Friday, July 3, 2020

Book cover: "Atomic Plot"
(Dale of the Mounted #9)

  • Title: Atomic Plot
  • Series: Dale of the Mounted #9 (12 books published between 1951 and 1962)
  • Author: Joe Holliday
  • Cover illustrator: Keith Ward
  • Publisher: Thomas Allen, Limited (Toronto, Canada)
  • Original price: None listed on dust jacket
  • Year: 1959
  • Pages: 158
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "From the moment Pakistan scientist Dr. Sachi Rami gets out of the plane at Ottawa's Upland airport with his bodyguard the bearded, turbaned Chaudri, and his shy Hindu secretary, Kelomé, trouble dogs his footsteps. Here's a thrilling tale of high intrigue in the fascinating world of atomic energy at Canada's famed Chalk River atom plant in the Gatineau hills."
  • Is Chalk River a real place? Yes, Chalk River Laboratories (formerly Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories) was, according to Wikipedia, established in 1944 "to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy." There were two nuclear accidents there in the 1950s.
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to those workers at Chalk River, Ontario, who are putting the might atom to work for peaceful uses on behalf of mankind — and a better world."
  • First sentence: "Constable Dale Thompson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police waited patiently, seated in the jeep truck at the edge of Ottawa's Upland Airport."
  • Last paragraph: "Dale was immensely pleased. He shook hands with his friends from across the other side of the world. 'I'm going to miss you two!' he said sincerely.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "This was what the newspapers fondly called 'atom-smashing.'"
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "Doctor Rami ventured a comment that a report from the British atomic people showed that along their Cumberland coast much of the radioactivity in the waters was absorbed by the masses of seaweed."
  • About the author: The dust jacket is the best source of biographical information about Joe Holliday that I can find. He was born in 1910 in the Rock of Gibraltar, where his father was a police constable. He worked as a prison guard for a year and began his writing career in 1932. "During the early 1940's he was publicity-photographer with deHavilland Aircraft of Canada, helping publicize the grand work of their Mosquito bombers in overseas operations," the dust jacket states.
  • Blog travels #1: Brian Busby, in a December 2014 post on his still-going The Dusty Bookcase ("A Journey Through Canada's Forgetten, Neglected and Suppressed Writing") states: "First off, I should make it clear that the book I really wanted to read is Dale of the Mounted: Atomic Plot. Published in 1959, it involves a Pakistani scientist, East Indian religious fanatics and a terrorist attack on Canada's Chalk River nuclear research facility. I read Dale of the Mounted: Atlantic Assignment only because it turned up in our local library's most recent used book sale." He goes on to note: "Dale of the Mounted books were once very popular, each landing in early November so as to take advantage of Christmas gift giving. Having been born the year the series ended, I never received one myself, but I remember a friend's older brother having a few." ... It's a really great post, and you should continue into its comments section to learn more about Dale.
  • Blog travels #2: Jennifer White, in an April 2016 post on her still-ongoing Series Books for Girls, relates this: "I am not currently attending very many estate sales, since I only go if I see something in the preview pictures that looks quite promising or if the sales are in my immediate area. Three estate sales were in my immediate area today, and I knew that one of them had a sock monkey. My mother collects sock monkeys. I first went to the sale with the sock monkey. I entered the house and scouted out the room with the dolls and picked up the sock monkey. Next, I leisurely went back through all the rooms to see if I could find anything else. Unexpectedly, the sale also had the first book in the Dale of the Mounted series. The Dale of the Mounted book was in the living room in a small stack of books that the estate sale company considered special items. ... The Dale of the Mounted series is obscure, and I acquired three of them around six weeks ago. I had tried reading one, but it was a bit dry with many technical details. Nevertheless, what I read was still interesting, but I really wanted to read the first book instead to get a better idea of the series, so I quit reading. I was thrilled to find the first book. I will have to read it sometime soon to find out whether it is worth pursuing the rest of the series."

We can be better. And more mindful of what we teach and celebrate.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Catching up with Postcrossing
(Summer 2020)

Arrived in my mailbox from Taiwan

Even more than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our venturing-out-less lifestyles, Postcrossing, postcard exchanges and pen pals have kept me connected with the outside world in 2020. Here's another roundup of some of the interesting communications.

I. Arrivals in my mailbox

  • Kristiina from Finland wrote: "Now when we have to stay at home, I've done a lot of gardening. The apples have already been cut and the grass fertilized."
  • Anke from Germany wrote: "I like to read books and trips into nature with my bike."
  • Tuula from Finland wrote (on June 2): "I am a retired librarian, and just now I am very happy, because our libraries are now open again, after 11 weeks COVID-19 break. Restaurants are also open with some limits of opening times and number of clients. Little steps to the 'normal life.'"
  • Brigi from Hungary wrote: "My favorite hobbies are reading (esp. classic detective fiction) and being with my cat, Monty. It's been such a comfort to have him around now that I've been working from home."
  • Monique from the Netherlands wrote: "We actually wanted to travel to the USA this summer, but it will probably take another year because of corona and the regulations."

II. Postcrossing profiles

Every once in a while, I come across a fascinating Postcrossing profile that I want to preserve because it's such an honest snapshot of a moment. For example, this one from a 24-year-old in China:
"I picked up a black stray cat and named it fini, which originated from Phoenix. It's very naughty and timid. I'm helpless about it. ... I have a small bookshelf with many books on it, but I haven't sat down to read a book completely for a long time. I dream that one day I can make a cup of black tea in a warm afternoon and sit quietly by the window and read a book I like. ... I like traveling very much, usually walking around in China. I have a passport, but I haven't been abroad. I dream that I can have one holiday after another, enjoy the great rivers and mountains of my motherland, and enjoy different landscapes in different countries."

III. Thank-you emails for postcards from me

  • Sven from Germany wrote: "Thank you very much for your beautiful card with the nice stamps (yes, I like the Apollo one). ... You have a very important job. It's necessary to tell the facts though a lot of governments and state leaders around the world don't like them."
  • Gerda from the Netherlands wrote: "Thank you for your card and the wonderful stamp of the black cat. I'm going to search for your blog. Our active lockdown is a little bit better for us since 15 June. We are going today to a camping with about 20 friends and stay a night. We have so much to talk since the last time in Febr. when we saw each other for the last time. All in the open air! For my work, I work as much as possible at home. My husband, son and daughter have to work all the time at the factory, harbor and hospital."
  • Sandy & Ruben from the Netherlands wrote: "Thank you very much for the lovely postcard. It is truth that our kids grow up in a very strange time. But yet I see how my son grows up knowing that we are all equal and, even though he is still young, he is already acting like it, treating all people with kindness and a warm heart, which makes me a very proud mom."
  • Aretha from Taiwan wrote: "What you said about art, I couldn't agree more. I often secretly hope I will never fail to find beauty in anything, it gives me hope especially during the difficult time. I wish you & your family stay safe and healthy through these crazy times."
  • Thomas from Germany wrote: "A few minutes ago, I stopped watching the impossible self-grandiosity of D. Trump on the occasion of a speech at White House. So unbearable!"
  • Jenny from the United Kingdom wrote (in mid-May): "Many thanks for the card, the stamps are great too. I'm currently in week 8 of lockdown and like you I have only been out for a walk or run or to get groceries. I live near London which has been badly affected by Covid, but am also worried that people are starting to ignore the advice and going out more with other people. I'm still working but as you say it's good to have more time to do other things while I'm at home, particularly gardening which I've enjoyed."
  • Žydrolė from Germany wrote: "Have a delightful day, full of sunshine and warmth! And be healthy! These evil times will one day end."

Arrived in my mailbox from Germany. "I've found a card from your wall of favorites!" Claus wrote.

Sunrise and light

"(Murnau's Sunrise demonstrates) that good and evil are both part of living, that our mistakes and our suffering need not ruin us, but that what these events mean to us and what we do with them is what matters, for they may indeed become the very means by which our tomorrow may prove to be a better day."
— Dorothy Jones, "Sunrise: A Murnau Masterpiece," Quarterly Review of Film, Radio, and Television, Spring 1955 (via Lucy Fischer's 1998 BFI Film Classics monograph on the film)

"... as we move through this life we should try and do good ..."
"... what most people don't see is just how hard it is to do the right thing ..."
"... Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven ..."
" ...but if you can forgive someone ... well, that's the tough part. What can we forgive?"
— Jim Kurring, character in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Snapshot of COVID-19 headlines

It's been almost exactly three months since I wrote my second of two posts about The Stand and shared a snapshot in time of news headlines and tweets related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is, of course, going to be the most-documented crisis in history. I know people who have already filled multiple personal journals about life in 2020. Content about this moment in history, which now includes a seismic and necessary movement to end police brutality and racial injustice, is omnipresent. Future historians should have no trouble finding more eyewitness sources and accounts than they will possibly need.

And yet I still feel my own personal need to document 2020 in small ways — ways that are unique to how I've always hoarded bits of history and daily life. I've been filling envelopes with emails, printed tweets, magazine articles and other ephemera of note. Much of it relates to my job at the newspaper, offering an inside-baseball glimpse of how journalists are navigating 2020.

As I did on March 25, I'm putting together another aggregation of tweets and headlines from this week. It's hard to ascend to 40,000 feet and examine all the changes of mindset and priorities we've had in the past 100 days, but perhaps there are some comparisons to be made.

  • Live updates: Florida, South Carolina and Nevada hit new highs in daily coronavirus cases
  • Ana Cabrera (CNN): CA Gov Newsom: “We are in the midst of the first wave of this pandemic...We are not out of the first wave. This disease does not take a summer vacation.”
  • Young people are driving a spike in coronavirus infections, officials say
  • City of Lancaster: As we enter into the green phase today, remember that COVID-19 is still in our community. Please continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer or washing your hands often, and maintaining social distance.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer: Masks are now mandatory in Philadelphia.
  • DOJ warns against fake face mask exemption cards
  • ProPublica: Positive cases are not increasing just because there is more testing, as the president has claimed, but because in many states the virus is simply spreading more.
  • Texas governor says he let bars reopen too quickly
  • Texans must ‘dramatically change’ behavior to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed, hospital executive says
  • Ana Cabrera: At least 11 states have currently paused or rolled back their reopening plans
  • Contact tracing is ‘a disaster’ in hard-hit Maricopa County, Arizona congressman says
  • MODEL: Phoenix could see 28,000 new infections a DAY!
  • CT, NJ, NY implement mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from hotspots
  • CUOMO: Police will stop cars with out-of-state plates
  • EU prepares to ban American travelers as borders reopen on July 1
  • Dana Goldstein: In some regions of the country, state officials will allow districts to reopen without strictly following the guidance for distancing, masking and sanitation. In all regions, I expect that school attendance will *not* be compulsory, meaning you can choose to keep your kid home.
  • Pence tries to put positive spin on pandemic despite surging cases in South and West
  • Zeynep Tufekci: VP Pence today did not emphasize the need to wear masks. Masks are the *one* thing most everyone can do, but if conservative leaders don't lead on it, it will disappear down the polarization rabbit hole. They must know this. And yet.. 2020 is the true end of the American Century.
  • Making men feel manly in masks is, unfortunately, now a public-health challenge of our time
  • Biden says he would use federal power to require masks
  • Johns Hopkins doctor suggests politicians should put aside personal opinions and wear masks (Fox News)
  • 'Herd immunity music festival' set for July
  • Coronavirus infection rate spiking in California, a troubling sign of community spread
  • Ana Cabrera: #URGENT: U.S. sees highest single day of new COVID-19 cases, with 40,173 cases reported Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Mystery RPPC: Trio within oval

Time flies! Somehow, this is the first Mystery RPPC since April 18.

I think we can assume this trio to be a mother and her two sons dressed up for a nice backyard portrait. It's an unused AZO postcard with a stamp box that dates it to between 1904 and 1918. So, at some point, this family — more than a century ago — went through its own pandemic. Did they get sick? Did they wear masks in public and wash their hands often? Or did they agree with bozos like the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco? Or perhaps this family had the means to move to the country and wait out the worst of the pandemic.

It's also possible, if this photo was taken at the early end of the 1904 to 1918 range, that these two boys served the Great War. Meanwhile, the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote for women, didn't happen until 1920. So, when this picture was snapped, Mom couldn't vote.

They, as we do, certainly lived in interesting and transformative times.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Oh, that's what a mourning dove sounds like

I've been thinking recently about my grandmother's vinyl records that featured nothing but bird songs. She had about a half-dozen of them, and would play them on the living room record player cabinet that was about the size of a refrigerator turned on its side. They were probably from the late 1960s through early 1980s. I don't remember the exact titles — we got rid of all them during the house cleanout — but they were surely like the ones pictured above, if not those exact ones.

The record formats were similar. A Very Serious Man's Voice would guide you through different bird calls and songs. So it would go something like this...

Man: The Hoary Puffleg...

Bird: Chit-chit-chit-chit.

Man: ... The Hoary Puffleg.

(The Hoary Puffleg is not actually native to North America and would not have been featured on my grandmother's records. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity to get "Hoary Puffleg" on Papergreat.)

We've been doing a lot of bird and wildlife watching during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept us in our homes and neighborhoods for 98% of our existence since mid-March. (And we've been documenting our observations in the "What I Know About Flower Arranging" blank book I mentioned in 2014.)

Our backyard has three bird feeders, a bird bath and a tiny picnic table for squirrels and chipmunks (and the occasional bluejay) to dine on peanuts and sunflower seeds mere inches away from the four cats. Our wildlife roster includes birds, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and a pudgy field mouse. I make sure all the feeders are full at least once a day, sometimes twice, and the backyard has truly become a haven for all of this half-tame wildlife. Chipmunks scurried back and forth near my feet the other day as I was outside talking to Dad. The birds, especially one catbird, are slower to fly to safety each time I venture outside.

And I've been observing more of the wildlife interaction, too. The cardinal couples that are most inseparable. The bold robins. Birds the size of a salt shaker that dart in and out among larger animals with seemingly zero fear. Birds that aggressively knock seed out of the bird feeder and onto the ground below, because apparently they prefer it that way. Or they're just jerks of the bird kingdom. And doves. So many doves. I think those ground-feeding doves are getting the bulk of the food I put out, because they're always there.

But I didn't put 2 and 2 together. I recently found myself wondering about an especially common bird call I'd been hearing throughout the day. It must be some especially cool bird, I thought. It almost sounded like an owl. Nope, Joan informed me, it was just those silly doves. I guess I would have known that if I had listened more closely to my grandmother's records.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Real Heroes Wear Masks (that cover the mouth and nose)!

I love everything about this hand-drawn poster, which has been in the door of Comix Connection in York throughout the spring and early summer. (The artist's name is Nicky.) The message remains important for everyone during this still-ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. It's great to see Nadia van Dyne, Lunella Lafayette and Kamala Khan among those reaching out to comic book fans with this guidance. Baron Von Papergreat would, of course, also always properly wear a mask in public.

Further reading

Mystery snapshot: Pavilion atop hill

This undated snapshot is just 3⅝ inches wide (which includes a quarter-inch white border, which I cropped out, all the way around). It's a moody, contrasty shot of a pavilion and some well-dressed folks at the top of a round hill. The shadows cast by the tree branches are wonderful — perhaps even slightly forboding. One might guess this is early spring.

Who are these people? What is their event? Did they know they were being photographed? I come across a lot of old photographs like this that have only a number written on the back. I'm guessing these are proof photos and the number refers to the negative, so that people could decide which photos they wanted as proper prints? In many cases, I would think the proof photo is the only one that was ever printed. (How nice it would have been, though, if they had stamped a date on the back of each proof, too.)

If you want to check out more mystery photos, this March 15 post is a good place to start. See the list at the bottom.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Great links: Homemade maps describing life during COVID-19

Irene Palko of Glasgow, Scotland, via Bloomberg CityLab

Bloomberg CityLab unveiled the results of a thoughtful and inspiring project on June 18. It's titled "How 2020 Remapped Your Worlds: Through homemade maps, readers shared perspectives and stories from a world transformed by the coronavirus pandemic" and was put together by Laura Bliss and Jessica Lee Martin.

The premise was simple but brilliant: "In April, CityLab asked readers to share homemade maps of their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. The more than 400 maps we received are so many windows into what people around the globe have experienced through this extraordinary crisis, as well as its sprawling social consequences."

I highly encourage you to scroll through CityLab's curation of some of the maps from across the world. It's quite the wonder, and also quite a historical document — one that I hope finds its way to a print format.1

Each map is "accompanied by the words of the mapmaker, edited for clarity and flow," according to CityLab. Those words are yet another window into this time. Just a few excerpts:

  • In Bolivia: "A lot has changed: We communicate more, we collaborate for food purchases and we are in solidarity with each other."
  • In the Netherlands: "I’ve retreated into my own world and drawn a map of the place I go to. My life has become more humane. More relaxed. It seems to me people tend to notice each other more, greet each other more."
  • In France: "The earth is not round anymore. I represented the single kilometer around my house where I can walk, run, ride my bike. Beyond this limit is the unknown. It is forbidden. I feel like I am in the Middle Ages."

Enough of the excerpts. Please take some time to browse the CityLab collection, and perhaps think about what your own map of 2020 might look like.

1. Tweet earlier today from Laura Bliss: "We're working on it :)"

Old postcard of Twin Oaks in Natchez, Mississippi

The only thing that piques my interest in this staid and stuffy bedroom is the blanket at the foot of the bed. This location is Twin Oaks Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi — a city named after Indigenous peoples who were violently erased from the region and then built up with the back-breaking labor of Black slaves.

Here is the info from the back of the undated postcard, which is also shown below:

  • A Deep South Card
  • Published by Deep South Specialities Inc. of Jackson, Mississippi
  • DS-674
  • Color photo by Dusty Rhodes (probably not the wrestler)
  • Mirro-Krome Card by H.S. Crocker Co. of San Francisco

The caption states: "Built in 1812 on Spanish land grant. Was occupied by Federal troops during the War between the States. Home of Dr. and Mrs. Homer A. Whittington. Twin Oaks is shown by Pilgrimage Garden Club."

The phrasing in that short caption is significant. Within the Confederacy, the U.S. Army were referred to as "federal troops." And, per Wikipedia, the nomenclature War Between the States "was rarely used during the war but became prevalent afterward among proponents of the 'Lost Cause' interpretation of the war." Furthermore, again per the concise and helpful explanations on Wikipedia, "the Lost Cause of the Confederacy ... is an American pseudo-historical, negationist ideology that holds that the cause of the Confederacy during the American Civil War was a just and heroic one. The ideology endorses the supposed virtues of the antebellum South, viewing the war as a struggle primarily to save the Southern way of life, or to defend 'states' rights' such as the right to secede from the Union, in the face of overwhelming 'Northern aggression.'" The Lost Cause ideology served to undergird nearly a century of Jim Crow laws that left Black Americans impoverished and incredibly disadvantaged in nearly every aspect of American life and society. "Nostalgia" for the Lost Cause around the time of World War I led to the erection of many of the Confederate monuments that are thankfully and finally coming down this summer.

Homer Alexander Whittington died in August 1996 at age 90. He had served as a doctor in Natchez for 56 years, according to his obituary in the August 16, 1996, edition of the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. Further, Dr. Whittington was an Episcopalian and a member of many clubs and lodges.

Twin Oaks Plantation later came to be owned by popular chef Regina Charboneau, who turned it into a bed and breakfast and cooking school. The property is now for sale this summer — the original circa 1830 (not 1812) house and a six-bedroom guest house — for $889,000 (as of May 2). Full details and a set of lovely professional photographs are available at this Realtor link.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Truly misleading book cover:
"Witches' Sabbath"

So, let's get some of the confusing parts out of the way first. For reasons I cannot fathom, this gothic romance novel, Witches' Sabbath, was alternately marketed as a horror novel with this Paperback Library edition. It is not a horror novel. The last line of the 1962 Kirkus review makes that quite clear: "A little overwrought, but a patently potent, romantic entertainment." We can further see that it was originally meant to be marketed as a romance (and was, in fact, award-winning within that genre) via these two other covers.

And, regarding the author: This cover states that it's "Charity Blackstock writing as Paula Allardyce." Those are both pseudonyms, actually, so it's kind of weird to have one pen name writing as another pen name (and disclosing it as such). The actual author was Ursula Torday, whose name's letters could have been reworked to create Saturday Lour, which would have been yet another good pen name.

Now, on to the rundown...

  • Title: Witches' Sabbath
  • Author, per cover: "Charity Blackstock writing as Paula Allardyce"
  • Author: Ursula Torday (1912-1997)
  • Cover blurb: A haunting mystery of love and evil "filled with real horror, suspense, eeriness." ⁠— San Francisco Chronicle
  • Additional cover text: A Black Magic Novel of Terror
  • Publisher: Paperback Library (52-527)
  • Number on spine: 7 (presumably its number within the Black Magic Novels of Terror)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Year: First printing, August 1967 (originally published in 1961)
  • Pages: 174
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: It was a magnificent mid-June day of the best summer of the century when Tamar Brown arrived at Lanchester, the station for Meadway Bois.
  • What's Meadway Bois? The tiny (and fictitious) English village at the center of this tale. It's a good village name.
  • Last sentence: Mr. Kingham knocked purposefully on Mrs. Leigh's door.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Abigail's cottage had been built in Elizabethan times; Tamar, for all she was small, had to stoop to avoid knocking her head on the low beams.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: Humphrey was not at his best in moments of crisis.
  • Humphrey Sloane mansplaining things to Tamar: "You Lunnon ladies are terrible iggerant. It's a witch bottle, with the face of a bearded gent on the front of it. You put bits of your enemy in it — nail-clippings and suchlike — and boil it up. Very tasty. Abigail did that for Ann Leigh who began to spit pins afterwards, which must have been a little trying. She certainly had it in for her, what with killing her baby and all."
  • Does Tamar end up with Humphrey? No. She ends up with someone named William, who's not much better.
  • Hey, that was a spoiler! Sorry. If you're really sore, I'll mail you some nail-clippings and you can make a Papergreat witch bottle to get revenge.
  • Internet review #1: On Goodreads, Charlotte wrote this in 2019: "I was expecting a thrilling Pagan mystery, potentially delving into past timelines and the age of suspicion and witchcraft. I was sadly disappointed. ... The misogyny of Tamar's relationship was absolutely staggering; I couldn't fall in love with her choice of man as I was expected to, as I couldn't see him as anything more than an emotionally stunted brute."
  • Internet review #2: On Picterio, @cobwebs_and_creepers wrote this circa 2017: "This book is... not so great. Interesting enough storyline though, about lovely redhead Tamar who is writing a book about Abagail [sic], the legendary witch of tiny village Meadway Bois. Surprise! ⁠— Tamar bears an uncanny resemblance to the long-dead beauty."
  • About the Black Magic Novels of Terror: Apparently there were nine titles total, all published in 1967 or 1968. The other eight were The Witch-Baiter and The Haunted Dancers, edited by Charles Birkin; The Torturer, Scream and Scream Again, and The Darkest Night, by Peter Saxon; Drums of the Dark Gods by W.A. Ballinger; The Dead Riders by Elliott O'Donnell; and The Black Art by Rollo Ahmed.
  • Rollo Ahmed sounds like a pen name: Yes, but it's not. Abdul Said "Rollo" Ahmed was an Egyptian-born Black man who studied and wrote about the occult and remains a bit of a history mystery.

The very grave back cover

Monday, June 15, 2020

My great-grandfather's personalized playing cards

These days, you can get a personalized deck of playing cards for, what, about $15? A little less? Print-on-demand services make it easy peasy.

But I'm guessing that, in the middle of the 20th century, personalized cards were a bit more of a luxury item. My great-grandfather, Howard Horsey Adams (1892-1985) had several decks, all like this one. I kept one of them when we cleaned out the house on Oak Crest Lane. They have a bit of Art Deco flair, with his initials HHA becoming nearly symmetrical.

I have no idea who the manufacturer might have been. Or why I'm keeping them at this point. I play cards approximately twice a decade. I have this deck and the cultural awareness playing cards. I should definitely stop there.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A dramatically stained introduction to the MicroLeague Baseball posts

The years and spills have not been kind to this piece of my personal ephemera from the late 1980s. It's a dot matrix printout of a boxscore from a game of MicroLeague Baseball on the Commodore 64.

As you can see through the stains, this was a historic (imaginary) moment, because Roger Clemens of my Wallingford Smashers pitched a perfect game against the famed 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers.

MicroLeague Baseball was the computer game I played the most from 1987 to 1990. It's amazing how far electronic/computer baseball games came in less than a decade. I had 1979's Epoch Digit-Com 9 Baseball (below, left), which was far less common than Mattel's smaller handheld electronic game. The Epoch game featured a variety of pitches and the ability to play one-player or two-player games. And it had very distinctive audio, which I was reminded of in this YouTube video. In the first half of the 1980s, I also played a lot of Intellivision's Major League Baseball and the tabletop Statis Pro Baseball, which involved endlessly sorting piles of player cards and action cards and consulting many different outcome charts, just like J. Henry Waugh.

Then MicroLeague Baseball came along. It was released in 1984, but I didn't buy it until 1986 or early 1987. It was a strategy game. You didn't need to be great with a joystick or mash a button. Outcomes, much like Statis Pro Baseball, were determined by statistical probabilities based on players' abilities. And it was easy to simulate whatever you wanted, across all of baseball history. The 1927 New York Yankees could face the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, for example. (I staged many eight-team bracketed tournaments, and the 1975 Reds almost always came out on top.)

Then it got really fun with a MicroLeague Baseball accessory, the General Manager-Owner Disk. (My friend Matt and I called it the Jam-Owner Disk.) It allowed you to create your own teams and players and edit together rosters using players from across baseball history. And thus the Wallingford Smashers were born. The Smashers were a shameless powerhouse collection of baseball's best players from the mid 1980s. As you can see above, the Smashers' lineup for this historic game featured:

CF Kirby Puckett (RIP)
SS Tony Fernandez (RIP)
3B Wade Boggs
1B Don Mattingly
CF Rickey Henderson
2B Danny Tartabull
LF Ruben Sierra
C Ron Hassey

A couple of wonky notes: Matt and I went strictly by the information on games played by position published weekly in USA Today, back when that was the bible for baseball statistics. If you played a single game at a position, you became eligible to play that position in MicroLeague Baseball. Tartabull played 31 games at second base for the 1986 Seattle Mariners. So that, combined with his powerful bat, earned him the job of second baseman for the Smashers.1 Also, you might be wondering, Ron Hassey?!? When there were so many other great catchers of this era? But Hassey, for those who remember, had very good OPS seasons in 1985 and 1986, making him extremely valuable within the statistics-driven MicroLeague Baseball engine. And the game didn't care if the player had a small sample size of at-bats. So, two great MicroLeague players during this time were 1986 Jeff Stone and 1987 Sam Horn. Horn was especially legendary for his (unrealized) potential, and there is now a Boston Red Sox fan website named after him.

It is also clear that, in setting the lineups for this game, I gave Clemens some extra help toward his perfecto by removing the 1963 Dodgers' three best hitters — Frank Howard, Tommy Davis and Ron Fairly — from the starting lineup. That wasn't very sporting of me. But a perfect game is still a perfect game. The boxscore is not, however, perfect. Was the final score 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0? Sadly, there is evidence for all three of those possibilities.

More on MicroLeague Baseball to come!

Darkest Phillies Timeline Footnote
1. A decade later, the joke was us Philadelphia Phillies fans. Tartabull signed a $2 million contract to bat cleanup for the 1997 Phillies and promptly went 0-for-7 before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday's postcard: Ghost toddler

This incredible real photo postcard is invaluable evidence that ghosts exist!

Or, wait, this incredible real photo postcard is proof that there was once a toddler with the ability to shimmer and phase between dimensions of reality!

Or, I reckon it's possible that the child just couldn't sit still while the photo was being taken, causing the blurriness. But Occam's razor can be so boring sometimes, y'all.

This RPPC was mailed in August 1915 to Mr. E.A. Zeidler of Klemme, Iowa. Klemme was a burgeoning city at the time. It grew from a population of 306 in 1910 to 468 in 1920. At that was despite the deadly influenza outbreak of 1918, during which the Iowa Board of Health essentially quarantined the entire state, forcing all public gathering places to close. (Residents of Des Moines were required to wear face masks.)

Anyway, back to Klemme. Or not. There's actually not much more to say about Klemme, except perhaps for this tidbit from Wikipedia: "Luverne Schmidt and his wife bought the school building in 2000, replaced the roof and for a period operated a restaurant there." So there.

Here's my best transcription of the cursive note on the back of the postcard:
Aug 13 — '15
Dear Eckard and Minnie,
I am sending a picture of Oscar, Lena and Helen [Halen?] — Lena doesn't know it so don't tell her ha! We are almost ready to go 20 mi to a camp meeting to camp until next Tue. We expect to enjoy it, but it looks very rainy now. We heard a good play given by the German M.E. ladies aid last night. (It is raining now.) We are well and everyone is busy.
So we know some more! E.A. Zeidler is Eckard Zeidler, and Minnie is his wife.

With some more digging, this is what I was able to determine about the Zeidlers:

  • Eckard Aloph Zeidler was born on March 26, 1883, in Minnesota and died on February 20, 1958, in Klemme, Iowa, at age 74.
  • Minnie Louise Velau Zeidler was born on June 2, 1887, in Hancock County, Iowa, and died on June 8, 1981, in Hancock County, Iowa, at age 94. She outlived her husband by more than 23 years, living to see man set foot on the moon, Joe Biden's first election to the U.S. Senate in 1972, and the release of the Village People biopic Can't Stop the Music.
  • Eckard Zeidler (age 26), of Jefferson, Oklahoma, and Minnie Velau (age 22) of Iowa were issued a marriage license in Oklahoma in March 1910. (One Oklahoma newspaper listed Minnie's Iowa town as Helena, while another listed it as "Hlemme." I think it's safe to say they both botched it and meant Klemme.)
  • There is a very nice photo of Eckard and Minnie — very likely their wedding photo — on Eckard's Find a Grave page.
  • Eckard visited the Oklahoma home of his parents (Mr. and Mrs. Carl Zeidler) in February 1917 and March 1918, according to The El Reno (Oklahoma) American. His parents lived in a region that The El Reno American called "Lovely Valley."
  • Minnie's obituary indicates that she died at "Garner nursing home," that the Rev. Don E. Griffen officiated at her funeral, and that she was survived by several nieces and nephews.

* * *

Finally, a closeup of Oscar, Lena and wispy Helen/Halen...

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Saturday's postcard: In Chattanooga

On this EKC real photo postcard, which dates to between 1930 and 1950 based on the stamp box, this is the only thing penned on the back, in cursive:
To Friddie
From Sherley Ann
(It could also be SherleyAnn, as those two words are written closely together.) We can also see that this lovely family was on the Chattanooga Choo Choo at Lookout Mountain, a natural and historic attraction at the corners of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. We don't know anything else about them. So I'm just going to dream up how their lives went:
The mother (presumably Sherley Ann) taught high school mathematics for 34 years and was beloved by her students. Many of them wrote her letters, years later, thanking her for the inspiration she provided; one of them even helped to put a man on the moon. Sherley Ann loved classical music and jazz. Her hobbies included pottery, researching ancient number systems and serving as taste-tester for her husband's fine cooking. Later in life, she served two terms on city council to give back to the community she loved.

The older child loved making lists of birds in the backyard and walking through the neighborhood, telling all the porch-sitting folks interesting facts about the trees and animals in their own yards; these visits were greatly anticipated. In high school, there was a passion for theatrical arts and high praise given in the local newspaper for a lead performance. After community college, there was a long career as a park ranger, promoting conservation and educating groups that came from far and wide to hear the passionate and charismatic talks. Over the years, there was also a published book of poetry and an interview with Dave Garroway on "Today" that left all those folks on their porches beaming with pride.

The younger child was a bookworm. Every volume in the house provided fascination — even father's brittle copy of "Modern Cookery for Private Families." Friends pleaded for books to be put down and a basketball to be picked up, but the school library was home away from home. A business degree from Amherst provided the necessary background for launching, with a best friend, a hometown community center that offered art, fitness, literacy, and day care programs. A later run for the state Legislature fell short, but was followed by a successful campaign to build a new town library, four times the size of the previous one. Years later, the library was renamed to honor its beloved champion.
That's the way I think it should have been, anyway...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Book cover: "The Tried and True Class and the Haunted House"

  • Title: The Tried and True Class and the Haunted House
  • Author: I.M. Purkis (There is a threadbare lead indicating that I.M. Purkis could be a pen name used by Coe Hayne (1875-1961).)
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: David C. Cook Publishing Co. (Elgin, Illinois)
  • About the publisher: According to Wikipedia, David C. Cook was founded in 1875 and is still in business as an American nonprofit Christian publisher. When David Caleb Cook founded the company, "he was motivated to provide affordable educational materials for children who had been left homeless in the Great Chicago fire." It moved its headquarters from Chicago to Elgin, Illnois, around the turn of the 20th century and then, after almost a century in Elgin, moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1995. The company's current website is
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Year: 1920
  • Pages: 40
  • Format: Staplebound
  • Provenance: "For Gladys with love from Cousin Maude"
  • Characters: Leslie Strachaan (president of the Tried and True Class), Josephine "Jo" Lane, Helen Baird, Muriel, Betty Bolton, Colista, Jane Landon, Catherine Somers, Mr. Primm, Bertha, Betty Boltby, Tom Clay, Lainie, Hazel, Mable, a monkey, Mr. Stagg, Mrs. Strachaan, Miss Humphrey.
  • First sentence: "Oh, girls, I have an idea!"
  • Last sentence: The girls of the Tried and True Class will never forget that prayer, nor the lesson they learned through their terrible experience in the "haunted house."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: The wind had been rising, and dark clouds were gathering.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: She was the president of the Tried and True Class, and if the president did not keep collected and brave, who would?
  • Random sentence from the middle #3: The ghost of the haunted house — the ghost that had terrified them so — was only a monkey — a little monkey that had rushed away as terrified of them as they had been of it.
  • Wait. Did I just spoil the book? Yes.
  • And also: There's a separate story, just a few pages, "How the Class Motto Solved the Problem," tacked onto the end of this slim volume. I'll leave that for some future blogger.

With that decided, she summoned Mr. Barr into the room.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The kindness of others

After I received my 1,000th Postcrossing card from Kamila in the Czech Republic last year, we became pen pals.

But then those postal exchanges were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both of us had other things to worry about amid the virus that upended the world. She emailed me in late March with a short note: "With children we must not out or just with a protective mask. ... I have 7 coronavirus infected in town. We got protective masks in hospitals too. We sew them at home on sewing machines and distribute them to hospitals, firefighters, police, retirement homes ... We try to be calm and take everything easy."

I wrote back, but then I didn't hear from her again until last week, when a small box arrived in the mail. Inside, much to my surprise, were the masks and face shields you can see in the photo here. In the short accompanying letter, Kamila laments that Easter passed without many of the usual traditions being observed. She adds: "I also send medical drapes, please give them to those who need and do not have them. ... I like the cheerful children's motives. I sew them in my hand. Otherwise, I would send more. I also [send] a protective shield that we print to the 3D printer at home for all who need it. Especially for hospitals, police, senior homes. ... At this time we must all help each other. I hope you, your family and friends are all right."

What an incredible and generous gift to send all the way overseas. They will be put to good use. And she's right, at this time we must all help each other.

Stay-at-home shelfie #65,
plus Shelfie Addenda

OK, I changed my mind from yesterday. I'm just going to combine the last few things into one post and wrap up the Shelfie 2020 series on this final day of May.

This last shelf is in our living room and it features cookbooks and food-related books. The Oxford Companion to Food, published in 1999, is a dandy encyclopedia of cooking and food history. As one reviewer on Goodreads sums up: "God I love this book. If you're a food nerd you can simply open it to some random page and you will lose hours." If you're looking for something a little less weighty, one of my other favorite books on this topic is Reay Tannahill's Food in History.

The blue-spined book between the orange- and red-spined books is a nicer copy of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, a book I wrote about extensively in 2011 and 2012. I took the ephemera that was tucked away inside the falling-apart copy and put it inside this spiffier volume, hopefully to enthrall future generations of bibliophiles as it is passed down. Here's a rundown of all the posts on this book:

This 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking, which has sold more than 18 million copies, is one that was removed from the Helen Kate Furness Free Library and subsequently brought home by Mom years ago. It's not the "family" copy. As I mentioned in a November 2018 post, I pruned the circa-1970 family copy of The Joy of Cooking, a decision that I am becoming more regretful about. For more about The Joy of Cooking, I recommend "A Case for Three Copies of the Joy of Cooking" by Alex Beggs, this recent installment of the Omnibus podcast, and "The Obsessive Sport of Shopping for a Vintage 'Joy of Cooking'" by Genevieve Walker.

The bizarre, wonderful and golden-spined Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices is a cookbook I wrote about in March 2018 and February 2020.

About half of those staplebound recipe booklets to the right are from the Pennsylvania Dutch cooking genre. I'm a little wonky about picking one up any time I come across them. There's truly no need to have that many, but I justify it by saying they don't take up much space at all. Here are some posts in which I've discussed them:

Finally, Pennsylvania Fairs and Country Festivals by Craig Kennedy includes a chapter on the York Fair, which, just a few days ago, canceled its 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's an excerpt from its statement:
"(York, PA) The 2020 York State Fair has been canceled due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The Fair Board held a meeting on Tuesday, May 26 deciding to cancel the Fair. ... This is the first time the fair has been canceled since the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. We understand that this global pandemic has affected so many individuals and families that are normally involved or attend the fair. The importance of those people surpasses the difficult decision that had to be made. We also believe that while we are unsure of what the end of July will look like in regard to the pandemic, we know that opening the fair while following all guidelines set by local government and the CDC would be insurmountable at this point."

Shelfie Addenda
Speaking of the pandemic, I went into the LNP|LancasterOnline newsroom on West King Street in Lancaster yesterday morning to clear out my desk in preparation for our intended move to another building later this summer. It was my first trip to the newsroom since March 13; I have been working from home since then. In shelfie #25, I mentioned that I thought a book by Valeria Luiselli might still be at my LNP desk. Indeed, it was. So here's my "work shelfie":

And, to wrap it all up and with some help from Mr. Angelino, aka Banjo, on this sunny Sunday morning, here are some of the books that I acquired after starting the shelfie series on March 30. If I do another project like this in 5-to-10 years, perhaps we'll see them again. (The idea of that, though, is a bit exhausting.)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #64

It's the last shelfie in the bedroom! (We're not quite done yet, though. There's a single shelf housing my books outside the bedroom, so we'll get there tomorrow. And there will also be a final post after that with some addenda. Because Shelfie Addenda would be a great band name, and I hereby claim it.1)

This part of the final shelf contains two books about outsider artist Henry Darger, including this one by Klaus Biesenbach. There is Modern Ruins: Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region, by photographer Shaun O'Boyle, which was a gift from Joan via the famed YDR Auction. And perhaps my favorite book of photos (and a favorite of many): Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore.

Then are some family members' school yearbooks: The 1934 and 1937 volumes of The Dunes, from Hammond (Indiana) High School (my grandmother's); the 1967 Lycoming College yearbook (Mom and Dad); and the 1988 and 1989 volumes from Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania (mine). Here's an interesting article from The San Diego Union-Tribune about one group of yearbook editors who worked hard and found creative ways to finish their Class of 2020 yearbook this spring after schools closed due to COVID-19. I'm sure it's a scene that was repeated in many different ways across the nation.

And there's the 1969 facsimile reprint of the 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. It was a gift long ago from Dad to Mom. He inscribed it: "Given as an early Christmas present to my wife on Dec. 18, 1970 — 4 days after the birth of Christopher. JAO."

In the 1980s, for fun, Mom and I would make lists using the Sears catalog. We'd imagine that we were living at the turn of the century and had, say, $200 to stock our new house with furniture, kitchen gadgets, etc. We'd keep track of how much money we had left and try to make the wisest purchases possible while still having all the household essentials. If we did well on own spending, perhaps we could splurge on a 25-cent tin of peanuts or even a spiffy pocket watch. That's what we did for fun back before the internet, kids! Much to my disappointment, none of those old lists are tucked away inside the catalog. But I still have the memories!


Friday, May 29, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #63

We have arrived at the last shelf in the bedroom!

I am a big fan of David Macaulay books, as you can see. Castle and Cathedral are probably my two favorites. Albert Lorenz has some similarities to Macaulay, with his epic illustrations.

My personal story of 9/11 in a newsroom can be found in this post.

House on the Rock in Wisconsin has long been one of my hoped-for road-trip destinations. Is that a little less likely now? Time will tell.

It's a Book by Lane Smith was a Christmas present from Mom about a decade ago. The gag was that I was always able to tell which of my Christmas presents were books ⁠— because, duh ⁠— and I would exclaim, "It's a book!" But, more than a gag gift, this a slender volume about how truly lovely and satisfying books are, compared to other forms of media in this digital age.

Those are some browsing books on the right.

Back over on the left, the two volumes with nothing on the spine are the same beautiful book: 1882's The Heart of Europe From the Rhine to the Danube. A Series of Striking and Interesting Views. With text by Leo de Colange. I discovered the beat-up copy years ago, when I really started collecting older books. And I loved it so much that I later tracked down a nicer copy. I wrote about one of the interior illustrations in 2017.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #62

Shelfie #62
There are some books here. There is an exit to your right.


There is nothing tremendously noteworthy about this small collection of books.


I don't know the word "ENCYLPEDIAS".


You already did that in Shelfie #61.


What do you think this is? Project Gutenberg?


They are not your books to touch.
Your score has gone down 2 points.


Okay, buddy. Enough of these shenanigans. Take it outside.


It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

QSL sent from Loves Park in 1973

This QSL card, which looks like it's straight from the land of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, was sent to Melvin "Midge" C. Reed of W3AIT in mid-December of 1973.1 In a short note filled with ham radio abbreviations, Midge is thanked for a nice chat and wished a happy holiday season.

Littlejohn is a common name in the Loves Park area of Illinois. And there's no listing in any archived online directory for the call sign WA9SFY, so there's a little bit of a mystery here — even though we have a full name and full address. Would be curious to learn more about Clarence (Bud) LittleJohn, who lived at 5716 Hollis Avenue in Loves Park, Winnebago County, Illinois, 47 years ago.

1. Also in December 1973: Pioneer 10 relayed the first close-up images of Jupiter and The Exorcist made its debut in U.S. movie theaters. (Pioneer 10 was 11.4 billions miles from Earth as of January 2019.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #61

No respectable home should be without a set of fine encyclopedias! I firmly believe this, even while acknowledging that predatory sales tactics of the past resulted in families buying overpriced sets they could hardly afford. "Encyclopedia Sale Abuses Go On Despite New Laws," an article by Grace Lichtenstein in the September 26, 1971, edition of The New York Times noted:
"The Department of Consumer Affairs ... charged, among other things, that [Encyclopedia] Britannica salesmen used language 'designed to instill fear and anxiety in parents that their children will fall in school unless an encyclopedia is purchased.' It also said salesmen first offered the 24‐volume set for $1,200 and then came up with a 'special deal,' which was actually the same set in a much cheaper binding.1 ...

"Many of the tactics mentioned in complaints were heard by a reporter when, posing as a potential customer, she was visited by salesmen from Field and Grolier last month. The two Field salesmen based their pitch on 'concern' for 'your children's education.' Declaring that children now must know a great deal when they enter kindergarten, they suggested both the 15‐volume Childcraft and the 20‐volume World Book encyclopedia for a special price of $320.35, plus finance charges2 if bought on an installment plan."
But time and changing access to information caught up with the encyclopedia salesmen. In 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it was going fully digital; door-to-door sales had ended in 1996. The Saturday Evening Post wrote about the history of these knowledge peddlers in 2017.

My encyclopedia was inexpensive. I purchased it a couple years ago at York's Book Nook Bonanza (which has canceled its 2020 event because of COVID-19). It's the 1946 edition of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia and Fact-Index, which was first published in 1922. Guy Stanton Ford (1873-1962) was the Editor-in-Chief. It wasn't until I got home that I realized — despite being sure I had triple-checked — that I was missing a volume. I had no M! How could I continue without "Macaroni" through "Mythology"? Eventually, an eBay seller came to the rescue with the single volume I needed (although it's from 1948 instead of 1946). Now I can read all about Mexico, Milwaukee and monks.

Laying across the top is Science Year, The World Book Science Annual for 1971, which I wrote about in March 2019,

1. $1,200 in 1971 is the equivalent of $7,682 today. Even with an installment plan, that's ghastly.
2. The finance charges were 12% annually!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #60

Can Zen be found within in a book? Have I been seeking enlightenment — or just collecting another little subset of books? Can all simultaneously be true?

These books, for temporary lack of a better spot, had been sitting atop the books of shelfie #59. Their location also puts them within the direct view from my shikibuton each evening. I figured I'd given them their own shelfie, though I do not really know what to say about them yet. Perhaps I will just list them.

* * *

Highly recommended related reading

Please check out Susan Jennings' "Abandoning hope then putting it back together," published just a few days ago on My Inside Voices. She writes of struggling with the concept of hope amid the COVID-19 pandemic and notes at one point: "I think that’s the type of hope I’m after. That we can’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but that we can attempt to be better within that."

Monday, May 25, 2020

From the readers: Geometry, Cheerful Cards, Mecki and more

To kick off the latest installment of reader comments in grand fashion, we have this wonderful email from Greg Frederickson, who refers to the 2012 post 1959 receipt from The Colonial Bookstore in York, Pa.
"Your [post] caught my eye, because I got a great start on a sub-obsession as a result of that bookstore. My mother Margaret had been searching there for a birthday present for me and found this obscure geometry book written by an Australian patent examiner. It was Geometric Dissections, by Harry Lindgren, published by D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. in 1964. It sat more-or-less unexamined on my bookshelf at home until 1969, after I had graduated from college and had started a job teaching mathematics at a junior high school in Baltimore, Maryland.

"I wasn’t the most prepared math teacher that Baltimore had encountered, having had no instruction in education courses, aside from doing practice teaching in the summer school before the school year was to begin in the fall of 1969. But as an inner-city school district Baltimore was desperate for math teachers and was willing to take a chance on me. It was tough sledding that first year, and at times I was almost ready to give up and risk being drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. But the supervisory personnel there were first-rate and gave me lots of good advice. One specialist from the downtown headquarters kindly observed that my classroom was a mess, with pencil scrawlings all over of the student desks and absolutely nothing on my pristine bulletin boards. Besides attacking the desks with soapy water, I ransacked the few math books that I had brought with me to Baltimore to see if I could find something to put on my bulletin boards. The cover decorations on Lindgren’s book were really eye-catching, so I took some colored construction paper and cut out large pieces, which I then stapled onto a bulletin board to illustrate how to cut one geometric figure into pieces that would rearrange to form another figure.

"My supervisor was sufficiently impressed. But more importantly, I ended up being intrigued by a number of geometric dissections in the book. Knowing almost no one in the city and having lots of time to play around with interesting things, I treated myself to a much more careful look at the book. The author had made a big deal about trying to find the fewest possible number of pieces for any given dissection problem. One morning on a weekend, I discovered a way to modify a dissection so that it used one fewer piece. Suddenly I was off and running: I had my first dissection record! Many more have come since then. Always they were unexpected — coming before work, late at night, during meals, or at other times when something else was planned.

"And after every couple of dissections I would hurry off to get them copied and then mail them halfway around the world to Harry Lindgren in Australia. When the original printing of his book sold out, the copyright was taken over by the paperback publisher Dover Publications. Since I was the one who had rendered parts of his book out of date, Harry assigned me the responsibility of revising his book. It was then retitled Recreational Problems in Geometric Dissections & How to Solve Them, and I was officially listed as the reviser.

"After my third year of teaching in Baltimore, I went on to take some courses in Computer Science at the University of Maryland and eventually graduated with a Ph.D. I landed a tenure-track position in the Computer Science Department at Penn State University in 1977 and then became a full professor at Purdue University in 1986. I transitioned to an emeritus professor there a couple of years ago. Besides my many publications in Computer Science, I have published four additional books in geometric dissections, listed on my webpage

"So I enthusiastically acknowledge a big and grateful 'Thank You’ to the Colonial Bookstore of York!"
Much thanks to Greg for taking the time to share this story, the kind of behind-the-scenes history of a life that can so easily become lost. And it all began with that bookstore in York.

Examining the Tunguska Event via newspaper headlines: Tom from the ever-delightful Garage Sale Finds (highly recommended if you're seeking a nostalgic rabbit hole while spending more time at home) writes: "I remember reading The Fire Came By back in the 80s when I was fascinated will all things paranormal and space-related. It bothered me that Dan Aykroyd referred to it as the Tunguska blast of 1909 rather than 1908. Hey, I was (am) a nerd."

Smile-worthy old AP Laserphoto: I tracked down photographer Blake J. Discher on Twitter, and he responded: "Yep, that’s me. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Pretty funny photo. You can’t dream this stuff up... the guy fell asleep at work!"

Philadelphia Phillies spring training photos from March 1984: Wendyvee from the wonderful Wendyvee's writes: "Which reminds me ... I think my mom has a picture with my Dad and Tug McGraw somewhere. I'll have to find it because it was an especially good picture of Dad. Also, I was 'Today Years Old' when I found out why he was nicknamed Tug ... and I maybe wish I wouldn't have, lol!"

1970s Woodsy Owl bookmark: "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute." Two new responses on this one. Anonymous writes: "A relative by marriage (my great aunt's nephew Barry) was the voice of Woodsy."

And Carol Hunter writes: "I could have sworn the following lyrics were in the Give a Hoot jingle that I remember from my childhood: 'Give a hoot, don't pollute, let your outdoor manners show, help to stop pollution in the North South, East & West ... the Nooorth Sooouth East & Weeeest! Hoot Hoot!' Does anyone else remember it this way? Or did I make up lyrics as a kid because I couldn't remember the original ones?"

Anyone have any help for Carol? I can say that it's turned out that 50% or more of the lyrics I thought I knew as a kid were incorrect. Sometimes comically so.

"Only long enough to make a beginning": Joan writes: "I am pleased with your choice of photo-staging props." (She is referring to Titan and Foghorn, who were gratuitously posed with the book.)

Scholastic book cover: "Mystery of the Piper's Ghost": Checking in again, Tom notes: "I love those Scholastic mystery books. I have a number myself, but haven't seen this one. I love the idea of putting them in the Little Library to introduce to a new generation. I wonder if kids still like to read books like that. My own kids' Scholastic flyers are absent of anything like this. I never did get our Little Library built this year, shooting for this year. My intent was to populate it with Scholastic books from my collection as well."

A family history told through newspaper blurbs: Nathan Bland writes: "My Grandmother was Francis S. Staley from the old blue Concrete business card in the post for the IDEAL Concrete Stone Co. in Yellow Springs, Maryland. In case you want any more info on the family tree."

Stay tuned, folks, because I'm definitely going to follow up on this. It's nice to have a chance to circle back to a 2011 post!

Sci-fi book cover: "Star Ways" (aka Kilts in Space?): Tom writes: "If you hadn't given the publication date, I would have guessed this was a retitled novel with the intent to ride the Star Wars wave of the late 1970s, especially the way the title almost looks like a sticker placed over the original."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Unknown writes: "I am a legend of Cheerful House. I used to sell door to door. My neighbors would look through the catalog and buy from me. Christmas cards, birthday cards, oh my God those were the days. Every one who saw them wanted to buy them. That was back in 1972. Cheerful House just brought tears to my eyes and a lot of wonderful memories. I was 12 years old back then. Today I'm 60, and it feels like it was just yesterday — 48 years have passed. I thought they were gone for ever, but when I saw this ... it's a great feeling." ... Responding to another comment that children should not be prevented from working, Unknown added: "I feel the same way. I sold cards for them when I was 12. My mom got jealous. I was earning more than her full-time job."

I continue to be amazed at how the Cheerful Cards comments (28 and counting) took on a life of their own after that 2012 post. Having the ability to remember and discuss that cherished part of their childhood has been so important for folks. Glad to provide the outlet for it!

The One Where I Get Sucked into the Mecki Universe: Anonymous writes: "My mother brought one of these from Germany — it was 1953. She used to chase us around the house with it. It's not scary at all, unless of course it's chasing you, LOL. Mom has passed away but we still have the Mecki. It is about 2 feet tall and in great shape for its age. Who would have thought that doll would be a family heirloom like it has become?"

Story time: The Tale of the Gothic Lullaby: A trio of comments on this story that Ashar and I wrote together:

  • Joan writes: "This is definitely the highlight of my week (and month). Thank you!!!"
  • Wendyvee writes: "Which is why I always sit way, way in the back of the theater."
  • Darlene Swords writes: "I am standing up and applauding the gothic lullaby. I loved it! It was beautifully written ... like James Patterson ... with short chapters."

Dick Gendron's QSL card featuring the Cherry Street fire: John Whitehouse adds some sad history regarding this October 1963 blaze: "The fire was at 108-114 Cherry Street, which housed BF Goodrich, a paint store and a barber shop, as well as eight apartments. A Deputy Chief, George Carty, lost his life due to electrocution. The building was a total loss. Dick (Gendron) was an avid photographer, as well as a very friendly guy. His daughter told me that most of his photos were lost when, ironically, his residence and six other buildings were destroyed by fire. Some of his pictures survive and hang on the walls in Burlington, Vermont, fire stations."

Delving into Henry K. Wampole & Company: "Dirtdoctorjak" writes: "I’ve a bottle 7/8ths full with the box that I recovered out of a old home demo in California."

Stay-at-home shelfie #10: Inky from On Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax writes: "This shelfie makes me happy given that quite a few of these grace my own shelves and book piles (I admittedly have not read The Angry Planet yet, but I love the cover). As a huge fan of Mervyn Peake, I highly recommend reading him."

Does anyone still own a 1-square-inch Texas ranch? Anonymous writes: "I was one of those suckers. Not sure where my deed is now."

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Unknown writes: "I don't know how I came up on this thread. When I looked into it it just made me really sad. Thank you for sharing a little bit about her life. Unfortunately she probably died because of domestic abuse."

Stay-at-home shelfie #20: Inky writes: "Hooray for the Ruth Manning-Sanders shelves! I've never come across any of her non-fairy tale books, though I certainly love her 'A Book of...' books and consider the mermaid one to be one of my favorite fairy tale collections."

1941 advertisement for the Modern Talking Picture Service: Unknown writes: "My AV department at South Orange Maplewood, New Jersey, ordered many films from MTP Service back in 1972. Also ordered films from Films Incorporated. I've often wondered where all those reels went. Be nice if they were offered on eBay."

Night of Household Items #4: "Makes your toilet paper sing!" Unknown writes: "I bought several of these when I lived in New Jersey in 1988. I still have one, but it doesn't work anymore. I loved them! They were great fun!!!"

Book cover: "So you want to be a Ham": Dave Conley writes: "I also discovered this book at the library, and just about reduced it to shreds by checking it out repeatedly. Robert Hertzberg was very good at communicating his love of the hobby."

"Siss Noch Unvergleichlich": 1962 Pennsylvania Dutch Days brochure: Wendyvee writes: "How very Pennsylvania. Also, one of my grandmothers made funeral pies that were so sweet, I swear I can still taste them. Eeek!"

Would you like to play a game of Wizzardz & War Lordz? "arik24" writes: "It's been archived at"

Happy gaming, everyone!