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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

WC: My Favorite Subject in School


Today's challenge is: What was my favorite subject in school?

It was and is no surprise to anyone who has read my books: history.

I ate history like candy, I got into a discussion with my 8th grade U.S. History teacher, when she said that upon the U.S. entering WWI, we won the war for the Allies.

I found out correcting your teacher is a no no. I told her the Allies fended off the German Michael offensive and Mars offensive, that we only quickened the end of the war.

She huffed and puffed about how she was the teacher yada yada yada. I doubt if she even knew what I was talking about. Then again, my U. S. history professor said the same thing and I knew not to correct her. 

Miss Self always told us to keep our Confederate money, because the South shall rise again. Kind of prophetic today.

I majored in history, and taught New Mexico history, U.S. history, world history, economics, government, street law and psychology for 27 years. I taught history in summer school for the years I taught middle school English.

My first novel Optimus: Praetorian Guard, is set in first century Rome. I have other historical novels and short stories. 

History is about research. History majors can get employment in a wide range of professions because so many require research, especially law. 

When I started writing full time after retirement, I've written short stories set in medieval England, and three books forming the Fan Plan which required extensive research on vulcanism and survivalism. It took years of theological research for Human Sacrifices

History is not about watching it repeat itself. You don't watch, you predict and then plan for what will happen. Banks take a credit history and use that to predict your credit future and they accept or reject on that basis.

Example: Will Russia conquer Ukraine? 

Based on history it's like WWI in one respect. A. It could bog down into trench warfare, not too likely with missiles and drones. 

B. Russia takes over the country, but like the French in Spain under Napoleon and France in WWII guerilla warfare will prevail in the long run. C. Stalemate like North and South Korea. 

D. Putin is such an egomaniac and won't accept defeat and resort to nuclear war. 

E. Putin is assassinated before he tries to blow up the whole world, or 

F. Sayanora.

These are the choices faced by the U. S. and the rest of the world. Let's hope they choose wisely the options for these predictions to guide their decisions. 

I'm going to add a second favorite subject. History was and is my first love, but literature was and is my second love. I didn't know it was a subject I loved until 7th grade. That was my first literature class. Up till then it was only grammar. You know, spelling, write each word in a sentence, i before e except after c, their, there and they're, underline the subject once and verb twice, ad nauseum.

In Mrs. Ewing's literature class we did nothing but read and then discuss the story. I was in heaven.

I was an English minor in college. I taught 7th through 10th grade English for nine years. Seven years in mid school and three years in high school, then went straight social studies. 

I lacked one class for a major in English, but that was taught by Mrs. Jamar. I had her for American History, got a B after working my butt off. I'm a lousy typist, especially on a portable manual typewriter, and you had to use a little strip of white out for corrections. Term paper sunk me. That class was out of my control. She's the only one who taught it.

Stupidity came in when I signed up for the mini course between first semester and second semester in January. Three weeks three hours a day, but no term paper. 

Mrs. Jamar had it down to a science. Every class hour equals three hours of study. That was nine hours a day and that's exactly how long it took! 

It was the only class, but my life for those three weeks was wake up, go to class, eat lunch, read, go to practice, (on track scholarship), eat supper, read until one in the morning, then answer the two-page compound questions over the assignment. 

Guess what, she did not require a term paper, it was a ten-page paper without a bibliography or foot notes. 

A good friend, who later changed her name to Anne Littlewolf, who is the artist that I desktop publish her children's book and recently passed away, graciously typed my paper for me. I did have to fuss at her for rewriting my sentences.

I was acing all my tests until we were assigned to read Don Quixote. I translated parts of the story in Spanish class the fall semester. I answered the study questions and thought I could take a break, so I went to the local disco instead of reading to midnight. Got a D on the pop quiz. B+, curses foiled again.

When I found the only class offered last semester senior year was taught by her, I felt taking that class would be masochism. 

It sounds like I'm being harsh on Mrs. Jamar, and I thought and called her names unprintable even in pornography. To give her, her due, when I went to seminary, she was the only professor that prepared me for what was required in amount of reading. Believe me theology is ten times harder than trying to understand the Gothicism of Edgar Allan Poe's writing. 

She was the hardest professor in college and at seminary would have been my easiest.

I did shock her once, when we were discussing the Love Song of J. Alfed Prufrock, I gave the opinion that he was a pervert.

To this day when I'm writing the ghost of Mrs. Jamar hovers over me.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Mandate of Heaven


A first reads book, Mandate of Heaven is a fun read.

Take a cup of Indiana Jones, a half cup of National Treasure, a quarter cup of Alan Quartermain, a dash of Jack Ryan, pinch of scalawag, smidgen of The Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and you've got an entertaining read.

Ethan Chase is a successful treasure hunter, and he has the gold coins to prove it. He decides to impress Lindsay, a lovely lady he's met only to find out she's a secret agent for a not to be named government agency. 

He's arrested for being a deserter from the army and sent to Leavenworth.

After he's proven his army ranger skills when attacked he's black bagged and taken to a non-disclosed site. Here he meets Victor, a man who can make a phone call and get the president while on the golf course, to answer on the second ring.

He's given the choice of finding a jade statue of a dragon known as the Mandate of Heaven. An object once possessed by the first emperor of China, Qui Huang. It is supposed to bestow on its owner great power. 

Some clues have been found about its location and the Chinese government is searching for it.

Victor is adamant that he gets it first. Ethan's only other option is to go back to prison for the next 20 years.

The big secret throughout the book is why Ethan deserted during wartime. 

Victor insists Lindsay is going with him on the mission. Naturally Ethan is skeptical that a hunk of jade has magical powers, and he doesn't need a babysitter, but Victor gets what he wants. He does supply logistical support and weapons when needed. 

Ethan contacts his friend in Pakistan who guides him to on his treasure hunts. He gets from Muhammed the name of Wei in China who is capable and acts as interpreter. He brings along a boyhood buddy named Franky to make a foursome.

In China they encounter the Chinese opposition lead by Qiang, now working for the government, but Wei knows him from working with the triads.

They know the starting place for the clues, and it leads them to the hidden tomb of Genghis Khan, from there after getting by booby traps and being chased by Qiang they head to a mythical island where the Mandate of Heaven is located.

On the way to the top of the mountain they pass statues of eight gods in Taoism, each symbolizing an aspect of the belief.

This is more than just an adventure, there's a lot of history, adventure, budding romance, mysticism and philosophy.

When they get the jade dragon, they don't want it to get into either China's or Victor's hands. There is a way to destroy the power and they decide to do that, but Victor and Qiang are waiting for them.

Get on for a fun ride. It's the first book on Ethan Chase with hopefully many more to come.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

WC: First Website I Remember


Today's Wednesday Challenge is, First Website I Remember.

Talk about going down memory lane!

My first e-mail address was in 1998, on dial up. A TV station let you get on their server for free. Then my school district had an e-mail address.

I got my first e-mail address on Yahoo in 2000. I still have it and use it.

From e-mail I got on the world wide web. My brother started a blog on blogspot and I started one up, this one in fact. We started communicating. His blog was religious and political. At first, I enjoyed debating the trolls that frequented his blog, figured out that I was feeding the animals and quit.

Bruce had lots of fellow bloggers and I soon was blogging with a dozen or more. It was a golden age of blogging.

On another blog I serialized Human Sacrifices. I met a number of bloggers who commented on each segment.

I started blogging with two friends here in Albuquerque that were like minded and we started meeting at a local bar where we could meet in person. We called ourselves "The Curmudgeons." Two other bloggers from Colorado came down once to meet with us and we had a really good time.

That was in 2009. The next year most of my blogger friends shut down. Bruce shut down as he got tired of the trolls. 

Facebook killed a good many blogsite. I still have blogger friends counting Top Ten Tuesday and Wednesday Challenge among them. 

Berthold Gambrel and Yogi are a few of those I've kept in touch with from the earlier time. The crazy thing with Yogi, this year when I mentioned that I was having a 50-year high school reunion, we found we attended together. He was a year behind me. Amazing coincidence.

I still count Lydia Schoch and Audrey Driscoll as blogger friends from Berthold's blog.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday Book Review: Feast of All Saints


It's usual for a book review to be complimentary. Sometimes if a beloved author writes a book, you have trouble with something needs to be said. This is such a book. 

Feast of all Saints was a departure from Anne's usual horror genre. It was historical fiction. 

It's set in New Orleans before the Civil War and deals with a little-known aspect of the South. Free Men of Color. These were blacks who were not slaves. They acted as a sort of merchant class. They were second class citizens as many restrictions applied to them as a precursor to Jim Crow laws that came later, but they were free to own property and a business.

In the story a young man leaves his home. His white planter father pays for it as his Quadroon mother is his mistress.

He has come of age and his father has promised to send him to France for an education. His father doesn't have the money and his wife is adamant that he has nothing to do with this son. This naturally creates the conflict in the story.

The book was made into a mini-series and that's how I know the story, and it is a wonderful and important story.

When I tried reading the book, the first five pages described the young man as he dressed. Everything about the way he looked, article of clothing, his room and all within it. What was going on in the boy's mind and how anxious he was to meet his father and ask for him to keep his promise.

Another five pages describing him walking down the stairs, the type of wood, how many steps, the room he entered. 

Ten pages describing the door outside, the garden and all the plants as he's walking to the gate leading to the street, and then every house and their gardens... I gave up. Who cares that much about scenery?

The mini-series was a pleasure to watch, there actually was a story and one worthy of seeing. Maybe if I kept reading another twenty or more pages, I would have become interested, but the typical reader today would desert the book after five pages, at least I lasted twenty.

That was when I read every word of a book, today I scan and skip a lot of description to get to the meat of the story.

Anne Rice was from New Orleans, many of her Vampire and other books are set there. If feel she wanted the reader to see New Orleans of this time like she did. In a way it was her showing off the beauty of the city. Fifty years earlier and this wouldn't have been a problem. Description was highly valued by readers before movies and TV. Today its clutter.

  Description is needed to paint a picture of the person or surrounding for the reader, but minutia changes the focus to the setting and away from the character and story. 

I highly recommend the Vampire, Mummy, Body Thief, Mayfair Witches and other books by Anne Rice, she is one of my favorite authors.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

WC: My Favorite Food.


My favorite food!

A couple of weeks back I mentioned a lot of food I like. Variety is best. No matter how much you like something if that's all you ever eat it will become tasteless.

If you were to analyze my blood you would discover it's 80% barbecue sauce.

It doesn't matter, beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, turkey, pork links as long as the meat is smoked, and the sauce is mesquite I'm in heaven.

There is nothing better for Thanksgiving than a good smoked turkey!

There are lots of good BBQ places in town. Whole Hog, Dickeys and a local place: Powdrell's. I ran track against a Powdrell and his son was a student.

JR's has good smoked meat, but their sauce has too much black pepper, yuck.

Dickeys out of Texas has started selling its BBQ sauce at Walmart. They have sweet, regular and spicy. The spicy is equal to hot red chile, I wouldn't be surprised if that is what's making it hot.

The other 20% of my hemoglobin is A & W Root Beer. I've been forced to drink sugar free, but it's a whole lot better than other brands. It has a wintergreen taste similar to lifesaver's wintergreen candy. I still miss the regular though.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book I Liked with Asexual character.


I like a book with a hermaphrodite character. 

The book is available at Amazon only in paperback. I read if after his book Aztec. I discovered that Gary Jennings has a way of writing a scene that if etched by acid onto your memory. Every book I've read of his has done this.

Raptor is set during the time of Theodoric the Great (Dietrich in Gothic) who overthrew the last Roman emperor, Romulus Agustulus, and dates the fall of the Western Empire and the beginning of the dark ages around 465AD.

Raptor is a hermaphrodite and is capable of passing as either woman or man, even sexually. Throughout the book he one or the other sometimes both. He becomes an assassin. 

One scene burned into my memory is at the beginning where he's an orphan at a monastery and the monk in charge of the kitchen where Raptor is sent to work thinks he's a girl and uses him as such. It isn't until later Raptor knows he's both as he/she was raised as a girl.

As an assassin he's given the job of killing one of Theodoric's rivals in Ravenna. Most of the time he is in male dress and only as a woman when stealth is needed.

 He dresses as a prostitute and uses a thin wire under his dress to push up what breasts he has. Once with the rival he straightens the wire and kills him with it, then leaves and is gone before the body is discovered. There are other assassinations and battles, but this one was the most memorable.

 One thing Gary Jennings does is research and describe the historical setting in great detail. This made it especially interesting as it's such a black hole of history and is very enlightening in an entertaining way.

It is the only book I've read with this type of character. There are very few novels written in this time period. Tony Roberts has a couple of Casca books in the time period, that I've read since.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Friday Book Review: Pioneer Go Home

 This is going down memory lane.

It was Labor Day weekend, 1961. My grandparents owned a cabin in Beulah, CO. We lived in Pueblo the cabin was only forty miles west. We drove up on Friday night and planned to go fishing at Lake Isabel for two days before heading back.

Saturday morning Mom got up and tried to start a fire in the wood burning stove. She got smoke in the cabin. Dad got up and asked her what she's doing. She told him to look outside. He opened the door to six inches of snow. He got the stove working and we were trapped in the cabin.

We brought up plenty of food, that wasn't a problem, the problem was behind the cabin was an outhouse. It was coooollllldddd getting there and back.

The cabin was wall to wall National Geographics and books. Grandpa liked to relax at the cabin by reading.

Dad chose this book: Pioneer Go Home, by Richard Powell. We all cuddled up to the stove, my brother, Mom, Dad and me. Dad started reading and after an hour, Mom took over, and then Dad, so on and so forth.

It's about a misfit family in an old jalopy that drove onto a new turnpike in Florida. They run out of gas and camp out on the beach. Government of officials come by and order them to leave. Grandpa in the story has taken some stray children, the oldest is just out of the army on disability, a teen-age girl and twin brothers ten years old. 

The thing about Grandpa is he won't take orders, especially from the government. He claims squatter's rights.

The plot doesn't convey how funny the writer makes this out. The boys are always up to mischief, the girl has a crush on the ex-soldier son, and he only sees her a still a child.

Grandpa completely flabbergasted the government officials, and they leave to plot how to get rid of them.

By afternoon and about 3/4s of the way through we ran out of wood. While it was still light, we gave up and headed home. Once out of the mountains the road cleared up. Mom kept reading on the drive and we finished that night.

It is a pleasant read and I still remember most of it.

Flash forward to 1970. After the 10:00 o'clock news they showed movies. It was an Elvis movie Follow That Dream. The first ten minutes and we all said, "Pioneer Go Home."

The book is a lot funnier.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

WC Books That Pleasantly Surprised Me


Books that pleasantly surprised me.

I had seen this book at Hastings a few times and wondered about it, but I was into Sci-fi at the time. First year teaching and I was doing summer school hoping to land a full-time position. The room I was teaching in had a bookcase of SSR books. APS set aside 15 minutes every day for Sustained Silent Reading. While the students were silently reading, I found this book in the SSR bookcase. I really enjoyed it. There are now 55 and counting of Casca books. Barry Sadler died, and other writers picked up the Casca series. Over half of them by Tony Roberts and he churns out one or two a year. The first 22 books are available in audio format, I listen to them all the time. When teaching 7th grade, I found there was little boys of that age wanted to read. I got a bunch of the books at used bookstores and they ate them up.

After reading a number of Tony Roberts Casca books, in his author's page he also has a fantasy series. 
After LOTR I tried Lord Fowls Bane by Santa Fe author Stephen R. Donaldson, Shanara and other sword and sorcery stories. They didn't quite grab my attention. 
I tried, Dark Blade a fantasy quest series and have been hooked on everyone since. He can't come out with them fast enough.

I was reading an anthology from the Science Fiction book club, and there was a short story about Dragon riders. When the book which the short story begins came out, I liked it and got the first three books combined from Sci fi book club. 

I read them to my wife when we were first married and she loved them, so have my children and grandchildren. I got a classroom set of Dragon Flight and had my 7th grade literature students read them.

 I read the Thorn Birds and watched the mini-series. 
At Hastings I found The First Man in Rome by Collene McCullough and was intrigued. It was quite different than her other books. Ancient and Biblical history has always been my forte (history major), Rome in particular. 
I read the glossary first. It was a good thing I read it first. It helped me with all the Latin words, the culture, the society, politics, she even had modern names for the Roman names of cities and provinces, even drawing of the shape of a toga, stola and chiton. I learned more about Rome in that glossary than all my knowledge of Roman history to that time. I would never have been able write Optimus: Praetorian Guard without these books.

The first book got me hooked and luckily Hastings always carried the hard backs that didn't sell well at reduced prices until the last one. It covers from the rise of Marius to Octavian becoming Augustus. I've read the whole series three times.   

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Friday Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

 Where the Crawdad's Sing

When I first started blogging with Wednesday Challenge and Top Ten Tuesday, I discovered lots of books I normally would not look for or find on Amazon or at a bookstore. Many of them were young adult, and since I'm not teaching teenagers anymore, not something I'm interested in.

A few books had rave reviews from lots of fellow bloggers. This was one of them. I fell in love with the story.

The e-book also had audio for a small price, and I chose to listen instead of reading. It was a good choice. The reader spoke in a stylized North Carolina accent which added depth to the characters simple reading wouldn't provide.

Kya Clark is left alone when her father abandons her to fend for herself in the wetlands of North Carolina. She survives by digging up muscles and selling them to a kindly the Madison's a black couple that run a general store and boat fuel business. She's able to buy food and fuel to survive at eight years of age. Mrs. Madison is there to help her through puberty, and always adds a little something like candy or a dress or shoes when she gets supplies.

The book is broken up between the 1950's and early 60's to the year 1968, where a hometown hero quarterback and owner of the Western Auto is found dead. It weaves the life of Kya growing up and then back to the investigation and finally Kya being arrested for the murder of Chase Andrews.

Kya's encouraged to attend school where she'll get a proper meal, but the first day she is shunned and ridiculed. She never goes back.

 The odds of her surviving are stacked against her. Tate Walker was friends with her older brother, before he left, starts leaving her feathers on a stump by her house, knowing she collected them. He leaves her a note. She tells him she can't read. He begins to teach her to read.

They become close and a romantic relationship starts, but Tate knows he's going off to college and doesn't want to use her and leave.

He encourages her with her drawings and watercolors of the flora and fauna of the wetlands. She reads every book she can find in the library and learns everything about them. Tate is impressed with her work and tells her to send them off to a publisher. She's not too sure about it.

Tate leaves and is gone for years. When she finds developers are getting ready to build hotels nearby, she checks on her land. Finds she needs $800 for back taxes. She sends off her first book and is able to pay her taxes to save her land. Also, able to modernize the cabin.

Chase Andrews observes Kya while he's out in the wetlands and slowly woos Kya. They become close until she learns he's engaged to another and he's only using her. She breaks up with things off.

Chase won't take no for an answer.

The rest of the story is about the number of books she publishes concerning the wetlands. The books start to gather interest in saving the wetlands and slows down the development. She's becoming well known outside of her town, but to the locals she's just the "Marsh Girl."

Tate comes back after college and is working with a biological center not far from her. She throws rocks at him when he first shows up. It takes a bit to get close to her again.

She's arrested for Chase Andrews death and the last of the book deals with her jailing and trial.

Okay, that's what you get if you watch the Netflix's movie. It is very well done, great acting and filming. It leaves the heart of the story out of it.

Reading or listening to the book you know what Kya is thinking and feeling, movies can't do that. It leaves out why her mother, brothers and sisters left her all alone with an abusive father.

When her lone sibling returns, Jodie, who was friends with Tate. In the movie she sees him coming and immediately recognizes him. It was 20 years since she'd seen him.

In the book the reason is when she was younger her father took a hot poker to him as he tried to stop his father from using the hot poker on his mother. He is left with a scar on the side of his face. That's what she recognized, left out in the movie.

At the beginning of the movie, it shows her mother painting still-life's of the land. How Kya grew up drawing and painting with her mother.

When Jody returns, having seen her book in a bookstore and he's stationed in Georgia in the Army. He tells her of how her mother survived with her family, being nearly catatonic for a year. What made her come out of the coma was painting. She died a few years before he found her, her family gave him her paintings. All of them showing the family playing and happy in different stages of growing up.

She puts them up in her cabin. Totally left out in the movie. To me that gutted the story.

Each chapter about halfway the book started with a poem from her favorite poet. All describing the wetlands at dawn, day, sunset and night. Left out. (Spoiler alert, she's the poet using a pen name.)

The question of did she or did she not kill Chase is left to the very last. 

You can fuss about the movie over the book, but I mention this because don't think seeing the movie is enough. READ THIS BOOK with a box of tissue handy.  

Berthold Gambrel is better when he does reviews of covering the theme and philosophy. of the story. What I took away from the story was the obvious that the town outside of the Madisons at the general store who took her under their wing while growing up, she was the "Marsh Girl" and were afraid of her, spread crazy rumors about her and they were the ones she faced on the jury. 

Fear of the other, racism to a small degree, when the Madison's sat behind her at the trial, the judge stopped the spectators from causing a fuss, by saying the trial was open to all as spectators. Were obvious themes concerning the setting and time period.

Mostly it was about a woman who overcame all odds, and with a desire to explore, learn, create, self-taught other that Tate teaching her how to read.

To a certain extent it reminded me of Harry Potter teaching the other students in Defense of the Dark Arts, when professor Umbrage wouldn't. That those who desire to learn will find a way.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

WC 020123 What I Eat on the Average Day


Today's challenge: What I eat on the average day.

I try not to eat the same thing every day. I relish diversity.

Breakfast: It could be a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, eggs and bacon, a frozen croissant with ham, egg and cheese warmed in the microwave, with one of a dozen types of herbal and regular flavored tea. Sometimes fresh squeezed orange juice. Favorite teas are Bigelow's Constant Comment and Perfect Mint. Also, Celestial Seasons Sweet and Spicy, or if my blood sugar is high a Glucerna shake.

Lunch: My main meal. A grilled sirloin burger with mashed potatoes, corn or green beans. I try to have a salad, Cosco has a great fresh Kale salad with thin broccoli noodles. 

If we go out, I like Thai, their version of sweet and sour medium spicy, never try Thai Hot! It will strip the paint off your car. The place I like adds a small bowl of onion soup with a few dollops of Thai oil, very tasty. You also get two small egg rolls with a thin sauce with peanut pieces floating on top, a fruit cup with watermelon and pineapple, and a rice pudding. I usually pass on the rice, but sometimes go with brown rice.

There are a number of great Mexican places, we go to the places with moderately hot green chile or red chile. There are Tourista places with mild chile and others for fire eaters. I prefer a burrito with either ground beef or chicken smothered in Green Chile sauce with pinto beans, not a fan of Spanish rice. Twisters, a local fast-food place has Christmas enchiladas, three enchiladas, one carne adovada (pulled pork marinated in red chile), one beef and one chicken, smothered in both red and green chile.

Fast food if I really want to screw up my diet. Blake's is the local hamburger joint. If you've watched Breaking Bad, you've seen the bags from Blakes. Sonic has a good green chile cheeseburger. I can't stand mayonnaise on a burger sometimes forget to tell them to leave it off. Wendy's does have good salads and chili. Arby's has a good Turkey, bacon cheese sandwich on whole wheat. I like their Jalapeno bites with Bronco Berry sauce. 

Evening: We usually snack: An apple, orange, grapes, blueberries, celery stick with flavored cream cheese or peanut butter, sometimes on a vegetable Ritz. Hot dogs with mustard and green chile, Costco has frozen packages of green chile that are ten to the bag, I eat only Hebrew National beef hotdogs. 

I also snack on homemade guacamole. I get avocados, puree them in a blender, add Sadie's Hot salsa (local restaurant salsa they also have a "Not so hot") and a bit of lemon or lime juice. Eat with tortilla chips.

My latest e-book on Amazon:

The Eagle, Earth Mother comes back as an Eagle and reincarnates to help mortals find love and happiness.