Harry’s Birthday? I Could’ve Sworn it Was on July 31?


Today makes the 20th anniversary of the publication of a children’s book. That’s usually not a monumental occasion in popular culture. But in this case it’s like the release date for Meet the Beatles. On this date Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released. And this is about what a mark it made in this household.

I really didn’t notice the uproar and fuss until about the third book. You couldn’t walk into a bookstore or a library without seeing those books. I’m not a fan of children’s literature or even young adult so it took a while for the interest to simmer. Let’s face it, anytime there’s fuss about a genre book I’m going to notice it. But as John Scalzi noted in his blog today, he just wasn’t in the target demographic and neither was I. But the itch began and after a couple of months I gave in.

I thought about getting on a waiting list at the library because the idea of spending money on a hardcover copy of a kids book was just grating. But the waiting list was long and my patience was short. There was going to be no hiding reading from my wife either, not without getting one of those “aren’t you a little too old for that” withering looks. But I finally gutted it out and bought Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone. And I fell into a whirlpool.

It probably took a couple nights to read the first one. I think the stigma of reading something so juvenile vanished fairly quickly because if JK knows how to do one thing (and she actual knows how to do several things rather well) it’s to stand on the damn accelerator and don’t let up. The HP canon, especially the early books, are maddeningly propulsive. You have to keep turning pages, moving on to the next chapter. I remember telling my wife, “I just have to keep seeing what this little shit is going to get into next.”

There is a certain amount of HP that is somewhat standard. A kid that thinks he’s different, that he’s meant to be in another place. That’s a very old trope in fantasy and one we’re all sick of. But the kids reading it sure didn’t know it and once getting caught in the tale, the adults usually didn’t care. The width and breadth of the world-building was dazzling and the acknowledgement that the world could be unkind and cruel but friendship and love can win the day was affirming. Voldemort was doomed to lose this battle one way or another and I was locked in.

I bought the next two books and now my wife was damn curious. She has a very hard time reading due to her OCD and it was frustrating for her that something was going on that she couldn’t appreciate. The movies changed all that.

The first two movies were a bit rote and mechanical, you could see the magic but you couldn’t feel it. Nonetheless, the actors brought it home and the source material hooked you. My wife became a believer. And with the magic that was the third movie Carjo was all in.

And here we are, twenty years of the world being assimilated by the wizarding world. A large poster of Severus Snape hangs in our house (my wife’s Rickman crush was substantive even before the movies and it only got worse). My wife has a travel poster for the Hogwarts Express, stencil letters on the wall promise that she is up to no good, a cat named Luna Lovegood wanders our yard, and all seven of by books are in a prominent place in our living room. We may be Muggles but we believe.

I also believe that these books and movies have done a world of good. I follow Rowling on Twitter and she is wonderful, slaying trolls and Internet demons, being an advocate for the less fortunate, and never forgetting that at one point in her life she was a single mother on the dole, trying to write a novel in hopes that it would better her life. She has driven kids who would never have picked up a book to not only get these books, but move on to other books. Kids who have not only embraced the fantasy of this world but also embraced the greater themes, much like my generation embraced the themes of Tolkien. Harry Potter has made the world a brighter place and that is no small thing.

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Come Mud or High Winds

on the farm again

I went to the farm yesterday to help with this ^^^. Some would say that the John Deere doesn’t look “that stuck” but it surely was. It was passing over a long patch of ground that we suspect has a spring underneath and has ensnared more than one tractor. Plus the Deere is off balance because of the heavy front end loader on its front wheels and a full rock-picker behind it. So we had to unhitch the rock-picker and then pull out the tractor. Then rinse and repeat for the rock-picker.

It was all a pain because we’ve been getting nailed by high winds for over a month now. Try standing up on the prairie in 40 mph gusts. Me and my cousin did yesterday and it’s not pleasant. Add to that I’ve still recovering from that flu/cold/crud bug. For once I was glad to get home and be inside.

Our cats hate these high winds. It was a steady rotation on the bed in the Man Cave as cats came in from outside and sought a spot for an afternoon nap. After working outside for even a small amount of time I had to agree that the cats had the right plan. The wind never really let up last night, pelting us with scattered showers. Now it’s still blowing but the felines all trotted out. I suspect they’ll be coming back to assume the nap position.


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A Bevy of Brews


Somehow I managed to pick up a 72 hour bug of some sort while in the Twin Cities. This was a major calamity because it meant that I couldn’t drink beer. Brothers and sisters, we’re talking Shakespearean levels of tragedy here. Because while in the Cities I was gifted with beer. A freaking lot of beer.

I’m turning sixty in a couple months and my brother gave me a present in advance – a trip to Liquor Boy. This was a godsend considering I was done to the last dregs in my beer fridge and am as poor as an alcoholic church mouse. In addition, our friend Pharm Doc sent a case or more of a “sample” from his beer cellar. It was quite a collection and I’m astonished again at the range of it.

Pharm Doc’s brews are in the photos above and are as follows (some of which I have more than one – that’s not noted here):

Modist – Dreamyard American IPA
Prairie Artisan Ales – Birthday Bomb
Founders – Doom Imperial IPA
Founders – KBS Stout
Founders – Curmudgeon Old Ale
Founders – Sumatra Mountain Brown
Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA
Deschutes – The Abyss 2014 Reserve
Central Waters – Barelywine Ale
Fulton – Hopster Session IPA
Fulton – Extra Extra Extra APA
Ska Brewing – Modus Hoperandi IPA
Lupulin – Blissful Ignorance Double IPA
Dogfish Head – Flesh & Blood IPA
Ska Brewing – Decandent Imperial IPA

Needless to say that will take me a while to both process and consume. From my brother I got our old standby’s and hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Fulton – Sweet Child of Vine IPA (having one of those right now)
Bent Paddle – Golden IPA
Summit – Double IPA
Bell’s Two Hearted IPA
Surly Furious IPA
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA


So I’m stocked up for well, quite a while. Beer has been in and out of the budget for quite a while and while I’m adult enough to go without if I can’t afford it, it’s a pain in the ass. And now I won’t have to.


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If Eternity Should Fail


Sassy’s Mom, an old friend of ours, wanted to see Iron Maiden and didn’t want to go alone. Guess who got the call saying “I bought you a ticket”? So there I was, in the Xcel Center in St Paul last Friday, getting my ears blistered like they haven’t been in a very very long time. (I am old and wise, I had ear plugs)

It was a stunning display, highly theatrical and yeah, a little cheesy but hey, it’s Iron Maiden. The thing is, Maiden backs the cheese with a just stunning amount of ferocity. Right now most of the guys in this band are around my age, approaching sixty at full speed. Yet there they were, playing like it was their shot at the big time. The tempos never lagged, Bruce Dickinson nailed the high notes while running all over the place, the rhythm section locked in and the guitars never out of sync. At this stage, most of their peers are playing the casino circuit and on the oldies train. Iron Maiden played five songs off their new DOUBLE album. For two hours and change they shook the house.

So that was my weekend. Now I sit here, work stacked up on my desk, battling some sort of cold/flu/crud that I no doubt picked up at that show. And there’s a smile on my face. Up the Irons!

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A Fond Remembrance of a Black Sheep Show


Ah, Night Court, I remember you well.

I do remember watching it back in the day, at the bottom of that block of Thursday night comedies. We always skipped Cosby because it seemed just way too kid oriented. Family Ties had a little more bite. But it was Cheers and Night Court that made my night. The former because that cast and the writing were just incredible, especially for the time. The hour-long Woody’s wedding episode will always be in my top ten.

Night Court was absurd, often approaching the surreal, almost vaudevillian sometimes, and yet for seasons 2-6 it could almost go toe-to-toe with anything else on TV. That cast had a bizarre chemistry that even now holds up when I come across it in reruns. I remember the sheer weirdness of it, the returning characters (John Astin, Brent Spiner), the obsession with Mel Torme at a time when people had seriously forgotten who the hell Torme was, and then there’s Markie Post’s 80s hair. How can you forget a show like that?

Like all great TV comedies, it over-stayed its welcome and lost its spark. But damn, for those golden seasons it stood with the best and gave me and Carjo a lot of laughs.

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I’ve Never Seen That But I Have Seen This


One of my friends in the UK posted spectacular photos of the ruins of an old abbey. I was impressed and yet a bit saddened. Here in the US we really don’t have anything like that. This country is still too damn young for one thing. We’re also all too prone to tearing down the old to make way for the new. But we do have a plethora of natural wonders. Sights that make your jaw drop and your heart flutter.

This is a photo I took from the lip of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, where it plunges into the canyon it created. Note the mist at the bottom of the photo. That’s created from the three hundred foot tall falls. It’s not even remotely as wide the ones at Niagara but a damn site taller. It’s breath-taking.

So we’ve got places like this going for us and it’s possible that we’ll always have them. Provided Trump doesn’t plow them under for profit…

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Meanwhile, in the Rose Garden


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