these books were made for walkin’

We got a puppy last summer, and I have become the primary dog-walker. Brodie is a border collie mix, a rescue from the south, and as with most herding dogs, he’s very intense. He was also an anxious and high-energy puppy. He’s mellowed quite a bit, but one thing that we learned is that he is much calmer and happier if he gets a morning walk. In fact, it seemed that if he did not get a walk, he would not settle down, and not let me get things done. So, I started building into my day that I would spend a good hour every morning on our walk. Often it was more than an hour, sometimes less. While I recognized that this was something good for my health, it felt like it was eating a big chunk out of my productivity. I’d start the day with getting the kids up and out the door, starting around 7, and by the time I came home from the walk, it would be 10 or later. I was starting to resent my morning walks.

This summer, though, John got me some fancy wireless headphones, and shortly after, it dawned on me that I could use them on the walks. I hadn’t been listening to anything on my walks, because I wanted to be alert to sounds from traffic or other dogs. With my new AirPods, though, I could easily use only one at a time, leaving my other ear open to the rest of the world. And I started listening to audiobooks regularly, on almost every morning walk.
I’ve listened to a few novels, but the real win for me has been to listen to non-fiction audiobooks for books that I have been wanting to read, or have felt like I should read. I love reading, but non-fiction books don’t tend to hold my attention for long periods of time. (Or they put me to sleep.) As a result, it can take me a really long time to finish a book. On my walks, though, it’s been easy enough for me to listen to even a long book. And I’m definitely not going to doze off on the walk. Rather, I feel like I’ve been feeding my brain while walking.

I’m especially pleased to have finished listening to Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, which is a fascinating look at the often surprising ways in which our minds work. I’m currently listening to a related book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which talks about decision-making. I’ve also listened to both Don’t Think of an Elephant and The Political Mind, by George Lakoff, and Saving Capitalism, by Robert Reich. (In case you wonder about a theme, all of these books are making me think about ways I can participate in affecting positive social and political change.)

How about you? Do you ever choose to listen to audiobooks? Any favorites to recommend?


12 reasons why I won’t be giving Mark Rayner’s new novel to my mother-in-law for Christmas

The cover of a book I will not be giving to my mother-in-law.
Mark Rayner’s new novel, Marvellous Hairy, has gotten some great reviews, and some marvellously entertaining press. It’s been published just in time for the major gift-giving holidays. The paperback comes in an attractive compact format, and it also comes in an economical ebook version. You would think this would make it an excellent gift.

In spite of this, I will most definitely NOT be giving a copy of this book to my mother-in-law. Here are the main reasons why:

The 12 Main Reasons I won’t be giving Marvellous Hairy to my mother-in-law:

  1. The novel contains “adult” language.
  2. The book uses colorful descriptive language, and I mean beyond describing a room as having been painted “belligerently pink.”
  3. I’m talking about sentences like the following:

    He had long greasy black hair that clung to his head like an octopus humping his skull, and then fell onto his his shoulders in oily post-coital exhaustion.

  4. The book has sex in it.
  5. The book has sex and monkeys in it.
  6. My mother-in-law would be fairly scandalized by something that induced me to compose a sentence including both the words “sex” and “monkeys.”
  7. My mother-in-law has probably never spent any significant amount of time contemplating what it would be like to grow a tail.
  8. It is extremely unlikely that the phrase “Release the monkeys!” would make her giggle.
  9. She wouldn’t know what to make of a playful romp of a novel that is described as “part literary fun-ride, part fabulist satire, and part slapstick comedy.”
  10. Especially one that has been called “deeply, unsettlingly weird.”
  11. She certainly would not take well to the suggestion that she get in touch with her “inner monkey.”
  12. She would probably much prefer some lavender-scented hand soap.

Disclosure: Since I’m a big fan of The Skwib, Mark Rayner’s humor blog, I was all set to buy a copy of this book. (Though not for my mother-in-law.) It was already in my Amazon shopping cart and everything. But then Mark offered to send me a copy. (For FREE! Sucker!) How could I resist? (The monkeys made me do it.)

(Monkey images from wpclipart.)

the swine flew

“Thinking again?” the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.
“I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.
“Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly….”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 9.

Everyone knows that pigs can’t fly.

Except, of course, when they do. And fly they do, in all sorts of lore and literature, song and show, and even in a few airborne vessels. This ThThTh list is hog-wild for the swine of the skies.

A list of flying pigs

  • when pigs fly: an expression by which a speaker can convey the opinion that a given event will never happen. As in “this blog will be awarded a Pulitzer when pigs fly.”
  • when pigs grow wings: an expression that means “when pigs fly”
  • Pigs Have Wings, by P.G. Wodehouse. A book by the author of the Jeeves and Wooster series.
  • Flying Pig: a character on Kids in the Hall, portrayed by Bruce McCulluch. He is a winged pig who flies and “entertains people at bank-machines and other of life’s many lineups.” (See him in flight on YouTube.)

    flying pig kith

  • Pigasus: various references to winged pigs. The name plays on Pegasus (a winged horse)
  • Cincinnati: this city has adopted a winged pig as a mascot. The city has a Flying Pig Marathon.
  • pb125575
    A flying pig mug I bought at the Cincinatti airport.
  • references to flying pigs are used in many different business such as restaurants and art galleries . I’ve bought bread adorned with a winged pig from a bakery called When Pigs Fly. There’s evenFlying Pig Eyewear.
  • logo 111 flyingpig f

  • winged pigs have become so ubiquitous as to be commonly used for decoration, such as adorning weathervanes
  • “Pigs on the Wing”, a song by Pink Floyd
  • The first recorded pig flight took place in England in 1909. (source)

    The first historically recorded flight of a pig took place on British soil, at Leysdown in Kent in 1909. The pig was carried aloft by J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, later the First Lord Brabazon of Tara, in his personal French-built Voisin aero plane.

    The pig was placed into a wicker basket, which was in turn strapped to a wing strut of the aero plane. A hand-lettered sign attached to the basket read: ‘I am the first pig to fly.’ Brabazon purposefully carried the pig aloft, thereby disproving the long help opinion that ‘pigs can not fly.’

  • More recently another flying pig made the news after a flight on a commercial airline
  • piscrew pigs in spaceship

  • Pigs in Space: these pigs from the Muppet Show have mastered not just flight, but space flight.

  • ad astra per alia porci: Steinbeck’s motto “To the stars on the wings of a pig” (found via the blog On Pig’s Wings, taking its name “from Steinbeck, whose motto, described his status as a ‘lumbering soul but trying to fly.'” )
  • Can’t get enough flying pigs? Lots more about them can be found at Porkopolis, a website devoted to all things porcine. Be sure to check posts in the category “flight,” and the informative post A Brief History of Pigs and Flight. Flying pigs have their own Wiki page, too.

sock it to me

I just can’t get enough of those socks. I figure you can’t either. So, I’ve rifled through my sock drawer to share with you this sock-themed ThThTh list.

  • knock your socks off: an idiom meaning “impress” or “surprise in a good way,” as in The excitement of this sock list will knock your socks off.
  • put a sock in it: “be quiet.” (Differs somewhat from “put it in a sock.”
  • bobby-soxer: a 1940s term for a teenage girl, especially fans of Sinatra
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947): a movie with Cary Grant and a teenaged Shirley Temple.
  • sock hop: a dance popular in the US in the 1950s in which participants took off their shoes and danced in their socks
  • stocking_23

  • Christmas stockings: socks hung by the fireplace as part of a Christmas tradition. They are then filled with eggs by the Easter Bunny. (Do I have that right?)
  • Fox in Socks: A Dr. Seuss book (featuring a fox wearing socks) filled with particularly tricky tonguetwisters:

    New socks.
    Two socks.
    Whose socks?
    Sue’s socks.
    Who sews whose socks?
    Sue sews Sue’s socks.
    Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir?
    You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.

  • foxinsocksbookcoverpippi.jpg

  • Pippi Longstocking: A character from a series of children’s books by Astrid Lindgenwho wore socks that were not only long (long stockings) but noteworthy for being mismatched
  • Diddle Diddle Dumpling: a Mother Goose rhyme featuring (at least in some versions) stockings:

    Diddle diddle dumpling
    My son John
    Went to bed with his stockings on
    One shoe off and one shoe on.

  • bluestocking: a term for an “educated, intellectual woman” used commonly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also Blue Stockings Society.
  • redsox

  • Red Sox: a baseball team based in Boston, MA
  • White Sox: a baseball team based in Chicago, IL
  • Chartreuse Sox: a baseball team based in my imagination
  • threesockmonkeys

  • sock monkeys: stuffed toys traditionally made from socks. (Perhaps less traditional is the sock monkey dress.)
  • sock puppets: hand puppets made out of socks.
  • sock puppet: a dummy internet account
  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater: a sock puppet duo of YouTube fame

  • The Bureau of Missing Socks: “the first organization solely devoted to solving the question of what happens to missing single socks. It explores all aspects of the phenomena including the occult, conspiracy theories, and extraterrestrial.”


the cutting edge

knife_12For last week’s ThThTh list, I set the table with forks and spoons. I said I’d be back later with the knives.

  1. like a hot knife through butter: an expression meaning that something was or can be cut easily
  2. not the sharpest knife in the drawer: an expression meaning “not very smart,” playing of the use of the word sharp as a synonym of intelligent.
  3. The Subtle Knife: A novel by Philip Pullman, second in the trilogy His Dark Materials. (It’s the sequel to The Golden Compass.)
  4. “3 Blind Mice”: a nursery rhyme and song in which a carving knife is used. Possibly is about Bloody Mary.

    Three blind mice, three blind mice,
    See how they run, see how they run,
    They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
    Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
    Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
    As three blind mice?

  5. going under the knife: an expression meaning “having surgery”
  6. “I always eat my peas with honey”: A poem of largely unknown origins. I first ever heard it while visiting my in-laws last week (and eating peas), and then encountered it a second time the next day when Magpie left it as a comment on my utensil list. Kind of eerie.

    I always eat my peas with honey;
    I’ve done it all my life.
    They do taste kind of funny but
    It keeps them on my knife.

  7. Shonen Knife: an all female “pop punk” band from Japan. They also have an album called Let’s Knife.
  8. Mack the Knife: a song from the Threepenny opera. Has been performed by many, From Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong to Sting, The Doors and The Psychedlic Furs.
  9. “Cuts Like a Knife”: the title track from the 1983 Bryan Adams album (YouTube)
  10. Slash with a Knife, a book of works by artist Yoshitomo Nara with many paintings of angry and threatening-looking but cute litte kids.
  11. Knives can be used for slashing, stabbing, and throwing (as well as slicing, dicing and julienning), so they appear pretty frequently in movies as weapons. You might see them such in fight scenes (eg. West Side Story) or murder mysteries (eg. Gosford Park).
  12. The knife is one of the possible murder weapons in the boardgame Clue.
  13. “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” A line from Crocodile Dundee. (See the scene on YouTube.)
  14. “Chefs do that”: A line from the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight. Geena Davis plays an amnesiac with no memory of her past life as an assassin. When she discovers her skill with knives, she briefly thinks she must have been a chef. Then she throws a knife and skewers a tomato against the wall, saying “chefs do that.” (You can see at least part of the scene in the trailer on YouTube.)
  15. knife throwing: a sport involving throwing knives at a target. (The goal is to hit the target with the point of the knife, not, for instance, the handle.)
  16. knife throwing act: involves a performer throwing knives around a person, with the goal of not impaling the person. Somewhat ironically considered an “impalement art.” Here’s an example of a mother throwing knives at her little kids in the 50s:
  17. knifehand strike: a martial arts strike using the “blade” of the hand (not the palm or a fist), and sometimes called a “karate chop.”
  18. “In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife.” A famous line from a 1970s commercial for the Ginsu knife.

The Evil Spell Check: A Cautionary Tail

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of a Giant Bookstore, an events Calendar would grace the cash registers and bulletin boards of the store each month, listing book signings and readings and happy occasions.

One day, a hapless customer stumbled across something startling in the upcoming events: a signing scheduled with one of the authors who contributed to an anthology of Inspirational Writings for the Children of the Kingdom. The book was lauded in the Calendar Scroll as a “copulation of stories for children…”

For it so happened that the writer of this Events Calendar had been caught unawares by the perils of the Spell Check. Under this evil Spell, an innocent Typo was turned into something much more sinister and inappropriate. Having likely typed copilation in place of compilation, the Spell was recast, transforming the innocent word into copulation.

This caused great embarrassment in the land, and caused many a tree to be felled for the Improprer Calendars to be re-scribed.


The difference of a character or two in the title of story can mightily change the character of the story. In that spirit, I offer you this copulation of children’s stories and rhymes. Many of which may not be suitable for children.

A Copulation of Children’s Stories and Rhymes

Table of Contents

    I. Poplar Stories:

  1. Goodnight Moron
  2. The Very Hung Caterpillar
  3. Bicurious George
  4. The Runway Bunny
  5. Frog and Toad are Fiends
  6. Charlotte’s Weed
  7. Hairy, the Dirty Dong
  8. Mike Mulligan and his Steamy Shover
  9. The Cat in the Heat
  10. Mary’s Poppin’
  11. Clifford the Big Rude Dog
  12. The Wine in the Willows
  13. Lite Women
  14. Where the Reefer Grows
  15. Harpy Pooter
  16. The Wonderful Wizard of Ooze
  17. II. Nunnery Rhymes:

  18. Marty Had a Little Lamp
  19. Hickory Dickory Dick
  20. Humpy Dumpy
  21. Little Ho Peep
  22. Little Miss Muff
  23. Poop Goes the Weasel
  24. The Farmer in the Deli
  25. Do You Know the Muff Man?
  26. Wee Willy’s Winkie
  27. Little Jack Horny
  28. Peter Peter Pumpin’ Beater
  29. III. Classic Fairy Tails:

  30. Snot White and Roe Red
  31. The Little Math Girl
  32. Goldilocks on the Three Bears
  33. The Princess and the Pee
  34. Jack and the Beatstalk
  35. Puss in Boobs
  36. The Twelve Panting Princesses
  37. Little Red Riding Ho
  38. Snow White and the Shaven Dwarfs
  39. Beauty and the Breast
  40. The Three Little Prigs


This week’s Monday Mission was to write a post in the form of a children’s story or poem. (Yes, I realize it’s Tuesday today. This is hardly the only thing I’m running late for.)

This typo really did happen back when I worked in the bookstore, and it still makes me giggle these many years later. (I can do that, because I wasn’t among those who wrote or proofread the calendar in question.) I’d been wanting to share this list and story for a while, so this seemed a good occasion to do so.

bed post

bedPhoebe got a real bed a couple of weeks ago, inspiring me to think about beds for a ThThTh list¹.

A bed list²

  1. make one’s bed and lie in it: an expression meaning that one must accept the consequences of one’s actions. The wording of the expression is somewhat variable, with various subjects (and agreeing possessives) possible, some variation in tense/aspect of the verb make, and variability in the the following clause. eg. You’ve made your bed, and now you must lie in it. or He made is bed, so now he’ll have to lie in it.
  2. The Princess and the Pea: a classic fairy tale in which a pea is hidden under mattresses to test whether a girl can feel the lump under the bedding
  3. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed.” Something the bears say in the fairy tale Goldilocks.
  4. flower bed: an area, such as in a garden, that has been planted with flowers
  5. bed of roses: an expression meaning an easy or luxurious situtation. More often heard with a negative, such as “it was no bed of roses.”
  6. fortune cookies: If you add “in bed” to the end of the fortune when you read it, hilarity will ensue (in bed).
  7. hotbed: an environment conducive to rapid growth
  8. Beds Are Burning, a song by Midnight Oil. (youtube video)
  9. “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed:” a children’s song/rhyme of the “counting down” variety:

    Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
    One fell off and bumped his head
    Mama called the doctor and the doctor said
    “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

    Subsequent verses are sung with one fewer monkeys jumping, until one reaches the final “no more monkeys” state. There’s a book based on the rhyme, too.

  10. “10 in the bed:” another kids’ song of the countdown type.

    Ten in the bed and the little one said “roll over! roll over”
    So they all rolled over and one fell out…

  11. in bed with the enemy: an expression meaning “consorting with the opposition”
  12. strange bedfellows: an expression used to describe a situation where unlikely individuals cooperate, having been brought together to by unusual circumstances. Taken from a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
  13. In Bed with Madonna:” The title of the 1991 Madonna movie (“Truth or Dare“) as it was released in various countries. I saw it in Brazil as “Na Cama com Madonna.”
  14. My Bed is a Boat:” a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson from A Child’s Garden of Verses

    My bed is like a little boat;
    Nurse helps me in when I embark;
    She girds me in my sailor’s coat
    And starts me in the dark.

  15. Come, Let’s to Bed:” a Mother Goose rhyme:

    “To bed! To bed!”
    Says Sleepy-head;
    “Tarry awhile,” says Slow;
    “Put on the pan,”
    Says Greedy Nan;
    “We’ll sup before we go.”

  16. bed head: hair that has been messed up during sleep, or that at least appears that way

¹Also at times inspiring me to miss the cage-like qualities of the crib. Is duct tape really so wrong?
²You know, I pretty much never make my bed. But I’m clearly not opposed to making a bed list.³
³You know, I really need to get to bed.

girl in bed image source: Ella M. Beebe Picture Primer (New York: American Book Company, 1910), Copyright: 2008, Florida Center for Instructional Technology

hee-haw, hee-haw

It’s Thursday again, and that means I’m due for a ThThTh list. What with my having the upcoming election on the brain, it seemed a good time to bring out the donkeys.

Some donkeys

  • The Democratic donkey: the donkey is an unofficial symbol of the U.S. Democratic Party. The jackass was first associated with Andrew Jackson in his 1828 campaign, according to the official Democratic Party’s website page on the history of the democratic donkey.
  • Pin the tail on the donkey: A party game in which blindfolded participants attempt to attach a representation of a tail to a drawing of a donkey. The one who gets the tail closest to the tail end of the donkey wins.
  • Donkey pronoun: a term in linguistics for a certain type of pronoun in which the syntax does not map straightforwardly to the semantics. Named after this example, in which “it” is the donkey pronoun:

    Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it. — Peter Geach, Reference and Generality

  • Hee Haw: a country-themed (in the sense of “rural” and “Western”) sketch comedy show with a donkey mascot. It was mostly on in the 70s. (The show’s title is the English onomatopoeic word for the sound of a donkey’s bray. For the record, my post titile makes reference to the sound, not the show. I find the show, or the memory of watching the show as a child, somewhat painful.)
  • Eeyore: the gloomey donkey from Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • The Golden Ass: Another name for the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, an ancient Roman novel in which the protagonist turns himself into an ass.
  • Nick Bottom: a character in the Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bottom’s head is turned into an ass head.
  • Benjamin: the donkey in Orwell’s Animal Farm.
  • Donkey: the animated donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy, from the Shrek movies (2001, 2004, 2007).
  • Dapple: Sancho Panza’s donkey in Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

think pink

It was recently pointed out to me that October is Breast Awareness month. Our society is far too oblivious to the existence of breasts. Every day, millions of women around the world have breasts. In spite of this, breasts go largely unnoticed by men, women, and advertisers alike.

Wait, maybe it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. That probably makes more sense.

Pink has become the color associated with breast cancer awareness, originating in the use of the pink ribbon symbol in the early 90s. So this month seems a good time to bring out the pink things. In the spirit of my Themed Things lists of green, red and blue folks and critters, I give you a list of pink animals, characters and other creatures.
The Breast Cancer Site
Before the pink fur starts flying, let me direct your attention to the button to the right. If you click on that, you’ll be directed to a site that funds free mammograms to women in need. All you need to do is click a button. So…you know…click on it.

Ok, once more into the pink.

    Some Pink Creatures

  • The Pink Panther. A cartoon character originally appearing in the credit sequences of the (live action) Peter Sellers movie The Pink Panther (1963), but who later got his own TV show.
  • Barbapapa. A shape-shifting pink blob character who appeared in kids’ books and short animated shows. I have vague but fond memories of the cartoons from when I was little. I also had at least one of the books.
  • Serendipity. A bright pink, aquatic, dragonlike creature from the book (of the same name) by Stephen Cosgrove. (One of the first books that I ever read.)
  • several Care Bears are pink, such as the one called Cheer.
  • There are likewise various My Little Pony characters who are pink. (One called Pinkie Pie, for example.)
  • pink elephants Said to be seen by those who have had too much to drink. The expression seeing pink elephants is believed to have originated in a book by Jack London. Pink Elephants were featured in a scene in Dumbo (1941), along withe song “Pink Elephants on Parade.”
  • some Muppets are pink, such as one of the Martians, or “Yip-Yips.” (You can see the Yip-Yips discover a radio on this YouTube clip.)
  • Pearl: A pink octopus from Finding Nemo (2003)
  • the Energizer bunny. A mechanical drumming bunny toy with pink fur used in Energizer battery commercials.
  • flamingo. A bird with pink feathers, at least as an adult:

    Young flamingos hatch with grey plumage, but adults range from light pink to bright red due to aqueous bacteria and beta carotene obtained from their food supply.

  • Plastic pink flamingos are a popular lawn ornament in the US starting in the 1950s. They are often considered the epitome of kitsch.
  • Amazon River Dolphins. There is a species of freshwater dolphin living in the Amazon. For real. I actually saw some when I was travelling in the Amazon in 1991. (Or I may have possibly seen tucuxi, which are apparently saltwater dolphins, but live in the Amazon and can be pink.)
  • pigs. While the actual pigs I’ve seen haven’t been, pigs are often shown as pink in cartoons, toys, etc. The Disney version of Piglet, for example is bright pink. Cincinnati’s flying pig mascot is pink, as is the Kids in the Hall Flying Pig.

image sources: Barbapapa, Serendipity, Care Bear, flamingo and elephant, Pink Panther.