What I’m Reading – July 2016

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper. Anybody who hasn’t heard of Bitcoin by now must be living on Mars.  Although I know a little about it, I wanted to get a better handle on how it works, why it works, and whether or not it really has a future.  This book seemed like a good place to start, especially since it was at my local library for free.  I look forward to exploring this subject in more depth over the coming months.



Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. I read Gawande’s book on checklists – The Checklist Manifesto –  and found that it was easy-to-read, interesting, and had practical applications.  I decided to read this one and see if that was again the case.  So far, it seems to be.  In the first chapter, Gawande talks about how hard it is to implement simple things like just having a doctor wash their hands frequently, which cuts the infection rates in hospitals significantly.  But humans are humans, and behavioral change is hard.



Abyss Deep (Star Corpsman: Book Two) by Ian Douglas.  Ian Douglas has written many novels involving the Marines in space.  They are well researched hard science fiction with excellent combat scenes and enough techno-geekery that even an engineer can love them.  I think he’s one of the best military sci-fi writers out there.  the fact that he’s from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles from my hometown of Pittsburgh, makes me happy too!


What Might Have Been – A Quick Fiction Story

A tear rolled down her cheek as she was sat there, alone, coffee in front of her.  She had the window seat in the small coffeeshop, and she quickly wiped the tear away, angry with herself for allowing it.  She resolved to keep the rest from flowing, and she took a sip of coffee to relieve her distress.  It didn’t help.

Five years.  It had been five years, and now it had come to this.  Alone, watching the snow drift down on another dreary Pittsburgh winter day.  She loved this city, had stayed here long after many of her friends had gone.  She enjoyed every season, even the winters.  She had dreamed of raising children here, of showing them the–

But no.  This wasn’t a good train of thought right now.

She forced herself onto another track, tried to focus on the book she had brought.  It talked of Italian cooking, had recipes from the southern part of Italy.  She loved Italian food, for some reason.  Thanks to her blonde hair and big blue eyes, she was pretty sure she didn’t have any ancestors from the Mediterranean, but she adored pasta and olives and good crusty bread and all the other wonders of the cuisine.  She had loved learning to cook various recipes, from Tuscany, from Naples, from glorious Roma itself.  She had planned, in her mind, family dinners, where she would surprise her–

No.  Stop.  Again, don’t think of that.  Think of something else.

A man walked in, wearing a Penguins jersey, and she wondered if the Pens would get to the championships this year.  The Steelers hadn’t done too well, and the Pirates seemed like a hopeless cause at this point.  Like most pittsburghers, she was a fan of all the region’s sports teams.  Her blood was probably black and gold.  She knew her children would be fans, raised that—

She choked then, and rose from her seat, fleeing blindly into the night.

The barista came over a little later, found the piece of paper sitting on the floor, picked it up.  Seeing the hospital logo on the top, she scanned it in case somebody might need to come back for it.  Then she closed her eyes and said a grateful prayer she had been able to have children, even as her heart broke for the poor woman who never would.

A New Story

Not my best, but scribbled on a Sunday at Starbucks.  Anne LaMott was right – crappy first draft.

Comments welcome.

            She sat in the café, her hands wrapped around the hot cup of tea, and a tear rolled down her cheek.  It was cold outside and she shivered – the scarf around her neck was of no help in reducing the chill, nor was the pink cap with red hearts on it.  This was probably the worst Valentine’s Day she could remember.

            It wasn’t that she was alone, nor was it the loneliness of being in this city, of being in a place far from home.  That was nothing new either, and really, she didn’t mind travelling.  She knew she always had a place full of warmth and love to return to, a family that truly cared about her.

            No, it was for him that she was crying.  They had been lovers once, long ago, and each had moved on.  She had moved on to a literary career, writing articles for magazines, even a few chick-lit books, and finally several full length novels.  She had made a good living, and she knew that she lived a good life.

            But him, that was another story.  He had been a lover of many women, had been a traveler, an inveterate gourmand.  But he had never found his role in life.  He had wandered from place to place, never truly finding a home.  He had never known the joy of a child’s love – although he certainly had a few scattered here and there.

            He had been a dilettante, always dabbling in some new subject, participating in some new get rich quick scheme.  On the occasions when they worked, he had gone through the money quickly, spending it on women and dissolute living.  He had enjoyed all kinds of experiences, from skydiving to rafting, to backpacking through foreign countries.  When he ran out of funds he had friends all over that would send him money.  She herself had, on several occasions – it was to his credit that he had remained friends with many of the women he had bedded.

            It had never been a one night stand thing.  He had carried on extended affairs with each of his conquests.  For several months he made them feel like the most special woman on earth – and eventually, as the flames of passion faded, they came to see that he would leave, and eventually even the most infatuated woman had to let him go.

            The letter had come on a Friday – he was bedridden in a small town, and could she please come – he needed money to pay for his treatment and he needed someone that cared.  So she came, astonishing herself, and by the time she arrived, he had died of complications.  There was nothing left but the clothes he had worn into the hospital, and a note, to her, dictated to the nurse.  “Please take me home.”

            The body had been cremated, the little urn sitting on the dresser in her hotel room.  And now she cried, because she was unable to fulfill his last request.  For she didn’t know what place he could ever call home.  The best she could do was to scatter his ashes to the winds and hope that it would bring him peace, wherever he was.


Homework from Dawn on Character Creation

Homework from Dawn:


It was a cool autumn evening in Prague as Lenka walked home through Stare Mesto.  She had been at Jo’s Bar across the Vltava discussing her favorite book, The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway.  It had been a spirited discussion with some of her American friends, who didn’t always take kindly to Hemingway’s chauvinism.  But that was the times he had lived in.


Speaking of times, she smiled as she entered the town square.  Fall was her favorite time of year here in Prague.  The only way it could be better would be if she had someone to share it with.  Currently, though, she was single.  She had come close to marriage once, but her brother, her only sibling and her best friend, had helped her to see that it wouldn’t have been in any way good for her to marry that particular man.


She passed a street vendor selling nuts, and shook her head as she sped up slightly.  Nuts gave her the sniffles, and she avoided them for that reason.  She’d heard that some people were so allergic to them that their throats would close up if they even tasted one.  She shuddered, thankful she didn’t have that particular reaction to them.


She could see the Powder Tower now and she stopped for a moment, remembering the man she had met there a year ago.  He was visiting from America and he had hesitantly struck up a conversation.  Upon finding out he was a writer, she had excitedly told him that she hoped to become one someday as well.  He had smiled and encouraged her to follow her dream.  And ever since, she had continued to write, buoyed by the fact that surely if he could do it, she could too…