2017 Reading Challenge update #4



Fear Nothing

It seems that I always hit a reading dry spell during the summer months. I read no books during July and August this year. Well, I read one book before that dry spell, Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz. This book was my choice for  science fiction/fantasy selection. I’m sure that I have mentioned in other posts that when Cindy plays an audio book in the car, I fall asleep. Fear Nothing was the exception to that rule when Cindy played it many years ago. This year I bought a physical copy of the book to hold in my hands and read to see if it was a fluke. It wasn’t. I’ve read other books by Mr. Koontz, and none of them are as satisfying to me as his two Christopher Snow novels. I only hope that he eventually gets around to writing the third.

East of Eden

I broke loose from my reading dry spell in September when I took my next selection, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, with me while we were on vacation. It was published in the 1950’s. Steinbeck is another one of those handful of authors who have always made me feel like a hack writer when I read their prose. Perhaps that is the reason that I don’t read them as often as i should. This is a sprawling family story that stretches over generations with echoes from biblical stories, both old and new testament. Once again I find myself swearing to go back and read more Steinbeck. He is worth it.


The Night of Morningstar

Next I went to a book published in the 1980’s, The Night of Morningstar by Peter O’Donnell. It is a Modesty Blaise novel. I believe it is the only Modesty Blaise novel that I hadn’t read. Over the years I’ve read all of the novels, many of the comic strips in reprint books, and I’ve seen the atrocious movie which starred Monica Vitti, Terrance Stamp, and Dick Bogarde. I haven’t seen the made-for-tv movie(s?), and don’t plan to see them. The books, however, are worth reading and re-reading.

The plot lines are familiar. Wealthy men want more wealth and power. Their plot is stumbled upon by Modesty and Willie. Innocent people are in danger. Modesty and Willie insert themselves into action. Modesty and Willie prevail. All is well. No matter how many times I read one of these thrillers, I love it.

Body of Lies

From the 2000’s I chose to read Body of Lies by David Ignatius. He has been writing espionage books for decades, but this was the first of his that I’ve read. I see Mr. Ignatius on television often as a political commentator. He also writes a syndicated column for The Washington Post. Body of Lies was made into a movie in 2008, but I have to admit that I never saw it. I enjoyed the book, It was well written and had an interesting premise. Plus it drew upon the book The Man Who Never Was, which I read when I was in high school. That book was was fact. I shall be reading more novels by Mr. Ignatius.



As the book on a historical subject, I chose Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to The Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur. As you might have guessed, the book is about her coverage of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign for President of the United States. She is a reporter for NBC News, and was assigned to the campaign for what was supposed to be a short time. However, she stayed with the campaign through the election. The book gives can account of life on the road as she followed the campaign. She also writes about her youth, her parents, and how she got into TV journalism. It is an interesting and quick read. I’m sure that if I re-read the book in a few years,it will bring back memories.

The Steel Mirror

Finally, as the book I read from the 1940’s, I went back to an author, Donald Hamilton, whom I had read  for the 1970’s. This is the first time I have read the same author in two categories. I had not planned on doing so. I had started reading 1984, but found that I wasn’t able to really enjoy it. It was too serious at a time when I didn’t want serious. I wanted an easy read. So I dug out my copy of The Steel Mirror. I read the book so long ago, and it had made so little impression on me, it was like reading it for the first time. It is something of a pot-boiler that is hard to take truly seriously. Or perhaps  it is that I’ve become more cynical as I age. Still, you can see the germ of Hamilton’s more famous creation, Matt Helm, in the actions of the male protagonist of this story. I may dig out some other older Hamilton books and give them another read.

I successfully finished my challenge for the year! And I still have enough time to read a couple of books that I don’t have to try to fit into a specific category. I am pleased.


What the? and wonderment

It’s almost time

I put the tree up so that it would be ready for our party last weekend.


Talk about strange dreams! A few nights ago, in a dream, I found myself laying on a couch in our living room. Only it wasn’t our living room. It was similar in layout to the living room in my parent’s house, and Cindy and my first home, as well as our present house. The couch was facing a picture window onto our front yard. But the front yard was not one I had ever seen before, because there were tall, hedge-like bushes in front of the window.

Also in the room with me were two women whom I did not know. They said nothing. I knew that they were friends of a non-carnal nature. They were just sitting there.

Suddenly, I heard a noise coming from somewhere behind me. I arose and walked into the back of the house. I saw nothing unusual, so I looked out a window into the back yard. I saw a maple tree sappling and beside it was a bird bath and a wheelbarrow. On the ground was a very large log. I instinctively knew that the log had been dropped there, and that was what I had heard. I saw no one in the yard so I went back to the living room and once again lay down. The women said nothing and neither did I.

All of a sudden I heard another noise in the back. Once again I arose and rushed to the back. I looked out the window. Again there was no one there. But the log was now balanced in the wheelbarrow.

I went back to the living room and resumed my place on the couch. The women said nothing, and I said nothing to them.

I glanced out the picture window at the hedge-like bushes. Wait. I thought I saw something move in the bushes. I stared where I thought I had seen the movement. And then I saw a man standing in the bushes. He was wearing a fedora and had a camera strapped around his neck. And then I could make out another man over the first’s right shoulder. The second man was wearing a pork pie hat and appeared to be holding sound equipment. I looked back at the man in the fedora and clearly saw his face. He knew that I had seen him. He wasn’t smiling, exactly; it was more like a sheepish grin that had gone wide.

I started to get up to confront them. That’s when I woke up.

I have no idea what that dream was about. I would be happy to hear your theories.


I was ripping music from of my favorite albums for a dear friend the other day. When I came to my albums by The Beatles, I started looking through the songs from their early albums through Abbey Road. As I went through those albums I marveled once again how quickly their music evolved. I liked The Beatles the first time I heard them. That wasn’t true of many of my high school classmates. But, back to The Beatles’ (R)evolution; while I liked music from all stages of their career, I do have two albums above all of the others. In my opinion, Revolver and Abbey Road are the best. Feel  free to argue with me, but you won’t change my mind. Which album(s) do you prefer?

Scheduling woes


I took this picture earlier this year, but never posted it anywhere. Since I didn’t have any recent photos, I chose to use this one.


We had a problem with our clothes washer last week. The pump on it broke and poured water onto the basement floor. Another flood, no matter how small, was not something we wanted. Besides, we needed to wash our clothes. So Cindy immediately delegated the responsibility to call a repair person to me. Great. She also informed me that our reasonably new washer, purchased at Sears, was still under warranty. That would help.

So I opened up the laptop to look up phone number for the Sears’ repair service. Finding the page, I whipped out my smart phone, punched in the number, and listened to a busy signal. I frowned. No recorded voice told me that my call was important. I hit re-dial and once again heard a busy signal. I repeated this process half a dozen times over a three-hour period. Each time I got the same result. So I let it go for the rest of the day.

When I woke up the next day it occurred to me that perhaps I had erred and fingered in an inaccurate telephone number. I know that it is hard to believe that I could do that, but I decided to go back to the laptop and check. Hmm. I had erred. I entered the correct the number and dialed. Almost immediately I got a recorded message stating that I would be transferred to a customer service person, but while I waited I could listen to an amazing offer. I listened and was then told that if I wanted to take them up on the offer I only had to enter the number 1, or to decline enter #. I declined. Then I was given another offer. Again I declined. After the third offer I dialed 0 because that often takes you to a real person. Instead I got another offer. I just started hitting the # key as soon as another offer began. I gave up after the seventh futile attempt, and hung up.

Then I thought that I would give it another go and see how long it would take to get to a customer service representative. So I dialed again and prepared to start hitting #. After the twelfth # another recording came on and told me that the company I was trying to reach was no longer at that number, but if I wanted to hear more offers I could dial another number to listen to offers there. Sure. That’s what I want.

At that point I finally gave up on the Internet, and called the local Sears store. They answered on the first ring and transferred me to their repair department. I’m pretty sure that the person to whom I next spoke was somewhere on the other side of the world. While I had a hard time understanding everything he said, I was able to schedule an appointment for two days hence. He gave me a window of time in which to expect the repair person; between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Well, that narrowed it down.

I mentioned the warranty on the washer, and was told that he didn’t believe our warranty would cover anything but the electronics in the machine. He then tried to sell me insurance to cover future repairs at around $150 a month. I turned down that amazing offer without dialing #.

The repair person appeared on the scheduled day around half way through our window of opportunity. He put on a new pump in short order. He said he would clean the dryer for an additional amount of money (we accepted). And then he offered to sell us the same insurance that I had turned down two days earlier. Again I declined. Before he left he told me that he was required to call a customer satisfaction representative so that I could tell them that he had offered but that I didn’t want the damned (my term, not his) insurance. After I talked to the Customer Service Rep, the repair guy apologized and left. I liked him.

Catching up



A photo from our vacation

This is another photo I took while on vacation. It shows the smoke in the air from the recent wildfires, and the tree remnants from a past wildfire.


I haven’t been writing much lately. So it is probably a good thing that I’m not doing Na-No-Wri-Mo this year. Plus, Cindy doesn’t like it when I choose to spend hours at a time on the computer when we have a holiday party planned. Somebody has to send out the invitations, haul up all the Christmas decorations from the basement, erect the tree, and decorate it.

That doesn’t mean that I have completely given up writing, or planning for Na-No-Wri-Mo. I’ve just decided to have my own private month to write in February. There are only two things happening in February that I have to aware of. 1) Valentine’s Day, and 2) Indiana University Men’s Basketball. If it snows, I might have to clear the driveway. On the other hand, it isn’t all that long until the spring thaw.


Here is something strange. Almost every weekday morning I start the day with two cups of coffee while I watch Morning Joe. Shortly after I finish the second cup, I start to get drowsy. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had any breakfast, or failed to break my fast. I just get drowsy. I often close my eyes and listen to the television as I sit in my La-Z-Boy.

As an aside, I marvel at the branding of the furniture with the cute La-Z-Boy, rather than with the more pejorative La-Z-Man. Absolute genius!


I feel that as I grow older, I have the right to grow more cranky. It only seems fair to me. What do you think? Should I start writing nasty letters to the editor of the local newspaper? Can I start yelling at teenagers who are walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk? How about setting traps for the cats that wander into our yard? It is worth a ponder.

N-N-1 October 31, 2017

The latest episode of N-N-1 was hosted by Barb, whose entry blended N-N-1 with her own blog’s title, The View from a Drawbridge. I love that she brought so many new people into the fold. I hope they stay.

The View from a Drawbridge

This was a fun post to write, because it took a village. In an atmosphere of increasing divisiveness, people from all walks of life, from all over the world, got together to do one thing: Take a photograph at 6 pm (their time zone) on the 31st of October. If you’re mathematically inclined, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (because those numbers should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. These photos were sent to me, along with 50-100 words about them, so that we could share them all with you.

What I love most about this project is that we are all seeing different things at the same point in time. The world is so varied and nuanced, as are our lives, and yet we are all part of the human race. Thirteen responses…

View original post 1,757 more words

Vacation 2017 – Part 12


Our plan for the day’s drive was to drive through Kansas, and to stop in Kansas City, Missouri for the night. We wanted to have dinner with Cindy’s cousin, Alice. Stopping for gas and a meal, we expected to be on the road for five or six hours.

Not a mountain in sight

We rolled into Kansas City right around the time Alice got off of work. We found a motel close to Alice’s home and checked in. Cindy called Alice and made arrangements to meet her at a restaurant that was just down the street from where were staying. After a good meal and conversation, we went back to the motel to rest up for our last day on the road.

View from our motel window

This picture is actually one of the better views we had while on our trip, not counting the condo in Oregon. I’m thinking about starting a collection of pictures titled “From the Back Windows of Motels.”

We didn’t get up too early, because we only had about a four-hour drive to get Cindy to the motel where she was meeting and  staying with Trina for the conference. I would be driving home after dropping Cindy off.

We stayed on the Interstate until we had to get off for the motel. We found it, and contacted Trina. She was still about half an hour away, so we got lunch. Trina pulled into the motel parking lot a few minutes after we returned.

We said our goodbyes and I left for home. I had about four hours on the road ahead of me. I pulled into our driveway thirty minutes after the sun set. The vacation was over.


A few things I forgot to write about during our trip:

First: Every time we stopped to get gas in Oregon and Idaho, there were attendants there to pump the gas…even if you wanted to pump your own.

Second: Once, when we were in a desolate area, we started to get low on fuel. Then we saw an old gas pump setting in front of a wooden building that appeared to be last painted ten years earlier. There were a couple of motorcycles parked by the building, and two unsavory looking fellows standing in front of the place. We were desperate for fuel, so we pulled in.

I got out of the car and one of the fellows walked over to me.      He looked like a skin-head who had just escaped from a             maximum security prison He courteously asked me if I wanted the tank filled, and I said yes. In an effort to make small talk, I said that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a pump that old. He replied that the woman who owned the station had hired him to keep it in working order.

He was one of the most pleasant people I had met on the trip.

Third: I believe that I wrote about problems getting a WiFi connection in the condo. We eventually resolved that problem, but before we did, I spent an hour or so one morning in the restaurant at the condo office, drinking coffee and working on the laptop.

I won’t bother going on about how overpriced everything was on the menu, and how hoity toity the staff seemed. Why bother?

Anyway, I was sitting in a booth drinking over-priced, sour coffee and tapping away on the keyboard. When I heard a waitress ask a new customer how he was. His response was along the lines of “Terrible, the whole country is going to hell in a hand-basket.”

The waitress made the mistake of not ignoring him, but rather saying, “Oh?”

He went on to start rambling on how “they” were polluting the air and water in order take over the country…and on and on.

Meanwhile the waitress had been tying to get the fellow to order something so that she could get away from the table. She tried to convince him that it was very busy in the place, even though the place was three-fourths empty. She started to say, “I don’t have time…”

He broke in and said, “You’re right, we’re all running out of time.”

She said that she would get him a cup of coffee while he made up his mind about what to eat. She left his table and never returned.

I had been keeping my head lowered because I didn’t want to make eye contact with him. But at that point I glanced up to look at him. He was bald; probably in his fifties; and was wearing latex gloves. Of course he was.

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. I do not know who he called, but he started the conversation by stating that his topic was of the gravest consequences. Then he started in again on how the mysterious “they” were causing killer pollution. Then he went on to say that he had been the chief investigator and had found all of this out. He had all the documents to prove it, and he would share them. He said that he had sent copies of the documents to the Portland, Oregon newspaper, The Oregonian, but they hadn’t printed anything. It was obvious that the paper was in on the conspiracy.

They must have hung up on the other end because he put down the telephone. I was afraid that he would start wandering around the room and start talking to people, so I paid my bill and left.

This seems like a good place to end our vacation saga.

N-N-1 Callout

Long time readers of this blog are aware of what N-N-1 is. Short time readers, maybe not. Basically it is a collaborative project involving anyone who wants to participate in sharing a picture and a short write-up about the picture.

Rather than explaining the whole thing from scratch, I’m sharing a link to the blog of the next N-N-1 project host, The View from a Drawbridge. The linked post explains the concept as well as laying out the dates and times needed to participate. If you read more of the posts, you’ll probably be glad that you did. Please feel free to join the group, and to share this information with anyone whom you think might be interested.

Vacation 2017 – Part 11


Morning in Utah

We left Ogden, UT the next morning and caught I-80 into Wyoming. This was to be our day of major travel. We wouldn’t be stopping to see the sights or to take pictures, only to fuel up the car and ourselves. I started in the driver’s seat that morning, and by noon we were in Laramie, Wyoming, where we stopped for lunch. We also hit the local Wal-Mart for a couple of last-minute souvenirs.

Cindy took over the wheel and we headed south out of Laramie on I-25 towards Denver, Colorado. On the northern part of the city we hit a major traffic jam, with cars  backed up for miles. I took out our atlas (paper, not electronic) and found a street we could take from the next exit. That street ran parallel to the Interstate, and connected to I-70, which we planned on using to flee Denver. It worked like a charm.

After fighting some of the outbound traffic on I-70, we were soon zipping along, heading east. Our plan was to drive as far in Colorado as we could before the sun set.

Sun setting in Colorado

We made excellent progress. The sun started to set so we determined to stop in the next town that had a motel to spend the night. We drove until we were about and hour from the state line. We stopped in a town that I had Googled. The Internet told me that there were at least two motels there. We saw one and decided to pass it by because it looked pretty run down. Then we searched the town for the other motel. It didn’t exist. We drove up and down every street in the town. There was only the one motel, so we stopped there. I went into the lobby and found no one there. I rang the bell on the counter. No response. I waited a bit and rang it again. No response. I rang the bell and called out, “Hello.” No response. I rang again and yelled, “HELLO!” No response. I walked over to an open door that led to the manager’s room. “HELLO!!” I yelled. No response. I stepped into the room and looked around. I decided that looking for the manager was a waste of time. On my way out the door of the motel I decided to look behind the counter. There were no bodies, so I left with a clear conscious.

We drove another half an hour or so until we reached Burlington, Colorado. We pulled off the Interstate and checked in at the first motel we saw. It was interesting. The room we got appeared to be in the middle of restoration. The bathroom mirror was propped up on the floor in the bedroom between a chair and a table. The mattress, not a new one, felt as if a wrecking ball had been sitting on it for a few months. But it was a bed, and we slept the sleep of the exhausted.

Vacation 2017 – Part 10

Still in Oregon

We started the day still in Oregon. We drove to a nearby town to find coffee-to-go. It was a small town, and coffee seemed to be scarce. Finally I spotted a convenience store and told Cindy, who was driving, to stop there. She didn’t believe me at first because there were no gas pumps in front of the place. But she did stop and we went in for coffee. Luckily, I was right about coffee being available in the place.

It was a small store and while Cindy was busy choosing the type of coffee she wanted and went about adding the proper amounts of creamer and sweetener, I wandered around the place. There was a glass case with three shelves of hand blown glass objects. I started looking at some of the items on the top shelf, thinking that perhaps I would find something as a souvenir for Macey, our oldest granddaughter. I wasn’t sure what the items were supposed to represent, but they were pretty. I looked at the shelf below and realized that it was full of hand blown glass bongs. Oh. I took a closer look back at the top shelf and realized that thy were all hand blown glass pipes. Oh! Nope. I wouldn’t be buying any of those products for Macey.

Poor spelling

We got back on the road, still heading south and east. Later that morning we decided to stop in Vale, Oregon and get some late breakfast. I didn’t notice the spelling on the sign until we were out of the car and walking into the restaurant. The spelling was funny, but the food was excellent! From there we drove a few miles and entered Idaho.

I took this picture while passing through a very small town.

From the passenger seat

This lonely cow was the only one visible from where we stopped to stretch our legs and clean off the windshield of the car.

One is the loneliest number

Soon we were on Interstate I-84 and our driving became a matter of going as far and as fast as we could, because we had a lot of miles and time to make up. We drove to Boise, Idaho and then south to Ogden, Utah where we stopped for the night. We had driven in and out of heavy traffic, heavy winds, some rain, and a minor dust storm. It was a good day.


Vacation 2017 – Part 9


We got up early the next morning and packed the car. Then we drove over to Lee and Michelle’s unit to say goodbye. Michelle was still very sick, so they had decided to extend their stay for another day or two until she felt better. We said our farewells, turned in our keys at the office, and headed out to Portland, Oregon.

We needed to make good time on the trip back because we had to be in St. Louis in five days time so that Cindy could attend a conference. That meant that we would be spending a lot of time on the soulless Interstate Highway system. We drove to Portland where we got in I-84. We weren’t on very long before we had to exit the highway due to wildfires. We found no signs marking a detour route around the fire, so we decided to head further south and east in order to take US and State highways across the sate to the Idaho border. We knew that it would be much slower, but we also knew that it would probably be our last chance to see beautiful country up close.

Approaching Mt. Hood

And we drove through beautiful country. Unfortunately there was smoke in the air which gave a hazy cast to everything. The peak of Mt. Hood was obscured by smoke and fog. I have decided to not try to enhance for clarity the pictures that I took that day.

The foothills region

We left the Cascade range and dove into foothills region. There were fewer trees and flatter areas of land.

Smoke still in the air

We never were free of the smoke in the air that entire day.

Despite our hopes, and driving later than we wished, we weren’t able to leave Oregon that day.