Sunday, November 20, 2005

Happy Plus One

Yesterday's birthday was quite nice. Linda took me to the local Indian casino and gave me $40 to play with. I played a penny slot machine, usually risking 20 cents at a time. After a couple of hours I was down to $11 and change. She'd lost the $20 she brought for herself and all but 36 cents of the fiver I advanced.
The casino has a buffet, so I piled a plate high and stuffed my face. After eating we realized it was getting late, so I figuered I'd just play a buck per pull and get it over with. I went back to one of the penny machines I favored and within five minutes had built my stake up to over $57. I took a couple more plays to make sure the streak was over, and quit at $54.99.
Back at the house we had some cake and ice cream and I opened my presents. A strap for my guitar, a DVD about Guitar Heroes, a season of The Twilight Zone of DVD, lottery tickets, cash, and some trifles. One set of lottery tickets were a bust, alas, but there are some for a drawing on the 22nd and I'm hoping for the best--which would include instant retirement. Well, I can dream.

Today was spent finishing my zine for Dapa-Em. I also watched the Seahawks scape by the lowly 49ers. Not a good showing, but any win is better than no win.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Yep, today marks mumbledy-mumble years since I made my Earthly debut at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital. Frankly, aging stinks, but, as the pundits say, it beats the alternative. Linda is taking me to the local Indian casino where I'll wile away some time playing penny slots and wishing I was rich and retired.

Last night I took Linda and the girls to see Harry Potter, after we fortified ourselves on Mongolian grill. We all enjoyed the movie, and Kristine, my Potter maniac, can't wait to see it again. She'll have to wait a week anyway. I missing seeing the movie stairways, and I wish Hermione had a larger role, but I understand that it was impossible to cram everything into a 2 1/2 hour movie. The special effects are so good I never notice them. It seems like all that stuff is really there--the monsters, the magic, the sailing ship rising from the sea.

Reading has been eclectic, but I can recommend TRACE EVIDENCE, by Elizabeth Becca. The author is a trained forensic scientist and her knowledge of forensic procedures and evidence gathering adds a lot to this story of a nut killing young women with tenuous ties to him.

Marvin Albert's APACHE RISING is an action-packed paperback about a scout and troop of cavalry trying to thwart an uprising by an Apache leader. A number of compelling subplots add suspence to the story and Albert's writing is so precise you can feel the burning sun and taste the gritty, omnipresent sand.

More later...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mama Mia, Hold the Kia!

I just got a call from the mechanic and the problem is a heater hose, not the head gasket. Maybe I'll keep the old bomb after all. At least until it's paid off, which is only 4 or 5 months away.

I confess I watch a lot of courtroom TV shows, and one thing I've noticed is that the bailiff is always in contrast to the judge. Note:

Judge Judy--White female judge / black mail bailiff
People's Court--Hispanic female judge / black male bailiff
Judge Joe Brown--Black male judge / white female bailiff
Divorce Court--Black female judge / white male bailiff
Judge Alex--White male judge / black male bailiff
Texas Justice--White male judge / black male bailiff
Judge Mathis--Black male judge / white male bailiff

I don't know what, if any, significance there is in all this, but it does indicate that someone thinks there ought to be ethnic/gender diversity between the judge and the bailiff (sometimes called the court officer).

I was at a thrift store earlier and checked out the books. I found a western from Belmont Tower (HOT LEAD, by Dwight Bruckner, 1977). I like finding books from the second-string publishers, and I wish there were more houses like BT around these days. We do have some small imprints, but most of them are of better quality than BT and its ilk.

For the first time in ages I hit four numbers on the lottery. I won $30, which I reinvested in tickets. I won $9.00 on them. I added a buck of my own and got $10 worth of tickets, which I parlayed into zero dollars. This has made me wonder if the lottery evolved out of Man's desire to get something for nothing or if there is an Intelligent Design promulgated by The Lottery Gods. Angry, vengeful, Lottery Gods, at that. I'm deep in matters like this.

Never Fails

I told the family last week that as soon as I got my advance from Tekno Books something would happen to eat it up--either my car or computer. Saturday I got the check, Sunday the car started having problems. I'm pretty sure the expensive head gasket job I had done 5-6 months ago gave out. Later today I'll take it to the shop--assuming it'll go that far--and have it repaired again. Then I'm going to trade it in on something else. I'm ashamed to say I've been thinking of a new Kia. Yeah, I know they're chintzy little jokes, but they're cheap and the warranty is pretty good. And I'm sick of used cars. Filling the tank on my pimpmobile is costing about $45 a shot. I need something with better mileage.
As you may recall, when I got my lawsuit settlement I had to immediately spent about half of it fixing that lemon. It is written on the stars, I guess, that Cap'n Bob is not allowed to have money. Thanks a heap, stars.

I want to wish Ed Gorman the best of luck with his cancer treatments. I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one has done more for mystery writers and the mystery community at large than Ed. Come back, Ed. We need you.

Sandra Scoppettone has recanted her statement that paperback books are on the way out. Her industry source didn't know what he or she was talking about, apparently. That's good news, or non-news as the case may be. And that source ought to get a job in the crumbling Bush administration.

How about those White Sox?
How about those Seahawks?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fall Preview

The leaves are clogging my gutters, it's raining more often, and I'm colder at night. It must be Fall.

As always in this irregular blog, I have to backtrack. Let us cast our memories to late August. I flew to Milwaukee to visit old pal Beth Fedyn for a few days before driving down to Chicago with her for Bouchercon, The World Mystery Convention. The visit was generally pleasant, marred only by one of her dogs trying to rend my flesh whenever my back was turned. I solved that by not turning my back, but I could have done without the cur altogether.
When I wasn't being a chew toy for Cujo I had a nice time seeing the local sights, breaking my diet shamelessly, and invading used book stores. I loaded up on old western paperbacks that I would mail home later.

Then it was on to Chicago and B'con. I must admit I loved the city, at least the area where the convention was held, at The Sheraton Hotel near Lake Michigan. The con was a lot of fun, too. I saw old friends, made a couple of new ones, and reacquainted myself with the tasty libation known as the whiskey sour. Not that I've become a sot, but I'm not above having a cocktail or two if I go out to dinner. I'm lucky in that drinking heavily has never appealed to me.
Among the fun things I did at the con was have a look at the Navy Pier complex, take an evening excursion on a sightseeing boat along the waterfront, visit a park whose name I can never remember (the one with the chrome bean and the spitting woman), hike around the streets with various friends, touch a piece of the Alamo imbedded in the Dearborn Building, watch Bill Crider win the Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement as a mystery fan, take in the view from the 80th floor of the Aon Building, eat a decent banquet meal at the same building, see Beth Fedyn get her B'con Fan Guest of Honor Award at the banquet, buying more books than I should, and meeting Polly the P.I and Elizabeth Becka.

Then it was back to Wisconsin to relax for a couple of days before flying home. My return flight was supposed to be Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Bosie to Sea-Tac, but bad weather in Minneapolis grounded our connecting flight. We were rerouted to Denver and thence to Sea-Tac, saving us an extra takeoff and landing. We also got in ahead of schedule. However, my luggage never got transferred so I had to go home without it. The good news is that it was delievered to my door the next morning, saving me from having to schlepp it around. It would be another week before the two boxes of books I mailed from Oconomowoc appeared, but by then I was caught up with deadlines for Dapa-Em, Slan-Apa, and OWLHOOT. I didn't have time to even open the boxes until another week had passed, and have since read only one of the books I picked up on the road.
That book is HEARTSTONE, by D.C. Brod, and I enjoyed it a lot. It's a modern fantasy/quest story with underpinnings of the Arthurian legend. If you've read Debbie's Quint McCauley books you know she's a good writer, but these are very different and show a completely different side of her talent. I also had an old western I read at work during slack time and finished it. Otherwise, my reading for September has been nil.

In a couple of weeks my Stephanie turns 16. I can't believe it. I remember the minute she was born as clearly as though it happened yesterday.
My other girl, Kristine, is going to try out for the school play this week. They're doing The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder. Kristine will be 15 in December. When I think of what a useless do-nothing I was at those ages I cringe. I really am impressed by the ambition and courage of both these kids. They sure didn't inherit that from me.

Do you remember the scene in THE GOOD EARTH when the couple with the new baby go a temple to thank the gods for their child? They keep the kid under wraps and protest that it's a sickly, ugly child and will be of no use to their family farm. They do this, we are told, lest the gods covet the child (who was in fact quite healthy and attractive) and take it from them. I know how they feel. I just had a bit of good news that I fear trumpeting lest the gods snatch it from my grasp.
But I'll risk it. Five Star has agreed to buy my novel LOVE, DEATH, AND THE TOYMAN. Imagine that. Me, a novelist. I've written articles for professional publication before, and tons of fannish works, but this would be the first time I'll have a novel published. Honestly, it doesn't seem real. It's like the head cheerleader is lusting after me--I know there's a second shoe waiting to drop. But, unless it does, I'm going to ride out this high for a while.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Another Fine Mess

Saturday was one for the books. I'm in the upstairs convenience when I hear Linda yelling that the downstairs convenience is overflowing. Like I'm supposed to come running. I finish up as fast as I can and discover that, sure enough, there's a small flood in the downstairs bathroom. This happened once before and I knew the cause right away: tree roots got into the sewer line and caused a jam. The fun part is watching feces and murky water filling the tub. But, veteran of the wars that I am, I called Roto-Rooter and dug the dirt off the sewer line access so he wouldn't do it at his ungodly rate (approximately $155 for 30 minutes, $40 for every 15 minutes thereafter). Here was there and gone in an hour ($301.11, including the root killer I bought from him) and we're safe for now.

I am learning to hate trees. Oh, I know they're lovely, provide shade and oxygen and homes for dear little woodland critters, but that's only the part above ground. Beneath the earth, like Commie infiltrators in the fifties, they spread their satanic roots everywhere, clogging innocent sewer lines, choking garden plots, and buckling staid old driveways. I've also had their branches all over the roof after a storm, their leaves in my house's gutters, and more leaves in the yard. I expect one of these ruthless monsters to fall on the house one day. If I ever get another house my first requirement is that there is no tree within 100 feet, and those that are on my property never grow more than 15 feet tall.
Maybe those bonsai people have something there.

In six days I'll be on the road for the Bouchercon in Chicago, via Wisconsin. That is, if Northwest Airlines is serious about their scab mechanics keeping 'em flying. Expedia, from where I got my tickets ("from which?" "From whom" doesn't sound right when discussing a company) has sent me a couple of e-mails assuring me that there will be no glitches. But I always expect the worst and with the way my life has gone that still makes me an optimist.

I took Kristine to Wal-Mart yesterday so she could stock up on school supplies. In their dollar bin I found a DVD of MAN AGAINST CRIME, with Ralph Bellamy. The notes on the back say this show was unique in that it was broadcast live. Also on the DVD front, I finished the latest CISCO KID disk I got from Netflix. The stories were generally better than some of the earlier ones, but there are still some time glitches that even the kiddies must have noticed. What's also interesting--at least to me--is that Cisco had three different horses, often in the same show. I call them the 90% black-and-white paint, the 50% black-and-white paint, and the regular paint. It wasn't uncommon to see him climb aboard the 90%, ride across the landscape on the 50%, and rein up with the 90% again. The regular paint (think of the markings on Little Joe Cartwright's horse) was only used in the occasional chase scene. I can't tell if Pancho's horse had stand-ins or not. It's a basic palamino with a blaze face.

As I type this some moron in the area is blasting a stereo. I'm going to stop now so I can counter-program with my electric guitar. "Mr. Checkov, amp on stun."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

HELP ME. Help me. help meeee

Remember the ending of The Incredible Shrinking Man? I know just how the guy feels. A few days ago my kids measured my height and I'm a full inch shorter than I used to be. I've been afraid this has been happening for years. I used to buy pants with a 32" leg; now they're 30". Getting old sucks.

On the plus side, I weighed in at 190 yesterday morning. I'd like to hit 180 before B'con, but that's highly unlikely. When I was at my piggiest I was 223, so I feel pretty good about losing the extra grease. Another Atkins success story.

I took the girls to the movies on each of the past two weekends. First we saw The Bad News Bears, or what Kristine called the most unneccessary remake of the year. I agree. It had some funny moments, but most of it consisted of 12-year-old kids using bad language.
Last weekend Kristine and I saw Skeleton Key, with Kate "Spoiled Hollywood Brat" Hudson. Kate's cleavage co-starred. It was an attempt to be an atmospheric thriller, and it wasn't bad, and the ending was a change of pace, but there were times when, had it not been for the cleavage, my mind would have strayed.
Most amazingly, no one talked during the latter film. I could even hear the woman in the row behind us chewing her popcorn. Or maybe she had a bale of hay. They sound alike while being chewed.

Usually my job is boring routine, but two Mondays ago there was something interesting. There had been an air show/open house over the weekend and some of the planes RONed (remained overnight). So as I was driving around the flightline in the morning I saw 2 AWACS, a B-2, The Air Force Thunderbirds stunt team's jets, a Navy AE-6 Prowler (one of the loudest jets extant) and several fighters. The previous Friday, as I was leaving work, I watched a couple of biplanes with white smoke pouring out from under their wings practicing loops. They made a heart as I drove off.
Naturally, I didn't attend the show. Bad enough I have to go on base five days a week, I don't want to go on my day off, especially when I have to slog through miles of backed up traffic and a crowd of 150,000. (The recruiters also signed up 100 unsuspecting youths.)

I also took the girls school shopping last Sunday. Yikes! How can a flimsy little T-shirt cost $20?

On my last post I mentioned Bill Crider's and Ed Gorman's blogs, saying they were the best. I should have added there are a number of others I like equally: James Reasoner's, Polly the P.I.'s, Mark Evanier's, Frank Denton's, Tod and Lee Goldberg's separate blogs, and no doubt a few others I'm forgetting.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Monthly Meanderings

It occurs to me I've been posting to this blog about every four weeks. It must be the influence of doing a monthly publication for almost 20 years that sets my inner clock to that schedule. If you want a really good blog try Bill Crider's or Ed Gorman's. None better in my book.

Two weeks ago Tacoma had its annual library sale. I descended upon Wilson High, where they hold it, with expectations high. I wasn't disappointed. I was mainly looking for westerns and found several series books, many obviously donated for the sale because they weren't covered with library stickers. I bought 13 Longarms, 11 Lone Stars, 4 Edges, 5 Floating Outfit books, 2 Earl Murray titles, and one each by Max Brand, Jake Logan, Donald Clayton Porter, Ramsay Thorne, Hank Edwards, A.B. Guthrie, Peter Brandvold, Ernest Haycox, T.G. Horne, Lee Floren, and Chap O'Keefe, in paperback. I also got hardbacks of a short story collection by H.A. DeRosso, and "Happy Trails: Our Life Story," by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. On the mystery side I found a hardcover of Jame's Crumley's "Final Country." Total: $24.50, the cost of one new book.

Speaking of Wilson High, it's the school Linda graduated from 40 years ago, along with her classmate Ted Bundy. Kristine will start there this fall. When I was in the 10th grade I attended a high school that my parents graduated from many years before. Alas, I went there for just half the year, then we moved back to the district of another school, which I didn't like at all.
We're signed up to attend Linda's 40th reunion, and as you can imagine I think of it as something to be endured. I've been to parties where everyone but me worked together and I desperately wanted to blow my brains out before the canapes were finished.

Last weekend I went to Portland and bought 17 Bradford Scott westerns plus 2 by Jackson Cole, 2 more in the Edge series, one each Trailsman, Diamondback, and a Brian Garfield. Most of those were 50 cents each. At Powell's I snagged one each by Jason Manning, and Ace Double featuring Brian Wynne (Garfield), and a Robert E. Howard story collection called "The End of the Trail" (Bison Books).
Obviously I have enough westerns to keep me busy for a while--say, 10 years.

While I was in Portland, where I always bunk at the home of Dave and Irene Lewis, Dave and I hooked up with guitar master Brian Trainer for a photo shoot. We three have formed a shadow band called The Moops and I wanted to make some album/CD covers for us. Music to follow, maybe. Turns out Brian's real band has a studio space in an industrial neighborhood and all the mikes, drums, amps, and wires made for a nice backdrop.

Been having a lot of trouble with my e-mail the past five days. I think it happened because I deleted a spyware sample program. MSN's solution is to take away my MSN firewall protection and let Norton handle things, but it still corrupts every day. I'm thinking of finding another server and starting from scratch.

I spent a goodly portion of this day boxing up some of my figures/toy soldiers to make shelf space for the books stacked all over my office. I've already boxed modern soldiers, pirates, Foreign Legion, Civil War, Napoleonics, American Revolution, and miscellaneous others. Today it was Vikings, knights, ancients, and Africans. I'm leaving up my Indians, cavalry, and cowboys for now because I present pictures of them in each issue of my western apazine, Garryowen.

Yesterday I took Linda to one of those Japanese restaurants where they cook everything in front of you, pinging and dinging their spatulas as they go. It was fun and the food was good, but sitting by a wall of flame when it's 90 degrees outside and the building isn't air conditioned really tested my deodorant. After we ate we hit Half Price Books and I added about six more western titles to the mix. Because I find myself enjoying the simplicity of western series books I've sent for Pat Hawk's tome on the subject.

No movies other than what's been on TV. One fo those was the first Batman, with Michael Keaton, Kim Bassinger, and Jack Nicholson. My reaction was it was a lot of nice scenes that didn't add up to a good movie. The best part, other than seeing Kim, was that there was no Robin. Even when I was a kid I hated kid sidekicks. I never believed they were capable of pulling their weight and at best they seemed like hyperactive, pushy pests.

The assinine antics of Tom "Jackass" Cruise has led to some publicity for the Scientology Organized Crime Organization, mostly negative I'm glad to say. Our local paper had an article that I thought was extremely mild so I wrote a letter to the editor spelling out in no uncertain terms what a money-mad ripoff cult they are. The letter was printed, and a woman called to thank me for telling the truth. Unfortunately, the first time she called my daughter, thinking it was a solicitor, said I wasn't home, and the next time I either wasn't home or had the phone tied up with the Internet, so she left a message on my voice mail. Still, it was good to know that someone appreciated my comments. My brother-in-law also congratulated me, but it's not the same as when a stranger does.
BTW, have you noticed that the Cruise brouhaha died almost to the day when his lame ass movie debuted? I can only hope Katie sees the light before she's dragged into the morass of that insane cult.

I'm still looking for a retirement paradise. Costa Rica may work, if I can stand the heat. Any suggestions?

Okay, time to shelve some books.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hello, I Must Be Going

Not going forever, although my infrequent postings must have convinced some people I've given up the ghost. No, the title refers to the fact that in two days I'll be off to the wilds of the Washington woods for a gathering of old farts at the rustic (read: no running water) cabin of Frank Denton. We'll be there for five days or so. It's a very nice place to be if you want to escape TV, phones, radio, newspapers, and the outside world in general. And I do.
We do have a TV that can play DVDs and videos, however, and we usally have a small film festival each evening, often followed by some bitching about so-and-so's choice of movies.
I usually gain five to eight pounds at Tankon since activity is at a minimum and food is in abundance. But since I'm doing Atkins I'll face the challenge of eating only approved foods. To that end I'm fixing up an large batch of bacon and eggs, lots of steaks, chicken, turkey, cheese, and pork chops. Also sauteed onions and mushrooms.
I'm still bringing boxes of Ding-Dongs, Susie Q's, Twinkies, etc, but I'm letting the other guys eat them. Okay, I'll have one a day, but that's it. I hope.

I'm finding much to enjoy in series western novels, many written in the '70s and '80s but some new. The Trailsman, Ruff Justice, The Gunsmith, Longarm, and numerous others have provided me with satisfying entertianment that echoes the cowboy shows I loved when I was a lad. Except, of course, those old shows didn't have the obligatory sex scenes most of these books demand.

I've never tried a link before but I'll give it a shot. If this one works, you'll get another look at why that jackass Tom Cruise is defending the Scientology Organized Crime Family. And please, don't see his movie. Don't help him spread this cultural disease that tries to pass itself off as a religion. C:/word/scientology document.doc If this doesn't work, I'll try again. Or contact me directly an I'll e-mail it to you.

We just finished a rodeo out at the base. It made for busy times for a lot of people, but not many of us civilians had to bother with the competition. My busiest times were before the competition started and after it was over. One of the competitors was a Saudi aircraft, and the crew was quite perturbed when a female airman drove a service vehicle out to their plane. They're not too crazy about non-Muslim males, either.

Linda and Kristine were at Disneyland pasrt of last week. A good time was had by all. Linda brought back a DVD that contains old Mickey Mouse Club shows and various special features. One of these features is a gathering of about seven original Mouseketeers. Little Karen is in a wheelchair and can no longer walk, but I don't know why. Annette was too ill to attend. But the others looked fine when you consider they're all around 60. There was also an excellent look at the late Jimmie Dodd, who seems to have been the genuine article--a really nice guy who wanted to make people happy.

Well, time to sautee a bag of onions and three boxes of mushrooms.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Three Day Weak End

After needlessly buying and installing a new alternator, battery, and battery post for my heap I found out the problem was a cable connection. I don't know whether to feel elation because my ride is back in service or anguish over the dough I wasted. Taking the philosophical high road, I dismiss the loss of money by telling myself it's only money and I would have pissed it away on food, clothes, bills, and other foolish items. And to reinforce that cavalier attitude I took Linda to the local Indian casino last night. She wanted to go into the small, isolated, and profitless non-smokers room, so we did. I didn't see any slot machines I liked after a couple of tests, so I plopped down beside her and stuck my $75 credit slip in the slot. After a few plays I noticed my credits were pretty low and she was busted (having only $20--of mine--as a stake). That's when I noticed the nickel machines we'd been playing were actually $5.00 slots.
No high roller, me. I said the heck with this and headed for the smoky main room. There's a machine that was good to me the last time I played and I found one that was open so I sat down and put in my by-now $55 credit slip. After a bit I was up to $80--my original buy in--and decided to stop. Linda, meanwhile, dropped another of my double sawbucks.
Since we hadn't been there long I thought we should get a couple of $5.00 slips and play the penny machines. I settled on a 2 cent slot and milked it for a time. Linda actually parlayed her fiver (mine, actually) into $15.00.
Some day I'd like to have a fat roll to play with and the attitude that if I lose it all I really don't care.

Speaking of Linda, she just went to the movies and saw that lame comedy with Hanoi Jane. I am not pleased.

I've done some chores this weekend. I wired the trailer I assembled, no thanks to the instructions. I cleared out some junk in my office and the staircase leading up to it. Cleaned the rat's cage. I mowed the front yard and ripped up a bunch of weeds on the strip between the street and sidewalk.
That stip has been the biggest pain in the ass since we moved in. When I planted grass it didn't grow. When I put down plastic and covered it with beauty bark the grass grew. Linda, my commie pinko wife, put in some bushes and weeds sprouted between them like, well, weeds. Very hearty, fast-growing weeds.
I watched the second batch of Deadwood shows on DVD. Some folks were offended by the cussing, and the scripts do it up royal, but I work with young military people and they talk like that all the time. I hardly notice it anymore. I like the way the series tries to show the Old West the way it was--dirty, deadly, corrupt, lawless, and unmerciful. Sort of like L.A. today.

My reading is still minimal right now. I have a western on my bed that I'm slowing working my way through and Pronzini's short story collection at work that I look at during slack times.
There haven't been that many slack times lately, however. One of our jobs is to load and secure Stryker armored fighting vehicles into the C-17 jets at McChord AFB. I suppose in the past six months I've been involved with deploying a couple of dozen of these Strykers, and there have been as many done by other shifts. It makes me wonder what happened to the ones that were there initially, and also what happened to the guys who rode in them. I know that the desert is murder on engines, and certainly some just wore out, but others were blown up and a couple rolled into canals by accident. Fort Lewis, the Army base we're supposed to merge with, has at least one memorial a week for service members who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of them in Strykers. So each time I help send one off I wish the best for those who will be assigned to it on the other side.
Besides, it takes eight 25,000 lb. tiedown chains to secure one of those monsters (weight: about 43,000 pounds) to the deck of a C-17. I hate doing tiedowns. Getting too old for all that squatting.

Happy Memorial Day to all those who served.

Cap'n Bob, veteran

Monday, May 23, 2005

Is It Over At Last?

As moaned about in my previous blog, a lot of annoying little setbacks have been happening since the middle of April (the beginning if you count an old back injury that flared up). The ongoing car hassles may have stopped since I put in a new battery, alternator, and battery post.

Yesterday I took my girls to see KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It was rated R, and I wouldn't have taken them to an R movie normally, but the rating was based on some splattered blood during the battle scenes and that's mild compared to the junk they see on TV all the time.
I suppose I liked the movie but not without reservations. My usual complaint about the MTV influence in the action scenes continues here. Flash cuts, extreme closeups, wobbly cameras, and what appears to be a strobe effect all diminish the action for me rather than enhance it. Also, the movie included the old chestnut of the hero doing a good deed for his enemy which saved him from destruction later on.
Still, the assault on the castle was damned exciting, the female lead lovely, the ideals of knighthood and redemption played with proper solemnity, and the chatterbox a few rows ahead shut up after I hinted she should.
Also interesting was the portrayal of the Knights Templar, whose history was germane to the Maltese Falcon. Here, they're shown as a rapacious, greedy bunch interested only in loot and power.
A movie like this demands a large screen, so unless you have a really big TV I recommend you see it in the theater.

My oldest girl has been getting a few driving lessons from me. Actually, I just sit there and let her drive my car--when it works--and caution her about stopping distances and speed around corners when the need arises. Lucky for us there's a park nearby with a Five Mile Drive that's one way and has a 20 MPH speed limit. After traversing that a couple of times we hit the city streets and she's doing well. It's funny for me to see someone learning to drive a car when I routinely drive a 55-foot long aircraft loader and other pieces of Air Force equipment.

I stared reading BURGADE'S CROSSING, by Bill Pronzini, last week. I like Bill's writing a lot and was eager to read this, but when I stared I realized it was a short story collection. I'd already read the titular story (luckily I have too poor a memory to remember how it ended), and probably several others. Now, I don't mind having the book at all, but I think the pulisher was kind of sneaky by not saying it was an ss collection right up front. All the cover says is FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK! That sounds like a novel to me.

The weekend was so busy I had to take today, Monday, off. What with the holiday next week, that'll be back-to-back three day weekends. As Homer Simpson says, Woo-hoo!

Friday, April 29, 2005

2005: A Very Good Year For Whines

I'm glad the last two weeks are over. What a lot of crap hit during that period. First, I had to take a difficult class for work. It's more than a little disheartening to realize that my memory is stuffed fuller than a glutton on Thanksgiving and won't hold anything more. I managed to pass the final and get my certificate, but I don't look forward to applying what little I learned. If I do I'll be responsible or seeing to it that a C-17 cargo plane is properly loaded. There are a ton of things to consider before one of those $300 million planes gets off the ground, and I'm happier not having to consider them. I suppose that after a while it'll all be second nature to me, but for now it seems quite daunting. Worse, there's no extra money in it for me.

While I was fretting about that my car blew a head gasket. Estimated cost: $1600+.

And to top it off I heard from my collaborator, Warren Murphy. He's decided to retire from the writing business so the book I wrote that he was supposed to rewrite is now orphaned. Oh, I could take it back and try to sell it myself, but I don't think that's going to happen. It was really his book, his vision, his idea, and he has the clout to sell it.

It would seem that the insurance company for the jackass who rear-ended me almost three years ago finally offering to settle would come as good news. Sure. Of the $10,000 they're giving I'll get about $4800. The car will eat up a lot of that. The little that's left won't cover a tenth of the projects I have begging for attention.

Oh, and I've had a head cold the entire time all of this has been happening.

Sometimes, life really stinks.

I guess I should be glad that we're all reasonably healthy and Kristine's latest report card was excellent (except for the C in science). The rest were A's and one B.

I've succumbed to the lure of Netflix and watched a few movies since I signed up. MYSTIC RIVER started breaking up after the first half and I never saw it through. It wasn't bad, but it suffered from a modern affliction some movies have with the addition of so much ambient nosie that the dialogue is often lost. And no, I'm not getting deaf in my dotage. I hear the foot shuffling, clothing material rustling, dinnerware rattling, and cars whooshing by just fine. But I'd prefer to hear what the people are saying. I've compared how they record movies today to the way they did during the Golden Age of Hollywood and I'm positive they were more aware of sound then. Even when people whispered in those old movies I can hear them. Nowadays, I need to be a lip reader.

KILL BILL 1 & 2 were great. I liked part two better, but they were both exciting, funny, interestingly plotted, and deliciously over the top. Okay, so no one is going to come out of a four-year coma looking as good as Uma Thurman, but I was willing to play along with the director on that one.

HERO was the first movie I saw on this plan. The kung fu was elaborately staged, almost balletic, but the story dragged badly and I was glad when it was over. I gave it a 6 out of 10.

I also saw BASIC INSTINCT, but that was a local rental. Hard to believe that I waited this many years to see it. Sharon Stone is magnificent as the calculating femme fatale, Michael Douglas has just the right amount of doofus in him to be convincing as the gullible cop drawn into Sharon's web, and the plot twists were smooth and believeable. A real classic.

Before all the crap started I stumbled over a cheap record/CD/cassette player/radio and bought it. I've been able to play my old vinyl albums that have been sitting around for decades, in some cases. As I type this I'm listening to The Man From Duck Run, a collection of songs by Leonard Slye before he became Roy Rogers.

My other girl, Stephanie, has started a driver's training class. She's now 15 1/2 years old and can't wait to hit the highway. But so far she hasn't had any stick time at the class. If she doesn't get some soon I'm going to go in there and ask some pointed questions. I didn't shell out $240 so she could watch videos and read bulletins.

Okay, life hasn't been all weevils in the flour. I got the latest James Crumley and Loren Estleman books, fishing season opens May 1, and the M's just won two in a row. And perhaps my lottery tickets will come through.

Yeah, sure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Paperbacks R.I.P.?

According to Sandra Scoppettone's recent blog there will be no more mass market paperbacks published after 2007 or thereabouts. Everything will be hardcover or trade paperback.

I sure hope this is a wild rumor. It's hard for me to fathom a world without paperbacks as we know and love them. Granted, they're mighty expensive these days, but they're cheaper than tpbs or hcs, as we aficionados call them.

Do publishers really think people will spend two- to four times the cost of a pb for a book by a newcomer or non-bestselling author? Or are mass market pbs unprofitable these days, forcing this change? Beats me.

It would seem to me that if the major publishers did discontinue paperbacks there would be a huge void left and some enterprising newcomers would rush in to fill it. After all, paperbacks started in order to serve a need (cheap books for the common man/woman) and that need still exists despite the deplorable dearth of new readers spewed from the hallowed halls of modern learning.

I won't even go into the issues of shelf space and convenience that can only be satisfied by paperbacks. I'll just say that if there are no more new paperbacks to read I'll finally have an excuse to read all the old ones I've been stashing away for the past 20+ years.

Friday, March 25, 2005

High Society

I trust everyone's familiar with the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, the Washington school teacher who had an affair with an ugly, obnoxious 13-year-old student. Mary served a 7-year jail term and is now preparing to marry the kid she had the affair (and 2 children) with.
All that's strange enough, or creepy enough if you will, but what really floors me is that the happy couple is signed up at the bridal registry at Macy's.
Am I missing something? I always thought that bridal registries were meant for people on the mid- to upper levels of society, not pitiable freaks and felons. And should one wish to purchase a wedding present for them, what would be appropriate? Supp-Hose for her and Dr. Suess for him? The whole thing is alternately funny and sad.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Still Crazy After All These Weeks

Last weekend I took my girls to Oro Valley, Arizona, to visit my mother and two sisters. I'd bought my mother a computer for her birthday (Feb. 24) and decided that if I didn't go down there, install it, and show her how to use it it would linger in the boxes a long time. So we took a pre-dawn redeye to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to Oro Valley. Our first order of business was to get a computer desk, and after driving a while found a place that sold them. It should be noted that everything in that area is scattered all over the desert and there's nothing in between but scrub, mesquite, sand, and cactus.
Naturally, the job of assembling the desk fell to me, but I was lucky in that the instructions were clear and my mother had a good power screwdriver. By evening the desk and computer were up and running (okay, the desk didn't run, but you get the idea). Since AOL had a free connection built in I signed her up with them. If you know me, you know I hate AOL, but this was just to get connected so we could sign up with her full-time server, Peoplepc. We canceled AOL later.
My mother has had virtually no dealings with computers before so the training had to start at the lowest level. Now that she's had it a week she's getting more confident.
While I was in Arizona I hooked up with my cousin Glenn, who by coincidence was visiting a friend in Tucson. I haven't seen him since 1988, and not for a long time before that. It seems we shared a number of interests, including guitars and model kits, and he brought me a box full of WWII figures and accessories. I spread them out today and found 50 WWII Marx Germans, 66 WWII Marx GIs, and 30 Tim-Mee Vietnam GIs.
Of course it was nice to visit with the family, whom I haven't seen in ages, and they enjoyed seeing how the girls had grown. My brother-in-law rode his motorcycle over and gave the kids a ride. They both loved it so I have to hope they don't become a couple of tattooed Harley chicks this summer.
There wasn't much time to go places and do things (there would have been more if people could get out of the door in under two hours), but we hit a mall on Saturday. The women went clothes shopping so Glenn and I looked for places of greater interest. I found a Waldenbooks that had a western section, of all things, and bought a Gorman/Greenberg-edited collection called TEXAS RANGERS, and three Randisis. I also found THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS, by Max Allan Collins, in the mystery section.
I'd bought round trip tickets but when I went to America West for the return journey I discovered I'd been book on United, or, as they so hiply call themselves now, TED. Gag me with a spoon.
At least the planes were roomy (we had a stop in San Francisco). The one we flew in on the way down must have been built for midgets.
Arizona was hitting around 80 degrees every day, which didn't bother the natives but was too warm for me. I was able to switch on the fans in my mothers house, but all the public places seemed to think there was some law against air conditioning. Places like the mall and the furniture store were stifling.
Oh yeah, speaking of the mall there was a store called Puppies. I like to look at pups so I went in for a browse. In one cage they had a black and brown Chihuahua that was almost fully grown. The price? $1700.00! That's two to three times what they're worth, Grand Champions excepted, and this was no champ.

On a more recent note, I see that Robert Blake beat the rap for killing his wife. My reaction is GOOD! Not only did I think there was no evidence to show he did it, I have to agree with John Wayne that some folks just need killing. Bonnie was one of them.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Fred Wise

Eight years ago my father-in-law passed away. His widow, after waiting a year, remarried. She was 80 and her new husband, Fred Wise, was 87.
Fred died Monday morning after a series of strokes. He was 94.
Fred was one of the kindest men you could meet. He was a geologist as a young man who prospected for oil, gold, and other ores from Alaska to South America. He taught junior high science for 17 years (and wore a tie every day of his life afterwards out of habit), and had a large boat for a few years. He belonged to the Tacoma Yacht Club.
I don't think I ever heard Fred say an unkind word about anyone, and while his memory was pretty much kaput for his last few years, he still worked on his memiors and played Scrabble all the time.
Adios, Fred. It was nice knowing you.

Fred's passing got me to thinking about how finite our time can be in this life. I've been urging my mother to get a computer for years, but her reluctance to learn something new and the related costs have kept her from making the move. So, since her birthday is coming up later this month I decided to get her a basic Dell system. No printer or scanner, but it has enough muscle to get on line and surf the Net.

I love tax time. The IRS apparently has this idea that if they make filing taxes difficult enough we'll give up and not take all the exemptions to which we're entitled. Case in point: The Child Tax Credit. They direct you to follow the instructions in Form 927 or somesuch. I dare you to find that form. I did a search in the IRS site and got 500 hits, none of which were for that form. Case in point: Deducting state sales taxes. This is something new for this year, but try to find the table that tells you how much you can deduct. I dare you.
Usually the basic tax forms can be found at the Post Office, but they aren't supplying the PO this year. Try the library, I was told. I did, and they had next to nothing. The library people taped a sign up saying "This is all the IRS sent us."
Conspiracy theorists arise!

I asked Kristine's guitar teacher if he played Chuck Berry and he replied "No!" as though I'd asked if he got Michael Jackson's castoffs--and I don't mean clothes. So I'm still looking for someone to teach me rock leads. I just can't bring myself to pony up $40-per-hour for the privilege. I'll be going to Portland on the 18th, where rocker Brian Trainer will give me some pointers, but that isn't the same as regular lessons.

Last week I stayed home with a nice case of the flu. I'm still coughing like Doc Holliday and my sleep schedule is a mess, but I'm at least fit enough to go to work and function in a more-or-less normal fashion.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Stephanie Ann Smith and Tiny on his birthday, Jan 3, 2005 Posted by Hello

In Good Company

I took my girls to see IN GOOD COMPANY yesterday and we all enjoyed it. It's about the dilemma of working in modern corporations and the comic results when a man's daughter starts dating his youthful boss. There's a touch of bitterness along with the comedy when takeovers destroy careers and corporate ladder climbing depends more on back-stabbing and ass kissing than ability.
It would have been easy to slap on a warm fuzzy ending, and it does end on an upbeat note, but not everything worked out by the usual Hollywood blueprint.

I bought a new shirt today. Now, I'm the kind of guy who will wear a shirt when it's worn thinner than cheesecloth and frayed like the battle flag on Fort McHenry. As long as it hides my nakedness, it's a keeper. But my closet is packed tight and I've vowed to discard one for each new shirt I acquire. So today I sent my western-style, ivory-colored, pearl-buttoned classic to the dustbin. I've had that shirt for about 20 years, and now it's a rag. Sure, you could see paint stains on my tee shirt right through it, but I feel like I've euthanized a family pet.

On a separate post today I presented a photo of my younger daughter, Kristine. What a rigamarole to do this. I'll try to post oneof Stephanie next. No one needs to see my ugly mug.

Reading: I just started THE FUNERAL OF TANNER MOODY. Recently read an ARC of Victor Gischler's SUICIDE SQUEEZE, which I enjoyed a lot.

Kristine Corinne Napier, 8th Grade Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 23, 2005

RIP Johnny

I learned today that Johnny Carson died. I watched Johnny on The Tonight Show for decades. Over the years I lost countless hours of sleep staying up to watch his show, and if I couldn't see the whole show I'd at least see the monologue and opening comedy bit.

Rest easy, Johnny, and thanks for the million laughs.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Curses, Foiled Again

I was looking forward to my first Intermediate Guitar class tomorrow at the local community college with keen anticipation. Friday afternoon I found a message on my phone saying it was canceled. Again. This is the second time. I don't know why they keep on offering it. I'll get my money back, but I'm both annoyed and disappointed. I bought a new guitar a few days ago in anticipation of becoming a better player, but now I'll have to play it with the same old skills. The ax is a Fender Stratocaster, by the way. Not the $2000 model; it was on sale for $329.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Do you ever check your biorhythms? Once in a while, if I'm bored enough, I do. This usually happens at work.

The idea behind biorhythms, as I understand it, is that certain functions of our life run in cycles that start when we're born. The three main functions are our physical, mental, and emotional states, and each runs on its own cycle--say, 24 days for one, 26 for another, 28 for the last. You can plot a line as these cycles go up and down with lines that look like an EKG.
I don't think biorhythms are any more accurate than horoscopes, but they're not as fraudulent as Dianetics or Creationism.
I've read that in some industries in Japan a person whose rhythms are very low can use them as an excuse to stay home from work, with full support from the company.

I mention this because my chart for this weekend (Jan 15-17) has all three of my elements at rock bottom. According to the proponents of this idea, that means I should stay home and not do anything more complicated than eating. Preferably soft foods.
By a stroke of luck I did spend most of the weekend at home. I watched the NFL playoffs while I printed out my zines for Dapa-Em and OWLHOOT. I didn't feel any dumber or emotionally unstable than usual, but perhaps I've already bottomed out in those areas and I have no lower to go.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Insomnia's Retreat

It's pushing 2 a.m. and I can't sleep, perhaps because I went to bed at 7 last night. That might sound off kilter to most of you, but when you consider I get up at 3:30 a.m for work I'm not really too far from the norm.

I've spent the weekend printing out my zine for OWLHOOT, a western apa of which I am the Ramrod. It's a pretty fine apa if I say so myself, and anyone interested in westerns should ask me for particulars.
Anyway, it takes a long, long time to print out these pages on my printer so I watched the NFL playoffs at the same time. I think this is called multitasking. My wife calls it being a lazy bum. I was surprised to see Minnesota and the Jets win, glad that the Colts spanked the hated Broncos (though not as hated as they were when Elway was QB), and resigned to the fate of the hapless Seattle Seahawks. The Hawks were done in by the two bugaboos that have haunted them all year: dropped passes and a poor pass defense. And what about Jerry Rice? I don't think they threw one pass to him the entire game. What is he, a multimillion-dollar decoy? They could have had me for a lot less.
Next week we'll have another round of playoffs, then another I believe, and the week after we'll see who goes to the Superbowl (hint: it won't be Janet Jackson). I'd like to see New England or Pittsburgh represent the AFC and Minnesota take the NFC crown if only to have a Cinderella 8-8 team in the game.

I'm about two-thirds through SUICIDE SQUEEZE, by Victor Gischler. His style reminds me of a cross between Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, two other writers who use a Florida setting. He's not as outragous as either of them, but he has a freewheeling way of storytelling that both delights me and fills me with envy. The story itself revolves around a number of people on the trail of a unique Joe DiMaggio baseball card--one signed by not only Joe by Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder as well. There is some dipping into the milieu of comics and sci-fi (shudder!) mania that makes me feel right at home. I'm reading the ARC, so keep an eye peeled for this book when it hits the racks.

Happy Birthday to Toby and Tiny, my daughters' Chihuahuas, who turned two on the 3rd. I have to admit that I didn't think I could like yippy little dogs like them, but they're great.

The week between Christmas and New Year's was spent at Frank Denton's cabin near Mt. Rainier for a semiannual gathering known as Tankon. Five of us convened for a near-week of fellowship, male bonding, discussion, argument, backbiting, contempt, rabid disagreement, homicidal thoughts, and food. Lots of food.
The best part of the experience, other than spending time with a group of bright, fannish guys, is the chance to get away from the real world. No TV, no newspapers, no radio, no phones, no families. No Internet, either, and that's a problem for a junkie like me, but I manage. And I read.

A week ago I saw the movie THE AVIATOR, and recommend it highly. Leonardo DiCaprio surprised me with his performance as Howard Hughes, and whoever the actress is who played Kate Hepburn stole the show; she was brilliant.

As for New Year's Eve, I made myself a vodka collins and went to bed by nine. There's no correlation between the two, I was just tired and that's my late bedtime these days anyway. I've never been that big on celebrating New Year's. One year I was a part of the mob in Time's Square. Once or twice I've drunk more than my usual two beers. I've enjoyed the usufructs of gallantry. More often than not I've stayed home and ignored it. It just seems artifical to me. Like Mother's Day being a conspiracy by the card and flower industries, New Year's seems like a plot by the liquor and restaurant people to get us so drunk we forget we spent all our money at Christmas.