Brian J.’s Recycler Tour Turns To Rome

On this date in 2016:

I tried out this new handshake that I learned at martial arts today in church.

In related news, I’ve been communicated from the church. Apparently, this is when a Protestant church says you’ve done something bad and you’re now a Catholic. I didn’t know that was allowed.

Apparently, I think Catholic humor does not go out of style, as I posted just this weekend:

I’m on the Pastor’s Bad List, again.

Friday night, I sneak into the fish fry, and when I turn around with a plate full of golden breaded, flaking POPERY and hush papists, there’s a Lutheran church elder with a notebook.

One of the pastors at my church responded:

Give me that elders name and I’ll make sure that notebook page somehow disappears and you’ll be ok with the Lutheran pastor

And I rejoined:

Sorry, Pastor, I will not be tattling on anyone who might or might not have been consorting with the Whitefish of Babylon.

Actually, I am not sure if that’s Catholic humor. I must be a raging anti-papist to make gags like that.

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On Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide by Scott Huettel (2014)

Book coverIt’s been a while since I listened to most or perhaps all of this course. My beautiful wife discovered that the DVD player in our old, but newish to us, truck would “play” DVDs, but when it played them, it would not display the video on the new-then-fangled touchscreen video control. Instead, it would play the audio. Which opened us up to “listening” to DVD courses while driving. Except that the track listing was not as straight-forward as actual CDs. The track listing includes menus you cannot see, titles and whatnot, and other things. So I listened to this course in May and June, culminating in our trip to Wisconsin. But somewhere on the trip, we reached a point where we were retreading the same ground, hearing the same course again, so either we got the discs out of order or mangled returning to our place on the last lecture or three. So we removed it from the car’s audio system and went onto the next course. And then we didn’t drive anywhere of consequence. Given that my oldest son is old enough to drive he and his brother to school, and the round trip in the car is no longer an hour and a half per day, who knows when I will finish another course?

Well, UPDATE, although you have not seen this post before, I started it in August of last year and discovered the course in the back of my to-review and notepad set on my desk. All I had written was the above paragraph, and then I rebooted or something where I closed the text editor. So, six months later, my recollections of the course are a little hazier, but at a high level, I can remember some elements of it, and sometime I think I would like to revisit the course and/or read more on the subject.

The book deals with research in psychology, particularly the science of decision making, which is the root of economics. How do people make the choices they do given the information they have? How much do they weigh this, how much do they research, how much do they go with their gut, and how’s that working out for them?

The lectures include:

  1. What Is A Good Decision?
  2. The Rise of Behavioral Economics
  3. Reference Dependence–It’s All Relative
  4. Reference Dependence–Economic Implications
  5. Probability Weighting
  6. Risk–The Known Unknowns
  7. Ambiguity–The Unknown Unknowns
  8. Temporal Discounting–Now or Later?
  9. Comparison–Apples and Oranges
  10. Bounded Rationality–Knowing Your Limits
  11. Heuristics and Biases
  12. Randomness and Patterns
  13. How Much Evidence Do We Need?
  14. The Value of Experience
  15. Medical Decision Making
  16. Social Decisions–Competition and Coordination
  17. Group Decision Making–The Vox Populi
  18. Giving and Helping–Why Altruism?
  19. Cooperation by Individuals and in Socialism
  20. When Incentives Backfire
  21. Precommitment–Setting Rationality Aside
  22. Framing–Moving to a Different Perspective
  23. Interventions, Nudges, and Decisions

I liked it better than On Thinking Like An Economist: A Guide To Rational Decision Making because this course and discipline are more descriptive and enquiring into what guides peoples’ decision making rather than on how to proscriptively alter people’s minds and mental calculus by imposing outside incentives–that other course sure did want to guide people to the right path, which is what the economists and their paymasters determined as the right path. I also liked it far better than Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World, which I did not finish, which found the State should fix the values for its subjects (and the bad ideas were basically individuals and self-determination).

Sorry to have held out on you, but this really was a good and engaging course, and I recommend it. I guess it’s available on the Internet and you don’t need a DVD player that plays audio in your truck to appreciate it. And watching it on an actual television might just give me the excuse I need to watch it again, perhaps with an actual notebook in hand.

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Book Report: A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Eisenberg (2000)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has an “Instructional” category, and I picked this book up. I bought an etching bit or set thereof for my rotary tool/grinder (as I mentioned when I bought this book last summer) a couple years back and have done a little work on wine bottles. I hoped this book would offer some additional techniques and whatnot.

However, this is a serious book about serious, professional-quality glass engraving. The samples come from pro shops, including one in Milwaukee, and very early the author dismisses using an etching bit on a rotary tool. This is serious glass engraving using a grinding wheel and plate glass, and it’s not a book for beginners. Much of the book deals with setup and preparation of both the stone wheels (shaping them the way you want to for the shapes you want to produce, making a good mandril/shaft to hold the wheel, and balancing the wheel so it does not bounce or wobble) and the glass (a whole chapter on beveling glass, which takes another set of machines altogether). The book then does move into some practice you can do with your different wheels to make leaves and stems and includes some patterns, but it requires a whole workshop of specialized equipment.

I guess that the main thing I’ve learned via extensive research (that is, searching the Internet for “glass etching vs glass engraving” and then reading this lightweight Internet chaff) is that engraving is a more industrial term, and what you do with a rotary tool or the acid is considered glass etching. So this is not really a book for what I hope to do intermittently amongst my other handicraft projects, but it was at least educational in that regard.

If you want to be a professional glass engraver, you can probably learn a lot from it.

At least it filled a slot in the Winter Reading Challenge for me.

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Book Report: I’m No Hero by Charlie Plumb (1973)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a “Wartime Setting” category, and I picked up James Webb’s Fields of Fire as it was the first piece of wartime fiction I laid my hands on, but it looked pretty thick, and my time is running out on hitting all fifteen categories. So when I came across this book, nonfiction and looking shorter, I laid my hands upon it instead. I bought this book in 2009 for just such an occasion. How foresightful I was!

In 1967, Charlie Lamb was shot down over North Vietnam and was taken prisoner, and he spent six years as a prisoner of war. This is his account of those years, presented not exactly chronologically, but topically (although with a little bit of chronolgy that evolves). The account does not linger on the torture and deprivation they suffered–it’s pretty matter of fact about it–but it does extol the ingenuity of the men. I mean, at one point, the author, a ham radio operator as a kid, is trying to build a radio out of things he found in a Vietnamese POW camp, including bits of wire and whatnot. He talks about their exercise programs, how they worship in secret, how they exercise, and a bit of how they’re moved around, but by 1973 are stacked in Hanoi as the war turns against North Vietnam.

Thematically, the book is very positive–again, focusing on the ingenuity of the prisoners and not dwelling on the deprivations of their conditions, but for the second book in a row, the book hints at and then deals, more directly, with the author’s divorce. In this case, the author was away for six years and his wife found someone else in the interim. But even then, the author kind of mentions his heartbreak, but even though he does bring a meeting with her for signing the last of the papers, and he tells of how it affected him, his recounting of it still maintains a certain stoicism.

I mean, the title of the book is I’m No Here, but the greater indictment for Generation X–that men such as these were not that much out of the ordinary. Heck, my father, who served during the Vietnam War but was spared, to his everlasting guilt, from serving in Vietnam by the luck of the draw, might have been able to build a radio from spare parts. Can I? No. And my children? Less than I.

So I salute men like Charlie Plumb. Men as we’ve not seen much since.

I did note a couple of things in this book with paper flags, but I won’t give direct quotes, only some comment.

  • The ranking officer at the Hanoi Hilton, when he was there, was Captain Stockdale. Admiral Stockdale. Who would be on the Libertarian ticket as the Vice President seven years after this book was written. I have recently saved or printed out an article he wrote based on his rules from his time there.
  • He mentions how the Communists pick small, underdeveloped nations to start their trouble in. Well, in the 21st century, the long march is different, ainna?
  • He mentions imagining, in the POW camp, a dinner where he’s seated between Marilyn Monroe and Gina Lollobrigida. As we on the Internet know, Gina Lollobrigida passed away on January 16 of this year, which was a loss to men of a certain age, and unfortunately, a discovery and loss to men of another certain younger age.

Also, the book has a bit of a triumphalist tone. Because in 1973, Saigon had not fallen, and we would not see the helicopters lifting off from the rooftops of Saigon in what has been a recurring theme in American wars since then. One wonders (no, one knows) if the decline of competence in men (and women) led to the decline of the nation’s fortunes. Perhaps the G.I. Bill was not all that.

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Once More Unto The Year, Dear Friends, Once More, or Close the Wall Up With Our Agéd Dead

I run the risk of divulging biosecurity information that is undoubtedly already on the Dark Web, but today is a special day for me.

Not an extra special round number on the end–that was last year–but my beautiful wife asked me yesterday if I had any especial memories from my birthdays.

My birthdays are generally low-key affairs mostly now because there aren’t many who think beyond posting “Happy Birthday” when Facebook reminds them of the day. I could actually only come up with, on the spur of the moment, a few:

  • On my tenth birthday, I got sent to my room during my own birthday party. Not by my mother or by my mother’s friend, the former country and western singer (one single to her credit) who came with her boys, our friends. No, this was a friend of that friend who was somehow along, perhaps to help manage a gaggle of kids with my newly-separated mother. Annemarie, her name was. Perhaps still is, but that was a long time ago. I probably deserved it, but I’m still indignant.
  • On my 26th or 27th birthday, my new girlfriend wrapped a little gift for me that was “Two bookshelves too big for [my] car” spelled in Scrabble tiles along with handwritten “Now don’t forget to unwrap your girlfriend.” Perhaps this is not so much a memory as a personal relic, as I still have the cardboard and Scotch-taped tiles in a box. I still have the girl, too, I should note.
  • We had a pretty big party on my 30th birthday with my co-workers and some of my beautiful wife’s co-workers, including the Libertarian candidate for Senate who kept up with me and El Guapo, beer for beer. And I almost put out Dennis’s eye showing some others how high our tan tabby could jump by whipping an elastic cat toy back and forth about head height. Unbeknowst to me, Dennis was about head height at about the range of the back part of the back and forth.

As it stands, on my birthday, we sometimes go out to dinner (a steak house last year), sometimes we eat in. Sometimes there’s a cake. Sometimes not. I get a little gift, the boys wish me a happy birthday, and that’s it. My aunt who died in 2019 was the only one to send me a card outside of my insurance agent and my dojo. I’ll get Facebook greetings and an automated mention on my employer’s Slack. But I won’t see anyone today aside from immediate family who will wish me a happy birthday.

Which means this will not be a birthday I will remember except when clicking through old posts and coming across this one.

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Book Report: Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein (2003)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a category “Nature/Outdoors,” so I picked this book out of the Nogglestead stacks (which I’ve started to use instead of “to-read” shelves because hyphens are getting expensive these days). I got this book from my first order from ABC Books during the Great Springfield Timeout of 2020.

So: This book is by a naturalist/conservation agent? who has written a number of hiking guides for hikes, presumably in California and Oregon mostly, as that’s where he has lived for a long time. This book, though, captures 14 of his hikes where he has found something spooky to think about, or at least he let the imagination get the best of him. So we get things like his meeting someone who has been dead for a long time and spending time with her at her cabin which has been burned down for a while, or maybe hiking while Bigfoot is watching him, or encountering his first bear on a hike after thinking about encountering a bear while on a hike….

So the weird is kind of not really that weird, honestly, and some of the distances seem a bit short–he talks about hiking a couple of miles as though it’s a bunch, and maybe the trails out west are more rough than we have here, but I know I have hiked the Long Trail at the Nature Center with my boys since they were toddlers, and it’s not all paved. And my friend Chris, who was shot down in his back yard in St. Louis a couple of years ago, did an extreme hike as a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and that was like 30 miles or more in a given day. So I wasn’t terribly impressed by the number of miles, but he did carry some camping gear sometimes and camped overnight, and maybe the country is that much rougher on the back side of the Rockies.

What really struck me about the book, though, was his life taking place outside the hikes. The first takes place when he’s in school; another, a couple later, talks about a dream he had about hiking with a woman whose face he doesn’t see, but he later hikes with a woman on a date, and he ends up marrying his dream woman and helping to raise her child. They have a pair of daughters, hike sometimes with the family, and then at some point he mentioned marital problems, and then they divorce.

That meta text made me rather sad, ultimately. And the book did not inspire me to want to go for hikes, although we’ve been known to hit a lightweight trail or two in our travels. I mean, it’s no Nature Noir, but then again, Nature Noir was no nature noir, so I guess it’s par for the course.

I did get to check the box on the Winter Reading Challenge though.

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Journalistic Alchemy

Headline: Editorial: Former free-market defenders, state GOP turns to overregulation as the answer.

First paragraph:

The Missouri House insists on being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Local governments that want to impose rules requiring installation of electric-vehicle charging stations in new construction projects could be prohibited from doing so because the Republican-controlled Legislature thinks such rules are too burdensome on business. The House has advanced a bill to limit local government powers to require charging stations in new construction of apartment buildings and workplaces.

So the overregulation at the state level is banning regulation at the local level that compels charging stations in new construction. So that the market would decide when building whether to include the expensive and troublesome tchotchkes.

Truly, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its writers have a dizzying intellect.

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Too Old Even For Trivia Nights

So I posted on the Professionalbook:

The Problems of Having Senior in Your Job Title, Part XLIV:

On a popcorn-style Scrum with default layout of 9 tiles, when you finish your update and say, “Dan to block,” and you look at the other tiles and realize none of your co-workers has ever seen Hollywood Squares.

I included an image I found on the Internet:

My beautiful professional wife said she only knew three of the names, one from Wesson Oil commercials and two from The New Scooby-Doo Movies cartoons.

Alors! I knew most of the celebrities in the squares above:

  • Robert Blake, Baretta and the priest in Hell Town, later charged with killing his wife (twenty years ago). I’d forgotten that he was acquited.
  • Phyllis Diller, comedienne and, like me, former resident of Old Trees, Missouri, where she lived in the part with the really big houses.
  • Rich Little, the impressionist.
  • Karen Valentine, actress from the show Room 222 and some Disney movies–I had to look her up.
  • Paul Lynde, comedian and best known to me for being the center square on Hollywood Squares. I said to my wife that she probably could not hear his voice in her head, but I can–I saw him most recently in a skit on The Dean Martin Show.
  • Mac Davis, the singer best known for “Hard to be Humble“. My wife didn’t know the singer, but she hears a rendition of it frequently when I sing “Oh, Roark, it’s hard to be humble,” to the cat.
  • Anthony Newley, a British singer of some sort. I had to look him up.
  • Florence Henderson, Mrs. Brady and so on. Which includes Wesson Oil commercials.
  • Robert Fuller, who I looked up, but I would have recognized him in a clearer picture–he was the head doctor in Emergency!, a television program my sainted mother loved.

So I knew seven of nine.

But they’re too old and too trivial for modern trivia nights, which include no history questions and where pop culture began in the 1980s or later.

It’s weird, though: My pop culture trivia knowledge extends a bunch to the decades before I was born–by the time they were on Hollywood Squares, these stars were in the coasting tail end of their careers, but I knew them. Perhaps because they were in reruns when I was young, but also perhaps because I wanted to make a good showing in Trivial Pursuit, that new fashionable game in the 1980s, where the questions aimed at the thirtysomething crowd would have included these actors and performers from their childhoods and youth. The adults didn’t generally let me play, though.

But I can still try to impress you, gentle reader.

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I Thought It Was Clever

This is a bit of a Recycler post, but it’s pretty fresh, gentle reader.

I posted this yesterday on social media:

All I got for Valentine’s Day was the blues.

But that’s what I asked for.

Which is true: When my beautiful wife asked what I wanted for Valentine’s Day, I mentioned that I’d added a number of Keb’ Mo’ CDs to my Amazon Wishlist.

WSIE plays “Soon As I Get Paid” a lot:

However, “Tell Everybody I Know” is more Valentine-themed:

I haven’t been buying many CDs these days–the last would have been a couple of Christmas CDs, although I did recently get a digital album with Amazon credits, and the musical balance is a little off kilter from my normal jazz songbirds and metal. Of the four most recent acquisitions, three are blues and one is funk. Maybe I am mellowing.

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Facebook Is Just Trolling Me Now

I’ve posted about how Facebook ads have shown up for things I’ve only talked about here and here recently (and probably incessantly in the more distant past).

Now Facebook is just trolling me by showing this suggested for you:

I would be happy to learn that at least Facebook algorithms were reading this blog, but most likely they just heard me talking about these advertisements in person.

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It’s a Good Time To Be a Conspiracy Theorist

U.S. Military Shoots Down Fourth “High-Altitude Object,” This One Over Lake Huron

Who benefits from the United States using $400,000 missiles to shoot down balloons?


How fast are we building replacement Sidewinders?

Objects shot down over US could be ‘alien or extraterrestrials’, Pentagon says.

Who benefits from blaming aliens? China.

(Link via Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit.)

More unhinged speculation here.

Man, I’m sounding a lot like Bill Gertz soundbites these days, but, hey, he’s had a pretty good run for 20 years sounding like Bill Gertz.

Also, I would like to state for the tribunal that although these thoughts occur to me, I only halfway believe them. But it’s getting halfier all the time.

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Book Report: Fantin-Latour by Michelle Verrier (1978)

Book coverThis book sat on my sofa-side table, an old Sauder printer stand actually–past the half century mark, and I still have two Sauder printer stands from the middle 1990s as household furniture–for over a year. Although in past years, I have browsed poetry or art monographs during football games, I did not do so this year. I’m not sure whether it’s that my attention span has withered or that I cannot switch between football plays and text as easily as I could when I was a younger man or if my current selection of monographs and poetry chapbooks does not compel me to read them. Maybe both.

So as the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a Pictorial category, so I grabbed this book. The artist comes of age, so to speak, at the same time as the Impressionists–and he exhibited at times with them in their anti-Salon shows, but he’s not really an Impressionist. His art has two veins, really (well, three): He was a successful painter of still lifes and flowers who did brisk trade in them amongst the aristocracy or at least the monied class in England, but that was not his passion. He liked to do more fantastic works based on things like Wagner’s Ring Cycle and dabbled in etching.

So the book presents about 16 pages of text and biography, which is a pretty good balance between the that and the actual art. Unfortunately, most of the images of the art are in black and white which really doesn’t do justice to the art itself, and one cannot really get a sense of the realism in the still lifes when they’re mostly gray. Although I note that one of the works is courtesy of the St. Louis Art Museum, so it’s entirely possible I have seen one of the works in this book in the flesh as I did go up there a couple of times over my decades in the St. Louis area.

At any rate, a nice collection of art. Even the dreamier fantasies are better than most modern art.

Fun fact: Henri Fantin-Latour signed his art Fantin to differentiate himself from his father who was also an artist.

Probably not that LaTour, though.

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Good Book Hunting, Saturday, February 11, 2023: ABC Books

ABC Books had a book signing yesterday, so after a triathlon, my boys and I headed to that part of town. They came along because we planned to demolish the nearby Sushi buffet, which we did prior to the late-starting 12:00 book signing.

The author in residence wrote a book about a local attorney who was convicted of fraud of some sort, and apparently relations of the man had beaten me to ABC Books, which led to an awkward reunion. But nothing broke out while I was there.

I got a few books.

I got:

  • A Bad Love in the Ozarks by Edward Gwin, the signing author.
  • Generation B Music and Melodies by Ernie Bedell, a book about a musical family written by a member of that family and a local jazz musician. No telling if he’s related to Gary Bedell, the local comic artist, but you never can tell. I suppose if I dug around on Facebook, I could get an inkling, but for a blog post that’s only going to be read by a handful of people and me when I read these books, that’s a lot of work.
  • When I first tried to spend my Christmas gift card last month, I mentioned I had my eyes on a nice Easton Press edition of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. I mentioned having some gift cards, but I found more ABC Books gift cards. So I had $170 in unused ABC Books Gift Cards, the Easton Press books were back on sale for 25% off. So, yeah, I got it this time. And as it’s a book about Orwell in the Spanish Civil War, it has a Wartime Setting, so I can start getting Dorito dust on this fine copy as early as now. But I likely will choose something shorter for the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge as I only have sixteen days left and four books to read in that time.

So the total out-of-pocket was $17 and change today even with the nice edition and the local books.

Although I’m a little sad that I tipped my hand to Mrs. E. that we’re not giving out a bunch of gift cards as gifts these days. We tend to give $10 gift cards to the boys’ teachers as there are so many of them now and they live and work (perhaps) in the next town and not almost halfway between us and ABC Books. I’m sad on many accounts, here, but I’m happy to have the nice Orwell. Now, how will I pay for the other fine editions and sets of Riley’s poetry in north Springfield?

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Book Report: Conquistador by S.M. Stirling (2003)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a Speculative Fiction category in addition to the Set in Space category, so I selected this book. The tagline above the author’s name is It’s 1946. The white man is about to discover America. So it looked alt-historyish, but it has a bit more of a science fiction vibe to it.

In 1946, a disabled (well, walks with a limp) World War II veteran is messing with a radio set in his San Francisco apartment when he accidentally opens a rift to another place, an undeveloped Bay area. We learn eventually that Alexander the Great did not die at 30, which ended up stunting Western civilization. America is still sparsely populated by natives who have not changed in centuries. He brings some of his army buddies and their families over to colonize the new found land, and over the course of the decades, they build a small, slightly feudalistic society, but they do keep the gate open so that they can travel between the places, albeit secretly.

In the modern day, a couple of department of conservation detectives come across animals that should not exist–long extinct, or greatly endangered, including a California condor with no traces of lead in his blood, and it leads them to investigate a privately held company centered on an industrial part of Oakland–the home of the gate, of course–and they are abducted to the far side where they help uncover a plot by one of the old families and some new emigres to take over the far side.

So it has a bit of flashback to unveil the backstory (although not all of it) as well as excursions the two sides of the gate and interludes where the semi-omniscient narrator follows different characters, mostly the main antagonist and the woman from the far side who has lied to him and then kidnapped him–and whom he might love.

As the main character is a conservation agent, we get a lot of enumeration of species of both flora and fauna along with great details about the topography and how it is unchanged by man; it reminded me a lot of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in that regard. We also get a little commentary about how the society is structured on the far side of the gate with more conservative values, including a bit of aristocracy, but sold as overall good–I mean, I was not entirely swayed, but it did lack some of the deleterious features of our world.

The book runs over 400 pages and includes a couple of appendices, but it could have been trimmed by about a quarter or a third to improve the pacing. And with the thick descriptions running up over the 300 page mark with the main problem only then coming into focus–the raising and training of a bunch of native mercenaries to seize the gate–I thought perhaps it was going to lead to a cliffhanger and another book, but no. Suddenly, we have a fast, Executioner-style raid on the training camp followed by a clash at the gate which disrupts it, and the book ends with them working with two physicists on the far side trying to recreate it. So a very abrupt ending with room for a follow-up that has not yet come.

So not bad, and it ticked off a box on the Winter Reading Challenge. And it gives me the opportunity to post this song by Canadian trumpeter Maynard Ferguson which I heard at least once and perhaps more whilst reading the book and procrastinating writing the book report.

Once for sure on WSIE; also, perhaps, on my copy of the record of the same name.

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Book Report: The Book of Irish Limericks by Myler Magrath (1985, 1995)

Book coverThe 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a category Under 200 Pages, and 40 pages is definitely under that limit. As I mentioned when I bought the book last month, it was between this and the collection of the Sara Teasdale poetry as to which I would use to fill the slot on the paper. Well, you probably could have guessed that the man who read Lecherous Limericks by Isaac Asimov would go for this book. So I have.

Well, I will say this for the book: Originally published in 1985, it was reprinted several times–this book comes about ten years later, about the time I turned 20-something. The limericks are often off-color–which means they’re proper limericks–but clearly it’s the product of an earlier era, where a little naughty was amusing. Thirty (almost) years later, and who’s telling limericks now? Old men. Ay, in the Lecherous Limericks review, I told the story of how I knew a lot of dirty jokes in middle school and how that made me popular amongst some kids in middle school. In 2023, this stuff is tame to the point of being twee. But we’re not here to talk about it as a cultural artifact except that we are.

Not as good as the earlier Asimov–probably, but I don’t remember that well the actual content of that book which I read four and a half years ago. I mean, it’s not like poetry I’ve memorized or poems whose catchphrases (poems have catch phrases?–damn right they do!) I repeat to myself at times. Most of the initial lines do end in a place name, and to be honest, as I don’t know my Irish geography or, more importantly, Gaelic pronunciation, that well, I’m a bit at a loss for grading the rhymes. At least once, a limerick is repeated with a different place name in it, and assume they both rhyme if you’re Irish.

Amusing, and brief enough to have been amused rather than annoyed. But it did take me three nights to read it amongst longer works, so not something to tackle all at once, or you’ll be bored. But briefly.

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On How I Write by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof (2007)

Book coverThe The 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has a category (at the top, no less) Listen to a Book. As the Philosophy: Who Needs It? audiocassette was not actually a book, I had to go searching for something else. Fortunately, the Nogglestead to-listen shelf is not as deep as the to-read stacks–basically, it’s the top of the hutch on my desk, where the audiocourses I’ve bought at library book sales remain, casting shadows and eclipsing the little lamps I have up there, for years, and more years to come since I’m in the car far less these days. And, like another audio book I’ve listened to this year (Pure Drivel by Steve Martin), I actually (I think) have a printed copy of the book in the far deeper to-read stacks, so I will (possibly, as the to-read stacks are deep, and I am not as young as I was when I started this paragraph) read this book as well as listen to it. But the Winter Reading Challenge demanded I listen to it, so I did.

This is a fifteen-year-old (!) book that talks about how best-selling author and industry Janet Evanvovich of the enumerated Stepahine Plum series of books writes. I say “industry” because she makes clear that her family works in the family business–her husband is her manager, and her daughter is her Web master (and perhaps fifteen years later her social media manager). And this book is a bit of a FAQ from her Web site–basically, she’s answering questions readers have posed on it about writing.

So her daughter asks the questions in the read version, and Janet answers. Ina Yalof is mainly a nonfiction writer who has collaborated with Janet Evanovich before, so she comes in with some no-nonsense answers about the business from time-to-time. And they inject numerous bits from the Stephanie Plum novels to illustrate Janet Evanovich’s answers in early parts of the book.

The book is broken into sections about writing and then about the business of submitting and publishing. The bits about writing, inspiration, and mostly just, you know, writing, are the best. When she starts talking about getting an agent and the business of publishing, she tut-tuts self-publishing, but that seems to have come to the fore more than it would have back then. Perhaps it’s just the circles I blogtravel in where this is true. But trying to get an agent and then get sold to a big publishing house? That seems so last century.

So the audiobook version runs about four hours, and it does include listening to Ina Yalof read references at the end. So not too long of a time investment, and probably worth it. Although to be honest, it has not compelled me to open a word processor and write. I am not sure what would these days.

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A Lull

Yeah, sometimes I get a little less than bloggy.

Just one of those periods where my blogging is more intermittent than most.

Back soon lest you fear I’m not keeping up with the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge.

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On Miss Congeniality (2000)

Book coverWow, this film is twenty years old, which makes it an old movie by now. Which means it’s about time for me to watch it. I mean, it’s not like a black and white film, which it might well have been if it had been a movie twenty years old when I was born. But its humor is that of another time, when you could make fun of stereotypes and whatnot.

At any rate, Sandra Bullock plays a tomboy FBI agent whose compassion during a raid leads to an FBI agent getting shot and puts her in the doghouse with her boss played by Ernie Hudson. When the team gets a tip that a serial bomber might target the Miss United States pageant, they decide to send someone undercover–and Agent Gracie Hart is the only one of the team who might look good in a swimsuit. So she goes undercover, getting a crash course in behaving like a lady from a pageant tutor played by Michael Caine, and she learns that the pretty women whom she’d mocked for performing in pageants have heart and intelligence and they’re all similar.

You know, the kind of lesson we used to get from movies and whatnot.

At any rate, a product of a different time, and a pleasant viewing experience. My beautiful wife, who had already seen the film, watched it with me, and that’s kind of rare these days as our taste in movies has diverged a bit as, strangely, she prefers more modern blockbuster sorts of films.

Also, it starred Sandra Bullock.

Continue reading “On Miss Congeniality (2000)”

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