Quote of the Day

People who hold the door open are ultimately the ones at the end of the line.

—Faithful Reader on why it’s mostly only assholes who get to such heights in the system that they can be nominated for the Supreme Court.

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Essays and Elisions

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

Grade: B+

Tim Kreider is an essayist and cartoonist, and We Learn Nothing is a collection of essays and related cartoons. The book begins with the essay “Reprieve,” which is about how he felt about life after being stabbed in the neck and nearly dying. He writes,

Maybe people who have lived with the reality of their own mortality for months or years are permanently changed by it, but getting stabbed was more like getting struck by lightning, over almost as soon as it happened, and the illumination didn’t last. You can’t feel crazily grateful to be alive your whole life any more than you can stay passionately in love forever—or grieve forever, for that matter. Time makes us all betray ourselves and get back to the busywork of living. Before a year had gone by, the same everyday anxieties and frustrations began creeping back.

This excerpt should give you an idea of his writing style, but the essay is an exception within the collection, in a way, because the jumping-off-point is an event (the stabbing). Many of the other essays focus on people from his life, including Skelly (a good friend who lies all the time), Ken (who’s obsessed with the idea of “peak oil”), Jim who transitions into Jenny, his half sisters (unknown to him until he was in his 40s), his mother, and his Uncle Lee (the black sheep of the family). It’s an interesting cast of characters.

Kreider is close in age to me, liberal, introspective, and slightly immature, so we got along pretty well as author and reader. I enjoyed the collection as a whole, cartoons included. Sometimes I even laughed out loud and shared excerpts with my husband.

But some of the essays were too long and self-absorbed. One essay completely failed to capture my interest, and I didn’t finish reading it. There were a few times when Kreider seemed to deliberately leave out the juicy details that he knew we’d want to read (like how and why he got stabbed, for starters). So my feelings about the book are mixed, which is why I gave it a B-level grade.

On a side note, Kreider deserves special credit for using the word “elide” no less than five times within the book. I see the word often in crosswords, but rarely anywhere else, so five usages is remarkable. Bravo!

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Inky Depths

From The New York Times, August 16, 2018, by Ben Dolnick:

“War With the Newts,” published in 1936, is a funny, bizarre, dystopian masterpiece, and [its author Karel Capek] deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of authorial seers, right alongside George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood. To the extent that Capek is remembered today, it is largely by crossword puzzlers who know that he invented the word “robot” (and even this is dubious: Capek credits the term to his brother).

Capek was a Czech author, with many books to his name, including War With the Newts, which he wrote during the 1930s. I have worked on a great many crosswords, but the name doesn’t sound familiar, so I don’t think that I had ever heard of Capek, either as an author or the coiner of the word “robot,” before reading this article. I’m intrigued now, so I’ve ordered Capek’s War With the Newts and Nine Fairy Tales: and One More Thrown in for Good Measure from my public library. I am looking forward to reading them. I will probably have to wait a while for WWtN, though, because there are already four holds on the next available copy. I suspect I’m not the only person in town who’s been delving into the inky depths of the The New York Times and coming up with treasure.

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More Birthday Gifts

If Paul Manafort makes a plea deal on your birthday, it’s your Birthday Plea Deal. My husband is jealous, because he didn’t get any plea deals on his birthday. He’s hoping, though, that someone will get him a Birthday Impeachment for his birthday this year. That would be even better than a plea deal. I hope he gets it, because it’s something that we would both love and appreciate.

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SITY: Birthday Spider

If you see a spider on your birthday, then it’s a Birthday Spider. This is my Birthday Spider. He was green (my favorite color), and he made this beautiful web.

Beautiful Birthday Web

Spider Close-Up


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SITY: Birthday Frog

If you see a frog on your birthday, then it’s a Birthday Frog. My Birthday Frog was hiding in the grass, shyly.

Birthday Frog Hiding in the Grass

Birthday Frog Revealed

I had thought that one needed luck in order to find a Birthday Frog, but I have it on good authority that the frog actually brings luck. Either way, I’m lucky to have seen this elusive animal, and luckier yet to have captured it in a photograph.

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Another Today


  • I printed my latest work project so that I can give it a final check before sending it to Typesetting. It wasn’t quite done, but the finished parts were in good shape. Considering all the time off I’ve taken lately, it’s a miracle that the issue was even ready to print. I’m giving myself a big pat on the back.
  • I’m still thinking about Monday, when I took the day off to help my mother-in-law, who had driven her car off my driveway and into a tree. I went to the hospital with her to make sure she was OK (which she was, thank goodness). She’s mentally shaken, but physically fine, and probably raring to get behind the wheel again so she can pick up the milk and bacalhau that she wasn’t able to get on Monday. The jury is still out on whether the car or the driver was at fault. I hope for her sake that it was the car. But if it wasn’t, then this accident probably means she’s reached the age at which it’s no longer safe for her to drive. Because she had come over to my house to give me my birthday present early, I’m feeling really bummed about the whole thing.
  • I voted in the Democratic primary. I don’t always, but I felt I ought to this time around. Mostly I voted for the status quo, though not entirely (my apologies to the incumbent mayor). In particular, I wanted Sheldon Whitehouse to be on the ballot in November. He’s Rhode Island’s senator, but I think it’s in every American’s best interest for him to keep his Senate seat.
  • My hubby says he found out that mangoes are related to poison ivy and that they can cause reactions in people who are sensitive to poison ivy. I don’t find the relationship hard to believe (I’m pretty sure that both raspberries and apples are related to roses), but I refuse to now be afraid of mangoes.
  • I ate an orange. Oranges are probably not related to either roses or poison ivy.
  • And now it is time for the kids to start getting ready for bed. I will go hide in my bedroom and hope that my husband takes care of things.
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Guess Who’s Calling

We get so many scam phone calls these days that we don’t answer the phone unless we recognize the number on the caller ID. Each scam call shows up on the caller ID as a phone number and associated town. I like to guess which “town” is calling. Tonight when the phone rang, I guessed “Tiverton,” but immediately changed my answer to “Coventry.”

Ten points to me. It was Coventry.

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True Story

Today I was working on a puzzle with a baby theme, and in it was the phrase “tiny hands,” and I had to remove the phrase so that no one would think I was talking about the president.

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The Weather

It was hot, and it was hot, and it was hot, and it was really hot, and then all of a sudden it was chilly, and I was like “Wha?”

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