House Rules at Nogglestead

So I was having a conversation about sports with my six-year-old and my four-year-old, and the conversation wandered to the sport of Buzkashi, as sports conversations with children or, more likely, sports conversations with me tend to do, and the lads took the concept and ran with it.

As such, the game play at Nogglestead is a little more savage, because it involves lasers and goats which are merely stunned and will regain consciousness sometime during the game.

So bring your A-game if you’re going to play at Nogglestead.

Also, I want the boys to get a taste of what happens when you bring to your peer group some tidbit of knowledge so ludicrous that they don’t believe you. Because I’m going to fill their heads with them as the boys grow up, and they’d better get used to it.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Old Man Check

This is some sort of quiz to see if you’re an old man or not. You ladies especially.

Take the list of the top 100 films of 2012 and identify which of them you have seen. I have done this in <strong>, which is orange. Not much orange at that.

Then, identify those that you even know what they’re about. I’ve done this in <em>, which shows up in italics right now.

The list:

Marvel’s The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hunger Games
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
The Amazing Spider-Man
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
Wreck-It Ralph
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Snow White and the Huntsman
Hotel Transylvania
21 Jump Street
Taken 2
Safe House
The Vow
Magic Mike
The Bourne Legacy
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Think Like a Man
The Campaign
The Expendables 2
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Wrath of the Titans
Dark Shadows
John Carter
Rise of the Guardians
Act of Valor
Life of Pi
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
Mirror Mirror
Chronicle (2012)
Pitch Perfect
Hope Springs
Underworld Awakening
The Lucky One
The Dictator
Total Recall (2012)
Titanic 3D
American Reunion
This Means War
Project X
The Woman in Black
Paranormal Activity 4
The Devil Inside
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
The Grey
Red Tails
The Possession
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Beauty and the Beast (3D)
Savages (2012)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Moonrise Kingdom
The Three Stooges
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (in 3D)
Here Comes the Boom
Resident Evil: Retribution
The Cabin in the Woods
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Red Dawn (2012)
Finding Nemo (3D)
End of Watch
Rock of Ages
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
That’s My Boy
Trouble with the Curve
The Watch
Step Up Revolution
Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds
2016 Obama’s America
House at the End of The Street
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Joyful Noise
The Five-Year Engagement
Cloud Atlas
One For the Money
Alex Cross
Katy Perry: Part of Me
Sparkle (2012)
Premium Rush
Big Miracle
The Secret World of Arrietty

Most of the films I even can suss out what they’re about is because they’re sequels, remakes, or titles depicting well-known fairy tales. I probably even consider that I knew what the film was about in some cases if I just knew it was a movie.

Or, in the case of The Transporter on a bike, because I saw the trailer and mocked it.

We can certainly teases this out into a number of blog posts about how Hollywood might make movies whose brands are recognizable on title alone to hit low information infrequent movie goers or how perhaps I’m not really the target audience for Hollywood anyway. We could, I mean, but I’m not going to.

I’d make a list of people who acted in them, but I bet it’s a list of fewer recognizees. And I am the pop culturally literate one of the family. Which is why our house is full of classical literary allusions instead.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Dramatic, Italicised Implications

Sometimes, the confluences of events and influences are merely coincidental. On the other hand, I have a budget for dramatic italics that I have to spend by the end of the year, so here it goes:

Headline: Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations:

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

Sadly, though, in many cases the confluent events and impulses of governmental and government-supporting people all tend to run a direction that is remarkably similar to a totalitarian conspiracy, ainna?

They want to put microphones in mass transit, and they want to make more people take mass transit. Because that’s where the microphones are.

Good thing they don’t do that sort of thing with cars. Or will they?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders standard on all new vehicles.

In a notice posted Thursday, the White House Office of Management Budget said it has completed a review of the proposal to make so-called vehicle “black boxes” mandatory in all cars and trucks, clearing the way for NHTSA to publish its final regulation.

The rule deals with Event Data Recorders, which have the built in safety protocols of government regulation regarding their use. You know, the same kinds of regulations that say that individual government employees should not access government databases for their own personal interest or to leak to the media, and the same government regulations that say private data shouldn’t get loaded onto IT contractor’s laptops and get left behind on the (hot mic) subway. You know, government regulations that are etched in graphite.

At any rate, most media accounts equate these Event Data Recorders with the black boxes in airplanes. But the black boxes in airplanes have voice recorders, too, don’t they?

It’s almost enough to make a man with a little bit of an imagination and a bunch of slanty letters feel a touch paranoid. Or prophetic.

(First link via Instapundit, and you know what that means. Nothing, essentially, but I had more italics to use up.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Warrantless Wiretapping of Your Body

Also on the heavy commercial rotation during football games is this gem:

I work in QA, so I’m not going to be an early adopter of any computerized gee-gaws inserted into my body.

But I can’t help seeing that infusion of technology into the human body and think about how something like the cyborgization of your cellular phone and body might give the government warrantless access to your body.

No, thanks. Cuh-reepy, and that’s saying a lot coming from someone creepy.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Timeless Places: Paris by Judith Mahoney Pasternak (2000)

Book coverI borrowed this book from the library specifically for browsing during football games; I started the Sunday night when the Packers played the Giants, but I did not end up watching a lot of football that evening, so it was later that I returned to the book and finished it off during the Eagles-Cowboys game before halftime.

It’s a picture book featuring scenes from Paris. The first bit of text in the book talks about, at a high level, the history of the city from the times of the Parisii through Roman times to the modern day. It covers the famous artists who lived there, and I can’t help note that it puts more paragraphs on homosexuals (Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Rimbaud) than on individual heterosexuals. F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example, gets a passing mention in a comma-separated list of people. Perhaps it’s only to emphasize the open, accepting culture of Paris. I dunno. But I noticed it because the culture wars have really made me sensitive to it.

At any rate, I don’t know what to say about the photographs themselves. Paris has a lot of things to depict, so I get the sense one could take meaningful and appealing photographs of Paris if one dropped one’s camera periodically.

Still, the text of the book provided me with some insight into the history of the city and the images were pleasing. So the book was educational as well as useful in my annual march toward 100 books. Which I will not hit this year, but there’s always next year.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Cleaning Out The Garage, Sort Of

This weekend, I was treated to the unmistakable scent of rodent decay in my garage near my work bench. One night last week, when I’d flipped on the light to toss something in the recycle bin, I thought I’d seen a shadow moving across the floor toward my cabinets over there, and when I got the scent, I figured the little fellow had gotten trapped somewhere over there.

So I spent part of my Sunday afternoon moving the mess off of my cabinets and onto my workbench so I could look behind them and clean up as needed. I moved out the table saw that I asked for, and received, for Christmas two years ago that has remained in its box since then as my garage noodling has moved from woodworking to other things. I shuffled aside the collections of glass and wood that I’ve accumulated for just-in-case. I moved the cabinets, which are essentially inexpensive topless cabinets upon which I’ve laid a twenty-five-year-old piece of kitchen counter. I got behind them to find the pegboard hooks and miscellany that had fallen behind them. And ran a broom.

So the dead mouse was just an excuse, and as part of my clean up, I actually disposed of a couple of things. I’ll hang on while someone drags out the defibrillators and charges you back up.

I got rid of:

  • The tray from an old child booster seat. When we were freshly procreating, a friend who was done with his trio of children and was planning to move out of the St. Louis area gave us a little booster seat that you strap to a chair from which your tot can eat. It’s a step up from a high chair, one of which the fellow also gave us without a couple vital parts. However, when we moved the kids from the high chair to the booster seat, we shoved them to the table with the family instead of using the click-on tray. So the tray and the booster seat were separated, not to be rejoined when we donated the booster seat or gave it away. I held onto the tray, though, in case I had the urge to paint it as an objet-d’art or something. Bah. I have enough junk I’m never going to use for crafts. Out it went.
  • Yard signs from the 2010 elections and the 2010 primaries. Remember those heady days? I almost do. I kept them to decorate my garage or in case they became collectibles, but I’m not sure who would want a state auditor sign and my garage wall has better things to do as far as decorations go.Out they went.
  • A small plastic cylinder measuring about an inch and a half tall and an inch and a half in diameter. I don’t know if it was the part of a shroud for a desk chair cylinder or the part of an old vacuum cleaner (both of which I retained yesterday, don’t think I’m crazy in my divestment of hoarded good-for-nothing items). It’s the sort of thing I saved because I always think there might come a time when you want something exactly like that, but when you do, you won’t have one on hand. I won’t, now, too, and since the garbage men have emptied the can, it is too late for me.Out it went.
  • A perfectly good s-hook that had fallen on the floor. That was its only flaw: it was on the floor. I could have picked it up, but I have other new s-hooks that were not partially worn.Out it went.

It took me a half hour to move the stuff around and then sweep up around it. I stopped before I got to the shelves of old paint cans and adhesives, though, because that would have been a whole nother can of depackratification worms. Then I looked in the obvious place for the dead mouse and removed it.

So I’m continuing on my small, measured path to unhoarding.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Only Journalists and Their Readers Are Surprised

Anyone who knew how insurance coverage works expected this: Surprise: New insurance fee in health overhaul law

Your medical plan is facing an unexpected new fee. It’s to help cover people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The $63-per-head fee — buried in a recent regulation —will hit health plans serving an estimated 190 million Americans, mostly workers and their families. It’s payable starting in 2014.

Of course, the $63 fee levied by the government doesn’t cover the actual cost of the new mandates, which is why insurance premiums have already gone up before this fee takes effect.

But baby steps, reporters. Baby steps.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Subtext: Chinese Laptops Make Espionage Easy

Watching football the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten a heavy dose of this particular commercial:

Message: Chinese laptops make espionage easy.

Really? I guess Lenovo’s exciting ad agency doesn’t remember this:

The United States government is planning to spend roughly $13M USD on computers from Lenovo. The company, famous for buying up IBM’s PC manufacturing arm, is working on a deal with the US government to produce roughly 16,000 computers. Just recently, the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission (USCC) has requested that Lenovo be probed for any concerns about possible spying, eavesdropping or worse.

The supposed problem presented by the USCC is that the 16,000 computers are being built by a Chinese-mainland company. The USCC argues that a foreign intelligence like that of the Communist Party of China (CPC) can use its power to get Lenovo to equip its machines with espionage devices. Lenovo has strongly declined that it is involved in any such activities.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Teaching The Children Lessons of Daniel Webster and Rober Heinlein, Accidentally

Neo-neocon offers some quotes about governance:

There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. – Robert A. Heinlein

It brought to mind questions my children often ask me about the cartoons and superhero things they encounter regarding the motivations of the villains: Why does Megatron do that? or What does Loki want?

My simplistic answer is always the same: Because he wants to rule people/humans/Autobots. I explain that some people want to just tell other people what to do because they think that they, the tellers, know better than other people, and the other people better do it or else.

I think the oldest boy, in first grade, can understand that from his experiences with his peers. Hopefully, he will learn that acting to compel your peers according to your sense of what the others should do is generally wrong except in limited circumstances (harm to others, Because I’m the daddy and whatnot).

In my Tea Party Republican world, I’m a hero fighting against the forces who would use the government to compel action or behavior from citizens. I know some people think the Republican Party would like to force some behavior on citizens, but it’s not the Republican Party in the legislature nor in the bureaucracy that’s doing things like banning incandescent light bulbs, upping government standards to limit choice (as in CAFE standards for automotive performance), and so on. And where elements of the Republican Party pursues its excesses in this regard, I oppose them, too.

Because I’m a political philosophical superhero, or at the very least someone who agrees with Heinlein and Webster. And hopefully, my children will, too.

Some people

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

If You Have To Pay Businesses To Open Shop In Your Town, You’re Doing It Wrong

Downtown St. Louis has some new jobs promised:

Hudson’s Bay Co., one of Canada’s biggest retailers, said today it is about to present its expanded information technology services operation in downtown St. Louis.

Apparently, the company is moving the jobs because of costs in doing business in Toronto. Also:

Officials have said that getting public incentives from St. Louis and the state of Missouri are key to the job additions.

St. Louis government officials will be on hand to celebrate and to pour the gravy. The center promises 130 jobs in exchange for the public monies. Note that these are promised jobs over the course of some years for monies probably starting now. Also, in what might be a stunning turn of events, over the course of the next few years, there might be a number of Canadian technology professionals relocating to the St. Louis area as their jobs move from Toronto.

If you’ve got to pay businesses to come to your city, you’re doing something very, very wrong. And the city of St. Louis continues to do it very, very wrong very, very eagerly. Because government officials don’t get to go to photo-friendly events when people just open businesses because it’s a good place to do business, with good infrastructure, good schools, and good public services such as police protection.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

It’s Like a Hotel Minibar for Children

We bought a box of the miniature cereal boxes as a treat for the boys. It’s like a hotel minibar for children, and it yields the same gluttonous results.

The cereal bar was open.

My beautiful wife, who was once the Health Minister of the Alliance of Free Blogs, was astonished. “That’s six hundred calories,” she said.

Well, yes. They are boy children, and they consume about two thirds of a box of the new and improved 12 ounce boxes of cereal each morning, so, yeah. Wait until they get about twelve and fourteen.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Genghis Khan and the Mongol Conquests 1190-1340 by Stephen Turnbull (2003)

Book coverThis book is a brief (fewer than 100 pages) military history of the Mongols, starting with Genghis Khan. It’s part of a series of short, topical books by Osprey Publishing that look pretty interesting; I’d look for them myself at book fairs, but I recognize that these days, I’m just sniffing among the trash left by Internet-device-enabled book dealers who will find these things before I do and will try to then sell them to me at more than $1 each. Look down there at the price of this one, for crying out loud. It’s almost enough to make me consider not returning this book to the library (but I did).

At any rate, it focuses more on the military conquests of the Mongols starting with the consolidation of their central Asian power base and continuing through their campaigns in Europe, the Middle East, China, and Southwest Asia. Its focus, as I might have mentioned, is on the military strategies and tactics of the Mongols, and the focus really, er, focuses on how brutal they were. This slender volume does not have any of the leavening effect of their administration, religious tolerance, and other homer bits that run throughout Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

Still, it’s a quick read, with lots of images and maps helping to fill the pages. So it’s more like a long encyclopedia entry than a scholarly book. But a good read and a good primer. Man, I’ll have to seek out some more of these Ospery books.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories