I was going to write a post about my current top ten favorite TV shows, then I realized that there aren’t ten TV shows currently running that are worth watching. You know the old saying, “Hundreds of stations and still nothing to watch.” Turns out it’s true.
I blame the dearth of decent TV on the advent of reality TV. Ninety percent of them are pure crap, the other ten simply bearable. Yet networks and cable wonder why they are losing viewership. In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you I only have expanded basic, so I don’t receive any of the premium channels.
So, what are my top ten five favorites?
Elementary – what I really like about this show is the interplay and the development over time of the relationships between the characters. Johnny Lee Miller makes a fabulous Holmes, and I enjoy Lucy Liu as Watson. I find it a refreshing change to have a woman cast in that role. I also like that no one is a buffoon, as Watson and Lestrade (Gregson in this incarnation) are so often portrayed.
NCIS – I still put this in my top five, but I fear NCIS is getting a bit long in the tooth. What makes this show work is the wonderful chemistry the cast seems to have. It will be interesting to see if it holds up with the departure of Ziva (Cote de Pablo). In the past the writing has been outstanding, but of late the writers seem to be struggling to come up with new ideas. As I said, a bit long in the tooth.
The Big Bang Theory – I think this is just flat out funny, but then being a geek, I’ve always enjoyed geek humor. I only catch it now and then, but I do enjoy it when I do.
CBS Evening News – I try to watch the news daily simply because I think it is the civic duty of any good citizen to stay informed. I find the CBS rendition the least biased of the three networks.
Grim – I only started to watch this because my wife and daughter were early devotees. They never missed a show for the first two seasons. I know it well enough to follow the premise, and I enjoy the characters. My favorite character is Monroe, but then I’ve always been partial to werewolves.
I have some off-season favorites too. These include Longmire which ranks right up there with Elementary as my favorite, Perception which is sometimes a bit of a stretch, and Psych which is just plain wacky. Given the CBS News as a constant, that makes four shows worth watching in the off season.
Now remind me again, why do I have cable?
My instructions were clear.
Only go to houses with the front light on.
Always keep your sister within sight.
Don’t cross the streets.
Stay on our block.
Say thank you.
Trick-or-treating in our neighborhood starts around twilight for the little kids, and sometimes lasts as late as nine o’clock for the bigger ones. My sister and I were of that in-between age, she being seven, and I a very mature ten. She was still too young to go out on her own, so I was tasked with the burden of being her escort.
I was of two minds on the matter. On the one hand it made me feel important, and I took my responsibility seriously. On the other hand, what ten-year-old wants to be saddled with their kid sister on the coolest night of the year? If my parents were the audience, it was the worst burden they could have possibly dreampt up, pure and simple. Out of their purview, I pretty well strutted with self-import, and tried to boss Molly around as if it were my divine right.
Not wanting to be confused for a little kid I insisted on waiting until five-thirty to roll around, much to Molly’s protestations. Five-thirty was what my friends, Tim Morgan and Bill Taylor, and I had set as an acceptable departure time. By then many of the little ones were already being shepherded home by their over-protective parents.
Halloween night of ’05 was all one could ask for. The weather was warm and dry, the sudden cold snap at the start of the week past, with only the lightest of breezes to stir the air – no jackets were necessary.
We all gathered down at Bill’s back gate. Tim looked none too happy, for while I was encumbered with Molly, he had it worse – his twin sisters, Mary Ellen, and Tabby were in his care. Bill, on the other hand, looked pleased as punch. He was the youngest in his family, and this was the first time he was allowed to do the rounds on his own.
The six of us – me as Albert Pujols in my Cardinals jersey and cap, Molly as a witch à la Hogwarts, Tim a hobo as he was every year, his sisters as Kim Possible and Dora the Explorer, and Bill as a pirate – headed out, intent on making the best haul ever.
Our block, though not particularly long, is known to be generous. Another factor going for us, Crestview Court – the short cul-de-sac bisecting the back side of our block – adds another nine houses to our route without requiring us to cross a street. So, despite our parents’ rules, we had a good chance of meeting our goals.
We did our own street, Brookdale, first. Unfortunately, we made old lady Carter our first stop. Valuable collection time was lost while she puzzled out who we were. In the end Mary Ellen and Tabby stumped her. They had to say who they were, and then had to go into a long explanation detailing the exploits of Kim Possible and Dora the Explorer. Still, it was my first chance to try out my home grown joke, and I delivered it with gusto.
“How many Cubs does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
Mrs. Carter stared at me for a moment before making the obligatory response. “I don’t know. How many?”
I started cracking up before I even delivered the punchline. “No one can remember, they haven’t done it since 1908!” My laughter subsided as I realized Mrs. Carter was still staring at me as if waiting for the finish. “Get it?” I asked. “Since 1908.”
She smiled and said, “That’s funny,” in the most unconvincing way. All this, and all we got was a lousy fun-sized plain chocolate bar.
Fortunately the rest of our street made up for it. Green Meadow, being the cross street was pretty much a wash. There are only two houses on it, and the Stewarts’ porch light, as always, was off.
By the time we got halfway down Woodcrest our bags were actually getting pretty heavy. Tim looked longingly across the street at the Turner’s well lit house. Word had it that the Turner’s went all out, gave full-sized candy bars, and had a great haunted house setup in the basement.
“Let’s check out the Turner’s this year,” Tim suggested.
“We can’t cross the street,” Molly said.
“It’s not busy. Let’s go.”
I was all for it, but Molly said she’d tell mom if we did.
“We’ll we’re going,” Tim decided for himself and his sisters. He was determined. He was also drawn by the fact that he had a major crush on Jenny Turner. “You coming?” he asked Bill.
Bill looked torn, but in the end decided to stick with us. Tim and the twins gave a quick look both ways and then dashed across the street and disappeared into a crowd of about a dozen other kids heading up the walk.
The three of us continued on and soon came to the corner of Woodcrest and Crestview Court. Of the nine houses only three had on lights. Bill suggested we skip it as not worth the effort, but Molly insisted we do the circle. After a good deal of wheedling she got her way.
The last house we came to with the light on looked a bit unkempt and Bill suddenly lagged behind.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“Oh, nothing. I just don’t want to… That’s old man Henderson’s place.” I didn’t know much about old man Henderson expect he seemed to be lonely and walked a tired old black lab every day. I shrugged. “He’s kind of creepy,” Bill went on. “They say he killed his wife and keeps her in a rocking chair, like in that movie.”
“He did not!” Molly retorted. “He’s a nice old man, and Bo is a really nice dog.” She started down the walk.
“Molly, wait!” I reached for her, but she jerked out of my grasp and darted to the door. Before I could stop her she rang the bell.
What could I do but follow her onto the stoop? I looked back, and Bill stood there at the end of the walk, neither coming nor leaving. Distracted as I was, I nearly jumped when the front door jerked open. A warm orangish light washed out upon us.
“Trick-or-treat!” Molly shouted.
An old man in a red T-shirt and bluejeans stood on the other side of the storm door regarding our attire. A rolly-polly black lab stood just behind him, lazily wagging its tale. The man glanced aside, into another room, then slowly opened the door a crack.
“Trick-or-treat!” Molly shouted again, her eyes fixed on the black lab.
“Hello, Molly. Is it Halloween? I clear forgot.” He looked a bit perplexed. Then he opened the door wider to allow us to step in. I reached, but Molly was over the threshold before I could stop her. What could I do but follow her in?
The house had that vaguely sweet yet unpleasant odor reminiscent of the nursing home grandma was in. I glanced back out the door to see Bill standing resolutely at the curb.
Molly made straight for the dog, who nuzzled up to her warmly. They obviously knew each other well. Then she glanced into the other room and said, “Happy Halloween, Mrs. Henderson.”
That’s when I noticed the hospital bed. I took in a sharp breath when I saw a pale withered arm rise up and give a fluttery finger wave before dropping back down. The arm belonged to a gaunt old woman laying under several blankets. With a knit cap on her head only her pale arms and face were visible. Yet her clear blue eyes were very much alive, and she gave us a warm smile.
“I’ll see what I can rustle up,” Mister Henderson said, shuffling off toward the kitchen. As he did so Molly went over to visit with his wife, the dog tagging right behind her. I lingered by the door, undecided whether or not to bolt. As I fretted, Molly blithely related the adventures of our evening thus far and detailing her night’s haul. I was about to make a move to grab her when Mister Henderson came back into the room.
“This is all I could manage,” he said, almost apologetically. Molly joined us in the hallway and he dropped a full-sized chocolate bar into both of our bags. “So,” he said, “you have a joke for me?”
I told him my Cubs joke and he laughed heartily. Then he handed me another chocolate bar. “This one’s for your buccaneer friend out there,” he said, indicating Bill.
Old man Henderson watched us walk back out to the curb. When we got there Molly let out a gasp and turned back abruptly as if she forgot something. “Thank you!” she shouted down the walk toward the house.
In response Mister Henderson gave us a friendly wave. As we turned to go he closed the door, and front light winked out.
(c) 2013 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.
I made a pleasant discovered yesterday while trying to freshen the house. I boiled a cinnamon sick and some vanilla extract, mostly to help alleviate the sickbed smell the house has taken on of late. I added more water a couple of times. I had a pretty dark brew by the time I was done and wondered what it would taste like. I sampled it, and it wasn’t too bad. I added a couple of packs of Splenda, and it was actually pretty good.
Today I decided to try a variation on the theme and added five whole clove to the mix. I put them in one of those metal tea steeping balls to keep them from falling apart in the pot. The results were excellent. So here is my improved recipe:
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
5 whole cloves, in a steeping ball
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Place cinnamon sticks and cloves in a medium sized pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Let about 2 cups of water simmer away. Add two cups of cold water, and the vanilla extract and bring to a rolling boil. Let about two cups of water boil away once again.
Remove from heat, pour into a pitcher, and add two cups of cold water. Sweeten to taste. Good hot or cold.
I have been giving serious consideration to finally publishing my first Max Mann novella — Max Mann and the Black Widow. I finally have a cover concept I am happy with and thought I would bounce it off of you all to see what you think. This is a front and back cover for print. An ebook cover would be a slightly modified version of the right hand side of this graphic.
If the background is too dark I can adjust it to be lighter. I am also curious what you all think of the back cover blurb, both in terms of the text and if text over image works or not.
Max Mann and the Black Widow is a novella, so I was thinking of charging $5.95 instead of the more common $7.95. Does this price seem reasonable to you? Too high? Too low? I’m open to advice here as well. Thanks.
I am greatly indebted to Ken Thomas who has graciously released his photo of a black widow spider to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Other than that, Windows 8 seems fine.
Metro Apps are those funky looking boxes you see plastered all over the start screen, as shown in the graphic to the right. If your computer is touch sensitive they are just a finger tip away. The apps themselves seem OK, but apparently they only run in full screen mode, and when they lock up they pretty much lock up your computer.
I’ve only added a few of them, both games (solitaire and mahjong to be precise), and they both lock up a lot. The old standby, CTRL ALT DEL brings up the Task Manager menu, but since the game is in full screen mode the focus remains on the game, meaning you can’t actually use the Task Manager.
To make sure it wasn’t just me screwing up (been known to do that) I went to the old standby, Google, to search for something along the lines of “Windows 8 locks up.” Sure enough lots of people have the same problem. One post mentioned a work-around, which is to set the Task Manager attributes to be Always On Top. Have not given that a try yet, but it will probably work. Still, I should not have to implement a work-around for killing an app.
These glitches, Metro Apps locking up and the Task Manager problem, sort of take the glow off my brand new computer. I realize Windows 8 is new, but come on Microsoft, the Metro Apps represent your whole new computing paradigm, you best get it right. I anxiously await your update that will fix both these problems. But I’m not holding my breath.
PS, I also was unable to get screen capture to work, something I do a lot of on my old PC. Also Googled that, and supposedly it works just like I’d expect it to, but it doesn’t. I’ll let you know if I get it figured out. ~jon
Image from Microsoft under the Fair Use doctrine, for commentary, criticism, and reporting.
My friend, Estrella Azul, has a blog post up by the same title as this one. Her post is about the old Guardian survey of 100 famous books. You can pop over to her blog and see which ones she’s read and how many you have in common. But this is not that. Her title simply tickled my muse, and got me wondering about the literal answer to the question.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. It intrigued me in that it is set in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri. I’d head the author discuss the book on the radio, so when my book club selected it I was more than happy to nab a copy for my Kindle. It is about identical twins, both with physic abilities, and how a prediction one makes complicates the lives of both of them. I did enjoy it, but was left just a little disappointed.
To answer the question more directly, I am currently reading Boundary Waters, by Debra Easterling. I just stated it (still in Chapter One), so it is too early to have formed any opinions. The author spent many years in the Boundary Waters region, so I am looking forward to her description of the area.
I am also currently “reading” Campfire Songs, edited by Irene Maddox and Rosalyn Cobb. As the title suggests, this is a collection of old campfire songs, many of which bring back fond memories from my childhood. I put “reading” in quotes because I am actually just picking out the ones I know and singing my way through the book. My kids think I’m crazy. They’re probably right. Again, I’ve just gotten started and have refreshed my memories on: Get Along Little Dogies, Home On the Range, Red River Valley, and Streets of Laredo. I am embarrassed to say I had to go out to You Tube to find Streets in order to recall the tune. I was singing it to the same tune as Get Along. The words fit, but it sure sounds wrong.
Next up in the songbook is Amazing Grace.
So, to repeat the question, what are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments.
So, I was driving down Newport the other day when I see the cops have a tank pulled over. Wait? What? A Tank! Yes, a tank. Looks to be of the WWI variety to me, but I’m no expert. Sadly, all I had was my crappy cell phone to take a picture with, but I could not pass it up. Neither could a lot of people, traffic was starting to build up as we each paused to take a picture. The policemen seemed to be enjoying themselves and surly had one to tell around the water cooler.
I just got a new shinny toy, a Toshiba Satellite P-55 running Windows 8. While not quite as warm and fuzzy as a new puppy, it’s still exciting, and it doesn’t pee on the carpet. Like a new puppy, it sort of gives me a warm glow inside.
I desperately needed a new computer for some time now. My old Dell, may it rest in Hell, was giving me fits. It had gotten to the point that the only web browser that worked was Opera. I have nothing against Opera, but it is not the browser of my choice.
The Dell from Hell had other significant quirks – it took forever to boot and shut down; Acrobat Reader would only work with Protected Mode Disabled (whatever the heck that means); Opera would not open a PDF (great fun when trying to print your Turbo Tax returns), software would occasionally just shut down. But the single biggest annoyance was the flaky touch-pad, which would randomly reposition the cursor while typing. For a writer, that’s a big deal, particularly if you don’t notice it right away.
I ran that dog through all sorts of virus scans, disk defragging, and diagnostics, but nothing helped. It is my belief that the Registry had simply gotten so out of whack over time that the system needed to be wiped and reinstalled. Since distribution DVDs were not included with the purchase, rebuilding was not really an option.
Like a puppy, this new laptop does need some house training. Right now I’m playing around with the Windows 8 Metro interface. I have heard horror stories about it, but they seem to be overblown. It takes a few minutes, and maybe two or three YouTube video tutorials to get around, and you can always just go to the desktop. My current desktop looks an awful lot like my old desktop, so I’m happy.
My first download was Chrome (trying to make the leap from Firefox, the jury is still out), followed by LibreOffice (I’m a writer, a need a writing app!). Then I had to get Solitaire, and Mahjong (both free Metro apps) for some down time.
Next I’ll need to move my iTunes library (another YouTube tutorial), and get a decent graphics app. I’ve been using PaintShop Pro since version 3, but feel like it is getting a bit long in the tooth. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.
If you’ve been contemplating a new PC, but dreading the move to Windows 8 quit fretting – YouTube cures all.
Oh, and that old Dell? Can you say Ubuntu?
In the spirit of the holiday I am reposting this one from several years ago. I liked it then, and I still like it now. Happy 4th, everyone.
Usually Maggie Walton would go down the block with her best friend, Ross Little, and the rest of the neighborhood gang to watch the big Forth of July parade proceed down Jefferson. After the parade they would head for the annual Freedom Fest Picnic and spend hours on rides and playing carnival games. Ring toss was her favorite. Then home for barbecue with the Littles, and the big fireworks display, which they could see just fine from their own back yard.
None of that would happen today. Well, maybe the barbecue and fireworks, since they were enjoyed from home. But nothing else. Maggie was grounded.
An hour before the start of the parade her father sternly reminded Maggie that she was not to leave the premises. At nine o’clock she wandered out to the front yard and stood at the very corner of their lot, to peer down the half block towards Jefferson, where the crowd was gathering. Neighbors and friends passed by on the sidewalk and she declined several invitations to join them. She was surprised that her grounding was not common knowledge, and somewhat deflated in that realization.
By nine-fifteen she could hear the distant thrum of the marching band, and the occasional scream of the siren from the old red fire truck that lead the parade. Soon she could pick out the tune the band was playing, and she saw the crowd tighten along the curb as people vied for better views. Now the music was loud and clear. The band was passing, blasting out Semper Fidelis, and for the most part stayed in tune. She could see the broad shining throats of the tubas swinging in step above the heads of the crowd that otherwise blocked her view. The band passed, followed by a parade of cars and pickup trucks which she could not see, though she could see groups of people drift by, standing and waving to the crowd from the backs of those pickups. Some were in costumes of various kinds: old man Heinz done up as Abe Lincoln, a few veterans, assorted throw backs from history, but mostly just plain old townsfolk waving energetically to their fellow citizens.
Her attention peeked a little, then her spirits sank even more when the truck carrying the VIPs passed. The mayor waved magnanimously, as several volunteers tossed candy into the crowd. Kids, for the most part, surged forward to snatch up as much of the sweets as they could. Maggie would end up with none of it. She sat down on the curb, dejected.
After a bit she became aware that people were passing by, now heading home. The parade was over, and the crowd was breaking up. She turned and saw Mr. and Mrs. Feldon passing behind her. She returned their nod politely. Then Ross came rushing up the street, holding his shirt like a basket. He spotted her, and veered over to where she sat. He plopped down beside her and dumped the contents of his improvised basket onto the grass between them.
“It was a great parade, Maggie,” he puffed, still catching his breath. “Too bad you couldn’t come.” He looked at the candy and nodded. “I got candy for both of us. Even steven.”
“No kidding?” She sat up with brighter spirits.
“Sure. It’s my fault you got grounded. Well sort of.” He had lured her away from her chores last Saturday, after all.
They began to split up the candy 50/50, each taking a turn at picking what they wanted. It was mostly unbranded bulk stuff, but there were a few bite sized candy bars, which got picked rather quickly. They were in the midst the divvying up process when they became aware of someone standing in front of them.
Brian McMartin stood just off the curb in the street, at their feet. He looked down at them, a contemptuous smile on his face. “Giving your girl friend some candy, Ross?” he taunted.
“Shut up, Brian,” Ross growled.
“Why don’t you kiss her?” Brian gibed.
“Just go away!” Maggie urged, shaking her head in disgust.
Brain took a step closer, looming threateningly over Ross. “Who’s going to make me? Little Ross?”
Ross jumped to his feet, spilling his candy on the curb. Brian gave him a slight shove before he had steadied himself and Ross fell over in a sprawl. He scrambled to his feet again, but not before Maggie was standing in front of Brian, fists clenched and ready to fight.
“Oh, so your girl friend does your fighting for you, huh, Little Ross?” Brain cackled.
Before Ross could shove Maggie aside Mr. Walton stepped out of the front door and began to fiddle with the garden hose. He casually looked over to the kids. “Morning Ross. Brian. How was the parade?”
Brian suddenly needed to check his shoe laces and muttered some inaudible reply as he bent to attend to them. Mr. Walton pulled on the hose to line the sprinkler up so that it would reach the garden under the bay window. By the time he looked up again Brian was gone, wandering off down the street. He gave Maggie a wink, looked up at the clear sky, and said, “Fine day, isn’t it?”
© 2009, 2013 by J. M. Strother – all rights reserved.