The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I never read the Narnia books.  I remember attempting this particular installment in the 4th grade, then quickly setting it aside and reading The War of the Worlds instead.  I always did like science fiction, but I enjoyed fantasy too.  Maybe I just didn’t like C. S. Lewis’ writing style at the time–who knows?  In any case, having read The Lord of the Rings series in high school, the Narnia books have been on my radar since (The Inklings).  And after an Isaac Asimov binge, I felt like a genre change.

I did read The Magician’s Nephew last year, which bears mentioning due to relevance, but for the sake of this blog I’m going to focus on books as I read them.

I noticed two themes upon mentioning this series to people.  First: no one agrees on the order in which to read them: chronological or date of publication?  Normally, my preference is date of publication, but this was a box set (my wife’s), ordered chronologically.  Maybe it was because this was the order in which I presume my wife read them and I hoped to replicate her experience, or perhaps because they were numbered and I succumbed to the box’s suggestion.  In any case, I’m glad I read The Magician’s Nephew first, because I did not find it an interesting read at all, and was therefore happy to have gotten it out of the way.  Still, I think for the sake of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it would have been better to have read The Magician’s Nephew after, because The Magician’s Nephew doesn’t make nearly as interesting an introduction to Narnia as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe did.  The mystery and awe of Narnia was kind of spoiled for me, as was the Professor’s hint at having knowledge of Narnia.

Second: Jesus.  On this point I’d just like to say, can we shut up about the allegory thing already?  First of all, Lewis was an atheist at the time.  Second, he was a returning First World War veteran, so the allegory interpretation doesn’t really resonate with the context of Lewis’ experiences.  Third, Lewis himself refuted this analysis.  Fourth, just shut up and form an original interpretation of your own and stop spouting what everyone else has already said about the book.

Now my thoughts on the story: I feel it would have been a fun fantasy adventure book had I read it when I was of the age for which the book was intended.  Still, it was fun to go along for the ride, and it hints at a greater complexity I hope to discover in greater depth as I progress through the series.  If nothing else, it’s worth the read for the cultural and literary significance.

Also, this might simply be pedantic musing, but Lewis, having been an Oxford alumnus, omits the Oxford comma from the title of this book.


Winter Attire

scoutsI am not from Ohio.  I spent my adolescence in Texas.  Consequently, upon moving to Ohio, I discovered cold winters to be a bit of a novelty.  I certainly wasn’t a stranger to cold, by my experience with it was primarily derived from Boy Scout camping trips in the mountains of New Mexico.  As a result of these very specific circumstances, I learned how to dress appropriately for the elements because I couldn’t escape by going inside.  Apparently this respect for the natural word is a bit uncommon in our overly-comfortable lives.

Upon moving to Ohio, I gradually realized that I needed to wear a coat/jacket 5 months of the year.  That’s right, almost half the time I need some sort of protection from the cold.  What does this mean to any self-respecting young man who mildly cared about his appearance?  It means, if I am to wear a coat constantly, it should at least have a modicum of style.

Like most people at the time, I had a tactical fleece coat with a brightly-colored nylon outer shell.  In hindsight, I find it a bit odd that this is still the general preference, since I highly doubt that anyone wearing one is about to depart on some expedition into the wilderness.  A tactical coat might be effective, but it looks juvenile when worn out of context.  For example, it doesn’t pair well with slacks and a button-down.  And yet, for those who even bother to wear a coat at all (more on this later), it is the go-to combination.

Boy Scouts has paramilitary origins (i.e. scouting).  And unlike the scouts programs in more liberal regions, scouts in Texas definitely honored its beginnings: we marched in uniform, carrying our gear; we hiked to exhaustion; we trained with rifles; we routinely practiced field medicine.  You get the idea.  And I believe that my involvement in this program as a youth still influences me in adulthood–even though I’ve always remained a civilian.

Ultimately, through some combination of the above factors (sense of style, function, and regimented discipline), when it’s cold, I turn to a garment which embodies this function/style fusion: my trenchcoat.

Not like this…

Ah yes, no doubt you’re having visions of school shootings now, or flashers, or Nazis, or…The Matrix (people still think it’s funny and original to call me Neo (it’s not)).  I find it curious that a garment has become an icon for the violent and sexually deviant.  I’d like to say that I’m neither (fairly certain).  But the trenchcoat does has military origins, and was therefore born of practicality.

Like this, because it’s COLD

Granted the ones I wear now have been adapted from their original purposes, but the protection they offer is unequaled.  They cover the whole torso and upper legs, have multiple layers of differing fabric, and an air gap.  In terms of coverage and insulation, you couldn’t ask for a more effective coat.  My point being–this type of winter wear has form and function, and a good choice for the modern man to look well-dressed, respect nature’s brutality, and to posses the discipline to wear the appropriate clothing despite comfort and convenience.

As an aside, I’ve also noticed that many don’t even bother with winter attire at all.  I’m definitely the only one in a building of ~1400 people who wears a trenchcoat, yes, but I’m also one of a small number who puts on any coat.  It was 18 degrees outside recently and I only saw hoodies.  I’m not sure if this is common in the Midwest in general, or if this is an Ohio thing.  But, it has been my experience that these regional natives never wear winter-appropriate clothing, and yet they complain about the weather constantly.

Why do functional and stylish garments fall into disuse?  I could make this same argument for the fedora, but even I’m not quite ready to go that route.

So, you might look at me strangely, but I’m dressed appropriately for the weather, but when your car breaks down, it’ll be your frozen corpse on the roadside.



You know commercials–those annoying interruptions that beg for attention and cloud the world with digital noise?  Yeah, I only watch Netflix now.

You know web ads–those annoying interruptions that beg for attention and cloud the world with digital noise?  Yeah, I use ad-blockers now.

You know junk mail–those annoying interruptions that beg for attention and cloud the world with digital noise?  Yeah, I filter all such emails to junk and delete them automatically.

Okay, I’m not opposed to their concept, more so their execution.  Commercials have gone to extremes to be loud and annoying, to vie for an emotional reaction rather than provide any product information, not to mention their increasing time slot allocations have broken shows up to the point of being unwatchable.  Web ads are laden with 3rd party scripts, which pose security risks, and creepily track you.  Junk mail just fills up my inbox.

WTF is he talking about?

Now my wife, who seems far more willing to accept advertisements as part of the way media works (probably a healthier attitude), has no problem with enduring commercials, letting ads track her, and deleting hundreds of emails a day.  But she does have that uncanny ability to multitask tirelessly until blood leaks out of her eyes–an amazing difference in how our brains differ for sure, and something I’ll never understand.  While apparently sitting idle, her thread count resembles that of a malware infection–all those oddly-named daemons no one quite understands.  And boy does she have a lot of daemons …

Heh, Linux joke.  Did I beat that one to death?  Good.

Moving on from my rambling, if you weren’t already aware, I work in Marketing now.  Specifically I manage…wait for it…sending automated EMAILS!

No no, I don’t send spam.  I send carefully crafted messages, coordinated between us as the bank and the merchants as our clients.  There’s also a lot of legal checks in place that determine who can receive emails, as well as various ways to opt-out of the communications altogether.  And besides, as is in the case of my wife, some people appreciate the emails and the offers they contain.

But, me being the cranky old man, as I’ve mentioned, do not care to receive these.  Therefore, it is through a twist of fate that any email campaigns I manage, I also have to personally review.  So while I’ve limited my exposure to marketing emails on a personal level by deleting them, on a professional one, I’m forced to read them anyway.

Cruel cruel irony.


Help it Grow (Part 3)

Over the weekend we visited a nursery.  The nursery was running a sale on perennials, and with the new house’s yard begging to finally receive some attention, it was an easy decision to pick some things out.  As we were doing so, I reviewed my calendar for planting times.  In the past, I always aimed to start seeds for the vegetable garden 4 weeks prior to the average last frost date–which would have been last Wednesday.  Crap!  I had forgotten to mark my calendar.

But a few days’ wait wouldn’t majorly impact the schedule.  And I already had the supplies and seeds (courtesy of the seed vault), stocked.  And there was plenty of room under the grow lights, so no big deal.  Consulting the spreadsheet I had complied months ago (when we had already argued over what to plant), I simply dropped the seeds into the peat pellets and placed the tray.

It was then that I took some time to poke around under the grow lights and see how things were doing.  The lights had long-since been adjusted to maximum height, and the cosmos were growing into the fixture itself.  I pulled the stems out of the lights, and behold!


There were multiple blooms, and I had completely overlooked them as they were stuck in the light.  So, cosmos do really well indoors.  Also, the moonflower finally germinated, the beans are growing although no more flowers, the poinsettia is hanging on, thyme is taking over, and the mint (despite my wife cutting half of it off for use in flavored water) is sending out multiple shoots.

Mmmm, more pesto on the way

Maybe I’ll experiment with hydroponics next.


Wet Bags of Cement

That’s what my neighbor (the village elder) likened them to: wet bags of cement.  The context was teaching children how to swim.  And until recent developments, I would have to agree.  I would watch my daughter jump into the pool, and immediately sink like a wet bag of cement–quite the trust exercise, considering.

When I received swimming instructions, my parents had one source of income–my dad’s salary as an associate professor–and 3 kids.  My wife and I have two salaries–both from banks–and one kid.  We’re certainly not rolling in dough, and the current economic circumstances still pale in comparison to the prosperity of the 90s, but we’re managing to keep the kid in a private swimming school, as opposed to the YMCA (where I learned to swim).  Now, I was of the belief that a kid would gradually learn to swim on their own through mere exposure to water, and felt that I should just repeatedly push my kid into a pool.  My wife disagreed.  And, I do have a friend who won’t go near water, citing early memories of a vindictive uncle who would repeatedly push him into the pool, so it’s possible I could be wrong in this matter.  But ultimately, both my wife and I love the water, so I was easily swayed into getting the kid some professional training.

And you do get what you pay for.  Often does she receive individual instruction, rather than suffering through a large class.  She’s progressed quickly.  I find it surprising that a 5-year-old can freestyle swim without assistance.  But, since this is a pricey private club, so to speak, the company at said pool is a little–privileged?  I’m not sure if that’s the right word, so I’ll try to paint the scene.

The place draws a younger crowd, generally consisting of Millennials.  Apparently times are better to the young than they were a decade ago, or younger parents are willing to spend more money on their children now, or they have fewer kids, or some combination of factors.  There’s also a class of newborns, wherein a group of fathers jump around with babies whilst mothers watch through a window from the air-conditioned viewing room.  I guess it’s good to see a generation of fathers more involved in their kid’s lives than previously, but it also annoys me a bit, as many of the mothers aren’t involved here at all.  I generally avoid over-thinking gender roles, preferring to accept changing duties as simple human adaptations for the present circumstances, so whatever.  But still, if the times are forcing women universally into the workforce, and men are responding in turn to take on more of the traditionally feminine duties, then we have the benefit of living in more egalitarian times, for better or for worse.  Maybe it just annoys me that we patronize men for spending any time with their children at all, as if the bar was set so low that you get an award for making an appearance with the kid, as if it was something we didn’t posses the capacity for all along–something similar to how it annoys my wife that women are heralded in the workplace as brave for even being there at all, as if they didn’t posses the capacity for it all along.

I’m rambling.  I’ll move on.

Related to this, is the young men that draw from the perceived boost in sex appeal that they acquire from being seen spending time with their kid, in an environment where such men are expected to be shirtless.  Enter: the hangs-his-towel-around-his-waist-slightly-too-low guy who, upon exiting the pool, then struts around the changing rooms with his child.  My hand twitched, but I did not push him back into the pool.

I was forced into a conversation with one man while each watching our child through the glass.  He complimented my attire.  I was taken aback momentarily, as I am not accustomed to casual conversation, nor receiving compliments.  What surprised me more, however, was that I was wearing khakis, a polo shirt, and loafers–not exactly Brooks Brothers.  But to the Millennials, normally seen in hoodies and sweat pants, I imagine this was unusual.  It is always nice to receive compliments though, so we chatted for a bit.  Apparently he works in a kitchen knife manufacturing plant, and drives around 50 miles every Saturday to take his kids to swimming lessons.  Maybe we do still have a decent manufacturing industry after all.

My final observation as we left, and the original point of this post which I never got around to until now, was the window-paint advertisement that the pool is kept at 90 degrees.  I was immediately afflicted with indignation.  That temperature presents no realistic scenario.  No one is falling out of boats into 90 degree water.  Also concerning is that water this warm will not trigger the mammalian diving reflex.  As an experienced swimmer, I understand and can recognize when this metabolic conversion occurs and how to benefit from it.  It takes practice to do so, but can only happen in water cooler than 74 degrees (if memory serves).  Because of this, my child isn’t learning a physiological survival response.  I’m considering bringing this up, but maybe that would just be wasted effort.

Maybe on the Rio Negro during the dry season?

I guess the point of my post is that I dislike Saturday morning.