Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Curmudgeon finally buys two Ken Levine books online

Four years ago I did a post here about überblogger Ken Levine's then-new book, Where the Hell Am I? (Trips I Have Survived). I wanted to buy the book, I said, but I was afraid.

The problem was that the book was available only online. I'm hope I'm not open to a charge of being afraid of the Internet, not after blogging, albeit sporadically, for a decade. Nor was I afraid of Amazon in particular -- but I was (and am) afraid of the State of Illinois. (Have you seen our new billionaire governor?)

The State of Illinois did not impose sales tax on Amazon purchases; instead, it relied on Illinois-based Amazon shoppers to fork over the sales tax on all their Amazon purchases voluntarily, when they paid their state income tax.

See? I can be as funny as Ken Levine -- just by relating the actual facts.

I simply was not going to get into a beef with my home state over whether I did or did not remember every purchase and the absolute safest way to do that was to purchase nothing. Which I did.

This year, however, Amazon and Illinois have reached an accord -- Amazon is willing to open up some facility in Illinois and has consented, in return, to charge Illinois tax to Illinois residents on Amazon purchases. Plus, I needed new razor blades (which my son-in-law had heretofore purchased for me -- online -- and I'm sure he paid all taxes when due). The razor blades came to about $8, but I needed to spend $50 for free shipping.

Among the purchases I made to reach that threshold were two of Ken Levine's books, his current novel, Must Kill TV, and his book about the year he spent broadcasting for the Baltimore Orioles, It's Gone! ...No, Wait a Minute....


If you like your comedy black, you can't get much darker than Must Kill TV. It is wicked, knowing satire and many themes will be familiar to Ken Levine's blog readers. A thriller as well as a satire, the plot pivots dramatically from page to page. Some twists I liked better than others. One, near the end, literally did make me laugh out loud. (My fellow Blue Line commuters were alarmed by this.)

But... how can I say this? I liked the baseball book better. Not just because I like baseball -- as this is posted, my seasonal sidebar is in full baseball mode -- but because Must Kill TV can be, well, stressful. Maybe I take things too seriously. After all, I'm the guy who mourns when my village is destroyed in Clash of Clans. I take two blood pressure pills a day. I don't watch horror movies. (If I want to be frightened, I tell my kids, I look at my checkbook.) So I'm reading Must Kill TV on the train and watching poor Charles Muncie make still another poor choice and, in my mind, I'm yelling at him, don't do it! -- and then he does. And I had to put the book down for awhile. (I think I was only yelling in my mind -- but, come to think of it, my fellow Blue Line commuters seemed a little more nervous than usual that evening....)

Friday, April 10, 2015

There's good news tonight! British researchers say overweight people are at reduced risk for dementia

I'm sourcing the BBC here, not the Onion, and the BBC, in turn, links to The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The abstract of the article specifically states, "Being underweight in middle age and old age carries an increased risk of dementia over two decades. Our results contradict the hypothesis that obesity in middle age could increase the risk of dementia in old age."

The researchers don't know why this is.

Unfortunately, I can guess: A lot of us who are overweight in middle age die from something else before we can get soft in the noggin. Especially if stair-climbing is involved.

But who cares? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we avoid drooling on ourselves in a nursing home. When I waddle home tonight, I will not hesitate to take that extra slice of pizza....

Thursday, April 02, 2015

This was the week that was, and I wish it weren't

Technically, I realize that the week isn't over yet. It's only Thursday afternoon, but I'm done for the day. I never really got started.

I got the office bills paid today and my portion of the rent deposited. I made a payment on a charge card (I have a 0% promotion on this card, which is good, but it expires next month, which is really bad, particularly because there's still an $18,000 balance on the card -- although that's down from $23,000). I spent a good chunk of yesterday figuring out where my personal finances are going. I was downloading updates and security software on my new laptop so I can work more efficiently yesterday, too. But I never actually made it into the office.

I started the day at Younger Daughter's house. She had to get a blood test; I had to babysit Granddaughter #1. There are worse ways to pass the time.

But the reason I was there -- the reason for the blood test -- stinks. Just a week ago Tuesday Younger Daughter told Long Suffering Spouse and me that she was expecting again and we were over the moon happy. Wow, we thought, what a 2015 -- Youngest Son graduates college (he still has to do student teaching), Middle Son gets married, and both daughters have babies....

But Younger Daughter miscarried Monday. I'm in a fog. I know I should just muscle through this -- hey, it was really early -- these things happen -- she's still young -- and, besides, I've been through this before with Older Daughter and, before that, with Long Suffering Spouse, and you know what? All of that's true -- and none of it seems to matter.

Long Suffering Spouse is coping better than me. As usual. (The weaker sex! Ha!) In addition to comforting her daughter and trying to keep her own mother from dumping her recollections on Younger Daughter (Abuela had five miscarriages 50 years ago -- and she insists on reliving each one, in gory detail, with whoever goes through a similar loss), Long Suffering Spouse is trying to buy a dress for Middle Son's wedding (to Margaret) next month.

Next month already!

The department stores are full of fancy dresses -- it is prom season, of course -- and if you're 18 and in prime physical condition, tall, taut and rail-thin -- you can find a fairly flattering dress without too much trouble.

If you're over 18, though, and if your figure is more womanly than girlish, you are SOL. (You can look up that abbreviation on your own.)

This has left Long Suffering Spouse incredibly depressed. She started looking for dresses a while back -- before we went on vacation. She had Younger Daughter and Granddaughter #1 with her on one of her first outings in this quest. She found a number of dresses, tried them on, and burst into tears. (Younger Daughter ratted her out to me.)

There have been several outings since. I've gone with her three times -- which, to the female readers of this blog, may seem like nothing -- but any male will tell you that we would rather do anything -- and I do mean anything -- teeth cleaning, colonoscopy, prostate exam -- rather than accompany our Significant Other on a Quest for The Dress. I went questing with Long Suffering Spouse once on vacation (if you read closely, you may remember I mentioned the Macy's in Winter Haven) and again yesterday (we went to Woodfield, visiting Lord & Taylor's, Macy's, Nordstrom's, and a few other places besides). There were no tears on these outings -- none that I saw -- but Long Suffering Spouse was, by last night, beginning to despair. "Maybe I just won't go to the wedding," she said at one point, after we'd come back empty-handed once again. (No, she doesn't mean it.)

The Eventual Dress (really, we have to capitalize the object of the Quest) must have sleeves. Long Suffering Spouse did not like the way her arms looked in Oldest Son's 2010 wedding pictures. ("Why didn't anyone tell me?" she complained.) It can't have too low a neckline. ("I'm going to be bending over all day as it is, scooping up kids," she pointed out.) It can't be too gathered in the middle. ("I look like a cow," she says.) And The Dress must be sufficiently fancy. The bridesmaids' dresses are short -- tea length, I think, is the term -- and the bride's mother has already bought a shorter dress. Therefore -- my wife says -- she must also buy a shorter dress. I don't remember reading this in Leviticus or anywhere else but -- my wife insists -- the entire universe of long dresses is closed to her here.

I have, from time to time, ventured suggestions, pointing to this dress, or that one, but -- although I think my wife appreciates my bravery -- she hasn't liked any of my suggestions so far. "That might be a nice dress to wear to a wedding," she's told me, "but it won't do at all for the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom." I have tried to ascertain what "fancy" means in this context. It appears to involve (a) a solid color, (b) sparklies, and/or (c) lace.

Long Suffering Spouse plunged back into the retail jungle today. She has sent out pictures from the changing room of possible candidates to me and/or Younger Daughter. I liked one -- it had sleeves and everything -- and, although it was blue, it appeared sufficiently lacy, and therefore, within the criteria established for The Dress. I said so, in response to a text. But the sales clerk had already vetoed it as not adequately "fancy." Recent communiqués from the mall (Old Orchard today) have been encouraging and I maintain a degree of cautious, if probably unjustified, optimism that an acceptable garment will soon be found... if only because Long Suffering Spouse is going to have to turn her attention soon from The Dress to Middle Son's wedding shower on Saturday the 11th.

Meanwhile, the work piles up on my desk. I took a briefcase full of files with me to Florida to work on -- and I actually did get some work done. It just wasn't enough. And new crises have arisen on my return, meaning that much of what was undone when I left is still undone.

Weekends are supposed to be catch-up time, right? But two weeks ago we went to Michigan for a wedding shower put on by Margaret's family (this was a very proper wedding shower in a tea room -- no menfolk allowed -- but it was five hours' driving each way and I really had to go along to keep my wife company). Last week, Long Suffering Spouse and I both had birthdays -- and we had kids in the house, and grandkids, from Friday afternoon through Monday morning when we left for work. In between, we went to an 80th birthday party for my one "surviving" aunt. I use quotation marks there because the poor woman has Alzheimer's -- she doesn't know anyone anymore, poor thing, and can't even speak. She's been in a home for years -- but this was the very first time her daughters asked any of the extended family for anything. How could we not go? It was nice to see my cousins at something besides a funeral.

Anyway, I can't count on catching up much this weekend -- it's Easter.

I think when I was younger I could handle a lot of outside distractions and still keep on working efficiently. Maybe I'm lying to myself again. I don't know.

But it's Thursday afternoon. And, although my insides are churning with Paleolithic fight or flight adrenaline and my arms are actually numb from stress, I'm done. If I could just tough my way through a couple more emails, I'll get out of here.