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.

Personal Goal Reached, Revisited

So one of my goals for this year was to read all the comic books I own.

Well, to finish reading the comics I’d purchased, not read all the comics I owned again. Last year, I organized my comic books into short boxes and stored them.

However, I had another short box of comic books that I’d bought in 2008 at a garage sale at Edgar Road Elementary. They were marked 10 cents each, but I bought the whole box for $4 or $5 without counting them. It turns out they came to almost 100. Plus, I’d picked up a couple books at Vintage Stock in recent years. And I’d bought a couple comics for my kids that they’ve then sold to me for a discount when they wanted to buy Pokemon cards. In retrospect, even though they sold the books to me at a discount, I have bought the books twice which makes me a not-so-smart shopper. It also explains why I have single issues of mutant titles–when it seems inexplicable, I realize the cover has Cable on it, and the youngest thought Cable was cool for some reason when he (the youngest, not Cable) was six years old.

At any rate, I decided to read those comics this year so I could enumerate them in the spreadsheet of my collection and then store them properly with the others in an organized fashion. So it’s sort of like how I treat my actual library: I get, then I read, then I enumerate. Of course, there is not much organization in my book library at all, so the comic book collection quite differs from real books.

As you might know, I have been diligently knocking off comic books throughout the year, often as a break from reading actual books or after completing a chapter of a real book like The Grapes of Wrath. The Edgar Road Box, which I would shorten to ERB if I planned on ever speaking of it again, contained pretty good sets of mid-80s comics like Alpha Flight, Power Pack, and The New Mutants, but I was not familiar with those series, so I pushed them off.

But I eventually got to them.

And this week, I finished the last of my comic books.

Now that I’m done with the personal goal, I lack a sense of accomplishment.

On the one hand, as you might expect, I look at the end of the stack and I think, “Is this the last time I read a comic book?” I don’t tend to go to the comic book shop looking for comic books these days, and I haven’t even been to Vintage Stock for months. I haven’t been to Missouri Comics since it closed and moved to Florida (I wonder whether the recent hurricane has wiped him out?) The answer to this is probably not, since I’ll still pick up stuff from the independent comic book publishers at -Cons, and if I discover a small box cheap at a garage sale, I might still be tempted. But who knows?

On the other hand, now that I’m done with it, I look at it in terms of a personal goal, and think, “That’s the best you can do for personal goals each year?” To be honest, my annual goals in the past have been tied to certain metrics. Ten years ago, they were: Read 70 books (I read 125); write 50 rough drafts (I wrote 12, most of which ended up on this blog eventually); submit 50 pieces to magazines (I submitted 12; one, though, appeared in a national magazine); write 3 applications (Junk Data; ReadTrack; WriteTrack–0 completed). I also had a nebulous goal (exercise more) and a specific goal (learn to play piano). I didn’t do so good with those goals, although even today I’m tracking the books I read and get close to or more than 70 per year. And I do exercise more, although I don’t track it.

This year, though, I had more discrete goals: To get a black belt; to do a triathlon; to read all the comics I own; to publish a book of poetry. I’m three quarters of the way through the list, and I wonder if perhaps I should not have looked for something more meaningful than these. Or at least more meaningful than reading comic books as an annual goal.

I mean, I’m ::cough, cough:: closing in on fifty years old. Reading comic books in middle age is not something one does. At least, I look around my cohort and don’t see anyone else doing it. I’m not sure I’d even feel comfortable mentioning it to anyone I know. So let’s keep this between you and I, gentle reader.

Of course, when wanting to have a goal of something more meaningful, you have to have a concept of what is really meaningful. Perhaps that is what I’m struggling with when being down on this particular little pastime. I mean, I enjoyed reading the comic books a bit, although I’m more of a book reader these days. I take a certain pride in my collection (I should add an s, as I am proud of most of my collections). Perhaps that’s meaningful enough, and perhaps annual goals can be that trivial.

Who knows? Perhaps I should set as an annual goal for 2018 Get over the mid-life crisis you’ve been having since you were sixteen years old.

At any rate, since I did bother to list them, below the fold you can geek out with the complete list of my comic books as of today.

Continue reading “Personal Goal Reached, Revisited”

A Song I Didn’t Need To Hear

As I might have mentioned, gentle reader, I spend most of my time with a bit of a double-effect narrator going on. One of the latest memes is including an image and some text with something about you, and an accompanying bit of text offering some Morgan Freeman narration over the top, expressing that this was not so. In my mind, even when I’m in the moment, I know that the moment is passing, and that I’m reaching an age where more moments have passed than are coming, especially in any particular given situation. Especially as my kids age; there will come a time when I’m holding one of my children, and I’ll put him down, and I will never pick him up again. I saw that in a listicle recently, and my boys are 11 and 9 now, and they’re getting harder to pick up. See also The Future Forgotten, Half-Empty Bottle of Mr. Bubble.

At any rate, on a recent lawn mowing excursion, I heard the new Brad Paisley song, “Last Time for Everything”:

You know, that about describes my daily interior monologue. Well, not quite, but I’m always conscious of it, often to the ruin of the present moment.

And the little chorus, which matches a protest of my one corner of my mind when it presents the entropic litany, reminds us to fully embrace every moment while we’re in it, but that doesn’t, in the song, redeem the dark enumeration of the verses. Much like reading a bunch of books on Eastern philosophy and Buddhist-themed mindfulness has yet to turn me into a peppy people person or silence that Morgan Freeman-style narration in my head.

But I’ll keep trying. Until the last time.

Do Not Confuse Coney Dog With These Imposters

As you might remember, gentle reader, my cat was recently fitted with a Edwardian collar after surgery. He spent a couple days sequestered in my office and went a little stir crazy, so we let him out and took off the collar since he wasn’t paying attention to the stitches.

Well, with the collar off, he found them and irritated his surgery site, so he’s back in the cone of shame.

Now, just as a reminder, we call him by many appellations now, but remember, he’s still the Big Bopper. Do not confuse him for someone else.

The Real Thing:

The Big Bopper

Not to be confused with:

Ming the Merciless

A Triceratops

“Weird Al” Yankovic
in the “Dare to be Stupid” video

Marvel Villain Doctor Bong

Although, to be honest, when he scratches the cone in the bed in the middle of the night, he sounds like Doctor Bong.

He gets the stitches out in a couple of days, at which point we will have to go back to our regularly scripted humor at his expense.

A Father’s Pockets Are A Cornucopia

A couple years back (and by a couple years, I mean a decade), all the cool kids did posts where they emptied their pockets, took a picture, and talked about what they had. The meme ran through the gun bloggers, so you had an assortment of knives, pocket guns, spare magazines, and whatnot.

I’m a little behind the times, but bear with me.

As I have mentioned, I like wearing looser khakis with decent pocket space. I need to wear a waist size up and cinch the waist with a belt to accommodate my fat thighs, and this leaves me with lots of pocket space. Enough to hold me until tactical harem pants come in style, anyway.

How much pocket space do they give me? Plenty, as demonstrated by what I carried in them on a recent trip to the local Silver Dollar City amusement park.

So here’s my junk on the table:

  • The obligatory bottle of sun screen. The lotion, because I suspect the spray-on bottles provide plausible appliability–that is, you can say you’ve put on sun screen, but mostly you’ve sprayed some at your body and not actually covered your skin enough to protect yourself.
  • The Thoughts of Confucious, a paperback I brought along because I don’t like most rides. Was I the guy reading a book in the amusement park (while wearing khakis, no less)? Yes. During the Southern Gospel Picnic, too. Talk about missing the spirit.
  • A large stuffed horse for winning the shoot-water-at-a-target horse race game. And two smaller horses given as consolation prizes to my boys, who aren’t yet as fast as their father at bringing the stream of water on target. But soon, they will beat me at everything, so I have to enjoy these wins when I can.

    Full disclosure: The big horse rode in my shirt pocket, not the pants. But it went with the khakis, which were not actually khaki in color but> 

  • A wallet that shrank as the day went on.
  • A key ring that I recently reduced to the keys I actually use from a larger set that includes what looks to be a number of house keys to…what? My home in Old Trees? My mother’s house? I have no idea.
  • A pocket knife that I used to open a bag of chips at the park. “Do you only use that for opening things?” my oldest son asked. I’m not sure what else he would use a pocket knife for, but the question does not help his case that he should have a pocket knife.
  • An iPhone that, I’m proud to say, only has one screen of apps on it, and most of them are things Apple won’t let me uninstall. I AM A LUDDITE.
  • A notepad and a pen. In the old days, I’d use this for scribbling down thoughts and poem fragments. Now it’s mostly shopping lists and films I want to rent from the video store.
  • A small lighter. I don’t smoke, but if I’m ever in a situation where I need fire, I’ll really need it badly, and I’d hate to spend that time futilely trying to start a fire with sticks or stones and lamenting if only I had a thirty cent lighter now.

Not depicted: The theme park’s paper/calendar of events and a collection of change that grew as the wallet shrank.

In the olden days, the everyday pocket contents would have included wipes, little toys to amuse little boys, and whatnot. But that’s when the post would have been entitled “A Daddy’s Pockets” instead of “A Father’s Pockets”.

The Narrow Escapes of Nogglestead

This morning, while taking my children to school, our loud music scattered a couple of deer a couple houses up from us, and as I drove slowly by them, on fled from the loud music pouring from my car. Too small to leap the rail fence, it ran until it found a spot it could comfortably duck under. My oldest son, whose name has five letters so he gets to ride in the front, and I chuckled about the deer not liking Billy Idol. As I continued on the farm road, I was working on the humorous Facebook post I would make for it.

We went over a couple of large hills, and as we came down the hill and towards Wilson’s Creek, I saw in the distance a car with its flashers on on the side of the road. So I tried to figure out what was going on and slowed down. The car started moving, and I saw beyond it a truck sitting with it’s flashers on behind it, and I looked to see what was going on.

Then….IT broke from the trees and the shadows on the right side of the road.

A cow, escaped from a nearby pasture.

It moved into the left, oncoming traffic lane; apparently, it was some kind of English breed. I stayed, behind it, driving slowly because it’s impolite to pass livestock on the right. Also, I was not sure when it might decide to move into my lane.

The cow ran from the loud music pouring from my car. It was no longer Billy Idol; instead, it was Against the Current.

I’ve never seen a cow double-time it like that since Top Secret!

Someone came out on a four wheeler to get it, but I herded it into its pasture as it fled from me and turned left at the first drive. Perhaps it wasn its pasture. Perhaps it was just a quiet pasture, or at least a pasture that would be quiet when the loud Toyota was past.

I don’t know how close it was; if I was going my normal rate of speed, would I have been past the cow when it broke onto the road, or would I just have been too close to stop in time? Idle speculation at this point.

But I did get a Facebook status out of it.

Feel free to scrub it of context and submit it to “City People Are So Dumb!!!!” listicles.

Every Day At Nogglestead Is Like “The Purloined Letter”

So my children started their own business, again. This time (or perhaps back then since it was the day before yesterday, and their business models change quickly) it’s secure document disposal. That is, they discovered that, when you wet a piece of paper, it becomes easier to tear. So they would wet documents and tear them for a small fee.

They used a page out of the most recent copy of Forbes magazine, but left me a little note telling me what happened.

Your magazine was a victem of circumstance

Of course, it’s reminiscent of Poe’s “The Purloined Letter“.

Not a mysterious letter. Not a victem of circumstance.

That you have to look on the back of the wadded-up, torn, and repurposed piece of paper.

He wrote the note on the back of an important letter home describing an upcoming event for one of his clubs.

Which we would not have read if we hadn’t gone all C. Auguste Dupin on him.

Raising children starts out all H.P. Lovecraft from the very moment they emerge from the birth canal and then grow into Poesque mysteries as they age.

I’ve Had This Decal On Every Car I Have Owned

My kids asked me about the decal in the back of my pickup truck window.

As you might expect, my pickup truck’s rear graphicature represents the stereotypical country dweller in Southwest Missouri. I’ve got an old bumper sticker from around the turn of the century that says “I’m proud Bush is our President”. I’ve got an American flag so faded that you can’t tell it’s an American flag unless you’re really close. I’ve got the logo of a professional football team–the Green Bay Packers, the only team that matters and not the Kansas City Chiefs, the closest team to this corner of the state and therefore the preferred one for most of the locals.

Things go a bit awry with the Webster Groves Historical Society decal, as I’m no longer in Old Trees itself (but I maintained memberships in the historical society and the friends of the library until they stopped sending me things because I moved away).

No, the boys were asking about the Reason – Individual Rights – Capitalism decal:

It’s a little worse for wear, but it has been on the truck for longer than the Bush bumper sticker. I most likely put the decal on right away, as I have affixed a similar decal in every car I’ve owned.

The decal came from an Objectivist-themed outfit called RIC Trading. Back in the last century, I was a big-O Objectivist. I read a lot of Ayn Rand in college, of course, and I even read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff. I subscribed to a magazine called The Intellectual Activist (which employed a much younger Robert Tracinski, if I am not mistaken). The magazine turned me down when I offered to write for it, but to be honest and as reasoning writers of today will tell you, I’m a little lightweight for serious philosophical diatribes. I think I saw an ad for RIC Trading in the back of the magazine, though, and I got one for my first car, a Nissan Pulsar.

Well, I bought my cars cheap and high mileage in those days, and I put ten or fifteen thousand miles a year on them, so I turned them over pretty quick. When I couldn’t find RIC Trading around for another order, I bought a bunch of them on eBay (and got a free lapel pin to boot).

As I have aged, my cars’ prices have gone up, but they’ve lasted longer as demonstrated by the current pickup truck that I’ve been driving for sixteen years and change.

But never fear: When I get my next car, I’ll have a RIC decal for it. As I’ve got a couple left, I might have enough to cover all the cars I’ll ever own.

I explained what each meant for my children. Although I’m no longer a capital O Objectivist (I don’t recognize the infallibility of Ayn Rand), I still believe in Reason, Individual Rights, and Capitalism.

To Ask A Question While On Vacation Is To Answer It

So I’m reading a philosophy book on the balcony overlooking Lake Hamilton while drinking some sweet tea, and I come to a famous question by Camus from “The Myth of Sisyphus”:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards.

You know, I’ve tried to read that essay a couple of times, but I find the setup contrived and absurd (in a not Existentialist way, i.e., ridiculous).

Especially when I’m sitting on the lake and reading a good pop philosophy book (Every Time I Find The Meaning Of Life, They Change It by Daniel Klein, book report coming forthwith).

You know, I think I could enjoy something like this, reading by the lake, when I retire. First step to retirement: Get a job from which I can retire. No, scratch that. First step to retirement, revised: Invent a time machine and travel back to the mid-to-late twentieth century, when a job from which one retired existed (until the dinosaurs ate them).

Also, note to would-be burglars and my insurers: Hot Springs was last week, man. I am back in residence, so don’t try it! (Link via).

Also note that a gap of posting for a matter of days does not necessarily indicate a vacation on my part; it might merely be my irregularly scheduled ennui, where I wonder if it’s worth it to work so hard to keep fresh content appearing for up to 10 readers a day (mostly students looking to rip off book reports on The Sire de Maletroit’s Door).

Thank you, that is all.