Being retired (from the military as of 1997) and from much of anything else involving putting on a skirt suit, pantyhose, low heels and modest makeup in the last three or four years, the Wuhan Coronavirus lockdown really has not impacted my own life much. My daughter’s work and what there is of mine has been home office based for the last four or five years, so sheltering in place has not been much impact on our day to day life. We count this as our good fortune, while realizing to our sorrow that many others in our community are not so fortunately situated.

Up at half-past six, earlier if Larry Bird is creating outside the back yard windows, a leisurely mug of strong tea, while scrolling through various favored websites for a view of what fresh hells await, then a walk with the dogs – our own terrier-mix Nemo, and Penny, the labradoodle who belongs to an elderly neighbor. (One of those upon whom we are keeping a careful eye, as a fragile cancer-survivor.) A very brisk walk through the tangled streets of our subdivision – alas, we were once given to go to the nearest Planet Fitness three times weekly for an hour mostly spent on the elliptical, but they closed at mid-month, so the strenuous walk must substitute. The dogs are getting rather resentful at this program: “Oh, hell, aren’t we done yet?!!” practically appears in thought-bubbles over their heads during the last half-mile or so.

Back to the house: usually a bit of house-cleaning or gardening – the spring has been quite splendid, almost unnoticed. The trees are lavishly green, the bulbs planted in the fall and winter are now producing flowers, the tomato starts that I bought on sale in the fall and sheltered through the couple of chill spells have already produced tomatoes, the pole beans planted a week or so ago are beginning to leap up the frames positioned for their benefit. We were planning on replacing the chicken house this spring, and refreshing the small flock of laying hens, which has been reduced to a single semi-productive hen, but it looks like the current pandemic emergency has caused a run on supplies of chicks and hens. So – next year, I think. In the meantime, an egg every other day or so.

An hour or two (or more) at the sewing machine in the den – I’m doing fabric masks, from a pattern on the Joanne’s Fabrics website. It seems that local clinics, hospitals and medical practices are in crying need of them, so I am going through my cotton muslin fabric scrap stash. It’s not as easy going as I would like – the cranky Brother machine that my daughter bought on the installment plan is a temperamental beast, and after re-threading a couple of times and breaking at least one needle, my patience is at an end. My rule – after doing a fair amount of stitching for Matilda’s Portmanteau – is that after I break two needles, I’m done for the day. I have a pattern scanned from a neighbor’s pattern stash for doing surgical caps, which I am given to understand are also needed badly by a local clinic. The Daughter Unit also posted eight of them to my sister in California: she supervises the care of Mom, and needs three masks for her husband and son, and five for the home-care nurses to regularly visit to help with Mom, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, but otherwise in good shape.

We went out to Walmart Thursday morning for fabric for this new project and another packet of needles. They are apparently going big on social distancing; in the foyer, I was upbraided by a manger for not remaining six feet or more from my daughter as she procured and sanitized a cart. “It’s the city rule!” she protested, when I pointed out that we are related, live together, and arrived in the same car, seated considerably less than six feet apart. Sigh. There are rules; sensible ones, and then the other kind – the variety that authority freaks seem to get off on enforcing. I hold the city authority freaks responsible for this one, not the manager, who in the matter of providing essential products to the public, likely has challenges that I can only imagine in my worst nightmare. (My regular nightmares are epic… last night I had two of the them in a row: “The Radio Station Which Doesn’t Work” in which I try to do live radio from a studio in which nothing works or is in the right place, followed by “I Can’t Find My Car” – in which I wander about endless parking lots around a campus of some kind, trying to find my car, or even remember where exactly I left it. Yeah, I must be stressed or something. The Daughter Unit blames the Walmart manager for this…)

Break for lunch – usually something left over from supper the night before, or a toasted sandwich. Then on to writing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I am staggering along on Luna City #9, at a pause on That Fateful Lightening, not that this should worry my half-a dozen fans. Both Quivera Trail and The Golden Road stood half-completed for months, or even years Break for supper around 5 PM. An hour or so of watching something on streaming video – this week our choice has alighted on episodes of The Good Karma Hospital – which is agreeable, has scenic backgrounds (filmed on location in Sri Lanka, which used to be known as Ceylon) and deals with mostly solvable medical dilemmas and soap operas teases of an emotional sort. Read in bed for an hour or so after that, attended on one side by Nemo the Terrier (who appears in The Golden Road as Nipper) and on the other by Mom’s former cat, Isabelle the Not-Tightly-Wrapped-Siamese, who has Issues. Don’t we all, these days?

The Navy hospital ships promised by President Trump to deploy to New York and Los Angeles arrived on-station as ordered a few days ago. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, presumed for some obscure-to-me reason to be associated with the provision of news to the public, and most recently famed through peddling Russian conspiracy theories regarding Trump’s election for the past three years, had ridiculed the President’s proposed schedule as “nonsense. ” She, or whatever pronoun she goes by, had loudly and publicly claimed that it would be “weeks” before the hospital ships arrived. Instead, the hospital ships arrived more or less to schedule. A lesser news-person would have the decency to be embarrassed over how transparent a prediction-flop this was. Not this Maddow person, it appears. This is not a good thing, and not for the reason first assumed. PBS’ Yamiche “Rolie-Polie-Olie” Alcindor baldly admitted, and in nicer words, that the name of the game for the national establishment news media is “Get Trump!” and anything goes, fair or foul (mostly foul) will serve that end. Well, really – those of us who have been paying attention, especially for the last decade and a half (or longer) have known very well that the name of the game as far as the establishment national news media is concerned, is to enthusiastically smear Republicans and their conservative supporters (no matter how mild or harmless) the pretext, and to excuse Democrats and their supporters, no matter how vile the offense and actions. Nothing new here, move along. SSDD, as we used to say in my active duty days. (Same sh*t, Different Day.)

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24. March 2020 · 3 comments · Categories: General

Seriously, I do wonder if there isn’t a strong antipathy against all things Official-Mainland-Chinese/ Chinese Communist Party and all its works building among Americans, in the wake of the almost-universal infection by the Wuhan Corona-virus epidemic. I mean – the damn plague started there, despite what all the official CCP agencies and bodies, and their sympathizers and hired media can and will insist. Bungling containment, concealing practically everything about the epidemic (the third devastating epidemic originating in China, by the way, the swine flu and the H1N1 virus being the first two) and then having the unmitigated gall to blame it on the United states – that takes the absolute cake, as far as I am concerned. It reminds me of the books I absorbed, growing up; most by English and American authors of the mildly popular sort (some fiction, some non) and dating anywhere in the first half of the 20th century whose detestation of Germany and Germans hung in the atmosphere of those books like a particularly dank fog. It was an almost visceral dislike, for all that we generally had been inclined favorably towards Germany before the turn of the previous century. Martin Luther, Johan Sebastian Bach, the Brothers Grimm, Schumann, Beethoven, Goethe, scientific, technological and medical advances all flowed to the rest of Europe and to the Americas, making is all the richer for it – but German ‘frightfulness’ in World War I, and the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany burned through that enormous fund of respect and favorable opinion, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of those old enough to have been exposed to them, either directly or at first and second remove. That bad taste may only now be fading with regard to Germany, but I wonder if it isn’t now about to be replaced with burning resentment of China, or at the very least, the Chinese Communist Party.

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20. March 2020 · Comments Off on The Far Limit · Categories: General

With an effort, I wrench my attention from contemplating local fall-out from the Wuhan coronavirus, or as an unknown wit called it the ‘Kung Flu’. The grocery stores we favor are pretty well picked over by mid-day, in spite of closing from 8 PM to 8AM to restock, the gym has closed, gatherings of more than ten are strongly advised against, and just about every local market or book festival that we had considered participating in has been cancelled or postponed until summer or even later – when, presumably, either the medical wizards will have a handle on the Kung Flu, or people will stop panicking over it.

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18. March 2020 · Comments Off on Pottering Around · Categories: Domestic

Well, I have to say that social distancing – or even more pronounced social distancing than is normal for me – is letting me get stuff done around the house. The Daughter Unit has work obligations, and a social life of sorts, which the Great Wuhan Coronavirus Panic of 2020 has not yet impacted to any degree. We stocked up at the beginning of the month, topped up over the weekend, so there is nothing I particularly need for projects at the moment. The gym has closed for two weeks – and here was a place which routinely sanitized for your protection anyway. We walked the dogs energetically this morning, in place of an hour on the elliptical, and then the Daughter Unit went off to her place of work, assisting her employer with sorting out their personal and professional expenses for the year. It turns out today that the IRS will generously grant us another ninety days to file, due to the Great Wuhan Coronavirus Panic. Well, it’s a very ill wind indeed that blows no one any good.

I may eventually have to go to Lowe’s for wallpaper paste, and some more paint rollers. The new back door awaits installation now, being painted on all sides, so I moved on to the trim around the hallway doors, and the underside of the attic space access ladder. When the new and toweringly efficient HVAC system was installed some years ago, replacing the decrepit and leaking original contractor-grade system, they put in a brand new ladder and a heavy wooden panel covering it into the hallway ceiling – and I never got around to painting it. So that is done, and tomorrow I will haul in the tall ladder and do the trim around it. I watered the garden, and planted some lettuce, and an assortment of basil seeds. We already have garden tomatoes, by the way – from some starts in 2-inch pots that I bought last fall and protected through the winter, and a wayward plant left over from last year – and the first couple of cuttings of spring salad greens, from seeds I planted early last month. It’s been that warm, you see.

Laundry – done sheets, and blankets. What an onerous chore was lifted off the shoulders of women, with the invention of electric washing machines and dryers? What might have been the weekly-occurring project taking up several days of brutal labor over a boiler, wringer, and clothesline now takes a turn in the washing machine and two hours in the dryer. Listen, you could never sucker me into going into one of those ‘history-house’ projects. I know very well what doing household laundry in the 19th century involved – at the very best, sending it all out to an industrial laundry in the big city and hoping that you got all your stuff back again in one piece, or at least, the pieces you sent it out in. Plus having to sew on all the buttons again, unless you had a maid to do all that needlework. The late 20th century to start of the 21st is the best century ever, thanks to household electricity and plumbing (not to mention air conditioning!) and don’t ever you let some freak afflicted with nostalgie de la boue a la The Life Primitive tell you any different. (An all-over bath once a week. Indeed – spare me. The ancient Romans had the right idea, as far as frequent bathing went.)

And – I processed the bag of small sweet apples through one of those patent apple-peeling/slicing gadgets, dropping them into a bath of water acidulated with a little lemon juice, and put them into the patent dryer that I am supposed to do a review of, when all those little apple slices are dried. And only then, did I turn to writing…

I had been half-expecting that San Antonio would cancel or delay the yearly Fiesta; this was made official Friday morning: put off the celebrations until November. Fiesta San Antonio was originally focused on Sam Houston’s victory at San Jacinto – which took place in April of 1836. (Lot of other events being cancelled as well.) Since Wednesday, I had been getting emails from various companies who I do business with, at least enough business for them to have my email: Costco, Sam’s, Petco, Frost Bank, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Texas author’s group (who have put off the Wimberly book event from June until November)the senior center in Bulverde who hosts a fall craft fair, Lowe’s and Home Depot – I think. All had pretty much the same message: “Aware of the Covid-19 thing, taking every precaution – deep-cleaning, sanitizing, encouraging sick employees to stay home, those who can to work remotely, concern but doing what we can, customers encouraged to wash hands, self-quarantine if feeling ill …” I wonder now if there wasn’t a degree of coordination going on, or if all the corporate public relations departments simultaneously came to the same conclusion. Reasoning? I rather thought the city and the Fiesta Commission would have to do something of the sort, after reading of Disneyland closing, and the LDS temporarily suspending meetings at every level.

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13. March 2020 · Comments Off on March Marches On · Categories: Domestic, General

I had a client make the final payment on a finished project late this week, and the two potential clients whom we met with earlier in the week are deferring a decision or a start on their projects until later (if ever) so I could take a break from their stuff and do a little bit more on the ongoing house project; a replacement door for the back door into the garage, and one for the second bedroom, which the Daughter Unit currently occupies. We found a quite acceptable metal-reinforced panel door at Home Depot for a reasonable price, but the door for the bedroom is another matter. We were looking for a door with a glass panel in it, for the bedroom is at the end of a hallway with only a single ceiling light, and no natural light from the outside whatever. So – the Daughter Unit has been pushing for the door with a translucent glass panel in it, so as to allow natural light from the bedroom window to seep into the hallway. Only problem was … expense and availability. Such a door is a special order; not in stock at either of the big-box home improvement outlets. Although Wayfair had very nice ones available – the very cheapest of them was $300, which is … a little out of budget. I had to go and order from Home Depot, and the door will be delivered early in May. Until it arrives, my attention will be focused laser-like on the rest of work in the hallway; specifically, covering the ghastly popcorn texture with beadboard panels and cornice molding, and the peel’n-stick lino with cork flooring and new baseboards. (This will be a test run for the look of the rest of the house …) Until I can begin on that, though – I need to replace the narrow set of shelves along the hallway which houses a simply huuuge collection of paperback books. This will involve boxing up all the books, and taking down the metal brackets and MDF planks in order to complete painting that wall, and seeing to a complete-floor-to-ceiling shelf unit just wide enough to accommodate paperback books… no, really, I would rather work on my income taxes …
All the bits and bobs and lists of expenses and profits from sales in various venues, are all tallied up and ready to be delivered to the nice gentleman CPA who has done my income taxes since 1995. What I will do when he retires for real, I have no idea. I can just hope that he is one of those who will carry on out of habit, looking after a diminishing pool of clients, rather like my late business partner did with her clients – and she handed them all onto me, those who survived. I can only hope that my CPA has a younger apprentice handy.
In other news, it seems that springtime has arrived – alas, not in the trees to the back of the property, which is mystifying. The plum and peach are still bare sticks; no blossoms or budding leaves at all. Neither is there any fresh spring growth on the thrice-cursed hackberry weed tree, just the other side of the fence line – a tree which I hate with the passion of a thousand burning suns for the manner in which it scatters nasty, weedy sprouts all across my yard. I hate the hackberry, so I do. If the wretched seedlings aren’t pulled up entire by the time they are about three or four inches tall, they send a tap-root halfway to the center of the earth and defy extermination … only cutting damned thing off at ground level and painting the bleeding stump with a chemical concoction available from the local nursery keeps it from propagating… This weekend, plant out the various seeds and seedlings, as mid-March marks the last possible frost in South Texas. I did get a jump on this, in sheltering some tomato starts through the winter; they are just now bearing a handful of tomatoes ripe enough to eat, and a tub full of spring greens is nicely ready for salads … and that was my week.

09. March 2020 · Comments Off on Ask Not · Categories: General, Literary Good Stuff

… whom the woke-mob bays for; it bayeth for thee… to paraphrase John Dunne. As no less than Woody Allan may testify at this point, as the article linked here outlines. So the woke mob claims another scalp; yay, wokesters of New York City Mainstream Publishing Division! Take a bow, having thrown a glorious temper tantrum and bent your employer to your will! Today, Woody Allen – tomorrow? Who knows?! N.K. Jemison, a notoriously woke science fiction writer and beneficiary of the current system, weighed in on behalf of the mob, which is … not a good look for someone dealing in speculative fiction. She is supposed to possess some talent, but again – encouraging the mob, even joining in – not something which a thoughtful person with a sense of events and historical recall ought to do. But never mind.
Frankly, as far as I am concerned the mainstream publishing establishment, which is centered in New York (as if that wasn’t sufficient punishment) may ride off into the sunset any time now. Words like “incestuous” and “culturally-blind” come to mind, as well as “arrogant” and “exploitative.” More »

01. March 2020 · Comments Off on The Battling B’s · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Politics

Oh, my … does the Dem Party, the historic party of slavery, secession, and segregation now look to add another “s” to their banner of massive fail – that of ‘socialism’, or whatever currently-fashionably euphemism that superannuated, work-shy Commie-symp, Bernie Sanders wants to call state control of any resources of value, including the labor of the masses? Looks like the finger of the burned fool is wabbling back to the fire, as Mr. Kipling so memorably put it all these decades ago. The live-action political version of Grandpa Simpson polled well in Nevada; he would have looked perfectly awful at the Dem Party debate-debacle … save that apparently all the other contenders came off even worse. More »

01. March 2020 · Comments Off on You Can’t Go Home Again · Categories: Domestic

Well, you can, sort of – but in the larger sense Thomas Wolfe was right: you can’t physically go home again, not after a good few years have passed. I’ve amused myself, since discovering google earth and street view by looking for and locating the houses that I have lived in, and seeing how they appear now. That is if I have a clear memory of the address, and if the house itself still exists. Which is not always the case: the GI student housing in Santa Barbara was gone shortly after Dad finished the graduate level program at UC-Santa Barbara in the mid-1950ies. I have no notion of where to even begin looking for the house in the backwoods of Beverly Hills (yes, Beverly Hills does, or did have a backwoods, per se.) With unpaved roads, even, although it probably isn’t the case now. The White Cottage at the corner of La Tuna Canyon and Wheatland in the Sun Valley end of the San Fernando Valley is still there, although it looks as if the massive sycamore tree that shaded half of the back yard is gone, and La Tuna Canyon road has been widened and had sidewalks installed, so the fence line has been moved back. I can “walk” up the half-mile of La Tuna Canyon to Vinedale Elementary. The shapes of the hills looming over the canyon, as it funnels back into the Verdugo Hills are still familiar. Many of the roads which ran back from La Tuna Canyon were unpaved then – they’re paved now, it seems.

Mom and I, on the front porch of the GI Bill Student Housing

The next house, which I always thought of as Redwood house, was at the corner of Hillrose and Rosetta, at that corner of Shadow Hills which touched the edge of Sunland. Again, a dirt road, and lines of olive trees which had once been part of an olive orchard. That house is long gone – it was where the 210 Freeway drops down into Big Tujunga Wash, halfway between the Ralphs’ on Foothill Boulevard, and the fire station on Wentworth. I can “walk” from Sunland Elementary to Olive Grove and up a block to Hillrose … and that’s where the road ends, at a chain-link fence overlooking the highway.

Redwood House, from the hillside below

The house after that, the second house on the left up Cedarvale from Estepa, was curiously only a stone’s throw from the White Cottage, geographically. Not by road, though – it was a drive of at least half an hour between the two, going around through two different canyons. It’s been remodeled, extensively from when we lived there, and the new owners cut down most of the trees around the house. We liked the trees for the shade, but now the view is spectacular, or so I can judge from street view. The pool is still there, but I can’t see if the well still exists. There was a small spring/seep in the hillside, and a small well which never dried out entirely. I lived there from the age of sixteen, until I enlisted in the Air Force. My parents sold that house when my youngest brother finished high school and decamped to Northern San Diego County.

In the driveway of Hilltop House: Little Brother, Dad, the family station wagon and Mom.

I think the barracks where I lived at Misawa AB is gone; that whole base was revamped when the F-16 wing moved in. I can’t even begin to find building in the R housing area, out the POL gate where I rented the little sliver of apartment. That whole area has been revamped. The Wherry duplex in the enlisted housing area at Mather AFB where we lived for a year – that’s all gone. It looks like all very upscale condos, now. That was a very bare-bones kind of place; conblock walls, industrial linoleum on the floor, and metal cabinets in the kitchen. I had no furniture other than a rattan rocking chair, a couple of book cases, and my daughter’s crib when we moved in, but by the time we moved on, I had managed to purchase a single arm chair, an upholstered small sofa, a round wooden table and two chairs. There was a trailing rose bush by the front door. The housing office inspector gave me grief for trying to train it up the porch supports. This experience and the chore of cleaning that place before checking out of that base cured me of any desire to live in base housing. Uncle Sam is a sucky landlord.

The barracks at Sondrestrom AB in Greenland is still there; they’ve jazzed up the grey concrete slabs with red and white stripes, and green paint, and put a modernistic entryway to what was the dining facility; not much has changed with all that, at least on the surface. Looks like there are some restaurants, and a B&B, but the general aspect is still gritty grey dust, and bare rock mountains looming above. As we used to say grimly to each other: it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there. In the winter – when it was midnight-dark for most of the day with perhaps a pale twilight at mid-day, it was an amazing and unearthly sight; to come down the hill from the AFRTS station, and see the whole base lit by glowing yellow lights. In the dry arctic air, the vents from the buildings filled the head of the fjord with billowing golden clouds of water vapor.

For three years after that, we lived in a second-floor apartment on a corner in suburban Athens; a narrow balcony ran around two sides of the apartment, which took up the whole of a single floor, at the intersection of Knossou and Delphon.  From the windows on the street side, we could look out at the Saronic Gulf and the perfect triangular island of Aegina; it looks like they have built another three or four story apartment block across the street, so likely there is no chance of that same view from the apartment today. The little tile-roofed villa across the road in the other direction is still there, but the empty lot which was next door, in which an elderly man kept chickens and rabbits and a bit of a garden with lemon trees, has been replaced by another three or four story apartment block. But the building itself looks well-kept; whoever is living in the second-floor apartment has a series of nice plants in pots along the balcony.

Spain: the place where we lived the longest until we settled in Texas. I had no taste for a high-rise city apartment, which was all that was on offer, until the friend who was helping me house hunt said, “Let’s go see if there’s anything in San Lamberto…” This was a complex of duplexes and low-rise apartment buildings outside the city, which once had been American base housing, but now was in private ownership. There was an empty unit available for a reasonable rent, at the corner of what is now Calle Placido Domingo and Calle C. A ground-floor unit with a garden, and a shaded terrace. It is barely recognizable, now, although the two palm trees are still there and thriving. The new owners added a swimming pool, a small addition where I used to stack wood for the fireplace outside the dining area window, and a covered shelter for a car. The low wall and pillars are still there, but they have put in dark green fencing panels above, and the lawn looks a little better than when I lived there. My daughter went from kindergarten to the sixth grade in the time we lived there. I tried tracing the route that I usually drove from San Lam, past the Spanish regional airport to the Garripinellos gate, but again – too much has been changed. It used to be a narrow wandering country road; now there’s some fairly substantial interchanges.

The little white and grey house in the middle of the block of Jefferson between 36th and 37th was the perfect small house. I wish I could have owned it, so that I could have fixed it up properly. A perfect dolls’ house, with a big window on either side of the front door, and a long garden in back, with hedges so thick on either side that the lights of other houses could barely be seen in summer. Lilacs along one side, a row of apricot trees on the other, a bearing cherry tree, a shed where we might have kept chickens, a green lawn and a garden plot which I managed to rototill for two summers. In the spring, lilies of the valley came up at the edge of the front walk … we were there for two and a half years. The sun came up in the morning over the iron-grey wall of the Wasatch front, and in the afternoon, light poured in through the back of the house through an enormous picture window which gave on the yard. Paradise. I am still angry at the assignment detailer for my career field, who did not send me back there; this after hearing for years how they would reward you for years overseas by making certain that your last assignment before retiring was to the base where you most wanted to be. The house looks good, though: the present owner has taken down that cheap metal awning over the porch, and put in a planter and a new set of steps where the front porch used to be, and taken out the ragged hedge which formerly bisected the lawn.

The Jefferson St. House when I lived in it – in winter

Korea: a year in a barracks building, across the road from the Navy Club at Yongsan Army Infantry Garrison. It looks as if that building isn’t there, as far as I can see. The whole garrison has relocated to Camp Humpreys, but the Dragon Hill Lodge still exists, as a recreation center and hotel run by MWR. No luck in tracing anything of my route to work at AFKN, on the hill above the main PX.

The one home that I most deeply regret loosing was not a home which I lived, although my daughter did, during the year that I spent in Korea; that was Mom and Dad’s retirement place, the house that Dad first designed and oversaw building on a rocky knoll with a view down into the Guajito, in the hills above Valley Center, Northern San Diego County. They spent five years doing this, having initially expected to get it done in three, but had a marvelous time anyway. When we came home between tours in Spain (having saved the government a bomb of money through signing on to a second tour in place, so we had a free round-trip home as a reward) the house was coming down the home stretch, and we shared the RV with Mom, Dad, and their dogs. It was far enough along that we celebrated Christmas in the house, among the sheets of drywall stacked up in the dining are – drywall which Dad would teach me to hang and mud. Mom designed and laid out the garden – and when the house burned in the Paradise Mountain Fire in 2003, Mom and Dad moved into another RV on the site and built it all again, with improvements. (They hired out all the tough jobs that Dad had done, first time around.) We made a road trip from Texas to California most years. And then Dad died, suddenly in 2010. Mom didn’t want to leave the place they had shared, although … we all worried about her being there alone with the dogs. My youngest brother even brought up how risky it was, only to be slapped down. A few years later, his fears were realized when Mom fell and injured her back so severely that she was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Their house had to be sold, of course. My sister, who took over care of Mom, needed to have her own house renovated to accommodate a semi-paralyzed invalid. Originally, we were all four supposed to inherit a quarter share of it, and I entertained thoughts of buying out my brothers’ and keeping the property as a kind of family compound. Not to happen. I used the proceeds from the sale of my own California real estate to fix up the current Chez Hayes. Likely, I will never return to California. But I look at the view from the dead-end road past Mom and Dad’s house, and follow the dirt road back, looking at all the places that we went past, and think of the view over the Guajito, of how I would run on the dirt roads in the early morning, and the quail pattering through the thicket by the gate because Dad was in the habit of throwing out seed for them, the bends in the Woods Valley Road, the stench from the chicken farm at the foot of the last leg of road up to Mom and Dad’s…

It doesn’t look like the new owners have done very much, at least, not that we can see from the road view. But the owners of the next property over seemed to have established a nursery; greenhouses, and sheds and all. The previous owner of that place had let it go to wrack and ruin; basically returning to nature after the fire, save for messing around incompetently with an earth-mover on weekends – to the detriment of the watershed down into Mom and Dad’s driveway.

My daughter looked at the satellite view, and said, “Don’t say anything of this to Mom.”

No, you can’t go home.  

22. February 2020 · Comments Off on Flashy Himself – A Literary Diversion · Categories: Fun and Games, Geekery, History, Literary Good Stuff

So it took a link on Powerline last week to bring to my attention that George McDonald Fraser’s first Flashman book came out fifty years ago.

My, I don’t know how the time flies – but it does. I must have read the first couple of Flashy’s adventures sometime in college, shortly thereafter, and being quite the history nerd even then, they were rowdy enough, and amusing enough that I read most of the rest of them when they came out, even if I had to order them from an English book catalog when I was stationed overseas. I do remember very well reading The General Danced at Dawn, in the back of one of my more boring lecture classes at CSUN and nearly self-strangulating in trying to not laugh uproariously out loud. The professor lecturer would not have been amused – he was a medieval history expert with a thoroughly tedious interest in the most comprehensively boring of early dark age church confabulations and absent any detectable sense of humor.

My main regret as far as the Flashman series goes is that GMF never wrote of Flashy’s adventures in our own Civil War, which sounded from references in other books, as if Flashman conducted himself in the manner which we came to expect of him – that is, purely and basely devoted to the preservation of his own skin, while dodging, lying, fornicating and back-stabbing on battlefields spread across three continents, as well as hob-nobbing socially or sexually with all sorts of likely participants. As one early reviewer put it, Flashy saw 19th century history briefly over his shoulder as he fled down the corridors of power at high speed. His adventures in our very own Civil War would have been … interesting, although when I touched on this matter before, a reader pointed out that a) Flashy was a British officer and hardly gave a toss as to what we recalcitrant ex-Colonials got up to, and that b) that all our native ACW experts, amateur and professional alike would have made passionate objection to any error or omission, fancied or with historical backing that GMF might have worked into the plot. So, the effort wouldn’t have been worth the candle to him … although I and most of his fans would have loved to read it anyway. Just to see the process by how Flashy got suckered into participation by Abraham Lincoln, fought on both sides, and wound up being pals with George Armstrong Custer and well-acquainted with General Grant, and how many other Civil War notables.

I myself would have loved to see Flashy entangled in some kind of partnership with Elizabeth Van Lew, the Richmond spy queen, or perhaps a much deeper entanglement with Allan Pinkerton, of the national detective agency … it all would have been great reading, no matter how contentious the fallout might have been with Civil War historians. His take on Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals would have been interesting, as well. Because GMF had the eye, an absolute gift for writing 19th century dialog, and loved history enough to go into the deep weeds about it all … and most of all, make it interesting to the reader. Pop media is not downhill from culture, it’s in a symbiotic relationship with it. One shapes the other, mutually.

The darkly appealing thing about Flashy is that as a character, he was blunt and unsparingly honest, especially about himself: coward, toady, professionally self-serving, enthusiastic fornicator, (rapist, also on one occasion), and all-around scummy character – and yet with pluck and luck, always coming up out of the sewer smelling like a rose. As well as being brutally honest about himself to himself, Flashy was also was also magnificently candid about a lot of other matters now held to be absolutely radioactive. And that’s a large part of his appeal. I rather suspect that GMF had a great deal of fun in writing Flashy as a character, kicking politically correctitude right in the shorts, over and over again.

And what a wonderful miniseries Flashman would be, supposing that GMF’s literary executors would allow the rights to be negotiated for it, and a producer had the budget and stones to do it right, covering Flashy’s eventful career. You’d likely need eight or nine seasons to do it all justice, filming in fabulous locations in Europe, the US, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Africa, an international cast of actors buckling swashes right and left … it would leave Game of Thrones in the dust, for sure. Likely it would never happen, given today’s social climate – but it would be glorious. Oh, well – at least we have the books. Discuss as you wish.

13. February 2020 · Comments Off on The Goad · Categories: General

“…Wake again, Bagheera. For what use was this thorn-pointed thing made?” Bagheera half opened his eyes—he was very sleepy—with a malicious twinkle. “It was made by men to thrust into the head of the sons of Hathi, so that the blood should pour out. I have seen the like in the street of Oodeypore, before our cages. That thing has tasted the blood of many such as Hathi.” “But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?” “To teach them Man’s Law. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make these things—and worse.” – From The Kings’ Ankus by Rudyard Kipling

The jeweled elephant goad, the ‘ankus’ of Kipling’s story – was indeed a thing made by men, intended to control elephants; a thing used to threaten and inflict pain, to make the elephant do what the man wielding the ankus do what was commanded. I have begun to think of late that the threat of being called a racist is much the same kind of instrument. It’s a means of control, wielded to enforce silence and obedience. Consider the various local police in English towns and cities, who were so bludgeoned by the threat of being viewed as racists that they turned a blind eye, over and over, and over again, to deliberate and organized grooming and sexual exploitation of white English girls by Pakistani gangsters.

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04. February 2020 · Comments Off on Books That I Cannot Wait To Not Read · Categories: Fun and Games, Literary Good Stuff, Media Matters Not

Amanda at Mad Genius Club posted last week with some musings on the current publishing scene – er, that is what I took to calling the Literary Industrial Complex, back when I first went indy around 2008 – Indy Publishing that is. When people ask me who my publisher is, I look at them loftily, and reply, “I own the publishing company!” Which I do – a nice little small enterprise that I came into as junior partner, and which the original founder sold to me when she regretfully concluded that she could no longer carry on. We do other authors’ books, as well as my own; regional and small-press stuff, nothing which would ever excite the interest of the Literary Industrial Complex or the minions thereof. No point to it at this late date; as one of the other indy authors I associated with at the time often repeated – “If readers love-love-love the book, they don’t really care who published it.”

I’m basically sitting off to the side, watching the various Literary Industrial Complex shenanigans with the detached interest of someone driving past a really complicated multi-vehicle accident on the interstate; one of those which features smashed vehicles off on the shoulder or the median, in grotesque positions, attended by lots of law enforcement, fire engines, ambulances and wreckers. Nothing much to do with you, you think – but that you do drive a motor vehicle on those streets, and such a smash-up is a possibility, even if statistically only a remote one. Books, authors, audience, readers – those of us in the indy author community do have that much in common with those who have caught the brass ring of the Literary Industrial Complex. The blessings of publicity which that happy situation can bestow upon the poor scribbler of fiction are enviable indeed: nothing like a generous advance, lashings of pre-release publicity, an Oprah pick, long lines at well-publicized and organized signing events … the stuff of which indy authors can only dream or perhaps nightmare about.

For myself, I wouldn’t mind a Cat-5 Hurricane storm level of condemnatory Twitter interest. It would do marvels for sales of our books and raise our visibility and I would care nothing because I barely use my Twitter account, as 9 out of 10 Twitteratti appear to be raving loons. My spoilsport daughter forbids this, pointing out that there are vicious and violently inclined raving loons out there; don’t want trouble, don’t start trouble.

The current no-holds-barred bruhaha concerns American Dirt by one Janine Cummins; a breathless and much heralded novel about Mexican mother and son escaping from cartel violence in Mexico by joining a migrant convoy and entering illegally into the United States. The author has garnered a boatload of criticism for this; not so much for justifying confounding immigration law by holding a literary pity party for the victims of cartel violence in Mexico, but for doing so while not being of Mexican heritage. Apparently, this constitutes a thoughtcrime of cultural appropriation. Well … apparently, trying to imagine the life and concerns of someone completely different from you, culturally, racially and every other way, is now an indictable offense against wokery. I suspect that Ms Cummins’ bigger crime in the eyes of writers of indisputably Hispanic background was that she got all the generous goodies of a huge advance, heaps of publicity, the Oprah pick, maybe even Hollywood movie interest – over and above those goodies to which they felt they had a better right.

Nothing much to me, of course; I’m just not that interested in reading American Dirt or even anything much on the anticipatory Literary-Industrial Complex horizon. I looked at this linked story; the most hotly anticipated new releases of early 2020 and was left underwhelmed, first by the covers … seriously, is there a fashion now for artfully-minimalist covers? A couple of primary colors, primitive shapes and blah typefaces? This is the best, the very best that the Literary-Industrial Complex has to offer, as regards to cover art to what is supposed to be, after all, the first and best chance to make a good impression on a potential reader/buyer? Dolly Parton once remarked in another context, “You have to pay a lot of money to look this cheap.”

Casey Stengal also asked plaintively, “Can’t anyone here play this game?” once upon the day. Fortunately, we indy-inclined authors can, when it comes to scribbling entertaining yarns to allure the casual reader. Which is good for us – especially considering the looks of our Literary-Industrial Complex-sponsored competition of late. Discuss as you wish – and consider checking out the weekly Sunday morning Ace of Spades HQ book discussion thread; talk of books, reading recommendations and a weekly picture of ghastly pants.

The credibility of the mainstream press establishment is shimmering into nothingness, like the last bit of winter snow after a week of warm spring days; just as our respect and trust for such federal bureaucracies and establishments like the FBI are similarly evaporating. While acknowledging and accepting that such establishments are operated by mere mortals, with all the weaknesses and moral failings that ordinary human beings are heir to, and grudgingly accepting the understanding that the establishment news media trends strongly to the left in political sympathies … look, we can accept all that and a certain degree of human bias, but what’s getting hard to swallow of late is the sheer, mind-numbing, flaming incompetence of them all. Which might be a blessing after all, for terrifying competence on the part of our current Ruling Class and their minions would make protesting or opposing them that much more difficult. Instead, as Kirk so memorably put it last week in a comment on Chicagoboyz,

“What we have is, instead, an aristocracy of dunces, men and women who tell the rest of us how smart they are, and then screw up the entirety of civilization based on fantasies they’ve come up with. The rest of us need to start recognizing that the emperor not only isn’t wearing any clothes, he’s drunk off his ass and waving his wing-wang in our faces. The people who’ve flim-flammed their way into power are all dangerously inept and terminally deluded. If you doubt me, open your eyes and look around yourself: Is there anything, anything at all that these soi-disant “elites” have gotten right in the last century? Anything at all?”

The combination of ineptitude and delusions of superiority looks to be shattering American institutions and establishments like gaping fissures opening across the landscape in a 1970s earthquake disaster movie; the establishment mainstream media, establishment publishing, city and state governance, the major producers of our entertainment, law enforcement … you name it, and some notable in that establishment is telling us how superior they are to us deplorables … as they pedal in mid-air over a chasm, rather like Wylie Coyote, Super-Genius, just before he drops like an anvil to the bottom of the gorge below. Viewing figures for the Grammy awards broadcast is down, CNN is a laughingstock, a much-anticipated novel dripping with social-justice – which got the nod from Oprah is now going down the vortex of cancel-culture, and the FBI took a break from trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election and arrested San Francisco’s director or public works. The last-named gentleman apparently took a break from doing something innovative regarding the poop-filled streets of that place, to engineering sweetheart deals for such entities as lavished generous bribes and perks upon him, to such a degree that the FBI was brought to take notice of it all. Social justice wokery turns college campuses into overpriced bear-pits; and we pay more and more for public education and get less and less out of the whole project, while the national news media pursues jiggery-pokery, fakery-wokery hoax news. Really, as the Diplomad suggested here – you could make a drinking game out of listing all the ways in which our Ruling Class attempts to perpetuate news hoaxes on us, by means of panicking us into becoming good little biddable serfs.

What may save us all is that in the main, and at street-level in communities which still function (which is most of them, with certain bi-coastal, urban and prog-managed exceptions) we are still a high-trust society. The majority of us can still trust our neighbors, coworkers, and our local elected officials; and that may be the saving of us all. Discuss as you wish.

21. January 2020 · Comments Off on The New Versailles · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, History, Politics

My daughter actually suggested this line of thought; that the current ruling class (or those who think themselves to be so) in the United States are perilously akin to the French nobility – those who were termed the ancient regime, of pre-revolutionary France. The ruling class were gathered together deliberately at Versailles, where all was all as far as the nobles and ruling class were concerned for at least a hundred years.

There, amid the squalid splendors of Versailles, they were gathered together, under the eye of the King, to frivol their lives away, distracted by spectacles and the vicious grasp for and fall from power within a very small realm. Only instead of a vast palace, outbuildings, gardens and minor palaces, our ruling class disports in a slightly larger venue, that of Washington, DC and the surrounding suburbs.

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20. January 2020 · Comments Off on Stuff Getting Done on a Monday · Categories: General

Slowly but surely, stuff is getting done; the Daughter Unit and I forswore the gym this morning in favor of a very brisk two-mile walk through the neighborhood with the dogs. I finally finished a post on a WWII novel which had been lingering in the ‘half-finished’ queue for weeks. Made the call to activate the new ATM card, and – this was the biggie – filed the state sales tax form and sent in payment. This was made a bit easier for me for having worked out a long spread sheet with the formulas for calculating what was due in each category – which as my sales were pretty minimal last year resulted in some amounts due to various small entities which were in pennies. So, had to round up to a dollar on the state web-pay page, in most cases – but the grand total owed still came out to about what it should have been according to my own calculations, so that’s all square and taken care of. As far as other tax materiel – have to wait for the various W-2s to come floating in to put the tidy package all together for the nice CPA who has looked after my tax stuff since we settled in San Antonio.

Read a couple of chapters of William Howard Russell’s My Diary North and South – he was the big international correspondent for the Times of London newspaper; a convivial and unrepentant Irishman, often considered the first war correspondent, having made his fame for reporting on interesting developments in the Crimean War. He was sufficiently famous after that to have had many doors open to him and spent the opening months of the American Civil War on a prolonged jaunt through the border states and the south. During a short visit to Washington DC he hobnobbed with many important personalities in the new Republican administration – including a visit to the White House and a meeting with Abraham Lincoln, who was derisively called “the Railsplitter” by many snobbish Northerners which Russell encountered early on. Russell also noted that Lincoln deployed humorous anecdotes as a way of lubricating potentially awkward social encounters … well, I am looking for the low-down on public mood, going into the early months of that war, and Russell looks like a wonderful source for channeling contemporary feelings and observations.

Fiddled around with the Luna City website, added a page for the two compendium volumes, and a PayPal order button after generating the ‘button’ for it, something which I ought to have done weeks and weeks ago. Honestly, I tend to forget about the Luna City website; it’s kind of a static website, not an active blog so much as my book blog/website is.

I fiddled with installing a new doorknob to one of the bedrooms – hoping that this would fix an ongoing problem with the latch not settling properly. Nope; I think this problem won’t be solved until I get around to replacing all the original interior doors in the house. The existing doors are all that cheap contractor-grade hollow core doors … (pauses for a moment to look up the solid wood slab doors at the local Big Box … oh, nice – $125 or so.) replacing the doors will come, possibly later this year. The big project will be replacing the exterior garage door – and maybe we can get a start on that this week, when I can make a down payment on it to the contractor.

And that’s the Monday at Chez Hayes…

16. January 2020 · Comments Off on The Perfect Villain · Categories: Fun and Games, Rant

For the life of me, I cannot recall who first observed that environmentalists now make the most perfectly hissable villains, because they almost invariably make matters worse in the long run. Absolute certainty in their own mind that their dictates are the one and only true way, combined with reluctance to consider any other method, and of late, just about all their prescriptions have had lamentable results … yes, there is a perfect villain. Smug, certain … and wrong. Catastrophically, earth-shatteringly, human-damaging, and economically-harmful wrong.

I will concede that it didn’t start out that way, of course. It’s perfectly reasonable to want clean air to breathe; I remember how smog in LA made my throat hurt when I was a kid, before home incineration of household waste was banned. It’s reasonable and salutary not to dump industrial wastes into rivers; having a river catch fire is at the very least, unexpected and embarrassing. It’s also reasonable and salutary not to bury 55-gallon drums of dangerous waste products where a housing development can later be built over them. It’s also quite reasonable to refrain from hunting game or apex predator species to the point of extinction; an understanding which has been in place for all of the previous century. And finally, it is eminently reasonable to expect a general and accurate understanding on the part of engaged citizens of how ecologies work. Things in the natural world all fit together, sometimes obviously, and sometimes obscurely; and pulling a thread at once corner will inevitably cause something in another corner to unravel, often in completely unforeseen ways.

Alas, reason and moderation seem to have gone out of fashion among the professional environmental scold; perhaps it’s something to do with diminishing returns; chasing tinier and tinier causes, once the big projects were done and dusted. It is said that in academia the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small. In matters environmental, as the great causes were won, the professional enviro-scolds become even more dogmatic over smaller and smaller elements. Bit by bit, the environmental became personal. In service to the professional enviro-scolds their sympathizers in the political/bureaucratic realms have managed to land us all with inefficient low-flow toilets, limiters on shower-heads and hot-water heaters, dishwashers that don’t really wash dishes, washing machines that don’t really clean clothes, crappy curly-whirly lightbulbs which create their own environmental hazard when broken. Environmentally sustainable is apparently newspeak for “crappy, inefficient and expensive.” And that’s apparently just the start; eventually we’re all supposed to not have electricity at all, if it’s generated from coal, oil, or natural gas.

Screwing over consumers isn’t the half of the damage done. They’ve poured mine-waste contaminants into a formerly pristine Western river, turned California’s once-profitable farmlands into near-desert for the benefit of a bait-fish which probably wasn’t in danger of extinction anyway, beggared whole districts which depended on industry, logging, mining and manufacturing, and damn-near burned down half that state and a good chunk of Australia while congratulating themselves on being environmentally-sensitive. The millions of wild animals burned alive in those fires are not grateful for the consideration of their environment, however.

And the most galling aspect of the enviro-scolds as villains? They don’t seem capable of admitting error, ever – and now they look to be going all in for blaming it all on human-caused global warming and demanding even stricter controls over human activities and choices. Discuss as you wish.   

10. January 2020 · Comments Off on When Doom Comes a’ Calling · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, History, Iran, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military

(I started this post last weekend – but real life and a new book project intervened. Consider this a footnote to Trent T.’s post, here.)

Well, it certainly came a’calling for Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani last week, Middle Eastern time. Nothing left but bits of scrap metal and meat, and a bruised hand with a large ring on it. Kind of fitting for the guy who perfected the fine art of IEDs, and brought so much business to the developers of artificial limbs for those survivors of that deadly art. As the satirist Tom Leher noted, so many decades ago, and in a slightly different context,

“Some have harsh words for this man of renown, But some think our attitude Should be one of gratitude, Like the widows and cripples in old London town Who owe their large pensions to Werner von Braun.”

So it seems that the late General Soleimani will not be missed … not missed much by an assortment of parties in Iran, the Middle East, Israel, and US State Department employees across the world, some of whom posted their congratulations in the first blog reports that I saw first thing. The Daughter Unit reports that most of the veteran social media participants were absolutely fizzing with glee, as were apparently Iranian anti-mullacracy exile communities across the world. Considering that the late General S. had a hand in nearly four decades of Islamic violence (violence which racked up casualties in the thousands, and which did include American troops), across the Middle East and was about to take a hand in fomenting some more in Iraq last week, he will definitely not be missed.

The remote pilot of the drone which dropped our final farewell gift upon him didn’t miss, either, although to read the Twitter caterwauling laments of Hollywood idiots like Rose McWhatserface is nearly enough to make one upchuck. The trauma of being sexually molested by a creep like Harvey Weinstein obviously blotted from what remains of her tiny mind the reality of things like … umm, Iran’s forty-year jihad against the US, beginning with overrunning our embassy in Teheran and keeping staff, employees and casual American visitors to said embassy captive for more than a year? In the old days, an attack on a foreign embassy counted as declaring war. It fries me no end that the Teheran embassy thing happened so long ago that I was in my first Air Force enlistment, and my daughter was born a couple of months later. That’s how long we’ve been waiting for anything like an appropriate response.

And Jimmy Carter was such a clueless, limp-dcked, Saudi-loving, anti-Semitic wimp that he couldn’t even countenance the appropriate response, which should rightfully have been along the lines of – “Release our people and vacate our embassy (and clean up the mess as you go) or various essential real estate of yours will become slightly radioactive glass. Counting down… three … two…” THAT response would have spared us all – especially in the Middle East – decades of trouble, but morons like failed novelist Ben Rhodes certainly wouldn’t grasp that point, being twenty something, or perhaps older now, and still dealing with equally educated idiots. And as for ostensibly American news media painting, certain celebs and politicians painting the late General in romantic shades of “able soldier, handsome charismatic leader, an inspiration to his troops, austere poet, snappy dresser and all-around-good-fellow…” People, do you have any comprehension of how that makes you appear to the rest of us? It’s as of you are lamenting and condemning the death of Reinhold Heydrich, who was also cultured, handsome, a charismatic leader, et cetera, et cetera – and every but as much a murderous a*hole as Qasem Soleimani. Is this truly what you wish to embrace, and to appear to the rest of us as a sympathizer of? Discuss as you wish, and add any insights.

07. January 2020 · Comments Off on Domestic Organization · Categories: Domestic

We finished taking down the Christmas tree and the holiday ornaments over the weekend, and having gotten into an organizing mood, we decided that it was time to tackle two more household locations in series need to a good reorganizing; the spice cupboard, and the pantry. The pantry is a tall cupboard about the size of an old-fashioned phone booth. A couple of years ago we ripped out the original wooden shelves – which were deep and impractical – and put in narrow wire shelving all along the back,

up to the very ceiling, and even narrower wire shelving along the sides, and on the back of the door. This let us be a good bit more organized with the staples, canned and packaged goods, but … well, it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t find anything, or we had three or four containers of stuff because we bought more when we couldn’t find it. I mean, really – four packages of fajita seasoning, and three of celery salt? And to our hideous shame and embarrassment, some of the packaged mixes, for bread, cakes and frosting were more than four years past their ‘best by’ dates. Bread mixes definitely lose their mojo very shortly after their expiration date; this we know for certain, through experience. And there were some home-canned items that … we just couldn’t. They were on a high shelf at the back, and I didn’t even want to salvage the jars, the contents looked so nasty.
Set to work on the spice cupboard, first; helped by a set of 12 4-ounce lidded spice jars gotten through Amazon Vine for review. The set came with a small collapsing funnel, as an extra. Sorted, amalgamated, repacked, and a half dozen jars of spices actually thrown away – I mean, I could not remember how long ago I bought that little jar of dried fennel; not that I needed it any more as I have a large fresh fennel plant going great guns in the garden. And the powdered horseradish root absolutely has to be something that I packed in the last move. In 1994. (A couple of years ago I found a jar of Spanish saffron on the shelves. From Alcampo, the Spanish equivalent of Walmart. We rotated out of Spain at the end of 1991…)
And then to the pantry, which went rather faster than I had expected – but oh, my – there was a lot of stuff in there. A nice portion of the more-than-time-expired baking mixes went straight to the trash; the Daughter Unit and I felt rather bad about that. All those news stories about how Americans (or whatever) throw away so many pounds of food – eleventy!!! Well, we threw away our yearly share in one fell swoop, but honestly – most of the packages and jars had best-by dates of at least four years ago and were purchased from the ‘severely marked-down’ shelves at HEB … and if we hadn’t gotten around to using them in the last four years, then the odds were that we would never do; why prolong the agony? There went three or four bottles of cooking sauces, and a Fisher & Wieser blueberry sauce that we had never found anything to do with, and otherwise we love Fisher & Wieser; all the other F&W products were reprieved, and the Daughter Unit sorted them into ‘marinades/sauces’ and ‘salad dressing’ categories on the shelf.

At the end of this exercise, we had a bit more shelf-space (enough for the eight-pack of canned diced tomatoes from Costco) and the Daughter’s stash of exotic teas and her favored brand of coffee. With luck, we might actually be able to find stuff in the pantry … and the Daughter Unit has sternly warned me to consider what we might have in the pantry when planning the menus over the next couple of months.

That would be the poisonous racism of Jew-hate, of course. And it does not dare say its’ name in the headlines and newsrooms of the mainstream news media – much less in the classrooms of the educational industry in this great nation of ours, which is a pity for all, as the news media is exactly that element whom we had trusted for decades, as that saying in the ‘60ies was – to tell it like it is. Only the fringe conservative media, the bloggers, and various iconoclasts like Breitbart dare to call Jew-hate for what it is and nail the most egregious of those perpetuating it.
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27. December 2019 · Comments Off on Looking Back, Looking Ahead · Categories: Domestic

Every couple of years, I am driven by circumstance, reflection, ambition … something! To look back at the year so nearly done with and look ahead at what I’d like to get done in the new one. Pretty much everything that I hoped to get done in 2019 has been accomplished, or nearly accomplished, as I wrote a year ago, “…for 2019: new bathroom, cleared-out garage, and a size 10/12 in jeans again. Piece of cake, eh?”
Two out of three isn’t bad and the size in jeans is currently about a 14/16; say two and a half goals accomplished. The renovation of the master bath was completed by late spring and now almost completely paid for, the garage is mostly cleared out and organized – especially as I put some of the contents on Nextdoor for sale, which funded some Christmas gift-purchasing frivolity. In addition to this, I got the two Luna City collections done and launched, both print and eBook versions. But I did not get the new garage door installed – that must wait on the new year. That will be the first of the goals for 2020; getting a functioning garage door. The existing door was, I believe, either installed by the people whom I bought the house from in 1995, or even one installed by the original builder of the house late in the 1980s. In any case, it’s falling apart. Constructed of wood and composition panels, it is so much decayed that much of it might actually be broken apart by hand. Installation of a new door is not something which Neighborhood Handy Guy wants to venture upon – rather dangerous with the necessary springs and cables, as I understand it, so I must call on the services of a small company who did the same for a near neighbor. In a fit of efficiency, I asked for, and received their business card, and it has been magneted to the refrigerator door ever since. Being able to put one of the cars inside the garage, and to do workshop stuff inside the remaining portion is the main household goal.

The second goal is to finish the Civil War novel, That Fateful Lightning, and two Luna City episodes during 2020. Being that I have committed to Third Thursday in July at the Court Street Coffee as the launch for That Fateful Lightning, and for Luna City #9 means … well, I have found that nothing is quite so inspiring to literary output as a deadline. Which gives me the rest of the year for Luna City #10, and yes, there is plenty of material to work on in that regard.
There are some secondary household goals for 2019. In no particular order of importance – which means they will be sorted as soon as the bargains for required supplies and elements present themselves, those goals are:
1) Start on replacing windows and the patio slider door. All of these existing are original to the house, and as the writers of Victorian novels would say – are in a much-decayed condition. The window replacements will mean replacing and painting the window trim boards, and patching/replacing the siding. The most-weather-exposed sides of the house – the western-facing – are the worst-affected. Fortunately, this is a small house, and those aspects are relatively small and well-within the abilities of Neighborhood Handy Guy, who also has a small sideline in exterior painting. And I have the veteran discount at the Big Box Home Improvement stores. (Both of them.) Eventually, probably when just about all the windows are replaced – a total painting of the exterior will be involved but depending on how much it costs for the windows, probably not until 2021. The Daughter Unit and I did the last exterior paintjob; the long-term plan is that I will pay Neighborhood Handy Guy to do it. Of this s**t I am too old and tired to do any more. I’ll count this job as well-begun with the worst two windows and the patio slider door done and dusted.
2) Replace the Chicken Abode – likely with something moderately-priced or on sale from Tractor Supply – and add a couple of more laying hens. The senior surviving hen has stopped laying, and the coop which we bought at Sam’s Club is falling apart. In the spring we will get three young pullets from the source where we purchased the original Three Chicken Stooges and thank you for a guarantee that none of them will be a young rooster. We already have one of those, and while he is being quite mellow and not noisy in the early morning any more, I wish not to endure the crack-of-dawn serenade.
3) Sort out more of the garden: a better garden of raised beds and containers for vegetables and herbs in the sheltered space behind the front gate, and to install a paved patio area opposite the front door. I’ve managed to nurse some discount tomato plants thus far through the last couple of chills, and some of them have blossoms on them. Hope springs eternal in the gardener’s mind; a triumph of hope over experience, at least as far as tomatoes are concerned. We already have the benches and a ceramic patio table, thanks to the generosity of Amazon Vine; all that waits on this project is a bunch of pavers, and a solar-powered water feature. Something with water playing over pebbles in a ceramic pot, cascading down to a hidden reservoir is my own particular dream.
Well, those are my goals for 2020; I believe that at least three-fourths of them are doable. Progress will be posted here, and on the FB page

24. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Countdown Continues · Categories: General

Another of my favorite Christmas carols –

23. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Carol Countdown · Categories: General

From the Christmas Revels Collection –

22. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas Carol Countdown · Categories: General

Another of my very favorite Christmas carols…

21. December 2019 · Comments Off on The Christmas countdown continues… · Categories: Eat, Drink and be Merry

A selection of the Christmas carols that I like the best!

20. December 2019 · Comments Off on For Christmas; A countown of my favorite carols · Categories: Good God, Local

For today – “See amid the winter’s snow!”

I swear, every time I think we have reached peak stupid, reality says “Hold my beer and watch this!” The ruckus this past weekend over cadets at the Army-Navy game appearing on live camera making a variant of the “OK” gesture now has elements of the national media, as well as authorities at the two service academies plain old coming unglued. And this is because this gesture is somehow supposed to be associated with so-called ‘white power’/ racial superiority. Great has been the twitter-tornado launched by the particularly clueless activists who happened to notice the upside-down OK gesture; I can only imagine the numbers of boggarts, ghouls and haunts which are currently living under their own beds and in their closets. More »