Knob, Denuded

Ladies and gentlemen, John and Charles (I’m not saying that John is a lady nor Charles is a gentleman), I present to you the knob of the door leading from my dining room to the garage. I have not seen this doorknob since I moved into Nogglestead, three years and four days ago:

The knob, denuded.

Look how shiny it is, unlike the other doorknobs in the house that have been grabbed by a variety of sweaty father mitts and, more importantly, pasta-encased little child mitts.

That’s why it’s so clean and shiny, you see; for the last three years, it’s been protected by a child proofing mechanism, one of those knob covers that spins freely unless you squeeze the tabs on the sides to make contact with the underlying knob.

But my children are four and six now, and we spent all summer with sliding doors open, and they know to operate those and never showed a tendency to wander out on their own. Additionally, we removed the protection from the knob on the front door earlier this year, as it not only flummoxed our children but also our house guests. The children haven’t shown a tendency to go get the newspaper or go out.

So one aesthetically pleasing step later, and our door knobs are free. But it’s a bit sad to an old sentimentalist like me. Because I recognize that any de-childproofing steps measure a portion of the past, of my life with babies and toddlers, is moving into the past and lost but for my memories. Although the times haven’t always been joyful or easy, it’s only the joy I’ll remember and miss.

Not enough to keep a ceremonial childproofing door knob cover as a personal relic, though.

Also, I give the shine on that door knob eight days, maximum.

Book Report: Sand Art by Ellen Appel (1976)

Book coverThis book is pretty much what it says: a book about sand art.

This, like macrame, must have fluorished in an era where quaaludes were a good idea. Actually, sand art comes in a couple forms. One is sand painting; the other is pouring sand into containers and poking it into a shape with a stick until it forms various patterns or pictures. The other is sand painting, where you paint a portion of a picture with adhesive, pour on some sand, shake the excess off, wait for the adhesive to dry, and then repeat until you get what you want.

I was going to go full-bore deprecation here, and I swore that I’d never, ever do something this silly or twee. But as I went along with the book, I started to see some of the challenges in the art form and got to thinking, “Hmmmm…..” I probably said or thought the same thing about glass painting, now look at me.

Besides, that sand art terrarium (a whole set of projects in the book is that 1970s garden, the terrarium) would go well with the beaded curtains in my bedroom.

So it’s a serious book that give artistry and insight into a craft project that I’d seen in the 21st century as a means of keeping kids quiet for a half hour. So if you’re looking to try something new, you might give it a look. If nothing else because it’s an earnest book in a world that might only enjoy it ironically.

Books mentioned in this review:

You Airplane Security, Summarized

You: You get to stand in line, take off your shoes, go through a backscatter machine or whatnot, get a free underpants massage, answer silly questions, listen to a loop of monotonous warnings over the PA, and so on.

Your cat? Not so much.

The story of Bob-Bob the cat received national attention last week after he snuck into Maze’s suitcase, made it through screening at Port Columbus International Airport and was loaded into an airplane for a flight to Orlando.

. . .

Mike Groleau, who handled the bags for the group, said he thought he saw the suitcase wiggle, but went ahead and loaded it along with the other bags.

Your bags can wiggle, and that’s all right with airport employees who’ve got other things to do, other planes to load and unload, little cart trains to careen around the tarmac, and whatnot.

Book Report: Deion Sanders * Brett Favre by Richard J. Brenner (1996)

Book coverThis book starts out with a political statement:

[Author’s Note: For a number of years, many Native American groups have been appealing to sports teams to not use Indian names like “Braves” or “Redskins,” or logos such as the racist caricature of the laughing Indian as depicted on the uniform of the Cleveland baseball team.

In support of Native Americans who feel that nicknames such as the ones cited above are demeaning, I have declined to use them in this book.

If you share my feelings that those nicknames are disrespectful, you should write to the teams and to the Commissioner of Football. Those addresses appear on page 91 of this book.]

Well, all-righty then. This is a book designed for the young adult audience, and the author bigfoots his personal opinion and call to political action on the first page. The more things change….

This book includes short bios of Deion Sanders and Brett Favre. Granted, I’m a Packers fan, but I didn’t know much of the bio of Favre. Apparently, he’s been a wild pitcher his whole career, capable of swapping passes and interceptions in his youth as well as his dotage. How about that.

The bio of Sanders was more interesting: A kid from the projects, Sanders was a gifted athlete who did both baseball and football in college and at the professional level. Additionally, he played multiple positions in football, including both offense and defense (and special teams). That’s cool. I learned many of the teams he played with in the beginning of his career and was driven to look up his whole career just to make sure I could name all the professional sports teams he played on in case that ever comes up on Jeopardy!

It’s not a picture book–it only contains ten photos, and the exclamation point on the cover cannot make that any more exciting.

The book cuts off mid-career for Sanders and early in Favre’s career–it was published the year they went on to win the Super Bowl, but Favre’s epilogue and final note is his painkiller addiction. So the book is not definitive or complete, but interesting and worth a read on a day where there isn’t any actual football on or as a way of gliding into the new year after the football season ends.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Triumph Sports Cars by Graham Robson (?)

Book coverAs I might have mentioned, it’s football season again, so it’s time to look at books with pictures of cars in them amid the cartoon books and art books. Last year, it was Triumph Sports Cars by Graham Robson. This year, I’ve read Triumph Sports Cars by the same author. While that book was a hardback, this is a short gallery book (32 pages) given over to photographs, mostly, with a brief history of the models.

It’s more of a primer than the other book, probably sharing some copy and photos. The Shire Album series is a collection of pictorial guides to old British things, with other books in the series covering Playing Cards and Tarots, Cricketing Bygones, Agricultural Hand Tools, and the like. So it’s geared to the collector. What’s odd or ironic is that the books themselves, judging from the price on the Internet, are collectibles themselves, which means there might be room for a Shire Album entitled Shire Albums. Or maybe not.

Someday, I’m going to have to write a detective series where the investigator drives a TR7 or something to make sure that I put these books to use and can write off the five bucks or whatever I’ve dedicated to the innumerable books.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Aux Arcs: Black & White Photography of the Ozarks Region by Carl James (2009)

Book coverThis book is a collection of black and white photographs, along with a couple of poems, by the author, a former architect who brought his design eye to photography. He prefers, as do many photographers, the wild, bridges, and old buildings. He also is a fan of a certain photographic techinique–longer exposure times or development times–that washes water splashing into a white miasma. I remember when my photographer for the St. Louis Artesian used a similar technique for the first cover with her photograph “Shattered Water”. Wow, I was the editor of a literary magazine such a long time ago that its Internet presence is slim? That was almost twenty years ago.

At any rate, the photographs are what you would expect. None leapt out at me. I’m not a real critic, so don’t take my dismissal as definitive. I’m that way with most of the contents of museums and books of work by serious artists, too.

Books mentioned in this review:

Federal Budget Idea

Hey, I have an idea to close the Federal budget deficit:

Let’s steal wi-fi from Canada!

Let’s face it, those Loonie-worshippers don’t have enough people to use all that bandwidth, and the United States is right next door.

I’m pretty sure theirs is the SSID of DonCherryIsGod.

Paul Ryan, you’re welcome to use this.

Book Report: Frik’in Hell Volume One and Frik’in Hell Volume Two by Todd Tevlin (2012)

Book coverI swapped a copy of my novel for these books, since I know the author from the old BBS days, when he dominated the local CG64 boards as White Knight. Or maybe that was me.

Regardless, these books collect the first two years (already?) of his Web comic Frik’in Hell. The motif centers upon a medieval warrior who finds himself out of war-work and takes up as the counter man in a fast food inn. He doesn’t take it too well, and beheads customers in between visits to a support group, attacks of ninjas, and a quest by another character to create ketchup.

Strangely, given that I’m an IT professional, but Web comics don’t tend to draw me in. I see the occasional Penny Arcade and XCD-something (see? I can’t even remember the name of it). I did read another book made from an online Web comic (RPG World). But it’s not my thing. Old Heathcliff? My thing. Maybe even Marmaduke.

But if you’re hipper than me, check his comic out at frikinhell.com.

Good Book Hunting: September 24, 2012

On Saturday, my beautiful wife and children attended a birthday party just a couple doors down from Hooked on Books.

I’M ONLY A MAN!

Hooked on Books visit

I did most of my visiting to the sale books out in front and in the little room off of the back, coming away with:

  • Top of the Heap by A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner). On top, get it? Unfortunately, I already own it in another format, but I might keep the paperback, too, for its cover art and because I am a hoarder.
     
  • Three more M*A*S*H Goes To…. books. I have a number of them, and I pick them up when I see them. I hope I like them or I run into the last millionaire M*A*S*H fan in the world who must own these books. Because I have like six in the series.
     
  • Two ABLE Team books by Gold Eagle, my first in this pulp series.
     
  • Heathcliff at Home.
     
  • Reno Rendezvous by Leslie Ford. Hooked on Books had two books by this author, but I was reluctant to spend the extra quarter on an untested series. Unlike my profligacy in spending seventy-five cents on M*A*S*H novels.
     
  • HUD, a novel by Larry McMurty. This is the movie tie-in version with Paul Newman on the front.
     
  • Heroes and Outlaws of the Old West, a short collection of pieces about characters in the old West. An idea book if I ever get back into that writing thing.
     
  • The Hundred Years War, a history of that conflict. I spent $5 on this one, as it was not a sale item.
     
  • Aux Arcs: Black and White Photography of the Ozarks Region, a collection of photographs to browse during a football game. I paid $5 for this one, too, and frankly was just bowing to the inevitable. It is available at all the local bookstores and book fairs. I was destined to own it, and now I do.

It’s like $13, which is less than I would have spent at a grocery store in the same amount of time.

The big book fairs are next month, so I had to warm up my book-buying muscles.

The best part of the trip was the exchange at the cash register:

Me: Does the history book redeem me for purchasing all that pulp?
Clerk: I don’t care what you buy.
Me: You’re saying, “No.”

Book Report: Heathcliff At Home by Geo Gately (1985)

Book coverSince it’s football season, the collections of newspaper cartoons comes out for me to browse while watching football so I think like I’m doing something worthwhile with my Sunday afternoon and evenings (the split attention between the cartoons and the football explains why I don’t have a lot of brain cycles to dwell on how nothing is actually worthwhile). In 2009, I read Heathcliff Strikes Again. This year, it’s Heathcliff at Home.

Whereas the two previous collections that I read were single panel episodes for the most part (that is, the daily cartoon), this collection is all multi-panel Sunday installments. The book is in black-and-white, though. It collects cartoons from across the years, though, from as far back as the late 1970s. Still, given that it’s a collection of longer strips in the same amount of space, there’s less thematic repitition in the book than you got with the single panel cartoons. Heathcliff goes after Spike a lot in this book, and Sonja does not make an appearance.

The cartoons are amusing enough, comforting somewhat to someone who grew up with them. But if you’re a big fan of Web comics, it probably ain’t your bag, baby.

Books mentioned in this review:

Will They Learn? No.

One of these things is not like the others. Yet.

CEO of Mamtek charged with theft, fraud in Moberly, Mo., case

The CEO of a failed artificial sweetener company was charged Tuesday with theft and securities fraud in Missouri for using bond revenues to avoid foreclosure on his Beverly Hills, Calif., home and for failing to tell the truth about the company’s troubled operations.

The charges announced by Attorney General Chris Koster cap a yearlong investigation into Bruce Cole, who was chairman and CEO of Mamtek U.S.

The company received $39 million in bonds from Moberly, Mo., and authorization for up to $17 million of state incentives to build an artificial sweetener factory in the city which Gov. Jay Nixon said would eventually employ more than 600 people. But construction was halted on the partially complete facility after Mamtek missed a bond payment in August 2011.

Ballpark Village project approved, November groundbreaking planned

The board approved its share of $17 million in state and local tax incentives for the project’s first phase, confirmed John Fougere, director of communications at the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Missouri is expected to contribute about 25 percent of the bonds.

The Cardinals plan to have the first phase of the project complete by opening day 2014. The construction of the first phase of the project is anticipated to create more than 750 construction jobs and more than 430 permanent jobs, Cardinals officials said.

On July 6, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave its blessing for the development plan and subsidies for the Ballpark Village project, the $100 million first phase of which is set to begin construction this fall.

The Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority (MoDESA) voted unanimously on July 5 to approve the $17 million in MoDESA bonds for the project.

Koster sues developers over Cupples 9 cleanup

Missouri’s top lawyer sued a pair of St. Louis developers Friday, saying they squandered $2.4 million worth of state tax credits in the incomplete cleanup of a long-empty downtown building.

Attorney General Chris Koster filed the suit in St. Louis Circuit Court against Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh over their failed redevelopment of the Cupples 9 building on Spruce St. west of Busch Stadium. He claims that their environmental consultant, in a report in 2010 at the end of the cleanup, stated that all lead paint had been removed. Later tests showed that it had not.

So, will governments learn not to ladle out money on developments? Of course not. The other government leaders were stoopid, and the current government leaders have a far keener eye and better readers of chicken guts.

But I find it encouraging that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a piece on another crony capitalist tool, the improvement district: Pennies add up as special taxing districts proliferate.

Book Report: All Saints Church, Wing by Dr. Richard Gem (2003)

Book cover This book is a little tourist guide to the All Saints Church in Wing, Buckinghamshire, England. I certainly didn’t visit it, and I’m not sure what I would have paid for it, but I doubt it was fifty cents. The booklet is only 20 pages of text and photos, after all.

But this book like so many of the tourist-centric, very localized books I’ve read about locations in Europe (see Orvieto and Bruges from last football season, for example). Each is focused on a single city or location with the attendant pile of photographs and maps. More importantly, and more startlingly to someone who has lived in a city-within-a-city where its lustrous history extends back about a hundred years or now a region whose densely worded histories extend back a couple of hundred years, the history of Europe extends back millenia. In more narrative-driven history books, you tend to lose a little bit of a sense of wonder in the sweeping epochs and the rises and falls of civilizations and monarchies.

But All Saints Wing church extends back to when manor owners tended to take care of the churches on their manors. The church was probably built in the tenth century, as its first mention appears in the will of the manor owner in 966, and its architecture reaches back to the Anglo-Saxon period before the Norman Conquest. The guidebook points out what features survive and how the church was modified in the centuries, including during Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church and the English Revolution. The various defilements of the historical character of the church are now part of the historical character of the church.

And in the present day, or at least in 2003, All Saints Church was not a historical venue maintained by a foundation or the British equivalent (with the additional U that is so characteristic of the Queen’s English is fouundation).

It is a church. With people attending services there and children’s programs. Just like your church, which is probably about a millennium younger than it.

Book Report: Personal Computers (Revised Edition) by Charnan and Tom Kazunas (2000)

Book coverYou want to know what Noggle does when he’s desperate to make his annual reading quota, and he’s nowhere near finishing the three different 1400+ page books he’s spending a lot of time on this year? He reads a children’s book.

This is a children’s book circa 2000 that introduces children to the very high-level concepts of computers. What a computer is, how computers were in the 1940s, what a component is, what a peripheral is, what kinds of computers there are, what software is, and so on. Kind of like if you just read the titles of that old Time-Life Books series.

Twelve years later, I guess it’s hard to justify keeping this in a library, since most kids these days are born with an iPhone in their hands, and libraries themselves have whole rooms dedicated to functioning computers rather than books, so children can get hands on experience without the need for a book about them. Still, this book is a book targeted to libraries; I cannot imagine many people picking this up and giving it as a gift, even to children who don’t already have a computer (which brings to mind how I used to pore through the Radio Shack ads in 1980, looking at the pictures of the Tandys for sale, and now I have piles of computers with lots of blinking lights and whirring fans beneath a monitor bigger than my television playing Whiz Kids, and all I want to do is get away from them these days).

It’s a book for libraries, and the local library has discarded it.

Is it worth a read? If you pick it up at the local library book sale with an eye to mockery (although I’m not as wry about it as I would have hoped on that particular bag day), if you need to pad out your reading list, if you’ve got the book, and if you’ve got a football game to watch in between large print definition of mouse and keyboard (it’s the part that looks like a typewriter, which isn’t something someone born in 1994 is going to be familiar with).

On the other hand, this book just might be a good starter book not for children, but for seniors getting in touch with their first computer. It’s short, it’s basic, and it’s larger than normal print. Hmmm. I think Roberta could have used this book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Grenade Fishing: You’re Doing It Wrong

You’re not actually supposed to reel in the grenade:

Matt Tucker caught a couple of bass at Fellows Lake this morning — and fished out a live hand grenade as well.

Tucker, a Springfield firefighter, said he was casting a lure near the highway bridge on the east side of the lake, when he hooked a tangle of line on the bottom.

He noticed an old sock near his lure and pulled the odd bit of trash out of the lake.

Inside the sock? A Vietnam-era pineapple hand grenade with the safety pin still intact.

Some people can’t even grenade fish right.

UPDATE: Welcome, Neatorama readers. You might have heard John Farrier call me “novelist Brian J. Noggle” because my comic IT Heist novel John Donnelly’s Gold is available in paperback, for the Kindle for 99 cents, and at the iTunes store for you iPad people.

There Are No Apostates; Only People Who Have Not Returned To The Faith Yet

E-Books, A Breakup:

I BROKE UP WITH E-BOOKS last year after a flight from Los Angeles to New York. My first-generation Kindle and I had been together for five years, but I knew we’d have to go our separate ways when, an hour into the journey, it completely shut me out.

Although it would be very tempting to be able to search all my books for the thing I want right now, it would also cost a lot. Not just in money, but in other things I value, like the extra insulation.

Wherein Brian J.’s Memories Appear in the Historical Society’s Newsletter

No, not something I wrote; I wish. Instead, this month’s Missouri Times, the newsletter of the State Historical Society of Missouri (available in PDF form here) has an article on Carrie Francke, a woman in the state Republican Party who ran for a couple of offices and lost, before she died in an auto accident in 1989.

I helped on Ms. Francke’s campaign for Congress in 1984. It was the year we’d moved from Milwaukee into the basement of my oft-mentioned rich (that is, struggling middle class) relations in St. Charles. My uncle was politically active and volunteered for this particular campaign, which is why I found myself canvassing Augusta (I think), knocking on doors to tell people about Ms. Francke. I remember seeing a phone booth that only took a dime in that small town (Augusta, I think), which was something prevalent in the novels I was reading at the time (at age twelve, I was already reading pulp fiction from the 1940s and 1950s) but not so much in the real world (where phones were a quarter).

I thought about clipping the article for my uncle, one of the political lions I’ve referred to over the course of this blog, but he passed away in April. So the story from the historical society, that thing I remembered live, I’ve got no one to share it with except the uncaring Internet via this blog.

Now that I have, I’ll drop the clipped article into the recycling bin.

Out of My Cups

On Saturday, I looked through the one of the glass-fronted kitchen cabinet doors, and I saw a number of plastic coffee mugs within the cabinet, and I thought Man, I don’t drink out of those. I don’t like the taste of coffee in plastic. Why don’t I get rid of them?

They’ve been with me a long time. I’ve moved most of them at least four times, and most of them date from the middle 1990s. But that is my wont, to keep things if they’re functional things or have some sort of meaning to me. But, man, these are plastic coffee mugs, for crying out loud.

There were four in the cabinet, and I ultimately decided to divest myself of two:

The divested coffee cups

On the left, we have a coffee cup from a coffee shop that was briefly at the Third Street entrance to the Grand Avenue Mall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I picked that up at a GenCon I attended. As if I needed another memento of the things other than photos of me half naked and painted blue.

On the right, we have a mug that was part of a care package that my mother sent to me during a finals week in college. The package must have come with some candy and other trinkets; the mug itself says Official Mug of the Finals Week Survivor. Which makes it particularly estrange that I am actually parting with it: It is something I received from not only a departed family member, but my mom. I think I’ve drunk coffee from it once or twice, but, as I mentioned, I don’t really like plastic coffee mugs.

So out with these guys.

I’ll keep these guys:

The divested coffee cups

On the left, a large insulated mug with the Marquette Warriors logo on it. My mother bought one for herself and one for me my graduation weekend in 1994. This was my work coffee cup for many years at a number of jobs because its size meant I could take half a pot of coffee to my desk at a time. Maybe the repeated use killed the plastic taste, or maybe it was constructed of better quality plastic, but this one doesn’t bother me when I drink from it. The scent of those years of coffee and those tears of toil linger in it. Mostly the coffee. Not that I have recently, of course, since I work from home when I work. 1993-1994 was the last year that Marquette used the Warrior mascot, so this one is a collector’s item. And a personal relic.

On the right, an insulated Milwaukee Brewers mug from the 20th season in 1989. I don’t remember if I went to the game. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure if I have any memories of this mug at all. I’m not sure how I came to own it. I might have palmed it as I left my father’s house after living there during college. Well, no, that’s not my style. Maybe I went to the game and have repressed it. I did go to a couple of games in that era at Milwaukee County Stadium when the Brew Crew was at the bottom of the American League.

Because these two have sports teams logos on them, I took them from the cabinet and put them on display behind the bar in the basement, along side a couple of Packers cups and my single beer stein. They’re actual personal relics, not drinking vessels. And the preceding two will be donated either to a charity thrift shop or to a church garage sale where they can languish, unbought, on the table with the myriad other coffee cups that one finds, unsold, at these things. But at least it won’t be me who throws them out, ultimately.

But I do consider the scenario where, after civilization has collapsed, I find myself at the edge of a creek having to cup the dirty water with my hands because back in 2012 I was so short-sighted to have disposed of perfectly good drinking vessels. WHAT A FOOL I WAS!