Your Place In The Universe

Your Place in the Universe:
Understanding Our Big, Messy Existence
Paul M. Sutter
Prometheus Books

Some things I learned from Your Place in the Universe by Paul M. Sutter (a cosmologist from Ohio State University):

1. The universe is not "infinitely" large, but it's so dang big it just might as well be! And it's approximately 13.8 billion years old, although it's hard to know if time worked the same way back when or will work the same way as it does now in the future.

2. We can see, taste, touch, smell, hear, and experience only about 5% of what all makes up the universe. About 30% of the remainder is called "dark matter" and it's what fills the vacuums/voids we see when we look out into the cosmos.

3. About 70% of what we can't directly experience is called "dark energy" and it's what is speeding up the galaxies as they speed away from each other. Yes, there's no speed limit in the universe because of dark energy. Light has a speed limit and it's possibly our speed limit when it comes to interstellar travel, but the universe itself is just getting faster the older it gets.

4. This means that, although we like to think of gravity as being strong enough to pull things like galaxies back into another "Big Bang," the odds of this happening are extremely low to non-existent. But this is still a theory, and who knows? There still isn't a "Grand Unifying Theory" or "GUT" that ties gravity to the electromagnetic, and the weak and strong nuclear forces. And how do we account and explain for dark energy in a GUT? (We don't--or at least we haven't yet.)

5. And for all we can observe of the "observable universe" we can only conjecture that the "universe is flat." Sutter doesn't go into the "holographic universe" idea, but he does explain why we can only say that the observable universe if "flat"--it's just too dang big to see enough of it to determine whether or not it does have a shape of any kind with our limited three (or four, counting time) dimensions.

6. My idea is that we can only experience a "flat universe" because we can't directly experience or conceptualize a more than four dimensional universe with our very limited four dimensional brains. (I have read about how a GUT will work mathematically with up to 17 dimensions, so there you go!)

7. Most of all, I learned that I wish I had taken more astronomy and physics courses in high school and college because it's such a fascinating subject, isn't it? 


Acts of Forgiveness

A special book review for the  

Acts of Forgiveness: Faith Journeys of a Gay Priest
Ted Karpf
Foreword by Ray L. Hart
Toplight Books
ASIN: B081Y8LHZN, ISBN-10: 1476679592, ISBN-13: 9781476679594

“I have learned that while we can’t always see the real outcomes of the victories of our battles for justice, inclusion, acceptance, and respect, each of us in our own way has won those liberties, not with the ease of largesse and privilege, but with an understanding that no matter the cost, what we did/do and why we did/do it was critical for the larger humanity.”

Retired Episcopalian priest Ted Karpf’s engaging memoir, Acts of Forgiveness, can be read on several levels. First, it’s the life story of a gay man overcoming an abusive childhood and coming out to a hostile society, receiving some modicum of success while working during different seasons of his life for the church, the federal government, and the World Health Organization. Second, it can be understood as the experiences of a social justice warrior who jumped into the early fight to bring health and dignity to the thousands dying of HIV/AIDS in the Dallas gay community and later to the millions infected in South Africa and surrounding countries. Third, and perhaps most of all, it is the journey of an individual seeing God at work in the world and its people while accepting the fact that to have faith doesn’t mean one will be protected from heartache, harsh criticisms, or even tougher judgments, but knowing that one will find love, peace, and joy along the way.

“How many times do we forgive?”Jesus of Nazareth’s disciples asked him. He replied, “Seventy times seven” or an infinite number of times. “Father Friendly,” as Karpf was nicknamed, would agree, but would also agree that forgiveness doesn’t always come quickly or easily. From an early age, Ted knew he was different. His parents sensed his homosexual orientation and attempted to keep him from becoming a “sissy” through verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse. After he left home, he found hard-won self-acceptance with the support of his mentors during his academic years at Boston University School of Theology. He learned to follow his heart when supporting others and to love them unconditionally even when it hurt, a lesson that would be tested again and again in his relationships with his lovers, colleagues, and particularly later in life with his adult son and daughter.

When Ted’s marriage dissolved after he fell in love with a fellow activist and was outed as a gay man in the paranoid climate of the late 1980s, Ted lost his church in Dallas, St. Thomas the Apostle, a congregation that had become particularly noteworthy for its open acceptance and support of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. He was fortunate that his soon-to-be-ex-wife Kaye wanted Ted to co-parent their young children as much as possible, but life outside of the church brought a new chapter in his service to others and new challenges both professionally and emotionally.

Ted’s work within the Dallas area HIV/AIDS community had gained him the attention of—and then a position with—the US Public Health Service as a regional liaison specialist to call attention to the magnitude and impact of the AIDS epidemic in five states. After three years at the USPHS, Ted returned to AIDS advocacy within the Episcopal Church in the Washington DC diocese. From there he was called to serve the Anglican Community in South Africa in the 1990s where the spread of HIV/AIDS had become a tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions. His service there was praiseworthy and necessary, but then it was terminated abruptly and he was falsely accused of a crime that he could have never committed.

Ted was eventually exonerated—through the testimony of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others—but once again he found himself seeking a way to forgive and move on and to serve humanity, which eventually he did through the auspices of the Diplomatic Corp of the United Nation’s World Health Organization. He advocated strongly for the “3 by 5” program, a program to reach 3 million needing treatment out of the estimated 6 million infected with HIV/AIDS globally by 2005. The goal was obtained by 2006 and saved literally millions in developing world. Ted worked tirelessly from Geneva until his retirement from WHO in 2010.

“May I die in your church?”

A man covered with lesions from Kaposi’s sarcoma and suffering from tuberculosis and the severe wasting associated with AIDS walked into Ted’s church office in 1985 making that simple request. “Everything in my life before that moment paled,” Ted states, “The desperate sincerity of the question combined with his grim motivation resonated deeply within me.” The acceptance of death in the midst of day-to-day existence is a recurring theme throughout Ted’s life, be it the death of friendships, of work relationships, or most poignantly, of an ailing stranger or a dear loved one.

From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, Ted has sat by more bedsides and performed more funerals of individuals, some cruelly rejected by their own kin, than perhaps any other priest. He also sat by the side of his mother as she lay dying, forgiving and loving her in spite of his unhappy childhood experiences. Ted has been there for many others in their time of personal tragedy, a source of comfort and advice, but he is quick to note that he isn’t always as accepting of loss as he could be.

After his abrupt dismissal from his position in South Africa, Ted felt directionless and decided to accept an offer to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He didn’t want to go at first, but a series of coincidences finally convinced him that going on a pilgrimage was exactly what he needed. Hiking the 800 km trail, Ted experienced blisters and then found God along the way in the way the Creator worked in the lives of his fellow sojourners. An impromptu baptism of a pilgrim in the fountain at Santiago at the end of the journey brought his life into sharp focus. Ted reconfirmed his service to humanity by demonstrating God’s love through his calling as a priest and advocate for all who are in need.

Perhaps the greatest act of forgiveness is the one we grant ourselves when we discover and re-affirm our own purpose in the eternal dance of life and death. Ted's story bears witness to this truth.

About the Author: Ted Karpf

Ted Karpf is a priest, public servant, international diplomat, journalist, university administrator and educator. He was educated in New York, Texas and Massachusetts. A gay man, Ted is a father and grandfather. He has been and remains a man who reflects the times in which he has lived while offering a hopeful vision for the future. Ted watches clouds and tests the winds and prays while residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

You can find Ted at his website https://www.tedkarpf.com/

Acts of Forgiveness is now available to purchase on Amazon.comTarget.com, and Barnes and Noble.


The Butchered Man ~ The Northminster Mysteries, book 1

The Butchered Man (The Northminster Mysteries, Book 1)
Harriet Smart

Northminster, 1840: Dr. Felix Carswell, young and fresh from Edinburgh University, is keen to make his reputation and to get away from his father Lord Rothborough’s influence. Accepting the post as medical officer to the City of Northminster Constabulary Felix comes under the command of the Chief Constable, Major Giles Vernon—and is immediately plunged into a murder investigation. Workmen have discovered a mutilated corpse in a ditch beyond the old city walls. The body appears to be that of a man of means, but who is he?

Vernon’s theories on modern policing become practice as he and Carswell attempt to identify the victim and catch his murderer. Their quest takes them into the seedy world of card sharps, clerical politics, and broken promises in a once beautiful cathedral city turned industrial powerhouse. When Carswell is called to leave the case momentarily to treat a girl in a model asylum for reformed prostitutes, he senses all isn’t as it seems. There may be a connection with the dead man. His discovery puts him at loggerheads with Vernon who finds his authority and personal integrity threatened by a potentially scandalous relationship. Can they put aside their differences and bring justice to the Butchered Man?

In The Butchered Man, Smart has created an elegant murder mystery set in the vibrant time when the Regency was giving way to the Victorian era. Vernon and Carswell have their virtues, failures and foibles, and fully inhabit their world in an intricate case sure to please the mystery lover. 



How to Hack a Heartbreak

How to Hack a Heartbreak
Kristin Rockaway
Graydon House

Mel Strickland works the help desk in Hatch, a NYC tech incubator company. It’s a soul-destroying job in an atmosphere of toxic masculinity. Nobody appreciates Mel’s coding skills and her love life’s a mess. Luckily she has her great friends Lia, Dani, and Whitney to back her up. When yet another loser sends her a dick pic on the dating app Fluttr, Mel decides enough is enough. Figuring out she can’t be the only woman who’s sick of the whole internet dating scene, Mel sets up her own site—JerkAlert—where women can share information and warnings about ghosters, smash-and-dashers, and dick pic senders.

Mel’s instincts prove right. JerkAlert becomes the new internet sensation and her little project soon attracts interest from the management of Fluttr itself. But nothing in Mel’s life is ever straightforward. She falls hard for Alex, one of the incubator crowd, apparently a true gentleman—but is he leading a double life? Fluttr’s once in a lifetime offer for JerkAlert has dollar signs dancing in front of Mel’s eyes, but the offer’s full of hidden snags. And maybe her ownership of JerkAlert isn’t as solid as she thinks. Mel’s personal and professional life seem headed for disaster when inspiration strikes, and she goes out on a limb with a new project, one that’ll alter the internet dating scene forever. Will it be enough to get her career and love life back on track?

By turns smart, funny, and always engaging, How to Hack a Heartbreak’s tale of a modern Big Apple woman taking on the world will have you rooting for Mel all the way.


A Gentleman's Murder

A Gentleman’s Murder
Christopher Huang

November 1924. Great War veteran Lieutenant Eric Peterkin comes from an old British army family, which helped him gain membership of the prestigious Britannia Club for ex-military men. There have always been Peterkins in the Britannia Club. As the last of his line following the Great War’s slaughter, Eric was made welcome—after a fashion. There are some who count Eric’s half-Chinese blood against him, and he’s subjected to numerous casual swipes on the matter of his heritage.

Still, Eric counts as an officer and a gentleman, and he’s called upon to referee a bet between two club members, one of them newcomer Albert Benson. When Benson is found murdered in the club’s vault the following day, Eric’s instincts for justice are aroused—especially when it seems the police detective investigating has concealed evidence. Benson announced he would ‘soon right a great wrong.’ What did he mean? As Eric follows the trail from rural West Sussex to London’s Chinatown, danger takes shape on all sides. It soon looks like the murderer is uncomfortably close to home, and Eric must risk all he holds dear to bring the killer to justice.

AGentleman’s Murder introduces a new detective on the scene. Huang brings the world of the 1920’s to life, and Eric Peterkin is a great character with foibles, failings and bags of pluck who inhabits that world to the fullest.


Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (A sortabiography)
Eric Idle
Crown Archetype.

Comedian, actor, author, singer, playwright, director and songwriter. Eric Idle has turned his hand to all these with enormous success. The name Monty Python is known all over the world, and millions have taken the absurdist and so-typically British silliness to their hearts. Much has been written about the Python phenomena over the years, but there’s always something to add. Most of the Python crew have written memoirs, and Eric Idle adds to the knowledge by producing his own sortabiography.

Idle was born on March 29, 1943 in South Shields, County Durham, England. His early life was touched by tragedy when his RAF veteran father died in a road accident on Christmas Eve 1945 while hitchhiking home on leave to his family. Idle was sent on a charitable basis to the Royal Wolverhampton School, a tough boarding school where bullying was rife. As he writes of the establishment, “It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in. I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life under unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority. Perfect training for Python.”

Idle went on to Cambridge University under a scholarship, where he met John Cleese and formed a lifelong friendship that expanded over the swinging Sixties to include all the future Pythons. Idle’s induction to the famous Footlights saw him blossom as a sketch-writer, which segued into a varied career which has seen him travel the world almost as much as fellow Python, Michael Palin. Idle got to know and love such great stars as Beatle George Harrison, comic geniuses Robin Williams and Billy Connolly, as well as countless other stars of stage, screen and TV. His tributes to Harrison and Williams are especially moving.

Named after his greatest hit, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which became the top request at British funerals, this sortabiography is a laugh aloud insider account into the Python crew at their best and worst, and one man’s incredible journey into the world consciousness. 




by Amanda Robson
Avon Books

Miranda and Zara Cunningham are twins, different in both looks and personality. Zara is a flighty, outgoing and artistic soul with a history of self-harm. Miranda, more stable and grounded, worries for her sister. She offers Zara support and a home to get over her last bout of cutting, but her plans for a secure life come off the rails when Zara meets Sebastian Templeton.

From the get-go Zara seems obsessed by Sebastian. When Miranda meets him for the first time she feels she can’t trust the guy. Sebastian has swarthy good looks, but something behind his cavalier over-friendly attitude toward her strikes Miranda as all wrong. Matters don’t improve when he gets a position in the tax department at the firm where Miranda works as an accountant and begins to affect her good standing with her employer. As the relationship between Zara and Sebastian deepens the warning bells in Miranda’s mind sound all the louder. What is it in Sebastian’s past that drives his present behavior? Why is he doing all he can to drive a wedge between the twins? An act of sexual assault and a terrible betrayal leaves one twin dead and the other fighting for her freedom. The survivor has to put her life on the line before she can win justice for them both.

Robson put a lot of heart, soul and hard-won experience into Guilt to create a harrowing page-turning read from start to finish. Miranda, Zara and Sebastian pop off the page as real characters with believable drives and reasons all their own.