Sunday, August 28, 2022

The poker game

 I stepped out of my comfort zone last winter and accepted an invite from a neighbor I didn't know for a Thursday night poker game with a bunch of other neighbors I didn't know.

We've lived in this neighborhood for almost 18 years. It's a development of about 90 homes with a trail system, pond, park and good middle-class folks. I only know my immediate neighbors on each side and two other couples. I know a lot of people in the Black Hills through my job, but don't hang out with them. My wife says I'm a homebody. My wife's correct.

My best friend around here ranches about 50 miles away. We talk a couple times a week but don't hang out much because he's got kids in school and works rancher hours and ... lives 50 miles away. My other two best friends, one from high school and one from college, live 300 and 400 miles away, respectively.

When I do go out, to eat or listen to music, it's with my wife, which is great and I really don't wish to hang out with anyone else but her. I enjoy her company as much when we met 35 years ago. But, she's my wife, so it's different than hanging out with the guys. And as Hank Jr. sings: "All my rowdy friends have settled down." And so have I.

My wife has sensed my malaise and feels I spend too much time at home in my garden, with my dogs, with my books. So when a guy relatively new to the development posted on the neighborhood website "Hey, anyone interested in starting up a poker game?" I stepped outside my zone and said: "I am."

And I haven't regretted it.

We get together one night a week. I miss once in a while due to life. It gets cancelled occasionally because the organizer has a life too. But I hit it often and between about ten of us semi-regulars there's always six or so on hand for a friendly game.

It's not really my crowd, because I don't really have a crowd, but the social events I usually attend are work-related. Usually political or governmental, usually boring. But when I am home I don't do any political stuff. I check out. Avoid it. Don't want to talk about it, especially among strangers.

So the first night before I left for the inaugural game, I told my wife, if they start talking Trump or Biden or immigration or stolen elections, I'm done. Since a lot of people are really wrapped up in that stuff (weirdly so), I wasn't optimistic I'd be back for a second week.

And guess what happens? I walk in the door and two big dogs rush to greet me. That's fine. I love dogs. The guy hollers to them: "Lincoln! Trumper! Get back here!"

I thought: "Ah shit."

But other than the dogs' names, no political talk happened and mighty little has over the past year. It's quite amazing to me, because almost everybody else I'm around, anywhere, wants to talk politics with me once they find out I'm involved. But not these guys.

We have a couple retired military veterans, a liquor salesman, a home-builder, a car salesman, a civilian who works at the Air Force base, all just regular ol' blue-collar guys.

We play poker. It goes fast. It's fun. We play in his basement or garage. Most all of them drink from a keg the guy has in his bar. I drink my NA. There's crude jokes, burping, talk about music, talk about cars, talk about dogs and gardens, and more burping.

For one night a week I'm transformed into another universe from the suits and ties talking banking, ranchers talking about drought, and everyone else complaining about Trump and Biden and RINOs and immigrants and abortion and deficits and rules and regulations.

I love it. Glad I did it. Might have to expand my universe on other nights of the week.

Crazy talk, I know.

Friday, August 26, 2022

FInished: Daniel Silva's 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman'

 I really struggled to get through Silva's recently-released novel, the 22nd in the Gabriel Allon series.

Typically, I've liked how Silva weaves some art history into these spy novels. Makes me feel like I'm getting cultured while reading about people getting blown up. But this was one too many Picasso's for me.

In this story, Gabriel has finally retired from the Israeli Mossad, thinking he's going to begin a life of leisure and love with his long-suffering wife. But, of course, it doesn't work out that way and he's thrown into a mystery of forged paintings. The entire thing is one painting after another, with grueling detail about each. 

Halfway through I started humming the George Strait song: You Know Me Better Than That.

I'm into culture, clean up to my ears; It's like wearing a shoe that's too small

I've read all Silva's books. I loved the first 20. After the last two, I'm not sure I'll buy another. Oh, I'm lying, I'm sure I will but I probably won't pre-order it like this time and will wait until the paperback comes out. And cross my fingers.

Amazonians gave it 4.5 stars out of 5, which surprises me. I gave it a 4 of 10, which is just above a DNF.

This two-star review from Lizzie G. kind of nailed it for me:

"In cutting Allon free of The Office, Daniel Silva has metaphorically castrated his hero and turned him to a parody of the man he was. This book bears no resemblance to others in the series; the plotline is contrived, the characters wooden and the action - such as it is - unremarkable. The old gang get a single name-check towards the beginning and are then forgotten completely. With far too much detail of art and art forgeries, the book limps sadly along for 400+ pages, most of it merely padding out a non-story that I found impossible to care about. Two stars for the quality of the writing, no stars for the content."

Monday, August 8, 2022

Pass the peanut butter, please

 I'm a pretty health conscious guy. Not a freak about it but probably in the 90th percentile for exercising and watching what I eat. My dad had his first heart attack at 58 and died of his second at 62. I'm 58, so always looking for an edge to make it to 63 (that ol' father-son competition never dies).

So this article caught my eye: The top 5 worst foods that could SHORTEN your life expectancy

Experts at the University of Michigan calculated the health burden of different foods, becoming the first to put concrete scores on your favourite snacks.

They found that a portion of nuts can add almost 26 minutes to a person’s life, reports The Telegraph.

But every hotdog eaten shortens lifespan by 36 minutes.

Nothing really earth shattering as far as what's good or bad for you, but it details how many minutes are added or subtracted to your life if eating these foods.

It also details how good or bad each food affects climate change. I could give a rat's rear about that and think those measurements are just arbitrary attempts at social engineering and should just be called "guilt factors." The climate has been changing since the beginning of time and how many hot dogs I eat is not going to affect the tides in the Red Sea one bit. Were the dinosaurs eating pizza?

But I digress.

It's good to see some affirmation of choices I already make. I seldom drink soda. I eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch five days a week. For that I gain 2.5 hours per week of life, about 125 hours per year or 5 days added on to my life. Throw in the salmon, bananas and tomatoes and I'm looking good.

But subtract the 50,000 bottles of beer from my younger years and it might be a wash. Still, progress.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Book bans not always what they seem

 Pamela Paul, former editor of NY Times Review of Books, writes in the NYT: There's More Than One Way to Ban a Book

Though the publishing industry would never condone book banning, a subtler form of repression is taking place in the literary world, restricting intellectual and artistic expression from behind closed doors, and often defending these restrictions with thoughtful-sounding rationales.

John Sexton talks about it in this Hot Air post: The far left bans books by not letting them get published in the first place

I've written a couple posts on this that went unpublished because I wasn't happy with how my point was coming across. Sexton nailed my point much better.

That basically is: Parents, schools and administrators deciding what is or isn't age-appropriate reading in their schools, is NOT banning books. It's called setting curriculum. There is actual banning of books or authors by book publishers, stores and nations around the world, but if a public library or local bookstore can do a display of "Banned Books" to lend or sell, then they aren't banned books.