“Verboten Writing Rules”
One of the highly emphasized rules for writing is to avoid backstory whenever possible. For those of you who are not sure what I’m talking about, ‘backstory’ is telling what happened in the past that causes your main character to be whom he or she is. Well, guess what. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel I’m working on right now is about ninety percent backstory. Aha!
The story’s prologue begins when a semi-feral two-year-old watches his biological father murder his mother. When he is carried out of the trailer where he’d spent his entire life, he had nothing but questions rumbling in his mind. Chapter one happens thirty-two years later when the boy—now a man is contemplating marriage. His fiancé is reminded she knows nothing of his past, and she should pry his memories out of his mind for his own good as well as hers.
Therefore, the majority of the story is ‘backstory’ which has to come out before a successful wedding and blissful life after marriage can take place. With Amy’s prodding, Thomas provides her with the story of his life—making for some changes in who and what he is.
“The Human Brain”
There are times when I wonder if I’m totally ‘normal’ or not. I have certain memories pop into my brain for absolutely no reason. This past weekend, I was sitting in front of the computer editing “Questions of our Lives” mentioned on Sunday’s rant, and a memory, going back probably in the vicinity of thirty years, popped into my head.
Three high school girls were in a car and apparently speeding on a dirt road to the east of Williamston, the city I spent thirty-five years teaching. Somehow, they lost control of the car and it smashed head on to a large tree, killing all three girls. The story in itself was heart wrenching for not only the families, but the entire town.
Now, the bizarre part of this memory is the fact that the brother of one of these girls also became a victim as well. There are times when family dynamics are weird to put it mildly. I’m not 100% sure of all the details, but I think this middle school aged boy became a non-entity in his family. Within a year or so after the accident, this poor kid left his family home and moved in with his grandparents in Lansing. Why? I have no clue other than suspicions.
All I know for sure is that several years later he came back to town—I think for the funeral of one of those grandparents, and he looked me up. He has become a very successful member of society, and I’m extremely happy for him. I hope someday we’ll hook up again. I’d love to build up the nerve to ask him about the incident and find out what are and what are not the facts regarding to his leaving his home.
Back to the original scenario, why would memories of something like this suddenly re-emerge after all of these years? And, I’m not talking only about the accident itself, but those unanswered questions resulting from the tragedy. To me the human mind is a complete enigma. Don’t know if a deeper study of psychology would have helped or would have made for even more questions.
“Literary Masterpiece Du Jour—Step One”
Well, there, step one of “Questions of Our Lives” is done. I finally have the rough draft of my latest literary masterpiece completed. Step two will be a complete edit, step three is printing it out and editing off of paper instead of the computer screen, step four is getting my editor to ‘fine-tooth’ it for any typos, suggestions, (Like hit ctrl A Delete) etc. Then it will be a matter of going over it one last time before publishing—probably in about six months.
In the meantime, I’m still not 100% sold on the title. Lee Carey, my author friend from VA Beach, and I spent probably an hour hashing nineteen different ideas and variations. This is what we finally settled on, and that’s what I‘ll stick with unless something better pops into the brain.
Just to whet your appetite, the story starts with a prologue when a two-year-old boy watches his biological father murder his mother from his crib. Chapter one begins thirty years later when the now thirty-two year old Thomas is living with the woman he plans to marry. His fiancé is prepped by her future father-in-law reminding her she knows nothing of Thomas’ past and should. Dad Carter wants her to pump him for stories on his past for therapeutic reasons. He knows Thomas has never revealed his memories to
This only happens about once in every five years when all the trees are in bloom at the same time.
There was a picture in this slot of five flowering trees in my back yard all in bloom at the same time.
“I Did It”
Much to my chagrin, I did dismantle my water fountain and birdbath, and store them in the garage for the year. Hopefully, Mother Nature will prove me absolutely nuts, and the Zika virus will not infiltrate the United States, and I will have wasted a year of stereo-water on my patio for nothing.
Much to my glee, I managed to do it all by myself without suffering either a heart attack or dislocated spine in the process. Do you have any idea how heavy a cement birdbath is? All together, that thing had to have weighed more than I do. Fortunately, it was in three pieces. The top was simple. I carried that into the garage with no problem.
The bowl and base were another story. They weighed about five hundred pounds apiece, give-or-take a few pounds here and there for exaggeration purposes. The base, being semi-round, allowed me to kind of roll it across the floor. It took a while, but I managed. The bowl, even though round, was oddly shaped so I couldn’t roll it. I had to lean down, scoot it six inches at a time, stand up, stretch back, and go back to it. Ahh, the Golden Years. What a joy.
Anyway, I have them stored, so I have no pools of standing water in the yard to call the mosquitoes. My hope is that it was all for naught, and next year I can bribe a couple of the neighborhood kids into reassembling it all, and I can go back to enjoying my stereo-water on the patio.
I’ve talked to a few people about this, and nobody has told me I’m totally nuts—yet. I have both a fountain and a birdbath with pumps that I have been running for years. The fountain is old, cracked, and has had its day. It’s time for it to go. The birdbath is cement, heavy as hell, and still in good shape. Anyway, what I’m thinking seriously of doing is recycling the fountain, and stashing the birdbath in the garage for a couple of years just to see what happens with this Zika Virus thing.
Supposedly, the concern right now is in the southern states, but according to at least one newscast I’ve heard, they’re predicting a national epidemic. The USA Today section of today’s local paper published an article, “Uncle Sam Wants You to Clean Your Yard to Fight Zika.” The message is, essentially anything with standing water can be a nesting ground for mosquitoes. Granted, when I’m parked out on the patio, the water in the fountain and birdbath is not ‘standing,’ but I don’t turn them on unless I’m out there. Scrooge that I am, I won’t waste the electricity to run them continuously.
So, the way I see it, why not cooperate, eliminate two sources of standing water, and see if the threat of a nationwide epidemic is overkill or a reality. Since I have a whole liter of childbearing aged grandkids, I’d prefer to act on the side of caution and hope the scourge gets wiped out in the south this year so I can put my birdbath back up and open for business next year.
Sneaked it in a couple of days early, but just put “The Carpet King” up for the Kindle. It was intended to start on May 1, but they sneaked it in early. Oh well. What it’s all about is a blatant advertising experiment. I read about one person who put either a new novel or a short story up every month. By getting his name out there, his sales went from mediocre to “over the top.”
So, here’s my plan. I have over seventy-five short stories stashed in the archives. I am going to put on one line strictly for the Kindle every month for twenty-four months and see what happens. The one I put up for May is “The Carpet King.” It’s a re-write on the first story in “Really Short Shorts” an anthology of forty short stories I put out a couple of years ago.
Each story I will run free for the first five days of the month. Last month, I gave away sixty copies of a story about a camper and a snake at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. This month’s story is about a homeless guy and his 387 pound girlfriend who live in a sub basement of a mausoleum and go to all of the funerals and post-funeral luncheons. It’s a fun spoof and well worth the free price tag. Of course, if you want to spend .99 and give me my whopping .35 commission, feel free to buy it.
I’m getting to the ending of my latest, and it’s driving me nuts. I could end it in about a half page or drag it out for another forty. I know exactly what has to happen, but how do I go about it? Therein lies the problem.
In the meantime, I’ve been stalling on it for about a week as I did a whole boatload of edits and changed a bunch of stuff around. There are still areas which need some work, but right now, it’s time to get going on the ending and quit procrastinating.
In a nutshell, the 32 year-old main character is going to Vegas to get married. His severely handicapped dad from an accident five years previously which killed his mom has to come out of his funk and move on with his limitations without the main character hovering over him. It’s a “Circle of Life” type of book where the dad took over the kid at twelve and gave him a good, stable, and loving home and life to the other end of the spectrum where the kid ends up doing the same for the dad—if that makes any sense. I know what I want to do, but not exactly how I’m going to do it. Maybe by this time next year, I’ll have it figured out.
“Marketing Plan 101 Continued)
“Terror While Vacationing in Pisa” finished its free run at midnight last night PST. I ended up giving away 60 copies of the short story on the Kindle. I realize, the majority of the people who downloaded it are people who have read my stuff before, but if even a fraction of them are new, it’ll do what I intended—create a potential new market.
Watching it progress on Amazon was fun. As of yesterday afternoon, it was rated number eight at Amazon for free short stories under twelve pages. There were three ratings all together, one was 8, one was 13, and the other was 6700.
The first of May I will put another on out there and continue monthly for a year or so and see what happens. Let’s face it, any sales resulting from my latest “Gimmick du jour” are a pure positive.
Trying a new marketing gimmick. Why not? Read about the idea either in “Reader’s Digest” or on line—don’t remember exactly where. (Remember my mantra—senility is a wonderful thing if you don’t weaken) Anyway, the idea is to put yourself out there in the extreme. The article said to publish either a book or a short story every month. The more the better. Well, since I am not going to sit in front of the computer for twelve hours a day, I’m going to have to depend on some of my short stories. I have close to eighty of them.
The person writing the article said he has somewhere in the vicinity of twenty novels and seventy short stories at Amazon in the Kindle format. He doesn’t even bother with paper backs. After he had been doing this for a while, his sales went through the roof.
So, here’s my plan. I am going to publish one short story per month for the next two years or so and see what happens. I intend to use the exact same cover, with a different graphic. My first one had the image of a huge snake, and this month’s has the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then, to boost readership, I will be giving away the Kindle version for five days. (That’s all Amazon allows) Currently, “Terror While Vacationing in Pisa” is free at Amazon on the Kindle until April 20th.
Now, if all of this works up to plan, people will download the free version, and then want more. Maybe they’ll buy one or two of the other short stories and then decide to try one of my eight, going on nine, novels. Just for the record, twenty-one people have downloaded the current short story in the first twenty-four hours. So, if you have a Kindle, you have until the twentieth. Get it while the getting’s good.
“Back to Work"
Took a week off from my latest literary masterpiece because of all the medical drama dealing with two different people, but now I’m back at it. The main character is thirty-two years old and approaching his wedding. Because of an extremely sad and dysfunctional childhood starting when he watched his biological father murder his mother, he has always been extremely tight-lipped about his past. His first twelve years were pretty much a living hell.
Amy, his fiancée, has taken it upon herself to pry these tucked away secrets out of him so he can talk it through and completely clear his mind. Stay tuned. Sometime in the next six to twelve months, this thing should be ready. Start saving your money. You’ll want this one the day it hits the press
In the meantime, “Terror While Vacationing in Pisa,” one of my delightful short stories will be running free at Amazon on the Kindle from 4/16/16-4/20/16. If you don’t get it then, you’ll have to cough up .99 for it. Better get it while it’s free.
“Hospital Political Battles?”
This is weird and total BS as far as I am concerned. A person I know well, after consulting with her personal physician, was sent to Hospital “A” emergency room on Tuesday of this week in debilitating abdominal pain, blood in the stool, blood in the urine, and coughing up blood. After a series of blood tests—which indicated several were off kilter, and other tests, she was sent home with pain medication.
The next day, her symptoms were worse. Her doctor once again sent her back to emergency—same results. Only this time, they put on her discharge papers they thought she was faking it and was looking for drugs. This was beyond belief because she’s a stay-at-home mom of an eight month old, and the only drugs in her system had been administered by the ER room.
On Thursday, her doctor sent her to Hospital “B” and they admitted her. The suspicion is some kind of bowel blockage so they need to do a colonoscopy. The plan was for this to happen Friday morning. Where the kicker comes in, she’s a hemophiliac , meaning she has a blood disorder. Since she is actively being treated for this disease by a doctor from Hospital “A” there is some screwy law saying Hospital “B” cannot do any procedures which could cause bleeding without the advice and consent of her doctor from “A.”
It was requested that said doctor from “A” go over, check the patient, and give permission for the Fri. morning procedure. She was scheduled to go on Thurs. She didn’t show up. Her excuse was that she didn’t feel comfortable at “B” and hadn’t been there for 1 ½ years. She finally showed up at five pm on Friday, and said (without looking at any of the labs or charts) that she felt that “B” was overreacting and probably had a virus. Fortunately, the patient’s mother happens to be an RN and pointed out the charts etc. to the hematologist who finally agreed to the procedure. As it was now after five, that meant the whole thing had to be put off until Monday.
The RN-mother who stepped in, essentially hates both hospitals and said that type of political BS goes on between the two hospitals all the time. One hospital hates to admit it might have made a mistake so they refuse to cooperate with the other because they don’t want to look bad (Law suits). The fact that a human patient is caught in the middle is irrelevant.
“Bad Couple of Months”
They always say that bad things run in clusters of three. Well, I guess the past two months is the perfect example. I’ve had two of my former students and a former colleague die in the past six weeks. Two were expected, and one wasn’t. I must say, one of the funerals was probably the most moving and unique funeral I’ve ever attended. It had to have been planned well in advance.
To make things worse, I have an old and dear friend who was taken to the hospital on Tuesday for the third time in the past six weeks. Currently, she is unresponsive and unaware of her surroundings. They’ve been taking a bunch of tests. The latest report is that she may have over medicated herself. She takes a whole slew of pills everyday for every ailment known to man and it would probably be easy to accidentally double dose on something critical. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for—an accidentally incident.
Fortunately for me, I have fun activities scheduled for almost every day this week which will help keep my mind off of the misery going on around me. Hard to concentrate on my latest literary masterpiece—in fact, today, I’m not even trying. Thinks will get better.
Good Grief! Here it is, April 2nd, and we’re having a regular blizzard out there. The snow is swirling, visibility next to nothing, and the rooftops and grass are covered. This is ridiculous. I realize El Nino gave us one of the warmest winters on record, but enough is enough. I have flowers coming up and it’s snowing.
I think the time has come for warm weather—nothing over 75 right now, but let’s get on with it. Maybe all the politicians could take time out from name-calling and dissing each other and figure out a solution. Maybe that would give them something positive to blow off steam about other than each other.
Since not a one of them are probably capable of accomplishing a thing, I guess we’ll have to leave Spring and warmer weather up to Mother Nature. Come on, lady. Let her rip. I’ll even drop my request to 70 degrees.
Just wanted to take a minute and wish everyone a Happy Easter whether you are of any kind of religious persuasion or not. Today is a beautiful day and let’s hope spring is finally getting here. It’s right at 70 degrees and the sun is shining. I’ll take that for the end of March anytime.
Something interesting, in my humble opinion. In the book I’m working on my character doesn’t get adopted by his foster parents because he is one-quarter Native American, and his Native American tribe would get first dibs on him if anyone wanted to adopt him. They choose to keep him as a foster, stay under the radar, and not take any chances of losing him. So, what is a news headline this week? Somewhere in one of the western states a six-year-old girl, who has been in the same foster home for four years, is taken away because a tribal family—supposedly related to her in some way but not Native American themselves, wants to adopt her. The news report I read said she’s only 1/64th Choctaw. Hardly seems fair. Her foster family has vowed to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“Writing Is Too Much Like Work”
Had a brainstorm last night regarding my latest literary masterpiece in progress. I got to thinking that my main character who witnesses a tragic event at the ripe old age of two, suffers from PTSD. Did a little Googling and discovered I was right. So, I’ve spent about three hours this afternoon editing and re-writing numerous episodes to demonstrate the fact.
Now the question becomes, do I ever want to mention the term PTSD in the story or just let the reader figure it out on his/her own? I am leaning towards letting the reader figure it out. I’ve contacted some editor and writer friends for their input. So far, it’s a split decision. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it turns out. If anyone ever thinks it, it would have to be the main character’s fiancé. She’s the one who is pumping him for feedback on his past that he keeps secretly hidden away in his memory.
As a result, I have done nothing to move the story along today except edit. No wonder it takes over a year to do one of these goofy things.
“Woe is Me”
I’m in dire need of sympathy. My face feels like I lay in the sun face up for six hours on a beach someplace on a perfectly clear day. It’s burned, scabbed, pealing, bright red—except for the brown scabbed up parts, and sore as hell.
Six months ago I had a skin cancer thingie on my head removed, and last week was my appointment to have it rechecked. Everything was fine, but the doc had a suggestion. According to him, about 80% of us my age have these little “buds” that can turn cancerous. It all goes back to when we were kids, playing out in the sun all day with no sunscreen or protection. Anyway, his suggestion was using this cream for two weeks morning and night. Keep in mind, he told me what the reaction would be. All of the above mentioned in the first paragraph.
Yesterday morning, I took the stuff for the last time—two days early. Enough. The worst part is, I got some of it on the corners of my mouth so it’s even hard to get a spoon in. Flossing is a real joy as well. Have to start in the middle and work my way back, slowly and carefully.
So, to end my rant for the day, be smart and use your sunscreen. Plaster the kids up with it too. That way, fifty-sixty-seventy years from now, you won’t have to do the same fun chore I’m doing.
“Down with Oreos”
Everyone loves Oreos. Nabisco advertises them as “America’s favorite cookie.” Well, they are no longer America’s favorite, but Mexico’s. It seems, according to the USA Today, That Nabisco has upgraded a factory in Mexico and is moving the production of the Oreo from Chicago to Mexico costing 600 jobs.
As I see it, there’s a good solution to that one. Let’s all stop buying Oreos. They don’t have to be your favorite cookie. Something else can take over. How about double chocolate chips? There’s another cookie out there that looks a lot like the Oreo. Maybe it’s time to try that one.
If some of these companies want to shift manufacturing jobs overseas so they can get sixty cent an hour workers, then let’s all stop supporting them. If enough people do, maybe they’ll think twice and bring the jobs back home where they built their companies.
“Your Chance of a Lifetime”
I’ve decided that I’m going to try something new. I ‘m going to publish a short story for the Kindle about once a month. I’ll start it out at .99, and then after a month run one of the Kindle specials and give it away free for a month. At the end of each short story, I will advertise one of my books. Why not? It doesn’t cost me a thing to do, and it “Might” work as a little extra advertising.
I have over a hundred short stories. Forty of them ended up in the book titled, “Really Short Shorts.” However, I have a slew of others that I can use. If I run out of originals, I’ll use some of those from the book. I’ll put in the write up that it was in the book, just in case someone sees it who has the short story book.
The first one going up is “Snake Eyes.” It’s really an evil horror story about some little girl who sees a man with shining eyes who keeps glaring at her. They freak her out so she quits going to the park. Then she get an intuitive flash that the old man is dead. She goes back to the park and never sees him again. Years later when she’s a new grandmother, those eyes reappear in the form of a huge snake. Naturally, all turns out evil and horrible. How else?
The Michigan State Spartans ended the regular season 26-5, beating Ohio State 91-76. Denzel Valentine, a national player of the year candidate, put on a show with twenty-seven points and thirteen assists. This past week they were rated #2 in the nation. With a little luck, they’ll be #1 after this week. All of that is rather ironic, because they ended up # 2 in the Big Ten.
When Denzel was out with an injury, they lost most of those games. It just goes to show how important he is to the team. Should be another feather in his cap for those national player of the year honors.
The next show will be the Big Ten tournament next week, March 9-13. State should get two byes so they’ll only have to play a couple of games to get to the finals. That’s good, because if they were at the bottom of the bracket, they’d have to play four games in something like four days.
After that, it’s off to the Big Dance, the NCAA tournament. Let’s just hope they get a #1 seed in a close-to-home venue. This year, the sky’s the limit. Go Green! Go White!
I think my lap top died and went to computer haven. It started acting up a few months ago when sometimes when I lifted the lid, it didn’t turn on. Usually, I could do a hard shut down and restart, and it would start right back up. Sometimes I would have to do it a couple of times.
This morning it worked normally. Then after getting back from my appointment with my income tax guy, it wouldn’t kick in. I have rebooted it probably ten times to no avail. I think my income tax man jinxed it. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Fortunately, nothing is on there that isn’t backed up. It’s just handy as hell to have on the kitchen counter when I want to check emails, Facebook, or my secret recipe folder that makes all my kids gag. (They have no taste.)
Now, the question becomes, do I want to spend a hundred bucks and have Best Buys take a look at it and tell me that it’s dead, or just spend the loot to buy a new one. This one is seven years old. The good thing is I don’t play any of those high gig/ram computer games that all the kids do, so I don’t have to have the fastest or most expensive device on the market. Of course, I don’t want the cheapest thing on the block either.
So, if any of you techies out there have any better ideas, email me.
Ever think about how many times you’ve escaped or been involved in a major tragedy by a mere second or two? Two days ago it happened to me. I approached a green light traveling west and slowed down as I was making a left turn. No one approached from the other way so I cruised into the intersection.
Right then a pickup sped through the red light at, I’m guessing, fifty miles per hour. The teenager driving had his head down looking at his lap where he was either playing with himself or texting. I slammed on the brakes and hit the horn at the same time. I know there was less than five feet clearance between our vehicles. If I hadn’t been turning, I’d have been T-boned probably into the driver’s side door—which was me.
Startled, the kid hit his brakes and swerved to the left. If anyone had been in the left hand turn lane on the east bound side, he would have hit them head on. The whole scenario could have been a major disaster with a couple of different outcomes. My only hope is, that night when he was lying in bed, he relived the moment and realized how close he came and how lucky he is the outcome worked out as it did.
“Apple Vs the FBI”
Wonder how the Apple Vs the FBI standoff will turn out. If Apple is forced to open up the phone of one of the San Bernardino killers to scrutiny by the FBI, does that really infringe on our privacy, or does it help secure our safety as a nation against maniacs like ISIS?
I can see the arguments on both sides. Apple is concerned that an invasion of privacy will open the doors to the government and hackers to take a look at anyone’s private accounts. Apparently, Apple has claimed that they don’t even have the software to do such a thing. I would have a tendency to not quite buy into that argument. The government is claiming they only want entrance to that one phone. That might be a stretch too. Once they had it, couldn’t they be able to adapt the software to any phone in question?
I guess my personal thoughts would be to go along with the government on this one. If the killers didn’t wipe their phones clear before going on their murderous rampage in the name of ISIS, who knows how many others might be identified. As far as worrying about my own cell phone’s privacy, I would guess that 99.9% of us would say, “If you haven’t anything better to do than spy on my cell phone, have at it, Dudes.”
In the meantime, we have up to a foot of snow forecast for today and tomorrow. Now, that’s something of substance to worry about.
“Advertising Campaign #2”
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had started an advertising campaign for the Kindle through Amazon.com. I find the results so far quite interesting. To date, 241,962 people have actually seen the cover of one of the books flash by either on Amazon or their Kindle. Those are called impressions. Then, out of those impressions, 1685 people have “Clicked” on the impression in order to read the various book’s descriptions.
Unfortunately, all of those 1685 people did not push that little “Send to Kindle” button, but I sues that can be expected. What I have found interesting is the number of people reading the books on Amazon Prime. For those of you who are not familiar with that, for a price you can join Amazon Prime for an annual fee, and then “borrow” books, music, movies, etc. without paying anything else. From what my observations are showing, some people who have borrowed or checked out like a library one book have come back and read one or two others. Oh yes, Prime members get free shipping for items they buy at Amazon.
Looks to me like Amazon Prime might be the wave of the future.
Ever get one of those days when you feel absolutely brain dead? That’s me today. (Who just asked, “What’s today got to do with it?”) Anyway, I came down to my office in the family room to work on my latest and greatest literary masterpiece. I started out by checking sales and the Kindle promotion I’ve been taking part in. That took approximately ten seconds. Two hours later, I have cleaned about six inches of paper out of my desk and shredded it. The vast majority of it was Google research for “Damey & the Z-Team.” I had tons of stuff printed off dealing with ice breakers and the Antarctica.
After that, I cleaned off the top of my desk. You can’t believe how much crap I shredded, most of it having to do with the current book. All of it has been incorporated into the novel, so it’s just taking up space and making a mess. Voila! The top of the desk is clean.
Okay, now what? I’ve run out of things to clean regarding old files and the desk. Do I kick myself in the butt and get started on writing? I think not. I know what scene I want to do next, but not sure how I’m going to go about it. Do I use it as a form of introduction after the prologue, or do I insert it in the middle of a chapter? I guess maybe it’s time to go walk the mall, get a massage, and think about it. Maybe later on today or tomorrow will be a better writing day and I won’t be totally brain dead. Let’s hope.
“I’m Done with the Debates”
I’ve watched the last two debates, one Republican and one Democrat—actually, I’ve watched all but one. That’s it, no more. When candidates stand on a national stage and call each other liars and losers along with a lot of other adjectives, I say, that’s enough. If I were still teaching, there is no way I’d encourage my students to watch that garbage.
These people are running for the presidency of the United States. Don’t they get that? What does that tell the kids who stay up and watch them? They interrupt each other, sometimes you have two and three people all talking at the same time, and they’re extremely rude.
It’s a good thing the debates start at nine. The elementary and middle school kids should be in bed by then or shortly thereafter. I assume some high school kids may stay up and watch. How would you like to be the coach of a high school debate team? What would you tell the kids when people vying for the highest office in the land act the way they do? If the student debaters followed the candidate’s example, they’d be disqualified and probably wonder why. Enough! I’m going to write my own name in underneath the independent label.
The political race for the White House has barely begun, and I’m sick of it already. Why can’t they deal with the issues? The Republicans have been doing nothing but name-calling and slandering one another, and now the Democrats are joining in.
Maybe it’s my senility acting up, but I do not remember the vitriolic references to the people running in their own party ever being this bad. Sure, once someone gets the nomination, then everyone joins together and lambastes his or her opponent. That’s to be expected. However, ripping to pieces people of your own party? Personally, I’m thinking of voting for a write in candidate. I see one in each party whom I like better than the thirty-seven (Only a slight exaggeration) running now.
I guess I’ll have to wait to see how it all plays out, but right now I’m not that impressed with any of them.
“Testing for Lead”
After the latest debacle in Flint, several schools around the state have been testing for lead levels. Several have found unacceptable levels in their water. A number of times, it has been in isolated fountains, and they have been able to fix the problem with some quick plumbing adjustments.
What I found interesting was that a lot of schools in the local area have not checked their water for lead and apparently have no intention to do so. Looking at the evidence, it appears that any school, public building, etc. may have a problem. Again, the whole school’s water supply may not be tainted, but one isolated fountain in any school is one too many.
For once, I would like to see our local legislatures actually work together and pass a law that every school and/or public building should have every one of its water outlets tested. I don’t think the state should have to pay for it either. I think schools and public areas probably have enough in their “slush” funds to do a quick check. Hopefully, the vast majority of schools and public buildings will not have a problem, but that’s irrelevant. Why not make sure?
Surely, mid Michigan is not the only place in the country where this issue is happening. I personally think every school and public building in the country should be tested. If your building turns out to not have an issue, hooray! But, if by chance it does, do something about it—Now!
Prologue to my
Newest unnamed and unfinished literary masterpiece du jour
Two-year-old Thomas Alexander Matthews paced back and forth in his playpen. That’s where he lived. Nobody ever let him out except to put on a clean diaper and then set him back. He spent the day walking back and forth, back and forth. When he wore himself out, he’d lie down on his belly, use his one and only toy, a stuffed lion, as a pillow, and then curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
Thomas didn’t talk or cry—his choice. He walked; he watched; he listened. He learned not to cry early. At first, when he was hungry, wet, or soiled, he’d cry. When that big man they called Daddy, Alex or a number of other names was there, he’d grab Thomas and shake him, hard. Thomas learned that if he’d scrunch up his shoulders so his head jammed against them, his neck wouldn’t shake back and forth and hurt so badly. The daddy man always screamed in his face telling him to, Shut up! Sometimes he’d even slap him. Thomas was afraid of him, so he decided not to let himself cry anymore. Maybe the daddy man would leave him alone.
Little Thomas hated cold, wet, soiled diapers. He’d hold it for as long as he could until the cramps and pain forced him to finally let go. When he did, he’d take off his diaper and drop it in the corner outside of his playpen. Then he’d continue his pacing, naked, with ribs showing and rings under his eyes. The next time he had to pee, he’d go over to that corner and aim at the diaper on the floor outside of his pen. When he had to poop, he’d go over to the same corner, lean back against the rails of his pen, and try to hit the diaper. It never worked.
If a doctor were to measure and weigh Thomas, he’d discover that the boy was only in the seventy-fifth percentile of normal height and weight. The mommy, Sarah person only fed him when she thought of it. The daddy person never did. Thomas’s stomach ached most of the time from either hunger or the need to relieve himself.
He knew the only way he’d get rid of the hunger pangs was when she fed him, whatever it was—cold cereal, peanut butter on bread, left-over French fries from last night’s cheeseburgers that the mommy and daddy persons ate, or whatever she found. Yet, he never cried or asked for food. He was afraid he’d wake up the daddy.
He learned a lot of words, but he wouldn’t talk. He didn’t know what most of them meant. He knew he had several names. His mommy person called him Thomas, sweetie, pest, nuisance, brat, lover boy, and his daddy person called him either you little bastard, the little bastard, or that little bastard. One time it would be one way, and the next time it would be the other—depending on who he was talking to. Thomas didn’t understand. Why couldn’t his daddy person stick to calling him just one name?
His mommy person had a lot of names too. To Thomas, she called herself Mommy, but the daddy called her Sarah, bitch, slut, whore, and a lot of other names. His daddy person also had of names—Alex, Daddy, asshole, son-of-a-bitch, shit head, and more. Thomas was confused. He didn’t know who any of these people really were. Was she Mommy or Bitch? Was he Daddy or Asshole? Therefore, he chose not to call them anything. He could, but he refused to talk around them. When he was alone in his pen, and the rest of the room was empty, he’d practice. He had a great vocabulary for a two-year-old.
Another reason Thomas refused to talk was because he wasn’t sure what tone was appropriate. When his mommy and daddy persons talked to each other, everything was loud, very loud. It was like a contest to see who could make the most noise. Yet, as soon as his daddy person went to work at the factory for the midnight shift, some other man would slip into the trailer. He and Thomas’s mommy person always talked softly and acted like they were sneaking around. That man never looked at or spoke to him. Thomas, pretending to be asleep, watched from the floor of his playpen. It really didn’t matter, because they didn’t spend much time talking. They always went into his mommy person’s bedroom and closed the door. He couldn’t hear them talk in there. All he heard was a rhythmic thumping against the wall. Thomas had no idea what was going on. Didn’t matter. He’d pretend he was asleep until the guy left. Once he was gone, Thomas would curl up with his lion and shut his eyes.
One night before his daddy man went to work, Thomas’s mommy person and him got really mad at each other—worse than normal. They screamed at each other for a long time. His daddy kept pointing at her belly, using other words Thomas didn’t understand. He thought his daddy was mad because she was getting fat. Daddy’s face got all red and sweaty. Then he walked over to the counter and grabbed something long and shiny and hit her as hard as he could in that bulge.
She dropped to the floor, groaned and squirmed, and then didn’t move. Thomas’s daddy person grabbed his jacket off the chair and stormed towards the door. He stopped before reaching it and glared at Thomas with those dark, piercing eyes, shouting at him and pointing at his mommy on the floor. “You better never learn to talk, you little bastard. If you do, you’ll end up just like her.”
His daddy person stormed out of the trailer leaving the door wide open. Thomas heard the roar of the car’s engine as he spun the tires off of their gravel parking spot and onto the asphalt. Thomas looked over at his mommy. She must have wet herself and didn’t have a diaper on. Fluid leaked out of her lower body, only it was red. He thought that was weird, because he peed yellow. Did mommies pee red? He’d ask her some day when he decided to talk to them. She didn’t move.
Not too much after that, the soft-spoken man who always came and took his mommy to the bedroom walked through the open door. He used a lot of those words Thomas heard every day but didn’t understand. This time he yelled instead of talking in his normal whisper. He pulled out his cell phone and called somebody. Thomas was tired and really wanted to sleep, but he couldn’t. He kept pacing and watching silently.
Shortly afterwards, he heard sirens and saw all kinds of flashing lights pull into the trailer court. People charged through the open door. Most of them were all dressed alike in dark blue. One kept pointing around at things and did most of the talking. Thomas watched, listened, and trod back and forth, making no noise. Everyone ignored him.
Sometime later after many of the people had left, and his mommy person had been put in a black bag and taken away, a lady came through the still wide-open door and walked directly to Thomas. She picked him up and gently held him and rocked him in her arms. She was soft and smelled good. She spoke very softly and soothingly to him. He liked that. He decided then that if he ever decided to talk, it would be like her. After she’d held him a minute or two, she looked into his eyes. “Do you have to go potty?”
Thomas nodded that he did. She looked around for a potty chair and couldn’t find one. She carried him into the bathroom and sat him on the toilet and held on him so he wouldn’t fall in. He hadn’t realized how long it had been. His belly throbbed. By the time he finally finished, all of the cramps and discomfort were gone. He smiled at her. She’d helped him do what he wanted, use the potty, and nobody else had ever figured it out.
She took him back to the living room and found him a clean diaper. It took a while, but after some searching, she found some clothes. They were too small for him, but she squeezed him into them. She couldn’t button the top button on his pants. After he was dressed, she picked him up and walked towards the door. He grunted and tapped her shoulder. She stopped to see what he wanted. He pointed at his lion. She went back to the pen and picked it up and handed it to him. As the two of them crossed the room, he looked back where his mommy person had been lying on the floor. All he saw was lots and lots of red pee. He looked away, lay his head on her shoulder, shut his eyes, and never looked back again.
“Some Drivers are Idiots”
Driving home from my third annual sojourn to Florida and Virginia Beach this week was interesting, to say the least. It was the third morning after the huge Nor’Easter that blasted Washington DC and NY with three feet of snow. (Incidentally, my author friend and his wife who were babysitting me during the storm talked to a friend of theirs in WV who had received over four feet of the pretty white stuff. Nobody in the news had even mentioned them because it was in the WV mountains, and “nobody” lives there anyway.)
Anyway, to get back to my “rant” for the day, as I was driving north, the roads were in remarkably good shape. Twice, however, the four lane highway was squeezed down to two lanes so that snow removal trucks could have room to load up dump trucks and haul the stuff away. When four lanes squeeze down to two lanes, traffic stops. And, that’s where the idiots take over, switching lanes, waving at people to back up so they can squeeze into line ahead of them, and then shifting lanes again.
We were at a standstill for almost an hour at one point, inching ahead one car length at a time while I watched some jerk in his fancy sports car weave back and forth across lanes. When we finally cleared the loaders filling the dump trucks, I could still see the goon. In probably forty minutes of watching this one car, he may have gained a total of four car lengths.
Now, just to stray off topic for a second, my last motel for my trip was an absolute dive. There is, what I would call, about a twenty mile dead zone between the PA Turnpike and the OH Turnpike. I stayed at a real nice motel there last year with a little restaurant within walking distance. That’s where I was aiming for this year. I missed. Where ever it was that I turned off, there were three motels, one of which was closed, and no restaurants within sight. At least they had a Papa John’s nearby that delivered. Apparently, they had recently painted the ceiling, but had neglected to vacuum up the paint chips all over the floor. The shower had what looked like mold on the side walls, and the heater banged and crashed all night. By six thirty in the morning, I was out of there and back on the highway bidding them a little less than a fond adieu.
“The Literary Masterpiece du Jour”
Working on my latest, “Tommy’s Fund,” and may drive myself a little crazy before I get too much further. Have completely re-worked one of the major areas about three times and not really sure how it’s going. I’ve been brainstorming with several people, and they keep coming up with new ideas. Of course, that’s the idea. All of them are good, and it’s a matter of incorporating all of them so that they work.
Just to give you a teaser, the main character who is 32 and about to get married is telling his fiancé his life story. He’s always been very closed mouth about everything, so Amy, his girlfriend, is convinced his telling her his story will be therapeutic.
Currently he’s telling her about when he was 13 and had lived with “Mom” and “Dad” for over a year. He comes out and asks them one day why they don’ t adopt him. It seems there are legal issues because of the fact that his biological father, who is spending the rest of his life in prison for murdering his mother, is of Native American heritage. That fact creates some legal issues which I won’t go into here, but it’s creating problems for the writer as to how to work out the “problem.” Stay tuned.
Did you ever really stop to imagine what it would be like to win 1.4 billion dollars? It sounds like it would be a huge “trip,” but I wonder if it really would be. How many lawyers and CPA would come crawling out of the woodwork to HELP you figure out your investments, etc? How many long lost relatives would be out there who have missed seeing you dearly for all of these years?
I’ve always joked that one of my goals in life would be to pay a million a year in income tax, but seriously, if one had that much money, people would drive you nuts. Look at all of the professional athletes who have made millions in their careers and have ended up going bankrupt because of stupid spending, gambling, and their entourage who expects you to pay for everything.
Maybe, I could compromise. Perhaps I would be willing to have three other people share the same numbers with me so I’d only have to mess around with a measly $400 mil or so.
”People Think before they Speak?”
I wonder how many people ever think about what they are saying when they spout off on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever? From the looks of things, I’d say, not many. Of course, they have some prime examples to follow. Try listening to any of the 69 (Or whatever the count is today) candidates running for President. Nobody wants to talk about issues, it’s all about character assassination, name calling, and just plain BS that nobody wants to listen to.
I see the same thing on Facebook every day. People act like they are in a contest to see who can be the most offensive. And, it’s not all just politics. We have a Neighborhood Watch group on FB, and sometimes it’s a hoot what goes on there. Last week someone posted that her boys were outside playing football in their own front yard with the end zones spreading into the next door neighbor’s house which is empty and for sale. It seems that some old biddy across the street called the police because the boys were “trespassing.”
Wow! You should see the firestorm that started. There have been over one-hundred replies ranging from “Tell the old biddy to mind her own business,” to “Beat your kids for not staying in their own yard.” Well, the second one might be a stretch, but you get the point. The funny part is, the neighbors started attacking each other because they looked at the situation differently than they did. “If you don’t see the solution the same way I do, you’re ignorant.”
Like I told one of my grandkids one day when he was on one of his political rants. Take the weirdest looking object you can find and put it in the middle of a circle. Get 360 people and set each of them on a different point of that circle. Then, have each person draw a picture of that object and then describe what they see to the other 359. Is the person sitting on point 45 going to see and describe what the person at point 270 sees and describes? So, what was Grandbrat’s comment to that? “Well, yeah. That proves my point.” LOL Think before you speak. Think before you post.
“Oh, the Pain”
Well, it didn’t happen. MSU is not going to move on to the national championship in football this year. They lost in a blowout. The sad part is, they did not play up to their capabilities, or even close. I think the turning point in the game was when Alabama intercepted a pass right at the end of the first half as State was marching for a touchdown. If they had gone into halftime down 10-7 instead of that huge deflation of the balloon, it might have been a different story in the second half. We’ll never know.
In the meantime, congratulations to Alabama, and I hope you win the championship, convincingly. Next year just might be a challenge. I think I heard someplace that we have 22 seniors on the team who will not be back next year. That’s a lot of people and experience to replace. However, that happens every year, so it’s probably no big deal. Have faith in Dantonio and the rest of the coaching staff. We will survive.
December 31, 2015
Today is BYOC day to Cedar Village in East Lansing. If MSU wins the National Semi-Final game, it will be up to each of the celebrants to bring their own couch. It’s not fair to go see the rioting and fires without taking something to share. It isn’t even necessary to take matches. There will be plenty of torches going around, so if you drag up your couch, someone will light it for you.
On a little more serious note, this is MSU’s biggest football game in decades. If they win tonight, they will play for the National Championship in a couple of weeks. The program has evolved so far under Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff it’s hard to fathom. They’ve won four bowls in a row, including the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl and national top four finishes in the past couple of years. Add that to the exploits of the basketball team, it’s a great time to be a Spartan. Go Green! Go White!
“So, I’m going crazy. What’s new?”
There are times that I think I’ve gone nuts, and other times I’m sure of it. I have been working on the same four page, single-spaced chapter for about three weeks on the book I’m currently working on. I keep changing it around and re-writing things. Every time I change one aspect, it affects everything else.
I sent the chapter out to four people whom I trust as editors and have received various responses. The one that is driving me the wackiest is, “It’s okay, but it feels like it’s missing something, but I’m not sure what.” That means I’m going to have to go back through it and see if I can figure out what he thinks is missing.
In the meantime, I’m working on another totally different chapter. Maybe if I play my cards right, I can crisscross ideas from the two chapters and screw up both of them. Ever wonder why it takes so long to write one of these things? Maybe I should do this little chore like some authors do by just sitting down and writing the entire story without ever editing anything. Then, when they’ve finished, go back and start editing. However, I can’t work that way. My cluttered brain keeps rehashing what I’ve been working on and changing things.
With a little luck, about a year from now I should have my latest literary masterpiece ready for the presses. Don’t hold your breath.
Want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, or whatever you prefer. Whatever your flavor, I hope your holiday season is fulfilling and happy.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could eliminate the doom and gloom, terrorist activities, and negativity going on? I’m already sick of the 2016 election campaign. It’s amazing how many adults cannot even be civil to one another. There’s an ancient movie or TV clip that posed the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” That’s what we need, we should all sit back and make it a point to be positive and happy and make others feel the same.
Go out and throw an extra buck in that Salvation Army kettle, or a little more to feed the needy, and feel good about yourself. Remember, the two biggest words in the world are not, “I” and "Me.”
“A Book on Every Bed”
Amy Dickinson has a syndicated column called, “Ask Amy.” Every year one of her columns just before the holidays advocates having Santa place a book on every child’s bed on Christmas Eve, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate this time of year. She cites several sources that promote reading as a way to improve educational success in the future.
One of the more important sources she provides is reachoutandread.org Amy has partnered this year with that organization to promote the importance of reading aloud. If you click on the link, it will give you example after example of why one should read to their children and grandchildren—learning language skills earlier, developing a love for books and reading, providing for future educational and life successes, and much more.
As a long time English teacher ranging from grades 7-12over a 35 year period, I can only agree with everything Amy and the organization say. Obviously, there are exceptions. There are people with dyslexia and other reading problems who still become highly successful in school and in life. However, from personal experience, those children who are read to at an early age and encouraged to read and write at early levels, tend to have successful school and life experiences.
“Running for President”
Watched the debates on television again last night, and I swear, why would anyone in their right mind ever want to run for president? I don’t even know why I watched, since this year’s election has gotten so ridiculous. I think it must have had something to do with, if it were solely up to me, which one would I pick. I may have narrowed it down to three, and not one of them probably has a chance.
In the meantime, the show went on with each contestant attempting to see who could be the rudest, insult more people, and be the most obnoxious of the lot. I don’t see where, “I will get it done. Trust me” is a realistic solution to the problems we face. Is it too much to ask what the candidate might see as a possible solution?
I also wonder about the proposed solution to our ISIL problems as bombing Syria to smithereens. Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember when we dropped atomic bombs on Japan. How many totally innocent men, women, and children were vaporized when we did that? Sure, it ended the war, but at what price?
I guess the biggest reason I wouldn’t run is because I wouldn’t be comfortable knowing that at least fifty percent of the people hated me, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to find out I really did stick bubblegum under my desk in junior high.
“Sparty is Driving Me Crazy”
I don’t know what is going to happen first, either the Sparty footballers are going to drive me absolutely bonkers, ( No comments) or somebody is going to have to zap me a few times to jump start my heart.
How many games have they won in the last couple of minutes of the game this year? It’s insane. Personally, I love those 45-zip games where we can sit back on the sofa and smile through the whole thing. I DO NOT LIKE games that are won by a field goal or touchdown right at the end.
Fortunately, we only have to survive two more football games, Alabama on New Year’s Eve at the Cotton Bowl where we rip out the hearts of Sabin and his “Tide” as we roll them under the bus. After that, we’ll have to take care of either Clemson or Oklahoma for the National Football Championship. Then college football is over for the year.
After that, I can start breathing easier because the Sparty basketball team is a shoo-in for the National Basketball Championship. Let’s face it, they’ll be ranked number one when they come out on Monday, and I see no reason for any of it to change for the rest of the season. Keep in mind, I am not biased. Go Green! Go White!
"The Last Child"
Just recently, a friend was telling me of a book he just finished by John Hart. He couldn’t extol anything but praises. That got me to thinking; I have a book by John Hart. Five or six years ago John came to a book signing in Lansing, MI at Schuler’s Book store. I picked up a signed first edition of “The Last Child” and read it, put it away, and forgot it.
Listening to my friend’s praise, I dug out my copy and re-read it this week. Wow! It blew me away. There are two mantras that are always preached to writers, “Show, don’t Tell,” and “Show growth, decline, or change” in the characters. I could visualize little Johnnie in his various stages from a heart broken little boy, to a wild little Indian, to a child of acceptance. I could also visualize and empathize with Jack, who only had one friend, Johnnie.
I always try to figure out how the ending will turn out in a book. This one took me totally by surprise, as it should. If you haven’t read this book before, do. If you have, read it again.
“Kindle Advertising Campaign”
I’ve been having some fun going through the process of watching a Kindle advertising gimmick I’ve signed on to. The most it could have cost me was $200, but it won’t because I’ve actually sold several books from it already. I won’t sell enough to cover the cost, but that’s irrelevant. Getting the books out there where they are actually seen and looked at, is more important. Using Facebook as an advertising device is not real profitable.
The way this works is, I set an advertising amount I’m willing to part with, and then set a “click” price I’m willing to deal with. Amazon then put the book out there for people to see. When someone actually sees the cover of the book (Called an Impression) it’s counted. If and when a person clicks on the book to look at the description, I’m charged. In my case, I chose .09 per click. You could go anywhere from .02 up to as high as you want. I read later that the average is .30 to .37 a click.
I read in a book, I think it was called “Advertising on the Kindle” or something like that, that the author of that book actually made more money when he sold it for .99 than he did for $2.99 and it was a best seller at that price in its genre. So, to run the comparison, I dropped the Kindle price on all of my other books to .99. So, now I am running the advertisement on both books. “Damey and the Z-Team” for $2.99 has been running for 14 days. It has 8087 views, and 52 clicks meaning that many people have actually gone in and read the description. “Damey & Grandpa Tutor” at .99 has only been running five days has 12,664 images and 114 clicks. Also, sales are six times higher on the .99 book than the $2.99.
Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun watching the progression. I really don’t care how the $ work out in the end. It’s a relatively cheap way to advertise and hits a lot of people who knows how it will turn out.
When I turn on the news and watch the actions of some of the people in this world, I feel very thankful that I have lived the life I have and where I have. Can you imagine living in the Middle East these days where some hell bound crazed idiot from ISIS, ISIL, or whatever they’re calling themselves today, might walk up to you, praise their maker, and then cut your head off, thinking nothing of it?
How much of our continued existence is pure luck? Suppose one of us had been visiting the city of Paris recently? Would we have been wiped out in the bombing? Suppose we had been in Oklahoma City in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh and his buddy blew up the building killing 168 people? Would our presence there have made it 169?
According to Ma Google this morning, there have been over 400 murders in Chicago alone this year already. Could one of us been in the wrong place at the wrong time? How much is luck, and how much is using a little common sense? There are places here in peaceful Lansing where I would not walk around by myself at 2 a.m.
I guess my whole point is, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and when I look around, I feel very greatful that I was born in this country where, even though we are not one-hundred percent safe, we sure as hell have a better life than a lot of people in this world. My hopes for the coming year are that the sane countries of the world unite and rid the place of ISIS who think mass murder is a wonderful way of promoting their so-called religion. That would take care of a number of the problems in the world today, so whatever the government does to accomplish that, is fine with me. Just get it done.
In the meantime, stay safe, pay attention, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
When it comes to football and Michigan State, I tend to get a little over zealous. Back in the days of Yore, Kay, my wife, would sometimes leave the house and go sit on the patio and read during the day games, if the weather cooperated.
This weekend, MSU was scheduled to play Ohio State. It had been hyped as the game of the year in the Big Ten. Normally, the adrenalin would be pumping so hard the neighbors would have been able o hear me. However, this year was different. Our star QB who held MSU’s record for wins hurt his shoulder last week. Whether or not he played became a game time decision. When it was discovered that the shoulder had not healed enough to get that zip on the ball he needed, it was decided his two backups would play and he would call in the signals from the sideline.
Neither of the backups have had more than a handful of reps all year. It was a given in my mind, State would lose. The game became a defensive battle between the two teams. Both coaches decided to grind it out. State had a couple of miscues giving Ohio State a couple of easy touchdowns. State managed to battle back each time keeping the score tied at 14 apiece. I stayed perfectly calm the whole time except for the last drive of the game. More than likely, the game would go into overtime. State moved the ball down the field, and with three seconds left in the game, our field goal kicker split the uprights and gave us a 17-14 win.
Not once during the game did I scream or yell or jump up and down. I stayed perfectly calm. If Kay was looking down, I know she rolled her eyes and shook her head. No way could that ever happen.
“Playing With Pricing”
For all of you who have Kindles out there, here’s your chance. Except for “Damey & the Z-Team” which will remain at $2.99 because it's brand new, I’ve dropped the price on the other seven books to $.99 temporarily just to see what will happen. It all has to do with a marketing experiment that I’m trying.
I’ve been reading a book on marketing for the Kindle, and their basic premise is to set the price as low as Amazon will allow and then keep track of your sales record. The idea is, people will read your book and put a review on Amazon to help you promote it.
Step two, is after a set amount of time, raise the price a dollar and see what happens to sales. Since the idea is to promote reviews because it pushes you up Amazon’s food chain, hopefully, sales will consistent. After that set period, raise the price again. Keep doing this until sales drop. Then, go back to the previous price.
So, you folks with Kindles, get out there and grab them while they’re at the lowest price they will ever be. Just make sure you write a review at Amazon when you finish before you nominate it to the Pulitzer Prize committee.
“Is the Whole World Going Nuts?”
Reading and watching the news about the terrorism attack in Paris makes me wonder if the whole world is going nuts or what? How could anyone who is anywhere on the spectrum of semi-sanity walk into a crowd of people with a weapon and just start shooting people? An even bigger question has to be, how could you strap a boat load of explosives to your body and blow yourself and as many others as possible?
I can’t believe it all has to do with religion. In the case of ISIL, or whatever it’s calling itself today, I can’t believe that is a part of the Muslim belief system. I know that true Muslims don’t believe in that crap. It’s just an excuse. There are probably radical sects in all religions—I know for sure there are some radical Christians. However, they don’t go out and kill as many people as they can to attain their fifteen minutes of fame.
These murderers have to be just plain nuts, not unlike Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, Dylan roof in SC, Major Hasan in Ft. Hood TX, and on and on the list goes. The biggest question in my mind is, what can we do about it? There has to be more attention paid to mental health, not only in our country, but all over the world. Of course, that costs money, and a lot of people don’t want to go that route.
I guess in the meantime, we have to hope the politicians come up with a game plan to tighten security on terrorists coming in and out of the country and keep tabs on the comings and goings of those who are expected to have those inclinations with the ones who are already here. If that means bugging their damned phones, go for it. Screw their “rights.” The rest of us have the right to be protected against them.
As I write today’s “Rant,” I am well aware that today is Veteran’s Day. Two articles in today’s paper rubbed be a little on the raw side. As one who spent four years of my youth in the USAF between Korea and Viet Nam, I tend to be a little opinionated. The first article I read this morning indicated that 71% of today’s youth are not fit for military service. They gave the reasons for it being obesity, stupidity (Lack of education or ability to pass the intelligence test in their words), criminal records, etc.
Thirty percent of today’s youth, according to the article, are too damned fat to join the army. Maybe it’s time to reenact the draft and put those people in basic training until they melt off sufficient fat cells so they qualify. I know, at least, during the time they spent in basic, they wouldn’t be able to sit on their fat *&^’s and play video games all day. When I look at the statistics, the majority of those blobs will never reach my “advanced” age due to health conditions brought on by their obesity. Putting them in the army might actually save some of their lives.
The second article that caught my eye was one suggesting that they allow Edward Snowden to return to America from where he’s hiding in Russia. I agree, under my conditions. Back in the day, traitors were taken out to a field with their hands tied behind their backs, a bull’s eye pinned to his shirt over the heart, stood in front of a six foot hole already dug, and shot by a firing squad. Typically, they had six riflemen who performed the deed. One of the six had a blank so the squad never knew which one didn’t actually shoot him. Need I say more?
“If It Seems too Good to be True…”
There’s an old cliché out there that I’m sure you’ve all heard, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” I have an old and dear friend who was scammed by one of these deals recently. It was one of these “Mystery Shopper” arrangements.
The company had mailed her this advertisement for the position. She had to fill out an application and do all kinds of things—which probably included her banking institution information. Anyway, they sent her a $3000 check along with the directions about what she was supposed to do with it. There were all kinds of instructions as to how she was supposed to evaluate the places where she shopped. (She was told where to go. Apparently, the parent company had paid for this evaluation of their stores and shopping experience.)
The victim of this thing checked with The Better Business Bureau, and they had no bad reports on the company. She deposited the check. It sat there “Pending” for a few days and finally cleared. She went about her job of purchasing the required items, doing the evaluations, and waiting for her next assignment. Just about the time she got her next check in the mail, her bank account emptied leaving her with no money and a slew of bounced check fees and owing the bank for all of the purchases.
She notified the Attorney General’s office and they told her to call the local police. An officer did come out and talk to her and took all of the paperwork. Apparently, this was a new scam for our area they hadn’t heard about yet. In the meantime, her bank is going to waive the bounced check fees and make arrangements for her to pay it back. This is a real consolation for someone living on $800 a month Social Security.
In the meantime, let’s all take heed, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"Spur of the Moment"
I did something different and totally out of character for me this week. About four-thirty on Wednesday afternoon, I came in from reading my book on the patio (Yeah, it was 75 degrees on the 4th. of Nov.). While I was in the house, I checked Facebook. The first thing I saw was an advertisement for the Williamston boys' soccer team which was playing in the semi-state final at 6 o’clock at the Howell Middle school about 40 miles away. I looked at my watch, and said to myself, “Hell, why not?” So I jumped in the car, told my On Star navigation where I wanted to go and off I went.
Prior to this, I had never been to a soccer came in my life and had no idea what was going on. All I knew was, when the ball landed in the net, it indicated a score. I sat beside a personal friend of an old student of mine, who I have known for years, and is currently the assistant principal at the high school. He explained things the best he could as the game progressed.
During half time, one of my old principals stopped by to say “Hi.” This one was a total rip. His daughter, who I had in class, and his son-in-law, who I also had in class, married and have a son, who is a senior at WHS, playing on the team. John, the principal, was always calm, cool, and collected. Never got excited or showed any real emotions. So, what does he tell me when half time is over? “I’ve got to go. I can’t sit or stand still during the games. I’m too nervous. I have to pace back and forth.” Talk about being out of character. I guess grandpas can show another side of themselves that principals can’t.
Anyway, I saw a number of old friends and students including “Grandpa’s” daughter and son-in-law, and had a great time. Not only that, but WHS won and play for the state championship this Saturday. I have a birthday party for one of my great grandsons to go to at the same time so won’t be able to make it. Wish they were going to play on Sunday.
The one thing that impresses me the most is, those kids who ran at top speed for 80 minutes – two 40 minute periods, all had to get up and go to school the next day. I was never in that good of shape in my life. My hat’s off to those boys. Congratulations on a great season and good luck on Saturday.
I’m starting a new book that even has me baffled. As of now, there is really no big plot or conflict. It’s more or less a feel good type of thing.
Essentially, it’s about a thirty-two year old man who shows “Grandpa” that his savings account has hit the one-hundred grand figure. Twenty years previously twelve-year-old Thomas, AKA Tommy, was sent back to the children’s home on the last Friday before Christmas break by foster parents who didn’t want him around anymore—especially over the holidays.
On the Monday following break, the old retired widower who had been tutoring him was asked by Child Protective Services if he’d be at all interested in taking Tommy in as a foster child until they are able to find a more stable environment for him. Grandpa starts a savings account labeled “Tommy Account” and puts every foster care stipend in there as a slush fund for Tommy.
He never tells Tommy about the account until two weeks before his eighteenth birthday when the CPS case worker informs Thomas that he may have to leave Grandpa’s because the checks will be coming to an end on his birthday.
The flashback is going to cover twenty years and I have absolutely no idea how this is going to go. It just may end up in the recycle bin before I’m done. Hope not.
“Ah, Senility Strikes Again”
I was updating my web page yesterday getting ready to drive everyone nuts when I hit the “Publish” button next week on my latest literary masterpiece, when I suddenly couldn’t get one of the processes to work. I screwed around with the thing for an hour before calling their “Help” line. The very patient lady on the other end reached through the computer screen, grabbed me by the ear, and kindly led me through the process in about five minute’s time.
I guess if there is a message in here, if you are considering making yourself a web page, I highly recommend the folks at Homestead.com. They have always been extremely helpful any time I have ever called them for an S.O.S. The site is actually very easy to operate and a “normal” person shouldn’t have the same battles I have.
Now, for the bad news. Since “Damey & the Z-Team” is ready to go, a new story has been brewing in the brain. By the time I finish hassling all of you about buying ten copies apiece for stocking-stuffers this year, I’ll be hot-on-the-trail with book nine. Can hardly wait, can you?
“That Y in the Road”
All of us in our youth, at one time or the other, read that poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” Did any of us actually think about it back then? No, of course not. However, today many years later we look back on our lives and think about those things. A student teacher I had in high school signed my yearbook with, “If, if it had been.” How prophetic.
I look back at my own youth and think about some of the choices I made. I enlisted in the USAF with a couple of my buddies instead of going to college right after high school. The way it turned out, my draft date would have put me in the early part of the Viet Nam war. When my four-year hitch was up, I had the opportunity to extend for a year so I could participate in a huge bowling tournament in Spain. I didn’t.
All of us have Y moments in our lives—jobs taken or not taken, schools attended or not attended, spouses taken or not taken, kids, adoptions, abortions, investments made or not made, promotions that took away all job security or not, write the next book or not, and on and on it goes.
All of us have had a number of these Y moments in the road, and we have no way of knowing how our lives would have turned out if we’d taken that other road. Is that a good thing or not?
“Once You Think You’ve Heard it All”
For those of you out there who pay any attention to college football, you’ve probably seen the ending of the MSU/UM football game last Saturday at least a hundred times. It is likely to be one of the most bizarre endings in the history of the game.
Two things happened as the result of that play that could be considered tragic—at least to some degree. Tragic might be too strong a word, but I hope you get my point. When the MSU player crossed into the end zone, the defensive player was trying to pull him back to prevent him from scoring, and dislocated and broke the kid’s hip.
Not knowing the player was injured, most of his teammates piled on top of him pummeling him half to death. One was yanking on him trying to get him off the ground so they could mob him further. As soon as they realized he was injured, they naturally backed off and called for help. Ultimately, the young man was carted off the field and taken to the U of M hospital where he had surgery on Monday. One humorous quip was when they released him, a nurse told him to be sure to tell everyone how nice they were to him.
The second thing that happened, which I consider as truly tragic, was what happened to the punter who fumbled the ball allowing the MSU touchdown to happen in the first place. The kid we’re talking about is a Rugby player from Australia who has only played American style football for two years. He’s an honors student working on his second master’s degree from the U of M.
With ten MSU players on the line and three coming at him totally unblocked, he clutched and fumbled the ball. That’s when the bizarre part of the play happened as the ball flipped into the hands of the MSU player and he ran it something like 38 yards into the end zone for the winning touchdown.
So, how do (Hopefully a very slim minority) of U of M fans react? They send him some of the most hateful messages on Twitter and Facebook you can imagine. There were death threats, suggestions that he commit suicide, people telling him they hated him, calling him all kinds of names, etc. On one of the discussion boards, somebody left a Twitter link providing a whole list of their rants. I read through a number of them, and they were totally sick.
Of course, U of M fans were crushed and heartbroken at the end result. Any U of M enthusiast would be, but you don’t threaten a college student’s life or suggest he commit suicide just because you are disappointed at the outcome of a GAME. Some people suggested that the people were all probably drunk and didn’t know what they were doing. No excuse. In my book those who did it are pure TRASH.
“Once You Think You’ve Heard it All”
Four years ago a lady went to her then eight-year-old nephew’s birthday. When he saw her, he ran at her saying, “Aunty …., I love you,” and flew into her arms all excited to see her. The leap into her arms knocked her over, and the end result was a broken arm.
Now, four years later she sued her twelve-year old nephew for something like a $127,000 dollars to cover medical expenses and her enduring pain. She actually said at the trial that at a cocktail party she had trouble holding her drink in that hand. Goodness, gracious. Seems like she should have sued him for at least a million in that case.
Now, to make the story even more traumatic for the boy, his mother died about a year ago so he’s been going through all of that heart ache as well as his aunt suing him. Supposedly—she was forced into filing the law suit from her insurance company. The Internet News agency does not name the insurance company. Wish it did.
On a positive note, the jury basically threw it out after deliberating a whole twenty-five minutes. What I don’t understand is, why did it take that long, and why didn’t the judge throw it out before it ever went to trial?
Sometimes, events that happen in real life are a lot more far-fetched than fiction. If someone used that as a plot for a novel or short story, nobody would ever buy or read it. It would be way too ludicrous.
One more example: Fact is wackier than fiction—check one of the replays of the ending of the Michigan State/University of Michigan football game this weekend.
I think there must be something wrong with me. For the most part, I hate television. I watch the news and sports and nothing else. I don’t know if the political debates would fall into news, sports, or comedies, but I watch them as well. However, the daily drivel, no.
I have friends who religiously watch the morning programs while having breakfast and reading the paper. Other friends watch the reality shows and serials in the evening. I can’t do that. I find them boring as hell. I’ve had several friends tell me, “Oh, you have to watch so-and-so. You’ll love it.” I don’t.
A couple of years ago I decided to watch one of the reality shows one night that had been highly recommended. That lasted fifteen minutes before I turned it off. It was the stupidest thing I’d seen yet. I used to enjoy watching some of the talent shows, but after a while I burned out on them. I think all of the “Drama” that the show put into the choosing of the winners is what turned me off on them.
I think the last show that I watched more than one episode of was, “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” Now, that show I enjoyed. That’s probably why it didn’t last very long.
I guess my TV preferences run closer to an old principal friend of mine. He doesn’t have one in his house. He gets his news off the Internet, and if the Spartans are playing football, he goes to a bar and watches the game. I guess I won’t go that far, but I sure can’t knock the concept.
Damey & the Z-Team is essentially done. All I have to do is wait for two more people who are editing it, make the necessary changes, and then pop it up on Amazon.com for my normal self-publishing deal. Sounds simple, right? Get it all wrapped up and available by the first week of November so two or three million people can buy it as a stocking stuffer. (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration.)
Herein lies the problem. I submitted it to a small book publisher in Colorado that I have had some dealings with. They know me; I know them. They specialize in “Geek Fiction,” whatever that means, and it will take a while. Personally, I think this book could be considered as geek fiction because of the oil-sniffing underwater robot and some of the technology related things involved in the story.
If I wait the required month or so for them to actually look at it and come to some kind of decision—which will probably be, “It’s not geekish enough,” I’m missing out on my self-appointed deadline. If by some stretch of the imagination, they decided to publish it, it would take another year before it hit the shelves. Do I want to wait that long?
If a traditional publisher did publish the book, I would definitely sell more copies. However, keeping things in perspective, who cares? I write to entertain myself, not make money. If another thousand or so people also enjoy my scribblings, I’m happy. Would it make any difference to me if, let’s just throw out a figure here, an additional five-thousand people bought it? No, not at all. Would I get a big head and become an insufferable egotistical boor if it sold a million? Probably, but then, some people find me that way now. (No comments from the peanut gallery, Ms. Judy)
So, the question of the day is—do I wait for that publisher for a couple of months and miss the Christmas rush, or do I say. “To hell with it,” and punch the “Publish” button the first week of November?
“Patience Is NOT My Number One Virtue”
For the most part, Damey & the Z-Team is done and in the final editing process. I have been working (Procrastinating) on this thing for just about a year and a half. Now, that I have a handful of people reading it over for one last edit, I’m ready to polish it off, hit “Publish,” and call it a day.
My intent was to have the book a little on the science fictionish side including a lot of things, like the nuclear powered, oil-sniffing robot with claws that can hold, sever, or weld steel under water. Where the procrastination part comes in is when I started Googling all this stuff and learned that it is already out there. That threw me in a funk for a while. All of my “original” brainstorms were, not only, not original, but were already in the testing and/or operational stage. Damn!
After a number of friends convinced me that it didn’t make any difference, I went ahead and finished the novel. Now all I have to do is sue the makers of those robots for royalties. After all, they stole MY idea.
Back in 2013, I leased a car for the first time. Every dealer I have talked to in the past five years has told me that this is the way I should go. Why tie up a whole ton of money when I typically trade cars every three years anyway. I don’t like driving a car that isn’t still under warranty. So, I decided to try it.
The dealership used US Bank at that time. (They no longer do) One of the fine print items on the agreement was a $395 termination fee if I didn’t buy the car, and I’m assuming, using them for the financier of the loan if there was one. I don’t remember the dealership mentioning that little item. Maybe they did, and I don’t remember. Anyway, when it was getting to be that time, I dug out the agreement and noticed it. I wasn’t thrilled to death over that one.
About three months before the lease expired, I started getting these letters from US Bank wanting to come out and inspect the vehicle in advance. I didn’t have any idea what that was all about, but since I figured the car was in pristine condition, I ignored the letters. Well, about a month ago I was getting close on mileage so leased a new one. Then came the surprise.
I get this bill from US Bank for $1,129.50 for “Excess Wear & Tear.” I called the company and managed to swear at this idiot I was talking to enough so she finally sent me on to someone up higher up in the food chain. In a monotone, the person gave me a link to pictures of all the “damage.” There were some minor scrapes under the front bumper from the blizzard two years ago when the city plowed and filled in my driveway while I was gone. I didn’t want to leave the car in the road while I cleaned out the end of the driveway, so I plowed through the thing and scraped the bottom of the bumper. These were not visible when standing in from of the car. You had to squat or lie down on your back to see them.
Then they showed some pictures of some minor scrapes on the wheel rims that came from someplace. I have no clue. I never saw them before. They also charged me for a new tire because there was excess wear and not enough tread showing. Really? These were run-flat tires that are guaranteed for 80,000 miles. The tire had 34,000 + miles. Those and a couple other even more minor things added up to the total.
Still talking away in his monotone, the character on the other end of the line told me that if I’d followed directions and had them come out and inspect the vehicle, I’d probably have saved considerable money by getting these things fixed on my own.
I guess the fine line comes in determining between “normal” wear and tear and “excess” wear and tear. I do know for a fact of two dealerships that no longer use US Bank for their leases. I wonder why. I also know for a fact that I will never lease an automobile from them again and would highly recommend you don’t either.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Senility is a wonderful thing, if you don’t weaken.” I’ve weakened. This week I finished reading the seven-book Harry Potter series for, get this, the third time. I read it the first time when they were all originally published. The second time was last year just for the hell of it. The only problem was, I decided to set up a time limit where I would finish it by the end of the year. That meant rushing through the last three books to hit my goal.
This summer I decided to read it again from the viewpoint of an author. I wanted to see if I could determine just exactly what and how she did this. After all, if I wanted to compare her three billion in royalties with my $3, I should be able to learn something from her. That lasted about ten pages, and then I just dove into the stories again, amazed how much I’d missed or forgotten.
Now let’s put this all into a little perspective:
Book 1 = 309 pages
Book 2 = 341
Book 3 = 435
Book 4 = 734
Book 5 = 870
Book 6 = 652
Book 7 = 759
Total = 4,100 pages
Multiple that total by three and you end up with 12,300 pages of fantasy.
Now, is that crazy or is that crazy? Not only that, but I even teared up—again when Harry repaired his phoenix wand at the end.
Like I said at the beginning, “Senility is a wonderful thing, if you don’t weaken.”
A discussion has come up in our state legislature making it possible for everyone to vote by mail. I’m not sure at this point whether they are talking voting only by mail, or if they want to make that an option. I definitely think it should at least be an option.
How many parents, care givers, college students, employees, etc. don’t vote because they just don’t have time or means to go to the poles or stand in line for one to two hours waiting their turn? If voting by mail became optional, I’m betting a lot more people would do so.
I think people would vote more intelligently as well. Some of the proposals are written with the purpose of confusing the voter. (That might be a stretch, but it seems that way at times.) Anyway, being able to sit down in your own living room and read them carefully would allow one a more informed vote. Not everyone takes the newspaper so I’m assuming many of the issues on the ballot are seen for the first time while people are in the booth.
Watching election results, it’s obvious that many people do not vote on some proposals, and it’s understandable. If you are faced with a two or three paragraph proposal that you are seeing for the first time and there’s a line going out the door waiting for your booth, you might have a tendency to skip it and move on to the next box.
Anyway, I hope this does not become a “political” issue and our politicians sit down together and make this idea work. This is not a liberal/conservative, democrat/republican issue. This is an issue that will allow more people to be informed on the issues and to vote.
Tonight is debate number two. I certainly hope tonight’s is more substantive than the first one. I’m not the least bit interested in what Candidate A thinks of Candidate B or what he or she thinks of the current administration. I would like to hear some actual talk about issues.
Don’t bore me with, “I’m gonna repeal O’Bama Care.” That’s not going to happen. The Supreme Court has already ruled on that. Tell me what revisions, additions, subtractions that you would favor. Where do you see weaknesses that can be corrected?
Don’t tell me that you’re going to move the Great Wall of China to the American/Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. Tell me what we can do to provide for lawful, sane immigration that might even work and be effective.
What would you do with the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who are trying to flee that murderous dictatorship that’s in the middle of a civil war? Are you going to tell them all, “No, go back to where you came from so they can kill you and your kids. I mean, like, one of you might be a terrorist or something. It’s probably that two-year-old you’re carrying.” Or, do you have some ideas where we might actually help some people?
Our infrastructure is going to hell in a handbasket. I read the other day that over fifty percent of the bridges in the United States are crumbling and are a disaster waiting for a time to happen. What do you suggest we do about this problem? What about the fifty year old pipes moving oil under the Great Lakes? What solutions do you have for these problems?
Do you have a solution for the widening gap between the rich and the poor? Supposedly, in the not too distant future, we’ll be back like we were in the 1700s—a handful of the mega-rich on top running the kingdom with all of the rest of us in virtual poverty. How are we going to build the middle class?
Somehow or the other, let’s deal with some actual issues tonight and for the rest of the campaign and forget about the name calling, BS bravado, and trying to pump up your own egomania to the point where your head is going to get so big it explodes.
“Is the Whole World Going Nuts?”
For the past year or so, it seems like the whole world has been going nuts. Between police assassinations, the shooting of unarmed Black men by the police, the murder rate in some of the larger cities, it seems like it couldn’t get any wackier.
I was wrong; it did. This week here in Lansing the fire department was out in force making collections for muscular dystrophy. One of the trucks was parked in the left turn lane on Cedar St with the firemen in full uniform including reflective jackets. For some reason or the other, some car pulled up beside one of the firemen and words were exchanged. The driver then sped off, drove down a block, turned around and roared back, veered out of his lane, and intentionally ran over the fireman he had just had words with.
A couple of different civilian cars who saw the incident take place took chase and helped the police spot, stop, and nab the person after he took off running.
The firemen on the scene took over emergency duties trying to save the victim until the ambulance could get him to the hospital. To make this story all the more sick, the fireman’s wife is an emergency room nurse at Sparrow Hospital and was on duty when they brought her husband in.
The current media offerings indicate that the murderer has been mentally ill for the past four years. Apparently he has been admitted at least twice for treatment and then turned loose on society. The biggest question for me is why has this been allowed to happen? Here’s why. Huge cuts were made politically to the public health programs here in Michigan a number of years back and have never been restored.
How many more people are going to be murdered senselessly before the politicians get their heads out of you-know-where and start worrying about the people instead of kissing up to dollar signs?
I swear, some things in life are just not fair. This is the first week of school for most traditional schools in the state of Michigan. For fifty-one years, I’ve had one version or the other of the same dream during this week. I’m standing in front of the class and total chaos breaks out. Kids are screaming, yelling, running over desk tops, and throwing things. What am I doing? I’m standing there holding onto a lectern with a death grip, mouth and eyes wide open totally panic stricken.
Fair is fair. Maybe I deserved that nightmare for thirty-five years, but I haven’t had a first week of school since September of 1998. When I walked out of the door in June of 99, that should have taken care of it. But, oh no, it happened again just like it has every September since. Fortunately, none of the faces in the nightmare look familiar, so I guess I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. Somewhere along the line, however, my penance should be paid in full.
Ever stop to think about how some of your family traditions may seem a bit odd to others? I’m probably three months early or nine months late for posting this, but, oh well. I just happened to think of it. For as far back as I can remember, our family tradition on New Year’s Eve has been oyster stew and hot tamales.
My mom and dad started the tradition of having oyster stew on New Year’s Eve. When their three cherubic angels came along, none of them would touch the stuff. It probably started with Evil Sister No. 1. Being the oldest and spoiled beyond repair, I’m sure they catered to her whims and gave her something she would eat—hot tamales out of a can.
That tradition carried on. When my wife and I married, she and I and the kids continued to spend the holiday eve with them having the same fare. As the years passed, and it was just Kay and me at home, the tradition lived on. She loved that rancid smelling oyster stew, and I liked the hot tamales.
To this day, even though it’s just me, I still have hot tamales on New Year’s Eve—sans the oyster stew.
Think about your own traditions. I’m sure you have something equally bizarre.
“Football at Last”
Last night I sat in front of the TV for hours switching between the Lions and the U of M game with Utah. Occasionally, I even checked once to see how badly the Tigers were getting beat. I think that game ended up 15-7.
Football is my favorite sport. I love the action, the skill, the technique, and the strategy. Can’t wait for tonight’s MSU game. They are starting the season ranked No. 5 in the nation. How fickle those numbers are though. One bad outing and the whole season could go to Hell in a hand basket. Two games stand out right now between a stellar season and an “Oh, yeah. Ho hum” one—Oregon and Ohio State.
I remember the 1965 and 1966 national championship years. Oh, how I would love to have a repeat—shall we say, 2015 and 2016? Go State. Go Green and White. Football is back.
“I Didn’t Ask to be Born”
I’ve heard this highly intelligent comment twice in the past few months from members of the “younger” generation. Of course, my response is, “Name me one person who has.” I think there is a feeling of entitlement and a lack of self-responsibility in many members of today’s generation that I didn’t see, back in the day…
I know of one young man who graduated a year ago with a degree in computer science who has a job working from home making $75,000 a year. That in itself is great, and I’m proud of his accomplishment. However, he is living in his parent’s basement for free expecting Mommy to cook his meals and wash his clothes because he’s not ready to move out on his own yet and they “Owe” him that. In my humble opinion, he’s an immature, twenty-four year old mooch—AKA, spoiled brat.
I know, this isn’t representative of all of today’s youth, but it sure does apply to a few others I’ve heard about as well. You know how things from way-back-when stick in your mind for absolutely no reason? When I was nine-years-old, I got a paper route delivering three different Sunday papers, the Detroit Times, Free Press, and News. After I made my first collection and paid my bill, I refused my fifty cent a week allowance when my mother handed it to me. I told her I didn’t need it anymore, and she asked, “Are you sure?”
What I remember most is the look on her face. Not sure quite how to describe it, but if you’re reading this, you know what I mean. I was never out of a job again from that time on until a few years back when I chose to quit working because it was interfering with my writing schedule. LOL
What a wild week this has been on the stock market. Talk about roller coaster rides. At one point on Monday it was down a thousand points. It ended up the day around 500 down. That followed Friday’s dump of about the same.
This morning it’s up 369 points, but it’s early in the day. (It ended up down 200.) Who knows what the reading will be at five o’clock when they hit the bell. All I know is, I don’t touch mine. My financial guy told me one time, put yours in a relatively conservative interest bearing mutual fund and then ignore it. Whatever you do, don’t panic when it goes through a rough spot.
I’m the last person who is going to “play” the stock market, so that’s great advice for me. Let it sit there and allow the interest to reinvest itself and ignore it. Like he said, think of the positive, when it’s down your interest buys more shares. When it goes up again, so does the bottom line.
So, there it sits. I do have to peek at it and gasp a little during these times, but better days are ahead.
“Will It Work Or Not?”
I’ve been playing with “Damey & The Z-Team” for almost a year. It’s actually a novella instead of a novel. My biggest problem has been and is, does the thing work?
Very briefly, it’s a continuation of “Damey & Grandpa Tutor” about twenty-five years after the main part of that story takes place. Damey is now a PhD, high-level robotics engineer who is the vice president of a Lansing computer/robotics engineering firm in Lansing called Dewline. He has a wife and three sons whose first names all begin with the letter Z.
In the story Damey has invented an underwater oil sniffing robot which was originally built to seek out oil leaks in the Atlantic. What happens is there is a discovery of oil leaking from under the ice shelf in Antarctica. The government sends Damey and his robot to an icebreaker in the Waddell Sea to see if he can find it and possibly seal it.
While he is there, a violent thunder-snow storm hits and lightning makes a direct hit on the ship’s computers while he is sleeping. The safety locks work in reverse and Damey is locked in his room with no lights, running water, or heat. The outside temperature is -20 degrees.
Every time he goes to sleep, he dreams of the past year and a number of events that happened within his family. That’s where the problem is, it’s sort of like two stories blended into one. So, I’m going to have a couple of people read it before I do any last ditch editing to see if it confuses the hell out of them, or does the story work. Stay tuned:-)
“News Credibility and Integrity”
Brian Williams, former TV news anchor for NBC, has completed his six month exile. Now he’s coming back. Yes, he’s been demoted and his pay cut drastically, but should he be back at all? In my humble opinion, no.
I liked Brian Williams and watched his news cast faithfully, but I don’t want him back. It’s not that he hasn’t learned his lesson by embellishing certain stories—like claiming he was riding in a downed helicopter during the Iraq war, it’s more like NBC didn’t consider the matter serious enough to drop him.
The media gets trashed every day. Some networks are far right and some are far left. Trying to figure out who will just report the news without a political slant is difficult. I’m not sure these days it’s possible. The closest I’ve found to completely unbiased reporting is CNN. However, who knows? I don’t think any of us have the ability to know when they are giving the straight news and when they are putting a slant on it.
I know a number of the “kids” in the current generation of college students and recent grads don’t watch any network news. They get all of their news off of the Internet. That’s scary too. You don’t know there whether someone has just made something up and reported it, or if they used a reliable source.
So, I guess we all have to go with our gut and get our news from wherever we feel the most comfortable. The main thing is, don’t ignore all of it and just listen to the people at work, in the restaurant, or local watering hole. Can you just imagine the credibility that reigns in those places?
I normally sit back and laugh at the “Conspiracy Theory Du Jour” and shake my head wondering how in the hell can be so stupid to believe it. However, this time, I’m beginning to wonder. Are the oil companies scamming us big time?
In the US Today part of the paper yesterday was an article about how the price of gas had dropped on the world market to the lowest it’s been in over five years. I don’t remember the exact figure, but it was something like $43 a barrel. It wasn’t much more than a year ago that the price was over $100 for the same amount.
So, what has happened this week? The price of gas has jumped twice, raising it by about .60 a gallon at the pump. According to the paper today, it might go up as much as a dollar before all is said and done. It seems some big refinery in Indiana has shut down, and it might be six months before they can get it back totally operational again.
Now, how convenient and believable is that? At the same time the price of oil hits record lows for modern day rates, the seventh largest refinery in the country has a massive breakdown? Yeah, right. I wonder what exactly happened to that refinery and why. Certainly, the company wouldn’t sabotage its own equipment so they could gouge the public at the pump by selling off all that stored oil they’ve reported on recently because the supply is higher than its demand.
I know it’s too much to expect, but I would certainly hope someone in authority does some on-location inspections to see what exactly the truth is. If it’s not really a conspiracy, it probably should be. The timing is way too convenient.
“I Hate Politics”
The older I get, the more modern day politics disgusts me. It is so negative, it’s sickening. Over the years I have de-friended four different people on Facebook because everything out of their mouth is a vile, hateful, spiteful rant. Amusingly, I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day who just happens to be an old student of mine, and he had just done the same thing to three of the four mentioned above.
He had answered one of their virulent rants on FB, suggesting that the least they could do was show a little respect to the office of the person they hate so bad. So what do two of them do, but attack him—letting him know how stupid, ignorant, and useless he was just because he made a suggestion and didn’t necessarily agree with them. He deleted both of them immediately.
I must have been out of my mind, but I actually sat down and watched the debate last week. I wanted to hear what they had to say on some issues that I would like to see Congress get off their duffs and actually try to do something about. The only thing that I got out of the debates was the fact that our so-called leaders—whether they be governors, congressmen, or business people, wanted to do nothing but name-call and attack one another. I can’t tell you one thing any of them said of any consequence. And, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure several of them did or tried to address the issues. What I’m saying is the only thing I got out of the two hour debate was the intense negativity.
Eventually, I plan to upgrade my website so I can put the “Irrelevant Rants” in a blog so people can respond. People periodically send me responses privately, but there is no real way right now to do so publicly. So, what I have decided to do is give people the opportunity to write “Guest Rants”, send them to me privately at email@example.com and I will put them up for people to look at and respond to when I get it set up.
Here are the stipulations: (I know, Nag! Nag! There always have to be those nasty guidelines.) Anyway, here they are—no politics, no religion, and no profanity. Your name will be posted to the rant. The intro will look something like this:
“Children Should be Seen and Not Heard”
(Or whatever your name is)
I normally put up new “Rants” on Sunday and Wednesday. If you send one, it will probably go live for that three to four day period. If I get a number, I may cut it down to two to three days. We’ll see how it works out. In the mean time, here’s your chance to vent with the knowledge that multiple people will see it. One last thing, Put “Irrelevant Rant” in your subject heading so I will recognize what it is and not delete it like I do 99% of the advertisements.
“Take a Break Before you Hit Send”
Have we gotten to the point where sometimes social media is too fast? I remember some advice I heard years ago when Email first became the rage. If you’re feeling grief, angry, upset about something, stressed, or sad, let that message sit and go have a cup of coffee before sending it. Fifteen minutes later, come back and read it. Then you have three options—send—delete—let it sit for a while longer.
Had a sad situation happen to a long time dear friend of mine this week. She and her two sisters lost their mother at two-thirty in the morning after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and old age. That morning she and one of her sisters were busy notifying relatives when their phones started ringing from angry family members and friends wanting to know why they hadn’t been. It seems the other sister had posted the news on Facebook at eight a.m.
In her grief, that was her way of coping. Unfortunately, the same rules for Email don’t always seem to apply to Facebook even if they should. That would have been the perfect time to sit back and get a cup of coffee and ask herself, “Is this something I want to send at eight in the morning when the event only happened a few hours earlier?
I see all kinds of rants on Facebook about politics, family, “Ex” friends and spouces, etc. where people might have been wise to take a breath, go have a cup of coffee or a Coke, before they hit “Enter” on the keyboard. Of course, there is always the “Delete” key, but sometimes even that is too late. I know of one lady who has two children, one in high school and one graduated. She posted a couple of weeks ago that she was pregnant. Two hours later, it had been deleted. Too late. By then the news had traveled across the globe. WHEN YOU’RE IN GRIEF, ANGRY, UPSET, STRESSED OR SAD—TAKE A BREAK BEFORE YOU SEND THAT MESSAGE.
Today I had great plans to be good. I got up at a reasonable time, read part of the paper, started the wash, planned to have breakfast at home for a change, and then get in some quality time editing my current WIP. Seems like all I do is waste a bunch of time and money by running out to one of the local restaurants for breakfast just because I don’t happen to feel like cereal.
That’s where Robert Burns 1786 poem, “To a Mouse” comes in—The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I opened the refrigerator, pulled out the milk, and just happened to glance at the expiration date—June 29, 2015. That didn’t look good so I opened it and sniffed. Whoops!
I poured it out, filled it with water three times and watered all of the hanging baskets. Then I filled it again and ran it over to Chapel Hill to water Kay’s urns (which were dry as a bone). You guessed it, after that I headed to the restaurant with the rest of the paper to finish off the sports section, comics, and work the crossword puzzle. “Wrymoq” really is a word isn’t it?
Oh well, today I will buy a fresh gallon of milk, and tomorrow I WILL be good and eat breakfast at home. Maybe.
“Work in Progress”
The first major draft of my latest literary masterpiece, “Damey and the Z-Team,” is done. Now comes the hard part. The first thing I have to do is print it off, which I have already done, and then start going through it line-by-line. I actually try to read it out loud. Naturally, I do this when nobody else is around so they don’t think I’ve gone totally off my rocker.
The number one thing is to see if the story flows. That’s the part that worries me the most with this book because it jumps back and forth between the primary scene and earlier. Most of the story takes place with him stranded on an icebreaker in the Antarctica. When he goes to sleep, he dreams of family events of the previous year.
The next thing is to determine if there is anything that I need to add or subtract from the current manuscript. The toner on the page wasn’t dry from printing the thing when I’d thought of two scenes that have to be added. I’m sure as I go through it there will be a number of things that do nothing for the plot and need to be deleted.
Then, there’s the real reason for reading it out loud. Most of the typos, word choices, auto-corrects that went the wrong way, and all of that fun mechanical stuff is easier to spot. So, after letting it sit for the weekend, I’ll get started tomorrow on phase two.
“Buy or Lease?”
Three years ago I leased a car for the first time. I have extremely mixed feelings about the whole process. Number one, the car is never “yours.” It’s essentially a rental. That seems to be a hangup for me. I like the idea of being able to say, “It’s paid for. It’s mine.”
On the other side of the coin, it never goes out of warranty and you never pay for an oil change. Last month the engine light came on. I took it into the dealership, sat in the lounge for a couple of hours reading the paper while they took care of that as well a “recall” for the car. They offered me a loaner, but I didn’t want to bother with that. I’d wait. When they finished, I signed on the dotted line and walked out the door never taking my wallet out of my pocket.
I’ve been talking to three different dealerships—including a nephew who used to own a car dealership and a grandson who is the general manager of one, and I get the same response from all. It makes no financial sense to invest thousands of dollars buying a car especially with my track record of never keeping one for more than three years.
So, that’s where I am. Do I follow my comfort zone, or do I listen the professionals who tell me I’m nuts? I have about two months to figure this out.
“Some of Us Are Gluttons for Punishment”
I am something like half way through my third reading of the Harry Potter series. Towards the end of last year, I read it for the second time but raced through the last three books because of my “important” goal of finishing before the end of the year.
This time I’m taking my time and trying to read the series as an author trying to dissect what J.K. Rowling is doing. Can’t say I’m having a whole lot of luck with that. I get interested in the various plot lines and ignore how she is doing it. I guess that’s OK because I’m having more fun this time. The one thing I have taken out of her work is how each and every book gets darker and darker as they go. Each book progresses from point A to Z getting more and more dangerous and evil. Then, there’s the book progression. Book one sets everything up. Book two starts to get a little darker and more evil, and on and on it goes.
I guess the biggest surprise is how much I either missed or have forgotten from one reading to the other. I’m right in the middle of book four and remember “kind of” what is going to happen, but not really the details as to how Rowling get us there. I guess that is where the dissection part comes in—trying to second guess the author and remember “How” she does what she does and why. In the meantime, I’m having fun and that’s the goal.
“Insurance—Rip Off or Protection?”
Had an interesting discussion the other day with someone about insurance in general. Since the Lansing area is supposedly the second largest area in the country for insurance companies after Hartford, CT, he was using some of their mega-complexes as proof. And, yes, some of these building sites are absolutely huge and expanding.
I call it a discussion, but actually it was a one-sided rant while I listened. His position was that insurance is essentially a rip off that you’re forced to partake in—not unlike the Mafia protection rackets in the big cities. If you get into a car accident, they raise your rates. As one commercial running now states, if you buy a $40,000 automobile and total it before your first oil change, most companies will only pay you $37,000 because of depreciation. His, of course, was the exception. If your house gets hit by lightning and burns down, they raise your rates. On and on he ranted while I listened.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I never looked at it that way. I always looked at it as protection and hoped like mad that I never collected. When the kids were young, I carried a substantial life insurance policy to protect my family in case something happened to me. Fortunately, for me anyway, nothing ever did. I no longer carry that kind of insurance because I don’t need it. I’ve never considered those dollars to be pouring money down a rat hole. I’m glad I had it---I’m glad I never used it.
“Yellow Journalism at its Best”
The paper reported today the story of finding the body of a nine-year-old severely autistic boy in a lake. He had been missing for a week. The park and lake had been searched by divers earlier, and he had not been found. As reported, he had visited the park with his foster family and disappeared.
Here’s the problem. The article goes on to tell us that he and his siblings had been in foster care for some time because of the awful conditions in his biological home. Then the story goes on to tell us how his teacher had clothes for him to change into when he got to school because of the condition of his own. Then it continues on to tell us he was bullied because of poor hygiene and body odor.
Why in hell did they have to report that part of the story? It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that a little boy who was severely disabled had gone to a park with family, wandered off, and drowned. All of the other BS was sensationalism. Stick with the story, reporters. What does that accomplish except to sully the unfortunate fate of the child? I was left with the impression that the reporter cheered the fact that it happened to that poor boy rather to one of the “good” ones out there.
Why wouldn’t it have made more sense to warn other parents of autistic children that these kids seem to have some kind of fatal attraction to water? Google “Autistic children and water” and check it out if you’d like to see more on the issue. To me, that would have been much more valuable information than what they printed.
“Really Important Question of the Day”
I’m in the middle of reading the seven-book Harry Potter series for the third time. I know, many of you are probably wondering why on earth would anyone read them three times. Easy, it’s fun. Both times I’ve re-read the books, I’ve found things that I’d forgotten or missed. For those of you who have read them, you have to admit they are crammed full of you name it—plot twists, innuendoes, mystery, magic, and surprises.
OK, here’s where the “Really Important Question of the Day” comes in. Knowing what you know now, if you were eleven-years-old, from Muggle (Non wizard and witch) parentage, and you received your invitation to Hogwarts—would you go? Now, let’s face it, you’re no Harry Potter struggling with Lord Voldemort and the three Dursleys. You’re just a “normal” kid who finds out you have magical powers and have been invited to a school of magic.
All of the kids have tons of homework every day, horrible creatures running around the place ready to maim or kill them on sight, dementors, teachers like Professor Snape who are mean and play favorites, magic curses to put up with, and all kinds of other scary things. Yet, they have great feasts, a lot of fun, learn all kinds of magic, fly brooms, play quiddich, and have great friends as well as enemies.
I really never pondered this question until I started book three the third time around. Now, I wonder. I had breakfast with a friend this week who said unequivocally his answer was yes. He also admitted that when he was eleven, he had different values than he does now and probably wouldn’t have gone. Of course, that’s why I said earlier, “Knowing what you know now …”
“My Next Literary Masterpiece”
There have been some people asking lately when I was going to pop loose with my next WIP (Work in progress). Well, the blunt answer would have to be, “Beats me!” It’s going to be a while.
I have been working on this gem for some time now and have taken turns with getting disgruntled and ready to throw it in the scrap heap, letting it sit and simmer for a while, to “All hands on deck. Let’s go for it.” Right now, I am currently working on the thing.
Here’s the problem. I had all of these “brilliant” ideas for the major plot line that would make it completely unique and a tad futuristic. Just to give you a sneak peek into what it’s all about, an oil leak has been discovered under the ice shelf in the Antarctic and our main character is being sent there with his underwater nuclear powered, oil-sniffing robot to find it, seal it, and, if it’s an oil well, dismantle it and bring it to the ship so it can be sent back to the States for testing—since all mineral exploration has been banned since 1988 for fifty years.
So, what do I find out? There already are nuclear powered under water robots, and there is an oil sniffing robot that’s shaped like a lobster since apparently lobsters can detect oil and other foreign substances in their waters. Finding out all of this has kind of been like sticking a needle in a balloon.
To my rescue, a couple of my fellow writing friends said, “So what? You’re writing fiction so what difference does it make. Most people wouldn’t know about those things anyway.”
So, back at it I went. Not sure whether the whole thing is working or not, I printed off what I had, and decided to outline it to see if it was flowing. What did I discover? Over time, I had written the over-arching disaster scene twice and in two different ways in two different parts of the book. Currently I am meshing those two scenes because there are parts of both that I like.
We’re probably still a year away from turning this thing loose—that is, unless I delete the whole thing. Time will tell.
“Money Is Not the Object”
People have asked me why I run Kindle specials on my literary masterpieces for a measly ninety-nine cents. Well, I’ll guarantee you, it’s not for the money. If money were my big motivation in life, would I have taught school for thirty-five years? I must admit, I’ve always claimed that I’d love to pay a million in income taxes.
As I have said many times, I write primarily to entertain myself. Multiple times a week I slip over to the little restaurant by the airport for breakfast along with a printed copy of my latest WIP (Work in Progress) and spend an hour and a half editing, drinking way too much coffee and while eating a bowl of fruit—or was that a blueberry pancake with hot syrup and crisp bacon? Whatever, I’m entertaining myself as well as having fun with the waitresses.
Which gets me back to the original premise—why sell them so cheaply? When people read my stuff and get a laugh at some of the ridiculous stuff that happens like when Damey in “Damey and Grandpa Tutor” has a nature call while lost in the middle of the woods and ends up using poison ivy to clean himself, it makes it all worthwhile.
The special I’m running between July 1-7 is book one of the trilogy, “As Life Goes On.” It starts out on the tear-jerker side as one of the boys gets killed. However, he comes back as a ghost and the two boys have multiple adventures that run through three books. Whether you believe in ghosts or not is totally irrelevant. These books are “fiction” with one purpose in mind—entertaining me and you.
“Support Independent Authors”
I went to a book signing at a local bookstore this week for an old friend who had written a non-fiction novel about a murder that had happened in Williamston, MI back in 1897. It seems that an extremely insane young lady chopped off her mother-in-law’s head with an axe and put it on her husband’s plate facing him complete with a knife and fork placed appropriately beside the plate.
The author, Rod Sadler, who is a retired Eaton Co. Sheriff Dept. officer, literally spent years researching the material for this book, “To Hell I Must Go.” To add a little irony to the story, Rod’s great-great grandfather was the Ingham Co. Sheriff who investigated the murder.
Very few independent writers ever get rich applying their craft. They do it because of their love of the topic or story, their love of writing, and that sense of accomplishment when it’s done. These people need to be supported. Go and listen to what they have to say about their work. Buying their book is not mandatory just because you go—but it would be appreciated if you did.
This is the second presentation that I have attended in recent months. It was well advertised in social media and in the regular media, yet only about ten people attended. To me, that is sad. The hour that I sat there listening to all that the author did researching the book made me wish I hadn’t bought the Kindle version and had waited to get a signed copy. He was that interesting.
The last book signing I went to at Schuler’s was a disaster. It too had been well advertised in advance. The author is a recovering addict who has been “clean” for years. His story was about the struggle that it took to turn his life around. I was the only person who showed up for his presentation. We spent an hour sitting at a table talking. As badly as I felt for him, I couldn’t help but appreciate the time I had with just the two of us and a couple of cups of coffee.
Support those independent authors. Take an hour of your precious time away from the latest talent show on TV. It will be time well spent, and let’s face it, a lot more informative and entertaining.
“Most People are Pretty Darned Good”
Sometimes it seems like the only thing the media sees is the hate, venom, crime, and violence that goes on. Sometimes they get it right. This week a tornado touched down in the small community of Portland, MI. It didn’t last long, and didn’t cover a vast area, but it did cause major destruction.
Immediately after the storm, people responded. One story told of how one man left his own house and helped eight different people to safety. People from all over town came to help. People from neighboring communities arrived—all with one thing in mind, “Let’s clean the place up.”
Volunteers of all ages from toddlers giving out water and refreshments to seniors with chain saws, all there want to help. Businesses are donating a lot of their time and resources to the cause. Apparently two heavily damaged churches are going to have a combined service this coming Sunday.
People helping people all with the same goal in mind and not concerned about what they are getting in return. And what might just be the icing on the cake—to date, I have not heard of one incidence of looting.
“I Don’t Get It”
This week a young man walked into a church and killed nine people because they were of a different race and trying to “take over the country” among other things. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. Why is there so much hatred out there? And, there’s a lot of it going around. I don’t care if we’re talking about race, religion, gender, or politics. Those differences are no reason to hate.
I have de-friended people on Facebook because everything that shows up on their page spews venom. Usually their topics relate to either politics or gender. People pour their guts out on some of the stupidest things. On some people’s rants, everything that goes wrong in the US is the President’s fault—Clinton, Bush, O’Bama—flip a coin and take your choice.
I guess the part that really confuses me, is that people so narrow-minded they cannot even accept the other person has a right to his/her own opinion/gender/race/religion/political persuasion. The message is, if you don’t agree with me, you are downright stupid.
Look at the mayhem going on in the Middle East over different factions of the same religion. I see it as no different from a Baptist killing a Methodist because the evil person wouldn’t convert. I’ve heard “gossip” of a local fourteen-year-old who was kicked out of his own house because he came out to his parents that he is gay. So what if someone is different than you are? Who cares?
I guess I’m just too old and stupid to understand that kind of hatred and lack of acceptance. Must be William Howard Taft’s fault.
“What a Waste”
The USA Today reported on Friday about a seventeen-year-old who had been arrested for getting involved with ISIL and helping a fellow student travel overseas to join the terrorist group. This kid was an honors STEM-robotics whiz, already accepted and submitted his deposit for college, and supposedly an all-around good kid.
Now, instead of graduating this week with honors and heading off to college, he’s going to jail. How could this happen? Where were the parents of this kid? Why didn’t anyone realize what was going on and intervene?
Is this the way society is now? Parents, kids, school, friends all wrapped up in their own little worlds with their noses in their own electronic devices ignoring everything going on around them? I think that’s probably the way it is.
Just this morning I was having breakfast at one of the local restaurants and there were seven people circled around this one table. One was a late teenager who was there apparently with his grandparents. He sat there the entire time with his nose buried in his phone. I had the biggest urge to go over to his table, grab his phone, and turn it off for him. Nobody else was paying any attention to him and what he was doing, so why not?
Good grief! The media has been having a field day recently with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender status. Who cares? If a celebrity decides to come out as gay, straight, transgendered, bi-sexual, or whatever, what difference does it really make to any of us?
I think I’ve either seen an article in the paper or some quip on the news every day since it became public. Are they that hard up to find something to discuss? Must be, since I’m talking about it too. Grin
Even the politicians are discussing it. That’s just what we need. I can see the debates now. Are we going to allow gays, bi’s, trans’ into our party or should we expel them? Oh boy, can’t you see it all now. What happens if Bruce/Caitlyn decides to get married? Shouldn’t we pass a few laws saying they should or should not be able? Obviously, Hillary and Jeb are going to have to disagree on that one. Wonder which one will take their stand first?
That’ll be another one for the Supreme Court to get involved with. Let’s face it, if the politicians can get their shorts in a know over that one tight enough, it gives them ample excuses for not balancing the budget, fixing the country’s infrastructure, and dealing with ISIS.
“Last Day of School”
For most of the little rug rats in this neck of the woods, Friday was the last day of school for the summer. There are a couple of exceptions. If they had too many snow days (A number of them did), they have to be made up. If the kids are going to one of the year-around schools, they are still in school.
Personally, I like the year-around concept. Students aren’t going to school any more days, it’s just that their vacations are shorter and less information is lost and has to be re-taught. That was an issue in middle school when we were teaching grammar concepts, punctuation, etc. Half of what they’d learned the year before had to be “reviewed” to remind them where we were in the learning curve.
That wasn’t so much an issue in the high school in the English classes because so much of it was literature based, it would be more an issue of getting them used to homework again and actually working their way through the books and not falling behind. I would assume in the math and science areas, there would be a lot more content re-teaching.
Anyway, I miss the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming end-of-the-year time. The kids always thought they were excited. Ha! They didn’t know the half of it. That was the time for traveling, kids going to camp, and letting your hair down. (Back then I had some.)
“Facebook is Getting Too Negative”
Have you noticed how negative the posts are getting to be on Facebook? Seems like everything you see is some kind of rant. Much of it seems to be circled around politics—and the election is a year away.
People also put a lot of personal stuff out there that should be kept “In-House.” Just for one example, one lady who recently celebrated her twenty-fifth anniversary spends most of her FB time whining about her husband.
The ones that I think are funny are the ones where people either start or end their post with, “I’m outta here!” Then they blabber about something that makes entirely no sense. It might be something that someone said to them the night before—probably in a bar, and nobody else has a clue what they are ranting about. Probably, the person who it’s aimed at won’t even see it. However, eight-hundred others probably are wondering what crawled up his or her hind end and died.
Personally, the only ones I like to read are the fun ones—people posting pictures or events about their kids, spouses, and friends, people meeting people they haven’t seen in years and are having a wonderful time, that kind of stuff.
Remember the old Bobby McFerrin song—“Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
“Free Range Parenting”
Believe it or not, there are actually two articles about Free Range Parenting in the Lansing State Journal today. One by Meta Pettus in the USA Today section deals with a couple who live in the sub urban neighborhood in the Washington DC area. This couple has been in the news before because one of their neighbors keep reporting them to the police and Child Protective Services. It seems this couple allows their ten-year-old son and six-year-old children to walk unaccompanied to play in the park. If memory serves me correctly from the previous article a few weeks back, the park is one or two blocks from their house.
What I find totally absurd about this situation is, the nosy neighbors reported them, the police have picked up the children three different times and detained the children for hours, and that CPS has filed complaints on them. Two of these horrendous offenses dealt with the children walking either to or from the park, and the third was when these little criminals were actually at the park playing unattended by an adult.
Fortunately, CPS has thrown out the first offense. The sooner it throws out the other two the better. Now, if someone would just tell the nosy neighbor to mind her own damned business.
Celia Rivenbark quotes a British writer who has calculated the risks. According to him, “It would take the average child standing outside by himself 750,000 hours to be kidnapped by a stranger. Statistically speaking, the ‘child’ would be 85 years old before that would happen.”
Playing it safe and warning your kids about talking to strangers and avoiding the offered candy or getting into someone’s car is one thing, complete paranoia is another. Think what must be happening in the minds of those two little kids who have been “arrested” by the police and held captive for hours because they were outdoors playing. Good Lord, people, get a life. I’m willing to bet everyone reading this was raised as a “Free Range Kid” and Voila! We’re all still here.
This is Memorial Day weekend and it leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings. I spent four years in the 1950s in the USAF and it might have been the most eye-opening and learning period of my life. A year of that time was spent in Turkey during what I have always described as “The U2 Campaign.” That was when Russia shot down Gary Powers flying the U2 from Incirlik AFB in Adana, Turkey. Powers bowled in one of the same leagues I did, and I knew him by sight.
All these years later, I still can’t handle “Taps” when I hear it. That’s the song bugled at military funerals. I heard it this past Saturday during lunch at a local restaurant and almost had to get up and leave the table. Where the mixed feelings come in, not a one of my kids or grandkids have ever joined the service. Have I ever wanted any of them going to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight in that mess over there in the Middle East? No, that isn’t the point.
Being in the service and having the chance to serve overseas gave me a feeling and understanding of this country and what it stands for that I never would have achieved without that experience. I don’t think the current generation growing up including my grand kids have any clue what it means to live here in America. Are we perfect? Do we never make mistakes? Hell, no! However, compared to the rest of the world, we’ve got it made.
When I am decorating family graves in three different cemeteries for the holiday, there are several military graves in the immediate vicinity of each. I give them all a nod and quick salute along with a “Thank you” as I pass by.
Observed a situation recently that actually found people working together for good instead of having a “Pissing match” to try to claim that, “I know all the answers so you have to do it my way.” That in itself is refreshing.
Background—a very young member of my family has suddenly developed migraine headaches that were sometimes relieved only by vomiting. Since he is in kindergarten, the suggestion was made to have his eyes checked for vision problems. Glasses were ordered and this seemed to help some, but the doctor was still not happy. He ordered an MRI which showed a shadow. He ordered another MRI to zero in on the questionable spot. This showed something so a second opinion was ordered from a pediatric specialist in this area in a different hospital—plus the orders for a third MRI three months down the road.
The new specialist, who was highly recommended from two different “secret” sources, indicated that the migrains are not being caused by the spot showing up on the MRIs. He feels the concerned spot may or may not be a tumor afterall. It could be something that’s been there since birth or from a fall where he bumped his head. He wants the parents and school to go on a vigil and watch for possible triggers—diet, lighting, hard play, etc. Not only could it be a phase his body is going through, it could be caused from food or airborn allergies, lighting, or a number of things. Apparently, he has one boy who can only play hard for about thirty minutes, and then he has to either rest or suffer a migraine.
Not only all of this, he wants a third opinion. He’s setting up an appointment with the big children’s hospital down the road to confirm or reject his findings. Personally, I find this all pretty cool. It’s going to end up with three doctors, three hospital systems, parents, and school all working together to solve this problem. Thank God they aren’t politicians.
“Some Things Just Aren’t Right”
I know, today’s world is different because of all the technology, etc., but sending out a death notice using a mass text message to a whole group of relatives and friends at the same time? A text message? Really?
A person I’ve known for a number of years had a stroke and was in bad shape. He really wasn’t expected to make it, and he didn’t. However, when he died, his grandson was notified by a text message. Granted, they weren’t real close, but I would think he at least deserved a phone call.
Has modern day technology made us so callous that shooting everyone a text message is okay? To me, that just isn’t right. I can see the texts of the future, “You wouldn’t believe the size of the garter snake I saw in the garden this morning. It was humongous! And, oh yeah, before I forget, your grandpa died last night.”
Fair warning, if that happens when I kick off, I’m coming back to haunt whoever does it. Rant! Rant!
Went to one of the multitude of graduation ceremonies this weekend at Michigan State University. The speakers were inspiring, and the young ladies and gentlemen were awesome. The one I attended was for the College of Natural Science. Fortunately, I can at least pronounce my Grandson’s major—Environmental Geosciences. Most of them I didn’t have a clue as to what they even were, like Genomics and Molecular Genetics just to name one of my favorites.
Seriously, I wonder how long it will take these kids to actually realize what they have accomplished in the past four or five years. Each and every one of them should be so very proud of themselves. However, I wonder how many of them won’t until one of their own children are making the walk. The students all had hearty smiles on their faces, but were they smiles of relief, joy for the moment, or a realization that they had done one heck of a good job.
To all of you who made that walk this weekend all over the country, you didn’t do it just because you showed up for class. These were not certificates of attendance. This was your reward for years of cramming, burning the mid-night oil, experimenting with classes and majors that might not have been you, and the ability to finally find the ones that were.
Congratulations to all of you. I am proud of you and what you’ve done, even if it hasn’t sunk into that brain of yours yet.
“Safety Tip for your Children”
Every great once-in-a-while, one runs into something worthwhile on FaceBook or on the Internet news clips. In the past few days, I saw one that could prove valuable to all of you out there who have young children or grand children.
According to the story, a man approached a boy getting ready to get on a school bus and told him his mom had asked him to pick him up. He told the boy that she had to go someplace and wanted the man to take him to her.
The boy looked at him and asked him for the password. When the befuddled man mumbled and couldn’t come up with it, the boy ran for the bus and hopefully told the driver.
What an easy way for parents to work with their kids to make sure something like that never happens. Find a “secret” word that both would remember—a pet’s name, the child’s birthday, or a term of endearment that only Mom or Dad uses like “Snookums” or something silly like that. If that trick saved one child’s life, it would be well worth it to set up a password with your kids.
Went for my six mile bike ride through the neighborhood last night and couldn’t help but marvel about how serene and peaceful it is. My ride takes me through what I would consider upper middle class down to the lowest edges on the poverty scale.
With all the rioting, demonstrations, and civil unrest going on due to racial differences and police brutality and over-reaction, my “Hood” seemed almost boring. In my highly culturally and racially diverse neighborhood, I saw a handful of people mowing lawns and working in their yards.
Then I spotted one group of four, I’m guessing, twelve-year-olds all climbing the same tree in one of their front, side yards with one hanging off a limb like a monkey. That one brought back some memories of days of yore. Also along the way, I saw several boys out shooting baskets in their driveway. I yelled at one and told him I wanted to see his “Slam Dunk.” He gave it to me with a big smile on his face. I told him Coach Izzo should have seen that one. That brought an even bigger smile.
I know it would never sell, but too bad the media can’t take one of those rides like I did last night and see how peaceful and “normal” life can be. I’d much rather see that post slam dunk smile on the TV news than all of that angry, hate filled BS we’re subjected to every night.
“Indian Magic Crabapple”
I thought we had something nice happen in our neighborhood today. The city came through and planted a new Indian Magic Crabapple tree in my yard out near the curb. I had lost a giant soft maple during the ice storm of a year and a half ago and don’t know if this was an attempt to replace that or just beautify the city. I really don’t care. Since they planted another one across the street, I’m guessing it is a beautification attempt.
I asked the men who were planting them if they really wanted to plant it under the power lines, and he said that it was no problem. They didn’t grow tall enough to bother. I Googled the tree, and in the description, it also said they were good for areas with power lines because they didn’t grow high enough to bother them. According to the picture, it looks like it will be a beautiful tree when in bloom. I’m happy.
Now, I suppose, to be politically correct, I should start ranting and raving about the city “wasting” money planting trees when they should be fixing the roads. Of course, I could take it one step further, and say it’s all O’Bama’s fault. However, being the politically incorrect slob that I am, I just looked at it and said, “Cool.”
“What is Going On?”
Three children’s obituaries in the paper this past week. It started with a nine-year-old dying of complications of the flu. Apparently the flu somehow resulted in pneumonia in both lungs and his body shut down. The next was a fourteen-year-old who committed suicide. How sad is that? Then a fifteen-year-old died of some other illness.
Hold on to your loved ones and let them know they are. We never know when it’s going to be too late to do so. People die at child birth. Some go at a hundred plus. Everyone else goes somewhere in between. I really get bothered by those young ones. All three of the above had at least seventy years more on the time clock except…
I remember when one of my uncles died in his fifties and my grandfather was beside himself. I can still hear him saying, “It should have been me.” Can you imagine what’s been going on in the minds of the parents of those three kids? I can’t imagine, and I don’t want to. Love and spoil your kids. That next crushed parent could be you.
I know, Michigan has the worst roads in all fifty states, but why do I have to always get tangled up because of construction/resurfacing/pothole patching, etc? Cruising down one of the main drags a couple of days ago and the lane I was in was blocked up ahead. I turned on my blinker to get over into the left lane, and do you think anyone would let me? Oh, no. It might cost them an extra second on their trip to the bar. People are so thoughtful.
I think the solution to this would be to have all road maintenance happen between midnight and six a.m. That way traffic would be thinned out enough so horrific issues like mine wouldn’t be a problem. If you’re out driving at two or three in the morning you’re probably drunk anyway so it won’t matter. You can just swerve in front of someone and cut them off and the problem will be solved. I know, it might be a little distracting and noisy, but ear buds would probably help a lot.
The only exception to this should be when they get to my neighborhood. That should be done during daylight hours while most everyone is at work or on the golf course. At the current rate of repair on Michigan roads, it won’t matter much anyway because the rumor is our neighborhood isn’t due for resurfacing until 2106. By then, I probably won’t care.
“Hey! I’m a Star”
I must be. Someone wrote a magazine article just about me. I’m sure nobody else shares my qualities. In the January, 2015 issue of “Writer’s Digest” Tracy Barnes Priestley wrote an article entitled, “Why So Many Writers Give Up Mid-Novel.” Obviously, she was talking about me and my battles with “Damey and the Z Team.”
On page 35, she nailed all of my qualities:
- •Destructive thought patterns
- •Negative experiences
- •Ambiguous motivation
- •Unrealistic expectations
- •Lack of initiative
- •Inability to prioritize writing tasks
- •Frequent distraction
- •Too busy
- •Etc., ad nauseum
I think it’s fantastic that someone sat down and actually wrote a multi page article all about me. Only problem is, how did she know? We’ve never met or even seen one another. It must be an ESP thing. That’s pretty scary too. To think, someone can get into my head without my knowing it.
Well, on page 36 & 37 MS Priestley sets down a nine point agenda on “How to Avoid Stalling.” I guess the next thing I’m going to have to do is re-read those items—especially number 9, “Above All, Be Patient.”
“Childhood ‘Rearing’ 101”
Well, I haven’t made anyone angry all day, so there’s no time like the present. I’m sure the following will take care of my daily quota when a certain individual reads this. There is a person whom I know fairly well who has a five-year-old son who is not housebroken yet. Why? Because, “He is too lazy.”
I hate to tell you, but it isn’t the child who is too lazy, it’s the parents. Apparently, when Junior needs his diaper changed, he tells Daddy because Mommy yells at him. Awwww, poor baby. Not only that, they are home schooling him partially because of that. They don’t want to embarrass him in front of the other kids.
I had a suggestion that went over like a lead balloon. I told his mom that every time she had to change him, after she cleaned him up, he’d be appropriately dressed for my solution to the problem. Briskly slap that little bare ‘rear’ about five times and send him to bed for the rest of the day. I told her I’d be willing to make a bet that by the time it happened three times, the kid would be potty trained.
Then I had to hear about how Daddy, who lets the kids do absolutely anything they want with no consequences, would never allow it. “When Junior is ready, he’ll quit going in his pants.”
Sorry, but unless the child has cognitive problems of some kind, I find it totally unacceptable to allow him/her to reach the age of five without being made to use the bathroom appropriately.
So goeth my rant for the day. Hopefully it will be read by the appropriate persons and action will be taken. However, I know it won't.
Kid’s Bodies Found in Freezer?
There’s been a very disturbing story in the news this past week. It’s been disturbing to me on several accounts. If the story is true, a mother tortured her nine-year-old son for two weeks back in 2012 before he died. Then she wrapped his body and put him in the family’s freezer. Nine months later, her thirteen-year-old daughter said she didn’t like her surviving siblings so her mom strangled her, wrapped her body, and stuck that in the freezer.
I have so many questions. How could this happen and nobody in the neighborhood notice that two of the family’s children were missing? Where is the father? Why didn’t he know? I suppose there are a number of possible explanations for that one because of estrangement issues, not knowing who the father is, or whatever lame excuse is given.
What about the other two surviving siblings? Why haven’t they ever said anything to a teacher, neighbor kid, or anyone else? Are they so terrified of their mother that they wouldn’t dare say anything knowing they’d end up wrapped up in the freezer next? Are these kids even in school? Why weren’t the authorities notified when the nine-year-old and the thirteen-year-old kids quit going to school? Where the hell was Child Protective Services all this time?
If the mother has been collecting Aid to Dependent Children from the state, has there ever been any accountability? Is the system so weak that they just automatically pay for years without ever checking up on the welfare of the children? I have many more questions that I won’t post here, but I guess you get the gist of my “rant” for the day.
(Today's Irrelevant Rant is actually a very short story that I wrote for no other reason than to pick on a friend of mine named Jim who sent me a picture of a half full baby bottle in a parking lot medium and said I should use it as a writing prompt.)
Jimmy’s Big Day
There’s a brand new baby bottle, half full of milk, out there in the parking lot medium that nobody knows the truth about but me. Why? I’ll tell you why. I threw the thing out of the window and that’s where it landed. So there! Thinking about it makes me smile, even though those big people who are always yelling at me and bossing me around make me mad.
“Drink your bottle. No, you can’t have apple juice. Did you make a mess in your diapers again?”
That’s all I hear from the time I wake up in the morning until they turn off my light at night and shut my door. It’s not fair. I should have some choices in what I do, but no, never.
Every morning it’s the same thing. “Jimmy, Jimmy, wake up. Time to change your diaper and get you cleaned up for the day. Time for your bottle.”
And then it starts all over again. She pulls off my pajamas to change my diaper, and give me what she calls “a little spit bath” with that rough, pink rag she scrubs me with as I lie there with nothing on.
One time I fixed her though. She was changing me, and I peed right in her eye. Ha Ha. Only problem was, she ran into the bathroom and left me there forever while she washed her face. I got cold waiting for her. Almost cried, but didn’t.
When she finally came back, she dressed me, propped me up on a pillow and stuffed that bottle in my mouth. I spit it out. I wanted juice. She put it back in and held it.
“Drink your bottle, Jimmy. That’s a good boy.”
Good boy nothing. I want something to chew on. Gums hurt. Don’t got no teeth so I need something to sooth ‘um with. That nylon bone the dog carries around looks good. I’d like to gnaw on that for a bit and rub my sore mouth with it. Wonder if he’d share? He’s always got it. I think he sticks his head through the rails on my bed just to tease me with it. Nothing around here is fair!
One of these days I’m gonna crawl over the top of this stupid crib and run for the door and make my get-away. Gots to get steadier on my feets though first. Do okay if I hold on to something. Don’t fall down then. Maybe I could stand up behind that stroller thingie they’re always pushing me around with and do it that way.
Looks like today’s gonna be just like every other day. After my bottle, that lady read me a story, took her walk pushing me around the block in that thing she uses that gots wheels, and now she’s putting me in the car and tying me down. She said we’re gonna go someplace. Big deal. I’d rather stay home and play or watch TV.
So, what does that woman do next? Stops in the middle of nowhere. I gots no idea where we are. All I can see are cars parked all around me and a bunch of stores. To make it worse, she left me tied up in this stupid seat so she can run into the store, “Just for a second.”
Yeah, right. At least she left the window open so I’d get some fresh air and stay “comfy.” You bet. I’ll be sitting here all by myself for hours. Get all hot and sweaty. That’s what made me mad again. That’s when I threw the bottle out the window. You should’ve seen it bounce right up onto that spot of grass between the rows of cars.
Teach her to leave me alone again. Oops, here she comes already with a box. Wonder what she bought? She get me a toy?
“I told you, Jimmy. I’d only be a minute. I have your birthday cake. We’re going to celebrate with everyone as soon as we get back. You’ll love it. I’ll light the candle and we’ll all sing happy birthday to our boy, Jimmy. Won’t that be fun?”
As soon as we got home, she parked the car and helped me undo the seatbelt. Then she turned to me and said, “Jim, you have such a sweet smile on your face right now. I surely do wish you could still communicate. I’d love to know what’s going on in that ninety-five year old mind of yours.
Now, whatever happened to that sipper-cup full of Ensure? You’re always losing that thing.”
Went to an interesting Neighborhood Watch meeting this week and learned a couple of things. I think the most important point they made was to lock everything. Gone are the days when you can leave the house unlocked because you’re only, “…gonna be gone for a minute for a quick trip and back to McDonald’s.”
If you’re working in the back yard, make sure the front door is locked. If someone comes to the door and knocks, and nobody answers, there goes your purse, IPad, laptop, etc. Another thing is don’t hide a key in the mailbox, under the welcome mat, etc. etc. etc. If you can find it, so can your friendly neighborhood crook. Leave a key with a neighbor. This is one I’m guilty of. I have keys to three of my neighbor’s houses, but no one has one of mine except one of my kids who lives twenty miles away.
One idea they suggested that I had never heard of was, lock your car in the garage. It’s a no-brainer to lock your car in the driveway or at the grocery store, but lock it in the garage as well. It’s one more step a thief has to go through to steal your goodies. (Don’t leave any goodies in your car—locked, in the garage, or sitting at the curb.)
One last idea I’ll mention that I never thought of is for those of us who have key fobs for our cars, keep it on your bed table at night. If you wake up and hear someone in your house, you can set off your car alarm and that will scare the majority of culprits away.
Oops! One more. If you keep a gun in your house for just such emergencies, make sure you don’t shoot the villain in the back. For you to claim you were protecting yourself, it has to look like the perpetrator is coming at you, not running away.
My current WIP is dragging. My own fault. I’ve done too much research and found out that all of my “brilliant” ideas for nuclear powered underwater, oil smelling, repair capable robots are already in the works. What a downer.
My first surprise was to find out that they are actually working on developing a nuclear powered underwater robot. Next came the fact that they also have oil sniffing robots that they are using to seek out oil leaks in rigs out in the ocean. In fact, one company has one that is shaped like a miniature lobster because apparently, lobsters can smell, sense, whatever… oil. So they used that as their model.
My next shock came when I found out that they have included hand like devices or claws on certain robots where they can grasp onto and steady the rig underwater while the other hand/claw welds and seals the leak.
Now, this is all a bunch of crap. My whole story line is supposed to be a science fictionish, futuristic type of thing that nobody ever heard of happening under the ice shelf of the Antarctic. So, what do I find out? They are already researching and developing all of my brain storms. I want royalties.
New Book Covers
Technology and the Internet are weird. Like I mentioned earlier, I edited and re-did the covers for “As Life Goes On” and “As Life Moves On” for no other reason except that I wanted to. I certainly do not expect to sell any more copies, because if someone wanted one, they would have bought them back in 2011 when they were first published..
Here’s where it gets interesting. It took nearly two weeks before both new covers showed up correctly at Amazon.com and on the Kindle. That, was okay, I guess. However, at Barnes & Noble.com, “As Life Goes On” is still showing the old cover, but the second one shows the new. At Schuler Bookstore.com, both of the old covers still show.
Will Barnes and Schulers ever get it right? Who knows. Does it make any difference? No. I did a little book search of various other places, and here are the results:
Ebay.com “…Goes…”—Yes,“…Moves…” Yes
BetterWorldBooks.com “…Goes… Yes, “…Moves…” No
AbeBooks.com “…Goes…” Yes, “…Moves…” Yes
Half.com “…Goes…” No, “…Moves…” No
BooksAMillion.com “…Goes…” Yes, “…Moves…” Yes
As you can see, it’s all real consistent.
At What Point Do You Make That Call?
A couple of days ago I was on my way to Sam’s Club to get in my daily walk and witnessed something pretty odd. I was driving down this semi-main street towards the store when a young couple approached on the other side of the street walking. I’m guessing he was maybe nineteen and she looked about sixteen. The temperature was in the vicinity of forty degrees.
Suddenly, he rips off his jacket and throws it into the street. She dutifully runs out ducking traffic and picks it up. Just before I pass them, he pulls off his sweatshirt and throws that. She again runs over and picks it up and continues to follow. At this point, I can see their facial expressions clearly. He’s exhibiting intense anger and she’s showing equally intense fear.
Then he pulls off his Tee shirt but holds onto it. He's bare from the waist up. As I watch in the mirror, he continues to hold it and not stop. If he’d stopped and started taking off his pants, I would have punched 911 into the phone immediately. After I lost sight, I decided to let the people behind me keep tabs on the guy. However, I still wonder if I should have called. What do you think?
If, If It Had Been
When I was a senior in high school a hundred or so years ago, I had a student teacher in my history class. I found him an interesting person so I guess we clicked as student/teacher. When he signed my yearbook, he wrote, “If,if it had been.” You have no idea how many times I’ve thought of that statement over the years.
That statement has popped into my mind at some of the most relevant and irrelevant times. It popped into my head today when the Michigan State Spartans squandered an eleven point lead with minutes to go to send the Big Ten Tournament Championship into overtime. If…If…If. There were two major “Ifs” in the last ten seconds of the game in regulation which would have sealed a victory for the Spartys—If, if it had been.
In overtime, the team acted like a huge balloon which had just had a pin stuck into it as it deflated. I don’t think they scored once during that five minute stretch. If—if it had been.
The Gomment's Gonna Get Cha
Oh boy, I can hear it all now. I can hardly wait. The Michigan State Police announced yesterday that they will be using drones for various purposes—traffic control, search and rescue, crime scene and crash investigations, etc.
Here is what the law states:
Per the FAA, Michigan State Police drone pilots must abide by the following restrictions:
• The drone must always be flown by a two-person crew, with one acting as the pilot and the other as a safety observer.
• The pilot must be FAA certified.
• The unmanned aircraft system must remain below 400 feet and always be within line of sight of the crew.
• It can’t be flown near airports.
Here is what the ACLU says:
A report from the ACLU in 2011 detailed the organization’s contention with government drone use, claiming the technology’s powerful surveillance capabilities made them a threat to personal privacy and that the use of UAVs is ultimately unconstitutional.
Okay, how many reports are we going to see and hear about? “A state police drone was hovering outside of my bedroom window—A state police drone was following me all the way across town and into my driveway—A state police drone caused me to get into an accident. I looked at it and accidentally dropped the cell phone I was texting on causing me to run into the back of a truck while I was grabbing for it. I’m gonna sue.”
Paranoia reigns! The Gomment’s gonna get cha.
People Watching 101
I have always loved to “People Watch.” Every time I’m out in public, I observe everyone and everything. It has been the source of a lot of entertainment and numerous short stories. The last one was a short while ago when I walked out of Meijer’s and some dude was lying face down on the sidewalk in handcuffs. When I walked by, he looked me in the eye. My imagination went wild, and I wrote his story.
Today was a little different. I was at my favorite neighborhood restaurant with two of my kids and a daughter-in-law when an older couple walked in with a twelve/thirteen-year-old boy who could hardly keep his eyes open. Couldn’t help but smile and watch as he gradually joined the world. Who said that time changes don’t affect anyone. We set the clocks ahead last night/this morning, and his internal time clock wasn’t ready.
By the time we left, he was wide awake and smiling so I couldn’t help myself. I walked past their table which, by that time, had been joined by several other grandparent types. I stopped and asked, “Tell me if I’m right. I’m guessing that Grandma and Grandpa hauled ‘somebody’s’ butt out of bed this morning and dragged him to the restaurant before he was even awake.”
Both laughed and agreed wholeheartedly that was exactly what happened. The boy turned around with a big smile on his face and reported, “When they first woke me up, I rolled over and went back to sleep for just a second. Then they yelled at me again so I got up and got dressed.”
I’ll have to think about this one for a bit, but I bet I can dream up a good short story to fit the situation. Somehow, I’d have to blame the changing of the clocks for the whole thing.
No Wonder My Blood Pressure Sky Rockets
Okay, Doc. You said to go ahead and post this, so here I go. Today’s has to be one of my most irrelevant ever. For all of you who are lingering in that “Older than dirt” arena, you know that we all have those periodic doctor appointments just to make sure we're still breathing. This week I had my latest.
On Friday of last week I notified the office through their web site that I needed Doc to set up my labs so I could get them done the first part of the week. I received the message that they had all been set up. My plan was to go on Tues a.m. when it normally isn’t too busy. Naturally that’s the day we were getting snow, sleet, freezing rain, and all that good stuff. I still went.
When I arrived, I took a number, and sat down. There was one other customer in the place. After twenty minutes, I asked her if she’d seen any activity since she’d been there. She shrugged and said, “No.” I got up and pressed my forehead against the window and saw nothing.
As things would have it, a gentleman in suit and tie walked up and asked if something was wrong. I told him I’d been there for twenty minutes and the lady had been there longer, and we’d seen no activity. He pushed the button and opened the door and went in. Thirty seconds later, he exited with three nurses right behind him inviting the lady and me in to get our blood drawn.
As my lab tech checks her computer, she finds my tests had never been ordered. Therefore, she had to call the doctor’s office and have him tell her what he wanted.
Now, just to pour a little more salt into the wound, the past couple of times he has sent in prescriptions from his hospital computer, the RX has gone to the wrong pharmacy. There are two Rite Aid Pharmacies on Saginaw, and invariably it goes to the wrong one. Doc showed me on his computer where both pharmacies are listed on my record. The only problem is, the system won’t allow him to delete the incorrect one. He said he would report the problem to the computer systems people “Again” and see if they couldn’t do something.
On the positive side, he told me to keep writing—it was keeping me young. Flattery will get you everywhere, Doc. Keep it up.
About two-thirds of the way through editing “As Life Moves On.” Plan to put on a new cover, complete re-edit, and formatting. The process of editing this one as well as “As Life Goes On” has been a huge eye opener. We all develop these little habits along the way which we are completely unaware of.
For instance, I really did not realize just how many times I use “really” and “just” while describing something. The rule of thumb is to eliminate as many adverbs as humanly possible. Going through the manuscript, has made me aware of how often I depend on them. “Very, extremely, especially, …ly, …ly, …ly”—it’s enough to drive one slightly batty.
The correct way to describe an action or event is by using strong nouns and verbs. An example might be, “He started to run down the alleyway awkwardly.” This should be replaced with, “He stumbled down the alleyway.”
The process so far has been fun and revealing—showing may of my own writing and speaking habits. Looking at the books after a three year hiatus has been fun. The cool part of the whole process is, nobody but me will know the difference. People who bought the first edition sure aren’t going to buy the new and revised one to see the changes. Let’s face it, the whole project is for me. Why? Because I want to and I can.
I mentioned the fact last week that I had redone the cover on “As Life Goes On,” edited the thing, and did a bunch of reformatting just because. Now, something weird has happened. The new cover shows up on some people’s computers, and doesn’t on others.
I have two computers that I use and the changes do not show up on either one at Amazon.com. However, when I look it up on my IPad, the changes all show. Why? I think it might have something to do with the old images stored in the cache. So I went through the little task of that and it didn’t do any good. Nothing changed.
I ran a little questionnaire on FB and asked some people to check. Of the three that answered, the changes showed on two and not on the other. I asked three people privately to do the same. Same results—two to one. So far no one has seen the changes on Barnes & Noble.com or Schuler’s web site.
I’ll wait one more day and call CreateSpace, the publisher for Amazon and ask them what’s up. Probably should have done it all ready, but it gives me something to “Rant” about in the meantime.
The Ultimate in Absurdity
Having the advantage of being a crotchety old duffer, I sometimes like to think nothing will surprise me anymore. Wrong! In the USA section of today’s paper there’s an article about a recruiting website that has started profiling an eleven year-old boy in football. No, I didn’t stutter. You heard me right. They are profiling a 5’ 2”, 105 pound sixth grader for future recruiting purposes.
Not only that, he has his own blog to expound on his accomplishments. To make it worse, his parents are encouraging all of this under the guise that they are only trying to help him reach his dream. At his age, his only dream concerns should have to do with moisture.
Sixth grade eleven year-olds should be playing multiple sports. There’s soccer, football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, track, etc. Why on earth would a parent let a kid focus so intently on one thing? What about band, choir, debate, student council, school plays, and all of those other fun activities?
The article goes on to say that LeBron Jame’s ten year-old son is getting interest. I saw a blurb of LeBron on TV the other night when he said something to the effect, “Leave my boy alone.” Those probably aren’t his exact words, but that what the intent was.
Should kids have dreams? Sure. My dream was major-league baseball, even if I couldn’t hit a 60 mph curve ball—or any speed curve ball for that matter. That doesn’t matter. That young boy from Connecticut should be playing all kinds of sports and having fun. Why ruin the kid’s self image if all he does in life is end up being a good high-school quarterback? What happens, Heaven forbid, that some serious illness or accident takes it all away from him? What does he have left in his mind, suicide?
Come on, parents. Let the kids play, have fun, experiment with all kinds of sports and activities, and don’t let it become so important that the kid ends up as a “loser” if it doesn’t work out.
Here’s the epitome of having nothing better to do. I’ve spent the past two weeks creating a new cover, description, and a complete re-edit of “As Life Goes On” – book 1 of the “As Life…” paranormal teen trilogy. Why? Because I can.
The first edition published about five years ago and was full of typographical no-no’s. Besides that, the cover wasn’t all that clear. So, right in the middle of my latest masterpiece—“Damey & the Z-Team,” I decide to go back and re-do all three books in the trilogy.
Why is this such a brilliant move? Simply put, nobody will buy them. If anyone wanted to buy them, they would have already done so. Nobody in his or her right mind would buy it just because it had a new cover and was edited. And, believe it or not, I could care less. I write and do these things to entertain myself. If someone else enjoys it, great!
Why is Marriage a Political Issue?
I’ve never claimed to be the smartest person, and maybe I’m just plain naïve. However, for the life of me, I’ve never been able to see why the state or national capitol should have any say in who any of us want to marry.
To me, this should be a personal issue. What possible difference should your choice in a spouse have to do with the functioning of the government? By the same reasoning, if my single, male neighbor across the street should get married to a woman or another man, how could this have any effect on the sanctity of my marriage?
There was a time in this country when it was illegal for people of different races to marry. Eventually, the courts came around to the realization that marriage for those people was a personal issue. If two people of different races married, it had nothing to do with the government or anyone else. Why don’t the same laws apply to sexual orientation?
In my humble opinion, if two people who are in love want to be married and spend their lives together, good for them. Same sex couples should be able to adopt children together, share health insurance plans, and file their taxes as a family.
Their unions have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I married a woman, ended up with three kids, and a litter of grandkids and great grandkids. Other people’s choices in mates do not affect my life one bit. Marriage is not a political issue. It’s personal.
This is scary. I’ve been trying to educate myself. I’ve recently finished two non-fiction (I Hope) books on marketing on Amazon for both paperbacks and Kindle versions. As a result, I’m going to print new covers for the first four books and re-word all of the Key Word phrases.
Okay, I know, 99.9% of you have no idea what I’m talking about at this point. When one publishes a book on Amazon, you are given seven “Key Word” phrases that you can enter. The purpose of these is to aim people at your book. In the case of the “As Life…” trilogy, these are considered as middle grade and young adult as well as adult. My original target audience was my old students who are now the parents and grandparents of teens. However, I have come to realize through listening to my audience, that their sons and grandsons have enjoyed the books tremendously.
I have also decided to go back and re-edit each of the books for typos, goofs, etc. For instance, by pure habit I almost always write the word OK/okay as ok. So far, in the first seven chapters of editing, I have found probably ten examples of ok. I probably have ten hand-written pages of changes I want to make so far. What is surprising to me is how many glaring errors pop up after having not read the thing through for about five years.
Hopefully, by the time the editing process, the key word process, and the cover process is all completed, “As Life Goes On” will be a much improved book. At least I will feel better about it.
The subject of this week’s Irrelevant Rant came from the Internet so beware. However, I saw copies of this supposedly coming from CNN and NBC. The basis for the story is reported to be that a six year-old boy was too nice and too friendly—especially around strangers. Therefore, Mom, Aunt, and Grandma decided to teach him a lesson.
Reportedly, they convinced one of the ladies’ (And I use that term begrudgingly) co-workers to kidnap the boy and scare him. The truck driver allegedly lured the boy into his truck. While inside the truck, he told the boy he’d never see his mother again and that he would be nailed to the wall of some shed.
After the six year-old started to cry, the driver pulled out a gun and threatened to hurt him if he didn’t stop crying. At this point, the driver apparently pulled over and tied up the boy’s hands and feet with plastic bags and blindfolded him. After driving around for a while, he eventually took the boy home where they took him down to the basement. At this point, the boy’s aunt took off his pants and told him he could be sold into sex slavery—as if he’d even know what that meant.
After about a four hour ordeal, they allegedly untied him, took him upstairs, and lectured him about “stranger danger.” After the fact, the family told police that they were trying to educate the boy and felt as if they’d done nothing wrong.
Fortunately, the boy, the smartest one in the group, told the authorities at his school who immediately contacted a division of Family Services. They took over and placed the young lad into protective custody. Obviously, the four adults have all been charged with felony kidnapping, neglect, restraint, and a raft of other grievous crimes.
My whole point is “How, How, How” can anyone be so stupid? Have you ever heard of anyone punishing a six year-old for being too nice and too friendly? Definitely children have to be warned about the potential dangers of strangers and not getting into cars with them, but to scar a child for the rest of his life because they wanted to “scare” him into being a paranoid and frightened human being?
I certainly hope that the boy is placed into reliable foster care and counseling as soon as can be arranged and never allowed back into the clutches of Mom, Auntie, and Grandma.
You know, it really didn’t have to happen. We didn’t need to get 14” of snow over the past twenty-four hours. I know, you poor souls on the east coast who have tons of that nasty stuff this winter don’t need any more either. Talk about Cabin Fever, I’d probably OD on Xanax or something if I got snowbound for a week.
They have Lansing set up in snowplowing districts. This morning they are supposed to be working on districts 1-7. I’m in district one so we should get plowed early, right? So far I’ve seen no sign of one of the things. Of course, as soon as they do, I’ll have to crank up the snowblower and go clean out the driveway so I can actually get out. Seems like there ought to be a better way. Have no idea what it would be, but I sure hate it when they plow me in right after I’ve cleaned the drive.
In the meantime, I’ll get back to my latest literary masterpiece in progress and try to do something a little bit productive.
So, if today’s “Irrelevant Rant” hasn’t been completely irrelevant, I guess I don’t understand the word. Besides, I just wanted to bitch—reason enough.
Ever try to write something when you had absolutely no idea what you were talking about? Well, that’s what I’m doing now. A lot of my current WIP takes place on an icebreaker in the middle of the Antarctic. I wrote about this little problem back in the middle of November, and I’m still banging my head against the wall with it.
For one thing, Google and I have become best buddies. I spend more time on that trying to make the story as factual and realistic as possible. At least I’m keeping the brain active and learning some things, and I guess that’s the whole point to today’s rant. Turn off the damned television—except, of course when the news or a good sporting event is in play, and read or write something other than making out your monthly checks.
Something you might want to try. Start a diary. Maybe one of your offspring might find it interesting someday years from now. For one instance, my grandfather kept a daily diary from 1895 to 1914. I read the whole thing when I was in college. I had to do a paper using an original source for a Michigan history class I did during my senior year at MSU. (You may all do your “Hurrahs” now.) An y way, it was extremely interesting to look at Williamston as a bartering society.
Today we run to the store and pick up our week’s groceries using our credit and debit cards and think nothing about it. Grandpa would take a bag of navy beans, some squirrel and rabbit pelts, and maybe a few dozen eggs and off he’d go to town and barter for his supplies. Who knows how it’ll all be done a hundred years from now. However, I’ll bet if you wrote your daily activities down in a diary, I’ll bet your heirs or people visiting the local museum would find them interesting and fun to read. One suggestion, use a word processor and print them off. Don’t do like Grandpa did and hand write them using the most horrible penmanship imaginable.
Sometimes You Just Can’t Win
On my way back from Florida, I stopped over to visit some friends in Virginia Beach. The couple of days there were great. Unfortunately, the time to leave and head back to Michigan arrived. My author friend who I’d been talking shop with for two days cautioned me about leaving prior to nine a.m. because of the “Going to work” traffic.
As I pulled out of his driveway and started down the street, I called “Tillie” my OnStar Navigation system gal and told her I really didn’t want to go up I-95 and battle all of that Washington DC mess, and wasn’t there a way she could take me cross country to I-75. She looked for a minute and came back to me. She had a route.
Six hours later I finally crossed the border into West Virginia. I really have no idea where I was. All I know is, I spent the day going north, west, northwest until I crossed that magic line into WV. From then on, it was all downhill. (Figuratively speaking.) I ended up on some two lane road cruising through the mountains of WV. Fortunately, the only traffic I ran into was locals. When “Bubba” roared up behind me, I’d slide over as far as I could without going over a cliff of some kind into oblivion and listen to him floorboard his pickup and blast by me like I was standing still—which I was.
Fifteen mile per-hour hairpin curves where you can look straight to your left and see where you’ll be in the next minute are not my thing. A number of people have asked me, “Wasn’t it beautiful?” Hell, I don’t know. I was white knuckling it the whole way. I managed to sneak a couple of peeks along the way and would maybe have like to stop and check it out, but there was no place to do it.
By four o’clock it was starting to get dark and decided to find a motel and re-calculate what I was doing. Nothing. I stopped in a little roadside pit stop and asked some guy if there were any motels around. He thought for a minutes, and then said, “Nope. Probably nothin’ til you get to ???”
About six thirty, I pulled into some town that I don’t even remember it’s name. The first think I saw was a KFC. I pulled in there and asked the girl at the counter, “You’ve gotta have a motel someplace in this town. Where is it?”
She pointed to the sign which was immediately across the street and off I went. Met some nice young guy in the lobby who lived there. He told me he’d had two jobs in his life—the US Army and the coal mines. Anyway, he pulled out his smart phone and pulled up the road on his GPS and showed me how to get off that ungodly road I was on and head north to the PA Turnpike. I was so nice about it, I actually took the time and wrote down the directions knowing I’d call “Tillie” in the morning and get the turn-by-turn directions.
So I did, and oh, was life ever easier after that. About four-thirty in the afternoon I pulled into Lansing and headed directly to the car wash even before going home and unloading. Able to recognize my own car again after peeling off layers of mud, helped the frame of mind immensely. The best part, however, was sleeping in my own bed that night. I’d made it home all in one piece—even after the WV mountains.
I do not understand how and why some people do some of the things they do. Within about a mile or so and across a lake from where I spent the last week in Florida, four thugs held up a pawn shop. The police arrived immediately and they took off. One was apprehended immediately, one was cornered in a house where he promptly killed a 70+ year old woman and her 50 something daughter before sneaking out to the garage, starting the car, and crashing through the door trying to make a getaway. He didn’t get too far before he crashed the car and was captured.
That left two of them being tracked down by over a hundred police. The county sheriff was in charge of the investigation was interviewed a couple of times and he made the situation very clear. “We want you to surrender peacefully. If you choose to get into a gun fight, we will shoot you a lot.” As there was an instantaneous $5,000 reward put out for them, they were “ratted out” by people and captured by morning. One was hiding in a shed.
My question becomes, “How much money could these goons think they were going to get out of a pawn shop?” Here in Florida they provide capital punishment for murder. Of course, it will take twenty years before they insert the plunger full of toxic juices, so he’ll get a nice long time to think about it before they do. The other three will probably get life for armed robbery.
Being very generous, let’s say they were able to get $4,000 in cash out of a pawn show robbery. Dividing that among the four of them gives them a grand apiece. I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest mathematician, but let’s just say they all spend twenty years in jail. That’s 1040 weeks. If you divide the $1000 they “might” have gotten if they’d managed to pull it off, that works out to .96 a week, or .02 cents an hour on a forty hour week. Fortunately for society, they’ll all spend more than that. Was it worth it, boys?
“Stories from Williamston’s Past”
Irrelevant Rants is taking a slight slant today. Instead of ranting about something, I’m promoting something different. A former colleague of mine at Williamston High School has written an historical, non-fiction treatise on some of the more interesting stories of Williamston history. Following is the “Review” I put up on Amazon.com tonight. Sometimes it takes a day for it to become live, but you can read it here now.
Mitch Lutzke, Noted historian of Williamston, Michigan lore, has compiled the non-fiction work titled Stories from Williamston’s Past.” After years of study and the compilation of a twenty page bibliography, Mitch has been able to bring to life many stories and events of Williamston’s past.
Many of the stories I had heard bits and pieces of, but not all the details. We all knew of Chief Okemos patrolling the shores of the Red Cedar, but not the chief’s history per se. Several of the stories held my interest more than others. Discussions regarding transportation such as the development of the railroad, the old plank road coming out of Detroit, and the attempt at developing a steam engine automobile factory I found especially intriguing.
Other industrial attempts I found compelling were stories of the creation of the knitting factory, coal mining, an attempt at being part of a very early professional Michigan baseball league and all of its problems, and, of course, the attempts to build “get rich quick” industries.
Then there was the gruesome Haney murder. That one was worth the price of the book.
Obviously, the most fun reading for me was the inclusion of my grandfather’s diary that he illegibly kept from 1895 to 1914. As I read the entire diary way back in my college days, it had special meaning. Items not shared in Mitch’s diary excerpts were the Indians coming to the door begging when the “men folk” went to town or the excitement portrayed when my own father was born—“Grace gave birth today, another boy.” Since that was the sixth boy in a row, I guess it didn’t present much of an adrenalin rush.
I found “Stories from Williamston’s Past” extremely interesting and a great read. I give it a five star rating and recommend it to anyone with any interest of the history of a small Michigan town.
On The Road
One of the nice things about life is that we get to make decisions—at least while we are still able. I did my two plus day journey from Lansing to Florida over the weekend and arrived at destination about noon yesterday. It was seventy-eight degrees here and when I checked the computer this morning, it was minus four in Lansing.
Therein come the decision part. Do I want to make this drive again? The super highways are long and boring. There were some programs on NPR that I heard three times. Wouldn’t it be easier and probably cheaper to fly? Yes, but it puts on some limits. For instance, on the way I stopped off in Indianapolis and had lunch with my cousin. When I leave here, I’ll stop by and have lunch with another friend in northern Florida, and then head over to VA Beach and spend a day with an author friend and his wife.
If nothing else, I did well on my diet. On Sunday, I had oatmeal for breakfast and then nothing else until I landed at some flea-bitten motel in GA. There was no restaurant or gas station at that particular place—just one motel. So I ordered a pizza to be delivered and only ate half of that. I left the other half for the clean-up crew. Yesterday, I had one meal—an exceptionally good spaghetti dinner. Even had breakfast this morning so I guess I won’t starve. Bet I don’t lose any weight either.
If I fly, I won’t be able to have those connections. Therefore, I have to make one of those decisions between now and next January—fly or drive.
Had something really strange happen recently, but first you need some background. All my life I’ve had this “thing” about having/being an identical twin. I remember when I was in the sixth grade, there were identical twin girls in my class that I was jealous of. I always thought it would be so much fun.
Over the years while teaching, I periodically had twins in class. I always fantasized about how much fun they had—especially the identical ones who would try to pull something over on their teachers. I had one set of “mirror twins” in middle school that I especially remember. One was left handed and the other right. One wore a 9 size left shoe and a 9 ½ right. His brother was just the opposite so their parents would buy two pair of shoes and they would trade the odd one.
Since they were in different classes, I noted on my seating chart an L for the left hander and an R for the right hander. One was more English/social studies oriented, and the other was more math/science. Being the suspicious type and having heard rumors, I started checking on test days. I caught them once. All I did was say, “???, go to your right class and send your brother back.” They never tried it again—that I know of.
Anyways, growing up in the fifties, sex education was pretty much non-existent. School ignored it, my dad never said a word about it, and my mother would answer any question I had very factually about any question I might have regarding body parts, functions, etc. These never strayed off into any kind of lecture. She answered the question and then changed the topic.
To bring this up to date, at our monthly Williamston Writer’s group, we always spend the first hour getting something to eat and chatting about whatever. Somehow or the other we started talking about sex education back in the day. One of the people went off to college totally oblivious—no one had ever told her squat. One’s mother handed her two books and told her to read them, and others in the group had similar experiences.
While sitting there talking, a memory flashed in my mind of me sitting at the kitchen table while my mother cooked dinner. That’s where we always had our discussions. Dad wasn’t home from work yet, and my two sisters were out and about. I remember telling her that I always wanted to be a twin and almost felt like I was one. I can still see her. She’d been stirring something in a pot on the stove. She stopped, turned around and gave me “the look” and said something to the effect in a very stern tone, “Well, it didn’t turn out that way, did it?” The subject was dropped.
Chalk Up One for the Bucket List
Back in 2007, after reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” I told myself, “One of these days, I’m going to sit down and read all seven books back-to-back and watch the movies.”
About two months ago I told myself, “The time has come.” My goal was to get all seven books re-read and movies watched before the end of the year. I had a couple of surprises along the way. Number one, I had never even taken the wrapper off of book five. Also, I didn’t have the movies for six and seven. Have no idea why not. I checked on line at Amazon.com and the last two books weren’t available there.
I have breakfast every two weeks on Tuesday morning with a fellow author. He told me about a used CD store across from the Lansing Mall that I had never heard of. I checked it out. They had the movies. Ta! Da!
I finished book seven on Sunday the twenty-eighth. Monday and Tuesday were jammed on the calendar. Therefore, on New Year’s Eve I watched I watched both movies associated with “The Deathly Hollows” while a host of other people were out partying. I bet I felt better than those people did on Thursday.
I’d forgotten how much fun those books were. J.K. Rowling’s imagination is fantastic. How she could come up with all of the scenarios, plot lines, conflict and drama is mind boggling. Things did tend to drag now and then, but overall they were page turners. I guess when you’re reading seven and eight-hundred page books, it’s not too unusual to have a few slow parts.
What I also found interesting was the amount of content in the books I’d forgotten. That’s probably not too much of a stretch since the last one was published in 2007. For the fun of it, I may put this back on the Bucket List and do it again one of these days.
The Four “F” Words for the Holidays
Family, Friends, Food, and Fun—that’s what it’s all about. The rest takes a back seat. Obviously, people’s beliefs and the gift giving are all intertwined with the four “F” words above, but how we deal with the above is what makes it all special.
For many, the holidays revolve around religion. For some it doesn’t. For some it is all about the gifts—especially if you’re young. For me I’m perfectly happy with the beliefs of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or anything else one might choose to celebrate. What makes the season special for me are those human relationships that come about because of those holidays that are being celebrated.
What we don’t need in social settings are religious and political arguments for or against any of the above. If people want to sit down together and discuss their differences one-on-one, fine. As a friend of mine told me once, when new recruits join the fire department, they are told right up front. “We are a community. We live together for twenty-four hours a day. Two topics are verboten—politics and religion.“
I guess it causes some other “F” words to mix in to the fray, and who needs that?
The Lansing schools, like most urban schools, have been pretty poor in the performance area for some time now. The superintendant and board are discussing a new plan for one of the poorest performing elementary schools—making it an all-boy school. Personally, I think this is a great idea. However, I think they should go one step further and have another school in town for all girls.
Because of the Schools of Choice dictum, there should be at least one school choice for each sex. Early elementary aged boys tend to be behind the girls in maturity, growth, brain development, etc. As a result, many boys are behind the girls when they start and kind of give up. Sometimes that’s easier on the morale than actually trying and failing—or never being able to compete with so-and-so. As a result, many boys act out, get in trouble, fall farther behind, etc.
That’s one reason why middle schools were developed in the first place. After puberty kicks in during the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, boys go on growth spurts physically and mentally and catch up. I’ve heard that for an excuse for same-sex middle schools, but I prefer the concept for elementary.
One issue I didn’t notice being discussed much was that of the teaching staff. It might be impractical having an all male staff in the elementary, but I would definitely like to see an emphasis on that. Little boys need that positive male image and influence in their lives. In way too many of these homes in the urban areas, it’s mom and the kids with dad nowhere in sight. In some of these situations there is an evolution of “Uncles” who wander in and out of their lives.
I think the same holds true in the all-girls school. There should be as many males as possible for that very same reason. In those schools that stay mixed, I would propose a healthy mixture of both sexes for teachers.
I think the day has come and gone where the elementary schools are dominated by female teachers. Obviously, the kids need their educators, influences, and role models to be a mixture.
As I said in an earlier rant, the holiday season is upon us—whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, looking in the mirror, or whatever it is you celebrate. The time has come. I am hoping that we can all celebrate the season, have a good time with friends and family, and forget the negativity and drama for a change.
If nothing else, think of the kids who have to listen to this all the time. When you’re spouting off about something irrationally, how does it affect your surrounding atmosphere? If you grew up in a household where all you heard were your parents screaming at each other or at you and your siblings, how did it affect you? How does it affect your kids?
I’m not talking about debate or discussion, I’m talking about sitting back and listening to yourself. Is this how you want people to view you—a screaming, blathering, idiot? I have defriended five people on Facebook in the past couple of years because the only thing that comes out of their mouths is negative, political, diatribe that goes on and on.
If all else fails, listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU It’s a YouTube video of Bobby Mcferrin singing, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”
Today’s “Irrelevant Rant” is about as irrelevant as one could get. However, since it’s the holiday season, I don’t feel too badly that I’m not really complaining about anything important.
Ever since I finished book seven, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,” in 2007, I’ve wanted to go back and read all seven books one after the other and watch the movies. I had the first five movies, but for some reason or the other, I never bought six and seven. I looked at Amazon and couldn’t find them. Some friend told me about a used/resale DVD store across from the Lansing Mall so I checked there. They had copies of each. Voila! I was set to go.
A few weeks back I started. Currently I’m on roughly page 450 of book six. Now, for those of you who have forgotten, book five was 870 pages. Fortunately, book six is about 200 pages fewer. Since my goal is to finish this before the end of the year, or I go blind, whichever happens first, I think I’m doing pretty well.
Some of my harshest critics claim that I have a tendency to over describe and ramble on and on. Well, to those of you who feel that way, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Since J.K. Rowling’s net worth is over a billion dollars, I only think it’s fair and reasonable to see if I can top that 870 page mark on my next literary masterpiece. While you’re waiting, you’ll have to settle on the seven that are available now.
As if the legislature isn’t stupid enough to entertain the idea of raising the speed limit to 80 on some of the nation’s worst roads, now they are talking about raising the bar-closing time to four a.m. if the establishment is willing to pay an extra $10,000 a year “fee” for the privilege. (That money could be well spent refurbishing legislative offices.)
If they pass that brilliant scheme, those with alcohol contents of .10, .20, or .30 and above will be out driving the roads and trying to get home as many people are just getting around and leaving for work. I know several people who work early shifts who leave home between four and five a.m. in order to get to their jobs on time. At least with a two a.m. cut off, the only ones on the roads are the drunks. Now, I know that might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s probably pretty close.
On the positive side, think about how many lives can be saved if all those fine folks out boozing it up until 4 a.m. have signed their organ donor cards. Be sure to sign yours today.
12/07/2014…Conspiracy Theory 101
Interesting. Michigan roads are rated among the worse five in the country. So, what does a faction of our glorious legislature want to do? They want to raise the speed limit to 80 mph on the highways that are not all that heavily traveled.
Conspiracy Theory 101—here we go. Everyone knows that the faster one travels, the lower the gas mileage you get. Let me use my car as an example. With the cruise set at 72 while driving from here to FL, I get about 25 mpg. In those states where the speed limit is 65, I get between 28-30. To repair our roads it is supposedly going to take something like two billion dollars a year for the foreseeable future to get them up to safe and satisfactory. The governor and legislature has been talking about doubling the gas tax over the next four years to pay for this. People are whining big time. They want the roads fixed, but they don’t want to pay for it.
So, the easy solution is to make I-96, I-94, and I-75 race tracks. Since the police normally ignore anything up to five miles over the speed limit, that means we can all drive 85. I figure that at 85, my gas mileage will drop to at least 20. Now, if I were driving from here to Detroit everyday for work like some people do, think about how much more gas I would have to buy by cutting my MPG by 7-8. Now, multiply that by the millions of cars out there driving every day, and that’s a ton of extra taxes brought in.
Not only that, the extra usage will cause a shortage of gas causing the price to raise higher and higher bringing in more and more tax money.
Just one more thought on the subject, how would you like to be driving so fast that you couldn’t see or avoid an 8” deep pothole on one of those “super” highways? Wouldn’t that make for an energizing, creative, and exciting driving experience? Can’t you just hear that big “Boom!” of the front tire just before you go into that twenty-five rotation roll? Be sure to buckle up and sign your organ donor cards.
12/04/2014 … Cannot believe that the season is winding down so quickly. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, all of the above/none of the above, it’s almost here. In four weeks we’ll be into the start of 2015. Slow down, clock. You’re spinning too fast.
One thing to be thankful for and look forward to is the fact that there will be no big political elections where we have to be inundated with commercial after commercial that nobody ever listens to anyway. Since the only thing they accomplish is to keep the advertisement industry flush with the millions upon millions spent on the things, you’d think they would dispense with them and actually try to accomplish something for the country.
With any luck, the winter in the northern states will be a little milder and less ferocious than last year. We’ve already had our Polar Vortex hit for the year. Places in the UP had fifty inches of snow more than normal in November. Even mid-Michigan had twice its normal snowfall for the month. Who knows how it will work out.
The drought stricken areas of California had more rain this past week than they’ve had for the rest of the year combined. Now all of those thousands of acres that burned this past summer are turning into mudslides because the ground cannot absorb the heavy rain. Weird…
If nothing else, let’s all be grateful that we’re still here and doing the best we can. Our lives may not be perfect, but look around. There are a lot of people who are in a much worse situation than you are.
Do you ever get sick and tired of all the “Drama” that we run into everyday? I don’t know if it’s just me or everyone, but seems like everyone I know is mired down in it. Had breakfast recently with a friend, and all I heard about was the drama his family is being dragged through with the antics of one of his kids.
One delightful day between classes many eons ago, two girls stormed into the room in the middle of a pissing match over some boy (I think). They continued on with it before the bell rang to the delight of everyone listening. Some boy, I can’t remember his name, and he was probably repeating something he heard on television, rolled his eyes, threw out his arms, and said, “Can’t we all just get along.” I laughed along with the rest of the class.
I don’t know where he picked that up from, like I said earlier, it probably something he heard on TV, but it sure was appropriate. But, the big question in my mind is Why? Why do people have to fight, argue, and carry on continuously? If you cannot get along and co-exist peacefully with someone without all the drama, why don’t you separate and go your own ways?
Many married couples say they are sticking together for the sake of the kids. Bull! Think what you’re doing to your kids when all they hear is the bickering, screaming, yelling, accusations, etc. The kids would be much better off if they never had to hear that. And, Heaven help us, don’t rip on your ex in front of the kids if you do. Can you imagine where that puts the child if he/she is with one parent or the other and all they hear is a continual harangue about the other?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big advocate of divorce. I was just using that as an example. What I am an advocate for is people getting along with each other and checking their egos on the hat rack. You don’t always have to be “right.” You don’t always have to have everything “your” way. Life is a two-way street. Remember, there are always a minimum of two ways of looking at everything. Usually, there are multiple ways. Accept the fact that people in your life are different and deal with it. End of rant for the day
11/23/14…“Fred & Ginger Would Be Delighted”
I saw love, today,
although I wasn’t looking.
It interrupted my lunchtime,
and I had to stop to watch.
It moved silently,
through the McDonald’s
like a well-choreographed dance
without a melody or lyric.
Just a pair of practiced partners
performing a perfect pavane.
the trash was gathered.
he slid out of the booth.
she slid him the tray.
he stands and takes the trash.
she slides toward the booth edge.
he disposes of the trash.
she begins to stand up.
he takes her by the hand.
she makes it to her feet.
he slides her walker into place.
she puts on her crocheted scarf.
he helps her with her coat.
She closes and buttons up.
Her oxygen bottle is in position.
she moves toward the exit door.
He dons his coat and fedora.
He turns and steps to the door.
Its open and out she goes.
He steps to their car.
the door opens as she arrives .
she gets in the car.
he folds her well-used walker.
she settles into the car seat.
the car’s trunk lid pops open.
he puts the oxygen bottle in the car.
he carefully stows her walker.
the trunk lid is closed .
he gets into the car.
the car backs out.
they drive away.
11/20/14…Believe it or not, even I can use a little common sense—once in a while. I was supposed to go to Grand Rapids this a.m. to get the oil changed, tires rotated, and all that other good stuff. It didn’t look too bad around here, but thought maybe I should call them and check things out.
The service manager’s message came through loud and clear, “Uh, stay there in Lansing. It’s nasty over here. Let’s reschedule for next week.”
So, I did. Not wanting to waste the concept of changing clothes just for the trip to the dealership, I slipped over to Mijo’s, a small neighborhood restaurant kind of across from the Capitol City International Airport, and had breakfast. I took the sports section and read that while I was there and figured my day had started a lot saner than it would have if I’d driven into that blizzard in G.R.
11/17/14…Today’s rant is REALLY important. I can’t figure out exactly how I want to work a certain part of my latest W.I.P. In a nutshell, the book is a takeoff on “Damey & Grandpa Tutor.” The story takes place twenty-five years later when Damey has a PhD in robotics engineering and is vice president of a local robotics firm. Damey’s life consists of robots and the Z-team—namely, his wife, Zandra (Zandy) and three sons, Zachary (Zack) 13, Zaiden (Zaid) 12, and Zane 11.
The overarching problem in the story is that Damey gets sent to the Antarctica with his brand new underwater nuclear powered robot. Originally, I had him going in search of a submarine that has disappeared under the ice shelf with absolutely no trace. The sub had gone under in search of a suspected illegal oil well that is leaking. (Exploring for oil, gas, and minerals in the Antarctic has been part of an international ban that is to last fifty years.)
My concern is the whole scenario just might be way too farfetched. So, I’m debating with myself to just have him send the robot under the shelf in search of the leak. If there is an illegal rig down there, his robot can find the source, identify it, fix it, and photograph it so the Navy can identify the “culprit.” If it’s a natural leak out of the ground, that’s a different story.
Naturally, that isn’t all there is to it. There has to be a major disaster on the icebreaker Damey is working off of. However, that works itself out in the book. In the meantime, I’m learning way more about Antarctica than I ever figured I wanted
If anyone has any input, email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org
11/16/14…Two things I never discuss or debate are religion and politics. However, I do have my opinions—right or wrong.
The state of Michigan is known for having some of the worse roads in the entire country. Apparently we like it that way because our politicians refuse to do anything about it except fight. Wonderful! They refused to do anything the past two years because we were headed for an election. Aren’t we always? They started talking about the 2016 electoral slate immediately after the 2012 election. Some think something can get done in the “lame duck” period between now and January because none of these fine folks can be held accountable.
Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but the money has to come from someplace. I know of one source that is not taxed now and I think would make a sensible place to get more from roads—services. People get haircuts, manicures, go to the tanning salons, get their lawns mowed, driveways professionally plowed, etc. I personally blow about forty bucks on a half-hour massage every couple of weeks. If I can afford $40 for that, then I can afford to add on the 6% cent state sales tax and make it $42.40.
Now, I’m sure I’m not looking at all the facts and am probably crazy. But, I also know that if they double the gas tax I will probably drive a lot less just because I can. The poor smuck who has to drive forty miles round-trip to work every day doesn’t have that choice, but I do. I, who can afford that extra gas tax, have the choice. You, who are working and struggling to support young families, don’t.
11/14/14… Where is that line drawn between common sense and political correctness? After our wonderful winter of Polar Vortexes trashing two of my trees last year—resulting in MY paying for the removal of one that was lying on the cable wires Christmas day, the Board of Water & Light came through last week notifying me that they wanted to “trim” the other.
I suggested he take a good look at the tree. Someone in all their wisdom years previously had planted the thing directly under the power lines, or had installed the power lines directly over the tree. Not only that, the storm had broken several large limbs in the tree and it was aesthetically shot.
“Why don’t you just remove the tree and get it over with? If we have another storm like last winter, it’s going to trash the wires anyway,” I said.
“The tree huggers won’t let us do that. If the tree is reasonably healthy, all we can do is trim it.”
Yesterday they came through and “trimmed” the tree. There are something like two scraggly limbs going to the right and two to the left. In the middle is this huge, ugly V effect.
In the very near future, one of my kids and grandkids will come over, remove the tree, and take the firewood for the winter. So much for the BWL’s policy.
***Tis that wonderful time of year. The yard is full of leaves, the garden is full of dead plants, and here I sit banging on the keys of the computer. It’s too cold to go out and do anything foolish like yard work. That should all have been done last week when the temps were in the fifties. Fortunately the John Deere does a good job of mulching. The leaves packed against the fences will have to wait.
I guess I can’t complain too much. In the UP they received over thirty inches of snow in the past couple of days, and this is only the twelfth of November. Records like that somebody else can have.
***On my bike ride yesterday and passed an open drain hole at an intersection where some idiot had stolen the grate. This was less than a full block from a city park that always has a bunch of little kids playing in it—especially on the weekend. I came home and checked the phone book for a local police number that wasn’t 911. Nothing in the phone book so I looked it up on Google. I notified the dispatcher around four pm. She said she’d have someone check it out.
Right at dusk—3 ½ hours later I rode by there again just as a young kid 8-9 years old raced around the corner on his bike. He was looking for cars and missed the hole by maybe 6-12 inches. In the meantime, there were no warning devices of any kind—safety cones, barrels, etc. It had been totally ignored from the looks of things. I will check it out again today. I realize that yesterday was Sunday, but a little kid could fall through that hole on Sunday as well as 9-5 on a week day.
I certainly hope the character who stole it gets at least fifty cents for the scrap metal.
**Last night I went to a private premiere showing of “Second Shift—from crisis to collaboration.” I was invited by our former mayor and his wife, Dave and Christine Hollister. The documentary told of the collaborative effort by politicians and unions of every persuasion to come together and convince General Motors to stay in Lansing. The factories were old and outdated, and the decision had been made to phase out production and close them.
Dave initiated a “Lansing Works! Keep GM” campaign bringing all of the various factions together to make it a reality. Fortunately, people working together for a purpose and forgetting their own political agendas saved over 15,000 jobs and resulted in hundreds of millions of investment dollars. Without it, Lansing would have probably ended up as another bankrupt Detroit or Flint.
The goal of the film is to show other cities and communities how their leaders can put aside their politics and rally people around to save and improve their own communities by working together.
Thank you Mr. Hollister and all of the others for your inspiration and tireless efforts in making this work.
**Does anyone besides me get tired of all the political BS that we’re inundated with on a daily basis? I don’t care if one is Democrat, Republican, Independent, or wears Depends. It’s all the same. Name a politician—anybody. If you are a politician, at least 50% of the people hate you just because. If you’ve been in office more than six months, that percentage rises.
One of my Facebook friends even went so far as to blame the current respiratory virus attacking children in parts of the nation on all of the immigrant kids who sneaked over the border and are seeking safety from their own crazy countries. So now a rampant virus outbreak on children is political?
Right about the time Kay died, I unfriended four people who I know quite well—former colleagues and students. Why? Every single thing they posted was a negative, political rant. At that particular point in time, I didn’t need all the negativity. I still don’t. (Given that, I admit this whole thing has been a negative political rant.) Oh, well. As my good friend and fellow author, Lee Carey, always says—keep smilin’.
**This week I celebrate my birthday. Why? Because I’m having another one instead of the alternative. I cannot believe that I am officially older than dirt now. When I look at the number of former students who are now grandparents, it’s scary. None of them can be that old.
I look at the calendar, and there’s a regular lineup of September birthdays. Some old dude that I went to school with who walks Sams with me regularly is the same day as mine. He’s much older than I am though. He was born at two in the morning and I didn’t arrive until 6:55 pm.
After that, I have a D.I.L on the 14th., another friend on the 15th., grandson on the 16th, and granddaughter on the 20th. That’s way too many people so I think it only fitting that we forget everyone else and concentrate on mine. Works for me
**Just because my cherubs have absolutely no taste when it comes to food is no reason the rest of us don't. For them, if it isn’t beef, fried, or deep fried, it’s inedible. However, for those of us who are “normal,” there are other options. Below is my latest smoothie recipe. Believe it or not, it tastes good and might even be healthy. (I’m betting healthier than a double cheeseburger with extra cheese.)
Feel free to copy the following recipe for smoothies.
4 cups red grapes
2 large tomatoes
2 large cukes
1 Can pineapple chunks/ or blueberries
1 Qt. vanilla Greek Yogurt
Puree in the blender—makes two blenders full so plan accordingly. Chill on crushed ice and drink. (Royalty checks are not necessary)
**Today’s irrelevant rant is actually a rant. When “Damey & Grandpa Tutor” was published, I posted on Facebook and via email that I would give away copies to the first thirty people who asked with the following three stipulations: 1. Read the book; 2. Review the book at Amazon.com; 3. Lend or give the book away to anyone else who was willing to comply with the first two conditions.
Altogether I have given away fifty-eight books between the paperbacks and PDF files that could be downloaded onto one’s E-reader. As of this morning, I have seventeen reviews. (Far short of the 116 it could be if everyone lived up to their commitments.)
I do realize that this was done during summer vacation and many people have been tied up with family activities—vacations, child care, etc. I have heard a whole list of excuses, many valid, many maybe bordering on procrastination. Some haven’t responded.
Where my rant comes in, why would one accept a free book agreeing to the above stipulations and then ignore it? Between buying fifty paperbacks and mailing out forty of the them at $2.68 a clip, it’s become about a four-hundred dollar marketing experiment gone bad.
According to two marketing sources I read, the magic number on Amazon is twenty-five reviews. That pushes your search engine capabilities to the next level. I decided to try for a hundred just to see what would happen and how it would affect sales. Interestingly, nearly half of those seventeen Amazon reviews are from people who bought the book on their own instead of taking a freebie.
In the meantime, my goal of one-hundred appears to be dead in the water, but I’m still hoping to get over the twenty-five mark to see what happens.
**Using Fewer Infinitives (Reference: Delta Writers’ Roundtable: Bill Koons; Editor-Proof Your Writing, Don McNair, 2013)
We’ve all been told not to use the words “started to,” ‘began to,” “decided to,” “going to,” or even things such as “managed to.” This advises us to stress the action and the meat of a story, without telling, or as McNair says: “without the mess.” The reason is, we wish to reinforce the immediacy of a piece of writing, the feeling of being there, not being told what is going on somewhere the reader is not. This is what is referred to in fiction writing as the fictional (or “fictive,” if one takes it back to its roots, iz. William James) dream. That feeling we get, if the writing is good enough, that we are no longer reading, but are there, in the scene, hearing what the characters are saying.
These examples are from the McNair book: (Bill Koons’ comments)
1.She started to walk toward her car(Hides the action) a.She walked toward her car. 2.Jim started to splash frantically.(less fog, stronger verb) a.Jim splashed frantically. 3.He began to hobble along the planks. a.He hobbled along the planks. 4.She decided to add more sugar. She did, and tasted the mixture. Yes, it was better. a.She added more sugar and tasted the mixture.(Less redundancy—more direct) 5.The knife seemed to glow in the sunlight. (Uncertain. Did it glow or not? Be certain of your meaning. When we use “seemed,” we imply that the realty is contrary to that.) a.The knife glowed in the sunlight.(No doubt) 6.She’s going to walk into that room. a.She’ll walk into that room.(More direct/OR/ She approached the room.) 7.The plants are going to die in the winter. a.The plants will die in the winter.(But even better) b.The plants will not survive the winter.(More power—stresses helplessness.) For My Cherubs*
This week’s Irrelevant Rant is directed at my three cherubs who all think that fruits and vegetables are four-letter vulgarities.
As I looked in my refrigerator at the pile of stuff I had sitting in there all getting overripe, I came up with a brainstorm. I would make my very first smoothie. Believe it or not, it turned out pretty good. For those of you who intend to print this off for posterity, I would like to remind you that the quantities are estimates—since I didn’t measure anything. Here goes:
2 Cups green grapes
1 Cup blueberries
2 Cups cherry tomatoes
1 Very large cucumber
2 Cups Watermellon
Multiple gobs of vanilla Greek Yogurt
Blend to a sloppy, soupy mess and drink.
This recipe made probably four full glassfuls.
There are a number of methods to edit while writing short stories or fiction novels. None are necessarily the way it should be done, but all discussed below work for a number of people.
Many authors indicate that they write the entire document first without ever looking at what they’ve written. Once finished, they go back and start the process of what should stay, go, change, etc.
Those with more money than me, get the manuscript to the best possible place they can, and then hire a professional editor to polish it.
Personally, my first edit is done after writing about ten pages and then getting away from it for the rest of the day. The next day I read over those ten pages, make numerous changes, and then write another ten.
After about a week, I go back and read that first sixty to seventy pages to check on how if flows. I repeat this process every week or so until the first draft is finished. Once I feel the document is how I want it, I print it off and read the entire thing out loud to myself. (I try to do that when nobody else is present. Don’t want them hauling me away in a straight jacket.) Even after multiple edits, a handful of typos always appear. I even had a second party read “Damey & Grandpa Tutor” and at least three typos survived that I’m aware of.
Outline Vs No Outline In Fiction*
There are a minimum of two sides to every issue. One of those issues is whether or not to use an outline while writing fiction. Personally, I never do. I know the beginning, sometimes have a vague idea of the ending, and away I go.
I typically have a couple of scenes hashed out in my head before I start, but more importantly, I have my main characters well established in my head. I’m mulling in my brain a sequel to “Damey & Grandpa Tutor.” The story takes place twenty-five years after Damey’s twelve-year-old adventure with Grandpa to when Damey is a husband and father of three boys whose names all begin with the letter Z.
There’s his wife, Zandy, and his three sons, Zachary 14, Zaiden 13, and Zane 12. I have all kinds of scenes developed in my mind around the family, Damey’s job as the vice president of a robotics engineering firm, the differences and similarities between the kids, etc. I just have no plot, no thoughts about an ending, and no idea where the story’s going, or whether I’ll do anything with it or not.
The point is, if I do, I’ll just start writing and let the characters tell the story. When it’s done, I’ll copy/paste entire scenes as I move them into more appropriate places in the story.
I find outlines too restrictive. If I have a pre-planned outline going from scene one to two, three, four, etc., I feel I have to stick to it. If something different pops into the head in the middle of a scene, I would have to flick it away like a bug because it didn’t follow the plan.
Other people swear by them. It keeps them organized and on task. They have planned out their perfect story and want to stick to it. That’s fine if it works. For me, it doesn’t.
Why I Write*
I’ve been numerous times why I spend my time writing when I could be fishing, going to movies, watching television, you name it. Some of my relatives think I’m a bit odd because I can’t share with them the latest the latest television program that everyone’s “gotta watch” because I don’t.
Writing is how I entertain myself. Dreaming up weird situations for my characters to get themselves in and out of keeps me smiling. Do I do it to sell a million books and make a sack full of money? No. Would I turn it down if I did? No. I do know that a lot of people who read my short stories and novels like them and some don’t. That’s okay. Everyone is different. A good friend doesn’t like the “Damey & Grandpa Tutor “ book and that’s okay. He has his reasons and he explained them when he reviewed the book on Amazon. That’s good. I appreciated honest feedback.
Writing is a great way to let the imagination and mind soar to different places and times. My brain asks the questions, “What if?” and “Why?” a lot. I always try to put myself in the middle of the scene as either an unseen by the audience participant or observer. Then I ask myself, “What would I do?” Fortunately, my characters tell the story so I don’t have to spend a lot of time pondering the “What ifs?”
Back in the Dark Ages when I was working on my Bachelor’s degree, I had history as a minor. One of the projects I had to do was to write a paper using original sources. What I did was to take my grandfather’s diaries from 1895-1914 and write the historical document from them.
There were tales of the Indians coming up from the Red Cedar River begging for food when the men-folk had gone to town. Grandma would round all the kids up, shoo everyone upstairs, and lock all the doors.
Williamston was a bartering society back then. Grandpa would take squirrel and rabbit pelts, a bag of beans, corn, or whatever else was newly harvested and go to town to trade the stuff for groceries and supplies. It was the only A+ I ever received in college for anything.
A few years back, I decided to write a diary as well. I started out writing a thirty-page, single spaced, auto-biography ranging from my earliest memories until 1969 when Kay and I got married. The years between that time and when I started the diary, I ignored because the kids were old enough to remember anything important anyway.
I don’t write every day, but at least a couple of times a week. Since I started in August, 2011, I’ve added over 120 single-spaced pages. I’m well enough aware that nobody will ever read it, but at least it’s there. I even have it printed out—just in case.
Diaries are important for a number of reasons. One records the events that are relevant in his or her life at the time. It gives one a chance to reflect on events without necessarily including the emotions of the moment. In other words, it’s therapeutic. When I’m on the other side of the grass, it can be tossed along with all the other knickknacks that nobody wants. It doesn’t matter then.
What “really” happened to Francis Gary Powers?*
In 1960 I was stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey. I know, the first question that comes to mind is, “So what?” That’s when Gary Powers flew out of our base and ended up getting shot down over Sverdlovsk, Russia flying his U-2 spy plane during a joint USAF and CIA mission.
That incident just about blew the Cold War right out of the water. At first, the Eisenhower administration, let by Vice President Nixon attempted a huge cover-up to no avail. Finally, the President came out and admitted that it wasn’t a lost airplane flying way off course.
I was a weather observer and spent about half my working time in the control tower. For emergency purposes, an experienced pilot was always in the tower during the time that the fighter jets were out flying around on training missions. Naturally, the tower operators and weather guys were all nosy about the U-2. We played spy and would always ask the fighter pilots loaded questions. Some of the pilots would talk to us, and some wouldn’t. Most were bored and willing to chit-chat.
Pooling a variety of sources, (The ground radar boys told us they blipped off the radar screen at 90,000 feet still going almost straight up.) we determined that the U-2 must be flying in the vicinity of 120,000 feet. When he was shot down, Gary Powers was at 65,000 feet. Why?
The pilots carried with them an epi-pen device with an extremely fast acting poison in case they were in danger of being captured. He didn’t use that. Why?
According to rumor, the U-2 had a switch that could be thrown in case the plane crashed, that would explode and destroy the entire plane. That switch wasn’t activated and the plane landed pretty much intact. Why?
Gary Powers was convicted of espionage by the Soviets and sentenced to seven years at hard labor. In 1962, the US made a trade with Russia—Gary Powers for a top Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel.
In 1967, acting as a helicopter pilot for a local news station covering brush fires in Santa Barbara County, CA, he ran out of gas and crashed. The official diagnosis was, “Pilot error—poor fuel manatement.” Gary Powers was a seasoned military pilot who had climbed the ranks to captain. He had flown multiple missions with the U-2 for the CIA. He wouldn’t know when he was low on fuel while checking a brush fire? Did the CIA have anything to do with it? Hummm, let’s see. Conspiracy theory #963,487.