Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

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New to Me in 2018: The Beetle

Hey kids, what was the top-selling horror novel of 1897?

No, not that one…the other one: Richard Marsh’s masterpiece, The Beetle

Like this but bigger, is occasionally trying to kill you and is often a person

What? Never heard of it? Don’t worry, outside the UK, which occasionally reinterprets it as a radio play, it really hasn’t lingered in the popular culture.

The Beetle is a complex telling of a simple revenge tale with a whole lot of themes of sex and gender identity running throughout. It will remind you of Dracula, but I think it is a tad easier for modern readers to grasp. Instead of ancient vampires you get an ancient Egyptian pagan cult prone to orgies, human sacrifices, and werebeetlery.  It begins with mind control, nerve gas and a comedy of errors, and ends with a chase that must have made British trainspotters squeal with glee. I enjoyed it, and I suspect you might as well, if you are into this sort of thing.

Structurally, it is told as four entangled tales told in the first person. Marsh does a good job of developing unique voices for each of the characters, although the story threads are interwoven functionally but not necessarily smoothly.  In fact, each narrator is a fun little archetype: the doomed, noble bum; the mad inventor; the rebellious young woman trying to find love, identity and purpose in an honor-driven patriarchy; and a hard-boiled detective. Good stuff, generally well told.

You can find it in a variety of formats on   Project Gutenberg and listen to it on LibriVox. I have a fondness for public domain fiction, particularly that of the horror, scifi and weird variety, so this ranks right up there. One of my goals of 2019 is to start up a podcast on the topic. Of course, that was also a goal of 2018.


New to Me in 2018: I Think Like Midnight

I figured I’d post some things that I have enjoyed in 2018. Not all of it is new, but this was new to me.

I Think Like Midnight makes rock instrumental music, and if I had a theme song it would be Miner Pocket Draft Gear.

The band is my kind of supergroup, featuring Andrew Chalfen from The Wishniaks along with the Dead Milkmen’s Joe Genaro and Dean Sabatino. Buy all their stuff and listen to it.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark

I think part of the reason I still have a blog is for me to put things where I might find them again.

Here’s a poem by Lovecraft, which I’ve swiped from It is from 1926, I’m assuming it was published in Weird Tales either then or posthumously, which are the choices when it comes to HP, and a reminder that I need to pick up a copy of his collected poetry. I quite like the construction and the rhythm.

Hallowe’en in a Suburb

By H. P. Lovecraft

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,

 And the trees have a silver glare;

Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,

 And the harpies of upper air,

 That flutter and laugh and stare.


For the village dead to the moon outspread

 Never shone in the sunset’s gleam,

But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep

 Where the rivers of madness stream

 Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.


A chill wind weaves thro’ the rows of sheaves

 In the meadows that shimmer pale,

And comes to twine where the headstones shine

 And the ghouls of the churchyard wail

 For harvests that fly and fail.


Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change

 That tore from the past its own

Can quicken this hour, when a spectral pow’r

 Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne

 And looses the vast unknown.


So here again stretch the vale and plain

 That moons long-forgotten saw,

And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,

 Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw

 To shake all the world with awe.


And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,

 The ugliness and the pest

Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,

 Shall some day be with the rest,

 And brood with the shades unblest.


Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,

 And the leprous spires ascend;

For new and old alike in the fold

 Of horror and death are penn’d,

 For the hounds of Time to rend.


Like the best poetry, it needs to be read aloud. Like the best Lovecraft, it needs to be read by Andrew Leman. Fortunately, he did so a few years back.


What in Hickory is going on?

Allow me to start off by saying that I’m an all-around, card-carrying skeptic. Sagan is my bread and Randi is my butter. That said, I loves me some ghost stories. An interest in the paranormal and weirdness is what made me a skeptic, after all.

One of my favorite things to do is to listen to scary stories and one of my favorite sources for scary stories is the Anything Ghost podcast, which is charmingly straightforward.  Nine out of ten of the listener stories he recounts seem to be your classic sleep paralysis tales, but occasionally you get something a little more chilling (there was this a full on “get out of my room” story about a dead sister in the latest). It helps that I tend to listen before dawn while jogging or walking the dog.

This isn’t really about a ghost story, but on the second part of his annual Halloween program, he rebroadcast a story from another podcast about a haunting in Hickory, Pa., which is on the opposite side of the commonwealth from yours truly.

I’ve never heard of Hickory before, but it was described as a pre-Revolutionary town amid the mountains of the Alleghenies.  Since I always wanted to be a Lovecraftian protagonist, my antiquarian heart was all aflutter over the possibilities of casting eyes upon the relics of an ancient borough–so I popped it up on Google maps when I got back from my jog. Turns out, it is just a census designated place in the hills just south of Da Burgh.  Home to

What caught my eye was a lovely little anomaly–see it?

I cast Sacred Flame

Meanwhile, in Hickory


What Do on Dire?

Something weird is going on at the end of Dire Drive, a remote little cul-de-sac community that the Google car didn’t even bother to drive down.  Is it a cool satellite lens flare, a holy sign or, perhaps, Boba Fett entering the atmosphere? (C’mon, Slave 1, anyone?) Here’s a look from another map service:

I can’t see what it was reflecting off of here, though. I was expecting solar panels, but none of the other maps show anything. Weird.

Tales from Stinkbug Manor: Just Like That Softball is Over

I never really wanted to coach softball. My baseball experience petered out toward the end of 8th grade, with the end of little league and the fading appeal of stickball games in the cul-de-sac on Grace Lane.

I present to you the JYA Freaks In Cleats 2018 team, assembled for the last time together in uniform

But then my daughter began T-ball in Kindergarten, grudgingly, and the team’s volunteer coached made no small noise about being voluntold for the position by his wife. So, not to beat my chest too much–this isn’t what this post is about–I stepped up.  I gave him a hand. And, the next year, I when J was still too young for machine pitch, I volunteered again. Fearing I topped out what I had to offer these kids, I didn’t offer to be head coach of J’s machine pitch team.  (This becomes a recurring theme through the years–I’m going to write a book entitled How to Succeed in Coaching Children through the Peter Principle.) Of course, I ended up being an assistant coach.

By the time J was aged into to the minors in 4th grade, I was drafted into the organization’s board to be groomed for commissioner, a position that I deftly sidestepped. Instead, I ended up helping coach my son’s team when another parent volunteer dropped out.  The next summer, I was the softball minors coach and I had to reconstitute the team–begging kids and parents at times to sign up.  Jenkintown has a problem keeping girls in softball. The high school doesn’t field a team, so the little league players all end up in other summer sports, like lacrosse. It didn’t help that the last coach was a bit of a hot head. So, I had to convince kids to play. There is no shame in admitting that I just don’t know the mechanics of pitching, so I found a few other dads to fill in the gaps in my ability.

It was a good team, and we had a decent season that year, which I entirely owe to Dave and Matt.

For the last two years, I’ve been Anthony’s assistant coach along with Matt. Anthony is a great guy and knows the rules of the game better than anyone I’ve met. He coaches with a sense for sportsmanship and the stern glares of a man who teaches high school science for a living, which he does. He loathed bushleague behavior like proud Americans once loathed the Commies.  (Not fond of either bushleaguers or Commies, myself.) Practicing twice a week with the kids. Dragging my daughter out of the house to make it on  time. Getting our butts kicked by teams two thirds comprised of travel players. It has been a good two years and now, as of this past Friday’s playoff game, it is over.

I’ll have my memories, but I can’t help get a little nostalgic. Some manly tears will be shed. My proudest moment is still watching J catch the first fly ball from the first at bat of the season. I remember each at bat from the first base coach’s spot. Not just J, but all the girls. More or less the same crew since Kindergarten.

J’s happy to be done with it.  She loved the game, but never enough to see the point in really working for it. It was fun. She practiced bench cheers more than throwing, and never really understood why she didn’t play second. .  Our girls had spirit, for sure, but never the skills like we acquired playing after school every day. A combination of too many activities and not enough greenspace in our quirky little town to compete for a playing spot, I suppose. For them, softball just became a thing to do until it stopped. None of our girls play on travel teams. It just doesn’t happen.

Coaching isn’t over. There’s B’s soccer team–another sport whose requirements by 4th grade have already surpassed my skills and experience. I was head coach last year, which was fine, but now we have a new team and I’ll end up being assistant, which is also fine. Still, I’ll miss softball. The cheers. The chatter on the field.  Anthony’s frustration. Matt’s pep talks (“youse guys gotta get your heads outta your butts”).

I never really wanted to coach softball, but then I did.


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