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Archive for the ‘Kindle’ Category

There are problems, and then there are PROBLEMS. I have both. The biggies are my age, my knees, my back, my eyes, and the fact that my mind is slowly going to hell in a handbasket. There is little to nothing that I can do about these problems, ergo, that go into what I call the “Fuckit Bucket.” If there’s nothing that can be done, pull an Alfred E. Neuman (of Mad Magazine fame) and say, “What, me, worry?” The little problems, the ones that I can do something about, include getting enough exercise, taking medications on time and seriously, eating the right foods, finishing up all of my latch hook problems before I die, ibid the harvesting of this year’s garden, and…books before I go blind from glaucoma.

Books are my most pressing problem. Please don’t ask me why, but I own four Kindles. I have not read all of the books that are stored on any of them. If books and Kindles were an addiction, I would be considered and incurable addict…no hope. Take away one Kindle, and I’d go into ‘reader withdrawal.’ In my heart of hearts, I’m convinced that I will never get to read all of the books on all of my Kindles before I make my way to whatever lies beyond. Perhaps it will be The Reluctant Demon, the third in a trilogy by Mark Cain. He’s a very funny writer. Hell’s Super and A Cold Day in Hell are absolutely hysterical, and why I haven’t read the last is somewhat beyond me. It may be that when I see a new ‘prey’ book by John Sanford or something by Robert Ludlam, David Baldacci, Greg Isles, Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, Brad Taylor, or any of more than two dozen authors, I can’t resist…c’mon Amazon, sock it to me…one click and I can own this sucker…and so I click.

Looking for a mystery, thriller, fiction or non-, I’m your guy. Just finished Steve Berry’s The Lost Order, a fascinating story about a horde of Southern Civil War stolen gold and silver that…nah, you’re going to get it and dig in yourself. A word of warning, however, don’t start this book after dinner or supper or whatever you call your evening meal. You may not fall asleep reading it, but you probably won’t get to work or school the next day either. This is a very well research and readable piece of fiction. Oh, and don’t forget to read just how much research he did to write this masterpiece.

There is something else you should know about my reading addiction…I didn’t always have one. In fact, as a “yute” – thank you, My Cousin, Vinny – I stayed away from books as though each and every one carried the plague. Shakespeare…I’d rather drink beer; Edgar Allen Poe…Oh, no, no, no. Arthur Conan Doyle…I’ll go play pool with Billy Boyle. Really, it wasn’t until I married in 1957…an English teacher, no less, that my interest in the written word began to grow. Oh, sure, George Khiralla, a literature Professor at Northeastern, had piqued my interest somewhat with the manner in which he brought Shakespeare to life, but that was George and that was one course, and we tore through the Bard’s plays at the rate of one-a-week, and if you didn’t read and didn’t understand, come the quiz on Friday, you were in deep do-do. Following back surgery shortly after we were married, Joan, my wife, brought home a few books from the library, among them, Allen Drury’s, Advise and Consent. Ouch, talk about getting hooked. The book was a political thriller that lasted 102 weeks in first place on The New York Times best seller list (I did not know that at the time). This was followed by book after book, and I suddenly found myself surrounded. I truly believe that it was the reading of so many different authors that enticed me into doing a bit of writing on my own. Did I ever want to be a published author of a successful book of some kind? Sure. Did it ever happen? Nope. Is there still a chance? You’ve got to be kidding. How could I ever become intelligent enough to do what James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, or Joel C. Rosenberg have done? It would take a fourth book by Mark Cain…Hell Freezes Over, before a book by me would ever appear.

Years ago, some first lady or other made it her cause to get kids reading. The slogan was “Reading is Fundamental,” with the first three letters of that last word emphasized. I just wished to hell she had been around in my younger days. Instead, I had to wait until I was older to read about the Civil War in books by Bruce Catton or The Civil War by Shelby Foote. I guess, by that time, I had already trod the battlefield at Manassas and seen some of the old cannon. By the time WWII ended, I had not yet become a ‘bookie,’ but trust me, I’ve read many since my addiction began. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Ken Follett’s Jackdaws are just two that come immediately to mind.

There is one thing that I know for certain…I will never read every single book I’d like to read before my time on this earth is up. Perhaps my idea of Heaven would be lying in the big brown bear chair, floating among the clouds, some soft music in the background, and me reading book after book after book for all eternity…man, what a…death.

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There is a great deal to be said about an early September day when it arrives in the latter part of July. Yesterday we were bombarded by rain and an F2 tornado that struck not too far from here, but today…today has brought with it sunshine, white puffy clouds, and air so dry you can create static electricity by walking across the grass in your bare feet. Not such a morning as this has struck and been cause for celebration in many a moon.

I arose early this morning. Although all of the windows were closed and the air conditioning was in a lull, there was something that had permeated the house, giving it a fresh feel that fairly screamed, “Wake up and celebrate this morning…get up dammit, get up!” Never one to disobey a ‘fresh feel,’ I dragged my weary bones – getting less weary by the second, I might add – and let Widget, our Cairn terrier out to perform her morning ablutions. Even opening the back door, I could feel the beckoning call of cool – not cold or warm – breezes telling me to get out of the house and enjoy…which I did.

Now, I must describe our backyard to you. As you step out onto the concrete patio, you are assaulted by the smell of flowers…roses of many kinds, poppies, petunias, hibiscus, and heaven only knows what else assault your senses with wonderful aromas. Flowers in window boxes; flowers in pots; flowers in beds; flowers just about everywhere; well everywhere that there aren’t tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Yes, our backyard is a multiplicity of gardens. Fear not, however, for there is a pathway to the lava rock patio surrounding an eighteen by thirty-six foot irregularly shaped swimming pool. I say that the patio is lava rock not because of its color, but because no matter how hot it gets, this patio never gets above 72o..

As Widget took off a) sniffing to see what wild animals had been in the yard last night; and b) at some point getting to the pee and poop part of her day, I headed for my favorite chair. This is no ordinary chair I want you to know; this is my ‘special’ chair! When I sit in this chair, I am magically transported; my entire focus on life changes. I sit and the chair begins to surround me; I lay back and the chair lays back with me until I see my toes – ugly little suckers – and I can stare at the sky. This morning, with the cool air and puffy clouds, it was my idea of perfection. The blue of the sky; the blue of the water, the cool breeze…everything combined to release every bit of tension from me. I was more relaxed and more at ease than any time since my “gym incident” of a couple of weeks ago.

This may all sound like a bunch of hooey to you – bullshit, if you want to get downright crass about it – but this morning was beyond beautiful. We happen, at times, on a flight approach to Logan International Airport in Boston. We can easily identify what airline is flying in and sometimes even those flying out. At the height at which we see them, they aren’t all that noisy and this morning, they merely looked like huge silver birds. In addition, a flock – or whatever one calls them – of Canada geese flew over silently. Have to tell you that I’m not all that crazy about those birds. They’re as bad as turkeys in terms of leaving deposits that let you know they’ve been around your area. Usually in flight, I hear the damn things honking to beat the band, but these were so silent and so low, you could hear the flapping of their wings…hot dam!

I lay there from shortly after six until darn near 7:30. Widget did her thing as I stared at the sky. At some point, I must have drifted off, only to be awakened by a harsh dog bark. Widget seems to take exception to joggers as they go by…either that or it’s her form of greeting…yeah, right.

It’s now 11:30 in the morning. The sun has risen above the pine trees and is now shedding light on the pool. The temperature has risen, although it’s only supposed to be in the seventies today. I do believe that this is too beautiful a day to waste. It seems to me that the wisest course of action to pursue is to take a hot shower, jump into a bathing suit, grab a quick lunch, take my Kindle in hand, and head back to my chair. Will I take a dip in the pool? Who knows, but on a day like this, anything is possible. Gotta love this day and cherish every one like it!

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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Who among you will have the courage to take issue with me when I say that the greatest invention of the 20th Century is…wait for it…the mute button on the television remote? That one tiny grey (I painted mine red to speed things up) can shut out the world of hard sell car dealers, furniture salesmen and women, and can even shut off ex-television and movie stars who have taken to pitching everything from face creams to reversible mortgages

I’m embarrassed for someone like Robert Vaughan – Napoleon Solo, one of my early television heroes, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. – when I see him shilling for shysters, Hell, even his former partner, Illya Kuryakin, has found a recurring role on one of today’s most popular television series, N.C.I.S. And when The Fonz, Henry Winkler, starts telling me about how great a reverse mortgage will be, I quickly hit my little red button in order that I not be reduced to tears by how far my hip, cool, young, and trendy Fonzie has fallen. The rebel has been wrecked…oh woe; oh woe!

Between Terry Bradshaw telling us how horrible he looked before some diet plan and how great he looks now – a lie, of course, and Valerie Bertinelli pushing some face cream that will shrink your skin via a rare melon…are you kidding me, my mute button gets used probably four to six times an hour, often to the point where I say, “Screw it;”  turn the television off, and walk down to the ‘computer room’ (sounds fancy but it’s just a spare bedroom now that the kids have gone). Several things may happen when I sit down at my computer: (1) I may vent and writ drivel such as this; (2) I may wind up getting my ass kicked at hearts…which certainly doesn’t improve my mood, or; (3) I may see my Kindle sitting there, charging up, get nosy, and poke into a new book my electronic reader has waiting for me.

I kid about the mute button but I find as I get older that many of the ads on television are really annoying. In addition, they are several steps up on the volume dial, although I’m told there is legislation in this do-nothing Congress that is meant to change all of that. I wonder how that will be argued along party lines. It seems impossible that so many furniture stores can possibly stay in business in this area. I mean, furniture is not something you go out and buy on a daily basis. It’s supposed to last, and you’re supposed to know what the hell your doing when you buy it so that you don’t have to go out and change it on a whim. I can’t help but wonder when these furniture stores will begin to take a page from the Republican Party Advertising Playbook the way some of the automotive dealers have around here. You see, in the area where I live, we have something called “the auto mile.” It’s actually over a mile in length, and is part of US Route #1, but both sides of the road are packed with competing auto dealerships. Their television ads are now taking the negative advertising route, ala Mitt Romney and others, and are saying how dishonest and high-priced their competition is. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts could create a whole bunch of new jobs merely by building attractive overpasses so that we can take the price from one dealer across the street to the other dealer and use it as a bargaining chip. We could be bouncing back and forth for a full day beating one salesman down after another…it would also be a good cardio workout, so it has some health benefit.

But, enough about that…back to the mute button. Just think how wonderful it would be to have a mute button when you go shopping. All of those idiotic conversations that are nothing but white noise without which we’d all be better off. I can see some dangerous overuse taking place in business meetings, but, what the hell, life is short; live it up! Now if I can only find a mute button for the neighborhood dogs, I’ll be all set.

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I vowed never to do it. Me, become a victim to a certain type of technology? No, it wouldn’t; it couldn’t happen…ever…never…not in a thousand years…liar!

It’s true; I have succumbed. No more sniffing ink on pages; no more reading the jacket to determine its worth; no more cracking the spine. No, all of these things are passé, for I have discovered Kindle. I could just have easily discovered Nook or I-Pad or any of a number of choices, but I have become a “Kinaddict!” For months I used the excuse that I would no longer be able to feel the paper as I turned the pages of the latest James Patterson, David Baldacci, John Sanford, or Sandra Brown. No longer would I feel the heft of a Tom Clancy or W.E.B. Griffin novel or a Ron Chernow biography. No longer could I turn back to have something clarified. I’d be totally lost…bullshit!

I am now a victim of “Kindlization.” (Doncha just love how I make up these words?) While this may not be a paid endorsement for Amazon’s electronic reader, it very well could be. I used every argument in the book – so to speak – to avoid becoming one of “those people.” Granted, I have a cell phone that can take pictures or video, and it leaves me messages when someone gives me a call. It does not give me access to the Internet, although I’m told it could. It won’t do what Blackberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, or any other electronic berry can do…and I don’t care. It does what I want it to do. In other words, I’m really not into ‘techie stuff.’

Let’s get back to the Kindle. It’s light…you know that you’re holding something but it isn’t going to blow out of your hand in a strong wind nor will your hands cramp up from holding it. It’s really remarkable in several ways. You can download a book in seconds. You can search through literally millions of titles and/or authors. You can go back and forth as you’re reading. However, the selling point for me is the fact that if I’m reading at the beach or in the sunny backyard, I don’t need sunglasses and the screen does not glare. Will e-readers replace books? No, I don’t believe so. While we might be breeding a generation of kids who will exit the womb with a cell phone to their ear, I rather doubt that books will become a thing of the past; at least I hope not. I suppose one could argue things like saving the trees or whatever is used to make paper these days. Authors might be concerned over royalty figures unless a way can be found to count downloads. No matter what the ads say, e-readers, if you want a decent one, are not cheap. So no, there will always be a place for books in our society. Should this not be true, I will be long dead, cremated, and my ashes scattered, before any critics can say, “Nya, nya, you were wrong!”

I still have books that I have purchased and not read. I probably should read them. After all, what the hell did I buy them for? In addition, I should tell you that I downloaded Baldacci’s One Summer because I had loaned by book copy to my daughter.  She has a way of forgetting that it is not hers to load and then forgets to whom she loaned it…I’ll never see it again, but I have my e-copy, and yes, it is a book that I will read again.

Truth to tell, ‘e’ is the wave of the future. Perhaps I should say that the wave has already broken, and newer and better e-waves are breaking on the unsuspecting public daily. People camp out overnight to own the newest and the best. Look at it this way…in 1998, it was estimated that 42 percent of American households had at least one computer; by 2000, that number had increased to 51 percent. Estimates differ markedly today regarding computers actually in the home. Some put the percentage as high as 81, while others feel that 62 percent is a more accurate census-related figure. Whatever it is, it’s increasing. Children have access to computers in day school. By first grade, they know far more about computers and how to use them than their parents certainly did at their age. Where does it end? I don’t think we know. The Kindle of today can be obsolete tomorrow.  The Chairman of the Math/Science Department at Babson said to me, in answer to my question, “When should I buy a computer,” “Today or never!” The electronic tsunami has engulfed the world and made it the size of a pea. The earth and all of its people have been forcibly brought together by something that actually began on March 10, 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell uttered those famous words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.” Since that time, man has been trying to improve on that simple device, and it has brought us to this moment.

Think of what you have seen in your lifetime. I’ve been around for 77 years. I’ve seen certain diseases eradicated. I’ve seen a man or two or three walk on the surface of the moon. I’ve watched someone I knew as a child walk in space, and I cannot even begin to tell you the other miraculous things I’ve seen because there have just been so many. Can you just imagine what the 22nd, 23rd, or 24th Century will hold? It gives me goose bumps just to think about it.

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