Book Report: Poems by Julia E. Maclay (~1960)

Book coverThis book is a collection of poems by a religious housewife written in 1959 and 1960 in the Ozarks. It’s a regional book with probably no national distribution, but the woman (or her family) thought enough of them to publish them in hardback. The book includes some penciled or penned corrections and some poems cut and pasted onto blank pages at the end. It’s signed by the author, of course, but not inscribed, which means she might have given the book to someone she didn’t know. How odd.

At any rate, the poems are of the quality you might expect. Maclay had a good sense of rhythm, but she forced twee end rhymes where another poet would have been more subtle.

Still, I admire the chutzpah involved in self-publishing a hardback collection of one’s poems. In 1960 or 1961, no less. So I’m not sorry I read the book.

Silent Films I Have Seen

Last night, I watched Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1920 silent film about a dystopian society. I’ve not soaked in the moisturizing dish liquid of Cinema, but I have watched a couple of silent films in my time, which puts me ahead of most people. These films include:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. When I was young, I dated a girl who took a film appreciation class, which meant that we got to watch important films. This particular item was a high example of German surrealism or expressionism or something like that. Marinated cinematistes (I just made that word up. Like it?) could better explain its importance. I remember quite a bit from the film, though, which means it made more of an impression on me than most films with Jason Statham and/or Matt Damon in them. And, friends, we watched this film before Netflix existed, which probably meant we had to go to the old Bijou movie rental place up in University City or reserve it through Blockbuster or something.
  • Juno and the Paycock (where paycock is British for peacock–couldn’t they just have put an extraneous U in it and left it at that?). An old Alfred Hitchcock film, but without crime in it. I bought a boxed set of Hitchcock films about ten years ago and started watching them. You know what boxed set means, don’t you? It means old films we couldn’t sell standing alone.
  • The Lodger, a film sort of loosely based on Jack the Ripper, wherein there’s a serial killer terrorizing London (in 1927). A strange lodger moves into a boarding house and might be the killer. This film is most notable because it starred June Tripp.
  • The Ring, a boxing picture, also in the Alfred Hitchcock boxed set. Notable because it gave me a nickname I used to use on my second child. You know, I think I watched these last two films when he was a newborn because I could watch them with the television on mute. Huh, I just remembered that as I was typing.
  • Metropolis. You don’t have to be a cinematiste to recognize that this film was seminal in framing science fiction films for decades after it. Or at least see that certain tropes you see in modern films existed eighty years ago. The text frames refer to robots, a term that was only seven years old at that time, but it must have gained enough currency to be in the popular mind by then. As I watched, it occurred to me that this was filmed at the time when H.P. Lovecraft was writing, and I can see shared elements–descending staircases, catacombs, and so on. An interesting enough film.

So that’s three British silent films and two German ones. I don’t know if I’ve seen an American one. I suppose I should sit down and watch some Charlie Chaplin or something to round out my silent film bona fides, but I’m a modern man, and I really need to be in the right mood for a silent film. I don’t get that many film-length stretches of time, and when I do, I’m inclined to watch something I’ve seen a million times before and love or a comedy or action flick I own and have yet to watch before I’m inclined to broaden my mind.

But if I happen upon one at a garage sale, I’ll pick it up and have it on hand in case the mood strikes me again sometime in 2015.

Book Report: So What’s the Difference by Fritz Ridenour (1967)

Book coverThis book is a basic survey of religions other than Protestant Christianity and how their tenets relate to the Bible and Christianity. As a Protestant-centered book, each chapter gives a brief overview of the other religion and identifies where the other religion differs from the Protestant Christian worldview and with the Bible. It’s written for a Christian audience to give them insight into why the other religions fall short.

Strangely enough (or maybe not), the book spends three chapters on Catholicism, probably because the similarity to Protestantism is so much relative to the other religions that the inquiring Protestant might not think the differences are a big deal. Au contraire, this book argues. The book includes a history of the church, a bit of the divergent beliefs that led to Martin Luther’s theses, and a whole chapter on why you would not want to marry a Catholic (basically because there used to be a contract at some point that practicing Catholics had to present to non-Catholics ensuring that all religious training in the house had to be Catholic under the penalty of excommunication and worse). I think the book focuses a little too much on this and tying American Catholics to the yoke of Rome, but it takes its faith more seriously than most churchgoers and Catholics.

It’s by no means a collection of Christian apologetics, but instead operates a priori from there to provide a summary and comparison. Interesting and educational in the sense both of an overview of what the other religions think and what evangelical Christians are to make of them according to Fritz Ridenour.

I understand the later edition has 20 different religions, cults, or chapters in it. The world of religion in the United States has diversified quite a bit since 1967.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Eric Clapton / Bob Marley Answer to the Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Prisoners’ Dilemma:

Two men are arrested, but the police do not possess enough information for a conviction. Following the separation of the two men, the police offer both a similar deal—if one testifies against his partner (defects/betrays), and the other remains silent (cooperates/assists), the betrayer goes free and the cooperator receives the full one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in jail for a minor charge. If each ‘rats out’ the other, each receives a three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose either to betray or remain silent; the decision of each is kept quiet. What should they do?

Their solution after the fold.
Continue reading “The Eric Clapton / Bob Marley Answer to the Prisoner’s Dilemma”

Cannons Across The River

In the frontier days, before the American Civil War engulfed the entire nation and after the Revolutionary War turned Tories against Patriots, a smaller conflict erupted into violence between settlements in southeastern Wisconsin. Riots burned bridges that connected Kilborntown and Juneautown, two rivals on separated from one another by a single river. Tensions rose over the course of several years, culminating in the mustering of a cannon prepared to fire upon the enemy. Only a cool speaker with convincing eloquence prevented the neighbors from firing artillery upon fellow Americans.

The land at the meeting place of the three rivers had been visited by the white man for centuries, but by the early 1830s, the remaining Native American tribes had signed treaties to cede the lands. In 1835, these lands sold at an auction in Green Bay to land speculators. Two of the men, Byron Kilbourn and Solomon Juneau, created settlements on opposite banks of the river.

From the start, the two men and their towns were at odds as each tried to promote his settlement and land holdings at the expense of the other. No bridges connected the two towns, and Byron Kilbourn owned a number of vessels that brought trade and settlers to his side of the river—but nothing to Juneautown. The residents east of the river rankled as they were isolated. The founders of the towns even laid their settlements out such that the streets didn’t align to make bridge building easy.

In 1840, the territorial legislature decreed that the ferry system wasn’t adequate, and that bridges should be constructed to join the settlements. The settlements, though, didn’t want to join nor to spend their own money to make travel and trade easier for the enemy. Tensions rose even as the frameworks for the bridges did. By 1845, the simmering rose to a boil called the Great Bridge War.

In early May, a vessel on the river destroyed the Spring Street Bridge. In retaliation, residents of Kilbourntown destroyed the west end of the Chestnut Street bridge. An angry mob in Juneautown brought out the cannon, loaded it, and aimed it for Byron Kilbourn’s house on the other side of the river. As the ruffians were to light the fuse, a level-headed orator amongst them prevented them from striking the tinder, as Kilbourn’s recently-dead daughter lie in state in the home at the time. He prevented the firing, but not further violence. Other riots ensued, and the cannon made another appearance on May 28, 1845, as the Juneautown irregulars destroyed a bridge over the Menomonee River. Again, the east siders didn’t fire, but their efforts continued to impede the bridge builders.

For much of 1845, the two settlements and their ruffians used riots and skirmishes to make points. One crossing the river in either direction needed to be wary and often carry a white flag to pass safely. But the currents of progress carried the settlements downstream, to eventual agreement. In 1846, a greater city charter was ratified. The city of Milwaukee arose from the two warring settlements that had come but one impassioned plea from firing artillery at each other.

The effects of this dispute remain visible today. Bridges and drawbridges cross the Milwaukee River at odd angles to link streets built by two warring settlements in the middle of the nineteenth century, and the people from the West Side think the people from the East Side are crazy (and vice versa).

Further reading:

Old Horses for the Glue Factory

The depackratification continues. I’ve got a small testing lab here in my office, but the KVM only holds four machines at a time, so when I get a new box, often one gets shunted off to the storeroom or closet. Just last year, I took a stack of them to the local computer shop for recycling, but as I get around to cleaning things out, I’ve still got a couple of old PCs to go and one special guest star from the store room going to the garage sale.

Continue reading “Old Horses for the Glue Factory”

Book Report: St. Louis in Watercolor by Marilynne Bradley (2008)

Book coverThis book is a collection of watercolors by local artist Marilynne Bradley. Each depicts a notable landmark in the St. Louis area, most of which remain. Additionally, each watercolor comes with a bit of the history of the depicted location; Ms. Bradley is also active in the local historical society, so she brings that bit of knowledge to bear.

I paid full price for it in the local bookshop; if I’d planned better, I probably could have gotten an autographed copy from Bradley. I’d originally thought I’d bought the book as a gift for my mother-in-law, but I’d only had the notion to do so, so I got it for me instead and will share it.

Do I recommend it? I guess, if you’re into looking at watercolors or want a little trip through some history vignettes.

Books mentioned in this review:

Get Daddy’s Halberd; He’s Going to Help

The headline seems to indicate a volunteering opportunity:

Help sought in attacks

But it doesn’t appear like we’re going to storm a castle after all.

The subhead confuses me a little: “Postal carriers ask the city for assistance with aggressive dogs”.

What does that mean? Would I be helping the postal carriers, the dogs, or the city in a double-cross of the postal carriers?

I suppose I could read the article, but headlines are much more fun without the stories, where I fill in the gaps myself. Kind of like politics and governance.

Book Report: Branson Humor by Richard Gunter (2008)

Book coverI saw this book on the shelf at the local Price Cutter and was intrigued. A small press book, local, and it was a collection of jokes and cartoons. What was not to love?

Well, it’s a collection of common jokes, not particularly Branson-y or Ozark-y. Additionally, they are old jokes, coming from the days before Orben’s Current Comedy. I recognized many of them, thought maybe one was worthy of tweeting, and generally was disappointed with the collection.

Still, I admire the pluck and the drive to get the book out there.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Brief Dissertation On Where To Shoot An Evil Reanimated Skeleton

Forget zombie kitsch; that’s been covered ad nauseum on the Internet. What weapons to use on them, what specialty kitsch rounds to buy for your gun to shoot them, zombie targets for the shooting range, et cetera and et cetera. Have you reached nauseum yet? I have.

One important bit of useful information remains unexplored, however. I have not seen anyone cover on the Internet how to shoot a reanimated evil skeleton, and believe me, I have researched uncountable hours for the answer (uncountable, in this case, because the number is zero, and anyone who tells you you can count to zero is either a higher mathematician or someone about to pitch you zombie and/or bacon-related products. In a word: insane).

So I’ve done some musing, as one would expect I do given the name of this blog, and I’ve decided the following.
Continue reading “A Brief Dissertation On Where To Shoot An Evil Reanimated Skeleton”

Mr. Noggle and the Honey Cake from Miss Poppy and the Honey Cake

As some of you might know, from time to time I like to try my hand at reading books to the children, who come up with some strange assortment of new books that I don’t recognize due to birthdays, Christmas, other gifting events, book fairs, and garage sales where they follow in their father’s footsteps and acquire a bunch of them.

So somehow this book turned up, this Miss Poppy and the Honey Cake.

The book that started it all

It’s a little book about a little English mouse who bakes a honey cake and encounters all sorts of travails as she does so, the travails of which include not having specific ingredients and having to borrow them from neighbors, each of whom says that she’ll need something that no one else has. The titter-worthy, if you’re British, joke is that she ultimately needs salt and can’t think of anyone else to borrow it from but, fortunately, she has some! Then they all eat honey cake.

Inside the endpapers of the book, the actual recipe for honey cake appears, and it is a simple little recipe made from things we have around the house. So I thought I’d give it a try, since although I’m no fictional English mouse, I do try my hand at baking from time-to-time. Are the results worthy of a children’s book? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Continue reading “Mr. Noggle and the Honey Cake from Miss Poppy and the Honey Cake

Drivers Down

As a part of my recent depackratification of my office, I’ve decided to get rid of some old computer driver CDs.

True, they were not actually taking up that much space, as I’ve stored them within CD binders whenever I got a new piece of equipment. In the olden days, I even built my own machines, so I got a CD for each part.

But if I get rid of these, I can put into those CD binders other CDs, thus freeing a little more space where I stored those CDs in jewel cases.

But it’s not without some trepidation. Over drivers, of all things. Continue reading “Drivers Down”

The Great Software Purge of 2012

Over the course of a decade and a half, I’ve acquired a number of pieces of software from a variety of sources. In a lot of cases, I’ve bought games because I wanted to like video games. When I was in college and had abundant free time amid working 50 hours a week, going to school for 18 hours a week (and 10 hours, roughly, in travel time to college per week), extracurricular activities, and a social life (note that sleep does not appear much on this list), I bought a number of games and played them through to completion, including the SSI Gold Box D&D games and Mean Streets, the first Tex Murphy game.

So I bought a number of games in my twenties and thirties because I wanted to recapture a little of that. I’ve played the Civilization series (up until IV; when V came out and challenged my then-PC, I shelved it and haven’t installed it in the year I’ve had a more powerful PC). I installed a number of them, watched the demos, maybe noodled in it for a couple hours, but none of them captured my attention long enough to finish them.

I also tried to recapture my youth a bit by buying a pile of flight simulators. In 1986 or thereabouts, I got a copy of Microprose’s Gunship and played that for hours. Again, with that expendable time of youth. So I bought a bunch of games, installed them and forgot about them.

It became unseemly, really, that I carried this on even after I had children. I did stop from buying them for $20 or $30 at computer stores or Best Buy, but I did occasionally drop $9.99 on them. Mostly, though, I got them from book fairs and garage sales, and in a whole lot of cases, I put them on the shelf for a time in which I had more free time.

All right, that’s not happening, and already some of them are incompatible with the machines I have running. So out they go. Below is a picture and some notes about the games in my fashion. If you’re interested in a title, let me know and we can work something out. Continue reading “The Great Software Purge of 2012”

A Picture Holds 1000 Memories

(Another old essay, but not as old as some in the pile.)


I came across an old Polaroid in a box of photos and had to pause. I was scanning the pictures so that I could store the obviously comprehensible images in a format that only a machine can interpret. That’s just what one does with photographs in the twenty-first century, but it does give the more sepia-minded amongst us an opportunity to go through our old boxes of snapshots. Although each box holds hundreds of memories, a similar nature—here’s my brother and I here, here’s the front of the house there—makes the photos blur together. After all, my brother and I went everywhere together as kids, and I saw the house the same way thousands of times I drove up to it when we lived there. Once in a while, though, a single picture can trigger a cascade of unrelated memories. Continue reading “A Picture Holds 1000 Memories”

The Great Magazine Purge of 2012

I have mentioned recently that I’m doing a bit of depackratting.

One of the things I am getting rid of to free some (small) amount of space in my office (and other environs) is old magazines. I’ve held onto some magazines for a long time for various reasons, and to be honest some of the reasons are a bit unclear. So I’ve decided to bundle them off to donate to a local church garage sale. I’m deNogglesteading the following magazines: Continue reading “The Great Magazine Purge of 2012”

Book Report: I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore by Clarissa Start (1990)

Book coverThis is the book you wished your grandmother had written.

Part memoir, part musing, Clarissa Start talks about her youth and living on the South Side of St. Louis, and sometimes Florida, as her parents eked out an existence in the 1920s. Those years and her attendance at University of Missouri during the depression were made adventurous by a father with a predilection for the ponies. Then, Clarissa deals with her husband’s getting called up for World War II after they buy their first house (just down the road a piece from where I lived in Webster Groves; I went looking for it since there was a picture in the book). She details a bit about her job search and finally her placement with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The book then muses on aging a bit; her first husband dies, she moves out to the country (she lived in High Ridge while I was in House Springs, so we were almost neighbors). It has a wise, even tone to it.

Even retrospectively, Start doesn’t apply contemporary standards to history. She mentions internment in WW2 and explains it seemed like a good idea at the time. So that was noteable.

I liked the book enough that I bought another copy to send to my mother-in-law, another UMC graduate. On purpose. So, you know, I liked it.

Books mentioned in this review:

City of Springfield, MODoT Team Up For Campaign Advertising

The city of Springfield wants voters to re-authorize a 1/8th cent sales tax for the city of Springfield for transportation projects, and it’s not afraid to spend transportation dollars to influence voters to do so.

Signs like this one have cropped up around town to promise voters what they’ll do if they’re elected:

Bridge at James River widening sign

That is, with the monies this tax would bring in, they’ll widen the bridge on Republic Road (although officially, I guess, it’s Republic Street). Anyone who travels Republic Road knows it bottlenecks from four lanes to two at the bridges over the James River Freeway. So this is a project worth doing.


Republic Street improvements sign

The other place it bottlenecks is between Golden and Scenic. Now that this area is more firmly Springfield proper as it annexes its way to the sweet, sweet sales tax at the new Walmart Neighborhood Market, Springfield officials want to make sure people can get there. Again, probably a good road project.

Like so many other projects Springfield and MODoT are planning.


Springfield and MODoT are spending money in a political campaign when they create signs promising things to voters if they vote one way, such as they are with these signs and others of the like. Assuming the tax passes (on the August ballot, not on the November ballot, which would see a lot of people coming out to vote against Obama and, probably, against any taxes on the ballot at the time).

There’s a mighty thin line between informing voters and citizens and seeking to influence citizens, and I think these signs fall into the unseemly latter. The government entities are using tax money not to build roads, but to seek more tax money. We ought to recognize and deplore the effort.

Also, let’s not let the city of Springfield and MODoT off the hook for the nearly $4,000,000 they could have spent on roadway improvements that they spent instead on Public Service Announcement delivery systems. When voters approve taxes, it allows government entities to skew their priorities to silly projects.