COMRADE LEADER AND THE BLOGSTERS – Rich Paschall

A SERENDIPITY Fractured Spy Tale, by Rich Paschall

It was a long hall with high, vaulted ceilings, elegantly appointed with gold-leaf trim. The walls were appropriately red on the upper two thirds, with an elegant dark cherry wood wainscoting below. Down the middle of the hall ran a long table made of the finest dark wood. It could seat 20 comrades along each side. The room was empty now, except for the big man seated at the head of the table.

He was patiently waiting in the Great Hall of the Central Committee. The room was quiet and serene, just like the meetings presided over by the big man. As he sat admiring a portrait of himself, Comrade Number Eight entered the room and walked to the front of the hall. Number Eight stood at attention and waited to be acknowledged.

“Report!” ordered the man at the head of the table.

“Comrade Leader,” Number Eight began. “I am pleased to report the success of our blog writers in foreign lands. Already today, six more articles have been posted. They are all well received, especially the ones we have designated as coming from ‘news’ sites.”

“What is the most popular story you have planted recently?” the Leader inquired.

“Comrade Leader, we have reported that the main opponent of our appointed foreign leader is running a scandalous sex ring from the back of a Taco truck.”

The Leader of the Federation looks a bit confused at this.  “Taco Truck? What do you mean?”

“Comrade Leader…” said Number Eight hesitantly. All reports began by addressing “Comrade Leader” but from there he was not sure how to proceed on this one.

“This is a truck that travels around the streets selling food. Tacos, Tortas, Burritos.”

“And the political opponent runs a ‘sex ring’ from such a truck?”

“Yes, Comrade Leader.”

“And the people of that nation believe this story?”

“Oh yes, Comrade Leader. We placed the story on several blogs and it was picked up and distributed by other blog sites. It has even been run by some news stations.  It has many ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ on social media. It is being spread all around the country.”

At that. the Big Man, Head Mister of all the Misters on the Central Committee, stared at Number Eight with the most incredulous look Comrade Leader had ever given anyone. After a brief moment, he roared with laughter.  He was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his high backed leather chair. Number Eight felt he could finally relax and laughed a little bit too.

“Have you designated a particular truck?” the important man wanted to know.

“No sir, Comrade Leader, sir. There are many of these trucks in the big cities and we wish to throw suspicion on all of them. With a little more prodding, we think the people will start attacking some of them.”

The leader laughed some more.

“Next week, Comrade Leader, we are going to have our asset speculate that these trucks are all run by illegal aliens and should be shut down. He will try to make a link between the illegals, his opponent and the sex ring. They are all selling prostitutes to fund the political campaign against our appointed one.”

“Stop, you’re killing me,” the boss man said as he was laughing so hard his sides began to hurt. “This is the funniest thing I have heard in years. Your team has done excellent work and brought me great joy. You will receive the People’s Medal for your achievement.”

“Thank You, Comrade Leader. I am very… (pause) pleased… that you are… (pause) pleased… sir” Number Eight puffed out his chest and stood in the Great Hall with a large smile on his face. It would not last long.

“Now, Number Eight, tell me how our special agents, Boris and Natasha, are doing on their secret mission.”

Number Eight looked down at the carpet that covered the floor beneath his feet. He did not know how to explain what was happening.

“I am sorry to say, Comrade Leader, that our operatives in the foreign land have not yet completed their assignment. We still have high hopes that they will succeed soon.”

“What has been the problem for them so far?” the leader of Covert Operations wanted to know.

“Sir, at every turn in the road they have been thwarted by two other agents who seem to be of superior intelligence.”

“I see, have you identified these other agents? We must deal with them severely.”

“No, Comrade Leader, but we have learned their code names, ‘Moose’ and ‘Squirrel.'”

The big man nodded his head knowingly as if he had encountered these crafty beasts before.

True patriots — American Heroes!

YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO THE FIFTH DENTIST! – BY TOM CURLEY

“Four out of Five Dentists agree Trident Gum is the best.”


We’ve all heard that commercial or any of its variations. The logic is, if a majority of experts agree on something, it’s probably the truth.

Every time I would see one of those spots my first thought was always “What does that fifth dentist have to say?” I imagined it would be something like.

“Trident Gum sucks! Brush your teeth with chocolate!

Sugar is good for your teeth!!
Dental hygiene is a hoax! It’s a vast conspiracy by a deep state cabal of evil dentists owned by toothpaste companies!
They’re fluoridating our water for mind control!!”

You get the idea. The point is, you’re not supposed to listen to the fifth dentist or the 10th doctor.

But today that’s exactly what approximately one-third of the country is doing. The Republican party and all the Trump supporters only listen to the fifth dentist. And he’s fucking insane. Drill baby drill!

You saw it during the impeachment hearings. The Judiciary committee called on four constitutional scholars to explain why impeachment is important. Three of them were adamant and in total agreement that the impeachment clause was written for exactly this president. They unequivocally said that we HAD to impeach this idiot.

And then there was the fourth guy. He hemmed and hawed and said that maybe he did some stuff wrong but impeaching him would be mean. Or something like that. But every Republican-held him up as proof positive that, well, impeachment is mean. And mean people suck.

And then there is the ultimate fifth dentist.
Fox News.

I worked for over 40 years at CBS. Mostly in the news division. In any network news control room is a bank of monitors that everybody can see.  On them are all of the other news network feeds. In our case, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC,

and Fox News.

One of the things that always drove me crazy was that every day, we would spend hours and hours planning a half-hour news show. We would determine the “line up”, i.e. the stories we would report and the order in which we would report them.

If you watched all the news shows, you’d see them all report the same stories. Why? Because that was what the news was on that day! (Duh) The only real difference was the order in which the stories were reported.

Every night, as the show started, one of the senior producers would be watching all the other network feeds and suddenly scream! NBC is running the (fill in the blank) story first! We have to change the whole line up!! So, now the director would have to frantically re-arrange scripts, the poor tape operators would have to kick the tapes they had cued up out of the machines and frantically try to find the new ones, the font’s would be all out of order.

The control room would descend into chaos. I used to sit there in the audio booth shouting “What the hell are you doing? Nobody at home is watching five televisions!! If they’re watching CBS, they have no idea what’s on ABC or NBC. And they don’t care!”

But today we have a new phenomenon. Fox News doesn’t run the same stories as everybody else. They make shit up. I know, I worked there, briefly. They were always bad, but since Adolf Twittler got elected, they’ve gone off the deep end.

Conspiracy theories are the news over there. As the naked emperor descends ever further into madness, they twist themselves into mathematically impossible shapes to defend him and pretend everything he says is true.

A Fox News poll came out the other day saying that a majority of Americans want the president impeached and removed and the clowns on the Fox morning show short-circuited. I could see the techs coming onto the set during the commercial to re-set the circuit boards in all three hosts because they were fried.

Does not compute. Does not compute. Does not compute.

And yet, somehow, according to Republicans, all of the media is fake news. Except for Fox. The fifth dentist.

Climate change is a hoax!
Caravans of evil rapists and terrorists are invading America.
Toddlers and children are not being held in concentration camps! They’re summer camps!
Liberals want to eat your children!
Brush your teeth with chocolate!”

You can believe in your own reality, but that doesn’t make it real. To all Republicans and Trump supporters: STOP LISTENING TO THE FIFTH DENTIST!

And stop brushing your teeth with chocolate. It’s going to ruin your dinner. And your teeth.

BIRD OF THE WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

With some time available, I took these pictures and spent hours messing with the software. I still don’t think I’ve quite got them exactly how I want them, but I think they are okay. These are two pictures of the same chip. I have more, but they are all similar, I haven’t done anything with the rest of them. Yet.

Taking off

Yet one more Tufted Titmouse.

READING UNDER THE COVERS – Marilyn Armstrong

If reading were illegal, I’d have spent my life in prison. The most frightening book I ever read was Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a life with no books.

As a kid, I literally read myself cross-eyed, but today, I have been redeemed by audiobooks. Early during the 1990s, I discovered audiobooks. I was a “wrong way” commuter, which meant my commute started in Boston and took me out to the suburbs. This was supposed to make the drive easier than going the other way.

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The reality was different. Traffic was heavy in all directions, from Boston or from the suburbs. The east-west commute was nominally less awful than the north-south commutes, though coming from the north shore down to Boston was and is still probably the worst commute anywhere.

When we lived in Boston on the 17th floor of Charles River Park, we had a perfect view of the Charles River … and an even better view of 93 northbound. We could look out the window any time of the day or night. It was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see every day of the week, any time of day or night. Garry had a 5-minute walk to work. I always drove somewhere. You’d think at least once during the more than 29 years Garry and I have been together I’d have found one job near home. Funny how that never happened.

In New England, you do not measure a commute by distance. Distance is irrelevant. It’s how long it takes that matters. No one talks in terms of miles. The mall is half an hour away. Boston is about an hour in good traffic, who knows how long in rush hour traffic. It can take you 2 hours to go six miles, but maybe you can travel 15 miles in half an hour. In which case 15 miles is the shorter commute. Ask anyone.

My commute was never short. Wherever my work took me, it was never convenient, except for those wonderful periods when I worked at home and had to go to the “office” only occasionally. The 1990s were serious commuting years. Boston to Amesbury, Boston to Burlington, Boston to Waltham.

A Kindle and a Bluetooth speaker for listening to audiobooks

It got worse. By 2000, we had moved to Uxbridge. It’s never easier to get from Uxbridge to anywhere, except one of the other Valley towns … and I never worked in any of them. Probably because there is no work there …

As jobs got ever more scarce and I got older and less employable, I found myself commuting longer distances. First, Providence, Rhode Island, which wasn’t too bad. But after that, I had to drive to Groton, Connecticut a few times a week — 140 miles each way — a good deal of it on unlit, unmarked local roads. It was a killer commute and unsurprisingly, I was an early GPS adopter. Even though I didn’t have to do it every day, Groton did me in.

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Hudson was almost as bad, and Amesbury was no piece of cake either. The distance from Uxbridge to Newton was not far as the crow flies, but since I was not a crow, it was a nightmare. On any Friday afternoon, it took more than three hours to go twenty some odd miles. On Friday afternoons in the summer when everyone was taking off on for the weekend, I found myself battling not merely regular commuter traffic, but crazed vacationers, desperate to get out of Dodge.

The job market had become unstable, and it seemed every time I turned around, I was working in a different part of the Commonwealth or in another state entirely. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d probably have needed a rubber room.

First, I discovered Books On Tape. Originally intended as books for the blind, I and a million other commuters discovered them during the mid-1990s. They were a godsend. Instead of listening to the news, talk radio, or some jabbering DJ, I could drift off into whatever world of literature I could pop into my car’s cassette player.

I bought a lot of audiobooks and as cassettes began to disappear and everything was on CD, Books On Tape ceased renting books to the consumer market. Fortunately, audiobooks had become downright popular and were available at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Everybody was listening and most of us couldn’t imagine how we’d survived before audiobooks.

In 2002, along came Audible.com. At first, it was a bit of a problem, figuring out how to transport audible books into your car, but technology came up with MP3 players and widgets that let you plug your player, whatever it is, into your car’s sound system.

Audible started off modestly, but grew and grew and having been acquired by Amazon is getting bigger by the minute. For once, I don’t mind a bit. The company was well run before Amazon, and Amazon had the good sense to not mess with success. It is still easy to work with them, literally a pleasure doing business.

Taste of my Audible library …

Ten years ago, I became too sick to work anymore. Would that mean giving up audiobooks? Not on your life. When I was nearly dead, I listened to books and they distracted me from pain and fear, kept me company when I was alone and wondering if I’d live to see morning. Sometimes, they made me laugh in the midst of what can only be described as a time when humor is at a premium.

Today, I listen as I do everything except writing. I can listen to books as I play games, edit photographs, or pay bills. I admit I cannot listen and write at the same time. That seems to be the point where multi-tasking ends. Actually, I can’t do anything while I write except write. I get a lot of reading done while accomplishing the computerized tasks of life, not to mention turning hours of mindless messing around into valuable reading time. I am, in effect always reading.

Reading in Bed: My Guilty Pleasure

I read at night on my Kindle using a good little Bluetooth speaker. Reading in bed has always been my biggest guilty pleasure. I remember reading in my bedroom under the covers using a flashlight, or worse, trying to read from the sliver of light coming from the hallway nightlight, or, if everything else failed, by the light of a bright moon.

“You’ll ruin your eyes” cried my mother who probably had snuck books into her bed and read by candlelight.

To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t just let me turn a light on. She had to know I was going to read anyhow. She was always reading too. In fact, if books were my addiction, she was my dealer. Even in today’s politically correct world, giving your kid too many books to read is not yet considered child abuse. I think there was some kind of law in her generation that kids had to go to bed by a specific time, whether or not they were sleepy. It was the eleventh commandment.

My love affair with literature in all its forms continues. My tastes change, favorite authors move up or down the list. I go through phases: all history, nothing but fantasy, a run of thrillers, a series of biographies. Getting older has few advantages but there is one huge gift — time. I often get so involved in a book that I look up and realize that oops, the sun is coming up and I’ve lost another night’s sleep. But now, I can sleep in. Not all day, but enough to not be exhausted in the morning — depending on when the dogs decide it’s time to bark.

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I don’t have to commute anymore. I don’t have to leap out of bed and in 15 minutes, shower, dress, put on makeup, and chop the ice off my car windows. I can stay up late whether it’s for reading, \writing, or watching movies. No one can make me stop. There are no official bedtime hours for senior citizens.

I knew there has to be some benefit to the whole age thing.