February 28, 2014

It’s Friday, February 28, 2014. It is the 59th day of the year. It is a cool 40 degrees in Dallas this morning at 6 AM. Fortunately, we are not as cold as our neighbors in the northern plains and upper Midwest. They have all those temperatures that begin with a minus sign before the numbers. It is plenty cold for me though. My maternal family’s arrival in Texas predates the Texas Revolution in 1836. I jokingly say as a result I get cold when it gets below 90 degrees. I guess that is why I love the Texas heat of July and August.

This morning as I am typing I am listening to one of my favorite groups of all time, The Alan Parson Project. The song I have on a continuous play loop this morning is “Don’t Answer Me”. It is a 1984 song from the album Ammonia Avenue. It rose to #15 on the Billboard charts in the United States. This was the last Billboard Top 20 hit for the Alan Parsons Project. The music video – which was the first music video from the Alan Parsons Project – was rendered in comic book style, with art and animation by MW Kaluta.

On this date in 1991 the first Gulf War (code-named Operation Desert Storm) ended. In 2001 the Nisqually Earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale hit the Nisqually Valley and the Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia area of the U.S. state of Washington. As a former US Army officer I paid attention to the Gulf War. Some of the men and women I served with back in the 1970s were still on active duty at the time. While in the US Army I was stationed at then Fort Lewis, Washington (now Joint Reserve Base Lewis-McChord. It is located in the heart of the Nisqually Valley. The Nisqually River flowing through the west side of the base with its frigid waters coming straight off the glacier with the same name.

The time is now 6:45 AM. I did a simple time check as I am writing this before going to my day job.

This week my acquaintances Terry Burns and Linda Yezak had the new book released. Writing in Obedience – A Primer for Christian Fiction Writers is the title. I own the paperback and the Kindle version. It is available through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Obedience-Christian-Fiction-Writers/dp/1941103138. The book is good. I have read over half to date.

Another writing acquaintance with a new release Mur Lafferty. is Her latest book, set for release March 4, is The Ghost Train to New Orléans. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer 2013. It is available for preorder at http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Train-Orleans-Shambling-Guides/dp/0316221147. I am a long time Mur fan. I own her earlier book The Shambling Guide to New York City. It is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Shambling-Guide-York-City-Guides/dp/0316221171/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_y. The book is awesome. it is the first Urban Fantasy book I ever read. Mur tells a great story.

Well, it is 7 AM. It’s time to get to the day job.

Love Your Pet Day

Today is love your pet day. A lengthy search of the Internet found no record as to the origin of this day. My guess is some pet owner or pet food company thought it up. As a pet owner I say why not?

I have a kitty. Actually, it is my daughter and son-in-law’s kitty that just happens to live with me. I love our kitty.

Lacey the Cat
Lacey the Cat

Here is a video I found a while back about a dog that kind of says it all. Have a happy pet day.

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

I went to the doctor yesterday afternoon. I have severe ear infection. That is causing my dizziness. I’ve had those since a kid. I also have a sinus and repository infection bordering on bronchitis. I was treated for pneumonia back in September and spent a week in bed.

I was treated December 18, December 24, and again January 19 for sinus infection, ear infection and bronchitis. I got another shot, some fourth different type on antibiotic, and a super duper cough medicine that has the warning – “DO NOT DRIVE OR OPERATE MACHINERY WHILE TAKING THIS MEDICATION. IT WILL MAKE YOU VERY DROWSY AND HAVE AN ACCIDENT”. Sounds powerful. It is okay to take at night and then drive during the day.

After the doctor, it was time to go to the pharmacy at the big box store. My experience forces me to offer a “Customer Service Tip”. The tip is set realistic expectations. I turn in an RX. It’ll be ready in 30 minutes I’m told. I check back in 50 minutes. I’m told by the same person it’ll be at least another hour. I am unhappy. If they had said 2 hrs initially and set my lower expectations, I wouldn’t have expected it ready.

The above story gets worse before it gets better. I am told to stand to the side while they get my RX ready. The person waiting on me leaves for lunch without telling me or anyone. I keep waiting impatiently. Finally, a lady I know comes on duty. She helps a couple of people then asks me whats up. I tell her my sad story. She apologizes for the poor service which someone provided. She then checks and finds my RX is ready. It has been ready for 45 minutes.

Apparently, the young man got it ready, but his lunch break time came along, and he just left. Insert scream of frustration here! He didn’t take the time to get it to me before going to eat. He didn’t tell anyone. And I dutifully waited to follow the last instructions I was given. They made sure I left before he returned from lunch. I guess they were afraid I might go postal on him when he returned.

They experience reminds me of when I worked as a senior training specialist for American Express back in the 1990s. I learned the average person with a good customer experience tells at most one or two people if they tell any. Have a bad experience and the horrors are shared with over 20 people.

Last night the new RXs caused me to have insomnia. I was after 4:30 AM before I went to sleep.

It is now Friday morning. It is 63.2 degrees on my front porch at 11:00 AM on Valentine’s Day 2014. After having trouble getting to sleep last night I slept until 9:20 AM. I got up, wished Benita Kepler happy Valentine’s Day, just as she left for work.

I bought a nice gift for her earlier this week for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, it is sitting on my desk at work, and I am on vacation today and Monday. Linda Lee Tritton that I work with can vouch that it’s there. She saw it and asked about it. I guess it is good intentions gone wrong. I am “resting and relaxing” today. I finally showered and got dressed. I had the music cranked up. I am headed to the Shops at Willow Bend to walk for an hour. Then I will head to my favorite Starbucks to write (12:45 to 3:30 PM).

Today’s writing goals:

  1. Write another chapter in the Bradbury Burroughs Raindome SF novel,
  2. Finish reading the Terry Burns book on writing,
  3. Work on final edits and organizing on my forthcoming book “Lonely and Feeling Blue”. It is a poetry collection due out next month,
  4. I have some book reviews that need finished. The first drafts are written – maybe they’ll get priority today,
  5. Review the registration info for April’s poetry conference “Poetry at Round Top”,
  6. Check out the details for All-Con 2014, Dallas , March 13-16, 2014, and
  7. Check out the details for the biggie – Dallas Comic Con May 16-18, 2014. Now with 4x the space on one floor! 600,000+ square feet of comic and pop-culture family fun. It’s guests will include guests Stan Lee, William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, and Robert Englund. It is a Dallas version of Comicon.

Well, it is time to get on with the day. Oh, the below video is a little something I made for my bride on Valentine’s Day.

The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners’ Helmets with Lights and Other Stories

The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners’ Helmets With Lights and Other Stories

The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners' Helmets With Lights and Other Stories
The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners’ Helmets With Lights and Other Stories

Today is Saturday, February 8, 2014. It is a Saturday. After a week of cold miserable weather, we had a reprieve this afternoon. The sun came out after spending the morning behind clouds. Temperatures that started at freezing made their way to 52 degrees at 4:47 PM. After days with temperatures staying below freezing it felt like a heat wave.

My Saturday was similar to many others. I awoke later than usual today. I slept until 7:15 AM. Instead of heading for coffee at Starbucks, I had breakfast at home as well as my morning caffeine. I watched some of the Olympics opening ceremonies on DVR while I ate a bowl of Cheerios with dried cherries. I remained at home until my wife departed for work.

After she left I loaded my laptop and myself into my Ford Taurus. I headed to my favorite Starbucks for a morning of editing and formatting. I had a tall blonde roast coffee. I spoke with my friend Joanne and her husband. She is a local bank branch manager I see most mornings when I stop in for coffee.

I put the last touches on the formatting of my book “The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners’ Helmets With Lights and Other Stories”. It is available on Kindle February 9, 2014 in the United States, India, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Australia.

Maybe the hardest part of the book was the dedication. I dedicated it to:

  • My wife Benita B. Kepler, who permits me to pursue my passion of writing.
  • My poet friend and beta reader Karen Vandiver Garrison for her encouragement.
  • My writing coach Linda Lee Tritton and the Wholehearted Writing Group: Marcie Aber, Sabrina “Sam” Chapman, Amy Koetter, Talya Tate Boerner and Storm Ricamore. I told them thank you for their beta reading and suggestions. I have grown to love them like family.

At 1:30 PM, I left Starbucks. I went to the gasoline station and filled my car up with gas.

Next, I returned home. My wife was still at work. My kitty greeted me. She was looking for tuna. I ate leftover meat loaf to her disappointment.

I retired to my home office and did more editing while watching/listening to The Seekers 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert from the early 1990s.

About 5:45 PM I moved from my office to the kitchen. I prepared pork chops, corn, green beans and pineapple for the evening meal. I had it ready when my wife came home from work about 6:45 PM.

Following dinner, I watched the conclusion of the Olympics opening ceremonies on DVR. I then retired to the kitchen. I put up the clean dishes in the dishwasher. I next rinsed the dinner dishes and placed them in the dishwasher. I washed the pots and pans in the sink. I made a pitcher of iced tea as well as taking up four trays of ice. I do not own an ice maker other than four ice trays.

I read the short story “Dehydration” by Grayson Queen. It was very interesting. It deals with the premise of what happens if the earth’s water supply becomes non-potable.

I also finalized arrangements for going to see the Dallas Symphony and Bernadette Peters tomorrow. The show is after church. It is at 2:30 PM.

Well, it’s about time for bed. In the name of shameless self-promotion, buy my book “The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners’ Helmets with Lights and Other Stories”. It’s available on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Prairie-Miners-Helmets-Lights-Stories-ebook/dp/B00IBRLH74/.

Photo Credit: The cover image use is with permission under Creative Commons Share-Alike License CC-BY-SA 3.0. Joe Ravi is the photographer.

Book Review: Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler’s Reich By Robert F. Dorr

Robert F. Dorr’s “Mission to Berlin” documents the mission that took place on February 3, 1945 to bomb Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany.  The author does a very skilful job of telling the stories of the men who flew on it. He shares the incredible story of American fearlessness in the last months of World War II. The size of the air battle challenges our belief as in excess of 1,000 bombers and multiple-hundreds of fighter aircraft originating from Allied bases journey to the heart of Nazi Germany. You also get a good overview and understanding of the structure and operations of the United States Eighth Air Force.

Author Robert F. Dorr gives a detailed report of its evolution. He takes us from the pre-takeoff preparation and activities to the concluding landing.  The book is well paced. The basic structure of the book is spellbinding narrative. The storyline presents a mesmerizing description of many of the aviators on this historic mission. His use of primary source references such as first person interviews and personal letters adds warmth and the human touch to the narrative.

I found the way Mr. Dorr combines his interviews and letters with the detailed duties of each member of the crew a great way to explain the duties and procedures of the B-17 crew. The way he tells the story you feel as if you are there from take off to landing seeing the point of view of each member of the crew. He does an amazing job of drawing the reader into the life of the crew. This alone is reason to read the book.

Another reason to read the book includes the good picture of how the war affected the young crews, the technical side of the B-17 and its development and deployment as well as the evolution of fighting strategies. It was fascinating to see the change in philosophy as to the use of the fighters and to see how the Thunderbolts and especially the P-51s made a great difference in the  survival rates of the B-17s once they were able to escort all the way to Berlin.

I enjoyed the appendix that explained “What Happened to Them?” It told us of what key personalities mentioned in the book did after the war. It was a pleasant addition to the book.

This is an outstanding book.  Every World War II buff as well as aviation enthusiast will want it in their library. This is the second book I have read written by Robert F. Dorr. The first was “Hell Hawks!” which I also strongly recommend.  Zenith Press is the publisher.