The End of a Vehicular Era

I traded my pickup truck in for a more family-friendly SUV.

I bought that truck new in March of 2001. I wanted a pickup truck so that I could haul video games. I’d bought an upright Thunderblade off of eBay, and I hoped to pick up some other games at auction and maybe start a video game or vending route in my spare time, so I got a small, economical truck that could handle them. I did haul a couple back from auction, but I never did start a business around them.

I did, however, eventually learn that it was not a half ton pickup truck. Not the hard way, fortunately, but someone told me and set me straight. It could still handle over a half ton of soil and landscaping material as I built the famed gardens of Old Trees and Nogglestead. Without destroying the suspension.

I didn’t put a lot of miles on it. I started working from home not too long after I got it, and it was not arrayed to ferry children. It had a jump seat in the back, and it’s only since my boys have outgrown their car seats that I could drive them around in it. They were very excited to ride in Dad’s truck, briefly. Unfortunately, often when they rode in it, we had to accommodate two boys, two backpacks, one or more brass instruments, and/or three or four gym bags full of martial arts uniforms and equipment. Suddenly, it was not an effective conveyance.

I can’t help remember the people who’ve ridden in that truck. My friends Doug and Brian from Wisconsin visited the week after September 11, 2001, and were among the first to ride in the back. I spent a Saturday going to yard sales with my Aunt Dale before she passed, and she thought my plan to have a vending machine route showed I had “hussle.” My sainted mother fit into the back seat once or twice before she passed away and rode in the front seat other times.

Look at those bumper stickers: A “I’m Proud Bush Is Our President” sticker I thought of removing once or twice and might have tried. A Packers sticker. A foil-backed flag sticker that faded to nothing but the foil. The RIC decal. A Webster Groves Historical Society member sticker (a membership that I have kept current whenever they have bothered to send me a renewal). Little reminders of who I’ve been for almost two decades.

It was starting to show its age. Well, it was starting to accumulate little things that I didn’t bother to fix. The rear window clasp on the passenger side had been broken for a long time–I held the window shut with duct tape. The third door opener was broken, so anyone getting into the back had to climb between the front seats. The CD player didn’t play–although it had quit on me for a while once before and healed itself. The air conditioner failed on it last summer or the summer before, but I don’t need air conditioning unless my beautiful wife rides with me–I even had told the car dealership when I bought the car that I didn’t need it, and I wanted to pay less for a truck without it. But the dealership would have had to order one from a lot in Alabama to get me a truck with no air conditioning, so I ended up with the amenity. The bed of the truck was starting to get a bit rusty, and the paint on the walls of the bed was getting scratched up. A little was due to the time I scraped a Love Tester machine when putting it into the bed after an auction, but most of it was because the boys started using it as a fort for Nerf wars.

My beautiful wife could not drive it; it has a manual transmission, and although she tried to learn a couple of times, she grew very frustrated with it. So when I had the boys in the family vehicle, she couldn’t go anywhere. So it really was probably past time to replace it.

I didn’t use the truck that much, but it certainly came in handy when I did need to haul something. Even now, I still think about picking up some lumber, and I think, no, or I fancy throwing my bike in the back to take it to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield for a ride, and I think, no.

The former family car is getting high in mileage, so we’ll replace it in the next year or so, probably with a full size pickup truck with a crew cab and automatic transition. But the odds are pretty good I won’t drive it for almost twenty years.

Grammar Nazi Strikes Christmas Classic

Or a winter classic, I reckon. “Jingle Bells” lyric sheets contain one or more grammatical errors.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way

is incorrect. The singer is addressing the bells, so it needs a comma for the noun of direct address:

Jingle, bells; Jingle, bells; Jingle all the way.

It could probably use a semicolon or two as well.

The misunderstanding of the song has made people think there is a class of bells called “jingle bells,” but in the song, the class of bells is probably sleigh bells which jingle.

Actually, I have no idea of if any of the preceding is true. I’m just sitting here trying to do my Grammar Virtue Signalling, wherein I expound upon some fine point of grammar that no one disputes because nobody knows grammar like I think I do and because nobody continues listening when I go into Grammar Nazi mode. You yourself are probably not reading these words.

Good Book Hunting, December 8, 2018: Publishers’ Warehouse, Osage Beach, Missouri

This weekend, our youngest son participated in a robotics competition in Camdenton, Missouri, which is about an hour and a half away from Nogglestead. Instead of getting up at a very early hour to have him at the competition at 7:15 am, we took lodging in Osage Beach, Missouri, for the weekend. Osage Beach is one of the communities on Lake of the Ozarks, another one of the large dam-created lakes in Missouri that filled in valleys and made lots of lakefront property. However, December is not the peak tourism season for Osage Beach, so we essentially had the place to ourselves.

While the lad did his robotics thing, we did our normal visiting-a-new-place thing: look for book stores.

The area does not abound with book stores. The only we could find within thirty miles was a Publishers’ Warehouse at the outlet mall. Which we visited, and I was pleased to discover they had a $1 book cart (just like Hooked on Books, but with newer books).

I got a couple.

I got:

  • Seaworthy, another book about being on the ocean by Linda Greenlaw. I’ve been picking them up since I read The Lobster Chronicles, but I haven’t read another. I should rectify this soon, since I probably have the whole set.
  • Saint Odd, the last (?) of the Odd Thomas novels. I have not read the one that precedes it (Deeply Odd), but I am current to Odd Apocalypse. I bought this one since I’ll need it after I get that book and read it, so why not save? Although I did pay more than a dollar for this book.
  • Contemporary Mosaics, what I thought to be a modern art book collection about mosaics, but as I started to browse
  • Painted Treasures, which I thought was a book about painted objects, I discovered this book is a collection of how-to projects for how you can recreate the painted objects. The book was published by the parent company of Writers Digest which has a number of art books in its stable, but this is the first painting project book I’ve looked at. So perhaps the mosaics book is about making mosaics as well.

We also got a couple of gifts, and others in the family got fully priced mark down books, so I cannot tell you how much I spent. Maybe ten dollars.

The funny thing was that I did not want to spend a lot of time driving in the darkness, but my trip to Osage Beach was in the darkness Friday night, and we left early this morning from Osage Beach so we could see my beautiful wife sing in a Christmas Cantata at 8am this morning, so what I really did was just split the driving in the darkness by twenty-four hours. Which is okay; I’d never been to Osage Beach before, and it became an adventure with a little book shopping attached.

It Must Be Real–It Warns Me To Watch Out For Fraud Messages

This morning, I received a communication from the Director of the FBI:

Office of Christopher A. Wray
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI)Anti-Terrorist And Monitory Crime Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J.Edgar.Hoover Building Washington Dc
Customers Service Hours / Monday To Saturday
Office Hours Monday To Saturday:

Hello,

We hope this notification arrives meeting your good health and mind.Series of meetings have been held over the past 7 months during Federal Bureau of Investigation with the secretary general of the United Nations Organization. This ended months ago when I took to office as the FBI Director. It is obvious that you have not received your COMPENSATION FUND which is to the tune of US$10, 500,000 (Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand US Dollar) due to past corrupt Governmental Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for their selfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of your fund all in an attempt to swindle your fund which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.for more information do get back to us.

The National Central Bureau of Interpol enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the government of the States and Nigeria the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to you and other individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Compensation, Contract Sum, Lottery/, Inheritance.

We are happy to inform you that based on our recommendation your outstanding COMPENSATION FUND of over-due payment in tone of US$10, 500,000 (Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand US Dollar) has been credited in your favor in Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Having said all this, we will further advise that you go ahead in dealing with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, accordingly as we will be monitoring all their activities with you as well as your correspondence at all levels.

NOTE: There are numerous scam emails on the internet, imposters impersonating names and images. We therefore warn our dear citizens to be very careful with any claim email you receive prior to these irregularities so that they do not fall victim to this ugly circumstance anymore. And should in case you are already dealing with anybody or office claiming that you have a payment with them, you are to STOP any further contact with them immediately in your best interest and contact the real bank (Federal Reserve Bank of New York ) only where your fund is laying, with the below information:

Bank Name: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
E-mail: fed-reserva-bnks-new-york@outlook.com
Phone: +1 209-248-2297
Contact person: William C. Dudley
CEO/Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Department Code:63804

Contact the bank today and furnish them with this information below for processing of your payment/funds accordingly.

FULL NAME:
CURRENT ADDRESS:
CELL PHONE No:
OFFICE PHONE No:

NOTE: In your best interest, any message that does not come from the above email address should be nullified and avoided immediately for security reasons. Meanwhile, we will advise that you contact the Federal Reserve Bank of New York office immediately with the above email address and request that they attend to your payment file as directed so as to enable you receive your payment/fund accordingly.
Ensure you follow all directives from Federal Reserve Bank of New York as this will further help hasten up the whole payment process in regards to the transfer of your fund to you as designated. Also have in mind that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York equally has their own protocol of operation as stipulated on their banking terms.

All modalities has already been worked out before you were contacted and note that we will be monitoring all your dealings with them as you proceed so you don’t have anything to worry about. All we require from you henceforth is an update so as to enable us be on track with you and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Without wasting much time, we will want you to contact them immediately with the above email address and phone number so as to enable them attend to your case accordingly without any further delay as time is already running out.
Should in case you need any more information in regards to this notification, feel free to get back to us via email so that we can brief you more as we are here to guide you during and after this project has been completely perfected and you have received your payment/fund as stated.

Thank you very much for your anticipated co-operation.

BEST REGARDS,

Christopher A. Wray
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
601,4th Street,
935 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C.
20535-0001, USA

That is the most meta Nigerian scam I have ever seen.

The Mysterious Frog of Nogglestead

So as I was going to get my children from school yesterday afternoon, I opened the door in my garage and found a large stuffed frog laying against it.

This stuffed frog does not belong to my children; I am familiar with their stuffed animals, especially the large ones.

It was set against the door where the postal carrier tends to leave packages, so I checked it for shipping labels in case someone had mailed us a frog without a box; there were none.

Which leaves me a little mystery, gentle reader: From whence came this frog?

As I am prone to wild speculation, I can only create increasingly outlandish scenarios in my head:

  • It is a warning from the frogs that we should not open our pool in the summer, as too many of their kind jump into the pool and die when they cannot get out.
  • It is a MacGuffin in some plot, laden with drugs or microfilm.
  • It is a gift from a stalker who has, for some reason, nicknamed me “Froggy.” Perhaps because I once looked like this:

    But that would have to be someone who knew me way back when.

  • It blew into the back yard of our next door neighbor, and she or her daughter assumed it belonged to my boys and “returned” it.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. We’re not bringing it into the house–as one of the unmentioned possibilities is that it is a Trojan frog filled with frogs hoping to invade my home or, slightly more likely, full of bugs of some sort that we don’t want in. I haven’t talked to my newest neighbors of a couple of months yet, and I haven’t talked to most of my other neighbors for years, if at all. If you think I’m going to use it as an excuse to introduce or re-introduce myself to them, well, think to yourselves how you would react to a strange man knocking on your door to ask if this was your stuffed frog. Yeah, I think that, except probably with more 911 calls and gunfire.

And, to be even more honest, I’m posting about it to keep myself on the amused side of the amused/seriously weirded out line.

So Many Quips, Only One Spam

  • I don’t need you to loan me a 5k; I have enough of my own.
  • On the other hand, I have created a new category in my financial software specifically for 5ks, and I’m afraid to see at the end of the year how many hundreds of dollars we will have spent on them. Perhaps I will need to add another mortgage to my house next year to pay for them.
  • “Reduce debt with a loan”? That’s not how it works. But, perhaps this sort of reasoning works on people who only learned Republicans are evil in school.

(Not Depicted: School-Supplied Distraction Devices)

Apparently, a middle school teacher has written an essay on how mobile devices affect children’s social lives, with the need for social media badges like Likes, follower counts, and the immortality of embarrassing incidents.

It’s fictionalized narrative which leaves me little to grab as far as a brief point of the exercise, but basically, it’s that mobile devices affect our children’s development in a bad way. He offers some solutions at the end of the piece, but they’re pretty basic stuff: Have the school technology classes teach kids phone etiquette, stop using social media for official school communications, and try to convince that real life is out there.

Not mentioned: The fact that schools themselves are increasingly giving devices to students.

My children don’t get a lot of device time; they were taken away and locked away many months ago because their behavior was tweenish. But the oldest got a laptop from school last year. Without close, close supervision, he will spend hours on it “doing homework” which turns out to be a little homework and a lot of what he would do on a mobile device.

So, yes, we’re trying to keep them focused on real life, and we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the school’s technology.

As this is the Internet, gentle reader, I will leave it to your feverish brains to wonder why schools would think their often-subsidized-by-technology-companies devices, which capture our children’s data, are better than parent-provided devices which capture our children’s data. I certainly cannot ascribe particularly nefarious motives to my boys’ Lutheran school, but I do wonder why schools feel the need to teach children about computers and devices–things that are common in their worlds outside of school. I mean, they don’t offer Nerf gun classes or riding a bike classes. Kids just learn these things growing up.

Oh, sure, the thought is that they’re teaching the kids technological skills they need to know growing up. But they’re teaching them Google Docs, some video editing software, some quizzing games, and drag-and-drop scripting programming tools. Which most kids would learn on their own if they needed to use the tools. And which will be as relevant as Lotus 1-2-3 when the children grow up. Instead, perhaps the school teaching should focus on working with pencil and paper, since that’s closer to the brain.

I’m not harping on my kids’ school; it’s just following, after a fashion, trends in the modern professional education space.

I don’t think I have a cohesive post for you here, but I’m working from an Internet-connected distraction device here, and this post is a distraction from something I should be doing instead.

That Will Suck The Cool Right Out Of It

So the other evening, we were driving back from a basketball game in Avilla, Missouri. My sons attend a small school, and as such, their sports teams have to travel to a number of exotic small towns in southwest Missouri to find worthy competitors teams small enough to match their own.

So the day of the game, I’d had a bit of oral surgery. I’m sure it has a scientific name, but it’s the thing where they cut open the gums to get at the roots of your teeth, clean it out, and maybe grind off a tooth root if it’s cracked (as it was in my case). It’s a little bit bigger of a deal than a scaling-n-planing or a root canal, so my beautiful wife wanted to baby me and drive for the day.

But the two-lane Missouri roads (well, just one, Missouri 96) at dusk and after dark stressed her out, so I offered to drive home. Well, it was not all to benefit my wife. I overheard that one of the girls on the middle school basketball team was playing despite having had a root canal earlier in the day, and that made me feel like a wuss. Also, the driver has control of the sound system according to Anglo-Saxon law, so, since I was not on any pain killers aside from Advil (it doesn’t hurt, and if it did, I wouldn’t admit it to you), I slid into the driver’s seat.

But I was underway when my beautiful wife asked me what I wanted to hear, and my phone with its choice selections of music from varied tastes (well, heavy metal and jazz songbirds) was in my pocket. So she asked me what I wanted to hear from Spotify, and I was a little bedeviled with what to choose.

So my oldest son asked if he could pick a song, and he did, and so people in the car took turns picking songs. The youngest, on his turns, picked Imagine Dragons songs. The wife picked folk songs that amused her and that she had mentioned in recent weeks. I picked a couple of driving songs (“Don’t Look Back” by Boston and “Roll On Down The Highway” by BTO).

The oldest son, though, picked a couple of more modern tracks that he watches on YouTube on his school computer when he should instead be learning. He picked a couple of tracks by The Fat Rat, including “Monody”:

In a stunning departure that is sure to convince the young man that The Fat Rat is played out, his (antecedent: the young man, my son) mother liked it, although his (antecedent: The Fat Rat) mother probably claims she likes it, too, even if she doesn’t because her son made it.

But what my young son might not realize is that his mother is OG EDM.

Given that his father listens to heavy metal and jazz and that his mother likes EDM and folk, clearly we’re backing this poor child into rebelling against his parents by listening to bro country.

As to me, I am fine, thanks for asking. I’m in no pain (not that I would admit), but given that I should eat soft foods for a couple of days, I’m cleaning Nogglestead out of ripe bananas mashed in milk, decade-old instant oatmeal, and couscous of dubious provenance.

It’s Called Metabolism, Karen

Perhaps this post will read a little like a humblebrag, but it’s for something I didn’t accomplish, so I cannot really take credit for it in any way, shape or form.

But when I read the nutrition information on the back of food products, and it says, “Based on a 2000 calorie a day diet….”

I laugh and laugh at the presumption. Yesterday, I got up at 5:00 as is my wont, and according to my FitBit, I had already burned 579 calories.

Friends, this would mean I would burn about 2800 calories a day sleeping (and going to the bathroom once or twice).

That might be a little high for the sleeping burn, but if I exercise at all, I get close to 4000 calories a day on the FitBit. Extra active days, like a couple of weeks ago when I ran a 5k and then shoveled mulch for my children’s school, I burned nearly 5000.

Of course, these are FitBit calories, and the numbers on the FitBit are precise but not necessarily accurate. It does kind of match up with what I have experienced all my life. How long it took me to put on any weight at all even when I lifted weights regularly. The fact that my sainted mother lived on nothing but junk food and weighed about 100 pounds her entire life.

So excuse me if I don’t watch what I eat. There’s so much of it; I can’t see it all.

Now, I am off to make a full breakfast.

The Classy Artwork of Nogglestead

Here at Nogglestead, we will clearly hang anything on our walls.

As I mentioned, our Trunk or Treat motif this year was Rock Concert, with the aforedepicted heavy metal costumes. Additionally, I made a little concert for the cargo area of our Highlander:

Yes, that is Bazooka on the lead vocals, Quick Kick on the bass, and Roadblock on the lead guitar.

It was a late-breaking thing; although I had mentioned the idea early in October, the family was not enthusiastic about it until I received my wig, ordered from Amazon. Then the boys were all on it. So I assembled a stage out of scrap pine from martial arts-broken boards, printed out some small guitars and taped them to toothpicks for structure and so the GI Joe figures could grip them.

And the stadium faces backdrop. That was the hardest part. I took some thin posterboard we had for school projects and painted five panels black, with several coats of black each. Then, I mixed up a flesh-colored-ish shade of acryllic paint and dabbed on some faces. After that dried, I mixed a slightly different color and added other faces. I repeated that a couple of times, when they were complete, taped the panels to cardboard to ensure they would stand up. And we were set.

I spent the two hours of Trunk or Treat thrashing to the Leo playing through the wireless speakers beside the stage. People asked me the next day how my neck was with all that thrashing. Nobody asked me how my back was after hours of painting those backdrops that no one noticed.

But the effort was not wasted.

I put three of them in poster frames and hung them on a bare wall in our exercise corner. Strangely enough, they brightened that corner considerably with the reflected light on the frame plastic. Even more strangely, my beautiful wife likes it.

I still have two panels left. Perhaps I’ll frame them up and put them in a silent auction sometime just to see what might be bid on them.

Look, ma! I am an artist!

When You Send Brian J. Into The Nogglestead Wine Cellar

Book coverI grilled a couple of steaks last night, and I asked my beautiful wife if she would like me to pick out a bottle of wine.

What, then, are the odds that I would select something named for a song by the band Unleash the Archers?

To be clear, I did not buy a bottle of The Matriarch because it shares a name with the song, although I would have if I had the chance. The bottle came as part of a Random Number Generator Wine Club that my wife joined on a lark which sent a number of remaindered bottles from various California and Missouri wineries to our house. The Matriarch here is actually one of the better selections from the wine club. It’s a red blend, a little Malbecky, but pretty good for a Missouri wine.

If I see it at the local shops, I might pick it up. After all, I am the sort of man that dresses his whole family up as heavy metal fans for the church’s Trunk or Treat just so I have an excuse to buy an Unleash the Archers shirt.

Which I wear almost every day.

Ode to a Stopped Drain

The night before last, my beatiful wife awakened me. I had retired before she did, and before I went to bed, I started the dishwasher. As she was sitting downstairs, she heard the sink in our bar gurgle, and water was coming up the drain. So I raced upstairs to turn off the dishwasher which drained the dishwasher instead of helpfully pausing it, but we managed to get a bucket and bail the sink before too much of the water ended up on our floor.

And it brought to mind a little ditty by Paula Abdul.

The solution for a clogged drain like this is to panic to run a cable augur, also known as a snake, into the pipes to bore through the obstruction.

The kitchen and bar sink are on the north side of the house, and the wastewater exit is on the south side of the house. The showers, bathrooms, and laundry equipment were draining fine, so I knew it was in the line running from the north side of the house to the south side of the house.

Now, I have a small augur that fits on my drill and has a couple feet of cable in it, but it’s a long way to go to the south side of the house, so we called for a plumber to come out and run a real auger into the plumbing.

I have thought about getting a real auger, at least a real consumer auger, but they run hundreds of dollars. When I was in college, the legendary Swedish mechanic (who shamed me into reading literature for fun) owned one, so my father could borrow it when he had a clog. But it’s hundreds of dollars in expense that might not pay out if I don’t get enough clogged drains (or have enough friends to borrow it from my while it clutters up a part of my garage).

You know, it’s the first clog beyond the p-trap that we’ve had here at Nogglestead. Contrast that with our experience in Old Trees, where we lived for three years: We had the drain guy out so often, we were on a first name basis with Rick and knew a lot about him (his favorite hobby and prized possession was his monster truck which he took to events and children’s hospitals).

Back then, it might have made sense to buy a full-sized auger, but if we’re only going to need to use it once a decade, it would take fifty years or more to pay out versus calling a plumber.

So no cool new power tool for me.

Just an increased watchfulness on the drains to see if they’re draining slowly because now I know that a back-up is an actual possibility from direct experience, as well as a sense of relief that we caught the back-up before the dishwasher went through its whole cycle and made a real mess. And an excuse to run a Paula Abdul video.

But Can It Remove One Of The New Facebook Portals?

Instapundit links to a ToiletTree Professional Water Resistant Heavy Duty Steel Nose Trimmer with LED Light, Silver.

Me, I clicked through because it sounded like a high-tech drain auger.

But, no, it’s not steel-nosed. It’s steel for your nose:

  • This high-end cordless battery-operated nose trimmer with bright LED light is made of high quality steel; the light comes in handy when you need to get at those hard-to-reach and hard-to-see hairs
  • The lightweight, but powerful, rotary cutting system allows hairs to enter the trimmer tip from the top and also from the sides, which is very helpful for stray hairs not only in the nose but also on your eyebrows, beard, and ears
  • Right out of the box, you will feel the difference, precision, and quality of this trimmer; it offers a smooth trim with its stainless steel high quality blades and gives you a perfect cut every time; no painful pulled hairs
  • Our best water-resistant design allows you to use this trimming tool in the shower and it makes clean-up afterwards quick and easy; it’s the best trimming and cutting tool you’ll ever experience from a men’s clipper product
  • This nose trimmer operates on just 1 AA battery (not included), which makes it an economically affordable way to take care of the daily trimming needs of your nose, brows, and ears

With all that steel and LED technology, I hope it can take care of those hard-to-reach Facebook Portal tracking devices.

False Dilemma: It Could Be Both

So what has made me more agile, years of martial arts training or years of putting away laundry in my children’s dirty room strewn with clothing, bedding, sleeping bags, toys stacked upon toys, Nerf guns (which the boys take too seriously to lump them in with the toys), a shrieking alarm set purchased from the “book” order at school, and quite likely a cat hiding under the debris that will shriek, bolt, and/or attack if you step on it.

You know what that is like?

No, Catherine Zeta Jones, you are not ready unless you’ve trained for things placed haphazardly on dressers raining upon you when you open or close a drawer, including things like a complicated Lego set with 600 pieces that will shatter upon impact upon your skull, scattering additional shrapnel to avoid on the way out of the room.

Although Entrapment came out before she became a mother. Perhaps she learned.

The Can Is Half Full

In my garage, I have a trash can half full of crushed aluminum cans awaiting a trip to the recycling center.

I bought the trash can when we moved to Nogglestead just over nine years ago. So I expect that it will be full sometime around 2030. Maybe.

When I was younger, taking aluminum cans to the recycling center was a windfall. My parents, when I was young, would collect their empties in giant garbage bags and would take them in periodically, receiving cash in those days when it was hard to come by. Both figuratively and literally–ATMs were not yet a thing, so if you needed money on a Saturday, you needed to know a shop owner that would cash a check for you, but the scrap yard was open on Saturday mornings.

Immediately after college, when I was living with my sainted mother and working two low-paying, an-English-major-can-get-them jobs to keep up with my suddenly due student loans, she would let me take in the aluminum cans for a bit of walking around money, and a couple of bags of cans could net me somewhere around $40, which was quite a windfall in those days.

Out of habit, I still hold onto the aluminum cans I come across to sell to a recycler, but I don’t drink much beer or soda from cans these days. Most of the cans I get are from food trucks that include a can of soda with a meal deal, empty beer cans tossed out of pickups coming down the farm road, or crushed cans that I find in parking lots and toss into the back of my truck. The latter methodology embarrasses my beautiful wife a whole bunch, but you can take the boy out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the boy.

But I suppose I’d better get on it before the contents of the can have to go through probate.

The Morning Routine At Nogglestead

After getting dressed and breaking their fasts, the boys like to go outside for a couple of minutes before leaving for school in the morning to firet all of their Nerf guns at once and to explode into the open space around us.

Which means the last bit of the morning ritual is generally like that of this morning:

Father, 7:27am: “Boys, get ready to load up.”
Father, 7:32am: “Boys, load up.”
Boy, 7:33am: Brings his bike into the garage along with a single Nerf gun.
Father, 7:34am: “Number 2, where are you?” Looks in tree.
Father, 7:36am: “Number 1, go get his bike.” Which father sees in the ditch beside the road.
Father, 7:37am: “Number 2, LOAD UP!”
Boy, 7:37am: Climbs twenty feet down from a different tree. Goes with his brother to retrieve not just a bike, but also a cot, a chair, and half a dozen other Nerf guns from the ditch.
All, 7:41am: Actually leave for school.

How Many Of These Six Items Do You Store In Your Garage?

My insurance company has provided this listicle about What Not To Store in the Garage, and I thought it would be a great chance at a quiz.

The items are:

  • Extra fuel
  • Paint or home improvement chemicals
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Anything fragile or valuable

A quiz for you, I mean. You’ll notice I have not bolded or italicised things that I store in the garage. Because I don’t want my home insurance rates to go up based on my blog response to a listicle composed by a 23-year-old marketing intern from a series of other Internet postings he/she/it found.

Note that storing extra fuel or solvents in your garage might also violate the contract you signed with your mortgage. What, you didn’t read it?

Not depicted, or detypeted as the case may be, on this list, other things that you might consider storing in your garage:

  • Automobiles. These things can emit dangerous gases or, based on our marketing intern’s research in watching action films, might be extremely prone to explosions.
  • Power tools. Which are electrocution dangers at best, death, decapitation, or disfigurement dangers at worst (according to our marketing intern, based on studious research of historical documents 80s slasher films).
  • Anything not valuable. They’re hazardous to your marriage if you just keep random things (or so I’ve heard) and can be a fire hazard.
  • Cigarettes. Because smoking is bad, and if you’re not planning to smoke them, you’re smuggling them, which comes with all the attendant organized crime risks.
  • Toys from the twentieth century. No matter what they are, they are killers of one sort or another. Jarts? Books printed with lead ink? Asbestos-stuffed teddy bears? Chemistry kits with real acids? Just call out the hazmat team or ordinance disposal professionals!
  • 21st Century Nerf Guns. Advances in Nerf technology have made it so you don’t need a BB gun to shoot your eye out. Or, more likely, your brother’s.

I’ll not answer that list, either.

Although if you retitle the article Whatnot to Store in Your Garage, that probably describes the contents of my garage.

The Third Best Thing About Running 5Ks

As I have mentioned, over and over, in an effort to humblebrag my way to your respect, gentle reader, I run a number of 5Ks in the autumn and winter.

This is because my boys are in their middle school cross country program, but since they go to a small school, their cross country events are not actually meets with other schools. Rather, they run 5Ks in their school uniforms, and once they started doing so, I started running as well because physical self-abuse of distance running is easier than making small talk with the other parents or just lingering around the event venue awkwardly without making small talk (my preferred option of the two).

As I’ve entered my third year this season, I’ve come to appreciate the finer points of distance running. To whit:

  1. It feels so good when I stop.
  2. I don’t have to make small talk with the other parents and embarrass myself.
  3. I get to make quips as I’m running.
  4. There are free bananas at the end.

Perhaps the last thing is the best thing. Like, on Saturday, when I crossed the finish line…

…I said, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

Come on, that’s from Forrest Gump:

I had to explain that to my wife. Come on, the film in only twenty-four years old now, old man. Surely you remember it?

I’ve also used the line noted as number 1 above, which is from an old joke: A doctor asks a man why he keeps hitting himself with a hammer, and the man says it feels so good when he stops.

At any rate, the highlight of the run for me is the things I quip at other runners and volunteers on the route.

I try to keep my breathing such that I can shout out good morning to the volunteers along the route, pointing us in the correct direction, or to people who come out in their front yards to watch us go by. But I like to crack wise as well.

Some of my favorites include:

  • It’s a lovely day for a walk.
  • There must be some mistake. I signed up for the 100 meters.
  • Are you in my age group? Good, I don’t have to pass you.
  • Can you get me an Uber?
  • Are we there yet?

Or whatever fool thing comes to mind. Of which there are plenty, because 5Ks give you a lot of time to think, and they give me a lot of time to think fool things.

The quipping keeps me from thinking of myself as a serious athlete or runner, that I focus on the wisecracks instead of Peak Performance. I could probably shave a minute off of my time by taking it more seriously, but that would be less fun than running already is not.

The cross country coach referred to these events as races which would put a little pressure to, you know, win if I took him seriously.

Instead, I’ll continue to think of them as moving open mic nights.

Wait For It

I’ve got a new pun I can’t wait to ad lib.

It’s calling someone who loves felines a real Catsanova.

Wait, an Internet search indicates that I did not invent the pun.

Ah, well, when I blurt it out as though I just made it up, I’ll assume the person I was speaking to won’t think immediately to search the Internet to see where I found it, or that it was a pre-meditated drop-in pun.

Where did I get it? Well, I was listening to Paulina Rubio…

…and then I encountered a cat, which is easy to do at Nogglestead.

So I came by it honestly, through my own synthetic thought, rather than piggybacking off of someone’s established humor.

Or maybe I saw it somewhere before.

Being “quick-witted” is awfully hard work sometimes.