Fun with Gift Cards in California

Have you ever, as a consumer, visited a retail outlet in California, armed with a gift card, and been told, when the balance dips to below ten dollars, that you are totally insane to ask for the balance in cash?

Happens all the time at Starbucks and Jamba Juice. For amusement, we used a gift card today, hoping to cash out as per California State law on a balance of $5.61, so we could at least go to Taco Bell and have a bite to eat. Lo and behold, the staff displayed complete ignorance that the statute even existed.

If you ever find yourself in this ridiculous nickel-and-dime situation, just cut and paste the letter below, which I sent off to Jamba Juice (as though I have nothing else to amuse myself with, right?).

* * * *

Dear Jamba Juice,

I visited a Jamba Juice outlet on Thursday, April 17, 2014, located at 4848 San Felipe Road, San Jose, CA 95135. My gift card contained $10.00, and my purchase amounted to $ 4.39. When I requested that the remaining balance of $ 5.61 be refunded to me, as California state law governing gift cards dictates, the staff at this outlet claimed ignorance, and refused to refund me the remaining balance on this card in cash.

I am advising Jamba Juice that according to Section 1749.5(b)(2), merchants are required by this statute in the State of California to “redeem or cash gift cards with balances less than $10.00 upon request.” It is my understanding that Jamba Juice is fully aware of the existence of this statute, and of the landmark case Marilao v. McDonald’s Corp. I have included an easy-to-read link defining the case for you that prohibits Jamba Juice and like corporations from being “unjustly enriched by (its) practice of refusing cash redemptions.” Please refer to this LINK for further information

Proof of my gift card and a copy of the receipt can be furnished to Jamba Juice upon request.

Sincerely,

Karen K Samoranos

* * * *

I’ll let you know what happens. I sure could use that $5.61…

 

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Author Viki Lyn knows the “Formula for Love”

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Please join me in welcoming author Viki Lyn to Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World. Viki, it’s awesome to have you here!

* * * *

Thank you Karen for hosting me today. I’m here to talk about my new release Formula For Love published by Musa Publishing. It’s considered a contemporary romance and is set in 1967 during the Summer of Love. It takes place in San Francisco and U.C. Berkeley – my old stomping grounds, but at a much later date!

You might wonder what you could possibly have in common with Rose, a flower child of the 60’s. After all, this book takes place forty-seven years ago! Women’s roles have drastically changed, and the social issues facing women are not what they were back in ’67.

All true.

Yet, love is love, and human emotions haven’t changed.

Rose is a young woman struggling with her identity. While she embraces the new ideology of her generation, she was raised with the conservative values of the 50’s. On one hand, she’s told to love the one you’re with, but she struggles with feelings of possessiveness and wanting something more out of a relationship.

As with so many of us, our twenties was a confusing time, when we questioned our sexuality, morals and life goals. Rose is no different.

Now my hero, Kenneth, is the ugly duckling of the story. Not physically ugly, but awkward and uptight. He also must discover how he wants to live his life.

At times, Formula For Love is funny and lighthearted, and yet, serious when it comes to character growth.

I hope you give this contemporary book with a vintage twist a chance!

Giveaway: I have a cool gift package – peace sign stickers and fun bath ‘fizzy’ salts in shape of sandals to celebrate the summer. Just leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner and post it Saturday evening.

Tag:Kenneth believes everything—even love—can be solved logically, until he meets a flower child who challenges him at every turn

Blurb:

Kenneth believes everything—even love—can be solved logically, until he meets a flower child who challenges him at every turn

Kenneth Hailey, an uptight conservative mathematician, believes he’s in control. After all, every problem can be solved in a deliberate and logical manner. Even love. When his fiancée dumps him for his best friend, he leaves Manhattan for the West Coast. What better place to forget his past. It’s 1967, and San Francisco is the place to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

But is he ready for Rose Red?

Rose Red, a free-spirited flower child, challenges Kenneth, thrusting him into her world of love-ins, protest rallies, and rock concerts. Kenneth finds himself falling down a rabbit hole, hanging on for dear life.

Old habits die hard, and he retreats, but Rose Red has other plans for him.

Excerpt: Formula For Love, copyright 2014, Viki Lyn

Rose patted his hand. “Forget it. You already said too much. You think girls don’t have the brains for math. We’re too emotional for such discipline. So do you want to sleep with me?”

Kenneth choked, and a spray of coffee spurted across the table, barely missing Rose. He wiped up the mess with his napkin, while muttering an apology. “I might be behind the times, but I like to be the one to invite the girl to bed.”

“If I waited for you to make the first move we’d never get past first base.”

“There’s the unwritten teacher-student rule.”

“You said our paths would never cross, so why worry about it? Do you always follow the rules? We can bend them a little. I’m not talking about a relationship here.”

“You’re talking about loving the one you’re with.” He smiled at himself for using her phrase. The sunlight broke through the window and Rose’s hair shone a burnished copper. Luscious, silky hair he’d like to touch again. “What do you mean by bend?”

“We can sleep together, and since we’re not looking for love, and we’re not each other’s type, and don’t want to—”

“—form any attachments.”

Rose sat back and crossed her arms. “Are you going to let me finish my sentence?”

Kenneth sank in his chair, uncomfortable with the conversation, but riveted.

“Yes, since we don’t want any attachments,” she continued, “it would be ideal. What do you say?”

He scratched his chin. “So I’m going to love the one I’m with after all? I don’t know.”

Rose waved off Kenneth’s worried expression. “Sex can be fantastic, and I’m horny, been without it—”

“—for a day?”

Buy link:http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=765

http://www.amazon.com/Formula-Love-Viki-Lyn-ebook/dp/B00JGCDV0O/

Viki’s Bio:

Award winner, Viki Lyn is a successful writer of sexy romance, both gay and straight. It’s the romance that drives her stories to their final happily-ever-after.

As a child, Viki pranced in the sprinklers as a proud mermaid and was saved by the prince on his white steed. And secretly, she visited past eras in her time machine without her parent’s approval.

Since then, she’s traveled to Stonehenge, Hypogeum, Roman Forum, Chartes Cathedral, Carnac, the Great Pyramid and so many other fantastic spiritual sites. Many of her travel experiences seep into her stories.

A native of California, she shares her beautiful adobe with her wonderful husband and favorite man (fictional or real). To learn more about Viki please visit www.vikilyn.com.

Viki’s Links:

http://www.vikilyn.com

http://www.vikilyn.com/blog

http://www.facebook.com/vikilynromance

http://www.twitter.com/vikilynromance

 

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Author SS Hampton Sr. on life and his book, “The Ferryman”

Please join me in welcoming author SS Hampton Sr. to “Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World”

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Life is ever changing, never stagnant, even when it seems to be so. You might say life is like a book with endless chapters of various page-lengths. Sometimes the end of one chapter and the beginning of another is smooth, seamless, and sometimes it is abrupt, even jarring.

Over two years ago I sat in a Veterans Administration office being screened for admission to a VA homeless veteran program. I had no job, and my money was almost gone—all I had was weekend drill with the Army National Guard. I could not believe I was in such a situation. The screener told me that he heard that a lot that year. The approaching end to one chapter and the beginning of another was not an easy transition—it was a soul-jarring transition.

Two months later, just as my money ran out, I moved into a small efficiency, I guess, in a small apartment complex for homeless veterans. The complex is located in one of the largest homeless corridors in the city—I had never lived in such an area before in my life. I had never seen the homeless in such numbers before, apparently hovering in the area for a daily free meal from a homeless shelter across the street. Just down the street from my complex was a food bank, and a battered women’s shelter. Around the corner was another food kitchen for the homeless. Just up the street from the food kitchen was an active railroad track.

As for my cohorts in this complex, many had been in jail or prison; some had lived on the streets, and many were alcoholics, drug addicts, or gambling addicts, or a combination thereof. Some had been injured in the military, some on civilian jobs. Many were hoping for Social Security or VA disability to come through, because they had no income, no savings—more than a few wore all they possessed. They were okay, and I visited with a few, but we really did not have much in common.

Quite often, as I served on weekend drill, pursued a college degree in photography, and continued my fiction writing, I gave thanks that I never got caught up in a self-destructive cycle. Life is challenging enough without being self-destructive.

Now, on a Saturday night in Sin City, I look around at my cluttered room. My bookcases of books, shelves of CDs and DVDs, my laptop and printer, and assorted items associated with photography.

I am preparing to leave here. My allotted time in this 2-year program is at an end, and through financial circumstances I now have the means to move out. I am returning to the “greater world” to almost be entirely on my own again. And no, I will not seek an apartment within or close to this homeless corridor. I will put some distance between it and me, to underscore my determination to never return to such a situation. So, in a real sense, this transition between chapters in my life is smooth and easy. I am grateful for that. And I am excited, regarding my future.

In mid-March, after days of sunny warmth, a cold wind blew through Las Vegas. All night long the dusty wind blew. The desert wind has such a disheartening sound to it. Even more disheartening and lonely, is the sound of a train whistle in Sin City.

Sometimes late at night I lay in bed listening to music, watching Netflix, or a DVD (I still cannot afford cable TV) and I hear the whistle of a passing train. It really is a haunting sound in such a crowded city where the neon lights and lonely darkness exist side-by-side, and where so many visit looking for excitement and something magical.

I wonder if the tourists ever hear the train whistle late at night in Sin City?

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“The Ferryman.” Ed. Mel Jacob. Melange Books, Forthcoming July 2012.

ISBN: 978-1-61235-414-9

 

 

BLURB: Sometimes even a servant of the gods may become curious and intrigued by other possibilities beyond their assigned role, which threatens to upset everything. Charon the Ferryman witnessed an act of love when a little girl offered him a song bird to pay for her grandfather’s shade to be ferried across the Styx. And the shade of a barbarian woman taught him that there was more than the underworld…

 

EXCERPT: Strong sunlight faded to a pale shadow of itself as if drained of life to create deep shadows along the sloping floor and the uneven walls of the long cavern entrance. Long, narrow stalactites hung from the cavern roof and stalagmites of various heights and thicknesses angled upward from the floor, resembling the scattered, uneven teeth of a monstrous dragon’s mouth. Flowstone along the widening cavern walls had once oozed onto the cavern floor to form rolling stone waves that became a wide, sandy beach to disappear into the shadows.

The cavern roof arched upward, lost to sight save for the pale tips of hanging stalactites. The scattered stalagmites marched into the rippling surface of dark waters. A thick gray mist coated the water that splashed onto the beach. The mist swirled into strange formations caused by a moaning, chilly wind that swept out of the darkness and up the long tunnel.

From deep within the darkness of the gigantic cavern came the ghostly notes of pipes and the echoing steady rhythmic beat of a drum. Torches along the beach burst into flickering life as their flames danced to the ghostly rhythm of the pipes.

The torchlight revealed pale shades, the spirits, of weeping men, women, and children, who shuffled through the sand along the edge of the waters of the River Styx. The river was one of the dark rivers of Hades, the underworld of the dead. The sunlight filtering into the cavern rippled with the shadows of weeping shades descending the length of the cavern entrance. A gilded figure with torch held high lit the way before them.

The music grew louder. A dark shape, lighter than the darkness, appeared in the distance. The gathering shades milled at the water’s edge and waited as the bow of a boat fitted with a bronze beak sliced through the misty waters. A large red eye rimmed in black decorated each side of the polished wood bow. On both sides of the bow square wooden boxes dangled bronze anchors. Behind that lay a narrow platform from a tall, narrow, wooden walkway rose into the chill air. An angled black bow sail and a large black square sail behind it strained with the moaning wind…

 

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/ferryman.html

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BIOGRAPHY

 

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second-career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.

 

Melange Books

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/index.html

 

Musa Publishing

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=50

 

MuseItUp Publishing

https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/better-than-a-rabbit-s-foot-detail

 

Amazon.com Author Page

http://www.amazon.com/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

 

Amazon.com. UK Author Page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

 

Goodreads Author Page

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6888342.S_S_Hampton_Sr_

 

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Please welcome author Samantha Lehane

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I’d like to introduce my special guest, author Samantha Lehane. Please join me in welcoming Samantha to Unfiltered Speech in A Politically Correct World. Take it from here, Sam!

* * * *

Hi, I am Samantha Lehane. Please let me introduce myself and my upcoming release from Musa Publishing.

I am a librarian by trade, pulp writer by nature, and time traveler by aspiration. I work in a museum by day and I write at night. My main literary pursuit is fiction but I do blog. I have a column, Writing with Catitude, at CuriosityQuills.com which is geared towards the writer/pet owner. My writing ventures into the fantastical with a pulp flair. My pen name was inspired by one of my favorite characters from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I live in a little desert house filled with cats, books, and tea. My house is invaded weekly by my partner’s musical theater troupe. That’s why we have a closet dedicated to costumes. And that is me in a very small nutshell.

My short story can be described in a smaller nutshell. Kidnapping Cupid is an M/M romantic comedy with a Roman mythological twist. Its tagline, “Looking for some mythological mischief?” says exactly what you’ll find within its digital pages.

1. Do you have a specific genre you prefer?

I prefer fantastical fiction. I want fiction that takes me out of the mundane world or makes me think about it in a different way.

What I also appreciate about speculative fiction is that you can explore heavy current events or issues a fantastical wrapping without being overtly political. The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones are books that delve into serious moral and philosophical situations. They take these issues and put them in another world which gives it a new perspective. It also gives the reader enough distance so they don’t feel like their beliefs are being challenged even while they are being given food for thought.

I also just find speculative fiction to be great fun to write.

2. How did you decide upon the title for your latest book?

I am terrible at titles. I have gotten some lovely personalized rejections before and all mention my terrible titling. One of my nefariously bad titles was ‘The Cherub’s Ditch.’ Ouch. It’s a title that requires reading the book to even understand it. And even then it’s terrible.

I was serious about publishing Kidnapping Cupid so I tried to step back from looking at the story as a writer and look at it as a publisher. I asked myself a few questions. What kinds of titles are popular right now? What kinds of titles look best on e-books? What would be easy for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes? I decided that I wanted something with no more than two words so it would be easy for SEO and would pop on a small thumbnail image on both my publisher’s website and on Amazon. I didn’t want anything too cutesy with alteration but I did want it to roll off the tongue.  I had a few ideas like Netting Neptune and Kidnapping Love, but after a few google searches to make sure that I had a unique title, I settled on Kidnapping Cupid. It’s a name that gives the reader an idea of the story, makes for a unique keyword, and doesn’t twist the tongue when I give an elevator speech about it.

3. How much of the book is related to your own life experiences?

The inspiration for the short story is based on my study abroad in Greece. I went on a fabulous summer trip that took me around the Peloponnese to visit ancient temple sites. I saw the Parthenon, Delphi, Olympia, Corinth, Mykonos, and more. I thoroughly loved Greece. I would spend my days wandering around ruins or museums, my afternoons would be spent journaling in cafes, and my nights were for exploring cities and villages. My journey coincided with the 2010 FIFA World Cup so I had a lot of fun learning more about soccer and following the action. Every taverna had a game on so I could wander for hours and always keep track of what was going on. Kidnapping Cupid is based in Roman mythology but the seeds were planted in that Greek trip.

4. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I’m very irritated with my prose because I have to force myself to be sparse. I admire wordsmiths like China Miéville and F. Scott Fitzgerald who can keep a reader interested through intricate yet oddly breezy descriptions. Their prose is far denser than mine yet it never feels purple. Mine always ends up a violet hue if I don’t hold myself back.

5. What or who inspired you to become a writer?

I have always been a dreamer and a creative type. I was constantly drawing as a child. I loved books from a young age but it didn’t hit me until I was thirteen that I could write as well. I was finishing a book by Amelia Atwater Rhodes when I saw in her biography blurb that she was thirteen too. I was gobsmacked that they let girls like me write and publish novels. It made me realize that if she could do it then so could I!

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book?

I always learn something from writing each piece, but I learned more during the editing process for Kidnapping Cupid. This is my first fiction publication so working with my editor has been very illuminating for me. Seeing each round of edits unfold has shown me some personal writing quirks that I hadn’t quite realized such as beginning so many sentences with the word ‘it.’ This editing process was interesting for another reason. My editor convinced me that I should revise my story to go from third to first person. I haven’t written much in first person but I really enjoyed it and it fit flawlessly with both the story and the main character. I branched out of my comfort zone with this story but I grew as a writer because of it.

7. Do you have any advice for other writers?

My first is to keep learning: learn the craft, learn the publishing scene, and learn more about you as a writer. My second is to keep writing even if it’s just a piece of flash fiction a week. Despite how busy you are, you need to make time to practice. This second piece of advice ties into the first because the only way you will learn is to write.

8. Do you ever experience writer’s block, and any tips on breaking the dreaded block?

I do. I had a writer’s block of three years. I thought it was from a lack of exciting ideas but it was due to lack of confidence. Grad school had left me too exhausted to write so when I did write, I felt rusty and unsure of myself. That kind of writer’s block can only be overcome by writing and having personal faith in your abilities.

9. Do you write an outline before every book you write, or does the story come to you as you write (plotter or panster)?

I make a token effort at an outline. I compile research and put all my links or citations into one document for easy reference. Then I jot down all my vague and random ideas and notions about the story. This can mean character notes (hair color, philosophy, relationships) or setting or backstory. Some of these notes are put into a nebulous three act structure which I add to as I go along. I try to capture the pillar scenes that move the story along but I let myself have wiggle room. Stories change and evolve through the first draft and even more so through every subsequent revision. I can’t be a full panster because I like having continuity notes and I like having an idea of where my story is going. However, I can’t outline too intensively during the first draft because I find that too much of my first conception can blind me to the organic evolution of a story.

10. What do you see yourself doing ten years from now in terms of your writing?

I hope to keep learning and diversifying my writing. I want to hybridize my portfolio to include small e-publishers, the Big Six, and self-publishing. I hope to write in every genre from mystery to western to science fiction and beyond. Essentially, I want to keep challenging myself. Writing was a passion that I lost contact with for too long and I never want to stray from my literary path again.

* * * *

Thank you, Samantha, for visiting Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World.

Readers, please visit Samantha Lehane’s Buy Link, to pre-order/purchase her book, Kidnapping Cupid, scheduled for release on Friday, March 21st, 2014, through Musa Publishing.

Samantha is also offering a book give-away, so please visit her Give-Away Link to enter!

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Love is in The Air

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My husband, Clifford, and I recently celebrated our 25th year of being legally married. The next milestone will occur in the spring, when we will have been officially married in the Catholic Church for 22 years.

When asked just how long we’ve been together, we often utilize the following questions:

>For our civil wedding anniversary: How old is our second eldest child (who was born five days before we decided on a whim to drive to the County courthouse, dressed spectacularly in sweatpants, and bought a marriage license)?

>For our church wedding anniversary: When were our third and fourth children born (because we were married smack dab in the year between their well-planned births)?

Technically, we’ve been joined at the heart since 1981. That’s only 33 years, my friends. I’ve noted people being together for far longer, and always wondered just how the hell they do it. Clifford’s parents celebrated 61 years, and I’m still trying to figure that one out. My own parents were married over 25 years, cut short by my father’s death, though I always had the impression that my mother was very unhappy in the marriage. To this day, it makes no sense to me, how two extremely incompatible people—one of whom did not really want kids or matrimony—made it work.

Would I want my parents’ marriage, one of functionality, where you take separate vacations, have separate friends, and don’t seem to like each other very much? Quite frankly, if that’s my paradigm, then I’ve died and gone to heaven.

I’m not saying that life with my man is a joyride 24/7. Clifford is an intense person, a professional jazz guitarist, a teacher, who expects a high degree of integrity and quality from those around him. From his father, he acquired a military streak combined with the fear of deprivation instilled by WW II and the Great Depression—e.g., clean clothes, no wasting food. From his mother, he was blessed with patience, kindness, and generosity.

All in all, this is a good pairing of extreme differences, challenged often by my obstinacy. I am a headstrong person, what Clifford refers to as a “free spirit,” and I do things in my own time and in my own way. Known for his own brand of stubbornness, and for creating the axiom, “You can’t out-stubborn the master of stubborn,” Clifford has finally met his match in me.

Somehow, we’ve made it work, or oddly flourish. After knowing this man and his quirks for 33 years, I still melt at the sound of his voice. I love everything about him—good and bad, happy and sad, because ultimately, he’s not a boring person.

I still recall the night we first met face-to-face. Clifford likes to tell people, when asked, that he met me over the phone. This is true. He worked for a client company, and I worked for his airfreight vendor. But if Clifford knows you even marginally well, he’ll elaborate by suggesting that he met me at a phone-for-sex line. This doesn’t bother me too much, because it says more about his character and quirks, than about this  fictional former me.

But back to that night, in 1981, when Clifford invited me to see his band play at a club in Sunnyvale, California. I walked through the door, and at age 18, I was able to fool the waitress into selling me a gin and tonic. At the break, I introduced myself—but hell, I already wanted him at first sight, this gorgeous dark man with the sad, beautiful eyes.

And then, Clifford did something he’s apparently never done before then, or since. He asked me to get up and dance with him (yeah, that’s me with both left feet, who can barely handle the two-step at a Powwow). While the band played from the stage, Clifford, microphone in hand, crooned Engelbert Humperdinck’s “After The Lovin’,” as I artlessly jammed my knee into his crotch, and treaded on his toes.

After a long, convoluted road, we married. Go figure. What’s the answer here? It is the element of mischief? Because I can’t imagine a man being comfortable for decades worrying about dancing with a person who is in danger of kneeing him in the crotch. Perhaps it’s because I yell louder than he does when we watch football together. Maybe it’s the his-and-hers cruiser motorcycles in our garage, the dirt bike riding or the fact that, as he likes to complain to total strangers, “force him to” go fishing. Here’s a thought—could it possibly be related to sex? If that’s the case, then what more could a man wish, but to be blessed with motorcycles, football, fishing and sex?

And maybe, just maybe, it’s that at the end of a very long workday, we still look at one another with knowing eyes. In the glaring light of day, you see the various faults of a person, softened by love, and that, folks, is what is known as perfection.

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Visit the “Love is in the Air” Blog Hop right here!

To celebrate love, I’m giving away a copy of my e-Book, “Road Apples” to one of the lucky posters. Have a great Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

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Creationism and the (not-so) Rational Mind

Bill Nye The Science Guy engaged in a debate on February 4th, 2014, in, of all places, Kentucky. I only know Kentucky as a state renowned for its blue grass, moonshine and sleek thoroughbred race horses, plus that murky little joke about Kissing Cousins: “In beautiful Kentucky, everyone is related to everyone.”

At this particular venue, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Mr. Nye sparred with Ken Ham, the museum’s founder, who claimed that all the answers to universal origins are inside of the Bible.

As an explanation for most rational people, the Bible’s tales were written in an era when the concept of science didn’t exist, you know, sort of like the GOP in its current form.

Move forward to the more modern 1500s, and Galileo, whose iconic disproval of geocentrism landed him at odds with the Vatican, and under house arrest for the remainder of his days. Though Galileo corroborated the phases of the planet Venus, and made the huge discovery of the four largest satellites of the gas giant Jupiter, his solid theory that the earth rotated around the sun, rather than the universe circling the earth, dropped poor genius Galileo in a vat of boiling hot water. He fell victim to the socially sophisticated, yet scientifically backward bullies in the Holy Office. Yesiree, it was all about control, not enlightenment.

To date, the Catholic Church is still trying to shove the concept of Adam and Eve into my puny human brain. Had the entire Christian faith not attempted to downplay every creation story for every other human culture and religion, I may have approached the idealism of the Garden of Eden with a more open mind. Yeah, and a snowball’s got a chance in Hell.

The Europeans invaded the already settled continent of North America, and ignored the stark evidence of an established population of diverse cultures, each with a unique creation story. The Washoe people claim to have arisen from the clean blue waters of Lake Tahoe, while the Lakota speak of Wind Cave, and White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Why are these tales any more difficult to discern than two naked people gallivanting through a lush tropical garden, useless and indolent, not required to make any effort at all to feed themselves, until they suddenly figure out how fun (or amusing) sex truly is? It’s a conundrum that a cranky God would set forth two heterosexuals already in a state of undress, and forbid them to fool around, while requiring humanity to go forth and prosper. After the fall of humanity, and subsequent cowering behind a fig leaf, that’s when the game of Show-N-Tell was born.

However one chooses to believe in the evolution of their origins, science itself remains steeped in, well, faith. One has to be terribly hopeful to clearly grasp the concept of the Big Bang Theory, wherein the existence of nothingness prior to the theoretical Big Bang is actually “somethingness,” e.g., if the concept exists then nothing is something.

God Almighty stated, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end. In Native American lore, the circle is central, an existence that has no beginning or ending, but can be marked by numerous stories of creation. We are a linear species, so for some reason the circle and the beginning are concepts we accept without fail, just like the entertaining fiction of the Bible.

For me, the Big Bang and Alpha/Omega are similar to wrapping one’s head around a Quantum Paradox—the Star Trek story line, where a character goes back in time to save themselves and their colleagues, and when time has been dutifully changed, so has the future, and…now, how would it be possible that someone in the future could then go back to the past and change it, when once the past is changed, so does the future acquire a new reality—ugh! My brain just seized.

At the Creation Museum, Mr. Ham contends that the emergence of the universe is an open and shut case, as reflected by the writings in the Bible, many of which were doodled when humanity’s definition of Science tended toward Ignoramia. Mr. Nye then reminds Mr. Ham that billions of people worldwide who are deeply religious do not necessarily embrace the idea of a universe poised to celebrate 6,001 years from its moment of inauguration with a cosmic Champagne bottle.

As an individual who eyes my church’s doctrine skeptically [because, let’s face it, all churches want to keep the money spigot flowing straight into their pockets, simultaneous to a 501(c)(3) status—there’s a control freak factor in every religious institution], I also view science with a practiced air of incredulity.

Yes, I know humans and dinosaurs did not exist side-by-side. Yes, I realize that a giant asteroid nearly obliterated the earth, leaving its evidence in a charred layer in the fossil record worldwide. And yes, I do believe fervently in evolution, because I know the intelligent people will prevail over the idiots. Huh…though evidence suggests I may actually be wrong about that last one.

One thing I’m absolutely certain of—there is a God, and they love me.

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Asphalt vs. Human Physiology

Life in the Bay Area has many perks, one of which is excellent access to freeways and expressways. The advantage to these innumerable travel arteries is that my husband and I can make our way from one school in San Jose to another in Mountain View within fifteen minutes, and have a choice of several routes to choose from, depending upon the traffic pattern. I estimate that we log an average of five hundred miles each week in our business related travels, always seemingly at odds with the ebb and flow of traffic, that predictable tide of commute you could almost set your watch to.

The caveat to living in a valley bisected with a fancy grid-work of freeways is the noise. I’m not talking about something in the decibel range of the commercial aircraft that fly over our neighborhood as they take off from Mineta-San Jose International Airport.

It’s the faint, almost imperceptible thrum of tire-on-pavement that wakes you up at two in the morning, when you’re desperately sleeping off a wickedly hot summer day, and all your windows are open just a crack to coax the airflow. This is the witching hour, when the jets have been grounded for the curfew between 11:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., and the world is supposed to be asleep.

Yet, enough insomniacs are out on the road, whacking the asphalt with heavy tires, the cacophony of whining tread that steals into your dreams, and leaves you wide-eyed, staring up at the ceiling, listening to a faint and distant hum that prevents you from falling back to sleep. A roaring flood would be less intrusive than that needle-like audio push of tire whisper, echoing off the fog-vaulted sky.

The solution would be to close all the windows, because they’re double-pane, but don’t you just love the fresh air more than your sleep?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. When we’re way up north in Susanville, out in the sticks, all you can hear is nothing, unless the rain is falling, and then it literally hammers the metal roof. Beyond nothing is the even deeper silence of a blizzard, and then your ears will start to ring from the utter stillness of it all. Once in a while, a neighbor drives along the County road, and you get a brief roar of mud tires on cracked asphalt as the truck cruises past. For some reason, there are a lot of lift-kitted trucks with huge knobby tires, as though a certain percentage of the male population has a need to compensate.

But there’s a sinister side to the Bay Area commute, and this is tied to the motorcycle.

I ride a motorcycle. I became an enthusiast through the brilliant persuasion of my husband, who suggested riding dirt bikes would be a wholesome family activity that would never grow old. His reasoning was terribly successful, which is why there are three street bikes and six dirt bikes currently in our possession.

I describe myself as a cruiser for pleasure, which mitigates exposure to many dangerous situations. There’s been a sharp increase in the number of commuters riding motorcycles, partly for their gas economy. My 1500 cc Vulcan gets around 48 mph, depending upon how I lay into the throttle. I often find myself traveling well over the speed limit on a bike that rides heavy and smooth, with great low-end torque. In fifth gear, all I need to do is flick my wrist, and I can shoot from 65 to 80 mph in what seems like a split second. We’re not talking a sport bike, commonly known as the “Rice Rocket.” My husband and I have the classic Japanese cruiser type bikes, mechanically efficient, and weighing it around 700 pounds apiece.

Another issue that compounds the danger level on Bay Area roadways for motorcyclists is our ability to legally lane-share, a fact that many licensed automobile drivers either aren’t aware of, or absolutely hate. Lane sharing is best facilitated in very slow speed traffic conditions, 15 mph or less, though the danger of being side-swiped by a car is very real, even when traffic’s at a crawl. Often the person behind the wheel of a car will spontaneously decide to change lanes when they see a scant opening in traffic. This lane change is facilitated by yanking the wheel in the direction they want to throw their two-ton vehicle, and then diving into that tiny patch of open roadway. Rarely do they consult their mirror, or do the intelligent thing by looking over their shoulder and signaling before changing lanes.

This is one reason motorcyclists are killed. Lane sharing, while absolutely legal, is extremely dangerous, even under the best of conditions. I often espouse the benefits of all drivers being required to partake of motorcycle safety training. I believe it would enable Class C licensed drivers to gain an awareness of the unseen motorcyclist. Further, a Class C driver’s basic driving skills will improve exponentially. Trust me on this, I know. My driving skills improved a hundred fold once I learned the skillset required to drive a motorcycle in fast, chaotic traffic conditions.

My fellow motorcyclists, please! We must remember that we are always invisible, but never invincible.

The hazards of lane-sharing were reinforced one evening last week, while my husband and I were en route to his big band rehearsal. Crossing over Highway 101, we could see the southbound direction consisted of a sea of red, glaring brake lights, with traffic at a standstill. A few minutes later, the traffic report on AM radio confirmed a motorcyclist down, with a single fatality. Not too difficult to guess the outcome.

According to a witness statement in the San Jose Mercury News a few days later, the motorcyclist was just driving regularly between cars (e.g., lane-sharing), when he suddenly went down, and was thrown beneath the wheels of a UPS truck, that rolled over his body. Apparently an instant death, and no doubt, caused by some driver who decided they wanted that little “car-free” patch of roadway so they could be 0.00926 seconds in front of their current position. Mix that with a motorcycle, and guess who wins!

Yeah, you got it. No one wins.

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