Chemical Warfare in San Francisco

Apparently someone is planting acid bombs in San Francisco:

A 10-year-old girl was sprayed with hydrochloric acid Sunday after her brother kicked a bottle that had been left on the street in front of a Redwood City church and it ruptured, according to the Redwood City Fire Department.

It is the fourth time in about a month in which chemical-filled bottles have been found in San Mateo County, Battalion Chief Steve Cavallero said.

The last one was planted outside a Lutheran Church.

Funny how little you can find about that on the Internet.

2007: The Year’s Reading in Review

To brag, here’s the complete list of books I read in the 2007 goal year:

  • Home Improvement:52 Weekend Projects by Dan Ramsay
  • Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen
  • Dr. Kookie, You’re Right by Mike Royko
  • Grifters & Swindlers Cynthia Manson (ed)
  • Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows by Rod McKuen
  • Kiss by Ed McBain
  • Robert Frost by Lawrance Thompson
  • Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman
  • Dirty Work by Stuart Woods
  • Mortal Prey by John Sandford
  • High Profile by Robert B. Parker
  • Fields of Wonder by Rod McKuen
  • The Mensa Genius Quiz Book by Marvin Grosswirth, Dr. Abbie Salny, and the members of Mensa
  • Too Far by Mike Lupica
  • Great Tales of Mystery & Suspense Compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Malzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg
  • Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
  • Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery, and Detection by Reader’s Digest
  • Come to Me in Silence by Rod McKuen
  • Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
  • Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven
  • Ernest Hemingway by Philip Young
  • Winter Prey by John Sandford
  • Broken Prey by John Sandford
  • Forever Odd by Dean Koontz
  • The Prize Winner’s Handbook by Jeffrey Feinmann
  • The Case of the Cautious Coquette by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • The King’s Henchman by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • Hidden Prey by John Sandford
  • Fat Ollie’s Book by Ed McBain
  • Santorini by Alistair MacLean
  • Terminator Dreams by Aason Allston
  • Night Prey by John Sandford
  • The Instant Enemy by Ross MacDonald
  • Nocturne by Ed McBain
  • The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman
  • Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
  • Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  • Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  • Another Part of the City by Ed McBain
  • The Retaliators by Donald Hamilton
  • SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld
  • Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon
  • Nick at Nite’s Classic TV Companion edited by Tom Hill
  • Tuesday Night Football by Alex Karras and Douglas Graham
  • Chapter Two by Neil Simon
  • Certain Prey by John Sandford
  • Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
  • Heart of Darkness and the Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
  • The Watchman by Robert Crais
  • The Use and Abuse of Books by Leon Battista Alberti
  • From The Corner Of His Eye by Dean Koontz
  • Dirty Linen by Tom Stoppard
  • Harvest Poems 1910-1960 by Carl Sandburg
  • Suspension Bridge by Rod McKuen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Spare Change by Robert B. Parker
  • Lake Superior Journal Jim Marshall’s View from the Bridge by Jim Marshall
  • Candyland by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain
  • Armageddon 2419 AD by Philip Francis Nowlan
  • Sonnets of Eve by Flora May Johnson Pearce
  • Kill City: The Enforcer #3 by Andrew Sugar
  • Listen to the Warm by Rod McKuen
  • All I Need to Know I Learned From My Cat by Suzy Becker
  • 101 Uses for a Dead Cat by Simon Bond
  • Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Tangled Vines Lyn Lifshin (ed)
  • Sweet and Sour by Andrew A. Rooney
  • He Was a Midwestern Boy on His Own by Bob Greene
  • Poems of Flowers Gail Harvey (Ed)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • The Parisian Affair by Nick Carter
  • Ghosts by Ed McBain
  • Puppet on a Chain by Alistair MacLean
  • Deadly Welcome by John D. MacDonald
  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  • All Summer Long by Bob Greene
  • Poems of Friendship Gail Harvey (Ed)
  • Be Happy! April Danner (selected by)
  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Dear Americans: Letters from the Desk of Ronald Reagan Ralph E. Weber & Ralph A. Weber (ed)
  • Detroit by Dale Fisher
  • Versus by Ogden Nash
  • Sight Unseen by Donald Margulies
  • My Poems from the Heart by Pam Puleo
  • Broadway Bound by Neil Simon
  • Panic in Philly by Don Pendleton
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Seawitch by Alistair MacLean
  • The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
  • How to Research The History of Your Webster Groves Home by Ann Morris
  • Webster Park 1892-1992 by Wilda H. Swift and Cynthia S. Easterling
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Eight Black Horses by Ed McBain
  • State’s Evidence by Stephen Greenleaf
  • North Webster: A Photograpic History of a Black Community by Ann Morris and Henrietta Ambrose
  • Case of the Fiery Fingers by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Raiders of Gor by John Norman
  • Treasures of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism by
  • Lori by Robert Bloch
  • Unfair and Unbalanced: The Lunatic Magniloquence of Henry E. Panky by Patrick M. Carlisle
  • Vienna Days by Kim du Toit
  • Hoaxes! by Gordon Stein and Marie J. MacNee
  • Like I Was Sayin’ by Mike Royko
  • Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein
  • Webster Groves by Clarissa Start
  • Now and Then by Robert B. Parker
  • The Black Hole by Alan Dean Foster
  • One of Us is Wrong by Samuel Holt
  • My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane
  • In Retrospect I by Kathy Condon (ed.)
  • Tales from the Coral Court by Shellee Graham
  • New York at Night by Bill Harris
  • The Handyman by Penelope Mortimer
  • Downtown by Ed McBain
  • Momisms by Cathy Hamilton
  • The Enforcer by Andrew Sugar
  • The Book of Lists The 90s Edition by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace
  • Spill the Jackpot by A.A. Fair
  • It’s Pat: My Life Exposed by Julia Sweeney and Christine Zander
  • Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides by Dave Barry
  • Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
  • Mind Prey by John Sandford
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry
  • The Best Cartoons from the Saturday Evening Post

You can find the reviews using that little search box at the top. I am far too lazy to do 125 Google searches to make it easy on you.

Overall, quite the eclectic mix. A lot of John Sandford and Ed McBain, some John Norman, and a mix of genre fiction, literary classics, poetry, and some non-fiction thrown in.

Bow before my reading prowess and my ability to sit in a recliner for whole evenings instead of doing something productive with my life.

Memo from the Laundry Room

If someone gives you red towels for Christmas, that person is not your friend.

I’ve washed this set twice using the color-lock vinegar method, and they still bleed red. Also, the manufacturer has used a special dye-as-binder method so that the actual washings are taking out as much of the linen as the dye.

So when we put these special towels out when our “friend” comes by next year, she’ll think we need more new towels. Red. And the circle will be unbroken.

Good Book Hunting: November 21, 2007 (The Late Edition)

Gentle reader, I have been holding something back from you. It’s the results of our November 21 trip to yard sales and what books I bought there. I haven’t been buying much in December except for a couple trips to the bookstore or Amazon.com (The Fred File, And Then We Came To The End, Honeymoon with my Brother, and Mark Bowden’s Road Work). But in November, our last real excursion of last year, I bought the following:



November 21 book hunting results
Click for full size

We have:

  • An architecture handbook so I can be just like Howard once I get the orange hair dye to take.
  • A book of lists (not the official The Book of Lists) about the best things.
  • A smart-sounding book about Naturalism. I forget what sort.
  • A biography of Tolstoy’s wife.
  • Some flat book I forget and am too lazy to look for.
  • A promotional copy of the last Billy Joel live CD.
  • A record containing some gothic and renaissance music.

Heather’s stack is to the right.

That lone book in the middle was a mistake; sometime in the transfer of passing back and forth the stack of books and the boy, we picked up the book upon which we had put the stack and there it is. Now it’s mine by default.

The end of yard sale season (which is November, oddly enough, here in Missouri) means we won’t really go nuts buying books for a couple weeks yet until the sporadic book fairs begin again. Which gives me time to get in some reading, as you’ll note below.

Book Report: Star Trek III The Search for Spock by Vonda N. McIntyre (1984)

As I insinuated in the book review for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, this book takes the script of the movie and what I know if it and goes a little beyond it. Okay, a lot beyond it. And she’s the author who gave Mr. Sulu his name, which according to Wikipedia became canon not when she used it in her book, but when it was inserted into the script of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

So, do you remember the movie? Not much either you, huh? Funny how these movies are really so short in actual episodes/incidents/scenes when you come right down to it. This particular movie was the one between Khan and the whales, so it gets short shrift. Also, it reads more like a fattened television script (and the fattening isn’t always flattering) than a novel in its own right. And, if you remember, this is the first movie that started the tradition of blowing up the Enterprise. Maybe it meant something in this movie (shock, if nothing else), by the time the Next Generation bunch were blowing them up like they were wooden Hollywood sets and not expensive pieces of government procurement, it was rote and boring.

So the book’s worth the time if you’re a Star Trek fan (or a Vonda N. McIntyre fan, I suppose).

If not, watch the movie.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Heat by Ed McBain (1981)

Man, this book is old; Kling is still a new detective and married to the model who might have started cheating on him, The City is a pre-Giuliani cesspool, and the copyright date says 1981. Well, that’s about all you can say about it to know how old the book is. Its contents and story have aged well, but it’s worth remembering that this series is only middle aged here at about 30 years old.

The main plot: on the hottest week of the year, the boys from the 87th find an apparent suicide in a apartment where the air conditioner has been shut off. This causes them to delve a little deeper, and they discover that several things in the apartment have been wiped of prints–including the thermometer and the bottle of pills the victim used in the suicide. So suicide it probably ain’t. In side plots, a recent ex-con decides Kling deserves to die for sending him up and Kling’s investigation of the alleged infidelity of his wife.

The book’s only 180 pages long, so it reads like a script for a television series in spots, but really, isn’t that what we expect of these middle-of-the-series books?

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: The Best Cartoons from the Saturday Evening Post edited by Steven Cornelius Pettinga (1998)

This thin volume, my free gift for subscribing or resubscribing, doesn’t count for much on the intellectual scale, but you know, gentle reader, that I don’t always go for the heavy stuff. As a matter of fact, I avoid it a lot of the time. So maybe some cartoons fit right in.

They’re amusing. I don’t think I’ve even chuckled at a one panel cartoon in decades, but I give some of them a wry internal smile, including some within this collection. Some almost venture to Far Side territory, something you wouldn’t expect from a staid publication.

Worth a look, I guess, if you subscribe or find it at the book sales.

Books mentioned in this review:


That’s Not What I See

In the book Busy Penguins, the authors have a photo that they have captioned incorrectly:

Penguin martial arts

The authors of the book are apparently unfamiliar with the penguin martial art spheniscinatasu. Instead of putting a wing around the other penguin to comfort his compatriot, the penguin on the right is in the process of employing the dreaded aptenodytesu forsterika death strike, a move that crushes the opponent’s arteries to the head and leads to death within agonizing seconds.

Penguins caring, indeed.

Abrogation of Freedom Comes Easy to Some

You know why I don’t tend to read the letters to the editor in the local papers? Because many of them read like this thoughtless screed, summed up with the pithy:

Your freedom to choose ends when it impinges on my right to a clean planet.

Oh, revel, revel, gentle reader, in that principle. Your basic freedom ends where it impinges upon my freedom to an arbitrary, aesthetically determined freedom.

And don’t think that your freedoms would not continue being abrogated until such time as everyone achieves the same level of misery.

When Darwin Awards and Department of Righteous Shootings Collide

Practical joke leads to cop’s shooting:

Police believe a practical joke led to the shooting Tuesday of a 23-year-old Ste. Genevieve police officer.

The rookie deputy allegedly faked a break-in around 9:45 p.m. at his brother-in-law’s home in Festus, said Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis. The brother-in-law thought an intruder was about to enter his house and reacted by shooting him.

A short time later, Festus police noticed a car speeding along Veterans Boulevard and realized the vehicle was racing to Jefferson Memorial Hospital. Once there, they recognized the shooter as an on-call minister for the police department.

Jeez.

That’s Just Crass

Mass disaster survivor's guide to lawyerin' up

The Missouri Bar has a handy guide to keep on hand in case of nuclear detonation, river-shifting earthquake, tsunami, devastating hurricane, or apartment complex fire so that you can be sure to protect your legal rights and pay legal fees with whatever survives the looting, roving gangs, and roaming vigilantes or protection-confiscating police.

There’s no point in merely surviving if you cannot sue someone, I guess.

Compare and contrast with this wisdom (link seen on Dustbury; these bits correctly inject perspective into the concept of “mass disaster,” but one suspects that the light versions of mass disasters are the ones the Missouri Attorneys’ special interest group / lobbying organization is most willing to help the victim through.

Meet Your New Project Manager, Clippy

Remember Clippy? Remember how you could turn him off? Well, get ready for Microsoft’s Clippy the Project Manager:

A unique monitoring system and method is provided that involves monitoring user activity in order to facilitate managing and optimizing the utilization of various system resources. In particular, the system can monitor user activity, detect when users need assistance with their specific activities, and identify at least one other user that can assist them. Assistance can be in the form of answering questions, providing guidance to the user as the user completes the activity, or completing the activity such as in the case of taking on an assigned activity. In addition, the system can aggregate activity data across users and/or devices. As a result, problems with activity templates or activities themselves can be more readily identified, user performance can be readily compared, and users can communicate and exchange information regarding similar activity experiences. Furthermore, synchronicity and time-sensitive scheduling of activities between users can be facilitated and improved overall.

Swell.

Book Report: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein (1979)

This book is a bit unlike most genre fiction, where you have an obvious sort of plot problem that, once it’s overcome, the book is done. Instead, we have a character (Friday), an elite “courier” who happens to be an Artificial Person looking for an identity in a world of humans who don’t view AP or the lesser petri dish Living Artifacts as human, and we have her situation: in a post-breakup world run by batteries and without internal combustion engines, intrigue amid the nation-states, and a wave of assassinations. When Friday is rejected by an open family and is cut off from her corporate benefactors, she has to rely on her wits and her augmented reflexes to survive and find her way home.

The book is a later Heinlein; I have only the barest memory of reading anything but Stranger in a Strange Land in high school (the other stuff came in middle school) and Farnham’s Freehold last year. This book is more like the former, with its reliance on free-and-breezy sexuality, than the latter, a more straight ahead science fiction story. I mean, the Heinlein moral code is there in both, but not so vigorous in the earlier work. I’m not going to spend a lot of time pooh-poohing it because I’m not a prude, but I am a family guy. So I prefer the old school Heinlein.

The book doesn’t answer many questions the reader will have about what’s happened between now and the time the book takes place to break up the US, for one thing, and eliminate internal combustion engines. Nor does it really draw to a close the questions it brings up nor conclude the macro-background big deals and big events in which the story is set; instead, we have Friday removing herself from the situation as a resolution.

Perhaps consistent, perhaps on message, but ultimately it weakens the book.

On the plus side, this book is fairly common at book fairs, so you can get yours cheaply if you don’t want the ease and convenience of enriching me by clicking the link below.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N. McIntyre (1982)

All right, I think this author took slightly more liberty with this novelization than “Gene Roddenberry” did with the first one; a lot of the scenes that I don’t remember from the movie are a little disparate (but nobody got implants that disappear). Given what I’ve seen of the novelization of The Search for Spock, though, this one is relatively bang-on the novelization.

To recap: While the Enterprise is on a training mission, it investigates a scientific lab outpost that sends a garbled message to Kirk. Meanwhile, an enemy from Kirk’s past has put events in motion to steal that lab’s discovery and to kill Kirk in revenge.

These books clock in under 200 pages, even with the additional emoting scenes and scientific mumbo-jumbo added. If you’re into Star Trek, you will probably get a kick out of them.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry (1979)

As you might know, gentle reader, I picked up a number of Star Trek movie novelizations last autumn along with a copy of My Enemy, My Ally. I also later bought VHS copies of all of the movies but The Voyage Home. So I’ll be able to do a comparison of the films to the novels as well, once I get around to watching the movies.

The book follows the movie, mostly, with some variations (as I recall). For example, I don’t remember an implant that gives Kirk direct access to the Starfleet emergency channel. But it’s in the book and, as I know of the Star Trek universe, nowhere else. However, my reading in the canon is a little light, but that’s changing.

The book also looks at some of the behind-the-scenes politicking that made Kirk an admiral and some of the history of the Enterprise era, but it looks as though this, too, never made official canon. I have to wonder if they really paid attention to the books when building the movies and other series. Actually, I don’t have to wonder; I can infer by what Ms. Duane said when she commented on her book.

A quick enough read, and it was fun enough. If it doesn’t line completely up, I won’t notice in most places and won’t mind too much when it does. Which is why Paramount can do it so sloppily.

Oh, yeah, the plot: A big probe comes to earth to destroy it. No, not because of the whales, because it’s Voyager coming to meet its creator and disinfect the planet of the irrational carbon units. Then, a hot bald chick acts as its emissary and the dad from 7th Heaven unites with the hot bald chick and the machine. Credits roll.

Sure, it’s thin, but audiences waited through the whole 1970s, almost, to get that, and they were ecstatic. Once the geeks were happy again, the fog of the 1970s lifted, the moribund economy rebounded, and we’re still seeing the effects of that national optimism today. Reagan revolution? No, the Roddenberry Revolution.

Books mentioned in this review:


Put In My Place

Man, there’s nothing better than a smuggle who visits this site through a Web search and leaves a condescending comment on a post that’s several years old.

Like this one.

I mean, brother, it must be hard trying to express your biting, insightful wit on a backwater blog in a post that hardly anyone read in 2005, much less 2008.

But I publish them, oh yes, I do. Because I’m not a hater.