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.