Thursday, December 7, 2023

Anonymous quote I ran across ...

 "I'd rather be the oldest guy in the gym than the youngest guy in the nursing home."

And, let's hear it for the girls

 Xochitl Gonzalez wonders: What Did Hip-Hop Do to Women's Minds. From The Atlantic:

I’d heard these songs hundreds of times over the years, but that day—as a woman in her 30s making a playlist for a man who’d recently had a baby girl—I was suddenly hearing them anew. The volume seemed turned up for every mention of “hoes” and “bitches,” like someone had taken a sonic highlighter and run it over every verse about devious, promiscuous, and generally disposable women.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Boys not being boys

 Jonathon Haidt is increasingly worried about boys. From American Institute for Boys and Men:

Boys are in trouble. Many have withdrawn from the real world, where they could develop the skills needed to become competent, successful, and loving men. Instead, many have been lured into an ever more appealing virtual world in which desires for adventure and for sex can be satisfied, at least superficially, without doing anything that would prepare them for later success in work, love, and marriage.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Since we're talking music

 Let's talk about the greatest: Prince.

And his impact on that gal Travis Kelce is dating.

“Swift seems to have studied Prince and learned some invaluable lessons.”

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

From the bookshelf ...

 What I'm reading: An Ed McBain 1969 novel "Fuzz: An 87th Precinct Mystery". Only 95 bucks at AbeBooks, but I got my paperback edition for $4 at my bookstore.

What I'm reading next: The great Larry McMurtry's "Boone's Lick"

Just a reminder, you don't need to drop $28 on the newest 2023 release. You can go to a used book store and pick from volumes of great books from great prolific authors for $3-$4 each. The ones below from my most recent visit to my local used book store were written in 1957, 1960 and 1969.

Or, at least, mix it up a little. Give a new author a look AND check out the old masters too. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Chris or Jamey? Who ya paying to see? (UPDATED)

 Chris Stapleton is coming to my neck of the woods for a concert this spring. I'm not trying to be contrarian here, but I haven't bought in (especially at 200 bucks a ticket) to all the hype. For my money and my Alexa time, I prefer Jamey Johnson.

They both have interesting back-stories, song-writing backgrounds and paid their dues to become stars. Stapleton is the hotter commodity right now, but outside of "Tennessee Whiskey" there's not a lot there for me. Lots of the same sound, same voice. While his CMA duet with Justin Timberlake was fun to watch, his song "Parachute" belongs in a middle-school play. 

Stapleton seems like a really nice guy, a good man, and I'd rather listen to him than any of the Bro Country Justins and Jasons, but for as hot as his star is burning right now it's got to burn a lot longer and with a more diverse catalog of songs than just growly, sad blues. 

Johnson, a former Marine, comes off the opposite to me. I'm guessing he's a nice guy, but seems grouchy and distant in the concerts I attended. He shut one down a couple songs early in Deadwood because a couple guys got into fisticuffs at the front of the stage. Come on, man, toughen up, don't be such a wimp. Think Waylon or George would've fled from the stage? I expected more from the "Somewhere between Jennings and Jones" singer.

Yet I find Johnson's voice better with a better range of songs. I had a friend tell me, when Johnson sings about the ups and downs in life you know he's been there.

Whichever you prefer, they're still in the 90-plus percentile of the rest of the performers out there. 

UPDATE: Here's a story singing Stapleton's praises.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Finished: Ryan Howard's '56 Days'

 At first glance I thought this book was written by former Phillies player Ryan Howard but I guess not. It was good anyway. Nice job, Catherine Ryan Howard.

It does the flashbacky thing quite a bit, which I don't usually like, but the author made it work; and cleverly so in some instances where she replayed the same scene but from the viewpoint of the other main character. I hadn't run into that before. Kudos for making Haugen jealous he didn't come up with that idea.

No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.


Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.


When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who -- and what -- he really is.


Detectives arrive at Oliver's apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?

The book starts just before the COVID pandemic hit in Ireland and then continues as they went into lockdown. I was skeptical I was going to like that too, but Ryan Howard did a good job. She was on point with how the pandemic was handled early on, the confusion, the fear, and wasn't preachy about face masks and didn't get into the vaccine argument. Again, kudos for deftly handling that.

The best were the twists. Not just one, but two or three. They whapped me alongside the head like those tortilla challenges on Tik Tok. Impressive.

I'm feeling generous today and going to give it an 8- on the 10-point Haugenometer. That's pretty much in line with the 4.1 of 5 by the Amazonians. And I didn't bother to check those goofy Goodreaders.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Speaking of the ol' ball and chain ...

 My celebrity crush has alway been Jennifer Love Hewitt. Her smile, her curves, her personality. If I had a hall pass it would be with her. (If my wife had one it would be Herb Dean, go figure.)

Anyway, it dawned on me a while back that I'm already married to JLH.

Tell me I'm wrong:

Sunday, October 1, 2023

35 years, uff da

 Today is my 35th wedding anniversary. Kind of a big deal, mostly due to the fact that somebody has been married to ME for 35 years. I wrote kind of a long, sappy deal but wasn't happy with it so deleted it. In short:

Anyone who knows my wife knows she's special. Ya, every husband is supposed to say that, but everyone else agrees so I must be right, "as usual" (she'd say sarcastically). She cares more than the average person, laughs more, talks more, hugs more. As the doctor she works for says: "85 percent of the patients come to see me; 15 percent come just to see Nancy.)

Before I turn this into another long, sappy deal, just watch the video or read the lyrics below. Pretty much sums up my situation word for word. FYI, Climax Blues Band is a sorely underappreciated group, as was their lead singer Colin Cooper.

When I was younger, man, I hadn't a care

Fooling around, hitting the town, growing my hair

You came along, and stole my heart when you entered my life

Ooh, babe, you got what it takes, so I made you my wife

Since then, I never looked back

It's almost like living a dream

And, ooh, I love you

You came along from far away, and found me here

I was playing around, feeling down, and hitting the beer

You picked me up from off the floor, and gave me a smile

You said, "You're much too young, your life ain't begun, let's walk for a while"

And as my head was spinning around

I gazed into your eyes

And thought, ooh, I want you

Thank you, babe, for being a friend, and shining your light in my life

'Cause, ooh, I need you

As my head was coming round, I gazed into your eyes

And thought, ooh, I want you

Thanks again for being my friend, and straightening out my life

'Cause, ooh, I need you

Since then, I never looked back, it's almost like living a dream

Ooh, I got you

If ever a man had it all, it would have to be me

And, ooh, I love you

Friday, September 29, 2023

Finally, a responsible adult, kinda

 It's usually not a big deal when somebody buys a new vehicle, but it kind of is in my household; as I'm the guy that buys one and drives it until a tow truck has to pull it from my driveway to the junk yard or I get pulled from it with the jaws of life. This stingy Norwegian gets his money's worth. 

So it was a bit of a surprise to wifey and kids yesterday when I traded in two vehicles: my 2002 Dodge Ram clunker with 204,000 miles on it; and my cherry 2006 canary yellow Mustang convertible. 

I traded it for a used 2017 Ford F-150 pickup, with low miles and all the bells and whistles.

To which my wife reacted: "This is much more responsible."

So, now, after 59 years of life and 35 of marriage I am finally responsible, in her eyes.

And she has a point. I've had three Mustangs, and they tend to go fast. Sometimes, you just gotta let the horses run, right? And sometimes when those kids in their RX-7s and Camaros pull up to the stop light next to you, it just might be more than the average old guy can resist to not maybe race them to the next light. But, I will say, in my five years with the latest Mustang, I never received a ticket while driving it.

Maybe I never exceeded the speed limit, or maybe I've gotten better at avoiding HiPo's. Only God knows. Well, actually I know too, but I'm not telling.

Another reason wifey is glad I don't have the Mustang, I suspect, is because I have an aversion to wearing seat belts. I know, I know. But if our most precious possessions, our children, don't have to wear them on school busses, why do I in my own car? (It's a column for another day and a frequent argument I have with a co-worker who, I guess, likes having me around.)

Little known secret: ever since a head-on highway collision in a Mustang when I was 21 (it wasn't my fault, the drunk guy came over the hill in my lane) I've envisioned that I will indeed die via car accident, probably flying through the windshield and in mid-air thinking: "I guess I should've worn my seatbelt".

Gosh, that was dark, Haugen.

Anyway, the latest Mustang had just kind of run its course with me. It's basically undriveable in the snow and the CD player didn't work - two important reasons for getting a new vehicle. Also, as a convertible, it was kind of a pain the butt, always making sure I wasn't leaving something on or under the seat when I parked somewhere. Like a gun, or a billfold, or a Prince CD.

So I've been looking. But the trucks I found that I liked where all white. Nothing wrong with white, but when you've owned silver, red and yellow Mustangs and a purple Miata, I've got a reputation to uphold. I didn't want to look like an electrician. Nothing against electricians, I just don't want to look like one. Shocking, huh? Get it, shocking?

When my dealer, who also takes my Skittles during our Thursday night poker games, told me he had just the baby coming in, I leaped. It's metallic silver. The CD player works. It's got some giddy-up and I traded the two cars to make some room in the driveway. The changing cars around to get out of the garage was becoming a pain in the rear.

Now the problem is the truck will barely fit in the garage. Looks like I'll be spending my weekend figuring that out. 

But I like it and it gave me something to blog about, way too much as you probably agree.

Safe driving everyone!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

In the game of life, be a Tom, not a Bill

You've probably seen the news where a U.S. Senator has led the charge for it to be an even uglier place. They've dropped the dress code of suits and ties and now allow shorts and sweatshirts on the Senate floor. 

While I won't harp on him (enough others have), when your crowning career achievement is to make the Senate an uglier place, you didn't have much of a career. Welcome to Walmart.

I'm with Mark Twain, of course, that clothes make the man. They don't have to be expensive or chic or trendy. But you dress appropriately for the occasion. 

Oddly enough, one of the biggest changes and things I still grapple with after turning from Lutheran to Catholic 25 years ago is the dress code. At the country church I grew up attending, men wore suit coats and ties. And this church was surrounded by corn fields and attended by farmers who wore coveralls and wife-beater shirts Monday through Saturday. They recognized the significance of their venue, of whom they were honoring. They weren't feeding the cows.

Catholics are much, much less attentive to that philosophy and it still bugs me. Blue jeans galore. T-shirts. But not me. You can take the boy out of the Lutheran church but not all the Lutheran out of the boy. You won't find me in blue jeans in church.

My son as a teen wanted to wear sandals one day to church. I told him: "Unless your name is Jesus, you don't wear sandals in church." I was a mean dad.

Don't get me wrong. I can dress like a slob. Catch me on the weekends and you'll see. Often times the same shirt a couple days in a row. Baseball cap, almost always. 

But, elsewhere, I'm generally known for dressing spiffy. Rarely suit and tie, (those are just for special occasions), but I've got my own style. If I had to categorize it, I'd say it trends toward 1970s college professor hip. You know, turtle-necks, mock turtle necks, solid-colored button-down shirts, with sport coat, sweater or vest, sometimes even the always-classy sweater vest not just anybody can pull off.

I like to dress nice and for the occasion. I dress differently for a night in Deadwood than a night at boxing. But I have outfits for both. Fedoras for some, bucket hats for others. 

Shoes too. Not quite an Imelda Marcos situation (Google it, kids) but getting close. 

Am I judgey about how others dress? Yes. Sue me. I figure, if somebody doesn't care about an event they are attending, they don't care how they look at it. I've seen high-ranking government officials in ripped blue jeans at important events where I'm wearing a suit and tie; and I find it disrespectful. It tells me they are more interested in sending some kind of message (look at me, I'm cool) than sending a message to the people the event is honoring (I'm honored to be here and took a few extra minutes to dress nicely to show my respect). 

And it's not like you have to spend a lot of money to look good. I'm still wearing coats and sport coats handed down from my dad. Goodwill has them too.

I remember a friend 30 years ago, lived a couple houses down from me. He didn't own a suit coat at the time, but he was going to a funeral. He stopped by the house and asked if he could borrow one of mine. I said sure. I respected the respect he was showing the deceased and his willingness to overcome any little bit of embarrassment to ask. 

I'll quit my rant for now and send you young'ns to the Google machine again: In a world of Bill Belichicks, try being a Tom Landry.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

When the ban isn't really a ban ...

 I'm against book bans, but let's not over-hype the problem. 

Here are some interesting findings from a couple researchers who looked into claims of censorship.

As it turns out, almost three quarters of the books that PEN listed as banned were still available in school libraries in the same districts from which PEN claimed they had been banned.

Let's not cry wolf. It doesn't help the cause.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Finished: Robert B. Parker's 'Bye Bye Baby'

 This is a continuation of the late RBP's Spenser series but written by Ace Atkins, chosen by Parker's estate to do so. This is Atkins' tenth and he does a really good job of keeping the characters and dialogue in sync with the original author. There are only subtle differences a long-time reader of the series would notice.

Carolina Garcia-Ramirez is a rising star in national politics, taking on the establishment with her progressive agenda. Tough, outspoken, and driven, the young congresswoman has ignited a new conversation in Boston about race, poverty, health care, and the environment. Now facing her second campaign, she finds herself not only fighting a tight primary with an old guard challenger but also contending with numerous death threats coming from hundreds of suspects.

When her chief of staff reaches out to Spenser for security and help finding the culprits of what he believes to be the most credible threats, Garcia-Ramirez is less than thrilled. Since her first grassroots run, she’s used to the antipathy and intimidation women of color often face when seeking power. To her, it’s all noise. But it turns out an FBI agent disagrees, warning Spenser that Garcia-Ramirez might be in real danger this time.

Some of the clever, thought-provoking lines I marked-up, as I tend to do, include:

"With age comes wisdom, but for some age comes alone."

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." (He likes to drop Shakespeare quotes on occasion.)

And, a reporter explaining why he doesn't read the comments posted below stories he's written:

"Sometimes people get up in the morning, take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, and head to an office. Other people get up out of their cages and start screwing with people. You know what? I think most of them are just lonely and sad."

Amazonians give it a 4.4 of 5; Goodreaders a 4.1; and the Haugenometer a 7 of 10.

Friday, September 15, 2023

How ya doin'?

 Some time ago, albeit gradually, I started taking the "How ya doin'?" greeting more literally.

I know it's basically a perfunctory greeting. To which you're supposed to respond: "Fine. How are you?" Most people don't really want to know how I am. They don't have any real concern for my well being. Sure, they usually don't want me dead or injured, but they don't really care if I'm having a good day or not. They don't want the details. They just want to move on to the business at hand.

Most days I'm doing great and respond as such.

But other days I'm not. And I have to admit it's kind of fun to make some people uncomfortable by responding with the truth.

"Oh, so-so. The dog puked on the carpet first thing this morning, then I got a speeding ticket going to work and my wife is mad because I forgot to take the garbage out. But, the day is young."

Or to my "How ya doin'?" they respond: "So far, so good."

Then I remind them of the story in Magnificent Seven (the first movie, not the lame remake) about the guy falling out of the seven-story building and at every floor below they heard him say: "So far, so good." They look at me like I'm a nut, which I'm fine with (never end a sentence with a preposition).

But, really, most days my head has a three-ring circus going on inside it. There's the clowns in one ring, the acrobats hanging on by their fingernails in the center ring, and the lions eating the lion-tamer in the third ring. And I like to make people aware that I'm not always okay.

If for no other reason, it's that I suspect most other people are not always okay either, and it might give them a little relief to know they are not alone. Everybody has crap going on in their life. If they say they don't then they are liars.

Now I'm not into over-sharing the details. But often times, my response leads to an actual conversation about things that are going on in their life and they want to know a few more details of mine.

It actually works out pretty well that way.

If people don't like that, then maybe they should try a different greeting, like: "Hello."

Friday, September 1, 2023

More on 'Miami Purity' and "what is noir?"

 Polly Stewart discusses one of my all-time favorite books, "Miami Purity," with another crime writer, Alex Segura. Very interesting. I really like his definition of "noir."

It’s where a character is painted into a corner by their own design, like their own mistakes or choices have put them in an impossible situation. And it’s usually relating to some kind of primal urge. It’s not like a plan that goes awry; it’s that they’ve made a mistake based on lust or greed or vengeance. They’ve chosen poorly, and now must pay the consequences. And that’s the story.

And the thing about noir is that there’s never a tidy resolution. You don’t get the happy ending where they kind of ride off into the sunset; it’s usually pretty bad. Miami Purity is very much a noir, a neo-noir, in that bad things happen to people because they make bad choices. And I find those kinds of stories fascinating because it feels like real life, where few things are tidy, and few things are resolved easily.

"They’ve chosen poorly, and now must pay the consequences." I like that.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Knocked off 4 more books, lots of people died

 I've fallen behind on what passes for book reviews around here, so let's get caught up on the latest:

The Girl With No Place To Hide by Nick Quarry (aka Marvin Albert). It was originally published in 1959. This was republished by Black Gat Books, which specializes in reprints of some of the best vintage mystery books. 

The woman comes into the bar and catches Jake’s attention immediately. Not beautiful, but there is something striking about her. She asks for Steve Canby, who’s just left, and dismisses Jake with a glance. Then she leaves. Jake doesn’t think much of it until he comes out of the bar and finds the woman being choked by a huge hulk of a man. Coming to her rescue, he barely manages to keep from being strangled himself.

Later, they end up at his apartment. Her name is Angela, and she just wants someplace safe to spend the night. Someone is out to get her. Jake Barrow is a private detective between jobs, so he agrees. But later that night when he returns from a false alarm from someone claiming to want his services, he finds her gone. Was the call a ruse? Who knew she was here? But this is just the beginning—it’s not long before his pursuit of Angela leads to murder.

Amazonians gave it a 4.5 of 5. It ranked a 7 of 10 on the Haugenometer.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers. I knew Flowers from hosting my wife's favorite podcast Crime Junkie. This was her first book and a New York Times bestseller last year.

Twisty, chilling, and intense, All Good People Here is a searing tale that asks: What are your neighbors capable of when they think no one is watching?

The book was given to my wife by my daughter. I was skeptical, figuring it was just some author given a book deal because she was somewhat famous, but it was actually very well written and enjoyable. So, never judge an author by their cover, I guess.

Amazonians gave it a 4.4 of 5; the harder-to-please Goodreaders of 3.9 of 5, and the Haugenometer a 7 of 10. 

After Death by Dean Koontz. Go figure, one of my favorite authors ended up being the one with a bit of a clunker. It was okay, but Koontz seems to be obsessed with this singularity thing, and I'm not. One thing I admire about him is that he writes what interests him and not what he thinks his fans want. But, hey, Dean, time for another one for the fans. Ditch the biological, computer-oriented singularity thing for a bit. Give it a rest.

Michael Mace, head of security at a top-secret research facility, opens his eyes in a makeshift morgue twenty-four hours following an event in which everyone perished—including him and his best friend, Shelby Shrewsberry.

Having awakened with an extraordinary ability unlike anything he—or anyone else—has ever imagined, Michael is capable of being as elusive as a ghost. He sets out to honor his late friend by helping Nina Dozier and her son, John, whom Shelby greatly admired. Although what Michael does for Nina is life changing, his actions also evoke the wrath of John’s father, a member of one of the most violent street gangs in Los Angeles.

But an even greater threat is descending: the Internal Security Agency’s most vicious assassin, Durand Calaphas. Calaphas will stop at nothing to get his man. If Michael dies twice, he will not live a third time.

From the tarnished glamour of Beverly Hills to the streets of South Central to a walled estate in Rancho Santa Fe, only Michael can protect Nina and John—and ensure that light survives in a rapidly darkening world.

Amazonians liked it and gave it a 4.4 of 5, Goodreaders a 4.2 and the Haugenometer a 6 of 10.

Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker. He is one of the absolute best. Give him a try. This is one of his famous Spenser series (the third in over 50, and written in 1975). It combines tough-guy private eye, with humor and emotion. The trifecta.

Everybody loves a winner, and the Rabbs are major league. Marty is the Red Sox star pitcher, Linda the loving wife. She loves everyone except the blackmailer out to wreck her life. 

Is Marty throwing fast balls or throwing games? It doesn't take long for Spenser to link Marty's performance with Linda's past...or to find himself trapped between a crazed racketeer and an enforcer toting an M-16. 

America's favorite pastime has suddenly become a very dangerous sport, and one wrong move means strike three, with Spenser out for good!

Amazonians a 4.4, Goodreaders a 4.2 and the Haugenometer an 8.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Read this

 Here's a story about rearranging your books.

FWIW, I arrange mine by author, not by size, color or alphabetically, like some lunatics.

Pulling down and replacing every book on your main shelves can be a kind of ritual, a trip down memory lane that reminds you, in brief flashes and long reveries, how you got to where you are. It’s turning to the back of a book to find the name and semester of the class it was read for, scratched lightly in pencil in the back cover. It’s remembering which books were purchased in which cities; which were gifts; which you have duplicates of, in case a friend needs them. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Hot stuff and not-so-much

 I usually like to try a couple new peppers in my garden. Two that did well in pots about bookend the hotness (Scoville) scale from mildest to one of the hottest:

Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry Pepper

Pepper with boldly striped fruits against uniquely variegated foliage! astonishing early maturing fruits are deliciously sweet and crisp, tasting great when eaten at any stage of maturity. Elongated, mini-bell shaped fruits ripen from green with white stripes to a unique chocolate and cherry red striped masterpiece. Ideal in containers, on the patio, or in the garden.

Days to Maturity: 60 to Green / 70 to Red Ripe

Height: 18 - 24 Inches

Spread: 12 - 18 Inches

Fruit Size: 3 ½ to 4 x 2 ½ to 3 Inches

Scoville Heat Unit: 0 - 100 SHU

Pepper 'Buffy'

This fiery little tobasco-type hot pepper has juicy thick-walled fruits which pack some heat! At maturity the peppers are red, slightly triangular in shape and about 1.5-inches long, with 500,000 Scoville heat units.

If interested, I get most of my seeds from, though I think I bought Buffy as a seedling at a local nursery.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Filling those boyhood memories

 My book collection seems to lack purpose or at least a unique purpose. Sure, it contains all the books I've read, but it's missing something and I finally figured out what.

It's missing two of the series I read when I was a kid - The Tarzan series and the Hardy Boys series. I don't know what happened to them when I moved out of the family home or when Mom sold it. I brought every other book. I'm guessing I borrowed them to somebody and never got them back (an annoyance of mine).

So I've made it a point to start building them up from scratch. I've started with the Tarzan series. It's the Ballantine Series, very distinguishable by their black covers and spines with cover designs by artists Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo.

It's a series of 24 adventure novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) and published between 1912 and 1966 (Wiki). I have 16 of them and working on the rest.

I think the first cover is my fave, with Tarzan coming to rescue Jane. (Did you know that in a later book when Tarzan ventures to America to find Jane, he finds her in ... spoiler alert ... Wisconsin!)

This one is pretty cool too: