Thursday, December 31, 2015

Old Boats

On one of my trips to the Caribbean, a WW 2 landing craft was used to ferry passengers from the ship to an island. It would bump on the sand, the ramp in the front would drop down, and we would all walk off. It was a weird experience. I kept thinking of Normandy.

It's Customary

They have a custom in Spain on New Year's Eve to eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds before midnight. It's called the 12 grapes of luck.. I was at a ball in Madrid one New Year's Eve and tried that. 12 seconds is not long enough.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

This is how it all began….


Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to go fishing.
He called the royal weather forecaster and inquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours. The weatherman assured him that there was no chance of rain in the coming days. So the king went fishing with his wife, the queen.
On the way he met a farmer on his donkey. Upon seeing the king the farmer said, “Your Majesty, you should return to the palace at once because in just a short time I expect a huge amount of rain to fall in this area”.  
The king was polite and considerate, he replied: “I hold the palace meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional. And besides, I pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him and I will continue on my way.” So he continued on his way.  
However, a short time later a torrential rain fell from the sky. The King and Queen were totally soaked and their entourage chuckled upon seeing them in such a shameful condition.  
Furious, the king returned to the palace and gave the order to fire the professional. Then he summoned the farmer and offered him the prestigious and high paying role of royal forecaster.
The farmer said, “Your Majesty, I do not know anything about forecasting. I obtain my information from my donkey. If I see my donkey’s ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain.”  
So the king hired the donkey.
And thus began the practice of hiring dumb asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions.  
And the practice is unbroken to this date...        

Thursday, August 13, 2015

You Can’t Write What You Wouldn’t Read for Pleasure

The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. It’s a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can’t say you’re going to write romance when you don’t even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it.
 And you have to be driven. You have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline and desire. If you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Scientists make a robot that can have babies

Everyone who thinks robots are going to take over the world might be about to get a lot more frightened: Scientists have created a machine that's able to have babies.
In an experiment designed to show how robots can learn and evolve, researchers in Cambridge and Zurich programmed a robot arm – or "mother" - with an algorithm to create a device made out of blocks containing motors – its "child".
The blocks are assembled into a structure by the robot arm and the motors are turned on. A camera detects how far the blocks are able to travel. The robot arm sees this, and then modifies the next "baby" to try and make it go further, learning from the mistakes and good traits of the last one.
This is all done without human intervention. The research was published in the journal PLOS One.
Luzius Brodbeck, one of the researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich, said the robots are normally programmed to do one just thing.
"Machines usually build the same thing and what it will do and it will do it over again. What we did here was use a genetic algorithm so each operation is different," Brodbeck told CNBC by phone.
The scientist said that the technology could be used in areas where robots need to carry out autonomous tasks; for example in remote locations and even in disaster response.
The experiment may seem like something out of a science fiction film and technologists have expressed concerns about the future of robotics.
Elon Musk and Bill Gates are just two figures concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Last month, a letter signed by figures including Musk and Stephen Hawking warned about the potential damage AI-controlled weapons could cause.
But Brodbeck said the fear about systems like his maybe be overblown.
"I think it makes sense to think about this, but I personally am not afraid that robots will take over the world," the scientist told CNBC.

Shingles Medicine...

...Saw an ad for that on TV. It said shingles can last as long as thirty days. I don't know where they got that idea. I got shingles back in Dec. 2004. The day of the big tsunami. It lasted until Easter. That was three months. It was on the left side of my stomach. To sleep at night, I laid my head on the dining room table. You just couldn't let anything touch those nerve endings. It still gives me a twinge now and then.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Penguins have an organ which removes salt from water, allowing them to drink salt water.

Aluminum can be recycled over and over again without any loss to quality, and a recycled beer can could be back on the shelf in 60 days.

Review: Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1) by William Golding

"Rites of Passage," a book by William Golding, is a narrative, written in a journal, by a snobbish passenger. It takes place on an outdated warship on the way to Australia around 1812. The story deals with the behavior of the Officers and upper crust passengers, as well as some of the crew.
There are good references to the condition of the ship and the behavior of the characters.
Written in old English, I found it sometimes hard to read and found myself skipping paragraphs. Still, it was an interesting read, at times sad, which appears to be the main plot of the story. Interesting ending that I did not expect.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Writing Is An Act of Courage

I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage. It’s almost an act of physical courage. You get up and you have this great idea. Maybe you were hanging out with your friends—you guys were having beers and you were talking about something. You had this idea and they said, “Wow, that’s brilliant! Someone should go write it.” And you sit down to write it and almost always what was brilliant before, when you were sitting around talking, is somehow not so brilliant when you go to write. It’s as though you have a certain music in your head, and trying to get that music out on a page is absolute hell. And so you fail. If you’re doing it correctly, what happens is, the translation of what you hear in your head, what your idea is in your head, will almost always come out really badly on the page when you first write, okay? But what you have to do is you have to give yourself a day, go back, revise over and over and over again until you get something that is at least maybe 70 percent of what you wanted to do. You try to go from really bad to okay to acceptable. Then you know you’ve done your job. I never really get to that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure. I think that’s the main reason why more people don’t write. It’s very depressing in that way.


Review: Goliath (A Ryan Mitchell Thriller - Book 1) by Richard Turner

"Goliath" by Richard Turner is a fast paced book that would appeal to action/adventure readers. The cover is ample and gets the point across. The story is a good concept, but the level of unnecessary violence and the continual good luck like parked vehicles always having keys inside, and doors always unlocked took away from the story. Everyone seems to have a temper, always fighting a fit of rage. The lack of editing is noticeable - too many adverbs and words missing.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The heavens refrained from raining on us last night as it had for the past two nights, so I just may cut the grass. I cut it last Thursday, so it's due. My son grabbed the other lawn mower last week and started cutting the back yard. Normally, I go across or up and down, but my son is crazy - he went at it like he was making a crop circle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Life is sometimes you have to have wieners and beans.


Last night was storm night. Thunder, lightening and a heck of a lot of rain. If you don't have any damage after a storm, the next worse thing if going around and setting all the clocks. Next, I checked the fireplace, because lately, after it rained, there has been some water. It just so happens that yesterday I was up on the roof and cemented up a part that I thought might leak. No leak today.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd

      "Hunting Shadows," is the 14th in the series of Ian Rutledge belonging to the 'Mystery' genre. The title and cover are very appropriate for the story. It is set against rural and isolated villages in England, where gossip is the main source of news. There are good references to the local areas, and the description of the characters are well developed. All the characters are strong, with loneliness a common thread among them.
      The story is well plotted and well written. With the war never far from his mind, a voice from the past like a shadow, he must solve a crime by a sniper using a WW1 weapon. The story holds on to the end, but the end doesn't seem like a big surprise - more like something expected.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Completing A Book is Like Having a Baby

Completing a book, it’s a little like having a baby. There’s a feeling of relief and satisfaction when you get to the end. A feeling that you have brought your family, your characters, home. Then a sort of post-natal depression and then, very quickly, the horizon of a new book. The consolation that next time I will do it better.


My Reviews.

      I seem always to have a different hobby. Maybe I can't call it a hobby, more like an interest for a period. A couple of years ago, my interest was to learn how to repair a lawnmower. Not that I planned on going into the repair business - it was because of my neighbor. At the time, I was using an electric mower, and he kept giving me a hard time. He said that he couldn't stand to see my feet getting tied up in the cord. So I picked up some mowers from people and learned how to fix them.
      This summer my interest is learning to do book reviews. Normally, I just gave them stars. Now, I write reviews and put them on Goodreads, Amazon, and my blog. I guess I use something like a template. I've written down all the things I want to cover and them put the book through it. I notice the reviews are getting longer.
      I used to belong to this book club, not Wattpad, where everyone wrote stories, and anyone could comment. It was ok, I got some useful hints. I read this story one time and gave it four stars. Well, it was a woman author and she was livid. How dare I give her only four when it should have been a five. Afterwards, I quit that group. If that were now, I would change the four to a three.
      On Goodreads, they have these threads where people offer reviews for reviews. I thought about that for myself but changed my mind as I read on. This one guy wrote that if you gave him a review he would do one right away without reading the book. Now, the reviews I read, I take with a grain of salt. So I thought that this might not work out too well for me because I would read the book and give it an honest review.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: WW 2 Women by Cyrus J. Zachary

"WW 2 Women" is a historical read about women spies from that war. It is a very short read. It is possible that the title on Goodreads is longer than the book. The cover seems to have no bearing on the characters in the book. I have a free copy, and that is what it is worth for information readily accessible on the net. Regularly priced at $4.99. Really!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: The Lost Codex by Alan Jacobson.

"The Lost Codex," is an action adventure novel by Alan Jacobson. It is a book I won on Goodreads. It seems aimed at male and female readers. There is some violence, but not an overabundance. It tries to mime "Sigma Force," but falls short. The title "Lost Codex," could refer to its location in he book. Mentioned in the Prologue, it then disappears for the next 30% of the book.
During this 30% hiatus, there was a long winded explanation of the motives and workings of a suicide bomber given to heads of Homeland, CIA, NSA, and FBI. I'm sure these gentlemen have sufficient knowledge of suicide bombers. It seems unnecessary, making the book long.
Being used to my Kindle, I found the printing small. The book has short chapters making it easy to stop reading. I thought the book had too many characters, the Arab names confusing.
After 40%, the story seemed to get back on track and live up more to its hype. From then on, it was continual action.
 I found the ending nothing to get excited about - the author looking for a way to finish it of.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Some Books Refuse to be Written

There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written—it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bank Experience

      My wife and I went to the bank yesterday. I had to get money for the plumber. He finished all the work, and that's good. My wife, on the other hand, had to verify that she was still alive. She gets a German pension, so every year they send her a letter to check if she is still with us. Heaven forbid that I would just keep the money.
She just has to go to a teller, gets a couple of papers signed, and they send it away. How difficult that depends on the teller. Yesterday was fairly easy. There was one occasion when she was sent to a notary. I got my money faster than she got her signature.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Deadlock (Tweed & Co. #5) by Colin Forbes

      'Deadlock,' is #5 in the series 'Tweed & Co.' by Colin Forbes. It belongs to the Genre of action/adventure. The title is appropriate for the story, but I find the cover a bit bland. The book is aimed at a male audience.
      Having lived for a time in that part of Europe, I recognize a lot of the locations and can verify that they are well researched. There is a lot of accidental dropping of names to move the story along.
It is a fast-paced thriller and a long read, but every page is worth it. All the characters are well developed and so well described you would probably recognize them if you saw them walking down the street.
      From very early in the story, there was a continual reference to scuba divers, but no one seemed to pay any attention to them until the end. The story depended a lot on two new characters. One had a minor role in an earlier book and the other someone new. I would expect to see them in future stories. The book had an ending I did not expect.
      A drawback to this book of good versus evil is that it is similar to all the other books in the series. There were some editing mistakes that seemed to increase towards the end of the book.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: The White Lioness by Henning Mankell

"The White Lioness," is the 3rd. in the "Kurt Wallander" series. This novel is two stories existing in the same book. I found that the stories blended well together and taken separately could be two novellas. Kurt, a man who consistently eats sandwiches tried a pizza this time. The story is fast paced, and the author has a good insight into the Apartheid system. 
I fast read a few pages because too much time was spent on Kurt's mental state. I enjoyed the book, even though the end held no big surprise.

Positive Quotes


What's in the Vietnamese version of Cinderella (Tam Cam)? At the end, Cinderella dismembered her step sister, put the body into a jar of food and sent it to her step mother to eat, which she enjoyed until she found the skull at the bottom of the jar and died of shock.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Won a free book on Goodreads. "The Lost Codex' by Alan Jacobson'

The Color Purple


The color purple is the royal color because the dye was so expensive to make: "dye-makers had to crack open the snail’s shell, extract a purple-producing mucus and expose it to sunlight for a precise amount of time. It took as many as 250,000 mollusks to yield just one ounce of usable dye"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


  I have this toaster that was a wedding present - that makes it 47 years old. Used almost every day. Still works. General Electric and made in the U.S.A. They don't make them like that anymore. The problem is, it has one drawback. We can't toast a bagel. I have to use the toaster oven, but it doesn't do a good job. So, my wife bought a toaster at a yard sale. Cost her $5.00. White. Cheap. A piece of junk. But, it does toast a bagel. Guaranteed not to last 47 years.
      My bathroom was supposed to be worked on this morning. He called last night and said he was sick. Even plumbers call in sick. At least he didn't say he was working from home. The new date is set for Friday.
      It's supposed to rain all day, but it hasn't started yet. I'm on the road today. That's my term for taking my wife to do errands.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review: Richard the Lionheart - Crusader by Tristan Clark

Richard the Lionheart - Crusader is a very short story. If you are looking for some pages from a history book - this would be it. You would find the same, if not more by looking King Richard up on the internet with no need to spend your money. More or less a list of facts.

My lawn is being de-bugged. Lots of birds.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ripley's Believe It or Not

Beethovens Ninth

Review: Dark Web by T.J. Brearton

"Dark Web," is a murder mystery that will make you think twice about what teens see on the internet. A fine example of what can come from the dark side of the web. The end of the story and the culprit hold no surprises - expected, which I found disappointing. Still a good story.

Sunday Afternoon Encounter

This is what went on Sun. afternoon after a knock on my door.

Me - "Hello."

Man - "I got the sign."

Me - "What sign?"

Man - "The 'For Sale' sign for your front lawn."

Me - "What 'For Sale' sign?"

Man - "For your house."

Me - "My house is not for sale."

Man - "Isn't this #18?"

Me - "Yeah."

Man - "Well, I got the sign."

Me - "I think you have the wrong house. Maybe next door?"

Man - "No. That's an empty lot."

Me - "Well, they tore down the house a few weeks ago and I heard the lot is for sale."

Man - "OK, I'll call the office and find out.

After awhile, I hear tap, tap, tap. I look next door and he is pounding the sign into the vacant lot. By the way, that lot is priced at $90,000.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Conversation with my son.

Jack - "I hear we are going to have a mini ice age in 15 years. Like the one they had in the 1860's."
John - ?
Jack -"We'll have to stock up on food then. Yeah, I'll be 87 then. Still able to eat."
John - "We'll need lots of Jell-O."

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Review: "A Bitter Truth" by Charles Todd

"A Bitter Truth" is the third in the series "Bess Crawford." This book did not catch my imagination as much as the first two. It seems to drag along trying to make a story. The author(s) seem to be slapping something down hoping that it works. I'm always waiting for her to meet Ian Rutledge. I feel that is why this second series has been added.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Novels Are Never About What They Are About

But novels are never about what they are about; that is, there is always deeper, or more general, significance. The author may not be aware of this till she is pretty far along with it. A novel’s whole pattern is rarely apparent at the outset of writing, or even at the end; that is when the writer finds out what a novel is about, and the job becomes one of understanding and deepening or sharpening what is already written. That is finding the theme.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Need A Plumber

      The plumber was here to see me on Friday. I have to tell you that story. The pipes for the bathtub were in an outside wall, so when the wind blew in a certain direction, they always froze. I tried different options to cure the problem - more insulation, electric cord around the pipe. etc. A couple of years ago I said enough is enough. I'm going to move the bathroom around. At one end of the tub, I put up a wall with all the pipes inside it. On one side, the pipes went to the tub taps. On the other side of the wall, they went to the sink taps. The sink taps are where the bathtub taps used to be. I figured that would do it. Surprise. When winter came, they froze again. When I looked to see what they had done, I found that they had taken the pipes in the new wall and hooked them back up to the pipes that always froze. So that is what I have to get changed again. I'm watching this time.
      I also need him to clean out the drain pipe. It's starting to make noise, the kind you hear before it plugs up. Then I need him to clean out my furnace.
He has to wait until next week he do this. I'll be away all week. Taking my daughter on another mini vacation to New Brunswick.
      I put up a photo showing the wall between the sink and tub.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: The Kidnapping (Inspector Rutledge #12.5) by Charles Todd

"The Kidnapping," is a short story from the Ian Rutledge series. It shows Ruthledge at his best solving a crime by his wits and brainpower. He can't have all cases that last for weeks or months. Some are short, lasting only a few hours. There is no mention of Hamish in this story. Takes less that a few hours to read because half of the download is a preview of his next book.

The Hollywood Totem Pole

In Hollywood, you’re dealing with a power structure where the writer is really at the bottom of the totem pole. Actually, I think that the writer isn’t even at the bottom of the totem pole—they’re at the part that they stick in the ground, and then there’s the totem pole.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Character is the Very Life of Fiction

Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand. Plot exists so the character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody. 


Review: Bloodlines by James Rollins

"Bloodlines" is #8 in the Sigma series. I found it the best of the series to date. This book has a return of the dog "Kane." Wonderful to see him and his handler as part of the team. Continuous action till the end and it has a great ending.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Heat Pump.

      Yesterday was check the heat pump day. It's a Kerr. First off, I dug up the manual on the internet. Great to have the internet when you need it. As it turned out, the only thing I could do was clean the filters. That turned out to be quite a job. The dust on there is like grease. Cleaned them and anything else that needed it.
      My wife bought new ceiling lamps for the kitchen and dining room. Do I have to hang them up deciding on the kitchen first - smallest lamp. This is a job I dislike. It gives me a sore neck. First I had to take the fan down. With a heat pump, don't need fans. It has a fan. It's heavy when standing on a ladder, and you can only hold it with one hand. Eventually, the new lamp was up. After all that, I find out it comes without bulbs. Of course, they need a special type. I won't be putting up the one in the dining room until I'm sure I have bulbs. So I have to go to Home Depot, where I bought the lamps, but not today. I have to wait for the plumber, but that's another story.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Lawless Desert by C.M. Curtis

"I didn't see that coming," is a statement you will use a number of times while reading this book. A western story, well written with great characters. Moving fro one disaster to another, the hero finally finds satisfaction in the end.

Monday, June 29, 2015


      I had a dream the other night that I clearly remembered. Most times I remember them for about 10 seconds and then nothing else. Funny how that works. In this dream, I was back in the military, and someone told me to put on a clean shirt. This I did, and a little while later they asked me why I had on two shirts. I said that I was ordered to put on another shirt. Then they said they didn't think I was supposed to put on one shirt over the other. So I told them I wasn't ordered to remove the first shirt. And that was it.
      If I were going to my Chinese doctor for traditional medicine, she would tell me what the dream meant. It's one of the things they do to get a grip on things. Before anytime visiting her, I have to keep track of my dreams. She is great for aches and pains, but I wouldn't go for a life threatening situation.
      It could be that I see myself in an alternate universe. In that case, I must be some dumb not to know enough to remove my shirt or, I follow orders to a tee. Wouldn't want to get stuck in the universe.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: The Terror by Giles Kristian

Could not get into the story. I guess it is just not my type. Didn't like it. Quit at 10%.

Review:The Assassin (Casca, #13) by Barry Sadler

This story is the next book in the Casca series. Same as the other books, Just a different time and place. Writing bad as usual.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: The Derby Man by Gary McCarthy

This book is a western story of the usual type. To make things different, the unlikely hero is greatly overweight and wears a derby hat. You won't find any young maiden in distress. There are bits of humor, but the book holds no big surprises. Okay for a short read if you can get over the errors. I never did learn the Sherriff's name. It seemed to be interchangeable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Cold Comfort (Inspector Ian Rutledge #16.5) by Charles Todd

This book is a short story from the Ian Ruthledge series. Instead of continuing with Ian's career with Scotland Yard, we are taking back to the First World War when he was Lt. Ruthledge. There are no voices in his head, and he becomes involved in trying to prevent a murder. Good story for a short read.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Cynthia Ann Parker: The Story of Her Capture by James DeShields

The book is advertised as a story about a captured white woman, but there is very little about her. Her life story could have been put into 4 pages. Didn't like the writing - very raciest, mixed up. Acceptable for the time it was written.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Cemetery Dance (Pendergast #9) by Douglas Preston

This story is 9th. in the Pendergast series. In this story he has a smaller part to play with the majority of action going to D'Agosta. The authors have joined the flavor of the moment with zombies and cults. No former members of the series are safe, and one is immediately murdered. By the end of the book, all is back to reality. I liked the descriptions laid out in the book, and the fast pace to keep you on the edge of your seat.

There is no magic in the world. I thought I would wake from my nap and find the dinner dishes magically washed.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


My son just told me that it's Solstice. You're supposed to be able to take an egg and stand it on its end - or you can walk around the park naked wearing a pair of horns.  He tried the egg bit but it didn't work so I threw a dishcloth on the counter and then it worked. That's what fathers are for. I didn't want him running around the park. In the long run it didn't matter, he doesn't have a set of horns.

Lawn Trimmer


On Friday Morning, I was out with the grass trimmer before 9 a.m. I heard it was going to rain by 11 a.m. So I got that done and trimmed some of the bushes as well. I have had a Toro trimmer for the past 32 yrs. It still works, except the spool is starting to fall apart and causing problems. We looked on ebay for a replacement, but the shipping costs were too high. It was just as cheap to buy a new one.
My wife's friend said they had two and I could have one. It seems her kids didn't place much value on it. A piece of junk was what they called it. It's a Black and Decker. So I tried it, and it works great. Certainly better than my old one. I just trim around trees and bricks, not do the whole lawn. That's what my neighbor across the street does. I wonder how old it is? I know it is discontinued.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The House Next Door.

Well, good-bye to the house next door. Last Monday, they brought in an Excavator - That used to be called a steam shovel. No steam involved now. By the end of the week, it was in a truck and gone. Then they knocked down the basement walls and pushed it into the hole. I guess they are not planning that the next house having a basement. Sad. I remember when I used to see them having barbecues on the patio.