Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Finished: Lee Child's 'Night School'

Last night I finished the newest installment of Jack Reacher: Lee Child’s novel titled “Night School.”

I’m thinking of changing the way I rank books. Instead of 1-10, it might be more accurate to just list the days it took to read the book. With rare exception, the best books are hard to put down. I plowed through this one in two nights. It was one of the better Reacher novels in a while.

From Goodreads:
It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind.
Two other men are in the classroom — an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.
From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.
This is the 21st Jack Reacher book. Wow, time flies when you’re kickin’ butt. In this one, kind of a prequel to the others, Reacher is still in the Army. I found it refreshing at a time when the series kind of needed a reboot.

Goodreaders give it a 4 of 5, B&N’ers a 3 of 5. I give it a solid 7 out of 10 or a 2 on the days-to-read scale.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Finished: Donald Westlake's '361'

Finished Donald E. Westlake’s hard-boiled crime drama “361.” It was the dark, mean, greasy-grimy gopher guts kind of stuff I like. It doesn’t contain much, if any, of the humor Westlake is best known for in his hilarious Dortmunder Gang novels.

The men in the tan-and-cream Chrysler came with guns blazing. When Ray Kelly woke up in the hospital, it was a month later, he was missing an eye, and his father was dead. Then things started to get bad.

It’s a short read, which I like. One of Westlake’s first novels, just punches you in the gut and doesn’t apologize. Lawrence Block, a BFF of the now deceased Westlake, said it’s the first book where he saw Westlake get “his voice.”

In between pages I happened to watch the movie Sicario (ft. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro). It seemed fitting as Del Toro’s character’s wife and daughter were murdered and his total no-conscience pursuit of the killers reminded me of Westlake’s character. Just flat-out stone cold messed up in the head guys bent on vengeance. The thing with his eye is ingenious writing.

I gave it a 7- of 10. Goodreaders give it a 3.6 of 5.

I implore you, if you haven’t read Donald Westlake do it. Maybe don’t start with this one. But do one.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


This is kind of a big deal for my neck of the woods. Author Amity Shlaes will be speaking at the winter graduation at S.D. School of Mines.

While I generally find authors to be boring, pretentious speakers, there are exceptions. She might be one, or maybe not. I’ve heard that her book on Calvin Coolidge, cleverly named "Coolidge," is pretty good if you’re into non-fiction biographies of dead presidents.

*** It’s getting to be the end of the year so the “best books of 2016” lists are coming out.

Here’s Goodreads best books of 2016.

And the Boston Globe weighs in with their faves. I notice “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work” shows up on a lot of lists. Might have to check it out.

This book also looks interesting: “Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel.” Not that I'm looking, but if this writing thing doesn't work out ...

*** Bill Gates and his top five books of 2016. It includes one from the science list below: The Gene.
In The Gene: An Intimate History, physician and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee offers a rigorously researched, beautifully written detective story about the genetic components of what we experience as the self, rooted in Mukherjee’s own painful family history of mental illness and radiating a larger inquiry into how genetics illuminates the future of our species.
*** The greatest science books of 2016 by brainpickings. “When Breath Becomes Air” looks interesting.
That tumultuous turning point is what neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi chronicles in When Breath Becomes Air — his piercing memoir of being diagnosed with terminal cancer at the peak of a career bursting with potential and a life exploding with aliveness. Partway between Montaigne and Oliver Sacks, Kalanithi weaves together philosophical reflections on his personal journey with stories of his patients to illuminate the only thing we have in common — our mortality — and how it spurs all of us, in ways both minute and monumental, to pursue a life of meaning.
*** A good first-hand account of Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, hopefully our next SecDef.

This, from the Military Times in 2013, gives a good retrospective on his career and some of the stories that define it.

*** This gal’s making some waves lately. My daughter and Tomi interned together in Rep. Kristi Noem's Rapid City office.

*** Castro lovers might be wise to read this, which means they won't. Dude was kept in a dark cell naked for eight years.

*** Belated happy birthday to C.S. Lewis. Here's some stuff you might not know about him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finished: Robert Parker's 'Silent Night'

They call Robert B. Parker the Dean of American Crime Fiction. He's most famous for his 40 novels featuring private detective Spenser. Many people know of the TV series Jesse Stone, with Tom Selleck, but don't know it's based on Parker novels. He shows his versatility as a western writer as well, with Appaloosa to his credit.

Unfortunately, he died in 2010.

Fortunately, his agent kept his spirit alive by finishing the Spenser novel he was working on at the time of his death.

And I just finished it. I'll call it my Christmas read "Silent Night," though it probably has a few too many murders in it to be considered real Christmassy. It is set during the Christmas season though and loosely uses a drug dealer as Scrooge.
It's December in Boston, and Spenser is busy planning the menu for Christmas dinner when he's confronted in his office by a young boy named Slide. Homeless and alone, Slide has found refuge with an organization named Street Business, which gives shelter and seeks job opportunities for the homeless and lost. Slide's mentor, Jackie Alvarez, is being threatened, and Street Business is in danger of losing its tenuous foothold in the community, turning Slide and many others like him back on the street. But it's not a simple case of intimidation — Spenser, aided by Hawk, finds a trail that leads to a dangerous drug kingpin, whose hold on the at-risk community Street Business serves threatens not just the boys' safety and security, but their lives as well.
I liked it. I love RBP. Sad to know there won't be any new novels of his, but happy to know I've got about 30 left to read.

I gave "Silent Night" a 6+ on the Haugenometer. Goodreaders gave it 3.8 and B&Ners a 3.5 on their 5-point scales.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Finished Koontz's 'Ashley Bell'

Finished Dean Koontz’s epic novel Ashley Bell last night. I say “epic” because it’s over 700 pages. Being a huge fan, I was hoping more Koontz meant more to enjoy. I was wrong.

I’m not a guy who likes long books. I have weak wrists to hold such a book in long sittings and have even less patience. So what I find myself doing is speed reading and seldom falling into “the zone” every reader likes where time flies by. I kept doing the math in my head to see how many pages where left before what I hoped was a lollapalooza of an ending to make it worthwhile. Koontz does a great job of making me wonder “where is he going with this?” and “how is going to tie it all together?” That’s what kept me going.

From Goodreads:
At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea.
There’s no denying Koontz has a rare gift of an uber imagination. (Oddly, he uses “uber” a lot in this book.) But I get the feeling he’s just showing off now. I love how his novels weave the mystical, religious, and sixth-sense kind of thing. But this one was a reach, and a long one. Did I mention the book was long? It’s almost like he was bragging about being a writer with an out-of-this-world imagination and drawing it all together. His sermons on fiction were a little over-bearing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I read it. It was different. His talent for plotting is rare. I wish I had it. If I did, I’d write a lot more and shorter books.

I thought the Washington Post summed it up well:
By then, my view of the novel had progressed from an admiring “What lovely writing!” to a weary “What pretentious hokum!” There’s much to treasure in magical writing, but “Ashley Bell” is hardly an example of the style at its best. Still, one reader’s hokum is another reader’s happiness. I imagine that countless Koontz fans will delight in Bibi’s strange adventures, and I’d be the last to begrudge them their pleasures.
Goodreaders give it a 3.6 of 5. B&N’ers slightly lower at 3.5. The10-point Haugenometer only gave it a 6-.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Places to go, people to see, so some random links on the fly:

*** The oldest Tuskegee Airman dies at 101.

*** The top 10 books of 2016 according to … Glamour! Consider the source please.

*** The bromance between John Carson and William F. Buckley.

*** General Mattis, rumored to be next Sec. Def., writes about the importance of professional reading.

*** How Duke and Kentucky came to rule college basketball.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Last night I pre-ordered what I think will be a pretty cool book: “In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper”

Lawrence Block invited 17 of his friends, including Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King, to write a story as they see depicted in Hopper’s paintings. Pretty cool idea.

I have Hopper’s most-famous “Nighthawks” in our house. It’s fun to look at, imagine the conversation and what the creepy guy sitting by himself is up to. It will be interesting to see which writer writes the story to go with it.

*** This has always been a bugaboo of mine and while he was forced to read a lot in high school I’m worried it may not turn into a lifelong passion for him as it was for me and my father. But then again, ya never know. How to get your boy reading.
So what can we do to stimulate the left brains of squirmy boys and get them reading with as much commitment as their sisters? Don’t underestimate the power of example, for a start. Boys need to see older males reading joyfully – otherwise they risk writing it off as a “girly” thing. So that’s down to dads and other male role models. Primary schools – female dominated environments, usually – should regularly invite in male authors, librarians and volunteers to talk about reading and share books. A footballer with a passion for books would be good, for instance.
*** This guy isn’t too fond of the direction The National Book Award is going.

*** A look at John Grisham’s newest book: The Whistler

*** The 10 must-read books for November.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Hiking with wifey and daughter this morning by Slate Creek west of Hill City and found one fella with a better view of the Black Hills than us.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Finished: 'Songs of Innocence'

Recently finished "Songs of Innocence" by Richard Aleas. It's book #33 from Hard Case Crime publishing.

Aleas, whose real name is Charles Ardai, is the founder of the publishing company and this was his debut novel.

As mentioned before, I'm into the crime/mystery thing, particularly the old-style 1950s hard-boiled crime noir. Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block are my faves. Some of them get pretty gritty and dirty, but none more so than this one.
Three years ago, detective John Blake solved a mystery that changed his life forever — and left a woman he loved dead. Now Blake is back, to investigate the apparent suicide of Dorothy Louise Burke, a beautiful college student with a double life. The secrets Blake uncovers could blow the lid off New York City’s sex trade...if they don’t kill him first.
It was a little darker than most. Dealt with some disturbing topics like suicide and another I can't tell you about without ruining the ending. So I won't. And it's that ending. Man, it made the novel great, the plot awesome, but also made me not like the book. Hard to explain. The Washington Post pretty much nails it with this:
"Songs of Innocence[’s] devastating final scenes elevate the novel to an instant classic. The painful climax of this novel, as unexpected as it is powerful, will move you in ways that crime fiction rarely can." 
Goodreaders give it a 3.8 out of 5. I'm torn, but will defer to the writing skills of the author and will give it a 7- out of 10 on the Haugenometer.

As a pallet-cleanser I've moved on to Dean Koontz's "Ashley Bell."

I'm about 100 pages into this 700-page tome and it's vintage Koontz. The only reason I don't like reading Koontz is because he makes me feel so inadequate as a writer. This could be one of those losing-sleep knockout novels.

Koontz gives me pen envy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mankato bookstore is everything you dream

A must-stop on any road trip for me is a used bookstore.

Last weekend wifey and I were in Mankato, MN, to visit Junior in college. We stayed downtown and eventually made our way to the Once Read Bookstore, a landmark in that city. By the way, the Mankato downtown scene is extremely cool too, if you like unique bars and restaurants, and who doesn't?

I picked up a Hard Case Crime novel and the kid found me a Tom Sawyer book I don't have (I collect various book covers of my man Sam Clemens). Scored some more books for my other kids and by the end of the 30 minute stop had dropped 20 bucks for probably 15 books. Not bad.

Read this story from the Mankato paper, if for no other reason than the pictures I didn't want to pilfer for the blog.
“I opened the doors to my business on September 1, 1975. In those days there were numerous stores including Mark Weinstein’s “The Lost Cord” and three different head shops.  The street was alive.”
Back in those days Mark said he was a heavy drinker and a pot smoker. 
“Pot gave me a lot of the ideas for the store.” 
Used bookstore ambiance is just cool. The obligatory bookstore cat was there. There were a couple book flies sitting in the aisles reading but not buying. The store cashier was a strange, knowledgeable, friendly guy. Strange in the best sense of the word. He tried convincing me that Judy Blume is now writing some good stuff for adults. We'll see.

Best of all, the place was floor to ceiling books, which is pretty much how I envision heaven. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finished Silva’s ‘The Heist’

I’ve become a huge fan of Daniel Silva. His Gabriel Allon character is so well develop and constantly growing. You’d think it would be tough to keep him interesting after 14 books but he does. I still have two more books to go to get caught up.

Gabriel’s cover is that he is an art restorer, and a good one, but he’s also one of the highest operatives in Israeli intelligence.

I gave it a 6+, just missing a 7 because I hought the ending missed the mark. Still, such enjoyable books. I hope he keeps turning them out. I’m learning, art, history, geography and still having a kick doing it. Goodreaders give it 4.1 or 5, and B&N’ers a 4.4 of 5.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Art of Manliness

So there's been some national conversation lately about how men talk.

In fact, twice this week I was accused of not being a "real" man because I don't speak like a vulgar caveman. One went so far as to suggest that my friends and I are, umm, the obscenity for gay males, because I told him my dad, my son, my friends, don't talk like that.

I honestly don't think my kids ever heard me say so much as "damn" until they were well into their teenage years, and even then the number of times they've heard me swear could be counted on one hand. When I did, I think they'd even agree, it was probably forgivable considering the circumstances. As Mark Twain said: "Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

But just walking around in casual conversation? No. Very rare for me. Certainly not commonplace. You'd have to follow me around for many years with a microphone to find anything that wouldn't be allowed on The Waltons.

Have I or my friends ever told a dirty joke? Sure. But I grew out of those. Now most of my best jokes aren't obscene.

As I've said before, there are only about eight people in this world whose opinion of me I actually care about, and neither of them were these two yahoos. However, it did get me thinking about what is a real man and how different people have various perceptions of manliness.

Those two probably don't consider these things I do "manly":

I go to church. I pray every night.

I grow heirloom tomatoes from seed. And I can them and make salsa.

I read. Can quote Frost, Shakespeare and Poe.

Haven't had a drink in almost 20 years. Used to, a lot. But grew up.

People say I'm skinny, though I prefer toned. Was 200 pounds, now 160. (See above.)

Been married once, to the same woman for 28 years.

Raised three caring, God-fearing children who are contributing members of society.

I have a pet rabbit.

I moisturize.

I have a raspberry patch and herb garden.

I've written books and can use multi-syllable words.

I like Prince.

I cried like a baby when my Basset Hound, Edna, died a few years back, and will do the same when Stanley passes.

I'm biased, because I'm talking about me, but I think a man can be manly and still do those aforementioned things. In fact, I think he IS manly if he does some of those things.

There are other things I do that could be stereotyped as manly, even redneck, which is I think what those guys consider manly. But since I don't swear or speak obscenities about women while doing them, they probably don't count:

I enjoy outlaw and classic country and rock. Most recent concerts I've been to: Casey Donahew (red dirt Texas band), Willie Nelson, BB King, Kid Rock, Aerosmith, KISS. I had David Allan Coe tickets, but the concert was cancelled because he had bronchitis (so he's probably not a "real man" either.) But throw in my Elton John and Prince concerts and that probably negates any manliness points I earned.

Grew up on a farm. Branded cattle, castrated pigs, swam in the cattle tank, threw bales, worked several years for the local veterinarians. But I was also in band and swing choir, so again, negated.

I own more guns than I have fingers.

I've bought cattle, raised cattle, sold cattle, worked for a cattle buyer.

Have run 26.2 miles without stopping and several half marathons. Don't know that it's manly, but doubt the two dudes can walk to their mailbox and back without getting winded.

I drive an 11-year-old Jeep with 207,000 miles on it, though I've never changed my own oil. I figure for 25 bucks I'll let it fall on someone else's head.

I've survived three near-death experiences.

I have a heavy bag hanging in my garage that I punch instead of my wife or kids.

I cut my hair twice a year and never comb it.

I've butchered deer and antelope.

I raised a son who is going to be a cop and who prevented two guys from raping a passed out woman in an alley last summer.

I raised a daughter who punched a boy who was giving her disabled friend a bad time.

I raised three kids who are leaders, stand up to bullies, protect the weak. They don't mock them.

So I guess if some want to consider me gay, so be it. I don't really care. If some want to call me "redneck," ditto. Maybe I'm a hybrid man.

One philosophy I've tried to live by is that I don't feel I'm better than anybody else, but I also don't feel anybody else is better than me. Gotta say, some people are really testing me on the former.

As Hamlet said: "What a piece of work is a man!"

Friday, October 7, 2016

Finished: Gustav Niebuhr's 'Lincoln's Bishop'

I recently delved into the nonfiction and religious realm again and enjoyed my trip there with Gustav Niebuhr's "Lincoln's Bishop."
 More than a century ago, during the formative years of the American nation, Protestant churches carried powerful moral authority, giving voice to values such as mercy and compassion, while boldly standing against injustice and immorality. Gustav Niebuhr travels back to this defining period, to explore Abraham Lincoln's decision to spare the lives of 265 Sioux men sentenced to die by a military tribunal in Minnesota for warfare against white settlers — while allowing the hanging of 38 others, the largest single execution on American soil. Popular opinion favored death or expulsion. Only one state leader championed the cause of the Native Americans, Episcopal bishop, Henry Benjamin Whipple. 
 I liked several things about this book. For one, I always enjoy settings I'm familiar with, whether it's in a fiction or nonfiction book. This Dakota War pretty much took place along the Minnesota River and touches on locations from St. Paul to Mankato and St. Cloud to New Ulm.

 It also didn't seem to be overtly biased toward one side. Seems often, even in history books, either the white people are painted as racist slugs or Native Americans as drunken slobs. Niebuhr does a good job of express Bishop Whipple's thoughts as being understanding of why Native Americans were a hair-trigger away from revolting against the government and white settlers, while also understanding the white settlers blood thirst for avenging the atrocities committed against them. It doesn't excuse any of the wrongs done by either side, but explains how the anger and emotions evolved.

 I also enjoyed the backstories on how Bishop Whipple came to know President Lincoln, how all this was going on as the Civil War raged, and how Gen. Pope was disgraced on the Civil War battlefield and relegated to clean up Minnesota's problem.

 The book boasts a stellar 4.8 of 5 stars from Amazonians. Goodreaders are a bit more bearish with a 3.7. It hit the 7 mark on the Haugenometer 1-10 scale. Here's a review from the MinnPost.

 I'd recommend this for any American history buff, a local history nerd or just your average slug like me who enjoys a good story.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

4-star film review: 'My Many Sons'

Guest post by Mike Henriksen

Don Meyer lived four separate lifetimes: Successful athlete, coach at David Lipscomb, coach at Northern State, and fundraiser/public speaker. Weave in a tough childhood, a tragic car accident, and fighting cancer, and Meyer had more experiences in 69 years than most of us would have in three times that span.

I was honored enough to know Coach Meyer. Not as well as some, but better than many. Everyone who knew Coach well could fill at least a half hour with stories of his influence, his character, his humor, and his quirks. They can recite his rules. They can rave about his wife, Carmen. They can tell you he never wanted to talk about himself. They can tell you he was friends with John Wooden, Pat Summit, and hundreds of other coaches across the country because of the wildly successful summer camps he ran. They can tell you about the phone calls or notes they received from him, which always seemed to come at the perfect time.

Now imagine you are Casey Bond. Bond was a baseball player that reached the AAA level. He got into acting on a bit of a whim, and has been in several major movies, including “Moneyball” and “I Saw the Light”. Bond spent the last year of his college career at Lipscomb, but had no idea who Meyer, who had left for Northern by that time, was. An encounter brought them together and they developed a relationship. Bond, who had never produced a movie before, felt compelled to share the story of Coach Meyer with a world in need of positive stories. He set out on his mission!

But where do you begin? How does anyone condense so many incredible experiences and accomplishments into a 90-minute film? With the release of “My Many Sons”, Bond gives us his answer.

Using a series of narrations, flashbacks, and foreshadowing, director Ralph Portillo peels back layer after layer of a complex man, yet still maintains a mostly linear progression of the story. The basic timeline begins with Coach Meyer’s team winning a National Championship at Lipscomb in 1986 and ends with his retirement from the sideline in Aberdeen in 2010, all while chronicling his various successes, failures, family issues, and professional dilemmas along the way.

No biographical movie succeeds without a strong portrayal by its lead actor. Judge Reinhold is best known for his comedy movies, including “Stripes” and the “Beverly Hills Cop” series. I will admit I was leery of the choice when I first heard about it. But like Gary Busey in “The Buddy Holly Story”, Reinhold delivers a performance that is less imitation and more essence. His Don Meyer is nasty and compassionate, focused and mystified. His Don Meyer wrestles with grey in a world that, to him, is black and white, even when it comes to his family. His Don Meyer struggles to show compassion, and then becomes a fountain of grace. In watching Reinhold’s Don Meyer, the world will understand the complexity of the man who grew to near legendary status.

Casey Bond plays Coach’s son Jerry and puts in a very solid performance. Amy Kay Raymond, who plays Meyer’s wife Carmen, hits all the right notes while playing a very limited number of measures.

My favorite scene involves the day Coach Meyer takes over at Northern. I look forward to hearing from Andy Foster, Sundance Wicks, and Steve Smiley if the scene is true. But if it isn’t, it certainly could be! No one-minute sequence in the movie captures the Don Meyer many of us knew better.

One problem. Sports movies HAVE to get the sports part right. There is one major gaffe in this one, and the rest of it, due to budget restrictions I am guessing, gets by. But again, like Reinhold’s performance, the essence is enough.

I know what some in our part of the world may say about this movie. We wanted Bond and screenwriter Carol Miller to tell “our” Don Meyer story. We wanted to see Bob Wachs Arena, not the Northern logo on another gym’s floor. We wanted the world to know the philanthropist Coach became in his final chapter. We want “ESPY” winning Coach exalted. And those are legitimate feelings. But again, there was so much to tell, and so little money (about 3 to 4 million dollars according to industry sources, which is a pittance in movie circles) to do it with.

So when you watch this film, pretend you did not know who Coach Don Meyer was. Because that is who this movie is targeted toward. Just enjoy a positive message about an amazing man. And if you knew him, revel in the fact that you get to spend a little more time with a man that is missed by so many, and touched so many of us in such an incredible way.

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Did The Knuckle

While much of the state was at the Blake Shelton pop concert last night in Sioux Falls, wifey and I went to a country music concert in Sturgis.

We saw the Casey Donahew Band at The Knuckle. This Texas band is hot stuff. Enjoyed the show. The new covered concert area there is pretty cool.

Check out this tune.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wall Drug's jewel

One advantage to attending dinner meetings in Wall, SD, is the Wall Drug Bookstore across the street. It's the hidden jewel among all the interesting items at Wall Drug. The bookstore has, I believe, the best collection of Western and Native American themed books you'll find anywhere.

Tonight I picked up 2 books:

Lincoln's Bishop - A President, a Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors


Wild Men - Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Finished: Patterson's 'Guilty Wives'

I've stayed away from James Patterson for several years as he's moved into the money-grubbing I'll-Put-My-Name-On-Anything phase of his career. But, I won this book a couple years ago and after staring at it long enough on my bookshelf I relented.

Co-written with David Ellis, I enjoyed it but it lacked something. This review probably expresses my thoughts pretty accurately.

I gave it a 6 on the Haugenometer.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Faulkner and 'The Bear'

I've been reading some William Faulkner lately, because that's the way English major snobs roll, and I found this funny in his Wikipedia entry. His resignation letter from the Post Office:
As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.
 This, sir, is my resignation.
And, no, by "reading Faulkner" I didn't mean I was just reading his Wikipedia entry. I'm reading "The Bear." It's a chore (one sentence was over 600 words long), but I've always found that while Faulkner can make you work for it, it usually pays off. Brilliant, brilliant man.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Finished: Vince Flynn's 'The Survivor'

This is the 14th book in the Mitch Rapp series and the first since Vince Flynn died. Apparently, Flynn started the book and Kyle Mills finished it. I couldn't notice where he took over, so that's probably good.

It's been a while since I read Rapp. I enjoyed it. Gave it a 7- on the Haugenometer. B&N readers give it a more stellar 4.5 of 5.

Rapp reminds me a lot of Bob Lee Swagger, though John Sandford does a better job of developing a more realistic character in Swagger. In a fight between the two, my money is on Bob Lee.

Still, Mitch Rapp is great series and Mills looks up to the task in continuing it in fine fashion. Start it if you haven't.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


In the latest batch of 14,900 missing Hillary emails the FBI found, there was one gem from Huma to Hillary lamenting the fact that "Haugen hasn't updated his blog in nine days. I hope he's okay."

Well, yes I am. Thanks for worrying. Here ya go, Huma, some Link-oh-Rama:

*** This is a fascinating story about the life and times of Little People in Hollywood. Someday I'll pass along a couple Little People stories of my own from South Dakota.
There were stories that the Munchkin actors, who mostly were put up at the Culver Hotel, got wasted every night and engaged in orgies. Those rumors, refuted by the Munchkins themselves, were seemingly started by the film's producer, Mervyn LeRoy, who pressed crewmembers each morning for gossip about their antics the night before. The stories also were spread by Dorothy herself: In a 1967 TV interview with Jack Paar, Judy Garland called them "little drunks" who "got smashed every night" and had to be rounded up "in butterfly nets."
*** I do the FanDuel thing and have enjoyed moderate success and enjoy it quite a bit. Some of the stuff about how people have gamed the system bothers me though, mostly the realization that I'm not smart enough to game the system.
The implosion of the daily fantasy industry is a bro-classic tale of hubris, recklessness, political naïveté and a kill-or-be-killed culture.
*** It may be a sad state of affairs when we need to celebrate a university announcing it will be open to ideas and thoughts, but that's where we are. Kudos to prestigious University of Chicago (for $50k a year it better be prestigious) for this letter it sent to students and faculty.
“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” the letter states.
Hopefully nearby DePaul University and a host of others will come around to this way of thinking.

*** Speaking of freedom of expression, here's another reason to hate soccer: Hope Solo Suspended for Six Months After Calling Swedish Women’s Soccer Team ‘Cowards’

*** From the files of When Men Were Men: MOH Recipient ‘Pappy’ Boyington Was A Brawler, Drinker, And Legendary Fighter Ace
In San Francisco, California, shortly after returning to the states, Boyington was reunited with his fellow pilots and celebrated only as those who survived hell together can. 
“Ironically the party was covertly covered by Life magazine and the pictures were impressive,” said Boyington of the party. “I suppose it was a good thing that they were never around in the South Pacific when we had our parties then. The morality meter would have spun off the scale.”
*** Hmmm. A new cut of beef. Worth a try.
Like a diamond in the rough, a small cut of beef that meat cutters throw in with ground meat is now being looked at as a high-end delicacy by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno.
*** Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a new book out:  Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White

A huge fan of his, I also read his book 'Black Profiles in Courage' and enjoyed it, so I'll probably check out the new one as well.

He's a smart guy on a variety of subjects and he does a good job of helping a white dude like me better understand some African-American issues.

*** 'Til next time, listen to Whitey Morgan's "Waitin' 'Round to Die."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Finished Koontz "The Key to Midnight"

The Key to Midnight is Dean Koontz's first great novel, back in 1979, written under his brief pseudonym Leigh Nichols. He went back several years ago and reworked it and republished under Koontz.

It's really good stuff. He says it was his first, perhaps only, foray into some international intrigue along with the usual dark, psycho thrills and awesome twists.

The ending got me. Couldn't figure out where he was going until I got there.

Giving it a solid 7 on the Haugenometer. Goodreads gave it a 3.9 of 5. Got me in the mood for some Ed Poe.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Will work for food

They had a little going-away shindig for Junior before the RC city council meeting tonight. He interned in the mayor's office, learned a lot and enjoyed the gang. And he got paid too, not just giant cookies.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Columnist against culling cute coyotes

This New York Times op-ed is an interesting yet gag inducing piece of puerile writing. The high-brow snobbery is about what you’d expect. The writer should’ve at least talked to a sheep rancher regarding the value of coyotes but he probably figured they are too backwards to have cell phones or email.
We know coyotes are intelligent, social creatures. They do not enjoy death. No thoughtful human being, considerate of other life, should sacrifice for pleasure or a bet an animal like the one Adolph Murie observed in Yellowstone in the 1930s. Doing so is immoral — not in a religious sense, but in reference to morality’s origins, the evolution of a sense of fairness among members of a social species, which early on came to include a human recognition that other creatures enjoy being alive and that depriving them of life is a very serious matter.
Think this writer is as pro-life for babies too?

Oh, and he left out the whole: "Coyote tapeworm that infects, dogs, humans spreading to cities" thing too.

And that thing about coyotes carrying bubonic plague that is wiping out cute prairie dogs which are necessary for the even cuter black-footed-ferrets to survive ... never mind.

Coyotes are cute and cuddly and play with sprigs of grass, ya'll. That's all you need to know, according the NYT.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Finished: Stephen Hunter's 'Sniper's Honor'

“You’re a genius,” she said. 
“Hardly,” he said. “I just show up and pay attention.”

Stanley and I finished Stephen Hunter's novel "Sniper's Honor" last night.

This is the ninth Bob Lee Swagger book written by Hunter. Now Bob Lee is 68 years old and is going out of his mind bored on his Montana ranch. That changes quickly.

For me the first three Hunter novels were best. Now he gets a little too in the weeds with the guns and bullets stuff, excessive detail. Swagger can’t just shoot a guy; there needs to be four pages detailing the weight of the bullet, the trajectory, the wind, which organ got hit, and on and on with Hunter. For me, cut to the chase.

 Sill very good read. I liked the ending. Gave it a 6-plus on the Haugenometer scale of 1-10.

Goodreads gives it a higher 4.1 out of 5. That’s pretty impressive.
In this tour de force — part historical thriller, part modern adventure — from the New York Times bestselling author of I, Sniper, Bob Lee Swagger uncovers why WWII’s greatest sniper was erased from history … and why her disappearance still matters today.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ace on planking ...

I previously avoided this exercise for two reasons:

1. It looked too easy. It looked like an exercise for Old People and Babies.

2. When I actually tried it, it was too damn hard to hold for more than ten seconds, and then I felt humiliated. Unable to even do an exercise for Old People and Babies. So I stopped, because who needs that kind of Negativity in one's life?

((Not reading that website? You should.))

Hail no!

Got a heap of hail tonight ranging in size from moth balls (of big moths) to sheep kidneys (medium size ewes). Took a crack in the Jeep windshield and some dings in the eaves but the garden should shake it off okay.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Jack Reacher, Amanda Knox and the Nuge

Finally found a movie that doesn't have talking fish or superheroes in tights, so I'm fired up.

Jack Reacher is back for part two in Never Go Back. Reacher is the main character from the great Lee Childs novels I read.

Lee Child tweeted yesterday: Before the movie release on 10/21, the NEVER GO BACK tie-in paperback will hit US/CA bookstore shelves on 9/6!

Here's the trailer to the movie. Looks pretty good.

The release date on the movie is Oct. 21. It stars Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders. It will be the one movie I see this year. Just the way I roll.

Song from the soundtrack, by Zayde Wolf, New Blood.

*** So our old pal Amanda Knox is shacking up with a dude and wrote a love letter in the local paper about the big move.
I’m reminded of how my cell in Capanne prison transformed in character with the arrival or release of even just one prisoner. While none of us was allowed much in the way of material possessions, our combined emotional baggage, when bashed together without consideration, could make an already inescapable situation insufferable, even dangerous.
*** Whoda thunk it? Physical Book Sales Rocket As Digital Dips

*** I love some of these book titles by sci-fi writer Philip Dick.

*** Here's a clash of cultures with neither side handling things very well.

 *** Patrick Reusse on the revival of downtown St. Paul. Haven't been to this park, but it's on the list.

*** But Minneapolis has this now. Skol Vikings!

*** Public service announcement: The Nuge is at the Full Throttle in Sturgis on Aug. 9.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

But not losing our cool

Satan called. He wants his weather back.

It's so hot, I saw a fire hydrant chasing a dog.

It's hot, so people are getting grumpy. Or at least now they have an excuse.

Ace of Spades was even grumpier than usual today:
People are so horrifically stupid that I cannot wait until the aliens come and kill us all. I'll actually be on their side. When they show up, I'm going to sneak towards their space armada and offer my services as a behind-the-lines saboteur and quisling.
It might be nice to be these guys: A group of adventurers, sailors, pilots and climate scientists that recently started a journey around the North Pole in an effort to show the lack of ice, has been blocked from further travels by ice.

Ah, schadenfreude my ol' friend. I love ya.

And I'm in a good mood. Some like it hot. So here's some good news:

** A 93-year-old South Dakota woman has finally hung up her nurse's cap after more than seven decades in the medical field.

 ** What’s the matter? Lead, SD, scientists among those searching.
"It's certainly there. We know dark matter exists" because of the way it helps form galaxies and makes light bend around galaxy clusters, McKinsey said.
Weiner said, "It's hard to know when we will find dark matter because we don't know precisely what it is. Of course, that's what makes the search for it such a big deal." 
** Faster please: New Alzheimer’s vaccine could be as common as the flu shot.
At this moment, the vaccine is still not yet ready for human trials, but according to Petrovsky, “given the demand for a vaccine, if we show it is successful in the early stages we expect this will be pulled through and turned into product very, very quickly.”
 ** Bad news, good news, bad news: Children’s author missing, but found, buried in her garden.

** And since David Allan Coe cancelled on us Wednesday night because of "acute bronchitis," I'm trading in for Dwight Yoakam tix. I think I like that trade. No offense, DAC.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Free book, beat that

'Runaway Trane' by yours truly has been selected for the Smashwords July Winter/Summer promo. So you can get it free for the rest of the month if you enter this code at checkout: SFREE. Go here.

It goes against my inclination to give stuff away, but what the heck, I'm drunk.

It's available in all formats except Braille, so you really have no excuse unless you are, well, visually impaired.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finished: LB's Girl With The Long Green Heart

She was every man’s dream - and one man’s nightmare.
The Girl With the Long Green Heart is one of Lawrence Block's novels in the Hard Case Crime imprint. I like these crime noir things with the Mickey Spilane vocabulary.

I'm guessing it's set in the 1960s and one of the scenes that jumped out at me was when the main character flew on an airplane with a pistol in his pocket. He wasn't too concerned about it because there were no metal detectors and his only worry was the slight chance that since it was an international flight (Canada-to-U.S.) that it might get spotted by Customs. Times have changed.

This was a good one. It took a little time to set up the "grift" but it was necessarily tedious as you needed to know that stuff for the ending to make sense.

It was short, interesting, unexpectedly action-packed in areas with a good twist. I gave it a 7- on the Haugenometer. Goodreads grades it about the same at 3.7 of 5.

Block is also an avid Facebooker and goes above and beyond other authors I see there and really gives you a little more personal look at his life and daily doings. He also has an email newsletter I enjoy. Just send a blank email to with "Newsletter" in the subject line and he'll get ya on it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


It's like picking stuff out of a rattlesnake's teeth. Hope they're worth it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finished: Koontz 'One Door Away from Heaven'

This was one of my least favorite Dean Koontz novels. It's 600 pages, of which the last 200 were a slog.

What kept me reading was the search for the answer to the riddle posed about a third of the way in: What will you find behind the door that is one door away from Heaven? The answer to the question was a quagmire of philosophical gobbledygook that flew so far over my head it died for lack of oxygen.

I thought maybe I missed something so I Googled it, and it seems I'm not alone among Koontz fans who were disappointed that there wasn't a better answer. Oh well. Even a disappointing Koontz novel is still better than most others out there.

I give it a 6- on the Haugenometer.

This book was written 15 years ago, so maybe Dean was going through a phase, but it's difficult to find an adjective he didn't use in this book. Multiple, strings of them. Like the Griswold house at Christmas. If you need to tell me the color of the carpet, just do. Tell me it's red. Don't spend two paragraphs describing the color, feel and odor. I don't care.

Maybe others do. I don't.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Kale chips ahoy!

Never thought I'd be a fan of kale chips but wifey bakes up an awesome version. The saltiness hits the spot after a workout. Picked this bunch this morning because it got a little dinged up by hail earlier this week.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kronykal on: The Internet of Feels

This is good. Take my word for it. Read it. And you should be following Jester on Twitter if you care about national security.
If you’re a friend of mine, I got your back. Period. That doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye if I find out you have a basement full of dead bodies, but it does mean I’ll go to you first, talk to you, and then walk with you in to the police station. I’ll be armed, of course. I’m not stupid…

That's pretty much my thinking too

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rollin' with the flow

I'm quite use to life's ups and downs, but man this last couple months have been crazier than usual. It's ranged from, for example, words you don't want to say: "Ma'm, could I borrow your fire extinguisher?" To words you don't want to hear: "Mr. Haugen, we just can't seem to figure out what's wrong with your septic tank."

Seems every bit of good news is followed by some bad news with then some good news thrown in, just to tease again. It's ranged from sick dogs to the vet, blown transmissions, Twins sucking, flat tires, kid with severely sprained ankle, fender bender, kid with mono, leaking water pump, kid with speeding ticket, septic tank backed up on graduation morning, mother with kidney removed, etc. That's just the highlights off the top of my head.

Fortunately, it's all turned out okay for everybody except the check book.

So let me count a few blessings instead.

Just as our nest empties, wifey and I are excited that our oldest niece is moving to Rapid City with her husband and kids next month. And just when St. Thomas More thought they were done with my ugly mug.

Also, next month our Finnish friends will be visiting us for a week or so. He was a foreign exchange student with my wife's family when she was in high school and we've become great friends. Ismo is THE biggest Prince fan I know and would put him up against any other. He's the dude who got me into Prince's house for the Purple One's 40th birthday party. I look forward to grieving and jamming with him.

As for the kids, Katie continues to shine as an aide to Senator Mike Rounds but will be moving East River this fall, staying on staff, just in a new role.

Rylee is home for the summer and working at Rapid City Regional Hospital's preschool/daycare. She will return to that college in Brookings this fall to finish up her K-8 teaching and Special Ed degrees. The mail just arrived notifying me of another trip to the Dean's List for her. I never knew what that List was back in my day, but I'm told it's a good thing.

Luke is enjoying an internship in the Rapid City Mayor's Office for the summer and is in all his glory working for a private security firm in town, as well as catching some hours at his sporting goods gig in the Mall. He's heading to Minnesota State-Mankato this fall and hopes to have a fulltime job involving a Glock and a badge in a few years.

All three kids are also blessed with significant others we are quite proud of too, for which I give total credit to my wife, who led by example and set the bar quite high with the decision she made.

So, things are actually good in the Haugen hood, really good, though you tend to forget that when your engine is on fire or you're wet vacuuming sewage out of your utility room.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hot stuff

Notes, quotes and stuff:

*** Nick Lowrey at the Pierre newspaper has an interesting story, The human monster: How a suspected serial killer was arrested in Stanley County.
 Kunnecke evidently didn’t believe in paying ranch hands. He could just as easily, and far more cheaply, bury them on the rolling plains of western South Dakota.
*** James Patterson says he’ll “disrupt” reading by writing shorter books. Good to see Patterson getting on the Haugen Express.

*** Thought this was a pretty funny line from Jonah Goldberg in his weekly email, regarding Hillary Clinton and breaking the glass ceiling: 
"Oh sure, she’s a woman in the biological sense, which is kind of ironic given that her becoming the presumptive nominee comes at the precise moment we’re being told that biological sexual categories are just another way for the evil patriarchs of the Pale Penis People to keep everyone down. Maybe Donald Trump should declare he’ll be the first woman president, too?"
 *** And then there's the crime fighting English professor who helped bring down the Unabomber. Go English majors!

*** Here’s an interesting look back at the Rapid City flood of 1972 that killed 238 people and some speculation of whether it could happen again. Spoiler: It could.

*** I don't subscribe to Tidal, but if you do you're a lucky funky dude.

*** While watching the Muhammad Ali funeral I thought of the irony. Seems many of the same people who revere Ali’s decisions of religious conscience, are often most hateful of decisions others make based on their conscience. Little Sisters of the Poor, anyone? 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Confession, I'm a hater

I hate peas. Always have, always will. I hate the smell of peas, the sight of peas, even typing about peas. I hate them worse than any food I've ever tasted. Cooked or in salad, you can't hide them from me and I hate them.

When I was a kid my parents had rule that you had to clean your plate at mealtime. But when peas were on that plate, eventually the rule changed to "you have to at least try everything on your plate." That still wasn't good enough for me because I wasn't touching those detestable things, and before it was all said and done it became "you have to eat one pea."

I would sit at the table staring at that one damn pea on my plate when everyone else had finished and even while my mom and grandma were doing their dishes. I sat there adamantly refusing to swallow that filthy, gritty, slimy vegetable. Eventually, I'd win and Grandma would say: "Fine, just go."

So, thankfully, God made snow peas a few years ago. I don't know where these things were when I was a kid but they would've saved me a lot of trouble. Because I love these things. Raw, buttered, sautéed, in Chinese food, love 'em.

And they are easy to grow. And when you've got that long-winter itch, they are also one of the first things you can plant in your garden because they love the cool weather.

So mine are blossoming this week and should be picking some in a few days. I will be enjoying every bite and wishing my grandma had planted them instead of the putrid balls of green pus people call garden peas.

Friday, June 3, 2016

^^^ If everybody in the world only watched 1 television show a day, and that show was Baseball Tonight, the world would be a better place. Tonight it was brought to you by the new Ninja Turtle movie. Did you know it's rated PG-13? Seriously? Is Donatello dropping F bombs now? Brief nudity from April?
^^^ For you harder core baseball fans, especially with fantasy teams, here's a cool site for when you're trying to determine at the last minute whether Yasiel Puig is in the Dodgers lineup (or anybody for that matter). It has the team lineups as they are announced.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Here are some notes/quotes/anecdotes to peruse while that thunderstorm passes over (never end a sentence with a preposition):

*** Interesting story on Pine Ridge schools and NFL team nicknames:
When I ask Cecilia Fire Thunder, former president of the Oglala Sioux, about the teachers fired from Wounded Knee, she dismisses the controversy: “I don’t think any of them were Native.” Ms. Fire Thunder is also skeptical of Native teachers educated in universities outside the reservation, saying “they are too white. They think Western.” 
Students on Pine Ridge might be interested in that “Western way of thinking” because it could help them out of poverty, but they have few alternative places to learn. The Red Cloud Indian School, a Catholic institution, sends most of its graduates to college each year and charges less than $100 in tuition. But the tribal leadership has done everything it can to hinder the school’s progress, even imposing a special 2% tax on its teachers’ incomes, according to Ms. Fire Thunder. 
*** I've been wondering lately if these college campus censors and free-speech antagonists are really a thing. Are they made news-worthy because they are so rare and obnoxious? Or are they news-worthy because it's becoming a trend? Are the majority of universities so close-minded now, or are these incidents like the recent one at DePaul just anomalies?

I like to think that a dozen students, and a couple stupid faculty members, are not indicative of the 23,000 students enrolled at DePaul. Just like a bad cop or a sex-offending teacher are only news because good cops, good teachers and normal people don't make headlines. I hope this is the case, because if I were to take this incident and extrapolate it campus-wide, it would appear DePaul's academic environment is becoming as dismal as its once-proud men's basketball program.

*** The secret life of Kim Jong Un’s aunt, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998
They can reveal, for example, that Kim Jong Un was born in 1984 — not 1982 or 1983, as has been widely believed. The reason they’re certain? It was the same year that their first son was born. “He and my son were playmates from birth. I changed both of their diapers,” Ko said with a laugh.
***The Tactical Order of Dressing: An Illustrated Guide (as taught to military and emergency personnel). The best part of this story is the photo accompanying it.

*** Drone swarms are the next big thing in drone warfare. The Navy is testing swarms of drones that fly as one.

*** Quick vid on what to do if you are bitten by Katie Couric.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Garden of Haugen

It's Sunday, dig it!

Junior's baseball season is done so my windshield time can be replaced by blogging time. The plan is to get into a regular routine. I'm going to shoot for some gardening stuff here every Sunday and some booky/doggy/linky stuff during the week. Time will tell.

I generally don't plant tomatoes and peppers until Memorial Day weekend, partly because it doesn't warm up until then. But this year my weekends were filling up fast so I gradually started planting two weeks ago. Most stuff just sits there until the ground gets warm enough - no harm no foul, as long as it doesn't freeze. The tomatoes (40 of them) seem to have taken off well though, while the peppers and eggplants took a pretty good beating from the wind and are going to need some TLC, though Lisa "Lefty Eye" Lopez isn't going to be much help.

A few years ago I started planting my tomatoes sideways. It seems odd at first, but that fall when I pulled up the plants it was obvious the root system was crazy better than the old way. The only thing you have to be careful of is while bending the plant so the last third of it sticks up without snapping it off. There's usually a victim or two in the bunch, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Also, I've always been the type to break off the suckers on the tomatoes, but this site says not to and seems to provide good reasoning, besides being lazy. Gonna give it a try this year as more than anything I'm trying to reduce susceptibility to disease.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The tomatoes have landed

This is a big day in my house or at least in my corner of the house. The tomato seeds arrived!

I’ve turned into a bit of a tomato snob the past few years and pretty much plant only heirloom tomatoes I start from seed. No more grocery store parking lot greenhouse tomatoes for me, even though they usually grow and taste just fine. Heirlooms offer more variety, colors, shapes, sizes and tastes. I also like the challenge of starting them from seed and becoming the most popular guy in the neighborhood, albeit for a very short time, when I give away the extra plants.

I buy mine from Gary Ibsen at TomatoFest, but this year missed out on the half-price sale. That’s really no big deal because I have more money than Trump anyway. I bought 10 packets, as I still have some seeds left over from last year. But I needed to replenish my supply of four varieties that I’ve had good success with: German Giant, Gigantesque, Black Prince and just plain ol’ Black.

Good ol’ Gary threw in a free bonus pack of Nebraska Wedding tomato seeds. Supposedly, this 4-inch orange-colored tomato was used in Nebraska churches as both a garnish and a decoration to “predict a prosperous marriage.” Whatever the heck that means. Crazy Nebraskans.

In choosing my new varieties I look at size (medium to big, no more cherry size for me), variety of color (red, pink, purple, yellow), number of days to harvest and, most importantly, a cool name.

So this year’s newcomers include: The Earl of Edgecombe, Cosmonaut Volkov Red, Josephine Carter, Buckbee’s 50-Day, Carbon and Banana Legs.

I usually start the seeds in my greenhouse about St. Patrick’s Day with the intention of putting them in the ground on Memorial Day weekend, give or take a week.

I’ll keep you informed on our progress, because I know you care.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bored? Then you're probably a boring person

So these dudes came up with a list of boring places in South Dakota. To do so, of course, they had to define "boring." It may or may not fit your idea.

I'm guessing the fine folks at RoadSnacks who compiled this list are young-uns, millennials, who think if your city doesn't have a Justin Bieber concert or nightclub with appearances by Afrojack then it is a boring city.

Here's their criteria for judging "boring."

% of Population Over 35 (higher is more boring) 

% of Married Household (higher is more boring) 

Average Age (higher is more boring) 

% of Households With Kids (higher is more boring) 

% of Households with People Over 65 (higher is more boring) 

Population density (lower is more boring) 

I'm guessing they find outdoor recreation, high school sports, and Christmas concerts boring. They prefer traffic, no kids, no old people and the single hook-up culture. Back in "the day" I might've agreed, but have grown a bit wiser. They probably will too.

That's fine. To each their own. But they've obviously never been to a small town bar packed shoulder to shoulder after a high school football game. Drunks at a rave got nothing on drunks at the Corner Bar. They've never been pheasant hunting. They've never been to a Winner-St. Thomas More baseball game where virtually every game is meaningful and comes down to the last at-bat. They've never golfed. They've never reeled in a walleye. They're not interested in history.

Here is their lame top 10 list. I've spent time in all of these towns, some more than others, and wasn't bored.

1 - Custer (They've obviously never read the sheriff's report in the Custer County Chronicle, fun times indeed. They carry torches and burn a giant wooden beetle every winter for goodness sake. Boring people don't do that.)

2 - Milbank (The birth place of American Legion baseball. What have you ever birthed?)

3 - Redfield (30-foot-tall pheasants that will kick your ass.)

4 - Winner (Jim Palmer would not have played baseball in a boring city.)

5 - Hot Springs (I guess if you find wild horses, war heroes and giant wooly mammoths boring, then ok.)

6 - Lead (Drive the streets of this town in December or January and I guarantee you won't be bored. Neutrinos and dark matter, boring? Sheldon Cooper thinks not.)

7 - Elk Point (okay, I'll give you this one)

8 - Chamberlain (Walleye will jump in your boat and spit in your eye.)

9 - Canton (The Wheel. Case closed.)

10 - Flandreau (No town with an Indian casino is boring.)

So if hunting, baseball, golf, fishing, history, sense of community and listening to the stories of our elders is boring, sign me up. I'll take boring any day. At least wave when you drive through, because we'll even wave back, maybe even use all our fingers.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Weekend link-ohhhh-rama

Been a while. What can I say, I've been busy watching all the movies nominated for Academy Awards. Just kidding, haven't seen a one.

So, actually, I was boycotting the Oscars before boycotting the Oscars was cool. Trend-setter I am.

Some quick links:

** Whassup with this Omaha mayor? Op-ed from OWH.

** Speaking of snow, House Speaker Paul Ryan put up a snowcam from the Speaker's balcony with some sweet bumper music.

** I'm just going to throw this out there without comment: Why can't we find aliens? Because climate change killed them, of course.

** But ... the good news is, forests like CO2 and are doing fine.

** ESPN's uncertain future is already here. And it doesn't look good.
ESPN is hemorrhaging subscribers and money. In a November regulatory filing, the network revealed that it has lost seven million subscribers over the past two years. While every popular TV channel has lost subscribers, the losses for ESPN and ESPN2 are among of the highest in the industry — and the most costly.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

And the book of the year, decade, evah is ...

Before we get too far into the new year, I wanted to mention the best book I read in 2015. It is also one of the best books I've ever read.

Life Expectancy is a 2004 novel by Dean Koontz. I read it last month and savored every page. Koontz is a genius. Most authors would be lucky to have as many twists and turns in an entire novel as DK has in each chapter. It hits practically every emotion.

I was enthralled by it. Thought about it during the day, anxious to get home to read it, but not so fast that I finished it too quickly. Wanted to savor it.

Goodreaders give it a high 4 out of 5, while the Haugometer hit 9 of 10. Here's the Goodreads summary. Makes me want to read it again.
Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers' waiting room and his dying father's bedside. 
It's a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm's fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.
What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twent-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth. 
Rudy is all too ready to discount his father's last words as a dying man's delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson's birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man's predictions take on a chilling significance. 
What terrifying events await Jimmy on these five dark days? 
It will have you on the edge of your seat in suspense, then when that subsides you will fall off your seat laughing at another sequence. This book is utter brilliance.

One of the more thought-provoking quotes from the book was:
“We need to laugh at the irrationality of evil, for in doing so we deny evil's power over us, diminish its influence in the world, and tarnish the allure it has for some people.”   
I think there's a lot of validity to that. Not that they are evil people, but I think of the Bundy dudes who took over a vacant building in Oregon to protest. There aren't even any cops there fighting with them. It's like if you threw a party and nobody came; they threw an insurrection and government was like "okay, have the building. Oh, and by the way, we're cutting off your power."

I think Koontz is saying if we don't get so wrapped up with, enamored with, afraid of and obsessive over evil, it won't have as much power over us. When evil throws a party, do Jell-O shots with it.

Koontz is big on personal responsibility:
“As they have taught me, I believe that without asking, we are given all we need. We must have the wit and wisdom to recognize the strengths and tools at our command, and find the courage to do what must be done.”
And good versus evil:
“The stakes were suddenly so high that we wanted out of the game. When you’re playing poker with the devil, however, no one leaves the table before he does.”