Tiger Woods Wins PGA Championship – Golf is Back

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Tiger WoodsTiger Woods won the PGA Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club yesterday, his first PGA win in over five years. And the golf world rejoiced. Golf is back.

That seems a weird thing to say given there are many stellar young golfers out there and Tiger is, well, old. I don’t say that it in a mean way. Chronologically he’s closer to playing in the senior tournaments than he is to his heyday as the greatest golfer on the planet. But that’s the point. In many minds, including my own, Tiger is still the greatest golfer on the planet even though he hasn’t won a tournament in those five years. He’s struggled through debilitating back injuries and surgeries, not to mention some personal drama and poor judgment. So he’s had an excuse for not playing well – or at all – much of the last five years.

This year has been different. He seems less erratic, more consistently in the running, than in the immediate years before. Is he in his top form? Of course not. Will he ever be? Probably not – he’ll be 43 years old in a couple of months and the combination of age and wear-and-tear on his body will keep him from being the player he was in his prime. That’s just nature. But Tiger Woods is playing well this year, and barring any major physical (or judgmental) issues, he should be in contention more often than not.

Now, the “golf is back” rejoicing idea. In truth, the golfing world has mixed feelings about Tiger Woods once again being the focus of media attention. On the one hand it brings awareness to the sport; on the other hand, it distracts that attention away from other players. But this is what makes Tiger so special. Some players have a presence that dominates the public perception. Tiger is one of them.

Growing up I was never a golf fan. Spending several hours watching various people whack a ball toward a hole while former golfers whisper pointlessly in a constant drone was not my idea of excitement. Then along came Tiger Woods and suddenly the sport was exciting. When Tiger fell into his injury and personal issue grounded obscurity, golf receded from my realm of interest. When I heard that Tiger was back into decent form, golf was back for me. I think that is true for many people.

Unlike many sports nuts that know every detail of their home teams, their players stats, and what endorsed products they are to buy, I’ve been more inspired by individual players. My teams are the New England teams – Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics – with my interest level depending on the season and how much thrill or anxiety they are producing at the moment (e.g., yesterday was a rather depressing day in sports enthusiasm as both the Sox and Patriots got skunked). But when it comes to inspiration, it’s the players that matter more than the teams. The players that inspired me most are all from long-gone days, a function of the window of imprinting that sets fans on their favorite team/player for life. Even though there are current day players I admire, I always fall back to those that were my original inspiration, that I felt helped better me as a person.

Baseball was Carl Yastrzemski – Yaz. In one of his final games with the Boston Red Sox he hit a home run into the bleacher seats at Fenway, just a few rows from where I was enjoying the game with friends. He was a quiet man who led by example.

Tennis was Arthur Ashe. Forget other notables like John McEnroe, whose arrogance and obnoxiousness more than destroyed any benefit of his talent (IMHO). I liked Ashe for his quiet dignity, his skill focus. He was a great player and a great man.

Basketball was John Havlicek, followed immediately by Larry Bird. Both were skill players who won by leading their team, not hogging the ball.

Hockey was Bobby Orr. In my early teens my mother made me a ceramic lamp. The base was a generic hockey player that could be painted into whatever player you wanted. Mine was, of course, Bobby Orr. [For the record, she also made me a small ceramic bust of Abraham Lincoln, which despite not being a sports star has many of the same qualities I’m talking about.]

There is a pattern here that I never thought about before writing this. All of the players who were my idols were on the quiet side. They led by their example, not by their mouth. Naturally they mostly are from Boston-based teams, a function of the aforementioned imprinting. Within that framework, I was drawn by the quiet skill rather than the boisterous box office appeal.

There is one rather striking oddity in the group of my boyhood idols. My pro football idol growing up was O.J. Simpson, who played most of his career for the dreaded Patriot rivals, the Buffalo Bills. I admired his elusiveness, which seems ironic now. Sure, he was fast, but he was successful because he could elude tacklers. In my possibly delusional mind at the time I could relate to his ability to change direction as opposing players tried to take him down. I wasn’t nearly (or even close to being) as big or as fast, but I imagined myself being as quick in avoiding contact. Alas, O.J. has fallen.

And so had Tiger, although clearly to a much lesser extent and not nearly for so egregious an offense. But after the revelations of his personal life surfaced I admit I turned away from him. As those judgment issues faded from public view and the focus turned to his physical ailments, I found myself pulling for his recovery and return to golf. During these past years of his absence I completely lost any interest in watching the sport. Now that Tiger is back, golf is back. To me at least.

My hope is that Tiger will once again become the player of quiet skill that leads by example rather than by hype. I know that hype is what brings in the big endorsement deals, but I do believe there is a more important place for those who are great because of what they do rather than by being showy. It’s the quiet leadership that I admire.

Welcome back, Tiger.

[Photo credit: https://twitter.com/twlegion]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

 

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Back in the USSR

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interrogationLights glared as I woke from a groggy sleep. Man, what did I drink last night? I know I’m lying in my bed but it feels like I’m sitting up. Maybe it’s a dream.

Privet, Jonathan.”

Wait, what?

Privet? Wait, that sounds Russian. Like the woman…argh, like the woman I met in the bar last night. What was her name? Wait, why can’t I move my arms. Where the hell am I? Seriously, this has to be the worst hangover ever.

“Ah, you seem a bit disoriented, Jonathan. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Boris. Just Boris. You need not know any more. Perhaps you remember Natasha? You met last night.”

Natasha, yes, that was her name. And now we have Boris. Boris and Natasha…why does that sound familiar?

“Now, Jonathan. Perhaps we can start by you telling us about your work in the Department of Justice? I understand you were involved in the recent investigations that resulted in the indictments of two Republican congressmen.”

What? Well, yes, I work for the U.S. Justice Department but…wait, you’re Russian? Why are you asking me these questions? Where are we?

“Ah, my poor, poor Jonathan. You really have been out of the loop, haven’t you? No matter, I have a sense that you really didn’t get the memo on these matters.”

Memo? What memo? Wait, this is the 4th of July. That’s it, I was drinking with some buddies last night on Capitol Hill. Where am I? This doesn’t look like Russia. This looks like…

“Jonathan. Pay attention, Jonathan. You are to stop investigating Republican congressmen, at least until after the mid-term elections. After all, we can’t have the House taken over by the Democrats, can we? I think you can understand why.”

This is not happening. I’m in Washington, D.C., I think. This room is…this room is…

“You will be brought back to your apartment, Jonathan. You will not speak of this meeting, not to anyone. Not your girlfriend – yes, we know all about the lovely Diane. Not your family, not your colleagues, not your roommates, and most certainly not the press. We’ll be keeping a close eye on you, Jonathan. Very close. Closer than you can even imagine. It would be a shame should something happen to your, well, let’s not be cliché shall we. You understand me completely, I’m sure. Spasibo. Do svidaniya, Jonathan.”

“Natasha, please show Jonathan back to his home in Georgetown. Once you exit the Situation Room, take him out the West Wing entrance so as not to draw too much attention. I’ll be upstairs in the residence with the, well, with him. The boss will want to tell him what to do next.”

“Sure thing, Boris. Put in a good word for me with President Pu…I mean, the boss.”

Dumbstruck, Jonathan was escorted out of the building, driven up Pennsylvania Avenue and deposited at his shared home on M Street. No one was home. They were all still out celebrating the 4th, no doubt. Later the fireworks would flash over the Washington Monument. It’s probably good that no one is here. “Closer than you can even imagine,” Boris had said. Weren’t these the same people who had hacked the elect…no, try not to think about it.

Please tell me this is a dream, thought Jonathan.

When he awoke the next morning he knew it wasn’t. It was real. Way too real.

[Also see “Waiting at the Free State of Arizona”]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Struggling

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Standing at doorI’ve been struggling lately. It has been reflected in my writing schedule as reflected by an almost month-long gap posting on this Hot White Snow blog. I’ve written less on my own web page as well, and I can’t remember the last time I wrote on The Dake Page. My current book projects are starting to sprout weeds due to a combination of a heavy travel schedule and some unforeseen psychological trials.

This latter aspect became acute a couple of weeks ago. My father fell and broke his collarbone two days before my long-planned drive to Massachusetts and Maine to visit family and get some R&R. I had postponed a different road trip and presentation in April to drive instead to Massachusetts when he fell and broke his hip. At 91, this has become an uncomfortably common occurrence. On that visit, and the current one, I never saw him at home; he was in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities during my entire stay. He is still there as I write this over two weeks from his latest fall, although the hope is he can move home this Friday.

While staying at my parents’ place keeping my mother company I found out that William Terbo had passed away. Terbo is the grandnephew of Nikola Tesla, the topic of my first published book. I had met Terbo a few years back and he was complimentary of my efforts to inform more people about Tesla. I bragged that I had shook the hand of a man who had shook the hand of Nikola Tesla himself (Terbo had at ten years old met his granduncle). Now he was gone.

But that, it turns out, was merely a preamble to another more profound death. As I wrote on Science Traveler, John Elliff had just completed his term as President of the Lincoln Group of DC. I looked up to him as the proverbial scholar and gentleman in all ways. I wrote about him a few days after his sudden passing and find that two weeks later I am still intensely moved. Because of my own father’s situation I wasn’t able to make it back to DC in time for his funeral, and I still feel at a loss. John was a mentor, a friend, and, in a way, a father figure. I’m still struggling with his sudden departure. This has become especially evident as I begin to address Lincoln Group issues. John was to be our October dinner speaker, a chapter contributor for a book we’re developing, and as past-president, a sage adviser to the new board. He was also our font of knowledge in the monthly book discussion group. As all of these voids hit me, my sense of loss intensifies.

Add in Aretha Franklin, John McCain, and other notables, plus some non-death related stressors, and its been a rough stretch.

So I need to get back on track. Last night I juggled for the first time in two weeks; I had been doing it nightly as a way to destress and focus. I’m writing this post, which I hope will get my thought processes working again. Shortly I’ll be flying out to the Pacific Northwest for a long road trip beginning at Crater Lake and ending at Glacier National Park. Fires are currently limiting access to both areas, as well as along the Columbia River gorge, so my fingers are crossed that we’ll still manage the experiences we originally anticipated when the idea for the trip arose. After that we get a travel break. The break is needed as the last three months have essentially been non-stop. It won’t be a total moratorium and the expectation is there will be one or two or three short trips, perhaps to Chicago, Charleston, and New York City. But the main goal is to get my writing back into gear, especially since I have three books “in the works,” none of which has seen much ink lately.

So the struggling will continue for a while. I’m playing tour guide today and chauffeur the end of the week, followed by the Northwest trip and final planning for a busy travel season spanning mid-November to nearly Christmas (including Thanksgiving with my family, hopefully at home and not in a hospital). Somehow through all this I need to find a way to write productively while traveling. And with that, I must get going.

Mike drop.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

 

Diane Rehm, Political Correctness, and Abraham Lincoln

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colorized_lincoln_photo_cropI rarely write about politics because, well, because people stop thinking whenever anything they deem to be political is mentioned. One confounding factor in any political discussion is something called “political correctness.” This became apparent during a recent chance meeting with Diane Rehm.

For those who somehow have never heard of Diane Rehm, she hosted an eponymous radio show on NPR for 37 years. She retired from that a few years ago, but still does a podcast. She also, apparently, does small yacht cruises. That’s where I met her. She had brought along 40 other people, long-time listeners and participants of her program. Each was to read a book called The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, by historian Jon Meacham, and they would discuss it. In addition to their private meetings, she hosted three public discussion events. That’s when I realized something important.

The overall premise, presumably of Meacham’s book, but clearly of Rehm and the more vocal participants from the audience, was that the current Trump regime was a danger to democracy. I was surprised to see this given the clientele of the cruise was rather noticeably the demographic usually most supportive of pro-rich, pro-business, “conservative” policies: older, wealthier, almost universally white. Rehm herself pointed out that there were no persons of color. Of the 216 passengers, all were white except for three Asian women; two of whom had lived in the US for 21-40+ years, one of whom had lived in Australia for a like amount of time; and one biracial (white American/Korean) man. Everyone that I spoke with either owned a company or was some high-end professional (e.g., doctor, lawyer, CEO). Without exception, everyone on board was financially secure and largely unaffected by most of the issues that affect the general middle class or working class poor (e.g., health care costs, educational access).* One was a former Governor of Colorado. These would seem not to be the kind of crowd often characterized as a bunch of bleeding heart liberals, and yet it appeared that many, if not most, of the participants thought we were in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

Therein lies the issue. After the second discussion event I had a chance to speak privately with Diane Rehm. I pointed out that the event discussion was almost exclusively one sided – those who believed the current administration was a threat to democracy. An occasional middle-ground voice would suggest there were problems with the government in a Reaganesque sense, but they were outnumbered by the “we have a crisis” voices. No conservative voices spoke up, although a few people got up and left the room. I don’t know if they were conservative, but in speaking with one group later I doubt they held the same opinion as Rehm. One couple I had spoken with after the first event clearly was “conservative” and agreed with Trump’s insistence that the border was porous, yet they apparently didn’t feel comfortable speaking up amidst a crowd in which they were the minority (or perhaps just not vocal). I asked Rehm how to broaden the discussion to include conservative as well as non-conservative voices.

Both Rehm and I had noticed a trend. Too often the discussion devolves into “I don’t want to have this discussion because we disagree.” Liberals will sometimes refuse to talk if their liberal views are challenged, but in my experience this is fairly limited (apparently liberals like to talk). The real problem is with conservatives, something I’ve noticed and confirms what congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein and others have asserted after much study.** Conservatives simply close up and hide rather than discuss views that are uncomfortable. Let me be clear here – I’m not talking about the rabid “Trumpers” who seem to be acting out some existential fear of “the other.” These people cannot be reasoned with because any fact, any reason, any idea that challenges their often psychopathic cultism is simply written off as part of the global conspiracy against them. I experienced this psychopathy first hand. Two people whom I thought I knew summarily cut off any contact with me as soon as I challenged a “fact” they offered that wasn’t true. Unfriended in a moment. One even spewed out “I guess you’re just smarter than me” and unfriended me. These are not merely “Facebook friends”; these are people I knew and had personal relationships with in real life. Now, neither will talk to me even though the “fact” they offered is still non-factual and I was willing to allow them their point just to keep the conversation going. They were afraid. Worse, I think they deep down inside knew their “fact” was false, but admitting it would mean admitting weakness or intellectual dishonesty. I’m certainly willing to re-friend both people, and in fact will always cherish the friendships we had together, but I’m doubtful that either will ever be honest with themselves enough to make the effort. The ball, as they say, is in their court.

No, what I’m talking about the kind of conservatives on this cruise. Confident, educated, successful, financially secure, capable of reasoned discussion. But yet they didn’t speak up. Why? Was it because they felt outnumbered by a “liberal audience”? Given the demographics, I suspect there were many more “conservatives” than “liberals” in attendance, but most of the input was made by people who agreed with Rehm that we were in a crisis. [Or perhaps, understanding we are in a crisis is not “liberal” after all. Maybe it’s just honest analysis.***] Did they not want to speak up because they couldn’t defend their views? Or because they “didn’t want a fight”? Or, well, I don’t know why. Rehm certainly made an effort to have voices heard, yet one view remained silent.

This is where political correctness comes into play. Usually we hear the term used to blast “liberals” for complaining about what language is allowed or not allowed. Old racial descriptions are now considered racial slurs, thus liberals are to blame. In reality, they were always racial slurs. The only difference is that now the people that are the target of those slurs are speaking up for themselves and society as a whole has deemed racism to be repugnant. Societal sensitivities change, but mostly what we consider appropriate vs inappropriate comes from empowering those who were previously powerless, which tends to irritate those who once owned all the power.

But there is a another form of political correctness that actually reflects the opposite of the traditional “political correctness” definition. People don’t want to defend their views. They feel they can just say what they think without ramification. They feel that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects their “right to free speech.” While generally true, we do have exceptions, with “yelling fire in the theater” or “hate speech” being the most obvious. We often think that our views are sacrosanct because they are our views. Challenging our views (especially with facts we prefer not to admit) is seen as an attack on our person. It’s politically correct, we think without using that terminology, to have our views remain unchallenged.

Needless to say, that’s not honest. Our views must be informed based on fact or they are challengeable. If the facts prove our view wrong, then that view is wrong. It isn’t right because we “have a right to our own opinion.” If I hold a belief that is not supported by fact, and indeed disproved by fact, then that belief is wrong and I have an obligation to alter my false belief.

One private conversation I had with someone is perhaps an example of how to move forward. He offered a view that I disagreed with. Rather than say he was wrong, I asked him why he thought that way. He offered a “fact” that didn’t sound like a fact to me (and since then I have been unable to find any support for it whatsoever), but again rather than tell him he was wrong I continued to query to find out what was driving his view. I thought that even if his “fact” was indeed fact, the conclusion he drew from it seemed inconsistent with the “fact” pattern, and ignored other known facts that would bring his conclusion into question. I didn’t tell him this because I knew from experience it likely would end the conversation. Meanwhile, I acknowledged other points he made that I did agree with, at least to some extent, or where I acknowledged the legitimate fact he provided, and offered some additional facts and views to stimulate further thinking on his part (and mine). I also worked hard to avoid offering points or “facts” I wasn’t sure I had the information to support. I constrained myself from simply offering my contrary point of view, especially since we got into a topic he had more experience with than did I. But mostly, I listened. And by listened, I mean actively listened, asking questions to clarify and to draw out more information. My goal was to try to understand his view better. In the end, the conversation was too short to resolve the issue, either in agreement or disagreement or even a path forward to solve the problem he described. Since then, we engaged in a short email exchange and he suggested further reading, which I’m in the process of following up on (along with the Jon Meacham book that started this whole discussion). I’m hoping we have a chance to continue the conversation.

My point here is two-fold. First, the Diane Rehm public discussion events were very much needed and would be a good template for more widespread public discourse. I would encourage working harder to draw out more than one viewpoint, but acknowledge that this is difficult for the reasons described above. I also realize this is a discussion that must take place on a nationwide scale and for an extended period of time, periodically over many years. For this to happen we need the “leadership” to make it happen, something that seems unlikely in the current political and social atmosphere.

Second, we must all individually make an effort to listen what other people are saying. I realize that expecting reasoned discourse from cult-like followers is likely impossible, but even these folks – perhaps especially these folks – will follow wherever the informed crowd eventually leads. Which puts the onus on the rest of us to combine active listening with reasoned discourse with those around us. That doesn’t just mean a boat full of wealthy and successful white folk, it means talking to your family and your neighbors no matter what demographic(s) that gets pigeonholed into. It means listening to find out why they believe what they believe. It means not focusing on Democratic vs Republican or White vs Black or Christian vs Muslim or Rich vs Poor. Rather it means talking to whomever is in your immediate orbit. If you have a diverse orbit, all the better. But reasonable evangelical Christians have as much responsibility in discourse with the most rabid evangelical Christians as do reasonable Muslims with extremist Muslims. We each have our influence zones. Each of us must engage in rationale discourse within those zones. The more we can have conversations with a greater diversity of input, the better; but even if we can’t, we have an obligation to shun political correctness and have important conversations with those around us.

Abraham Lincoln, in his 1838 Lyceum Address, noted that “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason” was what our nation needed for the future, not merely the passion that led to our founding.

Clearly today our passions have often overwhelmed our ability to reason. Lincoln also is the source for another quote that we might consider in these times:

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Since both parties today embrace the mantle of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps we should heed his words.

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*I may be an exception. As a poor, starving writer I have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare); otherwise it would be functionally unaffordable.

**I consider myself an Independent. Besides thinking that labels are lazy and a cop-out, I find that the terms “liberal” and “conservative” often don’t mean what either their proponents or opponents think they mean. Therefore, I stick to the philosophy I used throughout my scientific consulting career – put all the options on the table and find one, or a mix, that will resolve the issue.

***There could also be some self-selection bias going on here. Since 20% of the passengers were part of Diane Rehm’s entourage, it’s likely that those people were ones who generally agreed with Rehm’s point of view. That, however, doesn’t count the other 80%, who were not involved in her show and likely didn’t even know she would be aboard (e.g., like myself).

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David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

 

A Whale of a Tale

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humpback-whale-breachForty-five feet it measured, at least that’s what the Captain informed me. I had read many books, an infinite number of books it seemed. I knew how large they could become, knew how they fed, swam, even reproduced. Yes, I was well versed in the facts surrounding the leviathans. But no amount of reading could prepare me for the majesty of these behemoths.

That’s how it began. I had found this handwritten piece around 2013, but it was written many years before while I was home from college working the summer in a bug zapper factory called Klenatron. Scribbled onto a yellow pad of paper in green ink, on the top I had written “Dedicated to Dixie,” who I vaguely remember as an attractive woman my age also presumably a student working the summer. I have no memory of ever having a substantial discussion with her, so likely I was too intimidated to speak. I wasn’t particularly social then.

I had been whale-watching off the coast of Massachusetts the week before. Taking a boat out of Gloucester – home of the famous Gorton’s fisherman – and saw a record number of whales, mostly humpbacks. As a budding marine biologist at the time I couldn’t help but be impressed. Apparently “Dixie” inspired my putting the feelings I experienced on paper.

I went on to describe how whales often breach – leap out of the water and splash violently on the surface – how they were mammals, how they fed, how they reproduced, their intelligence.

The creature I am watching now is a humpback whale. It is named for the arched dorsal surface especially evident when it dives. It’s most noticeable feature, however, is the long, paired pectoral fins. There is no mistaking what type of whale you are seeing once a humpback raises one of these appendages high into the air, almost as if waving to spectators.

Humpbacks are baleen whales, as are the pair of rorqual (finner) whales I saw that day. I contrasted them with toothed whales like the sperm whale, the kind that inspired Moby Dick. I offered some scientific tidbits, mixing in some personal reflections for flavor.

The piece was incomplete, obviously something that I had written on the spur of the moment intending to submit to a magazine. I neither finished it nor submitted it. Bracketed notes to myself show I planned to add information on fluking, blue whales, and the closeness to the coast of humpbacks versus blue or gray whales.

I ended rather abruptly without finishing a sentence:

“Blow at eleven o’clock,” the Captain calls out. I turned to see a humpback raise its head out of the water to scan the horizon in a behavior called by scientists [“spy-hopping.”] Like breaching, no one is positively sure why whales [spy-hop]

As I reread my early attempt at narrative nonfiction I think about my time at Klenatron and the other blue collar jobs I worked before getting my first paid job as a marine biologist (and long before becoming mostly an office scientist). Those were simpler days, not counting my apparent unrequited fascination with “Dixie,” but not necessarily more fulfilling. I was happy to see that I had the writing bug early even though I never seemed to finish what I started (a problem that continues to the current day). In addition to my professional writing – reports, scientific papers, memos – I toyed with more creative written expressions even then. I always seemed to be writing for newsletters, both for the companies I worked for and the scientific organizations I led. Once the blogosphere erupted to aid my distraction, I started writing blogs. A writing/social media website called Gather.com fueled my interest, which while getting in the way of my doctoral studies, led to my current blogs, website, and three professional published books (plus two specialty e-books), with more books in progress.

So I suppose I should thank “Dixie” for being my early inspiration, even if I can’t summon more than a vague memory of the inspirer. Maybe I should finish the whale piece and submit it after all these years. Inspiration – where are you?

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Juggling Lives

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David 15Sept2012 - v2As anyone who reads this blog regularly has already figured out, I lead many lives. My paying career was as a scientist, originally in marine biology (until my lab burned to the ground), then in a series of consulting firms. On the side, I’ve been a lifetime Abraham Lincoln aficionado. Several years ago I decided to resign from my consulting job and pursue a life of traveling and writing. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Since then I’ve traveled to many countries (I’ve recently tallied about 50 nations and 50 aquariums), written three books (plus two e-books), and taken leadership roles in various Abraham Lincoln groups.

Herein lies the problem.

As I wrote back in June, I sometimes feel stretched thin and lost. After touching seven countries in 12 days I arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning and have spent a week running errands, catching up on emails (I was without internet for most of that 12 days), and juggling all of the various lives I have on my plate. And today I’m desperately, and completely, reworking my planned road trip to the Land of Lincoln because I can’t possible get to all the places I had lined up before a scheduled event further north on Friday. Now it seems I’m bypassing a half-dozen stops to get to the event on time, then backtracking south to fill in the gaps. My anticipated 2000 miles is likely going to be 2500 miles or more of driving. Assuming, of course, I don’t change the route several more times while I’m on the road.

Now it seems I may not be doing enough. I was chatting with a friend in the marketing industry recently who suggested a list of things I should do to become “like Kylie Jenner.” After clarifying this did not include getting butt implants, the idea of promoting myself more broadly had merit. Better known = more people learn from me and my books.

I have had my share of publicity. C-SPAN aired a talk I gave on my Lincoln book earlier this year. I was recently broadcast live on Facebook by renowned interviewer and Coffee Party founder, Annabel Park, plus just last week met the famed Diane Rehm, who has a podcast now that she’s retired from her long-running program on NPR. A few months ago I was interviewed by The Railsplitter Podcast, an Abraham Lincoln oriented program. My Lincoln book has been nominated for book awards and was selected as educational material for the LEAD Lincoln Youth Leadership program in Illinois. My Lincoln book was reviewed in the preeminent magazine, Civil War Times. Last fall I was interviewed for The Lincolnian newsletter. All of these are good publicity. My friend thinks I need to do more.

That takes time. Time not writing.

Which gets me back to juggling my lives. I travel, and I’m writing about my travel. I’m a scientist, and I write about science. I have responsibilities in several Lincoln groups, so I’m constantly reading, writing, organizing, scheduling, and leading a dozen Lincoln activities at any given time. All of this is time not writing.

I’m about to get even busier.

Starting with the trip I just finished (and continuing with the trip I’m about to take), this next 12 months is jam-packed with travel. There will be domestic road trips, foreign cruises, foreign road trips, and possibly an eighth continent (or seventh, depending on how you count). In addition, tomorrow my Abraham Lincoln workload increases as I finish up one set of duties but take on many more. I’m way behind on my science communication activities, as anyone who reads The Dake Page has no doubt noticed. Then there are the three books in progress: 1) My ongoing next Lincoln book, 2) the new Lincoln compilation book I’m organizing and editing, and 3) a travel memoir that will be the first in my “Science Traveling” series. If that isn’t enough, I’ve already started planning for the book I’ll start working on next year.

Now, according to my marketing expert friend, I need to add live video of my travels/books/interviews. I need to write more for the national press. I need to guest write on popular blogs. I need to be more active (and smarter) with my social media activities. I need to, well, you get the idea.

Ironically, I’ve been so busy juggling my lives I haven’t done any real juggling – literally tossing the balls in the air – since late June. Physical juggling has always been my mental break from the metaphysical juggling. I need to get that back on track as well.

So here I am writing, but not writing, as I’m sure you understand the difference. Which means, this bit of monologue and introspection must end and I must get back to the task at hand.

Er, many tasks at hand.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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