Saturday, April 25, 2009

People, Projects and the Tinderbox

I’ve always been a project person. I get involved and consumed in a variety of activities: work, sports, hiking, snowshoeing, writing, teaching, collecting shells. I’m not one to sit around relaxing. After a few quiet minutes I jump up to work on a project. There’s a good part to this. I get a lot done, but I can overdo it. It’s only in recent years that I’ve learned to relax more on weekends, taking a break to read a book by the pool or catch a nap. There is a golden mean, a balance between frenzy and sloth. There’s a time to charge ahead and a time to take a break.Another dimension is that I tend to get absorbed in the project at hand and lose sight of the human touch, focusing more on the activity than the people I’m with. When my kids and I were in Indian Guides and Indian Princesses, a father/kid program (which seems to no longer be politically correct) sponsored by the YMCA, I heard two stories that hit home. Every year in May we had the Spring Pow Wow, a gathering at the YMCA of the Rockies camp in Estes Park. Over a weekend we swam, played miniature golf, bowled, rode horses, fished, had a campfire and hiked. On Sunday morning the leader held a brief service from which I remember two relevant stories. First, was a discussion about the Cat Steven’s song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” This song relates the story of a father who was too busy to spend time with his son. When the son grows up, he’s too busy to spend time with his father. The punch line: “He grew up to be just like me.” For us A-type personalities the message was clear. Make the effort to spend quality time with your kids. Second, the leader told the story of the Tinderbox: Two Indian braves were chosen to compete to become the next chief of the tribe. Each was given a tinderbox with an ember and told to scale the distant sacred mountain and light a fire at the top. The first to succeed would become the new chief. They charged off. Half way up the mountain, the first brave came to an old man shivering beside a pile of wood. “Please help me light my fire so I won’t freeze to death,” the old man begged. The Indian brave looked at the old man with disdain. “I have no time for that,” he said. “I have to get to the top of the mountain to become chief.” So he left the old man huddled in the cold. Moments later the second brave came upon the old man. “Please help me light my fire,” the old man pleaded. The second brave could see the first brave climbing up ahead. He knew that if he stopped, he’d surely lose the race and not become chief. He looked back at the old man shivering in the cold and knew that he couldn’t leave him there to freeze to death. So he took the ember out of his tinderbox and used it to start a fire for the old man. Once the fire was going briskly, he removed a fresh ember and put it in his tinderbox. He knew it was futile, but he continued up the mountain. Down below the people watched and waited. Suddenly, a fire appeared on the top of the sacred mountain. It was the fire from the second brave. The first brave had reached the top first, but when he went to light a fire, his ember had burned out. The second brave arrived later, but his new ember was still glowing. He lit a fire and became chief. Remember the human element and take the time to replenish your embers.

Friday, April 17, 2009


My first Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery, Retirement Homes Are Murder, is now available on Kindle at
The process was relatively painless given the guidance I received from fellow authors Sunny Frasier and Jon Baxley. After getting started at I followed the directions and converted my Word manuscript to html (using Save As and specifying Save As Type as Web). After this conversion, I uploaded the document and added all the information requested from Amazon. The only big decision I had to make was on the price. I ended up pricing it at $4.99 which Amazon discounted to $3.99. Three days later, my book appeared on Kindle. Since then I’ve joined a number of Kindle Forums and began posting notices on:,,,9.0.html,, and Also, I have been tracking messages from people who have downloaded a sample and have purchased the book. Quite a process.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Solution to Somali Pirate Situation

After reading the news this morning about the dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama from Somali Pirates, it seems obvious that shipping lines need to have armed guards on the ships that sail along the Somali coast. If the shippers are concerned about the cost, I have a modest proposal for them. In fact providing armed guards could be turned into a revenue source for the shipping companies rather than an expense. Here’s the proposal: establish the Somali Coast Cruises and advertise that customers can sleep out under the stars, be provided with their own AK-47s and have the chance to shoot at floating objects that approach the “cruise ship.” I’m sure this would attract a large number of paying customers who would relish this opportunity. And as anyone knows who has been hiking in the woods during hunting season, this would be a deterrent to the Somali pirates.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Conference on World Affairs

This week the Conference on World Affairs took place at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This is the 61st occurrence of a wonderful conference that deals with a wide variety of global topics. It was open to the public free of charge, and the audiences included students through retirees. I attended two sessions on writing and one on comedy. Next year I’ll have to plan ahead so I’ll have more time to go to more sessions. One of the panels I attended was titled, “Reading Fiction Helps Me Live in the Real World” with Teresa Jordan, Terry McNally and Allan Peterson as panelists. Terry related how he teaches storytelling in the organizational world and that a good story has to have flesh and blood characters, relate a change taking place and use pacing to slow down and show images. Teresa cautioned that people who think they have found the ultimate truth run the risk of then only trying to find evidence of that truth and losing their openness to new insights. Allan stated that all conversation involves stories. As someone who writes about older characters (geezer-lit) and being involved in volunteer activities in support of older people, I found one topic conspicuously missing at the conference. Of the 187 sessions over the week, there were exactly zero that dealt with the topic of aging. I’ve sent a suggestion that this be included next year

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I just returned from a trip to visit my grandkids in Iowa (that’s why I haven’t blogged in a while). Spending time with a two-year-old is a lesson in unbridled enthusiasm. My grandson loves throwing sticks in a stream by his house. Every morning when he got up he’d have a big grin on his face and say, “Grandpa, throw sticks in stream,” and we’d go collect sticks which he would drop off the bridge into the stream and watch float away. And he could do this for hours without getting bored. We went to the stream every day I was there and he was just as enthusiastic the last day as the first. I remember another lesson in enthusiasm when my oldest son performed in one of his first professional musical theater shows. It was at a converted mill in the mountains of Pennsylvania and he was performing Forever Plaid with three other young men. I went backstage after the performance to congratulate them and as I arrived one of the young men had a huge smile on his face and was saying to the others, “And they’re paying us to do this!”