Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Subjects this month:Note to Readers, Tweedle, The Dog Who Thought He Was A Cat, Bain Quote, State of America: Our Bankrupt Federal Government, Lots of Book Reviews, Tribute to a Mother, Are you embarrassed by this?, Excerpt from The Dog Who Thought He Was A Cat
Note to my readers: This issue of Bainstorming covers the last three months and the reason follows: The first three months of this year saw me in rather a funky mood. Part of it was because of health issues, non-life threatening but never the less very aggravating. Another reason was the abrupt drop in my sales for no apparent reason. I later came to find out that the sales decline, especially in the ebook market, included many authors and many publishers. These substantive sales drops really discouraged me. I, as well as many other authors and publishers believe the major cause of drop in our sales began when Amazon and Barnes & Noble began allowing anyone who pleased to publish books without going through an editor or publisher. While I have no quarrel with this method of publishing it caused a really big problem because there is no way of telling just from looking at the blurb on either of these sites whether the book is self-published or not. Therefore, there is no way to judge the quality of the book. Many of them are subpar although some are good. The big problem is that these self-published books swamped the market and all but buried many mid-list authors such as me. I really do think there should be a way of distinguishing self-published books from those by regular publishers for shoppers. Heck, I may have to resort to self publishing myself but I can assure you I will at least have the work edited and will do my best to see that it contains a minimum of typos. There. Now I’ll get off my soap box.
During this period of time I did no fiction writing at all and only managed the first three issues of Bainstorming before falling behind there, too. However, I did finally come out of my funk when I realized I wasn’t trying to make a jillion bucks, but rather because I enjoy writing fiction and it helps keep my mind active. Of course it’s nice to know my books are being read and fan letters keep telling me how much my work is liked. Lately the letters have been asking me why I’m not better known. All I can say is that my ratings and reviews are generally very good and virtually 100% of reader mail is very complimentary so I can only conclude that the major publishers just don’t like my style, which of course is their right, just as it’s mine to write the way I do. Anyway, I don’t know any other way to write.
This concludes my note to my readers except that I don’t promise to produce Bainstroming with the regularity you have seen for the last six years or so. I will keep writing it, though, and publish it whenever an issue is complete. Thank you for reading.
Tweedle, The Dog Who Thought He Was A Cat
The title of this segment is also the title of a book by your favorite author, Darrell Bain, which has just been published in the Kindle book store. It is illustrated by my brother and makes fun reading for pre-schoolers and grade school children. It is also a wonderful book for the family to read together or you can let the Kindle read it for you. The sounds Tweedle makes when he is happy or sad or puzzled are faithfully reproduced by the Kindle reader, providing laughs and tears for the whole family. Applications are available for many other readers, including the iPhone, iPad, Nook, and so on. Actually, this is a story that adults can enjoy just reading it for themselves. After all, lots of people these days have trouble figuring out just who and what they are, just as Tweedle does! So gather the family and have a good time. Thank you. DB
In the past I’ve said a number of times, half-jokingly, that a couple’s sex life ends when there is always something physically wrong with one or the other. The last couple of years I’ve quit laughing when I say it! Damned old age.
From fiction to reality
The advent of 3D printers is very much like science fiction becoming reality. For many, many years science fiction novels and stories have included “Fabricators” which produce objects from a supply of raw materials poured or placed into a hopper and the fabricator then reassembles the raw materials into whatever object is desired. That’s exactly like the 3D Printers we have now work and they are becoming more sophisticated all the time. I can see the day in the near future where 3D Printers will become a necessary household instrument, like vacuum cleaners and washers and dryers. I guess illustrations like this, where fiction becomes reality, is why I have always loved reading and writing science fiction.
State of America series, Our Bankrupt Federal Government
Bank Shenanigans and Our Bankrupt Federal Government
At the time of this writing, our federal government is, for all practical purposes, bankrupt. Our idiotic, selfish leaders have borrowed, and keep on borrowing, so much money for programs used to get those all-important votes to keep them and their party in power that they’ve borrowed the country into a hole I really don’t see any way of getting out of. No, I take that back. There are ways to get out of it but I can’t see either Congress or We, the People sacrificing enough to accomplish the deed. Essentially, to rid ourselves of the debt we’ve gotten ourselves into requires a hefty increase in taxes and/or a hefty decrease in government spending, preferably a lot of both.
Of course we could just continue on the path we’re on now and watch inflation increase as we borrow more money until the dollar is worth little or nothing, then pay our debt off with wastepaper. Isn’t that a horrid thought? It will come if we don’t do something, though. But can you see our congress critters cutting government services and benefits to any appreciable degree, or raising taxes even enough to quit spending more than we take in every year, a trillion bucks or more? I can’t. And don’t hold your breath thinking I’m wrong. You’ll die of asphyxiation.
Here’s a nasty statistic for you. So much money has been borrowed that more than a half trillion dollars--that’s right, more than a half trillion dollars of our taxes will be spent each year if the primary interest rates go up to just 5%, simply to pay interest on the money our stupid leaders have borrowed. Right now it’s “only” about a third of a trillion dollars we pay for interest on the debt our congress critters have run up, and it comes directly from your pockets! Put it another way. Each year, interest on the debt amounts to more than $2,000 for every man woman and child in America in taxes just to pay the Interest on the federal debt. God only knows what it will cost once interest rates start going up again. It is absolutely obscene that we owe way more than ten trillion dollars with no way in the world to pay it back (and it keeps going up every second, which is why I can’t quote an exact number. It’s probably more like 15 trillion by now). That’s $40,000 for every man, woman and child in America that the government owes and they keep right on borrowing a trillion or more every year. Our leaders are too craven to raise taxes to at least balance the budget so we don’t have to keep borrowing or to cut services, one or the other. Or some of both. How on earth do they sleep at night? Or maybe they just crawl into their financial caskets at night like all money sucking vampires do.
Know what? Every state but one has a constitutional requirement which forces them to balance their budgets. Not only that, the states require the cities to balance their budgets. Now why, if all the states and cities manage to balance their budgets, no matter what, can’t the federal government do it? Hell, the feds, led by our president and congress, can’t even come close to balancing a budget.
Know something else? A whale of a lot of that debt we owe is held by foreign governments, China for one. I’ll go into our foreign policy later but right now I’ll just say that if our dollar becomes so unstable (and it’s heading in that direction like the proverbial road to hell) that the governments and banks that we owe money to refuse to loan us any more we’re sunk. S U N K, sunk! Kaput!
Where is hell is all that borrowed money being spent, you might ask? I’ve already covered one big portion of it. It’s being spent on a crazy, patchwork, indescribably complex medical care system that is outracing inflation, and like our debt burden, is unsustainable. This kind of sh*t can’t go on. Could you live and support a family, even with both spouses working, if you spent more than you took in, year after year? Hell, no, you couldn’t, not for any length of time. So what on earth makes our congress and president think a nation can do it? Actually, they know damn well we can’t continue like this but I can guarantee you will not see the politicians do a damn thing to stop the collapse. Not until we’re all beggared.
One more little fact for you. If you don’t read the business section of the newspaper you probably don’t know much about the Balance of Payments and what it means. Basically, we’re importing a half trillion dollars a year more than we export. So what? you ask. Here’s what. All that money is being removed from our wealth and being sent to foreign countries which in turn use the money to buy up our industries. If the present trend continues foreign countries will own more of America than we do before long! More on this when we come to foreign policy. For now just remember, Balance of Payments deficit means transfer of wealth from us to other countries and that doesn’t even count the rusted industrial machinery that’s not being used and is being junked. Ahhh! I can’t write about our government’s insane fiscal policies any more right now. It upsets me too much.
Later, after I’ve calmed down a bit. So what should we do to get out of this financial mess our politicians have so blithely borrowed us into? There’s not but one solution and that’s the same one an honest family would have to do if it found itself in such bad shape. Cut expenses and raise income (in this case, taxes) until we begin paying down some of that awful debt that’s going to beggar our kids and grandkids. In fact, it’s doing a fair job of beggaring us right now. Or at the very least, either raise taxes enough or cut government enough so that at least we don’t borrow any more money.
No one likes taxes but when you owe money it needs to be paid off. I’ve already shown one way our taxes should be done. There are others that would probably work just as well, too. Fixing or tax system would help a lot because it would eliminate hundreds, if not thousands, of legal loopholes and exemptions that keep people from paying taxes. Besides that we have to cut expenses. One of the biggest is medical care and I’ve already told how to cut some of that expense. Social Security will need to be revised, too. And screw those idiots who say it should be privatized. All that would do is create millions of old people who would depend on charity to survive because most people can’t or won’t save enough money to secure themselves a pension for old age. There’s nothing wrong with social security except a lot of provisions that raise expenses such as retirement ages that don’t reflect our present life spans. It’s actually one of the better run government programs.
We are having a revival in recovery of shale oil and gas that will provide enough of our energy so that we could stop wasting money on wars in the middle east that are nothing but wars to protect our source of oil, pure and simple. Or shift to natural gas. We’re finding so much of it right now that the price is depressed. Those wars in the Middle East have cost God knows how much money by now, way, way more than a trillion, probably about two trillion--and counting. Give us a rational energy policy and we can stop depending on oil from that region and quit fighting wars to protect it. More money saved. And for Christ’s sake stop that government ethanol boondoggle the government is subsidizing. It doesn’t save a bit of energy; in fact, it more likely costs energy. Besides, it ruins the land and drives up food prices. Get rid of it!!!
Speaking of subsidizing, that’s another place to cut expenses. Farms are given about 25 billion a year for no other reason than to get votes. The money doesn’t even go to small farms. The majority of it goes to big agriculture corporations that don’t need the money.
Another place to save is involvement in education the federal government has spent almost two trillion dollars on with no visible result. I’ve covered that. There are all kinds of other ways the federal government is wasting money that could be used to at least balance the budget if not begin paying off our debt. It ain’t rocket science folks. If 49 of our 50 states can run on balanced budgets how come the geniuses in Washington can’t manage it? They could and should. That’s how it ought to be.
By the way, any one who thinks there is no room to cut government spending should take a look at the Cato Institute’s free downloadable book at www.DownsizingGovernment.org . It points out enough waste, fraud and mismanagement in government to balance the budget and begin paying off our monstrous debt. Really and truly. Honest! It is easy reading and should be stuffed up the ass of every member of congress. Sideways.
Some responsible members of Congress (we do have a few despite all my ranting) attempted to institute more stringent banking regulations to prevent another collapse such as we’ve seen from banks using their deposits from hard working folks to gamble with. Yes, that’s what I said. Banks use their deposits to gamble, just like when someone gets into a poker game or plays the slot machines. The banks traded in subprime loans when they knew damn good and well they weren’t worth the wastepaper they were written on. They traded in currency and fooled around with credit default swaps, whatever the hell they are, which helped cause the collapse. Say what? Credit default swaps, gambling with our money we deposited? Hell, 95% of us haven’t got a clue what those things are. I’d like to know what happened to old fashioned banks that took deposits, loaned them to deserving people and businesses for a profit and tried to run honest banks.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s a free country and if folks want to let their bank play with their money like that, all well and good--but by damn they shouldn’t be allowed to do it behind our backs!! But that’s exactly what happened. Now frankly, I believe that if banks want to gamble they should be allowed to but they damn well should let us know that’s what they’re doing with our money! I’d be willing to bed that scads of customers would have withdrawn their money had they known what was happening. So if we’re going to regulate banks, make them tell us right up front, in simple understandable language, what they are doing with our money. It is the height of irresponsibility for those high flying financiers to make (or lose) hundreds of billions of dollars gambling with our money. Why? Because with gambling, when someone wins, someone else loses. Personally, we put our money in the bank so that it is safe, and there waiting on us when we want to get it back. Our bankers evidently don’t believe in that sort of honesty, though.
There is all kind of talk right now about fees. Fees for this, fees for that. Fees to use our own money with a debit card! Big fees to take our money from ATMs. Fees for overdrawn accounts that the banks encourage because they make so much money from that kind of crap. High interest rates on bank credit cards and woe to the person who misses a payment. Then the interest really skyrockets! Please, let’s get back to simple banking like the banks in our little towns do. Or at the least, if the banks want to play with the big boys, let us know about it in language we can understand!
One last thing, here. Payday loan companies! I dislike them with a passion. Why? Because they do their damnedest to steal all the money some of the poorest segment of the working class still possess. What they do is catch a working man or woman in a bind for money and they loan them, say a thousand dollars at a higher interest rate than banks would charge. Higher than a pawn shop. Higher interest rate than credit cards and that’s really getting up there. Still no problem. A person needs the money right then and the payday loan company has it to lend. But--and this is actually several big buts--first they subtract about $150.00 for processing fees and the like. Then the person doing the borrowing promises to pay back the whole loan the next payday at something like thirty percent interest (and that’s on the whole thousand bucks including the processing fee). So the next payday the person needs to pay back $1,300.00. Ah, but aren’t these payday loan companies generous. They will be more than glad to let you roll over the loan by just paying the interest, that $300.00. Then next payday you still owe $1,300.00. The loan companies will keep it up forever if the person lets them. Say he or she gets paid twice a month and pays that $300.00 interest each time. At the end of the year they still owe $1,300.00 but they’ve paid interest of almost $8,000.00 on that $1,000.00 loan!!!! It is usury, plain and simple. That just means charging a borrower outrageous interest for a simple loan. They should be outlawed because they never explain just exactly what they are doing. If they told the borrower they were going to charge him or her almost eight thousand bucks on a one thousand dollar loan they’d run like hell the other way as fast as their little legs would take them. Hell, loan sharks give better terms than that and they’re illegal!
You might want to ask why the government should protect a person from their own stupid decisions. The thing is, those stupid decisions are never explained and they are made to sound great when you’re ready to put your signature on the dotted line. That, in my opinion, makes the payday loan companies crooks even though they are actually legal. Besides, if I’m not wrong there are laws against usury. Also, like Social Security, the government does have some functions and protecting consumers against practices like payday loans comes under that heading, I think. Just like the majority of people can’t or won’t save enough money for their old age, sometimes people do need to be protected against themselves.
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein is a book written for young adults but it is quite good enough for any age. A young man wins a used spacesuit in a contest and renovates it back to workable condition--just in time to get into a galaxy wide spate of trouble. I’ve read it at least a dozen times and never tire of it, or most of his other young adult books.
The Long Way Home by Darrell Bain
This is one of my favorites. When I re-read it recently, I enjoyed it just as much as while I was writing it. A longboat from a destroyed intergalactic starship must make a journey never before attempted. For fuel and provisions it must stop at numerous planets, many of them so dangerous to humans the survivors can anticipate losing more of their crew. And all the while they are shadowed by a hostile alien ship wanting to find the home planet, Earth. Accidents, hostile environments, an interrogator slowly going insane and a young explorer who has to grow up in a hurry make this a thrilling science fiction novel.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez. For those who don’t know, a Daemon is a computer program that runs continuously in the background and performs specified operations at predetermined times or in response to certain events. The Daemon Suarez writes about was enough to make even our government sit up and take notice! “Nuff said!
John Grisham’s The Confession is a fictional story of an innocent man on death row in Texas and the desperate attempts to save him when the real killer confesses. It gets into some of the ways police work with prosecutors on occasion to railroad innocent persons. This is just about unputdownable.
Starship Down by Darrell Bain. A starship is irrevocably lost, leaving only one recourse: colonizing a planet somewhere. The star liner had been carrying a crew and a motley assemblage of scientists going out to study or coming back, colonists on their way to new planets, an army company going to replace another, politicians coming and going from established planets and a consignment of hardened criminals bound for a prison planet. The crew must somehow meld these disparate groups into a functioning colony while in the grip of a mad captain, prisoners bent on escaping and taking over and politicians who think they have the right to order the crew around. A great read, I think, even if I did write it.
Fredrick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth were one of the best collaborators science fiction has known. I can only imagine the great fiction the two might have produced together or Kornbluth alone if he hadn’t died so young, only 34 years old when his heart stopped. Gladiator At Law is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read! Anyone should enjoy it just to see how far the lawyers may go in the future when they have control of the world!
Angel Flight by Michael Connelly is up to his usual very good standard. Detective Harry Bosch is still going strong when he catches the case of an activist attorney who gunned for policemen in court is killed in a streetcar
James Grippando is a very good author I haven’t read enough of. Beyond Suspicion is a novel of an insurance scam involving selling insurance policies by a person supposed to die soon--but was misdiagnosed. Now the buyers of her insurance may want their money back--or there may be even darker motives behind a spate of killings.
Easy Target by Tom Smith is one of the best first person accounts of a participant in the Vietnam War I’ve read. It tells of a Scout Helicopter pilot, those who go out looking for the enemy and letting him shoot first so the pilot can pinpoint the location of the bad guys. Very emotional and gripping. A great read by a very brave man.
When Little Big Man by Thomas Berger came out it was universally hailed as a completely different and unusual novel told in the words of a man well over 100 years old who claimed to have survived Custer’s Last Stand, but that is only one of many, many adventures this unusual character had during his life. Ficton but a wonderful story.
Just about everyone has heard of Dune by Frank Herbert. It is hard to imagine this novel being rejected by no less than eleven major publishers but that’s what happened before it was published. It contained so many new ideas that authors today are still drawing from it.
Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn is another novel about Mitch Rapp, where the powers that be think he should be taken down because he is out of control. He is, but he has a very good reason. Terrorists have killed his wife and now he will stop at nothing to gain revenge.
Savage Survival by Darrell Bain. Like all authors, I can go back over books I’ve written and see ways I could have made it better. This holds for Savage Survival as well, but nevertheless, it has had very high ratings just as it is. I intend to eventually go back and rewrite it so if you want to read it, do it now. I promise you won’t lack for excitement and thrills as Lyda Brightner fights for survival for five long years under conditions where only one of thousands will survive.
Mario Puzo is famous for writing about the Mafia. The Last Don isn’t quite as good as The Godfather but that is a hard one to top. In The Last Don, we have the Mafia in Las Vegas for much of the action and it is very good. No one I’ve read has even come close to Puzo in writing about the Mafia and this book shows why.
Robert K. Tannebaum is still writing about Butch Karp and his wife Marlene in Act of Revenge. The Mafia, Chinese gangs and their 12 year old exceptionally brilliant daughter make an exciting and extremely interesting mix. I loved it, especially the daughter and her friends who inadvertently witness something they shouldn’t have.
The Firm was the novel that made John Grisham famous and a perennial best seller and it’s easy to see why. Somehow I had overlooked it amongst his others and I’m sorry for it. I’m sure I would have read it several times by now if I had bought it earlier. It’s that good.
Tribute to a Mother
The poem below was submitted by a reader who had just lost his mother. I thought it was worth reproducing in Bainstorming.
- MOTHER -
If I could give you diamonds,
for each tear you've cried for me,
If I could give you sapphires,
For each truth you've helped me see,
If I could give you rubies for the,
heartache that you've known.
If I could give you pearls for,
the wisdom that you've shown,
then you'll have a treasure mother,
that would mount up to the skies,
that would almost match the sparkle,
In your kind eyes.
But I have no pearls or diamonds,
As I'm sure you're well aware,
So I'll give you my preciaus heart.
By Byron Collins
Are you embarrassed by the following?
Every time we have to hitch a ride on a Russian rocket in order to send our astronauts to the space station, paid for mostly by our money, I am embarrassed as hell. We can spend a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and can’t spend enough to build a rocket capable of even reaching the space station? And we’re the nation that sent a man to the moon 43 years ago!
Excerpt from Tweedle, the Dog Who Thought He Was a Cat
“Mew. Mew, mew,” said five little kittens, who were hiding behind their mother. “Mew, mew, mew,” they said again, coming into sight.
“Yip, yip!” Tweedle said, because he was happy to meet them, even though he didn’t know what kittens were.
Then he suddenly noticed that the five little animals were furry, just like him, and just like their mother. And they all had tails, just like him, although none of them had a little brown spot on the end like his.
“What kind of animal are you?” Asked the mother cat. She had never seen a puppy before. All the dogs she knew of were large grown animals and Tweedle was very small, even for a puppy.
Tweedle sat back and cocked his head. He twitched his floppy puppy ears. He thought and thought, and tried very hard to find an answer, but he just couldn’t come up with one.
Suddenly he felt ashamed, because he really didn’t know what kind of animal he was. Remember, he had never seen another dog because his mother had gone to the animal hospital before his eyes were open and his father lived down the street. He knew for certain that he wasn’t a human because he wasn’t nearly big enough. Besides, humans didn’t have tails and fur like him except on their heads.
“I really don’t know,” Tweedle finally replied. “What kind of animal are you?”
“Why, anyone should know that, even a little thing like you. We are cats. Can’t you tell?”
“Wheiirrff. . .wheiirrff,” Tweedle said, but he didn’t say it loudly, because that was the way he sounded when he was sad and unsure of himself. Then Tweedle looked at the other animals again. They were furry, like him. They had tails, just like his, even if they didn’t have a little brown spot on the tip.
“Yip!” He barked in his little puppy voice. “Yip, yip! I must be a cat, too, because I am furry like you and I have a tail just like you, even if yours doesn’t have a little brown spot on the end like mine.”
“Well, you’re certainly small enough to be a cat,” the mother cat said, but she still wasn’t quite convinced. “I know! If you’re a cat, let me see you chase your tail. All cats can chase their tails.”
“I can chase my tail,” Tweedle said, and he did.
He chased his little tail in circles, trying to catch the little brown spot on the end of it, but it always stayed just out of reach. He tried so hard that he became dizzy, for he wanted to prove very badly that he was a cat. It would be fun to have other cats to play with! He became so dizzy that he finally fell down on the thick rug he used for a bed.
“Well, you have proved you can chase your tail, so maybe you are a cat. But why does your tail wag? I never saw a cat wag its tail.”
“I can’t help it,” Tweedle told her. “Whenever I’m happy, it just wags and wags, and I can’t stop it. Maybe that little brown spot on the end of it makes it wag.”