I Don’t Know Where We Are

-but we�re making great time. So goes one of the great mottoes of the navigator training school at Mather AFB, c. 1981. I am not quite sure where I am this week, but I think I am making some small progress in giving that Philippa Gregory byotch a run for the money in the historical fiction best-seller stakes. Well, farther along than I was last week at this time.

Received a box of twenty-five copies of �To Truckee�s Trail� last night, bought with my Christmas present from Mom and Dad, who indulgently sent me the customary check three months early on the very logical grounds that I could make better use of it at this moment in generating review buzz and in getting local retail outlets to carry it, than in December. Dispatched a number of copies this morning through the professional and fairly inexpensive services of our friendly government Post Office; to reviewers, to contributors and to people who were just plain supportive over the last couple of years � none of whom I have ever actually met face to face. All hail the power of the fully-functional internet!

Of course, it does take time to read and meditate upon a work of great literature� and also for a fairly agreeable bit of genre fiction such as this, so whenever I want to begin screaming, I must remind myself to put my head down on my knees and breath deeply, while asking for patience. Now! I want patience now!

There is a review up at Amazon.com, though. I beg you, if you have read �To Truckee�s Trail� , and love it, please post some kind of review, here. Three or four stars is fine. Save the five stars for something that knocked your socks into the stratosphere; the conventional wisdom in the book-blogs and discussion groups is that five stars for a POD means that the writer twisted the arms of all of his or her friends. I don�t twist arms; it�s too crude. I just put on a yearning expression. Think of Puss in Boots in the Shrek movies. I was supposed to have a review published in the Sparks Tribune, but it hasn�t shown up yet.

Just put my head down on my knees for a minute.

OK. The Truckee-Donner Historical Society has ordered copies, with an eye to stocking it in their bookstore in Truckee City. The manager of the local hardware store on Nacogdoches also has a copy now, and he is madly enthusiastic about stocking it. Which makes sense in a totally bizarre way. The readers who have most loved the book are guys. Guys who like Westerns � and this is sort of a Western, if you stretch the definition to the point where it nearly snaps � are more likely to go to a hardware store, of the kind that stocks a little bit of everything totally manly, than a bookstore. So he wants to have a stand next to the cash desk, and to have all sorts of other books as well. Hey, whatever works!

And I finished off my afternoon at the Twig Bookstore in Alamo Heights with not very high hopes at all. Really, one gets quite conditioned to rejection. I dropped off a copy of �Grandpa Was an Alien� a couple of years ago, with contact information and all, and never heard another word, so my expectations were fairly minimal.

Really, it turned out to be quite pleasant, except for trying to find a parking place! I telephoned and spoke to one of the managers. Who sounded quite interested � color me pleasantly surprised, and when I showed up with a copy, they welcomed me with lemonade and a slice of coffee cake, and intelligent questions about what I had done so far in the way of publicity� and I had not given away too many free copies to local friends, had I? We talked about local history, and the Adelsverein trilogy, and where had I done all the research for �To Truckee�s Trail� and how the experience of the Stephens-Townsend Party had diverted so strikingly from the Donner-Reed party under the same circumstances� This was interspersed with shoppers coming in for books, and with questions about this and that. Really, I love San Antonio; it�s a small town cunningly disguised as a big city. They took three copies to sell on consignment, which was all that I had on me- (Stupid! Why didn�t you put the whole damn box in the car!) and priced them so that I would make back what they cost me� which is still less than it would cost to purchase from Booklocker plus postage. So, anyone in San Antonio who wants a copy? Go into The Twig, on Broadway. They have three copies.

The second part of the meditation on the Civil War will be posted this weekend. Promise. Sample chapter for the third volume of Adelsverein is here. Enjoy. More to follow�. Oh, and the PJ Media booth here will have info about “To Truckee’s Trail”. The event bookstore may even have copies for sale, for everyone in the Los Vegas area, or planning to attend that event. Fingers crossed on that one, everybody.

Later: Review published in the Sparks Tribune, here! Thanks, Kathy!

From Ancient Grudge

(Part One of several to come)

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

I have been thinking about the Civil War, lately; most particularly because I am plowing through a great tall pile of books about all aspects of that most bitter national division. I have just finished the first draft of the second book about the experiences of the German settlements in Texas, and am now sketching out the initial chapter of the third. On one hand I am hard at work filling in blanks and fact-checking, adding incidents, experiences and observations to fill out the general story. On the other, I am trying to put myself into the mind of a character who has come home from it all; weary, maimed and heartsick to find upon arriving (on foot and with no fanfare) that everything has changed. His mother and stepfather are dead, his brothers have all fallen on various battlefields and his sister-in-law is a bitter last-stand Confederate. He isnt fit enough to get work as a laborer, and being attainted as an ex-rebel soldier, cant do the work he was schooled for, before the war began. Interesting work, this; putting myself into the minds of people who were seeing things as they developed, day by day and close up; without the comforting overview of hindsight

This, BTW is my way of advancing my story, of how great cattle baronies came to be established in Texas and in the West, after the war and before the spread of barbed wire, rail transport to practically every little town and several years of atrociously bad winters. So are legends born, but to me a close look at the real basis for the legends is totally fascinating and much more nuanced the Civil War and the cattle ranching empires, both.

Nuance; now thats a forty-dollar word, usually used to imply a reaction that is a great deal more complex than one might think at first glance. And at first glance the Civil War has only two sides, North and South, blue and grey, slavery and freedom, sectional agrarian interests against sectional industrial interests, rebels and well, not. A closer look at it reveals as many sides as those dodecahedrons that they roll to determine Dungeons and Dragons outcomes.

There was the War that split border states like Kentucky and Virginia which actually did split, so marked were the differences between the lowlands gentry and the hardscrabble mountaineers. There was the war between free-Soil settlers and pro-slavery factions in Missouri and in Kansas; Kansas which bled for years and contributed no small part to the split. There was even the war between factions of the Cherokee Indian nation, between classmates of various classes at West Point, between neighbors and yes, between members of families.

How that must have broken the hearts of men like Sam Houston, who refused to take a loyalty oath to the Confederacy, and Winfield Scott, the old soldier who commanded the Federal Army at the start of the war. His officers commission had been signed by Thomas Jefferson: he and Houston had both fought bravely for a fledgling United States. Indeed, at the time of the Civil war, there were those living still who could remember the Revolution, even a bare handful of centenarians who had supposedly fought in it. For every Southern fireater like Edmund Ruffin and Preston Brooks (famous for beating a anti-slave politician to unconsciousness in the US Senate) and every Northern critic of so-called Slave power like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown and every young spark on either side who could hardly wait to put on a uniform of whatever color, there were sober citizens who looked on the prospect of it all with dread and foreboding.

(next ; How they got to that point some thoughts)

Also, the sample first chapter of Adelsverein, Vol. 3 is here

Things I Like About Retirement So Far

No one has my name on a list with any sort of “vulnerable for deployment date.”

I’m back in a civilized city that has more than one Jack In The Box. JITB Tacos are a guilty pleasure of mine. I know they’re bad for me 9 ways from sideways, but they were the first taco I ever tasted and they are the epitome of fast food comfort to me.

I actually get paid overtime.

I can shave or not…no one cares…at all…that’s taking some getting used to.

It’s good to have a mustache that doesn’t make me look like a pedophile.

If I’m a lil chubby, I don’t have to make an appointment with anybody.

No one is expecting me to run a mile and a half for any reason. As a matter of fact, I believe they’d think I was crazy if I brought up a “fun run” as any sort of “team building” exercise.

Everyone asks me if I always walk so fast…I didn’t realize I did until recently. I’m learning to slow down.

The boss tells everyone to call him by his first name. If I slip and call him, “Sir” he just looks at me and shakes his head because he’s like, TOLD me personally on more than one occasion.

I’m NEVER on call unless I WANT to be.

I’m letting my hair grow out mostly out of curiosity to see what’s there and what isn’t and what colors are currently involved. It’s actually touching my ears. No one seems to think that’s weird in any way. I may go long hair when all is said and done. Washed and styled long hair mind you, but long none the less.

When I switch shifts, it’s for at least 90 days so my body can get used to a new sleep pattern.

I actually get paid more for working nights.

The boss pushes night football games onto the monitors in the work areas.

No one touches my hat if I wear it inside.

My two earrings in my left ear are actually conservative out here in the civilian realm. When did that happen, the 90s?

Just like in the military, my current job sometime requires that all I do is sit there while someone yells at me. Unlike the military if that person doing the yelling starts cussing me out or dissing my parents, I can hang up on them, as a matter of fact, I’m required to.

Non-News – Scouts follow training and common sense

Via TJIC: Scouts follow training and common sense, flim at 11:00.

Eight Scouts, ages 11 to 14, and their three adult leaders emerged unharmed from the dense forest Monday morning after an intense overnight search by 28 rescuers and nine dogs.

Rescuers who were not, as it turns out, were not needed.  They rescued themselves.

The Scouts and their leaders “did just what they were supposed to do, they hunkered down,” said Rodney Jones, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 217, from Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Scouts awoke at 7:30 a.m. Monday and started packing up, Jones said. One of the leaders spotted a power line, which the group followed to a cabin. There they encountered a meter reader for the local power utility, who took them to the Cruso Fire Department, the search effort’s headquarters, said fire department spokeswoman Charity Sharp

In the immortal words of The Scott Miller

To all you “crunchy granola suites” out there, when you’re having a meadow party and you have your kegs but no one can build a fire because it’s raining, who can?
This scout can.

When you’re drowning after diving into the town duck pond drunk as a skunk, who can save you?
This scout can.

When you’re moving home from college and you’re trying to tie down your Morrisey poster so it won’t fly off your parents’ car, who can?
This scout can.

When it does fly off your car and causes a huge accident, who can treat the wounds of your soon to be accusers?
This scout can.

Who can out-smoke, out-drink, out-cuss and then (and only then) out-argue you about the worthiness of The Boy Scouts?
This scout can.

Pet Detective, Inc.

There must be something in the water, or a phase of the moon. One of my neighbors blames it all on the comparatively wet summer another sign of global warming or cooling or whatever. A co-worker from the radio station blames it all on that old devil, the sex drive. Whatever the rationale, it seems to Blondie and I that a very high number of our neighborhood dogs have suddenly developed a serious wanderlust and Houdiniesque escape skills.

Since we have two dogs, whose high point of the day involves towing me at a brisk pace around a long circuit through the neighborhood, weve encountered most of the other resident dogs. Mostly they are towing their owners around a similar course, or leaping up and down behind a window or a fence in a frenzy of barking. Most of them we know well enough to know their real names, others only have a nick: Einstein, the not-very-bright young boxer who always goes nuts when we walk by, Goliath the enormous Papillion, Daisy-May the golden lab who likes jumping up on people, Fluffy the little white something or other who looks like an animated fuzzy bedroom slipper bouncing around on four little legs you get the idea. Weevil and Spike usually have a lovely time barking back at them. It all reminds Blondie of the midnight barking in 101 Dalmatians; for all we know, the dogs may be passing on messages.

Its the other dogs that make our hearts sink right down to our running shoes the ones who are out and about, unconstrained by a leash, an owner or a fence. Last week it was an elderly German shepherd whom Blondie named OMalley. He lives two streets up and has perfected the technique of slipping between the fence bars. Hes been getting out all summer. By now, everyone recognizes OMalley and knows where he belongs, but I dont think his owners have a clue. Ive walked him back to his house a couple of times, and he hops back through the fence obediently and trots around to the back with the air of a hard-working dog having done his duty for the day. The week before that, it was a fluffy little Shi-Tzu who followed me all the way along Creekway, barking like mad, and dashing out into the street. I thought sure the little wretch would be run over about four times. I tried to catch him; not with any success, being encumbered by my own two, who were going nuts. And I am still pretty damned annoyed at one of the neighbors, who primly refused to let the little dog stay in her yard, tied to a tree for safety and visibility. She had called the pound, though, since the dog had been hanging around for a day or so. I finally turned around and dragged Weevil and Spike towards home, with the stray following after, figuring that I could at least catch it, once I had put the two of them inside. Luckily, a pair of kids walking to school overtook us before I got very far: the stray Shi-Tzu was theirs.

A couple of Saturdays ago, we retrieved another German shepherd this one a well-mannered female whom Blondie called Lady for the lack of a better name. We found her at the bottom of the neighborhood, and Blondie put her on a leash and walked her around the neighborhood all that afternoon, until she found where Lady belonged. And it turned out her name really was Lady but her owner was so unenthused about getting her back, it was really no wonder she went wandering in the first place.

We had an easier time yesterday, but still two loose and lost dogs in a single day. The Chihuahua who lives in the house with all the sculptures got out and went skittering across the road, chasing after us. In all the excitement, Weevil slipped her leash and the Chihuahua, aka Mr. Teeth bit Blondies hand didnt break the skin, fortunately, and we managed to return Mr. Teeth to his owner. Didnt latch the gate after himself, and didnt notice when Mr. Teeth headed straight across the road to pick a fight with two larger dogs and a Marine. Forty minutes later, when we came back down the road what do we find at practically the same corner? A sad little min-pin, a miniature Doberman slightly larger than Spike, with no collar and as it turned out, no chip, either. But he let me pick him up, and we went through the whole routine, walking down the street asking people if they recognized him. No one did, although he was very obviously a pet and well-cared for. We took him home, where he got on amazingly well with Spike and Weevil. We planned to do the whole sweep of the neighborhood this weekend, but fortunately Blondie spotted the posters that his frantic owners were plastering on the neighborhood mailboxes. They were very glad to get him back, since he had been missing for two days.

And I thought yesterday was the far frozen limit, but I just now came back from being towed around the block and it happened again! There was another Chihuahua-type doggie, innocent of collar running along the creek-bed that I couldnt catch, and which snapped and snarled at me anyway and a pretty and affectionate Weimaraner female who came running after us. At least the Weimaraner had a collar with her name on it, a telephone number, a rabies tag and one of those electric-fence restraint thingies. Which is no advertising for that system and the telephone number turned out to be disconnected! But at least today, one of the neighbors helped me catch her and has promised they will keep her safe tonight and call the veterinary clinic tomorrow if no one comes around looking for her before then (as I am sure they will.)

Really, this is getting past a joke; being a magnet for every sort of lost and loose dog in the hood. Im really almost afraid to go out tomorrow; at this rate there will be a lineup of the lost and pathetic, waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway. Perhaps we should begin asking for a reward; through repetition, were getting pretty good at it..

Dan, Dan, Dan

What is it they say; the first time tragedy, second time farce? What do they call it when it was a farce the first time around only dressed up in the high seriousness of a Searing Sixty Minutes (dum-de-dum-dum!) Expose? Here it comes around again, with Mr. Rathers suit against CBS News for making him the scapegoat in the whole not only does the Emperor not have any new clothes he is as nekkid as a jaybird imbroglio that was the 6o Minutes scoop, concerning the so-called finding of some 1973 Texas Air National Guard.

For those of you who spent 2004 in a coma, the memos appeared to give backing to the contention that President Bush spent part of his Air National Guard service AWOL, and that his then-commander (now deceased) was exceeding wroth about this. Unfortunately for CBS News, for 60 Minutes and all of Mr. Rathers minions, those documents appear to have been inexpertly forged; a fact that became fairly obvious early on. One can only assume that Mr. Rather and his team desperately wanted them to be authentic, in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary. And that they desperately wanted to drop a just-before-Election-Day bomb on the Bush campaign, and didnt care how thin the evidence was.

Quelle tacky, Mr. Rather, quelle tacky. Kind of makes one wonder about all the other documents uncovered by Sixty Minutes over the years, which made one or two flash appearances on camera and then were gone before anyone could say, Hey, wait just a cotton-pickin minute! Ah well, just another reason that legacy media is melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy threw a bucket of water on her.

Anyway, enough of a stink was raised about this at the time and now it looks like we are in for another round of slapstick. Dan Rather is going to sue CBS for mishandling the resulting s**tstorm. Cooler and more legally-oriented minds than mine are betting A) that it is just a means of squeezing some more retirement monies out of CBS and B) that if it continues, the process of discovery is going to be embarrassingly revealing and C) Pass the popcorn, its a pity they both cant loose.

Myself, I keep imaging the hostage-taking scene from Blazing Saddles only instead of Cleavon Little holding a gun to his own head and begging for mercy, Im seeing Ted Baxter (the hamster-brained newscaster from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) holding himself hostage and squeaking Lemme out of here or the newscaster gets it!

Oh, yeah pass the popcorn. Ill take mine with melted butter, but hold the salt.

(Later: More here from Captain’s Quarters)
Even later: still more giggling and requests for popcorn, here

A Lifetime Ago

We acquired a company earlier this year and I have been spending a lot of time on the road trying to integrate all things legal, hence limited blogging time. It’s kind of interesting because they are a tech company with a lot of the stereotypical traits, as in attire consisting of bermuda shorts and sandals. The parent company is quite the opposite – think IBM in the fifties. My “home” division is more business casual, but I still feel a little out of place when I wear jeans. I just love walking into the office there and announcing that “I’m from Corporate – I’m here to help”. At first everyone just rolled their eyes and thought the days of free espresso were numbered, but everyone now seems to understand that I HATE corporate crap. I’ve even been told by the Gen. Mgr. that I am welcome to come up just to “hang out”.

Throughout all of these road trips Real Wife has soldiered through her chemo treatments in followup to the lumpectamy back in June. The last one was two weeks ago, but she’s still pretty beat down. They have had a cumulative effect, with the “good” days fewer and further apart. After each treatment she received a single shot that, by itself, costs $5,000 (its for pumping up white blood cells and made by a cloning process using recombinant DNA). Thank God for passably decent insurance. How she has been able to teach school each day amazes me, but I think she should start feeling better soon. Next week the radiation treatments start – every weekday for six weeks. According to the docs, the side effects will be very minimal. We are hoping that the worst part will be the 45 mile drive each way. All in all a pretty crappy summer for all.

As to the title to this post, I took my oath for the USAF thirty-five years ago today. I was sitting on the patio in the dark last night thinking about how long ago it seems and all of the ups and downs since then. It has been unseasonably warm here, but there was a nice cool gentle breeze that brought me back to Lackland. I somehow had the good fortune of being assigned the duty of emptying the squadron trash into the dumpster each night. I say good fortune because it was an opportunity, however brief, to enjoy solitude under the starry skies – away from the TIs and the rest of the squadron. San Antonio was hot during much of my boot camp, but each night there was that same cool breeze I felt last night. It’s funny the things you remember most.

Newsflash: The Truth about the Service Academies

Apparently, it comes as an earth-shattering surprise to this student writer that the service academies you know, West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy (and mustnt forget the Coasties as well) are run by the various military services as a means of producing officers and that the students of the various academies are, in fact, members of the military.

What a shocker. As Blondie remarked, in awed disbelief, Wow Did she go to college just for the drugs?

In other late breaking developments, water is revealed to be wet, the Pope is Catholic and bears crap in the woods. And it is nice to know that just about anyone can get into college and write for the student publication, these days.

I cant wait to see what other startling news is revealed in upcoming segments of this multi-part article.

Later: More acid remarks and comments from Andrea Harris, here

Cognitive Dissonance

So I’m driving home, looking for something to listen to on the radio, and I flip over to WJZZ, the “smooth jazz” station. And they’re playing HALL AND OATES?!?!?!?!

When did they move into the “jazz” category of music? I just don’t see it. Is this another sign that I’ve become an old fogey, out of touch with the times, or is WJZZ out to lunch?

Some Thoughts on Lawn Mowing and Yard Work in General

Thinking about mowing the lawn always fills me with some dread. I mean I KNOW I’ll be much happier about the appearance of the house once I’m done and will have no small satisfaction that the job is done, but damn…the time before I do it really blows.

I never know what time is too early to start mowing…especially on Sunday. After living in Germany for three years back in the 90s, it’s just so WRONG to mow the lawn on Sunday. But yesterday was a full day with another art fair with daughter and son in law and I know my neighbors are starting to give our lawn the evil eye because it’s above their lawns’ burnt out putting green length.

Speaking of the burnt out putting green length. Are we the only ones in the neighborhood who pays attention to the public service announcements that reminds us that if you mow the lawn on the highest setting you’re less likely to burn out the roots and kill the grass? We seem to be the only people on the block who aren’t mowing a dead lawn at this point.

I don’t bag my clippings. This also disturbs my neighbors. Sometimes the clippings get on the sidewalk and I think that drives them crazy. I don’t know why since we seem to be the only ones on our block that walk anywhere.

Whenever you have a tree that’s anywhere near a power line, everyone is very interested in when you’re going to have the tree trimmed next. Everyone recommends that perhaps you should do it NOW. You know, I’ve looked at the tree and I’ve looked at that power line, and it would take a storm coming in from due North (prevailing winds in our valley are out of the the West) and some serious physics calculations to bring any part of my tree down on that power line. Fuck you, it’s MY tree, I’ll see about getting some of the dead shit off it next spring.

We have a volunteer tree growing in our front yard which was, until recently, tree-less. This also disturbs the next door neighbor who has the same sort of tree because the leaves are very small and a real pain to rake. I’m not big on raking leaves. They fall, the ground sucks them up to make more dirt. Who am I to fuck with the natural order?

Dandelions don’t annoy me half as much as they’re apparently supposed to. Kids stop on their way to school and pick them. If they’ve gone fluffy the younger ones will not just pick them but “Poof!” them into the air. This is evil how?

Exactly when is it okay to stop watering and mowing your lawn? I’ve always just waited until the first frost.

On With the Dance!

And someone throw another quart of liquid soap in the bubble machine, the madness of the writers life waltz has just been ratcheted up another couple of notches. No, wait thats the Tylenol cough syrup kicking in that blue stuff does have a kick, doesnt it? Yes, sports fans, I seem to have contracted the current misery of a very sore throat and hacking cough. Fortunately our vast collection of over-the-counter medications seem to be kicking in at long last. The cats didnt mind much. Not with something warm to curl up next to, 24-7 but the coughing rather disturbed them. Whenever I started hacking like Camille, I would get this dirty look from Sam and Percy like Do you mind keeping it down?! Were trying to sleep, here! “Well, dont mind me, fellas, thats just me and part of a lung.”

Finished the first draft of the Civil War volume this week; next stop, revisions, but only after reading a lot. Went and ordered some books from Amazon, bought some more at Half-Price and picked up an armload at the library, including a local history of the town of Comfort, Texas, written (I kid you not) by a gentleman named Guido Ransleben. Is this a great country or not? I went to school with a kid named Sean Nardoni, though, so maybe I am used to ethnic collisions when it comes to names. My stack of required reading is as high as an elephants eye, metaphorically speaking. I did some work for Dave the Computer Genius early in the week, but was too damn sick to do anything else but read or sleep.

One of the library books turned out to be damned fascinating: The Civil War in the American West. Sort of an overview and very well written, I thought of everything that happened west of the Mississippi River during those years; in Arkansas and Missouri and Minnesota, in New Mexico and Colorado and Texas; all those efforts to secure the overland trails to Santa Fe Trail and Sacramento. How the regular Army troops were withdrawn, and so many of their officers resigned their commissions and declared for the South, while local companies of volunteers assembled; not to go off and fight in Virginia or Tennessee, but to take the place of the regular Army, in securing the frontier forts. And the frontier went up in flames during those years for two reasons the Regular Army stepping back and the Indians seeing an advantage, while the local volunteers were much more accustomed to conditions and much more eager to settle the Indians hash for them. Which is how we wound up with the Sand Creek massacre

Fascinating stuff also found a compilation of short biographies of women in the Texas cattle business, who trailed herds of cattle to the northern railheads, or to California. Some went along with their husbands; some did it as a business after being widowed. Most of them seemed to have enjoyed the experience terrifically; and I am taking serious notes on this. Volume 3 of Adelsverein, or Barsetshire with Cypress Trees and a lot of Sidearms will get into this territory. I am still pretty amused at the difference between how the cattle bidness appears in Western movies, and how it really looked in peoples memoirs.

Random Rants and All-Purpose Insults

From: Sgt. Mom
To: Various
Re: Making an Exhibition of yourself in the News

1 To Sandy The Pantsman Berger, on the occasion of joining Hilary Clintons topmost advisory circle: Are those top secret archives in your shorts or are you just happy to see us?

2 To O.J. Simpson; What, are you jealous of Britney Spears getting all the tabloid attention? Instead of exploring the penal code, sport, why dont you just prance around on stage in a black sequin two-piece for a while, and see if that works for ya?

3 To Britney Spears; The trailer park is calling to you girl you cant deny it, it is your destiny!

4 To Moveon.org; Move on. Please. Alpha Centauri would work for me, but Mars would do fine. Say hi to the face of Cydonia while you are there.

5 Al Gore: please come do a global warming lecture in San Antonio. We need the cooler temperatures now. Some rain would be nice too, but hold the snow.

6 To Uber-Fundraiser Norman Hsu; The flood of bad puns just keeps on and on and on: Hsunamis, the other Hsu dropping, the boy named Hsu, Hsunanigans. Thanks its a nice change from just slapping -gate onto the political scandal du jour.

7 To Hillary Clinton; About all that baggage? I dont think divorce is gonna be much help at this point.

8 – To Osama Bin Laden; nice job with the Grecian Formula, dude.

Sincerely

Sgt Mom

Weird Crap You Learn When Working With Cell Phones

Do you remember that Radio Shack Commercial where the folks are sitting in Santa’s chair and one of them goes off on a rant about, “What is Bluetooth anyway?” Okay, most of the folks who come here already know basically what Bluetooth is. It’s a wireless technology similar to the networks created by wireless computer networks, basically linking one device to another. There are Bluetooth handsets, that you can link with Bluetooth headsets and then your not only hands free, but you’re wireless and then even the folks doing the Thorazine Shuffle at WalMart at 2 in the morning are looking at you funny as you apparently talk to yourself.

Now…where do you think they got the name Bluetooth? I thought it had something to do with the little flashing blue light that some of the devices have on them. Figure the first device had one and some guy in marketing just went, “Hey, looks like a blue tooth!” and there we went.

No my friends, that’s not what happened.

The Bluetooth technology is actually named after Harald Bluetooth Gormson or Harald the First of Denmark, who’s credited with being one of the first Danes to be friendly towards Christianity and for uniting Denmark and Norway in the 900s. Apparently it was a nod towards the Netherlands’ contributions to wireless technology. Bluetooth united some of the Netherlands and Bluetooth devices unite with other devices.

And there you have a bit of weird trivia you can use when weird trivia is appropriate.

Forted Up – Conclusion

The Fancher-Baker party were nearly the last large emigrant party of that year. They had the astounding ill-luck to be traveling south as tensions in the Utah settlements mounted in anticipation of an all out apocalyptic war between the Saints and the forces arrayed against them. Brigham Young had declared martial law, sealing the borders and outlawing travel through out the territory without a permit. Having already departed Salt Lake City by the time this requirement had been made public, the Fanchers and their party had no such permit, and were probably not even aware that such was required of them. They were probably aware, since they had not been able to purchase supplies from Mormon settlers, that such necessities were being stockpiled in anticipation of a war.

What they did not realize, possibly not until that last horrifying moment when the words Do your duty! was shouted and the men of the party were gunned down by the militiamen escorting them, was that all unknowning, they had become the enemy. Since departing from Salt Lake City, they had become identified with the advancing US Army, with the persecutors of the Saints in Missouri, and the murderers of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and with the murderer of Parley Pratt. Rumors most of them concocted after the fact, as justifications for the massacre had them leaving poisoned food for the Indians, boasting of rape and murder, allowing their cattle to trample crops and numerous other offensive incivilities. It is fairly certain that the local Piutes were encouraged to steal cattle from emigrant trains by no less than Brigham Young himself, who had built strong ties between his church and the local tribes. The Indians were also encouraged to attack Americans, which appears to have baffled the tribes somewhat, since they had been discouraged from doing so before. In the mean time, an emissary from Salt Lake City George Smith visited the southern hamlets of Parowan and Cedar City, steeling those militia units for battle, and encouraging residents to resist an American invasion, and telling them that they might not be able to wait for orders but to use their own initiative.

At this late date, and because just about every witnesses who gave testimony afterwards were up to their necks in the matter, it is impossible to deduce whose idea it was to attack the Fancher-Baker train, only that once proposed it seemed to be a course of action simultaneously agreed upon. There were meetings held by various authorities in Cedar City and Parowan; at one of those meetings on September 6th it was reported that men in the Fancher train had boasted of being among the mob that had killed Joseph Smith, and that they would wait at Mountain Meadows for the approaching Army and join in on the resulting attacks against Mormons in Utah. A messenger was sent to Salt Lake City asking for Brigham Youngs advice, but it was a six-day round trip journey. Another messenger was sent to the south, where the LDS Indian Agent John D. Lee had already gone to assemble the Mormons Indian allies. But by the next day the Piute had already begin skirmishing with the Fancher train at Mountain Meadows. Brigham Young did not even receive the message from the dispatch rider until the night of the 10th. His instructions to allow the Fancher Party to pass unmolested although he allowed that the Indians might do as they pleased as regards emigrant trains was not received until too late. Of the local authorities who had taken some part in the massacre, only John D. Lee was convicted and sentenced. He was the one who had carried a white flag into the Fancher encampment and told them that their safety had been negotiated with the attacking Indians. He was executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows in 1877, twenty years afterwards to the end acknowledging that he was a scapegoat for others involved.

The seventeen surviving children were retrieved from the local families who had fostered them after the murders of their parents in 1859 and returned to their kin in Arkansas. Nothing of the property and possessions of their parents was ever recovered. Several children while they were living in the Utah settlements observed men driving their fathers ox-teams, and women wearing their mothers dresses and jewelry.

A dreadful story, of murder and sanctioned looting, committed by Americans against other Americans. But within three years of it happening, the armies of the Union and the Confederacy would be doing much the same on American soil, to American citizens who were their cousins, brothers and friends, on a degree that would put what happened in a meadow in Southern Utah far into the shade.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Defaced

Article

Volunteers and National Park Service rangers on Saturday discovered a “light, oily” substance on the memorial’s wall panels and the paving stones in front of it, Bill Line, a Park Service spokesman, said yesterday.

The substance, which has not been identified, was spread over an area of about 50 to 60 feet, mostly on the paving stones, Mr. Line said.

The article states that they’re not sure if the substance was intentionally spread, but when I look at the photos taken by Rob Bluey, it’s hard to imagine it being accidental.

h/t: Baldilocks, who got it from Red State

Nine, Eleven

A Tuesday morning in September, one of those autumnal days when it has begun to cool down and the skies in Texas are a deep, clear blue. There is rain predicted for today, so at best the sky will be spotted with tufts of cloud, perhaps overcast all together. I am going to work today, after the dogs drag me around the block a couple of times – normal day, except for the persistence of memory.

It all seemed like a perfectly normal work day, six years ago. A normal, routine day at the office and then that perfectly prosaic day shattered into a million pieces and we could perceive the horrors that seethed and boiled underneath – which was very strange because it went on seeming perfectly normal.. The mail was delivered, and I picked up a gallon of milk at the grocery store. Drivers obeyed the stop lights at the corner, and the birds came around to the feeder as they did every afternoon. Everything superficially normal; which was kind of a comfort, especially as we have been poised ever since, expecting a repeat of that shattering Tuesday morning. And for most of us over the six years ever since, things have continued to seem absolutely normal. The only difference is that now we know how suddenly and absolutely the world can change.

One of the factoids noted in the aftermath was that on 9-11-01 more Americans died in war in a single day on our own soil since the Civil War. Those of us who think about such things have spent the last six years knowing in the back of our minds that there may be another day like that, at any time. Without warning, without notice: watch ye therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.

Forted Up – Continued

(part 1 here and part 2 here)

The execution of approximately a hundred and twenty men, women and yes, children also of the Fancher-Baker wagon-train party stands out particularly among revolting accounts of massacres in the old West, and not just for the number of victims. The most notorious 19th century massacres usually involved Indians and either settlers or soldiers in some combination, overrunning a settlement or encampment, or ambushing a military unit or a wagon-train and slaughtering all in or after a brief and bitter fight. Sometimes this was the overt intent of the aggressor, or just customary practice in the long and bitter Indian Wars; ugly deeds which can be given some fig-leaf of rationalization by attributing them to the heat of battle. But Mountain Meadows was carefully planned beforehand and committed in the coldest of cold blood. How it came to happen is a story almost unknown and incredible to modern ears; bitter fruit of the poisoned tree which had its roots in the persecutions of earlier Mormon settlements in what is now the mid-West. A recitation of the events and reasons for this would make this account several times as long. Sufficient to say as did the character of Dr. Sardius McPheeters, that the Mormons came to realize that they could only get along with their immediate neighbors if they had no neighbors, and they decamped en masse for the wilds of Utah Territory.

There they set about building their new city, on the shores of a salt lake at the foot of the Wasatch mountain range. Driven by zeal, missionaries for the Church of Latter Day Saints traveled and proselytized fearlessly and widely. Eager and hardworking converts to the new church arrived in droves, ready to build that new and shining society in the desert wilderness. It has been no mean accomplishment, outlasting all of the other 19th century social-religious-intellectual communes: Brook Farm and the Shakers, the Amana Colony and any number of ambitious and idealistic cities on the hill. Most of these places barely survived beyond the disgrace or death of their founder, and the disillusion of their membership.

That the mid 19th century Mormons did so must be credited to the iron will, organizational abilities and dynamic leadership of Brigham Young. President of the church, apostle and successor to murdered founder Joseph Smith, Young was also appointed governor of the Utah Territory by then president of the US, Millard Fillmore. Essentially, Utah and the Mormon settlements were a theocracy to a degree not seen since the very early days of the Puritan colonies. Young and his church continued to have a contentious relationship with the US government. Who would actually be in charge; the civil authorities represented by the US Government, or the religious establishment, personified by Young, in his position at the apex of LDS authority? Church-approved polygamy rattled mainstream Americans to no end, since many suspected that it was a wholly self-serving justification for the indulging of male lusts. (The Victorians generally entertained lively suspicions about male lusts, which would today not disgrace a university womens studies department.) On their side, memories among the Mormon settlers of their persecutions in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas were still raw, even as more American settlers continued to move westwards to California and Oregon. Isolation in the far West turned out to be less absolute every year.

By 1857 rumors were flying thick and fast, shouted from every meeting place of Mormons in the Territory that an American military invasion was on the way, with the stated intention of deposing the theocracy, murdering every believing Mormon and laying waste to the settlements they had built with so much heartbreaking labor over the previous decade. And early that spring, shortly after the Bakers and the Fanchers had departed Arkansas, a popular and much-loved Mormon missionary, Parley Pratt had been murdered there by the estranged husband of one of his plural wives. As historian Will Bagley wrote in his account of the massacre, Brigham Young may have been respected but Parley Pratt was loved. And when there were rumors passed around that some of his murderers were among the men in the Fancher-Baker train, there was stirred up a perfect storm of paranoia and millennial fears. Brigham Young had ordered that a number of outlaying Mormon colonies in California, Wyoming and Nevada to immediately withdraw, and for his people to stockpile supplies and steel themselves for all-out war.

And the Fanchers and the Bakers and all their friends and their children, their cattle herd and their wealth of wagons and property were right in the middle of it, all unknowning.

(next; how the plan unfolded… but at whose order?)

Help Wanted – LSO

It’s sadly been taken down but there was a DailyKos story whose protagonist clearly saw this ad in the Navy Times …

Global organization has a full-time Landing Signals Officer (LSO) position available. This position is responsible for providing quality guidance to a variety of aircraft.

Duties include but are not limited to:

  • Support for landing aircraft including guidance, advice and handling.
  • Managing small teams during the performance of the primary job.
  • Maintain technical documentation for the Landing Signals Department.
  • Other duties as required.

Requirements

  • Bachelor of Science in related field of study or equivalent work experience.
  • Knowledge and demonstrated proficiency with Microsoft Office.
  • Some knowledge of Naval customs preferred but not necessary.

Qualifications

  • Capable of working with minimal supervision.
  • Self-confidence with ability to effectively manage conflict resolution and problem solve
  • Strong customer service skills.
  • Knowledge and demonstrated proficiency directing landing operations at least two types of the following naval or Marine aircraft;
  • F/A-18 (all versions)
  • AV-8B Harrier II
  • AH-1 Cobra (all versions)
  • CH-46E Sea Knight (all versions)
  • CH-53E Super Stallion (all versions)
  • C-2 Greyhound
  • E-2 Hawkeye
  • H-3 Sea King

Apply to US Navy, Department of Recruiting, Washington D.C. See Req No ID10t484757578 at www.navy.com

The United States Navy is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, affiliation or dietary preferences.

Jousting With The Windmills

Always fun to land a blow on an ever moving target, with a wobbly lance. And no horse to speak of, just me at a dead run across the hillside, this being the perils of the low-budget POD author, when cleverness and creativity try and make up for not being able to do what the big playas in the literary-industrial complex do which is to throw pillowcases of money at the providers of advertising, reviewers and air-time.

Progress in the case of transforming To Truckees Trail into a best-seller feels as slow and torturous as a slug crawling across a twenty-acre parking lot on a Texas afternoon in August. Its endless and frustrating, every bump in the pavement is a nearly insurmountable obstacle and its very, very hot.

On the other hand, successfully negotiating them, one by one by one allows me the illusion that I am getting somewhere, after all. Those readers and fans who ordered autographed copies from me last month have received them, and I have a couple of cards and emails assuring me of their utter delight and enjoyment. Pure nectar to the writers ego! And very welcome too, but must be careful not to soak in it too much. Or to be battered by its obverse, all those various stripes of criticism. Note to self, suggested response when encountering this: theres a bajillion other books out there; If mine doesnt send you, one of them surely will!

I sent a box of review copies last week to KC in Sparks-Reno, who aside from being one of those readers who encouraged me to even write the book in the first place, also is connected in various media and publicity outlets there. Quite a lot of the book happens in that area, so she can scrape together enough of the local interest-local history attention-getting machinery.

And I sent a box of review copies to my parents. Mom is one of those retirement-age busy-bodies who is well-connected in Northern San Diego to the local artistic and literary circles. God love them, Mom and Dad are also sending me my Christmas present early, on the very good grounds that I may make better use of that check now than in three months. Out of that, Ill get another box of review copies, and some advertising, of the kind that has to be paid for.

Sent a review copy to a reviewer for Blogger News. Net, and another to the editors of True West and to the California Oregon Trails Association. No results to report, yet.

Sent out about 65 postcards to an assortment of independent bookstores, and frontier/pioneer museum bookstores, following up with emails. So far, only a bookstore in Truckee, and the Truckee Donner Historical Association have nibbled, that I know of. Just not enough demand, not enough people have read it, liked it and said so very loudly!

And Cpl. Blondie has chatted up the manager of a chain bookstore, who is agreeable to ordering three or four copies, displaying them prominently, and if there us enough demand, ordering more, and even staging a book signing. Now if I can only get it reviewed by the local newspaper, I could make a bit more of a splash here in San Antonio. So far, I havent gotten an email back from the person who allegedly edits the Sunday book section. Honestly, these people are always wondering why no one reads the paper any more

Off to crawl across some more parking lot, and stick some more stamps on post-cards!

Forted Up – Part 2

(Part one is here)

The start of the trail season, spring of 1857 saw a number of prosperous but restlessly ambitious emigrants taking the trail west, many of them linked by ties of kin and friendship: the Bakers of Caroll County, Arkansas, and the Huff and Fancher clans, from Benton County, were joined at some point along the long trail from the jumping-off place at the edge of the sea of grass by families with the prosaic names of Tackett, Jones, Mitchell and Prewitt. Alexander Fancher, the paterfamilias and trail-boss of the Fanchers was experienced in the ways of the emigrant trail, having gone back and forth several times. He and his kin intended to settle for good in California and to that end had bought not only their wives and children, but much of their portable property and savings, and a large herd (estimated at 800-1,000) of long-horned Texas cattle. Some of the party were Argonauts, intending to look for gold, but the Fanchers’ cattle were their gold, and intended to market them at a profit to the hungry gold miners in California. They had already registered a brand, for their new ranch and herd.

By 1857 the emigrant trail was not the long and desperate march through unsettled wilderness that it had been ten years before. The US Army had managed to spottily garrison and patrol the Platte River Valley, and the Mormon settlements spreading out from Salt Lake City offered one last and often life-saving chance at rest and resupply before the final calculated leap into the desert and over the sheer mountain wall of the Sierra Nevada. The Fanchers and the Bakers and the other families, numbering about a hundred and fourty men, women and children, arrived in the Salt Lake City area at the end of August, and after consultation decided that they were too late in the season to venture the northern trail, following the Humboldt River into the desert where it sank eventually into the sand, and up the long rocky climb up the Truckee River to the steep mountain pass named after the emigrant party which had so famously left their own traverse too late.

Experienced and sensible, Alexander Fancher and his fellows would not chance being trapped in the snow; not with their long train of wagons, their herd of cattle and their horses. They would take the southern route, the old Spanish Trail that lead down through the Mojave Desert, through the less precipitous passes farther south. (Roughly following present-day I-15, from Salt Lake City, Los Vegas and San Bernardino) It would be a long haul through various deserts, and a couple of hard pulls through mountainous terrain, but nothing like the cruel snows which had doomed the Donner-Reed Party ten years before. By early September they had reached Cedar City, the last outpost for resupply before descent of the Virgin River George and the long desert crossing below. They met a cold reception from the Mormon settlers there, and were not able to purchase any supplies. Doubtless shrugging it off, they moved on south and camped in a pleasant mountain valley at the foot of the Iron Mountains and adjacent the Spanish Trail.

This camping place offered generous pasturage and water, but on the morning of September 7th the emigrants began to be attacked by a large war-band of Piute Indians. Dismayingly, it soon became clear that the Indians were unusually persistent; this was no quick smash and grab ambush, a sudden screaming foray at dawn, with a handful of casualties and a few cattle or horses stolen in a few minutes. This was a deadly, concerted siege. The Fanchers and the Bakers and the others swiftly forted up, chaining their wagons together and digging hasty trenches; they held out for five days. Seven of them were killed outright, another twenty or so wounded, and dismayingly, they began to run low on ammunition, and were tormented by an inability to reach water without being repeatedly sniped at. Of two men who attempted to fetch water from the spring closest to the encampment, one was shot down, and the other escaped but not before seeing that the man who shot them was not an Indian.

But this was not very unusual there were brigands all over the west who pretended to be Indians as a cover for robbery and murder, and there were whispers of white turncoats among the various tribes. Still and all, when the cavalry appeared on the horizon, probably everyone in the besieged encampment took a deep breath of relief. Here was rescue at hand; well armed frontiersmen like themselves. Not actually the cavalry, for this was still Mormon territory it was the local militia, their leaders advancing under a white flag, with good news for the emigrants.

They could leave, the militia leader said they had been able to call off the Piutes and negotiate some kind of truce with them. But they would have to disarm and leave their wagons and cattle and horse herd, and walk back under escort of the militia to Cedar City. Oh, the children and the wounded could be taken in wagons, but everything else would have to be left behind. No doubt the Fanchers and the Bakers, the Prewitts and the Tacketts and their wives and older children did not like the idea much but they had their lives and what small valuables they could carry on them. And so they left the wagon encampment in three parties, trusting the men who had come to their rescue. First came some wagons with the wounded, some of the women with babies and small children in it, then another group of women with the older children on foot, and then the men, each of them escorted by a militiaman.

And when a prearranged signal was given by the militia leader, they turned and executed the men, and all of the women and children but for seventeen of them who were babies or assumed to be too young to ever remember what they had seen at the place called Mountain Meadows.

(to be continued)

Defeat, sound of

This is what defeat sounds like …

… in Phnom Penh former Cambodian prime minister Sirik Matak wrote to John Gunther Dean, the American ambassador, turning down his offer of evacuation:

Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we all are born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.

S/Sirik Matak

Prince Sirik Matak and the officials that remained along with him, were executed by the Khmer Rouge on April 21, 1975, in Phnom Penh.

Cross posted to Space For Commerce.

World War Two Chat

Ran across this a couple of days ago, via Rantburg – if World War Two had been a real-time, on-line strategy game, this how the chat-room might have appeared:

Hitler[AoE]: america hax, u had depression and now u got a huge fockin army
Hitler[AoE]: thats bullsh1t u hacker
Churchill: lol no more france for u hitler
Hitler[AoE]: tojo help me!
T0J0: wtf u want me to do, im on the other side of the world retard
Hitler[AoE]: fine ill clear you a path
Stalin: WTF u arsshoel! WE HAD A FoCKIN TRUCE
Hitler[AoE]: i changed my mind lol
benny-tow: haha

The rest is here

Along the Emigrant Trail – Forting Up

Considering all those cinematic or literary occasions in which an emigrant wagon train on the California/Oregon trail was pictured being attacked by a war-party of Indians, it actually happened as represented on very few occasions. That is, a defensive circle of wagons, with the pioneers being well-dug in while the Indians ride around on horseback, whooping and shouting to beat the band, and firing volleys of arrows at them. Very likely, more emigrants died in accidents with firearms than were ever actually killed by Indian attack. A little disconcerting for the fan of westerns to find this out; kind of like discovering that most cowboys didnt have much use for a six-shooter, and that most western towns were really rather refreshingly law-abiding places. It ruins a whole lot of plots, knowing of these inconvenient verities. But those historians who become passionately interested in the stories of the trail, the frontier, the cattle baronies; they are not terribly surprised. As with everything, the more one looks the more nuance appears. But of such dramatic incidents are books made, non and fiction alike.

Why does this image reoccur, in the face of considerable scholarship to the contrary? Besides the inherent drama in the stories of the westering pioneers and gold-rushers and the desire of those later telling the stories to heighten the drama, the biggest reason may be that those who took part in the great transcontinental migrations fully anticipated encounters of that sort. They had two centuries of bitter history to draw upon, of grudges and warfare and atrocities on both sides. Of two cultures colliding, of ancient grudges breaking into fresh enmity; why would it be any different west of the Mississippi than it had been east of it?

Amazingly enough, for at least two decades, until well after the Civil War, the wagon-train pioneers encountered little open hostility from those various tribes whose territories they passed through. Not of the open sort described above, anyway. There was a degree of petty thievery and low-level harrassment, of oxen, horses and mules stolen or strayed at night, sniping from the badlands along the Humboldt River, and sometimes single wagons and small parties of travelers beset, robbed or murdered at any point along the way. There are any number of reasons for this relative tranquility, some of them overlapping. In the early years, there were relatively few wagon parties venturing over the trail during the course of the trail season. They were transitory, well-armed and usually well led, and had absolutely no desire to pick a fight with warrior-tribes like the Sioux, the horse-lords of the upper plains. Other tribes along the route took the opportunity to do business with the wagon-train parties, either trading commodities or labor in helping them to cross rivers, and as historian George Steward pointed out, it must have gotten pretty boring in the winter camps in the Rockies and the upper plains. A new set of travelers passing through their lands offered at least some interest to the same old routine.

Up until the Civil War there were only a handful of incidents where Indians made a concerted, sustained and ultimately effective attack on a wagon train party twenty members of the Ward party (including women and children) were overrun and gruesomely massacred near Ft. Hall in 1854, and 44 emigrants of Elijah Utters company met a similar fate after being besieged near Castle Butte, Idaho in 1860. Considering the enormous numbers of emigrants and Indians wandering around, fully armed and not particularly inclined to trust each other very much, the length of the trail and the wide-open nature of the country, this is a very fortunate record indeed.

But there was one single incident which puts the deaths of the Ward and Utter parties into the shade, and besides which all the other incidents pale. There was indeed one particularly brutal and horrendous massacre of wagon-train emigrants which started almost exactly as outlined in all those melodramatic books and movies: the pioneers forted up in a circle of the wagons, and besieged for days while awaiting rescue by the cavalry.

It happened just before the Civil War

(to be continued)