“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” (Samuel Johnson)

I think it’s time for a new challenge. I recently posted my 200th blog and passed 150,000 views here at grhgraph. Given how little I know about the tricks of the trade for social media, I would like to think the quality of the writing itself has generated all of that attention. In order to prove that hypothesis once and for all there remains just one major challenge to calling myself a writer. I have to publish something that sells. I have published an e-book before and it was overwhelmingly ignored.

It’s clear to me now that leadership and small business management lessons aren’t very popular subjects, so this time I chose to go out on the proverbial limb and write something humorous. At least I hope so. Time will tell if I’m right about that. My favorite kind of humor is sarcasm so I’m taking a huge chance here that others will share  my views on humanity and the bizarre way the world works. Trust me, this book is definitely not for everyone. I even included a warning in the preface. I’m not crazy enough to believe this will ever be a huge success but I’m hoping for more than a few readers this time. Friends and family aren’t going to be enough to cure my need for writing validation.

In my usual way of self-promotion, which is minimal at best, I will give you a brief synopsis of the book. It’s called, Say What? The inspiration for this creation came from Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth. In my opinion, Letters from the Earth is the most irreverent book ever published and it remains Twain’s most controversial piece of writing. To me, it was pure genius and it spawned a million wild ideas in my adolescent brain that have been put forth in my five years here on WordPress. Letters from the Earth was a series of stories explaining life on this planet as Satan would have explained it to God in some parallel universe where those two were on speaking terms.

My version of this story consists of me being abducted by aliens from the planet Zyntaaxea and asked to explain the English language and popular culture to them so they can better understand our civilization. I am taken away to their planet and over a period of hours I am engaged in a dialogue with Mitra, who is a female Zyntaaxean and head of their linguistics lab. I do my best to explain the mind-numbing way we communicate and the irrational way we behave but my cynical sense of humor gets the best of me and I can’t help but make fun of it all. Even those of you who love to laugh will still be challenged by my sarcasm.

I would really enjoy writing as a full-time career if it paid the bills. It’s just the kind of work I could do for another 20 or 30 years which would be great because I really don’t want to retire.  The older I get the more my life experience lends itself to good writing and especially the humorous stuff. I think Mark Twain inspired me when he wrote these words, “It takes a heap of sense to write good nonsense.”

Here’s the link to the Amazon Kindle site where the book is for sale. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T852RYK

The way I understand it, you can buy the e-book for $2.99 or read it for free if you’re a member of Amazon Unlimited.. Either way, I get paid something for my 8,000 word effort. I only need about $5 a word to make this profitable and quit my day job. I guess that means I need about 50,000 people with a sense of humor as warped as mine. Today is my 61st birthday so maybe I should just hope for 50,000 people who are crazy enough to pay Amazon $2.99 just to encourage me to keep writing. Stranger things have happened, but not to me. That’s what makes this opportunity so much fun.

Thanks again to all who have read my blog. I am still amazed that people actually take time out of their day to read the things I write.

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“When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

robin universe

This is a photo of my good friend, Robin Rakes. This is how I want to remember him, now that he’s gone. If there was ever a person who embodied all the wonders of the universe, it was Robin. From the wiffle ball he’s holding to the cosmic cloud he painted on the wall, Robin’s world was the universe and every amazing thing about it was his to explore.

We went to high school together but we didn’t meet till I was in college. The day we met was a moment that will always be special for me. He struck me as kind of arrogant but in a comical way, as if he knew everything but he was willing to let me in on his secrets if I passed his test of friendship. As long as I had a well developed sense of humor and a capacity to laugh at his absurd statements, we would get along fine and we always did.

Robin was a fountain of information and opinions and he flooded my life with ideas and jokes about every subject from art to music to sports to food and he was ever the cynic when it came to humanity. Fools were not tolerated and friends were held to the highest expectation of friendship. Friendship, for Robin, was an Olympic sport and he always went out of his way to make sure those of us in his circle were enthralled, not just entertained.

I’m still not sure what I brought to his life in return. I had no artistic skills at all, my musical tastes were ordinary and I wasn’t epicurios. Maybe he recognized my willingness to learn from the master and took pity on me as a poor lost suburban kid who needed a pilot to take him to the stars. I went along for the ride because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He taught me things I will always have with me to remember him by, like classical music and art and not just the beauty of it but the finer points that make it even more amazing.

It was in the minutia of life that Robin found his happiness. The tiniest details made him giddy with excitement and eager to share his revelations with others. He looked for ways to enrich every experience for others and to spread the wisdom he gleaned from each new discovery. I once drove 15 hours from Houston to KC just to get there in time for a party he said would be great and he wasn’t lying. I didn’t sleep for 24 hours but it was worth it.

Robin had a knack for creativity and problem solving that was amazing. At his funeral, someone told a story about how Robin figured out a way to bake an old audio tape of the 1969 KC Chiefs Super Bowl to restore it to its original quality. I came home thinking about this blog and how I could honor his memory. I remembered that I had this old photo of him on a 35mm slide but I had no way to scan it for this post. It took me the better part of an hour but I finally managed to use a little slide viewer to light it from behind and then I used my digital camera in macro mode to shoot it. I did some quick retouching in Photoshop and it came out pretty good, all things considered. Robin’s life should be an inspiration and all of us who knew him need to find ways to carry on his legacy.

I’m just sorry I didn’t make more of an effort to stay in touch. I didn’t even know he had cancer until I read the obituary. It’s not much but at least I have this photo and the phenomenal memories that it brings back to me. On behalf of Robin and all the other amazing people we have in our lives right now, let me just say this as tactfully as possible. Let’s all get off our butts and tell each other what we really mean to each other. It’s not hard to say, “I love you and you mean a lot to me. Thank you for being my friend.”

Thanks again Robin. You are unforgettable and I’m proud to be your friend.

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“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell)

I haven’t slept much lately and I’m writing this blog at 5 a.m. because I’m deeply troubled by the terrorism taking place all over the world, but more specifically the tragedy in Paris. This one hits too close to home for those of us who believe that freedom of speech is the single most important human right. I can’t stop thinking about the danger to the future of humanity if speech is curtailed in any way, shape or form.

What these terrorists did is one of the most cowardly acts of cruelty ever conceived. It ranks right up there with the Holocaust, as pure evil. They don’t get to hide behind their so-called faith and justify their actions by being called to jihad. That’s the essence of oppression and we should all be outraged by their evil ways.

Killing another person is no way to express faith in any religion and it will not change the world. It will have the opposite effect. It will make the rest of us try that much harder to renew our faith in the sanctity of life and the value of human rights for all people, everywhere. It will bring us together and give us the strength we need to fight hateful ideology of any kind and freedom of speech is the way to win this war.

I believe in freedom of speech and I exercise my right every time I write this blog. I say whatever comes into my head and I believe my words have value for all to hear but I absolutely respect those who disagree with me and the validity of their opinions. That’s how the process works. Open and honest debate is an exchange of information not prejudices. Even when I don’t agree with someone else’s views, I’m not offended by them, they are just opinions being expressed. My reaction to them is something I choose to have, it’s not obligatory. I’m not controlled by some animal hind-brain that controls my impulses. I save my outrage for real human tragedies, like this one in Paris.

Here’s the lesson I want to impart today. Freedom of speech is the most important part of the social contract that makes peaceful coexistence possible and keeps us from living under any form of tyrannical rule. If we ever let go of our right to speak freely, we will see despotism and oppression on a scale that makes the Holocaust seem insignificant.

Fanaticism, in any form, is always guided by a lack of values, an obsession with control and a ruthless mindset. By silencing their critics, fanatics hope to intimidate the rest of us into compliance out of abject fear for our lives. They can’t make a valid argument for change because they don’t have one. Fear is all they can achieve and that’s why they hate free speech.

Free speech is the foundation of education and eventually, wisdom. It spreads the good news of humanity and compassion that fanatics are deathly afraid of and it makes life worth living. I would rather be dead than living in a world where anyone else arbitrarily decides what I should be thinking or saying. I will defend that right with my last breath if necessary and you should too. We would dishonor everything our founding fathers did for America if we ever succumb to this form of tyranny. Let’s not forget the admonition Jesus gave us long ago, “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required.”

If there was ever a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping, this one is it. We must ALL resolve to fight oppression with the truth, abhor violence while demonstrating  compassion, speak out for those who cannot and never give in to terrorism.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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“Faith can move mountains… but we all have to help.” (Guy Horst)

In my six years of working with foster children I have come in contact with people from black to white and every shade in between. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why we still cling to racial stereotypes and the hatred that follows. In my experience, there are no absolute traits that define the races. I have met just as many wonderful black foster parents who took in white siblings as wonderful white foster parents who took in black siblings. I’ve seen kids who defy any obvious racial characteristics and kids who seem to possess all the racial profiles, but only at first glance. Once I get to know them, all of my preconceived ideas are proven to be wrong, time and again. The only thing I can say absolutely is this, everybody everywhere is unique and given my willingness to treat them equally, I get treated about the same in return. When I accept them for who they are, they accept me for the man I am,  a flawed individual who tries to do his share of the work.

I don’t have an ingenious idea for how America can solve its longstanding angst about race but I do know this much, if racism is the mountain we are asking God to move, then we all have to do our part. I’m glad I got out of white suburbia and made friends with people of all colors. And guess what, I didn’t have to go very far. There are lots of races living in suburbia and taking in foster kids. Their houses look just like my house and they have opened up their homes to kids from anywhere. That’s why racism is the most futile attitude anyone can possess. It doesn’t make any sense to categorize people by their color.

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to categorize people by their prejudices. Bigotry is alive and well and living in every neighborhood but bigotry is always about perception not reality. Bigotry is the easy way out for those who choose not to know better. I have not been disappointed or deceived by any person of color who earned my respect these last six years. I only hope I earned their respect as well by being faithful to the cause of foster care. We all share the work equally and we do it in spite of the regulations imposed by the state. The people I work with know who we can depend on because we prove ourselves every day and we don’t need a bureaucrat to tell us how to do our jobs. It’s not hard to figure out, when we all just do our share and no amount of regulation is needed for us to succeed in helping these kids. We just do what the kids need, right then and there.

If there’s one thing we can all learn from this Christmas Day blog, it’s this, Jesus Christ showed us all exactly what it takes to move mountains with faith. All He asked was that we share the work of humanity equally among all the people of the world. I’ll be back at it again tomorrow, care to join me?

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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“It’s whatcha do with whatcha got.” (Don Raye)

This title was given to me by one of my newest grhgraph followers, TimWalker. It’s a song from a movie named So Dear To Me. I wasn’t familiar with either one but I always try to accept the challenge presented by reader requests. So here goes.

It’s funny how often things happen to me that seem to follow a specific pattern. I get a quote stuck in my head and then I start looking for ideas that I can attach to it to give it life and a place on this blog. Then the real world interrupts me and adds experiences to the theme I’m working on at that moment. The last three days have been precisely what I needed to give this catchy song title a new existence.

On Friday night, I was sent out to pickup a foster child who was being taken to the psychiatric hospital in Kansas City, Kansas for evaluation. The only problem was, he was about three hours away which meant I would get home about four in the morning given the dense fog I was driving in all the way there and back. It wasn’t a horrible drive but it was bad enough with more than a few deer standing just outside my headlights as I whipped by at 60 mph on mostly single lane highways. The kid slept and I sang along with lots of Christmas songs playing on the radio. He got checked in and I made it home by 4 A.M. but I really didn’t sleep much. On Saturday night, the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life“, was on TV and I caught parts of it while I kept up with several college football games. It is my favorite movie of all time and I’ve seen it so many times I could probably recite every line. On Sunday morning, the church service was based on themes from the same movie and then it all came together in an epiphany as I was walking out.

For all of my life I have identified with Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, especially the last ten years or so. After I closed my business, I kind of lost my way in life. Working for other people in the printing business never worked for me and I eventually ended up taking the job I have now out of sheer desperation for a paycheck with benefits. To say it pays less than I’m worth would be the understatement of all time. I am on call seven days a week for 24 hours a day and I average about 4 days off the road per month. It is one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had. At 60 years old, most people my age are planning their retirement. That’s not an option for me and I will probably die on the job. So yes, I can appreciate the dilemma George Bailey faced in this movie. He thought he would be better off dead.

The epiphany that came to me today was a great reminder of what God really means to me. It’s what you do with what you got, that matters to Him. My life before was similar to George Bailey’s but now it’s more like Clarence the Angel, who earned his wings by helping George. Every time I meet a new kid in foster care, God is asking me to take good care of them. He’s letting me earn my wings and a place at His side, when my turn comes to take the last leap of faith. God has spent the last 50 years of my life preparing me for the work I’m doing now. I would not be faithful if I gave anything less than all I’ve got.

Each of us has a destiny. Each of us owes it to the rest of humanity to fulfill that destiny the best way we can, by serving others. George Bailey was a faithful servant and when he needed help, Clarence came along at just the right time to save him from the depths of his despair. How many people do we all know who need that same effort, on their behalf, right now? George and Clarence represent the fellowship of all mankind and they both benefited from the other’s existence. The most important aspect of faith is that we do our best work with whatever we have and always for others. We can all be just like George and Clarence by giving our best effort every day and that’s why…                                                                         ……it really is a wonderful life.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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“Nature’s rules … have no exceptions.” (Herbert Spencer)

I would like to expand my remedial teaching blogs to include a lesson in practical physics. Specifically, the laws of physics that pertain to something we all do every day, drive a car. I have 44 years of driving experience and more than a million miles to base my thesis on so please pay attention, this blog might save your life. I believe we would all be much safer drivers if we made the effort to understand the physics of objects in motion.

Let’s begin with a few simple measurements to provide a baseline for comparison. On average, cars can weigh up to 5000 lbs. but for the sake of simple problem solving let’s use the low-end of 2000 lbs. Now let’s look at speed. A car travelling at 60 miles per hour covers a distance of 88 feet every second. The average car is less than 20 feet long but let’s use that length anyway because it’s easy to apply. Now let’s think about reaction time and stopping distance. Reaction time is the time it takes each driver to realize there is danger ahead and hit the brakes. At 60 mph, an optimal reaction time of 1 sec. would mean that the car travels 88 feet while we’re processing that information. That’s four car lengths before we even start braking. When we include reaction time with average braking distance we find that a car needs 240 feet to stop at 60 mph. That is 12 car lengths. For the lucky few who can afford a Porsche, we could probably knock off 60 feet but it would still be 9 car lengths. With the added time caused by distracted driving (texting, screaming kids, coffee drinking, make-up re-touching etc.) some drivers never even hit the brakes.

Now let’s think about the force generated by a 2000 lb. vehicle hitting another vehicle at 30 miles per hour after we have tried to brake. The math is simple. Weight times speed equals force or in this case 30 x 2000 = 60,000 lbs. of energy that needs to be redistributed somewhere else and that means you are going to meet your airbag for the first time. There are three collisions in every accident. The car impacts with another object, the occupant impacts with the interior of the car and then the internal organs impact with the skeleton of the occupant. Let’s say your heart weighs a pound. At 30 mph your heart now has a force of 30 pounds as it collides with your rib cage. The same thing happens with the brain as it hits the bones of the skull. Just for comparison, 30 mph is faster than any human can run, so just imagine yourself running as fast as you can right into a wall. How much damage to your body would that cause? That’s nothing compared to a car accident with broken glass and sharp metal.

Now ask yourself this question, how many times have you driven at 60 mph with less than 12 car lengths between you and the car ahead? I would bet the answer is always, because I’m guilty too. So, if nature’s laws have no exceptions, aren’t we all at huge risk? Some of you are now trying to make yourselves feel better about your chances by thinking about all the safety features on that expensive car you drive. Good for you but what about the poor guy who can’t afford a BMW but because he stopped in time and you were busy on your phone and your reaction time was more like 3 seconds instead of 1, you just slammed into him from behind at 60 mph. You probably walked away but he might be dead.

Guess what other laws have no exceptions? That’s right, you just committed involuntary manslaughter and even though you walked away from the accident, you get to spend the next year in prison. What, you didn’t know you can go to jail for causing a fatality in an accident? Sorry, but that’s a law too and only a really expensive attorney is going to get you off with a suspended sentence. And if that attorney is really good, you will probably want to retain him to fight the civil lawsuit filed by the dead guy’s family and their attorney will be really good at collecting a huge judgment against you because he’s going to get about 40% of every dime he can squeeze out of you in the settlement. And you will settle out of court because the last thing you want is the cost of a trial on top of the inevitable settlement. Would you like to hear about bankruptcy laws now? I thought not.

So, at the end of the day, we have the realization that driving too fast, not allowing enough space between cars to stop safely, driving while distracted or intoxicated and refusing to accept the absolute laws of nature, will inevitably end up with pain and suffering on an unimaginable scale, but so what…….                                                                                              “It will never happen to me because I’m a good driver.”

Do you really want to bet everything on that premise?

(Editor’s Note. On average, about 92 people are killed in traffic accidents each day in the United States. Driver error is the primary cause. Please be a safe driver, not a statistic.)

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“A wise man turns chance into good fortune.” (Thomas Fuller)

Twenty years ago this fall I hired a woman who changed my life. We met when she was working at an ad agency and needed my assistance with an urgent project. Her regular vendor had failed miserably and she was desperately trying to make a deadline and keep her job. I bailed her out but a year later she got laid off when the agency downsized. She called me up and offered to work for free just to prove herself. I hate to admit it but I’m kind of a sucker for the damsel in distress approach so I, of course, agreed. It was the best decision I ever made.

Her name was Linda Roberts but since then she got married and her name is now Linda May. She just signed up to follow my blog and the memories came flooding back to me. If there was ever a time when I turned chance into good fortune, Linda was it. She had only been with me for a couple of weeks when I got a call from a prospective client and when I went out to interview for the account it was clear to me that Linda was just who I needed for that kind of work. I went back to the office and made her an offer before I told her about the client. (I may be a sucker but I’m not stupid.) She agreed and we won the account. Over the next five years we worked together on the single largest project my company had ever done. It was the most complicated and challenging design and production job either one of us had ever seen but it paid really well, probably close to a million dollars from start to finish. Without Linda, it would have been impossible.

The best part of working with Linda was the friendship that grew with each new challenge. For the most part, it was just Linda and I who managed the account and worked with the buyer, Cathy Bird, and between the three of us we developed a working relationship that was unlike anything I’ve ever had. We were all in over our heads but the three of us came to depend on each for moral support and laughs. Whenever things got bad we all threatened to run away and join the circus together, just to break the tension. The hours we spent together were always filled with humor and encouragement because we each had personal struggles to deal with as well as the never-ending workload. Linda left me for another opportunity in 2001 but we remained friends and it’s good to know we still are, even though we don’t see each other very often anymore.

I guess it was just an early reminder of why Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. I will always be thankful that God saw fit to bring Linda and I and Cathy together for that once-in-a-lifetime project. It was a career defining moment for all three of us and I wouldn’t trade our difficulties for anything easier. It’s pretty clear to me now that adversity is the catalyst that brings people together in lifelong friendships. We only had each other to depend on and the whole project was too overwhelming for any one person to handle, but by joining forces we accomplished a monumental amount of work with award winning results. (In case you’re wondering what it was, you just need to go the hardware store and look for the Bayer Advanced Lawn and Garden products line.) We three were primarily responsible for getting the packaging designs done so it could hit the market in the spring of 2000.

I will always be thankful for that project and the two women who partnered with me to make it happen.What are the odds that the three of us would all converge at the same point in time and have just the right mix of talents required to accomplish that impossible goal? The lesson for all of us is this; you have to take chances to have good fortune. I took a chance on Linda, Cathy Bird took a chance on me and Linda made it all come together with her tenacity and incredible work ethic. Frankly, even after twenty years, if she called me and said that she and Cathy were joining the circus I would probably go with them just for fun. What a great memory to have on this Thanksgiving. Thanks again Linda, you’re one of a kind! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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