On the Plus Side, Christmas Letters in 2020 Are Easy

Actually, it’s not true here at Nogglestead, fortunately. As my grandmother mentioned that she liked reading my letters and read them several times, I took to writing her once or twice a month, so I have a good running commentary of 2020 in almost real time. The real challenge, of course, will be distilling 2020 down into a one pager. It’s easier looking back at the end of the year, when the first four or five things I remember become the contents of the Christmas letter. With all this extra information at my fingertips, I have to prioritize.

Which will give me an excuse to put it off until it’s almost too late, at which time I will put in the first four or five things I think of just to get it done.

Never let it be said that I lack a process or procedure for writing the annual Christmas missive. Do let it be said it is not a good process or procedure.

Shocking Internet Searches My Children Perform

So the youngest boy has a laptop provided by his school that includes monitoring software that gives us insight into the sites he’s visiting and the searches that he’s conducting. The older boy, who has a laptop issued by the public school, has no such software installed; what happens in Public School, stays in Public School, you know.

But what I found on my youngest son’s search list was SHOCKING and DISTURBING.

Continue reading “Shocking Internet Searches My Children Perform”

Why Is The Focus Not On The Former St. Louis Blues Player In The Picture?

Candace Cameron Bure calls sex ‘the blessing of marriage’ after backlash over handsy pic:

Candace Cameron Bure is reflecting on backlash she received from Christian fans who took issue with a photo of husband Valeri Bure cupping the actress’ breast on Instagram.

Valeri Bure played for the Blues in a handful of games when I was heavily watching the team in the early part of the century. As such, he is first and foremost a St. Louis Blue, not the husband of a childhood televisions star.

Kind of like I think of Paul Kariya and Wayne Gretzky as St. Louis Blues. And anyone who ever played for the Packers is a Packer unless they go to the Bears later, in which case ::makes Italian kiss-off gesture::.

I don’t care that there isn’t an Italian kiss-off gesture in Italy. They don’t have Bears fans in Italy. If they did, they would have one. One which Francis of Assisi would have developed.

The Recreated Elementary School Posters of Nogglestead

Some years ago, when my beautiful wife was in the hospital overnight (probably after emitting a boy), I asked her if I could bring her anything.

“Tristan,” she said, referring to her white cat.

Well, I could not bring the cat to the hospital, so I picked up a stuffed white cat for her. It has bounced around the bedroom and perhaps her office since and was not turned over the the boys as the other stuffed animals from our youth were (okay, mine, amongst them Edwin, Pooky, and a large bear I received for Valentine’s Day once–I have since reclaimed Edwin, and the bear is in our closet as the boys have outgrown stuffed animals mostly, but apparently we parents have not, and how did this all of a sudden become about me?).

At any rate, earlier this week, someone turned down the bed in the master bedroom (yes, we turn down the beds in the evenings and clear the decorative pillows from them before bedtime–I started doing this when my wife was traveling a bunch for work, and I wanted to give her a more upscale feeling when she came home). In addition to not doing it the right way–that is, my way, the person put Tristan II between the pillows, which would not have worked at all as that’s where Athena sleeps at night.

So I put it in the crossbar of the canopy bed (minus canopy, because they’re expensive, and we stripped my sheers-held-in-place-with-magnets solution one of the times we converted the canopy bed to a sleigh bed or a mere four-poster bed) to recreate the poster that was on the walls of pretty much every classroom in Carleton Elementary and many offices besides.

It’s been there for a number of days without comment. Perhaps I need to pin or tape paper with the “Hang In There” text.

Or, more likely, now that I have amused myself (and perhaps you, gentle reader), perhaps I will just take it down and put it back on her dresser.

Also, I suppose I will have to stop calling you gentle reader as you have learned that I still have a stuffed animal or two in adulthood and will probably come rough me up for my lunch money.

The Slow Change Of Nogglestead

In putting up our Christmas trees this weekend, I rearranged the lower level ever-so-slightly.

Whoa, Brian J., we don’t like change! you might say, which explains why you’re here–you’re a lot like me.

Because, let’s face it, we have not made a lot of changes to the furniture arrangements at Nogglestead, mostly because the furniture only fits in the rooms certain ways.

Continue reading “The Slow Change Of Nogglestead”

Musings on Christmas Decorations

Although I said October 22 that this might be the earliest Christmas ever at Nogglestead and although we have been playing the Christmas radio station on the console stereo for a couple of weeks from sun up to bedtime, it was only this weekend that we got our Christmas decorations out. We put up the trees and got the lights on on Saturday and put the household decorations (including 2020’s upcoming Christmas straggler) on Sunday. Which led me to some musings, as things often do.

Continue reading “Musings on Christmas Decorations”

I Fought For $15, And The $15 Won

My apologies to Bobby Fuller and the guys, but I saw these automated floor cleaning machines twice this week: once at Sam’s Club and once at Walmart.

I mean, I grew up on seventies science fiction where robots were pretty stock. However, here on earth in the 21st century, nothing is driving their adoption quite like political pressures that do nothing but put people out of work and make the adoption of bleeding edge technologies the affordable alternative.

Culling the Herd

I mentioned in July that I resubscribed to the Wall Street Journal in part of a paper-subscribing frenzy and because we opened a brokerage account for our oldest for his birthday.

Well, the oldest has not shown much interest in the paper, finance, or his brokerage account (he is in high school and has is own phone now, and donchaknow that meatspace as the old timers call it is for old timers). And, as is the norm, the papers started piling up unread until I would (or will) months later tear through them weeks at a time, only glancing at the headlines and shaking my head, thinking We had it so good then; I know how all of this turns out.

And, well, to be honest, I’ve found their reporting to be a little less that straight up during the election season and post-election.

Trump lashes out, having a tantrum, but the Democrats, adults that they are, air frustrations. Got it, straight up news there.

You know, I can get that sort of thing from a Gannett rag for a fifth of the price.

You cannot cancel your subscription on the Web site; you have to call in. I did, and I was on hold for thirty minutes before I got to a customer service rep who offered me a free two weeks to reconsider–or to forget that I want to cancel, or to dread waiting thirty minutes on hold again. I declined.

Because the paper made me sign-up month-to-month (cynically, I think so that they could easily raise the price without my notice at their first opportunity). This means I will not have spent a whole year’s worth on it, and it means I still have another month coming before it ends.

I am pretty sure that it will stack up unless I make a concerted effort to clear it out, and I might as I try to get some sort of record player running this holiday season which might involve putting a component system in the parlor. If the turntable I bought at a garage sale seven years ago works, and if the failing receiver I have can funnel audio to speakers properly, and so on.

At any rate, this has also made me realize that I haven’t seen a Wright City Journal (WCJ)–to which I also subscribed in July–in months, so I’ve reached out to them to see what’s going on. I think I’d rather read it than the Wall Street Journal for the most part.

But you know what I will miss? The feature writing in the Personal Journal and Friday/weekend sections along with the book, television, movie, and music reviews. The same things I rather miss out of the National Review. I wish we still had general interest magazines that carried that sort of thing regularly. Let me know in the comments if you have some recommendations. First Things also has a pretty good back section, although its selections are fittingly theological and Catholic in nature.

The Rise of the Biden Economy

Biden win lifts world stocks to record peak; dollar fades.

What follows is a political post, so I will tuck it under the fold so you can skip it and continue to think fondly of me, gentle reader, unlike many “friends” on Facebook who are virtually dancing triumphantly over the LOVE defeating HATE and the FASCISTS who got what is coming to them by the administrators of LOVE who approve of violence in the streets and who promise extra-Constitutional and unilateral measures to rectify governance in a republic through unilateral, pen-and-phone measures and perhaps a Truth Commission of some stripe to Punish members of the previous administration. In order to unify the country, somehow.

Never mind; I can see that I have let my ungoodthink out above the fold. Still, as I am abusing the <more> tag a bunch, let me abuse it some more. Continue reading “The Rise of the Biden Economy”

Wherein Brian J. Defibs His Submission Records

Gentle reader, I have wanted to be a real writer for a long, long time. When I first started keeping track of submissions, I used notebooks to track which stories, essays, or poems (later novels and plays) I sent and to which publishers along with the date I sent them. I can remember the powder blue cover on the notebook where I entered my first few lines in the middle 1980s, when I precociously started sending my middle school and high school work to major national magazines (and began amassing a vast collection of rejection letters).

I started a second notebook, briefly, in December of 1995 (depicted above). I’m not sure if I misplaced my original notebook or if I filled it up; I haven’t laid my hands on it this morning, so it could be either (or an invitation to clean my office closet whose order was set when we moved to Nogglestead and has now turned to disorder as I have thrown things in and closed the door).

Somewhere around the turn of the century, I started using an Excel spreadsheet to track them. The file named Submission Record.xls has a first worksheet of 2002. Continue reading “Wherein Brian J. Defibs His Submission Records”

The Squandered Gift Of Time

As I mentioned, I left a full-time job for a return to consulting, and I’ve got a part time contract for the nonce, but I’ve been exploring other opportunities. I have had a lot of conversations over the last couple of months, but none have resulted in a job offer or contract. Sales pipeline, they call it. Discouraging, I call it.

I have been here before: When a full-time contract ends, I start reaching out looking for more work, but I also think, Man, I’m going to have so much free time! I start thinking about household projects I can complete. Did I mention I was painting my fence and deck again, and that I started this spring? Yeah, that’s not done yet, and I should have all this new free time, ainna?

Well, that’s not how it ends up. I get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school, stop by the gym a couple times a week, hit the grocery or the warehouse club, get home, maybe write a blog post or two, hit the job boards and maybe reach out to a company or two (working that discouragement pipeline), do some work on my part time contract, have some lunch, pick the boy or boys up from school, take them to martial arts a couple times a week, have dinner, do the evening chores, and sit down to read for an hour or so before bed. I spend parts of days at the laundromat or on household repairs. What extra time?

The gym can cut a couple hours off of the day at the beginning, and when I’m not working full time, I pick the youngest up after school on time instead of having him hang out in their “extended care” program (it’s not like he has extra-curricular activities in These Days) which cuts another two hours out of that extra time every day. And I don’t have a lot of blocks of an hour or thirty minutes between the daily activities–so I spend the time sitting at the desk, reading a blog or something. I certainly wouldn’t have the time to get the paint out and slap it on a couple pickets–or would I?

Then, a few weeks into the process, I notice how the cash flow is tightening. So I start getting concerned. I have a lot of places to tighten, of course: Not so many impulse purchases of CDs, fewer dollars-a-day stuff, not eating out, cutting the charitable giving. We’re not in dire straits by any sense of the imagination, but I get to thinking: What if I don’t get more work? What if this contract ends and I am completely out of work? I mean, even when I have a full time job, I tend to think I am only a couple weeks from being laid off, unemployed, and without prospects as an old man in a young persons’ industry.

So when I worry, I spend more time hitting the job boards instead of doing something else–writing, working on a new skill, or those aforementioned household projects. I get nervous when a day or so passes where I don’t find somewhere to apply or reach out. And, of course, the moments stolen with news and politics don’t lower my stress levels.

And then I get a full time job or contract, and all the “free time” and the promise it offered evaporates, and I really didn’t take advantage of it while I could.

This has happened before, of course, and I can explain all the stages of it very clearly. However, I’ll go through them all the same.

I’m a little afraid it’s how I live my whole life, though, frittering away time. Or maybe I just need to pick a better way of frittering.

I Tried To Teach Him Hockey

I met this boy when he was a year old: John Burroughs alum Chris Booker paves unlikely football path to Ohio State.

His mother and my beautiful wife worked together, and our families had dinner together. Well, “families” might be a little misleading–my beautiful wife and I were freshly married and did not yet have children. As we had dinner together, the toddler had a Fisher Price golf club. I tried to teach him how to put both hands on the club, extend it horizontally, and say, “Cross check.”

Apparently, it didn’t stick. (Ahut, as my mother would say, a little verbal rimshot to say Did you catch the joke there?)

However, it is entirely possible now that I will be able to say in a year or two that an NFL player danced at my wedding. We have photos of little Christopher spinning on the dance floor of the reception hall. I will explain to everyone that he was already practicing his touchdown dance.

As long as he’s not a member of the Chicago Bears. If he is, I will disallow any knowledge of him and delete this post.

What I Dressed Up As On Halloween

Apparently, I dressed as a competent handyman.

For starters, the parts I ordered for dryer did not arrive in our mailbox until we had left for the football game so it was my first task for Saturday morning.

I replaced the thermal fuse easily, but the cycling thermostat did not look like the ones in the YouTube videos, so I had a bit of swearing and concern as I tried to figure out if there was a particular way to orient it. It has four wires to plug into it: Two on the top, and two on the sides. So it might make a difference which end is up, ainna? As it turns out, apparently not, but I only discovered that by plugging it in and turning it on. And the dryer worked again.

Then, late in the morning, whilst I was working, my mother-in-law called with some sort of HVAC issue. Apparently, fixing the dryer built my reputation for the day. So I went over to her house. I was the first person in her house since Ash Wednesday. Which was in February, remember, gentle reader–my mother-in-law has only had contact with people via phone and FaceTime since then. She has not interacted with my boys in nine months. But perhaps the miracle cure for the virus, a new Presidential administration, is in the offing.

At any rate, it was not a grand HVAC issue–she replaced the filter in her ceiling cold air return and could not get it to close. I gave it a quick look–both the thumb latches holding it in place were broken off–you could move the thumbs into closed position, but they lacked the hooks that grab into the duct frame.

The proper fix, of course, would be to go get a new vent assembly and put it in for her; however, she has HVAC professionals for that. Instead, I got a couple pieces of wire and fed them through the vent to wire it closed for the nonce.

Given that she had used putty/stickum adhesive to hold the filter in place, that cold air return is held together with bubble gum and baling wire. She initially told me I could tape it up; I guess she tried that first before calling me. So basically, it is bubble gum, baling wire, and cosmetic duct tape.

So the dryer has not caught fire nor electrocuted anyone in the three days that it has been operational, and we’re caught up on laundry, so I am a little pleased with it–although as I recount my appliance repair adventure here, I do it with the thought of my father, listening indulgently and patiently, as I regale some story of my competence to him and he cannot feign pride in my doing a simple task that any man should be able to do in ten minutes after a couple beers.

As for the cold air return, I got it closed and could tell my mother-in-law the proper repair, but I didn’t do it myself even though I might have been able to. So the accomplishment has an asterisk. Given the choice between the proper fix and a band-aid, I often go with the band-aid.

So maybe the word competent is not the best word choice.

Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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