Book Report: Twice a Week Heroes by Danny Miles (2021)

Book coverI got this book last August at ABC Books who had (and still has) a stack of them under the dwindling (now empty) martial arts section. It’s by a local author, but he had not to my knowledge stopped up at ABC Books to sign his book. Which is just as well, as I’d have to stop by to buy a signed copy even though I’ve already bought and read a copy. I’m just that way.

I started to read this book before the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge in bits and chapters here and there, and after completing the challenge, I’ve taken to reading books that I started before it instead of picking up new books. For now.

So. The book is subtitled “Stories that skim the surface of fast pitch softball in Springfield, Missouri.” So I hoped for, well, stories. But it’s not so much that as a kind of history of fast pitch softball leagues from the 1950s through the 1990s. Miles starts out as a fan watching with his uncles at the local parks, becomes a pitcher for a decade or so, and then a manager for the last of his times. And although the book starts a bit with stories of watching the games and idolizing the players, as it gets into later chapters, it turns more into a revisiting of rosters (and their shuffling) as well as the results of the leagues and tournaments.

Unfortunately, this makes most of the chapters kind of repetitive as they detail the players changing teams, the teams changing sponsors, and sometimes doing well and sometimes not. The book details a AAA league, which is a very competitive league, so they teams often play in regional and national tournaments and poaching from other teams. The number of teams dwindles from 200 or so in the middle part of the century to under 10 in the 1990s and maybe none now.

And the number of actual stories diminishes over time. Many of them are only a paragraph or two, which mentions the dangers of driving a mid-century car several hundred miles full of grown men and a case full of beer, but mostly it’s rosters and results. Unfortunately.

A bit more flavor like this story from Wirecutter, could have improved this book:

There was a baseball complex just catty corner from the ammo plant and the ammo plant just happened to have a fastpitch softball team, so during the season a bunch of us would pack up our coolers and go to the game if it was on a weekend.

They were a blast. Our team sucked majorly and yeah, it was for lack of trying. They were there strictly for the fun. We’d sit right behind the dugout and sneak the team beer after the cooler they smuggled in emptied out. Motherfuckers would be half in the bag by the time the game was over.

Jose, the best player on the team, would saunter up to the plate with a stagger in his gait, tug at his hat, tap the plate with his bat, then sneer at the pitcher. The pitcher would fire a pitch at Jose, and Jose would somehow knock it out to deep left field. Jose would then reach into his pocket, pull out a cigarette and light it, wave to all of his adoring fans, then get tagged out before he took a step. And we would go wild. After all, it was a great hit even if he was just showboating for both his wife and girlfriend.

We’ve all heard of players being thrown out of a game, but on more than a couple occasions, our entire team would get ejected usually for petty bullshit like drinking on the field during play or trying to grab a female ump’s ass.

Doesn’t sound like a AAA team, but the story definitely has flavor.

The book is most likely targeted to people who played and who will be happy to see their names in this book. Me, I was interested in seeing the mention of the parks and a bit of dogging of the Park Board for banning a player or making different decisions in the parks’ interest if not the fast pitch softball teams’. As I have mentioned, my beautiful wife is on the Park Board, so I let her have it a bit for the decades-old transgressions.

Also, as the book extended into the 1990s, I found again (like the history from Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks) that this “history” creeped a bit into things I remember. I would have started coming to the Springfield area with my then-girlfriend in 1997, and I moved here almost fourteen years ago (!), so I know the names of the parks, the names of some of the sponsors (even the historical sponsors based on my other local history readings). Like Seeburg Mufflers (a team sponsor in later years). I used to see the Seeburg Muffler car outside its Springfield location at Campbell and Sunset:

They sold that location either to Bass Pro or to a restaurant that wanted to serve the Bass Pro tourists a couple of years ago.

So I’ve been in the Springfield area long enough to recognize some anachronisms here. Well, I guess it fits, since I’m an anachronism myself.

At any rate, a bit of a disappointment of a book, but I recommend you all go to ABC Books to buy a copy to make more room for martial arts books. Also, if you have any martial arts books to sell, you can get good prices at ABC Books. Actually, I don’t know what kinds of prices ABC Books uses to buy books. Selling books is not my thing, as you probably know by now.

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Book Report: Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes by Nicky Beer (2022)

Book coverI bouught this book last week at the Novel Neighbor in Old Trees, Missouri, when I traveled to St. Louis (the actual city, gentle reader, not The St. Louis Area which is safer and saner). The Novel Neighbor is not my favorite St. Louis area bookstore–it was not there when I lived in Old Trees, and most of the book stores I knew from that era but fourteen years ago are gone now and new ones, like the Novel Neighbor and the new Webster Groves Book Shop, have spring up. The Novel Neighbor is a bit more progressively themed, so I prefer the Webster Groves Book Shop because it has a better local interest/local authors section. But I stopped at the Novel Neighbor first since it was closer to my hotel only to discover that the Webster Groves Book Shop closed at 4pm–and my stop at the Novel Neighbor put me past that time. Ah, well.

At the Novel Neighbor, I stopped by the poetry section, and this volume, a signed copy, faced out, so I picked it up and flipped it open. The first poem I encountered was “Marlene Dietrich Plays Her Musical Saw For The Troops, 1944”. As you might know, gentle reader, I am a sucker for a good musical saw.

(Full disclosure: Alberti is a friend of mine–she is the mother-in-law of my last best friend who has been dead, what, seven years now? But she has been a resident of Springfield for a long time, and when we all had dinner at her home more than seven years ago, she actually pulled out a saw and played it for us along with piano and flute duets with her daughter, and Alberti pointed out that to play a saw, you want an older saw, not one you can buy at a hardware store now with a hole in it to hang it up because that alters the sound.)

Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, buying this book. I flipped through a couple of other books on the progressively themed poetry shelf, but nothing appealed to me more than this book, so it’s what I bought. And it’s the only thing I bought that Wednesday afternoon, so that’s the reason you did not see a Good Book Hunting post from that time, gentle reader. I read most of the book the next day in a series of hospital waiting rooms and polished it off when I got home, and…. I liked it.

Now, to be honest, the first poem is “Drag Day at Dollywood”, and something in the next couple of poems made me wonder, How progressive is this poet? So I flipped to the back of the book, to the About the Author bit, and the author identifies herself as a bi/queer writer. The poet identifies herself thus first, which is unfortunate, as the she is a poet first and foremost.

I mean, the poems do include some references to gender/sexuality in the “bi/queer” sense, but thematically, it fits into questions of identity: Who am I? Is there something wrong with me? The poems question these themes very well outside of the politicized context of bi/queer/gender/sexuality.

I mean, the lines are long enough to develop thoughts, images, and metaphors (although I’m not sure about the line breaks). The poet, get this, uses evocative language and imagery to initiate a response in the reader instead of just declarative statements to tell the reader what’s on the poet’s mind.

Maybe I need to read better poetry than the grandmother poetry or the bad chapbooks I read, but this poet should be offended if I compare her to Rupi Kaur or Pierre Alex Jeanty, two other 21st century poets I’ve read recently. So I won’t. Ach, I even had a thought–this poet might be better than I am.

But she’s no Edna St. Vincent Millay. None of us are, although maybe Neo comes close.

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Good, Uh, DVD Hunting, Saturday, February 25, 2023: Relics Antique Mall–“I Have This Gift Card”

The end of last week was a little… rough? I was called to St. Louis to be the awake person for a medical procedure that had almost killed my brother two of the first three times he’d had it done. So it was about seven hours driving round trip to spend fourteen or sixteen hours in a variety of hospital waiting areas and a couple of hours with my brother. He actually made it, although the doctors are pretty much using him as a test case for his condition now, and whole practices come to see him and try to learn from him.

So I came back on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, we volunteered at a 5K race since we were too late to sign up for it only to learn we were at a water station on the marathon route (well, the 10K, half marathon, and marathon route). Which put us in a church parking lot from 7:30 to almost 4pm.

So afterwards, I had a snooze and then wanted a little retail therapy. Actually, I was still looking for a copy of Demolition Man since watching a Critical Drinker YouTube video on the movie some weeks ago:

Ah, gentle reader, the lies we tell ourselves. I had not a Relics gift certificate, but the remnants of a Visa gift card of unknown provenance with about $35 on it. I figured I would hit the big DVD booth and maybe look around for some others. Surely someone would have it.

Well, I found several things not named Demolition Man:

I got:

  • Jonah Hex, a movie based on a DC property, but not a DCEU thing.
  • Born in East L.A., a Cheech Marin comedy from the 1980s.
  • Reservoir Dogs, Quinton Tarentino’s opus.
  • National Lampoon’s Holiday Reunion as I’ve generally been pleased with the National-Lampoon-badged comedies I’ve seen recently National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie, National Lampoon’s Adam and Eve, and even National Lampoon’s Black Ball inspired me to buy a bocce set).
  • The Other Guys, the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy which my oldest says is not very good. But he does not have the same perspective as I, a watcher of direct-to-cable movies in my youth, have. Which is to say a low bar to quality films.
  • The Hangover Part II since I just watched the first one.
  • Inception, the dream/alternate reality? mind-bending movie that made a splash some years ago.
  • The Transporter/The Kiss of the Dragon two-pack. I saw a “set” of The Transporter and The Transporter 2 which was really The Transporter bundled with some other random DVDs in the case. The particular booth was not fastidious with the DVDs, leaving a bunch of them in a jumbled box, but it was inexpensive. I got several from that booth, but this set from another. I’ve seen both of these movies, but it’s been a while.
  • Fantasy Mission Force, an early Jackie Chan.
  • The Green Hornet, the 2011 version.
  • The Punisher, the non-Dolph Lundgren version.
  • Mystic River, which I’ve heard is good.
  • GoodFellas, a mob movie which I have not seen as I’m not really into mob movies. But I’ll watch it, and Casino which I have in the two-VHS version around here somewhere, someday. After all, I did watch the three Godfather movies two years ago.
  • The Blind Side which I’ve seen before, but I am apparently on a Sandra Bullock kick.
  • The Lost Swordship, a Chinese movie from the 1970s?
  • The Animal because who does not love Rob Schneider? Most people, I reckon, but I like his comedies.
  • Terminator: Salvation just to start closing out the Terminator properties. I think I saw the trailer for this ahead of another film recently.
  • Spies Like Us the Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd film from the 1980s.
  • Lethal Weapon 4 in case I didn’t have it. Turns out, I do have a box set of all four, so this is a duplicate I’ll donate sometime.
  • Paycheck, the Ben Affleck paranoid science fiction film. I’d recorded this on a DVR and watched it at one point, but I don’t actually remember it that clearly. Which might be the start of my paranoid voyage of discovery!
  • Hard Boiled, a 1990s John Woo film.
  • Collateral, the film where Tom Cruise is the bad guy.
  • Get Shorty, a 90s film based on an Elmore Leonard book. Man, the 1990s were full of Leonard-based films, ainna?
  • My Super Ex-Girlfriend, a Luke Wilson comedy with Uma Thurman.
  • Leatherheads, the George Clooney old-time football comedy.
  • Sideways, the Paul Giamatti film that tanked a wine varietal for a number of years.
  • The Expendebles< the first in the series of old action hero team-ups.
  • Miss Congeniality 2 since I’m on a Sandra Bullock kick which might have started with watching the first one last month.

That’s 29 films. A couple of times, I found a DVD in one booth (often the large booth in the back that deals exclusively with DVDs), and when I found a copy at another booth for less, I’d take the first one back. Well, almost. When I was standing in line to check out, an employee who encouraged me to put my stack in a cart instead of threatening to spill them all over the front of the store pointed out that I had two copies of Sideways. So I gave it up.

I managed to keep the total at roughly $50. Which means my mix of $2 and under DVDs leaned toward the under. So I told my beautiful wife I only spent $15, but that’s because the money is fungible. I used the regular credit card to make the purchase because a line had gathered, and I didn’t want to slow things down any more than taking stickers off of 28 DVDs already had. So now I have another $35 to spend on frivolous things, which I might or might not actually use the gift card for.

And, gentle reader, I remind you why I started buying DVDs in earnest in the last couple of years: Because I realized not only did I want hard copies of films so I could watch what I want when I want it (see this rant from seven years ago) but also because sometime in the near future, DVDs will disappear from the cheap secondhand market.

Although they’re not gone yet from the antique malls, this trip to Relics proved the price curve is about to trend upward (as record prices did within the last few years). The big DVD booth had priced certain recent or rare DVDs at $5 or $10. So DVD prices on the secondhand market are in the process of moving from easy accumulation to you must really want it range. Which is likely to trigger more buying from me whilst I can get videos for a buck or two. And, hey, I have this gift card…..

And, thanks for asking, my brother is doing well. Or at least he’s doing well enough that he’s not telling me how he’s doing or reaching out to me at all. Which could mean he’s in the hospital. Who ever knows with that kid?

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Book Report: Murder, She Wrote: The Maine Mutiny by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain (2005)

Book coverThis would turn out to be the last of the books I read for the 2023 Winter Reading Challenge, 14 of 15 categories completed. This one fit into the “Cozy” category, which means generally a little old lady solves a bit of a cottage mystery akin to an old English novel rather than a hard-boiled or police procedural investigation. I looked it up, actually, and although I probably have many other samples hidden amongst the stacks of Nogglestead, I knew where one or more of these books were as I had given a number of them to my sainted mother back in the day, and I often spotted one or more when browsing the stacks (and hence thinking of Mom). Not long after she passed away, I read one of these books (Murder, She Wrote: Dying to Retire) and was not impressed.

This time around, though, maybe I appreciated it more because I’m over a decade older and slower. I mean, it’s not like the Lee Goldberg books in the Monk or Diagnosis: Murder series with a lot of humor and some daffy characters for amusement–it’s pretty earnest. And Jessica Fletcher does go about her business talking and talking to different people in Death Capital (which is the translation from the French of Cabot Cove). And of course they’re planning a big party while she’s doing it.

So, the plot: Cabot Cove is getting ready to have its first lobster festival, which means Jessica comes into contact with the lobstermen who are having a bit of a problem with their broker who handles their sales–and perhaps the leader of the lobstermen’s organization is not really on their side. So half of the book explores this tension, well, the dual tensions of putting on a lobster festival on what seems to be a very short timeline (the book starts a week or so out, and they’re still planning it) and the lobstermen vs the broker, and the lobstermen who dissent from the current order vs the those who like tradition or how things are always done. I guess that’s triple tensions, but they take the first half of the book, setting things up. Then, on page 150, Chapter 13, Jessica awakens on a lobster boat with a dead body whom she discovers is the broker, and the boat is sinking. Actually, we get a primer on that in the Prologue–Jessica on the boat with a body, and then Chapter 1 starts two weeks earlier. And the next 120 pages are the subsequent rescue, investigation, resolution, and denouement.

So the pace is slower than your 60s or 70s men’s adventure paperback original, but it’s a different target audience. Perhaps the pace matches the show–I still haven’t seen a full episode (nor of Monk or Diagnosis: Murder), but maybe it takes :20 to get to the murder and :23 to resolve it (or vice versa). Or maybe because I’d mentally prepared for a “Cozy” or because I’d read one previously or because I was used to slower pacing from “Female Detective” in Finding Lizzy Smith, but the pacing did not bother me as much as it did in the book I read in 2010.

At any rate, it was okay. Colorful in its way. And I have two or three floating around on the to-read shelves, so perhaps I will read another before 2036.

Eesh, that’s a big number, 2036.

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Use Your Head

Don’t trust the government when it says:

“If you come across a bear, never push a slower friend down…even if you feel the friendship has run its course⁣,” NPS [the National Park Service] tweeted Wednesday.

C’mon, man. If the friend is already slower than you are, don’t waste your time and energy pushing them down. Just outrun them.

If your friend is faster than you, though, it’s worth the second or two to hip check them to the dirt before or as you take off.

(Link via Blackfive’s Facebook feed; it looks like has been dormant for almost four years now.)

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Movie Report: The Hangover (2009)

Book coverI picked up this film on one of my more-recent (within three years, “recently” could mean) trips to the antique malls or something. As you know, gentle reader, I am picking up DVDs and VHS cassettes at a bit of an accelerated pace as I’ve come to recognize that they’ll soon be obsolete and absent in the wild, or more likely, expensive. As this film was atop the stereo and other cabinet by the entertainment center, I know that I picked it up recently (the ones in the stereo cabinet repurposed to my to-watch shelves in the early part of the century are old acquisitions). And at Nogglestead, we have a bit of a LIFO (last in, first out) policy on books and other media. Well, I do. Because when I acquire it, I am eager to watch it, but that eagerness fades as time passes (which is why we have entire sets of television series in the stereo cabinet). Just so you understand why I am watching this “new” film which I bought sometime in the past couple of years even though it’s only fourteen years old now.

At any rate, this 2009 film comes from what historians might consider the last gasp of cinematic comedy (except they won’t, as historians after the next dark age will not have DVD players or thousand-year-old streaming accounts). I mean, the film comes from the same vein of R-rated comedies as Horrible Bosses (2011), Ted (2012), or Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015, but the original was 2010). Crass films relying on a lot of drug/alcohol humor, but able to make fun of different stereotypes and whatnot in a way I’m not sure they can any more.

The whole premise of this film relies on a drink-and-drug-filled evening. The morning after a bachelor party, three friends awaken to find the groom-to-be is missing, and they have a baby in the closet and a lion in the bathroom. The film follows them as they work backwards to try to find the groom so they can get him to the wedding on time. In doing so, they find that one of them has married an escort/stripper and that they’ve stolen Mike Tyson’s pet lion–and Tyson and his bodyguard insist they return it somehow.

So it’s a bit like a drunken comic Memento in that they’re working their way through the night in reverse. It’s an interesting structure and pretty novel, so I enjoyed the film more than I did the others mentioned above–and all of them spawned quick sequels, which is better, I suppose, than waiting a decade or more to try to resuscitate old characters like Ron Burgundy or Derek Zoolander.

The film also stars Heather Graham, whom you know I rather like, gentle reader, as we were born in the same hospital a year apart. We looked at her when I watched License to Drive in 2021. So let’s look at Rachael Harris. Continue reading “Movie Report: The Hangover (2009)”

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The World We Live In Now

Last month, I posted about Hollywood Squares with Paul Lynde in the center square.

Guess who showed up in my Facebook feed last week?

Sure, sure, coincidence. I mean, where doesn’t a comedian who died forty-plus years ago pop up in the 21st century?

Day before yesterday, I texted my brother “I need a side hustle. What do I like to do that can make money?” (Because, gentle reader, blogging ain’t it.)

Yesterday, someone whom the algorithms had determined I don’t interact with because I don’t interact with her shared a cartoon about side hustles.

And the algorithms for some reason decided I should see it.

With each of these posts, I am less joking and more serious.

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It Ends: 2023

So the Springfield-Greene County Library 2023 Winter Reading Challenge has come to an end. In the end, I only read books in 14 of the 15 categories. I did not read a banned book, as I don’t have many banned books easily at hand, and I’ve read most of the ones I own (I think).

So here it is, the completed form:

The list includes:

Listen to a Book How I Write by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
Set in Space Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh
Instructional A Beginner’s Guide to Glass Engraving by Seymour Isenberg
Religious or Spiritual Breathe! You Are Alive by Thich Nhat Hanh
Female Detective Finding Lizzy Smith by Susan Keene
Cozy The Maine Mutiny by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
Author of Color A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs by Susie King Taylor
Kid’s Chapter Book For the Love of Benji by I.F. Love
Under 200 Pages The Book of Irish Limericks by Myler Magrath
Banned Book
Speculative Fiction Conquistador by S.M. Stirling
Nature/Outdoors Weird Hikes by Art Bernstein
Page Turner Racing the Light by Robert Crais
Wartime Setting I’m No Hero by Charlie Plumb
Pictorial Fantin-Latour by Michelle Verrier

So I’ve read sixteen books this year, total, and I’m happy to get back to self-guided reading. I like the Winter Reading Challenge at the outset of the year, where part of the fun is picking out books from the Nogglestead stacks that fit the categories (I didn’t need a library book this year), but it does become a bit of a chore when you get to the last category or two.

I turned in my form at the Library Center on Saturday, but in a stunning turn of events, they were out of mugs. Not that I needed another, gentle reader, but it would have been a bit of a trophy. The librarian at the reference desk mentioned that they might order more and contact me when they’re available, but time will tell, and time is already nodding its head in the negative.

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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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