Coronavirus Update: PATIENT ZERO FOUND

Must credit MfBJN!

Fun fact: In the middle 1980s, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was addicted to the tabloids. Not the National Enquirer which had celebrity news. I spent far too much money on Weekly World News and The Sun which had the crazy, unreal things in them. Like Bat Boy.

I would have better served myself in spending that lawn mowing money on comic books or blowing it on the Rampage machine up the hill at the U-Gas.

Good Book Hunting, March 30, 2020: ABC Books

Gentle reader, I did not go to ABC Books yesterday. Springfield is on a 30 day timeout, and non-essential businesses are closed.

But the intrepid staff of ABC Books is in-house fulfilling online orders, so last week, I placed an order, and today it arrived.

The acquisitions are a little different from my normal fare (but not too much) because, instead of browsing their actual shelves, I went to their Alibiris page and browsed the categories. And bought anything that looked interesting.

I got:

  • The Tough-Minded Optimist by Norman Vincent Peale. I have started re-reading The Power of Positive Thinking, so I wanted to gather the sequels in case I want to read them as well. I think I already have The Power of the Plus Factor here somewhere. Probably right beside the Agatha Christie collection I have lost.
  • A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter. I can’t imagine what this must be like, but I will have to try.
  • Thinking Body, Dancing Mind: Tao Sports for Extraordinary Performance Athletics, Business, and Life by Chungliang Al Huang and Jerry Lynch. I will skip dietary recommendations, though.
  • Boomerangs: How to Make and Throw Them by Bernard S. Mason. In case we go all the way primitive. Unlike the book on whip making that I bought in December, perhaps I can work on these projects with my children.
  • The Art of Love by Ovid / Translated by Rolfe Humphries. A collection of poems that are fitting into my recent film viewing (and reading, albeit slowly).
  • Rocky Mountain Warden by Frank Calkins. An older hardback, probably something along the lines of Nature Noir but with less Lyme disease.
  • The Little Capoeira Book by Nestor Capoeira himself. Capoeira is a Brazilian dancing martial art. I studied it briefly during a unit on it in our martial art’s school Master’s Club, which was essentially a survey of weapons and other fighting styles.
  • The Country Roads and Other Poems by Hazel Adelman, a collection of grandmother poetry published by Vantage Press. Which was a vanity press outfit, so it was essentially self-published in a high quality and high cost hardback.
  • Si-Cology 101: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle by Si Robertson with Mark Schlabach. You know, I had a gift schtick for my aunt who just passed away. On a call sometime she said something about Duck Dynasty, and not complimentary, so every Christmas I would send her something with a Duck Dynasty theme. Duck Dynasty sweatshirts, Duck Dynasty beach towels, and so on. Last year, I had wrapped a set of Duck Dynasty shot glasses for her and had to instead give them to my sister-in-law who collects shot glasses. So this book kind of makes me think of her. And will again when I pick it out of the stacks in a decade.
  • Weird Hikes: A Collection of Bizarre, Funny, and Absolutely True Hiking Stories by Art Bernstein. I was clearly on a roll clicking Add to Cart.
  • Memories from a Misty Morning Marsh: A Duck Hunter’s Collection by Larry Dablemont. The Current Local, a news weekly out of Van Buren, Missouri, to which I subscribe has started running a column by Dablemont, and I enjoy it. So when I saw a book by this author, I jumped on it. I expect I will like it as I have other books by local columnists Jerry Crownover and Jim Hamilton.
  • Books by Larry McMurtry. The author owned a bookstore. Did you know that? I did from an essay I read in some academic writing magazine circa 1994 (the essay, “One Writer’s Big Innings“, is available for the Kindle).
  • Made to Be Broken: The 50 Greatest Records and Streaks in Modern History by Allen St. John. It’s a coffee table book, and looks a little too wordy for browsing during a sporting event. Not that we have those any more. So perhaps I will browse this in lieu of actual sporting events soon.
  • Brett Favre: The Tribute, a Sport Illustrated coffee table book.
  • Danica Patrick: America’s Hottest Racer by Jonathan Ingram and Paul Webb. For Trog, who’s no longer blogging but whose Danica Patrick fascination remains legendary. The book is from 2005. She looks so young. I am pretty sure I was not young in 2005.

Before shipping them, the staff removed the ABC Books stickers from them, which won’t be helpful should the proprietrix see me during the Sunday school hour if the government ever lets us go to church again. Without the sticker, I will likely not know where I got the books, and I might hide books I should flaunt.

This represents only the first order I placed. I placed another order Sunday night as I was looking for a couple of titles for my boys to read whilst we’re homeschooling them. And I added a couple other items to the cart because why not. Hopefully, the owners of ABC Books will be all right through the current unpleasantness. If not, it won’t be due to lack of effort on my part.

Because Nothing Interesting Ever Happened On Leap Day

So my mother-in-law gives each member of the family a wall calendar for Christmas, but over the years, I’ve found that although I hanged it on the office wall, I didn’t really write anything on it as appointments go on the family calendar (generally, the one she gives to my beautiful wife) that hangs in the dining room. I often found that I was months behind in turning the pages of it. So last year I reclaimed the wall space (to hang the Hirschfeld print and a Packers-themed wallhanging Christmas gift from my mother-in-law to be named later).

Which is why this year’s calendar is still in its wrap. I have it placed atop the bookshelves near where it would hang were I still to hang it. And as I was performing my biannual (or is it biennial?) office cleaning, I saw it and noted something awry with it.

365 interesting things in a year with 366 days.

Clearly, the cover designer was not paying attention.

I have not cracked it open to see if a day is, in fact, missing its remarkable people, extraordinary events, and/or fascinating facts.

Because clearly this misprint will be a collectors item someday.

Homeschooling, Day 9: Not the Movie For It

Yesterday, my beautiful wife picked “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost for our daily poem.

I thought of the perfect film for it:

The Ice Pirates starring Robert Urich between his stints as Gavilan and Spenser.

Yes, it was on Showtime in the middle 1980s. Yes, I did watch it over and over again whilst confined to quarters, which in the middle 1980s was a 12′ by 60′ trailer, and I wasn’t supposed to go outside when my mother wasn’t home during the work week.

Although I have it on DVD, I am not sure when I will watch it with the boys. Mostly because I don’t want to have to explain what a Space Herpe is. Or, worse, not explain it and have to explain to another parent why my child called her child a Space Herpe.

Coronaviraschooling: Day 8

So every day of this last week, their first at home because of the coronavirus lockdown, the boys and I (and sometimes my beautiful wife) have taken a poem and hand-copied it to keep up with our handwriting and to talk about poetry. We started with “If” by Rudyward Kipling, and apparently it’s a thing now because I’ve seen it on a couple different blogs (here and here this very week). I was going to have them do “The Gods of Copybook Headings”, but it’s pretty long–“If” took the slowest writer an hour (complaining included).

So we did a couple of shorter poems–a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “Ozymandias” by Shelley on Friday.

Continuing the theme of Romantic poets writing about ancient Asian things, yesterday we went with “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

After about an hour (including complaining), we finished. We talked about the rhyme scheme, the meter, and the way the poet uses strange contractions to make meter. I mentioned that Coleridge is best known for writing the Iron Maiden song “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“.

And then we watched the film version of the poem.

I told my beautiful wife I had just picked it up. Wherein “just” in this case means three years ago.

My wife and youngest son watched the whole thing with me; the oldest son wandered off, and when he returned, he asked what was happening, as though it was making real sense between the Olivia Newton-John numbers. We told him it would have made more sense if he hadn’t missed the animated interlude in the middle. Which was not true, but.

Today, I think we will continue our mythology unit with the 1980 Clash of the Titans.

Confession: I did select “Kubla Khan” just so we would get to watch the movie thereafter. There, I said it.

Book Report: Murder at the Painted Lady by Barbara Warren (2011)

Book coverAs I mentioned, my grandmother sent me a really nice omnibus edition of five Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie. Which I put on my to-read shelves. Where I promptly lost it. I am not kidding; after I finished Deep and Swift, I went looking for it on the shelves in my office, and I could not find it. You would expect it would be on top or something, but it is not.

Instead, I found this book on top of the floor stack. I bought it at LibraryCon last year from a pleasant older woman whose product didn’t really fit the general science fiction/comic convention. It sounded like a British-styled cottage mystery. And so it was, although it is set in the Ozarks.

A young lady finds that she has inherited a fine old house in Stony Point, Missouri, that has run down a little bit from an estranged great aunt whom she tried once to visit but was rebuffed. The husband of her aunt, if only there was a word for that, was prosecuted for jewelry theft and went to prison, and the aunt withdrew from society as she tried to prove his innocence, and she left the house to the only relative who ever showed her any consideration along with the directive that she clear her uncle (oh, that’s the word) name.

But even before she decides to accept the house, a chilling phone call warns her against it. Suddenly, she’s got relatives coming out of the woodwork, literally, to try to wrest it from her. With the help of a conscientious contractor and friends she makes along the way, she works to restore the home and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.

Oh, yeah, and one of the contenders for the home is murdered in the house–a house where she had no right to be and no signs of forced entry. I mean, murder is right in the title of the book. It’s not all a romance about a plucky young lady.

So it did fit into the cozy cottage mystery vibe, and I enjoyed it. I have a couple more from this author somewhere, but not on the stack immediately beneath this one. So I’ll probably enjoy them when I find them. Someday.

I’m Not Sure There’s Anything He Couldn’t Do

My father was born in the Baby Boom generation to a family of carpenters and outdoorsmen, gentle reader, so as I grew up, I was pretty sure he knew how to do everything. He could build a house, repair or rebuild a car, survive in the woods on his own, and so on.

Of course, my parents divorced when I was a pre-teen, my mother got custody, and we moved to Missouri, so I really didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him in those years where I could have learned a lot of things like this from him. You know, useful skills. Not that it would necessarily have done any good, though. I did live with him during my college years, and I didn’t take the time to absorb what I could have then, either, as I was busy working or studying (just kidding) or trying to frame myself as a poet and writer who would eventually be a big deal in New York or something. Anyway, to cosmopolitan for anything like working with my hands.

I am probably retconning a bit to be harder on myself than I need to be here. After all, I worked retail, warehouse, and printing jobs through those years and into my immediate post-college career, so I wasn’t as genteel as that. However, I did not learn a lot from my father when I could have.

So I received a little note this week from my grandmother in Wisconsin along with an enclosure.

It’s a poem he wrote in 1966, high school or perhaps his first year in the Marine Corps. It’s before he met my mother, as she did not enter the Corps until the next year. Maybe it was for the girl girl who gave him this sweater. Or another. He was a handsome young man, a football player in college, and popular with the girls. Although my grandmother had it, so perhaps he wrote it for her.

Apparently, he could write poetry and had nice handwriting to boot.

So here I am, older than he ever was, and I still have to find a way to equal him. Although I’ve got him on years married to the same woman. I think he topped out at eleven years twice.

Today I Learned

Sledge Hammer was born in St. Louis.

(I learned this because Adaptive Curmudgeon had a post today capped with a clip from the 2008 film Burn After Reading that featured Sledge Hammer! and the Farmers Insurance pitchman, so I looked him up on IMDB and learned that he’s been in a lot of other television shows and films since the television comedy that I know him best for.)

Certainly the IMDB entry says he’s known for other things.

But come on. He’s Sledge Hammer!

Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

False Dilemma

A nonprofit CEO writes in this week’s Marshfield Mail:

Unfortunately, it’s not online currently unless you want to pay a buck to get into the digital issue.

But it’s a false dilemma.

The actual article shares the anecdote of the guys who bought the 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and marked it up before Amazon put the kabosh on their entrepreneurial spirit and then goes on to tell people how you can help during this crisis.

As you know, gentle reader, I like to lay a couple things up. Which means I have a couple weeks (months, if rationed carefully) of canned goods at any given time. Because it’s only been a little over a decade since this region shut down for a week or so due to an ice storm (which was before we got here). And it just seems wise.

So does that make me a hoarder? I don’t expect to make money off selling my canned goods at some future date; as a matter of fact, I tend to rotate them out and donate them to the local food pantry as they come upon their “Best Buy Some More” date–which, as you know, is not when the food within goes bad but when it’s no longer at its peak of profitability or something.

The local food pantry has some guidelines for items past their date, so when the occasional can or case turns up that’s six months past the date stamped on the can, we give them to some of our friends who have a really large family and are not afraid to take canned goods out of season.

So we’ve laid up supplies and we’re helpers.

I dunno. I like to think I do my part. I could probably do more. But I take umbrage when someone whose paying job is to tell me that I am not doing enough tells me I am not doing enough.

Coronavirus Update: Lockdown Edition

So the county has implemented a stay at home order:

Leaders ask you to stay at home unless you are considered an essential employee, shopping for essential services for goods or exercising outside.

I’ve read the whole order which is a PDF which I cannot swipe and paste, so pardon me for embedding screenshots instead of text.

Here’s the order:

Sounds grim. You can only go to an essential business for essential activities.

Essential activities are:

Basically, you can only go to essential businesses if you need their goods or services.

What are essential businesses?

Grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, auto garages, construction/home repair, taxis/people movers, laundromats, Lowes, banks, hotels, call centers, doctor’s offices, and vet’s offices.

You know, it might have been clearer if they said what should close.

Which is apparently schools, gyms, martial arts schools, and ABC Books.

So it’s not exactly martial law.

It is a sad commentary, though, at how few places I go that are not essential.

As I was at a doctor’s office today discussing it with the non-doctor person who was setting me up, basically this means you can go about your business, but you should probably not go about it today as everyone takes care of their essential business before the essential businesses don’t exactly close.

“Brian J., does that mean you’re going out every day?” you might ask. You know what I ask, gentle reader? Why are your questions sometimes in italics and sometimes in quotation marks. Don’t you have a style guide? But my answer to your question is of course not. We will run out once or twice a week for essentials, that is, perishables and booze and to tend to whatever my mother-in-law needs. But we’re not going to panic.

Coronavirus Update: The Metaphor for Business

Received in the mail today: The Springfield Business Journal Today in Business newsletter:

A missing image marker. What an apt metaphor for these days of “If you like your business, you can keep your business if you can keep your business when people are prohibited from using it.”

Full disclosure: I actually have my email client set to block images, so I never see the images, metaphor-made-for-blog-content or not.

Coronaviraschooling, Day 1

Today, we had a unit on Sophocles and Aeschylus.

As I have mentioned before, in the days before cable and the Internet, you really had a limited selection of things to watch, and we watched Hercules and Hercules Unchained on Saturday and Sunday afternoons along with a whole host of peplum. Although I remember the Sinbad movies as well, but it looks like those were not products of the 1960s but the 1970s. And a whole bunch of Zorro.

I like recapturing those Saturday and Sunday afternoons when I find a film like this one at some yard sale or another and watching it, sometimes with my boys (who don’t mind the old films so much since I’ve inured them to it with viewings of old films like The Iron Mask and National Velvet).

And then I do a little research and learn tidbits of trivia (“research” means I read the Wikipedia entry for Steve Reeves) and learned Internet truths like he was the highest paid actor in the world in his day and that he was considered for the roles of Doctor No and The Man With No Name.

Neat stuff.

But, clearly, I am not watching the old films as fast as I thought I would at the beginning of last year. Perhaps the coronacation will allow me to catch up a bit.

A Big Part Of The Soundscape In Our Apartment in the Projects

Kenny Rogers has passed away.

I’ve seen him recently in the news as he played in Branson a couple years ago, and the review was a little harsh as he was older and couldn’t do what he’d done in better years.

The best of those years probably came in the early 1980s when he had great crossover success with songs like “Islands in the Stream”, “Lady”, and “Love Will Turn You Around” not to mention the country staples like “The Gambler”.

My favorite Kenny Rogers song was “Coward of the County”:

Mainly because I was a scrawny kid, and I hoped I would be able to lash out appropriately if needed. Apparently not, or perhaps I really never needed it.

Like “The Gambler”, this song was turned into a television movie that I probably saw back in the day. Before cable television and the Internet, gentle reader, you pretty much had to watch what was on, and we did.

I’m also a fan of the recent song “The Greatest”:

Although a little research indicates that this song is twenty-three years old. In my defense, I didn’t listen to country in the late 1990s, and I was exposed to the song as I started to mow the lawn at Nogglestead and could only pull in a “classic” country station. Which is also why I thought “Could Have Been Me” was also a recent Billy Ray Cyrus song.

At any rate, Kenny Rogers left his mark on the music, as he was part of the pop-ization wave of country in the late 1970s and early 1980s that spawned a reactionary, more country sound in the 1990s. And the cycle continues today.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” the business coach asked.

She didn’t ask me; I don’t have a business or life coach. She asked this of my beautiful wife the other day, and my wife asked me last night while we watched the sunset.

I remember Joe DuBois asked me that in 1998. We were standing at the old timey semicircle sink, washing up after a day of running printing presses, and I told him I did not know. I mean, back then, I was five years out from college, and I told him that I hadn’t expected to be working as a printing press operator five years from then.

It’s pretty clear I’ve never really been much of a planner. My wife, on the other hand, does, so this question is right in her wheelhouse. She likes to plan out the week to come on Sunday nights, including the nights we’re staying in (all of them these days) and what we will eat for each meal. She likes to get a little more granular than that, but when the week unfolds, something always comes up which derails the weekly plan. Someone has a homework emergency. Work runs long. Or something. These variations stress her out a lot at times, whereas I am able to better go with the flow.

If I skip ahead in five year segments from my conversation with Joe, I would find myself working at an Internet startup that I hoped would make me rich. Five years later, I had worked been an Executive and had just struck out on my own as a consultant, but mostly was taking care of my two children. Five years later, both my kids are in school, and I’ve taken a contract with another startup that I hoped would make me rich–my billed income was certainly high, and I thought the sky was the limit (until my accountant calculated the annual tax increase, which sobered things quickly). I’d also started training in martial arts after my boys did. Five years later, my consulting work had gotten stale, and I took a full time position that’s not as swashbuckling, to say the least, as being an independent contractor. Five years from then, which is only three years from now, I’ll have a high school graduate and high school sophomore and…. Who knows?

If we reel back in the years in five year increments, we can see what I was blogging about on this day in history.

March 20, 2015
Book Report: Holiday Memory by Dylan Thomas (1978)

March 20, 2010
No posts on this date, but a couple on March 21:
This Administration Cannot See Clearly
Charity Founded By Former Elected Officials Blows Entire Budget On Overhead, Parties
An Unfortunate Turn To Boilerplate Health Care Sob Story

March 20, 2005
No posts on March 20, 2005, either, which is odd as it was at the height of my blogging. However, on March 21, I posted:
Book Report: Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene (2000)
The Dogs That Didn’t Bark
Collateral Damage Audience
Post-Dispatch Gets It Right In Sidebar
But There Won’t Be Smoking Allowed

To be honest, that’s what the blog is really about: Giving me the ability to go back to a point in time and see what was going on in the world and in my life at the time. You, gentle reader, are just along for the slow-moving ride.

And where ever I am five years from now, I’ll know how I got there. But I’m not sure where that is, nor am I sure where I would want that to be.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE!!!1!

So the spellchecker in the browser here does not recognize the spelling of coronavirus yet, which is a nice thing.

On Tuesday, we had a project manager for a local contractor out to re-bid replacing the gutters at Nogglestead. The current gutters, many years or decades old, can no longer handle the deluge that comes with severe spring thunderstorms. I had the same fellow out to bid last year, but we didn’t have it done for some reason–I got busy or something. At any rate, the price was the same, so I put down a deposit on it. Sometime in the next week or so, a team will be out to put my new gutters on amid the panic. After he took my check, the project manager held out his hand to shake mine, and I felt like a dandy germophobe in not clasping his.

I went to Sam’s Club yesterday to top things off in case some time in the near future I won’t be able to. The hours have been trimmed, and I got there about an hour after the store opened. I can’t give you an apples-to-apples comparison of the same time period on a normal weekday, but it wasn’t terribly crowded. Cleaning products were limited to two per SKU as were diapers and whatnot. The laundry detergent was mostly gone. The meat department and produce department were a little light, but I managed to get what I needed. I managed to hit the checkouts as everyone else did, but I remembered I wanted to pick up some sushi for lunch, so I went back, and when I got to the registers a second time, the lines were minimal.

We have been staying in more than normal, with only one trip out some days (Sam’s Club or the recycling center). Today, my beautiful wife is going to visit a 92-year-old woman who just joined her choir. When she first showed for choir, she forgot where she parked, and my wife drove her around the church parking lot looking for her car. So the new choir member made an afghan for my wife, and she wants my wife to pick it up today in spite of the current unpleasantness.

Five of the last six days have been overcast and rainy, with only yesterday warm and sunny. Spring always catches me by surprise. This year more than others. But a cool, rainy spring last year led to our best peach crop ever, and the trees are starting to blossom now. I hope we’re not going to get another freeze, but it is definitely possible.

So that’s the story. Life goes on, especially for the people who have to go to work somewhere that’s not in the service industry. It might even seem more normal for the people who still have to go out to work every day than it does for those of us in the professional trades who sit at home alone but for the Internet headlines and rumors for company.

Good luck out there in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Remember to eat your neighbors first while they’re still plump, before they start getting thin from starvation, and only then dip into your stockpiled beans.

A Four-Legged Book Snob

Isis, the current black cat, prefers hardbacked, 1000-page classical literature to cheap paperbacks like Deep and Swift:

Of course, she judges a book based on the amount of resistance it provides when she scratches her cheek on it, and she prefers the thicker books and hardbacks for her self-gratification.

She can’t actually read the books, gentle reader.

She’s a great cat, but not that great.