A different kind of spectrum: GHOSTS in BOOKS

For whatever reason, I recently read 3 out-of-copyright ebooks on the Project Gutenberg website, all fictions about ghosts. They all took different approaches to the subject:

A Master of Mysteries by Robert Eustace and L. T. Meade – PG ebook 22278. One reviewer described this as being at the “Scooby-Doo” end of the spectrum because all of the storys have a natural cause (often malicious). John Bell investigates and solves. My favorite of all of these is “The mystery of the Felwyn Tunnel” – you may feel yourself inching close to the answer like I did. I got the concept of the solution right, but the details wrong. Has strong similarities to Charles Dickens’ “The Signal-Man” (story 3 here).

Carnacki, the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson – PG ebook 10832. In between John Bell and Flaxman Low is Carnacki: some of what he turns up are real ghosts (he is more specific than that) and others are not. At least 2 are both.

Flaxman Low, Occult Psychologist by E. and H. Heron – PGA ebook 0605881. On the other end, all of Flaxman Low’s storys involve “psychical” beings. Worth noting is that he has a systematic taxonomy sort of thing for these. That is, there is variation of types of spirits, what causes them, how to deal with them. This is similar to what Elliott O’Donnell did/tried to do.

Trying to find a story, found some others

In a response to a long ago post about ephemera, someone asked for a particular story. Now, nothing is so hard to get as spent old textbooks that aren’t unquestionably out of copyright, but I found two of them for loan via the Internet Archive:

Lavender Skywriters and Adventures to Remember. The first one is, I think, a combination of 3 grade levels, but I’m not sure now where I read that.


Continue reading Trying to find a story, found some others

I have never seen this before in a blog

Visiting by accident, the human recommendations blog of the Marion (Indiana) Publique Library, I noticed something actually unique: A total lack of datestamps.

I cannot find anything on the index page or the individual posts to show when they were written or publisht. The URIs are … found it!!

If you clique on the individual images of books, then it says when they were “published”, which means uploaded to the server.

Sadly, the blog hasn’t been updated in almost 2 years. Their idea of not making it easy to see the date makes it hard for an immediate visitor to know if it is all out of date, hence less immediately rejection-worthy. As far as I know this is unique to them.

A Visit to Satan

Every Christmas season (in the United States at least), two notoriously bad seasonal films are aired “for the lulz”. They are “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (wiki, IA) (you can’t beat a title like that) and “Santa Claus” (wiki, IA) of K. Gordon Murray. Both of these are hilariously bad in ways their creators probably didn’t intend. However, they are feature films, which can make watching them hard.

For a shorter, lighter dose of Christmas nonsense, I present the little known, but just as bad, “A Visit to Santa” by Clem Williams. A short little flick (less than 15 minutes) containing Santa and some children wandering around a 1960s shopping mall in (according to reviewers) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pay particular attention to the Tom Swift-like obsession with transportation technology: Santa has a rocket (!) and magic helicopter (!!).

Even if you don’t, or can’t, watch the film itself, I highly recommend reading the reviews, which are a hoot.

Third thoughts on Windows 10: A two of five

My experiences of Windows 10 are split between use on a tablet and use on a desktop.

The tablet experience was terrible. Not being recognized as a touchscreen tablet meant that touch scrolling was completely absent and touch keyboard was missing completely. I had to use OSK with no touch delay to enter text and even passwords. Interesting note: Windows recovery environment (WinRE) included with Windows 10 recognized my tablet as a tablet… which let me reinstall Windows 8.1. I’m back on 8.1 and am quite happy to be back there. Rating: 1/5 or less.

On the desktop, the upgrade lead me to some odd effects, but overall the system still works. HOWEVER… it doesn’t do anything more for me. Nothing that I could do on Windows 7 is any easier/better on 10. Some things are harder. For some reason the Start menu is even less customizable. I can’t make the Downloads directory into a menu, only a link. The Taskbar is stuck with this black color. Rating: 3/5

Average: 2/5

I suggest waiting this one out. Microsoft seems to be innovating for the sake of saying they are innovating. The Windows user interface and experience in 7 was fine for – I’m guessing – 90+% of its users on desktops and laptops, while Windows 8[.1] was a useful adaptation for touchscreen devices like tablets. Windows 10, to me, is a derogation from both.

A true full-blooded Buck

Most everyone should know about Project Gutenberg, the site that types up and publishes free old literature that has lost its copyright, or never had a copyright. One such book is the “Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian“. In it, Fithian graduates college in New Jersey and then moves to Virginia to teach some wealthy planter (this is in the 1700s) children.

Fithian was a divinity student and evidently later on minister, but his tutoring or teaching was not specifically religious. He mentions things like arithmetic and languages. Notably he is displeased with several people for slave-holding and their treatment of their slaves, including his employer.

I will have to reread this to point out every part of it, but one thing I remember specifically, was this:

In Dr Thomsons Room there was hanging against the Wall a Skeleton!—Balantine, either to shew himself a true full-blooded Buck, or out of mere wantonness & pastime turned the Bones (as they were fixed together with Wires) into many improper and indecent postures; but this officious industry met with such reception from the company as it Justly merited, and as I wish’d might happen; for they gave visible signs of their contempt of his Behaviour

To me, the reading is so much enjoyable because of the archaic and unique wording, although the image of this person (who is the head of a firm!) playing around like this is amusing as well.

Some Clues in the Embers

So I checked out another of the old(er) Hardy Boys books because I got caught up in it when I was at the library last time. This one is “The Clue in the Embers” – an intriguing title if nothing else, and is number 35 in the series. Unfortunately this isn’t one of the very early editions, but a later revision. Even so it’s not a bad read.

Continue reading Some Clues in the Embers

Games that (should) Live Forever: 3 in Three

3 in Three was a Macintosh only game put out by Cliff Johnson. The plotline: You are a numeral three in an Excel spreadsheet in a computer (obviously a Macintosh) that gets bumpt off the spreadsheet by accident and are now stuck inside the machine. You have to work your way up from the lowest depths of binary, through the intermediate levels of characters, symbols, math and letters in order to return to the application level and your supposed “right” place in the inner world.

You do this by engaging in superlogical trains of thought such as figuring out that “NME” spells “Enemy” and that 7 + 5 = 2. Also highly notable is the degree to which the Macintosh user interface (menu bar) is subordinated to the game, serving regularly as a button rather than a menu. I have no experience with the music or sound effects, but they really aren’t needed to justify my explanation of the game as being amazzing and completely worth the effort of getting System 7 running in BasiliskII or other emulator in order to play the game.

It is free from the author, at his website: http://www.thefoolsgold.com/downloads/games-macintosh.htm

I am eagerly awaiting the successor “3” games that he claims to be making. Note that his latest game was about 10 years in production, so don’t write it off as vaporware.

Comments on the “Great Airport Mystery”

I’ve taken to reading some of the odd volumes of the original “Hardy Boys” series the local library has while I’m there volunteering. This time I pickt out #8, the Great Airport Mystery. My observations:

The book had copyright dates of 1930, 1957, 1966 and 1993. The first was obviously the original publication. The subsequent ones indicate some revisions here or there. I was able to find a reference to plexiglass that was obviously a post-WWII addition, and a comment about building Cape Kennedy hangars would have been added in 1966. I am not sure what was done for 1993, other than possibly remove material. There may have been some offensive material that was excised so it could still be acceptable. Of course now it’s hopelessly dated since we have the following material intertwined in the story:

  • The sole and exclusive presence of landline telephones.
  • Film cameras.
  • Use of low altitude airplanes for picture taking instead of satellite images.
  • Uninhabited Caribbean islands.

The last one is definitely noteworthy and seems to be pre-1930 even. Also, some out-of-contact natives in the Caribbean also figure slightly, which is a definite throwback to earlier times.

I am not sure who was “Franklin W. Dixon” for this book (the name rotated among writers), but whoever it was was definitely familiar with aeronautics. Various jargon associated with the profession turns up and “radiation fog” is mentioned and explained a couple of times.

The Hardys’ have a convertible car (and are evidently old enough to drive) and keep “emergency detective kits” on hand. These contain at least “vivid red paper” that can be torn up and dropped to create a trail.

Corporate branding doesn’t appear to exist in their neighborhood. Company names are uniformly descriptive and bland. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your view of management consultants.

In the past, the DMV was required in most states to provide open access to registration information. This lets the boys look up the owner of a car via its license plate, as opposed to having to let the police do it.

The two know sign language! This is explained as being useful for detective work (I can easily believe that), but is such an ingenious idea on the part of the author that I am quite charmed by it. I don’t know if he (“Dixon”) got the idea from a real life event or person, but it is original in my experience.

I don’t know if I’ll bother with more of these comments, since the books seem to get less likely with later revisions and those are mostly what the library has.

Academic software: KENPAVE is the depth of bad design

I had forgotten to mention previously that one of the worst offenders in terms of terrible user interfaces is academic software. I mean software that is included with textbooks on CDs and other matter. For example, one of the courses I took while a student was on pavement design. A piece of software included was called KENPAVE (The “KEN” signified “Kentucky”) had to have been one of the worst things ever.

Aside from the fact that it requires now depreciated dependencies and tends to crash (said crashes being totally unrecoverable with all work being lost), the interface shows a total lack of even being aware of Windows specifications.

Let’s start with the first screen:

KENPAVE / A Computer Package for Pavement Analysis and Design / Developed by Dr. Yang H. Huang, P.E. / Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering / University of Kentucky / Lexington KY 40506-0281

Continue reading Academic software: KENPAVE is the depth of bad design