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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.

Saturday, July 29

Gray Skies, Dark Thoughts

In an earlier blog post, I said that I was running out of topics. So much can still be said about Donald Trump, but others are saying it better than I can. I’d just be repeating myself by calling him a misogynistic idiot. For me, that says it all. I then said that I would use the blog as a journal or diary, writing more for myself than any readers who stumble onto the site.

Now that I’ve resigned myself to 24/7 oxygen, my world has shrunk to the house except for the occasional journey out for dinner, movies, and the all-too-often doctor appointments. It’s as though the in-home concentrator is an ankle bracelet and I’m under house arrest. This physical restriction has brought on a lessening of interest in almost all the things that in the past always piqued my interest. I used to read two or three books a week. Now I can’t get back to reading often enough to keep the characters and plot straight. And I don’t care. I used to listen to the Great American Songbook stored on my computer. Now it’s been almost two months since I last put an MP3 into my Bose. And I don’t care. I used to maintain close ties to friends and relatives by e-mails and phone calls. Now I’d rather sit on razor blades than converse with anyone on the phone. Just too much one-sided tiny talk that goes on and on . . . and on. Besides, I don’t really have much worth talking about. Now that I’m no longer golfing, my golf pals have disappeared. Or maybe it’s me who’s disappeared. Yes, I’ve disappeared into the confines of my oxygenated home. Long distance friends, like classmates and fellow teachers, are becoming fewer and fewer as we all age and succumb to the grim one. I remember my mother, when she was in her nineties, saying that every one of her friends was now gone and she was the last one still standing. I’m the last of the Travises of my generation—all aunts and uncles, all siblings, all cousins now gone. The same is true for Rosalie except for her sister Kaye.

My disinterest leads to dark thoughts. If I no longer care much for all that I once thought were important, then why should I worry about dying? I don’t. I’d rather not rush to the grave but I’m not going to follow Dylan Thomas’s dictum that we should “not go gentle into that good night,” that we should “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I may not go kicking and screaming but I also won’t welcome death with open arms. Let him hug people like Kim Jong-un or Basha al-Assad. I’ll let him know when I’m ready. And who knows? Maybe my interest will find new flames to burn in my soul.

Saturday, July 15

Quotas or Abilities?

Last week on one of the sports networks, probably ESPN, there was a brief discussion about the few black baseball players in the major leagues, down from about 8% last year to about 7% this year. The discussion pondered the ways to grow that number to better reflect the current black population in America, about 25%. That sounds to me like the argument for quotas based on ethnicity in business management, college enrollment and scholarships, police and fire departments, actors in film, television, and on stage. Even the “too white” Oscars are now trying to “even up” the nominations. And now in MLB? I realize that for too long, minorities have suffered in all those areas, have earned less, received fewer promotions, gotten less recognition than whites. It was unfair in the past and we’re scrambling in the present to make it more equitable. But how much longer do we need to follow some artificial quota to rectify past inequities? When can all these areas be based on ability and not racial percentages of our population? If we’re going to address the inequities in sports, we should consider professional basketball and football. The NBA could easily be called the BBA since about 99% of players are black. The NFL could easily be called the BFL since about 75% of the players are black. Does that mean that three out of four black basketball players should be dropped and replaced by whites, or two out of four black football players dropped and replaced by whites? Obviously those blacks in the NBA and NFL are there because their abilities surpass that of most of the white players. So be it. That’s fine. But let’s also get to the point where all of life’s categories are based on ability and not on race.

Saturday, July 8

Night Thoughts

Since I’ve been using oxygen at night (at a setting of 3 liters a minute), my dreams are becoming longer and more realistically vivid than they used to be. I guess that must suggest I’m not sleeping very deeply anymore. My eyes must just be flying around all night long. And I seem to be able to control the directions these dreams take, like a film director instructing the players what to do and say. For example, my golf dreams (which are almost as frequent as classroom dreams) in the past were surrealistic, involving really odd golf courses and situations, maybe with heavy snow covering the course as I play it, or heavy stands of trees that would make a hole impossible to play, or my ball lying between two rocks as I try to figure out how to hit it, or a tee shot that has to go through a room sort of like what you might encounter at the clown’s head on a putt-putt course. These were almost always dreams of anxiety, as were most of the dreams involving classes of recalcitrant students. But now the golf courses are almost normal, the shots normal, and the scores normal. The schools where I’m dream-teaching are no longer places that make me nervous. Sometimes now, I find myself not quite dreaming, not quite awake—that in-between place that happens too often at 3:00 a.m. And here my thoughts can go wandering all over the place. Strange words pop into my head, words the meanings of which I’m uncertain. Or ideas for a story or novel. As with most people who find great ideas in the middle of the night but who never write them down, these ideas often drift away with morning’s light.

Last night I was thinking about sentence structure and the peculiarities of the English language. I came to that strange English construction “let’s” and the sentence “Let’s let him do it.” The word “let” is an oddball. If you don’t believe me, check a good dictionary and see what it says about the many possibilities for this word. A linguistic explanation for the structure of that sentence would go like this: The main verb is in the imperative voice, or command, and the apostrophe in the first word stands for “us.” The second word “let” is equal to “allow” and the rest of the sentence “him do it” is acting as the object of “allow,” the thing we want to allow. The phrase “him do it” is really an infinitive phrase with the signal for the infinitive, “to” having been left out. The sentence then is equivalent to “You (understood) allow us to allow him to do it.” And the pattern would look like this:
The apostrophe to indicate the “us” is on its way to extinction. And when that mark’s loss is accepted, we’ll be left with a most peculiar word whose meaning is nearly indefinable.

Just look at this sequence:
“He lets me do it.” “He allows me to do it.” “He commands me to do it.” “He demands I do it (or that I do it).” “He regrets my doing it, or he regrets me doing it.” These last two sentences mean slightly different things: In the first, the thing he regrets is the “doing” and in the second, the thing he regrets is the entire idea of “me doing it.” Tricky, yes?

Now look at this sequence: “(You, understood) Let me do it.” “Let’s do it.” “Lets do it.” “Lets let him do it.”

Almost all traces of the imperative voice have disappeared. Are you asking permission to let him do it, or are you suggesting the person addressed agree to let him do it? And it also suggests they do it now, not later. As I said, this is all very tricky, and also quite strange for a 3:00 a.m. visitation.


Thursday, July 6

Hotdogs & Baby Driver

In an age when almost a third of the world’s population is considered obese and another third within normal parameters, we must consider that the other third is undernourished, many bordering on starvation. And on the Fourth of July we showed the world what we think of that starving third by sponsoring food eating contests. Joey Chestnut, in the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest in Atlantic City, won his tenth title by consuming 72 hotdogs and buns in ten minutes. What an impressive athletic endeavor, Joey, 72 in ten minutes. That’s enough to gag a maggot as we used to say in my youth. Next year he can strive for a new record of 73 or 74. And the world looks on in astonishment as a long line of contestants eat enough hotdogs in ten minutes to feed three or four hundred starving children for a month.

For most of us old movie fans (I mean old fans, not old movies.), the greatest car chase was in The French Connection when “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) chase some French drug smugglers in and out and around New York underpasses. Or maybe it was Bullitt as Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) pursued the bad guys, both doing those iconic auto high-flights on the San Francisco hills. There have been many cinematic extended car chases in the past, but I think they may all have to move aside to let Baby (Ansel Elgort) do his thing in Baby Driver. The driving was excellent, the car chases exciting, with avoidance tricks that seemed plausible instead of the usual special effects smash-‘em-ups we see too often in the Fast and Furious and Jason Bourne franchises. The driving was set to the music that Baby hears in his IPod inner ear. Baby is working off an obligation to Doc (Kevin Spacey), who caught him trying to steal his Mercedes. Doc won’t turn him in to the police if baby will be the driver in a number of bank heists that Doc orchestrates. Baby becomes Doc’s good luck charm, and he uses him on each of the jobs they do. But then, Baby is also the best getaway driver Doc could find. He works with three others on the first job we see—Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s psychotic partner Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Griff (Jon Bernthal), then later with a replacement for Griff, Bats (Jamie Foxx), who truly is batty. Baby meets and falls in love with Debora (Lily James), a waitress at Baby’s favorite diner. He wants to do this last, this final, job for Doc so that he and Debora can hit the road into the Western sunset. No such luck. Doc wants more. Bats doesn’t trust Baby. And the blood flies and bodies pile up. That piling may have been where director/writer Edgar Wright got off on the un-Wright foot. We didn’t need all that blood to make a convincing love story, just a lot of manic driving and a really great musical score, the music that Baby uses to make his way successfully through a chaotic world.

Tuesday, July 4

Fourth of July 2017

Arizona Weather – It’s settling into a high range from about 108 to 115 and is just now showing signs of the higher humidity that signals the start of the monsoon. We don’t need a weatherperson (Have you noticed how many of these people are now women?) to tell us about rising humidity. Our bathroom door tells us as it makes louder and louder shrieks as it get tighter and tighter in its frame. Something about summer heat and the movement through July has always depressed me: Beginning on June 21, the first day of summer, the days get shorter and shorter. Just like life. We’re on the downside of the year and I’m on the downside of my life. How depressing.

Today is the Fourth of July and we have few celebratory plans. We’ll go out for dinner to Carrabba’s, just as we’ve done every Tuesday for the past year, and we’ll probably watch the Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular even though another second-hand sight of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of incendiary stuff no longer turns us on. And this year, we feel that our nation’s image to the rest of the world has suffered so much from the White House Bumbler that these fireworks are a grim reminder of North Korea’s threats of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at us. I noticed a mention in USA Today that 35 of Trump’s 165 days in office have been spent at one or more of his golf courses. That’s a lot of time spent on golf and a lot of money spent on security while he’s taking these golf breaks. If he continues at this rate for his first year, he will have been on one of his golf properties seventy-seven times. Don’t you have more important things to do, Donald?

More on golf. Danielle Kang won the women’s PGA last weekend. What a gutsy final round she had, and what a refreshing newcomer to the ranks of major winners. I hope she wasn’t a flash in the pan and we see more of her in the future. The Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club is only a week and a half away, another Open without Tiger. How sad that he now admits he has a problem with pain medication. How sad that we’ll never again see him tee it up in a professional golf event. But we can feast on the battle of the Big Six at Royal Birkdale—Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McElroy, Rickie Fowler, and—Yes!—finally, a Sergio Garcia who replaces Bubba in this scintillating sextet.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Let’s hope the second half of this year will show us less Trump golf and more Trump sanity.

Sunday, July 2

Trump Tweets

No matter how many advisers and Republican congressmen and women have told him his tweets are doing grievous harm to his and our nation’s image and are too undignified for the leader of the free world, Donald Trump continues to send out threats and insults for his enemies and all the people of the world to read. Let’s see. Here’s a quick summary of his recent Tweet Tirades: Trump vs state election officials who refuse to send voter information to him; Trump vs CNN, who spreads “fake news and garbage journalism”; Trump vs Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, whom he describes as “Crazy Joe” and “Dumb as a Rock” Mika and later as “low IQ Crazy Mika” and “Psycho Joe.” They had the audacity to question his mental and emotional fitness for the office.

His approval rating has slumped to about 25% and seems to be holding there. I’m guessing that those who continue to support him and approve of what he’s doing are made up for the most part of white, male, misogynistic gun owners who would like to see our nation sectioned off into areas that exclusively allow only members of the same race and religion. And believe that the only suitable place for a woman is the kitchen and the bedroom, believe that transgendering and same-sex marriages are an abomination and an insult to God, believe that the Bible is factually true, and believe that the U.S. should pull out of all foreign affairs and let the rest of the world take care of itself. There. That pretty much covers all bases. I’m also guessing that the London bookies have lowered the odds on Trump’s impeachment to even. And I wouldn’t bet a penny against it.

Saturday, July 1

Phone & E-Mail Scams

It seems like there are more and more scams involving e-mails and phones than ever before. Last night I got a new one, a phone call from Dish Network telling me I would need to upgrade my DVR boxes, or something like that. The call was from a William Jeffries, who had a distinctly Indian accent with all kinds of busy background noises behind him. The accent and noise made it hard from me to understand what he was saying. He first asked me to hit the menu button twice and it would call up a page that listed all the information about my Dish equipment. Okay. And since only a day or two earlier, Dish had made a change to the appearance of their page for saving programs, I thought this call was something further with their upgrade. But the more questions he asked me, the more uncomfortable I became. I finally told him that I’d rather call Dish directly to see what it was they needed from me. He objected vehemently. I hung up. I went online and looked up Dish phone scams. Yupp. There it was, almost exactly as it had happened. Another lesson learned, but just barely.

And this lesson reminded me of another one I’d just learned. It wasn’t as blatant a scam as the others I’d heard of, but very close. About a month ago I got an e-mail request to take a survey. I can’t remember who asked me to do it or what it involved, but I suspect it was related to all the shopping I do on Amazon. So, I took the survey with the understanding that I‘d get some free reward for participating. Yes, a free gift from about ten categories, one of which was for a free watch. I emphasize the word “free” because the survey also emphasized it. You already know what I should have known, that there’s almost nothing under the blue sky that’s free. Ten days later, my “free” watch arrived, a rather manly-large Axion watch with tiny watch face at the top and a small informative circle at the bottom, four side buttons for setting all kinds of functions—a numerical time readout in both regular time and military time, a space to tell me the day of the week and date of the month, a stop watch function, and an alarm. It’s quite handsome although a bit larger than I’m used to. I rather liked it. And except for the $6.95 shipping and handling, it was free! But a month later I noticed on my credit card statement a charge of $99.95. I called the number listed there. I was informed that the watch was free for two weeks, after which if I didn’t return it I would be charged that $99.95, and that I had also somehow agreed to participate in other such mailings once a month, “gifts” to examine for 14 days before returning or keeping. I told them to take me off their mailing list. I would keep the “free” $106.95 watch because I had no choice, but I was an unhappy buyer of said watch.

This internet practice may not be illegal, but it narrowly skirts the line between scam and legality. I’d consider it a scam. Just another lesson I learned too late, and it cost me only $106.95.

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