be relinquished untested.

Because of the convenient fact that oil floats on water (check your salad dressing), one looks for oil in high places where the tiny coarse rock grains have enough spaces in between them to hold a good bit of oil. A rock with ten percent of its volume as space is a good rock to someone in Lola’s profession. Find the highest spot in it, put a nice tight rock like shale above it, which has virtually no spaces into which the wily oil can sneak out over the eons, and someone like Lola gets the message. Drill here.

This part of her job sat somewhere between treasure hunting and puzzle solving, and Lola had to admit that her day-to-day work would not have made a bad 3D video game if someone added a little bit of music and some glossy effects. And, okay, maybe a car chase or two. Lola enjoyed herself as she twisted and turned her 3D visualization of the rocks on her computer screen, humming as she looked for shifts in the rock layers known as faults.

“If you’re lost you can look / And you will find me / Time after time.”

Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit Time After Time had once been a favorite of hers, and now that Lola thought about it, it made good music to prospect by. She was surprised she hadn’t remembered the song for years. She sang a little louder.

“If you fall I will catch you / I’ll be waiting—”

“Time after time.” Bob, the older engineer in the group, joined in her song as he walked by her door. “Geez Lola,” he said, “I’ve had that song in my head all damn morning. What are you doing singing it?”

“No idea. Maybe we listened to the same radio station on the way to work?” she guessed.

“I only listen to my iPod,” he replied.

The fact is that I started each of my novels off with a special song. Click to read about y1’s “A Whole New World“, z2’s “Fame“, c3’s “A Texas Kind of Way” and d4’s “Lights“.

(You can buy a digital version of “Time After Time” from Amazon. You can also purchase x0 from Amazon.)

(Note that the lyrics to TIME AFTER TIME were used by permission: Words and Music by ROB HYMAN and CYNDI LAUPER Copyright 1983 DUB NOTES and RELLLA MUSIC CORP. All Rights for DUB NOTES Administered by WB MUSIC CORP. All rights on behalf of Rellla Music Corp. administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. All rights reserved.)


Posted by on October 14, 2015 in oil industry, music for peace, writing


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Telepathy and Technology


Telepathy is direct brain-to-brain contact. In x0 it is a poorly developed human sense somewhat like touch or smell but understood far less well. It is most often an emotional feeling received from someone else which is sometimes accompanied by a mental image, or sounds or words heard in one’s head including tunes or songs. It can also involve a physical sensation such as falling, nausea, or cold, or the memory of a smell, touch, or taste.

After I writing x0 I began to occasionally search for news about telepathy, and I noticed an increasing number of stories about using technology to achieve the same effect as psychic powers. In 2013 I described a story in Science about lab rats who had their brains wired together such that what one rat learned could be transmitted by direct wire to the other. Turns out that the other rat listened better if he got a treat for doing so (big surprise) but basically they communicated pretty well with what the researchers call a BTBI (brain to brain interface).

A couple of months ago Mark Zuckerberg made news by saying that the future of communication is telepathy. In a Q&A session with site users, he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

The Washington Post responded with a well done article analyzing how this could work. They talked about the linked rats, as well as a University of California at Berkeley study in which a team of cognitive scientists managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. They described how in another experiment involving a noninvasive technique called “transcranial magnetic stimulation” test subjects in India were able to think words to test subjects in France. The Washington Post added that “the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the Internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light.” Yes, painfully slow.

horseThe article quoted Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review as saying “‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact.” It concluded by noting that “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges” which, lucky for us, “is many breakthroughs and advances away.”

Yes, it is. But it is worth remembering that most big advances began very slowly, at first, and their use and their impact were poorly understood. For decades, many people laughed at the idea of a fancy machine replacing something as reliable as a horse. We all know how that one worked out.

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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Telepathy


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