Still Burning

Centralia (Images of America: Pennsylvania)Centralia by Deryl B. Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a single sitting book for me. Generally I really like that as an idea, but somehow for this book it didn’t work. I had difficulty with the pictures. I understand that many of the actual photos would not be easy to see – but having them reproduced in this volume somehow managed to make them even harder to see clearly.

I think I wanted more of a timeline based series of pictures. Some of the photos are doubled up in here and they don’t always progress chronologically. The author mentions at least 3 times the play that he wrote… once would have been enough, particularly given the brevity of the written word in here.

The story of Centralia is certainly an interesting one and for that I’m glad to have taken this quick peek back in time. IF it were anything more than a quick peek I would have been very disappointed. As it is, one sitting works for me and I’m moving along.

View all my reviews


I’ve been meaning to track down the relatively recent Shannara television program. I struggled when I realized I don’t have MTV as a channel in my television line up and had totally failed to notice that. Then it came to me… I can always catch up with that later but right now I still have the book. The real, actual paperback novel.

I picked this book up when I was a kid and devoured it. I think I was 10 at the time and I recall doing a diorama of one of the scenes for a book report at school using Star Wars action figures and a shoe box. As an adult I seem to recall that it was very much like the Lord of the Rings series I was so enamored with, but all the details were fuzzy. I decided I’d go and pull it from the depths of the library and read it again.

I tried that with the very first Dragonlance book a while ago and met with… minimal success. As it turns out my ten year old self and my self now have spectacularly different taste in writing styles. I’m wondering what I’ll see and how I’ll react to reading this book again after more than 30 years have gone by since I first read it.

What’s your experience been like with re-reading your favorite works?

Sword and Stones

A little mystery…

I truly enjoy that there are so many things to discover still in the world. The world needs a little mystery to keep things going. There are things that are OK being a mystery. Solving the mystery actually takes away that special something that draws you in.

I recently heard about the Voynich manuscript. It’s fascinating if you haven’t heard about it. Imagine a book written hundreds of years ago that still survives today. More than the fact that it still survives, imagine that nobody can read it. That’s right – it’s some kind of code or language that nobody can figure out. There are dozens of images and notations. There are multi-page fold outs and super vibrant colors… and nobody has any idea what it all means. The name even comes from the book dealer that rediscovered it in 1912 because nobody is certain who actually wrote it.

The book has been tested, chronicled, studied and discussed. Scholars, scientists and cryptographers have all attempted to figure it out to no avail. They’ve decided it’s not a hoax. The chemical mix of the inks are right for the time. The parchment has been tested and dated, showing it was created around the year 1420. That’s right, we’re coming up on 600 years and nobody has figured it out.

Kind of cool, right?

When I said there are some things that are acceptable as a mystery? This is one of those times. Would it be valuable to history if we figured out what it all said? Maybe. Would lose something in my mind if we cracked the code and figured out it was a big fat book on medicinal plants? You bet. It’s likely to be something like that really, but it’s better to leave it wrapped up in mystery. Doesn’t it sound better if we can say that John Dee has been associated with it? It could have been referenced by alchemists or coded to keep rival magicians from stealing secret recipes? Was it sold to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague? Where did it go between 1600 and 1912? The mystery is what draws you in.

It’s actually available for download now. Somebody has created a PDF version of it (pretty large download). It’s a fun thing to check out. You can find it here.

I suspect that with more access, a worldwide viewing audience and multiple modern tools the code will be cracked. Somebody has already claimed to have a start on it (here). I’m hoping it’s still a mystery, it’s far more interesting that way.


Longer than I thought

I’ve seen a of folks out there posting about the new year. A number of them spent time talking about how much 2015 wasn’t great (some I know personally and they’ve got reasons I agree with). A lot of folks were all about goal setting and calendar year based stuff (that I’ve posted about before). Some folks looked back and discussed anniversaries of things.

It struck me that I didn’t know how long I’ve been writing The Pretend Blog. It’s not something I ever expected to go anywhere or mean anything to folks other than me (and maybe my wife) so I never tracked it.

As it turns out I started right about this time of year (my first two posts being December 28 and January 7) back in 2008. That means I’ve been at it for 8 years. That’s actually a shocking number to me. I didn’t realize I’d been at it that long. The funniest part? I may have grown and changed in some ways, but a number of things really haven’t changed at all. Blimps are still pretty pimp, and the ultimate showdown still amuses me to no end.

Here’s what I posted 8 years ago:

The Pretend Blog. Being the anal-retentive (with a hyphen, not a colon – thank you John) type that I am, I naturally didn’t want to jump into this until I had a better handle on what I would be doing and where it would all be going and what the potential legal ramifications would be etc., etc.. In November of 2006 I started a Word document and called it The Pretend Blog. It was my way of actually writing stuff down and ‘getting started’ rather than just jumping in cold and trying stuff out.

More than a year later – here it is. I kept the name and put it out there. There are maybe three people that actually care about this other than me. It seems a little pretentious to think that there will ever be a day when a whole crowd of people will be interested in what I might have to say here.

I went back and looked at the rambling stuff I wrote over the past year (about a page worth or more per month). Most of it is annoying and angst ridden – so I chucked it. This journal is my stream of consciousness stuff that’s for me. I’ll probably post a bunch of stuff I like and not worry about all the other pretentious, whiny stuff that worried me before. Besides, how else would I get these things stuck in other peoples’ heads?

Blimps are pretty pimp

Ultimate Showdown Good guys, bad guys and explosions. Thank you Lemon Demon.

Good guys, bad guys and explosions!

Good guys, bad guys and explosions!

Happy New What?

Consistency matters – and not just when you’re cooking. It’s actually something I tend to be good at. I am consistent. I suspect that will make some folks think this “new” New Year’s post is somehow cheating, but it’s not. It’s consistent. That’s the sort of thing that make a resolution something more, makes it a real change. Another year down, another year sticking to a resolution I made many years ago…

Resolutions Past


Scan It!

I read this link about the “hidden” treasure room for the Army. The Indiana Jones aspect appealed to me or I might not have dug into this one (puns away!). There are so many items listed nobody would ever be able to see them all. I believe the museum is worthy of pursuit, but I wonder if somebody there should attempt to jump on the Smithsonian’s band wagon.

The Smithsonian can only ever display around 1% of all the treasures they have – and I think that’s sad. Something they have started doing is using a laser scanner to create 3D images they can then upload to the web so interested folks can look at / study them. The part I think is MOST cool about this is that you can down load many of the scanned models and run them through a 3D printer wherever you happen to be, creating a real version you can hold in your hand. There is something to be said for the power of holding something in your hand. Check out the things they have here:

Getting information out there for study is awesome. I hope the Army works something out along these lines. It seems a shame that nobody can see those things.