Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series


screenshotDoes your Internet browser anticipate what you want when you begin entering a url? I suppose it’s an option and maybe it’s the beginning of the Skynet computer network, but it saves me keystrokes.

Here’s a fun exercise. On a blank url field, type “A” and see what site your computer thinks you want to visit. I ran through the alphabet and here’s what I got. Leave a comment to give us your highlights and/or lowlights.

A: Because I’m a Texas Aggie, of course.

B: This one might be a little skewed because I recently researched there for a new computer.

C: This is my go-to site for sports scores and standings, just because it’s easier than most to find what I want.

D: Pretty simple, this is the place we’re working this summer.

E: If you know me, you expect travel-related sites to pop up.

F: You got me; as much as I grumble about some of the things it does, I love Facebook in the fact it has enabled me to regain connections with so many old friends.

G: Why? Google it.

H: Hampton Inn is my favorite hotel. We often stay someplace less expensive, but Hampton offers a pretty good deal, has always been clean and comfy, and has a killer breakfast.

I: For all things movie- and television-related.

J: Must be slim pickings to go that deep for a “J,” but it’s a good one!

K: “On the road again …”

L: This is obviously the result of few “L” sites. I looked at this Vermont campground when considering where to apply for summer jobs this year.

M: Because it’s awesome. Researching a trip with the aid of Google maps, satellite images and Street View makes it so easy to get where you’re going.

N: National parks … enough said.

O: This one is misleading. We use this site to check our work schedules.

P: I’ve fine-tuned a great personal radio station over the years.

Q: My original online map, which I use at times, mainly when a website uses it.

R: Because … movies on the cheap.

S: Naturally.

T: Keeps me from having to surf channels to confirm there’s nothing good on.

U: More than anything, I go here to get zip codes.

V: We’ve booked our cruises through these folks and highly recommend them, but for years before we ever set sail, I spent many hours (and still do) looking at potential cruises. I really like the round the world cruises.

W: This has been my go-to weather forecast site for at least 15 years. What really won me over was their radar and hurricane tools.

X: This is the company we worked for the previous two summers, at Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone.

Y: Yes, I yahoo.

Z: And we’re back to the beginning. AM Radio 1150, the Zone, covers my Aggies.

Keeping it straight

Notecards for hikersI’ve been asked how I keep information straight in my books.

Things like:

* Sunday services at JP’s church begin at 11 a.m.

* Palmetto Club members Selma Brewster and Essie Baldwin have been engaged in a long-running feud.

* JP’s landlords do not own a pickup truck.

* A city park frequented by JP is J.M. Qwilleran Park, known as Qwill for short.

* Lydia Murray calls her mother Mom.

* Jennifer O’Hanlon is almost 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

Those are six of hundreds of facts small and large that I’ve pieced together during the writing of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. They’re all together in one large file that grows with each story.

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Spelling and facts

question mark_250x250_scaled_croppThe question came up, “What’s the most important thing you learned in college?”

My lesson came from my first journalism professor at Texas A&M, Bill Harrison. He was a good mentor for the written word and one of his pet peeves was misspellings, which he punished heavily, something like dropping your score on an assignment by 10 points for each mistake.

But here’s the birthplace of my lesson.

He told us he never marked a word as misspelled without first looking it up to make sure he was correct.

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July … that’s hot

July is hot, historically, as proven by the past month’s glances at history. Follow them daily through @smartaindale on, link in the right column.

July 1: In 1979, Sony sparked a revolution in personal electronics with the introduction of the Walkman stereo cassette player.

July 2: In 1937, aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean.

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Just sharing

Life Hack-PBandJ

Ministering on the Ice

Chapel of the Snows, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Chapel of the Snows, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

I was saddened reading this story, “Catholic priests to leave Antarctica because of decline in church-going,” from The Press of Christchurch, New Zealand.

To be clear, the U.S. Antarctic Program will continue sending a Protestant chaplain (who is willing and able to minister to all faiths) during the summer months; it’s not abandoning the faithful on the Ice, just narrowing the program for reasons given in the article.

Why am I sad? For one, it’s simply because I have a deep appreciation for what the chaplains do there. (I wrote a story about them, “Chaplains unite to service Ice community,” which you’ll find on page 3 of the issue linked to here. Coincidentally, the Roman Catholic priest there at the time was the Rev. Dan Doyle, the same priest quoted in the above article.)

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A day for explorers

lunar footprintI’ve thoroughly enjoyed posting daily historical notes on my Twitter, Facebook and Tsu pages (check the right column to follow on Twitter).

Sometimes the entries are vivid memories, both good and bad, and often they are surprising tidbits or good old-fashioned “Hmm” notes. Today’s is particularly special to me and concealed behind it are two other little jewels. First, in its customary abbreviated form, here’s what you found on my social media pages:

“Note for July 20: In 1969, humans walked on the moon.”

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Public service announcement for cigarette smokers: Many of your number willfully create an incredibly negative image.

While I detest tobacco and its disastrous effects on society, I also possess considerable compassion for the restraints we’ve placed on smokers. Not that I want to return to the days when every cafe and office is filled with smoke, but I simply feel bad you have to stand out in freezing rain in order to get your fix.

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We warned you

In case you mdeer signissed it, we’re summering in western New York, where I’ve noticed they have incredibly disciplined wildlife, as illustrated by the warning sign pictured here. What does this mean? Watch for deer for the next half mile, but then abandon all caution?

deer everywhereThen, less than five miles away (both are in Genesee County) there’s this incredibly honest sign. Yeah, watch out for deer everywhere and don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Surprise photo

Aussie koala signThe challenge was to blindly pick out a photo in an album – real or virtual – and tell about it.

The photo that came up was basically nothing. I’m not sure why I took it and it didn’t show anything in particular, so I cheated and moved one photo to the left and found this one.

Leah snapped it in June 2008 during our serendipitous Australian vacation. By that, I mean we scheduled flights, hotel and rental car but otherwise had no specific plans. It was an amazing experience.

This photo isn’t dramatic, but I suspect you’ll instantly see why we took it. I mean, where else in the world does one see a koala crossing sign? Unfortunately, we saw no koalas, crossing or otherwise.

Dream big

A month ago, I posted a reference here about having high hopes attached to an application for a one-month writer’s residency in an exotic location I did not want to divulge at that time. Here’s the rest of the story.

The residency is sponsored by the relatively new National Parks Arts Foundation, which aims to help artists and maybe gain additional exposure for the country’s parks. So far, it has very few residencies, but the one that totally captured my fancy was in the Dry Tortugas National Park.

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June in our rearview mirror

Edward H. White II displays the U.S. flag on his space suit during his historic spacewalk, or EVA (NASA JSC Photograph S65-30431)

Edward H. White II displays the U.S. flag on his space suit during his historic spacewalk, or EVA (NASA JSC Photograph S65-30431)

While sitting on pins and needles waiting to get a highly anticipated phone call, let’s review June’s glances into history.

For several months now, I’ve been tweeting each day a quick note on something that happened on that date in the past. To keep up with them in real time, use the link in the right column to follow me, smartaindale, on Twitter.

June 1: In 1967, The Beatles released the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

June 2: In 1935, Babe Ruth ended his Major League baseball playing career after 22 seasons, 10 World Series and 714 home runs.

June 3: In 1965, astronaut Edward H. White became the first American to “walk” in space during the flight of Gemini 4.

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Shawn mania

shawn mendesWorking in an amusement park this summer promised new experiences, but Saturday’s events were nowhere within my realm of expectation.

One, I looked into the eyes of a horde of screaming and crying teen and tween girls totally enraptured with a recording artist. Two, I feared being trampled by said horde.

Unless you’re close to a girl about that age, it’s likely you, like me, have never heard of Shawn Mendes. That’s understandable, considering the Canadian singer is only 16 years old. Here’s a great article in Sunday morning’s Buffalo News that probably tells you all you need to know for general purposes.

How did I get into such a precarious position? Ah, such is the life of a park sweep.

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Father’s Day and Charleston

Papaw Thanksgiving 2012It’s the third Father’s Day that I won’t be able to call Daddy. Maybe that’s why he’s entering my thoughts about Charleston.

He was joined in my musings during a near-sleepless night by people sharing comments on social media that indicate a belief we no longer have racial strife in this country, that the Confederate heritage is nothing worse than sweet iced tea on a front porch and that the fact guns do not actually kill people means there should be no restraints on who can get one.

And I keep thinking about a high school playoff football game. And there was my youthful hope when our school was integrated in sixth grade.

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And the name is …

The name for the car salesperson in my next book is Kat McFarlen, as submitted by Catherine Salazar. The winning doesn’t stop there, but more after this.

Kat stood out because she does not follow the car salesperson stereotype, but my real reason for selecting her was because Catherine’s character definition opened up great possibilities for interactions between Kat and JP Weiscarver.

I’ll give you one bit from the nomination: “She chose a job at the car dealership because, ‘well, why not?’” To learn more, of course, you’ll have to read the next book.

Oh, I mentioned more winning.

My two other standout suggestions played up to the stereotypes. Understand, I do not have a problem with that for a minor character because, as I like to say, there’s often a reason for stereotypes. These two did such a good job of defining the characters that I decided to merge them into one and make him the sales manager.

Luke Condie suggested the name Lucas Slicky and Matt Roberson submitted Dickey Funkhouser. Since I just cannot bring myself to go with Dickey Slicky, I intend to use Lucas Funkhouser.

So, that’s three winners and three free books. Lucas Funkhouser might say, “Hold on there, Slick, or you’ll be giving away more than you’re selling,” but keep checking back as I continue writing through the book because I really want to have another contest later.

Thanks for the entries!

Two-day bonus

With apologies to those who made the deadline and are awaiting a winner from Name That Character, I’m putting off judging until Thursday morning.

Good news to those of you kicking yourself for not getting in, I’m extending entries until 8 a.m. EDT Thursday and will have a winner posted here by noon.

So, get busy. Click here for the original info.

Name That Character is back

question mark_250x250_scaled_croppHere’s the post for which you’ve been waiting, the next Name That Character event.

Would you like to earn a free autographed copy of my next book? In each of the four previous, I’ve opened up a competition to name someone in the book and assign some characteristics and/or background story to that person.

Each has been an overwhelming success. If you’ve read these books, you’ll recognize Virgil “Moose” MacDuff, the lineman from “Hurricane”; Sandra “Sunny” DelSol, the dispatcher in “Penguin”; Gene Teller, the contractor from “Rose”; and Matt “Matty” Davis, the former pro baseball player turned sports store owner in “Sloth.” Read more of this post

Once upon a May day

TWC_logo_100x100For several months now, I’ve been tweeting each day a quick note on something that happened on that date in the past. Here is a compilation of May events. To keep up with them in real time, use the link in the right column to follow me, smartaindale, on Twitter.

May 1: In 1931, New York’s 102-story Empire State Building was dedicated.

May 2: In 1982, the Weather Channel made its debut.

May 3: In 1999, some 70 tornadoes roared across Oklahoma and Kansas, killing 46 people and injuring hundreds.

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Keep this between us

May I tell you something? It will only take a minute and I’m just dying to share it with someone.

I’m pinning some hopes on something special and … what? I’m not sure I want to say just yet. You’re right, that’s a bit cruel. Hmm, I’ll tell you what it is but not where it is. OK?

Last summer, while working at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, I got to know a wonderfully talented artist, Lane Kendrick. She opened my eyes to the possibilities of securing an artist residency. Yeah, writers are considered artists.

I finally did a bit of research this winter and found there are quite a few scattered around the world. Generally, each offers a place to stay from a week to six months free of rent. Some include food and some a stipend, but mostly they are opportunities to get away from it all and concentrate on writing.

OK, I promised to be quick. I’ve already been rejected by one program. It really didn’t interest me an awful lot and I knew it was quite competitive, so no big deal.

However, I filed my second application packet yesterday and this one is different. It is in an incredible location and lasts for one month this fall. Leah is allowed to accompany me (that was a requirement on my end) and we’ll be almost isolated. I’ve already worked up a promising angle for a JP Weiscarver story set in that location … something different but I think you and I will find it a rewarding tale.

While putting together my application, I made contact with someone within the sponsoring organization to clarify a couple of issues and we became engaged in a lovely email conversation, which excited Leah and me even more.

She didn’t come right out and say so, but my impression is they have not received a ton of applications. Part of the reason for that may be all of the warnings they listed. Not only will we be isolated much of the time, but there will be no telephone, TV or … shudder … online service for a month. Oh, yes, we need to carry in a month’s worth of food, but water and electricity are provided, though we have to learn how to maintain the solar generator and operate the reverse osmosis magic water maker.

Sound like fun? I’m supposed to hear back from them by early July. I’ll tell you all about it then. For now, keep your fingers crossed.

Some gave all

MemorialDay“It’s been a good day, Bubba. We started out with a ceremony honoring those who died while serving the country during wars both noble and ridiculous.”

That line comes from the first chapter of my latest book, “The Reporter and the Sloth,” which begins on Memorial Day. The lead character, JP Weiscarver, is talking to his pet ferret while watching for stars from the Oldport beach.

I wrote that on purpose, the part about some wars being noble and some ridiculous. War and conflict are much too prevalent among us humans. Sometimes, they prove necessary to combat a great evil. Sometimes, they are merely the result of greed and pride.

For those on the front line, however, the results are the same. Regardless of the motive for starting or entering a war, the effects will include dead, injured and psychologically damaged men and women.

On this special day, we in particular honor and remember those who answered the call, whether as a volunteer or a draftee, to serve their country with their very lives. Even in an ignoble war, we owe unreserved honor to those who paid the ultimate price.

May they all find a peaceful rest.

(The photo, by Stephen Smith, comes from the Arlington National Cemetery web site. It shows a Marine Corps bugler playing “Taps” during a funeral ceremony.)

Wait for it

As much as we may groan, something inside us takes pleasure in a bad joke.

Don’t confuse this with a dirty joke.

Boy 1: “Wanna hear a dirty joke?”

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Bladder not pleased with Virginia

Don’t take it personally, Commonwealth of Virginia, but my bladder wasn’t exactly pleased with our brief visit.

I’ve explained to my bladder that it shouldn’t apply its discontent to the totality of the state and certainly not to its inhabitants and I remain confident all will be forgiven and the bad memories will pass.

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Glance at Aprils past

Since early December, I’ve been tweeting each day a quick note on something that happened on that date in the past. Here is a compilation of April events. To keep up with them in real time, use the link in the right column to follow me, smartaindale, on Twitter.

April 1: In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed a measure banning cigarette advertising on radio and television, to take effect after Jan. 1, 1971.

April 2: In 1968, the science-fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, had its world premiere in Washington D.C.

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Take a chance

Take a Chance DayApril 23 is National Take a Chance Day, according to, where the notice urges:

“On this day, take a chance on your dreams and your goals. Mark Twain once said ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowline, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’”

The timing is particularly poignant for me as my wife and I are setting out today for our third summer living our dream.

It began in 2013 living and working in Yellowstone National Park. Following a fantastic experience there, the temptation was great to return there the next year, but our dream was to keep moving, exploring and discovering.

Last summer was spent in Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This summer, we’re shuffling things a bit, working in a theme park in upstate New York.

Many people – some old friends and a great number of tourists with whom we interact while on our adventures – have said something like, “I would love to do what you’re doing,” but we know most of us get too comfortable in the day-to-day to take a chance. And that’s not necessarily bad; it’s what many really want.

We talked for some time about our dream and whether we could or should pursue it. Then, in the fall of 2011, I had a tumor successfully removed from my bladder and we took that as a sign to move forward. We drastically downsized our lifestyle, my wife retired from teaching as soon as she was eligible and we took a step off the cliff.

If you have a yearning to try a new career, to change what you’re doing with your life, to travel, to … whatever … what better time to start working on it than National Take a Chance Day?

It doesn’t have to be put into effect today (though it could) but start planning. Set a deadline.

Be sure and let us know what you want to do.

Best wishes

Earth Day

Do cheaters win?

Does the name Jacqueline Gareau ring a bell?

What about Rosie Ruiz?

Their names are tied together in history, but I’m betting many more of you recognize the latter name. I know that’s true of me.

On this date in 1980, 35 years ago, Jacqueline Gareau won the Boston Marathon in record time, though that fact was not acknowledged for another week because Rosie Ruiz crossed the finish line first. While Ruiz still maintains she ran the entire race, officials determined she somehow left the course and sprinted back into competition near the finish line.

The point here, though, is not to argue the facts of the race but to question what we remember and why.

Gareau was awarded the win in record time. Ruiz was labeled a cheater, yet her name is arguably the better known today.

Am I right and, if so, what does that mean?

Then what happened?

We were dining in a Whataburger (a wonderful fast-food franchise popular in the south) the other day and my attention was drawn to a table of four old-timers … meaning they were even older than me.

One of the three guys was particularly loud and I eventually figured out why. He was talking on his cell phone.

Now, talking on a cell phone in a restaurant is one of those particularly unpopular things that people like to fuss about. To be honest, I have no problem with it if you can talk in a normal voice and, let’s face it, the fast-food environment is not the same as a high-end establishment.

This guy, however, was making a nuisance of himself and I finally saw why. He had the phone on speaker and had placed it on the table. His business was so important he wanted everyone to know what he was doing.

We hear of an aging person’s “second childhood,” that point in decreasing mental abilities where one behaves more like a child. The fellow at Whataburger caused us to wonder if maybe second childhood is preceded by second “teenhood” in the aging process.

You know how some teens just assume everyone wants to hear their music or an amazing story about what happened last night when so-and-so went out with so-and-so.

Have you made any observations of second teenhood?

Perhaps I should apply for a grant to study this theory.

Get your ‘Penguin’ while it’s hot


So, you want one of my paperbacks for a bargain. Yeah, personalized, autographed and mailed to you in the United States for a mere $7. Act now and we just might make it happen. Why? When I publish a new book, I order several for promotional use, etc. For a reason I no longer remember, I bought quite a few more of “The Reporter and the Penguin.”

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Explain this to me

Pinterest_Badge_RedWhat is it I’m missing about Pinterest?

Judging from all the excitement I hear from others, there’s something I’m not doing right.

So … hit up the comments box and educate me. And, if it helps, my Pinterest handle is smartaindale.


No more pets?

bison on roadI was invited, a couple of years ago, to meet with a book club to talk about my first book. I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t thinking it would be about my bio on the back of the book.

Near the end, it says, “He and his educator wife, Leah, have one daughter, a son-in-law, a grandson and absolutely no more pets.” The question was about the “absolutely no more pets” part.

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March in history

Since early December, I’ve been tweeting each day a quick note on something that happened on that date in the past. Here is a compilation of March events. To keep up with them in real time, use the link in the right column to follow me, smartaindale, on Twitter.

March 1: In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps.

March 2: In 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico.

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Stick ’em up

This is something I’ve seldom talked about, but I was mugged once.

I don’t want to overdramatize this because I was not hurt and lost the most minimal amount of money. More than anything, I was embarrassed.

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Leah on Roman stage in Cartagena 10-21-14See my wife in the photo? No? It was taken last fall at the ruins of a Roman stage in Cartagena, Spain. She’s right there center-stage, but I could barely see her and couldn’t hear a word. Such is the feeling I have right now.

First, a commercial message I will explain later: My latest book is available in paperback and Kindle. You can get either by first clicking here.

The explanation: Artists are notoriously bad at marketing. No secret there. So it’s no great surprise I made a serious tactical error when my latest book was released week before last.

This became clear in the past 24 hours as several people asked if the book “The Reporter and the Sloth” was available. See the problem? These are people who obviously wanted the book but had not heard it was out. Man, this shyness problem of mine is killing me.

Commercial break No. 2: Want to know a little more about the book? Click here.

Seriously, I sometimes have to remind myself the overriding purpose of this blog is to give exposure to my books. I mean, this is my retirement plan. Sure, I want to write about all kinds of things and I will, but the book message must come up occasionally. Bear with me.

Commercial break No. 3: This is my fourth book in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. Read more about each by clicking the “Steve’s Books” tab at the top. All are for sale through Amazon by clicking here. Also, your favorite book store should be able to order a paperback for you.

And tell your friends. You can see I need the help.

Howdy from 2031

I just received an email from myself. The date on it is Feb. 4, 2031, so it’s almost 16 years from now:

“Howdy, Me the Younger. This is Future You attempting to take advantage of a predicted anomaly in solar flares, sun spots and the position of Mars in relation to Jupiter. I don’t know, but supposedly I might be able to slip out an old-fashioned email so it is delivered to me … uh, you … approximately 15 years earlier.

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I don’t need anything

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????Growing up, we often heard from grandparents that they “don’t need anything,” making it difficult to shop for them and causing us to think they’re just saying that for some reason.

And then, with a little luck, we get to the point where our actual needs are well enough satisfied. Sure, the house isn’t made for a movie star and the vehicle doesn’t turn heads. Our clothing purchases are based more on comfort than style. One day, however, we realize we really don’t need anything.

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Psst, it’s here

In case you missed it, my new book is out.

For a little tease and links to paperback and Kindle copies, check out this page inside.

Live and learn

snake in water“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

I came across these words from Amelia Earhart this morning. While I agree, there’s one other path worth mentioning.

Many and many a year ago, I was working at a very small newspaper, The Brenham Banner-Press in Central Texas, and picked up a lesson I’ve often applied in life. At that time, not many newspapers printed what was called process color, where color images are separated into cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). It involves running the sheet of paper through four different presses, each applying one of the colors.

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Take a hike

Prior to the release of “The Reporter and the Sloth,” we had a little fun on JP Weiscarver’s Facebook page (which is one reason you should like his page … you’ll find a link in the right column). Since the bulk of the book takes place on a hiking trail, JP invited readers to share a hiking photo, or at least an outdoor photo. There were no other rules, but I said I would award a free book to whoever “moved me” the most with his or her photo. So, the winner is:

RussellandScarlet Raborn - Hawksbill Crag, Ponca, ArkansasThis was submitted by RussellandScarlet Raborn, taken at Hawksbill Crag near Ponca, Arkansas. Why did this move me? It is the essence of hiking. Hitting the trail gives one an opportunity to get places nobody else can. The bonus is when it’s also an amazing view. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Other entries included:

Naomi Zweben Hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey             Jennifer Green Embt‎ - Snoozing sea lions, Auke Bay, Alaska  Kimberly Condie one of Wyoming - a great view from a mountain we climbed last summer. Read more of this post

Springing and falling

We’ve had a few days to adjust to daylight-saving time, so do you feel better about it? To be honest, because of my weird sleeping habits, it never affects me.

While I have no problem adjusting to clock changes, I find them absurd in this day and age. But I wouldn’t stop at eliminating time changes; I wish to do away with time zones altogether.

Their origin made sense, but with today’s worldwide connectivity, they are a hassle. Set the whole world on one time (and on a 24-hour clock since a.m. and p.m. would no longer fit most places) and let us get used to that change one time and not have to rock our worlds twice a year.

Then, if you tell Grandma you’ll call her at 18:00 while you’re on vacation, neither of you have convert time zones. Same applies to online business meetings and airplane schedules.

And it gives us two fewer things to complain about every year.

‘A little help?’

NOTE: This event has already happened, so don’t bother trying to sign up. We made our goal, however; thanks to all who helped.

“A little help?” Make sure you read it with the question mark. What it immediately brings to mind for me is warming up on a baseball or softball field and an errant throw gets past a player who calls out to another player near the ball: “A little help?”

That is, “Please throw the ball back to me.”

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