Book Report: Hard Start: Mars Intrigue by S.V. Farnsworth (2021)

Book coverThis is the best Mormons In Space Love Story I’ve ever read!

Well, that’s a twee oversimplification of this book, but twee oversimplifications are a blogger’s stock in trade.

This book centers on a Martian secret agent, Cody Greene, who is on death row for not getting married by a certain age. He’s rescued by a beautiful engineer who herself was reaching the mandatory marriage age. But, as a twist, he is to investigate her for resource theft–specifically air stolen from one of the domes making up the different colonies on the planet. They’re married at first sight, and they find themselves attracted to one another, which gives the book the majority of its motion–will they give into their desires/love for each other, or will the secret agent continue to keep his new wife at arm’s length to investigate her? Also, Cody’s mother, from whom he is estranged, is a powerful politician/government official who might be pulling strings and manipulating him. Oh, and the new Mrs. Greene is a blonde, blue-eyed beauty, but she is half Korean and was raised in the Asian colony, so she tries very hard to look Korean and has a Korean mindset–spartan domicile, Korean cooking and dining, and so on.

So the book has a lot of interesting plot things going on, but it’s definitely weighted to the romance angle, which culminates rather disappointingly. The actual intrigue, presumably who is actually stealing the resources and who is pulling the strings behind the scenes, is kind of on the back burner to the “Do I give into my attraction?” and “I was about to give in, but now my suspicions are reset!” dithering. We get a couple of incidents and little to tie them together, and the book’s climax is more of a cliffhanger to the yet-unavailable second book in the series.

So it was a quick, light read, and for the most part, it worked, but a bit long on the dithering in the romance. Hopefully, the next book in the series will be better balanced in that regard–after all, the will they/won’t they Dave-and-Maddie tension (c’mon, you damn kids, that’s an allusion to Moonlighting, which was a television series in the 1980s) was resolved, so that dithering can’t be reproduced. And I’m looking forward to seeing how Farnsworth works in the other genres (fantasy and straight ahead romance).

If I can find the books; they’ve disappeared into the stacks, only to be rediscovered decades hence.

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Wherein Brian J. Gets Confused by the Smooth Jazz

Ya know, when I hear Bona Fide’s “Coupe de Ville” come on WSIE, I think, “Ah, that’s ‘Minneapolis, 1987’.”

Here’s Bona Fide:

Here’s Brian Bromberg doing “Minneapolis, 1987”:

I guess Bona Fide is sampling Brian Bromberg.

Which is weird, because Brian Bromberg has a song called “Coupe de Ville” on Thicker than Water, the same album as “Minneapolis, 1987”:

Is Bona Fide mashing up the two Bromberg songs/riffing off of “Coupe de Ville” with the sample from “Minneapolis, 1987”? I don’t know.

But in researching this post and listening to the two songs, I’m pleased to learn I’m not crazy or that musically challenged. It’s not like when I confuse two singers who sound nothing alike.

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Book Report: Within This Center by Robert C. Jones (1976)

Book coverI read this book over a week ago, before my vacation, and just a little after Thin Ice and Other Poems. This, too, is a chapbook, with poems on the right page and photos by the author on the left.

Unfortunately, the printing quality does not do justice to the photographs. The poems are, however, a cut above Thin Ice and Other Poems, with some imagery and fairly clear points–mostly about the cycle of life, with a lot of thematic influence on plants growing and dying and a lot of reliance on colors, especially yellows and greens. But the poems at least have imagery and try to evoke things, although again, I would say the lines are too short, broken too often by line breaks for ponderous pauses.

Of course, I find myself writing fairly run on poetic lines these days, so I can’t really complain too much about the line length. No, wait: This is my blog. I will complain all I want.

So overall middle of the road; average. Which is not something to sneeze at in poetry, given all the bad poetry I read.

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Soon, We Will Not Think The Modern World Is Creepy

On May 28, I posted The Jazzy Pajamas of Nogglestead and mentioned KHTR, which was Top 40 radio in St. Louis until it switched over to oldies one night. I mean, we went to bed listening to the radio on Sunday, and on Monday morning we awakened to oldies. I thought it was a gag or something on the morning show. Oh, but no. I am pretty sure that the oldies station is gone–I see on an Internet search that it’s now like all the other radio stations that play 70s, 80s, 90s, and now–omitting, apparently, 20 years of crap, although today’s music is tomorrow’s crap.

But Facebook showed me a photo from a group or page it thinks I might be interested in, and it’s the KHTR top hits report, presumably printed in the Post-Dispatch, although the Globe-Democrat was still wheezing along in 1984:

I can actually still recollect most of those songs. The ones I do not remember are:

  • “Love Somebody” by Rick Springfield
  • “Tonight” by Kool and the Gang
  • “Breakdance” by Irene Cara
  • “A Fine Fine Day” by Tony Carey
  • “Illegal Alien” by Genesis
  • “Show Me” by the Pretenders

Of course, if I heard them, I might remember them. It helps that the local 70s, 80s, 90s, and now stations are replaying the hit countdown programs from the 1980s. No fooling; although I did not hear Casey Kasem within the last week (the Springfield station shifted American Top 40 to Sunday evenings instead of Sundays returning from church time), we did hear both Shadoe Stevens and Rick Dees replayed at different times on our trip to and from Wisconsin.

The list includes, what, four songs from the Footloose soundtrack (yes).

Also, Tracey Ullman would later be known as the comedy sketch show where the Simpsons first appeared. And then forgotten.

Holy cats, Generation X is really the last gasp for radio, ainna?

At any rate,

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Good Book Hunting, Thursday, June 16, 2022: The Village Booksmith, Baraboo, Wisconsin

As I mentioned, I just completed a week-long trip to Wisconsin, featuring the normal pass through the Milwaukee area to visit my father’s grave and see my grandmother, and then onto the Dells. During one of our days at the Dells, we travelled to Baraboo, Wisconsin, and I was pleased to find that the Village Booksmith is still in business (remember, gentle reader, I visited the book store five years ago on our last trip to Wisconsin.

Well, I bought some things.

So, what did I get?

  • Superkill, the third paperback based on the I Spy television series. You know, I am pretty sure that I have not seen a complete episode; I don’t know why this was not heavily in syndication when I was young, but it was not.
  • We Are Staying by a different Jen Rubin than the blogger. It’s about an electronics store in New York City over the years. I’m not sure why this was selling new at a store in Baraboo. No, wait, scratch that: the author lives in Madison, prolly at the university.
  • Some Freaks by David Mamet, a memoir of sorts.
  • Why We Watch: Killing the Gilligan Within by a teletherapist named Dr. Will Miller. Purportedly about watching television to improve your mental health.
  • Doc Savage: Red Snow and Death Had Yellow Eyes by Kenneth Robeson, two Doc Savage tales reprinted in one large (tall and wide) volume with some end material about Doc Savage and the author.
  • Famous Fantastic Mysteries from June 1953 with Ayn Rand’s Anthem as the cover story. It is listed on Ebay at $165; I paid $35.

Additionally, we have one book in dispute: Charlie Berens’ The Midwest Survival Guide. My oldest, who already talked me into buying him Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World spotted this book after I’d passed by twices. But when he asked me if I would buy it for him, I said I’d buy it for me and he could read it. So where the book ends up remains to be seen.

I did not delve into any of the books yet, and to be honest, looking back at what I bought five years ago, I really have only read Thundering Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh from what I bought then. Well, gentle reader, you know how I operate: Books I buy go in the stacks, exhumed decades later when I’m suddenly in the mood for a book or I’m suddenly reading a bunch of books about a topic, and of course I have another book about it that I bought way back in 2022.

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Again With The Punching Incorrectness

Ace posted this meme last week:

It’s a simple four punch set, but.

  1. Jab.
  2. Cross.
  3. Rear uppercut.
  4. Front hook.

A proper sequence, especially for training, would be jab-cross-front hook-uppercut. You want strikes to alternate sides so you can twist your hips. In a sparring situation, you might want to go same side consecutively to maybe catch your opponent off guard, but for training purposes, alternate sides.

Oh, look who thinks he’s a punchin’ expert now. I am just back from Wisconsin, gentle reader, so you should read that line in Frances McDormand’s voice and Fargo accent because that’s a little like what I sound when talking right now.

At any rate, I have seen the image without text on Pinterest where it’s explanations of individual punches, not a punch combination. Apparently, someone who does not know any martial art, including boxing, replaced the text with something amusing but that implies a sequence. Still. It’s wrong as a combo. But I guess the person who made the meme, should he (c’mon, man, it’s punching humor, so it’s a he) be able to write complete sentences (or maybe not in 2022), he is primed for men’s adventure fiction, where rudimentary understanding of anatomy, guns and light arms, physics, and martial arts is not only tolerated, but rewarded!

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Return of a Classic

For the first time in a while, I encountered the adjective bourgeois. Five times.

Once in one book introduction (The Second Treatise of Government by John Locke). The introduction was actually a Marxist/socialist critique of the treatise, not just a straight summary, as proven (that it was a critique instead of an introduction; the arguments in the critique remain unproven) by the magic word of the early 1990s.

Later, I was reading an old (2014) issue of First Things that had been tucked away in the drawer where magazines go to await my estate sale (or perhaps the infrequent magazine purges), and I encountered the word in one article once and another article three times.

Wow, that word brings me back. Back when I was at the university, this was the young student’s arch criticism of everything normal.

I guess it got supplanted by racist and misogynist (which I was called even then) because too many students attending private universities either recognized things they had and liked as members of the bourgeoisie, or they recognized that they wanted the things the bourgeoisie had to offer.

With immutable attributes like race and gender (well, mostly immutable barring major medical procedures), the new words lack the target that many would aspire to (again, barring some like Ward Churchill, Rachel Dolezal, and Shaun King). Which might explain why bourgeois has fallen out of favor.

Also, in this day and age, circumstances and the elites seem to be pressuring the bourgeoisie into collapse, so maybe bourgeois is a word not really due a resurgence.

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Book Report: Thin Ice and Other Poems by Marcia Muth (1981)

Book coverI bought this book in April at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. In the past, they have bundled chapbooks up five or ten for a buck; however, this year, they did not, so I paid a whole dollar for this book. I picked it up last week when I was not falling asleep quickly enough, and I thought a quick chapbook might take my mind of the troubles my mind invents at eleven o’clock.

So, this book has a copyright date of 1981 but a signature block from 1986, which meant that she was peddling these at least five years after publishing them. The back notes that she has also published another collection of poetry, a book on painting and selling art (specifically kachinas, the native spirit beings in Pueblo cultures), and a book on how to write and sell poetry, fiction, plays, and local history. So she was a pro and no grandma writing poetry, although she might have been a grandmother (although none of the poems really mentions children).

But, about the poetry: Meh. I mean, it’s got some of that look at the poem feel that dominates so much modern art. Self-consciousness that says, this, the poem, is what is meaningful–not that the poem, or the art, wants to draw attention to some meaning beyond itself.

Perhaps I am being to unkind, perhaps I am trying to fit my criticism into my standard template, but nothing here really captures my interest, makes me want to read it out loud, makes me want to read it again, or really makes me feel like I relate to the poem. The title poem is:

I ask questions.
You smile
Shake your head.
“Thin ice,” you say
Silence rests
A wall between us.

That’s it. Most of the poems fall within those line lengths, although some are a couple of lines longer. Some of them have repeating motifs, such as the Gypsy king or referring to the kiva, but mostly they read like the work of someone who felt compelled to write poems every day because one is a poet. Although, to be honest, reading through the complete works of any poet like Keats, Shelley, or maybe even Frost (probably not), one gets a lot of clunkers.

At any rate, I did come away with a couple of new words (kiva, a sacred place for Pueblo Indian rituals, and kachina, a Pueblo Indian spirit–the author does live in New Mexico, you must know, and if you don’t you might miss some of the references). But overall, not impressed.

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Welcome to the Urban Party

Neo discovers the expansive definition of ‘urban’ to government bean counters:

I recently came acro<.ss a statistic indicating that “In 2020, about 82.66 percent of the total population in the United States lived in cities and urban areas.” That rather astounded me. But what I didn’t know (and what a commenter – sorry, I forget who it was) pointed out was that the statistic is based on a definition of “urban” that counts any town with a population over 2,500.

As you might remember, gentle reader, I discovered this definition ten years ago, after the 2010 census, and presented a series for my defunct Missouri Insight blog that I imported here on gritty urban clusters of southwest Missouri:

Ah, in those days, I ferried my young boys around for small, one-hour road trips to see little towns and, briefly, to talk about them on the blog I started after leaving the group blog 24th State. It got little traffic, though, so I got away from it a bit. But I’ve made up for it, I suppose, by taking all the small town newspapers I do (about 11 at last count).

At any rate, Neo concludes:

How many people are aware of these definitions? I certainly wasn’t. And how do they affect our perception of statistics and their meaning? When we read that America is so overwhelmingly urban, it conjures up one sort of country. If the cutoff for “urban” was at a higher number, it would change the statistics and bring to mind a different sort of country.

As I said in 2012:

So why does the Census Bureau want you to think that these are urban areas?

Because government leaders favor urban solutions.

Consider how much money is spent at the state and federal level on mass transit, particularly light rail trains or what have you. Mass transit makes sense in a densely populated urban area, like a real city, but makes no sense for Republic. How many train stops or bus stops are you going to put to serve the widely scattered population?

Consider fuel economy mandates, the drive for smaller automobiles, and higher fuel prices. A small electric car might make sense when you only put 5,000 miles a year on a car in short trips through a city. But out in the country, your electric car might not make it to the next town.

Consider the Missouri Department of Transportation, who spends millions of dollars on dynamic message signs for urban areas. The Springfield signs spend about 362 days a year displaying MODoT public service announcements. I’ve only seen three other messages on them in the time they’ve been up. One day when it was snowing, the signs announced a weather advisory. Once, I saw a test message. But just this week I did see a message about an auto accident. This same department of transportation also spends millions of state dollars and millions of Federal dollars on sound walls to benefit urban residents who bought near a highway. But when it comes to maintaining actual, you know, roads in rural areas, say hello to tolls.

If you live in southwest Missouri, you’re used to being battered and bullied by statewide ballot initiative wherein the residents of St. Louis and Kansas City dictate, based on their consciences, the livelihoods of residents throughout the state (the recent furor over 2010’s Proposition B comes to mind, as does this musing of a now-retired Indiana farmer). Actual urbanites take vote their simple hearts according to their personal urban experience without knowing, or mostly even caring, what impact it has on the people out in the country.

Now that the Federal Government has declared that we’re all city-dwellers now, these urban solutions can be applied even more lavishly. Of course, the fiscal outlays will continue to go to the actual cities, where the votes are, but the government officials who tell themselves that they want to do what’s best will govern conscience-free, knowing that their pet urbanism applies to everyone.

Further thought: Did this small series inspire Lileks’s current weekly feature on small town downtowns? Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? But, no.

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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour, War College Edition

From this date in 2010:

Brian J. Noggle wargamed, using MegaBloks, Happy Meal toys, and various wheeled toys, a regional conflict in the Middle East that erupted when Israel stopped an “aid convoy” including Iranian naval vessels. It wasn’t going too bad for Israel until Russia, depicted by a talking Shrek riding on a cast iron tractor, offered direct military aid to Iran to further encircle Afghanistan with its military forces.

I am pretty sure I still have all the action figures and Happy Meal toys, but not the MegaBloks, in unsorted boxes in the garage. I should get them out and get to my predicting, as I could probably do no worse than the powers that pretend in Washington, D.C.

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Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)

Book coverI bought this book last summer on a trip back to the St. Louis area. As I mentioned then, Mr. Corrigan as the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, published at least one of my letters to the editor. So full disclosure on that, not that I pull punches on people who’ve published me (of whom there are very few) or people I meet in person (sorry, again, S.V.).

The subtitle of this book is “The Rodents That Conquered Popular Culture”. So when I started reading it right away during our vacation in De Soto, but I got fifty or so pages in and bogged down. I had expected a light-hearted look at squirrels, but instead, it looked like it was really turning into a serious study of squirrels. So it languished on my chairside table for a year until I decided to clear the table of some books that had been on the table for several years untouched (rest assured, gentle reader, I did leave some books on the table that had been there for several years untouched–I do have stretch goals of reading them sometime in the next couple of years). In the winnowed stack, this book remained, so I picked it up again, starting not from the bookmark but from the beginning.

And on this second pass through, it occurred to me that this is not about squirrels per se; this is a book about how squirrels are portrayed in different media, with each medium having a different take on squirrels, whether they’re cute or a menace, based on the type of thing that sells in that media. So wait a minute–Corrigan is a professor of media at Webster University–is it possible that this is a book about media and is only using squirrels as an example? I felt kind of clever catching on, whether I caught onto the real purpose of the book or not, and it helped me power through.

Although by the end, I wondered if that was really the point. Or if perhaps the author lost the point. Or padded it out with more squirrel stuff.

The early parts of the book:

  • Preface: Mass-Mediated Squirrels, an introduction.
  • Introduction: “Hot” and “Cool” Squirrels, which talks about the types of media (print versus electronic) and whether they favor stories about danger and menace or cool and funny.
  • Squirrels in Children’s Books, which talks about
  • Squirrels Make the Headlines, which talks about newspaper stories where squirrels are portrayed as a menace to homeowners, the electrical grid, and cars.
  • Squirrels for a Television Age, which talks about squirrels on television, especially local news and short segments on national programs where squirrels water ski or are dressed up–amusing and cool.
  • Squirrels in PR and Advertising and also as town mascots–also cool.
  • Movie Madness: Squirrels in Cinema about squirrels in movies, mostly in comedies.
  • Cartoons and Animated Movie Squirrels which deals with cartoon squirrels (not Rocky; he was cool on television).
  • Comics and Video Game Squirrels, especially Squirrel Girl who apparently became an Avenger after I started paying attention.
  • Legendary American Squirrels about squirrels
  • Squirrels in Myth and Folklore, mostly the Norse squirrel who was like a four-footed Loki.
  • Postscript: Squirrels Unlimited which promotes further study of squirrels in media.

So you can see the progression of sorts of squirrels in different media in kind of a historical context of the march of media, but then we get chapters about legendary squirrels, which makes one wonder if it is supposed to be a book on squirrels, and not on the media using the metaphor of squirrels, after all.

At any rate, the illusion or miscomprehension got me through the book. It could have used some editing–some bits are repeated almost verbatim within the same chapter, as though the book might have been different articles with similar material that got stitched together without removing the material repeated in the different source essays.

So kind of an academic book, but I’m not sure which direction its academic study is.

I have some flags in the book; let’s see what struck me as I was reading.

Continue reading “Book Report: Nuts About Squirrels by Don H. Corrigan (2019)”

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Book Report: Tucked Away in a Discarded Scrapbook by S.V. Farnsworth (2022)

Book coverI got this book at S.V. Farnsworth’s book signing at ABC Books in April. As I predicted, I picked this book up first as it’s a collection of short pieces and poems.

The subtitle is “Creative Nonfiction with Poetry”, but the creative nonfiction pieces do not rise to the level of full essays. Instead, they’re more like diary entries and/or writing exercises, some poetic musings on incidents or elements of her life, but not necessarily things abstracted enough to draw the reader in so that the reader says, “Oh, yeah, me, too.”

For example, we get glimpses and allusions to abusive men her mother dated, and we get glimpses of the author’s younger years, whether getting ready to go to engineering school or serving as a missionary in Korea or ending up at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, where the author lives now. But it’s not a autobiographical enough to tell those stories completely, and some of the gaps and questions a reader has–what happened to the engineering track? What was it like in South Korea? are not covered.

The poems, too, were a bit underwhelming, with a nice bit here or there, but nothing that really grabbed me or made me want to read it aloud and feel it in my mouth.

I’m still hopeful that the fiction, of which I have a bunch, will read a little better. Certainly, the prose is not bad, but it really doesn’t get a running start to anywhere. Hopefully, the longer form work will be better.

Sorry, S.V.; however, I totally invite you to pick any of my work and savage it in any medium you favor.

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Book Report: Point Position The Executioner #304 (2004)

Book coverGentle reader, this is the last of the Executioner books on my shelf. Alright, alright, alright: I do still have SuperBolan books, Able Team Books, Stony Man Farm Books, and Phoenix Force books. Still: I got my first Executioner novel in 2007 and read it, Panic in Philly, later that year. I got the books in big chunks: 47 books in the 2011 as a birthday present from my beautiful wife and at the Friends of the Clever Library book sale in 2013. I have not counted, but I have probably read nearly 100 of them from #3 Battle Mask from 1970 to #373 Code of Honor from 2009, which I bought new in the grocery store (and, briefly, was caught up on my Executioner novels until I received the birthday gift that week). So, overall, it’s been a mostly enjoyable experience. But onto this book.

This book comes seven years and 83 books after the previous book on my shelf (Blood and Fire). The books are still 220 pages, but unlike the two previous, the title has no real relevance on the plot or action. Bolan is on the trail of some chemical weapons, and he has to team up with two mercenaries who are out to find and retrieve an even more frightening weapon–a sonic weapon that can immobilize people within its radius and make them forget years of their lives. A couple of set pieces later, and Bolan triumphs, of course.

I flagged a couple of things:

A jab took the man in the chest, the power of Bolan’s forearm and biceps muscles driving his adversary backwards.

C’mon, man, the biceps muscles handle moving things towards the body, not extending the arms. That’s the triceps job. And much of your punches, including jabs, should come from twisting your hips, not just using the arms.

Well, okay, I flagged one thing. But it’s interesting to note that in 2004, the terrorists are all right-wing groups even in Executioner novels. No more Marxists or Communists. Which probably makes this a good place to stop with the Executioner novels. If even the Executioner books start trending toward the political, I might not ever read another piece of fiction from the 21st century. Which is probably not true, but still.

At any rate, the jump ahead seven years from Blood and Fire to 2004 saw great changes in my life. In the interim, I had gotten married and gotten started in a career in technology–and I’d even made my mostly final move to quality assurance from technical writing. In a couple of months, I would start my own company to bill as a consultant, something I’ve done for the most part since. And in short order, my aunt would pass away, leading me and my beautiful wife to consider having a family, which, clearly, we have (and we’re almost done with these days). Of course, I’ll be going back to other series in the Bolanverse, so I’ll still get to relive the time in my life where I was when the book was fresh. I don’t do this with normal books, but with the Bolan books, I have. Probably due to the monthly subscription nature of the series.

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Could Have Been Me

Steve Pokin: Faced with horrifying scene, jury shows resilience in murder trial:

On Wednesday morning, it was the civic duty of the 12 women and two men in the jury box to look closely at photos of the body of Barbara Foster, who was run over and killed on Nov. 20, 2018.

(Fourteen are in the box because only the judge knows who the two alternates are.)

Deiter Duff, the Greene County medical examiner, calmly used words to describe the pictures, which revealed far more than could ever be said in even a 1,000 grisly words.

. . . .

Years ago, when I was a reporter in Southern California, I wrote a story that had the headline: The Jurors’ Trial.

I went back in old court records and found the names of jurors who had served in three or four of the most grisly and/or disturbing murder trials in our coverage area over the past 25 years.

One of the murder victims was a little girl who was assaulted and then strangled with the shoe laces from her tennis shoes. That’s how she was found. That’s the photo the jurors saw.

I wanted to know: Did they still remember the details of the trial? Ten years later? Twenty years later? Would they remember it for the rest of their lives?

Unanimously, of course, they did remember.

They remembered the photos. And the nights they couldn’t sleep because of those photos.

They remembered how random violence and depravity can be.

I was summoned for jury duty this week, but I was excused because I had to make two round trips to Rolla (at $70 gas per) to deposit and withdraw my son from a robotics camp at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

Which is just as well. I don’t know how impartial I could be as a jurist listening to experts saying that cough syrup made her do it.

I get the sense I would do better on civil trials.

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