Monday, September 24, 2012

I Want to be President

Kevin Coolidge

I want to grow up to be the President of the United States. Who doesn’t? The perks are great-- free housing, an experienced household staff paid for by the taxpayers, private plane, bullet-proof car, guaranteed media exposure, my own bowling alley, and all with access to nuclear weapons. Plus, when I die, I get a parade!

Sure, once I take the oath of office, someone I have never met will want me dead. Okay, probably a whole lot of somebody’s, and the population of some nations. Yes, the probability of being assassinated dramatically increases, but I get to throw out the first pitch on opening day, and I bet front-row tickets to Dancing with the Stars is totally going to happen.

In theory, there are only two qualifications to run for president of the United States. The candidate must be at least 35 years of age, and a natural-born citizen of the United States. I’ve met the minimum requirements to be elected president. There’s already been one Coolidge in the White House. Surely, it’s time for another.

Being president isn’t actually all that hard. Approval numbers aren’t a problem once you are in office. You’re guaranteed at least four years, and maybe eight if you have a good speechwriter and if you are better-looking than your opponent. If you think about it, and I certainly have, it’s pretty hard to screw up things up bad enough to be fired, or impeached, if you read history and like big words.

It’s a pretty secure* sinecure. Former presidents have started wars for no reason, had sex with interns, undermined Congressional policy, and don’t even ask about the cover-ups. If you want to be the first President to actually be impeached, you are going to have to lose Alaska in an arm wrestling match to the English Prime Minister, and you can always just quit like Nixon.

Becoming president—getting elected—is much, much harder than being president. For help with this, I read So You Want To Be President? by John Warner. It may appear that there is no real formula to winning the presidency. There have been several winning strategies, but I’m not a war hero, or a Hollywood actor.

John has thought of everything. All I have to do is work through the scenarios and exercises and be better prepared for the hard work of an actual election. This book won’t guarantee me victory, but it will guarantee fun. Now I just have to come up with my political slogan. I’m thinking, “Putting the Cool back in Political”…

*The only job more secure than being president of the United States is Supreme Court Justice. That’s a position appointed for life. That means you get to stay on the bench even if you drool in your oatmeal, or flip a coin to make decisions about the laws that govern our nation. Do these people even show up for work? Who keeps track? I’m betting there are morning Sotomayor never takes her PJs off. Hmmm…

Hail to the chief? Or the hell with this job? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Just access the secret bunker for past columns at Hobo wants to be president, but he can’t decide if he’s technically nine years old, or fifty-two. He’ll just have to settle for being First Cat, and author of “Hobo Finds A Home”…

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Could Pee on This

Kevin Coolidge

A heap of fur leaps onto my desk and plops in front of the keyboard. Of course, it’s time to write my column. Hobo, the cat, always seems to know this, and he’s here to supervise. Unfortunately, he’s not nearly as helpful as he thinks. I don’t know what to write about, and he’s not giving suggestions. He doesn’t do that. It’s my job.

It should be easy. I read every day. Sometimes, when I’m really busy, it’s just ten or fifteen minutes before bed, but I’m always reading something. Actually, I’m one of those people that are usually reading at least four books, sometimes more. He’s some of what I’m reading right now.

Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia: This book is the fourth in the series that started with Monster Hunter International. I discovered Larry’s book in 2007 when it was still only a self-published novel. Self-publishing doesn’t have to mean vanity publishing, because sometimes other people really do want to read it, and they aren’t saying that just to be nice.

In the Monster Hunter series, it turns out monsters exist, and there is good money to be made killing them. Enter Monster Hunter International (MHI), remarkable group of misfits that has banded together. They do more than dare to raise a candle to the darkness. They pack napalm-fed flame-throwers and lots of firepower. There’s specialized body armor, big guns with unusual ammunition, and bloodsucking fiends. You’ll also find some likable, well-developed heroes that bleed and a full-speed action that’s funny as all Hades.

In this latest installment, the staff of MHI is in Las Vegas to attend the first annual International Conference of Monster Hunting Professionals. A great opportunity to network with all the supernaturally attuned organizations and the best buffets, but a creature left over from a World War Two weapons experiment wakes up and goes on a rampage proving that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas….

Then, there’s I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats, by Francesco Marciuliano: I’m not a fan of poetry. I seldom read it. I often skip it when my favorite authors insert it into their prose, begging me to read it. Dying to prove that people still read poetry. I almost always skip it so that I can get back to the good stuff. I do, however, appreciate that some subjects are better expressed in verse form.

Cats are natural poets—quiet, focused, and a little lazy. It’s only natural that felines would express themselves through free verse rather than longer literary works. Sometimes a few words do paint a larger canvas.

If you have a cat, you’ve been woken up early for the morning feeding, or accidentally stepped on your present of dead rodent. Francesco has, and his poetry reveals the true artistic and neurotic genius that all cats possess. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein once wrote, “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” I guess you have your answer to why dogs are man’s best friend…Dogs are possessions. Cats have personnel…

The Walking Dead graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman: I just finished watching the second season of the Walking Dead on DVD. It’s not just gratuitous violence, but truly a character-driven drama that carries an undercurrent of social commentary, and yeah-- there’s zombies.

It’s an adaptation from the graphic novel series, but there are some departures, and it’s one of the few times that I think the visual medium is an improvement. Mostly because the graphic novel is used almost as a storyboard, and the actors, director, and writers are able to further develop some of the characters I both love to hate and hate to love. There are a lot of zombie movies out there, but they always end. What happens next? With the Walking Dead you get to see the morning after, and the morning after that…

I didn’t know where to begin, and now I don’t know where to end. I’m almost out of room and I didn’t tell you about the book of short stories almost finished on my nightstand, or the audio book I’ve been listening to when I’ve been lifting weights in the garage. I didn’t have time to mention the book I’m reading that claims learning to cook was the hinge on which human evolution turned. I guess I have plenty to read and write about after all…

Too much to read, or not enough time to read them all? Email me at and let me know!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Disaster Preparedness

Kevin Coolidge

They laughed. I smiled. They said this day would never come. I knew. They said I was wasting my time and money. I prepared. Yes, the world was safe when I installed a standby generator. The situation was stable when I stockpiled ammunition. People went on vacation while I bought up the canned bacon. I waited. I was right…

Why prepare at all? It’s calm. The skies are clear, and life is good. Wouldn’t your resources best be used for what you know is coming? Life is unpredictable. Fires burn, storms rage, and enemies attack. No one is ever completely safe. What do you do? Should you get ready for Armageddon or put your trust in the government when disaster strikes?

There is an alternative. You don’t have to become a hardcore survivalist, or a trusting fool. Don’t let disaster preparedness distract you from meeting life’s other needs. Don’t spend five times your salary on a water filtration system. Arthur T. Bradley’s motto is “prepare for what makes sense.”

The world probably isn’t going to end tomorrow, and if it were, that assault rifle with optional grenade launcher won’t ensure your survival. According to The Disaster Preparedness Handbook, by Arthur T. Bradley, you should prepare for challenges you might actually face—power outages, inclement weather, and being stranded on the road.

His book is designed to help your family for more common, yet still potentially deadly, disasters--hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, blackouts and more. Bradley’s hopes to accomplish three things: 1. Motivate you to become better prepared 2. Illustrate how to prepare effectively and 3. Help you realize your place in a larger movement.

This isn’t book on how to live off the land, become self-sufficient. This isn’t practical for most people. It’s also not list driven with examples of tools, clothing, and food supplies to hoard. This book is designed to help identify the needs you may experience during hard times.

The book is organized around basic needs that must be met in order to survive. At the beginning of each chapter is a scenario designed to help the reader access the current level of readiness—for example, a powerful storms rolls through your community overnight, causing a loss of electrical power, or your county health department issues a boil order for all tap water.

The ends of the chapters have short summaries of the important points for future reference—for example, carbon monoxide poisoning and fire are dangers associated with backup heaters. Also a brief list of recommended supplies limited to actual needs, focusing more on general need than specific items—such as having fuel for your emergency heater.

You can’t prepare for everything. Know your capabilities, but more importantly, know your limitations. Unless all civilization breaks down, you don’t need to be self-sufficient to be prepared. Focus on your family’s needs and know that being prepared is a part of being responsible. The goal is be more confident, better-prepared and secure in an unpredictable world…

Prepared? Or Scared? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Visit and stock up now. Hobo the cat is prepared. You might call him fat; he calls it insurance, because the hardest thing about the zombie apocalypse should be the waiting…

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Survived Summer Reading

Kevin Coolidge

It’s summer, and that means vacation, and summer reading. If you are looking for your third grader to survive summer reading, then check out the historical fiction series by Lauren Tarshis. History is more than a series of situations, and dates. Lauren presents historical facts woven with the experience of a boy living through a historical event. History is life lived backwards, and it doesn’t have to be boring.

The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
: Leo loves being a newsboy in San Francisco. Having a job that gives him the freedom to explore the city is an opportunity that his grandfather would want him to take. One early spring morning, everything changes. The earth rumbles, and he finds himself stranded in the middle of the city as buildings crumble and burn. Can Leo survive the devastating disaster?

The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912: George must be the luckiest kid alive. He’s sailing on the Titanic, the greatest ship ever built. There’s so much for a young boy to explore, but the impossible happens, an iceberg. George is stranded, alone and afraid. Will he survive the sinking of the ship?

The Shark Attacks of 1916: Chet is finally feeling at home in Elm Hills, New Jersey. A job, great friends, and the perfect summertime destination: cool, refreshing Matawan Creek. Shocking news interrupts his plans when a shark begins attacking swimmers along the Jersey shore. Will he come face-to-face with a bloodthirsty shark?

The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941: Danny is a tough city kid from New York City. He is out of place in Hawaii, and he just wants to go home. Mom wanted a fresh start away from the crime, dark alleys, and gangs. But nothing was as dangerous as the morning the skies filled with fighter planes. Bombs and bullets pound the harbor. Can Danny survive the day that will live in infamy?

The Attacks of September 11, 2001: Lucas loves football, but his parents think it’s too dangerous. His dad’s friend Benny is a firefighter and a former football star. He’d know what to do. Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright beautiful day in New York, but just as Lucas arrives at the firehouse, everything changes. Will anything ever be the same again?

Hurricane Katrina, 2005: Barry just wants to win the “Create a Superhero” contest from his local comic shop. He worked three hours just on the flames. Then his father tells him to pack up. The hurricane is getting nasty and there’s a mandatory evacuation, but Barry’s little sister is sick, and they are forced to stay home. The levees break and Barry is separated from his family. Can he survive the storm of the century…alone?

Sand, sunburn, and sharks, nothing says summer like the beach, and that’s why I’m staying close to shore. I’m staying home where I will be safe. I won’t be leaving Tioga County anytime soon, but I can take a vacation anytime I want. All I have to do is pick up a book, and open the pages. A book will take me places I’ve never been. Another adventure, another place, another time—all of it possible with a good book….

History: created by the actions of the great? Or shaped by the simple deeds of the small? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Delve into the past at Hobo isn’t planning on repeating history. He found a home and he’s keeping it. You can, however, read about his past in “Hobo Finds A Home”