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.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Guest review: 'Unbroken' unbelievably good

By Wesley Roth

This is one of the BEST books that I have read in the past couple years.  It is THAT good. "Unbroken" tells the story of Louie Zamperini, who has lived a life so incredible that is hard to believe.

Passport photo to 1936 Olympics
Author Laura Hillenbrand takes the reader on a journey from Zamperini's roots in Torrance, California, to his discovered passion for running, to the Olympics in 1936 and to War in the Pacific. The chapters on the three men and their survival at sea for 47 days is astonishing. Swept into the arms of the Japanese during WWII, the brutal conditions of the POW camps were hard to wrap my mind around. The chapters on the brutality and savagery that our men went through were difficult to read.

You will get to know "The Bird" and his hatred for Zamperini. But victory never tasted so sweet when the POW camps were finally liberated more than half-way through the book. The reader's heart jumps for joy with the liberation and the immediate post-WWII years for Louie. But it quickly turns to utter heartbreak as a PTSD-affected Zamperini confronts life after war and being a "top POW" of the Japanese (who was battered and beaten within inches of his life, but never broken). But the most powerful of human emotions, REDEMPTION, is revealed to the reader at the end of the book and the start of the rest of his life.

I can't recommend this book more and encourage everyone to take the time to read about Louie Zamperini's story of "Survival, Resilience and Redemption!"

From Assist News Service:
His wife Cynthia suspected something was terribly wrong, because Zamperini often woke up in a cold sweat, shouting. One night he dreamed he was strangling The Bird. In fact, he was on top of his pregnant wife with his hands around her neck, choking the life out of her. “I woke up and couldn’t believe it,” he says. 
His life spiraled downward as he began to chase other women at local bars, where he and his Olympic buddies often got free drinks. “I began to fall apart,” Zamperini recalls. “My wife decided she wanted a divorce.”
About that time, a new couple in their apartment building talked about a young evangelist preaching in a large tent in downtown Los Angeles. “In those days ‘evangelist’ was a dirty word because there were so many crooked ones,” Zamperini notes.
The young evangelist was Billy Graham ...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Finished: 'Double Dexter'

Most of you probably know Dexter from the Showtime series. I've never watched it, heard a lot about it, mostly from my kids.
The series centers on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life as a serial killer, hunting down criminals who have slipped through the cracks of the justice system. Set in Miami, the show's first season derived from the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), the first of the Dexter series novels by Jeff Lindsay. 

Lindsay has written six Dexter novels. I didn't read the first five, but I did go against every OCD impulse in me and skipped right to No. 6. I like crime/mystery novels. I even like serial killer novels. So you'd think I would particularly like a novel where a serial killer mostly kills other serial killers. But I was a little torn on this.

It was a little darker than I expected. Sure, it's a story about a guy who dismembers pedophiles, so you kind of expect it to be a little darker. But I was expecting a little more humor in it. I'm told Dexter is a funny guy in the Showtime series, in a dark humor way. I didn't see much of that in this novel.

It gets mixed reviews at Goodreads, 3.79 out of 5, and summarizes:
A witness. Such a simple concept - and yet for Dexter Morgan, a perfectly well-disguised serial killer, the possibility of a witness is terrifying. As an upstanding blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police, Dexter has always managed to keep the darker side of his life out of the spotlight. An expert at finding truly bad people - murderers who've long escaped justice - and giving them his own special attention. But now someone has seen him in the act. Dexter is being followed, manipulated and mimicked, leading him to realise that no one likes to have a double - especially when his double's goal is to kill him. Like the five previously bestselling novels in the Dexter series, Jeff Lindsay demonstrates the witty, macabre originality that has propelled Dexter to international success.
In the book, Dexter's wife is nuts, his kids are weird, his sister is a psycho. Frankly, it should be everything I like in a book, but it wasn't that great. It was good enough that I'll probably get another one to give it a chance to grow on me. But it was no Koontz. I give it a 6-plus. Amazon gives it four out of five stars.

Some quotable quotes from it:
"I had been seen; I had brushed up against the flowing skirts of that old whore Justice, and I could not take that chance again." 
"It had always been obvious that everyone else in the world is painfully stupid; but tonight that truly grated on my nerves, and when I finally arrived home I was in no mood to pretend I was glad to be back with my little family."
Regarding his cop sister: "She was tough and smart and efficient, but she would never learn to lie with a straight face, which was a real killer for any career."
"I came, I duct-taped, I conquered. That was who I am."