Mail–Junk Mail

I can almost remember when most of the mail I received was something I wanted, aside from bills. It was not 90%+ JUNK. Today’s mail was 100% junk, and, with the exception of one item, I recycled them.

The one item that did not get recycled was a solicitation from a professional organization to which I once belonged to purchase accidental death and dismemberment insurance for $2.00/month. Right. Hmmmm . . .

The USPS (United States Postal Service) is losing money. Many, if not most, of us now use e-mail and pay bills by computer instead of mailing letters, invitations, thank you cards and checks. This cuts down on the volume of first class mail delivered by the Post Office.

I am able to filter out much, if not all, of the “spam” I receive in my e-mail accounts, but I cannot seem to do the same with my USPS mail–even when I attempt to opt out of things like credit card solicitations from banks and others. This appears to be about as effective as the Do Not Call Registry is for robo-calls and the like.

Therefore, I am going to increase, on an organized basis, my outgoing USPS mail.

BRM–Business Reply Mail costs the same as regular US postage plus a fee for the company that owns the BRM permit. That company pays nothing if the reply envelope is not used but pays full cost+ if it is used, even if the envelope is empty. If I send two of these back per week, this generates more than fifty dollars/year in additional revenue for the USPS.

There are some 120,000,000+ households in the United States.

Let’s see $50.00 times 120,000,000 = $6,000,000,000 — I believe this would go far in reducing the seemingly perennial USPS monetary losses with no increase in cost to us. It might even get businesses to change how they operate–no more (or maybe just less) junk mail.

If you wish to push up the cost even more, put something in the envelope–NO, not sand (that’s probably illegal anyway). Put all, or part, of the advertisement in the BRM envelope–where it won’t clog your trash/recycle bin. It’ll up the weight of the envelope and raise its cost. You might even get creative–put a Guy-co ad in a Prfoessyve envelope or send in a half-dozen coupons from one of those super-duper coupon envelopes.

All those BRM post cards? Send those too and don’t bother to fill them in.

If we all do our part, maybe, just maybe, we can help return the Post Office to the profitability and admiration it enjoyed in 1947. 1947? Why 1947? Because that was when the movie Miracle on 34th Street came out. (If you still don’t understand, please, watch the movie–the original version: 1947.)

The Letter

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Edward Rowland Sill, Died February 27, 1887

Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Thomas Bailey Aldrich

I held his letter in my hand,
And even while I read
The lightning flashed across the land
The word that he was dead.

How strange it seemed! His living voice
Was speaking from the page
Those courteous phrases, tersely choice,
Light-hearted, witty, sage.

I wondered what it was that died!
The man himself was here,
His modesty, his scholar’s pride,
His soul serene and clear.

These neither death nor time shall dim,
Still this sad thing must be–
Henceforth I may not speak to him,
Though he can speak to me!

Storytelling – J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson


Goodreads has a discussion strand with some 400+ comments addressing the following question: What do you think about Peter Jackson adding a new character in The Desolation of Smaug movie?

Peter Jackson is just continuing a storyteller’s tradition.

Oral storytelling predates the telling of stories by writing them in books and filming them in movies by millennia.

A Rose
A Rose

The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh all began their lives orally. And none of them sprang into being whole cloth, that is, complete in their modern form.

One can easily envision someone (Homer?) telling about a love affair. The lovers are given names, Paris and Helen. The following evening he tells of her husband’s revenge. On another evening, in front of another family’s fire, the author makes the characters royalty, one from a kingdom across the sea. And on still another, he adds a story he heard from someone else, a jealous competition among goddesses. Over a period of years, and maybe generations, you eventually get the version we read today.

The thing about oral storytelling is that the storyteller alters his/her story depending on the reaction of the audience. You embellish the parts the audience likes and dispense with, or alter, the parts they don’t like.

Neither writers nor filmmakers go from start to finished product without editing their work. J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t do so and neither did Jackson.

I would imagine that Tolkien added in and edited out a number of characters while writing his saga of Middle Earth. (Aside from creating it in the first place.) Peter Jackson is continuing the tradition—telling a story according to his personal vision to reach those he considers his audience using his chosen medium as he sees fit.

Should the tales of Middle Earth be re-made into movies again in another generation or two, the director will change interpretations of characters according to his, or her, personal vision. That director will also add or subtract characters and change emphasis according to the audience.

And, when Frodo returns to the Shire after his adventures, will it be the Shire of Jackson or Tolkien?

We may or may not like what he did, or how he did it, but by “voicing” our opinions we are continuing the age-old practice of criticism.

If you don’t like Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien, aren’t you still happy he made the film rather than not? Would we be better off having no film version of Middle Earth, other than the animated tales? Or, think about it this way, if not Jackson then who? Woody Allen? Martin Scorsese? Oliver Stone? Kevin Costner? Ridley Scott? David Lynch? Quentin Tarantino? Lynne Ramsay? Ang Lee? Who?

Personally, I like the addition. A bright, good-looking, kick-ass redhead is an asset to any action movie.

Vacation Travels 2014 – Part 3

Time to come home.

Alas, a week and a half before Charlie was due back at work it was time for us to head for home. Having done most of our packing the day before, it would seem that we would have little to do. But we still didn’t leave before noon.

Sky-Vu Drive-In
Sky-Vu Drive-In

Those who never closed a residence for a Minnesota winter don’t know about draining water. Turn off the water supply, turn off the water heater, open all the faucets and then drain the water heater. You don’t want water in the pipes to freeze and burst. Leave the heaters on low to prevent freezing the pipes and put RV antifreeze in the drains (after all the power might fail and the house freeze).

Travels and Motels

We said goodbye to Warroad a few minutes after noon and began our journey west. Roseau, Greenbush, Karlstad and then south at Donaldson as the construction/repair detour was still in effect (still unknown to OnStar and Waze). When we reached Warren we turned west once more and stopped at the Sky-Vu Drive-In Theatre. The current film showing was Tammy. We stopped, took a few pictures and resumed our journey to Moorhead.

Sky Vu Admission
Sky Vu Admission

Again we stayed at the Moorhead Travelodge, second floor smoking, cats. Nice room, good soundproofing as the motel is backed up to a busy rail line.

The next day it was I-94 across North Dakota to Wibaux, Montana and the Beaver Creek Inn (same room we had before). This time Charlie went with me to have dinner at the Shamrock Club, excellent meal and great atmosphere. Of course, she had to buy a Shamrock Club hat as a souvenir.

On to Bozeman, Montana and the Holiday Inn. This time the room was downstairs next to the back exit and it was a lot easier to move our luggage. Good room service dinner. This time we ordered three appetizers between us and no entrees, just the perfect amount of food.

Elk at rest with birds.
Elk at rest with birds.

Stopped in Haugan, Montana at the Lincoln’s World Famous 50,000 Silver $ Bar for a break and souvenir shopping. Stayed the night at the West Spokane Super 8. They messed up our reservation for a smoking handicapped room and I ended up toting our luggage up to the third floor (dirty word, dirty word, dirty word).

The next day it was south through Washington and then west along the Columbia River to Portland and south to Albany. A nice, easy day without too much Portland traffic.

Our last motel day was south on the I-5 to the Umpqua River and viewing elk at Dean Creek, a stop at the Mill Casino for an hour of slots and shopping for Charlie and the on to Arcata. The Arcata Super 8 still had not correctly fixed the handicapped room shower, but, otherwise, the room was fine.

Friday, it was south to Gilroy, California and Bill & Artie’s place. Artie had a good rib dinner from Nob Hill waiting

Elk at rest.
Elk at rest.

for us (and I, of course, ate too much of her macaroni salad) and we had a good talk and rest.

Saturday, it was south on the I-5 to L.A., with some stop and go traffic and home a little after six, a Subway sandwich for dinner and a sigh. It was good to be home.

Three days to get the house organized and luggage unpacked and Charlie was back to work (and I embarked on my third year of retirement).

Aside from the Super 8 screw-up in West Spokane the only negative about the trip home was the condom wrapper. At one of the motels, whose name I will not mention, Mist found an open condom wrapper under a bed missed by housekeeping. I mentioned this to the desk when I turned in our keys the next morning and they halved our bill. Quite nice; we’ve stayed there before and will again.

Vacation Travels 2014 – Part 2

Travels – We’re There

We arrived in Warroad, Minnesota late on a Friday afternoon and found the house in good order with the

A view of a Minnesota sunrise from our deck.
A view of a Minnesota sunrise from our deck.

exception of the water being turned off. I had thought that the water was on because the new garden was in and had been watered. My mistake. The gardener had put a pump in the golf course water hazard, with two long extension cords connected to our outside electrical outlets, and a long hose.

I made a phone call to the gentleman who owns the water system that brought him out to the house after 5 pm and made him late for a family dinner. With his aid and that of a neighbor my wife and I had running water and

Smoke and Mist dream of a walleye dinner.
Smoke and Mist dream of a walleye dinner.

did not have to spend the night in a motel.

I brought the outdoor furniture from the living room to the patio deck and we now had a little room to move in. I connected the various electrical appliances and lamps and fans as well as getting the wi-fi up and running. HUG, Inc. had put on new storm doors and a new kitchen before we got there and they looked good.

It took a couple of days to unpack the large containers of kitchen goods, foods, cleaners, tableware, etc. and get the upstairs livable. That and a trip to Doug’s Supermarket for milk and fresh food.

Smoke and Mist soon found they liked the house. Plenty of new nooks to explore, carpet on some of the floors and stairs to chase each other up and down.

Gas Price Warroad, MN
Gas Price Warroad, MN

Ahhh . . . summer vacation in a town with only two stoplights and non-California gas prices.

No golfing this summer but I drank coffee, ate breakfast, “worked” crossword and Sudoku puzzles, read books and watched the world go by on the golf course from our second story deck. Charlie read, played on her iPad, worked on lesson plans and spent a couple of hours in Seven Clans Casino most days. Pleasant and Relaxing.

We put in an air conditioner—yes, in the Summer it gets quite warm and muggy in northern Minnesota. G&B Carpet and Furniture put in new flooring in the kitchen and bathroom upstairs and in the office, laundry and entries downstairs. Charlie also bought a table and an electric recliner from G&B. (Next year we’ll get a new bed.)

Saint Peter’s is the Episcopal Church Charlie attends while in Warroad. The congregation is small so services are

St. Peter's Altar Window
St. Peter’s Altar Window

held on Wednesday evenings with a traveling vicar who is in charge of several like parishes. The people are friendly and a potluck dinner is served after services every couple of weeks. There is a large stained glass window behind the altar that Charlie likes and had me take pictures of. (As the window is in the east it really needs a morning sun to be seen at its best—ah, well, maybe next year.)

I’ve found a number of small churches in northern Minnesota with character and plan on doing a photo-essay of them in the next year or two.

Ate dinner at the Lakeview Restaurant one night and had a delicious plate of walleye (Walleyed Pike). Lots of sandbags around and streets closed as the lake (Lake of the Woods) was at near record levels (or setting new records).

Doug’s Supermarket is undergoing renovations and what used to be their video section is now a Caribou Coffee shop. Charlie has become addicted to their scones that are much like those from Starbucks. So far as I know, it is the only location that has an actual caribou head mounted inside.

Pelan Pioneer Chapel
Pelan Pioneer Chapel

Drove to Grand Forks one day to do some shopping and that same detour was in effect from Donaldson west. So we went south intending to catch the I-29 later. The drive took us through Warren, Minnesota which has an operating drive-in theater; I didn’t have one of my “good” cameras with me that day so I took pictures a couple of weeks later on our way back to California.

During the last week of our stay, I took a drive by myself. (Charlie was enjoying the casino that afternoon.) I took some pictures of the

Dewey Townhall
Dewey Townhall

Dewey Townhall and Pelan Pioneer Chapel.

Too soon it was time to come home.

Them! The best 1950s horror movie

Them! movie poster
Them! movie poster

Some of my favorite movies were made in the 1950s. They were shot in black and white and had no computer generated effects. Among these were Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Crawling Eye, Godzilla, and RodanThese are, of course, all fantasy, sci-fi, monster movies and, unlike fifty years ago, I own a copy of each and every one. But, my all time favorite, is Them!

In brief, it is the story of what could happen if radiation from nuclear bomb testing caused mutations in animals turning them into dangerous giants. In the case of this film the animals are ants.

By today’s standards they are very limited stars but, at least, they are not the bad, computer generated images I see too often on the movies shown by the Sy-Fy Channel. As in reading a book, one’s own imagination must come into play while watching this film. I had an Ant Farm and would watch ants for hours; imagining them as the ten foot long monsters in Them! was not very hard, despite the lack of realistic movement in the movie.

Little girl lost
Ellinson girl lost in the desert

I remember nuclear testing. We would set off an H-bomb and the Soviets would set off a larger H-bomb, a suicidal game of one-upmanship. I remember radiation clouds being tracked, bomb shelters and bomb drills held in school. Giant ants, sure, easier to think about than nuclear war.

The acting was good and a lot of the cast members were, or would become, quite well-known.


James Whitmore (Sgt. Ben Peterson) – The Asphalt Jungle and The Shawshank Redemption
James Arness (Agt. Robert Graham) – Gunsmoke – There were scenes in Them! in which he appeared in uniform with a bazooka and an M-1. During the Second World War, Arness participated in the Anzio landings in Italy and was wounded. He also received a Bronze Star as well as a Purple Heart during the war.
Edmund Gwynn (Dr. Harold Medford) – The Keys of the Kingdom and Miracle on 34th Street
Joan Weldon (Dr. Pat Medford) – Home Before Dark and Have Gun, Will Travel
Fess Parker (Alan Crotty) – Daniel Boone and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (Davey Crocket)
William Schallert (Ambulance attendant) – The Patty Duke Show and Star Trek (The Trouble With Tribbles)
Willis Bouchey (bigwig in meeting) – Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter


Ant attack on Dr. Pat Medford
Ant attack on Dr. Pat Medford

It begins with the New Mexico State Police searching for a reported little girl wandering the desert. One officer in a plane and two in a patrol car. (Please no comments on how someone could see a five-year old girl in her night-clothes wandering alone in the desert and driving a dozen miles into town to report it rather than walking fifty yards off the side of the road and getting the kid. Remember, suspension of disbelief is critical.) They find the girl and her family’s destroyed travel trailer. Evidence (including a footprint) is taken at the scene; the mute girl is transported to town and the police go to a nearby general store to talk with the owner. The store has been destroyed and the owner killed. One policeman stays to wait for the evidence squad while the other (James Whitmore) goes back to town. The officer at the store is killed by an unseen something after emptying his sidearm into it.

The FBI (James Arness) comes into the case because the trailer was owned by a vacationing agent. The store owner’s body is autopsied and is found to contain a large amount of formic acid. The footprint is sent to Washington and a pair of doctors (Joan Weldon and Edmund Gwynn) from the Department of Agriculture fly to New Mexico on a B-25. The little girl reacts to the odor of formic acid by shouting “Them, Them!” And, the chase is on. On a visit to the trailer’s site the group is attacked by a giant ant, which is killed by Whitmore’s Thompson sub-machine gun. An ant nest is found and destroyed but not before two queen ants fly away. And, the chase is on again.

Boy, if I can still raise an arm when we get out of this place, I’m gonna show you just how saturated I can get.” – Graham

A secret national search for UFOs, and other weird stuff, is launched. A flying Texan (Fess Parker) sights giant flying ants and is put in a loony bin (to be released only on government orders). Ants hide in a merchant ship, kill the crew and are sunk by a navy cruiser. One queen accounted for. And the hunt is on for the other queen.

Ant attacks Sgt. Peterson
Ant attacks Sgt. Peterson

Whitmore and Arness go to Los Angeles to investigate a large sugar theft and end up discovering a murder by the ants. They determine that the ants are hiding in the storm drains under Los Angeles. The Marines and National Guard troops are brought in to find and kill the ants (and find and rescue two missing boys). Whitmore rescues the boys, but not himself and the nest is destroyed – no new queens escape.

Nobody knows, Robert. When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world. What we’ll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.” – Harold Medford

It’s a fun movie, a few good quotes, story holes, continuity errors and just plain goofs. But, after nearly sixty years, it still holds together.


Wiki –!