Monday, January 25, 2021

Do We Want to Win the Covid Battle?

     On Saturday, 2/23, I was among 856 people who received our first Pfizer shots at a clinic that day in New Bern. It was a commendable and highly efficient operation with the help of cordial volunteers. I’ve had no side effects and have full confidence in the experts who’ve told us this is one of the most safe and effective vaccines ever developed, with a near 100% protection record. The research and test results are online for all to see. I encourage everyone to take a vaccine as soon as one is available to them.

     Meanwhile, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California, only 50% of people across America are masking up and distancing, even after being advised repeatedly by experts such as Dr. Fauci for a year now that masks are the best weapon we have to fight this common enemy that is killing so many thousands of us. We also know that masking has worked very well in other countries.

     One American is now dying every 22 seconds. A drive around my hometown of New Bern revealed that people are certainly doing no better than average at mask wearing, and by all appearances are doing much worse. It seems such a simple thing to do to save our own lives and the lives of other Americans, an easy commonsense preventive measure. No more political than mandated restaurant sanitation inspections or washing one’s hands after handling some harmful substance or taking prescribed preventive medicines on a doctor's orders or wearing glasses to avoid bumping into things.

     A nurse friend at our local hospital told me, “I’ve seen so much tragedy over the past year. I wish the news channels would show several patients, with their identities concealed, fighting for their lives in the hospital, so people could see how badly they suffer. Maybe that would change some minds.”

     Mask wearing is a bold statement that you care about your family, your friends, and your neighbors. It can help save your life and the lives of others. It can help us win the battle against this common enemy.

Phil Bowie, author

www.philbowie.com See the popular NC suspense series on Amazon or my website.

Monday, January 18, 2021

One Bizarre Year

    We all well know that 2020 was tragic and bizarre beyond any prior imagining of it, and for numerous reasons it will be recorded in history along with other infamously deadly, divisive, and disruptive periods.

 But this year has not only been utterly crazy worldwide, I swear it's been hard to believe even on a           personal level.

Things that have gone south during 2020 in my own small world:

The computer hard drive cooling fan began screaming at random times. Replaced it myself.
A floor lamp in my sun room suddenly broke for no reason. Repaired it.
The car battery failed, luckily in the driveway. Replaced it.
A neighbor backed over my mailbox by mistake. Replaced the post and box.
The toilet quit flushing. Replaced the inner mechanism.
Hurricane Isaias littered the yard with debris and downed tree limbs. A two-day laborious
   cleanup ensued.
The microwave failed. Replaced it myself.
The TV speaker began sounding like it had a cold. Replaced the whole TV.
I was mowing a sick neighbor's yard and hit a newly installed natural gas meter box which was
    two inches above grade and wasn’t visible because of tall grass. Replaced the two mower
    blades and the drive belt.
My utility trailer lights stopped working. Replaced the plywood bed and rewired the lights.
My electric hedge trimmer quit. Took it apart and fixed the wiring.
My string trimmer joined the revolt and quit. Replaced the whole damn thing.
The brake lights on my Spyder motorcycle failed. Replaced the switch.
The car wiper blades unraveled like spaghetti. Replaced them.
My wristwatch stopped as though it didn’t like keeping 2020 time. I had one in reserve.
The skylight above my office started leaking. Replaced it, not without some difficulty.
My credit card company failed to send me a bill and I had to placate all my autopay accounts
    when the card company, without notice, declined payments. I was a bit put out.

    I’m beginning to wonder if there was something in the air besides Covid. Considering the larger world, however, my problems were minor inconveniences, all fixable.

    The dire issues leftover from 2020 will take all of us working together to resolve. First, let’s kill the killer virus by masking up, distancing, and practicing good hygiene.

    We can do this, people.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Check out my NC suspense novel series through the website or on Amazon. People seem to like the yarns.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Writing Advice From a Grand Old Pro    

     Only a very few writers and their works endure for decades—even centuries—beyond their deaths. Shakespeare, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and poets like Keats and Thoreau and Emily Dickinson can still move us with their words written long ago.

     Samuel Langhorne Clemens died in 1910, yet his works and his pen name Mark Twain live on. His book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been classed among the greatest American novels. He presented the following fiction writing commandments in his inimitable wry style. They are unarguably salient for all of us who write fiction but much of the advice applies equally well to other kinds of writing:

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and the reader shall always be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and shall be such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Kentucky hillbilly at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and the author shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

The author should:

Say what he or she is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Eschew surplusage.

Not omit necessary details.

Avoid slovenliness of form.

Use good grammar.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Please mask up and distance. We have a ways to go before we're out of the dark woods.

For some distracting high adventure reading, try the John Hardin suspense series set in North Carolina. Easy ordering in print or Kindle through the website or on Amazon.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Things we have but never use

    These days, with ubiquitous cell phones and wide service coverage, a landline phone in most areas is about as necessary as a third sneaker, but many of us still cling to them. Likewise, with sharp and versatile smartphone photography and videography readily available in a pocket, only serious pros need digital cameras, but how many of us have one in a custom accessory bag getting dusty on a shelf?  I have two, one of them in an expensive bag full of 35 mm film equipment. Those digital photo frames are a great idea, but of the billions of photos we take every year, how many get preserved in them? Mine is empty while my phone is nearing capacity. Everybody has a few USB flash drives around with enough collective storage space for the entire estimated four million words (true) of the IRS code. I have one shaped like Snoopy that sits decoratively by my computer desk lamp with not a single byte in him. And how many unused apps and games are living on your electronic devices?

    I suspect a high percentage of gym memberships get contracted shortly after New Year’s Day as righteous resolutions. People attend faithfully for a while, then less and less often. Some buy their own exercise machines and devices that eventually get shunted aside in a garage or attic as expensive abodes for web-building spiders. Many bicycles share the same fate.

    Nothing is quite so inviting as spending a day out on a lake or river or offshore in your own boat, a pricey adult toy, but the friendly sales folk don’t tell you about the endless necessary accessories or the lengthy voyage preparation checklists or the post-voyage cleaning chore. Or the frequent high-dollar maintenance. Or the insurance. Or the gallons of fuel burned per mile. Or the sunburns and the pop-up thunderstorms. So, after the initial christening cruise and a few following jaunts, many boats spend most of their days tied up in marinas or sitting forlornly on their trailers in back yards.

     Unused children’s toys have a way of accumulating faster than senior citizen birthdays. Likewise, many musical instruments purchased for offspring and the rest of the family have not been plucked, tooted, fingered, or percussed for years. And how about all those pet toys our dogs and cats now disdain?

    Remember that slicer/dicer/chopper/juicer you saw at the state fair and simply had to have because it could cut tomatoes thin enough to see through and would help you lose ten pounds? Where is it now? You’ll find it stored away with all the pizza tools and the whole-banana-in-one-stroke slicer, and the cocktail shaker and the fondue set and the bread maker and the flower vases in various sizes.

     Most of us have monthly magazines we don’t read, cookbooks we rarely consult, extended warranties we didn’t need, yard and board games we don’t set up, and fancy clothing we never wear.

    All those things we once thought we needed fill our sheds and attics and garages and closets and drawers and computer files. But I’m betting you won’t stop buying even more such bright and shiny and seductive things.

    I confess right now that I probably won’t.

    This is America, after all, and I’m only human.

Phil   

www.philbowie.com

Start the New Year off with some exciting reading. Try the thriller novel series Guns, Diamondback, Kllrs, and Deathsman, set in the misty folds of the Great Smokies and endorsed by top gun bestselling authors Lee Child, Ridley Pearson, and Stephen Coonts. Available in print or Kindle from Amazon.

 

Monday, December 28, 2020

 Word Replacement Time

I almost used the word ‘footage’ in reference to recent YouTube coverage of a rocket launch, when I realized the term was meant to describe a segment of old-fashioned movie film or fast-fading videotape. Everything is going digital, so I guess the replacement word for footage ought to be ‘pixilation.’

Some other modernizing replacement suggestions:

Junk Words or Phrases            Modernized Replacement Words or Phrases

        objective news                             agenda pixilating

        dial a phone                                 thumb it (still works for hitching a ride, too)

         militias                                        candidate supporters

         face masks                                   political affiliation designators

         pandemic                                     party time

         patriotism                                    secessionism

         distancing                                    political positioning

         loser                                             winner

         U.S. government                          entropy               

         2020                                             2021

 

Please mask up (and pass the message on) to save the lives of fellow Americans and let’s all have a Much Happier New Year.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Have a look at the NC thriller novel series on the website or Amazon.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Having A Safe Celebration

   Let's hope everyone across our battered nation will have a good Christmas or other seasonal celebration of faith, but please do it safely.

   Today—the winter solstice—is the longest, darkest night of a dark year. Last week the virus scored a grim new record victory against America, infecting a million more of us in just five days. An American is dying now every 24 seconds. Health care workers are fighting on through their fatigue and sadness and frustration, but they’re being overwhelmed in many hot spots.

   Yet there are still many among us who stubbornly refuse to wear a mask and distance themselves, even though we know these simple precautions can prevent thousands more fellow Americans from facing premature death.

   In this season of caring, can’t we all step up and fight this common global enemy? Vaccines are being distributed and, given time, this herculean effort will take beneficial effect, but meanwhile we need to cooperate with the expert advice and the well-known guidelines. To not do so is to prolong the suffering of hundreds of thousands of us and delay real economic recovery for us all.

   Here’s to a vaccinated New Year.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Look to the southwest just after sunset tonight, below and to the right of the moon slice and not far above the horizon for a sight not seen for the past 800 years. The giant planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear to almost touch, creating what some are calling a Christmas Star.

Monday, December 14, 2020

John Caughey, Part Two

    Last post, I introduced you to one of my enduring heroes, my maternal stonemason grandfather John. (My late Dad Erol is another.)

    Gramp John and I used to exchange letters and postcards, frequently kidding each other about this or that. I think his unquenchable sense of humor was an ingredient in the secret recipe that kept him on Earth, thriving and contributing, for one hundred and three years. One of his woodland paintings he did in his later years depicted a dog chasing a cat chasing a mouse scooting for cover as a hawk looked on. The title was, “Life. Just one damned thing after another.”

    Somehow, we got onto the subject of horoscopes, poking fun at each other’s celestial signs. Claiming he could read my scope as well as any astrologer out there, he sent me the following week’s worth of astrological advice:

MONDAY: Avoid get-rich-quick schemes today, icy streets, and close friends.

TUESDAY: Be glad you’re you. Everybody else certainly is. On that other matter, just stick to your story and stop worrying.

WEDNESDAY: You will be followed today. Wear a disguise.

THURSDAY: You will receive a compliment. It will be a lie.

FRIDAY: You have your shirt on backwards. Slow down.

SATURDAY: You will receive a warning by mail today. Pay up.

SUNDAY: You should, but you won’t.

    The ironic part about this reading of my personal stars was its flavor of accuracy.

    We also exchanged serious notes. One day after a freezing rainstorm he took his customary walk through the woods, dressed as usual, I’m sure, in shirt and tie, vested suit coat and Stetson felt hat. (In old photos of the Wright Brothers testing their planes, they were similarly dressed; it’s what people did then.) That day he sent me a postcard that said, “Old as I am, Mother Nature still has the power to amaze and delight me. Last night she decorated the trees with billions of ice diamonds.”

    The old man himself never lost the power to amaze and delight this lucky grandson of his. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t even be here. Were it not for him, I would not carry much of his beneficial philosophy and example throughout my life. He has influenced my writing and even appeared as a character. An elderly couple, Hank and Hattie Gaskill, prominent in my suspense novel series, were drawn largely from Gramp John and his pleasant wife, Hattie.

     He touched thousands of others for the better over his more than ten decades, and those thousands have in turn touched still others with some of his enduring work ethic, good humor, and wisdom.

     And now he’s touched you a bit, as well.

     Author Albert Pine said, “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

Phil

Try the thriller novel series Guns, Diamondback, Kllrs, and Deathsman, set in the misty folds of the Great Smokies and endorsed by top gun bestselling authors Lee Child, Ridley Pearson, and Stephen Coonts. Available in print or Kindle from Amazon or through www.philbowie.com

On Friday, 2,900 Americans died. That was two persons for every minute of that 24-hour day. Want to do something to cut down that horrific daily death toll? Just follow the advice of the qualified experts. Mask up and distance; it shows fellow Americans you care. Avoid all unnecessary gatherings. These simple easy measures will help save thousands upon thousands of lives until the vaccines intervene and slowly take beneficial effect.