Gun Control Prevents Gun Massacre

Instead, it became a knife massacre:

A knife-wielding man attacked a kindergarten class of 4-year-olds in eastern China on Thursday, slashing 28 children in what an expert said was a copycat rampage of two other episodes at Chinese schools in the past month.

Bonus takeaway: mental health control in an actual Communist country:

China’s inadequate mental health network has left millions of unstable people without the help they need.

Book Report: The Magic of Scrub Holler by Lanny Gibson (2005)

This book is a short series of essays, some originally appearing in Gibson’s local newspaper, about life on a small farm in northwestern Arkansas. Gibson deals with calving, moving rocks, the benefits and pitfalls of owning goats, and other rural concerns. The essays are short and enjoyable, often with a wry sense of humor to them. Not a bad little collection.

I’m really getting into these rural accounts these days. The pattern began with Growing Up In The Bend and continues with other things I’ve since added to my bookshelf. Perhaps the inclination ties together my love for history and my new location in the rural Midwest.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Don’t Go To Lowe’s For The Salami (II)

Today’s trip to Lowe’s saw me purchase a porch swing, ten sacks of manure, a watering can, a flower pot, and some seeds. When the clerk asked if I wanted to pay $10 to have the swing assembled for me, I told her no. It would fit better in my truck in the box, and I know how to use a socket wrench.

When I got home, you betcha, I was charged $10 for the assembly. I called, and I can go in and get that amount refunded easily, but really.

Lowe’s Point of Sale systems feature a monitor facing the cashier, and that’s it. The customer either has to stand behind the cashier when he or she is scanning the goods to see what’s getting added to the bill or check the receipt immediately, I guess, but damn. Lowe’s is one more bank error in their favor from driving me to Ace Hardware forever.

(First edition of this sad series here.)

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Book Report: Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling (1897, 1970)

I know you’re asking yourself, “Gentle reader, what is the longest a book has sat on Brian’s to-read shelves before he got around to reading it?” Gentle reader, I just want you to know I don’t find it odd in the least that you refer to yourself as “gentle reader” in your own mind. And that longest book, so far, has been about 30 years.

The copy of Captains Courageous that I received in the late 1970s or very early 1980s

I received this volume as a gift from my aunt and uncle in the late 1970s or early 1980s. We were living in the Berryland housing project in Milwaukee when we received this, a student desk, and a small two-shelf bookshelf from them (and maybe a couple more books). I remember this book distinctly because it was outsized. And to be honest, in 1981, I was not interested in sea stories. I was probably reading The Great Brain series, Encyclopedia Brown, and whatnot.

Fast forward to 2010 (and from 2010, it does seem like a fast forward), and I read historical novels, sea novels, and especially in the recent past, I read Rudyard Kipling. So I took this book from the to-read shelves. It hadn’t been on the to-read shelves for very long, though, since I’m pretty sure I didn’t carry it to Wisconsin nor count it on my to-read shelves for much of my youth. Sometime, though, I plucked it from my mother’s bookshelves or my mother’s estate’s bookshelves and reclaimed it. So I’m being maudlin a bit to say I’ve owned it for 30 years without reading it, and the chain of custody was broken.

But, Brian, what about the story?

This book is a coming-of-age story. A spoiled rich youth falls off of a Europe-bound steamer and is rescued by fishermen from a Gloucester schooner fishing the banks off of Newfoundland. When they don’t believe that he’s really a rich lad, they put him to work on the boat and he learns the value of hard work. Well, there’s the plot. It moves along very well–these are really the equivalent of Young Adult novels, back when YA novels taught children to work hard, grow up, and contribute to society. I think most of them now teach kids to serve Gaia and to love one another, even when the other does not love them back.

The book, as part of the Educators Classic Series, also includes a little afterward that tells about Kipling’s life and that describes sailing throughout history and especially in the era of the novel. You know, these old timey educators’ books with their endnotes and footnotes are pretty interesting if you’re not already an expert in the subject matter (as I am not–I read a Patrick O’Brian book and immediately wanted to take a Master’s level course on ships). In modern times, though, I expect all that extra material is, again, all about serving Gaia and how those damn white men didn’t love one another.

It’s an interesting book, a quick read, and a glimpse into another era from that other era. Kipling’s faster to read and more accessible than Dickens or Hardy and could serve as a good gateway to classical literature. I’ve already promised to read Kipling to my children. No other books are official promises for when they get older. Kipling, and Captains Courageous, are.

Books mentioned in this review:

Make An Inference

When he says this:

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who has famously portrayed “Star Trek’s” original alien Spock for over 40 years, has announced he’s officially hanging up the pointy Vulcan ears for good.

Nimoy, 79, plans to retire shortly from show business and the “Star Trek” convention circuit, according to the Canadian newspaper Toronto Sun.

You can infer:

His voice work for Civilization V is done.

Or Firaxis is going with that guy who voiced the quotes for the expansion packs.

Or Firaxis went with–dare I dream–Shatner with Civ V?

Book Report: Play It Again by Stephen Humphrey Bogart (1995)

I bought this book 1) because it was at a book fair for a buck and 2) because it was written by Humphrey Bogart’s son. I wasn’t 100% sure when I saw the book at the book fair, but come on, the book’s named after a famous misquote from Casablanca and the guy made sure his middle name was in it. He ain’t Joe Hill here, hiding out and trying to make it on his own.

So this book follows the story of a private eye in NYC named R.J. Brooks, the son of an actor and an actress (write what you know! Hey, Margaret Truman made a good living at this sort of thing) who rarely sees his mother and avoids her mostly when she is in New York because she didn’t pay him much attention when she was a child. When his mother is murdered, Brooks can choose between self-pity and finding her killer–and something about her in the process.

The book is an interesting, weird blend. It hearkens back to old school pulp detective stories with spots of brutality for its own sake, but in our own date and time this really isn’t appropriate (says a fellow whose first novel–unpublished–is full of the same). There’s the attempt at emotional stuff as the private eye works through his feelings for his mother (I can relate–as you remember, gentle reader whose name is ‘Charles’ and represents my only long-term reader–my own mother passed away just over a year ago.

But the story doesn’t really move forward much on the detective’s initiative. The resolution of the main plot line is driven by the italicized-text bad guy, whose thoughts pop in from time to time to remind us of what’s at stake. Finally, when the time and wordcount is right, the bad guy kidnaps the love interest and streetwise sidekick, ties them up in the dead actress’s bedroom, and awaits Brooks. Then, in a laughable climax, the bad guy picadors Brooks and holds him at bay with a fencing foil with a sharpened point. To make it dramatic, the bad guy gives Brooks a toy sword to defend himself. In a room full of furniture, Brooks tries to defend himself from a death of a hundred little pricks. Come on. If I think I would do better than the hero in a climax, it really takes one out of the moment.

I mean, it’s not that bad of a book. Most of your pulp boils down that way. Because it’s a sort-of semi-biographical imagining that mixes the old and a new in a not entirely convincing fashion, it’s…. not a particularly good book, either.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wiping The Tears From My Eyes

This NPR piece about a potential primary challenge to Obama in 2012 is pretty serious, but when I got to the punchline, I knew it was all a setup:

The candidate most likely to try to dethrone the king may not have really emerged yet. As editors at NPR keep shouting, it’s too early to be talking like this. But what if there is some Palin-like politician lurking in the wings out there whom we haven’t even thought of? Maybe someone who is a combination of former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and the Sisters Sanchez (congresswomen Loretta and Linda) of California. Someone who just may be known as the Next Barack Obama.

Woo! You had me going there. Senator McCaskill might as well take a flier on it, though, since she’s probably going to leave elected government in January 2013.

The Debbie Burglars Follow Me To Springfield

In our first home, we came home from a restaurant to find someone had popped the glass door in our walk-out basement and made off with a sack of old coins. The paper called that sort of thing Debbie burglaries, since the people knocked on the door and if it was answered, they would ask for Debbie and leave when the fictitious Debbie wasn’t there. If no one answered and no dog barked, they’d go around back.

In our second home, scurrilous people knocked on the door on occasion with questionable sales brochures and poor dress.

Now we’ve moved out in the country to be safer, and the tactic has followed us here:

Rural residents beware: That salesman knocking on your front door could very well be casing your home to burglarize it.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office has dealt with about 30 rural residential daytime burglaries in the past two weeks in widely scattered areas of the county.

They’re being perpetrated by small crews of thieves who typically knock on the front door to see if anyone’s home, according to Greene County Sheriff’s Capt. Randy Gibson.

“If there’s no answer, they go to the back door and break in,” he said. “In some cases, they’ve broken through locked doors. In some others, the houses were unlocked.”

We’re home most of the time, so we’re in sort of good shape to avoid this sort of burglary. But, damn, I thought I’d be able to let go of a little of my internal city boy grit out here. But I’ll need to continue to suspect everyone, I suppose.

Sadly, True

A former classmate of mine, a doctor of rhetoric at a state university, posts a clever quip from a colleague:

“I have come to the conclusion that, if Dems get control, they pass laws requiring seat belts for cats. If Reps get control, they pass laws prohibiting unions. I’ll take the seat belt laws for cats.”

Sadly, this is in true.

When the Democrats have unfettered control of Congress and the presidency, they seek to compel citizens’ behavior in increasingly silly, minute, and trivial ways.

When Republicans have unfettered control of Congress, they seek to remove compulsory participation in self-perpetuating organizations without whose membership, citizens cannot hold certain jobs.

Sadly, the analogy isn’t true; six years of Republican control brought us an expansion of Medicare, No Child Left Behind, and BCRA instead of any decrease in Federalization.

I need to start a whole series called Arguing on Facebook to highlight how unreasonable even the most educated liberals in my circle are.

You Don’t Have To Share My Religion To Be A Heretic

In this Forbes piece about the busiest actors in Hollywood, Dirk Smillie utters heresy based, no doubt, in ingnorance, but heresy just the same:

Likewise, Christian Bale’s top six movies over the past five years brought in $1 billion, with some 70% of that box-office gold coming from his roles in the Batman series–Dark Knight and Batman Begins. Not every actor who’s played a Marvel character is as lucky, of course. [Emphasis added.]

That’s it, I’m looking for some kindling.

I would have expected the comments on an Internet post of such a mistake to erupt with righteous outrage. However, I might be the only comic book fan who reads Forbes. Certainly, I hold many “only … who reads Forbes” distinctions.

My Metric

Is it just me, or do most of the contestants on Jeopardy! these days fall into the following professions:

  • Teacher/Professor
  • Graduate student
  • Attorney
  • Public advocate of some sort
  • Non-profit employee of some sort

I really started noticing this trend when I started saying, “Get a real job!” to the television whenever contestants are announced in these professions.

Is it just me? If not, what does this mean and why do I think I won’t like it?

Book Report: Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen (1989)

This book is one of Carl Hiaasen’s, so you know what to expect. Off-beat characters, a smart hero who is at odds with mainstream Florida society and development, and some zany situations. Unfortunately, this is not one of Hiaasen’s strongest works, but it’s one of his earliest.

When a witness to a four-year-old disappearance tries to sell her story to a television investigative reporter suspiciously close to Geraldo Rivera, she tells them that the now-retired investigator is important to the case. So the television crew accosts him. Then the witness tells her former boss, a poorly skilled but wildly successful plastic surgeon who killed the disappeared woman during a simple rhinoplasty, that the investigator is cooperating with the television program to take the heat off herself, which inspires the plastic surgeon to put a hit on the former investigator, who has to figure out why New Jersey hitmen and then local talent want him dead this time.

Unfortunately, this particular book features an anti-MacGuffin. One of the hit men loses a hand to a barracuda and instead of getting a regular prosthetic, he has a Weed Whacker® attached to his stump. Every time that the book mentions this, it pulled me out of the amusement into dismissing the whole thing as absurd. Maybe this seemed funnier in 1989. To Floridian newspapermen.

It’s an okay way to pass the time. I read this in paperback, and the book has more of a paperback vibe. I would hate to have bought it in hardback.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Greatest Invention That Ever Defeated Its Own Purpose

Ladies and Gentlemen, now that I am an industrial lawnmower kind of guy, I need hearing protection. So I bought (and exchanged a defective unit as aforementioned or aaftmentioned depending on whether you read daily or not) hearing protection.

Sort of.

Here’s the unit I bought:

Worktunes noise cancellation, music enablation headphones

They even come preset to the Dana Show (look at the photo of the LCD radio setting, it’s 97.1 FM, which is the talk radio station in St. Louis, he explained parenthetically).

Why do I say it defeats its own purpose?

Because it’s designed to protect your hearing from the lawnmower’s decibels. However, if you’re listening to a rock station, you’re likely, if you’re like me, to substitute the lawnmower’s decibels for Metallica’s decibels. Which ultimately doesn’t protect your hearing at all.

Maybe its purpose is to not to protect your hearing, but to destroy your hearing in a more enjoyable fashion.

I Don’t Go To Lowes For The Salami

So yesterday, I went to Lowes to exchange a defective piece of equipment (the aaftmentioned noise cancelling headphones and radio). I went into the special exchange room off of the main entrance, and the woman took my defective product and offered to refund the money to my credit card or give me store credit. Since I just wanted to exchange the product, I got a special store card credited with $53.83.

I grabbed a new instance of the headphones and went to the checkout line, wherein the total rang up at $53.84, and the checker told me I owed a penny. On a direct exchange.

I told him it was a direct exchange and prepared my outraged demand that he call the customer service desk right now, but he looked to see if he had a spare penny on the register. He didn’t, but I later noticed on my receipt that he’d rung it as though I’d given him a penny. He took a hit on his drawer’s accuracy at the end of the day in the name of good customer service. I sort of feel bad about that.

However, not too bad. If I had bought other things, as I’d considered, that extra penny would have been lost in the total and I would have donated some portion of a penny to either Lowes’ bottom line or the state of Missouri and the city of Republic.

A rounding error, no doubt. But the rounding errors are always against the consumer and the citizen, aren’t they?

Things You Won’t Find Here, Either

Marko saith:

Just to be sure, I want to point out that there are absolutely no nude Playboy pictures of Ashley Dupre in this spot.

I just want to point out there are no Ashley Dupre Playboy images here.

Also, there are no:

  • Snooki naked pictures (I keep trying precision concuss my head with a tack hammer to dislodge the knowledge of what a Snooki is, but apparently I keep missing.)
  • John Edwards sex tapes
  • Jennifer Lopez nude
  • Brian J. Noggle nekkid
  • Kevin McGehee compromising pictures (not as long as he keeps paying the monthly “storage” fee.)

You will, however, find a photo of my wife’s legs which once made it up to number one on Google image search for wife legs.

Finally, A Trinket

I’ve sent out a bunch of checks to a bunch of charitable organizations in the last couple of months, and the recognition and membership kits have started to roll in. I can’t wait to put this one on my truck:

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Foundation Decal

Since next week is National Parks Week, the National Battlefield will waive the normal $5/person, $10/family entry fee, so I’ll have that excuse to go…and to buy an annual pass.

For more information on the park, click here. For more information about the foundation, click here.

Fauna 1, Brian 1

You know, living in the country and driving down these old Farm Roads has really encouraged me to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

So, the other day, I’m heading down Farm Road 182 towards Republic. I glance in my rear view mirror as I near the bridge over Wilson Creek and see a car pretty tight on me. I don’t like it, but as I skim the S curve surrounding the bridge, crossing the center line to straighten the curve slightly. Skimming the curve allows me to take the curve at a speed I won’t reveal since my wife reads this blog and trusts me to drive our children safely, and she would disagree whether that speed was safe. As I come down the large hill west of Wilson Creek, I see I have put distance between me and the car behind me. I’m pleased as I crest the next hill and head into the trough and then….

OH MY GOD, IT’S A FREAKING EMU RUNNING INTO THE ROAD! And not a regular emu, a freaking methed-up Carbondale emus. Running out of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield as though General McCulloch himself we pursuing it. On a collision course with my truck speeding along.

I slam on the brakes. The bird, just off my front left headlight, dekes one step back toward the battlefield and takes flight. Now, the bird is eye level, windshield level, and I duck to the left as it barely clears the roof.

By this time, the truck is mostly stopped, and I mash onto the gas to avoid the turkey landing on the roof and to make sure that the cars behind me don’t rear end me. The turkey, which I recognized as a turkey belatedly given its actual height did not exceed the hood of the truck and that it freaking flew, survived. We survived.

I call it a draw.