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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 in 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, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Thursday, August 30

Presidential Politics Redux


I wrote the following last January, but in light of where we are now, GOP Convention ending and Democratic Convention about to begin,I think it bears repeating.

Couple of stats I find interesting. MSNBC reports that thus far $160 million has been spent on negative campaign ads, and $17 million on positive ads [and this number waaaay higher now than then]. Hmmm, seems a little disproportionate to me. And this regarding the numbers who question Barack Obama’s citizenship (You remember the Trumpster’s claim?): 17% of the American people, 23% of registered Republicans. I wouldn’t have thought we had that many truly stupid people living here.

And as long as I’m being politically offensive, I might as well repeat what I said a few months ago. If Obama loses this year and is a one-term president, then whichever GOP nominee wins [and I can now say Mitt Romney is the one], he too will be a one-termer because he too won’t have fixed our nation’s ills. And guess what will happen in 2016: Hillary Clinton will become the first female president in U.S. history. There, write it down.


Wednesday, August 29

Sucker Traps


You can’t get something for nothing unless you bought a lottery ticket and defied the billion to one odds to win $347 million. It’s taken me a lifetime of lessons before I learned that nothing is free. For example, at least three times I’ve been suckered by an e-mail that tells me I’ve won a 50-inch tv set or a laptop computer or a $500 meal voucher at Red Lobster or Olive Garden. I’d go to the website, ever the na├»ve optimist, and all I had to do was answer a few questions and then the prize would be mine. Actually, the questions were a poll of my preferences, followed by the offer to buy something or subscribe to one or more magazines. I’d politely decline all the offers and a message would coax me onward with just a few more questions before I could claim my prize. Each time I’d decline and click the “continue” button, only to discover that there was another page of questions and requests to buy. After going through this process five or six times, I’d realize I’d been scammed. I was never going to get what they were offering. But I fell for it three times. Another example. We got a flier from Arrowhead Honda in the mail, with three scratch-off boxes. If any of the boxes matched the magic number, we were winners. Naturally, one of the boxes matched up with the winning numbers. The prizes were a new car, $5,000, a 55” Sony 3-D tv, a Sony Vaio touch screen pc, a 64 gigabyte iPad, or a $500 Target gift card. Hey! Okay, we won at least $500! Right? Wrong. In looking more carefully at the prize description, I noticed that the Target gift card was “up to $500.” It’s the “up to” that gets you. Guess what, every one of the fliers would have the wining number, and when some poor sucker like me, who didn’t read the fine print, went to Arrowhead Hondo for his prize, he’d find that after a typical hard-sell from one of the salesmen, he’d won a $10 Target gift card. See, even though you got ten bucks, you had to pay for it with your precious time listening to the hard sell. You can’t get something for nothing. Lesson learned. Pass it on.

Monday, August 27

Obesity Again


Obesity again. I had breakfast this morning and ordered two eggs, home fries, sausage patty, and one pancake. It was enough for two of me. Yet, good little pig that I am, I managed to eat most of it. What I really needed was one egg, half a helping of potatoes, half a sausage patty, and a very small pancake. But is that on the menu? No. The same thing holds true of nearly every restaurant in this country. We need a menu that gives us the option of half portions of everything. We go out to Black Angus or Outback or Red Lobster and get a huge salad, buttered dinner rolls, and a chicken pasta something or a steak and baked potato, and by the time we get to the end of it, we’re stuffed . . . just like the many obese pigs we see around us. The U.S. is now 25% obese with the Southern states weighing in at 30% to 35% obese. Fat folks just everywhere, waddling along with the help of walkers or riding in a store-supplied motor cart, fat butts just barely fitting in the seat. And they’re usually followed by fat balls of children waddling along behind. I realize that many restaurants have what’s called a senior menu, with slightly smaller portions, but we need all restaurants to offer half-size portions, maybe even quarter-size portions. We need to lose some national weight. We need to get that percentage of obeasties (no, that's not a misspelling) down to 10% or lower.

Friday, August 24

Mitt Romney


Okay, Mitt, so no one’s ever asked to see your birth certificate. But what about your tax returns? It seems to me that when I pay a far greater portion of my annual income than you do, I deserve to see if it’s really 13% or something far smaller. The man is worth a quarter of a billion dollars, and he speaks of his 13% with disdainful pride. Come on, Mitt, show me the money. I want to see if you’re telling the truth or simply lying out of ignorance. And speaking of ignorance, are you really aligning yourself with people like Joe Arpaio on the birther issue? That takes a degree of ignorance that frightens me. Two other issues that this election raises: the argument for limiting campaign funds spent, especially on the presidential level; and the argument for a popular vote instead of the Electoral College for deciding our next president. Anyone in an undecided state can feel comfort that their vote will actually count, but those of us in states that are already in one camp or the other feel that our vote is useless if we’re not on the state’s side. I want my vote to have some value no matter where I live.

Wednesday, August 22

Old Joke

Here's a long version of a very old joke, but even lengthened it's funny as hell. Thanks, Larry.

One day a man decided to retire...

He booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.

He soon found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.

After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore.

In disbelief, he asks,"Where did you come from? How did you get here?"

She replies, "I rowed over from the other side of the island where I landed when my cruise ship sank."

"Amazing," he notes. "You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you."
"Oh, this thing?" explains the woman."I made the boat out of some raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm tree branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree."

"But, where did you get the tools?"

"Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman. "On the south side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into ductile iron and I used that to make tools and used the tools to make the hardware."

The guy is stunned.

"Let's row over to my place," she says "and I'll give you a tour." So, after a short time of rowing, she soon docks the boat at a small wharf. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat. Before him is a long stone walk leading to a cabin and tree house.

While the woman ties up the row boat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, "It's not much, but I call it home. Please sit down. Would you like a drink?"

"No! No thank you," the man blurts out, still dazed. "I can't take another drop of coconut juice."

"Oh it's not coconut juice," winks the woman. "I have a still. How would you like a Tropical Spritz?"

Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk. After they exchange their individual survival stories, the woman announces, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There's a razor in the bathroom cabinet upstairs."

No longer questioning anything, the man goes upstairs into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet is a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.

"This woman is amazing," he muses. "What's next?" When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but some small flowers on tiny vines, each strategically positioned, she smelled faintly of gardenias. She then beckons for him to sit down next to her.

"Tell me," she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him, "We've both been out here for many months. You must have been lonely. When was the last time you played around? She stares into his eyes.

He can't believe what he's hearing."You mean . . ." he swallows excitedly as tears start to form in his eyes, "you've built a GOLF COURSE?"

Tuesday, August 21

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green was indeed odd. Odd, but satisfying in a “what-to-do-this-afternoon” way. In some ways it was a cousin to Moonrise Kingdom, more fairy tale than realistic look at life. But where Moonlight Kingdom never varied from its unreality, Odd Life mixed the two unsuccessfully. It’s the story of a little boy digging out of a garden to fulfill the dreams of a couple unable to have children of their own. And what a cute little boy he is. C. J. Adams arrives complete with a sharp 10-year-old intelligence, a charm that wins over nearly everyone, and lovely green leaves sprouting from his ankles. And leaves seem to be the predominant image, New England fall colors almost overpowering the viewer. A charming story, a charming boy. And, of course, there’s Jennifer Garner, whom I fell in love with for her kick-ass Alias role. But even my love for her couldn’t make up for the silliness of some of the scenes—the totally unrealistic soccer match, the “never gonna happen” music recital in the home of Jennifer’s sister, the gorgeous but silly leaf cathedral Timothy and Joni create in the forest. The rest is teary and predictable, but that’s okay for a “nothing-else-to-do” afternoon. I’ll remember Moonrise Kingdom far longer than Odd Life.

Saturday, August 18

Frank Sinatra

Last night we watched an old Sinatra concert on PBS, Concert for the Americas in Guatemala in 1982 with fourth wife Barbara in attendance (first Nancy, then Ava Gardner, then Mia Farrow). It was wonderful although shortened from the original so the PBS hucksters could get in their annoying plugs to get us to donate to the network or buy overpriced cd’s and dvd’s. I’m a huge Sinatra fan, almost compulsively so. For example, I own 63 albums with over a thousand tracks (not counting the many different versions of one song on various cd’s). I even put together a booklet listing alphabetically all the songs, listing all the albums with dates and orchestras and arrangers. He was 67 when he did this concert in Guatemala, just past his vocal prime but still very very good. His voice changed over the years. When he was with Dorsey and a bobbysoxer sensation in the Forties, his voice was reedy, good but not as good as it would become. There were a bunch of silly musical films until he dropped out of sight for a while. Then along came From Here to Eternity in 1953 when he played Pvt. Angelo Maggio, a role for which he won the Oscar for best supporting actor. Lots of films followed, most notably The Man with the Golden Arm, The Manchurian Candidate, and Guys and Dolls. I remember him most vividly when I was in New York in 1955 and went to see him star opposite Doris Day in Young at Heart. There he was, this skinny, hollow-cheeked singer, making me a believer with “One More for the Road.” As with a bunch of movies, I saw Young at Heart at least three times, watched him sing for the road three times, watched him try to kill himself in a car wreck three times. Compulsive, you say? I guess.

Sinatra’s career as actor and singer took off again, only this time with a no longer reedy-thin voice. The booze and cigarettes and advancing years deepened it, enriched it. He made a string of successful albums with Capitol Records before going on his own in 1961 with Reprise Records. He was probably best from about 1954 to 1975. After that the cigarettes did their thing and his voice rattled a bit. But the style and the timing were still there. No other singer I can think of has such impeccable timing. He might take a phrase and draw it out and then catch up with the orchestra. The band for other singers who try this stalling device, either deliberately or not deliberately, have to slow down to wait for the singer. Not with Sinatra. He always knows where the band is. He knows every orchestral nuance of every arrangement. Barbra might be the only other one who can do what he does. Maybe that’s why these two are my favorite singers of all time.

Friday, August 17

One-Room Schoolhouses

This is from the last issue of the Mobridge Tribune in a section about one-room schoolhouses of the past. A smattering of questions from an eighth-grade final exam given to students in Kansas in 1895: 1. Give rules for the principal marks of punctuation. 2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 ft long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold? 3. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. of coal at $6 per ton. 4. Name important events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865. 5. What are the following and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals. 6. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers. 7. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Eighth-graders, 1895. Granted, students today have much more to learn than those back in 1895, but I wonder what these test questions say about expectations back then compared to expectations today. Interesting, yes?

Some other interesting facts about these little prairie schools in the Midwest.
In Memoirs of South Dakota Retired Teachers, Floyd Cocking recalled his first year at Pringle School in Custer County, South Dakota: "It seems we were to teach about six or eight subjects to each grade level. . . . That would make twenty-five or thirty classes a day during a period from eight till three. Could you believe our shortest class was only five minutes? That was spelling. And our longest was twenty minutes. That was because I believe in a good math background. Some other doubling up had to be done so I put the fifth and sixth grades together in the same class for history the first semester and covered the fifth grade work. The second semester we did the sixth grade work."

How in the world did these teachers manage to get everything done? How did they manage to make out as many lessons plans as they'd need every day for eight different grade levels all in the same room? I can't begin to imagine how difficult it must have been.

Wednesday, August 15

Hope Springs

I thought Hope Springs would be a romantic comedy, especially with Steve Carell in the cast. It was a dramedy with occasional chuckles but no laughs, nor were any laughs intended. It was a movie about a marriage on the brink of disaster, a quiet disaster, yes, but even though the fall wouldn’t be more than ten feet, it would result in death for both occupants. The marriage gets saved by Carell, a well-known sex therapist in Great Hope Springs, Maine, a charming village on the Atlantic coast. Meryl Streep, who looks like she put on about twenty pounds for the role, is the unhappy wife, and she’s excellent with her confused smiles and eye flickers. Tommy Lee Jones may have been miscast as the uncaring, unfeeling husband. His bloodhound ugliness seemed too much for him to be married to the still lovely Streep. I could more easily see Liam Neeson or Bruce Willis, or even Steeep’s old co-star in It’s Complicated, Alec Baldwin. But Baldwin would have been too recently paired with Streep for the audience to accept him. I found some of the sex therapy exercises uncomfortable for me as well as Streep and Jones. Thus, the few chuckles. But compared to too many modern films with explicit sex scenes, both comedic as well as dramatic, this one was acceptable. The rift between the couple, after thirty-one years of marriage, may have been too wide to be believed. They no longer touched, kissed, or slept together. Each morning she would dutifully get up ahead of her husband and cook exactly one egg and one slice of bacon before he got up to go to work. No kiss, hardly a goodbye. He returned each evening to a silent dinner before retiring to the den to watch golf instruction. Then they would go to bed, each to a separate room, each with door closed. No kiss, no goodnight. She finally took it in her hands (the plan, not his phallus) and booked a trip to Maine for both of them to see Carell. The rest is history.

Monday, August 13

Olympics Close

The London Olympics are over and we’re having withdrawal symptoms. Next stop Rio. I hope I make it another four years. Looking back on these games, despite my reservations about the opening ceremonies (reservations apparently not shared by most of the other viewers), these games were the best I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a bunch. London and all you people of the UK should be very proud of what a show you put on. The security forces we were all so afraid might be needed were totally inconspicuous. London was beautiful. All the venues for the various events were beautiful. The weather was untypically beautiful. All the participants were beautiful—friendly, well-spoken, gracious in defeat as well as victory, open-minded across divisive national boundaries. My only wish is that the media would stop reporting the medal count by nation. No nation needs to rub it in to the other, less medaling nations. Maybe in four years they’ll stop doing it for the Rio Games.

Sunday, August 12

Jared Loughner et al

Steve Benson, now you’ve done it. Now you’ll have every Arizona gun nut taking a long hard look at you. And they’ll all be totin' guns. Their argument goes like this: If everyone in that crowd listening to Gabby Giffords had been carrying, Jared Loughner would have been toast after his first shot. Of course, there may have been fifteen or twenty dead from collateral damage, but that’s the price we have to pay to put an end to the M-15 crazies.

Loughner’s guilty plea comes after twenty months of legal maneuvering and courtroom antics. He’ll serve life with no probation. Free room and board, clothing, medical treatment, television, movies, books—all the amenities of lazy living. Granted, he won’t have his freedom, but life for him will be mainly carefree. And the cost to the public for keeping him? Depending on the state, the annual cost varies from around $50,000 (California) to $13,000 (Louisiana) for an average around $30,000. Arizona averages $25,000. Assuming Loughner will live into his eighties, that’s around sixty years at $25,000 a year, a total of about a million and a half bucks for a man described at his early booking as "smirking and creepy, with hollow eyes ablaze." In most cases, I’m not a proponent of the death penalty. I know the threat of execution doesn’t deter people from committing murder. But some murders are more heinous than others. And Jared Loughner in Tucson and James Holmes in Aurora and Wade Michael Page in Wisconsin and Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech and all the others who commit such senseless acts all fit the heinous label. I say, just kill them. I don’t think that would be cruel and unusual punishment. Storing them in tiny, cold, windowless cells would be cruel. Daily waterboarding would be cruel and spiteful. Stretching them daily on a rack would be cruel and barbaric. Bamboo spikes under the nails would be cruel and silly. But a lethal injection would be just and satisfying. One eye for the numerous eyes each took. That would be Biblically just.

Friday, August 10

Heat Wave, Uff Da, & Olympics

Uff da! It’s really hot here in the Valley. Not that it isn’t always hot in the Valley in August, but this is hot even for Arizona. Soon, though, it will be September and the days will cool off a bit. The rest of the country is still baking, still without rain and still with temps way above average. I heard a weatherperson state that this year the U.S. averaged 3.3 degrees higher than normal. Now that’s a huge difference between 2012 and the average. No wonder the ice is melting north and south. I hope this doesn’t foreshadow the beginning of the end. Uff da! Not a pleasant thought. Which leads me to that curious Norwegian expression that was part of my upbringing in South Dakota. Anyone from North or South Dakota, Minnesota or Wisconsin knows what uff da means. Sort of a nice Norse way of saying “Oh shit!” These examples are from a website about this expression: Uff da is . . . discovering that your male dog is pregnant, forgetting your mother-in-law's first name, dropping your only egg on the floor, or eating hot soup when you've got a runny nose. Uff da!

The Olympics is winding down and I must confess I’m looking forward to the closing ceremonies. I’ve been watching the synchronized swimming, both pairs and teams, and the team rhythmic gymnastics, and couldn’t help but wonder what an alien observer would say about these curious activities. Probably something like this: “What in the world are these humans doing? Are these tributes to their gods, the twirling ribbons, the tossed pink balls?” And if we were to make it to an inhabited planet and observe the aliens, would they be doing equally strange things? Actually, I guess they’d be the inhabitants and we’d be the aliens.

Monday, August 6

Olympic Observations

After the women's gymnastics were over, Bob Costas interviewed Bela Kurolyi about what Kurolyi thought of the Fab Five compared to the Magnificent Seven from the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He spoke so fast and in that heavy Romanian accent that I could barely understand what he said. The man has been in this country for over thirty years and yet he speaks English like a recent arrival. That's unforgivable. I'd be willing to bet that with total linguistic immersion I could speak Romanian almost like a native. So why can't he? Because he's either lazy or he's inconsiderate.

I'm watching water polo and wondering why all the men have to wear those tiny suits that dispaly half their butts. And why do the women have to wear those suits that look like they're giving them water wedgies? 'Tis a mystery.

South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius, nicknamed "Blade Runner," made it through his first prelimary race in the 400 meters but placed last in the semi-finals. How odd to see him racing along on those metal feet. How odd that some of his competitors thought they gave him an unfair advantage over biological legs. How much he's to be commended for his efforts.

Saturday, August 4

Stand on Zanzibar

Last week's Time had an article on Mormon polygamy, featuring a man who looked like he was in his early forties, with three comely wives a bit younger than he. The article was questioning the practice of having more than one wife at a time. I have no problem with a man or woman having more than one wife or husband. I have no problem with same-sex marriages. The man's wives all said they were happy with the arrangement. Then, the article went on to say, 18 of his 23 children were living with him. That raises two questions: Why were five of his children living apart from him and what could possess anyone to breed just for the sake of multiplying? How selfish. How thoughtless. The world now has over seven billion people, and we're still marching toward John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, where Brunner envisioned a world with too many inhabitants to find a place to stand on the island of Zanzibar. Shoulder to shoulder, squeezed together and yet some would still be standing in the water offshore. If we continue to breed like rabbits, or like the man and his three wives, the current novel might be called Stand on Africa. There may have been a time in the distant past when it was necessary to "go forth and multiply," just to preserve humanity. That need is long past, yet we still have people who selfishly procreate just because it feels so good, or because their religion tells them to do it. I say, Bah!

Thursday, August 2

London Olympics

National pride in winning individual medals in the Olympics is good. Thumping chests regarding total medals won is not. The rest of the world doesn’t want to see daily how China and the U.S. are winning more medals than anyone else. I can’t help but think that such news creates resentment instead of admiration. Why not lay off the national totals and concentrate on individual accomplishments instead. That’s what the games are all about.

Higher, faster, stronger . . . and taller. Have you noticed how tall so many of the Olympic participants are? With the possible exception of the gymnasts, everyone else seems to be gargantuan. How big will the contestants be in the 2052 Games? Or, in the 2100 Games? I can’t begin to imagine.

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