Jumping on the Bandwagon

As many of you have seen on Facebook, the current trend is to put words onto an image and think it’s clever. I guess it’s all over the Internet and might even stem from Fark’s caption contests. Undoubtedly, many future anthropologists will study the origin, although anthropologists spare themselves the question of “For the love of God, why?”

Regardless, I have jumped onto the bandwagon and have created my own, depicted below.

Continue reading “Jumping on the Bandwagon”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: A Century of Enterprise: St. Louis 1894-1994 by Rockwell Gray (1994)

Book coverThis book represents another picture book I inherited from my aunt, and if the used price on Amazon is any guide, it might have been her biggest eBay score. But she lacked a certain follow through on the whole online auction thing. So I’ve got it now, and I thumbed through it, looking at the historical photos of business in St. Louis and reading the flattering paragraphs accompanying the photos. The book was, as a matter of fact, underwritten by one of the enterprises whose start is depicted in the book. Of course that company and all others in St. Louis are praised. Lavishly.

So the book provides interesting photographs, and some trivia and insights, including:

  • The smile was invented in 1948.
  • It’s a wonder turn of the century families were so large considering how ugly the women were.
  • The years since 1994 have been harsh for St. Louis business, since most of the grand corporations lauded in the book–Edison Brothers, May Company, McDonnell Douglas, Pet, Inc., Sherwood Medical, and so on have been bought out or have otherwise left the area.
  • Those who have the juice now in the city of St. Louis have always had the juice in St. Louis.

Still, an enjoyable experience, once again a short one since it was mostly photos, and something I’ll share with the more historical members of my family. And, dear readers, if you offer me what they’re asking for it on Amazon, I’ll share it with you, too.

Book mentioned in this report:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Cracked Laments Lack of Tourism To Monks Mound, Helps Curtail Tourism to Monks Mound

Cracked.com has a piece entitled 6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America, wherein #5 talks about the complexity of native civilization and talks about Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois.

The author laments:

So why does Egypt get millions of dollars of tourism and Time Life documentaries dedicated to their boring old sand pyramids, while you didn’t even know about the giant blue, red, white, black, gray, brown and orange testament to engineering and human willpower just outside of St. Louis? Well, because the Egyptians know how to treat one of the Eight Wonders of the World. America, on the other hand, appears to be trying to figure out how to turn it into a parking lot.

However, the author had previously described the location of the settlement as:

One of the best examples of how we got Native Americans all wrong is Cahokia, a massive Native American city located in modern day East St. Louis.

This just in: Although Cahokia lies in Illinois east of St. Louis, it is not in East St. Louis. East St. Louis is a city just across the river from St. Louis, and its name is a punchline in films almost to the level of Detroit. It’s rough, downtrodden, and crime-ridden. In East St. Louis, they have a problem with car radios being stolen from police cars, okay?

Cahokia is a town some miles away and it’s safe to visit. If it were in East St. Louis, East St. Louisians would have stolen the dirt in Monks Mound, okay?

I’ve been on a couple of occasions. If you want a real mind-bender, some people posit that the mound builders of Cahokia might have traveled southwest and became, hundreds of years later, Toltecs. Although I forget where I read that.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

When Brian J. Met Yakov

So, as I mentioned in the book report on Yakov Smirnoff’s America on Six Rubles a Day, I might just bump into Yakov Smirnoff one day. Over the weekend, I happened to be in Branson, at the foot of the stage of the Yakov Smirnoff Theater, and there he was.

So I’d bought a bagged set of a book and a DVD for the low, low price of $20 (when in Branson, do as the temporary Bransonians do, which is spend money like it were nothing at all). I was disappointed that the book included was AMoSRaD (he wrote, introducing the acronym that Yakovites everywhere will put into play on the Internet starting now) instead of Smirnoff for the Soul, a later volume.

Still, I decided to get it autographed and to pass on the existing autographed copy I own since the latter was not autographed for me.

And I got a picture, of course.

“I’m going to give you the presidential bow,” I said.
Continue reading “When Brian J. Met Yakov”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Juveniles A Little Unclear On The Concept

Protesters arrested in downtown St. Louis:

At least 10 people were arrested Thursday night after protesters spray-painted graffiti on a downtown bank and skirmished with officers, police said.

A St. Louis police bicycle officer suffered a minor injury to his hand when confronted by protesters, police said. A property manager at the Fifth Third Bank at 10th and Olive streets also was assaulted after approaching the people about the graffiti.

Protesters were demonstrating against police violence, specifically the actions of police in Chicago at the NATO summit, one of the protesters said.

One graffiti message on the bank’s glass windows read “Solidarity with all who resist.” More graffiti on Peoples National Bank at 826 Olive read “Burn the banks.”

All righty, then. We have two assaults, vandalism, and a call to arson to protest violence.

Kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for its even-handed treatment of the subject. Undoubtedly, its professional journalists could find some supporters to defend a puppy’s piddling on the carpet, too.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Novel As Security Training

In an article entitled “22 Things A Burglar Would Never Tell You” which looks like it was ripped off right from Readers Digest, we get the following nugget:

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.

That, or a corollary, you would learn if you’d buy and read John Donnelly’s Gold.

I mean, it’s no Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, but it’s chock full of interesting things o’ that nature, and it puts a couple grubzits in my pocket.

(Link seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Brian J. Is Only 82% Guyism Guy

I have only seen 10 of the 11 films on the Guyism.com 11 movies every guy needs to see.

I am missing two. The Wild Bunch and The Bridge on the River Kwai, which is very, very strange considering that I listen to the River Kwai march several times a week (that’s a story for another day).

I think I have it DVRed, though, so I should fix that up sometime soon and will become 100% masculine according to some twee Internet posting, which frankly is the highest standard I can reach some days.

(Link seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Part of Brian J.’s Internal Monologue at the Gym

Not that you asked, but I often find myself adding plates to various weight machines at the gym to the sound of the Taco Bell chihuahua saying “Hurt me.”

Some people have coaches who quietly encourage, some people have coaches who shout, and I have the interior voice of a fifteen-year-old commercial mascot.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Location Apparently Not A Competitive Advantage

Rent-seeking local auto and marine dealers have found friends in the Republican-dominated Missouri state legislature:

Gov. Jay Nixon says voters should have the final say on a bill placing local sales taxes on all motor vehicles purchased out of state.

In a statement released this morning, Nixon said the bill passed by the Legislature in the wee hours of this morning would “improperly impose a tax increase.

“My administration remains committed to working with the Legislature and others to resolve these issues, but the people of Missouri must have the opportunity to make their voices heard,” the governor said.

At issue is a bill that was rushed through yesterday in response to a ruling handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court in January.

Auto dealers say the court ruling puts them at a competitive disadvantage and is already driving sales to neighboring states.

While this might be a problem in border areas, not every citizen has the ability nor the wherewithal to buy a vehicle or boat in Maryland, no matter how convenient the Internet might make it. The economics term is place utility. That is, the place of the product matters. Local car dealerships have a competitive advantage over out-of-state dealers already because local car dealers are local.

The logic of a Republican legislator is truly dizzying:

Sen. Mike Kehoe, a former car dealer from Jefferson City, said today that the issue needs to be resolved quickly.

At the same time, Kehoe said the Legislature is considering offering some middle ground on the issue. At least one pending bill has been amended to give cities and counties the option to ask local voters if they want to continue the sales tax on out-of-state purchases.

“Maybe it could be a two-step process,” with the Legislature imposing the tax and voters deciding whether to keep it, Kehoe said.

Some counties already have a use tax in place; however, this Republican, theoretically representing a smaller government party, would prefer that the higher level of government impose its new tax upon the population and give county governments the ability to opt-out of the extra revenue whose taxation decision was taken out of their hands and their accountability.

Perhaps the proper way, and the way in more accordance with small government tradition, would be the other way around. You know, like it is currently.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Todd Akin Has Washington Experience and Washington Weakness

Another story tries to connect dots between Todd Akin’s votes and his campaign contributions:

People for whom U.S. Rep. Todd Akin helped secure $31 million in earmarks have paid him back handsomely: The Missouri Republican has raked in nearly $80,000 in campaign cash from people tied to those firms.

“The fact that Rep. Akin got campaign contributions from people working at companies that he got earmarks for serves as a vivid reminder of why we have the earmark moratorium and how it’s important,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the independent advocacy group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“In three short years, these companies got $31 million worth of earmarks while handing over $78,000 in campaign contributions. Not a bad return on investment,” Ellis said.

We at Missouri Insight recognize that statistical correllation does not equal causation. The fact that some people sent money to a Republican candidate does not necessarily mean that they were seeking influence, nor does the fact that the representative votes in that direction indicate that he’s doing it because of the campaign contributions.

However, we at Missouri Insight also believe that once a politician goes to Washington, he (or she) becomes of Washington. Particularly when the politician in question has trouble with his voting address and remembering where he lives. So we support Sarah Steelman for the Senate.

But we continue to like to shout “Crimson!” when we see a red herring about candidates whom we do not prefer.

In a McCaskill-Akin race, both candidates will have the smell of Washington about them, making Akin vulnerable to these sorts of stories and insinuations.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Personal Relics: My Grandfather’s Jacket

Over the weekend, my children attended a birthday party and got temporary tattoos with a nautical theme as befit a pair of pirates. So Daddy talked a little extraneously extemporaneously about tattoos, and how members of the military often got them, including their Uncle Kevin and their great-grandfather Raymond. Ray, my grandfather, had a blue Marine bulldog on his arm, marred by the scar where he’d been shot while helping take Okinawa.

Suddenly, I thought to go to the coat closet and bring out a bit of history for them: My grandfather’s jacket*. Continue reading “Personal Relics: My Grandfather’s Jacket”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Dear Valued Customer, You Are A Loser by Rick Broadhead (2004)

Book coverThis book collects a number of stories about technology problems from the 1980s onto its publication date, but most of the problems occur in the high tide of the Internet in the late 1990s and early part of the 21st century.

I remember some of them, but certainly not all. Most of them stem from mistakes on the technical end and not on security breaches, which do not allow for a wry commentary.

An amusing read. It reads like a series of blog posts, with each individual story only a couple hundred words, which makes it perfect for a nightstand book you want to pick up and put down quickly. The end of it includes a “Mail me your stories” bit which indicates the author might eventually have or might eventually release a sequel that I wouldn’t mind reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Five Things No Longer In My Desk Pen Drawer

As I’ve alluded to before, and by “alluded to,” I mean “have admitted with a twisted sort of pride,” I am a pack rat. However, I’ve given some thought recently to downsizing a couple of things, mostly things I’ve bought at garage sales because I thought they’d be cool to own, like an old Kodak Brownie camera or molecule assembly set. Things I’ve never actually unboxed.

As I was looking for some safety pins the other day, I dumped a couple of bins in my “pen” drawer, which is the desk drawer on the second desk in my office that I never really look into for pens. I unearthed a twenty-year-old watch, but no safety pins. And as the items of dubious value spilled out, I got rid of some.


  1. Four risers for a monitor stand. Some decade ago, back when I still had a smallish CRT monitor, I bought a stand to raise the monitor to an ergonomic height. The stand had four sets of risers of varying heights that you could stack to make the stand higher or lower to accommodate your monitor or your sense of ergonomy. I had four one-inch sized risers left, little cylinders with a fluted end to fit into the other cylinders. I tossed them into the drawer in case I’d ever need to raise the monitor more. In case I got a smaller monitor, I suppose. Or because I just save things. Soon after, though, I got a 19″ monitor that needed no stand at all (and then bigger LCD monitors since then). I’ve long since donated the stand itself to Goodwill, but the risers rested comfortably in the drawer, moving into two different houses some hundreds of miles from their origin, before I decided that I would not, in fact, ever do anything with them. I can’t even imagine any sort of craft or modern art I’d use them for. Now that they’re gone, though, I’ll need something just like them next week.
  2. A broken wine opener. For some reason, I’ve kept a wine opener whose wings section broke off from its bottle-holding portion in this drawer for five or six years. In case I ever took up welding as a hobby, I guess. Out they go.
  3. A non-functioning dry erase marker. I have a dry erase board in my office; I’ve had it, again, for a dozen years or so, since the Casinoport house and its blue-on-blue office. I’ve had a number of things on it for a long time–it bears a little handwritten encouragement that my mother-in-law wrote on the bottom of it when she left after assisting us through our first week as parents. The tasks, though, are less than three years old on average. But for some reason, and I’m sure they were good reasons at the time, I bought a couple of packs of dry erase markers in various colors, including some lighter pastel shades. For clarity. I threw them into my Drawer of Holding, and they’ve remained there until this week, where I tested them out and put those that worked on an easel with a dry erase side that my mother gave to Jimmy on his first Christmas. I found one that didn’t work, and I threw it out.

Okay, that’s only three things. But it’s a step in the right direction. Next up: Shredding my credit card statements from the 20th century. Maybe.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Were I a Couple of Years Younger, I Would Never Have Figured It Out

As you know, I’ve been listening to LPs on my little Crosby turntable. I discovered that RCA, if not everyone that puts out sets of records, doesn’t put side 2 on the back side of side 1. Instead, you get, in a two volume set, side 1 and side 4 on a disk and side 2 and side 3 on a disk. If you have a four record set, such as The Barber of Seville, you can see sides 1 through 4 with sides 5 through 8 on their back sides.

Sides 1-4 of the RCA presentation of the Barber of Seville

What the dickens, I thought. Those guys at RCA are just crazy.

Continue reading “Were I a Couple of Years Younger, I Would Never Have Figured It Out”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: The Brookline Shoot-Out: America’s Bloodiest Peace Officer Massacre by Shirley Walker Garton as told to Bradley Allen Garton (1996)

Book coverThis is an interesting book. It details the Young Brothers’ Massacre/Brookline Shootout that took place right down the road from where I live in the year 1932. A couple local ne’er-do-wells were wanted for shooting the marshal over in Republic (which is where our Walmart and Walgreens are). Word got around to law enforcement that they returned to their mother’s house for the holidays, and when a couple of their sisters show up in Springfield trying to sell a car with Texas plates, the sheriff of Greene County, nine other law enforcement officers, and a civilian observer rode out to the Young farmhouse. As they tried to get into the building, occupants opened fire. By the time the firing stopped, six of the officers were dead. The Young brothers escaped, only to be captured in Texas shortly thereafter.

This book is interesting because it is written by the daughter of an undercover deputy of Greene County who was not at the massacre itself but who served as part of the large group that secured the scene immediately afterward, and it’s “told to” her son. The author and the son remember her father, Roy Walker, talking about it some, and the author gives some of her family history that prompted her to write the book and then talks about the people in the shootout. She relies heavily on a contemporary source, The Young Brothers Massacre by John R. Woodside, for the actual account of the event itself, but she supplements this account with various interviews with people who remembered the event almost sixty years before (most of the interviews are from the mid to late 1980s).

She also throws in a number of photostats of newspapers, original photos, and some poetry. It’s an eclectic blend, part historical account and part story of the investigation. It’s pretty engaging, although it might help that the book is pretty short and she’s not carrying on so for 300 pages.

I’d recommend it.

As I mentioned, this did take place just down the road from me. Some accounts say the house still stands, but it’s at the outside edge of Springfield now, so it might not last for long. Strange, though, that I’ve moved from historical Old Trees to this little house and I’m suddenly abutted on all sides by history.

Books mentioned in this review:

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Updates from Lower Packratia

The watch in questionIn my essay “The Daddy Watch“, I said:

Sometime the middle 1980s, when digital watches broke the barrier from technical marvel to status symbol for middle schoolers, I got my first watch as a gift. I wore a series of digital time pieces until college, where I got a real name brand watch for Christmas as a gift from my then-current sweetheart.

I remember that the watch had real hands on it; at some point in my midpoint generation, the anachronism of hands instead of LCD digits implied some status as a grown-up. This particular model offered an elapsed-time ring that fit around the edge of the watch. You could twist the ring so that the zero lined up with the big hand. Whenever you finished your activity, you could look to see where the big hand was to see how many minutes had elapsed. Unless, of course, the minutes exceeded a full hour, at which point the digital-dependents who didn’t know what the little hand was for would be lost. The elapsed time ring lasted only a few months, until a devastating encounter with a potato bin’s edge taught me to wear the watch on the inside of my wrist. I wore that watch longer than I remained with that particular soulmate. I can’t even remember the circumstances where that watch failed, nor can I remember what it looked like when I laced that band up onto my wrist. But those salad days of collegiate vigor end like inexpensive timepieces.

While tossing my desk’s pen drawer, I dumped a bin of pens I’ve accummulated and not used for decades, and low and beleft: The very watch in question.

A twenty-year-old watch that has not worked in probably fifteen years, to be charitable. And I still have it.

Perhaps I shall have to try replacing the battery to see if it works or if it actually suffered a catastrophic failure of some sort. As I do have a watch already, maybe I’ll donate it to some church garage sale or something.

Because it has crossed my mind, briefly, in recent days that I might just possibly keep too much stuff.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Confounding Keyboards

Here’s an essay so old that the return address on the manuscript was Honormoor, the Noggle estate in Casinoport. I guess I never got around to making the images it refers to.


I first worked a keyboard twenty some years ago, a Smith Corona portable typewriter. Qwerty confounded me with its elegant design created to keep mechanical type arms from clogging at the little crosshairs on the paper. I quickly moved onto the computers of the day, such as they were, with the same Qwerty layout, a keypad, and a couple of function keys on the Commodore 128 to keep me company. But sometime circa 1990, I got my first IBM clone—that’s what they called them in those days, when International Business Machines made actual machines of one sort and another—and its 104 key keyboard. Probably not a soft click, since the keyboards of the pre-Clinton era produced a mighty clack-clack-clack that served the old alarm-clock-for-a-puppy role of soothing typewriter users who were skittish with the new technology and the plethora of keys that lacked the end of the line ding or the buzz of an electronic carriage returning.

Because I got started with the keyboards early, I skipped through the whole high school typing experience and forsook the home-row based touch typing in favor of my own organically-developed claw-and-peck which allowed me to accelerate to 30-40 words a minute with only the occasional glance at the keyboard to orient myself. After taking a position in the computer industry, I began using the upper range of the 104 character keyboards, including the esoteric function keys as well as the Print Screen, Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page down keys as well as the number pad. Over the intervening years, I have become accustomed to the standard keyboard layout present on every keyboard that came standard with each Packard Bell I purchased new or, later, at garage sales for five dollars. I can easily jump to the end of the line in my word processor or to the end of the my e-mail inbox. I can easily take a screen shot to illustrate what I see or what the user should see. Aside from the whole glance every once in a whole to ensure that I’m typing my password correctly, I can manipulate the standard keyboard like a professional.

But within the last couple years, manufacturers have begun to conspire against me, possibly the only regular user of the extended key set. They’ve begun to move those keys into new configurations as some sort of practical joke shared by their engineers or usability experts.

I first noticed the shift at a previous employer. When I started, the company provided me with a fresh Dell computer, direct from the factory. That keyboard was almost standard. On a standard keyboard, the extended keys are laid out like this:

However, Dell added a handy set of keys designed to handle those pesky power-related functions of your PC: Power Off, Reset, Sleep. You know, functions previously reserved for the front of your computer case but lately (or at least since 1998) relegated to buttons on your operating system desktop. To make things exciting for its users and to accommodate these functions within the size of a regular keyboard, Dell put these keys into the position at the top of the keyboard, where the Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break keys go and simply pushed those keys down a row:

I couldn’t use the keyboard, as I often toggled the scroll lock setting when I meant to go to the top of the screen, so I brought in a stained, clicking keyboard from my personal collection. Fortunately, I avoided any catastrophic errors, unlike a couple of coworkers nearby who meant to do something and ended up resetting the machine in the middle of some standard, but given their salaries, costly operation. Thanks, Dell!

Of course, it’s not just desktop Windows machines that befuddle my fingertips, but also laptop keyboards. For reasons unknown to usability, laptop and notebook computer designers have intuited that notebooks and their keyboards must not exceed in size an eight by eleven sheet of actual notebook paper, no matter how many keys it needs to hold. Not only do they make the keys smaller, but they replace the CTRL, the ALT, or the Windows key with Fn keys whose esoteric multi-finger gymnastics don’t transfer to real computer use. I pride myself on the ability to use hotkeys to navigate through applications without the mouse, but I’m rendered dependent on the mouse by the understudy keys laptops. Of course, laptops don’t actually have a mouse, so I depend upon whatever unreasonable facsimile the laptop provides. Unfortunately, my Mesozoic IBM Thinkpad doesn’t offer a touchpad; instead, it has a small joystick to move the mouse pointer. A joystick located between the G, H, and B keys that helpfully prevents me from pressing those keys half of the time. Thanks, IBM!

The consternation of glyph constellation extends to Macintoshes, or Macintosha, or Macintoshi, or however you pluralize those cute iMac and eMac boxes with their USB keyboards. Their stock USB keyboards sport concave shapes where the normal keyboard feel convex. Instead of the ALT key, we have the open-Apple key. The keyboard comes with an extra four unfathomable function keys, and the corner of the keyboard most prone to walking cats or tumbling stacks of papers offers a sensitive eject key for the CD/DVD drive. As if the mere alien nature of the keyboard didn’t make me feel enough like a stranger in a strange land, Mac OS X conspires to make my normal shortcut keystrokes into ineffective fat-fingering. The standard CTRL+C keystroke, welded to my psyche through a decade’s use, doesn’t work on the Macintosh as Steve Jobs, in a fit of pique no doubt, decreed that the Control key do nothing and that the open-Apple key, placed conveniently where the Alt key belongs, should handle all common intra-window shortcuts. So not only do I not know where the keys are, but I do not know what they do. Thanks, Steve Jobs!

I know the frantic change within the computer world brings us abundant technological wonders which I’ll probably understand for another decade or two, but I wish that the computer makers could at least not rearrange the keys more frequently than a bored housewife. Would Beethoven have created his master works if the piano keyboards in Vienna all alternated or altered the shape and locations of the keys yielding a particular note? Of course not; he would have spent all of his time adjusting to the medium instead of directing the medium to his wishes. So if I never become centuries’ worth of famous in any keyboarding art, I’ve already assigned the blame.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories