A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Curiosity Kid (Part 3)

Hazardous waste bottle in a chemical lab
Hazardous waste bottle in a chemical lab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Like most kids I had a curiosity about chemistry, sometimes bordering on the potentially hazardous.  If interesting ingredients were accessible I was ready to mix them up to see what would happen.  I'm pretty sure it was inspired by something I'd seen on TV.  In one case I know it was.

         In one of the Little Rascals episodes the gang was baking a "surprise cake".  They mix up a batch of stuff in the kitchen to create a batter that eventually starts groaning and bubbling.  I wanted to do that.  So one summer afternoon while my mother was talking to a neighbor across a backyard fence, my sister Joy and I and one of the neighbor kids decided to make our own surprise cake.  Joy and I were about 4 and 5 at the time and had imaginations that were always at work.

          We climbed the counters, digging out flour, milk, spices, and whatever else we could get to and manage to get open and we started mixing in the biggest bowl we could find.  The mixture never bubbled or made noise, but we sure did make a big mess, evident by my mother's angry reaction when she came inside.    To our defense, we were in a hurry to mix things up and didn't have time to clean up.

          Then there was the time a few years later after we had moved to San Diego.   Once again it was Joy and I and some friend from down the street.   Joy and I were like the two stooges so I guess we always needed another kid to make the trio complete.   It was summer and we were exploring the garage to see what was there.   We quickly started assembling an assortment of chemical products--cleaning supplies, turpentine, and other miscellaneous containers of mystery liquids.

         We got a galvanized metal bucket in which to mix up our chemicals and the experiment was underway.  After stirring up half a pail of some nasty smelling dark liquid we waited to assess the results.  Nothing happened so we hid the bucket away in a sort of clubhouse that we had constructed out of stuff that was stored in the garage.   We then went to seek out other mischief.

        It was a few days later when a truly foul smell started permeating the garage.   When my mother inquired about the smell Joy and I looked at each other conspiratorially.   We knew what that smell was and now we were a bit concerned.  Scared even.  After my mother had gone back inside the house we immediately went to where the bucket was hidden.   The brew had a gag-inducing smell with a truly sickening appearance with unidentifiable particles floating in a film on top.  It was disturbing to say the least.

       Now I can't exactly recall what we did with this toxic mixture.  It was undoubtedly deadly or at least unsafe.  If this had been in the current age we might have called a hazardous waste clean-up crew to dispose of the substance.   Maybe we just dumped it in the backyard or maybe one of our parents disposed of the evil liquid.  As I think more on this I do believe I dumped it into a utility sink that was beside the washing machine in the garage.   I don't know what we created in that frightening chemistry experiment but I shudder to think back on it.

      It was kind of funny though--in a perverse sort of way.

      What were some of your fearful kitchen adventures?   Did you ever mix up liquids to see what you could brew?   What did you brew?


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Curiosity Kid (Part 2)

An illustration of a character from a story; a...
An illustration of a character from a story; also, an illustration of illustrations
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Earlier this year I put up a post called "Curiosity Kid" in which I talked about some of things that mystified me as a child and wanted to know more about.  These were incidents that might have been somewhat embarrassing to my mother putting her in an uncomfortable spot.  There were other instances that were probably more of a nuisance to my mother or things that were done surreptitiously.

The Science Experiments:

        Kids are scientists at heart.   When we are young we are always experimenting to see how things work or what will happen if we do something that we probably shouldn't be doing.   And for the latter, most of those somethings are things we definitely shouldn't be doing.

         Rarely did I have a toy for too long before I began dismantling it to see what was inside and how the darn thing worked like it did.   Mechanical toys were my favorites.  Once the outer layer was broken through, I would make great discoveries such as finding that the Japanese recycled things like tin cans and old magazines to manufacture the toys they sent to us kids in the U.S.  This was the pre-China years when most cheap products were "Made in Japan".     After the dismantling, I would be without a toy and left with a pile of useless scrap that could not be reassembled.   Another toy in the garbage.

         My most major accomplishment of destruction for the sake of curious discovery was the beautiful bouncing horse that my sister and I got for Christmas one year.  I was about 4 or 5 at the time.   The horse was made of sturdy plastic and suspended by heavy duty metal springs to a metal framework.  Not only could one bounce on the horse, but there was also some sort of mechanism which after pulling a string the horse would make realistic horsey sounds.  My mission was to find out how those sounds were made.

          Lacking any patience for careful dismantling--there seemed to be no easy way to take the horse apart to get to its innards--I took the most logical approach to doing the job.   I used a hammer.  With great energy I bashed through the plastic to find an odd little device that was something like a miniature record player.  After having liberated the mechanism from the hard plastic shell of the horse, the device now only played a weaker more draggy version of the horse sounds until it eventually quit working.   No horse sounds, no bouncy horse.   Consequently we never got another horse like it.

        Did childhood curiosity ever lead you to dismantle toys or other items?   Do you like to find out how things work?    Has any of your children, grandchildren, or other children in your life shown a predilection for taking things apart?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Parallel Roads: Friendships That Span Time

        Over the past few years I've written about my old friend Dan Holom on my blogs.    On Wrote By Rote I did an A to Z post about Friendship in 2013.  A few years earlier on Tossing It Out I related a story about a possible telepathic connection between my friend and I.  You can follow the links to read those stories.   Today I have a follow-up story regarding my long-time friend.

          Dan Holom and I became friends way back in junior high school nearly fifty years ago.  We were best friends during that time.  When high school came I moved away from Merrillville, Indiana where my family had been living during those junior high school years and relocated hundreds of miles away in East Tennessee.  I occasionally heard from Dan and saw him a couple of times over the years, but then for a few decades we lost contact.   I never forgot about him and though I had an idea where he was living, I never managed to reconnect with him until 2005.

           He came to visit me in California in 2006.  Actually he was meeting with the illustrator for a children's book he had written so he decided to pay me a brief visit as well during his short week-end stay.  Since then we have kept regular contact.

            A signed copy of his book Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel arrived in my mail sometime in 2008.  I was thrilled to see that his dream had come to fruition.  Over the years since then Dan has been working hard at promoting his self-published book.  Anyone who has been involved with self-publishing knows the hard work involved in promoting a book.   Dan has been steadily pushing his book through speaking engagements and whatever else he could do to promote sales.

            Now he has released his book on Kindle which makes distribution via Amazon far easier than trying to market to the book stores on his own.   The book is also cheaper for readers.  Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel is based on the Bible story of Daniel in the lion's den.   With whimsical illustrations by acclaimed Disney animation artist Mark Henn, children and adults will enjoy this entertaining book that is very values oriented.  

          If you don't mind spending $1.99 or if you have Kindle Unlimited where you can read the book for free, I would encourage you to help Dan with his book sales.   I think any children in your life would enjoy this book--it would make a great gift.   And once you've read the book please remember to leave a review on Amazon and wherever else you typically leave book reviews (don't forget your blog as well!). 

            Dan Holom and Mark Henn have big plans ahead.   Their book is to be turned into a series of Sleepy Sheepy adventures.   The success of this first book will make the publication of the next book an easier process.   Wouldn't you like to be a part of this fun series for children?   I hope so!

            You can find my reviews of Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel at Amazon, Goodreads, and my Sunday blog A Few Words.

           Have you had friends that you've reconnected with after many years?    Have you purchased any children's books on Kindle?   Can you help my friend Dan Holom launch his book series (sharing this post would also help)?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Google as a Memoir Research Tool

English: Computer-globe
Computer-globe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          Since "Google" has become synonymous for "search engine" I've used this term in my title.  It's the search engine that I use almost exclusively and I would imagine most of you do so as well.   There are many search engine options and in many ways any of them are superior--certainly far more convenient--than other research options.

          Some of you enjoy going to the library and this research option can provide some great hands-on opportunities for research with resources that are frequently more reliable than internet resources.  Most of us have probably been the victim of unreliable internet sources which in some cases get duplicated onto other sites until the faulty information eventually gets permutated into seemingly reliable information  

          Caution must be taken when doing internet research, but that is an applicable caveat to doing any kind of research.   Often conflicting accountings of events and histories can mislead us if we are not careful.   Using multiple resources, organizing data, and filtering by the application of our own sense of logical reasoning can help us in drawing the best conclusions, but mistakes can still be made if enough care is not taken.

          My personal experience with internet research is a mixture of good and bad.   Search engines can give us access to facts such as weather, historical events timelines, geographical data, or even genealogical background--usually much of this information can be obtained for free right from your computer at home.  If you're like me and prefer to work in the comfort of your own home rather than getting out into the hubbub of the outside world, obtaining information on the computer is a great advantage not only from the standpoint of convenience but also limiting stress and  transportation costs.

          Aside from the dangers of succumbing to inaccurate information that is sometimes disseminated online, my biggest trap is getting sidetracked by all of the easy access to other information related to our searches.  Not that this can't happen in a library or similar research venue, but distractions come so much more easily when we are on the internet.  One click on a link that we happen to see can lead us down a rabbit hole into subjects we had no intention of researching or just reading about.

           The distractions can be fun and even result in new brainstorms.   Sometimes we'll find information related to what we are looking for at the present or something we had previously been researching purely by accident.   Taking that sideroad can turn out beneficial, but more typically our diversions just make the research activity last longer.

          Google and other search engines are a boon to those of us who need to do research--usually far better than those encyclopedia sets most of us probably used for composing school reports.   As with anything there are good and bad sides.   The computer is an amazing tool for connecting ideas and bits of collected data.   I've found numerous things related to my family history as well as data that has sparked memories about my own life.  

         In compiling accurate and interesting memoir, we should never limit the resources we use to collect data.    We need to get out of our houses to experience the world and the lives of the people around us.  Reading good resource materials and talking to others can provide information we might not have run across in other ways.   However, since we often do spend so much time at our computers, the search engine is one of the better ways to prompt and fuel our imaginations.

          What is your preferred or favorite way of finding memoir data?    Do you have a problem finding trustworthy data online?     Can you recommend any particular sites that are particularly useful when researching for writing a memoir?