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Grandma — July 8, 2022

old couple walking while holding hands

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com


🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Reflections on Grandma 👵
Kids & Death 👨‍👦‍👦
Don’t Say It 🤫


My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of alive in her final months isn’t what anyone would want for themselves.

Her death marks the final passing of my grandparents and, collectively, the final passing of the grandparents among Wifey Poo and I. My first grandparent died when I was 12. I will turn 48 later this month.

The thing is, I’m not sure what I am feeling right now as I write this. Obviously, there’s a level of sadness, but there’s also something akin to relief that she isn’t suffering anymore. Perhaps my uncertainty with where I stand this morning is due to the fact that any grief I might have had was felt most strongly when Grandma ceased to really be Grandma as her mind slipped. About two months ago, I wrote her a long, long letter to tell her everything I needed to say, but by the time it arrived in the mail, I’m not sure how much of her was truly left to read and understand it. My hope is that it found her in a lucid moment, but I’ll never know.

People are complex, and Grandma was no exception. I hate how dishonest obituaries are with the whole “he was loved by everyone who knew him” stuff, but maybe that’s because I know how many people who have known me don’t love me. Grandma certainly wasn’t loved by everyone who knew her either, so maybe I come by that honestly, or maybe I’m just looking at life honestly. No one who lived and mattered gets away unscathed.

Grandma was incredibly proud of me, her only grandson, and I never doubted for a second that she thought of me as anything other than the best thing since sliced bread, which you have to admit, is pretty cool.

She taught me how to make scrambled eggs with bacon in them. She taught me how to make French toast. She taught me how to put my own damn laundry away. As the story goes, she was taking care of me and Sister while my parents were on vacation, and she did the laundry while I was in school. When I came home, she showed me where it is and told me to put it away. I evidently said something to the effect of “Grandma, that’s woman’s work,” which, in my defense, is something I’m sure Pops had said in my presence as a joke.

Humor is lost on dumb kids sometimes.

She was the young Grandma, the one in old home movies on the sled on the hill in the backyard that seemed so freaking huge when we were kids but wasn’t so much when I saw it on my last return to New York more then a decade ago. (Two decades, could it be?)

Yet Grandma was far from a saint. She had a tumultuous relationship with my aunt — the younger of her two daughter — and was not a good grandmother to the granddaughter from that marriage. Generationally, it might be hard to understand homosexuality, but that doesn’t make it right to not love and accept another human being for who they are.

She was what could be described as an enabler when it came to my grandfather and his alcoholism, which contributed to some of my own really bad childhood memories.

She had on again, off again relationships with her friends and family members, something that is a disturbing part of the female line in our family.

These admissions are perhaps the most honest thing to come out of the darker side of my family and I write them understanding the risk of causing a blowup. But frankly, I’ve reached the point in my life in which I’m sick of the whitewashed version of any history, including my own. Truth is sometimes ugly, and, as with anything I write, this is solely my perspective.

My grandmother was born into a crappy situation. My great-grandmother was a kind old woman who taught me how to play checkers and whose personal belief was that you don’t just let kids win. She was hilarious and uproariously blunt at times.

But that was who she was when I came on the scene.

When Grandma came on the scene, her mother was what you would call a flapper from the 1920s. I’m sure she scandalously showed some ankle from time to time, to say the least. She also dumped Grandma off at a relative’s for several years when Grandma was, like, 5, and this was after they and Grandma’s brother suffered horrific abuse at the hands of a great-grandfather I never knew.

Grandma survived. Great-grandmother got her shit together and ended up providing some stability later in life for her, but to think there wasn’t damage done by that point is to have your head stuck in the sand. For example, I know very little of Grandma’s brother, but what I do know was that he suffered through some extremely unpleasant mental illnesses.

In the wake of Grandma’s death, I’ve been thinking a lot about how impermanent we all are. I have done considerable genealogy work to piece together our family tree, and pretty much anyone who came before my great-grandparents is a mere name and a few dates. There’s precious little about who they were and how they lived.

It would be foolish to say great-grandma woke up one morning and decided to be a crappy parent. Something surely was going on with the people who lived the lives behind those names and dates on the family tree, and the damage inflicted then spiraled down through the decades toward me. Where it started is, at this point, anyone’s guess, but the female line from that branch of the tree is filled with stories of women who did a really poor job of controlling their hands, mouths and emotions and who repeatedly embraced drama like a new lover. In their wake is a battlefield of jagged scars and battered or broken relationships, and it’d be really stupid to think that isn’t continuing today.

Yet my own mother’s life was better than her mother’s, and our lives were better than hers’ when it comes to the worst of the wretched abuses. So in that, Grandma did something good. She broke the worst part of that cycle of extreme abuse and violence.

Being the family writer, I was asked to write Grandma’s obituary. I did the best I could to be fair and honest without being unnecessarily caustic. As I said, I loathe dishonest obituaries that paint a person’s life as a field of a daisies. If such as life has ever happened, I’ve never met the person who led it. So I tried to leave the impression that Grandma saw some shit and did the best she could given the hand she was dealt, and that turned out to be pretty good.

Her life was pocked by the same kind of sludge that seems to stick to all of us by the time we get to and through middle age. But she did a lot of really good things, and one of them was how she loved her grandson.


One of the sucky things about parenting is having to talk to your children about death. Whether it’s the first time a goldfish dies or if it’s a classmate who dies, that chore sucks more than cleaning up their vomit.

Boy The Elder, at 20, could see many of the same things I saw, that Grandma’s death was merciful and that she had done her time here on earth.

Boy The Younger, a newly minted teenager, simply felt the loss. He was with friends most of the day and so didn’t hear the news until around 9 p.m. I was surprised to have him come into my office, where I was quietly pecking away at the keyboard trying to put my thoughts together. BTY is filled past capacity with compassion, so his visit started out as a hug for Dad. It turned into a hug from Dad and a lengthy talk about how we keep people alive even after they’ve gone … by remembering their stories and sharing them with the next generation and impressing upon that next generation how important it is to keep doing the same.

I’m a storyteller. Always have been. I hope BTY will be the same.


Don’t do it. Don’t think it. And certainly don’t say it. I do not want to hear “See, it happens there too!” from one person in the wake of the assassination of the former Japanese prime minister. Of course people shoot people in Japan. They just do it far, far less than people in Amuricah.

So if you’re even thinking about saying something about gun violence in other countries, please know that you’re an idiot and that the United States is the country with the second most gun deaths for the latest year with data, 2019, behind only Brazil.

Gun control is not the only solution. The fact that far more Amuricahns kill themselves with guns than they do others is indicative of a society gone wrong. But whatever we’re trying ain’t working.

So let’s look at Japan’s model and, hey, here’s an idea, let’s give it a 20-year trial while we simultaneously start addressing other factors that are leading to mass violence and horrific suicide rates.

To legally own a firearm in Japan, you have to …

What’s the harm in that, GOPers?

And for the love of God, don’t try to lean on the Second Amendment. It is a completely idiotic argument to think the citizenry having some guns is going to stop a military power like ours that has, like, missiles and tanks and stealth bombers and attack helicopters and battleships and nukes and stuff. Your AR-15 wouldn’t do squat in an uprising against this …


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Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. Gotta stick around to write more family obits.
  2. The weekend is almost here and I’m taking my mother-in-law to the casino tomorrow.
  3. This nasty-ass heat wave is supposed to break for a day tomorrow.

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Welcome to Issue No. 9 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to johnagliata@gmail.com. No. 5: I pledged to finish something I am a writer. If I’m going to be a…

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Evolution — Oct. 17, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Monkey Crap 🐒BTY Day 👨‍👦Incomplete Stories 🖊️ If you’re of the belief that human beings evolved from apes, I’m not here to try to dissuade you. What I am here to say is that, if evolution is true, we sure have come a long way. I say this after a trip…

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Basement Water — Oct. 15, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Personal Growth 🌱Mad Mom 😠Oh, Jeffrey 🧠 About a year ago, Arti The Wonder Therapist waited patiently for me to finish yet another of my amazing monologues detailing just how I felt about the various situations I was attempting to address in my life at the time and then calmly asked…

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Death! Death! Death! — Oct. 14, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cue the Outrage 🔫Animal Extinction 🐆Eye Update 👀 Even back in the day when I considered myself a Republican (before the dark times … before the Trumpire), I never quite understood the death penalty. Perhaps it was because I looked around at the other nations that still killed people as punishment…

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Corneal Complications — Oct. 13, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hello Darkness, My Old Friend 👀COVID Costs 🦠Jackass Jones Verdict👩‍⚖️ I’ve spent much of this week so far in forced darkness. After I wrote on Monday morning, my right eye started to get blurry. Then it got real blurry. Then it became utterly useless. In this, I have reprised my role…

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Mattress Shopping — Oct. 10, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Awkward Shopping 🛏️Disingenuous Holiday 🗓️Help the Homeless 😔 If there’s a more awkward retail excursion than mattress shopping, I have yet to find it in my 48 years. Wifey Poo and I went to a high school gym to do exactly that on Sunday afternoon. The bed we’ve been sleeping in…

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So Long, Cards — Oct. 9, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Playoff Disappointment ⚾Oh, Britney 📲Friendship Failure 😔 In the span of just more than 24 hours, I went from the excited expectation of being in Busch Stadium to watch the hometown St. Louis Cardinals eliminate the Philadelphia Phillies and advance to the next round of the playoffs to watching those Phillies…

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Playoff Baseball — Oct. 6, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Baseball Gear-Grinders ⚾Sunrise Woes 🌄Heavy Pumpkins 🎃 There are a few baseball-related indignities in my home that, as the saying goes, grind my gears. The first is that there is a state championship trophy on the mantel above the fireplace in our Humble Country Home with a gold-plated baseball player, bat…

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There Will Be Blood — Oct. 5, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Wound Treatment 🧂Phillies Bring Doom ⚾Meetings Suck 👎🏽 Apparently, I’ll take medical advice from waitresses and allow myself to receive medical treatment from busboys. This, I learned last night. I have a tendency to get hurt in really interesting ways. When I tell you that I once got a concussion…

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Top 5 Things From The Past Week: 9/26-10/2

Welcome to Issue No. 8 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to johnagliata@gmail.com. No. 5: I held an epic car concert If you were anywhere in the vicinity of my…

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Place Your Bets — Oct. 3, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Football Picking God 🏈Fish Story 🐟Free Floating ☁️ A few months before Boy The Elder was born, I had about $100 set aside to buy Wifey Poo a gift that I intended to give her after she ushered our child into the world. It was the least I could do for,…

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Sliced Bread — Sept. 30, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩New Route Home 🏎️Confirmed Weirdness 🤪Here’s Your Sign 🤦 I took a new route home from the western part of Missourah yesterday after doing the whole open-house thing for work in St. Joseph. Rather than shoot down to I-70 and traverse the state on that familiar road, I went across Hwy.…

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Rental Tank — Sept. 29, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Woo-Woo vs. The Beast 🛻Dart Throwers 🎯My Job 📋 I am not used to driving a tank. My normal vehicle is Woo-Woo, AKA The Shitty Little Car, AKA a Nissan Versa. It’s practical. It gets great gas mileage. I hate it. Woo-Woo normally accelerates as quickly as a child asked to…

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LinkedIn — Sept. 26, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Unwitting Guinea Pigs 🐹False Bragging 🦹‍♂️Put Me In, Coach 🚀 My regular readers (hey, you three!) know that I have a hatred for social media’s influence on society with an intensity rivaled only by the heat of a thousand suns. The latest bit of “Are you fucking kidding me?” comes from…

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Top 5 Things From The Past Week: 9/9-9/25

Welcome to Issue No. 7 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to johnagliata@gmail.com. No. 5: I reached out to a friend I have not been shy about sharing that I’ve…

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iPhone Envy — Sept. 25, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩More Stupid Human Stuff 📱KC Trip ⚾Miserable Missourah 😠 Quick: Take a look around you. If you’re in a room with five other people, one of them thinks you’re financially struggling if you don’t have the latest iPhone. That’s according to a new survey following the release of the iPhone 14.…

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Human Babies — Sept. 23, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Loser Species 👶Email Win 📧Dad Pride 👨‍👦‍👦 I’m pretty sure I’m not normal. Normal people respond to that statement with, “Oh, John, nobody’s normal,” which is just a sign for us non-normies that the person we’re talking to is normal. Yesterday, I was waiting for Wifey Poo to pick me up…

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In It — Sept. 22, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Concert Thoughts 🧠Marriage 💍Drunk Idiots 🧉 There’s this scene in the 2004 movie Garden State in which Sam (Natalie Portman) looks at Andrew (Zach Braff) and notices … … And yeah, that resonated with me then and resonates with me now. Ever since then, being “in it” has become a thing…

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Remembering Sarah — Sept. 21, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sadness 😥Beautiful Skies ⛅Two Terms For 2022 ✌️ Back in our early days at Pound Ridge Elementary School, Sarah was the fastest girl runner in the class, which bought her some serious playground cred. There were only a few of us boys who could hang with Sarah in the 50-meter dash…

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Small Ear Canal — Sept. 19, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ear Flushing👂Grunge God🎶Tech Guy📺 If you have to have a doctor tell you a body part or yours is small, I suppose one of the least offensive would be the ear canal. That’s what a doctor told me this morning, after I finally broke down and actually went to said doctor’s…

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Nominee Day! — Sept. 16, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Toys in the Hall🪅Idiot Governors🗳️Flopping FedEx✈️ Last night in my hotel in Springfield, Missourah, I set out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies before going to bed. It’s not that I don’t know how to read a calendar or have any particular belief in a fat man in…

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Springfields Aplenty — Sept. 15, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Which One?🗺️Leave Introverts Alone🤫Oxford Commas🤪 I’m on the road for work this week, in Springfield. Ahhh, but Springfield what? There currently are 35 populated places in the United States named Springfield, spread out over 25 states, including five in Wisconsin. In addition, there are 35 Springfield Townships, and Ohio owns 11…

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F’n COVID — Sept. 13, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Surrounded 😷Wood Splitter 🌲Morons 🤪 I’ve had COVID. Twice. The first time fucked up my life for a year. I’m still not back to the me I was before it came into my home, and I’m pretty sure that now, nearly two years later, that’s not going to change. The second…

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Change of Plans — Sept. 12, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sunday audible🤒Fantasy Failure 🏈Anal Chess♟️ Sunday was supposed to be a romantic day spent in a canoe with Wifey Poo, the two of us paddling leisurely down the Meramec River. Mother Nature was not in the mood to play wingman and decided to pick the one day in the midst of…

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Why Run? — Sept. 11, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Finish Line Scene 🏃‍♂️Baseball’s Better ⚾M-I-Z! Z-O-UC-H! 🏈 I have never understood the modern-day purpose of running for the sake of running. Sure, I understand it’s a great form of cardiovascular exercise and it’s a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B, yet the desire to strap on…

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Stephen King — Sept. 9, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Book Guy 📚Queen Stuff 👑Bernard Shaw 📺 I’ve decided I want to own a copy of every Stephen King book ever written. That’s about 75 books at the moment. I have a built-in bookcase in my mancave/home office. I don’t think it would hold all 75 in hardcover, but perhaps it…

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Once Upon a Time — Sept. 7, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beginnings 📚School Start 🚌Real Baseball ⚾ I was thinking this morning on my drive to work how we rarely know when the significant times in our lives begin. So frequently, the most important things that happen to us start with nothing noteworthy. Of course, there are exceptions, the “love-at-first-sight” moments or…

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Chainsaws & Ladders — Sept. 6, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fallin’ Thoughts 🤕Shinedown 🎸Sleepy 😴 The brain can be surprisingly efficient when the meatsack it’s attached to is in the middle of falling off a ladder while holding a revved-up chainsaw. This, I learned yesterday morning while attempting to saw a limb off a tree that was getting way too close…

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Inside a Good Day — Sept. 5, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Overview📅Fantasy Football🏈Elite Bonding🤼‍♂️ Days that start with chainsaws and lighter fluid and end with four hours of really good professional wrestling are bound to be added to the “good” column for review when the scales are weighed at the end of a life. Yesterday was such a day for me. In…

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Second Mothers — Sept. 3, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Funeral 😢Glimmers ☁️Meat 🥩 If you’re lucky, you’ve had a second mother. Whether your first mother was or is an amazing person who nurtured you and raised you among calm consistency or if she was lacking in certain maternal fundamentals, having a second mother is a blessing. Today, we were there…

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Muricah the Crumbling — Sept. 2, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩We’re Dumber 👎OnlyFans Thrives 🍑Shinedown 🎵 Official statistics put the COVID death toll in the United States at 1.04 million, with another 713 deaths yesterday. More than 4,000 people are in the ICU right now suffering from what the former Moron-in-Chief called that one person coming from China and a situation…

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Bratwurst Flap — August 31, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dethroned Queen 👑Gravy Wrestling 🤼‍♂️Dog Talk 🐕 Don’t fuck with the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival board. That’s a message Abigail Brocwell is learning the hard way. Brocwell was expected to be inaugurated as the queen of the festival in the northern Ohio town earlier this month, but she was stripped of the…

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Baseball Serendipity — August 30, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩3, Unassisted ⚾A Sad Day 📅Tracking Your Vagina 🌸 The last time Boy The Younger was on a baseball field, the “coach” of his team removed him from a game in the middle of an inning because I had privately messaged him to not attempt to steal home with my kid…

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Failure to Launch — August 29, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hydrogen Issue 🚀Karting 🏎️Lake Life 😌 I was all excited to watch the launch of the moon-bound Artemis 1 rocket this morning, only to see the clock stopped at T-minus 40 minutes because of a “hydrogen issue.” Don’t know about you, but I’m thinking having an issue with hydrogen is a…

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Hypnotized — August 26, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Karen in Control ⌚Karting 🏎️What podcast? 🎧 In the winter of 1993, I went to a comedy club with a friend and, in the spur of the moment, decided to be one of those who came forward to join the fun and be hypnotized. This was decidedly out of character for…

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Outrage? — August 25, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Little League Flap ⚾Grandpa Joe 🤦Psychedelics 🍄 Boys are interesting creatures who aren’t easily understood. One of the many, many weird things boys do is mercilessly make fun of their best friends. My closest friends in middle school and early in high school were affectionately nicknamed Goon, Tree Frog, Butt and…

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Life Expectancy — August 24, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…

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Mysterious Brain — August 23, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…

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Homeschoolin’ — August 22, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!”An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the wake…

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Mexican Pato O’Ward — August 21, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…

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Pig Problem — August 19, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…

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Three-Screen Guy — August 17, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…

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Orange Coffee — August 16, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…

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Cemetery Wandering — August 14, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…

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Bye-Bye, BTE — August 13, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨‍👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…

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