Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal Cliff

I wonder where the mothers of our so-called national leaders are. It is time for the children we call Congress to be taken to the woodshed.

Oh. Sorry. I forgot that some do not believe in corporal punishment. That is a debate for another day.

How about they forgo some pay and benefits? Like the medical care that is the envy of working stiffs. That might get their attention.

That attention that should have started the day after the election. And the whole thing should have been worked out weeks ago, not with hours to go.

Congress knew that the Bush-era tax cuts would expire at the close of 2012. They also knew that across-the-board spending cuts were going to kick in as well. Hey, they are the ones who voted in this “cliff” so they would get moving.

Did they? No.

I am sick and tired of Congress and the President “punting” problems to later dates. We elected them to fix the problems that come up. If a plumber does not fix my drippy sink, I fire him or her. I do not pay unless the work is done. And I will complain if the work breaks down shortly after she or he left.

I am complaining now. It is time to stop the “He hit first/She pulled my hair” that the toddlers in Congress are yelling.

It is time for us, the electorate, to step in.

Here comes Mom.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Gift of Stoppage Time

The Gift of Stoppage Time

Mark Vincent Lincir

This book was provided by Goodreads First Reads.

Niko, a was-been soccer player, is content to drift through life. Until he finds himself organizing a rag-tag soccer game for a dying friend.

It’s a good premise. BUT Lincir ruins what could be a magical story with two things: Use of the first-person for the narrative and too-many-to-enumerate spelling and grammatical errors. Try page 26. “Tomislav sounded slightly exacerbated. . .”

The word exacerbated means, according to Merriam-Webster Online, “: to make more violent, bitter, or severe

I think the author meant exasperated. It’s one of the errors a spell-checker can lead the unwary into.

A reader can ignore (or grumble about the errors), but using the first-person point of view, makes the story narrow. It also forces Niko to do some round-about explaining of things that happened before the story opens. This is not good for the reader.

Having said all that, you are probably running from the book as fast as Cristiano Ronaldo down a soccer field.


The Gift of Stoppage Time is a good story. People will be able to see themselves in the protagonist, and the message (the book is not preachy) that we have to do good for others is always timely.

I would encourage Lincir to write. He has the gift.

But, next time, hire a proofreader.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


By now, we are all tired of hearing about Newtown, Conn.

I am still shocked and grieved when I read details, and more details seem to be coming every day.

But there is one detail, one word that keeps the nightmare fresh for me.

The word is Asperger's.

It, a disorder on the autism spectrum, is what news outlets are saying the Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, had.

My son has it.

I didn’t know until my son was grown that my ex-husband’s family had several autistic individuals. My son was a little slow reaching some developmental milestones compared to his older sister, but his pediatrician and my family and the baby books said boys were a little slower than girls on these things.

My son is undeniably bright, but was way, way behind in language development.

Making friends was not his strong suit. He seemed happy with his books and computer games, so I left him alone.

OK, give me a scarlet “M.”

School, especially middle school was hell for him. He was the “pink monkey in the barrel of brown monkeys” and paid for it with slights, teasing and outright violence. The other kids knew that if he retaliated, HE would be the one tossed out of school and turned over to the police.

It was gut-wrenching for me, his mother, and it was not a good time for my son. Imagine rocks falling out of the sky at you, and you have no idea why they are coming.

My son does have a temper, but as Amy S.F. Lutz writes in Slate, most of what sets someone with autism off is internal conflicts. The results are scary, and yes, someone can get hurt. But, my son and the vast majority of Aspies (the name Asperger’s people like to call themselves) are not a threat.

So please, as the mother of one of the world’s many pink monkeys, don’t demonize.

And don’t be afraid.

Monday, December 17, 2012



Jesse Kellerman

Take a well-worn genre, the thriller. Add plot and counter-plot, masked identities and (of course) a shadowy government organization.

Now, shake it up, add another well-known trope, the middle-aged nebbish, a failed writer (in this case Arthur Pfefferkorn) who longs for the fame and fortune (and wife) of a “hack” writer. Did we mention that the “hack” used to be Pfefferkorn’s best friend?

All this comes barreling down on Pfefferkorn when his friend, William de Vallèe, disappears at sea under odd circumstances.

Pfefferkorn does something awful. And that sets the whole ball rolling.

Kellerman definitely read a lot of “Spy vs. Spy” in his youth. It shows. And the humor and absurdity just keeps piling on. The book ventures in to existentialism and some moderately deep musings on the creative process.

While Kellerman tries a little too hard, the book is recommended for angsty philosophy majors and those of us who need an intelligent laugh.

Saturday, December 15, 2012



Are the Christmas trees up yet? Are carols playing? They should be. This is supposed to be the season of peace and joy because a Child was born to us.

But for me, and so many others around the world, the decorations on the trees don’t twinkle. And the carols are just noise.

Yes, I am writing about what happened in Connecticut Friday. And what happened in China as well. (,0,6383015.story)

It is hard to understand why children are the targets of such violence. Not just in the incidents I mentioned, but in Syria, the Gaza strip, everywhere. Your local paper will be full of some horrible fate that befalls a child at this time of year.

Yes, news outlets, like malls, are trying to sell you news. But if there was a just and merciful God, why now? Why any child? At any time?


In the United States, the hue and cry is going up about “gun control.” Having personal firearms is in our Constitution, placed there by our founders who knew first-hand that weapons were needed to secure liberty. They wanted to make sure that the people’s right to have firearms was secure.

Well, by that logic, I should have a Patriot missile battery in the back yard. Or a suitcase-sized nuke. You never know when the “gov’mnt” is going to do something foolish, and citizens will need to revolt.

I think you know why I don’t. And why most of us (I pray) do not. I don’t think the Founders meant for us to have weapons of mass destruction.

Having said that, I do think it is time to review our gun laws. I do think people have the right to a weapon, but does it have to be an automatic? Does it need to be able to hold extended clips? Sig Sauers and Glocks, the weapons used, normally hold 15 rounds. BUT, magazines to extend the number of rounds (bullets) in the weapon before reloading are readily available. Should they be?

Let’s take a look at our licensing of weapons. Does it have to be that fast? You can walk in to a gun dealer and walk out with a weapon the same day in some places. Yes, the system does bottle up, but that is fast.

Should people in drug treatment lose their weapons automatically? Should there be better reporting of those committed to a psychiatric or drug treatment facility or program so gun licenses can be suspended or revoked?

Those are going to be tough, emotional issues. And I challenge our lawmakers to debate the issue without politics rearing its head.

We owe our kids no less.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pink snow in Alabama

Pink snow in Alabama

Stella was busy this morning. I got up and Mom said, “Look what Stella did.”
I looked carefully around the hall and the floor before she said, “outside.”
There was dark pink cushion stuffing in Mom’s yard, mostly around the wrought-iron patio set off the cement porch pad. But the stuff had drifted in tiny clumps all over the yard.
“What happened,” I said stupidly. I already knew that hound had something to do with it.
Mom explained that she looked out and saw Stella prancing around the yard, worrying one of the chair pads to tatters.

“She looked like she was having so much fun. Her four paws were coming off the ground, her tail was up and she just looked so happy,” Mom said.
Mom said yesterday that the 50-plus pound hound was carrying the cushion (the same one she destroyed this morning) around, and got it away from her. I suggested that we put the cushions in the storage box in the back, but Mom said “no.” She planned to replace the cushions in the spring anyway. The object of Stella’s attention already had a small tear.
I asked Mom if she punished Stella for her bad behavior.
No, she did not. Then Mom realized that if we don’t keep Stella off the cushions she is going to tear up the new ones.
So, how do we keep Stella off the cushions?
On the plus side, I was glad the dog was playing. That is something she has not done since she came here. I took her for a walk the other day, and she shied from the umbrella in my hand. It was clear someone had hit her with a stick. Mom adopted Stella a few months ago and it is clear the dog has not had an easy life.
GRRRRRR. I think that human needs some remediation. Preferably with a bigger stick.
On the other hand, I was not thrilled do be outside on a cold, damp morning picking up Stella’s mess!

Adventures in dog-owning …

Friday, December 7, 2012

Little Star

Little Star

John Ajvide Lindqvist

The dust jacket for “Little Star” promises the “next Stephen King.”

No. At least not for American readers. More on that later.

The story of “Little Star” follows two misfit teens in Sweden. One of the girls, eventually called Theres, (She will have several names as the novel progresses) is rescued by a one-time musician when the infant Theres is buried alive by someone.

Good catch, right? Well, somehow this has-been musician thinks that the baby might be a musical prodigy. So he forbids his wife to talk to her or play anything but approved music to her. Because he is afraid the authorities will take the baby, the child is hidden and when she is older, she is told a frightening tale that keeps her inside, out of sight.

This goes out the window when their grown son, Jerry, discovers the baby. Suddenly, there is talk, and unapproved music. But no school or contact outside the family. No one else knows Theres is there.

To say that Theres is odd, well, is putting it mildly. She gets near puberty and kills the musician and his wife. Jerry discovers this.

Now does Jerry go to the police? Have this dangerous person put away? No, because he’s afraid he will have trouble because he did not tell them about he girl. So he has his parents’ killer in his home.

Cue the second half of the story. Teresa is an ordinary girl. She’s a little lonely and not in the “in crowd” at her school.

Teresa sees Theres performing on a Swedish talent show. Something clicks. And so on.

Ok. It’s a compelling tale. And one that ought to be scary.

But, it isn’t. The threat of violence is telegraphed early, and the reader knows to look for more. And as good as translations can be, there seems to be a screen between the reader and Lindqvist. It keeps the reader from the oh-God-this could happen-to-us that King books often have.

The story well-plotted, and the reader wants to know what happens next to Theres. Just watch out for Teresa.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visitor under the fence

My mother has adopted a Lab/Rottweiler mix, Stella, a few months ago. She has been great fun, scaring my cats and pulling me over when she saw a deer on a walk.

I woke up around 1 a.m. and heard a dog barking. It was close, but the bark seemed too high-pitched to be Stella. I figured it was the puppy next door. The worst, I thought, was her getting under the fence into Mom's yard and wanted to get back home. It could wait until morning.

So, I went back to sleep. It was hard with that darn dog making noise.

The dog eventually shut up and when I got up this morning, Mom had a story to tell.

It seems that Stella woke her up to go out around 1 a.m. Mom put her out, and Stella did not come back. She could hear barking (w/o her aid, so you know it was LOUD) and was over at the right-hand corner of the fence where the ground dips down for drainage. We've put some wire and plastic fencing there because I think I recall seeing a fox in the yard when we first moved in. This is where someone put the ashes from the grill.

Mom called and Stella would not come in, just continued to bark.

Mom said she got a flashlight from a kitchen drawer and shone it where Stella was. Turned out that Stella was barking and carrying on about some critter that was trying to get under the fence.

Mom said she got one aid in, Stella's leash and had to manhandle Stella (who weighs more than 50 lbs and did NOT want to go) into the house. Mom said the animal was yellowish in color, had a pointed snout and had LOTS of teeth. She said "wolf," but I think it may have been fox or coyote.

Mom finally dragged Stella in and shut and locked the door. The animal was gone in the morning. Mom said she did not get back to sleep (Stella was agitated) until 3 a.m.

I asked Mom why she did not get me, and she said that if I didn't wake up with the barking, I must have been deeply asleep. (No, just thought it was another dog. Stella has (usually) a deeper bark.)

I reset the wire fence and put what potting soil we have under the gap. Mom did not want me to use the river or lava rock we have because that would get tossed by lawnmowers. I suggested getting mothballs to put along the fence line. I seem to recall that some kinds of critters do not like the smell.

The ground by that corner was all torn up and I brought in some white and black fur that was in the yard, about 5 feet from the fence. It was not Stella fur.

I don't know what it was, but something tried to get in. Yea Stella!
Oh, and the cats? I wondered why Amelia was behind my legs, under the covers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fifteen Digits

Fifteen Digits

Nick Santora

Poor but deserving young man is willing to work hard for a better life.

Cue Horatio Alger.

Not so fast.

Rich Mauro, that deserving young man, has just landed a job in the print/mailroom of a high-toned law firm. The job comes courtesy of a partner in the firm, a lawyer who botched one and only one case. The case involved the deaths of Mauro’s parents. Mauro is going to night school planning to get into law school. Then on to a white-shoe firm and happily ever after.

Mauro has a lovely fiancée, but her striving parents aren’t happy about their girl falling for him. It is going to take forever (Mauro thinks) to get to where he wants.

Until another lawyer in the firm shows Mauro and the others in his department how to make a small fortune, fast. It involves the confidential information that passes through the department every day. Using that information is completely and totally illegal.
What will Mauro do? What will the consequences be for Mauro and his friends?

Santora has written a fast-paced thriller that focuses attention on the people we tend to ignore. It is not a political screed, and Santora makes a few characters a little too good to be true. But it is a good read, and one that people looking for the next Grisham will want to pick up.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sticks and Stones

Sticks And Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

Emily Bazelon

This review is based on an advance copy provided by Goodreads. Tentative on-sale date, according to the cover, is February 19, 2013. This review is also on hte Goodreads website

Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, an online magazine, wrote in-depth stories about Phoebe Prince, a young woman who killed herself after bullying at her western Massachusetts high school. In Prince’s story, Bazelton found a perennial topic.

She went back to the Prince case through the eyes of one of Prince’s tormentors, Flannery Mullins, revealing Prince was more than a bullied young woman – Prince had psychiatric issues that made coming from Ireland to America more difficult. Add the bullying, and it was a recipe for tragedy. Mullins was criminally charged for her part in Prince’s persecution.

Bazelon adds the stories of two other bullied young people, “Monique” and “Jacob” to the mix. While not suicidal, both were bullied for being different – Monique for wearing her hair in a style that two other girls did not approve of, and Jacob because he is gay and found flamboyant ways to express it.

The stories are heartbreaking. And Bazelon is quick to say that Prince, Monique and Jacob are not alone. Many children are bullied. Some never recover.

Yes, bullying is something that has gone on since there were people. Most get over it and on with their lives. But, a modern invention, the Internet has made bullying almost inescapable, Bazelon says. It is something that does not stop when the bullied child leaves school – the abuse follows him or her into the home via the Internet. There is no escape.

Bazelon offers some solutions – parental involvement in their children’s online activities, and an example of one school group holding a “Delete Day,” where questionable Internet information was erased.

But, Bazelon has no sure-fire cure for the problem. This is a book that anyone who has a young person in their lives should read, if only to get a handle on what that young person, either as one bullied or one doing the bullying is facing.