Category Archives: opinion

Book Review: First To Die (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson

What you should know.

James Patterson has sold many books and has many fans.  This book is the first of the 17 Women’s Murder Club series novels.  Book number 17 The 17th Suspect was published this year.

I prefer to read mystery genre.  I enjoy historical fiction.  I’ve found dystopian science fiction and fantasy fun too.  We all have our preferences.  How do I measure quality mystery?  Read anything by John D. MacDonald and you will know my idea of quality.  The story surrounds a female homicide detective in San Francisco and three women whom she confers with regarding an investigation.  The four women form her unofficial murder club.

What I liked

Four professional women meeting and brainstorming a difficult criminal investigation.  What’s not to like about that?  The setting is San Francisco, which I know very little about.  Either it’s not a very fascinating location, or the author has failed to capture it in a manner that has enthralled me.  I like the fact that it has potential so I’ll leave it there for now.

The plot keeps you guessing, and you can guess right yet still enjoy the story.  That means the writing is fairly satisfying in it’s own right.  The protagonist, Inspector Lindsay Boxer, is a well fleshed out character.  However, as told through her first person perspective, I did not get to know enough about the other three female characters (there were actually four others).  I did like them.  They were written to be likeable.

The relationship between Lindsay and her partner John Raleigh was great.  I could get into any number of cases involving these two and appreciate how they approach challenges.  Very refreshing.

What I didn’t like

I did not accept the author’s premise for the John Raleigh character at all.  It was a terribly simplistic view of life.  It did not work at all for me.  So I can’t see any point in reading anymore books in this series.  Sorry.  Something else that really bothered me.  Why in so many police mysteries are the cops all good – like this one – or completely bad? Can’t anyone write a mystery where the cops are mostly good accept for a few exceptions?  That would be too realistic I guess.

The ending.  If there was any possibility at all that I would read another Women’s Murder Club novel, the ending guarantees that will not happen.  Too bad for me.  The idea of these four women supporting each other in their professional ambitions and their personal struggles, is such a good one.  I will miss out since I think this first one misses the mark.

 

Recommendation:  Maybe Read

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Freedom

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242 years ago, a group of men were forced to declare the independence of the lands they held.  Three things they agreed were priorities were to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They had to be willing to die.

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Since then those lands have grown.  And the people have increased to over 300 million.  And the heirs of those men have had to share the priorities with women, and the families of freed slaves.  And its been a fight.  Sometimes more violent of a fight than the original revolution that began our nation.  Sometimes a much longer fight.  One that’s lasted generations.

 

On the eve of the anniversary of the declaration of independence, can you say what your priorities are?  Are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness your main desires?  If so, what would it look like for you?

 

Life

To have a family, in whatever form we choose, in a home wherever we can afford to live safely, with the ability to educate ourselves to our maximum potential.

Liberty

To have beneficial relationships with those around us, the ability and opportunity to accumulate wealth, to create community, to make positive change in our world, to be able to decide how and by whom we are governed.

The Pursuit of Happiness

To take part in an economy that allows us to spend quality time doing the things we like with and for one another.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries are a chance to think about the past, present and future.  Consider where we have been.  Recognize where we are.  Figure out how to get where we want to go.  Can we talk about where we are in relationship to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Then work on where we should so next?

Can you talk about your priorities?

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Final Declaration

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

 

Scorecard: Jurassic World – 1 Avengers Infinity War – 0

My shameless plug for science fiction

 

Here’s the lesson. Stick the landing. I enjoyed Jurassic World from the beginning, the middle, and the end. We moviegoers know what we want, and we know what we like. Movie makers often appreciate that, meaning us. Infinity War didn’t deliver. If you doubt that just check any source of viewer responses.

I don’t care about the setup for your sequel. You can give an audience an enjoyable ending and still setup the sequel at the same time. Infinity War is a comic, so I guess it falls into the category of fantasy. And don’t assume I have anything against fantasy. Bilbo and Frodo are all that and a bag of chips. Jurassic World is science fiction. I think that matters.

By developing a taste for science fiction you are enabling yourself to contemplate important issues of the day. You can engage your curiosity. You can form ethical arguments. You begin to think and act in a way that determines your future, and you can do good things for someone following in your footsteps. Science fiction perpetually compares the now with the what if. It asks this question. What would happen if we had the ability to do such and such? History has taught us that the less prepared we are for advances in technology, the more bad decisions we suffer from. Remember DDT? Shouldn’t we commit the time to consider the harm of new abilities before we make ourselves too vulnerable? Science fiction has proven to be one of the most reliable tools we have to engage in the debate.

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The science in Jurassic World is cloning. Genetically modified organisms, otherwise know as dinosaurs, are brought to life by combining original ‘dino’ DNA with other animals’ filling in the missing pieces. In a fairly frightening manner, the movie weighs the possible outcomes of producing genetically modified animals for profit. I’ll borrow from one of my favorite 70’s sci-fi TV shows, the Six Million Dollar Man, which introduced us to the idea of the bionically enhanced human, who’s famous line is “We have the technology. We can make you stronger, faster, better than before.” The antagonists in the film decide to do just that when they investigate the possibility of turning a dinosaur into a military weapon.

Today we are faced with a number of staggering challenges from the technology we now, or very soon will possess. What are the right answers for whether or not we should clone animals, or humans? Who should police the internet? What are the worst consequences for us of the dark web? Can there be rules and punishments for cyber warfare and cyber espionage? Where will unchecked gene research lead us? More good than harm? Will that depend on how careful we are? Who will decide? These are a few of the necessary questions. Turn to your favorite science fiction book or movie to consider the answers.

If you have never appreciated the science fiction genre before, there are many places to go for recommendations. I will offer some suggestions. Here is my Mount Rushmore of authors.

 

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Suggested Science Fiction

Books by or films based on the writing of
Philip K. Dick
Michael Crichton
Ray Bradbury
Robert Heinlein
Isaac Asimov

Let me give an honorable mention to Neal Stephenson, whose novel Seveneves promises to offer some of the best in science fiction movies to date. Read the book now before the first movie comes out.

Hope

My journey of personal observations which I have made over the years to apply Bible reading in my life.

Psalm 130:7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
Observation
God redeems us from our sin and its consequences out of an expression of His love which is sacrificial and selfless. That is our hope when all else fails, it is our hope before self reliance, it is our hope in the beginning and in the end.
Application in my life
I read where the United Nations commission on global warming says that human life will be affected by rising surface temperatures, water will not be available to sub saharan areas of Africa and similar lands, millions of square miles of habitats along the coastline will be under water, and crops will not grow in areas where they currently do. People will migrate in order to survive and less food will be available to feed the growing planet’s population. I did not feel very good about our future reading this. The experts predicted violence and unrest by groups of people in reaction to the climate changes.

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Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is an example of the increased harm climate change has already brought into the environment today, which is more violent and deadly weather than ever before. When I think about the bleak picture that this presents, verses such as Psalm 130:7 help to provide a calm that comes with the realization that although I may not be able to place much hope and confidence in governments or corporations or other people, I do have a God with whom my hope belongs. While I believe †he increase in greenhouse gases do to human consumption is partly the result of sinful behavior and unwise choices, I also believe we all have a responsibility to do what we can to fix it.
My prayer
Lord help use providence to deal with the consequences of global warming, provide us shelter and safety from the storms ahead, let us act wisely to minimize the harm that the destructive production of greenhouse gasses has brought upon us. Allow us to see Your vision for a lifestyle that is a blessing and not a curse, Amen

Documentary: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, starring Fred Rogers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Megyn Kelly TODAY

Documentary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, starring Fred Rogers

The film portrays the relationship between the educational children’s public television series Mister Roger’s Neighborhood (1968-2001), and its creator, writer, composer, and host, Fred Rogers.

The message of the show was simple. However the substance of the show was very deep and highly complex. A subtle irony associated with it developed around the observation that for some, the simplicity of the program may have masked the inherent brilliance from them. So they failed to appreciate the true value it had for children.

I find a parallel with the Biblical account of Jesus of Nazareth. Many of his messages appeared simple on the surface. Yet the substance of what Jesus communicated has astounded countless readers over the generations with its complexity and depth. Personally, I think that the reaction to what Jesus said tells you more about the person who forms their opinion, than it does about Christ. Comparatively, the same applies to Fred Rogers. Your reaction to him and his television show reveals more about you, than it does about the value of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

One of the takeaways for me from the documentary was how important the manner in which Fred Rogers acknowledged the dignity of each individual child was. Another was how selfless his commitment to children seemed to be. And another was the contribution he made to so many lives. There were more for me, but I’m focusing on these three.

Fred Rogers gave his total attention to children. He answered serious questions about life for them. He created an atmosphere where spending time together was more important than mindless humor, and he incorporated music to aid memory, create comfort, and impart joy. His respectful approach was unparalleled, and sadly, has not been replicated to this day.

One unique aspect of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is that while other educational programs focused on teaching reading, vocabulary and arithmetic, it focused instead on teaching kids how to think and mature as human beings, how to deal with the realities of life like friendship, responsibility, kindness. I’d imagine every key concept was covered short of income tax. Fred Rogers did this because he cared that TV could harm children if all it gave them was relative garbage (vis a vis the saying ‘garbage in garbage out’). I think it was his Christian calling, which speaks to his belief in practicing what Jesus preached.

He was determined to counter the mindless entertainment forced into homes and provide quality content for the benefit of children, regardless of the challenging circumstances or misguided critics, which often were too many. My favorite part of the film was when Rogers faced off against the U.S. Senate effort to cut funding for public television in order to put the money into the Vietnam War. The documentary is well worth seeing for just that scene alone.

The contribution Fred Rogers made to the lives of so many people is best exemplified by his statement that ‘you are special just the way you are’. He believed this about himself, and he was aware that so many children struggled in their childhood and later in life because of their lack of self esteem and the emotional and psychological handicaps inflicted upon them as a result. His legacy, generations of well adjusted people, is a testament to what he was able to accomplish because of this belief.

Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Book Review: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

What I liked.

This is a smart story. It’s action packed for those who like the genre. It is also suspenseful and stuffed with dramatic confrontations. It isn’t just smartly told. The prose is easy to follow with a good bit of humor for such a serious subject, an act of cyber warfare on the United States. This is one of the highly charged current topics up for debate as the modern world becomes more and more dependent on artificial intelligence and we realize how much of the essentials we take for granted are interconnected in an invisible cyberspace that has little, if any, existence in a tangible form.

Why is this an important issue all of us should think about? Here are some reasons. How much money do you have? What is the source of your income? Your savings? Your investments? Your health benefits? What physical proof of them exists? How much of our basic needs, water, electricity, communication, depend on the electronic grids that help facilitate them? How vulnerable are we individually and collectively as a society if we do not protect them well enough from potential enemies?

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All of these ideas and more are addressed in this novel. But it’s all done in a very entertaining fashion. It doesn’t preach, lecture, or promote an ideologically biased point of view. It delivers the news. Then lets you, the reader figure things out for yourself.

On a deeper level the story is strong in the way it touches on key themes such as trust, integrity, political animosity, and prejudice. I applaud that effort because I think it’s true that if we don’t work on removing stereotypes and establish priorities that put the common interests of most people first so that we avoid trying to create winners and losers in every important area, we may wake up to find out that we have already lost what few other nations have ever had, a secure republic that works for every American who is willing to work hard to live with liberty and pursue what makes them happy.

What I didn’t like.

Some of the characters were not developed well at all. They were primarily present to move the plot along without delving deep enough into their motives or moral dilemmas. I’m not sure they even had any! So the problems a world power like the U.S. faces from external threats aren’t going to be fixed by such a simplistic worldview that is barely defined. I will admit that we have to figure out our internal problems before we can best understand foreign threats. So I hope the next novel following this, if there is one, makes an effort to look at where our enemies come from and what we can do to mitigate their creation.

What you should know.

This is a book for the average everyday reader. It isn’t full of technical, high level complexity. Although it has a message that everyone should consider. There is nothing wrong with simplifying things in order to make the story more enjoyable for most. If you are looking for the intricate details found in some of the more intellectual offerings from other authors, try not to be too disappointed. Think of it as a fun summer read.

Recommendation: Must Read

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Excerpt from The President is Missing

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Why you want to read The President is Missing:

Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the  twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells—conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony. It reminds me of the old political joke: Why do you take such an instant dislike to people? It saves a lot of time.

What happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting? That’s hard to even define anymore, as the lines between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, gets murkier every day.

We can’t survive without a free press, dedicated to preserving that fine line and secure enough to follow the facts where they lead. But the current environment imposes serious pressures on our journalists, at least those who cover politics, to do just the reverse—to exercise their own power and to, in the words of one wise columnist, “abnormalize” all politicians, even honest, able ones, often because of relatively insignificant issues.

Scholars call this a false equivalency. It means that when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias. The built-up molehills also have large benefits: increased coverage on the evening news, millions of retweets, and more talk-show fodder. When the mountains and molehills all looks the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade. Everybody knows it’s wrong, but the immediate rewards are so great we stagger on, just assuming that our Constitution, our public institutions, and the rule of law can endure each new assault without doing permanent damage to our freedoms and way of life.

I’d say this novel is a must read.

From Chapter 8 The President is Missing (Bill Clinton and James Patterson) © Little, Brown and Company

My apology for Kevin Durant

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I think this sports story is as much about modern American culture than it is about professional sports in general. Pro sports in the U.S. has a significant presence. Many do not pay attention to the major sports, including pro basketball. Those that do have a fanatical attachment. The National Basketball Association – NBA – best of 7 game series championship is underway. The Golden State – AKA Oakland, soon to be housed in San Francisco – Warriors (relocated from Philadelphia in a previous life), have three wins while their opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have zero. The first team to win four games is the champ. On Friday this series may be over and Kevin Durant could be named the MVP of the winning team. If so he will retain his title as NBA finals MVP which he earned last season, his first as a Warrior.

Durant spent his first 9 years with the same franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder (born Seattle SuperSonics). By collective bargaining agreement, Durant was free to sign with any team that could afford to pay him. He chose the team with the best regular season record which had just lost in the championship finals to the Cavaliers.

And he has been harshly and repeatedly criticized for going to the one team that gave him the best chance of winning.

Wait.

What?

You HYPOCRITES.

9 years. Kevin Durant lead the league in scoring multiple seasons. Won the regular season MVP one year. Came close to winning the championship once out of those 9 years. Once. Yet the naysayers claim he should have gone to play for Boston or Washington D.C. or stayed in Oklahoma City since these teams were not as good nor did they have as much talent as the Warriors.

Here are the realities. LeBron James is the most talented AKA best player in the league, still in his prime. He left his first team, Cleveland, because he did not win a championship there in 7 years. He created a super team in Miami by joining with a former championship star player Dwayne Wade, and another free agent all-star player Chris Bosh. Four years later, after two championships and seeing the aging Miami roster not good enough to win the championship with him, James went back to Cleveland, but only because they had the best young superstar in the league, Kyrie Irving, and traded for the top rebounding forward in the league, Kevin Love.

Because of those decisions, James has been in the championship finals 8 years straight. There is no doubt that James and the Cavaliers would have won the championship last year and certainly had a better chance this year without the presence of Durant on the Warriors. So then, here is your argument. When the best player can’t win the championship organically, it is more acceptable for him to manufacture a team good enough to win because he’s the best player. But if someone else does the same thing, they should be criticized as being much worse.

History tells us that only once has the best player regularly been on the championship team. Remember Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? They did it 6 times. That is the only time we’ve seen it.

Listen.

LeBron James doesn’t need your help. If he wants to be on a better team than Golden State’s believe me he will find one this summer and leave Cleveland like HE DID LAST TIME.

Let’s point this fact out for the critics. You blame Durant for going to a team that just came from behind to win 4 games to 3 in the semifinals against a team that lost one of its best players to injury during the series. Yes.  The Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors in the previous round of the playoffs had Chris Paul been able to play the last two games.  They only needed to win one. For the sake of all the critics, I hope Durant wins at least two more championships in addition to this year. I hope you just burn with anger and frustration because Durant did what you would never have done. RIIIIGHT

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How dare you criticize Durant for going to Golden State because he wants to win? He would have lost anywhere else. This, in a league where his own team left Seattle and took Durant with them to Oklahoma City, just for more money. The same league where another team left New Orleans to land in Charlotte, for more money. Wait. The Los Angles Clippers moved from San Diego, after moving from Buffalo, for more money. There is more. Much more. The Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City moved from New Orleans too! No, jazz is not associated with Utah.

When Durant leaves one team for another he only leaves the fans of that team behind. They still have a team of players to root for. When those teams left town, the fans were left with nothing. Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and northern New Jersey have no team to watch anymore. But you want to rant about Kevin Durant. Spare us your self righteousness judgment. Durant won’t miss it.

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The most valuable tool in the police officer’s bag.

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An item indispensable in its potential to insure the safety of the officer and resolve incidents with people in the field to satisfaction is the officer’s tongue. The words used, when and how they are delivered, the tone of voice, body language, and eye contact are all part of the package. This verbal judo is the most powerful weapon that can be yielded because it has the capability of saving lives without taking lives.

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Like all complex tools, it has to be employed in combination to work effectively. An officer must combine verbal skills with training, experience, and problem solving abilities so that each individual circumstance can be given the unique approach it deserves. No two people are alike, and no police encounter is identical, regardless of the similarities or the appearance of ‘routine’ that might imply otherwise.

Most encounters involve persons who are being reactive, they are responding to the actions of the officer. We are not talking about most situations. We have to approach it from the point of view of all situations. Therefore an officer must be objective and avoid making assumptions. This allows for flexibility, so that you can adjust quickly to whatever occurs. One method is for the officer to put themselves in the position of the person they are contacting. “What would I be thinking in this situation?” “What would I do under these circumstances?”

Officers make thousands of public contacts. Overtime they have catalogued a large volume of experiences with criminals whom they have investigated. So in a interaction involving suspected criminal activity, you could substitute the former examples with “What would a person committing a crime be thinking in this situation?” “What might that person do under the circumstances?”

Officers who avail themselves of these techniques are often willing and able to use words as a tool to disarm a potentially threatening contact, to catch someone off balance, to discern whether or not physical force is required. And if physical force is not required, choose a different tact.

One of the things an officer has to prepare for is the mentality of the person who is thinking in the following pattern. Why is the officer talking to me that way? Is he trying to intimidate me? Who does he think I am? Who does he think he is? Why is he being so pushy? Where is the rude attitude coming from? The good news is that the officer can be prepared, and can prevent this person from having a negative interaction.

One final point. Everyday people can have bad days. They can be generally unpleasant. Officers see that and learn to compensate. By the same token, officers can have bad days. Some can be generally unpleasant. Let’s not excuse either of those behaviors. Because those officers find themselves all too often in situations that go bad, and everybody loses when that happens.

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