INTRODUCTION: ratiocinations out of thin air

THIS BLOGSITE could have a bet­ter ti­tle than my name with "dot com" tacked on to it. I had con­sid­ered Ra­ti­o­ci­na­tions Out of Thin Air as a ti­tle — and that would have been a great ti­tle, if a con­fus­ing one. Too many peo­ple wouldn't have taken the time to ra­ti­o­ci­nate over the mean­ing of the word "ra­ti­o­ci­nate" and just moved on. 1

For long-time read­ers who want to skip this part and just get to my lat­est rants, click here: Blog.

So we're stuck with Neal Umphred Dot Com with "ra­ti­o­ci­na­tions out of thin air" as a sub-title. Ei­ther way, read­ers are con­fronted with two rather un­com­mon words (al­though alien has been used in ref­er­ence to one of them): Umphred and ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion.

The fam­ily name ap­pears to be of Scot­tish ori­gin, which ex­plains why Laphoaig tasted like the wa­ter of life with my first sip!

Merriam-Webster de­fines ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion as "1. the process of ex­act think­ing : rea­son­ing; 2. a rea­soned train of thought." It de­rives from the Latin ra­ti­o­ci­na­tionem ("a calm rea­son­ing") and ra­ti­ocinare ("to cal­cu­late, or to de­lib­er­ate"). There is an ad­jec­ti­val form: ra­ti­o­ci­na­tive. 2

Ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion is not taught at Amer­i­can schools at any level, it is not picked up os­mot­i­cally, and our peers don't pass it among them­selves ca­su­ally. Ap­par­ently, some peo­ple are born ra­ti­o­ci­na­tors; oth­ers choose to learn to be­come ra­ti­o­ci­na­tors. 3

I in­tended the site to ad­dress is­sues that re­quired me to ra­ti­o­ci­nate my way through them, even if they were movie re­views or ar­gu­ments on the mis­use of the Des­ig­nated Hit­ter in base­ball. Hope­fully, my words would en­tice my read­ers to turn on their ra­ti­o­ci­na­tors.

That is, I bab­ble and learn, you lis­ten and learn; hope­fully, we both come out ahead.

And if you catch me say­ing some­thing er­ro­neous, let me know . . .


The photo that greets you at the top of the home­page I call "Up­side­down Zen Kitty." I found it on the In­ter­net and pur­loined the im­age for some for­got­ten use. But I fell in love with the kitty and the photo and adopted it as this site's totem. Un­for­tu­nately, I did not take down the name and ad­dress of the site from which I lifted it.

What's here

I write about what­ever catches my fancy. here are the cat­e­gories on this site and what they in­clude in a nut­shell:

Art & Artists
I'm an art school dropout who could, at one time, draw rings around most other artists. Now I oc­ca­sion­ally write about art.

Base­ball Ob­ser­va­tions
Thoughts on the game by a for­mer fan turned back into a fan by the orig­i­nal Bill James Base­ball Ab­stract books back in the 1980s who got turned back off by the PED is­sue and the slugfests in the '90s.

Books & Au­thors
Book re­views, es­pe­cially sci­ence fic­tion — faves in­clude Poul An­der­son, Phillip Dick, Har­lan El­li­son, Anne Mcand Nor­man Spin­rad.

It ain't what you know that get's you in trou­ble — it's what you know that just ain't so." (Mark Twain)

Funny and Pos­si­bly So
Mostly true (and usu­ally hu­mor­ous) sto­ries from my mostly true (and oc­ca­sion­ally hu­mor­ous) life.

Gen­eral Ob­ser­va­tions
Things that don't fit into the other cat­e­gories.

Movies & TV Shows
My views on movies and tele­vi­sion shows, usu­ally long-running se­ries that I just binge-watched my way through.

My Po­etry
Free verse from the cos­mic con­scious­ness.

Neal's Rants
Mostly po­lit­i­cal.

Strunk­en­whiten It
On the use and abuse of gram­mar and punc­tu­a­tion.


James Clavell's third novel, Shogun (Atheneum, 1975), oc­curred in early 17th cen­tury Japan. Chrono­log­i­cally, it was the first in his se­ries of six "Asian nov­els" that spanned five cen­turies and two re­lated fam­i­lies. Shogun was the best sell­ing of the six books with world­wide sales ap­proach­ing 20,000,000!

My books (so far)

There are eight ar­ti­cles on this site ex­plain­ing the var­i­ous books I pub­lished for record col­lec­tors. These posts pro­vide ad­di­tional back­ground in­for­ma­tion on me and my ca­reer. They are best read in the fol­low­ing or­der, which is roughly chrono­log­i­cal:

1. O’Sullivan Woodside’s Rock & Roll Record Al­bums Price Guide
2. O’Sullivan Woodside’s Elvis Pres­ley Record Price Guide
3. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums (1st edi­tion)
4. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Record Al­bums (5th edi­tion)
5. Goldmine’s Rock’n Roll 45RPM Record Price Guide
6. Goldmine’s Price Guide to Col­lectible Jazz Al­bums
7.  A Touch Of Gold – Elvis Record & Mem­o­ra­bilia Price Guide
8. Blues and R&B 45s of the ’50s Price Guide


One of my fav­er­avest movies is Ron Shelton's 1996 ro­man­tic com­edy Tin Cup. While this poster cer­tainly makes the film look like a 'chick-flick,' it's ac­tu­ally more of a 'buddy-flick.' And de­spite the ob­vi­ous ro­mance be­tween Kevin Cost­ner and Rene Russo, she's as much a buddy as a lover. And Don John­son steals the movie as a self-absorbed ar­se­hole

Even more information

If you want a more "in­ti­mate" look-see at me, click on over to A Lit­tle Back­ground In­for­ma­tion. It's a list of my a few of my fa­vorite things, like fa­vorite novel (James Clavell's Shogun with his Tai-Pan a lose sec­ond), fa­vorite movie (King Kong, not Tin Cup), and fa­vorite whiskey (10-year-old Laphroaig) that will give you a small sense of who I am.

For my po­lit­i­cal be­liefs, try On Be­ing a Mys­ti­cal Lib­eral, where I con­fess to re­sid­ing in the as­tral plane of pro­gres­sivism.

Fi­nally, I am six­tysome­thing years old (it changes reg­u­larly) and still rail­ing against life's in­jus­tices, tilt­ing with the wind­mills the vast rightwingnut con­spir­acy throws up every day, and dodg­ing the slings and ar­rows of out­ra­geous for­tune or ab­sorb­ing them when I don't move fast enough . . .

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1   I did use Ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion Out Of Thin Air as a sub­ti­tle for this site a while.

2   There are two pro­nun­ci­a­tions for ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion: one has a soft 't' sound (ra-shē-ˈō-sə-ˌnāt), while the other has a hard 't' sound (ra-tē-ˈō-sə-ˌnāt). I pre­fer the for­mer. (To hear the pro­noun­ci­a­tions, click here.)

3   Merriam-Webster in­cludes this in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal and lit­er­ary tid­bit un­der its en­try for ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion:

"Edgar Al­lan Poe is said to have called the 1841 story The Mur­ders in the Rue Morgue his first 'tale of ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion.' Many to­day agree with his as­sess­ment and con­sider that Poe clas­sic to be the world's first de­tec­tive story. Poe didn't ac­tu­ally use 'ra­ti­o­ci­na­tion' in Rue Morgue, but the term does ap­pear three times in its 1842 se­quel, The Mys­tery of Marie Ro­get. The sec­ond tale is based on an ac­tual mur­der, and as the case un­folded af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of Poe's work, it be­came clear that his fic­tional de­tec­tive had done an amaz­ing job of rea­son­ing through the crime.

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