Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Monday, December 26, 2011

Revenge of the Grinch

           ‘Tis the season to be jolly …and fat.  The Christmas season and the New Years celebrations are normally a time for joy, food and drinks, and a variety of festivities. It’s all great fun and it’s also a time when we can justify letting our guard down to do some “over-indulging.”  That’s what we do at this time of the year. We have no choice.  It’s in our DNA. And it’s not just at Christmas.

            Gayle and I like to take cruises.  We actually took a cruise at Christmas once. Here again, unless you have the will power of Mahatma Gandhi you are going to eat yourself silly on a cruise.  Let’s face it. That’s what you are forced to do as a captive on a ship at sea. Statistics indicate that a person on a cruise ship will average an increase of one pound for every day of the cruise. 

If you took a picture of a cruise ship leaving port for Europe and another photo of the same ship returning after a two week cruise, the ship’s displacement would increase and you would notice it riding lower in the water. After all…the increase in the tonnage of chubby passengers could sink the sucker if it stayed at sea much longer.  That’s why ships disappear in the “Devil’s Triangle.”  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Just a Reminder...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Hermit's Pilgrimage

My book, "The Huckleberry Days of the '50s" is on sale for $10.00.  It's a great "stocking stuffer" for Christmas. Check it out at ralphhiggins.com.

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A Hermit's Pilgrimage

            I'm not sure our current journey to my old stomping grounds in Los Gatos, California, can be literally defined as a "pilgrimage," but it is a kind of homage to the old house I was raised in and the small country town we pillaged and plundered as kids back in the '50s.  I'm blogging from a strange computer at a friend's house in Los Gatos. Gayle and I are visiting our kids, grandkids and a ton of life-long friends and having a great time. But things have changed here.

            Sadly, that old country town of Los Gatos no longer exists. The ancient school house I once attended is now modernized with boutiques, shops of all sorts and yuppies coming out of the woodwork.  There is no dirt left anywhere in Los Gatos. Everything is covered in concrete, asphalt, astro turf, stores, and far too many cars. If the "dirt police" spot a grassy area, it's soon filled with a specialty shop or concrete.

            The streets in Los Gatos are plugged with cars and nothing is cheap. Only BMW's, Mercedes, and new shiny cars are allowed on the street, and only as long as they cost $50,000.00 or more.  I had to outrun a Mercedes tow truck once when my "high-mileage" Lincoln was spotted by a government camera mounted on a stop sign.  Too many bug spots on my windshield, evidently.

            And SUV's... If the Germans had used young women in SUV's instead of tanks, they would have won the war.  These woman have an intensity in their eyes that would have terrified General MacArthur.  They can literally eat bean sprout sandwiches on whole wheat bread, while holding a bottle of French water in one hand and a cell phone in the other, as they charge an intersection like Frank Gore crashing through the line of scrimmage on Monday night football. And they're everywhere. Like Britons queue-up for a movie, women in SUV's line up on all roads leading to any elementary school. Many of these women don't even have children, but need to be around other SUV's, which are usually hanging around schools.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dawkins/O’Reilly Debate

I recently watched as Bill O’Reilly interviewed Richard Dawkins on the subject of atheism. Everyone knows that Dawkins is one of the most outspoken proponents of atheism and can argue his position quite well from a scientific perspective.

Unfortunately, O’Reilly isn’t the deepest thinker at a pot party and failed to point out what could be the most important counter argument to disqualify Dawkins as the final arbiter on the subject.

The point that is overlooked in these discussions was articulated in passing by Dawkins in that interview.  Dawkins disqualified O’Reilly’s points time after time by explaining that O’Reilly’s arguments were not scientific. O’Reilly didn’t grab the ball and run with it. Evidently it didn’t occur to him that Dawkins had boxed himself in when he defined his arguments as “scientific.”  He had inadvertently handed O’Reilly the weapon he needed, but O’Reilly didn’t recognize it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks for Ava Sophia

Thanksgiving Day is normally a time for gobbling the turk, floundering around in mash potatoes and gravy, sucking up cranberry relish and unbuckling your belt to make room for more.  It's also a day of football and falling asleep on the couch. 

I remember Thanksgiving dinners when I was a kid.  It was second only to Christmas as a traditional time for the entire family to get together.  Many families have a crazy uncle who wouldn’t be at the table if not for being “blood,” but the closest we came to that is my wild cousin, Lyle.  My uncle was one of my heroes as a kid. An “almost” Olympic weightlifter, he generated my interest in lifting weights and gave me my first 22 rifle.

But cousin Lyle was a wild man. He was a biology teacher who was known for demonstrating that spiders were harmless by eating a large spider in front of his biology classes each year.  He was the inspiration for my first interactive music software program, co-authored with Al Borges.  It was a national best seller and was titled, “The Spider Eater.”  I won't get into his exploits, but by today’s standards Lyle would be considered tame.  I remember him spiking the cider and conning my “non-drinking” mother into drinking it. She liked his concoction and I think she just pretended not to know what was in it. She was the greatest.

I remember the smell of the house, the warm fire in the family room and a huge turkey lying in obscene repose on the kitchen counter.  When the stuffing began I had the feeling that this was something I shouldn’t be watching.  It was time to leave the kitchen and it was more comfortable to go out in the crisp, cold November air and throw the football with my cousins and my brother.  After all, this is also a big day for football games.

When I was in high school, we played Campbell High on Thanksgiving Day.  This was the big game of the year. This was the day the rivals clashed and every player knew that, win or lose, a feast awaited him after the game.  In fact, I think that thought came to me almost as often as remembering whether I was to carry the ball off right tackle or block a linebacker.  Late in the fourth quarter the Campbell ball carrier began to look like a golden brown turkey.  That made him an easy target. We tried to knock the stuffing out of him.

Gayle and I will be having curry turkey on Thanksgiving Day with our Indian friends, but we’ll be spending time with our kids after Thanksgiving when things are less hectic. Being far from them makes it difficult.

Despite all that bad stuff going on in our country and the world, we still have a lot to be thankful for.  My daughter Shannon’s success at bring Ava Sophia into the world, after years of problems, comes to mind.  I guess if you didn’t have the “bad,” you wouldn’t appreciate the “good.” Ava Sophia Ciel Severino (4 names) is a miracle baby. Check out the photos of her above.  This is my first granddaughter. I have two wonderful grandsons, and Gayle has a good balance of two and two.  So Shannon's baby would be the first of many things I can think of to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day. Maybe every day should be Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sorry. This stall is Occupied.

I know it’s past time for a blog, so I’ll come up with something quick. 

It’s difficult for me to get past the insanity of the “Occupy” idiots, because that’s all we’ve heard about for weeks. No one with a brain can suggest that there is a comparison of this adolescent rebellion to the Tea Party. The Occupy dingbats are naive college students, union supporters, homeless druggies, and other societal dregs.

That’s evidenced by the drug use, rapes, murders, destruction of property, disease, open sex, and all the rest of the childish behavior. Defecating on police cars or in front of a crowd is not typical of civilized and intelligent adults. Most of these “flea baggers” have no idea why they are “occupying”, except to have fun, get stoned, get laid or break something.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You're Never Too Old

            I’m not a health nut nor am I a gym rat, but I do believe in exercise and its beneficial results.  And the results aren’t purely physical.  I’ve always believed that exercise can change a negative mood into, if not a positive mood, at least a “less” negative mood. When you feel good physically, it’s reflected in feeling good mentally. 

            When I was young, particularly during my college years, I got into weightlifting somewhat seriously.  Many of my friends were also into it back then. I worked out in an old-fashioned smelly gym with several close friends on a regular basis.  This was before gyms were popular or fancy. Since the gym was the only one in San Jose, I got to work out with professional wrestlers and pro football players. I continued to lift off and on through my younger years and came back to it later in life.

            I have to say that I retained some of my former strength into my 60s when we lived here in Quincy.  I worked out with a real serious former heavy lifter, who by then was in his 70’s. He was well past his prime, but was still tough and strong.  He told me that when you hit 70 you lose your strength very rapidly. Now that I’m there, I see what he meant.  When I was working out with him I was in my 60s and I hadn’t yet started the big slide to “feeble city.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn's Chill

The leaves are turning color and the air has a chill. It feels like fall, but what happened to summer?  I guess we had a few weeks of it this year, but the winters here in the mountains seem to get longer and longer.  The familiar smell of wood stoves burning in our small community is not unpleasant.  It adds to the atmosphere somehow and I still like to ride my Triumph and breathe the crisp air, flavored by wood stoves. It’s definitely Halloween weather.

Back in civilization, the cities are beginning to reap the results of an unhappy populous or maybe one segment of the population.  To compare the current protestors to the Tea Party folks is ludicrous.  There is no comparison.  Compare a flea bag with a tea bag. Most of these kids have no idea why they are involved, but it is a lot of fun and some even make it to the TV screen.  Now they find that many are being paid to show up.  In my humble opinion, this is just the start.

We are seeing an extension of “protestors” to “rioters’ in Europe, but, of course, none of that can happen here. But I remember something about the Rodney King riots in L. A., so maybe it can happen here and I faintly remember when the lights went out in New York years ago.  Not a good thing.

During the depression, men lined up for soup and sold apples to buy food. There was a moral law built into those folks.  If today’s   inner cities lost electricity for ten hours, what would be left when the lights came back on?  It’s a different mentality now.  Most vestiges of morality, empathy, and individual responsibility have been effectively eroded as our culture devolved.

So sitting on my deck with a drink while my dog explores the forest behind us or riding my bike up a winding road leading to a lonely lake may not be a bad alternative to urban chaos, road rage and the stress of life in the fast lane. And in our little community, the natives would tolerate scummy protestors about as long as it takes to drop a shell in a 12 gauge shotgun.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ava Sophia Severino

I’ve been taking heat for not posting a blog for a week or two, but I have a good excuse.  I’ve been in the Los Gatos/San Jose area spending time with my daughter Shannon and my new granddaughter Ava Sophia.

Some of you know the problems Shannon has had in her attempt at having a child, so it’s an exhilarating feeling to see a pretty little girl blinking her eyes at a world that is much different than the world her grandpa peeked out at over 70 years ago.

I was a coward or maybe I was clairvoyant at my birth, because I didn’t want to come out.  I was a breach, which means I came out ass-backward, which is basically how I’ve lived my life. I’d still be floating around in there if the doc hadn’t grabbed my leg and pulled me out, kicking and screaming. I think that behavioral pattern was set back then.

But little Ava seemed quite content at her introduction to the temperature change, gravity, and swooning spectators.  I have to qualify her beauty and contentment by honestly saying that when she cries, I swear she looks like Don Rickles.

It’s interesting how everyone tries to see who the baby looks like. A baby is like an ink blot test. People see what they want to see, but the only physical trait she and I seem to  have in common is a lack of hair. But I have to be honest…she’s a beautiful little girl.

My granddaughter was the main event, but I met with a lot of friends while in civilization and spent time with a former professional athlete, coach and close friend.  I’m working with him on his autobiography. It’s my first “ghost writing” project and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. The challenge is to avoid writing in my “voice,” and not the “author’s” style of speaking. It’s a very interesting project with many professional athletes and famous people like the Pope and the President of the United States featured prominently. This man had an interesting life as an athlete, coach and businessman.

But the primary reason for my “blog” absence was that telephone call at 5:30 A.M. from my daughter. A call Gayle and I had been waiting for over the past couple of weeks, advising us of the impending arrival and the true blessing of a beautiful baby granddaughter. Along with Gayle’s four, we now have seven grandchildren. Holy cow! I’m older than dirt.

Congratulations Shannon and Stephen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

They can kill us, but they can't eat us

            “They can kill us, but they can’t eat us. It’s against the law.”  Those words are attributed to Private Lattie Tipton as spoken to Audie Murphy in the heat of battle during the Second World War.  

            Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier to come out of that war. Unfortunately, his buddy Tipton was killed shortly after making that famous statement. For some reason, those words offer a strange consolation during trials and tribulations and when things get bad, you may hear someone say, “Don’t worry…they can kill you, but they can’t eat you.”

Personally I don’t find much consolation in that expression. The fact is that they probably can eat us, but maybe not all at once. And it probably is against the law…at least while food prices stay below home prices. But food prices are moving up rapidly and real estate has plummeted, so we might not have much time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Sierra Morning

            It’s the end of August and the morning air is starting to get chilly already.  I sat out on the deck this morning with a cup of coffee and my buddy, Dakota.  It was peaceful and quiet, but now and then I’d hear the gentle snort of a horse in the woods, just off the back of my property. Otherwise there is no sound. Just the long shadows of the pine trees as the sun begins to climb the branches to make its dramatic appearance later in the morning.

            I was reflecting on the peace and beauty.  The old song by Louis Armstrong that speaks of this as being a “wonderful world” kept going through my mind. And I guess it is a beautiful world. But I’m always struck by the dichotomy between the beauty of our planet and the cruelty and brutality of nature.

            I can look out at the forest from my deck and everything seems tranquil, but I know that a couple of miles up the hill from me there is a mountain lion tearing the throat out of  Bambi, while off to my left is a blue jay snagging a butterfly right out of the air.  Even the beautiful pine trees fight each other for the sun. Left to his own nature and adverse circumstances, I’m sure my gentle dog could conceivably join a pack of dogs and become a killer himself. That’s hard to believe, but that’s nature.

            You can watch insects and fish eat each other. Let’s face it, death is required for life. Everything is food for something else. Ironically, the worms usually get humans, after we’ve eaten everything else.

            In the book, “Lord of the Flies,” a group of British school boys are marooned on an island and the changes that take place in their personalities and behavior present grist for the intellectual mill of “nature vs. nurture.”  The boys literally become savages.

            Imagine if we didn’t “civilize” a baby and allowed the child to do whatever it wanted to do – just let it follow its nature. Would that child develop into a model citizen and a wonderful person or would it fall into the category of a “sociopath?” 

It raises the question of whether human nature at its base is good or evil. The prevailing philosophy is to not discipline children physically. Some folks think that people are basically good. No need for religion or internalized morality. How has that worked out?  Fortunately, I had girls and never had to physically discipline them. A look or a change in my voice was all it took. I was lucky and they were wonderful.

            Any one of the ideas I’ve touched on could make an interesting study, but I’m just scratching the surface with some thoughts that came to mind while I was enjoying a beautiful morning in the Sierras. And that’s really all we can do. Enjoy what you can, when you can. And eat everything that crosses your path. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Things

I have two Triumph motorcycles. I’ve owned bikes since the sixties, when I flew into Frankfurt, hopped a train to Copenhagen, Denmark, and bought my first motorcycle – a brand new 1969 Triumph 650.  A 650 was considered a big bike in those days. 

I traveled all over Europe on it. I remember when I rented a room from a communist party member in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, when it was under Tito. Sometime in the middle of the night I looked out of my window and saw cars lined up in a semi-circle with their headlights on my bike and a crowd of people walking around inspecting it.

I was several stories up and couldn’t have gotten down in time if there was a problem, but some of the guys looked up and saw me leaning out of the window watching them. It was obvious that they were just admiring the motorcycle and they didn’t even touch it. I had more trouble in Switzerland with theft than in Yugoslavia. But that bike was unique in those days in Europe and particularly in a communist country.  

I rode that bike through nine countries by myself, because my riding buddy didn’t show up at the Hoffbrau House in Munich, Germany, on the date we were scheduled to meet there. He had flown in earlier. He claimed he fell in love with a German girl and she had him locked in her bedroom. Knowing him, she didn’t need a lock. So after too many mugs of German beer, I took off on my own. Someday I’ll write about that trip. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

All of this is to say that even as an old “dude”, I still enjoy riding a motorcycle.  I’ve taken a few spills hill climbing, worn the obligatory cast on my leg, and I’ve done some other very stupid things when I was young, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two.  Now I ride like an old guy…you know, at five miles per hour with my left turn blinker on. Actually, that’s a very good way to get killed.

I just got my newer Triumph out of the shop today and I was thinking about how much I enjoy riding through the Sierras on a motorcycle. While riding, I thought that there are three major things that make my life bearable living so far from family and friends high in the Sierra Mountain range. That has always been my gripe … being too far from my kids, grandkids and friends, but I do have three things that make it palatable. There are actually more than three, but these three hit me as I rode home from the bike shop.

The first of the three is a good wife. You have to have a wife that you respect and one that respects you. You both have to be able to laugh freely. She has to be trustworthy. She has to “have your back,” she has to share your “world view” and religious belief, and she has to be a true partner. I have that with Gayle.

The second thing … gotta have a dog.  I have a great miniature Australian Shepherd, who has been molded into the perfect dog for Gayle and me. Gayle claims to not like him, but that’s B.S. She just doesn’t like him staring at her and that’s what herding dogs do. They can’t help it. I love the little sucker. Dakota is my buddy.

And the third thing is a motorcycle. That bike sets me free. There’s no better way to experience the beauty of the Sierras than on a bike, where all of your senses are open to absorb the richness of the environment. Riding in a car doesn’t do it. Even walking through the forest, as I do daily, doesn’t match riding a motorcycle through the mountains. Walking through the woods is like sipping beer. Riding through the forest on a motorcycle is like guzzling beer. There is a time for each. And a beer after a ride is not just a reward, but a means of flushing the bugs out of your teeth.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin

            I’ve belly-ached enough about the snow up here in Siberia, aka “Quincy”, more specifically, Green Horn Ranch, so maybe I should explain that when the sun comes out it creates temporary amnesia and the obliteration of the concept of snow. And the sun is not bashful about making an appearance. Maybe because it knows “it’s time is short.” (That phrase has a biblical sound to it.)  

            It does get hot here, although at 4500 feet in elevation the nights are cool and the heat during the day is welcome. All kinds of strange forms of vegetation scramble to the surface as though there was doubt that the snow would ever melt and that life may never return to the planet. All that means is that I have to get outside and spoil their fun by whacking them down and tossing them in a pile so that at the first snow, I can burn them. So the snow wins again.

            I also cut down a few dead pine trees on the property, although I was a little concerned that I may not be able to dart out of the way fast enough if the trees decided to drop in my direction. It had only been a few short weeks since my knee replacement, so I wasn’t very agile, but I had an expert logger help me. My next door neighbor is in his eighties and is tough as nails. He has done enough logging that he can aim a tree to drop exactly on his target. With his engineering we missed the garage, the power lines and both of us.

            The horse trails in the mountains become dusty in the summer. But even when it’s hot, the shade in the forest makes for a relaxing and energizing walk among the pine trees. And my dog loves it. He runs his ass off and occasionally we may be interrupted by riders on horseback. After all, this is a dude ranch with “city folk” riding horses, some for the first time.

            I get a kick out of the guests who go on trail rides with wranglers from the ranch as guides. They are tentative and apprehensive as they following the leader through the woods. They are as nervous about the animal they ride as they are about what dangers they may encounter. I’m sure they think that they may be subject to an attack by Indians or bears, so when I run into a group of them, I tell my dog to sit and I talk to the guide. That is important, because if they happened to come on me suddenly, the horses can spook, because they may think I’m a bear. At least that was what I was told by one of the wranglers and I can understand why… I look like a bear. But I’m working on that.

            Anyway, life here in the summer is much different than it is in the winter. It’s actually pretty darn nice. Sadly, my Triumph is in the shop, so motorcycle trip through the beauty of the Sierras is on hold. My old 1969 Triumph requires a kick start and my knee isn’t up to the task yet, so I’m stuck without a bike.

            Our anniversary is next week and we will be going to a rustic restaurant on a lake with the world’s best food. I think you have to call for a boat to pick you up on the dock, because the restaurant is not accessible by land. There are many such resorts and restaurants tucked away in these hills. So it’s not all bad living in the mountains.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Higher "Education?"

I wrote a blog some time ago where I talked about how our country seems to be run by children. I thought I’d follow up on why I think this is so.

We live in a Peter Pan world, where kids never have to grow up. We allow a man or woman of 26 to be covered on their parents insurance as “children.” Our young people are educated by college professors who came out of the childish hippy rebellions of the ‘60s. Remember those euphoric days of flower children, drugs and free “love,” which is simply a handy euphemism for free sex. How many college kids could resist jumping on that one…or two…or three…or more. The University campus has become “Neverland” for students and many professors. . . a land where you never have to grow up.

Having moved directly from college students with flowers in their hair to college professors and having gained enough book knowledge to obtain the required credentials, professors are assured a safe and tenured haven of refuge inside the halls of academia. These are the people assigned to teach our children.

Wisdom comes when idealism butts up against reality, resulting in a re-alignment of precepts. Age and real life experience are critical ingredients for wisdom. Unfortunately many professors are devoid of wisdom and “teach” from a position of arrested maturity. They recruit our children into the world of make-believe without having set foot in the adult world of business and enterprise, but these are the “experts” who “educate” our kids.

One look at the academic level of U. S. students provides confirmation that very little “educating” is going on, despite the piles of money we dump into education. But our pathetic educational system is grist for another mill. And I say that as a former teacher.

Sadly, the average I. Q. in the United States has dropped from 100 down to 92, according to experts. Anyone with common sense can arrive at several reasons why this is so.

Most graduates come out of college with almost identical social and political profiles. College is a cookie cutter and it’s possible to ask one or two questions of a college graduate and you can fill in the rest of the blanks without bothering to ask any more. They all think alike.

Professors in more academic subjects, such as engineering, pre-med, etc., are actually educating, but there are more than enough electives or socially oriented subjects to mold pliable minds into the party line.

Is it any wonder that so many of our leaders, especially in this current administration, have never experienced life in the grown-up world? The current administration has the fewest members who have had any business experience outside of government and these numbers are fewer by a significant margin. These are academics who may have theoretical ideas and book knowledge, but little experience in the real world. Consequently we find ourselves in a mess economically and socially and can now take pride in being the laughing stock of the world.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Something to think about

One of the major obstacles to the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Commonly known as the Law of Entropy, this scientific law states that in all energy transformations, there is a tendency for some of the energy to be transformed into non-reversible heat energy. In other words, everything runs down or wears out. It decays. It dissipates. Reminds me of my 72 year-old body.

Entropy is used as a measure of the amount of energy depleted from a system. We can manipulate energy, but we can’t create it. This is confirmed by the First Law of Thermodynamics, also called the Law of Conservation of Energy. This one says that energy can be transformed in various ways, but it can neither be created nor destroyed. This means that the amount of energy cannot increase and that’s the key. Everything within our system, the entire universe, is running down, decaying, decreasing in complexity. This includes our own sun. It also includes my car and my brain.

The implication is that the universe is moving toward an irreversible state of maximum disorder and minimum energy. The second law says that this will not happen in reverse, mo matter how hard you work out at the gym. Energy and order won’t increase and since a maximum state of entropy has not been reached, the universe has not been here forever. It was “wound up” at some point and is now running down. In short, the universe had to have a beginning.

In the late 1920s Edwin Hubble discovered that the light from distant galaxies shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, indicating an expanding universe. Stars are moving away from us. This is similar to tossing a pebbled in a pond. The circle moves away from the center. Some scientists say that the original configuration of the universe may have been a state of infinite density where all mass, energy, space and time were contained in a single mathematical point with no dimensions. This is a hypothetical and complex concept that simply points to a beginning. I couldn't begin to understand it.

The evidence and natural laws fly in the face of the idea espoused by Bertrand Russell that the universe is “just there and that’s all there is to it.” The only rational alternative is that something has to be “eternal.” If the universe isn’t eternal then something external to the universe, such as a Creator, must be eternal. God is outside of time and space. God is eternal. God is the artist painting our universe on a canvas of time and space and it is within this portrait that we are created and temporarily confined.

I like to think about this stuff, despite the fact that I’m thinking about it while in a process of accelerated entropy, moving toward an irreversible state of maximum disorder and minimum energy. I think I'm already there! It’s time for a nap.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Enjoy what you can, while you can.

We have all experienced the frustration of being without electricity when the power goes off in the evening. You’ve got to keep the refrigerator closed to hold the temperature as long as possible.  You have to find a flashlight to help you find candles and matches. The heater doesn’t function and if you are on a well, you have to conserve water to drink and flush toilets. No computer. No TV. If your phones use electricity, no phone. It’s good to have a land line as a back-up. The garage door won’t work.

The point is that we take many things for granted and only become aware of them when they are gone.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Vacation Alternative

I just got a reminder from Ed Wall to get off my butt and blog about something. Trouble is - my thinking has been limited to recovering from a full knee replacement, which I had done last week. Due to swelling, I’m not supposed to sit for long, so messing with the computer has been put on hold. But maybe I’ll give you a quick overview of the process.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Think the World Has Gone Nuts!

I’ve tried to avoid anything controversial on this blog, but, I swear, the world is being run by morons and children. I read an article today about camels that upset me, so I’m going to let off some steam before I settle down.

I’ll stick to just one topic, but this is grist for your “common sense” mill. This blog is longer than normal, so you’re free to quit at any time. Here goes…

Friday, May 27, 2011

My naked dog

It’s about time for another blog. As usual, I have no idea what I’ll write about, so I’m reading this for the first time along with you.

I’ve talked at length about the weather here and, although snow is expected again tonight, I won’t mention it. I will mention that our dog got a haircut and I don’t recognize him anymore. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a naked dog. His beautiful coat of fur is gone, leaving him with a short, gray undercoat that doesn’t match his head. It looks like someone attached his head to the body of a different dog.

Unfortunately, Dakota had been panting whenever the sun came out. The fact that he's a fat little sucker may have contributed, but now that we see what he had hidden under his fur, it's a dog version of Weight Watchers for him. It gets hot enough here in the summer that dog owners normally trim their dogs, which seems to help them with the heat. Of course, I'm assuming the sun will eventually come out. I'm trying to adjust to my new dog. It's strange.

When you get old, it’s hard to adjust to change . . . even my dog’s haircut. If Gayle turned the toilet paper on the spindle so it rolled out from the bottom, I think both my legs would be numb by the time I figured out how to make it work. I hate getting old.

Speaking of legs…I’m getting a new knee in a couple of weeks. I’ve been thinking of buying one of those large knuckle bones you can get for your dog and putting it in the fridge. When my kids and grandkids come over my plan is to take it out and tell them it’s my old knee. Here in the mountains entertainment is limited, so you have to create your own.

I pulled a similar trick on them after having my prostate removed. I put a fig in a jar with cranberry juice for color and told the kids it was my prostate gland. After they adjusted to the shock, I unscrewed the lid, took out the fig and ate it.

The entire family ran as though I had tossed a snake at them. I swear they knocked all the deck furniture over and got as far away from me as they could. So maybe that old trick with a knucklebone won’t work anymore.  But I'll think of something...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Weather Dog

It's May 15th and it's snowing heavily again here in Siberia. There for a minute we thought spring had sprung and so did the bulbs Gayle planted. The flowers she planted popped out of the ground enthusiastically, anticipating summer sunshine, but global warming fooled us again. It's been fooling a lot of people. And a lot of scientists. Now Gayle's flowers are frozen, my dog is white on the top and the natives have gone back into hibernation. I think our reclusive neighbor saw his shadow again.

Speaking of my dog...I've decided he's going to be my "weather dog" from now on. I can get a good sense of weather conditions by simply opening the door and letting my dog out. If he comes back in wet on top and dry on the bottom, it's raining. If he comes in white on top, it's snowing. If he's white on top and wet on the bottom, that means it's snowing and the creek is running, but if he comes in with huge balls of snow in his fur, it means that the snow is too deep to get the car out. I'm still waiting for him to come in warm on top.

It reminds me of Noah sending a bird out of the ark and when the bird came back with a leaf in its beak, Noah knew land had emerged from the water. Yep. We primitive mountain people learn how to read nature's  signs.

Before this latest storm hit, I took Dakota for a walk in the forest, which is pretty much a daily thing when the snow melts.  I can read the signs in the forest like a real Indian. I stopped at a dead tree that had been ripped open by a bear searching for grubs. Being an astute observer, I determined that it had been a large bear. I could tell because the claw marks were at least eight to ten feet up the stump.

When I hear a growing roar, like a train, and I see the trees moving, I can tell right away that the wind is coming up. Flatlanders may not understand these mysteries of nature, but we mountain folks pick up on this stuff. And when my dog is wet or white on top, I know it's time to head back to the base camp on Greenhorn Ranch Road. And, being the experienced tracker that I am, I can always find my van in the forest, because it's red and it doesn't resemble a tree.

Sorry about this blog, but I had spent a lot of time today writing an intelligent and informative political piece, but Gayle read it and talked me out of publishing it. I thought it was powerful and hit the nail on the head, but she thought I'd make enemies and find myself on the "no fly" list. Since dinner is ready and I had to write something, I let my weather dog in and guess what...

Yep. White on top.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What Now?

The dust is beginning to settle after a flurry of activity in the design of my website, production of my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s,”the re-write of my novel resulting in, “Folsom Parallax,” producing copies of my CD, setting up the PayPal account for sales, and publishing my two latest books on Amazon Kindle eBooks.

I wanted all of these to come together when the books came out and, fortunately, it worked. I had to have projects to avoid going nuts during this eternal winter. Global warming, my ass.

It’s a good thing the snow lasted into April, pinning me up inside the house. If the weather had been good, I may have spent the days riding my motorcycle through the mountains. Fortunately, my struggle against cabin fever and insanity produced something other than a catatonic stupor or head-banging.

Now what?

Well, there is the challenge of alerting people that there are several pages to the website. Some folks click on the home page and say it looks “pretty,” but “the pictures at the bottom are too small.” I’ve tried to correct this by plugging in reminders to click on the different topics to see the other pages. Maybe this will work.

There is also a link on this page to the website. It’s not as obvious as I would like, but I’ll try to correct that too.

But the greatest challenge is the follow-up. Books need to be promoted online, through Amazon, etc. I say that this will be the “challenge” for me, because once I’ve accomplished a goal, I tend to lose interest and move on. I’ve already started working on preparing my garage for a room upstairs and working on my motorcycles, so maintaining interest and promoting my “creations” has always been a weakness in me.

Today the sun is out. People I don’t remember are creeping out from hibernation, blinking at the sunlight like Nancy Pelosi wishes she could blink, and wondering who turned the lights on. People up here disappear in the winter. I wouldn’t say, “Spring has sprung,” but most of the snow is gone and that’s good. It will take awhile to adjust to the light.

Remember…ralphhiggins.com or www.ralphhiggins.com or something like that…

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Words, Music & Art

Featuring . . . 

The Huckleberry Days of the '50s, Growing up in Los Gatos

     If you were lucky enough to have been a kid in the '50s, this book will bring back fond memories.
     If you missed the greatest decade and want to see what life was like for your parents and grandparents, this book will provide a keyhole to peek through to see life before traffic jams, cell phones and even TV.

     The Huckleberry Days of the '50s presents scenes that would apply to any rural community during those years just after WWII. This is light reading and meant to be fun. If you read my blog, you know I never exaggerate, but you can be certain that the core stories are true despite incidental embellishments. 

     Please go to my new website at ralphhiggins.com to read about this book and others. My new site has 5 pages, so be sure to check out the books, the music (my CD), and Gayle's fantastic artwork. You can relax to some photos we took of our area in the fall, accompanied by a cut from my CD. 

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Folsom Parallax

     For an interesting murder mystery, Folsom Parallax is a good read, according to friends and strangers. Since I wrote it, I try to avoid hyping it, but even I think it's a good story. 

     The hero or protagonist is a Los Gatos realtor who finds himself wrapped up in a murder and, as a result of his quest for vengeance, finds himself incarcerated in Folsom Prison during the most violent decade in the history of the prison. Folsom is the oldest in the California penal system and I was fortunate to be given a personal tour of areas not normally open to visitors. This was due to my work on this novel. 

     This novel is only available through Amazon at their Kindle book site. These ebooks can now be purchased and downloaded to your home computer or mobile device. They are no longer limited to the Kindle reader. These ebook versions are also very inexpensive. Both Parallax and Huckleberry are available on Amazon as ebooks.

     If you have read The Granite Veil, there is no need to read this re-write. This version of the novel cuts out the scientific examination of counter arguments to Darwin's theory of evolution. If you are interested in that subject, I would highly recommend Granite Veil, which is also available on my website at ralphhiggins.com.  This novel is only available in "paper book" form.

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Peanut Butter & Jam Session

     I made this CD as a "going away" present for family and some friends who wanted one. I was surprised to find that "friends of friends" wanted copies, so I had more copies made. You can hear samples on the Music page of my website at ralphhiggins.com .

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Please check out my new website at ralphhiggins.com  and wander through the pages. I think you'll find it interesting.

To access this blog directly, you must now go to http://higginsunhinged.blogspot.com or there is a link back to this blog on the website.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Note from Siberia

 If cars cause global warming, I say, “Gentlemen. Start your engines.”
I get a lot of calls from friends wondering how things are here in Siberia, so I think I’ll include a few photos taken today and yesterday. The snow is expected to continue through the weekend, so I’m sure I’ll have even more snow to photograph later. Taking pictures of snow is easy. Even I can do it. It’s just a bunch of white stuff. It all looks the same.

I hired a snowplow to clean out my driveway so we could go to town for supplies and get the mail two days ago, but the next day we were buried again and even deeper in snow. The glorious day of the return of the snow plow was the only day in a couple of weeks that we’ve been able to get out of this *&^%$#@ house. This may be my last communication with the outside world. The snow is sneaking up to the door. I can feel it.
I expect that some day in the future, scientists will break through a huge glacier in Quincy, California, and find a well preserved wooly mammoth, some ancient Indian relics, primitive tools and a frozen well-preserved Cro-Magnon man holding a peanut butter sandwich in one hand and a dog named Dakota under his arm. He will appear to be staring through frozen eyes as though waiting for a snow plow that never came. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

So you want to write a book?

Oooops. I forgot that I have a blog. Man, I’m getting worse and worse on updating this thing.

It’s not that there aren’t things happening, but I’ve been buried in other writing projects. I’ve been writing and editing for a couple of internet companies and just completed a new book on growing up in the terrific decade of the ‘50s. The title is, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s.” Subtitle, “Growing Up in Los Gatos.” The book is in production as I type this.

I’ve also re-written my novel, “Granite Veil” and cleaned out most of the heavy stuff, for example all the scientific analysis of the theory of evolution, which seemed to bog some people down. For those who enjoy that kind of thinking, it was very well received, but the new version moves faster with the focus on the murder mystery. The title of the new edition is, “Folsom Parallax.” I’ll remember to post a blog when it’s out.

I'll give you a quick lesson in publishing:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Abdominal Snowman

For those who think they would like to live in the beautiful, white stuff called “snow,” I have a house to rent you for a winter.

I’ve enclosed a photo of my dog trying to figure out why his toilet is covered in snow. Earlier in the day, he turned into a “gopher dog” and disappeared by tunneling under the snow. He’s got far too much energy to be stuck in the house all day, but, while he loves to lay out in the stuff, he’s a mess when he comes in and I have to give him a shower. The snow hangs on him in grotesque white balls and I’ve found the shower is the best solution.

As for Gayle and me, you can see what’s involved in getting out of the garage to get the mail, go to the store or go sight-seeing. Consequently we don’t get the mail. In fact, we can’t go anywhere.

Power outages come and go, the TV dish fills with snow, taking the garbage out requires a sled (I use the lid. It works like a sled) My computer has gone off and on so many times that it now has a nervous condition. I’m hoping it’s not Parkinson’s.

Gayle and I spent last evening reading books by candlelight. We had no electricity, consequently no heat, no TV, no computer, nothing but candles.


When we designed the house, I tried to avoid the 80# snow load requirement because of the addition cost, but the county wouldn’t okay it. Now I’m happy to have it. In fact, I’d be happier with a 100# roof.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Years ago there was a story about a guy who had a terminal disease, but determined to cure himself through laughter. His name is Norman Cousins. He was the editor of Saturday Review for 30 years and wrote a book entitled, “Anatomy of an Illness.” Cousins spent his days watching Laurel and Hardy movies and other comedy films that made him laugh. The amazing thing is that he was healed and he credits his healing to laughter. Look up Norman Cousins on the internet.

Remember - we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. Cousins was evidently able to change the way things were, because of who he was and the mindset he brought to his unfortunate circumstances. Someone said that the opposite of humor is depression. I wonder then if the cure for depression may be humor.

The Maryland Medical Center found that laughing is almost as effective as exercise for improving arterial health, so there’s obviously a physiological benefit as well as a psychological benefit in laughter.

Laughter relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation to the heart and it lowers cortisol, a hormone related to stress. The reason it works is that it reduces stress and stress will compromise your immune system. There are other ways of reducing stress, including exercise, having a dog or cat, prayer, music and other things, but laughing is easy and cheap.

Life is full to the brim with pain, sadness, sickness, cruelty, disasters, and death. There are myriads of negative events that can bury you emotionally.

Mark Twain said, “The source of all humor is sorrow.” That may or may not be true, but I tend to think that there’s something to it. Cynicism is certainly a source of humor, but you can find humor in human behavior and a myriad of more superficial things. And it may be true that in a deeper sense sorrow does play a role. But one thing is certain, laughter is good for you, so do it whenever you can.

Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I say, “If you get a chance to laugh, take it.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Don't let a crisis go to waste.

Another week of chaos and vitriol. Some paranoid schizophrenic, who, if he is political at all, is more to the left than the right, kills a child and several other innocent bystanders. The fact that he watches violent films, which Hollywood says have no affect on behavior, is into drugs and occult crap, has been a threat to teachers and others, is less of a concern than the fact that he ate a filet of fish sandwich at McDonald’s and Sarah Palin’s husband is a fisherman. So there’s the connection the loons need. It’s Palin’s fault. Or Limbaugh’s. Or George Bush’s. Or talk radio. Since the killer ate a fish sandwich, fishing should be outlawed. Who are these morons?

As Rahm Emanuel said, “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.” Are there still enough ignorant sheep left in America to buy into this manipulation? Unfortunately, I think the answer is “yes.”

When a democratic Congressman can look down from his perch at an Admiral during a congressional hearing, and express his serious concern that sending troops to an island base may add enough weight to cause the island to “tip over,” you know that those who voted him into office have IQ’s even lower than his. It seems inconceivable that anyone can be that dumb and still sign a ballot, but it must be true. If you missed that hearing, look it up on the internet. It happened.

Back to the murder in Arizona. This mass murder was a non-political event, perpetrated by a psychotic and deluded fool, who was influenced more by the skull he evidently worshipped, the drugs he took and the voices in his head than an article in Newsmax Magazine or Glenn Beck.

The trial will be scheduled in ten years or so, when the emotions subside and we learn how much potential the poor boy had, how he was kind to his mother and how much he loved his voodoo doll. And you and I will pay millions for his defense and incarceration.

Is this a great country or what?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"What's it all about, Alfie?"

I heard a gunshot at midnight, so I guess that was the starting gun for 2011. Up here in the mountains, miles from civilization, we are thankful for that guy with the gun who evidently also has a radio and communication with the outside world. Every year he notifies the natives that it’s time to change calendars. Without our Paul Revere of New Years Eve, how would we know it was New Years Day?

We’re buried in snow up here with more in the forecast. I found a frozen squirrel this morning, so I guess we have meat for a couple of days. We’ve eaten the bark off the trees as far as we can reach, so boiled squirrel is a real treat.