…may I present a spot of Gilbert and Sullivan for your Friday morning pleasure!

Yes – we have books. And there was a long note and some discussion on this particular regular thread about places where there are no books, or even just fake books, or real books chosen for the color of their binding or the general richness of appearance … Yeah, my daughter watched some of those celebrity home shows, where there were huge rooms and endless lengths of shelves …
And no books, or anything much save a scattering of knickknacks interspersed with sports or performing trophies. It seemed a sad and desperate way to live, in a house or a mansion without books, or even magazines – although perhaps the internet and ebook readers are taking the place of corporeal books.

Still, not to have books at all … even my paternal grandparents, who were not bibliophiles, by any stretch of imagination, had a small case full of books, stashed away in the guest room, mostly – and Granny Dodie had a library card and used it. So did Granny Jessie. Her possession of three shelves full of books (mostly by turn of the last century lady authors with three names) marked out Mom’s family as the towering intellectuals of South Lotus Street.

Mom and Dad bettered either one of the ancestral collections, when they married and set up a household – which naturally included books. For a good many years, the bookshelves in the den – which contained the bulk of the collection – were of concrete block uprights with well-smoothed and varnished planks laid across them to serve as shelves. (Sensibly, I don’t think this unstable arrangement went higher than about three levels.)
I went out on my first overseas assignment with a box or two of my own favorite books, eventually adding to the collection through being overseas, in places where English-language bookstores were thin on the ground away from base, and the base libraries and Stars & Stripes bookstores were usually quite small. So – book clubs and mail-order catalogues were my friends, and it was a good thing that Amazon was a distant dream the whole time I was overseas, for I might have returned to civilian life with twice as many books as I did. (When we packed out from Spain, the packers had a bet going on how many boxes of books there would be. It topped out at 65, eventually, and I don’t know what the winner of the pool got. Bragging rights, maybe.)My working space - with the most often-referenced books

When she was in high school, my daughter managed to swing a good few term papers using our own book resources. And that was even before I started seriously writing myself, and acquiring even more books, specifically for research and reference. I’d say the collection of Texiana and for the 19th century frontier is pretty comprehensive – and if I carry through with the intention of writing another in the Adelsverein series, going back to how Carl and Margaret Becker’s Opa Heinrich came to America as a soldier of Hesse in the Revolutionary War … there will need to be another shelf at least.

I suppose that the most horrifying aspect of the Trump rally in San Jose last week was not that there were obnoxious and semi-coherent protesters outside the event, or even that they became violently abusive to those attending the Trump rally. It was that the San Jose PD, and the civil administration appear to have at best sat back and watched ordinary citizens be chased down and physically abused – and at the very worst, facilitated, enabled and afterwards blandly excused such attacks. The civil government of the city of San Jose apparently decided that it was okeydokey for the agents of law and order in San Jose to sit back and allow law-abiding citizens exercising their rights in attending a political rally to have the c**p beaten out of them … because they didn’t approve of the particular candidate.

Well, at least those police supposedly keeping public order after the Trump rally didn’t send for popcorn and cheer on the beatings, or participate in the active part of the thumping themselves, so I will give them props for a few lingering shreds of professionalism. But this is not a good thing – it is in fact, the second step on the way to a new civil war, or at least, to Single Party-Ruling Hell. It sends a very clear message, when thugs on one side of a political divide can routinely beat the ever-living-snot out of citizens exercising their right to be politically involved, or at least politically interested, in the face of a massive police presence … and the police just shrug and look away, while the local civil authorities essentially say in response to criticism, “NOKD and they richly deserved it.”

That was the Second Step. The First Step on the downward-leading path to Single Party-Ruling Hell is the routine “othering” of a political element, or a portion of the citizenry, on the part of not just an ambitious political class, but becomes especially noted when the political punditocracy and popular media join in the fun. This process has been going on for some time, but I noticed it particularly with regard to the Tea Party. Earnest, responsible middle-class (for the most part) good citizens, newly engaged in the political process, championing fiscal responsibility, fidelity to the Constitution and free markets … and for all of their efforts and evidence to the contrary, got painted by politicians, the punditocracy and the popular media as dumb, racist, stupid hicks. And this ‘otherizing’ stuck – I have the evidence of my own family to confirm it.

So, this “othering” was accomplished, and has proceeded at a break-neck pace with all the fuss about Black Lives Mattering (but only when they have been killed by a Policeman of Pallor), the academic ruckus about so-called White Privilege (which somehow never seems to accrue usefully to working-class and rural residents of fly-over country who happen to be of a pale or lightly-freckled pallor.) and by the animus poured on … well, non-coastal, red-state conservatives of every class. I had only to look at the comment threads on major news sources when they posted stories about the Bundy Ranch imbroglio, or about the stand-off in Oregon with regard to the Malheur location … as an aside to various liberal commenters on that matter – My god, people – do you comprehend how ugly you sound, when you urge the elimination of rural ranchers and their sympathizers? By whatever means possible?

So, Step One – the “otherizing” of those judged by the righteous and the good to be … beyond the pale. Infra Dig. NOKD (Not our Kind, Darling) They deserve what is coming to them, by the actions of the righteous and just. That has already been concluded, as far as I can see. Step Two – seems to be in train, by the example of San Jose and the Trump rally last week.

Step Three … ah, that is the use of civil law against those previously ‘otherized.’ Really, whichever law can be utilized. Step Three seems to be in the formative stages at this point. The motion in the California legislature to criminalize doubt with regard to global warming. Weaponizing the federal bureaucracy – the EPA, the IRS, ATF – against perceived enemies of the state has already been done, through selective investigation and enforcement of existing laws.

Step Four involves locked boxcars, and distant reeducation camps, and ordinary citizens looking away and murmuring things like, “Oh, too bad … but they had it coming.” And no, we really don’t want to go there, as much as leftists like Bill Ayers and his Weatherman friends fantasized over that very prospect, back in the 60s.
Discuss.

We walked with the dogs on Saturday morning – as we do almost every morning; our two, Nemo and Connor, and the exuberant labradoodle belonging to an elderly neighbor. Penny, the labradoodle is a young dog, energetic, impulsive and quite strong; late last year, while walking down to the community mailbox, Penny pulled on her leash abruptly that our neighbor was pulled over and absolutely wrecked her shoulder/rotator cuff when she fell to the pavement. This meant several days in the hospital and weeks of therapy for our neighbor, who likely will never regain full mobility – and so, we walk her dog in the morning, and the children of another neighbor walk the dog later in the day; all this aimed toward exhausting the dog, who as noted, is young, exuberant and requires an extensive program of exercise which our neighbor is simply unable to provide, as much as she adores her companion-dog. So we do it – it’s what neighbors do.
More »

Texas Sized Rain GaugeThis being the first of the month, my daughter and I did our monthly major shopping today – beginning somewhat earlier in the day than we normally do. We had a heck of a thunderstorm blow in at about three yesterday afternoon; rain so heavy that it was blowing sideways and wind-gusts that were twirling the tree branches every which way. Our neighbor as a particularly large oak tree in her back yard, with two very long, heavy branches that reach over the roof of the back of her house. My daughter was so worried, watching the tree limbs bend, that she called the neighbor to advise her to stay out of the two back bedrooms until the storm finished blowing through. This morning, there were small branches down all over the neighborhood, and a family on the other side of Spring Creek Forest lost a fairly good-sized tree. It split in half, at the height of the storm, but apparently in a rather gradual manner. One half slumped onto the next-door neighbor’s garage roof without causing any damage to the roof that anyone could see, and the other half onto the driveway. This morning, the tree was well on the way to being sliced, diced and stacked. It looked like the main trunk was diseased and rotted out. We’re afraid that residents may lose more trees, as the ground is so saturated that a stiff wind could topple them over from the roots.

It may storm again this afternoon, so we wanted to be home well before it does. Hence – the early start; to Granzins’ for meats, to Tractor Supply for dog and chicken food, to Costco for laundry soap, cheese, and certain other sundries, Sam’s Club for certain others, and finally the big HEB over at Blanco Road for all the rest. Yes, we have worked out where to get the best for the least. We start out with a big ice chest in the back of the Montero, and stack up the bags of pet food evenly. Tomorrow I’ll get out the vacuum seal bags and process everything for the freezer out in the garage.

We had a very nice sales month for books in May; the Second Chronicle of Luna City did very well, and a fair number of readers also bought the first Chronicle as well. And there are some nice new reviews up on Amazon for both, and a reader in England who discovered both by accident left a very nice comment on the website page for the Chronicles – so yay! However, there has been a curious occurrence, in that there is another writer named Celia Hayes, who has written a single ebook comic romance … the reader in England who loved the Chronicles also loved the other Celia’s book, and found them in searching by name. I am not sure what, if anything, I ought to do about this. I understand that the writer Elizabeth Taylor had somewhat of the same problem, in that her name was also being used by another woman … who was rather more notorious than a simple scribbler of literary fiction.

As far as other book matters go, I have maybe three more chapters to go in winding up The Golden Road – which adventure has been a long time in development, what with being distracted by other writing projects, and then by the requirement to broaden my research field a little more, to encompass California in 1856-58. There were a lot of later important and/or interesting people there at that very time, including William Tecumseh Sherman, Edwin Booth and Lola Montez. Because the Luna City Chronicles are proving to be so popular, and let’s face it – my daughter and I are having a giddy and humorous time in writing them – I’ll have ago at doing the Third Chronicle over the summer, side by side with another set of Lone Star Sons stories. We’ll see how it works out.

Schedule-wise, we seem to have a book event every month for the next few; the Wimberley Book Festival on the 11th of this month, then the San Antonio Indy Book Festival in July – and this very day we received our invitation to the Giddings Word Wrangler bash in September! That community book bash is an absolute blast to participate in. No, we didn’t really sell all that much last time – but the community involvement made it all terrifically special; a gala the evening before, classes of school children being bussed to the library to meet the authors, and a wonderful luncheon the following day, as well as a ton of regional authors to meet and socialize with! Oh, yes! We’ll be there with bells on. (And me in my period costume, but that’s another story, entirely.)

29. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

(A brief account of Memorial Day in Luna city, from the Second Chronicle of Luna City, which we brought out at the beginning of May, in response to a chorus of pleading from readers who want to know how the cliffhanger at the end of the first Chronicle was resolved.)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid Army career in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. He is the exception; Lunaites mostly have served a single hitch or two, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.

The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – to include Joe Vaughn, Sylvester Gonzales, and Chris Mayall – serving in various capacities in more recent operations in Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.

There is not much need in Luna City for elaborate observances of Memorial Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day, but in the main, the most notable civic event marking Memorial Day is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks.

The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although spring rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families and guests nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip-Top. Joe Vaughn, who had been the star quarterback for the Mighty Fighting Luna Months in his senior year, sits out the game with considerable regret. Three hitches of particularly strenuous Army service have blown out his knees; jumping out of perfectly usable aircraft or fast-roping down from helicopters in full battle-rattle will have that effect on mortal joints and bones.

The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Memorial Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Memorial Day in Luna City.

… or the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie Donald Trump.
Paraphrasing the motto across the front of a favorite tee shirt that I wore out years ago, “I used to be disgusted; now I’m only amused.” I’ll cop to being both amused and disgusted when Donald Trump first hove into sight as a potential GOP nominee earlier in this election cycle. The whole thing was a joke, and I was certain he was playing it as such, playing it for the laughs and as an ego boost. Yes, The Donald of the bright orange tan and hopelessly fake comb-over, a crass, loudmouth East Coast real-estate speculator, with vulgar and over-the-top tastes in everything from interior to exterior decoration, in the words of the writer at Zero Anthropology, a “mountain of Grade A Beef in a $10,000 suit,” significant other of one Marla Maples back in the day when he first became an enduring feature on the front pages of national tabloids – that Donald Trump did not strike me as likely presidential timber. Still really doesn’t, but then I never thought a no-name minor Chicago machine pol with precisely nothing on his professional resume save being the editor of the Harvard Law review and identifying as black was presidential timber either, yet the post turtle got elected to that high office twice.

I did, however, believe that Trump’s value as a potential candidate was that he demonstrated that there was no downside to speaking the unspeakable, and touching on the topic of the untouchable. He went out there, openly voicing unhappiness with the problem of criminal illegal aliens, with the Ruling Class inclination to welcome Islamic refugees, with closing down American industries and outsourcing jobs which had supported working class Americans, and with frankly and openly – even combatively – to critics. This had to count for something, in demonstrating to other potential nominees that there was no downside in going “there” and I hoped very much that more of them would have followed to excellent effect. Ah well – it takes considerable nerve to go against the habit and training of – if not a lifetime in politics, at last a few years in the “elect me-me-me!” game. So, here we are, us small-government, fiscally responsible, free-market enthusiasts, looking at and probably supporting (with varying degrees of un-enthusiasm) a nominee who has never given much indication of allegiance to those standards, or even two of the three; being in fact one of those reality TV stars, more famous for being famous. So – how come the political popularity?

At this point, I have to say that it’s a mixture of the blunt-speaking – and the fact that the Donald has collected all the right enemies. Not only collected enemies, but driven them into a fine frothing fury. Lefty intellectuals and activists, movie stars of more than the usual degree of political vapidity, media personalities and commentators, self-important writers … they are all going absolutely mad. And frankly – it’s as amusing as anything to watch, especially as many of them have been nastily condescending to ordinary, non-minority, working-class, flyover-country citizens for years.

Discuss, and add your own reasons for the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie Donald Trump.

26. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

And yes, there is freedom unimaginable in it – that bit of technology available since the last half of the century before last. A sewing machine, a pattern, a small degree of skill with them both, and personal fashion style is your oyster. One will never again be held hostage to the fashion trend of the moment, especially if said fashion trend is desperately unfattering, unfitted to make a good impression for the profession or occupation that you are in, otherwise unsuitable, and expensive. What brought this on was a discussion on another author website regarding certain fashion preferences, and a lamentation that it was so hard to find exactly what would be suitable, fitting, comfortable and all … and I am remembering how this was so not a problem for me, when I was working in an office and business professional was the order of my day and wardrobe. If I could not find exactly what I wanted – a black lightweight wool slightly-below-knee-length pencil skirt, to give one example – I could just buy a yard of suitable fabric and a seven-inch zipper, and go home and make it in an afternoon.

There’s an enormous freedom in being able to make exactly what I wanted, and make it to fit, and in a flattering color. Oh, usually it costs something to sew an outfit yourself, considering the costs for the pattern, the notions and the fabric – usually as much as just purchasing it off the rack on sale, but not near as much as full price from a quality outlet like Talbots’ or Neiman Marcus, and for a pittance in relation to having it tailored individually.

I have read that home sewing is one of those things that is just not done so much anymore, or not so much as was done routinely in past decades; certainly not for every-day clothing, when tee shirts and jeans are the backbone of every day wardrobes for most Americans. But there are still enough people doing it, enough people certainly to keep the pattern companies in business, and fabric and notions departments in mass. For special event clothes, costumes and crafts – I would say that there is still a good market in catering to the home seamstress or tailor. It’s just one of those once-widespread skills – like cooking – which is now more of a hobby than an every-day practice.
But still a darned useful skill to have.

20. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, My Head Hurts

Ah, the stupidities come so thick and fast of late. It’s like the rain here in Texas, which has been pouring down with such intensity over the last few days that all the usual low-water flood-danger locations have been – as any fool could easily predict – flooded and closed to vehicle traffic. It rained so hard on Thursday morning that for the first time in ages, we skipped walking the dogs. Looked out at the flooded street, the flooded front walkway, rain coming down sideways, and the sky so dark that it looked like twilight already; nope – not even the dogs were keen, especially Nemo the Terrier-God-Knows-What, who loathes and despises water with a wholly undoglike passion.

But social and political stupidities – what a rich buffet was laid before us this week, even apart from the gross stupidity of deciding that the ostensible civil rights and good-will of what may be .03% of the general population – that miniscule transgender portion of it – supersedes the rights of women and girls in a public restroom/locker/changing room to be certain they are not being letched on by a perv who has twigged to the fact that if he only declares that he feels female on that particular day that no one will want to firmly escort his perverted ass out of said safe space. Yes, the Kennedy Administration vowed to put a man on the moon, the Obama Administration has put a man in the Ladies’ Room and damned if the pervy wretch isn’t insisting that he has a perfect right to be there. Progress, y’all. While the perv element may have witless friends in the form of various celebrities ostentatiously declaring that they won’t be performing in *insert the location here* because hate/failure-to-socially-advance/toleration-eleventy!! I am brought to wonder if their concerts were significantly less than sold-out, and this is a handy means of cancelling an event and putting a convenient cover over the economic failure of it all. And I am also reminded of the way that mobs came out to eat at Chick-fil-A, in response to an announced boycott because the gaystapo getting all (you should pardon the expression) butt-hurt over the Chick-Fil-A CEO mildly expressing personal support for traditional marriage.

Moving on – to the massive idiocy reflected in this series of stories; that black people don’t want to go to national parks because of the trees! Treez! Eleventy! Because black people were hanged from TREEZ! And something should be done about Black Peeplez! not wanting to go out to visit national parks … which are full of those Nasty Hanging Treez! So it would seem that bringing out mega-busloads of urban Black Peeplez! to national parks to appreciate the lovely and bountiful scenery, the meadows, mountains and infinitely-varied landscapes isn’t really the solution to this urgent and lately-discovered social conundrum. It’s just another national-sized racial shakedown by the usual suspects. Yay. Another yawning and insatiable maw of racial resentment, on a national scale to be fed by … seriously, I hope that the American populace – which still tracks as about %75 white (or something that at a squint would rate at %75 white) would be exhausted with indulging these freaks at this point. I know that I am. Wait until they find out that in many of these parks, it snows in the winter, and the snow is white!

And meanwhile, Venezuela is in the throes of collapsing in about every way that a nation-state can collapse, after having been lauded by the social justice warrior luvvie set for years. The pictures of what various families have by way of food in their house is absolutely heartbreaking, even more so than the pictures of empty grocery store shelves. There is a lot of ruin in a nation. And yet somehow, after reducing a wealthy South American country to absolute penury, the heirs of the man most responsible for that ruin – are among the richest individuals in that country.

And finally – on to the mismanagement of a private liberal arts university called Burlington College, which apparently began as a small, fiscally-responsible place offering some specialty degree programs and a small student-to-faculty ratio to the more mature student, yet finished up by biting off more than it could chew economically, chiefly under the leadership of Jane Sanders, aka Mrs. Bernie Sanders. Intending to expand the physical campus, the endowment, enrollment, and degree programs. Unfortunately, acquiring a nice parcel of lakefront land with existing buildings from the local Roman Catholic diocese strained Burlington’s fiscal resources beyond the breaking point – and now the place is closing down entirely. Jane Saunders parted ways with Burlington College under the power of a hefty golden parachute sometime previous to this final debacle. While she and her husband are two entirely separate and distinct people, the fact remains that she as an administrator managed to make a bad but perhaps survivable situation infinitely worse and ultimately un-survivable. This tends to reinforce a feeling that the pair of them together do not have a very firm grasp on sound economic policies, since Bernie Sanders himself never actually managed to make a good living at all, until he got into politics.

I’m almost afraid to look at what will be in the news next week. Discuss.

Well, not quite everything, of course. I am speaking of the Edwardian-style suit that I was moved to construct, as something eye-catching to wear at an author – especially a multi-author event – of which I do have a few, coming up over the next months. The Second Chronicle of Luna City was done and put to bed – that is, uploaded, signed-sealed-and-delivered to LSI last week, and so I had a bit of time to devote to other-than-writing chores. I finished the suit, re-trimmed a flamboyant wide-brimmed hat to go with, a small bead and lace-trimmed hand-bag ditto, bought all the parts to make a small fake-fur tippet, of the kind that I used to see the elderly church-ladies wearing … although I still do have to make the tippet. It will be the kind made to look like a small furry animal biting its’ own tail.

This should amuse small children immensely – much as it used to divert my brother JP and I, seeing the ladies at church, with their menageries of furred stoles, slung about their shoulders, glaring at us over the back of the pews with their very-realistic glass eyes. The furry stoles, not the elderly ladies, I mean. Those stoles had glass eyes, little toothy jaws, and little black noses, and sometimes dangling paws as well. Yes, we were often horrifically bored during long sermons. Fancying that the little furry stoles were live animals, and might come bounding over the pews amused us at least as much as sorting out the various Biblical stories and parables limned in the splendid early 20th century windows of a church which was designed to look sort of like a minor English cathedral, inside and out. (Granny Jessie was a member from earliest days, Mom and Dad were married there, all of us were christened, and my sister married there and still is an active member. Supposedly, it was made in sections from poured concrete and supposed to be faced in stone, but the Depression put paid to that ambition, and eventually everyone agreed that the concrete had weathered so nicely, that why go to the bother and expense?)

The next event on my author schedule is a book festival in Wimberley, Texas, on June 11, at the Wimberley Community Center. There will be forty other writers there, so – standing out in the crowd is imperative. Then, following in July, there is the second annual San Antonio Indie Book Fest – this will be at Say Si, in downtown San Antonio on July 16th. There’s nothing set yet for August, and I have not yet heard anything firm about the Giddings Word Wrangler, in September. I’ll have a full supply of my books to carry me through the year, and am investigating the possibilities of drop-cards, so that buyers who want an ebook edition can buy the card from me. We have finished up all but a single one of the Watercress Press projects as well – so until a new one pops a head above the parapet, I’ll be working on my own books from here on out, for the foreseeable future.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the burning social question of the moment has to do with transgender persons and bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities, both those for the convenience of the public and those dedicated for the use of school children. First and foremost, I will not believe that there can be all that many genuine transgender persons of any age wandering around, outside of a few very limited locations; very few and those who have not taken the plunge entirely would, I believe, not be all that damned flamboyant about it. It is remotely possible that I might have been in a public facility at the same time as an undecided or a totally committed transgender and been unaware of it, but frankly, I believe that my personal chances of having done so and knowing about it are about on par with my chances of being abducted by aliens.
After all the recent sturm und drang with regard to the actual proportion of gays across the general population – give or take 2% of the whole, and I don’t CARE how high the representation is in certain neighborhoods or occupations, or how many gay characters there are in any given movie or TV show – gays are only about two in a hundred, and genuine transgender persons are considerably less than that. So the tender concern regarding them using the bathroom of choice is a tempest the size of Hurricane Katrina in a demitasse cup – and again; why? With all this talk about safe spaces, and a so-called “war on women” – isn’t facilitating the presence of male sexual predators in a female bathroom, locker or changing room a little – I don’t know – counter-productive? Is there a method in this apparent madness?

Is it, as some have suggested – a sort of Gessler’s Hat; an exercise in petty authority on the part of a petty and vindictive man, designed to remind ordinary citizens that they must and will obey the dictates of the ruler? There is an argument to be made in that. Our current president gives every appearance of one accustomed to snapping his fingers and seeing the underlings fall all over themselves to obey.

Or is it another salvo in a continuing effort to jam the controlling tentacles of a federal government vampire squid more thoroughly into the public school system – a system more generally controlled at a local, city and state level – under the extremely thin guise of being a matter of civil rights for an all but invisible minority? Could be; and I personally think this would be the likeliest motivation.

Is it a deliberate ploy to distract – chaff thrown out direct public and news media attention away from something else, something much more serious, and if so, what? Candidate Hillary’s problems with security, and bungling Benghazi? What other catastrophic failures is this a distraction from?

Or – could it be a calculated effort to goad us farther into open defiance?
Discuss.

14. May 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Geekery, History

I do wish they had paused long enough to look into some of the ground-floor shops, and into the church, too – but still, this is awesome.

Oh, yes – I’m still here. Finishing up work for a client, and the launch for the Second Chronicle of Luna City.

20. April 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Cry Wolf

… Must be the LGTBYTUVXYZ activist and alleged Christian minister who bought a specially-decorated cake from the Whole Foods store in Austin, and tried to claim that a disparaging message had been iced upon it. The shock, the horror and all of this devastating experience (Devastating, I tell you!) led him to post at length on YouTube, hire a mouthpiece and alert The Media! Very shortly afterwards. So shortly, I reckon it was done at something close to light-speed as the social media cycle goes these days.

Sigh. This in Austin, and at Whole Foods. I can only guess that an HEB bakery counter was just too infra dig, and any Christian-owned bakeries were just too damn far out in the suburbs, and like ick! Straight and white people cooties! Like – he would have to have driven simply miles to have found a commercial bakery outlet which would have delivered a product absolutely guaranteed to live up to all those sweaty social justice warrior fantasies. So pick on Whole Foods … where a video rundown of the staff likely would have looked like the sequence of Roger de Bris’ stage crew in the remake of The Producers.

Brilliant, guy – simply brilliant. And Whole Foods is going to sue; all props to them for not caving.

There may be real hate crimes being perpetuated in these somewhat United States, but anyone paying attention to news reports of them usually must conclude that if they have not been faked outright by the so-called victim, it’s some curious circumstance that has been wildly misinterpreted by hysterics. Discuss.

14. April 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Domestic, Geekery, History, Literary Good Stuff

Coming up for air, after more than a week of … well, stuff. Firstly, Blondie and I decided to bring out the sequel to Chronicles of Luna City at the end of this months, rather than try and do three books all at once at the end of the year. I have the sequel to Lone Star Sons to write, and The Golden Road to finish – those last two got set aside in the rush to finish Luna City and Sunset and Steel Rails in time for the Christmas market season. Inspiration, OK? It strikes where it will. So – finishing that sequel and going through editing and layout, and devising new pictures for the chapter heads … and right in the middle of all that, my main computer chooses to not be able to internet. Seemed to be a purely mechanical thing – as in some connection in the innards not being able to connect – and I had some handy work-arounds, which were sabotaged by the wireless router crashing shortly thereafter. And then my daughter’s computer crashed utterly and irretrievably. Sigh.

This is why we have a spare everything, in boxes in the closet. Computer, monitor, router … and also why I back up everything to a thumb drive and an external hard drive as soon as I finish writing a chapter. And a laptop, which those generous people running the Amazon Vine program offered me earlier this year. I will never forget that horrible day around Christmas 2007 when I was just about ready to sit down and write that fifth chapter for Adelsverein: The Gathering – where Carl and Magda meet cute on the bank of a river when she is desperate and he is heroic – and the then-current computer crashed, taking all four previous chapters with it. My dear late friend, Dave the Computer Genius was able to sort out the crippling virus infestation after a couple of days, retrieve all my files (including the chapters!) and revive the then-current computer unit to serve for a few years more … but prepared is to be forewarned. Hence the redundant back-ups. And I also bought into some particularly effective virus-killing programs and have used them religiously ever since. This is my livelihood, OK?

Still, it does take some time to migrate everything to the new unit/units. It’s rather like a PCS – moving into a new space. There is some time required to settle everything familiar into the new location, get comfortable with the layout, locate the new electrical switches – especially because the new units and the laptop came already pre-loaded with Windows 10 … as well as some kind of leftover function that made me sign-in repeatedly, if I walked away from the computer or didn’t move the mouse or strike a key in one minute. Took two days to sort that one out, which tends to tell on the writing time, let alone re-installing certain necessary programs, which I was foresighted enough to have on original discs. (What is with this thing about paying a monthly fee to have certain programs available – a rant for another occasion, I think.)

Anyway, now settled into the new work-space and picking up those writing projects set aside, and thinking about new ones. What to work on when I finish The Golden Road? I’ve been toying with the thought of a WWI novel, since there are characters in The Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails of an age to have been affected by it. I may still do something of the sort, but writing about how the 19th century world came to an end in bloody mass-slaughter of men and empires, not to mention a certain degree of confident optimism … at this present depressing time, I don’t need any additional depression. I’m toying more energetically with the idea of an adventure set in the American Revolution; how the original Becker paterfamilias came to America as a Hessian mercenary, and deserted at the end of the war to stay behind, marry a local girl named Katerina, and set up a prosperous farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. That would be more to my liking – picking up the circumstances briefly mentioned in Daughter of Texas, with a young Margaret Becker fondly recalling her grandfather; the wisest, kindliest and most humorous man of her acquaintance, who made certain that she and her brothers spoke proper German.

How careful he had been in speaking the old language, ensuring that she and Rudi said words in the proper way, so that Oma Katerina laughed and laughed, saying that the children sounded as if they had a broomstick up their backsides, so prim and careful with words and sounding like proper children of Hesse. Margaret had never thought that Opa had been sad about leaving his family, and his soldier comrades. The story of Opa and Oma had a rightness about it, the comfort of a familiar fairy-tale for children; of course young Opa Heinrich should stay in America and marry the young Oma Katerina. That was the happy ending which all fairy tales had.

That will be an interesting book to write, although I shall have to stretch my research library in a whole ‘nother direction; I do have some materiel about late 18th century America and life in the colonies – but more will be required.
And I will have to find the time to get out the sewing machine and start to work on my author-garb for the upcoming year – the Edwardian-style walking suit and a towering period hat to wear with it.

Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.

This around-about way of explaining how all this last weekend, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB on Friday morning. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate.

And an instant promotion to E-5 or E-6, Blondie and I agreed, must mean this man must had been prior service; Marine or Army Ranger, in order to waltz in without going through Air Force basic. But to have dropped from the FBI to enlist … curioser and curioser, Blondie and I agreed – and until today, there was nothing really reported which explained any of this … until I found a story from the L.A. Times. A reporter had actually looked at the anomalies, and reported thusly:

Bellino joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1992, training first as an Army Ranger at Ft. Stewart, Ga., then as a Green Beret at Ft. Bragg, N.C., according to his attorney, Daniel Conway. In 2002, he left the Army and joined the Army National Guard, serving with a special forces unit based in Ohio, according to Conway and military records. During his time in the Army and National Guard, Bellino served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Kuwait …From 2004 to 2007, Bellino also worked as a civilian contractor with a private security firm, the lawyer said. In 2011, Bellino left the military, went to work as an FBI special agent in the New York office but resigned after less than two years, according to an FBI statement. He then tried to reenlist in the Army or join the Navy, but eventually settled on the Air Force because it involved the least amount of red tape…

To recapitulate; ten years in the Army, then the Army National Guard for nine years, to include three years as a civilian contractor, then a mere two years as an FBI agent … and back to military service, as a trainee among people half his age. I’d venture a speculation that this extremely checkered career is an indication of certain personality traits; traits that made him a very bad team player and a huge problem for commanders and NCOs, all the way along. I’d also speculate that he looked good at first look, every time … but eventually the problem traits surfaced, and it was just less trouble for all involved to let him move on. Discuss.

30. March 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, GWOT, Politics

So, as I am devoting all my energy and time to finishing the first draft of another book, I have been following – with lashings of sorrow, pity, dread and the merest splash of schadenfreude – developments in Europe. Germany, which seems to be cracking under the weight of a full load of so-called refugees, Sweden, ditto, Brussels, where the concerned citizens appear to be too frightened to continue with a protest march against fear, and the governing authorities appear to be more concerned about the legendary anti-Muslim backlash than the certainty of Islamic terror unleashed in some European or English city.

The transnational progressive ruling elites have their concerns; you see … not the safety or well-being of their own native tribes, who appear to have been bulldozed by political correctitude into assuming the supine and unresisting position. Every bit of national pride and cultural confidence looks to have been kicked out of the native European tribes over the last half-century. Whether this cultural demoralization was calculated or unwitting is still up for grabs, I guess – but there you are; the enduring image is of powerless serfs, savagely disciplined by their overlords for any breach of discipline or expression of objection or dissent, only now the overlords don’t bear patents of nobility as did the old Ruling Class. The new Ruling Class may not boast of noble titles in the old sense and noblesse hasn’t obliged to anything but veiled contempt directed at those of their own countrymen lower down on the ladder than themselves.(The sense of towering entitlement and vicious social snobbery has carried on, so there is that tradition being maintained.)

So once that national pride and cultural confidence has been destroyed, what is to be next? Such qualities are intangible things, even if they were once powerful motivators of the native European national tribes. They lead to nasty things such as wars, which the transnational progressives can’t stomach, and which ordinary people aren’t that wild about anyway, and after two particularly nasty wars rubbished cities and gutted two generations of their best and brightest, why not set them aside and give peace a chance?  Or so I presume the reasoning goes.

The worrying aspect of the recent tidal flood of Muslim refugees into Western Europe is that in order to keep the peace between the migrants and the local German, or French, Danish, English or Swedish citizens, some things must be given up. In times before, it would have been the incoming refugees who would have been asked to give up; customs incompatible with the host nation for a start. In this topsy-turvy world of the new transnational Ruling Class, though – it appears so far to be the native Europeans who are being asked to give up; a sense of being safe in their own streets for a start, especially when it comes to unaccompanied women. In France and in Belgium, whole urban neighborhoods have already been given up to the rule of sharia. The matter of the Danish cartoons and Charlie Hebdo have pretty well proven to anyone paying attention that freedom of speech, or at least the right to poke fun at Mohammed and Muslims in general is being limited.  There is a plan on already for female-only railway coaches on German trains, and for woman-only hours or spaces at public pools. It has been spottily reported that groups like Sharia4Belgium actively campaigned at a street level for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to begin conforming to Islamic custom. Other sharia4 organizing groups appear to have something more than just an internet presence, in demanding that secular law be set aside in favor of sharia – religious law.

A few years ago, I read of traditional folk street festivals in the Lowlands, being broken up and participants attacked by Muslim men. I can’t find any trace of those particular stories now – they have sunk without a trace, but they all track in the same direction. Folk and religious custom, civil law, safety in the streets and on transport, freedom of expression … what next will Europeans and Americans be asked by the Ruling Class to put limits on, or to give up? And what will be the one thing which will finally set off an explosion of rebellion among ordinary Europeans? Forbidding the consumption of pork sausages, or public beer drinking in deference to Muslims, would be my bet, although your mileage may vary. Discuss.

It seems that there is a great social and literary kerfuffle going on in some circles about J. K. Rowling writing about the sub-rosa magical world of Harry Potter, and extending it into North America … and collecting a ration of butt-hurt thereby, over an interesting concept called cultural appropriation. She earned this through including Native American – as in Indian-with-a-feather rather than Indian-with-a-dot – legends and aspects of culture in her writing and world-building. In using the feather/dot descriptive extension, the Gentle Reader may gather straightaway that I care not for jealous cultural-claim holding, so if a wide-ranging and imaginative use of literary sources outside the one that a writer was born into offends thee, then retire to your fainting couch and trouble this noble company no longer!

Or attend to my gentlewomanly words … sorry, I seem to be channeling the idiom of the great English genius, William Shakespeare, who was and still often is accused of not possibly being the person that he seemed to be – a hard-working lower-to-medium-middle-class actor, playwright and greedy cultural-appropriator of every thing going and available to him in the 15th century – and also imagining the character and conversations of nobility and royals, of soldiers, lawyers, cutpurses and bawds, of innocent virgins and the not-so-terribly-bright lovers who loved them …

So – clearing my throat and waving off the last vestiges of the various cinematic Shakespeare romps that we have watched over the last several evenings – really? Certain tropes are now off-limits? Because … ohhh – those doing the writing and appropriating are not of quite the same matching color and culture of those doing the appropriating. Really?

Sorry, my own dear segregationist cultural warriors … won’t wash. First – if it is out there, it will be used by story-tellers. Full-stop. Oh, it is still frowned upon to outright plagiarize – but there is nothing new under the story-telling sun. To take an element, a character-type, a plot device, a trope – as it were, and run away romping with it in one’s own style … well, that’s pop-culture all over. I did a college course in Greek and Roman lit, back in the day – where the professor confessed that in all of Roman comedy there were only about three plots and half a dozen stock characters, which made it sound like late 20th century TV situation comedies, or possibly even classic commedia del arte.

So appropriate away – just for the love of the audience, make it good. Take those little Lego blocks of characters, tropes, plots, legends … and build something new and amazing. At the very least, make it interesting.

The tomato trees - just planted

The tomato trees – just planted

Here we are, a week or so to go until the traditional last recorded winter frost in this part of the world … which I do not think is going to happen, to speak candidly and openly. Two years ago, we had a sudden norther which blew in and dropped the outside temperature about thirty degrees in the space of twenty minutes, and went farther – from a mild and temperate afternoon, to a hard frost after sundown. And this, after a weekend spent in the garden, and a week after having planted the first of the beans, and the garden starts bought from the local HEB grocery store, which has them available at a good price at this time of year.

But this early spring has been – mild. Warm, even – to the point where we have had to run the AC on some late afternoons. The house is one of those mid-1980s cracker-boxes, without any air flow-through, with minimal insulation, and large windows across the western-facing elevation which catches the full fell blast of late afternoon sunlight. There are things which can be done to amend this situation, which are being done as fast as I can afford them – but this concerns the garden, spring planting and all.

Apple Blossom - Early March

A single pink and white apple blossom

Having the chickens – or the ‘whup-whups’ as my daughter calls them, for the contented noise that they make when they are happy – makes it necessary to rethink the yard as regards the potential for veggie growing. The whup-whups are death to most green and growing stuff. Plants must be either tall enough to escape their snacking habits, totally distasteful to them or out of their reach entirely. It’s just the way that it is. There are, apparently, lovely chicken-proof gardens that one can design, but I will note that a lot of these depend on keeping the chickens on a plot of land large enough to be fenced into segments – and to keep them out of the area where the ambitious back-yard farmer is trying to grow vegetables, in an area either large enough to where their depredations are not noticeable, or specifically fenced off from those plants most vulnerable to chicken-snacking.

This means that our veggie-growing area is either out at the front, out of reach of the whup-whups, or in containers suspended out of their reach. Like the patented tomato-trees that Blondie bought at amazingly-marked down prices a year or so ago. We planted them in tomatoes last season, didn’t have much luck, so we are trying again this year. Honestly, conditions change so much from one year to the next. Last year wasn’t so good for tomatoes, but the pole beans were champions. I’ve also managed to grow some interesting varieties of peppers from seed over the winter, so – I have hopes of a bounteous harvest of bell, jalapeno, cayenne and poblano peppers. There is also a large bed set aside for potatoes; last year wasn’t so great for potatoes; I think we got some fancy assortments from Sam’s Club that looked promising, but had sat too long on the shelf or something. This year I have a five-pound bag of seed

Pepper plants - grown from seed over winter

Pepper plants – grown from seed over winter

potatoes from Tractor Supply, who on the whole seem more … serious about things agricultural, and a goodly assortment of seeds bought in the fall from Rainbow Gardens. So – a promising start to the gardening season, I think – as long as it doesn’t become too hot. There are buds on the plum tree, a blossom on the apple tree sapling, tiny buds on the calamondin orange, on the lemon and lime shrubs, the Spanish jasmine is in full bloom, and the wisteria is about to go full-blast, so hope springs eternal in this particular back-yard gardener.

Honestly, that is the only way that I can account for the out-of-completely-left field popularity of Donald Trump. He is not a notorious small-government libertarian like the Koch brothers, or has any previous political interests of any stripe to recommend him particularly; not even any detectable small-government, free-market and strict Constitutionalist Tea Party sympathies to recommend him.  If anything, he has always appeared to me as one of those big, vulgar crony-capitalist, unserious reality-TV personalities; the epitome of vulgar architectural bad taste and in blithely using his money and influence to cheerfully run over anyone who got in his way. His campaign at first seemed to be a particularly tasteless joke – a grab for publicity on the part of a flamboyant personality who never seemed to get enough of it, in a bad or a good way. So – all props for having the sheer brass neck to start playing the game, and playing it with calculated skill.

My supposition at the first about Donald Trump was that his main value lay in speaking the unspeakable; that which dare not be said in the polite company of the establishment political elite and those in the media who are their obedient handmaidens. He was opening up the circle of that which would and could not be talked about in polite society. It’s quite Victorian, isn’t it? This whole range of things which we aren’t supposed to talk about, or even notice in polite society, isn’t it? Especially if we live in those places where the Ruling Class dwells and associates only with other members of the ruling political, monetary and intellectual elite ….

Now that he had brought it all out, and proved resoundingly that there was no downside in the polls or news coverage to talking about it – dragging the whole fetid carcass of open borders and a lot of other stuff into the open – then other prospective candidates for the highest office in the land could also talk about it. Skyrocketing crime, the bias of the press, the criminal misconduct of Obama administration functionaries like Hillary Clinton, replacing American citizen workers with cheaper labor, government agencies like the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management, the IRS, and the misbegotten security organization that is Homeland Security allowed – nay, encouraged to abuse regular citizens in job lot … all that and more have made ordinary Americans angry. Very, very, angry, angry with the fury – not the incandescent fury of a thousand burning suns, which most often is demonstrated by frenzied mobs burning down city blocks and random “others” having the snot beaten out of them and/or lynched.

This is that cold and calculating fury, just about one inch from becoming a black hole of anger.  (I wrote about this cold anger previously.) This is the cold fury of people who do not care much about Trumps’ personal and personality flaws, about his business dealings, his crudity, his morals, his taste in architecture, his political inconsistency in saying whatever hits home with the audience he is speaking to at the time, or really – anything of that. They don’t care. The thing that matters – to these working class and flyover country Americans of all ethnicities, orientations and colors – is that Trump is scaring hell out of the Ruling Class, as Angelo Codevilla described them. Backing Trump, cheering him on at rallies and in social media is the way to give the biggest middle finger gesture possible in the direction of the Ruling Class … that very class who added the insult of contempt to the injury of being a completely incompetent and bungling Ruling Class.

(OK – finally the last of the history post I started earlier this week. Things to do, places to, things to write about. I said I would have this second part on Friday, but … real world, you know?)

Towards the end of that day, May 6th, 1942, the road petered out. Stilwell abandoned the last of the trucks and the radio van – the radio set weighed 200 pounds alone. Last messages were sent, one advising General Brereton, in New Delhi that Stilwell and his party were on foot, heading for Homalin and then Imphal, and asking for them to be met at Homalin by resupply and medical aid. “Indian govt. should be warned rice, police, and doctors urgently needed by refugees on all routes to India from Burma. Large numbers on way. All control gone. Catastrophe quite possible. End.” Another, to the US War Department via Chunking, ended, “We are armed, have food and map and are on foot 50 miles west of Indaw … believe this is probably our last message for a while. Cheerio. Stilwell.”
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Some years ago, Blondie or I bought a Henry Watson Pottery bread crock at a local Tuesday Morning outlet; it’s a sturdy lidded terra cotta pottery container for bread, as it says on the side of it. I had bought a number of other Henry Watson Pottery items over the years, as they turned up here and there in the BX; there was a garlic jar, and one for onions with a wooden top, a container for sugar with a gasket-sealed top … just nice, attractive and sturdy storage containers. There was also a lasagna pan, much lamented when it broke, as it was glazed on the inside and was the perfect size for the stuff that I baked. Not just lasagna let it be known. With a small baking rack inside, it was perfect for baking a whole small chicken.
The pottery lid of the bread crock broke. It broke several times, the last time in so many pieces that it was not possible to piece it together, and so for some years it went lidless … not a satisfactory situation, really. Being newly annoyed by this in mid-January and having a little money ahead, I looked around on line for a replacement lid; alas, coming up empty. The crock is still manufactured, it appears, and once uponnatime, the Watson Pottery did have a replacement lid available, but no longer. There wasn’t even such to be found on E-bay. Well, never mind, thought I … I can find some wood discs of a size to fit at a hobby shop, glue them together, slap a wooden drawer pull on top, sand the whole assembly smooth, slap some stain and varnish on it and – hey, a functional lid!
Bread Crock with Turned LidNope. The inside diameter of the crock was about 7.25 inches, the outside 9.50, and nothing available in the various hobby shops, online or otherwise, came even close. Either to large or too small, and not having a woodworking lathe other than the tiny Dremel lathe that I bought ages ago to do miniature woodworking on … sigh. Wit’s end, until I remembered one of our neighbors. He does lovely custom woodwork in his garage, open to the street, as a hobby, lavishing the results on family. He lives in a rental, two houses up from us … and, yeah. I took the measurements to him; he fished out a three inch thick scrap round from his woodpile and after a couple of days, turned us a lovely lid, to exact specifications. Fits like a dream, looks better than the original lid!
For this exercise of skill and artistry, we traded a half-pint jar of home-made calamondin orange marmalade (made from the fruit of this odd ornamental that I bought years ago – it’s a native of the Philippines, and this was the first year that it actually bloomed and bore fruit) and a week’s worth of a dozen completely organic and totally free-range eggs, fresh from the chicken’s butts. Because … neighbors.
I thought on this, in hearing from another neighbor, who had a yard sale this weekend, because she and her husband are selling their house on a particularly quiet side street and moving. Their house sold in double quick time; according to their realtor, the particular zip code is a very “hot” one, and our neighborhood is particularly desirable. Not a surprise to us, really; it’s a quiet, and affordable neighborhood, close to schools, markets, gainful employment and military bases. Again, the affordable part; someone working a moderately well-paid job in this part of San Antonio would be able to purchase a house here without going broke on it or having to live on Top Ramen for thirty years. I managed the mortgage easily on an E-6 salary, and subsequently on the pension for same, although sometimes there were some dicey months. Some residents have amazing small gardens, kids play in front and back yards, people walk their dogs or run at all hours, decorate for holidays, know each other by sight well enough to wave. Nothing that will ever be on the Parade of Homes, in Architectural Digest or Country Living, or even, God help us, run the risk of becoming a historical district, unless in a hundred years, late 20th century residential developer becomes a significant aesthetic marker. (Although, seeing as the great and the good seem to prefer us all living in bare concrete stack-a-prole high-rises, perhaps a neighborhood like ours might very well become a suburban treasure. After all, Levittown has, in some appreciative circles.)
The eggs, by the way, are very popular and much appreciated by those neighbors that have received a selection of Carly and Maureen’s finest fresh-laid. After all, the girls lay them at the rate of one a day, most days, and we can’t possibly eat them at the rate of one each per day. We also hope that giving away the surplus will make those close neighbors feel more kindly towards Larry-Bird when he crows in the wee hours of the morning. As it happens, the closest neighbors rather like the sound of Larry and the girls, all having grown up in the country with chickens. It makes the neighborhood feel more home-like, I guess.
And everyone appreciated the Christmas fudge, as well. We distributed this years’ batch almost two months ago, and people are still telling us how very, very good it was. The goodwill is also repaid in kind – this weekend we have about two pounds of fresh homegrown Brussels sprouts from one of the keenest gardeners around – she has an allotment in a community garden, where she volunteers, which is fortunate for her yard isn’t any bigger than ours. And that’s how it goes, in a suburban neighborhood, where most everyone is willing to do the necessary, neighborly thing.

He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better in the long run over the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier.

The defense of Burma rested primarily on British, Commonwealth, and Chinese forces – all supplied with difficulty as the Japanese launched their great offensive in December, 1941. About the only thing that the fractious Allied command in Burma possessed in quantity was distrust, suspicion, and an awareness of impending defeat at the hands of triumphant Japanese pushing north along a line from Rangoon to Mandalay. Stilwell, nominally in command of the Chinese armies, was constantly back-bitten by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, who was reluctant to gamble troops and materiel, preferring to conserve them against future needs – fighting the Japanese in short term and Chinese Communists in the long. The Generalissimo also did not repose much trust in the British, either – suspecting them of imperialist designs on China. This was a distaste shared with Stilwell, although for a slightly different reason. Stilwell abhorred pomp, circumstance, military ritual, jazzy uniforms, many privileges of rank, and swagger sticks, in no particular order – some or all of which were delighted in by the British military establishment. (To be fair, some American officers delighted in them as well.)
Stilwell, who if anything was an active and hands-on commander, had two small field HQs – one at Lashio, and the other at a small town called Shwebo, just north of Mandalay – where Stilwell was when the commander of British forces in Burma, General Harold Alexander ordered evacuation of Burma. Allied defense of Burma had collapsed utterly; Alexander’s evacuation order was merely confirmation of the dire situation on the ground. British, Indian, Chinese, Burmese troops and civilians were already making a mad dash along any route leading to India and safety.

General Alexander had experience in military disaster and withdrawal, having covered, as a divisional commander in France in 1940, the evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk. Alexander had left on the last destroyer out of Dunkirk; Stilwell had much more strenuous plans. Even in defeat, and with a disinclination to pull rank for his own advantage, Stilwell had pull. An American transport aircraft arrived on May the 1st. Stilwell refused to get on it himself – he sent out fifteen members of his HQ staff instead, and set off north by truck and jeep, on a route which paralleled the railway between Mandalay and the strategic town of Myitkyina, where the airfield was still in operation. He started with a group of about eighty, with the intent of traveling by train to Myitkyina, evacuating all but a few by air and trying to rally the Chinese troops.
The railway turned out to be useless to them, blocked by damage to the rails beyond the power of Stilwell’s party to clear it. The best way of reaching India and safety, in Stilwell’s judgement, was to turn westerly, and head for the valley of the Chindwin River, and cross the mountains beyond on foot. This had the advantage of avoiding mobs of the defeated Allied troops and frantic civilian evacuees clogging the well-traveled routes out of Burma; the Japanese advance leap-frogging ahead … and with luck, would skim through before torrential rains of the seasonal monsoon. On the 5th of May, the general ordered several trucks of his convoy abandoned when they bogged down in a river ford. They carried on westwards toward the Chindwin with the remaining trucks, the lighter jeeps carrying the most critical supplies, and the radio van.

The party had grown since leaving Shwebo; by the morning of May 6th it was a multinational and civilian-military affair: nearly thirty US Army personnel – most of them officers of Stillwell’s staff, fifteen ragged British soldiers and fourteen Chinese, a volunteer medical unit commanded by Dr. Gordon Seagrave (the son of long-time American missionaries in Burma and fluent in the Karen language), including 19 Christian Burmese nurses, a small British Quaker ambulance unit, Jack Beldon, civilian correspondent for Time and Life Magazines, some native Burmese, Indian and Malayan cooks, and the Reverend Breedham Case, another missionary with extensive knowledge of upper Burma and the various dialects spoken there. One of the British officers, a Major Barton had also spent many years in up-country Burma. The knowledge of the country and languages possessed by those three – Major Barton, the Reverend Case, and Dr. Seagrave would prove invaluable to the party over the course of their long walk to India and safety.

(To be continued on Friday)

Taking pen in hand … or actually, the computer keyboard … to while away a few minutes of leisure between wrapping up today’s work. (Yes, I am a small business owner and independent author; weekends and holidays are normal working days for me, although those hours and days are of my own choice, which makes up for quite a lot. And also, the commute is short.)

I was working away on graphic adornments for the next book in the Luna City Chronicles, and an editing job which I had thought to finish by mid-month, but these things happen. Anyway, I was diverted upon coming out to start cooking supper, to note that Blondie is also working away on her own stuff for upcoming events; for aural wallpaper, she had an old TV show on streaming video as she works. She has been going through various old shows in recent weeks. Last week it was the original Thundercats, the week before that it was McGyver. But this week it’s The X-Files … a show which she finds nostalgically amusing, but which I began to find so repellant that I stopped watching after a certain point. Was it the episode with the murderously incestuous hillbilly clan with the armless, legless mother, or the one where an oh-so-secret US Army unit machine-gunned to death a whole group of human-alien hybrid offspring? Memory does not serve up an exact date at this point, but that was where I decided that The X-Files just was not my cuppa any longer. Not for dealing out spine-chilling bits of horror in weekly episodes – the creepy guy who could slither through AC ducts, the primitive humans living in the wilds of New Jersey, the life insurance salesman who could foresee the death of his potential clients … for sheer story-telling expertise and creepy thrills, right up there with The Twilight Zone, or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Likely, The X-Files still is, among certain aficionados.

No, what I could no longer countenance by watching was the government/alien/political shenanigans plots; Cigarette-smoking Man, assassinations, and aliens and all, with the government massively covering up. That, I began to sense was encouraging a terribly unsavory mind-set among the terminally paranoid. It’s one thing to have all this spilled out in the wee hours on radio in Coast to Coast; quite another to have it on prime-time broadcast television. It was almost as if the show was deliberately encouraging and egging on the paranoid element – for ratings and pure sadistic amusement. And so we stopped watching it entirely. Now my daughter is entirely amused, shaking her head over how the show-runners seemed to find it credible that long-term projects undertaken by the military-industrial complex could be kept secret for years, or decades, given that nothing much will remain long a secret when people retire, leave service, and all. Eventually, they write books. Sometimes years later, or even just months. The military is an odd place – and nothing stays secret in it for long. Good story-telling is forever. Messing with the minds of the conspiracy-inclined is also forever, given how many viewers seem to believe that if it is on TV, then it is real.

And the next media imbroglio – that there are no actors/actresses of color in this years’ Oscar noms… and the chief complainant regarding that situation is a guy-an-spouse who live in a huge estate the size of which if you ran away from home, you could still be at home. This is on-par with Orca Winfrey going on a prolonged media whine about how a Swiss shop assistant demurred showing her a particularly ugly handbag which cost retail about as much as my pension yearly plus what I earn from the Tiny Publishing Bidness. I mean seriously, Will Smith – you want an award trophy for just like … showing up? I suppose the best riposte to this was in another comment thread, by a contributor who seems to be in the acting profession. It was to the effect that he would rather be known at the end of his career by the question, “Why did he never get an Oscar?” than the question, “Why DID he get an Oscar?”

Discuss, if you will, these relatively trivial matters.

10. January 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: European Disunion, Fun With Islam, Rant

An archaic term, in general; according to the wildly variable and sometimes suspect Wikipedia, it is a term taken from an even more archaic term for food for livestock. “Soldiers are the metaphorical food for enemy cannon fire.” Wikipedia defines the expression further as, “…an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded … as expendable in the face of enemy fire … or to distinguish expendable low-grade or inexperienced combatants from supposedly more valuable veterans.”

Expendable is the operative word, and expendable without much regret on the part of the credentialed elite – the political, social or military elite – because the expected goal is considered worth the sacrifice, especially if the sacrifice is borne by others. Reading this week about the sexual violence reported – reluctantly in many cases by German media – as being perpetrated on a grand scale by recent Middle Eastern migrants masquerading as war refugees on women in German cities on this last New Years Eve gave me a sickening new understanding of the concept.

Indeed – here we have a transcendently generous, philanthropic goal; to provide sanctuary for the poor innocent refugee from wars’ alarms and horrors. It is a worthy goal, by the way – when genuine refugees are considered, and those providing sanctuary are quite firmly realistic about the situation and limitations. But authorities in Europe who made a great, enthusiastic show regarding welcoming Middle Eastern refugees all through last year now must accept – and accept they must, however reluctantly – that they have made their own women into sexual cannon fodder. They have enabled molestation, gang rape, robbery and massive harassment in their own streets … all so that the ruling elite might bask in the glow of their own self-righteousness. Well, done, Angela Merkel and the mayor of Cologne, and those media outlets who refused to make mention of the various incidents, which now appear to have been happening for months on a smaller scale.

However, Ms Merkel and the German ruling elite are hardly alone in selling out their citizenry to sexual exploitation for fear of being termed racist. Social workers and police looked the other way for decades in Rotherham, England … and our own very dear establishment media organs in the United States have downplayed criminal offences perpetuated by illegal aliens for years.
Cannon fodder, indeed. Discuss.

So, it is our plan, sometime in the next year or so, to remodel the kitchen of my little thirty-year old tract house, and do so on a D-I-Y and scrounge-based budget, utilizing finds, inherited items, severely marked-down elements, and the services of the detail-oriented local handyman-carpenter to gain a more efficient and attractive kitchen, with at least 35% more storage space, because … I cook, preserve and store, and have the equivalent of two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of cookbooks. I’ve been in libraries which didn’t have as many cookbooks! But anyway – the existing kitchen is small – one of those U-shaped numbers, about 8 x 10, and adjacent to a dining area of similar dimensions, and all originally fitted out with extremely cheap base and wall cabinets, which among their myriad failings in quality and installation do not make use of the corners. Nope, the original contractor whanged in cabinets at right angles, and sealed in the corner void spaces, which wasted considerable storage capacity right from the very beginning.

Everything installed was cheap, construction-grade and likely supplied by the boxcar-load. It has always amused me that the cheapest possible light fittings from Lowe’s or Home Depot that I bought to replace the original stuff are still a hundred times better than the original. And the neighborhood was built by a reputable builder; the stuff put into the places build by the disreputable must be made from tinfoil, cardboard and soda straws.

The new kitchen in Chez Hayes will, of course, be built around the gargantuan side-by-side refrigerator-freezer, which we bought a little more than a year ago, and the vintage and practically mind-condition 1941-Model B Chambers stove which my daughter inherited from our dearly beloved business partner and founder of the Tiny Publishing Bidness. But … and this is a epic but several times the size of Kim Kardashian’s … the stove is gas, and for safety’s sake, must be gone over carefully by a qualified technician and installed by same, since it has doubtless been jostled, rattled, bounced and had connections loosened since being moved from the little house where it had originally been installed. And also – we need to have a gas line extended to the kitchen of the house. All this will cost: exactly how much, we do not know at this stage of the game.

In the mean time, the current electric stove – which was bought from the Scratch’n’Dent outlet in 2003 when the originally-installed electric stove gave up the ghost – has likewise given up and joined the electronic appliance choir eternal, instead of staggering on for a year or two until the Chambers was ready to be installed. And no – I just didn’t want to go and get a new electric stove just to use for only a year or so. We settled on a sort of temporary and sort of long-term fix: a good two-burner hotplate, and a small toaster/convection/rotisserie oven, resting on lengths of wire shelving installed in the empty space where the stove was. We’d considered some kind of stand or kitchen cart, at first – but nothing was quite the right size, and even 1/4th of an inch larger than the space for a 30” stove would not have fit at all. We still had a bag of end-brackets left over from fitting out the pantry with wire shelves, so it was the space of twenty minutes at Lowe’s and another hour at home with a drill and hammer. So far, it looks good; and offers a little extra shelf space for pots and pans, and the vacuum-sealer. I’m not using more than two burners at a time, and the little oven is just about the right size for the stuff that I’m usually baking, broiling or rotissering anyway.
And that was how we spent the week between Christmas and New Years…

01. January 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

It is that time of year again, isn’t it? To review the past year and look to the next, and make those personal resolutions and decisions; I’ve done a post on this subject several times in past years. I’ve made resolutions late in December or early in January and twelve months later, tallied them up. Usually the tallying up came out with a score overall of 75% achieved. Alas; the backyard is still not a bountiful truck garden and orchard of edibleness; nor are my books on any kind of best-seller list – nor even above five figures in the overall Amazon author rankings, a position which I reach intermittently and usually on the occasion of a new book being released or an Instapundit link.

In mid-December of 2014, I looked at the list I had made for 2013 on those things that I wanted to accomplish, taking stock on what I had managed to do and what I had left undone. Now on this New Years Day 2015, I am looking at what I did manage to complete from that original list, and examining those things to work on, and either accomplish, or to try harder on in 2015.

#1 – Books … During 2015 I had meant to complete The Golden Road for release in time for the Christmas markets in November; the adventures of a wide-eyed seventeen-year old Fredi Steinmetz in Gold-Rush era California. The good news is that I have ten chapters of it in rough draft … and the other good news is that in the last year I managed to complete two other books for Christmas-shopping-time season. I had an inspiration last January, after reading another writer’s post about the Harvey Girls; that book was done before Thanksgiving, and then the inspiration which stuck my daughter and I – to create a typical small South Texas town, and people it with characters sort of based on certain people, and a history – as well as a whole town layout – based on a handful of such towns known to us. Chronicles of Luna City was done – or at least, the first volume (yes, there will be more; the whole epic is more or less open-ended) at the eye-watering speed of about three months.

#2 – A vow to redouble the efforts for a lavishly-productive back-yard truck garden sufficient to provide all our fresh vegetable needs. Still a flat failure, although the output from the pole beans was pleasingly bountiful this year, at least. This will be a continuing goal, although on the plus side, the goal of a backyard farm has been augmented with the addition of the chickens, or as my daughter calls them, “the wup-wups” from the sound of the gentle clucking they made when they are satisfied with life but still feel chatty. Maureen and Carly regularly produce an egg a day (with occasional days of feeling off.) We haven’t had to purchase eggs in the supermarket since about mid-September.  Larry-Bird the rooster also serves as an avian alarm clock. It is apparently a coming thing to have backyard chickens, now. We are grateful that all of our nearest neighbors were raised in the country and rather like hearing the sound of the girls and Larry-Bird. There are (according to what I read in the neighborhood email group), some locals who acquired, or moved in with chickens, and the roosters of their flocks were not well-received. Especially at 5 AM.

#3 – Better track of readers and fans … Sigh. I had a marvelous bump-up in sales, due to the new releases and some enormously helpful links in strategic places, but seeing that the bump-up continues is one of those ongoing projects.

#4 – Management of existing business and recruitment of new clients at Watercress Press; this remains another ongoing work in progress. I have two clients, the completion of whose work has been dragging on, for various reasons for the last year. As regards their books, there is light at the end of the tunnel for certain of one, and just possibly for the other. Although as I keep saying pessimistically, “It may not be the light at the end of the tunnel – it might just be the headlight on the train coming towards us!” I completed a couple of projects for an old Watercress client, who is ecstatically pleased, and have a new editing client, and a number of repeat orders for new copies of books from past POD clients. Keeping the business going is a continuing goal.

#5 – Stockpiling staple foods; the pantry closet, the big standing freezer, and the long-term storage spaces are packed almost solid with staples, frozen and canned foods. Our goal for this year, is to continuously review what we have stashed, and ensure that we rotate and consume the stuff efficiently. Which reminds me – to start another batch of sauerkraut soon; we made grilled Reuben sandwiches for New Year’s Eve supper. Grocery sauerkraut just doesn’t have any flavor to it; might as well be eating watery and slightly salted celery, or iceberg lettuce.

#6 – The project for totally renovating the kitchen is somewhat closer on the horizon than it was last year at this time. The practically-pristine vintage stove which Blondie inherited will have to be made right, tight and safe for use, and we will have to ensure that a gas main is run out to the kitchen end of the house. That may prove somewhat expensive, but on the other hand, replacing the cabinets may be a bit more affordable, thanks to working with the neighborhood Handy-Guy.  Unfortunately, the kitchen reno project this year was derailed by extensive and expensive work needing to be done on Blondie’s SUV, and veterinarian bills for the late and much-beloved Calla-puppy.

And so there we are. I’ve left out the political stuff. Above my pay grade and anything might happen – and likely will, this coming election year. I have no control over that, other than voting in November – these resolves are just the stuff that I do have some control over.

The long pre-Christmas market marathon is finally complete – this last weekend was our last event, and possibly the most strenuous, involving as it did two days in Boerne (three, if you count set-up on Friday afternoon), with the pink pavilion and all the gear – the tables, display racks, two strings of Christmas lights and an extension cord – not to mention my books and my daughter’s origami earrings and bead bracelets. We have had a market event every weekend since early November, save for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so our state of exhaustion is nearly total. This was compounded (1) by both of us having caught (in sequence) a filthy cold/cough/flu and (2) a mid-week overnight trip to Brownsville to tend to the project of one of the Tiny Publishing Bidness’ clients. The client covered the costs of the hotel stay and gas, and treated us to a perfectly magnificent lunch at an Argentine steakhouse, so there is that. But my daughter felt perfectly awful for one week, and then the cold hit me on the return from Brownsville and I have been barely able to function ever since. Monday was the first day that I could really succumb to how awful I felt, and crawl into bed for much of the morning. Until some robocaller (curses be on their head this Christmas season, and all their stockings be filled with lumps of coal) on the cellie woke me up and set the doggles to barking about mid-afternoon.

Anyway – now that I am feeling slightly better – here’s a wrap-up of my observations of the holiday season. I avoided all malls, and big box stores, by the way. Our Black Friday shopping was all on-line, for items of quality (books and specialty foods, mostly) to be sent by mail to dear family members. I would not be surprised to learn that such is the case with many other shoppers this year. I would also not be surprised to learn that people are being very careful with their purses and credit cards, when it comes to Christmas shopping. I’ve been tracking sales of my own books at direct marketing holiday events since 2009, and there has been a definite dip in sales this year and in 2015 over previous years. I noticed also that sales deals offered via email with regard to Black Friday, and the week after have been extended, and extended again.

People seem quite defiant in the way they say “Merry Christmas!” to each other; not so much the carefully non-denominational “Happy Holidays.” No, it’s “Merry Christmas!” out loud and proud. And I have noticed that my neighbors have been particularly assiduous in decorating their houses and gardens with lights, inflatables and outsized Christmas ornaments this year … and in exchanging small gifts between neighbors. We gave small boxes of home made gourmet fudge to those whom we know best, and also to the mailman, local firehouse, the nearest police station, the guy who drives the garbage collection van, and the staff at the bank branch where we do business … and have received in return a wealth of thanks and good wishes, as well as a pound of home-smoked pork chops, a bottle of red wine and a pair of replica Indian arrows, fletched with buzzard feathers and tipped with points made from bits of sharpened deer antlers … yes, we have neighbors with interesting hobbies.

There is in the air, I sense, a determination to have a Merry Christmas in spite of it all … threatened riots in certain cities, the pall of terrorism and crime, of political turmoil, a worsening economic situation, and the smothering hand of political correctitude, a bright flame against the threatening darkness. Merry Christmas, indeed.

(And as a bonus – pictorial proof positive that Santa Claus is a winter Texan, spending the cold, dark months of the year in the Rio Grande Valley, soaking up sunshine, orange juice and good Mexican food. He was eating breakfast at the table next to us at the Marriott Residence Inn in Brownsville last week.)Breakfasting Santa