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.

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.

“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.


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.

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.

Wonder Woman Who?

As some of you know, I have a cat named Isis.

As a cat owner normally does, I flatter my cat, ascribing all sorts of super powers to the cat and whatnot.

The other night, I said to my beautiful wife, “You know, there used to be a superhero Isis. She was on with Shazam!, I think.”

So, today, I go to the library so my urchins can get some books (I have enough for now, thanks), and I see this DVD facing out from the children’s videos:

So, of course, I checked it out.

The cover is not very flattering to Joanna Cameron, who stars as the young science teacher Andrea Thoma who uses a magical amulet to summon the powers of Isis.

Somehow, the Internet is not full of Joanna Cameron vs. Lynda Carter debates. Maybe there are on the DC Comics portions of the Internet. But I’m a Marvel fan, so I don’t frequent those. Funny, I don’t tend to frequent the Marvel sites much, either. But I digress.

I watched the first couple of episodes with my children, who were stunningly unimpressed with the forty-year-old Saturday morning live action children’s program special effects, and they kept shouting their own solutions to the screen, most of which involved artillery and explosives.

I, on the other hand, was swept away with nostalgia; somehow, I remembered the program from when I was five years old.

At any rate, the 1970s must have seemed like the dawn of geek culture for a while: In the middle part of the decade, there was this show, and as I remembered it bundled with the Shazam program (1975-1977); there were live action television versions of Wonder Woman (starring the aforementioned Lynda Carter), Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man; television also featured the bank-busting Battlestar Galactica; the movies had Star Wars. But the ball never really got going until the next generation came of age around 1999 or so.

Suddenly, I have the urge to watch all those old 70s superhero shows (starting with this one). We own some of the Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman, and the rest I’d probably have to order since they’re unlikely to be available at the video store or the library (although I did get ten episodes of The Secrets of Isis, so who knows?).

Before I start raiding Amazon, I’d best sit down for a bit. If I wait, these rushes of nostalgia pass as my short attention span moves onto something else, like an urge to read all the history books about the Near East that I can lay my hands on.

Everybody’s Trying Too Hard

From a recent set of full color mailers, which I’m plumbing far too much for blogfodder these days, we have two presumably competing dining options.

First up, we have a pizza designed to taste like a burger:

Then, in the same collection of advertisements, we come to an ad for a burger designed to taste like a pizza:

My lord, all I want is fast food that tastes better than the cardboard box it comes in. I would, however, prefer that you not get your chocolate in my peanut butter.

I am pretty sure I was a curmudgeon at fourteen years old.

She’s Got A…Nike

When I saw this ad in last week’s full color insert for J.C. Penney’s, I thought the woman had a knife:

I guess it’s actually the Nike swoosh, but given her hand position and the color of the swoosh….

Also, my instinctive pattern-matching spots a lot of danger that does not actually exist.

Turn By Turn Directions, The Manly Way

This weekend, I took a trip to Kansas City, Missouri. Although I’d been there before and kinda new the route, I wanted to be sure, so I got turn by turn directions.

The man’s way.

You got that?

It’s easy to pick up and see without having to find your place on a crowded page and it’s better than having an untrustworthy voice on the phone telling me where to go.

Although, I confess, I printed a map of the neighborhood where I was going.

Because I want to know the layout of nearby streets so I know where to look for my turns and what to do if I missed them without waiting for a satellite to help my mobile device recalculating.

I may not have been a scout, but I can read a road map. Which will serve me post-apocalypse, maybe.

The World Has Gone Mad, As Demonstrated By Today’s Full Color Mailer

Today, we received our weekly or bi-monthly (I’m not sure which) full color advertising mailer. For some reason, I paid attention, and I am sorry I did, for it is evidence that the world has gone mad.

On the cover, a Papa John’s advertisement for a pizza that is like a burger:

Inside, an Arby’s advertisement for a burger that is like a pizza:

You know what? I may be an old man, but when I want one, I order it and not the other.

Don’t you like taco pizza? Shut up, he explained. Also, I might be prejudiced against the particular combination of pizza and burger because about forty years ago, I awakened at 2 am vomiting copiously after having eaten frozen pizza burgers.

Still, this is not the singularity I was promised in the 21st century.

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.