Thursday, September 22, 2022

Reading game is slipping

 Fallen behind on my book reviews, which is difficult to do considering I haven't been polishing them off as quickly as usual. And I can't blame it on a sudden burst of writing inspiration either. Usually it's an either or. Doing one, so I'm lax in the other. 

This reading malaise is a combination of laziness and a new puppy who hasn't figured out the routine of napping on the bed in my office while I work, but mostly laziness and trying to get to bed earlier so I can wake up at the crack of dawn with him. Ironically, the pups are named Finn, and his basset hound sidekick Huckleberry.

My three most recent ones were pretty good ones, all earning 7s on the Haugenometer: Targeted by Stephen Hunter, Pale Kings and Princes by Robert B. Parker, and Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais.

Fiddlers by Ed McBain was a pretty solid 6. Nothing to write home about though; or barely to write at home about either.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Re-gifting the tomatoes

As I've mentioned before, I start heirloom tomatoes from seed in my greenhouse in March. I keep about 70-80 seedlings for my own use and give away another 40-50 to friends, most to one friend in particular.

We keep tabs on how my babies are doing. Usually I have a good crop and he has a good crop. This year, between deer, varmints and drought, my garden has sucked. His has not.

When I was complaining about my harvest, or lack there of, he said: "My wife's coming by your place tomorrow, want me to have her drop off some tomatoes?"

He didn't mean it as a punch to the gut, but I felt it. Sure, technically they were still my tomatoes, but he raised them. It would be like giving up a baby for adoption, someone else raising them, and then dropping them off at your house again when they turned 18. Okay, poor analogy, but you get my point.

I swallowed my pride and said "yes."

It hurt. But they tasted good so the hurt didn't last long.

My garden has picked up a bit since then, was probably a couple weeks behind him, but we still probably won't have enough to do much as much canning as usual this year. We'll see.

As we Minnesota Vikings fans are fond of saying: "There's always next year."

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The poker game

 I stepped out of my comfort zone last winter and accepted an invite from a neighbor I didn't know for a Thursday night poker game with a bunch of other neighbors I didn't know.

We've lived in this neighborhood for almost 18 years. It's a development of about 90 homes with a trail system, pond, park and good middle-class folks. I only know my immediate neighbors on each side and two other couples. I know a lot of people in the Black Hills through my job, but don't hang out with them. My wife says I'm a homebody. My wife's correct.

My best friend around here ranches about 50 miles away. We talk a couple times a week but don't hang out much because he's got kids in school and works rancher hours and ... lives 50 miles away. My other two best friends, one from high school and one from college, live 300 and 400 miles away, respectively.

When I do go out, to eat or listen to music, it's with my wife, which is great and I really don't wish to hang out with anyone else but her. I enjoy her company as much when we met 35 years ago. But, she's my wife, so it's different than hanging out with the guys. And as Hank Jr. sings: "All my rowdy friends have settled down." And so have I.

My wife has sensed my malaise and feels I spend too much time at home in my garden, with my dogs, with my books. So when a guy relatively new to the development posted on the neighborhood website "Hey, anyone interested in starting up a poker game?" I stepped outside my zone and said: "I am."

And I haven't regretted it.

We get together one night a week. I miss once in a while due to life. It gets cancelled occasionally because the organizer has a life too. But I hit it often and between about ten of us semi-regulars there's always six or so on hand for a friendly game.

It's not really my crowd, because I don't really have a crowd, but the social events I usually attend are work-related. Usually political or governmental, usually boring. But when I am home I don't do any political stuff. I check out. Avoid it. Don't want to talk about it, especially among strangers.

So the first night before I left for the inaugural game, I told my wife, if they start talking Trump or Biden or immigration or stolen elections, I'm done. Since a lot of people are really wrapped up in that stuff (weirdly so), I wasn't optimistic I'd be back for a second week.

And guess what happens? I walk in the door and two big dogs rush to greet me. That's fine. I love dogs. The guy hollers to them: "Lincoln! Trumper! Get back here!"

I thought: "Ah shit."

But other than the dogs' names, no political talk happened and mighty little has over the past year. It's quite amazing to me, because almost everybody else I'm around, anywhere, wants to talk politics with me once they find out I'm involved. But not these guys.

We have a couple retired military veterans, a liquor salesman, a home-builder, a car salesman, a civilian who works at the Air Force base, all just regular ol' blue-collar guys.

We play poker. It goes fast. It's fun. We play in his basement or garage. Most all of them drink from a keg the guy has in his bar. I drink my NA. There's crude jokes, burping, talk about music, talk about cars, talk about dogs and gardens, and more burping.

For one night a week I'm transformed into another universe from the suits and ties talking banking, ranchers talking about drought, and everyone else complaining about Trump and Biden and RINOs and immigrants and abortion and deficits and rules and regulations.

I love it. Glad I did it. Might have to expand my universe on other nights of the week.

Crazy talk, I know.

Friday, August 26, 2022

FInished: Daniel Silva's 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman'

 I really struggled to get through Silva's recently-released novel, the 22nd in the Gabriel Allon series.

Typically, I've liked how Silva weaves some art history into these spy novels. Makes me feel like I'm getting cultured while reading about people getting blown up. But this was one too many Picasso's for me.

In this story, Gabriel has finally retired from the Israeli Mossad, thinking he's going to begin a life of leisure and love with his long-suffering wife. But, of course, it doesn't work out that way and he's thrown into a mystery of forged paintings. The entire thing is one painting after another, with grueling detail about each. 

Halfway through I started humming the George Strait song: You Know Me Better Than That.

I'm into culture, clean up to my ears; It's like wearing a shoe that's too small

I've read all Silva's books. I loved the first 20. After the last two, I'm not sure I'll buy another. Oh, I'm lying, I'm sure I will but I probably won't pre-order it like this time and will wait until the paperback comes out. And cross my fingers.

Amazonians gave it 4.5 stars out of 5, which surprises me. I gave it a 4 of 10, which is just above a DNF.

This two-star review from Lizzie G. kind of nailed it for me:

"In cutting Allon free of The Office, Daniel Silva has metaphorically castrated his hero and turned him to a parody of the man he was. This book bears no resemblance to others in the series; the plotline is contrived, the characters wooden and the action - such as it is - unremarkable. The old gang get a single name-check towards the beginning and are then forgotten completely. With far too much detail of art and art forgeries, the book limps sadly along for 400+ pages, most of it merely padding out a non-story that I found impossible to care about. Two stars for the quality of the writing, no stars for the content."

Monday, August 8, 2022

Pass the peanut butter, please

 I'm a pretty health conscious guy. Not a freak about it but probably in the 90th percentile for exercising and watching what I eat. My dad had his first heart attack at 58 and died of his second at 62. I'm 58, so always looking for an edge to make it to 63 (that ol' father-son competition never dies).

So this article caught my eye: The top 5 worst foods that could SHORTEN your life expectancy

Experts at the University of Michigan calculated the health burden of different foods, becoming the first to put concrete scores on your favourite snacks.

They found that a portion of nuts can add almost 26 minutes to a person’s life, reports The Telegraph.

But every hotdog eaten shortens lifespan by 36 minutes.

Nothing really earth shattering as far as what's good or bad for you, but it details how many minutes are added or subtracted to your life if eating these foods.

It also details how good or bad each food affects climate change. I could give a rat's rear about that and think those measurements are just arbitrary attempts at social engineering and should just be called "guilt factors." The climate has been changing since the beginning of time and how many hot dogs I eat is not going to affect the tides in the Red Sea one bit. Were the dinosaurs eating pizza?

But I digress.

It's good to see some affirmation of choices I already make. I seldom drink soda. I eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch five days a week. For that I gain 2.5 hours per week of life, about 125 hours per year or 5 days added on to my life. Throw in the salmon, bananas and tomatoes and I'm looking good.

But subtract the 50,000 bottles of beer from my younger years and it might be a wash. Still, progress.




Friday, August 5, 2022

Book bans not always what they seem

 Pamela Paul, former editor of NY Times Review of Books, writes in the NYT: There's More Than One Way to Ban a Book

Though the publishing industry would never condone book banning, a subtler form of repression is taking place in the literary world, restricting intellectual and artistic expression from behind closed doors, and often defending these restrictions with thoughtful-sounding rationales.

John Sexton talks about it in this Hot Air post: The far left bans books by not letting them get published in the first place

I've written a couple posts on this that went unpublished because I wasn't happy with how my point was coming across. Sexton nailed my point much better.

That basically is: Parents, schools and administrators deciding what is or isn't age-appropriate reading in their schools, is NOT banning books. It's called setting curriculum. There is actual banning of books or authors by book publishers, stores and nations around the world, but if a public library or local bookstore can do a display of "Banned Books" to lend or sell, then they aren't banned books. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Setting 'em up, knocking 'em down

 Been making steady work in the reading department, though you wouldn't know it by reading this blog. I'll do better, probably, maybe, who knows?

I recently read a trio of Richard Stark novels featuring Parker. "The Man with the Getaway Face", "The Mourner" and "The Outfit." Stark is a pseudonym for Donald Westlake, the Grand Master mystery writer. Parker is a cold-blooded career criminal who you somehow end up liking. Anything by Westlake is good, most of it is great.

Also knocked off two Robert B. Parker books: "High Profile" and "God Save the Child." Author Parker (not the career criminal, that I know of) is best known for his novels about fictional P.I. Spenser, and the television series "Spenser: For Hire" was based on them. 

"High Profile" is actually another series featuring police chief Jesse Stone. 

I put all the previously mentioned in the 6-7 ranking on the Haugenometer. Fun reads, worth the time.

As proof I don't just read books by dead guys I'm still moving through the C.J. Box books that feature Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. Just finished the 11th book in the 22-book series: "Cold Wind."

A few weeks ago I turned my brother-in-law on to him. They'd actually been sitting on his shelf for a couple months, then he picked one up and hasn't put them down. He's already well past me in the series, but he's retired and doesn't do anything, so that's my excuse. He's much more of an outdoorsman than I am, so they really resonate with him. Fun books.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A pacifist in the burger war

 Want to know something weird?

I've never eaten at Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, Whataburger, White Castle or Shake Shack.

I see people arguing online over who has better burgers or fries. I can't remember the last time I had a fast-food burger. When I do, it's usually a Big Mac. I just seldom do fast food, not because I'm a health nut but because I almost always run home for lunch when I'm working. I let the dogs out and eat a peanut butter sandwich. 

My go-to fast food joints are Arby's or Taco Bell or Taco Johns and I doubt it's even once a month. Even in sit-down restaurants, a burger is rare. I had one maybe two months ago at Ruby Tuesdays. I'm a reuben guy. The place we frequent most is a local dive bar and grill called Joe's. But there, I almost always have a patty melt. 

I don't purposefully avoid those popular burger joints as any moral stand against burger chains or for any particular reason other than I seldom crave a burger over a roast beef sandwich or greasy taco.

I've also never eaten at Chick-fil-A. I don't think I've ever ordered a chicken sandwich from anyplace anywhere. To stand in line for one at Chick-fil-A is unfathonable to me. Not gonna happen. It's not a political thing, pro or con against Chick. It's just that chicken sandwiches do nothing for me.

And don't get me started on chicken wings - a food of last resort.

I don't do lines either. Across the street from the hotel we stay at every year in St. Pete Beach, FL, are a Dunkin' Donuts and a 7-Eleven. Right next to each other. My routine in the morning, home or away, is one cup of coffee. Wasn't always that way, but has been for the last few years. Not two, not three - one.

So every morning in Florida I walk across the street and view my two options for coffee. Dunkin's has the best. I know that. And so do a lot of other people as there is always a line 20-people deep at Dunkin. There's no line at 7-11. My hatred for lines is stronger than my love of a marginally-better cup of coffee. So I get a cup out of the pot at 7-Eleven and grab a cherry Hostess pie and return to the hotel a happy man. 

Not that I'm some sort of rebel or anything, but there are other things that don't interest me so I don't feel the need to wade into those waters. I've also never seen a Star Wars movie nor an episode of the Kardshians or Samantha Bee or watched a WNBA game. (I don't think I'm unique in those latter two.)

Something either interests me or it doesn't. There's very little gray area there. I'd rather watch Breakfast Club for the 500th time than a Star Wars movie once. 

Maybe someday I'll try an In-and-Out burger or a Chick-fil-A sandwich, but it will be because it's the only option when I'm hungry. I'll let you know when I do, but neither are on my bucket list. Consider it my gift to you - one less person you'll have to wait behind in line.

Friday, June 17, 2022

News dump Friday

 Stuff I read this past week and found interesting. You might too. Or might not. Roll the dice.

** WWE Beer Slammin': For Rapid City, a place she’s hiked, camped and vacationed in before, she hopes to visit the breweries. “There’s a lot of breweries and… the local stuff I can’t get anywhere else,” Baszler said.

** Idaho Potato Heads: “We’re not going back to the days of the Aryan Nations. We are past that,” Hammond said. “And we will do everything we can to make sure that we continue to stay past those kinds of problems.”

** Drinking Problems: Maryam Amouamouha, Ph.D., a graduate student at South Dakota Mines, has invented a new device that could revolutionize water treatment and improve water quality and availability around the world.

** Sociologist on Guns: When I say guns are normal and normal people use guns, I mean it in two senses. First, guns and gun ownership are common, widespread, and typical. Second, guns and gun ownership are not inherently associated with deviance or abnormalities.

** Gun Boom: “But seeing those people climb the walls and attack the Capitol — on top of all the other shootings of Black people — just confirmed why I stood in the cold and got my firearm. The bottom line is that we have to protect ourselves and our homes. But we purchase guns differently,” Hawkins said, stressing the sense that more Black people are buying guns for the sake of protection against racial attacks. “I drove a long way to take safety classes,” she added. “I went to the range.”

** Researchers on Ticks: Estimate that over 14 percent of the world’s population has had a case of Lyme disease due to contact with a tick. That’s one in every seven people. With the warm summers months between May and August bringing a resurgence of disease-carrying tick populations, study authors are sounding the alarm to prevent more infections.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The best dog

It's been over a month since I wrote this and didn't hit "publish" because I didn't feel it did Stanley justice. But I haven't been able to write one better, so here it is. I still get that lump in the gut when I think about my buddy and tears when nobody's looking. Damn I loved that dog.


***

This is the first night in the nearly thirteen years I've written at this desk that I've not had my dog, Stanley, either at my feet or over my shoulder on his bed. 

I had to put him down today.

If you're a dog person, you get the feeling. You can't explain it to anyone else. So it's been a tough day. I'm not gonna go all Oprah on you but do feel I owe it to Stanley to give him a proper obituary: 

Stanley was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota to a Golden Retriever dad and a Yellow Lab mom. When my son and I drove to the ranch to choose a puppy from the litter, the lady opened her garage door and a mob of ten Goldadors (they call them that so they can charge you an extra 50 bucks) came storming out of the garage. It was a thunderstorm of long-legged furballs with sharp puppy teeth jumping and nipping us. There was one that seemed more relaxed than the rest. We took him. Stanley, like Stanley Hudson on The Office television show, was chill.

I had more than one person, including a priest, tell me over the years that he was soulful. You could see it in his eyes and his gentle demeanor. I think it's safe to say that Stanley was one of the only dogs to ever spend a weekend in the rectory at the Cathedral in Rapid City as a priest puppy-sat him when we were away. He was also probably the only dog to ever poop in that rectory (that's the priests' residence for you non-Caths). 

He lived about the best dog's life a dog could live.

We put in thousands of miles running trails in the Hills, gravel roads in the middle of the prairie, and the trails around our house. He chased antelope, stared down rattlesnakes, mountain lions and lost a couple battles to porcupines. He chased deer out of our backyard. The one time I actually saw him confused or stunned was when he took after a deer across our road, but rather than run away like every deer had always done, this one put her head down and charged at him. He skidded to a stop and looked at me like "What the hell?" Then I saw the fawn behind her and figured out what she was doing. I hollered for him and he happily returned.

Up until the last couple years he terrorized the rabbits in our area. Many a cottontail met their demise to the jaws of Stanley. But gophers were his favorite. He'd find a fresh hole near my garden and lay next to it, staring into the hole. He'd sit there for hours until I'd drag the garden hose over and start pouring water into the hole. The gopher would pop his head up and take off and Stanley would nab 'em. He didn't eat them. He just carried them around for a while like trophies, then drop it and roll in it.

Rolling in stuff was his other favorite past time. I was always amazed at the number of dead things around our area. You'd never know they existed until you saw Stanley rolling in deep pleasure on top of a dead deer carcass.

Stanley also loved baseball. He'd sit between my son and I when we played catch in the backyard, just waiting for a wild throw that he could pursue and then the chase was on as we tried to catch him and get the ball away from him. He attended ball games and practices and fetched foul balls.

And then there were the pheasants. I'm not a big hunter but manage to get out a couple times a year. My son trained him a little, but Stanley operated mostly on instinct and it was a good one. He loved it, lived for it. On the rare occasion I hit one, I've seen him catch them before they hit the ground. And when I missed the shot, I swear to God, Stanley would turn around look at me like "You idiot" as the bird flew away.

He went everywhere with me. From room to room in the house and followed every trip and back to the garden. He was a constant presence in my life. You don't lose that and not feel it.

He brought joy to everyone in the household. Everyone has their own Stanley stories. Another of his greatest joys was when either of my daughters or my son returned from school, college or adult life. I could say: "Rylee's coming home today" and his eyes seldom wavered from the door, just waiting.

I'm pretty OCD on my schedule and arrive home every day for lunch at 11:45. His clock was set to that time and he would be sitting in a chair in this room watching out the window every day I pulled in. I'll miss that too. 

When someone loves so unconditionally it makes you feel good about yourself especially if you wouldn't feel that way about yourself at the time.

I've had a number of dogs, all good dogs. But Stanley was special. He was a great dog.

His buddy Huckleberry will miss him too. Stan's been in Huck's life since we got him eight years ago. He tolerated Huck like an older brother does his younger sibling. Huck can be a jerk, try to take Stanley's food and Stan just let him have it. Huck laid on Stanley, he followed Stanley everywhere. I don't think Huck quite knows what's going on yet, but I did take him back to the garden when I buried Stanley so he'd have some idea of what's going on. But I don't think Huck has the mental capacity to register it. He sniffed Stanley a couple seconds then went off to eat some grass.

Stanley will always be in my garden now, my favorite place and his too. But it'll never be the same.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Call it spring fever

 I don't know what's up the last few weeks, except very little writing and reading, thus no blogging.

Yeah, we had a somewhat stress-filled earlier-than-planned trip to Champaign for the birth of my first grandchild. All's good there, momma and baby doing fine, but that might have thrown me out of whack. 

I did visit the awesome used bookstore there and dropped some cash on nine books, to which I laughed when the lady checked me out and asked: "Would you like a bag for those?"

No, I want to walk around downtown with nine books in my arms, one of which is a twenty-pound autobiography by Mark Twin (Vol. 2 of  3). Seriously. Do paper bags cost that much? How many books do you need to buy to get a bag?

Also, my mind's been preoccupied with my best buddy Stanley, who is nearing the end of his tremendous life as a dog. He's slowed down a lot and it seemed like the end was imminent. I called my son a week ago and said I'd probably be putting him down last weekend. I think Stanley overheard the call because he's been reinvigorated and bounced back good as new. For now. 

Otherwise, I've just been out of sorts, unmotivated, lazy and generally a dull boy.

I did get through two novels in the last month: Robert B. Parker's "High Profile," a Jess Stone novel; and Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake's) "The Mourner." I even screwed that up. I read it out of order. It's the third book and I have the first two but didn't check to see which was first in the series. Very unlike me and messed with my OCD.

On the writing front, I've had the fourth Bags Morton book done for some time but my editor has been dinkin' around doing her real job and raising her family and forgetting that I should come first in her life. Maybe I should pay her more. Or, for that matter, pay her period.

Meanwhile I have another half dozen books in some phase of unfinishedness and keep jumping around from one to another hoping something will click but nothing is clicking. That aggravates me more and just exacerbates the cycle.

So I need to quit whining, get my head screwed on straight and start punching the keys. That's kind of why I wrote this. Just to prime the pump. Get the fingers working again.

We'll see if it works. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Things That Recently Caught My Eye

 1. Let's talk sex! Things ain't how they used to be.

An interesting opinion piece in today’s NY Times about the norms surrounding sex and how they may have become a bit too lax for our own good. The author suggests that the absolute permissiveness of the modern day has left a lot of people feeling somewhat confused and dejected about sex and relationships.

2. And rightfully so. They've been making a big deal out of an interview from when Prince was 11. 

3. Crime! “Unruly passenger” incidents, and other types of strange behavior have all soared recently. Why?

4. Why not? Neil Patrick Harris interviews David Copperfield, because he can.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Eponyms

 This Kevin Williamson column has a bit about eponyms. The word eponym refers to two things: a word derived from a person’s name and the person whose name formed the word.

The (possibly embellished) story is that Derrick was a convicted rapist who was spared execution for his crime by volunteering to become the London executioner, a job no one much wanted. He was appointed to the position by the Earl of Essex, whom he would later execute. Essex elected for beheading rather than hanging — big mistake: Derrick was an innovative hangman but apparently not very good with an ax, and he took several swings to finally do in the earl.

That story seems like a good premise for a novel.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Finished: McMurtry's 'Horseman, Pass By'

 This was Larry McMurtry's first novel, written at the age of 25, and is considered a classic by those who consider such things. It was published in 1961. The main character's older stepbrother, Hud, pretty much a jerk, served as the main character in the movie "Hud" and was played by Paul Newman. Not bad for a first novel. (All that info was from Wikipedia.)

As was this:

The title of the novel derives from the last three lines of the poem "Under Ben Bulben" by William Butler Yeats, which are carved on Yeats’s tombstone:

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death.

Horseman, pass by.

This was the first of what became known as the Thalia trilogy. Thalia is the town in which the books are set. I much preferred McMurtry's "The Last Picture Show" (the third) thus this novel reminded me a lot of it. Maybe I would've liked "Horseman, Pass By" more if I had read it first. That's what I get for reading books out of the order they were written. I guess we'll never know as the Horseman is out of the barn now. See what I did there?

According to Amazon:

Horseman, Pass By tells the story of Homer Bannon, an old-time cattleman who epitomizes the frontier values of honesty and decency, and Hud, his unscrupulous stepson. Caught in the middle is the narrator, Homer's young grandson Lonnie, who is as much drawn to his grandfather’s strength of character as he is to Hud's hedonism and materialism.

I enjoyed the book. It wasn't a cowboy Western. It was more the gritty ranch life of Texas with some dark themes thrown in. Wasn't a pick-me-upper.

One reviewer of the book summed up McMurtry's writing very well: "The author does not telegraph how you are supposed to feel or interpret events. He just depicts events with flesh and blood characters, people whose motives you may partially know, or think you know. But judgment on their choices and actions lays squarely on the reader’s shoulders. McMurtry wants no part of telling you how to take it."

I gave it a 6 of 10 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians a 4.3 of 5.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Bikinis, bars, beaches and baseball

 Wifey and I recently finished our annual Florida Fest, where we scrimped all year so we could blow our savings on a week-long gluttonous grilled shrimp and blackened Grouper fish taco extravaganza on the beach.

Some rando thoughts, observations and anecdotes about the Sunshine State:

** If you are in your 50s and want to feel young, attend Sunday Mass in Fort Myers. Let's just say you don't have to worry about babies crying during the service.

** Don't get me wrong, the service was lovely, the priest was great and it was a huge church. There's a portion of the Catholic Mass where names of ill or deceased people are read and we are asked to pray for them. It was the longest list of names I've ever heard read at a service. 

I was only half listening because, obviously, I didn't know any of the people there. So it was like: Marvin O'Connor, Harley Johansen, Mildred Margrove, blah, blah, blah, and then "Secretary Madeleine Albright." It woke me up. The rest of the service I was thinking: Was the former United States Secretary of State a member of this parish, or did they have a church secretary by that name, or do they just honor random politicos here?

** While we stayed at St. Pete Beach, we were in Fort Myers for a Twins spring training baseball game.
A lady sitting behind me said to her friend: “Let's get something to eat at halftime.” I bit my lip - yes, that is possible for me to do, especially because wifey was squeezing my knee with her vice-like grip, as she does when she wants me to bite my lip.

** Other than that outing, we did the least stuff we ever did on a vacation besides eat and sit on the beach and listen to bands. Day after day. It was great.

Wifey asked me on the beach: "Why do the women wear less clothes than the men?"

I wisely answered: "I hadn't noticed."

** Our first day there it rained off and on. So we did go 10 miles into St. Petersburg so I could visit the largest used bookstore in Florida only to find out it didn't survive COVID-19. It survived Amazon's take-over of the book industry and society's shift to reading nothing longer than 140 characters, but all the Ivermectin in the world couldn't help it pull through the Wuhan flu shutdown.

** There's a 7-11 and a Dunkin' Donuts across from the hotel we stay. They line up 40 deep to get coffee at DDs, but 2 people deep for 7-11 coffee. You know where this impatient soul got his java.

** The first question people ask you is "Where ya from?" When I tell them South Dakota, 9 out of 10 say a variation of "Oh, wow." Like we're from Mars or something. The 10th person says "Where's that?" So I ask: "Ever heard of Mount Rushmore?" They all have heard of that.

One couple said they went to Deadwood last year. "We caught COVID there," they said and laughed it off.

** I read two books on the trip, one of them "The Paris Apartment" by Lucy Foley. The guy under the umbrella next to us was reading "The Paris Detective" by James Patterson.

I held up my book and asked him if his detective ever stayed at my apartment. He looked at me like he was one of those people who didn't know where South Dakota was.

** The more I visit Florida, the more I like it. And, oddly enough, the more I visit Florida, the more I like South Dakota.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

And the 2022 gardening season begins

 Planted some pepper and egg plant seeds today. Up until last year I started my tomato seeds on St. Patrick's Day but I pushed it back a couple weeks because they seemed a little leggy by my usual planting time of Memorial Day weekend. So those are yet to come.

We'll see what this year brings - rabbits, deer, hail, wind, drought, grasshoppers, fungus. I'm ready. Let's get ready to rumble.



Thursday, March 17, 2022

Well, it was worth it

 Finished Dean Koontz's "Quicksilver" and it was worth the 29 bucks I plunked down (never end a sentence with a preposition). 

The namesake of the book is Quin Quicksilver, a baby found in the middle of the road and raised by an orphanage fun by nuns. At 18 he ventures out to become a writer, and as with most writers, his life gets wild.

Quinn had a happy if unexceptional life. Until the day of “strange magnetism.” It compelled him to drive out to the middle of nowhere. It helped him find a coin worth a lot of money. And it practically saved his life when two government agents showed up in the diner in pursuit of him. Now Quinn is on the run from those agents and who knows what else, fleeing for his life.

During a shoot-out at a forlorn dude ranch, he finally meets his destined companions: Bridget Rainking, a beauty as gifted in foresight as she is with firearms, and her grandpa Sparky, a romance novelist with an unusual past. Bridget knows what it’s like to be Quinn. She’s hunted, too. The only way to stay alive is to keep moving.

Barreling through the Sonoran Desert, the formidable trio is impelled by that same inexplicable magnetism toward the inevitable. With every deeply disturbing mile, something sinister is in the rearview―an enemy that is more than a match for Quinn. Even as he discovers within himself resources that are every bit as scary.

In usual Koontz fashion, it's good versus evil, a little sermonizing on the state of mankind, but not overly so. It was vintage Koontz with a dose of the supernatural and the ah-shucks kid forced into being a hero or a wimp. It's a book about free-will and the choices men make.

I liked it and gave it an 8 on the Haugenometer scale of 10. Amazonians agreed and gave it a 4.1 of 5. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Impulsive buy I hope is worth it

 Did something today I haven't done in a long time. I purchased a hardcover book and paid full jacket price for it.

My reading funk this week, only surpassed by my writing funk, was hitting hard. I'd had my fill of Block, Box and McMurtry and needed a jolt. When in doubt, go to Dean Koontz.

He has a new one out called Quicksilver. I could've ordered it on Amazon for almost half price, but their two-day delivery has gone the way of Blockbuster. I needed it immediately. Today. To read tonight.

So after work I drove out of my way to Books-a-Million, so add another 30 dollars in gas for the two miles extra, and I plunked down $28.99 toward Dean's new swimming pool. It hurt. I usually do used book stores, library sales and E-Bay for my books. But, like a heroin addict, I needed my fix and needed it now.

Hope it's worth it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

5 Things That Recently Caught My Eye

 1. Let's hear it for the Knights: To date, $4.5 million has been raised, all of it going directly to relief efforts.

The Catholic fraternal organization has set up “mercy huts” in Poland, right across the border from Ukraine. When fleeing refugees enter Poland, they can immediately receive food, medical supplies, clothing, and relief from the Eastern European winter weather. The huts are based on the principle that guided the Knights’ humanitarian efforts in Europe during World War I: “Everybody welcome, everything free.”

2. Marcus Foster: A Black Hero You’ve Never Heard Of

Stressing old fashioned values like hard work, self-help, and academic achievement, Foster helped thousands of children as a public educator in Philadelphia. Foster was poised for even greater things as Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. But in 1973, he was cut down in a hail of cyanide-filled bullets, assassinated by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Marxist terrorists better known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.

3. Because we all need more COVID news: The long, strange history of anti-vaccination movements

The history of smallpox is a reminder that, while they may seem new, anti-vaccination movements are as old as vaccination itself. People’s reasons for opposing vaccines — concerns about side effects, a preference for natural remedies, fear of government overreach — haven’t changed that much either.

4. Earth's biggest bookstore: Amazon, Notorious Bookstore Killer, Kills Off All Its Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Today, Amazon has worked its way into so many facets of our lives, from shipping people essential products to hosting the websites where people get their news. But it looks like replacing your local bookstore with one of its own was a bridge too far.

5. UFF DA! Four-dollar gas through November in South Dakota

Its 2022 fuel outlook predicts an average $4.11 per gallon of gas in April and a high of $4.25 per gallon in May. While the per gallon price will drop some it won’t fall below $4 until November.