Book Report: Ice Wolf the Executioner #131 (1989)

Book coverI picked this up right after Creature; the Executioner series is the default for “I’ve just finished a book and need to pick up another, but I don’t want to spend much time picking it.” And it will be for some time to come as I still have 30 on the shelf (not counting the spin-off series like Stony Man or Able Team).

In this book, Bolan is on a security team for a summit between the President and Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington when Leo Turrin tips him to a hit team that is eliminating people in the witness protection program. Bolan prevents this team of trained pros from killing one target and reaches out in his own particular way to a local mob boss who hired the hit team–who reached out to him with the offer. Bolan eventually discovers that the hit team is killing the witnesses as a red herring to distract law enforcement from their real target: the President and Gorbachev. Like so many other fictional antagonists from the 1980s (and, sadly, to this day), they’re Nazis who emerged from a deeply hidden program to take over the world again.

The book weighs in at about 250 pages, a little longer than the pulp entries from early in the series, and they have the makings of an interesting modern (well, 80s) thriller. The big bad Nazi, trained to be a killing machine by his father, might be jeopardizing his mission by hunting for a woman who escaped from his clutches that he must possess; the aforementioned red herring subplot; and infiltration of the security teams by the long-planning Nazis. But ultimately, it’s a couple of set pieces and then the author gets to about page 220 and has to wrap it up with sudden revelations (the woman is his twin sister!) and a climax that is abrupt and we’re done.

So I’m comparing this book to Creature, and I have to say that I’ll remember the plot of Creature better than Ice Wolf in the days to come. I suppose that series books lend themselves to a little bit of this confusion–what plot happened with which title (especially since series titles tend to fit a pattern to increase salability rather than describe elements of the plot). However, I’m sure authors of these series are happy to accept this trade off with profitablity on our behalves.

Which is why I need these posts–so I can keep the plots of books and my thoughts of them clear as the years pass. Although, to be honest, I rarely go back to Executioner titles to see what I had to say about them.

What I Made Yesterday

Well, first off, after church, I made a trip to Lowe’s. The 18 volt DeWalt cordless drill I have came with two battery packs, but only one of them continues to work, so I hoped to pick up a couple of spares and another drill that fits them. However, a new standard, 20 Volt, has taken over, so the shop did not offer an 18 volt drill. Instead of buying a couple spare 18 volt packs and a new 20 volt cordless drill, I opted for the spare packs and a cheap corded drill.

Because on Saturday, I’d started working on a project, and I spent a lot of time changing between a drill bit and a screwdriver bit, and I wanted to be able to just switch drills instead of bits.

Which worked out all right.

I’ve built a rudimentary set of shelving for my records:

They’re rough and probably high school shop D-level work, but with a paint job and a bunch of records on them, they’ll do. Given that they’re constructed from (inexpensive) two by fours, this shouldn’t happen again. The fact that they all said STUD while I was working on them was very affirming. And they’re modular, so I can move them around and stack them up and add another tier when it becomes necessary (probably after the next Friends of the Springfield-Greene County book sale in the autumn).

They impressed my beautiful wife, anyway, but she’s not the son of a carpenter.

In addition, when we stopped at the grocery store after Lowe’s, I got it in my head to make a chocolate pudding pie. However, my wife does not like chocolate pudding pie. So I got the fixings for a cherry pie as well.

So I’m not sure if I’m operating my masculinity at a deficit here; there are two pies, but does the record shelving count as two or as one? Also, the record shelves are not yet done. I’m going to have to let the Internet judge here.

Also, I did not actually have any pie; my wife prepared pasta for dinner, and I had so much of her delicious Italian cooking that I did not have room for pie. I might make up for it by eating one or the other pie remainders today.

Good Book Hunting, June 15, 2019: ABC Books

ABC Books had an author in to sign her book yesterday, so I headed up after a martial arts class. As is my wont, I acknowledged the author, headed to the martial arts section, then the artist monographs, then the philosophy and poetry shelves, all of which are getting more and more sparse as I pick them over. Only then do I go to the author’s table to see what the author has to offer.

Here’s what I got:

You cannot see them, but they include:

  • Selected Poems from Midnight Galleries by Jennifer Silvey, a free giveaway promoting a collection of poems.
  • Zen and the Art of Stickfighting by Stephen F. Kaufman. We’ve been working with sticks at my martial arts school for six or eight months now; certainly this book will be more useful to me than Zen and the Art of Knitting.
  • The Book of Goodbyes, a collection of poems by Jillian Weise.
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson.
  • Retraining Your Mind by D. Dyneska, the author who was in shop. It’s a little more practically minded, so to speak, than the Buddhist and Stoic thought that I read to try to get my mind right. It’s more in line with what my beautiful wife reads. Perhaps I should have had it inscribed to her and gave it to her for her birthday.

Not depicted: A monograph on Antoine Watteau and a five hundred page biography of Vince Lombardi. I had to save something for the next time there’s an author signing.

The proprietrix also related a story: The author who appeared on May 19 was a little saddened to learn that I attend the same church as the owner of ABC Books; she thought it meant I would not like her work. The owner of ABC Books reassured her that I read a lot of different things, that I’m well educated, and that I’m a poet myself, which seemed to make the author feel better.

Of course, the owner does know that I not only buy a vast variety of books, many from her, but she also catches me from time to time sitting on a bench at church with a book in my hands. I’ve explained to her the code–if I’m holding the book so its cover is visible, it probably has an ABC Books sticker on the back. If I have the book in my lap, it’s from some other book store. Or, more likely, a garage sale or a book sale.

But enough about that–I have to get back to reading.

Not Mentioned: The Other

Kim du Toit links to a story on SFGate with the provocative title Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable.

And it poses an interesting theory:

We know why. With the onset of internet porn, viewers looking for vicarious thrills had instant access to a cheap, private universe of polymorphous gratification. While Hollywood embraced a business model centered around wholesome baby-boomer nostalgia and PG-13 franchises, cable television and streaming services found their own niche, engaging in “Game of Thrones”-like one-up-manship in violence, profanity – and sex.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posited my theory before, but in case I haven’t: You know why Hollywood doesn’t put sex scenes in movies any more or even the formerly obligatory woman’s bare chest in comedies?

Overseas markets.

The cultures or gatekeepers of culture in other parts of the world don’t want that. So nobody gets it.

Like Kim, I’m not really mourning the loss.

I wonder if the gloss over the other cultures’ censors was intentional or thoughtless.

Book Report: Creature by John Saul (1989)

Book coverAfter reading Cabal, I thought maybe I’d knock out a couple of the 80s-era horror books I have around. I have a couple from John Saul, so I picked up this one. Who knew that it might actually be the next in alphabetical order?

At any rate, the plot is that a nuclear family moves to a small company town in the Rockies when the father gets a promotion at the tech company he works for. They find the town idyllic, but it’s controlled almost top-down by the tech company. The local football team has boys that are bigger and meaner than other nearby schools, and it’s because the local “sports” clinic, funded by the tech company, is conducting experimental treatments on the boys. It makes them bigger and stronger, but sometimes makes them feral. Of course, the gentle son of our nuclear family decides abruptly that he wants to become stronger and so he falls under the influence of the doctor running the clinic. When some of the mothers of the affected children start wondering if their children are in danger, the tech company and the fathers align to protect the program and the company.

So it’s got a children in danger theme to it that seems fairly common to the genre, and it has helpless wives who lack the power to get their children out of danger. It reminded me a lot of The Stepford Wives in that regard. It got under my skin a bit–I cannot imagine any of my mother’s sisters or my mother dealing with the issues as the mothers in this book do. And they all lack a support network outside the town, so nobody calls a sister or friend for a sanity check. Stephen King’s books often featured isolated locations, but it doesn’t seem forced. Here, it is.

The book ends very quickly with a burst of violence; it was sudden that I thought right before it that it was leading up to a cliffhanger or a sequel. But no, a little bloodshed and not a complete set of revenge which might have left room for a sequel.

I did flag a bunch of things in this book:

  • Some anachronisms. Or the opposite of anachronisms: things that would seem to belong to a future era, more like the present, than 1989.

    They’d gone first to the software section, where a group of top programmers, all of them casually dressed, were working at computer terminals or whispering quickly to each other in strange programming language that Blake had never been able to comprehend. “We have an Artificial Intelligence unit working here,” Jerry said in reply to Blake’s inquisitive glance. “We’re far ahead of the guys in Palo Alto and Berkeley, but of course they don’t know it. In fact, as far as they know, we’re only working on a new operating system to compete with Microsoft.

    Aside from the locations or writing an operating system, that could be cut from a novel from today.

  • The family moves to a house on Telluride Drive. One story behind the name of Telluride, Colorado, is that it’s from To Hell you ride. Or at least that’s what Michelle Malkin told me.
     
  • Observe this barbarity, the worst in the book:

    “In a few minutes, honey,” she told the little girl. “How’d you like to take care of the steaks for me?”

    Kelly’s eyes glittered with pleasure, and she instantly picked up the large fork from the counter by the grill and stabbed experimentally at one of the thick T-bones that were just barely beginning to brown. “Is it time to turn them?”

    “Every four minutes,” Sharon replied, glancing at the meat and deciding she had at least fifteen minutes in which to talk with her son.

    Oh, the humanity!

  • Recovering from a beating at the hands of a nearly feral football player, the undersized lad says:

    Mark winced with almost every motion, but when he finally made it, he forced himself to grin at the nurse. “See? Nothing to it. I could run a ten-K if I had to.”

    It’s presented 10K these days, and it’s about an hour of running at a six-mile-per-hour pace. Which is easier for kids.

  • It must have seemed quite cutting edge at the time:

    “May I help you, Mrs. Tanner?”

    Sharon frowned, then glanced instinctively at the girl’s lapel, searching for the identification badge that all TarrenTech employees wore.

    The girl wore none.

    The girl’s smile broadened as she realized Sharon’s dilemma. “I’m Sandy Davis,” she said. “And you don’t know me. The security system did a photo comparison on you, so I knew who you were even before you came into the building.”

    But now we just assume it, ainna?

  • Marty Ames opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out the .38-caliber pistol he’d started keeping there when he first realized that some of the boys might become dangerous.

    You know, I would have gone with a larger caliber.

  • Speaking of isolated:

    For the first time that morning she was able to think about the funeral without crying. She didn’t know whether it had been like other funerals, because she’d never been to one before. There hadn’t been very many people there, and it hadn’t taken very long, and as she sat in the front pew of the little church, listening to a man she’d never seen before talking about her family–and she knew he’d never even met her family, so how could he talk about them?–she tried to convince herself that it really was her father and mother and brother in the three coffins lined up in front of the altar.

    Notice there’s no other family members nor a church support network. Artificial isolation that really sticks out.

So ultimately, the book really didn’t work for me. I’m not a great fan of the genre, and this book hasn’t made me want to read another any time soon.

In thinking about this book and John Saul’s sort-of ubiquity–you could see his books available back in the day, and they were prevalent at book sales a couple years ago–made me wonder how the collapse of book clubs altered book buying. Book club editions were a staple of the book sales for a long time. I think we might have seen that bubble burst as members of my parents’ generation have downsized their libraries. What am I talking about? Even I don’t know.

My Lucky Day

Yesterday was the latest in my series of lucky days.

So I packed my bags for a martial arts class, and I hoped to attend one or more while my children did Vacation Bible School (I would have just said VBS, but I’m not sure how well an increasingly secular society would understand just the abbreviation). As we were driving to church, I heard a ticking from my car echoed as we passed other cars. As I changed a directional signal earlier in the day, a strange procedure that had me lying under the truck and groping with one hand into the bowels of the vehicle, I wondered if I’d moved something that was now rhythmically striking something.

I got the kids to VBS and made it to the martial arts school with five minutes to change before the early class. I pulled into a spot with a car on the left and an empty space on the right. I got my bags and went around to the passenger side of the car so I could navigate more easily with the duffel bags.

Wherein I spotted a nail and a bracket in the right front tire with an attendant hissing sound of escaping air.

I ran down the scenario in my head: I could change the tire now, or I could change the tire after class, and get the boys. Of course, this is the newer truck, so I’m not even sure where the jack and doughnut are.

It’s a most inconvenient time to be down a vehicle; my beautiful wife is traveling for work this week, so the family’s second car is sitting in the airport parking lot.

So I got into the bathroom to change into my gi, and it occurred to me that it was 5:45, and the tire shop around the corner was still open. And the tire probably had enough air in it to make it to the tire shop.

So I left the martial arts school and made it to the tire shop ten minutes before their closing. I made arrangements for the boys’ grandmother to pick up the boys if I had to leave the car overnight, but the tire shop accommodated me and replaced the tire after their official closing time.

So it really was my lucky day: if I hadn’t gone around to the passenger side of the car, I wouldn’t have seen the problem, and I might well have tried to drive off with a flat tire and might not have had time to pick the kids up. If I hadn’t discovered it and gotten to the tire shop before it closed, I might be down a vehicle and have had to figure out how to get it to a shop and to chauffeur the kids around until my wife returns.

Whenever I have a car issue that could leave me stranded, and I handle it correctly, I feel delightfully competent as an adult. The feeling doesn’t last–I’m soon back to the general “What am I doing?”

The Random Bulls of Nogglestead

As we live in the country, you might not be surprised when the random bull shows up at Nogglestead.

But sometimes, I have to explain.

My children have been home this summer instead of going to various camps to occupy them whilst their parents work (working from home can be especially challenging during the summer time). They’ve had a lot of time playing video games, and apparently all the video games these days have integrated audio with them, so my youngest has spent a lot of time saying loudly, “Do you have a mike?”

When they had a friend over one Sunday afternoon, they all spent time playing individual games on their individual devices instead of playing with their friend. So I printed out a picture of Michael Jordan and waited until my youngest was playing on a gaming system that did not have a microphone.

“Do you have a Mike?” I asked him.

“No,” he said. At eleven, he knows the proper inflection for how can you even ask that?

“Here,” I handed him the color picture.

It’s floated around our lower level since. Being it’s a color print out, nobody wants to dispose of it willy-nilly, without enough time elapsing and reflection.

You know I had children specifically so I could make Dad jokes, ainna?

In My Defense, I Pronounced It Correctly

So the martial arts school where I study has replaced a water wall, which really was more of a water on the floor by the wall in the brief period where it was operational, with a fish tank to which they’re slowly adding fish, and I mentioned that I knew a guy who had a saltwater tank and was raising anemone. Sea anemone, that is, not the terrestrial flower after which it is named.

One of the listeners made mock of my pronunciation of the word, which immediately made me self-conscious of my pronunciation.


via GIPHY

As you know, gentle reader, I have learned a vast quantity of my vocabulary from books, so I’m especially self-conscious of pronouncing things incorrectly. Recently, I’m pretty sure I’ve stumbled over perfidy and have ruled out of using opprobium in conversation.

Which is just as well; the Internet tells me I missed an R in it.

Perhaps I should start making use of that little “Say it” button so I know how to pronounce things. Unfortunately, when I’m about to drop an exotic word in conversation, that button isn’t handy, and looking it up on my phone fails to make me look smart in the moment.

Oh, and back to anemone. The question was whether I was throwing an extra N in it. In my defense, I might have said “an anemone.”

But the problem wouldn’t have occurred in the first place if I’d said sea anemone, which is what I was talking about. But I know aquaria less than I know exotic words and how to use them.

Good Album Hunting, Saturday, June 8, 2019: SEAS Sale and Relics Antique Mall

So yesterday, I found myself at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton annual sale, and they had a couple of boxes of records. I found a couple that looked interesting and bought them along with a couple of glass vases to etch.

Then, I found myself at Relics Antique Mall as my wife is looking for some wall decorations for the guest room that we painted three years ago and have had bare walls since. While she looked for something to match her tastes, I flipped through some bins of records. Some of the bins are getting nuts as far as pricing goes–one of my go-to end caps had some priced at $14 or $24 dollars (although the sign said half off of everything, that’s still a little much for my taste). However, another stalwart end cap still had records for $3 each, and I’m getting more comfortable with buying records at that price.

So here’s what I got:

  • The capstone is Blow Your Own Horn by Herb Alpert. After the 1970s, his music was selling more on cassettes, I guess, so it’s rare to find something of his from the 1980s. Unfortunately, it skips a bit on the first song.
  • Knock on Wood by Amii Stewart.
  • Stephanie by Stephanie Mills, best known around these parts for singing “Bit by Bit” on the Fletch soundtrack.
  • Uptown by the Neville Brothers. I just got an Isley Brothers album, and I sometimes confuse the two acts. By building my collection, I’ll get them straight.
  • Welcome Back by John Sebastian. I’ve seen this on this end cap before and thought I’d buy it someday for his rendition of the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song. Today was that day. I also noted some albums that I’ll buy later, someday, but I’d better make it sooner rather than when the prices go up to $5 each and I won’t be so inclined to explore.
  • Fred Astaire’s Greatest Hits. I’m not sure what his greatest musical hits are, actually, and the album cover itself does not say (and, like a fool, I did not look at the album itself, so I hope it’s in there).
  • Today’s Romantic Hits / For Lovers Only vol. 2 by Jackie Gleason. Someday, I might have a pretty comprehensive collection of these.
  • Jackie Gleason Plays The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. Ditto.
  • I’m Looking For A Four Leaf Clover by Jo Ann Castle. It features a comely lass on the cover, so I expected a songbird from the middle 1960s. Apparently, the artist is the ragtime piano player from the Lawrence Welk show and is not the young lady on the cover.

So it was about $20 total.

I also bought a new circular saw so I can continue on my construction of the new record shelves today. Unless I spend the whole day blogging, I guess.

A Downside of Nogglestead

If I still lived in Old Trees, I could walk to two jazz festivals this year.

There’s the Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival, which I visited a long time ago and saw a set of Erin Bode’s show. She’s not there this year, for some reason, but trumpeter Jim Manley is.

And due to a dispute with the local parks, the U[niversity] City Jazz Festival has moved to Old Orchard this year.

You know, sometimes I wonder if moving to the country really was best.

In Case You Have To Round Kick Zdeno Chara

An ad for a smoothie shows a woman throwing a round kick (or a whip/hook kick, depending upon the way she swung her leg) way above her head:

I don’t know who she would kick that would be that tall. Zdeno Chara, the 6′ 9″ defenseman for the Boston Bruins?

One of the knocks on tae kwon do is that its focus on forms and pretty kicks doesn’t have real-world applications. However, kicks like this do demonstrate flexibility and body control which come in handy when you kick like that a little lower.

Full disclosure: The school where I study martial arts blends tae kwon do kicking in with other martial arts. And although I can round kick head high, I cannot round kick (or whip/hook kick) Zdeno Chara in the head.

Pretty Good On This Quiz

Millennial dads have pathetic DIY skills compared to baby boomers:

Are dads’ essential DIY skills in decline? According to new research, millennial dads are less capable than their own dads when it comes to everyday DIY fixes, preferring to rely on professional help instead.

A new poll of 1,000 millennial dads and 1,000 baby boomer dads found that when a DIY task needs to be done at home, more than half of millennials prefer to call a professional.

Tools owned:

  • Cordless drill (although I don’t have enough batteries).
  • Stepladder (One and a convertible step ladder).
  • Set of screwdrivers (a bunch of screwdrivers, not a matched set).
  • Hammer (More than one).

Tasks:

  • Change a car tire on the side of the road (last performed last winter, in the dark, on ice).
  • Unblock a toilet or sink (well, I can do it sometimes; I had trouble with my mother-in-law’s toilet this spring).
  • Reset a tripped circuit breaker (well, it took me a long time to reset the GFCI in my garage because the outlet was behind a pile of things on the built-in shelves, and it took me years to find it.
  • Open a stuck pickle jar with their hands (Come on, I lift weights for a reason).
  • Repair a flat tire on your child’s bike (to be fair, my beautiful wife certainly could as she is a serious cyclist).
  • Restart a stopped furnace (I probably ought to learn it).

I tend to run self-analysis on this front as my father was very toxicly masculine and was steeped in the knowledge of the outdoors (a former Boy Scout and lifelong hunter), car repair (when we lived in the projects, he had a second 1967 Chevy Impala that he kept for parts), and household repair (in Noggle and Son Remodeling, he was the third generation).

I’m not as bad as a millenial dad who answers polls on the Internet, but I’m not near my father or even my brother (or, perhaps, my sainted mother) in basic competence. But I’m getting better about it.

(He said as he was taking bids to replace his gutters).

The actual Alarm blog post presents this in a light more flattering to millenial dads, who are replacing DIY skills with knowing to buy quality tech products like whatever Alarm.com offers. Hey, I can’t knock the blog post too badly. I’m contracted to write blog posts like it from time to time.

Book Report: Sanibel Shell Shoked by Art Stevens (1992)

Book coverSpeaking of beach vacations, I dived right into this book after buying it last week in Branson. I felt a little like I was betraying Branson by reading about another vacation destination while vacationing in Missouri. But that didn’t stop me from reading the book.

It collects newspaper columns by Art Stevens who was (is?) a part-time resident of Sanibel Island, splitting time with New Jersey, where he made enough in six months to afford a spot on the island. Although this book dates from 1992, Stevens’ column continues to this day.

It takes on topics such as tourists, alligators, and development on the island. It’s Florida stuff, the kind of thing you find in Barry or Hiassen (and treated more seriously in John D. MacDonald books). As I started the book, perhaps I expected too much of the author; perhaps he suffered in comparison to Barry, who is about the only humor columnist that has made me laugh out loud.

However, some of the columns amused me. So the humor is akin to Mike Royko when he was doing his outlandish pieces.

So worth the read if you’re into Sanibelernalia.

A Beach Vacation And More

I mentioned we’re looking to plan a beach vacation next year. We were thinking of Florida, but we might end up in Hawaii if my beautiful wife learns you can have a beach vacation and hundreds of cats:

Some come to Hawaii to swim and frolic in the legendary turquoise surf. Others sprawl in the sun with skin slathered in lotion until they are as crispy, oily, and golden as a potato pancake.

Me? I came to Hawaii for the cats.

There is a magical place — call it heaven, Shangri-la, Xanadu, or Abraham’s bosom — where more than 600 cats roam on a 3-acre sanctuary. For crazy cat ladies and gentlemen such as myself, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary certainly sounds like heaven on earth.

Well, my fellow cat fanciers, I made the pilgrimage, and I’m happy to report that the Lanai Cat Sanctuary does not disappoint.

It beats alligators.

Book Report: Cabal by Clive Barker (1985, 1988)

Book coverClive Barker was all that in the late 1980s. He had a couple of movies out, including Hellraiser and, um, what’s that other one?

Well, this book collects a novella and several short stories. The novella, “Cabal”, talks about the Nightbreed. Ah, there it is!

At any rate, this book has on the outside edge of my to-read shelves since I cleaned up my library (::cough, cough:: three years ago). I read Barker’s Books of Blood (I, but that was before they needed Roman numerals) in 1994, and I’ve picked up a couple of his books here and there because every once and again, I think I’ll read some horror and maybe write some (which tends to come out more like H.P. Lovecraft than Stephen King or one of the modern Urban Fantasy people).

At any rate, this book contains:

  • “Cabal”, in which a mentally unhealthy individual is convinced he’s committed horrible murders, so he tries to go to a remote Canadian town where monsters are welcomed. Once there, he finds that he is not the monster he thought he was, but there are monsters in this world–human and otherwise.
  • “The Life of Death”, wherein a lonely woman becomes enamored with the thought of the dead and becomes a killer inadvertently and meets Death, although not in the way she expected.
  • “How Spoilers Bleed”, wherein some adventurers acquire land rights in the jungle and try to displace a native tribe only to fall under a curse.
  • “Twilight at the Towers”, wherein an espionage agent discovers he’s not just human, and that he has more in common with others of his kind than his handlers.
  • “The Last Illusion”, wherein an investigator with experience (not pleasant) with the occult is called to help protect the body of a magician from dark forces.

I mean, they’re okay stories, a bit gory as expected and with a touch of S&M (graphic at times) that spawned more than one Goth in the 1990s.

So perhaps I’ll read a couple more of these 1980s horror books that I’ve accummulated over the years. Back then, horror books (as with so many other books) were thinner, running 200 or 250 pages (this volume is 338, but broken over multiple stories, it seemed shorter), and horror books must have been fairly popular in book clubs, as you can see bunches of them available at book sales. For a little while, yet. I have to wonder if they’ll all disappear soon as the baby boomers finish downsizing and if another burst of availability will occur when the readers of Generation X start downsizing.

Book Report: Who Built That by Michelle Malkin (2015)

Book coverI don’t know where or when I bought this book; it cannot have been too long ago as it’s a book of recent vintage and it was not buried in my to-read shelves. I picked it up to read because I might be going to an event where Malkin is speaking this autumn, and I wanted to be able to say I read one of her books.

At any rate, this book is not a political polemic as one might expect from a political commentator. Although the book piggybacks off of an Obama quote (“You didn’t build that.”), the book focuses on a number of what Malkin calls “tinkerpreneurs”: inventors whose innovations changed our lives, sometimes in ways that seemed small but had big impact. She looks at Carrier and Lyle (air conditioning), the Roebling family (steel cables and suspension bridges), Libbey and Owen (glass), and others. The book looks at how many of them had humble origins (and by humble, I mean nineteenth century origins, which meant they went to work, often in manufacturing, and then improved upon the things they did every day through mehanical automation). No eight year degrees in inventing for them.

So it was an inspiring book. One of my stretch goals for my life is to get a patent for something. Unfortunately, I’ve ended up working in computers, where patents and innovation are squirrelly instead of actually working for a living. So it’s made me want to tinker (where other books make me want to write more).

I just need to clear some space in my garage to get going.

Riddle

How is mowing the lawn at Nogglestead like playing Mario Kart?

You have to dodge a lot of turtle shells.

I saw this fellow in the grass from a couple of mower widths over and couldn’t figure out what it was until I got right up on him and nudged him with the front wheel. After that, I let him be, and he thought he had his own bug blind in the middle of the yard and was content to hang out there for as long as I could tell.

The Long Suffering Beautiful Wife of Nogglestead

So we’re discussing the relative intelligence of our cats at Nogglestead, and I insinuated but then walked back that our largest cat is not very smart.

At which point, I told my beautiful wife, “If we had a dumb cat, we’d name him Shane.”

“Why Shane?” she asked (for it).

“Dumb cat Shane, baby. Dumb cat Shane,” I responded.

It was the sort of joke that I knew wasn’t particularly funny, but a couple beats later, I laughed out loud at the sheer Brianness of it.