"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Stuff that keeps me awake in the wee hours of the night, Part Four

Cover artRounding the Horn, Being a Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives—a Deck’s-Eye View of Cape Horn by Dallas Murphy.   I was on a trip to this part of the world when I started reading this book, and I couldn’t put it down.   My friend/roommate Kathy must have gotten very tired of my raving about this book.  The author intersperses a sailboat journey to Cape Horn with a huge helping of very readable history of Patagonia and the explorers and missionaries who ventured there, along with the native tribes who subsisted in a harsh climate and how they were affected by the Europeans.   I've read it twice now.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI am Malala. The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafazai with Christina Lamb.   There are some books, after I've finished them, that I hold in my hands for a few minutes before I set them down.   I feel the impact of the story and sorrow that the book has ended.   This is one of them, the story of the 15 year old Pashtun girl in Pakistan who advocated for education for boys and girls and was almost assassinated by the Taliban as she sat in her school bus.  Lots of history, culture, and insight into the life of Pakistanis as told by a remarkable young girl, the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.   I expect lots of dynamic things in the future from this young lady, who wants to go into politics.

And on top of the pile on my night stand are:

Things That Matter, Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics by Charles Krauthammer.   Oops, make that "...Passions, Pastimes and Politics."   Charles didn't use the series comma.  I will confess to sometimes planning my daily activities around the time Dr. Krauhammer will appear on TV to comment on the latest news.   I find him insightful, acerbic, and devilishly witty.

Mawson's Will by Lennard Bickel.   Billed as the Greatest Survival Story Ever Written, this is the story about Australian Dr. Douglas Mawson, his 1908 trek to the magnetic South Pole, and the horrendous conditions he suffered.


Shackleton's Forgotten Men, The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic by Lennard Bickel.  Wile Sir Ernest Shackleton and the men of the Endurance were trying to survive in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, the men of the Aurora were fighting a similar battle on the opposite side of the continent.  These were the men who were to stash supplies for Shackleton as he attempted to cross the continent. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stuff that keeps me awake in the wee hours of the night, Part Three

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles MansonManson, The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn.   The old newspaper reporter who covered murder trials in me can’t resist this stuff.   Guinn details Manson’s life from childhood to perpetual prisoner, giving insight into how and why.

This Town, Two Parties and a Funeralplus plenty of valet parking!—in America’s Gilded Captial by Mark Leibovich.   You’re a fly on the wall  as Leibovich takes you on a journey through D.C. culture, with all the things you suspected and wish you’d never learned, and why you hate politicians.   As one reviewer put it so expertly:  This is not an in-depth investigation into Washington corruption; it is, rather, a panoramic view of the culture of Washington, the fertile soil in which the corruption grows and flourishes. Presented in a lively, humorous manner, it is rather enjoyable to read. So much so that one tends to lose sight of the fact that these are people - Washington insiders, that is - who enrich themselves with money taxpayers are forced to send to the government. You get the sense that these people always have a smirk on their faces, laughing at the stupid people - everyone outside of the Beltway - who support their little aristocracy upon the Potomac ('The Club', as it's referred to). The author… doesn't draw conclusions for us, he presents the rather corrupt underbelly of Washington - politicians and their minions as they really are - and let's [sic] us decide just how bad it really is.

The Elephant Whisperer, My Life with the Herd in the African Wild   by Lawrence Anthony.   A devoted animal conservationist, Anthony adopted a herd of wild elephants destined to be destroyed.  A wonderful story of a man bonding with rogue elephants, protecting them, and letting them be wild.  The author died earlier this year and the herd of elephants made a long journey to his home to pay their respects.  This book cemented my desire to visit Africa and I made reservations shortly after finishing it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stuff that keeps me awake in the wee hours of the night, Part Two

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff, “An epic story of survival and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II.”   Fascinating story that takes place in Greenland.  I’m a fan of Zuckoff’s since Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II.”  Guy’s a good writer, no doubt, and he finds the most obscure subjects for his books.   Anxiously awaiting his follow-up to Frozen in Time, and anything else he writes.   Plus, I'm checking into tours to

Benghazi, The Definitive Report by Jack Murphy and Brandon Webb.   This short report is told from the perspective of two former Special Ops men and is available at Amazon as an e-book for $2.00.


Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal.   Though preoccupied with his “junk,”  Crystal made me laugh out loud in the first paragraph.   Delightful book to read as Crystal writes about aging, his mid-life crisis,  and his career.   Fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stuff that keeps me awake in the wee hours of the night, Part One

Terrific books I've read recently that kept me up far too late:

The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.  A horse headed for the slaughterhouse is purchased by Harry de Leyer and the rest is magic.  A wonderful true story about a Cinderella horse, to put a cliche on it.

Under Fire, the Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz.  Burton is an expert on security, terrorists and their organizations.  He is a former State Department counterterrorism deputy chief ad DS agent.    Katz is an expert on Middle East terrorism, counterterrorism, and special operations.  An astonishing reconstruction of the events of Sept. 11, 2012, as well as background in the region.   Very readable and informative, though you will be heartily tired of acronyms and semi-colons by the end.

Killing Jesus: A HistoryKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.   The story of how and why Jesus was killed.   Lots of research here which puts the whole story into historical perspective.   This is a history book, not a religious book, and by the end I had a better understanding of the man known as Jesus and the political forces that demanded his execution.   This book is every bit as readable and educational as the authors’ Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Can See (Half) Clearly Now

I gave myself half of a birthday present this week for my 72nd birthday today.   I am a wimp about things medical and would much rather use the “wait and see” treatment than actually visiting a physician, all because of a life-long, well-documented history of peculiar and unheard of reactions to medicines and medical procedures.

However, there comes a time when it's obvious even to me that "wait and see" is the wrong answer, and medical assistance becomes a necessity.   That time arrived for me this summer when I realized my vision was much worse than usual.  I’ve been wearing glasses for about 20 years, reading glasses a little longer, so it’s hard to complain much.  (My vision was 20/15 when I was younger.)   But, oh how wonderful it would be to be glasses-free.

Dr. Steiner's downtown Anchorage office.

I’m almost there.  A couple months ago I tamped down my anxiety and saw an ophthalmologist for the cataracts taking up residence on the lenses of my eyes, and Thursday he dissolved the most-damaged and replaced it with an artificial, clear lens.

The whole thing was a piece of cake.  I mean the operation.   Nothing to fear at all but with my wild  imagination, you can understand why I wasn’t sleeping well before the surgery. 

The longest part of the procedure was signing all the paperwork.  The surgery itself took less than 15 minutes, but you know how time flies when you’re having fun.   I was awake, under the lovely effects of a sedative to be sure, but awake enough to ask questions and comprehend the answers.   One unasked question was answered without query:   they use a drug to keep the eyeball from rolling up in my head.   I been having day dreams about Dr. Steiner chasing my eye around in my skull.

I was anxious about “seeing” the operation.  All I saw was moving light, like watching a kaleidoscope.  I could actually “watch” the lens dissolving.  Utterly fascinating.   The worst part of the whole procedure?   The IV needle in the back of my right hand.   Two hours later, I was back in the condo where I would stay that night.

No pain from the eye at all, just an occasional mild ache and an itchy eyelid under the gauze and tape afterwards.  

Right after the surgery, I'm a little wiped out from a sleepless night.

I have a bit of a black eye, just some bruising around the eye, and drops to continue for three weeks.   My vision, he says, will continue to improve for 30 days and hopefully I can get by with drug store-type magnifiers for reading.

Yeah, it's out of focus.  Hard to take a selfie up close.  No, my pupil isn't duplicating itself. 

Right now, I’m impressed and excited about the second half of my birthday present when the left eye will be done on Dec. 5.

There is one thing, though.  That lens with the cataract?  Until Thursday, I still had all my OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts, other than some teeth.   Appendix, tonsils, they were all still here.  I now have an alien part inside me.  It’s a strange sensation and I’ve been wondering what heart transplant (and others) think about that.

Yeah, there’s that imagination of mine again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

John F. Kennedy

May 29, 1917-November 22, 1963

I remember

-voices from the radio with words like “motorcade” and “Dallas” and “pronounced dead.”

-wanting to cram those words back into the radio, then turn it off so they couldn’t escape.

-a pink suit splashed with blood.

-being late for work that morning, in bondage to a radio and its awful truth.

-losing hope.

In those days, the voting age was 21.  I was looking forward to voting for President Kennedy for reelection.   I turned 22 the day after he died.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

Less than two minutes long, yet so eloquent it is remembered today as one of the finest speeches ever made, Lincoln commemorated those who had lost their lives in the Battle of Gettysburg one hundred and fifty years ago today.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Saturday, November 16, 2013


There's a story in here somewhere.   I just haven't found it yet.

While the muse works on that, the Thanksgiving Cactus appears to be right on schedule.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"What do you do?"

"What do you do?" asked my doctor during my recent annual physical checkup.   "I want to assess your capacity for exercise."

Well, I ....   Uh....

Halibut fishing Cook Inlet, Alaska

Talkeetna Mountain moose hunt, Alaska

Mule ride in Grand Canyon, Arizona

Relaxing boat ride, Queenstown, New Zealand

Horse ride in Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

Camel ride, Outback, Australia

Uluru, Outback, Australia

Luge run, Queenstown, New Zealand

Cleaning litter from barrel of WWII cannon, Yakutat, Alaska

Snow machine ride, Yellowstone National Park, Colorado

Rock climb, Caribbean Ship, Alaska

Litter bag 801, Seward Highway, Alaska

Great Wall of China

Sampan, tributary of Yangtze River, China

On the tundra, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Carrying the mail from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, AZ

Hot air balloon, Alice Springs, Australia

Yakutat Bay, Alaska

Kizhi Pogost, Russia

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xi'an, China

Exiting Potola Palace, Lhasa, Tibet

Start of 26 mile hike, Resurrection/Devil's Creek trail, Alaska

Along the Rhein River, Germany

Canals of St. Petersburg, Russia

ATV riding north of Denali National Park, Alaska

And after that, I.....

target practice

Communing with the penguins, Fortuna Bay, South Georgia Island

A few bags of litter

Salmon fishing, Kenai River, Alaska

Salmon fishing

Firewood detail

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Keyhole, Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona

Cathedral Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Resurrection trail, Alaska

Following Holly, Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii

Sanding,refinishing one wall of my house.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Yangpo River boat trip, Tibet

A boat like this one, Tibet

I was on the top floor of the Potola Palace.  A big climb at 12,000 ft.

Chasing a bear away from my neighbor's

Bike ride

Cleaning up litter from Tern Lake

Once I catch my breath, I...

Litter pick up

More litter

Exit Glacier hike, Seward, Alaska

Exit Glacier Park, Seward, Alaska

DOT cut trees at Jerome Lake (after photo)

We cleaned it up

Firewood detail

Sanding the house

Penguins, Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Turnagain Pass, Alaska

Then, in the evening, I relax by....

Kayak, Tern Lake, Alaska

Floating the Kenai River, Alaska

Kayaking at midnight, Tern Lake, Alaska

 Then, I'm kind of tired, so I.....

Hugging Hugo, Kuranda Rainforest, Cairns, Australia

Then I'm beat!