Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Decline and Fall of Michael Crichton

For those of you who've known me for a while, you know that I have long named Michael Crichton as my favorite fiction writer. Indeed, he (along with George Orwell) was the author who got me interested in reading as a leisure activity as opposed to being primarily something I just had to do for school. Crichton's catalogue of novels was the first complete author catalogue that I ever completed (qualifying statement: I have not read any of the obscure medical thrillers he published in the 60's under a series of psuedonyms while in medical school, nor have I read any of his non-fiction books).

For years I have named Crichton's Sphere as my single favorite thriller novel, and I have read it two or three times. It also inspired one of my own early books, The Antarctic Incident. Other favorites include Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Congo.

In recent years, I've been disappointed with some of his novels, feeling that he is becoming increasingly interested in pushing certain socio-political agendas, and less interested in writing good thrillers. He's always tended to work cutting edge technology into his books...Andromeda Strain (published in the era of the Apollo missions to the moon), discussed concerns about satellites and spacecraft bringing extraterrestrial bacteria and viruses back to earth. Congo dealt with the gorillas who spoke sign language. And Jurassic Park, of course, dealt with DNA and genetic technology as it relates to paleontology. In the 1990's, his books have dealt with everything from Japanese corporate philosophy to reverse sexual harrassment to airline safety. Recently, he has written several books dealing with cutting edge genetic engineering issues.

Since Jurassic Park (published in 1989...I think I first read it in about 1994), I have felt that his books have been steadily declining in thriller quality, and increasing in preachiness.

Rising Sun was a good murder mystery, but also had a flavor of anti-Japanese sentiment, painting the Japanese as cutthroat corporate monsters intent on controlling American interests.

Disclosure was hardly a thriller at all, and was more a treatise on how the women's liberation movement has demonized men and allowed women rise into positions of power that they aren't necessarily worthy of holding.

The Lost World was entertaining, but it was basically a watered-down rehash of Jurassic Park, complete with another scene where a vehicle goes over an embankment and gets caught in a tree.

Airframe, like Disclosure, was hardly a thriller at all, and dealt with the wiles of the airline industry. This has always been the only Crichton book that I said I flat out didn't particularly like. I thought it was boring, and the resolution of the plot was very predictable and unexciting. Basically, the main characters were trying to figure out what had caused an in-flight incident in which an airline experienced severe turbulence, causing the deaths of several passengers. At the very beginning of the book, the investigators suggest it was due to a certain action or inaction on the part of the pilot. They then spend the entire book trying to figure it out and, sure enough, in the end, it was exactly what they had predicted from the outset. It was just a silly ending, with no sense of drama, and it was sort of a boring subject.

Another odd and perplexing aspect of this book was that the background story was basically a carbon copy of the background story in Disclosure. In Disclosure, you have a story about a woman who sexually harrasses a man in a business setting. The background is that they work for a small company who has just developed a break-through technology which promises to push them into the mainstream and make them a viable competitor against the larger corporations. As a result of this new product, the larger corporations are trying to undermine it and prove that it somehow doesn't work the way the it is advertised to work.

In Airframe, the exact same background story exists. Small company with a cutting edge product that promises to push them into the big markets. Big companies trying to undermine their new technology and prove that it doesn't work like they say. In Disclosure, it's a couple of computer companies and the new technology is some sort of hard drive. In Airframe it's two airframe companies and a new type of aircraft. But otherwise, it's the exact same scenario.

At time of its publication (1996), I felt that Crichton had been more interested in cashing in on the public interest in airline safety issues (that was during the time when there were two or three major airline disasters in the U.S. within a period of just a few months), than he was in writing a good thriller novel. This was exacerbated by the fact that he damn near plagiarizes his own work by setting up a background scenario that is more or less identical to Disclosure. It's like he just wanted to get the book written and on the market, in order to cash in on the public conern about airline safety. I felt like he had "sold out" big time.

Timeline was a refreshing change after a series of what I felt had been subpar Crichton books, and especially after the debacle of Airframe. I enjoyed Timeline, and thought that Crichton did a good job of mixing cutting edge technology with a good story, much as he had done with Jurassic Park. I felt that "Crichton was back," so to speak.

Unfortunately, it only lasted for one book. Prey was another subpar performance, and although I didn't feel like he was necessarily trying to push any socio-political agenda in that book, as he had in Rising Sun and Disclosure, I felt that Prey simply failed as an attempt to write another cutting edge technology thriller in the vein of Jurassic Park and Timeline. I thought it was a little too "out there" to be believable. At the time, I remember thinking that the only reason it had been an entertaining read at all is simply because Crichton is a great writer, and writes with such a readable style.

Then came State of Fear in 2004, and this was the book that first started really opening my eyes to the general depravity of Michael Crichton's agendas. When I first read the dust cover of State of Fear, I was really excited, because I thought it sounded like it would be another great novel combining good thriller elements with cutting edge technology. Instead, it proved to be another Prey in terms of the quality of the thriller elements. In addition to not being a very good thriller, it was overrun with an obvious attempt to paint global warming advocates as hopeless, hypocritical "limosine liberals" (he even used that term in the book) who ignore established scientific studies in the effort to push their self-serving agendas.

In an Afterword to the novel, he tries to deflect criticism by saying that his characters don't necessarily reflect his own views, and he studied all sorts of reports and books and articles in preparing for this novel, etc., etc. He basically tries to make it sound like he is personally taking a neutral position, and it's up to you, the reader, to make an informed decision. Yet, the tone of the entire novel makes his own agenda quite clear. It is obvious what his position is on the global warming debate, just as it was obvious what his position was on the airline industry debate, the Japanese corporate takeover debate, and the reverse sexual harassment debate.

Prior to State of Fear, I had continued calling myself a Crichton fan, and I had even continued to generally say Crichton was my favoriate author, but I did so reluctantly, and more out of a sense of nostalgia or duty for how much I had enjoyed his earlier novels, rather than out of a sense that he was truly my favorite author. Fact is, Since Jurassic Park in 1989, Timeline is the only book he's written that I feel is really "top notch."

After State of Fear, I began to get really suspicious of Crichton's agendas, and I began, for the first time, to really contemplate some of the agendas he had pushed in earlier novels (such as Rising Sun and Disclosure). When I first read those books in college, I was too young and naive to read between the lines. Now, upon reflection, I can see the anti-feminine bias in Disclosure, and the anti-Japanese bias in Rising Sun.

Crichton's newest novel, Next, was just released on Tuesday. It apparently involves the issue of genetic testing, cloning, harvesting embryos, etc. The dust flap says, in part, "Next challenges our sense of reality and notions of morality...Next shatters our assumptions, and reveals shocking new choices where we least expect."

Judging from his record in his past novels, I'm not sure I'm interested in Michael Crichton's opinions on my notion of morality, nor on his opinion about cloning and it's ethical considerations. Reading the reader comments on Barnes & Noble's website, I see that several posters have stated that it is full of Crichton's political agendas. One reviewer says "I read the book for the book's sake. Leave the politics out of it. Grow up." It seems clear that Crichton is continuing to push his neo-con agendas in this book.

Additionally, as a result of reading some of the reader comments, I have discovered that Crichton has apparently consulted as a "science advisor" for George W. Bush on at least one occasion.

It's as if all the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place.

So I won't be reading Michael Crichton's books anymore. I will still feel nostaligic about his older books, and I will still occasionally re-read the older books that are free of political commentary and are just good techno-thrillers (I re-read Congo earlier this fall, for instance). But I'm not going to buy anymore of his new novels, and I'm not going to tell people he's among my favorite authors anymore (after State of Fear, I had finally stopped calling him my "favorite" author, but was still listing him among my favorites). I have removed his website link from my blog, and I have removed his name from my list of "favorite authors." I just simply can't bring myself to promote an author who is basically a neo-con. Particularly when his books aren't even that entertaining anymore, and haven't been for 17 years. I do still list Jurassic Park and Sphere as "Must Read" books on my blog, but that's because I can still respect those books for the great thrillers that they are.

I could live with Crichton being a neo-con if he was still writing books like Sphere and Jurassic Park. But if he's going to bring his neo-con views into his books, as a means of preaching and politicizing, he can forget about getting anymore money and support from me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Get Crackin'

I can’t remember if it was Monday night or Tuesday morning, but on one of those two occasions, I was taking Katie out to use the bathroom. As I was walking out the door, I either heard something, or said something, or had some train of thought that reminded me of a phrase from a Golden Girls episode. (I think, actually, that I was saying something to Hailey, and whatever I was saying sparked the it must have been Monday night.)

The episode in question has a side plot where Rose has borrowed Blanche’s earrings, and Blanche now can’t find them, so Rose believes she must have lost the earrings. To make it up to her, Rose offers to be her “Wiedenfloeggen” (which, of course, is a made-up Scandinavian word), which is basically where you become someone’s slave in order to pay them back for something you’ve done wrong. Throughout the episode, Rose is waiting on Blanche hand and foot, and Blanche is generally taking advantage of it, asking Rose to wash her car and make her meals and organize her closet, etc., etc.

Near the end of the episode, a man comes to the house, returning Blanche’s earrings and watch, which he found between the cushions of his couch. Turns out, Blanche had lost them there when they had been on a date. Rose is naturally upset, not only because Blanche had lost her own earrings, but particularly because the watch was Rose's, not Blanche’s, and Rose hadn’t even known Blanche had borrowed it. She tells Blanche off, and then Blanche is forced to apologize and butter Rose up to get her to forgive her for treating her like a slave when Rose hadn't actually done anything wrong in the first place. Rose finally gives in and forgives her.

About this time, Dorothy comes in and is really upset because one of her favorite students is being deported back to Mexico. Blanche and Rose console her, and Rose tells her to go lay down, promising to baby her and rub her feet and make cookies for her and basically pamper her for the rest of the day. Dorothy is thankful and leaves to go lie down. Then, as the “final gag” for the episode, Rose, who has up to now been acting motherly and loving toward Dorothy, turns with a stern face to Blanche and says, “You heard her, Blanche. Get crackin’.” And thus the episode ends on a laugh.

Anyway, to make a long story short (all together now, “Too late”), that final phrase “Get crackin’” is what I randomly thought of as I was walking out the back door to take Katie out. Again, I think it was based on something I was saying to Hailey, and I remember walking out onto the porch thinking the phrase to myself, and thinking about that episode. “Get crackin’.”

Melanie and I used to watch the Golden Girls all the time, as many of you (haha...looky there, I said “many of you,” as if anyone other than possibly my sister is reading this) many of you know, Melanie and I used to watch the Golden Girls all the time. It was on for an hour from 5:00 to 6:00 in the evenings, and then again from 11:00 to 12:00. It was also on from 12:00 to 1:00 in the afternoon. We frequently watched it during dinner and at night before bed. We’ve both seen every episode numerous times. However, in recent years, we haven’t watched it as much, and Lifetime only shows it (to my knowledge) for 30 minutes a day now, usually from 12:00 to 12:30, or 12:30 to 1:00. That happens to correspond with the time I’m usually home at lunch, so sometimes I will watch it while I’m eating. However, I’ve only recently discovered this, and I probably haven’t watched more than 3 or 4 episodes, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of them in their entirety. In fact, I’d say that I probably haven’t seen more than 8 or 9 episodes of the Golden Girls in the last couple of years, and I can’t remember the last time I saw the episode described above. Indeed, the fact that the final phrase from that episode (“Get crackin’”) popped into my head at all is evidence of how the brain manages to hang on to random memories without you evening knowing it, and then later call them up at seemingly unusual and random times.

Anyway. So I have this random memory, on either Monday night or Tuesday morning, of this Golden Girls episode that I haven’t seen or even thought about in years. Then, at lunch on Tuesday, I make myself some soup and sit down at about 12:15, flipping the channel to Lifetime to see if the Golden Girls are on. Sure enough, they’re on. And which episode is it?

You guessed it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New Car

Melanie and I have been discussing with her parents the possibility of us buying their car. It's a 2003 Altima with only about 42,000 miles on it. It's in really good condition.

They only owe about $6,000 on it, and it's worth nearly $12,000 at blue book. Since Joan now has her father's Cadillac, she is going to use that car, and that's why they are willing to sell the Altima to us.

I still owe about $4,700 on my Corrola. It's blue book is less than that. Melanie has talked to a used car dealer here in town, who told her over the phone that he'd probably be able to give us $2,000 for it.

So what we are planning on doing is getting a loan from Emery (our credit union in Cincinnati that we are still members of), and using that loan to pay off the remainder of my Corrola, as well as to buy the Altima. So it would be a loan for about $11,000. Then, I could sell the Corrola and use the money I make from selling it to either put towards the Emery loan, or use to help pay down our credit cards, or put some in the bank, etc.

When we first bought out the lease on this Corrola, it was about $12,000, and the payment is only $205.00 per month. So, depending on what interest rate we could get, it's possible that I will be able to get a 2003 Altima with only 42,000 miles on it, for about 220 bucks a month or less.

This would be a big relief, as it would allow us to get out from underneath this Corrola, which has become unreliable and more of a liability than anything else, and it would give us a full-size car for the first time in our marriage. And we could potentially do this without having to significantly increase our monthly expenses, or come up with a down payment (neither of which we could possibly do otherwise).

So hopefully we will be able to get the loan from Emery (currently, both our car loans are through Emery and are current, we have been members there for almost 10 years, and we've had a previous loan that has been paid in full, on time). So I don't see any problem getting the loan. Not sure about the interest rate, but hopefully it will be okay, so as to give us a reasonable monthly payment.

If we can do this, it will be a BIG relief of something that has been causing me quite a bit of stress lately.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Agitated Rambling

I really wish that I could make most of my posts fit the title of this blog, but unfortunately, most of what I write here is neither serene, nor lighthearted enough to be considered a "musing." Thus, I've named this post "Agitated Rambling," because that's what it's going to be.

Sydney’s been sick for two weeks. It started as a really croupy cough with a fever. We took her to the doctor and they said she was "in distress" and gave her a breathing treatment in the office. We had just expected it to be a cold or something. We had to buy a nebulizer and give her breathing treatments every three or four hours. They said the respiratory issue was viral, not bacterial, so they didn’t give her any antibiotics. She seemed to be getting better after about 5 days, but then she relapsed and we ended up taking her to the emergency room on a Sunday night, fearing she had developed pneumonia. Turns out she didn’t have pneumonia, but she had developed an ear infection. They gave her amoxicillin, which we all know is an utterly useless antibiotic. By the following Friday, she was running a high fever again and coughing a lot again. We came home early from Thanksgiving and took her to the doctor again. This time, they gave her a stronger antibiotic. The next day (yesterday...Sunday), she had three bowel movements that all had blood in them. So we had to take her off of it. However, today, the nurse at the doctor’s office told us to keep her on it, but make sure she has plenty of food with it.

So today is day 13 of this illness. She hasn’t slept very well at all, she has been crying a lot (which she doesn’t normally do), and Melanie and I are really at our wit’s end. It’s very hard having a child sick for this long. Hailey, of course, was sick all the time when she was an infant too...she had an ear infection for almost 2 solid months. But Melanie wasn’t working at that time. Now, we’re both working, so sleep is important for both of us.

Then there’s the normal money issues...blah blah blah blah blah. It’s like throwing a person who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool. We’re just dog paddling like crazy, sinking, gulping down water, then surfacing momentarily and coughing the water up, gasping, and then sinking again, trying like hell to reach the side of the pool, but unable to get there because every time we make some forward progress, someone splashes up a big wave that pushes us back toward the middle.

The check engine light came on in my car last week, and we had to spend 100 dollars for the dealer to tell us what the problem was. We didn’t get the work done, because it cost too much money, but we still had to spend the 100-dollar diagnostic fee. The very next day after my check engine light came on, I noticed Melanie’s brakes grinding. So we had to spend 146 dollars getting her brakes fixed. THEN, this morning, her CAR WOULDN’T START. I had to get out of the shower, and fortunately when I went out there, I was able to get it to start by letting the engine turn and turn and turn. Don’t know why that happened, but it seems fine now. Sheesh. How many more things can go wrong?

I know, I know. Cry me a river and play the violin. I could be starving and homeless in Angola.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dreams of Drinking

I dreamed last night that I was drinking. I've read before about drug users who are going through rehab who will have dreams where they are using drugs and getting high, etc. However, I've never had such a dream relating to drinking alcohol when I've been going through a "sober" period, as I am right now. But last night, I dreamed me and some other people were at a mall and they were giving away free beer at the mall. It didn't even cross my mind that I shouldn't be taking advantage of such an offer.

So I was drinking beer, and when I ordered a round for everyone I was with, the lady serving me wanted to charge me $28 for four beers. I informed her that I was taking advantage of the free beer offer, and she seemed put out by that, and told me she was going to have to fill out some paperwork. So while she headed to the back to grab the paperwork, me and the people I was with just left. Dad among the group I was with, but he didn't want his beer, so I took it.

Later, I was sitting in a restaurant booth, talking to a really ugly girl whose face must have been made up in my dream because I don't know who she is. I was sipping my beer while she talked about how offended she was that some woman had asked her if she was on her period.

After that, I was back in the mall, and everyone was crowding around all the computer stores, hoping to buy the new Playstation III. It suddenly dawned on me that I had been drinking beer, and I couldn't believe that I had just so easily thrown aside my sobriety. But, I figured what was done was done, so I kept drinking.

Then I woke up.

One might think that this dream would make me want to drink. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. I remember how I felt in the dream when I realized that I had been drinking, and I definitely don't want to feel that way in real life.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Daily Update

Well, Rummy is finally gone. Good riddance to the son of a bitch. Don't know anything about his replacement, but let's hope he's not the douchebag Rummy was.

In answering questions, Bush actually ADMITTED that he lied last week to reporters when asked if Rummy would be replaced. He said he lied in order to get them to move on to the next question! Sheesh.

Anyway, here's today's Daily Update, which just happens to be the longest one I've ever done. But it's well worth the read. Enjoy!

Weight: 225

Currently Reading (fiction): Warlock, Wilbur Smith. This is the second book of the Ancient Egypt series. Actually, it’s the third book, but the second book is set in modern times, and centers on an archaeological search for the burial chamber of the pharaoh who is buried in the first book. So it’s a sequel, but not really. Thus, in re-reading this series, I skipped the second book and went right on to Warlock, which picks up a few years after the end of River God (the first book). After I finish Warlock, I will go back and re-read the second book (The Seventh Scroll), which I have long considered to be the best of the three books. It was, in fact, the book that partially inspired my own book, The Fourth Sign of the Falcon.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): The Tao of Sobriety. Can’t remember the authors’ names, but they are two PhD’s. This is a really good book that is offering some valuable meditative exercises for overcoming addictive behaviors. One of the first teachings is learning to understand the innate “innocence” of ourselves, and learning to let go of useless feelings of regret and guilt.

Currently Listening To: Coast of Carolina, Jimmy Buffett.

Rush Lyric of the Day: Who can face the knowledge that the truth is not the truth?

New Buffett Album Update: Take the Weather With You is a GREAT album. It has grown on me. I said at the time (2003) that Far Side of the World was Buffett’s best album since 1986’s Floridays. But even Far Side of the World had a few “filler” songs on it that I could give or take. In fact, I’d say that every Buffett album since Floridays has had at least one or two “filler” songs. However, with Take the Weather With You, I honestly don’t think there is a single bad song on it. It is solid from beginning to end. Here’s a detailed run down, with my ranking at the end of each blurb (10/10 would be a song like Brahma Fear or Migration...5/10 would be a song like Makin’ Music For Money...1/10 would be a song like Math Sux):

1) Bama Breeze – Yes, it’s a total sell-out song, written by big time Nashville songwriters, recorded for the sole purpose of having a “hit song” off the album in order to generate sales. However, it’s still a catchy country song and enjoyable to listen to. 7/10 (probably would give it an 8/10, but the lyrical style reminds me too much of something Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith would sing).
2) Party at the End of the World – One of the few on the album that Buffett had a hand in writing. A good song, centered around a trip that Buffett took to Ushuaia, in the southernmost area of South America (Tierra del Fuego...near the Arctic circle). 6/10
3) Weather With You – Title song of the album, written by a New Zealander who is a featured artist, strangely enough, on one of Hailey’s Wiggles Albums. A great groove, especially on the chorus. 8/10
4) Everybody’s On the Phone – Another written partially by Buffett, talking about how everyone “salutes the satellite.” Reminds me, in terms of the music, of Lady I Can’t Explain, from the Volcano album. 7/10.
5) Whoop De Doo – Despite the name, an excellent ballad song. Written by Mark Knopfler, who also plays guitar on the song. 9/10.
6) Nothin’ But a Breeze – Written by Jesse Winchester, the same singer/songwriter who wrote L’air De La Louisiane and Defying Gravity. An upbeat song with clever lyrics. 8/10
7) Cinco de Mayo in Memphis – A good song with an interesting mix of calypso, traditional Spanish sound, and mariachi. 6/10.
8) Reggabilly Hill – A soothing song with a very pleasing sound. Nice and laid back. 7/10.
9) Elvis Presley Blues – A song about Elvis’s life and death, with a rockabilly sound. 5/10.
10) Hula Girl at Heart – A nice Caribbean sound. Good beach song. 6/10.
11) Wheel Inside the Wheel – A little more edgy than the others, probably the only one on the album that I would say comes close to being “filler,” but still out performs any of the “filler” songs on his albums of the last 10 years, and it’s not a song that requires skipping on a regular basis. The only major complaint about this one is that he does the “speak/sing” thing on the verses, where he’s half speaking, half singing, and I don’t particularly care for that. But he makes up for it with a very good chorus. 4/10 (mainly because of the spoken verses...the chorus, if judged alone, would probably get a 7/10).
12) Silver Wings – An old Merle Haggard song. A nice “Solid Gold” country sound, with a little Buffett-esque steel drum to boot. 7/10.
13) Breath In, Breath Out, Move On – Co-written by Buffett, and in competition with Whoop De Doo for the best song on the album. It’s a song about the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina. 9.5/10
14) Duke’s On Sunday – A song with the same kind of laid back beach sound as Hula Girl at Heart. 7/10

Election Update: Lexington re-elected Ben Chandler, who had been the only Democrat from Kentucky in Washington (our 2 Senators, and the other five members of the House, were all Republicans). However, Louisville ousted one of their Republican members of the House, in favor of a Democrat, so we know have two Democrats in Washington. Louisville also re-elected its Democratic mayor, Jerry Abramson, for a 950th term (he’s been mayor of Louisville since about 1732). Lexington, unfortunately, voted out its mayor, who was a liberal, in favor of a more conservative candidate. Lexington’s mayoral race is non-partisan, but everyone generally knows which parties the candidates are affiliated with.

School Update: Everything is still going really well with school. I had another presentation last night, which I felt went pretty well, and I also had a test, which I also think I did fine on. So far, we’ve only had two grades in that class...our first two tests...and I’ve gotten 100% on both. I still haven’t gotten anything less than a 98% on anything I’ve done in any class. And the two tests that I got 98’s on (both in Medical Terminology) both had words on them that we had not gone over in class, and that is why I got them wrong (she tells us that we don’t have to know anything that we don’t go over in class, and then she forgets to go over some words that are on the test, and then despite the majority of the class missing the words and telling her that she didn’t go over them, she refuses not to count off for them....But, oh well). The only reason is bothers me is because there are other people in the class who may not be making A’s, and those words could be the difference between an A and a B, or even between passing and failing.

Today in History, November 8:

35 – Birth of Roman Emperor Nerva.

1519 – Cortez enters the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and is heralded as a god.

1656 – Birth of Edmund Halley, who predicted the return of the comet that would eventually bear his name.

1861 – The Trent Affair occurs, after a Union ship stops and detains a U.K. mail ship carrying two Confederate envoys. They detain the envoys before allowing the ship to continue on to England. It sparks a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and U.K., and nearly brings the U.K. into the Civil War on the side of the Confederates. However, Prince Albert, sick with typhoid and only weeks away from death, intervenes, stopping a belligerent ultimatum that was to be sent to the U.S. demanding an apology, and rewrites it, softening the wording. This action ultimately helps the U.S. and U.K. to avoid war, and may have played an important role in changing the entire outcome of the future of the U.S. (they may likely have lost the Civil War if forced to fight England as well as the CSA). It was to be the last official act of Prince Albert, before succumbing to typhoid.

1864 – Abraham Lincoln wins re-election over George McClellan. McClellan, a former Union general, was nominated on a peace platform, even though he personally supported the war. This election was the first time in history that a democratic election for a head of state was held during an active war. Lincoln won in a landslide in the electoral college, and won 55% of the popular vote. McClellan won only the states of Kentucky, New Jersey (his home state), and Delaware.

1887 – Death of Doc Holliday, from tuberculosis.

1892 – Grover Cleveland wins the presidential election, becoming the first an only president in U.S. history to serve non-consecutive terms as president. An interesting side note is that despite being a president of the United States in the 19th century, his son just died in the 1990’s. During his first term, he had married a woman nearly 30 years younger than him, and they had a number of children. The last, a son, was born in 1903 and lived until 1995. Cleveland still has a number of living grandchildren. His most famous child, Baby Ruth (who was born to much fanfare while he was in office, and for whom the candy bar was later named), was a sickly child who ended up dying at the age of 12.

1895 – The Father of Radiology, Wilhelm Roentgen, discovers X-rays, paving the way for my chosen career path 111 years later.

1923 – Adolph Hitler leads the Bier Hall Putsch in Munich, Germany, in what would prove to be a failed effort to overthrown the German government.

1939 – Adolph Hitler narrowly avoids an assassination attempt while celebrating the anniversary of the Bier Hall Putsch.

1942 – Allied troops land in North Africa, beginning Operation Torch. This operation plays a role in my most recent short story, which is posted on The Writing Desk. The main character’s beau is killed during the initial invasion.

1950 – The first jet-to-jet dogfight in history occurs, with U.S. pilot Russell Brown shooting down two North Korean MiGs.

1952 – Birth of John Denny, the pitcher who gave up the first major league hit to my childhood Redbirds hero, Jeff Doyle.

1971 – Led Zeppelin IV is released, an album which includes the song Stairway to Heaven.

1978 – Death of Norman Rockwell, at the age of 215. He had first gained fame as the painter who helped win the Revolutionary War. Afterwards, he began painting warm scenes of Americana.

2003 – Birth of Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of Prince Edward, and 8th in line for the British throne.

2006 - The Republicans LOSE!!!!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Always wear your seatbelt.....

As I was taking Hailey to daycare this morning, we were looking out across the park that sits across the street from our neighborhood. On the other side of this park is a federal penitentiary.

I was talking about how pretty the park looked with the rising sun glowing across the frosted grass, and all the trees in full color.

Hailey said, "I think I see a school or something over there."

I kind of laughed and said, "No, honey, that's a jail. That's where people go if they do bad things. If they commit crimes like stealing something or hurting somebody."

She nodded knowingly and said, "Yeah, or if they drive without a seatbelt or something."