Book Review: “High Tide” Is A New Low

Publication date:  May 2018Book

Review, short version:  Four skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

One of my writing teachers often said, “Don’t use clichés.  Express your thoughts in your words.”

It’s too bad Mary Kay Andrews, author of The High Tide Club, wasn’t in that writing class.

Her book is crammed, start to finish, with clichés, including:

  1. The lead female character, Brooke, is a runaway bride.
  2. Prior to running away, she quits her job before finding another job.
  3. She’s also an unwed mother.
  4. The father of Brooke’s son doesn’t know about the child.
  5. But we know, and we know he doesn’t know we know.cliche warning sign
  6. Brooke’s father left her mother for another woman.
  7. Brooke doesn’t like her new stepmother.
  8. Brooke’s former mentor has the hots for her.
  9. Brooke’s mother Marie discovers her father isn’t who she thought he was.
  10. So Brooke deduces her grandfather isn’t who she thought he was.
  11. Marie’s mother, Millie, is a murderer who gets away with it.
  12. Old lies.  Old secrets.  Old money.  Old mansion.  And an old, nasty lady.  All this takes place – and this has gotten old – in the Deep South.

And I haven’t even touched on other highlights listed by an Amazon reviewer:  “Rape, racism, reparation, abuse, illegitimacy and white privilege are all dragged into this mess.”

Almost as abundant are Andrews’ references to bodily functions:

  1. Page 9:  “You scared the shit out of me!”
  2. Page 158: “Dweez [a cat] doesn’t like to poop in new territory.”
  3. Page 171: “And you [Ruth] had terrible gas,” followed later by, “a faint phhhhht coming from Ruth…”
  4. Page 221: “He [Henry, Brooke’s three-year-old son] pooped in the potty.”warning_sign copy
  5. Page 265: “Put a big ol’ bag of flaming dog poop on my mama’s doorstep Friday night.”
  6. Page 320: “I poop,” Henry said proudly.
  7. Page 321: Her cute low-cut top had somehow come into contact with Henry’s soiled backside.
  8. Page 352: “I pooped,” [Henry] said solemnly.
  9. Page 466: “I think [Henry] gets a subversive thrill from pooping in his pants at the most inappropriate times.”  (I wasn’t aware that there’s an appropriate time.)
  10. Page 467: “I pooped,” [Henry] announced proudly.

I especially thank Henry for sharing.

Then there’s the editing, or lack of.  A great editor would have cut at least 200 pages from this 470-page travesty.  A mediocre editor would have at least caught these errors:

Pg 151:  Brooke finished her iced tea and set it in the sink.  (Set what in the sink?  The iced tea?  The glass?  Her ass?)

Pg 287:  “What exactly are you looking for?” Felicia asked, sitting in Josephine’s recliner, wait whata seat Brooke had consciously.  (Yup.  That’s how the sentence ends.)

Pg 315:  “Her head might just spin all the way off her head at the very idea.”  (Wait.  What?)

If you’re looking for a cliché-ridden, bodily function-filled, error-permeated book and have tons of time to waste, by all means, read Andrews’ latest.

stupid_01 croppedAnd, heck – at least Brooke had one brief flash of self-awareness.  On page 102, she whined, “I’m like some big, stupid sitcom.”

Yes, you are, Brooke.

And so is The High Tide Club.

waste don't_01

In Our Nation’s Capitol It’s…

A member of congress may have broken the law.handcuff_01

That’s not unusual.

In this case, though, he got caught.

And not just caught – but indicted.  And arrested.

That is unusual.

Specifically, meet Republican Chris Collins, representing the 27th District of New York.

As usual, he’s a pale male in a gray suit – as are so many of our congress members.

Chris pale male and charged
Chris Collins – another congressional pale male in a gray suit.

As usual, he denied the charges.

As usual, his attorney says Collins will be “completely vindicated and exonerated,” which mean the same thing.  Maybe the attorney is paid by the word instead of by the hour?

Not as usual:  On August 8 Collins was actually arrested by the FBI on charges lodged by the Justice Department.

Not as usual:  There appears to be video of Collins on the phone with his son Cameron committing the crime while at a picnic on the White House lawn in June 2017.  (Nice touch, Chris.  Couldn’t you have excused yourself and hidden in the bushes to make your call?)

June 2017:  Collins is on the right in the short-sleeved shirt, at a party on the White House lawn, allegedly talking to his son Cameron .

Not as usual:  There’s no sex scandal element in this story.

Not yet, anyway.

I never get tired of writing about politicians who get caught.

And I never – unfortunately – run out of politicians to write about.

innate stock plunges croppedIn Collins’ case, on August 8 federal prosecutors arrested him on accusations that he took part in insider trading.  He has ties – ties, hell, he’s the largest, or second-largest (depending on who you’re reading) shareholder – in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech firm.

In June 2017 Collins was emailed by the head of Innate who advised him that a drug had failed an FDA test, which was going to cause the stock to tank.  Which, in fact, in did – the share price crashed by 92 percent.swear word symbols

But before that happened, Collins, it’s alleged, called his son Cameron, also a major shareholder, telling him to “Sell!  Sell!” or more likely, “Sell that @#$%&! Innate stock!”

Then Cameron, obviously a chip off the old block, passed the information along to another shareholder, Stephen Zarsky, his fiancée’s father.

Collins, his son, and Zarsky have been charged with 13 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements.  Collins hasn’t been charged with doing the trading himself – he’ll let Cameron take the fall for that.

busted_05 croppedThese activities allowed the three men, prosecutors allege, to avoid more than $768,000 in losses they would have incurred if they had traded the stock after the drug trial results became public.  All three then lied about their actions to federal agents, according to the indictment.

Clearly a misuse and abuse of Collins’ power, position and connections.

Well, as long as we’re handing down indictments, could I suggest one for Collins’ misuse and abuse of the letter “C”?

Collins’ full name is Christopher Carl Collins.

His son and fellow indictee is Cameron Christopher Collins.what's up with that

Then there’s daughter Caitlin Christine Collins.

And daughter Carly Collins Coleman, who had no choice but to marry a guy whose last name begins with “C.”

C what I mean?

Collins is up for re-election this November, and here’s hoping the voters give him a “C” – or worse.

Then he’ll be free to relocate.

Perhaps Christopher Carl Collins can go to the CCC:

California Correctional Center.

Mug Shot Front croppedChris mug shot profile

Christopher Carl Collins;
No mug shot was available
so I faked this one.


My 10 Theories Of Economics

Let’s talk theories for a moment.

TheoryDefinition:  A theory is “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.”

Translation:  What I’m saying is true.  Unless it’s not.

First:  A theory:  I know what I’m talking about.

Second:  See “Translation,” above.

Third:  Another theory:  Trickle-down economics.

Trickle-down economics suggest that when the rich get richer, they spend more money and that trickles down to benefit middle- and low-income people.

Fourth:  Another theory:  The 2018 tax cuts will exemplify the best of trickle-down economics; companies will pay less tax, have more money, and pass some of that along to employees in the form of raises and other benefits.

trickledown-750x400 cropped

Fifth:  Another theory:

“It’s in all of our best interest to have these tax cuts for corporations so that they will have more money to invest in their business and pay their workers.”  Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX)

Sixth:  What he’s saying is true.  Unless it’s not.Not cropped

Seventh:  Reality:  Instead of giving raises, many companies are using that money from tax cuts for other purposes.  Recent wage growth remains slower than it was prior to the Great Recession:  Median wages grew at an average annual rate of 4.6 percent from 1983 to 2007, while wage growth for the past 12 months was just 2.7 percent.

In fact, thanks to inflation, the average paycheck is worth 0.1% less than a year ago.

Eighth:  A larger portion of that money from the tax cuts is going to stock buybacks:  As of the end of June 2018, buybacks were up 80 percent from the same period last year, and the value could reach a record $1 trillion by the end of this year.

headline cropped

What’s a “buyback”?

Let’s say you start a company but you need more money to get it up and running.  You issue shares of stock in your company, and investors buy them, becoming stockholders.  When your company starts making money, you pay dividends to the shareholders, and everybody’s happy.

Your Company Starting Out Cropped

Then the 2018 tax cuts come along – the corporate tax rate drops from 35 percent to 21 percent – and now you’re making beaucoup bucks.  You say to yourself, “Self, instead of paying out dividends to my stockholders, why don’t I buy back some of those shares and keep all that money for myself?”

So you do.

Your Company Buybacks After 2018 Tax Cut Cropped

Ninth:  Another theory:  Then you say to yourself, “Self, what should I do with all the money all my shares are now earning me?  Should I spread the wealth around and give my employees raises?  Bonuses?  Give them better health insurance?


So you don’t.

What I'll Do With All That Money Cropped

Tenth:  Final theory:

greed is good

This Homeless Veteran Was Honored In Death But Not In Life

We know Deryck Bacon graduated from high school in New Hampshire and then enlisted in the Marines, serving for two years.

We know he died in San Diego in April at age 59.

The 40 intervening years are almost a blank.

Deryck Bacon was like 1,300 other veterans in San Diego, like 40,000 nationwide:


Someone who served in our military, received an honorable discharge, and for one reason or two or 20, ended up on the streets.

In Deryck’s case, he’d received a medical discharge after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Somewhere in between his discharge and death he connected with Karen Castro, a single mother of two.  “He took upon himself a woman and two children.  They were halfway grown when he came into our lives,” Karen, now 63, said.  Deryck worked as a cook to support the family.

But “He didn’t want to take his medication and that was the beginning of the end,” Karen said.  That end was on the streets, homeless.  The last time she saw Deryck was 10 months ago.

That night in April, Deryck was sleeping on a sidewalk when a driver jumped the curb, hit him and killed him.

Deryck was the victim of a hit-and-run, but he was also the victim of a broken system that gladly takes young people into its military, and just as gladly disposes of them when their service ends.

There is no doubt that the Department of Veterans Affairs is a broken system, and while no one could force Deryck to take his medication, to me it appears no one from the VA was trying to find Deryck, or discover why he was on the streets, or what the VA could do to help.

Help, after the end, came from strangers.

Karen wanted Deryck buried with military honors, but had no idea who to talk to or how to make it happen.  After learning about Deryck’s death, Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate in the San Diego area, wanted to help.  So did Rex Kern, the director of Miramar National Cemetery, a federal military cemetery in San Diego.

Their assistance included Kern teaming up with KFMB-TV to verify that Deryck qualified for a military burial with honors.  McConnell paid for the casket.  And on August 14, Deryck was buried with full military honors at Miramar.

From April to August, Deryck received more attention from strangers than he received from our government in the 40 years since his discharge.

When will the words “homeless” and “veteran” stop appearing in the same sentence?

Deryck and Karen

Funeral 1

Funeral 2

Funeral 3


To Nap Or Not To Nap?

A recent trade show offered the opportunity to check out products from Framery, Silence Business Solutions and other companies hoping to launch a new wave – with their new product – in places of business:

Nap pods.

SLEEP-DEPRIVATION cloudThere’s reality, theory, and fantasy going on here.

Reality:  We don’t get enough sleep.  Our productivity at work can suffer, and that negatively impacts employers’ bottom lines.

Theory:  A brief, say, 15-minute nap during the workday – also known as a power nap – may help improve employee productivity.

Fantasy:  American employers will welcome with open arms the idea of allowing employees to nap during the work day, and even provide a cozy, pricey place to do it.

Manager:  OK, I think we’ve covered our agenda, does anyone have anything to add? tired at meeting_01
John:  Well, since you asked, I just read an article that said more than a third of Americans aren’t getting the enough sleep! Not Enough Sleep Headline.jpg
John:  And this contributes to problems like health issues and mistakes at work – it costs $411 billion in annual economic losses!  That’s the equivalent of about 1.23 million working days lost each year to insufficient sleep! 411 billion headline
Manager:  Your point, John? yawning
John:  Your yawn is my point.  If there was a quiet, private spot here in the office, anyone could take a catnap, and wake up re-energized and refreshed and ready!   To make less mistakes!  To make more money! more money
Manager:  Catnap?  You know we don’t allow animals in the office. cat napping.jpg
John:  A catnap.  You know, 40 winks?  Power nap? power nap_01
Manager:  That’s great, John, you’ve given everyone a good laugh.  Now, if there are no further questions… laughing-at-meeting.jpg
John (starts passing his phone around the table):  Look, I found these really cool nap pods online… phone frowning
Manager:  Pods?  Don’t whales come in pods?  I thought I said no animals in the office. whale pod_01
John:  …it’s all self-contained, so you just go in, close the door, and have a quick nap… sleepbox-reviews_4
Manager:  Am I understanding you correctly, John?  You’re advocating that the team here act like a bunch of babies, and take naps during the day?  On company time? babies nursery.jpg
John:  …and the nap pod you’re looking at has an exterior light that goes on so we know it’s occupied… silence+business+solutions
Manager:  On company time, John?  You want to get paid for napping on company time? seriously_02
John:  …And it’s only $19,000! 19000_01 cropped
Manager:  This meeting is adjourned.  John, let’s you and I take a walk over to HR, shall we? hr
Sleepbox-7 cropped
Now I lay me down to sleep…on a pillow that 50 other people have drooled on.


This Company Should Flush With Embarrassment

why-am-i-reading-t croppedDon’t ask me why I started reading the packaging wrapped around my Quilted Northern® toilet paper.

But a headline on the back caught my eye:

Compulsive Design For A Comfy Clean

Then below that:


(I hoped something quasi-salacious was coming, so I continued reading.)

“We can be a little obsessive about all the tiny details that go into our products.  After all, crafting Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® to meet your expectations matters.  That’s why it includes…”

Whoa.  Before I read what “it includes,” I paused to reflect on some of this language:

  • Compulsive
  • Confession
  • Obsessive

This sounds like the psycho’s stream-of-consciousness in the latest Women’s Fiction>Mystery, Thriller & Suspense book.

Either that, or this company takes very seriously a product that most of us spend no timeempty roll thinking about.

Unless we run out it.

At an awkward moment.

Curiosity sent me to, maker of the product about which they claim to be both compulsive and obsessive, and I’d have to say – I agree with them.

First I encountered something I never thought I would:  A toilet paper test.  Just answer three questions and you’ll get a diagnosis about which kind of Quilted Northern® to use.  I got tense, fearing I’ve been using the wrong type of toilet paper!

With great trepidation and a great deal of thought, I slowly, carefully answered each question and then…

Test Results.jpg

I was indeed using the right toilet paper.  Whew, what a relief!  If you’ll excuse the expression.

And look at the top of the image – you even get a do-over!

did-you-know croppedThere was more excitement to come when I looked at the “Did You Know” section, starting with something I didn’t know:

That it would even occur to a toilet paper producer to include a “Did You Know.”  Who wants to know anything about toilet paper other than – is it available?

Well, I learned that:

“The Quilted Northern® brand has devoted the last hundred years to rethinking, innovating and designing the best toilet paper.  An unmatched legacy of craftsmanship and obsession about all the tiny details that go into its products delivers the most comfortable bathroom experience.”

Whew, again – devoting 100 years to toilet paper.  There’s a job I don’t want.

Further exploration revealed…

Fact 1.jpg

I confess I did not know this.  I wonder if Sears did?

Fact 2.jpg

I plead ignorance again.  But “splinter-free” sounds good.

Fact 3

Well, I’m 0 for three here.  And TP-ing the Earth sounds like another job I don’t want.

I continued perusing the website, then went back to the toilet paper packaging to keep reading.  From these I encountered benefits including…

  • Two soft, durable layers with interwoven fibers
  • You won’t have to chose between comfort and strength
  • Super-flexible paper designed to hold up
  • Responsibly sourced renewable materials
  • 100% biodegradable
  • Septic safe for standard sewer and septic systems

Clearly the Quilted Northern® brand wants to present itself as both kind to our posteriors and kind to our environment.why-oh-why-open-relationship cropped

Perhaps even compulsive – and obsessive – about it.

If so, then I can’t help but wonder…

Why, oh why, does Quilted Northern® come wrapped in…

plastic word _01

polluted by plastic.jpg

Book Review: The Title Of This Review Is A Secret

bookPublication date:  June 2018

Review, short version:  Two skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

I’m OK with formulaic books.  They’re predictable, but successful, and if a formula works, why not use it?

In this case, Karen White’s Dreams of Falling follows a predictable and successful formula I’ll call


secrets deep cropped
Deep South, deep secrets – required.

The young woman is 27-year-old Larkin, who returns to where she grew up in Georgetown, South Carolina.  The formula is particularly popular when the story is set in the Deep South, where secrets breed secrets.

Larkin left home nine years ago.  The reason she returned home is clear – her mother was injured in an accident.  The reason she left home is, of course, a secret.

eccentric ladies cropped
Eccentric Southern ladies – required.

Waiting to welcome Larkin home are Ceecee and Bitty, two eccentric (eccentricity in the  South – required) 77-year-old friends of Larkin’s long-deceased grandmother Margaret.  Ceecee and Bitty have secrets, and so did Margaret.  And so does Larkin’s mother, Ivy, who’s in a coma but who we hear from on a regular basis.  How that can happen is, I guess – a secret.

handsome man cropped
Stunningly handsome man – required.

Also waiting in Georgetown is Bennett, the mandatory stunningly handsome man who grew up with Larkin and of course has been in love with her all along.  But that, of course, is a secret.

Then there’s Larkin’s family’s old plantation, Carrowmore, which burned down years ago during a hurricane.  Burnt down plantations and hurricanes are also very big in – guess where – the South.  What caused the fire is (here it comes) a secret.  What caused the hurricane is not.

big reveal_02
The Big Reveal – required.

The Big Reveal – and there’s always a Big Reveal – comes near the end (where else?) in the form of a letter.  Larkin discovers the letter in a hidden compartment (where else?) in an old desk.

We don’t know the letter contents and before we can find out, Ceecee takes the letter away from Larkin.  Then Bitty takes the letter away from CeeCee.  Then Bennett gets the letter from Bitty.  If Ivy, even in her coma, had been in the room I’m sure she would have taken the letter from Bennett.

Don’t believe me?  The letter round robin starts on page 376.

southern oak
Gnarly old Southern oak – required.

And I almost forgot the Tree of Dreams, a character in its own right.  The gnarly old Tree of Dreams is full of secrets, and guess what – it’s not telling you.

At the end of 400+ pages, everyone’s secrets – including the Tree’s – are revealed.

Except one secret, and that is:

Why didn’t I give this book more skunks?

And guess what…

i'm not telling cropped

Here Are Better Ways To Save Lives

A recent article began:

“The Trump administration says people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage.”I don't get it cropped

Wait – what?  I don’t get it.  Let’s read that again:

“The Trump administration says people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage.”

So the Trump administration – specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) – is rooting for worse gas mileage?


Well, yeah.

epaIt turns out that the Trump administration – by way of the EPA and DOT– wants to roll back tough mileage requirements put into place in the latter days of the Obama administration.  Their goal is to freeze the requirements at the year 2020 level rather than allowing the requirements to get tougher, and mileage to get better.

dotThe administration’s proposal goes on to say, “People will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon, lowering the risk of crashes.”

And if people drive less, says the proposal, it would “save up to 1,000 lives per year.”

Of course saving lives is of utmost importance.

But instead of lowering our gas mileage standards, here are better ways to save 1,000 lives per year:

How and Why

Lives Saved

Focus more resources on domestic violence.


According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), three women in this country die every day because of domestic violence.

battered woman_01

Save three women X 365 days = 1,095 saved in one year.

Focus more resources on healthcare-associated infections (HAI).


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 99,000 people die each year from HAIs, or 271 people every day.

in hospital

Save 271 people X four days = 1,084 lives saved.

Focus more resources on how people drive instead of what they drive.


The National Safety Council estimated automotive fatalities topped 40,000 in 2017, or 110 people every day.

car crash

Save 110 people X 10 days = 1,100 lives saved.

Do this and we’ll all breathe better – and live longer.

breathe better_01 cropped larger

Anchors Aweigh?

car won't startLet’s say you’re in the fortunate position of being able to buy a brand-new car.

Your financing is locked in, all your options are confirmed, and today is The Big Day.

You arrive at the dealership, slide into the driver’s seat, reach for the ignition and…

Check Engine Light ProblemsNothing.

The car won’t go.

The engine won’t start.

The engine, in fact, needs to be replaced, according to a quick analysis by the dealer’s team.

Your brand-new car needs a brand-new engine.

Would you take delivery on the car?

rejected_01Would you say, “OK, no problem, I’ll just pay for a new engine”?

Of course not.

You’re smarter than that.

Now let’s say you’re the U.S. Navy.

The Navy has a bigger budget, and it buys bigger vehicles.

Like much bigger, and much more expensive, ships.

Like guided missile destroyer ships.

ship christening
This ship isn’t going anywhere, so – plenty of time for the christening ceremony!

Like $7.5 billion Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers.

To be specific, the $7.5 billion Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer Michael Monsoor, also known as “hull DDG 1001.”

The Michael Monsoor was named for a United States Navy SEAL who was killed during the Operation Iraqi Freedom and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

I respect and appreciate the Navy’s intention to honor this fallen hero.

Unfortunately, the ship they named to honor him?

The ship won’t go.

One of its $20 million engines needs to be replaced.

The ship hasn’t even started its journey from the shipyard in Maine to its home base of San Diego, much less dispatched any missiles, guided or otherwise.

accepted_01.jpgThe Navy knew this in February, but in April accepted delivery of the ship anyway.  It didn’t get around to announcing the engine whoops until July.

The reason for accepting a $7.5 billion ship with a failed $20 million engine?

According to a Navy spokesman, they accepted the ship “in order to support planned post-delivery activities…This course of action allowed for crew to move aboard and training to commence as planned.”

USS Michael Monsoor
This ship isn’t going anywhere, so – plenty of time for photo ops!

So the crew gets to “move aboard” and “commence” practicing not going anywhere.

Now, logic suggests that a brand-new ship has brand-new parts, and those parts would be covered under warranties, right?


warranty expired croppedA spokesperson for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said, “It is unlikely that the warranty remains effective” on the engine.

That means that you and I, the taxpayers, are on the hook for the $20 million replacement.

Well, let’s take consolation in the fact that from an original planned purchase of 32 of these Zumwalt-class ships, the Navy wised up and reduced its order to 24, then to seven, and then to just three.  The Michael Monsoor is the second of the three.

Three strikes and you’re out.

Out $20 million, that is.