What About It?

Save The Elephants – Here’s How (Miniaturization is the Key)

The Problem       Elephant

On July 17, 2015, the New York Times wrote that an elephant is killed every 14 minutes. On March 5, 2013, the New York Times reported that elephant poaching in Africa was at its highest in 20 years, with an estimated 25,000 elephants killed in 2011.

The Times’ story is based on a paper published by a number of authors on plos.org, the website of the non-profit Public Library of Science.

One of the paper’s principal authors describes the accelerating rate of elephant poaching as “catastrophic.”

According to the World Wildlife Federation, there may have been as many as 3 to 4 million African elephants in the 1940s. Today there may be 500,000 elephants in all of Africa. You don’t have to be a math genius to know this devastation can’t continue. Outlawing poaching and the ivory trade haven’t slowed down the slaughter, and, because elephants live in countries with significant economic challenges, existing laws can’t be effectively enforced.

Even if the ivory trade were ended altogether, which it won’t be, human-kind’s endless need for natural resources means the elephants’ habitat is ultimately doomed, even if the elephants themselves weren’t. Simply put, unless we find a solution, elephants are going away forever.

The biggest problem here is the elephant. No pun intended. The animals are too large to live in the modern world, a world that continues to encroach on their habitat. The elephants’ large size also means they need to consume large quantities of food and have limited birth rates. And, finally, the elephants’ size often puts them in direct conflict with humans, whose crops they destroy, and who cannot stop themselves from killing elephants for their ivory.

The Solution

If significant numbers of elephants are ever going to live again, something must be done to make the animals more numerous, less attractive to poachers, and less habitat dependent. Here’s the answer. We need to immediately implement a breeding program aimed at reducing elephants’ size until they are as big as, say, a large German shepherd dog.

Don’t dismiss this idea too quickly. First of all, there is precedent. Miniaturization has been successful with another large animal – the horse. Check out the website of the American Miniature Horse Association, whose slogan is “The Horse for Everyone.” Fifty million years ago, horses were the size of modern dogs. So, varying a horse’s size might have been a genetically predisposed possibility. Genetically speaking, if they were small once, it may be easier to make them small again.

What about elephants? Were they ever small? Apparently so. Scientists believe mammoths, mastodons and other prehistoric elephants evolved from tiny, mouse-sized mammals that survived the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago. Ten million years later, the elephant became the lumbering animal we know today. Read about it on About.com.

Even today, a few pygmy elephants can be found in Borneo and elsewhere. Check out the World Wildlife Fund’s website.

Existing pygmy elephants aren’t the answer for African elephants; but, the existence of pygmies is evidence that the elephant, like the horse, is not genetically compelled to be large.

Given that it may be possible, someone should start breeding full-sized elephants down so that large numbers of them may continue to survive, either alone or among humans. Who knows, if they can be bred small enough, maybe they’ll become household pets. Talk about cute, who wouldn’t want one? (The Elephant for Everyone!) If nothing else, that would ensure elephants’ survival.

Elephant breeding is neither quick nor easy, but that means the effort should begin soon, rather than waiting and watching as the current catastrophe unfolds. You might not like the idea of changing such a strong, symbolic animal into a household pet; but, seriously, in the long run, what is the alternative?

Please consider this idea seriously. The elephant’s extinction is not far off. If, some day, Mankind manages to live up to its own high ideals, perhaps elephants can be bred back to their large size, to live safely in a protected forest.

Until that time, we need to preserve the elephant any way we can. One way you can help right now is by visiting The Elephant Sanctuary website . The sanctuary, located in Tennessee, is a home for retired circus and zoo elephants, a place where they can live out their remaining days in a natural environment. You can adopt an elephant and follow it via the elephant cam.

The following was posted Christmas Day, 2013

All I want for Christmas is . . .

It’s Christmas. I’m sitting in the only Starbucks open for miles, and the joint is well attended. People need their grande no-whip chai and their caramel macchiato even on Christmas.

I’ve been thinking about Xmas, religion, and the DSCF0264[1]New Year, and, sure, my thoughts might be ones everyone has had this time of year, still, you can’t help thinking . . .

Finding myself alone Christmas Eve, I watched television while various things baked in the kitchen. I found myself flipping back and forth between a Frontline special on the life and times of Jesus and a CNN special, “Back to the Beginning,” about physical evidence of the biblical stories.

I learned a lot from both programs, e.g. Jesus wasn’t a simple carpenter’s son living in rural Galilee. Instead, he grew up within four miles of a major Roman sea port and probably spoke at least Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. At least that’s what most scholars apparently now believe.

One thing both of these programs inadvertently drove home is that perhaps the most significant evil in the world today, and since Mankind began, is tribalism. Us vs. Them. Whether it’s Catholics vs. Protestants, Christians vs. Jews, Jews vs. Muslims, Suni vs. Shia, Blacks vs. Whites, Broncos vs. Raiders, Chevy vs. Ford, it seems that all our lives, we have insisted on separating ourselves from others for completely artificial reasons, but reasons for which we willing to fight to the death to defend.

On Christmas, on television, this point was made by the fact that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all trace their roots to the Old Testament, and to the same founding fathers and mothers.  So, if you are Christian and you believe that Abraham’s God was the only true God, then you’d be no different from Jews and Muslims, who believe exactly the same thing about exactly the same God. Truth be told, genetic testing would probably reveal that members of all three religions are directly related to each other.

Still, people insist on finding ways to describe themselves as different from each other, then they use that irrelevant difference to make themselves bitter enemies.

Even as I write this, ethnic Dinkas and Nuers are killing each other in South Sudan. How can they tell themselves apart, and therefore know who to kill? They find people who don’t speak their language, then they shoot them.  (Don’t let the Academie Francaise find out about this.)

What in the world is worth killing each over is South Sudan? Surely it’s not a language barrier. People, people! We will never achieve any measure of world peace or harmony unless we can overcome our tribal instincts.

If God is listening, please Lord, help the people of the world get over themselves in the New Year. If you can’t do that directly, please send us Michael Rennie and his robot Gort to set things right. Klaatu barada nikto. The sooner the better.

And, before I forget Lord. Happy Birthday!

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Posted September 29, 2013

The Fiction Writer and ADD

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, but without the hyperactivity (in ADHD) that accompanies the disorder in some children. Longer ago than that, I became a fiction writer. But ever since my diagnosis, I have wondered whether there is a connection between my writing and my ADD.  If there is one, is it a good connection or a bad connection?  And is ADD really a “disorder” when it comes to writing fiction?

These days, more and more adults are diagnosed with ADD, which is characterized by a long list of symptoms, most of which anybody could be guilty of.  These include, among many others.

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Frequently daydreaming
  • Difficulty following through on instructions and apparently not listening
  • Frequently has problems organizing tasks or activities
  • Frequently forgetful and loses needed items, such as books, pencils or toys
  • Frequently fails to finish work, chores or other tasks
  • Easily  distracted

What’s that you were saying? Oh, yeah. For a more complete list of symptoms and other information, go to the Mayo Clinic website.

Do these symptoms sound familiar?  They might, even if you don’t have ADD.  But before you diagnose yourself with the disorder, you should know that real ADD is caused by problems in the central nervous system and in the way your body supplies dopamine and other essential chemicals to the brain. Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter, and when your brain isn’t getting enough of it, ADD can be the result.

You can read more about the causes of ADD on the Livestrong.com website.

I believe ADD isn’t necessarily a problem, especially for a fiction writer.  After all, most fiction starts with a healthy dose of daydreaming and ignoring (or escaping from) reality. Moreover, what many ADD information sources don’t tell you is that people with ADD can be quite creative. If you don’t believe me, check out the ADD Association website.  .

You might think ADD could keep a writer from being disciplined enough to finish, say, a full length novel, but that isn’t always the case. A lot of writers complain about how easy it is do the laundry or mow the lawn or do anything besides sitting in a chair to write, but I think the ADD fiction writer is blessedly free of these barriers.

This is because the ADD writer has a secret weapon – hyperfocus.  The ADD person may have trouble getting an assigned task done, or done efficiently, but when he or she works on something they truly enjoy, they can immerse themselves in the task and be oblivious to the world around them for hours at a time.

More about this at aboutadd.com:

So, if you enjoy daydreaming, you could be a born writer. Writers as famous as Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe are said to have “suffered” from ADD.  Even songwriter and performer Justin Timberlake admits having “ADD mixed with OCD.”  See the Parenting.com website.

And believe me, the list goes on and on.

Looking back on my life, I can see examples of the hyperfocus phenomenon. In college, for instance, I was straight “C” student, except where my major subject was involved. I was a journalism major, and I managed straight-A’s in every journalism or journalism-related class I took.  I’m pretty sure my IQ didn’t change between class subjects, and the only explanation I can provide is that I was interested in journalism. Sociology and French class, not so much. And this wide disparity in performance is a symptom of ADD.

The truth is, I find it pretty easy to ignore the grass going to seed in my yard, and the growing pile of dirty laundry in my closet. Just let me run down to the local coffee shop and work on my stories.  I can sit there for hours, lost in my unfettered, unorganized, undisciplined thoughts.  (Yes, I’m a “Pantser,” a writer by the “seat of my pants,” who can’t create an outline first, or stick to one if I do.)

If this is a disability, then call me disabled and pass me the Adderall.  I just thought of another story I really want to write.

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Posted August 25, 2013

Why Do We Do It?

How many empty, dried up pens do you keep in your desk?   feather pen - horizontal

If you’re like me, you’ve got a pen & pencil cup somewhere on your desk where you keep a few pens handy for when you handwrite a note or have to sign something.  How many times have you reached for a pen, only to have it dry up after the first two letters of your signature?  You look at the pen and see that it’s one you picked up from the Ramada Inn six months ago, or from the last conference you attended. You know you haven’t used that particular pen more than three or four times, so why is has it punked out?

Frustrated, you toss the pen back into the cup and grab another one. The new one works only slightly better than the last, but you still can’t get all the way through your signature before the ink runs out.

So, what do you do?  I shake the damn thing like a thermometer or bang the tip end onto the desktop to encourage some ink flow.  This often works, but just as often doesn’t. When I was younger, I would sometimes take a match to the metal tip, hoping to melt the ink into flowing. More often I’d melt the pen and half to throw it away.

In any case, why do we hang onto these miserable things?  Is it just me?  When I put the offending pen back in the cup, I always make sure it’s tip down, hoping gravity will eventually pull the ink back down to the tip, making the pen useful once again.

Some of these pens remind me of a writing contest I’ve won, or they’re quirky and unique, like the one I purchased at the Seattle Space Needle, or they have some other sentimental value and I don’t want to throw them away, but I can’t remember the last time I shopped for cartridge replacements. Do they still make those? So, pens accumulate in my cup holder and it’s always a challenge for me to find the one I know works when I need it.

Still, the longer this goes on, the harder it is to resist the urge to toss the whole bunch into the recycle bin and start over. So far what’s kept me from doing this is wondering whether I’d have to separate the metal parts from the plastic.

Oh, well, as long as I can remember which one of those twenty pens actually writes . . . .  

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Contest News!

The results are in!  On June 21, “Matthew Cross & the Dragon’s Tear” won First Place in the Young Adult category of the 2013 Crested Butte Writers contest, also known as “The Sandy.”

“Cherub’s Play” took Honorable Mention in the romance category.

Here’s more about the Sandy writing contest from the CBW website:

thesandyThe Sandy is a competitive contest for unpublished and published writers alike to provide aspiring authors the opportunity to gain feedback from experienced writers, to give them the opportunity to get their work in front of industry professionals in their genre, and to provide them the opportunity for recognition for those who have honed their storytelling skills.

It was named after two wonderful Crested Butte women, Sandy Cortner and Sandy Fails, who have spent decades writing, promoting, and nurturing writers in the Crested Butte area.

Winners were announced at this year’s conference in Crested Butte, Colorado on June 21-23, 2013.

Check it out: http://www.crestedbuttewriters.org/conf.php

 Other News!   “Dead on Cuban Time” is available on Amazon.  With the help of a beautiful American biologist, Cuban police Lieutenant Enrique Cienfuegos unravels a string of clues that lead him to a government laboratory, and scientists who can kill with impunity to keep their secrets. See my Mystery Series page to learn more about the Cienfuegos stories.

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