New game in town: Seattle Double-Tap Bocce anyone?

That need to fix

Five player Seattle Double-Tap Bocce.

Wintertime Seattle Double-Tap bocce on WPLBC’s new synthetic turf bocce courts. Action and movement is not in short supply with 5 players and 20 balls on the court.

Some of us who love to play board, card, and lawn games have an innate need to improve existing games. When required, we sometimes even bang out a new game from an old one. Well, maybe “required” is too strong an adjective. But sometimes a game just cries out for a bit of doctoring. So we try to inject it with more action, strategy, or complexity vitamins. Just such a call came to me while playing bocce recently at the club I belong to, the Woodland Park Lawn Bowling Club (wplbc.org) in Seattle. Continue reading

40 years on—Vietnam and my enemy encounter

Return to Vietnam – Part III My wife and I had just visited Tay Ninh City, where we separated from the tour group at the Cao Dai Temple and took a taxi to what we American troops knew as the Black Virgin … Continue reading

Return to Vietnam—what I found

Return to Vietnam – Part II Although Vietnam is still a relatively poor country, Southern Vietnam has clearly prospered since the war when the only real economic engine was Uncle Sam’s aid and GI payday. Ho Chi Minh City, which … Continue reading

Vietnam 40 years on—my return

Return to Vietnam – Part I World War II is still very much alive in our media and our consciousness, as I’ve noted in recent blog posts. But one of that war’s offspring, the Vietnam War, hasn’t gone away either. … Continue reading

The fall and rise of Vietnam vets

Me and buddies, Christmas 1970, somewhere near Cu Chi, Vietnam

Vietnam revisited Who alive in America today hasn’t heard of the Vietnam War or doesn’t know a family it has touched? This conflict dragged on for years and ultimately became very unpopular. Late in the war, returning soldiers like myself … Continue reading

Refugee Crisis—The Worst Ever?

The tragic refugee problem makes headlines every day. Dramatic photo and video scenes repeatedly show us a mass of impoverished humanity on the move. In many of us fortunate enough to have a permanent home in which we’re viewing or … Continue reading

Oswald and Oskar—they survived where many didn’t

Oskar and Erich at Tomaselli Cafe in Salzburg, June 2015

In The Secret She Carried, an account of two German soldiers meshes with my mother’s story. Oswald Lustig and Oskar Halusa were my Uncle Eduard Hajek’s closest school friends and still teens when they first saw combat. Somehow, both came … Continue reading

The Death Valley Chuckwalla: They don’t write ‘em like this anymore! Or do they?

Recently, during my annual camping trip to Death Valley National Park, I found the following description hanging amidst the clutter of photos and other historical items on the wall of the Borax Museum at the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort. “The … Continue reading

Those pesky World Wars—they just won’t go away: continued

The World War I veterans are gone now, but the lingering effects and presence of that war are still remembered and felt today. The observance of the hundredth anniversary of the event that sparked the war—the assassination of the Austrian … Continue reading

Those pesky World Wars—they just won’t go away

In one sense we want to forget the world wars, and in another, we want to remember. Whether it’s books, TV, radio, movies, politics, museums, games, school, road signs, national holidays, or the news, the reminders are everywhere and unending. … Continue reading

83,936 Bags of Trash…A Little Litter Story

By Erich Eipert This story has a dejecting part as well as something heroic and uplifting. Let’s get the cheerless part out of the way first. Litter on roads I don’t think about litter much until I’m on foot and … Continue reading

Just another day in North Korea—execution of singers by machine gun

Hyon Song-wol

Tired of North Korea and its sicko leader Kim Jong-un yet? One more post and then I’ll stop. This headline grabber is too barbaric to pass up—a report that Kim Jong-un machine-gunned his ex-lover and 11 other singers and performers … Continue reading

North Korea—where the threats keep on coming

Last year I reviewed a book about North Korea (Escape from Camp 14) in a commentary titled Justice would demand they be sentenced to dig up frozen human waste with their bare hands. The book is about the political prisoner … Continue reading

This gives a whole new meaning to the expression “You’re full of s***”

scanning electron micrograph of Giardia

When I saw the recent news story in the June 7 issue of The Week about a swimming pool study done in Atlanta by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I read it with interest because I’ve often wondered … Continue reading

Heroes Shooting Blanks Pt. 2: Is there any location Hollywood hasn’t discovered?

I’m beginning to think the answer to the question posed in my title is “no.” At least in the West within a thousand miles of LA. After leaving Movie Flats in the Alabama Hills, the lovely but surreal setting of … Continue reading

Heroes Shooting Blanks

I just spent a couple of days camping in and hiking through hero country. No, it wasn’t a battlefield. And yet it was. If that sounds contradictory, it should become clear shortly. It is a princely place if you’re drawn … Continue reading

Cherries—a Vietnam experience and a half

Authors writing from personal experience about combat know that conveying their experience is ultimately an impossible task. The chasm between those who lived the trauma in a place like Vietnam, or some other version of Vietnam in another war, and … Continue reading

Justice would demand they be sentenced to dig up frozen human waste with their bare hands

Saying we face many political and economic problems in America—problems that appear overwhelming—seems like an understatement. But then along comes a book that puts things in perspective and reminds us how good we really have it when compared to people … Continue reading

What do tools and my novel—Guy Going Under—have to do with each other, you might ask

Our unmatched ability to conceive, make, and use tools is something that sets Homo sapiens apart from all other species. The use of tools is easy enough to picture in factories, repair shops, kitchens, and home workbenches, for the primary … Continue reading

Guy Going Under—a hero who “kind of likes just doin’ nothing”

I recently spent three weeks camping in Death Valley National Park. There, when not hiking canyons, I basked in the pleasant—well, hot—temperatures and eased into a languid “I kind of like just doin’ nothing, it’s something that I do” sort … Continue reading

Wall Drug Heroes: Historical Western Photos

Wall Drug I’m on a vacation driving trip so I’ll keep this short. As I write, the driving happens to be across South Dakota, a state that is a mecca for highway billboards. You know—the tourist-trap type informing you of … Continue reading

Hero today, gone tomorrow? Richard Rowland Kirkland, Angel of Marye’s Heights

Fredericksburg, Virginia I have some ready excuses for not posting in weeks. One is that I’ve been busy trying to finish “Guy Going Under,” my cave adventure/mystery novel. I have to say heroic effort was required at times for me … Continue reading

Competition goalball–no sissies here!

Sports is not a topic I ever expected to touch when writing about heroes. After all, every daily newspaper already has an entire section dedicated to the topic. The unique sport I want to talk about is seldom, if ever, … Continue reading

Breaking Stalin’s Nose: a novel of a young boy and the lies of Stalin-era Communism

Sasha Zaichik is the protagonist in this short novel, Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha is less a hero than an innocent victim, for what else can you call a ten-year old who’s been brought up with nothing but … Continue reading

The Vietnam War—still alive in YA fiction. Part II. I Pledge Allegiance: Vietnam #1

I Pledge Allegiance: Vietnam #1, by Chris Lynch, as you might expect in a series, builds the background for what follows—the experiences of four friends: Morris, Ivan, Rudi, and Beck. This first book depicts the perspective of Morris. The setting … Continue reading

The Vietnam War—still alive in YA fiction. Part I. Everybody Sees the Ants

The Vietnam Conflict ended nearly forty years ago, yet it still touches our lives. Two recent young adult (YA) books are prime examples. One, with a contemporary setting (Everybody Sees the Ants) depicts how lives are still affected by what … Continue reading

A little context: historic bridges of Iowa and some Iowana photos too

Sorry. No heroes in this post, just a little more historical context to round out the Kate Shelley story. And I found some of it right in my own hometown. Historic Iowa bridges are a side interest related to my … Continue reading

Kate Shelley: train rescuer Part II—and a railroad trestle in my past

Kate Shelley: train rescuer Part II For those who took an interest in the story of Kate Shelley, I’d like to share a few more interesting tidbits. According to the accounts I’ve read, after the death of her husband and … Continue reading