Today We’re Going To Party Like It’s 1998

A couple years ago, when I posted about a weekly column and Web site I did back in the olden days, I mentioned I had my old AOL Web site stored somewhere and would someday reproduce it.

Well, I must have gotten started on it but never finished it until now.

So here’s what my Web site looked like circa 1998.

Mostly samples of my writing and the complete text of my two chapbooks of poetry and a teaser for my forthcoming book Flipside Id which I never did finish after losing touch with the artist who was working on the cover.

Book Report: Yo, Millard Fillmore by Will Cleveland and Mark Alvarez (1993)

Book coverFor a second time in recent memory, my reading has been determined by a book that one of my children wanted to read from my to read shelves. First, The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family and then this book.

It’s a brief Scholastic primer on the Presidents through Clinton. Each President has a two-page spread with the left page talking about his (remember, gentle reader, that this book only includes male presidents as that is all we had for several hundred years (he added to explain for future Internet searchers)) presidency and the right continuing some mnemonic narrative that is supposed to help you remember the presidents in order. Honestly, the schtick looks more difficult than rote memorization since you have to remember the mnemonic story and then what name each pun represents.

Frankly, if I’m ever to do well on Jeopardy!, I’ll have to memorize the Presidents and their general dates, but this isn’t the book to do it.

Also, a side effect of modern life is even though the book title spells it correctly for me, the default in my brain is not Millard but Mallard Fillmore. Which probably also illustrates why I will never be a good Jeopardy! contestant.

Book Report: Love’s Legacy by Stephanie Dalla Rosa (2015)

Book coverDISCLAIMER:Of all the books I’ve reviewed on this book, this book represents the work of the author most likely to punch me in the head. She is a second degree black belt and instructor in the dojo where I train. So bear that in mind that if I have nothing but nice things to say about this book that it might only be abject terror speaking. Thank you, that is all.

This book covers the death of the author’s mother from cancer and the author dealing with her grief and her relationship with God. The first part of the book includes portions of the mother’s journal–for the mother had hoped to write a book about the experience and how God got her through it–along with the author’s recollections of the period of the illness. The second part deals with the aftermath and how the author tried to build a relationship with God but faltered for a time until finishing her mother’s book gave her some purpose.

The book made me think of identity as aspiration as opposed to authentic identity by nature. In the first part, the mother was suffering through her treatment, but her journal entries are mostly upbeat and aspirational, particularly in her relationship with God. This is what she wanted to be and how she wanted to be known and remembered. In the second, the author has to come to terms with dark hours (days, months, and years) and, by willpower and faith overcame a great darkness in her life.

The book presents a clear contrast with the Kierkegaard I’ve been reading (Fear and Trembling) and the book about Kierkegaard I’ve read recently. Whereas Kierkegaard goes on about the paradox of Christianity and reliance upon the absurd (I’ll get into that when I review Fear and Trembling, you bet), this book presents a more accessible dilemma and statement of faith. Which explains why I’ve finished it and have to one of these days push myself through the remainder of the thinner tome.

On a personal note, it was a hard book for me to read; as you might recall, gentle reader, my own sainted mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away around the same time (remember the eulogy?). So reading the book brought back memories and attendant unresolved guilt for all the things I could have done differently and might have should have. I can’t help contrast her experience with my own. It’s not so much wallowing, but more reflecting on the differences as though I might learn something from it.

So I liked the book, and I’m considering buying additional copies as gifts for my aunts, my mother’s remaining sisters, but I’m not sure whether they would appreciate it or not. Time will tell if I do that or not, I suppose. But it’s worth a read if you’re dealing with this situation or the grieving.

I Felt Just Like Jack Bauer, Briefly

I burst through the airport doors and demanded of the uniformed police officer there, “Where’s the bomber?”

Okay, it didn’t go down exactly like that. I’d seen a couple short articles the beginning of the week about a B-17 coming to the Springfield airport, so of course I dragged my children to the passenger airport and asked, politely, where the B-17 was. The police officer, clued in perhaps by this article which has more details about the actual location, directed me to the proper place up by the air cargo carriers.

So we donated a couple bucks and got to walk through the plane. Which is to say, crawl through and scrunch through most of it. It’s amazing how basic and rudimentary this beast was. Not a lot of creature comforts in it. You climb up through the belly to get to the cockpit and then walk a catwalk through the bomb bay to the radio room where you have four plain seats and a couple of 50 caliber machine guns. To get to the tail gun, one had to crawl. To fire the belly gun, I guess you had to hang upside down.

The plane offered rides, but the prices were $425 to ride in the radio room or $850 to ride in the navigator’s chair. It would have made for an interesting story, but I don’t have that sort of story money lying around.

The best part was that my boys were interested in it, briefly. Although the oldest is in a “no pictures” phase (remember, he wouldn’t pose with Harley Quinn), so I’ll just have to remember the incident via blog post.

Perhaps A Little Unclear On The Alignment

At the Cracker Barrel store in St. Charles, Missouri, this display:

It looks as though the Gadsden Flag materials are inappropriately grouped with the Democrat Party items.

However, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that it’s just a general political apparel grouping, but the Republican Party elephant t-shirts are almost sold out.

Note this Cracker Barrel is very close to the location of the former Noah’s Ark, which is where the St. Charles Pachyderm club used to meet back in the day.

And it’s a Cracker Barrel.

One would expect the GOP merchandise to move well there.

The Road to Saint Charles

A week or so back, a Facebook friend, well, a 1980s BBS friend who I met once or twice thirty years ago, posted that he’d be at the St. Louis Comic Con in St. Charles, Missouri, this past weekend. A light bulb went off over my head: I could take my kids up there for the day and then come back for a quick treat that they’d remember for the rest of their lives. Also, the oldest from time to time draws little superhero things and announces he’d like to make comic books. How great would it be if I could introduce him to an actual comic artist in an actual comic book convention? It was the day before Father’s Day, and like a rotten kid being good the last week before Christmas, I needed to build up some good will if I was going to get a good gift.

So we lit out to the Saint Louis area on Friday morning. I didn’t tell them where we were going, instead letting them believe they were going to the normal summer camp thing. The younger was in the front seat, so he noticed right away. They were very excited about the prospect, although I’m not sure whether it was going to St. Louis or that they got to play on the Game Boy Advances we save for long car trips.

So we hit St. Louis late in the morning, five hours ahead of our hotel check-in time, so I took the long way in, through Jefferson County where I could show the boys a couple places where I lived. The house in the valley in House Springs looked pretty dilapidated; the garage door had been replaced with a worn piece of plywood. Sometime around the time I left, the gravel road had been paved, but it doesn’t look as though it had been maintained at all, which is worse than having never been paved at all. I showed the boys where the mobile home I’d lived in for four years had sat, but Siesta Manor Mobile Home Park had rearranged the layout of the pads over time, so there wasn’t a 106 Quintana any more. After taking some flowers to my mother’s plot in the cemetery at Jefferson Barracks, we drove slowly by the house in Old Trees–the only house I’m sad to have left–and saw the lilies I planted ten years ago are six feet tall. We stopped at Blackburn Park, where the oldest played when he was one year old, and were the only people in the park on a Friday afternoon.

Then we headed north. We drove by the house in Casinoport, which looked much the same as it had or better. Most of the time we lived there, it was white asbestos shingle, but we had siding put on right before we left, so it looked better as we left than most of the time we lived there. We got to St. Charles, and I showed the boys a house where I lived with my aunt and uncle–who I grew up thinking were well-to-do but it turns out they were just doing better than we were. We checked into the hotel and had dinner at the Cracker Barrel nearby, which was good as the area around the St. Charles Convention Center was all torn up.

I’d brought a couple of things to read, but nothing I wanted to read, so I watched the St. Louis Cardinals Game while the boys watched cartoons.

Oh, yeah, and on Saturday, we went to the comic book convention.

This was my first comic book convention, oddly enough.

I understand that some other comic cons have sessions and panels and presentations, but this one looked to be more like a comic book flea market, nothing but tables with comics and collectibles and a number of comic artists (like my friend) with a table of their works. I think the con welcomed a professional cosplayer, but I think she was at a table in civilian clothing signing pictures of her in cosplay costumes.

There were some cosplayers, but we got their very early (at the opening time), so we didn’t see a bunch. Several Harley Quinns, of course, including one that looked to be a six foot husky male Harley Quinn. Undoubtedly from one of the alternate DC earths. There was a He-Man, a couple women in military uniforms, Captain America, and a Poison Ivy that I saw. Waldo and some kid in a dinosaur or Pokemon costume. I’d hoped the boys would see someone from Mortal Kombat since they’ve started playing that on the Super Nintendo, but no such luck. Also, they refused to take a picture with Harley Quinn, which is the only reason this is not a Rule 5 post. Sorry, guys.

I led them through most of the tables before we got to my friend the comic artist. He recognized me straight off, which was odd since I hadn’t seen him in a long time. It must be the fedora. We chatted for a while, but by that time, my children were squirrelly and unimpressed by their father knowing a comic book artist. So I bought enough material to cover half of his table fee, and he threw in a small drawing of his comic character Frik dressed in cosplay:

At any rate, to make a short story long, it was the first of my travels solo with the children, and they did not completely drive me nuts. Although the combination of cartoons, comics, and sugar made them a bit squirrelly at times. So we’ll probably take similar trips in the future.

As far as comic cons go, though, I prefer gaming conventions or Renaissance festivals. I accumulate comics more than collect them. For example, when I said the boys could get a couple of the two-for-a-dollar comics at one table, the youngest took so long in making his selections that I found issues 2-22 of the 1980s Marvel Battlestar Galactica title that I bought more comics for me than for them. But I prefer the theatrics of the Renaissance festival or the participation aspect of gaming to simply wandering around looking at stuff for sale.

Hopefully, I made a memory for my children, but although I try to set the framework of awesome adventures for them, it’s entirely possible that the thing they will remember most is playing checkers at the Cracker Barrel while my aunt and I talked. But that’s okay, too. Because I’ll remember more of it, particularly with the external aid of this blog post.

Although I wish I had more pictures of my nine-year-old and eight-year-old at the con, Harley Quinn or not.

I Know Something This Financial Reporter Doesn’t Know

After the refi boom, can Quicken keep rocketing higher?:

Quicken Loans Inc, once an obscure online mortgage player, seized on the refinancing boom to become the nation’s third largest mortgage lender, behind only Wells Fargo & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Now, with the refi market saturated, Quicken faces a pivotal challenge — convincing home buyers to trust that emotional transaction to a website instead of the banker next door.

Want to know what I know? Quicken and Quicken Loans are two different companies. So to call Quicken Loans “Quicken” is very, very inaccurate and to disparage it is probably bad for Intuit and its stock price, the company that owns Quicken.

How do I know? I once tested an online program for Quicken Loans and reviewed its trademarks and appropriate branding. You see, I work in software quality assurance, where getting things right is important, unlike journalism.

Ripped From Today’s Headlines

The headline of today’s Greene County Commonwealth took me aback:

Briefly.

I knew the head of development over in Republic shared my last name, but she is no close relation, and we’ve never run into each other.

The paper is reporting above the fold that she left her job three weeks ago, but it certainly makes it out like there’s more to the story.

Hopefully, not enough that people will come banging on my door for anything.

Theatre Review: Black Comedy by Peter Schaffer

This weekend, my beautiful wife and I attended the Springfield Contemporary Theatre presentation of Black Comedy.

In this comedy, a British sculptor named Miller is going to have a busy night: In addition to meeting a wealthy collector who can make his career, he’s also meeting the father of his fiance. To tony the place up, he’s borrowed some furniture from his antique collector neighbor. Before any of the important people arrive, however, the power goes out and his flat is left in darkness. His neighbor returns early and an ex-girlfriend show up, and a comedy occurs in the dark apartment.

As staged, the play took place in the blacked out apartment, but to the characters, it was darkness. At the beginning and end of the play, when there is light, the actors moved in darkness. This allowed the audience to see a lot of the slapstick tumbling and precise movement where the characters could not see anything. The performances were good, and the lead–Miller–was outstanding.

The Springfield Contemporary Theatre is celebrating its 22nd season, but I’d never really heard of it before. The venue is a very intimate little room downtown, with about a hundred seats. Maybe. We sat in the third row, and we could easily have shaken hands with the actors. A number of the theatre patrons knew each other, and it was the most intimate setting for drama that I’ve ever experienced. It was a smaller venue than the theatre company I volunteered with in the last century, where they played to church gyms which were cavernous by comparison.

Now that I’ve found this little theatre group, I’m going to have to attend it frequently.

How To Tell What Song Just Came On Brian’s iPod At The Gym (IV)

It’s not uncommon at the YMCA for me to start thrashing on the walking track (but only in the walking lane for safety reasons).

It looks more like a seizure than it used to because I no longer have flowing golden locks:

But watch closely: when I’m at the gym, does it look like I’m thrashing a mullet, or does it look like I’m thrashing braids? It’s a subtle difference, but the second certainly indicates I’m listening to….

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Book Report: Søren Kierkegaard by Elmer H. Duncan (1976)

Book coverThis book is an entry in the Makers of the Modern Theological Mind series as was Reinhold Niebuhr. On a recent trip to ABC Books, I found the Kierkegaard volume, and I picked it up and delved right in since I seem to be in a theological phase lately (well, I guess Existentialism and Thomism last January and The Screwtape Letters last July makes for a very slow moving phase, but in my defense, I’ve started a couple books I’ve yet to finish).

What I’ll take from this bit is that Kierkegaard was writing a document targetted to Danish Christians of the era and was mostly a rebuttal to Hegel. His Either/Or countered the Hegelian Thesis>Antithesis>Synthesis bit by saying that ethical choices are exclusive or (XOR, as computer folk would call them) and cannot be reconciled through creating a system or classification where both options exist and relate to one another. It’s told in two parts: the first part by The Seducer, and the second part by The Judge. These two represent the aesthetic and ethical spheres. Fear and Trembling examines the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac and explicates on the religious sphere, which Kierkegaard puts higher than the merely ethical. The book also talks about other writings, but these are the ones I was most interested in.

This book spends a lot of its few (145) pages delving into other philosophers’ and theologians’ work. We get explanations of Hegel and Plato and their systems; we get pages on the Existentialists and people in the 20th century who Kierkegaard influenced (hint: apparently everyone). We even get a whole page of defending Heidegger from his association with the Nazis in Germany. It seems like a lot of real estate on a book on Kierkegaard spent talking about others. But you can boil a lot of Kierkegaard down into pretty short sentences.

As I read it and work through Fear and Trembling, I wonder if Kierkegaard is the man who broke the Christian church. His book Fear and Trembling focuses on the religious individual experiencing something he (or she) thinks is divine and not so much on the divine. It seems a turn to the individualism that runs through Existentialism and whatnot. I’m sure there are some other revolutions and counterrevolutions that go on as well, but given how much of twentieth century thought cites Kierkegaard as an influence, I can’t help wonder if it was a bad influence.

I Found A Poem

Our dojo offers this shirt, which contains a poem:

A
We
So
Me
Ness

One of the knocks against Elliot Ness (of the Untouchables) was that he often took credit for other people’s work, especially in the popular culture (see the films) and in bar rooms wherever he lived. So this poem excoriates that flaw in his character. But I don’t understand why it’s on a martial arts shirt.

UPDATE: Someone has told me that this shirt is just the word “Awesomeness.” That’s an interesting theory. However, I must respectfully disagree, because I HAVE AN ENGLISH DEGREE! I KNOW A POEM WHEN I SEE IT! THIS IS A POEM, AND IF YOU WANT TO DISPUTE IT I RECOMMEND YOU SPEND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A MOSTLY WORTHLESS DEGREE AND WE CAN ARGUE ABOUT IT AT STARBUCKS! BEHIND THE COUNTER!

Thank you, that is all.

Good Book Hunting, June 3, 2016: Friends of the Rogersville Library Book Sale

I did not know that Rogersville had its own library; I don’t remember seeing it when I went to town for the old Missouri Insight blog (reposted here). As an old railroad town, it would have had the opportunity to create its own library before the Springfield-Greene County library or Webster County library took root.

So I discovered it had a Friends of the Library organization and a small book sale fund raiser, I was all on it. I stopped by early Friday morning. It was held in a small conference room off the side of the small town library. How small? It might have been the smallest I’ve ever been to. Smaller than Clever, for sure.

I only bought three things.

I got:

  • Halo: The Fall of Reach, another Halo novel by Eric Nyland. I liked First Strike. And I also say a high school kid at the dojo carrying one of these novels. So it probably won’t be long until I read this one. It is, after all, a paperback that won’t clear much from my to-read shelf space.
     
  • Spider Man: The Octopus Agenda, a novel by Diane Duane. I most recently read Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard, but this one will probably be more in my wheelhouse. It probably won’t be one I carry around with me to read as I only like to be seen in public with SMAHT books these days.
     
  • A single volume of Henry David Thoreau including Walden, The Maine Woods, and Cape Cod. I’ve recently pulled my paperback copy of Walden from the read shelves for a re-reading, so I can put it back and substitute this book, which I can take out in public because it’s a SMAHT book. Except I might not because it’s big and heavy.

Not much, but it wasn’t a big selection. No t-shirts or applications to join the Friends of the Rogersville Library, sadly, or I would have added those to my collections.

And since I recently cleaned part of my library, I had room for them easily. So I should be in pretty good shape until the autumn book sales unless I hit a mother lode at a church sale or something. You don’t see many books at contemporary single family home garage sales.

Some Paperbacks Of Note

As I mentioned, I recently cleaned the bookshelves in my office that contain the mass market paperbacks that I’ve read. As I did, I remembered some things about them and about the times in which I read them. Lacking anything better to post about so far today, I’ve decided to comment on them and to present their covers (Gimlet once asked me if I had a Tumblr containing the covers of the books I’ve read, since I’ve been scanning them a number of years for the book reports–I do not).

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Reflections on a Cleaner Library

For the past year and a half or almost two years, my office housed the last of our old guard cats, the small half Siamese we got around the turn of the century. After the penultimate of the old guard died and shortly after we introduced the replacement cats, she developed a disdain for using the litter box, so we isolated her in my office and closed the door, wherein she had her own food and her own litter box, and she was less crotchety. She got ill, and on Sunday before church she was put down, and I buried her with the others. For the first time in a year, my office door is open.

I’ve removed the cat litter from the office, and I have started extensive cleaning operations, including spending four hours dusting all of the unread books on the four bookshelves in the office and the two small shelves of mass market paperbacks.

Ah, that’s better.

In addition to dusting them one by one, I reorganized them, making sure they were tight in the shelves, and I reversed some of them so that the books that were in the back were now in the front. It will give me a fresh set of books to look at when I go to pick something to read.

As I worked, I was delighted to find some really interesting books I would like to read. Clearly, I’ve thought about each volume as I bought it. It made me want to read, but before I do, I have to get through a couple library books I checked out for no other reason than I’m nuts.

Other thoughts:

  • When I read The Carolingian Chronicles, the support material mentioned another contemporary source A History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours. I found a copy that I’ll probably read sooner rather than later since I’m on a Frankish kick.
     
  • I found like four different volumes of work by and biographies of Ernie Pyle, the World War II correspondent. That’s probably pretty comprehensive.
     
  • But only one autobiography of Ernest Borgnine.
     
  • But two of William Shatner.
     
  • The most represented historical figure on the shelves is Winston Churchill. I’ve got a pile of his histories and a couple of biographies. I guess it’s been two years since I read anything about him.
     
  • I shall soon come to the tipping point, believe it or not, where I will have read more than half of the Executioner novels I own. Of course, that’s only if I don’t count the related series. Still, I’ll take the encouragement where I can.
     
  • I have a shelf and a half of Stephen King books, and I’m not really in a hurry to read them. They’re very thick, and so many times I’ve been disappointed.
     
  • I have several Dean Koontz, and although they’re not as long, I’ve liked the ones I’ve read by Koontz very much barring the Odd Thomas titles.
     
  • I even have a John Saul or two, and I’m not a real big horror fan.
     
  • I have a bunch of technology and programming books, most of which were out of date when I got them. And some that were not are now.
     
  • This includes a couple Apple and Commodore books.
     
  • I’ve managed to make room on my shelves (and by make room, I mean there are not many horizontal books stacked upon the two ranks of vertical books per shelf. So I should go to some book sales.
     
  • I’m having a little trouble with the $25 book shelves I bought a decade ago at Target. They were not meant for the load I’ve put on them, and they’re failing in different ways. The holes holding the pins are breaking, the shelves bow down so I have to flip them every once in a while, and now the sides are bowing outward so that the shelves don’t reach the pins. I could get some new, better bookshelves, I suppose, but that would require moving all these books again.

I found far fewer duplicates than I’d expected.

Free books.

Normally, I just dump my duplicate books off on my brother and assume he tosses them. But if you see anything you’re interested, let me know in the next week or so and I’ll bundle them off to you. The remainder go to my brother or perhaps ABC Books in a trade.

Titles include:

  • The Shinging by Stephen King. I’ve already read this, but it must be before the blog.
  • Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. Just think of how many shelves I’d have of Stephen King if I didn’t put them all together to see what I have.
  • The Demons at Rainbow Bridge by Jack Chalker. The first of the Quintara Marathon series. I have the whole series in ex library books, so the paperback is expendible.
  • The Romances of Hezekiah Mitchell, a book often found in the Ozarks section of used book stores. Apparently, I’ve found it there twice.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I read it in middle school or early high school, and I bought two hardback copies of it. I only need one.
  • Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac in the Classics Club edition.
  • A ten volume set of The Great Ideas Program by the Encyclopedia Britannica people in 1959. It’s a selection of readings of great books sorts of things broken down by subject (Philosophy, Ethics, Imaginative Literature, and such). Did I have two complete sets? Of course I did. Don’t be ridiculous!

As I said, if anyone’s interested, let me know. Shout out and they’re yours.

Back When I Did PhotoShops

Back in the olden days, I used to edit photos for humourous effect. Then, I had children and no free time. Although I have a bit more free time now, I haven’t gone back to it because the interest isn’t there, and the Internet has moved onto just putting text on a still image and calling it funny.

But for old time’s sake, here are some of my favorites from the annals of this blog.

Welcome Back, Potter:

The Harry Reid series of young adult novels:

Harry Reid's Babysitting ServiceHarry Reid's JourneyHarry Reid, Inc.

Soviet, Jedi:

All the sweet, sweet emus after the police in Carbondale shot a loose emu:

Emu in body armor Emunator Bulletproof Emu

I never claimed to be good at it. I only claim to have done it.

Harsh a Mellow Today

Remind a retro-counter-culture Baby Boomer that Sha Na Na played Woodstock.

They ain’t your daddy’s rock and roll, but they’re sure pretending they are.

Full disclosure: I like Sha Na Na from an early exposure to their television program. But I’m less a fan of retcounculs of all ages.

That Gag Gift Was Cute

Someone was cleaning out a computer room and gave me a little plastic box for 3.5″ floppy disks. Probably as a gag.

However, I have far more twenty-year-old disks that can fit in it.

I pretty much have all my old downloads from BBSes circa 1991 as well as driver disks for every component I bought from 1990 through, what, 2003 when CDs replaced the floppies.

So the little disk holder was cute, but someone really misunderestimated my pack rattery.