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.

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.

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.

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.

The Physics Equation That Proves I Should Eat More Doughnuts

The Bekenstein Bound:

Not to be confused with Broadway Bound.

At any rate, I came across this equation in a book I’m reading on physics. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

In physics, the Bekenstein bound is an upper limit on the entropy S, or information I, that can be contained within a given finite region of space which has a finite amount of energy—or conversely, the maximum amount of information required to perfectly describe a given physical system down to the quantum level. It implies that the information of a physical system, or the information necessary to perfectly describe that system, must be finite if the region of space and the energy is finite. In computer science, this implies that there is a maximum information-processing rate (Bremermann’s limit) for a physical system that has a finite size and energy, and that a Turing machine with finite physical dimensions and unbounded memory is not physically possible.

The universal form of the bound was originally found by Jacob Bekenstein as the inequality where S is the entropy, k is Boltzmann’s constant, R is the radius of a sphere that can enclose the given system, E is the total mass–energy including any rest masses,

To put it more succinctly in a way that I can understand (that is, language that encourages me to eat doughnuts), The maximum amount of information that can be contained increases with mass. Mass/Energy. Whatever.

More doughnuts for me. I must increase gain weight to get smarter.

A Valid Substitution?

I always see instructions that say Enter Your Pa’s Sword, but, to my knowledge, my father never owned a sword.

I do have my grandfather’s saber. Would that work?

To be honest, I’m not even sure why my grandfather had a saber. I didn’t know him well; he died when I was four. From about the time of the bicentennial, it hung on the wall of our place in the projects, on the wall of the mobile home in the trailer park, on the wall of the house down the gravel road in the valley, and my mother’s house. At least here at Nogglestead, it’s not lonely.

If this won’t work, I also have a filleting knife from my other grandfather.

Christmas Gifts 2017 (II)

As some of you might remember, since I just mentioned it almost seven years ago, that I am working my way through a bottle of Old Spice cologne that I got in middle school.

Well, I might have mentioned more recently on Facebook that I’m getting quite close to the end of the bottle, because my brother got me a new one.

Which not only means that I will probably never get to the colognes that my National Honor Society Secret Santa Mrs Griffith gave me in high school.

Also, doing the math, I realize that I will probably never use this bottle of Old Spice completely. When I die, one of my children will inherit it and might slap some of it on to smell like the old man sometimes, or perhaps it will go into the estate sale and make a quarter.

Basically, my brother’s gift tells me that he thinks I smell bad and makes me dwell on my own mortality. Some gift, bro.

Christmas Gifts 2017 (I)

My mother-in-law is a bit of a genealogist. So this year, she spent seven months of hobby time working on the Noggle half of my family tree, and she created a four-volume compendium of her findings, culminating in a tenuous link to the English throne.

Behind the scenes, she informs me, she has been eliminating families and entire erroneous lines as she found them.

Which leads me, someone untrained in such matters, that she hopes to present me with the English throne in 2018.

I can’t wait!

UPDATE:It suddenly occurs to me that she might not be doing this for me, but for her oldest grandson. Once the other claimants, including me, are out of the way, someone in her line will become King, and her daughter will rule during the regency.

If anyone needs me, I’m going to binge-watch Game of Thrones for a primer on how to handle royal intrigue. Before it’s too late.

We Misdeliver For You

It happens from time to time: The rural mail carrier puts an item from the next stop down the line in our box. Sometimes we get something from the next farm road over that somehow got caught in a machine or stuck to one of our pieces of mail in processing.

But never like this.

Lockwood, Missouri, is fifty miles from here.

Clearly, that got misfiled quite a bit upstream from our local post office.


Things to Do in Tampa While Traveling for Business

So this weekend, I spent some time in the Tampa area (well, not as far north as Tampa, but I landed and departed from St. Petersburg). As you know, I provided a handy guide to Florida fauna and flora for the Midwesterner. So I thought I’d provide a handy checklist of the things I’ve done (and you can, too).

Visit Missouri Comics.

Missouri Comics used to be up on Chestnut Expressway here in Springfield, and I used its Web site as a test location when testing for a company I was working for, so I eventually took my kids up to the physical shop, and I bought a number of Marvel Team-Ups in our infrequent visits.

Clearly, our three-times-a-year (probably three times, total) visits for dollar comics couldn’t support him, so he moved to Safety Harbor (I’m sure there’s a story there). He kept the name because he does brisk trade on the Internet and didn’t want to lose traffic by changing the domain name.

The first thing we did after landing and getting out of the airport was to visit his new location and buy Marvel Team-Up comics.

Attend a business meeting with native Floridians and be the only one wearing shoes.

They must put some Florida in the water, because I was not the only one visiting from Missouri, but I was the only one in shoes.

Do the AirBNB thing.

Apparently, you can rent a lot of condos in Florida whose owners live there part time (and live the rest of the time, they live at their other condos). When not in residence, they put their slightly used properties on AirBNB, and you can lease them for a night or two.

So we did, and we stayed in a rather nice little three bedroom house with one bedroom converted into a high quality home theater, which I didn’t get to use because I was a businessman, doing business. (Is that two Beverly Hill Cop II references in one checklist item? Yes, it is! You get the best allusion deals here at MfBJN!)

I haven’t even seen that movie in a while. I don’t know where its presence on my mind comes from.

At any rate, this was my first AirBNB experience, and it was weird for me. The house had lots of interesting things, a K-Cup maker, a full and elaborate bar, and I’m not sure what I was allowed to use if anything. I mean, in a hotel, I don’t tear the place up (or, at least I haven’t since the The Variation Machine 1993 tour), but I treated this house like I was a guest there.

Also, although the agreement said no pets, I am pretty sure the owners had a cat. Cat food under the sink (which I didn’t eat, because I didn’t know if I was allowed to), a scratching post in the garage–and a woman whom we surprised as she was going around back of the house. She explained there’s a cat in the shed that she feeds twice a day. So I don’t know if the owners lock their cat up in the shed on nights that they’re renting the place (or for the weeks when they’re away). I am pretty sure, though, we would have paid extra to have the cat in the house with us.

Ride a gator.

Well, it was a John Deere Gator, and given that I live in the country, I didn’t have to go to Florida for that. But I did see people driving around in golf carts, and not on a golf course.

See a Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Game.

Although they played on Saturday night, I had an early flight, and like the old man I am, I went to be early.

Fun fact: I was slated to go to a conference in Tampa around the turn of the century, and the Tampa Bay Lightning were playing at home over that week. As it stands, I left the job sending me to the conference, so I didn’t get to go to the conference nor the game. So the Tampa Bay Lightning are the team I could have seen most but never did.

Wander around Tampa, asking anyone if they’d seen Dave.

When we landed, I remembered that my old friend Dave, he of the famous Iron Maiden poster lived in Tampa. So I thought about going around Tampa, taking photos and asking if anyone had seen Dave.

Which they hadn’t–I knew from Facebook that he was on vacation himself.

Which is what would have made the photos, when shared with Dave, better.

Perhaps I’ll catch him, and maybe the Lightning, the next time I’m in town.

My goodness, I’ve been to Florida three times in the last, four years? I’ve been there more than Wisconsin.

Partly because of the business, partly because of family vacation destinations, and yes, partly because there are direct flights. I don’t like to fly. Which is down from “I hate to fly,” which is where I was four years ago.

The Inside Jokes Amid The Art At Nogglestead

I mentioned that I could not hear The Miracles sing “Love Machine” without thinking of chickens. I failed to mention that this commercial is my beautiful wife’s favorite commercial of all time, which will come in handy knowing that as our children like to ask for a favorite this or that regularly.

Here’s the commercial again for your reference:

Last Saturday, a boy and I had some time to kill before picking the other lad up from an activity, so we went to a local antique mall to do some Christmas shopping. Which means, mostly, buying things for ourselves and maybe a trinket or two for someone down the Christmas list.

I passed on a Rooster print with iron that I thought might go nicely for my aunt, whom I think has a rooster or chicken theme going. If not, she has a rooster or chicken theme from Brian going, since I bought her a large filigree chicken last year.

But we were also looking to replace something in our kitchen, a print in plastic frame that we had over our sink for years, far beyond the normal lifespan of this cheap particular bit of postery that I bought at a garage sale some decade or two ago.

So after passing it, I returned to the rooster art at the antique mall, and I thought it might do double duty: I would hang it up in the kitchen and see if it flew as a replacement, and if not, it would be great for Aunt Sandy.

Also, as I did so, I did not mention to Heather that I did; I expected her to say, “Is that a …. chicken?” when she saw it. That, in itself is an in-joke: Some decades ago, when she was a comely young HR staffer for the St. Louis County government, she would interview building inspectors by showing them a series of photos and asking them to identify possible violations. One of the photos had a chicken, which was back in those dark ages, not allowed within the county. One incredulous interviewee looked at the photo for building violations, and then said, “Is that…a chicken?” which my then beautiful girlfriend beautiful then-girlfriend, now-beautiful now-wife (::sweats the construction there::) repeated with the same intonation the fellow under interview used.

But she did not.

And, apparently, she now likes chickens in the kitchen. Art chickens, anyway. A couple of years ago, I did a woodburning of a rooster on a board and put a couple of hooks on it, and somehow it replaced a pair of paintings by my great grandmother on our dining room wall. When she saw the new rooster above the sink, she liked it (sorry, Aunt Sandy, unless you really don’t do chickens, in which case, hey, lucky for you!).

It took less than fourteen hours for the Denny’s commercial allusion to appear:

Which she also loved when she saw it on Sunday afternoon.

It stayed on the art work for the week because I was too busy and lazy to remove it, but I see that it has migrated to the woodburned rooster by her hand.

Perhaps I’ll end up being lazy enough that it will remain there until such time as our kitchen is filled enough with chickens that it can make a circuit regularly.

But I doubt, actually, that the tape will last that long. Nor her desire for more chickens in the kitchen.

Prime Comestibles

I recently discovered José Olé Chicken and Cheese Tacquitos come in a strangely enumerated 37 pack:

What, did the authorities in Mexico gullotine frozen food makers that shipped 35 when the customer ordered 36?

Likely not. It’s probably not also signaling that this is a prime product.

I assume that it used to be a 40 pack but the quantity was reduced at some point (at the same or nearly the same low price!).

Still, they didn’t shrink it down to the even number.

Which means that in the future, barring some other reduction in quantity, there will be contention at Nogglestead as two strapping young men spar for the odd tacquito.

My Red Old Yellow Car

So I was listening to an old Dan Seals album (actually, it was The Best, so it’s less old than Won’t Be Blue, an LP we won on the country radio station when I was young and spun over and over in our trailer park days), and I came across his song “My Old Yellow Car”.

Here it is presented with a slideshow of someone’s old yellow Mustang.

You know, I have a car in my history for which I feel a little affection. Strangely enough, it is not my own Mustang, my third car. A 1984 GT with eight cylinders with high mileage that I bought in a hurry after my second car was totaled when someone sneezed on it (well, rear ended it and pushed me into another car). I pumped a lot of money into that Mustang, replacing lots of parts on it and hoping to have a nearly new Mustang at the end of it, but a transmission failure that laid it up for over a month led me to buy a newer car after renting cars for weeks. I liked the Mustang, but I never got the hang of smoothly starting the car in the cold, and I only drove it for five months in the winter and spring before getting my fourth car.

No, the one I feel affection for was my first car (of course), a 1986 Nissan Pulsar with four cylinders, a manual transmission, a moon roof, and a cassette deck. I bought it with my college graduation money, when returning to House Springs, Missouri, meant I would need a car where buses would did in Milwaukee. I said I wouldn’t learn to drive a manual transmission unless I bought a sports car, but there it was. A friend of the family, a shade tree mechanic, gave me a half hour’s lesson in driving a manual transmission, and I was off (except in this case, “off” often meant “popping the clutch at a stoplight on the highway”).

I mean, the car was nothing special. It didn’t have much horsepower, although with the manual transmission, I could accelerate pretty quickly and beat other cars off the line, especially when they did not know we were racing. The car itself was red, but it was not shiny; the clear coat was mostly peeled off, which meant it was a dusky, dull red. I don’t think I have a picture of it anywhere. I hoped to get it painted, but a couple hundred dollars for a cheap paint job was out of my reach in those early English Degree job days.

It was my first taste of post-collegiate, can-go-anywhere freedom. I drove it an hour to and from work(s), an hour to and from coffeehouses, and up and back to Milwaukee and Chicago on multiple occasions. I picked up my first girlfriend in that car, and I roamed the back roads of my corner of Jefferson County, learning where I could coast in neutral for miles down the hills that pale compared to the Ozarks.

Alas, the car was not as good to me: It had a short somewhere, and it went through numerous headlights, batteries, and alternators which the shade tree mechanic mentioned above would replace without looking for the underlying cause. It left me stranded on the side of the road many times, and when it did so again in a parking lot on Manchester Road, I left it and got car number two (later to be totaled, as mentioned above). The car sat in the back yard of the house where my mother and I lived (and later the shanty of a garage the house had) for years so I could–someday–hunt down the short and repair it. Spoiler alert: I never did, and I eventually donated the car to the cancer society.

But the car is tied to that first bit of youthful freedom, so somewhere in my heart I’m still driving it, listening to a worn Lillian Axe cassette, and smelling a summer breeze full of possibilities.

The Knotted Shoelace and the History Lesson

Well, all right, not necessarily a true history lesson, but certainly a history lesson steeped in legend.

My youngest has a problem with his shoes, namely the tying thereof. As he walks around with untied shoelaces, he pulls them out of the eyelets of the shoes so that he often has both ends of the lace on the same side of the tongue, which means he cannot effectively tie them anyway. Of course, the aglets have been worn away through misuse-namely, the not-tying.

So today in church, he asked me to help with his laces. One of them had a tight knot in it that precluded relacing, as the knot was bigger than the eyelets through which he would have had to thread it. So he enlisted my help with it: “Dad, can you get this knot out?”

I helpfully agreed, but the knot was too tight for me to quickly untangle without tweezers. So I decided on a history lesson instead.

“Do you know who Alexander the Great was? A Macedonian general who conquered a lot of the ancient world. He came to the Gordian Knot, which legend said the person who solved it would conquer Asia. And you know what he did?”

“What?” he asked.

He took out his sword and cut the knot,” I said, and I took out my pocket knife and cut the lace just below the knot.

He might actually remember this story then. But I hope the test on the famous almost-Greeks of the B.C. era comes soon in his fourth grade class. Because it’s entirely possible the only thing he’ll remember is that his father carries a pocket knife.

Because he’s certainly not going to remember to tie his shoes.

(For further reading, here’s further reading on the Gordian Knot.)

Brian J. and the Invasive Species of Kansas

So for a couple of weeks, we marveled at the beautiful spider webs woven between my truck’s driver-side mirror and the ground. Some spider was working overtime to rebuild it after windy days or days where I inconveniently drove my truck somewhere, tearing the delicate hunting ground.

I mused that the spider must be living in the mirror assembly, as it was unlikely that the creature would climb up my tires, through my suspension and body, to the mirror every day. Instead, after building the spider would retreat to its lair and then emerge again to drop down its initial lines and crawl back up to spin the web.

On my recent trip to Kansas, this was confirmed as the spider started rebuilding its web in the parking lot of the restaurant where I’d had dinner.

I took a few snapshots, climbed in, and drove off, presumably with the spider still dangling from its line. Along the road to my hotel, it blew off somewhere into the wilds of Leavenworth. Last seen headed southwest, towards Chez Venom.

As I drove along, I wondered/hoped two things:

  1. The spider did actually blow off outside my vehicle and did not blow into the truck. Otherwise, every time I clamber into the vehicle in the coming months, I will sit in a spider web beneath a grudge-holding spider.
  2. That the spider’s species habitat already included Kansas. Otherwise, I might have introduced an invasive species into the habitat, which could bring some sort of ecological apocalypse on the Sunflower State. Worse, I might be subject to some sort of government sanction under some obscure administrative rule. A certain kind of person often thinks about government regulations that one can inadvertently break and ruin one’s life with. I’m special.

The restaurant was an Applebee’s (since it shares a parking lot with the used book store. Do you think the spider say that and thought, “Yayus! Bees that taste like apples!”?

The Progression of My Summer Sausage Consumption (A Repeating Series)

As I was born in Wisconsin, you know I like my summer sausage. Also, I like deals. Which leads me to this series of events that recurs every couple of years:

  1. I see a Johnsonville Summer Sausage display at the grocery store and decide to work some into my diet.

  2. I have a little sausage for breakfast. I have a little sausage for a snack. I find myself buying a lot of summer sausage, a couple small sausage a week.
  3. I start buying the larger size of Johnsonville Summer Sausage because it’s less expensive that way.
  4. My summer sausage consumption continues or increases.
  5. I see the Hillshire Farm Yard O Beef at Sam’s Club, or my children see it and become very excited about the concept of Yard O Beef and the ability to bash each other with processed cattle. I think, Hmmm, that’s even a better deal than the large Johnsonville package and buy it.

  6. I taste the Hillshire Farm summer sausage and think they must have slaughtered the cow right at the salt lick and then threw the bloody salt lick into the sausage press with the beef.
  7. I stop eating summer sausage. The Hillshire Farm summer sausage mocks me from the refrigerator. Lots of Hillshire Farm summer sausage mocks me from the refrigerator. Call it Two Feet Ten Inches O Beef.
  8. Seriously, it’s still there in the refrigerator, and when I want a proteinish snack, I find myself eating Kraft dried Parmesan right from the little plastic shaker jar instead.
  9. Months or years later (honestly, it’s a lot of salt), I throw the Hillshire Farms sausage out, and I never buy summer sausage again.

Well, not exactly never. Three to five years later, I repeat these steps in exactly the same order. Except next time, my boys will try to bash each other with the sausage by then. They will be young men bashing each other with sausage.