Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fire, Fire!

About twenty years ago an online group I belonged to got into a discussion about which natural disaster is the worst. To my surprise, everyone said the kind that happened where they lived was not the worst, but the best.

People who lived where there are hurricanes said they know in advance when they're coming and can shelter from them.

People who live where there are tornadoes said they usually only hit a narrow area.

People who live where there are earthquakes said the major ones only happen every few decades.

Other disasters were mentioned, but the comments about them were similar.

I live in California where we're having a severe drought and several forest fires are happening right now.  We can't predict those, we can't shelter from them, they cover large areas, and they happen often.

In my opinion forest fires would be considered the worst natural disasters, but they aren't all natural. Some do start from lightening strikes. But a lot are started by people doing stupid and careless things like burning in dangerous areas or not being sure campfires are completely extinguished.

And some fires are even started by people on purpose. Are the idiots who do that trying to make themselves feel important? How pathetic they must be!

Or is starting fires sometimes a form of warfare?

Since our state is experiencing a major drought (yes, that's another natural thing that could become a disaster) using the huge amounts of water required to fight fires is another problem.

I hope all Californians who read this are doing their part and using common sense to help prevent forest fires.

Here's a link to a story I wrote about forest fires several years ago:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ethan Blecher Braves A Bully

This chapter book for early readers is a fun and exciting story that also teaches an important lesson.

Ethan Blecher Braves a Bully by Chris Pederson shows Ethan being tormented by Blake the bully and his gang no matter where he goes. Even at camp during Spring Break, Blake is there.

At last, when Blake is in serious danger, Ethan has the opportunity to get even.

But, instead, he helps his enemy.

What do you think happens as a result?

I won't give away details of the plot, but I will say the book teaches an important lesson about forgiveness and turning the other cheek without being preachy-teachy at all.

Ethan Blecher Braves a Bully is a fun read, and the illustrations by Kate Jeong add to the enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Papa's Suns

Papa's Suns by Kevin McNamee is the only book I've seen that will help kids deal with a family member having a stroke.

The book tells of a kid whose grandfather, who he calls Papa, draws pictures for him and shows him how to draw. The two of them have a close relationship, but when Papa has a stroke he can't talk anymore.

But he's still able to draw a sun for Jacob, and does so.

This charming book, with illustrations by Samantha Bell, will be a wonderful discussion starter for children who know someone who has a stroke. And it would be a great addition to the children's books in hospital waiting rooms and doctor's offices.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Scavengers

Michael Perry is a bestselling author of books for adults, but The Scavengers is his first book for kids.

It's a great one!

In the sci-fi future where the story takes place, most people have moved into bubble cities controlled by the government where everything is supposed to be wonderful. ButMaggie's family had decided to stay outside the bubble where they barely survive by scavenging things left from the past.

Maggie is a feisty girl, and decides to change her name to Ford Falcon after an old car where she sleeps. Her life, and that of her family isn't easy, but she' manages to help them survive.

Then one day they disappear and she must fight even worse dangers as she tries to find and rescue them.

The plot is dramatic and the characters are realistic.

The story has a satisfying conclusion (which I won't give away) but I have a feeling and a hope that it's only the first in a series.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Veteran's Clubhouse

My initial reaction to reading this book is, "Wow."

Kristen Zajac caught my attention right away with her depiction of the sounds produced by the band where the main character, Patrick, plays the drums.

But that's only the beginning.

When he and and his family meet Charlie, a homeless man who is a Vietnam War Veteran, Patrick is inspired to find a way to help people in that situation.

And he does!

With the help of his sister,  his friends, and his church, he inspires the community to come together and create a place where veterans can get food, clothing, health care, counseling, and job training.

And Patrick and his band help provide entertainment for them.

The Veteran's Clubhouse shows kids that even they can make a positive difference in the world.

I love the illustrations by Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell because they look like real people and their facial expressions help tell the story.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Signs They Are A-Changin'

Linguistics scientists consider a language living if it's changing. A language only stops changing when it's no longer being used.

Thanks to our constant use of computers a lot of signs and symbols have completely changed their meaning.

For example, the @ sign used to mean "at" but now it means "about" or "approximately." Having changed from an indication of precision it now means almost the opposite.

The # sign used to mean "number." Now it's called a hashtag and, while it doesn't exactly symbolize a word, using it at the beginning of something on the internet could be considered to mean, "at." In other words it has sort of taken over the original meaning of @.

And nobody knows why it is called a hashtag, but the word, hash, meant an jumbled up mess, usually, but not always, of food and a tag usually shows where to find something.

The & sign hasn't changed its meaning, but many people don't know it was originally a written word from latin. The word, et, means "and" and over time the two letters, e and t, got squished together to form the symbol, &.

Nobody really knows where the dollar sign, $, came from. It used to have two vertical lines on the capitol S and one suggestion is that it originally symbolized the United States currency as a capitol U on top of the S.

The cent sign (which isn't on my keyboard) of a letter, c, with a vertical line through it was based on the Latin word for one hundred since a cent is one hundredth part of a dollar. Maybe the vertical line was to make it similar to the dollar sign since it's also about money.

Obviously the language of symbols is a living language.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Resolutions Revisited

The year 2015 is more than half-way over. I just realized this is a good time to check our New Year's Resolutions.

Way back at the beginning of the year I resolved to learn not to worry as much as I usually did, but I've only improved a little bit.

However I have decided that I don't need to feel guilty (or worry) about worrying. I do it because I have a creative mind and thinking "what if..." is part of that creativity. Now when I realize I'm worrying I try to change my thoughts to "What if..." something good were to happen.

To the people who made resolutions to keep their homes always spotless, to become rich and famous, or to reach other unlikely goals and didn't succeed, I offer my condolences. To those who have succeeded at keeping their resolutions, I offer my admiration.

What resolutions did you make at the beginning of this year?

Did you manage to keep them?

Saturday, July 4, 2015


What Would Jefferson Think? Or Washington, or Franklin, or any of the others who helped establish the USA if they should time travel to America in our time?

They'd be overwhelmed with amazement.

Probably the first thing they'd notice would be cars and trucks - vehicles that move without animals to pull them !?!

Then they'd notice the way people, especially women dress. Shocking!

And if they saw someone walking down the street talking on a cell-phone they'd probably think that person was possessed by demons.

As they learned about our machinery that could plow and harvest crops, make and sew fabrics, and even do laundry and clean floors, they'd agree that slavery wasn't needed anymore.

But they'd be stunned to see our racial diversity and that women have rights to have jobs outside the home other than being servants or prostitutes and (gasp!) that those people could even vote and hold office in government. The founders of our country would probably pass out with shock to learn that the United States of America has an African-American president and a woman as possible candidate for that office.

The size of our country would impress those men, and they would probably feel honored that we still celebrate the things they fought for, but they could never have imagined how much our country would have changed since they established it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Some Repetition

Considering recent news stories, I've decided to repost something I've previously said here.

The reaction of the people in the South Carolina church to the shootings showed love and forgiveness, as Christians are supposed to do.

Here's what I said before that I think is relevant:

One of my college Psychology professors gave us this definition of love: "When the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one's own happiness and well-being a state of love exists."

Today I want to talk about hate.

Since hate is the opposite of love the logical definition would be: "When the unhappiness and suffering of another is essential to one's own happiness and well-being a state of hate exists."

That means when we hate someone, we give them control over our own lives.

Forgiveness means choosing not to seek punishment or revenge and, while it seems difficult, it's actually much easier than hating someone who has offended or harmed us because it frees us from the bonds of hatred.

I hope the example of those people will help more of us choose love and forgiveness.