Season’s Greetings

I’ve been seeing New Year’s Eve abbreviated NYE on the Internet today, so I thought I’d stick some text on a picture of Bill Nye for humorous effect.

Time will tell if it makes people laugh or not.

As a reminder, you can continue to say “Happy Holidays” all year round as our calendar is quite choked with them.

Book Report: Killing Floor by Lee Child (1997)

Book coverI watched the Tim Cruise film Jack Reacher this month. On Christmas Eve, I had some time to kill before church, so I stopped in at Barnes and Noble and saw a rack of Lee Child books, so I thought I would take a look at the source material. This is the first book, published 22 years ago, by a new English author (from England, not New England). The paperback I have has an introduction wherein the author talks about why he created the Jack Reacher character and his influences–mainly John D. MacDonald.

In this book, the drifting Jack Reacher, riding on a bus as he drifts, on a lark has the bus driver drop him at a highway cloverleaf so that Jack can go to a nearby town where a little-known blues guitarist died seventy or so years ago. Jak walks fourteen miles into town and, as he is having breakfast, he is arrested for a murder at some warehouses near where he was dropped. Which he didn’t commit, by the way.

So he and a local man whose phone number was in the dead man’s shoe are bundled off to a state prison lock-up for the weekend, and several people try to kill Reacher. Or are they trying to kill the local businessman whose number was in the shoe? When they’re released, the business man disappears and although Jack Reacher is nominally cleared and is thinking of drifting along, he discovers the dead man was his…. DUM DUM DUM! estranged brother who worked for the treasury department. So although Jack just wants to roll on, he has to help investigate since the bad guys threaten/kidnap the cute local cop that Reacher has feelings for. Or they cross him one too many times.

The book reachers 524 pages, and it’s told in pretty straight forward first person narration. Unfortunately, it feels padded. A lot of pages are Reacher concluding something at length and, ultimately, incorrectly. Additionally, it reads like a British man trying to write in the American argot. He calls rounds for .22 pistols “shells.” He talks about distance in terms of yards, even if it’s only one yard–or something more Americanly referred to as 3 feet (which I attribute to thinking in terms of meters, a continental measure more equivalent to yards than feet).

He refers to the “gutter” of a car, which I had to look up. It’s not actually a British term for something we call something else, unless the American term is “scuttle.” It’s just esoteric, but I had to look it up.

And, more importantly, he refers to something in Wisconsin as it related to Chicago:

Since Stevie Ray died in his helicopter up near Chicago it seemed like you could count up all the white men under forty in the southern states, divide by three, and that was the number of Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute bands.

As you know, gentle reader, Stevie Ray Vaughn died flying from a concert at Elkhorn, Wisconsin. I remember where I was when I heard the news: Facing the frozen foods in a grocery store the next day. Where I often was when I learned of deathsa> throughout the 1990s. As I recounted the story to my beautiful wife, I recounted feeling relief it wasn’t Jon Bon Jovi. But I conflated memories: Relief that the headliner (Eric Clapton) was safe and a bit of Denis Leary’s No Cure for Cancer:

We live in a country, where John Lennon takes six bullets in the chest, Yoko Ono was standing right next to him and not one fucking bullet! Explain that to me! Explain that to me, God! Explain it to me, God! I want it! God! Jesus! Now we’ve got twenty-five more years. Yeah, I’m real fucking happy now, God. I’m wearing a huge happy hat, Jesus Christ! I mean Stevie Ray Vaughan is dead, and we can’t get Jon Bon Jovi in a helicopter. Come on, folks. “Get on that helicopter John. Shut the fuck up and get on that helicopter! There’s a hair dresser in there. Yeah, go ahead in there, yeah yeah.”

I listened to that a lot in the cassette deck of my 1986 Nissan Pulsar in the middle 1990s.

So where was I?

Oh, yes. Well, overall, this book was okay. Kind of what you expect out of midlist thrillers of the day, but a little wordy (okay, a lot wordy) with a lot of the words just waste. A little askew at times, especially once you get into your head that the author is British and misfiring on some American argot (perhaps you can excuse it because Reacher was raised abroad).

I don’t know if he satisfies in this book the description that Lee Child gives of him as a hyper-competent protagonist as he spends so much of the book being wrong and letting things happen to him. I mean, perhaps he’s better than the other heroes in the thick thrillers of the time, but I’m pretty sure the Executioner could take him easily.

Or maybe I’m just jealous, since my college thriller novel completed in 1992 featured a 6’4″ 240 pound ex-military misanthrope, and I didn’t get a book deal much less a series and film franchise out of it.

Good Album Hunting, December 30, 2019: Relics Antique Mall

So my beautiful wife gave me some Relics gift certificates for Christmas. Relics has gift certificates, not gift cards, and they do not offer cash back when you present a gift certificate, so if you don’t spend the entire amount of the certificate, the remaining balance is lost. To account for this, she gave me four certificates valued at $25 each. As I entered Relics, I thought about what I might buy for $100.

And I bought records.

I did not get $100 of records. I could have if I wanted; heaven knows some of the dealers are starting to mark up the records above ten or twenty dollars each. Fortunately, I don’t listen to that kind of crap.

Instead, I got:

  • Una Noche en Villafontana by Jorge Ortega, Roberto Pérez Vázquez, and Arturo Romero
  • It Looks Like Phoebe Snow by Phoebe Snow. Still no sight of the elusive self-titled debut album.
  • Jacquet’s Got It by Illinois Jacquet and His Big Band.
  • Live at the Whiskey A Go Go by Herbie Mann. Not listed on Discogs except as part of a compilation CD.
  • Bird in a Silver Cage by Herbie Mann.
  • Shandi by Shandi Sinnamon. I got her album Shandi Sinnamon in October.
  • Lisa Dal Bello by Lisa Dal Bello. Latin pop from the 1970s with a Pretty Woman on the Cover (PWC).
  • Carnaval by Spyro Gyra.
  • Collaboration by George Benson and Earl Klugh. The most expensive record I bought at $4 before discounts.
  • Gallant Men: Stories of the American Adventure Told By Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen. Apparently, I am a sucker for legislators on LP as I bought Robert Byrd’s fiddling album in October.
  • The Cantebury Tales read in Middle English by J.B. Bessinger, Jr. I haven’t listened to the copy that I bought in October–many of those LPs got shelved without a listen to make room for the Christmas LPs–but this one has a better cover.
  • Holiday Cheer by Dean Martin. Upon further review, this is the same tracks as Winter Romance.
  • Apollonia 6 by Apollonia 6. The other female pop group created by Prince after the Vanity 6.
  • Hideaway by David Sanborn. A promo copy not for sale. Mine isn’t, unlike the vendor who violated the letter and spirit of this law.
  • Skyway by Skyy. On the cover, the eight person band wears matching track suits. So you know what you’re going to get: 70s Disco Funk.
  • The Christmas Song by Lawrence Welk. Even though I didn’t get to listen to listen to Christmas records much this year, I did feel that my collection was growing a bit stale, so I added, I thought, two records today. Given that the Dean Martin is really just a duplicate, I have only added this one.
  • Winner In You by Patti LaBelle.
  • Patti LaBelle by Patti LaBelle.
  • Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta by Syreeta.
  • Intimate Excitement by Vikki Carr.
  • Now by Patrice Rushen. PWC, and further evidence that I have completely turned the corner into collecting 80s pop as long as it looks to have an R&B sensibility.

The total came to $47 and change, which was not quite two gift certificates. So I only used one certificate and paid for the rest.

Which means, essentially, that the Christmas gift is four guilt-free trips to Relics to buy records. Not that I felt guilty, well, too guilty when I found my way to Relics and then home with a dozen or so records.

At any rate, flipping though Discogs and eBay has shown me that I didn’t really overpay for these records, but I didn’t get any real steals, either. So long as I enjoy them from time to time and can organize them when I build more record storage.

Wherein Brian J. Proves He’s Too With It For His Own Taste

Neatorama links to a Refinery29 (who?) listicle of The Best Albums of the 2010s, and I own, sort of, two.

Let’s do this quiz style, with the ones I own bolded.

  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • Billy Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
  • Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  • Robyn, Body Talk
  • Lorde, Pure Heroine (which I bought in 2016
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
  • Adele, 21 (although, really, I only sort of own this since it actually belongs to my oldest son who went through an Adele phase a couple years ago).
  • Beyonce, Lemonade
  • Rihanna, ANTI

To be honest, I’m pleased I don’t know who several of these artists are, and others I only know of from reading newspaper Web sites.

But I will say this: Of the two I do own, I can only add that Leo improved upon them.

2019: The Year’s Reading In Review

This BRY (Book Reading Year, roughly Christmas to Christmas), I completed, what, 111 books?

I also browsed several collections of June Wayne’s work, but they contained so little text and actual images that I could not in conscience count them in my annual total.

So I am pretty pleased with the selection here. Although I did “read” a large number of art monographs, I did read some smarter works, including (by my quick count):

  • Between 2 and 5 classics; Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo, but also Siddhartha, Lassie Come-Home, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes which some might consider classics;
  • 12 collections of poetry;
  • 4 plays or collections of plays;
  • 10 Executioner novels;
  • 3 of the Little House novels;
  • 3 martial arts books;
  • 3 horror novels/collections;
  • 1 book I bought to give as a Christmas present (A Blade So Black, given to two people);
  • Probably too many graphic novels for someone with an English degree from the 20th century.

Mostly fiction, and the nonfiction tended to local interest or history. A couple literature textbooks kinds of things (How to Read a Play, How to Read a Poem).

Overall, a good selection, and I feel good about it. I like to put together these year-end lists and take a little time to reflect and review what I’ve read this year. Sometimes, I’m surprised that it was in the current BRY (Book Reading Year, remember) as January or March can seem like so long ago. I get to re-experience a bit of my vacationing as I remember the books I read on vacation (if nothing else from the vacation). And, I am pleased to say, I did read the five books I bought at Calvin’s Books whilst on vacation in May.

So onto BRY 2020 which should see the completion of this Dickens novel I’ve been reading amongst other things for the last month or so.

Book Report: Collections of Madness by Jane Smith, Asil Nottarts, and Nod Nihill2 (2005)

Book coverI bought this book in November and started on it because I’d stalled out on the couple of other poetry books I’ve been reading of late.

It’s a collection from nominally three poets with a marker from a veteran’s cemetary on the cover, someone who died at 22 in 1997, so a contemporary of the authors presumably who died before the late unpleasantness.

I tried to date the poems to being a couple years older than the bulk of my ouevre, but it might have been a decade past my coffee house days. So I was trying to imagine the poets as people I would have known. The first section by Jane Smith fits that mold, and the beginning of the second by Asil Nottarts started that way, but then I came to one entitled “To A Dying Man” that begins:

Nobody wants you to go, Old Man
But right now,
You are an open wound on everyone’s heart,
deep and raw.

Each cough,
each rattle,
each wince of pain
hurls a jagged stone at our tender flesh.
We wince with you
on IMPACT.

And ends:

My heart
will start
to beat again…
…when yours has stopped.

You know, that is very much not what I needed to read as my godmother was dying. I mean, there’s a bear minimum of self-consciousness in the poem, maybe, that what the poet-narrator was saying was monstrous, but, no, maybe not much at all. So my poetic response to this piece, delivered as part of the oral tradition, involved many, many fine expletives and invectives. No, I oversell myself. It was one expletive applied to many, many fine things.

So the poets lost any sympathy I had, and then I muddled through the remainder of the rather pedestrian middle poet and got to the longest section by Nod Nihil2 with is more prose than poetry, a brain dump of verbiage and dime store mysticism. The words contain enough allusion to make one recognize that the poet has a college education that covers real literature, but the resulting blather is less compelling than, say, Divine Fruit by Julian Lynn. Which, strangely enough, suffers by comparison.

So, yeah, not a lot I’m going to take out of this book but some real resentment to the sentiments expressed in “To a Dyning Man” which was probably not the poet’s intent. And I rank it below the grandmother poetry I read from time to time.

It’s not enough to keep me from nosing around the poetry section at ABC Books. And this is the book that ended my 2019 reading year. Not a high note.

As Seen in the Walmart

On Monday, we were in the Walmart getting last minute gifts and groceries. I bought a dozen eggs and spotted a bag of hard-boiled eggs in the dairy case.

I commented on them, and she mentioned that they were for lazy people. Whilst I know an easy way to bake the eggs to the same consistency and have been known to do so when I go on a kick where I eat them every morning for breakfast, I was not quick to condemn people who might prefer to pick them up at the market.

Then, of course, I saw that said products were being recalled for listeria contamination:

More hard-boiled eggs and egg products are being recalled from stores nationwide related to a deadly listeria outbreak.

Nearly 80 different hard-boiled egg varieties sold by more than 30 brands have been recalled by Almark Foods of Gainesville, Georgia, according to a recall notice on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration site due to risk of listeria contamination.

The more processed the food is, the more chances it has to get contaminated. So I’ll continue baking my own.

Or will when I get back on that kick. I think it’s been five years, so it’s about time to get back into the habit.

Config Change

I’ve made a slight config change to the blog. Instead of streaming whole posts to feed readers, I’ve changed it to only sending a summary, which makes some readers who were invisible to my stat tracker suddenly appear.

Wow, hey, I do have readers.

Thanks, and I hope it’s not too inconvenient to gratify my ego by clicking through.

Photographing My Coffee In Confusion

So I had a little time to kill whilst my truck was getting a state inspection, and I went to a coffee shop with my notepad in case I wanted to write a poem–or work on one that will take me five years to complete. So I went in and ordered a cappuccino and a pastry.

Sorry to go all Instagram on you, but I got this:

A coffee thing served in a glass along side a fizzing clear glass of something.

I have never seen cappuccino served like this, and, to be honest, gentle reader, I was not sure what was in that other glass nor what I was supposed to do with it. Did the order taker hear something other than what I ordered? Did the shop have a liquor license, and I ordered myself some coffee-and-booze cocktail with a chaser?

I fear the unexpected and unknown consumable ever since the Great Sushi Incident of 2005, wherein I went to a sushi restaurant with a more sophisticated friend who was surprised to see me take up the pile of pickled ginger with my chopsticks and pop it into my mouth. Not as surprised as I was, although I managed to keep my face stony whilst the sweat burst forth from my volcanic pores.

So, yeah, I have no idea what that was, and I’ll probably fear ordering a cappuccino there again. The coffee drink was a small portion and not especially compelling. I didn’t even sniff the clear liquid, preferring to pretend I was sophisticated enough to know what it was and that I eschewed it knowingly. But, yeah, black coffee for me from now on.

Wherein I Recognize The Art In An Ace of Spades Mid-Morning Art Thread

Not today, of course, as it is still early. However, on Tuesday, CBD posted Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, and I remembered it from the book I read in 2009 (Gainsborough by Max Rothschild).

I read it right before my mother died.

It’s funny; I can remember more acutely some books I read in 2009 when my mother died and I moved to Nogglestead than books I read last year. Likely, I tie those books to events and the newness of Nogglestead, and books I read last year I read like those I did in 2010 and following: sitting in my recliner on the lower level.

A Quiz I Passed, If You Ask Me

In Memoriam: Technology That Died in 2019.

I won’t reproduce the entire list of, what, 67 “technologies” that appear in the listicle. I will, however, point out that I have only used three of them (Adobe Shockwave, Google+, and iTunes on the Macintosh). I have heard of a couple more of them, but most of the others are companies or offerings I’ve never even heard of.

Which I count as a win, as it might mean that I focus on the important things in life, which are in meatspace, or that I am not a young Internet content creator who feels the need to come up with an extensive list of obscure things for $25.

Instead, I’m an old Internet content creator who feels the need to comment on such listicles for free.

(Link via Instapundit.)

A Bit of a Scratched Christmas Season

Gentle reader, here at Nogglestead, it has not really felt much like the Christmas season at all this year. What follows is a bit of a personal cri-di-coeur, so I’ll tuck it below the fold.

Thanksgiving came late, as you know, and my mother-in-law was ill and could not attend the holidays, which highlighted how few we probably have left with her.

After Thanksgiving dinner which was attended only by my immediate family and a single friend, I learned that my aunt in St. Charles had passed away that morning.

I had planned a little weekend getaway with my beautiful wife for that weekend, a polite fiction that would have allowed us to visit my aunt while having a date night with my wife. However, it turned into an extended stay ending in a memorial service.

Over the extended weekend, my remaining aunt, the caretaker of my recently passed aunt, walked with me through the house so I could earmark anything of hers I wanted. My aunt had decorated her house in fine wood furniture and antiques, many of which had been in the family for generations. But I have a complicated relationship with the possessions of dead family members. My father had once said about my sainted mother that she was sniffing around for money or would be when someone died. I don’t know what prompted him to say that, but it gave me a lasting fear that people would think that I was interested in benefiting from the deaths of my family. So I have always minimized what I accept after the death of a family member. Which sometimes leads to internal conflict when I think I could really use that, but it’s a practical need and not something to remind me of my aunt.

So I ended up with a collection of books, a nice console stereo, an entertainment center, a pair of cat sculptures, and some wall decorations. Which presented a logistical challenge for getting them from St. Charles to Springfield and have enough adult bodies to carry said furniture. I planned to to drive to Poplar Bluff with my youngest son, pick up my brother and nephew, and go to St. Charles, where we would rent a truck and drive the truck from St. Charles to Springfield, unload my things, and my brother and nephew would continue to Poplar Bluff to unload their things and drop off the truck. We could not do it the first weekend of the month, as I had other plans.

The other plans, unfortunately, were not fun. My wife and boys were going to Camdenton for the First Lego League state competition. Last year, we turned it into a weekend in Osage Beach just down the road from Camdenton, and while the boys were competing, my wife and I could do some Christmas shopping and having a date day somewhere else. Unfortunately, this weekend was the first weekend I had to work on a Saturday, so I had to work instead.

While in Camdenton, my wife aggravated a slight sports injury into a major case of sciatica which, after she drove home on Sunday, left her barely able to move or walk on her own, so she needed pretty attentive care, and her debilitated state left us unable to attend any of the school or church Christmas programs–including a concert she was supposed to sing in as part of the church choir. She’s moving better now and is almost back to normal, but it did wipe out the Christmas program season.

She convalesced in our parlor, where our existing record player is, which limited access to the annual rotation of the Christmas records. And, of course, I could not leave her for my circuit of Poplar Bluff-St. Charles-Springfield, so I had to rely upon my beatified brother and nephew to bring my aunt’s furniture to me. Which he did.

The weather hasn’t helped. I’m from up north, so I expect winter to be, well, snowy. Even though my boys have had three snow days already this year, we have yet to see measurable snowfall. Kansas City and even the St. Louis area have had proper snowfalls, but nothing here. As a matter of fact, it’s spring-like, with temperatures predicted in the 60s through the week.

And, to be honest, I’m a little disappointed with the gifts I’m giving this year. I usually like to have something that I think will wow the family, but this year, the gifts are pretty rote and predictable. I also like to have something for the family from Santa, something a little out of left field for the whole lot of us, but this year, I haven’t thought of anything. Which is just as well. As I look back over the years, a lot of times those gifts have gone unused ultimately. So maybe this safe Christmas of giving will be better than previous years.

If it happens. The oldest boy has been under the weather a bit, so an abundance of caution might prevent my mother-in-law from attending Christmas dinner and gift exchange.

I am glad that I kind of follow the church calendar and mark Christmas as the beginning of the new year, as I am about ready for a new beginning. I’m off work for the next week and a half and hope I won’t blow the time sitting at the computer doing nothing. Except, perhaps, tapping out something on a mostly unread blog.

Meh, it’s a mindset that makes a feedback loop, where negative things leads me to see the negative things. I need to shake it, and I’ve generally found that when I’m finally able to talk about it probably means I’m on the upswing already.

Book Report: The Homecoming by Harold Pinter (1966, ?)

Book coverI got this book last week when I went to ABC Books for the Christmas gift cards. I did not do a full Good Book Hunting post on it because, gentle reader, I’m not sure if you even read them (or the blog book reports for that matter). But, if you’re interested, I got Little Town on the Prairie, Those Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years in the Little House series, this book, and a book on whips and whipmaking that I bought for a gag gift for my brother but that I ultimately kept because, hey, I might want to make a whip some day.

At any rate, this is a mid-(twentieth)-century British two act play by Harold Pinter, who apparently won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Given the topic matter, I can see why.

The plot revolves around a house containing Max, the patriarch not respected by anyone and given to long stories extolling himself; his brother Sam, a chaffeur; his son Lenny, a pimp; and his other son Daryl Joey, a young man who wants to be a prize fighter. So they’re lower class grifters, basically. The oldest son, Teddy, a Doctor of Philosophy teaching in America, returns home as a surprise and brings his wife Ruth home.

So everyone propositions Ruth (as the back panel tells us), and the story alludes to the dead mother’s infidelity (as well as the male characters promiscuity and attempted promiscuity), and at the end, though frustrated with Ruth’s fidelity (or at least denying everyone in the household), they make plans to turn her into a prostitute and proposition her with the possibility, and she apparently agrees–leaving her husband to leave the house and return to America without her. At the end, she is the center of the household and the men revolve around her.

So I guess that’s the message: It’s unclear whether she will actually become a prostitute or just get all the sex she wants, but she will rule this household. At least, I think that’s what the message is. I suppose I could re-read it and highlight the bits that support my theory and turn it into a proper undergrad paper, but I’ve graduated, and I am reading for pleasure. So, nah.

The play did remind me of a play that I saw after college at St. Louis Community College-Meramac with a similar theme. I’ll have to go through my momentoes to see if I still have the program. It might even have been this play, but I am not sure. Funny, I haven’t thought of the play ever, and I remember most of the productions I’ve been to. Now I’ll have to dig those boxes out and see what it was.

But I’m not going to put Harold Pinter on my list of playwrights whose works I want to pick up. Unless they’re a buck at a book sale, perhaps.

Book Report: Direct Hit The Executioner #141 (1990)

Book coverWelp, this is not one of the better entries in the series. The series by this point was progressing to more elaborate plots, and sometimes the authors handled them better (see White Line War and Devil Force).

This book, however, has the trappings of elaboration, such as continent-spanning set pieces and a bunch of interlocking conspiracies with different bad guys/terrorist organizations with their own competing and sometimes clashing agenda, but this author handles them a little clumsy compared to others. We don’t get much beyond the plotting part, with characters remaining thin and some of the plot movement is a little more than intertitle cards. So perhaps it reads a little like a silent movie version of an Executioner novel.

Still, I will continue with the series because some are better than others. Also, I stil have 24 of the numbered entries in the series and numerous spin-off titles, and they aren’t going to read themselves. Unlike the Little House books, though, I shall not finish them in 2020. But since the numbered series total is down to 24, I can almost see the end.

Oh, and one thing I flagged in this book is a little bit of big city rural miscalculation (such as was also seen in Death of a Hired Man).

She pointed the way, and he drove the battered pickup through Parkersburg, an unimpressive town of about forty thousand.

You know, forty thousand sounds small if you live in a major metropolitan area, but out here in the country, that’s pretty big. Springfield is bigger, of course, but Parkersburg is bigger than Nixa, Republic, Marshfield, and Monett. It’s almost as big as Joplin, and we kind of think of Joplin as a small city. After all, the Census Bureau says anything over 10,000 is an urban enclave.

Book Report: Christmas Lights by Christine Pisera Naman (2007)

Book coverThis is my annual Christmas novel for the year, although it’s really more of a short story cycle a la Winesburg, Ohio than a novel-novel.

It contains a number of short stories focusing on women at various stages of their lives and having different difficulties around the holidays. One is a busy doctor with no time for personal relationships until a gust of wind scatters the nativity set from her apartment balcony, leading various neighbors to each bring back a piece and introduce themselves–including a potential love interest! Another woman is having difficulty in her marriage and walks out, only to find herself in church praying and eventually reconciling with her husband. One woman meets someone at the airport–a baby she’s adopting from overseas. And so on.

At the end, we discover that they’re all sisters as they gather in their mother’s home on Christmas Eve and recount their stories.

The stories are short and women-centric, but I guess the target audience for these sorts of books is not the same as the Executioner novels. The back flap says the author writes for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and, to be honest, these do kind of seem like Chicken Soup short stories, with a bit of setup and then a positive, uplifting outcome.

I didn’t like it as much as some of the other Christmas novels I’ve read, but it’s a pleasant and quick read.

Their Inherited Carpentry Skill

As you might know, gentle reader, I come from a line of carpenters. My great-grandfather and my grandfather and then my grandfather and father were two sets of Noggle and Son remodeling. My father knew how to do everything and often did. My mother was unafraid to tackle large remodeling projects. My brother, too, is like a Borg infesting a house and improving it. And, as you know, I have done a bit of (rudimentary) furniture making.

I am pleased to say that carpentry skill is indeed transmitted genetically, as my boys (mostly the younger) has taught himself how to use tools (auto-didactic because working on anything his father does is like, you know, work). So they have set themselves to building a birdopolis outside their bedroom windows:

He used pine boards not cut but broken during martial arts testing and a couple nails, and not much more.

Apparently, the birds have seen these fine domiciles and have determined that the rent is surely higher than they can afford, as none have yet moved in.

Book Report: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940, ?)

Book coverIt’s been since July that I read By the Shores of Silver Lake, and I picked a good time (December) to read this book. It deals with, well, a long winter that the Ingalls family endures in North Dakota with blizzards every couple of days.

The Ingalls family has become more urban, as they move from their claim shanty to the building in town that they built and leased at the end of By the Shores of Silver Lake. They depend upon regular deliveries by train of coal and food, and the trains run intermittently and then stop until the spring which pushes the town to the brink. They have to eat some of the Wilder boy’s seed wheat. They have to twist and burn hay when the coal runs out, an effort that requires almost around-the-clock effort. And Almanzo Wilder and another young man make a desperate bid to find a farmer some miles from town that, rumor has it, laid up a lot of wheat that he might sell.

The book reminds us acutely–again–how throughout much of history, just living was a struggle. A perspective lost if our schools replace historical books with theme-of-the-day morality plays that emphasize made-up drama for Man versus Nature storylines.

At any rate, I’m not saying the book influenced me, but I built a wood fire one night while reading it (because wood burns hotter than Duraflame logs). And the day’s high was something like sixty degrees, so I’m not actually really cold. But reading about how they broke the ice on their indoor water pail in the mornings makes me shiver when I’m out of bed before 4am when the forced air heating kicks into day time temperatures.

I guess I’m running out of these books. I bought the rest at ABC Books recently and likely will finish them next year. At which point, I guess I’ll have to find some adult books to read or something.