Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Ben Franklin's birthday day

A look at the real Ben Franklin, his genius and wit.

In my research of pre-revolutionary American for my novel Lightning Strikes the Colonies I did an extensive study on a man I think is the most amazing man in American history, Benjamin Franklin. His birthday is January 17th, and I would like to take a moment to tell you about this incredible man.

How many, when they picture Franklin, think of the character on the Quaker Oaks box, or perhaps the itching on the 100 dollar bill? For many, the image of Franklin involves a kite, key, and bolt of lightning. But these images don’t do him justice. Did you know he was over 6 feet tall? And since he worked out every day with his printing press he had a very strong upper body. In a time when the average height was 5’5” he was considered quite tall. In fact he rounded his shoulders and slumped to act more humble.

His accomplishments are particularly remarkable when considered colonial North America lacked the cultural and commercial institutions to nourish original ideas. He dedicated himself to the improvement of everyday life for the widest number of people and, in so doing, made an indelible mark on the American landscape.

Here’s a little known fact, when he was eleven he developed swimming fins and pad and in 1978 was recognized by the international Swimmers Hall of Fame as the first American to do so. Here’s another interesting note he also did a little wind surfing– he would fasten a kite on his arm and have the kite pull him. Today we use a surf board, but perhaps his mode of wind surfing was the precursor to that sport?

When I think of Franlink, I think of him as if he had three distinct different careers – first printer, writer and newspaper man – second as a scientist/inventor and - third as the statesman and patriot that he is most remembered for.

As a printer did you know he amassed a fortune by developing a media network in the colonies, and of course with his Poor Richard’s almanac selling over 10,000 copies a year. By today calculations, that would equate to over 1 million copies today. He established his media network by backing individuals in outposts/post offices and furnishing them with a printing press and supplies for which he would take a % of the profits. When there were only 27 papers in 13 colonies he had an ownership stake in two thirds of them. Also he was the postmaster for Pennsylvania which helped with distribution of his paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette and of course, his almanac business. It is said that Franklin established a style of journalism that became the foundation for modern American news coverage. Today, when all major news, no matter what media, are controlled by seven global corporations, Franklin truly believed in a non-partisan voice, even if he created both side in an argument himself.

I love what he did in his first published almanac - When he started he had competition with another almanac printer so in one of his first edition he wrote that he was sorry to say that the other gentleman was dead! This cause quite a stir with the other printer, so Franklin wrote in the next edition, "although the man professes he was still alive, you could not prove it by me as by his writing he must surely have died a long time ago.”

I really love an article he wrote in 1751 under the persona ‘Americus,’ as it really shows his great humor and wit. He sent a satirical message to Britain over their sending of convicts to populate the colonies. His suggestion was to export rattlesnakes in trade. “There might be some difficulties in the scheme, but no worse than went with the transporting of felons to America. Rattle-snakes seem the most suitable returns for the human serpents sent to us by our mother country. However, she will have the advantage of us. She will reap equal benefits without equal risk of the inconveniences and dangers. For the rattle-snake gives warning before he attempts his mischief; which the convict does not.”

Another one of Franklin’s cleverest essays was the hoax he played on London in 1773. Franklin tried to show England how unjust taxes were on the colonies. When he wrote An Edict of the King of Prussia, he literally made a mockery of the British Empire’s tax acts.

The edict used the same false arguments Britain claimed on the American colonies. The King of Prussia stated, “Whereas it is well known to the entire world, that the first settlements made in the Island of Britain were by colonies of the people subjects to Prussia’s renowned ducal ancestors, and they have never been emancipated there from." It demanded a tax on all paper goods, like the Stamp Act and required all manufacturing of iron works be halted, as the Iron Act did in the colonies. There was even a statement that said all convicts from Prussia would be sent to England. It caused a horrendous uproar in Parliament—the Prime Minster was ready to march on Munich as Franklin laughed and said, “How comfortable the shoe, when it is on the other foot?”

Franklin gained tremendous acclaim through his organization of the Junto, originally called the Leather Apron Club. It was a small group of young men who engaged in business and debated morality, politics, and philosophy. Their motto was: doing well by doing good. The way they looked at applying solutions to civil problems was they could make profit as a result of their solution, all the better.

Through his work with the club, Ben Franklin is credited with initiating a paid city night watch, volunteer fire department, subscription library (Library Company of Philadelphia), the first hospital, and first non-religious college Pennsylvania Academy, known today as the University of Pennsylvania and the American Philosophical Society, which promoted scientific and intellectual dialogue and, to this day, is one of the nation's premiere scholarly associations. His club met every Friday evening and as they debated they would also drink they fill – in fact Franklin wrote over 8 or 9 drinking songs. Franklin not only created a musical instrument, the Armorica, he was also a composer, making him the first American rock star!

A keen observer of nature throughout his life, Franklin by the age of 42 had amassed enough personal wealth from his printing business that he was able to retire and pursue his love of scientific research full time, his second career - Scientist and Inventor.

As a Scientist he studied heat dissipation in homes and invented the iron furnace stove, a small contraption with a sliding door which burns wood on a grate, thus allowing people to cook food and heat their homes more efficiently at the same time, called the Pennsylvania fireplace – know as the Franklin stove.

For measuring the distance between towns and cities to get the mail faster he invented a simple odometer. When he was bothered with changing between distance and magnifying glasses, he invented what we today call bifocals.

However, the 18th century considered electricity to be Franklin's most remarkable area of investigation and discovery. He tested his hypothesis that lightning bolts are actually powerful electrical currents and that lightning and electricity were one and the same. Not only did this astound scientists of the day, the church had a field day stating he was a blasphemer, as up until that time people felt lightning was God’s punishment for the wicked.

His discovery work led to the invention of the lightning rod which had the dramatic effect of preventing structures from igniting and burning as the result of being struck by lightning. By the way, he established the first fire insurance in America, and for taking out a policy against fire from lightning, he would erect a lightning rod to the building that was being insured.

He didn’t patent any of his inventions, stating in his autobiography, he wanted to give to the people. However little know facts I uncovered indicate he questioned patenting but was told a colonist from America (a secondhand citizen) would never gain a patent from the King.

At 65 he wrote his autobiography and it is interesting to note he was the archetype of the capitalist American Dream. It was one of the most popular books of its time selling worldwide. He stated through hard work and diligence one could rise to the top in this country. Wish we could heed these words today, with everyone trying to get ahead without hard work.

The truth is, he is celebrated less for his scientific achievements than for his signature on the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and helping in writing the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

I leave you with one saying he wrote after signing the constitution that I have always loved, “Remember the Constitution does not guarantee happiness only the pursuit of it."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm published!

My first book, Ligntning Strikes the Colonies is published and listed on and - soon to be in bookstores everywhere. Isn't that just too cool for words.

It’s a historical fiction with a sci-fi twist; genre is ‘pre-steam punk’ alternate history. A hip young LA lady get hit by lightning and falls back into time to the exact moment the great Benjamin Franklin first manipulated lightning in 1752, 24 years before the revolution. Told with historically accurate details, it is an exciting odyssey through colonial America with the most famous patriots before they were our heroes. But as the future meets the past, does history change?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who was the first American blogger and twiterer?

In extensive research for my new historical time travel novel, Lightning Strikes the Colonies, (can be ordered at it was interesting to learn about a man that was an incredible humanitarian, scientist, and journalist and was the first American to network world wide.

In an antiquated world with no technology, Benjamin Franklin stood alone as the first and foremost blogger and social networker.

Franklin’s editorials were printed weekly in almost every newspaper in the American colonies, much like the blogs people post today. And each day of the week for over twenty years, he penned pithy sayings in Poor Richard’s Almanac—sayings that at under a hundred and forty characters long could be easily be considered the same as tweets today. He also corresponded with over six hundred people worldwide by snail-mail on a yearly basis, more names than most people have in their entire email address book.

Benjamin Franklin also insisted on traveling with his “portable printing press,” that is if you can call a one hundred pound machine portable, because it allowed him to print articles and pamphlets about current events constantly. And in a time when people of the American colonies were so isolated that they often didn’t hear news from Europe until as much as six months after an event occurred, Ben got the news out in less than half that time, once he became Postmaster of the Colonies. With Ben’s wide network of contacts, he received newsworthy information all the time, and reported unbiased articles to inform the entire populace of what was going on.

In today’s world in which nearly everyone distrusts politicians and government, we can learn valuable lessons from the writings of this great humanitarian, scientist and journalist. This worldly entrepreneur thought in terms of global communication and created a worldwide web of social networking long before the Internet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A little frankness from Franklin

Who can we trust to tell us the way it is now?

With the death of one of the founding fathers of American television news, Walter Cronkite, I am reminded of another journalist who not only wrote the news but created it—one of the founding fathers of America, inventor, political activist and philosopher—Benjamin Franklin.

Walter Cronkite was the man who told us the way it was and showed us the world during two tumultuously radical decades in America. Like Cronkite, Benjamin Franklin was a journalist in the most radical time of our history; in fact you could say it was revolutionary!

When only twenty-five newspapers existed in the all thirteen colonies, he helped finance more than a third and owned the most successful. But unlike today, when all major news, no matter what media, is controlled by seven global corporations, Franklin really championed for an honest non-partisan voice. He articulately stated in an article entitled, An Apology for Printers: “Both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public, and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter. Hence printers should serve all without regard on which side they are of the question or dispute.”

In a recent on-line poll, when asked who is now America’s most trusted newscaster, an overwhelming percent voted for television host Jon Stewart. And no wonder—in a world where people are so skeptical; we trust the ironic wit of Jon Stewart and the tongue-in-cheek satire of Stephen Colbert.

Like Stewart, Franklin applied wit and sarcasm to show the underlying truth. And like Colbert, Franklin used different personas to express his views and encouraged the public to examine and question.

In an essay written in 1751 under the persona ‘Americus,’ he sent a satirical message to Britain regarding sending convicts to populate the colonies. He suggested we export rattlesnakes in trade. “Rattle-snakes seem the most suitable returns for the human serpents sent to us by our mother country. However, she will have the advantage of us, for the rattle-snake gives warning before he attempts his mischief; which the convict does not.”

Franklin’s ironic hoax in 1773, An Edict of the King of Prussia, made a mockery of the British tax acts. The proclamation used the same false arguments Britain claimed on the American colonies, “Whereas it is well known to the world, that the first German settlements made in the Island of Britain were by colonies of the people subjects to our renowned ancestors, and they have never been emancipated." It demanded a tax on paper goods, like the Stamp Act and required manufacturing of iron works be halted, as in the Iron Act. There was even a statement that said convicts from Prussia would be sent to England. It caused a horrendous uproar in Parliament—the Prime Minster was ready to march on Munich, as Franklin smiled and said, “How comfortable the shoe, when it is on the other foot?”

As I researched this great polymath for a novel I wrote on pre-revolutionary America, I was captivated by his profound observations. It made me wonder what Franklin would think of America’s current situation.

How would he view our economic troubles? I believe he would be appalled at how in debt we are to other countries. So succinctly in an essay entitled The Nature and Necessity of Paper-Currency in 1729, he stated we should not have a deficit in trade to allow “extraordinary consumption for foreign commodities to profit other counties while our country grows poor.” And what would he say about the first African-American President? First of all yes, Franklin did owned slaves. But three months before he died, he introduced a petition to the first Congress calling for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. I would venture to say, he would commend us for appreciating a man’s abilities instead of his race or religion.

What would Franklin say about taxes? As he famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.” Are we overtaxed? Here’s what Franklin said in 1758, “Friends, the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on us by our government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them. But we are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.”

His opinion on education: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

And what would this resolute patriot say about our future? On June 28, 1787 as our Constitution was being ratified, Franklin addressed all the delegates: “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, because I think a general Government necessary for us, if well administered; but it will only end in despotism as other forms have done before, if the people become corrupt.”

I’m not sure who we can trust to tell us the way it, but I know we can trust the words of Benjamin Franklin. Remember, “The US Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Well, it’s been quite awhile since I have written anything on my blog site, but I have been busting my butt getting the edits done on my new novel, Lightning Strikes the Colonies. Finally it is in the publisher’s hands and without and further delays should be out in September.

Oh by the way, I was on an Internet radio program the other day on a show called Amazing Women, Brains, Beauty and Style. Check it out and give a listen to my interview.

Here's something to think about

What is the definition of recession verses depression: Recession is a noun defined as - An extended decline in general business activity, typically two consecutive quarters of falling real gross national product. However, depression is a noun defined as - A period of drastic decline in a national or international economy, characterized by decreasing business activity, falling prices, and unemployment. Which do you think is a better description of what it feels like today?

Shame on me, Shame on you rants

Everyone in California is complaining about what the Governor is doing and why we have to make such deep cuts to our budget. Hello, haven’t you heard, we’ve lost over $60 billion in revenue. Stop bitching and find a solution. Where would you cut spending or increase revenues to balance this budget?

Here’s one of my ideas on how to get more revenue. How about getting the wealthiest stock brokers around the country to donate a couple billion to our colleges? Maybe, with better education we will learn not to do credit default swaps again. Yea, like that’s ever going to happen!

A little frankness from Franklin is in order:

“So what signifies wishing and hoping for better time? We may make these time better if we better ourselves.”

And on the Science Front

Microsoft founder Bill Gates filed patents to combat Gulf Coast hurricanes with a fleet of vessels that would pump warm ocean surface water down into the depths to offset the thermal power that drives such storms. Now that what I call putting your money where your mouth is. Way to go Bill!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The new year

I've been remiss in sending out anything out in the blogosphere of late. I have been busy with the holidays and such. All I can say, is thank God 2008 is over. The only thing good about it was we elected a new President. Boy, does he have his job cut out for him. This country is in a mess with financial institutes falling by the wayside, jobs being lost daily, the housing market in turmoil, properties dropping almost 50% in the last year, manufacturing in a down turn as a result, and the rest of the world not fairing any better.

A Little Science

On the Science front, there have been some amazing innovations in 2008 and some of the best are:

Until now astronomer used the wobble algorithm to detect exoplanets. Astronomers would figured out where exoplanets are and what they weigh by noticing how each planet's gravity pulls at its own star, making the star wobble. But images from Hubble in 2008 of Fomalhaut, the 18th brightest star in the sky about 25 light years from earth, shows a planet circling this star. About the same time, an observatory in Hawaii was able to confirm the discovery of a three planets system around a star 130 light years outside our solar system. While hundreds of planets are known to exist around stars other than our sun, none have ever been visible until now. A change in the searching method, rather than new technology, made the breakthroughs. Isn’t that too cool for words!

Another great scientific discovery was the use of living adult stem cells to help in a transplant done in Spain. The donor part was washed to rid it of all the active cells and the part was put in a tank of the patient’s own stem cells, alleviating the need for immune suppressant drugs and rejection of the donor's part. Now that’s something we need—a better way to replace body parts without rejection.

Also, scientists in China were able to deceiver 80% of the DNA sequencing of a woolly Mammoth and now want to clone it—Hey, Jurassic Park could be a reality sooner than we think.

Another discovery was new class of high temperature superconductor material invented by China. Using from iron instead of copper could eventually make storing energy produced by wind and sun more reliable for long electrical transmissions and could increase power grid capabilities. Now that’s something we need to explore here at home and now too.

Isn’t it interesting that more inventions are coming out of Asia and Europe than America? Hey guys what happened to American innovation?

Shame on me, Shame on you rants

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California in order to save 1.3 billion or a 42 billion deficit has ordered a 10% cut in state agency payroll and by executive order has decreed that state employees take two days off a month without pay. Now the employees are suing, stating it is unfair. Shame on you,—instead of two days off you can have complete layoffs. Isn’t better to have two days off a month instead of unemployment without benefits?

Frankness from Ben Franklin

Ben said—Why are people always meddling with the administration of government and bickering what’s wrong and what’s right. They spend so much thought on the state affairs they neglect the actual doing of the affairs! He equated it as…While some travelers keep gazing at the stars, they slip in a ditch, theonly result is a dirty arse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Product Endorsement

Hello from Sothern California. It is mid-November and I'm enjoying the 84 degree weather, but not the air quality. The fire storms of last week have subsided. They weren’t that near where I live, but smoke filled the air so bad on Sunday that it was impossible to stay out in the sun and the pool was covered with a thin coating of ash, not conducive to taking a swim.

I have been told that California doesn’t have four seasons like the rest of the country, but I beg to differ with you. We have earthquake springs, fire storm autumns, light rain winters and frying of eggs on the sidewalk summers!

Her's something, I have a product I would like to tell you about that really works.

Recently I built a doggie door in a wall leading to my back patio for my bichon, Coco Chanel; it was supposedly to stop her from peeing on my living room rug. The problem was she didn’t like it and wouldn’t use it, but one day something else did!

I started noticing Coco didn’t want to go down stairs and at night she was having nightmares. It made me laugh to see her moving her little legs and crying out in her sleep, but as it turned out it wasn’t that funny. The next night I heard a noise downstairs, when I ran down, I noticed the candles on my dining room table had fallen. I couldn’t believe Coco had jumped on the table before coming upstairs and it didn’t explain the noise I heard. It wasn’t until my cleaning lady came the day after that I found out I had mouse droppings (mouse poop) behind my couch.

A mouse in my house, no f’ing way! Something had to be done and done quickly. I immediately ran to the store and bought a couple of mouse traps. Not the old spring wire action ones, but kinder and more humane mouse traps. They looked like big clamps that would hold the mouse but not squish its little head. I didn’t want mouse brains all over the floor, nor did I want to see mouse blood.

I was told that mice like peanut butter better than cheese, so I placed both in front of the big clamps and went upstairs to sleep. The next morning the clamps were shut, but no mouse was to be found, only the remains after his feast! The next night I used two traps, but again, only his poop was evidence he enjoyed his dinner.

I told my next door neighbor about my mouse problem and he told me it wasn’t a mouse. It was a rat! Only a big rat could leave such large droppings, and he told me I should get rid of it immediately. Since I was feeding it, it probably was setting up house, and would soon invite all his friends in. Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen.

I went to the store and told the guy who sold me the humane traps that they didn’t work as now I had a rat as a house guest. He smiled and said he had just the thing.

He brought me the Rat Zapper 2000. A metal tunnel about ten inches long, closed at one end with a place to put four penlight batteries. The thought of electrocuting something was hard for me to swallow at first, but so was having a rat living in my house!

I bought the handy, dandy Rat Zapper 2000. Reading the directions, it said you should put peanut butter or cheese inside the tunnel and not turn it on the first night. The rat thinks he’s getting food and the next night, you turn on the juice and get him. However, I had been feeding the damn thing for three nights so I was sure I didn’t need to follow that particular step. Besides, I didn’t want a rat in my house yet another night. I placed cheese inside the tunnel, not peanut butter. After all, why give the thing a treat when all I wanted to do was kill it. The hell with having a special meal before death! I turned the switch on and went upstairs to bed.

The next morning, Coco happily ran down the stairs and started barking near where the zapper was. I knew something was up, and sure enough, I saw it. A long and I mean a long, about four inches of long tail sticking out of the zapper. I can’t begin to tell you how frightened I was. And the thought of removing the thing was even worst. I had to run to my next door neighbor for help. He was almost as scared as I was, but he dumped the thing in a paper bag and that was the end of my rat problem!

So I found a product that I fully endorse. In fact, if you ever need one, ask me I loan you mine.