The Morning Routine At Nogglestead

After getting dressed and breaking their fasts, the boys like to go outside for a couple of minutes before leaving for school in the morning to firet all of their Nerf guns at once and to explode into the open space around us.

Which means the last bit of the morning ritual is generally like that of this morning:

Father, 7:27am: “Boys, get ready to load up.”
Father, 7:32am: “Boys, load up.”
Boy, 7:33am: Brings his bike into the garage along with a single Nerf gun.
Father, 7:34am: “Number 2, where are you?” Looks in tree.
Father, 7:36am: “Number 1, go get his bike.” Which father sees in the ditch beside the road.
Father, 7:37am: “Number 2, LOAD UP!”
Boy, 7:37am: Climbs twenty feet down from a different tree. Goes with his brother to retrieve not just a bike, but also a cot, a chair, and half a dozen other Nerf guns from the ditch.
All, 7:41am: Actually leave for school.

Another Of Brett Kavanaugh’s Dastardly Deeds Surfaces

In 1981, Brett Kavanaugh threw a Jart negligently, recklessly, or maliciously near children, showing no care no concern that this FATAL SKY BOMB might fall outside the ring on the lawn and might MANGLE, DECAPITATE, DISMEMBER, IMPALE, FORCIBLY PENETRATE, or merely CONK innocent, unsuspecting sweet children (unless they grew up to be Republicans or men, in which case they deserve the catastrophe that they did not get from that lawn dart).

Brett Kavanaugh wants to overturn Roe v. Wade SO HE CAN HAVE MORE TARGETS for his (alcohol-fueled?) mirth with these ancient weapons of war.

(Keep it tuned for MfBJN where you can get all the latest scoops on Brett Kavanaugh like this one which, if you’re reading this blog in 2027, you’ll think, “What’s that all about?” Trust me, I’ve combed through these archives recently, and some of the stuff from 2006 takes a while to remember what that particular controversy was.)

Book Report: The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (524, 1962)

Book coverThis is a pretty good Stoic tract from 524. Based on the introduction, which pointed out how much Boethius influenced medieval thought, I assumed he was a Christian, but the book itself talks about God but not Jesus, so it’s safer to just say he was a Stoic.

The volume comes in five parts, a bit of philosophical argument juxtaposed with a bit of a prose poem lyrically making the same point. The schtick is that Boethius, imprisoned and under the threat of execution, is looking for peace of mind. He goes to poetry, which has given him comfort in the past, but is ultimately unsatisfying. Then Philosophy appears, decked out like Athena, and explains to him the way things are. The five “books” within the volume start out with some basic fame-and-wealth-are-transitory, being-self-contained-and-true-is-paramount sort of thing you would certainly expect from a Stoic (or a Buddhist, for that matter) and moves into where true happiness and good come from. The answer, though, is not “inside yourself,” but God. After proving God via definition, Philosophy answers why it seems like bad people succeed in life, but good people don’t get what they deserve and then whether an ordered world with an omniscient God allows for Free Will or chance (the answer tracks with something I read by Mark Halperin in First Things magazine a couple years back–that man’s perception of the universe is temporal and different from God’s). Left unanswered is whether prayer can have any effect in such a scheme–that is, whether God can or will change his mind and alter the tableau, which would mean that what he knew was not necessarily the way it turned out. But prayer comes from a more Christian thought of a personal God, which, like Jesus, is not a part of this book or its arguments.

I really enjoyed this book, but it took me a while to actually finish it. I started it on vacation early this summer and tore through the first three “books” in it. When I got back, I carried it a bit, but I didn’t end up places where I read a carry book a lot, so I put it on my side table to read in the evenings, but I didn’t pick it up and propel myself through it until recently. Strangely, this has proven to be true with a number of books this year, so I’ll my annual completion number might catch up to its historical norm as I finish these books.

But it’s a better, more engaging intro to Stoic thought than Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius.

It’s weird, though, how I’ve never heard of this guy before. And I have a philosophy degree.

I Have An Alibi

Man stole housemate’s comic books to buy ‘food, cigarettes and marijuana,’ police say:

The Springfield man collects Magic the Gathering cards, Pokemon cards, vintage video games, figurines and more.

And some of those items — including three comic books signed by Stan Lee — carry special meaning for Pappas.

* * * *

When some of his items started disappearing early this year, Pappas said he confronted his housemates.

Some of his housemates said their video games were also going missing, Pappas said, and another couple who lived at the home claimed they didn’t know anything about it.

Narrator voice: They did know something about it.

Fortunately, this won’t happen to me, as I have children, who are already filching my role-playing games and comic books and destroying them, ruining their resale value. So burglars and housemates of questionable character (of which, we only have cats) will do better elsewhere.

Is That The Look You Want?

Here’s the new Sam’s Club eyewear ad that Facebook is presenting me because I am squinting in all of it surrepetitious photographs it takes of me in my natural surroundings to better serve me with relevant and interesting advertisements. Little does Facebook know, I only do this to look tough. And, well, to sharpen things up a little bit because I’m probably do for a LASIK touch-up after fourteen years.

But back to the advertisement:

Where have I seen that guy before? Oh, yeah, Revenge of the Nerds:

I spent much of my youth and thousands of dollars in LASIK surgery trying to escape that look, thanks.

Although, on the other hand, Lewis did get the girl, and the actor Robert Carradine has ridden the look and the nerd schtick even into the modern day with the game show The King of the Nerds (and by modern day, I mean a couple years ago, where the ads for this television show heavily populate the comic books I’m reading from that era).

Book Report: Travels in a Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker (1974)

Book coverThis book fits a little in with the old timey children’s books I’ve been reading lately (Little House books, Me and My Little Brain). Whereas those books were set in the late nineteenth century, this book was written by a woman born in the late nineteenth century. As she gets older, in the early 1970s, she decides to buy a donkey and cart so she can travel around her neck of the English countryside.

So her riding in the donkey trap gives her a lot of time to reflect on life and her youth. She worked for a while as a maid in a couple of houses in her younger days before marrying, so she reflects on those duties as well as her father, who drove a horse-driven delivery van. Missing from the reflections: married life or children, although she does talk about her daughter who lives on the property in the big house (where the author lives in a mother-in-law cottage). She talks about all the animals they have, including numerous cats, goats, and a rabbit. She name-checks an awful lot of flowers and foilage on the way to creating a textual landscape which doesn’t make that much sense to me because I don’t know my English flowers that much. It’s structured a bit like the Little House books in that it covers the first year she had the donkey, from her birthday in January to a nice little Christmas story.

Still, it’s a pleasant little book. Apparently, she received some notice on the news back in the day for using the donkey cart, and she turned that exposure into this book. Which made it to an American imprint, too, so clearly back in the old days, the midlists were a thing.

Question: The English call whiskey “whisky,” so why don’t the call a donkey “donky”?

How Many Of These Six Items Do You Store In Your Garage?

My insurance company has provided this listicle about What Not To Store in the Garage, and I thought it would be a great chance at a quiz.

The items are:

  • Extra fuel
  • Paint or home improvement chemicals
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Anything fragile or valuable

A quiz for you, I mean. You’ll notice I have not bolded or italicised things that I store in the garage. Because I don’t want my home insurance rates to go up based on my blog response to a listicle composed by a 23-year-old marketing intern from a series of other Internet postings he/she/it found.

Note that storing extra fuel or solvents in your garage might also violate the contract you signed with your mortgage. What, you didn’t read it?

Not depicted, or detypeted as the case may be, on this list, other things that you might consider storing in your garage:

  • Automobiles. These things can emit dangerous gases or, based on our marketing intern’s research in watching action films, might be extremely prone to explosions.
  • Power tools. Which are electrocution dangers at best, death, decapitation, or disfigurement dangers at worst (according to our marketing intern, based on studious research of historical documents 80s slasher films).
  • Anything not valuable. They’re hazardous to your marriage if you just keep random things (or so I’ve heard) and can be a fire hazard.
  • Cigarettes. Because smoking is bad, and if you’re not planning to smoke them, you’re smuggling them, which comes with all the attendant organized crime risks.
  • Toys from the twentieth century. No matter what they are, they are killers of one sort or another. Jarts? Books printed with lead ink? Asbestos-stuffed teddy bears? Chemistry kits with real acids? Just call out the hazmat team or ordinance disposal professionals!
  • 21st Century Nerf Guns. Advances in Nerf technology have made it so you don’t need a BB gun to shoot your eye out. Or, more likely, your brother’s.

I’ll not answer that list, either.

Although if you retitle the article Whatnot to Store in Your Garage, that probably describes the contents of my garage.

Book Report: The Life Expectancy of Pantyhose and The Poems of Middle Age by “Wilbur Topsail” (1993)

Book coverWell, what should I think about this book? Let’s get into what I think might be the back story of this volume: Based on a couple of Internet searches, I think this book was actually published in 1993 under a pseudonym. The “author”‘s name also appears in a review of a book entitled Navigating Infinity:

Author Michael Langthorne and Wilbur Topsail, the main character and narrator in Langthorne’s novel “Navigating Infinity,” have some things in common, but the novelist says it would be wrong to call the book autobiographical.

* * * *

The second part of the book features poems that Wilbur wrote from his childhood, through college and into adulthood.

“When you read the poems, you will see that sometimes he is venting and he is angry at his parents and then you will see the other side of him wanting to be a sexual person and wanting to have fun,” Langthorne says. “As he gets older and starts to mature, he writes poems that reflect the fact that he is an older person. You see that he has different feelings as he ages.”

That pretty much describes the poems in the book. It’s a lot of Rod McKuen territory, with the aging sex-seeker lamenting less sex and more aging. But instead of the lyricism of Rod McKuen, we’ve got more modern (and therefore lesser) free verse and a couple of prose pieces with some free-form association.

I didn’t like the book very much, thinking it less than some of the more earnest poetry by less serious “poets” like Leah Lathrom or Ronald E. Piggee. Piggee, as a matter of fact, would be contemporary to “Topsail”: both books were published in 1993, and both men would have been about the same age.

But as I got closer to the finish, I thought perhaps I should appreciate the book more if I thought of it less as a book of poetry and more as a collection of performance pieces. Back in the days when this book was fresh, I did poetry open mic nights, and a number of the St. Louis poets like Paul Stewart and Michael O’Brian did great performance pieces that, if you looked at them in their chapbooks, really weren’t much on the page. You could apply this to the Nuyorican Poets, too–I saw them when they were traveling through St. Louis at that time. Once I got that into my head, that maybe these were a product of the time, I tolerated the poems better.

Then I got to one poem, called “Generations”, that was pretty good. So I guess that redeemed the book for me.

It’s odd, a bit of double-effect going on here: The author is a little younger than I am now, but the poems are from my most fecund poetical era (captured, of course, in Coffee House Memories) in the middle 1990s. I can relate to some of the themes of aging now, but I was not very impressed, overall, with the execution. Especially the prose poem things which were a little free-association with little point aside from the free-association and the poetating.

Of course, now that I’m aware of it, perhaps I will pick the novel up if I spot it at a book sale to see what the older (still) author does with the material.

Strangely, Star Trek Didn’t Seem Creepy

On Monday, my son and I had a little time to kill before a meeting, so we stopped in at a small grocery store in Republic, hoping to use the bathroom and to pick up a couple of things that were on the whiteboard on the refrigerator as things to pick up at the grocery.

Strangely, the store had neither orzo or Advil gel caps in stock, so I stopped at the service desk and bought a couple lottery tickets. I explained to my son, who balked because buying lottery tickets was a waste of money since you have no chance to win, that the difference between no chance with no tickets and an infinitesimal chance because you have one lottery ticket is completely different (left unsaid that buying a second ticket, now that is a waste of money). Also, I explained to him the important rule that, if you use the bathroom in a business, you have to buy something.

Suddenly, Facebook is showing me Missouri Lottery ads.

This is very interesting timing, especially since:

  • I paid cash because you cannot use a credit card on it. So there’s no electronic transaction tying my personal identifying information to the purchase.
  • I don’t have Facebook installed on my phone. I mean, I did, but I removed it. Or did I?

So how did Facebook know I bought lottery tickets this week? Science! Of some dark sort. Or luck.

I haven’t checked the numbers yet because I’m lazy about that sort of thing, not the sort of person to watch them as they’re announced on television.

But Facebook has not started showing me ads for really expensive things, so that probably indicates that I didn’t win. Again.

Book Report: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935, 1971)

Book coverAs I predicted when I read Little House in the Big Woods, it was not long before I picked up this book. Of course, I had some control over that, so it’s not really prophecy. As I mentioned in the previous book report, this is the third of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books; the second, Farmer Boy deals with the young Almanzo Wilder’s experiences in the 19th century. I don’t have a copy of that book, but my youngest son is currently reading a school copy of the book ahead of a field trip to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home near Marshfield, and he offered to surrepitiously bring the book home every night so I could read it at the same time as he’s reading it. I’m thinking about it.

At any rate, this book covers the move from Wisconsin to Indian territory in Kansas, which Charles Ingalls has heard will be opened for settlement. So they’re sooners sooner than the actual Sooners. They build a little house, meet some neighbors, and not only have to deal with the different challenges and topography of Kansas, but they also have to deal with Indians who they really, really don’t want becoming hostile. Much of the book, as in the previous volume, deals with the man-against-nature stories of building a house, trading, and whatnot, but the introduction of the Indians adds a little drama, as they can suddenly appear in ones or twos and steal your food and tobacco or get together a bunch and threaten to wipe out the settlers. But this drama is told at a distance, as the family huddles in the cabin and watches for a war party.

So it’s not a greatly dramatic narrative, but it is interesting in its historical perspectives. This book was written in the 1930s and takes place in the post-bellum west midwest, but the father speaks respectfully of natives even as others do not and, when the family is sick, a black doctor tends to them. So it’s almost suitably woke (but clearly not enough since it is not Woke™), which might lead one who is paying attention and bothers to read things not written on computers, that maybe the past was not as asleep as they’ve been told.

A couple things of note: I flagged one passage in this book, wherein Laura explains that she and Mary share a cup for drinking water at dinner, and that they only get water, and won’t get coffee until they’re adults. I contrasted this with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where the children drink coffee all day and all night.

Additionally, as I read this book listening to the Big Band station streaming from my DirecTV, I realized that the Glenn Miller I was listening to was closer in time to Little House on the Prairie than to today. Weird, we think about culture slowing or stopping in the eighties or nineties, but the rate of change has really slowed down before that.

So we’ll see how soon I dive into On the Banks of Plum Creek or if I take the lad up on his offer of sharing his school copy of Farmer Boy with me.

A New Album To Look For

So WSIE played this song called “Poetry Man”, and I thought, hey, it’s like she’s singing to me!

So I researched it, and, as you might already know, Phoebe Snow’s song is not new at all.

It’s from 1974. Which means it’s newer than I am, but not by much.

Phoebe Snow’s self-titled debut LP went platinum, so there’s a decent chance I’ll find one in the wild for a couple of dollars. I’ll be on the lookout.

A Question for the Ages

Why are both Ps in sapphire silent?

I can understand the second, which is followed by an H, but the first one is not.

So as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to pronounce it sapfire from now on.

Fortunately, I don’t deal in gemstones or gin much, so I won’t actually have to do this and make people think I’m ignorant instead of taking a principled stand for a more obvious pronunciation.

Book Report: Sally Forth by Greg Howard (1987)

Book coverIt seems I have read these books out of order. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done, which I read over a week ago, is a later Sally Forth collection. This book appeared a year earlier. Not that it matters, though; the strips are not particularly serial in nature, and the drawing doesn’t evolve over time, and new characters haven’t been added so I’m dealing with a pre-Asok or post-Asok world (to use Dilbert as an example).

Well, the tropes are all here: The business woman who is the primary housecleaner deals with work and her family. On the plus side, although they’re not the main characters, the males in the strip, that is, the husband and the boss, are not merely the butt of jokes, as they have their moments. So we’ve got that going for us.

It did not give me a laugh out loud moment like the aforementioned later collection did, and it did give me a moment where I wondered if I’d already read a particular strip before. I might have. Perhaps I should not read the collections so close together.

Regardless, it’s the second of the two copies I bought this spring, so I am fresh out of Sally Forth collections until the October book sales at the earliest. And I’ll let them simmer on the to-read shelves for a while to keep the stories fresh.

Now that I’m done with them, my boys can have at them. I’m not sure what they will think of it. It doesn’t match their lifestyle, as mom and dad do not work outside the house, and the strips are computer- and device-free. But they do like to look at the old cartoons since they’re cartoons.

As Though She Were A Normal Person (II)

You know, Springfield is not Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, you can find more than one church festival on any given weekend, even the weekends where Summerfest is or one of the heritage festivals is running down on the lakefront and drawing tens of thousands of people.

No, in Springfield, only two churches through proper church festivals with food, music, and whatnot. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic church and St. Thomas the Apostle Greek Orthodox church are about a mile apart on the southwest side of Springfield, and they both have their festivals on the same weekend.

Given that I’m half Catholic and went to a “Catholic” university (Catholic in quotations because it may have been founded Catholic, but it’s all modern university), you can probably guess which I attended.

I am half Catholic, but all Milwaukeean. I went to both: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on Saturday and St. Thomas Apostle on Sunday.

As my boys and I were entering the festival on Sunday, I saw a man with a camera, and I briefly thought he might be for the News-Leader, but I dismissed it. Most of the time, the faces in the crowd photos are taken by Brenna Stark or Karen Bliss, who you might remember was following me around a couple weeks ago. The photographer took a pass on taking a picture of moi, but it turns out it was the News-Leader‘s photographer.

Instead of me, he captured jazz vocalist Kristi Merideth:

Kristi Merideth, unlike Erin Bode, is a local performer who does shows individually and with a band called 83 Skiddoo. I’ve meant to catch her live, but her performances don’t tend to coincide with the date nights my beautiful wife and I infrequently enjoy.

Here she is singing “Rhode Island Is Famous For You” from her self-titled EP which I picked up a couple years ago:

More Stacey Kent than Sacha Boutros.

Full disclosure: Our children go to school together and, dare I say it? play in jazz band together. But I don’t know Ms. Merideth other than to say “Hi” and “How are you?” a couple times over the years.

Book Report: The Ozarks: A Picture Book To Remember Them By by Crescent Books (1987)

Book coverI thought I had read this book before, perhaps as a library book I reviewed during a football game. I guess I was thinking about Bittersweet Ozarks At A Glance. That, and I did read another book in this series, Michigan: A Picture Book To Remember Her By in 2009. In that book report, I said I was eager to go up north again; I did, this year.

It’s a little different reading a book about remembering where you live, thirty years before you lived there. For starters, the book uses the whole Ozark Plateau as “the Ozarks,” which means there are photos from almost as far as St. Louis, whereas Missourians don’t start counting the Ozarks until, what, Fort Leonard Wood? Waynesville?

At any rate, I didn’t recognize much. Some pictures of Table Rock Lake, perhaps. But the book focuses on generic landscapes for the most part. Springfield is not represented at all. Silver Dollar City and Branson, which get a couple of pages, but they’ve changed enough since the photos were taken, probably in the 1970s, that neither looks the same exactly.

So it’s more of a historical document than anything I’ll actually remember.

Still, worth flipping through.

And now that I know this is a series, I must collect them.

Book Report: Soft Touch by John D. MacDonald (1958)

Book coverOne of the joys of John D. MacDonald books is that you’re not really sure what you’re going to get, even by the cover. He writes books about business shenanigans and land deals gone bad, he writes crime books, and sometimes he just writes character studies where the characters deal with disasters. Sometimes, like this book, he creates a sympathetic character who makes bad decisions and more bad decisions, and suddenly he’s a bad guy (as also happened to a lesser degree in Clemmie).

In this book, the main character is a former World War II special forces sort who, twenty years later, is a construction project manager. He started his own company, but fell in love with the daughter of a larger construction company’s owner and has married her. Their childless marriage has descended into that alcohol-soaked suburban immorality and adultery that one finds in MacDonald books sometimes. One of his war buddies comes in from South America with a plan to relieve a courier of several million dollars for an arms purchase just as an attempted coup is thwarted, and with the coup plotter dead or in prison, nobody will care about the money. They devise a plan just like in the old days, and it goes off without a hitch–well, except the friend gets wounded and has to hole up at the main character’s house and dallies a bit with the missus.

Then we’re off: An accidental death, covered up, and then murder to cover up the accidental death, and the police come knocking, and….

Well, it is a good read even as the sympathetic character descends out of that sympathy. The end, though, is pretty abrupt, as forces from the government and from South America that were looking for the money show up and set the stage for a bloody climax and then a less bloody anti-climax.

Still, it’s good writing for the most part and reinforces my belief that John D. MacDonald is one of the best writers from the 20th century.

You’re Doing It Wrong

I have no idea what an Axis Strength Trainer is, but I can tell the models in the Facebook advertisement are using it incorrectly.

If you’re smiling when you’re using a piece of physical fitness equipment, you’re doing it wrong.

Also, if you can have a conversation on your cellular phone when you’re working out, you’re not doing it correctly (although shouting quips to passersby is apparently okay in my completely arbitrary life rules, but note that my previous post is about how I do 5Ks, not how they should be done).

Also, kudos to Facebook for either figuring out how to thwart the ad blocker I have installed or for partnering with them to ensure that the informative, helpful ads I really want to see to mock appear in my news feed instead of posts from my friends. To be honest, it sort of beats the previous method, where the posts appeared briefly and then disappeared instantly, like data-driven Tyler Durden stills in my news feed instead of posts from my friends. Also, kudos for the algorithm that determines I really want to see political posts with opposing view points from friends I have not interacted with in years instead of more relevant posts or most recent posts.