I Know The Feeling

British man runs marathon in backyard during lockdown

Not the insanity of running a marathon anywhere, but my exercise has been lacking in the past few weeks. A couple body weight exercises here and there, some basketball with my boys. But not a lot of discipline.

I have, however, discovered that the perimeter of the un-wooded section of Nogglestead is almost exactly one third of a mile.

We’re not doing road running here as my youngest is not ready for running on farm roads with no shoulder and cars passing at fifty or sixty miles an hour. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe he is ready but I’m holding him back. Regardless, it’s three laps to a mile trail running, so a little over nine laps to a 5k. I’m not ready for that yet–my slow pace on the mile above represents not only me slacking but me recovering from a bout of plantar fasciitis. So I’ll take my eleven minute mile over uneven terrain. And we will see what today brings.

A Conversation At A Place Somewhat Like Nogglestead

WIFE: (reading a box label) Cartridges, Small Arms? Are those…
WIFE: Did you buy a lot?
HUSBAND: [laughs in Kim du Toitian] No.

Kim du Toit probably has more rounds in his pockets.

But one of the things at the start of the current unpleasantness was that I was comfortable with our food situation, but I felt we might be a little light on ammunition in the event of a larger breakdown. I mentioned this to my beautiful wife, and she said I should take care of that. So I did.

But do we have enough guns?

[laughs in Kim du Toitian] No.

Ante, Upped

Schumer calls for up to $25,000 in ‘heroes’ pay for coronavirus workers

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for up to $25,000 in “heroes” pay for front-line health care and service industry workers as Congress pushes ahead with a new coronavirus crisis rescue package.

* * * *

Nurses, truck drivers, grocery store clerks and others are “risking their lives” to care for Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown, he said.

Ludicrous on the face, of course, but so was the $1000 checks or whatever we’re supposed to be getting to mail back to the government.

Oppose it, and you hate these workers, hey?

No word on politicos who are sheltering in front of microphones get “heroes” pay for continuing to not keep their social distance from news microphones. Heaven knows they count themselves amongst the heroes for voting to shovel Monopoly money into the wind.

Bigger corporations would be expected to foot the bill for the pay hike, he said, while the federal government would provide funding for smaller firms.

Oh, I see: Prices are going up. And you’re all fired.

Yeah, I see who cares about the working man. Not all heroes work on Capitol Hill, but those that do wear Ds.

On the other hand, I wonder how corporations will enjoy the double-whammy of lawsuits and additional expenses they’re voluntold by Democrats in Washington.

This just in: I opted to click Refresh like the fool I am.

Unfortunately, Overreaction Is Not Innoculation

I have speculated, apparently elsewhere, that early bits of preparation for coronavirus, including actions that retailers and businesses took before Official Middle Class Stay At Home/Close Your Shop/Actual Workers, Keep Doing What You’re Doing orders came out was to protect the companies against lawsuits which would inevitably come in the 21st century for those businesses and entities who were the last to take extreme action.


Walmart sued over coronavirus death by family of deceased employee

It won’t be the last.


Brian J., so how are you spending your new free time during the coronavacation? Are you learning a new skill? Catching up on old projects? Writing that novel whose first pages you most recently pecked out some years ago? Working on your renewed interest in poetry?

Well, of course not. Those would be productive uses of my time.

For the most part, my life has not changed. I’ve been a remote employee for a long time, so my working life has not really changed.

I do have my children home all day, but it’s almost like they’re on spring break or summer vacation. They have some school assignments and Zoom meetings with their classes, but it’s a lot of video game time, arguing that they should have more video game time, and some basketball in the driveway. I have been Coronaschooling them, though, even though they’ve got a handful of assignments from me which mostly serve as an excuse to watch old movies.

The only thing I can really say that I’ve been getting done, really, this coronavacation are:

  • Blogging more frequently.
  • A bit more housecleaning, such as the light fixtures, which I only do semi-annually.
  • Installing red lights outside our office doors for visual indicators that my beautiful wife or I are on the phone:

    Although, to be honest, these are little battery operated LED lights, so it’s not like I wired up electricity and switches for them ($11 for two on Amazon). I did, however, not use the big piece of double-stick tape that came with each unit, instead opting for Velcro like I did with the old hand-held games because a two-sided tape solution was going to make for a problem when the batteries died.

    Although it gives me another idea for a project: Taking down those old games, replacing the batteries/cleaning out the battery acid/testing those games.

  • Spending like a half an hour putting one of our cats in a box, photographing my cat jumping out of the box, and trying to get a relatively unblurry image so I can put text on it.

    I am not kidding. I tried the iPhone, I tried a digital camera, I tried a lot of things before settling on this one. Man, cats are fast when they’re jumping out of boxes. Also, when trying not to be put back into boxes.

  • Sleeping. No kidding; my FitBit sleep scores are edging into the 70s and sometimes into the 80s on Saturdays, which means eight fitful hours of sleep a night. I’m going to miss it when the boys go back to school next August and I have to set an early alarm.

So this is unlike my beautiful wife who is practicing piano, trumpet, and flute and continues with her normal self-improvement programs.

Within the next week or so, I am thinking about organizing the record collection at Nogglestead now that we have received our order of record dividers from Amazon. Perhaps I will paint the fence and deck and will do this in a short amount of time (unlike years past, where the endeavor took weeks or, well, to be honest, I’ve never actually finished painting the fence).

Or I can sit at the keyboard and continue refreshing blogs for the latest news or panicked speculation about the death toll of coronavirus or, more as time passes, the erosion of civil liberties and niceties that the coronareaction has brought.

I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to speculate as to which direction I will go. Or continue.

Coronaschooling, Efficiency Edition

Today at Nogglestead, we’re doing some efficient homeschooling. We’re studying both the Spanish language and sex education reviewing the works of Shakira.

Eeesh, just kidding. If I wanted my boys to be educated like that, I’d send them to public school.

Although I own the album She Wolf, I really can’t watch the whole video. I get to a certain point, and I start thinking less about how flexible Shakira is and more about how many adductor muscles I would tear if I tried to do what she’s doing.

You know, a lot of time, I cross-post these gags on Facebook so people I’ve met in real life can see them, but I didn’t post this one as my Facebook friends list contains an awful lot of pastors.

Sorry, Friar, I don’t mean to shock you with some of my more earthy posts.

Footnoting My Humor, Reducks

So there’s a thing going around Facebook where you are supposed to list ten jobs, nine of which you have done and one of which you have not. Gentle reader, as you know, I have held many, many jobs in my life as I have a degree in English and Philosophy, and that leads one to a vagabond life of chasing an extra quarter an hour until you trip into a career. Or it did for me, anyway.

At any rate, I cannot do a Facebook share-your-personal-information schtick without subverting it, so I posted this:

Let me explain.

These are job declarations in Job Control Language, one of those inscrutable but efficient programming languages that run on Big Iron, that is, mainframes and whatnot.

You know, I’ve never programmed in that language, although there’s probably still plenty of jobs for programming Big Iron around. My rejoinder on Facebook is going to be that it’s the 21st century, man. But the last statement is not a job, it’s the invocation of a job library. Or something.

I know a couple of old programmers who might get the joke. Strangely enough, my sainted mother had to run JCL commands at her last government job, so she might have gotten it. But probably nobody else.

It’s so obscure that it made me laugh out loud, though. Sad!

Also, I want to remind you, gentle reader, why I do not play in these cut-and-paste-games on Facebook:

(Last image courtesy of Glenn Reynolds’ Facebook feed.)

Book Report: Red Plush and Black Beard (Condensed) by Marguerite Higgins (1955)

Book coverThis is a condensed, pamphlet-sized version of a longer book (which is $300 on Amazon if you search via Bing but $8 if you search on Amazon?) about Marguerite Higgins’s experience in the Soviet Union. It clocks in at 16 pages, and I probably got it in a bundle of chapbooks/pamphlets for a buck at a Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale some time ago. But I’m counting as a book I read regardless of the length.

At any rate, you don’t have to be a Russiaphile to know what she finds: Brutal architecture, primitive living, but a resilient and resigned people.

But enough about this little publication of the Good Reading Rack Service. It leads to a little wondering about the Good Reading Rack Service itself. The book has no price markings; what was the Good Reading Rack Service? Internet searches yield no history of the company but a boatload of entries from their series. Was it teaser giveaways for bookstores trying to sell the books themselves?

Also, how about Marguerite Higgins herself? A woman war correspondent who covered World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam along with being the bureau head in Moscow when she wrote Red Plush and Black Beard. Wow, that’s more interesting than what she had to say about Moscow in the middle 1950s.

Homeschooling, Day 卌 卌 IIII

So on Thursday night, we did not get to the poetry until after 8pm, so I had to pick a short one for the evening.

I selected “Trees” by Joyce (a boy) Kilmer (text here).

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Quick, what movie quotes that poem?

Continue reading “Homeschooling, Day 卌 卌 IIII”

Book Report: Made To Be Broken by Allen St. John (2006)

Book coverWell, I got this book from ABC Books this week, and I was so achy for sports that I jumped right into it.

It’s a photograph-laden book with 50 different streaks and records that the author thinks are important across sports, including Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, Ty Cobb’s batting average, Johnny Unitas’s touchdown pass streak, Rickey Henderson’s stolen base and runs scored records, as well as tennis, golf, and Olympic records.

I remember most the baseball and football ones from real life even though I might not have lived in their times just because they’re the legends of the game even though they weren’t Brewers, Cardinals, or Packers.

Some of the records have been broken since the book was published (Mark Spitz’s gold medals in an Olympics, Dan Marino’s career passing yardage–twice) and one has been stripped (Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins). So not all of them will last the ages.

An interesting and quick browse between heavier works, and a pleasant interlude.

Good Book Hunting, April 2, 2020: ABC Books

On Sunday night, I placed another order from ABC Books. I have assigned my children to read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as part of their home school adventure before it became a home school and a little tele-school adventure. I ordered a copy of each off of Amazon, but one of them is reading is assignment faster than the other, so it opened an opportunity for me to place another order from ABC Books. Which arrived on Thursday.

As I might have mentioned, I cannot browse their stacks, but I do the next best thing: I go through their inventory by category and end up placing a bunch of orders based on whether the title looks interesting. For the most part, I don’t even click through to the book description; I just click Add to Cart on the listing page because I’m being, erm, promiscuous (definition 2) in purchasing. More than normal, and with less discernment than when I am physically browsing the shelves (and less blushing). But now that I’ve laid the groundwork for my defense, here’s what I got:

The small haul includes:

  • Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. Now that I look at it, I wonder if I already have it. If I do, perhaps I will assign it to one of the boys.
  • Get The To A Punnery by Richard Lederer, a collection of puns one assumes from the title.
  • Ethics and the New Testament by J.L. Houlden.
  • The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower by Robert Graysmith. I’m not sure if it’s true crime or not. I think so. Maybe.
  • Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill] by John Cleland. HOLY SPIT! That ain’t no memoir. From the Wikipedia entry:

    Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure–popularly known as Fanny Hill (possibly an anglicisation of the Latin mons veneris, mound of Venus)–is an erotic novel by English novelist John Cleland first published in London in 1748. Written while the author was in debtors’ prison in London, it is considered “the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel”. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history.

    Oh, my. Well, that will go on my “I’m afraid to be seen reading it” shelf alongside the Lawrence and the Nabokov. In related news, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go back to ABC Books in person again. Although time will tell if it’s any more saucy than a Gunsmith novel.

  • A Harvard Classics (Five Foot Shelf) edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, and Fruits of Solitude by William Penn. ABC Books did not have the autobiography by itself, so I got it in a collection. Although this collection might be too nice to give to my youngest to read, it is in a brown binding, and my other Harvard Classics are in the original green (such as Folk-Lore and Fable: Aesop, The Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen). So do I put it on my shelf next to the others even though they’re a different color? Or do I collect the set in both bindings?

So I was going to quip that if the coronacation lasts too long, I will eventually have bought the entire inventory of ABC Books without buying the whole shop. To be honest, that might be the best-case scenario as I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to return in person.

Book Report: The Cyclops/Heracles/Iphegenia in Tauris/Helen by Euripedes (1969)

Book coverAfter watching Hercules Unchained, I decided to go right to the source material. Well, Hercules Unchained is based Sophocles and Aeschylus’ works, not Euripides. Which becomes clear when one reads the tragedy Heracles that is included.

The book includes:

  • The Cyclops, a comedy of sorts of a type called by scholars a satyr-play, so it’s a touch raunchy and one expects the chorus to be a bunch of men in goatskin pants and priapi (I hope I spelled that correctly; you will forgive me that I did not conduct an Internet search to make sure.) (I am just kidding; I do have a dictionary, so it is spelled correctly). It recounts Odysseus’ trip to the island of Polyphemus and the escape.
  • Heracles, a tragedy that recounts Heracles’ return to Thebes, his madness, and its consequences.
  • Iphegenia in Tauris, wherein Orestes goes to Tauris to steal back the idol of Artemis to calm the Furies chasing him, where Iphegenia is the high priestess after Artemis whisked her away from Agammemnon’s sacrifice.
  • Helen, wherein Menelaus is shipwrecked in Egypt, where he finds the real Helen, not the fake Helen who was carried away by Paris, triggering the Trojan War.

You know, the contemporary wailing about Hollywood relying heavily on known intellectual properties for entertainment, but it has nothing on the ancient Greeks.

Euripedes put his own spin on the latter two tales, wherein both women were not where common (Homeric) stories had them. Artemis replaces Iphegenia with a hind during the moment of sacrifice, so Iphegenia is still alive after the Illiad. The gods make a double for Helen who is carried to Troy, so the real Helen has remained true to her husband. Given that the book is titled Euripedes II: Four Tragedies, I expected the stage to be littered with corpses at the end of these plays, but I was pleased that they ended a little more happily than that.

Each play has a relatively length bit of criticism/history/relating the stories to other Greek works that I skipped. A lot of times, I’ll come back and read the commentary after I read the source material, but this time I skipped most of it (I read the intro to Helen which is presented after the play and I read a little of the introduction to The Cyclops). I’m more interested in the source materials than the academic scholarship around it anyway.

At any rate, I flagged a couple of things:

  • From Heracles, a defense of monotheism:

    Ah, all this has no bearing on my grief;
    but I do no believe the gods commit
    adultery, or bind each other in chains.
    I never did believe it; I never shalll
    nor that one true god is tyrant of the rest.
    If god is truly god, he is perfect,
    lacking nothing. These are poets’ wretched lies.

  • In Iphegenia in Tauris, Iphegenia tips the forty for her presumed dead brother Orestes:

    Give me the urn o gold which heavy holds
    My tribute to the God of Death.
    Orestes, son of Agammemnon, who
    Who are lying under the dark earth, I lift
    And pour–for you.

  • Also in Iphegenia in Tauris, Artemis herself lays down the baseball rule that the tie goes to the runner:

    Orestes, once I saved you
    When I was arbiter on Ares’ hill
    And broke the tie by voting in your favor.
    Now let it be the law that one who earns
    An evenly divided verdict wins
    His case.

    Note that in modern American civics, though, an evenly divided jury is hung, and in the Senate, the vice-president gets to vote to break the tie.

  • From Helen, a brief aphorism that comes at the end of a speech that, erm, prophecies Luther’s arguments against some practices of the medieval church:

    The best prophet is common sense, our native wit.

    Oh, right, I cannot make that assertion about Luther and not give the wider context:

    It shall be done, my lord.
    Only, now I am sure
    how rotten this business of prophets is, how full of lies,
    There never was any good in burning things on fires
    nor in the voices of fowl. It is sheer idiocy
    even to think that birs do people any good.
    Calchas said nothing about this, he never told
    the army when he saw his friends die for a cloud,
    nor Helenus either, and a city was stormed in vain.
    You might say: “No, for God did not wish it that way.”
    Then why consult the prophets? We should sacrifice
    to the gods, ask them for blessings, and let prophecy go.
    The art was invented as a bait for making money,
    but no man ever got rich on magic without work.
    The best prophet is common sense, our native wit.

    So you can see where I might have thought that: Luther was against some of the money-earning practices of the church, including the saying of masses with no attendees for money to expedite the stay in purgatory for dead relatives. So, basically, the criticism of the church is similar across time and churches.

    Also, it gives a nice aphorism.

If you’re interested, you don’t have to buy the book; you can find all of these plays and more on MIT’s Classic page for Euripedes. You might like that, gentle reader, but as you know, I need a book. This book is part of a series, but I am not going to seek them out. But if I see them at ABC Books or the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library, I will be all on them.

Because these pieces of classical literature, in good translations, are very approachable and readable especially if you skip the academic and mostly irrelevant prose bookending them.

Homeschooling, Day XIII: History of the 20th Century

I think I’m going to make my children transcribe and research everything from “We Didn’t Start The Fire”:

When I was in high school, the last couple of days of the Honors Western Civilization class featured a video that covered the 20th century. For extra credit, we could turn in our notes from watching the film. I transcribed the lyrics to this song (because we did not have the Internet, gentle reader, and either had to go by ear or by the tiny liner notes in the cassette case).

Although I did not actually turn these notes in, a friend of mine took them and turned them in. The teacher, of course, had no idea.

The Coming War with China

Perhaps the title is a little too certain, but this is the Internet, and the drive for clicks supersedes the drive for truth.

I don’t want to go all Bill Gertz here (I reviewed his book Treachery in 2005 and followed some of his columns in the Washington Post back in the day; he was/is quite the, erm, cautionary voice on China), but the plan after the Coronication is to decouple economically from a face-saving nation whose regime will be under the threat of losing the Mandate of Heaven, who faces uncertain demographics and dramatic, bad economic outlook but has a really big military, right?

So I would like to think that the Top Men are seriously thinking about what that might involve.

But, to be honest, I’m not very impressed with the Top Men and Women at this point.

UPDATE: As seen on Ace of Spades HQ later this morning, a story from the Washington Times but not Bill Gertz: Semper Modify: Marine Corps to undergo ‘radical’ overhaul in pivot to take on China.


Pentagon officials argue that China’s rapidly improving military capabilities make the prospect of a traditional Iwo Jima-type shore landing exceedingly unlikely, and the Corps instead will shift its resources toward becoming a “stand-in” force that can operate within enemy range rather than fighting its way into theater from the sea.

So the Top Men are not planning a battle to liberate Taiwan is what you’re saying.

Top. Men. (And. Women.)

Coronaschooling, Day Something: Wherein Jethro Tull Answers William Blake

Last night’s poem was “The Tyger” by William Blake.

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The poet asks:

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Jethro Tull responds:

He who made kittens put snakes in the grass

The youngest spontaneously burst out singing this song a week or so ago; it’s on my workout playlist, which I played sometimes in the car in the Great Before when we went places such as the gym in our car. So they know the song, and I got to connect the theme from William Blake to popular culture.

Well, culture that’s popular at Nogglestead, anyway, and probably wasn’t even that popular when it came out in 1974 (although, apparently, it hit the top 20).

That Dolphin Show I Saw In Milwaukee

Last night, I was telling my oldest child about how my grandmother used to take my brother and I out of school for a day once a year, and she would take us different places in Milwaukee. She took us to the Milwaukee Art Museum, but she did that more than once and more than on the day with Nana because she managed the gift shop at one point and could get us in without charge. She took us to the Milwaukee Public Museum which had the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit. She took us to the downtown library, where you could check out an Atari 2600 and a game cartridge for blocks of an hour (and I foolishly picked Space Invaders, but my brother picked E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, so you can guess that was a long hour for us).

And one time she took us to see the dolphin show at the Public Natatorium. In Milwaukee. Probably in the winter.

We didn’t actually see the dolphin show; as it was a school day and we were the only kids in the audience, the dolphin trainer had us come help with the show. So we held up fish whilst the dolphins leapt and held up the hoops the dolphins darted through. Although after the end of the show, I was feeling comfortable with the dolphins and reached for it, but the dolphin chattered in a way that scared me, so I backed off.

I told my son the story, and then I went to the Internet to back me up on this.

OnMilwaukee has stories about the public natatoria built in Milwaukee in the latter part of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries which include the first indoor pool in the United States. The Old Milwaukee blog has the rest of the story about how entrepreneurs briefly turned the last of the natatoria into a destination restaurant with the dolphin shows.

The dolphin shows. In a restaurant. In Milwaukee.

The past is an unbelievable place.

Coronavirus Update: PATIENT ZERO FOUND

Must credit MfBJN!

Fun fact: In the middle 1980s, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was addicted to the tabloids. Not the National Enquirer which had celebrity news. I spent far too much money on Weekly World News and The Sun which had the crazy, unreal things in them. Like Bat Boy.

I would have better served myself in spending that lawn mowing money on comic books or blowing it on the Rampage machine up the hill at the U-Gas.