Everything I Thought I Knew Might Be Wrong

So I’ve heard what I thought were Stacy Kent songs on KCSM lately.

Not this one, which is from The Boy Next Door, which I have around here someplace. I know this is Stacy Kent:

So I’ve been hearing what I thought was Stacy Kent on the station lately, and although I didn’t recognize the song, I thought I recognized the voice.

But, wait a minute: Could it have been…. Cyrille Aimée?

I have a new mission: to learn to distinguish easily between the two vocalists.

On a single listen of Cyrille Aimée, I cannot easily.

Link Dump

A couple things open in my tabs that I wanted to quip one-liners to:

My Drive Home From The YMCA, Dramatically Recreated

After a brief workout this morning at the YMCA, I grabbed a cup of coffee for the ride home. When I got into my truck, I realized that the normal small-sized Styrofoam cup did not fit exactly in the cup holder; there was a little space between the edges of the cup and the edges of the holder. Enough room for the cup to slide around and slosh the interior of the console and between the seats with house blend.

This was my ride home:

That’s from the film License to Drive, a 1988 film that was on Showtime, so I watched it a lot, especially since I didn’t have a license to drive and didn’t have anything else to do down the gravel road called Ruth Drive in House Springs but to watch the films on Showtime over and over again. I’m not saying it influenced me heavily, but I wrote a Commodore 64 program that simulated the computer written portion of the test in the film, and I was so smitten with the young Heather Graham that I married the first hot chick named Heather that I dated.

At any rate, I didn’t spill a drop of the coffee, either.

When Your Work Is More Famous Than You Are

American Pie’ singer arrested on domestic violence charge.

The fellow’s name is Don McLean, by the way. But that’s for us trivia buffs now. For everyone else, he’s the American Pie guy who wasn’t Jason Biggs.

(Sad irony here: When fact-checking the name of Jason Biggs here, I typed Jason Silverman because Jason Biggs was the title character in Saving Silverman. So I couldn’t remember the name of a guy and confused it with his work while creating a blog post about a man identified by his work instead of his real name.)

“I Am Exceptional,” said I, all the time.

So, elsewhere than Dustbury, Charles said:

Immediately, I thought of this exception:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Although, to be honest, it’s not directly “”So this is ‘over capacity’. How wonderful!” But it’s close.

Not cited: All those business people and MBAs who think that too much traffic is a good thing because that’s a lot of customers and brand loyalty who won’t immediately abandon you for TheOtherGuyzWidgetz.com which is still operational. Also, their solution to the problem is to tell someone else to solve the problem, and that seems rather easy. Especially when they say that and try to convince the underlings that that moisture they feel is not rain, but anointing oil.

Book Report: The Hero by John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson (2004)

Book coverI bought this book a year ago in Florida. As I was browsing my bookshelves, I told myself I was in the mood for some military sci-fi. I’ve tried some before: I picked up something by Robert Frezza, but I put it down not long into it; I tried some of David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers stories, but also put them aside. It looks as though military science fiction is not going to be my genre of choice.

This particular volume did not dispel me of that notion.

Wait a minute, didn’t I just get published in an anthology of military science fiction? Well, yes, which explains why I became interested in reading some of it. Because I’ve got a plot in mind that would take the conceit of my poem and turn it into a novel. So I wanted to do some research into the genre to see what it’s like and whatnot. Which is why I read this book.

This book, as the link below indicates, is volume 6 in a series. So immediately I’m dropped into a world with a whole back story to it. Whereas I’ve complained previously about series business taking over books in a series, it’s not so much the case in this book. However, there is a whole world/universe/mythos that has evolved and been explained in hundreds of pages prior where that information gets stuffed into a book as exposition. As it appears here. Perhaps it would be better to have been more lightly alluded to since much of the exposition doesn’t directly relate to the plot.

The plot: A deep reconnaissance team is sent to a distant planet to investigate what might be an enemy base. New to the team is an alien from a race that has manipulated mankind in the past, and the other team members don’t trust him. However, they’ll need his extra sensory perception abilities to succeed. When they get there, after their snoop-n-poop (as Richard Marcinko would put it), they find an ancient alien artifact worth slightly less than a Powerball ticket. At which point, the team’s sniper kills most of the rest of the team to steal the artifact, but the alien takes it before he can. And suddenly it’s a cat-and-mouse game as they try to reach the extraction point without getting shot by each other.

That’s the plot. That’s what the book flap says when I read it wondering what the point of the book was.

Because the plot doesn’t really start until about page 130 of about 300. Beforehand, we get a mission briefing, a training exercise, a night on the town to left off some steam and get laid, a ride to the planet, and a long walk to the alien base. The book is rich in detail. How much detail? It spends four pages talking about how the team crosses a river. Then most of them die and the chase is on.

Even then, much of the exciting chase is spent shifting between the characters viewpoints as each expresses internally how he cannot trust the others and how he’ll kill them. They traverse terrain, engage each other a bit, and then one wins. Sort of. Then there’s a wrap up epilogue.

I don’t think the plot was worth 300 pages as it was.

So I’m not sanguine that I’ll enjoy the subgenre as a whole; it seems to be written by post-military people by post-military people with a military precision at least as far as the detail goes. I’ve got a couple more Ringo books; I’ll give them a try at some point, but I’m not eager to base my forthcoming (forevethcoming is the new term for “Forever Forthcoming”) on the subgenre. It’ll be more a science fiction novel with a militaryish setting.

Of course, I’m basing my blatherings here on a novel, part of a novel, and a couple short stories’ worth of study of the subgenre. I’m open to suggestion and revising my opinion if I like the other Ringo books. Or because tomorrow is sunnier.

Book Report: Art Treasures of Seoul by Edward B. Adams (1980)

Book coverTo be honest, although I have recently tried to portray myself as a Sinophile, I’ve read more books about Korea in the last year than China. They include New Pearl of the Orient: Korea, Bomun Temple in Seoul Korea, Wonderful Korea, and this book.

This book is a coffee table-sized book that combines a historical study of Korea with the art trends from those eras. The book is more balanced a bit heavier on the text than a pure coffee table book, but the text is very informative and just a touch touristy. It covers the construction of pagodas and stupas, Celadon pottery, and some painters. The pottery and architecture is interesting; I’m not that into the rather minimalist painting. The painting seems very primitive relative to contemporaneous European art.

But the continued exposure is good for me. I’m getting familiar with the Silla, Koryo, and Yi time tables and whatnot just from these art books, which is good, because the library has fewer Korean history books hanging out on the shelves than Chinese history (which is about two if you don’t count the current events tomes about the forevethcoming Chinese century).

Worth a browse if you’re into that thing.

Also, do not be fooled by the back cover:

This is in now way a tie-in to the Saw movie franchise.

Book Report: Life is Simple: First Cutting by Jerry Crownover (1998)

Book coverI’ve been reading Jerry Crownover’s column in the Ozarks Farm and Neighbor for a couple of years now, and I ran across one of his books, so I picked it up. This book is an early collection–from twenty years ago–where Crownover was my age and had a couple of kids in the house. That is, these columns apply to my life a little more than his current ones do. Especially since I’m not a cattle man.

At any rate, they’re short newspaper-style columns, many of which are built around a single anecdote where Crownover encounters a neighbor, another cattleman, or a non-rural fellow and has an epiphany or can spin some rural wisdom from the experience. There are also a couple of lightly politically themed jibes (in the First Clinton Regnum), but it’s mostly lifestyle column stuff.

I enjoyed them and will pick up other books as I come across them, and I’ll continue to read the column in the OFN.

Franking, My Dear, I Do Give A Damn

It’s the election year, so it means it’s time for officials who are running for office to send out Official Communiques with four-color process and their pictures above the fold.

Right, Chris Koster?

I don’t remember getting slick newsletters about how Attorney General and Candidate for Governor Chris Koster has fought to keep my phone line free of calls except for the multiple times daily I get recorded calls for…. well, I’m not sure, really, as I don’t get far enough into them to know what they’re pitching.

I’m also not sure why there are three telephone numbers on the list: My home phone and two numbers I don’t recognize (and never have had, since I’ve only had one phone number in the 417 area code in my life).

I am sure of one thing, though: I cynically believe that this mailing was sent out only because he’s running for another office and wants to (defensibly) use state money to get his face before voters.

Book Report: The Sea Wolf by Jack London (1904, 1989)

Book coverIn mid-December, the head pastor of the church stopped by to tell my mother-in-law, a former English teacher, that although he had not been working on the reading list he’d provided her, he had read something along those lines. Sadly, I have already forgotten what he said he’d read, but my mother-in-law had provided him with a list of nautical-themed things to read because he’s a sailor. So I made some remark about that she should have picked him a book where the boat didn’t sink, but there are so few of them.

I mentioned this title, but (spoiler alert) there’s a boat that sinks in chapter one. So it’s a bad suggestion for the list.

At first I thought of the book as a mash-up of Captains Courageous and The Secret Sharer. A dilettante writer/academic is in a ferry wreck in the San Francisco Bay, and he’s rescued by an outgoing seal hunting ship. As the captain brutally punishes a mate that leads to that mate’s death, the captain shanghais the rescued fellow to fill out the crew. He starts as a kitchen assistant and deals with the brutality of life at sea and hardens. As he gets to know the captain better, he is surprised to learn the captain is well-read and self-taught. Together, they have many discussions, mostly about the nature of man, whether he’s a brute or not.

The captain, of course, takes the brute side and during the course of the voyage handles the crew with cruelty. After a famous woman writer is rescued from another shipwreck, the narrator decides he has had enough and takes off with the dame in one of the sealing boats. After an ordeal on the open sea for a couple of days, they find an island with a seal rookery on it and start to build a hut. So it veers into Robinson Crusoe briefly but the captain, alone, ends up beached with the disabled ship which gives them an opportunity to escape if the narrator can repair and sail a schooner by himself. And he does, but only after the cruel captain dies of some sort of brain damage or tumor.

It’s an interesting book of the era, when the first person narrator is flawed; we know he’s flawed, but the key is to determine where he is flawed and how much of the story is not true. He has nothing but admiration for the body of the captain, strong as a beast is strong and designed for its purpose of being tough and cruel. Undoubtedly, that has sparked many, many insights in undergrad papers of potential homoeroticism. Since I’m above undergrad readings of the book, I’d rather explore the relationship of the narrator with the woman: does she like like him, does she see him as the best possible way to get back to civilization? Does she prefer the brutal but more straightforwardly masculine captain? At the end of the adventure (which ends when they sight another ship after getting the schooner back to sea), do they remain together?

It’s a pretty good book. It’s a mishmash and it’s not clear where the story is going to go from the outset, but it mixes details of sailing with some earnest philosophy–argued more than it is when morals get dumped into men’s paperbacks.

On a side note, I was pleased to learn I’d not read this book before. As you know, gentle reader, I sometimes buy a different copy of a book that I’ve read previously only to discover as I read it or as I prepare the book report that I’ve read it before. Well, in high school, I read a volume of Jack London that contained The Call of the Wild and some other work, including a sailing adventure. I found the volume I read (yes, thirty years ago) and was happy to see I’d read Cruise of the Dazzler. I mean, clearly I don’t remember much from the novel (unlike The Call of the Wild where I even remember that I learned two words, wont and ecstasy, from the book).

So I’ll have to keep my eyes open for more Jack London volumes at the local book sales. Because I’m down to my last several thousand things to read.

Because “Special Interest Groups” Are Groups That Disagree With The Journalist

Missouri business groups voice support for gas tax hike:

Chambers of commerce, heavy construction and engineering trade groups, and municipal and county government associations were among those who testified in favor of the legislation Wednesday at a Senate transportation committee hearing.

That is, groups that would directly or indirectly benefit from increasing taxes on everyone favor raising those taxes.

All right, raising taxes on people who buy gasoline which is a subset of “everyone.” However, the purpose is the same. And they’re not just business groups, they’re business groups who benefit.

Eat the Soap for Digestive Health

At a place we recently stayed, they provided a very large digestive health aid in case our weekending dining took a turn for the worse:

There are two types of people in this world: those who have the song stuck in their heads now, and those who don’t.

This long distance dedication goes out to those of you in the second category.

Welcome to the party.

The Right Side Of History Apparently Applies To Physics, Too

This physicist has a groundbreaking idea about why life exists

Why does life exist?

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning, and a colossal stroke of luck.

But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.

. . .

The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that, under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

As a point of order, this hypothesis tries to explain how life exists, not why.

A Very Brian J. Car Repair

So I noticed one night that one of the tail lights on our Toyota Highlander was out, and it’s due for licensing this month, so I figured I’d better replace it pronto. One of the license plate lights was out, too, and the auto service center offered to fix it for me for elebenty billion dollars.

I stopped at the local Pep Boys and picked up replacement bulbs, no problem, although they’re sold in two packs. So I quipped to the clerk that I wouldn’t own the vehicle long enough to need the second bulb. Hah. Events would prove otherwise.

You see, aside from the recent experience I had wherein I managed to shear off a bolt while changing a tire, turning a simple procedure into a tow-and-repair situation, I figured it would be no problem in replacing the bulbs. Why, the vehicle has a little hatch in the cargo area that gives the user easy access to the lights. Listen, son, I’ve replaced a bunch of parts on cars with few problems, including batteries, head lights, tail lights, a radiator, a starter, brake pads…. Although I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing, sometimes I’ve fumbled the pieces into place right and only a few times have made ghastly but fortunately not deadly errors.

So, in the comfort of my garage, I popped open the little hatch, and:

That’s almost what it looks like except the hatch that gives you access to the light bulbs is far smaller, so you have to work with fingertips at awkward angles and no strength. The individual lights are in little sockets that screw into the assembly. To replace it, you unscrew the socket, pop the old bulb out, pop the new bulb in, and screw the socket back into the assembly. Done!

Well, it’s a lot easier to explain it after you’ve done it successfully or even watched a YouTube video on it. I’m sure I looked like a thoughtful monkey as I stroked my chin and tried to suss it out without breaking anything.

Eventually, after the monolith appeared and Strauss echoed in the garage, I got the new bulb in, put the socket in, gave it a little turn, and put the head lights on, and…. Nothing. Well, not nothing, but no tail light.

So I gave it a little turn and started to pull it out, when….

The light bulb, which I hadn’t completely popped into the socket, dropped into the tail light assembly, between the lens and the thing you see above with only a small hole a little bigger than the light bulb at its narrowest. I thought about I could try to get it out: I used to have a computer part tweezer that had long pinchers; I could put some tape or adhesive on a stick; I could try to vacuum it out with a shop vac. Or, heaven forbid, I could take the whole tail light assembly off and take the lens off to get it out.

Or I could do the Brian J. thing.

So I put the second, what I thought was superfluous, light bulb in the socket very tightly (hey, it snaps when it’s all the way in! how clever!) and then recognize that the socket is keyed with two smaller notches to ensure you can only fit it in the right way to make the electrical connection when you screw it in, screwed the socket in correctly, and tried the head lights. The new tail light worked.

I figure the small bulb is not large enough to damage the inserted bulb, the assembly, or the lens itself. The real question is whether the rattle will drive me nuts, proclaiming my vehicular maintenance ability deficiency for everyone to hear (or at least for me alone to hear like the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart").

My beautiful wife was the first to drive it, and she said she didn’t hear anything.

But the next morning, I heard it. The rattling of the Tell-Tale bulb!

So far, though, it’s not enough to make me want to tear apart the tail light assembly completely.

Instead, I’ll just turn the music up.

Good Album Hunting: Red Racks Thrift Store, December 27, 2015

When last we left my Quest for the Metal Queen, I foolishly left behind an awesome looking 80s metal record at Relics Antique Mall. And I vowed to return for it.

The next day was a Sunday, and I couldn’t remember when Relics opened. I have an hour between 9:30 and 10:30 where the children and my beautiful wife are in Sunday School and I’m in the corner of Springfield by Red Racks. Monday through Saturday, Relics opens at 10; on Sunday, though, it doesn’t open until noon.

Still, I was hungry for LPs, so I stopped by the Red Racks thrift store nearby.

Red Racks has a decent collection of LPs for sale, eight or ten orange crates full, but the turnover isn’t that good, so I end up seeing the same or very, very similar sets of records every time I go there. A lot of Mac Davis, a lot of gospel, and enough Tennessee Ernie Ford to fill Tennessee.

I passed on a Steve Lawrence title or two (although based on intelligence gleaned from Dustbury’s comment to the post linked above, I might start grabbing some of them as I come across them. I also passed on a Claudine Longet LP that I don’t have because I didn’t really glom onto her work when I’ve listened to the other couple I got (from Red Racks, appropriately enough).

I found this pair:

Maynard Ferguson’s Hollywood; I’ll buy any Ferguson on sight.

Richie Cole’s alto madness; now this is the sound I associate with jazz. A light, airy, saxophone heavy bit of background music. I’ll look for this artist in the future.

But no Metal Queen. Yet.

I’m Paying Extra For That Feature

The new bags of Morton System Saver II water softener pellets come in new, easier handling packaging!

Of course, that’s 25 pound bag of pellets for the same price as the old, awkward 40 pound bag.

You know, designers and copywriters can sleep at night. They’re not really lying. They’re just putting the best face forward on a corporate decision.

Me, on the other hand, I’m just a consumer. I have to deal with this nonexistent inflation. If only I were the type of person influenced by exclamation points, perhaps I’d be a happier person.