Category Archives: thoughts

The Heart of a Child


The end of June 2009 took the world by surprise. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, dead at age 50.

I remember the day of Michael’s eulogy. I was on vacation home with Elizabeth, just the two of us. Mom was at work. I thought it would be the perfect day for us to wander among the trees and flowers. So, I loaded the car with lunch and toddler snacks, and put Elizabeth in her car seat.

Away we went to an arboretum on the far side of the state. Every radio station was carrying Michael Jackson’s funeral. I turned the radio down, and Elizabeth filled the car with stories of her and her BFF Lola. Most of the speakers at the eulogy were politicians trying to make people impressed by their presence at the funeral blah, blah, blah.

But, I was enjoying my father daughter time too much to pay them any attention. Then Stevie Wonder began to speak. Elizabeth stopped talking. She listened to every word of Stevie Wonder. When he finished Elizabeth sat silent for several long moments. I watched her in the review mirror because when a four year old gets quiet, parents get nervous.

Then Elizabeth looked up at me.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with that man?”

“Sweetheart he’s sad because he lost his friend.”

Elizabeth looked down again in silence for several long moments. Then she looked back up at me and spoke in a soft voice.

“Daddy I will be his friend.”

Stevie Wonder has given me years of pleasure with his music. But Stevie Wonder has also given me something no entertainer has given me before.

He gave me my proudest moment as a father. Elizabeth wasn’t fooled by the fake sincerity of all the speakers at Michael’s eulogy. She noticed the one person who spoke from his heart. The one man who really cared for his friend Mike, not the superstar Michael.

You can fake sincerity and fool us grownups, but you can’t fool a child. Makes me think no one over the age of 5 should be allowed to vote.

Thank you Elizabeth. I have always been so very proud of you.

And

Stevie, Mr. Wonder, thank you for all your great work. You are a giant in the music industry and a true gentleman. More than that, thank you for my proudest moment as a father.

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The Great War, The War to End All War ~ World War One


The titles given to this war says much about the people at that time. The first two titles are pre-World War Two. There is nothing great about any war. Wars happen because of the failures of politicians. The failures of politicians decide when wars begin and end. As General Patton once said, politicians always pull us up short and leave us with another war to fight. World War Two gave us over 45 years of Cold War. A war that was not cold and brought us to the brink of world wide nuclear war on more than one occasion.

World War One was seeded forty years earlier at the end of the Franco Prussian War. The French were dealt with so severely at the end of that war it made another French German war inevitable. Just as the Germans were dealt with so severely at the end of World War One that it made another war inevitable.

There is nothing honorable or glorious about war, despite what politicians say when they are trying to start one.

General George S. Patton was a man of action, in war and peace. Whether he was commanding Third Army racing across France toward Berlin or the occupational governor of Bavaria after the war. I admire him for that. But when it comes to war the general and I are polar opposites. He loved war, I detest war.

The largest number of casualties in any war are civilians not military. I say civilians and not innocent civilians, because they are the ones who supported the politicians while they beat their war drums. They supported, cheered for, and even demanded war in some instances. They sent their children to fight the war, and when the war came to their neighborhood they either ran or fought back as best they could. No one is innocent when war comes, we all have blood on our hands.

By 1918 Germany had defeated Russia. Germany quickly moved all the armies on the eastern front to the western front and planned an all out battle designed to take Paris, defeat the allies, and end the war before the United States could get her soldiers on the field of battle. Germany failed at all three objectives.

The Battle of Belleau Wood was not an isolated battle. It was part of the offensive Germany initiated along the entire western front, from the sea in Belgium south across all of France to its southern borders.

The American forces had arrived in France more than six weeks before this offensive began. The marines were the first to arrive. The French had been training the Americans for combat since their arrival, and thought very poorly of their ability to fight.

Next week we will discuss the Battle of Belleau Wood itself. You will hear the officers memorable words. You will hear the machine guns.

You will see the courage of the young boys in arms and hear their crys. You will see the scary, impossible goal at the beginning of the battle, and watch these boys as they will accomplish it. In some cases you will watch as the legends of Belleau Wood happen. In some cases you will watch as legends dissolve into myth. You will be there.

But between now and then I want you to do something first. I want you to find a photograph of a young person killed in war, preferably from World War One (a member of your own family if you can).

As we read next week’s article I want you to have that photograph with you. I want you to think about that young person while we watch the Battle of Belleau Wood.

That young person made mistakes and had triumphs in such a short life. They had dreams, aspirations, and goals for a future that never happened. They never got to guide their children into adulthood and know the joys of grandchildren.

That young person died so young that they left few to remember and mourn them. In most cases only parents.

Robert E. Goodykoontz left behind a mother and a brother who mourned his loss for the rest of their lives. He left behind no one of his own. No one to remember his smile or the sound of his laugh, no wife, no children. There is not even a photograph of Bob to show he really lived. All that is left is a cold marble stone in a foreign land to mark his grave and a few short words on the web stating his regiment, division, and place of death.

The only thing left was the grief in the eyes of his younger brother. A grief that persisted for over half a century.

War is not honorable, war is not glorious, war is a thief. Next week we will watch the thief at his worst.

Part one “Grandfather, Bob, My Daughter, and France”

Part three “The Battle of Belleau Wood”

Part four “The U.S. Army at the Battle of Belleau Wood”

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Who Knows YOU May Be The One To Make A Difference!


This year I have had a lot of people come to me with all kinds of problems. I don’t know why I have no certificates or special training. I am just a working stiff like you. But, I try to help people as best I can. This week while listening to another person I remember something that happened when I was with my daughter.

Elizabeth (my daughter) can be very shy in public or around strangers – dad is not like that. We were walking along one of our favorite places Creekside in Gahanna, Ohio. I saw a man with a tie I admired and I stopped and told him so. Then we went on our way. Our conversation afterwards went like this:

E: “Daddy why do you do that you embarrass me?”

J: “Sweetheart did you see that man’s smile when I gave him a compliment?”

E: “Yes.”

J: “It made him happy. It did not cost me any money. It only took a few seconds of my time. And he thanked me for the compliment which was good for you to see someone else with manners.”

E: “Yes, daddy but it is embarrassing.”

J: “Well Sweetheart you never know what kind of day that man was having. He could be having a really bad day. And if he is having a bad day, maybe, just maybe, someone giving him a compliment is enough to turn his bad day into a good day. And if he gives someone a compliment and changes that person’s day it could just keep going on and on. So you see giving just one person a compliment can make a whole bunch of people have a good day. Do you understand?”

E: “Yes, but it is still embarrassing daddy.”

What my daughter did start doing was telling me when she saw something she liked and I would go and give the compliment. She would stand behind me trying to hide, but she didn’t complain about daddy embarrassing her. What I also noticed was my daughter noticing the smile spread across the other person’s face when I complimented them. What I noticed was the smile that spread across my daughter’s face when she saw the other person smile.

You see we cannot bring someone back from the dead, we cannot fix a broken relationship, and we cannot get someone’s job back for them, or stop a foreclosure. But we can bring a smile to someone. And sometimes that smile is just enough to change their day and make the burdens of their day just a little bit lighter.

We cannot save the world. But we can help just one person today. And for today, that one person will be enough, just one person for today. If you do that each day, at the end of a year you have helped 365 people. And if each one of those people helps just one person and each of them helps just one person … well you get the idea.

We can’t save the world. There is going to be hunger and disease, there will be nuclear weapons and wars, there will be hate and terrorists, none of those things will go away no matter what anyone tells you. But if you help just one person you come into contact with you make the world around you better. As we all make the world around us better what we do is to lessen the influence of all the bad things in the world.

In recycling the slogan is “Think globally, act locally.” That works here. So, if you are tired of the hate in the world, the hunger and poverty. If you are tired of the terrorists and the haters in the world. Do something about it today. Today help just one person. Today give just one person a compliment. Today help just one person cross the street. Today help just one person get a good meal.

You can’t change the whole world. But you can change the world of just one person today. And changing the world of just one person may not seem like much to you. But to that one person you help it might just be a life changing event. And even if it isn’t … what did it cost you? Maybe 15 seconds or at the most maybe 2 or 3 minutes? In one day you have 86,400 second or 1,440 minutes. So, maybe those few seconds or couple of minutes really aren’t that much out of your day. What do you think?

I already helped my person today. What about you? (I think I’m going to squeeze in a second person today. You know what they say “Every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”)

You have a good day, take care of yourself, and go change someone’s world!

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Elephants, Circuses, And P.E.T.A.


March 5, 2015, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that as of 2018, it will no longer be using elephants in its shows. The animal rights group P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed responsibility, which Feld Entertainment the owners of the circus denied. For 35 years P.E.T.A.  has protested Ringling Brothers for cruelty to elephants.

But, P.E.T.A. has not been just protesting, they have been filing lawsuits against the circus. They lost each lawsuit they have filed against the circus. In 2014, the circus sued P.E.T.A. for making false claims against the circus. In an attempt to win that lawsuit, PE.T.A. paid a $190,000 bribe to a barn worker for the circus. In the end P.E.T.A. lost that lawsuit as well and was ordered to pay $25.2 million dollars. Yet, they are continuing to make claims which were already proved false in court.

You would think that with all the trouble P.E.T.A. has been through over circus elephants that they would be a major organization in the fight to save the more than 50,000 elephants killed in Africa every year. But, you would be wrong. Actually P.E.T.A. is very limited in the animals it does fight for. They are against zoos, circuses, aquariums, wool, leather, fur, silk, hunting, fishing, pet ownership, and service animals. Yes, that is correct. P.E.T.A. is against Seeing Eye dogs and any other animal that is used to benefit people in any way.

P.E.T.A. also donates thousands of dollars every year to know domestic terrorist organizations that have been and are being prosecuted by the FBI and the Justice Department.

P.E.T.A. lobbies to kill cats saying that it is more humane to kill cats than to catch neuter and release. But, they have fought fiercely to prevent feral pigs from being killed, despite the damage in property and the injuries and deaths these animals cause to people. P.E.T.A puts to death over 97 percent of the pets they receive at their shelters around the country, and has been sited many times for inhumane treatment of the animals in their facilities.

A close examination of those animals P.E.T.A does take an interest in shows that the organization appears to be interested in only those animals in industries making millions of dollars a year; companies and corporations which can be sued for millions of dollars.

The situation has gotten so bad at P.E.T.A. that former employees and volunteers have left P.E.T.A. and started their own organization to try and stop the atrocities P.E.T.A. is committing to animals. Their organization is www.petakillsanimals.com and their facebook page is www.facebook.com/PETAKillsAnimals .

 

In future articles we will look more closely at both the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus and at P.E.T.A. including what government inspectors have to say.

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An Interview With Joe Combs


Smashwords Interview, February 2, 2015 .

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My daughter and the sunrise. I had neither when I was on submarines.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly biography and autobiography, non-fiction, and I still enjoy the classics.
Hemingway, Twain, Dumas, Tolstoy I could go on, but those are my four favorite.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Old Man and the Sea, because I feel it is the best book I have ever read. Hemingway does more with less than any author.
Tom Sawyer, I enjoy almost anything by Mark Twain. However, I grew up on a large river and imagined Tom living in my neighborhood. That feeling made the story more personal to me.
White Fang, I felt like I was in the great outdoors, a part of the story.
Moby Dick. My parents said that before I started kindergarten I was telling anyone who would listen that when I got big I was going to sea, and I did. I have always been fascinated with the sea and it was the first nautical novel I read.
The Count of Monte Cristo, like the other books it was pure adventure. Plus it had a wronged man who was avenged.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I always try to read the works of the writers on my friends list, even the ones who write in genres I do not normally read. After that I would say word of mouth is how I find most of the books I read. Once in a while I will go to my favorite ebook retailer and do a search on my favorite genre and just see what comes up.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like both the kindle and the nook.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
With my daughter, reading, painting, sometimes carving wood, talking with my readers on Facebook, and doing things with my friends. Lately I have been doing a lot of travel as well.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Winnie the Pooh was the first story I read on my own. It made me want to read more and more because I enjoyed the story so much.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do. It was an essay on how kids could help fight water pollution by pulling water hyacinths from the boat and boat trailer while their parents were putting the boat on the trailer.
By doing that they would be helping to prevent the spread of water hyacinths to bodies of water that did not already have them. I won the essay contest.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the South. North Florida a little town called Palatka to be exact, not far from St. Augustine and Jacksonville. I have always had an insatiable curiosity and enjoy history. The area I grew up in was awash with history. I was always listening to grown-ups talk about the past. So, today I approach my research in much the same way. I go to the source, people, documents, official records. And just like that small boy I show up with a thousand questions and want them all answered. Those answers always lead to even more questions. Some times I just have to stop the research and write the article or book, if I don’t I will never get anything written.
When did you first start writing?
I won my first essay contest when I was about nine years old. When I was a submarine sailor I used to write short stories at sea to entertain myself. But, I never thought of myself as a writer. When a college English professor told me I should write I laughed at her. But, about ten years later I published my first book, “Titanic, A Search For Answers,” I have been writing ever since; and I began writing full time in 2014.
Describe your desk
I write on a small 1940s maple table that has been my desk since high school. My table holds: a photo of my daughter, 3X5 cards, notepads, an assortment of pencils & pens, my dictionary, a small table lamp, my computer, the 4 or 5 books I am currently reading, and a lead crystal water pitcher.
The pitcher was my great-grandmother’s. When I was about 5 their house did not have running water, and every morning she would fill the pitcher with water from a hand pump and place it on the kitchen table so you did not have to pump water every time you wanted a glass of water. I keep that pitcher fill with water on my desk. It keeps me grounded and connected to my family.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are part of the writing team. One fan, Sheri, asked me if I would write an article (for my blog) about her great-great-grandfather. As it turned out, I had studied her great-great-grandfather quite a bit in my youth. He was a Marshal for Napoleon and one of my early heroes. It was a pleasure to write about him. But, the real joy came when she told me she learned things about him from my articles that she did not know.
Anyone can send me a friend request on my facebook page, and I have fans who have. Like I said, my fans are part of the team, sometimes I will ask a fan to read a draft I am working on and give me their opinion. Sometimes I’ll ask my fans what would they like to see me write about next. I enjoy research and thanks to my fans, I have learned many interesting things I might never have learned if it had not been for a request from a fan. I know all writers say this, but I really do have a great bunch of fans and have become friends with many of them.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The research is fun, but I really enjoy doing rewrites. Sounds crazy I know, but when I find a way to say the same thing with fewer words I get a feeling of accomplishment. If I can improve the meaning of a sentence while shortening it, that is joy.
Like I said, I know it sounds crazy, but it is what keeps me writing, my little brother says it is the perfectionist in me.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
A mythology I remembered from my childhood of a Roman soldier who bullied Jesus he on his way to the cross. Because of that he was cursed to walk the face of the earth until Jesus came back.
One afternoon I began thinking about all of the world events he could have witnessed, and my imagination was off.
What are you working on next?
I have two things I am working on next. A collection of short stories called, “Growing Up Southern,” and the next Cartaphilus book.
The first Cartaphilus book will be released on March 27, 2015. That book will be followed by my book about the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which I sent to my editor in last month.
What is your writing process?
I get an idea and I play with it in my head for a while. Then when I get something that I like I’ll quickly jot down those thoughts. Then I begin to write the story in my head.
While I am writing in my head I begin to list references that I will need. Then I do an outline and write the book. The outline keeps me on track and prevents me from wandering around. Then I go back and use my references to check facts. Then I set the work aside for a while. When I come back to it, the first time I use text to voice software to listen to the book. Then I start my rewrites.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Having to learn all aspects of the business. I mean let’s face it, as an indie writer you have either no or very few people on staff. So, you need to learn to do everything. Even if you hire out aspects of the work, you need enough knowledge to be able to pick good people to hire. So, far my picks have been 100%. I have very talented people I can turn to when I need help.
How do you approach cover design?
It depends whether I am going to do the cover myself, or hire someone.
If I hire someone, I tell them what the story is and then turn them loose to come up with some ideas. It really is great working with talented people.
If I am doing the cover myself, I shoot for an idea that will be recognizable as a thumbnail and that tells the book’s story in a simple picture.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth has been the most effective for me. There is nothing like a reader who enjoys your work to help get the word out.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Of all the retailers around the world that my books are with, only one of those is not through Smashwords. That alone would be enough, but the tools available to authors and publishers make the entire process of publishing/distributing easier and quicker than any distributor I have worked with. There are many user friendly tools that can help with each stage of the process which other distributors do not have.
What piece of advice do you have for people who want to be a writer?
Write. Writers write, if you are not writing you are not a writer. Race car drivers race cars, teachers teach, and writers write.
Even if it is only one sentence a day, write something. Just once sentence a day will give you several paragraphs by the end of the month. Do not worry what you are writing about, just write.

Published 2015-02-02.

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