introduction to neal umphred dot com

Estimated reading time is 5 minutes.

RATIOCINATIONS OUT OF THIN AIR is the title that I wanted for this blog. But it would have been confusing as most people don’t know what “ratiocination” means and few would bother to look it up. So we’re stuck with my name with “dot com” tacked on and this is the introduction to that blog.

I kept “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. 1

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. 2

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 . . .


Introduction: photo of upsidedown kitten in a window jam.

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 McCaffrey, and Norman Spinrad.

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.


Introduction: cover of hardbound edition of James Clavell's novel SHOGUN.

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


Introduction: poster for the movie TIN CUP with Kevin Costner and Rene Russo.

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 Little Background Information. It’s a list of my a few of my favorite things, like my favorite novel (James Clavell’s Shogun with his Tai-Pan a close second), my favorite movie (King Kong, not Tin Cup), and my 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 . . .



1   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 pronunciations, click here.)

2   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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