A book from my childhood

Source: Amazon.com
Source: Amazon.com

This was one of my favorite books as a kid. I got it from my godmother when I was seven or eight. She had brought a copy home with her when she returned from a trip to Europe, and we used to read it together. She thought I might like a copy of my own. I lost track of the book after I left home, but Mom kept it for me and gave it back to me not long before she died.

These were children’s stories written by Herr Wilhelm Busch in the late 1800’s. They were written in German, and the book I have (an earlier edition of the one currently available) has the text written in German and translated into pretty amazing English poetry by “H. Arthur Klein and others.”

These are not pleasant stories. Max and Moritz are two delinquent little boys that wreak havoc wherever they go. They kill a woman’s chickens, then abscond with the meat, put gunpowder in the church organist’s pipe, goad the town’s tailor into crossing a bridge which they have sawed through, and end up being ground up by the local miller and fed to the ducks. Ker and Plunk, or “Plisch und Plum” if you prefer, are two dogs that are saved from drowning by Peter and Paul. The dogs (and boys) are about as bad as Max and Moritz, but without the malicious intent, and finally all are taught a lesson with a hazel-root stick, after which they become model citizens.

There are shorter stories as well. A boy goes skating on a very cold day, falls through the ice, and freezes. His father finds him and brings him home, and when they try to thaw him, he melts away. Two boys tease an old man who lives in a barrel, and eventually get flattened by said barrel. A boy tries smoking his father’s pipe, and the room starts dancing around him until his mother finds him and puts him to bed with strong coffee. A boy teases an old man with a blowgun, and the old man shoves the gun down the kid’s throat.

Gee, really pleasant stuff, huh? As awful as it sounds, it’s a wonderful book. Busch wrote the whole thing in verse and illustrated it himself, and both drawings and verse are clever. The translators took care to produce a text that’s faithful both to Busch’s words and to the poetry and stories. The Afterword of the book has details about the stories and explains some of the translations. And, my copy is over fifty years old, and while the cover is torn off, the pages are still intact.

If you know German, or are trying to learn it, you’ll like this book. If you write verse, you’ll like this book. If you have kids, they’ll like this book. If you just like stories like this, you’ll like the book. I can still remember the details and the pictures forty years later, even though I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and read it again until recently.

I rate this book five stars (or, if you prefer, Fünf Sterne).


#ROW80: Let’s see how well August goes…

Click to visit the challenge!
Click to visit the challenge!

Fresh from my triumph over the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I kept right on going with my blogging every day. I celebrated the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 and the return of Vin Scully to Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games, discussed my new direction in writing, admonished everyone to wear sunscreen, dispensed career advice, talked a little about summers in my kidhood, found a couple of articles you might like, and brought you two songs from Level 42. I now have a Level 42 station on Pandora, and added in some music from Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, and Huey Lewis and the News. I forgot that New Wave was still popular and I’m getting The Clash, The Fixx, The Cure, and Blondie as a bonus. Music from my young adulthood. I love it.

On the Evernote front, I’m actually learning more uses for Pocket. In addition to blog posts I get from Feedly, I’m also browsing StumbleUpon and using IFTTT to move the things I like into Pocket. Then, from Pocket, I’m using IFTTT to move the things I want to save permanently (research for blog posts and longer articles, writing and blogging advice, etc.) into Evernote. More to come on all of these fronts later.

How was your week?

Straight ahead!

Poor kids….

The schools in my neck of the woods start back on Monday. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right. They got out the Friday before Memorial Day, so they’ve been off a little over two months. We used to have almost three whole months away from school. They’re getting ripped off.

This is what summer vacation was like in the Sixties.

A lot of goofing around, climbing through garbage and being where we shouldn’t be. It was great. For me, it was a lot of wandering around here.

Rogers Park, Chicago, my old stomping grounds (source: Google Maps)
Rogers Park, Chicago, my old stomping grounds (source: Google Maps)

My general milieu was the area between Lake Michigan, Clark Street, Devon Avenue, and Pratt Avenue. (You can click on the map for a larger version.) Some days, I would set out on foot or on my bicycle and explore the frontiers beyond the neighborhood. On more than one occasion, I managed to ride my bike into Evanston (north of Howard Street).

Why did I do this? Because I was bored. That was the thing about summer: there was no school, no structured activity, nothing to do.

It was great.

What was your summer vacation like?

Random Things You’ll Like


I wanted to thank everyone who stopped by during the Ultimate Blog Challenge last month. I posted at least once a day, every day during the month of July, and have no plans to stop now. So, keep coming back for more. Please?

Stephanie Chandler has a post up at the Nonfiction Authors Association titled Why Writing Non-Fiction Could Be Your Calling. I talked about this on Monday, and she seems to have followed a similar path. It’s an excellent article, if you’ve either decided to write nonfiction or are trying to decide. Or not. In any case, it’s a good article.

Finally, Kristen Lamb (another one of those bloggers I read faithfully, and so should you) posted a piece to her blog called The War on Fun—How Modern Culture is KILLING Creativity. She recently started homeschooling her son because, as she puts it, he was “fired” from preschool for being more concerned with fighting zombies than with reading at a college level. She talks about summer vacation when she was growing up, and how the current obsession with getting kids into top colleges and universities is destroying what little creativity the kids are allowed to have. I’m recommending it because (a) Kristen is a fantastic writer and (b) it has inspired me to write my own memories of summer vacation. Kids in my county start school again this Monday, and it blows my mind.

How’s your day going?

The Thursday Ten: Career Advice from someone who screwed his up (#blogboost)


About ten years ago, the wheels came off my career. I had jobs after that, and while I did all right, it was never as good as it was before I left the job I held for almost twenty years (missed it by one month). What follows is a list of ten things that I would tell someone looking for a job. I wish I knew these things back when I first started working. Too soon old, too late smart.

  1. Network like crazy. Anyone you know is a potential source for career assistance. As much as I disagree with the decisions made by their management, Facebook is a good way to stay in touch with people you used to work with, went to school with, or knew from the old neighborhood. LinkedIn is another good site for staying in touch, and it’s specifically for professional networking. And don’t forget your family. You’d be amazed at how much help they can be. I was out of work in 1980 (along with a lot of people) and having trouble finding a job. One day, I get a call from my mother. She had been at a party where she ran into a recruiter, and he gave her his card. A couple of weeks later, I was back to work, thanks to the guy.
  2. Keep your resume up-to-date. In the last management class I took, the instructor advised us to always have a current copy of our resumes handy, and I never took his advice. I wrote my resume when I had to, when someone asked me for it, because it meant dragging out the typewriter, and I was a lousy typist. Thank heaven for computers. By the way, companies expect that you’ll tailor your resume to match the job description. I’d have a full resume with all your experience (more of a curriculum vitae, or CV) and use it as a starting point for the resumes you send out. That way, you don’t forget anything.
  3. Cultivate good relationships with recruiters. When I was getting established, I used to hate when recruiters (we called them headhunters) would call, because they’d keep you on the phone and try to browbeat you into making a job change when you didn’t want to. To put it bluntly, they were a pain in the ass. The truth is that companies hire them to pre-screen candidates. They hear about openings that don’t make Monster and CareerBuilder, and they’re valuable members of your network.
  4. Don’t be shy about quitting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that people born between 1957 and 1964 have held an average of eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. That averages to about 2.5 years per job (2.3636…., if you want to be exact). I’m sure the average has gone down since, so say 2 years. Companies expect you to leave after a couple of years. They might even be pushing you in that direction. Better to leave before they start thinking, “will So-and-So ever leave?”
  5. Don’t get too comfortable. I worked for a company that would have a good year and hire a bunch of people, then have a bad year and lay all of them off. If you get any sense that the company might be looking to downsize, it might be time to update your resume and start putting out feelers.
  6. Know what else you can do. Or, make sure you have a Plan B. And a Plan C, and as many plans as you can make. What’s going to happen when you can’t find work doing what you’ve always done? More importantly, what’s going to happen when you don’t want to do what you’ve always done? It’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next. You might even want to get a head start on your next career. A lady I worked with left her job when she sold the novel she was writing in her spare time.
  7. Keep track of your accomplishments. This goes deeper than knowing what they are so you can put them on a resume. Keep a journal of everything you do: every meeting, phone call, and email has some details that a prospective employer or client might be interested in. Details that you’ll forget if you don’t write them down. It’s good for another reason: You’ll be able to tell when your career is stalled.
  8. Save, save, save. You want to have at least six months’ worth of savings that isn’t tied up in an IRA or a 401(k) (or whatever you call them where you live) that you can put your hands on if you find yourself out of work. More than six months is even better.
  9. Don’t put too much faith in your employer. Benefit plans change, departments get reorganized, job descriptions change, people leave or get promoted (or “kicked upstairs”), and promises made one day can vanish into thin air the next. I had a friend who got a new job, and on her last day, she came back from her farewell lunch and had a message from the new company that they had eliminated her job (the one she had been hired for), and their offer was being rescinded. It happens. Be prepared.
  10. Manage your career, or your career will manage you. Things are always changing, and what’s true today won’t be true tomorrow. If you go with the flow, you could end up doing something you don’t want to do. You always have a choice, to decide whether to stay or to go. Trust your gut; if it’s telling you to go, listen and put the wheels in motion.

Finally, I’m confident that the day will come when everyone works and no one has a job. Daniel Pink calls it the “Free Agent Nation,” one in which employers become clients and employees become independent contractors. We’ll need a whole new set of skills when that happens. Times change, and we’ll have to change with them.

Now it’s your turn: Is there anything you’d add to the list? Is any of this advice way off base? I didn’t prioritize the list; what order would you list these in? Let me know in the comments!