Monday, December 29, 2014


If you read all these links you'll be the smartest person on your block, guaranteed.

*** Twitter has been a hummin' lately over the Rolling Stone article about a supposed gang rape at the University of Virginia. That blew up real fast, and in trying to get up to speed on it, I read this from Slate and found it very informative.

And you know that 1-in-4 college women raped statistic going around? The article shows how it came about and how whacked out it is.

*** Some people have some serious coin: Most expensive books of 2014.

*** Why raising beef can be good for the planet.

*** A bullet that has the ability to change directions. It may have once seemed like an idea out of a sci-fi movie, but it has now become a reality – thanks to the U.S military.

As they say, you can run, but you'll just die tired.

*** And if you’re into politics, a couple friends of mine have essays in this: The Plains Political Tradition.

From the RCJ: Nathan Sanderson, a historian and member of Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s cabinet, wrote an essay titled “The Roots of West River Republicanism” for the recently released second volume of “The Plains Political Tradition,” a book published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Sanderson, who serves as Daugaard’s director of policy and operations, has a doctorate in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

*** Love him or hate him, Tom Coburn made his mark in the U.S. Senate. And didn't stop until the last gavel pounded.

*** I've followed Michelle Bachmann's congressional career only nominally and don't consider myself a fan or a critic, mostly just an interested bystander. Regardless of your feelings about her, if you have any, Roll Call has a pretty fair and interesting take on her retirement.

*** If you feeling like creeping through Albert Einstein’s love letters to his sweetie, check this out.

*** Baseball's popularity waning? I think not and neither does Forbes.

*** Baseball also has the biggest media company you never heard of.

*** Retiring Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley shares his favorite books after 33 years of reviews.

*** I’ve been hearing get things about The Book of Strange New Things.

*** In case you were looking for a new book to read, the best of Penguin Random House.

*** Heard this Junior Brown song the other day and got a kick out of it: I gotta get up early just to say goodnight to you.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hot Springs writer sees angels

Joseph Bottum, a much more famous writer just down the road from me, emailed on Christmas Eve with the following:
Among my usual flood of Christmas writing, I thought you might be interested in this particular one, just out this morning. It is, I think, the most mystical thing I’ve ever written—a description of angel voices singing “high in the wind, across a western meadow frozen stiff and covered with the fallen snow.”
All blessings in this blessed season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Finished: 'The Secret Servant' & 'Storm Front'

I'm either a fast reader or a slow blog poster, or a little of both, but I had two recently-finished books to post about (don't finish a sentence with a preposition).

Continuing to knock off Daniel Silva's books, the latest being The Secret Servant. I like Silva because he brings personal knowledge and good connections to make his international espionage thrillers very realistic. He was a Middle East correspondent for UPI and also worked for CNN. He's married to NBC reporter Jamie Gangel (pictured).

TSS is the seventh in the Gabriel Allon series, in Wiki's words:
In this entry in the series, Gabriel Allon, the master art restorer and sometime officer of Israeli intelligence, had just prevailed in his blood-soaked duel with Saudi terrorist financier Zizi al-Bakari. Now Gabriel is summoned once more by his masters to undertake what appears to be a routine assignment: travel to Amsterdam to purge the archives of a murdered Dutch terrorism analyst who also happened to be an asset of Israeli intelligence. But once in Amsterdam, Gabriel soon discovers a terrorist conspiracy festering in the city’s Islamic underground: a plot that is about to explode on the other side of the English Channel, in the middle of London.
I gave it a 7-minus on the Haugenometer. Goodreads scored it 4.21 out of 5; and Amazon 4.5 of 5.

If you like CIA/Mossad/terrorist action with interesting characters and settings, you'll like.

If you like Minnesota cops/Mossad/blondes skinny dipping, you'll like John Sandford's Storm Front, the seventh novel in the Virgil Flowers series.

While I'm a big fan of Virgil's boss, Lucas Davenport, who plays bit parts in these novels, I really enjoy Flowers: soft-hearted, walleye-catching, skirt-chaser. The setting is Mankato, MN, and the plot, while sometimes confusing me with all its characters, kept me guessing until the end.

Amazon recaps:
An ancient relic is unearthed during an archaeological dig. A Minnesota college professor is keeping a secret that could change the world’s history as we know it. For Virgil Flowers, the link between the two is inescapable—and his investigation, more dangerous and far-reaching than he can possibly imagine.
I gave it a 7, Goodreads a 3.83, and Amazon a 4.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Machine Gun Preacher is a leather-clad enigma

Sam Childers is a tough guy for me to figure out. It doesn't seem like I'm alone in that assessment.

He is the author of a couple books, subject of an award-winning biopic in which Gerard Butler played him, is a missionary to children in Africa and is known as the Machine Gun Preacher.

I went to a book-signing of his last week in Rapid City. Frankly, I'd never heard of the guy, but in reading the "tonight's happenings" in the paper I decided to Google his name and he looked like an interesting man I'd like to meet. I didn't know it until I arrived, but the event was hosted by a local Baptist church, and I think they were expecting a lot more people, since it was held at the Ramkota, but only about 30-35 people showed up. They were set up for a couple hundred.

He's an interesting fella, to say the least. A former druggie, dealer, alcoholic and motorcycle gang member, he found Christ and is doing Christ's work as he sees fit, and probably not as more conventional Christians might be comfortable with. Childers admits as much in his second book Living on the Edge, saying he carries the Bible in one hand and an AK47 in the other.

Oddly enough, there are similarities between Childers and Bobby Trane, the main character in my most recent novel which is in its editing stage at the moment. Though in Bobby Trane's case, it's more that he's just an unconventional man of the cloth, without most of the foibles Childers has overcome.

I just finished reading Childers' second book (which he signed for me). I found myself alternately thinking "this guy is a head case" and then "but he's doing some really good things." Even listening to his presentation the other night I felt like the guy was really full of himself. At times I thought he was just using this missionary thing to pad his own wallet. He's still rough around the edges, as one would imagine a person needs to be when operating in the Ugandan and Sudanese areas he does.

But as I've taken some time to digest his book and the presentation, I've concluded that he needs to be the way he is in order to do the things he does. I don't think you could take a seminary-educated, middle-class raised, polite, soft-spoken minister and plop him into the middle of Africa and expect him to survive two weeks much less go on to open six children's villages and provide safe refuge and education for older teens like Childers has. He seems to be a man who has gone through the things he's gone through for a reason, and he's making the most of it. He's helping people, and doesn't seem to really care what others think of his methods, though he spends a lot of time talking and writing about what they say.

He acknowledges his faults, seems to recognize that many don't agree with his methods. But, all in all, he's doing more good in this world than most of the people I'll see in church tomorrow, me included. God's speed, Mr. Childers.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday link-ohh-batty-rama

Jonah Goldberg began his weekly email newsletter this morning with: "Like a cannibal in a coma ward, I have no idea where to begin."

Wish I'd thought of that. It sure beats the following ...

In my neck of the woods, one of the hot topics is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considering listing the Northern Long-Eared Bat as an endangered species. It's not as hot as the local debate over whether to allow the city folk to raise chickens in their backyard or as sizzling with controversy as the new Starbucks sign on the historic Alex Johnson Hotel. But it's hot, and frankly, a lot more meaningful. If the bat is listed as endangered it could mean some pretty significant changes in the Black Hills.

As such, I've attended a lot of meetings on the subject and thought I knew more about the NLEB than I would ever want to, when lo and behold, another nugget of knowledge was dropped on me today.

Apparently these little buggers (whose babies are known as pups) are one of the few creatures to experience delayed fertilization.
Breeding begins in late summer or early fall when males begin swarming near hibernacula. After copulation, females store sperm during hibernation until spring, when they emerge from their hibernacula, ovulate, and the stored sperm fertilizes an egg. This strategy is called delayed fertilization.

After fertilization, pregnant females migrate to summer areas where they roost in small colonies and give birth to a single pup. Maternity colonies, with young, generally have 30 to 60 bats, although larger maternity colonies have been observed. Most females within a maternity colony give birth around the same time, which may occur from late May or early June to late July, depending where the colony is located within the species’ range. Young bats start flying by 18 to 21 days after birth. Adult northern long-eared bats can live up to 19 years.
Think of the implications if humans were capable of this. On second thought, don't. We have enough problems.

** Speaking of batty ... how about the woman marrying the nutburger Charles Manson. According to this, mass murderer's wedding plans not that unusual. I guess they have groupies with daddy issues.
Still other devotees might simply be content in always knowing where their man is at 2 o'clock in the morning, that he may be behind bars, but at least he's not out in the bars with some other woman.
** This guy has some pretty cool photos of my backyard:
Between 1887 and 1892, John C.H. Grabill sent 188 photographs to the Library of Congress for copyright protection. Grabill is known as a western photographer, documenting many aspects of frontier life & hunting, mining, western town landscapes and white settlers’ relationships with Native Americans. Most of his work is centered on Deadwood in the late 1880s and 1890s. He is most often cited for his photographs in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
And here's a link to his pretty crazy homepage.

** Big fight this weekend: Everybody knows Manny Pacquiao, but this Chinese boxer is the next one to watch.

** Goodreads asks: What do men and women want when it comes to books? Are they reading their own gender? And what do they think of books written by the opposite sex?

** And from Mother Jones, of all places: Why the white working class hates Democrats.

** I'm a Dukie and like Christian Laettner but I'll be checking this out anyway. 'I Hate Christian Laettner' film coming to '30 for 30'.

 To be followed by a special investigative report where they apparently found a U. of North Carolina athlete who actually attended a class. Shocking!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A look back at 9-11 ...

... because anybody can do a 9-11 retrospective on 9-11. It takes talent to do it on 11-7.

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere opened this week in New York – 1World Trade Center. As promised, since I have some old papers, I thought this might be a good chance to post them rather than waiting until next September.

 Here is the 9-11 Extra edition of the Argus Leader:

And the 9-12:

The 9-13:


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Standard Time Link-Ohhhh

Apparently there's some argument going on in a world outside of mine, where a professor is claiming that Mrs. Bach actually composed some of Mr. Bach's most famous works.

And then I was most shocked to learn: What? Anne Hathaway didn't write Shakespeare's plays?
Professor Jarvis is a charming and sincere man – I met him then to talk it over. But I’m afraid that his theory is pure rubbish. Anna Magdalena Bach did not write the Bach suites, any more than Anne Hathaway wrote Shakespeare’s plays, George Henry Lewes wrote George Eliot’s novels, or Freddie Starr ate his friend’s hamster.
 ** So I was reading a post at about scary movies based on true events and ran across a shocker I'd never heard before.

There's a movie called Heavenly Creatures, based on a murder involving Anne Perry.
On 22 June 1954, the girls and Honora Rieper went for a walk in Victoria Park in their hometown of Christchurch. On an isolated path Hulme dropped an ornamental stone so that Ms. Rieper would lean over to retrieve it. Parker had planned to hit her mother with half a brick wrapped in a stocking. The girls presumed that one blow would kill her but it took more than 20.[3] 
Parker and Hulme stood trial in Christchurch in 1954 and were found guilty on August 29 of that year. As they were too young to be considered for the death penalty under New Zealand law at the time, they were convicted and sentenced to be "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure". In practice, this sentence meant they were to be detained at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. They were released separately five years later.
In case Anne Perry doesn't ring a bell, she should. As in international, best-selling, historical author Anne Perry!

Now it's all coming together for me. So she did five years in the clink and gets out and becomes rich and famous. Some people have all the luck.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

14 years ago - the hanging chads

Among the list of nerd things I do is collect front pages of various newspapers. I'm going to try to post more in the near future, and I really dropped the ball by not sharing last week some of the World Series ones I have (think Twins). Live and learn.

Here are three covers to remind you of why your vote matters, even when you think it might not.

The first two are from the same date: Nov. 8, 2000, Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Here's the first run off the press:

Then, here's the second run, same day:

And, finally, the Dec. 14 edition:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Finished: Westlake's "Trust Me On This"

Still on my Westlake-Block obsession, bouncing back and forth between the two, and just finished Donald Westlake's Trust Me On This. It wasn't as great as most Westlake novels, but even a lesser Westlake is better than most of his contemporaries.

Goodreads gave it a surprisingly high 3.84 out of 5:
When a serious young journalist discovers a bloody corpse on the way to her new job at a sleazy tabloid paper, she is soon dodging bullets and matching wits with her enigmatic publisher.
It's a 4 out of 5 at Amazon. I scored it a 6- on the 10-point Haugometer.

Westlake is just one of the best. I'd have given anything to have enjoyed a cup of coffee with this guy. His ability to weave a tale, combined with his sense of humor, always leave me in awe. Simply a great author, RIP. Fortunately, he was such a prolific writer, I still have several dozen of his works to enjoy down the road.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A letter from Ole, seriously

So my mom's cousin David Renli is one of those gynecology guys who's always poking around trying to learn the most personal details of people's lives and then when he runs across something new he posts it on Facebook for everybody in the family to see. Wait, did I say gynecology? I meant genealogy. Silly me.

In his recent research he ran across an old dude from Canton who gave him a letter, which was written by my great-great-grandfather Ole O. Renli. It was translated from Norsk so some of the words are probably over the head of you NNs (Non-Norwegians). But it's pretty interesting. Thought I'd pilfer it from our cloistered group so some of you might enjoy. FYI, my mother's maiden name is Renli.

The funny thing is when I first started reading it, I thought it was going to be one of those Ole joke letter things. You know, the ones that start: "Lena, I'm writing this slowly cuz I know you don't read very fast." This isn't one of those, but I was more than suspicious for at least a few sentences.

Here's the legit letter:
To: Knudt O. Folkedahl, Western Done Co. Wisc. 
From: Ole O. Renli, Canton P.O. Lincoln Co. SD. 
Written 26th of Jan, 1879 
Good Friend. Your letter has been received and read with pleasure. And it is good to see your health is pretty good., and I can say the same with God’s help. My family has increased since I came to Dakota. We have three boys so now we have 4 boys and 2 girls and all are well shaped and has done well to date. I have a quarter of land that I have deed to, and I have 60 acres too.  I have built myself a Fremhus 24 foot long by 14 foot wide and 12 feet high and painted it white on the outside. Bought farm tools and everything is paid for. When I came here I had ‘(mit Oxetox and one Kovogna)’ and 20 dollars. That was all. Now I have four horses, 2 black ‘(hoppers)’, one 8 and one nine years old which I have had for four years. And 2 kolter three years old this spring. (some unreadable text) Also have 5 cows, 4 calfs, 4 pigs, 10 sheep and some chickens. I got 500 bushels of wheat – 600 bushels Havre oats and almost 200 bushels of corn and some potatoes.
Most of the people around here are well off. Big Knudt has 2 quarters of land and is well off. Now he is getting married to his brother’s widow. She has 2 quarters so they will now have 4 quarters together. And they have one Drenge Barn together and she has 2 boys from before. So now they have 3 boys and not married yet.  They are getting married in 3 weeks.
Ole Ulderikson is here with family. Engenret Hofoflon is here with his family and later others. I don’t have room for.  Old Tolef is well and active. Little Knud was sick almost a year and was breast fed most of the time and Astri 14 days and was buried after Knud. 
We now have 7 miles to train station. We have not had much snow. No snow now.
You are all greeted so much from us and also most of all you Knuds with family from our family.
Ole O. Renli

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekend Link-Ohhhh-Rama

Here are some stories worth reading after you get bored reading about Ebola. It's a high bar we set here:

** I am blessed with a circle of friends who likes to send me sheep articles. As much as I should explain why, if for no other reason than to keep sordid rumors from beginning, I won't; because sordid rumors about me are kind of fun. The Lindsay Lohan one has dogged me for years.

And this story is actually very interesting: White House Sheep, a History. In 1918, President Wilson wanted sheep. But trouble lurked.

** This woman, unlike her similarly named American counterpart, became famous for actually doing something besides taking naked selfies: A woman known as "Rehana" has become a hero across the internet as news spread that the Kobani soldier has reportedly killed more than 100 Islamic State terrorists single-handedly.

And if you were the kind of cad to notice such things, she's kind of a hottie too.

** In my defense, I didn't publish a book in 2014. National Book Award finalists named.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In reading the summaries of all five books in the fiction category, four of them will be added to my wish list for Christmas, with "All the Light We Cannot See" piquing my interest the most. "Lila" looks like the only clunker among the group, so I'm guessing it will win.

** Harry L. Katz, co-author of "Mark Twain's America", weighs in on the best Twain books.

** Seems like Brazil has its share of ungodly prolific writers, including this crazy old coot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Settle down, boys and girls

When Minnesota gets weird I don't worry too much because, well, it's Minnesota. Can you say Ventura, Dayton, Franken?

But when Nebraska starts going goofy I start to worry that it could spread north. Case in point, Lincoln, and I'm not even talking Bo Pelini.
In a new initiative orchestrated by Gender Spectrum and the Center for Gender Sanity, public school teachers have been urged to stop calling students “boys and girls” and instead refer to them as “purple penguins,” or some other suitably bestial name. 
Fortunately, The Federalist delivers some sarcasm smack and targets Nebraska numbskulls: We Must Revise Classic Literature To Promote Gender Inclusivity

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finished: Lawrence Block's "Tanner's Tiger"

I scored a signed, limited-edition reprint of the master Lawrence Block's book Tanner's Tiger which was originally written in 1968.

Block is best known for his two series that feature Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr, but this is one of his shorter and earlier series, I think eight books that feature Evan Tanner, a guy who never sleeps, speaks five languages and works for some shadowy, unnamed CIA-kind of outfit. It's relatively short, 220 pages of big typeface for 50-over readers, was clever, witty and imaginative. Oh, and silly. So I liked it. I'd give it a 6- on my 10-point scale. It's a 3.57 of 5 on Goodreads' scale.

Block wrote an afterward to the book over 30 years later which is one of the funnier things I've read in a long time. The man has written a plethora of novels. He's a character himself. I follow him on Twitter and enjoy him immensely.

The best line of the book was about a drunk pilot saving the day in bad weather conditions: "Never in the course of human events has any man earned so much acclaim for making so many people vomit."

By the way, is a pretty cool website if you are looking for book lists by authors and other nerdy stuff. Their taken on Tanner's Tiger pretty much nails it:
Tanner is well-traveled, a master of disguise and subterfuge, accustomed to navigating the hidden geography of the world's most dangerous countries and territories. Borders and bureaucracies mean nothing to him. Passports and visas are but a trifle to a man who speaks countless languages, with contacts in subversive organizations that span the globe. Tanner's been smuggled out of Turkey, fled the Soviet Union in an experimental aircraft, and escaped from a bamboo prison in Thailand.  
Now, he's been given his most difficult assignment, to infiltrate a country motivated to repel his every attempt to enter, a country which will imprison him, drive him underground, and cause Tanner to call upon his wits and contacts as never before.  
That country is Canada.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy anniversary, baby

Today my wife celebrates her 26th year of marriage to me, which explains why she's stumbling around the house at 7 a.m. with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, her left eye twitching uncontrollably, and mumbling: "God grant me the serenity ..."

But as with most things, my mantra is: "She'll get it over it."

Unlike the "silver" anniversary last year, Yahoo (not my wife's name) tells me: The 26th Wedding Anniversary does not have any traditional materials or symbols associated with it. So I didn't have any guidance on what gifts to buy this year. Besides how do you top last year's silver toaster? I'll tell you how, by making one up. Seems I read somewhere that the 26th anniversary is the "soy" anniversary; so a bottle of Kikkoman it is!

And a dozen roses never hurt. If I learned one thing in marriage, it's that flowers cure a lot of ills. I have noticed that the suitors of my daughters seem to have figured that out too, so chivalry is not dead, it's just wilting; mostly because it's awfully tricky to find that sleeping patient in the hospital with a door open so you can quick run in and grab the flowers without them noticing. Takes practice, especially since they've beefed up security so much in the maternity wards. But after 26 years, I got it down.

So when people ask what the secret to a relatively long marriage is, and I think 26 years qualifies, I tell them:

1 - Flowers.

2 - Time away from each other. Hey, I'm not stupid, I know it's possible, though unlikely, that I can get on a person's nerves once in a while. So when she wants a "Girls Weekend Away" with her sisters, I frown and say: "Okay, I suppose." Then when the door closes, I high-five the dog, break out the fireworks and turn on the Cinemax.

As I'm not a particularly social person outside of work, where I have to be social, I'm not big on hanging out with her co-workers and family; not because I don't like them, but because they are people, and sometimes, a lot of times, I just don't want to be around people. So we agreed early on that there would be "got to"s. Those would be gatherings I "got to" go to. Otherwise, I'm invited to come with, but don't "got to." That works out well, because almost all of those "got to"s are ones I would go to anyway: Christmas, birthdays, weddings and a family reunion every five years. It saves on guilt, hurt feelings and pressure.

3 - You have to be a team, and while there's no "I" in team there is a "me." Don't let them tell you otherwise. But as a team, we divide up the duties, she pays the bills (don't even ask me how much we pay for cable or cell phones; heck I don't even know how much I get paid, I haven't seen a paycheck in 10 years, it just goes in the bank, I assume I get paid) and she does the laundry (though I contribute on those occasions when the stinking pile of sweaty running clothes on the floor next to my side of the bed gets too rank for even me to handle) and I do the outside stuff, like mowing and shoveling and gardening and walking the dogs and, umm, other really hard stuff.

But mostly the team part comes in on those rare occasions when it seems like the world around you has lost its mind and you two are the only ones who are sane. There have only been a handful of times when it's come to that, but there's something special about having one other person in the world who gets it. So when the day is crashing in around you, you can hug them with the knowledge that you can pull up roots at any second and go land on a houseboat in Florida or in a remote cabin in Montana and you'd both be perfectly happy.

That's when you know you made the right choice 26 years ago. And I did.
Pass the soy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On this date in 1981 ...

The Twins played their last game at the old Metropolitan Stadium on September 30, 1981, losing to the Kansas City Royals 5-2 on a rainy afternoon. The night before the final game, home plate was stolen, and after the final game ended, hundreds of fans gathered on the field, searching (mostly unsuccessfully) for mementos -- Wikipedia

Here's a sign myself and "No Guts No Glory" Wissink absconded with a while later:

Adds a little panache to my basement.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I'd scream for more baseball

It's always a sad day for me when the Minnesota Twins play their last game of the season. Today was that day. I feel a little more hopeful about next season than I did this time last year, but that's not saying much.
Sure I love the playoffs and the World Series, but as of late they haven't involved my team. So it's not as great as it could be. Still, pretty great.

I'm a baseball guy. I love watching my son and his friends play it. I love the fact that my daughters know as much about baseball as any of their peers. Even my dog loves baseball.

I like other sports, of course. Having played several, with little success, I've covered them for newspapers for 25 years before moving west. I've known some of the greatest coaches in South Dakota, interviewed many of the best players, and remain friends with some great people involved in athletics throughout the state.

Football is my second favorite sport to follow. Friday night under the lights at any field in South Dakota is a night well spent. Yet, I consider football to be one of the silly sports. It's not one that most people play after their high school or college careers in a competitive manner. It's not a lifestyle sport, like cross country, golf, tennis, baseball or even basketball. Still, it's great fun to watch.

I also enjoy it on the psychological level, watching fans and coaches and players. The emotions and personalities are on full display in football.

I find the motivational techniques interesting. I'd guess two-thirds of the football coaches I see might be considered borderline personality disorders. It's a sport where grown men can yell, swear and shove kids without ramification. If they did in Walmart what they do on the sidelines, they'd get a visit from law enforcement or Social Services. I've just always found that method odd.

You don't normally see math teachers screaming out their students: "Two plus two is four! Get your head on straight!" I don't see golf coaches get the most out of their athletes by yelling at them: "Keep your head down or you're running ladders!"

Baseball is just more fitting of my personality I guess. I can probably count on both hands the number of times I've screamed at somebody in my 50 years. I like quiet runs on forest trails, reading and writing in my man cave, pulling weeds in my garden, hiking with my dogs, and, best of all, sitting along first-base line watching a bunch of kids or men trying to hit a round ball with a round stick.

Maybe I could incorporate a little more yelling at the umpires into my routine though. But it'll have to wait a few more months.

I cannot tell a rye

I'm man enough to admit my mistakes, and sometimes even too lazy to correct them, especially when they're funny.

In the Lemons Never Lie post I was recently made aware that I referred to Westlake's sense of humor as being rye. As we know, rye is a grass. Its grain is often used to make whiskey. Now I could try to wiggle out of it and claim I was using the dictionary's second definition which refers to the word as being a "gentleman." So maybe it was a gentleman's sense of humor. But that would be incorrect and I'd be lying if I said that was my intended usage. And I hate to lie unnecessarily.

Yes, I know, it should be a wry sense of humor. I goofed. And some emailers need to get out of their basement and find themselves a date.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekend link-oh-rama

Some stories and notes I ran across that I found interesting:

** A lot of good points here: The Reaction to Rob Ford's Cancer Proves We Don't Take Addiction Seriously
It's almost as if that nasty business of the media running roughshod -- downright bullying -- a man suffering from a mental illness never happened. Journalists never hounded him at the rehabilitation facility. Or coerced other patients into revealing intimate details of his treatment. Or wrote features about the clinic founder's own history with the law.
Now that he's dealing with a physical disease, on the other hand, it's real. Let's give the man some privacy, our noble journalism vanguards suddenly declare.
** Speaking of old rock, in a post below ... I went to this ceremony and the site near Hill City is pretty cool. I'd recommend it for anybody looking for a quick afternoon jaunt. Might even learn something: Once doomed, Gold Mountain Mine mill frame now an attraction
Seven years after the mill frame was declared dead, officials Tuesday morning celebrated the opening of the Gold Mountain Mine Interpretive Trail. The sunny September morning allowed visitors to walk the trail around the mine and read interpretive signs explaining both the history of gold fever in the Black Hills and the process for gold mining it. 
The trail ends next to the preserved mill frame and a partially intact boiler unit that supplied steam power for workers at the mine.
** Minneapolis author Louise Erdrich wins a big award I'd never heard of and 25 grand. From the Star-Trib:
Her novel "The Round House" was the 2012 winner of the National Book Award; "Plague of Doves" was a Pulitzer finalist in 2009, and "Love Medicine," her debut novel, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984.
** I like to think that for every Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice in the NFL, there are more like this: Ex-Raven quites NFL to give kidney to brother
"Man, when that thing came out I felt like somebody threw me a small football," he said.
** Here's an in-depth look at the NFL's security apparatus, basically run like the FBI by former agents. It makes me wonder how much crap gets covered up, glossed over and never sees the light: Elaborate security network is supposed to protect league from trouble

** From the FederalistGlobal warming was worth it, and if we had to, we'd do it again

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finished: Westlake/Stark's 'Lemons Never Lie'

I've been on a crime noir kick lately -- Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) in particular.

Westlake is one of the all-time great writers. Yet, when I talk books with friends, even voracious readers, I've yet to run into a person who has read him. The guy sold millions of books, so obviously people have read him, just not those I hang with I guess.

His best friend was Lawrence Block, and he's much better known today, partly because he's still alive and Westlake isn't. Block's 1992 novel A Walk Among the Tombstones is being released in movie form this month with the great Liam Neeson as the main character Matthew Scudder.

Block has also written some outstanding crime noir. But, back to Westlake, I just finished his novel Lemons Never Lie, written under the pseudonym, Richard Stark.
When he’s not carrying out heists with his friend Parker, Alan Grofield runs a small theater in Indiana. But putting on shows costs money and jobs have been thin lately – which is why Grofield agreed to fly to Las Vegas to hear Andrew Myers’ plan to knock over a brewery in upstate New York. 
Unfortunately, Myers’ plan is insane – so Grofield walks out on him. But Myers isn’t a man you walk out on, and his retribution culminates in an act of unforgivable brutality.  
That’s when Grofield decides to show him what a disciple of Parker is capable of …
This has a 4.5 rating out of 5 on Amazon. I gave it a good 7- out of 10.

The title refers to it supposedly being bad luck when you sit down at a slot machine and hit three lemons. That's what Grofield does at the start of the book, and sure enough they don't lie.

Westlake is a master of the twist, with a rye sense of humor that puts him among the elite. I highly recommend anything Westlake has written, and LNL is no different.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is rock dead? Naaaa

Gene Simmons of KISS recently said rock is dead. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister disagrees with a thoughtful response. I gotta side with Mr. Twisted on this.

Is it hard to make it rock 'n' roll? You bet. Always was, always will be. Will rockers make as much money as they did "back in the day"? Probably not. But that won’t stop them, and they'll be motivated by a much more genuine love of the art, and great rock will continue to be produced, played and embraced by rock fans.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest: Krauthammer's book is treasure

By Wesley Roth

Disclaimer: I am a big fan of Dr. Charles Krauthammer and look forward to hearing his opinion on Special Report and also reading his columns in the Washington Post.

"Things That Matter" is a collection of Krauthammer's best writings from the most personal (death of his brother) to the political to the historical.  Every column or essay is a treasure trove of insight and most of the time I found myself nodding in agreement.  Some of his positions I disagree with (mainly social issues), but on fiscal and national security issues he is spot on.

The most powerful essay in the book is "Zionism and the Fate of the Jews," which gave me lots to think about in the years ahead, myself being a Christian Zionist. Also, the long-form essays in Chapter 16 on "America and the World" should be read and taken to heart.  Highly recommend this book of Dr. Krauthammer's best writings.  I will treasure my signed copy I received from my brother last Christmas. Thanks Ryan!

Also: Krauthammer's book sells 1 millionth copy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finished: Jeffrey Deaver's The October List

Just to annoy those of us who have difficulty writing a novel, Jeffrey Deaver (he of over 30 novels) went and wrote one in reverse.
And I just finished it - The October List.
It has a relatively low 3.39 of 5 rating on Goodreads, but I gave it a 7- on my 10-point scale, which is pretty amazing considering I almost quit reading it halfway through.
The book starts on Chapter 36 and works it's way to the beginning. So, obviously, you know how the book ends but then weave through to find out how it got to that point.
I give the dude credit for originality. I also give him credit for keeping my attention and forcing me to look back (to the end/beginning of the book) to try to remember things, because let's face it, the 1980s were tough on my brain cells.
I had never read a Deaver book before, but it was given to me by a friend who reads many of the same genres as me though different authors. He said he wanted me to read it to see what I thought.
I think I liked it. But I wouldn't want to read to many more written that way. It was a challenge, but reading doesn't have to be easy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back and rambling

If you think I fell off the planet the last few months, you're close. It was baseball season, so I was in places like Chamberlain, Burke, Chadron, Martin, Tabor. Mostly though, my inattention to the blog was due to a lack of a computer.

The laptop blew up and I was relegated to using the Kindle, which is fine for surfing, but not so good at posting. But as luck would have it, it's Junior's 17th birthday this week and I bought us a laptop for his birthday. So no excuses now.

The thing is, I wish I'd been a more responsible blogger this summer, because I thought of some really great things to write about as I chased foul balls around the country. Most centered around stupid people I ran into. While few in number, bigots, idiots and morons always seem to stick out more than normal people.

Mostly, this summer reaffirmed my belief that as much as people like to complain about "kids now-a-days", it's actually the adults who are the problem. As I like to say, too many clowns, not enough circuses.

But I'll save that for another day. Today's lesson refers back to Junior and is titled: "Mom is always right."

As you may be able to make out in the photo, there is a fly inside that foggy cup. While unusual, the more unusual thing is that the fly has been inside that cup and on our kitchen counter for four days now.

It all harkens back to a long-running argument between my son and my wife. Son was perpetuating the teenage boy myth that flies only live 24 hours. Wife said she didn't believe that. Son said it was a scientific fact. This discussion has been going on for quite sometime, probably for as long as it's taken wife to catch a fly in a cup, which happened four days ago. (The funniest part to me is imagining how long she's been chasing flies around the kitchen with a cup. But I digress.)

As it's not enough to flaunt the boy's failure for just 48 hours, declare victory and let the fly go, now the kid is forced to look at his failed "scientific fact" every morning and evening as the fly flies around in its glass day after day for who knows how many more days or weeks. What's his answer to this: It's probably some sort of super fly.

Poor kid. He just needs to do what I did long ago: Admit that she's right (even when she's not). And move along.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Uncle Bob, man of letters

My Aunt Maxine, my dad's only sister, passed away last September at the age of 81. She was married to my Uncle Bob for over 60 years (61, I think, but being an English major math has never been my forte).

Maxine was a super person, and known to many as the greeting card lady at Lewis Drug (Southgate then Westgate) in Sioux Falls for 25 years. Bob still lives in SooFoo and with the help of his three kids and plethora of grands and great-grands is getting along as well as anyone can after losing the love of their life of six decades.

My favorite memory of Bob goes back to my grade school days when I was at Bob and Maxine's house and playing Yahtzee or some game. Now, as some will attest, I like to do things my own way (see blog header), and anybody can roll dice with their hands. It takes talent, however, to put them in your mouth and then spit them on the board. It's a proven fact you roll more boxcars with that method than any other.  And it also explains why I've been kicked out of every back-alley and after-hours craps game I've attended.

But that night with the cousins, things didn't go as planned and while employing my unique technique I swallowed one of the dice. And as any uncle would do, who was supposed to be watching his nephew so he wouldn't do stupid stuff like that, Bob picked me up by the ankles and shook me up and down to get the dice out. Surprisingly, that technique didn't work either. So began a trip to the ER.

Anyway, that's the kind of guy Bob is. Funny, laid back. He worked at a meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls and is an otherwise Ordinary Joe like the rest of us and our neighbors.  But I have a philosophy about Ordinary Joe's or Bob's, and it's that they all have something more to them than meets the eye. Some hobby, some hidden talent, something you don't really know about until they pull that hand-carved duck call or oil painting out of the closet and say: "Look what I did last week." And you go, "really, you don't seem like a guy who carves duck calls."

Well, Uncle Bob pulled one of those out ten years ago, shortly after my dad died. It was a poem about my dad. Whoda thunkit? Uncle Bob was a poet and I didn't even know it. I'll reprint that one when I get time to retype it. In the meantime, here is one Uncle Bob wrote in February, a few month's after his wife Maxine's death.

Very cool, Bob. Very cool.

It’s Time!

Out of the darkness
Came Maxine’s liver disease
From the head to the toe,
All this fluid, where does it go?
This is the part that frightens me so.

No cure for that as you can see.
She’s lying in the casket in front of me.
Only God will know when it will be,
The time when she is taken from me
Be patient my child, He will set you free.

Where are you going?  Where have you been?
I went to meet Jesus and He let me in.
I pray dear Lord on a bended knee,
Promise me help in my time of need.

In the wake of hours,
He will set you free,
God only knows when it will be.
God only knows she whispers to me.

When this is all over, and the pain is gone,
Life on earth still goes on.
No more suffering, no more pain
Nobody answers when I call her name

Most of life is what we do,
And down the road a lap or two,
Jesus will talk to me and you.

“No” said Jesus, "you must understand!
“Come, I’ll take you by the hand,
And we will go to the Promise Land”.

Oh dear Lord, what should I do?
Oh dear Lord, get me through.
We pause to say ‘I love you.’

                                Robert Larsen | February 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Not Friday, cuz I've been busy, link-oh-rama

It’s been my reading experience that the best-written, most interesting stories don’t appear in what I consider the noisy, cackling newspapers (Washington Post, NY Times) and on-line sites (Salon, Huffington, Breitbart) where their reporters sideline as talking heads on network television. Actually, it’s more like they are talking heads who sideline as writers.

I find the quality stuff in places like The Atlantic, The Economist, Deadspin, even Popular Mechanics and others. Regionally I like Stu Whitney and John Hult at the Argus Leader and David Rooks in the RC Journal. But, frankly, you won’t find a more enjoyable newspaper to read than the Custer County Chronicle.

Here’s a sampling of some quality, thought-provoking writing I’ve seen lately:

** Interesting piece: I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway

** Learn something: How Nigeria’s economy grew by 89% overnight
** 8 Lessons in Manhood From the Vikings

** A court fight that should bring a tear to your eye: Feud over sweet Vidalia onions
As a grower with roughly 3,000 acres invested in Vidalia onions, Delbert Bland insists his three decades in the business make him — and not the agriculture commissioner or other farmers — the best judge of when his onions are ready to come out of the ground.
 ** Yasiel Puig Isn't Perfect, But He's Everything Great About Baseball
It's possible that Puig could learn not to swing at obviously terrible pitches or overthrow the cutoff man; he could certainly learn to show up at the ballpark on time. It's also possible, though, that if Puig learned to play as conservatively as some kid who'd come up on a travel team in Virginia and then been drafted right into one of the better-run minor league systems, and learned to moderate his life and get to bed at a proper time and so on, it would beat the spirit out of him along with the heedlessness, and he'd be not just a different player, but a lesser one.
** Crazy-interesting story on the long-lost KISS guitarist:
Prior to the blowout, Cusano kept to himself and — aside from the occasional pear-tree dispute — lived in relative seclusion. One neighbor, speaking only under conditions of anonymity, said that "I thought originally it was just two women [living at Vincent's home] because of the way he dressed. It was very incognito." When the resident found out his neighbor was not, in fact, a woman but a solitude-seeking rock god, he remembered thinking, "I was like, 'Really?!'"
** Not to say everything Salon writes is useless: My boobs, my burden

** Glowing Reindeer Antlers Deter Car Wrecks

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I would've liked to known you, but ...

My wife and I have really been into the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel the last couple years. We love it. Friday night they had Monroe’s 1956 film “Bus Stop.” It was odd and funny and great. My favorite rodeo movie evah.

I was reminded of it when I saw this quote this week:
“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Here's the trailer.

Here's the Wiki.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finished: Lee Child's 'Never Go Back'

This is the 18th Jack Reacher novel. A fun feature for me was a couple of mentions of South Dakota. I always like a nod to the existence of my state. The novel begins with Reacher arriving in Washington, D.C., from South Dakota, then the entire plot takes place and once resolved he announces his intention to return to South Dakota. No idea what he's doing here, but this week I'll look differently at every person I see with a black eye, broken nose or on crutches.

This was one of my favorites in the series. He busted some skulls, was on the run with a pretty woman, meets who may or may not be his 14-year-old daughter, and it has many of the one-liner features of all the books.

I gave it a 7 on the 1-10 Haugenometer, which is actually my highest rating of 2014. Goodreads has it at 4.5 of 5.

Quotes I enjoyed for one reason or another:
"Reacher's mantra was: Get your retaliation in first."
".. and the guy went down so fast and so hard it was like someone had bet him a million bucks he couldn't make a hole in the dirt with his face."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday's link-oh-rama lives

After being hit with a sinus infection harder than Ali hit Liston (50 years ago) I’m finally getting around to doing a little work/play. Thank you, Z Pack.

** I ran across this list of 50 things that turn 50 this year. Though this recent sickness had me questioning the likelihood, I am slated to turn the big 50 in July. Knock on wood and antibiotics.

** Scoggins: A reminder of what high school sports are about
After several Hopkins basketball players removed their second-place medals almost as soon as they received them on Saturday night, the team's student manager provided a moment to remember.
** Awww, who doesn’t love a good lost-puppy-found-and-returned-to-its-owner story? Cat people, that’s who. Evil cat people.
"I asked a couple of questions to make sure it was her dog. After I was sure, I said, 'When did you lose her?' I was thinking she'd say 'yesterday' but she said 'last summer.' I was like, 'What?' I was ridiculously excited for them. I can't imagine losing my dog for that long, and then actually getting her back."
** Fascinating story about Pakistan government and military: What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden

** 5 new artists you should listen to after SXSW 2014

** Really funny Axe commercial. That is the cologne of choice among teenage boys these days. About chokes ya. I’m more of a Jay Z Gold guy.

** 10 things Our Kids Will Never Worry About thanks to the information revolution.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Link-Oh-Rama

Gotta make this quick as I'm off to another one of those milestone family moments where Junior has his first prom. They do the grand march and banquet at the Alex Johnson and then across the street to the theater for the after-prom party. My job is to take photos of the fine couple and reflect on how old I'm getting.

In the meantime:

** Good news: My homeboys were more than hairy, bloodthirsty raiders. From the Star-Trib:
They had names like Thorfinn Skull-splitter, Erik Bloodaxe and Ragnar Hairy Pants. No wonder the Vikings have a rough and bloody reputation. A new exhibition at the British Museum strives to make people think again about the Scandinavian pillagers whose name means "pirate" in Old Norse. Through their ships, weapons, crafts, words and even skeletons, "Vikings: Life and Legend" aims to show how Viking energy and ideas redrew the map of the world.
** Doug Lund reflects on the bank teller who survived the Dillinger robbery in Sioux Falls and went on to great things.
** The Purple Yoda was on Arsenio this week. In case you missed it:

Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL light up the show with their performance of "She's Always In My Hair."

And be sure to listen to my new favorite of his: Funknroll.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finished: 'Monster of Florence'

So I finally wrapped up the Monster of Florence book by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. If this is an accurate reflection of the entire judicial and law enforcement bureaucracy in Italy, then they certainly have problems and it’s no wonder the Amanda Knox case turned into such a circus.

However, my guess is it is more of an isolated incident, with a few bad actors/prosecutors/judges. Since the authors of this book eventually got arrested too (and then charges dropped), it is in their best interest to present the prosecutors and judges as incompetent bozos in the worst possible light. And they did, using page after page of mockery to score those points.

It wouldn’t be too hard to pick a couple cases out of the blue in America as well to portray our legal system as messed up. Similarly Mexico, Australia, Greece, pick a country.

I tend to think Mr. Preston was operating on the up and up, but have my doubts about Mr. Spezi, who it wouldn’t surprise me to learn had crossed more than a few ethical lines in journalism and perhaps nudged up to or across some legal ones.

The afterward reflects on the Knox case, where a couple of the prosecutors were also involved in the Monster case, and in fact, were under indictment for issues with that while prosecuting Knox. Amazing.

All in all, it was a fascinating book. A thinker. I gave it a 7- on the Haugen 1-10 scale. Goodreads gives it a 3.67 out of 5.

Quotable quotes I highlighted:
“We all have a Monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.” 
“You cannot stare evil in the face; it has no face. It has no body, no bones, no blood. Any attempt to describe it ends in glibness and self-delusion.”  
  “Niccolò, for God’s sake, they accused me of being an accessory to murder, they said I planted a gun at that villa, they’ve indicted me for making false statements and obstruction of justice! They threatened me if I ever return to Italy. And you tell me I shouldn’t be concerned?”  “My dear Douglas, anyone who is anybody in Italy is indagato. I offer you my congratulations on becoming a genuine Italian.” 
Also, author Douglas Preston writes nonfiction books with Lincoln Child and they have a new one out that's supposed to be good.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Link-oh-Mardi Gr-ama

Some apologies are in order: First, sorry the Friday Link-O is a Saturday Link-O. I know how many of you set your watches by it (zero). But Mardi Gras called and I had the answer. Second, sorry to Kevin Costner for taking so much money from your Blackjack dealers last night in Deadwood. That movie coming out next month better not be another Waterworld, just saying. And, thirdly, I'd like to apologize to the woolly mammoth who came to my door this morning looking to get out of the snow and cold. Suck it up, man, you're a mammoth! A little snow and cold won't kill ya.


** Harold Ramis died earlier this week. This oral history (in Esquire) from Ramis and other participants on the making of Ghostbusters is pretty cool.

** From the NYT comes the last disposable action hero.

** How Mexico’s po-po caught ‘El Chapo’

** While I wouldn't vote for him, it's hard not to like our Veep. Here's a good profile on him.

** Here are things the President could learn from Kate Upton (caution: don't view this if you are averse to jiggling).

** Grateful student sets up video chat with 'Life of Pi' author.
Knowing Christensen’s admiration for Martel and “Life of Pi,” she decided the two men should “meet” via video chat. It seemed like a long shot, but she contacted the author on Facebook and made her request. Martel responded the same day. “I am indeed busy, what with my three children and my new novel that I’m revising, but a good teacher is worth the interruption,” he wrote. “I had my share of great teachers when I was young, and I am still grateful to them.”

Friday, February 28, 2014

I do solemnly swear ...

... that if summer ever arrives, I will not complain about:

Bull snakes in my garden
Noisy crickets
Sweat in my eyes
Too many heats of the 100-meters at track meets
Wolf spiders
Catchers taking too many trips to the pitcher’s mound
Sunflower seed shell stuck in my teeth
Sun rising too early
Blossom end rot on tomatoes
Swallowing gnats
Neighbor mowing early in morning
Rattle snakes on my jogging path
Having to close bedroom window because coyotes yipping too loudly
100 degree days
Kate Upton

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beginning 'The Monster'

I just started The Monster of Florence, and I think it's going to be a good one. So good, I might consider live blogging it. Can you live blog a novel? Probably, but it would probably get pretty obnoxious; not that it stops reporters from live blogging lesser events than this novel that is being made into a movie! Starring George Clooney! (Ugh, I should've stopped while I was ahead.)

Anyway, some magazine called Men's Vogue, since gone belly up, claims TMOF is on par with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which is one of the top five in the Haugen Book of World Records Book.

So far, TMOF is off to a good start, maybe a little to gory for my tastes, but then again I just finished supper. If you didn't know, this is a nonfiction novel.

On page 16, journalist Mario Spezi walks into the medical examiner's lab and asks whose body is on the table. The ME responds hilariously:
"This one? A brilliant scholar, a distinguished professor in the Accademia della Crusca no less. But, as you can see, tonight yet another disappointment has laid me low; I have just opened the head and what do I find inside? Where is all the wisdom? Boh! Inside it looks just like the Albanian hooker I opened yesterday. Maybe the professor thinks he's better than her! But when I open them up, I find that they're equal! And they both have achieved the same destiny: my zinc gurney. Why, then, did he tire himself out poring over so many books?Boh! Take my advice, journalist: eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friday Link-Oh-Rama

I apologize in advance for the low-down muck-raking immature stank of this link-oh-rama. There's not enough Axe in the world to cover it up. You can thank me later.

** This may be the best opening paragraph to a story written so far this year. And the writing is top notch through the rest of it: The Dark Power of Fraternities.
One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

** I could've told ya this: Cows make more milk when listening to slow jams. Here are the 25 best slow jams of all time, according to Essence.

** Here are some literary predictions and depictions that came true years later. We’re talking Twilight Zone kind of stuff, folks.

Which reminds me, I learned about link shrinkers this week. Our IT nerd at work would be so proud of me. I even used it on the previous link. Hope it worked. Maybe I'm the last guy who's heard of those, but if you haven't, check 'em out at

** Ten odd early interpretations of dinosaurs. You'll learn something here too.

** L.A.s top rising female-fronted bands. I've taken a liking to this band "Deap Vally" despite their spelling abilities. Check out their song Baby I Call Hell.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sparking furious fury furiously

Have you had your furor sparked lately? I haven’t, but it seems many have. A couple “sparks furor” headlines I noticed today made me realize I’ve been seeing that a lot lately. Either headline writers are opting to use it more and the definition of “furor’ has been diminished to mean “mildly annoyed” or people really need to get a life.

Recent headlines:
Criticism of Israel ambassador sparks furor
Religious charter sparks furor in Canada
Photo of soldiers mugging by casket sparks furor
Google’s ‘Is My Son Gay?’ Android app sparks furor
Acquittal sparks furor in courtroom
Email snub by Prince Charles’ aides sparks furor
Now I understand people getting mad at things, being perturbed, even disgusted, but not every reaction has to be furious. And I also understand I operate on the other end of the spectrum and rarely get furious, maybe three times in almost 50 years. It’s just a personality thing. It’s a Norwegian thing. There are other behaviors I employ rather than getting furious. I don’t pick up a phone and scream in fury at whoever answers because I am mad about their customer service or their product or their viewpoint on something. I employ a handy thing called avoidance. Or I ignore. On occasion I mutter under my breath. Or I vent to my wife, kid or coworker. But do I spark a furor? Na.

Mostly I think “furor” has been numbed down. The dictionary defines “furor” as “rage, frenzy, uproar, turmoil.” Furor today means a bunch of people commenting anonymously on a story in the newspaper. Or if they are really furious they tweet about it. I had a lady tell me recently she was so mad about something she was going to post it on Facebook! Oh, my, that’s fury unchained!

I reserve the term “furor” for what’s going on in Ukraine. Now they’ve got an actual furor over there. Fires, killings, frogs raining from the sky kind of stuff. I can’t think of an Android app or email snub that has sparked that kind of fury.

So relax people. Headline writers could tone down their “furious” headlines, people might consider a flick on Turner Classic Movies rather than a Twitter rampage, or better yet try a three-mile jog with your dog. You’ll be too tired to be furious afterward and your heart will be helped, not stressed.

Mostly,  I’m just too lazy to get furious. Being worked up all the time over stuff just seems like so much work. Sure there are a lot of things I don’t like, and I have a whole long list of pet peeves, but way too many for me to change or get all Glenn Becked or Piers Morganed about. Even back in my news columnist days, I talked issues, usually in a humorous, sarcastic way or attempted to anyway. I don’t think I ever got furious about anything.

In Rapid City right now there are people nearly furious, perhaps just very concerned, over lap dances, chickens in backyards and texting drivers. Really?

When the chickens start giving lap dances, text me while you’re driving and I’ll maybe start getting a little concerned. But mostly I’ll just want to take a picture of it. And post it on Facebook!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Finished: Connelly's 'The Black Ice'

Several people have recommended Michael Connelly books to me, so I picked one up at BAM the other day and enjoyed it enough to grab another.

This one was The Black Ice (A Harry Bosch novel).
Narcotics officer Cal Moore's orders were to look into the city's latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket. Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: Don't look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together. Soon Harry's making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the center of a complex and deadly game-one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim.
This is a very politically incorrect book, in fact I'm surprised it hasn't been banned from libraries by the PC police. It's Harry Bosch, the main character, and I'm afraid to break it to you but he's, umm, a smoker! Chain.

One odd thing about the book is that it ended without me really having any idea what Harry looks like. Maybe he's described in earlier books, but mind's eye hadn't even formed a general image of him. It also had a couple twists and turns I didn't see coming, but they were so unlikely and unrealistic that I don't hold it against myself. And I don't hold it against the author either, heck it's fiction, he can have martians land in the last page as far as I'm concerned. And not to ruin it for you, but no martians.

I gave it a 6+ in my 10-point rating system, not great, not bad, just okay. It's a 3.98 out of 5 over at Goodreads.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Guest: 'The Second Machine Age' is a clunker

By Wesley Roth

After reading "The New Digital Age" by by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen and Tyler Cowen's "Average is Over", I was eagerly looking forward to "The Second Machine Age" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. The MIT technologists take the readers into a deep dive of how this "Second Machine Age" is changing the world around us and specifically how that is affecting and will affect the labor force.

Is growth over in the United States? "Not a chance" the authors say. "It's just being held back by our inability to process all the new ideas fast enough." The book focuses on how machines are making our lives easier but also disrupting our lives and the workforce. For example, in the positive, it takes the average American only eleven hours of labor per week to produce as much as he or she produced in forty hours in 1950! But "the machines" are already taking the place of certain assembly-line type jobs and will continue for the foreseeable future.

The chapters on "Bounty" and "The Spread" were the most interesting. Their policy recommendations at the end of the book align with the hopes and dreams of Silicon Valley and the Tech Sector. Their endorsement of a FDR-"basic income" for all Americans given to them by the government was disappointing to read, along with endorsing Pigovian taxes, which are a non-starter for me (along with taxing people by the mile when they drive!).

In the end, I enjoyed Cowen's book more (they borrow some of his key ideas) and Schmidt/Cohen's "The New Digital Age", which was a better, less data-driven read for the layperson.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday's Link-Ohlympianesque-Rama

You'd think after missing last Friday, this week's Link-Oh-Rama would be twice as long and doubly interesting. You'd be wrong.

** You should read this: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr. Interesting, sad story. Has me considering the “steampunk look” though. I think I could pull it off.
When 23-year-old Lahr went missing on a trail outside Ouray, Colorado, the world lost an amazing young talent After she died, a five-minute video surfaced of Zina standing in her bedroom in her grandmother’s house, which had shelves crammed with robots she’d built and other art projects. In the video, she explains that she has “creative compulsive disorder” and can’t stop making things—especially robots. The video was the first hint at what Zina was: an impossibly innocent and gifted eccentric on the verge of breaking out in the world of animatronics and stop motion.
** Waylon Jennings died 12 years ago yesterday. He was such a talented man and has an extremely talented family. I enjoy Jessi Colter's music. My favorite song of hers is I'm Not Lisa.
His son, Shooter, may be the most talented of them all. He hosts a show I like on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country station called the Electric Rodeo, and usually spins some of his dad's stuff in with hard rock and outlaw country.

Waylon's autobiography looks good:
It chronicles all the chapters of Jennings’s incredible life, including his beginnings as a dirt-poor son of a farm laborer; his role as Buddy Holly’s protégé; his influential friendships with such luminaries as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and George Jones; the stunning success ushered in by his platinum 1976 anthology album, Wanted: The Outlaws; the drug habit that nearly destroyed him; and his three failed marriages and the journey that lead him to Jessi Colter, the woman who would become his wife for 25 years.
** This is kind of funny. Two math majors at Reed College lost control of a massive snowball that rolled into a dorm, knocking in part of a bedroom wall.

** Five really long books to get you to spring.

** Five North Dakota siblings who were separately adopted at infancy reconnect.

** Every Prince hairstyle from 1978-2013.