DiMortuiSunt April Book Giveaway! #1

My review for Sacramento Book Review:

I found it troubling and eerie at how much of today I see in the world Jackson Lears relates in his newest book Rebirth of a Nation, which chronicles the history of the United States from the end of Reconstruction to the end of World War I. Lears makes the similarities between then and now a theme throughout the book, pointing them out when they are especially telling. Rebirth of a Nation is not an important book because it paints a vivid picture of early modern American culture; it is a brilliant book because it reminds of how and why we have the federal government we do and the headaches and troubles earlier Americans faced to get us here. Various government institutions and policies (the FDA, for example) which we take for granted today, or worse denigrate, are explained in the context of which they were created, enlightening such issues as modern banking and its regulation, the Federal Reserve, the eight-hour workday, unions, a mixed economy, and more. Lears wraps all of that radical change in an American desire, both individual and societal, for a rebirth into a state akin to grace whether through war, social justice, or labor. Rebirth of a Nation is a must-read for lovers of American history.

If you’re a fan of history or the United States this is a great book that covers a pivotal period in US History as the country shifted from its original rural agrarian base to a urban industrial one.

So, if you’d like a free book. Just make a comment down below and you’ll be entered. One person, chosen at random, will win it next Friday.

Video Games I Just Can’t Quit

I don't have Photoshop, so shut-up

Despite the fact that I have a backlog of video games that is, let me check… At least in the double digits (I haven’t updated it in awhile) I find myself returning to the same stable of games again and again.

Am I the only person who does this? I’m guessing not, going by all the videos, forum threads, and websites dedicated to old video games; how to find them, how to play them, how to beat them, how to exploit  them, and on and on. (I even indulge in this myself. Click on that ‘Let’s Play’ tab at the very top of the page to see.)

I like to think that this is more than blind nostalgia operating. That there are very good objective, quantifiable reasons why I play Megaman 2, Castlevania, or King’s Quest IV time after time and year after year. The problem of course is that games, as works of art, are notoriously difficult to objectively quantify or qualify. The hobby does have widely held corpus of “great” games, but the list is highly mutable and it has been argued contain sgames that are present merely for their age. Furthermore, what qualifies a game as “great?” The criteria available to use is nigh endless and contradictory.

I’m no ludologist (and I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to pretend to be an amateur one ) so I’m not going to attempt creating a list of the various components of games that qualify them as “greats.” I’m sure if I could isolate said components they would not match up with others’ lists anyway.

Sometimes it is merely the presence of the ineffable that defines greatness, I suppose…

Here’s my list of games I just can’t, and wouldn’t want to, quit (in no order):

  • King’s Quest IV
  • Super Metroid
  • Castlevania
  • X-COM: UFO Defense
  • Megaman 2
  • Contra
  • Space Quest III
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Ape Escape
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Tenchu
  • Final Fantasy

Do you find yourself going back to a set of “knowns” time and time again? Regardless of how many new “unknowns” you might have and want to consume? If so, please share them below in the comments and why you think it is you keep going back to them!

Boy Scouts of America: Over 100 Years Later

My First Edition Copy of the Handbook for Boys

I bought this original Boy Scout Handbook, and another, two years ago. The one in better condition I gave to my father as a Christmas present and a reminder of all the great times we shared in the Scouting program. I’ve been flipping through mine recently and noticing some things.

Boy Scouts have been around for a long time. Here, in the United States they were incorporated on February 8, 1910.  The oldest Scouting organization, in the United Kingdom, was founded in 1907. I ‘m somewhat surprised how much of Scouting has been retained over the past 1oo hundred years. The Boy Scout oath, law, and motto have not changed since that time but many other things have, from rank requirements to merit badges. I thought I’d share a some of the ones I found just flipping through the book.  (I wish I had my old Boy Scout Handbook from when I was in the program, as well as a current edition just to compare, I’m doing this from memory… If you want a good, cheap resource for outdoor and first aid skills a Boy Scout Handbook isn’t a bad choice, by the way.)

Some of the Merit Badges one could earn then but no longer:


The Cement Working merit badge

Cement Work, handicraft, beekeeping, blacksmithing, foundry practice, invention, pathfinding, signalling, and taxidermy.


A few requirements that didn’t make it into this millennium, They probably didn’t make it through the ’70s: make a round trip alone (or with a fellow scout) to a point at least seven miles away going on foot, or rowing boat. Or, construct a raft which will carry two people and their duffle safely, and demonstrate his ability to make practical use of it.


An Early Birthday Present: the Amazon Kindle

the new "shiny"

I convinced my wife to get my birthday present two months early this year. Why? Because I couldn’t wait any longer for an Amazon Kindle. The Kindle had been on my wishlist for over half-a-year and we had already discussed getting it for my birthday. I didn’t see the point in waiting until then, though. To tell the truth the wait was slowly driving me crazy!

When we got our tax return I set aside some of it and in late February ordered a Kindle.  Three days later it arrived. They do this neat trick with the packaging where they put a protective sheet of plastic over the Kindle’s screen with text on it, except when you peel it off you discover that the text is on the actual screen of the Kindle.

Why do I need an ebook reader? I don’t really. Why did I want one? Several reasons, here are the big ones:


I want to take books with me on vacation but am tired of how much room they take up in luggage. I know, you’re thinking one paper or hardback book isn’t that bulky. That is true. I don’t take one book, in general, I bring along four to six books ranging in size from 150 to 1,000+ pages. That many books take up a lot of space. Now those books take up less space than a single paperback.

I have three floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my house and three more that go up half as high. All of them are overflowing with books. I have a box of books in my garage, two more at my parent’s house and I gave away five or six boxes of books last time I was visiting my parents. I get anywhere from three to ten books (free) each month. I no longer have the space (real or mental) for so many books. The Kindle can hold hundreds of books (thousands if the advertising is to be believed) on its hard drive and an infinite amount more on Amazon’s servers with out me ever having to wonder where I’m going to find room for all of them.


I’m reading the collected works of Josephus right now. This is a book that is 6″ x 10″ x 3,” weighs nearly three pounds,  has tiny text, and is printed in double column. It is not an easy book to read sitting down in a chair. It is impossible to read on the go, or in little snatches. The complete works of Josephus on the Kindle is single column, print as large as I want, and never weighs more than 8.7 ounces.

I can also put pdfs onto the Kindle which is a nice feature to have when I attend game nights or sessions with friends. I have all the rule books at my fingertips on the Kindle without carrying around numerous rule books, print-outs, and FAQs.

Free Wireless

D got me the more expensive version of the Kindle that comes with free wireless for life. The Kindle doesn’t have a full featured web browser or a touch interface but it’s UI works well enough when you need to connect to the Internet in a hurry. Not just for purchasing books but for checking or sending emails, reference work, or reading the news. I’ve found Instapaper to be a wonderful application for the Kindle. As I see stories on-line through out the day that interest me I click a single button on my browser and when I get home at night I have a nice digest of them waiting for me on the Kindle.


This isn’t the most important point, I should be borrowing more books from my library as opposed to purchasing them. I can’t deny that the reduced price of ebooks makes justifying a purchase easier.  The two to five dollars off an ebook is the difference between an impulse purchase and a “maybe I’ll look into it later.” Compulsive and impulse buying isn’t a plus if it’s done merely to consume. But, it does make me willing to take a risk on unknown authors and books  and I see anything that exposes me to more writing as a good thing.

I don’t see the Kindle as a replacement for my books and I will certainly always love a nice worn hardback book with dog-eared pages and notes in the margins. Nor, will I tire of discovering these in used books. The written word will always be an important part of my life and I am too much of a Luddite to ever fully give up material objects.

But, it will be nice to sit in the hammock in the backyard with a 2,000+ page book without having to worry about throwing my back out.

%d bloggers like this: