Book Report: Songs of Three by Shirley Gilmore (2018)

Book coverThis is the second book in the Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies series; I read the first, Walking the Labyrinth, immediately before it.

So this book only clocks in at 584 pages before appendices, which is shorter than Walking the Labyrinth, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice. It’s also a little more soap opera than the preceding book.

In it, the people of Turn Back are having dreams of a cave. Secrets emerge as Bucky learns that her father, erm, fathered a child after a drunken encounter while on a book tour, and that the mother sent pictures of the baby until communications stopped when the baby was about a year old. In an amazing coincidence, that is the boy next door–the boy whose parents died when he was only one year old and is being raised by his great-grandmother, and it turns out that since he is Simon, the father’s son, the boy is not actually the great-grandmother’s blood relation. Meanwhile, Bucky, the 10-year-old girl, has dreams about her mother returning and trying to kill her. This comes to a head when the mother actually does show up, eight months pregnant and seemingly unaged since her disappearance. We learn about the two types of others who come from elsewhere and can cross over at mystical springs like the one at the old resort where they live, and they think Simon is a great Hittite who did them a good turn several thousand years ago. After a blow to the head, Simon starts having visions that he is such and that he and his wife and even Bucky have been intertwined through many incarnations. Things with the local fundamentalist preacher who has been harrassing Bucky and Simon come to a head in a sudden climax that should take him out of the picture in future books. And they find a cave with Minoan writing along with some Latin from later Spanish visitors. Oh, and I forgot to mention Ian, the boy next door, gets hurt near the cave and part of the book is his recovery.

I am not sure what to make of the reincarnation themes intertwined with the church-going. I wonder where that will lead.

But the book is thick with details and incidents of everyday life in Turn Back, and the plot events are few and scattered over the book’s length. I mean, the writing is easy to read and the pages fly by, but about page 300 of this book, I realized I was 1000 pages into the ongoing saga and not half done. So I will take a break from this series and read something else (besides poetry) for a while.

I think reading these big series is easier when they come out at a book a year; however, a shelf full of them and thousands of pages daunts me. Not just this series, but I have Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (complete, I think). I read the first two right after college, but they got thicker as time went on, and I collected the rest, and there they sit behind me, thousands of pages. I’ve probably mentioned this when binge watching episodic comedies recently (Red Dwarf and Sledge Hammer!). They, too, were easier to watch back in the day in weekly installments rather than dedicating weeks of nightly watching to plow through them all. It’s a harsh realization as I have a lot of DVD sets and book series to somehow plow through. Perhaps here and there, a bit at a time, as they were intended.

That said, the books are pleasant and easy to read. I get the sense they’re more cozy fantasies for older ladies, who might be more interested in the geneology that plays heavily in it, the church events, and the cooking. I will get through the rest of the books I have from this author before long, and I’ll buy others in the series when I catch her at ABC Books. So let that be my endorsement.

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Book Report: Shin Splints by Dorothy Stroud (2012)

Book coverI got this book at the same time as I got The Way at the Friends of the Library book sale, and it make sense given my shopping habits there the last couple of years: Pore over the dollar records, pore over the dollar videos, pore over the dollar audio books, and then glance at the dollar poetry books and maybe literature section, and only sometimes do I make my way to the Better Books to look at old books, local interest, art monographs, and audio courses. This particular book was sold alone and not part of a tied set of chapbooks and pamphlets, which means I paid a whole fifty cents for the single volume. Was it worth it?

Well… It’s a two sets of poems totalling 57 pages. The first set deals with watching high school track meets, and the second set deals with school. The poet was a teacher, and her husband was a coach, so that’s where she got her ideas from. The poems are short, and the lines are very short–three to five words each most of the time, very action-oriented with a dash of imagery here or there. I mean, not bad, but not the best.

And you would think I would be the audience for this. Or sympathetic at least, as I have satten in bleachers this last spring cheering on my son who decided to do track in high school after a year off. The cover image is a track meet from field level with mountains in the background. Our photos are not as exciting. They’re from the cheap seats, and our perspective on our long-distance runner and a bit of the inner football field, maybe, is less descriptive than the photos of old. We can look back on them and say what school or gym they were in in middle school, but in the tightly focused shots this spring, they all look the same. Perhaps I shall try a wider focus next year. Oh, wait, this is a book report. Back to it….

The author has an acknowledgements page where she tells you that four of the poems had previously appeared in four different magazines/journals/zines/Web sites, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Coffee House Memories has an acknowledgements section that is only slightly longer, and I was trying to be a poet at that time–and I really have no pub credits for poetry after like 1997, so perhaps I just don’t know what the market will bear.

Someone, though, thought enough of this book to buy it in 2012 from Amazon for $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping plus sales tax according the a paper folded inside the back cover. I cannot count this as a Found Bookmark; even though it’s a sales receipt, it’s not of a particular place or shop. It’s not even like pamphlets/flyers that came with some of the volumes of various mail-order collections which detail the book and so on. I think I’ll feed this into the shredder presently. Let that be a marker of what I think of Amazon packing lists in books I buy secondhand.

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It Almost Feels Like I’m Giving Up

Ah, gentle reader. The garage at Nogglestead is quite a mess. It’s only mostly my fault. As I mentioned and you might remember from years past on this blog, I dabbled in numerous handicrafts back when the television programs Creative Juice and That’s Clever! were on.

I did some beading, I did some glass painting, I did some glass etching, I did some découpage, I made some clocks out of platters and plates, and a bunch of other things. A week or so back, I might have mentioned that I went digging through completed things for a silent auction at church and destroyed some stained glass painted things.

I have not been terribly active in the crafting realm, and that’s partly because the garage is a mess. And part of the reason that it’s a mess is that I accumulated, over the years, materials for projects that I have not completed or done. For instance, I have the slats from the boys’ old bunk beds–they were little 2″ by 1″ (or smaller) sticks that I replaced with two by fours when I built the beds. I believe I’ll woodburn a large design on them, but not yet. I’ve also saved the old hanging lamp from our front porch when I replaced it; I thought I would clean it up and, what? I dunno.

I also saved a large number of wine bottles, jars, and other glass things for etching, stained glass painting, making candles, or something. But over the years, I’ve moved them around a bit when trying to clean the garage, but I’ve not used them. So I recycled a bunch of them, and it looks like I have another bin to sort through and recycle once I clear a path to it.

I’m also considering discarding the stained glass paints I have. Those projects ultimately did not turn out so well. I have a small toaster oven in the garage for curing polymer clays, but most of the stained glass painting I’ve done has been on vases and whatnot, things too large for the toaster oven. And air curing them, which the bottles indicate is an option, has a limited shelf life as I’ve learned. So maybe I should let them go.

Still, it feels a little like I’m giving up on completing these projects. It’s not like giving away books that I think I will never read, but it’s diminishing some possibilities, and for some reason it makes me feel old.

And, I suppose, I could look at it as a step in cleaning up the garage so I have some room to work. Which is likely true, but it’s not a given that the garage will be cleaned in 2024. Or 2025. Let’s not get all up in a hurry in here.

To be sure, it will not look as good as Cedar Sanderson’s craft space. But we have boys aging to men, and we will have an extra bedroom or two likely before I get the garage into any sense of order or even a workshop. Perhaps I can put a desk in one of them and have a workspace.

The next step, or maybe the first: Overcoming laziness and prioritization that puts twee blog posts before meaningful work.

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Book Report: The Way by Salesian Missions (1983)

Book coverI got three of these little Salesian Missions poetry collections a year ago at the Friends of the Library Book Sale, and this is the first of them that I’ve found to read. Actually, I had it on the lamp table beside the sofa upstairs which became a minor book accumulation point after last summer’s vacation, where I carried the habit of lying on the sofa reading a book home. But a couple of collections of poetry (including this one) lingered there since autumn or winter as I’ve started a new tradition of reading a magazine in the chair in the bedroom as the final step-down to bedtime.

This book was a free giveaway to potential supporters in mail campaigns in the 1980s. I remember that one or more of them passed through our household, although I am not sure whether my sainted mother would have given money to them. After all, Salesian Missions is a Catholic charity; perhaps they had my father’s name on the envelope, as he was nominally Catholic.

This volume is 32 pages of grandmother poetry focusing on religious themes, but generic Christian religious themes–you get Jesus and you get God, but no Mary. The small pages are akin to Ideals magazine, with the poems set on pages surrounded by illustrations of homey and old-timey scenes and landscapes. Basically, the target crowd overlapped a lot with people who would subscribe to Ideals. They’re poems, too, not prayers; some are addressed to God, but most of them talk about God instead. Quality varies from meh to okay, but really, this is everyday poetry, the kind that people who were not academic poets or kept by patrons wrote. Normal people. I mean, jeez Louise, my father wrote poetry not unlike this. So it’s not designed to be profound, meaningful, or obscure to differentiate the Poet from the Rubes without advanced degrees in literature. So it was nice, and a quick read, and I suppose it could fit into one’s daily devotions if one were so inclined.

At any rate, it was a quick read, which I needed as I’ve been reading large tomes lately. And I kind of look forward to the little respites (and the incrementing of the annual blog total).

You know, I wish some of the charities wishing to entice me today would send out little books of poems. I get a lot of come-ons from Catholic charities (but not Salesian Missions) as a subscriber to First Things, Touchstones, and maybe The New Oxford Review. I get a lot of address labels, a couple of notepads, a coin from time to time, and a pin once, but no poetry. I guess the middle class of potential donors has moved on from reading for the most part, more’s the pity.

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Rope-a-Dope

Republicans and conservatives should maybe consider not dwelling so much on Joe Biden’s age and infirmity like this:

And so on, and so on, ad absurdum.

Because the more the message is “We need to get this doddering old man out of the presidency,” the more easily it is defanged by the Democrats switching to another candidate at the last minute.

Policies, guys. Focus on the policies that have led us to this place. Do not confuse the policy with the policymaker, or we’ll end up with a different policymaker with the same policies.

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Book Report: Walking the Labyrinth by Shirley Gilmore (2017)

Book coverI got this book and four others in its series and a related stand alone novel in July 2022 in a trip that was noteworthy as I had instructed my oldest on how to parallel park, and he drove us to ABC Books. Reading the book comes at a parallel time as my youngest is completing his instruction and needs to learn how to parallel park. Will we make it to ABC Books as well? Maybe not.

At any rate, this book is the first in the series about a 10-year-old girl who moves to a small town, Turn Back, in southeast Missouri. Her father, a famous and successful mystery author, has bought an old spring resort to keep her in seclusion because every time she cries, mysterious scars on her back open, and she bleeds. She might be his daughter, though, as the author’s daughter disappeared one night in her crib and someone else apparently took her place–a larger baby whom the author raised by himself as the wife disappeared shortly thereafter.

So they come to Turn Back and try to keep to themselves, but a neighbor boy about Bucky’s age is drawn to them, and they meet his great-great grandmother who is raising him, and they start to attend the local Methodist church which leads to Bucky beginning a “prayer walk” in the city park which leads to the participants sharing dreams, first of mastadons (which stop when flooding reveals a number of mastadon fossils) and about ships (which stop when they find an ancient stone with Hittite markings on it). Along the way, hints of a greater mystery are doled out: Did ancient seafarers reach the center of the United States? Why does the father keep calling Bucky Imala by accident? The major conflict, such as it is, is with a local firebrand preacher who torments the prayer walks as sinful and calls the father “the Devil.”

I am not sure that the cozy fantasy exists as a genre, but that would describe the book. It is just short of 700 pages, and for that bulk, not a lot of plot happens. To be honest, some of the characters outside the father and daughter are still kind of ciphers. But we get a lot of what it’s like living in a small town, going to church in a small town, and so on. We get chapters, chapters where the characters have dinner or hold a talent show, which doesn’t exactly drive the plot forward. But the writing is very good, and it carried me along so that I would read over a hundred pages or even two hundred pages in a sitting and only then think critically, “but what has happened?”

The book ends with a solution to one of the mysteries, but others remain for solution in future volumes.

So, gentle reader, what do you think: Will Brian J. jump right into the next volume or read something else in the interim? Stay tuned!

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On The Masters of Enterprise: American Business History and the People Who Made It by H.W. Brands (2003)

Book coverI picked this course in the Modern American Scholar line in April, and I loaded parts of it into the car for when three of our yet four headed to Arkansas for a conference, but, of course, Arkansas which means narrow, curvy two lane highways, so I could not pay much attention then. But I’ve been inventing enough reasons to drive the main vehicle with the CD changer in it to listen to the courses.

This set is 14 lectures on 7 CDs that nominally tells the stories of a dozen entrepreneurs and the businesses they built, but they actually focus on prevailing market trends and the changes in American life over the centuries and how the entrepreneurs took advantage of that. So the actual biographies of the people are generally just a paragraph or two in the lecture.

Lectures include:

  • The Business of America
  • John Jacob Astor: From Furs to Real Estate
  • Cyrus McCormick: The Business of Agriculture
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould: Speculating on America
  • Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller: An Obsession for Efficiency
  • J.P. Morgan: The Triumph of the Money Man
  • Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan: Capturing the Dream
  • Walt Disney: The Business of Fantasy
  • Robert Woodruff: As American as Coke
  • Ray Kroc: The Industrialization of Eating
  • Sam Walton: Will the Real Uncle Same Please Stand Up?
  • Mary Kay Ash: What Do Women Want?
  • Andrew Grove and Bill Gates: Intel (and Microsoft) Inside
  • The Past and Future of American Business

I rather got a lot of interesting things out of it. One, the drive for innovation in the early years in the United States: It had a lot of land, and few people to work it compared to Europe. So that drove innovations in the agricultural machinery (such as Cyrus McCormick’s wheat harvester). The car makers thought demand for their product would be limited to the number of people who could afford to have drivers for their cars; Henry Ford saw that people would want to drive their own cars. And after the car was invented and people were living in cities, they had leisure time for Disney and whatnot. The inclusion of Mary Kay of Mary Kay Cosmetics is a bit of an outlier in the list because the professor wanted to include a woman entrepreneur, but there were not many to choose from and none succeeded like the men listed (although my beautiful wife has a Mary Kay dealer whose products but burnish her natural beauty). He also highlights that American business is very often speculative in ways that European and other business environments or mindsets are not.

So it’s a good survey of business history, and it does acknowledge one of, if not the business conundrums of American business: the role of government in business. The government was hands-off early in our history, but certainly started intervening more and more from the late 19th century on. Although the professor thinks that the government’s hand has been a balancing influence, staving off panics after the Great Depression, the course is dated 2003. The last 20 years have certainly seen more and more overt government intervention into the economy and probably to a deleterious effect.

But I enjoyed the course as a history course, not an economics course. That is, telling the stories from our ancestors and not too much trying to steer us to a glorious future that our betters have picked out for us.

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New Fauna and Fungi of Nogglestead

It has been a couple of weeks (months?) since I’ve heard the coyotes leaving the battlefield in the evenings or returning in the mornings. Have I not heard them because they’re not there, or because I have not been outside nor had the windows and doors open at sunrise and sunset (although I have been in the pool around sunset some nights, but the coyotes come out a little later)?

The appearance of a pair of rabbits might indicate the former.

These little rascals live in the eastern part of our windbreak and spend most of their time in the side yard. One day, though, I surprised them in my garden, and they tried to jump the fence in vain. One darted out the garden entrance, and one squeezed through or under the fence, and the low-tailed it around the pool and to the windbreak. This weekend, as I was mowing the lawn, one of them was near the garden, and he tried to run but was reluctant to cross the driveway pavement. I chased him around a little as I continued my spiraling cutting section, and he eventually overcame his fear of the driveway and bolted around the front of the house and to its burrow.

Without the coyotes around, I guess the next biggest threat to them is hawks and owls and presumably my lawnmower.


Our last garbage company was having trouble meeting its pickup obligations–private like me, but they also have contracts with a couple of the cities and towns around here that provide that “service” to their citizens. So they dumped a large number of the private citizens who contracted with them. They never picked up their wheeled bin, though; I guess because we got it from the company we first signed up with that the later company acquired, I guess that they did not have it on record that it was their bin. So they left it and did not come to get it when we mentioned it when requesting a refund for the two months’ service that we paid for and that they were not going to refund on their own initiative.

Which has left me with an extra bin, and I don’t mind. Sometimes we have overflow, such as nine pallet-sized burlap sacks that our firewood comes; we top off our weekly trash in the bin with our new company by adding these sacks. Once, our new trash company refused to empty our bin because it was too heavy–I swapped all cat litter boxes at once. So I dumped the cat litter and scooped it into bags and put them in the overflow bin and over the course of weeks (for two more weeks, the new company refused to lift the bin when they could see cat litter in it), I optimally weighted the bin and eventually got all the cat litter out. So it’s come in handy for us a couple of times.

And it provides a nice spot for Jake, our new outdoor snake pet, to rest in afternoons.

Jake looks to be a rough earthsnake. You might remember I made snake flashcards for my boys to study in the probably-soon-to-be-previous unpleasantness. I packed those away at some point, so I had to go to the Internet to look for photos to guess.

I found him when I moved the spare bin to run the line trimmer behind it. I’ve moved it a couple of other times to show Jake to the family and just to say “Hi.”


A couple years ago, the electric co-op decided they were done trimming the oak at the end of my driveway and cut it down and ground out the stump. Grass has not encroached on the remaining wood chips much. I saw a normal mushroom there, and as I went to get the mail a week ago, I noticed a touch of color.

A quick Internet search indicates this is a mutinus elegans, which sounds like Elegant Mutiny in Latin. Commonly known as Elegant Stinkhorn, the colloquialism I will use is “Devil’s Dipstick.” I’ve mowed them since then, but they will be back.

Wikipedia says they’ve been reported in Texas, Colorado, and Iowa; consider them reported in Missouri, then.


You might have thought that fauna included new cats at Nogglestead, but no. Cisco does not like cats outside and will go into berserker mode if one sits outside the glass and stares at him. There haven’t been too many of those recently, fortunately. My son and I did have a chunky tabby come and sit on the pool deck and watch us when we were in the pool, but he’s not too friendly–I came out another door to chase him off when he was offending Cisco, and he ran to the edge of my deck and then made aggressive noises at me. So he won’t be sharing an office with me any time soon, and I need to put a broom on the deck to use to chase him off if he really gets aggressive.

At any rate, something different this year at Nogglestead. Maybe I’ll show you soon the new flora at Nogglestead, including lettuce in the garden. Which apparently attracts rabbits.

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Things We Never Knew Came To An End

The church picnic had a couple of crossstitched pillows in the silent auction, and although I did not actually bid on them in the auction, I picked them up later amongst the remnants, paying more than I would have bid on the items.

The woman who had made them had taken them home but brought them to church on Sunday, so I am not sure if the money I gave her went to the church or to her at that point. Probably the church as she’s active in it and a good congregant. If not, well; the amount I gave her was probably enough for the kits (if she bought them retail) plus materials leaving some pre-labor reform wages for her effort. I know how that goes; when thinking about how much my handiwork in woodburning or whatnot could retail for, the cost was generally less than the cost of the materials if I bought them retail and even if I used scrap, the wages for my effort would be below minimum wage.

I told her when I asked about them that my mother had been very creative and sewed/embroidered/creweled a bunch when I was young. She was even a hostess for the Creative Circle organization which had the late 20th century housewife sales parties but for kits for sewing and not home décor or kitchenwares. So maybe she seemed like she was doing a lot because she was making her sample kits. But I remember latch-hooked pillows and samplers on the wall. But at some point, she just stopped. Maybe it was in the move to Missouri, or maybe it was because she got a full-time job with a two hour daily commute that sapped that energy to do things at home or the later second shifts which tampered with her diurnal cycle. Maybe she spent that time on home maintenance/home improvement when she got houses of her own. Or maybe she continued her whole life but I stopped noticing. Probably not the latter, as I went through her effects after she died and did not see much of that.

As I mentioned, I used to do a lot of handicrafts. Beaded jewelry, woodburning, glass etching, making clocks out of old trays and platters. I guess I was most active with it when I was not full-time or between contracts and when I was hopped up on watching Creative Juice and That’s Clever! and The Joy of Painting with my young children. As I made things, I boxed them up, and honestly thought maybe I would box them up until a silent auction at church rolled around. I thought about a spot in the antique or craft malls, but my work was pretty rudimentary, and I don’t think I would be able to charge enough to cover materials and retail space, much less any effort. And as I got full time work and contracts, I just kind of wandered away from making things for the most part.

And the church didn’t really have many silent auctions over the years. The one at the picnic is only one of a few in the last couple of years, and the auction itself revealed why: Nobody bid on most of the the hand crafts. I picked up a stained glass angel for a Christmas present, but we’re only buying presents for a couple of people these days and don’t need many such articles. So it’s not like I’ve had a place to dump my excess crafting cheaply and for a good cause.

I didn’t share anything anyway. When I unpacked some of the things when the church called for donations, I discovered that the stained glass painting I’d done in 2012 were ruined. I’d wrapped them in old shirts to protect them, and over the years, the paint adhered better to the shirts than the glass. Unwrapping them peeled the paint off of them. So I guess the best way to cast it is that I now have a couple of glass pieces to etch or to paint with the stained glass paint again, but I guess it’s a decade old now. Not that I would have anywhere to go with the completed product.

Ah, this started out as a post about how my mother did cross-stitch until she didn’t. It turned into a how I did crafts until I didn’t. I wonder if reasons were similar, and if my mother ever thought about it.

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I Know The Feeling

NYC parents having meltdown over $14 ice cream cones: ‘It’s out of control’

My son started his cross country practices this week, and after picking him up from practice, we stopped at the doughnut shop in Republic (no, the other one), and the total for 6 doughnuts and a breakfast sandwich was almost $20. Which used to be what a trip to a restaurant with my beautiful wife cost. Breakfast for one in Republic is now over $30 (I eat a lot and tip well), and our anniversary dinner last month cost about $60, which used to feed the whole family at a restaurant, but that’s $100 now.

Not that we eat out much these days or even get doughnuts from a doughnut shop these days (half a dozen doughnuts at Walmart is still only five or six dollars).

Wages are going to have to go hella bunch up to make the economics of that work out again.

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Book Report: The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard (2008)

Book coverI was going to say that I just read this, but it turns out that “just” in this case means ten years ago as this title, the only Conan novel that Howard wrote, was included in The Bloody Crown of Conan.

In it, Conan has become king of Aquilonia, but the Zemedians hope to conquer Aquilonia and place a puppet on the throne, so a shadowy group resurrects a sorceror who has been dead several thousand years. When Conan arrays his forces against the invaders, a magic spell paralyzes him in his tent, so he sends out a friend in his armor to lead the battle. But the friend is killed by magic along with much of the cream of the Aquilonian forces, and Conan is captured. He escapes from his dungeon and has to go looking for a jewel that can thwart the sorceror so he can reclaim his kingdom. Along the way, he rejoins some of his colleagues from his corsairing days and has to outwit a vampire in an ancient temple while being stalked by assassins from the east.

So it’s a good yarn, but the whole get-the-sorceror’s-gem plot is very close to Conan the Invincible. So I’ll probably lay off the Conan and sword-and-sorcery titles for the nonce.

The book also contains “The Hyborean Age”, which is Howard’s accounting of the history of Conan’s world and ties it in as unknown history of our world in a forgotten age. But I bogged down in it. It was a lot like reading from The Story of Civilization but without the benefit of making progress in that set. And I just read it. Ten years ago.

Still, it’s nice to revisit these stories and re-read them.

I’ve also determined how much this particular pulp style has influenced my own writing style. I’ve found myself chaining prepositional phrases a bunch, and Howard does that, too. It adds a bit of rhythm to the in-your-head reading that the staccato of choppier sentences lacks. I’ve sometimes tried to iron that tendency out of my writing, but perhaps now I will embrace it a bit more. When I get around to writing any fiction or anything aside from this blog and the occasional LinkedIn post, that is.

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Contrast

I have seen a couple of posts in recent days (VodkaPundit and Cold Fury) about the Killdozer attack, and I’ve seen a Killdozer Gadsden Flag on Facebook a couple of times.

For those of you who need refreshing, the Killdozer was an armored bulldozer that a guy built over time in his garage twenty years ago (the anniversary was this week), and he then used it to smash through some buildings of people he was mad at as well as shooting at police and others during an hours-long rampage that ended when the bulldozer got stuck, and the guy killed himself in it.

Contrast that with that other guy who had a similar set of grievances with his city government and went to a city council meeting and killed six people and wounded several others.

A bit of an idle question, but why has the former become a folk hero and the other has not?

A few possibilities come to mind:

  1. Despite his best efforts, the Killdozer guy did not actually kill anyone besides himself and otherwise only caused property damage.
  2. Construction equipment is cool, and DIY armor is cool. DIY armor on construction equipment? Unparalleled.
  3. The former got national play because of #2 whereas the latter was just a regional or local (to the St. Louis area).
  4. The RACE thing. The former was white; the latter was black.

I really don’t think it’s #4, but probably a combination of the first three.

I do, however, think it’s a little ::sniff:: gauche to celebrate the attack.

But this is the Internet, and I’m not a professional writer with blog deadlines to meet. Your mileage may vary.

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On Sledge Hammer! (1986)

Book coverAh, gentle reader. After successfully ploughing (as one does in England) through (which does not rhyme with “plough” though–although though and although do), ahem, after successfully ploughing through the first six series of Red Dwarf, I thought I might delve even further back in my DVD set acquisitions and watch the two seasons of Sledge Hammer! which I got in 2004. So, yes, it has taken me twenty years to get around to watching these (as opposed to only thirteen years for Red Dwarf). I felt compelled to watch it as I was reliving my television watching of the 1980s and because Lileks posted a picture of David Rasche recently (and I do mean like within a month or so ago recently).

I mean, I did run through the first season some years back, back when our DVD player was a PlayStation 2, but when it switched to the second season with its lower budget and “five years earlier” thing, and I couldn’t continue–which is also how it went with Red Dwarf–it stepped out of my nostalgia zone and I couldn’t deal with it. But I plowed through both seasons this viewing, and it took as long as Red Dwarf because it was basically the same number of episodes in two seasons of American television as it was for six series of British television.

So: Sledge Hammer is a police inspector, a spoof of Dirty Harry–underlined by John Vernon playing The Mayor in the pilot episode, wanting a man who gets results to locate his daughter who has been “kidnapped” by a terrorist group. Hammer is given a new partner, Dori Doreau, a woman to act as a straight, er, woman to Hammer’s excesses which include shooting his gun, roughing up suspects, and talking to his gun. Most of the episodes spoof on movies or detective show tropes of some sort or another, and I certainly benefited from being familiar with the source material. Perhaps not in 1986 when I watched it on television, but certainly now.

So I chuckled at some of the nearly 40-year-old gags. You can basically derive my sense of humor from droll English humour like Red Dwarf and spoofs like this. Maybe that’s what built my sense of humor as these were on the telly in my teenaged years.

And if the Internet had been a thing back then, perhaps we would have had Detective Doreau versus Officer Daley arguments.

Continue reading “On Sledge Hammer! (1986)”

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More Like A Good Person

Vince Lombardi remembered as an LGBTQ+ ally during Pride Month

Yeah, no.

Ally has a particular meaning in this day and age: A person who performatively shows support for the cause. It’s hard to imagine Vince Lombardi flying a rainbow flag outside his home.

Instead, the article (which brings up George Floyd and Black Lives Matter to approve of them as well, although no word on what Lombardi might have thought). Supporting arguments in favor of “allyship” are that he had a gay brother and that he did not treat his player(s) who later came out as gay differently than the others. Kind of like he treated people as individual persons when interacting with them. The article makes use of current-year recollections of people who knew Lombardi (who died over fifty years ago, remember) to support its thesis which reads mostly like an undergrad paper making its word count and on a deadline to lead off Pride month.

It sounds a lot like Lombardi treated men as individuals. Which is what good people do. And I still believe there are more good people than “allies,” but that would not show without the performative aspect.

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Not Really A Dilemma for Brian J.

When cleaning the store room a week ago, I came across a couple of New York newspapers:

I picked them up the last only time I was in New York, back before children. I would say “that one time the Hilton where you were staying caught fire,” but I have been to other Hilton properties that have caught fire (and some other places as well) in the interim.

So: What to do with these?

I mean, they both have headlines about the Yankees winning in the playoffs or something, so I suppose they could be collectibles. I suppose I could sell them on Ebay or try to. Or I could just recycle them. Or….

Well, part of the extended part of cleaning the store room was to bag up the collection of lad magazines I kept from my subscriptions in the early part of the century, when I was turning 30 and wanted the magazines to keep up with the latest bands, movies, and it girls. The bin had room for these papers atop the magazines, so in they went.

It really wasn’t much of a dilemma after all. Although I am not sure why I am compelled to keep these two papers that mean nothing to anyone else and, ultimately, little to me.

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Well, They Spared Me Excessive Gratitude

As I mentioned, I cleaned my store room last weekend, and as part of the cleaning process, I actually disposed of some items in the store room which I will probably never use.

One bin contained phone and Ethernet cabling supplies. I bought some Ethernet cable ends, crimping tool, and wall plates twenty-five years ago when I took hardware classes at the community college and thought I might pick up some free lance work running cables. I (badly) pulled cables from my office to that of my beautiful wife in our home in Casinoport (which included running some conduit pipes the length of the house in a ceiling cavity). I ran Ethernet cables between our offices in Old Trees as well following the phone lines outside the house. And although I got a bid for professionals to do it here at Nogglestead, I ended up running 30′ of cable between our offices and drilling holes in the wall instead of using wall plates (the professional bid was $1000 in 2009 dollars, which is something like eleventy billion in Bidenbucks). I’d originally ordered a kilometer of Cat5 cable, but I sold that at a garage sale at some point in the early part of the century. Somehow, though, I ended up with smaller spools of Cat5 and phone cable, but to be honest, it was not likely 1 Gigabit cable, and as everything is wireless these days (and Nogglestead might well be my last house), so I thought I’d get rid of the cables. I somehow also had a small box of coax cable, so I bundled them together.

A church group has called for donations for its fundraising rummage sale, so I thought about including it with the several boxes of bric-a-brac that has been cluttering my garage for years (somehow, we miss the annual fundraiser some years). But instead of dumping it on them, I called the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a retail store where Habitat sells donated building materials. The guy who answered the phone had to go ask if they would take the cables, but when he came back, he said he would.

So I ventured up there on a Saturday morning, and I’m sorry I did.

The place was a zoo. A jacked up pickup truck had broken down or something and was blocking part of the entrance not only with the truck but with people clambering around it and under it. The parking lot was too small for the number of vehicles there. People were just parking willy-nilly and wandering through the parking lot without looking. I found an actual parking spot and had my youngest grab the box of cables, and….

The guy receiving the donations was completely dismissive of our donation. He reluctantly took it off of our hands and said they could probably recycle it, but he might have thrown it in the dumpster when we turned away and tried to navigate our vehicle out with minimal property damage and loss of life.

You know, excessive gratitude for little donations like this embarrasses me. However, disdain or annoyance at my small bit to try to help, that boils my blood every time.

The food pantry that my church supports is on the north side of Springfield, which means it’s a bit of a drive for us, and I used to take our old canned goods up there. But the volunteers there ranged from indifferent to annoyed, so I started dropping stuff at the food pantry in Republic where they’re generally pleasant.

It’s almost enough to make me less kind.

And at least the crap is out of my store room.

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GET YER FRESH CONSPIRACY THEORY HEAR

Biden breaks unofficial rule about headwear while hosting the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs

President Joe Biden welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs to the White House on Friday, lauding the back-to-back Super Bowl champion team for its sportsmanship on and off the field, and breaking an unofficial political rule about headwear. He tried on a Chiefs helmet the team gave him as a gift.

Conspiracy theory: The helmet was one of the ones with the radio in it to tell Biden what to say at the podium.

MUST CREDIT MfBJN FOR THIS FRESH BREAKING CONSPIRACY THEORY!

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Book Report: Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan (1982)

Book coverThis book is another of the paperbacks I bought in Berryville in 2021. Clearly, I’m all-in on the Conan/Robert E. Howard books this month (see also Tigers of the Sea and….well, the book I’m reading now, which we will get to by-and-by). This one was written by Robert Jordan who would later become known for his Wheel of Time series which I haven’t picked up, as large fantasy series daunt me these days when they’re mostly done and you can see the thousands of pages ahead of you sitting on a bookshelf. A bunch of Conan stories and novels, though….

At any rate, in this book, Conan is in town and is hired by a “merchant” to steal some jewels from the king. The merchant is actually a member of a circle of sorcerors looking to get his/its hands on a gem to use against a more powerful sorceror. Conan’s attempt is thwarted when he discovers five dancing girls in the palace wear the pendants. He plans to come back the next night and vows to rescue the girl whom he met, but as he prepares to depart, another group steals the gems and the girls, and Conan strikes out after them. Along the way, he rescues the red-haired leader of a band of raiders, keeps one step ahead of the soldiers looking for the raiders (whom they presume has stolen the gems), and confronts the very wizard who should not get his hands on the gem.

It’s a rip-roaring book, pulpy but more modern than Howard’s work, and something that would not be written today. I liked it and will consider picking up the other Jordan Conan books if I see them in the wild.

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Those Are Rookie Numbers

Apparently, Steven Hayward of Powerline only has ~2500 books. And he’s a professor never the less!

What’s the size of your collection? How has it contracted or expanded over the years?

No idea. I tried counting up my books about thirty years ago, when I went over 1,000, and I’d guess I have maybe 2,500 or more by now. But I am going to shed a lot of books I used for research on books or academic projects from twenty years ago or more and am unlikely ever to need again.

Jiminy crickets, I have that many bogging down my 20-year-old book database, and that only counts books that I have read or reference books, not the other half of my library which I have yet to read (and none of my beautiful wife’s books are in that tally).

And, yes, I did look at all the pictures in the article to see what overlap we might have, and the only thing I spotted was the set of Churchill’s World War II books. Which I might get to after finishing Durant’s The Story of Civilization in 2030 and perhaps before Summa Theologica.

(Link seen on Powerline, natch.)

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For The Wages of Temporary Fastidiousness Is Dearth

of free time on the Memorial Day weekend.

Oh, gentle reader.

I have recently added little air filters to a couple of rooms in the house, particularly where cat litter boxes are present (during the recent reign of litter box averse cats from the previous generation, we added cat litter boxes in the living room up stairs and in a corner of the den downstairs to give the old cats options, and we’ve left the one in my office where the kittens were sequestered during their first days in the house). And I have been pleased to note how much the little $50 devices knock down the dust in those areas, so I thought, “Why not put one in the store room?” as this room holds three litter boxes (and, indeed, for a long time were the only litter box location in the house).

To put one in the store room, I would have to find an electrical outlet, presumably one behind the boxes of miscellania on the shelves. Hey, I was planning to swap out the cat litter boxes for fresh litter and to mop the room anyway. Why not dust everything at the same time? It’ll only be a couple of hours, ainna?

Oh, but no. Gentle reader, it took me over 10 hours to remove, dust, vacuum, mop, dust again, and replace everything. Steps included:

  1. Removing old cat litter
  2. Dusting and moving out all boxed old computers, comic books, old files, those bins of cables I cannot yet part with, and personal memorabilia as well as unsorted loose items meant to be put in the appropriate place “someday.”
  3. Removing shelving units
  4. Sweeping the floor
  5. Mopping the floor
  6. Hosing off shelving units
  7. Setting up fresh cat litter boxes
  8. Sort the, er, unsorted items and put them into the proper bins or boxes
  9. Dust (again) boxes before returning to the store room
  10. Dispose of certain items earmarked for donation or other, er, disposal

Not included: Dusting my office where I put the boxes and whatnot while I swept and mopped.

My goodness, almost fifteen years’ of cat litter leaves quite a patina on everything. Not everything had been undusted in that time–I’d dust or wipe things as I got into them or whatnot–but the fine, fine dust on everything stuck to my hands such that I had to wash them like Lady Macbeth to keep from leaving dust on things I was dusting. And a couple of the shelves had an inch or more of cat litter under them where the cats had scratched and where the thrown litter had fallen through the holes in the shelving.

As I started the room reassembly, I groused about it or demonstrated frustration with the fact that it would eat up my Memorial Day, and she asked me if it was worth it. And: I don’t know. I mean, nobody’s going to see it, and nobody at Nogglestead will notice (as I’m generally the one who goes into the store room. But, c’mon, man, it needed to be done. Which I wonder if it isn’t thematic of my whole existence: Doing what needs to be done, but nobody sees it.

At any rate, look upon my works, ye mighty, and join my despair:

I hope the new filter can keep up with the cat litter dust. And that I can keep up keeping the new filter clean.

And hopefully after a few more days, I will stop smelling that dust.

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