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Darrell Bain's Newsletter

November 2006

  From the disorganized office that's long overdue for a going over.

Note: Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Doctors, Wagging Tails, Memoy Foam, Progress Report, Common Sense vs Intelligence, Book Report and more.

This last month it seems like Betty and I spent most of our time either seeing doctors or getting tests of some kind. Result? We're still in about the same shape as ever, getting older but hanging on, trying for another twenty years or so.

What has been really annoying is clerical errors on the part of some medical people that caused us to have to return. Last week Betty was scheduled for a biopsy of her thyroid. She got all the way into the operating room, undressed and in a gown, when it was suddenly discovered that no one had told her to discontinue aspirin and Vitamin E for a week! So much for that wasted morning. It was rescheduled, and was finally done day before yesterday. It went fine, except we drove there and back through a veritable flood. You may have seen it on national news. Houston got anywhere from ten to twenty inches of rain that day. We got about fifteen inches in our area and along the route we drove.

Next, I was planning on having one of my lazy eyelids lifted (again--the first doctor didn't do the procedure correctly, and only did one eyelid). My regular ophthalmologist had conferred with the surgeon, and in order to save me from the painful trip to downtown Houston (bad back problems) had agreed to do an exam and then the procedure in his office. Uh oh. The first doctor hadn't even noticed that both of my eyelids needed lifting! There was no way I could lay on my back for the two hours both lids would take using just a local anesthetic, so that had to be rescheduled at a surgery center where I could be put to sleep. Another morning wasted and an additional day of back pain from the two hour ride in and two hours back. Rats.

Note: the procedure was done yesterday. It was painful, not even counting the ride there and back, because I couldn't be put under completely since that would relax my eyelids too much, and the doctor wouldn't be able to gauge how much muscle to remove. The rest of the day wasn't much fun either, but I feel pretty good this morning. I sure look a sight, though, with two black eyes. If anyone asks about them, I'll just tell them I got smart with Betty and she whopped me a couple of times to straighten me out.

On the other hand, sometimes there's the good mixed in with the bad. Four months ago I had another electromyelogram and physical exam on my feet and lower legs to evaluate the neuropathy I suffer from as a result of diabetes, which is a result of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. The exams didn't come out so hot. The neuropathy had gotten worse which is the bad part. The good part is that the VA kindly increased my compensation pension as a result.

Right now, we're waiting on the results of Betty's biopsy. Hopefully, that will come in before the end of the week and will be a good report rather than the bad kind.

I think that's about enough talk of medical problems. Let's move on.

Note: Still no report on Betty as of posting this newsletter. We're both waiting anxiously and hoping for good news.

Wagging Tails
What Betty and I are really planning to do is outlive our two dachshunds so they won't be orphaned. Luckily, small dogs tend to lead long lives and they're both still young, so we've got a considerable ways to go.

Tonto, the ADHD doggie with eating disorders, who switches back and forth between his two operable brain cells, at least wags his tail correctly. Susie, the other dachshund, wags her whole behind when she decides something is making her happy, especially visitors. It's funny to watch. Both of them like to help Betty with housework, frequently resulting in them being locked in the office with me. They especially like to help with sweeping. I know they're in the help mode when I see Betty chasing them with the broom. They also love to help in the garden, especially Tonto. He thinks Betty can't grow tomatoes without his help. That's the only time when he's outside that he'll put down the water hose or his sticks that he compulsively uses to shovel pine straw in the driveway. I'm writing a story about Tonto wherein he saves the world from alien invaders. It's a very hard story to write and may take a while to finish.

Memory Foam & Mattresses
When you have a bad back, or shucks, just when your bones begin to age, you almost automatically begin paying more attention to what you sleep on. Betty and I have spent a small fortune trying to find a comfortable mattress, buying a new one every few years and always paying over a thousand dollars for it. Less than two years ago we spent about fifteen hundred dollars on a king sized pillow top mattress. It was better than what we had before, but still wasn't that great. Besides, it made the bed so high I began worrying about one of us falling out and breaking some bones.

We had been reading about memory foam for a couple of years. We decided to try it. We bought a two inch memory foam overlay and it worked very well. However, now the bed was really high. I worried more than ever. Finally we decided to buy a new, lower frame and an inexpensive mattress not so high as the pillow top one was, and overlay it with the two inch memory foam. And that worked better than anything we'd tried before. In fact, it worked so well we decided to replace the two inch memory foam with a four inch overlay. I got a good bargain at Overstock.com, only a couple of hundred dollars. Last night we slept on it for the first time. Eureka! That was the best night's sleep either of us has had in many a moon!

How much did we spend before finally getting a comfortable, low bed? I don't even want to guess. I'm just telling this story so maybe it'll save some of my readers a little money--and give them a good night's sleep.

Progress Report
Mindwar, one of my best selling e-books, has lots of scenes that take place in elementary, middle and high school. I dedicated it to the three school teachers in our family, Colleen, Pat and Linda. Colleen was visiting us recently when I presented her with a copy. She stayed up until 2:00 A.M. finishing it, so I guess it's okay. Print copies can be found at Lulu.com. These are "large print" but not really, just half again as big as normal. The books are very attractive and easy reading. E-book versions are available at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com.

I just finished the first draft of a new book, Warp Point, and if I ever get shut of doctors, I'll finish it up. A teaser I sent to a friend went over very favorably. As of this posting, I'm halfway through revising the first draft. After that it goes to the publisher.

The new audio short story, Unforeseen Reward, continues to hold number one spot in audio book sales at Fictionwise.com. It's pretty high up in the general sales spot as well. I like the story even if I did write it, about an eleven year old girl who's a super genius.

Common Sense vs Intelligence
Here we're talking of intelligence above the norm of I.Q. 100 and Common Sense above that used in everyday thinking.

I've been told all my life that I'm smart but don't have much common sense. I believe it's a true evaluation to a certain extent, although I think some of it came about because I'm not interested in, and very untalented with, all things mechanical. That led to a lot of vexatious incidents during the years I was farming Christmas trees and having to work on equipment; tractors mostly, but other implements as well. Most of them I managed to turn into funny stories in the two volumes about life on a Christmas tree farm, but I assure you, they weren't funny at the time.

Anyway, the theme came up the other day for some reason or other and Betty and I began discussing it. We didn't reach any hard and fast conclusions but had a fine conversation.

One idea that was brought up was whether a person being naïve is the same as not having common sense. I think there's some truth in that argument, perhaps because I've always been very naïve. I believe just about anything a person tells me. When I first began writing seriously that got me in a lot of trouble and cost Betty and I some money when I picked an agent from a list and had the bad luck to pick a crook who strung me along for years while not doing anything to market my manuscripts. Eventually she and her husband both got nailed for mail fraud by the FBI and spent a number of years in federal prison, where I sincerely hope they lived at the bottom of the prison pecking order. They killed the dreams of a lot of aspiring authors and almost did the same for me. It took years to recover from the experience and begin earning some money and getting my books published.

Another idea which made it into the discussion was how far common sense could take a person vs just plain intelligence. We concluded that in some cases it depends on the environment the person functions in. For instance, a brilliant scientist will likely succeed despite having no common sense and a person not so intelligent but having loads of common sense might build a million dollar company with little effort compared to the normal person.

The best of the two worlds is to have a great deal of both common sense and intelligence. Those are the individuals where civilizations are built on their shoulders. They're the persons who make history and are responsible for so much of the technology and good life we enjoy. We should all be grateful for those individuals in our midst.

We also thought a country such as America, where free thinking excels, is conducive to the development of common sense. That's very debatable, though. And if it's true, what happened to me?

This is one of those subjects where you can really have some fine debates, arguments, discussions and so on. My personal opinion? If it comes to a choice between the two, I think a person would be happier having common sense rather than intelligence.

My wife Betty is blessed with both. She could have succeeded in almost any field she chose, but she was born in the days where women had limited options, especially those from the less affluent portion of society. She chose nursing as a career and began it at seventeen, having skipped a grade in school. Then she fell in love and got married. Years later, after her three kids were on their way to being grown, she decided she wanted more fulfillment than as a housewife. She went to LPN school and graduated, then made one of the top ten scores in the whole state on her LPN exam. She began working in a doctor's office, even though they didn't really need the money. When her husband died at the young age of 41, she went on and got a degree in nursing. I met her a few years later and we were married but that's another story you'll read about in my memoirs. Intelligence and common sense: she has them both. In fact, she has enough common sense to do ten ordinary people, which is a blessing for our marriage, since I have very little. She's so intuitive about people's actions that she's very seldom wrong in interpreting them.

I, on the other hand, have a smidgen of intelligence, but hardly enough common sense to put the intelligence to work for me. Again, you can read about how and why in my memoirs. It's all there.

To conclude, common sense vs intelligence is a very interesting comparison.

Book Report
Some of my readers have asked why I re-read books so much. Betty does, too. It's really very simple. Both Betty and I are voracious readers. We don't watch much television or go to movies, so reading is our prime form of entertainment. We read so many books that almost inevitably we'll run across books so good that we know we'll enjoy them again a year or two later if we keep them, so that's what we do. In the book report each month, I never mention all the books I've read that went to the discard or trade file. I only report on the ones I really like, and that includes re-reads.

This last month I finally found a copy of a book I first read way back in the sixties, I believe. The title is March To Glory by Robert Leckie. It is a history of the Marines' historic breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea in the Winter of 1950. I can hardly believe how those men survived and fought in the snow and wind and below zero temperatures while heavily outnumbered. It is a testimony to the human spirit and bravery and is also extremely well written.

I re-read The Cry and the Covenant by Morton Thompson. I may have written about it before in one of my previous newsletters, but it's always worth mentioning again. Semmelweis is a tragic figure whose work was not recognized in his lifetime, but tens of thousands, if not more, women and babies owe their lives to him and his unending attempts to show other, lesser doctors the error of the way they were practicing obstetrics.

Of Men And Monsters by William Tenn is always a good read. It is a science fiction novel where mankind is regarded as pests by a superior species, similar to the way we treat mice and rats. The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith is the best Libertarian novel I've ever read, and not just for the philosophy--it's funny and heart warming as well. I was going through my keeper shelves and found Rogue in Space by Fredrick Brown, one of the old masters of science fiction. It was said of him that he hated to write. Wow, I'd have loved to see something by him if he did like writing! He's that good.

I'm on a John Martel kick right now. He is an absolute master at combining legal thrillers with courtroom drama. I love the guy. I just finished Billy Strobe and Conflicts of Interest and I like them so much I ordered one I hadn't read by him from Amazon, Partners. It's next. I'm in the process of re-reading Watership Down by Richard Adams. I still wonder what ever inspired him to think of making rabbits the heroes of a novel--and bringing it off so well it became an international best seller.

I had a pleasant surprise. I found Guilt by John Lescroart on my keeper shelves--but I discovered I had never read it. I have no idea how it got there. Anyway, it was a great story, with lots of subplots and action, in the courtroom and out. And while I've been on the lawyer/courtroom drama binge, I read Scott Turow's Reversible Errors, the story of a man on death row by mistake. I used to believe in the death penalty, and I still would for certain crimes, if only we could be certain we never made mistakes. But the recent revelations of how the crime lab in Houston was turning out spurious results has made me change my mind. Unless we can figure out a way to avoid errors when handing down a death sentence, I think we ought to discontinue it.

Letters from Readers
I've been getting fan letters almost from the time I began writing--or when I began to get published I should say--but since starting this newsletter and writing my memoirs, my mail has picked up to the point where I receive some mail on one subject or the other or about one of my books just about every day. I'm certainly not complaining. I've always enjoyed correspondence, and since I began receiving mail I've made many friends I have yet to see in person. I always answer every letter and do my best to address points my readers bring up. So thanks, folks. Keep writing. I like it.

Now here's a letter that was totally unexpected. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a long lost nephew. He had been out of contact with the family for many years and said he just accidentally stumbled onto my web site. He wrote a real nice letter and I'm waiting to hear back from him for permission to give his e-mail address to other members of the family, particularly his Dad (my brother Mike). They've been sort of estranged and it would be nice if they could get back in contact, especially since Mike is not in very good shape, medically.

I've heard it said that if you want to keep a woman happy, just give her free reign in replacing furniture and remodeling the house. I think there's a bit of truth to that, just as you can keep most men happy by giving them lots of tools and gadgets to play with. I'm bringing this up because we had a little windfall and it's going to be used to remodel the office, which used to be a two car garage until it was converted to the office, with floor to ceiling bookshelves and a desk made to order from a big eight foot door. I use the office much more than Betty does, but that's what she chose to remodel first. Shucks, I'm sure not going to argue! However, I have a sneaking suspicion the kitchen is on the agenda in the near future!

End of this one
And I believe this will do it for the November Newsletter. As always, I'm extending my thanks to you for reading. I enjoy writing this every month and I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it. And as always, I'll be sure and answer any letters about subjects brought up in the newsletter--or any other subject, for that matter. I like to correspond.

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
Piney Woods
November 2006



Places to find my books

Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.


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