Decisions, Decisions

Time for some audience participation.

Would you prefer to see:

A: a sci-fi story set on a spaceship.

B: a murder mystery ala Agatha Christie


C: other

To respond to this poll, simply email your decision to responserecorder at If you choose ‘c’, please elaborate. The choice with the most votes in one week (11:59 pm EST 6/30/18) will be presented on this website in serialized format, one post every week for four weeks, then one week off to let people catch up.

I’m very excited to do this, so please share with anyone you know in order to get lots of responses to the poll. I don’t make any money off this website, I just like writing.

Also you can follow me on twitter if you want: @patr2016.

Chocolate Custard

Yesterday for Mother’s Day my brothers and I made dinner for my mom. I was in charge of dessert, and I made a nice chocolate custard. I’m putting the recipe here for two reasons: one, I wanted to share it in case anyone else wants to try it, and two , so that I don’t forget it. Ok.

You will need:

1/2 cup milk

two egg yolks

4 tbsp sugar

6 oz semisweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli) [don’t use unsweeted]

4 tbsp butter, softened


First, add milk and sugar to small pot. Heat until milk is steaming and sugar is dissolved. Then, slowly pour into bowl with egg yolks in. Don’t go too fast or the eggs will scramble and that’s not what you want.  Once all milk is added to eggs, pour back into the pot and heat while whisking constantly for about two minutes. At this point, the mixture should be a lot thicker. Then, remove from heat. Add in chopped up chocolate and the butter. Mix until smooth.

You can refrigerate or serve hot, it doesn’t matter.

This recipe is enough for four small servings or two regular size servings. Plan accordingly.

The Boll Weevil, or A Case Study in the Resilience of the Human Spirit

I have something of a short attention span, and so I often find myself navigating to Wikipedia, clicking ‘Random Article’ a few times, and getting lost in the beautiful standardized formatting of Wikipedia.

So imagine my joy when I learned that there was a Firefox extension which redirects every new tab that you open to a random Wikipedia article. It’s like someone at Mozilla has a copy of my dream journal. That firefox extension is how I came upon today’s topic: the Boll Weevil, and specifically the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama. Travel with me back in time…

<insert that wavy time travel flashback effect>

The year is 1918. The place? Rural Alabama. Understand, in 1918 Alabama was about one thing: cotton. If you so much as breathe a word about corn, God save you. If this economy was any more made of cotton, you would have to air dry it for fear of shrinkage. Enter… the Boll Weevil.

The Boll Weevil is a beetle which is indigenous to Mexico, but which migrated to Alabama and which by 1918 were wreaking havoc on the cotton trade in that state. Whole fields of cotton were being devastated by this pest. This is because the Boll Weevil not only eats cotton buds, but also lays its eggs inside of them. Thus when the larva hatch, they add to the destruction of the white fluffy lifeblood of the early 20th century American South. Well that and the Great Depression. If only FDR had focused more on the Bull Weevil! But I digress.

Rather than be discouraged by this terrible disaster, an enterprising Alabaman named H. M. Sessions saw an opportunity. He convinced a desperate farmer named C. W. Baston to plant and grow peanuts instead of cotton. The result of this risk was unmeasured reward. Not only was Baston able to pay off his debts, he sold his peanuts to other farmers who wanted to take a chance on this new wondercrop. It’s not that the farmers of Enterprise stopped planting cotton. Rather, they planted cotton AND new crops like peanuts. This is a concept commonly called “diversification” and it’s helpful in the case of, oh I don’t know, a pest which only preys on cotton? Just as one hypothetical example.

This moral tale was not lost on the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama. They recognized how close they had come to ruin, but instead of cursing the Bull Weevil they did something strange.

They built it a monument.

The monument appears thusly: on a podium stands a woman in a flowing white gown. Think classical Greece/Rome. The woman’s arms are outstretched above her head, and in her hands she holds a small cushion. And on that cushion sits a miniature version of the podium on which she stands. And on that miniature podium sits a Boll Weevil.

So if you ever get sad thinking about things that have happened to you, things that might not have been fair, times when you did everything right and still got a bad result. Just think of Enterprise and their statue, and remember: often it is only through adversity that we are empowered to do extraordinary things.

I Had An Idea

I don’t think there is a reader of this blog who I don’t also know personally, so I’m gonna keep it pretty informal.

I’ve been pretty stressed out lately for reasons which are not important to this story, but something which has made me a bit less stressed is I found my world atlas book which I had gotten from the free book section at the library last summer and which I had, until a few days ago, considered totally and hopelessly lost. (It was in a drawer in a table that sits in our living room and is probably as old as me, at least). I genuinely like that atlas more than I like some people.

Anyway, the atlas got me thinking about state capitals. And that got me thinking about Michigan’s capital, and why it’s terrible. So without any further adieu, I present: why Michigan’s capital should be moved back to Detroit.

First, some history. During the War of 1812, the British basically walked into Detroit which at that time was the territorial capital of Michigan (or possibly the Northwest Territory at this point) and captured it with a total of 7 casualties. The British held Detroit for ~a year, before being driven back to Canada. Then, in the late 1830’s, Michigan wanted to become a state, and so did (ignoring some bullshit with Ohio which is a topic for a separate post), with Detroit remaining the capital.

The only thing complicating matters was a clause written into the Michigan Constitution which stated that the state capital would remain “at Detroit, or at such other place or places as may be prescribed by law until the year eighteen hundred and forty-seven when it shall be permanently located by the legislature”. If you ask me, that’s a stupid system. But I digress. As the year 1847 approached, people had two main arguments against keeping the capital in Detroit permanently. The first was that they worried that with a state capital so far to the east of the state, the western bits of Michigan wouldn’t develop very well. The second argument was concerning that whole business with the British 35 years ago, and wouldn’t a more centrally located capital be better from a defense standpoint. So in 1847, they selected… the nearly uninhabited Lansing Township. They renamed it “the Town of Michigan” (and then quickly changed it back to Lansing a few years later), and called it a day.

And now fast forward to 2018. Or later, if you’re a future internet archaeologist who carves out layers of internet search results like a physical  archaeologist carves out layers of rocks. 20xx, we’ll just call it.

Let’s reexamine those criteria from a 20xx perspective. I’m going to take the second one first. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 150 years, England no longer has a presence in Canada. Also, barring a terrible catastrophic breakdown in relations, we will never be at war with that country again. Also, even if the previous two points weren’t true, it still wouldn’t matter because we don’t subscribe to that ancient western ideal of war in which once the capital is taken, the territory is taken.

Ok, so the reason that I’m tackling these arguments in this order is that I think the first argument put forth is the stronger one. Namely, the argument that moving the capital to more of a central location would assist in development of the western side of the state. So, in order to take down this argument, we must turn to… geography.

First, let’s examine Nevada. Nevada’s capital is…anyone? anyone? Carson City. I know, I hadn’t heard of it either,  but there you go. Carson City is located at the extreme western border of Nevada, NOWHERE NEAR the most populous city in Nevada, Las Vegas. The population of Las Vegas, as an interesting side-note, is more than ten times the population of Carson City. Carson City was named and settled in 1858, a full 53 years before Las Vegas. But Pat, I hear you shouting at your computer screen, surely that’s just an outlier? I bet you don’t have two other examples which support your argument! And that’s where you’re wrong. Texas is my next example. Austin is the capital, and it’s ~150 miles away from the most populous Texas city of Houston. That’s about double the distance from Lansing to Detroit, for anyone keeping score. The third and final example here is Florida. The capital of Florida is Tallahassee. Tallahassee is located at the northern end of the state, while Miami is located at the far southern tip. Miami has about triple the population of Tallahassee, despite the fact that it’s located over 400 miles away.

So what has all this proven? Well, I hope it has cast some doubt on the idea that having a capital city close to you makes you grow and develop more. There is no proof that that is the case, it just seems like it kind of should work. Unfortunately, it appears that location of a capital city is irrelevant to the development of another city in the same state.

Next, I want to address the idea that moving a state capital is somehow bad. This is a very recent idea. The last state to move its capital was Oklahoma in 1910. And before they did, many other states did this. In fact, exactly half of the states in the Union did move their capital at some point. Notably, Georgia changed their state capital TWELVE TIMES before settling on Atlanta in 1868. So there’s no reason that we should be embarrassed. If anyone makes fun of us, we can just remind them about Georgia’s shame and that’ll take care of it.

So, that leaves the question of where to move it. And this is the part of the idea that I really like: back to Detroit. That’s right, we’re going to move the capital of Michigan back to Detroit. Why? Let me count the ways. First, it’s historical. Detroit was the first major city in Michigan, and it helps connect us to our heritage. Also, it’s quite near Canada which means there’s a border crossing. This is ideal, because it means that new immigrants from Canada can immediately start their new American lives with all the bureaucratic necessities in their new city. Detroit is also the most populous city in Michigan, and there’s something to be said for having the capital city be also the most populous. Third and finally, the west side of the state doesn’t need help with development anymore. But you know who does? Detroit. Detroit has been in the midst of a great comeback for the past five or so years now, and that’s great, but it appears to be stagnating somewhat. If Detroit is to return to its former glory, it must become the capital of Michigan again.

So anyway, that’s my idea. It feels good to have written it all out like this. Thanks for reading this long thing. Also, sorry it’s been a while, I’ll try to post more on here in the future.

Ok bye.

On Books, and Classics

For the past few days, I’ve been re-reading (or rather, listening to) “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and it got me thinking about so-called classic books. But let me first say, this is not going to be a hate post about TKAM. I think it’s a fantastic book, and this revisit, my first in what must be four years, has all but confirmed my suspicion that this book is a classic for a reason. With that said, I’d like to examine the idea of a classic book. What makes a book classic? But before I do that, I just have to write this so it’s out of my head:

F U C K   A U N T  A L E X A N D R I A.

In fact, I kind of want to write a separate post about TKAM, so be on the lookout for that. Or don’t. You don’t exist, so it doesn’t much matter.
Oh, and just in case someone sees this later, I write that because I don’t expect anyone to read this not because I’ incredibly solipsistic.

OK, classic books.

Let’s tackle this one question at a time: What makes a book classic? An oft-propagated theory in this regard is that classic books are defined simply by age. The older the book, the more classic. In order to test this theory, I’ll perform an experiment through the medium of text. Which of these books, dear nonexistent reader, do you think is more of a classic: The Code of Hammurabi or the Old Testament of the Bible? Common knowledge would tell you that it’s the Bible, one of the most important and influential books in Western civilization. However, according to this test, it would be the ancient law code of the king of Mesopotamia Hammurabi. I think I’ll probably leave that argument there and move on to the next possibility.

Perhaps, if not the age of the book, then its length, width, difficulty in reading, or some other physical attribute is the decider of quality. If any of those were the case, then one would expect that something like the phone book would be the most famous book in the history of man. As it happens, it is not. Far from it, in fact. Well, then let’s move on.

OK, so here’s what I believe (prepare for thesis statement): it is my belief that a book is a classic if and because it answers, or attempts to answer, a question which is inherent in the nature of humanity. Let me give some examples of the type of question I mean.

“What is the nature of justice?”

“Why are some people evil and others good? That is, asking after human nature.”

“What is the meaning of life?”

“Why are some people prejudiced/xenophobic?”

“What is truth?”

“Does God exist?”

… and so on.

Harper Lee’s 1960 M A S T E R P I E C E “To Kill a Mockingbird” addresses and attempts to answer at least two or three of these questions. However, I think the most important statement made by Harper Lee is this: please don’t be condescending to kids, they’re a lot smarter than they are often given credit for.

But before I get into that, I’ll make a separate post all about this book.

That’s all for this one.

David Mitchell

WHO IS HE: So David Mitchell is a British comedian, writer, tv person, and so on.

WHAT HAS HE DONE/MADE: As I write this, I am listening to David read his own autobiography, Back Story. So, Back Story. He also starred alongside Robert Webb in: Peep Show (a UK cultural touchstone), That Mitchell and Webb Look (a sketch show), That Mitchell and Webb Situation (an inferior, yet similar, sketch show [look I’ll be honest, I’ve never understood the difference between these two shows]), alongside Lee Mack in Would I Lie To You (which is a panel show), and shows up on various other shows sometimes (usually by himself).

WHY DO I LIKE HIM (QUALITIES ETC.): Funny, comedy, very good writer, and more too.

Penny Dreadful, or On the Ending of Things

Here’s the thing: I heard about this show because my aunt, who is American but has lived in London with my uncle and their three daughters (my cousins) for the past ~20 years, knows someone who has a minor role in it. This must have been early 2014, because she was informing me of it prior to the show’s premiere. Then, I must say, I neglected to seek out the show and watch it as it aired. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to past-me. Here’s why: I think that if I had watched the series finale of this show as it aired live on television, I would have taken a gun, walked out to the backyard, and blown my own head off.

At this point, let me make clear that I do not condone suicide, I just was using a bit of hyperbole to catch your attention. Having said that, let me reiterate: had I watched this episode (and it’s a stretch to call it an episode, a more accurate description would be a slimy wet diarrhea pile which network executives shit out all over the heads of the fans of the show) live on television, I would have blown my own head off with a high-caliber rifle or something, I don’t know guns. That’s not the point. The point is, this ‘ending’ was an affront to the values that the show seemed to be professing for two and a half seasons. It was a slap in the face to anyone who watched and liked the show. And it was possibly the most disappointing series finale I have ever had the displeasure to watch.

Before I get into why I hated this finale so much, let me give a brief rundown of Penny Dreadful for anyone who hasn’t watched it before. So, the term “penny dreadful” refers to a type of literature popular in England in the 1800s. It was a serialized story which cost a penny per issue and usually came out once a week. The subject matter of these stories often included murders, mysteries, demons,and detectives. Some notable characters were Sweeney Todd, Varney the Vampire, and highwayman Dick Turpin. These stories were aimed at Victorian working class young men, and as such typically contained their fair share of blood and guts. The TV show Penny Dreadful is a fictional re-imagining of these tales as though their characters were real and lived in Victorian England. It follows the exploits of one Vanessa Ives and her best friend’s father Sir Malcolm Murray, with whom she lives, as they battle vampires, witches, and demons and attempt to carve a place for themselves in their crazy world.

The show also places quite a large emphasis on the values of friendship and loyalty, as well as pushing the idea that you shouldn’t be afraid or sad about who you are, but accept it and work to be better. I don’t know about you, but to me, those sound like perfectly reasonable values. There are many times in the first two seasons when the protagonist, aforementioned Vanessa Ives, struggles with the fact that she’s possessed by a demon who is maybe an ancient Egyptian god and also maybe the actual Devil. And throughout this struggle, the show tries to demonstrate that the only way to survive the worst parts of ourselves is to surround ourselves with people who love and respect us. Keep that in mind, it’ll be important later.

For the purposes of this rant, I’m really only concerned with the plot of the last season of the show, and even then only the second half (~5 episodes) is what bothers me. The basic plot of that season is that Vanessa is trying to banish the evil within her once and for all (as usual), and part-time Werewolf Ethan Chandler is being compelled back to America to meet up with his crazy father. Oh and also Dorian Gray & Billie Piper are leading an army of crazy bloodthirsty women for some reason. And it’s implied that Satan’s brother is Dracula. Still with me? OK.

The final two episodes see the gang reuniting in England, I think Ethan murders his dad, I forget. I literally does not matter. At this point, Vanessa has realized that she’s being two-timed by Dracula disguised as a Natural History Museum scientist (I swear to god this is all true), and so they all track him to his Lair (TM) to like kill him or whatever. Long story short, Vanessa gets killed by Dracula, who then himself is killed by Ethan. The part that I’m concerned with is where Vanessa is killed by the very demon which has haunted her this whole time.

Let me spell out my problem more clearly: throughout its three seasons, the show’s overarching message has been that our flaws need not define us, and we can overcome our demons and still be accepted and, dare I say, loved? And the way that they decided to end the show was by having the protagonist succumb to said demon. This corrodes the very message of the show, and to end the show this way is, to put it mildly, fucking idiotic. Now, the message of the show is “Don’t fight your demons because even if you do, Dracula will probably kill you”. And that isn’t a good message.

Gosh, it feels good to write about this finally, I’ve been thinking about writing this since the last scene of the last episode of what could have easily been one of my favorite shows of all time, and I think it’s been like burning a hole in my heart.

In conclusion, fuck whoever thought that was a good idea. You deserve to be killed by Dracula or whatever.

11.19.1942 Camp Robinson, Arkansas

This is the first of the letters sent from my mom’s dad to his mom that I have. There may be earlier letters not in my possession, and if so I will update this. Included with this letter are three somewhat faded pictures. The first is a small photograph of, I think, Jack’s mother. The second picture shows the Eiffel Tower up close. The third is a picture of what I believe to be the Arc de Triomphe. The letter itself is written on one sheet of yellowed military paper. The return address on the envelope reads (slashes denote new line) “Pvt J F (his last name) (32556742)/ Co “C” 108th Med. Tr. Bn./ Platoon #1 U.S. Army/ Camp Robinson, Ark.” I translate this as “Private (his name) (I have no idea what these numbers are)/ Company “C” 108th Medical Battalion/ Platoon #1 U.S. Army. Camp Robinson, Arkansas”. The letter was sent to “Mrs. M.J. (her last name)/ 17 Bostwick Ave./ Jersey City, N.J.”. The letter is transcribed below, spelling is preserved from the original.

Dear Mom:
I just received your letter with the two buck in. Gee I never thought you would return the two bucks. I had a feeling that you were a sure thing for the Saturday Night Bingo. If not for the “Jack-Pot” surely the “Round Robin”.

I know your only kidding when you say that you aren’t going yo play Bingo anymore. I’ve heard that too often to believe it. You know way down deep inside that you can never trust that enticing game. Remember what Barnum use to say “There’s a sucker born every minute and two to play Bingo”.

In one of your recent letters you asked me if I needed any money. Well it’s a fact that we don’t make much money but it’s also a fact that we don’t get much time to spend money. When we do get the chance, we discover that everything we buy is very cheap. Like the movies. We can go to one of the camp theaters and see a double feature for only 15 cents. The pictures are all new too.

Another funny thing is church. When I went to my first Sunday Mass in this camp the Chaplain told us not to leave any money in the church. If we did he would get very peeved. All the magazines and telegram papers in the back of the church are free. There are also prayer books, rosarys, crucifixes and medals free for the taking.

This Chaplain is one of the most interesting men I’ve ever heard preach. He has been all over the world and the little religous tales he tells us are from actual things he has seen or picked up on his travels. (a big change from Sacred Heart, eh mom)

Now about the O.C.S. I’m not going to try for it just yet. There are a lot of reasons why. One is my age,another is I lack the experience. You see if I was an officer I would have to stand in front of a bunch of troops and give orders. The Preparatory School is more or less based on a fellows ability to give commands. If you flunk the Preparatory School you lose all chance of ever trying the O.C.S. So since I lack a lot of army experience I think it is best for me to wait a while. If I want I will always be able to try later. And I will do so when I think I have developed sufficient capabilities.


Welcome, This is Nothing

Hello. I don’t know why you’re here. I bought this domain on an impulse because I kind of always have wanted to own a proper domain, and now I do.

I can’t guarantee that this will be interesting to anyone other than myself, but if it is, that’s good too.

Ok, bye.