During my time associating with the computer underground of the late 1980s, I never got to personally meet Susan Thunder, but my circle had many overlaps and I heard a lot of great stories about her, some from people mentioned in this article. This article provides a nice overview of a fascinating character and pioneering woman.
An important tidbit for those wishing to visit the graves of people buried in the middle of South Dakota:
Every single online mapping source (literally, all of them, MapQuest, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Yelp, TomTom, etc.) list the location of Huron’s Riverside Cemetery as Frank Ave SE. (I’m avoiding repeating the complete wrong address here, to not feed the ‘bots.)
However, Huron’s Riverside Cemetery is actually located at the intersection of SD Route 22 and Sherman Ave SE.
Which, when viewed from the perspective of a bird, is kind of near the river. But this is not apparent from the ground. (Just in case you, in a fit of desperation, try to suss out where it is located using logic and reasoning.) Your better approach, as proven effective by the present author, is to interrupt a nice couple unloading groceries from their car that is parked in the driveway of a home located near the incorrect address, and ask them where the cemetery is located. They are likely to laugh and tell you how to get to where it actually is. (“Go down this road, hang a left on the main road, it’s on your right about a mile down.”) Be sure to thank them, as well as the midwest proclivity towards friendliness.
I reported the mapping mistake to Apple and Google, but given that every provider had it wrong, it’s likely incorrect in the state’s own database. But this is far from the only thing that godforsaken South Dakota gets wrong.
I’m a sucker for roadside attractions, and roadside attractions are what this full-color zine chronicles. You’ll notice that the author, Lindsey Miller, has omitted the question mark from the title, which speaks to my heart because there is no doubt that stopping is going to happen.
I have so many fond memories involving these gems of Americana that I can’t even begin to list my faves. In this work, Volume 2, there are sixteen pages depicting approximately twenty locations, all of which are on the East Coast. (I could have done with a few less photos from Dinosaur Land, but hey, if it were my book, there would be several from Wall Drug, so I’m not throwing stones.)
I got my copy at Quimby’s in Chicago. Stop by the store for yours, but be warned, the result will be an urge to hit the road to find your own roadside surprises.
This journal, published by Wayne State University, is the pre-eminent publication for contemporary fiction in the style of fairy tales. (Yes, that’s actually a thing.)
This is the first issue that I’ve read. It’s from 2021, but the annual publication is cataloged by color (for some reason) so this is known as The Gold Issue. (The first one, published in 2006, was The Blue Issue.)
The journal publishes not just stories, but also poetry, art, and nonfiction, all in the fairy tale realm. This particular issue has a strong academic focus on the works of Anne Sexton, a poet who breathed new life into contemporary fairy tales with her reinterpretations from the Grimm canon. (See her collection, Transformations.)
I enjoyed reading this issue, although it had a bit too much poetry for my taste. I’ll definitely try another issue if the opportunity arises. Thanks to its academic approach, I was able to discover many additional books and publications that have caught my interest as well.
Book Review: How to Build A Lie Detector, Brain Wave Monitor & Other Secret Paraphsychological Electronics Projects
The authors, Mike and Ruth Wolverton, not content with the world’s longest book title, add the subtitle “Your passport to the world of the paranormal using everyday electronics!” (Exclamation point in original.) Whew! (Exclamation point, mine.)
I’ve been searching for this 1981 paperback book for a long time. I wanted a copy for two reasons: First, books published by TAB were some of the first books I owned. Back then, books about computing as a hobby weren’t very common, and the Computer Book Club was a rarified source of information for people like me, and many of the books that the club offered were from TAB.
The other reason I wanted this book is its subject. Technical, but approachable, books about fringe science are rare, and this is one of the classics. (Which is one of the reasons it’s hard to find a copy.) And it is very nearly cover-to-cover esoterica. This book features ESP testers, UFO detectors, ley line apparatus, ghostly voice recorders, Kirlian photography, and so much more. (Sadly, there is not an Orgone energy accumulator.)
Not only is each subject accompanied by detailed instructions on building an electronic gadget to experiment with, there is also a historical (and sometimes personal) discussion of the phenomenon. Back in the day (as in, before the internet), this type of information was rare gold.
Will I actually build any of these gadgets? Maybe, the first obstacle will be translating the Radio Shack part numbers to modern components.
In a fun moment of synchronicity, when I received the book in the mail, I learned that I had purchased it from a used bookstore in Utah that wasn’t too far from where I grew up. (Amazon Marketplace obfuscates where you are buying from, so I didn’t know this until it arrived.) Moreover, tucked inside the book was a business card from a previous owner. He was a senior engineer at Hughes, in Texas. It’s interesting to see which projects he has marked with dog-eared pages. I’ve already continued the tradition by marking my own favorite chapter with my card; perhaps the next owner will enjoy that discovery too. (I chose the chapter on dowsing, which is a familial practice.)
This is a personal publication featuring a review of all fifty state flags, plus a few others. Each high-gloss page features an illustration of the flag, its ranking (from 1 to 50) and a discussion and critique of the flag’s design.
I learned several things reading this book, and I was entertained in the process. For example, did you know just over half of all state flags consist of the state’s seal on a field of blue? As the author points out, this is boring, and a lost opportunity for uniqueness and good design. I also learned that Idaho is the only state flag that includes the state’s name twice. That’s plain silly, Idaho, WTF?
The author, Billy McCall, correctly praises the Chicago city flag, yet fails to picture it. (Boo!) To make up for it, he does show some truly horrendous city flags, such as Milwaukee and Pocatello. Yes, Idaho. Again. Get a grip, Idahoans.
There’s a guest essay about the state flag of Utah, and the missed opportunity they had to adopt a redesign that features a big, nifty beehive. The essay, though, expresses some puzzlement over the symbolism of the beehive, not knowing that it is a symbol of Mormonism. (See my post How the Mormon Church Pervades Everything in Utah.)
This book began life as a series of zines about McCall’s favorite flags, but for this compilation, he includes all fifty states. He says that much of his information about the flags came from wikipedia, so you might not want to use this book to study for a Jeopardy audition. And occasionally, there isn’t a lot to say about a flag, so there are a few diversions thrown in too. Don’t let any of this dissuade you, it’s a fun book.
For another publication by McCall, which I also enjoyed, see Book Review: The Difference Between.
We all have a nifty bit of decoration or electronics that we’d use more often if it didn’t eat batteries like a Mormon teen devouring Cheetos after a date.
A device called a “battery eliminator” allows you to run a device using a power supply, even if it was designed to only operate with batteries.
A battery eliminator works by connecting a fake battery to a power supply, via a thin cord that snakes out through the battery door. This one battery carries all the necessary juice to run the item, but you need to fill the other battery slots with dummy batteries that complete the item’s circuit.
Simple, and it works great, so long as you don’t mind tethering the item to a wall wart. (And, duh, if you do mind, just go back to using regular batteries!)
The only obstacle to using a batter eliminator, from my perspective, is the cost. You also have to buy one that meets the specifications of the device you want to power, so it may not be possible to use the eliminator with other devices that you own. That is, the eliminator has to match both the power, and the battery size, the device requires. (Such as, 3v and AAA batteries.)
A slightly more flexible (but costlier) version of an eliminator is one that lets you switch between different voltage output. That’s what I use, but note that it’s still tied to replacing AA-sized batteries. Visit the listing for the Lenick Adjustable Battery Replacer on Amazon, and it will lead you to all the other available configurations. (I just noticed a bring-your-own-power-supply model that works with a USB phone charger, I’ll have to try that one next!)
The purchase of a Balmuda counter-top oven was the best “home improvement” decision of the pandemic era. Everything about its construction quality, design, and (most importantly) performance is beyond satisfying. (I bought mine direct, but it’s also available via Amazon.)
I’m not trying to sell you one, so I’ll only mention one of the outstanding features — steam heat. By adding a dollop of water, the toaster fills with steam during its cycle and the result is heavenly.
However, as is common with Japanese products, it is substantially smaller than other toaster ovens on the market. So if you want extra pans to use with it, there is a good chance they’ll be too big to work with the oven.
Here are two that I’ve personally verified as working well:
(Make sure you get the two-inch height cake pan, the pan that is three-inches tall won’t work.)
This book of single-page comics about introspective dinosaurs is, apparently, a bit of a cultural hit right now. I was unaware of this when purchasing it; I was simply reacting to its minimalist writing, design, and cute artwork.
The book is quite fun, and there’s a lot to admire about how the writer, James Stewart, and the illustrator, K. Roméy, put it all together. The topics might exhibit a bit too much navel-gazing and angst for some, but the charm and cleverness outweigh that monotony. (Yes, I know that dinosaurs don’t have belly buttons. But having lived in California for a decade, I know overly wrought self-indulgence when I see it.)
If it hasn’t already happened, I’m confident that there will soon be a “page a day” calendar edition of this comic, as it’s perfect for that sort of Far Side treatment and sharing.
You can literally find this book everywhere because it’s a Sunday Times bestseller. I discovered it at Barnes & Noble, but you’ll find it at the Amazon too.