Saturday, November 22, 2014

Immigration Perspective

So much fuss has been made about the President's Executive Order to postpone deportation proceedings for a few million illegal immigrants.  It is truly much ado about nothing.  We have neither the personnel nor other necessary resources to enforce current deportation laws and haven't for years.  So what difference does it make other than to allow illegal immigrants some measure of relief from the fear of being sent home.  All this political hoopla has forced the facts about our current immigration situation and its future to be thrown out with the proverbial baby and bathwater. 

First, let's address how many illegal immigrants there are in the United States.  The somewhat "official number" is 11.1 million.  But "how do it know"? - as the old Thermos joke goes.  Seems terribly precise doesn't it?  Did we ask for a show of hands at a Carlos Santana concert in El Paso?  Did we use spy satellites or sophisticated cell phone stealth monitoring?  Were drones involved?  Nope.  It is pretty simple, actually.  The government comes to that figure by using Census data which records the total number of immigrants living in the United States and subtracting the ones who are here legally.  The result is those who are here illegally.  Doesn't take a math major and the estimate is probably fairly accurate.

Second, let's talk about the cost to our economy of having 11.1 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.  There are four distinct types of costs involved.  Direct benefits which include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation.  Means-tested welfare benefits which include cash, food, housing, medical and other services.  There are over eighty of those programs available which cost $ 900 billion annually like Medicaid, food stamps (EBT cards), public housing, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, to name a few.  Public education is a huge expense and costs about $ 12,300.00 per pupil per year.  Finally, there are Population-based services which include police and fire protection, highways, parks and similar services.  The average U.S. household received $ 31,584.00 in these benefits from these four categories in 2010 and the assumption is it is higher today.

Now, to be fair, illegal immigrants do not have access to all of these benefits even if they are gainfully employed and paying some taxes.  However, it is estimated that the average illegal immigrant household receives $ 24,721.00 in annual government benefits while paying only $ 10,334.00 in taxes.  This leaves a deficit of -$ 14,387.00 per household annually.  This means that unlawful immigrants under current laws are responsible for a deficit of $ 54.1 billion per year.  With the amnesty program being proposed by a now Republican-controlled Congress, this figure would drop in the first 13-year interim period and then soar out of control when full citizenship is attained.  At that point illegal immigrants become fully qualified for means-tested benefits as well as health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  How bad will it get?  Initial estimates are an annual deficit of $ 106 billion.  When the retirement benefits kick in (Social Security and Medicare), the deficit worsens to $ 160 billion per year.

Hey, what's a few billion, right?  Well, if you consider the average age of an illegal immigrant is 34 they will receive benefits for approximately 50 years.  This means that the lifetime fiscal deficit for just the current number of illegal immigrants would total over $ 6.3 trillion dollars, not counting increases in numbers of immigrants and benefit and health care costs. 

Wake up, now, I can hear some of you snoring.  Do we need yet another Amnesty Plan?  We tried it once, didn't work.  Should the U.S., given our current fiscal deficit, add another six trillion to it over the next fifty years by granting citizenship to persons who have broken the law and entered our country illegally?  Is it fair to those immigrants who took the time and spent the money to enter our country legally?

Let's face it.  Americans are already paying the price for illegal immigrants to be here and they are not going anywhere.  I have first hand experience with this having owned my own business and, unknowingly, employed a few illegal immigrants over a period of sixteen years.  If you would like to read about it, ask me and I will share Ruben's story with you.  In the meantime, however, what should we do?

I think amnesty with a path to full citizenship is the wrong approach.  I think we need to have a plan to identify undocumented immigrants with a carrot/stick approach.  Encourage them to come forward and identify themselves.  If they are gainfully employed and have never committed a crime we should issue them a new kind of status....let's call it a "Red Card" for lack of a better designation.  A "Red Card" would grant the person and his family legal status to remain in the United States as long as they are gainfully employed, do not commit a felony, pay all federal, state, local and property taxes, comply with existing and future laws and mandates (Obamacare) and, in general, pose no threat to the United States, themselves and/or their neighbors.  Any violation of any of those conditions would mean an instant review of their status and eventual, but certain, deportation.  They would not have the right to vote.  They would not be eligible to run for or hold public office.  They would have to annually inform the government of their location, place of residence and employment status.  They would pay Medicare taxes and eventually receive those benefits.  However, their payments and their employer's match would not go into the Social Security system, but would, instead, go into a privately-held retirement account and no past payments made to false SS accounts would be available.  No citizenship would be offered unless they returned to their country of origin and applied for citizenship through conventional channels.  However, I think some thought ought to go into simplifying and streamlining that process so that it does not take five to ten years to complete and thousands of dollars in attorney fees and bribes.

O.K., there are my thoughts on this issue.  It is much more complex than I have detailed here, but at least it is a start.  What are your opinions on the matter?   Let me hear from you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Polls

No, this post is not about some inappropriate ethnic joke.  It is about two opinion polls which show unique insight into where America is headed and why we should be concerned.

A Rassmusen Daily Tracking poll published this morning showed President Obama's approval/disapproval rating heading south.  Slightly over 52% of likely voters polled disapproved of Obama's job performance (41 % "Strongly Disapproved") and the numbers have been heading on a downward trend since early spring.  In my opinion, this is no great mystery.

Liberal websites will taut fifty-some-odd "achievements" supposedly accomplished by President Obama over the past five plus years. If you read them closely you will find that most of them are of dubious value, some are not the result of Obama's actions or leadership, and the rest are huge boondoggles which have weakened our economy, our military superiority and our standing in the international community.  Did Obama happen to be in the White House when a valiant Seal Team Six unit took out Osama bin Laden? Yes, very fortunate for him that culmination of a ten year effort happened on his watch.  Did Obama happen to have a pen in his hand when the Dodd-Frank legislation hit his desk designed to reform the banking industry and regulate Wall Street.  Yup, another fortunate circumstance for a president who has real difficulty making a decision on just about any issue.  Of course, when regulation goes up, the economy goes down.  Dodd-Frank has made it much more difficult if not impossible for even highly qualified applicants to secure affordable mortgage lending, but as housing took a nose-dive and construction jobs disappeared virtually overnight I suppose you could make the argument that the good times were just too good to be true.  Then we come to Obamacare.  With a conservative price tag of over $ 4 trillion dollars, we now have a national health care system.  I hope everyone feels better already.  The proof of how wise a decision this was will not be known for several years but early struggles might be a dark portent of things to come. Way to go, Barrack.

In the history of our nation no president comes to mind who was less qualified to be America's chief executive and yet, magically, he was not only elected but voted a second term.  His leadership has been non-existent in foreign affairs from the start and the number of scandals has rivaled some of the worst previous administrations; Benghazi, Solyndra, IRS, illegal cell phone monitoring and aggressive leak investigations, just to name a few.  More importantly, Obama's lack of action in Syria and total, and many military advisers think premature, troop withdrawal from Iraq precipitated the rapid rise of ISIS and yet another radical Islamic threat to our nation's security, the terrifying result of which, and cost to defend, is yet to be seen. 

The ISIS threat notwithstanding, let us not forget that under the Obama Administration, our national debt (and the corresponding burden to be born by our children and grandchildren) has increased by over $ 7 trillion dollars to a record total of $ 17.8 trillion dollars, threatening the credit worthiness of the United States.  Is it any wonder even "yellow-dog Democrats", not to mention what is often referred to as "the liberal press", are beginning to lose faith in our president.  Which brings me to the next point.

In a recent poll, published on June 14, 2014, Gallup once again asked Americans about their confidence in the three major news sources servicing our population.  Not surprisingly, confidence and trust were at or near record lows.  A scant 22 % of respondents said they trusted what they read in the newspapers.  Even less, 19 % said they trusted what they read or heard on the Internet and a record low 18 % of those polled said they trusted the network television news, CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC.  These four primary sources of news ranked in the bottom third of seventeen U.S. institutions measured in the poll.

Why, you might ask, has the American public lost confidence in our nation's media?  My opinion is it has everything to do with the increasing blur between factual news reporting and editorial comment.  When I wore a younger man's clothes, Walter Cronkite brought me my news.  Straight forward, unadulterated, the "who, what, where, when and why" of news reporting.  Mr. Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, John Cameron Swazye and Edward R. Morrow were always welcome in our living room because we trusted them to give us the facts and the truth.  When editorial opinion was offered it was clearly identified.  By the time we got to Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, that line between news and editorial started to become blurred.  And now, with Shepard Smith, Chris Wallace, Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer, there is no line.

Newspapers have always been biased.  They are owned and operated by either Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, and the editorial slant was crystal clear.  However, back in the day, the news sections were a bit more clean and the bias was saved for the editorial pages.  Today, there is no pretense at reporting the unbiased news. The facts and the editorial bias are intertwined so as to be indistinguishable. The Internet, well, there is absolutely no accountability.  It is a different world and people need to pay more attention, do more research, and read and listen to a broader variety of media information sources so they can draw more accurate conclusions and make better decisions.  And that includes, hopefully, the next time they step into the voting booth.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Justin Gates Chronicles Gets Good Reviews

Read any good books lately?  Well, if you are looking for the next great novel, some people highly recommend my new book, The Justin Gates Chronicles - California Nightmare.  I introduced it a couple of months ago right here in the blog and since then several of you have purchased either the paperback or Kindle versions and have provided feedback in the form of reviews

Below is a summary of some of the reviews which I am proud to share, including those left on and some excerpts from an independent editorial analysis provided by Kirkus Indie Reviews, a respected professional reviewing organization serving the publishing and film industries.

"An entertaining, rough-and-tumble whodunit with a mix of smiles and grimaces. This novel is raunchy and hilarious but also full of pathos – a complex romp through the lives of a handful of suspects…a substantial view into the horrific.  The dialogue is eminently believable...piercingly accurate and often laugh-out-loud funny."
                                                                            Kirkus Indie Review
From reviews posted by readers:
“This book offers up the best 'coming of age' story I have experienced since "The Body" by Steven King. The author truly immerses his readers in the insecurities, the experiments, the competition and the hilarious situations that come with puberty and growing up. I laughed out loud at some of the situations. Justin Gates drew me in. I wanted, at times, for the outcome of some of his experiences to end differently but was eventually so satisfied at the end. I became invested in these characters. At the same time, the author draws a vivid picture of the antithesis of freedom, the horror that lurks in the dark recesses of the mind of a serial killer. At times, this novel is raw and exposes the worst of all mankind. The mystery unfolds through genius characters. I am amazed that this novel is based on true events. It kept me reading through the night. Then I read it again.
“Jud Smith is a great storyteller. Sometimes I laughed out loud. Sometimes I nodded in pleasant nostalgia as old memories of hot rod cars, pretty girls, and small towns came floating back. This is a genuinely entertaining story that left me smiling with satisfaction at a tale well told.
“This book will keep you guessing till the end! The main character is funny, and will keep you engaged throughout the book. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot, and hopefully you will too!
“California Nightmare twists and turns between two main plot lines that eventually meet at the end of the novel. This interplay results in an effective telling of the tale that keeps the reader turning page after page. The voice of the protagonist, Justin Gates, is decidedly honest to his adolescent sensibilities. Whether it be his friend's adventures with white athletic socks or his own wandering desires, Justin doesn't hold back his aspirations and the reader is subsequently brought into his world.
Those sensibilities - and the vivid scenes of serial murder - are not for everyone. The treatment of the antagonist's plight, however, gives a sense of explanation to the violence perpetrated and it forces the reader to consider answers to the question of why humans commit atrocities and treat one another with brutality.
California Nightmare is well written and easy to read. I say "well done" by first-time author Jud Smith; I look forward to other tales forthcoming from Justin Gates.
I hope all my followers will pick up a copy, available both in paperback and digital formats for your Kindle or other tablet device.  You can find it at:
And, if you like it, please leave a review and recommend it to a friend.  Enjoy.
Jud Smith



Friday, July 25, 2014

Drag Car for Sale.....Really!

Now I don't usually use this format for commercial purposes.  Lord knows you all get inundated with hundreds of catalogs and brochures every month in your mail selling everything from baby bottles to body butter. I made only one exception and that was to introduce my newly published book, The Justin Gates Chronicles - California Nightmare, which, by the way, comes highly recommended by independent reviewers as well as readers like you.  BUT, I am making one additional exception today on the slim chance that any of you needs or knows someone who needs a drag racing vehicle in their barn of toys.

I am the proud owner of a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Super Sport bracket/Super Street class drag racing car.  She is a beauty as you can see and runs like a scalded dog.  Here is the information on it.


This is a converted 1965 Chevelle, two-door hardtop, which has been completely made over into a bracket drag racing car.  The conversion work started in late 2004 and was first raced at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School, conducted at the Houston Dragway, in June, 2008.  The car underwent additional renovations and improvements and was finally completed in August.  In that configuration it only went through ten complete passes at the quarter mile until April, 2012.  Finally, the original Tremec 5-speed manual transmission was replaced with a brand new TH400 racing automatic, picked up and finished in December, 2012.  Never raced competitively but best time on only the second pass was 10.84 seconds at 131 mph.  It is a legitimate sub-10 sec. car.

Body Modifications:

All body panels were taken down to bare metal and all rust, dents and dings removed.  No bondo.  Front fenders and hood replaced with custom U.S. Body fiberglass racing components.  Complete primer and three coat Nassau Blue paint job applied.  All chrome and trim is original and intact, including accurate insignia.  Rear bumper re-chromed prior to 2004.  All glass is original and intact.

Interior and Chassis Modifications:

Interior gutted and 10-point roll cage, constructed with 1.75" O.D. 4130 Chromoly tubing, welded to the frame front, through engine compartment, center and rear, through trunk in accordance with NHRA rules and has passed chassis inspection for under 10-second vehicles.  Roll cage and floor boards chemically cleaned with POR Marine Clean, primed with POR Metal Ready and coated with POR 15 rust-proof paint.  Quick release driver side window net.  Rear compartment tubbed-out of racing slicks with custom sheet aluminum panels.  Twin fiberglass padded bucket seats with G-Force 5-point racing harness.  Finished trunk with access doors for fuel cells and battery.

Entire front end replaced with all new components including Global West tubular upper and lower control arms, new coil springs and QA1 front shocks and QA1 GM Coil Over Conversion Adjustable shocks on the rear.  New Master Power DB1741 Series power disk brakes installed front and MP 11" HD drum brakes installed rear with vacuum Power Booster.

Meziere High Capacity all aluminum radiator with Hi-Flow fan and Meziere Hi-Flow electric water pump (680)-WP301X).  Moroso Super Cool Can for fuel cooling.

Under-trunk mounted 5-gallon fuel cell with Areomotive A2000 350+ gph fuel pump, reinforced battery mount and emergency electronics cut-off switch on rear fender.

Drive Train:

Brand-new TH400 racing automatic transmission with 4500 RPM Stall Converter and regulation shields.  Dynamically balanced drive shaft with quick release drive shaft loops.  Custom-built and reinforced 9" Ford Mosel Rear End with billet housing ends and 35-spline Mosel "Lifetime Guarantee" axles.  HD 4LinkPro adjustable four-link system.  Mosel 35 Spool Pro Gear ring and pinion with 5:38 gear ratio.

Tires are Mickey Thompson 10" drag slicks on the rear and front-end drag tires with tubes with Mickey Thompson polished chrome mag wheels all around and extended studs on the rear.


MSD Ignition System with 7 AL-3 Ignition Control with four chip ports and broad selection of chips, MSD Pro-Billet GM HEI Distributor with Tower Cap, MSD HVC-II Coil, MSD 8.5mm Super Conductor Wire.  Ignition set up for chip limiters for burn out, launch, first automatic shift and top-end rev limits.  Painless Racing 12-circuit wiring kit with eight switch panel.  Spitfire Gauges, including 5" Performance Tachometer with shift light, water temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, fuel pressure gauge (mounted outside), brake pressure gauge.  All additional wiring is Painless TXL 14 ga. and 10 ga. solid copper wire.

Engine Specifications:

Bored and stroked seasoned 2-bolt 400 block for 406 CID small block Chevy, Deck Plugged, Decked, Hone on lifter bores, Main Studs, Bored and Wet Honed, Align Bored, Magnafluxed and Pressure Tested with:

*  Holley 4500 HP, 1050 CFM, with 34/24 Fuel Kit
*  Edlebrock Victor Intake Manifold - Carb matched and port matched
*  Tall Polished Valve Covers
*  Stud Girdles - AFR with HD 7/16" Moroso Studs
*  1.6 Harlan Sharp Roller Rocker Intake and Exhaust
*  Custom Length 5/16" Chromoly Pushrods HD
*  227 AFR Aluminum Heads with 2.10 Intake and 1.6 Exhaust S.S. Valves (Heads are CNC  ported, Flow Tested, Comp Valve Job, Roller Springs, Push Rod Guide Plates, 7/16" ARP Rocker Studs, ARP Head Studs, Comp Cam Roller Lifters
*  .30 File Fit Speedpro Rings
*  6" Eagle H-Beam Rods Floated and Bushed Pins
*  CL77 Clevite H-Series Rod and Main Bearings
*  Brass Freeze Plugs, Durabond Cam Bearings and Moroso Top End Restrictors
*  Eagle 4340 Crankshaft, 3.750 Stroke for 6" Rods, dynamically balanced
*  Fluidamper Balancer, Engine completely balanced
*  Billet Flywheel, balanced to engine with new Mr. Gasket bolts
*  Bullet Cams Custom Ground Mechanical Roller Cam - Degreed
*  Manley True Roller Timing Chain Set with Roller Thrust Bearing and Roller Cam Button
*  Custom-made 2" Headers by Hooker with collection tubes, Jet-Coat coating
*  Power Master XS Torque Starter, 168T
*  Mellings Oil Pump with Pump Stud, Hi Volume Water Pump
*  NGK Spark Plugs, Pennzoil Race 25-50w Oil
*  Felpro MLS Gaskets

Enginge was dyno tested without headers and only an 850 CFM carb and developed 628 HP at 7,000 RPM.  Estimated HP with headers and 1050 CFM Holley is over 680 HP.

OK, here is the pitch.  This is a legitimate 10-second bracket car which can run in the nines.  I have over $ 46,000.00 invested in this car and it comes with its own car trailer with front mounted winch, 1600-watt power generator, 25 gallons of 117 octane racing fuel and free delivery within 1000 miles of Possum Kingdom, Texas.....and all for the bargain basement price of $ 35,000.00.

Tell your family, tell your friends, great gift for your grandson (or granddaughter for that matter).  Ask for pictures by emailing me at

Thanks for listening to my pitch.  Comments???

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jade and the Emperor's Palace

On our final day in Beijing we visited the Emperor's Palace and sent to a Jade factory where incredible pieces were being made from all different colors of solid Jade, which is almost sacred to the Chinese.  And here I was thinking that all Jade was green but there are all colors.  We saw not only several shades of green, but also purple, tan, blue, beige, gold, reddish orange and white.  I took pictures of some of the pieces.  The largest Chinese sailing ship, which is about six feet long and five feet high, carved from a solid piece of dark green Jade is worth about half a million dollars.  Some of the smaller pieces, like the dragon and the frog, were priced at $ 48,000.00.

The Palace used to be a sacred place where only the Emperor and his family were allowed.  Today, it is a place for Chinese families to go and spend a weekend day; playing games, exercising, having picnics and socializing. 

The Chinese are an interesting culture and are quite different from the European or Western culture with significant societal quirks.  First, for the most part, with only 1 % of the population Buddhist, Christian or other formal religions, the vast majority of Chinese are atheist.  They do not believe in God.  They believe in the forces of nature and are very, VERY superstitious.  In China, cars are being severely limited. They control it by having license plates on a lottery system.  No one buys a car before they secure a license plate for it but that license plate better not have the number 4 in it, or heaven forbid, two 4's.  That would be exceedingly bad luck and they would sell that plate instead of using it and go back into the lottery for another plate. The numbers 9, 6 and 2 are very lucky.  If they have the money, the Chinese will pay exorbitant amounts of money for a license or a telephone number with multiples of those numbers in them.  They avoid making any big decisions or lifestyle changes on days with unlucky numbers in them.  No Chinese couple would marry on the 4th or the 14th or the 24th of the month, even though the last one has a 2 in it along with the 4. They don't start new jobs on the 4th, move residences on the 4th and don't even get out of bed on their 44th birthday.

Another difference between us concerns directness.  Let's say I have a ice-cold bottle of water and you, my friend, are extremely thirsty.  A Westerner would just say, "Hey, may I have some of your water, I am parched."  A Chinese friend would never be that direct.  One very thirsty Chinese friend might say, "Tell me, what brand of water is that you have there?"  I would say, "Aquafina".  Then the friend would say, "Where did you get such a cold looking bottle of water?"  And, I might reply, "Seven Eleven".  The Chinese friend would then maybe say casually, "It certainly is a dry day today, isn't it". Finally, I might say, "Would you like to share some of my water?"  Then, and only then, would the friend get the drink he so desperately needs.  Their indirectness is legendary and makes negotiating with the Chinese on just about any issue a frustrating nightmare for most Westerners.

Another cultural difference to connection.  Let's say we are two Chinese workers in the same company at a junior executive level.  You are hard-working, prompt, attentive and you get results.  You are a top performer in the company and ready for and deserving of a promotion.  I, on the other hand, am slovenly and lazy, tardy most of the time, I procrastinate, I get little accomplished in my day and produce very little results.  When it is time to promote one of these people in the Western culture, who gets the job?  You do, of course.  However, in the Chinese culture, my uncle is the Chairman of the Board of the company for which we both work.  Who gets the promotion?  Exactly, because of connection.  It is very important and supersedes almost everything else regardless of performance.

China seems to be an interesting mix of communism and capitalism, which proves this form of economic system does not need a democracy to survive.  Interestingly, the Chinese rejected capitalism for years and struggled to survive.  When Chairman Xi came into office he instituted sweeping changes designed to merge the totalitarian political system with free (or almost free) enterprise.  He described it to his people like this.  He said imagine I am in my limousine going down the road and we come to a T intersection.  To the left the sign with the arrow says "To Communism".  On the right the sign with its opposing arrow reads, "To Capitalism".  What do I do?  I tell my driver to flip his turn signal indicating to everyone following that we are turning left.  Then I tell him to turn right.  It certainly isn't perfect and may, in the end, not work.  But the last 25 years have seen amazing improvement in economic fortunes transforming China into one of the Top Five economic powers in the world.  Now if they could only effect the same improvement in civil and human rights.  But that is a whole other commentary for a later time.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos and let me know what you think.

 The Emperor never walked anywhere.  He was carried in a throne chair that was manned by six attendants.  This is the ramp up the staircase that the workers used to carry the Emperor up to his throne room.

That is our visit to China and the Far East.  If you have questions, I hope you will post them in the Comment section.  And, remember, go to the links below and order my new book, The Justin Gates Chronicles - California Nightmare.  You can get the paperback or download it on your Kindle or tablet.  I think you will like it.

Until our next trip or I get a wild hair to write about something, God Bless you all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Great Wall of China

So sorry it has taken me this long to get to the final travel update for our trip to China, Japan and South Korea.  This one covers our day trip out to a section of the Great Wall of China.  What an amazing engineering feat and absolute tour 'd force of human endeavor.  The wall was started in about 200 BC but not much of that wall still exists.  What remains today was mostly built during the 276 year rein of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) and has been measured at approximately 5,500 miles long, which includes wall, barracks, guard posts, garrison stations, ditches and natural hills and mountain peaks.  The actual wall itself is only 3,889 miles long...only!

The Wall was built to protect the Emperor and his land from marauding hoards of Mongolians, nomadic tribes and any other interloping intruders.  It worked and the Empire survived.
I did not take the photo above.  This is an unusual shot during a point in the season and a portion of the wall that happens to be located in the only verdantly green stretch.  Most of the wall is in semi-arid land with a much harsher environment, as you will see.

We took about an hour bus ride out to the Wall and the end result was in stark contrast to the flat, highly populated city of Beijing.  This is out in the country, obviously, and very rugged country it is.  Vicki and I were told that when Chairman Mao visited the Wall for the first time, he decided to climb the very section we were at and proclaimed upon his descent that the only way to become a Chinese hero was to climb The Great Wall.  Vicki and I decided to be heroes.  A dubious decision, but I am glad we did it.
STEEP!  OMG.  As you can see from the pictures below, this section we climbed had hundreds, if not thousands of steps, uneven, deteriorating steps with huge worn spots and depressions, each step a different height and depth.  But, we made it.  Something I recommend you do before you get to our age, but even if you wait, it will be worth every muscle/lung challenging step.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves:

 All along sections of the Wall are these endless string of locks with little ribbons on them.  Chinese couples climb the Wall to these various sections and put a lock with their names on them on the cables and then throw away the key to commemorate their undying and eternal love to each other...a love which cannot be broken.  So cute.

There is Vicki, arms raised in a victory salute for making it to the top before I did....of course, I had to stop and take pictures.

 I made it too...just a bit behind.  Isn't it amazing for two sexagenarians with three replacement joints between them?

It was a glorious day, not even that smoggy out there and the feeling of history and grandeur was nothing short of astounding.  Put this one on your list of 1000 Places.

Next up, the Emperor's Palace and some comments on the Chinese people.  Until then, God Bless you all.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Introducing The Justin Gates Chronicles

Good Morning!

Taking a break from my travel updates here to reveal some exciting least for me.  I have finished my second book and first novel, The Justin Gates Chronicles - California Nightmare.  This mostly fiction book is based on true events from my teen years and I am hoping everyone visiting this blog will buy a copy for your reading pleasure and give me your feedback.

Justin Gates, my protagonist, is a fifteen year-old boy battling coming-of-age, teenage angst, yet with an unusually intelligent and inquisitive mind that belies his youth.  Based on true events this psychological suspense/mystery takes place in Hesperia, California in the summer of 1961.  Dante Castleberg, my antagonists and a serial killer born of a lurid childhood, lurks amongst the good people of this peaceful, high desert community.  He has killed many times before in other states.  Now he is doing it again. 

A dual murder baffles the experienced sheriff and embroils Justin and two of his teenage friends, who are locked in their own struggle with developing maturity, while working summer jobs wrangling horses at the local dude ranch. If nothing else captures your imagination about this story, be sure to read Chapter Nineteen about the drag race between a car and a horse which is 99 % true. 
As Sheriff Dan Carter and his deputy struggle with the minimum amount of evidence available and the limited forensic resources of the time, four suspects emerge; Manny Huddleston, a local auto mechanic, Sol Kaufler, the high school principal, Phil Jacobson, the Hesperia Dude Ranch general manager, and Walt Levin, an auto parts shop owner.  All appear guilty, one or more is, but only the cleverest amateur sleuths will discover which suspect is really Dante Castleberg before the end.  Trial readers and the editor for my publishing company agree this story is brimming with rich characters.  The combination of humor and violence, while unusual, is intoxicating.  One reader commented, "I read well into the wee hours of the morning to finish the book.  I just could not put it down."
I will warn you, it may not be for everyone and certainly not for the faint of heart or people embarrassed by correct anatomical descriptions.  BUT, if you like humor, suspenseful drama, murder mystery thrillers and don't mind a bit of gore and gratuitous sex, then I encourage you to visit the Amazon website below where you can purchase the paperback, if you are a traditional reader, or the Kindle version for your electronic devices:
If you like it, I hope you will post a review on Amazon and comment here on the blog site. If you don't like it, please just tell This is the first book in a trilogy and I promise the sequels will be just as engaging and fun.  So jump on the Justin Gates bandwagon and enjoy the ride.
Jud Smith, Author
The Justin Gates Chronicles - California Nightmare


Monday, March 31, 2014

Beijing Day Two

The architecture of Beijing buildings is nothing short of spectacularly eclectic.  I hope you enjoy seeing some of these amazing and varied structures, most of which have been built in the last ten years.  The really odd Z-shaped building is the headquarters for China's satellite TV station and was the view from our 10th floor hotel room window.  On Day Two we climbed the Great Wall of China in the morning and toured a sacred tomb in the afternoon.  It was a long and quite rewarding day but I will cover that in a separate blog next.