Potpourri (unscented)

  • The weather forecaster(s) who predicted a lot of north Georgia snow yesterday were wrong–not that I’m complaining. There were a few flakes around, mostly two-legged.
  • Those who know a cat has adopted us want us to name it. Look, we’re already feeding him and trying to keep him warm. We’ve referring to him as OC (outside kitty) but people want something better.
  • My former publisher Vanilla Heart Publishing has closed due to health problems of the owner. 
  • I was happy to see that one of the first things President Biden said he wanted to achieve was unity. I hope he can do this and that the unity includes voters from all parts of the political spectrum–because if it doesn’t, we won’t really have unity will we?
  • This is not a good time to live in Texas or have anything to do with managing the state’s power grid.
  • Gosh, all the old “What’s My Line” shows are available to YouTube. Fun to see a few of them again after all these years.
  • As I discovered with “tennis shoes” some years ago, expensive hearing aids don’t last any longer than cheap hearing aids. So, I ordered another pair of the cheap ones and am happy to say I can hear what my wife’s talking about.
  • Rush Limbaugh has died. I never listened to his radio program because I didn’t agree with him. Yet, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone.
  • I keep wondering why my top post is an old one about graveyard dirt.  If you need to ask me about it, you’re probably going to get hurt. Just saying.
  • Serena Williams’ last tennis match aired at 3:00 a.m. No, I didn’t stay up to watch it. I do intend to watch her Australian Open match tonight against Osaka at 10:00 p.m.

  • I continue to work on my next novel, Weeping Wall, set in Glacier National Park. I seem to be writing slower than ever. Most be getting old.
  • Next week, I’ll be getting my semiannual anti-cancer shot. I don’t like the fact that it causes random hot flashes. Oh boy, I can hardly wait.
  • I’m currently reading a David Baldacci novel to take a break from Shuggie Bain which, though it’s well written, is filled with people who are messed up.

Malcolm

Saints and Sinners

The New York Times used to highlight the good and the bad of recent issues in a publication for employees only called “Saints and Sinners.” As a journalist, my father got a copy which I always enjoyed. That said, I’ve stolen the title for my own list of saints and sinners:

  • Sinner: Proud Boys. So far, they have nothing to be proud of.
  • Saint: Sarah Thomas officiating at the Super Bowl. First lady to do this.
  • Sinner: Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church for singing a ramped-up, styled-up rendition of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl rather than what Francis Scott Key wrote.
  • Saint: Amanda Gorman, for using poetry to inspire us all.
  • Sinner: U. K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for stonewalling another Scottish independence vote and for not bothering to comb his hair.
  • Saint: Dr. Fauci for trying to keep the national response to COVID on a realistic, science-based track.
  • Sinner: Rand Paul for running and serving as a Republican rather than as a Libertarian.
  • Saint: Helen Mirren just for being who she is.
  • Sinner: Various “anchors” on Fox “News.”
  • Saint:  Elizabeth Kolbert for writing Under a White Sky.
  • Sinner: Government of Pakistan for banning the Oscar-hopeful film”Zindagi Tamasha”
  • Saint: Hope, the SUV-sized UAE mission to Mars.
  • Sinner: Myanmar’s military coup that placed the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
  • Saint: The New York Times for a new documentary titled “Framing Britney Spears,” which has aired in the US.

Malcolm

Paying for a new intersection based on the needs of a business in a residential area

We live on a narrow rural road in an area zoned for farms and residences. We have complained numerous times about the grading/hauling business across the road because it lowers the value of our home to prospective buyers. The county isn’t listening.

Adding insult to injury is the fact the business brings heavy equipment into its compound via tractor-trailers that can’t make the turn onto our narrow road without dragging the trailer section through the right-of-way on three sides of the intersection. This creates a constant mudhole, one that certainly doesn’t help property values.

So for the past several weeks, the county has been “improving” the intersection by: (1) Putting in new drainage culverts, (2) Creating a wider section of the pavement so the tractor-trailers can turn without cutting across the grass, (3) And today, apparently widening the road several feet up the road from the T intersection.

We want to complain. But when we do, we get nasty e-mails from the illegal business that basically ask us why we’re causing trouble. We keep pointing out that the neighborhood isn’t zoned for business, much less industrial. They seem deaf to that concept and believe they have the right to do whatever they want on their own property.  And once the nasty e-mails have come and gone, the county lets the business keep operating.

So, everyone out here is paying higher taxes for road repair so an illegal business can keep operating. Yes, I know there’s a good-old-boy attitude out here that says it’s okay to sneak past the regulations whenever you can. But I draw the line when it harms a property owner’s neighbors.

We feel rather stuck because we need to get out of here but we’re not sure anyone will buy our property. When we had this house built, we played by the rules. It’s too bad the county doesn’t feel the same way about the nearby property owners.

Malcolm

P. S. If 10,000 of you will each buy all of my books, we might be able to escape this neighborhood. Just a thought.

This and That

  • Before I lived in the country, I always wondered why so many roadside mailboxes were messed up. Everyone said the cause was mailbox baseball, you know, driving down the road in a pickup and smashing mailboxes with a bat. Our mailbox has been busted twice, first by a semi-truck that was too big for the road pulling out and knocking it off with a side mirror. The second was the right-of-way mowers who ran into it with their tractor. Now I understand why some folks build brick structures that enclose their mailboxes. This time the thing is skewed and no amount of bending will twist it back into shape so the door will close. I guess I’m going to the hardware store tomorrow.
  • Another nice review from BigAl’s Books and Pals from another reviewer. Writers love this! Both reviewers liked the novel, but their approaches to the review were very different. And one of them is from the UK, and that means there are a big culture and dialect barriers she had to wade through–about like me trying to review J. J. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy which was filled with British slang that we don’t hear in the States.
  • Wow, both of our cars are working at the same time. One is a GM product and one is a Ford product. My wife and I grew up on opposite sides of the great divide between GM families and Ford families. We inherited the Ford at about the same time our 1997 Saturn finally stopped working a few years ago. We’re old school: that means we don’t buy foreign cars.
  • We watched an interesting Walter Winchell documentary on TV last night, wondering how many people today have a clue who that is. He was a real presence on radio, TV, and the newspapers when I was growing up. Hung out at the Stork Club (well!). Personally, I think he would fit in with today’s agenda-driven reporting.
  • My publisher and I are still waiting for the printer to get the colors right for the dust jacket for the hardcover edition of Fate’s Arrows. (The paperback is currently available in bookstores via their Ingram Catalogue.)
  • My wife made a quiche for supper and you can’t have any.

Malcolm

Everyone matters except who you’re with

The first time I learned how invasive cell phones can be, happened when we invited an old friend over to dinner. We had no sooner dished up the food, when his phone rang and he said, “I’ve got to take this.” I wish I’d said, “No you don’t.” So he talked for a while about unimportant things, without having enough sense to step into another room or outside, so we couldn’t talk to each other or, if we’d had multiple guests, to anyone else at the table.

I don’t know enough about cellphones to know whether there’s a way to call somebody that indicates whether the call is urgent or whether the call is just to chat. As an old codger, I think it’s rude when cell phone users allow incoming calls to take precedence over the people they’re talking to in person–unless there’s an “emergency” ringtone or symbol.

Years ago, I worked for a company in which managers and others were required to always answer their work cellphones. Picture this. Eight of us are having a department meeting while three of those attending are talking on their cellphones while the rest of us do what–sit and wait, I guess.

When it comes to family groups and friends, I don’t understand the point of meeting for dinner at an expensive restaurant if three or four of the people are busy texting rather than participating in the conversation. No wonder people say we’re all turning stupid: we’re not listening.

I often think we’re being heard. I invite you out for coffee to tell you about a problem, your phone rings, and you say, “I’ve to take this.” From what I can hear of your side of the conversation, it’s just chit chat. What I want to do is throw down enough money on the table to cover the bill and leave.

If I stay, what’s to be gained? The people who say “I’ve got to take this” are stealing time from the people they’re with, and discounting them as well. No wonder so many people feel alone and isolated in our brave new world of instant communication.

Malcolm

The Kindle version of Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel “Fate’s Arrows” will be on sale on October 4th for 99 cents.

Stormy Weather – thanks, Laura

Everyone and their brother has recorded “Stormy Weather” since Ethel Waters sang it at the Cotton Club in 1933. I like the song a lot. I also like stormy weather.

If you’re a fan of the Seth books, you know that those books suggest that the weather we experience is the weather we draw to us. I think this is true. However, I really need to finish mowing my yard and I can’t do that when the grass is wet. It’s been wet for weeks.

Now, a Cat-4 hurricane is coming ashore, after which it will pass just north of our house en route to the Atlantic where, perhaps, it will become a Cat-5 storm. In no way, do I want more stormy weather in our neighborhood. So, I’m blaming the whole mess on people in Texas.

Yes, I know, you probably didn’t realize that your upset about one thing and another drew Hurricane Laura to your doorstep. Please, if you need to do this again, keep the storm there rather than letting it escape just north of the Georgia/Tennessee line.

We’re already wet.

Malcolm

Never Let Your Parents Look at The Used Car You Want To Buy

When I was in high school, my parents agreed that the family chauffeuring, which included three paper routes, would go a lot more smoothly if I had a car. Used, of course, but no problem.

Two cars were in the running, both selling for $400:

The Car I Wanted

1959 Jag (Wikipedia Photo which looks a lot better than the used model I was looking at.)

The Car I Ended Up With

1954 Chevy (Wikipedia Photo)
  • The Jaguar was for sale by the owner; the Chevy was on the used car lot at a dealer. My parents thought the dealer option was a more reputable way to buy a car.
  • The Jaguar was a foreign car and we were basically a “General Motors Family.” Plus, the Jag had a manual transmission and the Chevy had an automatic transmission. (I learned to drive on cars with a manual transmission.) Automatic transmissions screamed middle class as opposed to screaming hot rod.
  • I never got a chance to tell the guy selling the Jaguar to drive like a grandma while showing us the car. No, he had to wind it all the way out in every gear. It was fast and loud and not the kind of sedate car my folks wanted me to be driving.
  • As it turned out, the Chevy had a lot of problems with it (used more oil than gas, wouldn’t always start (especially in North Florida’s “cold” weather), had one window that wouldn’t roll up, etc. We only kept the car several years before all of us were fed up with it. I’m sure the Jag was perfect and that I’d still be driving it today.
  • Using my experience: tell your folks you’ll go get something and for them not to worry about it. If they’re helping pay for it, agree upon a price and stick to it (to prove they can trust you).

My wife is amused that if this subject comes up, I’m still as ticked off about it now as I was at the time.

Malcolm

P.S. I’ve used that Chevy as one of the “bad characters” in my stories, aptly named “The Green Smoker.”

 

 

 

 

Would you live your life over again if you could?

When people ask this question, they usually want to know if you’d make the same career choices, marry the person you married, go to the same colleges, live in the same places, and become involved with the same hobbies and avocations. Of course, the only way you could live your life over and make changes would be having knowledge of what happened the first time through and then not doing any of the things that turned out badly.

I regret many of the decisions I’ve made, but when it comes to those that turned out badly, I know that even though the decision hurt me and/or others at the time, if I had done something differently, many of the good things in my life since then would disappear.

So many things over the course of one’s life often happen due to small and seemingly innocuous decisions. A man drives home from work a different way and gets t-boned in an intersection and ends up in the hospital. How do you predict that? Maybe he marries his nurse and lives happily ever after. Okay, the car wreck was bad but the marriage was good. What if he’d driven home the normal way without a car wreck. Would fate/luck/God made sure he met that nurse some other way?

When asked about living one’s life over in a different way, it’s easy to say “I wouldn’t have driven to work drunk and run over all those people” or “I would have told my friends I wouldn’t help them rob the bank which ended up with me in jail for twenty years.” Those things seem so obvious, it’s easy to see why somebody would leap at the chance to do things differently.

But how would you know which tiny choices would end up having wonderful or horrible consequences? That is, when a person goes out to eat at Restaurant A rather than Restaurant B, s/he doesn’t really see that choice as a defining moment. usually, it isn’t. But it could be.

When it comes down to it, I always say I’d live my life the same way that I have because it’s the devil I know. It might not have been all Champagne and roses and millions of dollars in the bank, but those things don’t guarantee happiness or that some cruel catcher in the rye might jump out of the shadows if I were to change the smallest thing.

The question of would you or wouldn’t you becomes more tangled than quantum theory with so many variables and connections, I don’t think our brains could handle living our lives over to make them come out better.

The big, bad decisions are easy to focus on and think about changing. But I believe our character and our chosen destiny for this life come out thousands of “smaller” decisions that don’t seem world-changing when we make them.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat”

 

Random and Unrelated Thoughts

  • Okay, where did y’all come from? You know who you are. You’re one of the one hundred people who stopped by this blog in the last 24 hours. This is a niche blog: that means it’s an acquired taste like anchovies and Finnegans Wake. So, when a lot of people show up, my first thought is: “What the hell happened?” Frankly, I think the FBI, CIA, and NSA have something to do with it. If so, I’ll never tell where the secret files are hidden. If not, then thanks for reading.
  • I saw another ad on a writers’ newsletter this morning that basically said, “Dear writer, You’ve poured your heart and soul into writing a novel, shouldn’t you take the next step and hire a professional editor?” Sure, this could help. The thing is, if a BIG NEW YORK PUBLISHER has bought the MS, they’ll edit it. If not, your editing will cost more than my self-published book can earn. How do I make up the difference?
  • If you have a job and take a vacation to go on the TV show “Survivor,” what are odds that job will still be there if female contestants accuse you on the air of being too touchy-feely, you get warned, and then later you’re removed from the program for an off-camera incident that involved (apparently) a “Survivor” staff member? I’m not sure why I still watch this show because it’s rather like a soap opera and, like other reality shows, isn’t as real as it appears.
  • Regardless of one’s political beliefs, it’s really hard to watch the online coverage of the impeachment hearings without a heavy dose of heroin. I suppose it’s possible that those participating have an opioid IV hooked up to themselves to make sure they get through it all without going nuts.
  • Near the end of the year, every nonprofit that I’ve ever cared about sends me an e-mail that says. “Hey Malcolm, an anonymous donor has agreed to triple match every dollar you give before the deadline of December 18th. I want to ask, “Why is there a deadline?” and “Where the hell am I suppose to get the money to donate $25 to several dozen charities?” I usually send each charity a copy of one of my books so they can sell it (ten years down the road) for $1000000 on eBay.
  • The two books on my Christmas list are Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea and Dora Goss’ The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl.  I hope Santa has me on the “nice list.”
  • We’re having beef stew for supper tonight. I dislike Port wine, but it really works well in the stew.
  • I have a feeling that once I upload this post, I won’t have a hundred visitors in the next 24 hours.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novel “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover editions.

 

Oops, a friend’s e-mail was hacked and the hacker tried to scan me out of $$$

I got an e-mail from a friend this morning asking if I could do her a favor.

“Sure.”

She responded, “I’m traveling and need somebody who can pick up some iTunes cards for my daughter.”

I had no idea what those were, so I asked where they could be purchased.

Apparently at a grocery store or drug store. The thing was, she wanted three $100-cards and provided instructions for how to e-mail the card’s number (or whatever).

$300?

If she had asked for a $25 card, I might well have done it. But three cards at $100 each? I don’t have that kind of money even with her promise to pay me back when she got back home.

It was a scam. Her e-mail had been hacked, she told me, in an e-mail later in the day.

I told her the scammer was greedy and thought I’d send $300 worth of stuff. Apparently, the hacker changed her address for replies in a way that was hard to detect. I might have sent $25 and never known she had nothing to do with the request.

We apparently have to remain constantly vigilant!

–Malcolm