Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Smoothie of the Day

red cabbage
lemon slice

Monday, January 28, 2013

Funny for the Musicians

I have but two of these in my repertoire these days, though I can play the sting for "Smoke ..." 

Optical Illusion

Pretty neat, hey? The top one looks darker because of the light b.g., the bottom one lighter because of the darker b.g. but just looking at it this way? I'd swear on a stack of Bibles the bottom figure was lighter than the top.

What you see isn't aways what you think you see, much less what you get ...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Qualification Range ...

I couldn't not speak to this one ...

Last Sunday, somebody called in a domestic disturbance in Forest Grove, OR. The husband in question was a Forest Grove police officer, and apparently known enough so there was some concern; whoever took the call sent plenty of help: Five Forest Grove officers, four deputies from the county, and–if I recall correctly–an officer from nearby Hillsboro.

It went askew. The officer involved in the disturbance, Timothy Cannon, took umbrage at the interference. Hard to say exactly what got said by whom, but apparently if it was "I'm on the job, so fuck off!" that didn't do the trick.

The argument progressed. The hardware came out. The suspect fired a weapon–doesn't say what it was–didn't hit anybody, and the ten officers returned fire.

They mostly didn't hit anybody, either. 

In the ensuing gunfight, the suspect was wounded, though not much, given that he was able to stand for his booking photo after he was treated and released by the hospital.

One of the deputies had a shrapnel wound to one hand. Cannon was subdued–and not gently, to judge from the photo–taken in, and currently resides the local lock-up on charges of Attempted Aggravated Murder, in lieu of a million dollar bail.

Now, if you have been here before, you know where this going:

A total of eleven LEOs fired their weapons. Doesn't say how may rounds, but each apparently managed at least one apiece. (Kind of stretched Forest Grove PD thin, given the one busted and the five on administrative duty because they shot their weapons.)

And what we have to show for it is one wound to the suspect and a cut from a ricochet?

Somebody needs to spend more time on the range. Sounds like something from a Max Sennett movie out of Keystone Studios ... 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interesting Times

My son-in-law has a bad back. Some years ago, he had surgery for it, later a second date with the scalpel, mostly to deal with complications from the first, including some scarring. It seemed to stabilize, but then started getting worse.

Recently, an MRI confirmed what he already knew: Another disk had collapsed–L5/S1. It wasn't getting better, but it was a year before they would consider the knife. Current practice seems to be to wait and see if it gets better, and however much the patient suffers from failed PT or drugs, well, that's too bad. About half the time, people get better.

50-50. Not the best odds.

Anyway, to shorten the story, day before yesterday, he had a spinal fusion procedure. 

This now involves a process unlike those I recall from my days as a PA. They went in from the front, twixt belly and bowel, took out the ruptured disk, squirted some goop that promotes bone growth into the space, stabilized it with screws, and glued him shut. All going well, in 3-6 months, that gap will be solid bone. That low, it won't restrict his mobility much, but should stabilize his spine so that he will be much better off.

He needs to diet, exercise gently, avoid smoking or other things that slow healing, but the prognosis is generally good. 

We expected a few days in the hospital, but we took him home yesterday. Already, he says, the discomfort from the surgery notwithstanding, he feels better than he did.

Last few days, my wife and I have shuttled back and forth between watching my grandsons and the hospital, and will continue to do so as needed after my daughter goes back to work.

The morning of the surgery, we got a call from an old friend. Her daughter, terminally ill with brain cancer, had passed away. My wife had gone to see our friend and daughter the night before she died, and it was not unexpected, she was a year past when they thought she'd make it. A woman younger than my children. 

It gives you pause, how can it not?

It is the nature of life that injury and death are all around us, and those are likely (and certainly) going to visit us, not a matter of "if," but "when." It makes you realize that we all walk on sand at the shoreline, and that our footing is never less than precarious as the tide comes and goes.

Enjoy your life as best you can. It is the most precious thing you have. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Loch Ness Smoothie


I've mentioned it here before, about making smoothies. Dump a bunch of produce into a blender and give it a whirl, and you can get your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and in a way that actually tastes good ...

So yesterday, I loaded up the blender's jar: Apple, pear, orange, couple dates, some raisins, a mix of frozen cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, little bit of lemon with the peel; kale leaves, carrot, half a rainbow beet, celery, red cabbage, a couple cups of water, um ... that's all I can remember. 

Put on hearing protectors, push the button, and voila!


Serves three, although it will keep in the fridge overnight, as long as you stir it pretty good–the different textures tend to settle out if you leave it longer than a few minutes. 

If you click on the top picture and look at it full-size? You can see the Lock Ness Monster poking his head up from the mix ...

Actually, it's a leaf of red cabbage. 

I think ...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Pursuit of Spenser

Just finished reading a collection of essays on the late Robert B. Parker, In Pursuit of Spenser.  Edited by Otto Penzler, and if you don't know who Parker is, the following won't mean anything, so you can skip it.

Most of the pieces in this book are by other mystery writers, some who knew Parker personally, some who only knew of him. One by Ace Atkins, who has taken over writing the Spenser novels. 

There are some discussions of what he meant to the field, including the mention that the detective novel genre had grown moribund, and that the creation of the character Spenser re-lit that fire. (I kind of disagree with this–Travis McGee was still going strong when the first Spenser novel arrived, there were a lot of paperback PI and spy-thrillers in the sixties and seventies, and I think the critics are speaking more to the literary private eyes they can stand. (Nobody ever thought Mickey Spillane was the cat's pajamas. Once, an interviewer pointed out, disdainfully, that seven of the top ten books in the field were his, and how did he feel about that? You should be glad I didn't write ten books, Spillane supposedly said.)

Spenser, a Boston PI, was a blend of Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe, with dashes of Sam Spade, the Continental Op, and, yes, Travis McGee added. Spenser was Don Quixote, a knight-errant, saving the downtrodden and cracking wise all the while.

The books were short, mostly dialog, and if you got stuck in traffic on the way home, you could read the whole thing waiting for the gridlock to clear.

Parker, who was a college professor, knew how to cook, and what to drink, and how to find literary references, and so did Spenser-spelled like the poet, by the by.

There are some pretty good comments in this book. Some that are maybe a little stretch as people to to explain what Parker really meant when he said this or that. Various writers offer that Spenser was an idealized self-portrait of Parker, only taller. That Hawk was Spenser's shadow-side, the man who could do the necessary ugly things without agonizing over them. That Susan Silverman was Parker's wife Joan, and for many readers who had no use for her, the price you had to pay to see the others, including Pearl the Wonder Dog, do their tricks.

Me, I always liked Susan.

There are other essays that go to Parker's other books and series: Jesse Stone, the westerns, the one he finished for Chandler, the follow-up to that. Even a brief mention of Sonny Randall, the series about a woman PI, also in Boston. I like strong female characters in my fiction, but never grew to like Sonny–she was always just Spenser in a skirt.

Jesse Stone was Spenser as an alcoholic, without the strict moral code, an exercise in writing third-person, Parker said, but I liked Jesse for his frailties.

There are bits about the TV series, the TV movies, and the actors in those and what they did fore and aft. 

All in all, this is an enjoyable read, especially if you like hearing what other writers in the field think about the iconic Spenser.

Where Do You Get Your Crazy Ideas?

On a site where I sometimes visit, there arose a discussion about writers interacting with fans. That sometimes, writers will respond with a joke to a heartfelt, earnest inquiry, and is this not cruel to the newbie who doesn't know any better than to ask?

Listen to really famous people go off when they get asked really inane questions by reporters who should know better. Watch the Beatles just before Ed Sullivan. Or Dylan any time after about 1967.

I spoke to it from my minor celebrity status, and today's post is, more or less, what I had to say.

To set it up: For those of you who aren't aware of it, science fiction and fantasy writers are often asked one by the laity. There are some variations of it, but the most common version is, "Where do you get your crazy ideas?"

There are other questions writers get, most notably one that arises from a conversation like this: Hey, I have this great idea for a sci fi story. Here's the deal: I'll tell it to you, you write it, and we'll split the money we make on it, okay? 

Non-writers don't understand why this isn't a good deal for the writer; they believe that the idea is paramount. They also believe what they have come up with has never been done before. In case you are one of these folks, let me be as gentle as I can be here: Ideas are cheap. Most writers have notebooks full of them they won't live long enough to write. And if it is worth doing, somebody, somewhere has written it before, you just haven't seen it. What changes it is the processor who translates it from mind to page.

Back to the original question:

The first time I went to a science fiction convention, I was already a pro. Sort of. I had sold two stories, neither of which had been published yet. Maybe four people there had any idea I was a budding writer, and nobody had asked me to speak, to expound on the subject.

As I sat in the audience for a panel at that decadent Miami hotel, I began to feel a certain amount of despair listening to the writers on the panel. While it was true that there were some heavyweights in the field up there, they were all so fucking brilliant that I knew if I'd been offered a seat, I couldn't begin to keep up. I mean, every question that audience had? The writers had answers off the tops of their heads, bam! No hesitation, clean, quick, and I was stunned by this. The guys were all geniuses! Literate, memories like steel traps, whick-whick-whick, Zorro, carving zees everywhere!

Despair. In this company, I'd be fighting way above my weight, I'd get creamed. Out of my league.

Then I went to a few more panels.

Then a few more conventions.

Then I had the head-slapping, come-to-Jesus moment: It wasn't that they were all eidetic intellectual giants ( though some of them were passing bright), it was simply that they had heard all the questions before.

Over and over and over and over and over.

If you get the answers to the quiz in advance? You can toss 'em off and look very much the sage.

All of which goes to this point: When you sit up there, you speak to a passing parade. There is a constant, moving line of newbies who ask, because they don't know. (Ignorance is not stupidity, you can cure the former, but not the latter.)

You can't, however, cure the ignorance in the time allotted -- especially when you don't have the answer.

If you can make a living writing fiction, you don't get to bitch about your job. A lot of folks would kill to swap places with you. But after you have heard the same questions a hundred times, you might be tempted to riff on the answers. Like the guys who used to run the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland. First, they played it straight, then they started to do comedy, and the funny variations were way more fun.

What somebody who asks "Where do you get your crazy ideas?" really wants to know is, What's the secret? Where is the short cut? The one that gets me from where I am to where you are? 

What is the exact nature of the creative process?

They want a simple how-to to a question that doesn't have a simple reply. Because the answer for a lot of us is: I don't have a fucking clue. And I don't really want to poke at it too hard and maybe screw it up; enough that it works at all.

Harlan sometimes says he gets a package of ideas every week from an idea service in Schenectaday
. Zelazny used to joke about leaving milk on the back porch for the brownies. I sometimes tell people there's a cable TV show on Wednesdays at two a.m., Ideas for Science Fiction Writers. You get a laugh, and at least that's entertaining. 

I don't have a fucking clue? That's not much help. (Shazam won't do it, by the way.)

I like dogs, I am patient with children, I love talking to my nine fans. If I make a joke when someone asks a question at a panel and the questioner doesn't get it, somebody there will explain it to them. In an audience full of fans, no matter how esoteric a reference you make? Somebody there will get it.

Crazy ideas? I suspect there are many answers to that as people who get them. You have to find your own.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


As part of my ongoing effort to get better at those things I like to do, I've begun taking a class for singers. My wife and I both signed up–she doesn't think she can sing, although she can–a bad experience with a choir teacher long ago put her off it.

The class was designed for folks who consider themselves vocally-challenged, and started out with very basic stuff, how the sounds get made physically, vocal chords, diaphragm, voice warm-ups, where things resonate, like that.

Do, re, mi, fah, sol, la, ti, do ...

Ten minutes into it I had already learned all kinds of stuff I didn't know, and by the end of the first session, the nine of us who were there were singing a song acapella in three-part harmony and sounding pretty good.

The teacher is a pro who does gigs, favors folk music, gospel, and blues, and has a four-octave range, which is twice what I can manage, even slipping into head-voice. Her manner as a teacher is delightful. Start with, "You're paying me, I work for you, and I am not a mean person. I won't make anybody who doesn't want to stand up and sing solo do it."

Lot of people relaxed when they heard that ...

Stay tuned. Can my opera debut be far away ... ?


So, the Obama administration offered up twenty-three things it wants to see in regard to guns.

Apparently these were so heinous that Facebook posters on my friends list were driven insane. 

I read them. Twice. If you want to, and you should, google 'em.

Do I think it will fix the problem? No. Am I going to take to the streets in revolution? No. 

I offered this online:

I'm a Second Amendment guy, and no, it's not about deer hunting. On the other hand, nor do I believe that it means any civilian can own any weapon he wants, anywhere, any time.

Last week, a couple of dweebs locally shouldered their black rifles and took a stroll down the street, because they could do so legally. Past a school.

They did it, they said, to acquaint people with the law, since open carry is allowed in this state, at least some places. The police got scores of man-with-a-gun calls and they showed up in force. Given what happened recently, how would you feel if you looked out the window at that school and saw two men thus armed approaching?

Yeah, so would I. Because they could do it doesn't mean they should, but it's legal. 

That "well-regulated militia" part seems to get completely lost. 

I don't see anybody frothing at the mouth because they can't run down to the Walmart and buy a pocket battleship to keep out on the lake for bass fishing. Do you lie awake nights enraged because you cannot drive your cocked-and-loaded tank to the 7-Eleven for a six-pack? You want to keep a stinger missile handy for when those pesky black helicopters fly over?

I hope not. Because I certainly don't want those toys in the hands of civilians, nor do I expect most people with two neurons to spark at each other would, either.

The fact is that weapons for civilians have been regulated from the git-go, and no sane society would have it any other way. Not that we are particularly sane around here; still, most people accept those limits.

There hasn't been civilian parity with the military vis a vis arms since the Pennsylvania long-rifle days. If anybody believes a black rifle and high-cap magazines are going to put him on a par with the United States Marines or the Rangers or the SEALs, or even the basic Army ground-pounder, they are living between Sleeping Beauty's castle and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. 

Whatever you think about the immutability of the Constitution and its Amendments? It gets addressed by SCOTUS all the time, and altered as society changes. Whatever the founders of the country wanted, they were slave-owning white men and certainly not infallible. 

Yes, regulations should be designed so that law-abiding citizens aren't disarmed, but if you are ready to fight and die to keep your thirty-round magazine? We aren't on the same page. 

Saw a gun dealer interviewed on the news last night regarding high-cap magazines. Why does somebody need a thirty-round magazine? he was asked.

Well, you know, people who shoot a lot, it's inconvenient for them to have to stop and reload so often …

Really? That's all you got? You couldn't carry three ten-rounders? How long does it take you make a magazine change? Half an hour? If you count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three," and you can't manage to drop-and-swap, you probably ought not to be operating a semi-automatic firearm.

But leave all that. And the part about how Obama has grabbed all those guns, did I miss that? How many types of firearms have been made illegal by his administration? How many get grabbed by those 23 talking points? 

Let me count them, lemme see, one, two, three, um … wait … 

Zero. Nothing in this list takes a single weapon away from a law-abiding citizen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


So, another gig ...

Yep, that's right, the CM's rocked out Saturday at an assisted living facility in Sellwood. 

Half the patrons were in wheelchairs.

Got the Rolling Stones crowd ...

So far, we've had three public outings with the band: A park centennial, a quilt show at a church, and an assisted-living home.

Not your typical arena venues, but hey, there you go ...

We picked out tunes we thought an older crowd would enjoy and urged them to sing along if they wished. Avoided songs we thought might be depressing–nothing with death or serious misery, so we thought. Although in retrospect, it's interesting how many songs we did might be be taken that way: "Last Thing on My Mind," "The Rose," "Live Forever."

They loved "Brand New Key," and, of course, you haven't seen everything until you see people dancing in wheelchairs to "Mustang Sally ..."

During the break, I was noodling on the intro to "Stairway to Heaven," and somebody in the audience yelled out "Play that one!" 

Makes you realize what geezer rock is ...

Set List:


Encore was  JAMAICA FAREWELL ...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Guitar Heroes

Two of my favorite guitar players are El McMeen and Michael Chapdelaine. These are acoustic guys, and masters of their instruments. Plug either name into the blog's search pane, you'll see I've posted about them a few times. Guys who can play.

In 2006, the two of them got together for a master guitar class, in New Jersey. Two days, intensive stuff.

I really wanted to go. What with the air fare and hotel and all, it would have set me back a thousand, maybe twelve hundred bucks, but I would have found the money, only ...

... only I would have had to take lessons for a couple years to get good enough to justify tackling the class ...

Kind of like the woman who cleans her house before the housecleaner gets there, so she isn't embarrassed. Me sitting down with guys of this caliber? Not gonna happen, because it would be such a pearls-before-swine experience for them ...

Oink, oink ...

Makes you think; when you honestly–well, as honestly as you can–assess your ability in a given arena, you might not do as well as you hoped. (Could be better, too, but my tendency has always been to think I'm better than I am when it comes to some comparisons. How good a driver am I? Why, better than average, I say ... Ego is always on my shoulder, egging me on. C'mon, Dude, you know you're better than them. Really.)

Two of my hobbies are martial arts and the guitar. I am not a master of either, and while once-upon-a-time, that would have bothered me no end to admit it, it doesn't do so now. 
I have some skills, and they are better now than they used to be in both areas; however, I'm not fooling myself into thinking I'm good at either. 

The thing about rating yourself low is that you can get better and notice the difference. 

I'm a romantic, but there is a strain of reality running through it that pulls me up short now and again. Fantasy is fun, but truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing. Sometimes it takes a while for those clouds to clear out ...

Got the Blues in the Night ...

From a Tumblr site. Testify, Bruce!

Friday, January 11, 2013

She's Leaving Home

Chapdelaine's arrangement for solo guitar. Damn. Damn. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bodyguard Needs a New Profession?

Moshe Benabou, second from right

So, Justin Bieber's ex-bodyguard is suing Justin. Back pay, mostly, but buttressing the claim, according to the story, with a note that the Bieb whaled on him:

"Moshe Benabou's lawsuit claims Bieber berated him and repeatedly punched him in the chest after a disagreement about how to handle a member of the Grammy-nominated singer's entourage. After he walked away, Bieber fired him, Benabou's lawsuit claims."

Now it's true that Benabou is a somewhat-avuncular retired Israeli soldier, gray hair and all, but ... you've seen Justin, haven't you? Hard to avoid it in our culture, alas. So the Bieb pummeled his hired muscle and the guy brings it up? Really? I mean, really? How much damage you figure Justin did, punching a professional bodyguard in the chest like that?

Go Ask the Cheshire Cat

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Scavenger Hunt

Concept art by Ubin Li

Long-time fans of my writing who pay attention sometimes find little nuggets buried hither and yon. While some of them might consider these cat turds among the kitty litter, others are sometimes tickled by them. These can be names with double-meaning, foreign words that mean something other than they would seem from the text, or little references to cultural items that amuse me to sprinkle in.

An observant reader spotted one in a recent book and mentioned it: "Her name was Magil, but for some reason, everybody called her Nancy ..."

Beatle fans will know this right off.

Happened also I got a critical letter from a fan who thought the latest book sucked big time and that he couldn't finish it. Managed to force himself to slog through a third or so of it, then quit.

Stock characters, and too many of them; bad dialog, poor research, confusing technology; not enough realism in the military stuff. Kind of like a video game.

Pretty much everything that could go wrong did, he said, couldn't find anything to like about it, and he was disappointed. 

Fortunately, it was a Kindle book and he was able to get his money back. He hoped I'd do better in the future. 

I warned him off the next two in the series. If he didn't like this one, I am certain he won't like those, either.

This is the biz: Some will love what you did and give you five stars; some will hate it. As always, I ask myself when I get panned, was it me? Did I not hit the target for which I was aiming? Or was it them? Did they not get it? Some combination of the two?

In this case,  given what bothered him the most? He's not a fan of military-science fiction, because I feel like the weapon-porn, tech-talk, and space opera aspects I did weren't all that  far off the money. He compared it to stuff by David Drake and S.M. Stirling, which more or less makes my point. If that's the case, he wasn't the audience I wanted, and the love wasn't fated to happen. And maybe some of it was me. But I'm pretty comfortable with my skills, so I'm not apt to be crying myself to sleep over his review ... 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Ducks, Nibbled By

Piddly stuff happens, and even though it's shrug-it-off-and-go-on-about-your-business, you can see how enough of it in a short period of time could be debilitating. Fortunately, I've only had a couple of nibbles so far this week ...

Thursday, I chipped a tooth. Dunno how, didn't crunch down on anything that I noticed, but of a moment, there was a piece gone from the back of a canine.

Saturday, I strained a low back muscle. You know how that goes. It's a little tight, you don't worry about it, then while you are reaching for a water glass, somebody stabs you in the back with an ice pick and your knees buckle. Oh, ow! where did that come from?

Got the tooth spackled over, no problem, and the back is better after hot showers and tubs and rest. The dregs of the cold hang on, snurfling and throat-clearing, but that hardly counts during flu season.

Nibble, nibble ...

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Buns of Steel

The largest muscles in the human body are the gluteus maximus. Taken with the g. medias and the g. minimus, the glutes make up the buttocks. They help keep the trunk upright, let you sit and take the weight off your feet, and extend the leg to the rear, along with some adduction and external rotation of the hip and pelvis and all like that. 

Pretty much, the glutes are what allow you to stand on two legs. If you want sidekick or back kick somebody, you need some strength in them. Weak glutes are bad for your knees, abs, and low back, which have to work harder if the glutes aren't doing the job. 

Lot of exercises work them somewhat. Squats, leg-presses on an inclined sled, some special machines like the one pictured above. 

If you want to develop a great bubble-butt, figure skating will do it. All those toe-loops and axels and backward skating are great, assuming you don't kill yourself trying 'em ...

Because they are relatively-large and because they stick out away from their points of origin and insertion, they are also among the first things to sag ... Eventually, gravity beats us all, of course, but you can delay it some. It takes a lot of work.

Just so you know ...

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Baby Got Fried

Been under the weather here, the wife and I; not full-blown flu, I don't think, but snorks and coughs and assorted plumbing issues. Getting better now.

We were off our feed enough so we skipped the New Year's Eve party we usually attend, stayed home and curled up in front of a fire, cradling my shivering dog when the fireworks boomed. Layla is gun-shy and thunder or firecrackers get her shaking and panting.

Not firework people in my house. 

As a result of not attending the party, the dish we traditionally bring, boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce, didn't get made. But down-home cooking tends to be comfort food, so I took one of the two-pound bags of shrimp and fried them.

I have posted my recipe before, but a quick recap is, get the oil hot enough in a deep pot–and good quality, high-heat oil makes a difference–then drop the breaded critters into it and cook until crispy. 

Some folks like to make a wet batter, nothing wrong with that. I prefer to single-dip them, first in a milk and egg wash, then into a paper bag with the dry ingredients: white flour, fine corn meal or corn flour, Tony Chachere's pepper seasoning, plus some fresh-ground black pepper. Corn flour doesn't get as dark as wheat flour when it fries, so you get a golden color more than a brown.

Drain on newspaper, serve with a cocktail sauce–catsup, mustard, lemon juice, horse radish, Tabasco–and eat until gone. 

The amounts of cholesterol and fat and salt in two pounds of fried shrimp pretty much uses up your RDA for like, three weeks, and you really don't want to know how many calories you down. Which is why we don't do this more than a few times in any given year. 

Because you can hear the sound of your arteries hardening when you stop chewing ...