Friday, June 26, 2015


If you were to search for the reason so many people left their homeland in Europe and came to America, the word ‘freedom’ would rank high on the list. Freedom is embodied in our Bill of Rights and it is the foundation of our society. We are said to believe that the pursuit of happiness‒ as long as it doesn’t impact the rights of others‒ is what America is all about. Why is it then that we have given most of our rights away in the last two decades in pursuit of being safer and more secure when we really aren’t? The War of Drugs gave law enforcement the right to break down your door at 3 a.m. to search for drugs that are alleged to be on your premises. They really don’t need any proof beyond a ‘tip’ from someone who is said to have reliable information.

Regulations that allow banks and other financial institutions to turn over your financial records to others‒ who really don’t have any right to know you private business‒ has created the opportunity for crooks and con artist to have access to your bank and saving accounts. The government can spy on you while you are on the Internet, despite the assurances that you cannot be unreasonably searched. Most of our personal freedoms are embodied in the Fourth Amendment which says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In may cases, probable cause has been cast aside in the name of expedience.

In the past two weeks, there has been an almost hysterical reaction to the shooting in a South Carolina church that has nothing to do with the crime or what it might take to prevent racial hate crimes in the future. The governor ordered the Confederate flag taken down from the state capitol building, which is probably a good thing, but mass hysteria has caused other zealots to take a giant leap forward with an agenda they can’t explain and probably don’t understand. Knee jerk reactions seldom solve anything. There are petitions demanding all materials referring to the Confederacy be removed from store shelves. Some of our largest chain stores have complied. This involves commemorative license plates, materials and objects used by Civil War Reenactors, T-shirts, and many other things. Few people in the South view them as racial symbols. They are simply a part of our history in the minds of most of our citizens. Rewriting history is a dangerous endeavor that solves no useful purpose. There is even a call from a New York literary critic to stop the showing of ‘Gone with the Wind.’ How long will it be until Amazon and other booksellers ban all books having a Civil War theme. Most of this hysteria is driven by politicians who hope to gain an advantage by whipping the citizenry into a feeding frenzy. While many of us were shouting and gibbering in the streets, congress sneaked the trade bill past us. Maybe it would be a good idea to read again the statement made by a writer named Voltaire about freedom of speech.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

I do not believe in censorship in any form except where underage, impressionable children are involved. Do you want anyone telling you what you must think, say, or do? If our freedom of expression is eroded away, then what is left? Think about it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lynn Vincent

I followed the voyage of Zac Sunderland in National Geographic magazine when he, at 17, became the youngest person to sail solo around the world. When Zac’s sister, Abby, decided to beat her brother’s record, I was astounded. Why on earth would a 16-year-old girl try to accomplish something so difficult? Was this a death wish, was she overreaching, or was someone or something pushing her beyond her abilities?
At the time of Abby’s voyage, I was battling cancer and was only vaguely aware of the news coverage, except that she only made it half way around the world before she had to be rescued. Recently, someone gave me a copy of her book, Unsinkable, which detailed the events leading up to her voyage, and what was involved in her attempt to break her brother’s record. Much has been written about the voyage, with so many becoming vocal critics of her abilities, even going so far as to criticize her and her family as nothing more than thrill seekers. Having pursued several difficult and sometimes dangerous sports, I started reading the book with an open mind. Was her attempt foolhardy, or was there something larger than life that drove her on?
In view of the criticism Abby and her family received, she and her co-author spent a lot of time in explaining the type of family she came from and the kind of things each of them expected of themselves. Her father was a sailor and somewhat of an expert on all things nautical, after having spent the last 30 years on boats. Abby loved the sea and at 13 started helping her father deliver boats along the coast of California and down the length of Mexico. Often, there were two boats to deliver to some marina, and she sailed one while her father handled the other. Her father, Lawrence, taught Abby about the sea, the equipment, and the dangers to avoid. I wasn’t far into the book when I decided that the way Abby was raised wasn’t very different from the way in which my generation grew up. There are few of us who can remember when we started driving or when we were turned loose with large pieces of farm equipment. We worked hard, shared responsibilities, and were mentored by every adult we were around. Most kids today are sheltered by their parents and don’t know how to handle any of life’s experiences. Upon graduating from high school, they have mastered their cell phones, the Internet, and little else. They have no job skills, yet they are sent off to college or to the workplace, after having absorbed unrealistic expectations from thousands of movies and televisions programs. No wonder so many of them grab the first job that comes along and spend the rest of their lives making a living and never really learning to live. There is something exhilarating about pushing yourself to the limit and beyond that few people who haven’t experienced it understand. Mountains are climbed because they are there, and oceans are crossed because there are adventuresome people who cannot resist. As Lawrence said in the book, “No one comes away from the sea unchanged.” The same is true for any other endeavor that pushes us to the limit in order to grow and to become. What Abby did was dangerous, but think of the many thousands of teens who die each year because they can’t handle a car safely, or they don’t seem to be able to drive without sending a text message to their friends while they are behind the wheel. Parents need to learn to encourage their children to pursue their dreams, and then be willing to turn them loose to find their place in the world. If you are a parent, you need to read this book. It is a story of faith, determination, and courage. You will come away from it energized and perhaps strangely changed.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

ALTAR OF EDEN by James Rollins

BOOK REVIEW ~~ Five Stars

My favorite type of book is a Thriller, and especially a well-researched thriller. So many books today deal mostly with rapidly escalating disasters that leave the reader’s head spinning. Cars, guts, and buildings are blown higher and higher with sound and fury that signifies nothing. It is a relief to read an author who can handle these elements and make them logical -- one of the prerequisites of a good action novel.

In Altar of Eden, Rollins weaves a tale that is not predictable. As a veterinarian, he has researched his subject matter well, especially DNA and what research and development might do in the future. Place this ability in the hands of an unscrupulous group and you have the substance of which nightmares are made. Rollins’ descriptions of locals and events are visual in nature. You can see his characters vividly. He grips the throat of the reader from the very first page and doesn’t let go until the end. If you are looking for adventure, suspense, terror, the clash of human relationships, passion and rapid moving action, you might want to consider reading this book. Move over Michael Crichton and make room for James Rollins! I highly recommend this book. Five stars for this one.

I reviewed this book after having received it as a gift from a friend.