Monday, January 26, 2015

How does SK do it?

When you're a writer, you always wonder how others write. And you wonder about what makes a successful writer tick.

I've been wondering a lot lately about worldwide best-selling novelist Stephen King.

He's 67 years old and has written 55 novels. More than 350 million copies of them have been sold.

He writes, I learned in a recent YouTube interview where he spoke to an audience of academics and students at the University of Massachussetts, about 2,000 words a day.

Other tidbits about the worldwide best selling novelist SK:

His mother essentially raised him, because dad skipped the premises. His wife, whom he's been married to for more than 40 years, is Tabitha King. He frequently acknowledges her in his books. He once had a severe drinking problem. He almost died a few years ago when, while out for a walk, he was struck by a car. His genre of writing is variously described as horror, science fiction, macabre, frightening, ghastly. He got his first big financial break in the early 1970s from a manuscript he had gotten disgusted with and tossed in the trash. Tabitha fished it out of the garbage, and Stephen, at his wife's urging, decided to finish it and send it off to a publisher. The couple had a baby at the time and hardly any food or money. But the paperback rights to the "Carrie" manuscript, later made into a full length feature movie, fetched SK $400,000!

Such is how the life of one starving writer can be forever transformed (for the best).

I love Stephen King's novels. I love how he can spin a tale. How his characters come alive and the story holds you--no GRABS you the deeper you get into it. How he can scare the bejesus out of you!

Stephen King, you rock. Below are some of his novels I've read. Get them if you want to read a true literary giant's work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bill Gates gives us clean drinking water

Dorothy and Patrick, my daughter and son-in-law, recently made me aware of an interesting, almost unbelievable humanitarian achievement backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hundreds of thousands of people die each year, mainly in Third World countries in Africa and Asia, for lack of safe, clean drinking water.

But what these people always have plenty of is their own feces (human poop).

And who knew that feces has water?

How to get the water extracted from the feces and to make it clean and drinkable?

Scientists (again backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) have devised a process, at something called an Omniprocessor plant, that does the trick.

Notice the picture accompanying this blog post of Bill Gates drinking water made from human poop:

Gates says he'd drink the feces-derived water from the Omniprocessor every day. It's that clean and delicious.

After the water is taken from the solid waste, that dried out poop is used to power a process that purifies the water.

Think about the implications for travel into outer space. It will take humans months, maybe years, to travel to another planet. And now they might not have to worry about where they get their next drink of water.

Thank you, Bill and Melinda Gates!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A salute to the fallen cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo

It was a dark, sad day yesterday for free-press loving journalists all over the world.

Twelve people, including some talented cartoonists at the editorial office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, were senselessly slaughtered.

Their offenses: creating so-called blasphemous caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

We often talk about the enormous "power of the pen" in journalism.

But sometimes we forget about the consequences of that power. And we disregard how a few deranged others might respond to it.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had poked fun and ridicule at Muhammad. Some, I'm told, had even drawn him in unflattering sexual poses (distasteful but their journalistic right).

How dare they insult Muhammad??!! (Who's been dead, by the way, for some 1,400 years).

Their drawings doomed them. Murderous terrorists, believing the cartoonists had crossed a sacred line, invaded their editorial offices and within minutes left behind a trail of blood, screaming and panic.

Today, the people of France (and free spirited souls worldwide) have united on behalf of freedom of expression.

"Je suis Charlie!"

I've said it before: the greatest profession in the world is journalism.

A free and rambunctious, aggressive, untamed, unpredictable press is the cornerstone of democracy. (Okay, maybe someone else said that before I did, but you get my point.)

Condolences to the families of those slain at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. And a curse on the murderers. May their souls burn in everlasting Hell. And while they're burning, I hope they have to eat their own poop.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Homeplace revisited

It's good occasionally to re-touch your roots or past.

I took a walk a few days ago in Country Club Estates just outside Rock Hill, S.C.

This is the place were I purchased my first home from the recently deceased Dorothy Shaw in 1986. I instantly liked her when I discovered the house (on my own, without a real estate agent). After scouring Rock Hill all day with realtors, I took a drive late that afternoon through Country Club Estates.

A "For Sale" sign in the yard caught my attention. Tall majestic trees and lots of shrubs also caught my eye. I pulled into the circular driveway and lingered for about a minute. I loved the location--framed by a forest. A short, insistent woman suddenly appeared on the front porch.

"Come on in and have a look!" Dorothy Shaw beckoned.

When I flinched, telling her I might not be able to afford her home, she smiled and assured me she would work with me on a reasonable price.

The final price: $65,000.

The address: 381 Stephanie Lane, Rock Hill, SC 29730

I only lived there for about four years. But in some ways I remember it like yesterday.

The folks who lived behind us were Eddie and Mary Ann Aberman. Good neighbors they were.

Just up the street from us were Mr. Whisonant and his wife Ruby. I used to love riding around with Mr. Whisonant in his pickup truck and listening to his reminiscing about the area.

Claire Sturkey, who had worked at a place called the Human Development Center at Winthrop University (no, they didn't assemble human bodies there!), also lived just a few houses away. Liked having coffee with her and swapping lies about Winthrop.

Virginia Whitesides, who resided with her husband Roger in a huge, stateley white two-story home about two blocks away, was good as gold to me. Southern and kind to the core, she gave me refuge in some really hard times.

Other friends were John and Maureen Berg and their two children, Sandy and Johnny.

We attended Mount Holly United Methodist Church just a few miles away. Chris Poole and his wife Barbara were close friends.

And our children all went to Oakdale Elementary School (pictured with this blog post). That little school must have done a good job, because all three are college graduates.

Also pictured: The house at 381 Stephanie Lane (looks about like it did in 1986!); the mailbox that I put up when we moved in (still standing today after all these years); and Oakdale Elementary School.

It was a good, safe, friendly neighborhood with good people.

I'll never forget it.