I cover crime for the Sun, a comparatively soft job considering how comparatively safe Seal Beach and surrounding communities are, so I find myself thinking a lot about crime and punishment—even during this season of good will and forgiveness.

Which brings me, if a little reluctantly, to a question that has bothered me for a long time. I’m a reluctant supporter of the death penalty and can generally respect people on both sides of the issue. If you are morally opposed to it, you’ll get no argument from me.

But I do find myself wondering: why is it that a murder may, under certain circumstances, be punishable by death—but attempted murder never is?

If a man stabs me and paramedics save my life, should my assailant be rewarded? If the death penalty deters murder—and on that I have my doubts—wouldn’t the penalty of death also deter violent attacks that place victims at risk of death? Wouldn’t the penalty save more lives if it were applied to assault with a deadly weapon as well as to actual murder? The intent of the criminal is the same whether the attempt succeeds or fails.

Certainly there would be less risk of an innocent person being sentenced to death if the penalty were applied to people who attempt homicide. It isn’t as if a deceased person can tell the police, “Um, officers? You got the wrong guy.”

Tell me what you think.

I’m not much for holiday celebrations, but it is that time of year when we are all supposed to give thanks for our blessings. I was raised in a rather informal church (the minister, Sunday school teacher and my parents taught me conflicting ideas), so I am not entirely clear on just who I should be thank or precisely how I should be thanking them. But I was taught (by everyone) to say thank you, so I’ll say a few thanks and hope I’ve got it covered. And pray that anyone I’ve overlooked is feeling forgiving.

I’m thankful that my 93-year-old stepmother is still alive. I’m even more thankful that, for whatever reason, she has abandoned her campaign to get me married before she goes.

(Good thing she doesn’t surf the Internet or this blog could cause me some problems.)

I’m thankful for my editor/tenant/friend/mentor/boss/nemesis/brother-in-all-but blood Dennis Kaiser. (Remember, Dennis, Thanksgiving is just one day out of 365.)

And I’m thankful to you readers. You’re the reason I have a job and a mighty fun one at that.

So what are you folks thankful for? Your list has got to be more interesting than mine.

My friends accuse me of worrying too much. (I’ve been called the dark cloud around every silver lining.) Actually, my friends accuse me of many things. This particular accusation annoys me because it is true.

For example: from time to time I visit my stepmother. She’s 93. She’s still lucid—and until recently was constantly after me to find a woman and get married.

In the morning, before I leave, I leave a cup of hot chocolate next to her bed. She is so small, so frail, so still, that I find myself wondering if she died in her sleep. I wait until I see that she’s breathing. For a moment, I relax.

But relief is quickly replaced by a chilling question: what do I do if she outlives her life savings?

The question is usually followed by a twinge of guilt over the thought. What kind of person thinks like that? Then I leave. I know that why I return, I’ll start thinking the same thoughts and fearing the same fears all over again. As I said, my friends accuse me of worrying too much—and they’re right. But at age 51, I’m not sure I can change. And in the case of a 93 year old woman, I’m not sure I should stop worrying. After all, she worried about me when I was young. Maybe it’s just my turn to do the worrying.