[ Sorry to be late; I was in Manhattan and Brooklyn. More later. ]
By pushing the birthday party for my niece to the following weekend (it turns out she was given a smaller party, primarily centered around a mermaid Barbie somehow, on her actual birthday, so she needn't feel neglected birthday-wise), we were able to merge this with getting together for my father's birthday. After most of the activities were done --- in particular, after the other kids and my sister-in-law's aunts and friends went home, since they have only a dim idea who my father is anyway --- we gathered again around a different table to sing happy birthday to my father.
My father was given a couple nice new shirts, which my mother pointed out was grounds for him to get rid of at least as many of his rattier old shirts, which may be true but feels to me the obnoxious way to get around to a closet-cleaning. (This reminds me: I need to throw out the obsolete food in the fridge before I move out.) I gave my father a pair of books, one a biography of Clarence Birdseye, about whom my father knew enough to find the prospect immediately interesting. My brother had no idea there was such a person as Clarence Birdseye; he figured the name for a beloved never-existing corporate mascot, like Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders, Ronald Reagan, or Little Debbie, maybe formed when the Bird corporation merged with the Eye corporation. It's a plausible enough theory. I also got a book about the theft and ransom of the corpse of department store magnate Alexander T Stewart, which I just happened to run across, and which I knew at least three other members of my family would respond to with, ``I've got to hear more about that'' once they had the basic premise laid out. (Given that I was able to reel out the essentials, one might ask what need I have of reading the book, but I still want to.)
However, my brother and his wife got the coolest of gifts: a Popular Science What To Make book, of various blueprints and plans for stuff that could be built at home by men who never wear safety glasses, ear protection, or hand protection of any kind, but are in every diagram smoking a pipe. Since my father was born during the War Years these all have the extra thrill of a little layer of ``squirrel-proof birdhouses for Victory'' or ``Beat Hitler --- carve a wooden Jumbo for your backyard'' spirit to them. My father really savored this, and found at least one project (a swinging gate with damper so it doesn't slam shut) he had built, without plans.
When we got home, there was a dial tone again, so the phone and Internet were back. And after a short but extremely heavy storm there was a brilliant double rainbow, the second arc of which lasted long enough to get several photographs of and to watch from behind and in front of the house. This is proving quite the season for stuff to look at in the sky.
Trivia: A T Stewart's widow took two years before paying the $20,000 ransom on his corpse. Source: Gotham: A History Of New York City To 1898, Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.
Currently Reading: The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, John McPhee. And, rather shockingly, the Aereon corporation wich attempted this zeppelin-inspired vehicle still exists, to the extent that any craft built around the zeppelin-inspired vehicle model can be said to exist. (What's the science fiction story equivalent of zeppelin-inspired aircraft, other than zeppelins, and is it just helium-3 follies and commercial fusion?)