Parlor Tricks

Header photo by Carfax2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from Madislandgirl

There has been much talk here lately about practical skills and gardening prowess.

I’d like to pause a bit from all that Midwestern utilitarianism and make note that I have recently achieved a goal I have been working on for years.

Yes indeed my friends, I can now tell you in order the entire line-up of the English/British monarchy from William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on how you feel about him) to the current reigning monarch. In fact, I will go so far as to claim I can also tell you pretty much what their relationship to the previous monarch was.

I’m no good at rote memorization, in fact, I balk at it. But give me enough time to read enough historical fiction and biographies, and I have this line-up well in hand.

The recent airing of Keepers by Request reminded me of two other projects of equal utility I have been working on for some time now.

A) I can do a fairly creditable rendition of the chorus of All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee, at speed, at least in the car by myself, but I’m almost ready to go public with that one.

2) I’m still working on counting the 18 Wheels on a Big Rig in Roman Numerals. Hopefully I have that mastered before my child graduates from high school (so I’d best get cracking- I hang up around I-X, X, X-I, so I figure I am halfway there).   You can see how it’s really done here:

Do you have an utterly pointless skill you are working on for the sheer joy of it?

118 thoughts on “Parlor Tricks”

      1. And as many of you know, I started the President’s project because I’m several monarchs into the English monarchy project (these I am doing in order, although I am not memorizing them!).

        And then there’s the Re-reading Sherlock Holmes list, the Caldecott list, the Newbury list. Sigh.


        1. See below. I did not set out to memorize them, but if you get into the story line, it just happens. You and wessew will be able to do the presidents by the time you are done.

          I have that in the works. E xpect the s&h will have it after his year of US history.


  1. Nice MiG! Like Wessew I’m not sure any of my stuff counts as an actual “skill”. I try a lot of things, but don’t always keep at it until it’s really useful,

    Four years ago I decided to learn to knit so I could do something useful during all the hours I spent sitting on bleachers waiting for Teenager’s gymnastics routines. My church has a group that knits for the homeless and I wanted to be part of that. Four gymnastics meets and 2 church services later I realized that if I’m sitting, I don’t want to be knitting. So I donated my needles and yarn to the group and now I make knitting-related greeting cards and “hand-knit by” tags for them instead.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I take pride in my ability to identify pieces of classical music by name and composer, or, failing that, the era in which the pieces were written and nationality of composer. It is sort of a perverse pleasure to know after only a few measures that I am listening to the Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper by Jaromir Weinberger.

    Husband can identify makes and years of cars by the shape of the tail fins.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I wish I had this talent to your extent. I can identify quite a few classical pieces either by name or composer (sometimes both). Too often I can only say that I recognize the piece. I am, however, familiar with Schwanda the Bagpiper!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. My current parlor game is a free app called “WordBrain.” It’s a word scramble game that has become a bit obsessive because once a puzzle is solved the new one pops right up. I’m at the 6×6 square of letters. When I finish this one, the next series is 7X7 squares and then the end. Then you can create your own scramble. But maybe I will be able to move on after the 7×7 group is finished. I can only hope.

    Have considered reading all Nobel Prize winners of literature, Random House’s list of 100 best (would have to begin at the bottom so Ulysses is last and I won’t be alive by then….). Birdwatching and a long Life List has been a game in the past. Now I just feed, watch and enjoy them.

    Listening to Keepers by Request again this morning. May become a daily replacement for the lost Morning Show. What a gift VS, Mike and Dale have given us and the rest of the fans.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I have read Ulysses, which is a sort of parlor trick, except I had a grad seminar on it. Wrote my best paper on it. I will tell you how to shorten the list: Nobel list: read only the comedies by Nobelists.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Why yes, I do have an utterly pointless skill you are working on for the sheer joy of it, now that you mention it. I try out every new diet fad in the land – I love reading cookbooks. The latest if eliminating a lot of the grains (not just gluten, doncha know) from what I eat. I have shed a few #s, I’ll let you know if it works in the long run.

    OT: Off to the Fair one last time today, one last time. Tapestry’s doing a folk dance demo at Education Bldg, 4:30.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Barbara, I finally read and am doing Dr. Sara Gottfried book, The Hormone Reset Diet. While it is geared toward women over 40, it would work for everyone. Eliminating grain from diet is one big step, but she goes beyond that. One week in, 3 lbs down and feeling good. Woot, woot!


      1. I can do better than 3 lbs. in one week…last Friday (see my comment that day about lying on a bed in a room close to the bathroom), I lost 3 lbs. in a day and a half.

        Also, one day last week, Monday, I think, I walked home (2.3 miles with a backpack on my back) on one of those disgustingly 70+ dewpoint days and was 2 lbs. lighter when I got home than when I left home that morning. I suppose the fact that I my shirt was totally soaked with sweat had something to do with that.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Why yes, I do have an utterly pointless skill – though I admit I haven’t done it in years, and had to try it to make sure I could still do it – wiggle my ears. I used to be able to wiggle both of them – independently of each other – now, it appears, I can only wiggle the right one.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. How often do you check with a person you’ve just met whether or not they can wriggle their ears? It just never occurred to me to check. For all I know, most people can do it. One thing I’m sure of, though, it has nothing to do with ability to hear. I have a 90% hearing loss in my right ear. Wonder if that would improve if I wiggled it more? (I now envision baboons, near and far away, trying to wiggle their ears.)


  6. I have figured out how many pool noodles I need to tuck under my arms in order to get the perfect “lift” for floating in our little backyard pool (three). With the noodles in place, I can allow myself to be pushed by the slow, circular current of the filter. Pool is coming down for the year today, alas. Though handily, it leaves a big dead spot in the grass that in a few months will become our backyard skating rink. On the rink my only skill is skating backwards in a small circle and not falling on my backside.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I have no parlor tricks, probably because I’m too shy to ever perform one. My first thought is that it seems a sad commentary on a person that he or she would work so hard to master a useless skill. But after reflection, I think it is a sadder thing when a person (like myself) doesn’t even have a “useless” parlor trick. I should probably develop a trick. Maybe, like Al Franken, I could learn to draw a map of all the US states while maintaining a witty line of banter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve, I can’t say I will ever perform any of my tricks, and in the case of the Royals, it just sort of happened. I’ve read about the Tudors for years and enjoy reading about Victoria too. From Victoria to the present is easy if you like 19th century and early 20th century fashion (and yes, I can look at a frock from 1750 to 1950 and date it pretty accurately, but that’s professional experience). Getting from the George’s to Victoria then grabbed my interest.

      The Cadfael series got me from The Conquerer to Lion in Winter (and the start of the Plantagenets).

      The I checked out The First Churchills, which sorted out the Stewarts and that connected up the Tudors to the Hanovers.

      That left me with the bloody Plantagenets. I got a good bit of them untangled when The Hollow Crown aired.

      So you see, I didn’t actually work at it at all.

      I just mostly filled in blanks as they interested me.

      The 18 Wheels on a Big Rig is car work.

      The cd player in there no longer works, so I am deprived of recorded books, and have to fall back on my own resources.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. While I have no parlor tricks I do, like you, have areas of obscure knowledge. If you and I were ever to meet in person again (which won’t happen) you could chatter to me for hours about the bloody Plantagenets and I could bore you with endless stories about the violent ends of outlaws in the Old West. I have an abundance of useless knowledge. I just haven’t worked it up as performance.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. The nihilist in me says–life
    The realists in me says–I ignore the pointless
    The utilitarian in me says–I must fix my broken awl.
    The idealist in me says–nothing is pointless
    The pragmatist in me says–there are things for which I have yet to find the point
    The existentialists in me says–reading the Trail Baboon.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. There was a time in America where memorizing the list of monarchs was pretty much required in schools, but not the presidents. Mark Twain invented a game for memorizing the monarchs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heck of a lot easier than doing the same for Iowa.

      I do kind of love that the UMN stadium has the county names going around it. If only I didn’t always drive past the same part….


  10. What a fun question MIG–

    I can turn a tooth pick around in my mouth.
    In my job, knowing a 2×4 from a 1×6 could be considered a parlor game. Not many of the students coming through the shop know the difference.

    Years ago when we still had a set of encyclopedia in the house, I read through the entire Groliers set, A-Z. I wouldn’t exactly say I ‘read’ them… but I went through every page of each volume.

    I am pretty sure I saw ‘Trout Fishing in America’ at the kids school once. Details are obscure and fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure we did.
    I too have worked on the roman numerals version of that.

    It used to be telling the milk cows apart was a neat trick for visitors. I can’t — or maybe ‘I DONT’ — bother to tell the chickens apart…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good question tim. First thought is Holsteins as they give the most milk. But they’re also the biggest and probably eat the most.
        So maybe the question has to be more about what milk cow is most adaptable to the area.
        Why does she specifically say ‘North American milk cows’? If it’s just the black and white color, maybe go with Belted Galloway. (The oreo Cookie cow). But again, beef…

        Are there other milk cows there? If so, there’s a reason that particular breed is used…
        Could be gurnsey or shorthorn or brown swiss… But Cynthia is right; Herfords are beef cattle and wouldn’t give as much milk per the grass consumed I would think.

        Jim; you’ve traveled in an ‘Ag Ambassador’ capacity. Any comments?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t think of any useless skills that I possess.

    However, I was struck by MIG’s use of the word “prowess” and recalled that the word was used several times on PHC this weekend. The odd thing, I thought, was that GK acted as if it were an unusual word and almost new to him and pronounced it prowESS instead of PROWess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alice’s Restaurant. There’s another recording kids today are sorely lacking. I play it in the shop some days and make a few of them sit and listen to it. I tell them ‘Go ask your parents’. They stare at me.

      And then there’s a few special ones: The ones that I know will ‘get it’ and to them I give a copy of Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’.

      (Not that Alice’s Restaurant and The Little Prince have anything to do with each other.)

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.
        – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

        …the Sargent came over, had some paper in his hand, held it up and said, “Kid, this-piece-of-paper’s-got-47-words-37-sentences-58-words-we-wanna-know-details-of-the-crime-time-of-the-crime-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say-pertaining-to-and-about-the-crime-I-want-to-know-arresting-officer’s-name-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say”, and talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there, and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:

        “Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?”

        I went over to the Sargent, said, “Sargent, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I’m sittin’ here on the bench, I mean I’m sittin’ here on the Group W bench, ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.”

        – Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant

        I rest my case.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. i offered the little prince to youngest daughter who id hard to please then got acfrench version for the artist who studies french
        it was a hit
        only other book i can think of they have recently shared is wonder
        if you javnt read it, do
        was that a bbc introduced book
        i love it
        i have the wonder daily calendar of inspirational sayings to start the day and love that too

        Liked by 1 person

      3. i offered the little prince to youngest daughter who id hard to please then got acfrench version for the artist who studies french
        it was a hit
        only other book i can think of they have recently shared is wonder
        if you havnt read it, do
        was that a bbc introduced book
        i love it
        i have the wonder daily calendar of inspirational sayings to start the day and love that too


        1. great one
          i spent a year trying to play the damn guitar part and recite the story and end up at the right place in the story when the chords came around again
          it killed me


    1. I have a niece that can fit through a wire coat hanger.
      And from there, she and her husband have made a game of what tiny things she can fit into.
      Shopping bags, kids toys, dryers…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Walking Through a Wall by Louis Jenkins.

        Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, ‘Say, I want to try that.’ Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren’t so good. They won’t hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren’t pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it’s the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don’t know, but I’ve torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it’s a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Click on the little pencil icon in the upper right corner of the Trail. Cut & paste your story into the big box. Give it a title in the title box. In the bottom right-hand corner there is a “submit for review” (I think that’s what it says) button. Select that and you’re done.


        1. I don’t have a pencil icon, either, but if I go to the word press icon on the left I can navigate to a place where I could cut and paste a guest post. Would that get it to Dale?


        2. If you don’t have a pencil icon, but have a word press icon on the top left, hover over it and you will see a menu, the last one is Blog Posts. Click on the Add button to the right of that and you will get to the correct place.

          And tim probably won’t cut and paste; he can just type up the whole thing right there. (The rest of us mortals usually like to write something, tweak it a bit, then put it into word press.)

          You still have to email photos to Dale to go with your post.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. I’m probably the last person to figure this out (which I finally did several months ago), but if you have that quote balloon on the top right of your screen that Steve mentioned, if you click on that, you can see a list of people who have liked or replied to your comments. It’s a nice way to keep conversations going. I thought I’d throw that out there in case there’s anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet.


        4. Thanks, ljb, but I think I still have a problem. When I get to the page you describe there is a red message that says something like “Oops! There has been an error. This person isn’t authorized to post a message.”


        5. Just to add my $.02, I have the ‘W’ icon and when I click on it, it asks me if I want to create my own site. I do get a pencil on the next page, but it still wants me to create my own site.

          I’m not too worried about it; I haven’t written as many as some of you.


      1. This is in answer to Steve’s question about the not authorized message (I’m getting a little confused with the conversation threads today). As others have said, you can ignore that threatening message. I click on the X in the upper right corner to close the message and just carry on.


  12. OK – new question at the end of another blog. Have we ever done that before? First time for everything.

    I had a killer weekend. State Fair on Saturday – this time by myself. Got through all the animals barns, education buildings, butter heads, pet center, agriculture building, parade, cheese curds. Hot but wonderful.

    Sunday was get the house picked up day… laundry, dishes. Made some tomato sauce w/ my tomato horde, black bean and grape tomato salad, cheese soup (way too hot to be in the kitchen w/ the stove on that long!) Also plowing big time through a scholarly tome that was due today.

    Monday was Renaissance Festival. Young Adult was again a little of a drag, but not enough to keep me down. Henna, fire juggling, knife throwing, more juggling, Puke `n Snot, dog petting, soup in a bread bowl. Long shower when I got home…… aaahhhh.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. We drove to Fargo on Friday to see daughter. Son and DIL came up from Brookings, so we were all able to get together. We went to a Bosnian grocery store to see if they had phyllo dough that was in larger sheets than the ones I get in the store. Athens phyllo dough company made their phyllo sheets smaller a number of years ago and I sometimes need larger sheets. The store indeed did have larger phyllo sheets. We also picked up a new lamp we had ordered, some Turkish olive oil, and Ukrainian canned plums. We came home on Sunday, and spent Monday canning tomatoes and making and freezing tomato sauce.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. We cleaned out the shed (!) which might be worthy of a blog post… and Monday was the State Fair one last time…
    Sunday night had Husband’s sister and b-I-l over for dinner and Keepers by Request, since they are great fans. Tried out a new recipe – here’s a refreshing way to use up ripe tomatoes –
    “Tomato Lemonade”:
    Blend up 2# fresh juicy tomatoes with 1/2 C. fresh lemon (and/or lime) juice.
    Do a simple syrup in small saucepan: 1/4 C. sugar dissolved in 1/4 C. simmering water till dissolved.
    Add syrup and 3 C. ice water to juices.
    If desired, garnish with lemon wedges & fresh herbs.

    Found on

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Saturday Kelly did the skydive thing… that night I worked at a theater.
    Sunday I picked up platforms from a church and Kelly cleaned. Then I had a rehearsal late afternoon.
    Had a good rain / T-storm.
    Monday I cut grass, Kelly caulked the bathtub… and I went to the theater. Again.


  16. Sorry to leave you postless baboons, just catching up after a full day with KFAI at the State Fair yesterday, then in to work early this morning and headed back to the office for a meeting this evening. Sounds like a WordPress posting how-to step-by-step is needed.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. It sounds like what you see varies with the browser you use and also, perhaps, whether you have “created a site” for yourself. WordPress keeps prompting me to create a site without giving me any reason why I should want to do so or explaining what creating a site would entail. On my iPad, I don’t see any of the icons described and on my iMac, I don’t see a WordPress logo or a pencil in the upper bar. Nothing offered to me leads me to information about the internal status of the blog.
          ( I also keep getting prompted to “follow” Trail Baboon. What does that mean and why would I want to do that? How is that different from reading the blog when I feel like it?)


        2. I follow TB and I get an email for each day’s post. Then, if I comment, I click the “Notify me of new comments via email” and then I get an email so I know if people have added any new comments during the day. I don’t know how people do it otherwise. Read through the whole thing several times a day looking for new stuff?

          Liked by 1 person

        3. For a while I got the comments via email. but there are days it drowns my email box. You people talk so much! Haha–

          So, yes, I just scroll through the whole thing throughout the day. It’s pretty easy to catch new posts.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. My weekend was not very eventful. Laid low on Saturday and Sunday due to the heat. Got some reading done. I had the new Harper Lee and the Pioneer Girl project checked out from the library. Didn’t finish the Harper Lee, though, and couldn’t renew it due to the long wait list.

    Yesterday I worked in the yard. So much to do, and so much of it that should have been done a month or two ago.

    Meant to get online and post earlier today especially to wish mig a happy birthday. Hope it was a good one, mig!


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