By now most people have probably figured out that an eclipse is coming this Monday, as it tends to do here in America every so often. Still, I'm not sure everyone's completely clear on all the details, so I thought I'd answer some common questions:

Q: Why does everybody have to scream at everyone about everything these days?

No, I mean about the eclipse. 

Q: What the heck is this thing? Is this some holdover from the 2012 Apocalypse?

This is a reasonable question, since we're still waiting for the 2012 Apocalypse. An eclipse simply happens when the shadow from one body passes over another body. For instance, one day I was lying on a beach when movie maker Michael Moore moved by. Moore blocked out the sun and ruined my tan, thus saving me from skin disease. (He refused to give me an autograph, just because I asked him when his totality would be over.)

That's Michael, in the middle. Not so very big after all.

Q: Huh?

Moore is rather portly, although I've been gaining on him. If you're a liberal, feel free to insert Trump's name. Oh, you mean "huh" about totality? That's the area of the Earth's surface that's completely covered by the Moon's shadow, usually only for a minute or so. During totality is the only time--and I mean ONLY time--when you can safely look directly at an eclipse without eye protection. Unfortunately, the area of totality is only about 70 miles wide. For example, in northeast Indiana the eclipse will cover about 86% of the sun, so go buy those glasses.

Q: What will happen if I look at it without protection?

Have you ever watched that episode of the TV show Supernatural, when the psychic gets to look at the true face of an angel? It's like that. Nothing left but smoking eye sockets. And yeah, that looks cool for a second, but only to everyone else.

It's perfectly safe to look at the eclipse during totality. But if even a sliver of sun is showing before or after, POOF! Seeing eye dog time. (Or, you could maintain some vision but have "just" permanent damage.)


Q: What's so important about this eclipse?

Well, it's cool, even more cool than smoking eye sockets. Also, it's rare in that, for the first time in almost a century, it will traverse the entire U.S. from coast to coast, over fourteen states. That's happened only 15 times in the last 150 years.

I can block my house from here!

There are between two and five eclipses every year, but a total solar eclipse only happens every 18 months or so. Not only that, but when they do happen it's often in a place where most people don't see it, like over an ocean, or the Pacific northwest. According to this mathematical guy from Belgian, any certain spot on Earth will see a total eclipse once every 375 years. That's an average, and it's math, so I'm just taking his word for it.

This is the first time in 38 years that a total eclipse was visible anywhere in the continuous U.S. For perspective, at the time Jimmy Carter was President, and gas was 86 cents a gallon. St. Louis, which is in the path this time, last saw totality in 1442, when gasoline was even cheaper. Chicago, which saw one in 1806 but will miss this one, will next see totality in 2205, when fueling your flying car might be very expensive.

Scientists have determined there are two small areas of the country--one in northeast Colorado, and one near Lewellen, Nebraska--that haven't seen a total eclipse in over a thousand years. Talk about bad luck.

Q: So I'm guaranteed to get a good show?

Oh, heck no. See above joke about the Pacific northwest; the 1979 total eclipse over that area was largely unseen due to clouds and rain.

This isn't a Hollywood movie: Any number of things could spoil it, from bad weather to having Michael Moore stand in front of you. But I wouldn't sweat Michael (can I call him Michael?) who I've heard is looking after his health much better these days. No, the big question will be whether weather cooperates. My wife and I are heading into the path of totality, and I can pretty much guarantee a day-long driving rain, or possibly a hurricane, will hit central Missouri at about that time.

What I probably won't see

 Q: What effects can we expect?
  
Fire and brimstone, dogs and cats sleeping together, total chaos, new super powers, pretty much the worst parts of the Bible. Wait, that was in the movies. Well, it'll get dark, 'cause--no sun. In the path of totality you'll see stars (or clouds), and you'll also be in for a rare treat of seeing the sun's atmosphere with the naked eye. One cool thing I noticed during a partial eclipse was that sunlight passing through the trees cast thousands of little crescent shaped shadows.

Some animals might be fooled into thinking it's twilight. In fact, eclipses have been known to thin out the local vampire population.

Geeks like me will geek out. People who don't understand, or don't care about, the difference between reality and Hollywood special effects might be disappointed.

Q: What are the greatest dangers?

As with many things in our modern society, the greatest danger might be driving. Officials expect major traffic jams as millions of people try to get into the path of totality. For those who don't make it on time or aren't expecting it, the danger is that they'll be driving down the road, trying to stare at the eclipse, only to ram someone who pulled over along the side of the road to watch the eclipse. Don't do either of those.

Otherwise, there's that smoking eye socket thing. Interestingly, during partial eclipses when the brightness doesn't seem too bad, infrared waves from the sun can still cause damage by overheating the eye, in a boiling egg kind of a way. Disturbed yet? Me, too.

Enjoy these eclipses while you can: The Moon's orbit is slowly getting larger, so the time will come when it will be too far away to completely cover the sun, meaning the end of total eclipses. Scientists predict this will happen in less than 600 million years, so go look while you still can.
Farewell to Matt Smith, who is retiring from the Albion Fire Department after 14 years of service. Matt, in addition to being an active firefighter and the AFD Secretary for several years, formerly served on the Albion Town Council, and was also an EMT with the Noble County EMS.

 

 

Here Fire Chief Brad Rollins, on the left, presents Matt with his helmet shield as a token of appreciation for his years of service.
 
(Matt, who works full time as a technical writer, is no relation to Doctor Who, although I've always felt his heart is bigger on the inside.)
I'm way behind on this, due to medical and internet problems--this movie did so poorly at the box office that I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't showing any more.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is living proof that just being fun won't save a movie. And VatCofTP (say, let's just call it Valerian) really is fun, as well as being visually stunning. Unfortunately, that just makes its faults more obvious when compared to the moviemaker's previous fun and visual flick, The Fifth Element, which benefits from better casting decisions.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a special operative, basically a combination secret agent/Navy SEAL. He and his partner, Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne) drop their spaceship into problem areas James Bond style, and in this case they're assigned to investigate Alpha, a mysterious cancer that's spreading through a remarkable space-borne city in which species from across the galaxy learn from each other, exchange cultures, and party.

Gee, we only see a hundred planets.


Then things get confusing. Well, okay, they're already confusing, starting with an opening segment on a world so peaceful and beautiful you just know it's about to be demolished. We cut from there to Valerian and Laureline, who are arguing about getting married while landing on a planet bare of anything, unless you put on virtual reality visors and go on a huge shopping spree.

Soon they're neck deep in an effort to retrieve ... well, what they retrieve is related to the earlier planetary paradise, as is the rest of the movie, although how they're related doesn't become clear until toward the end. For some viewers, it doesn't become clear at all.

Some people were apparently never able to figure out what was going on. I was, eventually, but a large part of the movie is more about seeing neat things than about the actual plot. I'm okay with that in theory; still, a little consistency and logic are also nice, and Valerian tends to be weak in those areas.

But my biggest problem was the casting. Major Valerian plays like a much older character, and apparently was, in the comics; DeHaan comes off as a lightweight, and just can't make us believe he's an experienced, senior ranked operative in a galaxy-wide security service. Worse, he has little chemistry with Delevingne, who I found much more believably bad-ass. The movie slows to a crawl whenever their romance comes up, and one has to wonder why she hasn't already requested a different partner. I'd be happy to see her play the same part again, and some of my favorite moments of the movie were when she worked solo. Him, not so much.

I suppose the original characters would be too old, now.


Otherwise Valerian provided in spades what we've come to expect from movie space opera: great effects and action sequences, weird aliens, last minute saves, and bad guys doing things that don't always make sense. But in a way that was the problem: Everything got thrown at the screen, losing the story and characters in the process.

My score:
entertainment value: 3 M&Ms out of 4 ... and remember, I'm easily entertained.
Oscar potential: 1 M&M out of 4. Not that it couldn't get nominations for something like effects or makeup, but overall VatCofTP is as overly complicated as trying to shorten the title.

Remember when your utilities were gas, electric, water, and maybe phone, and the idea of having the world at your fingertips and a screen in your hands was something for rich people or science fiction characters?

No, me neither. But I got a taste of first world stone age when our internet went out at the beginning of this month. How great is it that Mediacom convinced me to get my home phone service through them, then told me I'd be out for two weeks after both it and our internet went dark? It's so great, it makes me want to just injure my back and lay there, unable to use the internet or talk on the phone, or move. That's how great it was.

And that's the irony of it, that it failed at a time when I was flat on my back and could have used it most.

(Truth in advertising: It actually hurt to lay flat on my back. I was in more of a fetal position.) 

 But there's a bright side: By the time the pain eased enough for me to do anything at all, I worked on writing or--wait for it--reading. In the week and a half or so we've gone without, I wrote a submission outline for my newest novel, and got halfway through a final polish on the manuscript. I'm also halfway through the first novel I've read all summer.

That's the good news. The bad news is that when I do do internet stuff (and we all know there's a lot of online do-do), I often ended up using my phone. I didn't think twice about it until I got a notice that, 25% into the month, I'd used up 75% of my data. For you older people, that's like gossiping on a party line until the other users start yelling for you to get off the phone.

That's why I'm stealing the internet you're getting this from right now. *ahem* Borrowing. It's also why I'm not online as much as usual, even though I'm still limited in other things I can do. First world problems, yeah, but I'm paying for my first world stuff with money I earned by helping other people with their first world problems.

And when I called the people providing me with that first world service, who out of fairness I shouldn't name, they said a serviceman would be right there, in about two weeks.

Thank you, Mediacom. Thankyouverymuch.

Basically I'm telling you this because the service guy is supposed to be here today (they moved it up three days, so why am I complaining?) I don't want to vent on the repair guy, because it isn't his fault, so I'm venting on you. There. Vented.

How things go today will determine what kind of mood I'm in tomorrow ... but either way my smart phone won't be very smart for the rest of the month, and I suspect M******m isn't going to reimburse me for that.

"I feel like something's just crushing me." Kidding! This was taken after my sinus surgery.

 

 Two of our books are going to be auctioned off this Saturday to benefit the Central Noble Food Pantry, which happens to be one of my neighbors.

 

We donated copies of Radio Red and Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving at All; they'll be auctioned along with other items at the Moose Lake Christian Craft Village, at 11330 E 500 S, LaOtto. The benefit's planned for this coming Saturday, August 12, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

 

I haven't been there myself, but I hear it's a great place to visit. There's a seven dollar entry fee but that's for the whole day, including a visit from Johnny Appleseed (who I write about in Hoosier Hysterical, come to think of it). There's swimming, fishing, paddle boats, music, crafts, wagon and pony rides, and all sorts of other neat stuff, which you can probably find out more about by visiting their Facebook page.

 

I don't know if our books are going to be auctioned together or separately, but it would be really nice if someone would stop by and put their money down, and maybe bring a nonperishable food product for donation, too. The C.N. Food Pantry is just two doors down from me, and they do great work for the community.

 

Of course, the books won't be the only thing auctioned off! The list I saw includes a whole hog, tools, gift certificates, a Moose Lake family pass and weekend cabin stay, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

 

Call Bonnie if you have any other questions, at 260 564-8160. Check it out, have some fun and, as I always say, buy our books!

 

 

 
 Emily and I are going to be at the Kendallville Public Library's Art and Author Fair, which, perhaps not surprisingly, is going to be at the Kendallville Public Library in September.

 

It's this whole big thing, held in conjunction with the Kendallville Chamber of Commerce "Showcase Kendallville and Job Fair", and it's all going to be at the library Friday, September 15, from 2-7 p.m. We've already been to a group book signing with some of the other authors! It'll be like coming home again. Actually, it'll be like writing home again. The library's page for the event is here:

 

http://kendallvillelibrary.org/about-us/library-news/art-and-author-fair/

 

And you can let everyone know you're going on the facebook page, here:

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/261574904246629

 

Is that cool, or what? Yes. Yes, it is.

 

 

So ... kind of a sucky week.

 

Actually, all of July kind of sucked, and the first few days of August just went along with it. Come to think of it, 2017 as a whole hasn't exactly been stellar.

 

But never mind that, let's go to the lawn mower. I never did get this out on all my social media, so you might not have seen it:

 

For the record, the tire is not supposed to go that direction.

 

This is the same mower my stepfather repaired for me after the carburetor crapped out. A carburetor is a ... thing ... that does ... something ... in an engine. According to my wife's research, the carburetors in this particular engine brand are now made out of plastic. Plastic in a piece of equipment that's designed to burn stuff under pressure. Yeah.

 

Now, this would be the same mower that gave me other problems, including a gas cap that wouldn't stay on and other small pieces that seemed to fall off at random. In addition, the little bar that stops the mower from running if you release the handle kept it from starting at all, until I bent the control wire in an un-designed direction. In retrospect, I should have known it was a lemon from the get-go, but it didn't become clear to me until after the warranty ran out.

 

And now there I was, pushing the mower across the yard, when suddenly the cut became uneven. It became uneven because one of the tires came off. And it wasn't just the tire: The whole assembly that held the tire to the mower deck just peeled away, like wet cardboard.

 

(I checked: It wasn't wet cardboard. It was metal that looked like web cardboard.)

 

So, for the second time, I didn't get to finish. I showed the above photo to my wife, and began my prepared speech, which was to be, "If you want to have someone fix it, that's fine, but you've got one week to get it done before I trash this piece of--"

 

I didn't get beyond "If you want" before she said, "Oh, we're getting rid of that thing."

 

My wife is a consummate researcher. It's because of her that I know about plastic carburetors, and what "consummate" means. It's in the dictionary. Who knew? Within days she narrowed down the new mowers, and then we went shopping.

 

For years I avoided mowers with grass catchers, because they fill up after about two passes. It took longer to mow a lawn than it does for me to assemble furniture, and I don't have that kind of time. But now we have a compost heap, which loves grass clippings, so Emily found a mower that could change between a rear bagger and a side discharge. Not only that, but it has four working wheels, and a three year warranty. Heaven in the grass.

 

It only took me a few hours to get it put together. And I needed to get on it, because the last two times I mowed, only about a third got done before disaster struck. It had been so long that the part already mowed needed it again, and that's where I started--a flat section, where I could get used to the new equipment.

 

I was being careful, you see.

 

But I didn't take something into consideration. I accounted for the new mower,  but not the extra weight of the bag filling up. So, when I went to turn a corner on a hill, the mower zigged and my spine zagged.

 

I'd mowed a third of the lawn--the same third I mowed last time--before my lower back went "twang!"

 

It didn't sound exactly like that, of course, but that's kind of how it felt. And that's why I didn't go online much for awhile: It hurt to type. It hurt to walk, sit, lay down, lift a finger, swallow, think ... well, it hurt to think about the pain, anyway. It hurt so much that I came to appreciate my  chronic back pain. Sure, that hurt all the time too, but it didn't feel like the red hot barbed tridents they use in Hell.

 

But my wife, through experience, has become a very good nurse. Three days later I was able to go back to work, and if you ask me I did a pretty good job of hiding the fact that my pain had only been reduced to agony status.

 

What have I learned from this, you ask? Well, first, always keep some of the good pain pills around the house. More important, either get a goat, or hire someone to mow your lawn. I'm leaning toward that last--I can only imagine how badly I'd get hurt dealing with a goat.

 

 

I've been feeling crappy the last several days: either an oncoming summer cold or a bad allergy attack (and/or lack of sleep). Considering all the dust and the white cottony stuff floating around outside, I'm thinking allergies, so I should stay inside rather than hiking around. But I had a bout of sleeplessness and hit the trails at Pokagon State Park; 3.6 miles later, I can say no one ever accused me of doing the smart thing.



What am I allergic to? According to the allergy doctor, everything that can be found in nature.


Except water. I'm not allergic to water ... or maybe they didn't test me for that?
 


  

And now, with apologize to Robert Frost:

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And both smelled kind of musty

My nose asked me if I should

Go down something so dusty;

 

I shall be telling this with a sneeze

My nostrils full of mold

I took the road more allergen

It's worse than any cold.

  
  
  
  
  
   
  
  
  
  
  
 
  
  
  
  
  
 
  
  
  
  
 

117 people came to our annual family gathering Saturday at the home of the ever-welcoming cousin Mike Triplett, who encourages the invasion every year. Emily and I were only able to stay a couple of hours due to work schedules, but boy ... those were a tasty couple of hours. Thanks to cousin Vickie Martin for letting me use a few of her photos for a post.

 

That's my dad, Delbert Hunter, along with his sisters Ruby and Dorothy. There were nine siblings in all, which helps explain the large number of descendants.

 

 

I had to add this photo of my brother, because it's like pulling beard hairs to get one where he's not making a Jerry Lewis face. Jeff's still working full time despite going through chemo--that's one tough guy. (Latest test results were very encouraging!) His long-suffering wife is on the right ... well, any married Hunter man has a long-suffering wife.

 

 

 

Speaking of long-suffering wives, there's mine. She's asking Dad if I've always been this way. He's answering, "Yes".

 

There was chicken. But right over at the next table there was fudge. Faced with a difficult decision, I chose to overeat. By the way, my wife bought me that shirt.

 

There are about a million more pictures over at Mike's Facebook page, and Vickie's, and about a dozen others, which is why I didn't bother to take any myself. Emily only had one day off out of six in a row, so I decided to be lazy on her behalf.

We should all see each other way more than once a year, of course.


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Meet Lilianna Judith Mapes, my first granddaughter:

 

Tags:
Sooner or later, Marvel has to screw up. In recent years even their bad movies have been good (depending on who you ask), and that just can't last forever—at some point one of their big budget superhero movies has got to be an Ishtar-level bust.
 
But not Spider-Man: Homecoming.
 
 
 
Just to remind us how great these movies can be, we open right after the events of The Avengers, when Peter Parker would have been—what—in kindergarten? Michael Keaton is New York businessman Adrian Toomes, who’s just landed the contract to clean up the mess made during the Battle of New York. He’s invested a lot of money into the venture, but to his shock the cleanup is taken over by a government initiative led by Tony Stark. Toomes, looking at financial ruin, is ordered to turn in any alien technology or scrap he’s collected, shutter his operation, and go home.
 
He does none of those thing. Do you get the feeling we’ll be seeing both Toomes and that alien tech again? Me, too.
 
We then get a fun look at the events of Captain America: Civil War as seen through the eyes of teenager Peter Parker, who’s having the time of his life as Spider-Man. When the battle ends he’s sent back home, with the assurances that the Avengers will call when he’s needed.
 
So Peter waits. And waits, putting off his personal life, convinced he’ll be called back into action at any moment. Meanwhile, someone seems to be selling weapons made with alien tech around Peter’s neighborhood. Even more frightening, he has to survive being a high school sophomore.
 
One of the smart things Spider-Man: Homecoming does is send Peter back to high school, as an overeager fifteen year old who means well, but tends toward rash actions and under-thought decisions. In other words, he’s a typical teenager, except for being a scientific genius and, you know, sneaking into his house by crawling across the ceilings. It’s the typical superhero challenge of keeping two lives separate, done with spirit and a fresh face in young Tom Holland.
 
 
 
Michael Keaton is, of course, great as Toomes, maintaining his intensity but staying away from being too Batman. He acts with a casual normalcy, making the audience like him even as he, like Peter, makes wrong decisions.
 
The rest of the cast tends to be overshadowed by a handful of small appearances, especially Robert Downy Jr. as father figure Tony Stark, in turn exasperated and proud of his web-slinging protégé. He hands babysitting duties over to his former driver Happy Hogan, and Jon Favreau is fun to watch as his frustration builds. As usual, the adults just don’t quite understand the kids, not even Aunt May (Marisa Tomei, loving but concerned as May always is). Speaking of kids, the rest of the high school students (who I assume are all older than they play) do a serviceable job on that side of Peter’s life.
 
Overall the movie is just … fun. And spectacular, often at the same time, although Peter's private life shares equal time with the fight scenes. There’s one huge twist that I should have seen coming. It was pretty obvious in retrospect, and it's been done before ... but it puts a lot of what’s going on in a new perspective. The effects and action sequences are exactly as top notch as you’d expect from a Marvel movie, and the plot’s straight forward and not too terribly full of holes. Then there’s the end of credits scene, which contains no huge twists or plot details—but if you have the patience to wait for it, it’s one of the best after-credits scenes I’ve ever … seen.
 
My score:
 
Entertainment Value: 4 out of 4 M&Ms, the good brown ones. With an extra helping, and some stored away for later.
Oscar Potential: 2 out of 4 M&Ms, although still the brown ones. If there was an Oscar for best action movie, we’d have a nominee here.

We stopped at the Glenbrook Square Barnes & Noble on the north side of Fort Wayne last week, and I was very surprised to find they still have our book in stock:

 I say "book" singular, because it's the only one of our nine that we've managed to get into a chain bookstore--the others are either through small publishers, or independently published, and it's not easy to find shelf space for those. In any case it was a suprise, because I've always heard that major book stores won't keep a book for longer than a couple of months before they return the unsold copies, to make room for new releases.

But that's not the only Noble County related book they had in their history section:

 


Yay for local history books! For those of you who don't know, Ligonier is indeed within Noble County. The author of that book, Daniel L. Replogle, was my high school science teacher, far enough back that we'd probably both rather not discuss how far back it was. As for the other author, John Martin Smith, I got a look at his vast historical photo collection while we were researching for Albion and Noble County.

Of course, it goes without saying that you can get all of our publications at Barnes and Noble online, as well as all your better online bookstores ... and some of the worst ones.

Doctor Who fans are aghast, or deliriously happy, that the show's main character is having a sex change. Non Doctor Who fans are saying the same thing they always say when they hear details about the show: "Huh?"

We'll get to the good Doctor--whose name is not Who--in a moment. This is set against the bigger question of whether it's okay to change the race or gender of an established character, always (so far) to a person of color and/or womanliness. In general, if it's another case of political correctness gone rampant (I call it Political Over-Correctness) I'm not a fan.

"The next James Bond needs to be black!"
"Why?"
"So we can have a black James Bond!"
"Okay. Or, you could just create a black secret agent from scratch."
"Yeah, but ... then he wouldn't be James Bond!"

Honestly, it's not something I care enough about to argue over, which sets me apart from most people who care at all. If the TV and movie industry disappeared from the face of the earth right now--which isn't the worst idea ever--I'd just go back to reading books for entertainment. Interestingly, if the race of a character in a book isn't specifically mentioned, most people either don't think about it at all or put their own skin color on the character. It never occurred to me, until I saw the wildly entertaining TV version, that Shadow Moon from American Gods was black. You can call that racism or you can call it being color blind, whatever. People will color anything I say here with their own views anyway.

James Bond is an interesting case when it comes to gender and race swapping, because the franchise has already done it--just not with 007. Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter has already turned from white to black--twice, if you include 1983's Never Say Never Again. The famous Moneypenny had a similar transformation, while Bond's boss M became a female ... although it should be noted that M is a title, rather than an individual.

You can complain about it all you want, but for me when it does work, it works spectacularly. Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica was just as much fun and kick-ass as a woman in the reboot, for instance. From the time I was old enough to read comics I knew Nick Fury as a white guy, fighting his way across Europe in World War II. Now I can't imagine him looking like anyone but Samuel L. Jackson.

Which brings us back to Doctor Who, who Samuel L. Jackson could totally play if he wanted to. Are you going to tell him no?

On the question of changing a character's looks just for the sake of changing them, the Doctor is a special case. Sometimes the actor playing a character is changed without explanation, as with the James Bond series. (Wait--who's this new Darrin on Bewitched?) Sometimes it's a reboot, as with Battlestar Galactica, and thus not really the same character. But Doctor Who ...

Okay, in case you don't know, I'd better offer a brief explanation.

The original Doctor Who, back in 1963, was an old guy. He was a grandfatherly type, on a show designed as a fun way to teach kids history. (He's a Time Lord, you see.) But the actor began to have health problems, and it was soon apparent he couldn't continue in the roll. It seemed Doctor Who was doomed to retirement.

But wait, the writers said. We've already established that he's an alien. Suppose this particular species of aliens, when facing death, could cheat their way out by transforming into a new body? Regenerate into, say ... another actor's body?

Yeah, they're all the Doctor


That was twelve Doctor's ago. More, really, but we don't have time to go into that complication. In fact, the Doctor has already been a woman, played (very briefly) by Joanna Lumley in a 1999 charity episode.

So there's no story reason why the Doctor can't be female. In fact, one of his main antagonists, also a Time Lord, already regenerated from male to female. The show has had many strong female and minority characters in the past, and the Doctor's most recent companion was a black lesbian. (Is lesbian still a permitted word? I don't care.)

That's Bill, on the left. Black, prefers women, young, smart, and most importantly fun.
So that's where we are in the Doctor's complicated half century. In the Christmas episode the current Doctor is going to meet the first Doctor--that kind of thing happens, from time to time--and then presumably regenerate into someone who looks a lot like the actress Jodie Whittaker. If they did it to freshen up the show and keep things interesting ... well, why not? I'm not sure it's any more of a shock to me than when uber-young looking Matt Smith regenerated into still another grandfatherly type.

I wasn't thrilled back then ("my" Doctor is David Tennant), but I came to like Peter Capaldi's version. That's why I don't understand the so-called fans who are closing the doors of the TARDIS and going home. I know it's not just mysogeny, as some narrow minded people claim. Not always, anyway.

Honestly, I suspect it's just resistance to change in general, and I get that. Contrary to what some will tell you, sometimes change is bad. But you won't even give the new Doctor a chance? Why not? With that attitude, the show would never have made it out of the sixties.

And we'd have missed a lot of fun.

There's a new Doctor in the TARDIS
 I can't say I had the perfect birthday: Emily worked part of the day and I ran some errands, including getting some maintenance done on the car. However, we had fried chicken and chocolate ice cream, and if that doesn't make for a good day, what does? Also, I introduced Emily to Smoky and The Bandit ... and since she liked it, I guess I'll keep her.

 

We also had the grand-twins over during my days off, watched Lego Batman, cooked hotdogs over a fire, and slept. The only way it could have been better would be if I'd gotten some writing time in, but sometimes the days are just full.

 

Thanks for all your birthday wishes! I'm of an age where birthdays are a mixed blessing: You don't really want to admit to getting older, but it's nice to be thought of.

 

Oh, and the twins got to go swimming. I supervised with the camera.

Yeah, life. It's a thing, ain't it? You're rolling along, way too busy, doing too much of what you don't really want to do and not enough of what you do.

Then, one day, you find out you're going to be a grandparent, for the third time.

Well, that's the way it happened to me, anyway.

In the great tradition of our family birthdays being either in mid-summer or in December, my daughter Jillian is due to give birth around December 11th (Jill--it's Jill now, not Jillian--was born on the 27th). I've known for awhile, although shockingly not as long as Jill did. She posted the news on Facebook in June, but I think a lot of people missed that.

I assume that if it's a boy, the first name will be Mark, and if it's a girl the first name will be the feminine version, which is Marka. But I suppose I should actually talk that over with Jill and Doug, and be satisfied if they merely gave him/her the middle name of Mark or, um, Markma. Or, okay, they could use my middle name Richard, which has the feminine version of Ricarda. Or she could name him Hunter, but then he'd have a cousin also named Hunter, and I'd have two grandkids named Hunter, and you'd never know for sure who's being yelled at. Probably me.

So anyway, Jill's life is essentially over--and she's started a new one. Way different, but in its own way just as fun, more exciting, and crazy expensive. The next generation is well on its way.

Jill practices her baby cuddling skills with the closest nephew, who survived and just turned nine.
  I'm not saying I'm behind on book reviews, but Emily and I listened to American Gods while driving to and from Missouri—in 2015. So, I am saying I’m behind on book reviews, and since this one’s easy I thought I’d knock it out.
Not that Neil Gaiman needs any help from me, especially with American Gods on its way to becoming a TV series. (Wait, the show's first season is over; I'm behind on posting blogs, too.) Better that than a movie—I can’t imagine how they’d fit this story into a two hour or so time frame.
Main character Shadow is released from prison early, on the news that his wife has been killed in an accident. He’s flying home for the funeral when Mr. Wednesday appears next to him during a violent storm, and offers him a job. What’s the job, and how does Wednesday know so much about Shadow? That’s just the beginning of the mystery, and as close to normal as this book ever gets.
The grieving Shadow just wants to be left alone, but soon finds himself in a war pitting old gods against new gods as he wanders across the American Midwest, meeting every sort of odd character, human and otherwise. And that’s about as close as I can come to describing this mind-twisting novel in ten thousand words or less.
Although I like listening to podcasts and audio non-fiction, I haven’t had good experiences with fiction on audiobook. That changed with American Gods, which is narrated (performed?) by George Guidall. At least, my version was; I've since learned that there's at least on other audio version. Thanks to Guidall I can’t imagine Wednesday being played by anyone but Anthony Hopkins (well, I can now), but he does a great job with all the voices, as well as Gaiman’s wonderful narration.
This audio addition of American Gods is, I assume, unabridged, and so seemed to take forever. That’s a compliment. It was like an endless bowl of ice cream that you never get tired of. In fact, this novel is the reason why I usually give books I really like a four out of five rating. That way there’s room when the occasional perfect reading—well, listening—experience arrives. This is it: Five out of five.
https://www.amazon.com/American-Gods-Low-Price-MP3/dp/0062314297

(By the way, the series is just as mind blowing. Instead of trying to shove all this story and characters into one movie, there's actually room to expand it a bit. I couldn't imagine how they could turn American Gods into a TV series either, but they did it, and it's a work of surreal genius.)



It was a busy week, but I was able to get the 4H Creative Writing projects in just under the wire. Don't let anyone tell you judging is easy, especially in an area that can be so subjective. If I was a sports judge, I suppose I'd rather be in track and field rather than figure skating, for instance.

What makes it harder is that there are three categories: beginner, intermediate, and why the heck wasn't I that good in high school? You can't judge them by the same standards; it would be like failing a fourth grader because he couldn't do advanced trigonometry, which is maybe a bad example because I never could do advanced trigonometry. I don't even know what it is. I'm still trying to figure out what x equals.

My problem is that I tend to go too easy, out of empathy for how I might have reacted to a harsh comment at that age. (Hint: I had very low self esteem.) But in trying to balance that, I worry about being too hard on the writers. They need to know if they have weak areas to be worked on, but they don't need me turning into that jerk chef on those cooking shows. So I try to be--I don't know--gentle, but guiding. All this stressing myself out is also why I struggle to do book reviews.

In any case, I've never seen a single 4H entry that didn't show potential for great works to come. That's exactly the kind of thing the world needs: imagination, industry, interest, and literacy. Which comes awfully close to the 4H motto of head, hands, heart, and health.

ozma914: mustache Firefly (mustache)
( Jul. 2nd, 2017 09:45 am)

I'm taking a little break from the internet for a week or so (well, to an extent), because I've got 4H entries to judge. To many people I suppose that means judging animals, but 4H also has a creative writing challenge; it turns out they needed an experienced, knowledgeable, creative writer to judge the entries. But they couldn't find one, so for the last few years they've used me.

These are young writers in different categories, ranging from elementary to high school. Some of them are much better than I was at their age ... and some are as good as I am now, which is fine except I have decades of experience over them. It's nice to know there are still young people who take writing seriously!

Hey, the interview with me is up at KPC News!

This is from the Albion New Era. KPC owns many of the newspapers in the area, but I don't know how many others this will be in, if any. However, the link to the interview online is here:

http://kpcnews.com/news/latest/new_era/article_f2535b22-10e0-5e29-bec7-79fbc7441c10.html

There you can see a color version of the sweater that Emily hates so much, which means I hate it too and does anyone want a free sweater?
ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
( Jun. 30th, 2017 11:27 am)

Stop! I know how much I'd like people not to show me photos of spiders, so I'm begging you to go no further if you hate photos of snakes.

No, no -- this is just the rabbit that lives in our back yard and tortures our dog. Last chance before reaching snakes. 

 

 

'Cause here are some photos of snakes. Specifically, to remind you warm weather is not all good, here are photos of snakes I stumbled upon (almost literally) at Pokagon State Park near Angola. I should add that, considering how much time I've spent up there the last few summers, seeing only two is actually a pretty good average for you snake haters.

 

This little fella really wasn't all that little. He was on a walkway over a swampy area last year, and as I approached he didn't move. So I took a photo and got closer, and he still didn't move. So I took this photo and got a little closer, and he still didn't move. So I went back the way I came. I figure it's his neighborhood way more than it's mine.

 

 

This little guy really was kind of little. I suspect he was a teenager, as teenagers sometimes like to pull pranks. In this case, our friend the garter snake staked out a place in the middle of that little concrete pad right in front of an outhouse door. So if you're a human going to the bathroom, you have to go past a little wooden wall, turn a sharp corner, and BOO!

Oddly enough, he didn't really scare me, but he did almost get stepped on, which would have taught him a lesson in how pranks can backfire. I assure you, if it had been a spider a third of that size I'd have left a Mark-shaped hole in the wall, in whichever direction I happened to be pointed at the time.

I'll see if I can get you some flower photos next time.

.

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