Book Report: Versailles by Daniel Meyer (?)

Book coverOkay, wow, now that is impressive. I have recently read a book on Windsor Castle and was not that impressed. But Versailles? Oh, my.

In Windsor Castle’s defense, it is almost six hundred years older than Versailles and started out as a military fortification, where Versailles started out as a hunting lodge but turned into a château (literally smell of cat) for entertaining, holding court, and then living for the seventeenth century French monarchs, built and expanded at the height of the French monarchies, republics, and empires.

The book has a blueprint for each floor of the main building followed by a description of each room as you would take a walking tour and a lot of large, lavish pictures. Even if they were small, the pictures could be nothing but lavish. The rooms are large, with high ceilings (modern homes have great rooms with high ceilings as a selling feature; in Versailles, all rooms are great rooms). They have great original works hanging above the giant doors, not to mention on select walls and with painted ceilings.

You know, normally I see something like this and say, that must be hell to heat, but the book mentions that the temperature at Versailles rarely gets down to freezing–they have orange and palm trees that they bring out in the spring for the gardens.

Oh, and the gardens–the book also includes walking tours of the vast gardens behind Versailles and Trianon, the “little” getaway cottage(s) that are within walking distance of Versailles.

When my beautiful wife say this book on my desk prior to my writing this report, she asked if that was the place I didn’t have to go since I’ve seen the book (that, remember, is Marseille.).

Versailles, though: I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I might have mentioned we’ve been going to high school football games. The school’s football team is not as good as a lot of the other teams in the district. Although they won handily their first home game, they lost the rest and entered the playoffs somehow with a 3-6 record.

But one thing I really enjoyed watching was #2, a running back/defensive back. According to the roster, he is five foot five and 140 pounds–which means he outweighed me at the end of high school, although I was seven inches taller. But he was playing football against, basically, men. Some of the linemen on his own team were well over six foot tall and three hundred pounds. So he comes up to the shoulders of a lot of his team mates. And opponents.

They’ve run the ball with him sometimes, and he had some good runs. I don’t know if the opposing players just couldn’t see him or what. And he would block on passing downs, sometimes bouncing completely off of the linemen or linebackers he’d run into. And he would get in on tackles, although I suspect that his method of tackling was mostly making the opposing players trip over him. And when he was not on the field, he often would walk on the sidelines, raising his arms like they do in the NFL to encourage the crowd to make some noise. He did all of this even when his team was down by three touchdowns.

He played the game with everything in him. He played football like Ed Gennero played football.

I have always cheered hardest for the undersized players who play with a lot of spirit. As I have often mentioned, I was pretty small and scrawny as a kid until I got close to six foot in the 11th grade (I am so old, I don’t say junior year any more since most of my years were junior years, and I am only hopeful I will make it to senior years). And I was not very coordinated or athletic until I hit my 40s, when the bar for performance was lower (just showing up makes me a triathlete).

When I’m doing triathlons or 5Ks, I generally end the even with something left in the tank. I’m not sure how to do things all the way, and a lot of things I don’t do with the right mind or with all my heart. Sometimes, I might only give a token effort or pull back when the going gets tough or the progress too slow.

In this broken, fallen, and gone-mad world, I’d like to do everything–work, play, learning–with my whole heart like #2 plays football, but that’s still a goal I aspire to. With inspiration where I can find it, sometimes on Friday nights in autumn.

On The Ethics of Aristotle by Father Joseph Koterski, S.J. (2001)

Book coverLike The Aeneid of Virgil, this is a six hour course on something I, as someone with an English and Philosophy degree, should probably already have read. I have read bits of Aristotle, to be sure, but I am not sure I have completed a complete work of his that’s not an essay. In my defense, I was a social philosophy major, but, again, that meant a social topic-based focus on philosophers/philosophies, so it was a bunch of survey courses and not a deep dive into any particular philosopher or philosophy. So the readings were mostly excerpts and essays. Well, the readings I did anyway. I think I was supposed to read The Republic and Leviathan somewhere in there, but I opted to continue trying to keep all of my classes at the bare minimum reading required to pass since I was trying to cram in 18 hours every semester whilst working full time.

At any rate, this course goes pretty much book-by-book in Ethics and discusses the topics and maybe a little of whom was influenced by this work (being Aristotle was one of the Western early philosophers, he influenced more than he was influenced by). Aquinas’s Natural Law development arises from re-reading Aristotle, and the description of both are pretty compelling. Which makes me want to find an Aquinas course somewhere along the line (I have already priced complete copies of Summa Theologica which I could no doubt jump right on after I finish the complete works of Shakespeare and The Story of Civilization, both of which I have already started).

The dozen lectures here include:

  1. The Philosopher of Common Sense
  2. What is the Purpose of Life?
  3. What is Moral Excellence?
  4. Courage and Moderation
  5. The Social Virtues
  6. Types of Justice
  7. The Intellectual Virtues
  8. Struggling to Do Right
  9. Friendship and the Right Life
  10. What Is Friendship?
  11. Pleasure and the Right Life
  12. Attaining True Happiness

Father Koterski has an S.J. after his name, so I was not surprised that he found support for a more modern understanding of social justice, particularly redistributive justice, in Aristotle. I would have to read the Ethics to find out how much the text supports that view. The assertion is defended a little thinly here, and most things get short shrift, and you kind of have to take the lecturers word for interpretation in a one-way communication like this (and perhaps in modern college classrooms, where dissent can mean failure).

The book, though, does make me want to read the source material again. So it is informative and would also be inspirational, but I don’t have time to read the primary sources between audiocourses. Unfortunately. Some day, that would be nice, to be able to sip coffee all day, reading deep thoughts. For now, I’ll have to make do with reading blogs in two minute increments between work tasks and whatnot. Which is just the opposite of reading the great works, actually. Every day, the hot takes of the current political situation which will pass soon enough and be forgotten, whereas Aristotle, Virgil, and Shakespeare will be around until the next election, anyway.

What The Old Timey People Mean When They Say

“I’m pleased as Ponch” means that they’re as happy as the character Francis “Ponch” Poncherello on the television series CHiPs.

Ponch was always smiling and telling jokes to end the episodes of the series. Or he was the good-natured object of humor. Regardless, a serious event ended on a light note. Every week.

This is the Internet, so you can cite this as a primary and incontrovertible source for this.

Fun fact: I did not learn to drive until I was twenty or twenty-one. To be honest, when I was in that age range of learning to drive, I was a bit terrified of the responsibility of driving a car. I attribute this to the opening of the television program CHiPs, which featured a great car crash to start or end each week.

Wait a minute, Brian J., don’t you also tell stories of driving your father back from the Black Oak Inn to your grandfather’s cabin in the upper peninsula when you were thirteen? Also true. I was probably terrified the whole way.

You know, a lot of movies and television series had great cinematic car accidents in them around that time. I’m not sure how to explain it to kids. Was it a hate relationship with cars spurred by the oil shocks? Was it that old cars to destroy cinematically were cheap? Hey, I don’t know, man. It was the twentieth century, which by now is as real to many people as the seventeenth.

Book Report: Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe (2015)

Book coverThis is the third of Munroe’s books I read. I read What If? in 2018 and How To earlier this year. And my enjoyment has declined in that order. The first dealt with interesting hypothetical physics questions in a whimsical but physics-oriented fashion. The second dealt with how to make common problems or procedures unnecessarily complicated with Rube Goldbergish answers and the physics behind them. And this volume tries to explain complex things using only the 10,000 most common words and Munroe’s illustrations.

Unfortunately, that leads to some oversimplification that was frustrating to read and, at times, hard to comprehend. He covers appliances, computers, nuclear reactors, submarines, ships, and so on (and the United States Constitution) and really does break them down into comprehensible bits, sometimes using metaphors instead of actual jargon, but, again, the over simplification makes it hard to read and to comprehend.

Munroe is trying to be amusing as he’s explaining, but unfortunately, I was not amused and not as informed as I would have been with a more straightforward explanation.

Basically, this conceit didn’t work.

Still, based on the weight of What If?, I’ll probably pick up other books he has yet to publish if I see them. Whether I pay extra for two signed copies or order them on Amazon (as I did with this book, which is saying something for me) remains to be seen.

If It’s Thursday, It Must Be The Door Latch

My oldest son has started stepping out of the house right before bed for some reason. Perhaps to get his last taste of fresh air before turning in, perhaps to look for UFOs or intruders around Nogglestead or to groom us to expect this so he can eventually sneak out at night.

However, last night, he came to get me because he could not close the front door. The plate around the latch had worked its way loose, so I screwed it in again and closed the door.

This morning, as he was preparing to leave for school, he came down and told me the door was off its hinges. Exclamation points burst into my head as I went to see it, but the he meant the latch plate was loose again. I tightened it again, and he headed for the bus stop. But I knew I would have to figure out a way to permanently tighten the plate, but I figured that was a task for, you know, daylight.

Thirty minutes later, my youngest, whom I had not yet awakened, came to my office to say that the door was open, and he found Roark (yes, an orange-haired tabby named after that Roark) out front.
Continue reading “If It’s Thursday, It Must Be The Door Latch”

Adventures In Dryer Troubleshooting: A Prose Poem, Sort Of.

I got to use my digital voltage multimeter today.
I set the voltage detection to 200V in testing a 240V appliance dryer outlet.
I got to use my new digital voltage multimeter today.
It autodetects the voltage and AC or DC, which protects it from mayhem like me.
The woman at the hardware store offered me an extended protection plan;
I said it should protect itself from my mistakes.
I think it’s the thermal fuse.
I have ordered a thermal fuse and cycling thermostat based on this diagnosis.
I guess we shall know sometime Friday whether the diagnosis was correct
and can maybe relax sometime Sunday or Monday that my repair
will not burn the house down.
Meanwhile, I will be visiting a laundromat for more adventures
this week
and maybe next
until we get a new dryer.

Book Report: Subzero by Jeff Patrick (2013)

Book coverI picked up this book at ABC Books in June at another author’s book signing. As you know, I had read My Name Is Rock, the first book in this young adult series, earlier that month. I thought I might get another one someday, but that turned out to be sooner than I had anticipated.

At any rate, what I could say about the first I can say about the second: It’s a young adult novel with a Christian protagonist who prays before going into the set piece battles. It has the kind of set pieces connected feel you get out of the more obviously outlined-and-filled men’s adventure paperbacks, but with simpler language, even less connective tissue, and a whole lot more explanation points.

In this book, Rock Rodgers has to go pretty immediately from Egypt (his doings there described in My Name Is Rock) to Siberia. The leader of The Agency, the clandestine black ops group Rodgers works for, has been kidnapped by the wife of the US Senator whose son was kidnapped in the earlier book. The wife, before she married the Senator, owned her own mining and shipping company and was a worldwide trafficker in drugs before The Agency started disrupting her operations. So she’s going to try to get the head of The Agency to reveal its operations, and Rock has to figure out where to find the Colonel before he does.

So we get a series of set pieces: Infiltrate deep into Russia, go to such and such place, shoot some people, find a clue, go to another place, do a hard probe / hit the enemy compound while the bad guys play off of each other.

So it is a lot like an Executioner novel, but with a prayer or two thrown in.

When I was writing novels, I kind of had an idea where the things would go and what scenes would arise, but I didn’t work from a hard outline, so I’d like to think my scenes didn’t feel like set pieces. Perhaps I should, though, as people who outline novels seem to have some succes in finishing them.

But back to this series: I am not sure I’ll read the next book. When I bought this book, I bought a copy of My Name Is Rock for my boys. I am not sure they’ve read it yet. When I was their ages, I had transitioned to adult novels. Maybe I should instead get them some early John D. MacDonald work.

A Trip to the Laundromat

So yesterday, I went to the laundromat to launder our oversized comforter. I’d like to say that this is a tradition, that I do this every autumn when I am employed less than full time and we’re transitioning from summer weight bedding to the autumnal anti-anxiety weight (not actually designed for that purpose, but it is too heavy for mere mortal laundry appliances). I would say this is a tradition, but it’s a good news/bad news situation: This was my second trip; apparently, I only have this free time in October or November every two or three years, and the free time soon ends when I catch onto a full time position or contract right after doing the comforter. Well, that has happened once so far. So I had better enjoy this free time while I can.

So I went to the laundromat with my large comforter and started it up. As you might expect, gentle reader, I am not the sort of person who leaves his clothing or large comforter unattended at the laundromat, so I brought a notepad and a book to read to settle in for a couple hours’ of watching tumbling laundry and wishing I was writing.

But the people in the laundromat held my interest if not my impolite gaze.
Continue reading “A Trip to the Laundromat”

Book Report: One Good Deed by David Baldacci (2019)

Book coverOn a recent visit to the Kansas City area, my aunt said she was looking to get rid of some books that someone had given her, so I took the lot. Which was good, as I was staying in a hotel that night and had somehow failed to bring a book to read. Atop the stack was a book by David Baldacci; I kind of recognized the name because my beautiful wife has been known to get his books from the library from time to time. So I started with this one.

It starts with an ex-military man named Archer getting dropped off a bus in a small town, and I thought, Aw, man, I’ve already read this book. But it’s different: Archer is getting released from prison and taken to a starter town where he will be on parole. He gets offered a job by a rich and somewhat shady fellow, the town’s leading citizen, collecting the collateral on a debt from the the other rich man in town. As Archer investigates, his employer is murdered across the hall in the hotel the night after Archer has relations with his employer’s mistress, who happens to be the daughter of the man whose car he is supposed to collect. So he finds himself arrested for the murder and has to work to clear his name. As he investigates, he finds a plot not unlike those you’d find in Chandler or (the author featuring the other Archer) Ross MacDonald.

The book is set in 1949 or thereabouts, so it has a bit of an anachronistic feel but with modern sensibilities and prose styles–it’s definitely less dense than Chandler, MacDonald, or even Hammett.

It’s a little thick, though, in keeping with modern times that charge $17 for a mass market paperback, and to be honest, I had a little trouble getting into it as a lot of the front of the book was lavish in the description, building the world of Poca City and the post-World War II milleiu for those of us not steeped on novels of the time or books from the 1950s and 1960s. But after a while, the descriptions lighten into the action, so the pace picks up. But the author still likes to go long on descriptions at times–Archer walks into a lavishly appointed room, and we get three or four long paragraphs describing the opulence of the furnishings before mentioning the man in the room. You know, I would track the description a little closer to how the protagonist’s attention would track: Man, things around the man, and maybe then other things not near the man. But this book is told in third person, so I guess you don’t have to jibe description with attention exactly, but it’s something I would do.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book enough that I’ll watch for other books from this best-selling author at book sales in Nixa and Ozark (the Friends of the Christian County Library book sales, should they ever happen again) or at garage sales. I don’t like them enough to run out and spend $17 or $30 on books new, though. To be fair to this author, I don’t really buy many books new, at full prices these days. Although perhaps in a frenzy at Barnes and Noble or Books a Million, I might buy his work for $8 or $10 from the discount rack. When I am in a frenzy. Because when I am caught up in that moment, $10 for a book doesn’t seem too much.

The Real Problem Is

Confession: I read the Agony Aunt columns in the British tabloids, particularly Dear Deidre in The Sun. Do I do it for the salacious and seamy/unseemly details? Do I do it to feel morally superiour (the British spelling, if I had my druthers) to the people who might write into Dear Deidre not so much for advice but for some sort of validation that what they did was not wrong, or at least no so wrong:

Of course that’s why.

I have to wonder how much popular culture, from Dear Deidre to Melrose Place (what, that’s not popular culture now? Gentle reader, I don’t want to make you feel old, but the most recent reboot was eleven years ago already, so it’s ripe for another comeback–if there is one boon from dearth of fresh ideas in modern popular mythmaking, it’s that any cultural allusions will be perennially fresh as the same old shows and movies get endlessly recycled), where was I? Oh yes, that popular culture has fictively normalized bad behavior. But that’s neither here nor there.

What I wanted to point out is how the answers to a lot of such letters feature first and foremost the condemnation not so much for how people have betrayed sacred vows or presumed trust but rather for putting people at risk of getting Wuhan Flu. Continue reading “The Real Problem Is”

Easily Confused, To An Algorithm

So I was trying to play Naz’s album Time After (yes, the one with "Time After Time" on it, not that Naz has made a second album for you to confuse the two).

But on my Portable Device, I tapped and held the artist, and it came up with a photo.

Wait a minute, that is not Nazia Chaudry.

So I did a little bit of Internet sleuthing, which means a search for naz musical artist, which came up with Naina Naz:

Who is apparently an electronic traditional pop Pakistani singer:

Who hails from a land where only men go to concerts or something.

The image on my phone does not look like her.

So I did a new fangled image search, and I discovered this is Japanese electronic pop artist Naz.

Since I have great affection for Japanese/Japanese American fusion jazz, I gave it a listen just in case, but no.

Not my thing, but it would have been right up Charles’ alley.

You know what is my thing? Wishing the right Naz would put out another album since her cover of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” is not on Time After:

On The African Experience: From “Lucy” to Mandela by Professor Kenneth P. Vickery (2006)

Book coverTo be honest, I’ve struggled a bit with writing the summation of this course, or at least what I learned about it, because it’s Africa, which is where [Some] black people come from. I say “Some” because Australian aborigines are dark skinned to the point they might be considered black and not merely southwest Asian brown and because Americans who are black can come from Australia, Africa, the Caribbean, America, or anywhere else. What a freaking loaded topic this is.

So anything disparaging or dismissive I might say about this course, African history, or anything else will undoubtedly mark me as a Racist. Although, to be honest, the fact that I grew up a minority in the housing projects of Milwaukee or the fact that I announced to a comely young lady who would later discover that she was an Indigo child as we left a mandatory university diversity thing that I was 21 the first time I could claim my best friend was white (Mike) does not factor in my Racism. Only the 21st century definitions and sensibilities will do.

Now that we’re all comfortable with that, understand some things I will say about sub-Saharan African history might be taken as disparaging or dismissive; however, that is not a factor of Race. It’s more a factor of history. Well, written history. Which is what we mean by history, ainna?

So. Continue reading “On The African Experience: From “Lucy” to Mandela by Professor Kenneth P. Vickery (2006)”

The Mark of Quality

As I mentioned, I have not worn cloth masks because I refuse to accept permanence of masking orders (although I’m starting to wonder if they’re permanent or just until rioters in the streets are no longer covering their faces). The box of paper masks I’ve been drawing from was getting low, so I clicked on an Instapundit Amazon link so he would get a couple coppers from my purchase.

The link says 50 Pcs Disposable Face Mask 3-Ply Breathable & Comfortable Filter Safety Mask, Protective Blue Masks for Indoor and Outdoor (Blue Face Mask). The headline of the Amazon item says the same. I did not look closely at the image.

Because it’s Chinese-made:

Disposal Face Masks.

Me, I’m just hoping they’re not covered in cadmium.

The Earliest Christmas At Nogglestead

I am not saying I am that guy or we’re that family; generally, we decorate for Christmas around Thanksgiving here at Nogglestead. But this year might be different.

I played the first Christmas carols of the year last Friday because I got a disappointing email and because, well, 2020, man, although I am hopeful the worst of 2020 is over by Thanksgiving, although I am afraid it will not. Can one be hopeful and frightened at the same time? If one has a reason-based or perhaps will-based hope but an emotional fear, I reckon. I played Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s Christmas Album and Jessy J’s California Christmas downstairs, and I’ve recently played the Reader’s Digest Christmas set I got in September as it was on the desk. I don’t tend to put away the records I just got until I listen to them, and besides that, I have nowhere to put the records any more as I have filled the current storage which was going to be enough for some expansion, but that was a couple years back.

This year, recently bought Christmas carol LPs aside, I am eager to get the Christmas season started, albeit with a whiff of desperation mania.

I even baked pumpkin pies last night. Continue reading “The Earliest Christmas At Nogglestead”

That Would Make An Interesting Movie, Perhaps

From Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War:

Among the prisoners brought to this place was a woman, clad in rebel gray. She was taken, mounted astride a bony steed, apparently performing the duties of a scout, but claimed to belon to a battery of artillery. A degraded, wild specimen of humanity, of Irish extraction, with a shock of tangled black hair hanging in elf locks down to her shoulders, she proved the centre of interest to idlers of the camp.

Sounds like a role for Natalie Portman.

But.

At these should would occasionally hurl stones, being particularly hostile towards the negroes, who gave her a wide berth, to avoid the missiles, which she threw with considerable force and accuracy.

Well, that could be left out of the movie. Along with the fact that this woman was a Confederate, which is also right out.

So, never mind. Maybe another super hero movie will do the trick. Why haven’t we rebooted Howard the Duck yet?

Book Report: Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War by Alexander Gardner (1866, 1959?)

Book coverYou might have thought I already read this book, gentle reader–I could see how I might have gotten that impression, as I have already perused Brady’s Civil War. As you might recall, gentle reader, that book was a collection of photographs taken by Matthew Brady in the eastern theatre of the Civil War. This book collects very similar photos from Alexander Gardner, who at one point was Brady’s assistant–even during some of the Civil War photo shoots. So perhaps the books share some of the photos, as Gardner took photos that he had taken when he left. I really did not do the analysis myself to see if they had any overlap.

At any rate, the text included is ascribed to the photographer himself. Unfortunately, it is in about six point font in the book; tiny print, and I’m starting to get to the age where tiny print in poor light makes me think I am getting to the age where, if you know what I mean. So it was slow reading. The text is definitely on the side of the North, as it calls the Confederates traitors and treasonous and whatnot.

Like the Brady book, it reminds me that I own a lot of history about the Civil War (and live within a musket shot of) a national battlefield, but I really haven’t kept the history of the conflict fresh in my mind.

Perhaps I should look for a course on the Civil War or two–although I am pretty sure those are the first to go at the book sales around here.

Counter to the Narrative

One of these things is not like the others:

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Missouri adds 1,500+ cases; Arkansas up 800+ cases!!!!

Hospitalizations rising in Missouri, prompting worries!!!!!

Springfield-Greene County Health Department reports 4 additional COVID-19 deaths!!!!!!!

Nixa, Mo. Mask Order: Mixed thoughts on new masking ordinance!!! and City of Ozark, Mo. enacts masking ordinance after cases spike, wherein two nearby towns went through the whole legislative process, where the city councils met, had citizens make their voices known, and ultimately decided to not have a masking ban, but the news and the executives at the hospitals are now SHOUTING EXCLAMATION POINTS, so the mayors, modern day Cincinnatuses (Cincinnati?) have unilaterally taken EMERGENCY ACTION.

But: Mo. State COVID-case downturn leads to ending lease with Q Hotel:

Confirmed cases of coronavirus have dropped off substantially at Missouri State University so that the school no longer needs to use a local hotel to house students who’ve tested positive.

The “Q” in The Q Hotel & Suites stood for “quarantine” when Missouri State announced in August that it was leasing the then-closed 120-room building next to Hammons Field as a place to house students who contracted COVID-19.

* * * *

At its peak on August 31 the university was housing 122 students in either quarantine or isolation.

Now that number is 10.

Where are the exclamation points for this data?

Does anyone else here draw parallels between counting deaths and casualties in the Iraq War, with Grim Milestones based on context-free metrics, every day up until a different party took the White House and today? Will Karens become the Cindy Sheehans of 2020 and disappear should Biden win?

Ask me in a couple of months!

How Quickly They Forget

Does anyone else here remember gas over $4 a gallon and high unemployment during the last administration? Remember how the former president said we could not drill our way out of high gas prices?

I mean, I saw a Biden ad during a football game that said he was going to “punish” corporations and bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Kind of like what has been happening over the last couple of years minus the “punish” part.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills over here. By remembering.