June 1942: A Boy Out Of Time, A Girl Out Of History, by Quito Washington

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

51LfdolVS5L__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Not bad. Pretty damn good, actually. I usually don’t bother with self published books, but June 1942: A Boy Out Of Time, A Girl Out Of History, by Quito Washington, is one I’m glad I read. I’ll be honest, I think it could use a bit more editing. I spotted a lot of typos and there were places where commas should have been but weren’t. I also saw some point of view violations. But if you’re not anal about that stuff, this is a very enjoyable book.

I would say it’s science fiction with a mild blend of fantasy. Though there were times when I thought it was a ghost story, then I’d think it was contemporary fiction, but with some of the story set in the past. But in the end it came clear what this actually is and it was well played. The plot was strong, the story was convincing, the characters were believable.

Not bad at all.

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

untitledI’ve been behind on my reading. Finally got back into the motion and finished off William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. That means it’s time to resume my hobby of writing something about every book I read.

I pretty much already knew the story of Romeo and Juliet, though I never actually read the book. I’ve heard about the story and I’ve seen parts of the Romeo + Juliet movie from 1996, though I don’t think I ever watched it all the way through. So, I knew what the story was about, but I didn’t have the whole story down and I figure I ought to know it.

Shakespeare’s usual poetic play of words is in this book just as it is in every other book of his. Yeah, he was a crafty writer. I kept imagining that I was watching the play as I read. I would see the actors waving their arms about as they spoke their lines. Some bits made me laugh out loud and other bits struck an emotional chord. So, I say Shakespeare did it right.

Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella

Friday, June 27th, 2014

If you know me, you know I love baseball. I practically worship baseball, it’s almost like a religion to me. My team is the Detroit Tigers, but I love the game so much that I’m often happy to watch any teams, it doesn’t even have to be Major League teams. I’ll watch the minors, college, independents, even little league teams. And I like all things that have to do with baseball. Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, is one of my favorite movies. Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella is the novel Field of Dreams is based on.

As is usually the case, the novel is not quite like the movie. There’s plenty of differences between the two. But the movie is still an excellent adaption of the story Kinsella wrote. Shoeless Joe is like the Baseball Bible. If want to understand my insane love for baseball, read this book.  It talks about several interesting pieces of baseball history and, through dialog, it explains why baseball is so important to people like me. There’s also a very nice touch of humanity that is shared by several characters.

I absolutely loved this book.

 

The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham

Monday, June 16th, 2014

The Price of Spring is a beautiful but sad tale of a world that is broken. An empire where women are no longer able to bear children has never recovered from the last war with Galt. It’s up to the poets to make the world right again, or to do further damage. But with the old grammar lost, a new grammar must be made in order for a poet to bind an andat, a small god that from the moment it is bound must do the will of its poet.

Daniel Abraham‘s world develops in a way that makes me think of a blooming flower garden. At first it was all dark and murky, but as I continued along the world became brighter and more colorful. The characters were interesting and lovable, and there were scenes, especially one in the epilogue, that stirred my emotions.

I don’t want to reveal much about the story itself. It’s a rule I try to stick to when writing these little pieces about the books I read. But this is a good book, a fun read, and all the usual things I say about the books I enjoyed.

My World

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

On Facebook, a friend shared this link: I’m Deaf and I’m Totally Cool With It, Thanks.

What I meant to be a short comment turned into the lengthy article below.

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I’m hard-of-hearing, quite far from being deaf as I can hear pretty much everything, a floorboard squeaking, the hum of the furnace, birds outside my window, though I don’t think I hear it all as clearly as a person with good hearing would. If someone speaks to me, I will hear their voice, but I can’t make out what they said about eighty percent of the time, unless they’re willing to repeat themselves, often three or four times before I understand them.

I don’t wear hearing aids. I’ve never been able to adjust to hearing aids. All hearing aids have ever done for me is amplify sounds to the point that they are annoying, and any speech I heard was vastly distorted and even harder to understand. A few years ago, I decided to give hearing aids another try. I had hoped that the newer technology would make a difference. But it didn’t. People told me I just needed to get used to them, but I gave them a chance. I wore the hearing aids every day for a couple of months, and then I was putting them in less and less. I don’t want to be trying to get used to hearing aids for months. I had to keep taking them out just so I could understand what people were saying.

It wasn’t so long ago when I thought I would go for cochlear implants. But then I changed my mind. First, because (as I understand it) the process of having cochlear implants put in would involve cutting the nerves that go from my brain to my ears.  My ears would become useless things sticking out from the sides of my head. I would never again receive sounds through my ears. All hearing would completely depend on a mechanical device that would be inserted in my head. I also began to suspect that cochlear implants really aren’t that much different from hearing aids, that like hearing aids they amplify sounds and distort speech. Some people might be able to get used to that, but I never could.  I’d go crazy if I had to be stuck in that world for the rest of my life. If I decide to turn the cochlear implants off, I would be stone deaf.

Because I’m hard-of-hearing, I’m used to the world of sound. I’m comfortable here. I don’t want to lose the hearing I have. This is why I wear ear protection when shooting guns or running chainsaws. I don’t ever want to be where I can no longer hear the sounds I enjoy, but I understand why people who are deaf to the degree that they can hear almost nothing or nothing at all would prefer to stay that way. Most of those who are deaf that I know personally do have a degree of hearing, but I imagine that what they hear is very densely muffled, to the point that they barely acknowledge it. Sounds don’t matter to the deaf the way sounds matter to the hearing . That’s their world, they’re comfortable there. If the deaf were somehow made hearing, the world of sound would likely be strange to them and they might be unable to adjust to all the noise.

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle, between the hearing world and the deaf world, and can’t really fit into either world.  I wish I could understand the hearing people in my life better. I think it’s just as frustrating for them as it is for me when we communicate in person. Some people think I can read lips, but no, I cannot. If I made out anything you said, it’s because I heard you.

I would also like to be able to hang out with my friends who are deaf without feeling like a burden for them. I’m way out of practice with ASL. I don’t know anyone in Lapeer who uses ASL, so I haven’t had anyone to sign with since my last year at MSD.  I got a video phone last year so a friend and I could sign with each other and get my skills up to where I can at least hold a conversation in ASL with another person. But we haven’t been able to use the VP that much and I still have a lot of work to do.

When the Police Don’t Get It

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

I recently went over an old non-public blog  of mine that I haven’t used since 2009. I found this entry from December 2008. I decided to rerun it on this blog. I was inspired to rerun the entry after reading this article: Police Brutality and Deaf People. Though my experience didn’t have a lot to do with the fact that I’m hard of hearing. It had more to do with the cerebral palsy I’ve dealt with since I came out of a comatose state when I was a toddler. My experience also wasn’t so bad, really, but I think it could have gotten worse. I think that if Bob hadn’t come out of the store when he did, the cop would have taken me downtown and put me in a holding cell for the night. I might be wrong, I’m not sure I heard him right, but I think the cop did say “I’m going to take you in” just before Bob came out.

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Most of you know I can’t drive because of my eyes. I might have some of you under the impression that I drink all the time and I’m always drunk. I have a few friends who think I’m an alcoholic and have suggested I get help more than once. I often drink a lot when I drink, yeah. But it’s not all the time.

The cops have stopped me a few times, just for walking. I was not drunk, but my balance isn’t very good and I guess most people who meet me for the first time are going to assume I’m drunk whether I am or not. I sway a little when I stand and I often stumble and trip when I walk. If you want me to walk in a perfectly straight line, you can forget about it because it’s not going to happen.

I understand why the cops stop me. It is part of their job to keep the streets clear of drunks. If they see a questionable character, it’s part of their job to check it out. I don’t object to their stopping me, but it’s a little scary when a cop rolls up behind you and flips on the flashers. I’ve even been barked at through the loudspeaker. To me it sounds like “Buhluh! Buhluh!”

I ought to give myself a pat on the back, though. I’m often a nervous wreck when communicating with most people, but all the times that I’ve had to talk to the cops I was strangely calm and level headed. This does not erase the fact that I half expect to be hauled downtown and locked up until someone can pick me up.

Last time this happened was back in September. I was walking to the store for a pack of cigarettes. The store is about a ten-minute walk from my house and I’ve considered it a blessing to have a store within walking distance. It meant I could get what I needed without asking for a ride.

That kind of changed in September. I was about to walk into the store’s parking lot when I looked over my shoulder into a pair of headlights. I thought the driver of the car was on his way to the store, too. I didn’t wonder why he was going the wrong way on the road, nor did I wonder why he was half on the shoulder, half on the road and aimed straight at me. I just thought I was in his way, so I started walking to the left across the parking lot to give him more than enough room to get by me. Then I heard two amplified and highly distorted words blast from a speaker. When I looked over my shoulder again, it was no longer just two headlights. Now a set of red and blues danced on the roof of the car.

I knew right away what it was about. I was prepared to go through the usual rundown of questions and then be on my way. The cop climbed out of his car, looked at me and said something. I’m pretty sure of what he said, but because I didn’t quite hear him right, I explained that I don’t hear very well and asked him to repeat.

“Have you been drinking?”

That’s what I thought he said. My answer was no.

He spread his arms. “Then how come you can’t walk straight?”

I explained.

“Have you been using drugs?”

Again my answer was no.

“Are you carrying any weapons or drugs on you?”

“No, sir.”

He asked me for ID, I gave him my state ID card. He looked at it and again asked me if I had any weapons or drugs on me. I said no.

“I’m going to pat you down.”

All right, now I’m feeling humiliated. People are driving by on the road and some of them are probably my neighbors. I was just going to the store for a pack of cigarettes, for God’s sake. That’s what was on my mind, but all I said was “Okay.”

He did the pat down, but all he found were my keys and my wallet. No weapons or drugs on me, except for what I might have stuffed up my ass, maybe?

So comes another set of questions. “Where are you going? What are you doing? Is that your shirt? What’s that on your shirt? You walk to the store every day? How come you don’t drive? You can’t drive at all? You walk to the store every day? Is that your shirt? Where do you live? Just down the road? You walk to the store every day…?”  Pretty much the same questions over again.

I answered each question as honestly as I could. I was starting to get the impression that he was looking for a reason to take me in, but then one of the employees came out of the store to drop some trash in the bin. The employee just happened to be Bob, who is often at the register when I go in the store. Though we never talked much,  we’ve done business for five years and we know each other well enough.

So, the cop goes to Bob and asks him if I really do stop in the store just about every day. Bob convinced him that I do and even tells the cop that I really do live just down the road. Finally, finally the cop is convinced that I’m not a drug dealer, a vandal or a burglar, or whatever the hell he thought I was. Finally he gave me back my ID card and let me go into the store and get my cigarettes. This whole detainment lasted about twenty minutes.

I was very thankful that he was not waiting for me when I came out of the store.

An Old Prologue

Friday, March 14th, 2014

This is the prologue of a novel I was working on years ago. I decided to post it here because it’s out of date. I like my thrillers to be contemporary and this prologue is obviously set during the war in Iraq, which has been over for a while now. I don’t want to throw it out and I don’t know what else to do with it, so why not share it. This is just the prologue, the rest of the novel is not included because I still might use it.

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The Tigris flowed as brown in the moonlight as it would during the daylight hours. The smell irked Paul. Raw sewage and decay. Drinking tap water in the city was discouraged, but not everyone listened. He remembered the treatment plant that the United States repaired a few years ago only to have insurgents raid the place and destroy it again.

He watched as Omar led his team to the front door of the three-story apartment building. They slipped inside and disappeared. Paul hung back with the American squad. The Iraqi soldiers would make the raid. Paul’s team was only to cover the outside of the building.

They had strong evidence that an apartment on the second floor housed three active members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. But things were looking better in Baghdad than they have in a long time. The insurgents were still out there stirring trouble where they could, but the river of extremists was drying up as more and more grew weary of the war and encouraged peace. Just the other day Paul saw a man and woman walking hand in hand, free and happy, in an area that had once been declared unsafe.

But the war wasn’t over yet and no one expected the US troops to leave for another year or two. But things were getting better. Plans to repair the treatment plants were underway. The Tigris might never be clean again, but things were moving in the right direction.

Things were getting better.

A light came on in an apartment on the second floor of the building. A man walked past a large picture window. A moment later another light came on. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, most people in the city were sleeping and Paul had expected the people here to be sleeping too. Had the suspects spotted the troops outside, or were they somehow made aware of the troops inside? Paul was behind a large bush with another soldier and the rest of his team was just as careful to remain out of sight.

No, they couldn’t have been spotted. And if they were spotted, why had the suspects turned the lights on and given away their cover of darkness? No, something else was going on, and at three in the morning. Could be insomnia or it could be something else.

Two men appeared at the window, by their hand gestures Paul judged they were making small talk. Non-threatening behavior, he decided.

“Tell Omar the suspects are awake,” he said to Chip, who was down on one knee and weapon pointed through the branches of the bush. “They appear non-threatening at the moment, but his team should be ready for surprises.”

Chip spoke into his mouthpiece. Omar’s radioman rogered.

The two men at the second floor window turned to someone or something that could not be seen from the ground outside, and then their hands went up. A moment later three Iraqi soldiers came into view, their AK47s pointed in the faces of the two suspects.

Paul couldn’t make out the orders the Iraqi soldiers shouted at the suspects, but when the suspects did not react fast enough the soldiers grabbed them and yanked them to the floor. Two soldiers stood over the suspects while the third bent down to apply handcuffs.

Then Omar stepped up to the window and looked out toward the bush Paul was behind. His first finger and thumb formed a circle

“It’s all clear,” Paul said. “I’m going in. You guys stay out and watch the doors.”

Chip bobbed his head and Paul started away. The raid went well, not a shot was fired. He had no doubt the men who had been at the window were two of the suspects whose faces were printed on the paper he and Omar both had a copy of.

He entered the building. The landlord apparently cared a great deal about the place. The red carpet that made the floor of the foyer looked as if it had just been vacuumed and the walls had been repainted not so long ago. Photos of Baghdad’s more pleasant sites lined the wall beside the flight of stairs, but Paul didn’t waste time looking at them as he headed up to the second floor. A hallway cut across the top of the stairs and he looked both ways before stepping out into it.

He carried his M16, butt at shoulder, barrel pointed down and finger on the trigger, as he moved along the hallway. But there was no apparent threat. A few doors were open and people in their pajamas looked out, but Paul only had to glance at them to know they were simply curious residents.

At last he reached the door with an Iraqi soldier standing outside.

“The room is clear,” the guard said in English, his Arabic accent heavy.

Paul gave a nod and relaxed his finger on the trigger before he entered the apartment. He made his way through a short hallway and emerged in a nicely kept living room. Nice in a manner that it was clean and fashionably furnished, but on the coffee table was an automatic handgun. An Iraqi soldier reached under the couch. He gave a bark of laughter and fished out an AK47.

There were other things in the apartment. Black ski masks on one chair and questionable articles of clothing. When Paul glanced into the kitchen he saw three artillery shells, one was on the table with tools scattered around it.

Paul didn’t have to ask what the suspects were doing with the artillery shells. He had been in Iraq long enough to know the effect of IEDs. Just about every Humvee on patrol was equipped with a Warlock because of these things. But the Warlock devices were not perfect. The devices attempted to block the radio waves from the cell phones insurgents used to set off the IEDs. The Warlocks worked much of the time, but not always. The roadside bombs still remained the enemy’s most effective weapon.

The suspects lay facedown on the floor, their hands cuffed behind their backs. Omar knelt over them and lifted each head by the hair so Paul could see the faces of the men. They were positive matches to two of the men pictured on the paper he had folded in his breast pocket.

Omar stood up. “Malik Zaid isn’t here.”

Malik Zaid al-Ahmad was the third man pictured on the paper. Age 42, six feet tall, slender and he had a wicked scar running down his right cheek. He was also the primary target of this raid. A man highly educated and overly intelligent, he was believed to be the mastermind behind countless pranks that took more lives than Paul wanted to know about.

“We need to search the building,” Omar said. “Are your men still outside watching the doors?”

“Yes,” Paul said.

“Good, leave them there. If he’s here somewhere, he must not leave.”

Malik Zaid had been responsible for the deaths of more Iraqi soldiers than American soldiers. He was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. Malik Zaid didn’t operate out of anger like many of his comrades; instead he was in it for the pleasure. Or that’s what people said. Paul didn’t know one way or the other, but the attacks that were supposedly laid out by Malik Zaid seemed to have been conducted with a humorous mindset.

Omar wanted him caught as badly as Paul did.

The radioman called in three more squads to help search the building. He also sent a confirmation to Chip that the Americans were to remain outside and assure no civilian left the building.

A soldier who had been searching a bedroom came into the living room and handed a metal file box to Omar. He said something in the Arabic language and then returned to the bedroom.

“He says there are documents in this box, but he can’t read them.” Omar sat down on the couch and opened the box. Inside was a folder containing a few sheets of paper. Omar looked at the first page and scoffed. “My English is good, if I’m speaking,” he said. “I have not learned to read it yet.”

Paul accepted the folder and lowered himself into the cozy armchair behind him. The pages were handwritten, a little sloppy, but in English. He read the first page. It was a letter to someone, very likely any of the three men who had resided in the apartment. The writer had taken care not to address his “friend” by name. He also referred to a “meeting place”, but gave no hint as to where the meeting place was located.

There were ten pages altogether, none were dated, but each was a new letter with the same handwriting, and each letter was signed The Doctor. That was all the identification the writer would give. Paul suspected the letters had been mailed out over a period of time, months or even years could have passed between the first letter and the last letter for all he knew.

The letters told about the transferring of money and the willingness of the Doctor to see something through, if only his Friend could deliver the necessary products. In the last letter the Doctor said he had received the delivery, he would be at the meeting place when his Friend arrived—no time specified—and they could go for a cup of coffee before “activating the mission”.

I have applied the device to six of my patients and I will continue to do so as long as we are working together. You only need to lay in the final touches and the rest will take care of itself.

Paul read the last letter twice. He didn’t know what the Doctor was talking about, but that such letters were found in this place troubled him. It might be nothing or it might be something. Chances were high that they wouldn’t be able to track down the Doctor and get to the bottom of this, but Paul decided he needed to get the letters to his superiors so an investigation could get underway.

He closed the folder and stood up.

“This is important,” he said and started for the door. “I’m not sure what it means, but we have to check it out.”

Inside the U.S. Secret Service (2004)

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

There are a lot of documentary movies that bore me to tears, but National Geographic‘s Inside the U.S. Secret Service is not one of those movies. This movie is an excellent, very interesting and educational documentary. I’m glad I decided to watch it. I almost didn’t bother. I had tried to watch several other documentaries on Netflix that sounded interesting but turned out to be so dull I couldn’t finish watching them. But National Geographic did it right with Inside the U.S. Secret Service.

Inside the U.S. Secret Service is a close look at the agency that protects the President of the United States. The movie walks us through the history of the agency, some of the tactics the agency uses and how it operates. Of course there was a lot of information that could not be revealed. The Secret Service can’t have people knowing their secrets because that would very likely make their job more of a challenge than it already is. And make no mistake, the job of the Secret Service is extremely challenging. It’s hard not to appreciate the work these men and women put into protecting the President, his family and anyone else who requires the protection of the Secret Service.

I learned so much from watching this movie. This was something I needed to see, it gave me a new understanding of the Secret Service and the lives of the people they protect, especially the first family. Did you know that anytime you see the President walking across the White House lawn on TV, the bushes in the background have agents hiding in them, watching the President’s every move? No one can see the agents in the bushes, but they’re there.

The President and the first family receives a lot of death threats. We don’t hear about these threats much, but they are countless. Probably most of the threats are from people who don’t actually have the balls to carry them out, but there are enough threats from people who would assassinate the President if given the chance. Since the beginning of our country there have been assassination attempts on United States presidents. Four of those presidents were killed, others were wounded and several narrowly dodged the bullet. The Secret Service is necessary and critical to the President’s survival.

The movie also makes it clear that the agents are human and not the stone cold robots they’re often thought to be. Several agents were interviewed, as well as some of the former presidents and their children. They all provided insights on what it’s like to be in the bubble of protection. The Prisident is a moving target, under constant threat. The Secret Service makes it possible for the Presidnet to do his job.

Antique Gun Show

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

My dad and I went to the antique gun show in Lapeer a few days ago. The place was packed to the gills and it wasn’t easy moving around the building. I’m not a fan of crowds, but I did appreciate all the items that were on display. They were fascinating. I might have spent more time looking at each item, but there were a lot of other people wanting a look too and I didn’t want to hold them up.

This was a gun show, so most of the items were, in fact, guns. A lot of muskets and single shot pistols were on display. I also saw a couple of Spencer rifles and several black powder revolvers. Most of the guns looked old. I think several were from the Civil War era, but others might have dated back to the American Revolution. And some of the guns were copies of the older guns and probably only a few years old.

I especially liked the single shot pistols. If I had the money, I would have bought all of them. There was also a very nice western style hat that I really wanted, but I didn’t have enough money for anything in there. The hat, I think, was pretty old, probably about the same age as the Johnny Reb hat and the Billy Yank hat that were next to it.

We had planned to go to another gun show that was in Flint after we got out of the show in Lapeer, but the roads were pretty bad, so we decided to skip that one and went to the grocery store instead.

Jackie Brown (1997)

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

I had heard of Jackie Brown. I’ve even seen bits of the movie here and there, but I’ve never watched the whole movie straight through until last night. First off, Quentin Tarantino is an artist. Every one of his movies that I’ve seen has a very elegant artistic touch to it. Think of Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Desperado. The angles of the pictures, the motions of the actors, the shuffling of the scenes, the twists of the stories and just the right amount of comedy, all of it comes together to make a brilliant work of art. It’s like looking at the painting of Mona Lisa and knowing that there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Samuel L. Jackson played the bad motherfucker again. Except in Jackie Brown, Jackson’s character, Ordell Robbie, was not quite as bright as Jules Winnfield was in Pulp Fiction. Ordell Robbie also lacked the degree of honor that Jules Winnfield had. Ordell Robbie was more of a bad, bad, bad motherfucker. Bad! Your dog shit on the brand new carpet kind of bad. He took several opportunities to remind us of that.

Pam Grier played Jackie Brown and the movie opened with her walking through the airport dressed in a stewardess uniform. Jackie Brown was the key character in a heist to steal a large sum of money. She was a tough character with a survivalist instinct that gets her out of trouble. Jackie Brown outsmarted Ordell Robbie and the ATF.

The movie ended with an emotional, not entirely happy note.