“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.

“You’re a big guy,” the old man said.

Book coverThe older gentleman has a grandson who attends school with my boys, and we occasionally exchange words about the weather or whatnot as we stand in front of the school awaiting the emergence of our respective progeny. Another topic of the infrequent exchanges is how fast the children are growing, and how big they will be soon. When speculating on it, he noted that his grandson is bigger than he is and that the lad will be pretty big indeed. He assessed my size and proclaimed my children would be tall, too.

“What are you, 200?” he said.

“190,” I said. I’d just been to the doctor and got an official ruling from a trained medical professional.

It is odd to think of myself as a big guy. I haven’t come to grips with it. The picture is from my high school graduation party in 1990. I was six foot tall and about 120 pounds. By the time I got out of college, I was a little bigger, but I still lied on about my weight when asked about it for my driver’s license because I was ashamed to only be 140 or so. I wanted to be bigger, but I couldn’t do it. I exercised a bunch and could lift some weights, but I never gained weight. I ate four thousand calories or more a day, including protein shakes at one point, but I still remained relatively thin.

My father weighed 180, or so I have been told. I’ve also been told he was 6’3″, but by the time I got to my adult height, his years in a warehouse and a couple of back surgeries left him shorter than I was. For much of my life, I never expected to be as big as he was.

But here we are. A couple decades’ worth of slightly slowing metabolism, doughnuts, liquor, beautiful wife’s cooking, and on again, off again, but mostly off gym membership and utilization, and I’m suddenly man-sized.

But I still don’t see myself as man-sized. From inside, looking through the little apertures of my eyes, I still see the world as I did then, when I was a young reed in the wind. I still call everyone “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and “sir” and “ma’am,” but so many of them are younger than I am these days, too. “Kid” to me now covers into the middle thirties, and my doctors and holy men are younger than I am.

Sometimes, I think I see the world the same way as I did when I was that kid. I guess I’m grown up now, too, and I know how to do taxes (send an email to my tax preparer), do small home and auto repairs, and be places on time. But occasionally, I think I’m still a young man. Generally, this comes when I’m facing some character flaw that has dogged me for decades, or whether I wonder whether behaviour I demonstrate appropriate for a man of my middle age (of course, some behaviours, like extraneous British Us thrown in for effect, are not appropriate at any age).

One of the things I’ve done my whole adulthood is overthinking and over-analyzing things, but even in the 21st century, I don’t bow my head to screens all my waking moments, which gives me a lot of time to turn over things in my mind. Like the question of identity. Are our selves only an illusion of different distinct people through time? (A link today on Instapundit leads to an article entitled “Personality CAN change dramatically: You’re a completely different person at 14 and 77, according to the longest-ever study into human character“).

So I guess I might not be that kid any more. I’m certainly not that size any more.

The Meanest Swim Class Ever

So, as a mid-life crisis which I’m having three quarters of the way through my life (given that my family members have tended to conk out at 60), I’ve decided to do a triathlon. I mean, I’ve done a couple of 5K races last year and didn’t wholly embarrass myself (especially for someone who does not like to run). So I decided to amp it up and do three things that I do not like to do consecutively.

The YMCA of which I am a member has an annual indoor triathlon, which is a timed event instead of a true distance triathlon. That means you get to swim the pool for 15 minutes, ride a spin bike for 20 minutes, and run on a treadmill for 20 minutes, and ranking is based on how far you go.

Now, as the 5Ks have proven, I can run a distance, and I can not fall off of a spin bike with the best of them, so I am set there.

But my swimming leaves a lot to be desired. Unlike many amateur athletes and suburban kids everywhere, I never had a formal lesson; for the most part, my swimming was all about learning to survive in my stepmother’s parents’ small swimming pool and to get from the bottom of the Hyde Park water slides to the ladder out of the pool. That is, I learned to drown very slowly.

Before the annual Y Not Tri, the YMCA offers a triathlon class where a trainer gives the class drills to improve their biking, running, and swimming. I enrolled in the class, and the class is weighted toward the swimming, as most of the classes include swim drills

The first couple of times I attended class, I did not set the world on fire. As a matter of fact, the coach asked me if I had a medical condition that made me lose my breath easily, as I was coming up for air often. As the class has progressed, he’s taken additional steps to help me along, putting me in the group of the slowest swimmers and giving me fins to wear to help me learn to do the scissors kick.

Of course, the coach and the class are very affirming and encouraging, but the fictional class I’m taking is very mean. I’ve used the following quips on my wife and on Facebook from time to time to illustrate my lack of proficiency in the pool:

Everyone in my swim class calls meme Bob. I keep trying to tell them my name is Brian, but it’s still Bob.

My nickname in swim class is Troll. Because I’m motoring, but I’m not going very fast.

They call me Corky at the YMCA. I’m not sure if it’s because I swim vertically or because I look like something out of a Chris Kattan Saturday Night Live skit.

I’m making some strides in swimming.

Which is not really what you want. Because it’s not running, it’s swimming.

But I should survive fifteen minutes in the pool, which is more than I thought I’d be able to do at the beginning of the class.

UPDATE:

They call me “The Rock.” It must be because I resemble Dwayne Johnson when I take off my shirt.

In Missouri, You Cannot Overlook The Possibility That The Town Does, Indeed, Have A Tank

This weekend, my beautiful wife and I were schlepping our oldest son to a basketball tournament in lovely Piece City, Missouri. We took the two lane US 60 south out of Republic and through the town of Monett. After we passed through Monett, we came upon a piece of military equipment in front of the VFW.

“Look, boys, a tank!” my beautiful wife said. Maybe she didn’t actually say the exclamation point. Perhaps I am embellishing.

“That’s not a tank; that’s mobile artillery,” I said. (Upon further review, it looks to be an M110; my brother was the spotter for anti-armor, so he could hopefully have told you that without having to Google it.)

“Well, it’s the closest thing that the boys will see to a tank today,” she said. Fortunately, she did not ask me how I know such things (as she once asked me how I knew a revolver did not eject its shells, and I was flabbergasted–I do not exactly where I learned revolvers do not eject their shells, except that a revolver does not eject its shells because it is not a semiautomatic pistol). If she would have asked me how I knew, I would probably have tried to be mysterious instead of acknowledging that I own both the GI Joe Slugger self-propelled cannon and M.O.B.A.T. battle tank. Yes, own, not owned. But she did not ask, and I did not volunteer my information source because it might have diminished my authoritative declaration.

“Unless Pierce City has a tank,” I said.

Well.

Continue reading “In Missouri, You Cannot Overlook The Possibility That The Town Does, Indeed, Have A Tank”

Strange Real Life Queries

Dustbury has a long-running series called Strange Search Engine Queries where he rounds up the week’s strangest search engine queries that lead people to his site. I would do a series like that, but I don’t have my stat counter configured properly (or don’t pay enough) to see search engine queries leading to my site, and I don’t get enough traffic weekly to warrant it. I’m pretty sure most of the search engine queries are looking for book reports to plagiarize for books I’ve read, particularly The Sire de Maletroit’s Door.

However, I have gotten asked some strange questions in real life.

Oh, you have a library?

I forget what I was talking about with the school secretary, but I mentioned having a large library, and she asked this question.

Do I have a library? I do.

That image is from the Noggle Library 2010 post. In the intervening time, we have gotten even more books, but only one new small book case. We have a little space in the basement these days, so perhaps I should get a couple more to spread them out.

I used this question as a pretext for going to ABC Books in December; I told Ms. Earhart, the shops proprietor, that I needed just a couple more books to make my library more notorious. That was the first of three trips to ABC Books in late December. Surely, my library is notorious now.

Have either one of you been a dungeon master?

A friend at the martial arts school I attend asked my wife this question because her son was interested in tabletop RPGs.

A dungeon master? I’ve done more than that.

As a reminder, I have all my old RPG stuff handy, too.

I’ve run games in:

  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Villains and Vigilantes
  • Twilight: 2000
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Paranoia
  • Marvel Superheroes
  • Dangerous Journeys

And so on.

You’ve written a book?

I get asked this all the time. I’m not the best at IRL self promotion (and my Online Brand either, judging by the number of books sold), so sometimes my beautiful wife brings it up in conversation that I’ve published a book. Well, technically, I’ve published a novel, a book of plays, and two chapbooks of poetry. I don’t need to put a picture of my book below because they’re in the sidebar (well, not Unrequited and Deep Blue Shadows, the aforementioned poems). You can click and buy them if you want.

Back in the 1990s, I listed them on Basement Full of Books, and the listing is still up. However, I no longer live in Lemay. Funny, only when looking for the listing now did I realize the list was initially created by Vonda McIntyre, who wrote the movie adaptations of a couple of Star Trek movies that I would review many years later.


At any rate, that’s a couple of real life questions where there’s a meaningful pause when someone asks them to me.

Because, well, YES!

What Sets English-Speaking Women Apart

In many languages, when a woman gets married, her honorific title gets shorter:

In German, Fräulein becomes Frau.
In French, Mademoiselle becomes Madame.
In Spanish, Señorita becomes Señora.

But in English, Miss becomes Mrs. (missus), which means it goes from one syllable to two.

Only in English does the honorific become longer.

All of the aforementioned foreign language equivalents, the “Miss” form means “Little Woman” (sort of) and the married equivalent is “Woman,” so to speak–that is, the Miss form is a diminutive form of the married equivalent. But both English forms come from abbreviating the same word, mistress.

I suppose one could launch a thousand college papers on this full of baseless speculation that reflects your position on gender bias or the meaning of marriage in personal fulfillment.

Me, I just fill my head with this nonsense throughout the day.

Wherein Brian Demonstrates His Familiarity With Japanese Art

So we get a Christmas card from Northern Michigan University because we endowed a scholarship in memory of my father-in-law (the James A. Igert Memorial Scholarship).

This year, we got this card:

I was able to look at it and say, “That looks like a Hiroshige.” It is: Evening Snow at Kanbara.

Apparently, the art museum at NMU has a number of Hiroshige prints.

Who knew?

Please note this post counts as my touchdown dance for recognizing a Japanese artist and the confluence of factors in my life that make my study of trivia worthwhile.

Overheard at Nogglestead

I was reviewing a video that Mr. Hill posted when my beautiful wife walked into my office.

“Huh,” I said. “I didn’t realize Tim Curry charted a single.”

“I don’t know who that is,” she said.

“He was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I, and Clue,” I said. “And Legend as the Darkness.”

Blanks. My wife was not familiar with any of them. Which is odd, since I’m pretty sure I made her sit through National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I at some point, and she is repressing it.

“It’s a good thing you bring me along to trivia nights,” I said.

What I Want To Watch, When I Want To Watch It

As you might know or guess, gentle reader, I am a skeptic of online streaming services and buying “digital” copies of movies, books, or music (exception!) because I’ve had enough electronic devices crash that I don’t trust electronic media, because I’ve seen enough tech companies fail to consider that they might not be there to provide me with what I purchased tomorrow, because I don’t trust that online services will keep their promises of availability of things I purchased.

But we have two paid streaming video sources at Nogglestead: Amazon Prime because it remains a shipping discount (for now) and Netflix because my beautiful wife likes to watch television shows on her tablet as she rides her elliptical exercise device.

A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I wanted to watch a particular film not in the vast Nogglestead library.

After reading a listicle about John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I wanted to watch She’s Having A Baby because it’s the most adult of his coming-of-age comedies (and I plan to come of age sometime soon). But it’s not on Netflix nor Amazon Prime.

Then I got to thinking about funny Christmas movies my children might like to watch with me since White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Bells of St. Mary’s, or The Bishop’s Wife are a little black-and-white for them, and they’re not old enough for Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, or Gremlins. So I checked Netflix and Amazon Prime, and again I was disappointed.

Fortunately, Amazon Prime still includes free shipping.

So now I have the two films I wanted to watch, and I can be assured I’ll have the actual ability to watch them whenever I want.

Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming are good when you want to watch something as they give you a lot to chose from. But I often do not want to sit down and watch something; I want to sit down and watch a particular film. So physical media still have a vital role in that. Much like the old independent video stores offered something other than the newest releases at Blockbuster.

A Tale Of Two Stockings

I have two Christmas stockings:

My mother-in-law made the one of the left for me somewhere around the turn of the century; my sainted mother made the one on the right in the middle 1980s, when we were living in the trailer park and she came across some iron-on letters somewhere.

The one on the right hung with similar stockings with my mother and brother on the wall by the bedrooms in the house down the gravel road we lived on during our high school years; the one on the left hangs by the chimney at Nogglestead with similar stockings for my wife and children.

But I point out to my children that the difference in their appearance does not reflect a difference in the love with which they were made. Their grandmothers had differing skill levels at crafts and different gifts. So while my mother-in-law (for whom I really need a standing adjective–perhaps I will try “wonderful”) can make beautiful crafts with felt, glue, and spangles, she probably has not singlehandedly finished a basement or remodeled a bathroom.

It would be nice if the children could learn the lesson from this, that people have different talents and skill levels, and that’s okay. It’s a lesson many storybooks from their earlier years tried to convey, but my children are boys, so each must be the best at everything, or at least better than his brother. Which will only succeed ultimately in making one of them sadder than the other in each assumed competition.

CD Rain of Terror

No, I didn’t misspell reign. Sometimes, I’m startled by a rain of CDs.

Yes, there is a cat involved.

Two of my cats like to loll about on the top of my desk hutch, warmed by a couple of lamps that I have up there. One, the smart one, jumps onto the window sill to the left of the hutch and then atop the hutch. The other one, the younger of the two, prefers to jump atop the arcade game to the right of the desk, to knock off a couple of hats resting atop the Arkanoid, and then to army-crawl under the lowered ceiling and duct work above the hutch to get to the warm spot by the lamps.

Along that part of the hutch, I have stacks of CDs, and as the cat crawls behind them, he nudges them ever so slightly towards the edge of the hutch. Eventually, they reach a tipping point where another nudge as he crawls by or stretch as he’s already resting knocks a cascade of CDs onto my desk and, sometimes, me.


It’s not as fun if you’re watching me.

As a result, I have to remember to straighten and push back the CDs as often as I can.

Which I’m doing right now as I think about it.

Disagreeing with Brian J. Before the Internet

I recently made a trip to the Kansas City area, and my brother who is in Leavenworth gave me some effects from my sainted mother, including a number of publications in which I appeared in the 1990s and early part of the century. Although there weren’t many clips, they’re relatively impressive compared to my recent output (which has been frequently paid for, thank you, but only appears on Web sites which is still less impressive than in print).

One of the things I got was a stack of old newspaper columns. I’d had two newspaper columns in the past: A column you might remember, gentle reader, called “Opinion Shapers” which was a quarterly in the college paper, the Suburban Journals (you might have seen references to them in the past here, as they ran in 2008-2009).

The first, though, was for the college paper, the Marquette Tribune. It was a monthly column that rotated with four other students, two from the left and two from the right. Given that two of the other columns were called “The Traditional Conservative” and “The Right Perspective”, I think they put me on the left because I had long hair. But I was not to right from the left; my first real column lambasted a proposed required multicultural literacy class (and my second lampooned those who successfully agitated against the required class).

Back then, they did not have comments section on the Internet. Instead, they had to make due with an unsigned editorial column.

No such luck, anonymous scribbler.

What Should Be My Annual Halloween Post

Visit my post I Am Buck Rogers.

From 2004.

In hindsight, I said:

It would be the equivalent of dressing like Capt. Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds from television’s Firefly—in 2007.

Clearly, I underestimated the multiplier of the Internet on geekery. I could dress up as Mal Reynolds in 2016, and people would know who I was.

Heck, I’d have to explain it less than my actual Hallowe’en costume from 2016:

I was Pokemon Go.

Just the Umbrella for a Man Like Me

You 21st century kids with your digital Internet-connected, automated, MP3-playing umbrellas! Why, I’m no Luddite, but I prefer a manual umbrella.

Fortunately, I know just where to get them.

I kid, I kid. Of course I don’t use an umbrella. I wear a hat, for Pete’s sake.