Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas fever redux...


For some reason I just seem to have had a rekindling of my Christmas spirit...

Surely it could not have been finding this pic that perked up my mistletoe..?!?


...please scroll down . . .hey, it is a cheap ploy to build some suspense...












Picture is from the website of the Bakken Amusement Park in Klampenborg, Denmark.

Apparently each July, for forty-some years now, they have a gathering of Fathers Christmas & Christmas Elves celebrate the off-season I guess. See this webpage for more information in English. Or the Danish website here, with a direct link to the Christmas pages found here.

Almost enough to make me believe in the big guy again...


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ink, Paper, Holiday gift ideas...

One of the earliest Christmas presents I remember receiving as a child was a set of Hardy Boys mystery books. One in particular, about a lost gold mine, really caught my imagination. I have never been able to pin that early memory down to one specific book but the imagined world of the Hardy boys swallowed me up. Frank and Joe were my BFF.

From that gift, and probably others before it and many since, has grown a love of books, their words, and their images, both on the page and in the mind. That so many writers are able to create and 'bring alive' both fiction and reality is a wonder to me.

It is no coincidence that decades later I found myself writing a silly review of another book--a tale I had loved forever--and posting it as my first review ... on Epinions.

Since that pitiful start years ago I have kept the focus of my 'Epinions time' on writing book reviews and reading the reviews of others.

In that time I have found myself reading so many wonderful reviews of books that I just knew I had to read . . .but sadly, most remain unread.

Regardless, these reviews were gifts to me. As a pointer to this book or that one, as a brief moment enjoying the thoughts of another Epinions member about a favorite or not-so-favorite book. Any 'book lover' loves to hear the thoughts of others about their favorite books ...and books they have never heard of before. Those shared thoughts are true gifts any day of the year. Those are gifts I find every day here on Epinions for all to enjoy.

Image courtesy of jurvetson at

In that spirit I will share some links to reviews of books that I have loved discovering and reading here. These are links to reviews and 'bottom lines' from some of the most helpful book reviews I have found on this site. I guarantee that if you click on one or ten you will find a gift suitable for some member of your extended 'gift-giving tree'.

Who would not love a charming book for Christmas..??

Always a mix of sweetness and sorrow
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
review by befus

The Bottom Line: A wonderful book to read and to savor, and to enjoy with a young person you love.

Tori Amos Inspired This Female Empowerment Poetry...Written by a Man
Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman
review by smiles33

The Bottom Line:
Beautifully illustrated, this poem celebrates young girls becoming strong and independent women. It would be a unique gift for pregnant moms and likely to captivate older girls.

Letters of Love to Christopher Reeve ~ Care Packages
... by Dana Reeve
review by Jev04again

The Bottom Line: This book has it all – touching moments, humor, surprise, spirit, and above all else – abiding love.


Make sure to read the rest of my book gift idea essay:

Paper, ink . . .and the journey of a lifetime..!!

. . .at Epinions dot com


The Bottom Line

So there ya go. A 'baker's dozen' of the fifty-some book reviews that I have rated 'Most Helpful' here on Epinions.

Click one, click 'em all ...and read. If none of them inspires you to click a shopping link to consider the possibility of gifting one of your loved ones . . .then I have failed my task here miserably. My task in this essay and my task on Epinions for the last 9-plus years.

But not to worry ...I guarantee you will find at least one to be just the right book for someone on your gift list . . .or even for yourself.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comfort and Joy

Lifetime cable network is currently in the midst of their 'Falalala Lifetime movie marathon' for the holiday season. If you need your first light dose(s) of holiday schmaltz/cheer ...flip the channel over to Lifetime. (Can I use 'schmaltz' to describe a Christmas-time movie..?? Is that kosher..??)

Jane (Nancy McKeon) is a yuppie career businesswoman, too busy enjoying the perks of her VP position for a family life. And her boyfriend ...what a jerk. Flirting with other women right in front of her, taking business calls on his Bluetooth, refusing to turn it off for her while they dine out. I know he is screwing around behind her back. Scumbucket.

On Christmas Eve she slides her car on a snowy street and crashes. Coming to, she finds her husband(!!) opening the door and helping her out of the car. She has crashed right in front of their house. Well, his house. No ...their house.

Husband, house, two kids . . .everything but a dog..!! What is this strange world she now lives in..??

It is movie time with sleeper..!!

Image courtesy of eye of einstein at

Of course, she immediately tries to touch bases with the people in her 'old' life. Her secretary at work knows her ...but not in the same situation she remembers. Her boss at work has no idea who she is, certainly not as one of his VPs. Someone else is living in her apartment.

Luckily her parents still remember her. Veteran character actor Paul Dooley and TV-veteran Dixie Carter (best remembered as Julia Sugarbaker / Designing Women) are delightful in limited roles. Though they do little to help Jane adjust to her new life.

Will Jane ever accept what has somehow happened..?? Will she ever recapture the ten years she has apparently lost..?? Will her husband Sam (Steven Eckholdt) worm his way back into her heart..?? Will her kids find the Mom they know and love inside this now-amnesiac mom..??


Read the rest of my review of Comfort and Joy at my review page on


Monday, November 23, 2009

Pink Glove Dance...

Something fun and catchy, just because.

. . .and because it is for a good purpose...

If only my 'hospital employer' was this fun..!!

Hat tip to dianapinions at Epinions dot com.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

100 words almost everyone confuses & misuses

The large precinct room was open and claustrophobic at the same time. Large, solid columns spaced too close together told you immediately this was not modern construction. Old worn chairs butted up against too-small desks piled too high with papers, folders, and open, crumb-filled donut boxes. From the overflowing trashcans it was hard to tell when the cleaning crew had last been through.

From a desk near the back the tired (even at this early hour) police captain pointed a bony finger at a sergeant and beckoned him over.

Murphy, get over here..!!

Yes cap'n..??

Whadda ya mean 'yes cap'n'..?! Give me your report, damn it..!!

Sorry captain.

He quickly jabbed both hands into his pockets. One eventually found and drew out a wrinkled sheet of paper; the other came out empty, going to his forehead to wipe a thin film of sweat from his furrowed brow.

We done what you ordered, captain. Me and Lebowski rounded up all the (his eyes dropped to the crumpled paper and he slowly, almost moving his lips, read the words...) we rounded up the '100 words almost everyone confuses & misuses'. I got the list of 'em right here.

A wordle of the words used in: 100 words almost everyone confuses & misuses
Image courtesy of

He stuck the sheet out toward his captain, but when he showed no interest Murphy pulled his hand back. He waited impatiently, his eyes had the look of a dog's eyes, waiting for a reward after obeying a command.

The captain slumped deeper into his chair, if that was possible. This was really the best man I had for this job..?? he thought.

Read the rest of my review of 100 words almost everyone confuses & misuses at my review page at


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gaylord Texan Hotel/Resort

When I volunteered at my workplace to travel out of state for special training I had no idea of the sweet perquisites that would come with it.

Traveling to the Dallas area and staying at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas was the best part of the experience. If only that annoying 'workplace training' nonsense had not kept getting in the way of really enjoying myself..!!

The Gaylord Texan is one of four colossal U.S. resort facilities operated by the Gaylord Hotel corporation. At their website, the company's founding and ongoing business philosophy is said to be recognized as the "only multi-property hospitality company guided by a single focus: extraordinary meetings and conventions."

View of hotel atrium, from a ninth-floor room. Image source: tripadvisor dot com

With 1500-plus rooms it might seem it would be easy to feel that you would be lost as an individual guest. But I never felt that way. Every question or need I had was met with prompt and helpful answers or solutions. I am sure part of that was simply the fact I was but one guest sponsored by a much larger local corporation that provides hundreds of guests per year at six nights each. It surely represents a business niche worth protecting.


...Read the rest of the review at my Epinions dot com review page.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Route 66 Backroads || journeys from 'the Mother Road'

'Route 66'

The name conjures an icon of the American way of life: always on the road seeking the next grand vista ...the next travel adventure, breaking through all obstacles of geography, climate, and native populations unfortunate enough to stand in the way of manifest destiny.

As the Old West and the frontier vanished and the automobile became a fixture in American life, Route 66 became the 'Mother Road' of the American dream. "From Chicago to Santa Monica, Route 66 Backroads takes you on a tour of the Main Street of America and beyond."

Image source: kbeeg at

... snip ...

The Bottom Line
So how does Backroads work, as a total package..??


...Read the rest of the review at my Epinions dot com review page.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Customer service is NOT dead...

I am on the generic Amazon dot com customer e-mail list. Occasionally users receive offers and suggestions for products based on their previous purchases and ratings at the site.

Several days ago I received an e-mail with this one, 100 Words for Lovers. as a featured product for me.

Any reader of this blog would know this is a product that might interest me, no surprise there. But what was a surprise was the fact it was tagged with a '1% Off' 'sticker'.

My gawd..!! 1 percent..!! Quick, do the math, six cents..!! Be still my beating heart..!!

Well, that was just too rich and too silly to let pass 'uncommented'. So I dug through the Amazon website, found the customer service email address and dashed off a quick note to them:

hey there...

I appreciate in these tough economic times that you are going all out to help the struggling consumer.

Your recent e-mail notice of a $5.95 book offered at 1% off is a great example. It is not every day that a consumer can save _six_cents_ on a purchase. I mean, every penny counts . . .I guess.

So thanks again.


I mean, I just had to thank them for their marketing savvy..!!

They state at the site that they will try to respond in less than 24 hours . . .and respond they did:


Thanks for sending us your comments! We want to provide service on a level customers will remember, and it's great to know we've succeeded.

We look forward to filling your next order!

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:


Best regards,

Anu S.
We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company


"...and it's great to know we've succeeded."

Well, I guess I should have expected the 'form letter approach' rather than a 'yeah, that is a pretty silly offer, ehh..??' reply.

Go get 'em, Amazon dot com. You certainly wowed this customer.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

My desktop, October 15, 2009...


Yes, there is a theme here. Astronomy pics often take my breath away. Particularly those of Astronomy Picture of the Day. The one shared here is from September 27, 2009.

At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured above, was floating free in space. McCandless and fellow NASA astronaut Robert Stewart were the first to experience such an "untethered space walk" during Space Shuttle mission 41-B in 1984. The MMU works by shooting jets of nitrogen and has since been used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an MMU is heavy on Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.

Beautiful, just beautiful. Certain worthy of greeting me each day as I sign onto my home computer...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dad Hits a Home Run...

Any baseball fan knows catching that ephemeral foul ball is the crowning moment of any baseball game. Well, other than that bottom of the ninth game-winning comeback. It is rather silly to attach so much value to a simple foul ball; but it does make you a part of the onfield struggle if only for that brief moment.

Now imagine catching that elusive foul ball, highfiving with the fans around you, handing the ball to your daughter as a special souvenir . . .and seeing her toss it back toward the field. Arrgggghhhhhhhh..!!

Just that scenario played out for a dad at a Philadelphia Phillies game overnight. But instead of being upset about it or standing dumbfounded with the realization of what his young 3-y/o daughter had just done . . .instead he reacts immediately to her questioning look -- 'What did I do wrong..?!?' -- as the fans around her gasped. Dad immediately envelopes her in the biggest and bestest daddy-hug ever. Letting her know that nothing was wrong and he loved her soooo much.

That my friends is what sports and baseball and family and dads and daughters are all about. It dont get better than that.

See the video here, on a local Phillie-area newscast clip. (And do note the video has already been ripped down from "due to a copyright claim by [ the cold-hearted thugs of ] MLB Advanced Media." Sorry, a little editorializing there...)

Very nicely done Dad.


Monday, September 7, 2009

My desktop, September 7, 2009...


"Today (September4, 2009) planet Earth passes through the plane of Saturn's rings. From the perspective of earthbound astronomers, Saturn's rings will be edge-on. The problem is, Saturn itself is now very close to the Sun, low on horizon after sunset, so good telescopic images will be difficult to come by." Read more.

Photo courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day, September 04, 2009.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Talking nonsense

Sorry, no deep analysis of 'talking nonsense' to follow. Just an observation.

An old (circa 2006) thought found while reading on Epinions dot com:

"I originally had a lot more to say, but a lot of it makes less sense than what I just typed, so I should just stop here."

Damn it people..!! That is why we read on the Internet: to find nonsense..!! Quit self-censoring your thoughts..!!

Talking nonsense, posting nonsense . . .opposite sides of the same coin...


Sunday, August 2, 2009

I remember like...

I remember like it was yesterday...

American League Rookie of the Year in 1970.

Seven-time All-Star.

Runaway AL MVP in 1976.

I hated the NY Yankees ...still do. But I admired the talent, play, and heart of one Thurman Munson.

Thirty years ago today he died when his private jet crashed as he was making a series of practice landings.

Image source: wallyg at

Image source: NY Daily News

Rest in peace, Thurman. You are gone but definitely not forgotten.


Short ESPN video remembering Thurman.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zeus' thunderbolts

The Greek god Zeus is considered the king of all the gods. Zeus rules Mount Olympus and bears the thunderbolt as but one symbol of his power and glory.

When Mother Nature looses her thunderbolts on us I am always reminded of Zeus and the ancient Greek gods.

The pic above is from The Big Picture, a 'photo blog' found at, the website presence of The Boston Globe newspaper. Once again they excel at collecting and presenting a number of photographs capturing a single subject or topic.

This time they turn their attention to the force of nature we know as lightning. The results are stunning. You really need to take a look if you appreciate the beauty of nature, particularly as expressed by the beauty, power, and portent of terror found in lightning.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cash for Clunkers aka CARS

OK, let me get this straight.

Because my wife and I made an intelligent car-buying decision a decade ago, because we chose a vehicle with a higher EPA MPG rating, because we made a smart purchasing decision . . .

Because of that, we are now penalized by this latest (or surely not, by now) government give-away of our children's future productivity and tax payments.

Ya know, I am not just whining because I do not get to dip my snout in the public trough (OK, maybe just a little bit I am) but this is once again another example of rewarding poor decisions and bad behavior.

What a joke.

Our clunker: a 1997 Chevy Venture van that hauled three kids around to soccer, Scouts, softball tournaments, church, family vacations and on and on...

Image source:

Of course, ours has 150k-plus miles and is a lot more road-weary and road-worn than this pristine file photo image.

Would be nice to get a little free sugar money to trade it in for something with better mileage. But no, the MPG is ONE MPG above the limit.

OK, now I am done whining...


Sunday, July 19, 2009

OMG ... I have...

Oh my gawd..!!

Three straight 'picture posts'..!!


I have turned into a . . .gasp ...'photoblog'..!!

For someone who likes to think he can turn a phrase (even if laboured to do so) or recognize a good phrase elsewhere . . .this is almost embarrassing to me.

. . . ...sigh...

' and no..!! No dang photos this post..!!'

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nine on the ninth__July


All right..!! All caught up, if still late by a few days, with this post..!!

Earlier this month my wife and younger daughter visited Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State has had a horticultural garden since the early 1900s to support its educational goals. The current Reiman Gardens is the third 'edition' of this garden. The current location was chosen to provide "a larger, more visible location to beautify the entrance to the city of Ames and Iowa State University." While it still seems a bit hidden to the average city and ISU visitor they certainly got the 'beautify' part right.

Lets take a look.

A large stone slab marks the Visitor's entrance to the Gardens.

As you first enter the Visitors Center you find a large 2500-square-foot butterfly wing. There are double door entrances and exits with vestibule areas where visitors are told the simple rules of the short walk through the wing. One thing they warn you about is:

"Check for hitchhikers before you exit. Butterflies can land on you and catch a ride as you leave." evidenced by this butterfly that seemed to like my daughter's t-shirt.

Believe me, the sweet older ladies (volunteers I assume) that run the entrance and exit stations and the butterfly wing itself take their responsibilities very seriously and also make the experience a fun time for the visitors. Young kids seem to love the beauty of the butterflies.

But let's not forget the Gardens is also about . . .plants and flowers..! Here are just a few of my favorite photo-memories of the day.

An outdoor horticultural garden is also about walks, and arbors, and water structures, and shady paths, all the things that help foster the sense of peace and wonder found in the beauty of God's natural world. The Reiman Gardens certainly excels here as well...

But wait..!! I did not even get to the pics of the dinosaurs found this summer at Reiman Gardens. Dang, will have to save those for another post..!!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nine on the ninth__June

OK, OK. I am trying to catch up. I may even get July's nine on the ninth done in the correct month. But first, to make short order of June's late entry...

Once again, in the tradition that is 'nine on the ninth' ...lets 'git 'r done'.

Prepping our son's old bedroom walls before repainting. We painted over old paneling years ago. Yeah, we hand-painted those stripes, the grooves in the paneling that was in place ...on two walls. Luckily the closet and built-in dresser (shown here) and the doorway took up much of the walls. I just remember it being a pain in the arse ...what were we thinking..?!?

A summer meal for friends and family: grilled bacon-wrapped steaks and stuffed jalapeno peppers, fruit salad, vegetable salad, pasta salad ...and, of course, a nice bottle of red wine. Yummy I remember anyway. (And I forget what was for dessert ...if anything.)

An interesting pattern of lines, curves, light and dark on a curtain strongly lit from behind by the setting sun. The color is slightly off ...but still interesting to me.

What is up with these larger 'puffy Cheetos' that are out there now..?? Why are the bags not marked to indicate they hold the larger size..??

By the way, the Cheetos dot com site is real slow loading for my DSL connection ...I finally gave up. Might be a good test of your connection speed.

Chopped onions and knife.

Interesting parallel lines in the center frame of a sliding glass window.

Two photos of 'stuff on the kitchen floor'. Hmmm, given the usual 'state' of our kitchen maybe I should make that a formal tag.

Top is a bag of spilled 'waffle pretzels'. What you get when you pull the bag out of the cupboard upside down ... with no clip in place. Yeah, my bad.

The other is a single frozen pea that fell on the floor. Once again, the patterns and colors caught my attention.

So there we have it, yet again. About a month late, but hey, it is about 'git 'r done', even if much later than planned.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nine on the Ninth__May

OK, OK. It is a blog, not like it is national defense surveillance or your computer's virus checker. So it is a little late. Better than other things that can be late..!!

In the tradition that is 'nine on the ninth' ...lets 'git 'r done'.

Some early flowers that are planted alongside our main driveway. Always a bright way to arrive at or depart from the homestead...

While red and yellow seem to dominate this particular garden bed (if only because they are the youngest daughter's school colors...) there are some other colors mixed in there.

This crabapple tree and its flowers were featured in last year's Crabapple Glory Days post.

These pics were captured after an early evening rain with the sun coming out later to highlight the water drops and colors. As I said last year, our two crabapple trees are gloriously colorful about two days each spring. ...sigh...

These were after another early evening rainsquall passed through. As the sun sank low in the west I knew there must be a potentially good rainbow in the east. VoilĂ ..!! I did not even see the second rainbow, trying to form, until I downloaded the pics later.

A local barn and house now form the anchor of a city park in a nearby community. Maintained by the Johnston Historical Society in Johnston, Iowa, the buildings, the windmill captured here, and a small pond/lake make a great inner-city retreat. Of course, inner-city means something much different in Johnston, Iowa than it does elsewhere..!!

...and number nine: a flag flapping gently in the breeze on Memorial Day, 2009.

This flag is one we purchased from a 9/11 memorial event in our area several years ago. There are more pictures here and an essay on my Epinions page that explains more about the event and its meaning to me.

So there we have it ...a month late, but hey, it is about 'git 'r done', even if much later than planned.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

' Say what..?!? ' Number 4


Previous 'say what' posts ... where I discuss and link various 'unique phrases' I have found while reading online.

Say What #3, Mar 2009

Say What #2, Feb 2009

Say What #1, Sep 2008

Time again for yet another entry in the 'unique phrase' series.

I have not been spending much time reading widely on the net recently. So most of my recent 'unique phrases' come from my participation at Epinions dot com.

To recap: what makes a 'unique phrase'..?? Well, it has to be at least two words. A one word phrase makes no sense, right..?? These unique phrases also have to be made up of real words, though I will stretch the definition for a word or phrase that still would be recognizable for most readers.

As I have stated earlier, there continue to be new or 'nearly new' phrases coined out here on the web every day ...or so it seems to the observant reader.

As I stated in my earlier post two word 'unique' phrases earn a gold medal, three words a silver, and four word unique phrases draw a bronze medal.

So once again, let's see what we have found recently.

Unique phrases I have crafted or discovered:

No results found for "true water whisperer"
"Which brings us to water’s ability to read. Firstly, not only is the good doctor a master scientist and a true water whisperer, he’s also clearly a wizard at the subtleties of language, able to divide it up into positive and negative with no trouble."

From a review of a book, the title of which I will not give the attention to note, that purports to be a scientific treatise on the 'memory' of water molecules. Yikes..!! What can pass for science these days..!!

No previous results found for "mediocre minutes and inspired moments"
"Though overall this is an enjoyable enough film, it's an odd mixture of mediocre minutes and inspired moments."

OK, OK. So I am going 'off label' with this one. But it is such a nice phrase I could not resist. I can always tell myself the article 'and' does not count...

From yet another Epinions review, this one of the film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Definitely one worth the read.

No results found for the phrase "bomb squad reply"
"By the way, nice 'bomb squad' reply there. Ya know, 'defusing' the moment..."

A comment at an Epinions review. This one was actually coined by me.

My thought was that the writer responding politely to a challenging comment, instead of arguing back at them, was similar to a bomb squad defusing a potential explosive device. But in this case, the situation was 'defused' by not arguing a point. Classy solution to a situation that happens all the time online.

Two results found for "chihuahua on sedatives"
"If The Terminator was a pitbull at the onset of the series, this movie is sort of like a chihuahua on sedatives."

As you might guess, a review of the latest Terminator film, Terminator Salvation. Obviously the writer had no love for action and thrills found in this latest Terminator film.

Once again, just the latest update on my little web reading-n-writing obsession. Looking forward to sharing more once again on down the road.

Hey, as always, if you have any examples of your own please share them in a comment..!!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rolling the cheese...


Dang it. It is content like this that makes the Intertubes so valuable.

Forget science, knowledge, social justice, politics, families and friends, space, derailing global warming, h3ll ...even forget about porn ...forget about all that. The Intertubes is not about doing it smarter, faster, better, with more connections...

No, the intertubes is all about seeing grown men (and women) falling down a steep hill while chasing wheels of cheese.

As noted in the accompanying article at The Big Picture, for more than 200 years now, once a year peeps have been chasing 8 pound wheels of Double Gloucester Cheese down a steep hillside.

Here, from the official website at Cheese Rollin In Gloucestershire is a view looking down from the top of the hill.

Why this does not rank right up there with the festival of San Fermin, the running of the bulls at Pamplona, I have no idea. Perhaps it just needs a mention in a Hemingway novel...


Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day for Memories and Thanks, 2009

Memorial Day was once much more than just the cap to another three-day weekend. It once was a day of solemn remembrance of those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" that these United States and this "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Perhaps hearing the story of one such soldier, plucked from the middle of Texas and thrust into the great global conflict that was World War II ...perhaps hearing the story of Captain Henry Waskow who gave his last full measure in the mountains of Italy will remind us of the sacrifice of many.

Image source: via flickr dot com

What follows is a battlefield report by famed WWII war correspondent Ernie Pyle. His story reminds us that war is about individual sacrifice for the common good.

To honor all those who have laid down their lives so that we might sit here today and type, or picnic with the family, or watch a ball game truly honor these men and women is no small debt owed, one we should solemnly observe each Memorial Day.

The Death of Captain Waskow


In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

"After my own father, he came next," a sergeant told me.

"He always looked after us," a soldier said. "He'd go to bat for us every time."

"I've never knowed him to do anything unfair," another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow's body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.

I don't know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don't ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead man lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. "This one is Captain Waskow," one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don't cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow's body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.

One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, "God damn it." That's all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, "God damn it to hell anyway." He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain's face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: "I'm sorry, old man."

Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:

"I sure am sorry, sir."

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain's shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.

After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.

Original reprint with permission of the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Friday, May 15, 2009

RIP Wayman...


Yet another great human being passes too soon due to cancer.

Image source:

Wayman Tisdale, first team All-American in basketball at the University of Oklahoma. Olympic gold medalist in 1984. NBA player for a dozen years. Public Servant. Prolific smooth jazz bass guitarist.

You will be missed.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The hyperbole of LeBron...


" James nearly averaged a triple-double -- 32 points, 11.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists -- as the top-seeded Cavaliers breezed through the first round of the playoffs, ... "

OK, we can agree LeBron James is the class of the NBA this season. Just named MVP of this 2008-2009 season and having already finished second in the race for defensive player of the year, no one is the equal of Lebron right now.

Image source: Craig Hatfield via flickr dot com

So is the hyperbole of Associated Press writer Tom Withers quoted above really necessary..?? 'Nearly averaged a triple-double'..?!? Uhmm ...7.5 assists per game is a long way from the 10 assists per game that would earn that 'triple double' note.

If a NBA player scored 30 points, would you say he nearly scored 40 points..?? I do not think so. If a horse lost the Belmont Stakes by twenty lengths, would you say he nearly won the Triple Crown..?? Even if the horse had won the first two races..?? I do not think so.

No matter how you want to look at it, 7.5 is a long way from 10.

LeBron is good enough to not need overblown hyperbole to note his level of performance. Tell us what he did, not what he almost 'but really did not come close' did.

That said, I am looking forward to watching him continue at a high level through the Cleveland Cavalier's playoff run.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coming home...


It hurts my heart, it tears my eyes, it makes my head ache trying to understand what it is all about.

All I really know is that too many have died. Too many on 9/11, too many in Iraq, too many in Afghanistan ...too many have died around the world.

Perhaps someday sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers ...perhaps someday we can all just live in peace and never have to battle the hatred of others.

Please see the rest of the photographs at: The Big Picture

Reading just a few of the comments there will demonstrate how divided we are on this war and the oh so many things wrapped up in it. We have a long way to go to find a common ground and some sort of national resolution and peace.


My personal connection to death in Iraq.
My 9/11 related reviews found here