In memory of an Iowa woman

Rosemary Smith was born on this day in 1926. She was my mother and I’m sharing her obituary below because she is so much on my mind today. In addition to the obvious reason for that, I can’t help but think how disappointed she would be about the Iowa caucus fiasco, the sorry condition of the party she worked so hard for, and the shambles of our democracy.

One did not ever want to disappoint Rosemary.

Rosemary McLaughlin Smith 1926-2001

Rosemary McLaughlin Smith, who died Sunday, Feb. 18, of congestive heart failure at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids at the age of 75, was a proud Irish Catholic Democrat and faithful to all three of those traditions.

Rosemary Smith

She was born Feb. 5, 1926, in Des Moines, the third of John and Lucile McLaughlin’s six children. She attended St. John’s School in Des Moines and graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in the Class of 1944. She also attended Drake University.

She married Dr. Robert J. Smith and gave birth to six children. The couple lived in Iowa City, Des Moines and Stacyville before their divorce. Dr. Smith died in 1974.

Rosemary worked for the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines for 25 years before retiring in 1991. She was an active member of the Social Concerns Committee at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Des Moines and she served for several years as a precinct committee chairwoman for the Democratic Party on Des Moines’ West Side. She also volunteered in an adult literacy program at Drake University and was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and Amnesty International.

Her daughter, Dr. Kathleen Smith Johnson, died of cancer in 1995. Rosemary is survived by three daughters, Christine Packnett of Madison, Wis., Marianne McLaughlin of Englewood, Colo., and Marcia Blank of Culver City, Calif.; two sons, Bernard of Cedar Rapids and Martin of Kansas City, Mo.; son-in-law Dr. Keith Johnson of Des Moines; a sister, Virginia Swift of Edina, Minn.; and four brothers, Daniel J. McLaughlin of St. Petersburg, Fla., John F. McLaughlin of St. Louis, Mo., Charles Edward McLaughlin of Carmel, Ind., and Thomas McLaughlin of Isanti, Minn. She had 12 grandchildren.

Rosemary moved to Marion, Iowa, in 1999 and was a member of St. Matthew Parish in Cedar Rapids. She loved her family, her faith, her politics and her travels to Ireland. She enjoyed a good cup of coffee and a nice glass of Merlot.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids. Rosemary donated her body to the University of Iowa School of Medicine. Her family asks that friends consider donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in lieu of flowers.

# # #

A memoir of her last few years – Miles to Go: An Alzheimer’s Journal – is available on Amazon and free on request as a PDF from the author. Just comment on this page with your email address and I will send it to you.

Yes, make things worse to discourage driving

Image by pixaoppa from Pixabay

The Denver Post said in a Sunday morning editorial it is “thrilled” the city remains committed to improving and adding to safer infrastructure for cyclists.

It spent the next several paragraphs with cautions, “questioning the wisdom” of plans for such improvements on Broadway, and saying the city shouldn’t be “spineless in this matter.” Then it wound up being spineless:

In short, we support the addition of bicycle lanes. Just don’t make things worse.

The Denver Post, January 26, 2020

That doesn’t sound like it came from an editorial board that is thrilled. Indeed, it is more akin to committed to the status quo. God forbid that anyone be inconvenienced by making the roads safer and encouraging more people to leave their cars at home.

Only a week ago, the same newspaper reported on how denizens of the Denver area are driving more when they should be driving less and on the unacceptable pollution of Colorado’s air.

The dangerous pollution that we breathe in every day inconveniences all of us while contributing to increasingly deadly changes in our atmosphere.

This is no time for weasel words and half-hearted measures that signal no real commitment to improving our lives. It is time to make people uncomfortable enough – to inconvenience them enough – to change their driving behavior.

Again, ask yourself why you drive and see if you can find another way to get around.

Pedal on.


Thread: Why do you drive?

From @bjsmith on Twitter


Ever wonder why you can’t see the Flatirons when you know they’re just a few miles away?

If you drive when you could take a bus or train or ride a bicycle or walk, it’s partly because of you.…

The Denver Post @denverpost
What’s polluting Colorado’s air? 125 million tons a year of heat-trapping and hazardous gases

No, you don’t personally generate much of the more than 125 million metric tons of hazardous and heat-trapping gases that pollute Colorado’s air every year. But you contribute to the toxic mess we inhale every day.…

Image by susancycles from Pixabay 

I’ve heard all of the reasons people commute by themselves in a motor vehicle every day. If you’re one of those people, ask yourself if you have a good reason or a lame excuse.

Take me, for example. I could drive my fuel-efficient car every day and save myself a little time between Longmont and Boulder. But…

My employer provides an EcoPass for me and everyone I work with.

I can read or write or talk to people on the bus rather than worry about the many motorists on their phones or texting at 65+ miles per hour on the Diagonal Highway.

I can spend almost $0.00/day on gas.

Fortunately, I’m healthy enough to enjoy commuting by bicycle some of the time, or some combination of bicycle and bus.

I am surprised and disappointed some days to see few others on their bicycles. This is Boulder County and I expect better.

All things and privileges considered, I have no real, valid reason to drive myself to work and back every day.

So I don’t.

What’s your excuse?

No pity for columnist pushing guns for Christmas

Gun-loving Denver Post columnist Jon Caldara thinks we need more gun owners.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In his latest firearms-fetish marketing spiel, he tries to disguise his irrational fear of having all of his deadly weapons confiscated by demonizing those “cultural elites” and “bigoted urbanites” who don’t share his paranoia.

Then he decries “gun-phobe cultural manipulation” to stir up some more class hatred and manipulate others into buying guns or giving extras to their unarmed friends.

Not wanting to leave a divisive, dishonest rhetorical device in his arsenal unfired, he dismisses fear of guns as something “emotional” that is easily overcome by a little target practice, then really lets loose with a couple of absurd, insulting false equivalencies.

I quote:

Most Colorado gun shops now charge about $50 to do a transfer. If it cost a dime to transfer a Quran, the ACLU would rightly sue.

In the urban/suburban world, it’s easier to come out as gay than as a gun owner.

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who is so good at self-serving self pity.

Don’t give me a gun for Christmas. If you want to get me something, here’s my list.

Shop now, my friends. Shop now.


We could have done without “The Irishman”

Let me save you 209 minutes if you haven’t already seen “The Irishman.”

Don’t bother.

Despite the hype and reviews and award nominations and Scorsese and De Niro and Pacino – and all you might anticipate in terms of film-making and stellar acting when you hear those names – what the guys deliver is a real snoozer.

Lest I spend too much more time on this (3+ hours and counting already), a quick summary: All that talent was wasted on a dreary, depressing story of corruption and serial cold-blooded murder by a bunch of thugs who can’t scrape up a single conscience among the lot of them. They’re all dead now and good riddance.

After 90 minutes of trying to figure out why I should give a shit about any of them, I toughed it out through the other 119 and ultimately learned that I should not have bothered.

Don’t waste your time.

You’re welcome.

What I want for Christmas: a satellite, a force field, peace…

Someone asked what I want for Christmas, so here’s a list:

photo of satellite
Eye in the sky, image by PIRO4D from Pixabay 
  • My own spy satellite.
  • A force field around my bicycle to repel motor vehicles. (Two if you can swing it. One for me and one for Mrs. Smith.)
  • Peace on Earth.
  • A massive worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020.
  • A non-criminal POTUS.
  • Everyone to know the difference between tenet and tenant.
  • An end to the senseless arguments about Harvard commas, which we all know are just regular commas that are often used when they’re unnecessary.

Please be sure to reply to all so everyone knows what you’re getting me. I don’t want two satellites and no Peace on Earth.

Write on,


Love your indie bookstores

It’s been my good fortune to be able to do some readings and talk about crime fiction in three terrific independent bookstores in the past several months.

Places like Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa; Inkberry Books in Niwot, Colorado; and Trident in Boulder each have their own special niche and unique identity.

If you’re lucky enough to be near any of them, stop in and see for yourself. Buy some books while you’re there!

If you have your own favorite indie bookstore, I’d love to hear about it.

Read on,