2018 Posts


Reclaim America
Two Loves Challenged and More
Solar Power A Year Later
Post Truth Era???
An Author’s Lament
Morning Sun
I Lived To See It
Fooled You
Stress Relief
Torture Trench
Two Women in a Middle Seat

Reclaim America                                             January 1, 2018


After a year of disgust, teeth-gnashing and worry, we need to look forward to a revival in America of all that makes western democracies great. Sure, there will still be those who blindly refuse to budge from support of the orange monster, refuse to acknowledge that this administration is systematically destroying our country from within. We need to sweep them aside and trust that a vast majority wants to turn back to the high road.

More than one wise man, from Roman empire days to Roosevelt, have warned that the real threat to democracy comes from within rather than external threats. The Nazi’s took down Germany from within. Britain withstood the external Nazi threat. It must be obvious to any objective thinker that right-wing extremists are tearing down America by:

  • Fomenting racism and bigotry to divide people
  • Fostering violence by weakening instead of strengthening gun controls
  • Eliminating rather than providing health care to millions
  • Impoverishing citizens to increase corporate and rich individual wealth
  • Destroying relations with western democracies in favor of dictatorships
  • Undermining media’s role in providing factual reporting

See how easy it is to fall back into hand-wringing over our dismal situation?

We have an opportunity to right the ship this year, perhaps our last opportunity. As an optimist, I think that will happen. It will be hard to tolerate the continued destruction for another year. There will be so much more to restore. But the present situation shows how far a pendulum can swing. And a physicist would point out that the higher the pendulum swings, the stronger is the force to turn it back. So let’s embrace 2018 as the year we put America back on course.


Two Loves Challenged and More                February 28, 2018

TL Trilogy

Now available, Two Loves Challenged makes the story of Delbert and Sylvia a trilogy. The picture on the cover shows them flying off into the sunset even though it is still early in their lives. While I could probably come up with a fourth story, it will likely not occur because who knows what a four-volume set is called? A quadrilogy? Tetralogy? Spell-checker thinks that’s it.

Whereas the first volume dealt with growing up, military flying and tormented separation and the second with drug smuggling in Pacific Northwest waters, this one leans more towards bush flying, air rescue and psychopathic behavior—complete with life and death challenges. Find out more at www.sandpen.info by clicking on the icon at right.

And more—something new, a serial novel:


You can watch this novel grow week by week. Emma goes on from where Ickee Mushta left off. I’ve chosen this experiment because the volatile political world we live in could easily obsolete a novel of this type by the time it reaches the publisher. The serial approach will allow adaption to changing situations and at least give each new instalment relevance. My intention is to add a few chapters each week so if nothing else, you can see how a novel is created in real time.

The picture above won’t likely be used on a finished book since it may be copyrighted, however, it gives an idea of what I have in mind. To participate, go to www.sandpen.info (icon at right) and select Menu, then Emma.

Solar Power A Year Later                          March 22,2018


That’s right—zero power purchased! Sure, production dwindles on overcast Seattle winter days as the chart on the right shows. But with net metering, production the other nine months more than compensates. We will have finished the winter with over a thousand kilowatt-hours in the bank. And it was interesting to note that production shot up on clear winter days even though the sun was lower in the sky.

Last summer was a hot one with a lot of air conditioning required. If Tesla finds a way to deliver the Model 3 we have on order, it will be interesting to see if production covers charging it as well. If so, credit for the gas saving belongs to the solar system. We also converted from gas water heating to tankless electric which means there’s about a 20% savings in the gas bill. Depending on how one figures it, our top of the line solar system will take about ten years to pay for the investment. The satisfaction of giving more energy than we use makes the payback time irrelevant.


Trumpigence                                 April 8, 2018


Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem solving. It can be more generally described as the ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge. (Wikipedia)

Trumpigence can be generally described as lacking the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem solving. (Sandipedia)

Intelligence is most widely studied in humans but has also been observed in other animals, computers and even plants. Trumigence appears primarily, but not exclusively, in political circles and only in animals having eaten locoweed or fermented silage.

Intelligence can be difficult to find. Trumpigence inundates us with a seemingly never-ending avalanche of fresh examples. In my serial novel, Emma McEwan, I am scrambling to catch up and hopefully get a little ahead of events cascading down on us.

In its predecessor, Ickee Mushta, it was satisfying to accurately see the writing on the wall and forecast what actually took place. Admittedly, I took advantage of avoiding personalities in the presidential race. Today, that pleasure eludes me because trumpigence is running rampant. I am unable to talk about gun control before a trade war is created nor that before immigration idiocy emerges.

Though I am now endeavoring to post a new installment weekly (on http://www.sandpen.info), that won’t solve the problem. I think the solution is to deal with the larger underlying issues we face with this administration and with the split in American culture. Can the chasm be bridged? Would we have been better served by allowing secession rather than embarking on the Civil War? And how far down the road to dictatorship are we? Can citizens in all states rally together to stop the destruction of democracy? These are more significant issues for Emma to chew on.


Post Truth Era???                                      May 7, 2018

What the hell is that? Is it now the politically correct version of age of lies and deceit? Are liars now post truthers? This is bull crap (there are times when a little political correctness is appropriate). We need to call bad things what they are, in this case lies, false accusations or slander. I am opposed to the term mass shootings for the same reason. There are not merely mass shooting victims. People die, the rest of their lives stolen. These events are killings or slaughters. Let’s stop excusing bad behaviour with milk-toast terminology.

We live in a sick society and need to face that fact before we can hope to work for a return to health. We need to stop condoning the obvious lies and corruption which riddles our political leadership. Regardless of how one leans, toward conservatism or liberalism, this sickness must be cured. This “post truth era” must come to an end. We must not accept this sickness as the new norm.

It won’t happen if big money is allowed to buy politicians who support the NRA and corporate goals. However, people can rise up and vote them out in spite of their backing. Recent special elections have demonstrated that. Locally, we had a clear-speaking candidate with common sense running against overwhelming financial odds. Every day for months, we were inundated with fancy fliers full of bogus ominous claims and insulting pictures suggesting the candidate was unamerican. Despite all that, she won handily. We desperately need that repeated across the country this year.


An Author’s Lament                                       May 26, 2018


Show me an author who claims book sales are not important and I’ll show you a hypocrite. Oops—that’s me. For years I have shrunken away from marketing workload, partly because I don’t need book revenue to survive, partly because I don’t want to spend the time on it, partly because as an introvert I don’t like to impose on others. I suffer from an idealistic dream that good books will sell themselves.

Despite all that, sales are important. They tell one their effort in writing the book was worthwhile. And in today’s sea of new books, without promotion an author’s work can easily slip into obscurity. Unfortunately, reality dictates that public awareness of a book depends on promotion rather than quality.

Few things promote a book more effectively than good reviews.  We authors crave them. We give away free books in hopes of getting them and then feel cheated if they don’t arrive. Was the reader disappointed by the book or simply too lazy to write a review? Even a single line review, even a rating, provides valuable feedback.


Morning Sun                                        June 13, 2018


What on earth is this? It will be a combination workshop and shed oriented so that some future solar panels on the front side of the roof will catch the morning sun. Are they needed? Well no, we already generate much more power than we use. However, charging the soon to arrive Tesla may alter that, though I’m optimistic we can handle the additional load.

Our present arrays capture sunlight well from mid day on. Panels on this roof would begin meaningful generation earlier in the day. That’s appealing though it hardly warrants the extra expense.

The real reason for building it is twofold. It will allow me to tear down a smaller eyesore of a shed I almost bashed into oblivion with an errant backhoe. And it will allow me to move woodworking out of our garage. While I have trouble driving nails with my macular degeneration, I can still handle most other tasks. Between garage and cellar, we have a well stocked shop’s worth of equipment and tools.

You may question whether or not this is an eyesore fix. When finished it will match the house, more or less. Family members may justifiably accuse me of entering a second childhood since it resembles the workshop my father built approximately eighty years ago on Salt Spring Island.



I Lived To See It                                               July 25, 2018


Forty-four years ago, Linda and I designed the house we live in. Long-time friend Peter Morton introduced us to a rogue engineer at Boeing named Charlie Leonard. Rogue because he was years ahead of his time and management was unwilling to keep pace. Not one to sit still, Charlie sold heat pumps on the side. With his guidance and help we installed a Westinghouse Hi-Reli heat pump which silently warmed and cooled the house. And when it cooled the house it pumped the heat into our swimming pool. It was an efficient and elegant design which functioned perfectly over five years beyond its 25-year expected life.

Concerned that the compressor must surely soon wear out, we succumbed to the low cost of gas at that time and replaced it with a gas furnace and conventional air conditioner. In hindsight, I wish we had ridden the heat pump into its grave and wonder if it would still be functioning today. Of course, gas prices rose and we found ourselves with healthy gas and electricity bills.

Over a year ago, we made the jump to solar power. Splurged for the high-performance system in the picture. It won’t pay for itself for about ten years That’s fine. We produce over 50% more power than we use. Our monthly electric bill is $7.84, an administrative minimum. Last winter we replaced a gas water heater with tankless electric units, which reduced our gas bill by 20%. The coup de gras arrive July 5th in the form of a Tesla Model 3, an all-electric car that is a harbinger of the automotive future. An absolute joy to drive.

Our solar panels appear to take the additional load in stride, so the sun provides our transportation as well now. What’s left? Gas heats our house in winter. At present, it’s hard to justify a new furnace but the next one will be a heat pump with gas backup for extreme cold days. Full circle. Years ago, it seemed unlikely if not impossible to live to see this transformation. But the full circle of my life is not yet complete and I rejoice in having lived to see and enjoy it.


Fooled You                                          September 25, 2018

How many of you saw this skeleton and said to yourself, “That old fool will never finish it.”


Well, here it is, done on the outside and nearly so on the inside as well.


Not an architectural masterpiece. I would have liked to make it larger, however, it needed to stay within a 200 square foot floor area to avoid requiring a building permit. At 12 by 16 feet, it is larger than the photo implies. Still, with a good size bench and equipment inside, there is hardly enough room for the lawn tractor. As a result, this is now strictly a workshop. The poor old lawn tractor will end up parked in back under a carport-like addition. The straw that broke the tractor’s back is a lathe which sat unused in our cellar for over twenty years. I feel an urge to try it out.

This box has a few novel features to complement the front roof, which is designed to accommodate solar panels. The rear half of the roof is transparent and provides great northern light inside. The garage door open allows wood and plywood to extend out when necessary. A paved deck in front of it is under consideration to give a better work area (on sunny days). There’s work left to do but already our garage is looking roomier and never again will it be coated with sawdust.


Stress Relief                                        October 5, 2018

Most agree we’re living in very stressful times, particularly for a growing youngster. Some might argue the cold war years with their threat of nuclear annihilation rival today. I would disagree on grounds that, along with everything else, that threat exists again. A time traveler from bygone eras could claim we should experience the dread of living through a starving winter huddled in a cave rather than a quick trip to the supermarket. Yes, maybe stress has often raised its ugly head. In fact, there have been relatively few low stress ages. I feel lucky that many of my years fell into one.

However, in the last two years my stress level has increased disturbingly. The political situation in America and the backward trend in morality, ethics, pollution and economic inequality is a prime cause. But there’s more. Polarization and intolerance in our society is even more stressful. Having to keep quiet when friends rant in opposition to my beliefs and worrying if long-standing friendships will be torn apart I find particularly stressful. Daily news feeds the concern that American society is destroying itself.

As an optimist who normally lets antagonisms wash away, nagging issues provide a new challenge. Golfing friends might question this last statement on days when the ball refuses to co-operate. I’m not free from emotional outbursts but they pass quite quickly and leave no scars on my psyche. Nevertheless, the downward spiral in America toward two distinct cultures, perhaps even two distinct countries in the long run, preys on my mind. It’s a situation that calls for a calming influence—a quiet place to take one’s mind for a little rest and recuperation.

For years, that place has been the meadow behind our house. I like to pause and stare out, meditate in my amateurish fashion, scan for a visiting animal. Now a new calming influence awaits on my computer screen. This screensaver is a blend of relaxing hues and an image that seems to promise a brighter future off in the distance.



 Torture Trench                                       November 7, 2018


Looks innocent enough but this little trench hid a torrent of misery. The boulders beside it might give a clue. A little bigger than they look here, they signal the need for attack with a pick as well as a shovel. Toss in the age of my back and you have a recipe for a week and a half torture beginning with a crab-like struggle to get from mattress to feet.

“You old fool, it’s time you hired someone to do this sort of thing.”

“I know but who wants to work for a couple of hours on something like this?”

That’s part of my dilemma. A bigger part is not wanting to admit defeat to the accumulation of years. However, this has been the most influential lesson to date and perhaps I will think twice before future exposures…at least for a while.


Two Women in a Middle Seat                               December 3, 2018

The flight to Phoenix for our annual golf tournament started smoothly. As usual I selected a window seat, 21A this time. A fairly diminutive woman was already in the middle seat when I boarded. Great! No crowding. With female neighbors, I generally make conversation their choice. She chose not.

The coughs began before lift-off. Little coughs pointed straight ahead, unimpeded by hand or handkerchief. They came at too frequent intervals. Sometimes I twitched slightly but that went unnoticed. Years in the aircraft industry left me with a clear understanding of cabin airflow. In through the ceiling, down and outboard across her seat to mine and out through a baseboard grill.

Our captain was piloting his last flight before retiring after 29 years with the airline. His family was riding first class down and back from Seattle with him. I mentioned to my neighbor after landing that it would not be my idea of how to celebrate retirement. She smiled and agreed—without adding a cough.

My cough started a day later and progressed into severe chest congestion, stomach cramps and an overwhelming weakness. By the fourth day I was too weak to play golf and had to give up after nine holes. Maddening since I held the lead after three rounds. The lady in the middle seat was not receiving good vibes.

Worry that medical attention was needed made flight home Saturday evening a necessity. Determined not to cough on the flight, I loaded up with cough drops and syrup. Again, it was a window seat, 19A this time and my neighbor turned out to be another woman, in this case able to occupy the whole seat. I steadfastly withheld coughs and breathed toward the window as much as possible.

We exchanged pleasantries, then she and her husband plugged tablets into the seat in front and became engrossed in the entertainment provided. Looking around it became clear just how far in the rear of the technology race I’ve fallen. No one talks anymore. Take away engine and air noise and we would be in a flying tomb…well, hopefully not literally.

I have a nerve in my right forearm that has mastered the ability to twitch exactly when not wanted. On the way down, it became apparent that I should select a “D” window seat. Then, when a flight attendant reaches out with a beverage, I could grasp it with my left hand and avoid the risk of spilling it on my neighbor. In fact, on the way down, the woman’s size made it possible to reach all the way around with my left hand.

Not so on the way back. The cabin was darker too, so my new neighbor was in serious risk of a shower. When the flight attendant stretched out with a glass of water, I told the woman I had macular degeneration and a nerve twitch in my right arm and was deathly worried I would spill the water on her.

“Oh here, let me help.”

A little later, when the beverage cart arrived, she asked what I would like. Ginger Ale. She ordered it and passed it across.

“Be careful, she filled it to the top.”

I was now her ward. Half an hour later, with only ice in the glass, I dozed off and later woke with a start that spilled the ice off the table in her direction. I apologized profusely.

“Oh, don’t worry. Ginger Ale is what we use to get stains out.”

After landing, she asked if I needed help in the terminal. She apparently was ready to help the little old blind man with whatever was required to see him safely on his way. Said I would be fine. My wife was coming to pick me up. Wanted to tell her what a pleasant person she was. How the world needed more people like her. But now she was on her smartphone and then busy with her husband getting ready to deplane.

Two women in a middle seat but at opposite extremes of the consideration spectrum.


80.0                                                                December 21, 2018

Today is my 80th birthday. It comes on the darkest day of the year but for me it’s not. I still think I look like the picture on the left while others see the one on the right.

80th Photo

Perhaps it’s telling that the first is black and white. Aches and illnesses take longer to heal but they still do. And the latter picture hides a fun-loving interior. My daughter praised my sense of humor in words that warmed the cockles of my heart.

“Cockles of the heart”? Certainly not “cockles and muscles, all alive o”. Turns out the origin is controversial. After wasting a lot of time in research, the most logical explanation is that the cockles of your heart are the ventricles and thus, by extension, the innermost depths of one’s heart or emotions. The word comes from the Latin phrase cochleae cordis, meaning “ventricles of the heart”.

Yes, you could care less, but this is the kind of thing that octogenarian minds feast on, if they eat at all.

(Interruption here – my smartphone timer went off signalling it’s time to punch down the dough for the loaf of bread I’m baking. This birthday is full of excitement!)

I’m not the only one born on the darkest day of the year. The list of notables includes Joseph Stalin (appropriate), Jane Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evert and Ray Romano. I didn’t make the list again this year.

As both of you who read this blog know, this year included construction of a detached workshop. After the torture trench laid me low, the weather has turned wet and cold so refinement of the inside will languish until Spring. Instead, more time is being devoted to writing. I’ve completed a memoir, not because imminent death is sensed, but rather that a friend wants to pass bits of it to an author writing books about Boeing plane development programs. Probably precious few bits will make the grade. Anyway, if one final reading of a proof copy suggests publication is worthwhile, I will release it in January.

A more important venture is now re-vitalized; namely the “From Revolution Born” novel. Re-reading the first half after a long hiatus has inspired me to get back into it again. So, there is much to look forward to in the coming year, along with the joys of everyday living. I hope you can say the same and follow up a fun-filled holiday with a wonderful new year.

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