Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thoughts in high profile - the reason for the season, etc.

Hi all: Seems like today has been a day of passionate e-mails relating to the season. As we talk about meeting again in early January, reference to the Epiphany set off a chain reaction. I'll admit to being a catalyst, for better or worse. I wonder if all this passion could be corralled into one or more writing prompts for the new year? Some of us have taken on large projects - novels, etc. - and are forever flagellating ourselves for not meeting self-imposed deadlines, or feeling embarrassed for never being ready to share a piece because it's 'not quite ready.' Yet, the passion exhibited in the e-mails I've sent and received today seems to bring out some real energy. Maybe writing shorter pieces that could be completed relatively quickly, or at least brought to a state of willingness-to-share, would be a good idea for 2010. Don't necessarily quit the long-term projects, but give ourselves the satisfaction of getting some things done. I guess that's why I like essays. I am working on one called "Religion and Other Sacred Cows," and maybe it's a case of synchronicity that Margaret's inadvertent prompt has given me more food for thought on that topic. Now I'm determined to have that essay ready for sharing before the new year. Hold me to it, OK? Joe

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Makes Me Crazy

Just realized I mistakenly posted a comment about my misspelling Quincy as Qunicy on the QWG instead of my personal blog which is blackoaknaturalist. If you're curious about what I was talking about, check out my blog at blackoaknaturalist. Joe

Friday, December 11, 2009


Caught a spelling error, i.e., typing error (there's a difference) in that last post. Spelled my home town "Qunicy" instead of Quincy. Decided not to correct it. After all, it's been extremely icy here this past week, so Qun - icy stands.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Coffee Mug?

Feeling up for a caffeinated contest?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And the count is three and two

At a stoplight

checking the rearview mirror.

I see the young woman behind me

taking the brief respite from the road to apply lotion.

Hands to arms, back of the neck,

shoulders then cheeks and back to the arms

a simple, efficient use of time

but looking, from here, all the world

like a third base coach

telling the bus driver across the street

to steal home.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Playing at War

Note: wrote this as a part of that essay contest... I don't think I did all that well on it, as there was a character limit (ruins most good essays) and I ended up having to butcher an important paragraph... would it kill them to make the limit 1 page?


“Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving.” – John Dewey.

People with Responsibility for Consequences – PRC. That is our title. That is our motive. We exist now only as a minority.
It makes no sense that we should be dying out, because it’s not hard to become a responsible person – the only thing one really has to do to join is stop hiding behind the outward-facing finger known as “Accusation”. Accusationists are enemies of responsible people, and there’s a constant, brutal war going on between the two factions. This war involves use of one of the deadliest weapons in history, a weapon that holds infinite power.
That weapon is the mind. The function of the mind in this war is very simple: the PRC use the mind; the Accusationists don’t. Unfortunately, Accusationists make up for their lack of brain power with sheer numbers and the religion called Selfish Irresponsibility. Irresponsibility is a very tempting religion, converting millions each year to its mad egotistical zealotry.
The downfall of responsibility followed a tragic incident called the Columbine Massacre. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, avid gamers swayed by Irresponsibility, stepped out into public without their minds. Thirteen innocents were killed because these deranged boys had access to machine guns and were too stupid to use common sense to distinguish reality from gaming.
Aware that the boys were not using their brains, the mass media decided to use the boys’ brains for them to deliver a tactical blow to the PRC. Irresponsible people everywhere emerged and purged responsibility from the situation. The accusation finger was pulled out, with the help of the mass media, and laid in front of the boys, pointing outward toward video gaming. It became clear to the blind neutral public that the two boys obviously would not be able to take responsibility for their violent actions. After all, they were only young, and it was politically incorrect to imply that they were irresponsible, insane idiots who were completely out of line.
It came to be that games began to take blame for individual people’s idiocy. It was the fall of personal responsibility, a brilliant move by the Accusationists to eradicate responsibility for good. The PRC was split and eventually disintegrated to its current state today; there are only handfuls of organized PRC resistance left to combat the Accusationist genocidal machine.
Video games were once a simple activity. They still are – even the violent ones. Now, thanks to the damage caused by the unwillingness of common people to be responsible citizens, games are “promoting violence”. The moment the neutral public makes this accusation, they remove all identity from people who made conscious, stupid choices to make virtual violence a bloody reality. The PRC has one message left in its arsenal in response to this:
Stop making video games a scapegoat and take responsibility for your own actions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Writing Prompt for the Week

That was the year I thought about forgoing the whole Thanksgiving day holiday.....


The one time Thanksgiving truly came together for me was the time that...........

Thursday, November 12, 2009


We leave Austin; four of us tinned into a soup can of a rental car, motoring our taste buds toward heaven 30 miles south. Granted we just stuffed ourselves with a truly massive Mexican breakfast, but it is the Sabbath and, therefore, our destination closes at 3:00. We are seeking that holy of holies. Barbeque. Not just barbeque. Texas dry rub barbeque. And not just any Texas dry rub barbeque but the best of the best.

Considered by most to be the wellspring of the art, Lockhart looks like a set piece for a movie about small town life in the 50’s. Everything wraps around a town square which is filled with a western gothic county courthouse. Dress shops, cafes, western wear, hardware store, all locked up tight while owners enjoy salvation and chicken dinners. A quick left turn and we have arrived at the gates of our smoky Xanadu.

Like any true BBQ joint, Smitty’s is really a meat market that has grudgingly installed some picnic tables in an unused room. A two story brick building, the fa├žade does little to herald the savory temptations within; above the porched-over sidewalk a simple, red & white plywood sign dangles from a rusting iron pole stating simply: SMITTY’S barbeque-hot sausages-fresh choice meats.

Once through the front doors the interior provides little guidance to the novice. The rooms are cavernous, their high ceilings lost in the inky darkness of economic lighting and a century of hickory smoke. It is a warren of doors and stairs and hallways leaving us to adhere to the old BBQ adage of “just follow your nose”. Deeper into the belly of the beast and, once away from the front windows, the ambient lighting diminishes even more. Wandering through the makeshift dining room we push open a set of double swinging doors and find ourselves in the sanctum sanctorum, confronted with two lines of shuffling pilgrims moving, inexorably toward the central butcher-block alter.

Divide and conquer. I take my place at the butt end of the line while the others head back into the dining room to choose our “sides”. I find myself one room away from my destination with time to cast an eye around me. The walls harbor long brick boxes, maybe 40 inches high and 20 feet long, with heavy, hinged iron covers flat upon the top. At both ends (and at times uncomfortably close to the line I’m in…) is a very large, very hot bed of coals sending heat and smoke up into the brickwork. Periodically someone in a smoke streaked apron would come by, toss on another large chunk of seasoned hickory in a flurry of sparks and smoke and then, lifting each of the iron lids in turn, poke and prod truly gigantic slabs of meat as they slow cooked in their own succulent juices.

The line breaks as we approach the searing fires; each waiting until space is clear beyond the hotbox but each of us driven now, mesmerized by the redolent splendor. As I draw closer to the source of all that is good I have time to peruse the bare-bones menu board. Everything is sold by the pound (this is, you will recall, a meat market…) Brisket, Fat Pork, Ribs, Bacon or Sausages. Thems your choices.

Finally I arrive at the head of the line; a humble supplicant before the high priestess at the scales. She intones those timeless words, “How ya’ll doin’ today?” and I’m off and running. I want, of course, piles of everything but logic and a recent breakfast prevail and I settle on two pounds of brisket and a pound of pork ribs. She calls my order over her shoulder and an army of drones delve into the finishing smokers that line the room and deftly cleave off my order working glinting knives on a gargantuan chopping block. Using a pair of stainless steel lifters she sweeps up my meatie bits and deposits them on the scale. She feeds the information to the cashier standing next to her (“How ya’ll doin’ today?”) and, as I fork over my money (cash only, no checks or plastic thank you) she quickly wraps all my food in a two foot portion of what must surely be and endless roll of brown butcher paper, and is already focused on the next eager soul.

We take our smoky delights and our sides, stopping briefly at the market for a six-pack of Lone Star, and we hunker down at a picnic table in the city park and make gluttonous fools of ourselves.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

UKIAH spelled backwards

A HAIKU from Joe

Envy the tortoise,
Lonesome creature of deserts,
Peaceful existence.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hello all

Thanks for inviting me. I'm new at this, but I hope to be able to contribute in some useful way. I wrote the following poem when I was 17, so please try to look past its obvious flaws.

Zombie and the Forest


Leland Batson

Rising for reasons unknown, old life invades youth. Zombie trods through much greenery and abundant life, unaware of it's misplacement. Gusts of whistling wind rush through shrubbery and trees of great size and beautifully intricate designs. Zombie is touched by the wistful breeze. Wind so pure is mingled with rotted flesh of the foulest stench.

Zombie knows not where to roam. No friends or foes to greet or harm. No emotions, no needs, no will. Alone in a world so modern. Zombie walks sans grace and posture through soil of age and leaves of sound. Destination is a foreign word of a familiar language, spoken not by the formerly deceased.

Vivid features once bright and wonderful, now seem dark and gloomy. Zombie does not wish to be grotesque. Void of skin so smooth and textured with emotion, Zombie is caressed by hands of nature, acting out of a strange remembrance.

Cannot be enveloped by the ground beneath. Zombie is doomed to a nomadic life that never should have been. Cannot rot away as this stage has already been achieved. Zombie, no memories, brought forth by lack of space in land unwanted.

The following is one of my favorite poems:




Don't count on Heaven, or in Hell.
You're dead. That's it. Adieu. Farewell.
Eternity awaits? Oh, sure!
It's Putrefaction and Manure
And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot,
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I'll Grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving's never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Crack in the Sidewalk

A Crack in the Sidewalk
(c) Joe Willis

What is it about the cracks in sidewalks? I'm talking about the ones intentionally put there by humans to prevent Mother Nature from deciding where they should go. Many years have passed since I first acquired the habit of avoiding stepping on the cracks, but I find myself still doing it in my 60's.

On my morning walk of six blocks to my favorite coffee house, I am confronted by cracks evenly spaced at 24", 30", or 36", and occasional stretches of randomly spaced ones. Mother Nature has managed to impose a few of her own, and I must decide whether or not to include them in my strategy. Strategy? Yes, I have to work out a pace that looks and feels natural, yet accomplishes the very unnatural goal of not stepping on any cracks.

So, it becomes a kind of geometry problem involving what I believe is an innate attraction to rhythms and symmetries both in what we see in nature and in what we feel in our bodies.

One fine spring day, a year ago, my little game was brought to a screeching halt - by a weed! There it was, bursting forth from a crack that was already lined with a beautiful green stripe of moss, a baby pineapple weed. One of my favorite weeds, it was one I had always pointed out to my children and my students when we encountered it at roadsides and in vacant lots. We loved to squeeze the flower heads and smell the pineapple aroma that gushes forth.

On this particular spring morning I recognized the specimen, only 2" tall, as one that would produce tiny, aromatic flowers in about a month if no one disturbed it. What are the chances that would happen? I maintained a watch!

During the following weeks, I still played my little game of avoiding the cracks, but with less intensity. The first part of each walk was now dominated by anticipation. Would my pineapple weed still be there? How much will it have grown? Will the buds be visible? I even took to spotting it whenever I drove by in my car.

After about a month of watching this little weed grow, I decided to bring my camera. I photographed the weed several times over a two-week span, and, finally, got a great shot of it with about a dozen flower heads in full bloom. The day after I got my best shot, my weed was gone!

The anger I felt over the disappearance of my weed has faded. After all, I never knew who or what destroyed it. I am now back to enjoying my little game of avoiding the cracks, but with a heightened sense of awareness and anticipation.

Despite the fate of my one specimen of pineapple weed, I know the weeds will prevail. The cracks in the neighborhood sidewalks, and in the stone walls and cinder block walls, are already populated by beautiful blooming dandelions. And there are many other species of weeds poised for a season in the sidewalk cracks, some even helping to create new cracks.

In the days since my pineapple weed's demise, I have watched a six-foot-long row of its cousins spring up from a crack in the sidewalk a block away. For several days, I stopped and took photographs on my way to work and noticed that these were growing faster and had more luxuriant foliage than most. The closer I got, the more attached I became as if I were tending a crop. I noticed Fibonacci sequences in the flower heads, much as we see more pronounced versions in large sunflower heads and pine cones. I also noticed how the intensity of the pineapple aroma from a squeezed head of flowers seemed to vary with humidity and temperature, or maybe with factors I hadn't detected. I looked more closely at the foliage, then admired the way the plant was drawn in my field guide, accentuating the features needed for identification. I even contemplated attempting a poster-sized drawing or painting of this beautiful plant with "weed" in its name.

Then, the man with the weed-eater arrived! Once again, my reverie was terminated by someone who apparently prefers concrete to weeds.

As I mulled over what lessons there might be in this experience, the word "persistence" kept coming to mind - my persistence, the weeds' persistence, the persistence of people partial to herbicides and weed-eaters.

Then I came across an article about Crepis sancta, an amazing weed in France, in the same family as pineapple weed, but more akin to the dandelions. The habits of this little gem make it hard to avoid anthropomorphizing. I suppose I have already given in to the tendency by invoking the word "persistence." Consider....

Crepis sancta can make two kinds of seeds. One type has a hairy pappus, the projection that is a popular feature of dandelions gone to seed and which allows for dispersal by wind. C. sancta also produces seeds without pappi. These seeds fall to the ground near the parent plant - in other words, "dispersal" by gravity. The amazing thing is that when these plants live in open fields exposed to lots of wind, over 90 percent of the seeds produced will be the wind-blown type. However, if a seed lands in a sidewalk crack, at the base of a building, or in some other wind-sheltered place, it will grow into a plant that produces around 90 percent seeds of the gravity-dispersal type as if they "knew" that the only available viable habitat is precisely where they are presently growing. No point in wasting energy developing pappi.

So, what I learned while investigating Crepis sancta has influenced how I now view the weeds in the cracks of my neighborhood sidewalks. I wonder what specific traits I may yet discover that lend to their persistence. The persistence of weeds also causes me to reflect more seriously on certain admirable examples of human persistence such as the pioneers that came to the West in wagon trains as well as the Native Americans who have persisted in spite of the white man's efforts to eliminate them. I am in awe of humans' ability to survive in Antarctica as well as in a space station, but wonder if our species will be able to survive after we use up all the fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, I remain on watch for the progeny of my pineapple weed. If not in that particular crack, they will certainly spring up elsewhere in the neighborhood and bring pleasure to me and other weed lovers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No One Remains The Same

A song, in progress ... LF Barker

She wakes up at three AM, and blinks to clear her head
There is no sound, the house is still and dark
Silent, decisive foot steps - in seconds she's at the door
Grabs her keys, her bag, doesn't bother to make the bed

She hesitates on the back porch and looks out into the night
Though shaking, she knows, she knows, she has to go
Lets the door close behind her, then she gets into her car
And in a moment, the road ahead is an unknown life

When there's nothing left to do, and no one left to blame
Hard things are hard, when ya gotta make a change
When there's only the sound of blue, you move to a whole new game.
'Cause no one ever remains the same.

As she drives she thinks the way it was, for years she just made do
Empty men, empty jobs, endless bottles of booze
Can't forget that first time in the mirror - oh the ache in her aging face
Broke down right then and knew she had to make a change

She moves, she moves, she knows what she's gotta do
Pomp and circumstance - graduate to a whole new school
Learn how to win with a brand new set of rules
Use your heart, make it work, make all new friends
Push down the fears you feel it'll be good in the end
'Cause staying around here's just another form of sin

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's all in the family, isn't it?

First of all, thanks for inviting me to contribute. As a naturalist, I am continually surprised by my species. One of my most recent fascinations has been that crazy family of plants, Ranunculaceae. This family, according to botanists, includes buttercups, larkspur, columbine, monkshood, among others, an incredibly diverse group. Yet the species that came up with this, US, has a lot of trouble seeing US as being in the same order, much less the same family, as the other apes. They are in the Pongidae, and we are in the Hominidae. As far as I am concerned, I am much closer to a chimpanzee than a buttercup is to a columbine. Whadaya think?
Joe Willis

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Plumas Arts calendar submission


Stone, antler, feather, leaf and bone
Child’s eyes squinting in morning mist
Found forest objects, sugar pine needles and cone

Nature’s rich tapestry so finely sewn
Like the aspen, child flutters and twists
Stone, antler, feather, leaf and bone

Yellow-winged dragonflies we yearn to own
Child so still, one lights on her wrist
Found forest objects, sugar pine needles and cone

Most princely of the pines known
Child reveling in her innocent bliss
Stone, antler, feather, leaf and bone

There in the opening a fawn quite alone
We praise Gaia for the glory of this
Found forest objects, sugar pine needles and cone

A sense of wonder to savor and hone
Child grasps smooth, flat rock in her fist
Stone, antler, feather, leaf and bone
Found forest objects, sugar pine needles and cone

Maria Teresa Garcia 8/23/2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Poem

LF Barker

Didn’t I know you,

Ages back?

Before the pitch pine dried up -

Before the winds became irrelevant -

Before the monks in their abbeys bore fear -

Before the sky tumbled into oblivion.

Didn’t I know you


When I had pockets

When I was a man.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Hey there writers.....

So a few announcements:

1) Our book is almost done. I have about 5 pages left of comma issues to deal with and then we are good to go. Thanks John, Danielle, and Hannah for your eyes last Thursday. I decided the book should have an ISBN number which costs a bit extra but then you can order it easily off any time you want. The ISBN number costs about $150. Any contributions towards this is appreciated. The putting together the book itself does not cost anything. So far two of us have donated. Don't feel you have to but if you can that's great. 

2) I'm thinking I might host a bakesale on campus to give the writers visibility and some cash to work with.

3) I"m scheduling a Saturday writing workshop in October on campus. I need you guys to tell me what I should focus on (dialog, playwriting? poetry?)

4) Talked to Chris at the bookstore about having some local authors come do a 'meet the author' this was my path to glory workshop in November. Anyone you want to hear from?

5) FRC wants us to have a Constitution. I've got a makeshift one made up. It's very basic but it needs an Ay or Nay so they'll let us do what we want and not charge it.

6) So, tomorrow? Alley Cat? I can't be there until 4 on the dot but I'm sure those who want to meet earlier can.

Would love input from all.

Can we start posting work to the blog? I'm willing to check and give feedback.  

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meeting time

Hello all you writers. I've missed you!

Have you had time to discuss a change in our meetings? If you are unable to come to a consensus, I completely understand. Would it be okay for me to post work, and critique work, via the blog, if I can't meet with the group?

Just to reiterate, I can meet at seven in the eve. on Mon. and Wed. and six or later, on Tuesday, if you don't mind my smelling like a horse.

On TH. I can meet anytime. I am taking a doll making class right now, but will have to stop it anyway during the winter, as it is in Carson City. Giving it up now is not a big issue.

Friday is open.

But as I said, if I can just continue to post on the blog, that works and I could attend the group meeting, if class was cancelled, for instance. Next semester my schedule will change again. I believe Wednesdays will be okay then.

Let me know please. And I hope all of you are busy writing away! I haven't done a thing in a while. This move has about killed us and college starting has not helped at all! However, I AM going to begin writing again, soon.

Take care.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writing Group

Hello all. The good news is, we found a place in Twain, so I can stay in the Writer's Group.

The bad news is, my school schedule for fall, doesn't allow me to attend at the current time. I am free on TH. and Friday, or after 6:00 PM Mon.-Wed. The other time would be early morning.

I don't expect anyone to change just for me, but maybe there are others whose schedules have changed and need to adjust as well?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poets & Writers Mag Contest

Hey Guys. Anyone feeling lucky?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

South University Online is actively recruiting instructors

South University Online is actively recruiting instructors for the following areas:
Health Sciences

We need your help! Please spread the word through your academic communities and social networking sites that we are looking to on-board New instructors immediately!

To qualify for credentialing, interested candidates must:
1) Possess a Masters (or Terminal) degree in the field of interest (ie, a Masters Degree in English or related to teach English; a Masters Degree in Math to teach Math, etc.)
2) OR 18 graduate credit hours in the field of interest

Submission for Plumas Arts Calendar

Plumas Arts is accepting submissions of artwork and poetry for the 2010 Art & Literary Calendar.
This is the 10th issue of the publication which features the art and poetry of 25 Plumas County artists and writers.

Artwork must be in black & white, and no more than 8.5x11” if not submitted electronically.
Written work must be 250 words or less and typewritten.
All work must be current work, created within the last five years.
Deadline is Friday, August 24, 2009.
Submissions may be made by mail to POB 618, Quincy CA 95971, dropped off at the Plumas Arts Gallery, or emailed to Electronic submissions are preferred.
Please email cary@plumasarts or call Plumas Arts at 283-3402 with questions.

Plumas Arts is located at 372 Main Street in Quincy and is open Wednesday through Friday from 11am to 5pm.
Visit us on the web at

Monday, July 13, 2009


Thanks for letting me crash your writing group even though I’m not quite a Quincy gal.

I’m taking Ariel Gore’s Writing Workshop this summer and loving it. It’s online.

Great writing assignments (that I am going to steal) and great fun. She’s got me writing about evil step dad’s AND Elvis in the same week! How about that?

I spoke with FRC (email back and forth really) and they are super psyched for us to have a ‘club’ on campus and will give us meeting space.

I thought perhaps for Fall we might try and have a couple of Saturday writing workshops. They were amiable to that idea. I was going to go with M-L’s suggestion to do one solely on dialogue. Let me know what you think.

My laptop is currently in a coma somewhere in the midwest so most of my writing has come to a stand still or rather my editing has (including the class anthology). Hopefully the laptop will be back and breathing by the end of the week. I’ve just been doing Ariel Gore’s writing assignments and trying to write about the trip. (Graceland is the first entry about the trip).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

my bag

Despite my best intentions I screwed up and missed today's writing group. My only excuse, I was grading last minute papers to enter some last minute grades and had to finish before 5 pm. I did show up a little after 5 and apologized to Lance and Hannah in person, so now I'm apologizing to the rest of you via our blog.

I'm leaving town 7/9/09 until mid-August so I'll miss all the rest of our summer writing groups. In the Fall, I really do hope to settle down and start writing more consistently and look forward to working with all of you again.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Saint and Sinners

Mary-Louise Ruth
(c. Mary-Louise Ruth 4/30/07)

New Orleans, 1954

Saturday morning Uncle Biggy came over early and woke Papa to tell him all about the White Citizen’s Council. I’d never seen Uncle Biggy so excited. He wasn’t the kind that ever wanted to join anything. He’d only joined the Uptown Strutters Carnival Club because his friends from JJ’s Bar belonged, they talked him into it. Gramma thought he’d make some business contacts but Papa said the only contact Uncle Biggy’d make would be his butt on the bar stool. Papa liked to sleep late on Saturday after working the night shift all week, so he was pretty cranky when Mama told him to get up and have some coffee with Uncle Biggy. He gave me a kiss when he passed through my room on his way to the kitchen.
“Morning, Mickey. You’re up early.” He looked pretty sleepy in his rumpled pajama bottoms and undershirt. Mama handed him his robe but he said it was too hot. “Bad enough Biggy’s dragging me out of bed.”

Introduction to the Electron

Introduction to the Electron
By Mike Reagan

This is a piece of my memoir..Read and comment please

I received my introduction to the power of the electron as a shocking crackle jarred me from my arm to my toes. Hot on the trail of the mysteries of the power that makes the lights light and the radio play I pursued a child’s curiosity about life, as I stuck a wire coat hanger into an electric outlet. Family fables say this happened at age eight. I recall the family living room circa 1949 with rug-covered floors, overstuffed furniture and the electric outlet for the family radio. Into this outlet I stuck the wire to find the source of the radios magic. I am told my mother moved me from the floor to the overstuffed coach where I spent an hour recovering from my electrical shock.

The impact of these electrons followed me through life. As a teenager, I lived in the electron world of “amateur radio” and short wave radio listening. I soon had a basement full of electronic equipment with glowing radio tubes and wires organized for listening to radio signals originating across oceans and continents thousands of miles away from my home in Passaic, New Jersey. I harnessed electrons into coherent formats as I built a radio transmitter to send my own International Morse code signals to my radio friends around the world. Over the copper wire antennas that decorated our yard, I heard the first Russian Satellite “Sputnik “ on my own short wave radio. In a time when the world seemed much larger and the average person did not have rapid access to world events, I enriched my high school history classes by discussing news and ideas, I heard the night before on my short wave radio from London or Moscow or Rome.
Throughout my high school years I built electronic gadgets. The advent of the transistor in the early 1950’s diminished the glow of the radio tubes as I entered the new transistor based electronic age by constructing a real portable radio. Although the radio required a wire antenna and pretty nerdy looking earphones, my friend Walter and I perfected the first portable radio among our circle of radio experimenters. I recall the day I walked out onto the school recess area with the transistor battery powered radio enclosed in a cigar box, my earphones on my head and attached a wire to the chain link fence for an antenna. A small cluster of students gathered around to hear “rock and roll” on WABC.
The thrill of hearing the announcer say, “This is WABC New York” as we listened to Bill Halley and the Comets perform “Rock Around The Clock” brought instant attention to this electronic experimenter.
Sometimes diverting the attention required all the social skills this teenager could manage. My portable radio created two social problems for me with the Sisters of St. Dominic, who ran our High School. They did not approve of the cigar box or the music. To the guardians of the morals of 400 high school teenagers, the cigar box represented the evils of smoking. The music emanating from the cigar box was Rock and Roll. Both threatened the social order of our High School. In 1958 with Alan Fried on the radio and Elvis the Pelvis, the Beatles, and drugs yet to come I touted the largest known sins --smoking and Rock and Roll. Only the intersession of my Physics teacher, who valued the electronic achievement of my radio, saved me from a visit to higher authorities.

During and after high school I worked in the retail trades as a salesman. I sold men’s clothing. Managed an Italian restaurant owed by my wife’s family, and finally landed my dream job selling ham radio equipment. First, for Lafayette Electronics and then for a national manufacturer who made both ham radio equipment and commercial communications equipment. I had a draft deferment for two years. But that came to an end with the Kennedy administration and the expanding war in Viet Nam.

In 1966, as did many other young men, I received the dreaded letter in the mail.
“ Your friends and neighbors have selected you to represent them in the armed forces of our country”

I did not talk myself out of being drafted or think about fleeing to Canada since my immediate circles of friends in 1966 were patriotic and pro war and we believed in our government. So on February 1st 1966, I packed a bag and went to the induction center in Newark New Jersey. So the adventure began. Like everyone else I showed up took all the tests and passed the physical. And at the very end, after we had taken our pledge to the government, they lined us all up two abreast in a long hall at the induction center. No one could figure out what was happening but starting at the front of the line two sergeants stopped at each pair conferring on their clipboards and apparently making a selection. I was in the center of the line and rumors were flowing freely back toward us. As it turned out, one of the soldiers was a Marine. Because of the war expansion and rising casualties smart people had stopped joining the Marines. Apparently, the Marines were getting a share of the draft for the first time.

When they got to me, the Marine sergeant looked up at my 6 foot 3 ½ inch body from his barreled “chested” height of 5foot 8inches and said:

“ I‘ll take the next one he is to tall and he will get his head shot off”

So that was my first piece of good luck thankfully I was not suited to be a marine. And like the cat I had 8 lives to go.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Complimentary poem

A friend of mine recently came up with a rather dark poem based on some past trouble we had. I was so touched by it that I began composing a complimentary poem to go with it, and if I could find the blooming thing again, I'd get her permission to post it here. Mine is pretty raw, really, and I think I need a better way for it to flow.

The passion is deathless;
The memories, faded, but shown –
Each piece not abandoned,
But in journey of dust to truth,
And souls, not desperate but
Naught can be redone,
But by that which makes its doing,
So move on.
Resolution, a declaration
Held by white fist and law,
Only awaits but a word,
A word from mind of all.
Parallel? Nay, but twin,
By fate or cunning reasons,
You and I have much to learn
Of love in its many seasons.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Card for Mom

Hi. I cannot figure out how to post a project. No attach symbol. I guess there is another way, but I can't figure it out.

I'm going to send it via reg. e-mail. See you Wed. Cheryl

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Posting on the Board - Writer's Meeting Update

Well, I was at the Alley Cat last week... and all two of us made it! ML Ruth and I.What's going on? Everybody keeps promising to post stuff up here, but so far I'm viewing nothing. I keep trying to post my own poems and nothing goes up. Something up with the postage system, or are we all too busy??? Get back to me ASAP. It's getting confusing in here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My writing project

Here is (one of) my current writing projects. It's basically a training document for the teachers that will be using this piece of software at the district. I want it to be readable and efficient. These teachers are very busy.


PCOE's ePortfolio system

Welcome to our ePortfolio system! This module enables student work from within Moodle to be stored in a portfolio-like format. Once activated, students can publish their work from multiple courses, building up content over time, organized how they see fit. This document has three parts:

  1. Features overview
  2. Fast start tutorial
  3. Features in depth

Features Overview

Here is an overview of the main features of the ePortfolio:

• a starting page where students can post their curriculum vitae, resume, letters of introduction, etc.

• a two-level content category system (main category and sub category) to hold various content types (data)

• file management within the category system (i.e. for publication of one’s best work efforts)

• publication of interesting links within Moodle or into the web via weblink

• self-reflection and documentation of one’s personal learning style by using private notes (with the option for publication within Moodle or into the web via weblink)

• commenting functionality for published links, files and notes

• export functionality into a SCORM zip format

• cross-course usage of the ePortfolio

• import of assignments from within all moodle courses into an individual portfolio

• import of previous ePortfolio module exported SCORM packages


Other parts coming next ...


Saturday, May 16, 2009

This does look good, Lance, and thanks for setting it up. And, yes, I'd like some training on how to maximize our use of the blog including how to read in documents we create somewhere else.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lance it looks great thanks...Mike

Well, here it is. The Quincy Writers Group blog.

I think it's a good start. Please give me feedback on what you would like to see here in terms of the settings, layout, etc. I'd also be happy to do some training on how to use this thing if you'd like (not individually, but as a group meeting).

Feel free to email me with questions and comments.