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In my continuing efforts to learn more about playing guitar and making music, towards the end of last year, I began trying some  “finger-picking” styles.  Before that I was either using a “plectrum” (guitar pick) or just casually strumming with my thumb / index finger.  There is an obvious tonal difference between the two: using a pick tends to be louder and with individual notes better defined;  no pick (to me) sounds “fuller” but softer (muffled isn’t the right word to describe the sound, but it’s all I can think of).
Finger-picking is used the most extensively (exclusively) in Classical and Spanish style guitar playing and frequently in Country (“Travis Style”) and Jazz.  As these styles are all far beyond my basic skill set, I have (to date) paid little heed of the physical requirements of this / these style:  Fingernails.
As I began exploring these styles (yes, my reach exceeds my grasp), I kept stumbling on advice for how to maintain appropriate nails – length and shape.  And, in turn, I’ve tried growing my nails out…

PIMA“: P = pulgar (thumb); I = indice (index finger); M = medio (middle finger); A = anular (ring finger)

Traditional “Classical” style uses the thumb (“P”) and three fingers (“I”, “M”, “A”).  The “pinky” is unused.  Traditional “Travis” style uses only thumb and index finger, but most guitarists nowadays use at least two fingers (and usually three).

1 – 2 mm past your finger / nail join point

The traditional “strike-zone / sweet-spot” for finger-picking is the point where the nail and finger join.  This allows the guitarist to both deaden a moving string (using the finger pad) and get the most precise release point for the string (the edge of the finger nail).
Of course there are a variety of individual factors which determine how long and what shape your nails need to be, including: the shape of your fingers, the width of your nails, the shape of your nails, the distance from the join point (finger and nail) to the top of your individual fingers and the angle of “attack” you use to pluck each string.

Poorly shaped, but approaching the correct length

Bottom line?  Too much, too soon.  Yes, I can feel the difference when playing, and yes, I can hear the difference, but this is a LOT of hassle.  I have a LONG history of OCD with my fingernails.  I don’t bite them, but I keep them VERY short and just going a few weeks to grow them out this far is driving me crazy!  LoL!!
So, no, I won’t be keeping my right hand nails long…  And, so, my dreams of becoming the next Andrés Segovia / Merle Travis must fall by the wayside…  (Just kidding.  I have NEVER dreamed that!)  Now, where are my clippers?
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On This Day In:
2022 Do People Know What You Stand For?
2021 The Republican Party Can Survive Trumpism (If It Wants To)
Don’t You Ever Ask Them Why
2020 Art Work
One Person (Republican) Can Make A Majority
2019 Hopefully, Closer To Noon
Can You See The Bottom?
2018 Stock Market Sets Another Record Under #DumbDonald
#LyingDonald: About That Special Prosecutor Testimony
2017 We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
2016 But You Have To Learn It Feels Good
2015 Never Stop
2014 Caution
2013 Treat Her Like A Lady
2012 Build New Worlds
2011 I Grok Elegance
Standing Relish

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On The Dark Side

 
 
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On This Day In:
2021 More New Year’s Exercises
  7 Done, 12 Down
2021 Another Public Service Message
  Greetin’ The Sun
2020 From The Mountains To The Shores
2019 Watering The Trees And Seeds
  1221
2018 Take Care Of Me…
2017 Make Some Difference
2016 Still 99%
2015 Adolescent Opinion
2014 In A Big World
2013 Vacancy For God
2012 Sweat Equity
  Try It… You’ll Like It
2011 Still Incomplete
2010 Happy New Year – 2010
   

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Today’s review is for the book: “My Ántonia” (1918©) written by Willa Cather.  This book is considered her first masterpiece.  The book was given to me by Craig Carrozzi, a high school friend / football teammate, who is himself a published author.  I reviewed one of his books (“The Curse of Chief Tenaya“) and he felt this book had a similar “feel” to his work, so he gave it to me when we recently went to lunch. The work is loosely based on Cather’s own experiences growing up on the Nebraska prairie and those of a actual immigrant (Annie Pavelka) who worked as a “hired girl”.
The book revolves around two main characters:  James (Jim) Burton – the books narrator, and Ántonia Shimerda. “Jim” is a recently orphaned boy from Virginia and Ántonia is a slightly older (by four years) girl recently immigrated from Bohemia (currently Czech Republic) with her family as they all start their new lives in a farming town in Nebraska at the end of the 1900’s and through the early 20th century.  The narrator tells the tale of his growing up and his friendship with the “girl next door” and some of the changes they see in the American West.
The book begins with an introduction (narrated by the author) of Burton which (unknown to the reader) provides the framework and conclusion of the main narration – although I did not fully realize this until after the book was finished.  It then reminded me of watching an episode of “Columbo” – a TV detective / police series from the 70’s / 80’s known for starting each episode of the show with the crime and the audience knows who the culprit is so the only question is whether the “bumbling” detective can figure out how the crime was done and who is the guilty party.  Thematically, the author and the narrator meet on a train ride and spend time discussing their shared childhood.  The discussion passes to Ántonia and the author asks the narrator to tell Ántonia’s story because he (Burton) knew Ántonia so much better.  Ultimately, the boy grows up to be a wealthy New York attorney (we are led to believe unhappily married and childless) and Ántonia grows up to be a poor farmer’s wife and mother of almost a dozen kids.  Having written and presented his version of events as instructed, the narrator gives his text to the female passenger who then decides not to write her version.
Post “Introduction”, the book is Burton’s narrated story(ies).  The novel is divided into multiple(5) “books” and each of those broken into multiple chapters of – normally – two to five pages.  My version of the book totals 136 pages, in fairly small print.  The book is a very fast read, but I broke it up over several days because I was enjoying it and wanted to savor the words as much as the story.
So, is this book any good?  Is it insightful or “just” entertaining?  And, of course, do I recommend it?  Yes, this book is good!  It is both insightful AND entertaining.  And, I highly recommend it!
This is not my typical taste in reading.  Although nominally, describing the full lives of two individuals and a few other minor-characters, it doesn’t “really” have a build up and climax.  It just kind of rambles on like the “Great Plains” themselves.  This, in itself is interesting because the book supposedly describes the settling of the American “West”.  In point of fact, this is what we (Americans) now consider the “fly-over” portion of the country – the plains and Mississippi-Missouri river valley separating the Rockies from the Appalachian Mountains.  In any case, the natural beauty of the land is lovingly described in picturesque detail.  As mentioned above, I enjoyed the vivid descriptions so much I slowed down my reading so I could dawdle over and savor the words and sentences.  Every page is used to capture the sights, colors, smells and textures of whatever is being described – from mud holes, to linen sheets, to grains waving in the winds, to snow and ice turning to mush.
Final recommendation:  Very highly recommended!  Living in our current day and age, with all of our modern conveniences, it is near impossible to comprehend how difficult it must have been even just 100 years ago, to come to a new country / state and start (in some cases literally) from a cave dug into the ground and then to go on and make a life for yourself and your family.  It was a bit transfixing to read about this struggle and think for that generation, there was nothing else to do but to get on with it – and they did…
Final Note:  This book is out of copyright and available for free downloading at / from several web sites in several formats.
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On This Day In:
2021 The Question Is Courage
Never Change
2020 Two Quotes Which Remind Me Of Our Lame Duck President
Still Running
2019 I’m Up For Trying
60 Day Health / Weight Update (Nov 2019)
2018 #PresidentBoneSpur
2017 My Staggering Confusion
Zapped!!!
2016 And Bloggers?
2015 Ethical Energy
2014 Are You Likely To Defend It?
2013 Might As Well
2012 The Long And Short Of It
2011 Bravery

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The joy of playing classical guitar extends beyond the prize (the perfect performance).  It’s the daily journey and how we travel it.  That’s where we find the gold.  That’s where we discover the humanity, in both the music and in ourselves.
    —    Allen Mathews
Allen Mathews is a professional musician and classical guitar instructor who maintains a site located at:  https://classicalguitarshed.com/
Every Tuesday, Allen posts a quote (which may or may not be specifically about music).   He then goes on to tie the quote to a “teaching moment”.  Allen’s “Quote page” is located at:  https://classicalguitarshed.com/tuesday-quotes/
[Disclaimer:  Although I have viewed many of Allen’s videos and subscribed to his emails for over a year, I have not personally purchased any of his packages of instruction as I am merely dabbling in “classical” guitar to see what it’s about.  I have no other association with Allen or his site and have not requested permission to re-post this quote.  If he requests it, I will remove or substantially edit this quote.    —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 Likely To Be Subtle
My Temp’s Pretty High
Scratching A Persistent Itch
2020 A Word Of Assurance They Are Not Alone
Is #45 Still Crying?
2019 It’s Obvious
2018 Passed Too Swiftly
2017 On Our Wall (Part 1)
2016 Or The Ripples From A Good Life
2015 Titles And Reputations
2014 Unfolding
2013 Again
2012 Needs
Damned
2011 Potter & Prejudice
Blink, Blink

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Today’s review is for the 2021 science fiction epic:  “Dune” (aka: “Dune: Part 1“), they couldn’t squeeze the book down into one long movie with any hope of capturing the essence or the subtleties of the novel the movie is based on.  The film stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides (the main character), ducal heir of House Atreides;  Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica (Paul’s mother) a Bene Gesserit (a priestess in a religious order) / and consort to Leto (Paul’s father);  Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, (Paul’s father) the leader of House Atreides;  Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, weapons-master of House Atreides (one of Paul’s mentors);  Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (the main bad-guy), leader of House Harkonnen, enemy to House Atreides, and former steward of Arrakis;  Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban Harkonnen (second main bad-guy), nephew of Baron Harkonnen;  Javier Bardem as Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen tribe at Sietch Tabr;  “Zendaya” Maree Stoermer Coleman as Chani (Paul’s love interest), a young Fremen woman and Stilgar’s daughter;  Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh (the traitor), a Suk doctor in the employ of House Atreides;  and, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, the sword-master of House Atreides and another of Paul’s mentors.
Background:  The book “Dune” is considered one the the greatest science-fictions novels ever written.  The author was Frank Herbert.  Herbert later wrote five sequels.  (His son wrote a dozen more sequels after his father passed away.)  The book is about a fictional war for a planet which is the sole source of a “spice” / drug, which allows navigators to safely pilot spacecraft around the universe in “folded space”.  As such, the spice and planet are the most valuable assets in the universe and control of which brings untold wealth.  The “Fremen” are the “native” inhabitants of the desert planet “Arrakis”.  They appear to be human, and there is never any explanation of how or when the Fremen first got to Arrakis.  The Fremen are waiting for the arrival of a “savior” who will deliver them to freedom from the various oppressors they’ve had over the years.  The “savior” is to be both a military and a religious figure / leader.
At the start of the book / movie the spice planet (Arrakis), is controlled by the evil House Harkonnen (ruled by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen) and his nephew “Beast” Rabban.  The emperor compels them to give up Arrakis and awards the planet to the “good-guys”:  the House Atreides.  Both houses are aware they are being set-up for a war to weaken each / both their houses.  House Atreides takes command of Arrakis.  House Harkonnen uses a traitor to disrupt communications / drop defenses, defeats House Atreides in a surprise attack and kills Duke (Paul’s father) Leto.  Paul and his mother (Lady Jessica) escape the slaughter and meetup with the Freman who grant them sanctuary after Paul wins a fight-to-the-death with one of the Freman who doesn’t want to grant them sanctuary.  The movie ends with Paul and his mother looking out over the desert and watching a Freman ride on a Spice-worm (a giant “worm” like creature which produces the spice).  …And, break for Part 2.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it better than the 1984 version?  Is it entertaining?  Yes, much and yes.
Technically, the movie was generally well received by both movie critics and the general viewing audience.  It received multiple nominations for Oscars and received most of the awards.  I found the movie setting to be a bit too dark which made discerning action difficult.  A bit like many of the DC comic movies – particularly the “Batman” trilogy and two Justice League movies.  Other than that relatively minor point, I found the acting good, the pace “okay” and I wasn’t left feeling it was too long of a movie.  I felt it was closer to being “Laurence of Arabia” scope than “2001:  A Space Odyssey” mainly because the scale of the images of the desert and water planets felt FAR more realistic than any of the “space” related images.
This is a MUCH better movie than its predecessor – the 1984 version (my review here).  The ONLY thing “better” about the 1984 version is they managed to get the whole book into one movie (granted, a LONG movie) instead of dragging us through two parts with a multiple year break separating the parts.  Of course some of this has to be laid at the feet of today’s vastly superior film technology, but still the acting a scenery was just poor in the early adaptation.
Is this version entertaining?  Yes!  In addition to better technology (filming and FX) and acting, breaking the movie into two parts allows the time to develop the characters while giving the audience the action sequence “fix” every twenty minutes or so.  What I particularly liked was they showed us the spice-worm early and then multiple times.  As an aside, I’m not sure this version of the worm is “better” than the 1984 version, particularly when they present their respective open maws.  Since we don’t get a good look at the Fremen or Paul riding a worm, I’ll reserve judgment on which version really has the best representation of a giant spice-worm until after viewing the sequel.
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  I enjoyed watching this version and it didn’t leave a bad after-taste (unlike the 1984 version).  I look forward to seeing part two when it is released in 2024.
Final thought:  You can be entertained by a movie (this movie in particular) without it making ANY scientific or warfare / combat sense.  Most of this movie makes NO sense whatsoever.  So, don’t bother thinking about it (the “science” behind the movie).  Just go and watch it for what it is:  escapist entertainment with a bit of political moralism overlayed in between the action sequences.  This review is after my second viewing of this film.  I saw it initially during its first month of streaming.  I just never got around to a review.  Unlike the 1984 version, this movie was better after a second viewing – and I didn’t wait over thirty years to sit a second viewing.  I will watch it again when “Part 2” comes out – just to get back in the spirit of the film.
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On This Day In:
2021 A Simple Choice, Really
Waaaay Before The Movie
2020 I Just Want To Stay Happy
Fading…
2019 Show Righteousness, Not Fear
2018 Sounds Like Politics, Too
2017 Resist More
Conservatives Are Not The Enemy
2016 Two Weeks To Go…
2015 Remembering
2014 The Creeping Death Of Civilization
Orange October (X) – A Blue Morning Turns Into An Orange Evening
2013 License Problem
2012 Giants Win Game 2 Of The 2012 World Series 2 To 0!!!
Adage, n.
Questions Women Should Ask Before Voting…
2011 What Are You Looking At?

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Today’s TV series review is for the seven season / 151 episodes / 115 hours total viewing time, drama / crime-police / mystery series: “The Mentalist“.  The show stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane (the Mentalist) and Robin Tunney as Agent Teresa Lisbon (his long suffering boss / side-kick”Watson”).  There are three other “main” supporting characters:  Kimball Cho (played by Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (played by Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (played by Amanda Righetti).  The series originally aired between 2008 and 2015.  I viewed / “streamed” the series over several weeks in 3-to-4 episode chunks.  Some spoilers follow, so if you are intending to watch this series, do so before continuing this review…
The basic premise is that a “reformed” con-man / fake psychic (Jane) assists law enforcement (the California Bureau of Investigation [CBI]) with solving crimes (mostly murders).  Because the CBI is a state law enforcement unit, the crime is generally on California state property or CBI involvement is “requested” by someone with sufficient political influence to warrant the notice of the CA State Attorney General.  Sometimes this aspect is a REAL stretch…  and then has to be narratively explained away by dialogue.
The main character – Jane – has highly developed observational skill, exceptional memory skill and high intelligence which combined with his years as a con-man / magician / fake psychic allow him to “solve” each case in intuitive (sometimes illegal) ways – much to the discomfort of the supporting cast (professional law enforcement officers).  Jane becomes involved with CBI after recovering from a nervous breakdown following the brutal murder of his wife and daughter by a serial killer (“Red John”).  Red John’s modus operandi is “generally” a rape, disembowelment and then throat slitting of his (mostly female) victims.  Red John is a cult leader type criminal, generally following the “Dr. Moriarty” character type from the Sherlock Holmes genre.  Lisbon is Watson to Jane’s Sherlock.
The series has two over-arching series themes:  the developing romantic relationship between Jane and Lisbon and the developing friendship(s) between Jane and the rest of the law enforcement supporting characters.  Within this there are also three main seasonal story arcs:  seasons one through three are single episode murder mysteries developing the two main arcs.  Seasons four, five and half of season six are devoted to both episodic crimes and the hunt for Red John.  Red John is revealed (and killed) and then the last half a season six and all of season seven is Jane assisting in various FBI cases.  Season seven is an abbreviated season of only twelve episodes.  All of the other seasons are twenty-one plus episodes. Most of the series is based in Sacramento.  Post-Red John, the series moves from CBI to FBI and is then based from Austin, Texas.
So, is this series any good?  Has it stood the test of time?  How is the acting?  Is the show realistic for leadership, psychology or law enforcement?  And, finally, is it worth investing 115 hours of your life?  In order:  yes, mostly, poor to excellent, more often than not, so-so, “I sure hope not”, and yes.
More specifically, overall, this is a VERY good series.  It is as predictable as any police procedural:  crime, investigation, resolution.  It is mostly predictable for character development – but at a surprisingly / interesting slow pace and then – bang – your in rapids, and then – back to slow pace.  The series ends “happily” from a romantic perspective it is well rapped up – the two main couples wed.  So, bottom line, the good-guys win and live happily-ever-after.
Test of time / acting / theme portrayals:  As a police procedural – I hope not.  As a romantic drama, yes.  As a “Sherlock Holmes” genre, so-so.  In practically every episode, some person’s rights are either ignored or aggressively violated.  This is morally acceptable because the team is putting very bad people (mostly men) behind bars (or killing them).  No matter how honorable the character starts in their role, they are always corrupted by Jane and the concept of acting for “the greater good”.  On the romantic side, a big part of every drama is how long can you maintain the sexual tension between the main characters.  Although obvious from the first episode, both main relationship arcs are well developed.  As a super-sleuth / Holmes procedure series, the show has problems, but it (the show) still works because of the believability of the actors in their slowly developed / multi-layered character portrayals.  The portrayals of most of the bad-guys are mostly flat and one dimensional, but there are notable exceptions.  As the series progresses most of the other (non-super-genius) characters say:  “This is what Jane would (would not) have us do…”  For me personally, I found the various depictions of leadership styles / personalities to be one of the most interesting aspects of the series.  The whole gamut of leadership from criminal to sainted is represented and the strengths and weaknesses of the various styles is examined, critiqued and accepted or rejected.
Investment:  I feel there has been an on-going transformation in home entertainment happening over the course of my lifetime.  The progress is roughly equivalent to that of written literature.  In writing we have daily comics, short stories and comic books, short-moderate-long books (texts and novels), books series and encyclopedias.  In TV, the corresponding genre would be animated / cartoon shorts (multiple stories in a half-hour show), episodic stories (half-hour to hour long shows), movie length (90 minutes to mini-series [sub-30 hours of total viewing time]), and seasonal arcs (episodic, but with 3-5 minutes devoted to long-term character / story development), and then generational shows / series.  I consider “generational” series to be any series over 15 years / seasons – so, most day-time soap operas and multi-series franchises (“I Love Lucy“, “The Simpsons“, “StarTrek“, “Law & Order“, “NCIS“, etc).  I (personally) do NOT consider game shows to be “generational” series, even though many have gone well beyond 20 seasons, because they are normally not re-watched after the initial viewing.  Although, there is now some give on this characteristic, too, as you can “watch” some of the prior episodes (on TV-history channels).  The point of the “re-run” (though) is to view the contestants (famous personalities from yesteryear) and not viewing the contests, themselves.  At any rate, I would put a seven seasons series in the “War & Peace” – lengthy story grouping, but not in the generational level group.
Final recommendation:  This is a moderate to strong recommendation for an initial viewing (see caution later), a low to moderate for re-viewing in its entirety and a strong to highly for individual episodes (if you develop a favorite character or mini-story arc during your initial viewing).  For me, 100-plus hours is almost certainly too long to spend re-watching the entire series. I purchased my “series-bundle copy” on steep discount ($30 as I recall), at which price this a bargain for entertainment value – even if only viewed once – $.25 per hour or $.20 per episode.  One note of caution:  there is the occasional swear word used at least once per season and there are repeated scenes of victims injuries (almost one per episode), so this is not appropriate for viewers under 12 years of age.
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On This Day In:
2021 Press On
Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This
2020 AMA
Still Shiny
2019 Things That Go Bump In The Night
Hoping I’m Careful
2018 I Must Be Truly Wise
2017 My Sensei
2016 The Worst Sin
2015 Rules Of Thumb
2014 A Prayer
Orange October (IX) – Giants Lose Game 2 In Bullpen Collapse
2013 Complacent Reality
2012 Two-minute Sex
Just Staring, Why?
2011 A World Of Difference

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The Curse Of Chief Tenaya”   (2002©)  —   book review
Today’s book review is for a historic fiction novel set in 1800’s.  The author is Craig J. Carrozzi.  It is about an Irish immigrant coming to the United States and making his life through the pre-, actual and post- “Gold Rush” in Northern / Central California.
Full disclosure:  Craig (the author) was a member of the football teams I played on while in high school in San Francisco.  After high school graduation, Craig joined the Peace Corps, returned to San Francisco to get his BA and then subsequently lived a good deal of his life in South America.  Like me, Craig was raised in San Francisco.  He is the author of five published books and numerous articles.  Of his five published books – one is about attending a SF Giants baseball game as a youth;  three are semi-autobiographical fictionalized stories about his time in South America;  and, this book (being reviewed) is about earlier days in Northern California.
The book’s main character is Jeremiah Ignatius McElroy.  He is born in Ireland, starts off as a hard life (potato famine and Yellow Fever), moves to the US (via Canada), travels across the country / continent and ultimately becomes a hunter and tour guide in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  His main geographic expertise is the high-country of Yosemite Valley and it’s “cousin”, the Hetch-Hetchy Valley.  He spends the winters in Oakland, CA with his widowed younger sister and her family.  Jeremiah is hired by a wealthy landowner to track down and destroy a Grizzly bear.
This is basically a “man’s” action book with a couple of interesting twists (interesting to me, anyway).  First, the current day action is interspersed with the growing-up portion of Jeremiah’s life.  The author / publisher uses the “trick” of italicizing the historical narration so the reader can clearly “see” when the author is talking about the past.  The second interesting aspect of the book is an obvious attempt to include “real” famous / historic literary figures in the story.  Hence, Jeremiah reads Ambrose Bierce columns in the daily newspaper;  drinks with Jack London in a bar; and, meets John Muir while up in the hills.
The “action” portion is the life of the growing up, becoming a man and then aging and preparing for old age;  but within the specific confines of the plot, it is the pursuit of a giant Grizzly which has been terrorizing cattle ranches in and around the Hetch-Hetchy area.
So, is this book any good?  Is it realistic in it’s character(s) and / or historic depictions?  Is it entertaining and / or interesting?  And, finally, do I recommend this book?
In short – the answer is YES, to all of these questions.  The book is relatively short (225 pages) and the story is a fast and well paced read.  I read it completely in one sitting and found it hard to put down for my own meals.  (This despite a good deal of delicious sounding meals through-out the book.)
In general, the book seems pretty accurate to very accurate in describing both people and locations.  I must admit, I felt the author let a bit of his own “politics” come into the attitudes and language used in some of the conversations.  One example is when Jeremiah uses the word “deforestation” in an extended dialogue.  I looked the word up.  The word is cited as first used around 1870, so it is possible Jeremiah might know it, but it seems to me, unlikely a hunter / trapper / outdoorsman / tour guide would know the word, let alone use the word.  But, these are very minor flaws in an otherwise well written work.  A brief clarification:  I haven’t spoken with the author in over 50 years, so I really have no idea about his “politics” or if they are reflected in the writing.  It’s just how I felt while reading the book.
And, “the Curse” itself?  Well, it created a “hook” and theme for the book, but I felt it could have been better fleshed out.  I’m not sure why I feel that way or how I might have advised the author to improve the story during development, but it (the “hook”, not the book as a whole) made me feel like I was reading a poor mix of “Dancing With Wolves“, “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Deer Hunter“.  Very much like those movies, the ending is thought provoking rather than PollyAnn-ish uplifting.  A “Good” or “Bad” ending will then depend on the reader’s individual reaction to the ending.  The “curse” was from the last Native American Chief of the tribe (Chief Tenaya, a non-literary, but “real person” from the period) which lived in the Hetch-Hetchy Valley.  He pledged to haunt those who would despoil the tribes sacred lands (the Valley).
I found the book to be between “hard to put down” and “can’t put down”.  That’s quite a statement from this reviewer.  The descriptions of the skies, mountains, valleys, flowers and animals filled my imagination and reminded me of earlier outdoor travels and adventures from my own youth.
Final recommendation:  Very highly recommended if you are into “masculine” adventure type action stories with a historical setting.  Given I was raised in Northern California, I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of “old world” San Francisco, Oakland and the towns from the Bay Area to Hetch-Hetchy.  If you are prudish, be advised there is some minor sexual content, but I felt it was well within the boundary of character and story development.
Disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price (for an old / used book) and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2021 MAGA Choice: Reality Or Lies
You Seem To Be
2020 A Good Reason To Blog
Finally Enjoying The View
2019 Living Free
2018 Relative Imagination
2017 Thank You, Senator McCain (So Far Anyway)
2016 What About Friends?
2015 It Tastes Good To Me
2014 Others’ Footsteps
The Not-So-Modern Samurai
2013 Doin’
2012 A Lover
2011 What Have We Found Here
Words

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[Disclaimer:  The following is an editorial / opinion piece I read about dealing with MAGA-RINOs.  I tried to pull out the relevant (IMHO), most important points, but I felt it fell apart as excerpts, so I am offering it in its entirety.  The article is the sole possession of the author (Peter Wehner) and the publisher (The Atlantic) and I am making no claim of ownership and I am seeking no personal or monetary benefit by re-posting the piece on my blog site.  I am offering the piece because it presents an opinion on a significant topic of our time and for our country:  “how should rational American’s deal with irrational Trump followers who have taken over the “name” of the Republican Party (GOP)?”  I will remove this post if I receive an objection from either the author or the publisher.    —    kmab]
That Donald Trump has acted recklessly and lawlessly, without empathy, as if he lives in a world devoid of moral rules, should surprise no one.  Some of us warned back in the summer of 2016 that Trump was erratic, unstable, and temperamentally unfit for office. He had what I referred to then as a “personality disorder.”  I believed then and I believe now that it is the most essential thing to understand about him. Trump in power couldn’t end well.
Trump never found a way to escape the antisocial demons that haunt him.  But here’s what turned a personal tragedy into a national calamity:  He imprinted his moral pathologies, his will-to-power ethic, on the Republican Party.  It is the most important political development of this century.
The GOP once advertised itself as standing for family values and law and order, for moral ideals and integrity in political leaders.  Such claims are now risible.  The Republican Party rallied around Trump and has stuck with him every step of the way.
Republican officials showed fealty to Trump despite his ceaseless lying and dehumanizing rhetoric, his misogyny and appeals to racism, his bullying and conspiracy theories.  No matter the offense, Republicans always found a way to look the other way, to rationalize their support for him, to shift their focus to their progressive enemies.  As Trump got worse, so did they.
Republicans defended Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood tape and alleged hush-money payments to a porn star.  They defended him when he obstructed justice to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland.  They defended him after learning of his effort to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election.  They defended him despite his effort to overturn the election by pressuring state officials to “find” votes and send fake electors, by wallpapering the country with lies, and by instigating a violent assault on the Capitol.  The ex-president continues to peddle the Big Lie to this day, and any Republican who challenges it is targeted.
Something malicious has occurred since Trump won the nomination in 2016.  Six years ago, Republicans jettisoned their previous moral commitments in order to align themselves with the MAGA movement.  Today, they have inverted them.  Lawmakers, candidates, and those in the right-wing media ecosystem celebrate and imitate Trump’s nihilism, cynicism, and cruelty.  What was once considered a bug is now a feature.
This is the result of individuals’ and institutions’ accommodation of one moral transgression after another after another.  With each moral compromise, the next one — a worse one — becomes easier to accept.  Conduct that would have horrified Republicans in the past now causes them, at best, to shrug their shoulders;  at worst, they delight in it.
How does that change play out in our politics?  Five years ago, leading Republicans were publicly critical of Trump’s statements following the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Now consider that just a few weeks after far more ominous actions by Trump — inspiring and provoking an insurrection — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy flew to Mar-a-Lago to grovel before Trump.  Initially, Republicans accepted the need for a bipartisan commission to find out what had happened on January 6;  since then, they have undermined every effort to uncover that day’s events and how central a role Trump played in them.
The 2016 Republican platform said, “The next president must restore the public’s trust in law enforcement and civil order by first adhering to the rule of law itself.”  Today, Republicans, in response to a lawful search of the home of a lawless ex-president, compare the FBI to the Gestapo and the Stasi.  Trump himself, during a rally, referred to the FBI and the Department of Justice as “vicious monsters.”  And no political party in living memory has done as much as the GOP to undermine civil order and the public’s trust in law enforcement, or to attack the rule of law.
In hindsight, January 6, 2021, was a milestone along not just one path of radicalization, but two.  Of course, it represented an unprecedented assault on democracy by the violent mob on Capitol Hill and the president who incited it.  But it also represented what turned out to be the last moment when Republicans considered repudiating Trump.  For a few days, party leaders seemed, at last, horrified enough to break with him.  But when McCarthy slunk to Mar-a-Lago, hat and apology in hand, and when then – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans backed away from Trump’s impeachment and removal, the moment was over, and a door slammed shut.  There would be no more wavering.  Today, the dominant faction in the GOP is not conservative in the American tradition;  it is authoritarian and revolutionary, like far-right parties in Europe.
Karen Stenner, a political psychologist and the author of the groundbreaking “The Authoritarian Dynamic”, argues that about a third of people across 29 liberal democracies seem to have a psychological predisposition toward authoritarianism.  The tendency exists on both ends of the political spectrum, though it’s more prevalent on the right.
Stenner defines authoritarianism, which she believes is about 50 percent heritable, as a deep-seated psychological predisposition to demand obedience and conformity — what she calls “oneness and sameness” — over freedom and diversity.  Authoritarians have an aversion to complexity and diversity.  They tend to be intolerant on matters of race, politics, and morals;  to glorify the in-group and denigrate the out-group;  and to “reward or punish others according to their conformity to this ‘normative order.’”
The danger, Stenner says, arises when that tendency, which is often latent, is activated by “normative threats,” a deep fear of change, and a loss of trust in our institutions.  She also made this point to my colleague Helen Lewis:  In normal, reassuring, and comforting conditions, people with authoritarian tendencies could be your best neighbor.  But those predispositions “are activated under conditions of threat and produce greater intolerance to differences.”
Donald Trump has made his supporters feel “permanently panicked,” according to Stenner.  He “never got past the constant-rage-and-fear stage.”  And it doesn’t help that modern life’s complexity is overwhelming for many people.
For those with authoritarian tendencies, Stenner says, there’s a need “to reassure them and calm them down.”  Her goal is “to help authoritarians live in peace with liberal democracy.”  We need to reintegrate, rather than triumph over and banish, the authoritarians.  Demeaning and dismissing a significant part of the country won’t turn out well.  And so the focus of her work is to find practical ways to bring “activated authoritarians” back from the brink, including by means of normatively reassuring messages.  The key, she believes, is to reduce the feelings of being threatened and to find the right language — language that is less alienating to those with authoritarian tendencies — to talk about things such as diversity and immigration.  She and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt point out that moral elevation, the response we have when we witness virtuous acts, can also be helpful.
This approach is commendable;  my guess is that right now it might have sway with the minority of Republicans who are uneasy about Trump.  Perhaps, combined with an indictment of Trump, it might be enough to weaken the ex-president to the point where the Republican Party breaks with him.  But will its members break with the authoritarian tendencies that now define the GOP?
That seems unlikely.  The majority of the party has gotten more radicalized, more aggressive, and more conspiracy-minded, not less, since Trump left office.  The MAGA movement has provided many of its adherents with an identity, a source of personal meaning, and a cause for which to fight.  They have created a narrative in which they are heroic figures fighting malevolent forces.  They find psychological satisfaction in relentless conflict;  their lives seem more vivid and more purposeful within MAGA’s ever-combative frame.  Politics has become, for them, an ersatz religion.  In this activated state, they are not reachable by reason or open to amelioration.  In fact, many in MAGA world are looking for reasons to take offense, to feel victimized, to lash out.
There is an analogy to nature:  When a thunderstorm cloud has sufficient electrostatic charge, it has to discharge toward the ground.  If the lightning bolt doesn’t find one target, it will find another.  So will Trump supporters.
“We have a big faction of one of our two major political parties who wants to unravel our democracy because it no longer serves them,” Barbara Walter, a professor at UC San Diego and the author of “How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them,” recently told CNN.  “The reality is if you don’t say anything, if you stick your head in the ground, this makes it easier for those who do want to create some sort of authoritarian or strongman, minority-rule government — sort of what you have in Hungary — it simply allows them to do that more easily.  They can do it quietly behind the scenes when no one’s looking.”
I’m of two minds about all this.  I admire groups such as Braver Angels, which is attempting to bridge partisan divides, decrease affective polarization, and help Americans understand one another beyond stereotypes.  If we can help those with authoritarian tendencies reintegrate themselves into liberal democracy, we should certainly do so.  It’s important to hear perspectives that differ from our own.  And it’s imperative that we relearn how to talk with one another as fellow citizens instead of as combatants.
I also believe we should continue to stay in relationships whenever possible, including with family members and friends whose authoritarian attitudes have been activated, even as we look for the right moment and the right way to name our differences and express our disappointment with those who have aligned themselves with malignant political figures and movements.  We should speak with candor but not with malice, striving for grace as well as for truth.  It’s an impossible balance to always achieve, at least for me;  my frustrations can sometimes get the better of me, and perhaps they get the better of you too.  But the balance is still worth fighting for.
But even though we shouldn’t give up on individuals, I can’t escape concluding that the time for mollifying grievances is over.  In our political endeavors, the task is now to contain and defeat the MAGA movement, shifting away from a model of psychological amelioration and toward a model of political confrontation.  This is the model that Liz Cheney embraces, and so do I.
It requires defeating Trump Republicans at the polls, but it goes well beyond that.  It also means rallying the forces that must rise up to oppose authoritarianism by speaking honestly about the nature of the threat.  It means telling the truth about not just Trump but many of his supporters, who remain complicit in a corrupt and corrupting enterprise — one that is inflicting grave injury on our nation and its ideals.
MAGA supporters have had countless opportunities to take the exit ramp, and they have always found reasons not to.  At some point, when an enterprise is thoroughly corrupt, staying a part of it, helping it along, refusing to ever speak up, is not just a mistake in judgment;  it is a failure of intellectual and moral integrity.  This doesn’t mean that every area of a MAGA supporter’s life is devoid of rectitude, of course.  But it does mean that one important area is.  And that needs to be said.
So, no, I am not suggesting “giving up” on individual MAGA supporters, writing them off, throwing them out of polite society — even if I were in a position to do any of those things, which I’m not.  I am suggesting that much of MAGA world is authoritarian, that Liz Cheney is right to turn all her political energies to opposing it, and that containing and defeating MAGA — not hoping it will change, not placating its grievances — is now the No. 1 priority for friends of democracy.  Maybe we’ll succeed, maybe we’ll fail, but the mission is unavoidable.  And honorable.
    —     Peter Wehner
From his editorial / opinion piece:  “There’s No Escaping the Truth About Trump:  The former president has imprinted his moral pathologies and will-to-power ethic on the Republican Party.
The editorial appears in:  The Atlantic
Dated:  8 Sept. 2022
The editorial also appears online at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/trump-republicans-authoritarian-tendencies/671366/
(There may be a pay-wall or required subscription to view the entire editorial online.  If you are financially able to support a local or national news source, please do so.  A strong, energized free press is one of the most consistent bulwarks for democracy and against tyranny.  And please make the effort to vote in the coming mid-term elections.    —    kmab)
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On This Day In:
2021 Access Is Good
The Sun Is Shining
No Recall
2020 Give Me A Minute To Think About That…
November 3rd Is Coming!
An Eye For An Eye
2019 Is #45 Warning Alabama Again?
Day 11: 49ers Win
2018 Worry (x2)
2017 Still Working
Gold In The Morning Sun
2016 Power Inside
2015 Sometimes I Feel Small
2014 It Slipped Away
2013 Corollary
2012 Working Retired
2011 The Web Is Not Authoritative! (Really?)

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We Were Soldiers”  —  (2002)  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the film depicting the first major air-mobile battle of American forces in Vietnam in the Ia Drang Valley which occurred in 1965.  The movie stars Mel Gibson as the commanding officer Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and Madeleine Stowe as his wife:  Julia Moore.  Other main actors include:  Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein and Keri Russell.  Kinnear is a helicopter pilot;  Elliott is the battalion First Sergeant;  Klein is a junior officer (2nd Lieutenant) and Russell is his wife.
The basic plot shows how a “gung-ho” Army leader forms a unit, trains his officers / men to implement a new technology (helicopters and air-cavalry) and then leads them in a “major” engagement with the enemy.  Unfortunately, the engagement shown is Lt. Col. Moore is leading his men into a trap where his men are cut-off from direct (non-airbased) support, surrounded and heavily outnumbered:  roughly 10 to 1.  The bulk of the movie is about their three day battle to survive (“win”).  The essence of the Vietnam conflict is shown as superior American mobility and firepower (air and artillery) versus a dedicated / committed adversary willing to use close engagement (hand-to-hand) to negate the enemies strengths.
There are three “main” secondary plots / story lines:  1)  the effects of military life (death) on the families of the soldiers (limited to officer’s families);  2)  the civil rights / racial issues which were erupting in civilian society and getting carried into the military (depicted mainly on the family side);  and,  3)  combat leadership and how it differs from non-combatant and political leadership.  The first sub-plot is intertwined with the bulk of the combat portion.  The societal issues are mainly presented in the early portion (training) of the film – and, again, by the families / spouses.  The leadership sub-plot is just sprinkled in and is more implied than actually shown.  As it turns out, there were significant portions of this sub-plot which only appear in the “deleted scenes”.  I had to view these on YouTube as my version of the movie does not include the “extras”.
So, what did I think?  Is this a good movie?  Is it an accurate depiction of combat / war / military life?  Is this an “anti-war” movie or is it a glorification of war movie?  Were the sub-plots interesting / accurate?  And, lastly, to paraphrase “Gladiator“:  was I entertained?  In order:  yes;  yes;  more anti-war than I thought it would be;  yes – the sub-plots were interesting, accurate and important to the movie;  and finally, NO!  This isn’t an “entertainment” movie.  The time spent watching it was well spent, but while I can be entertained by over-the-top special effects / Sci-Fi movies, I don’t watch many horror / slasher movies and I don’t find realistic depictions of war “entertaining” – no matter how much I may “like” the film.  To me, it’s similar to reading a book to learn about something, versus reading a book to be entertained.  This is a “learning” film;  it is not an “entertaining” film
If you like(d) any of the more recent “war / combat” movies:  “Saving Private Ryan“, “Fury“, “Hacksaw Ridge” or “Black Hawk Down“, you will almost certainly “like” this film.  I liked all of the above and I liked this movie, too.  This film depicts heroism and personal risk / injury without a glorification backdrop.  The film shows combat:  brutality, chaos and terror.  In a refreshing turn, the movie shows the “enemy” in an almost equally positive light:  they are fighting for their country, on their land, and they have families “back home”, too.  This was one aspect of the film which I really did not expect as “the other side” is rarely shown in a positive light – otherwise, how would you understand you’re supposed to hate them and root for them to lose / die.
Anyway, as an amateur military historian, I found the first section (the character introductions) with the unit formation to be very interesting.  I found the description of the air-mobile infantry (Air-Cav) and the specific references to the unit combat limitations to be both accurate and insightful.  I found the sub-plots also accurate – as far as my limited experience was concerned, but maybe a bit too glossed over.  I was single during the 1970’s when I was on active duty, so all of my “personal” information about family life / support is really second hand.  The racial issues had not gone away between the film’s period (1965) and my service time (mid-70’s).  And, I don’t think there is ANY doubt (IMHO) the “Congressional / military / industrial complex” has only gotten worse since the 1960’s.
The film concludes with a visit by Col. Moore to the Vietnam Memorial “Wall” in Washington, D.C. and a list of the seventy-nine Americans who died in the battle.  It is an emotionally powerful scene on par with the cemetery scene in “Saving Private Ryan“.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  This is one of the “better” military genre movies I’ve seen in some time.  This is not an anti-war movie, but it also does not extrapolate the personal integrity and heroism of the individual American soldier on to the American government or senior military command structure.  A note of caution:  the combat scenes are brutal, realistic and sometimes horrifying.  This movie is not for the squeamish.
Final comment:  if you’re wondering why I’d never bothered to see this before…  Two reasons:  1)  I’m not an “all-in” / committed Mel Gibson fan.  I’ve enjoyed his directing more than his acting.  Also, 2)  when this movie came out I was not keen on supporting U.S. military adventurism around the world.  At that time, I wanted revenge for “9/11”, not occupation and nation-building in Afghanistan.  I did not support an invasion of Iraq and foreign government toppling.  I may have been wrong, but I viewed movies and TV shows in this genre as propaganda for the Bush Administration and a “war of choice” in Iraq.  Despite the quality of this individual movie (in that time period), I still hold that “propaganda” view / opinion.
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On This Day In:
2021 On Learning To Play Guitar
When You’re Feeling Small
2020 Remember Your Obligation
Smile And Shuffle
2019 If One Is Lucky Enough
Basic Training (In Films)
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

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It is here that I can concentrate my mind upon the Remembered Earth.  It is here that I am most conscious of being, here that wonder comes upon my blood, here I want to live forever;  and it is no matter that I must die.
    —     N. Scott Momaday
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On This Day In:
2021 Learning Stages
Sometimes It Only Takes A Smile…
2020 Come Laugh With Me
Make Life Be Life To Me
2019 For Your Consideration…
2018 Brown’s Rules
Day 23: Fasting Visualized
2017 Still Trying To Make It
2016 One Lucky Man
2015 Food Change ==> Health Change
2014 10 Commandments Of Logical Arguments (Fallacies)
2013 Sociology Of The Future
2012 1010
There In The Sunshine
2011 Not Enough Time

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Warning:  This is LONG post…  It won’t hurt my feelings if you’re not interested in my guitar reviews and go now…  (LoL)
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturer(s) of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about this / these item(s) because I personally purchased it / them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    kmab]
* Guitar Acquisition Syndrome
Background:  For the last 19 months, I’ve been trying to teach myself about music and playing guitar.  To date I have now purchased nine “inexpensive / cheap” guitars.  This is the review of my latest:  a Fesley “Strat” style Electric Guitar (Sunset color)…  What is a “Strat” style?  If you’ve ever seen a picture of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, it was probably a “Strat”.  Strat is short for Stratocaster and is one of the two “main” styles of electric guitar.  It is characterized by two “cutaways” (one on either side of the neck where it attaches to the guitar body);  “horn” shapes which are more reminiscent of bulls horns than of devil’s horns;  and, the guitar body is solid (not hollow) with six steel strings.  The “horns” are usually of slightly different shape and are normally slightly offset (not mirror images) with the more forward horn on the base-string side of the guitar.  The “Strat” was created in the 1950’s by the Fender corporation.  The Strat usually comes with three single-coil pickups and may also come with a tremolo bridge.  The “pickup” is what translates the steel string vibration in front of a magnet and converts it to electrical impulses which are amplified into the sounds you hear coming from the amplifier.
Anyway, as stated in several prior reviews, I’m retired and I have a significant price point and life time (mine) limitation when making discretionary purchases.  I haven’t found my music / guitar sound or style (or hero), so I’m playing around at the bottom of the market in search of one, both or all three.  For those of you readers who are unfamiliar with the price of music instruments, a decent quality, name brand guitar “probably” runs near USD $1,000.  (If you are lucky, you can find the same model used for half that.)  At half that price (USD $500), you can also normally find the same name brand (or their subsidiary) selling a new entry-level model of substantially lower quality.  You can also go (quickly) the other direction to many times that price before you even get to custom guitars.  Specific historic guitars sell in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars!
I now have nine “cheap / inexpensive” guitars of various style / types, and, not counting books and accessories (tools, tuners, picks, cables, gig bags, straps, etc), I’m just over the $1,000 “all-in” mark.  My wife believes I’m a hoarder and while she supports my trying to learn music / guitar, she does NOT approve of my continuing guitar purchases.  I (on the other hand) still feel the need for one last guitar before pausing to concentrate on the “right” one – which I may never find / buy.  I will probably get that “last” inexpensive one before the end of next year (2023).  I actually have my eye on two types I don’t already have.  After that, I will be playing them each, and, over time, upgrading the bits and pieces on them until I’m more or less happy with each.  Some, like my three-quarter size acoustic are so minimalist it really can’t have much changed out.  Of course, as my luthier skills improve, there is a seemingly endless pool of tools to spend (my wife would say “waste”) money on.  And, there are also amplifiers.  On the issue of amps, I only have my initial 20-watt amp from the purchase of my first electric guitar.  I’m sure it’s “crap”, but I very rarely use it, so it may be some time before I get a second / replacement amp.  At the moment, I play my acoustic guitars in the day and my electrics sans amp at night.  The main time I use my amp is when I get a new guitar and want to verify the electric bits work.  Because I just starting to gain an ear for electric sound, I still can’t tell if the electric guitars are good or not – only if they play at all.  As an aside, in my prior reviews, I mistakenly said my amp was a 10-watt amp.  It turns out it is a 20-watt.  Not that it matters, as it is NEVER turned up, and still rarely used.
Start of review:
Ordering:  I ordered the guitar on Amazon.com.  The general price on Amazon varies from $169 to $119 (depending on the color chosen), not including tax or shipping.  I have NO idea why the price varies by color!!?!  But, of the colors available, the one I wanted was the least expensive anyway.  I purchased the item via my daughter’s Amazon membership, so shipping was free.  The price ended up:  $131.54 (delivered).  I “earn” $100 gift cards for Amazon about once every six months by answering questions on a marketing / polling / survey site.  Although this is “real” money, it does not come out of my retirement money, and since I’d be answering the surveys anyway – it’s “free” money (to me, but not to the IRS).  The price of a “moderately” decent padded guitar gig bag is $20-$30 on Amazon.  So, basically, I got an electric guitar and gig bag for the price of a gig bag:  $31.54!! (LoL)
Delivery:  I ordered mine on Thursday 28 July 2022 (evening) and it arrived on 4 August, mid-afternoon.  Amazon’s delivery estimate was spot-on.  On delivery, the exterior box was slightly crumpled on several edges;  the interior box had no damage at all.  On opening the interior box, the guitar was inside the padded gig bag and there was no damage at all to the guitar.  This is the first guitar I’ve received “double-boxed”.  My only comment is the interior box was free-floating and slid around inside the larger exterior box.  All-in-all, I am very happy with the delivery.
What you get:  (Specifications)
Brand:  Fesley
Model:  Fesley ST Electric Guitar Morandi Series
Style:  “Strat” with tuners on one side of the headpiece
Price:  $119.85 — my price was $32 including tax (out of pocket).
Orientation:  Right handed
Guitar Color:  Sunset (Front and back)
Weight:  9.73lbs
Number of frets:  20
Number of strings:  6
String Material Type : Nickel Steel
Guitar Pickup Configuration:  H-S-S (humbucker / bridge, single / middle, single / neck)
Guitar Bridge System:  Cold-rolled Steel Block Bridge with tremolo system (push-in “wammy” bar)
Controls:  4 – 1 switch (5 positions), 1 x Volume, 2 x Tone;  the three knobs are black plastic with no numbers
Color – Black:  Zinc Alloy Tuners, a Single String Guide, Cold-rolled Steel Block Bridge, Wammy Bar, Volume and Tone Controls, Inlaid Fret Dots
Body Material:  Poplar
Neck Material Type:  Poplar
Fretboard Material Type:  Hard-maple
Neck Info:  C-shaped neck profile with satin finish;  20 frets, marks (dots) on the neck and top of the fingerboard help guide / play;  430mm radius
Tuning Peg Material:  Metal, Kidney Bean shape
Nut Material:  Unspecified (I think it’s plastic)
Pick Guard:  None
(Package Includes)
1 x Guitar
1 x Wammy Bar (pop-in style, not screw-in style)
2 x Spanner Tool (for adjusting the neck / truss rod and one for setting intonation)
1 x Padded Gig Bag
Double boxed for delivery
First impression:  right out of the box, the guitar has a beautiful, dark, rich sunset (sunburst) front AND back.  It is thin and feels small and light.  I run my left hand up and down the neck.  The edges of the fret board are smooth and fret sprout is non-existent!  I could NOT feel the frets from the side of the neck.  I had to slightly curl my fingers around the edge.  They are not rounded on the ends – ball-bearing style – so you still have to be a bit careful running your fret hand up and down the neck, but this is among the best fret work I’ve ever gotten on any of my guitars. It remains to be seen if this continues after the guitar has had a chance to acclimate for a couple of weeks.  I don’t think it will be an issue…  The guitar was in a plastic bag with the wammy bar and tools rubber-banded to the neck.  The strings were paper bound for their protection.  There is a little card indicating the guitar was inspected and listing the action height at that time.  I will compare this info later when (if) I do a full complete setup with action and intonation.  It’s also a useful reference for future string changes…  The frets are shiny and smooth and the fretboard looks moist without being shiny.  NO crud comes off the frets on my fingers as I check them (sometimes you can get a bit of blackening on your fingertips) and there is no gritty sound on string bending at a few test points.  (I’m laughing to myself!)  This is the best looking first impression of a fretboard of any of my guitars!!
Visual checklist:
• neck – straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut – discolored plastic.  Not white, so you almost think it’s bone.  The string groove depth seems fine to great.
• strings – strum… not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs.  It tuned up very easily.
• body – again, beautiful color and shiny (matte NOT high gloss) finish.  I don’t see ANY dents or faults!!
• pickups – are all magnetic.  I can’t tell much else visually.  The “visual test” is to hold something metal near the pickup and feel if it is pulled to the magnetic pickup.  I would say there is an “unsightly” gap around the pickups.  My other guitars’ with single pickup slots are covered by the pick guards, so you don’t see the gaps.
• controls – the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume and tone(s) both turn smoothly. I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on).  One slightly disconcerting thing is the knobs seem to turn past “0”.  I don’t know what that means.  All of my other guitars fully stop at “0” and “10”…
• tuning pegs – all are smooth and don’t appear to have dead spots.  They are the smallest tuners I have ever felt!  They are functional, but they feel “tiny” between my fingers and thumb.
• action and intonation – the strings seem fine (eyeball test).  I will measure them (for action) in the future.  The intonation is WEIRD!  The intonation is perfect open and at the 5th and at the 12th frets.  All up and down the neck with no dead frets on any strings, but ALL of the other frets are slightly sharp.  To me, this (probably) means Fesley took extra care to get the open, 5th and 12 frets exactly in the right place but were slightly less exact on the remaining frets.  I should point out the difference is similar (if not exact) for all of the other frets and for all of the strings AND I can’t actually hear the difference – but the electronic tuner can.  Just slightly…
Strum… the strings are all loose and there is no hope this is tuned “out of the box”.  I attach my Snark tuner and tune the guitar.  Nothing significant to report.  (Except the intonation issue mentioned just above.)  I’m a happy camper…!!!
I plug in the amplifier and plug the cable into it and into the guitar.  Both connections seem solid enough.  I turn on the amp and increase the volume on both the guitar and the amp.  All the knobs on the amp and the guitar seem to work.  The slippage on the knobs doesn’t seem to affect anything.  When the knob gets to zero (unmarked), whatever is supposed to be changing stops changing.
Strum… I play for a few minutes – chords and scales.  I spend a few minutes practicing “Ode To Joy“, “Taps” and “God Save the Queen” and then noodle a bit before deciding to pack it in for the evening.  The main thing I notice is the guitar is VERY comfortable to play.  The neck seems short, I don’t have to stretch to play open chords and the body (depth / width) seems to be made just for me.  Mainly the thinner body means it’s easier to hold the guitar body under my strumming arm and against my body.  This guitar has a slightly different cut out angle (from the Glarry) at the elbow which seems to make it even more comfortable for me.  Now, a point of clarification:  This is not a “Full Size” strat style guitar.  At least judging by my Glarry 38.6 / 39in strat style it isn’t.  Just eyeballing it, I’d say the Fesley is almost an inch (maybe only 3/4in) shorter.  FYI:  Glarry says their strat body size (38.6in) doesn’t include the strap button on the bottom of the guitar.  Standing the Glarry and Fesley face to face, the bodies are the same length, yet, the tip of the head-piece is clearly shorter than the Glarry’s.  The difference “seems” to be the bridge on the Fesley is larger than on the Glarry AND it is set farther down the body than the Glarry’s because the Glarry’s pickups are S-S-S while the Fesley’s are H-S-S.  The double thickness of the humbucker requires the bridge to be set down the body.  I also point out the Glarry is a 22 fret guitar.  The Fesley is only 20 frets. Interestingly, this (moving the bridge back) makes it easier to right-hand strum mute the strings on the Fesley than it is on ANY of my other guitars – acoustic or electric!  Go figure…
Next?
Nothing out of the ordinary…  Just tune and noodle.
Check the fret sprout for about a week and do the light maintenance on it for playability.  Then it’s add to the rotation and enjoy!!
Final Recommendation:  LoL!!  Are you kidding me?  Very Highly!  A beautiful, almost perfectly playable instrument for under $35!!!  (Okay, $135 to you…)  I’m laughing all the way to the bank.  (And, still practicing about an hour a day…)
Thanks to anybody who made it all the way through this lengthy post!!
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On This Day In:
2021 Born Again
Begin Writing
2020 Nah… I’m Still Chuckling
Squeaking By With “C’s”
2019 Consider Me A Phony
2018 Last
Day 10: Double Digits
2017 Could You Repeat The Question?
2016 Still Busy?
2015 Why, Just This Morning…
2014 Just Kindness
2013 Now Shaking
2012 Absurdity, n.
2011 Minor Changes
Things I’ve Learned From Life – Nana Carter
Acting Out

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This post marks the first day of my 14th year of blogging here on WordPress.  A great deal of this post is a repetition of last year’s post…  (And, yes, it’s a long one…)
With almost no change from last year…  The number of countries who’ve visited this site continues to (slowly) grow and the number which haven’t continues to decrease.  North Korea and Cuba are still among them (the latter…)  I’m also still missing a belt across the middle of Africa (but it’s no longer coast-to-coast) and a few spots in Asia.  (Slowly, slowly…  Resistance is futile.)
On reviewing my content over the past year, I’m mostly back to one post a day.  They are almost entirely just quotes with occasional political opinions, infrequent film reviews and rarely book reviews.  I haven’t added near as many posts about learning guitar or music as I thought I would.  I’m not terribly sure why.
My blog is continuing to be part of my “normal” retired life (since 2017).  I routinely receive about 20 to 60 emails (per day) from the roughly 300 blogs I follow.  I say “roughly” because I don’t check how many I follow.  I just looked, and I (still) have fewer than 2,000 followers myself.  Every year there is a trade-off:  you pick up a few steady followers and a few drop off.  Those who actually post about leaving (their own sites) say they are simply moving on to other things.  Most, don’t bother and just stop posting.  A few come back after some period of time.  Many do not.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve stopped blogging.  Some just move to a hosted service to try to monetize their thoughts and don’t provide me a way to follow them.  Or maybe they did and I simply missed the link…
I do have bone to pick with some (many?) of the posts I receive.  Three bones, actually…  First, I receive a large number of posts which don’t contain “Like” options.  This means I have to click to your site and log into WordPress to give you a like.  Most of the time, I will not do this.  I’m just lazy and if you don’t want the feed back, I’m happy to not provide it.  The second is an email with a title and five or six words from your post and then a “read more”.  Again, sorry – PROBABLY 95% of the time, I no longer click through to your site.  If you don’t give me at least a paragraph to hook me, you’ve lost me for that post.  It’s different if you are running a visual / photo site, but not by much.  If you give me one (or two) image(s) per post – fine.  If you regularly have 10 – 15 – 20 images in a single post, I might view one post a week.  And, lastly, in general I only view one post a day from a single source and it’s kind of random…  Sometimes it’s the first.  Sometimes it’s the last.  Sometimes it’s just whatever…
At any rate, I easily spend an hour per day reviewing the posts I get (via email subscription) and sometimes that is simply overwhelming.  It’s not always the average blogger’s fault.  If you post something interesting, I (still) will go off and investigate it further:  authors, artists, locations, books, movies, science / math / history topics – they will all lead me off down the rabbit hole.  And that hole can be DEEP!   There are a few (a handful) of sites which I know are visual and I more frequently click through to the actual site, because I’m interested in the bits which are not offered in the smaller / limited / text based emails I tend to receive.  I apologize if my failure to click-thru affects your view stats negatively…
So, besides this blog, what am I up to?  My health has been mixed.  I’m still morbidly obese and none of my “lifestyle” changes (diets) have stuck.  The problem I have is I’ve had some changes in my meds so I’m not sure if they are affecting me or if I’m just getting older and less motivated – or a combination.  As always, one has to balance the good of the med versus the adverse (potential) effects.  The two which seem the best (for me) are the juicing / blending and the “40hr water fast twice a week”.  The former for losing and the latter for maintaining.  If I can get my meds stable, I’ll probably go on an alternating schedule of these two for a prolonged period.
In January 2021, I purchased my first guitar and I’ve been practicing most every day since. (I miss about one day every other month.)  I “know” my basic (C, A, G, E, D, F, Am, Em, Dm) open / “cowboy” chords and major / minor scales – single string and in first position.  Strumming, finger-picking (Travis style) and chord changes are coming slowly (slower), but they are getting better now that I’m practicing them more consistently.  I now own three acoustic guitars and five electrics, and I have another acoustic on loan from my brother.  I had them on a monthly rotation calendar, but shifted to three weeks at the start of the year (2022).  I’m planning to move to a weekly rotation.  I’m looking into picking up a few (three) more inexpensive guitars and I’ve dropped the idea of basses (for at least a while).  There is no time pressure.  It’s all about my ability to save (here and there) until I can justify a purchase.  [Wife:  How many guitars do you NEED?  Me:  …One more.]  At the moment, the plan is one more strat (type), one more tele (type) and a round-back acoustic.  I didn’t really even think about round-backs before.  I thought they were only over-sized guitars for Mariachi style music, but I’ve learned otherwise.  Anyway, they “tend” to be plastic / fiberglass backs, and I’m interested in what that sounds like.  I have a distinct memory of strumming an “Ovation” (round-back) guitar MANY years ago, but I don’t remember anything about it (sound or feel).  We’ll see…  I am also going to start looking into amps and pedals for the electrics.
The few things I’ve learned (mainly about myself) have truly been amazing (to me).  I do seem to have a smidgen of musical ability (although it’s still buried under layers of doubt).  I’m (still) finding the ability to concentrate on practice to be as relaxing as zoning out in computer programming used to be (in my youth).  Sixty to ninety minutes can easily seem like five or ten minutes.  There is also the complete exhaustion which results from prolonged concentration – however “relaxing” it may feel at the time.  In a strange way, it feels good to be mentally tired at the end of a practice session.
But, am I getting any better at playing?  An objective opinion would be:  Yes!  Am I any “good”?  An objective opinion would be:  No!  Does it matter a whit?  No.  Why not?  Because, like blogging, I’m doing it for the enjoyment of doing it and not for the expectation (mine or anyone else’s) of being any good at playing guitar.  Again, like blogging, as long as it’s fun and interesting and fulfilling, I’ll just keep doing it…  My not so secret goal remains to write a song (lyrics and music) for my wife.  (LoL)
I posted a while back about my guitar goals for the remainder of 2022, but I can easily see them (the goals) extending into 2023.  If I have ANY disappointments over guitars it’s that developing my luthier skills has definitely fallen by the wayside.  I’m happy being able to change strings, round fret ends and play with action and intonation, but it turns out, if you buy inexpensive instruments, the decent quality luthier tools and better quality parts are almost as (or more) expensive as (than) a new instrument.
So, it’s guitar playing and blogging to keep me occupied (and mostly out of trouble).  LoL!!
Other than that, we got one of our bathrooms remodeled back in February 2022 and we’re hoping to get our other one done in early fall.  All things in their time (LoL – and with available funds!)
Once again…  “Excelsior!!
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On This Day In:
2021 Happy 12th Anniversary Of Blogging
We ARE…
2020 Happy 11th Anniversary Of Blogging
2019 Happy 10th Anniversary — Thoughts On My First Decade Of Blogging
2018 Happy 9th Anniversary — Three Thoughts
Day 2 – Notes On Progress
2017 Happy 8th Anniversary
2016 Happy 7th Anniversary
2015 Happy 6th Anniversary
2014 Happy 5th Anniversary
2013 I Resemble That Remark!
2012 Happy 3rd Anniversary
2011 Is America Safe Tonight?
2009 Hello world! (See how it all began…)

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I Am Number Four” (2011)   —   movie review
In this Sci-Fi action movie, Alex Pettyfer stars as John Smith (aka:  Number Four), Dianna Agron as Sarah Hart (the love interest), Teresa Palmer as Number Six (another good alien), Timothy Olyphant as Henri (an alien without super-powers who is supposed to raise / protect “Four”), Callan McAuliffe as Sam Goode (a human who’s dad was somehow tied to the good aliens), Kevin Durand as Setrakus Ra, the Mogadorian commander (the bad / evil aliens), and Jake Abel as Mark James (a human who is just in the movie to add “earth” drama – high school bully / Sarah’s ex-boyfriend).
Basically, a race of good aliens (Lorians) is attacked and conquered by a race of bad aliens (Mogadorians).  Just before being destroyed, they send nine kids with latent super-powers to another planet (Earth) to grow until they are strong enough to come back and destroy the bad guys.  The kids are each provided with a pair of guardians – one humanoid appearing warrior (Henri) and one a “chimera” – a shape-shifting creature.  “Four’s” chimera is a small lizard when he is in Florida and it becomes a dog (beagle) when Four and Henri move to a small town in Ohio.
Anyway, the bad aliens are pursuing the kids to kill them.  For some unexplained reason, they must be killed in numerical order.  The movie starts with the death (trap and execution) of “Three”.  There is also no explanation of where “Five” is in while “Six” is looking for and helping “Four”.
There is a lot of blah, blah, blah about high school cliques, growing up angst, “ex’s”, love, pre-digital photography, etc.  Somehow Henri is lured to, and then captured by some humans who are working with the bad aliens.  (The humans are killed and Henri and John are blamed as terrorists.)  Like I said:  blah, blah, blah.
And, then, FINALLY there is a big battle at – wait for it – the high school football field!!
Good guys win, kisses and good-bye’s:  sequel to be announced soon…  Well, maybe not so soon.  Despite being “ok”, the film cost $60M to make and made just under $150M.  Sequels cancelled…
I saw this movie on original release with my daughter.  My review from Feb. 2011 is still pretty accurate:  “Not a MUST see movie, but a very enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours with your daughter in harmless entertainment.”  Olyphant was the only recognizable actor (to me) at that time, but I have since seen Palmer in at least one other film (the live-action remake of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“) and Durand has made the rounds as a bad guy in other films.
My daughter did not participate in this second viewing.  I still enjoyed it on second viewing.  This is simple entertainment.  It does NOT bear up to much afterthought.  It is a “Disney” movie (“simple entertainment”), but not up to the better “Marvel” / Disney standards.  The movie is periodically available on my cable for free, but it IS Sci-Fi with decent FX, so I spent the $5 to add it to my VUDU film library.  The bummer is there are no extras.  (Oh, well…)  And, yes, this viewing is me falling for another memory tug by YouTube.  Final recommendation:  moderate to good.
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On This Day In:
2021 Truthfully
Average It Up
2020 Demonstrably Proven To Yield No Benefits
But When You Must, Stand
2019 Paint-By-Numbers
2018 #45: Still Trying To
Oh, Well…
2017 Two Views Of The Starting Line
2016 Never Had It, Never Will (Donald Trump)
2015 20/20
2014 All Of My Best Ideas Come While Walking…
2013 Learn To Learn
2012 I Remind You
2011 Respect And Prestige
2010 Living Legends (Willie Nelson) and the Gettysburg Address

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Today’s review is for the war / military / combat movie:  “Black Hawk Down” (2001) directed and produced by Ridley Scott.  The movie is based on the 1999 non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, about the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Being a “war” genre movie, the film features a large male cast, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Background:
Basically, Somalia (a country on the eastern tip / horn of Africa) has descended into a civil war and the United Nations has assigned “peace-keepers” to the area – presumably to protect aid workers in the distribution of donated food.  The local warlord declares war on the peace-keepers and some U.S. forces (Delta and Rangers) are assigned a mission of capturing two of the warlord’s top aides to gather information to be used to capture / kill the warlord.
The military command severely underestimates the resources required to complete the mission and the assigned forces do the same at their level.  They (the soldiers) believe the mission will be an “in and out” in a half hour and some fail to take standard operational gear (body vest / chest protectors and night vision head-sets).  The mission starts to go wrong almost immediately with the hostiles gaining warning of the action (although there is no indication they are aware of the mission objectives).
One of the “Black Hawk” helicopters is shot down by the Somalis and the objective becomes one of rescue as well as capture.  Unfortunately, the downed copter is not “near” the mission objective area, so the U.S. forces end up separated and then have to fight to rejoin forces, too.  Anyway, a mission which was supposed to take 30-60 minutes ends up lasting about 18 hours.  Of the 150+ U.S. soldiers involved, 19 are killed and 73 were injured / wounded.
Review:
So, is this a “good” movie?  Is it accurate?  Is it entertaining?  And, do I recommend it?  Yes;  I’m not sure;  too intense to call entertaining;  and, yes, I’d recommend this movie (with qualifications).
Is it any good?  As depicted “war” genre movies go, I think its a pretty good movie.  There is a definite sense of the “fog of war” – particularly in the relaying of information up and down the chain of command.  The action is continuous and slows only to increase the emotional tension of injuries or to high-light the significance of command decisions.  Every time there is a pause for a decision, you can (virtually) be assured there is going to be a problem later in the film.  In a real sense, this is a VERY accurate situation in combat – sometimes there are no (few) good options and you simply have to make a decision and live with (and react to) the consequences.
It the movie accurate?  Apparently shortly after its release there were a number of complaints about the film representations of the Somali people – not just the hostiles, but the people also.  No “real” Somalis were involved in the film.  There was also the complaint that although the film was putatively an “anti-war” film, it “supposedly” made combat out to be a heroic activity.  I didn’t come away with that particular reaction, but I could understand how some might.
I did not find the combat scenes to be particularly accurate.  I had two issues:  1)  Most explosives have a blast radius which kills or severely disables.  This film shows guys nearly hit by RPG (rocket propelled grenades) and they shrug it off and keep on fighting.  I don’t doubt they were “near” explosions (in real life);  just nowhere near as depicted in the movie.  2)  The men are repeatedly shown using their weapons on automatic fire.  I believe the standard issue for a infantryman is seven(7) clips (of 30 rounds).  Even if you managed to carry a double load, it would be VERY difficult to be engaged in an 18-hour battle and NOT run out of ammunition in the first two hours of constant enemy contact.  (And I’m being very generous with that time estimate.)
Entertainment value?  As stated above, I found it more “interesting” than “entertaining”.  I remember seeing this movie years ago and I found it unrealistic (then).  I recently got a few clips on YouTube, which prompted me to re-watch the film.  It was definitely better on this second viewing.  I don’t remember when I had the initial viewing and I was very hostile to “beat the drum” war movies in the aftermath to the invasion of Iraq.  My initial viewing was on DVD, not at a theater, so even then, there was some delay between the film’s release and my viewing.
Final Recommendation:
To paraphrase President Lincoln:  For those who like this kind of film, this is the kind of film they will like.
I would say as a purely action-based movie, it is strong to highly recommended.  If it was really meant to be an anti-war movie, it’s moderate to fail.  It simply doesn’t emphasize the mistakes / decision failures enough.  If it was meant to be a rah-rah military movie, it’s only moderate at best.  Heroic action doesn’t really sell when you are also showing comrades getting blown in half and bleeding out while someone is doing field-surgery under fire.  I don’t care how heroic the portrayals are…
Still, I give this movie a moderate to strong recommendation as a “war” genre movie.  If you liked “Fury“, “Saving Private Ryan“, “Zulu“, “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge Too Far“, you will also “like” this film.  If you are not into the genre, you probably won’t enjoy this film at all.
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On This Day In:
2021 Families
Every Now And Then
2020 A Message To Optional Trump Supporters (Basically Everyone)
2019 Bigger Jaws
On The Other
2018 Hoping For A Blue Wave In November
2017 Garden Dreaming
2016 Well, Maybe Not “No” Talent
2015 An Appetite For Life
A Trip To The Library
Great Expectations
2014 Pass The Soul
2013 Zapping Music And Art
2012 Not Quite Fantastic
That Kid Is Back
2011 Wolves At The Door
2010 I’m Feeling Patriotic… (Well, more than usual, anyway.)
Beating the Heat…

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About a month and a half ago I started playing a daily word / search / complete game:  “Wordle“.  It is a once a day game hosted on the New York Times news website.  Basically, you have six chances to figure out the five letter word of the day.  Incorrect letters appear as grey;  correct letters in the wrong location as yellow;  and, correct in the right location, as green.
As of today, I have only missed twice.  I have found it EXTREMELY addictive and also a great vocabulary refresher.  Highly recommended!
Here’s the link to the NYT site’s version:  Wordle – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
[Disclaimer:  I have nothing to do with the New York Times or the producers of the Wordle game.  I am merely offering this link / game as a suggestion of something I’ve enjoyed playing.    —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 The Principal Difference
Picture Perfect
2020 So Sad, Faux Crowd
The Spirit Is Willing
2019 And The Same For Blogs And Posts
2018 The End Of Asgard (For Now)
I Learn The Hard Way Every Time
2017 For Some
2016 Fragile And Explosive, Provocation And Privacy
2015 Bound Up
2014 Economic Engines
2013 Weren’t You Supposed To Be Reading?
Absent Friends
Where I Stand
2012 Hangin’ With His P’s
Help Save
2011 Six Facets Of Good Leadership

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