Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Boy, A Ship & A War - Book Review

I think that perhaps the best place to begin is the part of the story that comes after the story.  Paul Harvey used to call this ‘the rest of the story’.

“On the evening of July 7, 2010, my wife Marie and I were traveling in New York State between Sidney and Unadilla on Route 7. We stopped at a small place called Country Motel to spend the night. Both Marie and I went into the office where we were greeted by an older lady.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, we would like a room,” I said.
She looked up at my hat and asked "Were you in World War II? My husband was in that war. He was a Marine on a LST in Okinawa. His ship was hit by a Kamikaze and he had to jump into the water. He was in there for hours!”
"Don't tell me the LST was number 884!” I exclaimed.
She was shocked. She said, "How did you know that number?”
I explained, “My ship picked up all the Marines from that ship.”
(Excerpt taken from The Tidewater Review, November 10, 2010)
That is the epilogue to the story, and it took place sixty-five years later. 
The story begins in December, 1943, when high school drop-out Claud Aldrich, whose availability and age did not go unnoticed by Uncle Sam, was drafted into military service.   Claud wanted to be a Marine, but the drafting quota for Marines was full.  Given the choice, Claud chose Navy.  What follows is a journal of the life of a seasick young man in a tin can called the USS Van Valkenburgh, a brand spanking new Destroyer named for the Captain of the USS Arizona who dent down with his ship in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor the morning December 7th, 1941.  It is the almost daily journal of his life as Torpedo’s Mate Third Class in a voyage that began and ended in South Carolina, and records a journey of over 75,000 miles, two oceans, thousands of ships and aircraft, hundreds of thousands of men, and the largest sea battle in history.
It is told from the point of view not of a professional journalist, novelist or historian, but rather from the perspective of a brave, if frightened young man who gave over two years of his young life in defense of his country in the cramped quarters of a floating speck on an endless sea.
I’m a book critic.  It is my job to attack a book, whether novel or non-fiction, and scour it to pick at the nits.  Aldrich made my job easy.  He is not a polished professional writer.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the deadline.  I started to see a war waged before my birth through the eyes of a man who survived it.  Suddenly, page by page, the nits became less and less an issue as I got caught up in a mind game where my heart was begging for T/M 3c Claud Aldrich to survive, even as my head kept reminding me that of course he survived.  He wrote the bloody book, you fool!
I found myself finishing the short seventy-nine page read in about an hour, and discovered when I reached the end that my eyes were leaking and I wanted nothing more than to stand up, reach out, take Torpedo’s Mate Third Class Claud Aldrich, USNR, American Hero by the hand and thank him.
Claud’s book, A Boy, A Ship & a War, ISBN: 0-9690242-6-9 is published by Books to Believe In Press and Thornton Publishing, Inc. And is available online and from the publisher, at Amazon.com, and in the Tampa Area at Barnes & Noble.  Four stars and my gratitude to the author and his mates.
By the way, ‘Bob’, the marine rescued in the excerpt at the beginning of the review?  His rescue is on page thirty-five.

November the Last

How the year has flown
and the seasons changed,
not as much from what they are
as from what they were
and how I remember them.

Winter should be cold,
filled with laughing children
throwing snowballs
and giggling as they ride
plastic garbage can lids
at breakneck pace
down an icy white hill.

Spring should be fresh and new,
the rebirth of nature,
the awakening of the frost weary spirit
to the sounds of birds,
the smell of flowers,
and the promise of things to come.

Summer should be hot, humid and stormy,
filled to overflowing with picnics,
fireworks, and echoes of ‘Play Ball’!

Autumn, the most regal of the seasons,
draped in an emperor’s array of endless color,
celebration, harvest moons and hard cider,
should be the crowning glory of the marching year.

It’s what I remember, and how it should be,
yet this year; this season; seems all so much
more and more of the same old, same old.
Depressing, tedious shadows of things
that once were, way back in the past
recalled today, November, the last.

Monday, November 29, 2010

More than You Want to Know

I think it’s a part of some sinister government plot.  I fully expect to read that this is one of the CLASSIFIED top secret Black Ops that Wiki-Leaks is only now revealing to the world.  This is the one that has Nancy Pelosi running for the comfort of her borrowed Gulfstream – the one California taxpayers are paying for with the money they’re collecting from small business owners who make mistakes when filing payroll tax reports.
It involves them A-rabs too!  Muslim Extremists.  Allie Snackbar and all them other terrorists.
It starts with the new national health care program.  This is the tool the guv’ment snoops are using to creep their nosey little slimy selves into every nook and cranny of our private lives...not to mention our privates!
It’s true!  CNN and Fox announced it yesterday.
Microsoft says it’s the most invasive program ever.
Al Gore discovered it.
Snopes confirmed it last week.
Facebook says 93% of the people who hear about it won’t pass it on!
I’m telling you, it’s downright scary.  If it weren’t for them folk over at WikiLeaks and  Fox News, we’d never know.
First, they send you to a doctor who does a physical examination more invasive and revealing than a TSA undercover democrat singling out God Fearing, Republican voting Patriots trying to visit Gramma for Thanksgiving.
That’s when they get you!
They send you out for a little ‘lab’ work, which they secretly use to type and match you to the Conservative DNA database.  The piece de resistance is the pooh smear, an indignity which they require you to perform on yourself on successive days,  thereby effectively keeping you from spreading the word while you’re spreading something far more ominous on their magic little smear card.  A microscopic scrap of cloneable stem cell  materials encased in protective pooh which they can later genetically engineer to produce an evil, Acorn supporting version of you.
Naturally, something microscopically ‘suspect’ comes back, so they send you for a referral to the undercover third world geneticist, who says you need a small ‘procedure’- for your own good.
Their minions all nod wordlessly in agreement, smiling as you sign your future away.
They send you home with a solution you must use allegedly to flush the free radicals and random bits of pooh from your system, when in fact the solution is filled with billions of microscopic nannites which begin the process of transforming themselves into battery acid, and taking over your body.  You are denied sustenance for 24 hours because they know food has the power to disrupt the invisible robotic devices now swimming freely throughout your system, building tiny implant stations in your large intestines and colon.
Finally they lure you to the implant station where they anesthetize you and snake tiny cameras throughout your digestive tract.  You wait for two hours in a food and coffee filled room to soften you up while they ‘find’ your misplaced paperwork.
They tell you that they are looking for anomalies, but the truth is that they are making certain that the nano-probes are in place, effectively awaiting the microwave radio command to begin your transformation which will suddenly come bursting through your chest and attach itself to someone’s face to begin the takeover.. 
Finally, when you are filled with microscopic GPS locators and genetic sculpting material, they wake you up, hand you a bill and tell you to return to your normal life, but the damage is done.
Somewhere, somehow, sometime in the future, they will unleash the terror, and you will be one of them.
I know this all sounds like delusional paranoia, or at best, bad script writing for a new Rick Berman Star Trek series, but it’s true.  Every word of it.
I know.  I am now a bearer of ‘the seed’.  They have a code name for it that was leaked at the WikiLeaks site yesterday before the storm troopers stormed it and shut it down.  Memorize this word.  It’s your only means or escape and survival.
The word is ‘colonoscopy’.  Destroy all copies of this communication.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Little Sistah!

My family holds the rights for two months;  April and November.  Both of my children, a brother, one of my grandchildren, and others were born in April.  Two brothers and a sister were born in November.  Today is my baby sister Kathleen Mary (Kat)’s birthday.  She is, um, younger than me.  Let’s leave it at that, shall we?  Some things are better left unsaid, some secrets better left untold.

It’s funny, when you think about it.  I was the oldest of eight.  I am now the eldest of the seven who remain.  There were five boys and three girls. Back, say forty years ago, she would have had a conniption fit if I called her ‘baby’ sister.  If you’ve never seen one, you don’t want to.  It’s not a pretty sight.  Think of the scene in the Exorcist where Linda Blair is all pimply faced, green, spewing ectoplasm and her head turns completely around and you get a hint of what a well pitched conniption looks like.  Just saying.
No, my baby ‘sistah’ doesn’t look like that at all.  I’m just trying to paint a picture of what things were like once upon a time.  You were risking serious bodily harm at the hands of this skinny little sprite if you called her your ‘baby’ sister.
That has all changed.  Today I noticed her Facebook greetings ranged from ‘little sister’ (our brother) to ‘old lady’ (our niece).  No one bats an eyelash.  But I remember when things were different.
I remember the sister with the curly hair ironing it to make it straight, and the sister with the straight hair wrapping it around orange juice cans and dipping it in epoxy to get it to hold a curl, or at least a wave.  Unless you’re ‘of a certain age’, you probably think orange juice only comes in plastic bottles.  I remember when the most economic way to get it (short of stealing oranges from a grove) was to buy it frozen in little cans, dump it in a pitcher and add three cans of water, effectively reconstituting it.  Here’s a secret.  Read the label on your juice bottle.  If it doesn’t say ‘fresh squeezed, never frozen’, you’re still getting it that way.  Someone else is just adding the water for you, but that’s another story.
We were talking about Kat.  Today is her birthday.  She’s all grown up, married with children, and living in Tennessee.  She talks funny, but I guess that’s just Tennessee rubbing off on her.
She may or may not pitch a conniption when she reads this.  If she does, well, I live almost a thousand miles south of her and should only get the shock-wave, which will have dissipated  considerably by time it gets here.
Besides – little sis – you wouldn’t hit a cripple old man with a cane would you?
Anyway, Happy Birthday, ‘baby sistah’.  Love you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

‘Twas the night before….no, that’s not the one.
Tomorrow morning, go outside and watch to see if the turkey sees its shadow – if it does, there will be six more weeks of leftovers…nope, not that one either.
Hot dogs, sparklers, fire crackers…Mmmmmm no.
Baskets – check.  Plastic grass – check.  Copious supply of Bertie Bott’s every Flavor Jelly Beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies – check…I’m missing something here.
Over the river and through the woods…perhaps.
Floats,  Santa arriving, food and the Dallas Cowboys.  Nah – it’s got to be something else.
Pumpkins, scary costu… No. Something else.  I’m sure it will come to me eventually.
While I’m trying to figure it out, I suppose I could do some preparatory work on tomorrow’s dinner.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed taters, sweet taters,  green beans, corn, you know the routine, and it seems somehow connected to whatever it is I’m not remembering.
While I’m working on that part of this, a brief history lesson.
Four hundred years ago, England of the 17th century had the potential to be a most uncomfortable place under the right set of circumstances.
The stranglehold that the Holy Roman Catholic Church and that of its leader, Pope Gregory IV over the British Isles and the peoples therein was coming under attack from primarily two fronts. James Stuart, the first of his line, was becoming more and more dissatisfied with the oppression of the church, and was active in forcing a new state religion, Anglican, on the peoples of Great Britain, and an additional anti-papist/anti-Church of England group – the Protestants, or Puritans, began to assert itself.  This latter group was itself under persecution by both Rome and the crown, both of whom used their authority to execute protestants declaring them to be traitors, heretics, witches or some combination of the three, and leading many of them to flee to Leiden, the Netherlands, where at least in the beginning they were afforded a cursory degree of religious freedom.
On September 6th or 16th, 1620, depending whether you measure time by the Julian or Gregorian calendar, the Mayflower, peopled by a crew of 25-30 plus 102 passengers departed Plymouth, England, for a destination near the Hudson River in what was then called ‘Northern Virginia’, arriving sixty six days hence near Cape Cod Massachusetts; a location that would become known as Plymouth Rock.  Driven off course by a storm, the tiny ship arrived on November 11/21, 1620, with only one less passenger than when it departed England 66 days earlier.  Two died on the crossing, and one baby was born making it a net loss of only one.  After riding out the harsh New England winter aboard the ship in living quarters roughly the size of a modern volleyball court, the voyagers came ashore to build their settlement on March 21/31, 1621, sometime between 389 and 390 years ago.
Of the original 102 ‘Pilgrims’ and 25-30 crew, only 53 passengers and roughly 15 crew survived the harsh ship bound winter to establish the New England colony.  The following autumn, after being befriended by a local native American Indian tribe, and gathering the harvest of their first fresh planting season, the combined group held a feast of thanksgiving.  In 1863 President Lincoln declared that this would be an annual day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, and in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the national Day of Thanksgiving that holds until today – that of the fourth Thursday of November.
So here we are.  The day before the fourth Thursday of November, 2010.  Tomorrow will include the Macy’s Parade in New York City which concludes with the arrival of Santa in a large red sleigh, a veritable feast shared with family and neighbors, traditional Thanksgiving Day football games which Detroit will unexpectedly win and Dallas will manage to lose, and the newcomer with the Jets and the Bungles, and both CBS and USA will toss their regular Thursday night lineup just because they can.
At our table we will thank God for salvation, family, freedom and those who sacrificed to secure it, the feast of which we will partake, and the blessings with which we are daily showered by the grace of God.
And we will remember the words of Paul the Apostle from his first letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 10, beginning at verse 15:

“I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”

as well of those of David, son of Jesse, the shepherd who would become King, as he spoke in the 100th chapter of the book of Psalms:

“Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lions & Tigers & Wee Brown Beasties

I know I shouldn’t laugh – I really shouldn’t – but it was just so darn funny!


Kelsey
We have three beasties.  Kelsey is a Shiatsu whose age in dog years may be roughly that of dirt.  She’s cute, and even reminds me a wee bit of my Lhasa Apso, Oskar, when he was still alive.  Appearance is where the similarities end.   Oskar has the smartest animal I’ve ever seen, and a male, while Kelsey is female and dumber than a box of bricks.  On her really good days.
Ms. Skittle
Ms. Skittle is my rescue cat.  She’s a tiny longhair who appears to have been the runt of her litter, and looks part common tabby, and part mane coon.  She is quiet, cuddly when she wants to be, and cute as can be.  I’ve had her for just over seven years and she was a crying, shivering little bundle of fur about six weeks old when I found her balled up in a pile of leaves in an abandoned apartment patio.


Jazzy
Then there is the Jazzy cat.  We got Jazzy on 9/11, 2010.  That date should have been a warning to us.  Her favorite pastimes are sleeping, knocking over glasses of water, sleeping, eating the mutt’s food, sleeping, cutting some really nasty cheese, and sleeping.
Did I mention sleeping?
Ms. Skittle, matronly, mature beastie that she is, does not approve of the little upstart.
I say little only in the sense of age.  We were informed when we got the little dear that would be two in November.  The vet confirmed this, and she was about four feet long toenail to the tip of her tail fully stretched out and skinny as a rail.  I thought she looked like a door sock – you know one of those things you put on the floor to block a draft under the door?
We’re pretty certain her breed is Ninja Farting Cat.
This week, she discovered that she, too, can use the doggie doors.  At first we considered this a problem but were relieved of this concern because she always found her way back in, and when she’s outside, she drops her loads of hazmat materials outside.  This is a good thing.
Today she discovered her true cat-ness, and brought her pet human (Linda) a gift from the great outdoors: a very frightened three inch long Cuban brown anole.  They’re perfectly harmless, and the Jazz Cat didn’t hurt it, but it totally freaked Linda.


José
I retrieved the frightened lizard and returned it to the relative freedom of the front yard.  Linda is still shaking, and even threatened me with live spiders if I didn’t stop laughing.

Jazzy is grounded from the doggie door indefinitely.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

AVG SCAM Update

Last week I told you about my ongoing debate, if you can call it that – debates are generally two-sided – with AVG Technologies regarding my purchase of an upgrade to their highly regarded Internet Security Suite 2011.  If you missed that wee rant, you can find it here.
I’m pretty certain AVG Technologies has been taken over by the government.  That’s the only explanation that makes any sense, and that explanation is totally senseless.
Since AVG confirmed receipt of my money through PayPal at 10:22 am US Eastern time (GMT-5) in 10th November, 2010, I have sent them no less than a dozen replies for requests from them for the transaction information.  According to their web site, the product comes with a 100% satisfaction money back guarantee.
Tuesday, 16th November, 2010 at around 11:00 am local time AVG emailed me to say that an order had been processed to issue a refund, which should show up immediately in my Pay Pal account.
This morning I called AVG.  I was promptly and rudely informed that telephone technical support is available only as a pre-paid purchased option for home users.  When I tried to explain that this was a sales issue, not a tech support issue, she hung up on me and switched me to an automated message which provided the email address for technical support.
Also this morning I received two emails from AVG.  One of them explained that there is no record of my transaction – would I please forward this information to them (which I’ve done a dozen times a dozen times already), and at the same time bearing the same sent from return address and the same time stamp, two emails with a license number.
So, to make a long story even longer, in the same instance they deny any record of a transaction for refund purposes, but apparently have enough evidence of a transaction to send me a license number nine days after the fact.
The problem is that I don’t want the bloody license.  I want my money back.
I even tried asking in Klingon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amber Moon and the Rainbow Murders Book Launch and Signing


Announcing:

Chris Coad Taylor’s
BOOK LAUNCH PARTY


Amber Moon and the Rainbow Murders
Friday November 19, 2010
6:30 p.m.

PROGRESS ENERGY ART GALLERY
6231 Grand Blvd.
New Port Richey, Fl. 34652
Evening with the Author Night
Ms. Taylor will be reading from and signing copies of her new psychological thriller inspired by a 2003 crime in Tampa, Florida.  Admission for the event is free, and parking is both free and plentiful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

AVG Internet Security Suite 2011 SCAM

Most of the time when you come here, it’s to read my thoughts about the latest unknown writer whose work I’ve discovered and reviewed.  Your support of these authors helps get them recognized and their work discovered.
Today I’m telling a different story.
I have been an avid supporter and user of AVG Anti-virus software for years.  So many years, I honestly can’t remember when I first installed it, but it was probably in 2002 when I purchased my first laptop computer, because, frankly, Norton is a resource hog.  It is still a resource hog on a 64 bit 2 gig core 2 intel notebook.
Not so AVG 9.0 FREE.  This is what anti-virus software should be.  Sleek, fast, thorough, and not bog your system down for hours while it runs a scan.
I liked it so much I clicked the link on the desktop software to purchase the full Internet Security 2011 suite, which took me to an order page, where I placed my order using my PayPal account.
That was Wednesday Morning.  It is now Saturday morning.  I am still waiting for my license or a REFUND.
AVG had no trouble taking my money, but it seems they have all kinds of internal problems verifying that they took my money, and in fact, still have it.  I’ve sent them copies of the verification information three times.  I’ve filed a dispute with PayPal.  I’m still waiting.
To be perfectly frank, the internet security suite isn’t all that impressive.  It scans your computer, discovers literally thousands of ‘errors’, and when you click ‘fix’ you are taken to another web site to purchase the repair module – at an annually renewable rate.  I learned this by downloading the 30 day free trial for the internet suite.
On top of all that, unless you are making a business purchase, there is virtually no support.  It says right on their support page that email is your only support for even the purchased home user version of the software.
I once thought very highly of the Grisoft/AVG product.
Now, not so much.  Right now it looks more like a scam.  Right now, I’d say find something else before you make the mistake I made and get ripped off like I did.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trails - Part VII

How to count the days of my trail?
How to number the steps of my trial?
How to see whether triumph or travail
awaits me at my journey’s end?

I keep time the old way
with the speeding race
of Apollo’s chariot across the sky
and fix my position by the passing
of Polaris and Orion’s belt.

I drink when I thirst,
I eat when I hunger,
I rest when weariness overcomes me.
I carry on until the muse who prods
my restless bones with the electric sting of wanderlust
tells me I have arrived; my journey
into the unknown is complete,
the flight of driven fancy fulfilled.

The forest grows scant as I climb upward
in my southerly quest,
the maple, oak, and ask replaced
by long needled firs
and fragrant wax-green leafed
flowering bushes.
Wild raspberry gives way to huckleberry,
and as the valley deepens,
or perhaps it is the trail that rises,
the mist is my one constant companion.

I hear the approach of thunder.
The wind becomes itself a foe to be conquered
its weapons the blinding wash of torrential rain,
searing flash of laser bolts,
the explosive roar thunder and wind,
and the gun-shot rattle of frozen bullets
that strip the skin from tree and bush
and creature foolish enough to stare
into its raging face.

I hide, shivering and shuddering
from the tempestuous tantrum
in the belly of a hollowed pine
whose towering height
and gluttonous girth
have somehow managed
to withstand the maelstrom
as if by some unknown bit
of natural wisdom carried
to its slender green-tipped fingers
whispers into the shadows,
this, too shall pass.