Childhood Books

Amazon threw a recommendation at me the other day: The Little House. It got me thinking about other books from my childhood. I bought most of them when my kids came along and read them many times all over again. Some of them are still on the shelves down in the basement.

In no particular order:

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)
    • There is something about the underdog. As a kid, I didn’t really understand the idea of technology replacements and such. But I knew that it was a sad thing that was happening. Getting one final victory was very satisfying. As an adult, the ending is a tiny bit bothersome (a mobile anthropomorphic machine stuck in a basement?) but as a kid I thought it was a cool and clever ending. Still do.
  • The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
    • I grew up in Wisconsin (US upper midwest) with serious winters. I did all the things in the story and liked reading about it. I remember the line “and he thought and thought and thought about them” — that stuck with me. The snowball in the pocket was exactly the kind of thing I did as a kid.
  • Katy and the Big Snow (Virginia Lee Burton)
    • The map of Geoppolis was cool to look at and think about. Reading how Katie came in and saved everyone. She worked her way through town and the story explains each stop.
  • Caps For Sale (Esphyr Slobodkina)
    • A man with a stack of caps on his head. The color pattern of the caps was repeated and I remember saying the colors over and over again. But the monkeys made the book. “Tsz! Tsz! Tsz!” said the monkeys. Clever ending too.
  • The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper & Loren Long)
    • Classic.
  • Go Dog Go (P.D. Eastman)
    • This one was fun. Lot of things going on. You have the Dog Races. You have the Dogs in the trees. And you have the hats. “Do you like my hat?” “I do! I do like your hat!”

Beer Can Collecting

This is a picture from the little history display at the Debuque Star Brewery. It brought back memories.

I was a beer can collector in my early teens. It was fun and since I had no clue what beer was like, was the closest I could get. My friends and I would check out the trash cans down by Menomonie Park on Saturday or explore trash dumps on the sides of roads.

Astounding that I never got tetanus.

My parents tolerated it as long as I cleaned them out so my room wouldn’t smell like beer. I came home once with some acid to clean the rust of the cans…that didn’t go over well.

I recognized a few of these but not very many. At the beginning, I would look for any little change in the printing and consider it a new can. That quickly spiraled out of control.

My collection had cone tops, Billy Beer, Chief Oshkosh, and the rare (at least in eastern Wisconsin) Schell’s cans with the wildlife on them.

Don’t remember what happened to the collection. I presume that my parents disappeared the collection at some point when I wasn’t interested in it. That would have been smart of them. I don’t think I sold them, that would have been smart of me.

What is yet to pass…

Nothing like a graphical representation of every day of your life to put things in perspective…

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.

Tim Urban, Dec 11, 2015. The Tail End [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Sometimes a little math can illuminate life, or what is left in life, in “oh wow” ways. 

Home-made Marshmallows

My sister makes marshmallows for Christmas. Toasted coconut for me. Other lesser flavors for other people. I eat them slowly throughout the year.

Leave a bag of store bought marshmallows on your shelf unopened for a month and you can pound nails with them. Leave my sister’s marshmallows in the cellophane bag tied with a ribbon that she gave me, and they will stay soft all year long… well at least until I eat the last one around October.

Built To Last (or How My Dad built something electronic that has lasted for 300,000 hours and still is running)

My dad (John Bredesen Sr.) had a career where he, among other things, built radio and television stations. The technical stuff. Transmitters and studios and really tall antenna. Took me about 3/4 of the way up one of his towers…1200 ft…gave me some serious willies. And he climbed them. Voluntarily. With safety harness, but still. On purpose. Not a gene that he passed on to me. Continue reading “Built To Last (or How My Dad built something electronic that has lasted for 300,000 hours and still is running)”