Facing East, Near Sundown



I took this picture from my front yard just before Christmas. It was, as advertised, near sundown and I was facing east. This struck me as an ideal metaphor to frame my thoughts of the passing year and my hopes for the new one.

I can’t remember the last year I was as glad to see the end of as 2019  So much anger and hate, so many people so wrapped up in their own shit, myself included, that it gets hard to see what even matters.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary named “They” as the word of the year, whatever that is, but I’m not rooting for it. My vote goes solidly behind “Outrage”. While the outraged may cry out for justice, it seldom seems to be what they actually want and, if these outraged persons make enough noise and get enough attention then, right or wrong, they can get it. No justice there.

I’m not saying the idea of equating justice with ruining someone’s life over what amounts to hurt feelings is a new thing, it’s just so much easier to do now and, now that it is, more and more people seem to want to take a turn sitting on the judge’s bench. The thing that seems to escape many of us regarding this matter is that any of us could be hauled up in front of the court of public opinion, tried by a jury of people who really couldn’t care less and condemned on the weight of ten seconds of cell phone video that may or may not tell the whole story. All this for nothing more than walking into a confrontational situation while minding your own business. I’m not sensing an earnest quest for justice here.

How about here? Kyler Murray, Heisman trophy winning quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners, was found by some enterprising seeker of justice to have used some words like “Queer” in some twitter posts when he was fifteen. Oh, the Horror! Thank you, seeker of justice, for using the utterances of a foolish child to ruin the biggest moment of this guy’s life. Real smooth.


For all that, there are things I truly enjoyed experiencing and memories I will treasure. Here are some pictures:


We were all very sad and lonely after Milton’s most untimely demise,, especially our other friend, Archie. After eight cats, though, we know that the only cure for losing a beloved cat is to bring home a sweet little kitten. Therefore, I take great pleasure in introducing miss Betty Spaghetti.



Here’s my sister (pink jacket) along with her kids and grandkids. Such lovely people.



Here I am, making friends wherever I go. Photo: Kenny Nines, King of selfies.



Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 22 semi-hollow body. Yabba dabba doo! I can’t even look at it without wanting to pick it up and play it.


Epiphone ES-335 Dot. See comment above.



On the left we have Big Red’s little buddy, known simply as the Orange Guitar. It was the first one I built, so it needed professional help. Now that it’s properly set up, it can really talk.



Archie and Betty , sitting in the window of my shop. They took their time making friends, but now they’re good.



Here’s Willie the ghost, scaring the crap out of children since 2002. He gives me the willies a little bit, too.



Doughty Yokels take on Godawful monsters in my very own wargame. I never said I wasn’t a geek.



I don’t drink much, I’d rather smoke pot, but Cathy got me to try a cosmopolitan. It was pretty good, but the real story is my hair.



Here’s some bee balm, and here’s some different bee balm.




Here’s Cathy. She’s feeling good because her monsters are beating the Hell out of the Yokels. Good times.



That’s my dogwood tree, viewed from my bedroom window. Needs a bit of cropping.



Here’s Milton. I have tears in my eyes right now.


Boy howdy, have I ever got a lot of pics! I’m really glad for all the good things in my life and I look forward to the good things that will come my way in the coming year. That’s why I’m facing east. I hope all of you are feeling the same way.

OK this is why I don’t do drafts. Like most of us, I hated all the political unrest and bullying. For all that, I’ve got to admit I like the widespread disease, of the body and the spirit,, even less.

When this is all over, we’re all going to have to find a way to move on and get back to being friends. Good luck, everyone.

Rock and Roll by the Numbers

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So there’s this Rock and Roll Hall of fame place and people, some people, like to complain about its lack of diversity. Let’s think about this for a minute.

First, before we even get to the numbers, let’s consider the music and what should go where. Just down the road from Cleveland, the home of the RRHOF is the town of Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Barring a serious cultural change and a major rewriting of history, Tiger woods,, Serena Williams and Babe Ruth will never be inducted there, for obvious reasons. Now Rock and Roll.

First, for the diversity crowd, I have a few numbers. Of the 77 acts inducted in its first ten years, 44 were either all black or featured black performers. Were they that much better?  The Beatles had to wait two years, along with the Beach Boys and  Bob Dylan  the Rolling Stones waited three, The Grateful Dead waited eight,, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, ten years. Whitney Houston who,, bless her heart, is about as not rock and roll as it gets, will be inducted this year while Pat Benatar, who has every bit as good a voice and a thousand times as much Rock and roll edge and swagger, not to mention Motorhead…Fucking MOTORHEAD have to wait while the so-called experts pander to the whiners.

I can sympathize a bit more with the ladies, who truly are, in my opinion, underrepresented to some extent. When the new Hip Hop Museum/ Hall of fame is opened in Harlem, I will watch with interest to see how long it takes them to induct Patsy Cline and Led Zeppelin. Until then, please know that I smell what you’re cookin’. It’s a big ol’ pan full of shut the fuck up. Time to play my guitar.

Goodbye, Neil Peart

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I can’t even get close to telling you how many of the musicians that have touched my life are now gone. John Denver’s music was like the comforting words of a friend. The genius David Bowie, whose entire life was a constantly evolving work of art,, opened my mind to beauty that I hadn’t even considered. Johnny Cash showed me, and the rest of the world, that you can die of a broken heart. Fresh tears flow down my face as I remember these wonderful people and the way they showed me the joy of having an open heart.

There are so many more I could mention, that could be an interesting topic for a later post. Now a few words about Neil.

I started listening to Rush in1982, when my sister handed me a copy of their classic, (then previous) album Moving pictures. I had heard Tom Sawyer before, but hadn’t paid much attention to the lyrics. That ended when I read these lyrics. Since that time, the Professor, as he is known to many, has been a sounding board for my own ideas about the world as well as myself. Steven Colbert asked him if Rush fans had a name, like “Dead Heads”. Neil’s reply was “They have their own names”.

The only drummer I can think of that is in Neil’s league is Keith Moon of the Who (If you didn’t know that, shame on you.), and that for opposite reasons.  It’s like they’re both tied into some huge wave of swirling chaos. Keith is riding his and Neil is driving his. To call him brilliant is an understatement only an Englishman could leave standing alone.

So now Neil Peart has departed this life. Here are a few words he left me:

Dreams flow across the heartland

Feeding on the fires

Dreams transport desires

Drive you when you’re down

Dreams transport the ones

Who need to get out of town

(Middletown Dreams, 1985)

So long, Friend.

Funeral for a Friend


We travel through our lives with the ones we love, the ones who are important. We try to stay close, even hand in hand but, inevitably, one of us gets lost anyway. This morning that friend, that important one, was my sweet baby Milton. You can see his face on my profile picture for the next few days, before I change it. Its too much to take.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless. I could have shot him but I just knelt beside him on the floor, second guessing myself until it no longer made any difference. I get philosophical about death, the ethics of mercy and the irresistible compulsion to hold on, even when there is nothing left to do but let go. Death came to Milton as a friend, one I couldn’t bring myself to be. I say this to my everlasting shame.

I don’t think I deserve any consolation, so please don’t comment. Milton was a real good boy and I’m going to miss him every day. So long old friend.

Beto’s tight pants


Beto O’Rourke has tight pants. Not because his breeches are too small for him but because he’s too big for them. He says “Hell yes, we’re going to take your ar-15, your AK-47”, like everyone who has one is just going to put it in a box and take it to wherever they are told to turn it in. Anyone who thinks that’s going to happen is clearly delusional. Responsible gun owners believe that the second amendment is a safeguard against tyranny and Beto is exactly the kind of tyrant they’re talking about.  If you think this is a good strategy for reducing violence in America, in the plainest terms, you are dead wrong. There will be blood in the streets and plenty of it. Of course whoever declines to comply will be tagged with some threadbare old tag that makes them  out to be a murderer but the fact is they are MADE to be criminals. Before that, they were, for the most part, peace loving, law abiding citizens. This is not, however, to say they hold still for being threatened. You underestimate the resolve of these people at your peril.

If you have read any of my comments you may have noticed that I have a large collection of rusty old saws that still cut. Here’s another one: When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. The violence won’t even slow down.

Bad songs say so much


I like a fair amount of pretty unpopular music. I also dislike a fair amount of music that is largely considered to be classic and timeless. This has led to years of defending the songs and artists I like while I was running down the ones I didn’t. Talk about a waste of time.

This is all pretty self-evident, I guess. In retrospect, none of this should be very meaningful since the songs we like don’t, or shouldn’t, be any sort of commentary on what kind of people we are, with the exception of overtly political or religious themed fare.  Even those who take pleasure in putting down the artists I like don’t generally know if this music has any kind of deeper personal meaning to me, any more than I know these things about them. Therefore, It’s John Denver or Justin Hayward, but it’s not me. What it is, though, is time to start trying not to take it personally and stop contributing to the conflict. Having made this great breakthrough, I have come up with the kindest, most generous response I can make to a song I don’t like: “It’s not for me, but I’m sure it brings happiness to somebody”.

Now, in celebration of my long-awaited emergence into the light, I would like to offer, for your amusement or bemusement, this beautiful song from a truly excellent, though much maligned band, The Moody Blues, along with a little bit about why it is special to me.

During the winter of 1985/1986, my soon-to-be wife and I were in the middle of a long distance romance. I was scared. I knew that if I failed I would lose the best thing that could ever happen to me. I was back at square one, which was a little heavy, but I had sort of a plan.  I caught a ride into Atlanta during the week with a neighbor who left early, like city bus driver early, waited a couple hours before work and hitched a ride back home, which sometimes took hours. On all those evenings of cold windy weather, walking backwards into the setting sun, this was my song of hope.

All-righty then. There’s a big steaming spoonful of guts for you to wipe off your screen, so now it’s your turn. You don’t have to get super personal, just a song you like that your friends and family don’t seem to get, and a little bit about why you like it. We could be on the verge of compiling a YouTube playlist for the ages. But we can’t do it without you.

As you read this, 634,826 people of all ages, social groups and ethnic backgrounds are in danger of forgetting the music of Buddy Holly ALONE. Why? Because good people do nothing. So post a song in the comments and strike a blow to make the world a better place, or at least a scary, angry, evil place with better music.

Oh, and Nick, I know you’re reading this so don’t try to hide. You need to put that Air Supply disc in your car, turn it up to an appropriate volume and rip the knob off.

Can’t wait to hear what everyone has to offer.

Business? What Business?


I commented on a blog recently and received a deep stealth trolling from someone who felt the poster should tell me to mind my own business. I wasn’t offended, I just had to wonder about it. If someone posts something personal o a public blog page, has that not just become everybody’s business?

We Loved Them, too


a tree in front of a window: Opponents say the massive Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution; supporters say the memorial honors service members and the constitutional ideals they died to defend.

I don’t follow religions, and that includes the religion that teaches there is no God. That said, I don’t begrudge others their faith either. Sadly, there are those who think their beliefs are the only ones that should be allowed to stand. These people come from all religious backgrounds, I know, so don’t get any bad ideas.

So today on my news feed I see that some group of loveless malcontents has decided that our nation (The decreasingly) United States of America, can’t survive unless a monument, in the shape of a cross, erected to honor our fallen soldiers in World War One is removed from its location in Bladensburg, Maryland. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this case on the 27th of February. The decision of the justices is bound to have a profound and far reaching effect.

It has been my experience in my relationships with atheists, agnostics and secular humanists over the years, that they feel our country is under siege from fundamentalist Christians who seek to turn their religious teachings into the law of the land. In large part I agree with them, but not this part.

I’ll bet we all know people of whatever religion who are, let’s say, not very receptive to new ideas. They’ll wave the flag and talk about freedom but by all indications the only freedom they care about is their own. It’s been that way for as long as there have been Europeans in America and it’s time we stopped.

Two points I think are most salient in this stupid, STUPID argument: 1). If you visit the United Kingdom you can find monuments to Scotsmen, Irishmen and Welshmen who stood against English rule over the centuries, and the English are not offended. These Monuments, as well as those like them here and all over the world, are reminders of the courage and sacrifice of our forebears. Not their religion or their politics, their courage.

2). Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, I’m sure you know his story. He went to the cross, willingly, as a sacrifice for the redemption of all mankind. As I have made clear, I am no Christian, and that’s all right. You don’t have to follow any particular religion to understand the meaning of sacrifice. To me, the cross is a symbol of sacrifice. When I see a place where soldiers died or were buried, I don’t look at or for the religious or political symbology. These places, these pieces of metal and stone, represent people who stood up for something they loved, be it the South, the Fatherland, the British Empire or the Land of the Rising Sun. They don’t exist to oppress anyone or to advocate ethnic or racial genocide, but to honor those who loved their land enough to die for it. That sterling Human quality is worthy of honor, no matter the heart in which it burns. Those I know who have been to war tell me that the blood washes away the idealism and that, in the end, you’re fighting for your friends. I believe that with all my heart, but that makes no difference. One of the truths of Jesus’ teaching, one that extends easily beyond the doctrines and dogma of the church, is found in the gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 13: “Greater love hath no man than this: That a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The assertion that the form of the Peace Cross, as it is known, is an insinuation that all the soldiers who fought in the great war were Christians is nothing more than putting words in other people’s mouths. I say that the days of pandering to the chronically offended must end. There are many far more important things to think about.


Saint Crispin’s Day




St. Crispin is the patron saint of cobblers. Here’s a pair of his shoes. Nice, huh?


The world will little note, nor long remember, (thanks mister Lincoln) what shoes he made, but his day will always be covered in glory.

1415: Battle of Agincourt


Henry V was, and is, renowned as one of the greatest heroic figures in the history of Britain. In Shakespeare’s play, The bishops of Canterbury and Ely discussed the merits of the young king, saying “The strawberry grows underneath the nettle”, a reference to the subtle maturation that occurred during his irresponsible youth. This portrayal of Henry as some callow brat is disputed by some, but apparently not by the French, who disdained his leadership and his resolve. On this day, at the field of Agincourt, the French would learn the price of their hubris.

Hungry, sick and clearly overmatched, Harry the King, with what was left of his army was making for Calais, and then England, but was overtaken. Seeing the great army of France, well fed and healthy, Harry knew the odds were clearly against him. The French could see it too. The following morning, St. Crispin’s day, they set their lines of battle in anticipation of a complete, overwhelming victory.

This is the part most of us know. “We happy few, we band of brothers”. No one knows the actual words he spoke but, at least in my eyes, Shakespeare did the great man justice. Even faced with the steel clad flower of French chivalry, the courage of the lowliest English peasant did not, would not, break. Long odds or no, the English victory was complete and devastating.

“If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.”

There is no telling how many times this story has raised people up from despair and helped them find their courage.


1854: The Charge of the Light Brigade


If’ you have ever said “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die” then, know it or not, you have quoted the Charge of the Light Brigade. Well done.

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem is a tribute to six hundred seventy courageous British soldiers (Tennyson reduced their number to six hundred for poetic purposes) at the battle of Balaclava during the Crimean war.

Whether due to miscommunication or lack of situational awareness, the Light Brigade was sent in on the point, ahead of the heavy cavalry and infantry, to drive off Russian artillery crews, who were moving their guns to another position. They weren’t.

When it became clear that the Russian artillery was not only not going anywhere, but they were locked, loaded and totally open for business, the infantry and heavy cavalry were called back. It was too late for the light brigade.

“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.”

There was no victory for the Six Hundred this day. Roughly 270 were killed or wounded for an objective they had no chance to achieve.  The Russian officers who took part in the day’s action commented in their reports about the courage of their enemies. Soldiers are good that way.

Tennyson’s poem Immortalized the Light Brigade, but their valor was met with ambivalence by the British government. This point was not lost on Rudyard Kipling, who wrote a sequel, titled “The Last of the Light Brigade”.

“There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.”

That’s the unhappy end to this tale of glory. No reward for the ultimate risk, no rest from the good fight, just knowing what they and the Six Hundred did that St. Crispin’s day.


1942: Bloody Ridge, Guadalcanal


This handsome devil is PFC Harry L. Nines, United States Marine Corps.

Seven hundred Marines were stretched out pretty thin along the ridge. Most of them hadn’t slept in days but there’s no sleeping now.

The Japanese counterattack started around 1:00 AM. Heavy machine gun fire, courtesy of Sergeant John Basilone, who won the Medal of Honor, and his crews, took down a hundred or so just as they were coming out of the jungle, but then they were everywhere.

This is the part where I want to make some stuff up to tell a good story and make my grandfather a big hero, like he would ever need that.  I do know this: He was on the ridge, in a foxhole, with a rifle and, at least once, he had a visit from a Japanese soldier with a bayonet. More important than that, he survived and came home to be my grandfather.

“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered.”

May we all do so well.

Godawful Monsters/Spam and Victory: The Shop, Weaverville NC, September 15, 2018



My name is Milton.

I am here to tell you about the game but I just remembered I have to sprint to the other end of the house right now. The guy who feeds me will take over from here.


The Table


Thanks Milton, here we go. This is the 4’X6′ mat from the pic after painting. Three different shades of green dabbed on with a paper towel followed by a bit of raw umber, I think.img_20180914_232730972.jpg

I kept this stuff after an unsatisfactory outcome with a terrain project. The black stuff at the bottom is some anti-fatigue mat and the purple stuff is Yoga mat (Be sure to wash them.) Now that the introductions are out of the way, it’s time to build the hill. Do you ever watch cooking shows where they put the turkey in the oven, go to commercial and it’s done when they get back? Well, BING!

Lieutenant Washington stops by to survey the scene (Future neglected miniature submission).


The wall sections are made of clay, which I couldn’t get fired, so I put them on a cookie sheet the last time I cleaned the oven. They’re super dry and hard, but they don’t stick together all that well. No worries though, you can never have enough river rocks and/or rubble. The stockade fence and gabions came from Historicon in 2017img_20180915_141648488

The trees are from all over. I got the pine trees from a guy I used to game with. I think they came from a cake decorating website. They are just rings of foliage stacked on a wire, which makes them awesome. I cut the wires so they stick out about 3/4″ below the bottom branches, then I push them into the foam mat. They never fall over so they’re great on a slope. They’re not really big at 28mm, but they look pretty good.

Some of the deciduous trees came from my late father-in-law’s model train layout, others came from Curtis, this evening’s master of monsters. The rest I made myself from wire, floral tape and foam foliage.

Meet the Players


This is Curtis, as mentioned above, our master of Monsters. He’s an engineer, so he’s oriented toward precision and efficiency, plus he’s got a great eye for detail. He turned a handwritten list of monsters and a rectangle of graph paper into a comprehensive monster management system in about ten minutes, a big improvement to the game.


Here are Ray(Left) and Paul, the Yokel commanders. Both have been gaming hard since the seventies, as has Curtis, for that matter.  The Yokels aren’t as complicated as the monsters, so I’m looking for some help from these guys with tweaking the Yokels themselves, to refine the balance and make all the sides fun to play.


Okay, here we go. As the Yokels advance toward the village, or what’s left of it, YE GADS! By my troth ne’er have I seen the like of that before! Yep, it’s a Godawful monster all right.


Here come the reds. They incapacitated that big disgusting grub with their muskets but it was still thrashing around and nobody wanted to go finish it off so they left it. Brutal.


Here we have some yellows, including an officer, being accosted by none other than GUG! Unfortunately for our Yokel friends, Gug is about the fastest monster in the game so far, twice as fast as a man, which makes him hard to evade. The two nearest Yokels have been killed, I need some really messed up casualty markers for this game. The officer has failed to make his nerve roll, so it’s looking like Gug will be having a frozen dessert.


We had to improve the nerve roll on the yellows from 5+ to 3+ due to their bravery. Those mad, impetuous lads. They are about to attack this ankheg,. You remember him, right, AD&D Monster manual, page 1. If they can get inside, things might go their way.


Not lookin’ good, boys.


Well, the yellows got one tacked on ’em, but the reds stayed on mission and got back to tell the tale. Next time we will have some British regulars to help things along, but for now, it’s time for some Spam.img_20180915_200800196

I love Spam! I’m having Spam Spam eggs bacon and Spam.

Well, that’s this game. It’s getting better as we go along. More later, thanks for looking.

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