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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Thursday, December 31

New Year's Eve


The mouse might have represented me in years past, but not anymore. We haven't seen the ball drop anywhere but in New York for several decades. Ten o'clock, ball drops, we say a quiet "Happy New Year" to each other, and then we go to bed. The next day we begin a new year, in this case, a new decade as well as year.

And what will I be doing in this coming year? Probably seeing even more doctors. I'm scheduled to see someone at the Boswell Wound Care Center in ten days. I have a hole in my left calf that just doesn't want to heal. My left leg, my "sinister" leg, is still so ugly I'd like to have them cut it off below the knee and fit me for a stainless steel prosthetic. That would take care of the ugliness. My dermatologist has prescribed various topical creams to apply, the latest 60 gram tube costing $77. Not quite as expensive as the Efudex I used about six months ago, but still pretty pricey. That leads me to the topic of pharmaceutical companies, but I'd better not go into my usual tirade about that. Where was I? Oh, yes, my medical plans for 2010. In two weeks I see my primary physician, who will probably refer me to an orthopedist about my shoulders. I seem to have acquired an inflammation in the tendons attaching to my shoulders that won't let me raise my arms more than shoulder high without screaming. So, to avoid startled looks from folks in the grocery store, I try not to raise them above my shoulders. I've become just a marvel of medical conditions. I'm hoping, therefore, that this new year, on whose doorstep we now find ourselves, will be one of medical solutions for me. That's not too much to ask.

And may any readers I may have find the new year equally profitable and healthy.

Tuesday, December 29

Dusty and Squeakie


Okay, here we go again, with the two cats that dominate our lives, Dusty and Squeakie, the little lovebirds in their favorite chair. And whenever I catch them snuggling I always have to tiptoe to get my camera and get a shot of them. I think I now have about a dozen that are essentially the same. But one can never have enough pics of their kids.

Quick sports commentary: the Valley of the Sun now has three pro sports contenders, the hockey Coyotes, the football Cardinals, and the basketball Suns. I joyously watched the Suns last night put it to the hated Lakers. Oh, the joy, oh the fun. But that was only one game of the 82 they play to get to the playoffs. And the Celtics are up next this coming Wednesday. Go, Suns. And the Cardinals are playing Green Bay next Sunday in what will probably be a preview of their first playoff game against these same Packers. Go, Cardinals. And the Coyotes are finally showing that they can win games. But I could care less about hockey, a game I just don't understand and thus, don't appreciate. Anyway, go, Coyotes.

Only a few days before we enter another year, another decade. Let's hope both are better than the last year, the last decade.

Monday, December 28

Starlings




Whenever we sit out on our back patio at dusk, we see a starling perched on the tv antenna next door, sometimes alone, often with one or two lady friends sitting politely behind him. He sits facing the east, cooing and gurgling and chirping and whistling as only starlings can do. He isn’t as musical as a mockingbird, but his song is as varied. As soon as daylight dies, he flies away, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by one or more of his adoring company.

Such peculiar little birds. Some consider them ugly and a nuisance, but we know better. Years ago, when we lived in Lakewood, New York, we had a pair that lived in an old squirrel hole in the roofline of our garage. They returned every spring from wherever starlings went for the winter months, every spring doing battle with whatever squirrel had had the audacity of temporarily taking over the hole, every spring winning the battle, then busy cleaning out the old stuff in their hole and bringing in new nesting material. Then the female would sit in one of our pine trees near the garage and sing her heart out through most of the daylight hours, cooing and clucking and gurgling and whistling until it was time to lay her eggs and then tend them. Four or five baby starlings would be born and both parents would spend the day foraging for food to bring back to the four or five hungry beaks sticking out of the hole. One spring, three starlings returned. We assumed the third one must have been a retarded son who couldn’t leave mom and dad. What familial devotion. What nice little birds.

Their flying skill is another matter. In areas where there are large populations of starlings, the birds engage in fascinating aerial maneuvers, flying in clouds that reel and flow like smoke against the early evening sky. One can go to You Tube and watch several segments that show this flight, but the best one is “Starlings on Otmoor.” Go there for five minutes that will knock your socks off. Do a search for Starlings on Otmoor, then click on the You Tube version.

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The shortest short story possible--one with romance and suspense, a hero and a villain, even a climax and a dénouement--is only four words long: "I do," she said.

Saturday, December 26

Cow Pie Days


You know, some days you should just stay in bed. Some days you land in poop and there's no way out of it. It seems like most of my golf rounds this past year have been pretty poopy. Maybe I should just hang the clubs up and simply stay in bed. Nah, I just know it's going to get better.

We had a nice Christmas dinner with the kids, lots of conversation, lots of food, and now I'm glad it's over. Not that I don't enjoy seeing my kids. I do. But the big dinner and the preparation and the cleanup I could skip. We had Mike, Staci, and William, then Jeri and Chris and his new girlfriend Paige, sister-in-law Mac, and Rosalie and me. Nine of us for ham, cheesy broccoli macaroni, Jeri's broccoli salad, Mike's sweet potatoes, Rosalie's Jello salad, Basha's rolls. And CostCo's apple/cherry pie (which wasn't very good, no matter how much Koolwhip you dumped on it). But between the ever increasing volume level of the conversation and the beeping of William’s new electronic game, my head started pounding along with the beeps. They all left around 8:00 and the blessed silence thereafter was balm to my brain. We didn't even try to straighten the house before climbing into bed at 8:30. Oh, how good the bed felt. We keep going to bed earlier and earlier. One of these early evenings we'll tumble into bed and just sleep till 8:30 the next evening. And we'll already be there. No need even to make the bed.

We're now in that bridge time between Christmas and New Year's Day, sort of waiting for the new year, hoping that it will be a better year than the last. Wouldn't take much for that to be true. And, of course, there's the annual vow to lose that ugly extra twenty pounds. I just know this will be the year, good old 2010. It has such a neat symmetrical sound, the year just has to be neat and symmetrical. Renewed health, twenty lost pounds to a neat and symmetrical 200, several neat and symmetrical rounds of golf, you know, like 72 instead of the really ugly and crooked ones like 85 and 87. Dream on, Travis, dream on.




Wednesday, December 23

Christmas Dogs


My Christmas dogs and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Our weather today was clear with a breeze of 5 to 10 mph, but the temps were only in the forties when I teed off. Back in New York I used to think those conditions were just fine and dandy. Not anymore. But then, those folks back in the East would find it delightful. So, move, I tell them. On the other hand, the Valley is getting crowded, so on second thought, don't move to Arizona. Go to Florida.

A couple of zingers for the holidays: 1. Don't join dangerous cults: practice safe sects. 2. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

Tuesday, December 22

Christmas Carols and Invictus

I've been away for nearly a week, and I still have almost nothing to say. I've run headfirst into that wall again--the old writer's block. The days come and go and nothing seems to happen, or nothing occurs to me to write about. There's always Christmas, but that's been overdone, and I'd just be saying the same old thing. You know, "can't wait to get it over with; can't stand the social obligations; can't wait to stop hearing really dumb Christmas songs everywhere you go.” The old uglies, like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth," "Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and now a new ugly, "Dominique, the Christmas Donkey." Can't wait for this month to be over.

One thing does come to mind to write about, a quick movie review. We saw Invictus with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon yesterday. We were both hoping it would be a good one--inspirational, uplifting, well-acted. It wasn't. There has been some talk about Morgan Freeman giving an Oscar-worthy performance as Nelson Mandela. Ain't gonna happen. He looked amazingly like Mandela, he spoke in a halting Mandela way, he smiled and he smiled, supposedly as Mandela did to win over the white population of South Africa. But as for acting, certainly not worth an Oscar bid. Then there was a beefed-up Matt Damon playing the captain of the S.A. rugby team. A bunch of grunts and long introspective looks to show that he was thinking about the thirty years Mandela had spent in prison. And lots of shots of him leading his teammates on training runs. And finally, the series of rugby matches leading to the title game in the World Cup. It might have been better if American audiences knew more about rugby. Soccer was described as a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen, and rugby as a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. So we had any number of scrums with all the lardass players shoving each other around, and way more than we needed to see of Matt with his cheek pressed against the ass of one of his competitors as he joined in the shoving. It was worthy of laughter instead of tears. I think maybe Clint Eastwood is past his prime as a director, allowing such heavy-handed scenes where blacks and whites joined together in their joy over the World Cup victory, with the ugliness of apartheid almost instantaneously laid to rest. I can't imagine it happened as quickly as Clint would have us believe. We wanted the movie to be better, but it wasn't worth even the three stars our local reviewer gave it. How about two stars?

Oh, hell, a grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart. And, a hole has been found in a nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Happy Christmas Eve Eve Eve.

Tuesday, December 15

Cardinals and Ugly Tats

Last night I suffered through what can only be described as a double debacle--the Cardinals looking like they'd never seen a football. Okay, so they will still probably win at least two of their last three games. But this one against the 49ers was a national embarrassment, and the color commentators will once again get to say what they always seem to say, that the Cardinals are a laugh and won't win a single playoff game. I can only say . . . again, we'll see.

Last week I watched the Suns against the Nuggets. It was a game they should have won but didn't. Bad calls down the stretch. And in all his glory, Nuggets reserve center Kris Anderson, sporting a spike-top haircut and perhaps the ugliest set of tats in all the NBA (and there are a bunch of really ugly tats to be seen). They looked like they covered almost his entire body, in blues and reds and greens. If he was looking to win the ugliest player award, he won. Then there's Carmello Anthony. He had a set of open red lips just below his right ear. What's with that? And why would any sane individual want such a thing permanently affixed to his body? I don't know. I think all the NBA tats say something really negative about those who choose to have them. Just another form of foolish rebellion against the conventiions of old farts like me.

Saturday, December 12

The Sleaze Trough

I watched the NBC show last night that discussed and disected what's happened to Tiger Woods, and was so angered that I wrote the following letter to Entertainment Weekly:

"NBC's Prime Time (Dec. 11) on Tiger's dilemma managed to out-sleaze even The National Enquirer--innuendo, unsupported "evidence" cited by several of the bimbos interviewed, and suppositions about what may or may not have happened, what Tiger may or may not do about what happened. The National Enquirer is known for its unsupported exposes, but NBC didn't need to join it in the sleaze trough. Shame on you, NBC."

I would absolutely hate to see Tiger take more than three months off to put his life and house in order. I want him in this year's Masters, I want him to pursue his golf dream, I want to be able to see it all. All right, so he disappointed me and the rest of the world by his "transgressions," his "infidelity." The world has not yet heard just how extensively he transgressed. I don't care. I and the world need him doing what he does best. If I can no longer admire him as a human being, I can still admire him as possibly the best, most skilled athlete in the world. Please, Tiger, don't stay away too long.

Friday, December 11

Christmas Greetings

This is an old Christmas poem I wrote at least fifteen years ago, in that time when we still put up a live tree, when we still fought the lights and the dried out needles afterward, when we put off sending out cards until it was past the holidays. But it's cute, so here it is again, even though this time it's two weeks ahead of time.


I'd planned on going to a movie today, but the rats had opened all the good ones in exclusive showings way across the Valley. It seems that all the movies reviewed as four or five stars go there first. For example, Up in the Air received raves for Clooney and the movie. Where is it playing? Even farther away than the other exclusive Harkins, this one another twenty minutes down the road. The only thing new nearby was Invictus with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, but that got only so-so reviews. Thus, I decided to spend the day reading and fiddling around on the computer, something I seem to spend hours and hours doing. What the hell, it beats wandering the streets.

Oh, yes, and a quick medical note: the six day packet of prednisolone worked like magic; after only four days I can raise both arms without screaming or even moaning a little. I may even take up golf again.

Thursday, December 10

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Not So Bright

Okay, time to address the Tiger incident. Up to now, all that’s come out has been National Enquirer-like innuendo, and most of it pretty vicious stuff. We can all agree that he and Elin had a marital fight about something, probably sexual “transgressions” (Tiger’s word). And yes, his public image up to now has been pristine, unnaturally so (except for his occasional spitting and mouthing profanities when he’s miked on the course), his private image hidden behind a billion dollar cloak of invisibility. But the bimbos who are appearing, proclaiming their tawdry relationships with Tiger, are probably just looking for the notoriety and a possible payoff. Or maybe they’re all telling the truth or partial truths, though I doubt it. Those are really big bucks in his treasure trove and the sharks are circling.

Then there are the many who, from the very start of Tiger’s career, have wanted him to fail, and if not fail, at least to fall on his face a few times, either on the golf course or in the public eye. And who are these many? Mostly the rednecks who resent his skin color. Yup, there are still too many of those around, the same ones who really really want Obama to screw up, just to prove that a black man or woman can’t possibly run this country as well as a white man can.

I’m going to wait it out and see what truth finally appears, as though it’s any of our business in the first place. But that’s the price famous people must pay, giving up all or part of their privacy. I’m hoping that it will only tarnish his reputation as a person I’ve long admired, not destroy it. I want him to continue his journey to the pinnacle of golf, the records that will stand for a very long time if he doesn’t let this take him down. I want to see him there, as the golfer I’ve put on a pedestal, even if he’s no longer the person I so admired.

Wednesday, December 9

Noise and DeNiro



            

I pulled this photo out of a desk calendar for next year and thought it was so clever a simile I had to show it off. I wonder why no one would claim to have said it first. Or maybe it's such a common thought it's universal. The "less noise" part is what strikes me the most. Today, we have entirely too many people making too much noise with their cell phones, babbling at people on the other end who don't want to listen to the drivel; the non-listener on the other end just wants his turn to turn on the drivel. I guess a case could be made that what I'm doing right now is adding to the drivel. Call it blog noise.

We went to see Everybody's Fine, with Robert DeNiro. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a light comedy. It wasn't. In fact the first 80 minutes were really a downer, centering on an aging DeNiro trying to connect with his children, who lie to him in order not to disappoint him. It was a role intended to pay homage to DeNiro the actor, with a lot of closeups to show emotional turmoil. And he was good, don't get me wrong, but the movie altogether was no better than the three stars our reviewer gave it. Next up will be The Road.

Monday, December 7

The Rusty Years

Monday morning and finally, finally, we're getting some rain. And not just one of those violent thunderstorms we get off and on. This one is a western New York gray dripper, a soaker, and the first such rain in well over a year. Now, if we only had a fireplace.

I finally said I'd had enough with the shoulder pain and went to the Same Day Care center to see what they could tell me about them. I kept thinking they'd get better if I didn't golf, but it's been two weeks since I swung a club and they're no better than when I quit. And I'm sick of the pain and awkwardness. I got in to see a doctor around 8:30, after a half hour wait. He asked me the usual doctor questions and then sent me to radiology for x-rays. Another forty minute wait and then I was taken in for three views of each shoulder. Back to Same Day for another twenty minute wait while the results were forwarded from radiology to Same Day. He told me they didn't show anything serious, that is, no bad-case arthritis. He said my pain could be a combination of things--arthritis, muscle inflammation, rotator cuff minor tearing. I said, but how could it be rotator cuff if both of the shoulders began aching at the same time and I'd done nothing to injure my rotator cuffs. He didn't know. So he gave me a prescription for a six-day round of prednisolone pills. You know, six the first day, then five, four, three, two, and one. Just what I need, to gain about twenty pounds in a week. The list of possible side effects other than weight gain was interesting: stomach upset, headache, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and menstrual period changes. I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about that last one. The only thing missing was constipation. Oh, yes, and he also said occasional applications of ice might help.

I seem to be a walking list of odd afflictions, for which I take an ever-increasing number of pills in the morning and at night. The afflictions: high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, low thyroid production, gout, an abdominal aortic aneurysm (which must be checked every six months), a low-level leukemia called myelodisplasia (which requires that my blood be checked every six months), and finally, my six-year battle with the squamous lesions that attack both my lower legs. That's a disgusting list, isn't it? These years go way beyond just rusty, but I can't think of any description worse than rust.

The Cardinals looked really good in their win over the Vikings last night, and they have probably the softest schedule for the remainder of the season of anybody in the league: the 49ers, the Lions, the Rams, and the Packers. They actually have a good chance of winning out and getting to 12-4. Whoa! Is that a scary thought.

And another delightful play on words: Times flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Thursday, December 3

Chad and Dance

I watch tv commercials with one eye, but I usually pay attention to the good ones, if only for their cleverness, usually not for the product. For example, Target has had one of the best sets of commercials on the tube, never repeating an ad to a vomitous degree, always clever, always using red to signal what commercial you were watching. The Geico commercials are also some of the best, although I don’t know why they persist with the Cave Man album. I would think the Gecko would be a much better bet. And speaking of vomitous degree, my one eye has noticed a wonderful lack of Alltel commercials with that really irritating Chad and his four equally irritating nerdish pals. I wonder why. Did Alltel go under? Or did the five of them get better acting jobs? In either case, goodbye and good riddance.

Last night we watched the final ten on So You Think You Can Dance find out which of them would be voted out. The five ladies were all very good and neither Rosalie nor I could figure out which would get the axe. It came down to Noelle and Kathryn, both of whom were praised highly by the judges, and Kathryn was the one to go. With the men it was easier. Both of us were hoping that pouty-boy Nathan would be out and he was. Two other comments about this results show: Cat Deeley came out in a really ugly outfit, sort of a short short combination beige and black with puffy black sleeves. Looked as awful as Cat can look (and she still looks pretty good in almost any outfit); the first guest act was a dance troupe called The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, and they were extraordinary, doing two minutes of synchronized street-dance moves, using about thirty dancers. Whoa, were they ever good. But as good as they were, the second act, Snoop Dog with his dancing ensemble, were as bad. How in the world can someone like Snoop Dog win over enough devoted followers to make it in the music world? I don’t have a clue.

Wednesday, December 2

Lampreys

I just read an article in the Arizona Republic about a situation that reminded me of lampreys attaching themselves to sharks, sucking the shark's blood. Lovely creatures, right? The article describes lamprey-like lawyers and administrators that not only sucked the blood of an old woman, but unlike lampreys in the sea, which don't kill their hosts, don't suck them dry, just suck them a little bit, these lawyers and administrators got it all. Well, here's the article, written by Laurie Roberts. See what you think.

When Marie Long wanted to go out to eat, her caregiver called a fellow employee to get directions to a restaurant.

That phone call cost Marie $19.50.

When a caregiver needed directions to Marie's doctor's office, that call also cost Marie: $8.50.

Four years ago, Marie Long was worth more than a million dollars, but that money is gone now, most of it gobbled up by lawyers and a guardian that decided what she needed and then hired itself to provide it.

A hearing into the fees that helped put this 88-year-old widow into the poorhouse wrapped up on Tuesday. Now, it's up to Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Lindsay Ellis to decide whether the charges were fair.

I wrote about Marie's plight in October. How just four years ago she had $1.3 million in assets, held in trust for her final years. How her court-appointed atorney, Jon Kitchel, practically begged Ellis to do something a year ago when he discovered that hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and guardian's fees wee going out the door. How Ellis didn't do a thing and how the drain actually accelerated after that as the various parties--the trustee, the guardian and their attorneys--used what was left of Marie's money to defend their use of Marie's money.

In all, court records indicate that Brenda Church, the lawyer for the trustee who oversaw Marie's finances, had collected nearly $345,000 of Marie's money since 2005.

Meanwhile, Sun Valley Group has collected nearly $178,000 for acting as her guardian and directing her non-medical care, and another $235,000 for supplying that care over a 20-month period while she was still in her own home. Sun Valley's attorneys got another $57,000.

On Tuesday, Heather Frenette, who with her husband, Peter, owns Sun Valley, testified that their bills are legitimate. Things like charging Marie $75 an hour for services provided by an employee who now is Sun Valley's receptionist.

Things like charging Marie $13 when Sun Valley's care manager had to call to remind Sun Valley caregivers of a doctor's appointment. And charging Marie $62 to discuss among themselves a grease fire caused by one of their own employees.

Things like Charging Marie $88--plus $18.69 for mileage--to pick up hearing-aid batteries, and $19 to reply to Marie's attorney about her request for new shoes.

Things like charging Marie $17 when a caregiver didn't show up, requiring a call to the care manager. And $25.50, in part to discuss a caregiver who locked herself out of Marie's house, and $32.50 to go to the bank to get Marie cash.

Things like charging Marie $19.50 to look up directions to restaurants. Frenette testified Tuesday that Marie and the caregiver were already in the car and headed to a different restaurant when Marie changed her mind about where she wanted to eat, necessitating the call for directions--and the $19.50 charge.

"Everything we do for the benefit of the client is charged to the client," Frenette said.

Plenty of questions remain about this case, chief among them how Sun Valley can serve as the guardian that determines the care needed and then profit by providing that care.

Frenette testified that Sun Valley never sought court approval to do both but that everyone knew that Sun Valley was also supplying caregivers under the name Arizona Care Management.

Ellis ruled Tuesday that it's not a conflict.

Presiding Probate Judge Karen O'Connor didn't return a call to explain how that squares with a Supreme Court rule that bars fiduciaries from "self dealing or the appearance of a conflict of interest." If such services aren't available elsewhere, the rule allows a guardian to provide them but only after getting court approval.

O'Connor's spokeswoman, Jessica Funkhouser, said in an e-mail that O'Connor couldn't comment on a pending case but that the Supreme Court employs auditors to check compliance with the rules governing fiduciaries.

Also up in the air is who can investigate whether there has been a breach of fiduciary duty and thus money should be returned to Marie. Marie's attorney filed such a suit, but Ellis tossed it, ruling he lacks the aurthority to do so. Marie's guardian ad litem, Brian Theut, has the authority to do so but hasn't done so. Instead, he has asked Ellis to instead appoint the county's public fiduciary to look into it.

Meanwhile, Marie's trustee has resigned and Sun Valley has served notice that it wants out. And the widow once worth a million dollars?

Well, she's broke now, and for the rest of her life, her care will be paid for by . . .

You.

End of article. Isn't that a scary situation? Reminds me too much of the way taxpayer money can be misused by bureaus and bureaucrats and their ilk.

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