The Next AI Thing

Now there’s a new thing that goes with the latest new thing. It’s a tool that tells you if some text is AI-generated, or human. This will be a great tool for teachers. So, of course, I had to try it. Here’s the start of a novel that I’ve never gotten back to (sigh):

Merle sat on the stoop of her brownstone in the bright Spring sunshine, her elbows propped on her knees, and daydreamed about the future. The constant roar of car engines, smells of exhaust fumes, yells of kids playing stick ball, or even an occasional fire truck didn’t break her fantasizing. She had acquired an expertise for concentration, honed over years of practice. It helped her in doing school work, while her brother was practicing his trumpet, but was especially focused when she was working to plot out her future.

During her childhood, like the rest of the country, the Lower East Side of New York was still suffering from a stock market that had taken a major nosedive, while job losses kept mounting. In desperation, people had thrown themselves out of windows, and even those who didn’t go that far were struggling just to put food on the table. But, Merle, with the unending optimism of youth, knew it wouldn’t last forever. She planned to be ready when things turned around.

Growing up was pretty sweet for a girl born in 1920 into a loving, multi-generational Jewish family. Her grandparents, her mother, and her uncles had emigrated from Russia in the late 1800s to avoid the harsh living conditions there. Although her grandfather was trained as an engineer, he couldn’t find a job in Moscow because of discrimination against Jews. Without many other choices, they moved to the country and became farmers to survive. Then, with the assassination of Czar Alexander II, their peasant neighbors became violent. Gangs of them killed their cows and destroyed their crops, blaming the Jews for their problems. Her grandparents, like many others in the same situation, fled Russia to eventually arrive in Holland, a much safer and accepting country. But, this wasn’t their ultimate destination. They viewed America and Ellis Island as their final sanctuary and a ticket to a new life.

Her mother, as beautiful as Merle grew to be, soon found a nice Jewish boy during their journey who had come from the same area of Moscow where she’d lived. They hit it off immediately, and once they were settled in their new homes, regularly went to dances and socials held by their synagogue. By the turn of the new century, they were married. Children followed. First a boy, Abe, then their baby girl, Merle, whose bright eyes, smiles, and gurgles delighted her family and everyone in the neighborhood.

Family life for Merle was close, but not suffocating. Her parents let her have a pretty long leash, and she rewarded them by being the good girl they knew she was. She flirted and had her flings, but always used her head to avoid any situations that could get her into trouble. With the family and neighbors she had, she couldn’t get into too much trouble. Everyone was watching.

She was just about to start the part of her musings that involved a handsome man on a tropical beach. They were swimming and enjoying the warm sun, brushed by cool breezes coming off the Gulf of Mexico. A deafeningly loud backfire from a truck made her jump and interrupted her reveries. Just then, one of her many friends – the dark-haired, suave Tony – came around the corner.

            “Hey Merle! Watcha doin’? Wanna go to the dance tonight?”

            “Thanks, Tony, but I already told Mick I’d go with him.”

            “Mick’s good luck is my bad luck. Save one for me, will ya?”

            Merle replied with a smile that would melt the hardest steel, “Sure, Tony. I’m always happy to dance with my favorite Italian boy.”

            At sixteen, Merle was a stunner, with long, dark brown, wavy hair and sparkling hazel eyes that always contemplated the next fun thing to do. Merle’s fun things invariably included boys. The trick was to be able to discreetly chase the ones she liked without her parents finding out. Those boys were sometimes nice Jewish ones that her parents liked, but others were Italian or Irish. Merle didn’t discriminate. As long as they were cute and fun, she liked them. She had to be careful, though, because the neighbors, who constantly leaned out their windows, didn’t miss much. And they never kept things to themselves.

            Merle had to balance her fun activities with the boys. She did have a serious, studious side, but very few people got to see it. As she was easing back into her daydream, her best friend, Helen, came along. While Merle was stunning and vivacious, Helen was pretty in a plain kind of way, with dirty-blond hair that would have looked really good if she’d spent more time on it. But, Helen didn’t care. She was happy in her own skin and spent most of her time studying or reading. She was an old soul in a young body.

            Helen said, “You look very thoughtful. What’s going on?”

            “I don’t want to live in the Lower East Side the rest of my life. I need to go away to some tropical beach, where I can meet a handsome man who will spoil me. But, to do that, I’ll probably have to get a good education beyond high school. What about you?”

            “So, what’s the problem with that? You’re a smart girl. Me, I’ll probably stay here. I’m not adventurous like you.”

            They were lucky to live in New York, where their school had a good library. And the famous New York Public Library in Manhattan was a subway ride away. They devoted one Saturday and headed there to search for schools. They knew they would find more resources than their school had. They’d been there many times, enjoyed passing by the huge lions at the entrance, always rubbing their manes for good luck, so they knew their way around. Their goal was to settle into the Rose Main Reading Room, which held volumes of reference materials.

            They started at the reference desk, and were soon overwhelmed. Merle noted, “Who would have thought there’d be so many schools here in New York?’ Aren’t we lucky to have so many choices?”

            “Yes, but how do we possibly narrow them down?” said the practical Helen, her hands deep in the card catalog, her mind spinning.

             “Well, we both enjoy school, especially biology classes, and we get pretty good grades, although I know they could be better. We love dissecting frogs and any other animal our teacher puts in front of us. You know how we can’t wait to open them up to see where everything is? It’s fascinating how all of the organs fit so neatly inside their skins.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what we can do with our lives. I don’t know about you, but being a teacher probably wouldn’t get me out of New York, and I don’t think either of us has any interest in being an engineer like my grandfather, or an accountant like my father. What do you think of nursing as a career? We could go to school together.”

            Helen, always up for a shared experience with her pal, said, “Sure, I think we could do that in a heartbeat. Get it? Heartbeat? But here’s the catch – where will we get the money?”

            “Very funny, but if we start planning now, I’m sure we can figure out the money part. My counselor at school says there are lots of scholarships for smart kids if their grades are good. So, we need to knuckle down.”

With this shared direction, Merle started searching for nursing schools.

Helen, look what I found! There’s an article that says there’s a nursing shortage, so maybe we made a good decision!”

“Merle, I just discovered that there are a lot of hospitals in New York that offer nursing programs. Maybe one of them could be a fit for us.”

“Well, aside from finding the school that’s best for us, we have to figure out how to pay for it. But here’s some good news. Nursing doesn’t require a four-year degree, and some programs include what they call a paid practicum. We can observe nurses doing their jobs and get paid for doing it!”

            One of the programs they found was run by Bellevue Hospital. Before it became known for caring for patients with mental disorders, it had a distinguished history as a teaching hospital, and was the first nursing school in the United States to adhere to Florence Nightingale’s principles.

Merle told Helen, “I read about Florence Nightingale in my history class. She took care of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, even making her rounds at night with a lamp. The soldiers called her ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.”

            Merle’s jewelry collection was far from extensive, but that didn’t mean she failed to appreciate the shiny baubles of life. She told Helen, “Did you know that Bellevue’s nursing school pin was designed by Tiffany? Doesn’t that beat all?”

            The length of Bellevue’s curriculum seemed perfect. They offered a three-year diploma program. But, yearly tuition and fees were $500. This was something neither girl could afford, but the school awarded scholarships. If they could get their grades up, it might be manageable.

            Merle and Helen swung into high gear. They both got jobs after school so they could save up to pay for expenses beyond tuition. Merle, Miss Personality, worked at a soda fountain, where she made more in tips than her small salary. Helen, the more studious of the pair, started by tutoring fellow students struggling with math and science. They studied harder at school to increase their chances for scholarships. Their grades rose to high A’s. The savings accounts they started began to grow steadily.

            Of course, Merle, the party girl, still saw the boys, going to dances and the movies, but her major goal was to get out of school and get a scholarship. Helen, although pretty in her own way, with eyes like blue cornflowers, didn’t attract the boys like Merle did. And, that was fine with her. She wasn’t the social butterfly of the team and wasn’t that interested in boys anyway. Helen’s motto was, “there will be plenty of time for boys after I graduate.”

Merle’s plan was to finish nursing school and take off for the adventure she long craved. Florida was her dream destination, with a fantastic climate, beautiful beaches, a great Naval Hospital in Pennsacola, and of course, lots of handsome sailors. Helen knew she’d be happy just sharing her nursing education with her friend. She’d probably stay in New York.

            At their high school commencement, Merle and Helen were delighted to graduate summa cum laude, proud to wear the honor cords they received. Even better, both girls were awarded scholarships from Bellevue. The future was bright and they were excited to be able to share it together.

They were on their way to Merle’s house for a party, when they heard a loud squeal of tires and the screams of nearby pedestrians. Out of nowhere, a delivery van swerved directly into their path. Merle was able to dodge it and reach the sidewalk. Not so Helen. Merle never forgot the sickening thud. Her best friend lay on the street, blood coming out of her mouth and ears.

Merle went to Helen, cradling her in her arms, saying, “You’ll be OK. The ambulance is on the way. I can’t lose you now, when we’ve come so far. Stay with me, we still have lots of adventures ahead.”

            The ambulance arrived, too late. Helen’s eyes were closed, and she wasn’t breathing. Merle tried to find a pulse but couldn’t. She was gone.

They had completed the first part of the plan she and Helen had plotted. But Merle would be on her own for the next step. There was a hole in her heart that would take years to heal, even with the best nursing care.

AI Text Classifier said this was human-written. So, I tried it again, and it said it was likely AI-Generated. Hmmmmm……


Happy Summer Solstice!

So, I guess it really is summer here in Texas, where in our part of Houston the “feels like” temperature is 108. The air temp is a balmy 99. And we’re not even in the hottest part of whatever passes for summer here – generally in August, according to some local meteorologists. I just can’t wait!

After two years of hibernating for Covid, we’re now hibernating to stay cool enough to breathe. Neighborhood walks are pretty much out of the question for me. I get much too warm and exhausted. I walk around the house, staking out circular paths. I like our house, but… We’ve talked about a vacation, however, the problem is that most of the US is in the same blazing boat that we are – as is Europe. So maybe Alaska or Iceland? But the thought of flying somewhere, with cancelled and delayed flights doesn’t sound so great either. So, maybe in the Fall, when we might celebrate the Autumn Equinox.

Anyway, back to the Summer Solstice. Today is the longest day of daylight of the year. From here on out, the days will begin to get shorter. By an astounding two minutes a day. There are many excellent sources of information on the solstices – here are just a few: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap170621.html. And this one that talks about solstice traditions: https://www.euronews.com/culture/2022/06/20/in-pictures-what-is-summer-solstice-and-how-is-it-celebrated-around-the-world. Although, I have to admit that I never knew about the mass yoga thing in New York. And, sadly, I suspect that the Ukrainians may not be doing much celebrating this year.

I hope the weather is not as extreme in your part of the world, and that you can enjoy the longest day without melting.



This just breaks my heart.

These young people that were killed in Kabul were our grandchildrens’ ages. Many of them were Marines, as my mom was. They were stationed at places where she served – Camp Pendleton, and Camp Lejuene. One was in the Navy, as my dad was. They were all far too young to die at the hands of violent extremists who don’t care about their country or its people. Only about their ideology.

The world is just too crazy lately.

Episode 6 of Irene’s Story – The Arrival of the (In)famous Clarence

Irene heard that some of the Women Marines in Camp Lejeune would be going to Hawaii. Irene was thrilled since she and her good friend Gerry were slated to go. They made all sorts of elaborate plans and even did a little skit with their fellow Feathernecks to celebrate. Their outfits of straw skirts and leis topped off with goofy masks and signs that said “Honolulu Here We Come” were the hit of the celebration.

Unfortunately, they made plans too soon, and learned that “the Corps” sometimes worked – or didn’t work – in mysterious ways. Gerry shipped out in November 1944, leaving poor Irene stuck in North Carolina with the roaches. But in December, just as she was about to have a Christmas leave with her family in Philadelphia, she got orders that she was being shipped to San Diego. That was the first step.

San Diego was a major disappointment to Irene. The Marine Corps base back then was a staging area for the troops going somewhere else, mostly the Pacific. There were waves of them who had to have muster rolls prepared and payroll records initiated, changed, or updated. Unfortunately, her staff there wasn’t like the top-notch crew she had at Camp Lejuene – or as large. And, the constant flow of troops was as never-ending as the California sunshine.

On top of that, Irene was conscientious to a fault. Because of her exceptional experience at Camp Lejuene, and the fact that she excelled at her job, she suspected that the Corps was keeping her from going to Hawaii. Instead of a workload of the two assignments that she handled at Camp Lejeune, she had three in San Diego: one as Acting Sergeant Major; Adjutant (an assistant to the Commanding Officer, or CO); and First Sergeant. Her feelings were likely well-founded. Those responsible were short-handed and they couldn’t afford to lose her. She began working 12- to 18-hour days again and started to burn out. Her superiors finally told her to slow down – which she reluctantly did. Meanwhile, her good friend Gerry had shipped off to Pearl Harbor, so she didn’t even have a buddy to gripe and share late-night snacks with.

Eventually the workload lightened up significantly, and life got easier in San Diego, so Irene could enjoy a bit of time to herself. She made one weekend trip up to Los Angeles with some other Feathernecks so she could see first-hand what Hollywood was all about. They went to The Brown Derby, Sardi’s, the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria, and saw Grauman’s Chinese Theater with its celebrity footprints and handprints. In spite of its supposed glamour, she wasn’t impressed with Hollywood, and thought it seemed like any other smallish town. Irene was a big city girl, after all.

But right at home, the Marine Corps base had occasional dances, which she thought were much more fun than Hollywood, and she went to as many of them as she could. At least they were easier to get to, and less expensive. Best of all, they played a bigger variety of songs than “Pistol-Packin Mamma.” There were new tunes too, like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” that she could jitterbug to and “Sentimental Journey” for those dreamy slow dances.

Among her other duties, Irene scheduled the Marines who were on her muster rolls for physicals and dental checkups before they shipped out, so she had frequent contacts with those who were responsible for scheduling at those facilities. Clarence was now stationed at the Dental Clinic in San Diego, performing duties as a Dental Technician, and one of his responsibilities was scheduling. They spoke to each other frequently by phone. For weeks, in addition to setting appointments, they laughed and joked and engaged in some serious flirting with one another.

On one occasion, Clarence told Irene, “I heard you need to have all your teeth pulled. I’m so sorry to hear that, but I’m just the guy to be the technician to assist when you get that done.”

Irene was pretty clever too, so she shot back at him, “Listen, buster, if you even think about doing that, I’ll send a platoon of my Marine buddies over to rough you up.”

They both enjoyed the verbal foreplay, and worked hard at coming up with more outlandish things to tell each other.

There Are Best-Sellers, and Then There Are Stories Which are Really True

I recently ran across this very long, but very interesting look into the world of traditional publishing: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/11/a-suspense-novelists-trail-of-deceptions?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosam&stream=top.

After going through the process of trying to get my memoir published by a traditional press, I’m happy that I self-published. At least I know that I didn’t lie and cheat people to get my story out there. And, although there are two chapters that are fictional (to protect people in one case, and because we simply didn’t know the story of one of the mothers), I know this story is true.

I’ve been missing for a while due to some health problems, but, hopefully, I’m back again.

Check out the book that is true: https://www.amazon.com/Sibling-Revelries-Finding-Family-After-ebook/dp/B07B7B43WD/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8.

#memoir #marinecorps #wwiistories #independentpublishing

Getting Back to WordPress

After an absence of about two years, I thought it was time to write something.

A lot has transpired during that time. I finally, finally finished my memoir. I submitted it to a number of agents and was soundly rejected. This is not uncommon among first-time authors, but it still smarts. So, after my bruised ego healed somewhat, I decided to self-publish. I am now learning the intricacies of using Kindle Direct Publishing. Not difficult, just time-consuming and frustrating. Kind of like trying to format documents when Microsoft Word first came out.

I’ve also learned that I should have started marketing at least a year ago. Even when you get an agent and a publisher, you still have to do your own marketing. So then, what do they do for their cuts? Part of that marketing is having a web page. That will be my next step on WordPress.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I need all the help I can get.



Mary Jo Martin is a retired market researcher who gave up life inside the Loop in Houston, Texas to move to the suburbs. I know, it’s supposed to work the other way.

She is a member of the Houston Writer’s Guild. Her short story, set in South Carolina, about domestic abuse and a poisoning, Flowers for Lewis, was published in the Houston Writer’s Guild Press short story mystery anthology, Waves of Suspense, in December 2015.

A medical mystery led her to pen an account of her quest to unearth her medical history on her father’s side. Instead, she found a big family. This work won first place in the memoir category in the Fall 2014 Houston Writer’s Guild contest. She’s still working on it.

Mary Jo started her professional life as a chemist. Along the way, she sold out to the dark side and earned her Master’s degree in Business Administration. After years of successfully producing concise business text as a marketer and market researcher, she is now free to do “real” writing.