Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Once Again, I've Missed the Boat!

Unless you've been living under a rock, or maybe on the moon, you've heard that a civilian expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has found the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, seventy-two years after it was torpedoed and sunk in the south Pacific. Unless you've been living on another planet, you know that the Indianapolis was instrumental in the US victory in World War II, having delivered parts of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima to Tinian Island. The Indianapolis was en route to the Phillippines when it was sunk.

Back in 1994, Berkley published my novel, Luck of the Draw, part of which took place during World War II. A pivotal scene in the novel was set aboard the Indianapolis, where my protagonist met a young man from an affluent background, Spencer Randall. Spencer didn't survive the attack, but Frankie, a rough young man from Chicago, did. Frankie was found with Spencer's dog tags. Long story short, he assumed Spencer Randall's identity and returned to the US to build a financial empire.

Why am I bringing this up now? I recently decided not to reissue all of my backlist. I'd changed as a writer. The glitz and glamour of my previous writing identity was no longer me. Would reissuing those old books help or hurt my new books' sales? I'll never know. For one thing, I haven't published anything new since 2009. Anyway, Luck of the Draw was one of the books that didn't make the cut. Would the discovery of the Indianapolis now help that book's sales? Who knows.

I'm still kicking myself....

Monday, September 11, 2017

All Aboard the Medical Merry-Go-Round!

First, we were told too much sitting is bad for us. It increases the risk for some cancers, type 2 diabetes and other medical issues. Stand more, the medical community told us. You'll live longer. Now, it seems too much standing can lead to heart disease, according to a recent Canadian study.

What's left? Lying down all day? I could get on board with that.

I saw a comment online from someone in their late seventies who says he ignores all the studies. He eats whatever he wants in moderation--including junk food--and gets moderate exercise. Late seventies? He seems to have done something right.

Think about it. How many studies have contradicted each other over the years? First, a fatty diet was bad. Then it was carbs. Don't eat chocolate, they said. Then we were told chocolate is good for us--dark chocolate, anyway. Don't use whole milk--skim is better (for the record, skim tastes like water). Now, whole milk is not only okay, but better, according to some researchers. Eggs were taboo for years. Now it's okay to eat eggs. Soda is bad. Drink diet soda--now, diet soda is the villain.

And then there are the medications that are supposed to help us deal with some of the health problems that can result for eating or drinking some of those things we've been consuming. Have you seen the TV ads? 

Looks good, until you get the long list of side effects and warnings that come with just about every drug on the market. Makes you want to run to your doctor and ask for a prescription, doesn't it?

It makes me want to STOP taking some of the stuff I'm currently using.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Where Were You When the Sun Went AWOL?

If you weren't aware of yesterday's total solar eclipse, you weren't on this planet. Okay, maybe that's stretching it a bit, but only a bit. It was a big deal here, because we were "in the path of totality," as it was billed. We had the Official (TV) Station of the Eclipse, and all kinds of other "official" things. Who knew the sun and the moon could hire a PR firm to promote their brief encounter?

Not that it was needed. The excitement that grew in anticipation for this once-in-a-lifetime event had been building for months. On the Big Day, thousands of people made the trip to our area just to see it. Some came from as far away as Japan and China. Some booked flights just to be in the air as it happened. Some got engaged during the Moment (totality, when the sun's corona looked very much like a celestial diamond ring). Ten babies were born during the eclipse--an unusually high number, according to doctors. A black foal born during the eclipse had a crescent-shaped white mark on its head. Guess what she was named?

For one day, most of us put aside our differences, joined in our excitement over seeing something that, if you're lucky, you get to see once in your lifetime. Eclipses weren't always so popular, however. Some ancient cultures believed the sun might disappear forever and demons would descend upon the earth and devour humans. Some fasted, believing food cooked during an eclipse was impure. Some ancient superstitions told of children born during eclipses turning into mice. Others suggested women and children were at risk and had to stay indoors.Some saw it as a warning to settle differences, as the sun would not come back until they did so. Good thing that one's not true. We'd still be waiting for the sun to come back!

In movies, eclipses have been harbingers of doom. In The Seventh Sign, an eclipse was one of the signs preceding the end of the world.

I viewed the eclipse with a neighbor, right here in our courtyard. I almost didn't go outside, even though I had my eclipse glasses ready to go. One of our local TV stations was doing a three-hour special to cover it. It would be more impressive on TV, I told myself. The image would be larger. More detailed. It wouldn't look any different. 

Boy, was I wrong.

I did venture out, at first, just to see how tiny the sun looked through the glasses at the beginning. There was just a small part of the sun obscured by the moon. Made me wish I still had my telescope. Made me wish for another. Made me wish I had brought my tablet out so I could view it through the Mobile Observatory app. I decided I wanted to see the big finale. I watched through the eclipse glasses as the sun was reduced to a tiny orange sliver, then nothing.

I'd forgotten the part about removing the glasses when totality was reached. I pulled the glasses off--and was immediately speechless. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was wrong--seeing it on TV would not have been the same.

Collin wanted to photograph it. I advised him to forget about that and just enjoy it. There would be plenty of photos available afterward. There have been--including a couple of amazing shots now available for viewing at St. Louis Daily Photo

For once, Collin took my advice and is still taking about the experience. Things were busy at IHOP, he said, until about 11:45. There was a viewing party at Jefferson Barracks, so I'm guessing everyone headed over there to wait for the eclipse. It was so quiet at the restaurant, Collin and his fellow servers were able to go outside and see it themselves.

Now, we're planning for April 2024. We want to go see the next one at Carbondale....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks...Months....

In the past few months, death has been prominent. Two of my cousins passed away. A dear family friend died, too. Another dear friend lost her beloved Scottie.

And as is the case as we grow older, I started to wonder how much time I have left. I found out back in June that I had a small stroke--better than the alternative, a large monster stroke, mind you, but still unsettling. Especially given that strokes are one of our family curses. I started thinking about how suddenly it could happen. Or how I could end up like my mother, slowly slipping away over two or three years. Or maybe longer.

Things made sense after that revelation--the memory lapses, the intermittent speech issues, the focus, the concentration, the ability to develop a story so easily. I stopped beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out why I was struggling to do what once came so easily. I learned to accept that there would be good days and bad days. Still better than the alternatives.

I'm learning to appreciate the important things in life, which is why I'm not around so much these days. I still manage to keep up with everybody else's blogs, even if I haven't posted anything of my own in a while.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is the total solar eclipse next Monday. The last total solar eclipse to cross the US was on June 8, 1918, ninety-nine years ago. There was a partial solar eclipse (80%) here on February 26, 1979, but I missed it. I was busy preparing for another kind of son, who arrived five days later. (Hi, Collin!)

We're prepared. We have our eclipse glasses, verified to be the correct glasses, not the dangerous ripoffs that have been going around, and four t-shirts are on the way--two designs, so we each have one of each design. Cute, huh? If you've been here before, you know I love Minions!

But now, Collin may not even be home for the Big Event. He got tired of being stuck in his bedroom on the phone for ten hours every day, and went back to his old job at IHOP. At least it's still close to home. He may have jinxed them, though. Shortly after he returned, the company that owns IHOP announced a number of their restaurants would close in the coming year. Then, last Saturday, he got to work to find his boss had been fired and left just before he arrived. 

I got tired of fighting with my baby-fine hair and last week, I got my head shaved (almost). I figured, why not? I always wear hats or caps everywhere but at home anyway. Who's going to see it? Then I got a notice informing me that it's time to renew my state ID. That means a new photo. A photo without a hat or a cap. No way. I'll just have to be late in renewing the ID!

And how has your week been? 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Exercise in Murphy's Law Survival?

I've got to be at least a week behind on blog reading/commenting. I promise, I'll get caught up in the next day or so. Fortunately, only three blogs I follow post every day!

It's been one of those weeks. Two of those weeks, actually.  Last week, we had a power outage during one of the hottest days in the past month. It was 103 degrees, with a heat index of something like 110. Fortunately, the power went out in the evening, around 5:30--and our AC had just run for a long period. Our ceiling fans had been running as well. The windows and blinds were closed. We left them that way for the duration of the outage, unlike our neighbors, who all went outside as soon as the lights went out. Our apartment was cool, and as long as we kept everything closed, it would remain so for several hours. We had a portable battery powered TV, a pocket radio and power banks to charge our phones. We also had an abundance of snacks that weren't messy and could be eaten in the dark. And toward the end, when my face started to feel warm, I had this cute little fan.

We used our phones to check the electric company's website for updates. First, they posted that power was expected to be restored by 8:45pm. Then, it was 11:00pm. By 11:00, it had been changed to 5:00. It looked to be a long night. I recalled a power outage I'd been through fifty years ago. (Fifty? Did I really just say fifty? I really am old!) I was a kid back then. There were no battery powered TVs, no smartphones...but we did have flashlights. Mom, Dad and I sat in our living room with Dad's big flashlight on the coffee table, pointed up at the ceiling. A bug got on the flashlight and spent hours running around in the light. That was our entertainment for the duration of the outage--watching that bug run around, looking much bigger than it actually was.

It took so little to entertain us back then.

But getting back to the immediate past, the lights came back on just after midnight--whereupon we checked everything electric to make sure there had been no damage from power surges. reset clocks, and promptly went to bed.

I've had a nasty cold. My nose is sore from blowing it so often. My lips are so chapped they look plumper than usual and much redder. I've bought so many boxes of tissues we should own stock in the company that makes Kleenex. Thankfully, it's almost gone now.

Now, we're preparing for the Big Event of the Century here in the Midwest. On August 21st, we'll be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. It will pass through twelve states, including Missouri. The last total solar eclipse to come our way was on June 8, 1918, almost one hundred years ago. It was sixty-one years before Collin was born, thirty-five years before I was born and eleven years before my mother was born. My father was only four years old.

It's a big deal, especially to amateur astronomers like myself.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Looks Good on Paper Might Not Look Good on the Jumbo Screen....

Those of you who have been regular visitors to this blog know that I've been a wrestling fan since childhood. As early as age five, I have memories of Mom, Dad and me watching Wrestling at the Chase every Saturday night--in black and white back then. Dad was a big fan. Mom was, too--until she found out it was staged (fake, scripted, whatever).

These days, Collin and I watch events from all over the world via the WWE Network on our big screen TV. There are four regular shows--Raw, SmackDown, NXT and 205 Live and so many pay-per-view events, I've lost count (they're actually only pay-per-view for the fans who don't subscribe and have to get them through cable or satellite providers, which is a lot more expensive). There are many new events, and some of the old ones have been rebranded. Most of the new brand names work well, while others, well....

Last Sunday's event is an example of a rebranding that just might have gone wrong. The new title is Great Balls of Fire. Great song title, but I'm not sure how it connects to wrestling. At any rate, it caused a few unfortunate images to pop up online....

I wonder how these played with the parents of some of wrestling's younger fans?

Looks like a throwback to the WWE's Attitude Era, before the raunchiness was replaced with a PG version cleaned up for the younger audience.

This guy's ring name is Big Cass. If he weren't seven feet tall, the C might have not been blocked out like the sun during an eclipse. But it's oddly appropriate here, since Big Cass had just turned heel and was on his way to the ring to pulverize his former partner/buddy, Enzo Amore. As a team, they looked like Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo--if Boo-Boo were a hyperactive chatterbox!

Note to WWE Creative: It's one thing for your guys' promos to sound as immature and illiterate as a Donald Trump speech, but maybe this one needs a new title?


Friday, June 30, 2017

Okay, Maybe I Was Wrong....

I've been hoping the studios would start making new films available for viewing at home at the same time they're released  to theaters. I never really enjoyed sitting in the theaters with people behind us kicking our seats. Regular seats weren't made for butts like ours--Collin and I would find ourselves competing for the armrests. We couldn't get to the theater late or we might not get the seats on the ground level--I can't climb the steps to the upper levels in stadium seating, and the lower levels are often uncomfortable  because they're too close to the screen. 

Some theaters now offer a special dining experience--meals prepared by professional chefs and served to theatergoers in their seats. I don't care about that. Eating in the dark tends to be messy. I prefer to have lunch before or after the movie. But now, they're offering something I can definitely get on board with.

Reserved seats. SuperScreen DLX.  Dreamlounger seats--recliners with wide armrests,  large cupholders, and even heating if you prefer.

Collin and I went to see Despicable Me 3 this morning. Because we chose the 9:00am showing, the tickets were only $5.00 each. Because we ordered our tickets in advance online, we got to reserve the seats we wanted and got a discount on Minion merchandise through Fandango (our Minions are scheduled to arrive tomorrow). We also got special Despicable Me 3 popcorn buckets.

Collin said my mom would have loved the new seats, which she would have. But she probably would have fallen asleep during the movie, snoring so loud that we would have been asked to leave!

As for the movie, it was great. I'll be reviewing it at Rotten Tomatoes within the next few days. I was disappointed to not see Kevin, Stuart and Bob, who were featured prominently in the Minions movie--but Mel, who was featured  this time, was a riot! I especially loved watching Gru's new wife, Lucy, struggle to make the transition from secret agent to mom to three young girls (Gru's adopted daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes), while Gru got to know Dru, the twin brother he never knew he had, and the restless Minions, led by Mel, left Gru in search of a life of villainy they were never really suited for.

Yep. Highly recommended. I give it five bananas!