Book Review: NOS4A2 a Novel by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 are the numbers of a license plate at the top
NOS4AS by Joe Hill

Vic’s beleaguered dad always calls her Brat. Feel what Vic feels when she rides her new bicycle through a covered bridge that no longer exists — except in her inscape. Like calling a Uber, the shorter way bride is there when she needs to find things or people.

NOS4AS is Joe Hill’s third novel of four. He has also written some graphic books, anthologies of short novels and short stories. Hill comes from a family of authors Stephen and Tabitha King are his parents. Hill even credits Tabitha King for convincing him to make the ending better.

On one of Vic’s bridge-scapes she meets Maggie, the librarian in Here, Iowa. Like Vic uses her bicycle a vehicle into a different reality, Maggie uses Scrabble squares to get information. In their meeting, Maggie tells Vic that they travel to their inscapes in much the same way but for different reasons. Then she tells her about another inscape traveler: Charlie Manx

Manx is on a quest to save children from their mothers who choose lifestyles that he determines immoral or degenerate. He enlists a gullable assistant named Bing because Bing has access to an endless supply sevoflurane gas. It’s a paralyzing date-rape gas usually used by dentists.

On Vic’s last inscape as a child, she almost gets burned alive in her attempt to rescue a child out of the back seat of Manx’s Rolls-Royce Wraith. The Wraith has a license plate of NOS4A2. Now it’s a story of retribution for Manx even after his death. Now Vic has a child of her own: Bruce Wayne. Manx overpowers Vic as she tries to prevent her son’s eventual kidnapping. Now it’s time for Mama Bear to take to her bridge again.

NOS4AS is my second Joe Hill Novel. It was just as captivating as The Fireman, his latest novel. I enjoyed reading this epic work of almost 700 pages. NOS4A2 is a horror story that borders on Science Fiction. I had some difficulty understanding how a person’s inscape could accommodate passengers if the whole thing were supposed to be an altered reality. I struggle with some science fiction concepts, so this one left me a little flat.

 

 

Let’s Write a Short Story

I’ve read my share of books on how to write creatively. I fall into the category of people who enjoy reading cookbooks but don’t ever get around to cooking. It seems I don’t ever get around to writing. I don’t finish reading more books than I finish. I think the odds of finishing “Let’s Write a Short Story” are pretty good. The book is about the size of the palm of my hand and it’s only about 90 pages long. Even Donal Trump should be able to complete it in-between tweet storms.

The book is by Joe Bunting who inspires and educates newbies like me on the writing craft through his website The Write Practice. 

In the introduction to “Let’s Write a Short Story” Bunting challenges the reader to submit a short story for publication before the end of the month.

As proof that I have met the challenge, I will publish the story on this blog, and I will post where I submitted it to.

My girlfriend, Laura, seems to be a more creative dreamer than I am. She also has the ability to remember her dreams. When I told her about my plans to write a short story, she gave me a story beginning that is one of her favorite dreams. She’s the only person I know who can dream in the third person point of view. She wasn’t a participant in the dream that she told me about.

I checked my hard drive and I once wrote a summary of the plot for a novel:

Indian Ghosts kidnap our protagonist from her campsite set in present day rural Wisconsin.  While she is “under their spell” setting changes to frontier times. The reason that they kidnap her is unknown to her for all of the canoe ride down the river.  Only after an adventurous trip does she find out that they want her to save a sick child in their village.

attrape-rêve fait maison par ma squaw...
Photo by Pascal Ray (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

 

White Man’s Rhythm Woes

My progress with the guitar has plateaued. Maybe my skill may have declined a bit. Learning to play may be me trying to be something that I’m not. At times like these, I remember the piano lessons I took as a child. They didn’t last long. When I was older, mom told me that the piano teacher said to her that I have no rhythm. That was at a time that I hadn’t even considered learning anything having to do with music. Still, it’s one of those things I’ll never forget how much it bothered me. Not, that Mom noticed.

I will admit that I’m struggling with rhythm. Keeping the beat is a fleeting talent for me. One night’s practice goes well then another night I can’t teach my right hand to strum. Beyond my regular instrument practice, I get weekly tips from Mike Moots. When I was working on the 12 bar blues, Mike made this recording, so that I could try to use it as a template for learning.

The audio file above is Mike playing the 12 bar blues shuffle. The video file shows me playing “Good Riddance, by Green Day,

Earlier in the video, I was attempting to play a song that I couldn’t identify. That’s how off the rhythm was. Mike and My instructor have both said that I need to work on my strumming.

Meanwhile, Mike is teaching me barre chords, and Pete is showing me different modes of the pentatonic scale. Mike wants to teach me songs and Pete wants me to improvise. I’m learning my rhythm guitar from Mike, and I’m learning my lead guitar from Pete.

Maybe by rhythm wasn’t very good when I had piano lessons as a child, but I believe rhythm can be learned. And, learn it, I will.

 

Book Review of “The Fireman” by Joe Hill (no spoilers).

A glowing flame silhouettes a man walking.

Great Read, but the Fireman is only a supporting character; The story revolves around Harper and a spreading spore, nicknamed Dragonscale. It is infecting much of the world population. She meets “The Fireman” (John) in a hospital that is one of the few places that is still attempting to treat, house, and feed the infected amid societies growing fear of them.

A glowing flame silhouettes a man walking.
The cover of the paperback version

 

John enters the hospital dressed wearing a fireman’s raincoat and helmet. He has a halligan (ax-like tool) and insists on immediate treatment for a 5-year-old boy that he is carrying. Security is called, and the scene is starting to escalate into violence when the Fireman threatens the nurses and security with his halligan.

Harper steps in and defuses the situation by unknowingly using a phrase from the song Romeo and Juliet. Harper

tries to deflect the scene away from the front of the long line of infected when she says, “How about it babe, you and me.”

The Fireman is distracted from his anger. He asks her if she is Dire Straits fan. Soon Harper discovers that one of the boy’s appendix is about to burst and thus justifies his priority admission.

The setting for this story is in New Hampshire. It all starts as Harper sees an infected man stumble on to the playground of an elementary school where she is the school nurse. Before her eyes, the man spontaneously starts burning from the inside out. Later, she watches as the infected, and the resulting fires from them play out in catastrophes on cable news channels.

The region where she lives and works starts to stigmatize the infected similar to rabid dogs. To avoid gangs of vigilantes, the infected to seek hidden communities that must venture out and steal food and supplies from the healthy.

I thought any kind of plot line was slow to develop amid all the catastrophes.  Eventually, the main plotline came and so did a few pleasing parallel plots.

The message I got from this book is that society will act on fear first before considering how much more we are the same than we are different.

 

I’ll Take What’s Behind Door Number 6221

When a storage unit is past due on payments, the facility manager can replace the lessor’s lock with his own. The contents of the locker now become collateral to collect overdue rent.  The manager has the right to take photographs of the belongings and publish those photos on auction sites. Buyers can bid to buy the contents of what they see in the pictures.

Live Auctions are similar to online auctions. At a published time the manager will open the delinquent unit and allow any buyer’s peer inside. No one is allowed to enter or touch any of the items. The reality series Storage Wars portrays some of the colorful characters that attend these live auctions.

Laws regulate how many days the payments need to be overdue before the unit is considered delinquent. They vary from 30 to 45 days depending on what state the facility is in. The lessor can pay all fees and overdue rent the day before the auction, and the facility will cancel it and refund any money that was put up for it by bidders.

I was helping my friend Eric haul away the contents of his first storage unit purchase recently. It was exciting and sad.

Exciting: because of hidden treasures that he found:

  • A washer and dryer
  • A Leatherman style all-in-one tool
  • A Kansas City Chiefs jacket
  • A whole semester’s worth of textbooks
  • A glass top corner table
  • and much more

Sad: because of some of the personal effects found

  • A confirmation letter from a mom to a daughter
  • Family photographs
  • A spiral notebook with impeccable handwriting based on lectures or from a textbook.

/My part of the take

For my efforts, I scored the Kansas City Chiefs jacket. Eric’s unit had contents that exceeded the price that he bought them for; however, it took him a couple of days to clear the unit out, and that has to be factored into whether the project was profitable or not. He’s happy with the outcome, so I guess that’s all that matters.Eric and his treasure

 

 

 

 

Exposure to Monsanto’s Chemicals: Second person reports

The victims

I know a guy who was directly affected by Agent Orange. Another close acquaintance is a woman, whose father suffered long after a grain elevator explosion covered him in Aldrin.  The US banned Aldrin since 1987. Agent Orange is one of many herbicides used in Vietnam between 1961 to 1971. Both were produced by Monsanto.

The guy I know is a US Army veteran. He was a sniper in Vietnam. His cancer is in remission. Agent Orange has active ingredient: dioxin. Dioxins are carcinogens. Monsanto claims that it was only one of nine producers of agent orange and that the US military was responsible for any damages. Monsanto continues to deny any link to cancer.

Monsanto also produces the popular weed killer Roundup. In August of 2018, a man was awarded a 289 million dollar damage verdict that ruled his cancer was caused by prolonged exposure to Roundup.

Aldrin has been labeled as a probable cause of cancer by the EPA. The woman’s father was working at a grain elevator when he was covered from head to toe with Aldrin. He wasn’t wearing protective clothing and there were no decontamination showers at the site. He drove home still covered in the chemical. He was not aware that the toxic chemical could enter his body through his skin. He died of cancer.

The Cover-up

After years of medical treatment, the women’s family subpoenaed for his medical records to obtain compensation for his bills. Somehow the medical records disappeared.

Elaborate outdoor shopping mall is backdrop to an ornate fountain
JC Nichols Fountain at the Country Club Plaza.

It was for these people that I took an active role in forming the March Against Monsanto. It took place in May 2013 at the JC Nichols Fountain in downtown Kansas City Missouri. We had an informational festival that included face painting for kids and live music. It all culminated in a march of over 1000 protesters through the Country Club Plaza.  

informational piceting
The US government’s oversight of Monsanto is lacking

 

 

 

Book Review: How to Disappear

How to Disappear:
Erase your digital footprint, Leave false trails, Vanish without a trace
Frank M, Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan
Lyons Press, Guilford Connecticut

The authors set the tone for the book on the first page. Frank M, Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan give an example of how not to buy this book.

Hard Cover

Do buy the book. But, if you are trying to disappear from someone don’t buy it with a credit card. Don’t use your frequent-shopper card either. Frank Ahearn is a Skip Tracer. By his definition:

Skip tracer. n: A person who tracks people down and uncovers private information for a living. Targets include jailbirds, deadbeats, subpoenaed witnesses, and just about anyone else who’s trying to hide.

I’m not trying to disappear. To me, this book feeds my growing fascination with all things having to do with sleuth novels. I was surprised to learn that someone doesn’t need to be a computer hacker to find your personal information.

Much of the book includes first-person accounts of how the authors went about finding their target. These are the parts I enjoyed the most because it felt like I was sitting at a bar listening to a great story. Skip tracers use pretexting, a form of social engineering, to get information from customer service agents at bookstores, public utilities, health clubs, tanning spas, and through social media.

Pretexting is done by presenting yourself as someone else either over the phone or in person. A good example of pretexting is calling a customer service agent posing as the owner of the account and subversively coaxing the person on the phone to divulge the targets contact information. Social Engineering is the new science of extracting information from people through conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: “Victory Disc” by Andrew Cartmel

The cover art of Victory Disc

Victory Disc is the third book of “The Vinyl Detective” series. I read the second book (The Runout Groove) last year and enjoyed it enough to lay down some money for this year’s release. “The Vinyl Detective” is written from a first-person Perspective.

The cover art of Victory Disc
Available at Amazon.com

It has all the same supporting characters: Nevada, Tinkler, Clean Head, and the two cats. Sorry, I can’t remember their names and I don’t like cats well enough to try to remember their names.

The Vinyl Detective has followers to his blog. This blog? Not so much. He blogs about his hobby of collecting vinyl records.

Again, this time our protagonist’s search for collectible records morphs into a confrontation with some unsavory characters. Some are promiscuous, and some are violent.

The setting is in London, England. The detective and his girlfriend, Nevada have been hired by one of his blog’s readers.  After the detective’s cat finds a rare 78 rpm Victory Disc from the World War II era, he makes a post about it on his blog. A reader became a client when she responded to the post with a personal visit. She commissions him to find other discs by the same band.

Collectors of anything sometimes discover some unsettling history that relates to the owners and the creators of their finds. During the climax of the story, there is a pleasing plot twist.

Tinkler is a humerus as always. Nevada is as eloquent and resourceful as ever. This novel has a light a fun read. I highly recommend it.

 

Pike’s Peak and Valley of the Gods

It was a two day three night Colorado getaway for my girlfriend Laura and me. We managed to

view from rear cabin of passenger jet while at the gate.
The sun sets as we arrive in Denver after a bumpy flight.

do all the “must-see” attractions and visit with some of Laura’s extended family in the Denver area.

 

The must-see attractions were all in the Colorado Springs area.

 

 

  • Pike’s Peak (We made it to the summit in our rented Sentra)
  • Garden of the Gods (We saw mountain goats in the wild.)
  • Manitou Cliff Dwellings (The gift shop was more significant than the cliff dwellings.)
  • The National Museum of World War II Aviation.

I don’t know where we will go on our next vacation, but I’m sure there will be a Wal-Mart nearby. Thankfully, the branch near the Air Force Academy was a place to get stuff that was difficult to pack.

The summit of Pike’s Peak was windy and a bit chilly. I more than Laura was feeling the effects of the thin air. I had a slight headache, my legs were weak, and all I wanted to do was sit down. Even so, Pikes National Forest was the highlight of our trip.

I liked the Garden of the Gods, but we didn’t have enough time to enjoy it. All we did was a quick drive through it.

At the Museum of World War II Aviation, we arrived just in time to get a guided tour.  Both Laura and I forgot to bring our camera’s on tour, so we didn’t get any pictures to remember it by.

Our flight out to Denver was Laura’s first time on a plane. On the way out to Denver, we had a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We only saw it from the terminal windows, but the mountains and desert were impressive sights.

Yesterday, I got another souvenir of our trip from Dollar Rental Car. They sent me a bill for the fun little excursion I made into the toll lanes in Denver. The sign said it would only cost a dollar, but it cost two dollars and an additional

fifteen dollars service fee from Dollar for having to pay it on my behalf.