Aug 1 2012

Christmas 2011 Thank Yous

Ran into my friend Logan last summer. He apologized for not having replied to my email–from two years ago. He said he started a reply, but every time he went to send it he ended up revising it and  it is still in his Drafts folder.

It sounded funny at the time, but I now have a blog post that I started December 26 and have never posted, thanking everyone for the gifts that I asked for and/or received for Christmas. The problem was that I started the post in the hospital, then got out, and then got massively sick from what I assume to be a virus I picked up in the hospital.

So here it is. View this as an uncompleted time capsule from Dec 26, 2011:

This year I am endeavoring to do what I should have done every year: spend as much time thanking people for gifts as I did asking for them.

First, as noted on my Christmas list, I really wanted the first two books in Alan Gordon’s Fool’s Guild series of mysteries. Got em! Glad of it too–I spent all of Boxing Day (O Canada!) and part of the next day in the hospital with another bout of A-fib, and I was glad for a good book. So, I thank you, Tom. I’m sure the roommate I didn’t push out the window would thank you as well.

Its not like I just go around pushing hospital roommates out of windows, but I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, either. The guy talk–loudly. He had a hearing aid, but didn’t wear it, and spent the entire visit talking–to his visitors, on the phone, and then when he went to sleep, to himself. But sometimes he didn’t talk, like when he was watching TV. Without his hearing aid.

Anyway, thank you for keeping me entertained and from being a felon.

Speaking of the hospital, I got to wear my sharp new retro Star Wars sleep pants instead of looking like a mental patient, so thank you, The Baby. While we’re on the subject of Star Wars, my brother Nube gave me a sweet Boba Fett shirt. You would think as popular as he is, BF shirts would be easier to find. It was nice to wear it after I doffed my mental patient gown.

Speaking of Nube, he also got me something I have wanted for a while: a 3 pot Crock Pot. The reason was so that I could experiment with my various stews without ruining an entire batch (especially when making Irish Lamb Stew).

Is there anything better than a bag of coffee for Christmas? Yes, yes there is–two bags of coffee. A bag of The Dunks from The Robert, and a bag of Drowsy Poet White Christmas coffee from Jessica. So appropriate, because if you have ever seen a cup of Jess’s coffee, you would know how amazingly white it is.

The Baby also got me Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, which I read quickly, while I was having cabin fever, and it was great.

While I was reading all of these books and wearing all of these clothes, I was eating like a king, as a great number of people made us homemade desserts. The Herberts made us some buckeyes, which are peanut butter and chocolate confections, the Clarks made us cookies–specifically and including gingerbread (the best!), the Spencers made us hard candy, and the aforementioned Robert made us turtles and Russian tea cakes.

Now would be a good time to mention that between July and November I lost twenty pounds. When I went to the ER I found that I had made up for most of the loss.

Tom also also got me some seeds so I can grow some Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango! I can’t eat ’em any more, but I can still dream…(cue sad music).

From Jake the Snake, Heather and I got matching Mickey and Minnie Mouse Mugs, all the easier for when Heather wants to slip me a mickey (ba dum ching!).

My brother Dahoo got me the Dreams of Flight CD I had so long coveted, and it was every bit as awesome as I remembered (even more so, because I don’t have to rewind it).

The Other Bruce got me a router table–now I can set my internet router on it. I don’t know why he thought an electronic appliance the size of a sandwich needed its own large table, but hey, it’s all good. Unless he meant for me to use it with my Porter Cable plunge router…in which case, that is pretty flipping’ awesome. Plus, it was wrapped very nicely, like a life-sized Tin Man.

Coda: For everyone I forgot, I am truly sorry. Like I said, I drafted this while in and recovering from the hospital, and, like you learned in Fellowship of the Ring“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.”



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Jan 3 2012

Slacking, reading

Yeah, I know: my streak is finally broken. I went for almost five months with updates every 2-3 days, and then just totally fell off the wagon. I’ve had a few things going on (and by a few, Perry, of course I mean a googolplex).

Anyway, I have at least spent some of my time being somewhat productive: I have read three books already since Christmas.

First, I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, a gift from The Baby, and it was just as good as the others in the series

For Christmas I also received the first two books in Alan Gordon’s Fools’ Guild mystery series that I had asked for, thanks to Grampa Tom. I really wanted these books, and it was kind of cool the way I received them: each book was from a different edition, and both were from different editions than the third book that I already owned. See the obvious significance? A jester’s motley is made up of a wide variety of bits of cloth, and my collection of books starring jesters is…

Fine, whatever. Philistines. Anyway, despite the fact I really wanted these, I didn’t plan on reading them as quickly as I did (I finished the first one two days after Christmas, and finished the second the day after New Year’s). But when you get hospitalized because of your stupid A-fib, suddenly you have lots of time to read. I was still in the joint when I finished the first, Thirteenth Night, and started Jester Leaps In shortly after I got out.

For my evening devotions before going to bed I am reading The Man God Uses, by Henry and Tom Blackaby. I’m just a few pages in, but it is good so far.

For months now I have been trying to read The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay–a book about a young woman from Tasmania who gets a job working in a used bookstore in New York City. It started off amazing, but has become a real chore to try to get through. Kind of odd, really, since I started reading it while I was reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, a history of the founding of Australia (and Tasmania), which also started brilliant, couldn’t put it down, but by the time he got to the chapter on Norfolk Island, I was really just slogging through out of duty.

Anyhoo, I’m not making any apologies or excuses or promises: the fact is, if I don’t have anything to say, I won’t waste my time–or yours–creating a fluff piece that isn’t interesting for me to write or interesting for you to read.

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Nov 30 2011

MadMan Dan’s Amazing Christmas List 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, time for children and snowmen and reindeer and presents. I believe some of the locals also observe some sort of minor commemoration, something about the birth of someone who would pay for the sins of mankind or something; as a Sunday School teacher I am a pretty busy guy, and I don’t really have time to research all the particulars.

Anyway, it’s also time for for the fourth annual MadMan Dan’s Amazing Christmas List. As I have aged a whole ‘nother year and probably
matured some, slowly making the inevitable transformation from the annoying and peurile Peter Pan to the suave and emotionally complex
Captain Hook (forsooth, mine adjectives have betrayed me! The process must be nearly complete!).

Being, therefore, Officially Old, I will say, “You don’t have to get me anything.”

But, you will no doubt counter, “How will I ensure that you remember me the whole year through?”

And that’s where you have me; in the past year I have recognized that I have several items that remind me of people and events. My green wool ivy cap reminds me of Heather and how we celebrated our anniversary on St. Patrick’s day. My blackthorn walking stick, our vacation in October of last year. And so it makes increasing (though sad) sense why no-one buys me a side of lamb–I would only be reminded of him or her while the Irish Stew lasted–and then they would be forgotten.

MadMan Dan’s Amazing Christmas List 2011

What I really want is a time machine, so I can go back in time and spend more time with my girls. Why, you ask, don’t you just spend more time with them now? Because I’m too busy. At any rate, I have realized how fleeting their time with us is, and I want to hold onto that time while I have it. Which leads us to my first wish on my wishy wish list:

A Camera. Heather and I have already decided what we are getting each other: part of a camera. Our current camera, a Kodak, has been a faithful soldier for several years now; it even survived being left out in the rain for two days a couple years ago. But alas, the camera’s battery has faded, and it is financially inadvisable to pursue maintaining it. Soooo…if you like, you can contribute. If that seems too impersonal or boring….

CD–Dreams of Flight. The year is 1989–I’ll graduate in less than a year. I’m in Best Buy, looking for music in the discount bargain bin, because, sadly, I was poor. In the bin was a cassette (look it up, kids) with a penguin on the cover for only 89 cents. How can you not risk a buck on something with a penguin on it? As I would later find out, it was an album put out by Nashville studio acoustic bass player Edgar Meyer. It turned out to be amazing. What’s the biggy, MadMan? Why don’t you just go buy it for yourself on iTunes? Or even go buy yourself a shiny new CD? Because–Edgar switch record labels, and it’s out of print. If you can find a copy of this CD used somewhere, that would be a grand gift indeed.

DVD–Paradise Lagoon (aka The Admirable Crichton). This 1957 movie starring Kenneth More was one of my favorite movies growing up. I must have watched it a dozen times. The story was written by J.M. Barrie, the guy who wrote Peter Pan (see how I brought that full circle?). This rich aristocratic family is on a cruise and they end up shipwrecked on an island, and the butler is the only one with any skills to do anything. It’s a great movie, but I haven’t seen it since it was on VHS taped off of TV. Does it even exist on DVD? Not that I have found yet, unless you count Australian bootleg DVD.

A Pennywhistle. No giant story; I just want to learn to play Irish music. I guess you better make that a pennywhistle and a bottle of whiskey 😀

Apple Brood soda. Brood is this amazing malt, hops, and barley soda with just a hint of apple sweetness, bottled in Lebanon. It’s soooooo good. ‘How could I find this amazing soda?’ you ask. I dunno. Part of the gift is simply finding the stuff. If you send me a six-pack AND the address of where to order more, you have done me a kingly service.

Books–Thirteenth Night and Jester Leaps In by Alan Gordon. This past summer I picked up a pile of books from my favorite bookstore, and one of them was A Death in the Venetian Quarter. The book starts off with four characters, and each of them has three names, and most of them are all foreign-sounding, and then the author changes narrators in chapter three, and then changes back to the original narrator in chapter four, but you don’t realize that until you are halfway through the page. I was this close to saying ‘taheckwithit’ and putting it down. But I stuck it out to chapter 5 and I was hooked. The book was amazing, a mystery set in Constantinople in 1405, with characters from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. So…the two books listed above are the first two in the series.

Leather. I like to make stuff out of leather, and they have this SWEET chestnut brown half a cow hide at this ginormous flea market in Warrensburg.

Kronus Mini Switchgrip Pliers. Transformers! More than meets the eye! As part of my everyday life, I carry a tiny pair of needle-nose pliers AND a tiny pair of wire cutters. Hold these one way–they’re pliers! Hold ’em another way–they’re wire cutters! I could carry one less item, plus have an infinitely cool tool as well.

DVD–The Importance of Being Earnest (1999). Based on the Oscar Wilde play, this movie is amazing, with a brilliant soundtrack. Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, and Judi Dench.

The Oxford English Dictionary. What Christmas list is complete without asking for an OED? You know what they call someone who loves words? I don’t know either, but I’ll bet its in that dictionary. Yeah, it’s a thousand bucks.

So…to sum up. You don’t have to get me anything. But I won’t be fake and pretend like I don’t love receiving gifts. If you get me one thing off of this list, I will be very fortunate and hopefully thankful (I am always internally thankful, but overcoming my inherent laziness to actually express gratitude for kindnesses shown me is a little harder).

Thanks for reading my not-at-all pretentious Christmas list. I hope it was worth the read.

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Feb 4 2011

Review: A Death in the Venetian Quarter

Alan Gordon’s is one of a series of mysteries set around 1200 AD and based on characters from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The main characters are jesters who belong to the Fool’s Guild, who in this particular novel attempt to solve a murder and prevent the fall of Constantinople.

Judging the book by its cover like I always do, I picked it up at my favorite bookstore, 2nd Street Books in Osceola, Missouri. I really enjoyed the book (I read it all in a weekend). The most surprising thing about that is that I almost gave up on just a few chapters in, for two reasons:

  1. The first chapter introduces several characters with Greek, Italian, and other foreign names–and some of the characters have three names, depending on the crowd they are with (much like Aragorn / Strider / Elessar).
  2. In chapter 4 the protagonist’s wife takes over the narrative, and then in chapter 5 it is picked up again by the protagonist–without any clue to the reader.

But I’m glad I stuck it out. The book was excellent, and I look forward to tracking down the rest of the series.

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