As An Investor, I Know Better

I got this in my email box on Tuesday:

Yeah, as a savvy investor in Powerball tickets from time to time, I didn’t fall for this because I know the drawings are not held on Tuesdays, but on Wednesdays.

Also, I am not that kind of an idiot.

Although I do call myself an “investor” in lottery tickets. Because honestly, they pay out only slightly worse than the stocks I pick on my own.

Buy the cheap mall store stocks, Brian J. Retail is coming back real soon, I swear.

In case you’re wondering, I did not win this week. And it cost me less to lose than my investment in Wet Seal did.

Yeah, I Had That In A Book Plot, Too

VIDEO: Tourist captures ‘ghost sighting’ at Gettysburg battlefield, sparks debate.

Back in the 1990s when I was under the influence of the Anita Blake novels, wherein vampires come out of the shadows and get legal protections of a sort, I thought what if a ghost on a Civil War battlefield became aware of his surroundings and got legal protections?

It did not go as far as some of my books went, with anywhere from just a title page to several chapters stuffed into an old Microsoft Word document on a PC long ago. Just the idea.

Maybe I should take it up again. Perhaps I could sell a dozen copies.

(Link most recently from Knuckledraggin.)

Good Book Hunting, September 19, 2020: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

As I mentioned, I went to the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County book sale this weekend. Generally, this sale is semi-annual; however, with the Current Unpleasantness, the spring sale was cancelled. I had not realized how much I missed being able to go buy a stack of books and records cheaply.

I brought my boys along, again. They love to read, but the youngest must get overwhelmed with the selection, as he does not like to look for books that he might want to read. He gets very impatient and will badger me about being done very early; to be honest, he only comes because we have a new family tradition of stopping at Five Guys for lunch after. That, in his mind, is the purpose of the trip. Not accumulating vast reserves of books that might well go unread when one’s retirement ends.

So to minimize his boredom, I really only hit four areas:

  1. The dollar (fifty cents on half price day) records.
  2. The collectible Better Books.
  3. The art section for monographs.
  4. The Great Courses section–they now have a whole section set aside for these (and Modern Scholar courses) instead of scattering them among the related book sections.

We were in an out in an hour, a new record (actually, 48 since I failed to look at the Better Books records.

I got the following books:

  • Three poetry chapbooks that were not grouped together for one price: Heartstrings by Sharon Harper Simpson, An Ozark Tapestry and More by Marjorie Shackleford McCune, and Nature Center Rhapsody by Doug McKean.
  • Art monographs on Frido Kahlo, Nancy Ekholm Burkert, Grandma Moses (whom I will never again confuse with Georgia O’Keeffe, William Edward West, and Modigliani.
  • A collection of art works called At the Sea.
  • Brazil Baroque, a commemoration of an exhibition of Brazilian religious art.
  • The New Glass House; near the Art section is the Architecture section, which might be collections of pictures of architecture. So I might have a whole new genre of picture books to look at while football plays on the screen.
  • The Widening Gyre by Robert B. Parker, a signed first printing that sold for $7.50. I’m not an active collector of Parker’s work, but I had to buy this one because it was only $7.50 and I would have bid far higher than that back in the day.
  • The first American printing of Secondary Worlds, a collection of essays by poet W.H. Auden.
  • Gladstone: The Man and His Work, an 1898 edition, mainly because I confused Gladstone with Dr. Livingstone. One might almost say, I presumed.
  • Essay on Man by Alexander Pope, which is actually a poem of course. I think I have The Rape of the Lock in a similar edition around here somewhere.

I had worried about running out of CD-based Great Courses for the car (I have a bunch of DVD-based courses, but I don’t want to play videos in the car). Well, I quelled that worry. I found a couple of courses on audiocassette–my newer older car actually has a working tape player, so I can work with that–and most of what the Friends had in the Great Courses section, at least what remained on Saturday, was CDs.

So I got a bunch at between $.50 and $10 each:

  • A bunch of short, four hour courses on various composers including Haydn, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms.
  • Two courses on Buddhism: Buddhism and Great World Religions: Buddhism.
  • Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World.
  • The English Novel.
  • Francis of Assisi.
  • The Aeneid of Virgil.
  • The Search for Intelligent Life in Space.
  • Emperors of Rome.
  • Lost Christianities.
  • The Ethics of Aristotle.
  • Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment.

That should hold me for a while. I might have to think of some additional reasons for road trips so I can have some uninterrupted listening time.

I also got two comic books: Marvel’s Battlestar Galactica #1 because when I went to the comic convention in 2016, I got numbers 2-22 and wanted to fill out my run. I also got an issue of Space: 1999 because I already had one comic–why not others? I left the rest of the nearly contiguous Battlestar Galactica issues because I already have them. They’re probably on their way to be ground up to cat litter even now.

As far as books go, that’s remarkable restraint. I will probably read the art and poetry books before the end of the football season. So I have not gotten myself too much deeper into the hole as far as books I will never have time to read goes.

I did spend over $100, though, mostly on the weight of the old books and the Great Courses. But the Friends could use the funding since the number of book sales has been cut in half and this one might have had diminished attendance because.

Which reminds me: I haven’t been to ABC Books in months.

A Semi-Annual Tradition: Halloween Shirts

Walmart tends to have racks at the front of the clothing sections with seasonal merchandise tied to upcoming holidays, probably including Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day/Independence Day (flags and whatnot can apply to both), Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and probably a bit of New Year’s Eve.

Starting when the boys were just coming into school age, I’ve often picked them up a Halloween shirt. None of the other holidays; only Halloween.

For many years, I bought them matching shirts–that is, shirts with the exact same design. Generally a pumpkin-themed shirt and not one of the more daring designs with zombies or anything. I didn’t want to frighten them or their classmates–later, the younger kids at their Lutheran school.

When younger, they often delighted in having matching clothes and would sometimes wear the same thing to school, including their Halloween shirts.

The penultimate purchase or two, I bought different designs for them as they’ve gotten older and have their own independent styles and want to be differentiated from their sibling.

However, this year, when I was at the Walmart for more practical needs, I saw that the Halloween shirts were out, so I again bought them the same design.

As is the wont, I picked these up when they were in school, and I put them in their shirt drawers without commenting on it. They discovered them, and although they no longer squee with delight when they find these things, they have both worn the shirts several times in the first week. The youngest will wear the shirt year-round and not just during Halloween if the past is any guide. Maybe the older one will, too; he didn’t like the last design, two skeletons where one is holding the other’s spine with the caption, “I’ve Got Your Back.”

You know, when they were younger, I could delight them with surprises like this. New shirts, new socks, new Spider-Man sheets on their bed. Now, they’re more sophisticated. They still enjoy these things, but they can’t squee any more as they’re young men.

Or so I tell myself as I still like to get them little gifts from time to time as a sign of affection.

I Missed It

I’ve been to Wisconsin Dells a couple of times in the last couple of years–and intended to go again this summer, but. So that plan was deferred until next year, hopefully.

Although I had an inclination to, I did not attend the Tommy Bartlett water-skiing show because it was always there.

Not any more:

After nearly seven decades, the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells announced Wednesday it will close permanently due to business losses during the pandemic.

In April, the owners of the water-ski, sky and stage show made the decision to close its attraction this summer due to restrictions on large gatherings.

By “No more,” I mean, maybe.

After all, the company owns a lot of attractions and property in the area. It’s possible that they’ll change their minds next year if the property doesn’t sell and tourism comes roaring back. But who knows.

Full disclosure: Although I never saw the full show in the Dells, I am pretty sure I caught parts of the group performing on Milwaukee’s lake front during Summerfest.

(Linked link seen on Instapundit, but I did see the story on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Web site first.)

The Less Than Triumphant Return to the YMCA

So I made my first trip to the YMCA since February.

In February, my oldest son and I were taking the triathlon prep class ahead of a projected April Y Not Tri indoor triathlon, so every Monday and Wednesday we ate far too much sushi before going to the Y. The lad would shoot some hoops before class whilst I would do some weightlifting. This was back in February. The before time. We skipped the last week of the classes before everything got cancelled because the early signs were that the Pandemic would be something like the beginning of The Stand.

But it wasn’t, and the YMCA remained closed for a while. Then they opened it up without locker rooms and with some onerous restrictions. So I stayed away.

This week, I realized that I had not really been for a run or a bike ride on a weekday since the boys restarted school, so I have been thinking about a return. My beautiful wife mentioned that Planet Fitness, of which she is a member, asks you to wear a mask when you come in and go out, but when on the machines and whatnot, you don’t. I hoped the Y would be the same. First, though, I had to get some new weightlifting gloves as I used my most recent pair as biking gloves for the Olympic duathlon last spring, and the garage is a black hole.

So I stopped at the sporting goods store that has no guns left and three dumbbells (no barbells or weights) left).

As I explained on Facebook:

I stopped in the sporting goods store today and tried on several pairs of weightlifting gloves before I made my selection.

I am more fastidious about weightlifting gloves than 95% of the clothes I buy (if they’re on the top of the stack and have the right basic size, plus or minus a size, take it!).

I am much more fussy in a hat store, however.

Today I went back to the YMCA. It was early in the morning; I went before sun up, and I would rather wake up before I gym-go, but the current schedule is not conducive to a later visit. It was, as it is purportedly at Planet Fitness, just mask in and mask out; only employees and volunteers were wearing masks on the workout floor. I did my normal interval warm-up without sprints and did a couple of weightlifting exercises–biceps and triceps–followed by a mile on the treadmill. I was going to joke on Facebook that it’s been so long that I had trouble opening the heavy door to the facility, but the amount of engagement I get on Facebook (or that I give on Facebook) these days doesn’t make my quips worthwhile. So I will share them with you.

It’s true, though: I only did about 60% of the weight that I could at the beginning of the year. Maybe not quite that low; my arms have generally been slower to progress than my other muscle groups. But still, a bit humbling. But it is very important to start low when coming back as the corner muscles–the stabilizers in the elbows, shoulders, knees, ankle, hips, and so on–atrophy faster than the big topline muscles, and if you try to do too much too soon, you can hurt the small muscles which will put you out of action longer.

I am looking forward to getting back to the weightlifting. It’s been seven months since I lifted weights. I have run and biked a bit, and I have done a couple of martial arts classes, but the running and biking builds endurance, not the explosive bursts that Mark Rippletoe thinks are important and that one needs for martial arts classes.

Check back with me next week, though, to see if I’ve made it back.

I Know That Feeling

Kim du Toit had a drawing (for a rifle, natch), and in announcing the winners, he says:

Like the last time, I was terrified that someone I know very well would win. Happily, I’ve never met the man in person, so it’s all good.

A while back, I was a tester for a consumer-facing Web site that ran a couple of contests to drum up interest. The prizes were good: early comic books with values in the thousands of dollars. And although the company bought some banner ads and whatnot to promote it, the contests were both won by friends of mine–actually, a married couple who bore my godson. Well, they had me sponsor their fourth child. But they won both of the contests, partly because the number of entries was kind of low, but still.

I recused myself from participating in judging the contests because I knew the entrants, but the boss man still wondered if I was somehow rigging the game. Aside from getting my friends to enter, not at all.

I wonder what they did with their comic books. They didn’t loan them to me for sure.

The Wall Street Journal Follows Brian J.’s Lead Again

Want to instantly upgrade your home? Give it a name

As you know, gentle reader, I refer to my current spread as Nogglestead because I planned to be more successful at gardening and orcharding than I have proven to be. And as the archives of this very blog attest, I named the home we had in Casinoport Honormoor. Strangely enough, we did not name the house during our brief interlude in Old Trees. Perhaps because it would have been pretentious to name a little ranch house in that town of very old manses indeed (probably the presumption of pretentiousness did not stop me–it never has before), or maybe because it would have had to be in ALL CAPS because we lived right on the Interstate.

But I’ve not wanted to upgrade my home.

I just read enough English literature that it seemed the right thing to do.

A Very Wisconsin Funeral

I went to my sister-in-law’s funeral on Thursday in the southeastern part of Missouri. My sister-in-law came from a large family–she was one of nine–and a number of them made the trip down from Wisconsin and various parts of Missouri to attend.

Apparently, the family agreed beforehand to wear Packers apparel to honor my sister-in-law’s love of the team. I kid you not. We had jerseys at the service representing:

  • 12 Aaron Rodgers (2).
  • 80 Donald Driver.
  • 52 Clay Matthews.
  • 87 Jordy Nelson.

Along with assorted other Packers apparel amongst the children and whatnot.

I was the only one in a suit, which prompted one of her sisters to ask “Where’s Jake?” when I arrived in my fedora and sunglasses. I’ll be honest, I’m almost fifty, and I’m still a bit gobsmacked when a stranger makes a joke about how I’m dressed. Don’t get me wrong; I will make jokes about how I am dressed–I told someone that I sat down during the viewing period before the service because I didn’t want to be mistaken for a funeral home employee, especially as I would ask for tips, and that would be gauche at a time like this (and I was actually mistaken for an employee by a member of my sister-in-law’s family). Eesh, I got a bunch of jokes to put me down in my school years decades ago, and they still put me in a bit of a mental defensive crouch when I get them now.

My brother is doing all right; he’s talking about the future and has gotten another dog, which his wife opposed, so he’s looking past his grief. My nephew has been hit a little harder; this was his mother and quite possibly the first death of someone close to him, so he didn’t have any warm-ups.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for all of us, them more than me, of course. I would say I’m looking forward to getting back to normal, but deaths close to home have a way of making one look at normal and wondering if it’s really the normal one wants.

If I Didn’t Show You, You Wouldn’t Know It Was Clean

A little over a week ago, our washing machine gave out, again. Prior to failure, it had made a strange noise whilst spinning; then, it stopped spinning and then intermittently spun. I ordered a new washing machine on the Internet because I wanted it delivered sooner rather than later and didn’t know when I could make it to shop for a new washer. The delivery still took a week, but it was scheduled for yesterday.

So I moved the old washing machine to the garage where I can repair it at my leisure and have a back-up washing machine or I can store it for a number of years until I–or my heirs–get someone to haul it away.

I took the opportunity to move the dryer out as well and to wash the floor beneath them. So the floor is clean-clean (or is it clean/clean) for the first time since we moved into Nogglestead eleven years ago.

Forgive me while I immortalize it here. You, gentle reader, undoubtedly know the feeling of pride when you clean something that nobody will ever see, and you try to think about how to steer conversation in that direction or to draw attention to the normally unseen area when you have visitors. At least, I hope you do. I certainly do, but not that often (see also eleven years between floor washings).

And, as a bonus, I can knock an item off of my whiteboard.

I organized my whiteboard with those categories sometime around 2014. A couple of times, I’ve gotten in and vacuumed lint and whatnot, but I’ve never completely washed the floors since I wrote the task on the whiteboard.

Somewhere early in the century, I had a whiteboard in a cubicle that I used a lot for tracking work tasks, so I got one for the home office, too. However, in the intervening years, that whiteboard has not been in reach of my mammoth desk, so I’ve ended up not using it much. Nor, apparently, knocking off the tasks on it.

But I will eventually remove the one about cleaning the laundry floor. Or just leave it on the whiteboard for a while, until I need to do it again.

The Dying Time Continues

I predicted last November that I was entering a dying time much like my family experienced in the late 1980s, where a number of family members (my grandfather, my grandmother, my step-grandfather, my step great grandmother, my cousin, and assorted great aunts) died in a short period of time. My aunt and stepmother had cancer, and I pointed out that the generation above mine was entering that sixties through eighties age group and might be coming to the end of their retirements (which is what the Wall Street Journal’s Complete Guide To Money called death, although much of my extended family, even in that age bracket, are not actually retired yet).

My aunt died at the end of November. Although treatments seemed to put her into remission, my stepmother passed this summer. The best man from my wedding died this spring.

And my sister-in-law has passed away unexpectedly.

She had had what should have been routine surgery last week and might have been discharged too soon. After a weekend of illness, she collapsed on Tuesday morning. My brother performed CPR on her, and although they restarted her heart at the hospital, she was nonresponsive and unlikely to recover. So after her daughter and sister arrived from different parts of the state, my brother decided to discontinue the life-preserving means–she had no brain function–and she passed. I spent most of the week across the state, supporting my brother as he tended to the immediate after.

My manager at work just lost her mother to cancer, and I said it was the hardest thing. Throughout the week, I reassessed what actually was the hardest thing. When my mother was sick and in the ICU, I had the power of deciding if and when to discontinue life support. I thought that was the hardest thing. Then I watched my brother actually have to make the decision, and I thought that was the hardest thing. Then I watched him tell her children that it was time, and that was the hardest thing. Then I watched them tell her nine-year-old grandson that Grandma was in Heaven. So it’s all the hardest thing, one hardest thing after another.

I was not especially close to my sister-in-law, so I was not acutely grieving. At times I felt like an intruder while her family group huddled together, but I think it helped my brother to have someone of his generation there for support. I hope so, anyway. I could only play the role of the wise old (too soon) man who stoically understood grieving and could warn the others of what they would experience. I told them that the grieving would come and go; that my brother made no mistakes and was not negligent leading to his wife’s passing; that to watch someone you love grieve is almost worse than your own grief, as the fear of pain is worse than actual pain; that little things would set them off; that at some point, you will start to go on with life, and might think you’ve forgotten her because you’re no longer actively in pain, and you might feel guilty about it, but don’t; and that the first year will be filled with milestones such as her first birthday without her, the first Christmas without her, and so on, which will make it all real again. I think I helped; but they are only words, but hopefully sympathetic ones. I never know if I’m helping or not.

Like so many things this year, it makes one confront one’s own mortality and reflect on what one has done and what one has left undone. Unfortunately, every marker of mortality this year has not made me act much better.

Eesh, and don’t I feel a little sompy making it all about me.

But I Like The Current Model


While I can understand why some people would like a different or new model in their bathrooms, I am still well pleased with the existing model, pictured here as seen modeling the IMAO Nuke the Moon t-shirt. Which, yes, is the clothing line that she modeled with Michelle Malkin.

You know, she looks like that today. Which is amazing.

Wait a minute, I have just been handed a note: Apparently, remodeling does not mean getting a new model for–it means something like repainting and updating the fixtures. I have never heard such a thing, and we certainly have not done anything like that at Nogglestead. I should look into it.

The New Store In Town

Behind the Burger King, the developer built a little retail building that sat vacant for a very long time. It doesn’t have lot of visibility from the street, and it’s not very big, and it’s only really there offset in front of another shopping center because the developer had room for it. So it sat vacant for years, which is roughly the time it takes the Burger King in front of it to process a couple of orders (no kidding–one time, we went into the store, and we stood for ten minutes while the team tried to handle one drive through order. I have no idea what they ordered, but we left before anyone even stepped to the counter to take our order).

The logo above the door and on the street signage says F45.

I spotted the new signage and pointed it out to my youngest as I was taking him to school this morning. “F45. I wonder what that is,” I said. “You can’t tell it from the name.”

As a matter of fact, the only thing I could think of was a store full of items pointedly against our current president. I mean, we get a lot of roadside stands down here selling things with American flags and Make America Great Again on them. So why not something with anti-Trump stuff in it?

However, with only three months before the election, it’s a lot of floor space and professional signage instead of a vinyl banner. So I looked it up.

F45 is a gym global fitness community (with a link on the home page offering franchise opportunities.

It’s an interesting time to open a gym, but getting the signage out and prepping the space while the pandemic rages might mean they’re ready to go when the restrictions life.

What a world we’re in that the first thing I think of is something politically derogatory. Or maybe it’s not so much the world as it is me.

My Facebook Feed Is Like My Musical Library

That’s an animated GIF of Judas Priest singing “Breaking the Law” in someone’s comment on something followed by a WSIE post about Count Basie.

Kind of like how my home library is all female-fronted metal bands like Amaranthe:

(Can I call Elize Ryd a metal songbird?)

Followed by jazz songbirds like Nicole Zuraitis:

Clearly, Facebook has been listening to me. Or I interact with a lot of metalheads and follow a lot of jazz stuff on Facebook. FALSE DILEMMA! Like metal or jazz.

Shallow Fakes

I’m inundated on my Facebook feed with celebrities holding up t-shirts or wallhangings, and I think, Okay, they’re just holding up a t-shirt, probably a green one that the novelty-pushers then edit their particular ware onto it.

Lately, though, I’ve been convinced that the celebrities are not holding anything up at all, and they’re just grafting either the head or the hard and body onto green screens.

What did it was a rapid set of songs on wallhangings.

I mean, at least they altered the hands a little bit, but what are the odds that they’re holding the wallhangings in exactly the same fashion? Not likely. And Tim McGraw and Paul McCartney certainly did not hold these cheap, probably unlicensed, bits of decor at all. They probably don’t even know about it.

What? Stuff you see on the Internet is fake? Perish the thought.

I have never actually bought any t-shirts held by celebrity doppelgangers, so really it’s just more fodder for my foolish comment.

Or I Could Work At A Gas Station, I Suppose

A recruiter reaches out to me, a software quality assurance professional with almost twenty years of experience in IT with an offer I could not pass up:

I could not pass up the chance to mock it.

Jeepers, mister, I could make that much working the counter at a gas station. And I would not have to relocate for that fifteen dollars an hour.

An opportunity this good can only be a scam of some sort.

“At least it’s not a hot day,” I said as the thermometer pegged 90 degrees.

Our AC has an issue.

On Saturday night, it was temperate enough to eat outside, and when we did, I heard our condenser outside wheezing a bit. It sounded like the fan was out of alignment perhaps. I worried about it a bit. The air conditioner this year has not cooled the house entirely; the upstairs has tended to be warm and the downstairs freezing (the house was built in the 1980s before zoned heating and cooling was a thing).

Saturday night was… warm. I awakened in the night with the blankets and sheets all kicked from me, and I was not cool at all.

On Sunday afternoon, I went into the little utility room that houses our furnace and our water softener and, more importantly to me at that time, the mop bucket I use to mop our cat litter/storage room. I discovered water around the furnace which generally means some problem with the a-coil. So I turned the air conditioning off at Nogglestead and toweled up the floor as best I could–the house is designed to maximize the living space, which really cramps access to a lot of the furnace and whatnot.

So we’re waiting for a new air conditioning company to come (the reason we’re going with a new company instead of the one that has serviced Nogglestead for the first decade is another story).

But the “roughing it” experience of a night without air conditioning in Missouri led me down memory lane. So, gentle reader, if you’re still reading, take my sweaty hand and come with me back to the 80s. The 1980s, not the temperature. Continue reading ““At least it’s not a hot day,” I said as the thermometer pegged 90 degrees.”

Another From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Fan Self-Identifies

Homeless man lived in empty Florida stadium for weeks: cops:

A homeless man in Florida made a luxury suite in an empty stadium his home for two weeks while helping himself to food, drinks and team merchandise, police said.

You know, when I read From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I too had that sort of fantasy. As a matter of fact, I have even written the first paragraphs in a novel with a similar conceit.

Which I won’t finish now. Why bother? It’s all been done before.

Also, I couldn’t drive myself through the first couple of pages twenty-five years ago when the idea was fresh, so it would require a lot more self-discipline to complete it now.