Book Report: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (2012)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 28th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverFunny thing about the passage of time when you get older: longer and longer passages of time seem like a short time because, I guess, they’re a smaller percentage of your whole lifespan. Which is why, although I last read an Odd Thomas novel (Odd Hours four years ago and the graphic novel In Odd We Trust three years ago, it doesn’t seem that long. Perhaps it’s the diminishing number of books I’m reading these days; it’s only been, what, 200 books ago, not 450 books ago?

At any rate, I picked up this book from the discount rack at Barnes and Noble on a recent binge, and I’m reading them first out of my stack of thousands. Besides, the character of Odd Thomas is still engaging enough to give me warm feelings about them. Especially after three or four years pass between readings.

This book finds Odd Thomas and his pregnant protectee on an estate where the few employees are weird, and the fierce owner seems of two minds about helping Annamaria, the pregnant woman. He’s compelled to house her, but he’s not happy about it when she’s not around. Odd Thomas gets some apocalyptic visions and encounters some strange beasts on the grounds, which are shuttered tight at night. So Odd investigates and finds not an apocalypse waiting to happen, but strange things at Roseland nevertheless and evil that he must ferret out and guns he must fire.

The same quibbles I had with Odd Hourse I have here: Too much of the book is Odd thinking to himself. Too much riding the voice alone and not the events or the odd things. To be sure, some fantastic things occur, but I’m pulled out of it by Odd Thomas as much as I’m drawn into it.

So it’s okay, more straight ahead fantasy thriller than horror.

I see that I’m two or more books behind on the series, and I’ve had enough of it for now. According to current projects, I’ll finish the series sometime in my fifties. Okay.

Books mentioned in this review:

Brian J. Points The Finger

Posted in Humor on August 27th, 2014 by Brian

There’s no food inflation.

But you know who’s to blame for the cost of a dozen eggs rising from $.79 a couple years ago to $1.79 now?

It’s the greedy chickens.

the Big Chicken cartel representative

Recycled Content

Posted in Life on August 26th, 2014 by Brian

Sometime over the weekend, my Google Pagerank must have gone through the roof, as suddenly the number of hits via Web search went up fifty-fold.

So I feel compelled to add something fresh all the time to keep the robots happy.

Here’s a bit I did on Facebook:

Brian J. Noggle: If I got Heather a set of nice mixing bowls for Christmas, do you think she’d suspect I’d gotten them so I could use them?

Brian J. Noggle Because, honestly, I would. I’m getting tired of mixing in dog bowls.

Brian J. Noggle Oh, nuts, I just realized I’ve now got Springfield people on here who’ve eaten things I’ve baked.

I just want to emphasize the DOGS BOWLS WERE CLEAN.

Brian J. Noggle The dog’s tongue is like the cleanest animal tongue there is, you know.

That ought to get me some sweet Google hits for “mixing bowl” and “dog bowl”. You can buy them on Amazon:

Which is funny, actually: Missouri is one of the states where Amazon killed its associates program, so know, gentle reader, that I provide these links for your convenience, not my own remuneration.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to plot a science fiction story about an intelligent search engine that alters its pageranks to get bloggers to post more because it uses new content from small sources to learn about the human race and it trusts bloggers more than premium and often link-baiting Web sites. Go back to the ancient texts Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Short Circuit. The prophets warned us that the machines would manipulate us to provide them with input.

Book Report: Books Are Better In Bed Than Men Because… by Deenie Vin (1991)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 24th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverYou might have thought the depths of my book-reporting could get no lower than books comparing cats to men, but you have little imagination, gentle reader. Why, in my quest to rack up numbers for the sheer love of metrics, I have not even begun to critique coloring books yet!

I have, however, glanced through this book. It’s lower in quality than the cat books in both publishing (it’s a comb-bound book) and in tone. This one is a little more racy than the cat-loving books, and that’s to be expected, as it is entitled “in Bed”. But it’s a bit repetitive in quips, as the “you can read a lot of books and not be judged” motif appears several times. You will, however, be judged by how many times you hit the same punchline in a slightly different way to pad out a book.

So it might have been an amusing gift back in the day to give to your bookish friend, but most of the amusement is in the concept of the book and the gifting of it, not in the execution of the book or its reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

My Six-Year-Old Offers Me A Sense Of Perspective Regarding My Sense Of Humor

Posted in Humor on August 22nd, 2014 by Brian

My son has started writing his own material, and he might be unclear on what constitutes humor. His jokes often run along the lines of:

Q: Why did the fork run away?
A: Because he didn’t want to get eaten!

He follows this punchline with his own brand of stage laughter, and I pause a moment to suss out if there is, in fact, any cleverness in it.

Then I laugh. Because there is none. Or none I can see.

But it does lend a sense of perspective to me as to what it must feel like to be a bystander to my sense of humor whose quips and punchlines often require knowledge of Roman Empire military unit organization. Or electronic surveillance techinques. Or the intersection of the German language and 1980s action films.

In short, my sense of humor requires my audience to be me.

So that’s how it feels.

However, my laughter at my son’s joke makes him try harder. And the occasional occurrence of someone getting the joke–that one person in the room who snorts at the punchline while everyone else looks on like a daddy wondering who would eat a fork–gives me the strength to go on making the obscure jokes.

Besides, they amuse me.

That’s Okay, Words Don’t Mean Anything

Posted in Headlines on August 21st, 2014 by Brian

A Blind Legend, the All Audio Video Game for the Blind

If it’s all audio, it’s not video. It’s an all-audio computer game.

UPDATE: Welcome, Neatorama readers. Don’t forget to check out John Donnelly’s Gold, my novel about four laid-off IT workers who plot a heist against their CEO for revenge. It’s available in paperback, in the iTunes store, and for the Kindle (for only $.99!).

Book Report: 101 Reasons Why A Cat Is Better Than A Man by Allia Zobel (1994) and Women Who Love Cats Too Much by Allia Zobel (1995)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 19th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverIt is inevitable: Every autumn, as football season comes around, I find myself behind my best pace from the past in book reading (2011, wherein I read 106 books). So I pick up little comic books and whatnot that I can flip through while watching football games. Which explains these books.

See, it’s only the Internet age that thinks cats are just now the centerpiece of lists, but in the olden days, little book forms of humor relating to cats (see also All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat and 101 Uses for a Dead Cat) were pretty widely available. They must have gone as gifts a lot of times.

At any rate, this one-two punch comes with a marriage for the author sandwiched in between. The first deals with how nonjudgmental a cat is and how a cat will never pressure a woman. Which is unlike any cat I’ve ever known. The second book covers such fecund territory as how badly a cat treats its owners and why they still put up with it.

So it’s about what you would expect, and it’s as amusing as the comics page of the newspaper. Perhaps it’s better if you’re a woman. Or if it’s 1994 again.

Man, we’ve got a whole football season of these non-thoughtful book reports to look forward to. And they’re even less amusing than the books themselves.

Books mentioned in this review:
 

Book Report: The Private Hell of Hemingway by Milt Machlin (1962)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 18th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverAs I mentioned yesterday, I got this book in Orlando last week. I mean, I already have a hardback entitled Papa on my to-read shelves, but I was in Florida (although not Key West), and I was not that excited about my other airplane paperbacks (a fantasy called Catswold and a history of Australia by a historian). So I bought this book.

And read it quickly.

The author is an acquaintenance of Hemingway (who often refers to himself as “the author” when he meets Hemingway, so we get some weird things where one sentence says Hemingway and the next says “the author,” and you have to figure out if the author is Hemingway or his biographer). The book came out in paperback in 1962, very quickly after Hemingway’s suicide, and it has a title that was the postwar equivalent of clickbait. Obviously, they’re trying to capitalize.

That’s doesn’t matter, though; this is a very readable biography of the author (Hemingway) starting from his youth in Illinois to his success in the thirties and then his later career. The book follows Hemingway to Europe for World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and then into Spain for his love of bullfighting. It talks about his marriages to his four wives and his wild lifestyle. It talks a bit about his books, but this is not a literary criticism by any means. The book covers his trips to Africa, including the one where his plane crashed and how it affected the end of his life.

Strangely, the book really doesn’t dwell on the end of Hemingway’s life much, and if there’s anything in the book that it might present as hell, it’s Hemingway after his plane crash. But the book only mentions it, and the book’s end comes pretty abruptly.

Still, it makes me want to read Hemingway again. I haven’t read a Hemingway novel in the ten years this blog has been running, apparently, since a blog search only shows a little literary recap and no primary sources (but plenty of instances where I compare people to Hemingway). On the weight of this book, I checked online for complete collections of Hemingway, and the only one I see is about $2000 for an Easton Press collection. I’m adding it to my Amazon wish list for your convenience, gentle reader.

Recommended. But it’s not quite what the title would have you think.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: August 9, 2014: BrightLight Books, Orlando, Florida

Posted in Books on August 17th, 2014 by Brian

Back when we were young, my beautiful wife and I would always look for a used bookstore in places to which we traveled. At some point, we got away from that. Well, at some point we got away from both traveling and from going to used bookstores when we traveled. That point might be called “childbirth,” and it’s possible we only got away from traveling.

Regardless, we went on an excursion recently to Orlando, Florida, and we got out of the tourist corner of the city to find the BrightLights book store in Fern Park. And as we did not drive to Florida, we were pleased to discover, after inquiry, that they would, in fact, ship the bulk of our purchases home for us so we didn’t have to transport them expensively on our plane.

It’s not like we got a whole lot:

Books from BrightLights Books

I got a trio of 3 ex-library books by John Ringo because I heard he’s a libertarian science fiction writer and they were only a buck each; a signed uncorrected proof of Robert B. Parker’s Wilderness; and a biography of Hemingway (not pictured because it’s a small paperback that I carried with me onto the plane and was not hence unboxed yesterday).

My beautiful wife got a set of The Teaching Company lectures for $14 and a couple other books in her interest areas.

It’s a good tradition, and since we’re starting to do these “family vacations” now, we’ll have to ensure we visit used bookstores wherever we go.

There’s Gotta Be A Word

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15th, 2014 by Brian

I’m working hard to coin a phrase here to cover the concept of the news meme, which is what you get on Twitter. It’s not news, it’s memes disguised as news.

Mewmews? Mewmes? I got nothing.

Another Million Dollar Idea A Couple Days Too Late

Posted in Business on August 13th, 2014 by Brian

While on vacation in Florida last week and at the mercy of Garmin’s GPS app (at least until I sprang for a paper map of Orlando), I mentioned to my beautiful wife that I’d like a GPS app that not only gave you directions but would steer you away from bad neighborhoods in cities you don’t know.

Turns out there is an app for that. And a predictable backlash:

A new app uses crowd-sourced data to identify which neighborhoods can be considered “sketchy” or unsafe, but some people are saying SketchFactor may promote racial discrimination, according to PC Mag.

Dagnabbit. I’m always a bit late to the party. And I don’t quite get Objective-C.

Although, to be honest, my app would rely on police report data, not crowdsourcing.

Book Report: Blood Silver: The Story of the Yocum Dollar by Woody P. Snow (2014)

Posted in Book Report, Books on August 13th, 2014 by Brian

Book coverI spotted this book in Barnes and Noble while I was gorging on new books for some reason. I think I had a little time to kill, so I thought I’d go into the book store and let the children pick up a book or two, and suddenly I had a stack of books, including this one.

Woody P. Snow is a local radio personality; I catch bits of his show in the mornings sometimes. And, as you know, I’ve done a little research of my own into the Yocum Silver Dollar (well, I read Traces of Silver). I’ve thought about writing a piece of nonfiction about it, but not about writing a novel about it.

This book has a couple pages of modern day narrative to frame it: a diver finds one of the silver dollars in the lake and shows it to his grandmother, who told him stories about it but now is in the grip of dementia. Then, without ado, we go back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. James Yoachum loses his wife in childbirth, goes mad, and wansers into the wilderness. He eventually makes his way into the Ozarks and is rescued and later adopted by an Indian tribe. He wins the heart of the chief’s daughter and learns the tribe’s secret, and the source of its silver jewelry: an old Spanish silver mine. A fur company puts in a trading post, the area surrounding the trading post grows, but the citizens are left without a currency when the fur company moves out. Yoachum begins making the coins with the help of his brother and his Indian wife. All goes well until the United States Government moves in, surveys the land, and makes the residents pay for their land, and some try with the silver dollars.

It’s a decent, straight forward story, but it does suffer a bit the same way that Downton Abbey suffers: time passes, often in blocs of months or years, and nothing seems to change in the characters during the interim. It’s a minor flaw, but one nevertheless. The story ends thirty years after it begins, and at the end, one of the characters announces a pregnancy, and she must be into her forties by that time.

At any rate, I enjoyed the book.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Brian’s read two historical novels this year set in the Ozarks. I wonder how he would compare them?” Well, friends, I’m probably the only one in the whole world who would dare compare Daniel Woodrell’s The Maid’s Version to Woody P. Snow’s book.

Here’s how they’re similar:

  • Both authors have “Wood” in their names.
  • Both books are based on historical (or perhaps legendary events).

Here’s how they differ:

  • Woodrell’s book goes backwards and forwards through time and jumps points of view. Snow sticks to the semi-omniscient narrator.
  • Snow’s prose is more straightforward than Woodrell’s.
  • Snow’s book does not have much in the way of unrelated asides or actions from characters who aren’t integral to the plot.

None of this is unexpected, of course, given their respective writing careers and goals. But it’s still amusing to consider comparing and contrasting the two.

Worth a read.

Books mentioned in this review:

Authentic Proof of Brian J.’s Coolness

Posted in Culture on August 12th, 2014 by Brian

On Cracked.com, a list entitled 6 Awesome Things I’m Not Cool Enough To Own.

Let’s compare the listing to my personal inventory:

  • Fedora: Come on, you know me. I’ve worn a fedora, yea, verily, stood out in a fedora for twenty years now, and I’m finally starting to look like a grown up with them. HOWEVER, I wear a classic fedora with a 2″ brim (C-crown, if you’re interested), not those little tipped-up brim raincatchers that the hipsters favor. I also own a couple of Panama hats, although my good Capas hat met its end before the close of its second season thanks to a downpour at Seaworld on Thursday, so I’m in a market for another nice one.
     
  • Flask: Hey, I’m from Wisconsin. Of course I own a flask. And not a trick flask, either; a nice engraved one. Actually, I received it for being a best man at a wedding six years ago. One where the minister repeatedly warned us against coming to the wedding while intoxicated. Of course it was in Wisconsin.
     
  • Fingerless gloves: I go to the gym, so I have a nice set of fingerless weightlifting gloves. Also, a back-up pair of weightlifting gloves wearing out at the seams. And a pair of weighted gloves. None of these have fingers. Although I might be slipping into this coolness on a technicality. But I did once buy a pair of fingerless gloves when I had a sports car so I could wear them whilst driving said sports car. I might have done so. Once.
     
  • An old-fashioned camera: Okay, I have a film camera, albeit one that uses 126 film, not 35mm film. Also, I own an old Kodak Brownie movie camera that I bought that one day in 2007.
     
  • A Smith Corona Typewriter: Although I used a Smith Corona typewriter in college (how old am I, anyway?), I did not reclaim it after my sainted mother passed away, so my brother might own a Smith Corona typewriter. I do, however, own an old IBM Electric.
     
  • Pocket Watch on a Chain: I only own a pocket watch, but it’s not on a chain. It’s got a bad clasp, and it hasn’t worked since I overwound it thirty years ago. But every now and again, I consider getting it repaired and put on a chain. Although I’m not sure if I’d wear it with my three piece suit or simply throw it in my pocket with the other assortment of items I carry there. Perhaps in the trousers with the cell phone pockets that are too small for current smart phones. Or maybe all of the above.

There you have it. Science on the Internet has proven I’m cool, or at least that I’m a collection of anachronisms that one person on the Internet thinks would be cool until such time as he would be confronted with the actual embodiment of it, namely, me, at which point he’d think, “What a dork.”

To Coin a Phrase

Posted in Humor on August 12th, 2014 by Brian

Tandana:

The tan on the face of a guy who wears a hat or cap and sunglasses in the sun, so the bottom part of the face tans but the eyes and forehead do not.

A Far, Far Geekier Thing That I Did Than I’ve Ever Done

Posted in Books, Life on August 5th, 2014 by Brian

On the Facebook (that’s what we old timers call it, “the Facebook,” just like it was originally, although I’m far too old to have been on the Facebook when it was the Facebook), I follow Robert Crais, whose novels I’ve read (what, you don’t believe me?). He posted a link to a blog that posted photos of his office, and my eyes were drawn to:

Directly above MS. DISTRICT ATTORNEY is the Merry Marvel Marching Society No-prize I won for having a letter-of-comment published in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic book. I was thirteen. Years later, Stan Lee inscribed and signed it for me.

Whoa. A Spider-Man comic with a letter from Robert Crais. I had to have it. But which one was it? Read more »

Data Point

Posted in Life on August 4th, 2014 by Brian

It’s August, and I just put on a sweatshirt.

I blame Climate Single Data Point in a Large Dataset That Nevertheless Only Captures A Small Sample of Data From A Short Interlude In A Very Long Time Series.

A Simple Misunderstanding

Posted in Humor on August 2nd, 2014 by Brian

Overheard in the YMCA parking lot:

Beautiful wife: They’re doing burpees.
Somewhat homely husband: They’re snorting seeds? That’s gotta hurt.

The Internet makes it much easier to footnote my humor.

The Mysterious Lottery Ticket

Posted in Life on August 2nd, 2014 by Brian

So I was cleaning out my car from a couple weeks’ worth of accumulated detritus, which typically includes a large number of children’s books, a stray article of children’s clothing, a child’s lunch box, wrappers from children’s snacks, children’s artwork/papers, and water bottles, when I uncovered this:

October 2004 Powerball Ticket

A Powerball ticket from October 9, 2004.

How did that get there?

It’s a bit of a mystery, considering the following:

* We did not own this vehicle in 2004.
* I have cleaned this vehicle out before.

I probably did pick up the occasional Powerball ticket in those days; I have certain ebbs and peaks (pardon the mixed metaphor) as my interest in the lottery waxes and wanes. The text on the ticket promotes watching the lottery on a St. Louis radio station, and I was living in the St. Louis area 10 years ago (as these very blog archives will attest).

Of course, I can’t look to this without reminiscing where I was ten years ago. It was on the eve of George W. Bush’s reelection. I had just started working from home as a computer consultant. We lived in Casinoport, and we did not have children. I was driving the pick-up that I still have, but my beautiful wife had not yet traded her Eclipse for the family SUV. I suppose I could go back to this blog’s archives for a day-by-day of what I was doing then, but I’m too lazy for that.

But as to how it got into this vehicle ten years later, I have no idea. The best theory I can come up with is that someone used it as a bookmark and that it fell out of a book; however, it wasn’t from a book I was reading. Perhaps a book my wife was reading? The vehicle itself is a 2004 model, and we bought it in St. Louis, so it’s possible, I suppose, that its first owner lost this ticket somewhere in the cabin infrastructure and it only now has resurfaced. But we bought the used truck from a dealer, so they cleaned it and polished it, and we’ve cleaned the interior ourselves, and we’ve had the car cleaned at least once by professionals. The ticket would have to have been lodged somewhere special to hide out for a decade in the SUV.

I don’t know. There is no clear explanation for it. This being the Internet, I’m going to have to guess something implausible, like a microwormhole.

Also, I’m pleased to note that it is not a winning ticket. That would have been too much.

If You’re Looking At Your Phone, I See Part Of The Problem

Posted in News on August 1st, 2014 by Brian

New App Hopes to Prevent Child Drownings:

In response, Cutler created the J-Swim Band: the first wearable device to detect potential drownings.

It is worn as a headband by swimmers or wristband by anyone who should not be in the water.

The sensor detects when it has been submerged too long and sounds an alarm on your smart phone or iPad.

Maybe you shouldn’t be looking at your device when your kids are in the water. Maybe you ought to be looking at your children.

Old Timey Programmer Visits MfBJN

Posted in Blogging, Humor on July 30th, 2014 by Brian

At least, that’s what I glean from this Sitemeter report:

Language: C

I wonder how this blog looked all brackety and semi-coloned.