Deadbeat moms

Arizona’s right-wing governor is making political hay on his approach to dealing with so-called deadbeat dads.  These “deadbeats” are men who are so evil they will not pay court-ordered child support.  The governor plans to  shame them by publishing their names on social media along with amounts owed. He created a Twitter hash tag, #deadbeats,” to serve his cause.

I do not mention the governor’s name because I see this maneuver as a shameful attempt to further his national  political ambitions.  He has picked an easy target.  Who has a kind word, or even a nod of understanding, when it comes to the deadbeat dad?  If the governor could run on that issue alone, he would no doubt receive and ungodly percentage of the vote for president of the U.S.

We Americans are great at stereotypes.  Deadbeat dads are all the same in our eyes.  They are routinely called losers, scofflaws and worse.  But, really, what is worse?  A father who fails to pay money so his former partner can  ostensibly raise his child or a mother who takes child-support money and spends it helter-skelter on anything she so chooses.

It is a rotten system.

Mothers, particularly after they remarry, should be held accountable for how child-support dollars are spent. If you are a “deadbeat dad,” nothing galls more than the idea of subsidizing a deadbeat step-father. And then to think the child, in some instances, assumes the stepfather’s surname without legal adoption.  The mother’s new family may see good reason in that.  Doing the right thing, adopting a young child, would perhaps legally cut off or lessen income for his family.   In some cases, the new father-figure may resent his step-child and make demands on the child’s money.

The thing is this.  We don’t know if the child receives any part of the mandated payments.

Accountability and fairness, all the way around, just not on the father’s part, should be the rule of the land.  As it stands now, the law assumes it is the man’s fault a marriage fails and he alone should be penalized for it.

There are deadbeat moms too.



A morning routine

A puzzling place in the diningn room.

A puzzling place in the dining room.

I have just a few moments ago finished solving the Tuesday crossword puzzle in the New York Times.  It was a struggle.  But there was the satisfaction that I’d been able to work through a morning incapacitation of my brain. I tapped my head.  It sounded woody.  But, struggle or not, it is a routine I’ve come to enjoy.

I do the NYT puzzle almost every morning, usually first thing, seated in my comfy chair by the dining room windows.  At my side there is a cup of heavy black coffee.  Usually the java is placed on a stone coaster on a nearby table — unless my elderly cat Obie needs space and objects with a squawky meow.  Then I take a risk and move the cup to the arm rest.  In the far bathroom,  I hear Nebra getting ready for work, radio tuned in softly to NPR.

Aaah, the routine of it all!

The theme of today’s puzzle, “interior designer,” did not strike home until it was all over.  The answers contained the names of famous designers.  Like the answer “barn animals” with “Armani” in the middle, or, aha, the interior of “designer.” Clever, clever.

Other woes:  Who was the Queen of Sparta?”  Well, I didn’t need to know “Leda” because I was able to answer the surrounding clues.  Another was the clue, “Any of the Filipinas.”  First thinking it was a female living in the Philippines, I jotted down “ella.”  I eventually realized the puzzle constructor wanted the country itself, a land of islands.  So I changed it to “isla,” Spanish for island.  Well, I had two letters right.  But it is messy that way.  I do my puzzles in ink pen.  They look nice only if I don’t make mistakes.

A tangential reward is discovering facts you can not live without.  Like the origins of the popular 1980s band,  REO Speedwagon.  Or who the hell is Aaron Sorkin?   I now know that the REO Speedwagon was named after a popular vehicle prior to WWII.  And the “REO” stands for the company’s founder, Ransom Eli Olds, of Oldsmobile fame.

Sorkin, I learned, is the playwright who created Broadway’s “A Few Good Men.”  He sold the film rights, and it became a successful movie with Tom Cruise and Demi Moore.  I now know the plot came from a phone conversation with Sorkin’s sister, a lawyer who was representing two soldiers in a hazing incident at Gitmo.  To what parts of my mind this stuff has been disseminated, I haven’t a clue.

My puzzle work space.

My puzzle work space.

Although The Times, publishes the solved puzzle the next day in a corner of the new one, I do not have to wait nearly that long to check my answers.  I can find them on the Internet as early as one minute after midnight and no later than 7 a.m. of the same day.  Rex Parker, who describes himself as “the 9th Greatest Crossword Solver in the Universe!” is my go-to guy.  He lives in Binghamton, NY, I believe. His blog is entertaining, even if you don’t come away with the smug feeling of having solved the puzzle.

I remember doing crosswords as early as my college days.  In the fog of time, I see myself sitting in the Student Union over lunch, doing a puzzle in the college newspaper, sometimes after reading the editor’s column, “Infallible Fallacies.”  And, yes, swilling coffee but no cat to boss me around.  So the crossword habit has enveloped me with its charms for many years.

I have often thought of trying to create my own puzzles.  But that is a lot of work and the pay for constructors, about $200 a puzzle or $1,000 for the Sunday puzzle in the New York Times Magazine, does not measure up to even my simple lifestyle.

An average solver.  That’s how I rate myself.  Shouldn’t I be better after all this passage of time?

The NYT puzzles, edited by the veteran Will Shortz, are the best in the business and get harder to solve as the week goes along.  By Saturday I’ve been brought to my knees.

Oh, the anguish!

There must be better ways to start the day.  I don’t have all the answers to that either.




An umbrella in cactus land

Umbrella shielding cactus.

Umbrella shielding cactus.

A few days ago, while ambling along my usual route around Colonnade Mall, it began to rain.  No big deal.  The weatherman predicted it.  The unusual thing is that it stayed and stayed.  Even more unusual was that I purchased an umbrella for the first time ever.

At first, the manager at Old Navy couldn’t find one.  Then, after a brief search, she discovered a small collection tucked away on a shelf.  It certainly wasn’t the featured product you would find in a Nordstrom’s in Seattle.

“After all,” I said trying to reassure the manager, “this is Arizona isn’t it?”  A question that is now up for grabs.

Rain fell that night and into the next day. Then yesterday and again today.  Four days, one and a quarter inches. As I write the rain gauge riseth as doth the water in the basement.  This is impressive for an arid land that receives about 8 inches for the entire year.  Noah would be impressed.  Is that hammers pounding on freshly-sawn wood?  I don’t want to miss the ark.  When I board there will likely be a red and black plaid umbrella with me, grasped as tightly as can be.

I have a terse history with the umbrella.  Usually I share one.  But never buy.  Until, worried some, this week.  Some of the bright colors fascinate me and at the same time its construction frazzles my nerves.  After the purchase at Old Navy, I stood outside in the darkest corner of the mall, hoping stranger-eyes would not notice how much I struggled to open my new, bright acquisition.  The strap was pretty easy.  Velcro.  But stretching it out, that was something else.

Free use of umbrellas at the Masq Hotel.

Free use of umbrellas at the Masq Hotel.

The last time I remember fiddling to open an umbrella was in France, in September.  Nebra and I were in rainy, windy La Rochelle, a port city on the Atlantic.  The weather turned blustery on the 14th, rain driving into us like nails.  Our downtown hotel, The Masq, was more than prepared.  In the lobby by the front desk was a container of orange umbrellas, free use by guests.  You did not need a weatherman in La Rochelle to explain the climate there.

Nebra keeps an umbrella or two about the house and at her office.  I suspect they are mostly used for shade from the piercing summer sun.  And she keeps losing them.  One of her recent posts outlined the communal spirit of owning an umbrella:  “I’ve heard it said that there is really only one umbrella and we just keep misplacing it, so the next guy picks it up, etc etc.”

Anyway our wet weather is to continue.  Another series of El Nino storms is due, I hear, sweeping in from the Pacific.

My last experience with incessant rain came during a stint in the military many years ago near Tacoma and Seattle.  It rained almost everyday until summer.  And I got used to it, even got to the point of liking it.  All that without ever owning an umbrella.

Now it is here, the Seattle rain in Cactus Land, weather only a seahawk coud love.

As for opening my umbrella, well, Nebra is usually around somewhere.


A 2015 reading list

What, pray tell, does a guy living in the arid lands read in the way of books, someone may ask?  And, given that this guy’s particular stretch of arid lands is conservative and therefore lightly educated Arizona, does he even read books at all?  Well, other than Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulter.

This is a land whose light-skinned aging airheads largely believe George W. Bush was right in marching troops off to Iraq in 2003, that Bush’s war-mongering vice president, Dick Cheney, is as much a hero as their beloved American Sniper, that guns belong in every school room, that President Barack Obama was really born on the edge of Lake Kenya, that global warming is a liberal conspiracy, that all Muslims are our enemies and that building a gigantic fence at our border with Mexico is the panacea for all our troubles.

I don’t intend to scream at the world, no, I’m different than that.  But I will offer my reading list from 2015. People can make up their own minds.  In chronological order:

“The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda,” by Ali Soufan.  How relationships, not torture, are the keys to gathering truthful intelligence on America’s enemies.

“The Making of the ‘African Queen,” or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind,” by Katharine Hepburn.  The inside story of a great film.

“The Desert Year,” by Joseph Wood Krutch.  A scientist from the East looks at amazing plants and animals of the Southwest.

“The Crash of 2016,” by Thom Hartman, the left-wing talk-show host, re the economy and politics.

“Missoula:  Rape and The Justice System in a College Town,” by Jon Krakauer.  Interviews with victims of sexual assaults and a troubling legal system.

“Guantanamo Diary,” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a brilliant Mauritanian who has been held at the U.S. prison in Cuba for more than a decade without proof of wrong-doing.

“The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” by Vincent Bugliosi, the California prosecutor who got a conviction for Charles Manson.  Lays out convincing evidence against the former President.

“Homage to Catalonia,” by George Orwell, author of the classic “1984.”  Politics and war in 1930s Spain.

“Young Men and Fire,” by Norman MacLean, author of “A River Runs Through It.”  An investigation into the causes of the deaths of 12 airborne firefighters at Mann Gulch in 1949 Montana.

“My Reading Life,” by Pat Conroy.  Books he has read and the English teacher that changed his life.

“Decision in Normandy,” by Carlo d’Este.  A detailed account of the Allies invasion of Normandy during WWII.

“The Gentle Giants of Ganymede,” by James P. Hogan.  Science fiction.  How genetic engineering changed Earth.