Month: August 2013

Daily Writing Prompt: I Pledge Allegiance

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Today’s Daily Writing Prompt:  I Pledge Allegiance invites writers, photographers, and artists to illustrate patriotism.  Here’s my offering.

"Vietnam Memorial Wall"
In a peaceful green setting, this stark black memorial honors all who died in Vietnam.


The Army's Old Guard escorts the caisson containing three fallen heroes' remains to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Army’s Old Guard escorts the caisson containing three fallen heroes’ remains to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.



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Review of ‘Beautifully Broken’ by Sherry Soule

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While Sherry Soule’s Beautifully Broken is narrated by a teenage girl, it is not your usual young adult coming-of-age novel. Fifteen-year-old Shiloh Trudell has the ability to see spirits. Not the bottled kind, and not the benevolent kind; the evil, dark, suck out your life essence kind. At first, she’s able to keep them off with sunlight, but when the Shadow Man, the Eater of Souls, makes an appearance, things begin to change for the worse. Shiloh finds herself at the center of the dark secrets of the town of Fallen Oaks, and in danger of losing not only her soul, but her life.

A spooky, paranormal, horror story that will keep you awake at night, and have you looking under the bed before going to sleep, and jumping at every sound. Sherry Soule has written a story that is the standard by which others in this genre will be measured. If you think your nerves can take it, this is a must read book.

I received a free review copy of this book, but would have been more than happy to pay for it.

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I Still Believe in the Dream

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Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cover of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, delivered August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. I’d planned to do a special blog about the significance of that event, but ‘the best laid plans of mice and men,’ and all that interfered. This is, in fact, the first day in a couple of weeks that I’ve been able to sit comfortably at my keyboard long enough to write more than a paragraph or delete a few dozen emails. Since the day is here, and I’ve not had time to think about what I wanted to write, I will refer readers to my reminiscence of that day on Yahoo! Voices, ‘Living King’s Dream in a Most Unlikely Place.’ Instead of my planned blog, I will regale you with my adventures over the past two months, and maybe show how it relates.

On July 4, I fell prey to a situation that is all too common to people of my age, a fall. And, yes, I broke something – a very critical bone in my hip. Unfortunately, the fracture was small and didn’t show up on the x-rays in the ER when I went for treatment. It was only in August, when it still hurt more than the bruise we suspected it to be should hurt, that they did an MRI (on Aug. 14) and found the break. My primary doctor referred me to an orthopedist – that took a few days – who immediately scheduled me for surgery.

I checked into the hospital on Aug. 22 and the following day they put three screws in my hip to close the fracture and hold the bones in place until they heal. There followed three more days in the hospital; being awakened every three hours to take my pulse and blood pressure, or give me pain medication, changing dressings, checking the catheter, etc.  The day after surgery, physical therapy started. How to walk with crutches or a walker, how to stand, how to sit, exercises to keep the leg muscles from becoming flaccid and prevent blood clots, and all the other things I need to do over the next two to three months to be fully healed.

A trip to the hospital is, I’m sure, a traumatic experience for everyone. For me, it was compounded by the fact that I’d reached my 68th year without ever spending a night in a hospital since being born in one, so I didn’t know what to expect. I think I was just learning hospital protocol when my doctor decided it was safe to send me home and had me discharged.  I’ve never been happier getting kicked out of a place.

So, on this day, as we look back 50 years at Dr. King’s historic speech, how does my stay in the hospital relate? To start with, had this happened in 1963, the delays in getting treatment in the little East Texas town from whence I come wouldn’t have been administrative or technical – I might have actually been denied admission to some of the local medical establishments in my area. And, with all due respect to the Hippocratic Oath, the treatment I would have received from the country doctors in that era would have, in most cases, been limited to only what was legally necessary.

We still have a long way to go in this country before we’ve fully realized King’s ‘Dream,’ but we’ve also come a long way. I’ll spend this day thinking about the progress that has been made, and what I can do to help make more.

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Review of “A Majority of One” by Robert Lamb

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Mark Twain
Cover of Mark Twain

When Anne Brady, a high school English teacher in a rural South Georgia town, answers the door to a strange woman who presents her with a framed copy of the Ten Commandments, which she wants Anne to post in her classroom, her life changes forever. Soon, Anne begins to receive anonymous, threatening letters accusing her of corrupting her students and afterwards, she is pressured to stop teaching Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn in her English class.

A Majority of One by Robert Lamb is a gripping tale of prejudice and insanity on a mass scale, and a condemnation of single-minded bigotry in all of its pernicious forms. In a narrative that is both compelling and instructive, he shows how zealots who are willing to go to any extreme to force their views on others can destroy a society.

Lamb paints a picture that is not pretty, because, even though this is a work of fiction, it could very well have been ripped from today’s headlines. This is a book that religious zealots would prefer you not read, the very reason it should be recommended reading for any rational person.

This is a definite five-star work!

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Dear Senior State Department Official – It’s Time to Go

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— By Domani Spero

I had to stop watching the Daily Press Briefing – Ms. Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson is way too chirpy for such a serious topic.

In any case, lots of questions about the Other Benghazi Four. We hope to have a recap for that later.  In the meantime, The Daily Beast and a couple other news outlet carried a statement from a senior State Department official (certainly authorized to speak about this but unnamed for a reason) saying this:

“As soon as he came into the department, Secretary Kerry wanted to invest the time to review the ARB’s findings and match those against his own on-the-job findings about security,” the senior State Department official said. “He’s been hands-on focused on building on the lessons learned from the Benghazi attack to strengthen security at missions world-wide and continue the ARB’s security paradigm shift.”

And this:

“[Secretary Kerry]…

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Review of “The Shoulders of Giants” by Jim Cliff

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English: Publicity photo of Mickey Spillane fr...
English: Publicity photo of Mickey Spillane from the television show Colombo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When private investigator Jake Abraham gets a phone call from disgraced ex-Chicago cop Gregory Patterson it starts a spiral of events that could prove fatal. Patterson wants Jake to find his missing daughter Susan, who didn’t show up for his birthday party. Jake starts a search for the missing girl, only to have her turn up dead with a ‘Z’ carved into her foot. This leads to a connection with several other similar murders.

The cops are looking for a serial killer, but there’s also a mob connection. Jake has more leads than he knows what to do with, and he keeps crossing the wrong people, which could cause him to be added to the growing list of victims.

The Shoulders of Giants by Jim Cliff is a mystery in the mold of Elmore Leonard and Mickey Spillane; gritty dialogue, realistic settings, and non-stop action that will keep you on the edge of your chair as Jake flits from one hair-raising encounter to another. This is definitely a five-star keeper for mystery fans.

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Review of ‘Amethyst’ by Heather Bowhay

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Amethyst, a first novel by Heather Bowhay, is a compelling paranormal romance about Lexi, an 18-year-old college student who has the ability to ‘see’ events before they occur. Often, these events involve moral peril to other people. Lexi is consumed with guilt because she’d previously seen a man about to be hit by a bus and hadn’t taken steps to save him, so when she sees a girl about to be attacked by a dog, she grabs a baseball bat and pepper spray and rushes to the rescue. The ‘rescue’ is more complicated than her premonition had indicated, and she encounters a group of strange people who seem to have super-human powers.

Lexi shares this information with her friend and roommate Ally, who has her own powers. Ally has the ‘Essence,’ and can heal people with her mind. Things take a strange turn when she informs Lexi that she too has this power, called ‘Amethyst,’ only even stronger.

Even with a few formatting errors here and there, this is a book that is well worth reading. Fast-paced action, peppy dialogue, and believable characters make up for the few flaws. Amethyst is a book that I can promise you will thoroughly enjoy reading.

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Photography: Chautauqua Institution

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The Clock Tower at Chautauqua.
The Clock Tower at Chautauqua.
Athenaeum Hotel
Hagen-Wensley Guest Lodge
Palestine Park
Bestor Plaza
Clock Tower and Ferry House

046 047 048 049 050 051 052 054 056 063 065 067 021 023 025 026 027 028 029 031 032 035 040I had my first opportunity to visit historic Chautauqua Institution, on the shore of Chautauqua Lake in western New York state from August 4 to 8. Following are some of my photos from what turned out to be a visit to the biggest and best summer camp in the world.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks to the CLSC 2013 graduates.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speaks to the CLSC 2013 graduates.
CLSC coordinator Jeff Miller presents my 2012 CLSC certificate.
Posing with Sharon Hudson Dean, my public affairs counselor when I was ambassador to Zimbabwe, and a Chautauqua alum.


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