Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Happy birthday to me

 Tom Cruise and I celebrate our birthday on July 3; I'm the taller one. This is a big one - six decades. Turning 60 kind of bugs me. Fifty didn't, but somehow 60 is really crossing the Rubicon into "damn, you're officially old." Then again, I ran into an old friend last week who is in her 80s and she said: "What I wouldn't give to be 60 again!" It's all relative, I guess.

But I am learning there are benefits other than the senior discounts.

I can forget things and be excused because "my memory ain't what it used to be." Sorry I didn't make it to your party/retirement/funeral, I forgot. Though you have to be careful not to take it too far, lest you end up in the local memory care unit.

I can also ignore things people tell me. You wanted me to take out the garbage? "Sorry, you  must not have been speaking into my good ear."

And while this is nothing new for me, at least it's an excuse for telling people exactly what I think and now wifey can say: "Sorry, he's kind of lost his filter as he's gotten older."

It also means I care more about individuals than issues. I'm not going to march in a parade with you, stand outside a business with a placard, or boycott stuff. But if you're a friend of mine and gay, black, Jewish, legal, illegal, or all of the above, I still got your back in the barfight, for what it's worth. 

I'm more cognizant of what change I can affect. I can't bring peace to the Middle East or build a wall at the border or elect the next president, so I'm not going to worry about those things. I'm most concerned about things in a 10-mile radius of my home. Street light out? I'll call the appropriate individual. Dangerous intersection? Same. Creeps hanging out at the park or somebody's dog got loose, I can keep an eye out. But I'm too old to save the world, and aware enough now not to stress out about those things out of my control. You're on your own, Gen Z, this Boomer needs a nap.

I increasingly care less about big things and small people. I'm a list guy and have a list of people who I care what they think of me. It's gotten shorter the older I've gotten. It's in single digits now. Don't like me? Not my problem. My best friend is Ibu Profen.

Good news is my other list has gotten shorter too. That's the one titled: "People I won't pick up if they're stranded along the road in a blizzard." I like to think it's gotten shorter because I care less about whatever they did to get on the list and am more forgiving now, or they really were assholes and they froze to death because nobody else would pick them up either. 

I care more now about choosing a good book, listening to good music and eating food I like. I value time with my family more, walks with the dogs, whether the bird bath is full on hot days, taking care of myself.

I don't work out or eat healthier for vain reasons. I do it so I can hopefully do the stuff mentioned in the previous paragraph for a longer period of time. So I can lift my granddaughter, stay mobile and chase wifey around the bedroom. Sure, there's no guarantee I won't get hit by a bus tomorrow or something in my DNA will zig when it should've zag, but for the things in my control I try to control them. I'm still not perfect, but should be by the time I reach 70. They say if you reach 60 the majority will reach 80.

Would've been nice to know at 20 the things I know now at 60, but such is life. You start out in diapers and end up in diapers. All the time in between is learning time, if you do it right.

So 60 it is - halfway to my goal!

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Five X accounts you might like

 I see people still complaining about Twitter, now X, since Elon took over. I don't get the criticism, before or since his reign. You can pick whom to follow. If you don't want politics, don't follow political accounts. If you don't like what someone says, you don't have to comment and get into a pissy back-and-forth with them. Just delete it.

As such, I've curated a list of accounts I enjoy and like my experience on the site. I follow about 400 accounts, many are friends, a lot are sports related (Twins, Vikings, boxing), a couple local news stations and meteorologists, a few book-related, some humorous ones. I follow one political account, Jonah Goldberg, who I like because the hard right and loony left all seem to despise, which makes me think he's onto something.

I'm always intrigued when someone recommends an account. I give it a try, keep it or dump it after getting a taste. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer the top five accounts I follow (based off which ones I guess I click on the most). In no particular order: 

** Noirchick in Old Hollywood: @Noirchick1

This lady posts pictures and comments of old (often deceased) movie starlets, models, pre-code actresses. There are no Kardashians. Instead, there are beautiful women from the 1930s to 1970s. There are some absolutely beautiful women posing in usually classy photos. I often end up Wikipedia-ing the ones I haven't heard of and it's fun to read their life histories and what made them famous (sometimes briefly) back in their day. It's fun.

** David Burge: @iowahawkblog

This guy is an Iowa native transplanted to Austin, Texas. He's sarcastic and cynical (wonder why I like him?). He does a bit on the weekends where he identifies old cars from photos readers send him. I'm not really into that stuff, but it's sometimes interesting. His non-car stuff is why I follow and he cracks me up.

** Twins Daily: @twinsdaily

These guys have a website they tout. They are fans of the Minnesota Twins, not professional writers. But they are Grade A baseball nerds who delve deep into stats and the players and do a great job of keeping me updated on the Twins' minor league teams and players too.

** Fox 13 Tampa Bay: @FOX13News

I started following this account because that's our stomping grounds when we go south on vacation. It's nice, though hurtful, to follow the weather while I'm stuck in South Dakota in January. Builds the anticipation to get there in March. They also have a plethora of "Florida man" stories that keep me shaking my head.

** Jonah Goldberg: JonahDispatch

I like Jonah's politics and the way he doesn't take crap from the idiots who try to antagonize him. He doesn't lose many battles and has quick, smart retorts. He's also a brilliant writer who can back up his opinions. He's a Jewish George Will, who could only better himself by becoming a baseball fan.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Finished: John Sandford's 'Judgment Prey'

 Editor's note: I will go to my grave believing there should be an "e" in "judgment." And I will go to my grave typing "judgement" every time before spellcheck corrects it for me.

I recently finished the 33rd "Prey" novel by John Sandrod - Judgment Prey. It was good, but not great (it's reviews like this that keep me from writing about books for the New York Times.)

Alex Sand was spending the evening at home playing basketball with his two young sons when all three were shot in cold blood. A wealthy federal judge, there’s no short list of people who could have a vendetta against Sands, but the gruesome murders, especially that of his children, turn their St. Paul community on its head. Sand was on the verge of a major donation to a local housing charity, Heart/Twin Cities, and with the money in limbo, eyes suddenly turn to his grieving widow, Margaret Cooper, to see what she might do with the money. Margaret, distraught over the death of her family, struggles to move forward, and can’t imagine how or why anyone would target her husband.

With public pressure mounting and both the local police force and FBI hitting dead end after dead end, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are called in to do what others could not: find answers. With each potential lead flawed, Davenport and Flowers are determined to chase every theory until they figure out who killed the Sands. But when they find themselves being stonewalled by the most unlikely of forces, the two wonder if perhaps each misdirection could lead them closer to the truth.

Having read all the Prey novels, with the exception of the 34th one on order, I especially enjoy the dialogue and friendship between Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. They complement each other well. This was no exception.

The list of potential murderers was plausible, kept me guessing throughout. The crazy mother of the murder victims was believable, but I felt the ending didn't quite follow the arc of her journey. Seemed a bit out of the blue, and I don't think there's any plot spoiler in saying that. So I was not a big fan of the ending, a bit implausible, but still good. 

It's a credit to to Sandford to keep delivering quality plots this far into the series without jumping the shark or giving into to the temptation of getting political, like Daniel Silva has with his previously outstanding Gabriel Allon series.

Goodreaders gave it a 4.4 of 5, Amazonians a 4.5. I gave it a 7 of 10.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Close your eyes, I'm running naked

 I'm what they call a "naked runner." You've probably seen me in the police blotter. Actually, I'm more of a "naked jogger" these days as my back finally said my competitive running days were over a few years ago.

Being a naked runner means you run without accessories like watches, FitBits and ear buds. I've tried all, so haven't been purely naked forever. I used a watch to time my runs when I was serious, and even tried listening to music for a short phase. And I had a FitBit, largely to monitor my heart and sleep patterns, but didn't get another one when that crapped out on me.

As for the FitBit or smart watch type things, now I generally run the same trails, so I know the distance and about how many steps it entails. Given my counting OCD previously discussed on this fine blog, I bet I can come with a couple hundred when guessing my steps at the end of the day.

With ear buds or in my case, the cheap iPod Shuffle, I didn't like not being able to hear my surroundings. I like to hear vehicles coming up behind me or the rattle of a snake ahead of me or barking dogs coming at me. Kind of a safety thing. And, frankly, I listen to music most of the day so it's nice to be able to hear the sounds of nature. The other thing is I like to be aware of the sounds I'm making. They aren't always pretty and I prefer not to be making those sounds when meeting some Nike-laden jog bunny on the trail. So vanity plays a part too.

For more, here's a study: Why more athletes are giving up on smartwatches.

We believe that the rejection of these devices may be the result of a deterioration in the quality of the experience of a sport when using them. For some participants, putting numbers on an activity actually leads them to experience it more as forced labour than as free, self-determined leisure.

Along these lines, I can't remember ever reading an article from Vanity Fair, but I am a frequent visitor of the realclearbooks.com website and they linked to this: Why Is Running All About Speed? An Ode To Slow Running

It's an enjoyable read.

In today’s racing culture, it’s radical to believe that a runner is worthy regardless of their time. Slower paces are often underserved and undervalued in the running community—especially when those mile-times creep into the 18 to 20-minute range.

As the writer says: "In relinquishing the need to be fast, I am free."

Yep, almost like being naked.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Finished two

 I typically like Lawrence Sanders books. "The Sixth Commandment" wasn't typical for him. Frankly, that title could apply to any murder mystery, so I was expecting something superb to really knock that "Thou shalt not kill" out of the park. It was more like a slow roller to the second baseman. (It's baseball season, ya know.)

The Bingham Foundation is one of the most important scientific charities in the country, giving grants that can make or break a researcher’s career. When they get a proposal that seems too good to be true, they send hardened investigator Samuel Todd to confirm that the science holds up. A cynical detective with a sixth sense for deception and a bad habit of committing adultery, Todd has never met a liar he couldn’t crack. But he’s never met anyone like T. G. Thorndecker.

Thorndecker won the Nobel Prize in his thirties, and his work continues to push the outer limits of modern technology. After years of secret research, he claims to have made a breakthrough in the war against aging. When he requests a million-dollar grant from the Bingham Foundation, Todd goes to find out if he’s on the level. As he digs into the demise of Thorndecker’s first wife and late-night happenings in the lab, Todd comes face to face with a medical mystery that blurs the line between life and death.

Written in 1978, it did have some clever verbage and deep thoughts I enjoyed:

"The effete youth was first to react to my entrance. He jerked to his feet and glared at me, not knowing whether to shit, go blind, or wind his watch."

On an overly made up, poorly-aged woman: "She looked like she had been picked up by the heels and dipped in age."

Regarding a windy pastor's sermon: "He gave a fifteen-minute catalogue of human sins of the flesh, listened to attentively by the congregation who, I figured, wanted to find out if they had missed any."

"Human character runs the gamut from slug to saint."

"I waved a hand and kept going. Women like that scare me. I have visions of them cracking my bones and sucking the marrow."

"Few of us act from the motive we profess. The worm is always there, deep and squirming. A man might say he wishes to work with and counsel young boys, to give them the benefit of his knowledge and experience, to keep them from delinquency, to help them through the agonies of adolescence. That may all be true. It may also be true that he simply loves young boys."

Amazonians gave it a 4.1 of 5, much more generous than my 6 of 10.

** The other I finished was Lisa Scottoline's "Dirty Blonde." It was unique and I liked it for the most part, but the ending ruined it for me. SPOILER ALERT: I hate when the "who-done-it" turns out to be some minor character barely mentioned forty chapters earlier. A lot of the loose ends were tied up in too convenient of a manner, intended to be big surprises but ended up just being corny, like: Look what I did there!

Lawyer Cate Fante, who is attractive, sexy, and tough-minded, has just been appointed to the federal bench in Philadelphia. With her new status in the elite meritocracy that is the federal judiciary, she often feels like an imposter because of her working-class background. For instance, at a fancy dinner, she’s more likely to joke with the waiters than her colleagues. Divorced, Cate also has a secret sex life. She’s attracted to bad boys and working-class men, like the ones she grew up with in the former coal-mining town of Centralia in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Cate is presiding over a high-profile multi-million dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit in which a former Philly ADA is suing the producer of a highly successful TV series for stealing his ideas. All true, but the verbal contract isn’t enforceable. As difficult as it is, this means that Cate has to make a ruling that ends the lawsuit in the sleazy TV guy’s favor. Cate learns that being a judge doesn’t always mean that she can do justice.

Upset over the ruling she had to make, Cate heads for a bar and there meets a good-looking rough-hewn leather-jacketed hunk and goes off with him to a nearby motel. Cate quickly realizes she’s made a mistake, apologizes and turns to leave, but the guy becomes aggressive and Cate barely manages to get out of the room. At home, she turns on the local news to learn that the TV producer from her court case has been shot to death outside a local restaurant. Not only that, but she soon also finds out that a man has been found dead after a fall from a motel’s exterior staircase. A stricken Cate recognizes instantly the pictures of the leather-jacketed man who’d attacked her at the hotel.

Things go from bad to worse in a hurry, and amazingly Cate finds her private life splashed all over the papers and her job in jeopardy. Her only hope is to clear her name and find a murderer.

Amazonians gave it a 4.3 of 5. Me a 6+ of 10.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Notes

 Remember when I said I'd be blogging more? Ha. Suckers.

I think of things to write about, but when I sit down to blog, I forget. Like going into a room and forgetting why I went in there. Getting old really sucks, but it beats the alternative.

A couple thoughts though that I'll expand on later:

Speaking of getting old, I'm turning 60 years old in July. I didn't see that coming.

I don't have an exact date but I do have a tattoo on my shoulder that reminds me that this is about the 27th anniversary of me being sober. Mostly explains how I survived this long.

The father of a young friend/coworker died recently. He was 67. Mine was 62 when he died. Both suddenly. I'm really bad at telling people stuff at the time of mourning, because for me it seemed intrusive to have people telling me their tale of woe during my time of woe. But I would say to anyone who loses a dad: It does get better, but it's never the same.

My wife, an avid non-reader, has joined a book club. Good for her.

Monday, April 1, 2024

The sexiest woman in country music history is ...

 Driving home from a meeting in Kadoka, SD, the other night, a song came on the Willie's Roadhouse channel of Sirius/XM that got me pondering the question of who is the sexiest woman in country music history.

It's deep thoughts like that which separate the ordinary man from the genius. It puts me in the ordinary category, obviously. I doubt Elon ever ponders such things.

I choose the word "sexiest" on purpose. Sexy is different from beautiful, in my book. Beautiful is more one dimensional. You don't have to be a Sports Illustrated model to be sexy. You don't have to be bean-pole thin or buxom or have the physical attributes many men would assign to women. I see sexy as multi-dimensional.

To me it includes eyes, voice, attitude, words, talent, intelligence and other intangibles you can't measure like 36-26-36. To me identifying a woman as sexy is not sexist. It's not judging physical attributes. It's the entire package.

Quit babbling, Haugen, we know what sexy means. Who is your sexiest woman in country music history?

He name is K.T. Oslin. Her most famous songs are "Eighties Ladies" and "Do Ya?" but the one that triggered me that night was "Hey, Bobby," a song of hers I'd never heard. It's great.

Oslin died during COVID after a few years in assisted living due to Parkinson's. She has an interesting Wiki page if you want to check it out.

The two things that most draw her to me are her voice and her eyes.

She has the smoky voice I like, as if she puffed a packed of Camels, did a couple shots of tequila and is fronting a band in a dive bar in the Black Hills. Janice Joplin had it, Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson, Bonnie Rait and Melissa Ethridge.

Then there's the eyes, not crazy eyes like a serial killer, but dark, Jennifer Love-Hewitt eyes, that look into the camera or audience like they know you are suspicious, maybe dangerous, but willing to roll with you anyway because it might be fun.

Her lyrics are like that too. She has attitude. Her Eighties Ladies song was considered a female empowerment anthem back in the day. Many of her other songs have an edge to them. 

She seems like a person I would've like to have known.

Not the prettiest woman, not the best singer, but in my book, the sexiest.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Finished: 'The Bad Weather Friend' by Koontz

Like the much discussed absence of Princess Kate from public view, social media has been abuzz (not) with speculation of my where-abouts.

To quote the great Johnny Cash, "I've been everywhere man." But I haven't been on this blog. It took a novel by Dean Koontz, among other things, to bring me out of my winter doldrums, light the fuse and get the uptown funk back for hopefully another run of bloggin'.

"The Bad Weather Friend" was the book. I'd set it down in the evening after a few chapters and just smile. It made me happy. It was just that kind of book. And really I don't know how, except through the wonderful writing of Koontz, because it features monsters, evil villians, beating hearts removed from chests and world conquest.

Benny Catspaw’s perpetually sunny disposition is tested when he loses his job, his reputation, his fiancée, and his favorite chair. He’s not paranoid. Someone is out to get him. He just doesn’t know who or why. Then Benny receives an inheritance from an uncle he’s never heard of: a giant crate and a video message. All will be well in time.

How strange—though it’s a blessing, his uncle promises. Stranger yet is what’s inside the crate. He’s a seven-foot-tall self-described “bad weather friend” named Spike whose mission is to help people who are just too good for this world. Spike will take care of it. He’ll find Benny’s enemies. He’ll deal with them. This might be satisfying if Spike wasn’t such a menacing presence with terrifying techniques of intimidation.

In the company of Spike and a fascinated young waitress-cum-PI-in-training named Harper, Benny plunges into a perilous high-speed adventure, the likes of which never would have crossed the mind of a decent guy like him.

It seemed like a mash-up of Koontz's "Odd Thomas" and "Frankenstein" novels. There's a lot of talk online about it being the start of such a series, but I have my doubts if that's feasible. If any one could it, though, it'd be The Dean.

He had some great quotable writing, but I didn't have a pen handy to mark them until I was over halfway through the book. But here's one fave:

"How you live your life will earn the face you have in years to come; if you think you're superior to others, if you can't live and let live, if your arrogance inspires perpetual anger and resentment because others do not agree with you, then you'll age into a face that reveals the corruption of your soul."

Gonna be a lot of ugly people out there. 

Friday, March 8, 2024

"Book ban" trope has officially become a joke

 Anti-Censorship Bookshop Took 3 Days to Start Censoring Books

I have to admit that while I haven't much of an opinion about RuPaul one way or another--he seemed benign enough given what little I know--I did like the idea of an "all-ideas" bookstore. While I don't think, by a long shot, that every book belongs in K-12 schools, I also don't think that banning books from sale is compatible with democracy. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

I interupt my hiatus with this doozy

 I’d argue that we have become so sad, lonely, angry and mean as a society in part because so many people have not been taught or don’t bother practicing to enter sympathetically into the minds of their fellow human beings. We’re overpoliticized while growing increasingly undermoralized, underspiritualized, undercultured.

Read David Brooks' column here.

We know from studies by the psychologists Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley that reading literature is associated with heightened empathy skills. Deep reading, immersing yourself in novels with complex characters, engaging with stories that explore the complexity of this character’s motivations or that character’s wounds, is a training ground for understanding human variety. It empowers us to see the real people in our lives more accurately and more generously, to better understand their intentions, fears and needs, the hidden kingdom of their unconscious drives. The resulting knowledge is not factual knowledge but emotional knowledge.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Finished: 'The Devil Takes You Home' by Gabino Iglesias

 I finished reading my 34th novel of 2023 a couple hours before midnight. It was almost as bad as the Vikings' performance against the Packers. "The Devil Takes You Home" by Gabino Iglesias is one of those books I requested for Christmas. I'd seen it on some "Best Of" list I'd run across and it looked good.

This genre-defying, Shirley Jackson and Bram Stoker award-winning thriller follows a father desperate to salvage what's left of his family—even if it means a descent into violence.

Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

It might be good for some readers, but not me. For starters, some of the book, not a lot but enough to make it difficult, was written in Spanish. I know just enough Spanish to order in a Mexican restaurant and to say "Buenos dias" and "Gracias" to the guys who shingled my roof, but not much more. 

It was also terribly violent. I like some violence in my books, heck I'm a serial killer book aficionado (some more Spanish I know). But this was too detailed for my taste. Instead of just shooting or stabbing a man, Iglesias spent a chapter on cartel members cutting off a man's toe. Just cut it off and move on.

It also incorporated a lot of mysticism, dreamy stuff. I didn't care for that either.

It kept me interested enough to finish, but I did speed read the final half of the book. My speed reading method I picked up somewhere is to read the first and last sentences of long paragraphs. If there's enough to interest me I read the entire paragraph, but usually not. It's enough to get the gist of things and not lose sight of the plot.

So I made it through. Will give it a 5 of 10 on the Haugenometer. It has a 4 of 5 on Amazon and 3.7 of 5 by Goodreaders, so they weren't exactly knocked out by it either.