Note To Readers


For those of you interested in the Not Innocent story, I recommend starting at the beginning. The posts are displayed on the page in “most recent first” order.  If you start reading at the top of the page, you’ll be reading the story backwards. To read the story in proper sequence, start here:

Not Innocent: February 1955

When you’re done reading each post, scroll back to the top of the page and click on the Next link.

We Are So Lucky

Some events are so statistically unlikely, so far-fetched, that we sometimes have to just shake our heads in amazement when they actually happen. The odds of winning the Powerball Lottery is only 1 in over 175 MILLION.  That’s a number that’s hard for us mere humans to REALLY comprehend.  If you worked 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year (ie, no vacations, no holidays), and earned $100 per hour (don’t we wish!), you would work 2,080 hours per year and earn $208,000 per year.  At that rate, you’d have to work 841 years to earn $175 million.  You’d better start when you’re very young, Methuselah.

175 million is MORE than HALF of the population of the United States today.  If you lined up that may people in a single line with each person taking up only 2 feet of space in the line, the line would be over 16,500 MILES long.  That’s 2/3 of the way around the earth’s equator!

And yet, on a regular basis, someone ‘beats’ those long odds.

I’ve been a genealogist (a “family historian” for you unwashed masses) since I was a teenager.  My father was the last of seven children, born when his mother was 42.  I was the last of four children.  I’ve researched my paternal line, which goes back to the Bern Canton of Switzerland around 1870 and stays there clear back to the 1590s (Kaser, or as it was before getting Americanized, Käser, was an occupational surname which meant cheese maker; maybe that’s why I have such a cheesy sense of humor).  It’s quite fascinating to see the long list of your ancestors and their children over the centuries, to see in each generation how many children were lost before reaching adulthood, to see how many times your direct ancestor was the last child in their generation.  It was not uncommon for 3 to 5 children dying young out of a family of 8 to 12.  We often take our mere existence for granted, so I found myself amazed at the simple fact that I was here.  What were the odds?

And yet, someone always has to be the last.

If my parents would’ve had one more child, then that child would have been the amazing final child, and all of the descendants of that child would have been the lucky ones, the ones who just BARELY clung to existence.  Or if I’d not been born, then my sister would have been the lucky one, and her descendents hanging on the bottom rung of the ladder.  But regardless of which position on the familial ladder we each cling to, it’s actually amazingly lucky that any of us are here.  If you take an average generation as 25 years, that’s 4 generations per century, 40 generations per millennium, 40,000 generations per million years, at least! The further back we go, the shorter and shorter the time it takes for the generations to reproduce.  We’re talking hundreds of millions of generations stretching back to our earliest ancestors at the beginning of life on this planet.

And in each generation, our ancestor survived and reproduced while many, many others died with no offspring.

We, as individuals, are so lucky to be here!


Bullying and Being Macho

Nobody likes bullying except the bullyer, but it’s always been with us (people do it, chimpanzees do it, birds do it), and I can’t see how it will ever go away.  Bleeding heart liberal idealists are always whining about this and that and asking, “Why can’t we just blah, blah, blah?”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly overweight when I step onto the “liberal scale,” but I’m more of a realist than an idealist.  As I look at the world around me, I try to understand how it works, how it’s worked in the past, how it could work in the future (and how it’s unlikely to work in the future), and why.  It’s that understanding of why that seems to separate the realists and the idealists.  Realists use the word why to mean the reason why things are a certain way (and probably will stay that way, or will probably change).  Idealists use the word why as an interrogative complaint about how things are vs. how they wish they would be.  We need both types (even within the same person), because a realist mindset tends to make things work, and an idealist mindset tends to change the way things work.  Both are good, but neither are always appropriate or useful.

The idealist in me has always wanted to get along with everyone, not rock the boat (unless everyone in the boat enjoys having it rocked…).  I grew up mostly in the 1960s, so I was definitely of the “make love not war” religion (but that’s another subject entirely…).  I’ve also always been an independent cuss: I don’t like being told what to do, how to behave, what to believe, or much of anything else.  It’s made for an interesting balancing act: trying to get along and be accepted and getting the approval of others, while at the same time doing my own thing, not following the crowd, standing alone.  In high school, I knew and was friendly with a lot of kids, but I was friends with very few.  I had two or three fairly good friends, and my girlfriend Sharon (now my wife of 37 years) had two or three fairly good friends, but I was friendly with most of the kids in the school.

The ones I was not friendly with were the jerks, the jocks (except some of them) and the bullies.  Mostly we just ignored each other, and I was fine with that.  They weren’t going to change me, and I knew I wasn’t going to change them and had no desire to do so.  But sooner or later, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I’ve always been what could be generously termed as ‘slender.’  I weighed about 115 as a freshman, and by the time I graduated I was 145 and just a half-inch shy of six feet.  A strong wind could have blown me away if I’d had enough of a cross-section for the wind to get a hold on.  I was on the wrestling team all four years, but mostly because I thought at the time that everyone should do some sport or activity, and I didn’t care for football or basketball, and both of my older brothers had wrestled before me, so why not?  I was wiry, strong for my weight, had quick reflexes, but most of the time you wouldn’t know it just looking at me.

One day Sharon and I were standing in the hall during lunch or between classes.  Suddenly, I found myself shoved up against the lockers with the collar of my shirt being steam-pressed by the fist of a bullying jerk a few inches shorter than me while a couple of his buddies crowded in on either side.  To this day, I have no idea why they chose to pick on me at that moment, and I can’t recall what he said as he pressed me against the lockers.  It was the first and only time I was ever bullied like that, so it took me quite a bit by surprise.  But I knew how to behave.  I don’t know if it was from being the youngest of four kids in my family and having grown up having to defend myself against older siblings, or whether it was from all the books I’d read and all the movies I’d watched, or if it was from the things I’d been taught by my folks and uncles and aunts and teachers, or if I just inherently understood the situation and the “personality dynamics” of the situation.  It wasn’t from watching John Wayne movies, or I’d have shoved back and started swinging.  I didn’t want to fight, but I knew that whining, “Let me go, please, let me go!” was not the right thing to do.  I knew that only strength of will and determination not to be pushed around would end the situation in an acceptable (to me) fashion.  I didn’t think about it in words, I just knew.

I stared straight into the kid’s eyes and, in as steady and commanding of a voice as I could manage, I said, “”  The kid just held onto my shirt, pushing upwards. I became aware of Sharon standing close by saying, “Don’t fight, don’t fight,” over and over.  I knew that was the wrong behavior, it was like standing around a campfire waving an open jar of gasoline over the flames.  I turned my face towards her and uncharacteristically said, “Sharon. Shut up!” then turned back to the bully, again staring him straight in the eyes and, speaking levelly, slowly and forcefully, said, “”  After a moment, he let go, shrugged, made some sarcastic remark, and turned and walked away.  He never bothered me again, and that’s the only instance I can remember of ever being a participant in bullying.  I’m not a big fan of macho, but in a moment like that, I’m convinced it was the only appropriate response.  Others might (and frequently do) choose differently.  The idealist in me didn’t want to fight.  But the realist in me knew that cringing was not a good solution either. The me in me found the solution that worked best for me, avoiding the fight while preventing any future continuation of the bullying.

Would I have fought?  Damn right.  But I wasn’t going to take the first swing.  Was I scared?  Probably some, but mostly it was just adrenaline rushing to places that didn’t need it.  Was I brave?  Looking back, I don’t think so. I’m pretty confident that I could have “taken him” if shove had come to push, and I think he realized that he might have grabbed the wrong nerd that time.  Mostly it was just the me in me refusing to be told what to do, how to behave.  I refused to be forced to cringe and whine.  I refused to be forced into starting a fight.

Looking back at my life so far, my two driving personality characteristics have been an overwhelming need to be accepted, approved of, admired, and a burning need for self-control, control of myself both from within and from without.  Those two have set up a sometimes stressful dynamic, as being accepted and approved of can frequently be at odds with being independent from control by others.  And that need for acceptance and approval is kind of like being an alcoholic: every ‘hit’ only lasts for a little bit, and then you need another and another and… Fortunately, with age, I’ve learned to provide myself with most of the approval and acceptance that I need, and not demand it from others quite so much.

Of course, that’s just satisfying my need for self-control.  Some days, you should just stay in bed.

Blogically yours,

July 1, 2012

My World (and You’re Welcome To It!)

The roots of wisdom

No one can accuse me of being behind the times.

Well, okay, they can, and they’d probably be right, but after so many decades I think I’ve earned the right to a little slack, so sue me.  (No, wait…)

Blogging has been around since cave men did things with cave women in caves, but I’ve always kind of thought it was a bit of a narcissistic endeavor, and besides, I’ve had way too many important things on my bucket list.  But as we age beyond the point of moldiness, we inevitably feel the urge to share our wisdom and experience with those who are less well endowed (and usually wish either they were deaf or we were mute).  I’ve also long thought of myself as a creative person, regardless of my medium.  It’s mostly come out in the computer games I’ve created for over 30 years (yes, I am that ancient, but please try to overlook it, okay?)  But I’ve enjoyed writing almost since I learned to read Dick and Jane. “See Dick.  See Dick run.  See Jane.  See Dick see Jane.  See Dick fall down.”  I can remember reading (and loving it) in the fourth grade (“The Boxcar Children”), the fifth grade (“Hardy Boys”), the sixth grade (“Tom Swift Jr”), but it was in the seventh grade when I started reading more adult level books, the Doc Savage books were being reprinted, Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books, and my first out-and-out science fiction novel, Daniel F. Galouye’s Simulacron Three about a man who realizes that he’s not real, that his world isn’t real, that it’s all a simulation running in a computer, and he manages to “upload” himself into the ‘real’ world, only to realize that it’s also a simulation, a story that still sticks in my mind 46 years later (it was a much cooler idea in the 1960s, when computers were large, remote, mysterious things).  I quickly moved on to the giants of science fiction, all the well-known writers (Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, Tolkien, Lieber, Bradley, McCaffrey, Zelazney, etc).  It’s only been in the last decade that I’ve branched out much into other areas besides science fiction and fantasy, now that we’re actually living in the (sort of) future that we all dreamed about back then. But science fiction is still where my heart lives, even though the field has shrunk drastically and been almost completely subsumed by fantasy and by science fiction TV and movies, most of which is little better than the pulp science fiction stories written in the 1930s.  Why is it so difficult for screenwriters, directors and producers to achieve the quality of content that was reached in print 60-70 years ago?  Of course, I suppose the same could be asked of film and television in general, hmm?

But I drift.  I’ve probably read in excess of 4000-5000 books, and still own many of them.  They loom over me each day as I sit and work, two walls of six-foot tall bookcases crammed full, stacked on top, with seven-foot stacks of books piled up in front of them.  Old friends, difficult to part with.  And like so many avid readers, I always thought, “I could do this.  I could write stories like this.  How hard could it be?  You just dream all this great stuff and then write it down!”  But life rarely takes the freeway, straight and wide.  It likes to travel the back roads, the byways, the unexpected detours and dead-ends.  Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.  I’ve written many computer games (I currently have 31 of them available at, and will continue to write more.  As long as we suck air in and push it out, we have to suck food in and … uh, push it out, too.  More and more often, I find my fingers and mind itching to type something other than for(i=0; i<MAX_LIMIT; i++), something with a little more ‘heft’ to it.

So, logically, a blog is a good beginning, a place to get into the rhythm of putting words together and then releasing them into the wild.  Soon, I intend to start work on a non-fiction book for my extended family, about the murder of my father’s oldest brother in 1955, and I may share some of that on this blog, we’ll see.  Mostly, I expect the entries here to be an eclectic collection of thoughts, opinions, compositions, diatribes and diuretic discourse.

I hope that you’ll join me from time to time and perhaps even discuss things once in a while.  That way I won’t have to do all the heavy lifting.  (And no, that’s not me in the picture above, I’m not that cute.  That’s our newest grandchild, Kinley.  Think of all the open possibilities that lie before her.  As life passes, our available choices seem to narrow down, from wide-open to tightly-constraining.  But, ’tis not entirely so.  At every point, our lives are ours to choose.  In every moment, choose wisely!  Whenever possible, choose consciously!

Blogically yours,

June 29, 2012