`j(Chewy Is Helping Write Today)

This blog might take a while to write, Chewy is next to me on the couch helping with keystrokes. He’s sincere, but clumsy with the paws. Such is life.

Current events.  I’ve hesitated to dive in here because most people come unhinged when I mention my beliefs. Fine. Instead I’ll give you a “Joe update” and work in the world around us. 

I have mentioned for years that among my many defects you can count my hearing. I’m not bitching, but the Navy was really hard on my ears. As it was for many of my fellow sailors. But Cryptologic Technicians really had it bad with what we did: headphones on almost all the time at sea. Now, other rates (jobs for civilians) had the same kind of hearing loss. All of it is tragic. But I can attest that almost all of my contemporaries are messed up in that way. Tinnitus and deafness are our lot.

The V.A. has finally recognized that our exposure to rooms full of printers, speakers, and high volume air handling units has created problems. They don’t even fight the claims anymore. But you do have to keep going back as your hearing declines to get your disability rating changed. 

About a year ago I got my hearing checked right before we all went in the sewer of lockdown. I was officially as deaf as the honcho’s required before they added an additional percentage to my disability. It also meant new hearing aids.

With the lockdown, and the VA and everyone else being closed for months, I waited an extremely long time to get my new equipment. I finally got it in November – about 9 months after the exam.

The new hearing aids are amazing. Computer driven, I can control them from my phone. They are bluetooth enabled, and the sound quality is top-notch. In addition, they specifically fill in the frequencies where I have the most loss.

Sadly, I use my hearing aids at work to interface with my phone. The problem was that the boat-anchor I called my desktop didn’t work with the hearing aids. My boss is a prince of a fellow, and he and I worked together to make it happen. Let’s just say that for a technology company, our tech support on the issue was rotten. They fixated on hearing aid, versus bluetooth. Dear God, what a bunch of dips. 

Any rate, we finally got past all the small minds in our way and I got a new computer just before Christmas. It works with my new gear. 

I no longer have to struggle to hear what the caller is saying. In addition, I now wear the hearing aids every day. I hadn’t the heart to switch over from the old ones until I could wear the new ones all the time. Why?  I’ll tell you.

It is jarring, disconcerting, upsetting, and troublesome to change what you hear. Right now you think you hear what’s around you. But I can promise you that you are missing a lot of things. The difference between what is in the world around you, and what you hear is huge. 

This is true of your view of the current events in the world. Part of it is that you’re comfortable listening to the sounds inside your own head. Or the station on the radio that you prefer. Or the cable news channel that meets your approval. And, just like it is when you have hearing aids, you’re only hearing what’s programmed to pass the filter. You can hear other things, but you have to seek them out and turn up the volume. 

You grow accustomed to a certain level of noise and sound patterns that please you. I didn’t realize the floors in my house squeak like they do. I also didn’t know that certain things I do each day are quite noisy. I never heard them until the new hearing aids. 

I have to turn them down when I put them on. The world is just too loud after years of it going quiet decibel by decibel. That applies to most people’s knowledge of current events as well. You just turn away when it is jarring. 

Me?  I love the new sounds. I turn the volume down or I become a monster. Sensory overload from too many new inputs. But I don’t turn them off. I just avoid getting overstimulated. The first week I wore them full time, I was nuts. Truly on edge and didn’t realize it. But once I figured out why I was so jumpy and anxious, I learned to deal with it. 

I miss hearing without the things. When I take them off at night, it’s like flicking a switch. The ceiling fan vanishes, the street noise is gone, Chewy thumping his tail is just something I see, not hear. It makes it easy to sleep.

Many of you have taken out your hearing aids and are going to sleep. You never hear what is going on around you politically. You only listen to what the programmers allow you to hear on your devices. That has to end.

I am a conservative patriot. Yet I listen to the opposition and actually hear what they are saying. It is frightening. Never in my life have I wished to silence even the most odious speech. I listen to communists, Nazis, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, Catholic, agnostic, you name it. I can converse intelligently on those topics. 

But the last year the people I used to be able to talk to just try to shout me down when I discuss the world around us. They wish to make me quiet so that they don’t hear me. They never seem to consider hearing what I have to say and just writing me off as a nut. Nope, it’s time to shout your “enemy” down. 

I don’t care what your position is, but I am asking you to do this: put on your new hearing aids and listen to what is being said all around you. I hope you find the floor is squeaky. I hope you find a new melody in another way of thinking. 

Most of all, I hope you resist the urge to silence others. Or to vindictively deny them a job, or a bank account, or a voice on social media. None of those things is very American. Yet they are happening now. 

If your response is that “you guys did it too” I’m disappointed. No, actually not. It was not a platform point for “my side” at any point in the last 224 years. I follow the constitution. I love that document. Swore to protect it. Will continue to do so. Also, and this is a good point to make right here, how long do you go on killing the children of your enemies for something that happened prior to their birth? Moving forward involves discussion. There is a sad lack of that in our country right now. 

This week will be intense. And every time you hear someone call for silencing, punishing, locking out those they have taken power from, I hope you cringe. You see, that will be you next time the wheel turns. 

The wheel always turns. I don’t hope to hurt you, or take your power to speak. I hope you join me in this.

Finally, if you go back over all the things I’ve written in the last decade, I suspect you’ll find this is a consistent viewpoint. I have never advocated putting opponents in jail for a bad point of view. I will continue to hope that is your outlook as well.

Freedom isn’t free. I wear hearing aids as part of my dues to that concept. I am okay with rotten hearing. But if you shut your ears voluntarily, my sacrifice is for naught.




I Still Have The Freedom To Write This Blog – For The Moment.

I won’t be long. But for those of you cheering that conservatives are being banned from social media, and that Parler is being taken out of the application stores for Apple and Google, you should remember this:

When they silence the powerful, the average and low have no voice at all.

History is replete with examples where free speech is restricted by governments. It inevitably means people die under the thumb of the authoritarian powers that rise in that silence.

When tech monopolies have the power to control the public square, by dint of federal law exceptions carved out for them, they are truly an extension of the government.

If you value your rights, and I hope you do, you need to fight this every way you can. Because, whether you like it or not, acknowledge it or not, you are next. 


Let Me Get Your Check. It’s Going To Be A While.

I have no idea what that title meant, but it just popped up. 

I am not deceased. I am very busy. Those two things are quite different. 

Just a couple of things. First, The COVID Quarantine Cantina is doing well, but we’d love to be Number One in our category again. Today we’re at #3. Your buying a copy of the audio book can do that. Just click on it and make us all happy. Buying a Kindle version, or a couple of paper copies, would also be appreciated. It’s a darned fine collection of yarns.


Second, I’m putting my newest computer together over the last 28 hours. The previous resident on my desktop puked up a hairball and died forever. Before you take another step tonight, make sure you are backed up in the cloud. I am. I was able to recover one of the hard drives, but not the second – tantalizingly close, but not quite reachable. I’m sitting here writing and reading while it downloads files from the cloud. Life saver. I would have lost books, audio files, lots of stuff if not for backup. 

The other thing about the computer (the new one) is that someone finally asked users what they like. This is a big, roomy case with extra power. Best of all, and I mean this with great admiration, it comes prewired for lots of extras. Like an amazing bundle of power supply wires already connected to the power supply routed to a spare part of the case for installing extra SATA devices. All I had to cough up was a single data cable. (I have about 10) and connect it to one of four spare ports on the mother board. It is not the usual horrible kind of connection, either, but it is a prefab hanger for 4 plugs that makes it almost impossible to crack the mother board while installing. It’s from Microcenter and it’s their homebrew PowerSpec line. Better price than the competition, much better case. 

Last of all, I’m reading blogs of mine from 2013. Got there by a google search. I’m pleased to say that I’m amazingly consistent in my ability to annoy people and predict the future. 

The next 2 years are going to suck. 

That’s my prediction. But, the new computer is solid, the new books are coming right along, and lots more audio books on the way.

Be well, don’t fret too much. I’ll be back next week.




Vacation’s Over! I Hate The Media.

Over the last few months I’ve been really well behaved. I didn’t want to upset any applecarts, annoy anyone struggling through the holidays, or drive away any readers from my fellow authors.

Not anymore. 

This morning I was watching cable news, and some brain-damaged, self-important twit from the network was interviewing an administrator at an extended care facility. Assisted living to be precise. He was whining about, and hoping to get her to whine, (and I paraphrase) “That they may not get the vaccine for another 4-6 weeks. How could it be that they weren’t at the top of the list. Especially since they wanted the vaccine, unlike many other rural areas.”

I still have the television. Barely. Let me dissect this crap-souffle.

First, it was in Rockford, Il. Population 150,000. This is not Hooterville, and Uncle Joe isn’t scheming with Sam Drucker to keep those evil feds and their demon medicine out of Kate’s hotel. Rockford is a big place. 

More importantly, the media contempt for fly-overland is showing here. Unless you’re a sophisticate from New York, you are rural. I know for a fact that I’m a rube in their eyes: they’ve told me so for years. You know, if you don’t have a sidewalk in front of your house, and a 24-hour Chinese joint next door, you are a hick. A moron. A bozo. Worse yet, you probably voted for Donald Trump, because only stupid white people in the sticks did that… (That’s another blog.)

But the premise of the whole piece really annoyed me: no vaccine for another 2 months.

Really. Vaccines, usually a 5 year project, were put through at Warp Speed by President Trump’s hard efforts. I don’t care if you hate him, he mobilized the nation to produce these needed products to deal with a pandemic. The definition of pandemic is world-wide. Now, before you lose your mind (the three liberals that read the blog) it is all over the world. It is now hitting super hard in those places that “showed how to do it.” All of them. And I don’t see South Korea, Burma, Brazil, Venezuala, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, Mali, or any of another 175 countries having developed this vaccine and set up distribution on a world-wide basis. Nope. A handful of western countries. Us. The U.S.A. leading the way. 

So, now that we can say with confidence that this isn’t a plague sent by God to punish the United States for electing Donald Trump president (Yes, I have heard this from a few pulpits), we can see that it’s most places with some severity. 

But the vaccine is pretty much a miracle. And part of the protocol is to test it, and make sure it’s safe and effective. That was authorized about 10 days ago. Some of the vaccine manufacturers were sure it would get approved, so they made millions of doses because they were pretty sure they’d make their money back in short order. But until that approval comes, it’s a gamble. That’s why they made millions of doses, and not hundreds of millions of doses. 

Now that it’s approved, they will ramp up, and over the next six months everyone who wants to get the vaccine will be able to do so.  

Thus, the senior housing facility in Rockford will have a vaccine in less than a year from the Chinese virus ripping through the world. LESS THAN A YEAR.  Why, even rubes in rural Amerikkka will benefit. 

My question is, when will all the super-important network reporters get their vaccine? Is there a special program because of their huge contribution to the human race? 

Or will they get it in the order they deserve it: last. Because I’d be hard pressed to find an industry that has done more to inflict fear, panic, jealousy, racial animosity, and doubt on the American people. They are a plague on our nation, and the world. 

That’s my thought for today. Perhaps some sort of short story later this week. It is in rough draft form, and reporters and lions abound.


The Christmas That Cried.

The two of them sat there eating spiced cashews from the small plastic tub. One of the caring had left them along with a gigantic pile of Thai noodles and curried chicken. Neither of them had much of an appetite for the good food that they’d been gifted, but the bottle of single-pot Irish whiskey was sure good with the Cashews.

“I wonder why nobody makes a spicy cashew whiskey. It’s sure a good flavor.”

The other Santa shook his head slowly. The liquor was starting to make him mellow. “They call that Fireball, my friend. It’s cinnamon whiskey designed for teenage girls and twenty-three year old rodeo wannabees. No normal human drinks the stuff. But my daughter-in-law left a bottle last year. Let me go fetch it.”

“Sounds like something they both would have liked. Come to think of it, we would have killed the bottle when we were young.”

“I didn’t know your wife was a rodeo wannabee. But I knew you were a clown.”

The liquor was working on both of them, because in spite of the tragedy, they both laughed until they had snot running down their beards. It wasn’t pretty.

“Let’s eat something real before we fall over and die of stupid. I don’t think the girls would welcome us in Heaven if we showed up on Christmas day with acute alcohol poisoning.”

The first Santa shook his head sadly. Softly he said, “Neither one wants us up there with them. We gotta keep going for them.”

“And the dogs.”

“Definitely the dogs.”

Both men looked to where their assembled dogs were playing in the corner. Six lunatics engaged in a lop-sided tug-of-war. The big red one was the size of the five little white ones. All of them were having a blast. 

“No funeral for either. Unless you want to preach. The lockdown is tighter than ever. Would you? You got the mojo. You’ve had it since we we went to Vietnam.”

The younger man, who was also gray-bearded and starting to stoop with age, nodded his head. 71 didn’t seem old until last Monday when both their wives died of the Chinese Virus.

“I’d be proud to preach for both of them. Since we can’t hold a service, maybe we should do it now. They’re going to be  cremated tomorrow, seems appropriate.”

“I always thought being Santa on Christmas Eve was a tough job. But running the crematorium the day after Christmas? Whew, that’s a real challenge.”

Both men got up and bowed their heads. 

“God, I know you needed them up there for something. Don’t know what the rush was, but since we both believe in you, we’re taking it as well as we can. But COVID the week of your birth?”

Both men wiped tears from their eyes. The younger man continued, “We worship you, and thank you for the birth of your son. We know we’ll catch up with our wives soon enough. But it hurts. First we didn’t see any children in person this year, and then even the virtual visits grew less fun as our wives struggled to breathe. Thank you for the strength to continue. Bless them and take them into your kingdom. We ask this in Your Son’s name. Amen.”

The two topped their glasses and toasted their wives. 

“This is pretty pathetic. Two Santa’s drinking girl whiskey on Christmas. But we can’t go visit, and we’re stuck with each other until we get out of our quarantine.”

“Yup. But you know, if I have to lose a wife and get stuck with anyone in the world, I’m glad it’s you. After this, I don’t know anyone with more in common than us. Neighbors since we were kids. Now we’re old men.”

“Amen to that.  Let’s see if we can find a  mass streaming somewhere. I need a little more Jesus. And, maybe, a couple more cashews and the last of that whiskey. I’m hoping 2021 is a huge improvement.”

“It has to be. But even if it isn’t, God’s still in charge. Now, how about some butter pecan ice cream to go with that whiskey. We might as well make it festive – they’d want that.”

“Hey, speaking of festive, I was saving this for my wife, but …”

“Yeah. I think there’s going to be a lot of that in the next few weeks.”

He stifled a sob. Once he’d composed himself a bit, he grabbed the mouse on the side table and the television remote. Turning it on, he clicked through the menu until he found his bookmark. The screen lit up with the famed peacock logo, and the two turned to smile at each other.”

“Man. We were both out in the boonies that Christmas. I remember Ann Margaret in that mini-dress. Remember how hard it rained that day?”

“I thought I was going to drown in that mud. I didn’t spot you until we were leaving. That was a good time. God bless all of them.  They made it seem like home for a minute or two.”

“Holy crap – it’s Bob Newhart!”

And for the next hour the two old friends were once again 18 year old kids watching the stars come out.

The show ended, and both of them had tears in their eyes. Not just for the loss of their wives, but for the loss of innocence. And a simpler time. 

“That was great. I’d forgotten how good those shows were.”

“There’s about five more I found. I’m not going anywhere. And you still haven’t rolled out to the kitchen to get the ice cream. It’s on the second shelf of the freezer.”

On his way to the kitchen, the second man turned to his friend and said, “I love you. I’m glad we’re here together. We’ll make it. I know we will. Merry Christmas, Santa.”

“And to you as well, my brother.”