Birthday go thud

One of those days…I was trapped at home most of the morning. We’re in that transitional stage where the snow and ice melt during the day, but then freezes solid overnight, almost instantaneously, so it was kind of pretty — sidewalks covered with rippled ice, for instance — but just too dangerous to walk on. So I stayed home and pounded together some cheap furniture I’d ordered to fill in a gap in our bedroom. That’s right, I spent my birthday doing manual labor.

Then the thrill was supposed to come at dinner: we have a brand new restaurant in Morris! Just in time for my birthday! So we went out to China Panda.

It was terrible. Slow service, and they committed that awful sin of serving my wife 10 minutes after they served me. And my food was cold to lukewarm (not because I waited, either). Very disappointing. I give up.

So while I was waiting and waiting and waiting in the restaurant, I did accomplish something: Tuchman’s The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I was available for only $4 for my kindle, so I downloaded that, and read the first couple of chapters before my meal arrived. I’m going to sit down and read some damn fine writing before bed, which should help.


  1. dianne says

    Would it make you feel any better to know that my partner is celebrating his birthday (also today) by having a cold?

  2. savant says

    I’ve read that. Excellent book – very moving, in its way. I hope that it cheers up your birthday!

  3. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    You are better off reading history books about WWI and WWII written in the last two decades for this reason, since the fall of the USSR and it’s satellite governments, historians have had access to millions of documents that were unavailable to them before.

    If you are looking for details about the beginning of the conflict in the western front front, fine. But the western front was but only one small part of the conflict.

    Also, I do place more of the blame of the Great War upon Austria-Hungary and Russia then Germany. But the Austrian and Russian documents were hidden away for decades. And Germany was extremely aggressive.

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    It could be worse.

    You could have spent your birthday in the county health clinic because of an STD.

    Y’know, because Marty Feldman is the ultimate cheerer-up.

  5. scottbelyea says

    Tuchman is good stuff. Also try the acclaimed Margaret MacMillan “The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914” and “Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.” Both on Kindle, I notice.

  6. says

    My family of four had exciting birthdays in 2014:

    For my wife’s birthday, we got her car inspected.
    For my son’s birthday, we spent 12 hours driving back home from a trip to visit in-laws in Tennessee.
    For my daughter’s birthday, she got a flu shot and then a couple cavities filled.
    For my birthday, I got a haircut and then renewed my driver’s license.

    There was cake for my kids’ birthdays, though.

  7. Al Dente says

    If you like The Guns of August may I suggest Tuchman’s The Proud Tower? She deftly jumps from the world of English aristocrats to the subversive movements of anarchists and socialists; from a who’s who of the world’s military and political elite at the Hague Conferences to the influence of musical composers; from the intrigue of the Dreyfus Affair to intricate battles over British parliamentary reform. Tuchman may not have been a PhD historian but she had one advantage over most academic historians, she could write.

  8. chuckonpiggott says

    Let me recommend Tuchmans “A Distant Mirror” as well. Big book, covers a lot of material but really interesting. But then any of her books are worth the time with the possible exception of “The March of Folly”

  9. chigau (違う) says

    Why are you reading instead of having a conversation with your wife?
    tsk tsk

  10. robro says

    There seems to be a China Panda everywhere, although I assume they aren’t associated with one another. I think the one here in SF is also not so good.

    In any case, happy birthday, PZ, may you enjoy your reading.

  11. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Seconding chigau @ #10.
    Don’t they teach basic manners out your way, PZ?

  12. chigau (違う) says

    Y’all understand that when you have your birthday cake, you are marking the END of that year?
    Your 20th birthday party marks your entry into your third decade.

  13. writzer says

    The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. Best book on WWI out there, in my opinion.

  14. Nick Gotts says


    I sympathise. In the 2 months between my wife going out to Turin and me joining her here, I managed to put on 4 kilos – as I discovered at a medical check-up just before leaving. So in the nearly 4 months I’ve been here, I’ve had exactly 2 ice-creams. In Italy!!?! Oh well, 2 kilos down, 2 to go…

    The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. Best book on WWI out there, in my opinion.


    Agreed – or the best I’ve read, anyway. It changed my view of the balance of responsibility for its outbreak considerably. Although none of the protagonists comes out of it particularly well, the Allies are much more responsible than the majority opinion of earlier historians would have you believe. Serbia, Russia and France all had foreign policy goals that could only be accomplished in the context of a general European war. Germany and Austria did not; although since the balance of forces was tipping against them, they had a motive to prefer it sooner if it was going to happen anyway.

  15. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Dear PZ, the rule is to let new restaurants have a month to shake down their procedures & staff until everything is working smoothly. Then give them a try. If they’ve been open less than a month, you might want to try them again.

  16. jeffj says

    Ditto Markita @#20. We’ve had several *very bad* experiences at brand new restaurants. At one place we didn’t get served at all – after waiting for nearly two hours we had to leave. At least the staff were nice enough to comp our drinks. They managed to stay open and now, years later, it is one of my very favourites.

    Avoiding new places until they work out the kinks is tempting advice, but then again if everyone did so there would never be new restaurants.

  17. Sastra says

    PZ Myers #1 wrote:



  18. says


    No, I won’t.

    Yes, I will give this restaurant another chance in a month or three or six. It made a very bad impression, though.

    As for reading during dinner…I do that all the time. And my wife brought her iPad, too, and we both happily read side-by-side. We’re a pair of boring academics, what do you think we do for fun on a date?

  19. shadow says

    The first date with spouse started ‘well’ — xe was sideswiped — where the other vehicle took off.

    We went to Cutters at Pike Place Market, then spent the rest of the afternoon talking with police and filling out accident forms.

  20. Menyambal says

    I had a date with a woman that turned into me putting together her instant furniture. It happened to be part of my day job, and I had the good toolkit – I knew she could put it together, of course. She was impressed most by my lack of swearing.

    She still impresses me, every day.

  21. George Charles says

    So, read a book rather than talk to your wife? Is not that the classic newspaper scenario….

  22. lorn says

    A belated birthday gift, It might make a good theme song if played really loud as you make your entrance wearing a dark hooded robe: