Good Stuff! Two movies, a book, and a shovel

We’re going to start with the shovel because it’s been dumping snow this year, and I know there are some folks out there who want a quicker way to clear the snow from their driveways and walks. And, boy, do I have something for them.

I think it’s safe to say that the Brown family clears more snow by hand than the average American family. We have a driveway and street that together are a little over a tenth of a mile long. Here’s a picture.

We clear that lovely stretch of road by hand with shovels. (Yes, we are crazy; more on that below.) Most of the time we have it cleared long before any city plow shows up. But we love our city plows because they can do the heavy work at the edges on the bottom two-thirds. And they do all the work on that bottom part when it gets really heavy and deep. We love our neighbors with tractors who’ve come to our rescue as well.

Still, we do most of the clearing.

We began our mad shoveling craze for one simple reason: we couldn’t get to our house when it snowed. And it was a pain in the neck to hike that tenth of a mile.

Part of the problem is that we live on a hill, and there are a couple of steep stretches. Another part of the problem was that we had not availed ourselves of this higher technology called snow tires. We thought all-weather tires would do just as fine.

Wrong. Big wrong. They don’t even come close.

With all-weathers, on a hill, you have to keep the road clear. As in to the blacktop. Because once you build up even a small layer of snow, you’ll get slick patches, and then the all-weathers do nothing but spin.

But we didn’t discover that until a few years into it. And by that time, we’d learned that shoveling such a long drive was not only good exercise, but it also was a great way to teach our four girls how to work hard and not fear projects that seemed daunting.

I know some of you are thinking, dude, why not purchase a snow blower, or a pickup or four-wheeler with a plow?

Because snow blowers at the time, much less four wheelers and pickups, were out of our budget. Because I’d much rather spend the money on a family trip somewhere fun. Because why spend the money when you can line up as a family and create your own Brown Family Snow Blade and give your kids stories to tell their kids about living in the Gulag?

Anyway, it’s what we do. Fast forward now to this year. Three of our daughters have grown up and gone off to college. Nellie, my youngest daughter, and I can usually still get it done. But this year’s record snows kicked our butts. Royally.

Now, we’ve tried all sorts of shovels. I can guarantee, if it was at a store for sale, we’ve tried it. We’ve used brooms. We’ve used all sorts of configurations of girl, woman, and dad power. After all that experimentation, we found a standard push shovel to be the best for general snow and a square garden shovel to be the ticket for ice. But this year our trusty tools weren’t cutting it.

So, after one long day on the driveway, I went on line looking for a better shovel. And after looking at quite several contraptions, I found The Snowcaster.

You can see it in action below. It’s basically a plow. One made for a human to push.

When I saw it, I thought this thing had to be better than pushing shovels. So I ordered it and assembled it. The curved blade of incredibly hard plastic rises 9 inches above the ground and is three feet long. Its nifty design allows you to simply flip it to change the direction of the blade.

After using it these last six weeks on multiple snows of everything from ten inches of powder to three inches of watery slush, I will simply say that it’s amazing. It’s so good, I ordered a second unit.

The Snowcaster does have a limit—you’re not going to plow three-feet of snow with it. You’re not going to plow a build-up of two feet. If you’ve got a lot of wet snow over a large area, you will break a sweat. And sometimes you’ll still need a shovel to toss snow at the edges. But for moving large quantities of snow out of the way on asphalt or concrete, it’s the best thing I’ve found to date.

If you are like me and don’t want to purchase a machine just yet, have snow to move, and want to dramatically reduce the time it takes to move it while providing some fun for the kids, I think you’ll love The Snowcaster. I ordered mine directly from the company here: The model I chose was the 70SNC. I wouldn’t suggest the long model unless you rarely get snows above three inches. I say this because on some days with lots of snow the three-footer was about all I could push.

Okay, onto the movies. I have two excellent ones to recommend. Both of which are based on true-life events.

The first is Denial, a British-American historical drama, that tells the story of how Deborah Lipstadt, a holocaust scholar, was taken to court for libel in Britain by David Irving, a man who claims the Holocaust never happened. In America, you’re always innocent until proven guilty. However, in Britain, with libel, the burden of proof is upon the defendant. So how do you prove you weren’t slandering someone? The movie was thrilling and fascinating. And gave you something to think about afterwards. If you enjoyed Woman in Gold, you’ll enjoy this.

The next is Hidden Figures, an American biographical drama, that tells the story of female African-American mathematicians at NASA. These women were employed as computers—that was their official job title. Of course, this was before electrical computers and calculators, and what they did amazes me. The story is about the USA struggling to catch up to the Russians in the space race, and how four of these women helped while dealing with deep-seated prejudice against Blacks and females. It is full of humor, poignant moments, and surprises. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen these last few years. I don’t know what to compare it to. All I know is that you will laugh, be amazed, become outraged, and cheer.

Lt. General Michael T. Flynn. Flynn is a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Assistant Director of National Intelligence and is now our National Security Advisor. If you want to understand how he is likely to advise the president about our war against radical Islam, let me recommend his book The Field of Fight. In the book, Flynn describes his background as an intelligence officer and how critical good intelligence is in this fight. He then describes his take on who the radical Islamist enemy is and how he thinks we can win the war against them. He shares several surprising insights that only someone with his experience can and reveals as well how good and smart leaders can disagree about strategy. One of his main points is that we will never win the war by killing bodies—this is an ideological war, much like the war we fought against communism. For those wanting to get past news blurbs and hear the man speak for himself at length, I think you’ll find this book interesting.

And because, Dear Reader, you read all the way to the end, I will give you two more movie recommendations. Moana is a great, fun, family film. La La Land is an enjoyable musical romance that will probably break your heart. It did mine.

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3 Responses to Good Stuff! Two movies, a book, and a shovel

  1. RickH says:

    That Snowcaster looks great. I might have gotten one for my 70-foot wide driveway instead of a big new snowblower…which I got to use 4-5 times over two winter seasons until I moved to a wetter place (with minimal snow).

    But, the snowblower was fun to use when I had it.

  2. NukemHill says:

    What are your thoughts on the defenestration of Flynn? And his replacement?

    • John Brown says:

      I think it was odd. Spicer said he didn’t do anything illegal, but Trump didn’t like how he represented his activities to the VP etc. Seems kind of flimsy. I don’t know if they were worried that it would give the whole dumb Russia story legs, or if they found out something about Flynn, or that he fudged and that bothered Trump, or what. Or maybe it shows Trump feels there are lots of good candidates, and if someone is causing issues, it’s no biggie to get rid of him. I do think there are lots of awesome, smart people out there, and it’s foolish to think only one person can do the job. What are your thoughts?