Friday, August 31, 2012


For those who may not know me, I’m basically a conservative guy. After a short stint as a liberal (thank you, Rutgers University), I returned to the fold in the early 90s and have remained there ever since. I’m not a rabid Republican, though, and I believe wholeheartedly the perception as the Republicans as the Stupid Party and the Democrats as the Evil Party.

Why Evil Party? A couple of reasons. Their die-hard adherence to abortion. Their increasingly anti-religious stance. Their increasingly big-government stance. The whole gay “marriage” thing. Because of these planks in their platform, I will never throw a lever for a Democrat. Don’t “hate” ’em, just think their beliefs are wrong for this country.

However, this is not a blanket endorsement of the Republican opponent. Back about a decade ago or so, the Republican candidate for Senator in my state came out pro-abortion. I did not vote for either man of either party for Senate that election, but voted the most conservative candidate on the other races that day.

I was thinking something similar in this presidential election. I was somewhat swayed by this argument: Your vote does not count. It really doesn’t, when you think analytically about it. If any election were to come down to one vote (which it never, ever will; elections are decided by thousands and tens of thousands up to millions of votes en masse), the lawyers would swoop in and the dogpile for the fumbled football would commence. Your vote means nothing.

Except – to your soul.

There have been arguments – some almost convincing to me but not quite – that a vote for Romney is no different than a vote for Obama. That both parties are the Parties of Oligarchy. I mean, Obama practically continued the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. And I’ve heard it argued that Romney only gives lip service to the Pro-Life crowd.

But then there’s the concept of proportionality. Sometimes it’s okay to partake in a small evil to avoid a great evil. Steal a crust of bread to feed your family sort of thing. Lie to save a Jewish family from the Gestapo. That sorta thing. In the case of Romney and Obama, better to vote for the guy that doesn’t care about you (as a believing Christian, for example) than for one who actively hates you (as in Obama forcing the whole Catholics-pay-for-the-birth-control-of-others fiasco). The question is, is the evil small enough (or even negligent in your heart of hearts) to pull that lever?

For me, I think it is.


Because I do believe that this country is in great danger, dire danger, of a fiscal nature. You know, the whole crushing debt thing. The present course is unsustainable. If things do not change, I believe me and my family might live something like a 21st century Grapes of Wrath kind of existence. Possibly my children’s children, too. The present course is unsustainable, and Obama has no clue what to do to avoid this fiscal catastrophe except proceed full steam ahead.

I watched the speeches at the Republican convention this past week. Haley, Davis, Christie, Ryan, Eastwood (yes, Clint Eastwood!), Rubio, and Romney. I liked the tone, I liked the vision. What little of specific ideas were discussed, I liked. On the whole it seemed upbeat, positive, optimistic. Many poked fun at Obama – someone’s gotta do it since the late-night comedians have taken the last four years off – but nothing nasty and nothing that would cross a line of decency. Unless referring to Obama’s preference for golf somehow crosses a line. I must say the convention eased my mind a bit. I’m unabashedly hoping for some change this November.

I won’t bother watching the Democratic convention. Like I said earlier: abortion, anti-religion, big government, gay “marriage.” Plus, since Obama cannot run on his economic record – indeed, wants to redirect any attention to it – all it will be is one speaker after another demonizing Romney and Ryan. It will not be upbeat, positive, or optimistic since there has been nothing upbeat, positive, and optimistic of the last four years. And, of course, anyone in disagreement with Obama and his policies (such as myself) will be labeled a “racist,” whatever that is. Or “warring against women,” whatever that may mean.

So I will vote for Romney this November.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ice Cold Ice

I’m about through with Hal Clement’s 1953 SF novel, Iceworld. What to read next? Why not Icerigger, a rare non-movie-novelization done by Alan Dean Foster, sitting on my bookshelves unread for nearly two years? Then perhaps a compare-and-contrast throw-down between the two, some red meat for the three or four SF geeks who read my blog worldwide.


Then I’m thinking about a political novel (to be revealed if I so decide) or a horror novel (ditto – hint: it’s about a murderous ventriloquist dummy), or both, then a good ole Western.

And then – and then – and then –

That’ll take me to Halloween. Really tempted to get in to some Lovecraft, as far as I’m able to, which isn’t much, unless I make an effort I suppose. I like to read something scary every Horrorween. If the Lovecraft doesn’t move me, though, I have back-up: Weaveworld, the Clive Barker masterpiece I first (and only) read one October twenty-four years ago. Yeah, maybe that’s the ticket.

But now to finish Iceworld by the weekend, Icerigger by mid-September, eating the rest of the ice cream and Italian ices left in the freezer and listening to some Husker Dü on the turntable (bonus points if you can link that reference) ….

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Resolved: 2 = 3

If 2 = 3


3 = 2

Arrange them thusly:

2 = 3

3 = 2

Add both sides of both equations:

5 = 5

Which is true.


2 = 3

Q. E. D.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Need a Change of Pace

Or Place.

Feel like uprooting the whole family and moving.

To Montana. Or Texas. Or Antarctica.

Or maybe just uprooting myself.

Taking that high-paying job monitoring that sub-zero weather station in the Yukon.

Joining the French Foreign Legion (if I could just get a pass on all the physical stuff).

Becoming a Carthusian and spending the rest of my life in a cave (would they give my family, say, a $5000 a month stipend for that?)

Accompanying Sir Allan Quatermain into the Heart of Darkness, armed with a machete and a notepad.

Or holing up in an abandoned warehouse to cultivate my scientific megalomaniacal global Scheme of Vengeance.

Selling my plot of land to buy the seemingly worthless plot of land that actually holds a diamond mine.

Starting over, starting new.

A path less tried and a path less true.

A change of pace, or place, or a new face. (How Suessian!)

Or just a good night’s sleep.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Old Piggy

Patch comes in to our bedroom early this morning to lay with us for ten or fifteen minutes before the mad rush to day care and work begins. For some reason, lately, she’s been fixated on having a different name. Perhaps this might be a phase; I remember my oldest going through something similar. Plus, they like to create secret names for each other to use in our presence. To fool us or trick us, I guess.

She tells us she wants to be known as “Crystal” from now on. Now, being not-quite-four, “Crystal” to her probably symbolizes fairies and princesses and magic kingdoms. To me, it symbolizes a forty-five year old Las Vegas pole dancer. So instead of playing into her hand, I tell her that I’m going to call her “Bertha.” Or “Matilda.” Or “Agatha.” Yeah! That’s it. “Patch, I’m going to call you Agatha from now on!”

Unfazed and without skipping a beat, she tells me she’s going to call me “Old Piggy” from now on.

My wife laughed hysterically and, I have to admit, I did too. Not that I encourage disrespect from our children. No. But c’mon – “Old Piggy” is two disses wrapped up in one! And this from the mind of a little child barely around for four revolutions around the Sun.

I let Patchie get away with it while we rassled before leaving the house for the day, and hopefully, she’ll forget by the time I get home tonight.

Whether “she” refers to Patch or the wife, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Hero from my childhod passed away … always makes you feel sadder, older. Though I was only two during the first lunar landing, I’m told I watched it while down the Jersey shore with my parents and grandparents. Didn’t get into the whole astronaut thing until a few years later, obviously, in the late-Seventies when we were no longer going where no man has gone before, though the whole NASA-Apollo thing had thoroughly saturated the intersection of our culture with my universe by then.

One of the saddest things I’ve been thinking about last night and this morning is how the Apollo veterans are slowly dying off, with no one to replace them. Of the dozen men to walk the moon, four have now passed on (Jim Irwin in 1991 of a heart attack; Alan Shepard in 1998 of leukemia; Pete Conrad in 1999 in a motorcycle accident are the others). The remaining are aged 76 to 82. Pretty soon, for the first time in nearly half a century, there will be no men alive who have ever walked on the surface of another world beyond earth.

Armstrong was a very good man from all the stuff I read during my recovery from surgery a few years back. All the classic qualities of a hero: courageous, intelligent, passionate yet taciturn, principled. We need more men like him out there, unleashed, unfettered, to simply explore and move mankind a little futher down the road.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Guy

Remember the New Guy I hired this past Thursday?

Friday he quit.

A computer broke him.

All new hires are required, among many things and for legal reasons, to watch two presentations on a website, 20 and 25 minutes each, on Preventing Discrimination and Preventing Sexual Harassment. After watching these videos of dos and don’ts and what-to-do-if-you-see-or-experience-It, you take a twenty question multiple choice quiz after logging in with your SSN so we have a record you watched and understood the lessons.

To cover our butts if you are the victim or victimizer of sexual harassment or discrimination, and we’re the recipients of a lawsuit.

We pay you to watch the presentation and take the test.

I knew I was in trouble when I sat him down to take it. He had no idea how to use a mouse.

In all fairness to him, he is 68-years-old, and he’s there to be a runner for us, a guy who drives most of the day to the other locations, to the bank, to the post office, and runs errands for us. He didn’t apply to be the Chief Information Officer.

Though in fairness to us, my 96-year-old grandmother, until quite recently, led quite an active life on the PC, going on two decades.

So, Friday afternoon, he went out with the guy who was showing him the ropes, and then never returned. Knowing what I know of him, he was probably ashamed of seeing me, in light of all the gesticulations, protestations and promises he gave me that he’d give me 110 percent.

The sad thing is, I’d probably move the mouse for him (in the presence of another employee – can’t be too careful with these legal issues), so he could get through the training and test.

But that’s not the path he decided to take.

And it turns out, it didn’t reflect badly on me, since everyone who came in contact with him liked him, thought he was perfect for the job, and were quite perplexed by his … denouement.

Back to the drawing board Monday …

Friday, August 24, 2012


This is the only Thomas Kinkade painting I own, proudly hung over the fireplace mantle in our wood-paneled den:

Rest in Peace, Painter of Light!  May Gojira spare your glowing cottage dreamscapes!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


My littlest one, Patch, has such a great sense of humor for a not-quite-four-year-old.


We’re eating a vegetarian-rice dinner earlier tonight. A round of knock-knock jokes commences, centering on the word “edamame,” those soy bean pea pod thingies my wife mixed in. We pronounce the first “e” long in the word, though I think the correct pronunciation is with a short “e”. We say “ee-duh-MAH-may.”

Here’s Patch’s contribution:

Patch: Knock knock.

Rest of Us: Who’s there?

Patch: Edamame.

Rest of Us: Edamame who?

Patch: (incredulous) Edamame? Why not Eat-a-Daddy?


Hired my first employee today for my company. We were seeking a retired person to work for us a few hours a day to take the deposits to the bank, to travel to our other locations with supplies and interoffice items, to retrieve files from our storage facility as needed. Not a high-profile, high-stress job, just one that requires someone to show up on time, every day he’s scheduled to work, and do his job with no problems.

I interviewed three men last week. A fourth never showed. Of those who did, all were retired and varied in age from 45 to 68. I explained the position, the policies, the procedures, the pay, the perks. (Not many of that last one.) I explained how and why we’d be doing background checks, including a driver’s license check since the employee would be driving one of our company cars. I listened, and listened, and listened. Occasionally they’d let me get a question in.

So my boss, harried and hurried with a zillion things, tells me yesterday, “just pick one and hire him.”

I did. I brought him in, got him drug tested, gave him a quick new hire orientation, showed him around and introduced him to the people he’d be interacting with. “He seems nice,” said one lady to me later.

“Watch … he’s probably a serial killer,” she added.

“Or he’ll total one of our cars the first week he’s here,” was my tongue-in-cheek reply.

Please don’t, New Guy. I need this job!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I was looking through some notes I took a few years back in the heyday of my JFK readings. Don’t recall the book I took it from, or even if it’s a verbatim quote, but I wrote:

In 1952 JFK defeated Henry Cabot Lodge to become MA junior senator.

In 1954 he underwent painful back surgery; during convalescence he wrote Profiles in Courage.

During this time he was able to avoid taking a stand one way or another on Joseph McCarthy’s censure.

Does anyone besides me find that an absolutely delightful oxymoron?


I’m like a zombie today. For the past three days I’ve woken up between 2:30 and 3 and have been unable to get back to sleep. Once the blame fell on Patch, who is going through a scared-of-the-dark phase. She woke both the wife and me up one morning with bloodcurdling screams. Wife and child got back to bed. Me, not so much.

This morning it was severe heartburn that kept me up. Heartburn! Man, am I getting old. Never had it as a youth, have it often as a middle-aged guy. This time it was brought on by a single freakin’ glass of Cavit Pinot Grigio. Another food / beverage my increasingly tender GI system can’t handle.

Most of the time when I’m up in the dark early morning hours, I tiptoe down to the basement, to the writing office, and surf the web. A few weeks ago I watched a trio of Lost in Space episodes on hulu. Two mornings ago I watched a really really bad flick called The Slime People, last seen as a starry-eyed youngling.

Earlier today I decided to break this cycle of humdrum insanity. Instead of surfing the web aimlessly watching goofy stuff, I decided – whoa! – to clean my desk. To pay a few bills. To bring the dirty dishes up to the kitchen sink. And –

To listen to my motivational CDs.

Grant Cardone, author of 10X, is all the rage at work. It’s an actual example of the trickle-down effect. The owners of the company listen to him religiously. They enthusiastically recommend his works to their employees. Managers listen to the CDs, read his books. Young Hopper, budding industrialist and captain of industry, always on the make for something to jump-start his motivation, decides to take the plunge after hearing a sample of Mr. Cardone’s highly unique delivery style and substance while driving in the owner’s car with a bunch of other worker bees.

Needless to say, I ate, showered, dressed, kissed the girls goodbye two hours later in much better spirits than the previous two days.

But man am I freakin’ tired!!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Rising Tide

© 2006 by Jeff Shaara

Not much of a review, here, but an observation. I think I discovered the best way to learn history. At least, Civil War and World War 2 history.

First, read a whole bunch of reference books on the subject. Whatever interests you. The recently-deceased John Keegan’s military works, Time/Life library stuff, stuff about Lincoln’s assassination and the manhunt to catch Booth, History’s Mysteries and Assorted Weirdities of Dubya-dubya-two.

Then, read a Jeff Shaara novel. Everything falls into place, and you find yourself reliving history. Yes, “reliving” it.

Now, he’s not the greatest writer out there. I have a nagging feeling when I read him that I’m reading something I could’ve read as a freshman in high school. But he knows how to get into the heads of the men who moved and shaped our world in these conflicts. He does drama and action well, the “O the humanity!” things as well as the personalized, “what-if-I-was-in-that-foxhole” moral dilemmas. He takes the birds-eye view of generals and presidents plotting strategy as well as Sarge and the grunts taking the next hill.

And you know what? It works. I find myself able to breeze through a hundred pages at a clip and still want to read the next chapter. The Rising Tide – which concerns itself with the year-and-a-half North African and Sicilian campaigns of WW2 – is the third Shaara book I’ve read, and I’ve given them all grades in the A-range for the reasons cited above.

Though I’m hopping on to other topics this fall and winter (the A-bomb, some pure-and-lean-SF paperbacks, a detour back to physics and math, Philip Jose Farmer works), most likely I will return to Mr. Shaara’s book sooner or later. There are two more that follow The Rising Tide, plus one about the Mexican War, one about World War I, and, if I’m not mistaken, a trilogy about WW2 in the Pacific theater. I have no doubts they will all be good reads and great aides to learning history.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Saw this with the wife over the weekend and I have, well, highly mixed feelings.

First off, I kinda dreaded going into it, because every Christopher Nolan film is, to me, an ordeal. His movies are long, involved, long, filled with lots of set action pieces, long, somewhat morally ambiguous, stuffed with overwhelming special effects, and long. The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at 2 hours and 50 minutes (according to Fandango). I’m somewhat famously and annoyingly known as a true believer in the adage that the perfect movie is one that falls somewhere between 89 and 91 minutes in length. Or perhaps I made that up. Anyway, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing two back-to-back movies, especially since I was up early that morning for work and we were attending the 9 pm showing.

But … I was interested in how Nolan completed his Batman trilogy. Word of mouth was good, at least the words coming out of the mouths I was listening to. Not being a comic book guy and not being a comic book kid growing up, I was unfamiliar with this Bane dude as the baddie. Catwoman looked kinda boring from what I’d seen in previews, so I wondered whether that character played by the actress with Giant Eyeballs would be a disappointment or not.

And, of course, Batman with his hi-tech toys of destruction. Though I must admit, with the mellowing of age, those don’t really excite me much as they may have when Tim Burton was helming the franchise.

Let’s just cut to the chase. My verdict? B-plus.

Pros: Batman doing a Rocky redemption (you know, Balboa gets his butt kicked then has to re-commit to re-train to re-deem himself), Giant Eyeballs as Catwoman (much to my chagrin), the Bat jet copter thingie, the young cop who becomes You-Know-Who, Bane, Scarecrow’s “Death or Exile” judgments, Exile.

Cons: Not enough Batman, too much Bruce Wayne, too much Bruce Wayne losing all his money, a teary and blubbering Alfred going to pieces every chance he got, Catwoman’s dialogue, Bane, the whole doomsday plot scenario, the “big reveals” during the last 15 minutes.

There were plot holes and there were plot holes. The first thing I noticed was how Bruce Wayne could turn from a hobbling cripple to a jujitsu acrobatic master because there’s a little robot joint strapped onto his knee. And how does our penniless hero return from the Russian(?) prison, and how is he able to get back into Gotham City (cut off by martial law and accessible only via a treacherous semi-icy river)? Later there was Batman wasting precious minutes (hours?) detailing his logo in flammable liquid on a bridge so another character could drop his lighter on it, lighting it up for no discernible reason. The time line of the flick I found somewhat confusing, with Bruce growing a beard in the Russian(?) prison while the cops imprisoned beneath Gotham don’t. Plus, the bomb was supposed to go off in five months and suddenly we’re doing an eighteen, then a twelve, hour countdown.

Perhaps all the teenagers chatting to each other on their cell phones distracted me from informative expository plot points.

All things considered, though, those 170 minutes went by fast. I was entertained. My mind didn’t get stuck on plot holes or otherwise get taken out of the story. It was a decent story with a decent ending. Could it have been better? Yes, I suppose. Can’t really say without spoiling the story, but I’d’ve left the ending more ambiguous. Would’ve given the two main bad guys better death scenes. Would’ve made the one major cameo a little longer and a little more significant. Would’ve scrapped the whole destroy Gotham theme for one more in line with megalomaniacal global conquest more suitable to a comic book villain.

But then it wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan Batman movie.

A word about Bane … mixed feelings about him, too. Superficially, he had the makings of a decent bad guy. Intelligent, menacing, physically powerful, unscrupulous in carrying out his Big Plan. An awesome speaking voice, too, I might add, thank you Dolby Stereo. He had an Achilles heel, which Batman rightly finds (but why did it take until the end of the movie?). However, for a PG-13 movie, he was an awfully nasty bad guy. My wife was shocked at the evil-ness of his actions. Me, I was shocked by the sheer brutality. I mean, how many necks can you break with your bare hands? How much psychological torture can you dish out? How much random acts of violence can you inflict on to innocent civilians? How can you slay your own henchmen willy-nilly and still expect them to perform for you? Yes, we don’t see much blood ’n guts, but we see something much worse – blatant disregard for human life on all levels. I felt dirty about halfway through the movie. It went from excited expectation to see the villain onscreen to sour disgust whenever he made an appearance, and the transition happened probably sometime around the one-hour mark. And the greatest sin was that, ultimately, his motivations for his evil just didn’t make sense.

So a definite mixed bag. Probably the worst film of the trilogy, but that’s like saying The Two Towers is the worst book in The Lord of the Rings – it’s still miles ahead of its closest knock-off. And despite all the aforementioned negatives, I’ll undoubtedly watch it again when it comes out on DVD, with a more critical, discerning eye in a teenager-free setting.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Adventures in Culinary Excellence

One of my young relatives has returned from three months in China on a college exchange-program thing, and regaled us on many points of Chinese culture, politics, economics, and climate. Perhaps the most interesting items he reported were some of the things they ate on a regular basis, and he, to his credit, I guess, sampled.

Scorpions and big hairy spider shiskabobs.

This got me thinking. What was the weirdest / most disgusting / most unusual things I ever ate?

Well, I can’t hold a candle to arachnid consumption. Basically, Hopper is a conservative fellow, and that applies even more so to my appetites. In my bachelor days I was a pretty regular eater: Chinese food, pizza, hamburgers, soup, pasta. Repeat. Now that I’m older, married with children, and the pounds don’t melt off as soon as I merely think about exercising, I’m more responsible in my choices: fish, vegetables, brown rice and pasta, oatmeal, fruits. Of course, I still eat the pizza and hamburgers, too, but not as frequently as I used to.

But in my bachelor days (before I met the current Mrs. Hopper, that is, a roughly eight-year period since moving out of the parental house and moving in with her), I would eat stuff off the beaten track.

I sampled the requisite bachelor staple, Wheaties and beer, but only on one occasion. Once was enough for that delicacy.

For some reason I remember eating a lot of white rice with a can of gravy mixed in. Mmm-mmm, delicious. Write me for the recipe.

Once I cooked myself a whole package of macaroni and cheese. Not satisfied with the cheesy goodness of the Kraft company, I threw it in a bowl, added about a cup of shredded Mozzarella and a couple tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, threw the whole thing in the microwave for two minutes, and wolfed it down. My arteries literally hardened like a 1970s-child’s-clay-ashtray-for-mom-in-a-kiln within minutes of consumption.

Another time I was out at a work event, something sponsored by the sales department because we made our month goals. Appetizers were served, and I bit into something that tasted like a six-month old kitchen sink sponge. At least, what I imagined one might taste like. Smelled horrible, too, especially coated in a fine layer of stinky cheese. I offered one to the General Sales Manager, whose faced contorted into a catcher’s mitt in front of my very eyes.

For most of those eight years my dessert of choice was Snackwell cookies. You know, those devil’s food cake semi-soft sweets made from more chemicals at a DuPont factory and built to survive the Third World War. I must’ve eaten – seriously – nearly four thousand of them, if my calculations are correct (two boxes a week over a four-year period … and that’s a conservative estimate). Sadly, they didn’t exactly bowl over my future wife at the time. Even jokes that our wedding cake would be one giant Snackwell cookie were met with icy stares.

So, nothing that rivals my relative’s experiences in the Far East. Though I did have the opportunity to eat Pigeon while in Paris a few months ago, but I couldn’t quite convince myself to eat one of those fat, harmless omnipresent birds we’d see everywhere we went in the City of Lights.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lumps the Sequel

Oh no! Not again!

Yes, again.

This time, Little One was doing somersaults in the pool at Grammy’s and went full-force into the concrete wall, head-first. Lifeguards rushed over, the paramedics were called, and though dazed and confused, there were no signs of concussion. Just a big giant lump that will probably turn every color in her crayola box and mosey on down south, given the impression she went a coupla rounds with Tyson.

Somebody get this child a helmet!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Liberal Media Bias Is

(Note: we’re talking about “hard news” broadcast segments or newspaper articles, not “opinion” or “editorial” pieces …)

First, here’s what it isn’t –

It’s not Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer, David Gregory, or Katie Couric saying, “Hey America, vote for Obama, because that’s who I’m voting for!” It’s not the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today or any San Francisco printed publication saying, “Obama is the best choice for the best America possible and here’s why!”

It’s not even any of the above seriously and soberly intoning that the election of Mitt Romney would be a disaster greater than the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and the War Between the States combined.

No, it’s not as blatant and obvious as that. They need to maintain the illusion of neutrality.

“Liberal media bias,” at least how we conservatives see it, is more of an editorial bias, a bias in the words used and images conveyed depending upon the political affiliation of the person / group / event / book / movie / etc. in question.

For example:

Let’s say one of the presidential candidates makes an impromptu stop at a Big City rally and 5,000 people show up at an arena that holds 10,000. He gives a rousing speech thanking his supporters and asking for help to win the election.

You may read headlines that go something like this:


Or you may read something like this:


See? The situation’s the same. How it’s reported depends entirely on whether the person at the center has a D or an R after his name. This is what conservatives mean when they talk about a liberal media bias.

Now, I’ll admit that Fox News does similar stuff from the right in terms of this editorial bias. Whether it’s to the degree and frequency of the liberal media is something I don’t necessarily agree with. Also, you have the whole scale thing: one the right side, Fox News. On the left, ABC NBC CBS PBS CNN MSNBC BBC. Similarly (though not as lopsided) with newspapers.

Just something I was pondering driving into work this morning.

If I’m wrong, let me know why.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Stumbled across something yesterday that piqued my interest … in the weird, unusual, seldom-traveled world of … physics. I thumbed through it and fell for it hard. Took out my wallet, forked over my money, drove home in my car, and began to read my new book.

Entitled, My Big TOE.

“Toe,” in this case (and for the uninitiated) is an acronym standing for, Theory Of Everything. It’s often referred to with the golden cliché of “holy grail” in physics as unification theory, a theory that connects the four forces of nature and the standard model of subatomic particles, simplified and standing pure in beauty.

Though he’s a physicist, that’s not quite what the author, Thomas Campbell, has in mind. His TOE explains – reality.

Oh, goody!

A bit of online research has revealed that his TOE involves reality fields, local and non-local computer simulations (run by his non-personal “God”), reincarnation, the linkage of the speed of light with the slimmest segment of time we can comprehend. I’m curious to see how he reconciles the after-death experience with quantum mechanics. I’m also interested to see how his theory compares to that of Frank Tipler’s, expounded in the book The Physics of Immortality, which I read two decades ago and only remember the “Omega Point” concept and the fact that we’ll all be resurrected because in the incomprehensible future technology will be so vast as to replicate each and every one of us.

This kinda stuff excites me. I’m that kinda guy.

A big part of all this is whether I can reconcile it to my Catholicism. No, reincarnation doesn’t fit with Catholic belief, obviously, but what else in Campbell’s TOE might?

And despite all my interest in kooky nutty stuff, my B.S.-detector is a finely honed instrument. The kooky nutty stuff I read I read for campy fun, nostalgia, fodder to spook my children with. I ain’t reading a thousand page physics text if the detector goes off the scale on page three.

But I’ll let you know, down the road.

Someone is Killing the Sweathogs!

Was what my wife yelled out, last night, when I told her of the death of the actor who played Horshack. This, coupled with the death of the actor who played Epstein this past January, caused the outburst.

As a wee youngling barely able to hop up on the blue couches that elled our living room in the mid-seventies, I vividly recall watching Welcome Back Kotter with my family, amongst fare such as Chico and the Man, Happy Days, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Of the sweathogs show I recall none of the plots, just the vague general personalities of the quartet of high school kids, Groucho Marx their teacher, Groucho’s hippie-ish wife. I remember the principal, a gnarled, gnurley grump, made me very nervous.

Boom-Boom beware! You could be next!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Birthday Wish List

OK, it’s a little more than a month off, but … here’s what I want for my birthday, in no particular order:

(1) Unlimited energy – like that of, say, a four-year-old, if the four-year-old had the body of an Olympic triathlon athlete

(2) Spiritual enlightenment – wisdom, patience, humility, and mystic vision all rolled into one and accelerated to some crazy exponential power

(3) Financial security – seven figures in the bank and / or a six-figure income; I’m not picky

(4) A “no hassle / no catch” publishing contract – hey, I’ve already written two manuscripts and a score of short stories

(5) Paid-for cottages – note: “cottages”, not “mansions” – at any beach, at any mountain lake, in any bustling city, and, of course, in Paris

That’s my wish list. If you can get your hands on any of the above, stop over in five weeks for a beer and some cake, and I’ll unwrap it in front of all the friends and family.

See ya then!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cornelius Ryan Readings

The Longest Day © 1959

A Bridge Too Far © 1974

Read The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan during the hot and humid month of July. Though written by the same author in the same genre covering events barely three months apart, the first book was a breeze. The second was, well, definitely a labor of love for me to get through.

What happened?

Short answer: Dunno. Longer answer: See below as I try to figure it out.

Both works are stylistically similar; the relationship I kept thinking of was that of younger brother to older brother. Same family, you see, but one is simpler and more direct while the other is wiser, more knowledgeable, more nuanced. One throws fists; one argues a mental chess game. One knows what it wants to say; one is verbose to the point of utter obfuscation.

For those who may not be aware, The Longest Day covers roughly the twenty-four hour period of D-Day, June 6, 1944. D-Day is the invasion of “Fortress Europe,” Europe under the boot and bayonet of Hitler, by American, British, and Canadian forces. Three beaches in Normandy in the north of France, on the southern edge of the English Channel, were invaded by several thousand infantry in several successive waves. Hitler’s greatest tactician, Erwin Rommel, was – if not fooled – at least absent, luck persuading him to take a holiday in Germany. Luck in the form of weather played a strong role in the success of the invasion, but that was not the only factor. Deception, courage, ingenuity, and meticulous planning also worked to the Allies’ advantage. The book details all this and more, in just enough detail, from points of view ranging from the General to the GI, impossibly page-turningly quick. It was a fast, curiosity-satisfying read, and if it didn’t put you on the beaches like Spielberg did in Saving Private Ryan, well, at least it did the next best thing, experientially speaking.

(OMG – did this book play a role in the naming of the titular character in Spielberg’s monumental masterpiece? That’s something to research …)

A Bridge Too Far takes place three-and-a-half months and a few hundred miles later. British Field Marshall Montgomery develops a plan to drop 35,000 paratroopers across German lines in occupied Holland to secure six bridges over a ninety-mile span. The plan is to open up a road that would lead Monty’s armored army right into the heart of industrial Germany, side-stepping the heavily-fortified north-south Siegfried Line. Hopes were to end the war by Christmas, 1944. However, events didn’t go down as over-optimistically pitched to all involved. In fact, it was a series of little disasters building upon little disasters, until a big, terrible, rotten debacle emerged, a torrential waste of life, of materiel, of initiative, that set back the end of the war in Europe for nearly eight months. The book is fat, dense, surprisingly hard to follow despite being top-heavy with detail. A cast of several dozen main characters clutters things up. I gave up trying to keep track of who was who and instead tried to follow the action. But six bridges with the surrounding towns of each are a lot harder to discern than three beachheads. That major critique levied, A Bridge Too Far did have its powerful scenes, its drama, pathos, and even humor sprinkled liberally throughout. Ultimately I felt a good hundred pages (twenty percent of its length) could have been snipped, resulting in a tighter, faster-paced work.

’Twas a labor of love for me, as aforementioned. Were you a lad in the 70s, when cable teevee spread its tentacles throughout the suburbs? If you were, you might remember a dozen or so flicks that were seemingly played non-stop. To me, I recall seeing, over and over and over and over, The Food of the Gods, The Empire of the Ants, Telefon, Omens 1 and 2, The White Buffalo, The Killer Elite, Midway, and – A Bridge Too Far. I must’ve watched that film at least a dozen or more times as a pre-teen all those years ago. Never in its entirety, and never really understanding what was going on, nor recognizing really the All-Star Cast for who they were back then (save for James Bond – with a thick moustache). The paratroopers, the gliders, the vulnerable Holland family spying on the German tanks … Anthony Hopkins taking that seemingly-deserted bridge, Sean Connery being chased through backyards, James Caan speeding in a jeep through woods infested with Nazis, the bridge blowing up in front of Elliot Gould’s cigar-chomping mug … I kinda liked that movie, and, as you see, its images never quite left me.

I should rent that again.

Anyway, as I neared the end of the book, I jotted down somewhere, “A Bridge Too Far is a book that needs to be read twice. Unfortunately, once is as much as I can bear.”

I’m hesitant to assign them grades. As usual when I read something outside my perceived oeuvre of expertise (i.e., science fiction novels), I feel somewhat unqualified to judge them. And true, I can’t judge them on their individual body of facts or how they fit into the genre of works of World War II. I can merely relate my subjective experience of traveling through their pages.

For what it’s worth –

The Longest Day – A-plus.

A Bridge Too Far – C-plus.

Note 1: One of the “humorous” tidbits for me from A Bridge Too Far was the secret password the British paratroops used – “Whoa Mohammed,” a war cry the Brits first heard from the indigenous population fighting in North Africa. Apparently, “Whoa Mohammed” is absolutely impossible for the typical German to pronounce clearly, crisply, and without accent. Try it.

Note 2: Both books needed better maps ... meaning larger ones, close-up ones, ones with clearly marked troop positions / encampments, and on the whole much more numerous in quantity, perhaps as much as one at the outset of every chapter.  I found myself constantly thumbing through the books for the three or four maps they held, though those never quite answered whatever question was in my mind at the time.  (Better amps would have bumped A Bridge Too Far's grade up a half-step.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wealth and Presidents

Read an interesting article in Forbes online about the wealth of presidents and where Romney would place should he win the presidency in November.

The Top-Ten List of Wealthiest Presidents surprised me, I must say.

Who do you think was the wealthiest president? Aristocratic FDR? Hollywood Ronald Reagan? Oil-field Bush Sr?

No, no, and no. In fact, two of those three aren’t in the Top Ten.

Here’s the list in reverse order:

10. James Madison

9. Lyndon Johnson

8. Franklin Roosevelt

7. Zachary Taylor

6. Theodore Roosevelt

5. Andrew Jackson

4. John F. Kennedy

3. Thomas Jefferson

2. Herbert Hoover

1. George Washington.

Wow. Who’da thunk it? Washington is guessed to have a wealth equivalent to that of J. Paul Getty and Paul Allen due in part to vast quantities of land he owned.

If Romney were to win, he would bump JFK down a notch, falling in at #4. In 2010, Romney declared an income of $22 million. Forbes estimates his assets to be $200-250 million.

In contrast, Obama had a 2010 income of $1.7 million (down from $5.6 million the year before), but this figure obviously does not include the major perks of the presidency, such as free room and board and transportation. Obama’s net worth is estimated to be around $10 million.

The article can be viewed here.

There’s a lot of talk out there of how Romney’s wealth compares to John Kerry’s, who ran in 2004, and the response of the media to both candidates. A few minutes of googling has given me a wide range of Kerry’s wealth, ranging from $240 million to $750 million. So, Kerry was at least as wealthy as Romney, and could have been up to three times as rich.

Remember all the media squawking about Kerry’s tax returns and how he earned all that coin?

Yeah, right.

And I do buy into the meme that it matters how the money was earned. I like the fact that Romney earned it, worked for it, built it and grew it, whereas Kerry married a woman who was heir to fortune her deceased husband’s family built. I do think that it matters.

Let me state it clearly here: I, Hopper, want to be a millionaire someday. Being a millionaire is a good thing. Being able to provide for family, friends, your community and yourself in your sunset years, offering value present and future, is a good thing. We should all make double, triple, ten times what we’ve made over the past four years!

The question is, under which president do you think that’d be more likely?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monkeys on the Make

“Daddy – do you have any candy?” Little One asks as we’re driving back from day care.


“Daddy, do we still have M&Ms left?” Patch chirps in. We had split a small pack during last Saturday’s errands.


“Hey Daddy, is there any tic-tacs up there?” We sometimes keep a little box in the dashboard holder.


“Dads, what’s in your mouth?”

Now they have me.


Both sets of little eyes light up. “Gum! What flavor!”



A few seconds go by.

“Seriously, what flavor?”


“Can we have some! Can we have some! Can we have some!”

Reluctantly, I hand out my last pieces of gum. “You guys,” I say, “are like a bunch of monkeys, always on the make for bananas.”

“Or in this case,” Little One notes, sagely and soberly, “humans on the make for candy.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Night Flight

Don’t know why but I’ve been thinking a lot about this song over the past few days. Haven’t heard it in a couple of months, if not years. It’s not one of my favorite Zep tunes (probably, if I stacked ’em all up best to worst, it’d fall right in the middle somewhere), so I can’t explain it.

Really dig the tone of that organ thingie, plus those clean strummed chords (A to D, or something similar?). And Plant’s frantic, frenetic warblings during the chorus (… oh-oh-oh, oh, yeah, huh, c’mon, meet in me in the morning …) still give me shivers, some three decades after I first heard it. Good stuff.

However – and it’s a big however – I hate, hate, hate the ending. The last thirty seconds. While I like the standard blues riff normally (though less and less as I’ve grown more proficient on guitar over the years), here it sounds out of place to me ears.

Here is what I would do with those last 30 seconds (after 3:05, in the audio version below).

Revisit the opening couple of seconds, with John Paul Jones laying down those sick organ chords and Bonham tapping the hi-hat. Then the drums come in, as well as Jones’ bass line, getting more and more intense with each bar of music that flows by. Page starts off with the clean one-strum chords, then does some trills and hammer-off thingies. Another track has some distorted power chords, gradually crescendoing in volume. On top of all this, which gets busier and busier, louder and louder, Jimmy starts soloing. Not call-and-response soloing, like “Black Dog,” but layered soloing, lines harmonizing with each other, lots of tremolo. Then, some fierce pentatonic runs.

After 60 seconds of this, the sound of a jet plane whooshing by bubbles up into the mix, overtaking the whole band output, climaxing in a two- or three-second Doppler-effect effect and then –

Silence, as the next track on the CD, “The Wanton Song”, cues up.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Losing Health Care

One thing struck me today listening to the news on the radio. In the heated political rhetoric that will tsunami us over the next 90 days, please, please, please keep one thing in mind:

No one loses health care in America.

Don’t let anyone saying so in public get away with it.

If you are fired, laid off, your company goes belly up, you don’t “lose health care.” No hospital in the country can turn you away if you show up sick, injured, or in pain.

What they are talking about is losing health care insurance.

Even without insurance, you can still get health care. You just have to pay for it out of pocket. Worse comes to worse, you set up a payment plan to pay off your debt to the hospital that treated you for your emergency. Worst-case scenario, you declare bankruptcy. But you’ve still received health care when you urgently needed it.

Health care insurance is something I deal with here at work. You enroll in a company-sponsored plan and every paycheck you pay the required deduction, whether it’s just for you, you and your spouse, you and your children, or you and your whole family. Generally, the companies I’ve worked at pay for 60% of the premium, and you pay for the difference in your paycheck. Typical family medical plans range nowadays from $1400 to $1600; single plans are usually a third that.

Several times a month I deal with people who lose their health care insurance. When our company terminates an employee, I remove him from the benefit plans he’s on and then I mail him out forms if he wants to enroll in COBRA. COBRA is the government-mandated program to keep your health insurance, but no one goes on it. Know why? Too darn expensive. Instead of paying for 40% of the premium with a job, you now are expected to pay for 102% of the premium with no job.

That, I admit, is an issue that should be addressed.

Medicare is available for the over-65 crowd or those who are disabled. If you are under 26, the government considers you a child and you can stay on your parent’s insurance, if they’re lucky enough to have stayed employed in the Obama Economy. I’ve seen poorer employees turn down our health insurance because they are on state-run plans for low-income families, though I’m not an expert in that end of the field.

But what alternatives do single men or women in their middle-age, or those who are the sole financial support of their families, have when losing a job yet needing health insurance?

That’s what pols are really talking about, in their attack-the-opponent code, and that’s what not too much is being done about.

Just don’t let anyone tell you “They’re” taking away your health care. Cuz that just ain’t so.

What does Hopper think can be done immediately to ease this problem?

1) Get the real unemployment rate down under 5 percent (a good starting point: speak pro-business in speeches, sponsor and pass pro-business legislation)

2) Lower tax rates across the board for all incomes (including the dreaded capital gains tax)

3) Sponsor tort reform legislation in the health care field

4) De-regulate

There! But I warn you: I will not serve. Should thousands upon thousands of you write in “Hopper” on the November 6 ballot, I will not serve as President.

But I might agree to a cabinet position – Reading Czar!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Find or Make

Damn this thing called life! And it’s bastard hell-spawned twin work!

I can’t find time to write!

Gosh, so much to do and so much done. First and foremost, super busy at work. Which is a good thing, I’m forced to admit, because not only does it keep me employed, it keeps me occupied. An exhausting employment / occupation, but a necessary one if I want keep the fam fed, clothed and sheltered. (Alas, ’twas one of the many items Barack Obama was not able to pull in his four years.)

The children are really getting busy, which makes me and the Mrs. quadruply busy. Feeding, dressing, cleaning up after them, bathing them … it adds at least an hour to the day, every day, day after day. And add to that if the wife is working late, a common occurrence during the week. Plus, Little One just resumed soccer, her first practice held yesterday evening for an hour-and-a-half. In September the games start, which will take an additional two-hour bite out of the weekend for us.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m immensely proud of my daughters. I’m just trying to work out a justification for Not Writing. (And, I think, it’s Not Working. The justification, that is. Not the premise that Not Working is the justification for Not Writing … can you see now why I’m going insane?)

Anyhoo, there’s my manic addiction to reading. Two books at a time. I’ve also been working out, pretty consistently lately (fourteen workouts since the Fourth of July). This entails 10-plus minutes on the exercise bike, some curls, push-ups, leg stuff, and crunches. And let’s toss in all the weekly responsibilities we all have (cooking, laundry, groceries, Church, commuting, errands here and there and back again, socializing with extended family and friends). Oh, and let’s not forget the biggest timewaster of all, teevee! Even though I really only watch a handful of shows (Falling Skies, Hell’s Kitchen), we’ve been watching a lot of Olympics this past week. It eats up time for a monk like me!

Soooooooooo … maybe some weird and interesting stuff on the near horizon. I promise, my head is bubbling with weird and interesting (interesting if you are one of the seven or eight other people on the planet who find my interests intensely interesting). Just gotta find –


time to write.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Let’s say the NCAA decides that instead of all these football bowl game thingies, they’re gonna have something like a March Madness. All the top teams from the various collegiate conferences will go into the sixty-four bye tournament where after a month you’ll have the championship game of college football. Call it the Amateur Bowl, because we’re talking about kids under 21 playing a non-professional sport.

Kinda like the Olympics, right?

Now, let’s also say that the NCAA does this for a whole bunch of years to wild success. The college championship game, this Amateur Bowl, is televised to record numbers of folks. But in an effort to surpass what they think is possible, they decide to change the rules a bit.

For this year, the NCAA is going to allow the New York Giants and the New England Patriots football teams to compete in the college tournament. That’s right, Eli and Tom Coughlin and Tom Brady and Belicheck will be participants in the 2012 Amateur Bowl.

Why not? It’s football, right?

My question is, what’re the Las Vegas odds that the college championship game will be between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots?

How many times out of a hundred will those teams be playing in the final game? I mean, you have to allow for upsets an all, but my gut tells me that 96 or 97 times out of a hundred, the college championship game will be played between the Giants and Pats if you allow the Giants and Pats to play among a field of 62 college teams.

Know where I’m going with this?

Watching the Olympics these past ten days, I’m disgusted with the fact that certain sports (I’m talking to you, Tennis and Basketball) allow professional athletes to compete with earnest amateur competitors. I mean really: did you see the American basketball team slam dunkin’ against the Latvians? Really? Did we really expect no one but the Williams sisters would be in the female tennis finals? Really?

Is this what the Olympic spirit is all about?


Note 1: Me wife is sick of me spewing this message; I’m kind of a one-note-Johnny here, so I’m forbidden from mentioning this anymore in my home. But I have a blog, dammit! I do! So I shake my fist at the sky and say, it ain’t right, I tells ya, it ain’t right!

Note 2: Unfair. That’s a loaded word, isn’t it? Fairness in the public discussion nowadays takes on two dimensions – equality of opportunity and equality of results. Obviously, talkin’ sports, we’re talkin’ equality of opportunity. And I just don’t see it between the tattooed behemoths of the NBA steamrolling over the Svens from Sweden or the Fabiens of France.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Itinerary through PJF Land

During my errands today with Patch, we drove to my secret used book resource, twenty-five miles south, the ultimate used book store that has just about everything under the sun. I visit it about twice a year. The last time I was there, though was last September. So I was way overdue.

Went there and scored five Philip Jose Farmer books. All for under twenty bucks. Not bad, considering most are out of print anyway. I purchased, in chronologically-published order:

Night of Light © 1966
A Private Cosmos © 1968
Flight to Opar © 1976
Two Hawks from Earth © 1979
The Cache © 1981

(that’s 1,238 pages)

I have, on the shelf behind me:

The Maker of Universes © 1965
The Gates of Creation ©1966
Riders of the Purple Wage © 1967
Behind the Walls of Terra © 1970
The Lavalite World © 1977

(that’s 879 pages)

In a box in the attic, I need to fish out:

The Lovers © 1961
The Stone God Awakens © 1970
The Windwhales of Ishmael © 1971

(dunno, but I’d guess that’s about 500 pages)

Still have a couple of WW2-themed books to get through as well as a bunch of unrelated sci-fi by the end of the year. But starting January 1, I want to read this guy exclusively, each and every one of those 2,600-plus pages, for reasons mentioned here, for a few months. Then I want to write something based on that experience, and not just a review or a big blog post. Something fiction-ish. It’s the “ish” part of that that intrigues me.

I’ll probably read the first two groups of novels above first. Five of those are part of his “World of Tiers” sequence. The others are stand-alone or parts of other sequences I’m not that interested in. The third group of books are all works I read two-to-ten years ago that I’d like to re-read. Two of them I’ve reviewed already on the Hopper.

Don’t have anything for PJF’s most famous series, the “Riverworld” series. That’s what I really want to read. May have to splurge and buy them new. Saw a big fat new compendium of the first two of those novels at B&N. Maybe next month of birthdays or Christmas-time, when the B&N gift cards flow in.

Well, I’m excited, as are the probably three or four other people on the planet who have done something similar. Can’t wait to start!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Hypothesis on Yard Clipping Collection

Hypothesis: The more bags / containers of yard clippings one puts out for the weekly curbside collection, the greater the probability such collection will never occur.

Test: For the past eight spring / summer / fall cycles, Hopper has regularly put out at least1 large plastic container of grass clippings (raked leaves during the fall) at his curb. A quarter of the time he puts 2 large plastic containers out to the curb. And one-twentieth of the time, 5 percent, he puts out 3 or more containers.

Results: Hopper notes that when he puts one container out to the curb in the morning, he finds it empty when he returns home from work. He also finds when he puts out 2 containers there is a 75 percent chance they will be empty when he returns home. When there are 3 or more containers, he notices there is only a 20 percent chance they will all be emptied.

Note 1: When collection does not occur, Hopper has to drag all the full containers back to the side of his house.

Note 2: When Hopper has to drag all the full containers back to the side of his house, this makes him very angry.

Note 3: This necessitates Mrs. Hopper having to call up the town government, negotiate a labyrinthine voicemail system designed to be a moat against the general public, make several more calls until a live person is reached, and then berate said person for the town’s lockstep one-to-one correspondence with Mr. Hopper’s abovementioned hypothesis.

Conclusion: Hopper spends twenty minutes drawing two graphs and trying to extrapolate a mathematical formula for all this, but realizes he has no clue how to figure this out. Perhaps a math book needs to be cracked. No, wait, there are about seven-hundred-and-fifty more important, pressing issues he needs to take care of. Just visualize some sort of steep parabolic curve and nod sagely.

Recommendation: Vote all the incumbents out in 90 days!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Him You Shall Heed

Prophetam de gente tua et de fratribus tuis, sicut me, suscitabit tibi Dominus Deus tuus: ipsum audies.

- Deuteronomy 18:15.

A prefiguring (or downright annunciation) of Christ, right smack heart in the fifth book of the Old Testament, written by Moses. Pointed out to me by Pope Benedict (well, pointed out to anyone reading his book, Jesus), and for some reason, it resounded soundly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Character Test

Thought Experiment:

Imagine you’re walking on a secluded path in the woods, away from anyone’s sight. As you round a corner you spot, smack in the middle of the walkway, a big fat wallet. You pick it up and discover there is $500 in cash and a driver’s license inside.


What do you do?

Do you –

a) turn everything in to the nearest police station

b) pocket the $500 and leave the wallet where you found it

Up until last week, I would have believed the majority of us … oh, say 85 percent of us … would have done option a. I certainly would have, and still would. But now, I’m not so sure.

Case – no, cases – in point:

Exhibit A:

I overpaid a terminated manager a draw. A big error, $1600, so I send him a friendly letter asking him if he could pay our money back. No response. He’s rehired three months later. When I ask him how he’ll pay the company back, he flat-out says to me that he’s not paying it back and lies to my face (I find out later) that another manager waived the debt. Now he’s mad at me because I relayed the fruit of that conversation to the general manager, who made him agree to paying back the overpayment $200 a month.

Exhibit B:

One of the new receptionists calls me all ticked off that her pay wasn’t direct deposited into her bank. A little research reveals she left out a number on the direct deposit authorization form. I call the payroll company to have the money reversed back into our payroll account and issue her a manual check for the net. A week or so later I get a call from the payroll company – the money can’t be reversed. A little more research reveals the new employee, recipient of a $619.33 manual check, also had the original $619.33 deposited into her account a day later and decided not to tell anybody. Now she’s mad at me because she spent the money and I’m taking half off it back this pay and the other half next through a payroll deduction.

Exhibit C:

A salesman is paid $375.84 commission on a deal he was never involved with … on July 3. Four weeks go by, and does he tell anyone? What do you think. Finally, the salesman who did write the deal asks his manager why he was never paid on it. The manager calls up to me in the office, and I tell them that the first guy was paid by mistake because the finance manager put the wrong employee number on the deal. Now he’s gonna be mad at me because next pay I’m going to charge him back the full amount.

That’s nearly $2,600 in EMPLOYEE THEFT. There, I said it. If I overpay you, you are under obligation to notify me. (Hint: I’m an accountant, and I will find the error sooner rather than later, but find it I will.) If you’re overpaid for anything, you are under a moral obligation to return it. It is not a gift. It is not a bonus. It is a mistake. It is someone else’s money. It is no different from finding that wallet loaded with cash on that lonely path.

My wife rationalized it, saying that people do things in such a bad economy as this that they normally wouldn’t do. Maybe so. Still, it doesn’t make it right. It is a far cry from Jean Valjean stealing a crust of bread to feed his family. The ends never justify the means.

I may be tempted by a lot of things in this world, but this is not one of them, thank God.

All I can do is go on as if nothing happened. I still have to provide as best service as possible to all three of these individuals, and I would want to regardless of the circumstances. But so help me, if they ever say harsh words to me in private, I will give them a cold stare and tell them that they flunked the Character Test.