Friday, November 26, 2010

The Cost of College

The cost of putting someone through college these days is enough to make one sick. At close to $50,000 a year, it is fast becoming one more thing to break the back of the back of the middle class. Many students are graduating with six-figure debts, one very efficient way to keep them in economic slavery. One wonders if that isn't part of the plan.

As middle-class parents of children fully expecting to attend college within a few years, we are keenly aware of the problem. It is a major worry with us, and we feel inadequate and unable to plan for any sort of retirement, because all our financial wherewithal will need to be diverted so some college can give our kids a fighting chance in today's vicious economic climate.

So read a terrfic book: Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. It exposes the absurdity of the inflated costs of today's colleges, and shows why we're simply not getting our money's worth for the high price tags.

The best part is, it's not just a rant. Their research is broad and deep, and they turn up insitutions with good ideas, those who are doing it right. They offer effective, simple proposals for getting us back on track. If you've got kids and are expecting to get them to an institute of higher learning, you simply MUST read this book.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Our family is very thankful this year, for so many things. We have a happy, healthy family, a home, good food, enough of it, and hope for the future. We appreciate our good fortune, and think of those who must do without.

While a fat turkey basted in the oven, we watched the Macy's parade on television. I was pleased, but mostly blown away, to see Arlo Guthrie on one of the approved floats, singing "This Land Is Your Land."

First, Arlo is an icon of the counterculture, and has been since the turbulent 1960's. This folksinger has worked for social justice and fought the fascistic excesses of the right-wing establishment for almost half a century. His whole life has been a finger in the eye to the Establishment, and to the corporate culture. He was one of those long-haired hippies so reviled by the war hawks, and was so known for his vociferous anti-war policies that he was an enemy of The Man.

And on one of the most excessive displays of corporate culture and commercialism, he sings a communist song made famous by his father, Woody Guthrie. "This Land" is about true democracy, where the land belongs to all the people, not just the rich and privileged. Woody sang about the common people, the ones who really made this country great. He sang all over the land with a guitar sporting the slogan "This machine kills Fascists." (One of his torchbearers, the wonderful Pete Seegar, has adopted a kinder, gentler slogan for his instrument-- "This machine surrounds Hate and forces it to surrender.") If only we had more like them.

So Arlo the anti-corporate icon headlined in a parade sponsored by and dedicated to, corporate industry. Simply head-shaking, ironic, and unbelievingly subversive. And I'll bet that in this modern clueless culture that most of the people watching had no idea of why this was special.

To highlight it, at noon today, we listened to a broadcast of Arlo singing his iconic Thansgiving song, "Alice's Restaurant." This remains one of our Thanksgiving Day rituals, much more important than watching football. The whole story spins out again, never losing it's charm, and we weave the past into our present lives.

To us, the work of the singing Guthrie family and others like them is much more than a turkey leg and a song. They worked hard to bring about a world without desperate want, a world where everyone would be able to spend the day in joy and peace, not trying to kill each other. A world where people could be free and unafraid. Nobody is shooting at us today. We wish it were so for all the world.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Now Appearing

Hello again- it's been a busy time. Have been hard at work with the people from Rosstrum Publishing ( to get my 40-page career ebook out on Smashwords. It's titled "How to Improve Your Interviewing Skills," and is now available in a number of formats. Check out a sample. If you're going to interview for a job in the next few years, you'll need the tips from this book to help you avoid mistakes and say the right things.

This is the first step in my independent publishing plan. Have also been in negotiations to get my other works out. So soon enough you'll see ebook versions of my first few novels, soon followed by print versions. And a collection of previously-published short stories. And that's just the beginning!

It's a big, scary step, but exhilarating. It's going guerilla, outside the mainstream big publishing houses. Viva la revolution!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Anthology

Just got word that my story "Bootleggers," which appeared in Short-Story.Me! is now in the new anthology they have up. Available in the Kindle bookstore--
"Short-Story.Me! Best Genre Short Stories Anthology #2".
(The print version will be available in the Amazon Bookstore and their affiliates in about three weeks.)
It's a 250-page, 24-story volume that includes Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and Science Fiction.
To see the Authors & Stories included and the cover:

To buy the electronic version of Anthology #2 ($9.99) for the Kindle:


In a sport magazine, one of the columnists wrote on how proud he is to be a rules hacker in tournaments, and detailed some examples. Some people wrote in to defend his attitude. Me, I was disgusted.

In sport, there are concepts of sportsmanship and fair play that go hand-in-hand with honor and personal integrity. What this guy advocates has nothing to do with this.

He attempts to make a distinction between his beliefs and actions and those of outright cheaters. But it's a blurry line, when they share the same contempt for an ethical code, and the same philosophy that "winning" is more important. Why should people believe or trust anyone who boasts how much he can "bend" the rules but claims he won't "break" them? Bend something long enough, it'll break. If you live in a bordello, pardon us for not buying your avowed chastity.

Anyone who "wins" with this type of reprehensible behavior is no champion, but just a pathetic loser. Any prize they might swipe is merely a tarnished badge of shame. Unethical actions and a lack of moral fiber cheapen the meaning of sport, making it a meaningless and soiled activity, with prizes for the most blatant rules hack. Better that competitions go away than these "sharp practice" advocates go on demonstrating their rule-bending cunning.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My First Ebook Purchase- Just Another Day in Paradise

Well, another Luddite has fallen-- I have joined the digital revolution, and bought my first ebook. The world has changed, and so I must adapt.

Now understand, I'm Old School, and as a lover of books (both reading and writing), am firmly sold on print versions, which I'll always keep in my heart. Yet I see the expansion of books to digital format as an addition, not a replacement. Even thinking of offering my own novels in this format, rather than embroil myself in the dying world of big publishing.

My standards for fiction are high, and my budget low, so most of what I read is borrowed from friends of from the library. When I plunk down my limited cash for a book, it better give me some bang for my buck.

So for my first ebook, I chose carefully. Katherine Tomlinson, the editor of Dark Valentine, recently came out with a collection of her short stories, Just Another Day in Paradise. As a new reader (and contributor) of Dark Valentine, I like what they put out. So I thought there was a good chance I'd like the stories written by an editor who publishes the kind of story I like.

Am very pleased to say that I hit the jackpot. The collection is superb, well worth the purchase price and the time spent devouring all the stories. You get the visceral punch right right from the beginning, with the first piece (also the title story). It's written in the second person, always a tough act to bring off, but managed here to effect (as are others later on in the collection). It's a pointed tale of the horrors of modern life, and how easily someone just gets overwhelmed. It's a frightening reminder of how close to the line we all are, and how a simple nudge in the wrong direction can be fatal.

So much of current horror writing is crude, tasteless, terrible, cardboard blood-splattering, but that's not the case here. These well-written stories are full of character, and tell what happens to us when things take a turn to the dark side. This will be a hit with fans of Stephen King, tales in a similar vein, but given a personal stamp by the author.

So when you're in the mood for a shiver of frisson, or "exploring the dark heart of urban living," pick up a copy and settle in for some chills.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Did you vote today? Those who didn't should not complain about the abysmal state of the political climate. If you want the rights without the responsibilities, tough. Gotta take part, even if you think it's meaningless. It isn't. Vote against the bastards if you want, but vote. Tell them what they're doing is not acceptable. Vote for "None of the Above."

What baffles me is that many voters cast their vote for the party that works the hardest against their self-interest. Doesn't anyone remember how much horror happened to this country in the years 2001-2008? Remember who was in charge of everything? And some want them back? WTF? How many times do they have to screw you before you get it?

I dislike both parties, and am an independent. I'll vote for most anyone else, except when there's such an egregious A**hole running that I vote for their opponent. We seem to have more than the usual number running in races around the country today. People want a change, but the whack-jobs decided this was their year. We've got Nazis, witches, and certifiably insane candidates running. All part of Democracy.

The ones who get into power represent the will of the people- which should scare the living crap out of you, if you have a brain. People get the government they deserve. When we grow up as a people and decide to act as adults, we'l have better people in charge. But since we act as ignorant fools, we keep getting the same thing over and over.