Back to the Past

So, I’ve done something I haven’t done in almost twenty years: I got a membership at a video store.

Now, gentle reader, you might remember my December rant on the limited catalogs of streaming services (What I Want To Watch, When I Want To Watch It). I still feel that way, but I’m pretending to be frugal now. I had to watch Johnny Mnemonic for a writing assignment (which I read back in 2006), and of course, Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t offer it. My beautiful and sultry wife has a membership at the local video store, Family Video, so we went there to get a film for the boys and to see if the shop had Johnny Mnemonic. They did.

So the boys and I had a little time one morning last week, so we returned the films we’d rented, and I signed up myself to be a member.

It reminds me very much of when I was young. Right after I moved out of my mother’s basement (at twenty-six, because I was a millenial before being a millenial was cool), I lived in an apartment just down the way from a Blockbuster video. I didn’t get a cable package, as I didn’t watch that much television, but I did have a couple evenings that I wasn’t spending with my sultry girlfriend/fiancée. So I’d go down to the Blockbuster and pick up a couple of movies to watch.

I like to browse; I like to go to book stores/music stores/movie stores to look at the covers, to pick them up and read the backs, to weigh my options–Waterworld or The Postman? (Just kidding–that night, I rented both and had a Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic marathon.)

After I converted my beautiful and sultry girlfriend/fiancée into a beautiful and sultry wife, we had a little more money to spare, so I often spent Friday nights or thereabouts at the local Best Buy nearest our home in Casinoport browsing DVDs to buy. When my beautiful and sultry wife was traveling for business, I’d plan a night in with two to three films.

But it was the same thing: Wandering amongst the cultural commodities, picking and choosing and weighing what I wanted to watch very soon. You don’t get the same thing with choosing films from a menu.

So I’m reliving my younger days in these holdouts from the past, again.

What have I rented so far?

Johnny Mnemonic; The Medallion with Jackie Chan; and Frontera, a Western with Ed Harris. To be honest, rentals are like 2 films for $1 for 5 days, and given my current lifestyle, it’s a bit challenging to watch two whole films in five days. The last film I watched before Johnny Mnemonic was XXX with Vin Diesel, and it took me like three weeks to watch the whole thing in two parts.

But I’m a little hopeful that the video rental thing will get me watching a few more movies, which will be a nice change from all the reading I tend to do (and get myself a little in a rut and a little bored doing). Perhaps it will help me with the Jeopardy! online test this year (but given that the online test is later this week, probably not!).

Wait a minute, Brian J.! Don’t you have a cabinet full of videos that you’ve picked up over the years from garage sales and whatnot that you have yet to watch?

Well, yes, I do. But I also have bookcases full of books I have yet to read, and I still go to the library from time to time (every week, sometimes several times a week). Sometimes the video store (and the library) offer me a bit of novelty that I don’t get from my own shelves when I have to pick something out to watch (or read). I’ll get to the things I own, too, I hope.

At any rate, it’s already given me two bits to relate: One amusing, and one of hope:

First, the day my boys and I went in, I sent them (old enough now to be out of my sight in a store) to pick out a couple films while I leisurely browsed for my two films (for a dollar). I circled behind them somehow, and I caught up with my eight nine-year-old striding for the back corner of the store. “Oh,” he said, “I thought I’d find you in the Adult section.” I looked up, and high on the wall, indeed, is the word Adult, and there’s a labyrinth leading to a section cut off from the main selection by high walls and a corridor. He didn’t know what he was saying. I think.

Secondly, now that both my beautiful and sultry wife and I are members, we’ve provisionally planned to go to the video store to pick out a film to watch together. My heart flutters, not only because she’s beautiful (and sultry when she wants to be), but because this is what young people did when we were young: A half hour at a video store, the choosing leading to the culmination in watching the film itself. It was more of an event than simply selecting something from a menu.

I guess I’m old-fashioned because I’m 1990s-fashioned.

Hey, what’s with the whole “and sultry” thing? Mr. Hill, in another forum, said “Brian J. used to toss around the word “sultry” in those days, and he wasn’t kidding.” Clearly, I have been remiss and am looking to bring the universe and my compliments of my wife back into balance.

A Home Office Quiz

Sure, it’s a twee listicle, but I’m treating this bit like a quiz. 14 Things a Professional Organizer Says You Must Have in Your Home Office:

  • Desk. Hah! I have two of them. A huge, overpriced monstrosity I bought ten years ago when I first went into business, and a smaller student desk that I bought twenty years ago when I thought I’d get into wood refinishing. As a matter of fact, I took off the handles and trim so I could jump on it right away, and I’ve left them off for these twenty (I exaggerate: 18, tops, since I bought it right after I got married and stuffed it into my hatchback at the time to bring it home).
     
  • Desk chair. Also, I have two, as the movers broke the cylinder on one when we moved from Old Trees to Nogglestead almost eight years ago. A couple of years later, I figured out you could order new cylinders off of Amazon, so I repaired it. It gives my beautiful wife somewhere to sit when she stops in when I’m working, and a place for a cat to nap other times. The other place the other cat wants to nap: The newer office chair where I’m supposed to be sitting.
     
  • Paper trays. I have both a horizontal tray as depicted and a file folder organizer beside it. Although the things that go onto the paper tray tend to stay there for years. Case in point: These forms to change beneficiaries on my life insurance that I’ve been meaning to fill out for several years now. After all, my mother died eight years ago, and she’s an alternate.

    Come to think of it, I have a second set of paper trays in my office hutch. I wonder what I have in there?
     

  • File cabinet. Again, I have two: One for personal things, and one for the business. I even pull files out of the personal files to store elsewhere every couple of years. Strangely, though, not my mother’s papers, which are still in the personal file cabinet, and a half drawer of note pads I inherited from my aunt and my mother.
     
  • Hanging file folders. Both file cabinets support hanging folders, although after several years they don’t hang as well.
     
  • Paper shredder. When I said I ate important documents, I was only kidding! The aforementioned shredder, though, is in my office.
     
  • Recycle bin. To be honest, I cannot claim this in good conscience as I remove my recycling as soon as it is ready for recycling.
     
  • Supply organizer. I have a pen holder with pens, pencils, a screwdriver, and scissors; I have a little tray with paperclips and rubber bands; and I have two cubbies in reach with tape, address labels, stamps, batteries, and whatnot. So I’ll claim this even if I haven’t spent money on a professional-grade supply caddy.
     
  • Computer. Yes, a few, as you might expect. I work with computers.
     
  • Backup hard drive. Yes, although I haven’t hooked it up since it was prone to prevent my PC from booting. I think that was a PC ago. Perhaps I should hook it back up. I also back up to a laptop I have here, so I can just go with relatively recent data in case of emergency without having to wait for a restore.
     
  • Extra set of cables. The laptop bag has the cables I need; the closet has a couple extra. And the store room, even after a couple rounds of winnowing, has backups to most things.
     
  • Wireless printer. This is particularly silly. I have one, but it’s hooked up by cable anyway.
     
  • Notebook or notepad. A couple grab-and-go, a couple note pads, and a couple dedicated notebooks. Check.
     
  • Supplies. Oh, so many, and for so many things I thought I might want to do in decades past.

Missing from this list: Tidiness and organization.

But if I had all that, I wouldn’t have fodder for a category called Five Things On My Desk. Which I should revisit sometime after I clear the last five things I mentioned off of my desk.

Not Exactly The Lutheran Pope

Nigerian archbishop Filibus elected head of Lutheran church:

A Nigerian archbishop has become president of the Lutheran church.

Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus was elected as head of the Lutheran World Federation on Saturday at an assembly held in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

I was all like, wait, what? I attend a church in the Missouri Synod, and I know there are state leaders and whatnot, but an international president? I’d never heard of such a thing.

Because this fellow is the head of an umbrella organization, not a “church” but a collection of churches. In the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of the Lutheran World Federation, but the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (yes, both places I have lived have their own synods). These last are more conservative denominations.

So it’s like calling António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations the Secretary General of the world.

But calling this fellow the head of THE Lutheran Church is good enough for journalism work. Which is below the level set by the government these days.

A Malady From Which I Will Never Suffer

When the Gospel of Minimalism Collides With Daily Life:

She recalls how, inspired by the virtuously clean-looking homes she saw pictured in Dwell magazine, she thought: “This is it. I am a minimalist. This is how it’s going to be, everything calm from now on.” And within two weeks, she had gotten rid of almost everything she owned and painted the whole place Decorator’s White, a life reboot. She went full-on Dwell, even building a chicken coop, the de rigueur symbol of suburban simplicity, in the backyard. A year after what she calls “the incident,” she wrote her first post on her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, about the day she realized that she just “hated every inch of her house” — and how she came to view white as “the Botox of paint colors”: She and her home “look younger and fresher for it.”

But fairly quickly, Ms. Bertelsen fell off the wagon, sneaking items here and there — a pair of flea market midcentury lamps, an Empire chandelier — back to her 1,200-square-foot home. Even more, her venture into minimalism made her realize how much she enjoyed viewing the physical manifestations of memories, reliving moments through concrete reminders. “I want to see the drumsticks from the last Ramones show I went to in 1994, or the rock I picked up climbing a mountain in Vancouver,” she said. “I want to see the titles of all the books I’ve read.”

Some people just have to try so many things out before finding what works with them, including self-renouncing behavior.

A woman I knew once said to me, after we met again after not having seen each other for something like a year and a half–apparently, a long time when one is in their early twenties–“You haven’t changed a bit!” “I got it right the first time,” I said.

My beautiful wife has these minimalist urges from time to time, but so far I’ve forestalled divesting ourselves of the personal relics I relish so. Including a VHS for an inflatable fitness ball that our unwatched videocassette and DVD cabinet regurgitated for some reason recently. I thought, “We’re never going to watch that,” so I set it aside to ask her whether I could dispose of it or not. Several days later, I did, and she assented, but then I said, “Maybe we should make the boys watch it,” as they play with the fitness ball as though it were a ball and not a piece of fitness equipment. Enamored with that idea, the videocassette is slowly migrating itself ten feet from the table beside the sofa where I put it down because that was the closest surface when the thought of showing it to the boys occurred to me as I was taking it to the trash.

No, I shall never know the collision of minimalism with anything.

UPDATE: I should note I saw this on Instapundit’s Facebook today. Yes, I am friends with Instapundit, and sometimes he likes my statuses.

It Happens At Nogglestead, Sometimes

As some of you might know, I sometimes have to deal with cheap particleboard bookshelves collapsing when the weight of fifty pounds of books causes the shelf pin holes to erode. At which time I have to move the pins and reorganize the shelves so the contents fit on the resized shelves. Or I have to deal with a shelf that bows so much that it can no longer rest on the shelf pins, at which time I’ve turned the shelf over so that it unbows for a while and then bows in the opposite direction. So, you see, I have some experience with the bookshelves failing.

But the record shelves that I painted in 2012 (five years ago? REALLY?) collapsing? That’s another thing entirely.

Well. What to do.

Since the records were already off of the shelves, it was easy to take a look at the cause of the collapse. It wasn’t so much a collapse, though. The bookshelf has adjustable shelves, but instead of pins, the middle shelf rests on oblong pieces of wood the entire width of the shelf.

What happened is that the records weighing on the shelf and the process of taking records off of the shelf made the oblong shelf holder slant forward.

I could have cut some new oblong holders that fit the cutouts to hold the shelves; instead, I solved it by taking some Popsicle-style craft sticks that one of my children had acquired for some project or another (and that I’ve since purloined for the warrens of my workbench for just this sort of thing) to shim the shelf in the front so it tips back and will keep the records from spilling.

It’s not a great story of a LIFE HACK or anything. It’s not even that great of a story.

But it is, to the point, a way to obliquely brag about my growing record collection. ADMIRE IT!

Also, note that this is a temporary solution, as I have been promising my beautiful wife for a while now that I would construct a better set of shelves. And I supposed I’d better now that I’ve mentioned it on the Internet.

Help Me Identify This Dark Talisman

So, I was doing my annual vacuuming under the couch in the family room, and I found this dark talisman:

Can anyone help me identify it and give me a hint as to how to reverse the effects of any dark magic it might entail?

Also, can anyone please tell me whether it was my children, my cats, or something more sinister that deployed this demonic bit of obeah upon us?

A Very Noggle Repair

So we had a good Spring thunderstorm a few nights ago at Nogglestead, and after about thirty minutes of a driving rain against the west side of the house, my beautiful wife’s office window started leaking. And by “leaking,” I mean it was as though Thor himself was urinating on her electronics. She scrambled to move and cover her equipment, and I scrambled to find what was going on. In a driving rain. Lit occasionally by lightning. This is kind of old hat for me.

Back in our Casinoport days, water got into the house by every sort of way. The walkout basement was really a dugout sliding glass doorway that looked uphill and had a single drain to relieve the rainwater. It also had two crab apple trees above it. I had to sweep that out every day to ensure the crab apples, shaped and sized perfectly to fit into the holes on the drain cover. I learned this the hard way; once, when I did not, I looked out the door during a heavy rain, and it looked like an aquarium with a really low water level. Which lead me to an evening spent in the pouring rain, bailing my walkout basement’s landing and clearing the drain every minute or so. Then there was another time when the gutter pulled away from the end of the house during a thunderstorm, allowing the water to stream off the roof into the runner of the sliding window in the kitchen, which led to the water rolling out of the runner into the dining room. I was able to prop the gutter into place with a propitious two-by-four and reaffix the gutter in the light of day.

But I had no such luck that recent night at Nogglestead: We don’t have any trees to block the gutters, and they were half-empty or half-full (I’m not sure which I should insert here to self-identify as a pessimist). Nothing was collected on the deck above the window. I didn’t see anything, but I did know that the lintels above the window could use a caulking and a painting, which I couldn’t do in the rain.

When we first moved in, the home inspector had shown us where the window and door frame below our deck could use a caulking, and right after we’d moved in, I did so, but that was eight years ago almost. So it looks as though it’s time to revisit that, and I’d put it on my list of chores for the summer that I’d get to right after reading yet another book I’m likely to not remember anyway.

So I bought a couple tubes of exterior caulk and took a look above the window instead of at the lintels. Oh, my.

Above the windows were some end-facing bricks with some broken-down mortar and some splotches of caulk. Some of the holes in the brick had been filled with caulk, and there were some splotches of brown caulk here and there where the mortar had started to break down.

That looks like something I might do. Did I do that? I don’t think so. I’ve never bought brown caulk in my life.

So I chiseled out the old mortar and pulled the old caulk out.

And I took steps to ensure that this never happens again.

Now, back to that book I am reading. What is it again? I’ve forgotten already.

Continue reading “A Very Noggle Repair”

Overheard at the Springfield Art Museum

So we’re at the Springfield Art Museum in the very back, amid the American Art, when the children spot an iPad mounted on the wall, and being deprived mostly of electronic devices at home, they zero right in on it and hope for a couple minutes (or hours) of gaming.

“You can only listen to jazz on it,” I said, for it plays a couple songs from Count Basie and Miles Davis to illustrate the American musical art form. “Count Basie and Miles Davis. You’ve never heard of those guys.”

Except, of course, they have. “You listen to heavy metal all day and jazz all night,” the oldest said.

Analysis: TRUE.

Allow me to illustrate: Continue reading “Overheard at the Springfield Art Museum”

Everybody’s A Critic

While I was doing a photo shoot for a cover of an upcoming book, my cat jumped onto the table and tried to bury the coffee:

Clearly, he does not understand that this photo shoot does not require a model, and I couldn’t use him anyway, since he didn’t sign a release.

Or perhaps he’s commenting on the photo’s composition.

Wherein John D. MacDonald Makes Light Of One Of Brian J.’s Quirks

In The Beach Girls, as the protagonist (if there is one) is falling in love with the love interest (of which there is, whether the fellow is the protagonist or not), they exchange a quirk:

You know, Leo, when I first started reading everything, I was big enough to pick up, that phrase, batting her eyelashes, worried me half to death. I used to wonder if genuine sirens carried a little stick they used. And I learned some mighty big words. Chaos was one I learned. Only in my mind I pronounced it chowse. So one day I showed off in history class. ‘Europe is in a state of chowse,’ I said. ‘Chowse?’ the teacher said. “Complete chowse,’ I said firmly. So she made me spell it. Then she practically had to be helped from the room. It was might humiliating, I can tell you true.”

I remember putting to my mother into a state of semi-hysterics with the word bedraggled. I told her one morning at breakfast she looked a little bedraggled. Only I pronounced it bed-raggled.”

I pronounced it “chay-ose,” for sure. And to be honest, I probably still say bed-raggled.

I’ve learned so much of my vocabulary from reading that I have an accent all my own. I know rabid comes from rabies, so why isn’t it “ray-bid”? It is in my world. The same for vapid which comes from vapor. And I am sure I have been forgiven for saying sub-see-quently to my in-laws (because it has the same root as sequence. And don’t get me started on the morning food called the bag-el (or perhaps that is what Superman was packed in when he was shipped to Earth).

I can get away with it in a lot of cases because I use a lot of words that many people don’t know (or at least they don’t know them like I say them). However, my mother-in-law is a former English teacher, so she and her beautiful daughter correct me gently as though English is my second language. Hah! It can’t be. I don’t even have a first language yet.

How I Select A Book To Read

After finishing a book, I’m sometimes inspired to read another one immediately, or some life event will make me want to read something I know I have. Like today. Here is a dramatic recreation:

I’m listening to a Great Courses lecture series on ancient civilizations (now that I finished the series on Chinese history). We’re on the subject of Sumerian civilization, and the professor keeps mentioning Uruk and Gilgamesh, and I’ve got the epic of Gilgamesh around here somewhere. I think it’s to the left in my office….

Hmmm, I don’t see it. Maybe I moved it in the shuffle when I cleaned and turned over my library last summer.

Hey, here’s a book by Yogi Berra. I’ll read that.

So you’ll soon see a book report on that book instead of something smart like the Epic of Gilgamesh.

On the other hand, there are more people who know who Yogi Berra is than Gilgamesh. But probably not anyone under thirty.

I Only Scored 3 of 8 On This Quiz

This old advert from the back of a comic book looks like a quiz to me.

The question is “How many of these old systems do you own today?”

On the plus side, I own more than one of each. So if there’s some weighting to this quiz, I’ll still pass.

As to how many of the systems do I have Q*bert on, that’s at least one and probably two or three. Maybe even for, since I have a Colecovision cartridge or two even though I have never owned a Colecovision.

I’d say “I’ve got to collect them all,” but I’ve watched for old systems at garage sales and estate sales when I get to them, but you don’t tend to find many in the wild any more. And I’m not likely to buy them from stores or online sites since that’s not the fun of collecting. The fun of collecting is in the hunting and finding (but, no, honey, I’m not going to practice catch and release with any of my acquisitive hobbies).

Captain Olympic’s Sidekick, Brian J.

Back in the olden days, and by “olden days,” I mean the 1970s and 1980s, comic books were rife with offers for enterprising youths who could order away for catalogs that held various items (seeds, greeting cards, and so on). You could then go and hit up your family or neighbors for sales, and you could get a cut of the sales price in cash or you could get stuff.

My brother and I, we went with Olympic, which was greeting cards:

Not depicted: Captain Olympic, the superhero they would later feature in their ads.

We started with the program a year or so after this particular ad from 1980. We were still living in the projects in Milwaukee, and the prizes were a wonderland of things we couldn’t get except at Christmas or our birthday, maybe. With a little hard work and the sufferance of our neighbors and relatives, we could earn them.

Every so often, they’d send us a new catalog, and we’d hit up people for a box or two of greeting cards. We never sold bunches of them, so we never got to the premium level of prizes like electronics, but we’d have ten or twenty boxes sold, and we’d pore over that catalog, weighing our options for hours and choosing carefully. Over the course of time, we got:

  • A Kodak Winner 110 camera (which you can see in the advertisement above). That little camera documented a lot of my life from the early and middle 1980s (although on Facebook I have a large number of images posted, the only mention I have of it on this here blog is the time I won a photography award in middle school using a snapshot from it.
     
  • The microscope set from the picture above. At the time, I was a well-rounded little smarty pants, and it wasn’t clear whether my smarty pantsness would lead me to science or to the arts. We used it for years, my brother and I, looking at the little slides they sent with it and looking at leaves and stuff. Remembering those days, I got a microscope for my boys for Christmas the year before last, and I don’t think they used it as intended before destroying it. But it does make an effective artillery piece for action figure battles, or so I’ve been told.
     
  • A small notepad/organizer thing that I took to my grandparents’ house alone one night, when my grandfather and I talked geneology. I don’t know if it was for a school project, but it was a rare thing for me to spend some one-on-one time with him, and I felt like such an adult at about ten. I took copious notes in that little notebook, and I lost it not soon thereafter. I seem to have a tendency to lose meaningful notebooks. That’s another story, perhaps a Personal Relics entry to come.
     
  • Our first copy of the basic Dungeons and Dragons set. We got this when we lived in the trailer park, and we spent many afternoons and weekends playing, my brother, the two Jims, and I. I’ve played with many gaming groups in the years between then and early marriage, but it all got started with that set.
     
  • A Polaroid instant camera that I got about the same time (“A Picture Holds 1000 Memories” talks about a picture I took with it). I don’t know why I thought I needed a second camera. Perhaps impatience with developing the film. The film was more expensive, though, so it got used on more consequential things, like pictures of our Pekingese doing smart things.

Some pack rat I am; of the items we got from Olympic, I’ve only got the D&D set left. But lots of pictures from the cameras, so they were definitely worth it.

Of course, kids don’t have these sorts of opportunities now. I know in my own life, when I hit middle school or high school, suddenly all my selling went from Olympic greeting cards to school fund raisers of various stripes. Did schools just start with the using children as fundraising tools at that time, or did I just age into it and/or move to a place where it was more common? I don’t know; however, I do know that kids today never hit me up for their own good, but instead from a very early age try to sell me things for their various programs and school functions. I suppose there’s a free enterprise versus ward/tool of the State essay in it were I so inclined. But not today.

UPDATE The top of this ad from 1984 shows Captain Olympic:

You see? I was not making it up!

The Source of America’s Obesity Epidemic–Revealed

Apparently, kids in the olden days were worried about being too skinny given this historical evidence found in the back of every single Marvel comic circa 1980:

The image is that of a young lady, but it’s probably not directed at the ladies, you know (although there is such a thing as too thin for a woman, and if you look at fashion and health magazines, you’ll see it). Instead, it’s directed towards people like me circa 1980.

Rest assured, me in 1980, you’ll gain those inches and pounds once you reach middle age.

I haven’t picked up a recent comic, but if they had any advertising in them these days, I would expect them to have the opposite sort of come-ons. As much because the kids are a little heavier these days, but the average comic book reader these days has probably also reached that place where the pounds and inches come easily. We’re not too far off from television advertisements where the announcer says “See our ad in The Incontrovertible X-Men!

I’ve Never Even Been To Arlington

Police Tase Suspect in Pikachu Onesie During Brawl Outside A-Town Bar & Grill:

A wild fight outside Ballston’s A-Town Bar & Grill last night resulted in two suspects being tased by police, including one man who was brawling while wearing a Pikachu onesie.

The incident happened around 9 p.m. on the 1000 block of N. Randolph Street. According to police, it started when the man in the Pikachu costume, Steven Goodwine, Jr., tried to pick a fight with the bouncers at A-Town after being kicked out of the bar’s weekly “Sunday Funday” festivities.

Although I have never been to Arlington, I have dressed in a Pikachu Onesie. Once.

Halloween, 2017, he added in explanation, and then he shifted his weight nervously, realizing he had said too much already.

Nogglestead, Lacking

As the early spring reboots into a last touch of winter here in southwest Missouri, the threat of snow again looms at Nogglestead. Well, “threat” and “looms” overstates it a bit. When the meteorologists say “snow,” they mean “flurries.” Still, in a bucolic country setting, snow flying in the air over the barns and fields looks absolutely lovely.

I’ve been a fan of the vista ever since I was a young boy in college, when I went to my grandmother’s house in the Wisconsin countryside for Christmas, and I remember after the meal, sitting on her downstairs sofa, which faced her patio doors. Outside, the patio and her rural back yard, which sloped away from the house and into some woods. I sat there in the darkness for a bit and watched the snow fall while the rest of the festivities continued upstairs. I wanted a view just like that.

I mean, when it snows, it’s beautiful at Nogglestead.

However, there’s not really a good place to sit to watch it except at a desk or table.

Our den is below grade, so looking out there allows you to see the raised flower bed directly outside and the bottom of the deck. Our living room is narrow and on the interior of the house, so it only has a small window and a door flanking a fireplace. Our dining room has a pretty good view of the back yard as does our master bedroom, which looks out sliding glass doors into the back yard as well, but it requires sitting on the bed or the floor. Out front, you can see the lower view above sitting at a desk in the parlor (if you look around the record player) or the new guest room (which still lacks most amenities, but has an old desk and an uncomfortable chair you could sit on to watch the snow fall. I dream about a three season room addition to the back of the house, but a three season room specifically omits in the name the season where the snow falls. Nothing here compares to that remembered view from my grandmother’s.

I hearken back to other places I’ve lived, and none really offered that view. The trailer park offered views of other nearby trailers; akin to that, the house in Old Trees looked to the houses on either side of it. In Casinport, I got the closest, where I could look out the window in my office and see our wood-shrouded back yard.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a view like that: Interior walls these days tend to be taken up by book cases or large entertainment systems, so the sofas and comfortable seating tend to be with their backs to the windows.

Of course, it’s really a silly thing to consider should I look for another home in southwest Missouri. We don’t tend to have many snowy days and nights here. Counting today, which features some light snow that is not really sticking, this winter has featured something like three, and the snowfalls have not lasted long even on those days. So arranging my home or choosing a home to provide this tableau would be a waste of time.

But when the snow flies in large flakes, as it is today, I just wish.

An Ode To Brian J.’s Repair and Painting Skills

A board came loose from beneath my shed, and it’s been waving in the breeze for a couple of months (probably in multiples of twelve). I had a couple of minutes to look at it this afternoon.

I headed out with my drill and a couple of screws to tie it back down. A shard of it had broken free with the screw intact. So I tried to remove the screw from the shard so I could put it all back together, but I stripped the screw head. Fine, I’ll just align the board properly with the shard with the screw in it and screw the rest of the board back into place.

The board no longer fit into the slot alloted to it. I tried to tap it in with a hammer, but after examining the board below it, I saw that it had warped up so that the whole length of the board was not going to fit. Judging by the twist at the end of the loose board, I don’t wonder if the slow warping of the bottom board wasn’t what caused the board to spring loose in the first place.

Now, I suppose the proper way to fix it would be to replace both of the boards. However, that’s not the way we do it in my family.

With long enough screws, anything is possible. So I screwed the board back into place with a little overlap at the bottom.

So, now, a musical interlude describing how to best inspect my repairs and paint jobs:

Watch for an update in this space in a couple of weeks, wherein Brian discovers that an animal of some sort had been using this loose board as a gateway to a den and has died under his shed and has begun to smell really, really bad.

Symptoms of My Sinophilia

As I might have mentioned (not so recently) that I’ve been studying Chinese history. I bought my beautiful wife a new radio receiver for Valentine’s Day, which allows her to play music from her iPhone. This allows me to monopolize the CD player in the truck, so I’ve returned to the Teaching Company/Great Courses history of China series of lectures.

On Facebook, I said:

I’ve been listening to an audio course on Chinese history, so something in every conversation I have for the next two weeks will remind me of something in the Han or Tong dynasties.

Social Media Headhunter replied:

I heard this, and the first thing I thought of was “Flowers for Charlie.”

He included a link to an excerpt from the television program It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which I cannot embed, but you can see here.

It was not a flattering portrayal of my efforts to better and to more obnoxionate myself.

Which meant it was open season for me to leave a comment on his every Facebook post that contains an allusion to Chinese history.

For example, he asked:

Anyone feel like answering this?
Interview Question: You’re placed in a group of 5 random co-workers and assigned a project. At the end of the project, how would you describe your likely contribution?

To which, I replied:

Allow me to answer with an anecdote from Chinese history.

Liu Bang was a minor law enforcement official in the Qin dynasty. One day, when he was tasked with taking some prisoners (random people) from point A to point B, some of them escaped overnight. Knowing the severe punishment he would face should he return with only part of his complement of prisoners, he told them he would set them free if they would follow him. They agreed, and he became a leader in the rebellion against the Qin dynasty. It was touch and go for a number of years as he battled against experienced military leaders before eventually besting them and establishing the Han dynasty. He’s one of the few Chinese emperors to come from the peasant class.

So, basically, I’d take the random people stuck with me and do the work myself. Because random people can’t do it as well as I can.

Will I carry the joke too far? To quote the noted Confucian scholar Ferris Bueller, “A., you can never go too far.”

Of course, a little knowing is a dangerous thing. Now, it’s entirely possible that I will in conversation use Bai Ling when I mean Liu Bang.

I apologize in advance. And please note that Bai Ling is not, in fact, the source of my recent Sinophilia. Thank you, that is all.

If anyone needs me, I will be having a conversation with my beautiful wife, explaining that she is more beautiful than Bai Ling. And probably a better prisoner escort than Liu Bang.

Jeez, that Social Media Headhunter guy gets me into some uncomfortable predicaments.

“Do you run a lot?” the doctor asked.

I paused before I answered.

I hadn’t run that morning before going to the doctor, although I had stopped by the YMCA to listen to my iPod a while. The day before, I’d run a little over a half mile doing some intervals and ran a mile at about a 6mph pace for my triathlon class. A couple days before, I’d run a couple miles on a treadmill at a little faster than a 6mph pace. I’ve been doing some treadmill work off and on, and the interval runs as part of my regular workout. I’ve run a couple of 5k races in the last year with respectable times (although I only seem to medal or place when I’m walking the route with my youngest son behind only two runners in my age group).

But.

Is that a lot? I know a couple of serious runners and competitors who do marathons and real triathlons where the running component takes longer than the 20 minutes I’ll have on my upcoming indoor triathlon. I know people who run several times a week and who train for events instead of just showing up, plodding along, and getting a Gatorade and granola bar at the end. Not to mention hypermilers, crazy people who run like 100 miles at a time.

In my circle, I don’t run a lot at all.

I live in so many bubbles, although not political.

Contrary to how often I post about my gym playlist, I don’t go the gym that often. Once or twice a week at the most. Compared to some of the people there, that’s not a lot. I talked to another doctor about a shoulder issue I was having, and how it really hurt when I was doing burpee ladders. “That’s pretty intense exercise,” he said. “I hang out with a bad crowd,” I said. I know some guys who train every day in one form or another. The only thing I do every day is take a nap.

For three or so years, I have studied martial arts, and I can break wooden boards with martial arts strikes. So can everyone else at the dojo. So it sounds wild and cool to a person who doesn’t study martial arts, but it’s a normal part of life for a lot of people I know.

As you know, gentle reader of this blog, as I keep flogging it, I have written and published a couple of books (John Donnelly’s Gold and The Courtship of Barbara Holt, remember, and if you didn’t remember, buy them now before you forget!). To some people, this is a big deal, but those are people who have not written books. My Twitter feed is full of software testing thought leaders, whom I consider peers (but who might not consider me a peer), who have written and published books. I know several other self-published authors including the fellow who designed the cover of John Donnelly’s Gold, Miss Dalla Rosa, and a young lady who wrote and published a book in high school. I assume all of them have sold more than I have; my total is somewhere between 100 and 150, mostly Kindle editions. I read somewhere that this number is about average for self-published authors.

At any rate, this post reads a bit like a series of humble brags, but I don’t mean it as such; instead, I’d like to think of it as a musing on perspective. If you do something interesting or that seems laudable or whatnot, you might get to the other side of the accomplishment to find someone who has accomplished it better, faster, bigger, or harder than you have. You have to make your peace with that or you’ll be unhappy. Even if your making peace with it is to drive yourself harder to be better next time.

I’ve heard that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. I like to think I’m applying that to the bubbles in which I live, but it’s not like I’m directing it that way. It’s just that I’m trying to do different things, and I’m not the best at any of them.

What was my point? I forget. Perhaps I ought to rename the blog Ramblings from Brian J. Noggle.