We need to celebrate Fall of Sauron day. The triumph of good over evil. The dropping of the One Ring into the cracks of doom. The journey of a couple of fragile Hobbits — successful beyond all logic and reason — to conquer the dark doom of Mordor.

The message came by email out of my past. Blowing away at least thirty years of haze and fog …

… I still have your letter of congratulations on my first marriage … written in Elvish.


I remember learning Elvish. J.R.R. Tolkien had amazing appendices, from which you could learn Elvish. Well enough to write a little and read even more. I could have studied other Middle Earth languages too, but quit after Elvish because I had, you know, to work.

I admit I don’t remember writing that note. I remember writing the “Fall of Sauron Day” (in English) service. The first version plus 5 or 6 later revisions.

macro fuchsia

We held the annual celebration as near as scheduling allowed to the Vernal Equinox — March 21st or thereabouts. It was like a miniature Seder, but with more wine drunk a lot faster. Drunk being the operative word.

all that is gold

The entire service lasted just short of an hour. Including about six glasses of wine. I’m sure I have a copy of the service in a huge box of writing in the back of the basement, near the oil tank. If it hasn’t rotted or turned to dust by now.

On a year when “the boys” (our lively groups of crazed engineers) had available time, we had visual and sound effects. We came in costume, or some semblance thereof. When life was too busy to make costumes, we did the best we could with whatever came to hand, dressing in some version of Middle Earth-wear.

Then we celebrated. Drank to excess. Which wasn’t hard since I basically didn’t drink. We laughed, ate mushrooms (the favorite food of Hobbits). Some of us me passed out and/or got sick me again.

Those were crazy busy years. Babies. Work.  Establishing a profession. Partying hearty almost every night, then getting up and doing it again.

All of this took place in my twenties. As I rounded the corner to 30, I wanted out. There is such thing as too much fun.

I lived nine years in Israel, but never properly learned Hebrew. Maybe if I had studied Hebrew with the same determination I’d put into Elvish, it would have turned out differently.

So, for now, if anyone would like to join me in a revived celebration of the destruction of Sauron, I have the service somewhere. We’d have to cut down on the booze since we don’t drink anymore, but I’m pretty sure we could make the rest of it work for us. Because celebrating good over evil is bound to be a rewarding holiday.


Agent to the Stars

This was the first book written by John Scalzi I ever read. He was a relative unknown at the time, but he would not remain so for long. I was so charmed by it, I’ve been a fan ever since.

This book is funny, clever, witty. The characters are oddly believable even though the story is totally wacky. Or is it?

Michelle Beck — former cheerleader and box office hot ticket is Hollywood agent Tom Stein’s biggest client. Until Tom meets extraterrestrials who hire Tom to represent them. The Yherajk believe their best hope for a peaceful first contact between their race and humanity is via the movies. Even out in space, they know they need a great agent to make it in Hollywood … and they’ve decided Tom is it.

“Agent to the Stars” stands out as one of the most memorable science fictions books I’ve read in the last decade. Which is saying a lot since I read a great deal of fantasy and science fiction. From my first reading, it has been in my top five favorite sci fi audiobooks and in the perhaps dozen science fiction books I’ve read more than once.

One of the mast interesting things about Scalzi is his ability to write in a wide variety of styles. He can be serious, funny, or both. He can be wild and crazy, or highly technical and he makes it work. I know of no one else writing in this genre who works harder or produces more quality science fiction.

Read it. If you like sci fi, humor, and wit — or just appreciate well-written fiction, it will not disappoint you. Agent to the Stars is available on Kindle,, and as a paperback.


I have been a-wandering in a strange, alternative universe called Facebook. It’s a place where anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

At some point yesterday evening I stumbled into a heated interchange that started with the potential candidacy of idiot doctor Ben Carson and roamed far afield.

Flag on the harbor

confederate flag

At some point, someone averred: “In this country majority rules, so if most of the people in a state want to fly the Confederate flag, they can. It’s IN THE CONSTITUTION.”  Along the way, someone else suggested the losers of a war don’t get to fly their flag. The south lost the war (a point often overlooked in such discussions) and they should get over it. 

I asked if the majority in a state favored slavery, would that be okay too? Most of the combatants in this discussion said yes, which proved my fundamental point. That I was interfacing with morons.

No, it isn’t in the Constitution. There’s nothing at all about flags in the Constitution. Not a word. Nothing guaranteeing rights pertaining to flags. As far as the other stuff goes, the Constitution is not designed to protect the rights of the majority. Quite the opposite. Its intent is to protect the rights of minorities because otherwise, you have tyranny.

Sorry. I digressed.

This brought a flurry of rebuttals and name-calling, brought to a head when someone offered a golden nugget.

“The Confederate flag was a battle flag and had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. It was about taxes.”

Although I know arguing with idiots is a waste of perfectly good time I could productively use playing mindless games, I had to say something. There is so much historical evidence proving that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing but slavery.

United States Slave Trade

United States Slave Trade

The Civil War was predestined and the framers of the Constitution knew it. Our founding fathers made a deal with the devil to allow slavery. If they had not, there would never have been a United States. The Constitution would not have passed, might very well never have been written.

Slavery was the burning issue during the constitutional convention in 1788 and it tore the country apart a mere two generations later. They knew it would. The guys who wrote the Constitution may have wimped out, but they knew it wasn’t a real solution, just a band-aid. They also knew the issue would come to war and blood and death. It was that kind of issue.

To declare otherwise is plain ignorant. There are lots of aspects of history that are disputable, but this isn’t one of them. There is too much evidence in the form of diaries and writings — not to mention correspondence between famous guys like Jefferson, Adams, and Washington.

Sometimes, I think Americans must be the happiest people on earth, because we are surely the most ignorant. (And we know ignorance is bliss, right?)


My statement was quickly swallowed by passionate southerners declaring I was an out-of-control left-wing lying Yankee liberal socialist commie. I retreated to a stupid pop-the-bubble game and the battle went on without me.

Why do I bother?


Of all the skills I never acquired, the ability to cut through the dreaded recorded message: “The staff are currently assisting other customers. Please hold on. We appreciate you patience,” is a major failure.

telephone hold

I would have more patience if I weren’t trying to reach my doctor’s office. Because I’m not feeling well. I figure I shouldn’t need an hour plus who-know-how-long to get a live person on the telephone.

waiting for

Then there’s the muzak. I know offices buy special music so they can leave their customers — in this case patients — on hold indefinitely. They count on the music to soothe the savage beast slowly boiling over at the other end of the line.

To me, it’s closer to fingernails on a blackboard. Each unmemorable phrase makes my blood pressure rise.

Customer Service waitingWhy am I calling? Because my doctor is an arrogant prick and I need a different doctor. ANY different doctor. I’m not that picky. I just want a doctor — or nurse practitioner — who won’t blow off my medical issues because he has decided — without reading my medical history — that I’m just an old, hypochondriac looking for drugs and attention.

This is a stunning leap of logic.

What gave him the clue that I’m nothing more than a crank?

Was it the bi-lateral mastectomy? The heart valve replacement or the implanted pacemaker? The emergency bariatric surgery? The spinal redesign and subsequent massive arthritic takeover? Does he think such procedures are performed to satisfy the morbid neuroses of one demented old bat?

Whatever his reasoning, it has to end. My trip to the oncologist a few days ago (he is one of the good ones), revealed I’m now seriously anemic. Been here before, but I’m back and shouldn’t be. Simple monitoring of blood vitamin levels and appropriate vitamins could easily have prevented this.

I haven’t been able to get this guy to even acknowledge there is anything to monitor, so I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to take to fix the problem. From information I found on the Internet.

insane doctor cartoon

Suddenly, in a blaze of clarity last night, I realized I have no way to know how much B-12 I need. I used to get monthly injections and I shouldn’t be self-medicating while my hair falls out and my skin dries up and tries to leave home without me.

It’s 10:29am and I’m still on hold. I have been on hold — off and on because I’ve called back several times — since 9am. I can tell by the clock on the computer.


I wonder which will run out first? The battery in my telephone or my patience?

Garry says I can’t give up, that this asshole is going to kill me.

The good news? It’s pouring outside. Finally, the rain has arrived. It was late, but this morning, when I got up, it was raining and since then, it has gone from raining moderately to a blinding downpour.

I sit here. Listen to soothing music and the recurring “The staff are currently assisting other customers. Please hold on. We appreciate you patience.” I think how all this water will seep into the aquifer. The well will fill with fresh water. I will be able to take a shower without fearing it’s my last.

There must be some magic formula that gets a person through the wall of electronic non-answering. I need to learn this skill. Soon. Today would be a good time. Before I got completely postal and rip out someone’s throat with what are left of my teeth.

I don’t believe for a single moment that they really appreciate my patience. But I’m such a cynic.


I’m afraid of falling down and breaking a hip. I’m afraid the battery in my pacemaker will run out of juice and my heart will stop beating.

I’m afraid of airport security with big machines who won’t pay attention and will kill me. But failing? I think I’ve done all the failing I’m going to do this lifetime.


I count on younger generations to handle all additional failures. I’ve exceeded my personal failure quota. I am, however, seriously involved in hanging on through the next commercial cluster of life to see what happens next. I would like to do that while remaining comfortably housed, roofed, and fed. I intend to do my utmost to keep my better half healthy too, while maintaining the handful of relationships that matter to me.

I’m not afraid of failing them, just of losing them. Attrition gets personal after a certain point in life.

I have four implanted replacement parts in this not-all-that-old body. Each one has its own serial number. I stand in absolutely no danger of ever being a “Jane Doe” on some medical examiner’s slab. I figure the parts that can fail, have already failed. The next failure will be my official sign off.

Marilyn with shawl

You are free to worry about failing in love, marriage, job performance, parenting, or any other goal-driven activity to which you are committed. You may be deeply involved in making your next novel a best-seller, quaking with fear that this success or lack thereof will define you.

I’m here to tell you that no matter what happens, your failure — or success — won’t, didn’t, doesn’t define you. Unless you want it to.

You aren’t your achievements, your failures, your fears, your disasters. You aren’t even those nasty messes you leave behind. Or your illnesses and/or disabilities. You are something else. Someone else. You have a soul.

With a variety of replaceable parts.