The Other Seven Islands Are Safe

The man on the radio says the island of Hawaii is about to get hit by a tsunami.

Wow, how is it going to hit the Big Island and miss Molokai, Maui, Oahu, Lanai, Kaiau, Niihua, and Kahoolawe?

In other news, just yesterday, I learned the names of the major islands of the state of Hawaii to bolster my trivia knowledge. Just in time for this quip.

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An Obvious Danger

To recap: A young drifter goes into a Starbucks and grabs the tip jar off the counter. A customer follows him to his car, altercates a bit, and gets hit by the car as the young drifter and his Bonnie lass leave. The customer dies.

The customer’s family sues because tip jars are an obvious target for deadly larceny.

It alleges that Starbucks “did not employ security to prevent the perpetration of such crimes” and that it “invited the act of perpetration of said crime” by having a tip jar.

Hey, why not? If Congress can mandate any decision, why cannot the courts determine that anything that can be stolen must be defended by armed security under the penalty of litigation?

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Book Report: Fletch Forever by Gregory McDonald (1978)

This is a 3-In-One Volume, as the dustjacket indicates, which means I might have screwed myself as far as the absolute metrics are concerned. This is the 21st book I’ve read this year, but if I’d read individual novels and whatnot, I’d be on 24. But such is life. When I read The Green Mile, someday, I’m going to take advantage of just that.

Meanwhile, this is the first book of G. McDonald’s that I have read in seven years (the last, apparently, was Skylar in Yankeeland). I read a lot of McDonald when I was in high school, back when I read a lot. These books were much fresher then, about ten or fifteen years old. Like me. But he was one of the big three Mc/MacDonalds (Ross and John D. being the others). But Gregory was the lesser of the three in output and ultimate popularity.

The books are the first three in the Fletch series. The first was made into the Chevy Chase film, albeit with some elements altered to make it more cinematic. Strangely, I like the film a little better, as it ties some things up better. In it, an investigative reporter for a newspaper goes undercover on a beach to find out the source of its drug traffic. As he does that, millionaire Alan Stanwyk hires Fletch, in his drifter disguise, to kill Stanwyk, who claims to have a fast-moving cancer. Fletch investigates both lines and solves them, but the two plotlines are parallel and only slightly converge at the end in an unsatisfying demideus ex machina. The movie ties it up better.

In Confess, Fletch, Fletch visits Boston from his recent residence in Italy. He’s seeking some paintings stolen from his fiance’s father. The father has disappeared. The father’s third wife follows Fletch to find out where her paintings are. And someone is murdered in the apartment Fletch borrowed for his stay on the night he arrives. Inspector Flynn, another McDonald character, gives Fletch enough lead to investigate the murder as well as the stolen paintings, and Fletch resolves both. These plotlines resolve a little better.

Fletch’s Fortune finds Fletch blackmailed by the CIA to bug the rooms of journalists at a national convention where the primary target, a newspaper magnate, is murdered. Fletch investigates and solves the crime.

It’s an interesting throwback, the investigative reporter. Remember when they were relevant, briefly, in the 1970s and early 1980s? Remarkable.

A good read; I tore through it, relatively. I have at least one more McDonald on my shelves–a Flynn novel–and need to revisit McDonald’s other works as well. If that’s not enough to get you to consider it, nothing is.

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Going Grant

I know it’s all the rage among conservatives and libertarian types these days to “Go Galt,” that is, to not work as much as you can since the more you work, the more the government takes from you in taxes and basic humanity. It’s too late for that: a couple years back, even before the election of the current president, I absented myself from the work force mostly as I became a consultant and, as time elapsed, more of a stay-at-home Dad than a consultant. So I’m not in the employment numbers anyway, and if I went Galt, our house would be two-boy-induced-rubble in a matter of hours.

But I wanted to go somewhere alliterative. If not Galt, where? I decided to Go Grant.
Continue reading “Going Grant”

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Scared Straights

I sometimes make other people uncomfortable, and by uncomfortable, I mean I creep them the hell out. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because of incidents like this:

Today, I’m watching my child play with the train set in the church-run preschool corridor when one little boy tells one of the teachers/attendants about his twin brother’s cast for his broken finger, which covers the urchin’s complete hand.

Then she turns to me, the only adult in sight, and relates the story of how when she was a child, her sister was goofing off when their parents were gone and managed to knock her thumb out of its socket and jam it up into the hand itself. I agreed that it sounded painful, but the first chit-chat, small-talk comment that came to mind as I stood there, leaning against the cinderblock wall in my beaten old black trenchcoat and holding my black fedora, was:

With a thumb you can dislocate on command, you can slip out of handcuffs easily.

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Andrew Hicks LIVES!

I don’t know why Andrew Hicks’s name popped into my mind tonight. But there it was.

Back in the late 1997s, I encountered his “A Year in the Life of a Nerd” series of posts where he talked about being a teenager in a western St. Louis suburb and then going to Mizzou. As fast as a 14,400 BPS modem and an AOL account would let me, I ran through the whole set to that point.

So once his name popped into my head, I did an Internet search, and lo! The Andrew Hicks World Wide Web Extravaganza, those years in the life of a nerd, have been republished as a blog, by a fan no less. Frankly, I don’t think any of you would do the same for me.

Meanwhile, now over 30, Andrew Hicks is a daddy blogger in Springfield…. Illinois.

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My Stepladder Was On National Television

Last night, the HGTV television program House Hunter featured our home in Old Trees, Missouri (Still available! Cheap!).

We haven’t lived there in a year and a half (sellers ready to make a deal!). Right after we moved out, we had the entire top floor painted. Then, when we changed realtors, we had the house staged, so it’s full of furniture that’s nicer than ours (and which is not charged monthly, thankfully). The porch swing, mounted on a frame instead of hanging from the porch roof, is in the backyard now. My garden, which I tore out of an asphalt driveway with a sledgehammer, a pick, and a shovel, is gone; it’s a patch of grass now.

So it’s our house, but it’s different enough and distant enough that it’s not acute. The only things distinctly ours are the stepladder tucked into the main floor laundry (along with a large supply of light bulbs and 9-volt batteries to keep the rooms lit and the smoke detectors from beeping–one thing that made an unused home seem more unused when we were looking was the unrespiting bleating of abandoned smoke detectors) and the cherry tree in the front yard which should produce a pretty nice crop this year.

I do miss a couple things from the house. The next-door neighbor was often available for a hey,-how-are-you that would turn into a 40 minute chat. We could walk out the front door and walk everywhere. We could sit on our front porch and watch the neighbors walk or drive by (we could even talk, no matter what the “highway noise” complainers, and there have been many) say (loudly).

If it would have aired earlier in the winter, I might have been more wistful. But now that the spring is tipping its hand, the benefits of this house in the mountains are tugging at my sleeve. I spent part of yesterday morning cleaning out our inherited burn pile for an eventual rose garden and in building up a raspberry patch with peat and soil. Later today, I might pick up a couple of fruit trees for the orchard. Also, even though the Springfield murder rate more than doubled last year, it rose to 7. Total. In St. Louis, that’s called a weekend.

It was a strange experience, and a bit exciting, and ultimately the couple who were “considering” our house said mostly nice things about the house. Maybe it will spur some interest in that house so we can finally unload it and get to saving money and thinking about the future.

Also, I’ll need to remember that stepladder.

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Book Report: Dave Barry Turns 40 by Dave Barry (1991)

This is a particularly timely book, as I am now staring at 40 myself and am getting started on my 2/3 life crisis as we speak. I’ve read Barry for 20 years, ever since that Dave Barry Borrowed Book Staining Incident of 1989. So I know how the next 20 years of Dave Barry’s life are going to turn out. Strangely, I also know how both of Dave Barry’s parents died by the time he was 40, too. That’s all very meta, of course, unrelated to the text, but lately I’m really sticking on when a book was written, where I was at the time, and where I and the author might have gone since. But you’re not here for that. Well, if you’re reading the review and did not get here from a Hong Kong Google search for Dave Barry Turns 40 book report, you might be here for that.

At any rate, this book talks about getting older back in an era when 40 was older. Now that the Boomers have come along, though, they destroyed the concepts of “older” even as Dave Barry makes fun of them here. You’ve got your bits on relationships and marriage, your parents and kids, and your body’s changes.

Dave Barry’s humor is topical, and (I haven’t read his recent work–when did the blogs all stop linking to him?) the pieces talk generically about politicians without (too much) asserting that one side is better than the other. That’s a nice respite. Although given the halcyon era we’re dealing with–B.C.–maybe I’ll discover his work changes in the 21st century. I hope not.

Recommended, of course.

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Book Report: Telefon by Walter Wager (1975)

This book is the source of the Charles Bronson movie of the same name (soon to be remade with Shia LeBouef, no doubt). I have it in the movie tie-in mass market paperback and have picked it up a couple times without actually reading any of it until recently.

It’s a Cold War era spy thing with a twist: The Soviets placed hypnotically controlled deep-cover agents across the country with programmed orders to destroy bits of infrastructure. In the decades since their insertion, they’ve become model citizens who don’t even know they’re Soviet agents until a coded message delivered via telephone activates them. A failed coup in the Soviet Union sends a dissident to America with the complete list of these agents and their code phrases–the Telefon book–to seek revenge on the Soviet Union by creating embarrassment or worse. So the Soviets send in a world-wise, cynical secret agent who likes the ladies. When he reaches America, he cuts ties with the local KGB operations to keep himself free of interference and of control. As he hunts the dissident, his superiors start to question whether he can do stop his target or if it would be easier simply to kill all the sleeper agents and their agent-in-place.

A good book, not as tense as a Clancy novel, paced okay prosaically but the action plays out over months where many days the Bronson-agent spends in his hotel watching the news because he has no current leads. Given the nature of the author’s history, he probably had insights into what real intelligence work was like. But, as I said, it paces and reads well.

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Book Report: The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon (1971)

Sometimes, when I’m at a loss about what to read next, I kick the can down the road a bit by selecting a play. Modern plays are pretty easy reads; semi-modern plays (like Ibsen) are heavier fare, but they buy me a couple days before I have to pick another book; but classics (like Shakespeare or Jonson) can take as long as a short book. So when I was at a loss and didn’t want to simply pick up another paperback, I picked up this Neil Simon play. I’ve read a bunch by him in the past (I Ought To Be In Pictures in 2006; Biloxi Blues, Chapter Two, and Broadway Bound in 2007; Lost in Yonkers in 2008; and Laughter on the 23rd Floor in 2009). So I expected a lightweight comedy.

This book is not a lightweight comedy; it’s more heavy dramatic fare. It centers around a recovering alcoholic returning from rehab to her New York apartment, where her remaining friends are an aging actor who’s starting to know he’s not going to make it and an aging woman holding onto her youth and beauty as much as she can. When the gingerbread lady’s seventeen-year-old daughter returns, she has hopes for making as best of a life that she can sober and, she suspects, somewhat boring. When her friends’ problems all erupt at a birthday party, she backslides and has to deal with the aftermath.

It all takes place in a single set–the woman’s apartment–and deals with a milieu and a set of characters I can only imagine through fiction. It doesn’t end with any resolution, nor with any weddings or corpses. It’s a very 1970s kind of thing, probably taking on a slightly taboo subject seriously and pointing out the ongoing nature of life. Not bad, per se, but not compelling. A quick read, though, as it’s only a play, and it doesn’t dismiss the affection I feel for Neil Simon’s plays, however little I actually relate to them.

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Sometimes, My Colossal Humor Failures Amuse Me

As you all know, I’ll fire off obscure jokes that sometimes only one person in the room gets. Sometimes, no one in the room gets them, but that doesn’t make them any less funny. It only makes me more obscure.

Sometimes, though, I fire something off and it fails so spectacularly that the very failure is more amusing than the joke itself.

Yesterday, I tweeted:

“schieß dem Fenster” is the only German I know. It’s all one really needs to know to get by, really.

Ha! Get it? No, of course not. Why would you be any different?

“schieß dem Fenster” is from Die Hard. It means “Shoot the window.” It’s the German that Hans Gruber says to Karl. He then switches to English and “Shoot. The. Glass.”

Now, I made the tweet in the context of my QA blog’s account, so the followers expect little bon mots embracing destruction and whatnot. But to understand and get this particular joke, readers needed 1.) to understand German and 2.) to have seen the film, preferably in English.

I mean, some people might have run the translator, which would have come up with the “Shoot the windows” translation, which makes no sense since Gruber does not make a direct translation when he switches to English. Sadly, though, most won’t make the connection.

Secondly, having seen the film in a German would have stripped the moment of its stand-out, spoken in two languages nature. Who knows, a German dub might have simply had the dubbed voice repeat shoot the windows. Or they might have changed both to shoot the glass.

As a result, I had the following exchange with the only native German speaker who follows me:

Him: So, all German you know doesn’t even make any sense. You’re probably aware of it, right? :)
Me: Wait until I try to pronounce it.
Him: well, as it stands, it means to shoot the window. Wonder what your pronunciation might add there. :)
Me: As translated by Hans Gruber, it comes out “Shoot the glass.” A philosophy to test by.
Him: I’d translate it to “zerschiess das Glas” or “Fenster” instead of “Glas”. And due to new German writing, there is no “ß” anymore
Me: Also, I am quoting from the American film “Die Hard”, which is why what I said is supposed to be humorous.
Me: The eszett lives for QA

Another non-native German speaker (and you know who you are, Gimlet) pointed out the obsolescence of the eszett. But nobody got the joke.

Because it relies on familiarity with a bit of dialogue in a foreign language in a 20-year-old film (hey, old man! How does that feel?) that is indirectly translated in the film itself. Now that’s an obscure quip.

And as I thought about it and the humor’s dependencies, I laughed more about how the joke failed than the joke itself.

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Curses: A Guide to Creative Oaths, Curses, Exclamations, and Epithets

Author’s note: For a long time, this essay was lost to the ages. Somehow, I lost it from the directories and folders that I migrated from PC to PC, from application to application, in the last decade and some. However, I was noodling around and found an old directory from my America Online Web page ca 1998 and found it in Web HTML form. Just so you know, except for the occasional lost item, I’m also a digital pack rat: somewhere, I have the raw hard drive copy of my old 286 and 486 hard drives as well as a couple of others. Not the hard drives. Copies of them. In case I forgot to properly migrate data.

I use four-letter words far too often. After all, I have an English degree from a respected private Midwestern university (Marquette, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). I should have a collection of words to choose from that will convey a proper nuance for my varied daily experiences. Yet, when a crisis moment strikes, a flashpoint of frustration or sudden stress triggers a certain misnomered acronym to explode fricatively from my lips. A piece of pop culture verbal regurgitation gurgles out. But, as suddenly as it comes, it is gone, along with a small serving of stress that brought it on.
Continue reading “Curses: A Guide to Creative Oaths, Curses, Exclamations, and Epithets”

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Warming Up The Magic Rhetorical Transmorgifier

Apparently, the remaining protestors in Madison are getting restive:

(Source: Althouse.)

(Seen on Real Debate Wisconsin.)

If any violence erupts, how quickly will these pro-family, pro-labor, pro-working-man protesters change into anti-government protesters in media accounts? Anti-government protesters just like the Tea Party.

Ha! Rhetorical question! Because immediately is too fast to be considered quickly at all.

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