DOUBLE DOG DARE  –  Gretchen Archer

Print Length: 215 pages
Publisher: Henery Press 
Publication Date: March 20, 2018

Davis Way Cole has gotten stuck. Not permanently stuck, mind you, but stuck in the house, stuck with the kids, stuck in that life of children and housewifery that is a not-so-rare thing for working women. But the time has come for her to move out of the house and get back to work.

There’s her family, of course and whenever they pop into her life, it just gets crazy. And there’s the Bellissimo casino. It has come a long way back from its near demise, but it has a way to go and it’s time for Davis to get back on board and help.

Of the many things no casino is supposed to present to the public, a dog show is probably high on the list. Especially this dog show where the pooches are not being judged for their breed characteristics or even their abilities in obedience or agility. They are being judged for their unique abilities … to do … well … dance. Sing. Human things dogs are not supposed to do. It’s a wild and crazy competition and Davis’ boss is supposed to judge it. You know what that means. That’s right. Davis is the stand in … and Davis’ sisters’ best friend has an entry for the show. Or is supposed to but …

As it typical of all of Gretchen Archer’s hilarious yet incredibly complex novels, the dog show, the dogs, the people, the absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong or off the rails, does.

One of the truly delicious aspects of Ms. Archer’s writing is her ability to take a wildly complicated story, tie up all the ends, and come out in the end with all the hanging parts of the story neatly tied up in a proper bow. This one is no different and if it wouldn’t give away too much, I’d tell you more.

Davis Way is growing up. Her world is still crazy. Her boss is definitely crazy and her family is charmingly wacko … but she’s maturing. She’s smart. She may not always make the perfect decisions, but she doesn’t make her decisions casually or without serious thought. She cares about people she is close to … and she also cares about all the people who ramble through her life. So the books aren’t merely funny. They are also warm and frequently touching.

Suffice to know that this is one intelligent, funny, thoughtful, weird, complicated book where everything is happening at the same time and it looks like it’s all different things. Yet, somehow, most of it comes together and all of it gets sorted out. This is a life and death tale that will leave you laughing, crying, and hugging your dog. I gave all three of mine two extra biscuits. They didn’t say thank you. Spoiled maybe?

A full five stars for DOUBLE DOG DARE! 

 DOUBLE DOG DARE will be available on March 20th! Put your pre-order in now!


What are mnemonics and why should I care?

I looked them up: mne·mon·ics (pronounced) nəˈmäniks is a noun — or more typically, a set of words that are designed to help you remember something. Like the strings on a guitar or ukulele, for example. I used to know them but I can’t remember them at all. Literally, they are gone from my brain.

Over all, I’ve found it harder to remember the mnemonic than the original thing I was trying to remember and these days, writing it down helps more than any other thing possibly could. At one point, when I was — maybe 10 give or take a year? — my parents bought “The Lorayne Memory Book.” Assuming you could master it, you were supposed to be able to remember anything by creating mnemonics for a huge variety of sounds that you could mentally link together to form words.

My mother read it, did a mental “screw that nonsense” and handed it to me.

“The Memory Book has 1469 ratings and 102 reviews. … Unleash the hidden power of your mind through Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas’s simple, fail-safe memory system, and you can become more effective, more imaginative, and more ….. Everyone who took those classes always got A’s automatically — it was a guarantee.” from Goodreads

“Maybe you can do something with this,” she said.

I got through the first chapter in where you create a mental image of each item in a list and you link it mentally with the previous image. So, say you want to go shopping. You need: bananas, coffee, cream, butter, bread, English muffins, strawberry jelly, chicken parts, and bread crumbs. I’m trying to keep it simple using the basic stuff people shop for rather than making it unnecessarily complicated.

So you look at the first two items: bananas and coffee and you create some strange image that mentally shows you these two items together. Maybe a coffee bean eating a banana. See the image? A little odd, but that’s the point. Then add the cream and have the bean that ate the banana bathe in a tub of cream, while rubbing it’s hair (hair? do coffee beans have hair?) with butter, then rolling around on a slice of (toasted?) bread …

You get the idea, right? Bizarre though it sounds, I managed to do it and after a little practice, I could memorize a list of maybe 20 to 30 items and I could remember them forwards and backwards. But it wasn’t easier than writing it on a piece of paper and wracking your brain for these images was significantly more effort that pulling the paper out of your pocket and reading it.

I never made it to the actual “mnemonic” part of the course which were in chapters two through 20 (or something like that) because it seemed like a lot more effort than it deserved. I could easily understand my mother’s “screw that shit” reaction and eventually, the “Lorayne Memory Course” hit the dust bin with all the other good ideas that we never used.

So how do I feel about mnemonics? I’m sure they must help someone somewhere but I lump this stuff into the giant trash compactor of great ideas whose time will never come — at least not for me. If the solution to the problem is more complicated than the original problem, what exactly is the point? My goal in problem solving is to strip away the complexity and find the uncomplicated middle — the simple center, as it were. When that doesn’t work, usually because there is no simple center, I’m pretty sure mnemonic isn’t going to fix it either.

Or, as the guy said in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” 1962, John Ford starring everybody you love to see in old westerns:

“No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

You can be sure they didn’t bother with mnemonics. Just print the legend!


Your Obituary, by Rich Paschall

Taken on ‎September‎ ‎03‎, ‎2012, Viewminder

“Karen Lewis was fearless.” It was the opening line of her obituary on the Chicago Sun-Times  website.  The Chicago Teachers Union President had endured treatment for brain cancer in 2015.  In October of 2017 she had suffered a stroke.  She had surgery for a malignant brain tumor.  Through it all she battled on, and was widely respected for her tenacity and survival.

It was no surprise that her death would highlight the courage of her struggles.  There was just one little problem with the story as was mentioned on Lewis’ Facebook page, “Contrary to an unfortunate slip, I am not dead.”

Yes, the 64-year-old labor leader and brain cancer survivor is alive and living in Chicago.

Did you ever wonder how a periodical could publish a lengthy story on a famous person’s life just moments after they die?  Obituaries for prominent people are usually written before their deaths.  They may be updated from time to time and only need minor edits when a famous person finally goes to the great beyond  (or wherever it is you think people go for an “after life”) .  When celebrities drop dead, it is no time to start researching the details of their lives.  Pre-written obituaries are a common practice.  Publishing them while the person is still alive is not.

Few get to learn of their own death while they are still alive.  Apparently Lewis took the error in good humor.  The obituary, which was online for a few hours, was taken down before Lewis or family members had seen it.  She did learn of the opening line, however.  Apparently believing the long time Chicago publication would have to say nice things of the dead, Lewis commented, “I think it’s a mitzvah…but I’m not sure it’s true.”

“James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness.  The report of my death was an exaggeration.”  – Mark Twain

While Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour in 1897, a London-based reporter was sent learn of the condition of Twain’s health.  If Twain was dead, the reporter, Frank Marshall White, should send back 1000 words to the New York Journal.  If alive, apparently 500 words would do.  Meanwhile, according to legend, one paper had indeed printed an obituary for Twain.  Was the great American humorist amused by this?

White wrote an article that appeared in the NY Journal in June of 1897.  In part he said:

“Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London …” 

Twain had sent back in writing what is now an often misquoted response.  Twain’s hand-written response is restated above.

What if your obituary appeared online?  What would it say?  Would it recount that you are “fearless?”  Would it see you as a great humorist?  Would it recount the highlights of your life?  Or would there be little to say?  Would anything written be supplied by relatives after your death?

If someone was charged with writing a thousand words about your life, and you could read them now, how would this influence you?  If the words were kind and encouraging, would this lead you to a better life?  Would you try to live up to the words someone was about to supply upon your death?  Would you try to have all the qualities relayed about you?  Would you try to build on that legacy?

What if the words were not at all flattering?  Would that inspire you to change your ways?  Would you have a Scrooge-like awakening and live a better life?  Would you be more kind?  More generous?  More loving?

We probably do not think much about our own obituaries.  Those who do not have much public standing in the community will not get much more than the standard newspaper notice that includes a list of relatives and the time of funeral services.  But what if you have a little bit of notoriety?  Do you care what is written as your legacy when you are gone?  What influence would there be on your life if you could read your obituary as it would be published today?

Even without online or social media notices, or publication in the local or national newspapers, we will all get an obituary, so to speak, in eulogies at funerals or memorial services.  If these do not exist for you (and why not?) then there are the comments of your family and friends when they gather to honor your memory.  If cousin Lewis is likely to sing your praises, having been a drinking buddy and travel companion, Aunt Bertha might just come along and upset the gladioli cart with her honest opinions of your character.

Your homework assignment before we convene here again next Sunday is to write your obituary.  Pick out the highlights and significant life events.  Write it all down. Is that really what someone would write in your obituary?  Seriously?  If it is not exactly what you want, dear Ebenezer, it may not be too late to change, as the report of your death has been grossly exaggerated.

“Reports of Mark Twain’s Quip about his death…” May 31, 2015
“Karen Lewis See Funny Side Of Her Erroneously Published Obituary,” January 8, 2018




The light was better because it was the morning. With gritty determination,

One more set of pictures on a sunny day. I think these are better. Sharper, anyway.

The radiant cactus!

With an f2.8 lens, you need the extra light. That’s the answer, I guess.

Two cacti in bloom

One of the interesting things to note is that the color is quite different based on the lens I was using … and the light at that time of day. It is much warmer in the morning, colder in the afternoon. So the blossoms were more red at night, more orange in the morning.

Also, come to think of it, for the macros, I had the overhead light on, so there was incandescent light in the room, too. That would add a lot of yellow and orange.