Sunday, September 17, 2017

Influence, a double-edged sword

This came up as a conversation on facebook today. A peek into the past. Seems like half the influences in life are the ones you have to overcome rather than ones that help you along.
Originally published by The Adult Side of Tumbler

Tim Jones In both my junior and senior years I was told I could not join the creative writing class.

Jan Williams Simone Don't you wish you could go back in time and bring one of your books to class? Or articles? Or your blog? Or your newspaper work? Etc.

Tim Jones As far as I know I am the only one from that class who has had anything published, except for one fellow who may have published some music.

Lara Simone Bhasin The American public school system is not a monolith. It is quite diverse and will function better if it is allowed to stay that way, rather than being overly controlled by the federal government.

Jan Williams Simone I agree but this is about BAD TEACHERS. Not sure what the solution is...

Lara Simone Bhasin Okay well I was responding to the last line of the post

Tim Jones My complaint is more with guidance counselors. I showed something I had written to the teacher of that creative writing class and he said I should be in there. No one ever did anything about it, though.

Jan Williams Simone You saw what I wrote about my brother after he skipped a grade? That was a problem with the teacher. The only solution I can think of is for parents to intervene on their kids' behalf.

Tim Jones The problem there was bigger than one writing class and neither I nor my parents realized what was wrong until almost graduation. I had changed schools between freshman and sophomore years and never got very high grades. As a result I was put into a put into a program one level short of vocational. Late in my senior year when the national test scores started coming in, the guidance counselor called me into his office and essentially blamed me for not telling him I was intelligent.

Tim Jones Part of the problem in the 50s was when the Russians put up Sputnik it scared the hell out of people and all the emphasis was put on science and math for a few years.
Jan Williams Simone Just because science and math were being emphasized doesn't explain why YOU could not be in creative writing. Seems like pure incompetence to me.

Tim Jones Overall the humanities were discouraged

Jan Williams Simone That reversed when I was in high school. In fact, I was in my high school's first humanities class, which was for only a select group of us, chosen by the teaching team (English and social studies).

Tim Jones That was the era of the only student revolution in American history and you had them scared lol.

Jan Williams Simone The previous class fought for it but they didn't get to participate. Other people always did the fighting for me, LOL. Including my brother....

Tim Jones I can only hope his experience with me taught that guidance counselor a lesson and took more time with other kids who came along.

Jan Williams Simone That is a sad story.

Tim Jones Well, you can't let the past rule your life and I am sure I'm not the only one who faced discouragement for seeking an artistic life. I was able to overcome it for the most part.


This whole exchange may seem a little self-serving, like oh poor me, but I guess all experience leads you where you eventually arrive or at least pass through. I can't blame my lack of production on this for sure, except in this sense. This kind of negative influence from several directions, including the school, my family and almost everyone else in my life, was discouraging enough that I did not commit to writing until several years after moving from school out into the world, losing what for many writers are the most productive years, if not for actual publications, for learning the craft and, too, experiencing what you want to write about. I finally got to the experiencing and eventually writing but I always thought I came to it late. So it goes.

More about the writing life
The writing life 2

Monday, September 4, 2017

Charities, where does your money do the most good?

This photo was posted by GlobalGiving, which received a four-star rating
from Charity Navigator.
     Every time we suffer a major disaster in this country, social media is clogged almost immediately with appeals for money.
     Many are bogus, using the disaster to cheat people out of money and some others are so inefficient you wouldn't want them handling your contribution. Some of the biggest are criticized for paying large salaries to executives.
     So how are we, who have little time to research, able to sort them out and find a place to send our money where it will do the most good?
     Well, I have a friend who works for an organization that raises money for charities and recently she took offense at a facebook post that unfairly criticized many charities with outdated and sometimes just wrong information about some of the most well-known charities.
    This time around Red Cross seems to take more criticism than usual. For instance, the post on facebook says Red Cross CEO makes an annual salary of $651,957 plus expenses and one post rated its efficiency at 39 percent, meaning 61 percent of donations went to salaries and administrative costs. However responsible raters say Red Cross is around 92 percent efficient and the CEO salary is around $100,000 less than the reported number which was also 10 years old. That is just one example.
   One fallacy in the whole argument according to my friend is, "the part of an insidious notion that working for a nonprofit should be its own reward and that employees of all levels, not just senior executives, should not be remunerated fairly, despite the skills, hard work and challenging conditions that they work to address. But nonprofit employees have rent and mortgages, student loans, car insurance etc. If we want qualified people they need to be able to live and their employees need to get somewhere near competitive salary levels to attract and retain staff."
   That being said, this post is not about arguing the various aspects of charity operations. More is is supposed to provide some information to help people sort out the charities and make responsible choices about where we give our money.
    In comments to the post two sources for reliable information came up,
The first came from the fact-checking site Snopes which provided updated information about the organizations mentioned in the original post. Charitable compensation is the title of the Snopes article. Find it at

The second is Charity Navigator which keeps tabs on more than 8,900 charities worldwide. That seems to be the go-to source for major news outlets. Specific to Hurricane Harvey the link is
On that page charities seeking funds for aid in that emergency are rated and confirmed so for anyone wishing to make a donation that would be a good place to start.

Pro Publica offers tips for effective giving

Monday, August 28, 2017


There's a cow pasture right on the edge of town; actually within the city limits. Twice a year, usually, sandhill cranes stop by there for a couple of days during their annual migrations. This year has been a little different. Very few showed up in the spring and sporadically rather than in a large group. I've seen as many as maybe 100 at a time other years. The fall migration seemed to be going the same way. I'd seen them overhead but not on the ground. Then yesterday on a whim I put the camera in the truck and went to look. Sure enough, maybe a dozen working their ways around the pasture and for a time close to the road. There was good cover
Do you think it's safe?
between me and them so I could get right next to the fence without spooking them. All set up and ready to shoot and what happens? Photobomb. Thanks, cow.
They did allow me a few nice ones too. I call this one "The Lookout."
More stories about Alaska birds

Monday, August 21, 2017

Disaster house revisited

It took some yellow machinery, here demolishing a storage shed, to attack the yard.
The tops of those cabinets
were covered with liquor

The lighting makes the floor look pretty good, but actually it
is filthy and will take a lot of work, but we think saveable.

The professionals have come and gone. They cleared out 18 truckloads of trash from the house and yard in two and a half days. Plus the 1-800-Got-Junk people came in under their estimate, saving my friend something like $1,600.
     A lot remains to do, mostly cleaning and getting rid of the odor that permeates the   house. The walls have to be scrubbed, a bunch of small holes spackled and a couple of big ones in the drywall patched. Then we start painting. All of the carpeting has to be torn out and replaced.
     Most of the doors have some damage and several will have to be replaced. We think the electrical problem has been taken care of but there might be a plumbing problem and we haven't tested the furnace yet.
The yard after all the trash had been removed.
     The point is while the trash is gone, it's still a big job and it's going to either take a long time or cost a lot of money.
     Stay tuned, we might just have a big cleaning and painting party one of these weekends.

Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve