Book Report: This Old Dump by Laura Jensen Walker (2004)

Book coverThis is a mild little humorous book about renovating or doing projects about your home with your spouse. Basically, the author recounts stories from friends and her own life, sometimes in a manner of paragraphs and sometimes just a sentence or two. The anecdotes are grouped in chapters by renovation and project type, like painting, wallpapering, plumbing, working with contractors, and so on.

The book is amusing, sometimes, but it doesn’t really rise to the level of Erma Bombeck or Jean Kerr. The author must have a following, though, as she mentions once or twice that she had to push off this book because her publisher wanted her to write or collate a couple of other books first. So she’s got that going for her.

But it’s not especially relatable to me even though I did just (with my beautiful wife) paint our living room (after having bought the paint a year ago for the project–like my sainted mother, I don’t like to rush into anything).

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Am I In The Video Gaming Elite Yet?

Last night, the family and I went to the local arcade, 1984, and played video games.

1984 has an electronic leaderboard of the monthly high scores, and if you get the monthly high score on the video game, you get a free pass for a future visit, your initials in a slideshow that displays on two big monitors, and a button.

So I looked at the monthly leaderboard and picked out a couple of low-hanging fruit:

Spy Hunter and Tapper had the default values, 20000 and 8000 respectively. I played a couple games of Spy Hunter to make sure I surpassed the threshold. The first game of Tapper I played I beat the minimum, which means that not many people have played it. Perhaps because it is a cocktail game, one that you sit at (although a cocktail game about tapping beers seems somehow wrong).

So I got my button and my free pass.

The button, though, represents my second award for a video game high score.

Way back in 1987ish, the Arnold Bowl, where my mother was on a bowling league, had a promotion where they’d award trophies for monthly high scores on some of the machines. As with my later trip to 1984, I cherry-picked and looked for the machine with the lowest high score on it. Strangely enough, this was Pac Man on December 30. Perhaps it was not as popular of a game some seven years after its release. Perhaps someone had unplugged the machine. It was ridiculously low, and I managed to surpass it. My high score held up for a day and a night, so I got a trophy.

A trophy with an engraving error. Funny thing that: My sainted mother won a trophy of her own for being the most improved bowler in the league, and the trophy shop at the bowling alley managed to misspell improved on her trophy. So of the Arnold Bowl trophies our family accumulated, they were 0 of 2.

At any rate, it’s kind of funny. At some point, I stopped really getting into video games. I might have been confused by the complexity of the NES controller. I haven’t really played them that much, and I spent a lot of time in 1984 last night just wandering around. Thirty years ago, playing all you wanted in a video arcade would have been a dream come true, but last night, at least until I decided to try for a high score, it seemed like it was going to be a long slog of a night.

Perhaps it’s the video game selection at 1984. I might have matriculated into the video game scene a little later than its titles skew. If it had a Double Dragon, an Ikari Warriors, or a Heavy Barrel, I’d be on it. Of course, I spent most of my time on the Arkanoid they have, which is sort of silly and embarrassing with how little skill I have at it, since I’ve got one standing here in my office less than four feet away but that I don’t play but a couple times a year.

At any rate, BOW BEFORE MY VIDEO GAME SUPERIORITY! The trophies are only slightly better than participation trophies, BUT THEY ARE SYMBOLS OF MY PROWESS!

In other news, my beautiful wife also got a high score, but hers was for the game Joust which other people play and whose commemorative button represents actual skill and effort.

The Great Philosophical Debates of Nogglestead

So my beautiful wife and I were discussing the nature of aesthetics, in particular the four things from Kant’s Critique of Judgment that make a proclamation or inclination an aesthetic judgment, to whit:

  • The judgment must be free of practical considerations.
  • It must apply in all situations, universally, and not a specific or personal.
  • The object considered must have the properties that cause the pleasure being described.
  • The object must be purposeful, but not for a purpose (see also the first item).

We differed greatly in consideration of the third item. She argued very assertively that the aesthetic judgment lies in the response of the person making the judgement, that something is beautiful because it creates a pleasant reaction in the observer. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that.

Whereas I posited that the beauty lies in the qualities within the object under observation, and that, as Kant said, those qualities exist and will trigger the same feelings of joy and whatnot in any comparable observer. It’s the same argument in epistemology that people have when they say, “Is the apple red? No, you see red, so red is not a property of the apple, but of your interaction with the apple.” Absurd! Anything with similar ocular receptors viewing the apple in the same light would see red because the property that reflects light in that wavelength is IN THE APPLE.

The qualities admired as beauty are in the object, available for anyone to admire. They are not in the admirer.

“You know why I am arguing so strenuously,” I said. “When I tell you you’re beautiful, you say it’s because I love you.”

I am nothing if not consistent. She is beautiful, not because I love her, but because she is.

Kant, Sammy Kershaw, and I agree. And you can’t argue with a panel of experts on aesthetics like that.

How Far Into The Elite Are David Brooks and the New York Times

In a column decrying the how the elite are ruining America and destroying the Middle Class entitled How We Are Ruining America, he says:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

Forget the parochialism in thinking his friend was freaked out by the high class vittles (the text does not mention that he asked her if she was put off by the offerings or, mayhap, the erm, exuberant pricing for such fare or whether it just wasn’t to her taste–he assumes it’s because she’s uneducated).

He says, and no editor corrects, high school degree.

That’s not what we call it out here in the middle class hinterlands.

(Link via Instapundit.)

Not The Store I Hoped For

So I saw the Battery Outfitters on Campbell the other day, and as I needed some supplies, I stopped in.

I was greatly disappointed! I hoped to pick up some 105mm shells for my M119A3 and some 150mm shells for my Paladin (well, what kind of mobile artillery did you think I would own?), but all this store had was small power cells.

It’s back to the black market for me, I guess, and grizzled guys named Sergei and Michal.

But it takes a lot of concentrated fire to keep Japanese beetles off of my peach trees. Also, for keeping peaches, leaves, branches, and limbs off of my peach trees.

I’ve Marked My Calendar

Herb Alpert, Lani Hall will perform in Springfield:

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall will perform at Gillioz Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. Reserved seating tickets start at $36.50 and go on sale Friday, July 14, at 10 a.m. Gillioz Club members will have a presale opportunity on July 13 from 10 – 10.

You know what I am doing on Friday morning: Burning up the Internet.

It crossed my mind to try to get him to autograph on of my LPs. But which one? Rise? The Lonely Bull? Whipped Cream and Other Delights? I could try to get Lani Hall to autograph one of my Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 CDs. I’ve got a bunch of their CDs as well, including recent work like Steppin’ Out and I Feel You, but, come on, a signed CD is not as demonstrably cool as a signed LP.

I probably won’t do that, but I am surely going to that concert.

Book Report: The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (2014)

Book coverI picked up this book at the Fair Grove branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library. You’re saying to yourself, “Hey, has he run out of books to read in his own library and the more local branches of his local library so that he has to drive almost an hour to find something new?” No, gentle reader; this summer, my boys and I are trying to visit each branch of the Springfield-Greene County library, and when we got to the Fair Grove branch (a small room off of the Fair Grove City Hall), I spotted this book in the one shelf of philosophy/religion/magick whilst my children were picking out books of their own. As I’m interested in learning more about how the Bible was compiled over time, I thought it would be a great place to start.

The book starts out pretty scholarly (but eminently readable). It talks about the history of Jerusalem around the time of Christ with some mention of the various tensions between Rome and the peoples of that area, including the Syrians and the Jews. It then talks about the Dead Sea Scrolls and what they might mean and the intersection of those texts with the Bible. It talks about the Septuagint, why it was created, and the intersection between its texts and what later appears in the Bible. It discusses Josephus, a scholar that documented history of Judea around the time of Christ and where that intersects with the Bible.

Then the book takes a turn toward parables. Well, not parables; the book recounts apocryphoral stories such as Adam and Eve after their banishment from Eden; the apocalypse of Abraham, which is a bit of a prequel to his portion of Genesis and some visions he had; and the books of Enoch, father of Noah and a bit of an interesting but underreported figure in the Bible. He mentions very briefly the source text of these stories, and then spends their respective chapters telling the stories and a bit of what we can learn from each story as a lesson. He then wraps up with a short chapter trying to tie it all together with a message about Biblical and related textual scholarship.

I enjoyed the first chapters the most and got a bit from the last of it–particularly a familiarity of some of the Apocrypha–but the shift in its focus sort of turned from what I wanted to learn to something else.

At any rate, it’s a readable bit of popular Biblical scholarship. The author has written a number of other titles of the sort, and if I run across them (perhaps an hour away at the library branch in Strafford), I’ll give them a read. It’s the sense I got from the author of the pop philosophy book Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein–I’ll pick them up if I see them, but I’ll not actively seek them out.

CORRECTION: Originally, this post referred to the Ash Grove branch of the library. Silly me! The Ash Grove branch is a shotgun shack of a two-room library in downtown Ash Grove right off of the train tracks. The boys and I were there earlier in the year. I got this book at the Fair Grove branch. Fortunately for me, Fair Play is in Polk County, and I won’t be able to confuse it with anything.

“Do You Have Any Health Conditions?” The Coach Asked

True fact: When I was taking a triathlon class preparing for my first indoor triathlon this winter, the coach did ask me if I have any health conditions that would impede my performance. He asked this after watching me flail about in the swimming pool for thirty minutes. (I have previously related the story.)

But medical professionals have helped me uncover the thing that will keep me from becoming a top-flight performance athlete: I am fundamentally lazy I have an underlying heart condition.

My heart is three sizes too small.

Actually, it is not, and I have no heart condition that I know of (but if I continue with these foolish mid-life athletic futilities, who knows what I might learn?).

I just have a ready-made quip for any occasion related to my athletic performance or lack of endurance.

Not only am I fundamentally lazy inclined to reserving energy, I am also full of excuses capable of reasoned, logical explanations for accomplishments of sub-optimal level.

My Print Credit For 2017

So I’m in the acknowledgements section of a political science/women’s studies/social movements book this summer:

To be honest, I don’t settle for just as critical. My goal is to always be more critical.

The book is Empowered By Design: Decentralization and the Gender Policy Trifecta by Meg Rincker if you’re a political scientist and are interested.

That’s the only time my name has appeared in print this year, so far. I’d better hop on my own writing sometime soon to rectify that.

Probably not a political science/women’s studies/social movements book, though.

An Ode To Automatic Paper Towel Dispensers

So I’ve done my business and washed my hands like a good fellow, and I’m standing before the paper towel dispenser. It’s an automatic one. With the manual paper towel dispensers with the spring-loaded rollers where, if you can’t just pull the exposed paper towel to get it, you can push the bar or turn the reel on the side to get one. But not automatic ones. You have to discover, like in a video game, the angle at which the sensor points and the distance that the sensor can detect.

I’m all like:

But no paper towel presents itself. I spent what seemed to be twenty minutes pleading with SkyNet to give me a couple square inchdes of paper. In truth, it was probably only a minute. Either I lacked the proper thieves’ hand signals to steal something to rip off a towel or the device was not functional.

I left with wet hands.

Again.

That’s A Bold Email Subject Line, Cotton

An email touting a Webinar:

“Kaspersky-KSV -How a Light Agent Gives You More Capabilities.” I dunno, putting “Kaspersky” and “agent” in the same sentence when marketing Kaspersky seems a little risky given recent news headlines that do the same, such as Documents could link Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky to FSB spy agency.

But who knows? Maybe any publicity is good publicity, and marketing people who might find themselves out of work soon can disavow any particular email subject line in five seconds.

Poetry Pro-Tip

When finishing your slam-bang sonnet up with a couplet that rhymes Josephus with Bocephus, remember you have to add another syllable at the end, as the stress on each is on the middle syllable (JoeSEEfus, BoSEEfus).

Although, to be honest, I probably won’t use this particular tip myself, as I’m not comfortable or natively familiar with the pronunciation of either. I mean, although it’s spelled Joseph-us, apparently it’s not pronounced that way (my beautiful wife and Wikipedia agree), and the only time I’ve heard Bocephus spoken aloud was in the song “Redneck Woman”.

Given that the song is entitled “Redneck Woman”, the pronunciation is suspect.

So it’s back to rhyming “love” with “dove” for me.

I Don’t Want To Make You Feel Old, Old Man

but the song “1979” by Smashing Pumpkins (or is it THE Smashing Pumpkins like they say THE Ohio University?) was released 17 years after the actual year 1979.

But 1996 was 21 years ago now.

Chin up, laddie: The song “1985” is still closer to today that the title year. For a little while yet.

But most of you are far behind the ages mentioned in “It Was A Very Good Year” if I’m not mistaken. Probably past the age the narrator calls “the autumn of my life,” too.

Book Report: The Art of Thank You by Connie Leas (2002)

Book cover

This book is not an art book even though it says so right in the title. Instead, it’s almost 200 pages talking about etiquette for thank you notes, including numerous examples. The examples make up a quarter to a third of the page total, actually. I suppose I could count them for you, but I’m inherently too lazy to do so.

I’m a little surprised that the author could get so many pages out of the topic, but she’s an old technical writer. Basically, it boils down to write thank you notes and use nice stationery if you can, but the little folded Thank You cards are all right for less formal occasions. Also, send thank you notes for job interviews.

You know, I’ve been pretty dilligent for writing thank you notes for gifts I have received, which is not had since I don’t get that many gifts. My brother and I wrote out thank you notes after my mother’s funeral to everyone who came or sent flowers. So I’m already up on the basics of thank you writing.

But perhaps I could up my game by getting some custom letterhead and writing out thank you notes to people who have done nice things for me, nice things I’ve seen, or things I’ve enjoyed. I understand that gratitude is one of the self-help trends of the day–along with mindfulness–but I really could be better in perhaps brightening someone’s day with a little thank you note.

If they could even read it. Perhaps I should work on my penmanship first.

At any rate, this book is a bit long for the topic it covers–you could get the gist of it from an article in a women’s magazine–but it didn’t take too long to read.

On the other hand, this book makes an excellent gift if you’re passive-aggressive.

Follow the Logic In My Humor, Here

So my beautiful wife is working her way through computer Spanish lessons, and yesterday, as we were driving, we passed some daisies, her favorite flower.

“What is the Spanish word for daisy?” she asked me because I took Spanish for four years in high school and a year and a half in college.

To be honest, although Dr. Pasero told me I probably could have tested out of college Spanish–that is, taken a test to prove I had enough knowledge of Spanish equivalent to the required two years of Spanish at the university–I took the college Spanish anyway, mainly because hauling myself from my corner of Milwaukee to the campus early in the morning for the test was a pain to my pre-Freshman mind (although I eventually got pretty good at it as my college career progressed).

I even took an extra Spanish class because it was taught by the brother of a fellow who worked with me at the grocery store, and I often got chided for deploying my sense of humor by directly translating from the English idiom to Spanish. That is, the absurd things we say as Americans that are clearly made ridiculous to non-native speakers.

But I digress.

“What is the Spanish word for daisy?” my beautiful wife asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. It’s true: My Spanish vocabulary was never that good, even in my Spanish class days. It eroded over time, but it got a little bump when my children were really little and had a number of bi-lingual board books. But as a couple of recent birthdays have illustrated, that was also a while ago, so my Spanish vocabulario has dwindled again. You make your conversation that fits your knowledge; if I had to, I would simply call it flor. But I am digressing again.

“I don’t know,” I said, and note: here is the joke: “I still call her Ciela.”

Now, let me explain:

In the television program Agents of SHIELD, this one character is called Skye for a while, until she meets her parents and discovers they named her Daisy.

Now, everyone on the program calls her Daisy. It took me a half season to do it, too.

You see, Ciela is a feminization of the Spanish word for sky. So I was saying I still say sky instead of daisy.

Well, I guess you had to be there.

My wife got it after a moment. So I got that going for me.

So if you read me savaging modern comedies and saying, “Why don’t you try it if you think it’s so bad?”

Because, gentle reader, my humor often requires a particular set of arcane knowledge–say, the Spanish language and familiarity with the Marvel television universe–and perhaps footnotes and flow charts. So I cannot write a screenplay with jokes everyone will get. Heaven knows I wrote a full evening play full of obscure jokes that crack me up but might be lost on many people.

And, besides, the perfect, sophisticated comedy film has already been written.

9 1/2 Ninjas. I have seen that movie more times than I can count. Or probably should.

A Few Thoughts On Ted

DVD cover

As I mentioned, I recently got a membership at the video store, and I’ve been renting (although the “renting” there is like a dollar for a week, and sometimes the guy behind the counter finds discounts where I don’t have to pay at all).

As with most trips to the video store, one wanders the aisles debating the pros and cons of various movies. Me, I like to stick to the two-for-a-dollar films which are a little older than the new releases or the almost new releases, so I have a wide variety of slasher films and older actioners to choose from. And it never fails: I spend ten minutes milling about, finding films that I am interested in watching immediately, and it takes me a while to get the two I’m going to rent. After that, I find bunches of films I’d like to watch, too. So I’ve started writing them down and keeping a running list of things to rent in upcoming visits to cut down on my loitering. Also, this explains why all of them start with the letter R or later in the alphabet: That’s where I was when I thought of it.

At any rate, one of the things I put on the list was Ted, the movie about the talking teddy bear. After watching a couple of actioners lately (Sahara and Soldier, both in the S section, see?), I thought I’d try a comedy. Both discs they had for Ted were the unrated edition, and given the topic matter, I thought I’d go with the theatrical release when viewing it.

Boy, howdy. I expected it to be crass, but this crass? I think I’m not going to enjoy any comedies, especially R-rated comedies, made after 2000.

This film made me long for the sophistication of Adam Sandler, word. Listen, in Adam Sandler, the man-boy is presented as an aberration, and through the events of the film, he grows up somewhat and learns a life lesson. In this film, the protagonist and the bear go through some adventures and maybe learn a little, but at the end, the status quo of the man-boy is restored. Well, there is a little change, but it’s lost amid the drug use and swearing.

The presence of Sam Jones, the star of the film Flash Gordon, was an amusing touch, but that’s about the only thing I found slightly amusing in the movie.

Ah, well, back to the actioners for me.

Every time they release another one of these R-rated comedies, it bombs at the box office late. Which is good because hopefully they’ll stop making them. Unfortunately, the intelligence and sophistication of old comedies is probably beyond the reach of the current man-boys making movies, never to be recovered. So we descend closer and closer to Idiocracy‘s Ow, My Balls.

What Does Facebook Know About Me That I Do Not?

Everyone’s worried about Facebook knowing too much about you. If that’s the case, why did it insist on showing me this ad for weeks?

A Spanish language advertisement for WIC? But Pepita and I were just friends!

Perhaps Facebook was feeding me this to see if the state spending money advertising social programs in a foreign language would trigger a rant as I can think of better uses of my tax money, but if the state weren’t burning it on the easy, arts and science degree jobs like this one, it would spend the money on a different set of advertising/communication/marketing/make work and not on, you know, infrastructure or something.

Wait, it almost did trigger a rant there. Never mind, I shall return to whatever else I was doing.