This is the Month to start reading “Rough Enough”

Rick Book Cover new jpeg  February 1865, 150 years ago was when 17 year old Richard Clow reenlisted as a regular for three years in the 56th Mass. Volunteer Infantry. That one month during which he signed up, spent two weeks in a holding camp during the frigid winter of 65, (18 degrees or more below zero) and then was transported in the filthy stinking hold of the ship Demolay to Petersburg, VA set the stage for his baptism under fire on the front lines at Fort Hays.  His letters home to his sisters have always been an inspiration to me. Trying to tell what has been happening, while not sharing all the really gruesome details which his sisters would not have been able to understand back in Boston. His observations on the battlefield, close encounters with death, and his own hopes and dreams for the future all come out over the ensuing months leading up to Lee’s retreat to Appomattox, Lincolns death and finally demobilization in July of 1865, well after the final battles had become history. Read the book to get an understanding of what a young soldier did and saw, in comparison to what the officers we all hear about did or didn’t do. It gives one a broader understanding of the whole span of the war and the persons deeply involved in that conflict.

Here’s my stats for the year – hoping to do better in 2015 – see below 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

True Heroes of our own time: The Rescuers in Thailand

.   My praise and prayers go out to the teams of Rescue operators in Thailand as they seek to pull all of the lost soccer boys and their coach from two weeks of entrapment in a water filled cave.

Recent News: Rescue underway in Thailand

What’s happening on the ground: video of Rescue Work

From personal experience; there is not much that is scarier than crawling through a worm-hole passage of a cave with a stream of water flowing under you. All the while, as you push your back-pack and canteen in front of you, you know you’re in a one way passage for 100 or more feet. You can’t turn around if the water starts to rise because of rains in the mountains 10 miles away. All you can do is keep moving to get to the next “room” and pray. Your prayer may not do you any good against the elements, but is cools the heart rate and calms your nerves a bit as you keep pushing forward into the blackness illuminated only by your self contained light source.

The men who are going in and out of that cave in Thailand daily to carry in oxygen, and now pull kids out are men of steel both in nerve and physical strength. They know the ‘cost’ of screwing up. I applaud their work. They are worthy of the highest honors that can be given to humans. They are agreeing to give up their lives if necessary, to give hope and assistance to others who are in dire life threatening straights. That’s what it means to be a hero.

They have my prayers for a safe completed rescue operation.

“Suffer the Little Children”: Condoning Governmental Child Abuse?

This is my response to the government and officials of The United States of America, separating infants from their parents who are seeking refuge in our country, putting those infants on trial in our court rooms and sending them back to a life in their former country without their parents:

At what point are our congressional majority leaders and president and their officials held accountable for ‘child abuse’ or higher crimes when they condone doing to children what would be considered abduction and or kidnapping refugee children in order to threaten other refugees from coming to our country?  How can this placement of children and families under duress after they have fled opression in their own country be condoned? At what point will a judge be brave enough to tell our country that putting babies and infants on trial in our court system with no advocacy and representation is anything but criminal? At what point will it be considered legal for state officials to intervene when ICE officials break state laws about the handling, housing and caring for children in those particular states? At what point will an ICE employee who refuses to obey an order which according to The United Nations is a crime against humanity, be protected and allowed to refuse to obey an illegal order? At what point will international law put out a warrant, as they have done against other leaders who condoned crimes against humanity and arrest our leaders who strut so boldly about making America safer by imprisoning children?

This is a slippery slope and as Americans turn their backs on the innocent children who will suffer from these acts, we must realize how ordinary persons in many countries around the world have previously allowed tyranny to proliferate because they refused to stand up and say, “This is WRONG!”

There must be a better way, and it is up to our national leaders and the people in it who determine our government to direct our misguided leaders to do the right thing. The oppression of human rights and taking ouranger out of children is no the way to do it. We generally call that ‘Child Abuse’ whether it is the kid left in the overheating car, or the kid burned with cigarettes, or the kid taken by a mobster to hold for political or monetary ransom.

An important man once said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. …” (Ref; NRSV)

Alexander Hamilton: On the Subversion of our United States Republic – 1792

  • Our Founding Fathers understood Exactly the weakness in our Constitutional System. Why?   Because they had just rebelled against a government that was governed by a man who preferred chaos to calm discussion and organization (See our Declaration of Independence from the national archives) Transcript of Declaration of Independence Read the whole thing carefully in case you’ve forgotten some parts.
    Now read this section of Alexander Hamilton’s Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration of the United States in 1792

    “The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.

    Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy—not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Alexander_Hamilton_%28Public_Domain%29.jpg

    If you want Hamilton’s whole rant on the government and debt and making problems for itself at that time, here’s the full 1792 text link: Hamilton’s Full Objections to the Government 

    Wow —  prophetic?

Book Review: Home by Harlan Coben

Home (Myron Bolitar, #11)Home by Harlan Coben

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I generally like author Coben’s writing, but this particular book just didn’t fit with my style. It’s not a page-turner. The plot seems quite disjointed, bouncing back and forth between my favorites and an occasional explosive action scene, coupled with a down-home explanation of the background surrounding the original kidnapping. The storyline: tracking down of 2 young men nearly ten years after their boyhood kidnapping and possible sale to child molesting pimps in England is a winner of an idea, but the plot doesn’t stick to the story and gets lost in little side stories which don’t help the overall plot. Our investigative heroes, Myron Bolitar and Win do not seem to be in the reader’s central vision enough to pull together what could be a really fast go-get-em chase. The initial impetus collapses when arch-villain Fat Gandhi broker’s a deal and things diffuse onto the ho-hum college campus and co-ed dorms. Win and Bolitar make an exciting and deadly team, but in this case, they need a bit more juice to hold up the excitement end of the book to make it what I would call a first class “thriller.” The love affair between Therese and Myron doesn’t seem to sparkle for me. Their affair gets the old “sorry for the cock block” once too often from the interruptions that are constructed, rather than being natural. I liked the ending and will pick up another of author Coben’s works for airplane reading. Hopefully, next time, I won’t put it down in favor of a jet-lagged film.

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Book Review: No Man’s Land by David Baldacci

No Man's Land (John Puller, #4)No Man’s Land by David Baldacci

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not the Author’s best work by far. The thesis behind the novel is excellent and I was absorbed with that once we got to the actual story. The first 200 pages are very slow in setting up the story. In fact, so slow, that this section of the of the 479-page novel could have been covered with more concentrated action in about 50 pages without losing anything. I found myself skipping through the boring parts. After those first 200 pages the pace picks up and our protagonist, John Puller and the apparent arch-enemy, Paul Rogers, get down to business near Ft. Monroe and the affairs of secret building “Q” on that base. I would have liked a better description of Rogers’ bone and muscle enhancement job as well as the brain manipulations done by the mastermind Claire Jericho to make Rogers into a warped human super warrior, but that was not to be. Other than the initial boredom factors, my main reasons for downgrading an author as strong as Baldacci were his flaws in what should have been simple technology and physics. First, in a tale in which someone can take over the ignition, steering, and acceleration of your car to the point of causing a fatal crash, one would think that having Puller use his cell phone and computer to do research and to contact big brother, Robert, would be a dead giveaway on locating our hero to knock him off. This never happens and it isn’t until about p. 400 that our author acknowledges the easy traceability of cell phones. Yet, having noted the flaw, he never goes back and has Puller using a landline, library computers and other more clandestine methods to conceal his whereabouts. The second error which really floored me was the author’s lack of understanding of the basic physics of water pressure on a sunken car and that by letting the water rise above the door level, one can quite easily open the car door and simply swim to the surface. The hilt of a Ka-bar knife is also pretty efficient at breaking a windshield on a car if necessary in an emergency of doors not opening. Even so, I still enjoyed the read and will continue to go back to those older well thought out novels by Mr. Baldacci and look for more fertile efforts. All in all, I like his style of writing.

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Book Review: ‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here’s an award-winning level of a story by an author who has done an amazing amount of research on the women who ran and participated in, the spy newwork of occupied France during the both WWI and WWII. Although author Kate Quinn has filled in a lot of gaps in the historical record with her fictional character, Eve (Mme. Le Francois), her depictions of the other members of the spy network from their true memoires is amazing. The reader can feel the tension of the characters in their clandestine border crossings into Belgium, and their constant fear of recognition and capture. The courage and determination that flows between euphoric moments when a prime piece of information is overheard, followed by the depths of despair as the British Command ignores vital clues to troop movements or the attacks is handled extremely well. Author Quinn has also done a magnificent job of alternating chapters between the two main characters, Eve and Charlie and in ending each chapter with a ‘hook’ that keeps the reader moving on to the next chapter consecutively, rather than trying to skip ahead for clues that will lead to the mysterious collaborator, Rene Bordelon. It’s a tale of love, hate, terror, revenge, courage and betrayal in which the author makes the characters come to life and show both the worst of human behaviors and the very best. It will go down as one of my all time favorites.

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Book Review: “Picture Me Dead” by Heather Graham

Picture Me DeadPicture Me Dead by Heather Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Picture Me Dead” although I felt that I could have chopped out the central 100 pages and still had a great read at 323. The boathouse to apartment play between Ashley and Jake is too much back and forth for me. I got a bit bored out in the middle of the book. Fortunately, if you feel ennui sneaking in, or you start to yawn, just skip to the next love making scene. You’ll come away with new learning! The “Prologue” really pulls you in at the start of the book. Then the love-hate cycle between Ashley and Jake make for a good fallback in between the intrigue of the mystery. I kept wondering if Ashley was going to drop out of the Police academy. The author obviously came up with a better solution. Everglades scenes and the death on the motorway scene are a bit contrived, but lay the groundwork for other things to come in the book. My wife was totally absorbed with the book. It took me ten days to do the reading of the 400+ pages while she only took two days, so there you have it ladies, it gets a higher rating from the gals, but that’s OK because men have been getting all the good parts in books for eyars and now it looks like some smart tough women are stepping forward in novels to equalize the filed. A very good book, enjoy the reading.

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My Picture of the day: Curacao!

If a velociraptor looked at me with the same geam in the eye that this hungry pair of Iguana are giving me, I’d know I wasn’t long for this world!

One more!

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Enjoy your day!

Playa Lagun: One of the Prettiest Places to Dive on Curacao

Playa Lagun is another one of those great places to dive on Curacao. A lot of people don’t go there because you have to swim way.. out there.. before you go down, or you’ll use up half your air over white chrystaline sands.

So– 9:30 AM we make up our gear at Patrick’s Wederfoort Dive shop and hop in the pickup for a 20 minutes dive up towards the NW end of the Island.  Throw on our gear and walk down through the sunbathers, already beginning to stake out places on this small secluded beach.

Swim out! Glad the water is cool! Here we are offshore 300+ yards looking back.

Jill looks at me, we all look at the cliffs with houses and high-end resorts, Patrick gives an OK and down we go….. 35 ft. down is a sloping plateau loaded with tube spongers, corky fingers, and pillars of coral.

aa

A glass eye snapper just a bit deep to show off his vrightred coloring, brain rose and starlet corals,  a pale phase of a stoplight parrot with a blue tail, a blue male phase of a sergent major,  flowing fungus coral, blue tube sponges, a herd of grunts above some goat fish, a blue wrasse, and finally the Giant Vase Sponge big enough to swallow a person.

Back at the beach an hour later, we stop for a coffee while we get out top-time, pick up more tanks at Patrick’s dive concession at Lagun Resort, look down off the cliffs from above where we have been diving and head for the next dive.  Enjoy!

 

Diving at Pos Spano, Curacao with Eric Wederfoort and my wife Jill

One of the most untouched spots on Curacao for diving is Pos Spano or  Spanish Well, which is only accesible by boat or through a locked gate if you know where to get the key. Eric Wederfoort, probably the most decorated diver and instructor on Curacao can occasionally get groups in to this restriced area!

Pristine white sand beaches, azure blue water and corals that drop your jaw await, along with a plethora of fish and invertebrates like shrimp and crabs.

We went down next to the Elkhorn Corals which jut out of the 8 ft deep water at low tide, and swam out slowly savoring each new type of coral and the fish that accomany it.

20170720_160450  Juvenile Slippery Dicks over white sand, smooth Starlet Coral, Colonies of Yellow Pencil Corals with tube shaped Branching Vase Sponges and branching Sea Rods projecting upwards from crevices. Then deeper are more humps of Star Coral with bright yellow Juvenile Blue Head Wrasse swimming around while forktailed Chromis fill the background. Finally, before we hit the reek proper, we pass over upright plates of Leafy Stinging Corals protecting more juvenile Wrasse, including Juvenile Rainbow Wrasse, beneath which, near the sand you see a Bicolored Damsel. WOW!

Now we drop down further to the waving fronds of Sea Rods surrounded by Brown Chromis Fish. The direction of the waving fronds tells us which way to go as we want to swim against the current until we reach half – tank and still have enough air to come up a bit and get back (Usually about 30 minutes each way for Jill and me. Eric has gills after 50 years of teaching and guiding.). Then Netted Barrel Sponges appear followed by big Orange Elephant Ear Sponges and then from between the leaves of a clump of sparkling Lettuce Coral we see the head of a Golden Tail Moray! Cute? Finally, more Branching Tube Sponges with swarms of Blue and Brown Chromis.

On the way back we scare up one of the BAD GUYS on the reef: A LION FISH imported from SE Asia, released in Florida and now infesting the entire Caribbean! The only reason Curacao isn’t overrun with them like Bermuda, is because the peopel here took an active role in capturing these spiny poisonous creatures and cutting off their spines and eating them in restaurants! 5 years ago we saw 20 – 50 of these fish on a dive and Eric could spear 200 kilos of fish per week to sell for eating. Now we see only 5 fish in a total of 15 dives and Eric says he’s lucky to get 15 kilos a week to sell. That’s just fine with him and also with us.  See the hand in the picture? Don’t do this unless you are an expert! A single sting from the barbs on these fish can put you in the hospital!

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By For now! Hope you had a great dive! Enjoy! Rick

20170720_160506    20170720_163358

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

Bones Never Lie (Temperance Brennan, #17)Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a really excellent book for those of you who like a bit more of the morbidity/mortality side of the picture as explained and described by someone who has actually worked in the Forensic Anthropology field. Lest you think that this means you only work with the long dead bones, get a grip! This is right down the line of the body, long concealed in the crypt by some murderous psychopath, or stashed a month in the trunk of your car. The details can be a bit off-putting if you have too good an imagination. For me, with a biology background it was very interesting and links to several articles I read in the past about the actual places where researchers study this sort of thing. Someplace like the inside of a fenced off, research facility. Learning things like how long it takes for bodies to actually decay in the open, or when buried in a shallow grave, etc. A bit gruesome, but the story line is excellent! It’s got a truely evil psychopath who obviously has learned how to connect with other psychopaths through the internet. A semi-senile lady in a care center who has the ability to use the internet to a high degree for her own investigative purpses… A good on-going love story with make-up and resolution, and of course, the suspense of who is going to get it next, or what will be revealed when the next back-yard is dug up. One slight error by the author which you might pick up on when it comes to the police trying to resuscitate a dead man, you can’t then be taking photoes of the corpse insitue, because they certainly woudn’t prop it back in the original position just for the photographer. I can live with that, a detail which most readers will never pick up on. Read it, enjoy it, knowing that there really are people like that out there who do these things, both on the crime side as well as on the investigative side. I hope the good gals and guys always win!

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Another Dive in Paradise-Curacao-The Queen Trigger Fish

Just finished another dive this AM at Snake Bay, St. Michael’s, Curacao. Last three days have been a whirlwind. 2 Dives on Thursday, King’s Day Celebrations all over he island on Friday and one dive today with another to be done in about an hour.

After 14 years of diving here you’d think we’d seen all the fish, but no…, there always seems to be another one that pops up as you are cruising through the blue.

Here’s the latest, a Queen Trigger Fish! What a beauty!

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Look Closely! Those eyelashes can’t be beat!

This fish is related to a lot of other trigger fishes, notably the two Hawian reef and lagoon triggerfish which both share the common name Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Another beauty – Click here for link  

Not to be put off, the rest of the reef came out today with these pics of the day: Corky Fingers, Ocean Surgeon, Four-eyed Butterfly Fish, Blue Translucent Sponge, a lined phase of a Princess Parrot Fish, a herd of Goat Fish with a sneaky Trumpet Fish sticking his head into the photo, and a very nice Porkfish.

Then of course just as we are getting out to the dive buoy tied around the old car axel, Here comes a nice red phase of a Stoplight Parrot Fish to say goodby!

Enjoy your Day! Time to make up my gear for the next dive!

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