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Firestarter— July 17, 2022

flare of fire on wood with black smokes

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Burn Pit🔥
Alaska Ass🍑
Nose Hair🐽


Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive.

Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard for two or three weeks and burn the hell out of them. It’s very much a Missourah thing to burn stuff in your backyard. You can be driving down a road in rural Missourah and see a huge cloud of black smoke billowing skyward from miles away, and your first thought is never, “Holy crap! I hope everyone is OK!” It is always, “Wow. He must be burnin’ somethin’ real good. I’m jealous.”

The plan was to do my Missourah God Given Right before the temperature reached the expected high of 99 degrees, and on this I was successful.

Barely.

I went outside at around 8:30 a.m. to commence the burning, only to remember that, oh yeah, the last time I attempted to light this pile on fire, I’d used an entire can — our only can — of lighter fluid and accomplished nothing other than royally pissing off a rabbit that had made a temporary home under the pile. I blamed the fact it had rained the day before, but as we’ll soon see together, that probably wasn’t it.

I momentarily eyed the can of lawn mower gas before actually hearing Wifey Poo’s voice telling me, “Really John? Really? We’re gonna do this. Really?”

Off to Wal-Mart I went. Here’s a thing about me: I could go into the same Wal-Mart 50,000 times over the course of two weeks and if Wifey Poo texted me to say, “Hey, could you pick up come Oreos,” still I would spend at least 15 minutes wandering the aisles like the Jews in the dessert, wondering why God was punishing me.

Lighter fluid is a far more obscure item than Oreos. Why, during the summer, the Evil Wal-Mart Overlords would hide it and the charcoal way the hell over in the garden center is beyond me, but it took me three laps of the freaking store, including one in which I walked right by it thinking “Why isn’t the lighter fluid with the charcoal?” before I found it.

Then I decided to get a car wash, and, because I have $55 in gift cards to Starbucks, I thought, “Why the hell not?” and swung by there too.

But we’re not done.

I know that when society collapses I’m screwed. I am not what you’d call a survivalist. Once things go south, I’ve got maybe two weeks to live.

I understand that starting a fire with lighter fluid (!!!!!) should be an easy task to accomplish, especially on a day with no wind and in which, thanks to my wanderings around Wal-Mart and associated other trips, the temperature had risen to just below the flashpoint for spontaneous human combustion.

“Should” applies to people not named me.

Three-quarters of can of lighter fluid later, I was already sweating through my shirt and beginning to realize I was going to have to go back to Wal-Mart for more lighter fluid. I’d get a small little fire going, and then it would peter out. Repeat attempts failed.

Call it divine intervention or a sudden flash of brilliance, but after walking a little too close to one of the ends of the branches stacked up on the pile and getting scraped yet again (my legs look like I fought with Little Person Edward Scissorhands), I realized that the stuff at the end of the branches — the very brown, very dead needles of the cedar tree — would probably make for good kindling.

So I unpiled all the branches, snapped off a bunch of the ends, stuck them at the bottom, and lit them on fire before quickly throwing more branches on top as the inferno grew. Pretty soon, I had this:

That’s when things got a little crazy.

Here’s the thing about fires: They’re hot.

Duh, right? I mean, we’ve all sat by a campfire or fireplace and felt that. What I wasn’t quite aware of, however, was that a fire with cedar branches burns hotter, and a fire with an entire crapton of cedar branches burns a lot hotter.

Soon, my shirt was soaked through. So I took it off. Calm down, ladies. Keep it together. And don’t be jealous that you can’t do that. You could. We live way the hell out in the country. You could go around buck naked and only manage to confuse the deer and the squirrels.

But word of warning … That’s when I learned another thing about fires: The ash that comes off of raging infernos like the one above? It, too, is hot, especially when it lands on your exposed chest hairs.

It’s now The Morning After, and that pile of branches has been reduces to a small lump outside the window out of which I’m now looking. Overnight and morning rains have thoroughly soaked it.

Ya know what else happened this morning? The realization that, ultimately, to get the fire actually lit and really roaring, I needed not one drop of lighter fluid.


“Sweat” was the theme of the day yesterday. After the Battle of the Burn Pile, I came in and realized I was about an hour and a half away from having to take Boy The Younger to his baseball tryouts, which made a shower seem more like a waste of water than a smart thing to do. So I mopped off, sprayed some Ax body spray (there’s never a can too far away when you have a teenage boy) and soon headed back into the swamp-ass heat that makes me question why in God’s name I live someplace in which you can lick the air.

To be fair, BTY had it worse, actually down on the field in the sun, while I sat in the shade in the stands, still, dripping sweat off my head and down my back and chest. Yes, a kid who was trying out barfed from the heat, in case you were wondering.

The thermometer on my car on the drive over hit 105.

When I got home, I finally showered, only to head back out into the heat again, this time with Wifey Poo for the Jewel concert (and oh yeah, Blues Travel and Train).

There, we sweat together, as all good couples do. Jewel was magnificent. She was sweating like a pig, too. The best line of the night? “This girl’s Alaska ass is melting. I don’t know how you people do this.”


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the human body’s eccentricities, many of which involve hair. For example, if I didn’t shave the hair that remains on my head, what would grow our is in that weird old-man horseshoe shape. Yet if I didn’t shave the hair that wants to grow out of my ears and trim those that try to extend from my nostrils, I likely would be able to wrap them around my head and look like Elvis in about a week and a half.

I’m only 47!

Then there’s the matter of a different nose hair. About five years ago, I went to scratch the tip of my nose and felt something there. Not a big thing. But a thing. Just a thing. Not a thing thing.

I forgot about it.

A few days later, it happened again.

So I went to look in the mirror. If I tilted my head just … so… I could see one lone hair, no more than a centimeter, extending from the tip of my nose.

What the hell?

No one wants a single hair growing from the tip of their nose. I’m quite sure that, whether we evolved from apes or were placed here as-is from a creator god, we never were meant to have a hair extending from the tip of our noses. Running through a catalog of all animals stored in my brain, I can think of no animal that has any hair on the tip of its nose … not a fur-covered nose and certainly not one singular hair.

So I plucked it out with a pair of tweezers Wifey Poo keeps in her drawer in the bathroom. And that was that.

Except it wasn’t.

About six months later, the hair came back. Why it took six months to come back is anyone’s guess. I imagine the answer can be found somewhere in the same section as the “Why does a singular hair grow out of a person’s nose?” answer.

So I plucked it again.

Several months later, it came back.

There’s no rhyme or reason I can discern for the hair’s arrival. It’s not like it pops up for my birthday or Christmas. It doesn’t appear only when I’m stressed or not stressed. There’s a day that it’s not there and then a day when I sense it and am like, “Hmm. How long have you been growing?” It’s always in the same place, it’s always just one hair.

This, my friends, is middle age.


In Other Writing

The Rise of Horny Marketing

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Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. Anxiously awaiting the next nose hair appearance.
  2. It’s actually supposed to be only in the 70s today!
  3. There are more branches on the cedar tree to trim before felling the actual tree. And then I get to burn the entire thing!

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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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