I’d Like A Word With Your Product Designer, Please

So the other day, I’m making hash browns and cottage fries for breakfast, so I pull out my beautiful wife’s expensive Scanpan skillet which I’ve never used before because I’m afraid of expensive things.

So I finish cooking the potatoes at a high heat, and I grab the handle to pour the hashbrowns into a bowl, and….

What freaking idiot thought it would be a good idea to put a metal oval with the brand name right in the handle where you’re going to grab the pan? Don’t they teach the kids in design school that metal conducts heat? It rather makes including a plastic or rubber handle on the pan rather superfluous since the insulating properties are quite rendered useless in that particular area in the middle of the handle where your hand goes.

Unless… the goal is free advertising?

Oh, my God, I’ve just made this a Nazi-sympathizing / racist blog by including a picture of a man giving a Nazi salute. Even though it’s a fictional Nazi illustrating an attempt at humor. What have I done?

Never mind. The important life lesson here is Fear expensive things. They hurt you.

Book Report: More Good Old Stuff by John D. MacDonald (1984)

Book coverThis is the second big collection of MacDonald’s pulp-era short stories. I’ve read the first, I think, sometime in the distant past. I thought I read it in the recent past, but I was thinking of End of the Tiger, which I read in 2015.

Unlike that collection, this one is a collection of pulpy crime stories that appeared in various magazines in the 1940s and 1950s. MacDonald says in his forward that he’s updated them a bit to make them more contemporary (to 1984). However, by now, they’re quite dated, but less so to someone who was sentient in 1984.

The book includes:

  • “Deadly Damsel”, a story about a woman who kills husbands, and what happens when she meets a grifter in Florida.
  • “State Police Report That…”, wherein an escaped convict is tripped up by a surprising twist.
  • “Death for Sale”, wherein a prisoner of World War II hunts a French traitor to New Orleans.
  • “A Corpse In His Dreams”, a successful investigative journalist returns to his hometown, haunted by the death of his girlfriend in a car accident he survived.
  • “I Accuse Myself”, a man recovering from emergency brain surgery remembers the murder.
  • “A Place to Live”, a city employee takes on the city machine with a story of corruption and finds the odds stacked against him.
  • “Neighborly Interest”, a trio of kidnappers hide out in a nondescript house and are tripped up by a small detail.
  • “The Night Is Over”, a grieving man hits bottom and is unwittingly enticed into a scheme by a con man and blackmailer, only to find himself trapped.
  • “Secret Stain”, a hard man plays both ends of an organized crime group against each other for his own reasons.
  • “Even Up the Odds”, a drunkard gets into a scrap with the local connected bully.
  • “Verdict”, a hard man is sent out of town to eliminate a crusading police chief but finds more than he expected.
  • “The High Gray Walls of Hate”, an ex-con looks to even the score with those who framed him.
  • “Unmarried Widow”, a woman finds an out-of-work journalist in a bar, and mistakes him for someone named Jerry. The journalist finds that some hard men are after her, and he tries to find out why. The gimmick where a mad woman calls the protagonist by another name, you might remember, was used in the film Quigly Down Under. I did.
  • “You Remember Jeanie”, a former cop hits bottom after his girl is killed in a bar, and he continues to frequent the bar for vengeance.

Overall, a pleasing book to read, and it’s the first book I’ve read this year (!). I might revisit the MacDonald stuff for fun some day, especially if I get to live to 200 and they stop making paper books so I have to reread what I have.

A Childhood Joy: Withheld Granted

You know how people like to claim that, if their parents had not thrown out their childhood toys/comics/baseball cards, they’d be rich? Yeah, as I’ve proven time and time again, that’s not true. I still have all my baseball cards and comic books from those days, and they have not appreciated much if at all. Most of the comics I own retail for less than the cover price these days, okay?

Another thing my mother did not throw away (among the everything my mother did not throw away): My old G.I. Joes.

Now, my collection began in like 1983 when my father’s then-girlfriend tried to curry my (and my brother’s) favor by buying us toys–and I got my first G.I. Joe, Flash. This was not the big G.I. Joes, but the four inch figures. But my first three (Flash, Snake Eyes, Rock and Roll) predated the swivel-arm grip, so early eighties through the middle 1980s. As I a bunch of comic books last year, the lot included a bunch of G.I. Joe comics, and I could follow along with the introduction (and my acquisition of) the action figures as they were added to the comic book.

The heyday of my collection must have been between 1983/1984 and, what, 1987? In retrospect, it was a blink of an eye, but my brother and I gathered a bunch of them. We even got some mail-away items that you got if you sent a couple of proofs of purchases and a couple of bucks to Hasbro, including the hooded Cobra Commander and a windsurfing board. The growing collection moved with us from Milwaukee to Saint Charles to the trailer park in Missouri. Did we play with them when we were in high school and lived in the valley? I don’t think so. I remember playing with them in the trailer, though, and envying some of the kid across the street’s collection.

My mother kept that collection in her basement in an old toy box.l At some point, I retook custody of it. The toy box, a cheap thing clapped together of particle board, disintegrated, so I put it in a translucent bin. Which has been in the Nogglestead garage for nine years (?!).

And for a long time, my boys could see them, but I would not let them play with them.

Why? A sense of possessiveness? Perhaps. I am particular about my personal relics, and my children are, well, boys who are a little rough with things. Also, I figured that cleaning up and assembling the various pieces would be a little time consuming.

But I recognized that the time window of my children’s interest is closing, so since the boys had a holiday on Monday, I brought the bin in.

I was right about the undertaking: it took me about two and a half hours to wash the items (with a toothbrush at times!) Most of the pieces were here, and only a couple of things were broken (which made me want to seek out my brother and get into a fist fight because undoubtedly HE BROKE IT!). The washing itself was a bit of nostalgic deja vu–when the boys were two and four years old, I’d sometimes pull all of their toys into the kitchen and wash them because they put everything in their mouths at that age. So, on a snowy day, while my boys played in the living room, I washed toys, and was taken back to that.

At any rate, they started playing with the toys as soon as I washed the individual pieces, and they loved it.

They’ve got a snow day today, so they’re playing with them again.

For the geeks amongst you, my collection includes:

Action figures include:

And more, of course.

A couple of the action figures had broken bands, which means I’m going to be reviewing on YouTube how to fix them and ordering parts from Amazon sometime.

At any rate, a bit of my boyhood I finally shared with my boys.

And they’ve only broken one thing so far.

Which I’m going to blame on my brother and have to fight him over in one of those sibling fights that is mostly wrestling until we get tired, and then we’re friends again.

An Acronym You Can Use After You Give Notice

You know how you give notice at your job, and suddenly to do things you wouldn’t do if you wanted to keep that job?

Feel free to say “YOWHO!” for “You only work here once.”

Skip this, though, if you’re a contractor or otherwise plan to seek work from that company in the future.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never been this way. I just wanted to invent something on the Internet.

Also Florid and Mockable

As I was reading this post by Don Surber, I came across this oft-repeated nostrum:

The pen is mightier than the sword.

By Edward Bulwer-Lyton (more).

You know the other quote Edward Bulwer-Lyton is known for?

It was a dark and stormy night.


The latter has spawned annual writing contest.

One wonders if there should be a similar floridly written fiction contest for journalists who think that their keyboards would best an actual tyrant’s sword, guns, or Polonium, or if perhaps those in the trade who quote the first Bulwer-Lyton confuse their own egos with “the pen.”

(Link via Instapundit.)

Parenting Goal

I don’t want my children to understand the music of Everclear.

My parents split up on October 25, 1981, when I was nine years old. My father pulled me away from a television movie (Twirl) to sit my brother and I down into what was up until that moment my parents’ bedroom and to tell us that my mother had thrown him out. So, yeah, I have known the joy of a welfare Christmas.

Both of my children are already older than that, so I’m already ahead.

That being said, I just picked up an oldies collection: Everclear’s Ten Years Gone: The Best of Everclear 1994-2004. I’m not sure that you can really call Everclear hard rock or metal, so I’m not sure how it affects the balance of my music purchasing.

Confession Time

The first time I saw Tommy Lee Jones’ name on a movie poster, for the film Under Siege

…I thought the drummer from Motley Crüe was getting into acting.

Well, no. That would come later.

But if a film wasn’t on Showtime in the 1980s, or if an actor was not in a film on Showtime in the 1980s, I didn’t know about it.

Now, I know who he is: One of the guys who played Harvey Dent.

Not a Safe Space

I’ve discovered, as I comb through the archives from the earliest days of this blog, that I used to post more cat pictures. I also used to get hundreds of hits per day. Coincidence? Let’s try it out.

Here’s a picture of Chimera, one of the second generation, pawing at one of my Christmas presents right after I hung it on the wall:

Silly cat. A minute ago, this was blank wall. Now, he’s looking to see if there’s a wall safe behind this particular picture. Clearly, he does not know much about the installation of wall safes.

Household Tips from Brian J.: Cleaning the Coffee Grinder

You might think, being a humble man of the people from humble origins such as I am, that I do not grind my own coffee. Friends, I can understand why you would think that! I am lazy and prefer to buy coffee pre-ground for me, and in large warehouse club quantities! I am not that particular about my coffee! It just needs to be hot. It doesn’t need to be hot, I will drink cold coffee from yesterday or longer (skim the mold first!).

But I do have a coffee grinder. As a matter of fact, it’s not my first! I bought the first after accidentally picking up a warehouse club sized bag of coffee beans, and I didn’t want to waste them! So I got a coffee grinder to use those coffee beans–and to see if I could really taste the difference (Did I? Who cares? I NEED COFFEE, ANY COFFEE, NOW!). But I found it difficult to clean the coffee grinder, so I ended up giving the coffee beans to a co-worker who is a coffee snob and donating the coffee grinder to a thrift store!

But that was ten years ago, and when I recently made the same mistake again, I had a dilemma! Do I send the coffee to the co-worker whom I have not seen in ten years (weird, but a tempting idea!)? No, friends, I bought another coffee grinder, and I discovered this easy trick to clean it out every time!

If you’ve used a coffee grinder, you know that the bits of finely ground coffee cling to the side stubbornly after you’ve emptied it.

You can’t immerse it in water, and the grinder blade makes it tricky to get a moist or dry cloth in there. Especially around the axle of the blade! But I accidentally discovered this fool-proof method for loosening and getting those reluctant particles of caffeination out:

I drop it on the floor!

The impact loosens the covalent bonds between the ground coffee and the grinder, and its position on its side ensure the particles fly all over your kitchen floor, you can walk over them in bare feet and absorb the caffeine from them later! Because these coffee grinder particles are so fine they will slide right under your dustpan edge if you try to sweep them up.

And the coffee grinder?


But, Brian J., isn’t this a little rough on the coffee grinder?

Well, gentle reader, I don’t care, I NEED COFFEE NOW! Also, the grinder only has to last me the duration of this bag of coffee beans, as I still prefer some industrial machine grind my coffee for me (and blend in some protein-rich insect parts that are actually allowed under the Whole30® diet!).

Preemption: FAILED

So I received the physical CD of Rebecca Black’s CD RE/BL, delayed because she was in Italy or something.

So I announced to my beautiful wife that it arrived:

ME: I got the Rebecca Black CD.
SHE: Who’s that?
ME:: She’s a pop singer that Charles Hill is really high on. She was a viral sensation. She went to a song factory or something that gave her a simple song, made a video for it, and put it on YouTube, and a lot of people hated it. “Friday”.
SHE: I’ve heard of that.
ME: It’s one of those where you’re buying it right from the artist….
SHE: Hang on, I’m going to put this [receipt? Piece of mail? I forget, but it was not the CD in question.] in your office.

A couple minutes later:

ME: …As I was saying, since I bought the Rebecca Black CD directly from her, she sent a little postcard with it.
SHE: I saw that.

Said card was still on my desk. Of course she had seen it.

My now black belt wife did not threaten the card. This time.

I Got a 0 On This Quiz; I Call That A Perfect Score

Linkbait headline is 10 Things That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago That We Now Can’t Live Without.

Here’s the list (in descending order in the article). I’ve put in italics things I’ve used and in bold things I cannot live without.

  • Uber
  • Bitcoin
  • Instagram
  • The Selfie Stick
  • Spotify
  • “Woke”
  • Airbnb
  • Snapchat
  • Tesla
  • The iPad

Number of things I can’t live without: 0.
Number of things I use regularly: 0.

I mean, I’ve used Airbnb once, and it’s still not my go-to accommodation. I’ve got Spotify installed, and I use it once in a while to try to discover new music (I found Anna Danes and Lauren Meccia on it), but the radio stations I create based on artists I like tend to play the same bands over and over, so once you’ve listened to it for a while, it’s like listening to a radio station with a small playlist). And I have an iPad, but it’s for testing purposes mostly, and it sits on the desk needing a charge until such time as I need it for testing.

I’m getting to a point in my life where I’m becoming a bit of a Luddite. Technology and its toys and trinkets are not the meaning of life, and as I get older I recognize that you get more satisfaction from real life endeavors rather than endless selfies and incomplete games of Civilization.

So I’m proud not to need the things in the list or I’ll die. I feel justified in trying to steer my children from devices and apps as often as possible, or else they might end up writers of twee listicles mistaking the Internet for life or meaning.

Also, I really hope people can live without Tesla, especially the people who have plunked down deposits for cars that might not ever be manufactured.

2017: The Year’s Reading In Review

Well, 2017 has drawn to a close, and with it, I’ve closed my annual log of books that I read. In 2017, I read 87 books, ish. As you might know, some of them have been omnibus editions, where three novels or five novels are in a single binding, and I count that as a single book for these accounting purposes.

If you’re interested, here’s what I read this year, presented in a nice list with links to the individual book reports.
Continue reading “2017: The Year’s Reading In Review”

Book Report: The Tao of Meow by “Waldo Japussy” and Carl Japikse (1990)

Book coverI closed out my annual reading with this volume. After all, I’ve read books on the various Tao this year (Tao Te Ching, The Tao of Elvis). I’ve read books purportedly by cats (I Could Pee On This) and books about magical cats (The Catswold Portal, No One Noticed The Cat). So this book fit right into my annual reading selections.

The schtick is that the author’s cat wrote 81 poems just like Lao Tzu, and each talks a little about the way. And about being a cat. In the first couple dozen poems, I wondered if the author was really trying to walk a fine line between amusing and actually trying to convey serious elements of Taoism in the book, but it hits one of the poems–I forget which one–where the author basically says that this is a humor book and not to be taken too heavily.

It’s a bit of a stretch to get a full 81 poems out of the conceit, and the results are uneven. Some are thoughtful, some are amusing, and some are sort of pro forma. But I enjoyed it enough for what it is.

Now that 2017 is over, perhaps my cat book binge can be over, and I can start focusing on ferrets or pot-bellied pigs as pets, detectives, and philosophers in 2018.