Nick Russell

Dec 022020
 

Television has taught us that journalists and the police are always at odds with each other, sworn enemies who will never come to any kind of middle ground. The reporters are pushy and don’t care about anything but getting the story, and if they can throw a cop under the bus to get it, even better. For their part, the police in movies and television are necessarily wary of the press and often go out of their way to be rude to them. In reality, this may be true in some places, but not nearly to the extent that Hollywood would want us to believe.

In the small towns where I operated newspapers, I always had a very good relationship with the police. Part of that was because of my own background, and part was because I understood that there were times when they could not tell me something, and I respected that. I never believed that “the people’s right to know” was sacrosanct. There are times when the people can’t know all the details of a case until the investigation is over because there may be other people out there that law enforcement is still looking for.

In my newspaper in the White Mountains of Arizona, the police chiefs of the towns of Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low were friends of mine, and we shared a mutual respect. We were also all three into classic cars and belonged to the same car club. At the time, one of those police chiefs had a red Corvette. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was a nice one. For my part, I had a red 1969 Corvette Stingray that looked like it was doing 100 miles an hour sitting still.

I’ve been known to have a lead foot at times, and more than once, an officer has lit me up just to remind me to slow it down a little bit. There is no question about it, there were times when I deserved a ticket, but I got by with a finger pointed at me and a shake of the head no. I remember once when that led to a funny story.

The police chief and I were having lunch one day when one of his officers, who was off duty, came into the restaurant with his wife and kids. Once they were seated, the officer, who was also a friend, came over to the table and looked at me, and said, “Chief, you’ve got to tell your buddy to slow it down. I clocked him doing 57 in a 45 mile per hour zone last night in his Vette.”

The chief looked at me, and I shook my head and said, “It wasn’t me. My Corvette hasn’t been out of the garage in a week.” The chief knew me enough to know that I wouldn’t lie about that, so then the officer looked at him and said, “Boss, I guess you’re the one that needs to slow it down.” Shaking his head, the chief said he had not been in his Corvette in several days.

The officer stared at both of us and realized that he had let the opportunity to write a perfectly good ticket slip through his fingers. He said next time he would get close enough to run the license plate. The police chief laughed and said that if it was my car, to write me up anyhow. I was going to mention the time he blew my doors off when I was doing 75 out on U.S. Highway 60, but I didn’t. You never know when you’re gonna need a favor from the boys in blue.

Thought For The Day – Do you want to know the secret to making your lover go “mmm mmm mmm” all night long? It’s duct tape

Hubbell Trading Post

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 012020
 

During the second half of the 1880s, entrepreneurs set up trading posts on many Indian reservations to supply everything from food staples and tobacco and farming equipment to the local people. Since the Indians usually didn’t have much money, many times the traders accepted animal furs, Indian artwork, and crafts in lieu of cash for payment. Most trading posts also had special tokens made up in various denominations to take the place of cash.

One of the most famous of these trading posts was the one operated by John Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, Arizona. Unlike many unscrupulous Indian traders who took advantage of their customers, Hubbell had a very good relationship with the Navajo people and they shared a mutual respect.

Established in 1878, the Hubbell Trading Post was much more than a commercial enterprise to the Navajo, but also a place to socialize, to leave messages for friends and family, and to seek help with the tangled regulations of the Commission of Indian Affairs and the Indian agents who oversaw the reservation on behalf of the federal government. Many times the trader acted as advocate and spokesman for the post’s Indian customers when dealing with government bureaucracy.

Even today, many Navajo have a lot of respect for John Hubbell. In 1886, a smallpox epidemic raged through the reservation, killing many Navajo. Hubbell, who was immune because he had a bout with the disease as a child, worked night and day tending to the sick and dying, using his own home as a hospital.

The Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona is a land of wide open spaces, much of it uninhabited, and it was even more so during Hubbell’s time. A trip to the trading post usually involved traveling by horse and wagon, or on foot, over rough trails that were dry and dusty most of the time, but could quickly turn muddy and slippery when it rained. But no matter how hard it was to get there, the Navajo came to sell their colorful hand woven rugs and beautiful turquoise and silver jewelry, or to trade them for food staples, canned goods, tobacco, Pendleton blankets, hardware, and horse tack. Trading was an unhurried process, and dickering could take several hours.

Known to be demanding of excellence in craftsmanship, Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing that still continues today. There are those who believe that without Hubbell, Navajo crafts would not be as widely known and highly regarded as they are today.

In the 1880s, Hubbell was elected Sheriff of Apache County, just in time to side with the local sheepmen in a violent range war with Texas cattle ranchers who had come into the area. Hubbell later said that he was ambushed at least a dozen times, and his home was turned into a fortress to ward off attack from the cattlemen.

Hubbell became the foremost Navajo trader of his time, building a trading empire that included stage and freight lines, as well as numerous trading posts. Eventually Hubbell and his two sons owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties.

John Lorenzo Hubbell died on November 12, 1930, and he was buried on Hubbell Hill, overlooking the trading post. Hubbell family members continued to operate the Ganado trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1965. While the property is managed by the Park Service as a National Historic Site, the trading post store is still active, and operated by Western National Parks Association, a non-profit association that continues the trading business of the Hubbell family.

While the store still stocks a few basic grocery items and snacks, today the inventory is made up mostly of Navajo rugs and tapestries, Indian jewelry, and crafts.

But visitors can still walk on the same creaking wooden floors that generations of Indian traders and Navajo once did, and watch modern Native American craftsmen negotiate the sale of their beautiful handmade work.

Besides the trading post itself, and the Hubbell family home, the complex includes a National Park Service Visitor Center that has a small bookstore and a display loom where Navajo women demonstrate their weaving skills.

The Hubbell family home houses the family’s private collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts. The home is available for guided tours, but it was closed during our visit.

We spent some time poking around in the trading post store, admiring the beautiful Navajo rugs and the silver and turquoise jewelry on display. We didn’t purchase anything, but there were a couple of weavings that Miss Terry sure wanted to take home with her.

Blankets

Jewelry

I had a good time just taking pictures of all of the neat stuff on display inside the trading post, as well as outside.

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Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is located on U.S. Highway 264, a mile west of its junction with U.S. 191 in Ganado. It is 37 miles from Ganado to Interstate 40. Summer hours at Hubbell Trading Post are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, from April 30th to September 8th. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily from September 9th through April 29th. However, like many facilities, it is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. But when things get back to normal, make it a point to include it on your next trip to Arizona.

There is no charge to visit trading post, but there is a small fee for the Hubbell home tour.
There is a very short, sharp turn off the highway and it might be difficult for large RVs. For more information on the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, call (928) 755-3475.

Thought For The Day – I had my patience tested. I’m negative.

Nov 302020
 

We are getting closer to the release of my new book, Big Lake Hoarder. Roberta Jensen finished proofing the last chapters on Saturday and sent them to me, and yesterday morning I made her corrections then printed the entire manuscript out for Terry to go over again. Once she does that and I make her corrections, it will go back to Roberta again for the final read through.

Some people think this is overkill, and an author friend of mine told me he doesn’t understand why I waste so much time with this step of the process. He said he finishes a manuscript, proofs it himself, and releases it and moves on to the next one. My response to him was you do you and I’ll do me. I take pride in not only releasing a book with a good storyline and researching facts for that story, but also in turning out the best possible book I can, eliminating every error we can find. And a career in the newspaper business taught me that you can’t proof your own work. It’s kind of like the old saying that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

And yet, even with all of the steps we take, errors can still slip through. In going through those final chapters that Roberta sent me, I found where I had a character’s name misspelled from the way it was in the rest of the story. How does that possibly happen? I don’t know, but me, Terry, Judy, and Roberta all missed it the first time around. And even when a book does come out, I sometimes have readers contact me to point out something else that got missed. It’s not the proofreaders’ fault, because I have some of the best around helping me. I honestly believe that little gremlins do it in the middle of the night while we are sleeping.

And please folks, if you ever do find a typo in one of my books, let me know so I can correct it. A while back someone said he didn’t want to offend me by doing so. I told him that wouldn’t offend me at all, but it would really embarrass me to have a book floating around out there with a mistake that should have been corrected before it ever hit the public.

Besides book stuff and eating lots of leftover turkey, Terry and I have watched a couple of good movies on Netflix recently. One was Loving, which is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and an African-American woman whose marriage was illegal in 1958, according to Virginia state law, causing them to be arrested and banned from the state. It took years before the Supreme Court ruled the Virginia law violated the Constitution. We like to think that things like that happened a long time ago, but all of this took place when I was a kid growing up. Of course, that was a long time ago, too.

The other good movie we saw was Hillbilly Elegy. It has received some bad reviews, and I have seen people on Facebook saying that it’s offensive and totally unrealistic. I think a lot of the reviews and comments are from people who see it as a slap in the face to them because they come from that region. I went to high school in Toledo, 175 miles north of where the movie is set in Middletown, Ohio, and I knew many people just like the characters in the movie. My high school girlfriend’s mom was a carbon copy of the mother in the story, except that her drug of choice was alcohol. More than once, my girlfriend’s brother and I, or me and her, would have to go get the mom from the corner bar and drag her home. The kids were eventually taken in by an aunt, who provided them a stable home. The world isn’t always pretty, but that doesn’t mean those stories shouldn’t be told.

Congratulations Alun Bell, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. We had 18 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition. – Marilyn Monroe

That Time I Got Rabies

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 292020
 

Many readers tell me they enjoy my Newspaper Days columns about my years running small town newspapers, and a few have asked about my time in the Army. I don’t feel the need to tell any war stories here, and most people don’t want to hear them anyhow. But I will tell you about the time I got rabies.

For a young soldier far from home in a world like none he had ever experienced before, Vietnam was a very scary place. Besides the people who wanted to kill you, there were booby traps that wanted to maim you, vegetation that wanted to strangle you, animals that wanted to eat you, and snakes and spiders that just scared the hell out of you. Oh yeah, some of the snakes could kill you, too, so there’s that.

It seemed like the entire country was full of rats, which surprised me because the locals seemed to kill and eat of lot of them. But there were always plenty more to take their place. They bred like, well, rats.

Once when we were at a base camp in Tây Ninh, I was sleeping in a crude hooch and a rat ran across the top of my cot. It scared me and I slapped at it, and in return, it bit me on the ear lobe and ran away.

I was an eighteen year old kid, and I momentarily thought about cutting my ear off before the disease could spread, but I figured that would hurt. So I went to our medic instead, and told him a rat bit me and I needed rabies shots. He said I didn’t need rabies shots and slapped some MercuroChrome on the bite and sent me away.

Being paranoid, even back then, I read my field medical manual and went back the next day and told the medic I knew I had rabies. He asked why I thought I had rabies, and I showed him the manual. I had the symptoms. I was hot, thirsty, had dry mouth, anxiety, and was irritable. He laughed and said it was Vietnam. Everybody was hot, thirsty, had dry mouth, anxiety, and was irritable. Besides, he told me, the treatment for rabies was a series of eighteen shots in the stomach, and they hurt like hell. Now I was wishing I had cut my ear off.

For the next two weeks, I stayed right next to that damn medic. So close that I could have reached out and touched him. He finally asked what the hell I was doing, and I told him that the minute I started foaming at the mouth, I was biting him!

Well, as it turned out, he was right. I didn’t have rabies after all. Looking back on it, I sure am glad I didn’t cut my ear off!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.


Thought For The Day – Don’t bother walking a mile in my shoes. That would be boring. Spend 30 seconds in my head. That will freak you right out.

Stealing My Job

 Posted by at 1:21 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 282020
 

I believe that one of the things that makes our marriage successful is that Miss Terry and I have a clear understanding of who does what in our household. For example, I write books and she edits and proofreads them. I promote the books so that their sales give us a comfortable income, and Terry makes sure that that money goes to pay our bills and provide for the things we need. She cooks delicious meals and I eat them. I make messes, and she cleans them up.

Some may say that this is an old fashioned way of living, but it works for us. However, after an incident yesterday, I’m beginning to believe she is making an attempt to steal my job.

As I wrote before in yesterday’s blog, we had a simple Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. Terry made this delicious Turkey breast, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the other goodies that go with the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

We usually have pumpkin or pecan pie that Terry makes from scratch, but with just the two of us here it doesn’t make sense to make two pies. So when she asked me which I preferred, I said pumpkin. Isn’t that beautiful?

By the time we got done with dinner we were too full for dessert, so we decided to wait a little bit and have some pie as a snack while we watched TV in the evening. And that’s when I think Terry decided she might steal my job.

She was using her Cuisinart immersion hand mixer with a whisk attachment to make whipped cream to go on top of the pie, something she does quite often, and somehow or another she loosened her grip on the container. What a mess she made! It was everywhere! This is the kind of thing I usually do, not her.

I guess we are going to have to have a long talk about the division of responsibilities around here. Because Lord knows, I don’t want to be stuck with all of her work, and I darned sure don’t want her to know how easy I have it, either.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I had to look twice before I figured this one out.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Don’t blame others for the road you are on. It’s your own asphalt.

Back To Real Life

 Posted by at 12:15 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 272020
 

I hope your Thanksgiving was as nice as ours. Terry spent the whole day in the kitchen, making a delicious meal of turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and lots of other goodies. That seems like a lot of work to me, but she loves it, and the end result is fabulous.

As for me, I goofed off part of the day, doing an online jigsaw puzzle and talking to some friends on Facebook. I also watered our new citrus trees, which seem to be doing very well, and watered the big bare dirt patch in our lawn from where we had the old water oak pulled out. I spread some Bahia grass seed there Wednesday, and between it, the trees, and our perennial peanut plants, I expect our water bill will be outrageous for the next couple of months.

With that chore done, I wrote the first chapter of the next Big Lake book, which will be included in the back of Big Lake Hoarder, as a teaser of things to come.

Okay, we’re all stuffed with turkey, pie, and a million other calories. Now it’s time to get back to real life.

In a blog a few days ago, I said that I wasn’t all that impressed with the Blue Yeti Nano microphone. It seemed to skip a lot of words and missed punctuation marks. An online friend of mine suggested I download the free Blue Yeti Sherpa software and adjust the microphone’s input settings to my computer. I did, and that seems to have helped quite a bit. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s not bad, and it is definitely better than it was when I was writing the first blog with it, or using my old headphones. So I think I will use it for a bit and see how it works out. I have until January to send it back if I decide not to keep it, so no use rushing into things.

As I mentioned, I also ordered a Zoom H4n Pro recorder/microphone. This thing is really impressive! While the Yeti had about four pages of instructions in English and another 20 pages or so of the same instructions in other languages, the instruction booklet for the Zoom is 154 pages, and all in English! I’ve looked at several YouTube videos on it, trying to figure out how it works, and the more I read, the more impressed I am with it. It’s basically a complete recording studio, and is very popular with musicians, podcasters, voiceover artists, and others who need a lot of features in a small package. It will do everything from sound mixing to things I’ve never even heard of.

It’s more than twice the size in both width and thickness of my little Sony digital recorder, and much heavier. While I can easily slip the Sony into my pocket and forget it’s there, that’s not going to happen  this thing!

I’ll never live long enough to figure out how all the controls work. Fortunately, most of it is overkill for me because I don’t need a lot of what it has. What I do need is a good microphone and a good digital recorder. This seems to be both. I fooled around with it for a little bit and was having a problem trying to get it to communicate with my computer through the USB cable, but it took Terry about 15 seconds to figure out what I was doing wrong and fix it for me. Then I tried to dictate a few paragraphs with it and I have to say I’m beyond impressed. I think there was one error in three paragraphs that was not the result of me misspeaking. I have a feeling that it’s going to be my go-to unit for dictating my books.

I don’t know if you plan to do your Christmas shopping online or at retail stores this year. If you are heading out to get the Black Friday deals tomorrow, be careful. This gentleman got much more than he bargained for.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I remember being able to get up without making sound effects.

Happy Thanksgiving

 Posted by at 12:12 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 262020
 

Whether you are self-isolating somewhere or spending time with family, however you celebrate the holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time and do it in a safe way.

As for us, it’s going to be a quiet day at home with just the two of us. Terry is cooking a turkey breast and making a pumpkin pie, and as for the rest of it, I can take it or leave it.

I’ve never really liked turkey all that much because it was always so dry. That is, until the first time Terry made a turkey. Hers is always moist and delicious, and while I won’t say it’s my favorite food, I do enjoy it a couple of times a year.

Several years ago we were with a group of RVers at Christmas or Thanksgiving, I forget which, and someone fried the turkey. It was delicious, and I would eat that on a regular basis. I keep saying that we need to get a fryer and try it sometime. Reader Johnny Miller set me a link to the Orion smoker website for recipe for smoked turkey. That looks very good, too. We haven’t used our Orion in a long time, and we need to get it out and fire it up one of these days. It makes absolutely the best baby back ribs you will find anywhere.

So what do you have to be thankful for? I know it’s easy to be negative with Covid and politics and everything else that’s going on, but we all have things to be thankful for. Not just today, but every day. We are celebrating a big one this week. Twenty years ago this week, Terry was proclaimed cancer free after a terrible two month long battle with stage four cervical cancer and a brutal regime of daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy. And she remains cancer free today.

The night she was diagnosed, she began hemorrhaging and lost 2/3 of her body’s blood supply by the time I got her to the emergency room. Her veins were collapsing, and they couldn’t find a way to get a needle into her to start transfusions. They finally went through her neck to get blood flowing back into her. The first doctor told her that she had cancer and that she had six weeks to live and advised her to go home and start saying her goodbyes and making her final arrangements.

Terry fired him on the spot and found another doctor who said he could keep her alive, and he did. He also said it would be very rough on her and that there would be long-term complications because of how radical the treatment would be. He didn’t lie about that, and she does have quite a few problems still today. But she’s alive and happy, and we’re celebrating every day we share together, not just on Thanksgiving.

I don’t know if you plan to do your Christmas shopping online or at retail stores this year. If you are heading out to get the Black Friday deals tomorrow, be careful. This gentleman got much more than he bargained for.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When I say, “The other day,” I could be referring to any time between yesterday and 15 years ago.

 

Nov 252020
 

I lead a very good life, and I really have nothing to complain about. Sure, I’m old and fat and have a bad back, but a lot of people are a lot worse off than I am so I won’t snivel too much about that. I’m married to a beautiful woman, we have a wonderful relationship, and we fall more in love every day. We have a nice home, I have more toys than I have time to use, and I can’t think of anything else I would rather do for a living than what I’m doing right now, sitting at my desk writing stories.

However, life still is not always rainbows and unicorns. Is it for anyone? There are always little things that come up that you could do just as well without, right?

An example is our 2005 Ford Explorer. It was a top-of-the-line model for that year and came with every accessory you could ever want or need. Even though we have newer vehicles, it’s still the one we choose to drive most of the time around town. It’s got over 150,000 miles on it, not counting all the miles we towed it behind our motorhome, and it is still a comfortable, reliable car. Well, it is for the most part.

The last time we drove it, a couple of weeks ago, everything seemed fine. Then, a few days ago, we were going to run some errands, and it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. Not just low, but stone cold dead. My first thought was that maybe we hadn’t closed a door all the way, and an interior light was on and had drained the battery. But nothing seemed out of place in that way.

Because we had to run some errands, we took the van, and I figured I would get to the Explorer’s problem in a day or three. A few days later, I got my battery charger out and hooked it up, and let it charge for about three hours. When I tried to start the Explorer, the best I could get was a couple of clicks when I turned the key. The battery charger has a Quickstart function, so I switched over to that, and still nothing. It was one of my bad back days, so I gave up for then.

Yesterday, I started our Ford pickup truck and hooked a set of battery cables between that and the Explorer, let it run for a few minutes, and tried to start the Explorer. Again, I got a few clicks, and that was it. So I let it sit and charge for about half an hour, then went out, and it fired right up.

I got the battery in February of this year and it’s still under warranty so I drove the Explorer down to O’Reilly Auto Parts and left it running while I went inside and told someone I thought I had a battery issue. O’Reilly’s is very good to deal with, and an employee came out and hooked some kind of a tester to the battery. He tried a couple of things, then told me to shut the engine off and see if it would start up again. I was a bit apprehensive, but I figured they’ve got everything I need to get back on the road if it wouldn’t start. As it turned out, it started right up.

He tested a couple of other things and then said that the problem was the voltage regulator in the Explorer’s alternator. So I called Leon’s Automotive, a local family owned shop that does all our work, and made an appointment to bring it in next week. Leon’s is not the kind of shop that just starts throwing parts at something, they test everything first, so I’m sure that if that’s the problem, they’ll get it handled and get the Explorer running again.

Something else that’s not fun that I have going on right now is that I have somehow managed to misalign my lower jaw. The pillows we use have a zipper on them, and we can put in or remove the stuffing. A while back, mine was feeling like it was compressed down quite a bit, so Terry put a couple of handfuls of stuffing in it and then washed both of our pillows and ran them through the dryer, which fluffed them up quite a bit.

That night, we went to bed, and it felt like we had gone to the other extreme and there was too much stuffing, but I figured it would compress as I slept on it. It didn’t, and the next day I woke up with a stiff neck. We were busy with a lot of things and didn’t get around to taking some of the stuffing back out for a couple of days, and by then, my neck was really aggravating me.

At the same time, and I don’t know if it’s related to the pillow or not, I realized I was biting the side of my tongue. Even in my sleep, I would wake up with my tongue sore. Then I realize that it seemed like my lower jaw was out of alignment with my upper jaw, somewhat over to the right, which meant every time I talked or moved my tongue or chewed anything, I was rubbing against my teeth or biting my tongue. At the same time, I had some discomfort in my jaw hinges, especially on the right side. Well, that’s no fun!

I texted my chiropractor friend, Dr. Meloney Thomas, to ask if she had any idea what the problem was, and she sent me a link to a video for an exercise that is supposed to help with just that problem. It was a simple and easy exercise, and as soon as I did, I felt a clunking in my right jaw hinge. I did the exercise a couple of times, and then things seemed to line back up. But an hour later, I was back where I started. That was a couple of days ago, and I keep doing the exercise, and things seem to line up, but they don’t stay there. If it doesn’t get better, I’ll wait until next week sometime, after Thanksgiving is behind us, and make an appointment to go and see Meloney and see if she can do anything for me.

But not everything is doom and gloom. My pal Judy Judy Rinehimer completed the second proofing of the last few chapters of my new book, Big Lake Hoarder, and I made her corrections and then sent it off to Roberta Jensen, my third proofreader, yesterday. Once she does her thing and sends it back, I will make her corrections and then print it out for Terry to go through the whole manuscript one final time. It’s getting close now, folks. I’m excited!

Thought For The Day – Don’t forget to set your bathroom scales back 15 pounds at midnight tonight for Thanksgiving.

New Toys

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 242020
 

Yesterday my new toys arrived and I think I’m ready to enter a new phase in the world of recording my blog. The first item was the Blue Yeti Nano microphone, and that’s what we will talk abut in today’s blog.

Besides the Blue Yeti Nano microphone, I also got a Zoom H4n digital recorder that can also serve as a microphone. As I said before, it was highly recommended by both John Huggins, who used to produce the Living the RV Dream podcast with his wife Kathy, and Jim Guld from Geeks on Tour. There is a learning curve to both of these units, and I’ll try to see what I can do with the Yeti Nano first.

Okay, back to the Blue Yeti Nano microphone. First off, it’s really not blue, that’s just the name of the company. It comes in several colors, and this one is an attractive bronze color. The paperwork said it was just plug-and-play, and when I plugged it into one of my computer’s USB ports the drivers automatically loaded, and it was ready to go. It’s a nice-looking unit, and if it works half as well as it looks, I’ll be a happy camper. I am giving it it’s first trial by fire dictating today’s blog. Wish me luck.

Yesterday I finished going over and punching up last the chapters of Big Lake Hoarder, then I printed them out for Terry to edit and proofread. When she was done with that I made her corrections, and yesterday evening I sent it off to Judy Rinehimer, my second proofreader. Once I get those chapters back from Judy and make the corrections she suggests, it will go off to Roberta Jensen, my third and final proofreader. And when she’s finished, Terry and one of the other proofreaders will go over the whole manuscript one last time.

If those proofreaders’ names sound familiar to you, it’s probably because Judy, known to legions of RVers as “Cool Judy,” has been a fixture at RV rallies for years, teaching techno-related classes. Judy is no longer RVing but I know I can call on her anytime I get stuck doing something on the computer. And I have!

Roberta appears in the Big Lake series as the blind lawyer who is Deputy “Coop” Cooper’s love interest. And yes, the real Roberta Jensen is blind, and she has been a friend of mine from back in the mid-80s. She was also my lawyer before she retired. Roberta said she always wanted to be in a book, so I decided to put her in a whole series. That’s just one of the benefits of knowing an author. Of course, that can go another way, too. I have made more than one person from my past the villain in my books, and even killed off some of them. Yes, I really am that petty.

On another note, I find it interesting that even a pandemic doesn’t keep the scammers away. Maybe it actually encourages them because they’ve got a captive audience sitting at home waiting to hear from them. I’ve received three emails in the last few days from “friends,” all asking for my help. One was stuck in Rome, and her passport and money had been stolen, and she needed me to wire her $500 so she can come home. Another was in a hospital and needed some money to help cover the bill before they would release her. The third one said that she had forgotten it was her daughter’s birthday and that she was traveling out of the country, so she wanted me to go online and purchase something that there was a link to, and once I did, she would send the address to send it to. Hovering my mouse over the addresses, which were all my friends’ names, showed they were all from who knows where, but they were not from people I actually knew.

And then, of course, I got a call about my car’s warranty. I asked him which car, and the fellow, who didn’t speak English very well at all, told me the car I drive every day. I asked him if he meant my Corvette, or my Maserati, or my Lamborghini. He replied, “Yeah, that one.” I asked him which one because I still wasn’t sure if he meant my Volkswagen Beetle, or my Yugo, or my Chevrolet Vega. I said I was pretty sure it wasn’t my Ford Pinto because I don’t drive it that much, what with the exploding gas tank and all that. I guess he found me difficult to work with because he hung up on me. He didn’t even wish me Happy Holidays or anything. He’s that rude, and he wants my business? I don’t think so!

Having used the Yeti Nano to dictate today’s blog, I have had to redo the test paragraphs that Dragon asks you to do so it can adjust the sound settings twice, plus the initial set up test. It has missed words and phrases a few times, as well as punctuation. That’s about on a par with the headsets I have been using. I had Terry try to dictate into it and the results were the same. It does the job but it’s not all that impressive. If that’s the best I’m going to get and it doesn’t work out the way I need it to, I’ll use Amazon’s generous return policy and get rid of it.

Thought For The Day – I finally got eight hours of sound sleep. It took me three days, but whatever.

No Need To Water

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 232020
 

When Jake from Lindley’s Garden Center planted our new citrus trees on Saturday he said they needed to be watered every day for four weeks, and to continue watering our perennial peanut plants with the soaker hoses once every three days or so for a while yet.

I always try to listen to the experts, but I didn’t follow Jake’s advice yesterday because it rained most of Saturday night and it sprinkled off and on for most of the day Sunday. I did go outside during the afternoon, just to check on them, and everything looked good. The soil around the trees and plants was very wet and the plants themselves were covered in raindrops.

I was actually glad for Mother Nature during the watering because in the month that we were watering the perennial peanuts every couple of days, our water bill went up over $200. Even though we are surrounded by it, water is a precious commodity here in Florida, and some people’s water bills are out of sight.

Yesterday I was back at my desk writing again, and during the afternoon I finished Big Lake Hoarder, the 19th book in my Big Lake small town mystery series. It is my 43nd book, and my 6th book this year. It came in at just over 80,000 words. I started it on September 28, so it took just under two months.

Today I will read through the last two chapters that I did yesterday and polish up a few things, then pass it on to Terry. She and my two other proofreaders have been doing a few chapters at a time as the work has progressed, and I have made the corrections they pointed out as needed, so a lot of the preliminary work in the proofreading and editing process is already done. When the last chapters are finished and all corrections are made, Terry and at least one other proofreader will go through the whole book again, looking for anything that slipped through earlier (and something always does), and once that’s finished, it will be formatted as an e-book, uploaded to Amazon, and released in a few days. It will be a few weeks longer before the print book is ready to go.

The weather here is supposed to be wonderful this week, with daytime temps in the mid-70s and minimal chances of rain. Once the book is out, I’m going to do everything I can to convince Miss Terry that our kayaks need to get wet. It’s been a long time since we’ve been on the water and I have missed it. Who knows? We might even take our fishing poles with us and try to convince a fish or two to come home with us.

Congratulations Larry Rosenow, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s popular Blanco County mystery series. We had 43 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – The reason I am old and wise is because by some miracle I survived being young and foolish.

It Was A Better Day

 Posted by at 12:07 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 222020
 

Yesterday was a much better day than the day before. A little before noon, a nice young man named Jake from Lindley’s Garden Center arrived to plant our three new citrus trees.

After helping us determine where we wanted them in the yard, Jake dug three holes.

Then he planted each tree carefully, building a mound of dirt around them to hold in water.

Jake is a very knowledgeable young man, and we picked his brain and learned quite a bit about the best way to nurture the trees until they get going. I also had him look at the perennial peanut plants we had bought from the nursery and put in several weeks ago. Jake said the perennial peanut is a very strong plant that doesn’t require much attention once it gets established and said they look like they’re fine and coming along very well. Even the ones that our yard guy attacked with the weed eater a few days after they were planted have rebounded nicely.

So we now have a key lime tree, a tangelo tree, and a lemon tree.

According to the folks at the nursery, the first time they get buds of fruit, which should be in two to three months, we should nip them off because the branches won’t be strong enough to support their weight. But Jake said within 18 months we should expect to be able to pick fully matured fruit from the trees. We’re looking forward to that.

After Jake left, I got to work on my computer. The chapters I had narrated the day before and then lost were fresh enough in my mind that I was able to re-create them quite easily. So that was a setback that I was able to overcome.

Someone asked me why I wasn’t using my digital recorder like I always did before. Normally I dictate into a Sony digital recorder and then upload that to Dragon to convert it into text. Unfortunately, a recent update to Windows 10 made Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which I was using, obsolete. So I ordered Dragon Professional 15 and am using it. However, the Sony digital recorder that I have used all along is not compatible with it.

I ordered a new Zoom H4n Pro recorder, which will be here Monday, as well as a Blue Yeti Nano microphone, which should arrive on Tuesday. But in the meantime, I have been going old school keyboard with my very slow two finger typing style.

After this crash that cost me the work, I actually did figure out a way to make my old Sony digital recorder work with the new version Dragon. It’s a different process, in that I have to load the MP3 files from the recorder onto my computer and then import them into Dragon, instead of going directly from the recorder to Dragon like I have been doing. It involves an extra step in the process, but it will work and is how I narrated this blog post.

As for the snake, he’s still around. When I saw him on Friday, causing me to almost soil my undies, he crawled through one of the vent holes in our big air conditioner in our carport. Which means to me, he could probably get inside the house from there. Terry tells me I’m being overdramatic, but think about it. Would you rather be outside eating bugs and frogs or inside here eating the wonderful things she cooks? Yeah, I thought so.

Yesterday afternoon when I went out to get the mail I saw him poking his ugly snake head out from one of the vent holes in the AC, but he quickly pulled it back in when he saw me. No, I’m not going to kill him. Yet. As long as he stays outside and away from me, I will try to coexist peacefully. But if he shows up inside the house. I will treat him like any other intruder.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s popular Blanco County mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Some days, you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue. Just live with it.

Oh Hell No!

 Posted by at 12:43 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 212020
 

The weather has been beautiful here for the last few days, but when I opened my office door yesterday morning to let in the nice fresh air there was a 17 foot long rattlesnake/cobra hybrid on the doormat. I didn’t scream like a little girl, because no sound would come out, even though I tried. But I can tell you right now, that air wasn’t so fresh anymore!

Terry insists it was a garden snake of some kind and was only about three feet long, but what does she know? Screw fresh air, I’m never opening that door again and we’re moving to Anchorage next week! Just like my character John Lee Quarrels says in one of my books, I am only afraid of three kinds of snakes. Big snakes, little snakes, and sticks that look like snakes.

My author friend Cameron Lowe asked if I called the National Guard to burn the place down. Forget the National Guard, I remember my Infantry days. I called in an airstrike! Two of my neighbors, Jennifer and Rebecca, both commented on Facebook that they have seen lots of snakes around here. This is my first one in four years, and it had better be the last!

And don’t tell me how harmless or beneficial they are! I’ve heard all about how they eat bugs and rodents. We have lizards all over the place here, and Terry tells me they eat bugs, too. I can handle them being outside if they keep their distance, but occasionally one sneaks inside. I have gotten to where I don’t scream and jump on my desk when I see one in the house anymore. I just calmly call Terry and stay on top of the desk until she ushers it back outside. But now the snake is going to eat all the lizards outside, and when they’re gone, I just know it’s going to get in here and look for more.

As if that wasn’t enough drama for the day, I had a good writing day yesterday, getting about 6,000 words in, and only had one chapter to go to finish my new Big Lake book when my computer froze up and I lost everything I had done for the day. I have auto save turned on, but for some reason it doesn’t work with Dragon and did not save a word of it. I was not a pleasant person to be around for a while after that happened. I tried every recovery trick I knew or could find, but it was all gone. So frustrating.

Hopefully today will be a better day. The citrus trees we ordered will be delivered and planted this morning. Assuming the damn snake doesn’t eat the guy who will be doing the work.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s popular Blanco County mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – You can never talk reason or sanity to someone who has reached unreasonable conclusions due to insanity.

Nov 202020
 

There once was a young man in our town of Aberdeen, Washington named Richard. Richard was a logger, just like his father and his grandfather and all of his uncles and cousins. But Richard really didn’t like being a logger. He didn’t like working in the woods, and he wanted to get a job where he could wear nice clothes, not be wet and covered in mud every working day of his life, or running the very real risk of being maimed or even killed.

I had a job opening for an advertising sales representative, and Richard came to my office to apply. Having hired a couple of loggers, who never lasted more than a few days, I told him it was a commission job, and I couldn’t pay him the kind of money he was making in the woods and blew him off. Two weeks later, he was back at my office asking for a job again, and I told him thanks, but no thanks. Every two weeks for a couple of months, Richard came to my office asking for a job. Finally, he said, “You keep telling me that if you hired me, I would go back to the woods in a couple of weeks anyway, so why bother, and I keep telling you that’s not going to happen. If you would have hired me the first time I asked for the job, by now either you would have proved me wrong, or I would have proved you wrong. So just give me a chance, okay?” So I gave Richard a chance.

At the time, there was an area of the county that had not been very successful for us, and I told Richard to go see what he could do. And guess what? He turned out to be one of the best salespeople I ever had. He was personable, he was smart, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. If you didn’t buy an ad from him this week or next week, he was going to be back the week after that, and the week after that until he wore you down. But never in a pushy way. Richard wasn’t a pushy guy at all.

After working for me for a few months, I moved Richard up to a much more productive area. He was making good money and sure enjoyed not having to get up at 0-dark-30 to go into the woods every morning.

This was back in the early 1980s, and one of the national newspaper associations I belonged to held an annual convention in Las Vegas. They were a great opportunity to meet other small town newspaper publishers like myself, take part in seminars that taught us how to streamline our operations and increase our profits, and to learn about new technology. I made it a point to go every year. Almost a year after I hired Richard, it was time for the annual newspaper convention. I knew the focus that year was going to be on sales, so I took him with me.

Now Aberdeen, in Grays Harbor County, was a not a metropolis by any means, and Richard was definitely a small town boy. I don’t think he had ever been much farther away than Olympia, 50 miles to the east. To say that he was in culture shock from the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas would be an understatement.

Back then, things were pretty wild in Vegas, and you could rent just about any kind of companionship you wanted. And you didn’t even have to go looking, it would come to you. On our first evening there, after a meet and greet get together, myself and two other publishers I knew and Richard set off down the street to go to a steakhouse a block or so from the Aladdin Casino Hotel where we were staying.

There were four of us walking down the sidewalk, and here comes a woman from the other direction in a skirt so short she was pretty much displaying everything she had. She stopped in front of Richard and said, “Hi, baby. Would you like a date?” Richard thanked her and said he was a married man, and he was with his boss and some friends. As I recall, she offered to round up some of her friends for the rest of us, but I told her no, thanks, and we walked on down the street. Richard looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “Was that for real? I’ve never had a woman ask me for a date before!”

Half a block down the street, another young woman, wearing hot pants and something on top that wasn’t much more than two Band-Aids and a string was standing on the corner, so I maneuvered myself so that Richard would be closest to her when we approached. Sure enough, she looked at him and said, “Hi, handsome. Been in town long?” Richard told her that he just gotten in that day, and she asked, “How would you like a date?” He declined, and as we walked away, he said, “This town is amazing. Women just stop you on the street and ask you if you want a date!” By the third time he was propositioned, that small town boy’s head was so swollen that I thought I might have to hold his hand just to keep him from floating away. All through dinner, he kept saying he didn’t know what it was that had all these women asking him for dates, but he definitely liked Las Vegas!

I didn’t have the heart to burst his bubble, but one of the other gentlemen with us explained to Richard that there were lots of women in town that he could have a date with, and back then, the going rate was about $50. Did you ever see anybody let the air out of a balloon? That’s what poor Richard’s ego looked like as it deflated.

Of course, it didn’t help that I had called the office before we ever got back home, and every woman who worked there, as well as several female customers who were friends of mine, and policewoman who was my neighbor, made it a point of asking Richard if he would like a date over the next week or two. Yeah, I was that kind of boss.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s popular Blanco County mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I wasn’t planning on going for a run today, but those cops came out of nowhere.

I’m Back (Again)

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 192020
 

I apologize for not being able to post a blog yesterday, but I’m back again. Last night I spent two hours trying to log onto Go Daddy to post a blog, and I kept getting an error message saying that there was a problem on their end that was blocking communication. I finally gave up and went to bed.

I’m still trying to move to another web host, but there’s a problem. I had a couple of different people helping me set up my websites on Go Daddy years ago, and there is a password that seems to have gone missing that is required to facilitate the move to a different host. I have been trying to reset that password with no success, and when I’ve contacted Go Daddy, they requested all kinds of security information to be sure I am not trying to do some kind of hostile takeover of my own website and blog. They keep telling me that the things they request and which I sent them are still not sufficient. I guess my next step is to just have my credit card not automatically pay the annual fee when it comes due next month. Maybe that will get their attention.

Meanwhile, I have been busy writing and I’m three-fourths of the way through my next Big Lake book. With any luck at all I should have it finished in the next week, and then it will begin the final editing and proofreading stages.

I’m still getting used to Dragon Professional 15 dictation software. One thing I know is that I need a new microphone. I have been using a headset microphone recommended by Nuance for the last couple of years, and it is falling apart on me. I also still get quite a few errors when narrating. In talking to people in an online Dragon support group, they have all recommended going to a better headset or a standalone microphone. I have received a lot of recommendations for different ones, but unfortunately, none of them are actually available. With Covid doing its thing, it seems like a lot of electronics are on backorder.

However, I did order a Blue Yeti Nano standalone microphone, which will be here in a few days. I will give it a try and see what happens. Both John Huggins, who produced the Living the RV dream podcast for years with his wife Kathy, and Jim Guld from Geeks on Tour have recommended Zoom microphones, which also have a recorder built into them. They are a bit expensive, but my accountant tells me that since we have not done any traveling this year, I need to spend some money before the end of the year anyhow. So I may order one of those, too. They are also on backorder, but Amazon said they should have them around the 27th of this month.

Terry took her latest weaving project off the loom. It is a table runner and trivet for our daughter Tiffany. Terry twisted the fringes,  washed and pressed it, and now it just needs to be packaged to be ready to send to its new home. I absolutely love this color combination and the pattern.

As if that wasn’t enough, for dinner she made shrimp scampi linguini with Parmesan Reggiano cheese sprinkled over it.

A cold front has come through the southeast, bring our temperatures down into the low to mid-70s, which is very nice. It’s going to be breezy all this week, but we’ve still had the doors and windows open to let all that wonderful fresh air in. We are getting into the best time of the year to be on the central Florida coast.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s popular Blanco County mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – A positive attitude may not solve all of your problems, but it annoys enough people to make it worthwhile.

Nov 172020
 

Thank you to everybody who sent messages hoping my back pain had eased up. After a weekend of pure hell, it has, and I am feeling much better now. I still have the nagging low back pain that is always there, but not the severe kind I was feeling Saturday and Sunday.

In a blog a few days ago, I talked about the problems I was having with my Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and how it was conflicting with the latest Windows 10 update. I also mentioned that Nuance, the company that makes Dragon software, couldn’t tell me whether or not the upgrade to version 15, which is now called Dragon Professional, would work with my Sony digital recorder. And at $300, I wasn’t willing to gamble the money for something that might not do me any good.

But I got an email yesterday from blog reader Howard Gordon yesterday telling me about a sale that was going on through the end of the month for Dragon Professional 15 priced at $169.99. In reading the link Howard sent me, it did say that the program works with digital recorders. At that price, I decided to give it a try and bought it.

So far, I have only used it to write a 2,000 word chapter in my new Big Lake book and today’s blog. First thoughts are that while Dragon claims it is 23% more accurate than their NaturallySpeaking software, I am not seeing that yet. I haven’t tried to experiment with my digital recorder yet however, it does seem faster than the older version I was using and I am happy about that. And it works with the latest Windows update, which is definitely helpful.

I am taking my time and going through the full tutorial for the new software, even though much of it is the same as in the previous version. But I plan to do it anyway because there’s always something new you can learn.

That was about all I did yesterday. Buying and downloading software, doing part of the tutorial, and a little writing. Miss Terry got a lot more accomplished, from making crepes for breakfast to working more on her weaving project, to making a delicious dinner for us. And somewhere between all that, she also found time to do a load of laundry. She’s got the energy of a five-year-old who just drank a can of Red Bull.

Today will be more of the same for both of us. Terry is just about done with her weaving project and will be taking it off the loom and putting the finishing touches on it. I am about two-thirds of the way through the new book, and things are moving along very well. I hope to get it out by the end of the month, but if not, look forward to it in early December.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – If someone points at your black clothes and asks whose funeral it is, just look around the room and say, “I haven’t decided yet.”

Nov 162020
 

Thursday and Friday night were wonderful for me, no backaches whatsoever, and I slept soundly. But as I was getting dressed Saturday morning, I bent over to put a sock on and was suddenly hit by the most excruciating pain I had felt in a long, long time. It felt like it did before my nerve ablations were done in June. My first thought was that the nerve had regenerated, which I know can happen anywhere from six months to a couple of years out. It was so bad that I needed my cane to get around again, and even took a pain pill, neither of which I have done in months.

It got progressively worse during the day, and I texted Melony Thomas, my chiropractor, to ask if she was in the office in Edgewater or one of the other at Coastal Integrative Healthcare offices. She texted back and said she was in Orange City, but she would meet me at the Edgewater office. I know it is at least a 30 mile drive, and I didn’t want her to do that. But she insisted that it was all right. It was only as we were getting ready to go to the office that I realized it was Saturday and they were closed. I felt terrible calling her at home on a weekend, but Melony is an amazing woman, and not only a doctor, but our friend. She gave me an adjustment and said the problem was not spinal but a pulled muscle. Saturday night was rough for me, but between the adjustment, pain pills, and a Tens unit, I think I’m making some headway. My back is trashed in so many ways that it’s not just one thing, it’s a whole bunch of different problems all standing in line waiting their turn to give me grief.

On a happier note, look what I got in the mail. And it even came gift wrapped! It’s the second book in my friend Patrick O’Donnell’s Cops and Writers series, which are an excellent reference for authors and screenwriters. Patrick recently retired from a big city police department, and he runs the Cops and Writers group on Facebook. His first Cops and Writers book, From the Academy to the Street, focused on how one starts their career as a police officer, with a ton of good information that every crime or mystery author can use, as well as stories from Patrick’s own experiences on the street. This new book Cops and Writers Crime Scenes and Investigations, covers how a rookie detective is trained, and divisions within a detective bureau, including Homicide, Sensitive Crimes, Robbery, and Arson. There is also information on firearms and other weapons used in law enforcement, and so much more. Whether you’re an author or just someone who is interested in how and why the police do the things they do to protect and serve, Patrick’s books are well worth the read. You can order them on Amazon as either e-books or print books. But they don’t come with Patrick’s special gift wrap.

Besides listening to me snivel and whine, and doing an amazing job of taking care of me, Miss Terry has been busy weaving. I love the colors on her latest project, which is a table runner. And for dinner, she made delicious cheese tortellini with homemade meat sauce. Everything she does, she does to perfection. And even on my worst days, when I’m hurting bad and feeling sorry for myself, she makes it all better. In case you don’t know, I love this woman with all my heart.

 

A little before 7:30 we went outside to see the rocket launch carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station. That’s always a thrill.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I guess unless you are a disabled elderly pregnant child, you can’t go to the bathroom here.

Thought For The Day – What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of what we think it is supposed to be.

Nov 152020
 

Note: This story first appeared in the September-October 2012 issue of the Gypsy Journal.

Is there a kid anywhere who doesn’t know The Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle, the Grinch, Horton the Elephant, or the Lorax?

They all sprang from the mind of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author, poet, and cartoonist known and loved around the world as Dr. Seuss.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904, Geisel had a happy childhood, and the city of Springfield provided inspiration for many of his stories. And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, his first children’s book, is filled with Springfield references, right down to policemen riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of Springfield’s famed Indian Motorcycles.

He attended attend Dartmouth College, where he became editor of the Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine. After graduating from Dartmouth he went to Oxford University in England but soon grew bored with academics and left to explore Europe.

After returning to the United States, Geisel worked as a freelance cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair, and other publications, and spent fifteen years in the advertising department of Standard Oil. A contract to illustrate a children’s book for Viking Press gave him his break into children’s literature, but it wasn’t easy to get established. His first book was rejected 27 times before being published.

By the time he died in 1991, Geisel had written and illustrated 44 children’s books, including such perennial favorites as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.

Springfield, Massachusetts remembers its prolific children’s author with the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, located on the grounds of the Springfield Museums complex.

Sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, who happens to be Theodor Geisel’s stepdaughter, created a series of wonderful bronze sculptures of Doctor Seuss and his most beloved characters for the garden, including Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat, which features Geisel at his drawing board with the Cat in the Hat at his side.

table

Nearby is The Storyteller, a storytelling chair in front of a ten foot tall book with the text of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Gertrude McFuzz sits atop the book and the Grinch and his dog, Max, peek around the side.

cover-2

In Horton Court, a fourteen foot Horton the Elephant, Sam-I-Am, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, and other characters greet visitors.

elephant

An amazingly simple and yet complex Stickwork sculpture called Room by Room, which was created by a local artist weaving together saplings trimmed from trees by the museum staff, sits at the rear of the sculpture garden. It is a combination maze and work of art that kids love exploring.

maze

I think that while it might be possible to arrive at the sculpture garden in a bad mood, it would be impossible not to leave with a smile after spending some time with Doctor Seuss and his lovable, whimsical characters. They speak to the child inside all of us.

There is no charge to visit the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, which is located at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield and is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. Visitors can park for free in the Springfield Museums’ lot on Edwards Street, and additional public parking is available nearby. The streets in downtown Springfield are very congested and not suitable for a large RV, so park at a campground outside of the city and drive your tow vehicle when you visit.

Thought For The Day – Always laugh when you can. It’s the cheapest medicine.

Nov 142020
 

After having such a rough night on Wednesday night, when I couldn’t sleep, Thursday night was much better for both of us. We both woke up feeling refreshed, and my back pain was greatly diminished.

I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out the problem with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and why it suddenly stopped working on my computer. I made some progress in resolving the issues, but not enough. I got a lot of input from some folks on Facebook who know a lot more about these kinds of things than I do. As it turns out, Windows did an update on the night of the 11th, and the problem began on the 12th. Apparently, there was some kind of a conflict in the update.

I was finally able to get Dragon to work with a microphone again, but not the digital recorder. However, I was able to copy the chapter and a half I had recorded for my new Big Lake book before the problem began onto my computer. Then I put the microphone in front of the external speakers on my computer and played the file from the recorder over the computer. It wasn’t great, but it picked up enough that I was able to go in and clean it up and be able to use it. So I didn’t lose all the work I was afraid I had.

That took a good part of my day, along with a couple of calls to Nuance customer support, the company that makes Dragon. They tell me that for $300, I can get the new Professional version, which the guy is pretty sure will work with my digital recorder. Pretty sure. I’m not sure I want to gamble $300 on pretty sure unless it’s a filly at a horse race. I guess I’ll just stick with what I’m doing for now.

Several people have told me that I should just buy a Mac computer and quit worrying about it. No thanks. Been there, done that. Never again! Besides which, Dragon doesn’t work on Macs either, unless you load a Windows version of software onto them. If I’m going to do that, why switch?

Aside from computer woes, there isn’t much new to report. Sometime around 5:30 in the afternoon I heard a loud rumbling and felt a vibration, and realized that I had completely forgotten that there was a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral scheduled. We don’t usually hear the launches themselves, as much as we hear the reentry of the rocket boosters. I went outside and got a couple of good pictures of the rocket’s trail through the sky.

They were supposed to launch another one today, with four astronauts headed to the International Space Station, but it’s been pushed back to Sunday, weather permitting. I will try to remember to get out and take some pictures of it.

Dinner was one of Miss Terry’s delicious chicken pot pies, all made from scratch, and yes, I stuffed myself, and I make no apologies for it. That lady is absolutely the best cook that was ever born.

Several people have invited us to Thanksgiving dinner at different places here in Florida, but we have declined. Until this whole COVID thing is under control, if it ever is, we don’t plan to be around groups of people. Not even our kids. Terry has a turkey breast in the freezer that she will make and we will have a nice quiet dinner at home, just the two of us. I’m looking forward to it.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Does anyone know if we can take a shower yet, or should we just keep washing our hands?

I’m back

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 132020
 

I apologize for no blog yesterday. It’s very seldom that I miss posting it, but this was one of those times when it just didn’t happen.

As most of you know, Terry and I are night owls. We usually go to bed somewhere around 1:30 or 2 a.m., but for some reason, about 8 o’clock Thursday night, we both felt like we hit a brick wall. We were sitting in our recliners watching TV and falling asleep, so we decided to take a shower and go to bed. It was 10 o’clock by the time we finished a couple of chores, took our showers, and got in bed. We both fell right to sleep, but 45 minutes later, I was wide awake, my lower back and hips hurting so bad I couldn’t stay in one position. Even taking two extra strength arthritis pain formula pills didn’t take the edge off.

That turned out to be the pattern for the rest of the night. I would toss and turn for a while, drift off to sleep for a few minutes, and wake right back up. I could not find a position that was comfortable. Eventually, sometime around 4 a.m. I got up and went into one of our guest bedrooms, where we have a full size bed that is adjustable, and I was able to raise the head and foot to a position that allowed me to sleep for close to an hour. Then Terry woke up and came looking for me because I wasn’t in bed, so I went back to our bedroom. Sometime around 5:30, I did fall asleep from sheer exhaustion and got in two or three more hours.

Unfortunately, it was pretty much the same way for Terry all night. I know part of that is because I kept her awake. Hopefully, tonight will be better for both of us.

Yesterday wasn’t a great day, either. Not because of the rain, which we got a bit of from Eta, which is either a tropical storm or hurricane, whose status seems to change every half hour or so.

As I’ve said before, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking software to write my books because I have arthritis in my hands and fingers, and typing is painful and slow. I was working along when suddenly the program decided to crash. When I tried to restart it, all I got was the icon on my screen, and it sat there without opening. After closing it with Task Manager and trying it again, it eventually reopened, but wouldn’t let me do anything.

At one point, I got a message that said I didn’t have a sound card installed on my computer (yes, I do), and at another point,  a message popped up that said there was a compatibility issue with Windows 10. (I have been running Windows 10 all along.) I uninstalled and reinstalled the program four times, and it still won’t work.

This is version 13 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is no longer supported. I contacted Customer Support anyway, but their only suggestion is to update to the newer version 15. When I asked if it will work with my digital recorder, all they could say is “I don’t know. You’ll have to try it and see.”

So frustrating. I guess I will have to give up and order the newer version and just hope that it is compatible with my digital recorder.

I actually dictated this blog using the dictate mode in Microsoft Word, and I find it is probably just as accurate as Dragon. Unfortunately, Word won’t work with a digital recorder, and I have found that the recorder is a very good way for me to work, because I can knock out a paragraph or even a chapter sitting in the car while Terry is in the grocery store, or when I am sitting in my recliner.

Because I missed posting a Thursday blog, I’m afraid there won’t be a free drawing this week, but I promise I’ll have one next week.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – It took a long time for me to realize that I am not “Atlas.” The world does not rest on my shoulders.