The Guilty Party

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Letting My Betters Do the Driving Today

November 27, 2008

On this day when we all reflect on all the good things in our life I would like to say thanks for all of the wonderful writers whose work I have been privileged to read. And I would also like to put out a "thank you" in advance to all of the writers I am sure to discover in the coming weeks, months and years. Knowing at least a little bit of what the whole process is like makes me appreciate the really good stuff even more.

So, in celebration of those whose words have inspired, uplifted, informed, amused and enlightened me, here is a very small sampling from one of my commonplace books. I hope you find something here that inspires, uplifts or in some fashion improves your day, your outlook, your sense of what can be.

The average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feelng, eats without tasting, moves without physicl awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrence, and talks without thinking.---Leonardo da Vinci

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."---from "Moby Dick" by Hermann Melville

It alters ones whole conception of Man as Nature's last word.---from "Code of the Woosters" by P.G. Wodehouse

There are certain females whom one respects, admires, reveres, but only from a distance. If they show any signs of attempting to come closer, one is prepared to fight them off with a blackjack.---from "Code of the Woosters" by P.G. Wodehouse

Noah attempted to be more facetious still, and in this attempt, did what many small wits, with far greater reputations than Noah, sometimes do to this day when they want o be funny. He got personal.---from "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens

"People are put in the Hulks because they murder and because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions."---said by Mrs. Joe in "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

Everyone is an artist in his or her own right. It's just when we play together we may have a little problem.
---Victor Borge

Life is for action. If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you ust assume an that assumption is faith.---John Henry Cardinal Newman

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.---John Stuart Mill

Man will occassionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.---Winston Churchill

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.---Aristotle

and finally..............

The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usul way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas.---from "The Once and Future King" by T. H. White

It is good to keep this perspective of Wart's all through our lives. There is always someone to learn from, someone who is a couple of jumps ahead of you, someone who it will profit you to watch, listen to and emulate. And the joy comes when their secret is suddenly clear to you. This happens often when we are children. It is something to hold on to as adults.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shameless Commerce 50% OFF!!!

Hi everyone. Yep, there's that book again. And now through November 30th you can acquire your very own copy for Half Price. Why? Because iUniverse, the nice company that publishes Close Enough for Government Work, is having a Friends and Family Sale. And in my opinion anybody who takes the time to visit my humble blog qualifies as a friend. Even the googlebot.

So, if you would like to get a copy of the book that prompted one reader to say "very original, but if I were to compare it to other writers I'd say the funny stuff by Mark Twain and John Steinbeck as well as Bill Bryson, Christopher Moore, and Douglas Adams. It's also very smart and funny, two things that I really like in a book."*

and another reader to offer this comment:
"I think its a great book and if Oprah hasn't seen that yet, well then, everyone should listen to me. READ IT. U WILL LAUGH OUT LOUD."

Just click on over to the iUniverse bookstore

and enter NOVBOOKHALF at checkout.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all. Even if you don't buy the book!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Faith and Gratitude

November 24, 2009

Faith and Gratitude

A couple of days ago, on one of these Saturdays that all of a sudden I have free*, we had some shopping to do. First it was to Costco for necessities and a couple of Christmas gifts. The place was hopping. Normally I am not a big fan of crowded stores, but lately I have begun to see a lot of the other sort. The reasons behind this and the consequences of it happening are clear and frankly troubling. So a busy store is a happy sight, even if I do have to steer a huge shopping cart around numbskulls who stop in mid-stride to gape at a thirty-pack of compact fluorescent light bulbs or are so engrossed in their cell phone conversations they have lost all awareness of their immediate surroundings. I don't know if the dollar per transaction numbers at Costco are what they would hope for, but it was good to see them busy.

After dropping off our perishable items at home we headed out again, this time to the local plant nursery. It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in November in Phoenix. Blue sky, glad-to-be-alive weather, just the sort of day to be stocking up on fall and winter vegetation for around the house. Used to be that on a day like this the parking lot would be jammed, the employees scurrying around with great purpose and the lines at the registers long. Not so this time. Ours was the sixth car in the lot (I counted, it didn't take long). We were immediately greeted by a young fellow who was eager as could be to assist us find what we came for, and, one got the idea, maybe a few things we hadn't thought of yet. I told him we were looking for spring bulbs. Well, they still had a few and would I follow him? Sure. He hovered for a few seconds to make sure I felt comfortable with the little rotating rack that held the few dozen small mesh sacks with tulips, daffodils and such before heading off to see if the other set of customers within shouting distance had any questions. We picked out three sets of bulbs and a bag of bone meal and headed to the register. There were three young men to assist there. Did we need any mulch? No. Disappointment was registered. Soil amendments? All set on that. Again disappointment. Perhaps some Miracle-Gro fertilizer or terra cotta garden stakes to identify the plants in our garden? Got all we need (yes, we do have a few of those garden stakes. Hardly use them but they are kinda cool.) Ah well, so this is it for today? Yep. When we drove out of the parking lot the population was down to four cars.

So, where was I going with this? A couple of different places actually. First, I have a feeling that some of the problem we are collectively encountering with the economy is our own fault. We read all the bad news, we hear on the radio and see on the television how the banks are afraid to lend money and this business is filing bankruptcy and that business is laying off thousands of people and the whole place is heading to heck in a brand new GM product that has been sitting on the lot for months. So what should we do? Get out there and spend what makes sense. Don't overspend for heaven's sake, but don't run and hide either. If the bankbook will reasonably accommodate a bit of activity then do it. Somebody's job may depend on it. And eventually your job and mine depend on that somebody else having a job. That's my understanding of economic theory anyway.

It's kind of like planting bulbs. You spend money (five bucks for six bulbs), you stick them in the ground and for the most part that's it. And maybe just maybe come spring time you have some darned pretty flowers. Flowers that will brighten your day every time you see them. Flowers that will make you grateful to be alive. But if you don't plant them all you'll have is dirt. Or weeds.

Okay, so that's not going to get me any Nobel prizes for economics, but I still say faith, taking the time and investing the energy to do the groundwork and a good dose of common sense can go a long way.

Lastly a short bit about gratitude. You know, what with Thanksgiving coming up in a few days and all. Somewhere in one of my commonplace books is one of those quotes that has stayed with me and yet for the life of me I can't remember who I copied it from. Here's the gist of it: The only prayers worth praying are to say thank you and I'm sorry. I like that. We are seeing the consequences of a time during which so many "Gimme" prayers were offered up, and in some cases seemed to be answered. Didn't get us very far, did it? So saying "Thank you" for all the blessings we enjoy and "I'm sorry" for all the times we screw up seems a whole lot more profitable in the long run. And according to an article in the Arizona Living section of the Arizona Republic today, being thankful can even make you healthier. And with the cost of health care nowadays you'd think that would be a great motivator right there!

*If you have ever worked retail, especially in management, you know what I mean about Saturdays.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oprah and The Container Store = 20% Off

Oprah Sez "Yes" to Container Store

Hi everyone. A few days ago on my MySpace page I posted a note letting folks know that my gracious day job employer, The Container Store, had joined up with the most Powerful and Influential Person (at least in regards to a lot of people's purchasing habits) on the planet, Oprah Winfrey, to offer a printable coupon for 20% off any purchase. Not just one item, but everything in your cart. Even if you end up with two carts, and I've seen plenty of that in the past few days.

Well, the cutoff day was supposed to be yesterday, but it has been extended to November 30th. Apparently we had to get special permission from the Grand Oprah to mess with the expiration date, but she said "Sure, sounds good to me." and so there you are.

Here is the link to Oprah's site and from there you can click your way to the coupon.

Like I said before, The Container Store has some pretty amazing stuff that can make life simpler and more organized. And especially for my writer friends I think this is a good thing.

Special Update! We have jumped ahead to February 19, 2009 and the Deal Is On Again! Oprah replayed her show from November (it's not a rerun, it's an encore performance) and so The Container Store is encoring the special. Here's the new click for the current coupon.

Container Store Coupon Courtesy of Oprah.

Best to all,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I was doing a quick read through of my MySpace comments just now making sure nothing had found its way on to my page that I wouldn't want my kids to see (it is incredible just how, well, familiar folks can get sometimes) when I came across an incredibly nice note I received back in June from a fine fellow by the name of Walter. He read my book and when he was finished he had this to say:

"Hey Alan, I finished reading "Close Enough For Government Work" and thought I'd share my opinion of your book. I was expecting an enjoyable read, but I wasn't prepared to be so thoroughly entertained. It's very original, but if I were to compare it to other writers I'd say the funny stuff by Mark Twain and John Steinbeck as well as Bill Bryson, Christopher Moore, and Douglas Adams. It's also very smart and funny, two things that I really like in a book. Please keep up the excellent work. I look forward to your next book. Cheers!"

Well, Walter, I wish I could tell you that my next book is just around the corner, but I am still plowing through the darned thing and have a ways to go. But for those of you out there who have yet to add "Gov Work" to your library, may I suggest now would be a great time to correct that little oversight. It's an idea, now isn't it?

And it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the OED!

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

You know, like Walter!

In Reference to That...........

Two days ago I received the most tempting bit of mail. Of course everyday mailboxes all over the civilized world (and yes, I realize this is not a particularly accurate description, but it does convey my meaning and so shall stand) have thrust into them all manner of solicitations from all sorts of organizations, businesses and scams. Envelopes heavy with coupons from every sort of business from dry cleaners to Chinese restaurants to auto repair shops to doctors specializing in the treatment of hemorrhoids arrive almost daily. This time of year especially is guaranteed to bring catalogs by the cartload. Hammacher Schlemmer (that triggered the spellcheck), Land's End, Current, L.L. Bean, Levengers, Oriental Trading Company and one whose name I don't recall but which trumpeted on its cover Nearly Everything $14.99 or Under are just few of these periodicals of prospective commerce that have clogged our tiny mailbox in the past week. All of them I consigned to the recycle bin with nary a flinch, not one hint of hestitation.

But one modest envelope I set aside. I couldn't help myself. It arrived an Thursday and I set it aside unopened until I had the time to read it's contents thoroughly, carefully, leisurely. That precious time was this afternoon. I have read the four page brochure and the two page insert twice each. More than twice I have studied the separate order form, knowing full well I will not be utilizing it. I won't purchase this product for myself nor will I be dropping hints to my loved ones that this would be a terrific idea for under the Christmas tree this year. I would dearly love to possess it, but holy Ned in the noontime, eight hundred and ninety-five dollars plus thirty-four dollars shipping & handling is just a bit more than I think I'll ever be prepared to pay for a dictionary. Even if it is the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED as it is known amongst those who love the English language, its history, its complexity, its flexibility and its enormous range. Even though I realize the savings over the regular three thousand dollar price tag is substantial indeed. And even though my purchase would include a six month subscription to OED online.

It isn't that I don't like reference books. I love them. My Roget's Pocket Thesaurus has been with me for decades and it still gets a good workout. I have two copies of Strunk and White's Elements of Style so at least one is almost always easy to find. The Transitive Vampire and The Well Tempered Sentence, both by Karen Elizabeth Gordon haved saved me countless time. A favorite "what shall I read now?" solution is the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, as is the The New York Public Library Desk Reference. The Facts on File Dictionary of Classical, Biblical, & Literary Allusions by Lass, Kiremidjian and Goldstein has provided me with hours of perusing pleasure and answered many a question prompted by reading books written by the unashamedly erudite. The bookshelf that sits at the back of my desk's footwell (or whatever is the official name for the space where ones legs and feet go under a desk, I guess I'll have to look that up) is crammed with reference books. I can't hardly think of a better way to while away a few minutes or an entire afternoon than immersing myself in word lore.

And what better or more vast ocean to plunge into for such purposes than the OED where, according to the elegant and understated brochure: "Accompanying each definition is a chronologically-arrange group of quotations that illustrate the evolution of meaning from the word's first usage and show the contexts in which it has been used. ...authors as disparate as Geoffrey Chaucer and Erica Jong, William Shakespeare and Raymond Chandler, Charles Darwin and John le Carre. In all, nearly 2.5 million quotations--illustrating over half-a-million words--can be found in the OED."

It sure sounds like a good time to me. But it is not to be. Not at eight hundred and ninety-five dollars plus shipping and handling.

But I would sure love to. You know I would.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Banana Nut Pancakes

I was recently sent a recipe exchange email by a good friend. Since I do have a history of posting recipes on my blog anyway I figured I might as well share my modest contribution with the somewhat wider circle of friends (and accidental droppers-by "Hello! Glad you're here!) I enjoy on both Blogger and MySpace.

Banana Nut Pancakes

1 cup of white whole wheat flour (King Arthur makes this and it's in most grocery stores now. Best price still seems to be at Trader Joes)

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
Note: if you don't have or don't want to get the white whole wheat flour, just use 2 1/2 cups of all purpose. I like to sneak some whole grain into my family's diet whenever I can and it does give a nice hearty flavor I like. I tried using just the whole wheat and they came out too heavy)

4 tablespoons of sugar

4 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

2 eggs (beaten)

2 cups of milk (whole or 2 percent work best)

2 tablespoons of canola oil (or any other vegetable oil. just don't use Crisco or that sort of thing)

2 semi-soft to soft bananas

pecans or walnuts, chopped

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, baking powder and salt and mix it up with a regular old fork.

Combine the eggs, milk and canola oil, stir 'em up good and add to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly to make everything wet, but don't over mix to the point of no little lumps in the batter.

Break up the bananas into a bowl and mash 'em up with a fork. Get it to a puree sort of consistency, then add to the pancake batter. Stir it in completely but gently.

If everyone at the table likes nuts, mix in a handful of the chopped pecans or walnuts (heck, you can use whatever kind of nut you want, I'd just stay away from peanuts, which aren't really nuts anyway, but legumes).

If only some at the table like nuts, you can add these to selected pancakes when you pour the batter on the skillet.

Speaking of skillets, heat one up on the stove. I like medium heat, but you may need to see what works best on your stove. Spray a really light coating of Pam or its equivalent on the skillet and with a mixing spoon pour out your pancakes.

They are ready to flip when the edges have turned just slightly firm.

Keep made pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven while making the rest.

Make sure to spray the skillet every time before pouring out the batter.

Top with whipped cream, berries and candied pecans. Or just butter and maple syrup.

This recipe feeds my four person family. Cut it in half if you are cooking for two. The math is easy.

I wish you all good health and healthy appetites, for good food and for life.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have You Voted?

Well, have you?

Hope so.

Voting is one of the things we can do to keep this country of ours strong and vital.

Realizing and acting on the knowledge that, regardless of who we voted for, we are all in it together is also a pretty good idea.

Go Forth and Do Likewise.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Abbreviated Excerpts

Abbreviated Readers’ Choice

I know everyone's time is valuable, so here are simply the opening sentences to my three in-progress novels. Which one, if any, would prompt you to keep reading?



Alan Hutcheson

Chapter One

Not all that long ago, Tuesday perhaps, in a land not quite so far away as you and I might like to think, there lived a youngish fellow named Dash Bailey.

From "The Baer Boys"

The Baer Boys

Alan Hutcheson


It's a great speech from what might be the greatest play of all time. And I thought I was doing it pretty darned well. Hell, from where I stood, down stage center in the Angus Bowmer Theatre in Ashland, Oregon, I thought I was nailing it.

And finally, from "A Pm for Pittiana"

A PM for Pittiana

by Alan Hutcheson


Excerpt from the journal of Thomas Hutchinson

former Royal Governor of Massachusetts Colony

8, June 1775

Plymouth Port

Our party departed on the tide this morning from Plymouth harbor bound for Boston. We number fifty-three, among us eight families and seven single men, all persons of good background and breeding. The news late received through the good offices of the Earl of Chatham makes us bold to return to the land of our birth. His gracious services will long be remembered and his name forever upon our lips.

Results (so far) and Recipe

The votes are rolling in.

Well, maybe sauntering would be a better way to put it.

I suppose that other voting thing is occupying peoples' minds right about now. That must be it.

But to both of you I say "Thanks!".

Here's a recipe. I used one from a cookbook called "Canyon Cafe" put out by Sam's Cafe as the basis for this, but as usual I messed with it a bit.

Cilantro and Lime Shrimp and Rice

Get out your handy-dandy food processor. Gotta have one for this recipe.

Take a couple of handfuls of chopped cilantro, about half a cup of pine nuts (lightly toasted is good, but not essential), about a third cup of parmesan cheese (you can use more, it's okay with me, but don't go crazy), clove or two of minced garlic and whirl it up nicely in the processor till it's all chopped up. Add a healthy tablespoon of lime juice, maybe half a teaspoon of salt and about a quarter cup of olive oil (could be more, what you want is a nice pesto-like consistency.)

Set this aside to kind of get its flavor together.

Peel and clean a pound of large shrimp (24-36 lb). Put 'em in a non reactive bowl.

Mix up a quarter cup of lime juice, a quarter cup of olive oil and half a handful of that chopped cilantro. Pour it over the shrimp.

Meantime, get some nice rice going. I like jasmine rice. This recipe feeds about four, so follow the rice directions for maybe six servings, cause in my experience folks are gonna want lots of rice.

Once the rice is nicely cooked, you know, not crispy anymore, but not soggy, stir in about a cup of the nice green stuff in the food processor. Let it soak in over low heat.

Heat up a skillet to medium and saute the shrimp. Doesn't take long.

Dish up the rice, put the shrimp on top and use the remaining cilantro pesto on top of the shrimp.

A nice vegie and you are all set.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.