Another Last Time Comes Suddenly

I changed the linens in the boys’ bedroom this week, and it was the last time I would make up my oldest child’s bed with sheets with cartoon characters on them.

They’ve had Spider-Man, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario, or Star Wars sheets on their beds ever since they had big boy beds. Oh, and how delighted they were when I would spend twenty bucks at the Walmart to pick up a new set and they would come home to vivid new colors and heroes. They were easy to delight when they were young.

They started out in separate bedrooms with their cribs and then their big boy beds–a set of bunk beds separated by a wall. A couple years ago, we moved them into a room together and activated the bunk bed feature of the bunk beds. We made the corner bedroom into a guest bedroom and painted it a pleasant orange, but we never got around to decorating it with wall hangings. It idled, as we haven’t had many guests to Nogglestead in recent years. Mostly, the boys used it as a playroom as their extensive Lego holdings resided in that closet.

This summer, though, as my wife thought she would spend a lot of time in the room after recent surgery, she ordered some art from a catalog, and I put them up. She didn’t end up spending much time in that room after all, but we’ve decided to again separate the boys into separate bedrooms, and the oldest will get the former guest bedroom and its full-sized bed.

So he’ll go to bed with adult sheets now and forever more (unless he’s a modern young man who might end up with cartoon sheets in adulthood). I guess it’s fitting; at 13, he has moved into adult-sized clothes that his mother often puts into my drawers.

But it puts one in a melancholy mood to start the morning. My children are growing up, and most of our lives will be spent apart.

A melancholy solved by actual exposure to those siblings who begin squabbling the minute they awaken (hence the separate bedrooms soon). Suddenly, I’m Can I send them to military school starting today?

In Unrelated News….

‘Shark Week’ starts off with another Cape Cod beach closing:

As viewers around the country begin to sink their teeth into Discovery’s annual “Shark Week,” the aquatic predators continue to lurk around the Cape, causing numerous beach closures over the weekend.

Another shark sighting shut down a Cape Cod beach Sunday, this time at Marconi when a lifeguard saw a shark fin about 40 yards from the shore. The beach was then shut down for an hour starting at 11:45 a.m., per the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app.

Cape Cod rentals are having an unexpectedly slow summer:

Happen to have this week off and no plans? You might still find a vacancy on Cape Cod.

A Truro cottage set atop a coastal bluff with stairs to a private beach was still available on Friday — at a $1,100 discount. It was the first time in three decades that a summer week at the cottage went unclaimed, the owner said, and it’s not the only week still available.

A mystery for the ages!

Actually, the second article does mention the shark sightings.

Me, I’m worried because shark attacks were all in the news during the summer of 2001. Then some people did something that knocked the sharks out of the headlines.

Book Report: The Big Kill The Executioner #132 (1989)

Book coverThis book is nominally the last Executioner book from the 1980s: its cover date is 12/89. Almost a year into George H.W. Bush’s presidency. Midway through my senior year of college–I was pretty busy with DECA, the writer’s club, and National Honor Society at school, which was compounded by the fact that I didn’t have a car and lived midway down a holler. That’s what I was doing when the cover of this particular paperback was crisp and uncracked.

Reminiscing about where I was when the book came out is better than reflecting on the book itself.

The plot: The murder of a prostitute leads the son of a mafioso, the head of a respectable company but an unwitting participant in illegal activities, to start looking into his business a little more closely. You see, the son loved the young lady once. His investigations lead the mob to put out hits on him and the co-workers who might know too much. But the son retreats, with Bolan’s help, to a lodge in the Rockies where he should be safe–but it looks like the mob was already there waiting for him.

So it looks for the meat of the book like it’s going to be a tower defense plot, as Bolan, the son, the family of the son, and a trusted cop hold off the mafia hit teams, but it’s not that.

It’s a good plot treatment poorly handled. We’ve got some good elements at the high level that lead to a couple of set pieces that make little sense and some howlers. Like when Bolan comes out of an airport in the mountains and looks over the parking lot, and only at the end of his survey is his attention drawn to the car that has no snow on it as, I don’t know, maybe that’s important.

It took me a couple of times to get started on this as I tried to use it as a break from chapters of Bait and Switch, but I’d set it down for a day or so and when I picked it up again, I couldn’t remember what was going on. The jarring jump-cuts between the set pieces (which don’t hang together too well based on continuing the ultimate plot arc) left me wondering where I was.

So not one of the better books in the line, and not a strong note to end the 1980s. And it ends with a bit of a cliff hanger, although I’m not sure that the thread will be picked up in the next book. The hit woman from Dead Line has not yet reappeared. Perhaps it’s just something to throw into the Bolan plot warehouse for later.

But look at that coat he’s wearing on the cover. If you remember the 80s, you’ll remember someone who wore that coat.

Book Report: Potbelly Mammoth Volume 1 by Nate Hudson (2018)

Book coverI got this book at Rublecon last weekend. Rublecon is a small comic/toy convention held in Relics’ event center. I missed it last year because when I pulled into the parking lot, I could not find a parking space, and my family was reluctant participants anyway.

This year, though, I wandered through the aisles. You didn’t get a Good Book Hunting post because this volume is the only book I bought aside from comic books.

This is based on a Web comic that has been going on for a couple of years; this book collects the first 100 of them and some other extra materials. The story behind the comic is that two roommates, Nate and Swadley, live beside a mostly abandoned laboratory. An intern left behind at the lab creates a tiny mammoth and a tiny T-Rex that the roommates adopt as pets. Nate gets laid off from his job and starts dating the woman who fired him.

The cartoons themselves have a flavor of what you’d get in a newspaper column. Each has a single gag, and the stories build themselves into larger story arcs, but those arcs are not the point.

So I liked it. Better than Frik. Better than RPG World. I don’t know if that’s fair, as the other two have story arcs and whatnot, but it’s pretty good, and I’m hopeful that he’ll get another book out soon, but it looks like the actual Web comic has been at #141 since February.

Eh, no hurry. I have plenty to read in the interim.

Brian Fact-Checks Country Music

The other day, I found myself behind an International Harvester on Highway FF, and I thought of the Craig Morgan song.

This vehicle managed a speed of 15 mph along the state highway, but the song says:

Hoggin’ up the road on my p-p-p-p-plower
Chug a lug a luggin’ 5 miles an hour
On my International Harvester

However, this particular unit was a harvester, not a plower, so my experience does not counter the song.

I do, however, wonder what the combine was doing down by us. Most of the “crops” grown around here are hay. I can’t think where we have a field of wheat or corn big enough to warrant a combine.

Although perhaps that means I should get back into the habit of driving around exploring. I did that a bunch when my children were really young; we’d hop into the car to go for a ride and just drive around. Now that they’re older, we’re busy and don’t go driving around almost aimlessly. Which is a little sad.

(Previously, I mentioned this song in 2008.)

Nogglestead Proves There’s Always Something Worse In Nature

The bane of gardening at Nogglestead in years past has been Bermuda grass.


Image from Wikipedia / Bidgee

It grows by seed and by runners that can go under decorative bricks and through weedblock and, by the time you see it emerge, your bed is crisscrossed with the runners, and you pretty much have to turn the soil all over and dig it all out.

My beautiful wife has taken over the back flower bed and has diligently worked to keep the weeds out even though the Bermuda grass is happy to run completely under our deck, emerging from time to time up through the boards of the deck, on its way to her flower bed.

But this year we have discovered another foe: Dodder.


Image from Wikipedia / Tortel

This little vine is a vampire plant.

It cannot produce chlorophyll on its own, so it’s wrapping itself around the petunias and sucking their chlorophyll. The petunias don’t actually become dodder, but the little fangs it puts into the petunias can grow into whole new plants if you tear it off the flowers. To handle an infestation, you’re supposed to pull it all up and prune below the place where the chlorophyll-suckers are, but with flowers, that means pulling the whole plant.

Geez, I’m almost afraid of what we will discover next, and I lose sleep thinking that these things will develop a taste for human flesh (after all, I couldn’t finish The Ruins, not because it shared that conceit, though, but because the book sucked).

And flamethrowers are out of stock on Amazon.

Also, I hate Pearl Jam, but I cannot help singing a variant of this:

Not That You Asked

Brian J., did you live at the head or the mouth of the holler?

To be honest, when I lived down the gravel road in the holler made by Heads Creek (the house actually had some creekfront exposure, but in the back), I lived midway down the holler. Maybe somewhere in the nasal passages of the holler, or somewhere in the digestive tract.

But this description of the neighborhood is accurate:

Some hollers are more populated than others and it isn’t uncommon for as many as 300 people to live up a single holler, if “the bottoms” are land and wide enough for enough mobile homes, three story “fancy houses” and simple cinderblock homes — a fascinating patchwork I’ve seen only in the Appalachian Mountains where the haves and have nots coexist as equal neighbors.

Although I don’t know if the head and mouth really apply, as Heads Creek moved through various hills and hollows. I tend to think of the “mouth” of the hollow as where Heads Creek Road meets Highway MM, as this was our access route to the rest of the world, and Heads Creek Road followed the creek south from there. My holler was not the one with the fancy homes in it.

And I wasn’t born there; I moved in in high school and lived there for two and a half years, visited twice a year for four years, and then lived there again for a year or so. So I wasn’t related to anyone then (although my frisky younger brother might mean I have relations there now), and I didn’t get many “firsts” there aside from my first time having a party line or the first time living where one could dust the trees.

(Link via the Ace of Spades HQ ONT.)

Marcinko Comes Out Of Retirement To Lead SEAL Team Seven

That’s what one might infer from this story: Navy SEALs platoon sent home for drinking during deployment:

A platoon of Navy SEALs deployed in Iraq were sent home for boozing on the job, the latest incident to mar the esteemed special operations force, according to a report.

The group from SEAL Team 7 was forced by a Navy commander to return to their San Diego base for violating General Order No. 1, which prohibits alcohol use, according to the Washington Post.

Richard Marcinko, whose fictional Rogue Warrior series and other books I’ve enjoyed, would approve of that sort of behavior.

In The Neverending Series Of “They Don’t Sound Alike At All….”

Perhaps I should make a category of this since I note parallels between voices that apparently don’t sound alike at all.

This morning, as I was talking with my beautiful wife, something came on WSIE. “That sounds like Mary Chapin Carpenter,” I said.

It was Heather Newman.

“No, it doesn’t,” she [my beautiful wife] said.

I dunno, they sound kind of alike to me. But years of metal might have dulled the finer bits of my discernment, if I ever had any.

(Previously in this series. Coming soon: Anastacia and Taylor Dayne.)

Book Report: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich (2005)

Book coverYou probably don’t know, gentle reader, that I read Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America around 2003 (my beautiful wife read it and sort of fisked it in two parts, Nickels and Dimes, about the same time). It’s before I was doing book reports on this blog, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The premise of that book is that Ehrenreich beams herself into communities and works for minimum or low wage jobs there and tries to lead a life on low wages.

In this book, she decides she’s going to do the same with white collar jobs in Corporate America, so she mocks up a resume and hopes to catch onto a series of middle management sorts of jobs not so much to see if she can survive on $60,000-80,000 a year, but to take the pulse of the middle class who must be also terribly frightened of losing their livelihoods. That’s the plan, anyway.

However, she finds it hard to get a job with her faked-up resume as an independent PR consultant looking for a full time job in corporate America at an advanced salary. So the book instead turns into an indictment of career coaches, job fairs, the Christers (of course), and networking events in general. She tries many different avenues of meeting people who would hire someone like her, but she doesn’t get job offers until she starts hitting the bottom feeders of commission-only sales jobs and pushing Mary Kay.

Basically, she spends 230+ pages LARPing G.J. Meyer of Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America, but without the actual experience of being a corporate professional at all. Apparently, she has read that book, as she includes it in the footnotes a couple of times.

The book doesn’t provide any insight into anything much about anything except Barbara’s inauthentic attempts to be middle class and out of work. I mean, she chooses a profession (PR) that easily sheds experienced workers and hires English and communication majors right out of college. I mean, they’re down to Content Writers now with a going rate of blog posts for $20 each.

She does mention in her conclusion that someone in her fake career would have had a Rolodex full of contacts to reach out to after, you know, actually getting the fake experience she had on her resume. So perhaps, at the end, she recognizes the flaw in her premise. But she wrote the book anyway.

And I read it anyway.

Nickel and Dimed didn’t really match the experience I had with being poor or working entry level jobs. This book certainly doesn’t match being middle class and white collar or being white class and between jobs (as an actual consultant, I’ve been between jobs from time to time). I wonder if she’s not writing these books for people who have experienced these things, but rather for an audience of older Manhattanite women who wonder what it might be like and who might believe it’s anything like an Ehrenreich book.

But, on the plus side, I am at 80% completion of the books I bought at Calvin’s Books in May (and reading all five from that trip is one of my goals for the year).

And, as a means of comparison, this book did not make me as angry as Into the Wild. I didn’t swear at it nearly as much, although I might have flipped it off a time or two and might have said dumb bint a couple of times. I didn’t even hate it as much as Nickel and Dimed, but that might be because I’m mellowing. But Ehrenreich remains a curse word in the Noggle home in a way that Krakauer or whatever that kid’s name was will never be.

Country Stars in the Movies

I’ve talked about how old football players in movies, and as I was just thinking about Jerry Reed’s role in The Waterboy, and I thought about what country stars made pretty good names for themselves in films.

I mean, we do have Jerry Reed, of course, who played major characters in The Waterboy and the Smokey and the Bandit movies (all three), but his other roles seem smaller and on television. So if the threshold is five, Jerry Reed isn’t on the list.

Dwight Yoakum, in addition to singing songs that stick with one, was in a plethora of movies as a major character, including Sling Blade, Panic Room, and many more. So he would be on the list.

Kenny Rogers was in a number of television movies based on his songs, notably The Gambler (series) and Coward of the County. But does television movies count?

George Strait, stretching himself in playing a country singer in Pure Country is not.

Nor is Trace Adkins, known at Nogglestead mostly for An American Carol where he played a minor role, although he has an ouevre that is growing.

Johnny Cash was in a number of television roles, but they were bit parts.

Dolly Parton was in 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Steel Magnolias. And she’s been on television a bunch. Does that count? She’d certainly be above some of the others on the list.

Reba had a successful television show and appeared in a couple of films. Should we call her a television or movie star on the basis of her credits?

Of course, Kris Kristofferson is at the top of the list. He has been in A Star Is Born, Blade (the series), Payback, and so much more. He’s probably the patron saint of country stars who became movie stars.

So who am I missing? Who from country music has moved into movies and had success playing roles other than bit roles and other than himself/herself?

That Looks Familiar

Patrice Lewis is getting ready to move, and she has a picture of most of her library boxed and ready to travel.

As you might recall, gentle reader (because I bring it up over and over), when we moved from Old Trees to Nogglestead, we filled a 16′ PODS container with books and bookshelves.

And that was ten years’ worth of good book hunting ago.

My new financial planning goal is to get rich enough to be able to afford movers should we leave Nogglestead. So please be sure to buy one of the books listed to the right. Although, due to the wonders of print on demand, each book you buy is not one fewer I need to move.

Clearly, It’s Been A While Since A Bike Ride

The bike carrier still has the little sticker on it that identified it from when we moved to Nogglestead almost ten years ago.

While this might be an indicator of how we’re not serious cyclists (we’re not, except for my beautiful wife, who hasn’t been especially serious lately), it’s also an indicator of the fact that two of us (the boys) have had small bikes, and they could fit in the back of an SUV.

And when I needed to take my bike to the two outdoor triathlons I’ve done, I could easily throw it in the back of my late beloved pickup truck.

Now, though, times have changed; we’ve gotten the thirteen year old a full sized bike, and we will have to convey both his and mine to the Republic Tiger Tri in three weeks.

So now I can peel that sticker off. I did it for a long time with great pleasure because each was a reminder of the little damages done to our dryer and piano when six men and two trucks moved us from Old Trees to Nogglestead, and to leave those stickers on any box in the store room rubbed salt into that wound.

Snakes Learning New Camouflage Techniques

“Don’t worry, honey, that’s not a venomous snake; it doesn’t look like a copperhead.”

A Bolivar woman who knows her snakes encountered a really weird one while riding her bike on the Frisco Highline Trail.

Near one of the first bridges on the southbound route she rode past the snake, then turned around for a closer look.

“It never moved,” said Christy Dablemont, 47. “I never got closer than two or three feet to take pictures. It didn’t move when I rode past it or when I came back.”

The snake was a venomous copperhead, but with unusual markings down its back. Instead of “Hershey’s Kisses” markings along its side, the snake’s back was mostly a pattern of bronze-colored lines.

Well, if we keep decapitating copperheads that look like copperheads with a hoe, only the ones that look different will remain to pass on their genes.

Which is why I recommend decapitating all snakes just to be sure.

I’ve Already Downloaded The App

New Uber Service Will Go On A Run For You:

A new Uber service called UberJog promises to let you call an expert runner to go on a run on your behalf.

Although, to be honest, I’d prefer a service that does the swimming portion of a triathlon for you. I’ve got one coming up in three weeks, and I’m ill prepared for it. As I have been for the last two Tiger Triathlons in Republic.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a bit of satire I shared on Facebook:

I see via Mr. Hill that I was not alone in my macabre humor.

A Four Hundred Dollar Millimeter of Plastic Averted

A long time ago, the non-Lexus vehicle stopped unlocking when you put the key into the lock and turned. Apparently, this is not a physical act but an electronic one, whereby a chip in the key tells the door to unlock. So either the key chip or the sensor went on the blink, so I started carrying a fob (and feeling like a fop for pushing a button to unlock the car.

Then, the little plastic loop that kept the fob on the key ring developed a crack and fell off the key ring. I was able to fix the little crack with a little epoxy.

Then, sometimes, the jump ring would part just enough so that the fob could fall off through the weakened, thinner repaired section. I learned not to lock the doors with the switch on the door when leaving the vehicle after the fob fell off inside the car and I thought I’d locked it in the car (which does not open with the key, remember).

However, at the end of last week, the fob’s repair epoxy came loose and seems to have taken more of the plastic with it. Enough that I don’t know how well I could fix it with another drop of epoxy.

To replace it, of course, would be hundreds of dollars.

I’ve been thinking about how to affix the fob to a keychain. I thought about wrapping it like a jewelry pendant; I even bought three dollars worth of 20 gauge wire on Sunday. However, my early attempts did not look like this:

So I thought of other things. Affixing it to the end of a belt with a leather bezel. Then I thought: Oh, yeah. I have lots of plastic needlepoint canvas and yarn.

So I built a little case for it and sewed on part of an old swag lanyard.

It looks a little fru fru if you look at it closely, but I don’t plan on letting anyone look at my keys closely.

And it was cheaper than a $400 replacement.

And it has no danger of poking holes in my pockets like my amateur attempt at wire wrapping would have.

So I’m a little proud of it. But like my record shelving (still only partially painted, weeks later), it’s rudimentary but functional.

Which could be a metaphor for me.