print version of Smoky Days up on and Create Space

            I wasn’t going to mention this until the “official” release of the book at the July 20th book signing, but the print edition of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights is already up and available on and the Create Space website. (It will be up as an e-book, but not until a bit later.)

            If you’re not going to be around for the 125th anniversary on July 20th, or if you want to read it early and then bring it with you to be signed – or if you just don’t care if it’s signed or not – you can order it from Create Space for $9.95, at:

            If you want to save a buck, then surprise: Amazon has already discounted it to $8.96. As soon as I have a chance to set it up, print orders will be available through my website for those of you who don’t live nearby, but want a signed copy. Shipping charges will apply either way, but we’re trying to keep it affordable – and don’t forget this is a fund raiser for the Albion Fire Department. The Amazon page for the book, which includes your chance to take a look inside, is at:

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Last Words About Last Words


            A while back I saw some video footage in which a car speeding down the interstate was hit by an airplane tire.

            Not a car tire. A big freaking airliner tire, as big as the car itself, came barreling across the pavement and right into the side of the car. The plane, as you might imagine, was right behind the tire, but from what I could see the driver avoided the rest of the major debris.

            It got me thinking about last words.

            As far as I know the driver of that car survived, and could go on to tell the story as soon as he changed his pants. If he had been killed, I doubt his last words would have been printable in a family publication. In fact, most last words probably amount to some variation of, “Oh, frack”. That’s a fine, descriptive science fiction curse word, right up there with “Shazbot” … but the actual final word would have had only four letters.

            Every now and then, a person’s last words are something to remember … for good reasons, or bad. They could be ironic, such as John Adams’ last words: “Thomas Jefferson survives”.

            This was ironic because Thomas Jefferson passed away a few hours before. They didn’t have phones back then. Can you imagine Adams’ reaction if they had? “What do you mean, he just died? That Jefferson, always stealing the limelight. Sure, I was the second President, but who got to write the Declaration? Who invented the portable desk? I’ll bet they’ll give him a memorial, but me? Nooooo… and now he screwed up my last words.”

            And he would have said all that with his last dying breath, which you have to admit is pretty impressive.

            American Presidents often had interesting last words. James Madison said, ‘I always talk better lying down.” And then he lay down, and stopped talking.

            Millard Fillmore’s were, “The nourishment is palatable.” Okay, so maybe not so interesting, but evidence that the soup didn’t kill him.

            Andrew Johnson: “I need no doctor. I can overcome my troubles.” He was wrong.

            Theodore Roosevelt, before his lights went out? “Please put out the light.”

            I suspect George Washington’s last words were: “Don’t build the new capitol in a swamp! Nothing 
good will ever come out of it.” If only we’d listened.

            Then there was Civil War General John Sedgwick, whose last words were, “They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

            Unfortunately for him, they weren't shooting at an elephant.

            The last words of most people is a variation of either, “Oh, crap”, or “Hey, ya’ll, watch this!” In both cases the words aren’t very memorable, although the actions often are.

            So, what would my last words be?

            I’d kind of prefer that the last noise I make be a snore, as in I died in my sleep. Barring that it would be nice to have something heroic: “Did I … *cough* … get them out in time?” Or, “I had to save those puppies …”

            Or something that would make literary history, such as, “It was the best of times … until the turn of the century”, or, “I should have written ‘Fifty Shades of Twilight Hunger Games’.”

            Or at least something that ties it up nicely, such as “It was a good life – I accomplished all my goals except for climbing Mount Everest, but it was just too darn cold up there.”

            Yeah – no.

            My last words will be something I wouldn’t want on my tombstone. Here’s a sampling of the possibilities:

“Don’t worry, I shut off the electricity.”

“There’s plenty of room!”

“I think it’s out; let me take a look.”

“I can fix that.”

“I can make friends with any animal!”

“Does this look infected to you?”

I consider that last to be the least likely, because if it is infected, I’ll have time later for my last words to be:

“Guess I should have had that checked out, huh?”

The lesson we should learn from this is not that we should consider carefully our last words. No, it’s that we should just shut up and think before we light that match, hit the gas, or go down into a dark basement when a serial killer’s on the loose.

I’ve at least learned to stop saying those predictors of certain doom: “What could possibly go wrong?” and its cousin, “It could be worse”.

It sure could.

interview done

Interview just finished -- the plan is for it to be aired Monday at 6 p.m. on INC (That's the Fort Wayne news on channel 21, the ABC affiliate, and I believe the same news broadcast is on the NBC affiliate).

All my plans to sit up straight, keep my saggy chin up, and not talk stupid went straight out the window the moment the camera was turned on me. Just the same, it seemed to go fairly well, and maybe he can edit out most of the "ums" and "ahs".

Time for a nap.

lights, camera ...

We’re looking at a bit of a game changer, as far as my schedule this week: Eric Olson of Indiana’s News Center is coming over tomorrow at 10 a.m. to interview me about Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights. With a camera. He wants to film in my office, where the magic happens.

The magic will be getting the office to not look like it wasn’t just filled with a dump truck load of books, electronics, paperwork, and assorted stuff.

I’ll let you know when the interview will be up. Here’s their website:

radio station interview coming up

I’m scheduled to be interviewed at a local radio station!

The Hawk, WAWK at 95.5 FM and 1140 AM, plans to interview me on Tuesday, July 2nd, at 9:30 a.m. It’ll be about the release of my book, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department, and its association with the AFD’s 125th anniversary celebration on July 20th.

I DJ’d for a time at a different local radio station many years ago, but otherwise haven’t had much contact with the industry except as a listener. I don’t know whether the interview will be recorded and available later, but it should be live streamed at the station’s website:

Wish me luck! Here’s the Hawk’s Facebook page:

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Finally, a Test We Can Sleep Through


            A while back I was tested for allergies. It’s something that needles me still, in each arm, once a week. During the follow-up meeting, the ear, nose, and throat doctor informed me that my ears were clogged, my nose stuffed, and my throat raw. He also asked how I’d been sleeping.

            “How should I know?” I asked him. “I was asleep.”

            “He doesn’t sleep very well,” my wife put in. “He’s terrible at it. No talent for sleeping at all. However, he snores in the cutest little accents.”

            So the doc ordered a sleep study. Thanks, dear.

            In her defense, apparently the old trick of rolling me over to stop the snoring no longer worked. Stuffing a pillow down my throat also had its drawbacks. To make matters worse, the ENT had discovered I have something called a deviated septum.

            Many of us have that moment when we realize we’re not the heroes of our own stories, but rather the sidekicks, or some other supporting roll. I’m that nerd kid everyone bullied and made fun of, with the glasses, allergies, and yes, deviated septum. I’m one inhaler away from being the star of a Revenge of the Nerds remake.

            The doc explained that a device would be placed over my head, and I’d have to keep it on while I slept. Also, that device was worth five thousand dollars, so be careful with it.

            “Thanks, doc. I’ll sleep well, with enough electronics on me to pay off my car.”

            “If it helps,” he suggested, “your wife can stuff a pillow down your throat until you start snoring.”

            The device was both lighter and smaller than previous designs, if you can call having a Volkswagen strapped to your face smaller. At least it wasn’t a ’57 Chevy.

            The strap adjusted to me like a baseball cap, and there were two adhesive suction cups that stuck it to my forehead. The testing package on the front was roughly the same size and shape as one of those huge knots the Coyote gets on his head after his Acme anvil malfunctions and hits him, instead of the Road Runner. That’s entertainment.

            Then a nasal cannula went on – that’s two little plastic tubes that stick into your nose. Then, when ready for bed, I had to turn it on and wait for it to do some little computer testing stuff. Finally a female voice spoke (not my wife). The electronic voice was probably meant to be soothing, but it sounded more like a nun wielding a yardstick in a Catholic school, announcing the spankings were about to commence:

            “You may go to sleep NOW.”

            Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that. Nothing says sleep like a 5K computer that could start the robot apocalypse, strapped to your forehead.

            Miraculously, I did indeed get to sleep. Eventually. And that’s when I learned something new: My forehead sweats when I sleep. When that happens, adhesives glued to my forehead may come loose. (How was I to know that? I don’t glue stuff to my forehead. Okay, once.) When that happens, the whole sleep 
testing computer thingy may come loose.

            And when that happens, the computer knows.

            It’s safe to say I was sleeping soundly by then. Or maybe not – again, how do I know? But certainly it was quiet in the room, because the device actually records all sounds while it’s operating, so I had to turn the room’s fan off. So, to review, in addition to a pumpkin on my forehead the room was perfectly quiet and my subconscious knew that the computer was listening to me.

            And yet I slept. That is, up until the moment that it decided the device had to be moved back to where it was supposed to be, instead of the top of my head.


            I was halfway out the second story bedroom window before becoming fully conscious. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought the place was on fire. There was a dent in the ceiling, so apparently I didn’t touch the floor on my way out.

            Emily slept through the whole thing, including me yelling “Open the pod bay doors, HAL!” which she would have appreciated because she saw that movie.

            After getting off the windowsill and wandering in little circles for a few minutes, I decided I’d better fix the thing, since they were billing me five hundred bucks regardless. I repositioned it until the lady Terminator stopped screaming in my ear, then did what men my age often do in the middle of the night: headed downstairs for a, shall we say, rest stop.

            You can only imagine the look on the face of our dog, who heard some strange woman yelling and now saw me stumbling past him with Alien stuck to my face.

            But before I went, I realized the computer lady was listening to every move I made, and would actual hear me – ahem – tinkle. I never thought of myself as having a shy bladder, but that shut down my entire urinary system. I didn’t go again for three days.

            Obviously I survived the incident, although how many days it took off my life I’ll never know. Maybe I’d have slept through them, anyway. At this writing I’m awaiting the results, which I suspect will indicate I need to carry a pocket protector with me at all times. But that’s okay: When the robot apocalypse starts, nerds might have the best chance of surviving.

            And every time to sleep study computer nun gathers more information, that apocalypse gets a little closer.