Sunday, September 15, 2019

Dr. Jennifer Cobbina: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter and How They Changed America | Book: Hands Up, Don't Shoot

In this interview, Dr. Jennifer Cobbina talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Hands Up Don't Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter and How They Changed America.



“Ending the killing of black people really requires doubling down on investments in communities, and not the criminal or justice system.” ~Dr. Jennifer Cobbina

Dr. Jennifer Cobbina is a Canadian and, as such, has not had the kind of experiences, growing up, that were noted in her book. That said, she got interested in criminal justice in college, and it was as she was working on her doctorate that she became aware of the impact on how race is viewed, and how people of certain races are thus treated, within the criminal justice system.

According to Dr. Cobbina, racism includes prejudice, hatred or discrimination against a person because of their skin color, ethnicity or national origin, based on one’s personal feelings and beliefs about that other person. She notes that, while the most common types of acts that people would associate with it are acts of abuse and harassment, such acts do not necessarily have to be violent or intimidating; name-calling, jokes and excluding the person from groups or activities are also acts of racism. Racism thus shows up in people’s attitudes and, where institutional racism is concerned, the way institutions and systems function. Not all racist acts are obvious or overt, such as someone looking for job applicants not considering those resumes which come from people with certain surnames, no matter how qualified they can be.

Dr. Cobbina notes that, as human beings, we all inherently have biases, but while biases can include racial bias, not all biases are racist. “People are not born with racist ideas or attitudes,” she says, “racism is learned,” and the subsequent belief in the superiority of one’s group can lead to racial hatred. That said, racism can also stem from fear, anxiety and ignorance; and where ignorance is concerned, Dr. Cobbina opines that the willingness to contact and connect with people of other ethnic groups is important where enabling people to find commonalities is concerned.

The impact of racism on those who experience it harms those individuals profoundly, with respect to their health, as they suffer from anxiety, frustration and anger. Moreover, the effects of experiencing racism on a consistent basis cause people to withdraw from social life, eventually diminishing their quality of life, as they can feel like second-class citizens whose freedom and dignity are compromised.

The American criminal justice system comprises of several government agencies and institutions intended to control crime by imposing penalties on those who violate the law. The three main components of the criminal justice system are:
  • the police;
  • the courts; and
  • corrections.
The criminal justice system is thus responsible for:
  • investigating criminal conduct and gathering evidence;
  • identifying people who are suspects;
  • making arrests;
  • bringing charges to bear on suspects;
  • conducting trials; and
  • determining sentencing and subsequent treatment of people who commit crimes.
Dr. Cobbina notes that the criminal justice system is, in the eyes of many, broken, as it focuses on criminalization and incarceration, rather than on rehabilitation. She notes that the growth in criminalization is the driver behind the two million plus people who are presently held in prisons, which is a 500% increase compared to 40 years ago. Dr. Cobbina also remarks that, based on studies conducted, changes in laws and policies, rather than changes in crime rates, are the reason behind this increase, which has resulted in overcrowded prisons and fiscal burdens on states. She also notes that it has been proven that increased incarceration doesn’t improve public safety.

Where racism is concerned, Dr. Cobbina remarks that racial disparities are present within the criminal justice system, giving the example of racially biased use of discretion, where police are more likely to stop blacks and Hispanics in investigatory stops, wherein the police will stop a driver deemed to possibly be carrying drugs, firearms or other illegal material in their vehicles, than they would white people. She remarks on studies that have shown that blacks are three times more likely than whites to experience physical force or be threatened with physical force during an encounter with the police. Dr. Cobbina also remarks that blacks, for all their being more prone to being searched, are less likely to be in possession of something illegal than white people. She also notes that people of color are more likely to be charged more harshly than white people, and that, once charged, they are more likely to be convicted and, once convicted, are more likely to receive harsher punishments than white people, even when taking into account the type of crime that was committed and the individual’s criminal history.

The facts behind Michael Brown’s death, based on a report from the Department of Justice, are policeman Darren Wilson saw Michael Brown and his friend on the roadway and asked them to move towards the sidewalk. Wilson had just received a report of a convenience store robbery and was given a description of the suspects, and used his vehicle to block Brown and his friend from walking any further. Brown then punched the officer as he was getting out of his car and went for the policeman’s gun, but the policeman managed to keep his weapon and fire two shots which injured Brown. The report then stated that Brown ran and that Wilson chased him, then shot Brown to death after the latter turned and charged right at him, firing twelve shots, six of which hit Brown, two hits of which hit Brown in the head. That said, several witnesses noted that they had seen Brown raise his hands in surrender before Wilson shot him to death, but the witnesses’ credibility was questionable.

The facts behind Freddie Gray are that he ran away from a Baltimore police officer, but was caught with an illegal switchblade and then arrested, with a cell phone video of his arrest showing him being dragged into a police van, screaming in pain as he limped. Gray requested for an asthma inhaler, but this request was denied, and he was thrown in the police van and transported unbuckled. The van then made several stops, and when it arrived at the police station, Gray was unconscious. Gray then underwent surgery because his spinal cord had been 80% severed and his voicebox had been crushed, and Gray remained in a coma for a week before dying.

Dr. Cobbina notes that racial minorities and crime are viewed essentially as being one and the same, which is why the police view the individuals of such groups as both criminal and dangerous, which would explain the “aggressive” methods used to deal with Brown and Gray. “It’s likely that they would still be here today, if they were white,” Dr. Cobbina concludes.

Where the protesters were concerned, these were ordinary, everyday civilians, most of whom were young, first-time activists, which meant that they participated in protests for the first time in their lives. The protests were centered around the deaths of black individuals at the hands of the police and were intended to affect change by ending police violence and the criminalization against people of color. The belief was that Brown’s death was unwarranted, even if it seemed lawful, and it didn’t help the authorities that his body was left in the street for four hours, in the hot sun, in a move reminiscent of that of the bodies of lynched black men being left hanging from trees for a long time as a warning to other blacks. What also led up to the protests were reports of armed police killing unarmed black civilians, as well as with the “strange” relationships the Ferguson police had with communities of color.

Dr. Cobbina differentiates between a protest and a riot, in that a riot is a situation where people behave violently, and that destruction of property is a result of a riot. A protest is a demonstration against a specific course of action or official policy and is constitutionally protected. A lot of the people whom Dr. Cobbina spoke with were against violence and rioting, and several even attempted to stop that; but she acknowledged that it was the rioting that drew attention to the issue and that, without the rioting, the protests could easily have vanished beneath the waves of public awareness. Dr. Cobbina remarked that, when she was observing a protest in Ferguson, the situation was extremely intimidating, with a line of policemen in riot gear making it very clear that those they faced down were the enemy. She also noted that, while some of the people she spoke with had had positive encounters with the police, most had negative encounters, with these experiences affecting their perceptions of the police. Dr. Cobbina also remarked that, with the people she interviewed, there were racial distinctions amongst these reported encounters, with whites being given the benefit of the doubt while blacks were more likely to encounter aggressive policing, racial profiling and disrespectful behavior.

Dr. Cobbina remarked that a federal investigation into the Ferguson and Baltimore police departments revealed that these departments engaged in racially biased policing, with a pattern of unconstitutional stops and arrests on black people being recorded. One of the best stories that Dr. Cobbina gives as an example is that of Kevin of Ferguson, while he was a sixteen-year-old black boy playing basketball with his friend in the neighborhood. A police car then came by, telling them to get off the street, and when the friend stared at the policemen as they drove by, the policemen then did a U-turn, got out of the car, grabbed the friend and slammed him on the hood of their vehicle, telling him: “What are you looking at?” The boy then wondered aloud: “What is he doing? He’s being too rough!” to which the officer then replied: “Shut the fuck up.” Dr. Cobbina then remarked that this incident had happened years previously, but that Kevin still felt the same pain, indignity and frustration, telling her that story, that he did when the incident happened.

Where having more black officers in the police force is concerned, Dr. Cobbina remarks that doing so wouldn’t change things, based on her study, 25% of those she surveyed saying that black officers enforce the law more fairly and are more courteous. Another 25% said that black officers also operate aggressively against black civilians, with this sentiment being more prevalent amongst black Baltimoreans. Dr. Cobbina notes that diversifying the police force in this way isn’t the solution, and that even those communities which engage in lawful behavior are still treated as “the criminal enemy” by the police.

Where impact is concerned, Dr. Cobbina remarks that the protests has brought the issue of racial injustice within the criminal justice system, as well as aggressive policing against blacks, into the public consciousness and public conversation, while also calling attention to the issue of racism in the United States in general. She also remarks that history also plays as much a part as culture where racism is concerned, as the United States has always been historically racist and violent, and that this aspect has yet to be confronted. Dr. Cobbina notes that steps are starting to address and confront racial tensions, historical grievances and misunderstandings and that, based on the conversations she’s had, it would be better to invest the money being spent on police and prisons in marginalized individuals and communities, to address the fundamental issues of poverty and inequality from which crime springs - intervention and prevention, rather than punishment, in other words.

Purchase from Amazon: Hands Up Don't Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter and How They Changed America  by Dr. Jennifer Cobbina

Friday, September 6, 2019

Hao Lam on Finding Success in America from Being a Refugee in Vietnam


In this interview, Hao Lam talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, From Bad to Worse to Best in Class: A Refugee's Success Story.



“Are we gonna die? If not, what’s the problem?” ~Hao Lam

Hao admits that he wasn’t a particularly good student as a child. His father was from China and worked as a soldier for the American government while in Vietnam, while his mother was a teacher in a private school. Hao admits that he showed no interest in school, and after not attending classes at the school his mother worked in, the latter shifted him to another school. It was also through the efforts of his mother that Hao discovered his love for mathematics, as his mother found him tutors who taught him that and Chinese.

Hao’s childhood was carefree until April 30, 1975, when Saigon was taken by the North Vietnamese. His father was taken prisoner, because of his working with the United States government, he was held in a “re-education camp” for a full year without his family knowing what had happened to him. Hao’s father was released the following year, and one of the things he told then-eight-year-old Hao was that Vietnam was no place for them, and that he needed to leave, somehow.

Hao then spent the next twelve years attempting to escape Vietnam, years where he got shot at and imprisoned, while living in one of the worst neighborhoods around, and for him life had no meaning at the time. His friends likewise made attempts to flee the country, and none of them came back, as they died during their attempts. He finally managed to get away in a 50-foot fishing vessel which was packed with some 140 refugees. They had no food or water for seven days and nights, and while two of the refugees died along the way, Hao remarks that he felt entirely hopeless and was wondering if he would see the sun the following day. That said, his boat still got lucky, stating that there were other boats full of refugees which spent up to a month out at sea before making landfall, and that one boat that started out with 100 finished the journey with only 20.

Hao then spent a year in a refugee camp in Palawan, in the Philippines, where he learned English. He considered applying to be sent to the United States on the strength of his father’s previous work with the American government, but as it was he had two relatives - a grandmother and an uncle - who lived in a town in Prince Rupert, Canada. They were aware of what he did in Vietnam, while attempting to escape, and as they knew that Hao would likely get recruited by a gang in the United States, as he knew nobody there, they sponsored him so he could live with them. Hao then remarked that, once he moved to Prince Rupert, he was mistaken for a Filipino and was addressed in Tagalog by quite a few people there.

It was while in Canada that Hao worked on his dream of completing his high school education, which he did at the age of 23, in two years’ time, and then got a college degree at the age of 27. His maturity stood him in good stead while in high school, despite the culture shock and even though things weren’t pleasant for him at first, and it was during this time when he discovered his passion for teaching, as he would often go over to his high school classmates’ houses to tutor them in math - which, he remarks, didn’t particularly require him to be fluent in English, as he admits that he was “illiterate” in English when he left Vietnam.

Hao moved to Seattle after getting his college degree in 1995, and once there set up his first tutoring school. “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he remarks about those early days, adding that he had to learn how to run his business on the fly. Hao remarks that he made no money in the first three years of his school, and also admits that he was after making a lot of money, so he set up several businesses which eventually failed. “I was chasing money the first part of my life,” he admits, which was natural given his desperate upbringing, but then he then focused on his why and what he was passionate about, and that was when he focused on his purpose in education, teaching, and learning, which his business enabled him to do. Doing so paid off for him as, at the time of this interview, his school is present in some 60 different locations in 15 American states.

Hao notes that, at present, students don’t get much support from teachers and that, while teachers help out those who are falling behind, those who can learn more - above average students - are essentially left on their own. Hao’s business, as a part of supplemental education, is designed to enable such students to learn more so they can get into the “gifted program” that only the top 1% of the American student population is part of, and which is thus highly desired by a lot of the students.

Hao notes that he doesn’t brag about his success; he brags about his failures and the lessons that he learned. His vision is as follows:

  1. To be an insatiable learner.
  2. To be a steadfast mentor to his team and to his friends, so these are impacted positively and are enabled to reach their full potential.

Hao remarks that, in addition to mentoring others, he has three mentors whom he speaks.

Where the book is concerned, Hao remarks that, whenever he told others his story, he was told to write his experiences out in a book. He notes that he loves sharing, and that writing the book out was rather challenging, as he would start and stop often. It was around two and a half years previously when he finally sat down with someone who would hold him responsible for writing a book and, because of that, he finally finished writing the book in over a year’s time. He admits that he and his wife “get emotional” whenever they read it and that, despite his past, he made the book more of a positive learning experience for the reader, rather than the dark kind of story it could have been.

Hao now talks to a lot of immigration groups as well as in colleges about his experiences, sharing his story while giving out the lessons he learned along the way:

  1. It is not the end of the world.
  2. Stay focused.
  3. Follow your dream.
  4. Don’t chase money.
  5. Do what you want to do and find your “why.”

To those who are in a crisis in their life, Hao quotes the quote at the start of this blog, which is written on the bookmark that comes with From Bad to Worse to Best in Class.

Purchase from Amazon: From Bad to Worse to Best in Class: A Refugee's Success Story by Hao Lam

Friday, August 16, 2019

Nina G on Why She Is The Comedian Who Almost Didn't Happen | Stutterer Interrupted

In this interview, Nina G talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen.



“It’s always interesting to me that we [stutterers] are the ones who have a communication disorder, while everyone else is trying to interrupt us and not communicating very well to us.” ~Nina G

Nina began to stutter when she was eight, and prior to that she was in speech therapy; in addition, she was also diagnosed as being dyslexic at the same time. She admits that kids did pick on her because she stuttered, but also that some children did back her up, with her telling a story of a peer who stood up for her in such a way that Nina developed a crush on him for a full year. For Nina, how adults - specifically, her teachers - treated her was a point of concern, particularly since she was in a Catholic school, with one example being her getting an A- for the same report and presentation that her partner got an A on.

Becoming a comedian was something Nina considered at the age of eleven, and over the years she loved writing out jokes. Her dream died during her early adulthood, as she didn’t see any role models in stand-up comedy who stuttered. The dream was revived when she was 35 and attended a conference of stutterers, and six months later she began doing stand-up comedy, which is now a dream that she has been doing for ten years as of this interview. Her first time at stand-up was “surreal” to her, and her embarrassment didn’t come from her stuttering but from her wanting everyone to know how funny she was. She initially didn’t tell a lot of people she was doing this, and Nina notes that doing comedy is “a more authentic voice to myself,” one which is different from her previous environment of being in academia, where the voice she uses isn’t her own. That said, the message she likes to deliver is that of equality and telling others what the experience of stutterers is like to those who don’t have it.

Nina’s topics are essentially those of things which annoy her, and having a funny take on things. Not all of the things which annoy her are ones she will use, with Nina giving the example of seeing a rat, which seemed rather relaxed rather than scared, and while she found it interesting, she doesn’t know if she can turn it into a joke. Nina notes that people treat comedians like the latter can be told anything, which means that she gets such strange comments as people telling her that certain sex acts will cure her stuttering. She also remarks that people ask her to “tell a joke” right on the spot, with the rejoinder that she’s not asking people to do their job right on the spot.

Stuttering, which is defined as prolongations and repetitions of speech in blocks, isn’t known to be permanent until adolescence, and 3% of all children stutter, while 1% of adults doing so, with 1 in 4 stutterers being females. Nina’s stuttering is a mild to moderate version of the condition, with the condition’s intensity varying from day to day. Rather than being a result of trauma or low intelligence, stuttering is a neurological condition due to some difference in the brain’s left hemisphere near Broca’s area (the expressive part of the brain, which is where speech begins), and it possibly has a genetic link, as sixty percent of children who stutter have a relative who also stutters. Singing and changing intonation are part of the brain’s right hemisphere, which is why stutterers can sing without doing so; and Nina also notes that Marilyn Monroe was a stutterer, which was why she adopted the way of speaking that she was known for, as doing so enabled her to use the right hemisphere of her brain to keep herself from stuttering. Different people thus use different speech tools, such as creating an accent, but Nina chooses to communicate without using such tools.

The most frustrating thing Nina and other stutterers face from dealing with “normal” people is micro-aggressions, which are the everyday, unintentional things that occur which are slights to the person concerned, which give the latter stress and annoyance. For Nina, some of these micro-aggressions are when people interrupt her, such as people trying to guess her name or comment on it, and with people trying to help her out by finishing a word or a sentence for her.

Nina had always wanted to write a book to share the lessons she had learned about her condition, and becoming a comedian enabled her to be able to communicate that in book form. She also notes that her book is a calling card for her as a speaker, and the book has helped her get good speaking engagements, as well as on the news and on TedX, as well as in colleges. Nina also remarks that being a comedian gave her a venue to speak about her experiences as well as to educate others.

To those who have been diagnosed as being stutterers, Nina recommends that they get into a community of stutterers, which would enable children to see role models for what they could grow up into as well as learn and adopt such things as the way they would feel most comfortable communicating in. She is particularly concerned about girls who are diagnosed as being stutterers, as there are fewer females who stutter than males, so getting a suitable role model would be very important for their growth as a person.

Purchase from Amazon: Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen by Nina G

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Monica Burch on Her Children's Book, Candma Goes to Heaven, a Story about Grief and Loss

In this interview, Monica Burch talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Candma Goes to Heaven.



“It’s okay to be upset.” ~Monica Burch

In the three years since Monica has last been on AuthorStory, she has continued working with children on robotics and STEM. She is also presently a self-professed “empty nester,” as one of her two sons is presently taking up engineering and the other has graduated and is presently working. 

Candma Goes to Heaven began when the grandmother - the mother of her husband - her older son, then two, passed away. Monica began the book at that time, one which essentially describes the approach she used to explain to her son about his grandmother’s death, but it was only after some two decades and several revisions that she finally published it. Along the way, she also dealt with some children whose loved ones had passed away, and it was in those times when she figured she needed to publish the book, as it would help out those who had experienced such a loss.

Finding an illustrator proved to be challenging. Monica contacted four different illustrators before finally settling on Emily Zeiroth, remarking that she wanted her characters to be African-American to reflect her heritage, and that she also had particular ideas of how particular people to appear. Getting the character of Candma was particularly important to Monica, and it wasn’t until she worked with Emily, whom she contacted through Upwork, that an illustrator finally produced what Monica had in mind. Monica notes that all of her correspondence and meetings with all of the illustrators she contacted were online, and it was after Emily produced the illustration that would appear on the book’s cover page that Monica hired her.

Monica did research for the book, to make sure she did justice to the subject, and the additional experiences she had over the decades also made her tweak the book to make it more reflective of what she had learned. What surprised her was that parents had a hard time talking to kids about death, dying and what had happened, with the children not even attending the funeral of a loved one.

It’s important for Monica to let her children know how she and her husband feel about the loss of a loved one, as doing so tells the child that it’s okay to be upset by the loss, as the death of a loved one is part of life. Letting children know and understand all that was something that Monica felt strongly about, and given the resistance some parents have about the subject, Monica remarks that Candma Goes to Heaven is a book talks about to parents first, before the parents introduce it to their children. That said, she doesn’t want to interfere with how parents introduce the subject of death to their children, citing her own background where “passed away” is used as a euphemism for someone dying, as well as pointing out that such a euphemism would confuse children.

Monica believes that it is better for a child to be told what happens so that he or she can deal with it, as every last person is eventually going to die and that a child’s loved one is eventually going to die while the child is still alive. She remarks that she had read some children’s books where the deaths involved weren’t family or where the family involved wasn’t human, and that she wanted her book to be as realistic as possible.

For parents, Monica opines that they should find a place where everyone is comfortable, and then talk about something good about the person first off. Once that is done, the child can then be told what happened, and then let the child know how the parent feels about the situation, to let the child know that it’s okay to be upset. To a child, Monica would say that it’s okay to be upset, and that the person who passed away loved them and that it’s okay to always remember that. “It’s something that you have to talk about, and you want to still remember the person,” she muses, adding that children will have memories and feelings about that person who passed, memories and feelings which need to be acknowledged. She also remarks that she and her family mention things about people who have already passed on as a way of helping to deal with the loss, giving the example of how she speaks about her father and how her boys likewise speak about him.

In addition to working on some technical books, Monica is also working on a story where Candma and Alex, the main protagonist of Candma Goes to Heaven, go to church, as well as two more sequels of Speedy’s Strength

Purchase from Amazon: 
Candma Goes to Heaven by Monica Burch 

Speedy’s Strength interview on YouTube

Speedy's Strength interview recap

Inside ROBOTIX interview on YouTube 

Inside ROBOTIX interview recap


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Gordon Dillow on Cosmic Collisions, Killer Asteroids, and the Race to Defend Earth | Fire in the Sky

In this interview, Gordon Dillow talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his/her book, FIRE IN THE SKY: Cosmic Collisions, Killer Asteroids, and the Race to Defend Earth.

“It’s not a question of if we’re gonna get hit by an asteroid at some point; it’s a question of when.” ~Gordon Dillow

Gordon admits that the opportunity to learn about new things is what he likes about being a newspaper reporter, and he remarks that looking into something new gives someone new facts that one would otherwise not have known. He remarks that he hadn’t done much reporting on science prior to researching for the book, and his interest was piqued by an incident he experienced at 4am in June, 2016, while he was in his home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was then having a cup of coffee when the dark sky glowed red, bright enough to bathe the entire ground in its glow. He then noticed an explosion of bright light northeast of him, and when he learned, later that day, that what he saw was an asteroid, roughly five feet wide, which had entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 mph and disintegrated. He thus looked into the matter, and so was born Fire in the Sky.

A book, Gordon notes, is essentially a long article made as dramatic and as interesting as possible while giving out necessary information. It took him a year to do the research and the initial writing, and then another six months editing it. Gordon remarks that writing a book means staying on the same subject for that long and getting immersed in it, to the point of others not quite getting interested in what he talks about.

It has only been in the past two centuries that people have learned that asteroids existed, as the telescopes prior to that weren’t powerful enough to pick these up. Gordon adds that, originally, people thought that asteroids were located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, but occasionally some asteroids veer off from these orbits to fly near the earth; these are called “near Earth objects,” or “near Earth asteroids.” The increased sophistication of telescopes in the past two decades has led to the discovery of some 20,000 asteroids which come close to Earth, at distances of a few ten thousand miles to a million miles. Some of these objects do enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and the smaller ones burn up in the atmosphere; this happens around once a month, and some of these, such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk event, cause noticeable amounts of physical damage when these exploded. The larger ones, those around 30 - 40 yards wide, actually make it to the Earth’s surface, which they then impact, and Gordon also adds that there are likely “tens of thousands” of other asteroids which haven’t been discovered yet, which could potentially impact the Earth, noting that, if there were a light on each and every such asteroid, the night sky would light up “like the Fourth of July.” He likens the near Earth asteroids to a Nascar racecar which leaves the track and every other car in the race and starts “doing donuts” in the infield, with the Earth being in the infield, in this analogy.

Where size is concerned, asteroids can be as large as the largest, Ceres, which is 600 miles wide, or as small as a yard wide, and the smaller asteroids outnumber the larger ones by a great deal. Most of the ones that we humans need to be concerned about are those 50 - 100 yards wide, as these are the ones which are large enough to hit the earth. Asteroids also have varying densities, which means that the asteroids which are composed mostly of metals, which are in the minority where asteroid numbers are concerned, are more likely to survive burning in the Earth’s atmosphere to hit the Earth, thanks to their density, while those made of rock are less likely to do so. Gordon also remarks that, in 2029, a thousand-foot-wide asteroid named Apophis will pass within 19,000 miles of the Earth (by comparison, the orbit of a geosynchronous satellite is around 22,000 miles, and the Moon orbits the Earth at around 240,000 miles).

Where heavenly bodies and events are concerned:

  • Meteors refer to the streak of light created by a small bit of space rock burning up in the atmosphere, thanks to its enormous speed.
  • A meteorite is space rock which doesn’t disintegrate in the atmosphere and thus manages to hit the ground.
  • An asteroid is a body in space which is made of rock or metal, which ranges from a yard wide to hundreds of miles wide.
  • A comet is a body which comes from the outer edges of the solar system, which are made up of ice and dust and rock. The ice turns into gas as it approaches the Sun, thanks to the Sun’s heat, creating the cometary tail.

(Gordon adds a caveat, in that the definitions noted above aren’t hard and fast ones, as scientists and astronomers “just can’t seem to get together” on exact definitions. That said, these definitions are the ones generally used.)

Where the dinosaur extinction theory is concerned, Gordon notes that an asteroid around six miles wide delivered the killing blow and created a crater around a hundred miles in diameter. This damage was caused, despite the relative size of the asteroid to the Earth being akin to “a pea-gravel at a giant boulder, due to the enormous speed with which the asteroid hit the Earth. (As an aside, Gordon remarks that this was, eventually, good for us humans, as mammals then took over from the dinosaurs in the ecosystem.) Gordon notes that one might not think of the air as being able to exert a great deal of pressure, but he then notes the amount of pressure one would feel if one stuck one’s arm out of a car at 60 miles per hour, then if one did that when the car was travelling at 400 miles per hour. “It’s almost like running into concrete,” Gordon remarks where asteroids hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at the speeds they do is concerned.

Gordon notes that asteroids enter the Earth at regular intervals, and that most of these aren’t noticed by humans, pointing to an asteroid event over the Barents Sea in 2016, one which released energy equivalent to ten Hiroshima atomic bombs and which was noticed only a few months later, when scientific data was reviewed.

Gordon’s intent with Fire in the Sky is not to panic people, but to give information on a topic which fascinates him. He remarks that there are possible ways to deflect or slow down asteroids which appear to possibly hit the Earth. Gordon mentions that a Planetary Defense Conference which is held regularly and which is attended by scientists from around the world to deal with this concern. One of the ideas put forward is to blow up a nuclear device to nudge the asteroid into missing the Earth, but this is presently a concern, given international treaties for not sending nuclear warheads into space. Another idea is kinetic impacter, or “cannonball method,” where an unmanned spacecraft with a payload of around a half ton of metal and ram it into the asteroid to slow it down. Such a slow-down would be small, perhaps a fraction of an inch per hour, but by the time it would have it the Earth, it would have slowed down enough that it would miss the Earth. NASA will actually launch a test mission - a “double asteroid impact test” - in 2021 to see how feasible such a method is, with the spacecraft taking years from launch to hit its target.

Gordon notes that people should be “leery” of a lot of the stories about asteroid impacts, as these tend to be sensationalized, and that serious people are looking at the issue. As this issue is a long term one, any solutions we can apply are likely to benefit our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Purchase from Amazon: FIRE IN THE SKY: Cosmic Collisions, Killer Asteroids, and the Race to Defend Earth by Gordon Dillow

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Bruce Olav Solheim on Ghosts and Other Unseen Spirits and Now Aliens | Timeless Deja Vu: A Paranormal Personal History

In this interview, Bruce Olav Solheim talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Timeless Deja Vu: A Paranormal Personal History.



“Reducing your fear and increasing your understanding is a good way to go.” ~Bruce Olav Solheim

Bruce has recently begun teaching a course on the paranormal at Citrus College, where he gives a framework for people to understand these activities.  People have been very interested in his course, as Bruce notes that people are desperate for a safe place where they can tell their stories of paranormal experiences. He invites guest speakers to speak in his course and uses some of the frameworks these speakers use, and also defines such terms as mediumship, telekinesis and telepathy. Bruce also speaks on the history of the paranormal, as well as leads the class on events such as seances. He remarks that such a framework grounds people, so that paranormal events and activities don’t come off as freakish or weird.

Bruce remarks that his first book, Timeless: A Paranormal Personal History, was intended to “test the waters,” and that he goes into more detail with Timeless Deja Vu and even moreso with his third, upcoming book, which will be “edgier.” He also is presently planning to come out with a comic book, Snark, which will be illustrated by the illustrator for his books, and its premise is about an alien who travels to the Earth as a scout who is sent out to prepare for an invasion of Earth, and who will then travel around the world and in various times as part of his mission, along the way falling in love with humanity. The project is “very exciting” for Bruce, and he plans to do the ComicCon circuit to promote it.

Bruce’s thesis is that the quantum, paranormal and alien worlds are all one and the same thing. Timeless Deja Vu covers 31 more paranormal events which Bruce experienced, including an event which helps give the book its name. Bruce explains deja vu as being a time where past, present and future all come together, and believes that deja vu provides humans with a glimpse of the quantum world. He remarks that “the present is a moving target,” pointing out that there is no frozen moment where time is concerned, and that this is also the nature of the quantum world. He also notes that, in a subatomic perspective, everything is moving and connected, even though things may feel solid and stationary at the human scale. He also notes that subatomic particles are both particle-like and wavelike, and that we humans create a reality that is familiar to us and which we are taught and trained to believe.

Bruce believes that aliens operate in the spiritual and quantum realms, which enables them to travel the large distances they do. He differentiates aliens from spirits, in that aliens are not native to the Earth, while spirits used to be native to the Earth. He references Michael Masters and his book, Identified Flying Objects, where he opines that some “aliens” are humans from the distant future who are coming back in time to check on present-day human beings. Bruce also believes that there are true extraterrestrial aliens who do come to Earth, and notes that people he has spoken with who speak of alien encounters are down-to-earth people. He also remarks that the US government is coming out with small bits of information about UFO encounters, such as the “Tic Tac” encounter experienced by the US Navy off Baja, California in 2004, and believes that greater disclosure is imminent. Where reasons are concerned, Bruce believes that there are different reasons, pointing out our own, different human motives for traveling and searching, such as tourists, those who are out to conduct scientific research as well as those who would seek to exploit humans for their own gain. He notes that alien technology is so advanced that they could easily take humanity over, if they wanted to.

Bruce confirms that it is possible for parallel worlds to interact with our own, and gives the example in his book where he and his son somehow avoided a potentially fatal accident at an intersection, thanks to his experiencing something along the lines of the kind of “bullet time” popularized by The Matrix film trilogy. He gives this as an example of what he describes as a “fork in the road of time,” and adds that, in a different fork, he and his son could have been seriously injured or killed.

Bruce believes that the sheer number of paranormal experiences that he has had is partially hereditary, as his own mother was psychic. He points out that intuition is paranormal in nature, and that sensing when someone stares at one is the same. Bruce remarks that he is likely to be one of those people who is a “lightning rod” for such activities, in the same way others would be able to throw a ball at 90 miles per hour. That said, he notes that the challenge is about turning off such abilities during such activities as going to parties or even going to sleep, and opines that some people who go mad might do so because they are so perceptive that they cannot do so.

Bruce notes that he believes that there are guardian angels, or spirits who are with all of us human beings in our lives, and that, while these won’t necessarily bail us out if we deliberately go into danger, they could provide their charges with guidance and the occasional push to get things done, as well as intervene subtly. He notes that angels were never human beings, as opposed to ghosts, which are either former human beings who cannot move along the astral pathways, such as being lost on these, or which are essentially things like “tape loops” which just happen over and over again. Bruce remarks that intelligent spirits speak without the personas that we humans all assume, as they are more honest and have nothing to hide. He also remarks that, on ghost hunting shows, the ghost hunters stir up the spirits in the place and leave these still stirred up after they leave, which might not be good for the person who owns the place where the spirits are.

Bruce notes that, just because one doesn’t understand something means that it should be feared, because if one does react with fear, one can start analyzing about what the experience is all about. He remarks that there are charlatans who would take one’s money and run, so people should seek out legitimate people who can help them understand what is going on, if they experienced a paranormal activity.

Bruce Olav Solheim’s first interview on AuthorStory

Timeless: A Paranormal Personal History (Book 1) AuthorStory Interviews blog post

Bruce Olav Solheim on the AuthorStory Videos blog

Purchase from Amazon: Timeless Deja Vu: A Paranormal Personal History by Bruce Olav Solheim

Monday, July 8, 2019

Neal Grace on Having Fresh Eyes Upon the World and Making Life a Spectacular Journey

In this interview, Neal Grace talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, FRESH EYES UPON THE WORLD: Making Life a Spectacular Journey.



“Be bold, be adventurous. Be willing to take a risk.” ~Neal Grace

A lot of things that Neal observed going on in the world didn’t resonate with him after graduating high school, and it was because he wanted to discover who he was and how to fit into the world that he embarked on the lifelong journey that he did, along a path deemed unconventional at that time. His drive led him to want to explore different environments and cultures, and as he did so, he gained opportunities to learn about himself and about life. He acknowledges that this path was both “scintillating and exciting,” as well as spontaneous, occasionally dramatic, lonely and difficult, as he didn’t find a place that he could call “home” for a long time.

Neal liked reading books to learn about the world, and also loved poetry “that made a statement” about life in a tangible and vivid way. Writing poetry, for him, became a way to reflect on his own life, on his perceptions of the world or about some aspect of himself, as well as a way to enrich himself spiritually and intellectually. He also likes music, theater and dance as well as other forms of creative expression because, to him, creativity is “the soul yearning for a discovery of itself, and for an opportunity to interact and dance with the world in magical and mystical ways.” Exploring creativity, Neal remarks, “is a journey into a higher realm,” as well as a journey that takes him back to the “raw reality” of daily life. “Creativity,” he notes, “is a way of playing with the world in such a way that you reinvent yourself with the world.”

Neal notes that everyone is on a spiritual journey, as they are all evolving from the day they are born to the day they die. He describes his own journey as an adventure, where every experience was a learning opportunity that enabled him to get closer with himself. Neal admits that material benefits were secondary to his journey, as he didn’t subscribe to the orthodox lifestyle his peers followed. He opines that all great philosophers need to “step aside” at some point in their lives and travel a “pathless” world to get in touch with their own strengths and weaknesses, and that everyone should figure out how to “reap some great rewards” from life’s experiences.

Neal remarks that, the more sensitive one is, the more one would find it difficult to resonate with society as we know it, as the latter is fractured; indeed, he analogizes it to everyone being in an “insane asylum” where everyone needs to deal with everyone else. In this challenging environment, being creative and resourceful is vital to meeting the inevitable obstacles and detours that one would follow, Neal muses.

Neal notes that there is nothing wrong with working on the “mundane aspects of life” and living a materially orthodox life, and he has proven this in his own life, as he has made money for himself to enjoy the material comforts of life without sacrificing his own integrity and creativity. His outlook on material affluence is to acquire this in a healthy, balanced way, so he can create serenity and stability for himself. Neal notes that the desire for material wealth gets unbalanced when one places one’s “toxicity” on this, by either condemning or becoming obsessed with it, as well as becoming prisoners of it, and that if the desire for material wealth is done in a beneficial way, then this “becomes a good thing.” The toxicity, he notes, comes when people bring their unresolved past issues into the present, and occurs because one brings one’s own disposition, be it disempowered or powered, caring or fearful, into every moment of one’s life.

Fresh Eyes Upon the World, Neal notes, “started when I was born,” as it is a compilation of the lessons he has learned in his life. The purpose of his book is to inspire people to have an uplifting and meaningful life for themselves, in reaction to all the suffering, struggle and malevolence he sees in the world. Its intention is also to promote wellness and to heal all the wounds we all have, as well as the wounds in the world at large, be it environmental or societical, and Neal’s own goal is to create a world of understanding, more than anything else.

The questions in the book, Neal notes, are ones which people reflect on at some point in their lives, and he believes these are asked unconsciously. Neal opines that the most important question that is asked is: “How can I be happy / fulfilled / at peace with the conditions of the world or my own personal life?” The answers that Neal gives are based on his experience, logic and what he learned, and are simple when distilled down to their essence. He notes that the answers are clear and can be incorporated into one’s life, but he also remarks that people might be asking the right questions and getting the answers, but not taking the next, necessary step by doing something in relationship with the question they asked, to transform and heal the issue that the question springs from. Neal notes that taking that action opens up new doors and new questions, and that delving into the question honestly and objectively is what produces viable results. He remarks that one of the reasons why people don’t apply what they know to do to get off feeding unhealthy habits is because they are “wedded” to these, and that it takes a great deal of resolve, commitment and energy to get clear from such habits, as well as a love of self beyond one’s ego.

Purchase from Amazon: FRESH EYES UPON THE WORLD: Making Life a Spectacular Journey by Neal Grace

Friday, July 5, 2019

Karen Rinaldi on Why It's Great to Suck at Something:and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and Stuff that Really Matters

In this interview, Karen Rinaldi talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, It's Great to Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters.




“Don’t play to win; play to be free.” ~Karen Rinaldi

Karen grew up in a household where the parents were loving and was also very laissez-faire, as there was a fear of putting up high expectations. Karen’s driven attitude was in reaction to this environment, which led her to pushing hard to overcome her challenges from school onwards, creating in her a degree of “tenacity and grit” that has served her well.

It’s Great to Suck at Something was over a decade in writing, and it sprang from a conversation she had with her then-eight-year-old son, after a particularly hard day when he had been struggling with some concerns. One of Karen’s fellow parents, upon hearing her son’s day, remarked that “It’s so great to suck at something,” which greatly relieved her son. The incident impacted Karen greatly, and she then began her journey along the road of sucking at things she attempted.

Karen notes that, those people who are viewed as living perfect lives, particularly as presented on social media, do not have the perfect, effortless lives that they present. She notes that others feel lessened when they compare themselves with “successful” people, which results in anxiety and stress due to not knowing what the lives of “successful” people are actually about. Karen remarks that people only post the best things of their lives on social media, and that, if people share their struggles, they would be more honest and would show that, despite their imperfections, they are still “worthy of love,” even though they suck at something.

Doing something with the intention to suck isn’t what Karen speaks of, but rather the freedom that comes with letting go of “that pathological striving” for perfection at everything one does. She does note that people need to do well with such things as social relationships with one’s family and partner, but that other activities, such as surfing or photography, are ones which one doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect at. People do fear being humiliated if they don’t perform well in front of others, but Karen notes that people aren’t paying much attention to one in the first place, as they do have their own things to do. Where humiliation is concerned, she remarks that learning to turn this into humility is possible by accepting that one isn’t perfect at everything.

Where children are concerned, Karen remarks on studies which she had read that show that kids know what they are and aren’t good at, and that the expectation placed by parents that they are good at something they are not is a great disservice to the child, as this increases the pressure they already feel from interacting and comparing themselves with their peers - particularly if the message is that a child isn’t lovable if he or she isn’t perfect. Allowing the children to feel that it is okay to not be perfect at everything, and even to be bad at something, in Karen’s opinion, allows the children the space to excel in what they are good at and learn the necessary grit and lessons necessary to work at what they aren’t good at. Karen remarks that “kids are all brilliant,” that they all have something to offer, and that parents then shunt them into particular lanes, along the way lying to them about what they are good at.

Where millenials are concerned, Karen has noticed that they don’t understand that it is necessary to put time in to achieve success. Millenials feel they deserve such things as being promoted within a year’s time and running a business within three because they are highly competitive, and this is at odds with the reality that it takes time to become really good at something - and Karen points out becoming a doctor as an example. “They have been served a batch of lies,” Karen remarks, “that grit and hard work is not the only way to succeed, when it is the only way,” noting that successful people worked hard to get to where they are.

Perfectionism, Karen believes, is innate and stems from a striving to get close to the Divine. That said, there are normal and abnormal ways to strive for perfection, with the abnormal way essential stating: “Unless I am perfect, I am not worthy, and I’ve failed.” The normal way is to strive to get better while accepting one’s imperfections, and those kind of people are mentally healthier compared to those who don’t accept their imperfections. Karen notes that starting out by accepting one’s imperfections while the expectations are low is a good way to start on the road of accepting one’s imperfections when things get more challenging.

Accepting one’s imperfections is a way of releasing the pressure one feels, and Karen points out that this is a good attitude for people to enter a new situation or do something new, as they give themselves permission to do just that. According to Karen, accepting that one makes mistakes also allows for the freedom from indulgent self-castigation - which occurs when people believe they are perfect at everything - so that one can focus on what needs to be done.

Nostalgia fascinates Karen, and she points out that nostalgia involves a lot of “lying and rose-colored glasses.” Nostalgia, she points out, used to have negative connotations, whereas today it is viewed as a way of giving one hope. Nostalgia is a way for people to push themselves away from the present and not look at where they presently are, Karen believes, which is a disservice, as the present is the only thing there is, where the way we live is concerned, and recounts a story where Swiss soldiers were banned from singing a milking song because doing so kept them from being effective soldiers.

Aspirational psychosis is tied to the messages that are sent out to society, such as those sent out by advertising; and these messages are even more pervasive with social media. These aspirational messages, Karen believes, distract one from figuring out where one presently is and who one presently is. “Why would you want to be anyone else?” she asks, adding that this question is for people for whom the basic needs are being met. Aspirational psychosis preys on people’s insecurities and belief that everyone else’s life is better than theirs, Karen remarks, which isn’t true. “Look inward,” she advises, “and live to your own compass.” She advises that people look to themselves for what they need and want, rather than looking to others for such, as doing so also sends the message that one is never enough. Karen also remarks that “the good stuff” in one’s life happens when one stops trying to be someone or something else and love where one presently is.

To those who realized that they suck at something, Karen would ask: “What did it teach you?” because sucking at something teaches one something. She notes that people learn more from difficult things than they do at things they are good at, as their limitations and desires come up when these happen - limitations and desires which one confronts so one can move on. As one of her sons once said: “Sometimes, the worst moments are the best moments for learning,” and Karen believes that the potential to learn from such moments is “enormous.”

Karen encourages people to go out and play, as “all of this is all about playing,” pointing to a quote by Frederich Schiller: “Man is only human when he plays!” Playing is just as important as work, Karen believes, and people shouldn’t worry about whether or not they will suck at what they play in, as doing so is very satisfying.

Purchase from Amazon: It's Great to Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters by Karen Rinaldi

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Kris Francoeur on Grief, Garlic and Gratitude and Returning to Hope and Joy from a Shattered Life - Sam's Love Story

In this interview, Kris Francoeur (a.k.a. Anna Belle Rose) talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude: Returning to Hope and Joy from a Shattered Life - Sam’s Love Story.



“Remember the person that you’ve lost, remember what it was that they loved most, and find a way to celebrate that.” ~Kris Francoeur

Kris began writing the material for her book within days of the death of her son, Sam, by posting things online which she was grateful for, as these enabled “the darkness of the grief” to lift somewhat. It was after writing this for a few months that people began saying that her posts on gratitude were resonating with them and helping them look at their own lives. She also received suggestions about her putting these into a book, but it still took around two years before she finally decided to do so.

According to Kris, Sam was a “beacon of light and love,” something which she only fully realized after his death, when Sam’s friends and acquaintances, who had met Sam at some point in their lives, would come over and commiserate with the family. As a child, Sam would want to talk to complete strangers, and even later on, when he struggled with bipolar disorder and addiction, he would see everyone as “worthy of love” and would talk to total strangers. Sam, Kris notes, was “such a character and had such energy” that, after he died, she felt a “gaping hole” with his loss.

Sam began smoking marijuana at the age of 14, initially recreationally, but he soon found that marijuana enabled him to control the extremes of his bipolar disorder condition. This, however, became an outright addiction to prescription drugs and opiates. Kris remarks that Vermont had “absolutely been destroyed” by the opioid epidemic, as the state is a transit area for drugs, to the point where Rolling Stone magazine did a cover story on the issue, and while this issue is endlessly brought up in school, Kris notes that teenagers don’t necessarily listen to what adults say.

Kris notes that the grief she and her family experienced after Sam’s death was different from the kind of grief they had experienced before. She also remarks that grief is a process and that, as a psychologist, she thought she knew what the stages were, in the order she had learned them. She found, however, that the stages of grief are different for parents who lose children compared to when children lose parents or a friend losing a friend, noting that she never experienced anger, at least as of the time of this interview.

(The stages of grief, according to Kubler-Ross, are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, in that order.)

Kris remarks that, at present, the sadness she feels from Sam’s loss is akin to a callous on one’s foot, in that she has learned to “walk with it.” One of the hardest lessons she had to learn was that she would always miss Sam for the rest of her life, remarking that, at Sam’s service, a woman whom she had known for forty years, and whose son had also died of an opioid overdose some fifteen years previously, hugged her and told her that “it doesn’t get better; it gets different.” The woman’s remark initially angered Kris, but Kris realized that the woman was telling her the truth. For Kris, learning to live with Sam’s death is a part of her life.

Kris acknowledges that her family isn’t religious and also didn’t want to travel such paths as drinking or taking medication or illegal drugs. Each member of the family went through grief in their own ways, and what was consistent for all of them was being with nature as much as possible, to “do a Sam” by holding true to the things that Sam loved, such as listening to music, being outdoors and being with people. The latter posed a bit of a challenge for Kris and her husband, as they are introverts, but they did so anyway, reaching out to people they didn’t know in the same way Sam used to.

Kris notes that it is easy to think that “everything is bad” whenever something bad - such as the loss of a job or an accident - happens, which colors everything that one then sees and would complain about. Kris admits that it was easy to view the world through this filter after Sam’s death, and she used to recognize, every day, the wonderful gifts that she had received, and then post online the things that she was grateful for. This helped her out greatly, particularly during the first year after Sam’s death, as she would feel peace and love - something that helped her realize that the world wasn’t the horrible place that she could so easily see it to be. Kris points out that, as she has traveled the path of “conscious and deliberate gratitude,” she has learned that being grateful for at least 30 days changes the brain’s chemistry, and can even show as much benefit as antidepressants. She remarks that her heart rate, when she writes about things she is grateful for, is the same as that when she meditates.

Community does play a part in dealing with grief, according to Kris, and she points out that this isn’t commonly the case with other families who have suffered the loss of a member who died from an opioid overdose, as the most common reaction is that other people don’t want to hear about it. Kris admits that the outlook of what Sam’s friends had on such things as energy, life, death and the universe were beyond what hers was, and that they “wrapped around” Kris and her family, showing them how much, to this day, they love Sam and his family. This openness, acceptance and acknowledgement of grief is also what enables Kris and her family to come to terms with grief and manage it in their lives.

To those who are grieving, Kris advises that everyone grieves differently, and so long as one doesn’t harm oneself, the way one grieves isn’t wrong. She also advises that those in grief record their stories, as doing so is a good way to learn about oneself.

Purchase from Amazon: Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude: Returning to Hope and Joy from a Shattered Life?Sam’s Love Story by Kris Francoeur

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Jessica Joines on Daring to Believe & 12 Lessons for Living Your Soul Purpose

In this interview, Jessica Joines talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about her book, Dare to Believe: 12 Lessons for Living Your Soul Purpose.



“The Universe does not put a dream in your heart where there is not some path of abundance towards.” ~Jessica Joines

Purchase from Amazon: Dare to Believe: 12 Lessons for Living Your Soul Purpose by Jessica Joines

Jessica’s parents were the first in their families to graduate from college, and from childhood Jessica was taught to work hard. That said, she wasn’t told to not pursue her dreams. When she entered the job market, she adopted a “survival consciousness” mindset, which meant that following her passion felt frivolous throughout her stay in the corporate world for around 15 years. She suffered panic attacks from early on, and while she persisted in corporate life she told herself that she couldn’t believe that what she was doing was what she would be doing - and she called the tasks that she was doing “repetitive” - for the next few decades. She noted that she took a lot of career assessment test and pursued all traditional avenues but she didn’t find the answers she was looking for. This led to her feeling that the kind of life she was to lead becoming less acceptable over time, and she began asking if this was what was meant for her, remarking that “Life can’t be about being paid to suffer.” Things came to a head when she was so “broken” with the way her life was going that she took a year off to travel; and it was then that she promised herself that she would “figure this thing out,” which essentially meant figuring out what her purpose was and to explore it.

Jessica felt compelled to share what she had learned in the course of her journey of self-exploration, and she chose to publish so she could get her message out as expediently as possible. She read up on a lot of spiritual teachers but, at the start, didn’t know how to apply their teachings to her everyday life and so began creating her own practices which she found applicable to her own life. She remarks that the story about sticking to a job one hates so one can earn money comes from a place of fear, with people believing and living that story, and that following one’s dream leads to abundance for oneself. “Do you think the Universe puts a true passion and desire and dream for your life within your heart that you really are excited about and want to do, which only leads to a path to poverty?” she asks.

One of the main lessons Jessica wants to impart to others is to believe that one has a life purpose, and points out that, in her previous life, she believed that she was exempt from such, as only special people had a life purpose. Jessica remarks that, while this realization is the most difficult to accept, once one has come to that realization, everything else falls into place.

Jessica defines fear as “false evidence appearing real,” and notes that it took her some time to understand this and that she still struggles with this concept. She notes that, when one meditates, there are two voices that speak out, with the louder one being the voice of fear and one’s ego and the second, quieter one being the voice of one’s higher self, and that, 99% of the time, the voice of fear is incorrect. Rather than outright believe the voice of fear, Jessica presently works to pause and think about the issue within herself which is ready to be healed, as it is this issue which fear gives voice to. The example she remarked on is that, if one follows one’s dreams, one will live in poverty, which indicates a need for one to recognize one’s own beliefs about what the universe is and isn’t, as well as the issue that one is unworthy to receive abundance. Other issues could also be related to trusting others or that one isn’t talented enough, and Jessica remarks that getting to the source of the fear can be as confusing as one allows it to be, as the ego might not want that issue solved. That said, Jessica says that, if one is quiet enough and honest enough with oneself for five minutes, one will know the issue behind the fearful thought.

For Jessica, love is the recognition of oneness, as it is an energy, adding that, every day, she has a choice of aligning either with the energy of love or the energy of fear. She notes that she is aware that she is aligned with the energy of love when she walks down the streets and feels love for, and a connection with, the strangers she sees. She also believes that all of us are here to heal the “disease of separation.” On the topic of love, Jessica remarks that love songs are all about one thinking about oneself and not about oneness or about the other person.

For Jessica, spirit is an energy which is the essence she would feel from anything, including herself. Spirit is something within oneself, Jessica believes, and the more one quiets oneself and anchors oneself in love, the more one experiences one’s own spirit. Succumbing to fear, on the other hand, shuts down one’s heart and causes a lessening of the experience of one’s spirit. She remarks that, when one realizes that one is it, that there is nothing needed to bring into oneself because all that is needed is for one to allow out that which is within oneself, one’s perception shifts from fear to love. Jessica reflected that she had done such things as vision boards in the past, but that these came from a viewpoint of lack, e.g., “I don’t have this, so I have to manifest it and bring it in.”

Where abundance is concerned, Jessica notes that her shift came with the belief that she is already abundant and all that needs to be done is to let it out. Perceiving abundance in everything is also part of that shift.

One of the most important lessons Jessica wants to share is that one’s heart, alone, knows what one’s purpose is, as one’s purpose isn’t something to be figured out. Rather, one’s purpose is revealed by anchoring to one’s heart, then trusting and believing that what one finds there is the truth. “You’re not gonna think your way to your sole purpose,” Jessica notes. “It’s about getting quiet and getting in touch with what you love, what you dream about, and whatever that is that is in your heart and trusting whatever’s there.” Jessica also notes that, when one starts out with this work, a lot of negative messages (“That’s outrageous!”) will come up, and that it is important to consider these as clues. She notes that it’s about being really observant and honest and true with oneself about what one really, really wants, by which one discovers one’s purpose.

Jessica also brings up the lesson of “believing what you want with conviction” and that “the truth that is in your heart is often more real than the one that you see,” she points out, and that people need to keep that in mind as they progress in this work.

Purchase from Amazon: Dare to Believe: 12 Lessons for Living Your Soul Purpose by Jessica Joines

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dr. Arun Singh on His Remarkable Journey as an Immigrant to Become One of America's Preeminent Cardiac Surgeons

In this interview, Arun Singh, M.D. talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com, about his book, Your Heart, My Hands: An Immigrant's Remarkable Journey to Become One of America's Preeminent Cardiac Surgeons.



“Every life matters, regardless or age, race, sex or religion. They all look the same underneath the drapes.” ~Arun Singh, M.D.

Dr. Arun Singh had no interest in becoming a doctor as a child, nor was he interested in becoming a surgeon while he was studying to become a doctor. He racks this up to having a rebellious nature, making him the kind of person who, when told he can’t do something, goes out and does it. He admits that he ran into a lot of trouble because of this behavior, but he would not have become the success he was without this attitude.

Dr. Arun admits that, as a child, he suffered from a lot of diseases, such as smallpox, chickenpox, malaria and hepatitis. When Dr. Arun was a six-year-old child, he broke his hand when he fell out of a tree after a monkey attacked him while both of them were reaching for the same guava. He and his mother needed to travel four hours and 150 miles to get medical help, and it still took two and a half years before he was able to use his hand again; and during that time, he was home schooled and thus missed out on those years of elementary schooling, as well as a lot of childhood activities. He did remember his father getting angry when the doctor said that the best they could expect was for Dr. Arun to be able to use his hand to feed himself, to which his father declared: “My son will be a doctor.”

Dr. Arun broke his hand again at age ten, while kite flying, which is a sport where the handler of one kite attempts to cut the strings of the kite of another handler. It was when his kite was cut, during a competition, that he fell into a ditch and injured his hand yet again. Dr. Arun remarks that there was no physical rehabilitation available, so his mother worked with an orthopedic surgeon so he could use his hand again, using bricks as weight resistance as well as hanging onto the protective rods of windows.

Dr. Arun admits that, because he was bored while he was out of school, and this led him into a lot of trouble, such as hopping on trains without buying tickets, go through back alleys and do everything a “bad kid” would do, except he didn’t pick pockets. Not surprisingly, when he got into high school, he had no friends and while he did pass high school he admits that he was still being a “bad kid.” He got into medical school at the age of 16 and couldn’t understand the lessons that were given. (He thought that that was because the other students were older than he was, but he would later find out, after he emigrated to the United States, that he was severely dyslexic.) Dr. Arun suffered from insomnia, so he used this to his advantage to read and re-read lessons over and over again until he got it.

Dr. Arun wound up at the bottom of the class after his first year of medical school, and it was then that his father suffered a massive stroke which would incapacitate him for the rest of his life. Dr. Arun was devastated, and the family lost their savings within weeks. It was while looking after his father that his mother told him: “I want you to grow up. I want you to take care of the family. You are the guardian of the family. Get up, look up and don’t give up.” Dr. Arun took on the challenge, as he admits he didn’t want to become a “beggar on the street” with a broken pan asking for change or food. He thus gave up sports and began looking after his family even as he went through medical school and graduated second out of 107 students at the age of 22.

Dr. Arun remarks that “nobody wants to leave their home,” but he knew that he wouldn’t be paid while he was being trained as a doctor, and money for the family was really short at that time, after which he wasn’t sure what kind of job he would have. He found an opportunity to go to the United States and train as a doctor in that country and be paid to boot. He spent almost all but twenty-five cents of the eight dollars he had in his pocket during the 36-hour flight from India to the United States for necessary expenses, and he remarks that, while he faced such challenges as racism, discrimination and feeling discouraged, he knew he could face up to whatever challenges would come his way.

One of the things that gave Dr. Arun culture shock was the difference between the state and nature of Indian and American hospitals. Dr. Arun remarks that Indian public hospitals aren’t the cleanest, describing an example of a putrid-smelling, twenty-foot square room holding 30 patients lying on metal cots in hundred-degree heat, with dogs running around along the walls as being an example of the kind of state in Indian public hospitals. Emergency rooms were in a similar state, with people coming in with, and dying from, malnutrition and infectious diseases, and this state of affairs was very different from those in American hospitals, where the hospitals were clean and people died from gunshot wounds.

Starting up his practice was also challenging for Dr. Arun, as he had to deal with his wife being ill and with the challenges of raising children, but he retained his focus. He admits that his wife and his mother were two of the greatest influences in his life, and he was “devastated” when his mother passed on in 2007, due to a heart attack, particularly as he couldn’t return immediately for her cremation and interment.

Dr. Arun notes that he might be perceived as unemotional, but that most surgeons follow the truism of: “Control your emotion, or emotion will control you.” He states that surgeons, when they perform surgeries, have “tunnel vision” to get the job done, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be touched or affected. The reality, Dr. Arun notes, is that he didn’t save everyone he operated on, and that he carries the pain and burden of the loss of those he didn’t save. One such patient was a patient whom he first operated on while the latter was a baby, a mere few months old, and whom he operated on again at age seven. That patient died on the operating table, and Dr. Arun was so upset by that, that he and his wife decided to not have any more children after that.

Dr. Arun also points out the ethical and legal quandaries he faces with some patients who need to be operated on, such as those who have no medical insurance, those whom, if they are operated on, will create a financial loss for the hospital, or those who have AIDS.

Dr. Arun remarks that the story in Your Heart, My Hands is an immigrant’s story as well as an American story, and that he isn’t the only one with this kind of story, one where, despite all challenges and failures, one can succeed and overcome whatever obstacles come one’s way if one is focused and works hard.

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