28 May 2011


Some folks like e-books. Others like iBooks. But I'm a Z-books man. As in Ziesing Books. Mark and Cindy Ziesing have been peddling books for a long time out of their home in Shingletown, California. That's State of Jefferson country in case you don't know. Shingletown is an unincorporated little burg in Shasta County just east of Redding on State Route 44 on the way to Lassen Park. The Ziesings have a print catalog and a website jam-packed with lots and lots of weird and wonderful stuff. They used to publish books as well, and I have maybe a half-dozen lovely hardcovers with the Ziesing imprint--John Shirley, Tim Powers, Iain Banks, Lucius Shepard and the like. I've been shopping at Ziesing for about twenty years and in all that time have never talked to an employee, salesman, or customer-service rep. When you call on the phone either Cindy or Mark will answer. Same when you email. You get hand-written notes from them in your packages. This is a real, live, mom-and-pop operation. I once had a shipment of Z-books stolen from my post office box. When I called Ziesing, Mark sent me replacements without hesitation and charged me only the shipping! (There were, if I remember, a few one-of-kind items that I'd ordered that were lost forever, but the bulk of it was indeed replaceable.) He certainly did not have to do that, and I certainly did not ask him to, but he made me a customer for life nonetheless. Those low-lifes who stole from me (and them, by extension) would obviously never appreciate the literary bonanza they stumbled upon or the grace and class of the Ziesing operation.

I just received my latest order. It was preceded, of course, by an email from Cindy letting me know it was in the mail. All four books were individually paper-wrapped before boxing--you think Amazon does that? I got two hardcovers, The Right Madness by the late James Crumley and Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale. Mr. Crumley is considered by many as a modern noir master and this is my first foray into his oeuvre. The book was listed as "Fine in Fine dust jacket." That means it is a new book that has sat on a shelf for a while (it's from 2005). That one set me back five bucks. Mr. Lansdale is a well-known and accomplished horror and crime fiction writer, and I've read several of his excellent short stories. This is my first Lansdale novel. The book is new, a 2nd printing from 2008, and it cost four bucks. I'm cheap--I scour the "sale" section. I challenge anyone in bookstore meccas like Berkeley or Portland to find better deals with less hassle than that. I also picked up a vintage paperback from Ballantine (it looks like a 70s edition) of Theodore Sturgeon short stories (E Pluribus Unicorn) for two bucks, and a new mass-market paperback from Joe McKinney called Flesh Eaters. The new book was $6.99, the most expensive item on the list! I interviewed Mr. McKinney a few months ago for the Gutter Books website--another small, local, independent venture. Flesh Eaters is one of his apocalyptic zombie books. The Sturgeon was a real find as he is one of the all-time SF greats.

When you are weary of shopping at soul-less box stores and giving your Visa number to mega-corps, check out Ziesing Books. In fact, don't wait until you are weary. Shop there now. Besides, they are also Giants fans.

15 May 2011

Expert Mouse

That's what the Kensington people call it, but it isn't a mouse at all. It's a trackball. I developed a fondness for trackballing over mousing a long time ago, but my old trackball was not compatible with Windows 7. Kensington finally updated their Expert Mouse and claimed Win 7 functionality with the new Trackball software. I bought the damn thing and downloaded the software but couldn't get it to work. A quick search on Google brought me to a forum where some fellow suggested using a different version of the software available at the UK site for Kensington. By golly, it worked! I'm now fully functional with my new trackball. The wireless mouse that came with my Dell wasn't bad, in fact it was pretty nice as far as mice go, but I'm happy to be back to my four-button cue ball & ring ways. I sure like the Kensington product, but I have to say the website support is damn poor. Having to find a different version of the software on my own somewhere else is not what I call customer service.

08 May 2011

Orange & Black Congrats Ale

Mi concuño Alberto sent me a beer in the mail. Now that's a true friend! Alberto is my sister-in-law's husband, that is, we are married to sisters. English just doesn't have as elegant a term as the Spanish for that particular relationship, so concuño it is. Moylan's Brewery in Novato made a special black ale to celebrate the Giants winning the World Series. That's what was in the mail and no one could appreciate it more than me. After all, I'm a crazy fan and a brewer who also made a beer to honor the champs. My lovely bride and I enjoyed the pint of Congrats Ale while watching Tim Lincecum destroy the Mets on TV. Supposedly Orange & Black had a bit of orange flavor to complement the dark grains, but I'll admit that neither of us detected that. Nonetheless it was a lovely and refreshing brew and was good luck for the lads as well.

Muchas gracias, amigo!