Snakes. Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

In addition to all the various fauna that comes around Nogglestead, including but not limited to armadillos, skunks, raccoons, opossums, and whatnot, we have some reptilian friends about, too, mostly skinks and snakes, who sometimes find their way through holes in the foundation to roam our family room. Briefly. Until our elderly cat gets them.

Well, he doesn’t always get them. One night recently, I was watching a Steven Seagal movie when I heard some hissing from behind me. My two cats were facing off on a very agitated snake on my family room floor. You know, the one we routinely cross barefooted. I called my wife, not so much to handle the snake but to keep the cats back while I…. what? Lopped its head off on the carpeting? That’s SOP, but it would have involved a lot of mess, so I sought an alternative form of treatment, and my poor wife couldn’t see the spectacle, since she was on the phone working at 8pm on a Friday night (!).

So I grabbed an empty clear bin and its lid and managed to snatch the agitated snake half in the bin. This did not calm the snake, but I did get a chance to look closely for fangs. Nothing. So we got that going for us. I opened the back door and threw the snake into the night.

Yeah, I know, I could have been more manly by grabbing the snake by its tail all Steve Irwin-like or even by watching a more appropriate Escape from New York when the incident occurred. However.

At any rate, the other day, my beautiful wife spotted the fellow or its ilk on the deck in the sun:

The snake on the deck

So it gave me a chance to try to identify the snake. It looks to be a hatchling black rat snake, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site:

The Black Rat Snake

Well, all right, this guy goes on the list with all the garter snakes and striped snakes I’ve seen around here. But copperheads are native to the region, too:

The Copperhead Snake

The Missouri DoC even offers a pamphlet entitled Missouri Copperheads: They’re Your Friend. They Love You. Please, Put Down The Hoe (PDF). All right, I might have funnin’ed on that subtitle, but not by much. The real subtitle is “They Are Vital To The Natural Scene. They Rarely Bite. They Never Kill”.

It has a nice section about living with the little pit viper, like it’s an episode of Friends and you and this poisonous creature are going to share repartee about personal relationships in the coffee shop. Well, no, it’s tips about leaving them alone.

You know what the Nogglestead policy on deadly creatures is? Hoe, hut! I’ve got children wandering around here, and I can’t chance letting that little rascal slither out of my sight to pop up later with its feline-shaped pupils staring at one of them. Particularly if it’s near the house.

Does that make me a bad, bad man? Copperheads have a lot of acreage out there to roam about happily having a collective negative impact on wildlife in many areas, killing ground-nesting birds, fledgling songbirds and small mammals. I don’t want them on mine.

The MO DoC explains that they rarely bite. Be that as it may, I know someone who has been bitten by a copperhead in the last year (while camping). Just for fun, find out how much antivenom costs and whether your insurance company fully covers it. I’d recommend you do it just for fun and not based on need, or you might walk into an antivenom shortage.

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Friends, it’s time that we in the 99 44/100 DEMAND that our politicians and leaders stopped helping Wall Street and started helping Elm Street!

How many innocent teenagers must die before the government takes control of our dreams?

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Spot the Commercial’s Fallacy

Watching the baseball playoffs, one has seen this commercial ad naseum:

I don’t see a tire air station right there; they’re mostly at the edge of gas station lots these days, if available at all. The fellow embarrassedly denies he’s going to the bathroom for some reason, but we might be expected to believe it. If so, what is the more problematic error?

  • The man is moving to an exterior bathroom, but on modern convenience store/gas station layout has the bathrooms inside so that people pass buy the expensive convenient drinks and candy.
  • When the man gets out, the car indicates that he has left the keys in the ignition. Ergo, if he leaves sight of the car, the car could very well be gone shortly thereafter. Not far, of course, because it’s an electric car, but gone none the less.

I wish my tax dollars had bought more attentive commercials.

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Whose Side Is Your Vet On?

A question for newspaper vet Dr. Fox begins with an attack on the pet owner:

Dear Dr. Fox • My cat has developed a worrying habit. She is 12 years old and is very fit — she catches at least two animals a week. But recently, she has been panting heavily after any small amount of exercise. A friend suggested she might have diabetes. — R.E.O., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dear R.E.O. • It disturbs me that you allow your cat outdoors to kill wild creatures on a regular basis. Cats like yours have a collective negative impact on wildlife in many areas, killing ground-nesting birds, fledgling songbirds and small mammals.

Forget your peace of mind and the health of your cat. Who will speak for the vermin?

Memo to Dr. Fox: Cats don’t have to go outside to catch prey. Our oldest cat, 15, lived for a year outside, but since he’s come back into the house, he’s caught lizards that somehow sneak in and even had a confrontation with a snake in the middle of our family room one evening.

Still, I like animals, but I seem to be the last animal liker who realizes that animals are just, you know, animals. They shouldn’t have the right to vote, and their potential liberators do not have the right to harangue. Jeez.

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Good Book Hunting: October 15, 2011

This is the short autumn book fair season in the Ozarks, as the Friends of the Christian County Book Fair, Friends of the Polk County Book Fair, and Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Fair all occur in the same two weekend stretch. Today, we started off by going to the Friends of the Christian County Library (why, yes, we are members) Book Fair in Ozark.

And look at this small haul on my part. That’s my stack on the right. I got fewer books than the children and a smaller stack than my wife, who buys magazines in bulk to tear apart for recipes:

Friends of the Christian County Library Book Fair October 2011

Among my purchases:

  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Special Edition 2005, A Treasury of Early American Homes, Firearms Encyclopedia, and Jokes and Anecdotes, books to flip through during ball games. I hope the Cardinals make it to the World Series; at the rate of five or six nights of sports a week, I was running low on my stock of flip-through books, so I bought these. If the Cardinals don’t make it to the World Series and I’m down to one night of sports a week in the next couple of days, I might have bought too much.
  • It’s Your Ship, a book about management written by a Navy captain.
  • Lord Jim by Conrad. It might be a duplicate, but who knows? It was only a buck, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Battlestation by Ben Bova.
  • The 96th Executioner book. A couple years back, this particular book fair had a dump of the latter day pulp series, and I bought a couple, but not many. I should have jumped more as I like at least the Executioner series and the SOBs, and I’ve not seen it replicated. One household or estate dumped a bunch, one time.
  • Three that I bought on the aforementioned “I might have them already, but it’s only a buck, so I’ll buy them to be sure” protocol. I already have Hidden Prey, Mortal Prey, and The Robots of Dawn, so I traded out one better copy but now have dupes to share. If you want them, let me know, and I’ll post them out.

No, I don’t have a smart phone, which is how I get the dupes. And I’m against getting one and using it to check the values of books on the tables. You know what? A decade ago, when I was doing the Ebay thing and buying books, games, and whatnot from garage sales and estate sales to list on Ebay, I had to know or guess what might sell. The real pros, too, had to know something about what they were dealing with and what would sell.

Now, every bozo with a smart phone gets an app to tell him what’s worthwhile, and it takes a little out of it, and when that bozo gets in front of you going through the books and bogs the ever-loving peat out of it by scanning the UPC of every last book, it, well, leaves one completely peatless. At some point, the smart phone ceases to be a tool for the seller, and the seller becomes just a tool of the Internet. Or just a tool.

At any rate, I plan to hit Friends of Springfield-Greene County Library Book Fair this week on a school day and to hit Friends of the Polk County Library in Bolivar (rhymes with Tolliver, somehow) next Saturday. And in just three book fairs, I expect to have bought more books than I’ve read the entire year. Although I only bought 10 net books (13 gross) today, so maybe I’ll behave myself.

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Book Report: Gainsborough: A Biography by Elizabeth Ripley (1964)

Book coverUnlike the first biography of Gainsborough I read, this books pages are all separated, so I got a better sense of Gainsborough, the man, and his rise amid the world of British painters, his preference for painting landscapes and common folk instead of the portraits that paid his bills and kept his family in the good life, eventually. So I have more respect and understanding for the artist this time around.

Unfortunately, the reproductions of his work herein are all in black and white, so it creates a bit of a chasm between the vivid descriptions of the paintings and the images themselves.

I posted the review of the first book a week and a couple days before my mother died. Oh, the new normalcy into which we’d found ourselves with her sickness and her daily treatments, but where I still had time to sit in my reading spot in my home in Old Trees and read every night. Now, some years later, a new new normalcy, maybe even a couple normalcies beyond that one. I mention this in a book report about a single volume just to emphasize that a book and its reading experience can resonate in one’s memory. Can a Kindle representation do that for you? Given how much I remember about reading things online on the computer, I’d have to think not.

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My Left Shoe Needed A Hashtag

Here I am, stepping all over Charles’ schtick by blogging about shoes, but here is one of my current, relatively new, and very soon to be former shoes:

Air comfort system.

I bought these shoes for $20 recently at Target. Or Walmart. Wherever, I don’t pay more than $25 a pair for daily walking around shoes because I have a tendency to step in or drop things that are not white. Of course, I have always worn white shoes (except for my two year hitch as a printer, where I wore a lot of black and reflect blue) because, as a child, I liked running and looking down at the blurring white streaks that were my feet (I was that fast, but no more).

Notice the text on the bottom of my left shoe. It says “Air Comfort System.” For the purpose of separating this particular Starter shoe from other $20 offerings, the company has put air bladders in the bottom of the shoes. They make it out like it’s a comfort thing, but I think it’s probably just cheaper than solid rubber or synthetics.

In my basement recently, I heard a little tweeting like a bird was in the basement, but I couldn’t find the source. It didn’t make me question my sanity immediately, as we’ve had a bird nest at the top of our chimney this year, and you could hear the birds pretty clearly at the end of either flue. But I heard this particular tweeting in the hall downstairs and later in the hall upstairs, far from the chimney. Maybe it’s the hallucinations, I thought to comfort myself.

Oh, but no.

Apparently, the air bladder on the bottom of my left shoe developed a small hole. Randomly, when I lifted my left shoe, the air sneaking back into the bladder made the tweet sound. I finally isolated the source of the sound, which is why I can recount the story (the other strange sounds and voices I’m keeping to myself).

Oh, but that was a couple days ago, and this is now. Now, the hole has opened wider so every step has the effect to a greater degree. I sound like I’m walking in a room full of dog toys constantly. Heavens to betsy lou, but I’m going to have to double my annual shoe expenditures in the very near term and will have learned enough to avoid anything with air in the bottom.

(Other cheap shoe blogging here.)

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Book Report: Remembering Reagan by Peter Hannaford and Charles D. Hobbs (1994)

Book coverThis book is a collection of photographs from the Reagan administration and grouped around events or topics in his presidency like the inaugurations, the attack on Libya, the firing of the PATCO air traffic controllers, Iran-Contra, and so on. Each section/chapter runs 2-4 pages and has a couple paragraphs from each event or period.

It’s a nice trip back to the 1980s. I was but a boy then, of course, so my growing awareness of the political world was rising quickly. I don’t remember many of the things from his first administration, but by the second, I’m familiar with the themes and the events. The photos show Reagan, of course, but they are also photos of the period, with the fashion, blocky glasses, big hair, and whatnot.

I have to say, aside from the weird stuff in the urban areas, the 1980s fashions that trickled down to Missouri weren’t hideous enough to scar us, unlike the things that Boomers did to themselves. I mean, plaid pants? Really?

I inherited this book from my aunt Dale, I deduce, because it was sent out to her beau in 1994 and has a letter from some Republican fundraising organization or another in it and a certificate of authenticity that says this is a numbered copy of the deluxe edition that was limited to 125,000. I’m pretty sure that that must have been the whole initial press run of this book.

The book is worth a browse for the nostalgia and for its mood lifting potential: 8 years of Reagan lifted the national mood quite a bit and ushered in several decades of positive growth and national mood. These times we’re in, they too will pass, and the end result might be a better world instead of Mad Maxville.

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Book Report: Bruges and Its Beauties by J.J. De Mol (1986)

Book coverWell, if you cracked open this book and expected to see a bunch of Flemish women in revealing clothing patterned upon the traditional garb of the region, you would be disappointed as I was. The “beauties” of the title are, in fact, the old buildings, art work, and religious artifacts in this Belgian town that dates back to the early Middle Ages.

The photos are beautiful and the things in the beautiful photos are beautiful, but the most interesting things in the book are the captions, which tell of the city’s history as it was a commercial center and its position under the various dukes and kings that had dominion over what later became Belgium. The poor country gets short shrift in European history, and sometimes these low-level focused photo books are great gateways to knowledge about overlooked regions.

So I liked the book.

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The Fantastic World of D.C. Noggle

So I got two texts to my cellular phone, which still bears the St. Louis area code. The texts were in Spanish, and the content was essentially If someone calls for me, don’t give them this number. I assume that “this number” was the cellular phone from which the texts originated.

Friends, I’m no D.C. Collins, but I have on occasion fancied myself the potential plotter of thrillers, and often those suspense novels begin by drawing a normal person into a dangerous shadow world through some seemingly innocuous event.

So I’d be lying if I said I didn’t briefly consider whether an errant text message from a terrorist cell based in St. Louis set a van full of Gunwalker guns on its way southwest to rub out the recipient before the convoluted scheme unraveled.

You might call it insanity; I prefer to think of it as a rich interior life.

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Book Report: One Hour Crafts for Kids by Cindy Groom Harry (1993)

Book coverThe title pretty much says it all: it’s a collection of easy crafts you can do with your children or your children should be able to do themselves, assuming they’re old enough to handle glue and scissors without inventing any new hair styles or gluing scissors to the light fixtures. That is to say, if you have boys, when they’re old enough to think crafts are for girls, but girls and girl things are icky.

Sixteen projects range from light woodworking in making a keyhanger to simple painting things and glued felt. The project materials don’t look to be too expensive and could probably be assembled from scraps if you’re a crafty person. However, if you’re a crafty person, you have ideas and craft books you can use to think up your own crafts for kids.

I guess the market is people who want to come up with something to do to occupy their little girls for an hour at a time. Not exactly me. But, hey, the Packers won the game during which I browsed this book.

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Creating Ethanol Supporters in Preschool

You know, I’m sure it seems like a good idea to some people to make automotive fuel out of corn, a food source not only for people but also for food animals that people will then eat.

But we start them young on the using food for things other than feeding:

Food art

I look at those and I see wasted calories, brother. I don’t think potato stamps are a good idea, either.

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Book Report: A Bag of Noodles by Wally Armbruster (1972)

Book coverIt’s hard to know what I expected when I picked this book up; probably a collection of poems in a chapbook sort of thing. It definitely carries that vibe, as Armbruster talks about Christianity, humility, and taking care of your fellow man in poems and bullet-pointed type musings.

However, the book has an essay on creativity, wherein the truly creative person thinks far ahead of others. The creative person sees the problem, sees that he is the one to solve it, sees the solution, and only then fills in the blanks to make that solution possible. 1, 2, 5, 3, 5, Armbruster calls it. In a recent piece, James Lileks describes Steve Jobs in those terms, although he doesn’t mention that he got it from Armbruster. He probably didn’t, but two pieces I’ve read ran in parallel.

The book itself came with two local papers’ obituaries for Armbruster from the middle 1990s clipped and tucked into them. I’ve noticed that’s a trend: putting authors’ obits in the authors’ books. I wonder where that started and why so many people do it.

At any rate, this book is worth a quick read. It’s an hour or so of realtime sports or a magazine-browse length of dedicated time, and the essay on creativity is worthwhile if you don’t get much out of the rest.

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The Horns of a Dilemma

25 minutes before game one of the 2011 National League Championship Series, and I can’t decide for whom to root.

The Cardinals versus the Brewers

Do I go with the team of my homeland, the team for whom I cried when I was a lad when the St. Louis Cardinals beat them in the World Series? Or the team whose games I attended throughout the 80s and into the 90s and 00s after I relocated to St. Louis?

By the way, the shirts/numbers are: Milwaukee Brewers #15 (Jim Edmonds); Green Bay Packers #74 (Aaron Kampman); St. Louis Cardinals #7 (J.D. Drew).

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Rolling Stone Poll Voters #OccupyMemoryLane

According to a Rolling Stone poll, Starship’s “We Built This City” is the worst song of the 1980s:

This could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll. You really, really, really hate “We Built This City” by Starship. It crushed the competition. This isn’t the first time this happened to this song. In 2004 Blender named this song the Most Awesomely Bad Song of All Time.

As much as I hate to differ with that aging Boomer hipster magazine of record, that song is a pop rock anthem:

I mean, it’s a bit of raging against the machine in a sort of inchoate fashion that captures some of the angsty adolescents crave. Who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars? They do! Don’t tell us you need us, ’cause we’re the ship of fools. I don’t even quite know what it means, but I know I felt (and still sometimes) feel that way.

I mean, it’s not even Starship’s weakest hit of the decade. Continue reading “Rolling Stone Poll Voters #OccupyMemoryLane”

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Book Report: Missouri Hard-to-Believe-but-True! by Carole Marsh (1990)

Book coverI remember reading another book in this series, and I was surprised that I bought two. I’d have been more surprised if I had bought the second after I read Missouri Bandits, Bushwhackers, Outlaws, Crooks, Devils, Ghosts, & Desperadoes earlier this year. But I bought them both at the same time.

It’s more of the same: a couple things native to Missouri, many more things that were not native to Missouri but were instead made relevant by appending phrases like “folks in Missouri” to them, wingdings in words, and all that business.

Maybe I’m in a slightly more charitable mood in October than I was in January, since I will say these books might not be a complete waste of about an hour of a baseball game’s in between pitches time. I did find at least worth investigating for a written piece. But I won’t cite this book as a source, as you cannot take anything in it as truth.

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Book Report: Paris, Tightwad, and Peculiar: Missouri Place Names by Margot Ford McMillen (1994)

Book coverThis book at the Republic branch of the library had been teasing me for some time. When I’m there with the children or when my beautiful wife needs to pick up a book, I look over the regional history shelves. I picked up this book on a couple of occasions and put it back, vowing to read my own books before I check another out of the library. But as you know, gentle reader, I’ve been a little susceptible to library books recently, and I fell for this book.

From the title, one might expect some encyclopedic or list-based review of place names. That is not the case. This book covers, broadly, Missouri area history from the Indians in the area to the French, then Spanish, then French, then American settlers and the industries that moved through the area and how each impacted the naming of areas. Then the book gives a couple examples of it. Many of the names come from considerations when it came to creating the Post Office for each one.

So it wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but it’s a nice little read that’s more of a high-level history of Missouri than a real in-depth study of place names. I got a couple ideas for pieces out of it, which is really all you can ask for any survey book like this.

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A Bacheloresque Movie Review

As you can probably guess, I have two sets of shelving for my videocassettes and DVDs. Not based on format, but based on whether I’ve actually watched the videocassette or DVD. Not based on whether I’ve watched the film, mind you; based on whether I’d watched that particular copy of the film since I bought it for a quarter at a garage sale or book fair. Sometimes, too, I put a movie back on the to-watch shelves when I want to watch it again sometime soon, and sometimes that sometime soon stretches into years.

But when the aforementioned beautiful wife travels for business, I relive some of my bachelor nights and pseudobachelor-but-before-children nights where I watch a couple of films to pass an evening. This week, I had the chance to do so and watched and rewatched a couple of videocassettes. Frankly, I like videocassettes because they present the film from start to finish, often with coming attractions that take you back in time (see also this recent post, wherein by “recent” I mean “almost two-year-old”). Also, if a videocassette fails, it fails spectacularly, whereas my recent viewing of Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic on DVD ‘failed’ by skipping 20 minutes of content, and given the pacing of the movie, we weren’t really sure whether it was just a 70s stylish jump cut.

But I digress.

This week, I watched:

The Eiger Sanction starring Clint Eastwood, which is why I own it. It sounds like a Ludlum title, and it has some elements of the basic thriller, wherein an assassin is called out of retirement to ‘sanction’ assassins who ‘sanctioned’ one of our agents, and although he can get one guy with intelligence provided by the albino, former Nazi head of the agency employing Eastwood, who is a professor teaching art history and collecting smuggled art work with his fees. Very similar to the Chuck Norris character in Good Guys Wear Black and, for that matter, the original Jason Bourne.

The film then takes a big detour into mountain climbing training, as intelligence indicates only that the other assassin will be part of a team attempting to climb the Eiger’s north face in the Alps. So Clint Eastwood’s character teams up with an old covert agent buddy who’s the ‘ground’ man for the team and tries to climb the mountain with the team, uncover the assassin’s identity through intrigue, and carry out his assignment.

Definitely a product of its time and of Eastwood’s emerging film direction/production ego. It’s said he wanted to make this film because he wanted to climb mountains and whatnot. What, Where Eagles Dare was not enough seven years earlier? I guess not.

At any rate, it’s not a great bit of work, as you can tell by the fact that 40 years later, only die hard Eastwood fans watch it.

Just Visiting starring Christina Applegate and Jean Reno. Friends, you can claim to be a Jean Reno fan, but unless you’ve seen this film more than once, you’re a piker. Sure, Ronin and The Professional are okay, but are they essentially a French comedy brought to the States and Americanned up by John Hughes? No, they are not.

It’s a funny enough bit about a medieval nobleman and his squire brought to modern (pre-September 11) New York when they seek to go back in time slightly to right a dastardly bit of courtly intrigue. Hey, I laughed at it a couple times. And this, after I saw it in the theater in 2001.

Frankly, it’s only the proven depth of my Jean Reno and Clint Eastwood fandom that allows me to admit that I watched The Cutting Edge. Again. What can I say? I’m a fan of montages, and this film has them in spades. Figure skating montages, though.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about a hockey player who’s hit by the West Germans in the Olympics and loses some sight and can’t play hockey again. It’s also the story of a figure skating princess whose father’s dream has been an Olympic gold metal since she was young, but she sabotages her performance on ice and her relationships with her skating partners. It’s his last chance and her last chance.

Hey, I can relate to a story of a hardscrabble guy from up north falling for a girl above his class. Also, this film taught me everything I know about skating: when I’m at the rink’s skate rental counter, remember to ask for hockey skates so I don’t trip over the toe pick.

I discovered while researching this post that there were three sequels 26 years after the original came out: The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold (2006), The Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream (2008), and The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice (2010). I have no words to express how I feel in light of this new knowledge.

Geri’s Game is a Pixar short, an early bit of computer animation that won the Oscar for short films in 1987. How short is it? It took me longer to rewind the wonky videocassette than it took to watch the whole thing. In it, an old man plays chess in a park against himself.
Not to be confused with Gerald’s Game.

So I’ve moved 4 videocassettes out of my cabinet of unwatched films to the wall of watched films. This will probably hold me until my wife’s next trip. But I did take a moment to rearrange the dozens of movies, documentaries, and television shows to bring things I wanted to watch this week closer to the front. Although whether that will hold true next time I get a hankering for cinema remains to be seen. If you can call the above films cinema,.

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Book Report: Triumph TRs by Graham Robson (1981)

Book coverYou remember when I bought this book four years ago? Me, either, but I remember I bought of books about the little British automobile at the time. I thought it might be a good little picture book to flip through while watching sports.

Well, I was sort of wrong.

This is not a mere picture book with lots of loving plates depicting the automobile. This is a very detailed history of the automobile and its evolution over the decades of its history written by a high-level employee of Triumph. The book pretty much enumerates the stock parts on every Triumph built based upon serial number. It will tell you that the Triumphs up to his serial number had this engine, and then to this number they had that suspension, and all the way up from the original TRs to the TR7. To be frank, I’m not a gearhead, so most of the information just rolled over me.

I say the author was a high-level employee because he has a low view of the labor that built the automobile. No, strike that: he had a low view of the organized labor that stopped the production of his beloved TRs at various plants at various points. He calls them suicidal and bloody minded at one point. Also, he has no truck with the United States government and its safety and emissions controls that start shackling the automobile’s performance in the 1960s. This guy is a Tea Partier, between the Tea Parties and drinking tea.

So what did I take away from this book? Well, I have a favorite TR body (the TR6, which was built in the 1960s and looks a little like the American pony cars of the era), and I have some insight into the importance of rally cars and those races to automobile dealers and manufacturers in Britain in the early 20th century. Also, I have a pile of research, so sometime, somewhere, a character in a book might drive a TR.

So it’s a worthwhile read if you’re into British cars or if you’re just out-of-control in your reading habits.

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