More Bryson!

I am still somewhat wound up over my recent renewed interest in reading.  I reported in my last blog, of the circumstances that led up to this.  Because I enjoyed the book by Bill Bryson, and some of you also, were reading that book, and others of you had enjoyed other books by Bryson, I recently went to our public library to find more that I might read.  Of course I have already mentioned the problem I have with reading books, that I just can’t stay awake.  Never a fast reader, except perhaps during those periods during my education, by assignment or while seeking a degree.  I did enjoy History and Political Science as a student and teacher and the substantial reading that was involved.  However, for the past 30 years, there has been little accomplishment in book reading, even as I was occasionally urged by family and friends to read this or that.  Thanks again, Tim and or Merry for introducing me to the Bryson offerings, and to Julie for her suggested Internet pieces.

I do not want to exclude the fact that there are thousands of other good authors and interesting subjects out there to explore.  However, I may not get to them.  You shouldn’t press your luck with new book gifts or suggested reading.  For now, I am having too much fun with Bill.  The library revealed so many Bryson books that surely they will last me until my demise.  At 79, any extension of that event could be chancy at best.  The 250-300 pagers will be the favored selections, but I have already brought home a 900 plus pager which was mentioned as an enjoyable read by Grandson, Joel.  You all, no doubt, will be waiting with baited breath, to see if I am able to return it to the library in the specified lending time.

Bryson is primarily a travel author with travels and books from throughout the world.  However, it is his humor that I enjoy, but if one is not careful, they might broaden their knowledge about the designated subject.  His science endeavor, A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, surely will not be filled with the humor that I have found in LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID, and A SUNBURNED COUNTRY, but who knows.  What little progress I have made in the 900 page History of nearly everything has been quite cleverly written and actually has enlightened me on subjects of interest in such a way as never before.  I have enjoyed the Science Channel’s studies of the origins of the universe and the two compliment each other.

Provided you are not put off by a modest amount of profanity and crude graphic description,  and I don’t think anyone I know is likely to be offended, I do believe one can gather a great deal of enjoyment from the Bill Bryson books.  I’ll try not to bring up the subject again.


Happy Birthday, dear daughter Julie.  What a month February is for our family.  So many birthdays.  It is not very nice of me to remind you that you are now half-a-hundred.   Does it feel like you have now lived 21 percent of the period from our nations founding in 1776 until now?  I think I did the math correctly.  Of course that makes me well over 3/4 of a hundred and having  lived over 1/3 of the time from 1776 if I did.   I just thought some of these facts surely could in some way be linked to your diligent genealogy studies.

Anyway, I can’t produce the outstanding tributes to ones birthday that you have been so successful in offering, but I do wish you a Happy Birthday and we love you very much.   I’m not too clever with the photo’s and such.  All I have, are  probably ones you have supplied me.  I especially like this one.


Happy Birthday and thanks for all you do for us

I recently was privileged to celebrate my 79th birthday.  Goodness, that in itself is privilege enough, but I was honored to have my daughter and son-in-law spend a few most enjoyable days with us.  My son and his wife were not able to be here but did send a gift of a book which I have found to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Now, I am not illiterate, but just don’t read many books.  Newspapers I read, magazines I try to read, and I search and read lots of things on the computer except when dozing off to sleep.  Books, no matter how interested I am, never get beyond three to a few more pages before I begin to nod.

My wife insists that I have no sense of humor, and I agree that we seldom find the same things that we think are humorous.  However, I have been fully captivated and have found this book of which I speak to be absolutely hilarious.  This is a must read.  At least for anyone born in the 50’s or before.  Now, it may have more comical effect for males rather than females, for those who have lived in Des Moines (or at least the state of Iowa) rather than elsewhere, but I think anyone and everyone would enjoy the book, even my sophisticated grandchildren who were neither born in the 50’s nor lived in Iowa.  I would concede however, that not having lived during that era, would diminish the appreciation of “THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID.”

I began reading on Friday, and continued the brief periods of reading interlaced with nodding, dozing, and napping until completing the book early Sunday evening.  Also, to relax the developing eye strain, I would watch TV sports or news and then work soduko puzzles for awhile.  After all, we are talking 268 pages of paperback here.  Don’t ask me how I could be laughing so hard until my eyes watered, and then fall asleep, but that’s how it works. 

Bill Bryson is the author.  His father was Bill Bryson Sr. who was a very long time sports writer for the Des Moines Register and Tribune whom I read for many years before his death.  His mother also worked long time, for the R&T as well, as the home furnishings editor.  Thus, young Bill, with an older brother and sister,  was left to his own devices for much of his pre-adult years.  This is not unlike my own childhood, and the fact that nearly all of his recollection of the city of Des Moines and the state of Iowa are known to me, may make the details special to me.

There are sentences after sentences of hilarity in which I could barely contain myself.  Of the 14 chapters, probably 10 will keep one heartily laughing.  Then there are a few chapters, on more of a serious nature to describe disconcerting politics of the period.  Of course there is always other unpleasantness as well, and the final chapter is almost a bit sad.  One should be aware that the book contains some rather raucus description and that there is irreverance as well.  One may observe the love and respect he has for his parents, while also offering ridicule and disrespect as well.  Haven’t we all been there?

I always hated having to write book reviews, but here I am suggesting that you stop whatever you are doing and find this book.  Honest to God, you will laugh and enjoy.  http://www.randomhouse.com/features/billbryson/flat/home.php

It turns out that there are still good people around.   Another ugly news story took a “good feelin’ ” turn in today’s local newspaper.   A  rural elderly lady could no longer afford an automobile and the costs that go with ownership.  She did however, still posses a horse and buggy which she has been using for transportation and the hauling of groceries and other needed farm and home supplies.  Our weather has been cold and icy and her trips of several miles have been a hardship.

A few days ago, after shopping for groceries, livestock feed, and other needed supplies, she and a friend  headed for home. Two young boys jumped out from hidden bushes and spooked the horse.  Horse, buggy, lady and friend all were upended in a snow filled ditch, with all the newly purchased items scattered and sliding all over the ice covered ground.   The boys naturally ran away.  Concerned motorists stopped to help care for the occupants of the buggy and calm the horse.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and the salvageable groceries and supplies were gathered.  The damaged buggy was placed in a nearby storage facility and arrangements made to transport the horse back to the farm.  Helpful neighbors provided a ride for the lady and her passenger to their respective farm homes.

The next day she arranged a ride back to town, only to find the buggy missing.  The police were notified and thus the story appeared in the local paper.   Good wife and I were perplexed.   Who. how, and why would anyone steal a damaged buggy? 

Today’s paper reported happily, that good Samaritans in the neighborhood of the accident,  had the buggy removed to a repair facility and had hoped to surprise the lady.  Thus the mystery was solved and a very happy and grateful lady exclaimed that the world was good after all.  Yes, the horse is fine too.

Way too early to tell, and we ought not be judging just yet.  This is mainly for Ali who asked what I thought about President Obama after the first couple of weeks, but anyone else who happens by is more than welcome.  Since nearly all issues including our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become subservient to the efforts to solve the economic problems, there seems to be little else of concern for most.

My previous blog indicated that I felt President Obama was our best hope to engage dialogue, link oppositions, practice gainful diplomacy, etc.  That didn’t mean that he would necessarily be successful.  He is trying, but probably understands all too well after two weeks that, “it aint gonna be easy.”  The “feel good” period is over.

Obviously President Obama inherits a ton of problems, but that is what got him elected.  The principle anchor preventing the ship from moving forward is Congress and “guvment” as it has evolved.  And here I go.

Remember Reagan’s statement that, “government can’t solve the problem, it is the problem.”  Well maybe so, and I would go one step farther and add that the “people” may well be the problem.  We simply have not demanded more character and good behavior from our elected and appointed government officials.  Congress had less public approval than President Bush, yet incumbents everywhere won re-election.  I strongly believe that our political system with its Republican and Democrat leadership is broken and probably can’t be fixed, or at least won’t be fixed.  One would think that the Republican party would never recover after the botched years of control and the opportunity they had to lead effectively.  However I believe the Democrats will again open the door for them after a given period.

We all know by now, the ridiculous greed and recklessness by Wall Street financial and banking interests.  We expect responsible regulatory control but have not demanded it.  Obama, and I believe McCain as well, said most of the right things in identifying the problem but may be powerless to correct the problem of money, lobbyists, and the buying of government favors.  We now say Wall Street must be held accountable.  What’s wrong with holding Congress accountable?  And let’s throw in state legislatures, city & county governments and let’s add teachers and government workers, as well.

Last Fall, your brother and my grandson Joel, when all of this economic “bail out” fiasco started, asked about the emergency weekend 800 billion bill that just had to be acted on within hours or the world would end.  We had no idea, that was only the tip of the iceberg and the Titanic was about to strike it.  Joel had very legitimate concerns and I truly wish others with a vote had shown as much diligence in their study of the problem.  McCain was ridiculed for suspending his campaign to study the issue.  I thought that was the only responsible action he and Obama as well, should take.  Unfortunately, they didn’t demand more accountability, and we have had numerous changes since until we are out in space.  President Obama now has to be the rudder to get us back on course.  Tough with Democrats allowing little Republican input.  Tough with Republican refusal to support any proposal without their input.  The President, while enjoying immense popularity is getting criticism from the extreme left who was instrumental in his election victory.  The criticism from the Limbaughs and the far right was expected.  I have been impressed with his efforts to bring the two sides together.  For me, the middle way is the only way.  Democrats and the liberal media want to blame Bush and the Republicans for all that’s wrong, but we have seen little Democrat support for any Republican Administration even though they too were elected by the people.

As for, “how’s he doing so far?”  I have generally approved of his cabinet choices.  I like his style and demeanor.  I am disturbed by the fact that at least three of the appointments have had tax problems or acceptance of questionable political favors.  Can you imagine the voices from the Democrats and the media had a Republican nominee made this mistake.  I am afraid it portends to the same old system, Democrat or Republican.  I did not approve of some of his friends prior to his election.  The present stimulus bill is loaded with pork or content that is not apropos to vitalizing the economy.  McCain promised to veto every measure deemed pork.  Obama should do the same until Congress gets the message.  McCain probably wouldn’t have done it and Obama probably won’t either, because of those darned political considerations.  President Obama is my President and the best man for our times.  I will support him until I no longer can.  Two weeks is an awfully short time, but I like him and what he is trying to accomplish.  As I write, the President has just nominated Republican Senator Judd Gregg to be Commerce Secretary.  Another good move.

Ali, now you know why it is not a good idea to ask me what I think and why it is probably a good idea for me not to blog often.  Good luck and better weather at N.U.  Love to all my family members wherever you are.


While I have mostly given up blogging, and even pretty much reading them as frequently as I should, I have been captivated on this day along with others, by the inauguration.  This will be our best “feel good” day before business begins.  But what a great day to be an American.  The peaceful transition of power in a democracy is truly a miracle, and a special miracle in this land of ours.  Nothing like it anywhere else in the world.  And for this day, the really most disagreeable of our political figures from both parties are behaving quite well and what a joy to see old political rivals greet and converse congenially.  Yes I feel proud today inspite of the seemingly unsurmountable tasks ahead.

I just want to add an observation formed as I watch and listen to the proceedings.  Perhaps President Obama will be successful or not, but if ever there was a time when we needed a uniting force, we have indeed an individual who can be described as a UNIVERSAL MAN.  Our President will be the first born President from our newest State. 

Having lived in that island paradise many years ago, I have always been impressed with the harmony that many races were able to achieve.  This man with the unlikely name of Barack Hussein Obama, with a black Father born in Africa, a white Mother born in Kansas, growing up and living in Asia, and you know the rest.  Yes we have a Universal Man whom I see as truly attempting to be an American first.  Our best hope for all Americans, and hopefully for the world.

Death by Freezing!

This morning, Oct 28, 2008 at 3:00 a.m justice was served.  The “Crimson Red Seven” were quietly put to death by freezing.  The notorious seven pots of Red Begonias after giving  months of blazing red beauty and fragrance had suddenly given notice demanding new inside quarters, treatment and care.  As their original contract failed to provide for such, the United States Supreme Weather Bureau began proceedings against them.  The Seven were warned that failure to perform anytime after October 15th would bring the harshest sentence known to plants.  After negotiations failed, the Bureau announced an impending possible temperature drop to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and gave final warning.  With no response, the acting master gardener (no certificate) was instructed early on Oct. 26th to place the Seven on Death Row.  The seven pots were dutifully removed from their appointed places throughout the premises, and were placed on death row along the drive-way near the final execution chamber.  Appeals were filed to no avail and execution was to take place on Sunday evening October 26th.  A last minute stay of execution came with a change in the forecast and the Seven stood proudly without covers over their heads and indeed did bravely withstand violent winds up to 60 miles per hour throughout the 26th.  Again denying further last minute appeals a new order of execution came on the 27th.  Hopes for further exoneration began to be futile and the Bureau’s refusal to hear further appeals brought their demise early today.  The acting master gardener confirmed death at 7:00 a.m.  Although there were appearances that the Seven had withstood the hard freeze sentence of 22 degrees, the acting master gardener found that the stems, leaves, and blossoms were frozen and snapped completely off with just a touch.  As the temperature began to climb and the thawing process started, those in attendance would surely see the unfortunate end to the Crimson Red Seven.

In another case closely related, settlement was reached with a plea of guilty and resulted in a reduction of sentence.  A pair of intermittently blooming pots of so called Rain Lilies in the same locality were previously warned, that death could be a result of non-cooperation,  The pair turned states evidence concerning the coming trial of the Crimson Red Seven and were sentenced to six months in the darkest corner of the infamous “Basement” holding quarters.


The “Rain Lily Pair” have apparently withstood this sentence numerous times previously.  Not many go into the infamous “Basement” and re-emerge unscathed, but these two, seem not only to re-emerge, but almost relish the sentence knowing that there is warmth there in the silence throughout the winter in this harsh land.  One can only surmise how and why these two endure these seemingly annual circumstances. 


Abolish and outlaw the Republican Party.  Then, let us all work together to help stamp out Democrats forever.  There must be a better way.  Did I just hear George Washington say, “I told you so.”?

We could go on and on but as Fanflower already expressed, we are glad you are part of our family and are Zoe’s Mom.  You did good, Joel.  Happy Birthday Blake.

As well, I will also wish a Happy Birthday to my Father, X T Prentis, who would have been 111 years old today.  As a very politically minded man, I’m sure he would be somewhat dismayed with the circumstances of the upcoming election.


Well, I feel vindicated!  The nation is politically moving toward me.  After voting with a write-in vote in 2004 which included my favorite Democrat, Joe Biden and my most admired Republican, John McCain, I suddenly find that both names will actually be printed on the ballot this time around.  (just not on the same ticket.)  I honestly don’t remember which one I chose for President and which for Vice President.  I do remember that Florida was not the only state with ballot difficulties.  My ballot was rejected by the machine when I submitted it.  Our device protects the privacy of your ballot and I was instructed to go back to the booth and re-examine my ballot to see if I had indeed followed all the instructions and clearly marked my ballot without going outside the lines. (Remember the Olympics-Always stay in bounds [do you hear that John Edwards?])  So finding nothing I could change, I re-submitted the ballot and was again rejected.  The voting officials were all consulted and they decided a new ballot would be necessary.  Again, mine was rejected.  More consultations, and after 30 minutes, I confided to them that my ballot contained a write-in selection, (which was provided for on the ballot) and perhaps that was the problem.  They informed me that my ballot would have to be manually treated and assured me that care would be provided to maintain confidentially and that the ballot would be counted…(translated, would mean that it would likely be in the trash can the moment I was out of site.)

I believe Biden’s selection as the VEEP candidate is the best thing to happen to Obama and reflects good judgment on his part.  Biden is brutally honest, and after 33 years in the Senate knows how Washington works, but better, he knows how it should work.  The press and the Republicans, who for the most part, originally approved of Biden as an appropriate and respected addition to the ticket, are quickly trying to find something wrong with the selection and will try to discredit him and the choice. That’s to be expected.  Now we will see who will fill out the Republican side of the ballot.  My choice would be Colin Powell (that won’t happen.)  Beyond that I can’t think of anyone who would satisfy the right wing of the party except Huckabee (who wouldn’t impress the total electorate enough to win.)  Romney’s a Morman and probably owns too many homes, and Guiliani just doesn’t resonate with anyone.  Lieberman?  Interesting, but unacceptable to the right.  The one woman, McCain could choose that might get him elected,  happens to be very much a Democrat and is surely unavailable to the Republicans (Hillary.)

So where does that put me.  Having been on the fence but leaning to McCain, I’m now back on the fence and feeling like the cat with the canary.  I can’t lose, but feel that the country has more to lose with a Republican victory.  It would mean continued befuddlement in Congress while the nation needs action.  Obama is emerging from the pied piper status, to being more thoughtful and Presidential and the Democrats now give me more confidence.  McCain, while being acceptable to me, is nevertheless saddled with a lost and confused Republican Party.  Besides, if McCain were to win, providing another residence at the White House would clearly add to that unacceptable dilemma.  And what about allowing them to go to Camp David for rest and relaxation.  That’s another residence, all be it temporary.  Do any of you know the correct number of houses allowed?  Just wondering.  Surely, this qualification has arisen since the Kennedy’s.

I told good wife Pat of a recent dream.  It seems that Obama and McCain had reached agreement that they would select each other to be the other’s vice president.  The campaign would be cancelled and the public spared all the months of negativity and bitterness.  Both agreed that Joe Biden would be named Secretary of State and Colin Powell would be brought back as Secretary of Defense.  Then the election would be held on schedule, and whoever won, the other became Vice President with the results pretty much pre-planned.  I think the only part she approved of was, the part about cancelling the campaign and not getting the barrage of mail, TV ads, etc.  The closing Olympic ceremonies are tonight.  The Democratic National Convention starts Monday and the Republicans will follow that.  Thank goodness, we have some football starting in the middle of all this.