Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016!

A lot of commentary out there that 2016’s been the worse year since, oh, I dunno, 1939 (the start of World War II)? 1861 (the start of the Civil War)? 1328 (the year the Black Death spread through Europe)? 666?

I can’t say I agree. In fact, 2016 was a great year around here for me and my family.

About that whole election thing, well, Hillary’s not going to be President. So there’s that.

About the economy, hmm, I’ve been working since the beginning of June and we’re actually back in a pretty good place, finance-wise. So there’s that.

The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. Now, we’re not Cubs fans, but my father-in-law down in Hilton Head is (he grew up in Chicago seventy-some odd years ago), so we were pretty excited for him. And the Cubs dispatched the Giants on the way, the team who dispatched my Mets in the Wild Card. So, there’s that, too.

And speaking of sports, 2016 was the year Peyton Manning went out in a blaze of glory with his second Super Bowl win, avenging a horribly embarrassing loss two years prior. Since we’re Eli fans, we’re de facto Peyton fans, so there was that.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: 2016 vs. Celebrity in a year-long death match.

In music, we lost: Pierre Boulez, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Frank Sinatra Jr, Steve “Seven Bridges Road” Young, Lonnie Mack, Prince, Paul Kanter, Leonard Cohen, George Michael. Other celebrities who passed on to the Great Beyond: Nancy Reagan, John Glenn, Antonin Scalia, John McLaughlin, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, George Kennedy, Garry Marshall, Jose Fernandez, Kenny R2D2 Baker, and Carrie Fisher and her mom.

And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

And there still are a few hours left in the year …

Let’s switch gears and look forward to 2017. What about 2017? Resolutions, and all that?

Well, to be honest, I’ve been so busy of late I haven’t made any resolutions. Little One has, resolving to get the rest of her family in shape. I’ve walked three times this past week with her, and she harrumphs and murmbles whenever I reach for a soda or a slice of pizza (I’ve had neither in the past week…).

Yeah, so I’m going with that, the health thing. (How’s that for conveying single-minded intensity?) No, seriously. The wife and I have been discussing this for the past couple of weeks, planning and waiting to get the holidays out of the way. I’m a firm believer in the mind-body connection, and in the upcoming months I need all the energy I can get. So we’re revamping our habitual eating patterns (hint: google Dr. Ian Smith) and resuming short, daily workouts. The object is to make it so it’s not even noteworthy anymore. That’s 2017 for me.

And for you?

Well, I wish you all a



Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Hopper Best-Ofs!

Well, twas a krazy year for me. I don’t think I’ve ever traveled so far in the span of 12 months. This time a year ago I was unemployed, with no prospects as they say, depressed, drifting, living basically day to day if not hour to hour. Now, one terran solar revolution later, I’m seven months in to a decent job I can do with my eyes closed and getting ready to start a part-time nightly career doing something I’d never thought I’d do. The absence of that living-paycheck-to-paycheck thing is a beauteous thing.

Anyway, “TAX” would be the dominant “fad” or “vision” for the year. So I’m taking it off the table for this post. At the end of every year I like to think back on the types of books I’ve read, movies and shows I’ve watched, music I’ve listened to, and other fads that might have consumed me. Then I let you know of the best one. If one really, really, really sucked, I let you know about that.

Now … without further ado …

Best Book Read

Moby Dick (a reread; first traversed in 1998; a thousand-percent better this time around for some inexplicable reason)

Following closely by a pair of mutinies … The Caine Mutiny and Mutiny on the Bounty

Bounty is reviewed, here.

Strange note: 8 of the 53 books I read this year were tax/economy related…

Otherwise, I read a fairly equitable and diverse grouping of books. Some history, some sci fi, some fantasy, some religious, some fringe-y, some Westerns, some classics. It was a good reading year, though I for obvious reasons had an unusually difficult task of carving the time to actually disappear to a quiet spot to get lost in a book.

Worst Read

Deerslayer, reviewed here.

Best Movie

The Revenant

Thought Keanu (the movie about gangsters stealing this dude’s kitten) was really funny and bizarre.

Worst Movie

Sausage Party was pretty bad. So was Jason Bourne. Couldn’t make it 15 minutes in to Deadpool.

Best TV

Breaking Bad, entire series in its awesome entirety, watched during three weeks in March.

My lengthy if tardy take on Walter White, here.

Worst TV

Uh, I try not to waste too much time on the boob tube. I only really watch a couple of shows with any degree of regularity. That being said, I’ve been extremely down on Walking Dead this past fall. Thoughts on that whole turning, here.

Best Music

Dunno … again, it wasn’t a musical year for me, which is strange ’cause I grew up always listening to stuff, learning guitar, playing in a band from 86-96, then delving deep into jazz, classical, and opera. Past five, six, seven years, though, barely listen to anything. Didn’t buy a single CD all year. My girls taught me how to download songs on my iPhone, and I downloaded an old Rush album, but haven’t listened to it.

If you put a proverbial gun to my head, I’d have to reach back and pull out a fossilized gem, “You and Me” by the Moody Blues. I had much excitement about the tune, explained here, and probably listened to it more than any one thing the entire year.


First and foremost – Work! (began June 1 and continuing …)

Secondly, starting my tax preparer certification process (began September 12 and continuing …)

Third, the March madness of Breaking Bad

Finally, the literary fads:

- Sea-faring novels (Moby Dick, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Caine Mutiny, The Terror)

- Return to WW2 (in January) and the Civil War (in October)

- Peaceful Warrior stuff (movie and book, in April)

- Revisit of The Lord of the Rings (July-August)

- Some UFO books (spread out over the summer)

- Coin collecting (brief June fad)

- Some Bible reading (Psalms, Genesis, Exodus, Mark) over course of the year

Aaaaaand that was basically Hopper’s 2016.

Most fun fad though? Impossible to decide – I loved them all, and still do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Princess Leia

She was probably my first innocent crush, as a nine-year-old boy during that summer of 1977. I was swept up in Star Wars mania back then, as we all were, having seen the movie twice, read the novelization, and received a ton of merchandised toys that Christmas. Though I haven’t been a fan of the franchise since 1983, Luke, Leia, Han, Ben, the droids and Darth Vader are part of some of the fondest pre-adolescent memories I have.

Rest in peace, princess.

[Shocked that 2016 has claimed another part of my youth …]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Recap 2016

Well, for the first time in … forever, I’ve had a four-day holiday weekend where I got paid for the Friday and Monday without having to take personal time. The company that’s employed me for the past seven months was officially closed those four days. What a nice, pleasant surprise (though I knew of it far in advance). Working for these people won’t make you a millionaire, but the benefits are sweet and they give lots of paid time off.

So that was cool. The little ones had school on Friday, so after dropping them off I worked a bit on my online training for the night-time tax-preparing job, taking and passing one of my required tests. In the afternoon I ran a bunch of last minute errands (mostly buying booze for family and friends). Borrowed an audio book “biography of Plato’s Republic,” and listened to it all afternoon, which made the errands enjoyable and beat talk radio hands down.

Saturday we drove over to my brother’s house to spend Christmas Eve with the extended family. Always a great time. Chugged some good beer, ate some excellent filet mignon and lobster (a once-a-year tradition), opened some presents. Had to leave after dessert as both my girls were scheduled as altar servers for the 10 pm Christmas Vigil mass at our church. Did that, congratulated the priest on an interesting sermon, took some photos against the crèche. Got home around 11:30, put the girls to bed, and then the wife and I finished wrapping gifts and placing everything under the tree in the living room.

No rest for the weary at Christmas, though. The girls woke us at 6:20 am, and somehow I manifested an extraordinary effort of will to haul my bleary carcass vertical. We opened gifts downstairs for the next hour. I did some more tax learnin’ while the wife made her renowned breakfast braids for brunch. The four of us watched Home Alone, then we all drove two towns over to our friends’ house for more gift giving and, well, drinking. For those keeping score at home, I had some German beer, a chocolate-tini, and a Bailey’s Irish cream with vodka variant.

Monday was relaxing. The wife had to get up and go do that insane “buy-discounted-leftover-wrapping-paper-with-a-hoarde-of-other-crazed-women” things. This enabled me to sleep an extra three hours – until eleven am! She returned and took my oldest and her friends to see Passengers in the theaters while I stayed home and watched Coraline with Patch, who was fighting the sniffles. Later I tidied up the house, did the dishes, did some laundry. Walked a mile-and-a-half in the mild winter weather with Little One when they got back. Played some games with the girls (Scrabble and Jenga). After dinner I did two more hours of virtual learnin’, then read a two short science fiction stories, and went to bed, sad that the 96+ hour Christmas extravaganza had come to an end. For me. The girls are all off until the new year.

So how was my haul this Christmas?

Well, the older I get (true story – just typed “odder” and didn’t catch it right away), the more I enjoy the holiday for the little ones. Honest, I’m not in it for the getting, just the giving (though I seem to be impossible to shop for, and I never seem to know what to get anyone else). In no particular order, this year Santa brought me:

A humorous math t-shirt (humorous for 1.76% of the population, that is)

Two B&N gift cards

A pair of much, much needed slippers

A massive 20-ounce New York Mets drinking glass

Tickets to see Puccini’s La Boheme with the wife, from the wife

Tickets to see Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet with the family, from the wife

Have no idea what I’ll use the B&N gift cards for. Probably can get ten used books, or three-to-five new ones, if I had a subject that currently excited me. Or I can pick up La Boheme and a couple of other CDs. Dunno. That’s a subject for another post.

On deck – the Hopper’s 2016 Best Ofs!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Namesake

Yeah, so family legend has it I’m named after this guy:

And up until earlier this week I had never ever googled a picture of him. Seems like a clean-cut, all-American go-getter, no? Just like me, if you could get the same results from being a hundred-n-eighty-degrees opposite of the dude on the football card.

For those not in the know (like me, for instance), Mr. Alworth was a first round draft pick in 1962 and played nine seasons with the AFL San Diego Chargers. He played his final two seasons with the Cowboys. He scored the first touchdown for Dallas in their Super Bowl VI win over Miami. He later became the first player who had played in the upstart AFL to be voted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And Im named after him. Well, that’s what I’ve been told over the past five decades.

Go Chargers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Ah, posting is sparse here because I’m in the final countdown with my tax training. In order to start preparing tax returns for the 2017 season (which technically begins January 23, 2017, though I will start work three weeks earlier), I have to complete:

32 hours of “Sales and Service” online / virtual training.

4 hours of “Tax Update,” also online, which details changes in the tax code affecting 2016 returns.

8 hours of “Sales and Service” training over 3 classes featuring role playing, group discussions, etc.

6 hours of Advanced Tax course material, consisting of two classes.

Last night was my final class of the five required, so all I have left is the virtual training. As far as that goes, I’m 11 hours in. All this has to be done by December 31, so I have ten days to do 25 hours of learning.  

Factoring in Little One’s band concert tonight (she’s first chair clarinet), last-minute gift buying, Christmas Eve with the family, Christmas Day with friends, and action-packed year-end tasks at work, it should be doable, but tight. Thank God my new job (now almost seven months in) gives me Friday the 23rd and Monday the 26th off. I’ll spend four or five hours each day in the basement in my little office staring at my laptop with headphones on. Oh, and that reminds me, have to stop in at the office I’ll be working in to see if my business cards arrived.

Much to do, much to do …

So, apologies, but posting has been scarce here for legitimate (read = $$$) reasons.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Something That Spoke to Me Today

Když jsem byl dítě, mluvil jsem jako dítě, myslel jsem jako dítě, odůvodněné jsem jako dítě. Když jsem se stal mužem, dal jsem způsoby dětství za sebou.

. . . 

But in my native language.

* * * * * * *

Anyway, just checkin’ in.

Been very, very, very busy.

Something tomorrow, though.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: The Fighting Texan

© 1955 by Paul Evan Lehman

“That’s enough of that! I thought you were going to take care of him long ago. You talk big, but you keep plenty of distance between him and you.”

“I’m good at waiting. Shooting’s too good for him. When I fix him, I’ll fix him good.”

“I bet you will!”

Mason took to pacing the room. He made three turns, then faced Spitzer once more. His eyes were bright.

“When Borden gets the cash for his cows, what does he do with it?”

“I don’t know. He’ll probably bank it at Santa Fe, or Las Vegas.”

“Living in Texas? And with banks none too safe? I don’t think so. I think he’ll take it back to Texas with him. And if his men leave ahead of him, he’ll have to cross the Staked Plains alone. Does that mean anything to you?”

Spitzer stared at him, his eyes wide.

“You’ll go along with me?” Mason asked, studying Spitzer carefully.

“For half the swag, yes.”


“Half. And I’ll do the dirty work.”

They haggled over this for a while, then Mason gave in.

“All right; half it is.”

- The Fighting Texan, pages 109-110

A hundred and twenty-five pages of such dialogue. What’s not to like?

These two unsavory characters, Dex Mason and his attack dog Spitzer, lead a group of ex-Union pre-Reconstruction northerners brutalizing the Texas frontier the year following Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. So neither is the Fighting Texan of the book’s title.

No, that Fighting Texan of The Fighting Texan is Jefferson “Jeff” Borden, late Captain of the late Confederate army, tired from long months wandering home through desolate, devastating lands. Home is a small ranch his deceased Pa left him, just north of Mustang, on the southern edge of the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains, a hundred miles of sun’s anvil and hunting grounds for Comanche war parties. All Jeff wants to do is live in peace and be left alone, repair the run down ranch, raise some cattle and sell ’em at market for a small profit.

But that’s not what Dex and his marauders have in mind for our taciturn strong-jawed and silent-type hero. No, they intend to run Jeff out, burn his ancestral home to the ground, steal his herd and ground the poor Reb’s spirit into the dust of those hot, sweaty plains. And when Jeff makes a fool out of Mason during the New Year’s dance at merchant John Russell’s home, causing Russell’s beautiful daughter Ellen’s eyes to stray from Dex to Jeff, well, then the cow patties really fly into the fire.

A nice quick read, one where I looked forward to reading it, the literary equivalent of a fairly intriguing documentary on the Science channel or perhaps a beloved sitcom from one’s youth on one of those retro TV stations. I enjoyed it, it took my mind off all the business and goings-on in my suddenly complicated life. Though I find little of the author’s background online, I’d read him again. Probably next year, Lord willin’, next time I’m out in the deep woods of northeastern Pennsylvania and see that small used book store at that country crossroads again.

Grade: A.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Scarcity of Me

Yep, life interferes with blogging, even a reduced, twice-a-week demand I’ve yoked myself with these past eighteen months.

I still have four weeks before I officially start my second job preparing taxes in the evening, but they got me taking fifteen hours of classes a week leading up to Day One of the Tax Season. This time, though, I am being paid for it. Last night’s class earned me $30. Which promptly went into Patch’s pocket, for her Christmas gifts shopping for the family they do with third graders at her school.

Anyway, the training is intense, to say the least. So much to learn, so much to retain. Add to those weekly fifteen hours basketball practices and games for Little One, girl scouting for her and Patch, Christmas concerts, Christmas shopping, year-end projects at the day job, and, uh, well, things are so hectic that writing has to take a back seat.

Even reading and hot baths, my two number one relaxation, rest and recovery activities, now find themselves careless discarded, set aside for more urgent and important tasks (much to my psychological detriment, I must add). For the first time since I’ve had to take care of a newborn, about seven years or so ago, I find myself almost too in demand. The days whirl by, and while things are getting done, I feel like time is slipping by and that To-Do List between my ears never quite gets whittled down.

A hundred-and-eighty degree shift from a year ago, when I’d have hours and hours of the day to fill once I’d checked all the online job searches or had my weekly update with the recruiters or went to the occasional interview. Back then I walked that tightrope over the abyss of depression and feelings of worthlessness; now my mind screams for an hour of uninterrupted down time.

Which I do get at the expense of healthy, restorative sleep. Everyone’s in bed and nodding out by 10 p.m., but the lure of a quiet house keeps me up. It’s then that I read my current read, or watch a DVR’d show, or type up a blog post. Before I know it the clock on the TV is shouting 11:30, 11:45 at me, and I have to force myself into bed or I’ll pay for it when the alarm goes off at 6:30 (or when Patch awakens me a half-hour or forty-five minutes before that).

All right; enough whining and crying, bitchin’ and moanin’. Overall, I’m happy and excited. The family has money. Our future looks bright, as they say. There’s a path before me. Both jobs seem to agree with me, and the people in charge at both places like me. The girls are well, developing into responsible, smart, funny, well-adjusted young ladies. And I got lots and lots of books on the horizon (more on that tomorrow).

But that’s why my posting’s been scarce, sparse, sporadic, occasional, in short supply, few and far between, infrequent, unabundant, disabundant, and nonabundant. Though my potential for synonym retrieval has been anything but.

More tomorrow …

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Note on the Popular Vote of the US Presidential Election

Hillary is currently up by about 2.6 million votes.

However, almost 920,000 of those votes came to her from Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In Manhattan, she beat Trump by a margin of nearly 10 to 1, and in Brooklyn (her campaign headquarters) almost 5 to 1 (actually just over 9 to 2).

So if you exclude those two New York City boroughs, Hillary only gets 1.7 million votes out of over 128 million cast, which is almost statistically insignificant and well within the margin of error of a typical poll.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Golf Ball: Coda


25 hours or so at minimum wage

See here, final paragraph.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Pavlov is in his office when the phone on his desk rings.

He leaps to his feet: “I need to feed my dogs!”

[Spotted in the comments section on one of the web sites I frequent]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Four Freedoms

In these turbulent sociological / cultural / political times, I find it comforting to reflect upon the Four Freedoms. These are broad ideas fleshed out by Democrat President and Icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address that encompass, to him, Democrat icon and four-term President, the values of democracy.

In summary, the Four Freedoms are:

1) Freedom of speech

2) Freedom of worship

3) Freedom from want

4) Freedom from fear

In FDR’s own words:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.

These words were articulated eleven months before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Over 400,000 American men, women, and children would sacrifice their lives, in no small part, for these freedoms.

Commit them to memory. And remember their source, and the circumstances of their formulation, and speak them aloud should some liberal fascist dolt(s) try to silence you for speaking, acting and living out your traditional American beliefs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Fightin' Texas Rifles

Drove out to my Pennsylvanian used book store (one of my two regular haunts in the area) during a melancholy drizzly post-Thanksgiving Friday afternoon solo jaunt. Not sure what I’d pick up; it was one of those “something’ll jump off the book shelf into my arms” excursions. And two somethings did.

This book store in particular has a Janus-like personality. One side houses a thousand books spanning in age from a few years to a few decades. Dark, musty, and incredibly overpriced. Over in an adjoining room are the paperbacks: something like five hundred science fiction novels, half that amount in Westerns, and quadruple that figure in action thrillers. This is the room I spend most of my time. I don’t find much of what I long-range target (out of print niche classics by the masters) as the books here are mostly throwaway dimestore reads. At least the science fiction ones. But the Westerns are a different story – gnarled yellow things men old enough to be my father read as boys.

I’m not sure what attracts me to Westerns. It’s not really my personality. I enjoy a good cowboy flick on TCM every now and then, but I don’t watch more than a dozen a year. Something in them appeals to me, though, and I think it has something to do with mid-life thoughts on my life, what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve failed to accomplish, what I’ve done and what I think I ought to have done, how I live it, how it should be lived, how it could be lived.

Same goes for all the war stuff I’ve read over the past five or six years. Fifteen or twenty books on the Civil War, ten or a dozen on WWII, two or three on the Great War to End All Wars a century ago. Why do I read them?

With the Westerns, I think it’s an escapist combination of vicariously experiencing a simpler yet paradoxically tougher life. Yeah, if you didn’t work, or hunt, or kill, you didn’t eat. But you knew where a man stood. A man was a man, not one of fifty genders he/ze/it decided he/ze/it was that day. A man’s word was gold, and a handshake was an unbreakable oath. It was a polite society, because, as it’s frequently noted, it was an armed society.

War is similar, though it’s more on point to my interior musings: could I have handled it? How would I have acted on the beaches of Anzio in the thick of invasion, or flying a Hurricane over the English Channel to engage some German aircraft, or loading shells into the massive guns pounding away on the cliffs of Saipan – let alone spilling into the oily, shark-infested waters should the ship go down. What if I was in a row on Cemetery Ridge, shoulder-to-shoulder with other citizen-soldiers, awaiting the rebel charge, a few crooked, narrow trees my only real protection, as rifled Minié balls whizzed past my head, inches or less from my ear? Could I stand the heat?

Anyway, two books did leap off the shelves at me: Texas Rifles by Elmer Kelton and The Fighting Texan by Paul Evan Lehman. Never read either author, though I understand Kelton has a decent reputation in genre circles. Both should be quick reads, and I’ll probably put them away before year’s end. In fact, I’m thinking about starting The Fighting Texan tonight, after the house quiets down and the ladies are all asleep.

Happy reading, and don’t flinch when that lead bullet drills a path through the air at you!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Ah, I didn’t want it to end.

First, a preliminary. Last Wednesday I got accepted by a major company to prepare tax returns on a part-time basis. Yay. Now perhaps I can earn some extra money in the free sixty or so hours I have every week (they can’t all be devoted to child care). However, I do have to pass the somewhat strident final exam I took earlier today. And to help with that I studied a little over ten hours over the four-day long holiday weekend.

As usual, after work got out on Wednesday, the wife and girls and I motored up to my parents’ house in northwestern PA. The weather was cool, a few inches of snow in mid-melt, creating some dense fog at times. Light, sporadic drizzling one or two afternoons. The house was cool in the mornings but warmed up nicely during the day, perfectly mirroring the weather outside.

Thanksgiving saw my brother and his family join all of us there. My nephew, a mathematics prodigy high school senior, is in the thick of college entrance exams and essays. I contributed some probably non-appreciated opening sentences completely out of left field. It was fun – perhaps I’ll blog some of them later this week. We all ate and drank, and ate and drank some more. I particularly enjoyed sampling some Zambuca, something I haven’t had in twenty or thirty years. Watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles later on, before tucking the little ones to bed.

Friday I took a solo drive into town – a forty-five minute excursion – and bought two used paperback Westerns for a buck. More on them tomorrow. And over the course of four days I put away 228 pages to finish Shelby Foote’s mammoth first trilogy on the Civil War. (It roughly covers the 20-month period from Fort Sumter to the Fredericksburg prelude in its 810 pages.)

We dined out on wings in the late afternoon and returned home to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday. Since I’ll be 50 next year, the running joke is for her not to expect me to take care of her when she’s elderly and infirm – I’ll need someone to take care of me. Patch made a poster and Little One wrote a page of appreciation. And we ate more.

Saturday we went to brunch at my parents’ golf club and – surprise!  Santa merrily stopped by for a quick chat and sit with all the young’uns present. Later I took the girls to the indoor pool for two hours. Also took a scolding from the teen-age lifeguard for playing in the water with Patch on my shoulders. In the evening, after eating some more turkey leftovers, we indulged in an annual post-Thanksgiving tradition – watching Christmas Vacation. I stayed up late after everyone went to bed, watching Impractical Jokers and reading past midnight about the events of September 1862 around Sharpsburg, Maryland.

A nightmare woke me early Sunday morning and I continued with the morning study sessions. Me and Patch repeated our two-mile walk from Thursday morning. After lunch we enjoyed the Giants defeat of the hapless Browns. Packed all our gear up – not quite the logistical debacle Napoleon dealt with during his excursion to Moscow, but seemingly almost – loaded it into the SUV and bade goodbye to the parents and to our long holiday weekend. Sad, to quote our President-elect’s tweet sign-offs, though sad in a bittersweet as opposed to judgmental way.

Once home and once the little ones were in bed, I subjected myself to the Walking Dead with the wife – though I still have the show on notice and am watching it for her, not you, Walking Dead show! (Side note: I keep typing, freudianishly, Walking Dad instead of Walking Dead.)

Didn’t want the long weekend to end, I must echo, so I stayed up well past my bedtime, and now I’m suffering for it.

Anyhoo, a great four days!

Friday, November 18, 2016


So I was browsing some mathematics websites (yes, I browse mathematical websites for recreational purposes) and spotted a new-to-me mnemonic to remember SOHCAHTOA.

Now, what’s SOHCAHTOA?

It’s the definition of Sine, Cosine, and Tangent in a right triangle. Specifically, sine is equal to the opposite side divided by the hypotenuse, cosine is equal to the adjacent side over the hypotenuse, and the tangent opposite over adjacent.

SOHCAHTOA = Sine Opposite Hypotenuse Cosine Adjacent Hypotenuse Tangent Opposite Adjacent

I can remember being barely a teenager, thirty-five some-odd years ago, puzzling out how to remember this esoteric bit of knowledge one chilly September morning at the start of the school year.
SOHCAHTOA. Reminded me of that mysterious word carved into the bark of a tree at the vanished settlement of Roanoke in North Carolina four centuries ago: CROATOAN.

So that’s how I remembered it. But don’t ask me how I remembered it.

Anyway, this book offered a helpful mnemonic:

Some Old Hippie Caught Another Hippie Tripping On Acid


Wow! I am floored. I will go to my grave remembering this stupid – yet extremely funny – mental math aid.

PS. Here’s another mnemonic I had to memorize – for a college astronomy class.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

No Longer Interested in The Walking Dead

My wife is absolutely shocked that this season I have no real interest in continuing with AMC’s The Walking Dead. We’ve been watching it for a good five years now (had to watch Season One on DVD since we were a little late to the party), and I used to look forward to a riveting Sunday night. But not anymore.

I think it started two years ago, that episode where Carol decided to kill the two little girls. That hit me hard. But I still watched, although I didn’t like myself for doing so. Then I started noticing things about the show, things that annoyed me, and these things and their annoyance factor grew.

Now, I still think the first four or so seasons are excellent. The first, A-plus. It then lagged a bit with Herschel’s farm and the prison, but the Governor was a good bad guy. I enjoyed all that. Poor old Herschel’s death was probably the apex of the series for me. After that, all downhill.

Off the top of my head, for the benefit of friends and family, here are some reasons why I’ve decided to give it up –

1. To me the show is just too damn dreary, depressing, degrading, and despairing.

Like a soap opera set in a concentration camp – the best metaphor I can come up with.

2. Conversely, there’s no real hope, no truly good characters left to root for (Glenn was probably the last, unless you kinda sort of include Morgan), no big ideas or big men to inspire what’s left of humanity.

Feeds my pet theory that The Walking Dead is not Earth after the zombie apocalypse, but Purgatory, if not Hell itself. It’s just dog-eat-dog, man’s inhumanity to man.

3. The show is in a repetitious holding pattern.

Good survivors regroup, find safe sanctuary, said safe sanctuary threatened by a bad guy, good survivors get crap beaten out of them, good survivors eventually rise up, bad guy gets comeuppance, good survivors scatter. Lather, rinse, repeat.

4. I’ve really had my share of zombie heads being shot, hacked, stabbed, split open, and / or separated from their bodies.

Desensitization is not necessarily a good thing.

5. I’m not too keen on watching physical and psychological torture. In fact, I try to avoid it.

I think with each consecutive season, in order to present us with a really badder bad guy, the writers have to up the ante and try to outdo themselves amplifying the general on-screen depravity.

6. Rick is a really bad leader.

There’s stuff written about this angle out there. Whatever he touches eventually goes to hell. They could put him solely in charge of a simple well, and six hours later it’d be ablaze with zombies crawling out of it, raging flames and floodwaters, existentially threatening the entire community. He’s overly emotional, small-picture, short-range, mentally imbalanced. Yet the good survivors trust him and allow him to be default leader; those who don’t are often made to look like fringe wackos. I don’t quite understand it.

7. The show revels in basic bad horror movie decisions / clichés.

Let’s search this abandoned warehouse, but let’s break up into small groups to do it. Let’s keep it dark, and let’s back up into things. Let’s not follow previously agreed-upon directions, and when things go wrong, let’s allow panic to immediately overwhelm us.

A pet peeve: Where do all the guns and ammo come from?

Is rural Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia that armed to the teeth? It’s like three years into the zombie apocalypse …

Corollary: And where do they get their gas to drive all the cars and trucks?

Well, that’s my take on the matter. YMMV, as they say.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Golf Ball

So this past Saturday, Patch, age eight, was super-excited to attend her bestie’s birthday party. It was at this new place on the highway, a weird combination of haunted house and miniature golf, with an arcade thrown in, all in psychedelic ultraviolet and day-glow coloration. Okay. Problem is, Patch never played miniature golf before, and was more than a little nervous.

I went down into the basement, dusted the cobwebs off my golf bag (I played for a couple of years around the turn of the century) and retrieved my putter and a golf ball. I set a little cup on the living room rug, taught Patch how to hold the club and how to position her feet and body, and before we knew it she was sinking six-foot putts.

She fell in love with it, putting until the party and putting some more once she got home.

Her older sister, Little One, age twelve, obviously had to do something about all this.

She did this by stealing the golf ball.

Now, I was back in the basement while all this was happening, doing the exercises in my tax book. Little One quietly drifts into the room, wallflowerish and shy, casting the bare minimum of eye contact my way. I looked up and knew something was wrong.

“Dad,” she says, and I’m condensing what seemed like an eight-minute conversation into eight words: “The golf ball got flushed down the toilet.”


Seems that Little One stole the golf ball from Patch, put it in the front pocket of her hoodie, forgot about it, and later went to the bathroom. When her business was done she turned and flushed, and while she was bent forward the ball rolled out, plunked into the bowl, and was sucked down the pipe.

Clogging the toilet.

So we went upstairs, and I flushed it again, confirming the clog. I looked at Little One, saying sternly (but with an inadvertent grin on my face), “Okay. Roll up your sleeves. You’re going in.”

She looked back at me horrified. “Reach in,” I said, “and see if you can feel the golf ball. The water’ll be very cold, but there’s nothing nasty in there.” I added, “... at least, there shouldn’t be …”

Note: I enjoyed every minute of the minute she reached her hand down the bowl to retrieve the golf ball.

Problem was, entire hand up to her wrist wedged down toilet piping, she couldn’t feel the golf ball.

We grabbed a hanger, bent it, and I tried to find the ball to fish it out that way. Nothing doing. And I was hesitant to use the plunger, not wanting to force the ball down deeper, causing more of a problem.

“We have to call the plumber,” I told the wife. She had an office day on Monday, a day where she works from home, so he could come then and retrieve the golf ball. Hopefully for less than $500.

For the next thirty-six hours we had to use the upstairs bathroom for our private needs. That was lots of fun.

On Monday I got this text from the Mrs.:

the toilet just got carried out of the house … uh-oh

Three-and-a-half hours later, the toilet was reinstalled. The good news is that it is working better than ever. The bad news is, I haven’t got the bill yet. The wife did authorize the plumber to clean out the pipes and do whatever maintenance was necessary as the toilet did have a history of giving us trouble. So there will be additional charges.

But Little One is anxiously, nervously, nail-biting-ly awaiting that bill, to see how much she’s going to be working off, doing yardwork with me this fall and winter and, possibly, next spring and summer as well, to pay off her golf ball debt …